Giveaway Goodies :)

Hi everyone,

Just to celebrate my blog tour with IFB Tours, I have a great giveaway to share with you – just in time for Christmas.  You can be in with a chance to win a $20 Amazon Gift Card by simply purchasing a copy of The Cross Of Santiago at the reduced price of $2.99.  That’s it!  Just download one of the hottest ebooks of 2013 and you could be the winner of a $20 gift card to spend on all your loved ones, or yourself (I won’t tell!).  Follow the link to enter here.

And don’t forget, you can download The Cross Of Santiago from Smashwords in any format you like using this 25% off discount code for the next two weeks – GQ83M.

December Tour Launch


I’m delighted to announce my December 9th blog tour with IFB Tours.  The Cross of Santiago will be touring with 12 hosts for the week of December 9th-13th, with reviews, interviews, guest posts and of course a fantastic giveaway!  Stay tuned for the tour schedule and a very special discount offer to buy The Cross Of Santiago ebook just in time for Christmas.

The Cross Of Santiago Literary Tour – Part II

I am a huge Woody Allen fan, not only for his pithy dialogue and adorably flawed characters, but his use of beautiful cities as more than just a backdrop.  In ‘Midnight In Paris‘, the city becomes another character, weaving a magical spell around the characters which I just loved.

Having a strong connection to the city in which a novel is set can create a wonderful space in which the reader can lose themselves completely.  For my novel, The Cross Of Santiago, I tried to create a similar effect by setting it in my hometown of Galway, a vibrant, bohemian city on  the West Coast of Ireland.  What’s more, I had the privilege of setting half of the novel in medieval Galway, giving the reader an insight into what the city was like when the tribal families ruled and the merchants of Europe brought their goods to her port.

Galway is full of brightly coloured shops, bars and cafes, so in the story, Amanda’s brother Jay Morrison is the proud proprietor of ‘Novel Idea’, an old-fashioned bookshop on Dominick Street.  Across the river lies the Latin Quarter café owned by Dave, where Amanda spends much of her time drinking coffee and meeting friends.  The Latin Quarter of Galway is full of cobbled streets and interesting characters, so it was always going to be the setting for the main action in my novel.


In my research, I discovered that the Augustinians came to Galway in the middle ages and set up a monastery on Forthill.  After being kindly asked by King Henry VIII to jog on or face the consequences, they set up secretly in the city and continued to do their work amongst the poor.  The Augustinian Church can now be found on Saint Augustine Street, and this is where Amanda discovered the true meaning of the Latin motto ‘Tolle Lege’ (Take up and read) .

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Next on the tour is the Claddagh, a part of Galway famed for it’s Claddagh ring and the people who lived in this area in tiny thatched cottages, on the shores of Lough Corrib.  Please check out some of the fantastic images taken of this area here in the early 1900’s, before the cottages were razed to the ground.  When writing The Cross Of Santiago, I often pictured Annora wearing the kind of traditional Claddagh dress shown in these images.  Here I am standing close to the Spanish Arch and Nimmo’s Pier, the location of the Boutique Hotel No.7 in the novel and the guarded city wall in Medieval times, where merchant ships landed their goods.  The Spanish Arch was the fish market where people from the Claddagh sold their catch.


Finally, the most poignant stop on the tour is the aforementioned Forthill.  This is the site where many Spanish soldiers of the Armada were murdered by the English and today, there is a plaque inside the main gate commemorating the greatest act of mass murder in Galway’s history. Erected in 1988 by members of the La Orden Del Tercio Viejo Del Mar Oceano, the oldest marine corps in the world, the memorial is only written in the Irish and Spanish language as an intended snub to the language of the perpetrator.

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22 DE JUNIO DE 1988


There is so much history in Galway City and this is only a snippet of what can be found.  I really hope to add to these posts in the future, giving a more in-depth view of the historical events that inspired me to write The Cross Of Santiago.  And if this tour has whetted your appetite to read an exciting historical fiction set in Galway, then why not check my book here 🙂

Roll up for the literary tour!

Hello everyone,

I’ve been dying to write this post, so my inner tour guide can step out and show you the literary tour of The Cross Of Santiago!  This novel was inspired greatly by my surroundings – Galway city and county and in this first leg of the literary tour, I want to take you to where it all began.

In 1588, the Spanish Armada, the greatest naval fleet that ever was, decided to invade England in a holy war to overthrow the protestant Queen (why can’t we all get along?!)  Anyway, things didn’t work out as planned (you’ll have to read the book to find out why) and the fleet had to return home via Scotland and down the west coast of Ireland.  A raging storm caused many of the ships to wreck along the Irish coastline and it was these events that planted the seeds of a story in my mind.

Looking up the Irish Wrecks Online website, I discovered an Armada shipwreck recorded in 1588 in a small  bay called Ballinakill.  Ballinakill is in a beautifully scenic area of Connemara, not far from Tully village.  I have always loved taking my holidays in the wilds of Connemara, so I instantly went searching for a cottage to rent in the area, where I could do more research.  As luck or fate would have it, I found a cottage overlooking Ballinakill Bay, on the slopes of Tully mountain.


I instantly fell in love with the place and in my novel, this is the cottage belonging to Tori’s grandmother, where Xavier stays and explores the waters of Ballinakill Bay.  At the foot of the hill (if you can run the gauntlet of wild Connemara sheep!)  there is a small pier with a breath-taking view of the Twelve Bens mountains.  How could you not be inspired by this place?


The Falcon Blanco Mediano, an urca which was most likely used for transporting supplies to the bigger ships, wrecked upon the rocks of Freaghillaun Island (try saying that with your mouth full) and many of the survivors were helped by local clans.  The ship itself has disintegrated over time in the choppy currents of the Atlantic, but some believe there is still Armada treasure to be found, if you know the right place to look….  Below is a view of Freaghillaun Island from the mainland.


Click here to see a map of the area, if you would ever like to go there yourself and take part in The Cross Of Santiago literary tour!  Stay tuned for further stops on the tour, and don’t forget, there’s still time to enter the giveaway to win a free e-book here.

For Free Or Not For Free…

We’ve all seen them, perhaps even downloaded a few, but do we ever read them?  Free ebooks, whether they are part of the Kindle Select program or a promotional drive, are a controversial aspect of self-publishing.

As a new author, it’s a difficult decision to make.  Do I list my book with Kindle Select and give it away for free for a couple of days, thereby boosting my title in the sales ranks and hopefully increasing my profile?  It’s a tantalising carrot to dangle in front of a newbie, but the real figures would suggest that these kind of promotions do not have a lasting impact.  Many authors report a drop in rankings as soon as the promotion ends, meaning that they’ve just given away hundreds or thousands of free copies to eBook hoarders, who may not even read their book, never mind leave a review.  Of course there are the success stories out there, authors who blind you with algorithms and whatnots, swearing by the success they’ve enjoyed after having given their book away for free.  There is evidence that free days can work for books that are part of a series, but who’s got time to write a series, eh?!

I believe there is a much greater argument here, that of value.  If every new author feels pressured to give their book away for free, readers will start to expect free books.  Eventually, this could mean a world where readers are unwilling to pay for books, which would be very bad news for anyone trying to make a living out of writing.  Too much free content threatens to devalue the whole business of writing.  If a reader sees a book priced at 99 cents or less, they will automatically assume that the book isn’t’ worth much.  However, if a book is priced from 2.99 to 4.99 (the alleged ‘sweet spot’ for eBooks), there is a belief that this book is ‘worth’ something, that the author believes in this work and has priced it accordingly.

Still, the bottom line is sales and let’s face it, after spending X amount of months or years writing a novel, you want people to read it.  Which means sales.  And if the world and its dog are telling you that the only way to increase your sales is to give your book away for free at the start, you’re bound to be tempted.  Still, I have decided that this is not the route for me.  Of course I’ll be giving away some free copies as part of my book launch and tour, I’m not Scrooge after all!  But listing my book on Amazon for free?  That would be inconceivable.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this… have you tried the freebie route and has it worked for you?


How To Choose The Right Cover For Your Book

When it comes to self-publishing, judging a book by it’s cover is the norm.  A tacky ‘home-made’ cover screams UNPROFESSIONAL!  Literally, screams.  You know yourself that you wouldn’t touch a Microsoft Paint, half-assed photo with a couldn’t-care-less font with a barge pole.  So why expect other readers to see past a miserable looking cover and take a chance that there might be a good story hidden underneath?

Hence the importance of a good book cover.  Ergo the importance of hiring a book cover designer.   I recently revealed my new cover for The Cross Of Santiago (oh what the hell, let’s look at it again!)


I’m particularly delighted with my cover because it does one of the most important jobs that a cover should do – it provides a description of what lies within, using imagery instead of words.  Also, it doesn’t look like I made it myself – equally important!

So if you’re just setting out, how do you decide on the kind of cover that will suit your book?  It helps if you have a rough concept to bring to a designer and there are a couple of ways to do this.  First up, write a list (or even a mini synopsis) of all the important points in your book.  What are the over-riding themes?  Where is the story set?  What is the main character’s conflict/journey/issue?  Then it’s time to think of the genre – crime, romance, sci-fi.  How can you let your readers know what they are getting when they buy your book?  What you don’t want is someone leaving a bad review of your book because they’ve been misled by the cover.  My best advice in this case is to research other books in your genre.  See what kind of covers they use and if there is a pattern that lets readers know what particular genre they belong to.

Chick Lit covers are often vilified for their over use of pink and fluffy covers, but the point is, readers can judge at a glance whether or not this book is for them.  This is equally the case online – browsers decide in a matter of seconds, based on your cover, whether or not this is something of interest to them.  So it is really worth taking the time to get your cover right for yourself and your readers.  If you have spent time writing a good story, editing it, re-drafting it, shaping it and moulding it, don’t do it the disservice of covering it in any old tat.  Give your novel the best shot you can in a market swamped with new releases and hyped up authors – make a beautiful cover that entices your readers.  It doesn’t have to cost the earth, there are so many cover designers out there for every budget.  You can check out the designer I used here if you like what you see.  Then share your cover stories here – I’d love to hear about them 🙂