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Saturday, 6 February 2016

TIME RATS 1 paperback


For the print edition of Time Rats 1, I decided to try Createspace. I've always used Lightning Source before, since I thought their product was superior, but I've recently been helping a writer friend with her paperbacks using Createspace, and was impressed by their quality. They have a sophisticated online preview system, which I found extremely helpful. Plus the set-up costs are quite high at Lightning Source, and with Createspace you only have to pay for a proof copy. Createspace provide a free ISBN, too.

That's my proof copy in the photos, and I'm very pleased with it. Ebooks are great, but there is something very nice about a physical edition. The paper is a little less smooth and creamy than Lightning Source's, but I can live with that. The main thing I would change if I could is the position of the barcode on the back, and unless you have your own ISBN, you are stuck with it where it is, and can't move it up and to the centre as I would have liked to do. But this is a minor matter, and I don't suppose readers will care.

I got the paperback ready while Time Rats 1 was doing its thirty day stint in Kindle Scout, thinking that if I was rejected, I could get the ebook and the print book out almost immediately. But TR1 was selected (woot!), and Kindle Press ask authors to delay the release of the paperback until they have launched the ebook.

Monday, 1 February 2016

Amazon's Kindle Press choose TIME RATS 1

I woke up to the fantastic news this morning that my latest novel, TIME RATS 1: The Trouble with Time, has been selected for publication by Kindle Press. (I blogged earlier about Kindle Scout here.)

I'll be a hybrid author! And Amazon is the only publisher about whom I feel enthusiastic. I'm as pleased as Punch and Judy, as the offspring used to say.

It's difficult to predict which books on the KS site will be selected; of the five I've nominated so far, only one has been chosen. That was The Girl who Heard Demons, by Janette Rallison, which I thought was a shoo-in.

My estimation of my chances fluctuated wildly during the thirty-two day wait. No one knows the precise criteria for selection, beyond the books being proofread to a publishable, or near-publishable standard. (Near-publishable, since Amazon editors check the text and make suggestions if necessary.) A look at the list Published by Kindle Press on the Kindle Scout site suggests the books have to be competently written. Many of the chosen authors have already published several books.

But any selection process has an element of personal taste to it. Last Friday afternoon I was judging the modellers' section for the Goldsmiths' Craft and Design Council. There were three judges, and we all agreed almost without discussion on the worst entries to be immediately discarded, and the excellent entries to be considered for awards. Only when it came to awarding gold, silver and bronze was there a mild disagreement over which was the best; and I think this came down to a matter of personal taste. 

It gives a sense of perspective, to be judging one day, and judged the next.

Did I mention how pleased I am? I am very, very pleased. Dancing about pleased.

Saturday, 30 January 2016

Cookie notice, or: I hate you, EU

You may have noticed recently an annoying grey bar descending on Blogger blogs. One appeared on this blog, without warning or permission. It said:

This site uses cookies from Google to deliver its services, to personalise ads and to analyse traffic. Information about your use of this site is shared with Google. By using this site, you agree to its use of cookies.

Then you get to tick Learn more or Got it. Alas, however many times you click Got it, you will still be seeing this sign pop up. Over and over again, every time you go to that blog, or any other Blogger blog. Google never trusts you to have got it.

For a nifty video on why the EU cookie law is a truly terrible idea, go here.

I've disabled mine. If you want to too, here is a handy video to tell you how. Is this blog now illegal and subject to huge fines? I don't think so, because in a cunning move, I've added a notice bottom right warning my readers about the scary evil cookie menace.

Sunday, 10 January 2016

Time Rats 2 and androids

I've decided that the best use of my spare time in the thirty days TIME RATS Book 1, The Trouble with Time, is on Kindle Scout is not to fret over the Hot and Trending chart, or spend time and money whipping up nominations. Instead I'm formatting the print version of the novel, and working on TIME RATS 2. 

EDIT: There's an interesting discussion on Kboards here as to whether this approach is sensible or a big mistake, with comments from writers who have been chosen as well as those who ran a 'successful' campaign and were then rejected. It's worth reading if you are thinking of doing Kindle Scout.

Time Rats 2 starts with a new character called Angel. Here's my elevator pitch for TR2: To Brian, Angel is his perfect woman; gorgeous, loving and compliant. She’s also an android. He installs an illegal update to make her as smart as she is beautiful; but once Angel is able to think for herself, what will she do?

While I was researching androids on Google, I came across this striking animatronic sculpture by Jordan Wolfson. Although he was not attempting to make a slavishly true-to-life android, but aiming for something edgier, she is so much more lifelike than those passive Japanese super realistic robots. This particular video, and the comments below it, set me on the road to creating Angel.

Thursday, 31 December 2015

Amazon's Kindle Scout: TIME RATS


My latest novel, TIME RATS Book 1: The Trouble with Time, is up on Kindle Scout. What is that, I hear you cry? I will tell you, faithful blog readers.

Amazon set up Kindle Scout over a year ago as part of their publishing arm. It's a website where you load a new, unpublished yet publishing-ready novel (including a cover, tag and blurb) for thirty days. During that time, people can join the site, read the first 5,000 words, and if they like it, nominate your book. 

After thirty days, Amazon may or may not offer your book a contract, a simple and generous one compared to trad pub. To summarize, they will give you  $1,500 advance for the ebook rights, and 50% royalties. The author retains printed book rights. If, after five years, you haven't made $25,000, you can ask for the contract to be terminated. You can see the books chosen so far here.

The more nominations a book gets, the likelier it is to feature in the Hot and Trending Chart. Opinion is divided as to how much H & T influences Kindle Press's editors' choice. Some authors take it so seriously they pay for adverts to solicit nominations. My feeling is that Amazon is likely to be looking primarily for good reads, well written, that from their experience they believe they can sell. Not that I'd want to discourage anyone from voting for Time Rats  - far from, actually I'd be quite very grateful :o)

What's in it for readers who nominate books they like? Aha. If Kindle Press decides to publish a book, everyone who nominated it will be sent a FREE COPY on publication.

Friday, 25 December 2015

HAPPY CHRISTMAS - Remix on Amazon's 12 Days of Kindle


HAPPY CHRISTMAS
to all my blog readers

and may your dreams come true in 2016

Today I can tell you, Amazon chose Remix for their 12 Days of Kindle promotion, featuring at a lowly level on the same list as huge authors like Stephen King and Lee Child. It's on offer for 99p during the promo. I'm terribly chuffed to be chosen. Good old Amazon.

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Douglas Adams' flat in London

I find it helps to describe a scene if I've seen it, so I was looking on Rightmove for a suitable place for my heroine's mother to live near Highbury Fields when I chanced upon this flat (link may expire). It's one of Douglas Adams' old homes. I've always known he lived in Islington, round the corner from me, but was never sure exactly where. The estate agent writes, 

It is not often that Hotblack Desiato has the opportunity to sell an apartment that used to be owned by Douglas Adams, who borrowed our name for a character in Hitchhikers' Guide to the Galaxy.

In the book, Hotblack Desiato was frontman for the mega-successful rock band Disaster Area, and spent a year dead for tax reasons. They may boast about it now on their website, but at the time the estate agent was not so pleased. For a while the firm's name changed to Hotblack & Co, no doubt because people assumed they had stolen the name from Douglas Adams, not vice versa.

This is the living room as it is today, fourteen years after Douglas Adams died too young at 49. I bet that pipe was there in his day, raising eyebrows. It's not the sort of thing you'd install on purpose. Why hasn't the house got a blue plaque? That's what I'd like to know.

Friday, 20 November 2015

Reason for Amazon's success - everyone else is rubbish

At the funeral of an old friend of mine, a great guy called Charlie Feathers, someone told a story about him from the 1980s. Charlie had recently done work for several rich and famous people, the latest being Adam Ant, and his friend asked him how he got these jobs.

"Because everyone else is rubbish," Charlie replied.

This is the secret of Amazon's success, too, particularly when compared with Big Publishing, who are spectacularly rubbish at what they do, and only got away with it for so many years because they had a monopsony. So many businesses don't really care about the customer, tick boxes instead of doing a good job, fail to apply their intelligence to what they do, and generally don't bother.

Consider my experience in the past week:

  • I ordered sample tiles from Walls and Floors. Instead of the two square blue tiles ordered, two rectangular tiles in cream and green arrived.
  •  DX claimed via email to have  redelivered the (I hope) corrected order yesterday, when I was in my workshop all day. I asked my neighbours in the building. Zilch. I chased DX. Apparently they didn't deliver yesterday after all, and I will now have to wait till Monday.
  • My gas supplier wants to check my home gas meter for obscure safety reasons. They will only give 'appointments' of a five hour window. They seriously expect me, as a self-employed person, to waste half a day sitting around unpaid at home because they cannot be bothered to organize a tighter schedule. Ocado manages to give an hour's window for grocery deliveries, and rings if running late or early. Why won't Lowri Beck Services? 
Meanwhile Amazon has started same day deliveries in London. I can't be alone in finding myself purchasing more from Amazon and less from everybody else. The makeup remover that the chemist down the road no longer stocks? Amazon has it. The palm sander pads for which my local Leyland charges £6.98 for 5 sheets? Amazon offers 20 for £9.99, with free delivery, or 6 generic for £1.99. Waitrose has stopped selling bean sprouts - but Amazon sells beans for sprouting. I could go on.

Any business feeling threatened by Amazon might usefully consider upping its game. Or shutting up shop.

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Time Rats, animatronics and robots

I've been researching robots and androids for the second book in my Time Rats series (first book available soon). I was amazed with what is already out there. See this video:



These skilful imitations of animals increase one's appreciation of the natural world -  and make me brood on the threat it faces from ever-growing numbers of humans. The increase of Africa's population alone is forecast to be 1.3 billion by 2050, the date in which much of my novel is set.

It would be a sad thing indeed if the only big cats in fifty years' time were robotic.

Monday, 12 October 2015

Finished my time travel novel, woop woop!

I've just written the last page of the last chapter of my time travel novel, currently called The Trouble with Time.  (Or that may be the name of the series, as I intend to write more books about the same characters.)

It's always satisfying to reach the end of a book, though of course it still has to go out to beta readers, once my sister, a sort of pre-beta, has read it. I have yet to put it through Pro Writing Aid, to catch word echoes I've missed.

I'm a relatively slow writer, and this novel has taken me longer than normal, partly because of the day job, and partly because the offspring and her fiancé have been buying a small flat in London - which if you don't have much money is a task about as easy as finding the Holy Grail. She's been saving for years, and studying the market to a point where if she went on Mastermind, specialist subject The Cheaper End of the London Property Market, 2013-2015, she'd ace it. They're living in my workshop while wrangling builders. The whole thing has been taking a lot out of all of us. 

So that's my excuse for averaging 225 words a day on this novel. Plus, as I've grumbled before, time travel logistics scramble the brain.

This is the cover I made for Write On, but I'm going to experiment with other options before publishing, and maybe get my trusty blog readers to vote for their favourite.

Thursday, 9 July 2015

More thoughts on Kindle Edition Normalized Page Count


I really approve of KENPC (though goodness me, did they put any thought at all into that clunky acronym?) There is, however a downside.

Any less than best-selling author can follow a reader's progress through his book. 

I was gratified when an anonymous reader powered through Replica in a day. But what about the reader who reached page 338 of Ice Diaries then apparently wandered off? I do hope he/she is all right, and didn't walk under a bus while engrossed in Tori's struggle to survive. Worst of all, though, is the person who read three pages of Remix four days ago and no more since.

There is only one solution to this. I need to sell as many books as Hugh Howey, then the daily pages read figure will be so stratospheric that I won't be able to discern individual readers who fail to finish my novels.

Right. I'm off to work on this.

Thursday, 2 July 2015

Amazon makes KU payouts fairer; some writers miffed

Yesterday Amazon's Kindle Unlimited lending library started paying authors a different way.

Instead of payment per book once the reader had reached the 10% mark, authors are paid for each page that is read.  You can read about it here. Books' pages are worked out by a uniform system, the Kindle Edition Normalized Page Count (KENPC v1.0). Clever old Amazon, no doubt anticipating a flood of aggrieved emails, has made these smaller than a normal page; my novel Replica is 287 pages long, but 452 KENPs.

This system rewards writers who write full-length novels that grip readers. Shorter works, and books that readers don't finish, will lose out. This is fairer, right?

You'd never think so from the wails and moans rising from parts of the press and some authors. You'd never think putting your books in KU was optional.

Erotica shorts authors knew it was going to be bad. I just don’t think most of them thought it was going to be quite *this* bad. Because it looks as if authors will be making about $0.0057 per page. That’s slightly less than half a penny a page, folks.
Selena Kitt

(I think erotica tends to be on the short side.)

From The Guardian:

Casey Lucas, a literary editor who works with self-publishing authors, says she has lost six clients already. They have decided to stop writing after “estimating a 60–80% reduction in royalties”. A lot of self-published romance authors are disabled, stay-at-home mums, or even a few returned veterans who work in the field because a regular job just isn’t something they can handle,” she says. “People are shedding a lot of tears over this.”

Oh no! Wicked Amazon is ripping off the disabled and disadvantaged! Writers are being forced to stop writing!

Amazon's KU fund for July will be at least $11 million. If the new system encourages some writers to leave KU, there will be more for the rest of us. Always supposing that readers actually read our books after borrowing them, that is.

Monday, 22 June 2015

Woohoo, 60,000 words!

Today the work in progress hit the 60,000 word mark, which is my personal point of no return (see this blog post) and a cause for celebration, even though there's a way to go before I write THE END.

The novel is a time travel story, which I hope will turn out to be the start of a series. Time travel is tricky and confusing to write about and can make your brain go all squishy.

I like to have the end of the book decided before I start writing, and I've just realized I have to change it since it would fall foul of the grandfather paradox and my clever readers would notice.

It's not the first time I've changed the end of a novel at the last minute. I could see that the ending I'd planned for Replica was going to be predictable and possibly a bit dull, so I spent three weeks furiously mulling over alternatives. A few readers hate the ending I came up with, though I find it entirely satisfying. Most are taken by surprise - this may be an incidental advantage of changing the end well into writing the book.

Back to work. That ending won't write itself. Now, if only I had a time machine, I could whiz into the future and bring a copy back here and save myself a lot of effort...

Sunday, 24 May 2015

READERS in the KNOW - Replica podcast


Readers in the Know is a handy website to help readers find good books at bargain prices (see brief video below).

Simon Denman, its founder, makes short podcasts reading scenes from books on his site to promote them, and he's just done an extract of my novel, Replica. I got to choose which scene he read. I didn't want to strain his thespian talents by giving him a passage in female POV; in the end I chose the scene in which Nick, MI5 agent, seduces Beth one snowy night in London when he's supposed to be outside in a van covertly watching her door.

I think Simon reads it really well. Go to the page, and you will find lots more extracts from other novels to listen to.



Find out more about Readers in the Know in 58 seconds:

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Google Alerts, piracy, poverty and politicians

Google Alerts isn't what it used to be. Once it actually worked, and now it just occasionally informs me that I have written a blog post. But last week it made a bit of an effort, and alerted me to a forum where a reader was asking where she could download Ice Diaries free. The forum was quite strange, as some of the time it pretended to be KUF, the Kindle Users' Forum, and sometimes came up as The Comic Book Forum - but don't let's get sidetracked.

I'm trying to decide what I think about illegal downloads. Neil Gaiman famously believes that piracy boosts sales; but he's in a different league from me where maybe the rules are different too. My novels cost £1.99 or $2.99, which is reasonably affordable for most. Not for everyone, though. Some people really don't have any spare money to buy books, and if the choice is between their reading an illegal free copy of one of my novels, or not reading my writing at all, I'd go for being read.

I've blogged before about poor heroes being more appealing than rich ones, and this is often true in real life as well. It's more difficult to like rich people, as they are free of so many of most people's daily concerns. I still grit my teeth over Shirley Williams saying she didn't know why people were always going on about money - she never thought about it at all. Nor did she need to. 

One problem with politicians these days is that they have never experienced poverty - but not only do they think themselves underpaid (huh!) they wrongly believe they know, from observation, what it is like to have no money. It is not possible to know what poverty is like without being poor. In my opinion, everyone should spend a year or two being a bit broke, as they will be better for it and have empathy for the have-nots for the rest of their lives.

I do worry though that if too many people get into the habit of illegally downloading books, authors will earn even less than they do now. Still, at least we'll be able to write poor heroes and heroines with real conviction and inside knowledge...

Sunday, 29 March 2015

Conflict - a pain in life, essential in fiction...



...or why bad things need to happen to your characters, especially the nice ones.



Consider the following:
  • Romeo meets Juliet and they instantly fall for each other. After initial reservations, the Montagues and Capulets agree to the match. Romeo and Juliet get married and live happily ever after.

  • Mr Darcy, while visiting his friend Mr Bingley, comes across the poor but bewitching Elizabeth Bennett. He cannot overcome his passion for her, and proposes. She realizes that beneath a chilly façade, he's not only hot but a good egg. They get married etc..

  • To his consternation, Hamlet finds his mother has married his uncle quite soon after her husband's death. However, he reflects that she has a right to find happiness again, and he's in no hurry to start the tedious business of ruling a kingdom. He finds consolation in the beautiful Ophelia. They get married etc..

  • On arrival at Manderley, the second Mrs de Winter perceives Mrs Danvers will be nothing but trouble, so persuades Maxim to retire her, leaving them to enjoy their new life together in the beautiful house.
You get my drift. Are you feeling restive yet?

If fiction is not to be bland and boring, your characters must struggle against a tide of misfortune, betrayal, and misunderstanding. Villains are out to get them. Bad turns to worse.

The hero and heroine must earn their happy ending.

Friday, 30 January 2015

Time travel bartering...

A character in my WIP is recalling when, having got his hands on a time travel device, he attempted to visit the Colosseum and see the gladiators. Before going, he researched and purchased a toga and sandals, so he could pass in a crowd. He thought his public-school Latin might come in handy. And he took some items to barter, because he wasn't sure if you had to pay an entrance fee to the Colosseum (coincidentally, neither am I). Needless to say, the trip did not go well.

And serve him right - what sort of person would want to watch the nasty stuff that went on in the Colosseum in ancient Roman times?

I wondered a) where you lot would go if you had a time machine - the discreet sort that goes round your wrist, and b) what you would take to barter for money? My character, Quinn, takes glass spheres in various sizes, drinking glasses, pads of paper and colouring pencils - unless you can make a better suggestion?

Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Thirty years ago and thirty years ahead

Part of my work in progress is set thirty years ahead. Musing about the changes that might happen in the next three decades, it seems useful to consider what has changed since 1984. 

Things we thought okay in 1984 we don't think okay now
  • smoking in bars, restaurants and other people's houses
  • dog excrement on pavements - we didn't like it, but grudgingly accepted that to a dog, the whole of outdoors was a potential lavatory
  • milder forms of sexual harassment
  • huge shoulder pads, streaky hair, clothes bigger than you were (like Princess Diana's wedding dress)
  • burglar alarms that had to be turned off by a human, and frequently rang for three days straight over a bank holiday
Things we have now we didn't have in 1984
  • personal computers
  • smart phones
  • internet shopping
  • ebooks and ereaders
  • 24 hour drinking, often outside the bar to accommodate smokers
  • speed cushions (because road planners are very very stupid)
  • the London Congestion Charge (boo, hiss)
  • fines on motorists (£135 million a year in the UK)
  • a modest London one-bedroom flat costing half a million pounds
So what about thirty years' time? I really hope we get driverless cars, and if we do, people won't be able to understand how we endured the carnage on the roads: in the UK in 2013, 1,713 people were killed, 21,657 seriously injured. They'll also wonder why we put up with the pollution cars produce, and our streets being lined with parked cars. In London, most of us live in a car park.

Other possibilities: a cash-free economy, artificial intelligence, and undeniable climate change.

(And please, can we have drones? Amazon delivering by drone would be SO cool.)

What do you think will change in the next thirty years? Tell me in the comments.

Thursday, 25 December 2014

Happy Christmas!


HAPPY CHRISTMAS TO ALL MY READERS
Nature having unaccountably failed to provide snow, here is a picture of some. And a dog. 

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Killing Hitler

It is not possible to research a time travel novel without coming across the trope of going back in time to kill Hitler. You can listen to brilliant John Finnemore's sketch about it here, at about 26.30 minutes in.

But everything has unintended consequences. I've been thinking about one aspect of this lately, what with Plebgate, Emily Thornberry's snide Twitter photograph, and David Mellor, whose tirade at a taxi driver included the words:

"I’ve been in the Cabinet, I’m an award-winning broadcaster, I'm a Queen’s Counsel - you think that your experiences are anything compared to mine? And if you think you’re going to be sarky with me, get a better education before you try being sarcastic with me."

And I thought that though there is a lot wrong with our civilization, how nice it is that a de haut en bas attitude is deeply unfashionable these days. Bragging that you are superior because you are rich, successful, well born, white, male, or well-connected is likely to raise a chorus of boos, where not so long ago it was accepted. Perhaps this is connected to the world's horror at where Hitler's concept of German superiority led.

Hitler tapped into the secret belief most of us have that we are better than other people, a belief we should be aware of and treat with suspicion. 

FULL DISCLOSURE: I have to admit, I harbour a deep inner conviction that I am better than people who get apostrophes wrong.