Thursday, 24 November 2016

Kingdom Asunder – out today

Kingdom Asunder, the first part of The Bloody Crown Trilogy is out today, huzzah!

It’s available at a discount (60% of the full price) for the first week of release, so do snap it up now.

The story revolves around the civil war between (and tempestuous relationships within) the Houses of Penmere and Esden. It’s brimming with ruthless she-wolves, scheming traitors and grim knights, dripping with gore and betrayal.

As it’s release day, there are no reviews yet on the retail sites but there are a few early ones here, on Goodreads.

Kingdom Asunder can be purchased in many places (if you buy through Amazon UK you may wish to use this affiliate link, which gives a small commission to the cancer charity Macmillan):


Sunday, 20 November 2016

Kingdom Asunder – out this Thanksgiving

What crime is more unforgivable than treason?

Princess Karena is all that stands between the House of Penmere and ruin. The King, her brother, was gravely wounded in a failed assassination attempt, and once-loyal followers are flocking to the treacherous Usurper's golden embrace.

But Karena knows the surest defence is attack, and will stop at nothing to destroy any rival to her brother... or herself.

Against her, the Usurper musters a vast army to crush Penmere once and for all, but in a war of treachery those closest to you can be the greatest threat.

The above is a description of Kingdom Asunder, which releases on 24 November and is available for pre-order. It’s a fantastic story of the civil war between (and tempestuous relationships within) the Houses of Penmere and Esden, brimming with ruthless she-wolves, scheming traitors and grim knights.

Buy KA at Amazon US 
Buy KA at Amazon UK

Buy KA at Kobo
Buy KA at Barnes & Noble

Kingdom Asunder is also discounted for the pre-order and first week after release, down to just $2.99 (after which it’ll rise to the standard price of $4.99).

Pre-order reviews aren’t permitted on Amazon, but there are a few here on Goodreads.

It’s a great book, people. It’s going to win big, so big, because it’s written by a winner, a guy who knows how to win. It’s got the best words, folks, we all know it. We’re making a trilogy here, the best trilogy you could ever dream of. And the readers are gonna pay for it.

So, if you want some escapism from the world of politics, there’s no better time and no better price than Kingdom Asunder, an epic fantasy a million miles away from 2016.


Thursday, 17 November 2016

Colour Psychology and Anatomy of an Advert

I’m quite good at knuckling down and churning out words, but when it comes to marketing, the other side of writing (which involves 1% of the time but is as important as the 99% spent writing), I’m a bit less fluent.

This time, I decided to try and make a bit of use of the old psychology. A few years ago now but I do have a degree in it, and have vague memories of colour psychology (McDonalds has red and yellow in its advertising because the colours influence you to feel hungry and want to impulse buy). It’s worth noting that colours can and do mean different things in different cultures. Red is not always bad. Green is not always good.

In addition to considering colour, there’s the contrast versus complementary aspect to consider. Colours close to one another on the spectrum (yellow and red, for example) often go smoothly together. However, a stark contrast (black and white’s the most obvious) can create a stronger visual impression. The most important thing is to avoid clashing colours. Purple and green are not your friends. And don’t festoon the screen with every colour of the rainbow. Clarity is useful because the reader’s eye gets drawn the way you want it to, and the reader won’t get annoyed with having a face full of rainbow vomit.

For impulse buying, which books generally are, it’s better to use warmer colours. There is a notable exception, which is blue. I have no idea why the coldest of cold colours might encourage impulse buying, but there we are. If you’re selling a car, I’m not sure why you’re reading this for advice, but you want to take a more functional approach (green or blue, and black might work).

It’s also important to avoid the bullshit factor. I saw an ad a couple of years ago for one of those card games that are based on a TV series. “It is a life-altering experience!” the narrator enthused. Now, for a five year old, maybe it would be. And that’s the target demographic. Someone with the power to nag their parents to buy something. But if it were aimed at me, my response would be concise and Anglo-Saxon, and would not involve me spending money.

Use language that fits your book. Try and use a font that either fits well or at least doesn’t clash (using military style fonts for a romance or sci-fi lettering for an alternative history of the Roman Empire would just look wrong).

Anyway, I’ve wibbled about this for quite some time. But the point of an ad is to be seen, the information digested easily and (if it’s a low cost impulse buy) attract someone into buying it in short order. Below I’ve got the advert for Kingdom Asunder, currently up for pre-order on Amazon, with annotations explaining why I included each element.

I also did a smaller banner with some of the same elements (because slapping a whacking great advert in the middle of every blog would be obnoxious). I went for red rather than blue because I felt it stands out more (I considered red for the large banner but blue seemed a better fit for it. The two ads take a different time to read, and whilst the red is more arresting the blue feels a little easier on the eyes).

So there you are, a basic guide to making a banner ad. Remember, focus on colours, have no bullshit, include a call to buy and, most important of all, click and pre-order Kingdom Asunder.


PS If you’re a chap going on a date, try a red shirt. As well as ruining your life expectancy in Star Trek, red shirts make men more attractive to women (to a statistically significant degree). Unfortunately, ladies, the colours you wear make no difference to how attractive gentlemen find you.

Friday, 11 November 2016

Interview with Teresa Edgerton

Today I’m joined by Teresa Edgerton, author of Goblin Moon (which I’ve read) and Hobgoblin Night (which I have not).

I really liked the world of Goblin Moon, it felt distinctive and intriguing, almost like an extra character. What was your inspiration? And, assuming the location changes, how similar/different is Hobgoblin Night?

Yes, I wanted it to feel like an extra character. I put a lot of effort into making it that way — although it was the kind of effort that was fun, too.

My inspirations were eighteenth century Europe, old movies, and the classic historical adventure novels I had loved reading when I was growing up. The location does change for Hobgoblin Night ... or rather I should say the locations change, because events are unfolding in different parts of that world.

Some of the characters have moved across the sea to a setting which is more reminscent of Colonial America — so not so very different. It did allow me to work with American folk magic, which I enjoyed doing. That’s the main setting, but other characters are visiting more exotic places, like the country of the Trolls in the far, frozen north, or moving south to a city that is slowly drowning in its own lagoons, like Venice. Meanwhile, there are characters busily at work constructing a powerful engine they hope will draw on the “magnetic” properties of the moon in order to raise a sunken island, where they expect to discover the secrets of ancient magicians.

The secrecy, conspiracy and subterfuge reminded me of the Scarlet Pimpernel. Was Baroness Orczy an inspiration?

Oh most definitely an influence, but one of many. Rafael Sabatini’s novels were probably a bigger influence: Scaramouche, Venetian Masque, Captain Blood. There were a couple of Georgette Heyer’s books, more adventurous than her usual fare: The Black Moth, The Masqueraders. Although I love many, many of her other books, too, and they may have had a more subtle influence. Then there was the Reverend Doctor Syn (the Scarecrow of Romney Marsh), hero of a series of novels by Russell Thorndike.

One of my characters — having read Goblin Moon you’ll know which one I mean —adopts a number of aliases as the story progresses, and most of those names reference the heroes of those books I’ve just mentioned. Rather like Easter eggs hidden in the story for readers who love classic swashbucklers. I won’t give away any of those here.

On a related note: do you read history as well, and how much research did you do for the setting (or was it based on your pre-existing knowledge)?

Yes, I read a lot of history but not so much about things like politics and battles, more about all the odd and unexpected things that set each era apart, and also the ways that magic was practiced historically. Just a lot of things that relate to writing and editing speculative fiction, not just these books. In fact, I was able to find a lot more sources on the 18th century, including some fabulous primary sources, when I was researching The Queen’s Necklace which is set in a different world but one that is similar in many ways to Goblin Moon and Hobgoblin Night. I think I searched every public library within a thirty mile radius, although now, of course, there are online bookstores, like Amazon and AbeBooks, which are great for finding the kind of out-of-print history books I would have killed for when I was writing Goblin Moon. I already knew a fair amount about the period, but what I was surprised to learn was just how much more interest there was in magic during the 17th and 18th centuries than most people imagine, certainly a lot more than I imagined, and it was all mixed up with natural sciences, philosophy, and medicine. 18th century medicine is a marvelously fertile field for digging up fantastic details about that period, and the most bizarre things in Goblin Moon are based on things that really happened.

I've read Goblin Moon, but not Hobgoblin Night. How much time passes between the two books?

It’s never said explicitly. Several months at least, maybe as much as a year.

Although not a horror, Goblin Moon does have something of a creepy undertone. Does Hobgoblin Night develop in a similar vein?

There are parts of the book where I would say that is true, but there are also places where the supernatural is treated in a more light-hearted way. There is one particular ghost, Uncle Izrael Barebones.

The three protagonists, as I recall, have overlapping plot strands but mostly plough their own furrows, each a distinct character facing very different problems. How difficult was it making these strands separate but complementary?

All the different storylines were developing organically at the same time, with each one influencing all the others as I wrote, so there no problems I can remember in that way. I always knew how they all fit together, although sometimes there were developments that surprised me very much when they suddenly turned up. There was one scene where my swashbuckling hero did something I did not expect at all, and I sat up and thought, “So that’s the kind of person he is; I had no idea.”

The two books form a duology, but do you think you'll return to the world and characters at some point?

In Hobgoblin Night there are three short stories – one originally written for a magazine and the others for anthologies — which I’ve included along with the novel in the TBP reprint. They were written at different times, and one is a folktale of that world, and another features a main character from the duology but at a time earlier in his life. I don’t think I am giving anything away by saying that, even though he’s not immediately identified and he’s using an alias, because it’s one that he’s used before. That one’s a story about highwaymen and smugglers. The third story is unrelated, except that the idea behind it — the Celestial Bed, which was a real invention — was brought to me by a friend who said, “I just read Goblin Moon. You’ll be interested in this.”

So I’ve already done it to some extent. For a while I did toy with the idea of a sequel taking place about twenty years later, involving the children of some of the main characters in a sort of steampunkish setting. And I started and abandoned a prequel telling how our hero ended up in the revenge business. Of the two, I’m more likely to go back to the prequel, because I did write a rough outline and a few chapters for that one. It begins very much like a horror story.

When you aren't writing/editing, what do you like to read? Outside of writing, how do you like to relax?

To answer those questions in reverse order: outside of writing, my favorite way of relaxing is reading. I used to be involved in a lot of different creative things — I was very crafty — but right now my life pretty much revolves around books.

For fiction: fantasy, science fiction, 19th novels (Dickens and Austen in particular), the occasional mystery novel. I’m reading a lot of romance novels on days when I am writing or editing, because I find them more relaxing. On days when I’m not writing or editing I catch up on my SFF reading.

For nonfiction: anything that catches my fancy at the time. Aside from research, my interests seem to flit from one thing to another.

What are you currently working on, and is there any ETA for release?

I’m still trying to finish The Rune of Unmaking series, but right now there is no ETA for release of the next book. I’ve realized that, with everything that still has to happen to bring all the story lines together, it’s going to be a four book series rather than a trilogy, and I’m about halfway through the third book. When I thought I was going to have to fit it all into just one more book there was a point where it was so overwhelming and daunting I found it hard to get up much enthusiasm about writing it. Once I realized that it didn’t have to be that way my enthusiasm revived amazingly. But I’ve a lot of obligations for my business as a freelance editor that will take me through the end of the year. With luck I can return to my own writing in January.


Friday, 4 November 2016

Review: Abendau’s Legacy, by Jo Zebedee

I received a free copy of this in return for an honest review.

Abendau’s Legacy is the final part of dark sci-fi series The Inheritance Trilogy. Warning: there are, necessarily, spoilers for the events of Abendau’s Heir and Sunset Over Abendau below.

Abendau’s Legacy takes place very shortly after the end of Sunset Over Abendau. The Empress has reclaimed about half her empire, the other half loosely coalescing around the idea of a republic. Kare, her son, is forced to confront not only his fear of her but also try to keep his wayward son in line and the rest of his family safe.

There’s an interesting approach of having a relatively small cast but many POV characters, and the author does well to capture the differing perspectives (most of the time you’d know whose viewpoint you were seeing through even if unaware of their name).

The heart of the book is the strength of the characters and their sometimes fractious relationships with one another. It’s very emotive (sort of Hobb meets Abercrombie in space).

Generally, the plot works well. There are some little twists that are credible but also surprising (a tightrope to be walked with twists), although one late [minor] twist felt a little jarring/unnecessary. Weaving together the various plot threads was very well-balanced, particularly late on.

The story’s tightly focused on the characters, smaller in scale and more intimate than sci-fi can sometimes be. It’s more about people than the action (although there’s no shortage of that).

Here and there the turns of the plot were predictable, which, at those times, did reduce dramatic tension.

Obviously, this is the third book of a trilogy. To my mind, it’s at least as good as the previous book (Sunset Over Abendau) and if you’ve bought the first two you need have no qualms about buying this one.


PS Note on review policy, submissions etc: I very rarely review fiction any more. If I’ve reviewed something of yours in the past and have nothing on, I might be interested. However, right now I’ve got five books to read (and my own to promote), so the window is definitely closed until 2017 at the earliest. How this changes going forward depends on things that are strange and mysterious.