A star is born? Probably not, but...

Yesterday, I was invited to take part on an Amazon Book Chat Live on amazon.com (US and rest of world) to talk about my favourite books. It was great fun!

Amazon BookChatLive Jan022 with Alison

The host was the affable Tim Lewis of Stoneham Press which focuses on conference reviews, self-publishing, podcasting and networking. He hosts the popular #indieAuthorChat on Twitter, the Begin Self-Publishing Podcast www.beginselfpublishing.com), cohosts @ONNAnotherLiveS and runs the Amazon Live show Bookchat.live.

Before the chat, I have to pick out 15-20 of my favourite books. Aaaargh! 

This was the most horrendous part of it. I read over a hundred and twenty fiction books each year plus non-fiction. In the end, I just had to dip in and select favourites from the different genres I like. For series, I (mostly) chose the series starter.And I was allowed to include some of my own books. Then at the end, I had to choose a mystery item – something I’d love to have if money was no object. You may well laugh when you see it at the end of the video!

Authors whose books I picked included CS Lewis, Robert Harris, Georgette Heyer, Rosemary Sutcliff, Tom Clancy, Lindsey Davis, Ruth Downie, Suetonius, Daniel Silva, JD Robb, Mick Herron. You can find out the which books I mentioned and what I thought of them here: https://www.amazon.com/live/broadcast/a2dc3d11-8d82-49e8-b884-de1acad34a81

I don’t think I’ll be getting the call from Hollywood any time soon – I probably wave my arms about too much – but talking about books is always energising and fun. And is there a better topic of conversation?

 

Alison Morton is the author of Roma Nova thrillers –  INCEPTIO, CARINA (novella), PERFIDITAS, SUCCESSIO,  AURELIA, NEXUS (novella), INSURRECTIO  and RETALIO,  and ROMA NOVA EXTRA, a collection of short stories.  Audiobooks are available for four of the series.Double Identity, a contemporary conspiracy, starts a new series of thrillers. Double Pursuit, the sequel, is now out!

Find out more about Roma Nova, its origins, stories and heroines and taste world the latest contemporary thriller Double Identity… Download ‘Welcome to Alison Morton’s Thriller Worlds’, a FREE eBook, as a thank you gift when you sign up to Alison’s monthly email newsletter. You’ll also be among the first to know a

Books I've read in 2021

As in 2020, reading books has saved me going round the bend. Yes, I published two thrillers this year – Double Identity and Double Pursuit – and I’m writing a Roma Nova story at present, but in this post I’m writing as a reader.

This is not a beauty contest or a selection. The list below contains just books I’ve read this year and enjoyed. Some made me catch my breath, others made me weep with joy or sorrow and others appalled me. But they all enthralled me.

I’m not mentioning those I read or part-read and didn’t enjoy – that’s not fair to the authors concerned as I’m probably not their ideal reader.

I’m a fussy reader. I use Amazon’s ‘Send a free sample’ service mercilessly, especially if it’s an author new to me. But I have discovered some real gems that way.

Oh, and I’ve read a few non-fiction for research and ‘professional development’ (or whatever they call it now 😉) and one for regression to childhood.

Some books I read in 2021

Fiction in (very) roughly chronological order backwards:

True Colours, JJ Marsh
The Book of Life, Deborah Harkness
Shadow of Night, Deborah Harkness
A Discovery of Witches, Deborah Harkness
Sistersong, Lucy Holland
The Last Time She Died, Zoë Sharp
The Kingdoms, Natasha Pulley
The English Girl, Daniel Silva
Need to Know, Karen Cleveland
Black River, JJ Marsh
Box 88, Charles Cumming
Nemesis, Rory Clements
The Castilian Pomegranate, Anna Belfrage
The Fort, Adrian Goldsworthy
The Monastery Murders, EM Powell
The King’s Justice, EM Powell
Lost Lady, Michael Reidy
A Murder Mystery, Helen Hollick
Mrs Morris Changes Lanes, Debbie Young
Our Woman in Moscow, Beatriz Williams
The Dictionary of Lost Words, Pip Williams
The Key to Rebecca, Ken Follet (Re-read)
The Gilded Cage on the Bosphorus, Ayşe Osmanoğlu
Circe, Madeline Miller
The Governor’s Man, Jacquie Rogers
Rivers of London, Ben Aaronovitch
White Heron, JJ Marsh
A Murder in Paris, Blake Pierce
Dorothy Dunnett Society and Historical Writers’ Association Short Story Competition 2020, Historical Writers’ Association Dorothy Dunnett Society
Two Women in Rome, Elizabeth Buchan
A Sister’s Song, Molly Green
Barbarian Princess, Damion Hunter
Herland, Charlotte Perkins Gilman
The Whirlpools of Time, Anna Belfrage
The Raider Bride, Johanna Wittenberg
Murder Lost and Found, Debbie Young
The Order, Daniel Silva
Portrait of a Spy, Daniel Silva
A Sister’s War, Molly Green
Britannia World’s End, Derek Birks
Double Agent, Tom Bradby
Marion Lane and the Midnight Murder, TA Willberg
The Lost Apothecary, Sarah Penner
Midnight at Malabar House, Vaseem Khan
Slough House, Mick Herron
The Heist, Daniel Silva
The Girls from Alexandria, Carol Cooper
The Legions of the Mist, Damion Hunter
A Comfortable Alliance, Catherine Kullmann
On a Falling Tide, Georgia Hill
The Forgotten Life of Arthur Pettinger, Suzanne Fortin
Stasi Wolf, David Young
Stasi Child, David Young
The Defector, Daniel Silva
Discovery, Barbara Greig
A Mirror Murder, Helen Hollick
No Stone Unturned, Pam Lecky
Westwind, Ian Rankin
The Wall at the Edge of the World, Damion Hunter
E-ON, Dave Mason
Berlin Noir 2 (digital box set), Philip Kerr
Twilight Empress, Faith L Justice
The Irish Princess, Elizabeth Chadwick
To the Lions, Holly Watt
The Comedy of Terrors, Lindsey Davis
The Messenger, Daniel Silva
The Secret of the Hôtel du Lac, Kathryn Gauci
Whispers of the Runes, Christina Courtenay
Sons of Rome, Simon Turney and Gordon Doherty

 

Non-Fiction
Travel in the Ancient World (2nd ed), Lionel Casson
Spycraft: Essentials, Bayard and Holmes
From Spare Oom to War Drobe: Travels in Narnia with my nine-year-old self, Katherine Langrish
Wide for the Win, Mark Leslie Lefebvre
The Successful Author’s Mindset, Joanna Penn
The Gendered Brain, Gina Rippon

 

Alison Morton is the author of Roma Nova thrillers –  INCEPTIO, CARINA (novella), PERFIDITAS, SUCCESSIO,  AURELIA, NEXUS (novella), INSURRECTIO  and RETALIO,  and ROMA NOVA EXTRA, a collection of short stories.  Audiobooks are available for four of the series.Double Identity, a contemporary conspiracy, starts a new series of thrillers. Double Pursuit, the sequel, is now out!

Find out more about Roma Nova, its origins, stories and heroines and taste world the latest contemporary thriller Double Identity… Download ‘Welcome to Alison Morton’s Thriller Worlds’, a FREE eBook, as a thank you gift when you sign up to Alison’s monthly email newsletter. You’ll also be among the first to know about news and book progress before everybody else, and take part in giveaways.

Publishing my husband's book - risk or triumph?

Hooray! It’s launch day for my husband’s book! It’s all about how to make optimum use of your Filofax (or other planner/personal organiser  such as Gillio, Van Der Spek).

Steve is actually a bit of a guru in this world. Although he bought his first Filofax organiser in 1986, he moved to an electronic organiser in the 1990s. A change of job in 2005 where he worked in a high security environment prompted his return to a Filofax.

He’s used one daily ever since. (Actually, he has a double cupboard full of them.)

Now retired from being a radio and electronics engineer, he now devotes his time to the Philofaxy blog website and the planner community. I’ve lost count of the meet-ups he’s organised in London, New York, Los Angeles, Edinburgh, Chenonceaux, Niort (France), Toronto, Denver, Washington DC, Stockholm – to name just a few.

Quirky fact: he featured in the highly acclaimed The Dull Men of Great Britain book published in 2019 by Random House due to his Filofax dedication. Since 2016 Steve co-hosts a podcast, The Hitchhikers Guide to the Plannerverse, devoted to making better use of planners.

Philofaxy meet-ups in Los Angeles, Chenonceaux and Denver

So he’s the person qualified to write this guide. But like most normal people, he had little knowledge of the publishing world. However, sharing an office with me while I published eleven novels rubbed off on him. He knew it was a case of ‘known unknowns’.

I agreed to edit, format and publish it for him. I’d published two non-fiction books, one back in the clouds of the past, i.e. 2012 Military or Civilians: The curious anomaly of the German Women’s Auxiliary Services during the Second World War  and more recently The 500 Word Writing Buddy: 35 inner secrets for the new writer. My experience with non-fiction was limited, to say the least.

But now I had a secret weapon: Vellum publishing software. But first, editing. Luckily, Steve has seen how hard I am on myself when I run my first self-edit over my own work. Ditto on my critique writing partners work. (She takes an equally ‘robust’ approach!) Anyway, I didn’t spare him. A very kind beta reader with deep knowledge of the organiser world, Janet Gustafson, gave me valuable technical input.

Revisions sent back to author – weird to be on that end of the process for once. 😉 When it came to formatting, I have never made so many sub-headings! But Vellum came up trumps. I used the same approach to front matter and back matter in the print version as I do for my novels – endorsements, very short author bio, title page, copyright then, as it’s a non-fiction book, an introduction and note. Then straight into it! At the back, a chronology, lists of (known) models, a request/plea/grovel for a review and then acknowledgements.

I’ve been publishing my own work for a fair number of years and have set up my own imprint – Pulcheria Press – plus I have publishing accounts at Amazon, Apple, Kobo, Barnes & Noble and Ingram Spark, so Steve had his own in-house publisher.

While he’s a seasoned blogger (far better than me!), I created graphics for him and some PR marketing material and draft posts as well as author page on retailers. This book world is a slightly weird world and I hope I’ve been a good guide.

His pleasure when he saw the lines climbing on the sales graphs this morning was a joy to watch. Readers (and fans) in UK, US, Australia, Japan, Germany, Italy and Canada have bought already in ebook and print. He’s enjoying the supportive comments on social media from his world wide community of which he’s an integral part and where he has so many friends. As he says,”You cannot put a value on friendship, it is priceless.

There will be bubbly tonight, possibly sooner…

You can buy it now from:
Ebook: Kindle (Amazon worldwide)    Apple    Kobo    B&N Nook
Paperback: Amazon UK   Amazon US    Barnes & Noble  Book Depository   Waterstones

 

Alison Morton is the author of Roma Nova thrillers –  INCEPTIO, CARINA (novella), PERFIDITAS, SUCCESSIO,  AURELIA, NEXUS (novella), INSURRECTIO  and RETALIO,  and ROMA NOVA EXTRA, a collection of short stories.  Audiobooks are available for four of the series. Double Identity, a contemporary conspiracy, starts a new series of thrillers. Double Pursuit, the sequel, is now out!

Download ‘Welcome to Alison Morton’s Thriller Worlds’, a FREE eBook, as a thank you gift when you sign up to Alison’s monthly email newsletter. You’ll also be among the first to know about news and book progress before everybody else, and take part in giveaways.

Kobo – An alternative to Amazon Kindle

Alison with early copy of INCEPTIO on the Kobo stand at the 2014 London Book Fair

Proud author to have been invited to have INCEPTIO on the Kobo wall, London Book Fair 2014

Six years ago, I wrote a little post about Amazon not being the only way to read ebooks. From the very first novel I published in March 2013 (INCEPTIO), my books have been in the catalogue of a variety of retailers. Commercial monopolies/market dominators somehow disturb me…

However, I hold my hand up to having automatically defaulted to the apparently obvious choice of an Amazon Kindle as my eReader.

So what are the other options?

These days, I publish with Amazon (When selling your books, who wants to ignore the world’s largest online bookshop?), but also on Apple, Kobo and Barnes & Noble Nook. I haven’t quite got the hang of Google Play, so we’ll leave that aside.

But being entirely selfish, as an author I find Kobo the friendliest and easiest to use. Perhaps it’s because they’re Canadian. 😉

So who are Kobo (Corporate stuff, but interesting)?

Kobo as a business sells ebooks, audiobooks, eReaders and tablet computers and is headquartered in Toronto, Ontario. It originated as Shortcovers, a cloud eReading service launched by the Canadian bookstore chain Indigo Books and Music in February 2009. In December that same year, Indigo renamed the service ‘Kobo’ and spun it off as an independent company. In 2011, Kobo took on the WH Smith ebook business in the UK and FNAC in France. Rakuten acquired the company January 2012. On 23 May 2016, Waterstones announced it had sold its ebook business to Rakuten Kobo Inc.

Kobo logos

In 2018, Kobo and Walmart contracted to allow the latter to sell Kobo audiobooks, ebooks and eReaders in the U.S. This was the first venture into ebooks for Walmart which also began selling the Kobo eReaders. Walmart installed eReader stations in over 1,000 stores.

So Kobo now service a significant slice of the ebook market.

A nice touch was that during the Covid-19 pandemic, Kobo worked with governments, publishers, and retail partners to provide more than 20 million free books through the ‘Stay Home and Read’ programme. The company reported that romance and mystery/thriller novels continued to be bestsellers during the pandemic, and that there was a rise in books for children and young adults.

What does this all do for authors?

On 17 July 2012, Kobo launched a self-publishing platform called Kobo Writing Life (KWL). (Hooray!) Two lovely things: apart from benefitting from one of the easiest upload and reporting processes around, authors can track sales in real time, and use Kobo’s learning centre which guides newcomers to digital publishing.

The best thing?  Authors can upload and sell ebooks globally and also enrol them via Kobo into the Overdrive library buying system.

Me looking serious while doing an interview at the 2016 London Book fair with Kobo Writing Life’s UK manager Diego Marano

In 2017, Kobo launched  its unlimited audiobook and ebook subscription service called Kobo Plus; INCEPTIO, CARINA, PERFIDITAS and SUCCESSIO are enrolled in it! Then in 2019, KWL began offering self publishing opportunities for audiobooks. Have I mentioned how easy the Kobo dashboard is for even the newest author to use? As of May 2021, Kobo Plus offered 599,000 ebooks and 94,000 audiobooks to subscribers on a read/listen as much as you like.

This is all very well for the authors, but what about us as readers?

If you’re into crosswords, you’ll have seen Kobo is an anagram of ‘book’. Quite clever! But is Kobo any good as an alternative to Amazon and its Kindle eReaders, ebooks and audiobooks?

It’s reckoned that Kobo currently offers around six million ebooks and audiobooks to millions of customers in 190 countries, so no shortage of reading material. I’ve sold in 48 countries this year with Kobo and not just in the bigger markets like Canada, UK, US and Australia, but also in Kazakhstan, Peru and Botswana! Kobo books seem to reach readers in countries that other retailers cannot reach (as they say).

Apart from selling its own reading devices from entry level to very sophisticated (Nia, Aura, Clara HD, Libra, Elipsa, for example). I found this in-depth article from The Wired Shopper comparing Amazon and Kobo eReaders very enlightening.

Kobo offers free reading applications for Windows and MacOS computers, Android and iOS smartphones. You can browse, search, buy and read your  ebooks on just about any device you choose – from select Smartphones, tablets, computers, eReaders and more.

Kobo allows you to read ebooks from other platforms as long as they’re in the open standards that Kobo service supports, like ePub and PDF, plus it seems you can send eGiftCards across frontiers, (unlike Amazon!)

All in all, the range and facilities provided by both retailers seem pretty similar. I’m about to purchase a Kobo eReader myself to see how it all works. I’m not throwing my Kindle away, but I’m very interested both as author and reader to experience reading life untethered from Amazon.

(I have written this article entirely at my initiative; I have not been paid by Kobo!)
——-
STOP PRESS: Amazon UK has announced today 17 November 2021 that after 1 January 2022 it will no longer accept Visa credit cards. Perhaps Kobo can offer Kindle readers in the UK an alternative.
——–

Alison Morton is the author of Roma Nova thrillers –  INCEPTIO, CARINA (novella), PERFIDITAS, SUCCESSIO,  AURELIA, NEXUS (novella), INSURRECTIO  and RETALIO,  and ROMA NOVA EXTRA, a collection of short stories.  Audiobooks are available for four of the series.Double Identity, a contemporary conspiracy, starts a new series of thrillers. Double Pursuit, the sequel, is now out!

Find out more about Roma Nova, its origins, stories and heroines and taste world the latest contemporary thriller Double Identity… Download ‘Welcome to Alison Morton’s Thriller Worlds’, a FREE ebook, as a thank you gift when you sign up to Alison’s monthly email newsletter. You’ll also be among the first to know about news and book progress before everybody else, and take part in giveaways.

Writers getting back to “normal”?

Picture of EasyJet planeI have two live gigs booked for 2022 and today, I’m about to jet off to the UK for a writers’ retreat, family weekend, then a few days with my critique writing partner.

In previous years, I haven’t thought twice about going on the Internet, booking a plane, booking somewhere to stay, then rolling up to the airport on the given day. Simple!

Alas, no more. Now there is meticulous planning:

  • reading up on all the staying-safe-in-time-of-Covid travel regulations
  • checking requirements for leaving and re-entering your home country at this time
  • ditto for your destination country
  • booking Covid test package so you have the code number to fill in on your Passenger Locator Form (see below)
  • getting a kind friend to receive said test as it can only be sent to a UK address
  • strategies for keeping as safe as possible on public transport and checking the airline for exact type of mask required for the trip
  • fulfilling timed requirements like the dreaded Passenger Location Form (You can only do it 48 hours or less before you travel and you wouldn’t believe the detail they want.)
  • checking for the millionth time you have your EU vaccination certificate handy amongst PLF, boarding passes, passport, etc. and the gel bottle is full
  • as a UK national resident in France, making sure you have your residency card to show with passport on leaving and re-entering France or you get the dreaded stamp with 90 day limit in your passport. (Thank you, Brexit!)

Good fun, eh?

I had already booked a pre-trip PCR test here in France – it’s free even for travel as long as it’s a fortnight after your second Covid jab. The last thing I want to do is unwittingly transmit Covid to people I’m meeting. Mind you, France’s daily case/death figures at 5-6K/low double figures is significantly below those of the UK’s by many times.

But you cannot believe how excited I am at meeting close writing friends IN REAL LIFE!

Zoom, Messenger facebook, Twitter and Skype have been a lifeline over the past two years. Goodness knows how people didn’t lose their wits entirely in  plagues and epidemics in the past. But actually standing and sitting in the same room, eating talking and laughing together will be such a treat.

I experienced this when I went to the UK in August and saw my son, daughter-in-law and met my new (15 month old) grandson. I had a wonderful writing time with my critique writing partner for over a week. So I have an inkling of what lies ahead of me today for the next four days.

In 2022, I hope to meet up with tens, even hundreds of people. Let’s hope we’ll all be able to get back to something resembling ‘normal’. It will be tempered by climate considerations, but hopefully the anxiety that has been running in the background for the past two years about the epidemic will have diminished almost to zero. Crossing my fingers…

 

Alison Morton is the author of Roma Nova thrillers –  INCEPTIO, CARINA (novella), PERFIDITAS, SUCCESSIO,  AURELIA, NEXUS (novella), INSURRECTIO  and RETALIO,  and ROMA NOVA EXTRA, a collection of short stories.  Audiobooks are available for four of the series.Double Identity, a contemporary conspiracy, starts a new series of thrillers. Double Pursuit, the sequel, is now out!

Find out more about Roma Nova, its origins, stories and heroines and taste world the latest contemporary thriller Double Identity… Download ‘Welcome to Alison Morton’s Thriller Worlds’, a FREE eBook, as a thank you gift when you sign up to Alison’s monthly email newsletter. You’ll also be among the first to know about news and book progress before everybody else, and take part in giveaways.