Want my books in epub? I’ve got you!

So, up until now I’ve been Amazon exclusive. But I felt bad about that. After a summer of torpor, I’m now beginning to stir back to life. The first thing I thought I should do was to spruce up my website, and to go wide with my book distribution.

Monopolies are ruining our world, after all, and Amazon is not among the top greenest or most humane companies. Time to take the hit and de-couple myself from their ebook empire.

Accordingly, my books are now available on a multitude of other platforms from Kobo to Scribd.

I look forward to meeting a whole new audience, as well as accommodating my old one a bit better 🙂


Amazing SF/F novel sale bundle

Check out this fantastic bundle of SF/F titles available for 99c over December!…/1ed7f546-d6d5-11e8-81e3-4b0367…

My Witch’s Boy is one of them, but there are thirty-four other books to choose from! Yes, you heard that right! THIRTY-FIVE sf/f books to choose from. You could buy five books for the price of a coffee

Must the sins of the father be passed down to the sons?

Peasant boy Oswy, sold to witch-lord Sulien FitzGuimar, thinks he’s destined to be carved into spell ingredients. Yet behind Sulien lurks someone even worse – his old master, Tancred, now the king’s mage.

When Tancred stages a coup, dragging the elves into his Empire-building plans, the woman he has set his sights on as a bride – aspiring nun, Adela – sets out to find someone to oppose him. But dark magic is addictive and hard to escape. With all their lives in peril, the fate of the world may balance on Sulien’s traumatized soul.


Plan for the future

I finally have a PLAN, huzzah! How to go forward with my three pen names:

I’m currently writing a space opera with the aim of it being the first in a decent-sized series that will be a blend of Star Trek, Star Wars and Stargate. (Star Trek mainly because I’m fed up of all the grimdark stuff out there and I’ve decided that my future will be more utopian than the present. Also Curiosity is a scout ship, going where no one has gone before.)

That’s under the working title of Curiosity. So, the plan is:

  • Write Curiosity #1
  • Write another Trowchester book
  • Edit Curiosity #1
  • Write another Dancing Detective book.
  • Edit Trowchester #4
  • Write Curiosity #2
  • Edit DD #3
  • Write another Age of Sail book
  • Edit Curiosity #2
  • Edit the AoS book

After which I will stop and see what things look like again. I’ve discovered that the majority of people who read cozy mysteries are over 40, so once I have a DD trilogy, I might start a new series with an older sleuth.

I’m currently writing 3000 words a day, which means that (illness and family crises aside) I can finish a 75K book in a month. But I need to work some time in here for:

  • researching and planning all these books
  • learning how to use Amazon Ads and Facebook Ads in a way that actually makes me money rather than losing it.
  • Oh, and become a cover artist as well…

It’s good to have plans 😉

the writing life, writing tips

Writing Software for Productivity

Nanowrimo is doing great things for my productivity. Which is good because I’m trying to up my daily word count from 2000 words, ideally to 5000. Currently I’m managing 3000 daily but my brain feels like wet cotton wool.

I do worry that writing fast leads to more time spent editing, which leads to no net gain in speed, but otoh when I started writing on a regular basis I was doing 1250 words a week. I got it up very slowly to 1000 words a day by the use of star charts and a weekly reward if I got a star every day. That didn’t lead to a loss of quality as far as I’m aware.

Then I slowly increased it to 2000 words a day, which I now consider a comfortable speed with ample thinking time. So there’s every possibility that I might grow used to 3000 too, in time. 3000 words a day (with weekends off) = a 75K book every month, which would be awesome.

(Factor in plotting time and the usual summer slump and burnout and so forth and you’re still looking at possibly 4 or five books a year.)

What I’m finding really helpful in that is software that penalizes you if you stop writing to stare out of the window.

Write or Die allows you to set how long you intend to write and how many words per minute and then it penalizes you with a red screen and a nasty noise if you slow down too much or stop. It’s free if you use the on-line version, or you can buy your own copy for £20, which makes it very affordable.

Write or Die

4 the words is an online site that allows you to fight monsters and gain loot and experience by writing faster than the monster can. I haven’t tried the quests yet, but it’s actually fun to try to beat the monsters and it makes writing very painless. Unfortunately it’s only free for the first month and after that it’s $4 a month.

4 the words

I’m not sure how worth the monthly subscription it is given that Write or Die will do the same thing. But it is more entertaining, which is a big help when you just don’t want to do it. IDK, but I’ve got the rest of the month to figure it out 🙂



OMG, isn’t Amazon’s Cover-flat template utter crap! You plug in your trim size and your number of pages so it will calculate the size of the spine, and it then lets you download a template which will not be the right size.

What’s the point of that then? Grr!

I’m currently getting around it by uploading a blank file for the cover flat first. Then I get an error message that says “Your image should be [x by y dimensions]!” And then I go away and make the file to those dimensions, randomly guessing at where the gutters and spine should be.



Get 17 new SF/F books for free!

This is such a good deal, omg 🙂 I know I mentioned it on the 1st of October, but today is my designated day when I’m supposed to share it, so for anyone who missed it last time, this is a bundle of 17 SF/F novels being given away for free. You don’t have to have them all – you can pick and choose which ones you fancy. I’ve only managed to review one, so far, but that one was very good.

Go and have a look – it’s going to cost you absolutely nothing 🙂

Book review

Book Reviews – Martha Wells’ City of Bones, Martin Swinford’s The Path of Swords

Khat, a member of a humanoid race created by the Ancients to survive in the Waste, and Sagai, his human partner, are relic dealers working on the edge of society, trying to stay one step ahead of the Trade Inspectors and to support Sagai’s family. When Khat is hired to find relics believed to be part of one of the Ancients’ arcane engines, they are both reluctant to become involved. But the request comes from the Warders, powerful mages who serve Charisat’s Elector.

Khat soon discovers that the deadly politics of Charisat’s upper tiers aren’t the only danger. The relics the Warders want are the key to an Ancient magic of unknown power, and, as all the inhabitants of Charisat know, no one understands the Ancients’ magic.

I enjoyed Martha Wells’ Murderbot diaries very much, so I thought I’d try something of hers that was a bit longer. I’m kind of underwhelmed, to be honest. The fantasy world she creates is believable and well thought through, but not that different to any other sword-and-sandal setting. I can’t say that I really connected emotionally with any of the characters. I’m normally all over the wonder of ancient relics that connect together to do something mysterious and supernatural, but somehow I just didn’t feel the wonder here. I didn’t stop reading, but I read on with a certain resentment, thinking, “Can something interesting happen now?” and somehow I still felt that even when the world of the story was on the brink of being invaded by not-ghosts-really-but-might-as-well-be.

I think there was possibly too much politics on the upper tiers – which was exactly the same court politics we see everywhere – and not enough xenoarcheology for me. And Charisat seemed like an unpleasant place to live, which made it a slightly unpleasant place to visit. Not really for me.

“Luan ap Garioch, second son of the house of Artran, this is the day of choosing. How do you choose?”

On the last day of the summer of his fourteenth year, Luan takes the first step on The Path of Swords. He has been told that the path will be hard. He knows that it will lead him into danger. The reality is beyond all his imagining.

Described as “Wonderfully imagined” and “skilfully crafted”, The Path of Swords is the first novella in the Song of Amhar fantasy series. Set in an alternate Iron Age where the world of the spirit is always close by, the series follows the adventures of Luan, a boy training to become one of the Klaideem, elite warriors who dedicate their life to the service of the kingdom.

I’m sorry to be brutally honest, but the truth is that after having read a bunch of indie books, I no longer expect indie books to be as good as pro-published ones. So The Path Of Swords was a pleasant surprise. From the first sentence I could tell that I was in the hands of an accomplished author with a confident, smooth style and an ability to build a solid, believable world. I appreciated the way a lot of the world felt Celtic influenced but without being a slavish historical copy, and I really enjoyed spending time with characters who felt well rounded to the point of even having a subtle humour. A pleasant surprise.

about me, the writing life

It’s shaping up

It’s all go, chez Oliver. Yesterday my tech support guy (aka DH) got the self-hosted website up and running. I like the more minimal look, what do you think?

Today, I’ve edited all my Alex Oliver books to include a link to my newsletter, which I’m currently adding to via StoryOrigin App. That will probably change once I’ve wrestled MailChimp into working with this site, but in the mean time at least there’s something.

That involved:

  • Writing the Afterword for each book,
  • Deciding which book to offer for free in each book,
  • Re-sizing the new cover so it would display on Kindle/Kobo
  • Compiling the new files in Scrivener and checking to see if I included everything (sometimes I forget to switch the Afterword back on.)
  • Uploading all the new files to D2D and Amazon
  • Noticing that the Afterword in all the Alex Beecroft books will have to be altered too now in order to offer Romance books rather than the predominantly SF/F ones I’m currently offering. (Hopefully this may increase sign-up in future!)

All of that has taken me six hours, and there’s still so much more to do. But it’s one thing down, so it counts as progress.

After a short coffee break, I’ll start edits on Murder of a Working Ghost. Then when that’s done I’ll be able to think about writing new sci-fi. Probably new fantasy, to be honest. Did I say I was going to do a sequel to the Arising books? I am 🙂

If you fancy something like His Majesty’s Dragon combined with 18th Century Dracula, you might like to try The Arising books, but wait a little until I’ve got them under this name. They’ll be going into a new edition with some heavy edits first.

But now coffee!

the writing life, Write On

Write On – a short practical guide to becoming a published author.

Getting Started – the tools of the trade.

Hoards of people want to write a novel. Just as doctors find that everyone they meet tells them about their ailments, authors find that everyone tells them about the novel they intend to write. Authors generally nod politely, say “oh, how interesting!” and go home secure in the knowledge that about 99% of the people who ‘want’ to write a novel will never put pen to paper because they don’t really want it at all.

It’s only when the partygoer/man on the bus etc says “I am writing a novel” that it’s worth while rolling up a trouser leg, exchanging the secret handshake of writerdom and settling down to talk shop. Like winning the pools, owning a dream house, being famous, going on Britain’s Got Talent, meeting [movie star of your choice] and dazzling them with your wit, for most people writing a book is one of those ‘wouldn’t it be nice’ things that will never come to pass.


The people who enjoy dreaming about being a famous author – of looking seriously out of a window while the sun floods over their manuscript and somewhere in the distance an influential reviewer is overwhelmed by their profundity – are probably better off not considering the reality of the thing. This is advice for the other people, the ones who want it enough to actually do something about it.

So, you’ve never written anything before, and you want to become a published novelist. There is no reason why you shouldn’t succeed in this goal. It’s not like my desire to go and live in Rivendell – a resolution hampered by the fact that the Last Homely House is sadly fictional. Becoming a published author is entirely in the realms of the possible, providing you’re willing to put the work in for as long as it takes.

How to start?

Writers are very fortunate. The tools we need to begin writing professionally are very simple. At their most basic they are even very cheap. You can go from aspiring writer to Writer using nothing more than a pen or pencil and a piece of paper.

Writing in longhand in a notebook has the advantage that a certain degree of slowness is built in. It gives you lots of time to think as you work. If you’re starting to write fiction from a basis of never having done anything of the sort before, a pen and notebook can seem less intimidating than a computer. Plus it’s more private and more portable than all but the smallest net books.

If you’re going from zero to novel, it can be helpful to do a lot of your initial character and plot roughing out in longhand. However, I really wouldn’t recommend writing out your entire novel in longhand if you have another choice. You can, if you honestly can’t afford a computer. But then you’ll have to send it off to be typed by someone who does have one, because no publisher takes longhand manuscripts. In fact, most publishers will only accept emailed manuscripts in electronic file format these days, so there’s no getting out of it. Just the researching, marketing and networking opportunities of the internet make it worthwhile alone.

So, a computer with word processing software ought to be down there as one of your necessities. In the short term it will make the mechanical act of getting the words down easier. In the medium term, the internet connects you to beta readers, advice, publishers and agents, submissions calls and places where you can begin to establish yourself as a voice to be heard. And in the long term your publishers and editors will need to be able to contact you by email and send your edits back and forth with tracked changes attached.

In short, you can learn the craft of writing using pen and paper but once you’ve done that, if you mean to write for publication, you’ll need a computer.

I should probably just assume you have a computer already, shouldn’t I? After all, how else would you be reading this post?

Assuming you have a computer, you also need some kind of word processing software. In the long term, most publishers will require you to have Microsoft Word, because that’s what they use, and it has the nifty Tracked Changes ability which editors use extensively. You may also end up using a dedicated programme for writers, such as Scrivener. I can’t get along with it, but many writers seem to swear by it.

In the short term, I recommend LibreOfficeWriter. I do all my writing on this. It’s completely free, it does almost everything Word does, it even opens Word docx files which my version of Word itself won’t do, and once you’re finished it can save its files in a doc format indistinguishable from that made by Word, so nobody knows the difference.

OK, we have pen, paper, a computer, a word processing programme and the internet. What else?

The final things you need to get hold of before you can write are time and space.

It’s finding these things which proves so difficult many people don’t even start. Anyone can buy a pen and some software, but ordering your life so that you can have time to write is a sure sign of being sufficiently committed to actually succeed.

What you need is a place where you can achieve a deep state of concentration, and enough time to use that state for something productive. Finding this place and time varies from writer to writer according to their individual circumstances. In my case, I began writing when I was at home all day with the baby. The baby would sleep for approximately one and a half hours in the middle of the day. I would put her down, tuck her up, switch the computer on and write until she woke up. This meant sacrificing all of my “Oh, thank God, peace and quiet and space to be an adult” time, but it was worth it.

If you’re lucky enough to be someone who can concentrate in a crowded room, you may find you can write for half an hour every day in the coffee shop on your way home from work. You could take the laptop to the library at lunch time. When I had two children with asynchronous sleep cycles I booked an exercise class at the local gym, put them in the creche and typed for two hours in the cafe instead.

If you’re a person who can’t concentrate without solitude and silence, you may have to go to more extreme measures, such as getting up half an hour early every day and locking yourself in whichever room in the house the rest of the family are unlikely to disturb when they wake. Or even taking a camping heater down to the garden shed and typing until your laptop battery runs out.

Going to the effort of building writing time into your day is a good litmus test of how serious you are about this writing lark. Much of what separates the writer from the wannabe comes down to how much effort you’re willing to put in. So finding the time to actually do it is the most important step of all.

The next most important step is finding something to write about, and that’s what I want to talk about next week, in Getting Started – What’s the Idea?