iBook Madness: 2013 365 Challenge #342

This greeted me this morning. Lovely.

This greeted me this morning. Lovely.

I woke this morning to a message from Smashwords, saying that one of my Two-Hundred Steps Home volumes has been booted out of the Premium Catalogue because of a link to a competitor site, which is frowned upon.

I had already been alerted to the issue through a ticket opened by Apple, saying I had a link to Amazon in my book. I’d only reloaded the offending volume (which had previously been approved for Premium Distribution) because Barnes and Noble weren’t pulling through the front cover. As I may have mentioned in the past, formatting for Smashwords could drive you crazy!

I couldn’t find any Amazon links, so I went through and removed all the links except my blog, Facebook and Twitter ones. Considering that the whole purpose of writing THSH this year, to the detriment of my other projects (not to mention sleep and sanity) was to promote the blog and hopefully sell books, I figured that was fair. I offer the books for free, after all.

Then I got this message from Smashwords telling me the link that had Apple in a tizz was the writermummy blog link because my blog has links to my novels on Amazon. I mean, seriously? That would be like telling me to remove my twitter and facebook links because I occasionally promote my books through these channels. Paranoid, much? I wouldn’t mind if I’d actually sold a single book through Apple when my novels were available there. I don’t even get many free downloads from them.

Volumes 10 and 11 missing from Apple

Volumes 10 and 11 missing from Apple

Unfortunately Smashwords doesn’t offer the ability to have different versions for Premium Distribution and their own store. I can take my books out of iBook distribution, but I have at least one reader I know who downloads from there and it doesn’t seem fair for her not to have access to the final volume. But taking off my blog link is absurd. The books are intrinsically linked to the blog.

I read around the subject this morning, after writing a ranty message to Smashwords (a shame in itself because I’ve been a huge advocate up to now) and it seems there is no other way to get free books into Barnes & Noble (my biggest source of downloads) other than through Smashwords. I hate being cornered like that. To be fair, I don’t think many of those 2,800 B&N downloads have resulted in blog traffic (I wish!) but it isn’t the point.

I don’t understand the paranoia (particularly about a free book). Either you have a Kindle or a Nook or an iPad. You will buy your ebooks through the route your device dictates. No one is going to rush out and buy a kindle merely because my novels aren’t available through iBook.

Anyway, I don’t have the time to change anything now. If that means all my books end up not available through B&N or iBooks, then so be it. If anyone wants a copy and it isn’t available, then you can download the volumes in all formats directly from Smashwords (or I’ll email you a copy!). I have a long memory, though. I’ve already unpublished from Kobo because of their stunt earlier in the year. One day these retailers will realise that, without authors, they have nothing. I won’t be missed but maybe, just maybe, an author with sufficient clout will become annoyed with them. Or perhaps I’m naïve and big business does call all the shots. What a shame.

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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’s head whirled as she downed the drink on the table in front of her. She remembered now why she hated pub crawls. It wasn’t just getting drunk too quickly, and trying to move in a straight line when the world was spinning, it was the bloated tummy and the sloshing sensation as yet another quantity of liquid was consumed too fast.

She reeled and felt a steadying arm wrap round her shoulders. “Whoa, there. You don’t have to keep up, you know. The real race is over. This is just the lads from the office now: no need for bravado.” The voice whispering in her ear seemed hardwired to other, more intimate, parts of her body. She focussed on staying upright and turned to him with a bright smile.

“I’m fine, Conor. I’m a bit out of practice is all. Not much call for getting drunk on your own. No good reasons at any rate. It’s been a while.”

Conor gave her back a quick rub, then dropped his arm. He didn’t move away, however, and Claire found his presence at her side comforting. She looked around blearily, trying to see who was still with them. She recognised most of the faces, although they all looked a little worse for wear.

“I think maybe I should push the wheelbarrow on the next stint,” she said to Conor. “If I climb back in, I might fall asleep.”

“My poor Claire,” Conor said with a smile. “You have been a good sport.”

“Well, after you went to all that trouble to find me a cushion I could hardly refuse, could I? Just please tell me there’s no photographic evidence.”

Conor raised his eyebrows and said nothing. Claire groaned. “Great. I guess that was inevitable. Maybe no one will remember who I am.”

Her boss let out a loud laugh. “Sorry, m’darling, not much chance of that. Your pouting and liberal blowing of kisses have been the highlight of the evening, although my personal favourite was your attempt at the iconic fanned skirt image in the pub before last.”

The groan was louder this time, and Claire dropped her head into her hands. “I thought I’d imagined it. Please tell me I didn’t really put their fan on the floor and stand above it? I didn’t even think I was that drunk.”

“You are and you did.” He grinned. “Kept your modesty quite well though. Until you fell over at least.”

Only the gentle affection in his voice stopped Claire from running out the room. In fact he’d been the perfect date: attentive, supportive and encouraging. There had been a hint of distance to begin with, but as the alcohol flowed and the eyes blurred that had dissipated. She felt the warmth of his body next to hers, through the thin fabric of her dress, and suddenly shivered.

“Are you cold? I can get your cardie, although it feels pretty warm in here. Would you like some fresh air?”

“I’m fine.” Something in his expression caught her attention. “Though yes, now you mention it, some fresh air might be a good idea.”

Conor grasped her elbow and led her from the room. She heard him tell their colleagues that she was going to be sick and their friendly laughter followed them out. It was on her lips to tell him she didn’t feel ill, when it occurred to her that he might be protecting her reputation, as the two of them left the pub together.

Ever the gentleman. Nothing like the man I took him for at my interview.

Claire shivered again as the cool night air brushed her skin. It wasn’t cold, although the oppressive heat of the day had eased with the setting of the sun. Despite the bustling noise of the pub spilling through the open doors and windows, it felt eerily quiet out in the night.

They were somewhere away from the High Street, having left the hubbub of the carnival behind. The race proper had finished much earlier and Conor had led his colleagues on a longer tour with the drinks on him, as a thank you for all their hard work. Above them, inky blackness stretched away, punctuated by thousands of pin-pricks of dazzling light. The sheer expanse of the sky made Claire dizzy, and she leant against the whitewashed stone wall for support.

“You’re not really going to be sick, are you?”

Claire shook her head, regretting it immediately. “No, I’m fine. You might need to push me back to the hostel in that wheelbarrow though; I can’t see me making it up the hill.” She looked around. “Not that I have any idea where I am.”

“We’re not that far away. We’re in the Muddy Duck. Swanage isn’t a big place.”

“I’m none the wiser. Besides, we’re in the Black Swan.” She gestured at the sign above their heads. “And you think I’m drunk!”

Conor leant back against the rail, propped up on his elbows, and smiled tolerantly. “Muddy Duck is what the locals call it. You know, a black swan is just a muddy duck? At least I think that’s where it comes from. I’m not really a local.”

“Don’t tell me, your kids’ kids would just about be accepted?”

“Not that bad, but you have the general idea.”

They stood together in silence, listening to the sounds of revelry from inside the building. People came and went through the door to Claire’s left, but they seemed to have a pocket of unbreakable stillness around them.

Claire felt tension build like an approaching storm. Suddenly all her senses were on overdrive: her ears picking up every sound, her nose taking in the scent of Conor’s aftershave and the stink of stale beer and cigarettes. Despite the gloom, she could see Conor as if he stood beneath a spotlight. He was watching her, his eyes and teeth shining in the darkness, competing with his brilliant white suit.

The silence took on texture. Conor pushed away from the railing, and the movement tightened the knot in Claire’s stomach and caused her heart to race uncontrollably, like the wheelbarrows had along the High Street earlier. Conor came to stand directly in front of her, looking down with a question in his eyes.

Claire raised her gaze to meet his. She flinched as his eyes narrowed slightly. He reached forwards and gently pulled off the wig, letting her hair tumble down around her face.

“That’s better.”

His eyes sought hers again, still asking the unanswered question. She didn’t need to search hard for a reply. It was a question she’d been waiting for. With a quivering smile, Claire gave a nod. At her response, the tension seeped out of Conor’s face, and he leant forwards slowly to brush his lips against hers.

Claire let herself sink into the kiss. Conor’s hands tangled into her hair, cupping her face and pulling her close. She wrapped her arms around him, running her hands over the contours of his back, feeling the lithe body beneath his costume. A gentle breeze blew up the street and across their skin, bringing with it the scent of night and the salty tang of the sea. Claire inhaled deeply and lost herself in the moment.

***

Smashwords Fatigue: 2013 365 Challenge #151

Imagine I finally chose for Volume 5

Imagine I finally chose for Vol5

I’m all Smashworded out today. Not only have I been formatting the May volume of Two-Hundred Steps Home (including a lengthy and arduous search for a cover image), I have also been attempting to load Dragon Wraiths to Smashwords, now it is out of the KDP Select programme.

Arrgghhhh!

I think that about sums it up. Thank goodness I now have the iPad and can put a few more of the download versions through their paces. For example I discovered the ISBN I had for Dragon Wraiths was for the sample I put up in February, and so no longer appropriate. I discovered that the Contents File works fine in the Kindle App but not in the iBook app. I learned that Smashwords makes my 12pt Headers HUGE for no apparent reason. I also learned that it is much harder to get a 113k word file through the AutoVetter than it is a 20-25k word file (as the Two-Hundred Steps Home Volumes usually are.)

The outcome is I’m still not happy with my Smashwords Dragon Wraiths file, although I have left it live for now, as I don’t know how to fix some of the issues. I’ve dropped the price on Smashwords and Amazon to 99c so hopefully people don’t feel they’re being ripped off if they buy it and the formatting stinks. I’ll say this for Amazon, my html file turned into a perfectly acceptable .mobi file with minimal effort.

As far as the May Two-Hundred Steps Home Volume Five is concerned, it’s not my finest – that probably goes for the cover and the content. It was a bitty month, more about Ruth than Claire, and so there wasn’t really an image that pulled it all together. I had to Photoshop this one to remove an extra person on a horse in the river, and it’s almost what I was after, though not quite. With a tiny budget there are limits to my ability to fulfill my vision!

I’ve also discovered that Volume 3 isn’t available on iPad even though it’s meant to be in the Smashwords Premium Catalogue – that might explain my poor download numbers for 3 and 4. So much of self-publishing seems to be wandering round in the dark. At least I found a new source of free ebooks in my iBooks app, so the day wasn’t a complete loss.

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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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“Your wrist isn’t broken, Ms Carleton, but you do have a nasty sprain.”

Claire looked up at the A&E doctor and groaned. “How bad? You’re not going to plaster it, are you?” Carl is never going to accept another doctor’s note stopping me working, but I can’t drive with my arm in plaster.

“No, I think a bandage and a sling will be sufficient. You’ll need to rest it for several days, however. Do you work?”

And how exactly is that relevant? Claire glowered at the doctor, who continued to look blandly at her as if she was as interesting as wallpaper.

“Yes, I work. I’m a travel journalist.” Well, I guess that’s what I am these days. How odd not to know what my job title is.

“Well, no sitting at a computer for hours, and no driving until the swelling has gone done. You’re best to follow the PRICE routine.”

Claire looked at the woman blankly, waiting for her to elaborate. The doctor looked surprised at her silence, then seemed to realise she wasn’t speaking to a fellow medical professional.

“Protection, Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation,” she rattled off, as if listing the ingredients for a cake. Noticing the panicked expression in Claire’s widened eyes, the doctor handed her an information booklet.

“The main thing is no heat, alcohol, massage or strenuous activity. Rest, Ms Carleton. You’ll be fine in a day or so.” She began tapping words into the computer and Claire wondered if she had been dismissed.

“And the pain?” Two hours sitting in the Milton Keynes A&E waiting room, watching small children come in screaming and leaving sobbing, had numbed Claire’s pain to a dull roar.

“Over-the-counter medicine should be fine. Paracetamol for the first day or so, to let it heal. Then ibuprofen. Codeine if it’s severe. No alcohol.”

You said that already, you silly cow. I get it. No G&T to ease the misery. Great.

“How about food?” Claire had no idea what time it was, but it had to be at least mid-afternoon. The two-hour wait had been followed by a trip to X-Ray and a further wait to see the doctor.

“You can eat, if you feel like it. It’s only a sprained wrist, Ms Carleton. Book an appointment to see your GP if it isn’t improving after a week.”

This time the dismissal was clear. Claire thanked the doctor, gathered her bag, and headed out to the waiting room. The First Aider at the snow dome had sent her to A&E in a taxi, and she had no idea how to get back to her car or whether it would even still be there. Looking down, she realised she was still wearing the snow dome clothing and her things were in a locker at Xscape.

She stood motionless, staring blindly at the rows of faces sat like an audience watching the drama of A&E unfold.

I have to get the car. And get back to the hostel. Except I can’t drive and I don’t know anyone in this stupid town. For the first time in weeks, Claire felt defeated. Without caring who was watching, with no real thought at all, she sunk down into an empty seat and sobbed.

*

“Are you okay, Miss?”

Claire looked up into the kindly gaze of a young nurse, who had rested her hand on Claire’s shoulder. She tried to control her tears, but the warmth of the touch made them come faster, until she was gulping for air.

The nurse dropped down onto her haunches and looked into Claire’s face. “Can I get you anything?”

Aware of the snot threatening to leak from her nose, and the mascara tracking down her cheeks, Claire smiled through her tears and said, “A tissue?”

The nurse nodded and disappeared from view. She came back with a box of tissues, and sat in the now-vacant chair next to Claire.

Funny how quickly a weeping woman can be alone in a crowd.

The nurse handed over tissues, and sat silent while Claire mopped her face and blew her nose.

“I’m sorry, I don’t know what happened. It’s only a sprained wrist, for goodness sake. Nothing tragic.” She thought about Ruth, and all the time she had spent in hospital with her. Crying over a bandage seemed selfish and uncalled for.

“Sometimes it’s the little things that break us. Do you have anyone I can call, to come and collect you?”

The words made Claire sob again, as she realised the answer was no. Her parents were fully occupied with Ruth, and Robert had gone back to Geneva. She thought about calling Michael, but dismissed the idea. He had finally stopped ringing and it wouldn’t be fair to reignite his hopes, just to get a lift.

She shook her head in answer to the nurse’s question, unable to speak.

“What about a friend, there must be someone?”

Kim. What about Kim? I wonder what it would cost me to get a taxi to her place? I’d have to sleep in the bath. I guess I could go back to the hostel now, and figure it out tomorrow. They’ll probably have towed my car away by that point anyway.

She realised the nurse was waiting for an answer, and gave a weak nod. “Yes, I have someone I can call. I need to get a taxi to my hostel though, is there a taxi rank near here?”

The nurse nodded and gave some directions, clearly relieved to have been able to help. Claire watched her leave, then went out to the lobby and dialled Kim’s number. Please be home.

“Hello, Claire. I was about to call you, you must be psychic. We need to talk about the wedding, I’ve got so many ideas and I want to pick your brains about hostels.”

“Hi, Kim.” Claire’s voice wobbled as she interrupted the flow of happy words, and she was unable to continue.

“Claire, honey, are you okay?”

“No.”

“What is it? Is it Ruth? God, is she alright?”

Kim’s words stabbed at Claire. What am I doing, feeling sorry for myself when my sister has cancer. She took a deep breath and tried to stop the shake in her voice.

“No, Ruth’s okay, as far as I know. It’s me, I sprained my wrist, and I guess I’m feeling a bit fragile. I wondered if you could cope with a visitor for the weekend?”

“Of course! Actually, that’s perfect. Jeff’s away, so we’ll be able to talk babies and weddings without driving him nuts.” She babbled on excitedly, and Claire tried to listen with patience.

Lovely. A weekend of happy families, love, nuptials and procreation. Just what the doctor ordered. She let Kim make arrangements and tried hard to hold back the tears.

***