Anne Rice on writing

I just thought I’d share this wonderful YouTube piece with Anne Rice about writing and self publishing.

‘Be brave, reach for the fire from heaven. And, nobody can tell you that you can’t do that. And, really, realise your dreams.’ – Anne Rice

Sample Sunday – September 16th

This week I’m joining in Sample Sunday; a chance to offer readers titbits of books if they’re looking for something fresh and new to devour. Whilst last week I shared Chapter 1 of Inside Evil from my ‘my Writing’ page, this week I’m sharing an excerpt from Chapter 9.

*****

There was a soft humming from the kitchen as Susan made her way down the stairs and turned into the lounge. The table in front of Martha’s conservatory was already set, and there were a selection of warm croissants, jams, fruit and pastries laid out.

“There you are,” Martha smiled as she walked through the kitchen door with a steaming pot of coffee. She placed it on a placemat, removed her apron and beckoned Susan towards the table. “Breakfast?”

“I’m not hungry,” Susan replied as she made her way to a seat which overlooked the frosty morning garden.

“Just have some coffee and a croissant at least, you’ve got to eat. Plus, I’ve gone to so much effort.”

Susan smiled and raised an eyebrow, “Martha, you do this every morning whether you have company or not.”

“True, but it’s good to have a few family traditions kept up. Here,” Martha poured dark coffee into Susan’s cup before handing her the plate of pastries. Susan soon realised that she was actually famished, especially having not eaten anything the night before. After seeing the ghostly figures in the cellar she’d come to Martha’s to seek advice. It had become late, she didn’t care to see her husband’s face and let another row boil over about her increasing distance from him, and so she’d stayed in one of Martha’s guestrooms. And now that she was guzzling coffee and working her way through several pastries, she was hugely thankful for her friend’s care.

“So, these ghostly figures,” Martha began as calmly as if she were asking about how Susan had slept, which had in fact been one of the best sleeps since Vanessa’s death. “There were two?”

Susan nodded and washed a piece of toast and jam down with a sip of coffee. “The second only came towards the end. I couldn’t really see either very well. They weren’t in the cellar, it was as if I were looking through a window to somewhere else.”

“Yet you were able to pick up the diaries off the table and can feel heat and see light from the candles,” Martha mused. “And, the main figure just placed the fallen candle back onto the table and left?”

Susan hesitated, she still hadn’t told Martha about the stone disc, and to reveal that another had been placed on the table would mean she’d need to reveal the item which still rested in her pocket now. Her fingers dug into her cardigan for reassurance, recoiling instantly as they touched the cold round object. She moved her hand to her other pocket and pulled out Vanessa’s pages which were becoming increasingly crumpled and damaged.

“The second figure appeared, grabbed the first’s arm and seemed to indicate that someone was watching them. It looked straight at me for a few seconds and then they both vanished.”

“Well, I’m glad that’s all that happened, Susan. I’ve got a horrible feeling that whatever was staring at you was the same thing that attacked me the night of Vanessa’s death.”

“I think it’s certain,” Susan replied, “Yet we’re still no further along with what’s actually happening.”

“I wouldn’t say that! For starters, Karl confirmed what I’d been thinking all along, and that Vanessa didn’t simply just drop dead.” She looked across to Susan, “I’m sorry I didn’t say anything before, about Karl. I know you’re upset, but truly Susan, I just didn’t think of it until he came through the door. I knew only of the other deaths because Barry had mentioned them to me. I didn’t have the details. I just knew that matters had been handed over to a team outside of Ridgewood. And then, when Barry found James Harrow, I didn’t care much for anything other than what he was going through.”

“It’s OK,” Susan smiled. “I get so caught up in my own mind that I forget that you went through it too. And it doesn’t help that I still don’t know what any of this means.”

She passed Martha the diary pages. Martha took a moment to read through the scrawl again.

“I think it’s pretty safe to say that your Vanessa had the same encounter as you and I have had,” Martha murmured as she studied the text. “Black eyes bore into me. I would say that’s a pretty perfect description.”

“But what does that tell us?”

“Well, it tells us that whatever happened to Barry all those years ago also happened to Vanessa. That we’re not going mad, and that whatever we’ve been seeing is not a figment of our strange imaginations. And, it brings us right back to Roberta Arlington again.”

“How so?”

Martha looked up at Susan with astonishment, “R pulls me aside, R’s there, lurking,” she recited. “It’s obviously her. After the incident at the school I was sure there was something wrong, I felt a panic which I hadn’t felt since Barry.”

Though Susan had somehow managed to completely miss this obvious connection before, she was certain of its truth. As soon as she heard Martha say it aloud, she was also certain of who the developing image on the cellars new stone disc was.

“But how are we supposed to get remotely close to her? You saw what happened. We can’t just go and knock on her door and have a conversation about what the hell she was doing to my daughter.”

“We could talk to Sam, see if he knows anything, has seen anything unusual?”

“Unusual, Martha, all of this is unusual,” Susan said, taking yet another pastry. “But you’re right, Sam’s the obvious link to Roberta. But, how do we get him alone?”

Martha thought on the question momentarily before answering. “Just call him Susan. Say that something happened in the cellar, that you don’t want to talk about it over the phone, and could he pop into the shop.”

“It’s that easy?”

“I don’t think Roberta will want to be anywhere near you right now. Barry shut out his best friend during the last weeks before he vanished. I never found out what happened, but I am starting to realise that there was more to it than a simple argument. If anything was proved by the incident at the school it was that Roberta and you need to stay away from each other. Just tell Sam you don’t want any trouble, and that he has to come alone.”

“It’s worth a try,” Susan replied as she drained the last coffee dregs from her cup.

*****

To find out what happens, and where it all began, find Inside Evil for $2.99 at:

Amazon.com | Amazon.co.uk | Smashwords | B&N | Kobo

Making paperbacks with CreateSpace

I never imagined that my self publishing journey would take me to where it has. OK, I’m not a millionaire, I’m not even earning a living off my books, but back in March I had nothing published – at all. Then, I discovered this world of eBooks, and I was hooked. Later, I heard about CreateSpace; this company that would print actual paperbacks. It souned too hard, too complicated, something I would explore….eventually. Now I have explored, and I’m overjoyed.

One of the reasons that I’ve been put off developing paperbacks in the past is a) my personal confusion and b) the higher costs that readers have to pay. $2.99 is a very good price for a book, in my opinion, and so I have no qualms pricing an eBook of Inside Evil at this level. However, to pull back paperback costs means that Inside Evil has to be at least $10 for me to even make $1 profit on it. Would people pay this for my book? I didn’t know.

Whilst I’m still in the dark as to whether people will actually buy at a paperback by an indie author at that price, my paperback copy of Inside Evil arrived today and I’m OVER THE MOON. It seems far more real to hold an actual book in your hands. See the print, see the cover, turn the pages over with your fingers. And, far from my huge concerns, creating the paperback was VERY easy.

 

 

 

Making Paperbacks with CreateSpace

The formatting issue was my first concern when it came to producing a paperback, and I thought I’d never be able to get the book outline correct. However, CreateSpace makes this very easy to do. Whilst  you can go through all manner of preformatted options and templates, I’ve found that using a current Word .doc of your manuscript is the best way. Here’s what I did:

1. Used the Word .doc of Inside Evil that I use to upload to Smashwords. Don’t worry – CreateSpace will send you an email saying that you’ve got all manner of formatting issues, but this is normal. I chose the 5′ x 8′ template for my book, meaning that my .doc was completely wrong. However, after you’ve uploaded, CreateSpace will offer you the option to download a template. DO THIS. You will find that the template includes your manuscript but with the CreateSpace formatting. You can then make alterations to your document in line with the formatting required.

I’ve found this method to be a lot easier than trying to pre-prepare any document. Remember, if you’re uploading a Smashwords ready file, take out the Smashwords copyright blurb at the front of the book. Also, if you have hyperlinks in your eBook, remember to take them out. As many times as a reader presses that link, it won’t open if it’s on paper. ;)

2. Having made the inside of your book beautiful by using the easy process above, it’s time to do the cover. There are MANY tutorials on the web which show how to make extremely good but complicated covers. If you have some cover art ready made, use the CreateSpace online cover editor.

If you scroll through the template options that they give you, there are a few blank ones that you can use. Simply update your information for the spine, use your cover for the front and utilise Photoshop, or something similar, to make a back cover. You might have to make a few corrections so that no text spills into the gutter lines but CreateSpace makes this very obvious so you know when you’ll need to change something. Your back cover also doesn’t have to be complicated – at all – and all I did was to overlay a black raster layer on top of my front cover, cut through to create a few lines of colour, and add the same text that I use for my sales copy.

*Note* – CreateSpace GIVES you a free ISBN and sorts out the barcode image on the back of your book. Don’t stress, they do it for you! :D

3. After you’ve done your interior and cover, you’re pretty much done. The team of reviewers will look at your work, after which point you have the option to order a Proof copy or just proof online. I was tempted just to proof online, but ORDER A PROOF COPY. Here’s why:

- Because I’d used my Smashwords .doc, I’d forgotten to put my headers and footers back in. Therefore, Inside Evil had NO page numbers.

- My About Author section still said ‘ebooks’, when it should have said ‘books’.

- You need to check your cover prints correctly. Just because it looks great on your computer screen doesn’t mean it will be perfect on the book.

- Your ebook font size and spacing may need changing. My font is size 12, with spacing set at 1.5 lines. Whilst this is OK, I’m trying another proof with normal spacing. This will reduce the number of pages, therefore making it cheaper for readers to buy. It’ll also look better.

- Holding the first ever printed copy of your book is AMAZING. I have no page numbers, an author error and PROOF written across the last page, but I love it.

Using CreateSpace is really easy to make your paperbacks, and I highly encourage it. Now that I’ve done a first proof of Inside Evil, I’m going to make a few changes and get another proof done. I’ve also spent today getting the The Tower of Souls ready for publication. Will I sell any paperback copies? Who knows. Will I love having MY books on MY real bookshelf? Yes.

How to market your ebook in your email signature

I’ve been marketing Inside Evil in my email signature ever since it was available for sale. There’s nothing like a subtle sales pitch for getting the attention of people, and if you include a link to your books in an email, you may find that people will naturally click the link and take a look. After spending a few minutes placing the link, you’ve got a marketing plan that keeps on working (as long as you send emails, of course), and whether you’re emailing friends, family or new associates, you have the chance to make a sale or at the very least, stir some interest.

I always just used a text link in my email – it’s easy and simple to do. I use hotmail most of the time, so adding a little piece of text and including a hyperlink to my Amazon page seemed obvious enough. However, for no specific reason at all, I decided today that it wasn’t enough. OK, so people might look at the link, but it didn’t exactly leap out of the page.

After dabbling around in hotmail I realised that, much like on a website, I could use HTML to actually put in a sales image containing a specific sales link. All you need is to create your banner, have somewhere available to upload your image to the web so that it has an URL, use some rudimentary HTML, and off you go.

Firstly, I created a quick sales image that would be sure to catch people’s eye when they get an email from me:

You don’t want it to take up too much space, so this image is just 150px x 700px.

Secondly, I uploaded the image to this website’s media centre so that I could get an URL for the picture. This is important because hotmail doesn’t allow you to upload an image into your signature directly. However, it does offer HMTL, which means that you can link to an image anywhere on the web.

Thirdly, I used a simple piece of HMTL code to paste the image and link into my signature:

<a href=”http://www.amazon.com/dp/B007JIH0EU” target=”_blank”><img src=”http://geoffreywakeling.files.wordpress.com/2012/09/sig.jpg” border=”0″ width=”700” height=”150“></a>

You can see that the red text indicates where the image links to. I thought about linking directly to my Amazon author page but thought I’d try a direct Inside Evil link first. It’s easy enough to change around, so I can alter it at my preference.

The blue text indicates where in my wordpress directory the image is held. This doesn’t have to be your blog, it could be photo service such as Photobucket, but your image must have an URL.

Finally, the green numbers show the size of the image so that you can set your picture to your own dimensions.

I have no idea where this will work, but it’s sure to be more eye catching than a simple written signature link with a hyperlink installed. Now, when people open my email, they’ll (hopefully) be drawn towards the covers and want to find out more.

Edit, edit, schmedit.

Whilst stories and ideas tumble around in my head for the third instalment of Inside Evil, the editing process continues with gusto for the new science fiction title. Whilst a name is still to be confirmed, I’m making good process. About 10,000 words got edited today, and I’m about 50k in – just another half to go. The end of the novel also has to be finished. Like Inside Evil, I wrote this story over several years and have therefore become distanced from the work so am having to reacquaint myself with the characters through a first general edit so that I can tie the end of the novel up nice and neatly. I’ll need to write/rewrite about 10 – 20 thousand words to complete the book, at which time another edit will be needed. But, what is my editing process?

When I read through a manuscript I do  make punctuation and grammar changes, but I leave the majority of this work to my proofer. She’s there to call me out on bad words, questionable sentences and a host of spelling mistakes, missed words and comma misplacements (the latter, I know, I’m pretty awful with). My main focus for an edit is to ensure that the story flows, to make sure that a character’s inner voice doesn’t get too annoying. ‘CRYO’ sees an ordinary man win the trip of a lifetime, a chance to start again in a fresh and new world. He’s disillusioned with the current state of his dying Earth, and sets off to find a new utopia. One area that I’ve been battling with in this work is my protagonist’s whinge.  Yes, he hates the world, he wants to leave, he wants a better life. But, there’s a careful balance between expressing his thoughts and making readers want to throttle the bugger.

I’m excited about getting this novel out there, and the current timeline will probably see the final manuscript having a second edit during Oct, proofing during Nov and publication in early Dec. Then I’ll get back to Inside Evil and start formulating the increasing wad of notes around my house into a sensible story! But, for now, here’s the first 250 of my WIP (subject to change – of course):

Title: TBC

The sales assistant, a gangly and short youngster with a metallic silver tattoo beading its way through his eyebrows, stared over the counter, open mouthed and wide eyed. John’s pupils dilated, his skin became momentarily flushed. Excitement, anticipation, disbelief; his face expressed it all. Wednesday morning, 12 minutes past 10, nothing had been planned for today, nothing was supposed to happen or to have happened, but in the cashier’s hand was something that could change everything. No, it would change everything.

Time had slowed to a grinding halt. John’s mind contorted as it tried to process this split second in time, trying to stop itself from exploding due to the multitude of mixed of emotions that John was feeling at this precise and tiny moment in time. Emotion seeped through his veins, pumping his heart with power, a deep resonating booming in his chest that he was sure the whole world could hear. Minute sweat beads began to form on John’s temple, his skin flushed, causing every hair on his body to become aroused. Around him people were shopping, laughing, living, queuing, fighting, crying, and in the midst of it he stood silent, an ordinary chap, on an ordinary day, with one extra unordinary feeling.

Writing inspiration and utilising Pinterest

Inspiration is a great thing, and it often comes when you’re least expecting it. Try to sit down and pull a story out of the air and, chances are, your .doc will remain blank. However, delve into the thousands of ideas, images and characters that are roaming around in your head, and you’ll more than likely find something to get those fingers tapping away.

For me, inspiration arrives in two main forms; either a huge crashing explosion of a new story idea or the subtle and gentle flow of consciousness that occurs when I write. My latest WIP, the yet un-named science fiction novel, was inspired by a enormous crane pulling down the old block of flats that I used to live in. It looked like a dinosaur, a giant beast of some sort, tearing away at the fabric of man’s creation. ‘How can I include that in Inside Evil?‘ I thought. I realised that I couldn’t fit it in, not really, and so a new work was born. A work that has grown into something quite different from that first image which was conjured into my mind all those years ago.

Could this have been the inspiration for Elrick?Aside from these very visceral images that create new WIP’s, I find that other inspiration takes a more subtle approach and I don’t even know it’s there until it releases itself into my work. As a trained zoologist and professional gardener, I surround myself with nature, creatures, bugs, plants, and this has very gently found its way into my work. I never sat down and thought ‘Right, today I’m going to include a spider in my writing.‘ However, when I was first writing Mrs Peacock’s scenes (Inside Evil) Elrick just kind of appeared. From nowhere. Today I was gardening again at a client’s and what should I find but this very cool yellow crab spider. Perhaps it, in the past, was the subtle inspiration for Elrick and the purple ink spiders that followed in The Tower of Souls.

Pinterest 

I’ve been using Pinterest for a few months now, mainly as a way to collect inspiration for gardening and home decor, but have decided it might be a good idea to share images which have helped, and continue to help, create the Inside Evil worlds, creatures, characters and stories. I’ve created a range of boards, including ‘Inspiration for Inside Evil‘, ‘Inside Evil character inspiration’ and ‘Music I listen too whilst writing‘ to draw together some insights to how I, myself, see the novels. I’m sure I’ll be adding more boards over time too, as further ideas come to me.

As a slight aside, the ‘Inside Evil character inspiration‘ board won’t have actors or actresses that I think look like Roberta, or Sam, or Martha. I’ve made a conscious effort to avoid describing characters too much in the books, as well as avoiding character imagery on the covers because I want people to make up their own minds on how they see people. Of course, I might post Martha’s pearls or Sam’s glasses, but I won’t post my thoughts on character faces. However, you will see images of people that readers have suggested – particularly the first image of Martha, who one reader imagined as looking like Felicity Montagu in Bridget Jones.

If you want to follow me, then just tap the little button below and you can peruse my boards, and even join up yourself. It’s a great way to create mood and inspiration collections whether you’re a reader, writer or dreamer.

Follow Me on Pinterest

How to get EFT Amazon payments for UK authors

I’ve just discovered something quite startling, something that I hadn’t realised. UK Amazon authors can set up Electronic Fund Transfers (EFT) payments for their .uk, .de, and other european sales!

Most authors outside the US have heard of the cheque debarkle, i.e the fact that you have to accumulate at least $100, £100 etc before a cheque will be issued. You’re not notified when it’s popped in the post, and dealing with it in the UK can be troublesome because many banks charge to process the currency change, losing you yet more hard earned royalty. It is annoying, but it’s something that we have to deal with for the time being, all whilst continually hoping that Amazon will one day change the process.

However, until a few moments ago I had no idea that UK and EU authors can receive EFT payments if you have a bank in Europe. All you need for this is your IBAN and BIC numbers and hey presto, you’re receiving money every time your European sales reach at least £10.

The process is easy and all I did was:

1. Log into your Amazon account and scroll to ‘Your Royalty Payments

2. Under ‘Your Bank Accounts‘ select ‘add‘ and fill in the details. You’ll need your IBAN and BIC for these. I’m with HSBC and as long as you have internet banking, these two numbers are very easy to get.  Simply go to your current account, click ‘previous statements‘, choose any month and both your IBAN and BIC will be at the top of the statement page.

3. Amazon will automatically process your bank details and reveal which markets you can receive EFT’s for. On my account it instantly changed all European destinations to EFT, meaning that I could receive ££ or €€ conversions as soon as I reached a minimum of £10 or €10 (they may charge a fee for the latter depending on banks and exchange rates but I NEVER sell in these markets so don’t have to worry).

It really seems to be that easy. I haven’t yet saved the process as I’m waiting for my W8-BEN to go through with Amazon. However, as soon as this is complete, I’m going to switch to EFT and enjoy at least some of my royalties without the lengthy cheque process.

Have you used this process? Did you know of it before reading this? Is it as easy as it seems?

UPDATE:

I’ve now had my EIN accepted by Amazon, changed by European payments to EFT and have my first royalty payment. It’s amazingly quick, and I definitely encourage you to do it if you want to reduce the time it takes to get paid for your hard work. :)