Monday, 24 August 2015

Review: Ghost on the Throne, by James Romm

Ghost on the Throne is a history of the years immediately after the death of Alexander the Great, as the Diadochi (Successors) battled for mastery of the world. I have read a small amount on the subject, and was interested to see how this stacked up.

After Alexander passed on, it was as if the alpha wolf of a pack had died. But because he had so many secondary fellows, all of whom acknowledged they were his inferior but considered themselves equal to their fellows, suddenly there were a large number of would be alpha wolves looking to get as much power and influence as possible. No shrinking violets, the upper echelons of the Macedonian elite were (almost uniformly) personally brave, quick-witted, devious men hardened by decades of constant warfare. And the only man capable of reigning over them was gone.

There are ten chapters, each starting with an overview and then little sections of a few pages (sometimes less) focused on one individual or a small group in a given time and place. The approach is interesting, and effectively disentangles a fluid political and military situation that might otherwise become too complicated, enabling the various events to be kept track of more easily.

Whilst I was familiar with the general progression of events there was new information about the parts I knew (anecdotes about Antigonus losing his eye and trusting Demetrius), and a whole slew of completely fresh information regarding the situation in Athens (as well as bits and pieces elsewhere).

The level of detail was spot on. The progression of events was relayed in detail without getting bogged down in triviality, and the writing style was very easy to read without being dumbed down.

There’s a focus on the political (and personal psychology) rather than the military, which is partly because major battles and direct confrontation were relatively uncommon.

Another plus was the map at the start (there are a few others, and some illustrations/photographs, later on) which overlaid Alexander’s conquests onto a modern map of Europe/Asia/Africa. It really was bloody enormous.

So, down sides. Not many, to be honest. I would’ve liked the book to go on for longer, though it does end at a natural break point. The references to ‘old man Antipater’ do get over-used. There are notes, which was a surprise because there are no symbols/numbers to signify these and I stumbled across them at the back of the book when I’d finished it [I also much prefer footnotes to endnotes].

I would recommend this book to anyone after a history of the aftermath of Alexander’s death. I think it’s accessible for new history readers, but has a level of detail that would also satisfy people who already have some knowledge of the era.


Doing It For Yourself

In the third of a four part series on self-publishing/a hybrid approach (mixing traditional and self-publishing), Jo Zebedee explains why a book that doesn’t easily fit into a category could be better off self-published.

So, if you’ve written a story about a cyborg bounty hunter space pirate with magic powers and a ghostly best friend, give the link a click and benefit from her wise words:


Wednesday, 19 August 2015

You Can Judge A Book By Its Cover

And lots of people do.

My second book, Journey to Altmortis, is better than the first, Bane of Souls. The writing’s tighter, pace is quicker and it’s got a better rating on both Amazon and Goodreads.

But Bane of Souls has sold quite a bit more. Which confounded me, but I think one of the reasons is the cover.

Now, I want to make clear that I chose what I wanted for both of them, and I really like the artwork that was produced by Tiramizsu, my excellent cover artist. The problem isn’t the art, it’s the choice I made.

The cover, and title, of Bane of Souls has been specifically mentioned as a reason for giving it a go. I’ve read elsewhere that covers with a single individual on the front often go down well. Sometimes a symbol/crest can work (perhaps if you don’t have a clear protagonist).

It’s also important to consider a cover that works both in real life and as a thumbnail. You need to get technical stuff like having the title and author name clearly visible right (NB if you’re a big time author like George RR Martin your name will be relatively larger. Otherwise, the title should probably be bigger than the author name).

Then there’s the title. I generally find picking titles difficult (I only chose Bane of Souls very late on. The book has many named characters die, and the plot’s twisty which meant I didn’t want to give anything away). Because of my own difficulty, it’s hard to offer much advice here. I’d just suggest ensuring it fits the genre and sounds fairly interesting.

It’s a little odd to think that years of writing might have less impact on whether a sale is made than the three words in a title or the cover, but I strongly believe that’s the case. So, don’t neglect the title and cover. It’s the first thing a potential reader will see of your book, and might also be the last.


Monday, 17 August 2015

Stuff To Avoid When Self-publishing

The second in the four part series on self/hybrid-publishing (mixing self-publishing and more traditional routes) was written by EJ Tett, and covers pitfalls that are easy to fall into. So, click the link, dodge those elephant traps, and enjoy her wise words.