The price you pay for teeny tiny fonts

I have – miraculously – got the price down on my novel TRANSFERENCE and better still, it’s the sort of price you’d expect to pay for a paperback.

One of the many cruelties about self-publishing (and that’s a long list of cruelties) is that the thicker your book, the higher the price.  It isn’t the same in “real world” publishing (I believe this is called “traditional”) where paperbacks have relatively standard prices.  I recently read a novel that had been “fattened” – there was a tremendous amount of wasted space:  huge font, wide margins, blank pages between chapters and – far worse – countless pages at the beginning with reviews telling you wonderful the novel was (it was, by the way, a ghastly novel – never trust a book that TELLS you it’s fab.  It won’t be.)  All I could think of was the trees that had been destroyed to produce this “fattened” book.

But with self-publishing, the battle goes the other way:  how to slim the book down so that the price is actually affordable.  A tiny font is the most obvious solution but how tiny can you go before the reader’s eyes can’t cope?  Age has decreed that tiny fonts have become really hard on my eyes.  I wouldn’t want to reread my copy of The Lord of the Rings as the font is like a series of dots across the page.  (And this is why reading on an e-reader is so marvellous, but that’s another story.)  I eventually settled on Georgia 10.  Georgia is my favourite font and is slightly bolder than the recommended font for science fiction, which I seem to recall being Garamond.  (Obviously this is not the font you’d use on your cover.)

Check it out and let me know what you think:  AMAZON LINK



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Dear 2016, What do you mean 2017 is going to be worse?

Trending on Twitter earlier this week was a “Dear 2016” line (not actually a hashtag).  One of the saddest was someone asking 2016 not to take Carrie Fisher, which it then promptly did, along with her mother.  The general idea was that 2016 has been appalling and most hoped for a better new year.  One can only hope, although I thought the tweet I’ve used as my heading is more likely.

I’m going to keep my head down this year and just work and work and work.  All five my published novels will come in new editions, each on three different platforms.  I’ve done a lot of work on this already and it will be a great relief when it’s finished because it took up a great deal of 2016.  Endless reformatting, restructuring and corrections;  new blurbs, new front matter and new biog;  new fonts, new font size, new page number font……….the list is endless.  I had to draw up a giant chart to tick things off as I went and I still got confused.  I had a virtual nervous breakdown at the end of summer, compounded by the pressures of my Real World job as well as the godawful heatwaves that kept attacking my part of London, right up to the end of September.  I then had a physical breakdown before Christmas – quite literally working myself into the ground.  I had to force myself to put my charts away and not think about work over Christmas.  The mince pie diet has worked out very well.

Once the new editions are out, I will be publishing the fourth novel in the Fleet Quintet.  At last!  Definitely something to look forward to.

And then I’ve got two new novels to finish:  that Very Difficult one I finished in May and the Surprise One I wrote in less than three months.  By hand.  On scrap paper.  Without a plan.  Both are first drafts but the latter is much, much rougher as I didn’t go back once to inspect what I had written.  It’s easy to do daily edits on a computer but impossible when you’re writing by hand.  I was also put off by my own handwriting and am not entirely looking forward to typing it up.  And then I need to do the research.  And add bits.  Lots of bits.  And rewrite it…..but that’s the fun part.

If I get it done, I’ll get going on that Difficult Novel again.

And far off in the future, almost certainly not in 2017, I want to write more Exodus Sequence stories.

And one day get to write the fifth Fleet Quintet novel so that it is actually a quintet.

But these are big plans.

In the meantime, happy new year.  Take a break sometimes.  And nothing is that serious that you let it make you sick.



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How to insert a page number from a specific page in Word 2007

It’s very possible that I am not the only person in the universe with Word 2007.  I’m DEFINITELY not the only person in the universe to struggle with the insertion of a page number that doesn’t start from the first page.

I’ve been struggling with V.Gomenzi for weeks, trying to follow the instructions on the Word website.  But it kept going wrong!  Hours of frustration and many tears later, I eventually gave up.  Until today.  I HAD to get it right.  The irony is that I’ve done this before for no less than FOUR novels, so what the hell was going wrong this time?  Has Word changed its instructions?  Have I lost several brain cells over the horrible hot summer??  I’ve spent the morning trying several websites and even watched several YouTube videos.  Still didn’t bloody work.

But then!  At last!  I found a little slide show, followed the instructions exactly AND IT WORKED!!!!!!!!!!!  Yes, I know page numbering probably isn’t the most important problem in the entire universe, but honestly, when you’re trying to get a document together for a paperback novel that you want people to read, you really have to get this stuff right.

So:  for myself and for all those others who are also going insane trying to start page one on page nine (or whatever page you fancy) AND you’re still working with prehistoric Word 2007, THIS is the slide show to watch:

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How do you send newsletters?!?

I had a brilliant idea to send out a newsletter to, er, fans about my books, what’s coming out, lots of pics, lots of links, nice colours etc etc.  I get a newsletter occasionally from one of my favourite authors and thought it was quite a good idea.  Heh.  What I didn’t realise is that you can’t just, you know, whack an email together prettily and there you are.  Going down the paid route is out of the question at the moment.  I really don’t have $50 a month to spend on a fancy newsletter email thing – I can barely scrape together the $70 I need for advertising, let alone doing those fairly vital things to life like eating.  So I tried to go about it without paying.  And failed utterly.

I made the most beautiful newsletter in Word use text boxes after dumping one of the templates I tried – it’s really impossible to try and work with tables when you go outside the fixed size.  But obviously you can’t just send a Word document – it will only go as an attachment and I want people to open up their emails and there it is:  all lovely shades of violet and blue.  I saved it as a web page and tried that but it was a total disasters.  At least 98% of the formatting was lost and the images were stuck at the bottom as attachments.  Horrible!

I’ve spent several weeks working on this.  I’ve Googled sending newsletters in emails endlessly and have come up with no solution.  If there is anyone out there in the universe who knows how to transform my Word document into an email (not an attachment), then I’d be most grateful if you could let me know!

My outdated Word 2007 doesn’t save docs as images, so I’ve had to do a Print Screen to show you what the newsletter looks like.  In fact, I had to do two Print Screens otherwise it would have been too small.  Sigh.  I really am being thwarted by technology at the moment.



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On The Other Side (or too much of the wrong Sci-Fi)

You know you’re not getting enough Sci-Fi TV when you start thinking the Twelve Monkeys spin-off is quite good.

When I was a teenager growing up on the other side of the planet, I used to feel completely cut off from everything that was cool because I had no virtually no access to the music scene in London.  I felt as if everyone in London was having a marvellous time because they could go and see Joy Division whenever they wanted to, or Nick Cave or Echo & the Bunnymen or the Fall or the Jam or Siouxsie or the Cure of about a zillion other bands I was wild about in my latter teens.

Eventually I did get to London when I was twenty and was plunged into a life of sheer utter suicidal misery and poverty and bewilderment, in which I was even more cut off from the universe than I had been before.  It took another twenty years before I could even begin to revel in my weirdness and could being to experience some relief that the reason I was “cut off” was because I was too fiercely individual, never part of a crowd, never agreeing with anyone about anything.  Now that I’m older and wiser, the “cut off” feelings I’ve discovered are actually about uniqueness.  Obviously this is delightful now.  It wasn’t then.

However:  Sci-Fi.  It’s all on bloody Netflix, Amazon Prime, Sky Atlantic or whatever other pay-channel thing that exists.  I’ve only ever been able to afford the very cheapest Virgin package.  In the beginning, the package didn’t have the Sci-Fi Channel (now called, peculiarly, SyFy)(no, it’s not cool).  Now that I’ve got SyFy, it’s to find it’s a bit crap.  So I wished I had the Fox channel instead (mostly because ITV dumped Dexter after the 2nd series and I never got to see the rest).  When I finally did get Fox, now part of the cheapie package, it had, of course, gone a bit crap as well.

So every month when my SFX mag turns up, it discusses TV shows I’ve (a) never heard of (b) will never see or (c) don’t actually care about.  It’s true that there are immensely popular things that I really don’t give a single thought to, such as the Walking Dead, Game of Thrones and anything that is a comic spin-off.  What does that leave me with?  What are all these fab shows I’m missing?  I became convinced that, as I paged through one glossy article after another, that I was really missing out.  I was cut-off all over again because I couldn’t afford extra TV subs.  I MUST watch this stuff, I thought.  This is all Radical.  This is Now.  It’s Modern.  It’s what Sci-Fi is all about.  The crap I write is so out-of-date.  Maybe I should go out and buy all the box sets, I thought.  I should catch-up.  I should brush up on what’s Really Out There.  Maybe I should I get Netflix.  Or Amazon Prime.  If I don’t eat, I should be able to manage.

And then I took a step back and remembered that miserable, bewildered girl who came to London and drowned.  I remembered that nothing is ever as cool as you think it it.  The grass is never greener.  I might be the only person in the entire universe who hasn’t seen Game of Thrones (no Sky Atlantic on Virgin) and I don’t actually want to.  The real issue is not that I’m missing out but that I don’t like what passes for Sci-Fi these days.  There’s more of it than ever before and none of it truly appeals.  There’s more CGI and less innovation.  More violence and less story.  A lot of it is Earth based.  A lot of it is in  universe recognisably now.  Grim is big.  So is realism.  The characters are generally unlikeable with endless soap clashes, endless fighting, endless betrayals until you can see every plot coming at you with predictable weariness.

But is it that there is something wrong with the Sci-Fi or is it just this planet in general?  I’m not sure I can work this out.  I think I’ll just go on feeling cut-off instead.  And write what I like even though no-one else reads it.  And dream of the Exodus Sequence on TV.  Now there’s a show I’d watch.


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Proofreading ULTRA yet again

When you see an error in a book traditionally published, you think, oho – shit editor.  When you see an error in a book self-published by the author, you think, oho-ho-ho – shit author.  This is just horrible!

With the relaunch of ULTRA as A DOORWAY INTO ULTRA, the first thing I did was proofread the first paperback proof I ever received from Createspace.  Until now, all the proofing I’ve done has either been on my computer (where it’s easy to miss things) or on my Kindle (rather laborious to write down every error).  But in the old proof copy I had, I could scribble away in red ink as much as I liked.  What fun!  But, oh, horrors, some of those errors are terrible.  Really easy to miss when reading quickly and I imagine that most people do miss them.  However, since I’m know how annoyed I get if I come across too many errors in a book, I wouldn’t want anyone else to feel the same about mine!

New title (or more expanded), new cover (hopefully) and newly polished edition:  is it worth it?  Ultra is, so far, the only book I’ve self-published that isn’t part of a series, so I tend to overlook it.  It was the first book I published, an experiment that required a huge learning curve, and one that filled me with doubts.  However, rereading it newly, years later, I’ve discovered that it’s actually quite good.  Not excellent but honestly, much better than a lot of dull garbage that comes my way.  Despite the fact that I wrote it AND I know what happens in it down to the last detail AND I’ve read it a zillion times before – I still found it quite a page turner!  If your own book still feels exciting after all those drafts and edits and hours spent proofing, then it can’t be half bad.  Which is a frightfully British way of saying, see here, this is quite good!

I’m currently fixing up the tiny (yet glaring) errors, doing three manuscripts at the same time so that I make the same decisions for all three.  This means my screen is full of three rather narrow documents in rather small font, which is hard going on the eyes.  It’s dog work and there’s been plenty of that in this self-publishing business – you just have to get on with it.

But it’s good not to have to feel slightly embarrassed by this book.  It means I can go ahead with the relaunch with some confidence.

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That blurred line between genres

I’m thinking of relaunching my book Ultra:  new title, new look, vastly improved paperback experience.  I had thought of changing the genre as well but then, by chance, saw a pie chart showing how different genres sell on Amazon.  Way over 50% went to Romance/Erotica, though it would have been much more interesting to see this properly split.  What surprised me, though, was that the slice for Science Fiction/Fantasy was greater than for Fiction.

I had considered changing Ultra’s genre to fiction, thinking it might appeal to a less specialised audience, but now I’m not so sure.  It isn’t a “proper” sci-fi book.  It starts off with a family drama feel and even stronger feelings of thriller-style unease as the reader is introduced to John Fox, the abductor.  But the solution is not general fiction.  It’s sci-fi.  I’m perfectly aware that the sci-fi genre is so vast it requires further sub-division but I can’t either find a sub-genre that fits.  It’s mostly mundane sci-fi but the resolution is hard sci-fi – though without the science.  It’s not soft sci-fi at all but it could be called existential.  Calling something existential probably doesn’t tell you enough about it, though.  I mean, all my work is existential.  I’m concerned about the downfall of man – but nothing I write could be called social or anthropological sci-fi.

This blur of genre’s led to problems with my title.  If I wanted to categorise the novel as sci-fi, then it needed an appropriate title, although selecting the word “ultra” probably wasn’t the best idea as it has become REALLY overused.  It’s an important word within the context of the novel, though:  “ultra” is a thing, a place, a condition.  It has multiple definitions but isn’t an adjective.

Having toyed with the idea of relabeling Ultra as fiction, the new title I came up with was as bland as salt-free butter.  Another look at the novel and I decided to keep it as sci-fi and use the word “ultra” in a more interesting way.

Not being able to define your work is not a good start when it comes to selling it.  I can’t ask Amazon to please add a new sub-genre to their sci-fi selection, which means all my work invariably ends up as “general” sci-fi which sounds really boring.  Typing in “existential sci-fi” brings up lists of books which include the inevitable 1984, Solaris, Handmaid’s Tale and others that I have (mostly) read.  Interesting.  Except that Ultra is hardly in that class.  My latest novel, perhaps, but not this slight effort, my experiment in self-publishing.

Let’s go with lightweight existential science-fiction based fiction.


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