Questions upon questions for #WIPpet Wednesday

The writing continues to go well, 5200 new words total last week on various projects. I also made some more dents in my goals, and on Monday I started a series of articles on my blog for beginning indie authors. You can read the first one here. In connection with the blog posts about self-publishing, I have also decided to declare Mondays my official marketing day, so that I will finally get back to actually trying to sell my books again. Wish me luck. :)

On to WIPpet Wednesday. Today I’m giving you the final section of the scene where Taliesin and Kustennin have been led into Cerdic’s presence, following directly after the excerpt I gave you last week. It’s about 30 sentences, if I counted right, thus 23 + 7 for today’s date:

Kustennin stared at her, wondering where she got her powers. It was clear that Cerdic had none, or else he would not need his daughter’s assistance, so they must come from her Saxon mother. But he knew so little about Saxon religion, magic, culture. He would have to rectify that — it did not do to be ignorant regarding your enemies.
“Are we now free to play our songs in your city, Lord?” Taliesin asked.
Cerdic nodded. “But see to it you sing no more songs of Arthur.”
“I have one of the rebel hero Medraut,” Kustennin said. “Would you like to hear that?”
“You sing songs both of Arthur and Medraut?” Cerdic said, laughing. “Are you not aware they were enemies?”
Taliesin shrugged. “Art is promiscuous. To me they are all stories, Lord.”
Still laughing, Cerdic waved them away. “Go, sing your songs and earn your bread, bard. I think you will find the people of Venta generous.”
“Thank you.” Taliesin bowed, and the rest of them followed suit. “Is there anyone besides Arthur who I should not sing of?”
“No, just Arthur.”
“Very good, Lord.”
They left Cerdic’s hall, and stepped out into the autumn sunshine. Nearby, several city blocks had been cleared of whatever Roman buildings had once stood there, and bearded warriors with Saxon round shields and long spears battled against each other, their grunts and the sounds of their clashing weapons filling the air.
“Do not tarry too long,” Taliesin murmured in his ear.
Kustennin nodded shortly, watching the warriors at practice surreptitiously as he followed the bard with the rest of their party. While part of his mind tallied the number of warriors and analyzed their probable experience and strength, another was still concerned with Nerienda and the mystery of why she had covered for them. Why would she want Kustennin in her debt? Perhaps she had not been a willing pawn in her father’s ambitious schemes after all?

Roman wall in Winchester
Part of the Roman wall in Winchester, with the River Itchen in the foreground

WIPpet Wednesday is the brain child of K. L. Schwengel. If you’d like to participate, post an excerpt from your WIP on your blog, something that relates to the date in some way. Then add your link here — where you can also read the other excerpts.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 12 Comments

Starting out as an indie author: preparing your manuscript for ebook retailers

A dear friend of mine recently got the rights back to a novel she published some time ago, and she is now nearly ready to brave the waters of indie publishing with it. Many of the questions she had, however, were not things that I immediately and / or spontaneously had answers to. So I promised her I would try to organize what knowledge I had in a series of blog posts. Of course, my experience is not exhaustive, but I hope it will help others as a starting point for getting their books out there.

Ebook format

The most common format required when submitting an ebook to online distributors is EPUB. There are many different ways of creating epub files for ebooks, and this list naturally only includes a few of the many available options. The prices for the various programs are as of July 2014.

1) Scrivener – This is what I use. It is extremely simple to create an epub file with Scrivener — all you have to do is compile your manuscript as epub. Scrivener has the added advantage that it’s also a great writing tool. Windows $40, Mac $45 (more features). More on compiling epubs with Scrivener here:

- Youtube Tutorial

- Scrivener: The Ultimate Guide to Exporting Ebooks (Kindle, ePub, etc.)

- Note: If you’re starting from a fully formatted DOC or DOCX file, rather than a file you have been writing in Scrivener, you need to divide the file up into sections at each chapter (Ctrl+K) and make sure the compile options in the meta-data pane are all checked (Include in Compile, Page Break Before, Include As-Is).

2) Mobi Pocket Creator – I tried this long ago but never had much luck. Others swear by it though — and it’s FREE. :)

3) Atlantis – Atlantis is a word processing program that will also compile documents as ebooks. Worked pretty well for me when I tested it a while back, but I did lose some formatting. It also has the disadvantage that it is yet another word processing program, of which I have too many already. $35

5) Jutoh – I haven’t tried it, but check out this discussion for a lot of rave reviews. $39

6) Sigil – I have no experience with the actual conversion to ebook with Sigil, but I do use it for testing the epub format of the files created by Scrivener. FREE

7) Calibre – I have not used this method, but a tutorial can be found here. FREE

Whatever method you use, it is important to validate your epub file before you upload it. You can do that here.

Formats accepted by various distributors

While ePub is the most common format required for ebook publication, a number of retailers also accept other formats. Here a list of some of the most important, including guidelines and my experience (if any):

Amazon – KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing)

Formats accepted:
Word (DOC or DOCX)
HTML (ZIP, HTM, or HTML)
MOBI (MOBI)
ePub (EPUB)
Rich Text Format (RTF)
Plain Text (TXT)
Adobe PDF (PDF)
Guidelines: https://kdp.amazon.com/help?topicId=A2MB3WT2D0PTNK
My experience: When I first experimented with publishing to Amazon, I uploaded a DOC file, since that was what I needed for the aggregator Smashwords. (I will talk about Smashwords and Draft2Detail in more detail in my next Indie Beginners post.) It was a mess. Luckily, soon thereafter Scrivener added the ePub compile option to their Windows version, and I haven’t had a problem with Amazon uploads since, with the exception of a bug with the Kindle Paperwhite a while back. I talked about that here.

Barnes&Noble – NOOK Press

Formats accepted: Word, HTML, Text, ePub
Guidelines: https://www.nookpress.com/support
My experience: After my experience with a Word file with KDP, the only file type I have uploaded to B&N is ePub. From what I can see on the Barnes and Noble store, my books there look fine. One problem with B&N for many writers is that it is so US-centric. For a long time, you could only publish if you had a US address and bank account. They have since expanded to the UK, France, Italy, Germany, Spain, The Netherlands, and Belgium. Nonetheless, that still leaves out many writers who have to find other means to publish there, such as through Smashwords or Draft2Digital.

Kobo – Kobo Writing Life

Formats accepted: .epub, .doc, docx, .mobi, .odt
Guidelines: http://download.kobobooks.com/learnmore/writinglife/KWL-Content-Conversion-Guidelines.pdf
My experience: I have only uploaded ePub files to Kobo, but that works fine. I sell next to nothing through Kobo, however, which makes me wonder if I should switch my books to an aggregator to earn the minumum amount for royalties to be paid out more quickly.

iTunes

Formats accepted: Only files uploaded through iTunes Producer
Guidelines: http://www.apple.com/itunes/working-itunes/sell-content/books/book-faq.html
My experience: None. I do not use a Mac, and since ebooks for iTunes can only be submitted through the submission app, iTunes Producer (requires OS X 10.8 or later), I have to rely on an aggregator. For authors with more serious sales, it might be worth it to buy a Mac just to be able to submit to the store yourself (and not give up the ~10% of your profits that aggregators take), but for me it is definitely not worth it at this time.

Google Play – Google Books

Formats accepted: PDF
Guidelines: https://support.google.com/books/partner/answer/166501?hl=en
My experience: None. I’m still wary of Google Play because of their policy of randomly discounting books. Lindsay Buroker has a good summary of why authors should still be careful about publishing to Google Play here.
I may eventually try and experiment with one or two of my short stories or collections that don’t sell all that well. That way, a deep discount and a price match by Amazon would not be a big loss of revenue. Naturally, if I do so, I will blog about that too. :)

For my next post in the Indie Beginners series, I intend to blog about aggregators (Draft2Digital and Smashwords), how you use them, and why you might want to.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Kindle Unlimited: The Key Questions

Ruth Nestvold:

David Gaughran asks some great questions about Amazon’s new Kindle Unlimited — and seems to be just as undecided as I am. :)

Originally posted on David Gaughran:

amazon_kindle_unlimitedAmazon launched Kindle Unlimited on Friday, giving self-publishers a big decision to make.

The long-rumored subscription service will allow users to download unlimited books for $9.99 a month, and reader reaction has been, from what I can see, overwhelmingly positive – especially because they will be able to test the service with a month’s free trial. Writers have been a little more cautious, for all sorts of reasons I’ll try and tease out below.

The main stumbling block for self-publishers is that participation in Kindle Unlimited is restricted to titles enrolled in KDP Select – Amazon’s program which offers various additional marketing tools in exchange for exclusivity. Author compensation will be similar to borrows under the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library – a percentage of money from a fixed pool. The only real twist is that payment will be triggered when 10% of downloaded books have been read.

At the…

View original 2,006 more words

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Post-travel update and more from Taliesin for #WIPpet Wednesday

As a result of a week spent traveling around England, I’m a bit behind in my word count goals for the round so far. I’m shooting for 2500 words a week, and the first two weeks in July only added up to 4000 words total. But I’m confident that I can make make good on those missing words, especially since this week has started out so well — 1600 words total for Monday and Tuesday.

I also completed one of my goals and posted the reports from my trip to my blog. If you missed those and are curious, they begin here.

Now on to WIPpet Wednesday! I will continue where I left off in A Wasted Land two weeks ago, with Taliesin and Kustennin being led into the presence of Cerdic, a British war leader who has allied himself with the Saxons. Since today is the 16th, I give you 16 short paragraphs:

Kustennin tightened his hold on the strap of the drums he carried. That was the last thing they needed, someone who might uncover their magic and see through their illusion. They were relying on their special abilities to get them out of this expedition alive.
But Cerdic still leaned back on his elaborately carved chair several steps above them. Intertwining fantasy beasts competed with each other for dominance on the arm rests and the top of the wooden frame above Cerdic’s head, so different from the streamlined elegance of the furnishings in the villas and hill-forts where Kustennin had grown up.
Cerdic’s lips curled up in a hint of a smile. Despite the magic Taliesin had sensed, it appeared no one had betrayed them to him yet.
“Yes, and who am I?” Cerdic asked.
“The ruler of Venta?”
Laughter broke out in the hall.
“Well deduced, bard.” The near-smile disappeared, and Cerdic leaned forward, his elbows on his knees and his hands clasped. “I ask myself where you have been for the last few years, coming here with the songs you were singing in the market of Venta.”
Taliesin rubbed his chin. “Something tells me this is a trick question. I have been many places, Lord of Venta. For a time I was in the court of Maelgwn of Gwynedd, and that of his uncle, Owain of Rhos. I have also had the honor of playing for Morgan of Powys and his sons. Besides that, our troupe has played at markets all over Britain.”
Kustennin admired the way Taliesin mentioned only kings who had held themselves out of the recent wars and sent no fighting men to support Arthur in his nephew’s rebellion. The bard’s answer gave the lie to his implied claim to be ignorant of politics — on the contrary, it was proof of how well versed he was in the power structures of Britain.
Cerdic motioned to the tall redhead who had spoken to them at the market. “Nerienda, come forward, please.”
Nerienda? The woman was Cerdic’s daughter? Then they were surely lost. Kustennin recalled rumors of Nerienda losing her wits after her husband died fighting against her father. As that obviously was not the case, Kustennin could only presume that her marriage had been part of Cerdic’s plan all along, and she was his accomplice in increasing his power base.
She stepped up to Cerdic’s self-appointed throne. “Yes, father?”
“Does the bard tell truth?”
She bobbed her head. “He tells no lies, my father.”
She is the source of the magic, Taliesin whispered in his mind.
And she had just saved them. But why?
Nerienda turned and looked at him. To have you in my debt.

WIPpet Wednesday is the brain child of K. L. Schwengel. If you’d like to participate, post an excerpt from your WIP on your blog, something that relates to the date in some way. Then add your link here — where you can also read the other excerpts.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

Calleva / Silchester

Calleva / Roman Silchester

On Monday, my last day of sightseeing / research before heading off for the wedding festivities, I wasn’t quite sure if I should even attempt to see Calleva (Roman Silchester). The blister on my little toe hurt, and I was not looking forward to the prospect of hiking for miles along country lanes in search of old rocks. Maybe I should just head south to the coast, I thought, take a day off and just enjoy the seaside. I’d already seen plenty of sites for The Pendragon Chronicles, and I wasn’t even sure if I was going to use the setting of post-Roman Calleva in A Wasted Land.

But then, when would the next chance come along for me to try to find Calleva? So off I went to Basingstoke again.

And I am so glad I did. Wandering around in the middle of nowhere, I was a bit worried I’d headed off on a wild goose chase. Instead, I ended up getting a personal tour of an archeological dig. If I’d gotten the train I wanted the day before, my experience of Calleva would have been completely different. The dig only started the day I went, and I would have missed it. Talk about a lucky mistake!

For the average tourist, there isn’t much to see in Calleva, so it probably is no wonder that it’s not a big draw and is so hard to find. Walking from the Mortimer station, it took me longer to get there than Google Maps said — there were no signs anywhere, and I stopped and asked people a few times along the way. Apparently, the way from Bramley is better marked, so that would be the way to go, but Google Maps told me Mortimer was closer, so that’s the way I went.

After over an hour, I found the first sign to Roman Silchester, which led me to the former amphitheater outside of town.

Calleva / Roman Silchester
Roman amphitheater of Calleva

From there, I was finally able to find the still impressive remains of the Roman wall.

Calleva / Roman Silchester
Roman wall of Calleva

When I got to the path on the top, I could see what looked like a campsite in the opposite corner of the wide field. Other than that, the only residents of the former thriving Romano-British town were a bunch of cows.

Calleva / Roman Silchester
Present residents of Calleva

I knew there’d been regular digs at Calleva over the years, and I was pretty sure that was about the only thing the tents could be. I headed over to the site along the top of the Roman walls, and some of the students (I presume) having lunch pointed me in the direction of an makeshift information center set up for visitors. There, a friendly young woman by the name of Zoe, an archeologist working on her Masters at Reading University, asked me if I would like a tour of the dig. Duh!

Calleva / Roman Silchester
Zoe, my wonderful guide through the dig at Calleva

The present digs are in Insula IX and Insula III, and platforms had been set up next to each. Zoe took me to the closest first, Insula IX, and showed me what I was seeing — the remnants of the main road going north and south, postholes for the buildings, bigger holes for the wells, a floor — and explained that here in most places they had already reached the layer of Pre-Roman settlement and were nearly done with what they had set out to do. One of the things they’d been hoping to learn more about was when the town was abandoned and what might have caused it, and she said they’d uncovered evidence that it might be later than originally thought.

Naturally my ears perked up at that. I’ve repeatedly come across such theories in my research for the books of The Pendragon Chronicles, and it’s one of the main historical elements I’ve based my world on.

Anyway, looking at the carefully dug up dirt, Zoe and I had a great conversation about how new information keeps cropping up and theories keep changing. She took me over to Insula III, where I saw a hearth or stove made out of old Roman roofing tiles — most likely evidence that the site was still in use after Roman materials were no longer being manufactured.

Calleva / Roman Silchester
Archeological dig at Insula III in Calleva

Calleva / Roman Silchester
Panel explaining the dig

It was more fun than I ever could have imagined. Zoe and I obviously shared a fascination with the mysteries of history. She said her masters thesis was actually on magic and ritual in the archeological record in late medieval times (which sounds absolutely fascinating too!), but she wanted to be at Calleva for the last year of the dig, since she spent several summers working on it while she was an undergraduate.

After I saw the two Insulae and thanked her heartily, I headed for the church that was just within the Roman walls. There, I was lucky enough to walk in on a lecture by the head of the dig for some of the newest students. He mentioned that one of their most significant finds from the previous year was pottery fragments from the sixth to eighth century. In the Q&A session, I asked what he thought that meant for the end of Calleva. He answered that they might have to revise their ideas, that rather than disappearing, perhaps the town shifted to the area around the church. He postulated that the medieval town may have been a victim of the Black Death, since there were references from the 12th century, but little thereafter. (The amphitheater was converted into a medieval hall and King John was recorded as visiting there.)

While I ended up with two new blisters for a total of three, it was a thoroughly excellent outing.

Calleva / Roman Silchester
Silchester church just within the Roman walls of Calleva

You can see the rest of my pictures of Calleva here.

Other posts from my trip to England:
- Indulging in a research trip to England: Salisbury and Amesbury
- Stonehenge and Salisbury Cathedral
- Old Sarum
- Winchester / Venta

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Winchester / Venta

Winchester Castle
Winchester Castle

Originally, I was intending to do Calleva on Sunday, but my train was five minutes late into Basingstoke. That is exactly the amount of time I had to change — five minutes — and by the time I got to the track, the train was gone. The next train to Mortimer, the closest stop to the Roman ruins of Silchester, wouldn’t be leaving for another hour. So I checked the train schedules and saw that there would be a train to Winchester in only fifteen minutes. I changed my plans, and soon I was heading south.

It turned out to be a good thing that I didn’t try to do both in one day. Once I’d walked all the way around the old town of Winchester, my feet were killing me, and I was developing a blister on my little toe.

A blister in Winchester

But Winchester was great. The first place I visited was Winchester Castle, on the hill close to the train station. All that remains of the medieval castle is the hall where the famous “Round Table of King Arthur” hangs.

Winchester Castle
The Great Hall in Winchester Castle

Of course, the impressive decoration has nothing to do with fifth and sixth century Britain and the battles that were being fought against the Saxons and other Germanic tribes (and their allies) at that time. That’s the setting of The Pendragon Chronicles, and not the chivalric version of Arthurian myth created by the writers of the middle ages. The Winchester round table has been dated to the thirteenth century. Although it has nothing to do with the historical figure of Arthur (if he even existed), the round table has everything to do with the Arthurian legends and how significant they had become by the high middle ages. By that time, the Normans were in power in England, and even though they fought the Celtic kingdoms on their fringes, they appropriated a Romano-British hero into their mythology of kingship.

After walking all over the city, I’m pretty sure Chris and I skipped it on our England trip a dozen years ago when we did so many of the other sites of Yseult. I walked along the perimeters of the southern and eastern parts of what was once Venta Belgarum, and it certainly gave me an impression of how big the Roman city had been. In the south-eastern corner, there is still a long stretch of the Roman wall. In The Pendragon Chronicles, I refer to the city as Venta rather than by its full Roman name of “Venta Belgarum.” That’s quite a mouthful, after all. I figure that, much in the same way Sorviodunum became Sarum or Londinium became London, Venta Belgarum was probably shortened to Venta. “Venta” was integrated into the Germanic name for the city, Winchester, whereas “Belgarum” has disappeared — except in names of businesses in Winchester.

Roman wall in Winchester
Part of the Roman wall in Winchester

I also visited Wolvesey Castle, the ruins of the former bishop’s seat. I originally intended to have Cerdic’s seat located there in A Wasted Land, but I might change that. The western edge of the former Roman city, where the medieval castle stood, is much higher in elevation than the eastern, which is next to the river. Cerdic strikes me as the kind of guy who would equate elevation with status. I will have to see if anything is known of what might have stood there in Roman times. Seeing as the site has been continuously occupied for millennia, there has been very little archeological work done in Winchester, and only a few Roman buildings have been excavated, prior to modern construction work.

Wolvesey Castle
Wolvesey Castle

Nonetheless, seeing Winchester was great for giving me a feel of the lay of the land for the scene I’ve been posting recently for WIPpet Wednesdays. Perhaps with my new knowledge, I’ll try a rewrite of one of the scenes and repost, just for sh*ts and giggles.

Aside from details pertinent to the WIP, I also saw lots of half-timbered houses, the cathedral, gardens, and the house where Jane Austen lived in the weeks before she died. A very nice day, even if it didn’t turn out quite as planned.

Winchester Cathedral
Winchester Cathedral

You can see all of my pictures of Winchester here.

Other posts from my research trip:
- Indulging in a research trip to England: Salisbury and Amesbury
- Stonehenge and Salisbury Cathedral
- Old Sarum

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Old Sarum

I went to Old Sarum on the same day as Stonehenge, but I’m devoting a separate post to it, since it is actually part of my research for A Wasted Land, and not just something cool I took advantage of seeing while I was in Britain. The tourist bus makes a stop there on the way back to Salisbury from Stonehenge.

Old Sarum
Old Sarum

I’ve been to Old Sarum before, when my husband and I were traveling around Britain and I was researching sites for Yseult, the first book of The Pendragon Chronicles. I wanted to visit it again, though, both to refresh my memory and to get digital pictures this time — that trip was so long ago, it was before I got my first digital camera. :)

Old Sarum
Defensive earthworks at Old Sarum

Old Sarum is an ancient hill-fort that was in fairly continuous use from the Iron Age to the high middle ages. The Roman name for the site was Sorviodunum, which over the centuries was simplified to Sarum. In the Roman period, it was important because it stood at the crossroads of two major streets, and a market town grew up around its base. Little is known about actual Roman use of the hill-fort, since the pre-medieval levels have not been extensively excavated, although digs in the 50s discovered evidence of Romano-British occupation. More is known about the Roman settlements outside of the ramparts to the south-east and south-west of the hill-fort, which were both still flourishing until at least the fourth century.

Old Sarum
Within the ramparts of Old Sarum

Sarum was obviously a significant site in the post-Roman period, because the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles bother to list a victory there over the British in the year 552: “In this year, Cynric fought against the Britons at the place called Searobyrg and put the Britons to flight.” (Cynric is the son of Cerdic from A Wasted Land.) 552 is several decades after the period I am writing about in this book, which means Sarum most likely was still in British hands at that time — otherwise, there would hardly have been any significance to chasing the British away, after all.

After the urban center followed the new church to Salisbury (as I explained in my previous post), the site became known as “Old Sarum.” By the fifteenth century, it was largely abandoned.

Old Sarum
View of Salisbury from Old Sarum

Old Sarum is much bigger than I remembered. I think the confusion came from my memories revolving around the ruins of the medieval castle in the middle of the site. But the hill-fort was large enough, after all, to contain a complete medieval town. I will have to find out the exact size, do some math, and figure out how many stables it might have been able to hold.

It is definitely horse country around there, though. On my bike ride, I passed racing stables, and horses were a common site in the rolling fields. Celemon’s legacy lives on. *g*

For the curious, you can see the rest of my pictures of Old Sarum here.

Previous posts:
- Indulging in a research trip to England: Salisbury and Amesbury
- Stonehenge and Salisbury Cathedral

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment