I am able to work at speed again at long last. As you know, the problems began the year before last when my Mac doubled over and died on me. I reverted to my old Linux machine for a while until it, too, died just before Christmas of 2017. That left me working on an elderly refurbished Windows 7 job, that I had originally bought to do exam marking. Then my brother, out of the kindness of his heart, gave me his old Windows 10 gaming job, which was seriously fast and had a new-fangled SSD (solid State Drive) instead of an old-fashioned hard drive.
All seemed well for several months until it, too, died on me without warning, which put me back with the arthritic old Windows 7 machine. Creaky, slow and obsolete it may have been, but at least it worked, which was more than could be said for the other three machines!
All is changed, however. Funds have become available at last and I have treated myself to a brand-new, Windows 10 PC with a full three year warranty. It has an AMD Ryzen 5 2400G quad-core processor, 8Mb of DDR4 3000Mhz RAM and a 500Gb Samsung SSD, all of which make it seriously fast. The processor has the excellent Vega 11 graphics chip built in, so there is no need for an expensive (and hot) graphics card. I can confirm that the graphics are just fine. Unlike the old W7 job, which could not run YouTube videos at resolutions higher than 720P, and had lip-sync problems, the new one runs them faultlessly at full 1080P High Definition. It runs cool and even lights up when turned on. I am chuffed to bits with it.
Needless to say, I have taken out the Premium subscription with WPS Office (effectively the same as Microsoft Office, but about a third of the price) and it is full steam ahead with the new book.
I have now reached the 35,000 word mark, which would equate to over 100 pages in a printed book. It is getting into its stride at last.
I have retitled my current work, formerly known as ' An Angel Vanished'. Henceforth, it is to be known as 'The Covert Angel'. The new title is more in keeping with the overall theme of the book. Even so, I cannot guarantee that it will be the title under which it is to be published. I have been known to switch titles before as a book develops, and this is no exception. It is actually its third working title (after 'Tainted People' and 'An Angel Vanished') and I am barely into Chapter 3!
Nevertheless, the work progresses. Now that Christmas and New Year are behind us, I have been able to settle back to my computer and the book has developed beyond the 20,000 word mark. Progress is slow because my writing is usually the result of repeated redrafting. Generally speaking, I start the day by going over what I wrote the day before and redraft it before adding new material. Sometimes, however, I get a bit stuck and go right back to the beginning and redraft it all. It is hard slog, but each time I work on it, the book gets a little bit better. Sometimes, of course, the Muse decides to like me and the best passage in the entire book simply writes itself and never needs revising. Ever. The other 99.9% of the time, however, the stuck-up little madam regards me as something slimy that crawled out from under a stone and treats me with commensurate disdain, so I have to rely on my own efforts. Shorn of immortal intervention, it is back to redrafting and gradual improvement. It is slog, but it gets there in the end.
A belated Merry Christmas to all my readers and a slightly premature Happy New Year. Throw in a Happy Birthday for Yours Truly (it was on Boxing Day) and that is the festive season more or less wrapped up.
Our sons, Michael and Paul have been visiting over Christmas, so I haven't had much time to devote to writing. Michael lives and works in London, Paul in Hastings, both of which are hundreds of miles from here. Helen and I saw Paul off from the railway station this morning. Michael goes back tomorrow, whereupon life will return to normal and I can get back on with 'An Angel Vanished' properly.
I haven't neglected it altogether, though. 'Vanished' now tips the scales at nearly 11,000 words, which will be somewhere in the region of a tenth of its eventual length, so there is still plenty to do. Nevertheless, it is a solid start and I am pleased with it so far.
All my published titles have now been updated so that their Look Insides feature the opening paragraphs flush, as they should. Thus, literary housekeeping is now up to date and it is time to get on with the process of creating text.
Just as I thought I had all the presentation issues sorted, another one reared its ugly head. No doing of mine, this one. The fault lies entirely with Amazon. If you go on their website to browse Kindle ebooks, you will find a link on the thumbnail, called 'Look Inside' that you can click on. This opens up the beginning of the book so that a prospective customer can read it.
All very well, except that the 'Look Inside' is not a facsimile of how the book will appear on a Kindle or Kindle App. It is an Html view, which means that the lines are much longer and that page breaks are ignored. The text runs continuously, with gaps between chapters. It also doesn't show dropped capitals. They just appear as normal capitals.
Nothing anybody can do about that. It is the way it is. There is, however, one little detail that can be put right, if you know what you are doing. It is normal practice, when formatting a book, to have the opening paragraph of a chapter begin flush to the left margin, but to indent the first lines of all the subsequent paragraphs. The 'Look Inside' ignores this and indents the opening paragraph as well, which just looks wrong. Thanks to the discovery of a fellow writer, called William Thompson, however, I now know how to correct this. Instead of setting the opening paragraph to an indent of 0.00cm (or 'None'), set it to 0.02cm. The difference is negligible (one fifth of a millimetre) but it circumnavigates the bug in 'Look Inside' so that the opening line registers correctly. You only need to do it for the first three chapters because that is all that shows in the 'Look Inside'. A downloaded book registers correctly regardless. Thanks to William for that.
Therefore, the last couple of weeks have been devoted to upgrading all of my 'Look Insides' so that they now appear as professional as I can make them. Finally, I can give my attention to 'An Angel Vanished' again.
As promised in the last post, the 'Avalind' books are undergoing the Libre Office treatment and the first of them, 'Usurper' is now available in its updated form. To explain, the text is identical to what was available before, but a conversion via Libre Office Writer makes it more compatible with Kindle Create, so it should look better, regardless of what device is used to read it. Only the Kindle versions are affected. The 'Rutter' books and 'The Planning Officers' are already available on Draft2Digital, where they were converted into very stylish epubs for upload to Apple, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, Scribd etc. etc. No need to change them. The 'Avalind' books and the short stories will join them when their current KDP Select contracts expire.
This process has raised an issue with dropped capitals. If you are not familiar with the term, think of when you last read a book in which the opening letter of a chapter was enlarged, emboldened and dropped to cover the beginnings of the first three lines, with the rest of the text wrapping round it. That is a dropped capital (often referred to in the trade as a 'drop cap'). Not all word processors can do this, but the ones I use - WPS Writer and Libre Office - certainly can. Therein lies a problem, however. Although its drop cap facility produces beautiful dropped capitals, WPS only allows a single character to be dropped. Usually, this isn't a problem but every so often a chapter begins with somebody saying something - and a massive set of speech marks next to a perfectly ordinary capital letter looks ridiculous. For the ebooks, this is not a problem because both Kindle Create and Draft2Digital allow multiple characters to be dropped at the conversion stage. For printed books, however, it is. I could go via Libre Office, which does allow multiple characters, but I find it more cumbersome and less intuitive to use than the delightful WPS, so I don't. It is okay for converting ebooks but I wouldn't like to rely on its as my main writing tool. That may just be me, though. Instead I capitalise and embolden the first two words of a chapter, and then capitalise several more without emboldening.
I am giving the 'Avalind' books a slightly different look to their 'Rutter' stablemates. 'Rutter' used Kindle Create's 'Modern' interface. 'Avalind' uses the 'Classic' interface. The differences are not huge but they are more in keeping with the epic feel of the fantasy books.
All five 'Rutter' books have now received the Libre Office treatment and been put back on sale. I completed uploading the last of them, 'The Secret Angels' a few minutes ago. As explained in my last post, this ensures that they will behave exactly as they should, regardless of what device the reader chooses to view them on.
The new editions also benefit from slightly improved layout for the chapter headings, but are otherwise exactly the same as those they replaced.
If you have already bought one of these books, but want the latest edition, email Amazon and ask them to 'push' the latest edition to your account. Don't forget to include the book's ASIN (Amazon Standard Identification Number) in your email. The number can be found wherever the book is listed on Amazon.
The Draft2Digital editions (ie non-Amazon) are not affected.
Now to do the same with the 'Avalind' books.
As you know, I have been going into quite a lot of detail on the subject of publishing with Draft2Digital lately. Despite that, the bulk of my sales are still via Kindle on Amazon. Although Draft2Digital epub files can be uploaded to Amazon for conversion to Kindle, this feature is currently disabled for my D2D editions because the books are already there, published through Amazon's own publishing utility, KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing).
That may change in the course of time. If the D2D venture proves to be very successful, I have the option to unpublish the KDP editions and put out the D2Ds everywhere and in every format (including Amazon and Kindle).
For now, though, that is the way it is.
There is a number of different ways that you can upload an ebook to KDP. The one I use is Amazon's proprietary software, Kindle Create. In my opinion (born out by experience) this is one of the easiest ways to upload your book and it produces some of the very best results.
This past weekend, however, I made a discovery that has caused me to modify my approach.
To explain. Most writers use the world's most popular and powerful word processing software: Microsoft Word. I am not one of them. While acknowledging its virtues, I think it is grossly overpriced, excessively greedy of disc space and less than perfect in some of its procedures. Because of Word's dominance, most other word processors are designed to be compatible with it. Thus, they can open a Word file directly and save a file in Word format. In theory, that also enables them to interact with a Word-based application. My word processor of choice is WPS Writer, which has a beautifully designed interface and is an intuitive delight to work with.
Kindle Create is designed to accept Word files. This should not be a problem for WPS because its default saving format is .docx - the same as Word's. Thus, as far as KC is concerned, it is being fed a Word file. It turns out, however, that WPS is not quite as compatible as I thought. When you load a WPS file into Kindle Create, it produces unwanted little gaps between the paragraphs. These are easy to get rid of by highlighting the text, a chapter at a time, and adjusting the spacing settings. Until now, that is what I have done. This past weekend, however, I discovered that this procedure may lead to the file that the customer downloads becoming 'fixed' (meaning that the reader cannot change the font or text size on their Kindle.
The solution is to use a more compatible word processor. That does not mean that I am abandoning WPS - far from it - but that I am bringing Libre Office back into play. Libre Office is an open-source (ie: free) office suite. It's word processor, Libre Office Writer, is renowned for the quality of the Html files that it can produce - which makes it very compatible with Kindle Create. I can open a WPS file with Libre Office and use that to make another .docx file that will load into Kindle Create without the annoying little gaps appearing or the font becoming fixed. It doesn't require wholesale alterations, in fact the vast majority of the file remains untouched. I only need to make a new table of contents. So far, I have republished 'Chained in Time' and 'Rutter's Revolt' and will work my way through the other books in the coming week or ten days.
You can download the current edition by buying directly from Amazon if you have not previously bought the book. If you already have a copy, but would like the latest version, email Amazon and ask them to 'push' the latest edition to your account. You can then download it, free of charge, as normal.
.My Author Page on Draft2Digital is now up and running. Find a link to it here and on my homepage. Strictly speaking, the link takes you to Draft2Digital's sister site, Books2Read, which is where the marketing is done. Draft2Digital's site is where authors get their books ready for publication.
Here, you will find my books grouped together and all the links necessary to view them on the various outlets where they are available for sale or loan. There are only six at the moment because the other nine are still tied into KDP Select contracts. All will appear when those contracts expire in January. As always, there is no compulsion. It is simply an invitation to view. What you do next is up to you, but all the facilities are there should you wish to make use of them.
This joins my author pages on Amazon.com (link here) and Amazon.co.uk (link here). These are also on my home page.
For the time being, my Draft2Digital publications are not issued to Amazon because the KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) editions are already on sale there, and have been for years. I am going through my KDP editions to make them appear as similar to the D2Ds as possible. The text is identical in all cases, but the presentation differs. This is because Draft2Digital uses its own proprietary epub conversion software and KDP uses Kindle Create. Both are excellent and produce professional quality ebooks, but they look a bit different.
In time, I may discontinue the KDP publications and release the Draft2Digital editions to Amazon's websites, or I may decide to leave things as they are. It depends on how sales develop over the coming months.
'Tainted People' did not last long as a working title, mainly because I did not like it very much. Now that I have gone through all the process of issuing my eligible works on Draft2Digital, I can at last return to the new book. First up was a new working title. It is now called 'An Angel Vanished'. Anyone who has read 'The Secret Angels' will know what I mean by an angel. I am not referring to a winged messenger from God. Actually, if I remember rightly, I don't think that the Bible ever mentions them having wings. Anyway, the 'angels' of the title are completely human and mortal, the name being the invention of Marie Burnett, who should be familiar to any reader of the Rutter books.
'An Angel Vanished' begins just a couple of days after 'The Secret Angels' ends, but that is just the Prologue. The main thrust of the story is set nearly a year later as a fresh adventure unfolds. It has its roots in developments that we learned of in 'The Secret Angels', but it is a new story in its own right.
Now that the next book is under way, I have also begun to develop major plans for next year. Nothing will be revealed for several months yet because a lot of groundwork needs to be done first, but look out for a significant announcement round about Easter. 'An Angel Vanished' might be published by then, of course, but don't hold your breath. It took me more than two years to write 'The Secret Angels'. That period was beset by computers failing on me (three of them, would you believe?) and the worst case of writer's block that I have ever experienced. Hopefully, that is all behind me now. The computer I am writing this blog on is old and slow, but at least it works. It will be replaced by something newer and much quicker when I can, but it will do for now.
Continuing the general upgrade process that began with my adoption of Draft2Digital, I have now simplified all the links. As before, if you check below each book's entry on the 'Avalind Books', 'Rutter Books' and 'Other Works' pages, you will find links to their listings on retail outlets and online libraries. These invite you to view the books on Amazon.com (Amazon's American main site), Amazon.co.uk (their British subsidiary), or Apple, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, Scribd etc. (there are actually many more than that, but space was a consideration - clicking on the link will reveal all the options).
About two thirds of the entries provide links only to the two Amazon sites at the moment. That is because those books are currently enrolled in Amazon's KDP Select promotion, which limits electronic publication to Amazon only. That is less restricting than it sounds because the Kindle App can be downloaded, free of charge, to Amazon Fire tablets, Android tablets, iPads, iPhones, Android phones and computers. That enables them to behave as if they were Kindles when their owners fancy a bit of reading.
The others, currently comprising the Rutter Books and 'The Planning Officers' are not enrolled in KDP Select, so they carry the third link, to Apple etc. now. The KDP Select enrolments will expire, one by one, over the next three months, at which point those books will also be added to the Draft2Digital portfolio and receive the third link.
The wording of the links has also been revised. Now readers are invited to 'view' the books on their various outlets' websites. I don't want anyone to feel pressurised into buying them - although I would be very pleased if you do. If so, please feel free to leave a review on the site where you bought it.
Please enjoy having a thorough rummage through all the new links.
Writer of Fantasy, thrillers, comedy - and anything else that takes my fancy.