Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Die a Dry Death by Greta van der Rol

Based on a true story, Die a Dry Death is a fascinating historical adventure that ratchets up the tension with every turn of the page. Greta van der Rol's accomplished debut novel is a gripping exploration into both the endurance of the human spirit and its darker side. Steeped in authenticity, Die a Dry Death is sure to impress even the most demanding of historical fiction readers.

In 1629, the Dutch ship Batavia is on its maiden voyage from Amsterdam to the East Indies when an uncharted reef snags its hull. Captained by the gruff, yet sea-wise Adriaen Jacobsz, the crew has just enough time to unload most of its passengers and essential cargo and head for a nearby string of islets, before the sea claims the once glorious Batavia. But the land that they seemed to have been so blessed to find is barren: rock-strewn, sun-baked, scant on animal life and lacking in fresh water. The only hope of rescue is for Captain Jacobsz and the ambitious Commandeur Pelsaert to set out across unknown seas with a small crew in the longboat, leaving a hundred and eighty survivors of the shipwreck to fend for themselves.

As the survivors begin to realize that their dwindling supplies may not be enough to sustain them until help arrives, mayhem quickly ensues. But when Under Merchant Jeronimus Cornelisz, third in command, escapes the sinking ship and arrives on the island called Batavia'a Graveyard, order is seemingly restored and even the lovely Lucretia van der Mijlen is reassured by his charm and authority.

Soon, however, it becomes apparent that the greatest threat to their survival is not the scarcity of food and water, but the very man to whom they have looked for leadership.

The most intriguing aspect of this story is how the author skillfully unravels one man's motives for gaining power through use of fear and examines to what lengths a person will go to preserve his own life. With such complex and deeply motivated characters, conflict abounds, creating a fast-paced and thrilling read.

Peppered throughout are exquisite details: of vivid seascapes, clothing, work implements, and nautical terminology. Readers who love to be immersed in a historical period will appreciate the precise research that has gone into this work; while those who enjoy an action-oriented and plot-driven story will be riveted.

(Also available for Kindle)

Saturday, June 26, 2010

D-I-Y with Kindle, by Lisa Yarde

My fellow blogger over at The Historical Novels Review blog , Lisa Yarde, has just published her first book, On Falcon's Wings, on Amazon's Kindle. The lovely cover was done by the amazing Lance Ganey, graphic artist extraordinaire.

If you love medieval fiction and discovering promising new authors, check out On Falcon's Wing's on Amazon. Meanwhile, here's a teaser to pique your interest:

Love united them. Destiny drove them apart.

When Avicia, a Norman noblewoman, makes a careless but costly mistake with a prize falcon, the brutal punishment nearly claims her life. Her Saxon lover, Edric of Newington, witnesses her ordeal but cannot share her fate. Another destiny awaits him in England - and the prospect of a loveless marriage.

Swept away in the arms of another, Avicia enters the treacherous court of Duke William of Normandy. Through the years, Edric and Avicia unite in a timeless, forbidden love, but a bitter rivalry for the English throne divides them. In a world forver altered in the aftermath of Hastings, hope rises - and the chance to love again.

After grilling Lisa about her Kindle uploading experience, I asked her to write a guest post for My Dog Ate My Manuscript on how to upload to kindle. (Thanks so much, Lisa!) So here now is her D-I-Y with Kindle:

DIY with Kindle: How to upload your file and keep your sanity

Self-publishing is not for the faint of heart. Anyone who’s written, edited, and marketed their own work truly deserves a medal for bravery. As if it weren’t difficult enough to accomplish these things on your own, publishing to the Kindle requires another feat of daring.

Media giant allows authors to publish directly to its exclusive Kindle device, using the Digital Text Platform. If you’re an Amazon user, it’s easy to set up your account, complete your author information and upload your JPEG-formatted cover, but in my experience, the file upload process can drive an author crazy.

Despite my own tech savvy (I’m the reluctant guru of all technologies in my home and office), I wasn’t…fully prepared for the little things that could go awry with the upload process. Like how the upload changed every Wingding symbols in my Word 2007 document, separating sections, to bland, boring rectangles. Or, that it would alter the margins and indents in my original document. Also, if you’re considering taking the Kindle publication route, and you have a PDF of your manuscript ready, start converting it now. At this time, Amazon DTP does not accept PDFs.

Here’s a how-to guide for uploading a Word 2007 document for Kindle publishing, steps I used to successfully complete the process, without being a Kindle owner. It only took 26 tries to perfect. That’s twenty-six, in case your eyes just glazed over that number.

1. Open up your manuscript in Word and save it preferably under another name, differentiating it from the original document.

2. Format your new document to standard one inch margins, with single spaced lines. You may have to try several times with the indents; I found margins of 0.5 inches were preserved.

3. Remove and/or replace any fancy symbols you’ve used in the document for section breaks. I replaced mine with a simple diamond shape from Wingdings.

4. Remove the page numbers, which will not be preserved on a Kindle.

5. Turn on the formatting to view your paragraph marks. It will help you find any errors in the document; weird spacing, blank pages, etc.

6. Now, save the Word document as type: Web Page, filtered (*.htm, *.html).

7. You will receive a popup, “Saving in this format will remove Office specific tags...” Click Yes to save.

8. All formatting, including page breaks, will be invisible because Word displays the new HTML document in Web layout. Go to View, and then click Print Layout to ensure the page breaks are preserved.

9. Sign into Amazon DTP. Follow the steps to enter the product details, confirm rights etc. if you haven’t already this process.

10. At the Upload & Preview Book webpage, upload your HTML document.

The Amazon DTP users’ group is also available, if you still encounter difficulties with the upload process. Take heart from the obvious fact that you’re not the only one having trouble, and good luck with your Kindle publishing.

(Lisa Yarde is the author of On Falcon’s Wings, available on the Kindle, June, 2010.)

Happy Publishing,


Thursday, June 24, 2010

696th Anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn

696 years ago today, the Scots faced a force of Englishmen nearly three times larger than their own across the expanse at Bannockburn. Outnumbered and inferior in weaponry, after an arduous and bloody battle, they rose against improbable odds to win the day.

The Battle of Bannockburn was fought on June 24th, 1314. It was never in Robert the Bruce's plans to face the English on the battlefield in full force. Guerrilla tactics - ambush, burning crops and driving off livestock so the enemy could not have them, and taking fortresses by surprise and later razing them - had proven highly successful. However, thanks to his impatient brother, Edward Bruce, things fell out a little differently. One year before, Edward Bruce had laid siege to Stirling Castle, but being the restless sort, he quickly struck a deal - that if the castle was not relieved one year from then, it would be handed over to the Scots. Of course, Edward II of England was not going to let it go so easily. He marched north, thinking he only need show up and the castle would be his without question.

Edward II, however, assumed too much - and he was not at all the shrewd commander or the ruthless leader that his father, Longshanks, had been. Supplies and knights were late arriving. The English column that slogged north through the summer heat was large and unwieldy. They arrived only one day before the appointed day.

And Robert the Bruce had been granted a year to prepare for the battle that would determine not only his fate, but that of Scotland's as well.

Pits had been dug across the carse, littered with caltrops - star-like spikes of metal meant to maim horses and render them useless - and covered over with sticks and grass to hide them from charging cavalry. Barriers had been lain across the paths in surrounding woods to slow any English detachment that might dare detour from the main road in an attempt to relieve Stirling Castle. And the Bruce had drilled his men rigorously and plotted his strategy in great detail.

It was on the evening of June 23rd that the Bruce clashed, hand to hand, with the English knight Sir Henry de Bohun. It is said Bruce cleaved his skull with one swipe of his axe. There must have been a moment of terror in Scottish hearts as the enemy charged at their king. And then a whoop of elation as his enemy fell dead in the first pass.

The following morning on the 24th, both sides rose at dawn, took Mass, and prepared for battle. Leadership was lacking on the English side. A small detachment of cavalry advanced, only to be thwarted by the Scottish schiltrons - a hedgehog-like formation of pikemen. The Welsh archers - that terror of the English army that had on so many occasions been used to such devastating effect - were deployed too late. The English were now sandwiched between the rising waters of the Bannock Burn and the advancing Scottish forces. Some of them began to flee - back, into the burn. Those that were not lucky enough to escape to the other side, drowned in the burn or died at Scottish hands.

King Edward II was one of those who managed to escape. But when he and his small party reached Stirling Castle, Sir Philip Mowbray refused to allow him entrance, stating that judging by the turn of events the castle was not relieved. Edward fled on horse all the way to Dunbar Castle, pursued by none other than James Douglas.

For more information on the Battle of Bannockburn, including site maps and a sequence of events, check Lin Anderson's MacBraveheart page.

Here's a wonderful little YouTube overview for those of you who like a visual.

If you're feeling really academic and would like to learn more in depth, I recommend Peter Reese's book, Bannockburn.

And this is when I slip in a plug for my favorite Celtic band EVER: Old Blind Dogs!

Happy reading,

Monday, June 21, 2010

Juggling: The Life of an Indie Author

Having come this far, there's one thing I will tell anyone considering becoming an indie author: Don't even consider it unless you EMBRACE the concept of multi-tasking to the Nth degree.

There are a hundred things I ought to do, should do, and plan to do in regards to my writing and publishing, BUT (and this is true for all writers) this annoying thing called 'life' keeps getting in the way. You know how it is. Hungry eyes above gaunt cheekbones turn on you, little whimpering sounds leaking from trembling mouths, asking when dinner will be. To which I often reply, "Do you remember how to use the microwave?"

Then there are the urgent pleas, which only you The Responsible One, can attend to. "Oh yeah, mom, I need a passport/driver's license/sports physical/rabies shot . . . tomorrow."

And because you are a writer (really, how long can it take to dream up a story and pound out 300 pages?), you must have oodles of available time - right?

Back in the Dark Ages, I used to be ORGANIZED. I made lists. I crossed items off those lists diligently because I have this obsession with creating closure. I saw things that needed fixing, needed to be completed, to be accomplished for the greater good of humanity and why delegate when it was so much easier just to shut up, save the instructions and do it all myself?

Then, life came to a whiplash-inducing halt. And I realized that to keep stress under control and have some time left over to actually enjoy those fleeting moments that happen upon us unexpectedly (fireflies in summertime, the smell of impending rain, laughter shared with friends) that it was OKAY not to do it all or have to do it perfectly. I stopped making lists and instead operated on an as-needed basis. This meant, basically, operating in a purely crisis management mode - which really killed productivity.

So I'm back to making lists. But they are simply reminders. Not demands.

Here's the tricky part - as an indie author, there is no escape from real life. The two-legged critters need fed, reminded to do their homework and they still want their parents there at important events. The four-legged critters still need fed, played with and taken to the vet at inconvenient times. The spouse still needs fed and would like to be assured that your butt is not glued to your swivel chair and your fingers stuck to the keyboard - so you assure him with dinner out, during which you're probably wondering if you'll be able finish a rough draft on Chapter 56 before vacation or if you can squeeze some writing in on the plane.

Life surrounds you and you must still manage to carve out the time to write, make edits, format, submit files, correspond with your graphic artist, chat on genre forums, outline the next book, check your Amazon ranking (oops, forgot to do that today, oh well), review, blog and yes, Twitter.

There is no editor or agent pushing deadlines at you. When, how and if things even get done is entirely up to you. It's both liberating and terrifying. Only attempt self-publishing if you're SELF-MOTIVATED.

Quick News Flash - The Crown in the Heather was ever so briefly #7 on for Biographical Fiction last week! Woot woot!!! And it hit the dizzying heights of #16,077 overall on I'm still getting over the embarrassment when folks ask me to sign a copy. Who? Me???

P.S. If anyone wants to follow me on Twitter, I'm @NGeminSasson. I'm still learning the ropes and am slowly getting over the feeling of being stalked, but at least blogging has already cured me of the fear of being a blabbering extrovert.

P.S.S. CITH's price went up to $12.59, but hey, that's still 10% off.

Happy publishing,

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

What does it really cost to self-publish?

Over the weekend, when both and discounted my book, The Crown in the Heather, from the list price of $13.99 t0 $10.07 (a whopping 28% off), a couple of people asked if that meant I'd be earning less per book. In short, the answer is 'no'. I still earn the same amount whether they list it at full price, 10% off or 50% off.

The list price I set for CITH is $13.99. The discount I set for wholesalers (such as is 20% of that, which means that they buy it for 80% of the full price, which is $11.92. So, yes indeed, at 28% off they are selling it at a loss. The only explanation I can give is that since they've just given you such an ubelievable bargain, they expect you'll buy something else while you're shopping online. It must work, or else they wouldn't do it so often.

How much of that $11.92 do I get per book? Well, quite a bit more than I'd get from the royalties per book if I were contracted with a mainstream publisher; however, keep in mind that without the bookstore exposure and marketing boost that a traditional publisher provides, my sales volume won't be nearly as great. First, I have to pay Lightning Source to print the book. That amounts to 1.3 cents per page plus 90 cents per book. (298 pages X .013) + .90 = $4.77 to Lightning Source.

Using my 8th grade algebra, here's the math for what I earn per book:

($13.99 X .80) - $4.77 = $7.15 per book.

BUT . . . there are initial start-up costs and other fees that have to be factored in, too. Fees to Lightning Source, the cost of ISBNs, cover design, interior layout and editing . . .

If I haven't yet mentioned it, author K.L. Brady's blog, Indie Publishing on the Cheap, has some excellent tips on how to wisely pinch pennies when self-publishing.

Now on to accounting for the nickles and dimes . . . Here's a quick run down of my basic costs:
  • $25 - 1 ISBN (I bought a block of 10 for $250)
  • $75 - Set-up fee per title for Lightning Source
  • $30 - Proof copy from Lightning Source
  • $12 - Annual catalog fee to Lightning Source
  • #$119 - 20 copies from Lightning Source (to be used as review copies and gifts)
  • #$160 - Cover design and pdf file of cover (based on my basic design and using a photo I provided) (I also purchased a logo design for $60, which I'll be able to use on successive books.)
  • $20 - approximate cost for a single photo from (this will vary, depending on how many photos you buy at once, the specific photo and the size [resolution] of the photo purchased) (I actually bought a supply of credits and purchased additional photos which I can use on my web site, for a book trailer if I do one, and for other books.)

Total start-up costs:

$25 + $75 + $30 + $12 + $119 + $160 + $20 = $441

Divide that total ($441) by the amount earned per book ($7.15) and I need to sell approximately 62 copies to earn my start-up costs back for this book. Not bad and definitely doable.

I could have spent a great deal more on professional cover design or artwork - in fact, I would have loved to - but since my other income is, well, nil, this is one area I had to be economical in. And judging by the comments on the cover, I think it serves its purpose well. Professional editing is another area I would love to splurge in, but done right it is not a cheap job, either; so instead, ten very intelligent writers, whose opinions and abilities I trust, read the whole book at various stages and gave feedback, as well as corrected my technical errors. Yes, this means I read ten manuscripts in return and got great mileage out of my copy of The Chicago Manual of Style.

This is just my experience and how I chose to go about doing it. Publishing through Kindle or CreateSpace will lower your costs, while going through a subsidy publisher or employing professionals for specific jobs (editing, cover design, publicity) will raise it accordingly.

Until later,


Sunday, June 6, 2010 and beyond . . .

This will be a short, to-the-point post, as it's been a long week of graduations, track meets, band concerts, grad parties, house cleaning, mowing in the rain and publication . . . What? Really??? Oh yes, somehow I managed not only to layout the interior of my first book, help design and decide on a cover and submit everything to Lightning Source, but it showed up in a few prominent places the very week I had a gazillion things to do. In fact, I'm pretty sure it was on and for awhile before I even found out. Wherever Lightning Source's or Amazon's web sites said it would take 7-10 days for information to show up, in reality it only took about three.

I've added the Search Inside the Book feature to Amazon's U.S. site and the same should be up on the U.K. site within the week. There is a box of review copies here waiting to be shipped off to remote parts of the world when I get a moment to breathe.

I'll have much, much more to say about the process of self-publishing in the next couple of weeks, but for now, here are some places where you can find The Crown in the Heather, The Bruce Trilogy: Book I:



3) Barnes and Noble

BTW, and seem to be having a price war. They've dropped the cover price from the list of $13.99 to $10.07 (28% off). Since I've set the discount through Lightning Source at 20%, this means they're actually selling it below what it costs them to buy it. I'm not sure how long that price will last, but it sure is nice of them - the author still gets paid the same no matter what and the buyers get to keep a few bucks to themselves. It's a win-win situation.

Many thanks to Daphne over at Tanzanite's Shelf and Stuff for mentioning CITH on her Weekly Wishlist for June 4th, 2010. If you like historical fiction and haven't yet visited her blog, do! I don't know how much time she spends keeping track of new releases, but it's a treasure chest for HF lovers.

All for now. After tonight I'm going to collapse into an exhausted heap and recooperate with a heavy dose of reality TV. I was temporarily depressed when American Idol, The Amazing Race and Survivor all came to an end. Thank heavens, my summer leisure time has been saved by the appearance of So You Think You Can Dance, America's Got Talent and the Bachelorette!

Until later,