Saturday, 17 March 2018

Further thoughts on Kindle Create

One of the things that worried me about Kindle Create was how it was actually published, because nowhere in the KC software was there any mention of book covers. I was wary of pressing the Publish button in case I did something that would screw up the whole project.
After I read the cryptic sentence for the tenth time, a light bulb moment occurred: the software transfers the ms into a specific file that can then be loaded into the Kindle  Direct Publishing package that I've used before.

Once I realised that it was easy, but I wish they had made it more clear!

Final checks to be made, price to be decided, blurb polished and keywords decided. Then I can final press the Publish button.

This is my cover. Depending how swiftly KDP works, publication day will be Sunday, or perhaps, if they're a little slow, Monday 19th March 2018.

Wednesday, 14 March 2018


The new software from Amazon that allows publication of an e-book is called Kindle Create. I've been exploring it with a view to publishing my next book, which is due in a few days. I'd love to give an official date of publication, but sod's law says I won't stick to it, so I'll just say it is very close.

 At first glance the software seems beautfully simple, and in many ways, it is.

There is a choice of four themes to suit different genres - Classic, Amour, etc.  They aren't exactly startling, but it means the software will modify the entire text for you to that style. It will seek out paragraphs, breaks, headings etc and deal with them for you, according to the style you've chosen. You can be certain they will all be consistent. 
The software will do the Table of Contents for you, too. 
If you have any links, the software will hold them but once you try to modify them they vanish.

My needs are simple as I have no illustrations, graphics or lists to incorporate. It is a plain novel, and the software seems to suit me well so far. One draw back I've noted is that though you can edit the text in Kindle Create, it - obviously when you think about it - doesn't make the change in your original Word document, so you could end up with no final copy of your ms. 
If I had made all my editing changes on the Word document, I would have been further on by now. I had about three goes at editing on Kindle Create before the penny fnally dropped. Now I'm back to doing a final, final, final edit on Word, so in a sense I've wasted all the time I spent each time making the style changes. Next time I'll know better!

Thursday, 8 March 2018

Historical fact and historical fiction

There are two or three very well-known authors I can think of (and many more whose names don’t spring to mind right now!) who write what I call historical biographies. 

They select a known person from history and write as if they were them, or knew them; in other words, they write dialogue for them, tell us their thoughts, their emotions as well as the major points of their lives. This is fine, and I read a lot of them. But writing fiction about well-known  and well documented figures and events is one thing; writing about characters who once existed about whom little is known is problematical.

Readers ask me if the main character in my book Alba is Mine is really MacBeth. Well, the answer is partly yes and partly no; MacBeth started it all. Or rather, Shakespeare did when he made him a short reign villain when in actual fact he reigned successfully for seventeen years. 

I wanted to know more, but could regrettably find very little about the real MacBeth. Dunnett researched him for five years before she wrote King Hereafter and as a successful historical novelist she had access to all sorts of information sources that I, with nothing to my name, did not. So I contented myself with imagining a time period and its culture, clothes, poetry and weapons, added one or two historical characters and then leapt off into the realms of pure fiction, by which I mean I simply imagined everything.

Knowing how much was my imagination, I couldn’t bring myself to call my hero MacBeth, so I called him Finlay mac Ruaidhri, which wasn’t so far removed from the name most family trees gave his step-father. Dunnett’s conclusion was that MacBeth and Earl Thorfinn were one and the same person; Thorfinn was his Orkney name, and MacBeth his Christian name, but I made Thorfinn and Finlay half-brothers sharing the same mother. Since I was writing fiction I shamelessly telescoped events so that the book covers less than a year in the life of my hero – but it is a very eventful year!

Thursday, 1 March 2018

Early Dublin, Dubhlinn, Dyflinn

Dublin grew up over a 1,000 years ago at the lowest crossing point on the Liffey. The river was wide, shallow, endured high tides reaching far inland as well as flash flooding, and the river mouth was plagued with shifting sandbars. People began to settle on the east-west ridge south of the Liffey in two communities. First to establish itself was Ath Cliath, a trading settlement and then the partly ecclesiastical centre named Dubhlinn for the black pool above which it stood; both were certainly present before the early seventh century though no one can say for sure exactly when the settlements first appeared.

The annals say the Vikings arrived in AD 841 and settled at Dubhlinn, and gave the name their own twist, rendering it as Dyflinn and one or two other variants which very much depended on the spelling powers of the recorder. They moved toward Ath Cliath by AD 900 possibly because the four major highways (defined as a road on which two chariots could pass one another) converged on the town, which would certainly have enhanced Viking trade. The name Ath Cliath means “a ford of hurdle-work,” so presumably it was also right on the crossing point. The river was said to be 300 metres wide at high tide with the ford only passable at low tide and then by a walkway constructed of slippery saplings woven into a mesh and fixed on piles of some kind.

The ninth century Viking longphort (a naval encampment) became a tenth century dun or castle. Across the River Poddle which sweeps around the base of Dyflinn, stood the assembly place called the Thingmot, anglicised as Thingmount, a flat-topped mound where Norse assemblies were held. Nearby are the burial mounds of the Scandinavian kings, known in Old Norse as haugr or haugar and believed to form the basis of the medieval name Hogges or Hoggen green. (I’m rather inclined to believe the name might have something to do with pigs, but what do I know?)

Three hundred metres to the north-east stands the Long Stone, which commemorates either the first landing place, or the re-taking of Dyflinn after one of the Hiberno-Norse battles, or both. One map shows the Long Stone on a small island but as a bridge was built, the quays were dug out, silting up of the river changed the shoreline; the Long Stone appeared to move inland. Amlaib or Olafr Cuaran, father of Sitric Silkenbeard, is given credit for colonising Dyflinn and building the defensive embankments along Wood Quay against the warring Irish. Sitric continued the expansion of the town.

Sunday, 25 February 2018

Psychic Distance.

Dunvegan, Skye
I found a new writing term today. Psychic Distance. I discovered it in Emma Darwin's blog - This Itch of Writing.  I've been been re-writing Dark Pool into  VIKING SUMMER over the last couple of months, and since reading her blog I now know I've been playing around with psychic distance for one of my characters!

I got to 25 in my first edit and decided my heroine wasn't coming through clearly enough. Things happened to her, but there was no sign of how she felt about it all. Big mistake! (The original story was written  over twelve years ago when I hadn't been very long published!)

After thinking for a while I decided to concentrate on my heroine. After all, it was her story, and not Finlay of Alba's tale, though he was quite important. Making her my POV figure, using first person for her and third person for anyone else, would focus attention on her and get me closer to her. I sighed, because it meant a lot of work.  I was working on chapter 25 when I made this decision, and then had to go back to the beginning and re-draft each of her scenes, but it certainly got me thinking as if I were in her shoes. Her sometimes snippety voice started coming through and I liked that. (Perhaps I have a snippety voice too?) As Ms Darwin's blog says

"The closer-in we are to that character's consciousness, the more the scene and how it's narrated is coloured and shaped by that character's personality."
So the second draft concentrated on altering my heroines scenes. I also discovered something else I had to change. There was a dramatic incident, very important to the tale, and I had reported  it from two character perspectives and thus reduced the impact of said incident. 
I decided the incident should be with my heroine; I incorporated some of the description of the second character's discovery into her scene,  and omitted the rest. That made it much more her discovery and gave it more impact. Odd how these things leap out and demand to be changed. 
Technically then, I am on a third draft now and closing in rapidly on the magic words - the End.

Monday, 19 February 2018

Sigtrygg II Silkbeard Olafsson

Since I'm editing a book set in Dublin in 1035/6, I thought I should maybe offer some factual information for the reader who wants to know the history behind the book to be published soon as VIKING SUMMER.

Sigtrygg II Silkbeard Olafsson actually existed. He glories in having several spellings of his name depending which source you read; he can be Sihtric, Sitric and Sitrick in Irish texts; or Sigtryg and Sigtryggr in Scandinavian texts. There were two Sitrics before him in the family tree and one of his sons was also named Sitric, so reading histories of the time can be confusing. As the Hiberno-Norse king of Dublin of the Uí Ímair dynasty, his dates are complicated too. He ruled - and these dates are the best I can glean from the different reports - AD 989–994, then again AD 995–1000; and restored once more in AD 1000 and abdicated 1036. Adding all that time together, he ruled for 46 years, which was no mean feat at the time.

He conducted a long series of raids into territories such as Meath, Wicklow, Ulster, and perhaps even the coast of Wales. He also came into conflict with rival Norse kings, especially in Cork and Waterford. 

He went on pilgrimage to Rome in 1028 and is associated with the foundation of Christ Church Cathedral in Dublin and would have called himself a Christian, but that didn't stop him executing and blinding his enemies. 

His father was Olaf Cuaran, King of York and his mother the infamous Gormflaith ingen Murchada of Munster. They married in AD 972, and Sigtrygg was born around AD 974. He married Emer, daughter of Brian Boru, when he was 24 and forced her to watch the Battle of Clontarf with him from his fortress. It was the battle in which her father Boru died. They had 5 sons, who all died before Sigtrygg. He seems to have been related to almost every famous family of the time - his sister Gyda married Olaf Tryggvasson, who died in 1000. Their son was killed by Canute's son, Sveinn in 1033 in Norway. Sigtrygg's son Olaf married Slaine, daughter of Boru - though some reports have Slaine as Sigtrygg's wife. 

With English blood from his paternal grandmother, Eadgth, Alfred's grandaughter;  Irish blood from Murchadh, King of Leinster, his maternal grandfather, the mix was complete with his Norse bloodline reaching back to his great great grandfather Ivarr the Boneless. He abdicated in 1036, and died in 1042 

Marriages were repudiated seemingly at will, and Gormflaith, in spite of her famed beauty, was repudiated twice. Not only did Sigtrygg marry Boru's daughter, but Brian's third wife was none other than Gormflaith.  It is rumoured that Brian had four wives and thirty concubines and though Gormflaith gave him a son, it is doubtful that she was ever truly married to him.

Interesting scraps of information I found was that in the year 1000 AD, the temperature was 2-4 degrees higher than now. Population was so much less than now: in 1066 England had a population of 2-3 million, Ireland just under 1 million and Scotland and Wales a little over half a million. 

Wednesday, 14 February 2018


First edit done, second under way and I'm thinking about a cover. Here's a snippet from what I think will now be called VIKING SUMMER. The story begins on the west coast of Scotland in 1036 AD and Eilidh's brother Domnall has just been caught stealing cattle. Finlay, as the newly crowned King of Alba (read ALBA IS MINE) and his good friend Hareth, confront him. They are part of the story, but the main protagonist in this story is Eilidh and her adventures.

"Four days later I stood in the hearth-hall with anxiety churning my stomach as my brother's familiar figure strode towards me. Unshaven, muddy and with his pale brown curls like a nimbus around his sunburned face, he frowned as he noted Bundalloch men loitering around the hall when they should have been at work in the fields and barns. His gaze came to me, questioning; then he saw the strangers beside me. His stride slowed and his frown deepened.

My hands gripped together beneath my breastbone. The King of Alba stood silent at my side. His unexpected arrival had brought women running into the dairy to tell me of the huge Viking longship approaching the jetty. I had stared at the tall, attractive man stalking ashore as if he owned Bundalloch. When I saw the gold circlet of kingship at his brow, I realised he did indeed own it and knew we were in trouble.

His dark good looks, self-confidence and the size of his entourage initially unnerved me, but pride came to my rescue. My gown might be plain, my apron spattered with milk and my hair unadorned, but until Domnall married, I was the lady of Bundalloch and knew my duties. Hurrying forward, I greeted the king and stuttered a welcome. He had smiled, dispersed his men around Bundalloch, and walked into the hearth-hall without having received an invitation from me.

Beside me the King of Alba dropped into the thane of Bundalloch's chair and made himself comfortable. The storm cloud gathered on Domnall’s face as Leod and their companions filtered into place behind him. Then, collecting himself, he took a quick breath, bent his head and forced out a sentence of stilted politeness. “I trust my sister has offered food and drink, Your Grace?”
My nails dug into my palms. Of course I had. Did he think I was stupid?

“We heard you’ve been away on business,” the king said in a surprisingly deep voice. “To do with cattle, I think?”
Stiff as a pine, his fists clenched hard against his thighs, my brother said, “The beasts wander too far and must be brought back.”

A flood of sunlight lit the hall as the doors burst open to admit a vibrant young man with chestnut hair who strode across the rough earthen floor. “You've been raiding, Domnall,” he called out in a cheerful voice. “We've seen the beasts and watched you at work.” 

Friday, 9 February 2018

A lifetime of words

When I was a teenager I used to take a handwritten or hand-typed copy of pieces of literature that struck a chord with me. I did it as a child, too, but didn't keep those pieces. The teenage years are in a ring-binder and I found it at the back of a cupboard the other day. I had copied Kathleen Raine, Ted Hughes, Kalil Gibran, Seamus Heaney, e e cummings, Charles beatty and lots of others. Even a smidgen of Wordsworth, but probably not the one everyone knows -

For why? Because the good old rule
Sufficeth them; the simple plan,
That they should take who have the power,
and they should keep who can.

There are odd snippets like this one by someone called Tamburas:
Stand still, O Time.
I shall never know why,
You white wall, I love you
Like a woman I never saw before.
The blue of the sky reflects the Nile.

I love you, Men-nefru,
For in the magic of your streets
And in the orange-coloured moon
Of your night
Dwells the breath of the gods.

From poetry I ventured into prose and there are chunks from T H White, Rosemary Sutcliff, and an author I have noted down as M Savage. From there I deviated into all sorts of odd things - the breeding line of Nijinsky and Mill Reef, for example and scrapbooks on the JFK assassination, and Nureyev's defection to the west. Some of this collection stemmed from the fact that I worked in ICI where several daily papers and magazines were received and processed into the library - if I saw anything interesting I could snip it (once the item had ben processed) and read or copy it at my leisure. Reading through the pieces I kept still gives me pleasure today, but I'm mot sure that I still have those scrapbooks, but it is possible. Maybe I'll turn into a hoarder in later life!

Monday, 5 February 2018

Are e-books priced too high?

David Naggar, Amazon’s publishing chief, says a price of 99p sells more books.

Self-published authors  regularly sell  their work on Amazon for 99p  
Faced with two book by unknown authors which cost £9.99 and £2.99 respectively, which do you think most people would pick? 

Trad publishers find this "economically unwise"  because their business models are quite different. Indie authors sell at 99p via the Kindle platform and earn a royalty of between 35-70% of the retail price. Trad published authors earn 25% on e-books. 

Amazon has around 90% share of the ebook market in the UK according to the Publishers Association and according to them sales of trade ebooks fell by 17% in 2016 to £204 million.

One publisher (Alessandro Gallenzi) argues that nurturing authors requires a long term investment and cheap prices damage authors by devaluing and homogenising their work.
Matthew Lynn is the CEO of Endeavour Press and thinks that the market dictates the price, that e books are overpriced and £1.99 is a better price than 99p - though it does depend on genre.
"Digital and print books serve different audiences," he says..."cheaper ebooks are enhancing sales."

Evidently an Amazon spokes person has said that Naggar's comments had been intended to illustrate and example of KDP tactics to drive discovery for new authors. 

September 4, 2017 by Natasha Onwuemezi and Katherine Cowdrey

Monday, 29 January 2018


Like the lady on Facebook this morning who sent out a plea for chocolate because she is editing, I feel the same way. Fascinating as it is to see one's own goofs and gaffes, editing soon becomes a chore. I'm up to Chapter 8, so there's a fair way to go. 

My routine goes like this  ~  Print out 10 pages, check, make the corrections, print another 10. I may be doing this for quite a while.It will be interesting to see how much the word count drops in this first edit. I have no plans to cut specific chunks; if the 128K length reduces, it will be a natural editing process.

Meanwhile I am keeping an ear to the ground on the sexual harrassment argument which has now ventured into odd waters. Some female on the Andrew Marr show yesterday, whose name I had never heard of and instantly forgot, said that women should not be decorative items for male enjoyment. This has all arisen from the Presidents Club evening that aroused such a storm of protest, claiming that women were groped and made to wear provocative dresses. Now, I wasn't there, and I don't know anyone who was. My knowledge of that event is all hearsay. At first glance the claim seems valid - women should not be groped and certainly not harassed or assaulted. 

But then one begins to wonder how far this goes. What frightens and upsets one woman may be flirtation or livelihood to another. I began to think of all the females who pose semi-nude in glossy magazines, who adorn huge posters on hoardings and on buses, in their underwear. They make a lot of money by doing so and become celebrities. They turn up at sporting events such as the Tour de France, Formula 1 and darts, to name but a few. What about cheer leaders? What about ball girls in tennis wearing skirts so short we can see the curve of their cheeks while ball boys wear sensible knee length shorts? Book covers frequently sport sexily clad females. The pop world so beloved of many has been semi-pornographic for years and I’m only surprised that no tales of sexual harassment has come out of that world as yet. The school girls these days wear pelmets instead of skirts and no one is making them do it. Some females enjoy "showing off their assets" and demand attention in this way. Watch anything on the box and there will be the female showing lots of bare skin and huge amounts of thigh. Advertising would collapse without sexily-dressed women to promote the goods. The thing is the attention comes sometimes in a way that some women don’t like and it is not always directed at the one who wants it.

I don’t know how this problem is going to be sorted, if it ever is.

Monday, 22 January 2018

An excerpt....

"The room was small. The soft glow of a six-armed candelabrum shone on the wood panelling, gleamed on the pewter utensils on the side table and bounced off the gleaming gold crucifix nailed to the wall. A woman sang as she rocked the carved wooden cradle to pacify the child within. Matho released the breath he had been holding, and thanked the Lord that she sat with her back to him.
Unlike the plump, matronly servants who cared for the Carnaby children, this one wore a flimsy white nightdress with soft folds bunched and tangled around her slender feet. A crimson and gold embroidered shawl hugged her shoulders. Thick, glossy hair hung down her spine, and candlelight sparked on the jewelled pin caught in its strands. When she lifted her hand, a large purple jewel flashed in the flickering light.
Did they recruit maids from the nobility these days? Fingers, pink and tiny as a bird’s foot, waved above the cradle and plucked at the woman’s hand. Delight quivered in her voice as she sang.
Matho’s throat ached.
Christ! Harry would think him a soft-hearted beggar. He eased back from the doorway, aware that any sudden movement would betray him. Once safely in the corridor, he rested his shoulders against the cold plaster wall, blinked and swallowed the lump that threatened to fill his throat.
Harry, puzzled, watched him.
Matho shook his head, and jerked his thumb in the direction of the nursery."

The snippet above  is from Abduction of the Scots Queen, out in both paperback and Kindle. The house was supposedly once Darnley's house in Stirling.

Saturday, 20 January 2018

E-book claims

The Publishing Association show that sales of consumer ebooks have dropped by 17%, while sales of physical books are up 8%. Consumer spending on books was up £89m across the board last year, compared with 2015. 

Paula Cocozza wrote a fairly long article about this back in April 2017 asking So why is the physical book winning through? I read it with interest and then found this statement:

The figures from the Publishing Association should be treated with some caution. They exclude self-published books, a sizable market for ebooks. And, according to Dan Franklin, a digital publishing specialist, more than 50% of genre sales are on ebook. Digital book sales overall are up 6%.

I looked back at th earlier figure: ebooks have dropped by 17%  and wondered how to match the two statements in my mind.

“It’s not about the death of ebooks,” Daunt says. (James Daunt of Waterstone) “It’s about ebooks finding their natural level. Even in the years when ebook sales were rising greatly – and clearly cannibalising physical book sales – it was always very clear that we would have a correction and reach an equilibrium.” The UK, he says, has “adopted” ebooks and they will remain a substantial market (while in France, for instance, ebooks are only 3% of the overall market). The last thing he – or any seller or publisher of physical books – wants is the death of the ebook. “We want people to read. We don’t mind how they read,” he stresses. He knows that people who read, sooner or later, will buy books.

Perhaps you'll be able to explain to me how those two claims match together.

Tuesday, 16 January 2018

Scared of Amazon

Selected a wonderful list of books yesterday in anticipation of spending my gift token. Chose nine titles all from awesome books at 0.35 pence each, hopped over to checkout and stopped short. The total cost of the books was something like £3.50 - but the postage and packing charge was £28.00! 

Telling myself it was too good to be true (to get  so many titles for so little) I went away shaking my head. They were all paperback, all from the same second-hand dealer in the UK and couldn't possibly have cost that much to post them all together.

Anyway, I declined to spend that much on postage.

Now I'm looking more carefully at each screen as I go. For me Amazon seems to be a minefield. Last time I remember their system swallowed my gift card and gave me nothing in return. (I did get it all sorted out, but it makes me wary. A couple of years ago I found I had somehow selected Amazon Prime and £79 had gone from my bank account. I did not and still don't want Amazon Prime, but their screens are so trickily worded and set out that it is easy to fall into the trap. DH fell into it a year or so later. Again, we both got everything sorted and money returned, but this sort of happening does make one wary. DH wont use Amazon any more. I use it, but in fear and trembling!

Wish me luck as I try to spend my gift wisely!

Since we have snow, wind and cold temperatures forecast for my area today I've been up and walked Tim so we can now hunker down in a warm house for a few hours and see what happens. Forecasts don't always come true, but I went looking for snow pictures and found this, taken in Zermatt in 2009 when we were perched on the top of the Kleine Matterhorn in sub-zero temperatures at something like 12-13,000 feet.

Saturday, 13 January 2018

A trip out

I may just re-charge my ipad and spend the rest of the day reading this thread on Twitter. What a hoot! Best thing in a long while.

In spite of today being Saturday we took a trip out to Wallington, a National Trust place not far away. It's a while since we've been there, and both self and DH had to think really hard to remember the way to get there! It's somewhere we've been hundreds of times and of course once we remembered that it is off the A68 we wondered how we could have forgotten. I guess this is one of the signs of how much information we are obliged to cram into our minds these days. Perhaps my shelves are getting full and need weeding!


There is a whole new layout for the car park which seems to have increased at least threefold in our absence. There is also a 6-mile cycle track which we blithely assumed accommodated dog walkers as well (luckily we were correct!) and so we walked for a good hour or so through fields and woods and met only one other dog walking couple - and they were 200 yards ahead of us where the tracks converged. After doing that we didnt need to follow the crowds into the courtyard or the shop or the house; nor the walled garden either. We'll save those things for a weekday when it will be less crowded. But it was nice to go back.

As a rule I'm not overkeen on sharing bridlepaths and footpaths with cyclists as so often they are used by hulking men who hurtle by without warning and expect me and my on-lead dog to get out of their way. The family groups and the "gentle" riders I have no issues with; it is the lycra clad, crash helmeted 15 stoners who ride at 30-40 miles an hour without use of bell or voice as warning. Do they not realise that the noise they create is behind them? If they do not alert us that they are going to overtake, we do not know that they are behind us.

Wednesday, 10 January 2018

More travel woes

Remember my stories of  our relatives travel woes during a journey from Australia for Christmas? Well, they were among the 13,000 tourists stuck in Zermat yesterday with all road and rail links closed by 1.60 metres of snow. (Bearing in mind that I'm only 1.65 metres, that seems a awful lot of snow!) We feared that their onward flight back home to Sydney would be missed in the chaos.

However these members of the Black family are nothing if not resourceful. Last night we received  news that they were safe in Zurich, having got a helicopter flight from Zermatt to Tasch where they picked up their booked hire car and drove to Zurich. This morning they should be on their way to Helsinki and from there back to Australia. 

I wonder if they'll venture this way ever again?