August 2011 will go down in my diary as being the month of a lot of firsts. And I’m not talking about the first UK riots for years, either, although what’s happening over here is shameful and I feel I should be apologising on behalf of all the people who have not nipped out armed with a balaclava and a brick to get themselves a new free iPad. I tweeted last night that ‘Nothing quells a riot like rain. No rioting in Cumbria tonight then . . .’
Which brings me back to those firsts. Personal firsts. I’ve finally got myself on Twitter. Somebody – in fact, let’s face it everybody – told me it would be a huge time-suck. They weren’t kidding. I opened my email to find a chunk of notifications, and the faster I tried to go through and deal with them, the faster more of them kept popping into the Inbox. Eventually I had to give up and go and lie down in a darkened room.
And because the words ‘biting off’ and ‘more than I can chew’ are generally quite relevant to me, and because I never like doing things the easy way, I’ve also just opened up a couple of pages on Facebook, too. A personal page and an author page. Don’t ask me why I’ve got two. I think one might have been an error, and when I’ve got the hang of things, I might try and sort that out.
And in the middle of all this, I’ve launched my first eBook. Of course, I already have several of my Charlie Fox series out in e-format, but those were all taken care of by publisher, Allison & Busby. This is the first time I’ve had to think about everything that goes into a book from the title page to the meta-data. And the cover.
My brain is dribbling out of my ears and has been doing so for most of the week.
Looking into eBooks has been a huge subject, and I’m hugely grateful to all the people who allowed me to pick their brains while we’ve been wading our way through the sludge of disinformation out there. And oh boy, let me tell you, there’s a lake of confusion and opinion, much of it just plain wrong.
Eventually, though, we’ve managed to fight our way through, up to our necks in it and holding our noses, and develop a workable system for putting in a Word doc at one end and coming out with an eBook at the other. And when I say ‘we’ basically I mean my Other Half, Andy. Before I know it he’ll be drinking Jolt cola and snowboarding . . .
At the outset, we were told to farm out the conversion process, but never one to take the path of least resistance, Andy decided it was something he wanted to get into, and he has done so with such gusto that he’s now going to offer a conversion service for other authors who have out-of-print backlist that they want to get back out there in digital form. He’s putting together a website for this new venture and as soon as it goes live I’ll let you know – probably via twitter and facebook!
Of course, with hindsight, I realise now I should have started our eBook experimentation with the first book in the Charlie Fox series and gone from there.
Needless to say, I didn’t.
You see, I had this crazy idea that the easiest – for that read ‘smallest’ – thing to convert would be a digital anthology of short stories. I’m trying to introduce the word e-thology into common usage for this, which I hope everyone will pick up and run with. (Come on, it’s better than describing successful Olympic athletes as ‘medalling’ – which sounds vaguely pervy, doesn’t it?)
I already had four existing Charlie Fox short stories, with varying degrees of exposure. One, ‘Postcards From Another Country’ for example, had only ever been seen as an added extra in the back of the US mmpb edition of FIRST DROP.
So, I thought I’d just dash off another Charlie Fox short, put them all together with an excerpt from KILLER INSTINCT and some other Bonus Material, and join the digital revolution.
Yeah . . . righto.
For a start, ‘dashing off’ a short story proved more frustrating than I’d imagined. Maybe it’s because in the past I’ve always tended to wait for a prod from an outside stick before I get going, but I had what seemed like a good idea for a short with a highly chopped-up timeline. In theory, it was great. In practice, I banged my head against that particularly brick wall until the room spun, and couldn’t get into it. (Erm, couldn’t get into the short story, not the room – that would just be silly.)
Now, when I’m working on a book, I’ve found that if the thing won’t budge, it’s because I’m trying to write it in a direction the story really doesn’t want to go. But for some obscure reason I thought the short would get a move on if I just kept pushing hard enough.
It was only when I eventually realised the futility of my efforts – and that wonderful old saying about there being no harm in turning back if you’re on the wrong road – that I made any progress at all.
When I say ‘progress’ what I mean is that I completely abandoned my first attempt and started again with a totally different idea. But before I knew it, this new ‘short’ story (ha!) had grown to close to 12,000 words. (Don’t ask me what that is in pages – us Brits use different size paper and everything. And what if there’s a lot of dialogue on a page, or you have a character who st-st-stutters?)
So, now I have a collection of five Charlie Fox short stories which spanned her career from civilian with ‘A Bridge Too Far’ right up to professional bodyguard with the new semi-epic ‘Truth And Lies’. The e-thology is called FOX FIVE: a Charlie Fox short story collection, and this is what it looks like:
The cover design was done by the very talented Jane Hudson at NuDesign, a graphic designer who has always astounded me with her creative chops and her ability to manipulate PhotoShop and Illustrator. I hope you’ll agree that she’s done a terrific job. Covers for the other early books in the series are on their way and I aim to have the whole backlist out before Bouchercon in St Louis September, together with the individual short stories from FOX FIVE. And then I shall collapse in a heap and sleep for several days.
So, ‘Rati, do you like the idea of an anthology – sorry, e-thology – of short stories featuring your favourite character? Or would you be tempted to give it a try to see if the character might become a favourite before plunging into any of the books?
And just in case you do, I’m offering free downloads of FOX FIVE to the first 50 people who email me on AuthorZoeSharp [at] gmail [dot] com. All I ask is that if you like what you read you post an online review, even just a few lines.
Right, I’m off to try and catch up with all this online stuff!
This week’s Word of the Week is e-thology, meaning a digital collection of short stories, as opposed to ethology, which is the science of character, or the scientific study of the function and evolution of animal behaviour patterns.