Sunday, June 29, 2014

Weekend Writing Warriors June 29

Weekend Writing Warriors is a weekly blog hop where participants post up to eight sentences of their writing. You can find out more about it by clicking on the image below.

Shayla has found her rendezvous point and is waiting for her local contacts to make themselves known. She is exposed, out in the open, but luckily she doesn't have long to wait...


A tall and gangly man stepped out to meet her. He looked young, barely into his twenties, with dark hair braided into a complex basket around his head. He kept his eyes on Shayla as he approached, relaxing slightly when he glanced down at the pattern of sticks on the ground. He picked up the two that Shayla hadn't moved and kicked the other two aside.

He held the sticks out with a bow. "Cobra," he said.

Shayla accepted them, also relaxing at his correct response, and bowed. "I am Shark."


Note: Paperback edition of Ghosts of Innocence is now available at CreateSpace. Amazon to follow soon.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Lost and found

Last month I loaded files to CreateSpace, sorted out a few formatting tweaks, and ordered a proof copy of the paperback.

The estimated delivery date came and went. No book.

Called the CreateSpace team, asked at the post office, waited more days. Still no book.

Called CreateSpace again and concluded that the package must be lost. They were very good about it and immediately dispatched a replacement which arrived yesterday.

This is a big milestone for me...I get to hold a physical copy of my book in my hands.

And I love it!

I'm a lot happier than I look - I don't do "happy" too well in photos...

Oooh! Shiny cover...

Did I really write that?

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

The revision doldrums

Back in June 2012 I finished what I decided would be the last revision of Ghosts of Innocence, and settled on a cunning plan for publication.

In the last two years, the cunning plan has panned out thusly...

You can see where this is going, can't you?

Yes, I need to get back to Tiamat's Nest and revise the heck out of it. I know what needs to be done. I just can't seem to get started.

To say I'm stuck in the revision doldrums would be an overstatement. I'm not even there yet! I'm procrastinating, and I know it, and I hate it, but...Oooh! Blogs... posts... comments... funny cat videos...

Have you ever been in this position? Knowing you need to just knuckle down and get on with something, and yet...

How have you got yourself moving again?

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Weekend Writing Warriors June 22

Weekend Writing Warriors is a weekly blog hop where participants post up to eight sentences of their writing. You can find out more about it by clicking on the image below.

Shayla is studying her rendezvous point for signs of danger. She knows someone else is watching the clearing. She decides to move...

Slightly creative punctuation


She hurried to the centre of the clearing and found what she was looking for. On a worn section of paving that had not yet succumbed to creeping vegetation, four sticks were laid out in a square. Shayla stooped and picked up two of them; she rearranged them in a cross between the two remaining sticks. The pattern formed a crude hourglass shape.

She stepped back to face the side of the clearing where someone lay hidden. She waited once more, all senses straining.

So exposed! Shayla bit back irritation at the recognition protocol chosen by the local Insurrection cell; it required her to show herself out in the open while her contacts stayed safely hidden.


Master assassin Shayla Carver has killed many times. That's what assassins do, nothing to lose sleep over, but this mission is different.

She's never killed a whole planet before.

In a time when Earth is little more than a legend, life is dangerous for wayward colonies. Everyone fears the Emperor’s power to order a Cleansing, the burning of all traces of civilization from the face of a planet. Shayla's own home world was Cleansed, and now, years later, she's ready to exact payment in kind.

But her meticulous planning didn't prepare her for living undercover amongst some of the two billion people she's about to slaughter. Ordinary people. Not the strutting Imperials readily dismissed as legitimate targets or collateral damage. Then there's the Emperor himself. An ordinary man with troubles and dreams of his own.

Did this man really order the slaughter of innocents?

Can she?

Now she's starting to lose sleep.

Ghosts of Innocence is available on Amazon, Apple, Kobo, Barnes & Noble for $3.99. See links in sidebar...

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Dealing with officialdom

A bit more of what I've learned going through the self-publication process...

So, you've written a book and you've designed a cover. So all you need to do is visit Amazon (or Smashwords, or whoever you're distributing through) and upload them and click "Publish" - yes?

Well, maybe.

Assuming you've done all the work yourself, and you are keeping things simple and casual, then it can be that easy. This is the siren call of self-publishing. Anyone can do it at the click of a button. But if you are taking this journey more seriously, and want to set it on a good footing as an ongoing business, then there's lots of bodies that you might want to (or need to) get involved with.

Here's who I've dealt with so far this year

  • Local municipal hall, to get a business license. I decided at the outset to put this on an official footing for when it comes to dealing with tax. Along the way, I looked into the BC company registry requirements and trade names, though I didn't need to deal with them because I am registered as a sole proprietorship under my own name. If you want a fancy company name, though, you would need to explore these aspects.
  • for web site hosting, and through them a domain name registrar. There are many options for setting up your own web presence which you are probably already aware of.
  • US IRS, to get an EIN so I can take advantage of the tax treaty as a Canadian resident with no ties to the US.
  • Then of course, there is the actual signing up with my chosen distributors: Smashwords, CreateSpace, and Amazon. In each case, though, I had the added step of submitting my W8-BEN tax information to stop them withholding US tax at source.
  • PayPal, because that is how Smashwords pays you outside of the US.
  • Library & Archives Canada, both to obtain ISBNs and to register Cataloguing In Publication data. Within the US you would need to obtain ISBNs from Bowker, unless you opt for using the ISBNs that many printers/distributors offer when you publish through them, and you would deal with Library of Congress for CIP data.
  • Goodreads. This last was a quick afterthought, and there will probably be more to come. I checked out the Goodreads site and found that Ghosts was already listed there. I decided I should register myself as the author and lay claim to it rather than just leave it dangling there.

Things I've learned along the way

1. All this sounds daunting. What I've found, though, is that it just takes patience, and research, and more patience. Nothing so far has actually been difficult, not even dealing with the IRS, you just need to take things step by step and pay attention to the details.

2. US retailers will automatically deduct 30% tax from your royalties and hand it to the IRS. This might make sense if you have to pay US tax on your income anyway, but not if you live and pay taxes elsewhere.

Many countries have tax treaties with the US which can reduce or eliminate this, but you need to obtain the appropriate paperwork from the IRS to hand to your retailer so they know it's OK not to withhold tax.

Most people will be advised to get an ITIN, which involves lots of paperwork, fees, notarized copies of your passport, the chewed off heads of three chickens, and a piece of coal inscribed with a Zen koan. However, if you can legitimately describe yourself as a business, you can get an EIN instead which involved about ten minutes on the phone. The process is described very well here.

3. Finally, read the fine print. There have been a few surprises along the way that I didn't spot in my initial research:

CreateSpace only distributes to libraries and academic institutions if you choose to use their own ISBNs. I used my own ISBN so this channel was blocked.

Smashwords advertises a wide range of retailers that they deal with, including Amazon. What is not immediately clear is that they only offer limited distribution to Amazon and will "consider" shipping your title there only after you've reached $2,000 in sales through Smashwords.

Following on from this I took another look at Amazon, having originally discounted them because of their (apparent) requirements for exclusivity. I learned that selling on Kindle Direct does not require an exclusive agreement. This came as a surprise, because all I'd heard about was KDP Select, which requires exclusivity. It's all that Amazon talks about. They are trying to push this aspect and don't advertise the fact that this is just an option. I think they are shooting themselves in the foot if writers are put off altogether through not wanting to be restricted like that.

Monday, June 16, 2014

A busy week

First off, a belated "Thank you" to fabled megablogger Alex J. Cavanaugh for giving Ghosts a mention last week in his Ninja News. If you haven't visited his blog yet (and, let's face it, if you've managed to find The Bald Patch you must have encountered Alex somewhere in your travels. To say otherwise is a bit like saying you didn't notice England but you found the Isle of Wight!) then you can find it here.

Secondly, I hastily joined Goodreads. I have never felt enticed to join up before, too few hours in the day for the forums I already use, but I looked into it on the suggestion of blogger friend and Weekend Writing Warriors admin, Teresa Cypher.

When I saw that Ghosts was listed on the site, I decided I really should establish a presence and claim my property. You can find my author page here.

But that's not what made last week so busy - even without the BC teachers' strike forcing a distressingly hasty end to the school year.

The weekend before last, we wanted to get the trailer ready for its first outing of the year. It spends the winter parked out of the way with its back to the road, but it's quite a game reversing it out through the narrow entrance, avoiding a ditch along the way. When we need a quick getaway, we usually plan ahead and turn it around at our leisure so it's facing the right way to just hitch up and go.

That was Sunday lunchtime.

By half past lunchtime we realized we had a big problem. Our ten-year-old Ford was not looking too healthy. Suspension gone. It was not towing anything anywhere.

Moreover, even if it got fixed it's been playing up a bit this year and we decided it was time to retire it from towing duty. This is something we've talked about over the last year or so, just hadn't been expecting it so soon. Or with such urgency attached.

Ali is the purchasing queen in the household, so she was straight on to all the local dealerships looking for a second-hand truck with the oomph needed, and the cab space for a family. Long story short, after a stressful few days of frantic phone calls, we finished the week with a very decent F350.

So, on Friday Ali got away for her drunken weekend with work colleagues, and reports the new truck is a dream to drive and a delight to tow with. Should make things easy for our big drive up island later in the summer.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Weekend Writing Warriors June 15

Weekend Writing Warriors is a weekly blog hop where participants post up to eight sentences of their writing. You can find out more about it by clicking on the image below.

Last week's snippet seemed almost restful, apart from the heat. This next part, a few sentences on, should put the waiting into context...


Hot, dirty, scratched to shreds from days of bushwhacking, Shayla listened to the forest, small animals foraging, birds calling. Dragonflies with jeweled wings a foot across patrolled the clearing. Shayla charted the sounds in her mind's eye, noting a region of stillness to her right. Someone else was waiting.

That was according to plan, but she had to be sure there wasn't yet another party watching the watchers. What was the chance that her local contacts had been followed here?

She scanned the edge of the clearing for signs of danger. She detected nothing but the sounds and movements of the forest.


Sunday, June 8, 2014

Weekend Writing Warriors June 8

Weekend Writing Warriors is a weekly blog hop where participants post up to eight sentences of their writing. You can find out more about it by clicking on the image below.

After the action and slight barbecuing of chapter 1, we rejoin Shayla in a more contemplative scene at the start of chapter 3.


The clearing in front of Shayla was unnaturally level, its true purpose revealed by occasional mounds of crumbling masonry around its perimeter. Massive dressed blocks, some carved with bas-relief glyphs, jostled with less brutish remains of more recent construction. A temple in some form or other had stood on this site for over ten thousand years. A nearby half-buried dragon's head, cloaked in lichen and the height of a man, bared foot-long fangs at Shayla. She gazed past it at the emptiness of the clearing beyond.

The sun blazed high in the sky, blanketing the forest in suffocating heat. Even in deep shadows under the trees the air was stifling. Sitting on her pack, sweat tickling her spine, she squirmed and eased her shoulder into a more comfortable position.


Ghosts update: In addition to the Smashwords outlets, the e-book is now also available on Amazon.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Designing a book

Last month, I started posting about "After after The End": what happens after you've written "The End", and after the subsequent work giving you a manuscript ready to publish. I talked about all the other bits of text that wrap around the actual story, and today I'm touching on the design considerations that turn this raw material into a presentable book.

Just looking at the body text itself, there's a stack of questions to consider beyond the simple choice of font: how to style your chapter headings; use of drop caps or other style for the leading word of a new chapter; whether to start chapters on a new page or simply run on; where to place page numbers and whether you want title and author to show in the page heading; how to show scene breaks - leave a gap, or show asterisks or some graphic.

When it comes to the cover, there's the obvious choice of artwork, and the style and placement of title and author. Without any embellishments, the front cover is deceptively simple (art, title, author) but so much to get wrong! There are whole articles just on the science of mixing font families. For a print book, your cover PDF needs to extend across the spine and to the back.

The back cover needs just as much careful layout as the front. Do you have a plain back, some sort of artwork, author photo, frames or dividers to set off the back cover elements? And of course you need the right software to produce the ISBN barcode. You need to calculate the spine width according to the number of pages and weight of paper, and throughout you need to pay attention to margins to avoid any important elements getting chopped.

All this adds up to a lot of expertise and professional software to get right. This is one area where I decided it was vital to bring in a professional.

When I researched and interviewed local designers, I was looking for someone who I was comfortable would provide artistic input to the process and be ready to talk through ideas and options. I took along the artwork drafts I'd prepared last year and asked for opinions about which would work best as a cover, and why, and what changes would improve the composition.

Throughout the design process, my designer always presented several options as we narrowed down the details. I usually responded with a blend from several options to take us to the next stage. He also had the tools to manipulate the raw artwork in ways I couldn't have begun to do.

Quick aside: A lot of these considerations are less important for e-books than print. The front cover is just as important - and you have to remember that it must be readable when shrunk to a thumbnail - but for the interior layout simpler is generally better. E-readers give the user control over a lot of presentation aspects, so you should concentrate on ensuring consistency. I found the Smashwords style guide invaluable. It is lengthy, but walks through the process very clearly and none of it is really rocket science if you are reasonably familiar with MS Word.

Things I learned

Given that it's technically possible to publish a book with absolutely zero outlay on your part, it's tempting to do everything yourself. Unless you are a professional designer yourself, getting help at this stage is worth it, even more so than editing IMHO.

Hiring a designer could well be the biggest single expense you'll incur - so far that has been true for me - so take time to find someone you feel comfortable working with. Think about what you want from your designer and be ready to ask questions before committing yourself.

Listen to their advice (after all, that's what you're paying them for) but also listen to yourself. If something doesn't feel right, speak up and ask questions. Talk about what is and isn't working for you and ask for ideas, and be sure you're satisfied with the answers.

My designer made some great suggestions which I'd never have thought of, but also offered some versions that I looked at and said "Blegh!" It was important to be honest and also discuss why, so that we could home in on an answer.

At the end of the day, you have to realize your vision for your book.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Weekend Writing Warriors June 1

Weekend Writing Warriors is a weekly blog hop where participants post up to eight sentences of their writing. You can find out more about it by clicking on the image below.

Fast forward to the end of Chalwen's conference with her three senior security chiefs. They've discussed the stricken starhopper and concluded that it was sabotage...


Chalwen scowled. "Find someone involved in this, positive proof preferable, otherwise a plausible connection. If all else fails draw on your archives for someone we've left on a long leash up to now and bring them in. We need a show trial and some public display of closure." Her voice turned hard and grim. "Then we can conduct a proper investigation without everyone watching us."

The three took their cue and snapped to attention. As they turned to leave she muttered under her breath, "The Emperor will expect some public executions for this."


You can see from the previous post the Ghosts of Innocence is now on sale in e-book format. I am waiting for a proof copy before releasing the paperback version, but meanwhile I am pleased to report that Smashwords approved the e-book for its premium catalogue. This means that it is now available through several major stores.

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