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Monday, December 31, 2012

Milking Goats

Letter to our paper

"If the Dominion Post considers milking to be "unskilled," I invite your staff to try it with any of my goats."

--Heather March of Featherston (a charming village in Peter Jackson's Wairarapa).

Island of the Lost an Amazon Kindle bestseller

Price counts

Island of the Lost, published by Algonquin in 2007, did well in hardback, getting many rave reviews and a film option, but never made it into paperback. This was because the publisher launched it into digital format instead.  Over the years since, this eBook has done pretty well, being regularly rated at between 10,000 and 25,000, with occasional forays into the low thousands. It has always been one of the top sellers in nonfiction categories such as "New Zealand" and "Ships."

Suddenly, however, it zoomed, first through the triple digits, and then into the top one-hundred list. Currently, as you can see, it is sitting at # 79, and is number one in Social History.

Why this abrupt popularity?  It is all to do with price, I found.  For some strange reason, it was discounted to $1.99 for the day.  The price reverted to its old $11.99 this morning, but still it is highly rated. (And it is still $1.99 as a Nook book on B and N.)

So how do I capitalize on this?  I've published my second castaway book, The Elephant Voyage, with absolutely no fanfare at all, being far too busy for such essential things.  Reducing the price is an obvious move.  But what next?  And what does it portend for my fifth Wiki Coffin mystery, The Beckoning Ice?

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Wine sails into Denmark

The BBC hails eco-friendly wine shipment

From Fiona Graham

On a warm summer's day in August, Danish wine merchant Sune Rosforth took delivery of 8,000 bottles of wine that had arrived from France.

From the offices of financial institutions flanking the quay, workers looked out at something that had not been seen in central Copenhagen for many years.

The ship that had brought the wine from the Breton port of Brest was a 32m-long brigantine called Les Tres Hombres.

Mr Rosforth's company, Rosforth and Rosforth, supplies restaurants in Denmark with organic and biodynamic wines.

Moving wine in a more eco-friendly fashion was something he had been talking about for some time with an Anjou wine producer who was also a skipper, but the plan had originally been to use canal barges.

"One day he called us to tell us that there was an opportunity to get the wine finally shipped by a boat, but it was going to be a sailing vessel," he says. "So we said, 'Fantastic, let's go!'"

The Tres Hombres set sail in 2009 from Amsterdam and has been shipping cargo ever since. It also gives land-lubbers the chance to sign on as part of the crew for a fee.

The wine shipment was planned with their business partners, the sailing freight transport company TransOceanic Wind Transport (TOWT). The company works with a small fleet of sailing ships, and provides buyers with a means of tracking the journey the goods take.

It's not some sort of adventurous poetic revival of 19th century technology, on the contrary it's something that is definitely addressing energy transition at sea," says TOWT founder Guillaume Le Grand.
The maritime industry is estimated to produce 3%-5% of global carbon dioxide emissions - making sailing very attractive to the organic and eco-friendly sector.

But as the price of oil rises, so does the cost of traditional cargo options.

This has led to research into alternative fuels such as liquefied natural gas (LNG), and a slowdown in the speed at which cargo freighters move at - a practice known as slow steaming.

For Mr Le Grand this all adds up to opportunity.

"Until 10-12 years ago, most of the ships were crossing oceans at about 20 knots average speed. Now they're going down below 15 knots," he says.

"[The Tres Hombres] crosses the ocean at 8 to 10 knots. It's not something that's ridiculous in terms of speed."

Great review of Beckoning Ice

From Historic Naval Fiction

Review: The Beckoning Ice by Joan Druett
The Beckoning IceThe Beckoning Ice is a mystery novel and, as you would expect from award winning historian Joan Druett, an extremely well written nautical novel as well. The plot of a great mystery novel must twist and turn and be totally unpredictable until the final pages and this is fully achieved in a hard to put down narrative.
Druett has created a great detective in Wiki Coffin with a complex family background which enables him to be the outsider when the plot demands it and it's good to see a new book in the series after a lengthy gap. He is half-Maori, half-Yankee "linguister," who also serves as the fleet representative of American law and order for the United States Exploring Expedition.
The story is set against a background of their work in the area of Cape Horn and when a sealing schooner hails the brig Swallow with a strange tale of a murdered corpse on an iceberg an investigation begins. The rivalries of the officers of the various ships lead to there being plenty of suspects for Wiki to investigate.
Combining historical and nautical accuracy with a fast paced mystery thriller has produced a marvelous book which is highly recommended.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Milestones for Goodreads

Personally, I find goodreads almost as hard as Librarything to navigate, but it's obvious that the fault is mine, because the figures in the infographic above are really impressive.
Congratulations, goodreads!

Friday, December 28, 2012

2013: the year of the comets

The name that will be on everyone's lips by the end of this coming year is ISON

The Independent reports that a visitor from space is arriving fast, and at the end of November will become our biggest star.

At the moment it is a faint object, visible only in sophisticated telescopes as a point of light moving slowly against the background stars. It doesn't seem much – a frozen chunk of rock and ice – one of many moving in the depths of space. But this one is being tracked with eager anticipation by astronomers from around the world, and in a year everyone could know its name.

Comet Ison could draw millions out into the dark to witness what could be the brightest comet seen in many generations – brighter even than the full Moon.

Remarkably Ison might not be the only spectacular comet visible next year. Another comet, called 2014 L4 (PanSTARRS), was discovered last year and in March and April it could also be a magnificent object in the evening sky.

2013 could be the year of the great comets.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Fifty Shades heads list of unwanted gifts

IN THE past if you received an unwanted Christmas present you would throw it in the trash, or if you were brave enough, you re-gifted it.

Now, there is another option.  All over the world online second-hand sites have been flooded by people offloading their – sometimes wacky or worrisome – burden for cash.

In the United States, one person from Merrylands rejected a car – a Rav4 manual all-wheel-drive – they received, and on Christmas Day put an ad on eBay to sell it, with a starting bid of $14,500. At the other end of the price scale on eBay was a pair of Abercrombie and Fitch men’s cargo jeans ”[size] 36 unwanted XMAS Gift” selling for $39.99, plus $16 postage.

In Britain, a poll has named the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy as the present absolutely nobody wants, while DVDs of the Olympics and how to lose weight lag behind as second and third.  (How anyone could be tactless enough to give someone a DVD of how to lose weight has me utterly mystified.)

In New Zealand, the site TradeMe has been inundated with offers to get rid of unwanted gifts, ranging from a mouth phone to a signed copy of Pam Ayres's memoir.  Embarassing lingerie choices feature large. Someone sold a $1000 Air New Zealand travel card for $727 because of "personal circumstances."

Other unwanted presents included an All Blacks shirt, a mosaic Kiwiana mirror, a mini guitar and amp, printer, lingerie, a baby blanket and a Star Wars game.

Interested in bargains?  Google "unwanted Christmas presents."


Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Amazon's crackdown on reviewing

Can Amazon reader reviews be trusted?

Just recently, I noticed something peculiar.  I was getting emails from asking me to rate books I had bought recently.  And, once I succumbed to hitting five or whatever stars, I was then coaxed into writing a proper review.

I rather liked this (though I found it odd), because I haven't been able to post reviews on for many months, on account of a glitch in the works that no one on their side of the great internet divide could fix, and was certainly beyond my amateur ability.

But lo, by answering the email, I could post a review.  Hurrah. So I did it.

Evidently encouraged by this, they then asked me to rate yet another book--one that I had bought three years ago.  This seemed odder than ever, but it was a great book, so I embarked on another review.  The glitch took notice and took over again, but at least I got half it posted.

So what is going on with and reader reviews?

According to a commentary by David Streitfeld in the New York Times (December 22, link in the header of this post), are sort of cleaning up their act.  There have been too many author-friendly reviews, it seems, meaning five-star reviews posted by authors' friends and family, along with similar raves by mysterious gadgets called "sock-puppets."  So these are being removed in wholesale fashion.  Unfortunately, a lot of genuine reviews are being swept along in the tide -- and who is to say that your lover or your son is not a genuine fan?  Not to mention a fellow author who knows exactly how hard it is to get a book noticed?

This apparently self-destructive move by the amazon leviathan seems to be in response to a reader-led movement to get rid of unreliable reviews.  A prime target is Harriet Klausner, reviewer extraordinare, who flips through seven books a day, and posts a rave review if she has reached page 40 without dying of boredom.

As Streitfeld writes, "The dispute over reviews is playing out in the discontent over Mrs. Klausner, an Amazon Hall of Fame reviewer for the last 11 years and undoubtedly one of the most prolific reviewers in literary history.

"Mrs. Klausner published review No. 28,366, for “A Red Sun Also Rises” by Mark Hodder. Almost immediately, it had nine critical comments. The first accused it of being “riddled with errors in grammar, spelling and punctuation.” The rest were no more kind. The Harriet Klausner Appreciation Society had struck again.

"Mrs. Klausner, a 60-year-old retired librarian who lives in Atlanta, has published an average of seven reviews a day for more than a decade. “To watch her in action is unbelievable,” said her husband, Stanley. “You see the pages turning.”   

"Mrs. Klausner, who says ailments keep her home and insomnia keeps her up, scoffs at her critics. “You ever read a Harlequin romance?” she said. “You can finish it in one hour. I’ve always been a speed reader.” She has a message for her naysayers: “Get a life. Read a book.” ...

"Ragan Buckley, an aspiring novelist active in the campaign against Mrs. Klausner under the name “Sneaky Burrito,” is a little weary. “There are so many fake reviews that I’m often better off just walking into a physical store and picking an item off the shelf at random,” she said."       

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Former Reserve Bank governor epublishes a thriller

Economic pragmatism by day, thriller-writing by night

Alan Bollard, novelist

Back in September 2010 I warmly reviewed an account of the economic crisis from a top-man-in-a-small-country point of view.  Called Crisis, it was co-written by Alan Bollard, who was governor of New Zealand's Reserve Bank, and the very expert author and oral historian, Sarah Gaitanos (also see my review of her terrific biography, The Violinist).

Crisis, unsurprisingly, went on to become a bestseller.

As the pages reveal, during the stress of the near-collapse of economies, Alan Bollard watched cricket to relax.  Well, that's what he told Sarah Gaitanos.  Now it turns out that he was penning a novel as well.  He enjoyed the publication process, it seems, because he made sure that the novel made it into ... well not exactly print, but as close as a self-published Kindle book can be.

The Amazon blurb for the book says Bollard “wrote this novel while he was Governor of The Reserve Bank of New Zealand, struggling through the Global Financial Crisis by day, and novel-writing by night”.

The synopsis:
It is wartime. Adam has been shot down on a bombing raid and incarcerated. He may be a quiet and unassuming man, but he is a technical wizard and he isn’t going to let the barbed wire hold him back. After liberation, he and his crew find themselves caught up in the early days of the Cold War: hunting Nazi sympathisers, confronting threatening Soviet forces, enjoying seedy Berlin night clubs, and meeting a mysterious German woman.
Back in London, Adam and his new bride May try to rebuild their lives after war. But it is grey and cold, and life is rationed. However Adam has some very big ideas, and they take him through crises in Whitehall, a rocky marriage, a return to Berlin, and an evolving spy drama.

One would think that the man who is the soon-to-be chief of the APEC secretariat would be busy enough -- but there it is, and with his name on it, too.  And all Indie authors should be celebrating.  If an economic genius sees a promising future in the booming world of ebook publishing, then he is confirming how they all feel.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Most expensive books of 2012

AbeBooks’ Most Expensive Sales in 2012

Casino Royale by Ian Fleming
Casino Royale
by Ian Fleming

I love these lists of really, really pricey sales, whether in books, paintings, or bric-a-brac.  I wonder why people put out so much for these lovely old objects.  Because they love them, or to put away as an investment.

Naturally, I hope it is the former.

ABEBooks has put out their biggest sales of the year, price-wise, and the commentary follows. (What they didn't mention is that Louisa Alcott brought in the big money, too.)  Hit the link to see more, by category.

Our top 25 sales from 2012 illustrate the broad nature of rare books. There are modern first editions of iconic books, significant religious and theological works,and pioneering books of science and discovery. Our most expensive sale was a copy of Johann Bayer’s 1603 celestial atlas with 48 lavishly illustrated tables portraying the constellations identified by the Greeks and a 49th table showing 12 newly discovered constellations – it sold for $47,729. This was the first star atlas to cover the entire celestial sphere, and introduced a new system of star designation known as the ‘Bayer Designation.’

The second spot is occupied by one of the most successful media franchises in history, James Bond. When Ian Fleming first put pen to paper and wrote Casino Royale in 1953, there was no way he could have imagined the enduring popularity of 007. This inscribed first edition of Casino Royale sold for more than $46,000 and would grace any rare book collection.

In third place is Franz Kafka’s novel Die Verwandlung (aka The Metamorphosis), which sold for $30,000.The original German edition is highly sought after because of Kafka’s ability to deliver unexpected impact at the end of his sentences. This effect has been difficult for English translators to replicate so the original German script is essential for Kafka collectors.

In addition to the top 25 overall sales, you can also discover the most expensive sales in various categories including children's literature, art, science, poetry, and others.

End of the World

In New Zealand it is 21 December 2012

Because of all the craziness about some prediction of the end of the world on this date, I was very amused by an item on the front page of our local paper, the Dominion-Post.

Believe it or not, it was the brief weather forecast, yesterday having been a brilliantly sunny, really beautiful early summer day.


We'll let you folks on the other side of the dateline know if anything happens.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Plotting a novel

How to engage your audience

And the age of that audience should make no difference

Barbara Else is the creator of the Land of Fontania, the magical setting of her award-winning The Traveling Restaurant and her latest book, The Queen and the Nobody Boy. Her books are full of magic, adventure, pirates, spies, and wonderful characters

 Writing is challenge enough, but Barbara Else  took a class in creative writing recently, where the youngest participant was six years old, and the age of the oldest was tactfully unmentioned.  How do you reach such a disparate audience?  By telling the truth, as simply and honestly as you can.

"When you start a book," she said, "you should say, oh, that poor fellow [woman, or girl]."

At the middle of the book, "You should say (aghast), oh, things are getting worse."

At the end of the book, "You should say, well, thank heavens it turned out so well."

And by the end of her talk, the whole class, including the six-year-old, were busily at work on their novel outlines.

I think it is a wonderful formula.  Think of all the Harlequin/Mills and Boon novels you have pretended not to read -- all the thrillers and mysteries and Regency romances.  They all start with an "oh, my goodness," carry on with an "oh, gracious, oh, my goodness," and end with a sigh of, "How lovely."

Historic letters transcribed

Sir James Hector, an internationally renowned geologist and explorer, was the first Director of the Colonial Museum and Geological Survey (Te Papa's predecessor) and held this position for almost 40 years. He could be considered the founding father of Te Papa and its partner GNS Science.

From Scotland to New Zealand

Hector was born in Scotland in 1834, and for three years, as a young man, he was part of a small exploring party in western Canada.  He almost died when kicked in the chest by a horse, but carried on despite severe pain. The pass that was penetrated while he was in this laudanum-numbed condition was named after him -- the beginning of what was to become quite a tradition. For instance, the rare Hector's dolphin was also named in his honor.

James Hector’s excursions in the Rocky Mountains fueled his passion for exploration and discovery, and in 1862, Hector accepted the position of Director of the Geological Survey in New Zealand where, under his leadership, much of the geological structure of that country was mapped. In 1876, the “Intrepid Explorer” was knighted by Queen Victoria. Sir James Hector passed away on 6 November 1907, but his legacy in the Canadian Rockies lives on.

Geologist and Hector enthusiast Simon Nathan reports that over the last year 800+ letters have been transcribed as part of a biographical study of James Hector (1834-1907). Authors include Hector himself, Julius Haast, Walter Mantell and F.W.Hutton.
These letters give such a fascinating insight into some aspects of late 19th century life in New Zealandthat he has compiled them into six collections that are now freely available as downloadable PDF files – see specific information and clickable links on thePHANZA website at One of the advantages of PDF files is that they are readily searchable.
As well as information on Hector’s scientific interests and his rivalry with Haast and Hutton, there is information on life in each of the four main centres, political gossip, comments on the ‘native problem’, and the workings of the government. There are gloriously gossipy letters from R.L. Holmes (MP 133C) and Walter Mantell (2nd part of MP133E), Hectors concerns about the 1890 industrial unrest (MP133A), and Hutton’s complaints about problems in the flax industry (MP133F).

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Indie book hits NYT "Best" list

From Digital Book World

New York Times book reviewer Michiko Kakutani, respected in the industry as one of the toughest book critics, has selected a self-published title as one of her top-ten best of 2012, as pointed out by Publishers Lunch new editor Sarah Weinman on Twitter.

The book is The Revolution Was Televised: The Cops, Crooks, Slingers and Slayers Who Changed TV Drama Forever by Alan Sepinwall. Unlike the other titles on Kakutani’s list, where she mentions each of the imprints that published the book, there is no publisher or imprint mentioned for Sepinwall’s book.

The inclusion of a self-published title in an end-of-year best-of list for such a well-respected critic just goes to show how far indie authors have come in just a few years. Before the rise of services like Smashwords, Lulu and Author Solutions, it was derisively called “vanity publishing” and written off as what authors who couldn’t cut it did once they were rejected by traditional publishers.

Today, hit best-sellers like Sylvia Day’s Crossfire series (now published by Penguin) and Hugh Howey’s Wool* (self-published ebook edition in the U.S. and to be published in paperback by Simon & Schuster) are being brought to market by the authors. Established and traditionally published authors like Barbara Freethy are trying their hand and seeing success in self-publishing. And readers, more of whom are discovering and buying ebooks online and on their devices, are buying the titles in great numbers, likely oblivious to who published it in the first place.

Unlike some of the other self-published sensations, Sepinwall is already an established writer with a hit blog, What’s Alan Watching?

The ebook edition of the book went on sale on Nov. 8 and by Nov. 10 it was already in the Amazon Kindle top 100, according to data from eBook MarketView, a book data firm in New York which also powers the Digital Book World Ebook Best-Seller List. It hit a high of No. 17 on Dec. 5.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

A free trip about Cape Horn

Rick Spilman, author and owner of Old Salt Blog, is celebrating his one millionth visitor this week by giving YOU the present.

Through Kindle Select, he is making his nautical adventure, Hell Around the Horn, free for two days.  Watch for it on on Thursday and Friday (Friday and Saturday, if you live on my side of the Dateline).

Rick will also be staging a raffle for ten copies of the print version of the book.  Look for details of how to register your entry on OldSaltBlog.

Hugely recommended, Hell Around the Horn has 20 five-star reviews on the Kindle page of So, if you have a tablet or an ereader, why not treat yourself, and take advantage of this generous gesture?

And here is my review:

Hell Around the Horn

Ringing with authenticity, this nail-biter is a tale of battling wind and weather to sail from the Atlantic to the Pacific via the most dreaded landmark in the sailor's lexicon, Cape Horn.

Stories of ships in the Age of Sail are usually told from the quarterdeck, and the fight is against other ships. Rick Spilman's novel, by contrast, revisits the windjammer era when men fought the elements with just rope and canvas, using muscle and willpower to get a freight to a destination. In the tradition of old salts who once wrote hugely popular stories of life under sail -- men like "Shalimar" (F. C. Hendry), Captain F. Coffin, Jan de Hartog and Alexander Bone -- "Hell Around the Horn" tells it like it was for the ordinary people who lived unthinkably dangerous lives at sea, from the point of view of the foc'sle and the half-deck, as well as the cabin.

Based on real events, this is the story of one captain's struggle to get his ship to port, with just his seafaring knowledge and his increasingly weary crew to help, and with the added problem of a bloodyminded mate. A detail I particularly liked was that he had his wife and family with him. Spilman reveals her experiences through her letters, which are as convincingly written as the rest of the book.

Monday, December 17, 2012

They Said It.

"A day without sunshine is like, you know, night."

--Steve Martin

"Always end the name of your child with a vowel, so that when you yell the name will carry."
-- Bill Cosby

"Between two evils, I always pick the one I haven't tried before."
-- Mae West

"Go to Heaven for the climate, Hell for the company."
-- Mark Twain

"All I ask is the chance to prove that money can't make me happy."
-- Spike Milligan

"He who can, does. He who cannot, teaches."
-- George Bernard Shaw

“I'm selfish, impatient and a little insecure. I make mistakes, I am out of control and at times hard to handle. But if you can't handle me at my worst, then you sure as hell don't deserve me at my best.”
― Marilyn Monroe

“Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I'm not sure about the universe.”
― Albert Einstein

“A room without books is like a body without a soul.”
― Marcus Tullius Cicero

S&S acquires print rights only to Indie book

I like this idea.

Digital Book World reports that Simon & Schuster has bought the print rights to self-published book Wool, but has left the digital rights with the author.

The New York Times and USA Today ebook bestseller WOOL by Hugh Howey will be published in hardcover and paperback from Simon & Schuster in March 2013. Karyn Marcus, Senior Editor, acquired the North American rights from Kristin Nelson at the Nelson Literary Agency.

Originally a self-published short story, WOOL was first released in July 2011. Within months, word of mouth turned this small piece, never marketed, into an ebook sensation. Reviews poured in and readers demanded more, inspiring Howey to continue the story. Howey published the next four sections of the book in installments, growing his fan base with each new release. WOOL has gone on to sell over 300,000 ebooks and is now being translated into over eighteen languages. Century Fox recently acquired film rights to the book with Ridley Scott’s production company partnering with Steve Zaillian for this option. has described the book as “the sci-fi version of Fifty Shades of Grey,” referring to the lightning speed at which this self-published phenomenon found an audience. WOOL is the thrilling story of a post-apocalyptic world in which a community lives in a giant silo underground, hundreds of stories deep. Inside, men and women live within a society full of regulations they believe are meant to protect them from the toxic outside world. But a new sheriff is about to be entrusted with fixing her silo, and she will soon learn just how deeply her world is broken. The silo’s inhabitants are about to face what their history has only hinted about and never dared to whisper: Uprising.

“It doesn’t surprise me that WOOL attracted such a wide readership so quickly,” says Karyn Marcus. “This is the kind of book that you burn through: a world more fascinating with each new reveal and characters who stay with you long after the last page. Hugh Howey is the real deal.”

Author Hugh Howey adds, “Partnering with Simon and Schuster on the print edition of WOOL is an absolute dream. I can’t wait to make this story available to an even wider audience. To think that this novel was conceived and written while working in a bookstore, I view it as a homecoming of sorts. And with the same house that publishes heroes of mine like Ray Bradbury, no less.”

Hugh Howey, a former bookseller, achieved his childhood dream of writing for a living with the bestseller, WOOL. He now lives in Jupiter, Florida, with his wife, Amber, and their dog, Bella. For more information:

Inter alia. Judging by the scenario, I would consider this a "Hunger Games"-style phenomenon, not a "Fifty Shades" one.

Deathless lines from Mick Jagger

"You start out playing rock 'n' roll so you can have sex and do drugs, but you end up doing drugs so you can still play rock 'n' roll and have sex."

-- Sir Mick Jagger

Other quotes from the cynical star:

You can't always get what you want, like a good joke on the top 10 list

Be considerate of other hotel guests -- trash your room before 10 PM

Song royalties are great, but even they can't match the guaranteed cash flow from a reverse mortgage

Before shouting "Hi, Seattle," make sure you are in Seattle.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

OldSaltBlog review of Fifth Wiki Coffin Mystery

From Rick Spilman

Joan Druett’s The Beckoning Ice, the fifth in her series of Wiki Coffin nautical mysteries, begins in 1839, on the sealer Betsey of Stonington, homeward bound from “a short but very profitable season far south of Cape Horn.” The schooner is very nearly wrecked on a massive iceberg, which looms suddenly out of the fog. The terror of nearly hitting the ice island is only made worse by the corpse of a man, apparently bludgeoned to dead, frozen on a ledge on the face of the ice.

The Betsey later crosses the course of the small flotilla of ships, brigs and schooners of the U.S. Exploring Expedition, a joint naval and scientific venture sent to chart the Pacific to help promote American trade. When the sealers report the apparent murder, Wiki Coffin is called to investigate, which will not be immediately easy to do, as the expedition is bound for Orange harbor in Tierra del Fuego. Soon Wiki will also have to investigate the suspicious suicide of a young naval lieutenant as well as avoiding several attempts on his own life. While performing his other duties and coping with bigotry and misunderstanding in the small fleet, Wiki must untangle the skein of secrets and alliances that result in the death of the young officer while evading the determined killers that threaten his own survival.

I am of the opinion that a murder mystery is only as good as the detective created to solve it. Joan Druett has created a marvelous detective in Wiki Coffin. The son of a wealthy ship’s captain and a Maori women from the Bay of Islands, New Zealand, he serves as the expedition’s “linguister,” which is to say a translator and language specialist. He was also duly deputized by the sheriff of Portsmouth, Virginia as an agent of law for the expedition. He the classic man of several worlds, able to understand both cultures yet as an outsider often capable of seeing what others do not.

Druett’s choice of the U.S. Exploring Expedition is also inspired. The expedition was rife with conflicts between and amongst the naval officers and the “scientifics,” the civilian scientists brought along to make observations and to record expedition data. Jealousy, paranoia, ambition and the clash of egos provides the perfect backdrop for murder and intrigue. Druett based a number of her characters and some of the plot conflicts on the historical records and diaries kept during the expedition.

The Beckoning Ice is part nautical adventure, part murder mystery, and part thriller, as well as thoroughly researched historical fiction. A multi-award winning nautical historian and novelist, Joan Druett brings a historian’s eye for detail and a novelists imagination, sense of character, plot and pacing to the novel. The tension only keeps building and the actions never waivers. The Beckoning Ice is a marvelous read. Highly recommended.

The Elephant Voyage

New Castaway Account -- along with the aftermath of the rescue.

In the heady climate of the nineteenth century goldrushes, “going to see the elephant” was a saying that described an exciting, often dangerous, and usually profitless adventure—something to tell one's grandchildren about. In the spirit of the sensational Island of the Lost, the story is told of the crew of the Connecticut schooner Sarah W. Hunt. When two boats are blown out to sea, off one of the most icy and hostile islands in the sub-Antarctic ocean, the twelve men are abandoned by their skipper, left to live or die by their own wits and stamina. Six struggle ashore against unbelievable odds. Their rescue from remote, inhospitable, uninhabited Campbell Island is a sensation that rocks the world. But no one could have expected that the court hearings that follow would become an international controversy, with repercussions that contribute to the fall of a colonial government, and reach as far as the desk of the president of the United States.

A Milestone

World of the Written Word had over a thousand visitors yesterday.

Well, it's the first time I've noticed it happening, so I guess it's a milestone of a sort.

It was 1,029, to be exact.  Small beans, compared to some.  Spymouse whispers that Rick Spilman's amazing Old Salt Blog (link to the right) is hitting its ONE MILLIONTH visitor any minute now.  While World of the Written Word is still reaching for 300,000. 
It's not bad, though.  I feel chuffed about it.  And many thanks and season's greetings to all those who hit the link.
But a mystery remains.
For some time now, I have noticed that daily visitors have been in the 800-900 range.  So why the sudden little jump over the one-thousand threshold?
Blogger's statistics gave me an answer: 209 Irish men and women joined the throng.
Why this new popularity in the land of the four-leafed clover and the leprechaun?  That, indeed, is the question.

ebook sales projected to zoom

Well, it's no surprise that ebooks are slated to become still more popular

But so far, it has been a set of educated opinions.

Now, Comics Beat has come up with a prediction based on that lovely word, logarithm

It looks like drawing a line that follows a line to me, but never mind.

This is what they say:

For you number-lovers out there, and we know you are out there, here’s something a bit more speculative but still interesting. Retailer Matt Blind has used his very own arcane logarithm to calculate approximate Ebook sales numbers by dollars for the last few years. And here’s his chart, clickee for biggee. (Methodology is in the link.)

No idea if this is on target or even what it means except that…it looks like more and more ebooks will be sold! Imagine that. Blind does caution that it does not seem as if digital books have already completely cannibalized print sales.

Read more

Friday, December 14, 2012

NZ bookstores embracing digital revolution

Bookshops throughout New Zealand now selling e-books and e-readers

An increasing number of independent bookstores in New Zealand have begun selling Kobo e-books and e-readers. This follows a recent agreement between Booksellers NZ on behalf of its independent members and Kobo Inc. of Canada.

From Whangarei to Dunedin, New Plymouth to Gisborne, Nelson and Blenheim to Christchurch, Masterton, Caterton and Wellington - bookshops are now selling e-books only through their website or selling Kobo Glo devices in-store along with e-books online.

“It’s only in the last few days that we've seen this activity pick up, but indie bookshops throughout the country are now servicing their customers with the e-format,” said Lincoln Gould, CEO of Booksellers NZ.

The Women’s Bookshop in Auckland was quick off the mark with strong promotion, surprising themselves by selling out of their first batch of Kobo Glo devices within a few days.

Owner Carole Beau advised Booksellers NZ, “We had our Customer Christmas Night last night and SOLD OUT of Kobo e-readers. YAY."

New stock is arriving at her store next week.

Kobo e-books and e-readers have been in Whitcoulls stores for some time and are also available through Paper Plus stores as well as independent bookshops.

“New Zealanders now have access to three million e-books and well-priced quality e-readers through their favourite local bookshop and no longer need to rely on buying from overseas online retailers,” said Gould.

The wider availability of e-books through New Zealand bookstores has been welcomed by the Publishers Association of New Zealand.

PANZ President, Kevin Chapman said, “The investment that has been made in e-publishing by New Zealand publishers has been considerable and it is wonderful that Kiwis now have an ever increasing ability to access international and New Zealand authors through the e-format from local bookstores.”

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Media companies plunging into ebooks

Interactive ebooks beckon

The excitement of this revolution in reading is attracting big media players, according to Digital Book World.

According to their latest report, the USA Today newsroom has produced its first ebook, USA Tomorrow, a compendium of expert predictions about what the future holds. The ebook is for sale for $1.99 at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Google Play, the iBookstore and Kobo.

The content is based on a special section the newspaper launched in Sept. celebrating its 30th anniversary. “We plan to do more,” said David Callaway, editor-in-chief of USA Today.

USA Today joins a long list of non-book-publishing media companies to get into the ebook business in 2012. Most recently, Harlequin and Cosmopolitan magazine inked a deal to publish several ebooks a month together. Newsweek/Daily Beast entered into a partnership with Vook to publish ebooks. Playboy launched a series of shorts for the Kindle, the Washington Post announced an e-book program, and the Chronicle of Higher Education, a trade publication focused on the higher education field, launched an e-book business.

Other notable companies to jump into the space are magazine publishers Conde Nast and Hearst and NBC News, a division of NBC Universal.

From me -- have a look at Castlebuilders, to see what is possible right now, and what lies just over the horizon.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Letters to Santa

On the whole I have been good this year, just the odd bad judgement call like rolling in the mud pool three days in a row at school."
-- Letter to Santa

It's that time of year again.  Like post offices all over the world, the New Zealand post office is being inundated with letters from children addressed to Father Christmas.

Today, the Dominion Post has published a few gems.

"Dear Santa, I am a good boy," one asserts. "I always am. It's not true what you hear."

Another writes, "I have been really naughty this year so I'd understand if you didn't get me anything, but I still love you, Santa, and I think that's more than a lot of kids these days."

Girls are not immune from moments of guilt. "I have been a good girl most of the time.  But sometimes I forget," one confessed. "But then I remember."

And there are some unusual requests. 

"You can give me anything you want to except used chewing gum."

"Please may I have a present.  I would like a blue one."

"This year can I please have a real tiger and a real dog. I promise I will look after the tiger and won't let it eat my cats."  (Note that no responsibility is taken for the dog.)

"Dear Santa, I love you. Can you please make me dance like the Gangnam guy, he is cool."

Trending in publishing

Mergers and eBooks

In a most interesting blog post on Digital Book World, literary agent Richard Curtis lists predictions of what is to come in the publishing world, with intriguing pros and cons.

  • Trend: The large publishing houses will continue to reduce overhead as profits shrink in the years ahead.
  • Counter trend: Publishers will be looking for mergers and acquisitions to compensate for those shrinking profits. The Big Six could be the Big Three within five years.
  • Trend: These companies will continue to focus more resources on fewer titles…Title count at the largest houses could drop by as much as fifty percent over the next five years.
  • Counter trend: Self-publishing will grow exponentially.
  • Trend: In terms of advances, the amounts paid for brand-names will continue to increase, with seven-figure or eight-figure acquisitions commonplace among authors with established track records.
  • Counter trend: The six-figure advance…will become a rare species within the decade.
  • Trend: Within five years, half of all reading will be done electronically.
  • Counter trend: There will be a resurgence of appreciation for well-designed physical books, as keepsakes, gifts, etc
  • Trend: As more consumers become e-book readers, demand will increase for the availability of e-books simultaneously with p-books.
  • Counter trend: Within five years, it will be common practice to give every p-book purchaser a “free” e-book version of that book at time of purchase.
  • Trend: Fewer and fewer books will be sold to publishers at “auction,” and that practice will disappear completely within five years.
  • Counter trend: Instead of auctions for the highest advance, there will be auctions in which a basic advance is established by the agent, with the auction winner being the publisher who bids the most in marketing committed to the book.
  • Trend: The agent of the future will become more of a business manager who handles every aspect of an author’s career.
  • Counter trend: Publishers will create free-standing departments whose services can be purchased a la carte by authors.
  • Trend: As the Boomers lose their eyesight and their children become teenagers, demographics will favor books for young adults over books for adults.
  • Counter trend: While auctions and advances diminish for adult titles, they could heat up for young adult material as publishers bet big in search of the next Stephenie Meyer.


    From Digital Book World

    New deals signed last week between Hachette and Simon & Schuster and their ebook retail partners have driven down prices of ebook best-sellers.

    This week, both Hachette and Simon & Schuster inked new retail contracts with Amazon and their other partners, giving up pricing control per a settlement both publishers signed with the Department of Justice over the issue of ebook price-fixing. The retailers have wasted no time discounting some of the publishers’ ebook titles.

    Michael Connelly’s The Black Box (Hachette, No. 1 on the best-seller list this week) was $14.99 at Amazon and other retailers and is now priced at $12.74 at Amazon and elsewhere. Eben Alexander’s Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon’s Journey into the Afterlife (Simon & Schuster, No. 9 on the best-seller list) was $9.99 and went down to $8.74 last week; the book is currently priced at $7.99.

    As a result of those price changes and others, the average price of a book on the Digital Book World Ebook Best-Seller List has dropped to its lowest point since it was launched, $9.06. That’s down from $9.79 last week and the high of $11.79 on Oct. 20.

    Partially responsible are several lower-priced titles hitting the list, led by Stop the Wedding, a self-published hit by Stephanie Bond. It rocketed up the list last week to hit No. 6 and is currently sitting at No. 2. A holiday sales push could make it the first self-published title to hit No. 1 on the list — stay tuned!

    See the rest of the the best-seller lists for the week ending Dec. 8:
    Digital Book World Best-Selling Ebooks Priced $10.00 and Above
    Digital Book World Best-Selling Ebooks Priced $8.00 – $9.99
    Digital Book World Best-Selling Ebooks Priced $3.00 – $7.99
    Digital Book World Best-Selling Ebooks Priced $0.00 – $2.99

    Monday, December 10, 2012

    Letter from the Battle of Trafalgar

    'They won't send their fleets out again in a hurry'
    Sailmaker Robert Hope from the fighting Temeraire, after the Battle of Trafalgar.

    Hope, a sailmaker, was part of the crew of the gunship HMS Temeraire, which went to the aid of Admiral Lord Nelson’s flagship HMS Victory at the height of the fighting.

    The two-page letter, which resurfaced days before the 205th anniversary of Trafalgar today, has been hailed as a highly significant find because it gives an ordinary seaman’s view of the famous battle.

    Quintin Colville, curator of naval history at the National Maritime Museum, which has purchased the letter from Hope’s descendants for an undisclosed sum, said: ‘There are numerous accounts of Trafalgar written by officers but this is a very rare example of a voice from the lower decks.’

    Hope wrote the letter to his brother John, a carpenter, from Ashford, Kent, a fortnight after the battle. At the time, his ship was moored at Portsmouth.

    He gives a vivid account of the conflict, telling how his 98-gun ship engaged the Santisima Trinadada, a Spanish four-decker, for 45 minutes, while they were alongside Nelson’s Victory, and before they came under heavy attack.

    ‘Five more of the enemy’s ships came upon us and engage us upon every quarter, for one hour and 16 minutes,’ wrote Hope, whose job on the Temeraire would have involved joining a gun crew for the battle, as well as his primary role of repairing sails.

    When one struck but being so closely engaged that we could not take possession of her at that time, two more seemed to be quite satisfied with what they had got so sheered of, but the other two, was determined to board us.


    HM Temeraire
    Portsmouth Nov 4th 1805

    Dear Brother
    This is with my love to you hopeing
    It will find you in good health As I bless god
    I am at present, what do you think of us Lads
    Of the Sea now, I think they wont send their fleets
    Out Again in a hurry, I suppose you know more
    About the Action than I can tell you, the first
    Ship that we Engaged was the Santa Trinadada
    The Spanish four Decker, we engage her three
    Quarters of an hour when the Victory fell
    Along side of him we dropt a Stern when five
    More of the Enemy’s Ships came upon us and
    Engage us upon every Quarter, for one hour and
    Sixteen Minutes, when one Struck but being so
    Closely Engaged that we could not take possession
    Of her at that time, two more Seemed to be quite
    Satisfied wh [error] with what they had got so Sheered
    Of, But the Other two, was determined to Board
    Us, So with that Intent. one Dropt on our Starboard
    Side, Called the La Fue and other dropt on our
    Larboard Side called Le Doubtable, they Kept
    A Very hot fire for some time But we Soon

    Page 2
    Cooled them for In the height of the smoke
    Our, men from the upper decks Boarded them
    Both at the same time, And soon Carried the
    Day, at this time, at this time [error] I Counted when
    Smoke Cleared away Seventeen Prizes and one
    All on fire, But we have only got four Into
    Gibraltar, for a Gale of wind Came on the day
    following that we was Obliged to Scuttle them
    for they was so very leaky, Taken & Destroyed

    In twenty five, we had forty three Killed
    And Eighty five wounded, And twenty Seven
    Drowned In the Prizes, I sent a letter to my
    Father from the Rock, So when you receive
    this Please to let him know that I am arrived
    In England for I long very much to hear
    from him. And Give my love to my Sister
    and your Answer upon the receipt of this will
    Oblige your loveing Brother
    Robert Hope

    Dr Colville said Hope is almost certainly referring to the Redoubtable when he says ‘Le Doubtable’.
    It was a musket ball fired from the Redoubtable that killed Nelson.

    Sunday, December 9, 2012

    Are villains more fun than heroes?

    "Flawed characters are more interesting because they are forced to make a choice.  A conventionally good character will always do the moral, right thing.  Boring."

    -- bestselling historical novelist Bernard Cornwell.

    So (in an Amazon blog) remarked the author of such hugely popular books as the Sharpe series. Cornwell has published 54 books ... so far.  Or so I am told. I've lost count of the Sharpe books.  All I know is that I have read them all, some of them several times.

    Is he right?  It could certainly explain why I so thoroughly enjoy writing about Lieutenant "Kit" Forsythe in the Wiki Coffin series.  In his own words, he is a "real bastard."  But that leads to a nagging worry.  Wiki Coffin is definite hero material -- goodlooking, clever, dry sense of humor.  On the other hand, he doesn't hesitate to kill, if necessary, and he's certainly adept at jumping ship.  Maybe that saves him from being boring. Let's hope so.

    But let's have a look at Richard Sharpe.

    Sharpe, a rifleman in the Napoleonic and Indian wars, could certainly be described as a "real bastard."  He's a gutter fighter, lethal when on missions behind lines, and is addicted to looting when he can get away with it.  Yet, he is intrinsically moral.  As the excellent TV series captured so well, he is a gentleman with the ladies, decent to his men, and awesomely brave. In a pinch, he will always do the right thing.  If you want to hate anyone in either the books or the TV films, then the venal, inefficient, terminally stupid officers who mismanage the battles and send Sharpe off on suicidal missions provide plenty of material. 

    In a nutshell, he is complex.  And I think that is the answer.  You can't make a character interesting by simply avoiding the pitfall of painting him as "a conventionally good character who will always do the moral, right thing."

    It's not as easy as that.

    Why don't Kiwis buy Kiwi crime fiction?

    Fixated on Hobbits, instead?

    New Zealanders, I hastily point out, are great readers.  I have been told that the average Kiwi reads almost as many books per year as those winter-bound bibliophiles, the Icelanders. 

    Yet local writer, publishing consultant, and general guru Geoff Walter points out, in an interesting article on the back cover of the current New Zealand Author, that "actual sales of NZ crime fiction haven't been meeting expectations."

    There is even evidence that a couple of the big local publishers are pulling out of the genre.  Yet local crime writers Paul Cleave, Vanda Symon, Paddy Richardson and Alix Bosco (Greg McGee) are doing well overseas, Germany in particular.

    Says Harriet Allan, who publishes fiction at Random House New Zealand, "local readers will buy overseas crime but very few will buy local titles."

    So what is going wrong?

    Harriet Allen theorizes that it is part of the "tall poppy" syndrome -- a perception that something local can't be good.

    Geoff Walker's suggestion is that because crime fiction is essentially escapist, having a mundane local setting doesn't work as well as somewhere exotic like North Carolina, London, or New York.

    Do I have a theory?  Of course I do. A LOT of Kiwis have read the Wiki Coffin series.  I know that, because they keep on nagging me to write another, or complain because it is so hard to get hold of an Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine down here. But that doesn't mean that they have handed out hard-earned cash for the books.

    No, indeed.  They have borrowed them from the library.  New Zealanders are not just great readers.  They are are great patrons of their local libraries, too.

    Friday, December 7, 2012

    Digital security

    What are you inadvertently including in that electronic manuscript?

    A great deal could be lurking in the invisible background to documents that you send electronically -- particularly if you, like most users of MS word, use the autocorrect function.  And even if you have turned off the header/footer option, there is material lurking up (and down) on each page.  It is invisible, but it is there.

    This is something I found out while publishing with smashwords.  More about them in another post, as right now it suffices to say that their vetting system is absolutely first-rate. 

    The electronic manuscript first goes through a process rather unfortunately labelled the "meat-grinder," which converts your word.doc manuscript into all the electronic reading forms.  Then it goes through another computer process, the autovetter.  Then -- almost immediately -- you get an email telling you the results of this autovetting process. 

    And my first email warned me that the manuscript had to be repaired and resubmitted, as there were "textboxes" embedded in the file.

    Textboxes?  I was astonished.  The only time I have ever used them is when creating powerpoint slides.  So what did the mysterious message mean?  I hunted through their style guide, and learned about this hidden, lurking material.

    So how do you get rid of it?  If you use MS word, it is easy.  With your file open, you go to the office button at the top lefthand corner, hit it and go down to "Prepare."  Second down in the menu that comes up is "Inspect Document."  Hit this. Click all the boxes, and then hit "Inspect."

    You will be amazed at what comes up.  Remove all, inspect again, to make sure, and close the program.  Then check your document, just to make sure that nothing dire has happened.  In all likelihood, you will find that it looks just the same.  The difference is that it is now clean.

    I now do this to every document I send, because who knows what might be lurking in the unseen background?

    Thursday, December 6, 2012

    Tupaia a fave

    Women's Bookshop Faves & Raves for 2012

    Negotiating eBook rights

    What royalty is your publisher offering for digital rights?

    As Digital Book World points out, it is too easy to be trapped in an out-of-date arrangement

    Publishers and authors are shaping new standard contracts as the industry shifts toward digital-first and e-original book publishing.

    As opposed to big publishers, which are thought to pay authors a standard ebook royalty of 25%, new independent ebook publishers like The Atavist, Open Road Media and OR Books, can and do pay authors substantially more. But, on what terms? And, royalties aren’t the only issue at hand as a new publishing landscape emerges.

    There are six basic issues at stake in an ebook contract negotiation:
    1. Duration
    2. Territory
    3. Consent
    4. E-functionality
    5. Medium
    6. Royalty

    The world is moving on so fast that duration is a major issue. Many authors and agents, as DBW comments, are now putting a five-year limit on digital rights.

    Territory is more difficult, in my opinion. It is common for big publishers to ask for world rights, even if they have few facilities for translation or selling foreign rights.  This makes it easy for them to sell digital books, as they don't have to vet the origin of the purchaser.  If you limit the territory, the publisher will say that there will be a bar on the sales page -- but how do you check this?  Does it really work?

    Consent means what input the author has in the actual form of the book.  If there is a clause saying something like "at the Publisher's discretion," then your book can look very different in digital form than it does in print.  I fell into this trap myself.  One of the great features of the print version of Tupaia, the Remarkable Story of Captain Cook's Polynesian Navigator is that it is a beautifully illustrated, beautifully designed book.  The digital version is totally unillustrated.  Be warned.

    E-Functionality is the clause where you need a crystal ball.  What are eReading devices going to look like in the future? The possibilities offered by interactive reading are hugely exciting, and mostly still on the horizon.  So keep this as open as possible.

    Medium also addresses the world of apps. Does the author want to retain the right to put out an eBook that is replete with links and video clips? This, obviously, is an expensive proposition.  Nevertheless, it should be carefully debated.

    Royalty.  This is a major, major reason why so many established authors are heading for the Indiesphere. As one commented to me, "Why should I give a publisher 90% of what I am making?"  In the old days, author's royalty from digital sales was set at 20%.  Then it moved to 25%.  Indie authors get up to 70%.  Obviously, this clause is open to energetic negotiation before the contract with a traditional publisher is set in stone.  And it is another very good reason for limiting the duration of the eBook rights.

    For more information on ebook royalties, contracts and negotiations, attend Digital Book World 2013 in New York in January.

    Wednesday, December 5, 2012

    Interview with Historic Naval Fiction

    Questions and answers, and Beckoning Ice

    Created on Tuesday, 04 December 2012 03:00
    Last Updated on Tuesday, 04 December 2012 00:22
    By David Hayes
    The Beckoning IceHistoric Naval Fiction is pleased to have obtained an Interview with Joan Druett whose new novel in the Wiki Coffin Mystery series, The Beckoning Ice, will be available on Amazon shortly.
    What can you tell us about The Beckoning Ice, without spoiling the plot for readers?
    In this, the fifth book in the Wiki Coffin mystery series, it is February 1839, and the ships of the United States Exploring Expedition are thrashing about dreaded Cape Horn, on their way to a rendezvous at Orange Harbor, Tierra del Fuego, on a crazy mission to be the first to find Antarctica. A sealing schooner hails the brig Swallow with a strange tale of a murdered corpse on an iceberg- surely an impossible case for Wiki Coffin to solve, especially as he is soon distracted by a violent killing on board. Threatened by vicious murderers himself, he is forced to voyage as far as the beckoning ice before the double case is concluded...

    Read more.

    Scientific Advent Calendar

    A spectacular way to count down the days to Christmas

    Slow motion chemistry -- the scene for 5 December.

    Fascination research - count down the days to December 24 with our advent calendar with a difference! Starting from December 1, the embedded link, above, will open a door for you each day to reveal an image from science. It will also bring you the many stories behind the images. Enjoy browsing and feast your eyes on science in the lead up to Xmas!

    With thanks to Thomas Gaitanos.

    Monday, December 3, 2012

    The Agony of a Copy-Editor

    Can you hang a washcloth inside out?

    ‘We’re freaks,’ one said. ‘Why are we still talking about typos?’

    ‘Are we ever going to be normal ever again?’

    ‘Have we been ruined . . . for life?’

    -- Conversation in a restaurant, after the marathon copyediting of Granta 121: The Best of Young Brazilian Novelists

    We were sitting at the pub down the street from the office. We’d just printed out the Book – a whole manuscript of The Best of Young Brazilian Novelists – and sent it off to the proofreader for final checking. It was Friday afternoon, and we were ready to celebrate. We’d spent weeks glued to our desks until all hours of the night, poring over pages and staring at our screens, fielding queries from fact checkers and comments from translators and changes from authors. We’d met our deadline. The issue looked good.

    Still, my head was full of tiny, miscellaneous, lingering concerns: Would ‘upon’ be better if capitalized in a title? Should a washcloth be described as hanging inside out? What’s the best translation ‘Why are we still talking about typos?’ for xoxota: ‘cunt’ or ‘pussy’? Can a city be dust-covered and windy at the same time? Have we been consistent in the way we punctuate maté, Sugarloaf Mountain, the newspaper Folha de S. Paulo, the Candidates Tournament for chess and every one of the numerous international airports mentioned in the stories? Is it possible for a headless chicken to stare at you? Does ‘shithole’ have a hyphen in it?

    For the weekend, at least, I could put all these thoughts aside. It was lovely to be able to relax with colleagues.

    There was talk of ordering some food. I looked down at the sandwich menu: kiln smoked salmon and horseradish chive creme fraiche in toasted wholemeal bread. ‘Kiln smoked’ probably should be hyphenated, I thought – it’s acting as an adjective modifying smoked salmon – and ‘creme’ needs the accent. Also, does ‘in’ make sense here? Wouldn’t it be better if it was ‘on’? Was this some kind of innovative sandwich that involved salmon being placed inside the bread?

    ‘Why don’t we share some appetizers to start?’ one of us suggested.

    ‘Redundant,’ I muttered to myself. Appetizers are starters; either cut ‘to start’ or change ‘appetizers’ to ‘plates’. Then again, in some cases, people order only appetizers, and don’t go on to have a main course. So was it actually essential to say ‘to start’, to clarify that, in this instance, everyone should feel free to order more food after the first sharing course? I wasn’t sure.

    I tried to concentrate on the actual conversation. The topic, it seemed, was the new Batman film.
    ‘It has a spelling mistake in it,’ someone said. ‘There was a shot of a newspaper headline. Spelled “hiest” instead of “heist”.’

    ‘Christ. Multimillion-dollar movie.’

    ‘Seriously. It was pretty hard to concentrate on the scene after that.’


    There is a danger to copy-editing. You start to read in a different way. You start to see the sentence as machinery. You focus on the gears and levers that connect words to one another; you hunt for the wayward semicolon, the unintentionally ambiguous phrase, the clunky repeated word. You even hope they appear, so you can kill them. You see them when they’re not even there, because you relish slashing your pen across the paper. It gets a little twisted.

    As with any kind of technical knowledge or specialization, it is possible to take copy-editing too far, to be ruled by it, to not quite be able to shut it off when it ought to be shut off.

    How true.  Intrigued?  Read the rest.

    Sunday, December 2, 2012

    New Wiki Coffin Mystery

    The Beckoning Ice

    It is February 1839, and the ships of the United States Exploring Expedition are thrashing about dreaded Cape Horn, on their way to a rendezvous at Orange Harbor, Tierra del Fuego, on a crazy mission to be the first to find Antarctica. A sealing schooner hails the brig Swallow with a strange tale of a murdered corpse on an iceberg--surely a case for Wiki Coffin, half-Maori, half-Yankee "linguister," who is the representative of American law and order with the fleet.

    But circumstances are against him. As Wiki has been banished from the Swallow to the Peacock,where he is forced to battle racism in the wardroom, and vengeful sealers on the decks, the puzzle is surely too much even for this experienced sleuth. Then Wiki is tested even further when he uncovers a brutal murder on board. To solve this double mystery, Wiki is forced to make a dangerous voyage to the utmost fringes of the beckoning ice.

    Available now at Smashwords

    It will available soon at, Barnes & Noble, and so forth. However, until December 30, 2012, it can be bought on the Smashwords site for $3.50 -- a 50% saving -- by quoting coupon EV36B

    Saturday, December 1, 2012

    Wiki Coffin and the Historical Novels Review

    Deadly Shoals and a belated rave

    Mea culpa.  Until prompted by Linda Collison, author of Barbados Bound and Surgeon's Mate, I had never heard of the Historical Novel Society.

    I first joined their Facebook group, and then the Society itself. They have a very swish website, which I scanned, but I was really too busy working up the fifth Wiki Coffin mystery, The Beckoning Ice, to have a proper look. Then a magazine arrived unexpectedly in the mail -- The Historical Novels Review.

    I had a look. It has seven interesting articles, two notables being a masterclass in self-editing by the ever-admirable Cindy Vallar, and another a background to Georgette Heyer, by Jennifer Kloester.

    The rest is packed with reviews.  Well, I suppose it calls itself a review magazine, but still I was surprised -- partly because I thought all the reviewing was done on the website, and partly because there were no Indie or digital books reviewed, as far as I could tell.

    So I commented on it on the Facebook page, and received some very interesting replies.  HNS is supportive of Indie and digital publishing, I was told, but those reviews are on the website. About a third of their members are readers, not writers, and they find the magazine an excellent source when making up their reading lists. And authors and publishers respect the review magazine for their professional reviewing.

    So why had I never heard of it?  Why had none of my stellar array of publishers ever mentioned the magazine? As far as I knew, none of my books had been sent to HNR, and they had never been reviewed.

    Not so, I was told.  My books have been reviewed, though some of the reviews are not on the website yet.  So why had my publishers never used the reviews for publicity, let alone told me about them?

    They must be awfully bad reviews, thought I, and braced myself before searching.

    I found only one -- for Deadly Shoals, and to my amazement, it's a rave. Which makes publisher silence even more amazing.  Read on, and tell me what you think.

    Off the coast of Patagonia, January 1839: William “Wiki” Coffin, Maori son of a Yankee sea captain, serves as linguist for the U.S. South Seas Exploring Expedition. At the age of twenty-four, he already has an enviable reputation as naval officer and successful detective.

    In this, the fourth of Joan Druett’s Wiki Coffin mysteries, Wiki’s orders are to find a stolen ship. Whaling captain Stackpole has paid $1000 for a ship he has yet to see. He and Wiki trek inland along the Rio Negro to find the elusive sales agent, Adams, who, along with the ship, has disappeared. Each step of the investigation is laid out, chapter by well-constructed chapter, to the surprising and satisfying conclusion.

    It’s hard to imagine that the author has not spent years sailing on tall ships, so detailed is her description of the vessels and so fluid her maritime dialogue. She spins a great yarn laced with rich landscape detail, character observations, and a wealth of ethnological information – none of which is intrusive or pedantic. There is also a little sub-mystery to solve in Deadly Shoals: who really is the querulous and fiery first mate of the trading vessel, Osprey? This one will make you smile. Actually, the whole book makes you smile appreciatively.