Tag Archive: romance


I have news! My novella, The Star Coin Prophecy is now available to download from Open Books.

About Open Books:

OpenBooks.com is an independent eBookstore where readers read first, then decide how much they want to pay based on what they feel a book is worth and how much they can afford.

OpenBooks.com also allows unlimited copying and sharing of eBooks, with the majority of payment proceeds being passed directly to the author. This model places publishing power back in the hands of the writers and purchasing power directly in the hands of booklovers. (openbooks.com/about)

Find out more on The Great Escape – Follow Friday – Open Books

Cover art for The Star Coin ProphecyThe Star Coin Prophecy

When local science reporter Ruth Anders gets invited to a national press conference for the Kepler project, she knows it’s going to be a memorable experience. But nothing could prepare her for the extraordinary events that take place. […Read more]

Get the book

You can download the book for free and side load it (i.e. manually move the file) to your Kindle or other eBook reader. But more than that, you can copy the file and send it to friends you think might like it, share it on reading groups. All for free.

You only pay if you want to. So, if you want you can wait till after you’ve read it, and then decide, yeah, that was worth a quid of anyone’s money. Or you might not… but that’s okay.

You can still buy it from Amazon or Kobo Books if you want the convenience of the file syncing straight to your device. I try to keep the price point at 99p or the equivalent in USD (about $1.60).

If you really like it, and me, you can buy it direct from The Great Escape Books page, which guarantees you the best format file, no links, and all the money goes to me.

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Christmas Dinner for One

Isabel picks up more than turkey and sprouts shopping for her Christmas dinner.

T’was the night before Christmas and after a long shift at the lab, Isabel stalked the supermarket shelves. She looked down at the few remaining loose Brussel sprouts. Scrawny little rejects. She didn’t even really like sprouts, but you couldn’t have a Christmas dinner without them, could you? The tatty sprouts’ plump friends mocked them from inside pre-packed bags. Isabel pulled a bag from the dispenser, she only needed three or four, no point in buying a bagful, so the rejects it was.

She reached down to select the least miserable looking vegetable and her hand collided with someone else’s, a sharp smack of knuckles. She drew her hand in. “Sorry,” she muttered, absently rubbing her bruised fingers.

The would-be sprout-snatcher took a half step back. “Sorry. You were here first, go on.” He gestured to the veg with an apologetic smile which Isabel returned.

She picked out four sprouts while he waited beside her; two of the better looking ones and two real sad cases as she didn’t want to leave him all the worst ones. While she shouldn’t really care whether the man could get decent sprouts at 9:00pm on Christmas Eve, he had a nice smile and she liked the soft, woody scent of his deodorant, or whatever it was. It had been a while since she’d been near anyone who didn’t smell of antiseptic, or worse.

She tied up her bag and dropped it into the basket at her elbow. “Thanks.”

Sprout guy smiled again. He had warm eyes behind his wire rim glasses. He turned back to the sprouts and, with a flutter of embarrassment, Isabel realised she was still stood there. She tucked her hair back behind her ear and quickly walked off towards parsnips.

***

Choices for turkey were limited. Even the smallest whole bird would be too much, and all they had left were the massive ones for 10-12 people. Was it too much to hope they’d still have a thigh or leg joint? Of course. A few small turkey crowns remained which was a small miracle. Isabel picked one up and paused. Well, it was turkey, but crowns went so dry. Or at least the one she’d cooked last year had.

Was turkey really essential? Maybe she could use a chicken and pretend it was a really little turkey. She took a step back from the chiller, crown still held in one hand, and trod on a foot.

“Oh,” she lost her balance and stumbled sideways. Arms caught and steadied her. Isabel’s cheeks and stomach burned; how embarrassing! She turned round, “I am so sorry, I didn’t see‒”

Sprout guy shrugged. “My fault, I should stop sneaking up on you.” His gaze swept the shelves and he frowned. “Is this all that’s left?”

“Er, yeah, looks like it. Not really surprising though.”

“I suppose not.”

She watched him crouch to examine the turkey crowns, clearly as indecisive as her. “I, umm, I was thinking of going with chicken, I mean it’s kind of the same thing.”

He looked over his shoulder at her with a grimace. “Is it though?”

“No, I guess not.”

He stood back up with a crown in hand. “They had a few small frozen ones left. You’d probably have enough time to defrost one overnight.”

“Thanks, but a whole one’s too much. Even this’ll last me a few days.” She waved the cold raw turkey crown at him and then realised what she was doing and put it in her basket.

His eyes followed her hands briefly and then snapped back up to her face. “I hear if you cover it with bacon it keeps the juices in,” he said, holding his turkey crown up in evidence. “But then I suppose most things taste better if you cover them in bacon.”

Isabel giggled and sprout guy ‒or should it be bacon guy‒ grinned at her.

“I should, er…” He jabbed a thumb over his shoulder.

“Yeah, me too. Thanks for the tip.”

“You’re welcome.”

She gave him one last fleeting smile and walked quickly to the end of the aisle. She turned, walked a few rows down and ducked into the world food aisle. How did he make her feel so clumsy and uncoordinated? That scruffy hair style and the rumpled white shirt under his coat gave her the impression he’d just done something naughty at the office party. She closed her eyes and shook her head. Now was not the time to be day dreaming about some random guy at the supermarket. She pulled her list from her pocket to ground herself.

Well she might as well go and get bacon next, before she forgot about it. As she passed the end of the wine aisle, she spotted bacon-sprout guy comparing a couple of bottles. Both whites. That was one thing he could pick up without risk of crashing into her; since she’d be on call tomorrow, wine was off the menu.

***

After a thorough hunt she eventually found the instant custard she was looking for, and then made her way to the section with Christmas pudding. She stopped short. Bacon-sprout guy stood by the shelf, considering his options. The flutter in her stomach returned. At least this time she’d get to surprise him.

She walked quietly up behind him. He held a little individual pudding in one hand. Just the one.

“You going to eat all of that by yourself?” Isabel asked.

He jumped and turned, catching her in the chest with his elbow as he spun round.

Isabel gasped and clutched at the bruise. “Ahh.”

“Oh God, I’m sorry. Are you okay?”

“I’ll be fine,” she said, rubbing the sore spot. “Serves me right for sneaking up on you.”

“Well it was some pretty good sneaking.”

She set her basket down. “So, er, is that all for you?” she asked again with a nod towards the tiny pudding.

He looked at the package in his hand and chuckled. “Oh, er, yeah. Big on the gluttony, me.”

She took one of the individual puddings for herself. For once an easy choice. “Do you think they make these just for people who don’t have anyone to spend Christmas with? Or are they for people who want to look posh?”

He watched her for a moment and the back of her neck tingled. “The first one, I think,” he said. “That’s why there’s always so many left over.”

“Because only sad people spend Christmas alone?”

“Sad people like us.”

“Yeah, exactly.” She popped the pudding in her basket and sighed.

“Er, well, I’m all done. What about you?”

She looked into her basket. “I think so, let me check.” She pulled out her list and mentally checked off everything she had. “Oh, one more thing.” She looked up and spotted the seasonal aisle just across from where they stood. Bacon-sprout guy followed her to a spot next to Christmas crackers. There were boxes of six, eight or even twelve.

Warm memories of family Christmases, laughter around the table, brought a prickle of tears to her eyes. “Guess they don’t sell these in ones,” she said.

“And don’t you kind of need someone to pull the other end anyway?”

She took a deep breath and blinked back the tears. She’d see her family in the new year, but it just wasn’t the same.

“Can I make a really stupid suggestion?” Bacon-sprout guy asked. She turned to face him as he rubbed the back of his neck with his free hand.

“Umm, sure.”

“Well, you’re on your own tomorrow, and so am I… maybe we could… ah, forget it, I’m sorry, stupid idea.”

The constant flutter in her stomach sent a ripple out through her whole body. “Why is it stupid?” she asked, before she could think better of it. She didn’t even know his name and so far he was responsible for at least two bruises.

“Well, because…” ‘He shrugged.

“I’m Isabel.”

“Jack.”

“So, are you offering to pull my cracker with me tomorrow, Jack?”

He chuckled. “Now there’s an invitation. And, yes. If you like.”

She turned back to the crackers, considering, and spotted a box containing just two. “Ah, look. Perfect.”

Jack frowned at his basket. “Maybe we need to re-think this now. Pool our resources?”

Isabel grinned. “Do you want to go see if any of those frozen turkeys are still there?”

He stepped aside with a sweep of his arm. “Lead the way.”

Merry Christmas Sprouts.

My short adventure novella, The Star Coin Prophecy is now available to buy from Smashwords in all major eBook formats.

Cover art for The Star Coin ProphecyWhen local science reporter Ruth Anders gets invited to a national press conference for the Kepler project, she knows it’s going to be a memorable experience. But nothing could prepare her the extraordinary events that take place. Attacked by aliens from another world and zapped through time and space by a mysterious device, her only hope of getting home, and getting her quiet, safe life back, is explorer and archaeologist Neil Bell.

When the time comes though, will Ruth really want to go back to her old life?

The Star Coin Prophecy is a short adventure in a massive world. From a newly discovered planet light years away to dark jungles and mysterious ruins, it asks the question; what if the Mayans were right about the end of the world? And who’s going to stop it?

Read part one on The Great Escape!

***

Part 2 of the story of the ebook’s creation has been a little delayed due to all the activity over on The Great Escape, and the issues I ranted about in part 1.5, but I should have the next installment up later this week, along with Kindle and Kobo store releases.  In the next article, I’ll be explaining about how I turned my story into an epub file using Sigil and also more about why I didn’t then use the created file to sell the book.

I am not the world’s biggest supporter of self-publishing, as you may know from my previous articles (self-publishing, traditional publishing), but I do believe it has its place. I am currently gearing up to publish a 160 page anthology of short stories and micro-fiction for The Great Escape, in print, with an ebook version too. It’s not a matter of printing my own, rejected work, it’s about celebrating a collaboration of authors and the start (hopefully) of a long running series of similar books.

But how does one go about making an ebook?

With so many contributors relying on me to do a good job with the anthology, I decided it was important to test the process out on a smaller project first.

How to Publish your own ebook

A few months ago, my partner bought me a present in the form of How to Publish your own eBook from MagBook. This is to be my guide along the way, so this story is also something of a review of the guidebook.

Part one asks the question “why do you want to write a book?” and contrasts the ebook format with other methods of distribution such as plain text files, PDF, websites and print media. To me this begs the question, what defines a book? The guide first challenges the notion of a book as a physical object and emphasises the content as the defining feature, and then goes on to look at other media as if you could publish the same content as a PDF and it wouldn’t be a “book”. This seems somewhat contradictory to me, but hey, I’m going to bear with it.

Part two covers, in 8 pages, the writing part. I shall not even touch that. Given my attitudes to the abuse of self-publishing, I see this as precisely the kind of guidebook which helps encourage people to write an ebook “because they can” and release it into the flooded market to join the rest of the crap drowning what quality independent content there is out there.

But, 80% of the book focuses on the technical aspects of creating an ebook, distributing it and publicising it once it’s released, so I will ignore the fact that it feels the need to cover the process from end to end, and treat it like the tool it should be.

Right, review section over. The guide has one thing straight; it’s important to have your content ready before you even start trying to make it into an ebook. So let’s focus on that first.

The Project – The Star Coin Prophecy

The Star Coin Prophecy is a novella which I’ve written and am releasing as a part work on The Great Escape. At a short but still marketable length of 10,000 words, I decided it made the ideal project for my first attempt at creating an ebook. I can release a commercial version ahead of the release of the final two parts on the website and also offer people the opportunity to pay a small amount to download and read it on the device of their choice, rather than on the website.

Story written, now I needed a cover.

Cover design

I’m not a graphic designer, but I am pretty handy with Photoshop and since this is supposed to be a test project, I wasn’t about to pay a professional for my cover art this time around.

TIP: Research your target market by looking at covers on other books in similar genres. I had in my mind to create a cover design that you might find on an Andy McDermot or Wilbur Smith novel.

Cover art for The Star Coin ProphecyWhat I did fork out for was properly licensed images. My go-to image distribution site is freedigitalphotos.net. It’s not huge, but you can get 400px copies of any of the images there for free with attribution. For most of my web banners and such, 400px is perfect, but for the book cover I needed bigger images (especially since industry standards are changing), and I didn’t want to have to include an attribution. Even so, at only £17 for the pair at high resolution, I’m not severely out of pocket.

TIP: Play around with low res or watermarked images before deciding which to purchase. I tried at least ten different images before settling on the final design. Also, research the image size requirements for your cover BEFORE purchasing you images. I initially bought my images at lower resolution than I actually needed, but luckily the customer support at freedigitalphotos.net is excellent and they refunded me for the low res copies when I bought the high res ones.

The fonts I used both come from dafont.com and are both free to use commercially. I prefer to rely on fonts with a clear licence which permits commercial use, rather than wading into the murky waters of use rights for fonts packed in with software such as MS Office.

The lock logo is my own personal creation. It evolved from an original photo of a real, old-school padlock I bought on eBay which will become the new site header image in version 2.0 of The Great Escape.

Lastly there’s a texture in there (points for anyone who can spot where), from CG textures which license texture images free for commercial use without attribution.

Making an ebook

With all my content ready to go I launched into formatting my epub file, but that’s a story for another day.

I’d love to hear people’s thoughts on the cover design and you can read a full description of the book here. Also, don’t forget, you can read the first half of The Star Coin Prophecy on The Great Escape right now.

Next week I’ll be releasing the ebook and continuing the story of its creation.

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