Showing posts with label eBooks. Show all posts
Showing posts with label eBooks. Show all posts

Wednesday 23 December 2015

Making Holes in Water: Chapter One

Before we get started, let’s get something straight. You want to kill them from time to time, husband, wife, don’t worry, everybody does. Well, I do. Problem is getting rid of the body; can’t bury it in the garden, first place they’ll look. No, you need to be smarter than that. It takes attention to detail, planning. It takes the mind of an accountant to get away with it. This is It’s a wonderful life in reverse; what would your life be without them.
James Hamilton is a financial auditor, skilled in the tricks of hiding things in plain sight. He now has to hide his wife’s body as he sets about beginning his wonderful life. Keeping her in the freezer with the oven chips and the Vesta beef curry is only going to work for so long and you have no idea how tough it can be to find a free space to dump a body in Essex. No, if no-one is looking, no-one will find her. So, he takes her on holiday.
He meets Sarah, a girl looking for her own wonderful life. They drive down the continent to Greece, a place where she knows it’s easy to disappear. James deposits little bags of wife along the way while she enjoys being the new Mrs. Hamilton.
Missing persons are not dead; they’re just mislaid until someone wants to find them. And, like body parts, they have a way of coming to the surface.
James is loving his new life but how long can he keep the books cooked. How long can he resist the gravity of suburbia.

Chapter 1

The compressor worked hard trying to bring temperatures down to usual tolerances. It sent warm vibrations through James’ back, massaging the pain of his exertions. The motor shivered stop momentarily then continued; there was still some core temperature to tackle before its new contents would freeze. James lifted himself and opened the lid of the appliance. He moved a family bag of McCain oven chips and a Vesta beef curry revealing a face. She was still there. He replaced the convenient foodstuffs and slid back down to the floor.
He had woken late that morning; the events of the previous night had necessitated a little lie-in. He rolled over and watched Laura lying serene and motionless. He planted a gentle kiss on his wife’s forehead. “Nothing new with you this morning, darling.” He looked over at the clock; 8.37.
“I tell you what I’m going to do. I’m going to pull a sickie so we can spend the day together. I know, I know not me at all but today’s going to be different, today we’ll have fun”. He pulled the duvet back and threw his long pale legs out of the bed. Next to where his feet landed was a book-marked copy of Luke Rheinhart’s The Diceman, he swept his slippers aside and swaggered in the direction of the kitchen.
As the kettle boiled James took the opportunity to call the office.
“Jane, yes, it’s James— no, not very,” he coughed. “Well terrible to be precise— no, no I don’t think I’ll be in today”. He half covered the mouthpiece and in an overloud whisper called out, “Yes darling, you go back to bed. I’ll be there in a jiffy— yes, of course I do pussycat.” He heard the giggle from the other end.
“Yes, I’ll see the doctor if it doesn’t get any better—. Well I don’t know, but maybe wise to count on a couple of days.” Another titter. “Well, thank you, Jane—. I’ll see you in a few days then—. Yes, send my apologies to Mr. Giffin—. Ok bye then— thanks.”
He put down the phone feeling quite proud of himself. He made a pot of coffee and poured a cup. He strolled into the bedroom sipping at the hot coffee.
“So darling, what can we do today? Would you like a swim, a little gardening or a drive into the country?” He sat on the end of the bed, pondered the dilemma for a minute, took a large gulp of coffee and made his way downstairs.
At the back of the house in the utility room stood a large chest freezer. James removed the contents of the capacious appliance and put it all neatly on the washing machine.
It was time to interrupt Laura’s slumber. James pulled the duvet from Laura and turned her onto her back, her satin nightdress had ridden up to mid-thigh, which he rectified dutifully. Laura’s eyes still closed, her mouth still filled with last night’s meal. He lifted her knees and began to pick her up in his arms; his back protested. “You’re a dead weight pumpkin, any chance of some help here?”
James opted for the less dignified but far more practical fireman’s approach. Standing at the foot of the bed he pulled her right arm over his shoulder, the rest of her body followed, moving his shoulder into her waist and straightening his legs and she was lifted.
He negotiated the stairs quite well but by the hallway his legs began to tremble. His foot slipped on some paper on the floor. Looking down he saw one of the glossy brochures from the credit cards he’d missed while cleaning up; happy faces selling diamond-white-teeth and push-up-bra debt. James reached the utility room and with his strength all gone, only determination powered him to put Laura unceremoniously on top of the freezer. He leaned against the wall and dropped to the floor exhausted. Laura sat on the edge of the freezer.
James took an invigorating breath and raised himself to his feet. Laura had begun to slip down the wall, he righted her. A corner of paper peeked from her lips like feathers from a guilty cat. James pulled at it, a slightly masticated credit card statement followed by another. “No shopping today pussy cat!”
He hoisted her back onto his shoulder and lifted the freezer door. Laura fitted perfectly after a little twisting of her slender legs. The silk nightdress he had dressed her in the night before had ridden up again and James took a long look.
The frozen prawns and ice cream fit back nicely. He touched her cool lips. “Chill out for a while until I can work out what to do with you. Sorry!” Then placed the family bag of McCain oven chips over her face. He closed the freezer and slid down to the floor.
The motor had settled into a gentle purr when the clouds parted allowing sunlight to pour in through the utility room windows.
On the driveway outside sat the red Volvo estate, its predecessor had been exchanged for a new one less than a year before as had the two before it, every two years and washed every Sunday. James leapt to his feet and strode toward the study. Opening the draw of the big mahogany desk he selected the folder marked “Volvo” and pulled the contents, log book, service history and a few other bits that he felt might come in useful. He put them into a large buff envelope and left them on the desk while he went for a long shower.
Soon he was feeling cleaner than he’d ever felt before, no worries of tell-tale damp patches under the arms, no manic mining of the ears with a Q-tip, no need to shave. In the wardrobe, right at the back he found the cargo pants he’d bought a couple of months before but never worn. Laura, in lieu of comment, had merely covered her mouth and sniggered. The quest was now a shirt, he pulled out a pastel blue Ben Sherman shirt, it had a button-down collar; he’d seen younger men wearing them. With the ensemble nearing completion he looked in the full-length mirror, he looked much better for his thirty-eight years than he had ever thought. All he needed now was footwear; tennis shoes, he’d bought some for the oh-so-dreary doubles match with a fellow auditor and his wife.
Picking up the Volvo’s life and times, he bounded to the door, stopped and caught his reflection in the mirror. He undid the top button of his shirt. In the warm spring air, he could smell every flower, hear every bird sing. He watched a little sports car passing slowly, its driver’s red hair billowing behind her, for a split second she turned and looked at the grey cocoon from which was emerging a wonderful new life and smiled, James felt himself erect quite suddenly.
The sun shone brightly and as the leafy suburb gave way to the bustling high street. He swung into a space opposite an opticians, a car horn wailed past. Stepping out of the car he resisted the impulse to lock and alarm but just bounded across the road into the shop. The young assistant flicked her long brown hair from her eyes.
“Can I help?” she asked.
“Yes, you just might!” She groaned a smile.
“I need some new sunglasses, something a little more, well, current. You know what I mean. What’s trendy?”
The assistant looked through him. “Well,” she began. “We got Ray-ban, we got Paul Smith, we got Police, we got— ”
“Could you just help me pick a pair that suit me or would that interfere with your plans!” he said through his teeth. The assistant stepped back, looked down and huffed. James looked over the young girl’s head to the older looking woman at the counter. She looked up and he caught her eye.
“Can I be of assistance sir?” she beamed.
“Yes, I think I need the guidance of a lady of taste. Would you help me pick something.”
“Of course. Sally, I’ll take over from here. What would you like?”
“Something fresh, yes fresh I want something very GQ”
“Let me have a good look at you,” Andrea, for that was the name on the badge pinned to her gossamer white blouse, looked James up and down then straight in the eyes. “Calvin Klein, this style is very popular with successful young professionals.” Andrea took a pair from the display stand and put them gently on James’ face. His eyes now shielded he took a languishing look through Andrea’s blouse.
“Mirror?” James slipped his conscious thought back into his head.
“What do you think?”
“I think you may need darker lenses, sir.” James blushed.
“Excellent, I’ll take them.” He took out his wallet and thrust a gold card into Andrea’s hand.
“Thanks, Andrea.”
“You’re welcome Mr. Hamilton.”
He didn’t hear the giggles as he left and nor did he need to.
A mile up the road James found exactly what he was looking for, Lancaster Jaguar. Pulling into the car park he saw it, exactly what he needed this time he didn’t need help choosing. The racing green XKR sat on the forecourt like a caged animal daring all comers to take her out and give her all she had. He stepped out of the Volvo and homed in on the sleek creature on her low-profile paws.
The salesman saw the longing in James’ eyes and rubbed his hands together. “Gorgeous isn’t she, no pussycat, supercharged, fully loaded, superb ICE pack.”
“ICE pack?”
“Yes sir, In Car Entertainment, look at this,” he opened the boot. “This here is the 10 CD changer, fill it up and control what CD you listen to from the front”
“Yes, just like in my car. Now run along and get the keys.”
“Yes, of course, sir” the salesman skipped up to the office and soon returned with the keys held high like a trinket glinting in the sunlight.
The salesman cleared the way for the car’s exit then went to jump into the driver’s seat.
“My money, don’t you think I should drive.”
“Well sir, it’s not company poli— ”
“You think I’m going to buy a car I haven’t even driven? You want to stop this here, young man, that’s ok with me. I’ll find another.”
“No, no of course, you’re right” the salesman held the door open like a scolded chauffeur. James was in control; complete control and he liked it.
The car purred, a cliché but it did, not like a house moggy more like a freshly fed beast of the jungle, James put his foot down gently and the scenery began flashing past the windows, the salesman’s smile grew strained and asymmetrical, so he put it down harder. A smile from deep down began to find its way to his face, not the same smile that followed a profitable bit of bean counting or even the rapture at discovering and negotiating a tax loophole, no this smile it came from deeper down, a hitherto dormant area of his being, the red-head, Andreas tits and now the Jaguar. James had the most turgid erection he could remember since his teens. He spotted the slip road and turned onto the motorway.
“Let’s see what it’s got then,” flashing the loin-laden smile at the salesman.
“There are cameras on this stretch of road, Sir.”
He knew the salesman was bluffing. “You don’t keep logs of who’s had the car, do you? And you don’t know my name.” This dog would have his day! And he pushed the pedal harder. And the scenery sped by faster. And along with it went the dust, the dust from the grey suit, the dust from the accounting, the dust from Laura’s spiteful frigidity, the dust that settles on a man who stays too still too long.
By now the salesman was visibly perturbed, a bead of sweat had broken free and was being thrusted back towards his hairline. A tinny William Tell overture prompted a frantic slapping of pockets until he found the small trilling device. “Hello,” he answered a little shakily. He turned to the driver, “They need the car back now.”
“Tell them you’re closing a deal!” The dust-free pilot barked, indicating off the motorway onto a small slip road that ended up in a large shingle car park. Small stones causing a wake as the big cat eased to a majestic halt diagonally in a parking space in front of the once country pub now traditionally themed beefery and bar.
“I don’t know about you but I need a drink.” He extinguished the beast and stepped out adjusting his new shades.
“They need the car back at the dealership!” The red tie protested.
“You want to close this deal or do you want to keep your thumb up your arse.” He remembered somebody tough and no-nonsense saying that in a film.
“Sir, I must protest!”
“You must, but you won’t.”
In a sales pitch knee jerk reaction he retorted, “The button on the key activates the alarm, immobiliser and central locking while also closing the windows.”
The car chirped, flashed and the passenger window closed. “So it does.”
James led the way into the bar and a young girl in a period milkmaid costume approached him. “Would you like a table sir?”
“No, I’d like a drink, I take it you still serve drinks,” she replied in the affirmative and scampered away.
James ordered a double malt and looking at the flustered salesman ordered a second. He spied a couple sitting in front of a stable gate partition eating. Her; pristine, manicured, pedicured, painted and puckered. He; grey, dusty, forty going on six feet under. He breathed hard on the events of the previous night, drank deeply and ordered another.
“Women!” he blurted out and the salesman agreed without knowing exactly what to. “Can’t live with ‘em.” He stopped. “Can’t bury ‘em in the garden!”
The deal was indeed closed in the pub and James was pleased to find that car salesmen could be quite accommodating when you kidnapped them. The final paperwork was done back at the dealership and the Jag would be delivered the next day.
Smug satisfaction filled the man freshly reacquainted with his manhood, like making the school bully back down in front of all the class, like telling your boss to stick his job where the sun don’t shine, like he was going home to reclaim his thrown, be King of his castle again. And he had a thing or two to discuss with the Queen.
Pulling into his leafy lane he noticed a small blue hatchback parked on his driveway, reality dropped like a lead weight in his bowel, he clenched.
Letting himself in through the front door, he repeated under his breath that he was the iceman, the diceman, Clint Eastwood’s greatest fear. He heard a vacuum cleaner humming; forensics?
“Oh! Mr. Hamilton, you could kill someone creeping up on them like that.” The ample woman held her flower print chest as if to keep her heart from breaking free. “Sorry dear, we haven’t met have we. I recognised you from the photos.”
“Mrs. Bassett.” She thrust a rubber-gloved hand toward the trembling King of the castle. “I clean for Mrs. Hamilton.”
The lead floated to his throat, “Jay— James Hamilton.”
“I know luv, dusted your picture a thousand times.” The dustless man digested the lead and adjusted his crown. “Had a bit of a party last night, eh dear? Well don’t you worry.”
“Everything’s shipshape and Bristol fashion again, never you fear. Be finished in a jiffy. Where’s Mrs. Hamilton?” Without thinking James replied that she was shopping. The rotund flower arrangement smiled sympathy. “Cup of tea dear? Hungry? I could rustle you up some egg and chips in no time at all, not proper chips mind, no spuds, but I think I spotted some oven chips in the freezer.”
He explained that he had not long had a sandwich and that they were going out for dinner that night. She scuttled around quite deftly for a woman of her girth and in what seemed like a rather long jiffy was making for the door. “Beds are changed, laundry’s done, I’ll be back on Friday to iron.” She lowered her tone and her head a little, “Mrs. Hamilton usually pays me on a Friday, little envelope on the kitchen table, ever so discreet.” She returned to her relentless tone and pace as she wished Mr. Hamilton a good day and regards to his good lady.
He turned to regard the scene. No sign of struggle. The broken glass that had hit the floor as something snapped within the grey bill-paying, Volvo driver. All cleaned away. No evidence of the thrashings of a vocational consumer, her spiteful goading stifled by her own credit card bills. No trace of the dress ripped down to reveal the silk and lace underwear that he would never take off.
Ship-shape and Bristol fashion! Mrs. Bassett, you have just become my favourite woman.

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Tuesday 1 September 2015

Why You Shouldn't Use Scrivener to Compile your eBook

Scrivener is a powerful writing tool. It feels like pro equipment, it helps organise, save and protect my writing in a way that MS Word never did. But when I compiled my first ebook and I discovered that it is a tool that can fool you into believing it will take up more of your slack than it can.

I have read extensively on compiling eBooks and despite what I read I was convinced that scrivener could do the job well enough.

I read David Gaughran’s Let’s get digital, which is a fantastic book for anyone wanting to get their work out there. In one chapter he goes into compiling and formatting for e-publishing. He looks to Guido Henkel as the definitive master of formatting and I read his guide with starry eyes. Basically, eBooks are HTML and I've done quite a bit of that with my sites and blogs but still did’t feel fluent enough, so I got seduced by the plethora of articles on compiling the easy way with scrivener.

Once I’d got around the settings in the program I compiled and marvelled at the result. Maybe David and Guido were being a little too fastidious? Then I noticed some ticks in the indents and fonts. I went back to scrivener and rectified them, super! Then, I tried to tidy up the contents page, which I was less than happy with. As the day progressed, I compiled, recompiled and again. Because my chapters are blog posts, I wanted them to have the date at the top before the title. Eventually I managed to enter these manually. Great! By the end of the day I had an epub and mobi file and began testing.

The epub went quite well on my andoid phone playbooks (my favourite eBook reader), iPad iBooks and the kindle app. Then I put it into the kindle previewer on my laptop… a whole day down the drain! The contents were still wrong, the spacing was inconsistent and then the final blow. I put it on 'night mode' on my android playbooks, something that I use quite a lot, and entire paragraphs disappeared.

I went back to Guido and read again. I downloaded Calibre and jEdit (they are both free and highly recommended). First, I opened the epub file in jEdit and then I had a drink, it was very intimidating. Not just because it simply shows the code but as I later discovered, Scrivener had put so much extraneous code that I could not see my words for the code. Then I opened it in calibre which was a little more intuitive, it puts the code and text side by side so you can see what each change does. What I discovered is what scrivener does with the file. It has style sheets named ‘scrivener 1,2,3’ and so on and you cannot see what each of them does. I managed to make enough sense of them to rectify the problems that but all the while my deadlines were passing.

I slowly realised to my consternation that I should have listened to David and Guido and not followed every link to ‘easy’ ebook formatting with Scrivener or MS Word. The point that Guido makes is that unlike a web site or blog where you want as much control over your formatting as you possible, in order to render you pages and articles exactly as you want them, with ebooks you need to relinquish that control. Ebook readers and apps have a plethora of different screen sizes and resolutions. They have different default fonts and line spacings, different modes and colour settings and when you try to impose your will on them through HTML code there is no telling how a device will interpret that code. You only need a handful of readers to have a difficult experience with your book and you’ve lost them and everyone they may have spoken to.

I’m not going to add a howto here, it would simply add to the noise. I will, however link to people who you really should listen to. I’m not saying that there aren’t some very good tutorials out there giving reliable advice on how to get the job done well, what I will say is that they are all very reliant on the fact that your copy is consistently formatted and that you haven’t used a different method to indent your paragraphs or space your lines or that the program you are using is using code that all ebook readers will interpret in the same way.

When you SUBSCRIBE I will send you a copy of my book and you can look for yourself. Does it render well? Is it easy on the eye? I guarantee that someone will find some glitch somewhere and if you do I will send you the whole series as it goes up on Amazon, coded the ‘GUIDO’ way, of course!

This is a short list and I strongly recommend reading it in this order.

The Creative Penn: This will get you in the right frame of mind to think ahead and save so much work in the future.

David Gaughran: David doesn't mince his words and for good reason.

Guido Henkel: Formatting guru. He obviously has passion for his art but the word Laconic is not in his lexicon, so persevere, you won't regret it!

I hope my mistakes will benefit you and save you the time I wasted. Remember, there is no such thing as a free lunch, today, you dine on me!

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From Under Dark Clouds

The Century of DIY