Well, Oh Grandad! is up on Smashwords now.That’s my fourth book there. As I wrote the other day, I’ve finally got to grips with how to format files for submitting to Smashwords’ meatgrinder for conversion into the various ebook formats. The confirmation came today – Oh Gran, Beat the Hackers and Oh Auntie have all achieved Premium Status which means they’ll be accepted by Apple and Barnes and Noble, who are rather picky about the quality of the formatted texts they’ll take. Let’s hope I’ll see sales soar once my books hit their ebook stores. Ever the optimist!

I published Oh Auntie and Beat the Hackers directly to Kindle myself, but with the other two, I’ve opted to allow Smashwords to distribute them to Amazon for me. The advantage of doing this is that I save a little bit of work (although it wasn’t too tricky to upload the books) and that I’ll get paid my royalties via Smashwords. This is good because Smashwords pay via Paypal whereas Amazon will only pay overseas authors like me with a cheque, which isn’t at all convenient.

Do check out my Smashwords page and try one or all of my books!

 

 

 

Yoohoo! I’ve finally got the hang of Smashwords. I uploaded Oh Auntie! at the end of July, but it had some Autovetter errors that I couldn’t seem to sort out, and then life got in the way. But today I sat down at the computer with Mark Coker’s Smashwords Style Guide beside me on my Kindle, and worked through it all step by step using Oh Gran! as the trial this time. It all made sense this time, and my MS went through the meatgrinder and came out with no errors. That was a real accomplishment. So now Oh Gran! is here. And it’s free.

Full of confidence, I tackled Oh Auntie! again and soon knocked her into shape! Here’s the link for that book which costs 99 cents.

And I also got to grips with Beat the Hackers which I’ve uploaded to Kindle but was too intimidated to try and get through the meatgrinder. However, I rolled up my sleeves, and through it went, again with no errors. This is 99 cents too and you’ll find it here.

My tips, for what they’re worth: I followed Mark’s advice to paste the original word file into Notepad, which strips away all the formatting, and then repaste it into a new Word file. I followed the instructions on paragraph formatting to the letter, and this time put my chapter headings a ‘heading 1’ format. I used Times New Roman 11 point for the text, and 14 point for headings. And I even put in hyperlinks which work!

I am a complete techno dodo so I am SO PROUD of myself at the moment!

I think chapters should always have titles. It tends to be essential in non-fiction books, and in my opinion it’s as important in fiction.  And even more so with the advent of the Kindle. There is nothing more dull than having two full screens or so at the start of the book merely listing Chapter 1, Chapter 2 etc. OK, these are hyperlinked to the relevant chapter, although I can’t actually see why you’d use that facility much, since Kindle remembers where you got up to, and opens the book on that page next time you call it up. You don’t have to go back to the chapter list to find where you were. And anyway, only a very organised person would remember the number of the chapter. You’d be far more likely to remember its name – our brains are built that way.

So why are so many authors reluctant to give a short name to each chapter? One word will do to act as a reflection of its content? A taster of what’s to come? Either would be far more appealing than Chapter X. Thrillers and mysteries often use time and dates to break up the text. That’s good too. Children’s fiction generally uses chapter names, so we’re all used to it. I can’t see any justification for dropping the practice when we progress to YA and adult works. There’s no logic to it.

I’ve had fun naming the chapters in my two forthcoming big projects, Something Fishy, a racy fishing mystery (fiction) and my non-fiction travel narrative Heads Above Water. For the latter I’ve incorporated a relevant French quotation too at the opening of each chapter, one that ties in with the heading. It didn’t take long and I think it adds a further level of enjoyment for the reader. For my fiction work, I’ve simply used a punchy gerund that best reflects the action of the chapter e.g. Meeting, Catching, Drowning. It wasn’t too demanding!

So, bring back chapter headings I say. Readers appreciate them. They’re memorable, entertaining and a lot more interesting than just a number.

Well, my second book is now up on Amazon in Kindle format. It’s Beat the Hackers, a work of juvenile fiction about hackers and computers with a strong female protagonist. Daughter Caiti designed me a brilliant cover:

And here is a sample from it to whet your appetites. It’s from near the end of the book. Heather and her father Ray are on the run from Domination, a mysterious company that created a universally popular, free anti-hacker software. However, it’s not quite what it seems, and Ray, with Heather’s help, is the only person who can prove it. They have just one possibly ally – Lucien Montgomery, head of Teuthras Communciations. They are meant to meet with him at midday:

Heather wandered over to the coffee bar. She chose four of the stickiest looking muffins they had and ordered two tall, double cappuccinos. She took the heavy tray to a corner table and waited for her father to join her.

They idly watched the passers-by as they ate and drank. Then gradually Heather became aware that they were being watched. She felt a prickling at the back of her neck. She casually glanced around. A few tables away, two people were sitting, apparently minding their own business. But they weren’t ordinary people. The man was tall and blonde and had deep blue eyes. He was immaculately turned out in some sort of designer suit. The woman with him was stunning. She had a beautiful figure and wore a fantastic tailored trouser suit. The perfect couple, thought Heather. Suddenly she stiffened. Perfect. That was it! She thought back to the photos of the perfect people her father had collected when he was researching Domination. Her blood ran cold. These people were too perfect. They were Domination perfect! And they were watching her and her dad.

She glanced away. This time her eye was caught by a tall, good looking man, pretending to window shop a short distance away. Beyond him was another perfect guy, trying to look inconspicuous in an Armani suit and browsing at postcards outside a newsagent’s.

Yes. Domination had definitely found them.

“Don’t look now, Dad,” said Heather quietly, trying to swallow her fear, “but there are some Domination people around. At the table behind us, and two more in the mall.”

Ray almost dropped his cup in alarm.

“What?” he hissed. He glanced around nonchalantly, checking out Heather’s claims. “That’s them, all right. We’re trapped!”

“Stay cool, Dad. Goodness knows how they tracked us down here. But never mind that now. We can run for it, I reckon.” Heather was beginning to make plans.

“We can try,” he said, but without much hope. “Look, I’ll slide you a set of USBs under the table. If we get separated, take these to show Montgomery on your own, OK? If you can’t, never mind. There’s still Marcus to back us up.”

“OK, Dad,” nodded Heather.

Ray discreetly fumbled in his bag and then pushed something under the table towards Heather with his foot. She carelessly leant down, on the pretext of adjusting her sock, picked up the USBs in their bag and slipped them into her jacket pocket.

“Fancy a refill?” she said loudly.

Ray looked at her puzzled for a moment. He was about to say he’d had enough caffeine for now, but Heather winked at him. “Get ready to run,” she hissed. “I’ll slow Mr and Mrs Perfect here down.”

“Thank you, more coffee would be lovely,” trumpeted Ray.

Heather walked up to the counter, passing close to the Domination people. She didn’t look at them, but she could feel their blue eyes on her.

“Two large black coffees, please.”

The counter assistant handed them over. Heather paid and began to walk back with a mug in each hand. She saw her father poised for taking off. She came to Domination’s table. She paused by it. The man and woman looked up at her, intently.

“Here. The coffee’s on me!” cried Heather, and she flung the scalding coffee into their laps.

Pandemonium broke out. The pair leapt up, shouting in pain and shock. Heather had the presence of mind to tip the table over on them too, knocking them down, before she took to her heels with her father. The counter staff began yelling. Out of the corner of her eye, Heather saw the two lurking Domination members in the mall start to run after them.

But she and Ray had a good few metres’ start. If they could just get themselves out of the shopping centre, they’d be able to lose themselves in the crowd outside. The exit wasn’t far. But then disaster struck. Ray’s shoelace had unravelled and sent him flying. Heather could hardly believe he’d fallen over for the second time that day. She stopped and turned back to help him, but he roared at her to leave him.

For a fraction of a second Heather hesitated, uncertain what to do. She didn’t like to desert her father, but the Domination guys were onto them. He was right – she had to go. So with a last despairing look at her father, she turned and fled.

She didn’t stop running for at least five minutes. She barged her way through the shoppers, who grumbled complaints at her. She wove in and out of the crowd until at last she had to pause for breath. She chose a busy corner, close to a flower stall, to stop and take stock.

 

Benj hard at work

I’m in the process of rereleasing most of my children’s books on Kindle. These are the old Mentor Press books. Since some of them go back more than ten years, I no longer have the files for them on computer. The back-ups are on an obsolete device of some sort, so I’d started retyping them out. Now, I’m a pretty fast typist but this didn’t seem to be the best use of my time, not with new fiction to write, a farm and fishing business to run and some freelance editing to do. So Chris set Benj up with the scanner and he’s taken over getting the print books into electronic format for me. He’s going great guns. The only drawback is that he has to disassemble the books in order to get a good quality scan. But I’ve got plenty of copies of them going spare.

Illustrator Roger Fereday will be doing some new covers for me, mainly for the Oh! series and the younger children’s books I wrote. Caitlin is designing covers too, for my older children’s books. So I should have another batch of books up on Kindle before very long. It’s really exciting!

Back in March I wrote this:

This August is going to be a big month for us. On the 9th, Chris and I celebrate our silver wedding anniversary, and on the 13th, it will be five years since we arrived here. We’re having a big party on the 7th to jointly mark these occasions. And I’ve set myself the challenge of having self-published a book on the Kindle by then too. And why not? It’s something I want to do and it’s achievable with a bit of hard work between now and then.

I had envisaged having Heads Above Water, the first of my living in France books out, but in fact it’s my children’s book Oh Auntie! that pipped it to the post. I’ve finished the second draft of Heads Above Water and am currently reading through. I’ll be talking to Roger Fereday about the cover very soon, so I foresee epublishing it in September, all being well.

 

My next book on Kindle will be Beat the Hackers which I’ve just finished typing up and updating. Caitlin has designed an excellent cover for it. Like Oh Auntie!, this is a book that was previously published in traditional format by Mentor Press, but since that publisher closed its children’s publishing arm several years ago, the rights have reverted to me. So the plan is to re-release all my twenty-odd Mentor books and this time round give them the publicity they deserve. I’m writing new books too.

So – I met my challenge. In that case I’ll set another. I’m coming round to the view that writing challenges can be very productive. I want to have my work of adult fiction, Something Fishy: A Marcus Summers Mystery up on Kindle by December. This is a racy fishing-related mystery. There aren’t many in that genre yet but I think it’s a winning combination.

Oh Auntie on Kindle Previewer

So – I’m a Kindle author. I said I’d do it by August, and I did. I’m very pleased with myself.

Oh Auntie is up there now! Take a look, and if you feel like hitting the like button, well, that would be great.Or better still, treat yourself to a copy. I priced it at 99 US cents, so it’s a bargain!

Amazon.com customers go here.

Amazon.co.uk customers go here.

Amazon.de customers go here.

It was a steep learning curve to prepare the book for Kindle. I did a good bit of research but the book that was the most helpul was Jason Matthew’s How to Make, Market and Sell Ebooks, All for Free. (Check out his website here.) So step by step I worked my way through the conversion process.

I had a Word copy of the book originally, which I put into a .doc document (not .docx). I then saved that as html (webpage) and was going to work with that, but then discovered that I could use Mobipocket Creator. I’m not that hi-tech so that looked like a good option for me. I have my two resident computer experts at home – Chris and Caiti – but I didn’t want to impose. I downloaded Mobipocket for free, followed the instructions given on the Kindle direct publishing site, and soon I had a version on Oh Auntie in .prc. To check how things looked, I then downloaded Kindle Previewer and uploaded my file to that. Everything was good, so I went back to Kindle Direct Publishing and uploaded the file, my cover and filled in all the essential info that you have to put up. It took me the afternoon but I know what I’m doing now.

And Oh Auntie was up there this morning. Impressively quick.

So, now I must start some serious marketing, although this book is just my Kindle guinea pig. I have some heavier weight books coming soon which I really want to push. But, this is a super little book, and worth trying to sell.

As I pick up tips and advice, I’ll pass them on.

I blogged about a 1909 copy of the French journal Bonnes Lectures on my living in France blog the other day. In this same issue was a short article about why young girls should never, but NEVER, read novels.

Here’s what it says:

Novels

It’s a shame that people read these so often these days. Those that do read them should remember that novels do nobody any good at all and they are above all dangerous for young girls. False ideas, irresponsible attitude, impossible ideals, a loss of innocence – this is what you find in novels.

Even Jean-Jacques Rousseau, famed for his profanity, has said: No chaste young girl ever read a novel.

Bear this in mind!

 

I think times have changed, thank goodness!

 

 

My samplesunday contribution this week is the opening chapter from Beat the Hackers, the next of my books to hit Kindle in the very near future.

Currently revising this cover

Monday 13 May 2013

Heather Mayhew strode briskly up the steep hill towards home. She’d just got off the school bus. It was running late today, so that was why she wasn’t hanging about. Her father would be watching the clock, and if she was more than a few minutes later than normal, he’d be out looking for her. He was a worrier.

Ray Mayhew ran a computer programming business from home. And what a home it was. He and Heather lived in a large, rambling house surrounded by several acres of garden and orchards. Ray was extremely successful these days. He’d had a big breakthrough a few years ago when he’d developed an app that made it really quick and easy for people to monitor their emails, Tweets and Facebook messages. It quickly emerged as the best by far on the market, and he’d made an awful lot of money from it. So Heather had everything she could possibly need – and a few more things besides. She didn’t think of herself as particularly lucky, though. She simply took it for granted.

“Hi Dad!” Heather called as she opened the front door. “It’s me!”

“Hello!” Ray replied, shouting from his office at the top of the stairs. “I’ll be down in a mo. Pop the kettle on, please.”

Heather and her father always had a cup of tea together when she got back from school. It was one of their little rituals. Then she would get on with her homework, and Ray would go back upstairs to work, apart from Tuesdays when he drove Heather to town for swimming club and Fridays when it was Scouts. But today was Monday so Heather had the evening to herself. She decided she’d get her inline skates out later since it was warm and bright. And then maybe she’d read and catch up with her friends on Facebook. She hummed happily as she filled the kettle. She was very content with her ordered, steady life.

A clumping on the stairs signalled that her father was coming down. She pulled the biscuit tin out of the cupboard. It contained a mixture of digestives for Ray and ginger nuts for her.

“So what did you learn today, princess?” smield Ray, as he came into the kitchen. He was small and wiry, with unfashionable thick, black-framed glasses, a bushy beard and a lot of ginger hair. He was usually scruffy, except for when he met clients. Today hadn’t been a day of meeting so he was dressed in baggy jogging pants, a shabby checked shirt and odd slippers. But Heather wasn’t surprised at his appearance. Ray always looked something like that.

“Oh, we did loads of stuff,” she replied vaguely. “Mainly pretty boring. How’s your new program coming along?”

“Fine, fine,” smiled Ray. “Not too much more to do on it now.”

“It’s an anti-hacking program, right?” Heather asked conversationally, dunking two ginger nuts at once into her sweet, milky tea.

“It certainly is,” her father nodded, adding a fourth spoonful of sugar to his mug of black tea. Neither passed a comment on the other’s greediness. They were too used to each other to even notice.

“So you’ll stop all those wretched hackers messing up other people’s computers just for fun then? Cool.” She munched her biscuits thoughtfully. “But why do hackers, you know, hack? It’s so nasty.”

Ray shrugged. “Because they can mainly. And because they’re mean. Well, most are. Some hackers are harmless enough.”

“They don’t sound harmless,” protested Heather.

“What I mean,” Ray went on, “is that some hackers break into systems just to prove a point. They leave a message describing what they’ve done so the person at the other end can tighten up on security before a malicious hacker, or cracker, gets in the same way.”

“Still sneaky,” observed Heather. “But why is there so much hacking these days? A few years ago there didn’t seem to be so much going on. It’s all the time these days.”

Heather was right. In the last two days alone a thirteen-year-old girl in America had crippled three huge corporations by hacking into their websites. And in Strasbourg the computer systems of the European Parliament had been sabotaged by some as yet unknown hacker.

“It’s easier these days, Heth,” her father sighed, “because of WiFi. Most people connect to the Internet wirelessly now. The days of cables and modems are over. But it does mean that unless you physically disconnect from the WiFi network, or turn your livebox off, your computer has a static address that’s there all day, every day.”

“Twenty-four seven, you mean,” Heather corrected her father. “That’s the cool way to say it.”

“OK. Twenty-four seven it is,” agreed Ray, helping himself to a third digestive. “So it’s easier for a hacker browsing around to find an address to attack.”

“When you say address,” frowned Heather, “do you mean the website name?”

“No, the IP – Internet Protocol – address. Each computer on the Internet has a unique IP address, which is a series of numbers in groups of three. These numbers are the way information finds its way from the source to where it’s going. The website or domain names aren’t what the computers are using. They’re just there for the humans. People are better at remembering names than numbers, although that might change in a few thousand years’ time.” Ray smiled. “I read an article the other day saying that our brains are evolving to be better with numbers since they are becoming such an important part of our lives. You know, telephone numbers, car registrations, PIN numbers – that sort of thing.”

“Well, I wish mine would evolve extra fast,” sighed Heather. “I’d do better at maths then. You know how much I it! But about hackers, Dad. How will your new program keep them out?”

“That’s top secret,” her father winked.

“You mean I wouldn’t understand,” laughed Heather.

“We-ell, it is a bit technical,” admitted Ray. “Basically my program makes personal firewalls stronger.”

“I’ve heard of them, but I don’t really know what they are,” confessed Heather.

“A firewall is just a pair of mechanisms,” Ray told her. “One blocks unwanted traffic while the other permits authorised traffic through. In a nutshell, it keeps the idiots out of your computer and lets you get on with what you’re doing. And what’s more, the firewall can act as a tracing tool. My program sends an alert any time someone comes sniffing round, trying to crack the system. I may even install an automatic shutdown at that point as extra defence. But that might annoy the user too much. I’m including a virus detector too, to pick up viruses coming from the Internet and email. People are still so sloppy about computer security. They seem to think they’ll never get a virus.”

He trailed off and looked thoughtful.

“But your progam will beat the hackers, right?”

“I certainly hope so, Heth,” shrugged Ray. “I’m pinning a log on this program of mine. Talking of which, I’d better get back to work. And you’d better get your homework done, young lady.”

Heather pulled a face, but Dad was right. Time to tackle maths.

I’m steadily working my way through Jason Matthew’s excellent ebook How to Make, Market and Sell Ebooks. It’s aimed at people like me who aren’t the most informed about all the Internet tools out there that we can use to produce and sell our books. It’s a positive goldmine of information. There’s a Facebook group that Jason has set up too. I’ve joined that and am cyber-meeting some very enthusiastic and talented writers.

I’m very positive and excited about producing my ebooks. I’m mugging up on SEO at the moment. Up to now my eyes had glazed over every time I’d seen it mentioned and thought there was no way I could ever get the hang of it. However, I’m starting to see how it all fits together, thanks to this book, and I shall try harder to be less of a Luddite!

I’ll review this book properly when I’ve finished it, but so far I’m really impressed and am finding it invaluable.

And it’s Sunday, so here’s this week’s#sundaysample. The first chapter of Oh Auntie! (for 7-11 year olds).

Chapter 1: Auntie Arrives

 

Cover artwork for Oh Auntie!

“Auntie’s here!” yelled Robyn as a sleek, silver Porsche pulled into the farmyard.

She had been watching out of the kitchen window with her younger brother Paul.

“At last,” cried Dad. He and Mum were already late setting off. They were heading away to a big conference about organic farming, up in the city. And so Auntie had come to babysit for the weekend.

Auntie was Mum’s big sister. Her name was actually Jane but she’d never liked that, so she kept changing it. Over the years she had been Jade, Joy, Janet, Jemima, Jasmine, Judy and Jennifer. It was very confusing so that was why everyone, even Mum and Dad, just called her Auntie.

Auntie was very rich. She had an important job in the city. She drove fast cars and had a huge wardrobe of designer label clothes. She was tall, elegant and beautiful. But she wasn’t much fun. Robyn and Paul were reckoning on having a very boring weekend with her.

Auntie picked her way carefully across the muddy farmyard in her crazily high stiletto shoes. She was wearing a Ralph Lauren lilac trouser suit and a matching Deva pashmina with glittering crystals on the tassels. She shimmered into the kitchen. Mum gave her a hug. Auntie winced.

“Don’t crumple my suit, there’s a dear,” she said, smoothing imaginary crinkles out of the fabric. “George, run and get my suitcases. And don’t scratch the car.”

Dad went outside grumbling. He didn’t like Auntie much. She was very bossy. It took three trips to bring all Auntie’s matching Burberry suitcases and bags into the guest room.

“Goodness, whatever’s all that for? You’re only here for a couple of days!” laughed Mum as Dad staggered by with the last of the luggage.

Auntie glared at her. “I assure you, it’s all essential.”

Mum shrugged and winked at the children. “Right, we need to go. Be good for Auntie please.”

“And do keep an eye on Barbie,” said Dad. “She shouldn’t calve just yet, but if she does, tell Billy at once. OK?”

Robyn and Paul nodded wearily. Dad had told them what to do at least fifty times already that day. But Barbie – named by Robyn when she was a little girl – was his favourite cow and Dad was a bit of a worrier. Billy was the farmhand and he lived just down the road.

“Time we went!” said Mum.

And after lots of kisses and hugs and more sets of instructions from Dad they did.