Wednesday, 27 April 2011

"...a real page-turner"

In a new review of Moon in Leo in the May issue of Cumbria Life Magazine, Sue Allan highlights Kathleen's extraordinary sense of time and place: something which many other readers have mentioned as a major strength.

Set in Furness in the period after the restoration of Charles II, Moon in Leo is a novel located so perfectly in time and space that you can feel the chill of the wind across Morecambe Bay, and plot the action in the landscape. Herbert's meticulous historical research, combined with her knowledge and love of the area underpin the novel, but it is her talent as a storyteller that brings alive the tale of Rosamund and her search for truth, and love, in turbulent political times. The peninsula and bay provide a suitably wild and somewhat claustrophobic setting for a real page-turner.

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

"...with a little help from the Trifolium Blog"

I have to come clean here- I am posting this review from a friend who didn't manage to post it on Amazon. While we are at it, I have noticed discussions on various blogs and lists about how useless Amazon reviews can be. Apparently, no-one believes them if they are all 5 star, and the first few are in any case almost all from people who know the writer. Well- yes, I managed to figure out who most- but not all- the reviewers of Moon in Leo are, but I didn't ask them to give it five stars! And, refreshingly, Nan Hawthorne's review, quoted elsewhere on this blog, is posted with only four stars on Good Reads. Does this mean we've arrived at last?

Anyway, this is what my friend, Mrs B S, a voracious reader, thinks:

I had expected to find Moon in Leo a difficult read as I am not very good around history in the 16/1700s and also have no understanding of the occult etc. However, to my surprise, with a little help from the Trifolium Blog and the good old dictionary I slowly read my way through the start of the book and was soon enjoying the characters and the gripping story. I loved and lost myself in the descriptions of the surrounding countryside. The ending was lovely and the sort I always opt for! All in all I would thoroughly recommend this book. Congratulations to the Author and the Publishers.

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Why would a writer set their story in the past?

Kathleen shows her quality as a writer even in her letters to a teenage girl. The following is an extract from a letter to my daughter in which she discusses Miller's reasons for setting his play about the McCarthy Witch Hunts in the past.  (Click on images below for larger versions).

In a much more recent letter to me she says much the same thing about the relevance of the political and religious turmoil of the closing years of Charles II's reign to today. As she saw more parallels between then and now, so she became more anxious that Moon in Leo should be published....

....during these last weeks, the story has suddenly become incredibly topical- …for the background  we have:
  • a King called Charles, with a complicated marital and family life
  • a society of the rich and famous who produce a new scandal with every edition of the newspapers
  • a government that has been in office for 18 years and is not only stale but starting to smell
  • an opposition that is playing the cards of integrity, decency and social conscience but has some background material that would make the usual whoring and grafting sound like the biography of Florence Nightingale
  • an established religion that for the time has run out of steam, and numbers of cults that are boiling with enthusiasm- some for good, some for evil, both inside and outside Christianity
  • and a large number of “alternative” Englands that are barely suspected to exist by “official” England- some just want to be allowed to live, some would like to smash everything in their way-
It’s 1678, but change the clothes and it could be today. So, now- if ever- it might find a reckless publisher. 

More extracts from Kathleen's letters to come!

Friday, 15 April 2011

Thursday, 14 April 2011

First American Review

Alchemists, gypsies, Puritans, sleep-walking women, clandestine Catholics, and necromancers...  what's not to love in Kathleen Herbert's Moon in Leo?

The opening sentence of this gutsy, fresh review tells you that this is a lively American voice- no fingertips-together, prissy, over-the-top-of-the-gold-rimmed-spectacles comments from Nan Hawthorne!

She goes on to say: 

 I will be honest and admit I knew precious little of what was going on with the average English person during the Restoration.  I am afraid one demerit of historical novels is their tendency to focus on nobility too much of the time, giving the reader an unrealistic view of everyday life.  Rosamund and her family are hardly average, but they have enough distance from Court to give one a sense of what was really going on.  The paranoia about plots and insurgencies exacerbated by a king who was basically asking for it, was revealed in this novel while the paranormal romance is entertaining the reader.

Read the whole review here, and comments on the genre- specifically Romantic vs Literary Fiction, here

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Beautiful Furness

Now that Moon in Leo is being widely read, I thought it would be a good idea if readers could see some of the locations in the book, most of which haven't changed over the years (click on an image below for a larger view).
Looking north from Urswick Common

Looking east towards the Cartmel shore. The tide is going out, and the sands are visible

Winter sunset at Urswick stone circle
Looking East towards Cartmel. Chapel Island is just visible

Saturday, 9 April 2011

A great blog and a fascinating post

Jenny Bent is a Literary Agent based in New York. I came across her excellent blog Bent on Books while following threads on the theme of traditional- vs  self-publishing. I had been reading another interesting blog- Rants and Ramblings by Literary Agent, Rachelle Gardner. Rachelle says:

Yes, publishing is undergoing a tectonic shift, nobody is denying that. But the shift cannot be accurately described as "dying."

And yes, self-publishing (or indie publishing or whatever designation you want to give it) is increasingly an attractive option for many people, which is a development I completely support.

She then goes on to challenge writers to say why they want to still go down the self publishing route.

Was she fishing for compliments? Probably not, but as well as some thoughtful and interesting comments there were a gozillion toadying ones, mostly by writers sitting up smartly with best bib and tucker, tongues hanging out, saying, in effect:

“yeth pleathe, I do want my book properly publithed- I like real bookth, not thothe nathty new-fangled computer thingth. And anyway, I’m only a writer, and not clever enough to do all that technical thtuff, so I want you to do it for me, pretty pleathe”

Some even thought that God would help them to be properly published! (God is now invoked to be “on our side” in a new battleground- what a hoot! If She exists, would She self-pub the Song of Songs, or would it be deemed saleable enough to be taken up by a big publisher?)

Jenny Bent has a very balanced and realistic view of the debate:

There's still an argument for why some authors need publishing houses, of course, which is that publishers can often be better at marketing and publicity and distribution than any individual author can be. Increasingly this is not always the case (although even Amanda Hocking has now decided to go the traditional route), but that's a discussion for a later time. Today, I am somewhat gleefully celebrating the fact that electronic publishing is really blowing apart the thinking that we in publishing somehow know better and have better taste than the average reader. Why this would be the case I'm not sure. Because some of us have Ivy League educations? Because we live in NYC and therefore somehow more sophisticated and urbane than most readers? Because we read The Paris Review and The New Yorker? Because we have chic haircuts and ironic sideburns and wear trendy little eyeglasses? (Full disclosure: I do not have ironic sideburns.)

She goes on to say:

Readers respond, in my mind, to sincerity, to emotional truth, not to hooks.

That really resonated with me when I read it, because, as well as the obvious qualities of beautiful writing , meticulous research and a tightly plotted story, Moon in Leo has emotional truth. Of course, that doesn't necessarily sell the thousands of copies mainstream publishers need to cover their huge costs- the main reason why they can't and won't take risks.
Both blogs and both sets of comments make fascinating reading for those of us at the sharp end of writing. My own take remains much the same as it was when I determined to form Trifolium Books UK:
I have seen some truly terrible self published books. On the other hand, I have also read some seriously badly written traditionally published books. There should be no need to equate self published and e-book. Many e-books are self published, but by no means all, and there are thousands of self-published physical books, many produced by well set up and expensive “subsidy” publishers, who produce something that looks good, but is rubbish never the less.
I understand the desire of a writer for external and disinterested validation, but it is with books, reading and publication as with everything else- we are grown up now, and can make our own judgement: just as I can now read Lady Chatterly's Lover and judge it to be a not very good book- in fact somewhat dull and over-written, certainly not DHL's best, so can we all judge each book, self published or traditionally published, on its merits. For Kindle e-books, you can and should always download a sample three chapters. You will at least find out if the author can write. Many print books also have a see inside option on Amazon too- this is more reliable than reviews as far as quality of writing goes. "Caveat emptor"- at least emptors now have a real choice, not one decided for us by nanny publishers!

Having written the above, I suggest every serious reader and writer reads The Kindle Swindle- a salutary warning.

Friday, 8 April 2011

Huge price rise!

It now costs over £3 to post Moon in Leo! This means that it's now uneconomical for me to send out copies.  I am still perfectly happy to do it, but it means it won't any longer be much under the list price!