Getting To Know Each Other

I got some proofing done over the weekend as hoped, but didn’t get close to finishing the manuscript. I discovered with the first two novels that proofing always takes longer than I think it will. It seems Distances will follow the same path.

As I wrote yesterday, I use the iPad to “read” the book aloud and I follow wearing my headphones. To do so, I upload a .pdf of the novel onto the Kindle app. While I’m listening, as well as reading along myself, I mark up necessary corrections too.

Listening to the book being read helped me catch – just yesterday – at least half a dozen overlooked words, such as “the,” “an,” and “but”; they are the sort of words you may accidentally omit when writing, but which your eye doesn’t necessarily spot as missing when you proofread. Ah, but you definitely HEAR when they are missing: their absence is jarring to the ear.

It’s a new writing universe.

Free Stock Photo: Illustration of people in front of a store.
Free Stock Photo: Illustration of people in front of a store.

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“The Competition” Identified

It’s surprising to open an Amazon email and see one of your books at the top of the list among others Amazon appears to consider “similar” to it:

Screen capture of an Amazon marketing email.
Screen capture of an Amazon marketing email.

I screen grabbed as much of it as I could. Two unmistakably have “romance” in the title. I may have to “investigate” those, and others (I kept the email), to see what, err, I’m up against. ;-)

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Your Hourly Income Isn’t Readers’ Problem

Today is the fifth and final day Passports is FREE on Kindle. If you’ve downloaded it – or do – during this span, I hope you enjoy it. And speaking of Kindle:

Screen capture of Twitter.
Screen capture of Twitter.

Recently, a Lexie Syrah was interviewed by CBC radio. She says she has published 17 books, and has pulled her Kindle titles from Kindle Unlimited. She’s angry about Kindle’s changed payment terms for Unlimited and the lending library.

If you as a reader even care, since July 1 authors are paid per number of pages borrowers read the first time they read a borrowed Kindle book, not merely for the book as a whole having been borrowed. Kindle tells us authors that authors themselves have sought this change:

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The “Other” Glastonbury

Yesterday, we took the nephew to Glastonbury – no, not to the music festival, which is over. (There were trucks still clearing away post-festival.) I mean to the town, which is full of history and varieties of faith. He studies Classics at Oxford, and loves this sort of thing:

Part of the remains of Glastonbury Abbey. [Photo by me, 2015.]
Part of the remains of Glastonbury Abbey. [Photo by me, 2015.]

The Abbey is amazing.

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Free For Five Days

The British summer weather so far has been, mostly, superb. Today, here in Wiltshire, it’s supposed to be *hot.* I suspect we’re gonna wish we were still here:

Devon beach, with the wet hound. [Photo, 2015.]
Devon beach, with the wet hound. [Photo, 2015.]

I am also about 75 percent finished writing Distances. If I can keep this up, it will be completed by the autumn, which would be well ahead of what I’d hoped. Finishing that third volume has been a major target I’d been aiming for since I started writing in 2012-13.

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The Appropriate “Grade Level” For Your Novel Is…

The other day Kindle sent out a note suggesting we authors optionally “age rate” our books. I thought I’d share it. I’ve removed the superfluous and “personal” parts and screen captured the core of it:

Edited message from Kindle.
Edited message from Kindle.

Kindle sends out lots of stuff – some useful, some not. But this just seems a sloppy tech issue from their end. There’s a straightforward reason I haven’t chosen an under-18s level for my novels and Kindle knows it already.

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It’s “Schmaltz,” Say The French

The Independent newspaper here in Britain reports that France’s film raters will not give Fifty Shades of Grey an “adults only” rating. That means those as young as age 12 will be allowed to see it:

France’s classification president, Jean-Francois Mary, said that the movie, starring Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson, “isn’t a film that… can shock a lot of people”.

He believes that the movie, which contains nudity and sadomasochism between an entrepreneur and a virginal student, is “a romance – you could even say schmaltz”.

The book was a huge seller in France as elsewhere, and the film will get a wide release there. However, while there have even been protests over the film in the U.S. and Britain about its portrayal of domestic violence, that rating in France is, one might say, a “Gallic shrug.” What Mr. Mary is essentially asserting there is that it’s not really a film that needs to be taken all that seriously by adults.

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Short Attention Span Literature

Over pre-lunch drinks before he headed to London (on the train) on New Year’s Eve (why would he want to spend New Year’s with his aunt and uncle, right?), I had an interesting chat with my 20 year old nephew. An Oxford Classics student, he is so bright he is frighteningly intimidating.

We ended up discussing modern writing and my books. “I sell Kindle books mostly,” I explained. “For some reason, I feel the print versions may ‘read’ better, but they can be ten times as expensive, and I’ve got no control over that. But if there weren’t e-books, I probably wouldn’t sell many books at all, given the price of the paperbacks.”

We also laughed about the evolution from print to e-reader not yet taking hold everywhere. “The Kindle isn’t big yet in the Classics,” he joked.

Free Stock Photo: A young businessman holding a tablet computer
Free Stock Photo: A young businessman holding a tablet computer

We then moved on to how we write today. Social media – Facebook, Twitter, etc. – has changed us so much, we agreed.

He suggested they have especially impacted how we follow news. “But no one has any time to reflect anymore,” he added. “Journalists rush to publish online, and sometimes they really get it wrong.”

Definitely. So much is happening in so many places, on so many platforms, shared by so many people who also aren’t officially journalists but are certainly worth reading. It’s great in so many ways – we follow people who are everywhere in the world.

Yet we also struggle to keep up. Our feeds overwhelm us. Tolerance for long passages, much less wading through complicated ones, is apparently becoming less.

Despite all the books out there, even e-books, one suspects many people now don’t really read full novels. That’s not a surprise. We all know even newspapers are not what they once were, although there are still some who do read print papers:

My father-in-law, immersed the other day in Britain's Daily Telegraph. There are still people who read print, day old, news. [Photo by me, 2014.]
My father-in-law, immersed the other day in Britain’s Daily Telegraph. There are still people who read print, day old, news. [Photo by me, 2014.]
In my writing, I said, I try to take into account what may be a “short attention span” among some readers. So I deliberately compose short, tight paragraphs. I aim for no more than about five sentences, tops.

“I’ve noticed that,” my nephew replied, having read my first novel.

“But I also want depth and nuance. It’s a heckuva balancing act. Write too wordily, try to say too much, and you’ll lose your readers,” I related. “It’s a shame, because some things do take more than a few sentences to describe properly. A well-written descriptive paragraph is like a beautiful painting.”

Think about it. Look at so much fiction today. It is – bam! bam! bam! – so quick:

‘I love you!’

‘No, you can’t!’

‘I do!’

‘No!’

Eh, no stealing that. That’s mine. I think it’s gotta be the opening lines to a future prize-winning, best seller. :-)

______
UPDATE: By sheer coincidence, clicking over for a “read” a little while ago, I noticed CNN has dramatically changed its web site:

Screen shot of CNN's new web site.
Screen shot of CNN’s new web site.

As I looked around, it appears very blog-like. It reminds me even of some WordPress templates. ;-)

There seems heavy reliance on photos, videos, and short headlines. Yes, you can click through to longer pieces of course. But “reading” in depth seems assumed to be almost something that’s done by only the minority of visitors.

Author Cool

When only Passports was available, I hadn’t bothered much with the Amazon Author Central pages on .com and .co.uk. But now, with Frontiers out there too, I decided I should do them up somewhat. (I’m now trying to get Amazon to combine the paperback and Kindle pages for Frontiers, which they will hopefully manage shortly.) This is a grab yesterday of my Amazon.com page:

image

Not bad with those sunglasses, eh? You may remember them from the summer – when we were visiting Charleston; that’s Fort Sumter in the background. Hey, clearly I can do “cool.” ;-) (But, wow, that day was also seriously “hot.”)

Doing the pages reminded me to have a check of the Kindle Frontiers, “Look Inside,” free sample. I see it begins at, uh, naturally the beginning, which is Chapter 61. (Passports is chapters 1-60.) The sample runs well into Chapter 65. It stops here, at what makes for an inadvertent “cliffhanger”. Thanks Amazon guys!:

She felt herself shaking. Fear was too strong a word, but she did feel increasingly uneasy about this situation. The hall was empty, and she hoped that someone – anyone – would emerge from a room.

“How will you get to know me if you, you don’t let me talk with you?” he stammered and kept at her….

Of course I’m not gonna say here who “she” is. Or let on who “he” is. Or explain where they are. You could find out from reading more of the sample.

However, ahem, if you want to know what happens after that blurb above, well, umm…. ;-)

Have a good Saturday, wherever you are in the world. :-)

Published: “Frontiers: Atlantic Lives, 1995-1996”

My wife has had to fly back to Britain. I am staying on here in Pennsylvania through my father’s heart implant procedure on December 8. Before she left on Saturday, with a wink and a smile she gave me her final approval on Frontiers.

So today, Frontiers is now – FINALLY! – officially published. It doesn’t seem for sale on Amazon.com just yet. However, I presume it will be available on Amazons everywhere in paperback and for Kindle within the next few hours.

FrontiersCoverPublishedDecember1

This long year (for me) is now, at last, winding down.

* * *

The characters we met last year in the first volume, Passports, are, by the end of Frontiers, much more familiar to us. By the end of the latter, we’ve gotten to know them pretty well. We’re been with them in their laughter as well as their pain.

There are right decisions made. There are the right things said at the right time. There is humor. There are also shortcomings. There is stupidity. There are foolish statements. There is naïveté. There are loose ends. We see there are no pat answers.

In short, we are parachuted into their lives. I want them to be “three-dimensional,” to read as if they are real people, and perhaps even become your friends too. I hope I have even partly achieved that ambitious goal.

* * *

What happens to them subsequently is for a planned third volume. When you create characters, you suddenly feel “responsible” for them. They are words on a page, yet now almost 200,000 words and two novels later, I care about them all very much. I hope you will too.

Having read Passports helps greatly in better understanding Frontiers as its follow on. However, doing so is not absolutely essential. If you do choose to read Frontiers, I hope you enjoy it as much as I have enjoyed – well, if I’m honest, not 100 percent of the time, but often – writing it.

I will add sidebar links to it on here, etc., and so on, shortly. First, I may take a few days off. You know of course that it’s not that I don’t like you all. ;-) It’s just I’m drained and need to “recharge” a little.

It is a good time to say this once more: Thank you again for reading and following my modest novel-writing site.

Have a good Monday, wherever you are in the world. :-)