Wednesday, 30 July 2014

The Tainted Crown is Officially Released!!!

The Tainted Crown: The First Book of Caledan is officially on sale! Woohoo! You can find it on Amazon in print format, in the Amazon Kindle Store, in the Kobo eStore and the Nook eStore.

Don't forget, the book is launching with promotional pricing until 6th August - up to 50% off list price! 

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Save the date - Twitter launch party for The Tainted Crown on 31 July!


To celebrate the launch of my book The Tainted Crown on Thursday 31st July, there'll be a launch party on Twitter! You can join me on Twitter between 8pm and 9pm BST (7-8pm GMT) using the hashtag #taintedcrown in your tweets to join the chat and Twitter's nifty search feature to keep track of the conversation.

The launch won't just be about The Tainted Crown, however - it's an opportunity for avid readers and writers alike to come together to celebrate good fiction, meet likeminded people and share a great evening.

There'll be prizes too for those attending - I'll be giving away free ebook copies of The Tainted Crown, and if enough join the chat, one lucky winner will get their hands on a signed, first edition print copy - absolutely free!

I hope to see you there!


Monday, 21 July 2014

The Tainted Crown - 10 Days Until Release - Chapter 3 Revealed!

It's now only 10 days until The Tainted Crown is released, so to celebrate, I'm releasing Chapter 3!

I hope you enjoy!



Chapter 3

Midmorning sunlight streamed into the small clearing where they had slept. It was late spring, the fifth month of the year, and the sound of animal and insect life could be heard in all directions. This place was far from any of the man-made roads that linked the hubs of civilisation together: on any other day, a tranquil haven.
Soren awoke, disorientated and groaning at the stiffness of his body. He was surprised to find Edmund nearby in deep concentration, attending to something on a small smokeless fire. Soren took half a breath, about to question why Edmund had joined his hunting trip, when he recalled the previous day’s events.
Edmund turned at the sound of his movement and met his measured glare.
“Your Majesty.” Edmund addressed him formally. Soren opened his mouth to reply, pausing in surprise as he registered what Edmund had called him.
“Your Majesty?” Soren questioned, unsettled by the apprehension he saw in Edmund’s eyes. “I’m ‘Your Royal Highness’, no more,” he said, but he knew Edmund would not have said it mistakenly. “Explain yourself.”
“It pains me to inform you thus.” Edmund gestured at their surroundings. He stalled, mouth gaping as though he could not find the words. “Your mother has passed away, God rest her soul.”
“Impossible,” Soren said, but he knew the strange events of the night before would not have been without dire cause. Soren tried to frown, but his face had frozen. “I saw her yesterday - she was well.”
“I saw her… body… with my own eyes.” Edmund rubbed his hand across his face, dragging tears away from his eyes.
Soren could not move; his head held a thousand questions and yet emptiness.
“You want to know what happened,” Edmund said, “but you do not know how to begin asking. Am I correct, sire?”
Soren nodded, still not believing him.
“Then I will start where I must; at the beginning...” said the older man. “Forgive me; I do not wish to cause you pain, but I will not lie to you. Your uncle Zaki has been moving in shaded circles. I am sure you have noticed his repeated attempts to disrupt your grandfather’s peace treaty with the southern countries. Your mother thought little of it, believing him simply to be disagreeable at times, but to my mind he is too sly.
“I set a watch upon him although your mother disagreed with my actions, believing not a bad word against him. Only my long and trusted relationship in her council led her to accept my wishes. I am thankful that even though for her in the end it was all for nothing, you are saved for the kingdom.”
Edmund paused for breath, whilst Soren stared at him, silent. “We watched him for many cycles of the moon; his comings and goings and visits and visitors. All for nought, it seemed, until one day he met with an esquire of his wife’s father. King Harad has ever sought to add us to his growing kingdoms, even since your mother pledged Zaki to Demara. She intended it as a sign of our allegiance and equality but not of our submission.
“Nevertheless, Harad realises how close he is to Caledan’s throne and he is an ambitious man; well matched to Zaki it would seem. The esquire left behind some correspondence, which your uncle failed to dispose of quickly enough by his own hand and our eyes within his household procured this for me at great personal danger. I could not believe my eyes, reading of the king’s wishes to subvert Caledan so that Zaki may gain the throne and cause Caledan’s royal bloodline to fall into Harad’s lineage.
“Harad means to send men under his banners immediately after Zaki gains the throne to ensure success, though no details of how Zaki would achieve this were laid out. I took this straight to your mother, presuming as always her swift action would curtail his treacherous plan, but her denial was total; she could not comprehend the depths of his treachery. Who would believe their own brother capable of such a thing?”
“And what then?” the young man questioned in a low voice; hardly daring to ask as he averted his eyes. “When was this? I had heard nothing... I understood that uncle held the old views that women should not inherit, if only to further his own prospects but surely he wasn’t so evil as to act upon it?” Soren shook his head in a daze.
“My apologies sire,” Edmund said. “This occurred only yesterday. I had to act with utmost haste and took the letter straight to your mother as I could not be sure Zaki would not miss it.
“She commanded me to leave her. I rallied the high council, warning them that we would most likely need to swiftly secure the throne now events had progressed apace. I presumed she would ask for your council, or others, but I did not realise you were absent until much later.
“After that, things blur. I called the Royal Guard to arms in secret, in case there was need of their help, but I believe Zaki must have had huge support from some of the council members and their retinues. As your mother summoned him to her chambers that afternoon I presume to reassure herself this could not possibly be true, it was clear he had done the same with his own men. They rose too quickly for it to be otherwise. He must have decided that then was the time to act.
“I hastened back to your mother’s chambers, begging her to let me sit in on the meet, to protect her, but she would hear no word of it with her guards and attendants already about her. She sent me away and all I could do was urge the head of the guard to join me to protect her. I did not realise she would call him to her, alone. By the time we returned, it was too late. Her chambers were empty and Zaki was gone.”
“And my mother?” Soren breathed with dread. “Tell me,” he said when Edmund met his gaze with a horror Soren had never before seen there.
Edmund licked his lips nervously before he continued. “She was already dead,” Edmund said as tears rolled down his cheeks. Soren gazed at him, feeling numb.
“How?” Soren forced himself to ask.
“A blow to the head.”
She was clubbed to death like a badger. Soren could not comprehend it and instead she sprang into his mind’s eye, smiling at him as he had seen her last before his departure on the ill-fated hunting trip.
“There was no time to care for her,” Edmund said, as Soren listened with a morbid fascination, still unable to connect Edmund’s words to his mother. “Caledan, perhaps now more than ever in recent years, stands on a knife-edge. I could not find either you or your sister; alas I feared the worst.
“Your sister, dear sweet Irumae, was already gone when I reached her chambers. It was clear that there had been a struggle but the fact there was no body or blood heartens me. We can only pray that she is safe, but with you alive and free, Caledan has hope.”
Edmund looked up, but did not meet Soren’s eye. Instead his eyes glazed over, unseeing, seeming to speak to himself. “So many others have passed. The fighting in the great hall was violence and brutality, as I have never seen the men of our Kingdom commit. What should have been friend sat with friend feasting and laughing was foe against foe cutting down man after man in a great gash of blood. This was a trap, waiting to spring into action. Every traitorous man knew his orders. I saw council member after council member loyal to the crown mobbed and cut down, whatever the cost in lives, so that their voices were silenced.
“I can only guess at the outcomes that this may have on Caledan. I cannot imagine what plans Zaki must have to explain this to his advantage.”

Sunday, 13 July 2014

The Tainted Crown - Promotional Launch Pricing

The Tainted Crown will be launching on 31 July 2014 with a promotional offer on ebook pricing, where you can receive up to 50% off the full price ebook!

The offer will run for the first week of publication, between 31 July and 6 August.

You can preorder on Kobo now, or snap up your copy for just 99p, $1.99 or €1.49 on Kindle and Nook between the above dates (other currencies also available).

Don't forget, whilst you're waiting for release, you can also read chapters 1 and 2 here.

Bye for now,


Friday, 11 July 2014

The Tainted Crown - 20 Days Until Release - Chapter 2 Revealed!

It's now only 20 days until The Tainted Crown is released, so to celebrate, I'm releasing Chapter 2!

I hope you enjoy!



The Tainted Crown: The First Book of Caledan

Chapter 2


“Seize him!” The three men raced towards Soren, weapons drawn and battle cries ringing in their throats.

The prince froze beneath the portcullis. His bow lay uselessly unstrung and lashed to his saddle. Soren struggled to draw his blade, assailants almost upon him, when a fierce cry behind them announced the presence of another. They turned away for a fatal moment of distraction.

“Prince Soren!” the mounted figure’s voice echoed through his helmet as he charged towards the fray.

 Soren moved automatically despite his confusion, unsheathing his sword as his mount plunged forward and slashing the first man’s side as his horse kicked out in the close confines, stunning the second. Before the third could react, the stranger had dispatched him, stabbing the second who lay dazed on the floor, just as Soren cut down the first. The stranger removed his helm to reveal the sweaty, battle-stained face of the queen’s chief advisor.

“Sir Edmund!” exclaimed Soren, keeping his dripping sword ready. His horse pranced, nostrils flaring and mouth frothing. “These men wear the mark of House Varan; what’s the meaning of this? Whoa Miri. Calm, girl.” He tried to soothe the agitated mare beneath him with shaking hands as his heart pounded erratically.

“We must leave. Now,” said Edmund, but the prince did not move. “Do you trust me?” Edmund pressed, leaning forward in his saddle. Soren nodded. “Then do as I say. Ride with me now!" He urged his horse into a canter through the gate.

“What’s happened? What of my family?” called the boy after the man, but Edmund did not reply save to press his stallion harder. Soren dug his heels into Miri to keep apace, asking again, but to no success.

“Why do you return so early from the hunt? Where are your guard?” Edmund asked the prince grimly as they rode through the secluded grounds.

 “A boar gored Sir Hark’s son, so we abandoned the hunt to see him safely home. My guards took him to the healing houses.” Soren would have grimaced at the memory, but the sight of his friend with half his thigh hanging loose paled into insignificance. Instead of the boy’s agonised face, the man he had just killed sprang into his mind, his eyes full of pain, hate, and determination as he dropped to the ground, life fading. I just killed a man… but he was trying to kill me. Both concepts were incomprehensible to Soren.

“Well thank the heavens you arrived not a moment sooner or later,” replied Edmund, distracting Soren. “Fate delivered you to my hands today."

Through the landscaped trees, the perimeter wall of the castle grounds came into view. Here, the wall that eventually joined Pandora’s great city walls was a mere ten feet tall and four feet thick, defended more by the precipice beyond it than its own strength. 

Edmund jumped down from his horse with an agility belying his age - Soren had never seen the fifty year old move with such speed. To Soren’s astonishment, Edmund began to scrabble at the ivy that grew in vast quantities along the wall, sweeping it aside and ripping it from the wall in bunches. Soren began to wonder if he had been right to trust Edmund without question, but before the thought could materialise Edmund turned around with a frantic expression.

“Come help! We must find the door.” Edmund wandered along the wall as he searched through the ivy. Soren frowned to himself, but brushing aside his bafflement, dismounted to help.

“Aha!” The discovery came before Soren could begin. Metal rattled, wood clunked and the rusty lock screeched as Edmund threw his weight backwards to pull the heavy wooden door open. “Come! Follow me.” Edmund made to lead his horse by the bridle through the wall but Soren seized his forearm.

“I just killed a man!” Soren exclaimed. “A man wearing colours loyal to the throne, yet trying to harm me... Why?”

“I will explain, but I cannot now. Please, come with me; it is not safe for you here. I will beg you if I must,” Edmund implored.

Soren released him, surprised at the fervour from the usually taciturn man. “What of my family?”

“I will explain.” Edmund beckoned him again as Soren faced him, uncertain. “Trust me.”

Soren considered the unwavering faith his mother placed in Edmund. He was swayed by that, but it was with a sinking heart and growing unease that Soren followed Edmund through the gate.

It was a perilous climb down the cliffs in the fading light; impossible but for the narrow ledge that guided men and horses down. Soren was distracted from the blood - someone else’s - that speckled the hem of his fine jacket by Miri, who had to be coaxed, pushed and shoved almost all the way down. The horses skittered on the narrow track, taking fright every time their passage dislodged small scatterings of stones that cascaded down the precipice to their side.

Every time the horses balked, Soren’s heart leapt into his mouth, fearing that he would be pushed off the path, but before the sun had fully set they reached the ground. Edmund wasted no time in mounting, warning Soren to take care on the uneven ground. Soren mumbled with dull acquiescence. The descent had been excruciatingly slow and he was tiring after his intense day.

At least we have time, for tonight, to travel slowly,” Edmund said. “No one will seek us here.” But, over the drumming hooves, Soren did not hear.

Two leagues to the north lay the dark bulk of woodlands that Edmund made for. As the cooler shade of the tree canopy enveloped them, their shadowy figures melted into the forest, the thick cover claustrophobic in contrast to the open, rolling knolls they had just left. Soren halted Miri. Edmund reined in his own mount, glancing back.

Framed by the trees on the fringes of the forest were the vast expanse of water, silver in the moonlight, to Soren’s right, the sweeping plains to his left. In between lay the great hill upon which the city of Pandora stood, a huge bulk in the darkness covered with pinpricks of light. Nothing seemed amiss. The night was tranquil. Soren followed Edmund to be swallowed by the forest.

They rode until Soren was lost in the dark. The older man had been silent for hours and rode so fast that Soren was forced to push Miri to her limits, despite his worry that she would stumble and lame herself on a stray root or rock. Soren wondered at Edmund’s urgency, but he was to exhausted to question him. Instead, when they stopped in a hollow at the base of a rocky outcrop, he dumped Miri’s saddle and bags onto the floor, turned her loose, and slumped against a tree, snoring.

The Tainted Crown - Kobo Preorder Now Open

You can now preorder your ebook copy of The Tainted Crown on Kobo! Click here, or the image above, to be taken to the book's page. You can take advantage of not only Kobo's preorder feature, but also the promotional launch pricing!

Don't worry if you don't have a Kobo ereader - the book will also be released on 31 July 2014 on Kindle and Nook (preorders unavailable on these devices).

If you'd like to get your hands on a paper copy, the book will also be released in print on 31 July 2014. Lots of choices!


Thursday, 3 July 2014

How to publish on Createspace - the process explained, with screenshots

Hi all!

Hope you're well. Big moment today for The Tainted Crown - I just ordered the paperback proof copy. Exciting times! I should have it in the next week. I thought anyway that I would post about using Amazon Createspace, the print on demand service I chose to publish my paperback with.

I won't go into the pros and cons of all print on demand services - I compared several, and for my needs, Createspace just edged out in front of the others. Instead, I want to share the process with you from an inside view - I had no idea what it looked like before I tried it and I really would have liked to, so I do hope this is useful. :-)

(n.b. these snapshots have just been taken - after the process - but the interface is much the same as before, only it tells me if I need to make changes I'll have to reproof everything. Click any image for the large version).

So first of all after signing up for Createspace and creating a new title, you start off with this entire checklist of various things needing attention (below). You can see that now most of the options are nice green ticks, which means I've addressed them. :-)

When you start the process, it just takes you through these in order, so it's very easy to follow. You can save and leave at any point (which I did) to come back and find all your information saved.

 First, you input the basic information about the book (below). After this point you can input/be assigned your ISBN number, which I'm keeping under wraps for now ;-)

After this, you choose what size your book will be, what paper type (white/cream - cream is better for fiction, white for nonfiction), and input your text file (below). Createspace has an amazing interior reviewer that also highlights errors - for example I received "You have 2 errors in this file". It tells you what the error is and where in the book it is.

So for example the two I received were in relation to non-embedded fonts (that I'd used for my chapter headers) not being used properly (I had to embed them in word and reupload the file - easy fix), and then the map of Caledan I'd placed was outside the idea area of the book (which was intentional, so again, easy fix, but if not, I could have easily resized the image and reuploaded the text file).

Really really easy to use fantastic tool - you can see some snapshots below in the proof reviewer which is almost identical, just without the error warnings and with the cover image. I ended up uploading about 5 versions in the end, having to make a couple of tweaks and just seeing what worked best.

After the text file has been uploaded and reviewed it's time for the cover - which can be matte or laminate in finish. Now they do have a cover creator, where you use their premade covers and edit them to your liking, but if I'm honest, they looked really shoddy in quality so I opted to keep my own. That meant I needed to create an exactly sized print ready PDF file.

My book was 8" tall x 5.25". My bookspine, at 460 cream pages, would be 1.15" wide (yes you have to work this out but it's not so bad once you get your head around what they're asking for!) Around each edge you need a bleed of 0.125". So total file height needs to be:

0.125" + 8" + 0.125" = 8.25"

Total file width is the bleed on either edge, plus the width of the back cover, spine and front cover, so:

0.125" + 5.25" + 1.15" + 5.25" + 0.125" = 11.9"

Createspace create a really handy template that I was able to use to double check my file as I was preparing it (below). You do have to uncheck/delete/hide the template once you save your file for upload... otherwise your book cover will be printed out with the template guidelines too! What you upload is exactly what's printed on your book.

The template (which you custom generate based on your book specs)
My book cover - with template superimposed.

My book cover - without the template superimposed.
After uploading all this, it's time for a file review! Createspace take up to 24 hours to review your file to check it's ok for printing (though I have no idea whether this is checked by humans, robots, monkeys or unicorns) and after this you can proof via the interior reviewer again, or by ordering a proof copy - I've done both.

The proof copy by the fastest shipping method will take about a week (2 days shipping + 5 days estimated printing time.... this is really important to remember with createspace... whatever shipping option you pick doesn't include printing time.... even the 31 day option! That proof would have reached me in mid August... a bit late!)

Here's some photos of the virtual proofing tool Createspace offer - again, almost identical to the earlier file reviewer.

Just like reading a real book! ... Only not haha. It looks good, anyway. You can check absolutely every detail of every page which is fantastic. I've ordered a proof to be safe rather than sorry - everything looks fine on the screen, but you never know.

Whilst you're waiting for the proof to be approved, you can set up your distribution channels and pricing (below). Expanded distribution used to cost, but as it's now free, you might as well tick those options too. This has no impact on the minimum price/cost price of the book in GBP and Euro. If you remove the expanded distribution option, the minimum USD list price reduces to $10.32, that's all. So really, as there's no way to reduce costs in the GBP and Euro markets, you might as well use expanded distribution.

For pricing, Createspace helpfully list the cost price of each book (below). This is the price it costs to make and distribute your book and you can't set the list price below that amount (as, if you did, you'd be paying Amazon instead of them paying you for every sale!). As you can see, because of the size of the book, my list prices are very high.

It's cheaper for me to buy my own copies and sell them ($6.39/copy /or roughly £3.87 + shipping which makes the cost price to me between £5-7), however the number 1 golden rule of self publishing is DON'T sink money into buying hundreds/thousands/*insert ridiculous number of copies here* of your book. They simply won't shift (unless you can procure a miracle).

That's the beauty of print on demand services - someone wants, they receive, you get paid - you have no hassle. No stress tying to sell all your books to make sure you can pay the bills or whatever. The downside is that... well.. you can see the difference in prices.

You can see, if I set those list prices (which are based on a UK list price of £9.99 to cover costs, multiplied up at the current USD and EU Euro exchange rates) just how little actually comes back to me. As a Createspace author, you get a % of whatever the list prices is AFTER deducting the production/distribution costs.
The market is heavily weighted towards US authors/readers as Createspace is a US business. So sell more in the US, make more, essentially. But it's not so favourable in the UK and Europe (yet). Hopefully that will change and I can lower my list prices.
Ultimately I don't expect many sales of the paperback. However, it looks good to have a paperback copy out - more professional, and it makes the ebooks more competitively priced when compared to the print book's list price. Also, for those who are hardcore paper fans, there's the option there - they're not forced to ebooks/forced not read the book.
Plus it means I can also have copies of my own book (ok, there's a little vanity involved!), and give these way to both family/friends and potential readers/reviewers/movers and shakers in the indie publishing world. It can open a world of possibilities.

That's really it, anyway! I hope you enjoyed this, I hope you found it informative, and I would love to hear your thoughts on anything about indie publishing, createspace, print on demand, and so on!

Ciao for now,



Just an update on this post. I ordered proof copy #1 on Thursday morning at 8am. By 2pm it had been printed and shipped. Very impressed! Unfortunately, their 2 day shipping is 2 business days, so it didn't arrive until Monday, but considering it was printed in the US and I'm in the UK, it's still a pretty fast turnaround as it was in my local depot by Saturday morning at 7am!

In any case, the proof was exceptionally helpful. The interior text needed a little fixing - the line spacing was just too big (which you can't tell - or I couldn't - by using the interior reviewers). The same was true for the back cover blurb - too big, too spaced out and too close to the margins/edge of the cover. I fixed those, resubmitted the files and reordered a proof.

Proof #2 was ordered the following Thursday morning after Proof #1 at 7am. By 9am (yes, seriously, how the heck do they manage this!?) it was printed and shipped. Fingers crossed it arrives Monday!

So yes. Definitely buy a physical proof copy! It's much better to see things in person than on the PC screen, despite the awesomeness of their interior reviewer! 

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

The Tainted Crown - 30 Days Until Release - Chapter 1 Preview!

It's now only 30 days until the release of The Tainted Crown: The First Book of Caledan!

To celebrate, I'm releasing chapters 1, 2 and 3 before the release. So, without further ado, here's chapter 1! I hope you enjoy.



The Tainted Crown: The First Book of Caledan

Chapter 1


Zaki struck Naisa from behind without mercy, flinching at the sickening crunch of metal upon bone. She dropped to the floor with an exclamation of surprise and pain cut short. Breathing heavily as he raised the candelabra for another blow, Zaki stood over her, but he stayed his hand. She lay stunned, her legs trapped and tangled in dress folds as bright blood oozed from her head.

“It’s true,” she tried to say, but her mouth would not obey her and he heard only a moan. Tears slid from the corners of her eyes, soaking into her hair and mingling with her blood.

Zaki lowered the candelabra and it fell from his hand with a dull thump onto the carpet as he watched her dispassionately.

“It had to be this way, sister.” This is your own fault Naisa. You rushed me to this. I would have paid for a clean death for you.

He couldn’t be sure whether he spoke to himself, to her, or to nobody. Naisa moaned again, but it was fainter this time. He only had to wait a few minutes before she stilled. He leaned closer. No breath. No pulse.

Zaki kicked the candelabra out of his path and strode from the room, pausing to close the door on his way out. He need not have bothered. Naisa’s rooms were devoid of servants and guards, as he had arranged. Whilst Pandora city bustled outside, his men were silencing the rest of the castle with every pace he took.

“Long live King Zaki,” he murmured to himself, savouring the sound of it.

Standing upon the dais that evening, Zaki surveyed the crowd of battle-stained men before him.

“You may report,” Zaki commanded, trying not to gag at the stench of sweat and worse things. “Sir Loren, begin.” Zaki drummed his fingers on his folded arms with impatience and nerves, hoping for good news.

“The west guard folded, Your Royal Highness. The south guard are ours and the east guard caused us great losses but we subdued them,” Sir Loren recited.

“Their losses?”

“Heavy. At least half. A quarter more captured. The rest surrendered.”

“Good. Imprison them all. Those who prove loyal may return to service. Our losses?”

“Not so heavy as theirs, as we had the element of surprise and more men than they.”

“Good. Next?” He spoke to each general in turn, his smile growing. Pandora was his already; his main enemies were mostly dead and only pockets of resistance remained within the castle. For the most part it seemed, the civilians remained oblivious to the chaos there.

“What of the traitor? Where is Soren?” Zaki asked last of all. The hall fell silent. “Where is he? One of you must have found him by now,” he insisted. No answer came. “Damn it! The boy has killed our queen and you have not yet found him?” he shouted. Few looked back with knowing faces; but then few were trusted with the truth.

Lord Argyle spoke. “My son informs me that His Roya- the traitor may be in the royal wood.”

“Then, Lord Argyle, I suggest you and your son gather some men and go and search there for him,” Zaki said through gritted teeth. Do these dolts have no ingenuity? “Reynard, join them.” Zaki named a man he knew he could trust to accompany them. “As for the rest of you, search harder! Hunt him down! I care not if he lives or dies; find him!”

The hall teemed with bodies scattering at his command as his retinue fell into place behind him with a snap of his fingers. “Again; we’ll search the castle again. I’m not about to pin everything on Argyle’s word. Do we have the girl?”

“Aye, sir,” a man replied.

“Keep her out of the way.”