Posted in Events, Reading, Self-publishing, Writing

Coming Soon: Two Talks in Three Days (22 & 24 October)

Hello folks, just a quickie to give you advance notice of two events that I’m involved in over the next few days.

1. Indie Author Fringe Conference Talk: “The Best Day Jobs for Authors” (Saturday 22nd October)

logo for 2016 Frankfurt Indie Author FringeOn Saturday 22nd October at 6pm, my talk in the autumn Indie Author Fringe Conference will be broadcast online by the Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi), which hosts this fab series of free online conferences that you can join in wherever you are in the world.

ALLi runs three conferences each year, to coincide with the world’s biggest book trade events – the London Book Fair, Book Expo America and the Frankfurt Book Fair.

The Frankfurt Book Fair is currently in full swing, and the IAF Conference will run for 24 hours from Saturday through to Sunday, starting at 10am Frankfurt time. My talk will be at 6pm on Saturday 22nd October on the topic of “The Best Day Jobs for Authors”. and I’m including advice from lots of fellow ALLi authors as well as drawing on my own experience. Click here to find out about the full programme and how to join the Fringe live online as it happens, visit this page.

All the talks will also be available online for evermore afterwards too, so don’t worry, you don’t have to forego sleep for 24 hours to join the fun. If you’d like to enjoy my contributions to the two previous 2016 IAFs, here they are:

2. BBC Radio Gloucestershire: Reading “The Alchemy of Chocolate” live on air

Picture of Debbie reading from Quick Change
Reading “The Alchemy of Chocolate” at Stroud Short Stories, April 2015

I’m delighted to have been invited to give my first ever live reading on BBC radio of one of my short stories, The Alchemy of Chocolate. I’ve been invited to read this particular one as part of a piece promoting Stroud Short Stories,because it was the same story that I read at the April 2015 SSS event and also at SSS’s Cheltenham Festival of Literature event last Monday. (I’ll be posting separately about that once I have photos . Event organiser John Holland will be in the studio with me on Monday 24th October on the lunchtime show at 12noon, and he’ll be reading some of his stories too, which are always compelling and often very funny.) Tune in here.


“The Alchemy of Chocolate” is one of the stories in my flash fiction collection Quick Change, and it’s also available as a free download for anyone joining my Readers’ Club, which means I’ll send you news of new books, events and special offers, plus a free short story with every enewsletter. Just click here to sign up. 

Photo of Debbie Young, Dominic Cotter and Caroline Sanderson
Having fun at the October Book Club at BBC Radio Gloucetershire yesterday

In the meantime, if you’d like to catch the October BBC Radio Gloucestershire Book Club broadcast, featuring Caroline Sanderson, Associate Editor of The Bookseller, and me, talking books with presenter Dominic Cotter, you can do so here – it starts an hour into the show. No prizes for guessing what this month’s read was – as you can see from the photo, we got into the spirit of it, raiding our wardrobes for purple. Caroline even managed to rustle up a raspberry beret! We like to think Prince would have approved.


Posted in Events, Personal life, Writing

Beware of Scary Crows

My column from the October edition of the Hawkesbury Parish News was written in the run-up to our annual village Scarecrow Trail

Photo of two scarecrows with a zimmer frame, radio and cups of tea
Charmingly detailed scarecrows outside Beaufort House, our local residential home for elderly people, during the 2016 Hawkesbury Upton Scarecrow Trail

While taking the scenic route to Cheltenham earlier this week, I nearly crashed the car when I spotted Harry Potter on his broomstick. A closer look revealed he was in fact a scarecrow in someone’s front garden, sadly too distant for inclusion in Hawkesbury’s Scarecrow Trail.

I don’t know why scarecrows attract people as much as they deter birds, but there is something very winning about a well-made scarecrow, and not only on Hawkesbury Show Day. I reckon Scarecrow Trails are what inspired the Gromit and Shaun the Sheep events that recently took Bristol by storm, every exhibit a riff on the same theme, allowing its maker to express his or her own sense of fun.

Photo of Debbie with Gromit statue
Selfie with my favourite Gromit, designed by Cath Kidston
Photo of a Very Hungry Caterpillar costume
Our Very Hungry Caterpillar scarecrow was cunningly recycled from a Village Show carnival costume by replacing four children inside it with two planks of wood and two bricks

You’d think birds would have to be daft to be repelled by such inanimate objects, but don’t be taken in by them. Crows are smarter than you might think. If you google “crows using tools”, you’ll be scared by their prowess. Like early man, they’ve learned to manipulate sticks and to bend or break them to form more useful tools. I’ve even seen a video of one bird giving another CPR until they both flew away unscathed.

Birds may not have the opposable thumbs that helped human beings get to where we are today, but with the bonus of long beaks, they are slowly catching up with us. Let’s hope they only ever use their powers for good. But just to be on the safe side, I’m leaving my scarecrow in place after Trail week is over.


Cover of All Part of the Charm
My memoir of village life is available as an ebook and in paperback


If you enjoyed this post, you might like All Part of the Charm: A Modern Memoir of Village Life the book I published earlier this year combining all my columns for the Hawkesbury Parish News from 2010 to 2015.

It also includes as bonus material a collection of essays I wrote about moving to the village 25 years ago. Now available in paperback or as an ebook, it’s perfect bedtime reading – or for your smallest room!

Posted in Family, Personal life, Writing

The History of My Husband in 100 Socks

My column for the October issue of the Tetbury Advertiser goes from the sublime to the ridiculous

… and also inside this issue is my regular monthly column

During a rare and much-needed tidying blitz on our house, I fall to musing on the current fashion for summing up a topic by listing 100 of something in a particular category. Neil MacGregor, Director of the British Museum, kicked it all off with his fascinating BBC Radio 4 series, The History of the World in 100 Objects. His list of iconic items, from a Stone Age spear point to the solar powered lamp, captured the public’s imagination.

Its success sparked many equally fascinating copycat series. I’ve just downloaded podcasts of The Story of Music in 50 Pieces (lazy), and the Bath Fashion Museum shares The History of Fashion in 100 Objects on its website here.

Sock It To Me

The inevitable book of the radio series

Turning out my husband’s wardrobe, it occurs to me that I could write his life story in the history of his socks, all of which seem to need pairing. Piled on the floor before me are at least 100, some so ancient that carbon dating would not go amiss to ensure the accuracy of my proposed catalogue.

To get an easy tick – and to stop me losing the will to live before the task is complete – I marry up the obvious matches first, such as the scarlet pair to be worn with his kilt. (He’s not eccentric he’s just Scottish.) I then sit quaking as the enormity of the remaining task dawns on me.

Sock Swap

Meanwhile next door in our daughter’s bedroom, where she is tasked with tidying up, all is quiet. On enquiry, I learn that she is “taking a rest” about five minutes after starting, as discouraged as I am. “I’d much rather do what you’re doing,” she hints, and I’m quick to agree to swap.

By the time my husband’s socks are paired and restored to his sock drawer, my daughter’s bedroom is immaculate. She’s also richer by nearly £14 from the notes and coins I found languishing forgotten beneath the dust and toys. She welcomes less enthusiastically the chocolate butterfly that was best before July 2014.

Each of us is happy that our goals have been met, without having to do the donkey work we dreaded ourselves.

Sock Tension

But where is my husband all this time, I hear you ask, and why was he not pairing his own socks? Surely neither my daughter nor I should be doing his wardrobe maintenance chores in this liberated age for?

Hold fire before you condemn him: he is spending all day out of door, tiling the roof of our new extension. As someone with the head for heights of Humpty Dumpty (though thankfully not quite the waistline), I’m happy to suppress my natural feminist leanings when it suits me. After all, one man socks are another man’s poison.

PS I’m kicking myself that I didn’t think to take photos of the work-in-progress in either bedroom, but you may well thank me for that! Here instead is an image of Action Man in progress, in matching socks, on the extension roof outside my study window. 

Gordon on the roof, seen through my study window
What looks like a giant banana is apparently a special tool for working lead. Of course. He has a set of six, all in subtly different shapes. Thankfully, not nearly so numerous as his socks. Yet.


If you’d like to read the archive of my Tetbury Advertiser columns from 2010-2015, they’re now available in paperback or as an ebook from all good retailers. (If it’s not in stock, a good bookshop will be able to order it in if you provide the ISBN: 978-1911223030.

To read other posts about tidying up (which I seem to spend half my life doing, despite being VERY TIDY myself), try these…

Tidying up, Gary’s way

The Perfect Tidying Storm

… plus this one about how to keep the inside of your computer tidy:

Sock Drawer Technology

… and finally, one about tidying especially for my fellow writers:

Creative Memory and Creative Amnesia and Why They Matter

Posted in Events, Reading, Writing

My Debut at Cheltenham Literature Festival

A newsflash about my appearance tonight at the biggest and longest-standing lit fest in the UK

Poster for tonight's event
Featuring… me!

Over the weekend, a message flashed up on the corner of my computer screen: “YOU’RE IN!” Clicking to read the full email, I learned to my delight that I’ve been selected to read one of my short stories at Cheltenham Literature Festival tonight, in the 9pm event in the Little Big Top, entitled “Stroud Short Stories’ Greatest Hits”.

Debbie Young at microphone reading Quick Change
Reading from one of my short story collections at Stroud Short Stories event, April 2015

Stroud Short Stories organiser John Holland had chosen 7 out of 120 stories that had previously been read at its twice-yearly story evenings. Each SSS event provides a snapshot of the high calibre of local writing. These 120 stories had themselves been sifted from thousands of stories submitted to SSS over the years.

While the story I read at the April 2015 Stroud Short Stories event was not one of the first seven chosen, Katherine Hunter, one of the original line-up, had unfortunately fallen ill, and so I was pulled off the reserve bench to fill the gap. I’m really sad for Katherine to have to miss this opportunity due to illness, and I hope she makes a speedy recovery.

In the meantime, I’ll be dusting off my gold dress, an appropriate outfit for reading “The Alchemy of Chocolate”, which I wore when I read it at the April 2015 event in Stroud.

Cover image for The Alchemy of Chocolate showing chocolate coins falling out of a purse
If you join my Readers’ Club, you’ll receive a free download of this short story as a welcome gift

I won’t spoil the plot for anyone who is planning to be in the audience tonight, but if you’d like to read the story, you can either buy Quick Change, the collection in which it originally appeared, as an ebook or paperback (ISBN 978-0993087967), or get a copy of the story as a welcome gift when you join my free Readers’ Club.

All that means is you give me your email address and I send you very occasional emails about new books, events and special offers. You can unsubscribe any time you like too, though I hope you won’t want to! Please click here if you’d like to join the Readers’ Club.

Tonight’s Programme

To whet the appetite of the audience, here’s the line-up for tonight’s event, in order of appearance:

  1. Debbie Young – The Alchemy of Chocolate
  2. Philip Douch – Trog and Kron Almost Get It Right
  3. Ali Bacon – Silver Harvest
  4. Andrew Stevenson – A Good Old-Fashioned Cooper
  5. Rick Vick – Seeing
  6. Mel Golding – A Small Change
  7. Bill Jones – The Vampires in the Basement

It will be introduced by the ever-entertaining John Holland, an award-winning short story writer himself.

A good friend of ours, David Penny, a historical novelist and technical manager of the Alliance of Independent Authors, will be attending to video the event, so we hope to be able to share that with you in due course.

In the meantime, you can get a further sneak preview of the event if you tune in to BBC Radio Gloucestershire at 12.30pm today when lunchtime show presenter Dominic Cotter will be doing a quick interview with me. John Holland will also be interviewed on the night by the station’s roving reporter in the Green Room. (I think it’ll be Jo Durrant, who is doing a great round-up of the Festival on a daily basis – catch her on Twitter here.)

Like to Enter the Next Stroud Short Stories Competition?

After all the excitement of tonight is over, it’ll be back to planning the next Stroud Short Stories event, which takes place on Sunday 20th November. You have until the end of Saturday 29th October to submit your entry. Please note admission is free, but only authors who have a connection with Gloucestershire or South Gloucestershire are eligible to enter. Stories may be on any subject, to a maximum of 1500 words. For more details, visit the Stroud Short Stories website. Ooh, nearly forgot to mention – this time I’m the guest judge, alongside John. All entries are anonymised before they reach the judges, so no chances of favouritism. ;)

With thanks to my lovely friend Jacky, who will be in the audience, for flagging up that this week is Chocolate Week – what’s not to love about that?!



Posted in Self-publishing, Writing

My Self-Publishing Advice for Aspiring Indie Authors

A post to help writers become self-publishing authors

Headshot of Debbie in a bookshop“Help! I want to self-publish the books I’ve written, but I haven’t got a clue how to go about it!”

That message arrived in my inbox from a very nice chap who I’d enjoyed chatting to at the recent Triskele Literary Festival in London. The advice that I sent him in reply will help any writer thinking of becoming a self-publishing author, so I thought I’d put it on my blog to help as many people as I can.

Tip #1: Join the Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi)

ALLi logo
The must-join membership association for self-published authors everywhere

First of all, you should most definitely join the Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi) via this link, because you’ll find it an invaluable resource at all stages of your self-publishing journey, in lots of different ways, e.g.

  • meeting and networking with other self-publishing authors
  • access to our private Facebook forum where you can ask and find answers to questions about any aspect of writing and self-publishing any time of day or night from our global membership
  • free guidebooks in ebook form which are definitive guides to different parts of the process
  • discounts and deals on a wide range of essential services and events
  • entitlement to post your book news on our Member Showcase
  • the option to write guest posts on ALLi’s widely read blog,, of which I’m Commissioning Editor

The benefits are incredibly good value for money, and if any aspiring indie author can afford to pay for only one thing, that’s the one thing I’d recommend.

Tip #2: Learn as Much as You Can Yourself

Cover of "Self-Publish Your Book" by Jessica Bell
A handy quick read for anyone interested in self-publishing their books

Secondly, it depends on how IT-savvy you are. Self-publishing requires a whole string of computer-based tasks, but they are not rocket science. If you are comfortable with word processing and social media, and you have some spare time to throw at the task, it’s not that hard to master creating book files, especially if you acquaint yourself with various good guide books that I can recommend:

  • Amazon KDP’s own guide to creating a Kindle ebook (free to download)
  • Catherine Ryan-Howard’s Self-Printed  – appropriately subtitled “The Sane Person’s Guide to Self-Publishing”! (a huge tome but worth every penny)
  • Jessica Bell’s Self-Publish Your Book (small but perfectly-formed!)

You should soon realise what tasks you can and can’t manage yourself, and you should delegate those to someone else who can. You should ALWAYS get your proofreading done, at the very least, and preferably some editing too if you can afford it, and next on your shopping list should be a good cover design from a book design specialist.

That will be sufficient to get you started by publishing to Amazon in print and ebook form, and once you’ve mastered that you can move on to the various other distribution platforms. If you want to be able to sell your books via bookshops, you should also publish via Ingram Spark. (NB This doesn’t guarantee that your book will be sold in any bookshops, but it makes it possible for bookshops to order them if they want to.

Tip #3: Decide on Your Priorities: Cash vs Time

Thirdly, it depends on whether you are cash-rich, time-poor or cash-poor, time-rich. If money is no object, you can pay a company to publish a book for you, who will do everything other than write it, to get it to the production stage – but you will have to market it. Buyer beware – there are LOTS of charlatans out there, but the good news is that ALLi will help you identify the good guys! Also, of course, if you delegate to a third party, you relinquish some degree of control. Our guide Choosing a Self-publishing Service (free to download if you become a member) is available to buy in paperback here).

Tip #4: Network with Other Indie Authors

It’s also worth joining a good local meetup group of self-publishing authors, if you can find one near you. I run two, in Bristol and Cheltenham, and I’m also involved with one in Oxford, and know of others in London and elsewhere. If you’d like me to put you in touch with any of my self-publishing author friends near where you live, leave a comment and I’ll see if I can hook you up with a group or a like-minded individual.

Group shot of authors in doorway of bookshop
With some of my author friends with the proprietor of the Anthology Bookshop, where we meet once a month in Cheltenham (Photo by Angela Fitch Photography)

Tip #5: Make Sure Your Book is Really Ready for Publication

Make sure your book is the best it can be before you publish it – it is so easy to self-publish a book these days that it is too tempting to push the “Publish” button sooner than you should!

Tip #6: Keep Writing!

The more books you self-publish, the greater your chances of success. Received wisdom is that provided the books you’ve self-published are any good, and that they are in the same genre, you’ll see a significant increase in sales when you publish your third, fifth and seventh book, and so on – although yesterday someone told me that the fourteenth is the biggest tipping point (no idea why!) So I’d better get back to writing my books, then…

My Self-published Books

I’ve now self-published a number of fiction and non-fiction books, and I’m also currently writing the second in a cosy mystery series of seven, the Sophie Sayers Village Mystery Collection.

  • To find out about my fiction books,  click here
  • To read about my non-fiction, click here
  • To join my mailing list so that I can let you know whenever I’m launching a new book, or other book-related news, just click here – and you’ll get a free ebook as a welcome gift!

Link to sign up to book news mailing list