Thursday, 5 May 2016

Fire by C C Humphreys


PUBLISHER’S BLURB
First came Plague, now comes Fire. The epic tale of the hunt for a serial killer threatening London's rich and poor during the Great Fire of London. Perfect for fans of S J Parris and C J Sansom. 1666. The Great Plague has passed. Londoners celebrate survival in different ways. They drink. They gamble. They indulge in carnal delights. But 666 is the number of the Beast, the year foretold when Christ will return. 

A gang of fanatics - the Saints - choose to hasten that prophesied day. They will kidnap, rape, murder. Above all, they will kill a king. Two men - the highwayman William Coke and the thief-taker Pitman - are recruited to stop them. Then in the early hours of September 2nd, 1666, something starts that will overtake them all...London's a tinder box. Politically, sexually, religiously. Literally. It is about to burn.

REVIEW 
 
This novel is the second which features the adventures of former highwayman Captain Coke, who is haunted by his experiences during the English Civil War, and a thief-taker named Pitman, both once on opposing sides, but who become partners, joined by Sarah Chalker, an actress and the Captain’s betrothed.

Coke and Pitman thwart an attempt on King Charles II takes place at the theatre, orchestrated by a fanatical group of Fifth Monarchists who interpret various signs, omens and compilation of numbers as God’s instructions to rid the country of its sovereign.

The Fifth Monarchist, Blood and his cohorts have a scheme to not only bring their fanatical views to fruition, but make life unbearable for Coke and his new wife, which they manage with heart wrenching lack of pity.
 
The language and banter between Coke and Pitman is delightfully authentic, without being difficult to read, and the character of King Charles is exactly as one would imagine him. He consults his timepiece during a meeting saying he must go because, ‘I am late for. . . something.’

Mr Humphreys takes the author’s rule to ‘put your character in a hole and throw rocks at them’ very seriously in this book as he takes the reader into the gritty, merciless side of 17th Century London life played out with its corrupt 
infrastructure, disease, anti-Catholicism and dirt ridden streets where despair is never far away, then complicates everything when the great fire begins on September 3rd.
A thrilling roller coaster of a story with some engaging characters. I hope to read more about them.


Friday, 18 March 2016

How Accurate Do You Want Your Historical Fiction?

Most literary agents and publishers will tell any aspiring author that novel writing requires an unusual amount of focus, dedication, uninterrupted time and a very thick skin. Historical Fiction writing adds mountains of research to that list which makes the task even harder. So why bother?

The agents and publishers were right – it is harder. You cannot simply rattle off a story out of your head, imagining the scene, the people, how they dress, the mannerisms and most importantly – the speech. People didn’t think, speak, converse, dress or even eat in the same way we do today. You have to take all these things into account when delving into a past time. Your characters need to be of their time as well as part of it.

The question, therefore, is how accurate should historical fiction be, or is the story the most important aspect? In which case it’s acceptable for your Tudor characters speak in modern vernacular. Some readers relish the flowery speech patterns, the ‘thee’ and ‘thine’, the ‘prithee’ and the ‘forsooth’ which they feel is necessary to give a real essence of the era, but it's also possible to convey authentic ancient language without making it impossible to read.

Is it acceptable to change history? An historical novel might be a reader’s introduction to that particular era of history. Thus if your story says Richard III won at Bosworth Field, is this doing your readers a disservice by giving an "incorrect" version of what actually happened? If I describe an item of clothing which did not become popular until twenty five years later – am I insulting my readership?

Novelists are not history teachers – but personally, I want my stories to reflect history as accurately as I can. If I’m not sure of something, and sources do vary, I leave it out, even if I really wanted to include that snippet in my story. Mainly because there is bound to be a history buff on social media who will cheerfully expose me to the world as a distorter of ‘the truth’.

I find researching a novel is the most fascinating part of the writing process, although I always gather a lot more information than I will never use. None of it is wasted though as everything I discover gives me a feel for the era. My readers won’t necessarily be fascinated as I am with how the Tower Subway was built for instance, but if I stick to the story arc and sprinkle, don’t dump, I won’t bore my readers.

But then is accuracy in history subjective and history is written by the winners. Personally, I liked Phillipa Gregory’s adaptation in The White Queen where Elizabeth Woodville sends her younger son away and lets an imposter die in his place.

Thursday, 11 February 2016

Anthologies - An Effective Marketing and Promotional Tool


I am constantly being told that in this world of author's  self-promoting to get their work noticed, many authors are collaborating in a 'Unified Brand' anthology.

Writing a short story featuring your main characters is especially effective tool to introduce new readers to the other books.

A short story might sound easy, but having been invited to contribute to a Cosy Mystery Anthology, I am finding this hard work.

The task is to paint your characters, set the scene, devise a mystery, add clues, red herrings and a denouement - all in the space of a few thousand words!  Keep it simple seems to be the best option, but omit backstory other than what is absolutely necessary, although include some so your characters don't become two dimensional, as this defeats the object, which is to engage readers and generate interest in the full length novel.

Another benefit is whenever the anthology is featured on social media and blogs, your name will also be listed as a participant, so the reach is far wider than going it alone. There is a downside though, for me anyway, in that I worry everyone else's story will be far better than mine and in this world of 'one chance to impress', I may get consigned to the reader's reject pile!

Ah well, nothing ventured nothing gained I suppose.

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Olga by Ted Kelsey

Underground Book Reviews, an online magazine aimed at Inde Authors and their work have voted Ted Kelsey's Olga, a YA novel I reviewed last summer,  Novel of The Year. 
Well done Ted and I recommend this lovely story I was delighted to receive a paperback copy from the author.


I don't usually read children's or YA books, but this one had such an engaging cover I was intrigued to discover what it was about.

PUBLISHER'S BLURB

Magic weapons, white tigers, cat-faced moths and giants on motorcycles… OLGA is Ted Kelsey’s captivating first novel and features illustrations by the fine artist and illustrator, Dillon Samuelson.

When a mysterious figure is seen floating and dancing in the field near their house, Jack and Sally decide to investigate. This decision will lead them to an exciting place far beyond their imagination, the home of OLGA.
Nothing in the clouds is as it appears, and in order to get home safely, Jack and Sally must first learn whom to trust, and find a way to believe in themselves.
A story of spirit and imagination that the Online Book Club has described as “interwoven with comedy and deeper emotions of freedom and loneliness”, OLGA will delight readers of all ages.



REVIEW 

Olga by Ted Kelsey is an engaging fairy story written for the new age where Sally, a girl who can look after herself and doesn't need a hero to rescue her, sets off with her friend Jack into the cloud kingdom where they meet Olga, the sad daughter of an evil cloud giant who has been plotting with his brothers to destroy the earth and make it their own. 

This tale has magic, courage and adventure and is just long enough to keep the attention of the younger reader used to living with texts, tweets and soundbites. The story has a scary element which will also appeal to today's young who seem to like their fiction dark as well as a moral message too. This story can be enjoyed by any age group.  I'm well into adulthood and almost out the other side, and I enjoyed it.

The illustrations, which first attracted me are by Dillon Samuelson and are quite lovely.

Ted Kelsey's Website


Sunday, 13 December 2015

Is Self-Publishing For Everyone?

‘With its authors starting to regularly hit the bestseller lists, the world of self-publishing no longer carries the negative connotations it used to.’  says the Writers and Artists website:


When my first historical novels were published some years ago by a small digital publisher, I was made aware by other authors at conferences and writer’s groups that I wasn’t a ‘real author’ and wouldn't be until I was published by a mainstream publisher. 

Digital publishing was new and viewed with suspicion – a fad which would never last. Self-publishing was seen as vanity publishing by authors who couldn't attract the attention of a traditional publisher, and besides, everyone believed that once your novel was 'out there' no publisher would look at it.

The online writer community continued to send out query letters in the quest for an agent and/or a publisher, while some resorted to self-publishing when all other avenues had been exhausted. We wished them every success, but secretly believed being traditionally published was the better route - until it became clear that many were earning far more than their traditionally published counterparts.

Attitudes to self publishing have altered in the last five years, and recently my quiet superiority was swept away when I was told my current publisher has sold out to a larger concern who may, or may not continue with their current fiction list. Therefore they will not be publishing, albeit reluctantly, the second book in my cosy mystery series.

I am about to embark on another round of submissions, or rather my agent is, then someone asked me a question. ‘What is your publisher doing for you that you cannot do for yourself, other than take the lion’s share of the royalties?’

That got me thinking. Was I viewing self-publishing from the wrong perspective?

To help me find out, I attended a group of the Alliance of Independent Authors or ALLi as it is known, made up of self-motivated authors who offer networking and practical help in all aspects of writing. They proved to be a fascinating and knowledgeable group of authors who showed me that local exposure can go a long way to increase your author profile. 

In the three years since its inception, this national organisation has accumulated a vast array of resources ranging from editing services, cover art design, legal advice on contracts, critique and review groups, advice on increasing your book sales, local literary festivals where authors can showcase their work, library talks, seminars, book groups, the list goes on.

By the end of my first meeting, the thought of being in total control of my own work was more appealing, and with so many resources available to make self-publishing easy, maybe I do have the confidence to strike out on my own after all - and even make sales.

Further Reading
ALLi
Publetariat
Spiffing Covers
Draft2Digital
Self Publishing Review
The Book Designer

Books We Love

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