Sunday, 18 August 2019

Children of Lir Takes Flight

Love it when people send pictures of them reading my books. Here's the latest, The Children of Lir. Find out more here, and join the UK giveaway.


David, Rwanda

What's in my Wonderland

Patsy, Wales

Friday, 16 August 2019

Children of Lir Giveaway


First review up for The Children of Lir on What's in my Wonderland, along with details of a UK giveaway. Head on over for details.

Purchase:

Kindle UK/US
Paperback UK/US

Monday, 12 August 2019

The Children of Lir Launch Week Blog Tour




Hello everyone!

My novel, The Children of Lir, will be launching this Thursday 15th August.

Here's a list of the participating blogs who will be running reviews, interviews, excerpts and giveaways. As the week progresses I will add direct links below, so check back each day to view them.

We'll also be running the hashtags #TheChildrenOfLir #MarionGraceWoolley on Twitter.

The Kindle version is currently here: UK/US and the paperbackis here: UK/US.


Thursday 15 August 
B for Book Review (interview)

Friday 16 August 

Sunday 18 August 

Monday 19 August 
Margaret Pinard (interview)

Tuesday 20 August 
Words and Other Malarky

Wednesday 21 August 
Forever the Wanderer 
A Book Devourer

Wednesday, 7 August 2019

A Short History of Nearly Everything



Recently finished A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson. It's my second adventure with him, and I'm a huge fan of his book Shakespeare: The World as a Stage. This one was first published in 2003, and although the audio book is considerably more recent, narrator William Roberts still manages to infuse suitable levels of horror that CFC won't be banned in developing countries until 2010. Like Bertrand Russel's History of Western Philosophy, though, it seems to have largely stood the test of time and still reads as highly relevant to today.

In A Walk in the Woods, Bill Bryson trekked the Appalachian Trail—well, most of it. In A Sunburned Country, he confronted some of the most lethal wildlife Australia has to offer. Now, in his biggest book, he confronts his greatest challenge: to understand—and, if possible, answer—the oldest, biggest questions we have posed about the universe and ourselves. Taking as territory everything from the Big Bang to the rise of civilization, Bryson seeks to understand how we got from there being nothing at all to there being us. To that end, he has attached himself to a host of the world’s most advanced (and often obsessed) archaeologists, anthropologists, and mathematicians, travelling to their offices, laboratories, and field camps. He has read (or tried to read) their books, pestered them with questions, apprenticed himself to their powerful minds. A Short History of Nearly Everything is the record of this quest, and it is a sometimes profound, sometimes funny, and always supremely clear and entertaining adventure in the realms of human knowledge, as only Bill Bryson can render it. Science has never been more involving or entertaining.

There was so much to unpack in this book, which stretched from the beginning of existence, through the first signs of life to the possibility of life on other planets and the future of mankind. Here's some of my favourite nuggets of knowledge:

Incidentally, disturbance from cosmic background radiation is something we have all experienced. Tune your television to any channel it doesn't receive, and about 1 percent of the dancing static you see is accounted for by this ancient remnant of the Big Bang. The next time you complain that there is nothing on, remember that you can always watch the birth of the universe. 

*

Even the Reverend Buckland, as pious a soul as the nineteenth century produced, noted that nowhere did the Bible suggest that God made Heaven and Earth on the first day, but merely “in the beginning.” That beginning, he reasoned, may have lasted “millions upon millions of years.” 

*

The confusion over the aluminum/aluminium spelling arose because of some uncharacteristic indecisiveness on [Humphry] Davy's part. When he first isolated the element in 1808, he called it alumium. For some reason he thought better of that and changed it to aluminum four years later. Americans dutifully adopted the new term, but many British users disliked aluminum, pointing out that it disrupted the -ium pattern established by sodium, calcium, and strontium, so they added a vowel and syllable.

*

You may not feel outstandingly robust, but if you are an average-sized adult you will contain within your modest frame no less than 7 X 10^18 joules of potential energy—enough to explode with the force of thirty very large hydrogen bombs, assuming you knew how to liberate it and really wished to make a point. Everything has this kind of energy trapped within it. We're just not very good at getting it out. Even a uranium bomb—the most energetic thing we have produced yet—releases less than 1 percent of the energy it could release if only we were more cunning.

*

The upshot of all this is that we live in a universe whose age we can't quite compute, surrounded by stars whose distances we don't altogether know, filled with matter we can't identify, operating in conformance with physical laws whose properties we don’t truly understand. 

*

As you might expect, oxygen is our most abundant element, accounting for just under 50 percent of the Earth's crust, but after that the relative abundances are often surprising. Who would guess, for instance, that silicon is the second most common element on Earth or that titanium is tenth? Abundance has little to do with their familiarity or utility to us. Many of the more obscure elements are actually more common than the better-known ones. There is more cerium on Earth than copper, more neodymium and lanthanum than cobalt or nitrogen. Tin barely makes it into the top fifty, eclipsed by such relative obscurities as praseodymium, samarium, gadolinium, and dysprosium.

Abundance also has little to do with ease of detection. Aluminum is the fourth most common element on Earth, accounting for nearly a tenth of everything that's underneath your feet, but its existence wasn't even suspected until it was discovered in the nineteenth century by Humphry Davy, and for a long time after that it was treated as rare and precious. Congress nearly put a shiny lining of aluminum foil atop the Washington Monument to show what a classy and prosperous nation we had become, and the French imperial family in the same period discarded the state silver dinner service and replaced it with an aluminum one. The fashion was cutting edge even if the knives weren't.

*

By and large, if an element doesn’t naturally find its way into our systems—if it isn’t soluble in water, say—we tend to be intolerant of it. Lead poisons us because we were never exposed to it until we began to fashion it into food vessels and pipes for plumbing. (Not incidentally, lead’s symbol is Pb for the Latin plumbum, the source word for our modern plumbing.) The Romans also flavoured their wine with lead, which may be part of the reason they are not the force they used to be. 

*
The dandelion was long popularly known as the “pissabed” because of its supposed diuretic properties, and other names in everyday use included mare’s fart, naked ladies, twitch-ballock, hound’s piss, open arse and bum-towel. One or two of these earthy appellations may unwittingly survive in English yet. The “maidenhair” in maidenhair moss, for instance, does not refer to the hair on the maiden’s head.

*

At least 99 percent of flowering plants have never been tested for their medicinal properties. Because they can’t flee from predators, plants have had to contrive chemical defenses, and so are particularly enriched in intriguing compounds. Even now nearly a quarter of all prescribed medicines are derived from just forty plants, with another 16 percent coming from animals or microbes, so there is a serious risk with every hectare of forest felled of losing medically vital possibilities. Using a method called combinatorial chemistry, chemists can generate forty thousand compounds at a time in labs, but these products are random and not uncommonly useless, whereas any natural molecule will have already passed what the Economist calls “the ultimate screening programme: over three and a half billion years of evolution."

*

Even thinking, it turns out, affects the way genes work. How fast a man’s beard grows, for instance, is partly a function of how much he thinks about sex (because thinking about sex produces a testosterone surge).

I also learned that Mary Anning was the inspiration behind the tongue-twister 'she sells seas shells on the sea shore,' that panspermia is the word for the theory that life on earth originated from outer space, and that English Sweating Sickness wiped out thousands of people in the 1500s before disappearing without a trace. 

It also took me on a nice trip down memory lane with an entry about the dinosaur display at Crystal Palace, where my dad lived for a time when I was a kid. And also when he was talking about dodos, it brought back memories of the New Walk Museum in Leicester, which I loved when I was young. It had ancient Egyptian mummies, a life-size diplodocus skeleton and a stuffed dodo. Most of which, thanks to this book, I now know are reconstructions, but it still fascinated me.

Enthusiastic thumbs up. History with a twist of humour.

Thursday, 1 August 2019

Two Weeks to Children of Lir Launch


With two weeks to go before the launch of The Children of Lir, here's the blog tour list. There will be interviews, giveaways and excerpts. Currently got a bit of pre-release nerves, but looking forward to it. Thanks to Fraser's Fun House for organising this, it's been a real pleasure working with them.

If you'd like to purchase this in e-format, please put in a pre-release order. This helps to give it a bump up the rankings on launch day. The paperback will be available from 15th August.

Monday, 29 July 2019

Amazon Fails Authors on Launch Day


My last post was a bit of a gripe about the difficulty KDP authors face getting hold of Amazon.

Here's why I was trying to get hold of them - it's quite bizarre.

Any author, whatever they're publishing, knows the importance of launch day. Whether trad or self-published, it's the day you spend months leading up to. You advertise the date everywhere. You organise your blog tours and promotion around it. You set up your giveaways to go live at midnight.

Launch day is fundamental to, well, launching your book.

Which is why it's utterly unbelievable that Amazon doesn't let you set one!

You can set your launch date for a Kindle e-book, and even set up pre-sales so that people can order your book and receive it the moment it's released. But you can't do it for a paperback.

What's worse, is that you have absolutely no control over the exact release date of your book. When you hit publish, you're met with a message saying it can take up to 72 hours for your book to go live. 

Up to.

That means it could come out the day before launch date or even the day after. There's no way to synchronise it with your Kindle copy, and no way to set up pre-order.

Why is pre-order important?

Well, book bestseller rankings aren't based on how many books you've ever sold. They're based on how quickly your book is selling. Sell 200 copies over a year and you won't make a dent in the listing. Sell them in an hour and you'll zoom up the charts. Any pre-orders count as a sale on launch day, giving your book a much-needed bump up the rankings.

A paperback takes far more effort to produce than an e-copy. E-formatting is really simple, text layout on a print copy is not. Yet there's no benefit to creating a paperback with Amazon. Doesn't count towards launch day sales, can't even set the launch day.

KDP is a total mess for print books. If I'd known all of this a few months ago, I'd never have published through them. They really don't appreciate how long it takes to write a novel or the work that goes in to preparing for launch.

When I contacted them about this problem, they replied saying they'd enabled phone support for me because it was a 'unique issue'. It's not a unique issue. Authors all over the place are pissed off with Amazon for messing up their launch promotions. Here's a few comments from writing groups I'm in:

Signe: You can't [control the release date]. It was slightly easier to control with CreateSpace, but KDP is a mess. My clients have had numerous issues. 

Juliet: I've heard horror stories about this and lots of promotional work being ruined, because Amazon doesn't give a crap. I will never publish through them, not when there are far more reputable POD publishers like IngramSpark and BookLocker.com, Inc. out there...

Michelle: Doing audiobook releases is worse because ACX (Audible) doesn’t give an exact date just a (I think) two week range.

When I spoke to Amazon, they told me they understood the problem and that other authors had reported it too, but they couldn't do anything about it. Maybe in the future.

Well, maybe in the future I'll publish through them again, but for now I'm exploring other options.


UPDATE:  A friend in publishing just told me this:

Hi. I just saw your post about Amazon not allowing you to set up preorders for paperbacks. There is actually a way, but they won't tell you that. You have to set yourself up as a seller on Amazon and list the book as one of your items. Then you can do preorders. BUT just be aware that if you set it up for preorder and no one buys it, you doom your rankings. So it's not worth putting it up for preorder unless you've done a lot of promotion ahead of when you set it to preorderable. The algorithm does some weird math and a low sales rank will stop people from seeing the book in the ways that Amazon is actually good at promoting things.

I won't be doing it as I believe pre-order is a right for all authors - and that's a sucky system - but interesting to know.

Wednesday, 24 July 2019

Amazon's Non-existent Phone Support




Back in April, I posted about Amazon's non-existent customer contact form, designed to keep KDP customers from ever making contact with their customer care team.

This month, things get even more ridiculous.

There's a massive issue with their pre-order system - or lack of - which I'll go into in a separate post. Suffice to say, I needed to talk to someone who could fix that problem.

They seem to have sorted the e-mail system, so I was able to send them a message outlining the issue.

I received the following response:

Thank you for contacting Amazon KDP. I understand that you wanted information on coordinating your books release dates. I would be glad to assist you.

Due to the unique nature of your inquiry, I've temporarily enabled your account for phone support. Our phone support is available every day from 4:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Pacific time...

1. Sign in to your KDP account [...]
4. Follow Steps 1 through 7 above to request a phone call.

First off, this really wasn't a 'unique issue,' many other authors are hacked off by the same thing and have been vocal about it in writing groups - seems Amazon just isn't listening. 

Secondly, there were no steps 1-7. Not above, not below, not anywhere in the e-mail, not on the website.

I replied to point this out and received:

First of all, our apologies for the inconvenience caused.

The steps for the phone support were sent incorrectly previously, now you will be able to see steps 1 to 7 correctly...

The steps included:

1. Go to the Contact Us form: https://kdp.amazon.com/self-publishing/contact-us
2. Select your issue under "How can we help?"
3. Choose the subcategory that best describes the reason for your contact.
4. You'll see a "Phone" option under the section "How would you like to contact us?"
5. Under "Phone," click "Call us."
6. Under "Talk with KDP Customer Service," enter your contact number and country or region.
7. Choose "Call Me" or "Call Me in 5 Minutes," and be ready to provide your account information when we call. 

Yeah, I got as far as three. None of the topics under How can we help were remotely linked to my issue, so I selected book details and How do I change my book details? Nowhere under that subcategory was there an option saying phone or How would you like to contact us

So, I sent a miffy reply telling them to call me and including my number.

You could watch your entire life go by trying to get customer service from KDP. Amazon is worth almost $135 billion, yet they can't build a website. Rather backs up the theory that this is deliberate and that they're trying their very best to become a company that filters customer service requests out the back door. They can't genuinely be this bad, can they?

Anyway, I'll post an update if I ever get to talk to someone. 

Meanwhile, if anyone knows how to get around this and request a call back, I'd be grateful. 

UPDATE: So, a very nice man from Amazon did call me after I sent the e-mail. Worked out that there is a call back button on the website, but it's well hidden.

If I had chosen Moving from CreateSpace to KDP, I would have seen it immediately:


But because I chose Book details, I should then have guessed that I needed to click one of the additional links below, rather than looking to the right, where you'd logically expect it to appear.



Really unhelpful web design.

Anyway, the guy went off to talk through my problem with colleagues. He admitted the problem was a definite issue, but there was nothing KDP could do about it at the moment. Hopefully in the future.

Well, that was worth it.

Two days to get to talk to somebody, to get nothing done.

What's that IngramSpark - pick me, pick me?