Thursday, 29 December 2011

Amazon bot has picked up my festive freebie

It seems that's bot has been busy sniffing out folks' special offers. Peril has gone free again on, presumably as the result of a bloghop Smashwords freebie offer.

So, if you're an user and haven't already got hold of Peril on, then dig in!

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Sunday, 18 December 2011

Awfully good! The Road by Cormac McCarthy

It’s taken me several days to come back from the place that The Road took me. Oh, yes, I’ve seen the film. So there weren’t a lot of surprises. Nevertheless, I found myself as the man pushing the shopping trolley, trying to avoid cannibals and persevering in the face of fate, all for the love of a son. As a father I can completely understand that.
During the final pages of the book I found myself looking around the train carriage I was travelling in, wondering whether I could bring myself to eat any of the passengers. Not even the old lady opposite, who smelled of ham, seemed appetising. The Road had me so strongly in its grip, but I found that I was one of the good guys. I would never consume human flesh.
I think that McCarthy’s style is ideal for The Road. He eschews the punctuation that normal humans require around dialogue, mixes direct and reported speech, and joins everything together with description of setting and action that colours the canvas like a speed painter. There is just enough to set the reader thinking about what has been left unsaid and the subject matter is perfect for that minimalism. Apocalypse, infanticide, slavery, cannibalism, starvation, futility of being. It sounds grey and ashen, the devastated world that is The Road, but I want back in. Like a dream interrupted by extreme outcomes or some external stimulus, I need to get back in. The man went through so much to protect his son, a continual search for hope and safety. I was that man and I died too, but I’m praying tonight that sleep will set me back on The Road.


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Saturday, 10 December 2011

Hot and sweaty!

The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I very much enjoyed this book. It's quite an epic and five different first person narrators really bring the story to life. All my senses were constantly addressed with the headiness of the Congo.

When I reached the end of the family's time at the mission I was looking for the story to end, and felt dismayed that there were over a hundred pages still to go. Looking back now, I appreciate the full denouement that the author has provided.

Kingsolver's method of using the different female voices to tell the story is perfectly applied. We're able to understand the differing perspectives of the mother and the daughters. No doubt Kingsolver considered giving us the voice of the father, but he really isn't meant to be understood.

This book will have you counting your lucky stars that you live in comfort and re-opens a can of worms concerning the involvement of Europe and the USA in Africa.


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Friday, 9 December 2011

How to put your precious manuscript out there as an e-book

Are you an author who wants to publish independently using e-books? I'll try and start you off on the right road ;-]

Ingredients you will need
  • One lovely manuscript, as polished as you and your editing buddies can make it, as an electronic document, ideally in Word. Remember this at all times: version control is essential for all your docs.
  • A professional-looking front cover as a jpg file.
  • A product description - check pages like this and this to see what I mean.
  • Miscellaneous other things to spice and season - think about which genre your book is in, what tags best describe your book.

I've published 3 books on Amazon (2 of mine, 1 for a friend) and it feels like I've got the hang of it now. Key points for Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP):
  • the best format to upload is html. I've tried uploading Word docs to KDP but end up with formatting problems that I can't fix like centred titles, uncontrollable indents etc.
  • I use Word to finalise the formatting and then save as a html. The 'nuclear option' is best - copy paste the entire manuscript into Notepad or some other text editor, then paste back into a blank doc of whatever word processor you use. That will get rid of any bad format habits you may have.
  • Then format all the chapter titles, indents etc to be uniform. Easiest is to 'select all' and format everything the same e.g. Times 12 pt first line indent 0.5cm, then step through the doc and format the titles how you want them. If you have a lot of italics or strange font switches then you'll have to pick them all out individually, best to avoid.
  • Don't use page numbers - keep the header and footer empty.
  • Add disclaimer, copyright etc. in title page.
  • If you like then add some links to blog, website, other books at end of the manuscript
  • Amazon doesn't need an ISBN. They allocate an ASN number that becomes the Amazon reference
  • Upload your html doc and step through all pages on the preview facility. This isn't exactly how it will look on Kindle but it's close. Watch out for any blank pages, misaligned text, html code, anything that shouldn't be there or looks odd.
  • Proceed through the KDP process, click publish and then about 48 - 72 hours later go and buy your own book on Amazon. Download to your Kindle or Kindle for PC and step through the whole book. Go back immediately and make changes to the doc that you uploaded, keep tight version control, upload corrected version. Best to get it right before folk start to pick up your book from Amazon. If you find serious issues then 'unpublish' during the revision process. Get it right, your reputation depends on it.
  • Things that go wrong include having two copies of the front cover in the Kindle book (KDP lets you tick a box to include your jpg within the doc), forgetting the disclaimer / copyright / contact details, typos etc (that confirm the public's worst thoughts about poorly edited indie authors).

I've published 2 books on Smashwords. They insist on a Word doc but the results seem to be more predicatble and better than KDP. You won't sell a lot of copies direct on Smashwords but they distribute to Barnes & Noble, Sony, Apple itunes, Diesel etc. I thought nothing was going on with my Smashwords efforts but just found the other week that I've given away (mostly) and sold (a handful) 1200 copies of Peril at B&N, 50 at Sony and 25 at itunes without even trying. Smashwords produces the mutiple format types required for all the different e-reader devices and also has voucher options which are useful for free giveaways.

Friday, 2 December 2011

Profane language? WTF? Don't read on!

(Seriously, if you are offended by profanity then stop here and just go read the Peril or The Baptist pages.)

I recently sent a copy of The Baptist to a friend's work email as a pdf attachment. She didn't receive the email. She did receive an automatically generated message from her employer's Mail Sweeper programme.

This e-mail has been stopped in Profane Messages. 

A report was attached to the message with the MIMEsweeper Analysis results. She printed a copy and took it to tea-break where the content engendered a lot of discussion. Irish tea-breaks are an occasion for great craic. The consensus was The Baptist contained a lot of action but not enough components to perform it. They discussed the parts of speech.

I've listed the report results below and I have to say that, whilst I didn't intend to write a profane novel, I can remember almost exact each and every page where the offending words occur.

It went a little something like this:

The phrase 'arse' was found at location 70126
and so on. I'll just share the count.
arse x 1
balls x 2
bang x 3
bastard x 12 (quite a lot of bastards, one of them capitalised therefore a pronoun?)
bitch x 6
bloody x 8 (how quaint that bloody should be a profanity in this day and age)
blow job x 1 (shouldn't I have hyphenated the blow-job?)
bollocks x 1 (shouldn't there be at least two of those?)
crap x 2 (okay UK and Ireland it's an expletive)
cunt x 3 (I do apologise, it's very rude word but, in my defence, it was, or rather they were, in dialogue. Not uncommon in Ireland.)
fag x 5 (this means cigarette in UK and Ireland and that was the intention)
fuck x 10 (no argument there)
fucker x 4 (I'm getting an idea for a Christmas song now)
fucking x 21 (in fairness, there is a lot of that going on)
penis x 1 (poor little lad, all on his own, but just goes to show it takes only one)
prick x 3 (oh, right ... well)
queer x 1 (surely acceptable as an adjective?)
sex x 7 (the vanilla version is profane?)
sexy x 2 (sexy too)
shirt-lifter x 1 (at least it's hyphenated, if homophobic, but anyhow it's dialogue)
shit x 11 (a fair amount of which was capitalised, perhaps a placename?)
shite x 1 (the Irish for above)
slut x 1 (so few?)
wanker x 1 (there's always one)
white trash x 2 (confused me, is that profane?).

Right, Christmas is on the horizon. So, in the spirit of the season, I offer:

The Baptist Twelve Days of Christmas

(I'll just go to straight to the last verse)

On the twelfth day of Christmas my true love gave to me
Twelve bastards bragging
Eleven shits a fan-hitting
Ten fucks a flying
Nine fucking expletives (cheated, there wasn't nine of anything)
Eight bloody bus stops
Seven sex in the opens
Six bitches barking
Five ... fags ... a ... puffing!
Four fighting fuckers
Three quiet cunts
Two dangly balls
And a slut arse-wanker penis blow-job bollocks.

(That leaves a spare queer sexy shirt-lifter shite white trash, sounds like one of my characters.)

I'm sure we'll be hearing that little ditty on the radio.

All in the name of literary art, my dears.


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