Sunday, 11 November 2018

Armistice Day


A little picture of my nana, Rhona, as an ambulance driver in Carlisle during WWII. She was one of the fastest wheel-changers in the north.

And here's my great grandfather, her father, Thomas Alfred Sewell, who remained behind at Ypres after WWI to help bury the dead at Poelkapelle. An occupation that eventually killed him aged 41. Reinterred from the town cemetery to the military one in 2005.


 
Ypres Town Cemetery
Ypres Military Cemetery


This poignant art installation of ghost soldiers at St John's Churchyard, Slimbridge, was created by Jackie Lantelli. If you'd like to do something to commemorate, I suggest joining the Last Post Association. They ensure that the last post is played beneath the Menin Gate every night of the year.


Saturday, 10 November 2018

Lucid


Finally! Book number two of three before Christmas.

It took a bit of doing, but after the release of The Tangled Forest last month, I've just re-released Lucid.

Lucid was the first novel I ever wrote, mostly to see whether I could make the word count. It was written during nights in Rwanda, when I had no television, few books and the internet wasn't capable of streaming video. I got a lot of writing done back in the good ol' days.

It was then shortlisted for the Luke Bitmead Bursary for New Writers in 2009, which was a huge boost of confidence. 

Eventually, it was picked up by Netherworld Books, the third of my novels to be published. Netherworld are an impress of Mirador Publishing. The parent press has the reputation of being a vanity press, charging authors money towards the publication of their titles, however Netherworld weren't. I've never been charged a penny towards publishing. It was a long time ago now, but the reason given, over an enthusiastic phone call, was that they wanted it enough to publish off their own back.

For that, I am grateful. Again, small successes such as these are key to building a fledgeling author's confidence. Though, of my three publishers, they're definitely the one I've had the rockiest relationship with.

The first issue I hit was that they were going to publish the manuscript as is, without any editing. This is practically unheard of. If a publisher takes on a book, they clean it up, at the very least give it a spit and polish. Nope. Not Netherworld. So, I enlisted the help of a friend to proof it.

Second issue - I never liked the cover. The cover image was fine, but the font always reminded me of SmartArt from a Word package. Other than cringeworthy typos, there's little worse for an author than being lumbered with a cover design they don't love. As every novelist knows, cover design is nine-tenths of the law. That's what sells books.

Original Cover
I also didn't like the way the cover pushed the book as purely horror. Yes, there's some of that, but that isn't all that Lucid was about. There was a lot of other stuff going on there as well. 

Every night we go to sleep and dream, but what if dreams could wake in our world?

Oliver Ryan suffers from sleep paralysis. It’s so bad that he’s afraid to invite anyone home in case he wakes screaming – or worse.


His dreams are so vivid they feel more real than his waking life. Each night he visits the Church of Shattered Hopes, where people cry blood, watches helplessly as horses devour themselves, or shoots himself through the head because a Hollywood star told him to.


His salvation appears to lie in Welsh witchcraft and psychoactive drugs, yet they also open the door to a world far worse than he could have imagined.


What does the brutal killing of a young girl in 1968 have to do with the recovery of a local coma victim? Ollie is unwittingly thrown into the role of detective.

Something else that bothered me about that particular publisher was the impersonal nature of their marketing strategy. There was one very brief release article, then once a quarter I'd receive a royalty statement with an attachment talking about ways to market my book, from how to write a press release to The Ten Commandments of Being an Author. Later down the line, when I became involved with Ghostwoods and saw what a proper, tailored marketing campaign involved, I felt a bit sore about the lack of personal support. It very much felt like they were trawling for material they could churn out as fast as possible with little input into the author-publisher relationship. Royalties en mass.

Fair enough, everyone gotta eat, but that didn't leave me feeling good about the relationship, and it certainly didn't shift books.

When, after six years, Netherworld decided it was no longer viable to keep the title in print, I breathed a sigh of relief. Pretty much every author dreams of being able to go back and edit their earlier work - this was my chance. Having just completed my first self-published novel, The Tangled Forest, I knew that I could make a better job of it. I went back through and edited out many of the typos I'd noticed the first time around (probably made a few new ones in the process), switched the format to 6x9", and slapped on a new cover that I really like.

So, here is the re-released result of my efforts. 

Lucid Mark II.

Paperback: UK/US
Kindle: UK/US


Friday, 9 November 2018

Amazon CreateSpace Joining KDP is a Bit of a Mess


Talk about arse and elbow.

I've just had the most excruciating experience with Amazon.

They've decided to lump CreateSpace in with Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP), but their administrative system really hasn't caught up.

Earlier this year, Netherworld handed back the rights to Lucid. After six years, they no longer felt it was viable to keep it in print. I put a glossy new cover on it and decided to take a shot at self-publishing so that it would still be available.

Anyone who's ever been through the process of typesetting and formatting a novel for self-publication will understand how much time and attention it takes. That's what made this so upsetting.

I submitted it for publication as both an ebook and paperback. The first format has always been published through Amazon KDP. The second format was traditionally published through CreateSpace, but is now also undertaken by KDP.

You get a little pop-up saying items are usually published within around 72 hours unless there's an issue. So, you sit back patiently and wait for notification that your title has passed the review stage and is now available for purchase.

Only, this time, I received a query asking me to prove my rights to the book, as it had previously been published with Amazon by Netherworld Books.

No problem. I tried to forward them a copy of the e-mail in which the publisher transferred the rights. Only, the address they told me to send it to bounced.


When I e-mailed them to mention this, I received no response.

Going back through the e-mails, I tried sending it to the person who originally sent me the request, and then, I think, through the online messaging system. I'm not quite sure what I did, but eventually I got notification that the Kindle version had gone live on 3rd November.

Going live means being published and made available for sale. This would not have happened unless Amazon received my rights notification and accepted that I held the rights to this work.

Yet, while the ebook was out in the world, the paperback still said In Review five days after I'd submitted it.

I contacted Amazon and got a kind reply saying, 'Don't worry, we're looking into it.'

Famous last words.

Today, nine days after submitting my paperback for publication, I got a lengthy e-mail saying I haven't complied by submitting proof of rights ownership and therefor my book has been blocked from Amazon!

Yet the ebook is still live.

So, they accept that I own the ebook but not the paperback?

Joining CreateSpace and KDP was supposed to make this process streamlined. Instead, it's just confused the paperwork. All that hard work to prepare my paperback for publication, and it's just been deleted.

Fuming isn't even a start to it.

Amazon do well, earning money out of authors, but they really don't treat them as people. It's a world full of automated messages. When something goes wrong, you're lucky if you get a response, and even luckier if you get a response from someone who can actually solve a problem.

Not impressed at all. 

[UPDATE: Yeash. Within an hour of sending me yet another 'you don't hold the rights' automated e-mail, I get one saying 'congratulations, your paperback has been published'. What a waste of everybody's lifetime that was.]

Thursday, 8 November 2018

Universal Basic Income



Further to my TEDx talk, several people have asked more about the concept of Universal Basic Income. Above is a really good introductory video. It's also been shown to be extremely helpful for mental health.

Sunday, 4 November 2018

Castlevania


What did you do yesterday evening, Marion?

Well, I watched the entire second season of Castlevania in one sitting.

It took me an episode or two to get into the first season, but I'm hooked. There are some fabulous lines, plenty of profanity, and wonderfully gory animation. 

"Adamic is the original human language. The one spoken by Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. The one that was split into all other languages at the Tower of Babel by God, to prevent human cooperation."

"Is that how you understand that story?"

"Oh, yes. The Speakers are the enemy of God. We live in cooperation and hide our stories inside ourselves so he cannot strike them down in jealousy."

I'm seriously shipping Belmont and Alucard, but respect that they've kept romance out of it in favour of ripping people's throats out. Fantastic set of characters, and very nice to see Jaime Murray on the lineup - I was a huge Hustle fan.

Vampires never get old (no, really, they don't), but there were some nice twists that gave them fresh fangs. 

You can find it on Netflix at the moment. Really looking forward to Season Three.

Saturday, 3 November 2018

Blank


I'm really looking forward to this. Giles Paley-Phillips featured briefly in my TEDx talk with his origami swan. He's now starting a podcast with his friend Jim Daly called Blank. You can find more information via Twitter: @Blankpod. They're kicking off on 7th November, interviewing the fantastic Jon Ronson. I was lucky enough to catch him at Cheltenham Literature Festival in 2012 and loved his books The Psychopath Test and So You've Been Publicly Shamed. Absolutely tuning in for this. You can plug yourself in via their website.