Read an excerpt HERE.
Click on image to buy RETALIO.
Read an excerpt HERE.
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Read an excerpt HERE. Click on image to buy PERFIDITAS.

BRAG

Read an excerpt HERE.
Click on image to buy INCEPTIO. Amazon bestseller
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Being realistic in historical fiction

My guest today is Antoine Vanner is author of the Dawlish Chronicles, naval fiction set in the 1870s and 1880s. His latest novel, Britannia’s Gamble, was published last month (October 2017). Royal Navy officer Nicholas Dawlish is a fascinating character, very much in the mould of Hornblower, something that attracted me to Antoine’s novels. The author himself spent many years in international business in all kinds of dangerous places, but now lives more calmly in Britain although he continues to travel extensively on a private basis. His books are published by The Old Salt Press, a New Jersey-based association of writers working together to produce the best of nautical fiction and non-fiction.

Welcome back, Antoine. Over to you…

Historical fiction, at its best, is a time machine that transports the reader into another time and place. The best of the genre – such as Steven Pressfield’s Gates of Fire, Zoe Oldenbourg’s Destiny of Fire, David Caute’s Comrade Jacob, Kenneth Roberts’ North-West Passage, C.S. Forester’s Hornblower series – don’t just tell a story but give the actual “feel” of a past era, with its complexities, its concerns, its challenges, its fears and its hopes. In such novels, the styles and construction, and the settings, may be radically different, but all share the characteristic of realism, the impression of a story is being told by an eyewitness who is themselves part of the actual cultural and societal context.

How is this achieved?
I’ve identified below a (non-exhaustive) list of features essential for realism.

Background

  • Wide understanding of the social, political, religious and cultural context, as well as of the main events, ideologies and movements of the era. This is the sort of knowledge picked up over years, indeed decades, of reading. 95% of this information is never used specifically but in the writer’s mind it sets the stage on which the story will be played out.
  • Accepting that values may be radically different to those of our own time and that even decent people may have had views and attitudes we might regard as repugnant today. High infant and maternal mortality, low life expectancies, surgical procedures that were as likely to kill as to cure, exposure to animal-slaughter, a ruthless-enforced social hierarchy, all fostered a callousness that accepted torture and savage executions in times of peace and that descended into unbounded savagery in times of war.
  • Recognising the fog of ignorance that has enveloped much of human history and the fears – and the superstitions – it brought with it. Medicine and technology were based on trial and error, not on reasoned research. The origins of disease were a mystery and, even for intelligent people, witchcraft, astrology and alchemy all seemed to have a rational basis.
  • The importance of religion – and especially concern about eternal damnation – is not easy for a modern writer to appreciate. Demonic forces and fear of hell governed many lives and heresy – deviation from orthodox belief, often over abstruse theological issues – was often regarded as treason against the state. The values of the Enlightenment took hold only very slowly, even in sophisticated Western societies, and as the scientific revolution gathered pace in the nineteenth century new insights into the age of the earth and human evolution triggered agonies of conscience for many educated people.
  • Wide reading in available contemporary literature is crucial for a writer’s understanding of the ethos of any historical period. The closer that time is to the present, the greater the range available, but the further back one goes the fewer the resources. For me, who writes about the late nineteen the century, there is an embarrassment of riches – Victorians wrote copious and entertaining memoirs – but authors focussing on other eras may encounter appreciable difficulties.

    Victorian memoirs can be a delight – and surprisingly racy!

“Feel”

  • This involves conveying how it felt, both mentally and physically, to be alive in the past, an experience usually markedly less comfortable than the more cosseted lives we live today.
  • Bereavement was all but a constant in a world of low life expectancy. A small proportion did live to what we now regard as old age but most families experienced loss of spouses, children or parents at young ages. Marriage was a potential killer for women – frequently a one in six or seven chance of death in childbirth (chance at each confinement multiplied by average number of confinements), as in some African countries today, and many wisely chose life in a nunnery if they could. “Hopping into bed” was a dangerous activity for health reasons as well as for societal-taboos that could be mercilessly enforced.
  • Epidemics of communicable diseases were random but frequent, and lack of hygiene was not recognised as a cause, nor were bacterial or viral infection. Outbreaks spread terror, which often triggered persecution of minorities perceived as somehow “other”. The memory of such epidemics cast a shadow of fear for generations to come.
  • For much of history, the forces of law, order and governance were remote and inefficient. A high level of violence was accepted as the norm and when the authorities did dispense justice it was frequently with savagery. Desperation and uncertainty in the face of crime and low-level anarchy made vendettas a way of life in many societies.
  • The physical reality of daily life was often of endless discomfort – cold and sodden clothing, inadequate footwear, poorly heated houses, squalor ad filth, the drudgery of hauling water and chopping wood, lice and vermin, respiratory diseases caused by poor ventilation, malnutrition and poor diet. Fear of famine was seldom absent. When disease struck the king was little less vulnerable than the peasant.
  • It is all but impossible to imagine how bereft of human rights so many people have been throughout history and how rigid barriers of class and power inflicted such misery on millions. The greatest tragedy was that, knowing nothing else, they accepted it as normality.

From “Young Ireland”(Charles Gavan Duffy, 1896, British Library)

Physical Space:

  • “Distance” is a concept that has changed radically over time and, during much of human history, was measured in days rather than in miles. Depending on modes of transport available – including the humble shank’s pony – the perception of distance depended on the state of tracks and roads, on river or canal transport, on the capabilities of open-water shipping. In fiction, whether the journey itself is the story, or merely a transition between one scene an another, the difficulties and duration of travel needs to be credibly represented.
  • It’s essential to recognise the impact of seasons on journey times and that winter rains and snow could bring all land transport, and much of commerce and society, to a grinding halt. The same applied to movement by sea and an appreciation of the limitations of shipping – in terms of passenger and freight capacity, ability to harness wind effectively and impact of the arrival of steam technology – is essential.
  • Travel speed impacted also on spread of information and days and weeks might pass before news arrived. And once it disappeared over the horizon, a ship was a self-contained and vulnerable world that was lost to all human contact until it docked again. Information-based decision making was a necessarily slow and uncertain process.
  • Use of maps, whether they appear in the final book or not, are invaluable plotting tools. Whether on a global or a local scale, and taking account of natural or human obstacles, they allow calculation of travel durations. They may also raise trigger opportunities for plot elements that would not otherwise come to mind. The same applies to maps of towns, villages, campaigns and battles, whether real or fictional.

Hardware

  • This term covers not just tools, weapons, vehicles, ships, domestic utensils, surgical instruments and housing but also clothing and uniforms.
  • Among readers there will always be experts in one or more of these areas. One error of detail – a button too few on a general’s uniform, a hairstyle that appeared a decade later than in the story’s action, a rifle that actually had a shorter effective range than that at which a hero takes down an adversary – will be enough to destroy credibility. No matter how realistic the remainder of the story may be, a seed of doubt will have been sown.
  • The good news is however that this is the easiest type of detail to get right. Not only are myriad written, electronic and illustrative references sources available – including photographs for more recent periods – but in many cases actual artefacts can be seen in museums. Experts in such topics are usually very glad to share information generously and many can be contacted via social media.

No substitute for seeing the real thing!

Timelines and Real-Life Characters

  • Much historical fiction plays out in the context of real events and involves actual real-life characters. In such cases realism makes three demands, as below.
  • Except in minor details, the plot’s timeline must dovetail with what really happened.
  • At the end of the story the fictional action must not have changed the outcome of history (otherwise it’s the realm of alternative history, another genre entirely).
  • Where real-life personages appear, they must behave in character even if whatever the plot calls upon them to do is fiction. Such players also represent a complication as regards refining timelines – if a plot needs George Washington to be attending ball in Philadelphia on the night he was actually crossing the Delaware, then some knowledgeable reader will see the error. From that point on, all sense of realism is lost.

And finally…

The past was different to the present, often vastly so, even if there may be some similarities. People saw the world differently, may have been terrorised by fears that give us little concern and even the genuinely virtuous may have behaved, with clear consciences, in ways that would outrage us today. If this truth is ignored then the resulting historical fiction will be populated by twenty-first century characters kitted out in re-enactors’ costumes.

Good luck to all other historical novelists. I’ve been there, and I am there, and even if it’s hard at times it’s splendid and rewarding fun. Let’s get on with it!

Britiannia’s Gamble – read Antoine’s latest!

1884. A fanatical Islamist revolt is sweeping all before it in the vast wastes of the Sudan and establishing a rule of persecution and terror. Only the city of Khartoum holds out, its defence masterminded by a British national hero, General Charles Gordon. His position is weakening by the day and a relief force, crawling up the Nile from Egypt, may not reach him in time to avert disaster.

But there is one other way of reaching Gordon…

A boyhood memory leaves the ambitious Royal Navy officer Nicholas Dawlish no option but to attempt it. The obstacles are daunting – barren mountains and parched deserts, tribal rivalries and merciless enemies – and this even before reaching the river that is key to the mission. Dawlish knows that every mile will be contested and that the siege at Khartoum is quickly moving towards its bloody climax.

Outnumbered and isolated, with only ingenuity, courage and fierce allies to sustain them, with safety in Egypt far beyond the Nile’s raging cataracts, Dawlish and his mixed force face brutal conflict on land and water as the Sudan descends into ever-worsening savagery. And for Dawlish himself, one unexpected and tragic event will change his life forever…

Britannia’s Gamble is a desperate one. The stakes are high, the odds heavily loaded against success. Has Dawlish accepted a mission that can only end in failure – and worse?

Find out more about Britannia’s Gamble

“Antoine Vanner is the Tom Clancy of historical naval fiction”
Author Joan Druett

Much more on www.dawlishchronicles.com

Follow Antoine Vanner’s historical blogs on www.dawlishchronicles.com/dawlish-blog/

 

Alison Morton is the author of Roma Nova thrillers INCEPTIO, PERFIDITASSUCCESSIOAURELIA and INSURRECTIO. The sixth, RETALIO, came out in April  2017. Audiobooks now available for the first four of the series

Find out more about Roma Nova, its origins, stories and heroines… Get INCEPTIO, the series starter, for FREE when you sign up to Alison’s free monthly email newsletter

Do you have transferable skills for the business of being an author?

Did you ever think you’d write a book? Or several? Many writers come to it late or write part-time; they’ve had or still have a Real Life. Faced with the organisation behind marketing their book, which seems like rebuilding Rome, they worry about their inadequacies on the business side. All they ever wanted to do was write!

Publishing means making public. If you decide to publish your work, whatever route you choose, it becomes a publicly available product. I know some will cringe to call their work of creative art ‘a product’, but that’s what it is. Readers will not come knocking at retailers’ doors if they don’t know your book exists, so you need to tell them.

Marketing is a distinct profession, but authors can borrow some of those skills and better still educate themselves about the basics. This is the fun part of being an author today – you get to learn new things every day!

“But I don’t know how to do any of it!” you cry. My answer is that you’d be surprised…

Things we need to do

  • Set up a simple website/blog from the beginning, preferably before publication
  • Ensure our book is on the major retailer sites
  • Let people know our book exists
  • Write blogposts – own blog and guest
  • Join social media sites but only the ones you feel like doing. Join the conversation
  • Speak about our book
  • Sell our book face to face
  • Join groups and associations
  • Educate ourselves continuously (Continuous Professional Development, or CPD, if you want the proper term )
  • Learn basic record keeping and tax/legal requirements
  • Manage expectations
  • Have fun

What skills do we need

  • Reading – the ability to read, absorb a lot of information then sift it
  • Writing – not just our creative work, but blog posts. social media posts, press releases, synopses, précis and hooks
  • Organising – good organisation, online using folders and offline using filing
  • Computer skills – word-processing, spreadsheets, managing simple graphics, copying and pasting, uploading files
  • Record keeping
  • Basic accounting
  • A thirst for knowledge
  • A willingness to learn
  • A mindset for sharing and teamwork
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Listening skills
  • Negotiation skills
  • Project management

I hear your mind reeling!

But stop! If you’ve been working for a few years, managed a household or worked in the volunteer sector, club or organisation, you probably have at least some of these skills, possibly many of them. The others can be developed, I assure you.

Let’s do a skills audit!
You can give yourself marks out of ten, but be honest but not over modest. This is for you and nobody else.
Breaking down into small bites the skills you already have acquired from previous jobs highlights what you have already achieved. Think also about some of these:

  • Projects, tasks, objectives and goals you have completed.
  • What you specifically did and/or what your role was in an activity.
  • What you achieved and the impact of your work on both day to day and special projects.
  • What has gone well, what has gone not so well and what you’d like to change?

1. Practical skills

  • Keyboard skills: word-processing and spreadsheet
  • Filing and organising your work, digitally and paper
  • Copying and pasting, uploading images and files to sites
  • Fixing appointments, arranging meetings, arranging travel, taking staff or team meeting minutes
  • Writing work plans, schedules, timetables
  • Preparing and managing your own work
  • Making presentations to staff, teaching skills to new staff
  • Keeping accounts, whether for a tea club, the staff outing or in a professional context
  • Research skills
  • Managing a household budget
  • Managing stock, allocating resources and inventory
  • Keeping records, confidential information
  • Completing tasks to specification, on time and within budget

 

2. Team skills (being an author and getting your work published is a team effort)

  • Working as a project member or leader, enabling everybody to contribute
  • Working as a staff or union representative
  • Treating subordinates and superiors with equal courtesy
  • Running a voluntary club, residents’ association, as a hospital volunteer or local councillor
  • Running or helping at the school fete, or as a parent governor

3. Personal communication skills

  • Talking fluently to people whether outside the school gate or to a prestigious client
  • Listening actively and observing; I once won a good contract listening to somebody at the supermarket checkout!
  • Negotiating: with children (especially toddlers or teenagers), other family members, clients, suppliers, insurance companies or with the boss or colleagues at work
  • Being professional and pleasant at all times however obnoxious the person you’re speaking to is (even if it is your unfavourite telephone company or low cost airline).
  • Making others laugh or at least smile
  • Explaining your position or case clearly
  • Knowing how far to push your case or cause and when to stop

4. Expert knowledge (a bonus)

  • As an accountant, lawyer, marketer, teacher, doctor
  • Translator, copy writer, image editor, journalist
  • Academic
  • Business owner or manager
  • Skilled craftsperson, software engineer, other IT specialist, police officer
  • Other

5. The fuzzy stuff

  • Persistence – If you have always been determined whether in family, community or work environment, this will be an invaluable asset as an author
  • Dealing with insults, especially those at distance which can be personal, hurtful and untrue
  • Resilience – revising, honing and polishing your work endlessly without losing heart
  • Spotting opportunity – In your work you’ve seen how things can be improved or where you could add to the company’s balance sheet. Writing, publishing and marketing a book is a perfect place to use that business ’nose’.

So, now you’ve assessed yourself against these criteria and others I’m sure you’ve added, you may be surprised by how many 5 out of 10s and above you have already.

Go back to the list we had at the beginning of this post. Now you’ve done your skills audit, you’ll be able to see what you can already do and where any gaps are. Are you surprised?

Apart from all the things you can already do, you’ve identified the things you need to find out or learn. Find out about tax and National Insurance via the HMRC online site (UK) or your own local tax office, ask at the local chamber of commerce, do a short course in book-keeping, steel yourself and do a one-day course on making presentations. Anita Chapman (neetsmarketing) runs excellent social media courses for nervous beginners as well as those who wish to hone their social media skills. Find a teenage geek to set up a simple website with a blog for you.

I’d suggest you join a few author groups on Facebook. If you are indie/self-published, you will find the Alliance of Independent Authors’ Advice Centre invaluable. Actually, most authors would!

If you think it’s impossible, it’s not. I was surprised when I started writing my Roma Nova series  just how many skills I could transfer over. And so can you.

 

Alison Morton is the author of Roma Nova thrillers INCEPTIO, PERFIDITASSUCCESSIOAURELIA and INSURRECTIO. The sixth, RETALIO, came out in April  2017. Audiobooks now available for the first four of the series

Find out more about Roma Nova, its origins, stories and heroines… Get INCEPTIO, the series starter, for FREE when you sign up to Alison’s free monthly email newsletter

 

The Rise of the Machines? No, in The Grip of

Opening Word to crack on with my new story, I was disconcerted to see a message flash up that support for Word 2011 would be withdrawn in 10 days’ time. Eyes on stalks at the screen.

Ten days? My other half and I did that clichéd thing of mutual dumbfounded disbelieving staring.

He recovered first. In my fevered writer’s mind, it was an evil world marketing conspiracy by Microsoft. He, the logical engineer, started looking for a solution. Should we ‘rent’ software in the cloud monthly or buy? What about multi user licences against single? Was this cloud thing going to develop into a perfect storm?

I know about the cloud – we are Mac users, but Windows now has a cloud. I see Olympian gods battling it out, thunderbolts hurled across the sky.

 

The other half  tells me to calm down. After an hour or two examining options, we make our choice to rent monthly. You get free updates and other stuff, apparently.

Now my reaction seems overdone, but earlier in the week we’d had a major operating system update; two desktops, two MacBooks, then the phones and tablets. Okay, fairly routine, but some fiddling about.

Oh, and did I mention our Internet speed here is is 5/6 Mbps download,1Mbps upload so updates and backups take a little while…? We are supposed to be getting fibre (FTTH) next year, so they haven’t bothered upgrading the Internet speed in the meantime.

Then, joy of joys, our WordPress backup to Dropbox provider stops service. My other half looks after 20 sites in all, so this is wonderful news. Not. He spends a day and a half searching and testing alternatives for usability, reliability and robustness and liaising with the server people about (?)php recognition fixes (Don’t ask!)

And this month’s additional project is converting all the sites from HTTP to HTTPS. We are enmeshed in a world of security certificates, fixes, insecure sites and cyber horror.

Now, I’m not a Luddite. I learnt my computing in 1989 on a Viglen PC using WordStar, SuperCalc and DBase. Windows graphical interface was a revelation; a wonky one, but still… I wrote my first web page in the late 1990s.

My first website. Bad, isn’t i? But it was first written in the 1990s when few (small) businesses had websites.

I was one of the first in my business circle to have a mobile (cell) phone, then a Nokia camera phone. I was the first in my family to buy a Kindle.You catch my drift.

Then, we had to learn fast, but it was all possible; a wondrous new world of email, text messaging, information at our fingertips. And for the record, I started Tweeting in 2009 although I came a little later to Facebook. And GPS – we had an early one but I did keep my trusty mapbook…

But now we’ve gone from wonderment at sending people into space to grumping when our phone loses signal in the middle of the countryside or our TV satellite receiver picture breaks up into pixels. Did we ever think this would be the main use of space exploration?

I love all the things I can do with photos, with researching plants, guns, diamonds and Latin poets, talking to people across five continents, posting stuff about life and books and getting reactions in seconds from Edinburgh, Sydney and North Carolina. So I’m a keen user.

But as products have become so sophisticated with new services and new careers burgeoning in and around the computer industry, the average consumer finds herself bamboozled. Despite the marketing, there is no ‘one quick fix’. And everything needs updating. Continuously. Online identity thieves and fraudsters lurk round every cyber corner, ready to mug us.You need to run a feasibility study on everything to check it meets your requirements. With so much choice and complexity, we spend a high proportion of time trying to get through the maze, no, jungle of technology. And it all sucks up so much of that time. Even half-techie people can be overwhelmed.

All I really want to do is get on with normal life and write…

 

Alison Morton is the author of Roma Nova thrillers INCEPTIO, PERFIDITASSUCCESSIOAURELIA and INSURRECTIO. The sixth, RETALIO, came out in April  2017. Audiobooks now available for the first four of the series

Find out more about Roma Nova, its origins, stories and heroines… Get INCEPTIO, the series starter, for FREE when you sign up to Alison’s free monthly email newsletter

'Ebooks vs. print books' is a false battle

Are ebooks and print books in some sort of fierce battle to the death with one another in which the only outcome is total dominance? Will ebooks soon drive their dinosaur cousin to extinction or will print books will see ebooks off and show the whole digital phenomenon to be a mere flash in the pan?

Neither of these outcomes is likely.

I’m a typical fence-sitting Libran and love both; I don’t see it as a battle to be ‘won’, but as providing a choice.

Once a story is written and edited, an ebook version can be produced relatively easily, and then uploaded to a digital retail outlet within minutes. Stories in some genres, such as romance and science fiction, are only produced in this format. Authors often use a short story or novella in digital format to test out a series idea or to supplement an established series.

If the story sells well, then it can be produced in print format (after reformatting) either as a print run of a few hundred or thousand or individually as print-on-demand.  And this is not the exclusive domain of indie authors/publishers; I have heard that mainstream publishing houses are increasingly adopting print-on-demand.

Let’s look at it from the reader’s point of view. Limiting your book to one format cuts your potential audience. Readers may have a strong preference for one format or other. Writers shouldn’t assume they know what the reader wants. Hybrid readers may enjoy a physical book relaxing at home then switch to a Kindle while travelling especially if they have cabin luggage only. When I was younger, my brother and I were rationed to six books each for a holiday of three weeks; I was usually done within the first 10 days – horrendous. If only ebooks had existed then!

Physical books take up space and are heavy. But a book chosen at an event and signed by an author is very special. I’m there in the queue and literary festivals and conferences waiting for my minute with the star author. The smell of fresh paper and the crisp pages all contained in a beautiful cover – heaven!

Ebooks may not be the miracle they’re cracked up to be. Studies have shown that backlit ereaders have an adverse impact on ‘overall health, alertness and the circadian clock, which synchronises the daily rhythm of sleep to external environmental time cues.’ Participants in the study went to bed later and were much tireder the next day. And when sleeping, they spent less time in REM sleep. Even though they were still getting eight hours of sleep, they felt significantly less rested than when they read a print book. And apparently we remember less about stories we read on ereaders than those read from a hard copy.

However, while ebooks can’t be loaned or shared (unless you have a super hacker teenage sprog) and the ereader needs charging now and again, ebooks are much cheaper than print books. Ebooks can be bought anywhere and you’re reading in seconds. Unlike printed books, ebooks don’t require trees for paper and petroleum for ink.

On the other hand, spending time wandering round a bookshop, feeling books, dipping in, settling down in a chair and finding a new world then taking it home with you is one of life’s pleasures. And shelves of books are like piles of treasure you can explore on a rainy day and find that book you enjoyed on a holiday or bought at a special time. An ebook doesn’t do that for me.

Amazon is investing a great deal in delivery systems for its books, e.g. drones; they are unlikely to be doing that if they think physical books are going to disappear soon.

So each format has its pros and cons and my woolly wandering around the topic shows how unclear the whole thing is. I’ll be buying and reading both for the foreseeable future. Oh, and we haven’t even put audiobooks into the mix, but that’s another story.

Which do you prefer? Or are you another hybrid reader?

(All the Roma Nova books are available in paperback through bookshops or from online retailers. On the Roma Nova book buying page, select the book of your choice, then click ‘More links’ to get direct links to various retailers for that book.)

 

Alison Morton is the author of Roma Nova thrillers INCEPTIO, PERFIDITASSUCCESSIOAURELIA and INSURRECTIO. The sixth, RETALIO, came out in April  2017. These are all available in paperback! Audiobooks now available for the first four of the series.

Find out more about Roma Nova, its origins, stories and heroines… Get INCEPTIO, the series starter, for FREE when you sign up to Alison’s free monthly email newsletter

 

Online etiquette for authors

Few people look at Debrett’s Guide to Etiquette and Modern Manners these days. Just for those unfamiliar, this book covered how to reply to an invitation, how to address H M The Queen and which knife and fork to use for each course, amongst other subjects.

Old fashioned as these things sound, they are all based on consideration for others. Modern equivalents could be replying promptly to an email, getting through an interview with the chief executive and networking at a business conference. (Although I’d probably run for a copy of Debretts if I received an invitation from Buckingham Palace.)

But back in the everyday, this means being polite to the supermarket cashier, not running over somebody’s toes with your suitcase at the airport and remembering your pleases and thank yous.

Sadly, thinking of others and being considerate of them seems to have gone completely offline in the brains of many online. So here are a dozen dos and dont’s.

1. When commenting on somebody’s post, do NOT insert a link to your own book. If pertinent to the discussion, you can just about get away with posting a link to a post on your blog. Just. But delete the preview or you’ll look spammy.

2. Do NOT direct message anybody AT ANY TIME with a cold call announcement of your new book. My reaction on Facebook is to unfriend immediately and you’ll be known very quickly as a pest. Set up a Facebook author page and promote from there and in promotion groups.

3. As soon as somebody has accepted your friend request, the same applies. You may in good conscience send them an invitation to like your author page – that’s what author pages are for. Your new friend may elect not to follow you there, but that’s their choice.

4. Everybody is entitled to a little rant and it’s best to put a warning up as the first line, but don’t be rude or libellous. Keep swear words to a minimum, but if appropriate and in context then you have to use them. But be judicious; you may lose friends this way.

5. Try to remain cool and rational even when people are determined to provoke and don’t be concerned about withdrawing from a conversation. If something is truly unacceptable, on Facebook report it to the admin by clicking on the (almost invisible) down arrow or three dots at the top right hand of the post or comment in question. Reporting to Facebook is useless; reporting to admin will probably get somewhere.

6. Politics. Hm. Some say keep away, but if you remain polite and rational, I think you can post about it. Religion – don’t go there. Be aware that others may disagree, and sometimes in an unfriendly manner. Your choice.

7. On Twitter, read your tweets before posting. It looks really silly to have spelling mistakes in such a small number of characters. (I say this as the world’s worst typist.) Two possible reactions: others may not want to retweet what would otherwise have been a sensible tweet, or if they retweet a post with a careless mistake, hundreds, possibly thousands will think you’re illiterate.

8. Be aware that not everybody cares about a photo of your hotel breakfast, but in general posts with photos/images will attract more attention.

9. A bit of advertising/marketing  now and again is perfectly acceptable, but keep it to your page on Facebook, not your personal profile. It’s against Facebook ‘rulz’ to use your personal profile for financial gain, including competitions, book draws or, Zuckerberg forbid, selling direct. The Facebook police do patrol and I know at least one person whose author page and personal profile were zapped overnight – five years’ work down the digital pan.

10. Don’t create multiple or fake name accounts including book characters on Facebook. Mr Zuckerberg’s minions are looking for you and others may well report you.

11. Read the group or community rules. Each group will have individual rules. Ignoring them often leads to deleted posts and for serial offenders, permanent exclusion. Hint, they are often to be found in a pinned post which is not usually open for reading on mobiles. I suggest you click on it.

12. As well as staying professional, do check your privacy settings. But remember that whatever those settings, a post on social media is forever.

This all sounds a trifle negative, but not doing all these silly things is only good manners. You’ve heard many people say the important thing about social media is the social bit. True dat.

And what to post on any social media? The BBC mantra – inform, educate, entertain – is a good one as a content guideline.

A last point which sums up all the others
A few years ago, pre-social media, I went to a talk on marketing at a very high-flown business event – suits and serious faces all round. The guru was famous and had been flown in from the US to give a forty minute high-powered talk and to reveal the secret of successful marketing. We listened, rapt, and nodded at appropriate moments. We even laughed politely at his jokes. And eventually, he asked us if we wanted to know the secret. We sat on the edges of our seats. The whole room was silent. Only a faint electrical hum of the audiovisual equipment was left.

His key tip?

“Go forth and be nice.”

 

 

Alison Morton is the author of Roma Nova thrillers INCEPTIO, PERFIDITASSUCCESSIOAURELIA and INSURRECTIO. The sixth, RETALIO, came out in April  2017. Audiobooks now available for the first four of the series

Find out more about Roma Nova, its origins, stories and heroines… Get INCEPTIO, the series starter, for FREE when you sign up to Alison’s free monthly email newsletter