Friday, 31 December 2010

Kindle versions of The Eternal Watchtower Trilogy soon available.

Today, I submitted the first book of The Eternal Watchtower Trilogy...
"A Bright, and Shining Land" to Amazon in Kindle format. It should be available within a couple of days on their website. The suggested price will be $7.99.
When it arrives in the Kindle store it has been allocated the reference number:
ASIN: B004HO5L0Y

The other two books of the Trilogy will follow shortly; and the fourth book...
"The Vanavara Protocol" will also be "Kindled" in due course.

Me? I prefer to turn pages... and the batteries don't run down!

Saturday, 18 December 2010

Vanavara... We have full Lift-Off!

Further to my note of yesterday;
The Vanavara Protocol has also now appeared on Amazon UK at the set cover price of £9.99 GBP.
The sequel: The Abaddon Stone is now close to half-way complete, and stands at 88,000 words, with our Heroine, Charlotte Mckenna, and her lover... having discovered a significant clue to the possible whereabouts of the malignant Gemstone; now prepare to embark on their quest to secure and destroy the evil artefact before it wreaks further destruction on Mankind.

Details of The Vanavara Protocol are as follows:
 Available from Amazon Worldwide.
# Paperback: 448 pages
# Publisher: new Generation Publishing.
# Language English
# ISBN-10: 1907756574
# ISBN-13: 978-1907756573
# Price: £9.99.GBP. ($16.99. USD.)

Provided I don't get brain-fade, I hope to have the sequel completed in early 2011.

Friday, 17 December 2010

The Vanavara Protocol no longer just a set of files!

The first print of The Vanavara Protocol has been accomplished. I received my Author copies today, and, as usual, Lightning Source has done a first-class job. The finished novel runs to 444 pages, and my cover design has reproduced really nicely. Judge for yourselves...


The novel has not appeared on Amazon as yet, but, normally, there is a delay of about a week from print date, (which was December 16th,) to inclusion in the Nielsen Book list, and thence, its appearance on Amazon.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Preliminary cover price for The Vanavara Protocol.

The Publishers have just mailed me to say that the files have been sent to the printers and I am able to order author copies as of today. They have set the cover price at £9.99, GBP which equates to somewhere around $16.50 USD.

That's a little more than the cover prices of The Trilogy, but, there again; Vanavara runs to just over 180,000 words, and the longest Trilogy novel (Book Two) ran to a little under 154,000 words... and was cover priced at $15.99 USD, (£8.99 GBP,) so, a small increase is only to be expected.

The sequel to Vanavara.... "The Abaddon Stone" is just coming up towards half-way stage at 75,000 words, and the plot is hatching nicely with a view to further adventures for our Heroine.


(This Novel writing game certainly keeps the Grey cells ticking over nicely... and it sure as hell beats on-line gaming!)

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

The Vanavara Protocol is finally heading to the Printers.

The proof PDF  of the cover for "The Vanavara Protocol" has finally been completed by the publishers and has been bought off. This means that the files are on their way for publication. Hopefully the finished book will be available in a couple of weeks.

Meanwhile, here is the final cover for the novel...


More information to follow, as received.

Thursday, 30 September 2010

How the idea developed.

Although mention has already been made concerning the central Heroine, who has always been Blonde, Blue-eyed, and Beautiful, and is based upon just one Blonde, Blue-eyed, and Beautiful Lady of my acquaintance who I shall only refer to as "Shining Girl;" mention must be made of one more special Lady friend... Beshley.

She was the inspiration for Beshlie of Calverstock ... the co-heroine in "The Hand of Baelar"...the third volume of "The Eternal Watchtower" Trilogy. With her agreement, her name was amended to fit the character; and without her, the Trilogy might well have ended in a totally different way.

As it was; one specific action by Beshlie of Calverstock towards the conclusion of the third volume laid the foundation of a common thread that weaves through the fourth novel... "The Vanavara Protocol,"and is central to the plot of The fifth novel "The Abaddon Stone." It is also a basis for the heroine's ongoing quest in a proposed future series of novels.

Thank You, Ladies, for the inspiration.

Saturday, 25 September 2010

The re-written first section of "The Abaddon Stone."

Considering that the Heroine of "The Abaddon Stone" acquires a new identity in the novel; I thought that perhaps, an initial introduction at the beginning of the story might avert any confusion for the reader. Here is the re-written first section for your delectation...


The rumble of the big V8 engine of the Olive-drab painted Cadillac staff car echoed back from the buildings on Karwendelstrasse as it cruised across the junction at Drakestrasse, and turned right into Finkensteinallee. The road was still cobbled, although many of the stones were chipped and scarred. It was still lined with the old lilac trees; bearing the scars of bullets and shell fragments in their thick trunks and lower branches. Many of the old buildings had survived the Russian onslaught as they blasted their way into Berlin; but many new structures had appeared on the sites of their ruined predecessors. The pretty blonde wearing a Claire McCardell moss green wool, fitted two-piece, long-skirted suit, and a jaunty little matching fedora, sat in the rear seat of the staff car, glancing out of the window.

          Finckensteinallee was much the same as she remembered from when she had been driven down to the SS Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler Lichterfelde Kaserne in 1937, in the company of SS-Gruppenführer Wolff; the Head of Reichsführer-SS Himmler's personal staff and his Personal Adjutant and Liaison officer. Eight years had passed since she was last here; about to embark on Himmler's ill-fated "Vanavara Protocol" expedition to Siberia. It was two years since she had been in Berlin. Back then; she had a different identity. Her name had been Fraülein Doktor Karyn Helle von Seringen; Deputy researcher for the Deutsches Ahnenerbe Institute for Linguistic study, at Berlin-Dahlem.

 Lichterfelde Kaserne. 1937.

          The Cadillac turned into the main entrance of the old Lichterfelde Kaserne and was waved down by an American Military Policeman. Nothing much appeared to have changed at the Kaserne. The long guardhouses on either side of the gate were still there; but the pair of four-metre high, Stone sentinel statues of "Der Ewigen Reichsrottenführer"… "The Imperishable Corporals," that had flanked the gate were missing. In their place were two towering blocks of concrete. The old Headquarters building across the checkerboard parade ground still stood; but was minus the massive Reichsadler Eagle perched above the false portico, which no longer bore the legend: "Leibstandarte-SS Adolf Hitler" emblazoned boldly across its cornice.
          The staff car driver handed his orders to the MP, who scanned them and glanced at the blonde in the rear seat.

          'Captain Charlotte Mckenna? Welcome to Andrews Barracks, Ma'am.'

 Andrews Barracks, Lichterfelde. 1947.

(Just a comparison to illustrate the section.)

Thursday, 23 September 2010

A Progress Report.

The replacement files for "The Vanavara Protocol" have been duly forwarded and received. Just a question of waiting now!

The rear cover blurb and design for the subsequent novel: "The Abaddon Stone" has also been re-jigged:


This version now contains the tag-line, and seems better-balanced than the original attempt. The novel now stands at 46,500 words, and the Heroine is now almost at the point where her adventures really begin.

The common thread of the series is to introduce our heroine (who has been recruited by the fledgeling U.S. Security Services) with a new identity and develop a series of novels revolving around her quest to locate the malignant Garnet.
So; the Heroine in "The Vanavara Protocol"... Karyn von Seringen... ex-Wartime German Ahnenerbe Doctor of Archaeology, becomes Charlotte Louise Mckenna... O.S.S./C.I.A. Officer; and may even be a re-incarnation of the Heroine of the "Eternal Watchtower" Trilogy... "The Golden Child"... Kathalyn Seregon. (The names are eerily similar!) 

It may have been noticed that, through the entire series of novels, the central Heroine has always been Blonde, Blue-eyed, and Beautiful.
This is no coincidence, as she has always been based on just one Blonde, Blue-eyed, and Beautiful Lady of my acquaintance who has encouraged me in my writing virtually from Day One.
Thank You, "Shining Girl."

Thursday, 26 August 2010

A Progress Report...

The publisher's proof  for "The Vanavara Protocol" had a couple of formatting errors, so a fresh copy has been submitted.
This will delay the book for a couple of weeks.
Meantime, here is the flyer, taken from the cover design...










The next book... "The Abaddon Stone,"  which is a continuation of the escapades of our heroine, is proceeding nicely.
It now stands at 39,000 words in Nine chapters, setting the scene for her post-war adventures on the trail of the dreadful "Abaddon Stone" which is said to be "A Destroyer of Worlds" and was inadvertantly released from its sealed metallic prison on the eve of the Second World War by a German Toolmaker.
Her ongoing quest is to find the Stone and destroy it before it wreaks its evil powers of destruction upon Mankind once again.


And here's the tagline:

"They thought the spark in the heart of the stone was just a reflection of the light... but, she knew otherwise."

Sunday, 25 July 2010

A little segment from "The Abaddon Stone."

The early part of the novel is set in Berlin immediately before its fall in April 1945.
This segment describes part of the Heroine's journey through the rubble-strewn wasteland,as she searches for some clue as to the whereabouts of the malignant "Abaddon Stone."



--------------------------------------------------------------------

Göring's villa still stood; although it was windowless and scarred. It looked deserted. As she approached the building, she glanced across towards Prinz-Albrecht-Strasse. She saw that the grim Gestapo Headquarters at number eight, was badly bomb-scarred, and the SS-Haus next door at number nine appeared to be little more than teetering walls held together with a tangled, blackened lattice of collapsed floors and drunkenly-angled roofing joists.
Cautiously entering the villa, she found an empty, rambling edifice with drinking and smoking rooms, several suites of kitchens, and a den that Göring had provided for his pet lion cubs at mezzanine level; while circular dining rooms, conservatories, drawing rooms, reception rooms, and hunting-trophy rooms took up the ground floor, along with Göring’s cavernous, colonnaded study. Four huge sets of French windows opened onto the remains of the terrace and gardens.

The mansion had been stripped bare. All of the Reichsmarschall's sumptuous furnishings and extensive treasures had been removed. Even the famed Meissen door-knobs and finger plates had been carefully removed from all of the doors. The mansion was an empty sepulchral shell that echoed hollowly as she cautiously made her way along the great central hall. Somewhere, a distant door banged to and fro in the faint breeze that prowled the ghost of Göring's personal, earth-bound Valhalla.
There was nothing here to find. She turned to retrace her steps, and saw a man appear at the end of the hall. He was about seventy, and dressed, incongruously for the present surroundings, much like the archetypal English Butler... black morning jacket, striped trousers and stiff, winged collar.
His voice echoed down the hall.
'May I be of assistance, Madam?'

His hands were clasped behind his back in the classical servile stance... or perhaps he was concealing a weapon. You never could be completely certain of anyone in this madhouse that Berlin had now become. She approached him cautiously; the silenced Mauser Bolo behind her back in a mirror image to his stance... but, ready for any sudden movement.
He moved. She stiffened... but he merely brought his hands from behind his back and clasped them in front of himself. He was not armed. He waited patiently for her answer. She studied him. She could sense no hostility; merely the desire to be of service to this guest in his Master's mansion.
She spoke.
'I am Doktor von Seringen of the Ahnenerbe. A few years ago; the Reichsführer-SS loaned the Reichsmarschall a particularly impressive Garnet Gemstone. The Reichsführer-SS is now intent on recovering all artefacts loaned out by the Ahnenerbe to the Party hierarchy to prevent them from being looted by the Soviets.'
The old man's rheumy blue eyes brightened in recognition.
'Ah! You are referring to the Abaddon Stone.'



-------------------------------------------------


"The Abaddon Stone" now stands at 35,000 words... something like one fifth of the proposed length.
More segments will follow in due course!

Friday, 2 July 2010

Book Five... A sneak preview.

Having completed the first three chapters, and getting a touch of brain-fade; I decided to make a start on the cover graphics. This one was not easy... even worse, was thinking up a title.

The novel picks up the story of "The Vanavara Protocol" at the point where Berlin is about to be over-run by the Soviet  Armies who are massing for the final assault... the Nazi's very own Götterdämmerung.

Here is the  preliminary artwork....


                                                                                       

 This one is still a long way off... and the research, if anything, is even more difficult than it was for The Vanavara Protocol.

The word "Abaddon" in the title literally means Destruction, Ruin or Perdition, and is the Hebrew name for the Demon who is also known as "The Angel of the Bottomless Pit." This Demon is also known as "The Destroyer" from his role as one of the destroying Angels of The Apocalypse... and a similarly malignant essence lurks in the depths of the Garnet Gemstone at the centre of the story....


And... just to recap; to all you budding authors; being published offers no guarantee of being professionally promoted, distributed, or even reviewed. That's why, with "The Vanavara Protocol," I'm about to acquire a little help from Lacewing Communications.

Lacewing Communications LLC is recognised in the United States and internationally for Brand, Marketing, and Publicity Management for authors, writers, and creative individuals.

 For information on this extremely useful company,
contact Kathy Brungs at:

info@lacewingcom.com


Sunday, 27 June 2010

The Vanavara Protocol... here we go!

The files for "The Vanavara Protocol" have been duly forwarded to the publishers for them to convert the MS Word document and Jpegs into the format suitable for the printers. So far; there has been no word that there is a problem with any of them. The ISBN number allocation and arrangements  for inclusion in the Nielsen Book List have been completed.

The next stage will be receipt of the proof PDF document for final checking and acceptance.
 If the previous book is anything to go by; this should take about four to six weeks... (subject to publisher's work-load.)
When the book proof is cleared by me, the files are forwarded to the printer. After something like two to three weeks, I am notified that the Author copy order can be made. Then, it's just down to the printer's work-load.

Optomistically, the book should be available by early Autumn.

(And the sequel is running at 10,000 words already!)


Tuesday, 15 June 2010

The Fourth novel has been accepted for publication!

Just had confirmation that the synopsis for the fourth novel: "The Vanavara Protocol" has been accepted.
So, now it's down to the fun job of line-editing to sift out the whoopsies.
The initial final word count after the first hack-job came out at around 180,000 words. The second run involving the chopping out of detail, that in all honesty, was little more than padding, brought it down to 173,000 words, which works out to around 420 pages.

This line-editing really is necessary. When you write the last line, the natural feeling is that this is a really good story; tight action, fast-moving, etc, etc.  Then you read the whole thing again and the thought sneaks in...
Is this section really adding anything to the fabric of the story?... or is it just showing what an in-depth researching smart-ass I was when I wrote that?
(And the reader will probably think exactly the same thing!)

With this novel; there's an awful lot of historical fact woven in. The reasoning behind this was to try and give the reader a real feel for the increasingly opressive atmosphere of the immediately pre-war period in Germany... specifically Berlin; and Soviet Russia.
The problem was to try to avoid making it read like a history book. This is where subjective research was necessary... and in some places... brutal editing!

The next fun will be making sure that the cover graphics meet the publisher's criteria. They need the graphics to be a minimum of 300 dpi; which, in their original format, come out at around 2 meg each. OK; so save them as jpegs... then you get the dreaded lossy compression, which somewhat reduces the image fidelity. (The ghosting around the edges.)
However; with the physical size of the graphics at 300dpi, a quick once-over with something like the Paint Shop Pro Clone brush, and the Blend mode; and a little judicious use of the JPEG Artifact Removal command will remove most of the flaws, and the image will be much sharper at the final working size for the image. This does, however, take quite a bit of time; but if you screw it up, there is always the "Undo" command.

So; provided everything proceeds normally; the files should be ready to submit by the end of the month.

Just to keep out of mischief; I'm already roughing out the basic bones of the follow-on novel. This too, will be another historically based adventure in the same vein as "The Vanavara Protocol."

Sunday, 4 April 2010

Phew! That would have been embarrassing!

So, here I am, banging on about plagiarism and nearly falling into the trap myself!
I have discovered that the graphic of Himmler on the original proposed cover has been used on the cover of "Time" magazine in the past. Therefore a slight re-design is called for. The re-jigged cover is reproduced here for your delectation.




 The book itself is now approximately three-quarters complete at 146,250 words.  I'm pleased with the way it is developing; but a cautionary word to prospective readers... as it is populated with mainly Military characters, it contains language that would be used by them... explicit, and graphically profane!
(But at least you'll be able to swear professionally in both German and Russian!)
 Here's a sampler to be going on with:

As the Tupolev cruised on towards Mojaisk; some hundred and ten kilometres to the west of Moscow; back in Minsk, Evgenya Tarasov had hurriedly packed a suitcase and was half-way down the dingy stairs of her apartment block when she met Vasilev, the caretaker.
'Off on a trip?'
He said, pleasantly.
She forced a smile;
'Just a few days in Gomel; my mother isn't too well. I should be back by the weekend.'
He nodded;
'Well, take care; I hope she's better soon.'
As she closed the front door behind her, Comrade Vasilev reached for the telephone. He smiled slyly as he rang NKVD Headquarters and reported her departure.

Evening was setting in as she hurried through the quiet streets, making for the station. As she came down Chkalov Street, she sensed she was being followed. Glancing over her shoulder, she saw nothing. Only another half a kilometre and she'd be at the station... and safely away. As she came down onto the Lavskaya embankment, the street lamps were just flickering on. She looked around. The whole embankment was deserted, except for a man in the distance, walking his dog. He looked rather young to be the owner of a Black Russian terrier... that breed was an old man's dog. Still; it might be his father's... but it still seemed a little odd.
She turned towards the station. He was walking in the same direction, with the little dog leaping and gambolling around on its leash. She began to relax; soon, she would be out of their clutches. She had been a fool to get mixed up with them in the first place.

They dragged her body out of the Svislach River, half a kilometre downstream from the embankment, early the next morning. They couldn't easily identify her. Her handbag... if indeed, she had been carrying one; was missing, and the bullet, which had been fired at close range into the back of her head, had blown most of her face away.



The novel should be completed by the end of the summer.

Sunday, 14 March 2010

The Ominous Charge of Plagiarism.

Sometime in the life of a writer, there will be an accusation of Plagiarism. This fact is as certain as night follows day. The charge might be levelled for any number of reasons; but is more likely to manifest itself as the passages or factual information as a result of Internet research... especially in the context of Historically-based novels such as the one I'm writing at the moment.
The usual get-out is to use a system of footnotes or endnotes where the source of the information is listed.
However; this is not always possible within the context of a fictional work.
There are also different types and  degrees of plagiarism - and it is often difficult to know whether the rules are being broken.

Plagiarism proper can be defined by the following examples:

Copying directly from a specific body of text, word-for-word.
Using an attractive phrase or sentence you have found.
Creating a supposed original piece of work by cutting and pasting various sections of text and/or images found on the Internet into a document without referencing the sources.
Paraphrasing.the words of a text very closely.
(Paraphrasing is  the rewriting of a text or passage in another form or by using replacement similar words.)


Plagiarism is easy to condemn but often extremely hard to define. In a historically-based novel such as The Vanavara Protocol; a historical novelist is responsible for creating his own colourful descriptions.
A historical novel, to be accurate, must borrow those words needed to accurately reproduce the historical facts, even when the facts were uncovered by others. Writers who strive for factual accuracy must thus remain free to closely paraphrase the factual accounts of others.
If a book is based on historical fact, then the author has to be able to research and use the actual historical facts in his novel. Problem is, that where does researched prose end and plagiarism begin?

Here's a really useful tool for sniffing out what could be deemed as plagiarised passages in your masterpiece:
Its a freebie called Viper. You can download it here:

http://www.scanmyessay.com/viper-plagiarism-scanner.php

If Viper has detected any suspect content then it will show you exactly where it has found it. This will either be a website, or a document in your local folder.
You can order the list of websites to show the highest offending sources first by clicking on 'Filtered PR' at the top right.
You can highlight the plagiarised text found in a website by ticking the box to the left of the websites in the list.
You can compare the scanned document side by side with the website by pressing the 'compare side by side' button the right of the website address in the list
If you click on any highlighted sections, it will jump to that section on the opposite side of the page; ie: where it was found on the website.


Here's a screen-shot of the Viper search for a specific phrase:

For example:
From the Vanavara Protocol passage:

"The Gestapo also had the power to imprison people without judicial proceedings."



"the power to imprison people without judicial proceedings." was highlighted by Viper as a plagiarised passage found on the Answers Yahoo.com site. In fact, this phrase is available in 9,250 places on the net according to Google. I've tried; but I cannot pin down the original source material. The closest I could get (after extensive research) was:

Goering, in a book entitled "Aufbau Einer Nation" and published in 1934, sought to give the impression that the new concentration camps originally were directed at those whom the Nazis considered "Communists" and "Social Democrats". At page 89 of this book he stated:

"We had to deal ruthlessly with these enemies of the State. It must not be forgotten that at the moment of our seizure of power over 6 million people officially voted for Communism and about 8 million for Marxism in the Reichstag elections in March.
Thus the concentration camps were created, to which we had to send first thousands of functionaries of the Communist and Social Democratic parties."

From this reference; research led on to the notorious "Das Gestapo-Gesetz"... The Gestapo Law of February 1936 provided  for "Protective Custody." As early as 1935, however, a Prussian administrative court had ruled that the Gestapo's actions were not subject to judicial review.
This seems to wrap it up. This information is firmly in the public domain and thus, is not plagiarism.


The total "suspect" incidents found by Viper in the body of the novel amount to 3%. The word count stands at 146,000. Therefore, Viper suggests that 4.360 words could be construed as plagiarism... but, this is not necessarily the case!

The application is actually so thorough that it highlighted a phrase:

"Vadim sensed a presence behind him"...

The segment it targetted is: "Sensed a presence behind him." A common enough phrase.
With a Google search, this phrase was found no less than 33,000 separate times in the Internet. Thus, it cannot possibly be construed as Plagiarism.

Here are a few terminologies: (referenced from University of Alberta Library Guides Home  »  Guide to Plagiarism and Cyber-Plagiarism.)



Common Knowledge: can be defined as facts known by a large number of people. These "facts" do not need to be referenced.
Deliberate Plagiarism: The wholesale copying of another's paper with the intention of representing it as one's own. In addition, the definition of deliberate or intentional plagiarism includes the theft of another person's ideas. Plagiarise: to steal or pass off as one's own, the idea or words of another; use a created production without crediting the source; to commit literary theft; present as new and original an idea or product derived from an existing source.
Public Domain: a work in the public domain is free for everyone to use without asking for permission or paying royalties. The phrase "public domain" is a copyright term referring to works that belong to the public. Works can be in the public domain for a variety of reasons: because the term of copyright protection has expired; because the work was not eligible for copyright protection in the first place; or because the copyright owner has given the copyright in the work to the public domain. The owner must specifically license all or certain uses of the work. This is done by stating on the work what uses are permitted such as, for example, that the work may be reproduced, communicated, or performed for educational purposes without permission or payment.
Cyber-Plagiarism: copying or downloading in part, or in their entirety, articles or research papers found on the Internet or copying ideas found on the Web and not giving proper attribution.
Unintentional Plagiarism: can be described as "careless paraphrasing and citing of source material such that improper or misleading credit is given."

So; something of a minefield.
It’s worth noting that historical facts cannot be plagiarised, only the manner in which they are presented.(But, Historical Documents must be referenced.)
In normal circumstances, something can be regarded as Common Knowledge if  the same information can be found undocumented in at least five credible sources.
Ideas in the Public Domain, which are considered common knowledge, can be mentioned without citation, provided that the language of the original document is not plagiarised in any way.
Public domain information involves facts and ideas that every reader in a particular field would be familiar with, facts that are readily available in reference sources, and well-known sayings.
Apart from researching (very carefully)... and ensuring I haven't lifted a specific style of phraseology; this plagiarism business is one of the reasons I haven't read anyone else's book since I began writing... just in case I am influenced by them.

Sunday, 14 February 2010

Creative Writing Software.

Creative writing software should be really be viewed as a organiser to your own writing and not a one-size-fits-all... fill-in-the-blanks exercise. A program that allows you to keep track of your characters, settings, plot points, etc. may be a good idea. But, then again; why not just use good old MS Notepad and index the information in the order you want to use it?

The main key to writing a novel is to sit down and write.

Book writing software does not make an "untalented writer talented," but it can be a better tool than Microsoft Word. At best; it will organise things logically.

I have included a few useful tools in previous posts. Check them out. (A cunning ploy to get you to read more of the blog!)

Here are a few of the more popular Software applications. (In no particular order of cost or popularity.)

Dramatica Pro.
StoryBase.
WriteItNow.
Newnovelist.
Writer's Cafe.
Book Writer.
Final Draft.
Liquid Story Binder.
Rough Draft.

It's all down to personal choice; you may prefer a structured software to the "Make it up as you go along" method, but remember; not one of these programs is the "Magic Bullet."
If you have enthusiasm and really enjoy what you are creating... go for it! Your enthusiasm will shine through to the person who reads it... and you can always polish your creation after you have written the final word.

The length of an average novel is something like 320 pages. If you create one double-spaced page of your novel every single day, you will have 365 pages... an entire book... at the end of one year.
But remember:  if you have a really creative session and turn out seven pages at one sitting, it doesn't mean that you can abandon the book for the next week. You really should write something... hopefully, a page every day.... even if you bin it at the next session.

Sunday, 7 February 2010

Print on Demand... Authors can beat the Catch-22 of Publishing.

We've all been there. You send your query letter to selected Literary Agents. You invariably get the reply, "I don't represent unpublished authors." You then try the publishers. The answers come back: "We don't represent un-agented authors." Welcome to the Catch-22 scenario!

Sadly, Literary agents and editors have little or no interest in un-established writers these days. It is a fact that something like 70% of traditional publishers are now Corporate-owned... and if you are not a Gold-plated cash cow... forget it!
(Joanne (J K) Rowling was a one-off... It's unlikely there will be another phenomenon like Pottermania.)

The Dreaded Corporate Suits.

These Publishers have effectively turned their backs on aspiring first-time novelists by refusing to read unsolicited manuscripts.They argue that a bestseller emerges, on average, only once every three years from the slush pile and they no longer have the time or the resources to wade through the remaining "dross." Mainstream publishers reject the bulk of manuscripts sent to them principally because they predict that they will not be able to sell the books in sufficient quantities to cover production and distribution costs.The bottom line is that a work must either "fit onto the shelves" of mainstream publishers or be penned by an author whose name will guarantee sales.

The mushrooming of E-books, Print on Demand, and Internet exposure inevitably means traditional publishers will probably have to change their business practices. It's only a matter of time before authors go from aspiring to be traditionally published to aspiring to be POD-published. When this happens, traditional publishers that don't adapt to the new realities could be in real trouble.
Traditional publishers were dismayed by the invasion of Print on Demand and other digital production and delivery technologies. Almost overnight, "Motor Cars had replaced horses and carriages." The playing field was effectively levelled. Independent  publishers could stand beside the Big, Bad, New York and London, Corporate-owned Publishing behemoths. CEOs reassured their corporate boards that digital publishing was just a fad that would soon go away. It didn't.
Corporate-owned publishers then arrogantly lumped together all of the online publishers and labelled their products "non-books."
"These non-books are written by amateurs," declared the traditional book industry. "Therefore they don’t deserve to be reviewed by mainstream media or shelved in brick and mortar bookshops." And in the mainstream book industry, their judgment became The Law.

Then the inevitable started to happen. Even established authors started to break their contracts with traditional publishers and form their own independent publishing companies. By now, a large percentage of the digitally published books not only matched traditionally published offset printed books in appearance; they were equal to, and often superior in quality. The writing was firmly on the wall.
As to whether the traditional publishers actually bother to read it... only time will tell. Blair and Bush didn't bother to read the signs... and we all know what happened to them.

Traditional Publisher versus Print on Demand Publisher.

The Traditional Process.
With the traditional printing process, a quantity of books are printed up in advance and then orders are filled from that inventory. This is the way traditional publishers generally manufacture their books because, on a per book basis, the cost is cheaper; but there are big trade-offs to doing it that way.
First, the traditional publisher must predict the quantity needed. In other words, they have to predict the market demand for a book – a potentially difficult task.
Second, traditional publishers have to come up with the up-front cash to pay the printer for all those copies of the book. That cash remains tied up in the form of unsold inventory until they can convert it back to cash by selling all the books.

The Print-On-Demand Process.
Print-on-Demand is the process of manufacturing a book when the customer orders it. Since the books are made to order, you don’t have the problem of predicting the quantity needed. And since you collect the money from the customer before printing the book, there is no need for an upfront investment, nor do you have money tied up in unsold inventory.
The only up-front cost is preparing the electronic file from which the books will be printed. But that is far less than what one would have to pay doing it the traditional way.
The downside of print-on-demand is the per book cost doesn't get cheaper the more copies one prints. It costs the same no matter if it is one copy or 100,000 copies.

What is the difference between a print-on-demand publisher and a traditional publisher?


Traditional Publishers.
Traditional publishers buy all rights to your book in exchange for an advance (many authors don't get advances anymore) and royalties ranging from around 8%-12%. You no longer own the book.
The royalties are usually paid to you annually after the accumulated amount is greater than the amount of the advance. In exchange for you giving them all rights, they take your manuscript and turn it into a professionally edited and designed marketable product. (Caution! This is the point at which they can effectively butcher your masterpiece.)
They pay for a print run to produce copies of the book for distribution. They then negotiate with distributors sell the book to stores, which then sell it to the consumer.
Traditional publishers usually accept returns (buying back unsold copies from bookshops) and offer larger wholesale discounts; thus making the books more tempting for bookshops to stock. But if those books don't sell, the returns will be taken out of the author's future royalties. And though it is rarely enforced, and even more rarely mentioned; most traditional publishing contracts have a clause that allows the publisher to request that the author even pay back the advance if the book doesn't generate enough sales.

Some publishers have actually admitted that return rates have topped 50%, and the numbers have been rising for some time. This means that half of all books printed in the UK are never read... and they’re not redistributed either, but returned to the publishers or otherwise disposed of, usually by pulping; or simply dumping in landfill sites.
The sale-or-return system is outdated and thoroughly wasteful. It is not uncommon for bookshops to return copies of a title to a publisher on the same day that they reorder more copies of the same book.
(Something like 52,000 individual titles were pulped in 2009.)

Print-on-Demand Publishers.Print-on-Demand publishers provide the infrastructure to print and market the book; as an addition to their portfolio, or by yourself... or both; depending on the Publisher.
You own all rights to the book (with the possible exception of print rights... dependant on the context of the contract) and can sell them whenever and however you want.
Royalties are much higher. (My publisher: New Generation Publishing contracts for up to 60% of the cover price.) The book is sold directly to the customer via my publisher's Web site ... and, with the distribution package; is added to the Nielsen Book List for inclusion to online and offline retailers, such as Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Waterstones etc, to make it widely and internationally available to customers.

Seeing that copies are printed as ordered; there are no warehousing costs, no transportation costs, and certainly no loss on returns. There is also no Literary Agent fee creaming 15-20% off the top.
So there you have it. Print-on-Demand could well prove to be the answer to the unpublished author's nightmare... and the David to the Traditional Publisher's Goliath.

Another little example of In-depth researching...

One more problematic researching task for "The Vanavara Protocol" involved locating the NKVD killing ground of Kurapaty, in Brod woods to the north of Minsk. The reference "Brod woods" is used twelve times in the body of the novel... "Kurapaty" is used only twice. So; I needed to establish place names for the accuracy of the following passage:

"If they were to do anything, then it was certain that their next car ride would be a one-way trip in the back seat of one of their own "Black Ravens."A one-way trip out to Brod Woods in the forests north of Minsk.
A few kilometres to the north of Minsk; to the left of the Lahoj highway, there was a village called Zialony Luh. Two kilometres north of the village, in the forests to the south of the Zaslauje Road, they shot people... both men and women; who were brought there every day and every night on trucks, or in the sinister "Chyornye Voronki." For these victims, it was a one-way trip and the inescapable Nagan, or Tokarev bullet in the nape of the neck.
On the hills there was an area known locally as Kurapaty… an old stand of conifers, surrounded by broadleaf trees and thickets. Some hundred or so, verst of this coniferous stand had been surrounded by a fence, more than three metres high, made of closely fitting, overlapping, wooden planks, surmounted with barbed wire. Outside the fence were guards and dogs. The people were brought there along the gravelly, cobbled road that ran from the Lahoj highway to Zaslauje. The local villagers called it the "Road of Death."


The villages have long since disappeared... either under the Minsk Ring road, or have been swallowed up by the city. Zialony Luh... the village mentioned in the novel is now a suburb of Minsk.
Googling "Kurapaty" turned up over 70,000 references. "Brod woods" returned nothing.
"Zialony Luh" returned 72 results... mostly from the same article by  Zyanon Paznyak and Yauhen Shmyhalou... "Kurapaty-Daroha Smertsi"... "Kurapaty, the Road to Death."

Eventually, I found a possible lead from a Google Image search for "Minsk Maps."
On an obscure Russian forum website I discovered a detailed map of Minsk dating from 1933...

The road running straight up the illustration and curving sharply to the right is the Lahoj highway. The wooded area at the centre top of the illustration is Kurapaty, otherwise known as Brod woods. The small road bisecting the wood approximately two-thirds up its length is the route of the present Minsk Ring road.The road running across the top of Brod woods is the Zaslauje Road.
The small road running from the Lahoj highway to the Zaslauje Road passes the village of Zialony Luh before it turns to the north to pass east of Brod woods. This road is the gravel road the villagers called  the "Road of death".
The execution transports followed this track up to the little road that follows the line of the modern Minsk Ring road. Here they turned onto it for the last half-kilometre or so, to reach the killing grounds.

A very useful find! At least the passage was now accurate. Had I not discovered this particular map; I would have had to rely on my own deduction by interpreting the description in the passage onto a Google Earth Satellite image:

I have added the labels for clarity of location... and the pale line going diagonally across the image is an aircraft contrail caught by the satellite imaging system!

A poignant confirmation to the  location was found in a Kurapaty memorial site. It pinpoints the position of discovered remains in the surviving fragment of  the dreadful Brod Woods:

And, just to finish off; and again, to offer a cautionary word that what you find is not necessarily what you are searching for; here is a segment of the same location, taken from a modern Minsk map. (Again; the labels have been added for clarity of location.)


You might think that all this is a tad obsessional for a very small, and insignificant part of the story. I couldn't agree more!... but, as I said before; there is always Someone out there ready to pick your baby to pieces; especially if it is a historical work set within living memory.

Thursday, 4 February 2010

A specific research subject.

Further to my note on researching; for an intrinsic part of the extract in the previous post... and for inclusion in subsequent passages of the story; I needed to establish what sort of transportation the NKVD operatives utilised. I found several references to vehicles known as "Black Ravens"... "Chyornye Voronki," in Russian.
What were these ominous vehicles? Cars? Vans? Trucks?
A Google search turned up only five references. An image search proved useless. OK; let's try "Russian Black Ravens".... Bingo! Two drawings of what appeared to be Ford-type saloons with an illustration of a Gulag in the background; painted in the 30's by Boris Jeremejewitsch Wladimirskij...

Further research identified the cars as being examples of the GAZ M1... a Russian-built vehicle based largely on the American 1933 Ford V8 Model 40...

 

All fairly straightforward then.... wrong! This tiny piece of research took something like two hours; cross-checking and confirming details from Russian sites (again!)
The rule of thumb is, if at first, you come up with nothing... start thinking outside the box!

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

A word or two about researching.

I have been asked to give a few tips on research.
Research for the content of such a book as my fourth novel "The Vanavara Protocol" needs to be in-depth and exact. (There is always someone out there who will challenge facts if there is the slightest possibility those facts are inaccurate!... especially with a historical novel set within the time-frame of living memory.)
First and foremost; by far the best bet is good old Google... but there are ways to use Google for much more accurate results:

A standard search for Pre-War Berlin Streetnames returns 3,420 results.

Whenever you search for more than one keyword at a time, Google will search for all of them. If you search for
Pre-War Berlin "Streetnames"... (79 results.)
Google will search for all the words. If you want to specify that either word is acceptable, you put an OR between each item...
Pre-War OR Berlin OR "Streetnames"... (219,000,000 results.)

If you want to have definitely one term and one of two or more other terms, you group them with parentheses, like this:
Pre-War (Berlin OR "Streetnames")... (1,250,000 results.)
This query searches for the word “Berlin” or phrase "Streetnames" along with the word "Pre-War" A Hotkey for OR borrowed from the computer programming realm is the | (pipe) character, (next to the Shift key on the left side of the QWERTY keyboard) as in...
Pre-War (Berlin | "Streetnames")

If you want to specify that a query item must not appear in your results, use a -.(minus sign or dash).
Pre-War Berlin -"Streetnames"... (12,300,000 results.)
This will search for pages that contain both the words "Pre-War" and "Berlin" but not the phrase "Streetnames"

Of course, most of these results will be irrelevant, or tenuous. You will then need to sift the results for the required information; but it is a good indicator of the different methods of search available.

In addition to the basic AND, OR, and quoted strings, Google offers some rather extensive special syntaxes for honing your searches. Google being a full-text search engine, it indexes entire web pages instead of just titles and descriptions. Additional commands, called special syntaxes, let Google users search specific parts of web pages or specific types of information. Specifying that your query words must appear only in the title or URL of a returned web page is a great way to have your results get very specific without making your keywords themselves too specific.
Here are some of the common keywords that you can add to your query in Google:

intitle, allintitle
Restricts your search to the titles of web pages. The variation, allintitle: finds pages wherein all the words specified make up the title of the web page. It’s probably best to avoid the allintitle: variation, because it doesn’t mix well with some of the other syntaxes.
Eg: intitle:"Heinrich Himmler"
allintitle:"Gestapo"politics.

inurl, allinurl
Restricts your search to the URLs of web pages. This syntax tends to work well for finding search and help pages, because they tend to be rather regular in composition. An allinurl: variation finds all the words listed in a URL but doesn’t mix well with some other special syntaxes.
Eg: inurl:Reichstag
allinurl:search Reichstag

intext, allintext
Searches only body text (i.e., ignores link text, URLs, and titles). There’s an allintext: variation, but again, this doesn’t play well with others. While its uses are limited, it’s perfect for finding query words that might be too common in URLs or link titles.
Eg: intext:"yahoo.com"
allintext:html

inanchor
Searches for text in a page’s link anchors. A link anchor is the descriptive text of a link. For example, the link anchor in the HTML code O’Reilly and Associates is “O’Reilly and Associates.”
Eg: inanchor:"tom peters"

site

Allows you to narrow your search by either a site or a top-level domain. AltaVista, for example, has two syntaxes for this function (host: and domain:), but Google has only the one.
Eg: site:loc.gov
site:thomas.loc.gov
site:edu
site:nc.us
You can also use site: operator to exclude certain domains from a search
Eg: google -site:google.com
This is particularly useful for ego searches. You can find out all those sites which mention your name exept your site.
Eg: dave mace -site:blogger.com -site:wikipedia.org

link
Returns a list of pages linking to the specified URL. Enter link:www.google.com and you’ll be returned a list of pages that link to Google. Don’t worry about including the http:// bit; you don’t need it, and, indeed, Google appears to ignore it even if you do put it in. link: works just as well with “deep” URLs-http://www.raelity.org/apps/blosxom/ for instance-as with top-level URLs such as raelity.org.
Eg: link:www.google.com

cache
Finds a copy of the page that Google indexed even if that page is no longer available at its original URL or has since changed its content completely. This is particularly useful for pages that change often. If Google returns a result that appears to have little to do with your query, you’re almost sure to find what you’re looking for in the latest cached version of the page at Google.
Eg: cache:www.yahoo.com

filetype
Searches the suffixes or filename extensions. These are usually, but not necessarily, different file types. I like to make this distinction, because searching for filetype:htm and filetype:html will give you different result counts, even though they’re the same file type. You can even search for different page generators, such as ASP, PHP, CGI, and so forth-presuming the site isn’t hiding them behind redirection and proxying. Google indexes several different Microsoft formats, including: PowerPoint (PPT), Excel (XLS), and Word (DOC).
Eg: homeschooling filetype:pdf
"leading economic indicators" filetype:ppt

related
Finds pages that are related to the specified page. Not all pages are related to other pages. This is a good way to find categories of pages; a search for related:google.com would return a variety of search engines, including HotBot, Yahoo!, and Northern Light.
Eg: related:www.yahoo.com
related:www.cnn.com

info
Provides a page of links to more information about a specified URL. Information includes a link to the URL’s cache, a list of pages that link to that URL, pages that are related to that URL, and pages that contain that URL. Note that this information is dependent on whether Google has indexed that URL or not. If Google hasn’t indexed that URL, information will obviously be more limited.
Eg: info:www.oreilly.com
info:www.nytimes.com/technology

define
Will get the definition of the term that you have entered. This syntax can be used to get the definitions of words, phrases, and acronyms
Eg: define:dreaming
This query will get you the definition of the word dreaming.

numrange
If you want to search for a range of numbers then you can use two dots (without spaces) to represent a range of numbers
Eg: inventions 1850..1899
This query will get you all the inventions between 1850 and 1899

safesearch

If you include safesearch: in your query, Google will exclude adult-content.
Eg: safesearch:breasts
This will search for information on breasts without returning adult or pornographic sites.

Fetch only Fresh results
First one is to narrow down your search to only the most recent web pages. This is particularly important, since Google has started serving fresh results.
Alex Chitu from the unofficial Google Operating system blog has found that we can use as_qdr query parameter to search only for fresh pages.
In order to use this you have to add a new parameter as_qdr at the end of the url like below
http://www.google.com/search?q=ipod&as_qdr=d
The as_qdr parameter can take the following possible values.

    * d[number] – past number of days (e.g.: d5)
    * w[number] – past number of weeks (e.g: w5)
    * y[number] – past number of years (e.g: y5)

I also use Copernic Agent Pro... a nice application that gives you the ability to cover more of the Web and to get relevant, high quality results grouped into categories. From a single query, Copernic Agent gives you better search engine results by consulting multiple search engines at once, combining their results, removing duplicates and keeping only the very best of the information gathered from queried search engines. ranked as per-cent accurate. http://www.copernic.com/en/products/
Here's a Screen-shot:

 

Now, a cautionary word about not necessarily believing that what your research turns up is actually what you want. In the following extract from the book; mention is made of the hotel where the heroine stays. I needed a visual reference of this building for the developing story a little later on. 

Aleksandr Anatoly Sergeyev hurried across Zakharievskaya Street. As he approached the massive, curved colonnade that spanned between the two wings of the building, bordering the wide courtyard in front of the Academy; he glanced across the broad, main thoroughfare of the city that stretched dead straight for eleven kilometres, linking the Borisov highway with the Warsaw road. Across the broad avenue, he saw the black GAZ four-door saloon parked in the shadowy darkness between the boundaries of the pools of light cast by two adjacent street lamps.

He shivered; it was one of the dreaded "Chyornye Voronki," the NKVD "Black Ravens"… the Government's notorious black cars that were used to arrest suspects, often on false charges of being "Enemies of the People." These "Political criminals" were usually imprisoned, sent into exile, or executed. Surprise arrests were often made in the small hours of the morning. He caught a glimpse of a glowing cigarette tip, and could almost feel the cold eyes watching him from the impenetrable darkness of the car's interior. They were there every night. He should be used to them by now.
They had watched him for three months as he came to escort Karyn back to the Hotel Europe. They watched all foreigners, and especially her. They shadowed her everywhere; not that she chose to wander too far. Most foreigners were forbidden to roam about. She, however, was not. Fräulein Doktor Karyn Helle von Seringen; Graduate Doctor of Archaeology with a chair at the Johann Wolfgang Goethe-Universität, Frankfurt-am-Main, was untouchable. Much as it might rankle them, those evil NKVD bastards dare not lay so much as a finger upon her. If they were to do anything, then it was certain that their next car ride would be a one-way trip in the back seat of one of their own "Black Ravens." A one-way trip out to Brod Woods in the forests north of Minsk.


A few kilometres to the north of Minsk; to the left of the Lahoj highway, there was a village called Zialony Luh. Two kilometres north of the village, in the forests to the south of the Zaslauje Road, they shot people... both men and women; who were brought there every day and every night on trucks, or in the sinister "Chyornye Voronki." For these victims, it was a one-way trip and the inescapable Nagan, or Tokarev bullet in the nape of the neck. 



OK; so fire up Google images and do an advanced search. Great! Lots of pics... but, hang on a moment... the pedestrians are wearing modern clothes, and that little red car?

  

I knew from previous research that this hotel had been totally destroyed during the war. True, the old centre of Minsk (including the hotel) was re-built after the war in the original style; but was the new hotel an accurate copy?
After much in-depth research across countless Russian sites, I found the only photo of the original building that seems to be available:

Spot the differences. The new building has SEVEN floors... the original has SIX! The frontage is wider on the new building, with two extra windows per floor on each side of the central balconies. There are only THREE gable windows either side of the central arched portico on the very top floor of the building... whereas the modern version has FIVE at either side.
This is a classic example of the trap you fall into if only a cursory research is carried out! Accurate researching takes time and patience... but it ensures your writing doesn't end up looking sloppy  and unprofessional!

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

A little more Vanavara.

I thought I'd post a little more of the fourth book "The Vanavara Protocol" for your delectation. It's up to just under 136,000 words at the moment... and likely to be a fairly substantial word-count upon completion.

As ever, the research is difficult... pre-war Stalinist Russia is a very secretive place, even today!

Anyway, here's another taster...

The two SS-Sturmscharführers stood idly on the western arrival platform of the Berlin Anhalter Bahnhof, smoking their pungent Korfu Rot cigarettes. It was a dirty night, the 24th May, 1937. The few passengers awaiting their late trains glanced nervously at the pair, in their ominous black uniforms with the SS brassard… the blood-red Hakenkreuzarmbinde on their left arms, Frightened eyes glanced at the feared, plain black SD-collar tab; the SD Ärmelraute… the diamond lozenge badge on the left sleeve… edged with silver piping indicating they had Gestapo affiliation; and worse… the even more feared SD-Hauptamt Cuff band below it. They could only be from Prinz-Albrecht-Strasse 9, Sitz des SS-Hauptamtes… Reichsführer-SS Himmler's personal Iron-heads! Some poor bastard was in real trouble, having these two waiting for them. The bright glare from the overhead platform lamps reflecting back from the great arched, glass roof of the station glittered ominously on their Totenkopf Death's-head cap badges.

As the ominous, black-uniformed goons gazed around the sparsely occupied platform, those on whom their gaze descended, shivered, and quickly looked away. As sure as hell, these two evil-looking bastards were from "Amt für Sicherungsaufgaben"… The SS Security branch of the SD-Hauptamt Command Administration. They prowled up and down the platform, the hob-nails in the soles of their shiny black "Schaftstiefelen"… knee boots, which would become derisively, and universally known as jackboots; clicked ominously on the flagstones. Up and down... up and down. They were waiting for the night express from Frankfurt-am-Main. The big Steinheil station clock minute hand was creeping round to eleven o'clock. The night express was due in at 11.05pm, and the Deutsches Reichsbahn Gesellschaft always ran on time, these days.

As the two SDs strolled back down the platform with creaking jackboots and cold, reptilian eyes; there came the distant, mournful sound of a locomotive steam-whistle somewhere out in the darkness. They turned to stare out into the night. As they peered into the darkness of the rainy Berlin night, the lamp on the signal gantry, some thirty metres beyond the three huge, end wall arches spanning the incoming tracks on the permanent way side of the station, flicked to green.
The two SDs tossed down their cigarettes and ground them into the platform. Out of the night came the bright glare of the three head-code lights reflecting back off the silver ribbons of the rain-soaked tracks, as the big, black and red, 4-6-2 Borsig locomotive coasted into the platform, with the coach, and locomotive brakes squealing, and clouds of hissing steam billowing from the double cylinders as the engineer vented the cylinder steam chests.

                  A typical Borsig locomotive leaving Anhalter Bahnhof.                    
The Two SDs stepped back into the shadows as the express came to a standstill. The doors were flung open, and the passengers of the Frankfurt-am-Main night express stepped down from the rain-glistening, dark-green liveried coaches onto the Anhalter Bahnhof platform. They watched, as the passengers hurried past them trying to avoid eye contact... such was the uncomfortable feeling those ominous black uniforms gave to even the most innocent travellers. But then; these days... who is truly innocent? The slightest word out of place and you are just as likely to find yourself doing the Gestapo two-step in the "Dienstzentrale der Gestapo" offices at Prinz-Albrecht-Strasse 8... the notorious Gestapo "Hausgefängnis"… "house prison." Such is the paralysing fear that grips the hearts of even the most patriotic Germans at something as trivial as an unconscious stare from some passing uniformed Nazi on the streets.

 
Anhalter Bahnhof on Askanischer Platz, Berlin.

Out of the clouds of wreathing steam came a slender figure on tapping high heels. She would be about twenty-five; a tall, blonde, blue-eyed Aryan. She wore an expensive grey, two-piece suit and a jaunty little hat complimenting her pale blonde hair, swept back into a severe chignon that emphasised her high Saxon cheekbones. She carried an old, and battered, but expensive leather "Würzl" suitcase. As she walked down the platform, the two SDs stepped out into the light. The other hurrying travellers glanced sideways at her. Poor cow!... she's had it. But then... the great arched, glass roof of the Anhalter Bahnhof echoed as the two SDs snapped to attention, and crashed their heel-irons together in the regulation manner.
Heads swivelled around as the scurrying travellers gaped over their shoulders. She stood before the two SDs as their right arms shot out in the theatrical Hitlergruss. As she turned, the platform lights glittered on "Das Goldene Ehrenzeichen der NSDAP"… the Golden Honour Badge... a round badge consisting of black, white, and red cloisonné enamel enclosed within a golden oak-leaf wreath. The wreath encircled the words: "National-Sozialistische-D.A.P." around the circumference of the enamel, with a swastika in the centre... that was pinned to her left lapel.
 
Das Goldene Ehrenzeichen der NSDAP.

She returned the salute by merely raising her forearm and hand from the elbow... just as the Führer did at the Party Rallies. So, she must be important... otherwise, such a slovenly salute would be seen as insulting, if dared to be done by anyone else; and would have brought a swift, and harsh retribution.The two SDs didn't even flicker. The taller of the two snapped out,

'Heil Hitler! Fräulein Doktor von Seringen? Welcome to Berlin. We have a car waiting.'

One of the SDs took her suitcase, as the other escorted her down the platform towards the ticket barrier. The crush of passengers miraculously parted; and the bustle and clamour diminished. The old ticket collector held out his hand for her ticket, but was brushed aside. He looked at the ominous black uniforms and wondered what he should do. His task was to check tickets and no exceptions; but, this... if he dared to challenge them, he might well end up doing five years in KL Konzentrationslager Dachau for insulting the SS. He chose that prudence was definitely the better part of valour and waved them through.
In the bustling great, outer atrium of the station, there was suddenly, complete silence, save for the soft hiss of steam from the locomotives, and a faint hum of traffic out on Stresemannstrasse. As the party crossed the echoing marble floor to the sweeping staircases that led to the main entrance of the Anhalter Bahnhof, the only sounds to break this fearful stillness were the clacking tread of two pairs of glittering, hob-nailed jackboots playing counterpoint to the elegant tip tapping of her high heels.

Sunday, 31 January 2010

A little more of the fourth book...

Another segment from the on-going fourth book "The Vanavara Protocol" for your delectation...
(Plus; I am putting a few old photos of the places mentioned into the posts to give a feel to the text. Most of these places no longer exist in Berlin as they were destroyed during the war... or have been radically changed during the partitioned East/West Berlin period.)
(Example: many Berlin street names have been changed, or have disappeared. A fascinating trip into old Berlin street maps may be found at: 
http://www.alt-berlin.info/pages/index.htm



At the junction of Siegesallee and Charlottenburger Chaussee, the Horch scarcely slowed as it cut across the four lanes of traffic, then executed a similar manoeuvre across Zeltenallee into the Königsplatz, with the siren still wailing and echoing back from the trees in the eastern end of the Tiergarten. The Great Siegessäule column, topped with the Goddess of Victory... "Die Vergoldete Sieggöttin," that the Berliners called "Goldelse," gazing down from her high perch, and the crouching, shadowy Reichstag building towered to their right, as the car sped past the Kroll-Oper and swung right into the short Strasse am Königsplatz, to stop outside the huge and gloomy, Neo-Gothic, four-storey Ministry of Internal Affairs building bedecked with long, blood-red Hakenkreuz banners that stirred ominously in the thin breeze rustling through the thickly wooded Tiergarten.


Königsplatz, Berlin.
[Reichstag in foreground,  Siegessäule in centre; Kroll-Oper in background.]

 
Ministry of Internal Affairs building on Königsplatz, Berlin.

The SS-Sturmscharführer jumped out of the Horch and opened the rear door for the young woman. He escorted her across the pavement to the high, three-arched, pillared portico that protected the entrance to the Ministry. Two black uniformed SS-Scharführers, wearing white belts and gloves... as they always did on this guard duty; snapped to attention, presenting arms with their highly polished rifles. The SS-Sturmscharführer gave the full Hitlergruss as he strode into the building. They crossed the marble floor to a vast desk, where a portly and somewhat unsavoury looking SS-Untersturmführer sat. After a suitable pause, he looked up.
The SS-Sturmscharführer cracked off another perfect Hitlergruss and crashed his heels together. In an unnecessarily loud voice, he shouted...

          'Heil Hitler! SS-Untersturmführer; I wish to report that I have collected Fräulein Doktor von Seringen, of Johann Wolfgang Goethe-Universität, Frankfurt -am-Main, for audience with the Reichsführer-SS, at his request.'

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Bits and Pieces.

Just a general bumble about, this time. Firstly; I've found a couple of useful sites for budding authors.
You know how all the literary pundits bang on about overuse of clichés?
Problem is, the reason they are clichés in the first place is that they describe things so well!... or, as Salvador Dali so succinctly put it...

"The first man to compare the cheeks of a young woman to a rose was obviously a poet; the first to repeat it was possibly an idiot."

OK, so if you don't want to alienate your potential publisher and find your cherished manuscript ends up in the shredder... help is at hand! Go to:

http://cliche.theinfo.org/

Paste a section of your writing into the box,  this tool will highlight the clichés for you...

(In the screen-shot below the clichés found in this passage are highlighted...


The next little tool  gives you a list of alternative words (synonyms) for all those well-used words that appear in any passage..."good," "bad," "went," and "said" are typical; as are "nice," "walked," and "then."
These types of words tend to make a reader glaze over if used too many times. This little tool gives you more interesting alternatives...

For "Good"... excellent, fine, superior, wonderful, marvellous, qualified, suited, suitable, apt, proper, capable, generous, kindly, friendly, gracious, obliging, pleasant, agreeable, pleasurable, satisfactory, well-behaved, obedient, honourable, reliable, trustworthy, safe, favourable, profitable, advantageous, righteous, expedient, helpful, valid, genuine, ample, salubrious, estimable, beneficial, splendid, great, noble, worthy, first-rate, top-notch, grand, sterling, superb, respectable, edifying.

 For "Bad"... evil, immoral, wicked, corrupt, sinful, depraved, rotten, contaminated, spoiled, tainted, harmful, injurious, unfavourable, defective, inferior, imperfect, substandard, faulty, improper, inappropriate, unsuitable, disagreeable, unpleasant, cross, nasty, unfriendly, irascible, horrible, atrocious, outrageous, scandalous, infamous, wrong, noxious, sinister, putrid, snide, deplorable, dismal, gross, heinous, nefarious, base, obnoxious, detestable, despicable, contemptible, foul, rank, ghastly, execrable.

Get the idea? It's very much a case of "WYSIWYM"... "What You See Is What You Mean."

http://www.synonym.com/

Just to finish; did you notice the little row of flags below the header? They are translation buttons.
Click one, and the page automatically translates into that language. Possibly a tad smart-ass, but if any non-English-speaking visitors hit the page, it might prove helpful. It's powered by Google Translate. From my researching, it seems to be reasonably accurate; although, it does tend to mangle grammar in some languages (eg: German.)

If you want to try this widget, it's here:

http://www.blogosys.com/2008/11/language-translation-widget-flags-to_14.html

Just delete the countries you don't want from the downloadable HTML/JAVA code.

Sunday, 24 January 2010

A handy little tool for authors

If, like me, you are writing a novel that requires a great deal of research; there is a rather nice Firefox add-on available which you will find very useful.
(If you're using Firefox... and with all the holes in IE6, IE7, and IE8; you really should be!)

It's called Zotero, and is a little like EndNote: but, much easier to use. It helps you collect, manage, and cite your research sources. It lives right where you do your work... in the web browser itself, and appears as a button at the bottom right of the web browser page. With this little application you can say goodbye to "copy & paste."

Not only can it be used to bookmark information, but it also permits its user to highlight or add sticky notes to pages. Furthermore, it sports an impressive search capability, and also allows users to drag and drop highlighted information directly into a note, eliminating the need to press a "clip" or "paste" button.

To get started with a new notebook, you will only need to press an icon titled "New Standalone Note" and begin to type into a blank page in the 3rd column of the Zotero pane. Next, highlight any information from the internet that is of particular interest to you, just as you would do if you were preparing to copy and paste it into a document. However, instead of needing to worry about opening up a Word document, you can simply drag the info directly into the notebook. Here, it can be modified, and can later be exported by being dragged outside of the notebook to a desired spot.

In addition to this convenient drag and drop feature, Zotero also permits users to simply record a page's URL, as well as record a screen-shot of the page.

Here's a screen-shot of the Zotero work space:



Whilst I was researching the fourth book, I ended up with folders full of text files which were really time-consuming to check out. I just wish I had discovered Zotero earlier!

Check it out here:

http://www.zotero.org/

Amazon Associates for Blogger

Amazon Associates for Blogger is a direct integration between Amazon Associates and Blogger. This new collaboration enables Bloggers to monetize their content by adding relevant Amazon products to their blog posts without interrupting the blog editing process.

Amazon Associates is an affiliate marketing program that allows website owners and bloggers to create links and earn referral fees when customers click through and buy products from Amazon.com. It’s completely free to join and easy to use.

https://affiliate-program.amazon.com/

This provides consumers the convenience of referring them to a trusted site where they can immediately purchase products you advertise. And when they do, you can earn up to 10% in referral fees.

The first thing you need to do is to click the "Monetize" button on your Blogger dashboard; choose where you want the ads to be displayed and follow on through the next pages.
With Amazon, you find an additional box on your "New posts" page that you can use to generate and insert links, (Which appear as Blue Text in your post, and when clicked, direct you to the relevant Amazon page... very useful for a blog like mine which is used for promoting my books.)

You will also note the three Amazon Links: Books, Music, and Computers in my side-bar. These are the ones that generate revenue. When someone clicks on one; it takes them to the relevant Amazon page, and if they subsequently make a purchase... that's when you get paid.
It's free, and if you don't mind a few eye-catching elements on your blog, then it's got to be worth a try.

Also worth thinking about is Google's Adsense. Go to their site at:

 https://www.google.com/adsense/

and sign up for an Adsense account. Make sure you use the same username and password for Adsense as you did for your free blog.
Go back to your blog and select the "Layout" Tab. This will show you a skeleton view of your blog with the different modules. At the top of the sidebar, click the "Add a Gadget". A window will popup. In that window select, "Adsense" and choose the type of ad you want. If you used the same username for your blog as you did with Adsense, it should put your unique ID in so you can be credited.

Sunday, 3 January 2010

Artwork for Book Four.








OK; so I've given you a couple of tasters for book four, so here's the proposed cover artwork...

The back cover blurb goes like this:

 It is 1937. Two archaeologists; one... German; the other... Russian, are researching three ancient volumes unearthed in the area of the huge 1908 explosion in Central Siberia... "The Tunguska Event." They both have hidden agendas.
They have been instructed by their Governments to secretly establish if there could conceivably be any indication of Military significance to the advantage of their respective Regimes.

Two of history's most evil men; Reichsführer Heinrich Himmler, and Nikolai Yezhov... head of the Soviet NKVD are engaged in a sinister game Double-cross.
Each archaeologist has been instructed to secure any such discovered information... and then, to liquidate their opposite number.

Himmler has code-named his involvement in this deceit as...

"The Vanavara Protocol."
-------------------------
At present, the fourth book is standing at 135,000 words, in sixteen chapters; and is about two-thirds complete. It is a stand-alone, but alludes to the Trilogy in several places. (The Three Ancient Volumes.)
It revolves around a malignant artifact which appeared in the third book of the Trilogy, and is probably best read as a continuation of "The Eternal Watchtower."

Friday, 1 January 2010

Complete Trilogy now available!


The third part of "The Eternal Watchtower Trilogy" has finally arrived on Amazon UK, complete with price, and cover illustration.

Details for Part Three..."The Hand of Baelar" are as follows:

  • Paperback: 300 pages
  • Publisher: Lightning Source UK Ltd (20 Dec 2009)
  • Language English
  • ISBN-10: 1907461744
  • ISBN-13: 978-1907461743
  • Price: £7.99 (GBP.) $13.99 (USD.)