Books in Limbo

Still no writing – not book writing anyway. It has been a confused week of editing and cover design for the Local History publication, demonstrating Family History websites in the library, interspersed with a guest post on the Discovering Diamonds Blog about the excitement of receiving copies of my book. Thank you Helen Hollick for accepting it.

Richard Denning explains the Anglo-Saxons. Spot the Sutton Hoo helmet.

Saturday was the second of my promotion events. I had hijacked the monthly meeting of the Rugby Archaeology Society, by suggesting a talk about Anglo-Saxons. Fellow author Richard Denning came to tell us about “Life in Anglo-Saxon England”. It was an entertaining talk including history, food, religion – everything Anglo-Saxon – even genetics. He brought a large collection of objects, which were handed round or inspected afterwards. He brought some of his books for sale, including several for children.

I had my books there, of course, and there was another chance to taste my mead. I got several favourable comments – perhaps I should give up writing and go into mead production!

Now I have a cold. I don’t think it’s anything serious, but I don’t feel like doing anything. I have forced myself to the computer to write this (it probably shows!)

Although not writing, I have been doing a lot of thinking, helped by last week’s class. It was about plotting – regular readers of this blog will know my opinions on that. This was about applying different methods to your writing: “The Three-Act Structure” and “The Hero’s Journey”. Book Three looks good – words like Birth and Death, Shipwreck, Battle and Rescue scatter the chart. The problems come with Beginning and End.

I thought Book Two, although needing more editing, was in its final shape. Was the ending too final? OK for a single book, but for a series? I was finding it difficult to decide where to start Book Three – I’ve written a lot, but the vital beginning is unclear. I had a thought – what if I cut the ending of Book Two and use that for the start of Book Three? It might work, although it might leave Book Two a bit short – more detail earlier on? It would also make Book Three even longer.

But. Could I cut the end of Book Three? There’s that convenient point when… Is that the start of Book Four? I haven’t thought much about that yet. It might work. Do I have an over arching structure for the series? I don’t even know if Book Four is the end, or not.

I think I will be spending some time in planning – comparing what I have against the various structures. I think some synopses will help – I tried to write one for Book Two. When I found it difficult I should have known something was wrong.

Perhaps I’m over-thinking. I should just get on and write. I’ve had an idea for a short story. Do I have time for that?


The Signing of Books

After the excitement of Publication Day, I am into the world of promoting my book. How successful it has been is impossible to know. I try not to look at the graph on Amazon’s Author Central page too often. It’s a bit depressing as I have sunk from a peak of 39,496th out of the 6,000,000 books for sale, to 413,662nd today. The peak was 29th January, the day after publication, when all my friends and relatives bought it – thank you everyone! Apparently no-one has bought the Ebook version at all – yet.

Monday was a normal day. As if nothing had happened, I was back to writing – although this time it was an article for a local history book that will be published soon. I have also been proof reading and formatting that.

On Tuesday I was told by my publisher, that something I had written was published in a (online) magazine.  I had been asked to write, “10 Tips For Turning A Historical Figure Into Historical Fiction”, only the week before. You can read it here, if you can find it among the adverts. I suppose it is the sort of thing writers have to do.

Anglo-Saxon feast and books for signing

Nothing much on Wednesday, but on Thursday it was the writing class. When one of us publishes a book we usually have cake. Someone had said that it was too soon after Christmas for cake (is there really a time when people don’t want cake?), but I had already had another idea. My book is about Anglo-Saxons, I have mead! So at the break I brought out my mead and my horn, plus small plastic tasting cups, because passing round a mead horn for everyone to drink from is not very hygienic. How those Anglo-Saxons survived without modern Health and Safety rules is beyond me. I also had food: salted meat (beef and ham – left over from Christmas), cheese and bread. I explained how there would not be much food left at this time of year, most animals would have been killed in the autumn and salted. The bread didn’t contain salt, because butter and cheese would also be heavily salted to preserve it. I used the recipe on this website. It tasted better than it looked! I also signed my first book (apart from those I’d done for family). There would have been others, but Amazon had not delivered!

On Friday there was a meeting of Cafe Writers. I sold and signed another book – the first real money in my hand!

The main event was planned for Saturday – the official book signing at the local bookshop.

I had prepared. I got a piece published in the local newspaper – they got a detail wrong, but not about the book. I had put up posters, and talked about it on Facebook and Twitter. I mentioned it to everyone I knew, a lot said they would come.

I had even ordered warriors from re-enactment group Ardenweard, a Dark Ages re-enactment group affiliated with The Vikings.  I had one Anglo-Saxon and one Viking. I hoped they would have a fight, but apparently that’s against the rules. They were very friendly, talking to customers and offering samples of my mead – now officially approved by Anglo-Saxons, Vikings and the residents of Rugby.

Warriors guarding books.

There was just one thing that I couldn’t control – the weather! It was cold and windy, with showers of sleety rain. Rugby High Street was practically deserted. My warriors did their best, standing outside until their feet froze. Apparently genuine Anglo-Saxon shoes are not very warm – not new ones, anyway. A few people turned up and bought books, which I signed, but not as many as I expected. At least I had plenty of time to hold swords, try on helmets, and learn more about Anglo-Saxons (and Vikings).

I will be attending another event next Saturday, a meeting of the Rugby Archaeology Society. There will be a talk by author Richard Denning about Life in Anglo-Saxon England. Copies of his books, as well as mine will be available. At least it will be indoors!

No writing was done this week – well, not book-writing, but I have been thinking – more about that another time!

My thanks to Ardenweard for the warriors.

Memo: Remember to publish next book in summer.


A few more inches and I’ll have that Viking’s head off!


Thinking About Covers

Since I completed my first draft and started editing (coming along nicely, thanks for asking) I have started to think about the future.

I now know that I will continue the story of Byrhtnoth in a second book. Perhaps a trilogy. More? Who knows. That brings with it a problem, A Title.

So far the book has been called “Byrhtnoth” or just “My book” (My Precious!). I need an overall “Chronicles of Byrhtnoth” or “Byrhtnoth’s Saga” type of thing. I’ll talk about that another time.

The other thing a book needs is A Cover. This is something I have been thinking about for a long time – I wouldn’t say before I started writing, but close to it. I have ideas for covers to books I haven’t even written.

I have been reading recent posts by Derek Birks about what he looks for in a cover on his blog here . And just looking at other authors books and deciding what I like. More important what I don’t like! My first conclusion is that you need a professional. However good you are, or think you are, an amateur cover always looks just that. People judge a book by its cover. So, by extension, if your cover looks amateur, the contents must be.

Many of the covers that I have liked have been produced by the same designer, Avalon Graphics.
Books by Helen Hollick , Richard Denning and Madalyn Morgan (the latter a previous student at the same group, I attend – see here)
They also do web graphics and advertising materials.

All this was swirling around in my head when I saw a mention by Helen Hollick that Avalon Graphics was having a special April Offer on web advertisements. This was too good to miss, so I got in touch.

I had an immediate reply from Cathy Helms (always a good sign) and we decided on three banners – for this blog, Twitter and a Facebook page I was thinking of starting. I sent her a couple of pictures of background I had come across online and liked.  I  requested a sword (Books of this period have to have a sword, don’t they?). I hadn’t found an image of a sword I liked, but I was specific in my request. It had to be the correct period (early to mid 10th century), It had to have a pattern welded blade and some gold on the hilt. The Battle of Maldon poem mentions Byrhtnoth’s “golden hilted sword”.

Cathy did her best. She also found it difficult to find the right sword, we had to abandon the pattern welding, but within a few days she sent me three potential designs. There was a bit of discussion: background from number one, font from number two and sword from number three. Then, back to original sword. That was it!

Within a week I had the perfect image to put at the top of this blog. I had to change the colour of the blog to match – do you like it? The same image is on my twitter account @YoungByrhtnoth (please follow if you don’t already), and my brand new facebook page

Every time I look at them, my heart swells with pride.

Thank you Cathy, I’ll be back. All I need to do is make my book worthy of what I am sure will be a wonderful cover.