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!

Mirror Worlds bundle open for pre-order

All my short fantasy works are now available in one neat bundle for pre-order on Amazon. This edition contains also another, never released before short story, “Favnirsbane”.

Dragons' FallDragons’ Fall: Tales from the Mirror Worlds

CLICK HERE TO PRE-ORDER NOW!

Two novellas and two short stories from the Mirror Worlds epic fantasy universe.

DRAGONBONE CHEST

Duke Ayaris is a dragon slayer. He’s the only one left in the world, and he is hunting after the last of the dragons. He is about to fulfil his life’s destiny.
A dying old man asks him to take care of his beautiful young daughter. But the girl has a secret – one that will cause him to set sail where no man has willingly sailed before: to the Dragon North, in search of the fabled city of Eden.

DRAGONSBANE

Ennaki’s Master is also a dragon slayer. But not just any dragon slayer: each beast he slays is greater and more powerful than the previous one, and each fight brings more woe and damage to the innocents around. As the knight proceeds with his murderous scheme, Ennaki begins to doubt and wonder. Is his Master’s secret plan really worth the slaughter? And is this really the best way to win the everlasting War against the Shadow that threatens to engulf all Mirror Worlds?

Also includes short stories “Crown of the Abyss” and “Favnirsbane

Promoting a stand-alone novella: Dragonsbane #free #kindle

Dragonsbane

The hardest task of a self-published author is promotion; the hardest books to promote succesfully are stand-alone ones, and out of these, the most notorious must be novellas.

A stand-alone book cannot be used as a loss-leader. It can’t be offered free or cheap, in an effort to guide the readers to your other work. A novella, especially a new one, without reviews or ratings, is a terrible thing to promote: most of the big sites will not accept a work like that, or if they do, it will cost you more than you can usually hope to get back from sales.

It’s a conundrum. It helps if you’re an established author, with large following, and plenty of fans that will buy anything you release; but even they may not be willing to spend money on a short work with completely new characters in a completely new world.

So what is there to do? Well, bugger me if I know! Today, I’m doing a one-day free promo on my latest novella, Dragonsbane. It’s not quite a stand-alone, as in, it’s set in the same Mirror Worlds multiverse as Dragonbone Chest; but that is meaningless, as the multiverse is vast, and the only thing the two works have in common are dragons.

I’ve used my list of book promo sites to find the ones that accept freebies without reviews on short notice (this, incidentally, is why it’s important for readers to leave reviews – any reviews – on Amazon books: we need those stars to get advertising space). There aren’t that many, and most of them don’t have much following. I’ve scheduled a few tweets, and a reddit post. This blog can hopefully bring in a few downloads, too. It would certainly help to have a big mailing list that I could now bomb with the promo information – but despite my best efforts, I could never get more than a couple followers (it’s here, by the way). So yeah, I did all I can think of. Will any of that work? And what will be the effects of the free promo on what matters – ie. sales? We’ll just have to wait and see…

For now, click the cover above, or go here, for a free download of Dragonsbane, the second Mirror Worlds novella! It’s short, it’s fast, and it’s more action-packed than anything I’ve written so far 🙂

Ennaki’s Master is a dragon slayer. But not just any dragon slayer: each beast he slays is greater and more powerful than the previous one, and each fight brings more woe and damage to the innocents around. As the knight proceeds with his murderous scheme, Ennaki begins to doubt and wonder. Is his Master’s secret plan really worth the slaughter? And is this really the best way to win the everlasting War against the Shadow that threatens to engulf all Mirror Worlds?

The Next Big Reading Question

Aah, the smell of polyvinyl acetate and the rustle of dead tree pulp...
Aah, the smell of polyvinyl acetate and the rustle of pressed cellulose pulp…

There’s a debate sweeping the reading world; it’s been slowly heating up for several years, and is now ready to erupt and rage through the community. Friendships will be lost, and money will be earned, all depending on the answer to the crucial question: what are you reading the books ON ?

If you thought, however, that the choice in the question is between paper and e-readers – you’re stuck in the deep technological past. That question is so 2010! And it’s already been answered. Paper is, for all intents and purposes, dying: it’s going to go the way of the vinyl, steam train and horse-drawn carriage. None of those things had disappeared completely from our lives, and neither will paper books, but they will remain a domain of hobbyists and devoted fans of vintage.

With that matter settled, the reading world has moved on to the next big question: e-ink or screen?

Deader than a Deceased Dodo?
Deader than a Deceased Dodo?

The death of e-ink has been, rather prematurely, announced several times over the years, with each new technological breakthrough. It was supposed to be killed by Pixel Qi (I don’t even remember what that was!) in 2010; by Kindle Fire in 2011; by the iPad Mini in 2012; by sales plunge in 2013; and most recently, by Fire Phone and the sad, but not unforeseen, demise of Nook. It seems that by remaining firmly in the e-ink camp, I am just as outdated and old-fashioned as those paperback retroists yearning for the smell of glue and rustle of paper.

And yet, for what it’s worth, the trusty Kindle remains my favourite and by far the most used gadget. No phone or tablet shares its advantages: it’s robust (try throwing your iPhone across the room!), cheap (no real fear of losing or having a gadget worth half a minimum wage stolen), lasts throughout the entire holidays on a single charge, can be read in sunlight, on a bus, in an airplane, with no fuss. Why would I ever chose to read on anything else?

Ooh, shiny!
Ooh, shiny!

The demographics quoted in that last article are clear and unsurprising: the young people prefer shiny things that can satisfy their short attention span by enabling them to do a thousand things at once – AND read books. I’m not old enough to not get that. But I think it’s wrong to transfer the young vote into the future prediction – in politics and market analysis. Young people don’t work – and they don’t have holidays. They don’t yet appreciate the real worth of things – and of their own time. Let’s see how they deal with having to charge all their devices every day when they are on two-weeks vacation with their family, and how comfortable they are with having a gadget bought with real money being stepped on by their kid…

But of course, by that time the gadget-makers will probably come up with something else, something that will make today’s tablets as obsolete as e-readers, apparently, are today; Kindle Eye Implants, maybe? And then it will be the time to pose another Big Reading Question…

"Of course I'm looking at the road, dear - the Road by Cormac McCarthy"
“Of course I’m looking at the road, dear – the Road by Cormac McCarthy”

Until then, what is your choice of a reading medium?

NEW RELEASE! CHRYSANTHEMUM SEAL IS OUT!

The files are uploaded, verified and approved. The Chrysanthemum Seal is out now!

It’s the middle of summer in the Year of the Dragon. The hunt for the Crimson Robe may be over, but the adventure continues…

With Bran seemingly gone from Yamato forever, his friends settle in their new lives, their common adventures a distant memory. Sato enrolls in Lord Nariakira’s school of wizardry, while Nagomi joins her father’s medical practice in far-away Nagoya.

But the revolution, once started, cannot be stopped. The foreign threat finally comes to Yamato’s doorstep. A Varyagan submarine drops anchor in Kiyo harbour. A Bataavian warship arrives at Kagoshima, carrying Dylan ab Ifor, Gwen and Wulfhere. In Shimoda, the Black Wings supply fleet brings with it a curious, unwanted guest…

Kindle Edition:
Amazon US |Amazon UK | Amazon DE | Amazon IT | Amazon FR | Amazon ES |Amazon JP | Amazon CA | Amazon BR | Amazon AU
Kobo Edition:
Kobo | Kobo 楽天
Nook:
Nook

If you haven’t yet read any of the books in “The Year of the Dragon” cycle, you should start from The Shadow of Black Wings:

NEW_SHADO_ 1000 It is the Sixteenth Year of Queen Victoria. In the powerful empire of Dracaland, Bran, a young dragon rider, joins his father on a military expedition to the mysterious lands of the Orient. In the reclusive Yamato, Sato, a tomboy samurai girl, strives to prove her right to inherit her father’s school of western magic. Nagomi, a timid shrine apprentice, is haunted by the visions of dark future she must keep secret even from her best friend.

They don’t know it yet, but their paths will cross… And when they do, nothing will ever be the same again.

Welcome to The Shadow of Black Wings, a steam-powered romp across the land of dragons, wizards and samurai. It’s big, it’s fast, it’s been compared to Tolkien in terms of world-building, it has strong female characters and lots of carefully researched detail. You will meet the Royal Marines sailing mighty ironclads and Chinese walking machines; mysterious warlords and crazy inventors; you will discover dark prophecies, family secrets and blood-thirsty demons. And all that in just the first volume!

Kindle Edition:
Amazon US |Amazon UK | Amazon DE | Amazon IT | Amazon FR | Amazon ES |Amazon JP | Amazon CA | Amazon BR | Amazon AU
Kobo Edition:
Kobo | Kobo 楽天
Also:
iBooks | XinXii | Nook
Paperback:
Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CN | Junglee.com | Barnes&Noble | Book Depository

Or if you don’t want to read the books piece-meal, dive straight in and splash out on the bundle of the first four volumes – this will bring you right up to date with the events leading up to the Chrysanthemum Seal!

 NEW_BUNDLE_250
 This is a bundle edition of the first four books of the best-selling historical fantasy saga, containing the entire Crimson Robe arc:

 

  • Book 1: The Shadow of Black Wings
  • Book 2: The Warrior’s Soul
  • Book 3: The Islands in the Mist
  • Book 4: The Rising Tide
The deluxe edition contains also a short story “Birkenhead Drill”, a full glossary of foreign words, list of characters, the map of the land of Gwynedd and a chronology of the world.
Kindle Edition:
Amazon US | Amazon UK  | Amazon DE | Amazon IT | Amazon FR | Amazon ES |Amazon JP | Amazon CA | Amazon BR | Amazon AU
Kobo Edition:
Kobo | Kobo 楽天
Nook:

kyotoOh, and here’s a little something to while away the time when the books download to your respective e-readers:
2048: The Year of the Dragon Edition!

Kindle MatchBook

matchbookSo Amazon.com has just announced the launch of its Kindle MatchBook program. We’ve known about it for some time in the publishing world, and as soon as the opportunity came, I decided to enroll all my books (those with paperbacks, at least) into the program.

What does the MatchBook program mean for you? It means that you can buy a paper copy of a book, and get the e-book version at a discount or sometimes even free! It’s the literary equivalent of Amazon’s AutoRip program, which gives you MP3 to go with your CDs or Vinyls.

There were some grumblings and rumblings coming from the old-school publishing industry about it (what initiative of Amazon’s was ever welcomed by those guys?) but frankly, I see no downsides. The readers get what they’ve always wanted – choice; the publishers gain additional incentive and promotional tool for selling more of their precious paperbacks – and to possibly earn twice on the same book. It’s a win for all.

To be perfectly honest, I don’t sell many paperbacks – it’s not where my marketing efforts go – so for me enrolling in the KindleMatch is more of a gesture towards those of my readers who like my books enough to shell out for a hardcopy. So, if you’re one of those special fans, here’s the deal from now on:

If you buy a paperback version of “Shadow of Black Wings“, “Warrior’s Soul“, “Islands in the Mist” or “Rising Tide“, you’ll get the e-copy ABSOLUTELY FREE.

If you buy a paperback version of “The Year of the Dragon, 1-4“, you’ll be able to buy the e-copy for a mere $2.99 instead of its listed price of $9.99.

Deal?

*) disclaimer: KindleMatch is an Amazon program. I take no responsibility for any technical problems involved. If you’re unable to get your discount for some reason, please contact Amazon Support.

PS: the Bundle paperback may not be available for the next few days as we need to iron out some formatting issues, but that’s only a temporary problem.