The Purring of Cats by Dave Hoing, Interzone #207 December 2006

Quick Short Story Review: The Purring of Cats by Dave Hoing, Interzone #207

About a counselor who falls in love with his patient. In this case the patient is actually classed as a criminal as she has illegally had sex with an alien.

The writing was alright, although for me it didn’t really come alive. I thought the Science Fiction was rather superficial though – it could have been in any era from the twentieth century onwards – apart from mention of aliens and spaceships there was very little futurism, and the societal background could well have been swapped for any totalitarian state.

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Little Boy Found – New Science Fiction Short Story Free for Kindle until Sunday

I have published a new science fiction short story called Little Boy Found as an eBook for the Kindle. It will be free from Friday to Sunday via these links:

Little Boy Found on Amazon US

Little Boy Found on Amazon UK

Here’s some more information about the story:

Alone in space, one little boy is a long way from home.

His ship has been damaged beyond repair and he is the only survivor. The boy’s only chance of rescue is a spaceship captained by Paddy Smith. But this spaceship belongs to an opposing civilisation that believes in the benefits of Artificial Intelligence. The boy’s own Kingdom of Kes regards Artificial Intelligence as an abomination.

Caught up in a war between two ideologies how will the little boy find his way home?

Little Boy Found is a science fiction short story.

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eBook Blurbs Experimentation

Yesterday I decided that the blurbs for my short stories might be, how shall we say, rather poor! And decidedly boring!

Well last night I decided to update a couple of them. See what you think of the changes:

Bird Talk: A Tale of Medieval Magic

Old Blurb:

Bird Talk is a short story about a young priest, Roger, living in a small medieval English town, who is trying to uncover what he believes are foul magical deeds. But instead he manages to implicate the women he loves in accusations of witchcraft. With only the town drunk to help him, Roger must work out a way of saving the woman he loves.

New Blurb:

What do you do when you have accused the woman you love of necromancy?

Roger Draper suspects that a necromancer is at work in a small medieval English town. But rather than uncovering foul magical deeds he manages to implicate the women he desires in accusations of witchcraft. With only the town drunk to help him, Roger must untangle the mess he has created.

Be prepared for a heady concoction of gritty medieval life, humour and magic.

Bird Talk: A Tale of Medieval Magic is an Historical Fantasy short story.

Bisclavret (The Werewolf)

Old Blurb:

“I am the last survivor of the noble family of Trigoff…This is my confession.”A tale of knights, castles, maidens and werewolves set in Medieval France. This short story is a retelling of Marie de France’s classic Medieval Romance.

New Blurb:

 “I am the last survivor of the noble family of Trigoff…This is my confession.” A tale of knights, castles, maidens and werewolves set in Medieval France at the height of the Hundred Years War.

What happens when the man you thought would protect you is more than a man? When another suitor comes calling would stand by your werewolf husband or be tempted to seek protection against the dangers of the wild forest elsewhere?

This historical fantasy short story is a retelling of Marie de France’s classic Medieval Romance Bisclavret.

What do you think are these better? Do you think they will help the short stories sell better?

With Bisclavret I wasn’t sure whether to keep the quotation in there or not?

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Self-publishing Pros and Cons – Introductory Post

The idea of self-publishing for an aspiring writer is a very seductive one. The appeal is that you can miss out the difficult process of getting an agent and editor interested in your work before unleashing it on the reading public. Instead readers can be marketed to directly by you as an author as soon as you have produced a piece of work that you’re happy with. The act of creating your own book is fairly straight-forward, the most difficult part is probably creating an appealing cover.

The immediacy of self-publishing is very appealing, as is the ability to circumvent the traditional demands of commercial publishers. In a busier, more competitive, marketplace publishers are more careful about what titles they sign up. In the old days an editor used to sign books that they hoped would sell, nowadays they want to publish books that they are (almost) certain will sell. This means that anything that doesn’t fit the mood of the current trends may be overlooked, as will anything that may require a bit more work for the publishing house – help with editing etc. many aspiring writers will therefore get rejected, and self-publishing can be a good outlet for them if they lack the persistence for the traditional route, but I also think that many are also going straight to self-publishing without bothering to submit elsewhere. When you hear stories of million of sales of ebooks for self-published authors the appeal can be hard to ignore.

But is self-publishing really the best option for an aspiring writer? In a series of blog posts I will be exploring the pros and cons of self-publishing in more depth.

Currently I have dabbled with self-publishing, using it to publish short stories that I have found difficult to place elsewhere. I generally feel most of my stories are too mass-market for many publications, so it felt ok to do this. However, for the novel that I am working on I am planning to attempt the traditional route.

My first post on self-publishing pros and cons will discuss earnings potential.

Spotted Another Historical Inaccuracy in Azincourt by Bernard Cornewell

Elevation at the final doxology of the Euchari...
Elevation at the final doxology of the Eucharistic Prayer in a Mass celebrated by a single priest (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Got to the end of Azincourt by Bernard Cornwell today. It was a good read, although I found that his efforts to explain certain things about this iconic battle in English history did obscure the storytelling – he seemed to be trying a bit too hard to show how certain things happen – i.e. this is how such a small English army beat such a big French one. A good read, but I wonder if it could have been better – a bit more naturally told somehow?

In my last post about Azincourt

I mentioned an historical inaccuracy regarding the Bishop of Oxford. Well right at the end I spotted another one – this time there is a priest who offers to say two masses in one day – however, a priest is only ever allowed to say one mass a day except in special circumstances.

I guess I shouldn’t be too picky though – I am sure my own work contains just as many mistakes, but these two did jump out at me!

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Demon River now free on Amazon for a limited time only

Until the end of Monday my short story Demon River will be free for download to the Kindle.

Demon River on Amazon US
Demon River on Amazon UK

Set in a fantasy world of dark magic, Benetus, the King’s chancellor, fears the return of a rival he had thought banished from court. Benetus turns to the help of demons to rid himself of his enemy. But things are not always as they seem in the spirit world.

“Recently I had even felt the beginnings of optimism. After years of cloud and storm, the sun had broken through and I could at last bask in the success that I deserved. After all, who else now stood between me and the ear of the King?”

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Amazon Author Central – possible improvements

I use Amazon and other ebook distribution services to self-publish some of my short stories (I am planning
to use a traditional publisher though for novels if what I am writing is good enough), and also for publishing issues of Alt Hist and Fantasy Short Stories.

Amazon has a service called Author Central, which allows you to provide more information about yourself (here’s my humble page), feeds from your blog or twitter profile, and also check on details of your books, their sales rankings and reviews by customers. That’s all quite interesting and sometimes useful, but I do find myself wondering about how readers interact with this information.

I would like to know:

    How many views my Author page gets
    What happens after people view the page?
    How many people see something compelling enough to click through to a title and which titles do they look at
    On a related note, I would love to know number of kindle ebook sample downloads for my titles, or the number of clicks on the search inside feature. Again I’m interested in knowing what sort of engagement there is with my titles.

If you’re an author using Amazon Author Central, what would you like to see added?

Bernard Cornwell Guilty of Historical Inaccuracy in Azincourt?

Azincourt (novel)
Azincourt (novel) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I am currently reading Azincourt by Bernard Cornwell and absolutely loving it. Azincourt is a nice easy and pleasurable page-turner told in the usual style of Bernard Cornwell – the historical content is fairly light and the characters are very immediate, not to complex but with enough empathy to keep the reader interested in the story.

And of course its about the great battle of Agincourt (or Azincourt) during the Hundred Years War, a battle that I have read a fair bit about and one that I have some quite strong opinions on – i.e. that the contribution of our archers wasn’t as key as some people like to make out – the men-at-arms and the mud were the key players in my opinion. So I wanted to see how Bernard Cornwell treated the portrayal of the battle. At the moment I am reading his depiction of the siege of Harfleur, which he does very well – effectively a medieval siege was like trench warfare and that is well depicted in Azincourt.

There was one jarring moment of disappointment and surprise for me though earlier in the book. A priest is describing his time at Oxford University and how he used to visit a brothel there – all fine and accurate so far. In fact this priest visited the brothel so often that he became a regular acquaintance of the Bishop of Oxford, who was also a regular customer of the same brothel.

But … there was no Bishop of Oxford. No bishop existed in Oxford until the reign of Henry VIII in the sixteenth century. Oxford was part of the huge diocese of Lincoln at the time. When I read this passage in Azincourt it was one of those moments where I simply had to put down the book and do a fact check. Having done a fair bit of research on the University of Oxford for my novel Hell has its Demons, I thought it odd that I hadn’t come across a Bishop of Oxford – such a figure would have held great sway over the interaction of the town and the University I thought – instead the Chancellor of the University was probably the most important clerk around time at this point.

Lessons to be learnt? Even the best novelists make mistakes, and always check your facts even if they seem self-evident – i.e. that a place as prominent as Oxford would be assured to have a Bishop.

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Current writing activities

Here’s a quick update on what I’m up to at the moment:

A first edit of my novel Hell has its Demons. The first two chapters will be up at Critters towards the end of June for critiquing, and probably also on OWW soon as well.

Publishing the fourth issue of Alt Hist Issue 4.

Also recently published the first issue of Fantasy Short Stories with the first author interview now live on the site as well.