Thursday, 30 June 2011

GUEST AUTHOR: Stephen Livingston – How I came to publish for Kindle.

We’d like to introduce you to Stephen Livingston, who has bravely agreed to be our first guest on Kindle Authors UK. In contrast to many of our regular bloggers who are republishing out of print titles for our fans, here is an author at the very start of his career hoping to hook some new readers with his e-books. Over to you, Stephen…

My career in traditional print format began shortly after graduating from the University of Glasgow where I’d gained a Master of Arts degree with honours in English Language and Literature.  I entered and was a winner of the inaugural Canongate Prize for New Writing with my short story “Choose Your Future”.  This story became my first published work in the prize-winning anthology Scotland into the New Era.

From there I went on to win another short story competition, the EndPapers Tales Series, with my story “The Waster’s Tale”.  This was published in the anthology Glasgow Tales and I completed a post-graduate Master of Letters degree in Creative Writing at the University of St. Andrews.  Whilst at St. Andrews we put together an anthology for the course called Scores 4 to which I contributed a story “Recycling”.

Two months ago I bought a Kindle and decided to put together a collection of short stories to try out the burgeoning e-Book market.  I believe that e-Readers are revolutionising the publishing industry and that the complete artistic control and seventy percent royalties offered by Amazon are the way forward for authors.  I also think that the short story form will be revitalised as the use of e-Readers and smart phone apps for reading become more prevalent in today’s increasingly fast paced society.

I’ve titled my e-Book Kindling and it collects my three previously published stories along with nine new stories.  It is written in a variety of styles and deals with a variety of themes, from the experimental “Choose Your Future” written in the second person, to “The Tell-Tale Trunk”, a contemporary reworking of Edgar Allan Poe's classic The Tell-Tale Heart.

Now I am concentrating on finishing off a novella called "Glastonbury" and then continuing work on my first novel.

Good luck with that novel, Stephen!

For a full list of stories and free sample:

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

A writer in June Enid Richemont

My e-Books:
JAMIE AND THE WHIPPERSNAPPER (first published by Red Fox, now Kindled by Squinx Inc)
MY MOTHER'S DAUGHTER (first published by Red Fox, now Kindled by Squinx Inc)
THE DREAM DOG (first published by Walker Books, now Kindled by Squinx Inc)

It's a perfect June day in my small London garden where I've planted beans, lettuces, strawberries and tomatoes. Eating food you've grown yourself is a very special delight. Even eating just two perfect ripe strawberries (one each for me and my husband) turns into an almost sacred ritual since we both seriously doubt there will be very many more. This exceptionally sunny June has produced some dramatic colour contrasts too - slabs of brilliant greens and yellows against dark, rich shadow.

When I'm working on a novel, I'm leading a double life. I'm concerned, fearful for, and totally immersed in the characters and situations I've invented, and long after the book's been published, I still relate to them. And sometimes really odd things happen, like the letter I received from a Paris nursing home when I was writing about a very old lady in a French nursing home (in my Young Adult novel WOLFSONG). Coincidence, of course: I have a French surname, and they thought I might be related, but still... sometimes I feel like a medium.

I write to be read, and a book really comes to life for me when it's published - it's a bit like giving birth (and yes, I've done that too). And when, one day, it suddenly goes out of print, it's like a death - so much creativity, not just from me as a writer, but also from my editors (among them the illustrious, and very much missed, Wendy Boase) - now wasted. Kindle reverses all that, offering us a sort of immortality, as long as there are computers and readers. What kind of 'brave new world' have we entered? The words 'freedom' and 'challenge' come to mind. It's scary, but exciting, and I'm happy to be part of e-Authors UK.

Yesterday we went to the British Library science fiction exhibition, OUT OF THIS WORLD - so many possible worlds, so many utopias and nightmares, from Mary Shelley's FRANKENSTEIN to Olaf Stapleton's FIRST AND LAST MEN. Ideas have no boundaries. And on a practical level, for anyone who, like me, struggles with keeping the pages of a paperback open while drinking coffee in the morning, the ebook readers' flat screen is a bonus.

THE DREAM DOG is a must-read for anyone who's ever desperately wanted a dog (at the time, I was hugely helped in my research by Battersea Dogs and Cats Home). It also poses the question - can an animal possess a soul? And there's also a ghost, but is it really a ghost?
MY MOTHER'S DAUGHTER grew out of a very turbulent period in my own daughter's life. It's an angry book, set in rural mid-Wales where we used to go camping. Its original title was, GWENNIE'S ANGEL - and yes, there is an angel, as well as a very old lady and a fanciable young man.
JAMIE AND THE WHIPPERSNAPPER, my youngest Kindle book, started life as DAVEY AND... but the publisher at the time had too many Daveys!

Friday, 24 June 2011

SUSAN PRICE: Kindle and Beyond!

Hello, and welcome to my first blog for Kindle Authors UK, something I’m very excited to be part of.  I can publish a book from my sofa!  Have, in fact, already published two – Overheard In A Graveyard and The Ghost Drum.  It feels a bit like science-fiction.
I started young – I was 16 when my Dad signed the contract, with Faber and Faber, for my first book, The Devil’s Piper.  (I was too young to sign a legally binding document.)  The photo’s of me when I was about that age.
In those days I hammered out books on an old iron typewriter, and it was hard work.  I could never type a page without making a mistake, I hated changing ribbons, and figuring out word-count was too much for my unmathematical brain.  In the late 80s I started hearing about computers but wasn’t too interested – they seemed expensive, and I didn’t want the bother of having to learn to use one.  Then a friend showed me how fast his computer could print off documents and I immediately went out and bought an Amstrad.  No more changing inky ribbons!  No more calculating word-counts and getting them wrong!  No more months of work to produce a good final copy!
I know it must have been 1985 or 6 when I bought my Amstrad, because I finished writing The Ghost Drum on it; and The Ghost Drum won the Carnegie Medal in 1987.  That’s my Carnegie below (if you got it, baby, flaunt it.) 

And here (below, right) is a photo of me from around that time – 1980s specs and all.
Now I have a whole family of computers – Great Big Desktop, Middle-Sized Laptop, and Weeny-Little Netbook.  I still sometimes write by hand, if the mood takes me, but when I hear writers saying that they will never part with their old typewriter, and that technology gets in the way of the Muse, that writing by computer makes writers careless – well, I confess, I want to bombard them with scrunched up balls of paper and old typewriter ribbons.  At the least.
Now I have a Kindle too – and I love it much more than I expected.  I love carrying 50 books around in a gadget that weighs less than one ordinary book.  On my kindle at the moment I have: Shakespeare’s sonnets, the complete works of M R James, Kiplings Indian Tales and Traffics and Discoveries, the complete works of Jerome K Jerome, MacKay’s Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds, Fort’s Wild Tales, Mo Hayder’s Gone, Pratchett’s Sourcery, Celia Rees’ The Fool’s Girl, Victora Connelly’s The Perfect Hero, Katherine Roberts’ Spellfall, Mary Hoffman’s Troubadour, my own kindle books and an introduction to Hinduism.  However much I cram into it, it never weighs any more.
I’m looking forward to finding out how the kindle is going to change the book world.  I’m in the process of turning all my ‘Ghost World’ books into kindle e-books.  This is a series in which the first book won the Carnegie, which agents, critics, publishers and readers enthused about – and yet it’s been out of print for a decade or more.  The whole series, plus a new book, Ghost Spell, has been on offer to publishers for the last two years – cue more enthusiasm from agents here and in Europe – and yet no publisher will take it.

So I’m putting it on kindle – here – to see what happens.  Will it sell, will it bomb?  I’ll report here, on Kindle Authors UK.

So, from mechanical typewriters, agents and publishing firms – to Kindle and beyond!

I’m busy on the net today.  You’ll find my regular Nennius blog here – with a new Blot cartoon!  And my website is to be found here

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

A Cheat and a Nepot - Joan Lennon

This post has been published in Sparks, A Year In E-Publishing - An Authors Electric Anthology 2011-2012. It has therefore been temporarily reverted to draft status to comply with amazon KDP Select's requirements.

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Books! Books Books! by Karen King

I've always loved books. When I was a kid everyone else would be out playing but me, I'd be curled up on my bed lost in a book. I'd get through at least four books a day in the summer holidays. I must have read every book in the children's section of the library at least twice!

And I can't go into a bookshop without coming out with a book. Or two. Or three. Books are my weakness, I can't get enough. Every now and again when my floor is covered with piles of books and they're spilling out of my cupboards I force myself to tidy up and give a few books away. Then my bookcases look like the picture above but it doesn't last long.

Because I love books, the feel of them, the sheer joy of holding one in your hand, the turning over of the pages, I wasn't too fond of e-books at first, reading on a computer screen just didn't appeal to me. Then along came e-readers and Kindles and I was hooked. A good story and still being able to 'hold' the book in your hand to read - fantastic!

So now I'm turning my chick lit novel The Millionaire Plan into a e-book. Self-publishing is new to me and a bit scary. There's no editor to proof read my work, find an artist to do the book cover and all the other stuff that gets my book into print. But it's exciting too. Now I'm in control of everything. I can decide what cover to put on the book, what goes in the story and what I take out and how much to charge. Somehow, it feels more like my book.

So fingers crossed, next time I post I'm hoping to tell you that my book is on Amazon Kindle ready to buy!

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Let’s Talk About it - Dan Holloway

(That's me at the original launch. I find the key to readings is the 45 degree angle)

No, really. We’re all writers on this site, so we’re pretty used to sitting tapping and scratching till the words come out. But as we’re doing introductions this month, I thought I’d say something about what I love most in this storytelling business. Talking. Reading to a live audience. I say it a lot but as a writer you really can’t beat looking into an audience’s eyes and listening to their laughter and gasps as you lead them through the labyrinth of emotions that is a story.

I never really knew I’d love doing readings and shows. I’ve always been a bit of an exhibitionist. There was that time when we’d just got off the plane in Athens and I walked over the other side of the square so I’d be in the sight-line of a local news crew. And there was the phase when I’d go on any game show that would have me – Countdown, 15-1, Mastermind (Hannibal Lecter novels), Weakest Link, er, Brainteaser and pontificating on late night student radio.

(At the Covent Garden Poetry Cafe with Katelan Foisy, one of my writing - and all-around - heroes)

But I’d never really thought about reading stories to audiences. Until it came to the launch of the first book I self-published (this could have been a “why I self-publish” post, but the answer to that is rather short and not very interesting – I can’t imagine not. It’s two and a half years and five books since I sent out a query, and I can’t imagine I’ll ever send out another), and I realised I was going to have to read some of it. I’d recently been to a concert, a piano recital by a friend of mine, James Rhodes, who wears jeans and talks to the audience – and landed a multi-record deal with Warner for his combination of talent and fresh approach. I thought, “There’s something to that,” and decided to put on the kind of show you don’t normally get at a reading. I was lucky to have a local bookstore, Oxford’s Albion Beatnik, that was very cool with the whole thing. I made programme notes, invited a great musician, Jessie Grace, to play a set of her blues rock guitar, and wrote a performance piece, SKIN BOOK, to read alongside an extract from the novel, Songs from the Other Side of the Wall.

It was amazing. I was buzzing for days afterwards. The audience responded on such a personal level, and I felt that rehearsing and then reading gave me a much better handle on my own work. Combining it with music, turning a reading into a show worked too. That was November 2009. By February 2010, I was organising shows with the collective I’m part of, Year Zero Writers, with five writers and three bands. And I was getting pleasure out of writing I’d never had before. I found myself connected more closely to my readers. And I was writing poetry and short stories regularly, because they work best live. That in turn meant that I came to my novels feeling fresh. And with a sense of what would hold people’s attention, a feel for rhythm, a sense of pace and timing I’d never had before.

Most of all I was still getting that buzz. And it really is one of those things where one thing leads to another. As a group, we’ve done live shows at Rough Trade, at two galleries in Oxford and at the Covent Garden Poetry CafĂ©, and now we have a 12-writer show that we’ve put on to a sell-out crowd at Stoke Newington Literary Festival, and at Oxfringe, and we have what seems to have become an annual event called Not the Oxford Literary Festival. I’ve also found people asking me to do the most wonderful things. Last year I got to judge the Oxford International Women’s Festival Poetry Competition and MC the winners’ night. And I’ve got to read at Brighton Fringe’s Grit Lit, at a marvellous show at Modern Art Oxford where 15 people working in different arts got 4 minutes each to respond to an art installation, and at Literary Death Match where…well, I’ve been told this is a family-friendly blog so I’ll just say “google is your friend.” And this summer I’m going to be putting on a show in Blackwell’s store in Oxford.

(Jessie Grace)

And the buzz just gets better. And your knowledge of your material gets deeper. I can’t recommend it strongly enough. It’s where storytelling first came from. For me it’s what storytelling is about. Reaching deep deep inside yourself, scraping out what you find and dishing it up raw and still beating to a real life crowd.

Ooh, yes, and I write books :)
Black Heart High (book one of a dark paranormal romance series)
The Company of Fellows (imagine the Hannibal Lecter novels set in Oxford University. Voted Blackwell's favourite Oxford novel)
The Man Who Painted Agnieszka's Shoes (a dissection of the power of the image in teh modern world)
Songs from the Other Side of the Wall (lyrical literary coming of age after Murakami's Norwegian Wood)
(life:) razorblades included (a collection of all my performance pieces)

Monday, 13 June 2011

Ebook Debut - Ann Evans

Well I've just scraped in by the skin of my teeth. My ebooks have been up there on Amazon for a whole three days now, so I'm a genuine ebook author – and that feels so good!
Can't actually recall when I first made a decision to bring some out-of-print books back to life in e-form, it was just a vague wishy-washy idea that was hovering around in the back of my mind.
Once that idea stopped swishing about in the old grey matter and became something a bit more tangible I started focusing on three particular 'out of print' books that I would love to revive.
In 2000 Scholastic commissioned me for four 'Sealed Mysteries' then only published three of them (ho hum!) so as well as the three out-of-print titles, there was also a book that hadn't seen the light of day. These 'Sealed' murder mysteries had the last chapter tucked away in a little seal and while I couldn't emulate that in an ebook, I could add a little quirky bit by leading the reader right to the point of discovering whodunnit, and then offer them some additional clues via a website link.
So, plenty to think about. Firstly a new series name. I wanted readers to know they were murder mysteries for kids, (so youngsters of a nervous disposition didn't get traumatised) so Murder Mystery was going to be there somewhere. Then I wanted a word other than kid oryoung reader. Tyke popped out of my thesaurus and I remember as a child, some adult yelling “You little tyke, you!” (they were obviously yelling at one of my brothers, not me, I hasten to add – ah hem!). Nevertheless Little Tyke Murder Mysteries sounded okay to me.
Then, I thought, wouldn't it be nice to have a Little Tyke logo. I didn't have to look far. My six-year-old granddaughter, Megan arrived for her photo-shoot as requested in baggy shorts, t-shirt, baseball cap, baseball boots, and pink skateboard – very cute (but then I am her Nan). Some photo wizardry later (not by me, I'm not clever enough) and my Little Tyke was born.
Then came a lot of copy-typing, as the three stories had been stored on floppy disc eleven years ago, and my floppy disc computer has long since gone to computer heaven (okay the tip). So that gave me chance to bring the stories up to date. I now gave my characters mobile phones which hadn't existed when I wrote the stories. I just had to make sure there was no signal to land them in the same predicament.
But I had to smile when re-writing Stealing the Show. My characters take a flight to Paris and there's a bag search by the gendarmes at one point. My characters were carrying liquids, make up and a Swiss army knife in their hand luggage and the officer didn't bat an eyelid! Where's that delete button?
So, once the stories were all re-written, then came the new covers, so again it was with the help of my friendly photographer pal, Rob Tysall to turn my ideas into reality.
The came the really tricky bit, formatting the books into the correct format and uploading. But now that it's done, it doesn't seem tricky any longer. Mind you, I've been pulling my hair out every step of the way, they say you learn best by your own mistakes. If that's the case, I must be a genius by now.
However, I was lucky in that I also had lots of guidance from a fellow writer from the Coventry Writers Group, Mike Boxwell. By the time I'd picked his brains, he realised he'd got enough knowledge to write a book on how to Write an Ebook. So he did and I'd heartily recommend it.
So finally, my four ebooks are up, and it's so exciting. Benjamin Fisher in Fishing for Clues, Alex Foxton in Stealing the Show, Henry Lambert in Pushing his Luck and Ronald Claymore in Pointing the Finger are all being resurrected again – well for a while, until they're bumped off again – by whom, you may ask? Well that's for a whole new generation of readers to figure out – and that's the really exciting bit.

Friday, 10 June 2011

Dear Editor - Karen Bush

Whenever I finish writing a book I carry out a frenzied tidy-up of the area where I work, and for a day or two it looks neat and organized. Within a couple of days it's back to the usual mess: it seems I'm incapable of working in a clutter-free environment. But even when I've had one of those big clear-outs, there are certain things that stay; little objects, pictures or cuttings which have accumulated over many years and which for various reasons, will never be consigned to the rubbish bin or stuffed in the back of a drawer. As well as taking over desk space, surrounding walls and cupboard doors aren't spared from the general clutter build-up. Blu-tacked to the cupboard next to my computer for example, is my one remaining business card from the days when I was a magazine editor, a photo taken at my dog's first Agility competition, a couple of flukily won archery medals, a sighthound tassel, old press passes - and one of my favourite newspaper clippings.

It's a Snoopy cartoon which so resonated with me at the time that I actually went and found the scissors so I could carefully cut it out, and twenty years later I still have it. In it, Snoopy is sitting at his typewriter, tapping out a letter which reads: 'Dear Editor, Why do you keep sending my stories back? You're supposed to print them and make me rich and famous. What is it with you?'

Yellowed and tatty now, I still look at it every day and it never fails to make me smile and feel better whenever I get a book rejection. But now we are in the age of the e-book, so it doesn't really matter any more if a publisher fails to see the inspired genius of my works. Hey! I don't need publishers any more. I can go right ahead and publish whatever I want to write, and without having to make any concessions to what they want. And what's more, because I don't have to submit my work to a publisher, I no longer have to wait months for a response or live with the fear that they'll pinch my idea (and yes, this has happened twice now) and farm it out to someone else to write.

Nevertheless, there are a few nagging worries lurking at the back of my mind, topmost of which is that maybe the Editor is Right and does Know Best after all. But I'm squashing that treacherous thought down as firmly as I can: only time and e-booking will ultimately tell.

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Hello and Welcome - Debbie Bennett

For my first post, I thought I’d just introduce myself and tell you a little bit about how I got here to this blog. I’m a writer, yes – but like all writers, I was a reader first, and an early reader too. I remember my dad bringing me home a Famous Five (Enid Blyton) book every Friday evening – they were 17½p in shiny new decimal money. Yes, I am that old. I’d spend Saturday reading and by Sunday I’d be asking my parents why I couldn’t go camping on my own at age 7 like the kids did in the book.

I grew up. Age 12 and I was reading Ruby Ferguson’s pony books – all terribly upper class with lashings of ginger beer. Then there was Malcolm Saville and Nancy Drew and then – nothing. That was it; the end of children’s books and straight into adult novels. Books for older teenagers and young adults just didn’t exist in the late 70s, so while I was cutting my adult reading teeth on John Wyndham and Robert Heinlein, I started writing the kind of books I wanted to read. I still have my first novel – handwritten in a fancy ring binder and complete with one-dimensional characters, who did exactly what I as the author wanted them to do. It was teenage thriller and it was doubtless a form of catharsis, a way of exploring some of the relationships – or lack of them – that I was having with boys! That finished, I wrote a sequel and then combined the two books into one and typed them up laboriously on a manual typewriter (stay with me, we’re not in the computer age yet).

By this time, I’d done Heinlein and Wyndham and moved on to Robert Sheckley, Michael Elder and all the plain yellow-covered Robert Hale science fiction books that the library stocked. Asimov, Pohl, Blish – all the classics. So naturally my writing followed suit and I started writing an sf novel set on a far future earth where the only remnants of civilisation were medieval castles. Throw in a bit of time travel (something that has always fascinated me) and some fantasy elements and I was on a roll again with novel number 3.

Liverpool university and I discovered the student library and authors such as Stephen Donaldson, Stephen King and the fantasy genre. A whole new world of reading. And a bloke who was possibly the most influential man in my life – apart from my husband. His name was Sean and while we were never boy/girlfriend, we were close mates and spent long hours in each other’s company. Sean was into fantasy role-playing and introduced me to the whole fantasy sub-culture – wargaming, live role-playing, a different group of people to hang around with. There was always somebody to talk to and make chain mail with between lectures! And I started to write a novel set in the world of live fantasy role-playing; characters within characters and all very pretentious, but it kept me busy when student budgets were low and I didn’t have a tv.

Fast-forward a few years and I’m married and living in London. I headed off to Southampton for my very first writers’ conference – it’s now Winchester Writers’ Conference and I recommend it to anyone for the networking opportunities. It was here I got marginalised for writing “weird stuff” and met kindred spirit Jan Edwards, who has probably been my closest friend ever since. We joined the British Fantasy Society together and I made the mistake of writing to the BFS newsletter commenting on something – turned out the editor David Howe lived a few miles up the road and he politely told me “if I thought I could do better ...” And I started writing fantasy.

I’ve been involved with the BFS now for over 20 years. Held the membership database for over 16 of those years, 9 years of editing BFS publications – newsletters, fiction anthologies, convention magazines – and I’ve sat on over 10 FantasyCon convention committees. I’ve been lucky enough to meet and eat/drink with most of the authors who have influenced me as a writer. During those years I was writing predominantly fantasy, and published several short stories (see my kindle collection Maniac & Other Stories). But the doorstep trilogies got bigger and I began experimenting with other genres – reading and writing. I now write thrillers and my debut kindle novel Hamelin’s Child was long-listed for the Crime Writers’ Association Debut Dagger Award.

This e-reader revolution is awesome. My wonderful dad bought me a kindle early this year and I was hooked. For the first time I can read what I choose and not what an agent/editor has chosen for me. I’ve read bad and I’ve read good – but that’s no different from my experiences as a traditional book-buyer. The advantage of kindle is that I can sample for free and the ebook is often inexpensive to buy.

So that’s me. Debbie Bennett, aged (whispers) 47 and I’m an author. I hope to share with you my views on writing and reading in general and maybe the highlights of my journey down this indie publishing road. There are links on my own blog to other writers I admire - indie and traditional - and my fellow-bloggers here are all great writers. I hope we can entertain you.

Saturday, 4 June 2011

Why this blog? – Katherine Roberts

This post has been published in Sparks, A Year In E-Publishing - An Authors Electric Anthology 2011-2012. It has therefore been temporarily reverted to draft status to comply with amazon KDP Select's requirements.