Good news to report this week.
My latest novel, Saving Sebastian, is now available in Kindle form. Wahey! Within weeks of its publication in paperback form too, and entirely down to my publisher, no effort on my part. Way to go!And my new improved website is now live, looking fresh and bright. The folk at Creative Infusion were busy transferring it as I tanked down to the Westcountry. I’m indebted to Keren and Tim for their work on this. And to Ben, my personal technical guru.
I hope you like the changes. Do have a wander through the pages and if you encounter any glitches, or have suggestions for improvements, let me know. It’s for you (at the moment I still know who I am and what I’m up to!), so I want it to meet your requirements.
Travelling at Easter time can be horrendous but we managed to avoid the worst mayhem on the M5 and to enjoy the fabulous scenery of the lesser roads and the gorgeous sunsets on our way.
As I’ve said before, writing often takes a back seat when I’m away, but this weekend I actually managed to use travelling time effectively to develop that additional elusive story line for the current novel – I’ve been furiously scribbling in notebooks to capture the thoughts before they are lost forever.
Oh, and I managed to slot in reading two more novellas about organ transplantation. Odd how many short stories I’ve found on this subject (most I have to admit, not well written). Is it a feature of the subject appealing to writers, or the ease of downloading electronic books, I wonder?
Waiting for me on my return was a comment from a lady who’d just read three of my novels, saying that the ending of Double Trouble was just too heartbreaking. It is too. I’ve wept over it many times myself – and I know what happens! I tried my best to change it but the characters just wouldn’t let me. I saw the tragedy happen; I had to record it faithfully. At the time when I sent it out to a raft of critics for comment before submitting it to the publisher, one of them (a professor of medical ethics) said it took him a week to recover enough to talk to me about it. But what these reactions tell me is that these readers really cared about the characters – enough to be upset; and I like to think that means I’m doing that part of my job effectively at least. Feel free to disabuse me of this notion if you consider I’m deluding myself.
This week I’ve ticked several things off the list that have been lingering far too long. Feels good. A kind of mental spring clean.
Most importantly for this blog, all my books in Kindle format have now been reduced to 88p – a target I’ve had in mind for some time. Question is: will they now tick boxes for a different kind of reader? Time will tell.
On the domestic front, the railings and gates at the front of our house have at last been installed. Just over a year after the accident (first reported in this post).
It’s rarely that we call in workmen chez nous, but this last couple of weeks we’ve had two sets of men working on our behalf; repairing the stonework of our 19th century establishment, as well as replacing the iron work. You hear endlessly of sloppy timing and poor workmanship, but I’ve been so impressed by these two teams. What skill. What precision. What a transformation. What’s more they were all so friendly and quiet and courteous and focused. Meticulous perfectionists. Highly recommended. Thanks to their abilities and application we launch into 2012 with a new image.
And indoors there’s my own year-long project. Contrary to what my blog might suggest, reading and writing don’t absorb all of my time. But I am a self-confessed workaholic. I find it hard to give myself permission to ease off. I do know it’s an unhealthy way to go on, though, so last January I resolved to take time out to relax before bedtime as often as I could. By way of motivation I started a complicated piece of counted thread work (already a hobby of mine) and set myself a target of early December by which to get it finished.
My timetabling was thrown by a rush of visitors and various unexpected illnesses and crises however; things that just had to take precedence over several months, and consequently it was actually January 2012 before I sewed on the last bead. Here’s the completed article ready to go for framing – to be converted into a Christmas firescreen, I hope. In reality it’s alive with sparkling gold thread and colourful beads which you can’t see to best effect in the photo.
All the credit for the finished product though should go to the minds that created the design, and worked out the careful combination of colours, and strategic placement of beads and gold thread. I simply followed their instructions.
Oh, and before I forget … I promised to let you know how that acer (maple tree to you and me) damaged in the crash, fared – the one that valiantly sprouted new growth against all odds (see post). Having been buried in rubble for a year, sprayed with various building materials and tramped on by heavy boots, the poor thing has finally given up the ghost entirely. Time to move on. Ticked off the list but not forgotten.
As you know I have an ambivalent relationship with Jodi Picoult‘s books. But I confess I had a bit of a revival of interest when I read House Rules (reviewed on this blog back in February). Super book about autism.
So, when I was deciding which books to sample on the Kindle – just to check whether I really really did want to leap into the twenty-first century – one of the first on my list was Sing you Home. I read it ages ago but it’s taken me till now to get around to posting my comments. Which probably says a lot about my rating of the book.
The story revolves around Zoe and Max Baxter whose marriage is on the rocks after a number of failed attempts to have a baby. (Yeah, yeah, I know. I do bang on about these issues.) Anyway, Zoe finds comfort in Vanessa whose work as a school counsellor overlaps with her own music therapy. They go on to ‘marry’ and decide they want children.
Zoe already has frozen embryos left over from her IVF with Max. Using them seems like a no-brainer. But Max is now a born-again religious zealot, vigorously opposed to same sex unions, and he fights Zoe’s claims through the courts.
OK, some of the issues are my territory but that doesn’t mean I’m bound to like books on these subjects. Indeed, I can be super critical of the way authors deal with medicine and ethics. So, what was my verdict on Sing you Home? Hmm.
It’s the usual Picoult formula:
Major social issues
Multiple voices speaking in the first person.
Lots of amateur psychology.
Big social issues.
A courtroom drama
It has one unique feature:
Accompanying songs, the lyrics of which were composed by Picoult herself. An interesting ‘gimmick’, entirely fitting with the story line about a music therapist who reaches troubled people through songs.
A few amusing/thoughtful quotes to make you smile/wonder:
Max on the effect of infertility on their marriage
‘Our sex life had become like Thanksgiving dinner with a dysfunctional family – something you have to show up for, even though you’re not really having a good time … want had become need and then obsession … There was no room in my marriage for me anymore, except as genetic material.’
Vanessa on society’s attitude to homosexuality
‘I remember my mother telling me that, when she was a little girl in Catholic school, the nuns used to hit her left hand every time she wrote with it. Nowadays, if a teacher did that, she’d probably be arrested for child abuse. The optimist in me wants to believe sexuality will eventually become like handwriting: there’s no right way and wrong way to do it. We’re all just wired differently.
It’s also worth noting that, when you meet someone, you never bother to ask if he’s right- or left-handed.
After all: Does it really matter to anyone other than the person holding the pen?’
Zoe’s on school canteen
‘It looks like every other school cafeteria I’ve ever seen – a life-size petri dish breeding social discontent, students sorting themselves into individual genuses: the Popular Kids, the Geeks, the Jocks, The Emos.’
Vanessa’s on court protocol
‘The clerk scrambles forward to make his announcement as Judge O’Neill strides off the bench, so that we all rise, too, like some magnetic after-effect of his anger.’
The insights into what music therapy can achieve with the depressed, the dying, the dementing.
The sympathetic and empathetic principal female characters.
The stereotypical portrayal of bigoted right-wing Christianity.
The pseudo-psychology everybody seems to indulge in.
The occasional misuse of medical terms (or maybe it’s simply American shorthand).
The anomalies in the formatting that crept in during conversion.
So, a mixed bag. Not a patch on House Rules.
Oh, just before I go, if you’re weighed down by the stress of Christmas preparations, or feeling jaded by lack of daylight hours, or in anyway down in the dumps, I recommend you go to dovegreyreader‘s post for Saturday December 10. It’s called Security knitting alert …start casting on everyone and it’s sure to bring a smile to your face.
Wahey! It’s official. McHaffie novels have now launched into the ether!
Yes, as promised, an update on the ebook saga. (For any newcomers to this site I’m in the process of converting books from my backlist into electronic versions, and some of my visitors have requested information on the nitty gritty of a writer’s life.)
The first stage was surprisingly painless. Following advice from various people in the Society of Authors, I (with DJ’s invaluable assistance) duly researched Smashwords and set about applying their format to my Word documents. Everything went swimmingly and the three books duly went through the vetting process with flying colours. Here’s the evidence. So far so encouraging.
Then … of course, there was bound to be a ‘then’. Smashwords informed us that they wouldn’t be able to issue the Kindle version until December at the earliest. So readers who use Sony or Apple or Kobo or Barnes & Noble or Diesel or Aldiko or Stanza machines can access them, but not Kindle people. Ahhhh. Pretty much every e-reader I know uses a Kindle.
OK. Never say die. We’ll convert it ourselves via Amazon. More careful research, and off we go, full of confidence after our breeze through Smashwords.
Except that the theory didn’t quite match the practice. Most things worked in the main, but weird illogical aberrations cropped up without rhyme or reason – with indentation and formatting and pictures. Only detectable in the downloaded version too, not on preview. (So what exactly is the point of a preview facility, then?) DJ, bless his cotton socks and unlimited patience, spent many solid hours plumbing the depths of each problem, and putting it right. And this week we’ve FINALLY cracked it. Vacant Possession, Paternity and Double Trouble are all now available to Kindle users.
We’ve learned a lot in the process, and hopefully future conversions will be less troublesome. And there’s a silver lining: I shan’t now be so sniffy about errors in the books I download in future, but spare a passing sympathetic thought for the poor unfortunate who had neither the time nor inclination to check every last page.
Oh, and if you find an error in one of mine, do let me know. One of the advantages of having the process in my control.