CreateSpace Distraction: 2013 365 Challenge #190

First Draft Create Space Cover

First Draft Create Space Cover

I derailed my intended work schedule today by reading a blog post, by Chris McMullen, on why it’s worth having a print-on-demand edition of your self-published book as well as an e-book.

My main reason for not producing print versions for Dragon Wraiths and Baby Blues is largely to do with effort. It’s harder to create a professional-looking paperback, and print-on-demand books are expensive for the consumer. I might find people willing to spend £2 on an ebook from an unknown author, but £8 or £10 for a paperback? That’s a much bigger leap of faith. I would actually be embarrassed to ask someone to pay that much, and would worry much more about my lack of professional editing.

Chris McMullen discusses some interesting reasons why it’s worth bothering with the pain of creating a print-on-demand version (e-books are a doddle by comparison.) 

1. Some customers only buy print copies. (This is true: my friend Hugh keeps asking when he can buy a print copy of my books).

2. If you link your CreateSpace book with your kindle version, it shows the kindle price as a discounted price against the paperback list price. This may aid ebook sales as the ebook looks like a bargain.

3. Having a printed version allows you to do a Goodreads giveaway. (This is something that has been bugging me for a while: that you can’t do a giveaway on Goodreads with an e-book voucher.)

4. You can sell the paperback version in person (for example through independent bookstores or maybe a book-signing event at your local library).

Chris lists other reasons, such as it is easier to edit a print book; a paperback is a must for press releases; paperbacks are great marketing tools: (you can’t see what people on the bus are reading on a kindle); and people are more likely to remember to review a paperback, if it’s visible in their house.

I liked this quote:

 If you give away copies of your book to friends and family, give them paperback editions, especially if they are likely to read in public places (“Guess what: I’m going on a trip this weekend,” “Really? How would you like a free book?”).

Bookcrossing. Set them free

Bookcrossing. Set them free

I love the idea of handing books out to people to read and then leave lying around somewhere, like your own personal Bookcrossing. (Have a look at the link if you haven’t heard of it: it’s brilliant! It’s all about leaving books in public places, like coffee shops and on buses. “If you love your books, let them go.”)

So, as I’m easily distracted and easily influenced, plus shattered from a hot and emotional weekend (I’ve just re-watched the Andy Murray documentary, that has been updated already with footage from yesterday’s match. Hence it’s nearly midnight and I’m only just getting to my post), I have spent all day formatting Baby Blues for Create Space.

Even though the book is with the proofreader, it isn’t wasted effort, as it takes several (loads of) attempts to get the book uploaded with the right pagination, guttering etc. Also, with the cover design, you have to know how many pages your book is to get the spine the correct width.

I’m not sure if I’m 100% happy with my final design, but it came out better than I could have hoped at lunch time! I may even order a copy so I have an original to compare against my proof-read version. Did I mention, I just love doing covers?!

Anyway, before I turn into a pumpkin I must think of something to happen to Claire. I can’t write it in the morning, we have to swing by nursery as soon as it opens and retrieve my daughter’s comfort toy which got left behind. Oops.

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Below is the next installment in my novel Two-Hundred Steps Home: written in daily posts since 1st January as part of my 2013 365 Challenge. Read about the challenge here.You can catch up by downloading the free ebook volumes on the right hand side of the blog:

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“Well done.”

Ruth smiled, as Claire trudged into the lounge behind a skipping Sky and winced when the girl shrieked her greeting to her mother.

“You survived, then. What did you think of the Farm?” The look on Ruth’s face hovered somewhere between eager inquiry and amusement. “It’s one of my favourite places to go. I call it ‘Farm Calm’ because I relax as soon as we go through reception.”

Claire considered the amount of times she had lost Sky, who kept disappearing up ladders and down narrow paths between buildings, and thought calm was a long way from her main emotion. Sensing her sister’s need for approval, Claire dredged up some enthusiasm.

“It is beautiful. I loved the Mill House, and the goats are funny. Nice coffee, too.”

Claire remembered Sky’s tantrum in the coffee shop, after she’d insisted her niece have a piece of fruit with her cake. “The staff were friendly.” They didn’t chuck us out, that’s a bonus.

Slumping down into the armchair, Claire began to feel the effect of missing a night’s sleep.

“You look shattered, Claire. Was Sky a handful?”

In her mother’s arms, Sky began to protest that she had been on her best behaviour. Ignoring the blatant lie, Claire shook her head.

“No, Sky was fine. I’m just tired, that’s all.” She sensed Ruth’s response, and held her hands up to stall it. “I know, you feel worse. I didn’t sleep last night, and it’s catching up with me.”

“Oh, why?” Ruth leaned forwards, eager for gossip. Claire was tempted to fabricate something, but if her story entertained Ruth for a few minutes, then the weekend experience wasn’t a complete loss.

“Kim and Jeff got married yesterday and I made the mistake of letting Michael come as my date. We had a big showdown and he blurted out in front of everyone that Kim’s pregnant.” Oh, damn. There’s another person I’ve told. At least Ruth doesn’t know any of Kim’s friends.

Claire glanced up from mentally mapping the stains on the carpet, surprised that Ruth hadn’t responded. She let out a giggle at the expression of shocked amazement on her sister’s face. Eventually Ruth managed to find some words.

“Woah. Wait a minute. That’s like five episodes of Eastenders all at once. I don’t know where to start. I thought Kim and Jeff weren’t going to get married for years, or have children for that matter. And you and Michael? No wonder you haven’t slept.” She raised her eyebrows at Claire in a knowing way.

“I haven’t slept because I stormed out at midnight and drove to Mum’s from the Welsh border.”

Ruth’s face dropped into a frown, like a parody of theatre masks, grinning and scowling alternately. Suppressing a sigh, Claire realised she would have to start at the beginning, with Kim’s visit to Hunstanton while Sky was on her Easter vacation.

“Let me at least go and make a cup of tea first. It’s quite a long story.”

*

When Claire finished her story with her mother’s revelation, Ruth tutted.

“What a mess. I don’t know who is more daft: Michael for refusing to take no for an answer, Kim for getting into a paddy, or Mum for being so foolish as to think Dad’s having an affair. He’s got some secret project on that he won’t tell me about, but I know it involves spending time at the library because Sky and I have bumped into him there half a dozen times.”

Claire forced herself to hold her tongue. If their father hadn’t shared his secret with Ruth, it wasn’t her place to tell. She was surprised Ruth took her side over Michael, especially after her comment about the two of them being great together.

“I thought you’d be rooting for Michael.”

Ruth shook her head. “It’s your life, your body. If you don’t want children, then Michael needs to accept that, rather than keep trying to change your mind. Life’s too short.”

Her words made Claire shiver. For most people it was just a phrase, a reminder to not sweat the small stuff. For Ruth, it felt like a prophecy.

***

The Stangest Thing: 2013 365 Challenge #189

Well done, Andy

Well done, Andy

Phew! This Sunday, Andy Murray became the first British male winner of Wimbledon in 77 years. People will ask one day, what were you doing during the match? We spent the duration trying to juggle love of brilliant tennis with necessary parenting.

There’s a bit in the Disney movie Tangled where Flynn Rider is fighting with a frying pan against a horse wielding a sword. Flynn says, “You must know, this is the strangest thing I’ve ever done.” (It’s one of my favourite moments in the movie).

Well, this afternoon I found myself watching nail-biting awe-inspiring 30-shot-rally tennis, cuddling a hot, sweaty and mostly naked two-year-old (it was HOT this weekend), while listening to Disney’s Jungle Book in German on the iPad (after daughter found it on YouTube). Bear Necessities, the elephant marching song, all in loud German. I have to tell you, it was the strangest thing I’ve ever done!

Amazing tennis (even watching the last set surreptitiously while doing jigsaw puzzles with a bored and close-to-meltdown four-year-old ). Amazing kids, surviving Mummy and Daddy cheering at the TV. Thankfully little man slept for the last 90 mins. And can I say, Andy Murray? Thank your sweet heart for wrapping it up in three sets (even if it took as long as a five-set match). The children were not going to survive another set!

So, Wimbledon is over. Back to working without distractions. Lucky I don’t have Sky Sports: The Ashes starts this week.

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Below is the next installment in my novel Two-Hundred Steps Home: written in daily posts since 1st January as part of my 2013 365 Challenge. Read about the challenge here.You can catch up by downloading the free ebook volumes on the right hand side of the blog:

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Claire looked for blonde hair, amidst a sea of children and cages, and felt her heart quicken when she couldn’t find it. Ignoring the pulse throbbing in her neck, Claire turned and searched, standing on her tiptoes to peer over rabbit runs.

“Over here, Auntie Claire. Look, come and see the ducklings.”

Sky’s face peeped around a wooden barn door, and Claire exhaled. Her head spun as the oxygen flooded her lungs, and she strode over towards her niece, trying to smile.

“Poppet, you gave me a fright. Can you tell me first, if you’re going to go out of sight? Your Mummy isn’t going to be happy if I lose you.”

Sky’s bottom lip quivered and she hung her head, her hair falling to hide her face.

“Sorry, Auntie Claire. I wanted to see the ducklings.”

Feeling guilty, Claire dropped to her haunches and brushed the blonde hair away. “Auntie Claire isn’t telling you off, sweetheart. I was worried, that’s all. Show me these ducklings.”

The wobbly lip vanished and Sky’s face lit up. “This way!” She pulled at Claire’s hand, nearly tugging her off her feet.

Claire grabbed the door frame to steady herself. “Hang on, Sky. Let me stand up.”

Sky released her hand, and ran forward into the barn. Claire followed, allowing her eyes to adjust to the gloom, after the unexpected spring sunshine outside. The room felt dank and cold and smelled musty. In the corner, Sky crouched down beside a wooden pen, her hair perilously close to the heat lamp hanging overhead.

“Be careful, Sky, mind the light.” Claire reached out a hand, to tug Sky away, but the girl had already moved.

“Aren’t they cute?” Sky pointed into the cage and Claire peered over the edge. Half a dozen scruffy ducklings huddled beneath the heat lamp. Their grey feathers stuck out at all angles and patches of pink skin glistened in between.

Claire thought they were the ugliest things she had seen in a long time. Conscious of the Ugly Duckling story Sky had read as part of her homework at Easter, Claire hitched a smile on her face.

“Beautiful, Sky. They’re lovely.”

Sky turned and grinned. “Mummy says they’re scruffy and ugly, but I like them. I think their bald patches are funny.”

Claire laughed. With kids you never got it right.

Sky dragged her into the next barn to see if the ferrets were awake. The smell hit Claire like a house brick, and she surreptitiously covered her nose. She didn’t want to be like the posh mummies she’d seen, trying to keep their white jeans clean, or striding around in their pristine Hunter wellies. But, really, the smell was awful.

Sky hopped up and down next to a large cage with hammocks and tubes in sections. The smell increased as she approached, and Claire was glad there was nothing in her stomach.

“The ferrets are always asleep. They’re so boring. And they smell.” Sky wrinkled up her tiny nose, and Claire wondered if she was somehow testing her Auntie to see how much she could endure.

I think I’ve endured enough. Time for coffee.

“Very nice, Sky. Would you like some cake?”

Her niece spun round, hair flying, and grinned. Claire ignored the pang of guilt, as she remembered Ruth’s request that Sky eat something healthy. Somehow she felt she sure she wouldn’t bribe Sky to the coffee shop with a promise of soup and a roll.

I’ll make sure it’s carrot cake.

***

Don’t Force It: 2013 365 Challenge #185

Creativity in the garden

Creativity in the garden

This morning I read Kristen Lamb’s latest post about the Five common tactical errors in Self-Publishing:

I’ve read this before on Kristen’s blog, but it is always useful to have a refresher, and compare where I am against where I should be.

This is the list of common errors:

1. Publishing too soon (before understanding and honing the craft of writing)

2. No prepared platform (that is, author platform – blog/website/social media etc)

3. Believing that, “If We Write it They Will Come” (self-publishing doesn’t mean less work, but more)

4. Misusing FREE! (giving your book away for free without understanding the benefits)

5. Shopping one book to DEATH (instead of sitting down to write the next one. It usually takes 3 books to have any kind of success)

Giant paint pallet

Giant paint pallet

I agree with them all: Reading Class Act now, I can see why Mills and Boon rejected it. I sent it off way too soon. There’s so much back story at the beginning even I can’t work out what’s going on. I’m still working on the others, and learning painful lessons (like coming out of the KDP Select program with Dragon Wraiths and not selling a book for five weeks!)

The only bit I struggle with is a line she uses often (it comes here under point one): “Too many new writers do not properly understand the antagonist. They don’t grasp three-act structure, and most don’t have any idea what I mean when I mention POV, Jungian archetypes, or the phrase, “scene and sequel.””

Of course, I struggle with it because I have no idea about half those things, particularly the Jungian archetypes. I’m sure my writing would be better if I did (if I understood structure better, for example, I might be able to fix Class Act quicker). However, I think you could write a great novel without knowing what all these things are called. I know a reasonable amount about writing grammatical English but, until last week, I’d never heard of a comma splice. I have looked through my writing and, instinctively, I write to a three-act structure, I use scene and sequel and I at least understand POV, even if I don’t always use it well in my writing (Baby Blues is a prime example). 

Daughter's Masterpiece

Daughter’s Masterpiece

Before I get a hundred comments telling me I really need to understand these things – I know I do (there are some interesting posts on Jungian Archetype in the related articles below). I also accept what Kristen says, that self-published authors need to be better than traditionally published authors, to compete in the same field. I am working to get better, and I read as many writing craft books as I can fit in around my writing.

Another blog I read today, which reinforces point one (don’t publish too quickly), was over on Karen Woodward’s blog. Her post, Stephen King on Storycraft has a main message: Don’t force it.

When trying to pull a story together, wait until all the pieces click, rather than trying to make it work. I guess it’s the difference between learning scales and playing a concerto (Kristen uses music as an example of how you need to know the nuts and bolts of something to excel at it). You need to know the craft of writing, but you also need the story to flow (and these things, for me, can be mutually exclusive).

One of the great things about self-publishing is the ability to get a wide range of feedback on your novels, rather than waiting a year to find out why agents are rejecting it (assuming they even tell you.) So, yes, you can publish too soon, but you can learn from it too (I hope).

This evening I sat with a pad and pen, while Andy Murray played his nerve-wracking fifth set (I needed a distraction) and worked out an additional six scenes that should hopefully remove most of the pesky back story in Class Act. I’ve been musing on it all day and then it just clicked, without forcing it.

I don’t know if the story fits in a three-act structure or exactly who the antagonist is (harder in a romance than, say, a crime novel I think). I know it still needs a heap of work. But I really enjoyed reading it this morning: reminding myself who the characters are, and getting absorbed in the dialogue.

Now on with the work so I can hurry up and publish! Assuming my three books need to be in the same genre, I’ll only have one more to go to find success 😉

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Below is the next installment in my novel Two-Hundred Steps Home: written in daily posts since 1st January as part of my 2013 365 Challenge. Read about the challenge here.You can catch up by downloading the free ebook volumes on the right hand side of the blog:

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Claire looked at her mother over the top of her mug of Earl Grey and waited for the interrogation. Her mother’s restraint thus far was beginning to unnerve her.

Perhaps it’s too early for the Spanish Inquisition stuff. Or maybe she doesn’t care that her youngest child just turned up on the door step at 7am when she was meant to be at a wedding.

She tried to remember if her mother even knew about Kim’s marriage. As she’d only found out herself a few weeks ago, it seemed likely that she hadn’t told her about it. I seem to have told all the wrong people all the wrong things.

Claire sighed, and wondered why her mother was being so reticent. I guess there’s only one thing on her mind. Deciding that was as good an opener as any, she set down the mug.

“How’s Ruth?”

“She’s okay. A bit low. Sky wants to be outside playing – now the nights are getting lighter – and she doesn’t have the strength to keep up with her. I think the poorly-parent novelty has worn off.”

Claire tried to read through her mother’s words, searching for the accusations. If they were there, her mother was adopting a subtler approach than usual. The only impression Claire got was of a tired woman battling on with the hand life had dealt her.

“I’ll stop by later, take Sky to that farm she kept raving about.” Claire recalled that she’d promised to take Sky there with Kim and Jeff, and hoped Sky’s memory wasn’t as accurate. She didn’t want to think about them, not yet. She waited for her mother to start the questions, but she had disappeared back into her own thoughts, head bowed.

“Mum, is it okay if I stay for a night or two?”

Her mother glanced up, and nodded, without speaking. Claire felt wrong-footed. In the still of the kitchen, she listened to the clock ticking until it felt like the countdown of a bomb.

The silence stretched like a gaping void, pulling her in. Oh, what the hell, she’ll find out eventually, even if she clearly doesn’t give a toss.

“It was Kim’s wedding yesterday. We had a fight.”

Her mother nodded again, without looking up.

“I’ve had an offer of work, which will mean going overseas. I came home to get my passport, and to talk it over with you and Ruth.”

Again the silent nod. Claire swallowed down an urge to scream.

“Mum, are you listening? I said I might be flying halfway round the world. Do you even care?”

Her mother raised her head at last, and Claire saw that her mother’s eyes were red and circled with dark smudges.

“Mum, are you okay?”

Her mother dropped her eyes again, as if making eye contact were too hard. She gazed at the table and twisted her fingers.

“I think your father is having an affair.”

And then she let her head fall on her hands, and her shoulders shook with sobs.

***

Tennis and Temperatures: 2013 365 Challenge #180

Murray having a dip in the 3rd set

Murray having a dip in the 3rd set

Today was meant to be about cleaning (my Mum and her in-laws are coming for lunch tomorrow) and my son getting his new bike.

We managed the second part – collecting the bike from the friend who kindly picked it up from the ebay seller. Unfortunately, it’s been raining most of the day and, during the short time he had a go, he fell off twice. The downside of buying online is not being able to feel how heavy the thing is. My son’s new bike is much heavier than his sister’s. He’ll get used to it. Of course now my daughter has decided she needs a new bike, because the new one is a bit bigger than hers.

We got back from the supermarket to discover that littlest Martin had a temperature of 38.9C (102F). Then Mummy Martin began to feel poorly too. So this afternoon has been about survival, paracetamol and running round with no clothes on (him, not me!)

It's raining, the roof is shut on Centre Court

It’s raining, the roof is shut on Centre Court

We fell asleep watching Tangled and littlest Martin got a bit hotter (39.9C). Started planning a trip to the walk-in centre, but thankfully ice cream seemed to bring it down again. Darn bugs.

Now we’re curled up on the sofa, kids are watching TV on the iPads and I’m watching Wimbledon. I’m meant to be editing Baby Blues to send to the proofreader on Sunday (haven’t abandoned the cleaning. They’ll have to take us as they find us), but my brain is fuzzy. Wondering if I should put her off for a week or two, but I’d rather not.

Murray was playing really well, until I started watching, and now Robredo is fighting back. Oops. Oh, he won. Good stuff.

Is it bedtime yet?________________________________________________________________________________

Below is the next installment in my novel Two-Hundred Steps Home: written in daily posts since 1st January as part of my 2013 365 Challenge. Read about the challenge here.You can catch up by downloading the free ebook volumes on the right hand side of the blog:

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“Claire, thank God you’re already here.”

Kim ran across the terrace and threw herself into her friend’s arms. “I’m so nervous. Find me gin, please. Tell me I’m doing the right thing.”

Claire laughed and hugged Kim tight. “You’re doing the right thing. The bar will open soon. Everything is going to be fine. The ceremony isn’t until 4pm, and it’s only 9 o’clock. Calm down.”

“I’ve been awake since 5am. Poor Mum, I’ve been driving her bonkers. She didn’t want to leave so early, but I insisted.”

“You stayed locally last night?” Claire cursed under her breath. If only she’d known, it would have been the perfect excuse to escape Michael. “I thought you had rehearsals.”

“I told them I couldn’t make it and they should give the understudy a run through. The director didn’t like it, but as they’ll all be drinking at our expense this weekend, they can just lump it!”

Claire’s brain reeled with the barrage of words. “I thought we were paying our own way? Wasn’t that the point?”

“Jeff’s parents are insisting on providing alcohol. They’re horrified that we asked everyone to cough up the cash. Jeff’s Mums says it’s common.”

The girls linked arms and walked to the edge of the terrace, taking a moment to appreciate the rolling hills spread out in front of them.

“What are you doing out here, anyway? Have you had breakfast?” Kim turned to face Claire.

“I’m hiding from Michael. I had breakfast early, and I’ve been out for a walk.”

“Michael, what’s he doing here already?” Kim frowned and pursed her lips, the sparkle in her eye fading.

“He came last night, the same as I did.” She saw Kim’s expression, and grimaced. “Not with me! I came to make sure I was here when you arrived. He had the same thought. Actually, I suspect he came to talk to me before I became caught up in wedding fever.”

Kim made a face as if she felt sick. “And did he? Come over all mushy?”

“Didn’t give him the chance. You’ve never heard so much relentless nonsense spilling from my mouth.”

Kim raised an eyebrow. “I probably have. Poor Michael, I almost feel sorry for him.”

Claire glared and swung out at Kim’s arm. “Cheeky cow!” She laughed. “Come on, I need a coffee. Let’s go and find the bridal suite and get you settled in. I want a bounce on your four-poster bed!”

*

“Oh, Kim, you look amazing.”

Claire stood in front of her friend and felt tears well up. Brushing them away, she reached forward to tug at a ringlet and straighten Kim’s string of pearls. Between them, she and Kim’s Mum had curled the red locks and pinned them up carefully to hide any blonde roots. The cream charity shop wedding dress fitted perfectly and contrasted beautifully with the red roses and stargazer lilies in her bouquet. Claire smoothed down the pink bridesmaid dress they’d managed to find for her, in the same shop. It didn’t fit quite as well as Kim’s, and she’d had to pin it to her bra to make sure it stayed in place.

Time had drained away like bath water, too fast for comfort. Claire had successfully avoided Michael, who’d been sent to put up signs, usher arrivals to their rooms and generally make himself useful. Every time they bumped into each other, he opened his mouth as if to speak, and Claire found a reason to escape. Flowers to be collected, the cake to be checked, hair to be dressed, make-up applied.

Now, it was ten to four, and everything was ready. Jeff had arrived and been whisked to the room allocated for the civil ceremony, while Kim hid in the bridal suite.

“Having it all in one building is genius,” Claire said to Kim, as she whisked a final brush of blusher across her cheeks. “You don’t need to worry about cars breaking down, traffic, parking or anything. I once knew a girl whose limo didn’t turn up, and she was an hour late. No one told the groom: he thought she’d changed her mind. It was awful.”

Kim shook her head, as if brushing off a pesky fly. “Don’t tell me things like that. Knowing my luck I’ll trip on my dress, fall down the stairs and break a leg.”

“That’s why you have a maid of honour. It’s my job to hold your dress and, if need be, carry you to the altar to say your vows before the paramedics arrive.”

Giggling, the friends linked arms and headed for the door.

***