How Big is a Book?

When I finished the first draft of my first novel ‘Brief Encounters of the Third Kind’ it was 325,000 words long; considering it had started off as a short story you may wonder how that came about. Much editing and removal of sub plots later and it was reduced to the final 225,000 words. As it also adhered to no known genre, the chances of finding an agent were even less than they are for most new and unknown writers. As I sent off chapters, letters and synopses to agents, I started writing ‘Quarter Acre Block’ in which nothing strange happens. This time I planned to stay under 100,000 words and aim for the family drama market. But even as I wrote about 1960s England and Australia, a character who had walked uninvited into Brief Encounters was nagging to have his story told.

Even as ‘Three Ages of Man’ was being born I had decided to try the self publishing route; on Amazon Kindle there is no limit to how many words you can publish, after all a Kindle device can hold thousands of books and trillions of words.

This year, as I have written in previous blogs

https://tidalscribe.wordpress.com/2017/03/10/reinventing-the-printing-press/   

we started turning all my books into paperbacks. With four collections and Quarter Acre Block published and copies handed out as gifts to various friends and relatives, whether they wanted them or not, it was time to start on the Brief Encounters Trilogy.

But would the magic printing press cope? ‘Three Ages of Man’ is 195,000 words long, and the preparallelequel to  Brief Encounters. Don’t look the word up, I made it up and have trouble spelling it myself; Three Ages is second of the trilogy, but is also a stand alone novel. Not a lot shorter than the first novel, but it seemed logical to experiment with it first.

How long is a novel, how big is a book? First time writers are often quoted 80,000 words, certainly not over a hundred or under fifty. But the truth is, a story is as long as it takes to tell; some readers like a quick read while others enjoy something they can get their teeth into.

When Cyberspouse ‘accidentally’ joined Amazon Prime, perhaps a ploy to get the Amazon Firestick, we were happy to enjoy the benefits of free delivery. ‘Three Ages of Man’ arrived and I put it on the kitchen scales, just under three pounds Imperial. It is nine inches by six inches, no thicker than other paperbacks we have in the house, with larger print and a generous margin on the inside edge of the pages so the reader won’t need to prize it open to read. I was happy.

Now to turn our attention back to ‘Brief Encounters of the Third Kind.’

 

 

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Amazon Kindle Is 10-Years-Old Today

Nicholas sums up perfectly what Amazon Kindle means for readers and writers. It’s my fifth anniversary of publishing on Kindle.

Nicholas C. Rossis

Amazon Kindle | From the blog of Nicholas C. Rossis, author of science fiction, the Pearseus epic fantasy series and children's book Image: Amazon

Ten years ago, on November 19th, 2007, Amazon introduced Kindle to the world, for US$399. It sold out in five and a half hours, even though there were just 88,000 books available for download. The device remained out of stock for five months until late April 2008. Today, the store has over 7 million e-books available in the United States.

However, that’s hardly Kindle’s greatest success: that honor goes to the fact it released the creativity of millions of writers, allowing them to publish their manuscripts directly on Amazon’s store without having to wait for a publisher’s approval.

Standing On The Shoulders Of Sony

The Kindle’s development started in 2004 when Jeff Bezos tasked his employees to build the world’s best e-reader before Amazon’s competitors could. He had good reason to be wary, as Sony had already released Librie and the long-forgotten Rocket eBook was starting to gain…

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Beds to Boogie Bounce

 

One of my early memories when there was just me, was of my mother taking me round to visit her friend who had three sons, a livelier household than ours and I was especially excited when the boys said we were allowed to jump on the settee. It was great fun until their mother walked in the room and told them off, followed by mother who of course told me off.

With the advent of garden trampolines perhaps children don’t jump on beds anymore, but for most of us that is the first introduction to trampolining. At this point I should add that there was plenty of fun and exercise to be had at our flat as Dad had built me a miracle of carpentry and engineering; a rocking horse that was a small scale version of the ones in the park.  By the time we had a house with a garden and I had a brother, sister and a friend round the corner with a big family, the two dads had built us everything from Wendy houses to climbing frames. Plenty of play, but no bouncing.

My first opportunity to go on a real trampoline came in first year high school in Australia; a girls’ camp where the trampoline was the lure to come on a  Christian holiday in the lovely Darling Ranges. A week that inspired Jenny’s school trip in my novel Quarter Acre Block.

I never mastered a somersault and we returned to the boredom of softball, netball and PE at school until a new Phys-ed teacher arrived from England. He had floppy blonde hair, reminded us of  Illya Kuryakin from The Man From Uncle and we all wanted to be in his class. He taught us fun things like Jujitsu and using a ‘trampette’ to leap over the wooden horse. Then he moved on to another school.

Forward a good few years and at the local sports centre Popmobility classes started two evenings a week, very addictive, followed by a new Ladies’ Leisure Morning complete with crèche. At last we could have a go on the big trampolines we had looked at enviously when we took our children to classes. There was also roller skating at weekends to which children were allowed to bring an adult. If you’re enjoying something it usually doesn’t last, classes get cancelled, buildings close and line dancing went the same way as the other activities.

We then belonged to various leisure clubs with pools, Jacuzzis and gyms, ranging from fantastically smart and too expensive to cheap and dire. When we moved I discovered Aquarobics. It was great fun and exercised the parts swimming didn’t reach, but the local hotels and council pools lost teachers and closed classes at regular intervals. By the time the water dried up I had missed the Zumba craze and avoided Yoga and Pilates as too serious. When I read on Facebook about  Boogie Bounce with Mel above our Sainsbury’s Local on a Monday morning, it sounded too handy to be missed.  We each have a little round trampoline of the sort children used to have till the giant garden types appeared. Like any exercise class you get out of it according to the effort put in, but bouncing around is more fun than circuits of the gym and every part gets stretched. It is like Aquarobics without the water and your brain also gets exercise as you try to follow the routine. It’s always good for writers to have an antidote to sitting at the computer, but don’t think of new ideas for the plot of your novel as you are exercising; you are bound to lose concentration on the routine and get your legs and arms in a  tangle.

 

Poppies and Politics

The field poppy is a humble flower; most of us see them as solitary blooms by the roadside. Ironically they thrived better in the desecrated fields of the Great War than with modern farming methods, but most importantly they have no creed or politics. The paper poppies sold every November seem to have remained unchanged forever, easily lost and when they fall apart they are ideal for children to play miniature ice hockey, the black centre the puck and the stem the hockey stick. Anyone who belongs to a craft group has probably knitted or sewn longer lasting flowers, the Royal British legion also sells enamel badges and giant poppies appear on buses and lamp posts.

But the humble flower has become a symbol of political correctness and angst. From mid October onwards nobody is seen on BBC television without a poppy; given how easy it is to lose them or leave them on your other jacket, I always imagine assistant producers hovering with boxes full of poppies at the ready. From politicians to football players, public figures risk on line abuse if they are spotted without a poppy. But there are many people who fear if they wear one it suggests they are against peace; worse still, on Facebook we are paranoid that we might ‘Like’ a picture of a dear old veteran adorned with poppies and later discover it was posted by an extreme right wing group.

It was never intended to be like this.

http://www.britishlegion.org.uk/remembrance/how-we-remember/the-story-of-the-poppy/

It started with a field of poppies in 1915 and a poem. For the Great War generation it was the war to end all wars; there was only remembrance and the desire for peace.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vH3-Gt7mgyM

In more recent years the last ever episode of Blackadder remains the most poignant reminder.

Our ceremonies at this time of year have veterans at their heart and the men and women of the Royal British Legion preserve the framework for this. But not all veterans are at the forefront. Like wearing a poppy it’s a personal choice; my father, uncles and aunt never belonged to the legion, never wore their medals and never marched a single step after they were demobbed ( except the one who was a scout leader! ). As far as I know they never met up again with RAF and army comrades. For those of us who are not royals or local dignitaries we are likely to go to Remembrance Day ceremonies and marches only if our daughters are in Guides, or sons in the army cadets.

But the two minute silence can be observed by everyone and is most meaningful if you are in a busy airport terminal or railway station; the unusual silence then seems to last an eternity, time enough to think of all the casualties of war in the past one hundred years.

Should you wear a poppy? They are made and sold to raise money to help ex servicemen and for the foreseeable future that support will be needed more than ever. But you can do the British Legion lottery, you can give to other service charities; the person wearing a poppy might have walked straight past a homeless man who is an ex serviceman.

Since 2014 we have been remembering various anniversaries of the first world war and yet the world is further than ever from peace and nobody seems to know the answer, or if they do, nobody is listening to them…

Skruvstas and Scandi Storage Solutions

Ditch your relatives and join the Ikea Family. Is a visit to Ikea your idea of heaven or hell? I love watching Scandi Noir, solving murders with sub titles, but more interesting than grizzly crimes are the delightful interior decors of the victims’ homes. A day at Ikea is the antidote to Scandi Noir; Swedish Serenity and Baltic Bright.

A day of serenity is not how some people would describe a visit to Ikea; how often have you heard the words ‘We thought we’d never get out’, referring to the shop itself or the traffic queues. But the Ikea devotee might be happy to stay there forever.

For the uninitiated here is a handy guide to your day out. Ikea is celebrating thirty years in Britain, though the company is over seventy years old. Along that time line we have had both frustrations and bargain buys of items we could find nowhere else. When Ikea at Wembley announced they were opening till ten pm on weekday nights I ignored my principle of never going anywhere that involved the North Circular; who else would think of going there late on a Tuesday school night? The whole of Northwest London; we DID think we would never get out.

When Ikea opened in Southampton in 2009, as our new local, I was thrilled. Our first outing did not involve traffic, we took the ferry from Hythe across Southampton Water. This involves walking or taking the little train to the end of the very long Hythe jetty, followed by a short voyage which is ideal for gazing at ocean liners. Once you have landed you cannot miss the large blue and yellow Ikea sign.

Last week we planned to do serious shopping for my new writer’s den so we took the car; congratulating ourselves on getting a place in the ground floor car park. The next stage for all shoppers is to ascend to the top of the building, there are lifts, but it is more fun to take the stairs and moving walkways. The top floor of the car park is an ideal spot for admiring the maritime view and the top heavy ocean liners.

It was half term and busy; the show floor is a fun place for children, a giant dolls’ house with rooms laid out to show how Ikea makes the tiniest flat a real home.  Home with a capital H, ‘staying in is the new going out’. Ikealand is full of happy families, couples and independent singles. If the homeless or lonely come in to escape the cold or the real world it must surely emphasise what they don’t have, perhaps there is Scandi Noir at the heart of Ikea.

But dwelling on the problems of the outside world is not what most customers are doing as they dart in and out of doors and rooms, reading the delightfully obscure Swedish names. Soon it’s time for a break in the huge restaurant, where the famous comfort food, meat balls, gravy and mash is served on an industrial scale; this is also the time to make important decisions. There are queues, but there is a simple solution for those of us who are clumsy or not in possession of two strong arms; trolleys you can put two trays on.

It was after lunch that we touched a screen to see the benefits of being Ikea family members; free tea and coffee, we did not hesitate.

Back in the show rooms grab your order form and start the real work; time spent up in heaven is less time wasted down in the warehouse. Choosing multi coloured inserts for your bright yellow Kallax unit requires concentration. After a free cup of coffee it was time to find the stairs; there are plenty of staff around to tell you how to escape the maze of rooms.

The market on the floor below also goes on for ever; piles of colourful fabric and gadgets you didn’t know you needed, everything from a grundvatnet to a propmatt, or you can assemble a dinner set in plain white.

At last you take more stairs down to the warehouse; if you can read your own writing you should know the exact aisle and location for each item of flat pack.

When we emerged to a glorious sunset we couldn’t find the car. The ground floor we were on was not the same as the ground floor we had driven into. Trundling with trolleys to the lift, then finally to the car, it was a relief when everything fitted in.

If assembling furniture is not your forte, or you went by bike, Ikea will deliver, measure and assemble. If a day at Ikea does not appeal you can go on line, but you will miss all the fun. By the time we got home an email awaited us, welcoming us to the family with a virtual tour of Almhult, home of Ikea. I can’t wait to return and claim my free gift.

 

 

 

Here Come the Stories of a Hurricane… If My Auntie Had Testicles…

I love Max’s views from Ireland; hopefully they will not be hit too hard by the tail of the hurricane, either way he’s sure to have a tale to tell next time.

Maxpower's Blog

The first tentative drops of rain, a precursor to the on rushing Hurricane Ophelia, tip-tapped on my window pane as I bushed my teeth this morning, and I reconsidered my choice of coat. It is unseasonably warm in the mouth of this behemoth, but I’m Irish, it rains a lot, we always prepare for the day ahead coat wise.

In the car I watched cyclists and motor-cyclists clearly ignore the strong advice of ‘not to travel by bike’ that has been issued over the last couple of days. Schools and colleges are closed, hospital outpatient appointments cancelled along with air, bus and train services on some routes. We are being warned in the strongest possible terms not to take this storm lightly.

Now this is where this little island runs into trouble. Taking things lightly is a national past time.  We can be serious when we want to, but in…

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Tides and Tourists

We have been to Saint Michael’s Mount in Cornwall, how different could Mont-Saint-Michel in Normandy, France be? Just a bit bigger? In Cornwall you know you walk across the causeway at low tide and go by boat at high tide. The bay of Mont-Saint-Michel experiences some of the largest tides in Europe, but the island is not surrounded by the sea every day; it’s far more complicated than that, depending on the movement of heavenly bodies and other factors. All the tourist needs to know is that you can go on guided walks across the vast low tide bay, but you certainly should not go alone. For the photographer the scene is ever changing according to the weather and the tide; the island itself is fascinating with so many buildings, narrow alleys and winding flights of steps clustered below the abbey.

Mont-Saint-Michel is a World Heritage Site and experiences huge tides of tourists. Recently, changes have been completed to preserve the ecology of the area and cater for tourists. Le Barage across the river controls the flow of water into the bay while a big car park and tourist centre, a safe two and a half kilometres from the island, controls the flow of people. Free shuttle buses go endlessly back and forth till midnight or you can take Les Maginotes, carriages pulled by pairs of draught horses. It is also easy to walk along the causeway and the boardwalk bridge, a pleasant stroll past grazing sheep, salt marsh lamb acclaimed for their meat.

Back at tourist base the roads all have barriers, ‘rue impasse’. The effect is to feel you are on a campus; hotels, restaurants and campsite all quiet and traffic free except for coaches bringing tourists. In contrast to the melee of mixed visitors were the neatly controlled groups of Japanese tourists and lively groups of school children. The few days we were there we saw an endless procession of school children being marshalled for the walk across the bay, followed by picnic lunches on the island; evenings in restaurants we sat with Americans, Canadians and Australians while the Japanese were still in their regimented groups. Perhaps none of this was ‘real life’, but the whole tourist experience was well organised, pleasant and stress free.

Even in October the island was packed, people walking, eating, drinking and filing into the abbey. We gathered on a wall with many others to watch the tide creeping in and laugh at teenage boys vying to be the last standing on a rocky outcrop. The top terrace of the abbey had the best view out over the bay and back across the way we had come. Those who work on the island in catering must be constantly busy; for those who live here their homes are unique, but they must be constantly stared at by tourists such as myself, trying to peep in their  front doors as they unlock them or peering down into their tiny gardens.

Writers can take inspiration; what a perfect place to be anonymous in the crowds, or elude capture if their character needs to escape. The abbey itself is a maze of stone arches and flights of stone steps, if you did not adhere to the signs and follow the correct route it’s unlikely you would get out of the building; even following the route I thought we would never get out… But we did emerge into the sunshine to enjoy coffee with a view at one of the many cafes.

For holiday pictures visit my Beachwriter’s Blog, this month ‘Ecrivaine de La Plage’.

https://www.ccsidewriter.co.uk/chapter-five-beach-writer-s-blog/

and read more about the trip to Normandy in Chapter Four

https://www.ccsidewriter.co.uk/chapter-four-travel-diary/

 

Goerge Had Six Moths To Feed.

After nearly five years floating in the ether, the first novel I published on Amazon Kindle is now available as a paperback. Quarter Acre Block was inspired by my family’s experiences emigrating to Australia as Ten Pound Pommies; ironically the paperback costs £10.00  (£9.99 ).  I have not yet written a novel inspired by my return to the United Kingdom, as a twenty year old on a six month working holiday which has stretched till now; suffice to say I have family on both sides of the world and there have been many journeys back and forth over the years, few of them mine.

Project Paperback QAB took on some urgency as Australian visitors were coming to stay; Kindle Direct Publishing paperbacks are not yet available in Canada or Australia.

Technology at our In House Publishers is rarely new; second hand computers, smart phones and other devices pass through the house, passed down from family who are upgrading or bought from ‘Pete at work’. Quarter Acre Block documents were in my new computer, in the external hard drive and on various memory sticks, but we couldn’t find the HTML document that had formed the original Kindle book. I wanted to add pages at the beginning and end that could not have existed in the first version, ‘By the same author’  ‘About The Author’, so with my Kindle at my side as reference I treated the Microsoft word document as a final edit. It was good to read the novel again and the Palmer family were pleased I had not forgotten them, but I was mortified to find more than one mistake in spelling and grammar. Had gremlins crept in? There was no escaping the fact that the same errors occurred in the Kindle version.  I am not alone in this, I have enjoyed plenty of e-books where letters have swapped places and full stops have fallen off; perfection is hard to achieve, but it was galling to read that George had six ‘moths’ to feed.

At last the book was ready to download, with a new cover and perfect pages. Before you press Publish, Amazon comes up with a helpful spell check, a feature not available when we first published. Six errors… four were colloquial, wheatbelt should have been The Wheatbelt, but the glaring mistake was Goerge. One of my main characters, George, had endured the indignity of having his name spelt incorrectly in the first chapter; I can only hope that like the jumbled letter quizzes on Facebook – only people who are highly intelligent can read this – readers did not notice.

We ordered one copy to check it was fine. The visitors arrived on Thursday, the book on Friday. I ordered ten more; they were due on Sunday, an e-mail from Amazon on Sunday afternoon stated they had been delivered and left in the porch. The porch was empty, the visitors were going on Tuesday morning. On Sunday evening the neighbours came round with a parcel that had been left in their porch. On Monday evening we gave our visitors their gift and luckily they had enough room in their suitcases to take copies for my mother and niece; at 95,000 words the book is quite heavy, I had saved a lot on postage and packing.

In all the excitement we had not noticed one glaring omission. There was no title on the spine… on Amazon Kindle nothing is set in stone, you can go back in at any time and change the book, future copies will not be spineless. Perhaps those first eleven copies will be famous rarities in a hundred years time…

Read my previous blog on how KDP print on demand first came into my life.     https://wordpress.com/post/tidalscribe.wordpress.com/383

 

A Tale of Two Sons


Writers are not alone in observing people, pondering on their background story, or even inventing a whole life and family for them. I wonder how wrong our assumptions might be.

Out and about on holiday I saw two very different lives, two very different sons. Thanks to modern technology and perhaps thanks to fund raising friends or rich relatives, the disabled are able to get out and about more easily than ever.

Wheelchairs for those who cannot walk, or cannot walk far have been superseded by bespoke motorised thrones controlled by touch pads for the severely disabled.

Sitting outside a coffee shop, enjoying lunch and the scenery, the table next to us was soon occupied by a young man, perhaps still a teenager, and his carer, or was it his mother? He was a cheerful chap despite his obvious limitations. Chatting to them, they were locals having a regular but simple treat, coffee in a cup with a straw for the young man and a chocolate muffin shared with his mother. Then the son told us proudly he was leaving home tomorrow, his mother cheered, they both had a sense of humour. He was going to the National Star College near Cheltenham, a further education college for the disabled.

However dependent they are, however loving their families, I’m sure most disabled young adults want to be independent and move away from home when they choose, the same as anybody else. I wonder what the future will hold for that young man?

The next day found us at an air museum, where outside and in the hangars there was plenty of room and level access. I spotted a boy skipping alongside his father’s motorised chariot. Strangely, everywhere I wandered I kept seeing them and couldn’t help wondering whether disease or disaster had left the father so disabled.

At lunchtime they turned up near our table and someone brought them over huge plates of fish and chips that neither could possibly manage. The staff behind the self service counter had been particularly bored and uninterested when we were getting our food, so I hoped they had shown some patience and empathy with the father and son. All along I had been expecting a mother or wife to appear, or at least a responsible adult, but they sat alone at the table. We should not make assumptions about how independent disabled people are.

There was plenty to see and they were still exploring late into the afternoon. The son looked a cheerful cheeky lad, but obviously a child who could be trusted not to run off and get lost; a child most parents would be delighted with, who did not get bored, whine or beg to go to the gift shop. I wondered what the future held for them.

 

 

 

Jumping and Falling

Some of the first words I uttered were to ask for a horse. I never did get one, though horses have featured in my life. While other children were reading the Famous Five I was reading pony books, the three Pullein-Thompson sisters wrote about children from a completely different world who all had their own ponies. I knew all the parts of a horse; I could catch, bridle and saddle a lively horse – in my dreams. My favourite gifts were book vouchers with which I bought new volumes of Kit Hunter Show Jumper; my most precious volume was The Observers Book of Horses.  My parents knew nothing about horses though they did love watching show jumping on television. In the school playground and in the street we played horses, a skipping rope round the shoulders of whoever was being the horse, while the ‘rider’ galloped behind gripping the rope reins.

Real ponies came into my life in junior school years, my friend and I spent our pocket money on half an hour once a fortnight lessons at the local stables. Bored ponies carrying children were led in single file down old lanes and through new estates by teenage girls. Exploring on our bikes one day we discovered a cheaper ‘riding stables’, an old pig farm and teenage girls with horses.  Our mothers were naively unaware of the dangers of riding; we never possessed the proper cloths or riding hats, we went armed only with sugar cubes, most of which we ate ourselves.

One school morning at breakfast, when I was nearly eleven, my mother had a surprise announcement; considering that I was always sent to bed early and lay awake eavesdropping on parental voices from downstairs, it is amazing that I had no inkling my parents were planning on emigrating. When Mum asked me if I would like to go to Australia there could only be one response – ‘If I can have a horse.’

We stayed in the New Forest for our last English holiday; still blissfully unaware of my lack of riding skills, my parents found stables and arranged for me to have an hour’s ride. My eleven year old self was sent off with a young chap, a complete stranger, I clung on for dear life as my pony followed his. I was doing quite well till the end of the ride; my pony’s speed increased and he took a sharp turn down to a stream. I fell off but remounted, the horse repeated his manoeuvre twice; thee falls, hatless, but unharmed.

In Perth, Western Australia my best friend and I used to cycle off to Forestfield, where Perth International Airport now stands. We spent most of the ride urging the hired horses to do more than walk, only for them to gallop out of control when we turned back to the stables. On one memorable occasion we took my younger sister out with us as a birthday treat. She had never ridden a horse before and hers bolted; helpless we watched as she disappeared down a dusty track, fortunately the horse came to a wire fence and halted.

Then my friend and her sister acquired a horse. Their mother, with little equine knowledge,  went off to an auction, bought them a stumpy palomino called Sabrina and found a paddock to rent. But it wasn’t quite the stuff of pony books, one pony to share. We all soon realised that looking after Sabrina wasn’t as easy as in the books, we couldn’t even catch her in the paddock, let alone get her saddled up.

For teenage girls and women it is not just the horse they admire. When we watch historical dramas or Olympic Three Day Events , men in riding breeches astride large horses are bound to set hearts aflutter.

When we went to the New Forest Show recently I still got a thrill. Pony club children living my childhood dream and beautiful show jumpers pounding the turf.

In my new novella one side of the love triangle is a fine grey stallion hunter called The Major. Read his story in Ralph, one of two novellas in Someone Somewhere.

See plenty of pictures of horses at my website Beachwriter’s Blog.

https://www.ccsidewriter.co.uk/chapter-five-beach-writer-s-blog/