Posts Categorized: General


Happy New Year!

January 2, 2015 General, Writing musings 0

The turn of the year is a time for looking both back and forwards. This is probably the forty seventh you’ve read, so to keep it brief, here’s a quick summary of my year:

Memorable events of 2014 (good and bad):

  • I published a book! ‘The Plains of Kallanash’ went live on 12th September 2014. [Kind of a roller-coaster, but mostly good]
  • I learned that when you spend time writing, you get less reading done. [Bad]
  • I taught myself the 400 steps necessary to obtain an EIN from Uncle Sam to avoid withholding tax on my book royalties (ha! If only…), which involves dancing naked with unicorn feathers and the sacrifice of one’s first-born (sorry, James, but needs must), not to mention visiting the American Embassy in London, which is almost as far from here as it’s possible to get without falling into the ocean. And then the system was changed so I didn’t need to do any of that. [Which is good, I think; well, very good for my first-born, obviously]
  • I learned that I have a lot of kind online friends who went out and bought my book, and posted nice reviews. You lovely people. [Good]
  • I learned that I will never get rich by writing books (but I kind of knew that anyway). [OK]
  • I discovered that Australia in November is a very pleasant place to be. And the wine is awesome… [V. Good]

Coming in 2015 (maybe):

  • Another book! ‘The Fire Mages’ will be published on 9th January 2015. You can now pre-order it at your local Amazon.
  • And another! ‘The Mages of Bennamore’ will be published late spring 2015.
  • And yet another! ‘The Mines of Asharim’ might possibly round off my first year as a published author by appearing in September 2015. If all this sounds too prolific for words, bear in mind that in the year and a half I spent editing and polishing Kallanash and inching towards publication in a three steps forward, two back manner, I wrote another two and a bit books. So I kind of had them lined up, waiting.
  • On the reading/reviewing front, I’d like to reduce my backlog of books somewhat, and not just by shuffling them from the to-read shelf to the to-read-sometime shelf on Goodreads. You know, by actually reading them. But I just keep getting distracted by all the shiny new books…

I hope you all have the 2015 you want.


Ode to Amazon

December 24, 2014 General 0

Once upon a time, Christmas was easy. I didn’t even think about it until mid-December, and then I went out and bought three presents: one for my mother, one for my father and one for my older sister. Price wasn’t an issue, I bought whatever my pocket money could cover (yes, this is pre-history, folks).

Wind forward a few years, and there were husbands and children and in-laws and their children, and things got more complicated. The number of presents and Christmas cards multiplied geometrically, the list of Things To Be Done got longer and longer, and it all became rather fraught. There was one memorable year when I bought and wrapped and (mostly) parcelled up and shipped halfway round the world 56 separate presents. I hated Christmas.

I learned to cope. I started early, in October, making the Christmas cake, and making lists (lots of lists). I discovered mail order catalogues, so I ordered stuff without leaving the house. I still had to wrap and parcel and post, but it was better. Computer printed address labels helped with the cards. Some practical relatives said: we don’t need presents any more. But I still hated Christmas.

And then there was this year. This year was a problem, because I spent most of November in Australia (which was lovely; I highly recommend it). But – no chance to make an early start. So, emergency measures were called for. Sainsbury’s provided the Christmas cake (and delivered the rest of the food). For presents, I decided against the goat-in-Africa strategy, which is heartwarming but not quite as much fun to unwrap. Some relatives got hampers of Scottish food, which went down well. And for the rest – Amazon came galloping to the rescue. Vast choice, shipped the next day direct on Prime and gift-wrapped. What could possibly be easier?

And for the first time in – ooh, a very, very long time, Christmas was easy. No trudging endlessly round crowded shops, listening to Jingle Bells on repeat. No increasingly desperate search for that last, difficult present. No carting oddly shaped parcels to the post office and standing in a slowly snaking queue for an hour. I haven’t been to the post office once, not once this year.

It’s been lovely. I can actually enjoy Christmas again. So – thank you Amazon (and Sainsbury’s and Scottish Gourmet Hampers and – you know, the whole internet thing).

So a merry Christmas (or whatever you celebrate) to everyone out there. And to me, this year.


Other World Mapper: Kickstarter

October 23, 2014 General 1

I’ve always been terrible at art. Really. I can’t even draw convincing stick people. It never really mattered much, though, because I never needed to. I left all that painting, drawing and generally arty stuff to those with a talent for it.

But now I’m writing fantasy, and really, a little drawing skill might be a rather useful thing to have, because – maps. Every fantasy world has to have a map, right? I’ve had people ask about maps for my stories. Oh, but you’ll have one when the book is published, won’t you? Well, no, because: see above. And I really can’t afford professional artwork for a map.

Now, I know there is already software out there that supposedly allows anyone to draw maps, and I’ve even tried some of them, without any success. My hand-drawn back-of-the-envelope efforts are better, frankly. But I keep hoping for something simple enough that even I can use it.

And here’s something that just may work for someone like me: mapping software that really does look simple yet effective. It’s called Other World Mapper and there’s Kickstarter for it which runs until November 7th 2014.

Check it out at:

Here’s a sample of what the software can do:



Kindle Unlimited: a change of heart

October 16, 2014 General 2

It’s only a couple of weeks since I wrote about Kindle Unlimited, Amazon’s all-you-can-read subscription service, and concluded that I probably wouldn’t bother with it.

And there I was this morning, looking at a non-fiction work and dithering. It was one of those how-to books that are so common nowadays, under a hundred pages but not too expensive. So why did I dither? Because I knew perfectly well that if I bought it, I would skim through it, find a few paragraphs interesting, forget the rest and never read it again. Very few such books are real ‘keepers’, that I would want to go back to repeatedly.

I could have got it for free through my Prime account, of course, but I can’t do that from the Amazon book page. I would have to find my Kindle, connect to the store, search for the book all over again and only then can I click the button. And I can only read it on my Kindle, not on the computer or tablet or phone. Plus, it’s limited to one book a month.

Then I saw that seductive ‘Read for free’ button. The little spiel about Kindle Unlimited. The free trial. Sign up, it called to me, and you can have this book and loads more without paying a penny. Reader, I signed up. And lo, it was simple to one-click that book, just as simple as buying it. Then Amazon helpfully offered up a bunch of similar books that I might like. So I one-clicked them, too (except the one that wasn’t in KU, dammit).

All of a sudden, I see a point to KU. It’s not so much for fiction (I still have my backlog of 50+ books waiting to be read). It’s for all those non-fiction books that may (or may not) be useful, but the sample is too small to tell. I can download them, skim them, send them back if they’re useless. Probably I’ll use it to try out fiction too, to see if I like an author or not, experiment with genres. It’s a no-risk option.

I’m converted. Who’d a thunk it?


Kindle Unlimited

September 27, 2014 General 4

Back in mid-July, without any warning, Amazon launched a new subscription service: Kindle Unlimited. For a flat $9.99 monthly fee, subscribers could download and read as many books as they wanted from the 650,000 or so available (about a third of all Kindle books on Amazon). Now the same deal has started up in the UK: all you can read for £7.99 a month.

For a voracious reader, this can be a terrific deal. You don’t have to read many books a month, even at cheap prices, to cover the subscription cost. You can download a book, read a few pages, decide it’s not for you and get another one. You can experiment outside your comfort zone, trying new genres and authors. You don’t have to feel guilty about the number of books you read, and the price of a book is irrelevant. You can read the first of a series and, if you like it, immediately download the rest. It’s a great deal.

But there are some gotchas. The first is that you don’t get to keep the books. Unlike a book you buy, which can sit on your Kindle indefinitely, or can be redownloaded from the cloud at any time, a borrowed book is only temporary. You can download ten books at a time, but after that if you want another one, you lose one of the ten. And if your subscription lapses, all your borrowed books are zapped. Gone.

The other constraint is choice. There are a lot of books to choose from in the KU program, but most of the big-name publishers are missing. If that constitutes your regular reading, you may be disappointed. Then you may find yourself paying extra on top of your subscription to get your favourite authors. Two thirds of all Kindle books are not available in KU.

Will I be joining in? Probably not. I’m very selective about what I read, and I hate to be limited to just a subset of what’s out there. And if I’ve paid a monthly subscription, I’m not going to want to pay for extra books, apart from a small number of must-reads. Besides, I’m still struggling to reduce my backlog of books on my Kindle, books I’ve already bought and paid for.

But what does Kindle Unlimited look like from an author’s point of view? What do authors get out of it? A royalty for every borrow, that’s what (although the royalty only kicks in if the borrower reads at least 10% of the book; if they download and then delete it later – no royalty). In July, the first month, the royalty was $1.84 per borrow, and in August it was $1.54. And that’s a flat rate, regardless of the price of the book, so a $0.99 and a $7.99 book get exactly the same payout for each borrow. Amazon has full control of the royalty rate each month.

Whether an author sees that as a bonus, on top of sales, or regards borrows as stealing sales is a matter for the individual to decide. Some authors have had plenty of borrows with no loss of sales, but there’s a lot of variation, and it may be that some genres do better in KU than others.

The big catch is that in order to be in KU, an author has to sign up to Amazon’s KDP Select program, and that means exclusivity. The ebook can’t be available for sale or even for free download at any other retailer, or on the author’s website, or on reading sites like Wattpad. Signing up is only a 90 day commitment, but even so, authors making good sales at Google Play or iTunes will probably not want to consider it. The print version is excluded from all restrictions.

‘The Plains of Kallanash’ has been in KDP Select from the start, and not just for the borrows (there are other benefits, like free or discount days). While the price is $0.99 (which means a royalty of only $0.35 per sale), each borrow I’ve had racks up several times that rate. A borrow is worth at least 4 sales to me at the moment. So I’m quite happy with that, even though borrows have only been a fraction of sales. It will be interesting to see what effect there will be when I raise the price to a normal level of (probably) $3.99. My prediction is that sales will drop, but borrows will go up. But with this game, who knows what might happen?


A fangirl moment…

September 17, 2014 General 2

Excuse me while I squeeee for a while… Michael J Sullivan is one of my favourite fantasy authors, and he’s currently hosting a giveaway for advance printings of his new series. You can sign up at Goodreads and a couple of other places. Full details here.

But that’s not really what got me all excited. Take a look at this…

Isn’t that just the most amazing artwork? It’s by Andres Rocha.

One day, when I’m rich and famous (ha!), I’m going to get cover art for ‘The Plains of Kallanash’ that looks as awesome as this: the sweeping vista, with maybe the Ring of Bonnegar and the spires and domes of Kashinor. Sigh. One day…


Hello there!

June 25, 2013 General 0

Welcome to the blog. There’s not much to see yet, but have a look round, leave a comment or email me if you have something to say (my email address is on the About me page).