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.

***

Kindle Delight and 2013 365 Challenge #33

My book on kindle (front cover needs some work)

My book on kindle (front cover needs some work)

I finally published something on Kindle! Okay it’s only the same stuff as is available here on the blog, but I still got to go through the self-publishing process at last. It was surprisingly easy although I haven’t proof-read the final product properly yet and I need to tweak the front cover. (I changed the dimensions of the front cover in ten minutes on the PC this morning while up to the eyeballs in cold and it doesn’t look right – I think I have the height to width ratio wrong).

The best bit was watching my husband type my name into Amazon and find my book. Worryingly, over on Goodreads, it seems I have written several other books including one about ancient egypt (!) so I need to investigate that some more. As I don’t intend to promote this book except as a tool on the blog for people to catch up, it can probably wait.

Next priority (apart from writing Claire’s next exploit) is to get this first volume onto Smashwords so I can offer it for free. I did Kindle because I thought I could offer it for free that way – I should have read the small print. You can only offer books free on Kindle through their Select programme (5 days free every 3 months I think it is) and then you can’t offer it anywhere else in any format. I thought they may not like that all the content is freely available on the blog so couldn’t sign up to that.

Unfortunately, having had a sneaky peak at the style guide for Smashwords I think I’ve got some reformatting work to do to get it right. I have to say formatting for Kindle, once I’d worked out what I wanted to do, was actually pretty simple. I had to take my 3AD Publishing logo out because that didn’t look right but other than that it seems to be doing what it needs to do. I’m just sorry that it’s not free. 77p or $0.99 isn’t a lot of money but then 27k words of first draft isn’t a lot of book!

This weekend will mostly be survival as husband now has the awful cold too. We have a couple of kids parties to go to and have promised our daughter we will take her swimming on Sunday so she can try out the “it really swims” doll grandma and grandpa bought her for her birthday. That should nicely fill the time until Monday (and how lovely is it that, for the first time in my life, I’m looking forward to getting to work on a Monday morning!)

Now, where did I leave Claire…

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“God I’m so sorry.” Claire flushed as she grabbed Josh’s knee instead of the gear stick for the second time.

“No worries.”

Even in the dark she could sense his lewd grin. Blood flushed to her face and she turned to concentrate on the road ahead. She was still searching her whirling brain for a safe topic of conversation when Josh spoke again.

“Claire?”

The serious tone made her glance towards him, trying to see his expression in the dark. She couldn’t and had to twist her head back quickly to concentrate on avoiding an on-coming lorry.

“Yes?”

“Can I read your blog?”

Whatever Claire had thought Josh was going to say that wasn’t it.

“Oh. Sure of course if you want to. You can read it now if you like, there’s not exactly much going on out the window.” It was dusk and the weak Skoda headlights were picking out only the road ahead. The sky was a beautiful deep blue behind them but ahead a mass of storm clouds loomed on the horizon. Claire reached behind her and retrieved her iPad from the pocket of the rucksack.

“Go to the notes section, you’ll see the drafts there.” It could probably wait until they got to the hostel but Claire was eager for a second opinion. So far there had been no likes or comments on her posts and only a few visits. She knew she wasn’t trying as hard as she could to engage on Twitter and Facebook but she was still a little disappointed there wasn’t more response.

Josh stared at the black rectangle in front of him as if it was alien technology. “Um, how do I turn it on?”

Claire held back a laugh. I guess iPads don’t come your way every day when you’re on the road all the time. She conveniently forgot that, until Michael had given this one to her for Christmas, she hadn’t known how to turn one on either. She reached over in the dark, careful to touch only the iPad, pressed the button then swiped the screen. She described the icon he needed to tap and eventually he was immersed in her writing.

The breath seemed to stick in Claire’s throat as she listened to the silence. Eventually, after far longer than it should have taken to read a few thousand words, Josh raised his head and gazed out the window.

“Well?”

“Very informative.” Josh’s voice fell leaden into the waiting silence.

“You don’t like them?” Claire fought an unexpected desire to weep.

“There’s nothing to like or not like. It reads like a website.”

“Well, that’s what it’s meant to be.” Claire could hear her voice rising in the dark and fought to keep it level. “The brief was to write about the YHA’s 200 hostels and how they promote a healthy lifestyle. So that’s what I’ve done. All the information is there.”

“Yes, information. That’s the word. It’s just information. There’s no heart.”

“I don’t understand what you mean.”

“How many followers have you got? How many likes? I know this is the first week but how many people have visited your page?”

Claire found herself surprised at Josh’s knowledge of blogging terminology. She couldn’t find any words to respond.

“I’m sorry, I’ve offended you.” Josh’s voice was soft.

“No,” Claire forced out a laugh. “It takes more than that to offend me. I’m sorry you don’t like it.”

“It’s not that. I think what you’re doing is amazing. I write a blog for the folks back home when I get near a computer and it’s tough thinking of what to write. And it’s not my job.”

That explains how he knows more than I do. She found herself wanting to read his blog, to read about his life on the road.

“Maybe you could guest post on my blog, share your experience of travelling?”

“I can. But this is your blog. You need to write your story. People can go to the YHA website to find out opening times and local attractions. People want colour and texture. Write about hiking the Pennines in the snow. Write about falling off your bike and trashing your trousers. Talk about picking up hitchhikers and seeing the stars.”

“I’m not sure that’s what Coca Cola really want.” And I don’t want the world sharing my humiliations thank you very much.

“Bollocks. They want advertising. That’s all they want. They don’t care how they get it.”

“They will if it portrays their brand in a negative way.”

Josh laughed. “How is it negative that a girl from the city who hadn’t ridden a bike since she was a kid felt so alive the first time she freewheeled down a hillside that she thought she could fly?” There was something in his voice that Claire couldn’t quite place. It made her feel like melted marshmallow in a mug of hot chocolate.

She thought about sharing that part of her adventure on the blog. I guess it can’t do any harm. What does it matter if I humiliate myself? It isn’t my name on the blog anyway and no one I know is going to read it. Especially not Michael. She shook her head at the traitorous words. Michael, will you sod off out of my mind. It’s over and that’s the end of it.

Claire looked out the window as the Sat Nav warned her she was nearing her destination. All she could see was a square of tarmac on the side of the road and some buildings set back behind a line of trees.

“Looks like we’re here.”

She pulled into the car park, glad to have an excuse to finish the conversation. They dragged their bags from the back seat and went in together to check in. All Claire wanted to do was find a quiet corner, get out her iPad, and write.

***

The dangers of self-publishing: Introducing “Them.”

It turns out you can make your work-in-progress look too like a real book too easily. The image of seeing your WIP in kindle format (or even print) is seductive, but probably not a great idea for the proof copy. Aside from the hassle of getting the right format to everyone, when pretty much all e-readers can open the traditional pdf, I’ve discovered the existence of “them”.

After my mother gave her damning verdict on Pictures of Love, “I preferred your first book,” (the one I wrote in a few weeks, barely edited at all, and had rejected by Mills and Boon,) she said something that dumfounded me:

“Did they not edit or proof-read your book before formatting it for kindle?”

My response, when I stopped laughing, was to say, “Mum, there’s no They. I wrote it, revised it, edited it, proof-read it, designed the cover, wrestled with kindle formatting, added the copyright, the dedication, the publisher’s logo. All of it. You’re my beta reader, so in fact you’re They. You’re meant to help me find the typos.”

“Oh,” she said, “I wondered why there were so many. They do come a bit thick and fast at the end.” Not what I wanted to hear but unsurprising as every time I started proof-reading I began at the beginning but didn’t always make it to the end.  I get distracted so easily.

As a result I have a thudding fear that the second half of the novel, the half only my mother has read apart from me, is a bit rubbish. Seems I’m probably right, at least as far as editing goes. And if I missed a heap of typos, I probably didn’t spend enough time revising the latter half of the book in terms of language, character, plot.

And yet there it is, my Lulu print version, sitting in paperback glory on my kitchen table, looking for all the world like a ‘proper’ book.

So I think when the naysayers who don’t like self-publishing bemoan the fact that something can look like a traditionally published book and still be awful, they may occasionally have a point.

Another scary thought is how easily the formatted-for-kindle version is being passed around without my knowledge. I used to password protect my pdfs. I don’t even know if you can do that for kindle. What if my proof makes it into the outside world? (My sister-in-law has already sent it to my father-in-law, and another beta reader has given a copy to his parents.)

What if everyone thinks like my mother and wonders why They haven’t done a better job finding errors? Or me for that matter. I don’t mind if the book is deemed a failure because the characters are underdeveloped or the plot is thin, but being damned for typos when it isn’t even the final edit gives me the shivers.  In future I think I’ll splash Beta Reader Copy or Proof over every page and be less vain about trying to make it look like a proper novel.

Or maybe it is time to go back to that Agent list after all.