Monthly Archives:: August 2014

‘The Plains of Kallanash’ now available for pre-order

August 30, 2014 Publishing/marketing, The Plains of Kallanash 5

The book is written, the final edits are done, the cover artwork is finished, formatting is complete and the files are uploaded to KDP. So now I just have to wait until the publication date I’ve decided on before pushing the button.

But hang on a minute – Amazon now has a cool new toy for self-publishers. We can set a book up for pre-orders, just like the big boys. Even a complete newbie like me. I dithered a bit about it – once the date gets close, I can’t change anything! And what if I’ve made a mistake! It’s a bit like those did-I-leave-the-gas-on moments when you’re on the way to the airport.

But my daughter assured me it would be cool to have pre-ordering available, so I went for it. And – hey presto! ‘Tis done.

‘The Plains of Kallanash’ is now available for pre-ordering, at special introductory prices.

Here’s the page at various Amazons:

Big Amazon $0.99

UK Amazon £0.77

Australian Amazon $1.07

Canadian Amazon $1.09

‘The Plains of Kallanash’ is an epic fantasy adventure with a strong romantic element. Here’s the blurb:

Thousands of years after a magical catastrophe reshaped the world and pulled the moons out of alignment, the secret of magic has seemingly been lost. At the centre of the vast, forbidding Plains of Kallanash lies a land ruled by a secretive religion, whose people fight a never-ending war against the barbarians in the wilderness beyond the border.

Amongst the nobility, double marriages are the norm. Junior wife Mia always dreamed of attracting the attention of the dashing lead husband, but never dared to compete against her lively older sister. Hurst has spent ten frustrating years as junior husband, longing to test his skill with a sword in battle, longing for his beloved Mia to turn to him.

The mysterious death of Mia’s sister thrusts the marriage into turmoil. As Mia and Hurst struggle to adjust and find out what happened, they uncover sinister truths about the ruling religion. But the gods are unforgiving; even Mia’s innocent questions carry a terrible punishment. Hurst is prepared to risk everything to save her, even if it means taking up his sword against the barbarians, his own people, and the gods themselves.

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Wattpad: final thoughts

August 30, 2014 Publishing/marketing 3

With the publication of ‘The Plains of Kallanash’ rapidly approaching, I’ve finally taken down most of the chapters posted on Wattpad, so that I can sign up for Amazon’s exclusive program, KDP Select. I’ve left six chapters up as a sample, but I don’t expect them to get many reads.

I started posting the book on Wattpad a chapter at a time, many months ago, and then posted the remaining chapters more than a month ago. So how did it do? Some numbers:

Total reads: 2,018 (each chapter viewed counts as one read)

Votes: 344

Comments: 156

This is barely a blip in the Wattpad world, where the most popular books garner reads in the hundreds of thousands, or even millions. It’s more interesting to look at individual chapters.

Chapter 1: 450 reads

Chapter 2: 69 reads

Chapter 3: 60 reads

Chapter 4: 54 reads and so on.

So a lot of people looked at the first chapter, decided it wasn’t for them and moved on. This is very similar to potential purchasers looking at the sample on Amazon. I have no idea whether this is a typical distribution or not, but it’s not unexpected.

After the precipitous drop-off on chapter 2, numbers drifted slowly downwards through the first third of the book as readers lost interest or became distracted by newer, shinier books or real life. After that point, numbers stabilised, so virtually everyone who got to the one third point went on to finish the book. When a reader voted to say they enjoyed a chapter, I got a timed notification of that, so I could sometimes track a reader’s progress over many hours (in one case, eleven hours!). That was fascinating. But most readers didn’t vote or leave comments, they simply read, anonymously.

So how did Wattpad work out? In the early days, I participated in the forums, read and commented on other work and generally interacted with a lot of people. I followed 28 people, and acquired a similar number of followers (there’s quite a lot of tit-for-tat following amongst authors). After two or three months, my participation dropped to nothing, but the book had developed some modest momentum, and continued to attract new readers. I now have 43 followers.

Wattpad is a great place for beginning writers to stretch their wings in a friendly and supportive environment, but the lack of rigorous critique means it won’t help writers to improve. It’s also a good place for published authors to post a permafree book. It’s not great for building a fanbase of paying customers; Wattpadders like their free books. Even writers with vast numbers of fans on Wattpad have trouble translating that into sales.

For me, Wattpad was an interesting experiment. I enjoyed being part of the Wattpad community, and I found some awesome books to read (although you have to search for the good stuff). However, it was really the wrong time and wrong book to post, and if I’d known I would have to take it down to join KDP Select, I would never have started posting. I don’t regret posting there, I just wish I could have left the whole book on Wattpad and also had the freedom to sell it exclusively on Amazon. But self-publishing is about making these decisions for myself, and determining the direction of my writing career. Given the choice between selling the book on Amazon or giving it away on Wattpad, it’s really a no-brainer.

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SciFi Short Story Collection Review: ‘Echoes and Memories’ by Tristan Gregory

August 28, 2014 Review 2

This is a nice mixture of science fiction short stories, varied in both length and subject matter. I have to confess, I’m more of a fantasy reader, so I got a bit bogged down in some of the sciencey bits. However, the author’s trademark smooth writing carried me along.

The first two stories, Digital Soul and Pillar, were both awesome – beautifully crafted, immersive and with that deft little twist at the end which makes a short story so satisfying. The third story, The Last Gasp of the Dragon, was short and sweet – maybe too short to make an impact (or maybe I just didn’t get it – always possible).

The fourth story, Orphaned World, was long and filled with blow-by-blow detail which lost me somewhere along the way. The tension built and built, yet the resolution felt insufficient for all that build-up. I had the feeling there was some profound idea being conveyed which my befuddled brain wasn’t grasping properly. Over my head, I suspect.

But the final story, Too Dumb To Die/The Sea Beyond the Stars, hit the spot beautifully, with a wonderful tale that asked all the difficult questions about what it actually means to be human. Or perhaps, more subtly, about the nature of humanity. Epic stuff.

For me, this collection didn’t quite reach the glorious heights of The Wandering Tale, but for those who like their speculative fiction both thought-provoking and elegantly written, this is highly recommended. Four stars.

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‘The Plains of Kallanash’: ARCs available

August 17, 2014 Publishing/marketing 8

‘The Plains of Kallanash’ is getting closer to publication! I now have ARCs available, so if anyone out there would like a copy to read for review, please email me at brightmoon@paulinemross.co.uk. I have both mobi and epub formats available (sorry, no print copies yet). Reviews can be posted immediately on Goodreads or your blog, and on Amazon after publication in mid-September.

‘The Plains of Kallanash’ is an epic fantasy adventure with a strong romantic element. Here’s the blurb:

Thousands of years after a magical catastrophe reshaped the world and pulled the moons out of alignment, the secret of magic has seemingly been lost. At the centre of the vast, forbidding Plains of Kallanash lies a land ruled by a secretive religion, whose people fight a never-ending war against the barbarians in the wilderness beyond the border.

Amongst the nobility, double marriages are the norm. Junior wife Mia always dreamed of attracting the attention of the dashing lead husband, but never dared to compete against her lively older sister. Hurst has spent ten frustrating years as junior husband, longing to test his skill with a sword in battle, longing for his beloved Mia to turn to him.

The mysterious death of Mia’s sister thrusts the marriage into turmoil. As Mia and Hurst struggle to adjust and find out what happened, they uncover sinister truths about the ruling religion. But the gods are unforgiving; even Mia’s innocent questions carry a terrible punishment. Hurst is prepared to risk everything to save her, even if it means taking up his sword against the barbarians, his own people, and the gods themselves.

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Mystery Review: ‘Rough Edges’ by V J Chambers

August 16, 2014 Review 0

A lot of books are described as psychological thrillers, but very few genuinely merit the label. This one is everything a psychological thriller should be. The characters – all the characters – are in some way damaged, and therefore nothing is certain or reliable, and all their actions are questionable.

Here’s the plot: Sam, the narrator, specialises in writing biographies of women who’ve suffered major traumatic events in their lives: kidnappings, murderous boyfriends and the like. Trouble is, his approach inevitably leads him to become involved with the victims he’s writing about. When he has to abandon his latest book after an affair with the subject leads to the breakup of his marriage (to his previous subject!), he finds himself scratching round for a new project. Fortuitously, he is approached by Lola, a woman whose parents were murdered when she was twelve by a man who then kidnapped her and carried on killing until she managed to break free. Or that’s the official story…

Sam has to try to work out exactly what happened, and whether Lola was truly an innocent child victim, or something more sinister. But Sam has his own history lurking beneath the surface. And when the murderer breaks out of jail and sets off after Lola and Sam, life gets very complicated.

This is a fantastic story where nothing can be taken for granted. Everyone Sam talks to gives a different impression of Lola, and Lola herself is a curious mixture of tearful victim, sexual predator and manipulative bitch. The author brilliantly captures the sheer creepiness of Lola’s behaviour, yet she’s always perfectly believable. Sam is also incredibly well-drawn, and as we’re inside his head the whole time, he’s both a very sympathetic character and also seriously stupid, in a young, socially-inept male way.

The climax is the usual dramatic and violent confrontation, somewhat less contrived than is customary in this sort of book, and kept me guessing right to the end about who was manipulating whom, and where the truth lay in the morass of self-created fantasies in the heads of all the main characters. An excellent, well-written story with a nice little time jump at the end which is absolutely fitting for the character concerned – one of those ‘oh, of course’ moments.

And if that had been all, it would have been enough. But this book has an unusual degree of depth to it, with some thought-provoking elements that lift it well above the norm. One aspect is that many (perhaps all) of the damaged characters have been affected by a heavily religious home life. The author doesn’t make a big deal of this, so it almost slips by unnoticed, but it’s interesting, nevertheless. For instance, Sam’s mother: “It upset Sam that even though she was free of her controlling husband, she still was spending her time praying to a magic fairy invisible person somewhere in the sky.”

Then there’s the sex. Yes, this book has some graphic sex scenes, but they’re all integral to the plot and true to the characters. These are people who use sex as a manipulative tool, and the author also doesn’t shy away from the association between sex and violence. This is uncompromising stuff, and for anyone who would find these elements problematic, this is not the book for you. For everyone else, this is a cracking read, with some deeply thought-provoking aspects. Highly recommended. Five stars.

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Another new cover

August 14, 2014 Publishing/marketing, The Fire Mages 4

When I arranged for the cover for ‘The Plains of Kallanash’ with Streetlight Graphics, there was a lead time of several months. So, thinking ahead to the release of the next book, ‘The Fire Mages’, I thought I’d better get on and book it early, so I wasn’t held up waiting for it. Inevitably, a slot came up much sooner than I expected, so, lo and behold, I have another cover to reveal.

‘The Fire Mages’ is set in a different part of the same world, and is more town-based, so I wanted a more built-up feel to the cover. However, the designer, Glendon Haddix, has kept the turbulent sky, fonts and layout to give a very ‘series’ feel to the two covers, even though they’re both stand-alone books. And he’s taken the ‘fire mage’ aspect to produce a very striking image which captures both the fantasy and romance elements. I think he’s done a great job.

Here are the two covers side by side for comparison:

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Writing process blog hop

August 2, 2014 Current writings, Writing musings 10

I don’t normally do these things, where you get mentioned on someone’s blog and you are asked to pay it forward by mentioning several other blogs. It always seems a bit like those chain letters, or a blog version of pyramid selling.

But recently this blog hop came to H. Anthe Davis’s rather splendid blog, wherein she describes in astonishing detail all aspects of her created world, as seen in her ‘War of Memory’ series. And you know what? This particular blog hop is rather fun. The only requirement is to talk about your own writing process, and mention three other writers you admire. What could be easier? Who doesn’t like talking about themselves?

So here goes.

1. What am I currently working on?

I have four books on the go at the moment, at different stages.

1) ‘The Plains of Kallanash’: epic fantasy with a strong romance element, set in a society ruled by multiple marriages. My two main characters are the junior wife and husband in one such marriage when the lead wife dies under mysterious circumstances. I’ve just finished the post-beta edits, and it’s currently with my proofreader. Cover art is done, blurb is polished, and all being well I shall be sending out ARCs very soon and self-publishing in September. I’m getting slightly excited about it (SQUEEEE!!!!!!) and already planning a proper launch party, with champagne and a cake and me ceremonially clicking the ‘Publish’ button. Fun or what?

2) ‘The Fire Mages’: epic fantasy with a strong romantic element, and more of a traditional coming-of-age, girl with powers affair. Might even be YA (who’d a thunk it? Me writing YA – whatever next). Finished and ready to post chapters on Scribophile for critiquing.

3) ‘The Mages of Bennamore’: a direct follow-on to #2 in time, but with an entirely different cast of characters. Features a 40-year-old woman with a secret past (is there a character anywhere who doesn’t have a secret past? Sigh…) who gets involved with said mages. Just finished the first draft – yay!

4) New project, tentatively called ‘The Mines of Asharim’ (although my random it’ll-do-for-now titles do tend to become permanent). A woman running away from [something or other] volunteers to work in the mysterious mines in the Sky Mountains. Just getting going, but it looks like being fun. Magic! Sex! Exciting stuff happening (probably)!

2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?

This question might be easier to answer if I knew what genre it actually is. I define it as epic fantasy with romance, but it’s not epic in the sense of vast armies fighting the evil dark lord, or the rise and fall of empires, nor is it romance in the conventional sense of two people who meet, fall in love, are beset by obstacles but end up together. It’s definitely fantasy, though – a world unlike ours, with magic, although not overrun with monsters or zombies or vampires or anything of the sort.

As to how that differs from anything else – dunno. Every writer’s work is unique, so there’s that, but I’m not stretching the boundaries of speculative fiction or anything, or making profound points about the human condition. I don’t think there’s anything I do that’s never been done before. But undoubtedly my characters are as unique as any set of people, and their particular problems are unique, and I like to think I can produce an absorbing story, even if it’s not revolutionary.

There is one thing that’s slightly different about it. Some fantasy worlds are post-apocalyptic, having returned to some pseudo-medieval lifestyle after a high-tech, possibly modern type of era. Some fantasy worlds have had a magical apocalypse – a mage war or some other devastating magic-induced disaster. Well, my world has had both. There were in the distant past multiple advanced civilisations which rose and fell and rose again in a different format. There was also a period when very powerful mages existed, who got a bit above themselves and accidentally reshaped the planet and changed the orbits of the moons. All of those are gone, now, but not necessarily forgotten. The advanced civilisations left records of their techniques, and the mages left a number of ways for later societies to continue to use magic without getting dangerously powerful. These two factors underlie all my stories.

3. Why do I write what I write?

Because I had these sodding characters in my head and they wouldn’t leave me alone until I wrote their story down, that’s why. I suppose it’s fantasy because that’s what I mostly read. I love the open-endedness of it, that frisson of excitement that absolutely anything can happen. There’s nothing sadder than predictable fantasy.

Oddly, I’ve never been sucked into the whole must-write-a-trilogy quicksand. My books are long, sure, but not that long, and each one has a clear end without any need for a sequel. I have ideas for follow-on books, but they tend to be different characters and different settings, with just a connecting thread or two, not really sequels. But the fun part about writing multiple books in the same world is that little things from one book creep into another one. So the strange glass balls in Kallanash turn out to have a bigger role in ‘The Mages of Bennamore’. Familiar characters turn up from time to time. They’re still stand-alone books, but with little easter eggs for regular readers.

4. How does my writing process work?

Other authors on this blog hop have described their wonderful and quite complicated methods. Mine is very simple. I have an idea, then I start writing and… erm, that’s it. Somehow it works. I tend to hit a sticky patch near the end when I have to pull all the various strands of the story together into a rousing finale, and my brain goes into melt-down, and that’s when I write lists and time-lines and so on. But otherwise, it all stays in my head, unfurling in front of me as I go along.

Once written, a book sits unopened for a long time – several months. I try to write something else while it’s brewing. Then it gets dusted off, I read it right through, polish the first chapters and get them critiqued. I’ve found Scribophile is invaluable for spotting things I’m quite impervious to – adverb abuse, tedious info-dumps, passive voice, having three successive scenes in the same dull room, ‘committee meeting’ discussions and so on. They’re not so good with plot and character development, because of the nature of chapter-by-chapter critiquing. So I only post a few chapters for critique, then send the book off to beta readers, do some final revisions and after that my proofreader takes over to sort out my creative use of ellipses. And the process does seem to get easier each time.

5.  Fangirl about three (OK, four) other writers

Ooh, this is the fun part. I get to tell you about some of my favourite writers. Sorry, I couldn’t keep it to three (I had enough trouble with four; there are a bunch more I’d love to mention). These are supposed to be bloggers that you pester to write their own writing process blog tour, but I hate being pushy, so I’m just going to tell you about a few people whose writing I love, OK? In addition to H. Anthe Davis, mentioned above.

Lexi Revellion: Lexi was one of the first self-published authors I came across when I started filling up my Kindle with new-to-me names, and also one of my first wow-this-is-good successes. She’s unusual in that every book is different – not just the plot style but even the genre, so you never know quite what you’re going to get. Mystery romance, followed by a sci-fi thriller, followed by post-apocalypse… you get the picture. And always a lovely romance. The other constants are believable characters, tight plotting and a wonderfully British spin on things, complete with dry British humour. If I had to choose, I’d probably say ‘Ice Diaries’ was my favourite (but it’s a close call).

Andrea K Host: Andrea has the distinction of being the first self-published author to whom I gave a five star review. Her fantasies are invariably quirky, thought-provoking and intelligent, with genuinely strong female characters (not kick-ass superwomen, just normal women showing their inner strength) and often in a world where gender equality and groupings other than one man, one woman are the norm. If you held a gun to my head and forced me to pick a favourite book, it would probably be ‘The Champion of the Rose’, because I just adore the idea of a magically evil rose bush, but for pure, unadulterated pleasure, even better than chocolate, I’d recommend the Touchstone trilogy.

Tristan Gregory: I reviewed Tristan’s full-length fantasy novel, ‘Twixt Heaven and Earth’, some time ago, an unusual and intelligent look at a human war where angels and demons also get involved. However, my favourite writing of his, and a good starting point, is his linked series of novellas, collectively known as ‘The Wandering Tale’, independent stories where a minor character in one becomes the main character in the next. These are beautifully crafted, emotionally engaging works which are pretty well word perfect. Start with ‘The Swordsman of Carn Nebeth’.

Intisar Khanani: Intisar was one of those serendipitous finds. I came across ‘Thorn’ somewhere, somehow, started reading the sample and just couldn’t stop. It’s a delightful retelling of the goose girl fairy story, with terrific characters, some great world-building that never overwhelms the story and a magnificent ending. There are a couple of shorter works to enjoy, too, full of wonderful writing and lots of unpredictable twists.

For a longer list of some of my best reads of 2013, check here.

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