Indie authors and reviews

I recently read a post on Facebook by one of my favourite historical fiction authors, where he said he can’t wait to get the manuscript for his new book back from the copy-editor. His copy-editor is a historian – a scholar – so any mistakes the author made will be picked up on and fixed for the final draft.

This obviously makes perfect sense. When I read his books (which are traditionally published by Corgi), I want them to be as accurate as possible as well as being great reads.

The thing is, though – indie authors don’t have the luxury of a raft of editors, proof-readers and fact checkers like traditionally published authors do. Some might, but the majority, like me, are lucky to have a professional editor, cover designer and perhaps a proof-reader. Some can’t even afford that much and have to do the lot by themselves.

And yet, many times I’ll read a review of some major author’s new book where the reader will mention how the history is impeccable and assume it’s all down to the writer doing months of gruelling research on their chosen time period as if the book was a one man/woman operation. I’m sure in some cases those authors  genuinely know their subject inside out*, but even if they do make a mistake – just as an example say they mention potatoes in Saxon England – one of their many editors will notice and correct it.

The reader doesn’t see all these corrections going on behind the scenes, they simply enjoy a good book that’s historically accurate, assume it’s all down to the author being great, and a potential 4 star review becomes a 5.

dragonlance

Oi! Potatoes weren’t introduced to England until 1586 you fool!

Contrast that with the reviews you see of many indie books which happen to make a slight historical mistake: The author hasn’t bothered to research the period; they don’t care about what they’re writing because they’re just jumping on a bandwagon to cash in on a current trend; they rushed the book; they suck in general and probably kick puppies in the nuts too. Oh and they should take a leaf out of that famous author’s book – he NEVER gets his facts wrong! And a potential 4 star review becomes a 3.

Honestly, I haven’t noticed any major complaints about historical accuracy in my own books – generally readers seem to think I’ve researched medieval England pretty well, so this isn’t a rant in response to any reviews I’ve had personally.

I’m also not in any way trying to make excuses for badly written or researched indie books, not at all. I’m just talking about minor factual errors that lead to poor ratings for a book an author has slaved over for months that the reader has otherwise enjoyed. We may not get every fact right, but if the story kicks ass, the characters are good and overall you really enjoyed your £2/$3 purchase then that has to count for something in your review right? Think twice before you dock a star for that rogue Saxon potato!

Okay, enough of this, time to get back to work on my new Robin Hood book, Blood Of The Wolf. The lads have just escaped the dastardly sheriff and are about to share a pizza and a few cans of lager around the campfire…

 

blood of the wolf

 

BTW, the author that sparked this little post was Douglas Jackson (who I’m certain knows the Romans as well as anyone!), and his Gaius Valerius Verrens books are fantastic. Check out one of my reviews here.

 

avenger cover

 

* Writers like Ben Kane, Andrew Latham and Robyn Young, for example, probably know their stuff better than any historian.

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Signed copies now available on Ebay

If anyone wants to buy a signed copy of any of my books and wants the simplicity of Ebay, here you go: MY EBAY STORE
signed books historical fiction
 
Otherwise, just send me a message using the CONTACT button or email me at stormwatch1977@hotmail.com and I’ll sort you out!

New BLOOD OF THE WOLF bookmarks

FREE with every signed paperback! What do you think? I’ve been getting business cards for the past couple of years but bookmarks make more sense, right?

Anyone buying a signed paperback from me will get one of these free. They’re printed on nice, high-quality card so should last for years. It would be pushing it to suggest they’ll be a collector’s item one day when I’m really rich and famous but they ARE pretty cool, really! The perfect companion for any avid reader…If you would like to purchase any of my books – signed, lined and dated – just hit the “Contact” button and I’ll get it sorted.

Look out for Blood of the Wolf this summer. I’ve just been working on it tonight again and, hopefully, it’ll be a great ending to the Forest Lord series.

robin hood bookmarks

custom bookmarks

 

Some new audiobook reviews

As you probably know, I have an Audible account and listen to quite a lot of audiobooks. Here’s some reviews of my latest purchases, check them out!

comrades at odds review

Comrades at Odds: A Tale from The Legend of Drizzt
UNABRIDGED
by R. A. Salvatore
Narrated by Ice-T

I’ve read a few of Salvatore’s Drizzt books and thought they were really good. I’m also a big fan of Ice-T, either in Law and Order:SVU or his metal band Bodycount – the guy just has a great voice!

ice-t reads fantasy book

Ice-muthaf**in’-T, y’all!

So I saw this short story read by him and I thought it was just such a strange combination that it HAD to be cool.

And it kind of is, but ultimately isn’t the best book you’ll listen to this year.
The story is okay, presumably setting up a new character for later full length novels, but not a lot happens and I felt like this was probably aimed more at fans who are familiar with this era of the stories.
Ice-T’s reading is quite good, but it IS reading. He doesn’t try to act any of the parts and never varies his voice when it comes to different characters. He reads a woman’s lines in the same voice as he reads any of the men’s. To be fair, Ice-T putting on a girly voice would have seemed pretty hilarious so it’s not surprising he avoided it, but it does mean the performance is lacking something.
It doesn’t cost much and it’s overall a decent listen so I can recommend it – just don’t expect too much. You might be better starting with one of Salvatore’s full length novels like The Chrystal Shard.

Rating – 3.5/5

empire

Empire: The Novel of Imperial Rome
UNABRIDGED
by Steven Saylor
Narrated by James Langton

I’ve read some of Saylor’s stuff in the past and enjoyed it so when I saw this very long audiobook for the princely sum of one credit I knew it would be good value.
And it is! It lasts for a long time so will keep you going until the next credit rolls in. But is it any good? Yes, for the most part it’s well written, has interesting characters and is almost a history lesson without becoming boring or dry.
It follows one family, from generation to generation, as they deal with the various emperors and great events that shaped the mighty Rome. It’s all set within Rome itself and it’s mainly about people and political events, so don’t expect battles or heroic centurions. This is no Ben Kane or Douglas Jackson book but it works, mostly, just as well as something more action oriented as it’s so interesting and so well read – the
narrator really does a fine job.
The only downsides for me were a) everything is rather bleak and depressing, with lots of descriptions of people being tortured for fun while the populace lap it up like rabid dogs and b) there’s too much emphasis on the sexual appetites of everyone. It seems like everyone in Rome was either a sadist or a nymphomaniac which might be true for all I know, but it doesn’t make for the most exciting book. At times I felt like it was too depressing and I just longed to listen to some throwaway, light fantasy or something fun by the likes of Terry Pratchett.
But, overall, this is a fine audiobook – great value for your credit, with a nice performance by the narrator James Langton, and, in general an interesting and nicely structured tale.
Give it a try!

Rating – 4/5

azure

Azure Bonds: Forgotten Realms: Finder’s Stone, Book 1
UNABRIDGED
By Kate Novak , Jeff Grubb
Narrated By Kristin Kalbli

I first read this book a long time ago when I was a teenager. So, probably about 25 years or so ago. At the time I thought it was great, so when I saw it listed on Audible I thought it’d be worth a listen. This is one of the old-school, 80’s American fantasy novels a la Dragonlance and, as such, it’s aimed more at young adults than the likes of Game of Thrones. This is no bad thing in itself but some fantasy fans new to the genre might find this kind of book a little twee.
I was happy to find myself enjoying the tale, which is a good one no matter what age you are, and the characters and events were interesting enough to keep me listening right to the end. I’ll buy the second book in the series too at some point, no doubt.
Dragons, magic, sword fights, friendship, a dangerous quest – it’s all here and the fact it’s aimed at teens means there’s some light humour and nothing gets too dark or depressing.
The narrator is okay without being either brilliant or annoying.

Heartily recommended.

4.5/5

macbeth audiobook review

Macbeth: A Novel
UNABRIDGED
by A. J. Hartley , David Hewson
Narrated by Alan Cumming

Narration was very good (can’t beat a Scottish accent, even if it IS from the wrong side of the country here!) and overall I enjoyed this audiobook. A bit light though, it seemed to flick between scenes without much character development. I’ve never seen the play so thought this would be a good introduction but now I’m not fussed about ever seeing it.
Feels a bit like a wasted opportunity, I think the bones of the story could have been turned into a better modern novel.

Rating – 3.5/5

eagles at war ben kane audiobook review

Eagles at War
UNABRIDGED
By Ben Kane
Narrated By David Rintoul

I’ve been a big fan of Ben Kane’s since his very first Forgotten Legion series, and I was reading his first Spartacus novel in the hospital just after my son was born. I really wanted to check out this new series of his, but I don’t have much time to read these days so the Audible version was downloaded as soon as I had a spare credit.
The narrator is excellent, really putting himself into the tale and acting rather than simply reading which I really enjoy.
The tale, based on a true story, is a good one, with a few nice twists and turns, some good characters and an ending that sets up the rest of the series very nicely. I liked the way the author made me wonder who I should be rooting for – who was the “goodie” and who was the “baddie”? In most books that is very clear cut but here you empathise with both sides and that elevates this work above the usual run-of-the-mill action romp.
If I have a criticism it’s the fact that a certain character was blind to what was coming, even when it was pointed out to him on more than one occasion. It seemed so obvious that it made the guy in question come across as a bit of a fool but I suppose this is something authors must deal with when they choose to write about true events and people.

Overall, another great book by Ben Kane, although I personally liked the Spartacus novel better and will be downloading the second in that series next.

Rating – 4.5/5

Don’t forget, if you have an Audible or iTunes account, check out my own audiobooks, they’re all excellent, honest!

 

best robin hood novel

Click the pic to check out my own audiobooks!