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Writing, Editing and Reviewing

bookreviews

Something that has become, to me anyway, quite noticeable recently, are the comments in certain book reviews. As I expect most people do, I tend to scroll down to the reviews before I buy a book, especially if it is a new author whose title has intrigued me. For the most part, reviewers are generous souls and even if they haven’t enjoyed the story, they try to put a positive spin on their comments. Obviously, there are some who will hate a book, for whatever reason and that is their right – although this doesn’t, necessarily, make it a bad book.

Courtesy ~ She Inspires
Courtesy ~ She Inspires

As a new writer, I appreciate more than ever, the blood, sweat and tears that goes into creating, in your own eyes at least, a masterpiece. The hours spent on research; in producing backgrounds for all your characters; in developing the storyline; in setting the scenes; choosing the place, the era, the clothes, the houses, the politics, the culture, the list goes on.

Courtesy ~ The Book Refinery
Courtesy ~ The Book Refinery

Then, after weeks of banging away on the keyboard, fighting writer’s block, waking at ungodly hours because a plot line just has to be pinned down, and forgetting to eat – you finish. There it is – 100,000 words or so drawn, in some cases, kicking and screaming from your imagination. You set it aside for a couple of days then begin the long haul of proofreading.

Courtesy jims-rohini.tk
Courtesy jims-rohini.tk

After you think you have edited it within an inch of its life, you ask one or two trusted (and responsible) friends/colleagues to read it for you, just to ensure it isn’t actually a load of drivel. Finally, after doing your absolute best to try to make it as perfect as possible, you upload it to one of the sales platforms in the hope that people are captivated by the synopsis and buy it. Waiting for the first review is a nightmare, this could make or break it, others will read it and decide whether you are an author worth trying or should be avoided at all costs. It’s gut wrenching.

So far so good, your reviews are mostly positive, then horror of horrors someone complains about the grammar or your syntax or your style or your spelling. If I’m honest, I too find it disconcerting when I read a book that looks as though the writer/editor didn’t really care about the final product. If you haven’t tried to proof your manuscript at all, or haven’t had someone else check it, then you may deserve some criticism.

The price of professional proofreaders

Courtesy Appleby Editing
Courtesy Appleby Editing

Now this is a bit of a sticky issue. I have noticed that, on social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook, some people go on and on (and on) about getting your work professionally proofed and edited. Yes, I agree it is vital that your work should be presented in as professional a manner as possible, which is all fine and dandy until you look into the costs of these services. Some writers might be fortunate enough to have a friend who has proofreading experience and is happy to check their work, but I imagine that many indie/self-published authors are not so lucky.

Not long ago, I had occasion to check the costs of proofing and it is staggering. Ranging from $15/1,000 words to $30/1,000 words, or some offer an hourly rate, somewhere between $20 and $60/hour (usually presuming 1,500 words/hour, which does leave it rather open to exploitation). I accept that this is someone’s livelihood and they deserve a decent income along with the rest of us, but herein lies a problem for self-publishing writers.

Courtesy ~ Pipeline Editing
Courtesy ~ Pipeline Editing

My books tend to be around 80-110,000 words, making for me the average cost for proofing around AUS$1,000. A huge amount when you take into account that the majority of self-published authors will never make that sum of money on all of their books, never mind the one they are trying to get proofed.

Thankfully, all hope is not lost. I discovered Word Refiner through twitter, an excellent proof-reading service and most affordable. Moreover, there are ‘pages’ on Facebook, offering free beta reading, and seem legitimate. I know a few fellow authors who have found them to be eminently satisfactory. Of course, any beta readers need to be interested in the genre in which you write and, more importantly, have the time to scrutinise your manuscript thoroughly.

Further, even books released through reputable publishers are not always as well edited as they could be. It makes me wonder whether far too much reliance is being placed on the ability of whichever word refining application the manuscript is run through to pick out mistakes that are then, never re-checked. Quite frankly, if I followed every suggestion Word offered me, my books would resemble a Scrabble board.

author-reviewSo – yes, I’m getting to my point – please, do review our books. For the most part reviews are awesome! They are what attract others to our work; it is the number of good reviews that increase our rating within particular genres and, if you are listed on Amazon, reviews are what get you a recommendation. All I’m asking, is that you remember what went into a book, and that sometimes there may be mistakes. Sure – give feedback on such things, but do it constructively. You might be at a distance when you write your review, but the phrase the pen is mightier than the sword was coined for a reason and the nibs of the most benign looking pens can still cut.

September Stories

Wow, so I am reliably informed that it’s Spring here in Australia. Bearing in mind that by this time last year we’d had a few days in the high 20’s and so far this month it’s barely reached 19 (that’s centigrade), I’m reserving judgement. Still, as Spring conjures up the idea of new things on the horizon and a promise in the air, I realised that an update was timely.

once-upon-an-earl-coverI have been pretty busy since my last post. The Regency Romance, Once Upon an Earl is now available, worldwide, through Amazon (for UK link click here). I decided to have two covers done, one for the USA market and one for the rest of the word, to see whether different design styles make any difference to sales.

once-upon-an-earl-alt-cover-600dpiInitially, this novel was only going to be released as an e-book, but I’ve had quite a few requests for the paperback version, so that should be added soon.  My, long suffering, technical support is away at the moment, but on his return we (or rather he) will organise that side of things. It’s quite a time-consuming process and I prefer to let the expert handle it!

I am excited to share with you that prequel to the Hannah’s Heirloom Trilogy is finished – yay! It ended up being quite a bit longer than anticipated and is not far off a proper book…certainly longer than the novella I was aiming for. Much as it’s taken quite a while to complete – researching Roman Army battle strategies, the Armenian campaign and the deteriorating situation in Jerusalem prior to the Great Jewish Revolt has been fascinating.

To complicate matters further, I decided that Maxentius and his soldiers would travel on foot from Armenia to Masada, as opposed to travelling part way by sea. A not inconsiderable distance, the soldiers would have followed well-worn trade routes, which gave me the opportunity to investigate some of the cities that they would have passed on their journey. Some, already regarded as ancient in AD62, were undergoing redevelopment usually as a result of Roman occupation, most especially, Palmyra and Damascus.

The Temple of Bel, Palmyra. Courtesy Bernard Gagnon
The Temple of Bel, Palmyra.
Courtesy Bernard Gagnon

Palmyra was an important centre long before it fell under Roman control. Archaeological finds date the settlement to the Neolithic era and the city was first documented in the second millennium BC. An established caravan oasis, it linked Persia, India and China with the Roman Empire, and these diverse cultural influences were manifest in its art and architecture.

The Temple of Jupiter, Damascus. Courtesy Franco Pecchio
The Temple of Jupiter, Damascus.
Courtesy Franco Pecchio

As with Palmyra, Damascus, positioned at the crossroads of the East and West has always been of tremendous commercial and cultural significance and is one of the oldest continually inhabited cities in the world. Although the earliest visible physical evidence is dated to the Roman period, the name ‘Damascus’ appears in the 15th century BC on a geographical list, and human settlement can be dated to around 6300BC.  Mindful of the current destruction being wrought on these beautiful cities, I felt it appropriate to include them.

Herodium From Above. Courtesy Asaf T.
Herodium From Above. Courtesy Asaf T.

Herodion was another must on their itinerary – well, if they had to march, they might as well have some fun on the way (there was a swimming pool)! Herod the Great, arguably an architectural visionary and considered one of the greatest builders of his time, had this palace constructed between 23 and 15 BC to commemorate his victory over the Parthians.

Herodium. Courtesy Eitan Ya'aran
Herodium. Courtesy Eitan Ya’aran

It is the only site which bears his name and believed to be where he was buried. Nine years after Maxentius and his soldiers visited, it was destroyed by the Romans.

Now – while frantically editing – my biggest challenge is to come up with a title for this prequel. I usually find that this, along with a synopsis is harder than writing the book itself – seriously! I have a couple of possibilities floating around, so hopefully I be able to choose one soon.

As for the second Regency romance – it is coming together nicely but is on hold while I prepare the prequel for release. It does keep intruding into my thoughts though, so I’m not sure how long I’ll be able to resist! Then there’s the mystery series….*clutches head* I need another me!

Thank you for taking the time to read my blurb, I hope you have a great day!

Rosie 🙂

Latest News

August already, this year is flying by. I have been quite busy with a few projects and thought you might like to hear about them.

I mentioned previously that I was working on a prequel to The Pomegranate Tree – and I still am – but even though this will be more of a novella than a full length book, it is taking much longer than I anticipated.

Courtesy - Konstantinos Plakidas: Wikimedia Commons
Courtesy – Konstantinos Plakidas: Wikimedia Commons

This is more to do with trying to get my head around both the machinations of the Armenian campaign – which Maxentius was part of prior to his transfer to Masada – and the deteriorating situation in Jerusalem, where Hannah was living.

On top of this, the sections relating to Maxentius are quite technical – what with battles, shifting frontiers and political alliances. Yes, I realise that it’s fiction, but I wanted to try and demonstrate a sense of what this chapter of his life was like. I must admit, though, it has been good fun being able to include things that occurred in both Hannah’s and Maxentius’ past, which are alluded to in the other books.

Trilogy Cover red 400dpi

I also decided, after releasing Embers of Destiny, that it might be an idea to add a compilation to the mix. So The ‘Hannah’s Heirloom Trilogy’ is now available through Amazon as an e-book only (being much too big as a paperback, although I may try and work out how to release a box set at some stage).

In between researching Armenia and Jerusalem, circa AD58-66, I have written a Regency Romance (otherwise known as a ‘bodice ripper’… although to be fair, bodices mostly stay intact in mine …). It is a style of novel that I have only only recently started reading but one, which I have discovered, I can easily lose myself in. The basic scenario, like most romances, includes a hero, a heroine, an underlying plot – and of course – the romance. When I hit writer’s block during ‘Echoes,’ I began one, thinking it to be a useful distraction until I could refocus on ancient stuff. The characters wormed their way under my skin, however, and I found that I needed to see their story through to its conclusion and thus, I ended up with a proper novel.

As an aside – part way through writing Hannah’s story, I contemplated the notion of writing the odd story, set at random points throughout history each mentioning the clasp. No connecting of souls, no time shift, simply a way to follow it’s journey from my Hannah of the ancient world, to her descendent in the modern day. As they would be stand alone novels, there was no reason for them to be written in any particular order, so I decided to include the clasp into my Regency story, for although barely mentioned, now I have my first link in the chain.

As with the compilation, the Regency romance will only be released as an e-book initially, to see whether there’s enough interest to warrant a paperback version. Until I started on this story, the history surrounding the Georgian or Regency era was something about which I knew very little, so researching it has been fascinating. The Napoleonic Wars, along with the social and political changes that were occurring in England during the first quarter of the nineteenth century, offer great backdrops for a plot line, as are the shenanigans of the nobility. It’s in editing at the moment and – as seems to be a habit of mine – I loved it so much that there is a second novel in the works, involving the same characters.

So, I think that’s brought you up to date! Thank you so much for taking the time to read this. Have a great day.

Rosie.

‘The Four Emperors Series’ by LJ Trafford – Book Review

Palatine
Palatine

Recently I read Palatine, the first book in The Four Emperors Series by LJ Trafford. It is an outstanding novel, well written, fast paced and totally absorbing. I love this period of Roman history, the utterly convoluted nature of the political arena with those jockeying for power, all within a year. Set just prior to the death of the Emperor Nero, we see how the events affected those ‘behind the scenes,’ the bit-players as it were, some of whom became vitally important in the ensuing chaos – the imperial staff, the slaves, the soldiers and their families.

I read this first book so quickly, I had to go back and read it again, to make sure I hadn’t missed anything and was really looking forward to the sequel, which did not disappoint. In fact, much as I didn’t think it possible, it is even better than the first one. I was so absorbed that I read almost two-thirds of it in one sitting – to the detriment of everything else I was supposed to be doing.

Galba’s Men begins six months after the death of Nero, towards the end of AD 68 and those within the palace at Rome are managing quite well without an Emperor in situ thank you very much. Even the ineffectual Icelus, Galba’s secretary doesn’t derail the smooth administration of Empire, as the palace-trained scribe, Philo, effortlessly absorbs his workload. Galba himself is delayed in the provinces, dealing with the upheaval within the army caused by Nero’s death.

The ensuing events lay the foundation for the infamous Year of the Four Emperors, this honorific alone enough to conjure up the utter pandemonium that would be ushered in following Galba’s promotion to the top job – dissension, shifting political alliances, murder and mayhem – perfect ingredients on which to base a gripping tale.

Galba's Men
Galba’s Men

Nothing goes right for Galba; even his arrival is marred by a riot as he approaches Rome. The sailors of the Misenum Fleet who wished to be recognised as an official legion bring a petition to Galba, intercepting him at the Milvian Bridge. Galba refuses to deal with it there, indicating that they should follow official channels and petition in Rome. A scuffle follows and whether intentional or not, suddenly the cavalry bear down on the angry sailors straight through a crowd of civilians who had come to cheer their new Emperor, killing dozens.

Not the most auspicious start and, unfortunately for all involved, set the tone for Galba’s rule. Almost as an aside, it is at this point that we are also introduced to Otho, a genial sort of chap, a man who is in fact the complete antithesis of Galba and something to keep in mind throughout this tale. Otho wholeheartedly supported Galba’s bid for Imperial glory, mostly in the hope that he might be named son and heir. However, as time passes, the new Emperor’s advisors persuade him out of what would have been a popular decision and Galba confers this title on another, thereby pretty much signing his own death warrant.

As with Palatine, the story unfolds from the perspective of those behind the scenes, the movers and shakers of the administration, Galba’s staff, the Praetorians and those working within the palace, many of whom we met in the previous book. Dragged mercilessly into a vortex of chaos simply by being in the right place at the wrong time.

Corruption, treason, executions, love, marriage, death and general all round mischief come together in a tale that keeps you gripped from the first page. You become part of the narrative, the characters – no longer words on a page but people you know and are vested in, to the point where I wasn’t sure I wanted to get to the end in case any of my favourites didn’t survive the telling and … no, I’m giving nothing away … you’ll have to read it for yourself.

LJ Trafford weaves a masterful tale; fast paced and full to bursting with flamboyant personalities whose lives are inextricably entwined with the fortunes of the Emperor. Her descriptions of their world, of the palace and of Rome itself are so vivid that the scenes virtually manifest in front of you. It is one thing to read the history of this period, but this book brings it to life. I cannot recommend Galba’s Men highly enough. If you enjoy intrigue, drama and enough humour to lighten the dark edges, all neatly wrapped up in antiquity, do yourself a favour – treat yourself to a copy, sit back and enjoy the ride.

Authors Spotlight

Authors Spotlight is a blog doing exactly what it says – placing a spotlight on authors. Its founder, Dave Mayall, someone I have ‘met’ through twitter, contacted me to ask whether I would be interested in promoting my books though his site. As I have said before, self-publishing is all well and good, but that’s just the beginning. The burden of getting your work out there is all up to you the author and any opportunity to spread the word is a boon.

The Authors Spotlight blog is a way for authors from all genres to share something about themselves, such as what inspires them and why they chose that particular style or category, the background to their work and so on, as well as offering a tantalising glimpse into the books themselves and the person who wrote them.

It is a free service, working on the basis that if Dave features an author they will return the favour and spread the word about his blog and, its a good blog. It features some very interesting posts, not just on authors, but also some rather beautiful poetry by Dave himself, along with a plentiful selection of useful tips for writers.

In this day and age of self publishing and indie authors, even authors lucky enough to land a traditional publishing deal, I believe supporting people like Dave, is important. People who create blogs and webpages purely because they love books and are interested enough to create user friendly platforms, easily accessibly to a broader public, many of whom under normal circumstances would likely never discover some of these amazing writers.

Check out Authors Spotlight, you never know who you might find there!

Embers of Destiny ~ Hannah’s Heirloom ~ Book Three

Embers front cover 320 dpiI am delighted to tell you that the third book in the Hannah’s Heirloom Sequence is now available worldwide on Amazon Kindle (paperback version will follow shortly). Called Embers of Destiny, it is set in the north of Roman Britain, along the frontier which would eventually be defined by Hadrian’s Wall. It is AD80 and although much of this distant province has been pacified, the borderland is not quite subdued.

In recent times, aerial surveys have discovered that there were several forts along this frontier, established long before the famous stone wall constructed during Hadrian’s reign. It is thought that they were set up by Agricola to police the newly subjugated northern border, while he continued on into Scotland (or Caledonia as it was then known). Originally these would have been temporary marching camps, evolving into wooden forts before eventually being rebuilt in stone, indicating long term settlement.

Magnis: Photo Source Mike Quinn
Magnis: Photo Source Mike Quinn

Magnis, where my story is set is one such fort and was still in use in AD160, by which time it had been completely rebuilt in stone, marking it as one of the permanent forts. Even though plenty of artefacts have been found confirming later occupation, there was a dearth of remains for the time period I was writing about. This was very useful as I could weave the story around what we did know and add my own ‘finds’ to suit myself. Soon I was engrossed in learning how forts were organised and what everyday life on the edge of Empire was like. A garrison like this was usually made up from vexillations, or detachments of soldiers, drawn from two or three legions based elsewhere in the province. So having worked out which legions would likely supply soldiers to these outposts, I then augmented them with a contingent of Maxentius’ soldiers who had accompanied him from Rome.

Photo Source Sophia Jundi BBC History
Photo Source Sophia Jundi BBC History

It was also fascinating to research how local tribespeople lived; those native to the area who had been subjugated by the invading Romans. How they lived, what their dwellings looked like both inside and out, their clothing and their language. I admit to getting quite lost in the world of Roman Britain for several weeks and loved every minute of it.

Embers of Destiny is the culmination of that research and is the final book in the sequence – well it should have been. However, as happened when I wrote The Pomegranate Tree, I wasn’t quite ready to let go, so I have begun a prequel. This will be a short story following the lives of Hannah and Maxentius before they meet on Masada. There won’t be any falling through time and my modern couple are not part of this tale. I was just interested in my ancient couple’s journey and in the challenges they faced; one as a young soldier fighting on the troubled eastern fringes of the Empire and the other as a healer in a city descending in chaos. I’m probably about half way through and trying to get my head around Roman Army battle tactics is keeping me out of mischief!

Silverlight Cafe Online Magazine

I am very honoured to be included in the May edition of the Silverlight Cafe Online Magazine , one of ten authors in this edition. The other nine are an incredibly talented group of people and definitely worth checking out.

This is a great way of promoting self-published, indie and new authors and gives the reader a chance to see something of the writer’s background and what inspires them.

One of the greatest challenges facing self-published authors is getting the word out. So you’ve written a book, got a great cover and told all your friends about it, now what? Trying to promote and market these novels is very hard – there are no books shop owners inviting you to display your novel in a prominent position by the door, or asking you to come and do a signing. No posters in windows encouraging people to pop in and browse through the book. It is very easy to come unstuck and begin to feel rather despondent.

Social media offers a light in the darkness, especially online magazines, of which Silverlight Cafe is a wonderful example. It’s a way of ‘meeting’ a group of authors – not always from the same genre – all in one place without having to flick back and forth between websites. It’s a chance to see what they’ve written and why, maybe read an except, even get a link to their books.

If you are interested in what makes writers tick, I’m sure you’d enjoy this magazine, just click here , or on the link above.

Interview – Novel Writing Festival

I am excited to share that I was approached to do an online interview with Matthew Toffolo of Novel Writing Festival, a website that offers a very ‘novel’ way for self published writers to promote their work. The series of questions ranged from what the themes and tone of my novels are, to my favourite movie, to who I would most like to have dinner with. It’s a brief and lighthearted way of getting to know the person behind the books and what motivates us to write.

Trying to get the message out about my novels and why someone should buy mine over someone else’s is not an easy task. The very term ‘self-published’ means exactly that – there is no well-established publishing house behind me advertising my books all over the world, organising book signings or special events on the release of a novel. Thus it’s great to have people who love books enough to offer a way of getting the word out without cost to the author.

Novel Writing Festival do offer several other platforms through which to promote books, so its definitely worth checking them out! You can also find them on Twitter at @NovelFest

If you would like to read the interview, please click here

Have a great day,

Rosie

Author of the Month – Circle of Books

I am absolutely delighted to let you all know that I have just been featured as the May ‘Author of the Month’ by Circle of Books.

Recently @circleofbooks, who is one of my very supportive Twitter friends, asked me to provide some background on both of my first two books, The Pomegranate Tree and Echoes of Stone and Fire . Information such as the historical and archaeological research for the books rather than simply their synopses, which they already had. The website offers different methods of exposure for writers, across several social media platforms.

As a self published writer, promoting my books is a challenge – there is no publisher behind me advertising them all over the world, organising book signings or special events on the release of a novel. Thus it’s great to have people who love books enough to promote them without cost to the author.

Expecting simply to be mentioned as a writer, I was most surprised and very honoured to be made Author of the Month, for May and thought you might like to check it out!

Have a great day,

Rosie

 

 

Hannah’s Journey

About half way through writing The Pomegranate Tree, I realised that I could not say goodbye to my characters after one book. Hannah’s journey, in fact the journeys of both my Hannahs refused to be contained within one novel. My challenge then, was to come up with another scenario, another plot line, one that would cause my modern heroine to reconnect with her ancient ancestor.

Masada was retaken by the Romans around AD72/3 after a lengthy siege and countless deaths. Whatever I wrote about should not take place many years after this event or all of my characters would be too old, especially Maxentius who was about 33 at the end of the first book. It didn’t take me long to recall that the eruption of Vesuvius and the destruction of Pompeii in AD79, was close enough in time to work. All I needed to do was come up with a valid reason why Maxentius and Hannah would be living in the doomed city, so far from Masada and what would prompt my modern couple to be visiting.

IMG_1995_1024
Amphitheatre, Pompeii

I have been lucky enough to spend time in the ruins of Pompeii; an endlessly fascinating and unique centre, especially to those of us who love history. This meant that I could, at the very least, picture the places I was talking about, the streets, the houses, the Forum, the amphitheatre, the Gladiators’ School and the Palaestra.

475091_10200339842723338_585616523_o
Amphitheatre, Pompeii

Pompeii appeared to have been a hot bed of tension for several years leading up to the eruption. Nearly twenty years previously, Nero had banned all gladiatorial games for ten years after a wild riot and it seems that there was an ongoing disaffection in the town following the political upheaval caused during AD69, the Year of the Four Emperors.

It was as good a reason as any to require a peacekeeping force to be stationed at Pompeii. So Maxentius could be recalled to Rome and posted there as Garrison Commander of this peacekeeping unit. The main garrison was based outside of the town walls, but a house had been appropriated as a headquarters within the walls. This meant that there were always a soldiers on hand, should their presence be required urgently.

Unable to determine whether or not this headquarters had even been uncovered in any of the excavations, I decided to choose one myself – well the story is fictional. By chance I came across the most incredible web page called Pompeii In Pictures. A complete photographic plan of the town, enabling me to select a building, or city block and see what had been excavated within each one. It included public buildings, villas, baths and so on – absolutely amazing and very detailed.

While I was trying to decide where to place the headquarters, I chanced upon an excavated building in Regio I, situated within Insula 11 and close to the amphitheatre. This house had been named The House of the Hebrew by the excavators because of an inscription in the entrance hall. This two storey house was next door to another substantial building, which could prove very handy as my headquarters. It was too good to be true and I was hooked. The webpage has plenty of photos of the excavated buildings, giving me an idea of what they might have looked like in antiquity. I spent hours looking through all the images, reading about the houses and how they were positioned relative to the rest of the town.

IMG_1999_1024
Palaestra, Pompeii

Right then, Maxentius will be Garrison Commander, he’s sorted – what about Hannah? I really wanted her to continue to use her healing skills and what better way than as a medica, or physician, to the men who trained at the Palaestra, or sports ground, as well as to those living at the Gladiators’ School, which included prisoners of war and condemned criminals. This would be a very usual job for a woman, but then Hannah is no ordinary woman.

So, I have a town where riotous mobs roam the streets, prisoners and criminals are forced to fight in the arena and a mountain is about to blow it’s top. Getting my modern couple there was probably the easiest part. A holiday in Rome, with an unexpected side trip to Pompeii to assist with an investigation into what might be found beneath the current excavations. What’s not to love about that? Okay, so I still needed to work out how my modern and ancient heroines would reconnect but finally, I had my plot. Hannah’s journey was about to become a whole lot more interesting and Echoes of Stone and Fire was born.