Good Reads book challenge

goodreads challenge

At the start of this year I set myself a reading challenge – to read 20 books over the course of the year. I did this without any real expectations but so far I have read 9 books in print and as ebooks, which is 45% of the challenge. I am thinking that as it is only April I may have to up the challenge. 

The great thing about the books I have been reading is that I have been reading for pleasure not for insights into writing or inspiration for my own writing. 

I have acquired the books from various channels – recommendations, free books from authors I follow, hand-me-downs from friends, books found in bookshops and books donated to the free library at my local railway station.  I have read both print and electronic books, with print books being in the ascendancy. This is a change from previous years when I was glued to my Kindle. 

At the moment I am reading “The Miniaturist” (a hand-me-down) which got off to a slow start but now I am hooked. I am taking it with me to Sofia tomorrow and when I have finished it will donate it to the hotel library for someone to find. 

Already packed is “Red Square at Noon” by one of my favourite dissidents: Natalya Gorbanevskaya. I am currently writing a novel loosely based on the experiences  of Gorbanevskaya and feel ready, at this point in my writing and research, to sit down and read her account of the trials of the anti-CSSR invasion of August 1968. I have a copy of the original Penguin edition displayed below. 

I have carried this book around for nearly a year waiting for the right moment to read it. Somehow, this seems to be the moment. 

As for the reading challenge, I am looking forward to discovering new books from new authors during the remainder of the year. I wonder what will come into my hands and how they will come there. Perhaps, other people’s reading challenges will lead me in new literary directions. I have many many books yet to read on my Kindle and my bookshelf but this year there seems to be time to start tackling them as I will, one by one. 

I wonder if any of my readers and followers have any recommendations for me. …..


Commiting to the process

I have decided to title this submission “commiting to the process” because that is what I am doing right now. I am commiting myself to the process of editing the second part of my novel based on the KGB Headquarters in Riga and also to the process of preparing the book for publication. In the way that I work, the writing and the preparation for publication happen at pretty much the same time. While I write I think about the blog, the website and the Facebook page. I also think about future readers.

I published the first part of the novel as a stand alone book called Living with the Enemy. At 90 printed pages it was a novella more than a book. I formatted the book, set it up in CreateSpace, Photoshopped a cover and then uploaded the whole thing. After a few weeks, I decided that while I like the title Stura maja for both parts, I do not really like for the first part only. So, I created a new cover with a modified title and uploaded it.

The problem was that there was no title on the spine and no blurb at the back. So, I went back to the drawing board and downloaded the file from CreateSpace to create an integrated cover. Now it looks more like a professional book.

I also went through my epub version on the book and found some typos. I corrected them in the manuscript. This allowed me to reconnect with the book properly for the first time in two months. Now, I am ready to edit the second half of the story and am commited to the process of producing the best book I can with the writing tools (myself and my knowledge) I have at my disposal right now. It may not be the best book I write but it will have been written with due dilligence.

Now that summer is here and my winter job over, I can commit myself once again to the process of being a writer. I can permit myself to take time away from earning a living to writing and completing at least one writing project. I feel, already, as though a weight has been lifted off my shoulders and my fingers can fly over the keyboard once again.


Formatting a manuscript for ePublishing

A few days ago, I was asked to explain my experience of ePublishing and how I went about preparing my novel to be published as an eBook. The process, as I explained, is not very complicated and can be easily accomplished in a few minutes. The snag is, of course, that the manuscript needs to be formatted correctly for an eBook before you begin the process. I thought I would share my ideas with a wider circle. So, here goes.

The most important thing you do, apart from write the text, is to format the manuscript so that it can be easily converted into an ePub file without a lot of HTML errors. I find that the easiest and best way to do this is to set up the formatting before I begin typing. Reformatting a huge manuscript after you have written it is a major headache. I know this from experience. This is what works for me:

  1. avoid all fancy formatting, styles, headers, footers, footnotes, table of contents, line breaks, page breaks, different colours and page numbering;
  2. create your cover separately as a PowerPoint JPEG but put a smaller image into the text at the beginning;
  3. set up the document before beginning typing using Word styles (this is the formatting bar at the top of your screen under the ribbon) and having this as a default setting so that all writing is done on the same template – this saves lots of hassle;
  4. have clearly defined styles: I use Heading 3 as my chapter headings so that the converter can easily pick them out to create the table of contents and my body text is written in the Normal style with a line spacing of 1.5;
  5. this is what it says under the modify button: Font: 14 pt, Bold, Line spacing: single, Space,  Before:  14 px, Keep with next, Keep lines together, Level 3, Style: Linked, Hide until used, Quick Style, Priority: 10
  6. have body text paragraphs setting up so that as you type Word automatically indents your paragraphs;
  7. I have a hanging first line of 36px;
  8. keep an eye on your use of the Enter button on your keyboard and minimize the black spaces between paragraphs and chapters;
  9. test out small texts on different e-ink devices to see what works best for you;
  10. do not use fancy fonts as they do not convert well.


A converted documented which can be read an e-ink device is basically a html document similar to the kind of page you see on a website. Text wraps around so if you press Enter or Return at the end of each line you will mess up the text.

I generally save my documents as a doc file but you can save them as HTML files and RTF files depending on the conversion program you choose.

Formatted Doc

Formatted Doc

The case for ePublishing

There are some writers –and readers – out there who do not see the point of publishing eBooks or even having an eBook at all. I know from my own experience there are many people who prefer to read a printed book. There is nothing wrong with that. In fact, there are some books which work better when printed than as an eBook. However, ePublishing is on the rise and there are a large number of people who read books on an eReader. I went to the London Book Fair 2014 and there were a huge numbers of print book publishers but also a large number of ePublishers and eAuthors.

To give some statistics to confirm why writers should take into account the eBook market:.  According tot he people behind the London Book Fair “in 2013 the number of self-published titles increased by 16.5% to more than 450,000 – and this is excluding titles published through Kindle Direct Publishing and Nook Press,” (—17-October-2014/#sthash.FRJqDG6n.dpuf). That means there are a lot of writers out there ePublishing and they are your competition for readers. It is also worth bearing in mind, authors, that readers are reading on a variety of devices such as eReaders, tablets and smartphones. The growing market trend at the moment seems to be reading eBooks on an iPad (41.9% of the market) rather than on a Kindle (37.9%) according to the FutureBook Digital Census of 1,100 eReaders ( If you do not publish digitally you are missing out on a large market.

The next point concerns where eReaders buy their books. Dominant, of course, is Amazon. Their Kindle books can be read on e-ink devices, tablets, phones and laptops thanks to the Kindle App. Lower down the list is Apple’s iBook store and way down is Kobo with only 8.8% of the market. (Source as above). This is not to say it is not worth formatting your manuscript for other e-ink devices, but the Kindle App is still the market leader.

It seems to me that the eBook market is changing and authors need to keep an eye on the changes. The case for ePublishing, alongside print publishing if that is possible, is large. Digital books are not going to go away but the platforms they are read on is going to change. That is the new challenge for authors.