Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Book of the Month



     'Damn your eyes, sir! You think me a simpleton? If you was to set the Excise men loose on Redmond’s affairs, there’s no telling that they might not stumble upon your own. Is that not the case? This whole town is riddled with corruption. Why, they tell me that sometimes you have timbers imported here on the very same vessels that land Redmond’s tea, so that you might avoid the duty together.’

1744, and the whole country is threatened once again by civil war as the exiled Stuarts attempt to recover their lost throne. Their Manchester supporters will use any means to raise support and finance for the Jacobite Cause. But those loyal to the current monarchy are equally determined to stop them. As the opposing forces gather, and the threat of civil war becomes a reality, the fates of both sides will lie in the hands of one man – Aran Owen – who must choose between loyalty to the family who have raised him and his burning ambition to become a renowned artist. The finale will be played out on the ramparts of Carlisle Castle in the winter of 1745. Hopes of a Stuart Restoration are dashed – and Aran finally discovers who are the Rogues and who the Righteous within the complex web of his relationships.
 This book is a massive work of art and the extensive research done by the author is to be commended. This book was nothing like I expected when I first picked it up. I was looking forward to what I believed to be a tale based around 'Bonnie Prince Charlie' and his fight to win back the British throne from the Hanoverian King George for the Stuart dynasty. I was dissapointed to find that it was not, but as I continued to read I found itquite intriguing and the more I read the more I enjoyed it.
It begins with a prologue in which the reader is left with a moral. The main character a young Aran Owen is sent by his mother on a fly wagon to Manchester, on the way there he travels with a gentleman who teaches him that he will need to know the righteous from the rogues. Then years later, we meet the family that a grown up Aran has been fostered to in Manchester. They are staunch Jacobites, supporters of the Stuart cause. At the head of the family is Titus Redmond, a wealthy, middleaged merchant and brothel owner, his beautiful wife who uses her charms to gain information for the cause in her liason with royalist James Bradley and their four daughters, the eldest, Rosina, equally as attractive as her mother, but 'afflicted' by tribady (lesbianism). Another main player was the insidious and  interesting double spy Dudley Striker whose sinister presence throughout the book makes him one of the most strangely enjoyable characters.
Other characters include the coffee house owner Elizabeth Cooper, who seduces the young influential Rosina Redmond much to the distaste of Aran who hankers after the beautiful Rosina. The relationship between the two women cause a terrible scandal in Manchester social circles and astounds not least , Rosina's parents.
The above are just some of the characters in this book, there are also many others who contribute to the many threads of this tale as they lead to the explosive conclusion of the book. We see the two different sides, the Jacobites, steadfastly Catholic and the Protestant Royalists as curiously they strive to behave with decorum in social circles whilst behind the scenes plotting the downfall of their rivals. Titus Redmond's wife Maria Louise was one of the most likeable characters.She is loyal to her husband despite her sexual liasons, one with Aran, which they hide duplicitly from Titus and the other with James Bradley, a relationship that Titus encouraged in order for the Jacobites to gain oneupmanship on the Hanoverians. However, Titus doesnt bargain for Maria Louise falling for Bradley, whom she later realises she is in love with. 
One of my small criticisms was that it was difficult to follow who the main character was at times as it seemed there were more scenes where the focus was on other characters and considering that the author implies that as the Jacobites apprentice, Aran is the main character, he appears to have the smallest role so-to-speak. However, the plot seems to evolve as Aran is drawn into the Hanoverian camp and having come under threat from the deadly assassin Striker, does his best to remain loyal to the family who have brought him good fortune, the Redmonds. The weird relationship between Rosina and her lesbian lover, Royalist Elzabeth Cooper leaves you wondering why on earth the author has used the story line but all will be revealed in the conclusion as Aran works out who were the Rogues and who were the Righteous, however it seems apparent to him, I confess it wasnt exactly apparent to me. I must say the it went a little over my head much like a joke's punchline that you dont understand.
The language of The Jacobites Apprentice was authentic and very amusing. David Ebbsworth uses well researched 18thc vernacular and the over use of a certain swear word sometimes made me cringe, however I accept that this was the personality of the character being portrayed. In his author's note, David lets us know what his references were and he produces an extensive library to back up his use of events, places and people. He also lets us know what his inventions were and which part of the novel were accurately portrayed. Dudley Striker it seems was based on a real person, I particularly liked reading his back story. The characters are quite complex and there are no perfect heroes, they all have their foibles. I could see this book being made into a big televsion production or even a musical! Well they did Sweeny Todd didnt they!
 The Jacobites would not be for everybody I imagine, it is a great sweeping giant of a book and the language is authentic and reads like a classic. If you like an easy read, this isnt for you. but if you are the type who enjoys Henry Fielding and Charles Dickens this is definitely for you. And if you want a challenge, then this is also for you! Brilliant stuff. Go on Challenge yourself! Its worth it!

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

The Good and Bad about Booksignings

Hi Everyone

I haven't posted here for quite sometime apart from posting some interviews with my new author friends. I have been quite busy with work and family and also some health problems. But I am back and this years regime is family,write, blog, re-enactment, sell books and take care of house. So, I'll go back a little and tell you whats been happening in the last couple of months.

Well, I have had a couple of Waterstones signings, one in my home town of Crawley in September which was quite successful. I managed to sell 13 out of 15 books, which I consider for my genre and the fact that I am a new independent author, really quite good. I then had an event at Crawley Library which was indeed successful with about 36 people in attendance. I thought that my initial success at Crawley Waterstones and the good rapport I had built up with the staff would endear me to other Waterstone stores and I was obviously very naive to think that. We had heard the news that Waterstones were about to get very selective about who they had doing booksignings, but because Crawley had been so welcoming, I figured that it was not as bad as whatevery one was saying...well at storelevel any way. And so I gaily abandoned myself to calling stores around the Sussex area to arrange a booksigning event and found that a lot of stores were either down right rude in their rejection or apologetic, saying that although they would love to help Indie authors, they were not allowed to. This seemed to be going against what their head office was telling my publisher, Silverwoods Books, but it seemed that whilst they were advising their stores not to cancel any events that people were booked in for, they should not book anyone in future that could not  guarantee queues at the till. Well, how many indie and unknown authors could do that? One of the most startling things I was told by one of the store managers was that my book was far too expensive for their customers at 12.99. She stated that she was hardly able to sell a book at 8.99 let alone 12.99. I explained to her that it was priced that high because it was a big book, around 150000 words, plenty of book for your money. But no, she wouldnt give in even though I'd sold nearly all of my stock at Crawley Waterstones, a less afluent area. I later went on to sell out at another store despite the price being 12.99 and when i am only getting about £2 return on that then thats the only way I'd getting anything.

Anyway, I failed to be deterred and carried on working through my list. Then I came upon a refreshingly interested lady called Celia in Maidstone and she invited me to come for a signing at there store in East St. I was very happy to have achieved a signing at last but I waited with baited breath for the inevitible email that would tell me regrettably that they had instructions to cancel me. An email did come, but it was to confirm that I was still available to come on that date. Happily, I returned the email confirming that I was and waited for the date to come around, which was on November 17th. On November the 10th I had arranged to have a signing with the wonderful John Pye in his Bookshop in East Grinstead High St, nestled in a row of marvellous Tudor buildings. In the afternoon I was to have an event at the museum which was to take place across the road in the East Grinstead museum. I had re-enactors come to demonstrate weapons and daily living in the 11thc. Unfortunately no one came to the museum event which was very disappointing. Although I had gicen them posters they hadnt really done a lot to advertise, but on the upside, I had a reasonably good day at the Bookshop and John Pye invited me back to have another signing which I did on December the 8th.

Then came the Waterstones event in Maidstone, East St. When I arrived the staff were very welcoming and chatty and advised me that they couldn't promise me a good day. In fact the lady last week they'd had in only sold one copy of her book to a friend. Oh dear, I thought. not what I want to hear. I wondered if I should just go home then and there! Anyway, I resoved to give it a good try. Long story short, after a very slow start, it suddenly took off. I sold the whole of the stock they'd got in. The staff were very impressed after their depressing prediction earlier! They admitted they had got it wrong - lol. I have been offered another signing in their other Waterstones Branch in Fremlin Walk sometime this year.

So on the upside there have been good and bad reactions to booksignings in Waterstones. I have also got a positive response from Hastings Waterstones also, so all is not lost where Waterstones are concerned. I have also got the chance of more library events coming in the new year and hopefully some more Museum Events. One thing I have learned is that its a hard world out there for Indie authors who dont have the luxury of a big publishing house to back them, market them and support them. But to me, the advantages of being self published far outweigh the disadvantages and I love being in control, something that a published author in the mainstream industry doesn't necessarily have. And this is not a career for me, but more of a hobby. The most rewarding thing is definitely not the money I might make on my book, which is quite frugal when sold through retailers, but the joy of knowing someone is reading my hard work and if they like it, its a bigger bonus in the happiness department as far as I am concerned.

And so I am working now on the edit of the sequel to Sons of the Wolf,  The Wolf Banner and hoping it to be published in the Spring., tells you more about the continuation of Wulfhere's story.

One of the biggest joys I have had is knowing that a group of people regarded my book highly enough to award it a medallion. Winning an Indie BRAG medallion last year was an amazing feeling!
And there is almost nothing that compares to the feeling you get when someone tells you they are reading your book and enjoying it immensely. For that I am always grateful.

So here's to 2013, more writing and more reading!