25 November 2017

Boxed Set Trilogy now on Pre-Order

After hours of fun last week, the digital boxed set of the three Torc of Moonlight novels is finally available for pre-order - launching 8th December.

The novels concern the resurrection of a Celtic water deity in an area of what is now the North York Moors in England. Ritual deposits in water courses are a given in archaeology, and I use the ultimate - a sword - in Book 1 to kick off the trilogy. Yet ritual deposits are not simply something of far off history; they continue to this day. Have you never tossed coins into water hoping for 'good luck'? 

If you live in the UK and stand still long enough to consider your own surroundings, you'll find it uncannily easy to discover echoes of water worship close by. I live on the coast in East Yorkshire. Within a few miles, in one village there is a Bugg Lane leading to a quintessential village duck pond - Bugg, like Boggle, is an old word for ghost or apparition - while in another village the written history mentions remembered folklore of a White Lady appearing by the local spring-head. 

Is there a medieval Christian church in your vicinity named All Saints or All Souls? Their dedicated feast days are 1st and 2nd November, All Hallows Eve, a time of vigil, being 31st October. Close by there will be, or will have been, a community water source used for autumnal divination rites as well as everyday drinking. Their pre-Christian deities, demonised so long ago, give us modern Halloween. Even the celebrated summer Well Dressings in parts of Derbyshire and Staffordshire, now a tourist industry of its own, cannot truly camouflage their ancient origins.

History is mere inches beneath our feet, and the flow of water is used as the flow of time in these contemporary novels:
Book 1: Torc Of Moonlight - set in Hull with a Celtic resonance
Book 2: The Bull At The Gate - set in York with a Roman resonance
Book 3: Pilgrims Of The Pool - set in Durham with a Mediaeval resonance

Read more about the individual novels here, or on the trilogy's retailer pages:

Kindle  ¦  iBooks  ¦  Nook  ¦  Kobo  ¦  All formats

18 November 2017

Formatting the Trilogy into a Digital Box Set

Three novels, formatted to (almost) perfection, to be amalgamated into a single file for a trilogy box set. How problematic can it be?

Quite a bit, as it turns out. And it’s down to technology, or the incremental improvements in technology. During the period it has taken to write and launch the individual novels into the digital world I have changed computers twice, and the version of Word probably three times. Who keeps count?

The first flag came when I emailed the file destined for Amazon to my Kindle for a check. My shortened internal Table of Contents worked fine, but the bookmark did not connect with the Kindle’s Go To button to allow readers to link to it. Mmm.

Most of my titles are available on Amazon, Kobo, iBooks, and Nook. However, as I don’t have a Mac computer and I don’t live in the USA, I use a distributor to intercede on my behalf for the last three. I use Smashwords. There are others.

So I altered the file slightly and uploaded to Smashwords. There were no autovetter flags and the mobi format transferred to my Kindle worked first time. Brilliant! Except within hours I’d had an email from Smashwords saying the ePub’s NCX list was not corresponding to the internal Table of Contents. Cue loud groan from me. Which was when I sat back to consider why I was having problems when I don’t usually.

Ah, changes in technology were inputting unseen code, probably countermanding one another. I could see only one option: Nuke the file.

The term comes from Smashwords’ own Style Guide – How to Format Your Ebook. No matter which digital retailer is used this free download is both extensive and written in the language a non-techy can understand.

The ‘nuclear’ option, when all tweaking fails or, as in my case, I’ve no idea what to tweak, is a fail-safe method of clearing all unseen code. The Word file is copied and pasted into Notebook, and from Notebook it is copied and pasted into a new, fresh, Word document. Then the formatting is re-applied via Styles. Say it quick and it doesn’t sound much, but for a trilogy it is time-consuming, to say the least.

And this is where I’m at. Having the old file and the new file side by side for guidance, all the indents, centres, emboldens, and page breaks have been reinstated, and I am halfway through reinstating the 927 instances of italicised text. Word is good, though. On the old file Enter italics into Search and Replace, tick Highlight, hit Find All, and it does just that, allowing me to slide through the pages.

Note to self for the next novel: Use fewer italics.

11 November 2017

The Big Christmas Push

You can't have missed it. Every shop on the High Street has a Christmas display. Publishers are launching their titles for Christmas, or should I say, for Christmas presents, and Indie authors are no different. Well, a little different. Here they are offering a short, an extract, or a full novel, either free or for 99p / 99c. It's their shop window, a lead into each author's catalogue.

First up, The Prolific Reader Everything Fantasy, from epic to urban to humour to historical. Although the promotion is being run in conjunction with InstaFreebie for ease, the landing page will still be live after 10th November, and links to other genres are offered in the column alongside.

Second up, is Fall Gods & Goddesses of the Past You guessed it, Old Time religions feature heavily here, from Egypt to China, from Viking Asgard to Celtic water spirits, immerse yourself. Downloads via Instafreebie.

Running until 15th is the SFF Ebookaroo offering over 80 titles in all sub-genres of speculative fiction. You'll even find a collection of my horror shorts in this one. Downloads via Instafreebie.

And finally, only because it isn't supposed to be live yet - hint: most of them are already live, go check - is a no-sign-up Romantic Speculative Fiction promotion at 99c / 99p. There are 21 titles including a box set and an anthology of short stories whose authors have donated their profits to Bookbus, a charity combating illiteracy. And what better Christmas gift than that?

All in all, enough to keep you going well into the New Year. But do return next weekend, when I should have news of my own [cue mysterious music...].

4 November 2017

Gunpowder, Treason and Plot

Gunpowder Conspirators - from a print published after the discovery
England has never really gone in for anarchy and revolution to the extent of some other countries, but it has had its near misses. The one still recalled, and celebrated as "Bonfire Night" or "Guy Fawkes Night", is the attempt in 1605.

The plan was to destroy the House of Lords during the state opening of Parliament, thus murdering the leading members of the English aristocracy and assassinating King James I and his family. This was to be expedited by exploding 36 barrels of gunpowder secreted in the building’s undercroft. Guy Fawkes, known at Guido Fawkes or by the alias John Johnson, was the man found waiting to light the fuse, though certainly he was not one of the ringleaders.

Revolution tends to brew for a long time. The Protestant Reformation had been gathering pace in Europe for nearly a 100 years. In England, in a long-running spat with the Catholic Church in Rome, in 1526 King Henry VIII declared the country would abide with the newly-created Protestant Church of England, himself at its head. After his death, his daughter Queen Mary I briefly returned the country to the sort of Catholicism that burnt 300 churchmen at the stake as heretics. Henry’s second daughter, Protestant Queen Elizabeth I, had to cope with the fallout, both at home and abroad. These included several attempts on her life instigated by her excommunication by the Pope, and culminated in the infamous Armada sent by Spain in 1588 to invade, conquer, and return England to Catholicism. State sponsored terrorism is nothing new.

In this light, when the heir-less Elizabeth died in 1603, and the throne was passed to Protestant King James I of England and VI of Scotland, there is little wonder that the country’s burgeoning secret service was keeping an eye on dissenters at home and fomenters abroad. Mirroring today, it knew something was afoot, but it took a letter warning a Catholic member of the aristocracy not to attend the opening of Parliament to pull the threads together. Guy Fawkes was caught red-handed, and the murder-intent dissenters either died in the fight to apprehend them, or, like Fawkes, were taken prisoner, tried, found guilty of treason, and hanged, drawn and quartered on 31 January 1606. Subsequently, 5th November was proclaimed a Day of Thanksgiving ‘for the joyful deliverance’ by an Act of Parliament which was not repealed until 1859.

Currently, the BBC is running a dramatisation mini-series, Gunpowder, which evokes well the period, the animosities and the obsessions. If you are reading in the USA, keep an eye on the schedules for BBC America.

The way the British, at least the English, celebrate Guy Fawkes Night or Bonfire Night, has changed in my lifetime. When I was a child it was taken very seriously by local children. Bonfire fuel was collected during the preceding week, a ‘guy’ was constructed from old trousers and a shirt stuffed with newspapers and given a hat, to be taken door to door on a bogey, a form of home-made go-cart, to elicit funds for fireworks: Penny for the Guy! 

4th November was Mischief Night, when the same youths would lift gates from hinges of households they deemed hadn’t coughed up sufficiently, doors would be knocked on and an escape made before the owners answered, and so on, though few would have equated such annoying pranks with the mischief the Gunpowder conspirators enacted four centuries before. 

The excitement of a sparkler

During the evening of 5th November most family gardens held a small bonfire party, with hand-held sparklers and a box of fireworks, and everyone watched the neighbours’ rockets light the sky as they munched on potatoes baked in the embers of their own fire, alongside treats such as Yorkshire parkin and gingerbread.

It is interesting to note - see my last blogpost - that the Celtic end-of-year festival, Samhain, would still be in evidence in the 17th century, when breeding cattle saved from the autumn slaughter were driven through the dark smoke of bone-fires to help cleanse them of parasites. Perhaps the government had more than one reason to create an Act of Parliament setting the 5th November celebration among the statutes.

The need for Health & Safety regulations!

5th November celebrations are now a faint echo of what they once were. Thanks to the rise of Health & Safety regulations, and the sheer cost of fireworks, most people attend organised firework displays where political correctness frowns on an effigy being burned on the bonfire – if there is a bonfire. And perhaps that is as it should be. 

Mischief Night, too, is a near-forgotten tradition, or more likely merged into the Americanised version of Halloween now so prominent, complete with that foreign fruit, the pumpkin. What would the Conspirators have made of that?

Remember! Remember!
The 5th of November
Gunpowder, treason and plot.
I know of no reason
Why the Gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot.

Note: The rhyme is part of a 19th century folk verse.
Photographs are courtesy of Creative Commons CC0 Licenses