Guest post: A Writing Team by David Coles

Tonight’s guest blog post, on the topic of his writing collaboration, welcomes the return of multi-genre novelist David Coles.

A Writing Team

We, David and Jack, have been writing together for more years than we can easily remember. It started with a humorous tale with the working title of Chunnel BC, it concerned Roman plans for a tunnel beneath the English Channel, because Julius Caesar became seasick outside of the Mediterranean. It never even made it to the publisher but as a first attempt, it was good fun and cemented our friendship.

In the years since then, we have continued the historical theme with a serious novel leading to the disappearance of the Roman Ninth Legion in Britain, a medieval mystery and a WWII story. There have also been fantasy and science fiction novels – built on a shared admiration of Jack Vance’s work – and most recently, a political thriller: 1/1:Jihad-Britain. Work-in-progress includes sequels to a historical fantasy and recently-released The Tourist. Humour seems to creep in whether we will or no, sneaks under the door at night when no one’s looking.

We have written all of these novels as a team. The writing model is one of repeated layers. Typically, after discussing the main sweep of the plot for a new book, Jack might begin writing and pass a week’s work on to David who rewrites it, checking facts in some cases, questioning flights of fancy in others and adding 10% to 20% new material. Once the initial draft is completed, it goes back to Jack, back again to David, a process repeated until we are both satisfied and at each stage, material is added or changed, phrasing is amended.

It works for us. In this case, two people writing together generate far more than twice as much fun.

Our novel: 1/1:Jihad-Britain, began as an idea put forward by David and thought about for some time by Jack. Eventually, David wrote what is now some of the opening prologue and also the road to the radicalisation of Fahkri, a leading character.

The book raised some quite unpleasant questions. How does a young person reach the conviction that killing himself and others is some sort of solution? How do religious organisations come to the absolute conviction that their view of life is the only right view and that violence will change the mind of the rest of the world? Research into these attitudes took us only part way. The fundamental differences seem to be in  attitudes to others: the unimportance of the individual versus the people. Is this born out of the tribal way of life left behind by the West? We have to remember that only some 30%-40% of the World has lived a democratic way of life for any significant time; not so surprising then that societies are content to let minorities or individuals do their thinking for them.

We differed on what we considered important themes. We can both point to parts of the book which are particularly our own work. The difficulties suffered by Brian, a self-employed electrician, was written by Jack and may be more in tune with UK readers than the rest of the world. David wrote of an escape of 40 or so prisoners from St. Kilda – Britain’s answer to Guantanamo Bay – trying to show that Moslems are not somehow a different species from Westerners.

Both these examples of writing were edited by the other author and both passages gave birth to later episodes not envisaged in the original manuscript.

So, perhaps accretion is a better description than layering. Whatever, we enjoy the work; it’s kept us closer than most brothers and both know that it is the readers who make the book a success, not the writers.

Our most recent novel: The Tourist was written principally by Jack while a historical fantasy currently at the publishers, was mainly from David’s imagination. So there is considerable variation in the way a book is initially put together but finishing is always the same process and one rule remains paramount: if either of the team dislike something, it gets pulled.

Currently, there seems to be a new trend in the way we work. We are both working solo on two books and these won’t go to the other author until the originator is satisfied or has run out of ideas… Change, that’s the great constant.

Wow, we’ve had a lot of laughs!

Our output is varied, we’ve yet to figure out what particular genre of ours might be favourite so we can concentrate on a series. Please leave a comment and let us know.

Thank you so much, David. As someone who’s never collaborated in person it’s certainly interesting to hear how it works for you. Oh, and I’ve been writing on and off for six years and don’t have a clue what my genre is… ‘dark and light’ if there’s such a thing. 🙂

David and his co-author Jack both live in Yorkshire but 25+ miles apart, and have been writing together for too many years to remember but still meet weekly. David lives on the outskirts of a big city whereas Jack’s home is more rural. They still enjoy each other’s presence though – if the truth be known – they probably laugh more at the antics of their grandchildren. Their tastes in music differ, David prefers more instrumental works especially acoustic guitars whereas Jack likes good balladeers. David likes walking and exploring foreign climes. Jack also enjoys travelling but on four wheels in preference to Shanks’ pony. They both enjoy a good meal and glass of wine and still like to curl up with a real book despite having eBook readers. David’s websites are www.DavidBColes.co.uk and www.ArchimedesPress.co.uk. You can also go to http://acclaimedbooks.com/wordpress/abcauthors and find…“Everett Coles”.

Jack and David’s books can be seen and purchased at http://www.AcclaimedBooks.com and at Amazon around the world (including Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com). They run the gamut of thriller through historical to fantasy and SF. Details and a directory can be found at http://www.ArchimedesPresse.co.uk.

If you would like to write a writing-related guest post for my blog then feel free to email me with an outline of what you would like to write about. If it’s writing-related then it’s highly likely I’d email back and say “yes please” (while quietly bouncing up and down in my seat with joy!).

The blog interviews return as normal tomorrow morning with historical adventure fantasy author Helen Hollick – the two hundred and eighty-second of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, bloggers, autobiographers and more. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further. And I enjoy hearing from readers of my blog; do either leave a comment on the relevant interview (the interviewees love to hear from you too!) and / or email me. You can also read / download my eBooks and free eShorts at Smashwords.

Guest post: ‘Creating a Quality eBook’ by David Coles

Tonight’s guest blog post, on the topic of eBooks, is brought to you by author David Coles.

Creating a Quality eBook.

That title is a little misleading, most of this article will be about making a Kindle – the Amazon version of an eBook – but we will see how it goes on to apply to an ePub format too. ePub format is used by Adobe Digital Editions, Nook (the Barnes & Noble system) and iTunes among others several others. The main thing is – you become your own publisher, it’s a great feeling.

So, an eBook. Save your manuscript as a Word .doc file from MS Word, Open Office or other word processors and upload it to Amazon (I list the various links at the end) and that’s it!

But – not a quality eBook!

No new page with a new chapter, no emboldened or centered chapter headings, no italic phrases. A pretty bland vanilla flavour.

But with just a little bit more effort, we can go the extra mile and produce an attractive eBook and something to be proud of. That little bit extra is called HTML or, Hypertext Mark-up Language. If you are at all familiar with this coding system, the rest is a doddle; if not, bear with me – it’s not rocket science.

By coincidence, there are two Kindle eBooks available at Amazon (see the link at the end): “Set your Book Alight with Kindle” is a more fully detailed discussion of this posting, “Kindle-Ize your Book” is for people who want to go a step further and explore more advanced methods of formatting an eBook.

The internal formatting codes of a word processor are not recognized by your browser or Kindle or eBook readers which are based on the HTML codes. Of the hundreds of HTML codes or tags, there are a minimum of 4 sets of tags we need to use, nothing more!

To help you, there is a template file which can be downloaded from my website or from my publishers (see the list of links) and you need only copy the title, dedication, acknowledgement and copyright declaration sections from your own manuscript into the appropriate spaces. These can now be removed from your manuscript. Or, if you don’t have these sections, enter your own wording or delete that section from the template.

The first line of your manuscript proper which should be headed CHAPTER ONE, FOREWORD or some such. Make sure all your chapters have the word “chapter” at the start, e.g. “CHAPTER TEN” or “CHAPTER SIX: The Dark Design”. Make sure all your section separators (i.e. between scenes or time shifts, etc) are the same, we’ll assume you use a centered ***.

There is a set of general HTML instructions which need to be at the start of your eBook script and again, these are already in the template file.

Looking at your manuscript, we need to put those 4 sets of tags into the text using the find and replace facility in your word processor:

1. Paragraph start and end:
Find ^p (Word paragraph code, in Open Office, it is $) & replace-all with </p>^p</p>

2. Chapter heading formatting:
Find <p>CHAPTER & replace-all with <mbp:pagebreak/><p>CHAPTER

3. Section separator formatting:
Find <p>*** & replace-all with <p>***

4. Italic, bold and underline formatting;
Use the find facility to find each instance of italics (leave the find box empty, press ‘CTRL’ and ‘I’ simultaneously, then click the find-next). Insert the tags <i> and </> at the start and end of the italicized phrase (i.e. <i>your text</i>). Use the same technique to find and insert bold (‘CTRL’ & ‘B’ with <o> & </o>) and underline (‘CTRL’ & ‘U’ with <u> & </u>).

Not too onerous? Possibly dealing with the italics is the most tedious bit; a long book with a couple of hundred instances can take an evening but the result is soooo good.

Save your manuscript as a word processor file with its HTML tagging. Now save it again as a plain text file selecting ‘UTF-8’ coding from near the bottom of the list on the right hand side of the dialog box. (This preserves some of the funny stuff like the copyright and registration characters and smart quotes if you want to go on and create an eBook in ePub format)

Close your word processor, find the text file you have just created and change the extension: yourfile.txt to yourfile.html. Your operating system will issue dire warnings, just ignore it. Now double click your .html file and it will open in your browser; drag the edge of your browser in towards the centre of your screen until the display looks more book size. You will find the new page / new chapter option doesn’t work in the browser because the tag is only recognized by eBook readers. But all the other stuff should have worked.

The main error is usually the italics where you’ve mistyped or missed the closing tag: </i> and the italics just go on and on. And on, I do it all the time. No problem. Right-click the .html file, click ‘open with’ and select ‘notebook’; search for the guilty phrase and correct that closing tag.

Deal with any other problems at this stage… you can also use the html tag <br> to end a line before the margin or to insert a blank line or lines. This can sometimes improve the formatting.

The Kindle file.

Download the free Mobipocket Creator and install it. (see the link at the end). Open it up and follow the instructions – select ‘html’ as your input format, browse to the .html file you created and import it. There are other options here too, select a cover picture, create a table of contents (use the option p, class, index in the wizard) and click ‘build’. If there is no cover picture, you will get a single warning.

The output is a file: yourfile.prc which, together with copies of your .html file and your cover file, will be stored in a new folder in your Documents folder: My Publications. “yourfile.prc” is the Kindle file which you can upload to Amazon KDP.

Want to see what it looks like as a Kindle?

Download and install the Kindle Reader App for PC or Laptop (see link at the end). Find your Kindle file at Documents / My Publications / yourfile / yourfile.prc, double-click it. Your Kindle reader will open up at the first text page of your new Kindle Book.

It will look great.

Your ePub Book.

Download the free Calibre eBook Management system (see the link at the end and note, it takes a while). Open it, click ‘add file’, browse to your html file. Highlight the new line in the manager, click ‘convert’ and choose ePub as output. Browse and load your cover file and start conversion. The ePub file will be in yet another new folder in your User folder named ‘Calibre library’. To test it download install the Adobe Digital Editions (yes, see the link at the end) and then double click the file yourfile.epub. That will open it as an ePub eBook.

Links:
Template file
Mobipocket Creator
Kindle reader App
Calibre eBook Manager
Amazon/Kindle Desktop Publishing
Adobe Digital Editions
Set your Book Alight with Kindle.

Thanks for staying with me.
David Coles

Thank you so much for this David, it’s fantastic! As someone who found Smashwords straightforward (once I waded through their 70+ style guide) I’m now looking forward to adding my eBooks to Amazon and will definitely have this to hand. 🙂

David and his co-author Jack both live in Yorkshire but 25+ miles apart, and have been writing together for too many years to remember but still meet weekly. David lives on the outskirts of a big city whereas Jack’s home is more rural. They still enjoy each other’s presence though – if the truth be known – they probably laugh more at the antics of their grandchildren. Their tastes in music differ, David prefers more instrumental works especially acoustic guitars whereas Jack likes good balladeers. David likes walking and exploring foreign climes. Jack also enjoys travelling but on four wheels in preference to Shanks’ pony. They both enjoy a good meal and glass of wine and still like to curl up with a real book despite having eBook readers. David’s websites are www.DavidBColes.co.uk and www.ArchimedesPress.co.uk. You can also go to http://acclaimedbooks.com/wordpress/abcauthors and find…“Everett Coles”. All their current books can be found by clicking the following links… Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com. They run the gamut of thriller through historical to fantasy and SF.

      

If you would like to write a writing-related guest post for my blog then feel free to email me with an outline of what you would like to write about. If it’s writing-related then it’s highly likely I’d email back and say “yes please”.

The blog interviews return as normal tomorrow morning with action adventure author Gordon Gumpertz – the two hundred and fifty-fourth of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, bloggers, autobiographers and more. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further. And I enjoy hearing from readers of my blog; do either leave a comment on the relevant interview (the interviewees love to hear from you too!) and / or email me. You can also read / download my eBooks and free eShorts at Smashwords.

Guest post: The Electronic Bridge – UK & US Publishing by David Coles

I’m delighted to welcome back thriller, historical, fantasy and SF author David Coles who brings you tonight’s guest blog post…

The Electronic Bridge – UK & US Publishing

The ‘classical’ publisher and agent: time was when either of these was your friend. My first story sold to John Carnell, an agent who put together 21 issues of the ‘New Writings in SF’ anthology. I was very much a newbie, he sent me postcards when number 19 was assembled, when it went to the publishers, when it reached the shops – John was a gentleman and I thought this was how it was. Sadly, not for long.

The older publishers began to buy each other out, shrinking in number and pursuing celebrities whose ghost-written biographies overflowed the book stores and relying on all those well-known authors. The drawbridges were pulled up and the slush piles moved to the literary agents’ offices. Lesser known authors were quickly shown the doors as the established agency too joined the snob publishing movement. Goodness knows what they will do when the stalwarts are all dead.

Welcome to the Indie. Again, this was a movement common to both publishing and literary agents. And the indie – those who knew what they were doing – brought a new breath of life to the literary world, helped on by the advent of digital books, a breath of fresh air could be felt.

There are drawbacks of course – a proliferation of vanity publishers, and publishers happy to put anything out there.

These changes happened on both sides of the Atlantic but, and this is a personal view, the concentration on the corporate bottom line started here in the UK and spread to the US later – unlike the recent problems with the *******, sorry, I meant bankers, which travelled in the opposite direction. In the UK, the photocopied return note: ‘we no longer accept unsolicited manuscripts’ started early in the last decade and agencies preferred not to move with the times in accepting email submissions so they can concentrate on representing ‘celebrities’ with enhanced breasts and experienced ghost writers. Goodness! Am I being cynical? Surely not. However, the trend has crossed that electronic bridge to the US and the phenomenon of not investing time and effort in the new writer is rife.

So Indies are the saving grace of a moribund literary society. And here we come to perhaps the biggest difference between the UK and the US: costs.

In the US, it is possible to go through the preparation to print a book for around $50 / £30 at the Amazon-owned Createspace and £130 / $80 at the UK company, Lightning Source. The cost of printing the book is about 1 penny or 2 cents per page. That’s not the whole story of course, especially in the UK, costs vary on the units sold and higher sales do not always mean lower print costs as you might expect. It’s true to say that trying to make a profit on UK print on demand sales while keeping the retail price at a reasonable level is difficult. Profit on similar sales in the US is far higher.

Finally, of course, there’s the digital Book phenomenon. eBook readers have gradually fallen in price since Amazon produced the first Kindle reader and certainly no UK book seller has approached the sales of digital books achieved by Amazon. You – any of you – can get your own book published as an eBook for free. It’s easiest with the Amazon Kindle system or with the Smashwords eBook system and again – that’s US, not UK.

As at the time of writing – go west young man or woman. It’s cheaper in print, it’s easier in digital. Here or there, though, it’s only an email away.

Thanks for letting me ramble on, Morgen. I do like it here.

You’re so welcome, David, thank you and it’s great to have you back. I’ve gone the eBook route so I’m tad biased but I do see how things are opening up for us authors, and not before time. 🙂

David and his co-author Jack both live in Yorkshire but 25+ miles apart, and have been writing together for too many years to remember but still meet weekly. David lives on the outskirts of a big city whereas Jack’s home is more rural. They still enjoy each other’s presence though – if the truth be known – they probably laugh more at the antics of their grandchildren. Their tastes in music differ, David prefers more instrumental works especially acoustic guitars whereas Jack likes good balladeers. David likes walking and exploring foreign climes. Jack also enjoys travelling but on four wheels in preference to Shanks’ pony. They both enjoy a good meal and glass of wine and still like to curl up with a real book despite having eBook readers. David’s websites are www.DavidBColes.co.uk and www.ArchimedesPress.co.uk. You can also go to http://acclaimedbooks.com/wordpress/abcauthors and find…“Everett Coles”. All their current books can be found by clicking the following links… Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com. They run the gamut of thriller through historical to fantasy and SF.

      

If you would like to write a writing-related guest post for my blog then feel free to email me with an outline of what you would like to write about. If it’s writing-related then it’s highly likely I’d email back and say “yes please” (while quietly bouncing up and down in my seat with joy!).

The blog interviews return as normal tomorrow morning with author and coach Rochelle Melander – the two hundred and twenty-second of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, biographers, agents, publishers and more. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further. And I enjoy hearing from readers of my blog; do either leave a comment on the relevant interview (the interviewees love to hear from you too!) and / or email me. You can also read / download my eBooks and free eShorts at Smashwords.

Guest post: ‘eBooks to go’ by David Coles

I’m delighted to bring you tonight’s guest blog post, on the topic of eBooks, by thriller author David Coles.

E-Books to go

So what is it about eBooks?

Why do authors and publishers – of the old school – denigrate eBooks as though they’re the Devil’s invention? I watched Julian Barnes make a rather snide remark about them when he won the 2011 Booker prize, how disappointing. Is it fear, the same feeling of insecurity that film makers had when TV took over the living room and later, when CDs and DVDs let a whole family see films for a fraction of the cost of cinema tickets?

Okay, we may never know the reason for sure but we – you and me – who think eBooks are the best idea since faster-than-light neutrinos can keep a more open mind. Let’s take a look at what they’ve done for us.

First off, they’ve empowered indie publishers. Authors no longer have to pay court to publishers or agents, there are dozens of indie publishers out there – some are useless, some venal and a few who do just what they say on the web page. The trick is to find the last variety.

Second, eBooks have empowered authors. Any author who can write a book can learn to publish it in digital form. There’s Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords. There’s Lulu who are now on-line sellers as well as print-on-demand publishers. And recently, Apple have joined the gang.

None of this guarantees that all eBooks are going to be enthralling, beautiful prose, exciting or even passable. Because anyone can publish a book, there is some dreadful stuff out there. But eBooks also empower the reader. They cost less, the only expensive ones are from the big publishers who still haven’t cottoned on to the fact that readers know eBooks have a vanishingly small overhead. So if you’re the reader, you can afford to try the work of new authors and maybe find some you like but never heard of before. You’re likely to find some rubbish, as I said, but you just ignore it and find something else. Take note of the reviews of eBooks, they take the place of critics; there will be several reviews to choose from and you’ll get to know the reviewers who like the same sort of thing that you do.

Jack – my writing buddy – and I produce our own eBooks for Amazon Kindle and ePub books for Amazon and Smashwords. We can even tell you how to do it, there’s a ‘how-to’ document in Word or PDF on the home page at www.DavidBColes.co.uk. In fact, we’ll do it for you, check out www.ArchimedesPress.co.uk and click the “& other” heading or email us for a quotation. If you want to see the quality, just look us up at http://acclaimedbooks.com/wordpress/abcauthors and find…“Everett Coles.”

All our current books can be found by clicking the following links… Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com. They run the gamut of thriller through historical to Fantasy and SF.

Morgen: I concur absolutely – I’ve just uploaded four books on Smashwords (fifth soon then the whole thing again on Amazon and the most painful thing was reading the 70+ page Smashwords guide but once the first was formatted it was easy peasy to get the rest the same – I just have Amazon’s guide to go through now, I’m hoping it’ll be shorter at least). And reviews will win – an author can only have so many friends or family. Thank you David (please say hello to Jack). 🙂

David and Jack both live in Yorkshire but 25+ miles apart, and have been writing together for too many years to remember but still meet weekly. David lives on the outskirts of a big city whereas Jack’s home is more rural. They still enjoy each other’s presence though – if the truth be known – they probably laugh more at the antics of their grandchildren. Their tastes in music differ, David prefers more instrumental works especially acoustic guitars whereas Jack likes good balladeers. David likes walking and exploring foreign climes. Jack also enjoys travelling but on four wheels in preference to Shanks’ pony. They both enjoy a good meal and glass of wine and still like to curl up with a real book despite having eBook readers.

If you would like to write a writing-related guest post for my blog then feel free to email me with an outline of what you would like to write about. If it’s writing-related then it’s highly likely I’d email back and say “yes please” (while quietly bouncing up and down in my seat with joy!). The blog interviews return as normal tomorrow morning with historical romance author Brenda Novak – the one hundred and eighty-first of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, bloggers, autobiographers, agents, publishers and more. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further. And I enjoy hearing from readers of my blog; do either leave a comment on the relevant interview (the interviewees love to hear from you too!) and / or email me. You can also read / download my eBooks at Smashwords.

Author Spotlight no.29 – David Coles

Complementing my daily blog interviews please find below the twenty-nineth Author Spotlight, today with crime novelist (amongst other genres) David Coles.

David Coles is one half of a crime-writing duo, his co-scribe being Jack Everett. David and Jack both live in Yorkshire but 25+ miles apart, and have been writing together for too many years to remember but still meet weekly. David lives on the outskirts of a big city whereas Jack’s home is more rural. They still enjoy each other’s presence though – if the truth be known – they probably laugh more at the antics of their grandchildren. Their tastes in music differ, David prefers more instrumental works especially acoustic guitars whereas Jack likes good balladeers. David likes walking and exploring foreign climes. Jack also enjoys travelling but on four wheels in preference to Shanks’ pony. They both enjoy a good meal and glass of wine and still like to curl up with a real book despite having eBook readers.

And now from David himself:

All that time! Where did it go?

My first attempt at writing was on the kitchen table, I was maybe, fourteen. Written in long hand, in pencil and sent to Nebula Science Fiction magazine, they returned it with a very polite note. Seven years later, a piece along the lines of “All men are created equal but we don’t stay that way…” won first prize in my in-house magazine competition. Another seven years during which I was published in New Writings in SF and another first prize with NEL’s Science Fiction magazine. Now, that one changed my life; they published my address and a guy in the next village noticed it, phoned me up and we’ve been writing in tandem ever since.

Jack Everett’s and my efforts were mainly shorts in glossy magazines until we discovered indie publishers and later, eBooks, that we really took off even though the first two bit the dust this year. But, out of that first meeting came the books now on sale at Amazon.

And we’re fortunate, there are still some in the pipeline.

“Now that I’m retired – “Retired? Surely you’re too young!” “Ah, pass my pills, will you?” – I spend a large part of my time writing or in writing-related pursuits. I build and maintain our websites (check out Archimedes Presse, a directory to all our books and personal sites) and our blogs which are gradually building a following. It’s a joy to be alive.

Thanks, Morgen.

You’re so welcome, thank you David and I look forward to posting your guest blogs. You can find more about David and Jack, and their work via the links mentioned above and http://www.criminalties.blogspot.com and their latest book is ‘The Tourist’ which is also available from Amazon.

The blog interviews will return as normal tomorrow with ghostwriter Andrew Crofts – the one hundred and seventy-ninth of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, directors, bloggers, autobiographers and more. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate the author further. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. And I enjoy hearing from readers of my blog; do either leave a comment on the relevant interview (the interviewees love to hear from you too!) and / or email me. My eBooks are now available on Smashwords (Amazon to follow).