News, news, news (aka, I’ve been working)!

For most of the last half-year I’ve been mostly working on patiently carving out the main draft of the Crown of the Iutes – which has already grown into the longest and most complex book I’ve ever written, as befits the conclusion of Ash and Octa’s long stories. But that doesn’t mean I don’t have other important news coming up.

1. I HAVE AN AUDIOBOOK OUT!

This is the first time ever I released a professional audio version of any of my books, thanks to ACX and British actor/comedian/voice over artist David Lane Pusey. It’s super exciting, and a little bit eerie, to hear my characters actually speak, and he’s done such a great job on the book! (wait till you hear Eirik!)

The audiobook is for the Saxon Spears only for now. Obviously, it’s a lot of work and effort on everyone’s part, so I will probably be releasing these not more often than once a year, assuming the first one pays off, that is. The entire first book is over 13 hours long!

I have some promo codes for free downloads, if anyone wants to review it – just send me a note.

Also, here are the affiliated links to Audible versions if you want to buy/download/use a credit on my and David’s audiobook:

2. HARDCOVERS ARE COMING!

Amazon KDP now allows indie publishers to produce hardcovers! And it’s fairly easy if you’ve already done a paerback. For now, you can buy a hardcover version of the Saxon Spears, but more will be coming over the next few week, and by the time the Crown comes out, all six books should have hardcover versions for your library. I haven’t seen the hardcover copy myself yet – it’s in the post – hope it’s as well printed as the paperback!

Incidentally, this means the Saxon Spears is now my first ever book to be released in all four formats!

3. IN OTHER NEWS…

  • “The Shadow of Black Wings” has been translated into Spanish by Sebastian Esparza. For now it’s available on Nook, Kobo and iTunes, Kindle version is coming soon, I’m told. I’ll keep you posted. EDIT: It’s on Amazon NOW.
  • “The Crown of the Iutes” is chugging along nicely, but it’s grown so big I may not manage to release it in time. At worst, it will be delayed by a month, though I’ll try my best to avoid it!
  • Have you seen the cool new graphics on Amazon pages for Song of Britain? That’s another new promo tool available to writers that I’ve taken full advantage of. Looks very professional now, don’t you think?

That’s all for now – time for me to go back to the word mines!

The Song of the Tides – Map Reveal

A simple map this time, for a simple, short story – this is Armorica – today’s Brittany – at the end of the 5th century, just as the old, classic Imperial city names from Tabula Peutingeriana change to common tongue ones, as used in Notitia Dignitatum and later texts.

The Song of the Tides – a Song of Octa novella – is out on pre-order, to be released on August the 1st.

Release Day! – “The Wrath of the Iutes”

Today’s the day of another release in the Song of Britain saga – Book 5, “The Wrath of the Iutes” !

The long way back just got longer….

They were supposed to return home as heroes, basking in the glory and plunder of the victory at Trever… But fate decided otherwise for Octa and his band of Iutes. Chasing after Ursula’s captor, the renegade Haesta, they venture deep into the unfamiliar land of Armorica, where they unexpectedly discover an old ally seeking their help against a threat of invasion…

On their quest to help defend Britannia Prima, a province still ruled by the remnants of the old Roman power, Octa and his warriors will meet new friends, face new enemies and discover ancient mysteries, in this long-awaited second chapter of the Song of Octa: The Wrath of the Iutes.

Available in e-book and paperback, exclusive to Amazon!

The Wrath of the Iutes – Map Reveal

In 10 days, “The Wrath of the Iutes” will be released on Kindle – and on paperback around the same time – so it’s time to reveal the new map for the 5th book of the Song of Britain saga.

“The Wrath…” takes place in Armorica, Isles of Scilly and what is now known as Wales. It’s in Wales that most military action happens, with armies moving from fort to fort and ships going from port to port, so the one new map drawn for this book is one of Wales – or Western Britannia Prima.

Incidentally, this is my second novel that is partly set in Wales – so did my first book, the Shadow of Black Wings, and even the map was somewhat similar, if a fantasy version. I can’t tell myself if it’s just a curious coincidence or is there something special about Wales that makes me go back to it time and time again?

The Song of the Tides novella – FAQ

Coming out a month after Book 2 of The Song of Octa, “The Wrath of the Iutes” is a novella “The Song of the Tides“: a sort of an epilogue to “The Wrath…” – and it’s already out for preorder!

It’s an unusual publishing move, so I decided instead of the usual press blurb, I’ll do a short FAQ post explaining why you should preorder this if you’ve also preordered The Wrath of the Iutes – or read (and enjoyed) any of my books in the series.

Is it a standalone novella?

  • Not really – it’s best read after the Wrath, as it concerns the fates of characters we first meet in this volume. I tried my best to make it a standalone if somebody insists on reading it out of order, but at best you’ll have spoilers for the previous book – and at worst, you won’t have a clue what’s going on.

Why novella, rather than part of the novel?

  • Because it’s not quite a part of Octa’s story, at least not as I want to tell it. Though told through Octa’s eyes, and though he and Ursula play active parts in the plot, it’s the conclusion of the stories of the characters he meets in the Wrath, and attaching it at either the end of Book 2 or the beginning of Book 3 would feel out of place. It also serves as a chronological stepping stone between the two volumes – the gap between the Wrath and the Crown is almost eight years, and there’s a story within that gap that needed to be told.

Isn’t it just a money-grabbing ploy?

  • Quite the opposite. The novella is 40,000 words long – a third of my usual novel length. Editing, proofreading and formatting of a text this long costs money. Adding it to one of the other books would increase their price accordingly. But because I don’t feel this is an essential part of Octa’s story, I wouldn’t feel right forcing the reader to pay for it. This way, everyone gets a choice.

What’s it really about?

  • At the most basic level, it’s a retelling of the ancient Breton legend of the Sunken City of Ys – though it’s as distant from that tale as the Song of Ash was from the real legends of Vortigern, Hengist and Horsa. It’s set in the years 461-462 AD, takes place almost entirely in Armorica, and introduces the new enemy who will become a much greater threat in “The Crown of Iutes” – the Goths of Tolosa. That’s as much as I can say without spoilers.
  • Should I buy it?

Yes! Not only is it as fun and exciting as my full length novels, it also features a certain important event in Octa’s and Ursula’s lives – you may want to read it just for this. And it’s only 99p!

My drafting process, explained.

As I delve into the editing stage of the draft manuscript of “The Wrath of the Iutes“, I thought I’ll reveal a little bit of the draft writing and editing steps I take to create one of my novels. It took me nearly a decade to hone the method, from the early days when “The Shadow of Black Wings” took 14 drafts and two years to write, to now, when an average novel in the “Song of Britain” series takes me little less than six months from plot outline to publishing.

Step 1: Plot Outline and chapter structure

I start with writing down the general plot; for convenience and speed, already at this step I will have the plot divided roughly into chapters, though most of them will not have titles. I tend to make this outline vague enough so that I can keep to it throughout the entire manuscript without changing too much. The biggest change that may occur between this step and the finished manuscript is splitting the novel into more parts than originally envisioned, as the story grows.

Step 2: Draft_0 – rough draft

What others call “First Draft” I keep in the file named Draft_0. This is the first version of the complete story, from start to finish, but with gaps in between. These are scenes, or sometimes whole chapters, that would bog me down too much if I tried to write them down at this stage, or that I haven’t yet fully invented. I leave brief comments in the outline, in places where I intend to go back in future drafts and fill the gaps out.

For a novel of about 100,000 words, it takes me about 3 months to outline the plot and finish this first draft. At this point I also have a rough estimate of the wordcount and chapter titles.

Step 3: Draft_0.5 to Draft_1 – fleshing out

By the time I reach Draft_1 – sometimes with a preliminary stage of Draft_0.5 – all the gaps are filled in. The new set of comments refers to things I picked up during the first re-write of Draft_0: scenes that need buffing up, plot points that need expanding upon, characters that need fleshing out, and plot holes and mistakes that need fixing. The end of Draft_1 is the stage at which nothing else needs to be added to the plot and character development.

This stage takes about 4-6 weeks, and is probably the slowest in terms of value added for time taken – but then, this is the bit where the rough stone turns into something resembling a diamond!

Step 4: Draft_2 to Draft_4 – text-to-speech rewrites

For the final couple of rewrites, I use a neat little free Word add-on called WordTalk. It uses Windows text-to-speech library to read the text in Word, using a selected voice – I prefer Hazel. In essence, it turns manuscript into an audiobook, which I find the best way to spot any roughness, errors and typoes in the text. I usually do two run-throughs like this, unless I feel things are still looking harsh enough to warrant a third one.

This stage shouldn’t take me more than a month, if I properly sit down to it.

Step 5: Draft_5 – Spellcheck, grammar check and PerfectIt

The very final stage of drafting is running the manuscript through Word’s checks and another plugin called PerfectIt – I had this one recommended by my copy editor, and I’ve been using it ever since. It’s not free, and not very cheap, though if your editor charges by the hour, it will pay for itself in no time, since it saves a lot of mundane work in checking things like spelling consistency, punctuation, and house style.

This stage takes less than a week – shouldn’t take more than a good weekend, really.

Draft_5 is the one I sent to my copy editor for the final read-through, and Draft_6 – with all of the editor’s corrections applied – is the one used to generate the actual ebook file for Kindle.

So there you have it – six months from start to finish, which means that “The Wrath of the Iutes” will be on your Kindles in the summer, and should be followed in winter by “The Crown of the Iutes”, the last part of Song of Octa trilogy.

The Blood of the Iutes Preorder is Live!

It’s not easy being the son of a king.

Octa never wanted to be a mighty warrior, or a great ruler of men – he’d much rather be a clerk or a priest – but he’s resigned to his destiny as the son and heir of the first king of the Iutes. There is only one problem: under his father’s peaceful reign, there aren’t many opportunities for a youth to gain experience in combat and leadership.

So when a Roman legate arrives in Britannia, for the first time in a generation, bringing dire news from across the Narrow Sea and requesting help in the coming clash between rival Imperators, Octa jumps on the chance to prove himself before his friends and his father – no matter the consequences

THE BLOOD OF THE IUTES – BOOK ONE OF THE SONG OF OCTA – IS SCHEDULED FOR RELEASE ON DECEMBER 15TH!

PRE-ORDER NOW!

Pre-launch promo deals, updates and news

The Shattering Waves“, book 7 of the Year of the Dragon, is now available for pre-order – and to help you prepare for it, I’ve reduced the prices of all the prior books, starting with the bundle of all first four volumes:

The Year of the Dragon, 1-4 $9.99 > $0.99

The Chrysanthemum Seal – $3.49 > $2.99

The Withering Flame – $3.99 > $2.99

The Shattering Waves (pre-order) – $3.99 > $2.99

This promotion lasts only until Thursday, so hurry up!


Part of a promotional push before the launch of “The Shattering Waves” is a little interview I did with the ManyBooks site – I’m the author of the day there.


As always, there’s a new map coming for your enjoyment in the new volume – this time it’s the Kanto Plain, a region around Edo.

Map of Kanto Plain
Kanto Plain


A finally, a bit of fun – I made a “What’s your attunement?” quiz based on the elemental magic system as described in the books.


That’s all for now – see you again on May 15th, when “The Shattering Waves” is released on Nook, Kobo and Smashwords!

BREAKING: Book 7 Preorders are Go!

Big News time!

The Shattering Waves, Book Seven of the Year of the Dragon, is now ready for pre-order on Amazon Kindle!

It is the time of Darkness, as prophesied by the priests and soothsayers. Armies clash, cities burn. The sparks of hope are few and scattered.

The Kiheitai, leaderless and purposeless after the disastrous Battle of Heian, flee to the harbour city of Naniwa. Hiding among them, Bran and Nagomi plot to release Sato from the clutches of the Serpent. In the South, Dylan, Gwen and Edern assist the rebel army marching against the Taikun, just as the Gorllewin dragon riders begin to have second thoughts about their alliance with the Fanged. 


The release date is set for May 15th. It will be available on Nook and Kobo around that time as well. Click these links to pre-order your digital copy from Amazon:

Amazon US | Amazon UK | DE | IT | FR | ES | JP | CA | BR | AU

This is the penultimate book in the Year of the Dragon saga, with the last volume planned for end of this year.

The great cover for this volume, showing Gwenllian ferch Harri in full battle mode, is by Olga Kolesnikova, or IcedWingsArt.

Perma-free on Amazon, 2015 version

Perma-free is a controversial method of getting your work out there, but it still works as a promo tool for some, especially if you have a series of books. I will not be discussing here whether it’s a good or bad thing to do; but if you do decide to do it, here’s how. I just did these steps, so I know they work.

Step one, of course, is to ensure your book is free elsewhere. This one remains the same as always, and has been described countless times. Just to refresh your memory: use Smashwords. Even if you have publisher accounts on Nook or iTunes already, these won’t let you set up a price of zero. Only Smashwords can do that for all channels – as far as I know (still not sure about Draft2Digital). Kobo is the only publisher that lets you set up a perma-free book directly, and that will come useful later, but Amazon doesn’t see Kobo as as much of a competitor as Nook or iTunes in US, so that alone may not always work.

All your other books, you can sell directly through retailers, if you so wish. But the book you want perma-free, has to be distributed through Smashwords (or equivalent).

Once you’re sure your book is free on as many other stores as possible, you have to inform Amazon. The old way was to simply get your friends to report the price match from the book page, through the “tell us about lower price” link. But this no longer works as well as it used to. In fact, it didn’t work for me at all. I waited and waited, and the price remained stubbornly as it was – until I’ve discovered the truth. So here’s what’s changed: right now, the best and most reliable way to ensure your book is price-matched to other retailers, is to write Amazon a letter.

Log in to your KDP account, click Help, then Contact Us. From the list of topics, choose Price Matching. Fill out the form with the following information: your book’s Amazon info (title, link, ASIN), and all the channels where your book is currently free that need matching to.

The Shadow Third Cover 250The turn-around on this is almost immediate – for the main Amazon regions at least (see below) – as opposed to the “Tell Us” button. A day or so later, your book will be price-matched – plus, you get an e-mail confirmation, which is always nice. But there’s a trick to it. Amazon now wants you to inform it of EVERY COUNTRY your book is free in, to match it to its own regional stores. Linking only to .com versions of the retailers will only match your book on Amazon.com.

This isn’t easy, since some stores don’t have regional versions, so I had to do some digging. I used the following list of links to make sure I covered all possible regions for “The Shadow of Black Wings”:

(The only one I’m missing so far is India, but I never had any success selling books there, so it’s something I will have to live with for now.)

Just search for your own book at each of these links, and you will have the contents for the letter ready. Click send, wait no more than a few days for a reply, check if the books are really free everywhere you wanted them (you may need to clear cache or view in incognito mode to see the change) – and start promoting! 🙂

Note: it may still take a few weeks for the effect to trickle down to the more obscure Amazons, like NL and BR – and they might revert to full price at any moment without notice. Just another down-side of the silly way in which KDP manages regional websites.
Thanks to the good folks at Alliance of Independent Authors, who first taught me this trick!