Monday, 27 April 2015

In this episode I attempt to use Scrivener

It has been a while, but I have been busy. I  finished editing Under the Coconut Tree (finally!), sent it to Storywork for editing and have just been through the final copy! Wooo hooo. It's taken long enough to get here. There wasn't too much red pen from the editor - but let’s face it face it – five grammar books and one course later my punctuation must have improved. And while we are talking about improvements I have also finished reading The Elements of Style. If you are a writer, you must read this book. It’s not an option. The book is, quite frankly, amazing. I have now started reading the Oxford Style Manual. I’ll let you know how it goes, but it’s more of a doorstop than a book. It may take me a year to finish (think bigger than Shantaram)

Anyway, back to UTCT. I heard of an editor from a writing friend and asked for a quote. The quote sounded reasonable so I’ve gave him a go and he was pretty good. So perhaps I will let him have Poison in the Water which should be ready for editing late summer – yes, I know my deadlines are slipping. I blame H for not going to the gym as much anymore – it has seriously cut down my writing time. So, now that my ms is back from the editor (along with the blurb, promo material wording etc- yep, I’m getting organised in my old age) my next task is to think of formatting the document for epub, kindle and paperback. – argh! Is a writer’s work ever over these days?

A writing friend recommended Scrivener as it can easily convert your work to Mobi and epub formats. A couple of you tube videos later, I bought the thing and tried it out. I have to say it is fiddly to use, but once you get the hang of it makes publishing pretty easy ( I say that although I'm not there yet). As I am a simple soul I bought Ed Ditto's ebook on publishing your book to kindle, Nook, Kobo, ibook,  Createspace and Smashwords. His claim is that you can do all this in an afternoon. I have to say it has taken me longer than that and I'm only half way through (but I'm easily distracted), but seriously the book is fool proof and simple to understand, plus he guides you through downloading Kindle gen and the reviewer. If you are feeling daunted by the thought and effort involved with publishing you need Scrivener and Ed Ditto's book in your life. I remember having to manually format my first book for kindle four years ago now and I was dreading it the second time around. Scrivener makes it all so simple! I reckon by the end of the month I will have all the formats I need.  H has stalled with my front cover, so I need to keep on at him to finish it!, but when that's done I am definitely going to try to upload directly to nook, kobo, kindle and create a paperback on Createspace, but I'm unsure if I need to go down the Smashwords route yet and I still haven't got my head around ibooks (but it's on my to-do list!). Perhaps I'll leave it till the others have been done.

Another bonus is that writing from now on, on Scrivener should be simpler. It has this great corkboard feature which looks like a great way to store a synopsis for each chapter and scribble notes while you are writing, and cross check two scenes at the same time – plus it’s compatible with Mac. In fact I hear it works better with a mac. My top tip is if you have a map download it from the app store, as it opens up straight away.

So I'm a couple of days formatting and a front cover away from a book launch. I'll let you know when I'm there - I'm thinking early June. The lack of  front cover means that I can't really publicise Under the Coconut Tree as yet (annoying), but I am hoping that old saying is true - good things come to those who wait! 


Tuesday, 3 March 2015

WIP Blog Tour

So here I am on another blog tour. You may know what it's about, but if you don't its basically a bunch of writers talking about their current work in progress. It's a great way for writers to talk about what they're working on and readers to find out information on upcoming new releases - basically a win-win situation for everyone!

The talented Tim Arnot nominated me for this blog tour. Tim is a prolific writer who has written several post-apocolyptic books, novellas and short stories set in 23rd Century Britain. You can read his post on his blog and you can buy his books on his Amazon page!

The rules for this blog tour are as follows: 

1 Link back to the post of the person who nominated you.

2 Write a little about and give the first sentence of the first three chapters of your current work in progress.

3 Nominate some other writers to do the same.

So what am I working on? I have three books on the go, but the one that I'm finalising and hoping to have ready for publication this May is Under the Coconut Tree. It's a lighthearted detective novel set in rural Goa (Something like The White Tiger meets Ladies No.1 Detective Agency) and it's also the first in the series of The Chupplejeep Mysteries. This book is particularly close to my heart as I was inspired to write  it when visiting my father's ancestral home in a tiny village in Goa - in fact the villages that feature in The Chupplejeep Mysteries are all loosely based on this village!

So here are the first sentences from the first three chapters :

Chapter 1

Lavita found his body at dawn on her way to clean out the chicken coop. At first she didn’t notice poor Sandeep lying there. She was just going about her usual business, humming along. His body lay limp, camouflaged by the thick hairy discarded coconut husks piled high under the tallest coconut tree in Utol.

It was the whites of Sandeep’s eyes that eventually caught the young woman’s attention. She took a step back dropping the kapai, brush, and the bucket of water that she had painstakingly drawn from the well. The soapy water seeped into the dry earth underneath the hardened soles of her feet. It wet the hem of her petticoat. Granny would be angry, having washed the hem only yesterday, but Lavita put her thoughts of Granny Monji to the back of her mind; Sandeep Shah was dead.

Chapter 2

‘Ohhhhh!’ Mrs Lalji let out a gasp when she saw the dead body lying on the ground next to her niece and Bala.

‘Mrs Lalji, madamji please close your eyes. It is not for women to see,’ Bala said.

‘Shut up, man. I’m the lady of the house, no? I have to see what terrible happenings are taking place in my own backyard.’

‘I’ll get Baba,’ Bala protested, ‘It really is no place…’

‘You’ll get Baba will you? Ok-ay be my guest.’ Mrs Lalji crossed her arms and smiled at Bala.

Bala weighed up the options. He had woken Baba up before, and the sight was not a pretty one. The baker certainly didn’t want a repeat of that belching man’s anger. Who knew how he would react to a dead man under his coconut tree? And what was the harm in Mrs Lalji dealing with the death in the first instance? After all, she had already seen the body.

Chapter 3

The telephone rang just as the detective was booking a houseboat in Kerala. Agatha Christie’s Death on the Nile had been his inspiration for a romantic weekend with Christabel, on a riverboat. He was certain that this experience would make him more like the Belgian detective Poirot.

‘Stupid slow government machine,’ Chupplejeep grunted as he tapped the yellowing computer monitor, hoping for a response.

That's it from me. For more information about my books and other works in progress take a look a my website.

Now for the nomination of an author whose work I admire.

Olivier Bosman has recently released  the first in a series of novellas following a Dutch couple settle into life in Columbia.  I recently read the lighthearted Berta, the first novella in the Muchacha series and it instantly transported me to 1970's Columbia. With his striking book covers and his skilful way with words Olivier Bosman is the one to watch! 

Friday, 6 February 2015

A Question of Style

A Question of Style.

As you know I love writing, but the feedback I have been getting from my writing group is that although I tell a good story, my style needs to improve. I know it does and I have been trying to improve it, but sadly I don't think it has improved much.

Someone saying your style is not great is a difficult criticism to take - not really sweetened by the fact that I tell a good tale. I sat there thinking well- that's my style what can I do about that? It worried me too because whilst an editor can help with my flawed grammar, no one but me can improve my style.

To be fair if you self publish you can have whatever style you like.  And whether people like your books or not will depend on whether they like your style. That's fine because I have decided to self publish my next two novels.

But it's not fine, is it? If my style is not great then I owe it to myself and my readers to improve. The same way in which I have been learning about grammar from scratch and learning to touch type (nearly there now!), I need to learn about style. Any author will tell you that writing is a continual learning process - your writing will change (maybe not noticeably so) with every book.

Anyway, in my bid to improve I bought  The Elements of Style and dug out The Oxford Style Manual, which I bought a while back and subsequently never opened!  I've opened The Elements of Style and I can instantly tell I'm going to be able to get through it (It's a slim book unlike the Style Manual) and I feel like I want to recommend it already. Which is why I interrupted my reading to write this.

I shall keep you posted as to how I get on. I am also looking into purchasing Scrivner to help with the formatting and publication of Under the Coconut Tree - so watch this space!


Friday, 16 January 2015

Would ‘sorry’ have made any difference? Does it ever? It’s just a word.

“Would ‘sorry’ have made any difference? Does it ever? It’s just a word. One word against a thousand actions.” - Sarah Ockler

Well I would like to start this first post of the New Year with an apology. To my faithful blog readers, I am truly sorry for not blogging for over a month - perhaps more.  It breaks all the rules of those 'little but often' blog posts I was harping on about last year. 

I wish I could say had an excuse, but I can't. Basically, I've just been lazy. I can't even blame this lethargy on Christmas because too much time has passed. The fact of the matter is I think I'm burning out. For a couple of years now I have tried to stay on top of social media with goals and targets to hit. I installed Google Analytics on my webpage and I tried to tweet as often as I could. I even thought about setting some targets for 2015! But sadly this enthusiasm has left me. I feel a little guilty putting this statement out there for all to see, but that's what this blog is all about - my writing highs and lows (although I'm not sure which this is!). I can sense some of you shaking your heads at this admission. But I am sure there are quite a few writers and readers out there  that have found themselves in a slump of social media fatigue. 

So what have I decided to do? Well firstly, I am going to enjoy 2015 without immense pressure on myself to tweet, blog and what not  (I sound old!) and secondly I'm going to work on my three work-in-progress novels with some realistic deadlines for publication and perhaps start another.  You see I may not have been on-line but I have been furiously tapping away at the keyboard and making progress on my manuscripts.

  • Under the Coconut Tree - A Chupplejeep Mystery (my pride and joy) should be out in the spring. 
  • Poison in the Water - which I am currently re-writing (it's a painful process) should be out in the autumn and 
  • The Body in the Bath - A Chupplejeep Mystery (which I have written a skeleton first draft of) will be perfected by the end of the year.
  • I will also start the next Chupplejeep Mystery - Jetty Jalousie

H is under instruction to sort my website out too. You can see details on the first two books mentioned above here:

Details of  The Body in the Bath will be on there as soon as H gets organised. I've written the blurb and I'm as excited about this ms as I am about Under the Coconut Tree.

I will try and blog and I am sure as soon as my next novel is out I will find the motivation again to publicise my brand, but for now I'm just having some time out. It feels good saying it!  I will blog - when I can - I have some thoughts on the VAT changes, the demise of the blog (apparently people don't read them much anymore) and front covers! I will keep at my touch typing course. It's going slowly, but I think I will get there in the end (I'm still in the conscious incompetence phase) I will read to my hearts content (there is never enough time to read, is there?). I will try and improve my grammar (always on the list). I will see more of the world and I will write in my journal - a sumptuous brown leather bound one with a wrap. But mainly this year I  want to just be!  

Monday, 20 October 2014

Age wrinkles the body; quitting wrinkles the soul

Age wrinkles the body; quitting wrinkles the soul - Douglas MacArthur

I apologise now for the lack of blogging I have been doing of late. I have no excuses, life just seems to have taken over. That isn't to say that I have been sitting around doing nothing. I have enrolled in a touch typing thingy on-line. I say enrolled when in fact all I have done is registered so I can keep a track of my progress. Its free and it's called Typing Study. If like me you type entire novels with two fingers, give it a go. I'm spending half my lunch hour doing it and so far Im on lesson three. Hopefully by lesson 15 I'll be typing whilst looking out of the window or some such… and I won't get RSI, preventing my writing career when it finally takes off. 

Well today I am apprehensive. I feel like I should pack in the whole writing malarkey. Perhaps it's because I'm scared. Tomorrow my writing group is critiqueing my next novel: Poison in the Water and I think it's going to be brutal. It's kind of making me wonder why I spend hours a day writing. It's making me want to employ a ghost writer. Quite frankly it's making me want to give up. But You just can't be a quitter if you want good things to happen to you. Don't they say you give up right before the good stuff happens? (I'm sure Ive seen this at least a dozen times on Pinterest). Anyway it's just one of those days. I'm sure I'll be over it by tomorrow (well maybe the month after the critique).

 I keep telling myself we all have to start somewhere and I shouldn't be too down on myself - good things are happening. For instance last week was a good week. BBC Radio Oxford called me because they want me to do a call in on the morning show about self publishing. Did you get that? They called me… I was happy. The happiness was soon chased away by fear (If it's a call in, and I can't see someone will my mind drift? Will my mind go blank? - This happens to me a lot on the phone. (I find the more I write the less articulate I am verbally - Please tell me there are other writers out there like that?).

And then on the 16th October I went to the Society of Author's Writers in Oxford Event in Balliol college. It was a nice evening and I got to mingle and talk to other authors. I've just realised I should have taken a picture for my blog or my website!!! Always wise after the event. I've also sent out a submission for my first Chupplejeep novel: Under the Coconut Tree! Keep your fingers crossed. And I've hit 40,000 words on my next Chupplejeep book: The Body in the Bath.  It's going well - well it was before I hit this crisis of confidence. 

Until next time...

Monday, 29 September 2014

Anything's possible if you've got enough nerve - J K Rowling

Anything's possible if you've got enough nerve - J K Rowling

Well people it has been a while. I have started writing  the second of the Chupplejeep books. This one is called The Body in the Bath. I have just completed my grammar course, and I have signed up to another year at Abingdon Writers. Speaking of which, the other day when I was at the group meeting someone said they had read an article saying the popularity of social media is declining. Now, I haven't read this myself but I could see the point they were making. What goes up must come down etc. recently I wrote a blog post on social media for authors, but I didn't look into whether this phenomenon of tweeting what you had for breakfast and the likes would last. Apparently people are tiring of blogs and the constant stream of updates from authors. I know I, myself, am tiring of Twitter and how many other author blogs do I read?  Even Facebook has had its day so they say. The other day in a meeting someone said the majority of Facebook users are middle aged! Well I suppose that was bound to happen. But all this talk of declining social media makes me wonder, what is next?

I have been extremely lame this year in marketing my novels. And I'll be honest and say that sales have fallen (for Goa Traffic at least). I really need to do something but I'm finding it all rather laborious, especially when I have Chupplejeep on to his next case and with a wedding to plan as well. I must find some motivation soon.

As well as all this pondering, and watching box sets (which is not doing anything for my writing career) I've also been thinking about writing. Which got me thinking - how important is it to spend you time thinking about writing? - Again I think someone mentioned this at my last writing group meeting. Well for me it's terribly important to spend time thinking about writing. When I'm out and about doing something mundane, having conversations in my head between characters (and I hope all writers do this and it's not just me losing the plot) great ideas for new scenes come into my mind. More often than not I fail to write them down, but I visualize them and in doing so they get lodged in my memory only to arrive in my mind later when I am actually writing a scene. I find all this thinking extremely helpful in putting a skeleton of a book together and encourage you to think about writing more.

Friday, 5 September 2014

Finding the time to write.

Finding the time to write. 

Recently, a couple of new acquaintances have asked me ‘Where do you find the time to write?’ and I have to admit I’m often stumped for an answer because I don’t know how I manage to find the time to write, but yet I do.  Like many of you writers out there I have a full time job. I’m not a brain surgeon or anything taxing like that but, at times, my job (project management in property development) can be stressful. It’s also largely computer based. So after a day of looking at the computer sometimes I don’t really want to switch a computer on at home. There are days when I get home so tired I don’t have the energy to write and so I don’t. And I don’t write every day either - H wouldn’t be too impressed with that (you have to admit it would be a little unfair). Because of my passion for food I have to force myself to go to the gym a couple of times a week and then there is the business of cooking decent meals every night (again with the food – I don’t like leftovers so I cook every day. I’m also not keen on pasta – so you’re talking a good effort every night, so that we go to bed happy – Nothing puts me in a bad mood like a rubbish dinner does and I quite like cooking.) And finally there is also the business of cleaning. I categorise this chore with the gym. I don’t really want to do it and I’m not good at it either. It’s a slog from start to finish, and although H is pretty good with helping out, it still takes up quite a bit of my post work time.

So when do I write? Well I limit myself to a Wednesday after work when I leave work a little early, and have the house to myself for a couple of hours. I write quickly – I can write 5000 words in an evening (they may not be great words – they need a lot of editing to get up to a readable first draft stage - but they are words). I write when the football is on or when H is out. Basically, I write when I can snatch and hour here or there. I never used to write on weekends because we were always out and about, but now I occasionally do. But unlike the gym or cleaning the house, writing is not a chore. When I sit down to write I get lost in my fictional world. I don’t want music on or the TV. I don’t feel the need to snack or to catch up on The Mindy Project or Scandal (The later has taken at least 22 of my precious writing hours over the last month). When I write I am completely in the zone. All I need is my open manuscript,  a pen, several note books around me, easy access to the internet for that all important research and a glass of water (writing makes me thirsty for some reason). Sometimes I get so caught up in a story that I don’t realise I’ve been in front of the computer for hours without looking up from the screen.  I also try and use my time wisely (I guess working in project management has honed my time management skills). Some lunch hours are for finding good deals on Expedia, but some are used for book research, checking out author blogs, reading about how to improve my writing, doing grammar courses, and blogging.

The crux of it is, and I’m sure most writers will agree with me here, when you are a writer writing is in your blood. You have to do it. You want to do it, and so you find the time to write. Whether it’s waking up early or going to bed late or even taking a day’s holiday to work on that final chapter – when you want to write you find a way.