Thursday, 31 March 2016

Historical Romance or Historical Novel?

Contemplating sending my wip QUEEN'S COURIER off to agents, I have been thinking about how to introduce it. There is a range of books set in a historical period that are easily recognised and acknowledged by all, but it is the section in the middle where things blend.

On the far left we have category romance, where the romance is the only thing the author and the reader, presumably, is interested in. Category romance specifically does not want sub-plots and sub-characters running off and doing interesting things, taking interest away from the hero and heroine. The author must focus on the couple in question. These days, interest does not stop at the bedroom door. More and more blow-by-blow encounters are detailed inside the bedroom - or the equivalent.

The other extreme is of course the literary end. These books are often three and four times longer and detail all sorts of other things beside the central romance - if there is one. C J Sansom manages to write almost 450 pages without a central romance featuring at all and I love his books. Cornwell's Sharpe has a few stabs at romance but there is so much more about daring-do, war and skullduggery. Writers like Forester, Clements, Winston Graham, Mitchell and Gabaldon set their characters in a particular time period and then weave them into the history.  Writers like Parris and Clements centre on a murder mystery.

This where the lines blur. Readers will put authors  in differing places on the line. Some will say Gabaldon is literary because she has great swathes about the American War of Independence in her Outlander series. So did Mitchell in Gone with the Wind, but in both those books, the central theme is the love affair between Claire and Jamie, and Scarlett and Rhett. We could be very analytical about it and put every title on a sliding scale of romance v literary-ness, but who has the time? Certainly not me! It is a task for each reader according to their personal taste, should they chose to do it.

The other thing that affects the argument is the male-female reading bias. In general terms, though not everyone fits into these divisions, men like action, and women like romance. Men like tighter writing, women want feelings explained. Men's reviews still  seem to have more kudos than those written by women. Men, of course, review the Sansom, Forester, Cornwell "serious" type of historical novel. Perhaps they write better reviews? I don't think I've seen this type of historical novel reviewed by a woman, but they must be, surely? If not, they ought to be.

Perhaps Byron had the answer when he said "Man's love is of man's life a thing apart; it is a woman's whole existence." Follow that through and you have an answer to the basic question, though you may not like it.

As it happens I've got the rights back for a book I placed with MuseItUp Publising and have begun editing it prior to publishing on Kindle. I always thought it was priced a little too high with Muse,and that it would sell better if I "Kindled" it. I began last night, and right away I can see the difference in style - Reluctance, soon to be known as THE GYBFORD AFFAIR, is definitely historical romance. THE QUEEN'S COURIER is more about the times and how they affect people's lives. So, I have my answer.

Tuesday, 29 March 2016

Final check.

Easter has come and gone and the cul de sac is quiet. So many people have gone on holiday it is amazing. We stagger on, weeding the garden if it is sunny, hiding indoors if it is not.
DH contemplates mowing the front lawn but no decision has been made as yet. Grocery shopping has been accomplished, so the fridge/freezer are stocked again. We shall not starve!
True to form, one of my teeth began to ache as soon as it was certain the dentist would have locked up and gone home for a well-earned rest. I begin to think this toothache is psychosomatic as it always acts up when I can't reach any help - Christmas, hols in France, now Easter.

Editing is just about done. I'm thinking about THE QUEEN'S COURIER as a title, but am still trying to dream up a better one. This is the second story about Matho and his adventures as newly established courier. I suppose technically it is the third story about him, because he first figured in FAIR BORDER BRIDE alongside Harry and Alina, though in a minor role. It has rolled in at almost 94,000 words though at one stage before editing it was about 104,000. I think that means I'm getting better at editing! A few little tweaks, then print out and read through as a final check.

Thursday, 24 March 2016

Easter already

Amazing that it is Easter this weekend. I've heard very little about it  - also surprised to see the clocks change this weekend as well.

So that means schools and colleges are finished for a while, and universities have sent everyone home. The knock on effect of this is that the Metrocentre  and town will be chockablock with people mooching around with (quite often!) glum faces as they do a little retail therapy.

Those of us who are retired probably shy away from these busy places - oh and that includes National Trust, English heritage sites and the like - and postpone our visits until things are calmer and everything is back to normal. I know dh takes one look at the calendar and shakes his head when I suggest we go out anywhere during these times. Let's wait, he says. Car parks will be full, the roads congested and there'll be kids running about screaming everywhere. It isn't that we don't like kids, we do; but en masse and often high on sugary drinks, they can be trying if not terrifying!

So probably this is one fortnight when we won't be out and about and doing things!

Monday, 21 March 2016

First day of Spring

Blogger is still being funny about recording stats backwards. I hope it cures itself soon, because it makes me wonder what else is going wrong in Bloggerland.

It came home to me over the weekend that writing is a very solitary world and in real life often no one else is interested in it. Which is why, I suppose, there are so many writing groups on the internet. We need to share with someone and finding people who are interested in the same thing is often only possible electronically. Which is quite sad, in a way, and a blessing in others.

It was the first day of spring yesterday. The daffodils and snowdrops are flowering and finally, finally, the land is drying up and wellies are not the only option on walks. Strangely enough, though we've had so much wet weather over the last three months, the streams and the river are running quite low.
It is easy to see where huge chunks of the river bank have been washed away and there is as much sand deposited on the grass down by the riverside as there is at Redcar beach. As one lady dog-walker said, kicking at the sand beneath her feet, "I'll bring my deckchair next week." Tiny grass blades are pushing their way through but in some places the sand has buried it altogether. The dogs love it because it gives them a lovely smooth, clean surface to run on.  It's only when you look to the shrubs and bushes that you see the lumps of vegetation, branches and tree trunks matted together in huge piles.

Friday, 18 March 2016

Glitches all round

The last week has been a struggle. Not only did I have a cold but my other half was diagnosed with something quite painful that causes inflammation of the muscles. Thankfully the weather wasn't too bad, in fact it was warm and sunny, which made walking Tim easier than it might have been. He hasn't had the long runs he is used to, but at least he got to stretch himself on open ground and use up some of that boundless energy.

Some problems with IT, too. Blogger's stats counter seems to have gone haywire. I check every morning to see if anyone is reading, and for the last three mornings the counter has a recorded a number that is a hundred or so LESS than the previous day. Looks like someone has set the thing to count backwards!

I've been trying to use curly quotes rather than the straight marks intended for use as dialogue quotation marks in my software, (Microsoft Word 2010) but don't seem able to manage it. I suppose the software is considered old by now, so perhaps I'll think about an upgrade. It would seem such a simple thing to change to curly quotes, but nothing I've tried seems to do it. Maybe it's me. If I try next week, when my cold has gone, maybe I'll suddenly see the light!

Monday, 14 March 2016

The Woodville Curse

Croaky voice this morning. This cold has been brewing for a day or two and now its here. The sad thing is I cannot lie in bed like I used to! I'm more comfortable up and about. The paracetomol has lifted the worst of the symptoms so I'm doing some work before the effects wear off.

I'm reading The King's Curse by Philippa Gregory and finding it a depressing tale. One thing I had not realised before opening this book was how many Plantagenets were still around in Tudor times. A vast family, and most of them healthy, unlike the Tudors, who were the absolute opposite. Poor genes, or was it the curse? Gregory has taken up the rumour that Elizabeth Woodville and her daughter Elizabeth spun a curse on learning of the death of the young Plantagenet princes in the tower - whoever killed them would fail to rear sons and grandsons of their own. I first read this in the White Queen, and thought what a stroke of genius it was.

When daughter Elizabeth married Henry Tudor she became a victim of that curse, for her eldest son Arthur died very young. Her second son lived, but most of his children died in the womb or shortly afterwards. One son survived into his teens before he died. Two girls lived into adulthood - Mary and Elizabeth. His one illegitimate but acknowledged son died young. It was not a prolific record for a king with so many rumoured extramarital affairs.

Believe in curses or not, there is a strange rightness to the fact that it exonerates Richard III because I think I am right in saying that though his son died, he died before the Princes in the tower, and before the curse was made.

Saturday, 12 March 2016

False Figures

I picked up my new glasses yesterday and wore them this morning from first waking up. Every blade of glass was crystal clear during Tim's walk, and I saw two white tails bouncing up and down as deer escaped through the bracken and trees. Only saw their tails, but I was pleased, because deer bones have been found in the last couple of weeks. A hind leg has made the rounds of the field as different dogs found it and trophy-carried it around for a while. Another dog-walker tells me he's seen a couple of heads in a different part of the wood. Coupled with the tyre tracks across the grass I've seen  recently, it looks very much as if poachers have been at work. I was relieved to know that there are still some of the wary creatures around.

Came back and checked my blog stats and was truly amazed to find that today's total was less than yesterday's total. Very odd. I can only assume I misread Friday's total, so perhaps it's just as well I've got new glasses!

On the other hand, it may be Blogger that is at fault. Out with Tim yesterday, I spotted the rabbit (see pic)  and Tim, who was a good deal closer to it, did not. He loped off in the opposite direction without ever sensing it while I took a couple of pictures. Just shows the value of sitting still, saying nothing and minding your own business!

Tuesday, 8 March 2016

Amazon and Editing

There have been rumours around the internet these last weeks which claim Amazon will penalise poorly edited books.

I dug around to see what the story is and discovered that specific complaints from readers will trigger an e-book being examined.

If you want to read the entire article, and it is well worth doing so, then go

Amazon staff are to review the complaints. The process is not automated. If it is decided that your book has problems, then you will have the chance to question the complaint or simply correct it. For errors prominent or numerous enough to detract from the reader’s enjoyment, Amazon will place a warning banner on the product’s page alerting customers that the item is under review. Authors and publishers will then have an opportunity to correct the issue and promptly remove the warning banner. (Amazon has already been doing this for years; they’re just expanding the conditions that can trigger an alert.)

Errors that render the book unusable or incomplete or books that violate Amazon’s Terms of Service will be removed from sale.

Some of the things Amazon will look for:

missing content
duplicated content
numbers inadvertently substituted for letters, or vice versa (“typ0gr4phic”, “the year 2o12”)
punctuation used in place of letters (e.g., “I read bo%ks”)
visible or malformed HTML code
discretional hyphens (“bad hy-phenation”)
missing letters (“m ghty pecul ar”)
unsupported characters (e.g., emoticons)
incorrect content (as when the publisher uploads the interior file for a different book)
blurry or excessively compressed images
body text rendered entirely as underlined, bold, or hyperlinked
page numbers embedded in the text
non-functional table of contents or internal links

In other words, largely due to formatting problems or OCR errors.

Amazon will not flag:
minor typographical errors (“What have you got to loose?”)
regional spelling differences (e.g., “favourite” vs. “favorite”)
dialogue, accents, or dialects (“I doan’ budge a step out’n dis place ‘dout a doctor”)
foreign languages, archaic speech (“leet his sheep encombred in the myre”)
proper names (“The Dothraki called that land Rhaesh Andahli”)

Update 1/23/2016: Some authors are reporting flags for a small number of typos. This is inconsistent with what Amazon has previously said, and the enforcement appears to be erratic. It is possible that Amazon’s employees are confused about how strict they should be in cracking down on issues. Stay tuned for further updates.

Update 1/24/2016: A KDP representative has informed me that the warning labels will be referred to as CFQIs, Customer Facing Quality Indicators. The first CFQIs will appear on January 27, 2016. The CFQI will read “Quality issues reported”. Hovering over this indicator will display a list of the types of defects reported by customers (and verified by Amazon). The CFQI will also contain a message stating that the publisher has been notified of the issues. Follow-up questions are in the pipeline, and I will report here when (or if) I receive clarifications.

Update 1/28/2016: KDP has provided additional information about the number of typos that will trigger a CFQI.

Our Quality team uses a formula based on how many defects it contains out of the total allowable defects for a book of its length. Longer titles are allowed more defects than shorter ones because the overall impact is distributed. Note that “locations” below refers to the internal divisions of an ebook, not pages or chapters.

While we are not able to disclose this specific formula, please be informed that an average sized novel with around 3000 locations will trigger the quality warning with 10-15 typos.

Saturday, 5 March 2016

Third Edit

I'm well on the way with editing The Queen's Courier for the third time. The end is in sight, which gives me the energy to carry on, because editing takes so much more energy than writing.  Instead of enjoying getting the story down the best way I can, my critical sense has to work overtime and spending too much time at it makes my brain hurt! It is demanding, tiresome and so necessary.

Have I weeded out all those unnecessary words like "almost, just, felt," and the rest? Yes. The book is at least 500 words shorter because of that exercise. Have I checked for formatting errors, like repeated chapters - I don't know how that happens, but it has, occasionally - indentation slip ups, font size changes, or even worse - heaven forbid - Font changes. Yes, and many more. I have to be extra careful about a missing v - my keyboard refuses to print a v unless I hit it really hard, so every now and then I get eery instead of every.  Most annoying. (And yes, I've tried several times to clean out whatever it is that stops it working. Possibly dog hair, or my hair curled around the spring. or whatever it is that makes it work. The fault certainly isn't anything visible)

Then there are the ungrammatical sentences. How could I have written such a thing? But I did and it must go. Either that or it needs to be assimilated into another sentence. Reading back like this, I can see where one sentence will do the job of two, and do it so much better - and sometimes, more gracefully. If only I had seen it on the first draft!

POV slips have been my major bugbear on this wip. I've intensified the use of Deep Third for each character, though there are times when it is inappropriate, such as opening new chapters or scenes. Then the scene must be set and that is hard to do unless the readers can relax knowing you have only one character - and how rare is that? I've decided I'm not altogether a fan of Deep Third anyway, and perhaps won't use it again.

Best of all are the deletions. Repetitions, saying the same thing three chapters apart, info dumps, backstory that isn't required - they all go. I'm maybe six or seven thousand words lighter now than when I began this last edit, so that is all to the good.

PS I apologise to the people who read my last post before I checked it over and corrected all the mistakes!

Wednesday, 2 March 2016

Darkest Hour.

Just finished reading Barbara Erskine's Darkest Hour. It is set in the present and the 1940s, the latter a period that has never appealled to me. Still doesn't, but it didn't stop me enjoying the book. The last Erskine I read I grabbed with eager anticipation because it featured ghostly Viking ships on the River Debden, but found it a sad let down.

Not this one. Darkest Hour has a good vengeful ghost and some secrets to discover before the last page. My only quibble is that I'm surprised that Evie didn't go and see a lawyer about retaining the rights on her own work long before she did, but I suppose in the 1940s women were not so confident about launching out on their own.

Modern perceptions sometimes overlay those of the last and earlier generations. It has been commented many times that lighter romances have heroines who do all sorts of things that no self-respecting female of the times would have dared to do, A friend explained recently that she thought the mindset of  the tv Midwife series had started out very well but that now they were up to the sixties, she thought the writers were going astray in their portrayal of the mindset of the times. (I cannot comment because I never watch it, but I found my friend's comments interesting. )There are lots of people alive today who lived through the fifties and sixties and know very well how everyone thought. That must make it difficult for writers of a later generation, because everything is so loose now, to get the right feel for what went on in their parents and grandparents day when there were so many restrictions. Adults who lived through the sixties are sure to put their hands in the air and say No! That's not how it was.

To get back on track - There was nothing outrageous  in Darkest Hour, but I was  mildly surprised that Evie was sleeping with both her lovers, but then I suppose wartime  - heightened senses and all that. Strange though, that she didn't love Eddie, and yet still slept with him and nothing much was made of it by the author. Also strange that Eddie never went in the army though he was only 29, with no explanation offered - unless I missed the one important sentence!

Tiny caveats in a thoroughly enjoyable novel. It was half past one when I finally turned out the light and went to sleep.

Taking a Risk

  Poised on the cliff edge about to take the leap! No thoughts of suicide - oh no! Or perhaps only in terms of covers for my e-books. I am a...