26 March 2013

Tuesday Talk - please welcome...


...  my guest, author David Ebsworth!




David Ebsworth is the pen name of writer, Dave McCall, a former negotiator and Regional Secretary for the Transport & General Workers’ Union. He was born in Liverpool but has lived for the past thirty years in Wrexham with his wife, Ann. 
Since their retirement in 2008, the couple have spent about six months of each year in southern Spain. Dave began to write seriously in 2009. His debut novel, The Jacobites' Apprentice, was critically acclaimed by the Historical Novel Society who deemed it "worthy of a place on every historical fiction bookshelf." But he's here today to launch his new novel, The Assassin's Mark.

Anyway, over to you, David.

Well first, thanks for welcoming me to the blog. It's a great privilege to be here. And especially today, as you say, to launch my second novel, The Assassin’s Mark.  It's set in 1938, towards the end of the Spanish Civil War, and follows the trials and tribulations of left-wing reporter Jack Telford, stuck on a tour bus with a very strange mixture of other travellers as he tries to uncover the hidden truths beneath the conflict. But, in the words of the synopsis, "Jack must contend first with his own gullibility, the tragic death of a fellow-passenger, capture by Republican guerrilleros, a final showdown at Spain's most holy shrine and the possibility that he has been badly betrayed. Betrayed and in serious danger."





Where did the idea come from for the book?
I was researching a novel about the International Brigades in the Spanish Civil War and came across a paper on the Battlefield Tours that Franco launched – mainly for British tourists – before the war was even finished. It was too good a story to ignore.

What genre does your book fall under?

Historical thriller with a generous amount Agatha Christie and a splash of Rick Stein, seasoned with a pinch of the picaresque.


Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

I always picture actors in my main character roles anyway so, in this case, Christopher Eccleston as Jack Telford and Rachel Weisz as Valerie Carter-Holt.


What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

A Christie-esque thriller set on a battlefield tour bus towards the end of the Spanish Civil War.


Is  your book self-published or represented by an agency?

I spent a long time looking for agents and "traditional publishers" when I wrote Jacobites. A lot of people that I respect were very supportive about it but the agents I contacted were either too rude to even acknowledge me, or told me it wouldn't fit their lists, or liked it but weren't taking on any more new authors. Also, in meeting many other wordsmiths, I realised that there's a huge mythology about "traditional publishers". It's generally thought that, first, they pay their authors a generous advance; second, that they get your work automatically onto bookstore shelves; and, third, that they do all the marketing for you. It's a load of nonsense for all but a tiny minority. So, being passionate about my writing, and having market-tested a bit, I decided to go "independent", publishing with the help of SilverWood Books (www.silverwoodbooks.co.uk) and  using their high quality professional backing (registrations, typesetting, design, proofing, etc.) but using my own editor (the inimitable Jo Field) and jacket cover graphic designer (the indefatigable and innovative Cathy Helms of Avalon Graphics). I’ve found it a fantastic way for a new writer to get published and I love the buzz of doing my own marketing.





How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
I started to write in February 2011 and finished the first draft (180,000 words) in October that year – then travelled with it through all its locations in Northern Spain to check the “feel” and complete the first re-write (168,000 words). The final version is 152,000 words.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

C J Sansom’s Winter in Madrid; Dave Boling’s Guernica; Rebecca Pawel’s Death of a Nationalist; Ernest Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls.


Who or What inspired you to write this book?

Long list, I’m afraid. Old comrades like Jack Jones and Frank Deagan from whom I first learned about the “real” experience of the Spanish Civil War. Spanish family friends who lived through the war and Franco’s repression that followed it. Wonderful historians like Antony Beevor and Paul Preston who’ve never lost sight of the Spanish Civil War’s significance for all of us. Professor Sandie Holguín who introduced me to the bus tours that feature centrally in the story.

What else about your book might pique the reader's interest?

The Spanish Civil War is badly neglected by English-language fiction writers so, at one level, I wanted the novel to be informative as well as entertaining. I’d like it to be a “must” for all those who already have an affection for Spain and maybe want to learn a bit more about the country’s history and culture – while still being able to sit on a beach with a good pot-boiler and need to keep “turning the pages.”

For more about David's previous novel, The Jacobites’ Apprentice, and other relevant information, you can visit his main website...

25 March 2013

Excerpt: Harold The King


Seeing as I had a small bit of unexpected publicity courtesy the UK's Sunday Mirror, I thought I'd share a chosen at random excerpt: 

Note: 
Harold the King is the UK title - it is titled 'I Am The Chosen King' in the US 




Edyth Swanneck, Harold Godwineson's mistress/common-law wife, is arriving in London for the first time in her life. 
The year is 1044

§11
London

London, Edyth realised, was larger, busier and noisier than ever she could have imagined. It also stank. 
She had ridden the dozen or so miles from Nazeing in a state of bubbling euphoria. Her father had allowed her to borrow one of the farm’s mares; Harold himself had presented her with a new saddle of exceptional quality, sent for some weeks previously as a thank-you gift and purchased, he told her, from the most skilled harness-maker in all London. “Soon, you will see where such things are made for yourself. And more besides.” 
They had left an hour after sunrise, thankful that the drizzling rain of the previous day had dried into a cloud-covered but pleasantly warm morning. Edyth wore a spring-green cloak, new-made riding apparel and a smile that Harold said was wider than the River Thames itself. She was also nervous, for she had never travelled so far from home, but Harold stayed always at her side making conversation to put her at ease, although his enthusiasm for the journey was not as buoyant as he pretended. 
The weeks at Nazeing had, once his illness began to abate, been a time of pleasure – not merely because of Edyth. Days of blissful abstention from responsibility; an opportunity to sit beside the river, quietly to observe the hypnotic current as it rippled and eddied. A rare chance to enjoy the spring flowers blooming, watch the wind scurry through the trees or the rain moving across the sky in banks of shape-changing cloud. He had rediscovered things from childhood that he had forgotten – fishing, riding for the pleasure of it, the marvel of new life on a farm: lambs, calves, chicks and piglets. The pace of a freeborn farmer directed by the cycle of nature had suddenly appealed, although Harold was aware that without adequate gold, such a living could be harsh. There was always work to be done – hard work – on the land, from dawn till dusk, through all weathers, all seasons. A peasant relied on a small patch of land, one pig, one goat, to provide his meagre existence; had no servant, no well-stocked barn or comfortable Hall. No fur-lined boots or cloak to keep out the cold of mid-winter. Harold knew all that, knew that the life he had been born to, of politics, leadership, warfare and government, to outwit an opponent, was the only one that he could follow. This pessimism that he was trying to hide from Edyth arose from a reluctance to return to the banal bickering of court and the tedium of pointless bureaucracy. 
The office of earl was a demanding role, and there would be much for him to catch up with: legal matters to make judgement on, charters to witness and sign. He had reliable clerical secretaries who had kept him informed of the more important matters, but the first few days back in London would inevitably revolve around endless meetings, discussions and decision-making. Edward would expect his full attention too; would have much to discuss. Harold only hoped that most of it would be important, not a surfeit of information about church building or hunting. Though Harold was always willing to listen to a recounting of a good chase, Edward had a tedious habit of repeating particular anecdotes. And then there were his numerous Norman friends to be tolerated. 
Naturally, Edward had brought his favoured companions with him when he returned to England and, naturally, some of them he had wanted to reward, but there were limits to the degree of honours presented to outsiders. Men like Robert Champart for example. 
No doubt the matter of Queen Emma’s removal would be high on the agenda also – his father’s letters had seen Harold informed of that particular sour turn of events. He agreed with Godwine that to humiliate the Queen had been a mistake – all rumour of her involvement with Magnus had proven unfounded – but equally Harold had conceded his father’s difficulty. If Swegn, damn him, had not been so foolishly implicated, then perhaps Godwine could have prevented the whole unfortunate business. Ah, but repercussions were bound to be swirling around court still…At least he had Edyth with him. She would be waiting for him at the end of the long days, with her happy smile and soft young body. 
The road they followed was level and well gravelled, with only the occasional pothole. Behind them it ran northwards up into the ancient Saxon lands of the North and South Folk and the lonely windswept swathes of the East Anglian fenlands. Ahead, the distant smoke haze that hung in a ragged fug over the city of London was visible for most of their journey. Much of the land to the northeast of London, now that they had ridden away from the forested ridges above the Lea and Roding valleys, was flat marshland divided by rivers and streams, the reed beds and isolated clumps of alder or crack willow occupied by waders and waterfowl. They had passed through hamlets such as Walhamstowe, Leaton and Stokæ, where women and children had come from their houses to wave and cheer; those working in the fields had halted their plough teams to watch the cavalcade pass by. 
The first thing that struck Edyth as they approached London itself was the height of its walls. The Roman giants, Harold told her, had built them to defend England’s most important town from harm. “No one can attack London,” he informed her with pride. “Not without the prospect of a long siege and much discomfort. London can only fall from within. When – if – the people decide to surrender.” 
And that, Edyth thought to herself, they will surely never do! 
They followed the banks of the sluggish Walbrook River as it trundled towards the Thames – and then they were at the Bishop’s Gate, riding beneath its echoing stone archway. Their escort, Harold’s housecarls and servants, bunched closer, their horses’ shod hooves clattering on the road that was suddenly no longer rough gravel but cobbled. The noise of the city was not immediately apparent, for they rode down through the Corn Hill, where not so many years past the wheat had been more dominant than the new-settled inhabitants. The hovels were beginning to encroach further out on to the few acres of open land, especially in the vicinity of All Hallows with its high-gabled, resplendently thatched-reed roof. The Londoners affectionately called it Grass Church, visitors and foreigners, mistaking the common-used accent, knowing it as Grace Church. The building squatted, serene, in the last oasis of peace before the bustle of the market streets of East Cheap. 
They turned their horses into the busy scramble – Edyth had never heard so much noise, not even at the autumn slaughter. She thought the old bull last year had bellowed loud, but this, this was incredible! Traders yodelled from behind their heaped stalls, men and women bawling out the attractions of their wares, haggling sharply and furiously with buyers, irritable with the slower minded, quick to strike a bargain whenever they could. A barrage of voices, high-pitched, gruff, cursing or laughing. Accents Edyth had not heard before, languages she could not identify. The riders passed stacks of wooden, copper and clay bowls; pewter ware; woven baskets of all shapes, sizes and forms. Stalls bright with colourful bolts of cloth, fruit stalls, meat stalls, wine and ale sellers. Leather and hides. Iron, wool…everything imaginable. She saw a black-haired person with skin as dark as a bay pony’s polished coat, another tall and fair with a bright-bladed axe slotted through his belt. This was the part of London where people headed, where trade flourished, where the gold and silver was made and paid. They came to London from all over the world, the merchants and the traders. From Denmark and Norway, Flanders and France and Normandy. From further away than that: Rome and Greece and the Holy Land. From Africa and Spain!
Women carried bulging packages; men humped rolls of cloth, sacks or crates and barrels. Handcarts blocked the road, while ragged children darted in and out of it all. Barking dogs, squealing mules, lowing oxen. Above the noise rose the smell of unwashed people all crowded together. Muck and filth clogged the road. Debris and animal dung mixed with raw sewage. Yet no one seemed to notice either the raucous din or the appalling stench. It was all a part of what made London what it was – the busiest, almost the most important port in all the world. 
Edyth did not know where to look first, what to see, what to hear. Her heart raced and thumped from the thrill of it all, her throat croaking a sudden cry of fear when her horse was thrust aside from Harold and the escort. The crowd closed into the sudden free space; a man, bent beneath heavy sheepskins, pushed in front of her. But instantly Harold reappeared at her side, his mouth grinning reassurance, his hand coming out to take the mare’s reins, to lead her quietly forward. 
They were through the press of the crowds and coming out on to Thames Street. More traders had set their stalls along the open embankment, fish sellers, pie makers – every culinary concoction imaginable. The river itself was no less crowded. Small boats and fishing boats. Merchant vessels with their high, swooping prows, flat-keeled boats with their single sails furled, moored against the oak timbers of the wharves or beached upon the clay reinforcement of the low-tide mud banks. Great sea-going beasts out of the water, some at anchor, others with oars out to manoeuvre against the water’s flow before the flood tide should come in upon them. 
Ahead towered the wooden structure of London Bridge sweeping across the river. Never had Edyth imagined that a mere bridge could be so wide or so long, nor that it could take the accumulated weight of so many. Surely, any minute it would creak and groan, and fall into the white-foamed water that was rushing beneath? 
The mare faltered as her fore hoof touched the timber, but again Harold was there, coaxing her forward. “I can see I will have to buy you a mount more used to these crowds,” he said. “As soon as I can, I will take you to the horse sales down on the Smoothfield market.” 
Curses and laughter emanated from the press ahead, a flurry, and a piglet, ears flat, tail bolt upright, ran squealing from between people’s legs, heading for the street beyond the bridge. Several men made to clutch it, one woman tried to toss her shawl over it, but it dodged aside, hurtling between the hooves of Harold’s horse. The animal merely snorted and sidestepped. 
“There is every kind of mount imaginable at Smoothfield,” Harold continued, as if nothing had happened. “Mares, geldings, ambling palfreys and high-stepping colts, destriers with quivering ears and proud hearts. Mind, there is many a rogue at the horse market – man and beast – but if you know what you are seeking you can find it, if you’re prepared to haggle the price.” 
A boy, a barefoot, ragged-dressed lad of no more than seven years, darted in the piglet’s trail, ripples of teasing and more than a few crude curses following in his wake. He dodged around the horses, leapt the last three strides from the timber bridge and scampered on up the lane to where astonished voices marked the animal’s route. 
Edyth had watched with growing horror as the pig narrowly missed her own mare’s trampling hooves – what if she shied? She had gasped as the boy almost collided with her mare’s broad rump, hardly heard Harold’s calm narrative of the horse market. 
Staunchly, she concentrated on looking ahead, telling herself not to look down, not to think of that mass of water below. Her relief on reaching the other side was immense, quickly overshadowed by the realisation that they had arrived, were at Earl Godwine’s London estate, his Hall in Southwark. 


Harold the King  (UK title)


I Am The Chosen King (US Title)
Amazon.com Paperback - on special offer at $6.80
Nook $10.94

Please e-mail me if you would like a signed bookplate to insert into your book







24 March 2013

I'm in the National News! Oooh!


seems I'm mentioned in the UK's Sunday Mirror today! 
There's a piece about Mark Lester being cast as Harold Godwinesson (King Harold II) in the 1066 Movie (not new news though!) 





Also mentions my novel Harold the King - what a nice surprise!)

Harold the King

Marke Lester, me & actor Ian Whyte at Battle Abbey re-enactment a few years ago




22 March 2013

I've been awarded the Sunshine Award!


(a Sunshine Award is especially appreciated as today is very cold, very wet and very blustery - with no sign of even a glimpse of sunshine!)


This blog, Let us Talk of Many Things, has been nominated by Carole Freeman to receive The Sunshine Award - thank you Carole, how kind of you!

The Sunshine Award is given by bloggers to other bloggers. The recipients are “Bloggers who positively and creatively inspire others in the blogosphere.” 

The way the award works is this: thank the person who gave you the award (thank you Carole!) and link back to them. (done) 
Then answer ten questions about yourself. (see below). Finally, select up to ten of your favourite bloggers, link their blogs to your post, and let them know they have been awarded the Sunshine Award! (also done!)

Carole nominated the following ten bloggers and their blogs to receive the award. Congratulations to all...

1. The Madwoman in the Attic @ http://lisareadsbooks.blogspot.ca/
3. Historical Tapestry @ http://historicaltapestry.blogspot.ca/
4. Impressions In Ink @ http://impressionsinink.blogspot.ca/
5. Let us Talk of Many Things; of Books and Queens and Pirates, of History and   Kings @ http://ofhistoryandkings.blogspot.com/
6. Littlequeen Rules @ http://litlequeenrules.blogspot.ca/
7. Novel PASTimes @ http://www.novelpastimes.com/
10. Mindful Mundanes @ http://mindfulmundanes.blogspot.com/

Carole says: 'These are in no particular order...I love your blog and books Helen. Please check out my blog for my 10 questions and answers. I think one in particular you will like!'

thank you again Carole Freeman - her blog is: History Odds and Sods

so for MY ten questions:

1. What inspired you to start blogging?
I must confess - marketing. I was dropped by William Heinemann (Random House UK) several years ago because publishing houses seem to be abandoning their mid-list authors who do not maintain sales figures in the thousands. I also, unfortunately, had an agent (now ex-agent) who was not banging the drum for me - and I realised that my books were not being read because there was no marketing for them. No one knew they were out there! My UK novel A Hollow Crown (titled The Forever Queen in the US) received no marketing whatsoever upon publication. Compare this with my US Publisher, Sourcebooks Inc - who did an excellent job of promoting the US version - to the extent that the book reached the USA Today Bestseller list!
Rather than give up my career as a writer I decided to go Indie here in the UK - and that meant marketing. 
From the initial need, however, I discovered the pleasure of running a blog - in fact, I now have several of them!

2. How did you come up with the name of your blog?
Originally I called it Muse and Views but I re-launched with something a bit broader - so Let Us Talk Of Many Things seemed an obvious choice. I didn't want a blog that was just about me - I wanted somewhere as a platform for lots of interesting things with varied articles offered by interesting people.

3. What is your favourite blog that you like to read?
Elizabeth Chadwick's Akashic Records

4. What would be your dream Job?
I'm doing it. :-)

5. If you could spend a day with 8 authors discussing novels as a group, who would you invite? (past or present authors)
Hmm - I've spent days with authors discussing novels, as I know several writers who are dear friends - so let's go for something fanciful: I would like to spend the day with: 
Roald Dahl

Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Rosemary Sutcliff
Ruby Ferguson

Dodie Smith

Rumer Godden

James Herriot 
(the BBC set for All Creatures Great & Small
and
Dick Francis

6. What is your favourite place to travel?
The UK. I love England and Wales - I've not been to Ireland yet, so I can't count that, and have only briefly visited Scotland (on my to-do list!) 
Best place in the world? 
Devon.

7. What is your favourite book out of all the books you have read?
The one I would rescue in a fire? Rosemary Sutcliff's Mark of the Horse Lord.


8. What was your favourite book as a child and how did it influence your choice in books today?
Jill's Gymkhana by Ruby Ferguson. I was given it for a birthday present when I was about 11, 'How boring,' I thought, 'a book.' Then I realised it was about ponies and fell in love with it. I so wanted a pony of my own - this book made me realise there was a next best thing - a world of imagination where anything could happen. From reading pony stories I started writing pony stories.... 
(I still have the book although it is now a bit battered!)

9. How much time do you spend blogging?
Too much.

10. What would you say to your favourite authors if you got the chance?
Stop writing books that are better than mine! *laugh*

And my nominations for the Sunshine Award go to these 
Blogs and Bloggers who were among those lovely people 
who kindly hosted my recent Blog Tour:

1. Sir Read-A-Lot sir-readalot blogspot
2. Because This Girl Loves Books www.booksandbeverages.wordpress.com
3. Layered Pages http://layeredpages.com/
6.  Lou Graham's Blog lougrahamiiblog.wordpress.com
7. According to Me rivashaw.blogspot.co.uk
8. The Riddle of Writing deborahswift.blogspot.com
9.  Jo Barton Jaffa Reads Too
10. Little Reader Library www.thelittlereaderlibrary.blogspot.com

thank you everyone for being such delightful Bloggers!

next time on my Blog: Tuesday Talk: 
I welcome author David Ebsworth




21 March 2013

It’s OK – I’ve got it Covered...

(...sort of)


Followers and fans of my Jesamiah Acorne will know that the launch of the fourth voyage in the Sea Witch series was somewhat delayed – it took me longer than expected to write it.
First I had the enormous set-back of my previous publisher going bankrupt leaving me, and several other annoyed (and royalty unpaid) authors in the proverbial do-do. Fortunately I already knew Helen Hart of SilverWood Books, an excellent assisted-publishing company based in Bristol.


As quickly as I could I took all my books to Helen- but there was one rather large problem. The previous publisher refused to return any original files (I suspect because the managing director had no staff – they had all deserted him due to lack of being paid a wage; he had no idea how to access the files  and/or the bailiff had taken the computers.) Whatever reason, I only had old, unedited files. 
I had seven books that all needed re-editing. I managed the task in four months, but that meant no chance of writing new material.
I then had the equally enormous task of re-branding and re-marketing myself. Believe me, Indie authors do not have it easy – we have to do everything ourselves, including getting word out there that our books are available to be read. 
After several months of putting myself firmly back on the map I was ready to start Adventure Four.
Ah.

I’d lost the thread of what I had intended to write. A quick re-read of the first three books, but picking up from cold is hard to do. Work was stop-start: I very nearly gave up. Added to this task, my eyesight is failing and I think my brain is packing up with it. I can’t remember names… not even my minor characters’ names. I had to keep on going back to my notes and checking (‘Doone? Now was the name I invented Ailie or Ailee?) 

I plodded on. And plodded on. I finally completed the first draft, and promptly re-wrote most of it. Eventually, off to my treasured, and trusted, editor Jo Field, who highlighted all the holes in the writing and the plot. Another re-write. Another edit. 


All this time, I was still having to market my other books, run the family, see to my daughter’s horses, do all the things that Life demands…
Nearly there. Final re-write and the final copy-edit was looming. We had an unexpected Nice Event – my husband had a lottery win. Just enough to buy our own house and escape the pollution, noise and general bleh of North East London for the bliss of Devon.

House hunting takes time, Jo had edited as far as she could, so off Ripples went to a different copy-editor (always a good idea to use two editors. Well, in theory).
This editor screwed up. He decided he wasn’t too keen on my style and altered the structure of too many sentences. OK, so he altered to correct grammar – I don’t write correct grammar. (example: ‘Jesamiah filled the glass with rum; drank.’ Which was changed to: ‘Jesamiah filled the glass with rum. He drank.’) Yuck. Loses the ‘picture’ of Jesamiah doesn’t it?
 In consequence I hit the roof and had to re-edit the edit, putting back the worst of the changes to how they were originally. The punctuation had gone hay-wire as well. It seems that the semi-colon is now out of fashion. They had all become commas or full stops – which again altered the structure of the sentences, I felt. 
In consequence of me “being cross” the guy had to re-edit the entire manuscript – which then took us close to Christmas. 

Finally we got to the stage of publication – right in the middle of me moving home. Note to authors. Not a good idea. Still, my thanks to Rachel Malone for holding the fort for me while I was off-line.

With Ripples In The Sand launched (without me) at least the book was now in print, and Jesamiah fans could (hopefully) enjoy his next duel with Trouble. I managed a proof read, but being distracted I’m not sure if all the errors have been picked up – and again here is the disadvantage of being an Indie author – you only have yourself to rely on. No big publishing house to see to these little things, to shoulder the burden. Ripples needs another read-through, a fresh pair of eyes to do a proof read…

No one has pointed out any huge blunders though, so fingers crossed…

Cathy Helms of Avalon Graphics had, yet again, designed me a fabulous cover. We’d had several different versions, all based around the same background photograph, kindly supplied by my trusted editor, Jo’s son, Simon Murgatroyd.

Getting Tiola (modelled by my good friend, Anne Bartsch) in the right proportion, and the ship close enough to be seen clearly, yet not so close to look odd, was difficult – as was getting the right effect of the ripples in the sand. Cathy is a skilled designer, however, and made a superb job of it (as always) and the end result is fantastic.


Except for one huge embarrassing oversight.

Because of the delay, the messing about, the move, my lack of concentration and everything else, no one noticed that Simon’s name had been clipped off the acknowledgements and copyright page.
For this I feel as red-faced as a red-faced author can get. My deepest apologies!
The oversight will be put right when we re-print – but I am hoping, for now, that my humble-pie will suffice. 


Moral of the story. Check, check, and re-check.
And you can bet your life there will still be something missed.



click HERE for an animated version
of the Ripples In The Sand Cover
 (look closely at the image - the sea is moving!)

Ripples In The Sand is available on Amazon, all on-line bookstores, and can be ordered from your local bookstore


ISBN-10: 1781320772
ISBN-13: 978-1781320778




19 March 2013

Tuesday Talk: Is A Blog Tour Worth The Effort?


Well my Ripples In The Sand  Blog Tour has nearly come to a close, just one more stop tomorrow.
Have I enjoyed the virtual tour? Being honest here – I’m not sure.

I have had a fantastic time answering the set questions by a variety of Bloggers, I loved writing the couple of articles that were requested: well, I enjoy writing about my beloved pirate, Jesamiah Acorne – as much as my readers enjoy reading about him.


But Blog Tours are hard work. And are they of any use anyway? 

The idea is to promote a recent or newly released book. The modern on-line equivalent to the old fashion Bookstore Tours where an author would be invited into a bookstore, sit at a table looking welcoming and smiley and sell and sign a book or two.

Us Indie authors are lucky if one person takes pity on us and buys a book as a present for a friend. Come to that, we are lucky to be invited into bookstores in the first place; several of the Most Well Known UK  Chain stores don’t want to know. My own local Big Chain back in Walthamstow never got back to me about arranging a signing, even though I faithfully RT’d their Tweets, FB’d them and smoked my socks off being Nice. And despite me attempting to say I now had SilverWood Books, a good, reliable, professional publishing house behind me to produce my books. (Unlike my previous one, Discovered Authors / Callio Press, which was the opposite of all those things) Walthamstow wasn’t interested.

Whether Devon will be I don’t know yet – early days.

The Blog Tour is a superb way of reaching potential readers worldwide, especially if the Tour as a whole is varied and interesting – and the Blogs are well established with a big readership. 
But what if you hit problems about advertising your Blog Tour Stops? Over-egging the pudding, spamming, going on and on about My Book is a no-no on most social media sites – but what about promoting your Blog Tour? It seems that is also a no-no now.

I view promoting tours not as harping on about My Book (although, yes, that is involved) but a legitimate opportunity to draw attention to the kind hosts – be they the top well-knowners or those who have very new blogs. I always assumed that readers were interested in the variety of content of a Blog Tour – my answers to a variety of highly interesting questions; the articles I wrote about my books; when I started writing – my tips for new writers; my thoughts on my characters etc. I find reading other author’s blog tour answers/articles interesting – maybe it is me who is dull then? 


 And yes, it is nice to be able to take that rare opportunity to take pride in blowing your own trumpet for a couple of days over a period of a couple of weeks, to enjoy the fantastic reviews – and enjoy sharing them with my present readers and (hopefully) a few new ones. 

But what to do when you are asked not to promote your Tour on various media sites because it constitutes spamming? Is promoting a Blog Tour blatant spam then? I didn’t realise it was. I wonder, are the big authors also classed as spammers if they promote their blog tours – or does this new rule only apply to us struggling Indies?

Readers who are your Facebook Friends already follow you, so already know that New Novel is now out. 
Like many another, I am a busy person, I can’t keep going back to Author X’s FB page to see where he/she is today on his/her Tour, but if I see a link pop up on a Facebook Page or Twitter, I’m more than happy to like, share, and RT (retweet). I take a look, of course, and usually leave a comment, probably also 'follow' the Blog, especially if it is a new one. Blog Tours are as much about advertising the Blogs and Bloggers aren't they? Or have I got the wrong end of the stick somewhere along the line?

Spamming, that constant, 'buy my book', 'read my book' are posts that usually get blanked by most people because it is repetative, boring - and frankly, occasionally downright rude. This sort of 'marketing' is not the done thing - accepted. But aren't Blog Tours different? They are designed with the goal of 'buy my book' I agree, but this is balanced by articles, interviews and such - the sort of thing that readers are interested in. Or have I still got the wrong impression?

If you can’t advertise a Tour – are they worth all the hard work? (And worth the cost – several companies organise Blog Tours for authors at a cost of about £300 a go.) I have enjoyed this tour, but there's an old saying "Don't let them pee on your parade"; my parade was slightly pee'd on and unfortunately I got a little damp, so 
will I be doing another Tour? I’m not sure. Probably not. At least, not in the same format.

As an author, reader, or Blogger I’d be interested in your honest opinion. 



14 March 2013

Thursday Thought - 1066: a poem

this poem was sent to me by Rebecca McCarthy.
Her thoughts on 1066. I thought it worth sharing

1066


Before

Churlish waves grip
the severe, salt encrusted
rocks
as armies appear
from the Duchy, menacing
murderous malice glints
against the sand.
Weapons hang from jewelled belts
it is time.

Flurries of skirt entangle
from the Lord King
Harold
his reason to live
bids farewell forever.
His fate is doubtful
the helmet, so heavy
like his heart as
he, for the last time
looks upon his England.

Battle

William, the Bastard
has a greed for the crown
a foolish promise made
without a thought
is now a stench ridden corpse
rotting in the ground.
As the Normans charge upon
black stallions
the English, await the battle cry.

Horses hover, eyes gouged
bellies swell with blood
confused,
men stripped of dignity fall
upon matted grass of
blood, waste and sweat.
King Harold's England no-more.

Legs splayed and chain armor
filled with piss
the Bastard falls from his heightened
glory, horse guts gloating over her,
England.
Such contrast as hope, through broken arrows,
a glitter of silver in the
death of night,
fighting alongside fellow Englishman,
Harold Godwinesson.

A surge of despair, a wrong turn, such uncertainty,
blows heave thick and fast
strength seizes his being
Edyth! Oh, his reason to take a breath.
Limbs flailing blindly
one simple strike.

Aftermath

She glides unsteadily
eyes search desperately,
Edyth Swan-neck.
Insults echo among the wind
tears yet to come, will come.
A dull ache
nemo he has become
warmth, so foreign
leaves her body forever.

Those tears
will never cease,
familiar blue boots
are on display in the distance.




12 March 2013

Is Byzantium a dirty word?

Tuesday Talk - Guest Post

"Byzantium is one of the missing links in world history between the Renaissance and the worlds of the ancient pagans and the early Christians" is a quote from
Empire Forever a website dedicated to rediscovering the incredible people of  9th Century New Rome:


Please welcome my guest Achilleas Mavrellis

People never react indifferently when I mention the word “Byzantium”. These days, when it doesn't have anything to do with vampires and werewolves it either gets people riled up or intrigued. Let me explain.

One of my personal goals in writing a novel about 9th Century Byzantium, and setting up a YouTube channel on the topic, is to bring to life the people of a forgotten Empire.

They had it all:
  • an inquisition-like religious conflict called Iconoclasm, 
  • vastly different notions of compassion and sexuality to what we may be familiar with today, 
  • turmoil and conflict on all sides even as they strove to maintain and reconcile their ancient classical heritage with Christian values,
  • a deep pride in being Roman, long after the city of Rome fell, even though they had become completely Greek-speaking by the 9th Century.
Perhaps most significantly, the Byzantine Empire was the first medieval sovereign entity in which women not only had occasion to govern, but were recognized as rulers in their own right. That women could rule took until well into the last millennium to re-emerge fully into the consciousness of Western Europe.


I have to confess that I am not really a member of any of the two main Byzantine fan groups.  One camp are passionate about it, in an idealistic sort of way. According to them, Byzantium was a glorious, ordered haven of pious worship, surrounded by dastardly enemies that set upon and destroyed it. If only we could go back then all would be well with the world.

In the other camp are people who know almost nothing about Byzantium. Or what they do know is confused.  They usually hold some vague notion of a schism with the Pope, some idea of complexity and intrigue (for which "Byzantine" is a modern synonym in English), and mostly wrong ideas about how Rome and Byzantium fell (wrong ideas mainly to do with sexual overindulgence and cowardliness).

Certainly what drives those in the first camp is that Byzantium is a prime example of state-driven religion and all the negative aspects that that involves. I will explore this topic further in my blog. Cleary it's no wonder that the subgenre is so small!

So I suppose I'd like to establish a more balanced view.  And it's a view to do with people, not wars, and psychology rather than majesty.

What drives me is that the Eastern Rome is had more than its fair share of hardy people, splendor and magnificence. I want my readers to know that here were ordinary people who lived bravely in difficult but exciting times and who showed great endurance in the face of adversity, sometimes rising to the highest positions in society because they dared.

The Byzantines – or New Romans as they would have called themselves – may have been pious on the surface, sometimes murderous in practice, and obsessed occasionally by religious zeal. (In those days religious zeal was the 'in thing' for lots of different kinds of ethnic groups, as Christianity coalesced out of a vast miasma of subtly different takes on its original message). But they were admirably courageous and boldly human in a way which seems to be lost to us blasé post-moderns.

Do pop over to my website for more background information or the Blog
For a slice of life Byzantine style you might want to follow @ByzEmpress on Twitter: #ImagineByzantium or on my Imagine Byzantium page on FaceBook.

Helen: thank you Achilleas - that was extremely interesting.
If anyone would like to contribute to my Tuesday Talk please e-mail me

Next week: a round up of my Blog Tour - and an article about the cover of Ripples In The Sand