News and updates about Gordon's fiction, available at Amazon and at Barnes & Noble, courtesy of Oghma Creative Media.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Book Review: Away With The Fairies

It is regrettably seldom that I don't want a book to end, and that was certainly the case with my most recent read, Away With the Fairies by Vivienne Tuffnell.  I was a little skeptical at first, not because of any concern over the skill of the author -- that was obvious from the first paragraph -- but because the main character, a new mother married to an Anglican minister, seemed so different from the kind of character I typically relate to that I was afraid that I wasn't going to be able to connect to the story.

I needn't have worried.  Isobel Trelawny, the ex-rebel-child artist, now a settled mother of two, is a dynamic, funny, endearing character, and her story is engaging.  At the beginning, she is trying to cope with the difficult, but ordinary -- balancing a family and a career, dealing with the stresses of her husband's job pushing her into conforming to a set of norms she's not comfortable with, trying to find time to keep her marriage vital.  She also is struggling with bigger issues -- reconciling herself to the recent deaths of both of her parents.  But all of that is swamped -- or, in many ways, coalesced -- by events that she is about to experience that are very far from the realm of the ordinary.

Her minister husband, Mickey, suggests one day that what she needs is a retreat -- a place she can go to work on her art, away from the children and the distractions.  It will, he says, also be a place to go on holidays, and a retirement home one day.  But the house they choose has some surprises in store, and it would be unfair of me to give away any more of the plot!

Tuffnell has a deft hand with characterization -- even the minor characters are clearly drawn, their voices sure.  Isobel's friend Chloe, and her obnoxious neo-pagan neighbor Maggie Broadbent, are especially well done.  (I swear, I've seen Maggie at a Renaissance faire somewhere...)  Isobel's interactions with her husband and children are tender and funny, and within a very few pages we are soundly on her side, and we continue to root for her every inch of the way.

Away With the Fairies makes for a sweet read... I didn't hesitate to give it a five-star review on Amazon, and I hope you'll give it a try, too!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

A happy update

To all of you who have been following the frustrating saga of my difficulties with formatting, I'm happy to report that due to a late-night breakthrough by my lovely wife, I've now been able to get past the file conversion hell I've been in for the past ten days.  All of my e-books are now formatted, uploaded, and available on both Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

The whole thing, though, still has me shaking my head a little, because I still don't fully understand (1) what went wrong, nor (2) why what we did yesterday fixed it.  Being a scientist by training, and a rationalist by inclination, I always want to see not only that things work, but why they work -- and here, I really don't have any clue.  All of this just proves to me, once again, that technology is a little beyond me.

Oh, well.  As long as I'm back in the game, I really can't see myself fretting about it.  But for those of you who were waiting to get one of my books on the Kindle you got for Christmas -- they're ready for your enjoyment!

Friday, January 6, 2012

Boldly going backwards

This week has been a rough one.  I'm trying to recover, thus far with only partial success, but maybe I'll be able to see my way out of this at some point.

It started last week, when I noticed that most of the indie e-books I've been reading (many of which have been wonderful) had an "About the Author" page at the end.  I thought this would be a nice idea, so I wrote something up, and went back to my manuscripts and appended it to each of them.  I then went through and reformatted and reconverted them, to upload them to Amazon.

The conversion process completely wrecked the formatting.  On all of them.  I went from having basically presentable (if not, perhaps, professional) presentations of my work, to something that looked like it had been formatted by a fourth grader.

So, I started trying to figure out what went wrong.  Evidently, the conversion software had changed since my first upload; there was some incompatibility happening that hadn't happened the first time.  Upon querying some author friends, I found that Amazon is now only able to upload files in .mobi format (mine were being converted to .epub).

So I tried to use my conversion software (Calibre) to convert my files to .mobi.  This resulted in (I am not making this up) a document that had every word deleted, except any words in italics.  At first, it took me a while to figure out what I was looking at -- but finally, I said, "Good lord.  There are only about five words left per chapter... and the only words left are italicized."  How, exactly, the program did this, is beyond me.

To make a long story short, I have (to date) downloaded four different conversion programs.  None of them have worked.  I have tried converting from .epub, .html, and .rtf files.  All have resulted in some form of screwed up formatting -- certainly nothing that would be adequate for publication.  Between myself, and three other people who've tried to make this work, I've spent over ten hours trying to convert a single file -- with zero success.

Result: I've taken all of my e-books offline, indefinitely.  And this means I've had to undo all of the marketing stuff I had in place -- webpages, links, and my page on the Independent Authors' Network -- because now none of the links work.

To say that all of this has been disheartening is a vast understatement.  It has completely taken the wind out of my sails.  I haven't written at all since this began, except to keep up with my blog Skeptophilia -- every time I sit down at the computer, all I can think of is, "What's the point?"  Now, it's not that I really think that there's no point to writing if I can't publish it; it's more that the collapse of what I'd tried to put together has demoralized me to the extent that for the moment, I haven't been able to get past it.

I've had some offers of help, and a couple of people who've said, "Please don't give up!  I love your writing!"  Also, a very kind woman who belongs to the PubWrite network, and whose specialty is getting manuscripts ready for e-publication, offered to do a couple of them for free.  (Her ordinary rate is $50 per manuscript.)  It's a tempting offer, but I demurred, at least for the time being -- part of it is stupid pride ("I want to do it myself!") and a resistance to becoming a charity case, and part of it is that given that I currently have thirteen manuscripts on offer, I would still have to pay over $500 to get them all back together.  And given that all told, I made a grand total of about $30 last year from my fiction, it seems like a lot of money to put into an enterprise that seems to be going nowhere fast anyway.

I've spent most of the week in the Slough of Despond, indulging in a lot of not very becoming Feeling Sorry For Myself.  But now that the initial punch in the gut has worn off, the question is how to proceed.  I'm trying to determine if I really can afford to invest a lot of money into what was supposed to be a Do-It-Yourself project, and how I might wheedle my wife into supporting that decision (compounded by the fact that she just told me last week that as of the first of the year, we'd set aside enough money to carry us through the summer months, when I have no income).  The only alternative at the moment seems to be giving up, and as alternatives go, that one kind of sucks.

Right as all this was going down, I posted as my Facebook status a line I'd stolen from the funny sendup of motivational posters, Despair.com -- "Winners never quit, and quitters never win; but if you never win and you never quit, you're a moron."  And one of my writer friends responded, "Better to be a moron and eventually succeed than a quitter and become a sure-enough failure.  Soldier through and never give up."  Which is certainly good advice, even if at the moment I don't know how to put it into practice.