Saturday, 23 February 2013

Blood sacrifice, is that what Amazon wants?

Back in December I blogged about how I had abandoned Smashwords in favour of joining Amazon's KDP Select programme for sales of The Hidden Masters and the Unspeakable Evil. If you want to know the details you can read the blog post here but in summary I'd discovered that Smashwords sales had been appalling over the previous twelve months whereas Amazon had been comparatively good.

However, KDP Select requires exclusivity in return for some special promotional opportunities, so there were some issues when Smashwords outlets were still selling the book after I'd enrolled in KDP Select. It was a genuine mistake as it takes some time for the Smashwords servers to update and for their sellers to remove the book from their sites. At worst I was guilty of being too keen to work with Amazon and give them an exclusive deal. The first people at Amazon were quite understanding when I explained and they reinstated me but there followed some quite heavy, almost bullying, messages and eventually I found I'd been removed from the programme.

So I waited until almost two months had passed but still when I click the link to enrol Amazon responds with a pop-up that says the book still does not qualify because it is available elsewhere. So not knowing what to do, but being of the ceremonial magician persuasion (see the recent blog post here about my background) and in an attempt to link The Hidden Masters and the Unspeakable Evil to the current fashion for vampirism I've offered them a deal.

Here's the message I've just sent them:

You won't let me enrol IN KDP Select


I enrolled my book in KDP Select in December at the same time that I took it off of Smashwords. Shortly after it was enrolled there was a stream of messages between us where I told you that I had taken it off of Smashwords in all good faith but it took some time for Smashwords to process it through their servers so it still appeared on one or two seller's sites. Some of your emails were quite threatening and I felt they were unnecessarily so and when I explained the situation I was reinstated. However, later my book was removed from KDP Select again. Rather than risk upsetting you, after all you have the power to ruin my career chances, I have waited two months before trying to enrol again. However, I have just clicked the enrol link and you say that my book does not qualify because it is available elsewhere.

I would be very interested in you telling me who is selling my book elsewhere as I have done everything you have asked me. I do not believe it is available on any other web site. You have all the power here, I am trying to play by your rules but you could easily continue to say it's available elsewhere and I can do nothing to disprove it. I've offered you exclusivity, what else do you want from me? I would offer you my blood but I don't think my keyboard would really like it. Readers of all those vampire books think it's cool though, so about it, I reckon I could spare you a pint, would that sweeten the deal?

Friday, 8 February 2013

The Prophecy of Kinnaird - book review

By Cassandra Bellingham

This is a coming of age story where a teenager who feels he doesn't belong in the world discovers his true identity, breaks away from his parents and forges a place in the world.

I don't normally read childrens' books as I'm not a child and I don't have any of my own. Having said that I did read one of the Harry Potter's (until the films started coming out). However, I had just finished reading The Hobbit in preparation for the film and so I decided to try The Prophecy of Kinnaird.


Interestingly I felt this was very similar to The Hobbit in style as I started to read it but as the story got going I found that there was more to it than The Hobbit. Whereas The Hobbit has a very straight plot The Prophecy of Kinnaird is quite a lot more complex, as such it's a more sophisticated book. The movements of the characters place them in situations that gives rise to quite a lot of dramatic irony which is handled quite well by the author. This all gives the reader quite a lot of involvement with the characters and does a very good job of keeping the resolution hidden until close to the end. Furthermore I found that, towards the end when some of that irony is played out, I had to stop reading as my emotional involvement was all too apparent in the public place where I was sitting as I read it.

I thought the fantasy world was quite well handled, sufficiently fantastic to be unreal but with just a hint of magic in the background that meant that they weren't casting spells left right and centre. (Too much magic can lead to the Rupert Bear situation where the characters are never really in peril as they simply have to click their heels together to escape the danger and be home in time for tea.) The other interesting feature was that the only non human race were the guppies (not fish people) introduced in chapter one and they were only slightly different to humans so no elves, dwarves or goblins dropping out of the woods left right and centre.


So a good read, well pitched for the childrens' and YA market. At times it had me wishing I could carry on with it as I genuinely wanted to know what happened next. It's not my usual thing but on the whole it's a good book and I'd recommend it to anybody into fantasy or YA stories.

I give it four out of five stars

Thursday, 7 February 2013

Viral video for the Hidden Masters novel

About two or three years ago I decided I wanted to create a viral video to promote The Hidden Masters and the Unspeakable Evil. The original plan was to take a scene from the story and make a short film. Ideally the scene selected should show something of the nature of the story, its humour, how the magic works, how it's not bloody Harry Potter with sparks coming out of wands. All that stuff.

Well making a live action film soon proved impractical so I decided on an animation. I built a 3D model of a Victorian back alley so I could use it as a virtual film set by taking shots from different angles. Google SketchUp proved pretty easy to learn and I soon had all the background images. Next thing I spent a summer trying to learn Flash animation which proved beyond me so I gave that up as a bad job. (Oh yes, in the mean time I actually had a job for part of this time so that took it's toll on progress.) Next thing I had to learn Photoshop to paint the sky, delete all the little construction artefacts, joins in wall panels, etc. That took a year on and off including a twelve week evening class.


Finally, around Yule 2011, I had all the backgrounds and was ready to start drawing the figures. (The final plan was not to have them move or to bother with dialogue so speech bubbles were the obvious way ahead.) I wanted the figures to wear the specific clothes that they wear in the book; a flying jacket and a sailors reefer coat. The web was the obvious place to find the images but I had a stroke of luck that I found a couple of TV programmes where the actors wore the coats I wanted to feature. So I ended up with stills from TV and filled in the gaps with photos from other sources where they didn't include the angles I wanted. Of course at this time I realised that using faces of specific people for each character meant that I could find the expressions I wanted and trace them rather than drawing them from scratch. I'm really not sure where I stand on copyright having traced photos so I'm not saying who they are but if you want to Facebook me privately I might be prepared to confirm or deny a guess but no more than that. Hopefully the faces are changed enough to disguise who they are.

Anyway, it took a year to draw the figures ending just about Yule 2012. Then someone suggested that I needed a soundtrack. I looked into music but it was all too challenging to find something of the right length and tone. However, I've got a sound editing suite that I bought for preparing music for parties so that seemed the obvious choice. The sound of raindrops (unrealistically loud but you can't really hear light rain), cat noises and lightning were all easy to find and it was a matter of an evening or so to come up with the sound track.


So here it is, three years in the making, almost as long as it took to write the book that's it's intended to promote. However, since my first ever book (non fiction back in 1989) described the idea of the information virus I might have accidentally invented viral marketing before the technology existed to make it possible. Was fate waiting for me to make the viral video before I could have my big break? You decide. Here's the video. You might need to enlarge it to full screen to read the captions.