Let’s Cut to the Chase…

Out now on Amazon Kindle Reader-preference enabled

Hello and Happy Easter to you all!

I haven’t been around the blogiverse since my eye surgery six weeks ago. I’m sort of half-finished in that respect, will be back in hospital for more surgery after the summer. Just got to be careful of the tentative scar in my eyelid I now have until then, with things like washing my face with a flannel, pulling t-shirts over my head, catching my eye with the arm of my glasses – that kind of thing. Not rubbing it, not getting infections in it. Lots of anti-inflammatories at the moment.

I have had a few projects to get on with, though. I finished editing and formatting a client’s new book – her second true-life memoir which takes up the story where the last left off. This one is is a much bigger read, made up of her travel journals at the time. It’s illustrated again, taken from her doodles and photographs. The file is much bigger than before, so while we’re waiting for the print proof copies to arrive to approve the hardback and paperback, we’re keeping our fingers crossed that any edits will actually appear, in the gargantuan document – it’s hit and miss knowing which version will actually be printed now!

I helped out on a few other books published so far this year – Freddie Omm’s cultural thriller Honour (published in the US as Honor), Sophie Neville’s Ride the Wings of Morning, and Adam Sifre’s zombie road-trip I’ve Been Deader, which I’ve been waiting to see in print only for about two years. So I asked to proof-read the ebook file, and also made him a print copy PDF as a big hint. I can’t wait until I get my own paperback now that it’s available on Amazon!

Most recently, I was invited to help out on the proof-reading and formatting of a large non-fiction book, which depended on a lot of references and internal redirections to the reader, and I could see this would be very exciting (er – okay, exciting to a computer geek like me) to bring to life by creating the bookmarks and navigational links within the text – literally hundreds of them – making the book as user-friendly as possible.

It was while doing this that I remembered a chat I had at last year’s London Book Fair with Jason Kingsley, owner of Rebellion/2000AD Comics, after a Transmedia panel discussion.

“Remember the old Livingstone adventure books, where you made choices and had to skip back and forth through the paperbacks? I was always frustrated that you couldn’t read them all the way through, cover to cover as well…” What I wanted to do, was to make an ebook you could skip sections of, if you were a busier person or wanted a shorter read, and the story would still make sense – it would just be more compact. But you could also read all the way through in the usual linear fashion, for the complete story.

Jason thought this was a good idea, and I had a few stories I was in the process of publishing already – so I decided to work on some of my other storylines, with the aim of creating this ‘collapsible story’ – one where you could read through it all at your leisure, or just tap a link to skip longer segments of literary exposition, and cut to the chase.

And then within two months I was editing and formatting freelance as my main job, had to give up my NHS post, and focus on getting established in the self-publishing world.

So the idea stewed until I had done the reference book file, and Easter break began, and things got quiet. I looked at a couple of my sci-fi projects, but they aren’t complete enough to play with. I was making a coffee the other afternoon, and the idea just came to me to try the idea out on Death & The City.

It turned out to be the perfect candidate to test out the idea. The protagonist Lara Leatherstone narrates the plot, and being a psychotic, her mind lapses occasionally into high self-monitoring mode. I could easily enable the ebook for readers wanting to stay in the action, by inserting SKIP hyperlinks at appropriate sections, taking them past Lara’s pattern-matching internal monologues and into the next segment – but leaving it so should they ever be curious as to what else goes on in that mind of hers, they can read through the whole book continuously, in the usual linear style.

In other words, as you might flip through the boring bits in a real paperback, it’s got the electronic shortcuts already in place for you. Interactive multiple-page-flipping 🙂

I had to make sure the story read in the condensed style still made sense – that I wasn’t just basically enabling the hopping-over of everything bar the dialogue. So there is still a lot of book in there – and of course you don’t have to skip every single section – depending on your mood at the time, you can skip or not skip a segment. You’ll get a slightly different read every time, depending on which parts you choose to omit on your journey, or not.

It took me longer to think up what to call the new edition, to identify it from the others already available. I asked DS-10, but she’s more interested in watching the new English dubs of Black Butler. The word ‘Interactive’ sounded more like a game. I may come up with a fully interactive version one day, but this one is something else. ‘Reading-preference enabled edition’ didn’t seem to fit on the cover neatly enough 😉

So anyway, I decided to call it as close as dammit to what it is – DEATH & THE CITY: CUT TO THE CHASE EDITION.

I hope you like the idea – let me know what you think.

L xxx 🙂

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All Books Great and Small ~ Book Events & Promotions!

Click on the photo for my author interview by Hannah Warren!

It’s been very exciting in the past month!

I’ve attended three book events on all levels – the publishing house London hotel soiree, penthouse Royal suite, small invited crowd, free signed books for every guest (HarperCollins/Avon for Miranda Dickinson’s It Started With A Kiss):

The British movie-star celebrity house-party, decadent gourmet food, books selling as quickly as they could be handed out (Sophie Neville, Funnily Enough – whose childhood pets even stole the screen, on shows such as Animal Magic and All Creatures Great And Small):

And the intimate Oxford bookshop in steampunk fancy dress, great company, cups of tea and beer, open to the very friendly browsing public (Eight Cuts presenting both myself and Raven Dane reading from our books):

What I’ve learned from this is that there’s no wrong way to go about it. Whatever your budget, whatever your intentions, and whatever your personality, you can have a book launch or live event to suit you. Whether it’s busking on the street fielding the heckles, or gold-leaf invitation-only, Gucci dark glasses and red carpet compulsory – a book event is memorable. It puts a real person, the author, behind the world of the imagination.

Today I’m having another book promotion event of my own – online. I don’t have a pet celebrity, but I can give away free books for all you Kindle appsters!

Death & The City: Book OneFREE on Amazon Kindle today (Sunday 11th December), you can get both the full-length crime/humour/romance/lit-fic ebooks of Death & The City: Book One, and Death & The City: Book Two. (Click on the cover images for the Amazon Kindle Store links – promotion is valid in all Kindle stores worldwide).

If you miss today’s promotion – never fear. There’s another longer free listing, 48hours, for both Kindle ebooks again on Christmas and Boxing Day (time from midnight to 23:59 PST, or starting about 08:00a.m. Christmas Day GMT). So if you get a Kindle for Christmas, you know where to find a pair of good chunky free reads to get you started!

Death & The City: Book TwoAnd if you can’t get yours working on Christmas Day – don’t panic! Both ebooks will be FREE again on New Year’s Day and January 2nd 2012.

And if you miss any of the free promotions, all hope is not lost. You can still buy the 2-in-1 version (plus bonus feature screenplay) DEATH & THE CITY: HEAVY DUTY EDITION for only 0.86p/0.99c.

You can read the blurbs on my eBooks page above.

I wish I could be there to give you a sample reading in person, so to make up for the loss of laughs and chat, here’s a couple of tasters…

DEATH & THE CITY: BOOK ONE

…I slide the car sideways into a parking space on the snow and get out, pulling the Skellington hood over my head and face, and lock the car, catching my reflection in the car window. I look determined and businesslike and efficient through the eyeholes, like I know too well what I’m doing, sulky and resentful or not. I always surprise myself that I don’t look desperate or anxious. Why don’t I look scared of people, of what I’m about to confront? Maybe because I’m wise to the fact that the scariest things are inside my own head. I look like someone who has read a hundred psychology books and understood them all, and turned my own mind inside out applying all of the rules and finding the answers. I look like I know what I’m thinking and why. I look like I gave the laws of nature a fair chance, analysed all of the options and possibilities, and I’m just here to iron out a small kink in it, change a light bulb or battery to set the order of the Universe back to rights, replace a fuse. Not so much as even rewire a plug or do any painting. Something so minor that anyone with the right knowledge could have done it. Nothing to get dressed up for or flash any special identification, or make a big song and dance about. Nothing to advertise on the side of a Transit van, or open a shop for, or launch a website to tout for business on. I look like I’m just stopping off to buy an extension lead that no-one else has thought of on my way to a party, which will turn out to be crucial later on. Even on a bad day, I look like I know what I’m doing and that’s the reason it’s me there doing it. I intimidate myself, seeing that in the mirror every day. I think I’m the person who expects more of myself than everyone else expects of me. And that’s the reason I expect to look nervous, because I FEEL nervous, on the inside. I just don’t understand why it doesn’t show. I guess something in my past taught me to hide emotions.
 
I pass a postman as I head towards the City Centre Council offices, swinging my baseball bat cheerfully. We both grin and say good morning. He thinks I’m walking home late from a party. I think he’s a postman. It’s all good. Just goes to show, there could be a postal services employee tied up, minus his clothes in the back of a van somewhere, and someone was about to get a very special delivery. Anyone can put on a uniform. It’s the conduct of the person wearing it that counts towards its reputation. Postal uniform at 7:30 a.m. indicates postal worker going about their business. Skellington outfit at 7:30 a.m. on a Saturday indicates party straggler. We share a humorous thought about the snow falling around us but don’t voice it. It would be too much like stating the obvious. The eye language says it all, the snowflakes melting into his sideburns, the flurries stirred up by the loops of my bat as I swing it. Snow in April. Wicked.
 
I look up at the roof of the Council offices. So, he’s up there now, with the seagulls and pigeons, thinking about his career and how it had led to this. Inflating himself psychologically, whether he was compensating for something deficient elsewhere or not. He’s earned the right to be up there, in his world and his life and in his mind. He’s styled his life and image and personality around it, seamlessly meeting his destiny, waiting patiently 300 feet above the nearest decent toilet – while 300 feet above him he IS the nearest decent toilet for the sky denizens that like to crap on the town from a great height. He’s got through eight cans of Red Akuma just to get through the night, and will be lucky if he doesn’t have a stroke driving home afterwards. Who’d be a hit-man, I ask you?
 
He doesn’t look very comfortable as I step over the parapet. Looks like cramps, possibly a dead leg. A nice massage would sort him out. Shame I’m not in therapist mode. Could have made a good future customer contact. He looks itchy and cold and tired and that snowfall wasn’t on his agenda either. How do you expect a clear shot 300 feet below you through snow? Any normal person would have gone home. He obviously wants this one badly. Either for his ego or his reputation. The cold obviously means higher likelihood of his gun jamming through metal contraction anyway. He’ll have frostbite, cramps, probably break his collarbone if the gun actually fires with the kind of recoil it would give him, and the dead leg would mean he won’t be able to make a nice clean escape. He’ll be a sitting duck, 300 feet above a dead or injured body, with the police looking speculatively upwards while he tries to rub pins and needles out of every limb. If he had a plan before, I’d have loved an insight onto it.
 
I cut the City Council flag down with my penknife, wondering why he hadn’t thought of using it to keep himself dry and a bit warmer, then I walk up behind him. I don’t hesitate, exactly – I just sort of wait a moment. Maybe it’s just me. I always speculate about this. Natural selection. A tiger never attacks from the front. The survivors are those with eyes in the backs of their heads.
 
I look over my shoulder. A seagull is watching me from the parapet, and I put my finger to the lips – or rather teeth – of my Skellington mask. I look back at the sniper lying at my feet. He hasn’t looked up, and I’m disappointed. I’ve yet to meet another doorman with eyes in the back of his head. Some of them even seem to have problems with the ones in the front. I guess it’s me that’s waiting to meet my match, at the end of the day. When one of these guys finally turns around and clocks me standing behind him, I’ll have met my match. Then again, I probably don’t deserve that, doing what I’m doing. Maybe no-one’s coming for me. Maybe I’m alone in the Universe. I’ll get to the end having erased all the undesirables from the List, having made no friends out of it – just done what was expected of me, finished the job and gone home…
 
Lisa the bouncer

DEATH & THE CITY: BOOK TWO

A staff meeting at The Zone prior to opening reveals that after tonight, those of us on loan from The Plaza will be heading back there (to the sound of much groans and moans by those not looking forward to returning to Mgr Diane’s clutches), as enough new door staff have now been recruited for the venue to run on. And also a heads-up about a fire drill Evac at some point tonight, as the Fire Brigade are due to check our new alarm system and evacuation procedures.
 
I notice already that Hurst and Jag Nut are absent, replaced by new recruits, and also Niall Taylor, which gives me a small amount of relief. So it’s pretty much only me, Animal, Cooper and Salem left of the original reinforcements, that I’m on familiar terms with. Cooper is looking kind of deflated, like he can’t wait to leave and get back to his comfortable Plaza, with its dozens of secret links, corners and offices he can hide in. And Salem can’t wait to ditch the neon pink Zone front-door hi-vis, which he says is only suitable for Downtown Willy’s gay comedy club, opposite The Dog Star, where I shot camp hit-man Phil Preston the other day.
 
The new guys, in contrast, look serious and overly-professional, like an Airfix model Army. Probably recruited straight from the membership list of Heath Gardner’s gym and sauna, then vetted by Mgr Stacie’s eye for sun-bed use and good dental work. Hurst would call them shirt-fillers – new licence-holders, no old school experience in any of them. Just the one goofy-looking guy, who is probably the token First-Aider, perhaps from leisure centre pool life-guarding or the Territorial Army. Solange is flirting relentlessly with most of them, while Pascaline ignores everyone, texting on her phone in a corner, or vanishing to the toilets to make calls. Apparently those two girls are staying on here. Solange is happy, with so many Action Man dolls around her to choose from, while Pascaline just looks pissed off. She used to do Downtown Willy’s front doors with Phil Preston. Funny, I haven’t heard anything about who might have been sent to work there, as replacements. Mostly the two managers stand on the front doors of the club, as per their SIA licence-holder status entitlement, so Phil and Pascaline were the eye candy. Whose eye – it’s hard to say.
 
Mgr Stacie looks happy with her own new eye candy, anyway. I imagine it won’t be long before Mgrs Diane and Melanie are sneaking up here, with their camera phones, or arranging V.I.P. staff nights out to The Zone in order to Facebuddy the new door supervisor talent. Mind you, most of the Zone’s barmaids also look like supermodels, so it’ll be a full claws-out competition if they set their sights on anyone working here. Would be a relief to the likes of Ryan, Joel and Harry though, to get a bit of breathing space for themselves. Doorman Harry’s actually married, although you wouldn’t think so to look at him, and by the way he behaves. Apparently his wife’s a geriatric nurse who likes to pole-dance when she’s drunk. My psychosis has a problem with trying to picture this, having never met her face-to-face. I don’t know if it means she’s a pole-dancing retired elderly nurse herself – or a nurse who treats older persons, and I don’t like to ask. Either would be believable – Harry has celebrity crushes on everyone from Shakira and the Olsen twins to Tina Turner, Ruby Wax and Joan Rivers. His only regret in life is he’s too young ever to have met Mae West. Bit of a strange lad at times.
 
I think I’ve missed his greetings of announcing he wants to punch someone, over the last week. It’s all a bit uptight and image-conscious here in The Zone.
 
Cooper hangs around the end of the bar, chatting idly with me as the shift starts on my bar island position, and I have a weird sense of him looking for his own reality check, which I can’t help noticing I don’t have a copy of on me tonight. He seems a bit too random, a bit too escapist in mood, like someone’s been trying to pin him down of late. I can imagine who that might be. He seems to want to talk work, and general doorman gossip, in a way I realise makes him feel more secure in his senior door role. Even though he’s several years younger than me and I’ve been doing the job twice as long as him, I’m always polite enough not to point this out. Not to his face.
 
“Have the others gone back to The Plaza already?” I ask instead, encouraging him with my lack of inside knowledge on current migratory door staff events.
 
“Hurst and Niall are back there tonight, Jag Nut went to his uncle’s funeral today, so he’s on annual leave,” Cooper divulges. He accepts a glass of water from one of the bar staff, and looks at the swirling bubbles from the tap suspiciously, putting it down on the bar and watching to see if they settle.
 
“What happened to his uncle?” I ask. “I heard it was something sudden.”
 
“Old landmine. He was clearing No-Man’s-Land ex-security checkpoints with his team abroad. Tripped a twenty-year-old roadside bomb. Unlucky sod. Puts me off the thought of going to war for real.” Cooper shakes his head as a thin cloudy layer of scum gradually forms on the surface of his glass of water. “What the Hell is that stuff in the water, are we really drinking this shit?”
 
“Might be residue from the glass washer tablets,” I point out.
 
“Don’t think I want to drink that either, the last thing my intestines need is a diamond-like sparkle to them,” Cooper remarks, and feels in his pockets around his phone and keys for change. “Another crappy tight-wad venue that won’t give its staff free drinks. Do you want a can of pop? It’s all right, I’ll sort you out.”
 
I accept a cola and we both snap our tins open in front of a passing Mgr Stacie’s cold nod of disapproval. Cooper glugs half of his in one gulp in order to summon a deliberately mutinous burp.
 
“Lara,” he teases, blaming me humorously. “Gross.”
 
I know it’s immature, but I grin anyway. The situation needs lightening up generally.
 
“Doesn’t matter, we’re out of here for good at the end of tonight,” he reminds me. “Might as well do what we like. Have a wander. It’s this bunch of stuffed shirts who have to impress the managers now, not us. I’m off to see if there’s anything not nailed down that would look good in the boot of my car.”
 
He grins at me and saunters off. This time I know he’s joking. Everything here is nailed down.

 

Happy reading!

🙂 xxx

 

Writers Swap Reads ~ July 2011

Hidden

(Also on Amazon Kindle UK/DE. Paperback available from Amazon US, or Shalini Boland)

Went out for a birthday lunch today to meet the effortlessly fabulous Shalini Boland, rising Young Adult fiction star and author of Hidden, and the forthcoming futuristic/dystopian novel Outside. We did a book exchange – I got a paperback copy of Hidden (paranormal/vampire romance), and I gave her a hardcover of Living Hell, and threw in a paperback proof of Death & The City: Book Two to follow up the first one she already has at home. I told her about my own ‘challenge’ I’d set myself, to write a romantic novel à la Harlequin/Mills&Boon, and she shared some of the promoting tips she’s learned around indie publishing.

One of the things she’d heard about is running temporary freebie promos on eBooks. I thought this sounded like a fun idea. She also submits queries to book blogs for reviews/interviews and promotion, and is doing well out of it. In comparison to me, who hasn’t put together a press kit at all, and sells on average one Terrible Zombie Of Oz per week, she’s proof that marketing yourself a bit in the right places can definitely work.

Living Hell, on SmashwordsI’d already dropped my Amazon Kindle prices, having bought an Android-based eTouch Toys’R’Us tablet (it’s fantastic, and has the added bonus of a rounded shiny silver rear cover that looks as though you’re perusing the inside of a tiny Smeg refrigerator – and almost as heavy). I realised that for my £49.99 investment in this electronic toy, and downloading the free Kindle app, what I mostly wanted was to benefit from amazingly cheap books.

So I’d swallowed my pride and put my own prices down, from a few bucks to amazingly cheap as well.

Death & The City, on SmashwordsWhen I got home I checked out Smashwords, and had no new activity in the last month – but noticed they were running a July sale list, with vouchers which you could apply to your books to make them either discounted or free. So I signed both of my Smashwords epub/html/LRF/RTF format books up to it (Apple/Sony/Nook etc versions), and almost instantly sold two, and then two more. It was definitely worth doing – as it’ll be a while before I see any royalties anyway, gaining a readership in the meantime is definitely up there in my list of preferences.

I’d already decided to give myself a year, from publishing the first two in the Tales of the Deathrunners series (Death & The City: Books One and Two – combined in the hardcover edition, and in the Heavy Duty Edition eBook, which also includes an original feature screenplay), as well as Living Hell and The Terrible Zombie Of Oz. One year will be enough to gauge reader interest in whichever sequence of books is likely to be strongest – at the moment it looks like the title containing the most Z’s is winning – and I have sequels already in progress. In the meantime I’ll work on giving this Romance Fiction challenge a shot, and try and keep the zombies at bay – until appropriate for them to be unleashed 🙂

My Smashwords Author Page

Enjoy! 🙂