Wednesday, 30 September 2015

So I stopped writing...

And so it begins. What? I hear you ask along with where have you been? Well I have been on a writing break. When I say that to people I feel like I am talking about a lover or something. A 'break' sounds like something was wrong, that I needed space. Well, I didn't realise it but I did need space. A couple of months ago someone suggested to me that I take a writing break. I didn't comprehend then, when I did, I laughed. "A break?" I asked incredulously. I had a list of things to do. For starters I had Under the Coconut Tree to promote (we'll get to that in a minute), a penultimate draft of Poison in the Water to finish (I was midway), The Body in the Bath to edit and Jetty Jalousie to write...all by the end of the year.
"Just for a couple of weeks," this do-gooder said. I thought nothing more of it and then later, much later, when I referred back to the mindfulness course I have been doing and realised my books were just words - a sense of the ego that only I was stroking, I realised that a break may do me good. So I did it.

It didn't start well. I felt lost without writing, I felt anxious having left Poison half way through an edit and I felt like I had deserted Under the Coconut Tree like a bad friend. But as the days progressed I found that I had been in desperate need of a break all along, I had just failed to see it. People used to ask me 'How do you fit in writing with a full time job etc.'  I always responded that if you want to do something you'll find a way. I said that writing was an addiction (It was, still is although I'm 2 months clean). I said I found the time when H was watching the football, working late, blah, blah, blah. It was true I was writing at every possible moment I could find and it was turning me anti-social. I favoured my characters to people, I valued the written word above speech. It was wrong. I had become consumed by my passion of writing and when I thought about it what was it all for? Why was I putting so much pressure on myself to finish edits, books and so forth. No one was making me do this I was doing it for myself. Was my irrational fear of failing to achieve driving me? Was it fear that if I stopped I would lose momentum? It was probably a bit of both of those things.

But I'm glad I did stop and put it all on the back burner.  I needed to stop and enjoy life by watching Devious Maids and the likes mindlessly, because you know what that is living too. You need down time. You can't continually keep going without stopping or you will burn out.

If you recognise yourself in the above perhaps you too need to take a break from your favourite hobby. I love writing and yes it has pulled me back in starting with this blog post. But this time I am going to set some ground rules:
1) No more crazy deadlines - although I haven't lost all sanity I will have some vague ones like publish Poison next year.
2) Only write on your writing day per week - not every spare hour you find.

I feel refreshed! Which brings me back to the start of this blog: And so it begins... It is time that I start marketing Under the Coconut Tree. The book that I am most proud of, the first in The Chupplejeep Mystery series so this is where I'll start. I find that I am a little rusty in the marketing stakes and social media has moved on at speed since Goa Traffic was released. That book, is still doing well all on its own. Was it all in the name?

So, now that marketing is my thing (it has to be - I owe it to Chupplejeep) I will keep you up to date with my efforts. I know a lot of writers out there struggle with this and I am no different. This week I am targeting Goan Social clubs - after all, Under the Coconut Tree is set in rural Goa. I am also writing to a few travel bloggers. I found a fab travel blog on India just yesterday called Hippie in Heels. It's fascinating how blogging seems to be a career in itself now. Is travel journalism still viable? Is it dying?  IS it just called blogging? I don't know, but I guess the written word is losing it's value when there is so much out there on-line.

Anyway, I digress... the point is my new marketing journey begins and  next week I start back on completing Poison in the Water. Perhaps after a break I can look at it with fresh eyes, perhaps my writing will have changed.

Under the Coconut Tree: A Chupplejeep Mystery is available as an ebook (A delicious £1.99 at the mo.) and paperback here! You can't blame me for a bit of marketing, can you. 

Monday, 27 July 2015

Love Goa, Love Chupplejeep

I'm Goan. I grew up there, but I live in England now. When I was 8 we moved to Goa and I loved it. What was not to love? We had complete freedom, a beautiful house overlooking the Arabian Sea and we knew each and every one of our neighbours. The colony where we lived was a safe haven - a place for just being a kid, where you were almost certain that no harm would come to you.

As we grew up we took advantage of the night-life Goa had to offer ; the beach parties, the nightclubs and the 'rave' scene. It was fun. I look back at those years withwith a warm nostalgia and I suppose a bit of yearning for a time gone by - a youth I cannot re-capture.

Flash forward 20 odd years and even though I go to Goa regularly, the change in the last ten years has been dramatic. The colony is full of high-rises and I only know a handful of residents - there is little feeling of safety amongst the residents now; the party scene has exploded - infamously so. Like most things in today's society we want everything in excess and Goa has borne the brunt of this where tourism is concerned.

Sure, we wanted tourism in the state - we encouraged it, exploited it - because, after all, tourism accounts for the livelihood of many Goans and with tourists comes money.  

I have to admit that up until a few years ago I felt a bit jaded by what was happening in Goa and what it had become, but after a few visits to the villages , my love for Goa has been renewed afresh. The soul of Goa has been preserved here in the old colonial houses and white-washed churches - where the pace of life is slower, but hard earned.   As Gandhi said - India lives in its villages, lets keep it that way.

If you, like me, are a regular visitor to Goa, or perhaps you are going there for your first time - take time to explore the villages - discover the real t Goa, but look after it too. We need to preserve this beauty one way or another.

Under the Coconut Tree - A Chupplejeep Mystery  is a light-hearted detective novel, set in rural Goa and is available now. You can buy a copy here

Saturday, 18 July 2015

The publishing nightmare

So if you are a regular reader of this blog you will know my grammar sucks. I must admit that mainly it's the punctuation that no book or course seems to fix, but hey I'm trying. Before I start telling you just how difficult self-publishing is, I thought I would tell you about my recent faux-pas. And when  I say recent, I mean like minutes ago.

Basically, I used JD&J to do my front cover and they are in a word- amazing. Not only have the produced the most wonderful cover for 'Under the Coconut Tree' but they have - post contract - made some amendments to my blurb - not once but twice because I missed a typo on the first round- disaster.

But I suppose the real disaster was averted as I hadn't approved my Createpace proof- so really I can still make changes, without it being too much of a headache. It has also made me realise I need to read the full printed version  (and check for any more errors) before I approve it. With any luck get someone else to read it as well.

So self-publishing a paperback has been hard, time consuming and stressful. I have had so many sleepless nights this week. But pushing back the deadline for the paperback release has been worth it. It was going to be this Monday - 20th July - the same publication date for the e-book. It will give me the much needed time and space to review my paperback properly. And therein lies the difference between paperbacks and e-books.  Paperbacks are hard to produce even though Createspace makes this as easy as they can (and Scrivener is a must buy for this too) - with POD - print on demand- you need to get it right or it will be difficult to make changes later. With e-books you can change your manuscript and upload instantly. The main issue for me is that without a mainstream or even indie publisher I am always doubting myself, my punctuation - even after I have paid for a full line edit. Even though I have seen countless typos in traditionally published works, I always think doing it yourself means there is a higher risk for getting it wrong. The sad thing is, is that I'm not even a perfectionist. How they cope with something like this I'm not sure. Perhaps the proof sits on their desks for ages until they finally think it's perfect. The sad thing with that is that your perfect will never be someone else's perfect. We all have different expectations and standards.

My e-book journey has been relatively straightforward. Amazon has it nailed with the Mobi software and I have a kindle too so viewing my book on the device has given me the confidence to press the publish button. It's available to pre-order now, with official release on Monday. Smashwords was a  bit of a challenge, where I uploaded in a clean word document and found that the format changed on different reading devices, so I took advantage of their direct e-pub service which seems to work fine once I uploaded the pub version of the book. Once your ms is accepted into the premium category, all you need to do is take advantage of their free isbn service and your book should be available globally.

So there you have it. The writing high this week was holding my proof copy in my hands. I have to say it is exactly what I wanted. The low was the sleepless nights and the stress in getting this far. Not long to go now. My top tip is this - writers be patient. The publishing process is a long one.  

Monday, 15 June 2015

Defeat is not the worst of failures. Not to have tried is the true failure

 “Defeat is not the worst of failures. Not to have tried is the true failure.”   George E Woodberry
So following on from last week’s post I have decided that paying someone to format your manuscript could be well worth it. Having uploaded my manuscript to Createspace, I was told that automatic print checks could not be run on my file. It immediately sent alarm bells ringing! In the end – after speaking to a writing buddy – who I am sure is getting sick of my questions – I realised  that if I used Scrivener to compile to word and then saved it as a pdf, the file was accepted no problem! Phew- well there was a slight problem with the pdf size but I think Createspace will accept it if I say the layout is okay. 

Anyway, I used the Createspace interior reviewer and was pretty happy with what I saw, but then I showed H and he said – I don’t like the fact the paragraphs on the pages end at various lengths. Hmmm, he had a point. Clearly whatever template I had used was getting rid of Orphans and Widows – but hanging paragraphs as well. Personally, I don’t like the varying page lengths. I removed the function and have decided to tinker manually. Now, the ms I'm working with is a fully edited version and I don’t really want to start playing around with paragraph sizes but as someone pointed out on a Createspace forum – someone may  give you a bad review for it- not necessarily because they are a widow/orphan pedant – but because having widows and orphans can make reading difficult and therefore subconsciously someone may not like the book.

So, tonight I am going to have a look at house styles. What books have I read and liked -  and do they have widows and orphans? Then I am going to start the arduous task of formatting - which will change the size of the book, which will change the pages numbers and therefore the books spine and the front cover!!!! Who knew self-publishing could be so difficult. There is merit in having e-books only. But on the other hand if I master it now, it will be a doddle in future, or so I keep telling myself! Bring on publication date - I’ve got to get there at some point, right?

The following day: So I looked at the traditionally published book I am using as guidance for my formatting and in particular my widows and orphans issue(Alexander McCall Smith’s The Limpopo academy of Private Detection) and what I have discovered is that widows are acceptable! (When they are more than one line – say a line and a half). Personally for me I rather have widows than uneven ends to pages. Orphans too are acceptable (again a line and a half - maybe the length doesn't make it an orphan?!), although I don’t have any of those and runts are definitely a non-no. A runt is the last word of a paragraph on the next page.  So I’ve been through my manuscript and made sure it complies – my eyes hurt!!! Then I uploaded my new Pdf from a different computer and the page size was fine, but guess what? The fonts are not embedded – Createspace did this for me on the upload -  but what I have gathered is that if the font is not embedded then the font hasn’t travelled exactly as it should. I have two options: 1) Continue with the ms as is, checking for any changes in font or 2) use the pdf with the embedded font but the different page size – again an item that Createspace has corrected! Which is the lesser of two evils? And how beady are my eyes? They are tired - I can tell you that much. So, a bit more messing around, methinks, before I can give the final page numbers to the Cover Designer!


Friday, 22 May 2015

Self publishing? The questions you need to ask yourself.

Hello, it's  been a while. I have been busy getting to grips with Srivener to format Under the Coconut Tree for publication. With the help of Ed Ditto's book and Scrivener I'm pretty much there! I have even set up a Createspace account. Although I have self pubbed before (it was in 2011) things have changed and this time round I seem to be stressing over every minor detail. Perhaps I did last time as well, but conveniently blanked it from my mind.

Anyway I have deen debating a couple of things recently (all to do with paperbacks) and thought I would share this with you. So the first question was:

Do I want a printed book or not? - Yes. Why? Well because I think having a printed book (even if you don't sell anything) backs up your creditability. You are not just a e-book author. I also want a bit of vanity publishing here. Under the Coconut Tree is the book I am most proud of. I want a physical copy of it and why not? Say it like it is.  I also want to test the market with sales for this book. If I sell quite a few paperbacks and I cover the cost of the book cover designer (we'll get on to that in a mo) then I will consider having future books as paperbacks. If I don't sell any, I may not consider doing any paperbacks again.

Once that was decided I though- ooooh do I need my own ISBN or to use Createspace's free ISBN? I did some research and basically you need an ISBN for all formats or publishers. So You can buy a batch of ten from Neilsen and attach them to you kindle book, epub book, createspace book. The ISBN helps people find books and specifies the format at publisher. You don't need one for an  e-book (although ibook requires one if you want to sell it through this format) but you do for print. I chose not to buy any because I think e-book readers don't use them to search for books. they use the title or the author name.

I also decided to use Create Space's ISBN which is free.  If you have a Createspace ISBN bookstores may be reluctant to stock a book published in this way and the ISBN tells them that. But as I implied above my main aim is not to sell mountains of paperbacks (although this would be a nice bonus) so the Createspace ISBN was perfect for me.

What font, font size and size of book? That was the next series of questions. Well I like a decent font, my last published book had an 11pt font, which I asked the publisher to change to 12. They wouldn't. So this time round I wanted a size 12 font. I think it makes for a nicer reading experience. And what font? GT is New Times Roman (shouldn't have been apparently a writer buddy told me this is for newspapers!) Bittersweet is Bembo or something like that. Everyone said try Minion Pro but my computer doesn't have this. Book Antiqua made the spacing go funny and so I settled with good old fashioned Garamond. It has kept the spacing how I want it and so it was a win win situation. I can see how people can lose sleep over fonts and sizes and I was panicked for a few days, but once I made my decision I was happy.  So then there was the size of book. Most people go 6x9. I had this for GT and wasn't too impressed. For the lightheartedness of Under the Coconut Tree I wanted something smaller. My ideal is 5X8. Now this causes problems.

Primarily, the 5x8 is a smaller book, therefore more pages, therefore increased printing costs and apparently shipping costs and do you really want a lighthearted detective book at 375 pages? I spent many days thinking about this but ultimately I have decided to give it a go. To me a 5x8 book has a nicer feel than a 6x9 book. The handy price reckoner on Createspace tells you this is double in cost than printing a 6x9 book. However, I am sticking to my guns. This is my book, my way. You should probably do the same - unless you are super business savvy then I have to admit a 6x9 book makes more sense.

then it was open to the front cover. I had a stab myself and honestly I think if you are just e-book publishing you should give it a go. I personally don't think that front covers on e-book make a huge difference. So my ebook cover was basic but did the job, but I couldn't get away with it on a paperback. I decided to employ a company to do it. The downside is they cant look at it till the end of June - but I have put my impatience to one side and have decided this is the best way for me. This is at an extra cost (I'll provide details once the cover is finalised), but I think for this book, my pride and joy, it's worth it. I did consider publishing the ebook now with a different cover, but a writing buddy, as well as my friends and H (who never came through with my front cover in the end! - that almost ended in divorce) said two covers could confuse the reader.

Finally, I picked cream paper. I used white for GT and that just looks like a textbook. Although some people have commented that they really like it. 

I'll stop here for today, but there are lots of questions out there that I still have to answer. Some I have tackled - like should I use Smashwords or not - I have chosen to use it, but publish separately on Kindle, nook and Kobo.

My journey is far from over and I'll keep you updated on how I t's going. As I wait for my front cover I am working on the next book in the series and slowly setting up accounts on the various publishing platforms as well!


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!