Thursday, 23 November 2017

Guest post by Oliver Tooley, owner of Blue Poppy Publishing.

Oliver Tooley is the sole proprietor of Blue Poppy Publishing, a very small name in publishing, boasting a loose collective of self-publishing authors, and offering as much or as little help as an author wants or needs to produce a professional product. 

Blue Poppy began in 2016 when I was all ready to publish my first novel “Children of the Wise Oak”.

I was inspired by Liz Shakespeare’s “Letterbox Books” imprint and logo.

I liked the idea of having a name that would give my book an air of credibility, as if it was a proper publisher, and not just some amateur bloke printing up a few copies to sell to mates.

So, I asked around for ideas for a name, and my son, who is a mine of brilliant ideas, suggested Blue Poppy in reference to my grandfather Frank Kingdon-Ward who famously brought back the first viable seed of Meconopsis betonicifolia, the Himalayan blue poppy.

I spent money I didn’t have getting a logo designed, and subsequently also registered the name and logo as trademarks.

Having paid out for 100 ISBNs and experienced the insane hoop jumping required to make my books available in “all good bookshops” it occurred to me that other authors might enjoy having some of those tasks done for them.

I offered the Blue Poppy logo and ISBNs to anyone who was planning on self-publishing anyway but wanted to come under the umbrella of an established, albeit very tiny, imprint.

Soon I was approached by Ben Blake who wanted exactly that. With six self-published books already in print he didn’t need any help with production, but he is not a natural publicity hound, and hoped that having the Blue Poppy brand might add a certain degree of extra promotion.

His book “Black Lord of Eagles” was the second Blue Poppy title, published in April 2017.

The next author to join was Joni Dee.   Although I originally planned to take on only local authors, I couldn’t resist London based Joni’s offering. Having sold 750 advance orders for “And the Wolf Shall Dwell” and then finding himself let down by another publisher he came to Blue Poppy.

I introduced him to Dorset based Helen Baggott for editing, and she and Joni hit it off straight away.

Joni had to restart his advance orders campaign but when we published this summer he had recovered the majority of those orders. Joni came over to sign copies, and I spent two days  packing, addressing, and posting books all over the world.

Meanwhile, a little closer to home, author number four came on board. KY Eden had already published books 1 and 2 of The Redcroft Journals on Amazon Kindle, but needed a little help producing a polished professional print edition.  Blue Poppy did the formatting and found a new printer who were able to produce very short runs at a really competitive price. Redcroft Journals 1 “The Missing Journals” and 2 “The Raven Stones” are now in print, with book 3 coming soon.

Author number five approached me during the summer, and her book “Teeny Tiny Witch” has had the most Blue Poppy involvement of all. Edited by Sarah Dawes who edits all of my own books, the cover design and formatting was done in house, and I organised a crowdfunding campaign to raise the funds needed to cover production costs.

The book is due out early in December just in time to make a beautiful Christmas gift for any young reader.

Not forgetting myself of course. 

Since “Children of the Wise Oak” I have published the sequel, “Women of the Wise Oak” as well as a new children’s spoof animal spy story “For Cats’ Eyes Only” featuring cat detective Felix Whiter. Three hundred copies were handed out to children for the “Summer Reading Challenge” and the sequel “Dr Gnaw” is about to be launched early in December.

Looking to the future. In 2018 we have already confirmed at least one new author and half a dozen new titles, and with some production lead times as short as a few months, who knows how many books and how many new authors we will have published by this time next year?


Oliver hated writing in school. He finds using a pen for any length of time painful, and he makes sloppy mistakes. If it wasn’t for computers, he would never have considered being a writer. He has never been diagnosed as autistic, being high functioning, and not especially gifted; although undoubtedly, he is on the spectrum. 

At school he was diagnosed as “Brilliant but lazy” and “You’d forget your head if it wasn’t screwed on”.. He knew that wasn’t true after attempting to unscrew his head (really!). The only thing he agreed with was, “It’s never you is it? It’s always somebody else’s fault.”

Monday, 13 November 2017

Guest: Richard Dee: Steampunk is closer than you think.

Hello everyone, I’m Richard Dee and I’m a Steampunk author. My world of Norlandia features in two novels, The Rocks of Aserol and A New Life in Ventis,

a short story collection, Tales from Norlandia,

and various other projects. As I’ve created a Steampunk world, I feel able to comment on how the technology has been developed from what we have, or had, in our world.

Only one thing really separates the world of today and the world of Steampunk. And I don’t mean the costumes, although they are pretty cool.

That thing is electricity, whether you like it or not, the thing that catapulted the Victorian world into the modern world was cheap electricity.

Some might say it was oil, or war. I disagree, oil only made things easier, war is a spur to invention but at a terrible cost.

So when we consider a Steampunk world, we have to look at the way the clever fellows at my Ministry of Invention in Norlandia took what they had and created the mighty machines, intricate clockworks and all the modern things that the inhabitants of that place take for granted.

The Victorian age, on which the genre rests, gave us some amazing stuff, the question for writers is how can we build on these foundations to make a modern society, what sort of a twist can I put on those times to give my stories an edge?

When I created the world, every time I needed a piece of technology I worked backwards, starting from a thing that we have and reverse engineering it, designing a way that we could achieve the same effect without using anything modern. And once you start to do that, you find that a lot of the things you need to make your world function actually existed in another form, they were only overtaken by the cost or simplicity that electrical and oil powered versions provided. In the same way that the steam locomotive was overtaken by the electric train.

So for example, as there is no electricity, my cities have steam pumped into the houses along steel pipes buried underground. Because of the limitations and difficulties of keeping high pressure steam, well; steamy, we need a lot of local power stations. These require coal so out of necessity I developed a steam vehicle to transport it from the rail yards to the furnaces. Of course steam vehicles existed, I just made them a bit more advanced, in effect bringing the technology up to where it would be without the internal combustion engine. I was doing the R&D in my head that was never done in reality.

As I was devising a way to mine all this coal, I wondered if steam could not be used to power a robot. Well I’m sure it can, using pistons and valves, steam pressure could move articulated arms and legs just as well as any other system. And from that idea, the Exo-Man was born.

Now, steam cannot be transported over long distances, even in my imagination. I have to keep things realistic to carry the reader. Sure the ground will insulate the pipes but in the country this would be impractical. But steam power can be used to wind a spring. The Victorians had clockwork motors, after all a watch is merely a spring powered motor.

What I did in Norlandia was develop the idea to produce springs of all sizes, like batteries, that could be attached to any device and power it. Exhausted springs could be recharged at any power station, for a price. And for those that have no access to a recharging system, or cannot afford it, water power can drive a wheel in any stream to wind your springs for you. The applications are endless when you have to invent or starve.

As I hope you’re starting to see, there is little that can’t be done, so let’s move on to what else might have been developed out of necessity.

As you know, jet engines in aircraft are fuelled by gas, in effect vaporised hydrocarbon. And the Victorians lit their streets with gas produced by cooking coal with steam. Do you see where I’m going with this? All we need in our population is an understanding of the reason aircraft fly and we can build a Steampunk aeroplane!

This gas can do a lot of the things that drive our civilisation. It can be stored, like gunpowder, in cartridges and used to propel bullets; it’s an advance which may have occurred in our society if we had taken another path, I’ve only borrowed it and made it better.

And with the freedom to invent, discoveries that were unintended have also been made in Norlandia.
In my books, as well as the things I have already mentioned, I describe clockwork limbs, controlled by the body’s nerve impulses, a type of speech recorder based on a vibrating diaphragm and a telephone system, powered by sound itself!

And that’s before you get to the characters and their adventures.

Of course the one thing that all this steam and clockwork powered technology cannot do is give us a moving picture that can be transmitted over distance, or provide a box in our hand to talk to the world. But at the Ministry of Invention, they’re sure to be working on it.


My Steampunk journey is described in more detail on my website, which also features my other Sci-fi work. Find my main site at, or on Facebook @RichardDeeAuthor

Just go to this page, for everything Steampunk.

Tales from Norlandia features stories about the inventions and technology of Norlandia, Exo-men, power stations, bio-mechanical arms, even the Ministry themselves. And much more. You can get a copy from my shop at

My Steampunk novels are available at all eBook retail sites, including Amazon, Nook, Kobo and Apple, the universal links are,

The Rocks of Aserol,

A New Life in Ventis,

To read one of Richard's short stories "This Could Change The World" follow this link.


I’m Richard Dee, I write Science Fiction and Steampunk adventures. I come from Brixham in Devon, where I returned to live in 2010. I’m a retired Master Mariner and Thames Pilot, married with three daughters and several grandchildren. I walk on the cliffs and beaches of South Devon for inspiration. 

Thursday, 2 November 2017

Self Publishing: Pitfalls and How to Avoid Them – Part 1 (Guest Post by Celia Moore).

Please welcome Celia Moore to this blog. Celia has kindly offered to share with us some of the potential pitfalls that self-published authors may encounter. Worth reading by anyone considering this route to publication. Here are the first two. 

Over to you Celia.

Having self-published my debut novel Fox Halt Farm today, I thought I’d share a few mistakes I made. Perhaps I can save other indie authors some time, money and worry.

1. My cover was unprofessional – it shouted self-published book!

The cover of my romantic novel has caused me the most angst. I read posts in author forums all the time about the design of their book cover, so I know it’s an issue.

I have an A grade in A’ level art, I love oil painting and I like to think I have an artistic bent so I felt fairly well qualified when I sent a detailed brief to my graphic designer – after all, I knew the story of Fox Halt Farm inside out, I read books and I am in the age group and gender of my target audience. I recognise what attracts me to pick a book off the piled high shelves. I know which tiny icons on the Amazon screen I click on because the image is intriguing or beautiful. But my graphic designer quite understandably, took his lead from the books he saw in the best-seller romance list of and believed bare chested men exposing their sculptured chests was the way forward. Weeks passed, each time I received a long-awaited email of the revised design, I was frustrated to see I had waited in vain –I couldn’t steer him in my direction at all. I cut my losses and walked away frustrated. I think this was the first time that I wished I had tried to secure a publisher, I imagined how wonderful it would be to have my book cover provided and I wouldn’t have to worry – someone who knew all about these things, who would commission the cover I needed.

I am still unsure of my final cover, I love it and the feedback I have had from people is wholly positive but I have definitely gone out on a limb by literally painting the scene I wanted – I saw tears in the eyes of two of my beta readers when I showed it to them so I know I am on the right track but it is wholly different to the norm and I will have to wait and see if its quirkiness is eye-catching or still screams ‘self published.’

I think the lesson learned here is don’t just find a ‘graphic designer,’ identify the book covers you love and find out who designed it – graphics people are not all the same and choose one whose work you admire.

2. My blurb on the back of my book was too long and not intriguing

The blurb is usually the next thing a potential buyer of your book will inspect and it has to stop them putting it down to move onto the next. These words must instantly capture curiosity. There are professionals out there, who will construct stimulating and alluring text for you but I confess that didn’t consider this option.

I sweated over the blurb and even when I thought I had cracked it, another author read it and shook his head. He said it had to change, it set up the scenario and provided unanswered questions but this man’s marketing viewpoint was different – he wanted the back to tell him what he would get from reading my story - Would he be gripped? Have his heart torn out? Would it provide character and situation insights? Could he expect to be inspired? Will he fall in love with some of the characters? Was there a villain he could hate at every turn?

This was an interesting and time-consuming part of my journey because I changed my blurb to accommodate the respected author’s viewpoint - but then I was met with questions about why I had moved away from my original one? So I conducted a survey of about a hundred women in my target age range – 77% said the original one provided more of stimulus for them to choose my book. Some told me the reasons behind their decision and because of this I did make a small adjustment to try and attract the 33% who liked version 2.

I recommend Rayne Hall’s ‘Writing Book Blurbs and Synopses: Professional Techniques for Fiction Authors,’ I thought this provided some useful advice. The wonderful people in the online writing forum I belong to comprises authors, bloggers and people involved in publishing and I received helpful advice from them to all my anxious questions about my blurb.

The lesson I have learnt is that the right blurb is crucial and writing it is a craft, which will take time to master. Recognise straightway that the blurb is going to take a while and seek feedback 

Celia Moore (1967-now) grew up on a small farm in Devon and had a successful career as a Chartered Surveyor working in the City of London before working her way back to Devon.

In 2000, she left the office life behind to start a new adventure as an outdoor instructor, teaching rock climbing and mountaineering amongst other things and managed an outdoor residential centre until she met her husband. Today she gardens for a few lovely customers, runs and writes accompanied at all times by their border terrier cross jack russell puppy Tizzy 

Her debut novel FOX HALT FARM is a change-of-life set over two decades inspired by some of the experiences her life.

Celia’s blog/website  -