As you’ll no doubt already know, I was invited down to London by Amazon to be part of their stand and to take part in panels answering questions about my writing with particular emphasis on how I used their Kindle Direct Publishing, Createspace and ACX programs.
For a humble meter reader from the outskirts of Glasgow this was quite an opportunity and an experience I couldn’t miss. Here’s how it went!
MONDAY APRIL 6
Got the train down which was great, but my first experience of the London Underground wasn’t a pleasant one, having been given the wrong directions by the hotel staff. The Glasgow Underground system is basically one circle – you can’t get lost because you eventually come back to where you started. London is nothing like that. I think Dante’s 9 Circles of Hell were based on it, but I made it to the hotel eventually although I was sweating and sobbing like an MP forced to pay their own expenses. And what a lovely hotel it was – very fancy. There was even a guy standing to open the front door for me. I’ve never had that in Blackpool!
Not actual size
I’d arranged via Twitter to meet up in the bar with one of the two other authors who were attending as part of Amazon’s group – Mel Sherrat. It was good to relax after the hellish journey and Mel seemed to have a good idea of how the Book Fair worked having been there the year before. After a couple of ludicrously expensive (and small!) beers I retired, looking forward nervously to Earl’s Court the next morning, and glad I wasn’t drunk enough to pay £2 for the Kit-Kat in the mini-bar.
TUESDAY APRIL 7
Had breakfast with Mel then we headed to the Book Fair. The Amazon stand was populated by rather a lot of people, mostly Americans, and every single one of them went out of their way to be friendly and welcoming. Considering how nervous and out of place I felt, the Amazon staff need to be thanked for putting me completely at ease, I can’t tell you how much I appreciated it.
At 11 am Mel and I headed to the little raised stage at the front of Author’s HQ and, headset mic in place, proceeded to be interviewed in front of a rather large gathering of Book Fair attendees. It was quite surreal for me – going from reading gas meters in Drumchapel one week, to sitting on a panel with the head of Kindle UK (top man!) asking me about my writing. Very strange, very nerve-wracking and very, very cool!
Some of the audience came up afterwards and told me I’d inspired them to get their own book out and published which was really nice.
Lunch time came and, being the tight-fisted Scotsman that I am, I refused to pay over the odds for the grub in Earl’s Court so wandered round to the Co-op outside and got a cheese sandwich.
As they say, you can take the man out of Glasgow, but you can’t take Glasgow out of the man…Hey, I’m not a rich author yet!
After that I took part in another talk, this time with the audiobook side of Amazon, ACX. As far as I know, I’m the first author in the UK to make an audiobook using this new system, as it was previously only open to people in the USA. So the audience had a few questions although this time I felt more at ease in front of the audience despite the presence of an extremely angry looking woman who shook her head and growled at us from start to finish. I never did find out what was up with her, but it added an amusing little element of danger to the talk!
In the evening I caught a taxi with the third author, Tim Ellis, to a nice old pub called Maggie Jones’s where we had dinner with almost all of the Amazon staff. Again, it felt rather surreal to be sitting chatting to the big friendly guy sat next to me, only to realise he was the General Manager of Createspace. But, as before, everyone was so down-to-earth and outgoing that I had a great time. The food was incredible too, although the steak and kidney pie was like something from Man vs Food, it was HUGE!
When I got back to the hotel I had a peek at the Kindle “War” chart and was pleased to see The Wolf and the Raven at number 4 and Wolf’s Head at number 3. (I kept hoping they would hit 1 and 2 but it hasn’t happened – yet!)
WEDNESDAY APRIL 8
I had no panels or talks on Wednesday so I decided to “dress down” and just stick on jeans and a t-shirt, which was fine, until Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall appeared! One of the Amazon guys ran over telling us to get in line because “Camille” was coming so, having no idea who Camille was, but being the pushy sort I made sure I got to the front of the line. Camilla was nice, asking how my book was doing, before the excitement overcame her and she was hastily moved along the line by a concerned aide.
My mum gave me a row for looking scruffy when she saw the photo.
I’m the bald guy on the right.
There was a free bar in the local pub, the King’s Head, that night. You’d think that would please a Scotsman, but it was so crowded I was only able to squeeze my way to the bar for a pint about a dozen times so I left after twenty minutes.
THURSDAY APRIL 9
And so the final day arrived. Although I loved my time in London, I couldn’t wait to get on the train home to see my stunning wife Yvonne, and my children Freya and Riley again, despite breaking out in the shakes at the thought of the underground system.
First though, I had another panel to take part in, this time with Tim Ellis, an Englishman who apparently couldn’t understand a word I said to him the whole week, which is probably just as well as I spent most of the time calling him a dick.*I wondered why he kept laughing at my insults! Sometimes it’s good to sound like Rab C. Nesbitt.
Our talk went very well again, despite Tim telling the – predominantly female – audience that all women have low self-esteem. I inched my chair as far away as possible from him at that point but no one threw anything at us. I was glad Tim hadn’t met Camilla the day before.
I made my way to the train station with a big grin on my face, glad that I’d taken part in such an incredible experience and met so many lovely people.
I’d like to thank Tim and particularly Mel for showing me the ropes – without her I’d certainly not have enjoyed the Fair half as much as I did, she’s a star! I’d also like to thank the entire Amazon team for a) having me and b) being so welcoming. I hope we can do it again some time…
Finally, thank YOU, the readers, who bought enough of my books that Amazon took note, and for continuing to support me here and on Facebook, Twitter etc. Without you, none of this could have happened and it means everything to me knowing so many people have enjoyed my work.
Now, Monday beckons…the star treatement’s over – back to the day job, and no doubt it’ll be pissing down!
*Only joking Tim! ;-)
Mel’s Amazon page (CLICK THE PHOTO):
Tim’s Amazon page:
And a shameless plug for the new trailer I made for The Wolf and the Raven, have a look, it only lasts a minute!
Here’s a link to another new review of The Wolf and the Raven, again, very positive indeed!
A very short trailer for my new book, The Wolf and the Raven which is the sequel to the UK Kindle “War” chart number 1, Wolf’s Head.
Wolf’s Head is also now available from Audible as an audiobook!
Music is a song by me, called “Nocturnal Fire”.
I was asked to join in with a blog-hop style thing by the brilliant Prue Batten. You can find her (like mine, Robin Hood-themed) books here, please take a look – they kick ass.
And here’s the blog she wrote for this little project:
Right, on with my part of the blog!
1 What am I working on?
By the time this is posted I will be in the process of promoting by second book, The Wolf and The Raven, which is the sequel to Amazon’s UK “War” chart number 1, Wolf’s Head. Both are based on the original Robin Hood ballads and form part of a planned series of four books (originally a trilogy, but the characters in the second book took over and led me down a path I’d never planned so an extra novel has been added).
Amazon have very kindly asked me to represent their Kindle Direct Publishing, Createspace and ACX/Audible platforms at the prestigious London Book Fair on April 8-10, where I will be officially releasing The Wolf and The Raven (along with the audiobook version of Wolf’s Head). It’s a huge opportunity – HUGE! – and hopefully I made the most of it!
2 How does my work differ from others of its genre
Lots of historical fiction authors are journalists, or professors or have been employed in some other middle-class profession that probably lends itself to writing in general. By contrast I’ve always been employed in menial jobs (and still am) so I think I bring an unusually “common” touch to the genre. I’ve also lived in some extremely rough parts of Scotland. So, when I’m writing about men – outlaws – on the lower rungs of the social ladder I’d like to think it’s realistic because I know what I’m talking about!
3 Why do I write what I do?
See last answer. Spending years working as a basic “foot-soldier”, and for a (thankfully) short period of time living in a place where even CCTV didn’t deter drunk women from chasing their men down the street with baseball bats has given me a strong desire to make the most of what talent I might have so I can make a decent future for myself and my family. Writing has given me an opportunity to do that.
Why I write historical fiction in particular is simple: I love to read it, so that’s what I chose to write myself. Bernard Cornwell, Douglas Jackson, Anthony Riches, Ben Kane, all these guys wrote books I enjoyed immensely and I wanted to try my hand at doing something similar. Hopefully my first two novels match up – somewhat – to those writers’ books.
4 How does my writing process work?
I start with a basic framework for an entire novel, and when I say “basic”, I mean exactly that. I have a starting point, a few ideas for the middle, and possibly something I’d like to happen at the end. I then sit down with some heavy metal in my earphones and lose myself in the world I’m trying to create. My first book, Wolf’s Head was fairly well planned, but The Wolf and The Raven rather wrote itself, and I love that. Still, I’m sure some reviewers will say it’s “predictable” even though I didn’t know where the hell it was going myself.
The most important thing for me is to have a fairly well-formed idea of how you’d like a particular scene to go, then sit down, music on, no distractions and let the characters act out your scene, pulling it in whatever direction is natural. From there, each scene leads to the next until you reach your goal.
I have no set schedule for writing – I don’t write for an hour every day or anything like that. I write when a) I can get a chance (I have a 6 month-old son and a 6 year-old daughter so time is very limited!) b) when I have an idea for a scene in my head and c) I’m in the right frame of mind. It’s a slower process than some people, but it works for me. Trying to conform to what other people do or say YOU should do is pointless – do what you feel is right for yourself, not just in writing, but in life!
Thanks again to Prue Batten for inviting me to take part in this.
I was supposed to tag three other guys to follow on from me, but the lads I asked were (rather like me!) too busy to do it, except for Glyn Iliffe, who writes about Odysseus. His fourth novel came out recently and I was lucky enough to read it before it was even published because I’m such a fanboy!
Find the blog he’s written as part of this here:
Check out Glyn’s books here:
First of all, The Wolf and the Raven is now available to buy from Amazon, on Kindle and paperback. This link SHOULD take you to your own country’s Amazon page:
Second, Wolf’s Head is now available as an audiobook from Audible! I’m one of the first authors in the UK to be able to do this with ACX (It’s normally only open to US writers). I had to audition narrators and work with the guy I chose to get it how I imagined it in my head. Thankfully, the narrator/producer, Nick Ellsworth, had the perfect voice for it and really needed little input from me. I’m very, very pleased with how it turned out, I had a great time listening to each chapter in my car at work! You can download it in the UK here
It should be available worldwide too.
Third! Amazon are running an interview with me on their FRONT PAGE. You can find it here:
And finally, I’m about to catch a train for London where I will be on the Amazon/Kindle/Createspace stand for the London Book Fair. Come along and see me if you’re nearby, I’d love to meet a few of my readers.
Wish me luck! :-)
Don’t forget to get your pre-order in! The more people who pre-order it, the higher up the charts The Wolf and the Raven will go on Monday!
Originally posted on STEVEN A. McKAY:
Should be available worldwide as of today, go get your Kindle copy booked now! Paperback will be available on April 7th too.
Another new review of The Wolf and the Raven!
Originally posted on Historical Fiction reviews:
The Lancastrian revolt is over. Those who opposed the King are now outlaws and are being pursued with a vengeance. This is especially true for Robin Hood and his men as they are once more wolf’s heads high on the list of the King’s main huntsman, Sir Guy Gisbourne; The Raven. In this, the second volume in Steven McKay’s series on the famed outlaw, the author has crafted a tale of intrigue, bravery and betrayal. He has also continued the development of his characters, the old and the new. In particular his portrayals of Little John and Will Scarlet have gone up a notch as they help Robin overcome some very nasty treatment at the hands of Sir Guy; one of the new characters who the author has imbued with a streak of super-villain like viciousness.
The action is exciting, well thought out and is interspersed with many touching scenes…e.g…
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