The Blog Has Moved!

October 4, 2011 § 2 Comments

Further to my last post, the move to my new domain ( is now complete. I don’t anticipate making any more posts on this site; everything will be happening over there from now on.

I know some of you have already joined me at my new party: thank you! If anybody else would like to make the transition with me, there are a few ways to keep up a subscription:

– Subscribe by email. There was an issue with this before, but after some tweaking it now appears to be working.

– Sprinkle a little love on my facebook page (click here). You’ll get notifications of all the blog updates.

– You can of course subscribe using an RSS reader, via the usual method (copy-paste the domain name into your subscription box).

I’m sorry for the inconvenience of changing subscriptions, but I do plan to stay with this domain, conceivably, forever.

Thank you also to everyone who’s updated links to reflect the new site! I’m excited to be occupying my very own little piece of real estate in cyberspace. I’ll have news soon about my next book, and a graphic novel project that’s just gone live to view. Do join me!

Rejoice, for I have a new website.

September 29, 2011 § Leave a comment

Dear friends,

This blog has served me faithfully for nearly a whole year, but it’s time to move onwards and upwards. As of this post, I’m moving to my own domain at (imaginatively) I’ll be blogging over there in much the same way as I have done here. All that’s changing is the web address.

I know that some of you have been kind enough to link to this blog on your own sites. If you’d be so good as to take a couple of seconds to update the old link to the new link, I’d be grateful.

Hoping to see you all on the other side,


PS I have also taken Steph’s advice and made a facebook page. My blog feed will henceforth be pulled onto the wall over there, so that’s an easy way to keep up if you still want to be notified about new posts. Find it here.

On Reviewing Books

September 18, 2011 § 10 Comments

A few of you, Beloved Readers, may remember that I started posting book reviews on this blog a while back. I talked of reviewing indie books in particular, as there are a lot of blogs that refuse to touch self-pubbed books. Then I didn’t really do a lot of reviewing.

That’s because I felt that it didn’t fit very well with everything else I was doing here. So I’ve resolved that dilemma this week by creating a separate blog for book reviews. I’m reviewing both trad-pub and self-pub books, mostly in the genres of fantasy, sci-fi, mystery, historical fiction and contemporary fic. I particularly like rating and reviewing for indie authors (and always cross-post reviews to Amazon, GoodReads etc), so if any of you have friends who are looking for a bit of review help in the above genres, please send them to:

That brings me to the topic of book reviews and ratings in general. All-important, especially in the early stages, but so hard to get. Only a small percentage of readers take the time to write reviews (it’s often hard enough to find time to read, let alone to review as well). And there aren’t many incentives for people to take that time. So how do people do it?

Sitting back and waiting for a lot of time to pass is one option. A mildly frustrating one, but in theory books build up an audience over time. If you’re looking to speed the process along, well, there still aren’t many options. The relatively few blogs that will accept indie books tend to have months-long reading backlogs, so one is usually obliged to wait several months for reviews anyway.

It’s a problem. Anyone have any tips to share with the cosy little indie community we have around here?

Also, let’s look at it from the other perspective. As a reader, do you ever leave reviews? If you don’t, what might encourage you to do so more often? And if you do, how do you approach it? It can be tricky sometimes, deciding what rating to give and why. Personally I read to be entertained, so I try not to be too academic about reviewing; I’m mostly influenced by how much I enjoyed a book. If I was pretty well entertained, I’ll overlook flaws with the writing, plot or characters and give a book a decent rating anyway. If I wasn’t, then I don’t care too much how “perfect” it might be in the technical sense; I probably won’t rate it high.

And I hate giving bad ratings and reviews, especially since I’m now in a position to know how much difference a good or bad rating can make to an author’s day. But that leads to the question of honesty in reviews. Many people believe that indies cheat a lot: they get family, friends or fellow authors to leave 5-star reviews, even if they haven’t read the book, or didn’t really like it. From what I’ve seen, this happens, but on the whole indie communities are more honourable about it than many seem to believe. We want good reviews, but honest good reviews.

That said, pick up a traditionally published novel sometime and note the numbers of glowing endorsements offered by fellow authors. The wording on those things is so often virtually identical, I do wonder sometimes how often the author in question has actually given the book a close reading. Even if they have, some people will cheerfully throw rocks at indie authors for reviewing other indie authors’ books, because they don’t think those people can or will ever be honourable about it. But the same people often don’t see a problem with traditionally published folk giving each other a leg-up. It’s one of a number of double standards that still linger at the moment. Let’s hope these clear away in time.

Anyway, I’ve picked up some interesting indie books to review in the last week. While I get through those, I’ll be populating the new review blog with some other, relatively recent reviews that I never got around to posting here. Hope to see a few of you around in ReviewLand from time to time, and meanwhile, remember to share the new blog with indie friends if applicable.

On Formatting E-books

September 16, 2011 § 10 Comments

I had to learn quite a lot of new things in the process of publishing my first e-book. One of the steepest learning curves was formatting. Not that it was that hard in the end: I say it was a steep curve because I’d never so much as thought about html before and suddenly I had to create an acceptable html version of my book from scratch.

Fortunately, I enjoy a challenge.

I didn’t strictly have to format my kindle edition from scratch, this is true. Amazon’s own publishing guidelines recommend that you simply save your word document as html, feed it into their handy dandy mobi creator programme and consider it done. But when I’d done that I discovered actual pages of hidden code crammed into the beginning, doing… I’ve no idea what. Apparently nothing. I’ve heard that quirks like this can cause problems on some devices, and I really don’t like things to be messy, so that had to be tidied up.

Then of course there’s the problem of Smashwords. They won’t accept an html file (not sure why); you have to submit a word document and they can be tricky about how it’s put together (or it won’t go through the “meatgrinder” properly). So that’s two lots of formatting to do. Sounds like a lot.

It’s quite possible to pay someone to take care of it – after all, as more and more authors recognise the benefits of indie publishing and decide to go it alone, more and more author services are cropping up, including options for e-formatting. But if you’re publishing on a budget, it’s quite possible to do it yourself. (No… it really is).

I have a few internet resources that I found extremely useful when putting together my Kindle edition (which does have to start the transformation process as an html file).

Guido Henkel has a detailed tutorial on his blog. It covers how to clean up your original document, then guides you through the steps to build a clean html version. Here is the link to the first page.

Paul Salvette has posted another tutorial on his blog. I found this one rather later, but it helped me to clear up a couple of residual problems that I had. Here’s the link.

Finally, I was sent this very useful page full of html codes. Don’t look at it too closely until you’ve gone through one of the tutorials, or it might look like a complete nightmare. Later, though, it’ll look more like a small miracle.

Going back to Smashwords, some argue against bothering with it. It appears to be true that Smashwords has a smaller audience of buyers – considerably smaller – than Amazon and probably Barnes and Noble. Where it comes into its own, however, is in the following areas:

– It allows you to give a piece of writing away for free, if you want to do that.
– You can create checkout codes to give specific people a free download of your book, which is useful for promotional stuff (or for making your friends happy!).
– It’s important for those of us not living in either the US or one of Amazon’s designated Kindle countries. B&N is closed completely to non-US users, and as for Amazon, I for one have difficulty purchasing from Amazon at all (payment methods issue). If that weren’t a problem I’d still have to swallow the big price increase they impose for users like me. I rely on Smashwords to get indie books for prices I can afford. This is an audience that isn’t very large at present, true, but it’ll grow – and besides, while it won’t make much difference to your bottom line, it’s a courtesy to your future fans and readers to make sure everyone who’s interested can get hold of your work if they want.

So, in my opinion it’s worth the effort of formatting separately for Smashwords. And in order to do that, simply follow the style guide. It’s long and detailed, and it’ll take a few hours of your life, but by just following the steps to the letter my upload to Smashwords (and its premium catalogue) went off without a hitch. Here’s the guide.

I hope these links are helpful to anybody preparing to jump into the indie-pub waters.

Interview at Lissa Writes

September 12, 2011 § Leave a comment

Fellow expat author Lissa Bilyk has been kind enough to interview me today. View it here at Lissa Writes!

About Writers, Isolation and Cat Companions

September 7, 2011 § 18 Comments

One thing I’ve noticed over the years is that owning at least one cat seems to be a basic requirement for authorship.

So many of those three-or-four-sentence author bios at the backs of books make a point of mentioning the author’s ownership of both spouse and cats. I thought about this when I was writing my own brief blurb recently and I instinctively added that in too. I suppose it’s a matter of ingrained expectation about author bios, because really – pick up a few books from your bookshelf and probably one of those bios will talk about their cats.

Or maybe this is mostly a fantasy author thing. My findings are unscientific to say the least. But let’s discuss it anyway.

My theory? Writers spend so much time sitting by themselves staring at a screen – or a piece of paper – that we could, over a matter of years, come to feel seriously isolated and out of touch with the real world. Loneliness can be an occupational hazard, and the more you concentrate on building your career as an author – the more hours a day you spend pounding out the words – the greater the danger of suffering from a lack of companionship.

When I moved to the Netherlands in July, my partner ever so gloriously presented me with two kittens as a welcome gift, and there’s no doubt they transform the daily writing grind. Just having Emma sleeping on the windowsill behind my computer makes me feel that I have company. But unlike dogs it’s not intrusive company. Usually. (Don’t get me wrong about dogs: I love them. I used to own a beagle and he was seriously the cutest creature in existence. But they need a lot more attention than cats do).

There are exceptions, of course. Just now my kittens are sleeping, so I get the feeling of companionship without being interrupted while I write. But they are kittens. Once in a while I’m thrown out of my writing trance by a resounding crash as something is knocked off a shelf or a windowsill, and I’m still trying – repeatedly though unsuccessfully – to discourage them from destroying my plants.

But at least they take themselves to the loo when they need to go.

Am I right about cats? How many of my writer friends either own, or wish they owned, a cat or two? Or other animal companions? And do you ever start feeling isolated when you’ve been writing long hours for months at a time?

I hear that Kage Baker is pretty good...

Can you get me the third book in the Isavalta Series while you're up there?

Draykon is Launched!

September 4, 2011 § 17 Comments

Dear all,

I’m happy to announce that Draykon has now gone live on Amazon and Smashwords! I’ve chosen to price it at 99 cents for the first few weeks, in the hopes of encouraging some early reviews. The price will be going up in October.

With that thought in mind, I’m inclined to give away up to ten free review copies over September, via a Smashwords coupon. If you’re interested in receiving a copy for review purposes, please leave a comment indicating your interest. Do include your email address! The first ten people will be sent a coupon.

I’d also like to appeal to my blog readers to help me promote this over the next couple of weeks. As noted above, reviews are greatly appreciated. Failing that, every little thing helps – that means mentioning the book on your blog or on twitter, add it to your reading list on Goodreads, liking the Smashwords or the Amazon page, sharing on facebook or recommending it to someone who might be interested. Many thanks in advance for any and all assistance! From here, getting the ball rolling is the hardest task.

Here are some links:

Amazon US

Amazon UK



Let’s end with some thank yous (briefly, I promise). I have to throw some major gratitude to my family, especially my father, for years of encouragement – and for putting up with frequently being pulled in for reader services. You deserve a mountain of cakes for that much patience.
Also, blog friends, I’ve had a blast these last several months discussing everything book-or-writing related with all of you. You’ve also been brilliantly supportive while I struggled through the first draft, then the second draft, and the editing, and the formatting, and so on… thanks for coming back every week. It makes a huge difference.

And that’s it! I’m going to go panic party panic about it for the rest of Sunday. Have a great weekend, comrades.