Tuesday, 30 October 2012

X marks the spot

Did you ever use old teabags to stain paper for a treasure map? When my daughter was still at school, we had heaps of often quite hysterical fun aging stuff for projects. We did all sorts of daft things: softened up old cheese coverings to mould false wax seals, ‘weathered’ parchment by setting fire to the edges (several times, as the first attempts usually had to be dumped in the washing up bowl for fear of triggering the smoke alarm), poured salt, broken pasta and even lentils, so help me, onto puddles of PVA glue …

Now Lauren’s off at uni doing History of Art at Edinburgh, I found I was pining for such lovely messy arts and crafts, until I decided to use my rather Jurassic graphics package to create a detailed, antique-style map to accompany a fantasy adventure book called Ice Trekker.

It turned out to be infinitely more fiddly than doing it by hand, but with the help of Creative Commons, crazy free fonts with odd names and some sneaky text editing tricks I used when I was a sub-editor, I got there in the end.

In fact, it was a useful exercise, as it made me literally map out the adventure and ensure everyone was where they ought to be. I might even try again for another book.

The results are now on the blog, and I fully intend to include the map on my next submission. Here’s the final result.


Wednesday, 24 October 2012

In my humble opinion ...

What's a book worth? Love this crazy move which lets the punters decide. All power to the independents.
Pay-what-you-want ebooks 'bundle' makes $1.1 m in two weeks


Meanwhile, on another planet, justice is served.
Amazon to be stripped of tax advantage on sale of ebooks

Interesting times.






Thursday, 18 October 2012

Life and death in Fife

You submit a manuscript. You wait to hear some promising news ... And then all you get is junk mail from Tesco and Argos about furniture and household products that just fills you full of sighs.

I can be patient. I can be good. To prevent implosion, I actually found the time to write a review for the most delightful historical murder mystery book I've read in simply ages. If you have a penchant for an 18th-century Austenesque tale, with pre-Gothic gloom, then the stories by the modestly brilliant Lexie Conyngham are the most perfect offering as the nights draw in ... at Scoggie Castle. (I can hear Brian Cox in my head already.) I'm currently reading Knowledge of Sins Past. You simply can't say it in an English voice. You just can't.

The next trick is to do the casting, when one has one of those nights when one can't sleep for the high winds in the battlements. Major Keyes? David Robb, of course, but I'm stuck on who should play Murray of Letho himself. Ewan, maybe? When he gets back from the Yemen.

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Blow-by-blow account

There I was, taking the opportunity to ping out a mss to a rather encouraging ebook publisher, when I looked at the date. Now October 16 may not mean much to you, but the phrase, The Great Storm, should.

I was a subeditor in Cambridge at the time, the morning after the storm hit. The one Michael Fish stuffed up? Now you remember. I'd been out with the other subs the night before and had the worst hangover of my life, and then the bastards made me splash sub. I had to collate ALL the news stories that were pouring in from all over the UK. The only bigger chaos than the landscape of southern Britain was in my brain. I made it through, but it's all a bit of a blur.

So, I did what mad writers do. Made a book out of it, combining all the newsroom stuff with a mishmash of my personal existence. I don't know why, but this book turned into a RANT. The most cathartic thing I've ever produced. It's also the first time I've ever typed f*** so many times.

Journos. You know what they're like.

PK

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Dark fonts of knowledge

Formatting. We need it, but I'd rather we didn't. It does comes in handy when submitting. Not to the Dark Lord, but just doing the manuscript thing as regards publishers (e-types or otherwise).

Formatting. It's deep and it's mystic. It's an Arthurian-style bane of life. I know this because I'm a Celt. With a C. My grandfather actually changed his surname from Celt to Kelt, thinking it might seem less scary. I like Kelt with a K. I also like Celt with a C. Either way it means: don't mess with me. We Kelts still think about hanging the heads of our beaten enemies over the porch just to upset the postman.

Formatting. The Microsoft version is simply diabolical, but at least one can subject it to one's will. To make it function, one needs to drink some dark mystic liquor and shift into Mordred mode. Only then is it at your command. And never check 'add to template' if you value your soul.

Friday, 5 October 2012

Progress, indeed

I'm still in shock. An ebook publisher has just sent a charming personal reply within hours of my submission - apologising for a six-week delay. Is that all? Six weeks? Pff. Six weeks is nothing. What alternative universe is this? Call me cynical, but it seemed as if certain old school publishers actually bragged about a long wait as if to justify their existence.

So, not only is six weeks relatively short in the scale of things, but I was actually encouraged to chase up the response. Quote: 'Feel free to check on progress. I won't be offended!' Gadzooks. Wouldn't happen in the old days. I've seen comments warning anxious writers not to get in touch, with veiled warnings that their precious manuscript might just be dumped in the slush pile unread.

I like this way of working. And I'm off to submit another mss to another publisher right away ...