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Good Results from Getfreeebooks.com

I submitted Oh Gran, one of my two free ebooks available via Smashwords here to www.getfreeebooks.com. It was accepted on 1st October and by today, 3rd October, it’s been downloaded over 200 times. Up to then I’d had around 130 downloads directly from the Smashwords site over about 10 days. So going to getfreeebooks.com was a very worthwhile move in my opinion. Hopefully people will enjoy the book and remember my name, and one day, actually pay for one of my masterpieces!

None of my latest batch of ebooks, two free and one at 99 cents, have made it onto Amazon yet in Kindle format. I thought I’d do it via Smashwords this time round. It’s taken longer than I thought it would, but the advantage of using Smashwords as distributor is that they pay by Paypal, whereas Amazon will only pay overseas authors by cheque. Cashing cheques drawn on foreign banks in a foreign currency is practically impossible in France. I’ll probably have to open a special account somewhere with an awful lot of accompanying bank charges when the time comes to deal with royalties coming directly from Amazon. Sadly at the moment I imagine those expenses will far outweigh the income 🙁

But I’m an optimist! I plan to carry on plugging away with my ebooks in the certainty that one day it will be worthwhile financially.

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Super Thursday

Today is Super Thursday, the day when publishers launch their best hopes for the Christmas market. According to the BBC, more than 500 books in all formats, amongst them 200 hardbacks, are being published today, including a good helping of comedians’ autobiographies, and of course a Jamie Oliver cookbook, Jamie’s Great Britain. This latter is the hot favourite to the Christmas bestseller.

Getting the Christmas books out today gives publishers and authors enough time to do lots of promotion and for word of mouth to kick in and the power of reviews to kick in. The next best day will be in a fortnight, October 13th, so if you were hoping to make it big this Christmas, get your skates on! Looks like I’d better get a move on with my two non-fiction ebooks.

Last year, nine of the books released on Super Thursday sold more than one million pounds’ worth of copies. Not bad. In the 12-week run up to Christmas, a total of 69 million books were sold, with a value of 567 million pounds. This is serious money.

Ebook publishers will be looking to take a share of the public’s book budget this year. You can’t put an ebook in a stocking, though, which will work against them during the festive season. However, you can put a Kindle or other ebook reader in, and with the new Kindle priced at 79 dollars, that’s in normal spending parameters for family and special friends.

It will be very interesting to see how ebook sales fare over the next three months. I’ll be watching closely.

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Sample Sunday Guest Post: Something Fishy by Rorie Stevens

Here’s an extract from Something Fishy, the racy fishing mystery story by my carp fishing friend Rorie Stevens.

Marcus Summers is the narrator. He’s brought a team of 6 anglers to take on a rival team at a friend’s lake in France near Coussac. This year Marcus has the hot Fiona on his team.

 

Chapter 6

Fishing is a good sex substitute. Not if you put them side by side, of course. If a beautiful, naked, sex-starved woman (or man, if that’s the preference) came prancing along the bank just as an angler was about to cast, well, I don’t think it’s the fish that would get pulled. But as a way of keeping your mind happily and busily off the subject for a period of time, it works well. At least it usually did for me, but this week with Fi close by, it was rubbing my nose in it.

I’d once done a column about why fishing was better than sex, coming up with daft reasons like the fact that a fish will never post embarrassing video footage of you on Youtube; you don’t have to hide your fishing magazines; you can have as many fishing partners, including total strangers, as you want, and how if you catch something when you’re fishing it’s good, but if you do the same when you’re having sex, well, that’s bad. That was one of my most popular articles. It was a shame it wasn’t actually true.

I got through Sunday more or less OK. We were all anxious to get our first catches so we all concentrated hard on our fishing. I spodded like mad and built up a good bed of bait, and sure enough, by Sunday evening I was starting to land some excellent fish. Overall, our team was ahead by 41 lbs. Greg had been landing the most regularly, but he was bringing in smaller grass carp, rather than larger commons. However, no-one minds catching a grass carp – they’re always exciting and fight like crazy. Fi had brought in three mirrors over 30 lbs and she was thrilled. She was proving to be a reliable carpist.

She got a lot of teasing, because in between casts and catches, she pulled her knitting out.

“Grannies knit!” protested Derek over lunch. “Hot chicks don’t.”

Fi rolled her eyes. “So you’re saying Scarlett Johansson and Dakota Fanning aren’t hot? You’re way out of touch, Del Boy. It’s cool to knit these days. All the celebs are doing it.”

Derek snorted.

“Anyway, I’m a yarnbomber, not a knitter.”

“You what?” Derek looked at her blankly, like the rest of us.

“Yarnbomber. Knitted graffiti street artist, if you’d rather.”

“Knitting’s not art,” grumbled Andy. “Knitting’s jumpers and stuff.”

“Not necessarily.” Fi put him straight. “There are quite a lot of us who brighten up public places with our artwork. You know, a hat on a postbox,  a scarf round a statue’s neck. Some yarnbombers have knitted covers for tanks and buses!”

“They need to get a life,” tutted Josh sadly.

Fi ignored him.

“Have you done any of that stuff at Haverton?” asked Norm.

“No, not yet,” admitted Fi. “I’ve been too crazy with work. But I’ve got the time now so I shall rustle up something for Coussac. It’s bound to have a statue somewhere that needs a makeover. Are we going into town soon?” she asked me.

“I was reckoning on tomorrow or Tuesday morning,” I replied. “I need to buy more food, and it’s always interesting to have a poke around there. It’s a nice little town. You’ll like it – it’s got a very picturesque old part.”

“Has it?” said Derek, surprised. “I didn’t know that.”

“How many years have you been coming here?” I grilled him.

“Eight now, I think.”

“Yeah, and for each of those eight years you only ever go to the same bar each time we go into Coussac!” I reminded him. “That’s why you haven’t done any sightseeing yet.”

“Oh, I see sights in that bar,” smirked Derek. “There are some fit babes in Coussac.”

We sat around for a while longer, then Fi got up.

“I need a shower,” she announced.

“Thank God for that,” grinned Liam. “I wondered what that funny smell was.”

“Ha ha, very mature,” riposted Fi.

She collected her wash things from her bivvie and disappeared up the path to the barn which housed the new shower room. But she was back ten minutes later, still dry, and carrying a camp shower. All the others had gone back to their swims.

“The proper shower’s bust,” she grumbled to me. “Julian says he should have it fixed by tomorrow evening. So he’s given me this thing. He says if I hang it up first thing in the morning in a sunny spot, the water should be good and warm by midday.”

“Keep that thing in sight the rest of today,” I warned her.

“Oh?”

“Yes. Never forget there are people round here with a mental age that matches their hook size. These same people are into silly practical jokes. I remember a camp shower episode a few years ago that involved worms and other creepy crawlies!”

“Eeyuw!” grimaced Fi. “Thanks for the heads up. I shall go and stash it at the back of my bivvie and stand guard.”

I smiled as I watched her hurry off with it.

Next morning, she vanished early with it, into the woods at the far end of the lake. I was the only one to see her go. No-one else was up yet. I’d had a broken night with three runs so I was tired. Two of those had resulted in fish on the bank, so I was well pleased. But damn, the thought that in a few hours Fi would be naked somewhere in those same woods was definitely arousing. I tried to think about something else – what I’d write in my next column, how things were going at the fishery, had I got enough cash for the shopping today, but that was no good. The mental picture of wet, soapy Fi wouldn’t budge.

The other lads only found out about the shower over lunch, when Fi happened to remark that the water had still been on the chilly side when she’d last checked it, so she was going to give it another hour. All eyes were on her.

“Do you want someone to hold your soap?” offered Nat. “So you don’t have to keep bending down to pick it up.”

Eleven minds’ eyes saw a nude Fi bending down. That was something worth seeing.

“Come to think of it, it would be better if I held your towel rather than your soap,” Nat corrected himself hastily with a smile. “So you have to bend down!”

“In your dreams,” chuckled Fi. “I shower alone.”

“What if a wild boar comes along?” suggested Greg. “You should have a lookout to scare it away.”

“I’ll take my chances with the local wildlife,” replied Fi firmly.

Rob rustled up some cups of tea. I noticed Andy and Derek slip out. Not too hard to guess where they were going. They came back about half an hour later, sniggering like schoolboys. I watched them go round the lake, talking to Rob’s guys and then Greg and Norm. Everyone seemed to be giving them cigarettes.

“What are you up to?” I demanded when they finally got to me.

“We know where Fi’s shower is!” smirked Andy. “For half a dozen fags, we’ll tell you.”

I looked at them hard. “That’s a bit mean isn’t it? I mean, this is Fi, she’s our friend.”

“Are you telling me you don’t want to see her in the buff?” Andy cut to the point.

“No,” I sighed. “I’d love to, but I don’t think it’s very nice to go leering at her.”

“Suit yourself,” shrugged Derek. “You’re the loser.”

Just then, Fi came out of her bivvie with her towel. Everyone pretended to be busy with their rods. She snuck a look round, then hurried off to the woods again. A minute later, all the lads started following.

I watched them giggle off. I felt cross. No way were they going to eyeball Fi in the nude. I was determined to be the one out of us who got to see her naked first, but voluntarily on Fi’s part. I was going to get that girl. I pulled out my mobile, hoping Fi had got hers with her.  I quickly texted a message:

‘You wl hv audience. Lads r follwng u.’

I was relieved when my phone chirped almost immediately to tell me her reply had come.

‘Tx! Wl relocate fast!’

This I had to see, so I brought in my rods and trotted after the others.

“I changed my mind,” I lied shamelessly to Andy and bunged him a handful of fags.

“Knew you’d see sense,” he smirked.

We followed Andy and Derek through the shady woods. Everyone was trying to be quiet but not really succeeding. There were too many twigs cracking underfoot and too much laughing. I needn’t really have warned Fi. She’d have heard us coming, no problem. We climbed up some banking and then Andy and Derek beckoned to us to approach slowly and bent low. We looked down over the lip of the slope to where the lads were pointing. But neither Fi nor shower were anywhere to be seen. Derek and Andy looked gobsmacked.

“Where is she then?” demanded Mike, one of Rob’s team.

“Yeah!” said Josh, a giant of a man who made me look small and puny.

“The shower was definitely here earlier,” promised Andy.

“Lying bastards!” accused Liam. “I’ll have my fags back please.”

“Yeah, me too,” I added, hoping to appear genuinely disappointed.

“Um, we’ve smoked most of them,” admitted Derek.

“Already? Shit!” Josh wasn’t impressed.

“We’ll buy some tomorrow for you,” added Andy.

“Proper ones, like, not weird French camel-poo ones,” grumbled Josh.

“Do you get camels in France then?” enquired Liam.

I rolled my eyes.

“You have our word,” nodded Derek.

The two of them looked very abashed. Not a common sight, that.

Suddenly Josh laughed. “You had us all going!”

“Yeah, I believed you!” confessed Rob.

“We were telling the truth.” Andy didn’t like being accused of trickery.

“Yeah, whatever.” Phil, the quiet one on Rob’s team, shrugged good naturedly.

We traipsed back to the lake.

“Let’s have a beer at the cabin before we get fishing again,” suggested Greg.

Everyone muttered assent so we headed down to the cabin. And there was Fi, with wet hair and wrapped in a towel, unhooking the campshower from the tree branch just outside it.

“You had your shower? Here?” Andy couldn’t believe it.

“Finished about a minute ago. Yeah, it’s a nice sunny spot here,” she smiled. “Pllus I thought I’d get some help. I realised I’d been a bit stroppy with you all yesterday. It was so kind of you wanting to hold my soap and towel. So I came here, looking for willing volunteers, but you’d all gone. Such a shame.” She sighed melodramatically. “I really needed someone to scrub my back for me.”

She winked at me then sashayed along the bank, back to her tent, while ten pairs of eyes watched in abject misery. I watched trying not to laugh. Good old Fi!

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Next Ebook Ready

Escape the Volcano will be hitting Smashwords tomorrow. This ebook has been a family affair. I wrote it, Benj scanned the out of print dead-tree version which I updated, and Caiti has done me a fantastic new cover, as you can see here.

It’s the first in the Escape series that did very well for me back in Ireland, despite little marketing and pushing by the publishers. The two main characters are eleven year old Tom Donoghue and his irrepressible friend, Kevin, one of life’s optimists and jokers. Tom’s Mum and little sister Anna play significant roles, and so does Alan, who they meet up with in this first adventure. (Tom’s dad is a no-show in the stories. I had to kill him off a few years previously since I needed an incomplete family for the series! It’s very hard to write interesting stories about perfect, happy families – sad but true.) This little crowd turned out to be great fun to write about and I enjoyed creating various adventures for them. They go on to encounter avalanches, floods and twisters in the next books.

It’ll be free on Smashwords, but you’ll have to pay for the rest of the stories in the series, probably 99 cents each, which I think is a fair deal.

So, please do check my Smashwords page out  in the next day or two and get yourelf a free copy to enjoy. And let me know what you think of it.

 

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Smashing Week

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!

 

 

 

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Smashing Afternoon at Smashwords

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!

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Chapters Need Names

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.

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Second Ebook Out

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.

 

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Scan-dalous Transformation!

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!

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Writing Challenges Work

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.