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.

***

EBooks – A Retraction: 2013 365 Challenge #136

My long-awaited copy of The Humans

My long-awaited copy of The Humans

A while ago I wrote a post about how I would always choose the paper book over an e-reader (such as a tablet, nook or kindle). I was wrong. I bought an iPad two weeks ago and since then have read several books, more than I would have managed otherwise.

My long-awaited copy of The Humans has just arrived – a great big chunk of hardback – and I’m wondering why I didn’t buy the kindle edition. I just don’t know when I’m going to manage to read it. It’s too big to fit in my handbag, I can’t read it at bedtime because the bedside light is broken, and, well, it’s too beautiful to besmirch with toast crumbs and crayon.

We are going on holiday to Scotland next week and I know that The Humans will stay behind, even though I’m desperate to read it. It isn’t merely about packing room – although with two kids that’s pretty tight – it’s the fact that I won’t be able to read it discreetly while the kids are playing, or during the seven-hour trip in the car (for some reason I find I can read the iPad in the car, but not a paper book).

So, in all fairness, I thought I ought to confess my conversion and explain the reasons I love my iPad for reading:

  • I can read while still cuddling both children (with the occasional wriggle to turn the page)
  • I never ever have to find my place because the kids have removed the bookmark or it has fallen out. I turn it on and there it is – hours of reading time saved.
  • I can take it everywhere and read a bit while I’m waiting for a website to load or when the kids are asleep
  • The kids don’t notice me reading so much and so are less likely to bring one of their own books over to read (I didn’t say this was about good parenting, did I?)
  • I’ve already read at least one free book I would never have heard of otherwise. And it was lovely – not earth shattering or award winning but a lovely thought-provoking story
  • I can show people the books I’ve written when I tell them I’m an author, instead of explaining they’re not available in print
  • I can finally read all the ebooks I’ve downloaded over the last year
  • I can read at nighttime without waking my husband.
The Humans Kindle Version

The Humans Kindle Version

I also love the iPad too – for checking emails, taking pictures for the blog, entertaining the children (we’re busily downloading from bbc iplayer for the long trip north) – but that’s a different story!

I still find it hard to buy the kindle version when the paperback isn’t much more expensive. If I want to lend a book it has to be a hard copy. I continue to love borrowing books from the library and seeing books around me on the shelves. They are beautiful. But, here and now, the iPad rules! (Sorry)

And to prove how much I love my iPad, I’ve spashed some cash to buy the ebook version of The Humans. Problem solved. Matt Haig’s lovely book is coming to Scotland after all! Hurrah!

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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 was conscious of nerves as she waited on the doorstep. Things had been strained between her and Ruth since the revelations about Chris and the ballet teacher. Even so, it hurt to be saying goodbye to her sister and her niece. The week in the hospital, reading on the bed next to Ruth, entertaining Sky in the canteen or taking her to the park, had been strangely restful.

The week was spent encased in a cocoon of waiting: Ruth had responded well to treatment and the days were merely marking time until the doctors said she was strong enough to return home. Claire had enjoyed helping Sky complete the remainder of her homework. They had even written a letter to Sky’s father, although Claire had felt a stab of guilt, knowing she wasn’t brave enough to tell her sister about it.

Claire stood waiting for her mother or Sky to open the door. Even though she had stayed with Sky at her house for the week, now Ruth was home it felt impolite simply to walk in.

In the back of her mind she remembered the last time she had waited in the same spot, when she had come to look after Sky, the day of the hospital tests. Blimey that was nearly two months ago. In some ways it felt like only days before. In others ways, a lifetime had passed. She had experienced so much, travelling with Josh and looking after Sky. That morning’s conversation with her father still echoed in her mind.

How little we really know our family. Look at what I’ve discovered in a few weeks, that I hadn’t realised in nearly three decades: My brother and his perfect wife aren’t so perfect, Ruth’s ex isn’t a bastard but actually a doting dad, my father is writing a novel – a thriller for goodness sake – and hiding it from his wife. He hates golf. And Mum spends her time keeping up with the Jones’s to forget she used to be her husband’s secretary. You couldn’t make it up. We’re living an episode of Days of Our Lives.

Hearing footsteps thundering down the corridor, Claire braced herself for a whirlwind of blonde hair and beads. At least Sky hasn’t changed.

Claire held her sister tightly, aware only now of how awful it would be to lose her. She knew, too, that when Ruth was better they would never be quite as close as they were at this moment. Even the betrayal of introducing Sky to her half-sister was forgotten.

“Stay well, sis. Be strong. If you need anything, call me.” Claire spoke deep into her sister’s shoulder, where her hair would once have been. All that tickled her neck was the floral scarf tied tightly round Ruth’s head. Words that couldn’t be said face to face could be whispered cheek to cheek.

“You have an amazing daughter. Thank you for letting me get to know her better.” She stood back, tears blurring her vision. “I promise I’ll call more often, and I’ll stop by when I head south again. It won’t take long to get through the hostels on the east coast I didn’t get to with Sky.”

Ruth squeezed Claire’s arms, then let them drop as she reached for a tissue. “Thank you for everything, sis. Sorry I got upset about the whole Chris thing. I know you were in an impossible situation. And, well, if the worst does happen.” She stopped, unable to say the unthinkable words.

Claire was glad they remained unspoken. In the whole week she had spent in the hospital with Ruth, they had never talked about what might happen. While Ruth was responding to treatment it seemed like tempting fate to discuss the future.

“Try and enjoy your travels. I know it isn’t what you wanted, but you seem…” Ruth searched for a word. “You’re more alive, since you started the trip. When you looked after Sky in February you looked tight and tired and, I don’t know, somehow bitter at life. Now, well actually now you still look tired.” She laughed. They both knew what looking after Sky was like. “But it’s different. It’s a lack of sleep because my niece was up all night tired.”

The words seemed to run out and Ruth let them trail away. Even though the doctors had sent her home, she still looked exhausted. Claire gave her another hug, then turned to where Sky was snuggled up with Nana in the armchair, her face wet and blotchy.

“Come here, Sky, give Auntie Claire a cuddle.”

The girl hesitated, them scrambled down and ran across the room, sobbing.

“Don’t go, Auntie Claire. Please.”

“I have to poppet. I’m not ready to be fired just yet, and my mean old boss won’t let me take any more holiday.”

Sky clung tightly to Claire’s neck, and she was conscious of a warm sensation deep in her heart. She no longer wanted to shake her off.

“I’ll be back soon. You take care of your Mummy, okay, and do what Nana tells you. I’ll call and find out what your teacher thought of your story.”

Pulling the thin arms away from her neck as gently as she could, Claire took Sky’s hand and led her back to sit with Nana. Then with a quick wave and no more words, she hurried from the room, swallowing down the lump stuck deep in her throat.

***