Saturday, 30 July 2011

Guest Blog by Sue Howe

I'm so pleased to announce that prizewinning short story writer, Sue Howe, is my guest blogger this week. Many of Sue's wonderful stories appear in Triclops, available at all good online bookshops. Here, Sue explains how the book came about:

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I couldn’t have been more thrilled, two and a half years ago, when a couple of writers whose work I admire asked if I would consider joining them in producing an anthology of short stories. Would I? I nearly bit their virtual hands off.

Avery Mathers, Lee Williams and I met on youwriteon.com, a peer review website aimed primarily at writers who are new to putting their work up for external scrutiny. Over a relatively short period, we had seen our work improve and climb high in the YWO charts and we had overcome our initial indignation at strangers slapping our babies in public. We were all ready for a new challenge.

It was amazing how the proposal boosted our productivity over the next few months. We wrote many new stories and sent them to each other for comment and, although our writing styles and subject matter differed, we managed to look objectively at each others’ work. When any of us hit a barrier, there was always help to get us through. It was a tremendously useful and constructive process and I can honestly say, even when we were disappointed by the feedback, there was never a cross word. We trusted each other’s judgment and, increasingly, we learned to trust our own and only gave way on suggestions we knew in our guts constituted real improvements. We gave the anthology a name – Triclops – and Avery wrote a prologue/epilogue to draw the collection together.

Within a year we had enough material and were ready to go. So why did it take two and a half years to produce the finished, printed product?

Read On

Triclops is available at amazon.co.uk and amazon.com

Triclops Facebook Page

Sunday, 24 July 2011

First Catch Your Hare...

GUIDE TO SIMPLE EBOOK CREATION

A basic introduction to publishing for Kindle Ebook Readers.
Ebooks published for Kindle can also be read on PC, Mac,
iPad, iPod Touch, iPhone and Android using the FREE
Kindle App provided by Amazon.

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First write your book.

Now rewrite it thirty-five times, get everyone you know to read it and tell you what's wrong with it, and rewrite it another thirty-five times. Done that? Congratulations, you're now ready to publish it as an ebook.

Except you're not. Now you have to make sure you format it perfectly and save it as a Word document. Ideally, start writing it as a Word document in the first place - this will save a lot of trouble if you want to publish with Smashwords. For our purposes though, we're concentrating on publishing with Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing.

KDP gives you several choices for uploading your book but here I'm outlining the simplest method, which is to use a Word .doc file. Not .docx or .rtf or .pdf or any other fancy suffix but plain old dot doc. If you don't have a copy of Word you can download the free Open Office Suite, and use that (saving as a Word doc).

Format your document using single spacing and a 12pt font size (the conversion process changes everything to Times New Roman so don't faff about with fancy fonts). Don't use a font size larger than 16pt for headings or anything else as it could screw up your formatting.

Indent your paragraphs (and be aware that unless you do some intricate formatting ALL paragraphs, including the first ones of a chapter or section, will be indented automatically in the conversion process. We're not going to worry about that. We're concentrating here on the simplest method of publishing. If you really want to, you can make the first letter of each chapter slightly larger (16pt max) or Bold to give it a more pleasing look. Don't waste your time on Drop Caps or Small Caps - they will be savagely eliminated!

At the end of each chapter hit the return key and then insert a page break (Ctrl + Rtn is the simplest way). If you have section breaks in your text, leave a ONE line space. You may put a tilde (~) or a couple of asterisks (**) on this line to show there is a break and to ensure the gap is not removed in the conversion process. Don't put line spaces before and after the line with the tilde or asterisks on it - just have the ONE line.

So, you've got your .doc file, you've spell-checked it, of course, and you've perused it to make sure your paragraphs are where they're supposed to be and not tacked onto the end of the previous one, and you've checked there are no odd symbols lurking anywhere. Excellent!

But what about a book cover? Amazon will provide a generic cover if you don't have one, but it is a far far better thing to have your own distinctive cover for your book. You can use a photograph or other image you own, or buy one cheaply from a stock photo site, and place your title and name over it so that they show clearly at thumbnail size. It will need to be a .jpeg (.jpg) file of no less than 800px by 1200px, portrait oriented. You can insert it into your .doc file at the beginning or simply upload it separately. If you insert it, make sure it's centred (right click on the image, select 'alignment', then 'centred'). Ideally, put a Return before and after your image. It's also a good idea to put the usual copyright statement, along with publication details, at the beginning of your book after the image but before the title page.

Now for the actual publishing. You will need to create a KDP account. If you already have an Amazon account you can use this to set up your publishing account and sign in with your usual password. Go to Amazon KDP and follow the instructions for setting up a new account.

Once your account is set up you're ready to upload. First you fill in your details - these are self-explanatory - title, author, price etc. You don't need an ISBN number but if you want to use one it will need to be brand new and not one used for a previously published version of your book. Neilson provide these for the UK and Bowker for the USA.

Don't forget to add some tags so your book can be found, eg: novel, crime, fantasy, romance or whatever. As for Digital Rights Management (DRM) the word on the e-street is to uncheck this as the supposed pros (prevents your book being copied) are outweighed by the cons (causes bugs, some apps don't like it, doesn't actually prevent copying, etc).

You'll need to decide on a price for your ebook - 99 cents is the lowest price that can be set. Prices for UK ebooks can either be set independently or allowed to fluctuate with the exchange rate based on the US price. There is no initial charge for publishing with KDP but Amazon will take a cut from each book sold. For books costing between .99c and $2.99 you will receive 35% of the cost; for books over $2.99 you get 70%. There is considerable debate on the KDP forums as to what the best price to set is. Some say Pile 'em High and sell 'em Cheap; others think writers should get a fair price for their work. Ultimately, it's up to the individual - experiment to see what works best for you. The price can be changed whenever you want. Incidentally, you cannot offer a free ebook at Amazon unless you first offer it free elsewhere and tell them about it.

So, now you upload your .doc file and your cover .jpg in the appropriate places, let it do it's whirly uploading thing, fill out the rest of the details (you'll need your bank account number and, if you live in the US, tax details), hit the publish button, and sit back and wait for a couple of days until it goes live.

While you're waiting you can check your book using the KDP small and awkward book checking widget on the publishing page. This will not show margins (even though they will be there in the ebook) and is fiddly to use but will give you an idea of how your book looks. If you spot any errors, put them right in your Word .doc and upload again. Once your book goes live Amazon will email you and you can then buy, yes that's right, BUY your book (you don't get a free copy, but hey, it's your first sale) to give it a proper check. Again, if you spot mistakes, put them right and reupload.

And that's it! From now on you will spend large parts of each day checking your sales until you drive yourself distracted.

For a slightly more sophisticated document format you can download mobi pocket converter and build your book with that - but that's a whole other process and will have to wait for the next blog.

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Saturday, 23 July 2011

Do You Have a Nook?

Here's a little secret.

Drowning: Four Short Stories is still FREE at Barnes & Noble.

Catch a copy quickly before they put the price up!
Do me a favour though - leave a review.

Available for Nook and Nook Apps.

Friday, 22 July 2011

Indiebookslist - publicise your book

indiebookslist is a great place to publicise your book - sign up now, it's free. Just fill in a form, send off your sample text and your cover jpeg, and that's about it!

You can read an excerpt of The Land Beyond Goodbye there now.

Saturday, 16 July 2011

It's Later Than You Think: Why I Decided to Publish ebooks.

I've been writing for a number of years and have had numerous short stories published, both mainstream and erotic. I've published poetry and articles and even had a couple of plays put on. My first novel The Man with the Horn was published by a small press that immediately went out of business. Nothing to do with me!

Over the years I've sent novels out to publishers and agents and had some good feedback but never an offer of publication. It seems these days you have to be a celebrity already, or a literary sensation, to grab the attention of a publisher. I'm certainly not the first and I'm guessing I'm not the second.

I never considered self publishing when DTP was all the rage (apart from some 'pomes') because it was expensive, too much effort and not well thought of. Ebooks have changed all that.

It's easy to publish an ebook (details here), free at point of entry, and doesn't smack so much of desperation as traditional vanity publishing does. Why this should be so, I have no idea.

Debate rages online as to whether it's appropriate for ebook writers to class themselves as 'Indies' the way independent music makers do. I say, Why not? There's a long and respected tradition of writers and other artists putting themselves out there at their own expense, or with a little help from their friends: Virginia Woolf, James Joyce, Irvine Welsh...

So, if nobody else is willing to do it for you, what's your option? To leave your work festering on your hard drive? Well what's the point of that?

The other instigating factor for me was the passage of time. You can wait months for a response to a submission to an agent. Publishers may not even bother to reply. Years of your life - decades even - can slip past while you wait for someone to recognise your genius. Well, that's what happened to me, anyway.

Then one day I thought, If I don't get my work out soon I'll be so old and decrepit I won't be capable of doing it. And if I succumb to mortality before anyone has had a chance to read my books, what a waste of a life that will have been. So I decided to grasp the opportunity of epublishing while I still have the ability to upload a file to KDP or Smashwords.

Of course, I'm sure the world could have got along quite nicely without my contribution to literature. I'm not putting myself in the same category as James Joyce or Virginia Woolf (or even Irvine Welsh, come to that), but at least I feel better now. My literary (I use the word loosely) outpourings will soon all be out there in the world fending for themselves. And that'll be a weight off both my mind and my hard drive.

So get epubbing.

It's easier (and later) than you think.

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See my guest blog on epublishing courtesy of the wonderful jjmarsh http://jjmarsh.wordpress.com/2011/07/16/first-catch-your-hare/#comment-69

Monday, 11 July 2011

NOT RAVING BUT DROWNING - An Excerpt

His fingers rake through the shingle; the grit of a thousand years impacts beneath his terrified, clawing nails. The undertow of the same merciless wave that pitched him off his feet, drags him scrabbling down the beach. Sand and shell scour his abdomen and shred the skin from his chest. He panics and flails, but she doesn’t see him. She dances on the sand with the others, swaying to the thudding rhythmic music, arms waving above her head, like seaweed floating in a current.
  He lurches up, a creature from the deeps, and blows a spume of salt water, but his pedalling feet find
no purchase and he plunges backwards into the swell. He rises again, a flying fish, a leaping dolphin; he wills himself up into the air, but founders, exhausted, in the roiling surf. Stomach full of brine, lungs burning from lack of air, he goes down for the third time. The warm dark ocean caresses him, soothes him. He sinks slowly, hair rising from his head like tentacles, bubbles hiccoughing from his lips, and soon all his fear has gone.
  He is a foetus again, floating in amniotic fluid, womb-cossetted, drifting in a pinkish dream to the sound of the ocean’s heartbeat.
  Suddenly, the waters burst and he is thrust, with unseemly haste, into a world of bright lights and loud noises. He sucks and slavers, wet red lips searching for a nipple. Saliva drools from his tiny wailing mouth. His fists beat a milkswollen breast.
  And now wet nappies chafe between his legs; uric acid stings his rash-red skin. Angry tears leak from tiny squeezed-tight eyelids. Instantly, he tumbles into a warm bath afroth with suds; flotillas of yellow ducks and bright red boats bob in the swell created by his chubby thrashing legs.
  At once the boats turn to paper, soggy in the algae of the litter-strewn pond. His socks and shoes are sodden, his bare knees muddy, but his heart is free. Then the thick green sludge of the park lake turns turquoise and he stands, toes curling over the cold, tiled edge of the swimming pool, ready to dive. On the count of three. One Two Three! The chilly chlorinated water bloats his nylon trunks, bubbles up around him, and shrivels his boy’s penis to a curled pink shrimp.

Read on HERE (UK)  or HERE (USA)

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

A short excerpt from Ebook THE LAND BEYOND GOODBYE

Righty-ho,’ said Rossi. ‘Let’s get on with it.’ He sat down and began to pull papers out of the briefcase, spreading them across the wooden table. ‘She’s led us a right dance, this one.’

She? thought Jess, Does he mean me? She glanced at Sherry who was watching her with a half smile.

Ben Rossi went on. ‘An abo with a sniffer dog would’ve had trouble trackin’ this baby down.’ He spread out a thick cream document. ‘Darcy’s Will.’ He looked up at Jess, as if to gauge her reaction. ‘Old bloke who drew it up popped his clogs some years back. Couldn’t find a copy anywhere. And Joey hadn’t a clue about anything, as per bloody usual. Finally turned up in an old deed box.’ He flattened the document out with the ball of his hand. ‘Oh she gave us a right jerkin’ off, this one.’

I thought you were talking about me for a minute,’ Jess said. The whole manner of the man made her edgy. She twisted her watch around on her damp wrist. This damned heat.

Ben Rossi looked up at her again, his face saturnine and serious. ‘Well, now you come to mention it, you led us a right dance too.’

Was that a reprimand? Jess stood by the table saying nothing, hiding her anger under a mask of hauteur.

Trackin’ you down was harder than trackin’ a tiptoeing caterpillar over a bare rock. Did you have to move eighteen times in as many years?’

It wasn’t that many!’ Irritated at having to justify herself, Jess did so nevertheless. ‘I’ve been in my flat for nearly seven years now.’ She regarded Rossi icily. ‘Most of my moves were years ago. To temporary addresses.’

Temporary addresses?’ Ben Rossi leaned back in the kitchen chair, raising the front legs a few inches off the floor. ‘Some o’ those people had never heard of you. Thought the trail was gonna to go completely cold at one stage. Lucky for you we picked it up again. Very lucky for you.’ He looked up at her from beneath thick dark eyebrows. His skin was a light coffee brown, an indoor brown, a natural sallow skin tone, rather than a mahogany tan like Joey’s.

Right.’ He dropped the chairlegs down and looked at the Will. ‘Here she is, in black and white. “To my very good friend, Jessica Ann Whitelaw, of blah blah blah, my entire estate both real and personal, whatsoever and wheresoever situate blah blah blah...”’ He paused and looked up. ‘Definitely not what I expected. Thought you’d be much older.’ He ran his eyes over Jess. ‘You must’ve made an old man very happy. Or a happy man very old.’ He turned one corner of his mouth up in what could have been a smile.

We were friends,’ said Jess, stiffening. ‘And he wasn’t that old... then.’

No need to go on the defensive.’ Rossi held up his hand as if to ward off blows.

Please carry on.’ Jess stalked over to the sink by the window and gazed out onto the patch of cultivated soil that was Sherry’s attempt at a vegetable garden. The sun had baked a crust on top through which limp plants had struggled then given up.

Right. “My entire estate blahdyblah... excepting only my house at Lovatt Creek...”’ Rossi gestured around the room without looking up. ‘“...which I bequeath to Joseph McIlroy Evans and his wife Sherrilyn Margaret Evans...”’ And now he did look up. ‘Though why anybody’d want to live out here in the back o’ bloody beyond, I don’t know.’ He turned around in his chair and eyed Sherry over his shoulder. ‘Y’can swing that billy now, Sherrilyn.’
Read on :