Archive for » July, 2013 «

DRM, Copyright and eBooks

There’s been a lot of talk lately to do with DRM on ebooks. This mostly comes about because self-publishing authors get the choice to DRM their kindle books on amazon or not as they see fit. However, there seems to be some beffudlement as to what DRM actually is and does and how this works with the copyright of the origional works, so I thought I’d explain.

DRM

This stands for Digital rights management and is a piece of code that is attached to the kindle books (in this case) and tries to prevent anyone who’s bought the kindle file from converting to another file, moving the file and using it on another kindle, or selling it on. I’ve said tries for a very specific reason. Mostly it doesn’t work. It’s very easy to find software on the internet to strip the DRM off a file.

You might wish for DRM on a product to stop pirating and this is why it was invented. Sadly it only slows them down, and then, only by a few minutes. And it doesn’t protect the copyright. This is where some confusion comes in, but I’ll come to copyright and what it is in a few paragraphs.

Also, if say, someone who owned a nook really wanted to buy your book and put it on their ereader but you only sold through Amazon. If you had DRM enabled they wouldn’t be able to read your works. If you disabled DRM then they could convert your kindle file to the epub and put it on their nook to read. I’m sure authors wouldn’t mind this as the person has paid to get the kindle file. There are other circumstances like this where having DRM can actually hamper legitimate customers but I want to move on.

Copyright

This is the term for what protects the authors work from being sold by anyone unauthorised to sell it. This is often donated with the little © symbol or just the word copyright and then the name of whoever holds the copyright and the year the product was published. Copyright is automatic on written works. Officially and legally you own the copyright on everything you’ve written unless you legally transfer it over to somebody else. You can also retain copyright but grant related rights like publishing or movie rights to others which is what happens in most traditional publishing deals.

To defend a copyright it does help if you put the copyright notice on all work and print books tend to have a copyright page which lists all sorts of useful things, including the copyright of the current edition and the first edition if that applies. If you want to sue someone for making money off your copyrighted works and want to claim royalties they’ve earnt or anything like that, most courts in most countries require more proof of copyright. This is usually best obtained by paying your countries copyright office a small sum of money to keep your original manuscript tucked up and dated somewhere. It’s not necessary to claim the copyright unless you think you might have to go to court to claim money off someone else (which most authors would never be able to afford to do anyway) but it gives a lot of people peace of mind to have that precaution.

DRM has almost nothing to do with copyright. It’s more about the companies like amazon and apple protecting their formats for ebooks than it is about stopping people selling your work, and it sucks at both of those anyway.

So in short, my advice is to not bother with DRM. It doesn’t work and only aggravates some customers that want to use your book on multiple devices. Or families that would normally share a book or music cd from being able to do the same with an ebook.

And if you are worried about your copyright, make sure you have your copyright notice in the ebook file somewhere, and if really worried send a copy off to your copyright office as soon as the final draft is ready and get your comfirmation from them before you publish the book.

Anna Karenina: A Review

Yup, another classic book that I’ve managed to read. This one did take about six months but I got there in the end.

I just want to say that the first half of this book is a tough slog and although I gave it 5 stars I did struggle to finish this book thanks to the first chunk. It takes a while to get going (although it’s never as slow as war and peace) but I really enjoyed the characters and everything they struggled with. Tolstoy is a master at writing about the things that really matter.

Most of this book focuses on what it is to be happy and content in life. The characters all have very different approaches but I most resonated with Levin and his thoughtful outlook on life. He loved to improve things and would spend hours thinkging about the really deep questions. Considering I was on holiday when I read the end of this and it was talking about the very things I often think about when on holiday and not rushed by the rest of the world it was perfect.

As you’d expect with a classic it was very descriptive and several chapters meandered off onto other subjects like politics and farming but it was an interesting insight into the way society worked back then and in a few places I actually wanted more information on how it worked for them then.

Still totally in love with the classics.

End of the Road: Anthology Release

A few months back I got the opportunity to submit a short story on the theme ‘End of the Road’ to a group of fantastic authors and the ebook is now out!

Blurb – Roads end. They begin somewhere, too. In between, all manner of things happen: friendship, betrayal, horror and maybe even joy. For some, the End of the Road brings love and happiness, for others agony and suffering, and for a precious few, sorrow may lead to something revelatory. The potholes and pitfalls found in this anthology are many, but for every character, there is an end of the road.

This road ends in a collection of short stories by 31 of the most gifted writers of our time, with stories from action and mystery superstars Russell Blake, Traci Tyne Hilton and Mike Meyer; romance stars Jeanette Raleigh, C A Newsome, Suzie O’Connell, Kathleen Steed and Anna J.McIntyre; and from cutting edge science fiction and fantasy authors Saxon Andrew, Stephen Arseneault, John Daulton, and JRC Salter; post-apocalyptic and dystopian authors Brandon Hale, Scott Langrel, Dale Roberts and Jess Mountifield. Intended for lovers of short fiction everywhere, the End of the Road is a must read for anyone intent on keeping current with the literary scene.

That’s not every author involved but it’s a good chunk of them and the full list can be found on the book’s page on goodreads and a free copy for any ereader can be picked up on Smashwords. Yup, that’s right. It’s free.

A print version will hopefully appear soon as well as, hopefully free, version on Amazon and other stores for any that want to get it elsewhere, but Smashwords does have kindle and Ipad compatible formats already for those who can’t wait.

My story is called Sherdan’s Road and is a sequel of sorts to the books in the Sherdan series although it’s quite a bit in the future of Sherdan’s life and there will be several more books before it. So it’s great for those who want a sneak peak into what might happen to Sherdan.

Fuel to the Fire: A Review

I was given a copy of this book by the author David Staniforth a few months back for me to review, and I’m so glad he did.

This is one very awesome story. I loved how description and world details were fed through piece at a time and how it kept the pace nice and high. Very occasionally I wanted more info, especially on the appearances of the characters but that was rare.

The ideas were fantastic and the characters were very believable, with little things hinting at stuff and plenty to keep me turning the pages. If you like fantasy you’re going to like this book.

In the whole book the only thing I didn’t like was where it ended. I can appreciate that the author was trying to keep the book from getting too long but I think a little bit more could be done to make it feel like the first stage of the story was complete. I felt that at least the first few pages of Chapter 1 of the next book would have been better off at the end of this one and Mayne one more chapter from Darven’s father’s pov would have helped it to be less of a cut off. If you don’t like cliff hangers or unfinished stories then you are definitely going to want to wait for the rest of the books before reading this.

This is a proper gem among  indie books. Please go buy it at Amazon.com, or Amazon.co.uk

Holiday, Birthdays and Wedding Anniversary

Yup, all those are pretty much current right now. As I said last week it was my birthday, It’s also been my husband’s birthday and yesterday was our wedding anniversary. We decided we’d be on holiday for all of them this year so this won’t be much of a blog update I’m afraid.

I’m in the Lake district in the UK for two weeks and have been enjoying some time off writing immensly. I’ll be back to it soon, but in the mean time I hope everyone’s good and has lovely holidays coming up soon too!

Category: Distraction  Tags: ,  2 Comments

The Bones of Others: A Review

I was gifted a copy of this book by the author, Vickie McKeehan, in return for a review.

From the blurb of this book I was expecting a trafficking mystery that focused on the rescue of the victims and finding them. This made me really eager to read this book as I have a large number of friends who work for a local charity that provides the aftercare for rescued victims, amongst other trauma recovery care and I’ve done several things over the last few years to help raise money for them.

Unfortunately I found the book took a more far-fetched approach to the situation, with some supernatural elements to the story and such. I also found it hard to believe that the main character could jump into bed so quickly considering what had happened to her. Even after having therapy, it just isn’t that easy. And then after that she seemed to be happy with the idea that their relationship might just be about the sex.

While I thought the book was well-written in terms of technical ability I just found it was too unbelievable for me. It started very well but just got too much as the book progressed, which is a shame as I felt the storyline had so much more potential.

I think if the subject matter hadn’t been something so particularly important to me I would have enjoyed the book more but I just couldn’t look past the way the main character didn’t seem to need to know she was loved before she could jump into bed, or even really build up much trust.

For Such a Time as This + Free Stuff

It’s my birthday today! Yup I have one of those things too. It’s the one day where I like getting attention and all that sort of stuff, but in true hobbit style I’m giving stuff away today, you know the sort of present like stuff.

The first of the things I’m giving away today is Wandering to Belong, my fantasy short! You can pick up a copy on Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk (or any other amazon ebook store) and you don’t have to pay a thing.

Also I’ve got an excerpt of my latest release, For Such a Time as This, for you to read below, you can also get that on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk.

***

“Ishtar! Grab the damson pudding, over there, that’s it,” the bustling older cook yelled as he added two more jugs of wine to the trolley in front of him. Ishtar did as she was instructed, placing the dish in the final space on the laden vehicle.

She leapt out of the way as Malden pushed the little cart towards the door. He would take it up to the waiting room right outside the dining hall, giving Ishtar and the other assistant cooks a moments respite.

Ishtar slowed her pace as she checked on the hot puddings still cooking in the oven. In less than half an hour another damson pudding, two more cherry and almond cakes, four giant apple and cinnamon pastries and a cocaya bread and raisen pudding would go up with another large helping of red wine.

She gave the other three females a few instructions as they waited for their chef and master to return. Despite Ishtar being a simple slave like the other girls they did as she asked without complaint or fuss.

Not wanting to be idle when Malden returned, Ishtar rolled out more pastry into a long rectangular shape. The pastries seemed to be a favourite with the guests Andreas was entertaining that day. She sliced up the soft dough while her mind drifted to other things. She had made this dish so many times she could do it in her sleep.

Malden returned as she was ladling the apple mixture into the centre of the final of the six pastries.

“Good, good Ishtar… Where’s the cinnamon. Ah here it is, sprinkle that on them. Kimi, put that over there, good, good. Now let’s get started on another… Thank you Penalay.” Malden continued on telling his assistants what to do as he bustled around as well.

For the next twenty minutes all of them rushed around the kitchen preparing, stirring, slicing, mixing and fetching to create another trolley laden with food. The task of pre-empting what the feast would run out of was their sole purpose.

When Malden left with the next serving Ishtar paused to slow her rapid breathing. Her feet ached and she silently said a prayer to Tanayth that the feast would end soon. They had been in the kitchens for the last fifteen hours and there would be at least two hours of tidying and preparing for the following day.

Ishtar almost dropped the pudding she was retrieving when Malden came rushing back in. His slender frame quivered before her and no words came out of his opening and closing mouth. Her eyes went wide; silence was not normal. She rushed the dessert onto the nearest surface and went to him.

“Fetch that stool Kimi,” she said as she took his arm to support him.

“No, no, I am fine,” Malden found his voice and waved everyone away. “We can stop cooking. The feast is over.”

All the girls smiled and put down their tools. Ishtar stood waiting for Malden to explain what had happened.

“The Queen, she… she didn’t come.” He paused and she opened her mouth to ask what he meant but got no further. “King Andreas sent for Hasina and she refused him. She would not attend the feast.”

All the girls gasped.

“What did the King say?” Ishtar’s eyes were wide with fear.

“She’s to be beheaded. Immediately.”

The three girls whispered amongst themselves and Ishtar put her hands over her mouth to stop herself from making any embarrassing sounds.

“All of you can take a break for a few minutes. You’ve all been working very hard today.” Malden turned from them and busied himself tidying his kitchen. The three younger slaves rushed from the room, still talking amongst themselves. Ishtar gently tidied beside Malden, stacking the empty bowls as he put their contents in containers or the bin.

She watched him while she worked. His hands shook as he fought to keep going. If she kept busy near him she knew that he would soon tell her everything he was thinking.

“Why didn’t she do as she was asked?” The King doesn’t like to look the fool and his advisers are even worse. Listen carefully Ishtar, don’t ever give the King reason to be angry with you or ever upset his favoured people.”

“I won’t Malden. I’ll always do what you tell me to. The King thinks you’re the best chef in existence and we’re all leading easier lives because of it.”

Ishtar pictured her little room on the floor above. She had the good fortune of Malden’s favour and Malden had the King’s. Very few slaves had their own private rooms.

Malden had been kind to her ever since she had arrived, showing her how to hide her elven nature so none of the humans realised she wasn’t one of them as well as teaching her to survive. He had warned her several times of what they would do if her true race became apparent.

She stood a little taller than the other human girls her age, but being thinner stopped anyone being too suspicious. She had dyed her silver hair a dark brown and wore a head band to hide the points of her ears. No one even suspected.

“Go on girl, take a break with the others,” Malden said as he shooed her out of the room. She soon found Kimi, Penalay and Olivian sitting in the nearby courtyard. They looked up at her as she came over to them with a thousand questions on their young faces.

All three were younger than her and had been captured together from one of the last human settlements that stood against the King. As such they had known each other before arriving. Whenever anything happened they always banded together to talk about it.

Ishtar found it difficult to get to know them. They were strange to her and she had been alone for a long time, but Malden encouraged her to make an effort and the girls were always pleasant to her face.

“Do you really think that Queen Hasina will be beheaded?” Kimi asked. All of them had wide eyes that darted around the courtyard, almost expectant of someone jumping out from behind the trees to behead them too. Ishtar couldn’t help smiling at their naivety. The kitchen was a world apart from the King himself.

“I think so, she disobeyed the King,” Ishtar replied.

“But doesn’t he love her?”

She shook her head.

“Even if he did he would need to show he cannot be disobeyed. But there is no need for you three to fret. We are all safe here with Malden. He has looked after me since I was five. He will look after all of you as well.”

Ishtar went and sat with them on the stone bench. The conversation subject changed to their cooking and the feast they had managed that day.

A few minutes later all their names were called from the kitchen and the trooped back to their work. Malden and his helpers would need to get some of the food prepared for the following day.

The King always requested a particular cake in the afternoons and the fruit in the recipe would need to soak in brandy all night; and the pastry and dough would need time to settle.

Ishtar threw herself into the last of the day’s tasks with as much effort as she could muster. The sooner everything was done the sooner she could rest her feet. Rushing around the whole day had caused the arches in her feet to ache remorselessly each time she put weight on them.

Malden continued his running commentary of the activities and requirements of the kitchen to the four girls. They all worked hard but Ishtar the hardest. Her stamina kept her going longer than the others and the heat from the many ovens affected her the least of all of them.

“Put that over… that’s it, thank you Ishtar,” Malden said as she pre-empted his command. “Now where’s that fruit mix?”

“It’s already finished and soaking,” she replied, pointing to the bowl Malden sought.

Two hours later Ishtar swept the last of the dust, flour and dropped food out of the door into the courtyard for the birds. Malden was the only person left in the kitchen with her. Everyone else had been allowed to go off to sleep.

As soon as she had finished her final task of the day she put her hand to her forehead and wiped away the few beads of sweat which adorned it.

Taking her by surprise, Malden hugged her. He then held both of her hands in his and looked at her, a gentle light in his eyes and a parental smile on his face. She waited, expecting him to explain his thoughts but he did not. Instead he let her go and waved her out of the room.

“Go on now, go get some sleep.”

Ishtar did not need telling twice. She scurried off to her little room as fast as her weary legs could take her. Fortunately, she did not have far to go. Her private room sat only a flight of stairs and short corridor from the kitchen. It nestled in the wall of the great castle and had just one small window to the outside, not that she was ever there when the sun was up to send any light through it.

She sank into the straw mattress on the wooden bed frame, which creaked and groaned in protest of even her light body. A small set of candles lit the otherwise dark room, casting an ever changing and flickering glow over her few possessions.

In one corner stood an old wooden wardrobe. Its surface had lost any varnish it had once been covered in and Ishtar had to avoid getting splinters whenever she opened it. Her desk sat beside and appeared to be the newest of her furniture even though it had been Malden’s father’s for twenty years before she had been born.

On top of the desk sat Ishtar’s most treasured possessions; her sewing box and materials. She made clothes and other pretty accessories when she had free time from her duties, although that was seldom.

Malden had given her a few small coins for mending some clothes of his and a few more when she had made the uniforms the new girls had needed. It had not been much as the King frowned upon the slaves making money but it had bought her everything she’d needed to make the few things she could make time for.

Ishtar rarely got to wear the items she made but it didn’t stop her making them anyway. Her latest creation was an elegant dress, similar to something she had seen the previous queen wear once. It had a flowing floor length skirt which tapered backwards into a small train and a deep v neckline.

However, the dress was not finished. The hem was many feet long and she only managed a few minutes sewing each day by candlelight. If Malden knew she was making herself late for bed every night making the dress he would get angry and stop giving her any money at all, so she only did a little here and there to not arouse suspicion, and tonight she wouldn’t do any. The feast had gone on so long she needed to sleep.

Inspector Zhang Gets His Wish: A Review

I picked this short story up on amazon as I’ve been wanting to try this author, Stephen Leather, for a while. I have to admit it took me a while to decide what I thought of it.

The character, Inspector Zhang, is quite quirky, but in a fairly stereotypical way. He reminded me a fair bit of Sherlock holmes and I think that was probably deliberate but I didn’t feel like I got to know him well enough, which is often the problem with short stories. Less time for character development. I did really like this one though, but I’m a huge Sherlock fan. It managed to press the same buttons.

The plot was a pretty standard who-dunnit. Nothing hugely special but still fun to read.

I was a little dissapointed with the length of the story as it finished at 58% on my kindle. I don’t mind there being some back matter but it seemed a little excessive that it was almost half the file and made it feel like this short was only there to get me to buy something else. If I like a story, I’ll go check out more by that author anyway, I don’t need 3 chapters of a completely different book to make me want more, one would have been enough, or just the list of the authors other works.

How to make the most of your writing time

Often in the early stages of a writing career, and sometimes even in later stages, there can be a lot of demands on your time. This often results in reduced writing time. When you’ve not got long to write you don’t want to be wasting it by not writing, so I thought I’d explain some of the things I do to help get the most out of the time I’m spending writing.

The fairly obvious one is cutting down on the distractions. Mostly no internet, but sometimes I also find I need to go somewhere else. Somewhere I can’t answer the phone, the cat can’t meow at me to let her out or play with her, and I can’t see my emails coming in, or anything else that might distract me.

Depending on how rich I’m feeling, and the weather, I often go to a nearby park or a cafe. I always take paper and my favourite fountain pen if going to the park and I take my really old, but light, laptop to the cafe. It’s about 8-9 years old and just can’t handle the internet anymore. Which means no distractions and I also feel like I’m going to a workplace.

On top of that I’ve found going to a cafe makes me feel guilty about procrastination and spending too much time doing other things. I am spending money to be there so I better be working or it’s a waste of money. At least, I tell myself that and find the motivation helps.

However, a lot of the snatched time can’t be done somewhere else so I employ different tactics when I have to be at home. Firstly I check a few basics, like making sure the cat has food and water, then I cover the basics for myself. Being dehydrated can really slow the brain down so a pint glass of something water based comes with me to my writing area, sometimes even two pint glasses. This is especially important if you drink a lot of caffeine. Caffeine needs water in your body to work properly and it also drains your body of the water molecules so drinking extra water at the same time or just before works really well.

I again switch to my really old laptop so my distractions are limited but I know a lot of other writers also unplug their internet and often the phone too. I also found that it was really good to let certain people know that it was my writing time and during writing time I wasn’t to be disturbed. At first not everyone in my family understood but now the first thing my mother asks if she phones during the day is, ‘you’re not in the middle of writing are you? If you are I’ll phone back later.’ If you tell people not to disturb you because you need them not to, they will learn to respect that boundary.

The other thing I find that helps is taking five minutes during the day, before I intend to start writing, to think about where the story is at and what I want to write in the next section. I often do this in bed in the morning before I’ve got up but I find the shower works well too, as does a loo-break. I’m not really a planner but I find it helps me get into the flow a little quicker when I do get to sit down and write if I already have a vague idea of what I am trying to write.

Finally, I have also worked out when I’m most productive during the day. For me, mid-afternoons, about an hour after I’ve eaten lunch, is the best time to churn out the words. My brain just seems to be happier to work then so this is when I plan in most of my writing time. I found this out, pretty much by trial and error and keeping a track of how many words I wrote per hour and when I started.

It’s taken a little while to get this routine going but I’ve found that perfecting it and working out what I need has over doubled the amount of words I can write in the same amount of time.