Wednesday, March 20

Michael Collins, Irish Patriot- & Me

These Irish Eyes are smiling. Last weekend, the whole world (well, it felt like it anyway) celebrated St. Patrick's Day. Yep, come the 17th March, people across the globe determinedly pull on enormous Guinness hats, pin shamrock onto themselves, develop a passion for tin whistles and party quite hard. Very hard, in some cases. And part of this annual Irish-fest is the St. Patrick's Day Parade. Hundreds of cities have them, including Manchester here in the UK. This year was extra special, with the parade setting off from the newly opened Irish World Heritage Centre. Over 100,000 people turned out to watch, including this guy. 
St Patrick's Day Cool: the VERY cool Aaron Adeboye!
The parade was a huge success and is the highlight of Manchester Irish Festival. The Festival runs over two weeks and is a fantastic mix of music, dance, sport, culture. You name it, it's there, including pleasing events advertised as 'St. Patrick's Day 12 Hour Celebration Party.' Ouch. 
Yet for me, the highlight this year wasn't the Parade. I say this from a point of complete selfishness. For yesterday evening, 19 March, I got to be an event as part of Manchester Irish Festival. Manchester Irish Writers, who meet regularly at the Irish World Heritage Centre and of which I a member, offered me the chance to host an evening promoting my novel, The Fifth Knight. That was pretty special but Rose Morris, who is the Cultural Director at the centre, had a surprise up her sleeve. Well, actually, in a safe. Rose knew that the Irish revolutionary leader, Michael Collins, was my grandfather's uncle.
Michael Collins
Collins played a key role in the struggle for Irish independence from the UK. I write about a fictional fighter but Collins was the real, fearless deal. He was ambushed, shot and killed in August 1922 at the age of 31. His body was brought to Dublin where it lay in state for three days in Dublin City Hall. Tens of thousands of mourners queued to pay their respects. Over half a million people are estimated to have attended his funeral. This was in a country whose population at the time was around three million. Collins died unmarried, so the family line continues through nieces and nephews only, continuing down to me and on to my daughter.
But the surprise for me came when we were setting the room out for my evening. The IWHC holds a number of precious objects. And one of them is the Irish Tricolour flag that was put on Collins' coffin. To say I was gobsmacked is not even close. Rose brought it out, encased in layers of special tissue and unrolled it in front of me. History whispered right in my ear. However much you read about something, see it on TV, to have an actual object right in front of you is genuinely astonishing. It's not a big flag. The linen is thin, with holes and tears, the colours surprisingly vivid. I asked if I could touch it. It's not usually allowed, but I was allowed to. 
So when I did my talk about The Fifth Knight last night, telling a lovely audience all about my journey to publication, Collins' flag was beside me. It rested on a white linen tablecloth that had belonged to my grandfather, Collins' nephew. 
Hubby Jon captures me, Angela & the Collins Tricolour
You will also see daffodils in the picture. I had placed dozens of them, all round the hall. Nice Spring flowers, yes. But they were there for a reason. The daffodil is the symbol for the Irish Cancer Society. And exactly 22 years ago, on 19 March 1991, I lost my beloved father, Pat, to cancer. So he was with me too. I dedicated the night, the wonderful special night where I got to present my first published novel to the world in person, to him. I hope he'd have been proud. 

The Fifth Knight is available on and
The Irish Cancer Society has been fighting cancer for 50 years. Daffodil Day is on 22 March 2013

Wednesday, March 6

The Day I Became a #1 Amazon Bestseller

The news was extra exciting last week. There were asteroids aplenty and no-one could quite seem to locate Bruce Willis to deal with them. Then: BAM!! One hit the earth, hit Russia in a terrifying streak of fire, with a huge explosion and shock waves that blew people off their feet, shattered windows, and had people screaming and running for cover. Fortunately, nobody lost their lives. 

Scientists lined up to tell us all how unlikely this all was. (But of course, being scientists, also told us it was quite likely really. It depended on which network you watched.) "What're the chances," my spouse remarked. "About as much chance as me hitting a bestseller list, " I replied. How we laughed. Well, I did. My spouse ignored me. It is his default and entirely sensible position. 

Sunday dawned as an unremarkable Sunday. Then I saw a post on Facebook from another historical writer: Cora Lee, who writes Historical Romance: 'Today's Kindle Daily Deal, and a great read!' The thumbnail was The Fifth Knight

My book. I was the Kindle Daily Deal. 

I messaged my agent, Josh Getzler. Even though it was Sunday, I got a message right back. All normal Sunday activity got suspended. I grabbed my laptop and watched my Amazon rankings. All day. I might have done something else (must have, if you think more closely about it) but I don't remember. Those rankings rose. And rose.

By 10:30 p.m. GMT (it was still day in the US!), I was heading for the top ten in the overall Kindle Store. And #2 on Historical, #3 on Action & Adventure. The only books above me on Action & Adventure were Life of Pi and Dan Brown's forthcoming release, Inferno. I was wildly excited to see my book underneath those two. I posted this on FB. Everyone agreed it was cool. Josh's reply was 'Piece of cake'. Because of course I was never going to knock those two off the top spot. 

At 11 p.m., I did. BAM!! I think is probably the most accurate description. If an asteroid had personally pulled up in a cab, rang the doorbell, delivered a meteorite pizza and THEN exploded, I could not have been more shell-shocked. Then my book did the same thing in Historical. Two #1s. Two of the little orange tags against The Fifth Knight that said #1 Best Seller.

So who did this? Who made this disturbance in The Force happen? Well, of course my wonderful agent. And of course my fabulous publishers, Thomas & Mercer. They had bought it and given it a great head start as a Kindle Serial and ensuring it had really solid sales. And of course, whoever decided that it was to be the Kindle Daily Deal. 

But as with anything in publishing, the people who make it happen, who really, really make it happen are the people who buy books. Who take their hard earned dollars/pounds/euros and are prepared to spend them on a book. Prepared to spend them on mine.

In the early days of Kindle Serials, those folks had nothing to go on. There are no Advance Review Copies with Serials. My reviews had to build from the ground up. And did they ever. By the time The Fifth Knight went on Daily Deals, there 78 of them, the vast majority 5 and 4 star. 

People wrote such lovely things about how much they'd enjoyed the book. How much they'd waited for the next episode in the serial. People posted on the Discussion Boards for each episode, with great comments, questions. They gave of their time, which is as precious as cash, to let me know as a writer how much my work had meant to them. 

One man even sent me a sweet message on Goodreads on December 29. That is Thomas Becket's Feast day, and this reader had a devotion to the saint and wanted to wish me well. Another reviewer went back and updated her review at each episode. I can't believe people's generosity. My life is so busy that some days I can't even remember if I've brushed my hair or not. The First Mrs Rochester look most evenings would suggest not.

I like to thank people where and when I can for buying my book and for posting a review. There are far, far too many of them to do that personally now. So to everyone who has, who has made this writer able to say she's a #1 Amazon Best Seller: thank you. You're the best.

The Fifth Knight is available here on and here on The sequel, The Blood of the Fifth Knight will be published by Thomas & Mercer on January 1st 2015. 

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