30 May 2017

Typo molehills deliberately made into mountains?

Remember Those Troublesome Typos I mentioned?
first posted 30.5.2017.... re-edited 26.1.2019

A couple of weeks back I posted an article about those troublesome typos that appear – as if by some mischievous act of magic – into our hard-worked work. We (authors that is) all have them, even the Top Big Writers at the Top Big Publishers; those pesky little slip-ups that sit there, hiding in the shadows then leap out, totally unnoticed, when the button is pressed to do the final print-run.


You may recall that I (one among many authors) was targeted by a troll-type spammer who advertises his proof reading business by sending out spam mail, mentioning his services and the typos he has found in XX book. These emails usually fall direct into the spam box, or even if they don’t their very nature screams ‘spam’ so are sent there forthwith via the delete or block button. Then, a short while later – hey presto, a derogatory comment, of 1 or 2 stars appears on Amazon as in:

“Out of courtesy, the author and the publisher were both contacted before this review was posted, but neither responded.”


No, of course not. INo one in their right mind responds to spam mail, especially when the theme and flavour is outright rude bullying.

This spam-person has targeted dozens of authors, to the extent that the Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi) issued an official Watchdog Warning against his unsavoury bullying tactics.

John Doppler wrote:

“During the first quarter of 2017, ALLi’s Watchdog Desk received several complaints about a company known as Proof Professor. The complaints were not about the proofreading services offered by the company. Rather, they described a troubling and consistent pattern of behaviour by Proof Professor’s founder, Matt Rance. In each case, Mr. Rance approached an author or publisher to offer their services, including a list of corrections Proof Professor could make to the prospect’s book. When the prospect politely declined or did not reply, Mr. Rance persisted, becoming increasingly hostile, even when the prospects made it explicitly clear that they wished no further contact…”


And:


“The threat implicit in these reviews felt clear to their victims: pay me to fix your editing, or I will hurt your reputation. The actions we observed in the course of our investigation and the overall pattern of Proof Professor’s reviews seem to confirm this interpretation.”


Prior to the attack on myself I had been immensely proud of Pirates Truth and Tales, commissioned to write a non-fiction book about a subject I thoroughly enjoy, a recognition that I am a writer of worth, and actually being paid to write it – well, I was thrilled!

Then this Proof person trashed my book. (OK I won't be coy, seeing as John, above has named him) He calls himself Proof Professor ... what is his real title I wonder? Professor Troll PHD (Pesky Habitual Dosspot)


myBook.to/PIRATESTruthTale
I made light of it, put on a brave face etc - the book does (did) have a few major bloopers, some were my fault (why on earth did I put 'Marie' Celeste not 'Mary' Celeste? Still, Conan Doyle made the same error…) but I have, since first posting this, established (beyond doubt) that the publishing assistant in charge of production (no longer with the company - he left during the production process of my book) had either failed to do a final proof read to pick up those sly typos that wormed their way in - or hadn't done it at all and sent the uncorrected file to the printer. (I suspect the second, as this was the file that was, indeed, sent.) 

I did not get a final proof copy, the first time I saw the book in its final format was when it was printed and ready to go on sale, so yes, I am (was) appalled, embarrassed and cross. However, there was  nothing I could do about it until the paperback was to be printed. Which it now has been - undoubtedly there are still a few missed minor typos, but I haven't spotted them. I'm waiting for Proof Prof PHD to do the job for me. So far, he has only left snarky tweets for me. Unread and deleted, I might add. So I assume he hasn't found anything major, ergo, can't do his usual trash act. I did spot a silly tweet from him several months after I did a local library talk. He (inanely) tweeted 'I'll be there'. What was his objection? To bully me? Frighten me? Worry me? Well a) it wouldn't have worked as I'd have only too willingly taken him on face to face b) I never saw the tweet until about 3 months later. c) he didn't turn up. Pity. I'd have enjoyed drashing him. (by the by Proof Prof, that isn't a typo its a Devonshire word.)

Incidentally all the authors who do fall for his spiel get a 5 star review - even if the book is dreadful. Which several of them are. OK they are relatively typo free, just a pity some of the authors haven't a clue how to write a decent novel...

But, let's put things into perspective here: are the errors that were highlighted in my book really all that seriously appalling?

I re-read the hardback edition, searching for the 249 errors that this Pea Pod PhD claimed to have found. I undertook the task with a heavy heart and a feeling of dread: how would I be able to continue marketing the book, hoping people would buy and read it when it was (apparently) littered with dozens and dozens of errors? But face the inevitable I had to do, at least I would know to write the book off and wait for a second edition to be proud of instead... 

except...


hang on a minute....



I got as far as page 250 (another 50 or so to go). I am the first to admit that it is not easy to spot your own errors (hence the essential element of using a professional editor) but by p 250 I had found only 22 – that’s TWENTY TWO errors.

The remaining 227 that were claimed to be there must be contained in the last 50 or so pages… or … are totally unimportant and irrelevant or not even there!

Even assuming I’d missed a similar amount of typos, that still only made 44 errors out of 110,000 words. No, I’m not saying that is good, it would be nice to be typo free, but are minor things like a missing ‘ or, ‘off’ instead of ‘of’, or obvious editing slip-ups REALLY going to ruin the reader’s enjoyment as P.P. PHD claimed? No, of course not.


Add to this, he, apparently, uses a software programme to do his editing (so he's not a pro. Pros use the 'Natural' method - their eyes, brain and intelligence.) Computer software is highly pedantic. It does not allow for an author's style, quirks, turn of phrase etc - which we all have and which make us individual writers.  I've never forgotten a headmaster friend telling me, after the publication of my first novel: 'I never realised that a novel didn't have to be grammatically correct to be so thoroughly enjoyable.' (I think that was a compliment *laugh*.) 

PPPHD highlights many of these (pedantic) errors on Amazon, making the book seem to be a heap of unintelligible do-do: e.g.

- in the Timeline (p10) 1685 comes before 1684. [Yes a blooper that was missed]

- there are straightforward spelling mistakes: hansome (> handsome, p32); yeilded (> yielded, p34); rum and coke (> rum and Coke, p83); acolade (> accolade, p147).
- many proper names are incorrect: Isle of White (p268), You Tube (p283), Kings Lynn (p250), Kiera Knightly (p244). [Again, missed bloopers]
- verbs don’t agree with their subjects in terms of singular and plural: ‘the ship were in northern waters’ (p233); ‘The delight of this adventure story are…’ (p194); ‘Anne’s name and gender was widely known’ (p105). [Again, missed bloopers on the publisher's part]
- plurals follow an indefinite article: ‘an East Indiamen’ (p144), and follow a singular demonstrative pronoun: ‘at the back of this books’ (p259).  [missed bloopers on the publisher's part]
- there is consistent misunderstanding of how the hyphen is used to clarify meaning. [eh? Really?]
- ‘off’ and ‘of’ are confused (p164),  as well as homonyms such as ‘principle’/‘principal’.  [Again, missed bloopers on the publisher's part]
- apostrophes are misplaced and incorrectly reversed. [ditto]
- perfectly spelled words are nevertheless wrongly used to create an error: ‘as the ship goers down’ (p43), ‘[a] solution was set in placer’ (p177). [ditto]
- sometimes there is no spacing between words: ‘July1726’ (p284). [is this really a big deal? Worth trashing a book for?]
- the author twice misquotes the title of the book as ‘Pirates: Truth and Tale’ (p202, p319: the actual title on the cover and title page is '...Tales'), as well as styling one of her publishers, SilverWood as ‘Silverwood’ (p318). [publisher's error, not mine - but again is this really worth trashing a good book for? Do these really ruin the reading experience - assuming the reader even noticed in the first place?]

 Yes, the errors were there; they should have been picked up in the final proof read that obviously hadn’t been done, but is the reader really going to throw the book away in disgust because there is no space between the words July and 1726?... Printed as July1726 ... oh no ... dear reader stop reading now, faint, ask for the smelling salts, burn the book... horror horror there is no space!


I'm pleased to say that the paperback edition has been out a good while now, and selling well, with mostly very good comments. There's one other troll comment ... apparently the writing style in my Sea Witch novels is nothing like Patrick O'Brian's. Well thank goodness for that! I've achieved my aim... I intentionally set out to be nothing whatsoever like Mr O'Brian, I fully intended Sea Witch to be lighthearted sailor's yarn fun and very, very different. Oh and incidentally, a note for this silly person: it is entirely possible to sink a small ship of the early 1700s with one well-aimed broadside. I grant it wouldn't be possible later in the century (Mr O'Brian's period) but I don't write about the 1790s-1800s.


Anyway, this PHD must have nothing better to do with his time other than to trash good book after good book. Obviously he doesn't have many clients, because if he did he'd not waste time, or his (dubious) reputation on authors who he doesn't even know by upsetting them and rubbishing their reputation - even their career - out of miffed spite because his original email was ignored. Add to this he has harassed publishers, the Society Of Authors and the Alliance of Independent Authors, all of whom have investigated him and warned authors of his very dubious nature. The only place he is allowed to continue his outright bullying and harassment is Amazon. But then we all know that Amazon's admin can bee absolute pants. 


myBook.to/PIRATESTruthTale
(And by the way, ‘The author’ (me), as he claims, didn’t get the title wrong twice – the publisher only decided on Pirates: Truth and Tales a few days before going to press, I therefore had to leave it to their editor to fill in the gap in the text. Unfortunately, as I have stated, he left the company and obviously failed to do so...)

I have no quibble with a review or comment mentioning the missed typos – they ARE there, they are fact, but to do so in a snide, nasty, harassing manner? Well, that is 100% proof that this guy is nothing more than a cyber bully, and to quote Captain Hook, is 'not good form'. 


John Doppler from ALLI, said in his article: “While it’s evident that some of the books in question did have errors, that’s irrelevant to the manner in which Proof Professor solicited business. Harassment has no place in the business model of a reputable service, especially when it escalates to invading someone’s home and personal life.”
(Read his full report: http://selfpublishingadvice.org/proofprofessor-watchdog-advisory-complaints-reviews/  )

I wrote Pirates: Truth and Tales as a light and entertaining read. It is a dip-in-and-out-of book, ideal for those passionate about pirates or those who have a mild interest. I thoroughly enjoyed writing it and, damn it, no jumped-up snide little egotistical snib-waller bully is going to spoil my enjoyment of something I am, despite the very few bloopers, proud of!

All the same, I really would appreciate a few nice comments on Amazon if you have a moment or two to add one… Feel free to mention the missed typos, but maybe also mention how enjoyable and entertaining the book is?

And just as a comparison: I ran this article through an entire grammar and style check for Word.Doc using ALL the available features.

Apparently there are over 100 errors in the above text. Did you spot them? 
No, thought not.... that's because the check included very minor, picky issues that are, frankly, completely irrelevant.
(but if you did spot them, I apologise for ruining your reading experience and quite understand that you’ve now smashed your computer in sheer frustration at my appalling writing….)

The sad thing is, and this is why I have come back to re-read and re-edit this article (and re-post it) this snide little bum-fluff confidence-destroying author-trasher, here in January 2019 is STILL playing his shitty little childish games. Obviously, as I said above he hasn't enough genuine work to be getting on with.

My advice to authors? Ignore the fetid little pathetic toad.

myBook.to/PIRATESTruthTale
Note: typos in this article are there by accidental design... 


23 May 2017

The Fame Game by new author David Barker

Tuesday Talk today:
David Barker
I recently had two launch parties for my debut novel, Blue Gold. It’s published by Urbane, who recently won best independent UK crime publisher by World Wide Business Review. Two launch parties? Why not, I thought, it’s not often you get published for the first time. It’s about as Rock Star as I’ll ever get.
The first party was at Waterstones Piccadilly. Yes, the big daddy of UK bookstores. Which in itself caused a problem. There are at least three event spaces that are used on any given evening, and despite agreeing with the events manager beforehand which one I would use, they pulled a switch on me at the last minute. Not a problem in itself, except that I had issued very clear instructions to all my party attendees which now told them to go the wrong part of the six-storey building. Oh, and my event space hadn’t been hoovered yet and the person who was going to serve drinks was running late.


So, fifteen minutes before my launch party started, I was bustling around, trying to chivvy along the cleaner, get some hasty poster instructions done to guide my guests to this party, while also talking to an old friend who had turned up early for the party and couldn’t stay for long. Definitely not Rock Star. My plans for world domination (or at least a minor lift in my book sales) were looking decidedly shaky… Thanks to my lovely wife – who did most of the haring around at this point – it all went off fine in the end. Yes, a few guests went to the wrong place at first, but they quickly realised and managed to hunt me out.

It was lovely to see so many friends there from different aspects of my life. One of my writer chums – we were on the Faber Academy novel-writing course together – had her debut novel published at the start of the year. Good Me, Bad Me by Ali Land. It’s already a bestseller and is being sold across the world, with the full weight of Penguin’s marketing team behind it. It was fun – if a little envy-inducing – to compare notes in the pub afterwards about the differences in our marketing campaigns. Not that I begrudge Ali her success, she’s a brilliant writer with a distinctive voice.

My second launch party was two days later at Waterstones Windsor. You certainly can’t get lost in this store, although like the first party, there was a definite rush to get the store set-up for my party with only a few minutes to spare. I attend a Sci-Fi and Fantasy reading club every month at this store, so I know the staff well. I knew they were doing this on a Saturday evening as a favour for me, so I was keen to get lots of book sales through their till at least as part recompense.

I was fortunate enough to have an A-list film star come to this party (for his privacy I won’t name him here). I know that sounds unlikely, but he and his wife had moved into the road we live on at Christmas, and while he had been away for most of this year filming we got to know his wife. She was charming and very friendly and so we invited her to my launch party. As luck would have it, he returned from filming just in time and came along to show his support. I couldn’t believe my luck. Where were the journalists, the press photographers, to record this auspicious moment? Anyway, he was charming and I know that he came to my launch party to support me. That’s good enough.

This week, it’s back to real life and trying to market my book. As an author of an indie-published book, I know it’s not going to sell itself. The red carpet will have to wait.

Find out more about Blue Gold and me on my website:
About the Book
"The near future. Climate change and geopolitical tension have given rise to a new international threat - a world war for water. This most vital of resources has become a precious commodity and some will stop at nothing to control its flow. 
When a satellite disappears over Iceland, Sim Atkins thinks he knows why. He is given the chance to join the hallowed Overseas Division and hunt for the terrorists responsible. But his new partner Freda Brightwell is aggrieved to be stuck with a rookie on such a deadly mission. 
Freda's misgivings are well founded when their first assignment ends in disaster - a bomb destroys a valuable airship and those responsible evade capture. Seeking redemption, the British agents follow the trail to a billionaires' tax haven in the middle of the Atlantic ocean and uncover a web of deceit that threatens global war. Whom can they trust? 
As the world edges ever closer to destruction Sim and Freda must put their lives on the line to prevent Armageddon - and protect the future of 'blue gold'."
Want a sneak peak? Click here
Buy on 
Amazon UK £8.99 £1.99
Amazon US $7.60 $2.58
Live in Devon? Near Plymouth? 
Meet David at Waterstones Drake Circus, Plymouth on 2nd June from 11am onwards.

16 May 2017

Finding the real people between the pages of history

My Tuesday Talk Guest: Melissa Addey


Sometimes a strange thing happens when you write historical fiction. You’ll invent something – a scene, a description, which you believe is entirely fictional and also, perhaps, taking a bit of poetic licence… and then you find out it is true. This happened to me most vividly when I wrote The Fragrant Concubine


The novel centres around a real woman in China in the 1760s.
When the Emperor of China conquered her homeland of Turkestan (now known as Xinjiang), he summoned a local Muslim woman to the Forbidden City to become his concubine.  It seems she was a favourite, being given gifts and promoted before being buried with all due honours on her death many years later. But many legends grew up around her.

In China, they say that she was naturally possessed of a fragrance so bewitching that the Emperor fell in love with her. She was homesick, but he built her a mosque and a bazaar, gave her a cook from her homeland and trees to remind her of home and finally she forgot her sadness, fell in love with him and they lived happily ever after. Her own people, now known as Uyghurs, say that on the contrary: she was a rebel and was dragged to court against her will, leaving behind her family and husband. That rather than submit to the Emperor, she swore she would kill herself and kept daggers in her sleeves to defend her honour. At last, fearing all of this was too much for her son’s happiness, the Empress Dowager arranged to have her strangled by a white silk scarf. I wrote The Fragrant Concubine because I wondered which story was true: the sad one or the happy one. The novel is about what might have happened and tries to incorporate all of these legends. 

While writing the novel, I added a scene where the Emperor and concubine go hunting together, something that I knew was a bit bordering on the make-believe: although the whole court went to the hunting grounds, the women did not ride much, but it was important to my character’s storyline. Only after I had written this scene was my attention drawn to a small painting done at the time, intended as a private portrait for the Emperor’s eyes only. In it, the Emperor rides in the hunting grounds while at his side rides a woman whose clothing marks her out as a high-ranking concubine but whose hairstyle proclaims her a foreigner. It is likely, historians say, that the portrait is indeed of Rong Fei, the concubine who in legends became the ‘Fragrant Concubine’. 



I have recently finished writing a novella to accompany The Fragrant Concubine, which I give to my readers. In it, I described a new concubine, one of two lead characters, as looking like a young ruffled eagle, angry at her capture. Checking the meaning of her Chinese name a few days later (I don’t speak Chinese), I found that it means intelligence… and eagle. 

The other thing that can happen is when you ‘see’ one of your characters in a modern person, and this too can be fascinating. A few weeks ago I went on a research trip to Beijing. It’s a busy place and I took my family. My children drove me pretty crazy on our first day visiting locations. In the exquisite park that is The Garden of Perfect Brightness (the title of my work in progress, a prequel to the two I’ve already written), my five year old boy insisted on climbing on rocks perilously dangling over deep water or wading into the muddy edges of the lakes to try and ‘fish’ using a twig. He was annoying me because I was worried for his safety as well as feeling that I didn’t have the luxury of looking around me and soaking up the ‘atmosphere’ of this key location for my next novel. But I then had a sudden realisation that the character of the boy prince (who would one day become the Emperor Qianlong from my previous two books) that I was writing grew up in this sport: and what does any child do when given the opportunity to explore such a place: climb rocks and hunt for fishes of course! I watched my son in a new light after that, seeing in him another little boy who, three hundred years ago, would have explored this very place.

These moments are mysteries, but pleasant when they happen. It makes me feel as though, after researching a historical era and its characters thoroughly, something has floated to me across the centuries, that I have found the people beneath the dusty textbooks.  


Helen: I thoroughly enjoyed The Fragrant Concubine - it was reviewed on Discovering Diamonds. In fact I enjoyed it so much I chose it as my Book of the Month!



About Melissa Addey
I grew up on an organic farm in Italy and was home educated. I spent fifteen years in business, both in new product development and mentoring entrepreneurs before going full-time with my writing. I now live in London with my husband and two young children and am doing a PhD in Creative Writing at the University of Surrey.

You can get The Consorts novella for free at www.melissaaddey.com/free and view images from my recent research trip to China on the slideshow link. 



Also of interest: 
Those Troublesome Typos by Helen Hollick


9 May 2017

THOSE TROUBLESOME TYPOS...

 by (a somewhat embarrassed)  Me... Helen Hollick

"I'd rather readers and reviewers laughed with me - not at me!"


Back in the distant days when novels were written with pen and ink on paper, or laboriously tapped out on a typewriter, typos were a rarity in the published book, for the simple reason the print-face had to be set by hand – and usually a skilled hand. The person checking the ‘proof’ was equally as skilled. Add to that, their (sic) were no spellcheckers to accept their instead of there.

Inevitably, typos appear despite rigorous proof reading by editors and authors. What is annoying, for an author, is when he or she has diligently done his/her best to proof read for errors but there in the published version instead of being full of pride, said author is awash with disappointment because the book is littered with errors. I say disappointment, in fact the feelings range from acute embarrassment to outright rage. I know. I'm feeling it at the moment.

Indie and self-published authors have, for years, been mocked, abused, denigrated (choose a derisive word out of a substantial list) because (as those sneerers have oft said) the quality of writing and production is poor and editing is non-existent. Those of us who are respected indie authors (and in my case reviewers – I recently founded Discovering Diamonds, a review blog for historical fiction) have worked darn hard to prove these accusations wrong. 

We produce good books, we review good books. We expect and intend to publish  professional quality good novels. But we are only human. We are not machines. When I am writing it is the content, the plot, the scene, the character that I am focused on, not the right direction of an apostrophe or of/off - or whatever. I try my best to correct the errors. My team of beta readers try their best. My editors... well, you get the picture. But I hate to admit this, well sorry folks, I am not perfect!


I do take care with my novels. My original indie editions, published by a company which went bankrupt (the managing director turned out to be a con man) were a mess. The correct way to publish an indie book was, I can tell you, a very sharp learning curve! Things still don't always go right though.

I’m not saying there are no typos in – let’s say, Sea Witch, the first of my nautical adventure series, there are a few (possibly more than a few). Reading it through on the Kindle recently I spotted a couple of howlers:  james not James, and Jaw not jaw in the middle of a sentence, as example. (How on earth did they get missed?) But, sorry, I am not spending money on re-editing and reprinting. I can't re-edit myself, and it costs a lot to hire editors, money which has been set aside for the next book, not for one that has already sold several thousand copies and been in print for about nine years. The errors are there, they are now as much a part of the story as is my Jesamiah. I'm not proud of the errors, but, well they're there and there they'll have to stay. 


Having said that, the advantage for the indie writer using POD (Print on Demand – i.e printed when an order is placed, as opposed to many being printed in one go) is that it is possible to do a re-edit and reprint if desired. Errors, for us indies are our responsibility, and we really do try to ensure the end result is 'spotless', but as I have shown, not always  achieved. Some readers tut and moan and complain about typos, most realise they are not intentional errors or don't even see them because they are engrossed in the story. 

I've just discovered that the Kindle version of Pirate Code, for some reason has chunks of text in italics - the error isn't in the book, so I assume its down to technology. 

And then there are mainstream/traditional books. You would expect a professional publishing house to produce quality edited and published books wouldn’t you? Hence this article, my red face, disappointment and annoyance. The last two shrugged aside with  difficulty.

Book. Good.
Face. Red
My latest book Pirates:Truth & Tales, is not an indie book but was commissioned by a publisher, paid for by them, and in-house edited. It is littered with errors. All, so I have been informed by a 'reviewer', 249 of them. They begin on the copyright page, increase a few pages later and go downhill from there.

- in the Timeline 1685 comes before 1684.
- spelling mistakes: hansome, yeilded, acolade…
- verbs don’t agree with their subjects in terms of singular and plural: ‘the ship were in northern waters’, ‘The delight of this adventure story are…’
- ‘off’ and ‘of’ are confused
- apostrophes are misplaced and incorrectly reversed.
- sometimes there is no spacing between words: ‘July1726’
- the author twice misquotes the title of the book as ‘Pirates: Truth and Tale’

I have made light of this public exposure of my embarrassment on Amazon because, well, there is absolutely nothing I can do about it - the exposure or the errors - so no point in ranting and raving. And, I guess, out of 110,000 words the typos could be worse… (Can anyone do the math? What % of 110k is 249?)


I am NOT making excuses, and I am not whining or whinging  (well OK I am, but read on…) I made it VERY clear to the publisher that I have an acute degenerative eyesight problem. Believe me, trying to correct nit-pick errors on a printed page with distorted, misted vision is no picnic! Over and again I asked for assurance that the text would be edited, checked and double-checked. Over and again I was assured that it would.
Maybe I am the fool to have trusted the assurances?

Some of the typos are because of my sight (I can’t see that those ‘r’s and ‘s’s have crept in, and ‘. ,” and double letters ii or ll are hard for me to spot.) I rely on a good editor, although I hold my hand up to a couple of senior-moment bloopers: ‘Sloan’ should be ‘Sloane’, ‘Jeffries’ should be ‘Jeffreys’ and what on earth made me put ‘Marie’ Celeste not ‘Mary’ Celeste? Old age is creeping up, obviously. And my favourite treat is rum and raisin ice cream … the printed blooper is ‘as a desert’. *Laugh*. Well I blame that one on the rum!

Small publishers usually do not send out a final version for a last check. I only saw a pre-proofed PDF typeset version, I only got to see the final version once it was printed and published. So not my fault. I didn’t get to see it before publication.
That is not much comfort, mind you.

What do I do? What can I do? 



Not a lot.

I have contacted the publishers who have apologised, although that isn’t a great deal of help to me – the book is out there, for sale, dotted with highly embarrassing errors.

Production seems to have gone awry because the editor looking after my book left shortly before the final stage. Errors such as ‘the ship were in northern waters’ and ‘The delight of this adventure story are…’ were introduced because of this editor’s editing. My original sentences were cut, and the remaining words not double-checked for continuing to make sense. So not all of these are my fault - even if they were they should have been corrected by the publisher's copy editor and the proof reader. According to my notes the ones I picked up from the PDF file were corrected.

The publisher’s representative has said:
I’ve put a note on the file so that before it goes to reprint or paperback the book must be proofread before being released again. In the rare instances where I’ve seen a book with no proof corrections, we tend to find that the corrections are made but then the version that gets uploaded basically just isn’t that corrected version. We have all kinds of checks to make sure the right version goes up – which is where I figure the staff turnover might come in… so it looks like this was some unfortunate combination of errors our end.”

He goes on to say: “[in such instances] Options are recall, pulp and re-release (prohibitively expensive for small publishers in these straitened times) or wait until reprint. And if you print a lot [usually 1000 or so] because you think the book will do well, you can inadvertently let down the author because it means more copies to sell before reprinting.”

And:
 “Sorry again about this – one of the worst things in publishing is how the good things in a book are rather invisible and the errors are glaring, so to have situations like this where you have a bunch of errors makes me very sad, and you have every right to be annoyed. “

So it’s good that the publisher thought the book would do well and have done an initial large print-run – but that means a lot of books with a lot of errors in them. Luckily, judging from Amazon I have some lovely reviews (and I will be delighted to get some more – even if they do mention the (not my fault) typos…) 

So it looks like an incorrect file was uploaded for printing, but the damage is done, not helped by one review on Amazon.co.uk by a company called 'Proof Professor' savaging the book for what is blatantly a promotion for business gain. I don’t mind the mention of these errors – they are there, they are an uncomfortable and highly embarrassing fact, but this particular person from this company makes a regular habit of dissing various authors in exactly the same manner and style. These authors receive spam emails or messages offering a proofing service. When the spam is ignored – surprise, surprise, a bad review appears. A couple of weeks after I ignored him… guess what appeared? Yep. A ‘review’ highlighting the missed errors in 'Pirates'. Errors which I already knew were there, I didn't need his 'kind' offer of telling me about them!

But don't take my word for the nastiness of this person! ALLi (Alliance of Independent Authors) has issued this warning click here :"The threat implicit in these reviews felt clear to their victims: pay me to fix your editing, or I will hurt your reputation. The actions we observed in the course of our investigation and the overall pattern of Proof Professor’s reviews seem to confirm this interpretation."
"While it’s evident that some of the books in question did have errors, that’s irrelevant to the manner in which Proof Professor solicited business. Harassment has no place in the business model of a reputable service, especially when it escalates to invading someone’s home and personal life."

And another puzzle: why did Proof Prof pick on this particular book of mine? He had to buy it, I don’t give freebies. Why didn’t he ‘review’ the cheaper (much cheaper) Sea Witch, or Harold the King, or any one of my (much cheaper) books?

I wonder… could it be because there are not so many typos in these books, so he couldn’t pick on me, make his harassing hurtful and potentially damaging trollish spammy unpleasant comments about them? (And promote his business into the bargain?)
 Just a thought…


Fortunately for Pirates Truth & Tales, the publisher’s bad job of production hasn’t stood in the way of my entertaining writing. The queen of pirate book reviews, the highly professional Cindy Vallar gave it a very fair 5 star review – AND she mentioned the typos, but realised them for what they are: “There are enough misspelled words – not including the differences in spelling between British and American English – and missing words that readers will notice. But there is far more to recommend this book than these minor problems.”

But I now have a dilemma. Do I shrug, smile and take it on the chin, making light of this almighty cock-up, or do I sit here and wring my hands, not mention the book ever again? Like heck I won’t! I enjoyed writing it – and all I can suggest is, buy a copy and laugh at the silly typos. Maybe I should run a competition for ‘spot the bloopers’?

Oh, and yes the title was muddled. Again, not my fault! The publisher didn’t decide on a final sub-title until  the book was ready to go to print. In fact, on Amazon, Goodreads etc, it initially appeared as a completely different sub-title! I only knew the final version myself when the book was delivered to me.

One huge comfort about all this, I am not alone. The big publishers have been slammed for messing up with errors: Penguin, Harper Collins, Bloomsbury, Simon and Schuster... so have the big authors. Fleming's first edition of Moonraker is worth a bomb because of a typo. So is a certain first edition Harry Potter novel. Maybe one day I'll become a really famous author and the books with errors in will become collector's items!

The most famous blooper was in the 1631 edition of a Bible when the word 'not' was missed out from that commandment about committing adultery...  One of Henry Miller's novels is littered with typos (had I better check... is that Miller or Millar?) Twilight has typos, and so does one of the Game Of Thrones novels. Well, frankly if the Starks, Lannisters and Daenerys Targaryen can live with bloopers, then so can I! (Or rather, if the people who made the bloopers manage to stay alive, despite the revenge of the Starks, Lannisters and Daenerys Targaryen... )

I’m wondering, though, perhaps my pirate book was perfectly OK when it went off to be printed, but I do say some not very nice things about some famous pirates such as Charles Vane, Blackbeard and Edward Lowe… 

Hmmm. I wonder if their ghosts sabotaged the file?

"Errors?  I don't care... as long as you mention me...!"

Please do feel free to leave a comment below 
(preferably supportive and encouraging *laugh*)

and if you feel brave enough to read my books I have no objection to an Amazon review mentioning the typos, but maybe mention the entertaining read, the story, the characters etc., as well?


All errors is my own and are probablee delibrate. (sic)

2 May 2017

In a world of its own: Roma Nova and Alternative Fiction with Alison Morton

Two trilogies, six books, an entire world.
This is where your imagination can lead you if you’re not careful.

Alison Morton
My world of Roma Nova had bubbled away in my head for several decades. Don’t we all dream of ordering the world to our own wishes, even fantasies, as we go about our shopping, picking up kids, cooking meals, working at our desks to a tight client deadline?


It had started on a hot day in Spain when I’d been fascinated by my first Roman mosaic at age eleven. I asked my father, the senior ‘Roman nut’, every question I could think of about the people who’d left such beautiful patterns behind. He told me about senators and sailors, traders and slaves, soldiers and builders. I asked him what the women did; he hadn’t mentioned them. I was dismayed when he said they mostly stayed indoors and looked after the men and children. Stay at home? How peculiar! My mother was a head of department at a local school. I thought about this for a bit, then asked him what a Roman society would be like with women in charge. He replied “Well, what do you think it would have been like?”

That first mosaic...
I haven’t been able to loosen the grip of Rome ever since, nor of a woman-led more or less egalitarian society. When the novel writing bug bit, I had a world pre-built in my head.  A colonia established at the very end of the fourth century as the once great empire fragmented. In the mountainous country north of Italy the few hundred members of pagan senatorial families persecuted by Christian emperors would guard their treasured Roman culture.


But this was the time of the rise of the new peoples of Europe; Goths, Vandals, Franks, Lombards and the men of the tiny colony were hard pushed to defend it. So the young women of Roma Nova put on armour and hefted swords. Fighting danger side-by-side with brothers and fathers reinforced women’s status and roles. Moreover, the pagan Roma Novans never allowed the incursion of monotheistic paternalistic religions. Over the next sixteen centuries women developed leadership roles in all parts of Roma Novan life.

Service to the state was valued higher than personal advantage, echoing Roman Republican virtues, and the women heading the families guarded and enhanced these values to provide a core philosophy throughout the centuries.

Roma Nova’s continued existence has been favoured by three things: the discovery and exploitation of high grade silver in their mountains, their efficient technology, and their robust response to any threat.  This is a potted history; you can read much more here.


Fast forward to the 20th century where Roma Nova is facing its worst crisis in sixteen hundred years. In RETALIO we see the descendant of one of those first families, Aurelia Mitela, attempting to dislodge a brutal tyrant who has seized power in Roma Nova.  More below!

This power struggle is set in the early 1980s, a period more difficult to write than one more distant. Why? Because we think we remember it.  As I discovered when researching the technology, memory plays terrible tricks so I ended up checking everything.

So how do you write an imaginary country or an alternative timeline?
Unless your book is post-apocalyptic, the geography and climate must resemble the ones in the region where the imagined country lies. And no alternate history writer can neglect their imagined country’s social, economic and political development. This sounds dry, but every living person is a product of their local conditions. Their experience of living in a place, and struggle to make sense of it, is expressed through culture and behaviour.


How do writers weave these into their stories? The key is plausibility. Take a character working in law enforcement. Readers can accept cops being gentle or tough, enthusiastic, intellectual or world-weary. Law enforcers come from all genders, classes, races and ages and stand in different places along the personal morality ruler. But whether corrupt or clean, they must act like a recognisable form of cop. They catch criminals, arrest and charge them and operate within a judicial system. Legal practicalities may differ significantly from those we know, but they must be consistent with that society while remaining plausible for the reader. A flashing light and an oscillating siren on a police vehicle are universal symbols that instantly connect readers back to their own world.


Almost every story written hinges upon implausibility – a set-up or a problem the writer has purposefully created. Readers will engage with it and follow as long as the writer keeps their trust. One way to do this is to infuse, but not flood, the story with corroborative detail so that it verifies and reinforces the original setting the writer has introduced.

Some tips
1. Decide on your Point of Divergence [POD] from real timeline history 

Research this to death; know the political set-up, religion, customs, dress, food, agriculture, geography, economy, legal background, defence forces, cultural attitudes, everyday life of all classes and groups. These are the building blocks for your alternate society.

2. Know how you want your society to be and develop it with historic logic
If your story world doesn’t hang together, you will break a reader’s trust. You can have a fantastic world, such as Romans and steampunk but it needs to have reached that place in a plausible way. Writers need to provide motivation, whether personal or political or just forced by circumstances from outside. In my modern Roma Nova world, women are prominent, but I’ve provided a reasonably logic reason why.

3. Keep some anchors to the readers’ pre-knowledge
Creating a story should be fun for the writer and the result rewarding for the reader. Although most writers like to encourage the reader to work a little and participate in the experience, writers shouldn’t bewilder readers. I mentioned plausibility earlier and how to inject corroborative details into the world being created. Anchors are equally important. For example, if you say “Roman legionary” most readers have an idea in their head already of a tough soldier from an effective fighting force.

A modern Roman Legionary
4. Make the alternate present real
Writers need to imbue their characters with a sense of living in the present, in the now. This is their current existence, for them it’s not some story in a book(!). Character-based stories are popular; readers are intrigued by what happens to individual people living in different environments as well as taking part in major historical events. Often it’s more interesting to follow the person’s story than the big event itself…

Alternative history gives us a rich environment in which to develop our storytelling. As with any story in any genre, the writing must create a plausible world, backed by meticulous research, but the writer is, of course, the mistress of her universe.


Alison Morton

Alison Morton, writes the acclaimed Roma Nova thriller series featuring modern Praetorian heroines. She blends her deep love of Roman history with six years’ military service and a life of reading crime, adventure and thriller fiction.

The first five books have been awarded the BRAG Medallion. SUCCESSIO, AURELIA and INSURRECTIO were selected as Historical Novel Society’s Indie Editor’s Choices.  AURELIA was a finalist in the 2016 HNS Indie Award. The sixth, RETALIO, is out on 27 April 2017 and has received a Discovering Diamonds Review.













A ‘Roman nut’ since age 11, Alison has misspent decades clambering over Roman sites throughout Europe. She holds a MA History, blogs about Romans and writing.

Now she continues to write, cultivates a Roman herb garden and drinks wine in France with her husband of 30 years.

Social media links
Connect with Alison on her Roma Nova site: http://alison-morton.com
Twitter: https://twitter.com/alison_morton @alison_morton
Alison’s Amazon page: http://Author.to/AlisonMortonAmazon


Buying link for RETALIO (multiple retailers/formats):


 ABOUT RETALIO 

Early 1980s Vienna. Recovering from a near fatal shooting, Aurelia Mitela, ex-Praetorian and former foreign minister of Roma Nova, chafes at her enforced exile. She barely escaped from her nemesis, the charming and amoral Caius Tellus who grabbed power in Roma Nova, the only part of the Roman Empire to survive into the twentieth century.

Aurelia’s duty and passion fire her determination to take back her homeland and liberate its people. But Caius’s manipulations have isolated her from her fellow exiles, leaving her ostracised, powerless and vulnerable. But without their trust and support Aurelia knows she will never see Roma Nova again.