Amazon Academy KDP event, EICC

I was invited along to be part of Amazon’s Academy event in the Edinburgh International Conference Centre last Tuesday, 23rd May. This was mainly for small businesses but there was also a section dedicated to Kindle Direct Publishing, chaired by the head of KDP UK, Darren Hardy. I was on two of the panels during the day. Here’s how it went…

My wife and I came through the day before and spent the night at the Edinburgh Park Novotel. I highly recommend this place as it’s on the outskirts so you can avoid the city centre traffic, check-in, and use the tram/train stations right outside to get about. We had a nice dinner and a couple of drinks. I don’t recommend trying to carry a full Cosmopolitan up four floors in an elevator packed with Chinese tourists, but I made it without spilling a drop!

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The next day I was nervous, as I always am before important things like this so all I had for breakfast was half a bread roll and a yoghurt. The bacon, scrambled eggs and beans looked good, but I had no appetite. We headed for the tram and made our way towards the city, where I got off at Haymarket and my wife went further on for some shopping.

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The EICC was a really impressive sight with all the Amazon flags flying and, when I got inside, my friendly KDP contact spotted me straight away. I had no time to hang around thinking about things as she ushered me straight into the auditorium where Darren was talking people through the process of uploading your book to KDP. I got a real kick seeing myself on one of his slides!

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I hoped for a moment to compose myself, calm my nerves and so on before getting up onto the stage for the first panel but I never had a chance. Paul Teague, Harriet Smart and myself were called up straight away, handed our headsets/microphones and it was on!

That first section was all about the process of writing, with Darren asking us questions about how we worked and I have to say it was so much fun. I loved it! The thought of being on a stage in front of a crowd is always frightening – I actually threw up before one of the gigs I played when I was in a metal band – but once you’re up there doing it the nerves go away and it’s great.

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There was a short break after that but I didn’t get a chance for a coffee as some of the audience came down to chat (including novelist Margaret Skea), which suited me fine. I was asked about appearing at a couple of other things and, of course, said I’d love to. I’ll let you know if it comes to anything.

The next panel was all about marketing and by now Murray McDonald had joined us after flying up from London that morning. We talked about free promotions, Goodreads giveaways, paid ads from the likes of Bookbub, Kindle Nation Daily, Facebook etc and I actually picked up some tips myself from the other panellists so it was really good although not quite as much fun as talking about writing. I will really need to write a detailed blog post with some tips on marketing but for now, you can check out this one I did a while ago.

That was my final panel for the day and time for another break. Some more people came to chat and I was glad to get a chance to talk to Darren Hardy in a more relaxed setting again. I first met him when I appeared with KDP at the London Book Fair in 2014 and he’s a really nice guy who does a great job of running the panels.

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It was down to the main hall then as Amazon had laid on a fantastic lunch for everyone at the event – salmon, potatoes, cheesecake! I’d brought along a box filled with copies of Knight of the Cross, flyers, and Blood of the Wolf bookmarks which people could help themselves to and they were quickly gone. I hope anyone that got a free book enjoys the tale…

So that was it for me. There were more panels later on, with Linda Gillard joining the others, but I had to head off to try and avoid the rush hour traffic back along the M8 towards Glasgow and home. I was so pleased to have been a part of the event and the Amazon staff and the audience were all really lovely. Some of them even told me I was very memorable. Hopefully they meant it in a nice way!

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I want to thank the audience for being so kind and Amazon for actually having me on the panel. If you ever get a chance to do something like this, grab it with both hands, even if you think you’d be too nervous. If I can do it, anyone can!

 

PS – I found some of those photos on Twitter and I don’t know who took them. If you want credited just send me a message. Thanks for taking them!

The Eagle: The Interview

My new book covers some of the same ground as this movie. I thought it was a poor film but this interview is really interesting, check it out!

An Historian Goes to the Movies

As I promised previously, it’s time for an interview that I had the pleasure of doing by email with Lindsay Allason-Jones, who worked as the historical consultant on The Eagle (2011, dir. Kevin McDonald).

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Lindsay Allason-Jones is the founder and former director of the Cluster for Interdisciplinary Artefact Studies at Newcastle University, as well as a Visiting Reader at Newcastle.  (For those not familiar with British universities, a ‘reader’ is the equivalent of a full professor at an American university.) She is a specialist in the archaeology of Roman Britain, and was thus a very good choice to consult on The Eagle, whose director was serious about trying to by historically accurate with the film.

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So let’s get to the interview (which has been edited for readability).

An Historian: Thank you so much for agreeing to this interview. I’ve wanted for some time to interview someone who’s worked…

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Wolf’s Head

Excellent new review of Wolf’s Head, take a look!

The Written Word

Synopsis
When a frightened young outlaw joins a gang of violent criminals their names – against a backdrop of death, dishonour, brotherhood, and love – will become legend.

ENGLAND 1321 AD

After viciously assaulting a corrupt but powerful clergyman Robin Hood flees the only home he has ever known in Wakefield, Yorkshire. Becoming a member of a notorious band of outlaws, Hood and his new companions – including John Little and Will Scaflock – hide out in the great forests of Barnsdale, fighting for their very existence as the law hunts them down like animals. When they are betrayed, and their harsh lives become even more unbearable, the band of friends seeks bloody vengeance. Meanwhile, the country is in turmoil, as many of the powerful lords strive to undermine King Edward II’s rule until, inevitably, rebellion becomes a reality and the increasingly deadly yeoman outlaw from Wakefield finds his fate…

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US Amazon giveaway

USA readers – #AmazonGiveaway for a paperback copy of Wolf’s Head (The Forest Lord 1). No Purchase Necessary: https://giveaway.amazon.com/p/d6841b2d984eed4d/?ref_=tsm_4_tw_h_o_li_r

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And a worldwide giveaway on Goodreads for a signed copy of Knight of the Cross!

https://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/231080-knight-of-the-cross

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Don’t forget, Wolf’s Head is still FREE on Kindle to US Amazon Prime members, and the entire series of Forest Lord novels are just 99p each on Amazon UK during May! The good thing is, if you buy any of them at this reduced rate, you can also get the Audible versions at a reduced rate so what are you waiting for?

The Forest Lord series - just 99p each in Amazon's Monthly Kindle Deal for May 2017!

 

Eleven Questions…

Some really great questions for me in this interview, check it out!

Of Quills & Vellum

With Steven McKay

dsc_4100-xTell me your story.

I’ve always been a keen reader, from the Hardy Boys as a kid to the Sword of Shannara as a teenager and nowadays mostly historical fiction. In fact, I love books so much I decided to try and write one myself. Almost 90,000 sales of my Forest Lord series later I’m still not sure I know what I’m doing but enjoying the ride!

Tell me about your latest book.

botw-emailBlood of the Wolf has just come out on Audible/iTunes but my newest story is “The Prisoner,” which is a short story in Amazon’s Kindle Singles Program. Like all my books so far it’s part of the Forest Lord series but I’ve just started work on a brand new trilogy. This time I’m telling the tale of a druid who lives in the north of Britain just after the Romans have left the island…

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Review: Rise of the Wolf – Steven A McKay

Excellent and insightful review for Rise of the Wolf. Check it out!

Speesh Reads

5 of 5 stars

Series: The Forest Lord 3

My version: Paperback
Historical Fiction Robin Hood
Self published
2015
Bought

Sir Guy of Gisbourne is back!

Bent on vengeance against Robin Hood and with a turncoat new lieutenant in tow, an unlikely new hero must stand up for herself…

Yorkshire, England, 1323 AD

The greenwood has been quiet and the outlaws have become complacent, but the harsh reality of life is about to hit the companions with brutal, deadly force thanks to their old foe, Prior John de Monte Martini.

From a meeting with King Edward II himself, to the sheriff’s tournament with its glittering prize, the final, fatal, showdown fast approaches for the legendary Wolf’s Head.

New friends, shattered loyalties, and a hate-filled hunter that threatens to wipe out not only Robin’s companions but his entire family will all play their part in the Rise of the Wolf.

I…

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Forest Lord series in Amazon’s Monthly Deals. 99p each!

The Forest Lord series - just 99p each in Amazon's Monthly Kindle Deal for May 2017!

All the Forest Lord novels are just 99p during May. Under £4 for the complete set, bargain!

https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B01LQSSXS0
Don’t forget, Wolf’s Head is also FREE to Amazon Prime members in the USA for a time as well.

Share with your historical fiction loving friends!

The dreaded “F-word” in historical fiction – what’s your opinion on it?

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Okay, as you probably all know, I’ve finished off my Forest Lord series* and am now working on a new novel starring a warrior druid rampaging through post-Roman Britain. That will be the first in, I expect, a trilogy but who knows…?

 

Now, I remember writing my debut novel, Wolf’s Head, and wondering if I should leave in all the swearing. At that time I was particularly enjoying books by guys like Anthony Riches who uses the f-word rather a lot. It didn’t ruin the enjoyment of the story for me – quite the opposite in fact: it made the characters more realistic. I’ve spent a lot of time with groups of hard working class men and, trust me, swearing is very common. And the women often have even filthier mouths on them!

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Chock f**king full of sweary words and stuff

Anyway, I messaged Anthony on Facebook and asked his advice (he’s a very approachable guy as well as a great storyteller). He told me to do what I felt was right, not to make a decision on what I thought would sell or what anyone else might want.

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“Do what you feel is right. Now f**k off and leave me alone!”

 

So I left in the swearing, despite the fact my biggest influence was Bernard Cornwell who never uses the “harder” swear words like f**k or, God forbid, the dreaded C-word (I think I used that once in my entire series, to punctuate a particularly harrowing death scene).

Recently though, Amazon accepted a couple of my short tales into their Kindle Singles Program. I am really honoured to be in there (Friar Tuck and the Christmas Devil was the first, followed lately by “The Prisoner” and “The Escape”) but I started to wonder if maybe the audience for the Kindle Singles might be put off by the swearing. My Amazon contact thought I was probably right and so we agreed I’d take out the worst of the language. Anyone who read the original draft of “The Escape” which I gave away FREE to my Email List subscribers will see the difference in the version that’s now on sale as a Kindle Single.

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I didn’t really think toning down the language diluted the stories so I’ve stuck with it while writing the final Forest Lord novella, The Abbey of Death (publication date still to be announced).

The thing is, over the years, I’ve had a few 1-star reviews by people who say they liked my stories and characters but were so offended by the swearing that it ruined the whole thing for them. Now, my instinctive, defensive reaction to a review like that is to think, “Well, f**k you mate. Go and read a Hardy Boys story.”

But, is it really adding that much more to my books to have swearing in them? Like I say, Bernard Cornwell is the guy that made me want to write British historical fiction and the worst you’ll read in his books is a “turd” or “shit”. But his books, particularly the early Uhtred ones and the King Arthur trilogy, are fantastic and more than gritty enough.

I’m torn on this and I’d dearly like to hear your opinions on it.

Some people ARE turned off my books when they see the swearing and that’s the last thing I want. I want to reach the widest audience I possibly can and I want as many of them as possible to enjoy what they’re reading.

So – do you think my books would suffer if there were no f-bombs in them? Or would it not make much difference as long as the stories were good?

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PLEASE – let me know! Leave a comment at the bottom of the page here or use the CONTACT button at the top or message me on Facebook or Twitter or whatever.

This is hugely important to me so do share your thoughts – you, the readers, are after all who I’m writing for…

Cheers

Steven

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*The Abbey of Death is all finished, just waiting to find out what will be happening with it but it should be published soon. I put a LOT of work into this and early indications suggest it’s been worth it. I hope you all LOVE what I’ve done with Will Scarlet!

 

 

Audiobook reviews and an Event

First off, I have been asked by Amazon KDP if I’d like to be part of their forthcoming event in Edinburgh on May 23rd, to which I of course said, “I’d LOVE it!” I might have picked them up wrong but it seems they want me to be part of a panel giving advice to aspiring authors, rather like I did with them at the London Book Fair in 2014 (read about that incredible, and often humourous experience HERE). So, if you are in Scotland and can make it to the EICC on May 23rd, please come along and say hello – I will be taking copies of one of my books to sign and give away to interested parties!

Some more info HERE – I believe you need to sign up but tickets are free.

Right, enough of that. Onto some reviews of my latest Audible purchases….

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I was a spotty teenager when I first discovered The Sword of Shannara more than 25 years ago. My friend was given it as a birthday gift and oh, how I laughed at him for being a geeky nerd twat!

Until he let me borrow it and I thought it was just the best book anyone had ever written.

It was my gateway into fantasy and, although now I can see it’s basically a total rip-off of Lord of the Rings, it’s still an excellent read/listen. The parallels with JRR Tolkien’s masterpiece are blatant and legion (Flick & Shea = Frodo & Sam, Gimli = Hendel, Aragorn = Balinor, Gandalf =Allanon, Nazgul =Skull Bearers etc etc), but Brooks is, or at least was, a fantastic writer and I highly recommend this to everyone. My only reservation is the bizarre amount of times he describes characters as “lean”. It seems everyone that populates this world, from the giant druid Allanon to the lowliest goblin, is “lean”. They have lean frames, lean faces, lean figures…They could all do with a good feed from the sounds of them.

But I digress, it matters little to the overall experience, and this is one of the most enjoyable audiobooks I’ve listened to so far. Scott Brick isn’t perfect for fantasy narration – I liked him way better in Asimov’s sci-fi Foundation series – but he does a fine job here, even if his pronunciation of “Shannara” is irritating at first and he sometimes gives Flick a weird Dick Van Dyke-style cockney accent.

It’s a really long book so it represents great value for your monthly credit!

My rating – 5 / 5, easy!

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Writing Great Fiction – The Great Courses

I enjoy listening to lectures for some reason and this seemed like it would be an ideal way for me to learn a few new tricks while I drive around at work.

To be honest, and I’m not blowing my own trumpet here, I think this is probably aimed more at real beginners who’ve yet to pen a novel or publish even a short story. I found the lectures interesting although I’m unfamiliar with the vast majority of the books the professor uses as examples. They’re mostly all classics but I grew up on fantasy and sci-fi and now concentrate on historical fiction so I’ve not read The Maltese Falcon or Dickens or Melville but it doesn’t matter, you get the point of the lectures regardless.

The overall theme seems to be: “I’m not saying this is the right way or the wrong way to write because different authors forge their own path.” In other words, there might be rules most authors will stick to but they’re there to be bent and broken so, do what you like.

If you’re looking for some concrete ways to write a best-seller this isn’t for you. It IS, however, an interesting and entertaining listen and I’ve enjoyed it so give it a shot.

Rating – 3.5 / 5

That’s it for now I’m afraid. I have a few other new books in my library including the next two in the Dune series, a history of the decline of the Roman Empire, and an Aleister Crowley biography but I’ve either not finished those or not started them yet. I’ve been listening to too much AC/DC recently after buying myself a Gibson SG Standard and rediscovering my once-favourite band!

Keep it tuned here for more audiobook reviews and news on the release date of my final Forest Lord novella, The Abbey of Death which is all finished….

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The Forest Lord series – complete reading order

Rather embarrassingly, I recently said my new short story “The Escape” should be read after Rise of the Wolf, when it should actually come after The Wolf and the Raven.

DOH.

You’d think I’d know my own stories by now, but, in my defence, they’ve been written over the past four years at different times and the shorts in particular all have similar names!

So I thought I’d post a recommended reading order, along with the dates they’re set in, just to keep you (me) right.

This is how I suggest you read them:

Wolf’s Head -1321

Knight of the Cross -1309  This one can really be read any time but I think it’s best to meet the characters of Sir Richard and Stephen in Wolf’s Head before moving onto this spin-off novella.

The Wolf and the Raven  – 1322

“The Escape” – 1323

Rise of the Wolf – 1323

Friar Tuck and the Christmas Devil – 1323

“The Prisoner” – 1325

“The Rescue” – 1325     Get it HERE for FREE! This is the only place it’s available.

Blood of the Wolf – 1326

The Abbey of Death – 1328 (not released yet, but it’s due very soon!)

 

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