The making of a national ITV ‘News at Ten’ location item – behind the scenes

Behind-the-scenes footage that I filmed on request at RLYC of journalist Nina Nannar and DoP Mickey Lawrence, interviewing former Swallows & Amazons (1973) actress Sophie Neville (one of my I.T. clients), and some of the sailing students. They’re discussing the 2016 movie remake of Arthur Ransome’s classic tale. Parts of the interview were featured in the item on ITV’s News at Ten on Friday 29th July (read the article and watch it here).

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Another tutorial: Linking to multimedia in ebooks

Hello! Spring has sprung, the holidays have come, and hopefully we’re all outdoors getting some sunshine and healthy fresh air, not indoors with a TV movie marathon and a serious hand-blanket-stitching cosplay costume-making addiction. Just me on that one, I think…

Ok now, we all want to publish ebooks that stand out in the current market, and one thing you can do to perk them up is to add links to multimedia content:

Remember that you must own the content to share it (visual AND audio), and you must keep in mind that many of the more basic e-readers will not be running Flash player, or support video and audio content, and you don’t want their own enjoyment of reading the rest of the book interrupted with large blocks of non-functioning embedded content.

Check out the ‘Look Inside’ preview of this ebook that I formatted for a true-life memoir author, Sophie Neville: The Secrets of Filming Swallows & Amazons.

She’d shown me some old home-movie footage her family had taken at the time the film was made, and I suggested editing it into short clips that could be linked to in the text inside the book, as well as create a book trailer from it.

You’ll see hyperlinks under the first two photographs on the title pages of her ebook, linking to footage uploaded onto the author’s Youtube channel. (I also edited the footage for her, and used music soundtracks available from the copyright-free libraries). I edited the ebook’s description on Amazon to include the line “contains links to behind-the-scenes home movie footage for readers with browser-enabled tablets” – so that customers would be aware of how this worked.

If you own one of these non-browser, non-Flash Kindles or e-readers, you can download the reader app to your PC or other internet device to read and view books with multimedia content, where the links will work on your PC or device with an internet connection and fully-functioning browser.

On the iPad or iPhone, for example, when you tap on the video hyperlink in this ebook, the video appears full-screen, ready to watch. When it has finished, you just tap on the Youtube prompt ‘Done’ – it closes automatically and you’re back on your page in the Kindle book. Neat stuff.

Here’s how to format and publish a standard text or illustrated ebook – click here.

Start with your content – you have to own it, as will become clear shortly, and also have permission of anyone (or their property, or music) who appears in your footage, whether it’s made using stills or video. Make sure you include a written acknowledgement of their contribution in your ‘Thank You’ list at the end of your book, for granting you permission.

Firstly, set up a Youtube channel in your author name, and upload your edited content.

In your video’s description on the Youtube edits page while uploading, include the words ‘(Book title) Copyright (your name) (year) Thanks to (names of contributors in this video). All permissions obtained.’

Copy the shortlink to share the video you want to link from the ‘Share’ tab under the video on Youtube, e.g. http://youtu.be/chXkQ8m8tKM Make sure you only have the link to your video copied. Don’t copy any longer links from the address bar, which may contain ‘play all’ loops or playlists, which prompt the link to include the rest of your videos, or ones with the same title or search terms in the content that plays when the link is clicked on. If you can only copy the link from your browser’s address bar, make sure that if it contains the symbol ‘&’ you first select the ‘&’ and anything that appears after the ‘&’ symbol, and delete that part, before copying the first part of the link only. Also delete the ‘s’ from ‘https’ at the beginning of the link – otherwise your link is set to ‘private browsing’ and will only work if the reader is also signed in to Youtube.

If your ebook is illustrated, you can do the same as I did for this particular author, and put links under appropriate illustrations. This means that folk with regular e-readers still get something nice to look at, and the video is just enhancement for readers with fully-functioning browsers. Don’t link the video to the illustration itself – this will mess with the ‘zoom image’ tap function on touchscreen tablets, and no-one will know it is there! It’s best for clarity to type the line ‘Click here for video’ or something similar as I have done, and hyperlink the sentence.

Highlight the phrase you want to link on your document in Word/OpenOffice etc, click on the ‘Insert’ tab, select ‘Hyperlink’, select ‘on the web’ in the left-hand sidebar of the control box that pops up, and paste your video’s link into the box saying ‘web address’, then ‘Apply’ and ‘Done/OK’.

Once you’ve added your video hyperlinks, whether they’re book trailers, vlogs, author interviews with yourself, you dressed up as one of your characters acting out a scene etc, finish formatting your ebook document, and upload and submit it for publishing as described in the Formatting Ebooks tutorial.

Your book will appear in the Kindle store. Now, at some point, you will receive an email from KDP stating that your book ‘contains content freely available on the web’ and to ‘verify that you are the owner’ of this material, otherwise your book will be removed and the rest of your author account as well. You must reply immediately, as they only give you a few days’ notice to answer. All you need do is send a polite and prompt reply confirming that it is your own footage on your own Youtube channel (see name on your Youtube channel) and has been uploaded for the purpose of marketing your book (see book title and author name in your video descriptions). The same goes for images if queried, or your own written blog posts, that you might have replicated in your published books. Also follow any prompts they have given you in their email to confirm ownership by re-submitting the book, by opening the edit menu of your book on your KDP dashboard, re-selecting ‘All territories’ on the ‘Rights & Royalties’ page, and re-submitting your book for publishing. They will later reply to your reply, confirming acknowledgement of your right to publish the content. These emails are not automated, and your content and written verification will be checked by actual people.

For the above reason, make sure that any video content you have created to link to in your ebook does not contain anything illegal, defamatory, plagiarist, obscene, or that could be interpreted as an actual declaration of war in our Universe or the next.

Also, be aware that browsers with some child-safety ‘nanny’ programs running to block adult content may be set up by readers with families on shared computers (to whom your own book and content might be perfectly safe and suitable, as is the one I formatted), but the fact that your book contains Youtube links will mean it does not appear on their home computers in online searches. This is because Youtube and other video sites overall contain content blocked by these programs, and there’s nothing you can do to get around parenting shields that detect and block Youtube and video links (I’d be very concerned if there was a way around it). If the parents have alternative access on other computers and tablets without these parenting shields, they will be able to find your book without any problems. Just because your book doesn’t appear on or is blocked on one family’s computer doesn’t mean it will be blocked on all of them. (One of my author clients got quite excitable when she thought her extremely tame book had been ‘banned’ after trying to look it up at a friend’s house and found it was blocked by their online family filter).

So it can be done, and managed effectively, and if it all ties together nicely it makes a really good transmedia reading experience for the customer – you only have to see what the Amazon reviewers have said about the video content in the book I formatted for Sophie Neville (although she has allowed one reviewer to give her ALL of the credit for technical wizardry, LOL!)

…If you are formatting a paperback version later on, change your hyperlinks to the original shortlinks as above. That way readers can find your video content by typing in the address itself, as there’s nowhere to click on paper yet 🙂

To learn how to format and publish a paperback or hardcover, click here.

Have fun, and good luck. And remember to get out more 😉 xxx

‘The Secrets of Filming Swallows & Amazons’ in the headlines

Here’s a success story example of a multimedia ebook I formatted and also helped to edit, which was released onto an unsuspecting audience last week and reached coverage in the national press.

As well as formatting the ebook itself, my work included editing the behind-the-scenes footage for inclusion in the text, and making the book trailer that appears online. It was featured in the Telegraph article last Friday.

I’ve prepared the print proof files for ‘The Secrets of Filming Swallows & Amazons” – currently awaiting publisher feedback – and my next job in the meantime is to start work on a feature screenplay based on the crew’s shenanigans.

Very much looking forward to seeing where things go with that 🙂

Lisa xxx

Sophie Neville

The Times Sat 23 Nov 2013

The Times. What author would not be thrilled to have their ebook profiled in a Saturday feature article? But look at the headline. I shall never live it down. Far from being scandalous, my story is appropriate reading for any age group.

Richard Kay’s piece in the Daily Mail seems to have sparked off quite a bush fire. A News journalist from the Telegraph rang, as mentioned in my last post. Before I knew it, there was an over-excited headline on the internet

I was told-off by our Church Warden, who then handed me a clipping from the Saturday Telegraph, which read: ‘Swallows and Amazons a debauched adventure’. I didn’t dare look in the tabloids.

I was worried that I would be asked to step down as President of The Arthur Ransome Society but some of the members think it’s hilarious. The Arthur Ransome Group on Facebook have been busy thinking up…

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The London Book Fair 2012 – Has Anyone Spoken to the Author?

Hands shaking with excitement, I was too busy listening to take a decent picture! 🙂

This photo from ‘Has Anyone Spoken to the Author?’ panel discussion with Unbound Books, and authors Nick Harkaway, Robert Llewellyn, Ilana Fox and Salena Godden – definitely my highlight of the event, for entertainment value as well as insights onto the what’s going on in the hearts and minds of authors, in the current publishing climate. More on that later…

A bit late to the ‘write-up the LBF12’ blog party – I’ve been so busy since. I was at the London Book Fair on Tuesday 17th, this year with Sophie Neville, who had never been before.

You could barely get out of the train station, before people were handing you flyers about books. And these weren’t just indie authors – it seemed that even the big leagues were going out of their way to snag readers, with flyers and promotional copies.

This was cool, because Sophie also had a bagful of postcards she wanted to give out.

“You can tell I used to be a promotions girl, can’t you?” she joked, as we camped out by the HarperCollins stand (they had a comfy seat free), while she accosted passers-by with her British upper-class charm, and I schmoozed with folk wanting help and advice from me on formatting for Kindle. I told her this was the wrong way around, Sophie being the celebrity, and doing all the work. But she was enjoying herself too much not to do it.

I’d never have dragged her away, but The Daily Mail rang her to talk for 45 minutes about her book, Funnily Enough, and the boat Swallow, from Swallows and Amazons. (See the article on Richard Kay’s Daily Mail page here).

So while she was talking, still perched by the lovely HarperCollins, I met the even more lovely Clive Boutle, of Francis Boutle Publishing. Clive had just been speaking at a talk on translations. Francis Boutle publish English translations of works in endangered European languages, including Manx, Gaelic, Welsh, Catalan, and Occitan. While waiting for his next meeting, he got to chat with me, about what constitutes a great bar in Barcelona, and what constitutes a bad translation into English. The kind of thing you wouldn’t want turning up in another Funny Ha Ha, and Funny Peculiar. (It turned out we’d both read the Denys Parsons book of silly news headlines and signage – I remember hiding it in the cover of Lord of the Flies at school, and anything dull about grammar). While we were talking, I recalled the episode of Q.I, where they discussed the ancient parrot who was the only known speaker of a dead language from the depths of South America. (So if you want to preserve an endangered language and keep it going into the next century, teach an Amazonian Grey parrot to speak it!)

We also talked about the work of the translator – the costs, the role they play – and that a translator is not considered to be ‘the author’ of the original work being translated, in intellectual property terms. They are paid highly for their job role, and recognised as the translator, but are no more credited for the original piece than, for example, a translator of Sir Terry Pratchett’s Discworld books into French. Clive said that translation is usually the most expensive part of publishing a book in a new language.

In other words, anyone wondering what sort of job roles in publishing are in demand, and for a good wage now, you’d do worse than having excellent foreign language skills, and going into translation.

Earlier in the day, I’d left Sophie researching colour illustrated print-on-demand costs with FastPrint, and gone off on my own mission to research Science Fiction in China at one of the other seminars. I don’t think I’ll quite make it to the level of Mandarin Chinese translator (just recognising the prefixes and a few verbs nowadays, at native speaker speed – I must revise!) but they had simultaneous radio translation, which was more than impressively done, the real-time translators got a hearty round of applause from both the Chinese and English-speaking audience. Science Fiction in China featured authors who worked their way up through University student papers and magazines in the genre, sometimes publishing their own, before gaining market recognition and awards through specific publications. More Chinese science fiction is now being translated into English. Not by me yet, I have to add. Unless you only want to read about the easy acquisition of fizzy drinks, and the location of the Ladies’ Toilets in a bar.

Sophie’s chat with Richard Kay’s office at The Daily Mail finally concluded, and we went to grab a cup of tea. At one of the coffee outlets, we happened upon a nice young lady from Scholastic Books grabbing a coffee-break, here at LBF12 with their Hunger Games Trilogy phenomenon.

I used to read Scholastic’s earlier Point Horror imprint, and actually submitted my first book, Living Hell, to Point Horror in 1996, after finally getting it back from PanMacmillan, who’d had it for three years, and I’d submitted a sequel to them on request (long story short – the awesome Simon Spanton, who was overseeing it at the time, left PanMac and couldn’t fit both epics up his jumper, LOL). So that was very spooky. But I remembered Point Horror and Goosebumps, and discussed how Scholastic had really been at the forefront of the current YA paranormal market, with their earliest Stephen-King-style thrillers, and horror stories for teens. Stephen King meets Scooby Doo – great stuff, as I recall.

But as I said, the highlight for me was ‘Has Anyone Spoken to the Author?’

Sophie would have happily continued networking (next year I think I’m going to have to get her a marketing stand of her very own), but I dragged her along to this one, and it provided a hugely valuable insight. Published authors, including high-profile ones, now want more input into their work, and want to offer more interaction to the readers. Which was funny, because I’d just designed a Kindle ebook edition to do exactly that, with my interactive, reader-preference enabled Death & The City: Cut to the Chase Edition.

And as Robert Llewellyn said, you don’t want to send off your painstakingly re-read and edited manuscript off into the unknown of a major publishing house machine, trusting implicitly that all is well, and get back your first publisher proof copy – to find that they have helpfully inserted their standard typographical errors. Usually at the optimum Funny Ha Ha, Funny Peculiar settings.

I recall Sir Terry Pratchett saying something very similar once, at a talk he was giving at the Barbican in London many years ago, while DS-10 enjoyed her tiny self immensely and squealed delightedly in the baby-sling, loud enough for even Sir Terry himself to hear and crack a joke about. We didn’t get kicked out in the end, for which I’m eternally grateful (although we’d have been in more trouble, most likely, for DS-10 discovering the delight of reaching into other people’s pockets if they stood too close to her on my lap, while travelling that day on the London Underground). Sir Terry said at the end of his talk, on world-building in SF and fantasy fiction, that we could all look forward to his next book at the time “Once it has gone to the publisher to have all the spelling errors put in.” Not an unusual phenomenon, I’m starting to realise. It’s not just you, Robert – you’re in good company! 😉

The subject this year at ‘Has Anyone Spoken to the Author?’ also covered the keeping up with reader expectations and attention span, in the current handheld electronic reading device environment. How long can you keep a reader’s attention, before they want to go off and look at their own Twitter? Or blog? Or Facebook? What sort of interactive, bonus material provisions can you make for the readers?

I’d discussed this at the London Book Fair last year with Jason Kingsley of Rebellion (see earlier post ‘Let’s Cut to the Chase…’), and had included a screenplay as bonus material in one of the even earlier ebook editions of mine – Death & The City: Heavy Duty Edition. So it was interesting to hear that this is still a hot topic, which authors and publishers want to definitively crack.

Ilana Fox, in particular, wants to make her character’s lives more accessible to the readers, and I won’t give the game away, but she has big plans for her next book in that respect. It looks like being an exciting time in the coming years, for both readers and writers.

Salena Godden finished the talk with a stand-up of fantastic ‘slam poetry’ about ‘expectations’ – highs and lows… and lower… and lower… As writers, we all feel that at some point. Very funny, and so appropriate!

Great end to the day. I went to say congratulations afterwards to all of the panellists, and handed out my own cards, to which I’d added information about the Cut to the Chase edition. Before running away for a much-needed drink of water, with all of Sophie Neville’s spare change in my jeans pocket.

I had to, or I’d have had a Wayne’s World I’m-Not-Worthy moment. Such amazing, entertaining, and lovely people.

Sophie couldn’t be dragged away at the end, but stayed at LBF12 to do a bit more networking, and to visit her friend from the biggest Christian bookshop in London. It was a stroke of luck that she did pay a visit, because the girl took all of her print copies that she had on her, to sell there. A good day out, all told.

Looking forward to next year already 🙂

L xxxx

Funnily Enough…

The Kindle bestseller Funnily Enough, by the awesome Sophie Neville 🙂

Here’s how the latest bestseller happened to find its way onto Kindle in the first place…

In spring 2011, a conventional English rose of a lady popped down to her local photocopy and printer outlet, to have one of her screenplays bound. The intrepid Sophie Neville, actress, writer, charity-founder, explorer of darkest Africa, had written among other things waiting in her bottom drawer, a true-life, historical wartime romance based in Tanzania. She started to chat about it to the helpful young man at the counter.

The young man said, “My sister writes as well. Screenplays and books. She’s just published some on Amazon.”

Intrigued, Sophie scribbled out her telephone number and directions to her house.

These subsequently found their way to me, early one morning, when my Mum came over to feed her cat, who has adopted my front garden as his permanent pied-a-terre. My Mum told me I have to ring this woman, who is a local film producer and wants to see my screenplay.

Having finally found Sophie’s house, which wasn’t easy (Sophie usually draws far better maps, but in this case I ended up at the ferry port first), we met for the first time. Her house at the time was more of a work-in-progress than her writing. She had just gutted out the bijou manor-style house for a renovation, and plastic was still covering the structure where the conservatory would be. She and her husband were camped out in the annexe for the duration.

We had a cup of tea and a rather nice chat. It turned out that Sophie was the Sophie Neville who played ‘Titty’ from Swallows and Amazons, which I had probably seen at some point, between The Great Escape and The Railway Children in distant holiday-TV memory. And she was interested in reading my screenplay about bouncers, because she had a friend in the business who was developing some concept for TV about female personal security. Having been in security work as my main job for some time previously, including before and after SIA licensing, she wanted to know what my insights were.

So we did a read swap. She went off to read Heavy Duty and some first proof copies of Death & The City, and I went off to read Makorongo’s War. I quite enjoyed it. Not my usual subject matter, but it was good writing, and I could see it working well as a film.

In turn, Sophie liked Heavy Duty, and wanted to see more material. She also loved Death & The City, and was a useful spare pair of eyes to have when proof-reading. She started talking about me making supporting trailers for my script, and asking if I would write a screenplay of the novel. But having done producing myself previously, I did say I’d only work on further adaptation of my work if a company optioned it, and I was paid to do so as part of a contractual agreement. I’ve had a go in my own time at playing around with this sort of thing, but not at the request of anyone else. If someone else wants it for their own future purposes, they can pay for it 😉

Anyway, back to Sophie. Sophie had only one old out-of-date website, for her artwork, and an IMdB page. What concerned her was that if Will Smith was handed a copy of Makorongo, and he Googled her, he’d find a hundred other Sophie Nevilles, mostly young ladies in schoolgirl fancy dress on Facebook.

I remember the first time I sat at her computer, and she Googled herself on Images. She pointed at all these grinning photographs of young women on birthdays and hen nights, and asked me: “How do I get rid of all these girls, who are appearing here instead of me?”

Ahem… okay, well, I just write fiction about hit-men, I don’t think she could afford that sort of intervention… it’s all a bit Terminator when you think about it. But that’s not what she meant, of course. She wanted to have her photographs appearing in the top matches. The problem was, she only had about three photographs of herself online. So, we started talking about WordPress, and Twitter, and Youtube, and blog pages, where she could add images that would start appearing in a Google search – they can’t appear if they don’t exist in cyber-space.

And she also wanted to publish her diaries and letters, which she’d had typed up for some time, and edited, and even at one point had an agent some years ago, until he passed away – hopefully not the subject of Googling with extreme prejudice. So I introduced her to the wonders of KDP, Createspace, Lulu, OpenOffice, and Authonomy.

It took a while, as I found Sophie likes the socialising, networking and marketing part more than the technical – so it was me ranting at the computer and scanner and various uploaders. Having taken her through the process of setting up pages on WordPress, she entered her bio, some photographs, and some links to her Facebook and Twitter and IMdB, and then asked me how you got people to look at it.

“Well, you have to start writing posts on it.”

“I did one. And those girls are still appearing in Google Images. How do I remove them?”

*Cough* Okay. So I explained about continuing to add posts and images to a WordPress blog, essentially what a blog entails, with interesting anecdotes, stuff you’ve done, or where you’ve been. Basically, more posts = more matches to your name in Google. You can’t just ‘have other matches removed’ – as if they’re something you can delete from a folder in your own hard drive – but you can add more of your own.

And then she’d take me to look at the main house (still in progress) and ask me where the best place to put a stove island and an extractor hood was. Usually in the kitchen, I find.

So she started writing about being in Swallows and Amazons. And not just a little – she had a lot to write about. She’d kept her diaries from 1973, and also had her father’s own behind-the-scenes footage which could be edited into Youtube clips. Her memory is so good, within a short time followers were flocking to read about the filming that took place on Coniston Water, in real boats, and where the cast and crew hung out, what they got up to, and what else they went on to work in. Half of the technical crew seem to have won Oscars since, working on films like The King’s Speech.

But I have to say, the best stuff doesn’t make it onto the blog. The best stuff comes out while she’s sitting next to me, maybe while I’m cutting footage of the crew eating lunch, and suddenly I’ll hear about who wasn’t really there as part of ‘Wardrobe’ at all. A bit of extra-curricular seamstressing, maybe… I recall her laughing and pointing at a clip saying “How did he get hold of a boat? He was in charge of the chemical toilet. He told all the girls on the set that he was the producer!”

Shortly, due to the matches she was creating by her regular posts and media, more matches for Sophie began appearing in Google searches, and she stopped worrying about what Will Smith would think. The occasional Facebook girl would pop up, but not enough to ask me any more awkwardly-worded questions about displacing them 🙂

In the meantime, we were formatting Funnily Enough, her diary from 1991, when she arrived home from South Africa to work for the BBC, and abruptly collapsed with CFS. But instead of a mis-lit about illness, it’s a British romp of true-life, about an English upper-class family all working in television and film (including their famous pets), while their adult daughter returns home to bed for ten months, unable to do much more than watch the pratfalls of everyone passing through, praying for God to see her through to health and sanity again.

I loved it, and I’m neither a true-life or religious reader. My first novel was about teenage blackmailers and Satanists, but Sophie and I share the same sense of the satirical, so I could see immediately why she enjoyed Death & The City on reading the first draft.

There were a few typographical issues and edits, but it was pretty much ready to publish, once the file was set up with her illustrations included (colour for the Kindle, if your app is on a colour screen). I would occasionally query things, like for example, a dog’s rather questionable name…

“Was ‘Dogger’ really that dog’s name?”

“Yes, why?”

“Do you know what ‘dogging’ means…?”

“No, what?”

And then I would tell her. And she would laugh. “Oooh – we have to leave it in!”

Anywho… Things were going pretty well – she’d done some promotions over Christmas, and had a book launch at Ashton House. Sales of print versions through Lulu.com direct were going well, and the ebook trickled along too.

Then, as the reviews started to come in, other feedback followed it, usually from her sisters, and old friends. “We were wondering… would you mind changing the name of…” It seems that although they’d all read it ten years ago, and said yes to it all, now they were getting older, some sort of decorum had entered their lives. And although yes, they’d love to be associated with a successful book, perhaps certain things could be moved to a respectful arm’s length, when facing the church and pony club circuit.

These requests seemed to be turning up daily for about two months. I’d arrive at Sophie’s having just uploaded and approved a new version, and she’d greet me with “More changes, I’m afraid… we need to change ‘Seargent’ to ‘Field-Marshall’, and So-and-So wants their neighbour’s house name taken out because they’re trying to sell it…” Nothing to do with the fact that Fred West was doing a lot of driveways and patios around there at the time it was written, honest…

So I’d argue for some things to stay in, especially when one reading group of her sister’s, who didn’t know Sophie, were apparently only interested in gossip about her family and not in the fact it was Sophie’s diary, and wanted her parts of it edited out entirely. I argued that I’m about as far away from a spiritual Christian memoir fan as it’s possible to be (sitting here at home right now listening to Korn’s slash metal Greatest Hits Vol.1, wearing a Hell Bunny t-shirt, and wondering why I’m lacking Pringles nearby while the lawn wants mowing and the cats want biscuits) and I loved it. And it’s Sophie’s memoir. She’s entitled to be in it…

The problems arose from these multiple edits when the PDF converter got tired of all the shuffling around of various words, and started to drop images out in the print copy conversion, or add blank pages, where the carefully-laid-out pages were no longer justified. We had some revised proofs back with missing pictures, or text obliterated by images that had shunted. Lulu’s customer services gave us a great tip about downloading doPDF, which I used in conjunction with OpenOffice to export PDFs more reliably. I made a point of doing a page-by-page check of every single new version of the PDFs on the screen in front of me before uploading them. When having to do this with new edits every few days until the furore calmed down, it was frustrating. Sophie was of the opinion that she should be aiming to please everyone she knew, or even didn’t know, and although it’s sweet and admirable, none of those people know the work that she’s already put in. Or that if you take out a paragraph, every image after it has jumped, and nothing is where you last had it. Blank spaces appearing and page numbers obliterated and everything. It all has to be re-justified and/or re-sized manually.

It also meant editing the ebook file separately in parallel, as it’s a completely different format to a print PDF. And although there was no problem with the pagination in that, as a Kindle book is a continuous file, the images liked to give themselves a random aspect ratio occasionally, or jump off-centre, so those would have to be adjusted manually too.

…I got my own back though. You’ll have to read the sequel to see it, but all these name-changes and place-name changes led me to be, shall we say, creative – in the naming of a certain village 😉 Sophie did give me the go-ahead, but still…!

Most of these edits arrived as we were in the middle of formatting the sequel, Ride the Wings of Morning – Sophie’s letters to and from Africa, when she escaped back there to work on horseback safaris, and immediately recovered from her illness. So some of these little changes had to be made in that document as well. Again, the minor edits screwed up a lot of the pagination. We’d done a perfectly good upload and got some proofs back, and then the teeny tiny changes were necessary again. The PDF was perfect, but the uploader didn’t want to know – it would crawl to the end of the ‘uploaded’ bar, and then freeze – you couldn’t move onto the next step, and the document never transferred into her online files.

Due to the much larger number of illustrations, the file by this time for the paperback of RtWoM was ten times bigger than Funnily Enough, at 111MB. After seven attempts at uploading the new revision onto Sophie’s print-on-demand page, yesterday I downloaded an FTP client access program and copied the file directly onto their server. It took three times as long, but arrived in one piece in her file list, and could then be imported into the new revision of her book, which is now public. Any more changes will have to get past me 😉

The last thing I found in the ebooks, completely by chance and just before the London Book Fair 2012 promotion, was that the endnotes didn’t convert into links on KDP. I was checking it after loading it onto Sophie’s Android tablet, and realised that the automatic superscripted endnote links were dud. They’d appear at the end of the book, but the mutual hyperlinks set automatically by the document in Word were lost. No idea why. It meant you couldn’t navigate them. So I went through and bookmarked them all manually, inserting hyperlinks that did work. Just in time for the promo on Kindle to start last weekend.

Well, Sophie was at home on Facebook and Twitter, happily sharing some links to her London Book Fair freebie. I was probably asleep until lunchtime, crawled out of bed as usual, looked at my own Book Fair freebie promo for Death & The City: Cut to the Chase Edition and decided it could get on by itself as it had already had 30 downloads in my sleep, and I’d Tweet when my laptop could be bothered to load Twitter. I looked at Sophie’s Funnily Enough, and it was ZOOMING up the UK charts.

Over the next four days, Funnily Enough reached #2 in all categories on Amazon UK Kindle Free, #1 in Humour, #1 in Parenting & Families, and #1 in Self-Help. And after the London Book Fair promo ended, it’s still selling, and already closing in on the top 100 paid, having cut a swathe back into the top ten of its categories.

If you want a taste of the classic, upper-crust British sense of humour at its best, the type from Ealing comedy to Fawlty Towers, check it out. You won’t be disappointed.

Funnily Enough and Ride the Wings of Morning, both by Sophie Neville, are available on Kindle worldwide.

L xxx 🙂

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

 

Mills & Boon’s New Voices

The Mills & Boon New Voices contest (Football sentiment not included!)

Yay! I did it! I submitted a first chapter into the contest. Neptune’s Island is my first stab at direct romance writing.

And I found a suitable category – warm and fuzzy. I mean, Warm and COSY. As I can’t switch off my wit when writing, I was really pleased to see that romantic comedies come under this roof. Mine’s a rom-com with a sense of adventure – the holiday-read chick-lit.

No zombies in this one. Although at least one of my other outlines that I had in mind involved zombies, in the paranormal scheme of things, I’m saving those for later.

I’m surprised there aren’t more entries in this category yet. I thought chick lit was hu-u-ge. I love a sense of humour with my romantic stories. I read a few straight ones, mostly paranormals, and a few romantic dramas – but I have to be careful because quite often I’m inserting my own jokes into scenes at the back of my mind. Like that person in the cinema you can sometimes hear, who has a comeback occasionally funnier than the one Dwayne Johnson just said.

There are some great plot lines on the site already – fab identity mix-ups, awkward situations, and some great suspense openings. It’s very inspiring. The busiest category is Contemporary Romance, which I guess has the scope for everything that involves complex webs in relationships, skeletons in closets, old flames, and up-to-the-minute issues alongside the more traditional ones. I avoided that one, I suppose, because I haven’t had a relationship in real life, and wouldn’t know or identify with a real-life scenario or complex issue if it bit me. Biting is very boring in my concept of real life – it comes under Common Assault in nightclub incident reports, or ‘abuse of staff’ in a hospital ward. Extraordinarily dull.

I ended up with four ideas, but you only get one entry – and since I’ve found the door is open to chick lit and romantic humour, I’ve had more ideas arriving all the time. So I’d definitely be interested in writing more romance in future.

The www.romanceisnotdead.com competition entry website is a bit glitchy, and every time I click on a link or try to post a comment it crashes at the moment, but they’ve got ongoing maintenance to try and keep it afloat!

It’s nice to have freedom of imagination, even if nothing romantic has happened in real life yet. My friend Sophie Neville was discussing the age-old issue of husband-hunting with me at work the other day, and how she worries about her acquaintances currently in the market and the problems they face. She knows I’m also permanently single with no history or boyfriend experience, and when she asked my age, there was a full minute of rather horrified silence 🙂 I heard that life begins at forty, but I didn’t realise it meant literally ‘begins’ – I’ve had one blind date morning coffee since my 40th back at the start of July, and it’s lucky I’m more interested in dieting and writing at the moment, because dating so far has possibly been the biggest waste of petrol I’ve used in my life. The only other thing dating does so far is add to my caffeine intake 🙂

It is true that basically it just means I haven’t met the right man yet. It is really bizarre meeting up with guys you don’t know, and chatting over coffee. Perfectly normal and pleasant conversations, usually. But no chemistry. I know what a crush on a guy feels like, or regular physical attraction, but so far those things have completely failed to turn up on dates. Quite a few I’d have been open to second dates or longer chats – to see if it’s true that you’re meant to let someone grow on you first – but as it turns out, I haven’t been asked by any of those guys for second dates.

Luck of the draw, I guess. I’m not looking for dates any more because I’m too busy – but it isn’t the case that ‘not looking’ means you suddenly get asked out all the time. It just means guys click on the next online profile.

I could try just going out where there are people, but I don’t have any friends nearby because nobody else wants a 40-year-old single woman around either 🙂

So I’ll just fantasise about romance instead for now, and write it down – it’s much easier than finding it in real life.

🙂

The two-week wobble

Yesterday, I got notification of my first royalty payment from Amazon Kindle! To celebrate, I made cookies. Which I’m only allowed to eat so long as I don’t eat anything else. They are chocolate-choc-chip-macadamia-cranberry made with 1/3 wholewheat flour, so technically quite balanced. I think four of those totals probably about 1000 calories (!).

I’m doing all right on the diet otherwise – managing to keep away from late-night mealtimes, and currently comfortably losing at the steady 1lb-per-week rate after dropping an initial few pounds immediately, as usually happens. A couple of weeks in is usually a weak point. I had my day off (a sensible Sunday lunch) and didn’t crack after that, and the reward of seeing the scales creeping backwards when I weigh myself every day is motivation enough – not to mention the clothes I’m looking forward to fitting back into. I have some really cool stuff collected when I was working and earning the occasional dress and shoe-shop…

Last week I was working for Sophie Neville again, finishing her book trailer for Funnily Enough. I’d followed a tutorial online by Declan Conner to format an illustrated version of Sophie’s eBook on Amazon Kindle, which has turned out really well – all the cartoons in it are her own, and I’m very inspired to do an illustrated eBook myself, having seen how great it looks in colour on the Android screen (Kindle app for Android available free from Amazon, or the Android app store).

This was done using Windows again, and the music is from an AVP copyright-free music library CD, that I already had knocking around. Sophie wanted a combination of cuts and transitions, which suits the quirky style.

I tried to do some watercolour painting last night, but it turned out more water than colour. That’s what you get for using children’s paints costing £1.99 – sigh. I was trying out an idea for a book cover on one of my other stories – but it turned out looking like a Comic Relief Red Nose instead of a menacing big red button. Karmically this is probably good news, in some alternate universe.

Today, I’m procrastinating about more everyday things, like the car needing maintenance. And avoiding editing one of my film scripts to mail out, as I’ve decided what my writing needs is an agent to do the selling for me. I’m not into selling. I’m into earning, but not ‘selling’. Selling implies that what you have to offer is not in fact necessary for survival, or is a gamble, like a luxury item or high-risk investment. Although what is high-risk about a two-quid electronic novel (or ten-quid paperback) could be a mystery, and as for necessary to survival – well, I’m not Ray Mears. But you might learn a lot about what it takes to get by in the nightclub scene.

😉

No pain, no gain.

Went in for another eye operation yesterday. I was short of sleep, so even though I was meant to be awake I probably dozed off while it was done, as I don’t recall much, except where they asked me to blink or look up. I’d asked for a sedation anyway because the eye surgery I’ve had under local anaesthetic previously, I had a tendency to chat throughout and ask what was going on. 🙂

Anyway, was discharged with a lot of eye drops and a big white patch over one eye, and went to meet my friend Sophie Neville, who was coming in to town for a charity lunch and service. So I read more of Sue Moorcroft’s Love Writing in the square outside the Royal Exchange at Bank Station, which I had plenty of time for. A fatality on the line had meant her train was diverted. It started to rain, so I went to shelter on the steps, and as I updated her where I was, she suggested by text that I go inside and grab a coffee. Which I did, feeling rather self-conscious amongst all the City types with my eye patch and jeans, and when I took my hoody off, my hospital tag still in place, it turned out. But the staff were lovely and no-one batted an eyelid, so I enjoyed my coffee and Sophie arrived presently – only nearly two hours later than she’d wanted to arrive.

She gave me an interesting tour of the company building where the buffet lunch was held for the Drapers – it was one of the locations for The King’s Speech, filmed as rooms in Buckingham Palace. I was introduced to one of the Welsh Guard, whom Sophie had joined on a survival camping trip in the jungle, and an eminent allergy specialist – still practising at the age of 99 – who mentioned the next Latex Allergy Conference, which is a growing problem.

I have the skin contact allergy to latex, which was why my operation was first thing that morning. Two hundred children were also going in for surgery that day, and I was scheduled before them to ensure no latex particles if possible would be in the theatre. It’s something they take very seriously.

On the way back, we talked about Sophie’s work with the Waterberg Welfare Society, supporting HIV+ communities in South Africa, helping families locally with receiving the right medication, entitlements, and nursery care for working parents or sibling guardians, enabling them to work or complete school. And how charity work was a minefield of red tape, with audits and accounts to be filed and scrutinised – but also how rewarding. Comic Relief is among their supporters, and it was input like that which meant Sophie and her friends learned how to organise a proper schedule of work and implement it according to a drafted plan.

We also moved on to the subject of blind dates, and dating sites. Her quote, which she’d been told when looking, was that “If you want to find a husband, you have to join a Society!” – so she did, and hey presto, did indeed meet her husband. And had a number of stories of ‘Silly girls’ who got themselves into scrapes with notorious men that she’d turned down herself in the past – the kind of men who hung out with Hugh Hefner, or were related to courtesans of the Royal Family…

But enough about dating. I won’t be doing any for a few weeks, while my eye heals up.

Sophie Neville does however have some lovely memoirs which are in the process of polishing before she publishes them. You can find links to her book blogs on her website http://sophieneville.net and also read the first three chapters of Funnily Enough on Authonomy.

Enjoy! 🙂