Sunday, 29 December 2013

The Fall of the Empire by Zoe Saadia - Review & Inteview

Zoe Saadia is the author of several novels of pre-Columbian Americas. She has expertly taken her personal passion for an unusual historical era and transformed it into a series of finely-told tales that can be enjoyed by all, from the beginner to the seasoned history buff. With her incredible grasp of the culture, she breathes life into a long-misrepresented people, showing us they were not the barbarians we generally take them for, but a deeply spiritual and proud people.

The Fall of the Empire Amazon Book Description …

Having just been advanced into the ranks of the first-class traders, Etl thought his life could not get any better. He was a trader of the Tepanec Empire, living in the Great Capital itself. Yes, there had been a war, an outright revolt by the united tributaries and other subdued nations of his beloved city-state, but those would be squashed easily. The Tepanecs were always victorious.

The only thing that made him worry was the decision of Tlalli, the girl from the marketplace he liked, to sell herself into the Palace's services. He didn't want her to do that, having intended to take care of her himself, but the stubborn, pretty thing went on and did it all the same. Why?

Apparently, Tlalli was not just a simple market girl, but a young woman with a very unusual agenda. She had her own grudge to settle, and with no lesser person than the Emperor himself.

But then the enemies struck...

My Review …

I love historical fiction that sweeps me back to times I know nothing about; that allows me to experience life as it was then, and The Fall of the Empire does just that. I read, and immensely enjoyed, this final book of Zoe Saadia’s Rise of the Aztec series, as a standalone story.

Set in the Tepanec Empire, or today’s Mexico, this is an action-packed adventure story of revenge, survival and love, featuring slaves, warriors, traders and emperors. It begins with the trader, Etl, overhearing a band of soldiers who plan to overthrow the emperor, and the pretty, smart and determined girl, Tlalli, who is plotting her revenge against the Emperor.

The turmoil is intriguing, and had me switching sides from chapter to chapter. The battles are captivating and the story, with its great drama and unexpected twists, moves forward to a historically-accurate conclusion.

The characters are so well-drawn that we feel we are there, with them, trying to stay alive in a situation they have no control over. And when, at the end, we have to bid goodbye to Etl, Tlacaelel, Tlalli and the others, it feels like saying goodbye to real people.

With its rich characters, blended from real and imagined people, its lovely prose woven through accurate historical fact, and a pace that never flags, I would highly recommend this book to fans of historical fiction.

And after The Fall of the Empire, I’m really looking forward to reading the entire Rise of the Aztec series!

Interview with Zoe …

Hi Zoe, and welcome to the Triskele Bookclub.

Q: I know you’ve probably been asked this before, but why your great interest in this period in particular?

A: Hi Liza, thank you for greeting me to Triskele Bookclub. It’s an honor to visit this wonderful site as a guest this time.

To answer your question, I did not choose any of the Mesoamerican cultures to research and write about. They sort of chose me. My specialty is pre-Columbian North America. I researched this continent and the most prominent of its cultures for over a decade, intending to represent them in historical fiction to the best of my ability.

Being born on the other side of the globe, I can’t say what made me so passionate about pre-contact Americas in general, yet the fact remained that since being a child I could think about little else. So after decades of harassing innocent people all around me, trying to make them understand that all we know about indigenous Americas is not truth, I finally found my purpose, combining my passion for this particular history with an ardent love for historical fiction in general.

To describe my books, they are all solidly historical, based on thorough, detailed research. But the word “fiction” in my work is essential. Dry history is of an interest to a handful of people, but a good story is always a good story, whether set in contemporary surroundings or the historical ones.

I make it my point to write action-adventure stories, never to turn them into dry history lessons. For what is history if not an account of adventurous people who had managed to leave their mark, whether in ancient Rome, WW2 Europe or undiscovered Americas?

Therefore, my “Pre-Aztec” and “The Rise of the Aztecs” series, while dealing with periods and cultures barely known to people, are light, reader-friendly adventure of warriors, politicians, nobles and slaves. And quite a few dominate females - how can history do without those?

Q: You have written so many books in a short space of time. You must be a very fast writer? And where do you find such inspiration?

A: Oh, as you well know, history provides us with more than enough inspiration. I never planned to write series, but each book of my Pre-Aztec trilogy and my The Rise of the Aztecs series kept pushing itself out, with a will of its own. Every time I finished one book (they all can be read as standalones more or less), I was breathing with relief, saying to myself “that’s it.” But each time my thoughts kept racing, wondering how the characters will fare in the future events, what will they do next. With the turbulent Mesoamerican history of the 15th century, with the Aztecs rising to power, it was difficult not to wonder. And difficult not to write about on and on J

Of course, being able to work as a full-time writer helps a lot. I have a strict routine and my family and friends joke about me having the toughest boss, worse than any of theirs. My husband is a wonderful man, patient and extremely supportive. I would never have written, published and promoted so many books without his wonderful encouragement and support.

Q: Why the decision to go indie? Would you have liked a traditional publishing deal? And are you happy to remain as an indie-published author?

A: Well, in the beginning I did try to go the traditional way, before the publishing world got into its current earth-quaking stage.

It didn’t work. I was told that I’m writing well, and that should I change my subject to a better known history, they would be prepared to accept my manuscripts. They wanted Romans and Tudors, a well-known, explored ground. Needless to say, this response left me, literarly, screaming with rage. They didn’t want to take their chances with my pre-Columbian Americas.

Luckily, the Indie publishing world was already opening, with more and more articles published about its possibilities. So, two years ago I took the plunge, and frankly, I never regretted taking this particular decision.

Independent publishing is more demanding, leaving the author to deal with all the aspects of this business, but it is much more rewarding, too. After two years, and quite a few mistakes made along the way, I’ve built a satisfactory name for myself, a respectable site to promote this history and my works, and a nice fan base to receive a lot of feedback through Goodreads and Amazon.

More importantly, I have a good theme to help me along, with a good editor, proofreader and a cover artist cooperating wonderfully, so I can write away and let my books out with no delays. In the traditional publishing industry they would have been piling up, waiting to be attended stage by stage. Independently, I can let them out as fast as I can write them, provided I, and the people I’m working with, are prepared to work hard. Which we most certainly are.

Q: What part of the indie publishing process do you undertake yourself, and what do you hire people for?

A: Well, being not a natural team worker, I would rather have done everything all by myself J But regretfully, it is not possible. My grammar is hopeless and my art abilities are non-existent. So I employ a copy-editor/proofreader and a cover artist. Luckily, both are wonderful professionals and great persons into the bargain, so today we work as a team and as far as I know, are enjoying ourselves. For myself I can vouch that it is a great pleasure to work with both of them.

Q: How do you juggle writing and promoting your books?

A: Oh, this is the trickiest matter. Both fields are very demanding, very time-consuming, difficult to balance. The marketing possibilities are limitless and it is very tempting to try to grab every one of the opportunities, thus neglecting the writing aspect. What I learned so far is that should the balance tip, as it always does, it had better tip toward the writing. We tend to forget our main purpose sometimes, why did we begin to write in the first place. The intensive world of the internet marketing does that to us. But a writer should first and foremost write and create, and so when sometimes I neglect my site and my emails and my communication with other fellow authors, or don’t do the acceptable launches and splashes around each new book, I feel that I do the right thing. I wish there were a few more hours in each day and no need to eat and sleep, but as it is it’s the promoting that gets neglected sometimes. As long as the writing does not, I think it can be tolerated J

Q: I know you have written other series, and standalones. Can you tell us briefly about your other books?

A: Gladly!

So I have two series dealing with the turbulent Mesoamerican history of the times when the Aztecs came to power, to establish the empire we all came to know through various conquistadors accounts (misled by the conquerors with their obvious agenda, we came to think of these people in very general, often mistaking terms. But those amazing, highly advanced civilizations, like many other pre-Columbian societies, are worth of our interest and attention)

My “Pre-Aztec” trilogy is dealing with the times when the Aztecs just began to enter the game of powers that kept Mesoamerica on edge for more than a few centuries. This trilogy is mainly representing the local power, the Tepanec Empire that ruled Mexican Valley before.

“The Rise of the Aztecs” series, on the other hand, opened the new era, when the Aztecs and their allies began to feel powerful enough to challenge the might of the Tepanecs. It ended with the beginning of the revolt, when the balance of powers began to tip.

Then came “The Fall of the Empire”, when the Aztecs and their allies got the upper hand at long last (so it was very tempting to present the opposite, Tepanec, point of view this time, which I promptly did. This book was a stand-alone so far, but I just finished writing its sequel, and plan to write another, third, book on the subject. I hope to have this new trilogy ready for the next spring.

This way the Mesoamerican Saga will be consisted of three series, covering about a century of upheavals in the Mexican Valley (current day Mexico-city).

To cover pre-contact North America, I offer The Peacemaker Trilogy that deals with the 12th century upstate New York, recounting how the famous Iroquois Confederacy was born, a democracy that influenced even the modern-day USA constitution as we know it, a contribution that the American congress was reluctant to admit until a few years ago. Another part of history that should be made known to people J

Q: And lastly, any hints about what you are currently working on and plans for future books?

A: Well, as I stated before, I currently work on the continuation of the story presented in “The Fall of the Empire”. This particular history and culture just wouldn’t let me go J

Thanks for answering my questions, Zoe.

Thank you so much for this opportunity to talk about my work, answering your wonderful, delightfully thought-provoking questions, Liza. I enjoyed myself very much and will keep coming back to Triskele Bookclub as a reader and an avid history buff J

Now I’d recommend you check out Zoe’s website; it’s an amazing work of art!

And her books with their gorgeous cover designs:

The Young Jaguar, Pre-Aztec Trilogy, book 1

 The Highlander, The Rise of the Aztecs, book 1

The Fall of the Empire

Two Rivers, The Peacemaker Trilogy, book 1

Contact details for Zoe:



Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Acronyms & Abbreviations

Acronyms & Abbreviations for an Indie Author
Do you know your DRM from your ARCS? Or your ePubs from your PDFs? The language of independent publishing is an added complexity of the indie revolution. So we thought a glossary could come in handy. Here’s the Triskele A-Z of Acronyms and Abbreviations, etc.


Advanced Review Copy (ARC)  
ARCs are copies of a book used as a promotional and marketing tool, sent out before the official release date to promote buzz and get early reviews.

AI (Adobe Illustrator)
Typical file format for a vector image.  Used by designers.

Audio rights
The right to sell / distribute an audio recording of part or all of a work.  Typically not sold with print/electronic rights.

Original format used by Kindle ebooks, now largely superseded by .kf8

A linear image representation of the ISBN number, so shops can scan the book on their system.

Blind Folio

A page number assigned to a page but not printed on the page.

Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black – the usual range of colours used by designers for book covers.

Detailed edit that happens between a critique and a proofread. A copyeditor is employed to find plot inconsistencies, unnatural dialogue, unrealistic characters, and the like.

The right to be credited as the author of the work and to determine who else may benefit financially from its sale and distribution (through the sale of specified rights – see below).  Should always be retained by the author.

Copyright page
Usually the verso of the title page, this page carries the copyright notice, edition information, publication information, printing history, cataloging data, legal notices, and the books ISBN or identification number.

Crop Marks
Also known as registration marks, trim marks, cutting marks – fine hairlines printed on the outer edge of your cover file to tell the printer exactly where to trim/cut your cover on each edge.

Display pages
Pages within a book considered display pages include the title page, copyright and dedication. No page number appears on these display pages.

DPI - Dots Per Inch.
Describes the resolution of a rasterised image. Think of painting an image by making lots of little dots with coloured pens. The more dots, the more complex and complete the image will look. Enough dots and you won’t notice there are any dots.

DRM: Digital Rights Management
Technology used to limit the access to or use of electronic material such as ebooks, e.g. to prevent additional copies being made.

Drop Caps (Drop Capitals)
An enlarged letter generally used at the beginning of (e.g.) a chapter.

EIN: Employee Identification Number
Needed before a non-US resident can apply to prevent IRS withholding tax on royalties.  You must set up your own publishing ‘company’ first (at least as a sole trader).
Electronic rights
The rights to sell / distribute an electronic edition of a work; managed separately from print rights.

Placed after any appendices, and before the bibliography or list of references. The notes are typically divided by chapter to make them easier to locate. Part of end matter.

Free and open ebook format used by many ereaders including Sony and Kobo

Allows people to follow your blog by email or RSS (see below).

Formatting is the act of turning your book into a readable product, either for print or digital consumption (eBooks). Generally speaking, it refers to the formatting of text for the interior of a book.  In the case of a paperback, it may also be referred to as typesetting.

Graphics Interchange Format. Bitmap image format used largely for animations which supports a 256 colour palette.

The margin on the inside edge of a page. It is generally larger than the margin on the outer edge of the page, so that when the spine is glued, and you open a book, the text doesn’t run too close to the spine.

IP: Intellectual Property
Generic term for a set of rights including copyright, patents, trademarks etc

Number allocated to books, bought from Sometimes bought in bulk or given away with their publishing packages. The number goes on the copyright page. The image reference of the number (i.e. the barcode qv) goes on the back cover.

The U.S. government agency responsible for tax collection and tax law enforcement.

ITIN: Individual Tax Identification Number
Alternative ID number that can be used when applying for US tax not to be withheld: harder to obtain than an EIN; no longer recommended.


File format of a rasterised image


KDP: Kindle Direct Publishing
Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing allows you to self-publish your books and make them available on Kindle, iPad, iPhone, Android, Blackberry, Mac, and PC.

KDP Select
An arrangement with Amazon whereby you commit to make the digital format of that book available exclusively through KDP.

Current format used by Kindle ebooks (cf .azw)


Line Editing/Editor
Line editing is also known as copyediting. It focuses on the nuances of your novel: plot inconsistencies, awkward dialogue, unnatural or missing character motivation, and the like.


Mobipocket ebook file, typically used by cell/mobile phones.

Mock Up
Generally a term used for coming up with visuals of, say, a cover. Mock-up/concept/ideas/visuals.

Short for Manuscript.


(a) the way in which the information on a book’s pages is laid out; (b) the consecutive numbering of the pages, which indicates their proper order.

Standard file format used for proof and final cover design, and for the print-ready (high quality) body of the book. Proofing will usually be done using low-resolution (low quality), and therefore small file size, PDFs.

Print on Demand (POD)
A POD printer is a vendor who will print a book as it is ordered. Though the per-unit cost is higher than it would be if an author bought in bulk, printing on demand saves on storage space, upfront costs, and ease. Additionally, readers can order copies straight from the POD printer, thereby saving time and money for the author.

Print rights
The rights to sell / distribute a print edition of a work; can be managed separately from electronic rights

QR Codes
‘Quick Response Code’ – matrix barcode that can be scanned by many smart phones and other devices and used to connect the user to a website, blog or sales outlet.

Raster/Rasterised Image
Images are either raster or vector. Rasterised images are made up of pixels/dot matrix, such as photographs or anything saved in JPEG, TIFF or similar formats.

The right hand page(s) of a book

Determines the quality of an image. The higher the resolution, the better quality the image. For printed books, images are generally required to be 300 dpi (dots per inch – qv) at the size they are to be used. For web (i.e. images for covers of ebook) images are only required to be around 72 dpi at the size they are to be displayed.

Royalty Free Image
An image for which you pay a one off fee to use as much as you wish, as opposed to licensing an image where you are limited for example to how many books you can have printed with the image on, and for how long (in years).

RSS Feed
Short for “really simple syndication.” Some readers follow blogs via the RSS feed. A family of web feed formats used to publish frequently updated works—such as blog entries, news headlines, audio, and video—in a standardized format.


Sale or return
Usual terms a self-published writer agrees with a bricks-and-mortar bookstore.  A set number of books are left with the store for an agreed period of time; those not sold at the end of that term are returned to the author. No advance; store pays only for the copies sold.

Left and right and pages of a book which face each other are known as a ‘spread’ or ‘facing pages’. If a designer sends you a PDF in spreads, it looks as it would in a book, with the left and right hand pages next to one another.

Stock Image Library
Online sites which sell images in much the same way as you can pay for and download music or software. Many of them sell Royalty Free images .

The line of snappy text on the front cover of your book which gives a further snippet as to what it might be about (e.g. One kingdom, three brothers, three claims to the throne…)

Form for applying for EIN .  (Can usually be avoided if EIN is requested over the phone.)


Territorial Rights
The rights to sell / distribute a work, limited to a specified country or list of countries.  Traditionally, this has been how agents and publishers have managed sales.

Title page
Announces the title, subtitle, author and publisher of the book. Other information may include publisher’s location, year of publication, or descriptive text about the book. Illustrations are also common on title pages.

Translation rights
The rights to sell / distribute a translated edition of a work.  This is separate from global rights, which refer to the work in its original language

Trim size
The physical size of the page in a published book (e.g. 6” x 9”)

The art of arranging type (words/titles/author name/body copy).

Used to refer to the layout for a print book – for ebooks the term used is ‘page formatting’.


The left hand page(s) of  a book

‘Video Blog’:  Web content in the form of video links or embedded video, as opposed to text and images.

Form on which non-US residents can apply for tax not to be withheld by revenue authorities in USA.  Requires either EIN or ITIN.