Becoming a Scrivener-er…a new adventure.

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Mattox MS

On Tuesday 21st May, I finally decided that I’d had ENOUGH of writing in Microsoft Word and took a long, hard look at Scrivener.

But why, you might ask, when more than half of the writers I’d spoken to said it was the best thing ever, had I waited so long???

Well, (long story short) I’d always been happy to use Word in all of its incarnations since before Office 95 was ‘the latest thing’.  But now, as I began to use Office 2010, acquired in March 2013, my heart sank. The darn thing seemed to have a mind of its own.

From paragraph formatting to bullet points it suddenly felt as if Word didn’t want me to be there any more.

I use *   *   * to separate paragraphs – have you tried to type that in Office 2010? It turns into bullets!!

Still, I persisted and wrestled with it for another four weeks, working around the peculiarities as I assembled articles, short stories and…my CreateSpace version of  ‘A Construct of Angels.’ Huge gaps between paragraphs and page breaks that refused to undo became the final straw. For three nights, I was forced to cut and paste sentences in order to get around this idiotic formating problem and when the time came to begin my next project, my brain cried ‘ENOUGH! I can’t go through all that again!’

So, in desperation to soothe my addled mind, I Googled the best price for the latest (or even the previous, for I am not proud) version of Scrivener.

Not so easy, for here in soggy England, we’re unable to take advantage of the NaNoWriMo offer price on Amazon (unless you know of a way around that…) as it’s only on Amazon.com…and we poor Brits aren’t allowed to download from there in case there’s none left for everyone else. We’re quite a ravenous bunch over here – we have been since WW2 rationing ended.

But I managed to uncover a trial download from PC World – priced at $40. Why dollars? Well the download linked to Literature and Latte dot com who seem to have no problems with feeding us hungry Brits.

And so I went for it, desperately hoping that this shining light, this gift from the Gods (they are there…they’ve just retired) was everything that it had been purported.

All right, Toynbee…don’t oversell it!

So far, so good. It downloaded (49MB), installed (even on my stone-age Windows Vista Netbook) opened and allowed me to explore. The tutorial looked daunting, but because it’s interactive (‘try this…see what happens; now try this…isn’t it good?’) it’s more kinesthetic than cramming.

I think that Scrivener and I are going to get along just fine. My ex (Word 2010) will still  be allowed to visit at weekends, but that relationship has definitely cooled.

I will let you know if romance blossoms with the new girl in town.

So, with Scrivener in mind, Write On!

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To CreateSpace…or not to CreateSpace?

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hbrinkman bookseller

Over the past six months I have introduced ‘A Construct of Angels’ (using my bookmarks) to hundreds of people. In that time, a clear pattern of responses has emerged from my endeavours.

Pretty much everyone is initially startled by my ‘Do you read much?’ query, but they soon settle when I hand them a free bookmark and ask them if they’d care to try my book. Most stare at the bookmark, then at me and I can almost hear the penny drop as they say; ‘This is YOURS? You actually WROTE this?’

It always surprises me how people change when it dawns on them that they are standing next to someone who has (self) published a novel. Having had six months to get used to the idea, the shock and awe of finally completing a book has worn off, and I often forget how humbled I always felt in the presence of Jenna Burtenshaw, the author of Wintercraft and Blackwatch. Last year, I attended her book signing in Darlington and there she was – a published author and there I was, a newbie wannabe unpublished speck of nothing. I wasn’t fit to stand in her shadow…and so on.

It’s very strange hearing people using words like ‘honoured’ and ‘amazed’ when they talk to me – words that I try to shrug off. I’m not a movie star. I’m simply a writer who managed not to succumb to the depressing idea of never having a book see the light of day – nothing more.

Generally, the people I talk to are quite receptive to the idea of the bookmark and most will assure me that they will have a look at the free chapters available via Amazon. Of those who tell me that they don’t own eReaders, most are surprised that Amazon will offer them free software, ‘Kindle for PC’ that allows them to read Kindle books on their PC, Laptop, Netbook or Tablet. I’ve probably been responsible for a few dozen non-Kindle readers now being able to buy and read Kindle eBooks. 🙂

I also point them towards Smashwords, where ‘A Construct of Angels’ is listed in ePub, pdf and several other formats.

With the remainder, I have hit a stumbling block and I feel that the time has come to address that problem. Some readers, for various reasons, remain committed to paper books – something that I am currently unable to supply for sevral reasons. For one, I have been rejected by every genre-relevant agency in the UK, which is one of the reasons that I decided to self-publish. The other reason for my remaining entirely electronic is that the cost of a paper book was so far above that of an eBook, it seemed prudent to sell my work at the lower cost rather than try to push the more expensive paper version.

But I have seen so many faces registering disappointment when I admit that my book doesn’t exist in physical form, I am now reconsidering my decision to remain purely and unshakably twenty-first century electronic.

CreateSpace seems, for the moment, the best option for me. My book is already uploaded to Amazon, so having it available on the same site would appear to make sense. I’m currently using Amazon, Smashwords, Kobo and Scribd to shift copies (some with better success than others), so a fifth site would just complicate things – unless of course that new site was far better than CreateSpace.

If you’re also in the position of thinking about offering a paper book, Karen Inglis has posted a huge amount of information on the subject. As a UK-based children’s author, Karen is favour of using a combination of CreateSpace and UK print-on-demand company LightningSource to save on shipping costs and delays.

*One day later;*

A couple of my blogging friends (thanks guys) have advised me that CreateSpace may now be advanced enough to be able to use for distribution on both sides of the big pond.

Sounds like a plan…although the goalposts are constantly shifting.

Watch this space…I might be entering the twentieth century once again. 🙂

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keep calm plus author inside

Honoured to receive the Dragon’s Loyalty award

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Love that picture!

I was very pleased (not to mention surprised) when Briana Vedsted nominated me for the Dragon’s Loyalty Award!

This was an award I’d not seen before so I was delighted when Briana chose to nominate me and my blog.

The rules for this award are:
1.         Display the Award Certificate on your website.
2.         Announce your win with a written post and link to whoever presented your award.
3.         Present 15 awards to deserving bloggers.

4.         Drop them a comment to tip them off after you have liked them in the post.
5.         Post 7 interesting things about yourself.

So here goes!

Seven interesting (I hope) things about me:

1.         Robin Hobb’s ‘Blood of Dragons’ might be the last paper book I will ever read…

2.        Writing has become my anchor in an otherwise chaotic life.

3.        I dislike the cold and grey of winter – but I love the snow!  How weird (S.A.D.) is that?

4.         I have a terrier who may have been an engineer in his former life.  He’s the smartest dog I’ve ever seen.

5.         I’m fascinated by sunsets and cannot stop taking photos of them.

6.         My biggest regret is having not pursued motor racing in my 20’s.  I still think I could have made a career out of it.

and…
7.         I can find peace and inspiration if I stop to watch running water.  Perhaps my Muse is a water-spirit…

And now for my nominees (I’m doing 10 instead of 15):

As it’s a loyalty award, I will nominate those who have been with me, who have encouraged me and stuck with me throughout my (and their) ups and downs…

Ryan Casey – without whom I may not have (self) published

Candace Knoebel – whose adventures have blazed a fiery trail!

Sonya Loveday – for her love, encouragement and inspiration here and on Facebook.

Jon at Jumpingfromcliffs – for keeping me going when things got sticky.

Michelle Proulx – for her zany (and often surreal) humour and for introducing me to the word ‘Woot!’

Pat at patwoodblogging – for her steadfast encouragement even when it snowed.

…plus a few newer followers with whom I have enjoyed much banter;

Karen Gadient – it seems we share much that is non-corporeal!

Daphnee at AnEvilnymphsblog – who is anything but evil (sorry, didn’t you want that known?).

Nightwolf aka KisaWhipkey – for encouragement via blog and Facebook

Fortyoneteen – thanks for your insight.

.

Please pass this award on to those bloggers who are deserving of a loyalty award.  We gotta stick together!

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Are you a ‘Secret Identity’ Author?

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SP_AL_UK mask

Do announce the existence of your writing self to the world?  Do you tell all and sundry that you are proud to call yourself writer, or author?  Or do you hide your writing-ness under a bushel, hoping that sales will continue regardless of your introversion?

Despite being a quiet sort of soul, I tell everyone what (little so far) I’ve achieved.

Many years ago, when I was working within the world of MLM (multi-level marketing), I was taught to declare my presence to everyone with whom I conversed – it could only boost sales.

Now, as an author, I had to decide what was better – to hide in a corner and just hope that my books would quietly sell, or to promote them to everyone I met at the risk of being thought a pest.

bookmark

Back in November 2012, I produced a healthy number of bookmarks using nothing more than a colour printer, a laminator and a cheap guillotine.  The result was a useful ‘hand-out’ version of Ravven’s cover artwork. 

Whenever I met someone new, I would simply ask ‘Do you read much?’  If the answer was yes, then I would pass out one, sometimes two bookmarks to promote my work.  More often than not, the recipients were happy just to receive something for free.  In most cases, they were truly interested and asked all about the novel.

It’s still interesting to see the looks on my colleague’s faces when I tell them that I’ve (self) published a novel.  They look at me as if I’d just said ‘That song that’s at Number One..I wrote that.’

*Takes a moment to bask in adulation, then returns to reality*

If you don’t tell people that you have worked your socks off for ten, twenty years, applied your time to editing, reviewing, querying agents, sending out to beta readers before finally, finally, finally seeing your work in print, then why bother publishing in the first place?  True, you may not be worried about sales and are content to see your book sell just a few each month.  I count myself as a member of that happy group – at least for now.  But it cheers me every time I see another sale – it means someone else has downloaded that which I’ve worked so hard to achieve!  

On that last point, if you haven’t yet achieved that lofty and seemingly-unattainable goal, don’t ever, ever, ever give up on your dreams.  You are so close, and deserve it so much more that those who simply threw in the towel!   Don’t just take my word for it – ask anyone who has been published or is self-published.

There’s an old saying; ‘The only guarantee in life is this; If you give up, you will achieve nothing.’

But back to the main point of the post…if you have a book or a short story that is live, let as many people as possible know about it via Twitter, WordPress, LinkedIn, Facebook etc plus word of mouth.

free advertising

I even invested in a set of magnetic signs for my works van – something that has spurred many people to ask me about them.  As soon as that happens – they get a free bookmark! 🙂

Even if they don’t download a copy immediately, the bookmark will linger on a desk, in a drawer or pocket for a time and might remind them at a later date, or be found by a curious family member who could then be intrigued enough to search for the story.

Other authors have produced fridge magnets and keyrings – other items that can last for years and subsequently trigger a sale.

So, don’t be afraid to put your name out there, display your cover and spread the word.

What other items of ‘swag’ have you created as a reminder that your book is ‘out there?’

Place your answers on the side of my fridge, please! 🙂

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Bookmark – this page.

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bookmark

A little while ago, I was asked by Ryan Casey for feedback on how well my (home-made) bookmarks were being received.  Well, I can tell you that since November – a period of four and a half months – I’ve given out every one of the 500 I made in those first exciting days.

 Last Thursday I had to open up my next batch of 600, which I’d made back in January.  Five days later, I’ve already given out thirty or so.

I mentioned a while ago that my day job keeps me busy, sending me (randomly, it seems) to all parts of England, Scotland and Ireland.  This gives me the opportunity to meet a great many people, from engineers to office workers, and allows me to (tentatively) offer my book to those that seem receptive to the idea of a supernatural romance novel.

The conversation, always a work in progress, usually opens like this;

‘Do you read much?’

‘Me?  Yes.’

‘Well, can I give you one of these?’ *Hands over bookmark.*

‘Oh, what is it?’

‘Just my little contribution to literature.’

‘You wrote this?’

‘I did.’

‘What’s it about?’

And so the conversation begins.  For my thoughts on how to best describe a book, click here.

Today, I hit gold.  I asked one lady if she read supernatural romance and her reply was ‘My Kindle is absolutely stuffed with it!’  If I hadn’t intrigued her with a bookmark, she wouldn’t have gone on to BUY IT!!!  Woot, as so many people are fond of saying. 😀

My job also, as I circle the country and begin to pop up in places I haven’t visited for months (or even years),  allows me to chat to old friends who automatically ask me ‘what have you been doing?’  What a gift!  Immediately, I drop a bookmark onto the table and tell them that I’ve been writing a book.

‘You wrote this?’

‘I did.’

‘What’s it about?’

and so on…

The point of all this reminiscing is that swag – even home-made swag – is a conversation starter, an ice-breaker, a way of introducing the fact that the person opposite the conversationalistee (IS a word, so there!  And if it isn’t, it ought to be) is a bona-fide author and that the said conversationalistee (I’m not so sure it is a word now) ought to be bowing and scraping and muttering ‘I’m not worthy O Great One.’

Or at the very least, they should say ‘Sure, I’ll buy your book. I realise how difficult it must be to have applied that much dedication to your art and produce something of worth.’

‘Oh, thanks,’ is nice too, although not often productive in a salesy way.  I DID get my hand shaken in a congratulatory manner not so long ago (for getting published), so that was a boost for me and my oft-perforated ego.

Anyway, enough of the self-worship.  I’m not worthy of it.  But you are.  If you have spent a lot of time creating a complete story or poem and want to publish / have published it, then why on Terra shouldn’t you advertise?  There are other methods of introducing your work to people.  Mine is a simple free giveaway that starts a conversation.  It’s a must for me…someone who’s essentially a non-people person.

And it’s captured a few extra sales along the way.  The product of a bit of graphic manipulation, a colour printer, laminator and a cheap guillotine, it’s a low-budget method of shifting a few extra books. 

Don’t walk amongst potential punters in silence – be interesting, be something a little bit special.  One day you may just introduce yourself to a literary agent or publisher.  Or Steven Spielberg. 

Okay, that last one was a bit of a stretch, but you don’t know who his friends’ friends are, do you?

Tell the world that you’re out there – and write on!

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P.S. In the interests of balance, I feel that I should say this;  I may have handed out over 500 bookmarks – but I have yet to sell 500 books.  Not every one strikes gold.  However, the bookmarks might lie around for months or even years before triggering someones curiosity – whereas a fleeting memory is pretty much gone for good and is very unlikely to result in a sale.

Six Sentence Sunday – the battle

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Monumeto a los Lanceros de Boyaca<br />Monumento ubicado en Boyaca, en un lugar llamado Pantano de Vargas. Escultura dedicada a la memoria patria y la batalla allí ocurrida en busca de la independencia de Colombia.

This week’s extract is from ‘A Construct of Angels’ and describes the impromptu angel Michael’s battle against the self-named Damocles, an Anakim, or demon’s offspring.

At this point, Michael is only just beginning to realise his powers and has very little to time to explore them before Damocles attacks him with deadly force.

White light exploded across Michael’s vision as a hurricane of force roared about him; the world spun away in a dizzying blur and the ground hurled itself aside to give way to a vast body of water.  Something dark slammed into Michael’s chest, smashing the breath out of him.

Spinning wildly, he ripped across the sky, supersonic shockwaves exploding from his arms and legs, but Michael willed his hurtling body to stop and the shockwaves instantly vanished from his limbs – but even as he slowed, a dark blur rocketed straight towards him. 

This time Michael’s reactions were faster – he spun around, avoiding the hurtling shape just as he had side-stepped the black sword and watched as Damocles exploded past him like a missile, already turning to strike again. Watching the black dot grow larger by the second,  Michael’s determination resolved –  he would no longer be pushed around by the approaching Anakim.

Damocles cannoned into him faster than a fighter jet.

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Author interview with Draegon Grey

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smoking man

I’ve just completed the first part of an author interview with Draegon Grey.  It surprised me how much fun something like this can be – almost like reliving the whole process of writing the novel over again.  Happy memories, the small problems that seemed so insurmountable at the time and the joy of completing the work…they all came flooding back.

The second part, a character interview with Sara Finn, my protagonist, will follow soon.

In the meantime, you can read the ‘Author Moment’ interview here.

Write on!

Wednesday Worries

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worried

It occurred to me last night that most, if not all, writers fret about their content and I began to wonder about the whole process of worry and uncertainty.

Do natural worriers make good writers?  Do we excel at creativity because our brains are always active, imagining events that range from statistically probable to those that will never happen even in the pages of a bad novel?

My mind, sadly, seems to be on a constant drive towards pessimism.  Some days, when my fret gland is active, my Muse goes into overdrive, conjuring up a series of ‘what-if’ scenarios that leave me questioning my sanity.

For example;  I can be driving past a police car and my Muse will whisper; ‘What if they decide to pull you over?  What if some of the flour that you bought last week leaked onto the carpet?  They might think you’re a dealer and arrest you.  You could end up in a holding cell with a vicious biker gang that’s out to make a headline.  They could kill you.  By the time the police realise it’s only flour you could have lost an eye, or a limb.  And then what would happen to your writing?’

This is the point where I look my Muse directly in the eye and say;

‘Seriously – WTF?’   

She will calm down and take her meds as prescribed and become lucid for a time, but then, without warning;

‘You know how you think you turned the gas cooker off, but you’re not sure because you might be remembering turning it off yesterday and only think that you did it this morning, but you might really have forgotten and when you get home and you turn on a light, it could set off a spark and blow up the whole house?’

Me;  FFS – The house is all-electric.

Muse;  Oh.  I worry too much, don’t I?  I think I will take a tablet.

Me;  Thank you.  Please do.

Muse;  *Pauses with the tablet close to her mouth*  ‘But did you ever wonder about Lenticular clouds – you know, the ones that look like flying saucers?  What it they really were flying saucers in stealth mode and they were watching us?  And what if flying saucers weren’t aliens but visitors from our future and they want to know why it all went wrong so that they could guide us to a better tomorrow?’

Me;  Now, look…

Muse;  I know. I’m sorry.  I’ll take that tablet now.

Me;  No, no.  *searches for a pen*  Seriously, that last one is a great idea – tell me it again so that I can write it down.  It could become a novel – a series, even.  Maybe Hollywood will pounce on it and offer me millions.

Muse;  *swallows tablet* Hmm?  Sorry, what idea?

*Andy groans*

hiding face

So, is your mind naturally over-active?  Do you, as a writer, constantly ponder the (often far-reaching) consequences of your actions?  Does your Muse deliver a stream of possible and impossible scenarios – one of which might be a gem of a story?

For the sake of my sanity, I hope it does.

For your sanity, I hope it doesn’t.

Please let me know if I’m alone in this.

If I am, I will seek immediate help from the family of accupuncturist hedgehogs that live in the fairies nest at the bottom of my garden…

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Write on!

Six Sentence Sunday – on time!

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saavem swordsman

Today’s SSS is an extract from ‘A Vengeance of Angels’.  Again, it contains a mild spoiler if you haven’t read the first story; A Construct of Angels.’  So if you don’t want to know how the first book ends, please look away now.

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Michael, now an ex-angel and mortal being, is being addressed by an elderly hospice patient – one who has a reputation as a seer…

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Agatha Carpenter waved a bony finger at me and I felt the chill of one whose fate is irrevocably sealed.  I’d felt it before – as a doomed gladiator, as a convicted witch, as a Jew amongst the Nazis…

“The black swordsman is falling to Earth!” she wailed in a voice edged with hysteria.  “He seeks the one who shines most brightly – and all around him shall perish!” 

I knew a moment of panic. 

She could only be referring to one person; one Anakim…and he was coming for me.

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Write on!

Wednesday Woes

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sspivak image

Some time ago I scoffed at the notion that my sequel to ‘A Construct of Angels’ might be as difficult to …er… construct as the original.

See The difficult second novel?  Nah!

Well, my confidence has taken a knock.  I’m not afraid to admit it, although I do feel slightly foolish at having to retract my former statement.

The high wave that I had been sailing upon, fresh from the joy of having finally achieved a lifetime’s ambition of publishing a book, has now flattened and I feared that I was facing a spell in the doldrums, bereft of the guiding wind that was my Muse.

As the tale within ‘Construct’ drew to a close, I had a clear and certain idea of where the sequel was heading and I’d even planned the ending – something which had been of tremendous help when I’d initially drafted ‘Construct’.

But now that idea is wavering.  I still know how the sequel (A Vengeance of Angels) is going to conclude, but as I passed 25,000 words, I lost focus, the thread and my sense of timing.

I can’t tell you much, but ‘Vengeance’ doesn’t follow directly on from the end of ‘Construct’.  Rather, it meshes with it, beginning two days before ‘Construct’ ended.  That, dear reader, is how I painted myself into a very tight corner.  I still have several events that need to transpire before the ending of ‘Construct’ is briefly revisited and the story continues from that already-published conclusion.

sol one image

So, rather than despair, I reached deep into the archives and dug out my old day-by-day spreadsheet.

hour by hour

click to read spreadsheet

(The above is a sample I put together to illustrate its uses.  If this inspires you in any form, feel free to create a story from it.)

This is one of the very few ‘planner’ tools I used in ‘Construct’ (I AM a confirmed ‘pantser’ after all), but it was invaluable to me.

Armed with this, I intend to review what I’ve already written, then forge ahead and plan out exactly how my self-imposed spiders web of a narrative will unfold.

What was that, you say?  Why can’t I ever do anything the easy way?  For the answer to that, you’ll have to ask my Muse.

Where is she, by the way?

*sighs*  Well, as Kenny Rogers nearly said; ‘You picked a fine time to leave me Loose Wheel.’

Watch this space for a word count that will clock up faster than Clark Griswold’s Christmas electricity bill!

Write on in 2013!

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