Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Ebook Conversion

If you're thinking of publishing an ebook, there's lots of software out there that will handle the process for you. Whichever you choose, you will still need to be aware of some things that can cause your book to look odd.

Paragraphs. Do NOT use tabs. Use the 'format-paragraph' option. If you use tabs the converted book will look a little odd and maybe even look weird.

New chapter. Use 'ctrl+enter' to start a new page and not the enter key. Also, do not have a line space after the last word of the previous chapter as this will often be added to the top of the next chapter.

Fonts. Unusual fonts don't translate well so stick with Times New Roman unless you have a good reason not to or fancy a non-serifed font.

Tabs. Treat tabs like a contagious disease.

If you want to see what formatting you already have in your document, search at the top of your processing software and look for an icon in the shape of a back-to-front 'IP'. Click on it and you can see the 'tabs' (arrows), 'enter' (back-to-front IP) and spaces (a '.' in the centre of the line). Remove those that you don't need.

See you on Friday.

Monday, November 28, 2011

The Book Launch

I know you're all wondering how it went, so I'll tell you.


Happy? What do you mean, 'no'? You want more details? Oh...alright then.

The plan. Set up the hall between 12 and 1pm ready for the hordes to descend on us at 1pm. Sign jacket artwork copies and flog...errr...sell them at £1 each and give away bookmarks to anyone who wanted one. At 2pm the three authors would get on stage and read extracts from their books and to thunderous applause take a bow. The whole shebang was due to end at 4pm and we'd be out by 4.30pm with a song in our hearts and a smile on each face.

What happened. What we planned, except for the thunderous applause and the sale of the signed artwork.

We'd invited over 150 people and though we knew that not all would attend, we were expecting more than did turn up. Still, this is our first ever book launch as a group so it's a lesson learned for future. How many did turn up? 20.

Selling the cover artwork was a stab in the dark anyway. We figured that if people were willing to buy an £8 book at a launch, they wouldn't mind paying £4 for an ebook plus £1 for a signed copy of the cover. Hmmmmm.

The readings were well received and were the best part of the afternoon. The applause wasn't thunderous, but it was more than polite and a definite highlight.

We were there for three hours, which was a bit optimistic in hindsight. Whether we shorten the period or put more activities in place next time is someting to discuss, but it will depend on numbers.

The biggest problem at the launch was not having any physical product to sell as there was nothing to see. That is a problem that we will have to overcome somehow, but we're not sure how at the moment. Partial printouts, small number of printed copies, CDs with a copy of the book and artwork?

We shall have a think about this and many other things tonight at our debrief, but one thing we have decided is that we want this to continue and we're already planning our next launch for June.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Friday Fun

Book Launch on Sunday, so this is going to be short.

Oddbox. Includes the world leprachaun record, a lucky escape for a helicopter pilot and someone shouting Fenton, trying to stop his dog chasing deer.

From the BBC, preventing spit corrosion in India and the world's worst football team finally wins a game.

From Newsbiscuit, The Siri app develops an attitude problem and one student sends academia reeling by telling his professorsr that it's 'just your opinion'.

With that, I wish you au revoir. On Monday I shall be blogging from the mental home I'm going to check into on Sunday night.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

59 Seconds...Or Less

In case you hadn't been paying attention (shame on you), I have a book launch on Sunday, details of which you can get by clicking on the lovely picture on the right. It also means I haven't much time to do a blog, but I know how much you'd miss it if I didn't add one today.

To that end, here are some things that can help you change things in your life in less than 59 seconds...that's 59 seconds each, not together.

1 - Develop the gratitude attitude. List three things that you are grateful for or three events that have gone well over the last week. It'll help your happiness.

2 - Place a picture of a baby in your wallet. Doing so increases the chance of it being returned if lost by 30%. Doesn't matter whose baby it is, any baby will do.

3 - Hang a mirror in your kitchen. Seeing your own reflection will make you more aware of your body and you'll find that you'll more healthy food. (No I haven't done this. I'm too ashamed)

4 - Buy a pot plant for the office. Adding pot plants to an office (home or not) adds 15% to the number of creative ideas from men and helps women produce more original solutions to problems.

5 - Touch people lightly on the upper arm. Touching people lightly makes it more likely that people will agree to your request. It works for dating too.

6 - Write about your relationship. Partners who spend a few moments each week writing down their deepest thoughts and feelings about their relationship are 20% more likely to stay together. You don't have to tell your partner what you wrote...but you may want to.

7 - Deal with potential liars by closing your eyes or asking for an email. The most reliable clues (not certainties) to someone lying are using 'um' and 'er' a lot, lacking detail and avoiding self-reference (me, myself, I). People are also 20% less likely to lie in an email as it's written evidence.

8 - Praise children's effort over ability. Counter-intuitive this one, but if you praise their effort, they will keep trying regardless of the consequences, side-stepping the fear of failure.

9 - Visualise yourself doing, not achieving. People who visualise themselves taking the practical steps to achieve their goal are more likely to succeed.

10 - Consider your legacy. Spend a minute imagining a close friend standing by your grave and reflecting on your personal and professional legacy. It helps to identify long term goals and the degree to which you're progressing towards them.

All the above come from the conclusion of '59 Seconds - Think a little, change a lot' by Professor of Psychology, Richard Wiseman. It's an excellent book and thoroughly recommended...but it will take longer than 59 seconds to read.

See you on Friday.

Monday, November 21, 2011

The Launch

Tonight we had our final writer's group meeting before the launch of our ebooks next Sunday...EEEEEEEEEKKKKK! And guess what? We're already looking ahead to May 2012 and our next launch.

So what have we done in preparation?
- hired room. We got it for free providing we get it covered by the local press.
- arranged for three articles to be done after the launch. One for the local paper, one for a local magazine and one for Writing Raw.
- books will be converted to the correct electronic format tomorrow and loaded to Amazon.
- advertising done with local newsagents and by distributing a few leaflets, not to mention inviting EVERYONE we know on Facebook as well as family and friends. We might even exceed the 100 target.
- got local library to send someone along to the launch
- arranged for A3 posters to be printed for each book cover.
- agreed on price for novels (£3.50)
- agreed on price for signed book cover art (£1) and signed bookmark (50p). Both will be printed on my laser printer. Unsigned bookmarks will be available for free.
- finished our mission statement for the website
- almost finished website. Just waiting on one author bio

Roll on next Sunday...and on Monday I'll update you on how it went. One last thing, we've arranged a date for our post-launch party.

Onto other updates, the play went as well as could be expected. Lines missed occasionally, chess pieces being whacked into the audience and the odd moment of (deliberate) comedy.

Want to know what I looked like in my costumes? OK. This is me in act 1.

In act 2...

Don't my chins look wonderful. And in case you're wondering I wasn't trying to look cool, I was feeling very uncomfortable.

See you on Wednesday.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Friday Fun

OK. This is gonna be a quicky as I have a play to perform tonight and a book to edit.

First up, Oddbox. This week another surfing dog, a strange divorce ceremony and the Latin American Pole Dance Championship. Oh and there's a Hen Hotel too.

Elsehwere on the BBC, Hilary Clinton a man in a loincloth, Dame Judi Dench is to appear in a school play and Justin Timberlake keeps a promise to date a US Marine.

From Newsbiscuit comes the headline, 'Gervais sees the joke as nine-foot lectern unveiled for Golden Globes awards' and the story about boy raised by moths.

Piccie time

What Australia is really like.

Who doesn't agree with this sentiment?

And finally, time to plug the Book Launch again. This time with Dawn's book cover for 'Son of Jack'.

Have a great weekend.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Reading to Learn

'Read to Learn' is an oft given piece of advice to writers, but read what?

Reading within your chosen genre shows you what to look for as you write your masterpiece, but does it help you to write? Not always.

If you restrict yourself to your chosen genre, then you may end up repeating what others have done instead of creating something a little different in your own voice. If you read around, you will become a more balanced writer.

Want to inject some thrilling scenes into your romance? Read a thriller. Want to create a reliable scientific character? Read a biography of a scientist. Read history, read psychology, read horror and science fiction. Got a problem with dialogue? Read a play, film or tv script. Reading a bad book can help you highlight faults in your own writing.

DON'T get too hooked on technical books about the process of writing or you will end up with sixteen different ways of doing the same thing, none of which actually help you write YOUR way.

Read around, but if you're finding a book boring put it down and read something else. Don't read a book because you feel you ought to, read it for the right reason.

Read other genres, non-fiction, plays and anything else you can lay your hands on (news magazines are good if you want to write faced paced narrative) and let the knowledge seep into your mind. You'll be surprised how much you remember when you're writing your own little piece of history.

Monday, November 14, 2011


Never mind 300 Spartan warriors, this is my 400th post. Wooohoo, yippeeeee, yaaayyyhaaaaayyyyyyyy.

OK, party over. Now, on with the updates.

At the beginning of the month (yes I know I should have told you then), Writing Raw published my first column about self-publishing (you can find it half way down on the left). It's an ongoing series about the highs and lows of self-publishing and the decisions that need to be made. The next column, due out at the beginning of December, will be about the launch and the promotion we've done.

I've not made much progress on the novel due to the impending play, which means I am cutting things close. I have set aside tomorrow morning to finish it off and nothing is going to get in the way of it, though I will take a break around 11am to go and see a lady about the room hire for the book launch.

Talking of the play, we will be performing this Thursday, Friday and Saturday at Knebworth Village Hall. You can see the video trailer on youtube, which also has booking information. For those of you flying in from the USA or other international destinations (such as Scotland), Knebworth is only 2 hours from Heathrow by taxi.

As you're going to be flying in from international destinations for the play, why not make a holiday of it. Stay for the week at the Ramada Cromwell Hotel, see Hertfordshire and wrap your holiday up by attending the book launch on Sunday 27th November, 1-4pm at the Cromwell Hotel. You can get to meet me and the other members of the North Herts Writers Circle, people who will be household names by next their own homes that is.

I shall see you all on Wednesday. In the meantime, I'll be learning lines, editing, updating the Starfish Publishing website and generally acting like a headless chicken. I'll leave you with the trailer for the play and the book trailer for 'Son of Jack', one of the three titles we'll be launching.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Friday Fun

First up, Oddbox. A doggy pub, extreme snowmobiles, massed tightrope walking and a running robot.

From elsewhere on the Beeb, there is a piece on the odd requests that British consulates receive. Would you believe that people ring them to ask for Prince Charle's shoe size or Phil Collins' phone number? There's also the story about what happens when Health and Safety officials don't take their own advice. That's right, they have an accident.

Now for a 'WOW' moment. A one molecule car. All together now...WOW.

My favourite political moment of the week: an MP calls James Murdoch a Mafia boss.

Newsbiscuit. The Olympic Games build up continues to fill the population of the UK with Apathy and what's going on with the protests at the moment? Someone has started an anti-capitalist events management company.

The financial crisis has, however, inspired a new musical. Greece. All together now,
I've got bills, they're multiplying
And I’m losin’ control
'cause the interest you’re applyin’
It’s electrifyin’!

The full lyrics are available on the site.

If, like me, you're just too attractive to the opposite sex, then you need to use both Lynx and Impulse to create a sexual null point.

From the Home Office comes the terrifying news that a man has been arrested for not having a Facebook account, while from the internet comes the news that spammers are angry about coherent posts on their forums.

Piccie Time

Have a great weekend and on Monday I reach a milestone. It's like a gallstone, but far less painful.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Don't Quit

Sometimes the simplest advice is the best advice. Whatever you're doing in life that you believe in, DON'T QUIT.


When things go wrong, as they sometimes will,
When the road you're trudging seems all uphill,
When the funds are low and the debts are high,
And you want to smile, but you have to sigh,
When care is pressing you down a bit,
Rest, if you must, but don't you quit.

Life is queer with its twists and turns,
As every one of us sometimes learns,
And many a failure turns about,
When he might have won had he stuck it out;
Don't give up though the pace seems slow--
You may succeed with another blow.

Often the goal is nearer than,
It seems to a faint and faltering man,
Often the struggler has given up,
When he might have captured the victor's cup,
And he learned too late when the night slipped down,
How close he was to the golden crown.

Success is failure turned inside out--
The silver tint of the clouds of doubt,
And you never can tell how close you are,
It may be near when it seems so far,
So stick to the fight when you're hardest hit--
It's when things seem worst that you must not quit.


See you Friday.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011


Day later than expected, but I do have a good excuse...errr....reason. I was editing.

The novel has been edited in full and now awaits a final readthrough by the writer's group. Once it gets through that stage it will be converted to kindle format and be ready for publication. All I need to do now is get a cover and a book trailer. Easy(?).

Invites have been sent out for the book launch and we're hoping for a good turnout. Friends, relatives and people we can drag off the street. "But I don't want to go to a book launch." "Don't think of it as a book launch, think of it as a kidnap attempt." I still need to contact the local newspaper, the BBC and I'm waiting on our local MP to comfirm his attendance (fingers crossed).

The other novel (Son of Jack) is near completion and we may have a late entry with three short stories under the title 'The Devil She Is'. I'll let you brood on that one till next week.

We have learnt a lot from this process, all of which will help us next May and we won't repeat the same mistakes: we'll find new ones. Talking of which, we have some in the pipeline for next May (books, not mistakes) and this time I'm not going to write AND organise. I'll just organise. Whether or not that's a new mistake or not only time will tell.

The play is entering it's last week of rehearsals and tonight we're having a 'words run-through'. No acting, just words to make sure we know them...which reminds me, I must get that book out and start learning the ones I don't know. (Technically I know all the words, I just don't know the correct order)

I also have my domain name back, which was another reason for the lack of posting yesterday, so I should have the website up by the end of the week.

See you on Wednesday, by which time my nervous breakdown should be in full flow.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

My Past

Memories can be nudged back into view by many things and a couple of songs from my MP3 have opened a window on how I felt during my marriage.

The first is by Cliff Richard and is called '(You Keep Me) Hanging On'. Some of you may recognise the situation he sings about from your past.

The second one's called 'Ain't No Pleasing You' by Chas and Dave...with a (very bad) joke by Kenny Everett at the beginning.

Scars heal, but they don't always fade.

Friday, November 04, 2011

Friday Fun

First up, Oddbox. This week, bathing a racoon, a collision with a vulture and two BBC reporters have a polite argument over the time. Well, almost polite.

Elsewhere on the Beeb, the queen's underwear has been sold for £10,000, inventions that have kept us safe and how well do you know national animals?

There is also news that six men have (almost) returned from Mars and that ageing has been mice.


Reports emerged this week that the 7 billionth human being has been inundated with junk mail and pc popups offering free gifts.

In the wake of the decision that the future succession to the throne will not be decided by gender, comes the added news that the monarch will be decided by a new reality tv program, the Rex Factor.

BBC reporter Robert Peston has been having Ego problems and lazy animal lovers have been queueing up to buy the latest pet: the remote control dog.

BREAKING NEWS.......Justin Beiber's agent denies he is showing signs of talent.

Best headline of the week: Simulated Mars mission was ‘real’ claim conspiracy theorists

Finally, a picture to warn the heart of pedants everywhere.

Have a great weekend.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Writing The Evil Guy...Or Gal

Want a villain in your book? Of course you do. But how do you write one that doesn't make a Bond villain look real? Help is at hand with the 'Evil Overlord List'.

Some examples:

- My noble half-brother whose throne I usurped will be killed, not kept anonymously imprisoned in a forgotten cell of my dungeon.
- Shooting is not too good for my enemies.
- The artifact which is the source of my power will not be kept on the 'Mountain of Despair' beyond the 'River of Fir'e guarded by the 'Dragons of Eternity'. It will be in my safe-deposit box. The same applies to the object which is my one weakness.
- I will not gloat over my enemies' predicament before killing them.

That's not all. Later on in the list are gems such as:

- I will be neither chivalrous nor sporting. If I have an unstoppable superweapon, I will use it as early and as often as possible instead of keeping it in reserve.
- I will only employ bounty hunters who work for money. Those who work for the pleasure of the hunt tend to do dumb things like even the odds to give the other guy a sporting chance.
- My main computers will have their own special operating system that will be completely incompatible with standard operating systems.
- If the beautiful princess that I capture says "I'll never marry you! Never, do you hear me, NEVER!!!", I will say "Oh well" and kill her.

One of the best hints is very simple. 'My Legions of Terror will be trained in basic marksmanship. Any who cannot learn to hit a man-sized target at 10 meters will be used for target practice.'

You can find these and more at the evil overlord list webpage. Have fun.