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…