Monday, 30 April 2018

Lord Lennox

In 1531, Matthew Stewart, Earl of Lennox, aged 15 and feeling threatened by the Hamilton clan headed by Lord Arran, sailed for France and joined the Royal Guard, became a naturalised subject of the French King and changed the spelling of his surname from Stewart to Stuart. 

 In 1543 he returned to Scotland and began paying court to Marie de Guise, the Dowager Queen of Scotland. Reported as a handsome, charming and gallant man, or, in the words of the times, "well-proportioned with lusty and manly visage, and carried himself erect and stately, wherefore he was very pleasant in the sight of gentlewomen." She was said to have enjoyed his company, which was not surprising since he spoke her native tongue fluently and was skilled in playing the lute. 
Both she and Cardinal Beaton thought Lennox would support them against the ambitions of Arran, but they discovered him to be unreliable and driven by self-interest, which was understandable when his livings in France were denied him and he had little that brought him money in Scotland. The lands that should have belonged to him had been scattered among the greedy lords when he left for France. Marie refused to marry him, and eventually he defected to the English to see if overtures from Henry VIII would pay off. In return for his support against the Scots, Henry VIII bestowed on him the hand of his niece, Lady Margaret Douglas.

The wedding took place in July 1544 at St James's Palace in London. Born the same year as Lennox, Margaret was the daughter of Henry VIII's elder sister, Margaret Tudor (widow of James IV and grandmother of Mary, Queen of Scots) by her second husband, Archibald Douglas, Earl of Angus. She was close enough to the  English throne to be controlled by Henry, and yet he allowed a  marriage between her and Lennox that could only reinforce the dynastic claims of both parties. Of course, at that time Henry had his beloved Prince Edward, and two daughters to follow him in the succession. 
Their marriage seems to have been a love match: he was said to be 'far in love', and in his letters addressed Meg as 'mine own sweet Madge' or 'my Meg', told her she was his 'chiefest comfort', and signed himself 'Your own Matthieu and most loving husband'. 

Margaret was a devout Roman Catholic, so Lennox, who had been reared in the old faith but recently favoured the new religion, tempered his views to please her and also King Henry. Religion was a matter of expediency with him.

Regretably I cannot find a picture of  said Lord Lennox, certainly not one that is listed with certainty as him, so I have included a picture of my own taken on a trip to Stirling Castle on a grey day a couple of years ago. I was there familiarising myself with the place because I was, and still am, writing about Stirling and the Dowager Queen, Lord Lennox and  Meg Douglas. 

Tuesday, 24 April 2018

A review I like!

19 April 2018

AMAZON UK £1.20 £8.99
AMAZON US $1.66 $14.53

Fictional saga
1500s Tudor

Jen Black’s novels are a delight to read, not merely because of the enjoyment of ‘romance’ but because she is adept at diversifying from one period to another with apparent ease. This one is set in that troubling Tudor era where England and Scotland do not see eye-to-eye. Here, the future Mary Queen of Scots has her life mapped out by her mother, Mary of Guise and the English monarch, Henry VIII. But not all maps are reliable or pre-ordained, nor do the map-makers necessarily agree with each others’ marks on the charts they hope to produce.

The Queen’s Courier is a sequel to Abduction of the Scots Queen, where Matho Spirston had kidnapped Mary, an infant, and given her into the care of Margaret Douglas - Meg - the daughter of the Earl of Angus and Henry VIII’s sister, with Meg then being blamed for the deed. But it is not necessary to read this first novel (although I would recommend it!)  

Matthew, Earl of Lennox, champions Meg but he is greedy for power, and as the niece to the English King, Meg herself  is obliged to retain her virginity and follow the King’s permission for marriage. As for the future Mary Queen of Scots, Henry wants her as wife to his son, Edward. Her mother has different plans.

The author, in addition to being able to write delightful novels, is skilled at taking the reader right into the feel of time and place, by painting visual pictures within her narrative. Her research is well done, as is her depiction of the unsettled politics of the period, with all the upheaval of war, intrigue, scandal, plot after counter-plot and the dangers of being an appointed spy where messages had to be taken in utmost secrecy between Scotland, London and France.

Jen Black’s characters are believable, the diplomacy, the scheming, the hopes, dreams, nightmares and dangers all zip along at a good page-turning pace. The only regret I had is knowing the eventual fate of Mary Queen of Scots!

© Ellen Hill

Saturday, 21 April 2018

Metadate 2

When thinking about the metadata for your book, don't skimp on detail: include all that is necessary - your book's title, subtitle, contributors, your own name, all the normal stuff.

Then we’re off into the realms of category and classification. Amazon gives me 7 keyword slots to fill in and I try to use every single one of them. Firstly I tagged my books as romance, then added historical romance and thought I’d done well; then discovered I should be more specific; not just “romance,” but "adult steampunk fantasy romance." (Not that I ever wrote anything to fit that classification!)
Instead of "historical" something more like "late Victorian Underworld zombie mash-up" seems to be the way to go.

If you don’t feel inspired, type a couple of keywords into Amazon and see what other authors use. Amazon even offers advice and recommends keywords for certain sub-categories. I was aware that BISAC Subject Codes existed – after all, I was a librarian! – but I’d never thought of using them in my self-publishing. BISAC Subject Headings categorize books by content so why not check them and see if their headings inspire you? 

Think about including important story elements such as the occupation of your protagonist, the time period and place in which your book is set. Does it include any specific historic event? If so, work that in.

If you quote reviews in your book description, ask the reviewer if you may include a keyword. He may have written "Best thriller I have ever read!" but "best post-apocalyptic thriller I have ever read!" is even better.

Make excerpts from your book available where you can.

Provide links to your website and social media pages where allowed.

Add your author location if you want to appeal to your local audience.

Wednesday, 18 April 2018


For a long time after I first self-published, I had no idea what Metadata might be.  Then one day I fell across something on the internet that made me feel I had to find out more about this strange sounding word. 
That is when I discovered that Metadata is the information that makes your book searchable. Or put it another way – potential readers can find your book by the Metadata you provide - such as the author name, the category, price, ISBN and title. Enhanced metadata include author bios, blurbs, review quotes and more.
If you are an indie author you will have to list Metadata at every place you publish your book – Nook, Kobo, Amazon etc. Like me, you may not have realised this is what you were doing!
It was about this time that I ran into another puzzle. What was SEO all about? It stands for search engine optimization and guess what? Metadata is the information that search engines look for when someone searches for a book. The advice was to create metadata that fitted my book and matched my target audience. Author name etc was not a problem, I could supply that sort of factual info with ease, but Keywords and Categories proved a different thing altogether. 
My next problem was which Keywords and Categories to choose. Sounds simple, but I’m not sure I’ve got it quite right even now. In my next post I shall run through some of the good advice I’ve discovered.

Monday, 16 April 2018

A final word on Blurbs

You Should:
See if you can get some Quotes from well-known authors. Some  will refuse you, but if one responds it will be worth it. The same applies to famous people reviewing your book because you can add their quotes to your book description. Quoting individual authors instead of publications will give you a much better click-through rate and that is what you want.

If you have won awards for your writing including that too.

Pick the best 5-star review and add that to your description.

You Should Not:-

Never give away the end of the story. In fact, be sparing in your actual description; make the reader curious, but be sure not to give away too much plot.  Avoid clich├ęs and overused phrases like "in a world of..." which always makes me want to add the words "Myth and Magic"....because I heard it so many times while watching Merlin on tv.

Comparing yourself with other author can raise the wrong expectations with your readers. It is not very wise to call  yourself the "new Stephen King" or advertise your book as the 
"next Fifty Shades of Grey." 

Thursday, 12 April 2018

Blurbs - the professional way

Further advice on blurb writing - gleaned from various sources: 

Guessing what will work with your readers might do the trick, but actual data might be better. There are various ways and means of accessing data.

Services like Manybooks allow you to test two different descriptions for your book to see which one gets the most downloads. Or you could send different version of your blurb to reviewers and see which version gets you the most responses. Though why reviewers would be bothered to do this beats me.

 Create a poll on your blog or website and ask people to tell you which version they prefer. That might get better results and might be something I would try.

Run Facebook ads simultaneously with different “pick-up lines” in your ad description  and see which ones get the most clicks - though I have doubts about this. Surely the first option will get the most responses? I wouldn't click on five versions of the same thing, and I don't think many people would.
 Providers like Constant ContactGetResponse or AWeber will send your proposed blurbs to your subscribers to see which they prefer. Seems to me that I could set up an e-mail people would click without going to a company which no doubt will charge for doing this for you.

Most of this sounds like something I would not do, but I would send a blurb to a group in which I participate and ask for comments. Usually, the comments all seem to cancel each other out initially, but there is often a clear "winner" and that's the one I would go for.

Tuesday, 10 April 2018

Writing Blurbs part 2

My research on writing blurbs has gleaned the following hints and tips which I include here to help me when next I come to write a blurb :

To put it simply, start with a situation, introduce a problem and promise a twist. So easy! Show the mood of the story  if you can (and you should be able to do that!) Don't make a romance sound like a thriller - unless it is a thriller with a romance element!

Your first sentence may be the only one read by a potential reader, so aim for the biggest impact in that first sentence. 
Keep it short for the same reason.Make an impact with 100 words - 150 maximum. Also remember that short sentences grab attention. Try using white spacing to separate thoughts, break up blocks of text. 

Introduce your characters by name and characterization: ie actor Steel Collins, murderer Joan Pellow. The trick is to make what you say memorable and stir the readers' curiosity

Add the place and time of your story ie "From his floating island home in medieval France, the wizard....”

Once you have a blurb, print it out to look at in a different format. View it on your phone, ipad, etc etc.

Plan to take your time with it. Begin with a short summary. Write your first version. Read and trim. Try different versions; do at least five and see how they strike you when you look back at your work a few days later. If you start writing your blurb before you finish writing your book, you will have plenty of time for adjustments to the blurb! So start early in the writing process.

The pic of Perigeaux has nothing to do with writing blurbs, but reminds me of a lovely hot day in France - I need it on the wet, dank, miserable rainy day!

Saturday, 7 April 2018


Do you have trouble writing blurbs? I find them almost as difficult as writing a synopsis, so I’m reading around the topic this week. After all, a good blurb should equal good sales and we all want those. Here are some preliminary findings:-
Browsing bestsellers may not be a good idea, as the author’s name already sells the book, so the blurb may not be so terrific; browsing lesser-known but successful authors is a better idea.
A good blurb aims to show the genre (the title and cover should also do this) and entice the reader to look inside.
Highly effective blurbs are CONCISE and arouse the buyer’s CURIOSITY. It is a mistake to think a blurb is a summary, for a summary gives the plot away and answers curiosity. An effective blurb creates questions in the potential readers’ mind.
The Blurb and the Look Inside feature don’t have long to impress anyone, so use some of your best writing in both.
Other vital things to do - Check that your blurb flows well. Spellcheck it. Match your vocabulary to your target audience, because words they don’t understand can scare them away. Research your subject. Ask for opinions on your blurb - this can help you generate buzz before you publish.

Monday, 2 April 2018

Successful authors

Top selling authors on Kindle of all time:

EL James
Lee Child
Stieg Larsson
Suzanne Collins
George RR Martin
Gillian Flynn
Diane Chamberlain
James Patterson
Peter James
Sylvia Day

I saw this on the internet this morning and forgot to copy the reference, but I had simply followed a link on sucessful authors and up it came. There was also a list of the cities in England that read the most and surprisingly London was not included. Nor was Newcastle, I have to admit!

 There are two authors listedthat I have never heard of - Chamberlain and Day. We all know the infamous, possibly notorious, E L James and the other names I know though they may not be among my favourite authors. I could not  hack my way through GAME OF THRONES, and Peter James is good but a little longwinded for me. I read him when I've nothing else handy! (Sorry Peter!)  Stig Larsson could have done with a good edit, especially in the first half of the first book, but that is only my opinion and what do I know? I'm not even in the list!.

I've read all of Lee Child's bar ECHO BURNING and the MIDNIGHT LINE, which will be remedied shortly.What interests me might be the names that are not there - Rankin, Gregory, Gabaldon, Bolton and Nora Roberts to name one or two. Are their books not available in Kindle? I've never checked. If they are, I suspect they are as highly priced as the paperbacks. In the last month or two I have noticed Kindle versions that are priced higher than the paperback and those I'm never going to buy and I hope no one else does either. An author I enjoy is Peter May, another is Robert Goddard, I tried Julian Fellowes BELGRAVIA earlier this year but found the writing rather sketchy; perhaps he is more of a screenwriter than a novelist and there, he excels.

Since it is sleety-snowing here today I've added a grey snowy day picture! 

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...