What have I done this year? Well quite a bit actually…

I’m at a point now where I’m starting to look back at what I’ve done this year. There have been a few things that have happened that have made me re-think what I want out of life and where I want to be in the next few years, so I thought I would reflect on that. The first thing I need to reflect on is my writing career.

You might not have noticed but I have actually got a few  books published out there in the Aether so far this year.  I thought I’d remind you of them…

My first children’s book, “Pika The Phluph and The Gribblebid Tough, was produced in collaboration with Maria K. The story of a small pink fluffball with an adventurous spirit and a big heart  started life as a way to teach my daughter about the “Ph” sound during her reading lessons.

Add Maria’s charming drawings and you have a sweet, (but not sickly) rhyming story just perfect for reading at bed time, letting the kids read by themselves… they do you know:

The Spiral binding is deliberate – it makes it easy to have the pages open on your lap without breaking the spine and is also easy to turn the pages for those little ones who are a little bit clumsy…

To pick up a copy – http://www.lulu.com/shop/maria-k-and-kira-morgana/pika-the-phluph-and-the-gribblebid-tough/paperback/product-20004195.html – is the link you need!

Maria and I didn’t sit back on our laurels though. We got busy and brought out a second “Land Far Away” book. The second one is called “The Grungegoggler’s Mess” and while it is just as fun and challenging to read, it harbours a serious message to our children.

The Grungegogglers are suffering from a horrible disease and while they have found a treatment, it isn’t a cure. One day, the Piskaphluph bird discovers what they are doing to the world around them and calls in the big guns to help her save the day…

This is also spiral bound, with beautiful clearly printed pages.

To pick up a copy – http://www.lulu.com/shop/maria-k-and-kira-morgana/grungegogglers-mess/paperback/product-20246845.html – is the link you need!

We’re hoping to have a third “Land Far Away” book out soon, as well as e-format for those people who live for their gadgets…

Now, moving away from the children, we’ll move toward adulthood. My next book is all my own work (except the cover which is by the wonderful Elizabeth Bank:

This little collection of stories is garnered from my apprenticeship in the last few years. You learn a great deal about writing when you have to stick to a word count and some of the hardest writing I have done was less than 150 words. Anyway, The Necklace of Harmony, is a collection of some of the best stories I have written, for various reasons in the last three years.

I’ve had some brilliant reviews on amazon – all of them 5 star – and I’m very proud of this little book. Not only does it show you the end product, but you get to look inside my mind at where the story came from…

To pick up a copy – http://www.amazon.co.uk/Necklace-Harmony-Short-Collection-ebook/dp/B0079HL2FE/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1329396628&sr=1-1 – is the link you need!

The final book in this little list, is very definitely adult.

The dark side of my personality escapes into my writing sometimes as A.E. Churchyard. As long as I ‘m writing for adults, I don’t have to worry about that too much. This book is all me; story and cover… and believe me it was an awful lot of work!

I’m quite proud of the cover, but as this is only one in a series of short stories that I’m working on, I’m certain that my graphic skills will get better as we go along. This is science fiction and horror (only a little bit) and fantasy mixed together. I liked the story (I’d written it for an anthology) so much that I edited it and published it.

Pick up a copy here – http://www.amazon.co.uk/Tales-Cassius-Statues-Justice-ebook/dp/B008BKGPRS/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1344110386&sr=1-1

And here – https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/180567

So, that’s what’s been happening on the book front…

The rest of my life is pretty much the same old, same old. Nothing much changes here (the weather is alternately sunny and wet, the children drive me crazy and TOH pretty much does the same) so it’s left to my creative endeavours (and the cats) to cheer things up.

When I can get on the PC that is.

TOH has taken the big step of re-entering education in order to change careers – nothing too dramatic, just going from a well paid engineering career (well it would be well paid if he could get a job) to becoming a Starving Artist. He wants to be an Illustrator/Animator, but he’s not exactly what I’d call enthusiastic about the daily practise of his art. Except when he plays with his graphics tablet.

So in order to encourage this, I’ve taken to making jewellery when he goes on the PC and starts playing with the graphics tablet, in the hope that he’ll be able to point himself in the right direction. He’s also bought himself a decent bridge digital camera and is taking photos of all sorts of things. This is great, but it doesn’t give me much time to actually write!

Enough of such meanderings…

Time for a competition!

Fancy a free e-book copy of “Tales of Cassius: Statues of Justice”? Of course you do, you don’t want to have to pay a measly £1.33 ($2.99 or thereabouts) for a copy do you…

Well all you have to do is tell me (in the comments below) what you think would be a good name for the next baddy for Cassius to take down. All I can tell you about the next story (I don’t want to give the game away) is the Title – “Tales of Cassius: The Necklace of Eyeballs” and the fact that it takes place on a Moon base.

You’ve got a week to enter and I will pick the best one next Saturday!

Writer Wednesday: LOTS of Reviews!

I’m catching up on my reading and reviewing list,  at the moment. So I thought I would dedicate this week’s WW to all those books that I’ve read recently and haven’t reviewed on here yet.

We’ll start with one that made me laugh out loud and read bits to my partner who got so fed up with it that he finally snapped and told me to read it to myself…

It should have been an easy, Hollywood kind of case for Fish—just find some wanna-be starlet’s lost Lhasa Apso. But before anyone can say, “three-picture deal,” her cut-rate jeweler boyfriend is murdered and the killer wants to shoot Fish…and not in Technicolor.

Moe “Fish” Fishbein is a wisecracking bounty hunter, attorney and repo man with a ton of tattoos, a Buddha-licious grin and an old school Harley chopper. He’s the “go-to” guy for show biz A-listers with runaway spouses and missing Bentleys, and agents whose celebrity clients have jumped bail. A desperate jeweler hires him to locate his trophy girlfriend’s missing lap dog, but neglects to mention the fortune in stolen diamonds he super-glued into the dog’s collar for safe keeping.

The next thing Fish knows, his client gets whacked and now he’s in the sights of a psychotic hit man who wears black Armani and talks like Marilyn Monroe. The gunman works for a corrupt attorney who wants the stones for himself. And before Fish can do the right thing and track down his client’s murderer, the hit man pops the girlfriend. Then he kidnaps Fish’s associate and offers to swap him for the collar. Now it’s up to Fish to find the pooch, rescue his buddy, and stop the bodies from piling up faster than an old Chuck Norris flick.

Jeff has a quirky, wry humour that suits Fish and his companions down to the ground. I felt more than a little sorry for the witless Charlie and his beautiful wife; but the character I loved the most was Einstein – a genius at maths and someone that you really would like to have as your right hand man!

If you are reading this and you haven’t read either of Jeff’s books, then you need to get copies of both – one tip though, don’t eat and drink while you are reading because you *will* spit it out all over your screen!

I’m intending to collect all of Jeff’s books in paperback (when they make it into print) because they really are the sort of work that I love to read over and over again.

* * *

Next up is something that I started reading for International Zombie Day…

Being a zombie is no picnic and it’s one hell of a handicap in the romance department when you fall in love with a ‘breather’:

Aleta is a breather with short blonde hair and brown eyes – two of them! – and the whitest smile Fred has ever seen. Every day at a certain time she sits at her window, and every day he stands in the rubble across the street among a crowd of zombies waiting to break through the fence and eat her.

‘You are beautiful, like an angel’, he thinks, but all he can moan is, “Braaaiiinss.”

Still, as zombies go, Fred’s quite a catch. Underneath all the gangrene and rot, Fred is different. This girl will probably turn out to be yet another dead end, an infatuation, someone whose image he cannot get out of his mind and whose taste he cannot get out of his mouth, but the heart wants what the heart wants.

For breathers, it is always only a matter of time, however beautiful they are and whatever the government is assuring people.

Which makes Fred sad because he has a beautiful 11 year old son called Timmy, and Timmy may still be alive.

From the moment I started reading “I’ve been Deader” I was literally glued to my phone.

This is not your normal, survivors-blast-zombies-to-pieces-for-the-fun-of-it, run-of-the-mill zombie novel. No way, no how! For a start, it’s told from the Zombie point of view. Fred is an anomaly, a Thinking Zombie, and it’s his story we begin the book with.

This story is mesmerising. From the moment I started reading it, I was hooked into the world that Adam Sifre has created. Told mostly from the point of view of Fred, a Zombie that can not only think, but also control the other zombies, you follow his adventures. Firstly all he can think about it Aleta, a Breather who is a vision of perfection. He wants her, and not just for her tasty looking limbs… however, he discovers that he has abilities that elevate him above your normal Shambler and decides that he’s going to use them to turn the Zombie / Breather war around.

The world is going to hell in a hand basket and Fred is just the man… well, zombie… to lead it there.

Adam’s irreverent humour and superbly slipped in cultural references make you feel as if you really are in the story. It would make the perfect TV series, especially as the plot thickens as we meet Jon, a homicidal maniac who seriously enjoys removing the zombie threat from his path. The descriptive prose and entertaining episodes from Fred’s Zombie Army’s progress bring us to Fred’s son, Timmy, and a climax to the story that leaves you begging for more.

I love it!

* * *

And finally, I’m going to add one that I have read in HardBack rather than on Kindle – just to show that I do read print books!

1916: the Western Front. Private Percy Blakeney wakes up. He is lying on fresh spring grass. He can hear birdsong, and the wind in the leaves in the trees. Where have the mud, blood and blasted landscape of No Man’s Land gone?

2015: Madison, Wisconsin. Cop Monica Jansson is exploring the burned-out home of a reclusive – some said mad, others dangerous – scientist when she finds a curious gadget – a box containing some wiring, a three-way switch and a…potato. It is the prototype of an invention that will change the way Mankind views his world for ever.

And that’s an understatement if ever there was one…

The Long Earth is the first novel in an exciting new collaboration between the creator of Discworld Terry Pratchett and the acclaimed SF writer Stephen Baxter

Its absolutely superb and has inspired me to read a few other Stephen Baxter books. The scientific theories involved in the story is flawless, from the evolution of man to parallel dimensions – you can really tell that Stephen Baxter is involved. There are hints of Discworld and you can feel the irreverence that is Terry Pratchett in almost every chapter… A seriously engrossing read!

The ending is the only sticking point for me – I really feel that there is a lot more to this story than has been printed and I want to see it all. Hence the four stars instead of the five that I would normally give a Terry Pratchett book.

The Writer’s World: Words and Numbers

Now normally today I’d be writing about Monsters, but because I’m currently involved in editing and re-writing a few things, I thought I would do something else.

I’m surrounded by writers. I have a lot of friends from all around the world on FB and the vast majority of them are involved in publishing. Mostly on the creative end of things, ie: writing. We all share an overriding love of words, language and reading; and that includes hating anyone who mangles those things that we lurve

Many of my writer friends have their fingers in other pies; one friend is an English Teacher, another is an Editor / Publisher and a third is a cover designer.

Not to mention the one who is a Translator and another who runs his own engineering consultancy business.  We enjoy all the words we come across, up to and including,  slang and colloquialisms. However textese gives us the screaming abdabsand you’ll never find us using much of it, even when we are actually texting!

Now before you naff off in a huff over the fact that we writers consider words to be our own personal playground, we’re quite happy to let other writers play in it, even if they are copy writers or journalists…

*Hides from any irate journalists*

I read a lot of books. Some of them grab me and hold me until I read the last page. Some of them I can barely read past the first page. Why?

Well putting it very simply, they are a load of Tosh.

There useless peices of junk that are barely readable. It doesnt matter if their is a good story to it, if the words don’t make sense i the sentances and y haveto add you”re onwn editingand proofreding bfore you can reed them it taks away the joy of the words themselves.

*pants* That was really hard to write…

All those people who don’t bother to even get someone with decent reading ability to proofread their work before they publish it. To enjoy a story you have to be able to read it!

And while I’m on the subject of reading…

The Internet is a wonder of the Digital Age. It allows us to share the beauty of our creative efforts to a much wider audience than print alone allows.  Musicians, Artists and Movie Makers  also share this wonderful place and while the ability to download is a bangin’ tool, it is also a place that has its share of pirates.

Musicians and Movie Makers make money out of other things as well as the music / movie (such as ticket sales, merchandise so and so forth), Artists and Writers produce one thing – the work of art or the book – and this means that when that work is copied (by whatever means) and shared free and without permission,  it takes money away from the person who created it.

Most of my work is published through e-format. I’m quite happy to sell my work for a reasonable price and recently I thought I would work out exactly what that price should be.

Now, take “Tales of Cassius: Statues of Justice “, the story I recently self published through Kindle. The reason I am going to use this is that I did most of  this myself, as I did garner a friend’s opinion on it as a beta read as well.

Let’s run through a proper costing –

Number of Words: 10,300 (approx.)

Initial Labour: 6 hrs p/day x 4 days = 24 hrs

Second Draft Edit: 6 hrs p/day x 7 days = 42 hrs

Third Draft Edit: 6 hrs x 7 days = 42 hrs

Final Edit: 6 hrs x 3 days = 18 hrs

Book Formatting: 6 hrs x 7 days = 42 hrs

Book Cover Design:  6 hrs x 7 days = 42 hrs

Total Labour Time: 220 hours

Cost of Labour: £6.08 per hour (The UK’s National Minimum Wage)

Now them’s the figures, let’s do the figurin’ –

Cost of Labour x Cost of Labour = Basic Product Cost to Me.

£6.08 x 220 hrs = £1337.60

And if I were to add in the (minimum) cost of the beta reader?

£1337.60 + £500 = £1837.60

Let’s add 20 % VAT to that, considering that a book is a luxury item in the UK:

£1837.60 + £267.52 = £2105.12

How many people would buy a 10k story for that? After all that’s a lot of money… but consider this –

We’re talking about a 10,300 word story which I am proud of  and a cover which isn’t the best piece of graphic design I have ever done, but it is much better than some of the ones I ‘ve seen out there.

What this amount boils down to is 0.20p per word (or thereabouts).  To retrieve what my story is worth in the time, effort and lurve that I put into my work, I would have to charge a small fortune.

In order to sell that story, I have to reduce the amount I am charging for it.

The amount I am asking for it?

£1.33

How much is that per word?

0.00012p 

How many books will I have to sell to recoup the time, effort and love I put into  the story?

1005.71

Now tell me that I only do this for the money?

So when you’re reading a book that you’ve downloaded from a pirating site, think about how much money you are taking away from that author.

I suppose you could argue that for a bigged up author, one of those who are published by one of the big six and whose work is being sold at £6.99 or more, you might say that you’re not taking a whole lot of cash away from them – in fact you’re actually stealing it from the publisher, more than the author… technically.

Many of the people who are being targeted by these people, these pirates, are Indies or published by Small Press. You download a book free from a pirating site and you steal  the change from their pockets.

There is also the fact that the author loves their work, that’s the reason they want to share it in the first place by getting it published.  So that other people can read it and love it too. In a very real sense, the work we authors (artists, musicians, movie makers) put out there is a child to us and we are proud of that work and love it. We don’t want to see it being degraded in any way.

We don’t mind a Public or College Library buying the book and sharing it free with their members – in fact we love this because it fosters a love of reading. Besides, should the library members want to have their own copy of it, they can come and buy one…

Pirating a piece of work, whether it is a piece of music, a book, a photograph or a movie, degrades the value of that work. If it is then sold on at a profit or you donate to the site that pirates it, then that is even more disgusting as it is out and out theft.

Please don’t support the PIRATES!

Now, I’ve dealt with those issues, I’m going to drop back to words.

You might have noticed that I’ve been using a lot of slang in today’s blog post; I’ve even been quite helpful and highlighted it with bold and italic formatting.

One of my FB friends was discoursing upon the terrible state of some of the books being published in the e-format market place.  She used a particularly common piece of slang to express her love of  finding new authors (and I’ve used the same word at least twice in this post) in her blog post on the matter.

One of the people who commented on the piece accused her of making a mistake in her blog post and refusing to recognise it. He also went on to say that there was no such word, unless it was a french variation… Hah! I’ve been using that word for most of my life.

First rule of  Literacy that I learned at Primary school – if you don’t understand a word, then look it up – if it doesn’t appear in a print dictionary, google it!

The bit from his comment that got me the most?

“I do understand your point, but when you put down others it would help if you did it without making the same point in your writing as an example of what you say you don’t like.”

*shakes head*

She wasn’t putting anyone down, just pointing out the state of the market that those of us who take pride in our work and love to put out the very best that we possibly can, are having to fight to sell our work to readers in.

The muck and morass of all these unedited writers, that give us Indie and Small Press writers a poor reputation…

*sighs*

I apologise if I’ve let too much rant out and not made much sense, but I needed to let this out and it is relevant to my job, my career, my first love – WRITING!