Monday, July 29, 2013

Book Review - Wolf's Hour

Wolf’s Hour – Robert McCammon
After the stress and rigours of publishing my first book, I thought the best thing I could do was to sit down and read a book by one of the three men that inspired me to start writing in the first place.
Wolf’s Hour is what I would say is the last of Robert McCammon’s “well known” books that I haven’t read yet. Go on any forum and start a post about the best werewolf novel and one of the first responses you will receive is “Wolf’s Hour.” It will then be endorsed over and over again by subsequent posters.
The blurb:
Michael Gallatin is a British spy with a peculiar talent: the ability to transform himself into a wolf. Although his work in North Africa helped the Allies win the continent in the early days of World War II, he quit the service when a German spy shot his lover in her bed. Now, three years later, the army asks him to end his retirement and parachute into occupied Paris. A mysterious German plan called the Iron Fist threatens the D-Day invasion, and the Nazi in charge is the spy who betrayed Michael’s lover. The werewolf goes to France for king and country, hoping for a chance at bloody vengeance
“Wolf’s Hour” is essentially two stories in one. The first follows the exploits of Michael Gallatin in the present day (in this instance the present day is set during the Second World War). The other story concerns itself with Michael Gallatinov as a child and how he came to be a lycanthrope.
It goes without saying that both stories are great. Mostly they are kept completely separate up until the younger Michael accepts who he is and the path set out for him in life.
The story of Michael’s turn is fascinating. McCammon portrays the abhorrence of transforming into a werewolf vividly. He also quickly dismisses many of the familiar traits we come to accept from the mythology. There is no transformation at the full moon here, the werewolves in this novel are relatively peaceful and can change at will. There is also a very simple reason why they choose to remain predominantly human.
The story of young Michael deals with his life in the pack and his education. Michael’s acceptance into the pack is engrossing. Some wolves welcome him, whilst others are not so accommodating. Underpinning this is the threat from a new wolf that wishes to claim their territory.
The leader of the pack Wiktor is a great character. Wise and proud he sees something special in Michael and pushes him hard. The rest of the pack is all interesting in their own right too.
The other story line concerns Michael’s life as a secret spy for Britain. Michael has matured and is more self-assured. He is what James Bond should be. As with all good characters he is vulnerable, he does not always save the day and often finds himself battered and bruised.
The other good thing is that although Michael uses his supernatural ability to help him accomplish his missions, McCammon does not insult the reader. The character’s Michael interacts with, notice his odd behaviour. They query where he disappears to etc. This is refreshing; often in books the other characters accept feeble explanations of unexpected behaviour.
Speaking of the other characters. McCammon introduces several at various stages of the adventure. It is a testament to his writing prowess that I quickly warmed to them and mourned them when they left the story. Mouse is a prime example as well as Lazaris. Special mention also to Kitty - the vodka swilling behemoth.
The main secondary character is Chesna. She is an undercover spy working with Michael who starts off enigmatic and dangerous. If there is a criticism of the book it is that Chesna loses some of her edge as the story progresses. Around the middle of the book she does become a bit of a damsel in distress, but McCammon quickly rescues the situation by having her return to the confident woman we first meet.
Every good story needs a good villain. You can’t get better than Hitler himself. In fairness, the dictator is largely in the background, but it is his Nazi officers with their hideous secret experiments which propel the novel along. Harry Sandler, Boots and Jerek Blok are all great characters and a cut above your stereotypical villains. Harry Sandler in particular is excellent. His hubris makes for a great adversary for Michael and the scenes with him at the hotel and train are some of the best McCammon has written.
The Second World War setting is captured beautifully. The whole story feels authentic from the clothes described to the Spitfires in the sky. The mystery of the Iron Fist is well thought out and creates a sense of impending doom. Michael’s life as a wolf in the freezing winters is also portrayed well.
The ending is more than satisfying (apart from the fact there had to be an ending). With a climactic battle that even Indiana Jones would be proud of Michael Gallatin is a man I just want to read more of.
Overall then, McCammon has written another great book. His versatility is staggering, bridging the spy/thriller/fantasy genre with ease. I can only hope to emulate a fraction of his talent.
My rating: 9.2

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Week 3

So I think the lesson learnt this week is the power of advertising. After steady sales for the first two weeks and the first half of this week, I turned my attention to writing book 2 and also the other marketing idea I have come up with (more on that next week).

The result of diverting my attention elsewhere? My first day with no downloads of my book Followed by another. As soon as I realised this I started networking again, made my presence known on forums and twitter and the sales started coming in again.

Good for sales but it has left me pondering how on earth I can devote time to advertising and writing when I have precious little time for either.

I suddenly realised I was down at work as well. Not that anyone could tell but all I wanted to do was write and concentrate on the books. I guess it has reinforced that this is what I want to do for a living. Unfortunately at the moment writing doesn’t pay the mortgage.

So what else have I been up to? I conducted an interview over at Drew Avery’s blog. Look out for that on the 5th August, I will of course post a link when it is up. Drew is an author as well and his questions were quite probing.

Finally, as I mentioned earlier, I wrote more on book two. I really want to be devoting more time to this but understand at the moment book one needs my attention.

Look out for what I think will be an exciting and challenging project which I will talk about next week. Speak to you soon.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Book review - The Kite Runner

The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini
This is one of those books that has always been on my radar. When it was released it received universal praised.  Over the years in the various offices I have worked in, a group of people would read it and say how wonderful it was. However, whenever I enquired as to what it was about, I was always told something along the lines of, it deals with the political climate in Afghanistan. My eyes would instantly glaze over and I would tune people out – short attention span I know. It is not that I don’t like politics but I have never found a book focussed on politics that has engaged me. However, finally I decided to give it a go.

The blurb:
The unforgettable, heartbreaking story of the unlikely friendship between a wealthy boy and the son of his father's servant, The Kite Runner is a beautifully crafted novel set in a country in the process of being destroyed. It is about the power of reading, the price of betrayal, and the possibility of redemption. And it is also about the power of fathers over sons -- their love, their sacrifices, their lies.
Sometimes it is all in the how the book is portrayed to me. If someone had said to me this book is “To kill a mocking bird meets Afghanistan,” I would have snapped it up years ago. The prose flows effortlessly and the story is so easy to read, for the first time in ages I didn’t want to put the book down at the end of my commute and go to work.
The story focuses primarily on Amir, the son of a highly respected father in his community. Yet, try as he might, Amir can never quite win the affection of his father. Instead Amir's father seems to favour Hassan, Amir's best friend. The problem is Hassan is a servant and so if ever he is picked on by the other children, Amir is confused about whether or not to intervene.
This is partly due to the role in society the boys have and partly due to Amir's cowardly nature. As a result Amir is excellent to read. His actions are often questionable, he doesn't always think nice things  and is sometimes cruel but at the same time he garners great empathy. Every decision he makes is logical if not ill conceived.
Hassan is great character. His devotion to Amir is something to admire and his calm, thoughtful manner makes you long for a friend as loyal. Other great characters are Rahim and Amir's father.
Khalled Hosseini focus is on his characters, yet he does not shy away from bringing to the fore the horrors that occur in Afghanistan. Considering his characters are so strong, this illicits powerful responses from the reader when these horrors affect the cast.  The novel is filled with tragic events but at the same time this is tempered with touching highs. The result is the perfect blend of story telling.
Personally I find that most stories of this ilk, excel when recalling the childhood of the character but fall away when the narrative moves to the protagonist's adulthood. This is not the case with the "Kite Runner," Khallid cleverly demonstrates how his characters have evolvedand learned from their mistakes, whilst also repeating others.
If there is one plot device that I love, it is the storyof redemption. In the "Kite Runner," I was desperate for it to happen. I am a fan of dark endings normally,but in this book I wanted a happy one. Did I get my wish - as if I am going to spoil it!
In summary, I loved the The "Kite Runner," easily my favourite read of the year so far (and there have been some great contenders). I have instantly downloaded Khallid's other books and look forward to reading them.
My rating: 9.7

Monday, July 22, 2013

Book Review - Like This, For Ever

Like This, For Ever – S J Bolton
This is S J Bolton’s sixth book overall but third in the Lacey Flint series. Having enjoyed her first three standalone novels (especially the hint of the supernatural that ran through them), I was wary of the news that S J Bolton was switching to a more of a detective style franchise. I shouldn’t have worried. The first two books were excellent and I have eagerly awaited her latest novel.
The Blurb:
Barney has seen things. Things no child should see . . . and he knows the killer will strike again soon.
The victim will be another boy, just like him. He will drain the body of blood, and leave it on a Thames beach.
There will be no clues for detectives Dana Tulloch and Mark Joesbury to find.
There will be no warning about who will be next.
There will be no good reason for young policewoman Lacey Flint to become involved . . . And no chance that she can stay away.
With “Like This, For Ever,” S J Bolton has moved this series into the upper echelon of crime writing. Although only three books in, it is far too easy for an author to regurgitate the same story for their detective with the only difference being the new premises at the start of each book. S J Bolton has already taken steps to avoid the trap and keep things interesting.
She has achieved this by making her book about the supporting cast just as much as the main protagonists. Few authors succeed in this. James Patterson has Alex Cross constantly saving the day which can get tiresome whilst others like John Connolly, have a great supporting cast of characters but the books will always be about Charlie Parker (must stress John is one of my favourite authors and makes his books fresh in a number of other ways).
It is the Karin Slaughter’s and Mark Billingham’s of the world that really succeed in making their secondary cast just as interesting as their protagonists. Karin Slaughter can have any of her main characters drop out the series and it would still continue seamlessly. With “Like This, For Ever,” I believe that S J Bolton is approaching the same situation.
Her protagonist is Lacey Flint. We join Lacey whilst she is on sabbatical, recovering from her ordeal in the last book. As a result although we watch her attempt to rebuild her life she is not directly involved with solving the crime. In fact, for a large portion of the novel, she is kept away from proceedings. Like all great characters, Lacey is flawed. She does not comply with her therapists wishes but puts all of her energy into trying to outfox her. She has become insular and unsure of herself. The result feels fresh and unpredictable – in a word it works.
With Lacey sidelined the focus of the novel does not fall to the obvious choice Mark Joesbury. Instead we learn more about Dana Tulloch and her background. It means that although the main character is Lacey, the other characters are of equal importance and each has a sense to shine in the spotlight in their own right.
Dana and Mark have a great relationship built on their history and a healthy dose of respect. They interactions with Lacey are also riveting as their roles appear to have reversed following on from the last book.
“Like This, For Ever” also introduces on a new character. Barney is a young boy, who along with his friends is caught up with the attention surrounding the murders. Gifted in the sense that he is able to see patterns in things, Barney is a great character. He is vulnerable, suspicious and smart. His home life leaves him time to ponder the killer’s motives and question the loyalty of those around him. It is little surprise that Lacey latches on to him and tries to protect him. 
The plot is great. It meanders in and out of the characters lives, making each one a suspect. S J Bolton does an excellent job in leading you to think you have been clever and solved the mystery only to rip the rug out from underneath you. It is the sign of a distinguished story teller, who is improving with every book.
The conclusion is satisfying and nicely wrapped up. S J Bolton writes her endings with a realism that I appreciate. There are no dragged out dramatic scenes for the sake of it.
Overall, I was pleased that S J Bolton continues to impress me. Another excellent novel.
My rating: 9

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Two weeks on

So a fortnight later do I feel like a published author yet? Yes and no. Sales are still steady, with a few sales coming in every day. I also have had someone else buy the book on the U.S. market. I don’t know why but this brings me the most pleasure so far. I think it is the thought that someone random in the world has seen the book and it has appealed to them.

Oh that and the fact that I have also received another 5* review. This one had some very nice things to say about me and the book, likening the book to Stephen King’s ‘Dark Tower’ series and saying I am an author to look out for. To be mentioned in the same sentence as Stephen King makes my head swell.
Ritual of the Stones (Ballad of Frindoth) 

So what have I been doing this week? Well apart from lots of days out with the family as I have had the week off, I have been visiting forums etc and trying to raise the profile of the book. I have also offered to do a few interviews and am looking at requesting sites to do reviews of the book. Patience is the key people.

I have a few ideas up my sleeve to get the book noticed. One of which could be a great success or a complete misstep. Only time will tell – all I will say is to watch this space.

For those of you wondering, I have also recommenced work on the second book (no title as of yet). One thing that did make me smile on Thursday was I went to Starbucks to do some writing. I was in the middle of a scene (the muse was flowing) and I suddenly could not remember a character’s name or where they came from. Sometimes I can just leave the detail blank and fill it in later and other times it really bugs me. Thursday morning was an occasion when it really bugged me, to the point where it was threatening to spoil my flow.

Then I had an ‘eureka’ moment and realised I could just look up the info I wanted on my Kindle (obviously I have purchased my own book – who wouldn’t?) Within seconds I found the info I wanted and writing commenced. This time I had a smile on my face and was brimming with pride.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Book Review - Advent (JS)

Advent by James Treadwell
This book was suggested to me on the Kindle as a special offer, it was cheap, and the story line sounded interesting, so I thought what could be the risk?
Review by Jacqui Slaney
This is the description:
For centuries it has been locked away Lost beneath the sea Warded from earth, air, water, fire, spirits, thought and sight. But now magic is rising to the world once more. And a boy called Gavin, who thinks only that he is a city kid with parents who hate him, and knows only that he sees things no one else will believe, is boarding a train, alone, to Cornwall. When he arrives, there is no one there to meet him.
Now I started the book with high hopes, as it seemed this was the ideal one for me. There was magic, creatures that are not seen by anyone apart from a teenage boy, and a sub plot of an ancient mage in love with a mysterious stranger.
About a hundred pages later, I was struggling. All the elements for a good book were there, but they just did not seem to gel. I thought at first, it was the fact the lead character was a teenager, but as I read on, I found myself discounting that.
Gavin was a good character, yes, he was slightly irritating as he kept pretending there was nothing strange going on, but the reader is sympathetic towards him as he only does this in self-defence. I liked Marina- though the name kept making me think of the old puppet series of Stingray. Hester is a great character and Corbo was one of my favourites, in fact, all the characters are solid.
So I struggled on, tempted to give up, but a stubborn streak kept me reading on. Then something strange happened, without me realising, I started to actually enjoy the story.
I realised that the main problem with the book at the start was there was just too much information, too much description and though there was great phrasing and lovely descriptions it slowed the whole thing down to the extent that I could see many readers giving up before the story improved.
As a would be writer myself, this was a good wake up call as it shows the damage that can be done, if you get carried away with describing a scene.
I can understand why the book is written like this, it is the first in a series and the author is stuck in a bit of a quandary, as obviously you need to set the scene and introduce your main antagonists and grab the reader’s attention.
In this book though, I think it could have been done with a lighter touch as everyone seemed to come into the story very early on, and the whole plot just bogged down.
From half way through, it is a great story, as things about the characters become clear, the pace of the writing becomes much more urgent and even the descriptions are much more to the point, the sudden onset of winter in Cornwall is brilliantly described.
Would I read book 2? Well based on the second part of this book, definitely, the ending of this one was nicely done with numerous possibilities of things that could happen. Just hope that the lessons learned from the first part of this one have been learnt.
7 out of 10

Monday, July 15, 2013

Book Review - WASTELANDS: Stories of the Apocalypse

WASTELANDS: Stories of the Apocalypse - Various
Every now and then (usually when I know I am not going to be able to do a lot of reading), I opt for a short story collection. The stories are usually hit and miss, but what the compilation does do is introduce me to the works of authors I may have heard of but had not yet experienced yet. For example, I began reading Robin Hobb thanks to a short story of hers and I will also be checking out Joe Lansdale.
This collection caught my eye due to it containing books from my favourite authors: Robert McCammon and Stephen King.
The blurb:
Famine, Death, War, and Pestilence: The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, the harbingers of Armageddon - these are our guides through the Wastelands . . . From the Book of Revelations to The Road Warrior; from A Canticle for Leibowitz to The Road, storytellers have long imagined the end of the world, weaving tales of catastrophe, chaos, and calamity.

Gathering together the best post-apocalyptic literature of the last two decades from many of today's most renowned authors of speculative fiction, including George R.R. Martin, Gene Wolfe, Orson Scott Card, Carol Emshwiller, Jonathan Lethem, Octavia E. Butler, and Stephen King, Wastelands explores the scientific, psychological, and philosophical questions of what it means to remain human in the wake of Armageddon.
Usually a collection of short stories that feature multiple authors has to have a theme running through it. Usually that theme is tenuous and can be interpreted in a number of ways. Unfortunately, the theme for this compilation is the Apocalypse. Whilst there is some variety I found the theme too restrictive. As a result the stories usually covered the same storylines. The only difference between them was whether or not the author decided to detail the moment the world changed or not. When there are 22 stories this can get a tad monotonous.
Having said that, there are some excellent novels in here:
When Sysadmins ruled the earth by Cory Doctorow is an interesting novella about a techie who witnesses the end of the world. In the resultant aftermath he tries to keep the internet going as a new future. The story loses momentum toward the end but the journey is definitely engaging.
Judgement Passed by Jerry Ortion is an excellent story of astronauts who return to Earth to find it empty. Jesus had returned and had taken everyone away. What follows is an excellent character study on the remaining crew as they argue over what to do next, with one going to great extremes to try and establish contact with God.
Finally, Ginny sweethip's flying circus by Neal Barrett Jr wins points for the best story and best title. It is an great little tale of a woman running a con by delivering a fake sexual experience. When the con is exposed she faces a fight for her life.
All of the above I would rate 9/10.
There are other strong stories: Robert McCammon, Stephen King, James Van Pelt, Catherine Wells, Carol Emswiller, David Grigg and Paulo Bacigalupi all deliver strong stories. Whilst Elizabeth Bear and Gene Wolfe stories are solid with their writing style convincing me to look them up in future. In fact the collection would have been infinitely better if it just contained these names.
Unfortunately there are far too many stories that are merely solid and a few that seem rather pointless. To name them would be harsh but if you should be able to work them out.
Overall I would recommend this collection as the good outweighs the mediocre. I would advise you to dip in and out of the collection though to avoid monotony.
My rating 7


Saturday, July 13, 2013

One week on

A week in review:

So "Ritual of the stones" went on sale a week ago and overall I have been pleasantly pleased with the amount of downloads so far.

I am slowly resisting checking the sales report on Amazon every two minutes and am concentrating on getting the book noticed as much as possible.

How am I doing this? By getting myself out there on forums and twitter without being intrusive and obvious. It is definitely not easy and is definitely out of my comfort zone. Still if I want people to know about the book, I must do it.

What has pleased me most is that whilst most of my sales have been in the UK. I did have someone from New Zealand take a chance on the book. That to me is awesome. Some complete stranger, liked what they saw enough from the cover, blurb and sample and give it a whirl. What's more they read the book in a day. What more than that, is they took the time to post a 4* review,

"The prose was clear, elegant and easy to read"

That kept me smiling for the first part of the week and then came Friday... On Friday I got another review.This one was 5*. How brilliant is that?

"This is an excellent start to what I think will be a very good series."

Cloud nine people.

Thanks to everyone that has downloaded the book and supported me.


Thursday, July 11, 2013

Book Review - The Heroes (JS)

The Heroes by Joe Abercrombie
 Review by Jacqui Slaney
 As I mentioned recently in my review on 'Red Country', I am a big fan of this author but due to a huge backlog in books, I was forced to leave these two sitting on a shelf until I caught up with some of my reading, and then gave in and read these.
 This is the description:
They say Black Dow's killed more men than winter, and clawed his way to the throne of the North up a hill of skulls. The King of the Union, ever a jealous neighbour, is not about to stand smiling by while he claws his way any higher. The orders have been given and the armies are toiling through the northern mud. Thousands of men are converging on a forgotten ring of stones, on a worthless hill, in an unimportant valley, and they have brought a lot of sharpened metal with them.  Bremer dan Gorst, disgraced master swordsman, has sworn to reclaim his stolen honour on the battlefield. Obsessed with redemption and addicted to violence, he is far past caring how much blood is spilled in the attempt. Even if it is his, own. Prince Calder is not interested in honour, and still less in getting, himself killed. All he wants is power, and he will tell any lie, use any trick, and betray any friend to get it. Just as long as he does not have to fight for it himself. Curnden Craw, the last honest man in the North, has gained nothing from a life of warfare but swollen knees and frayed nerves. He hardly even cares who wins any more, he just wants to do the right thing. But can he even tell what that is with the world burning down around him? Over three bloody days of battle, the fate of the North will be decided. But with both sides riddled by intrigues, follies, feuds and petty jealousies, it is unlikely to be the noblest hearts, or even the strongest arms that prevail. Three men. One battle. No Heroes.
Every book that I read of Abercrombie soon becomes my favourite and this is no exception. The writing is clever and you find yourself immersed in the story very quickly.

The title of the book actually refers to the piece of ground that is being fought for, a group of standing stones, which are in the middle of nowhere but end up being the essential piece of land that each army has to win and then hold.

The strength of the book as always is in the characters. Here you meet characters from previous novels such as Dogman, but also numerous new ones. Never do these become mixed or confusing for the reader, which is a very good talent in a writer. The strong interesting characterisation though is not just kept for the main ones, the supporting cast is good as well, which is rare in many fantasy novels, where the secondary characters can be just names or at least very shallow. In this novel, they have a life and back-stories of their own such as Tunny for example who I liked and the Northman Shivers who is very creepy.

This is a story about war, but there is nothing brave or glorious about this one. The author shows that some battles are quite futile and all you get out of them is people dying in the mud for no real purpose.  There is no one side that you are supposed to cheer for, no good or bad armies, there is no evil mastermind that has to be beaten; this is just a battle with excellent characters on both sides.

This is not a non-stop action book, there are periods where there is no real action, but at no time is the reader allowed to be bored or to find the story tedious.

For those readers who like heroic characters and flowing speeches in a book, then this one is probably not for you. Here there is swearing, quite a lot of blood, brutal fights and characters who do what they do to survive, and there is humour admittedly dark, but there is a strong thread running through the story.

However, if you like real characters, excellent writing and a book that you can lose yourself in then this is definitely for you, I enjoyed this book right from the start and I can definitely recommend it.

10 out of 10


Saturday, July 6, 2013


I am published - do I need to say anymore?

After further complications yesterday, the book finally went live around 11pm last night. Yes, I was proud and yes I rang lots of family and friends and woke them up.

The book is priced at £2.03 in the UK. Why the odd figure I hear you ask? It is priced at $2.99 in the U.S. and originally £1.97 (Amazon do the conversion themselves). At some point yesterday I guess the exchange rate improved for the pound sterling.

£2.03 is not the price I would have chosen but for the sake of 6p I am not messing about with the website again for a long while.

If you wish to buy the book then you can follow the link below:

Ritual of the Stones

If you want to leave a review even better.

Thanks to everyone that visits the site.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Book Update

The good, the bad and the downright ugly unknown.
So last week the manuscript was due back from Diana Cox (the proof-reader) and the aim was to rest my hand which had just been operated on. I was looking at around 3 to 4 weeks until publication.
What a difference a week makes!
Who was I kidding?
The Good
The minute I got the email from Diana (who incidentally loved the story by the way), I opened it up to see what she had found.
So picture the scene: I am sitting at my desk, dosed up on painkillers and one handed (I won’t go into what I was wearing, that would be too weird and don’t know you all well enough yet). As I began to open the document my wife appeared behind me and said, “Are you nervous you have wasted your money?”
“A little,” I said.
In truth I was petrified. I had been through this manuscript five times. Others had been through it. It was ready. I knew it was ready. I was just being precautious and I would just put the loss of money down to a learning experience. Right?
Wrong, so, so, wrong.
The first page had three changes, the second had five, the third another five. My mouth fell open as I scanned through the pages. By page 20 I had a stupid grin on my face – Diana Cox had been worth every penny. By page 32 I was trying to find a page where I had not made a mistake.
Phrases emerged from my mouth such as:
“How did I miss that?”
“This is getting embarrassing”
“Surely I didn’t write that?”
The last of which, had me digging out my email to Diana, convinced that she had tampered with my manuscript to make her look better. Of course, she hadn’t. She is just that dam good.
Not only did Diana correct spelling, punctuation and consistency in names, she had spotted continuity issues as well. On page 82 I had a character break a minor character’s nose, but on page 272 when they meet again, said character’s arm was in a sling and his nose unscathed.
“I’d say she was worth it wouldn’t you?” my wife said from over my shoulder.
I would like to point out that was a massive understatement if ever I heard one.
The Bad
Needless to say, I spend a whole day going through the changes (I would say I accepted about 98% of them). All that was left was the simple matter of formatting the book and uploading to the Kindle Direct Publishing site.
I had already done extensive research on this and knew exactly what I was doing.
First step - upload the cover – I had no problems, the graphic designer designed it exactly for the Kindle and so I knew it would go through.
Second step – build the front matter into the book (copywrite, dedication and   acknowledgements etc). Again, straightforward.
Third step – Table of contents – a little trickier but follow the instructions and you are safe.
Fourth step – Upload image – Section break inserted, margins expanded, image inserted and rotated, section finished. 30 minute job max.
Manuscript is now completely ready to be uploaded. All that is left is to convert the document to HTML and zip the file. I did all this on the Monday by following the comprehensive instructions within the free book that Kindle supply.
Next is the big one. The book has been uploaded and it is time to preview it online. The hairs stand on the back of the neck and butterflies churn in the stomach.
Title page appears – it is a little off centre but fine. Dedication page looks great as does the table of contents. Next is the map. The donut appears to indicate it is loading and...”WTF? I never told the map to appear half off the page!”
Never mind back to the drawing board, maybe it was because the text on the map threw the image out. Let’s play around with the text wrapping and...”How the hell has that happened?” The text is on one page and the map on another, it has also shrunk.
O.k, let’s look at this again. And again. And again. Every night this week I have been up until 1 am playing around with the formatting. On Thursday I got up at 5 am in the morning too, this morning it was 4. It has been a complete nightmare. I googled the problem, I have contacted everyone that I know with a technical brain, I have even contacted authors that have been there and done it.
Finally I have fixed it. It is not perfect across all devices but it is as good as I want it to be. So...
The ugly unknown 
Okay, so this is not really the ugly but I had a theme to adhere to in this blog people give me a break. At 8:10 this morning I hit the button to declare that I wanted the book to be published. A message came back that the book is being reviewed and will be published in up to 12 hours. 12 HOURS! (Gulp!)
Whether that means it will go up this afternoon, or tomorrow morning or even Monday morning I do not know. I will certainly tell you about it though.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Book Review - The hundred year old man who climbed out of the window and disappeared

The hundred year old man who climbed out of the window and disappeared – Jonas Jonasson


Every now and then I get the urge to read a novel in the comedy genre. I do my research and the books that are highly regarded and where reviewers state they “laughed out loud on the train,” or found the book “simply hilarious.” I often find mildly amusing in parts at best.
Jonas Jonasson’s novel is a prime example of such a novel. The book has received numerous positive reviews (although there are one or two negative as well). Would this be the novel to break the mould and make me laugh so hard my sides ache?
The blurb:
It all starts on the one-hundredth birthday of Allan Karlsson. Sitting quietly in his room in an old people's home, he is waiting for the party he-never-wanted-anyway to begin. The mayor is going to be there. The press is going to be there. But, as it turns out, Allan is not...Slowly but surely Allan climbs out of his bedroom window, into the flowerbed (in his slippers) and makes his getaway. And so begins his picaresque and unlikely journey involving criminals, several murders, a suitcase full of cash, and incompetent police. As his escapades unfold, we learn something of Allan's earlier life in which - remarkably - he helped to make the atom bomb, became friends with American presidents, Russian tyrants, and Chinese leaders, and was a participant behind the scenes in many key events of the twentieth century.
Allan Karlsson is a very likeable character. At 100 years old, he is so laid back you can’t help admire his attitude to life. He has been there and seen everything there is to see.  What starts out as an impulsive decision, slowly escalates into a full scale incident that involves: police and drug lords. 
The negative reviews moan at how unrealistic the novel is. I am not going to pretend these reviews are incorrect. The situations Allan finds himself in are truly absurd, how it gets out of the incidents is equally preposterous. Allan experiences the sublime to ridiculous as he encounters coincidence after coincidence, interacting with chance characters that are all linked tenuously.
It is the affection with which Jonas describes Allan that makes the novel endearing and allows the reader to enjoy the story rather than worry about the semantics of the tale. He is unflustered by anything that occurs to him, either in the present day or the flashbacks we see of various stages of his life.
The characters he interacts with are equally absorbing. It is unrealistic how they all seem to share Allan’s detached view of life and happily change the direction of their own lives at the drop of a heart beat but again it is part of the charm of the story. The dialogue is very snappy and reminiscent of Terry Pratchett which is definitely not a bad thing.
However, eventually the happy coincidences do start to wear a little thin. Allan is always saved by a last minute phone call or intervention. What starts of as whimsical slowly becomes a little monotonous.
However, the major drawback of the novel is the aforementioned flashback chapters. These interrupt the main chapters and have no relation to the current storyline other than to tell us of Allan’s life. They are wildly hit and miss in content and enjoyment. They are also extremely samey. For example, Allan is recruited by a political leader/famous president to build a bomb. When this doesn’t work out he escapes via sheer good fortune rather than ingenuity. Again implausible and monotonous.
Whereas before the unrealistic nature of the story did not bother me, the fact that events of Allan’s life are not very interesting means they begin to annoy. They are always accompanied by a rehash of the political situation in the region at the time. Allan himself recalls how politics bores him so it is a wonder that Jonas would think readers would find it interesting as well. Quite often a character would have ranted about the current climate etc and Allan would state that he was bored by politics and therefore not listening. I echoed the sentiment.
They are not all bad though. The escape from prison using a cup of coffee is entertaining as is the stupidity of Herbert Einstein. It is just a shame that they interrupt the pace of the novel.
All in all, I enjoyed Jonas Johansson’s novel. It didn’t quite change my opinions on comedy novels but it was definitely better than most I’ve read.
My rating: 7.9
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Monday, July 1, 2013

Book Review - The Yard (JS)

The Yard - Alex Grecian
Review by Jacqui Slaney
Though I do like crime novels, I do normally prefer those set in earlier times - hence my large collection of Agatha Christies!
Therefore, when I found this one I was intrigued with the idea so decided to give it a go.
This is the description:
Victorian London is in the grip of a wave of crime and murder, with its citizens no longer able to trust the police to protect them. The newly formed Murder Squad of Scotland Yard, made up of just twelve detectives, battles in vain against the tide of violence and cruelty. When the body of a Yard detective is found in a suitcase, his lips sewn together and his eyes sewn shut, it becomes clear that not even the police are safe from attack. Has the Ripper returned - or is a new killer at large? Walter Day, the squad's newest recruit, is assigned the case and finds a strange ally in the Yard's first forensic pathologist, Dr Bernard Kingsley. Can they find the murderer before it's too late? Or is London at the mercy of a serial killer even deadlier than Jack the Ripper?

The story is set in Victorian England, a year after the Jack the Ripper murders. This spectre still haunts the streets and it seems to the police that the public has turned against them due to their failure to find Saucy Jack.

The story starts quickly with a discovery of a body in a trunk at a railway station, and we discover that the body is that of a Scotland Yard detective. The newest recruit to the newly formed Murder Squad - Inspector Day is given the case to investigate. He is new to London and to the rank of Inspector, and so is understandably nervous about being given a very high profile case to deal with. He is befriended though by one of the more experienced Inspectors and between them they set out to try to uncover who the murderer is, though it soon becomes clear that there are two serial killers on the streets for them to find.

Now this is the first novel from this author and he is American, so do not expect a completely accurate historical novel, but then again, if I had wanted that, I would have picked up a factual novel about this time.

I found the story intriguing. Not least because you get the POV of the trunk murderer and then the POV of the Beard Killer as he is soon known. The writing is good, the plot does not race away with you but it can dip at times. Alex Grecian builds a picture that holds your attention. 
The characters are good. You like and care about Day and his wife, the young constable Hammersmith and Dr Kingsley and his young daughter who sketches the dead for him without turning a hair. 
There are various sub plots running underneath the main story line. They too add to the depth of the book and overall help to make the story entertaining and a good read.  All the strands are nicely tied up at the end.

I would recommend this book and I will definitely be looking out for the next in the series.

8 out of 10