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I’ve written before about how helpful and inclusive is the self-publishing community.  If you have any self-publishing questions or concerns or requests, there are numerous fora on which you can post (including my own first port of call, the ALLi website) and you’ll be overwhelmed by answers, suggestions and encouragement.  But I think it’s only right that I should point out that the giving freely of expertise and advice is not limited to self-published authors.

If you’ve ever read a Sam Plank book, you might remember that at the start of each of them is a quotation from a classical author – Virgil in “Fatal Forgery”, Sophocles in “The Man in the Canary Waistcoat” and so on.  The last time I studied Latin was when I was twelve (and that was when Jim Callaghan, Jimmy Carter and Leonid Brezhnev were in charge) and I’ve never attempted Greek, and so every time I have to rely on the kindness of Classics academics to check that I am using the most favoured translation.  All it takes is a few emails, and people are so happy to help.

All of the Sam books involve a great deal of research – no, don’t feel sorry for me, as I love it.  But sometimes the material is contradictory or just too technical for me to understand, and here too I turn to the experts.  I hope I won’t be giving too much away if I say that for the plot of “Plank 6” I needed some guidance on botany in the 1820s – which plants had been identified, what were their formal and common names, and whether people in England would have heard of them.  Kew Gardens was the obvious place to go with my enquiries, and the response was just wonderful: I was given exactly the answers I needed, along dedicated links to extra information (some of which gave me an excellent plot development) and a standing invitation to the Gardens to meet the experts and have a look at the plants I was asking about.  When Trump derides and rejects expertise, he is – as usual – talking out of his hat.  And experts who are willing to share their knowledge with random authors who contact them out of the blue add immeasurably to human wealth and happiness.  Thank Kew!

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