The Trials of Nahda ~ Sinclair V-Log PA884/R

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The third volume in The Sinclair V-Logs is now available for your e-reader

Many thanks once again to JL Stratton for doing the cover.

 

You know the difference between fantasy and reality, right?

Sam Sinclair thought so too, until his boss sent him to Nahda, to arrest a museum researcher for stealing an ancient artefact.

Until the pair find themselves trapped deep below an abandoned fusion reactor, Sam had never had occasion to doubt what was real and what was not.

As events unfold, forcing him to embrace the possibility that what he always believed to be just fantasy, could indeed be very real, his life comes crumbling down around him.

Finding himself now a fugitive of the law, left for dead by his prisoner, and still trapped within the underground city, Sam struggles to accept the evidence of his own eyes.

Some things are impossible aren’t they?  Sam thought so too, but what he experienced forced him to look at the universe in a different light.

The Trials of Nahda can be purchased at Amazon and Smashwords on the following links.  Paperback copies will be available in a few days.

Amazon usa

Amazon uk

Smashwords

 

Review etiquette

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I have been prompted to write this blog by a number of posts on facebook about reviews.  I’ve been in facebook groups where the subject of reviews has been discussed, and I’ve seen authors posting about reviews they’ve received.  I have received a couple of negative ones myself, so I know how it feels to be on the end of it.  It also gives me the opportunity to comment about etiquette for reviewers.

The job of a reviewer is to give an opinion ABOUT THE STORY, and not about the author.  The review should contain your views about the characters, the story, how it made you feel etc, AND NOTHING MORE.  A review is not the place to insult the author’s intelligence (or perceived lack thereof), their lack of writing skill, and how you feel they were brought up.

Anyone who leaves reviews that contain insults, only makes themselves look bad.  It is obvious that you are doing this because, a) you also have a book you want to sell and you want to make your rival’s book seem worse than yours in the vain hope yours sells better, or b) a friend/family member of yours has a book to sell and you’re  trying to put down his/her rivals books, or c) you know the author from facebook and you took offence to something they said and want to get them back.

The thing is dear, authors talk to each other and those who leave such reviews get well known amongst authors for all the wrong reasons.  Anyone who reads a review that makes disrespectful comments about the author’s lack of education as a child (as appears on a review of one of my books) is not going to believe what the reviewer is saying, and will just assume that the reviewer is a nutjob.

Of course you must be honest, and if you could not get into the book, say so, but say so politely and without insulting the author’s upbringing/parentage/education or anything else.  Reviews have become a thing of ridicule nowadays because of people leaving reviews like this, and customers no longer have a valuable source of information to help them choose whether to make a purchase or not.

I recently saw a conversation on a facebook group where one such reviewer was being discussed.  This chick has become infamous for leaving insulting reviews on her rivals’ books because she also has books to sell, and knows that the only way hers will ever sell is if there are no others available..!  All of the people involved in this conversation were ridiculing her and her books, which apparently are not of the highest quality.

Look m’dear, just be polite when leaving a review.  You don’t have to lie and say you loved it when you didn’t.  All we ask is that you stop leaving such childish insults that only serve to make you look like an idiot, and to bring the whole of the indie publishing world down to a level of embarrassment.  We have enough to cope with  without this silly behaviour from amongst our own ranks.

Grow up..!

Semi Permanent Make Up – my experience

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Today I did something I’ve been dreaming about for a long time – I got my eyebrows tattooed.  This sounds far more freaky than it looks, and as you can see from the photo above, they look very lifelike.  Nowadays, the tattoo artists are able to produce the most amazing results.  I’m overjoyed, I have good eyebrows for the first time in my life.  No more pencilling, no more powdering, no more dyeing.  Just lick the finger and go..!

After filling in the usual medical forms Sarah, from Lawless Tattoo in Eastleigh,  Hampshire, applied anaesthetic cream.  She then spent quite while drawing the brows with a brow pen, to get the right look and size, and to make sure I was happy with the look.  At all times my own opinions and views were paramount.  After marking the  brows in several places, she wiped off the brow pen and I lay down.  The tattoo procedure itself was not that painful, and she applied anaesthetic cream regularly to keep me comfortable.  Everyone is different and will react to pain differently.  I found the only real discomfort was when she was working on the inner portion of the brows.  Other’s will find that area the least trouble.   Some find it totally without any discomfort.   It was way less painful than when I’ve had normal tattoos done, so if you have had a tattoo, it’s  nowhere near like that.

At all times, she listened to me and what I said I wanted, gave excellent advice and at no time did I ever feel coerced.  I went for a more natural curved outline, rather than the obvious straight edged ones that are so popular now.  I’m 52 and not a glamour model, so a natural look was what I wanted.  There is a follow up appointment in 4 weeks time, when Sarah will fill in anything that needs it, add colour etc and any other  tweaks that are necessary.  They do fade up to 50% after the first part of the procedure, so the follow up is when you can fill in to get the depth of colour you want.

At the moment, she has a June offer running.  £99 for eyebrows, with £45 for the follow up appointment.  She also offers semi permanent eyeliner, eyelash enhancement, lip liner and full lip, laser tattoo removal, body piercing, and all the usual tattoos.  Other people offering these brushstroke eyebrow tattoos charge up to £400 and more.  Why pay those prices?

If you live near Eastleigh, contact Sarah at Lawless Tattoo.  Her facebook page is here.

Brand new interview with Sam Sinclair

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Sam Sinclair, Freelance Law Enforcer with the Inter-Galactic Law Enforcement Agency, popped in for a third interview today, ahead of his new V-Log The Trials of Nahda – Sinclair V-Log PA884/R

Read the interview here.  I hope you enjoy it.

The Inversion Method for hair and skincare

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I happened across a tagline a while ago that caught my eye – grow 1 inch of hair in 7 days.  Naturally, my first thought was something along the lines of “pffffffft, yeah right.”  Once I got that out of the way, I watched some of the youtube videos about it, and decided to give it a go.  It would cost me nothing except a few minutes time, so why not.

The inversion method is simple; you put your head upside down for five minutes, every day for seven days.  It’s as simple as that.  Some folks say to use oil in your hair and there is some debate about which oils to use etc, but my hair is really fine and any added oil just turns me into an oil slick.  I decided not to use any oil, and just to invert my head and do a bit of scalp massage while I’m down there.

What I did was to stand up, bend down to touch my toes, and remain down there for five minutes.  Now, this next bit is VERY important so take note.  Getting up must be done slowly and carefully or you will feel dizzy.  I have severe postural hypotension, so I have learned over the years to take care when getting up, even from lying down.  I’ve got into the habit of being careful, but anyone who isn’t used to taking care, TAKE CARE WHEN STANDING UP..!  You do this for seven days, once a month.  They say you should not be tempted to do this every day, as the body gets used to the extra blood flow, which will cease to have such a dramatic effect.  I don’t know if this bit is true, but I guess it could be.

Most of the folks in the videos and blogs I looked at, took pains to measure their hair before and after, but I didn’t bother.  Extra length was not really what I was after.  The science behind the inversion method is that the extra blood flow to your head during those five minutes, shocks the system, which then uses the extra blood flow that it does not normally receive.  It’s like your hair and skin suddenly says to itself, “hey guys, what’s with all this extra food?  Let’s party.”  Most people seem to get around one inch growth in the seven days.  What I thought was that all that extra blood flow would contribute to my hair’s health in all sorts of ways, so it might contribute to extra thickness huh?  At the very least, the extra blood flow would give the follicles a blow through, which can only be good right?

Okay, so what happened to me?   Well, today is the seventh day of my trial, and I have been able to tie my hair back for the first time in over a year.  A week ago it was too short to tie back,  now I have a baby ponytail that gets my hair off my neck in this horrifyingly hot weather.  I will  have to wait to find out if the thickness has been affected or not, but if not, I’m delighted to have seen some growth.

The unexpected benefit of the inversion method that I’ve found, is the effect on my facial skin.  During this seven days, the skin on my face has been extremely soft, much more so than usual, with no change in my skincare regime.  It makes sense when you think about it; all that extra blood flow to your head is going to have benefits everywhere on your head isn’t it?

I shall definitely be doing it again next month.  It’s worth a few minutes a day surely?

No I haven’t died, I just decorated my living room

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I bet you didn’t even notice I was away..!

I’ve been absent for a couple of weeks or so, due to the fact that I’ve been redecorating my living room.  This was not a job that I was able to achieve in a weekend, due to the scale of the job, the fact that I was doing it on my own without help, and that I work during the day so had to do it in the afternoons and weekends.  Consequently, it took me well over a week and isn’t really finished now.

Everything stopped while the redecoration was happening, even my writing took a back seat.

I first had to move all my furniture into the centre of the room and cover it with plastic sheeting.  Although I pride myself on not being a hoarder, you never really know just how much shit you’ve accumulated until you have to move it somewhere.  I preceded this redecoration project with a mass clear out and took loads of stuff to the tip and gave other stuff away, but still there was loads to find temporary homes for while paint was flying around.  Having all my furniture in a huddle in the middle of the room and covered with plastic sheet, meant I was now without access to my sofa, table, coffee table, tv, radio etc, and had to ‘move into’ my bedroom for the duration.

I know my mattress isn’t the most expensive on the market but after ten days of both sitting on it and sleeping on it, I realise now what utter shit quality it is.  I had my laptop, which gave me access to the internet so I could watch movies and online tv, but eating meals on my bed and doing every single damn thing on my bed became old very quickly and it took days for my spinal injury to get back to its normal level of pain.

Having given up smoking on March 5th, and not having decorated this room for around ten years or so, it took three coats of white to cover the nicotine stained ceiling.  The walls had been a sort of butter colour, which Dulux poetically referred to as ‘Sundust’ and as I now wanted them a very pale grey, I had to cover them with two coats of white to make sure the grey stayed true.  This took a further two days, due to having to wait for coats to dry before doing the next coat etc, nothing is straight forward with decorating is it?  You can’t just get on with it until you’ve finished.  You always have to wait for some damn thing before you can do the next bit, very annoying.

Next I put the grey on the walls, which looked lovely.  This grey paint was extremely expensive  (£46 for five litres) so I only had enough for one coat and was extremely grateful that I had taken the trouble to white out the dingy yellow.  The grey is pale and has an almost china blue quality to it in a certain light.  Not what you would expect from grey at all.  I’m delighted with it.

The last people who lived in my flat put up some of that fancy S shaped coving in the living room, and I wanted to paint it black.  This took another two days alone, as it needed two coats, then I needed to go along the top and bottom with a tiny artists brush and touch up where the ceiling and walls met the edges of the coving.  After so  many hours of craning my next upwards, I doubt I’ll ever be able to look down at my toes again.  The attention to detail paid off though, as the effect is crisp, modern, urban and slightly 1930’s (says I who was born in the 60’s and knows nothing about the real 30’s).

Next was the woodwork, which is the one job I hate with a passion.  It took me two days to sand down two doorframes, a windowsill,  and a mile of skirting and my wrists are still weak and painful and the  skin on my right hand still hasn’t recovered completely.  The ball of my right thumb is still painful too.  Then came two coats of black gloss paint to finish off the job.  I then had to give it a day to begin to dry enough to put the furniture back.

I want to get new flooring for this room, so I ripped up the cream carpet that was down and hiked up to the tip with it all.  Then after hours of cleaning up and carefully putting furniture back, the room is eighty percent finished.  The floor has bright mexican orange linoleum tiles which was obviously installed by council workmen when the building was built, and although it does not ‘go’ with the colour scheme, I will have to live with it until I can save up for some new white vinyl flooring to complete my monochrome look.

I removed the two doors in this room.  The one into the kitchen will not be replaced as I never shut it and the bit of wall behind it is of far more use to me than a door I never close.  The one into the hall will be replace eventually, by one of those glass panelled doors which I hope will allow a little light into the hall, which has no windows and is as dark as the inside of a penguin’s arse.  I found curtains that blend with the look at very reasonable cost, and two of those nice fat tassel tie backs which are usually blood curdlingly expensive (why is a tassel so expensive?) for a tenner each (steps back in amazement).  A couple of black throws from Asda to cover my brown sofa and chair which I can’t afford to replace, and I’m happy with my room.  I just need to save for a new door and new flooring for it to be finished.

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With a slight rearranging of furniture, the room now looks much bigger than before and this new paint job is the only way I can afford to homage the art deco style I love so much. (Yes I know it probably is totally wrong for Art Deco, but it reminds me of it every time I look at it.)

Mother came up for a visit just as I finished and gave her seal of approval, which meant I had another four days of not being able to get back to writing.  Never mind, she paid for stuff at the supermarket so I’m not complaining.

Now I’ve been able to get back to writing, my current work in progress, which is a paranormal novel, has just passed 50k and should end up around 60k (give or take).  This story started out as a planned 4k short story for another anthology I plan to do, but as usual, my characters asserted themselves very quickly and told me in no uncertain terms that they make the rules, not I.  Being outside of my usual sci fi genre, it has been slow to write but a fun experience for me, and one that I look upon as a learning experience.  I can’t wait to see it in print.

Once the first draft of the paranormal novel is done, I can get to editing my next release, the first draft of which has been waiting patiently for me ever since November’s Nanowrimo, when I wrote it.  This is the third in my Sinclair V-Logs series and sees Sam face up to things he never thought he would ever have to deal with.  I’m planning to release it sometime during July.  Watch this space for further details.

I’m delighted with my newly revived living space, and look forward to doing the next room when I feel up to it.  It is good to be back writing; even though I was only away from it for a couple of weeks, it seems like ages and I’ve missed it and felt terribly guilty.  It has probably done me good though, I’ve certainly done a lot of thinking about my future as an author, but that’s for another blog.

Actors owe us everything but seldom acknowledge it

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As far as fame and notoriety go, actors are probably up there at the top of the list.  They are known the world over, loved by everyone, and hailed for their talent.  The ego of an A-list actor is just about the biggest thing on the face of this earth, closely followed by their bank balance, and their embarrassing emotional baggage.  Everyone loves the actors, everyone has their favourite (even me), and there are countless posts on social media discussing the good and bad of this or that actor’s repertoire.  I know, I’ve joined in some of them.

What no one seems to get, especially the actors themselves, is that if it weren’t for us writers, they’d be gas station attendants, shop assistants, bar staff and car valeters.

Every time I see a red carpet event on the television, I watch the actors sashaying up to the cameras. turning this way and that, and accepting praise for their latest movie with gracious smiles, and I quietly seethe.  I get really irritated by these events, because it’s the actors that get all the glory, when us writers have done all the work.  Without us, there would be no actors.

An actor is a liar, all actors are liars.  It’s the be-all and end-all of their existence.  They spend their working lives pretending to be someone else, pretending to have a different personality than the one they were born with, a different life story.  Never trust an actor, they lie for a living, and some of them are extremely skilled at it.  I digress however, the thing that annoys me is that they all owe every moment of their success, to us writers.  Do they ever acknowledge this fact though?  Do they hell.  You will seldom see any actor thanking the writers who have made them famous.  The nearest they get is to thank their director at the Oscar ceremony, and yet if it wasn’t for our talent and creativity, they would not be enjoying the privileged life they lead.

Writers have to make do with a mention in the credits of movies and tv shows, but how many people outside of the business, who aren’t into writing themselves, can name the writers of any movie or tv shows (Lord of the Rings is exempt from this question by the way)?  I doubt there are many.

This is a situation that will never change of course, so long as actors continue to be so highly paid and so long as they are given so much power.  That doesn’t stop it being morally wrong though.

Very unconstructive criticism

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I got a message in my facebook inbox today, saying “Willing to hear constructive criticism?”  I replied that of course, I’m always willing.  This is the reply.

“I started to read your story and was repelled by the way you write. I normally can and do push my self to read material that is new. I would not read more of yours than 2 pages and would not buy it. You have me at at loss since the actual suggestions I had for you are now in the cobweb recesses of my mind.”

Now, forgive me for being thick, but how is this constructive criticism?  This is a personal opinion, not helpful advice.  Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, and even if said opinion offends my own, I absolutely stand by your right to your own, but don’t label it as constructive criticism just to give a valid reason to bash me for kicks. If you think you have advice that might help me evolve and develop as a writer, then I’m all ears baby, but if you just want to punch me in the face for shits and giggles, you can fuck off.

I started writing my first novel in June 2011, and this is the first time I’ve had a message like this, so if this happens once every three years during my career as a writer, I won’t be doing too badly.

Why I don’t beta read

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I don’t beta read for people, and I don’t review for them either, unless I’ve chosen to read the book and liked it. There are several reasons for this, and a recent experience reminded me why it was a good decision for me not to do it. The ease with which anyone can get their work into print, is both good and bad. Without publishing houses guiding authors, they are totally undisciplined, mainly because they simply do not know that there is a way of doing things that earns you respect, and many ways that won’t. Trying to educate them is a waste of time; you will either be ignored or lose your kneecaps.

Recently, I made the mistake of allowing myself to be persuaded into beta reading for someone. I said yes before he told me it was over 100k words, and I’m too nice to go back on my word. This guy has an internet presence which gives the impression (however right or wrong) that he enjoys a level of success. He lives in a country where the people have their own, very unique culture, although he is not of that culture himself.

The generally accepted rule of thumb, is that you don’t send your book to betas until you’ve edited it, proof read it, and made it as polished as you can. It is not the job of the beta to point out spelling errors or grammatical mistakes, or to have to traverse them while trying to get into your plot. The manuscript I received had obviously not even been given an initial proof read, let alone multiple edits. It was terrible, not to put too finer point on it. Do this too often and word will get around the greater writing community that you don’t know what the hell you are doing.

Another problem I found, was that it was too specific to the unique culture the author lives in, which I feel would alienate those not of that culture, (which makes up roughly 75% of the rest of the world). Fine if you only intend to publish in that one country, but if you want it to be available worldwide, it’s a mistake, in my opinion. When I say too specific, I mean he used words of that language without giving a translation or giving us any clue as to what it means.

The main problem for me, was that it was far too long and seemed as if he had filled it with tons of minute descriptive detail just to pad out the word count. There was simply far too much minute descriptive detail that did not help the story. I did give it a try though, and set my Word Talk up and sat back to listen. I felt that the first 5 or 6 chapters could easily be discarded without any harm to the main story, and by chapter 9 I had fallen asleep through sheer boredom. I realised that I had probably bitten off far more than I could chew, so I read three or four chapters, then skimmed through another dozen or so, then read three or four more, then skimmed a load more, wash, rinse, repeat until I got to the end. In my opinion, he should cut it down to between 70 and 80 thousand words, and he will have a story that gets into the action quickly and carries you through at an exciting pace.

When I wrote my thoughts to the author, he did not even bother to acknowledge that I had taken my time (free of charge) to give him the benefit of my experience and viewpoint as both an author and a reader. It doesn’t matter that he may not have liked my opinion, he asked for it, I gave it, and I deserved an acknowledgement at least. I couldn’t give a flying fuck what you think of my opinion, if you ask for it, you will it and I expect you to thank me for my time. This guy didn’t, and that shows not only his lack of experience as an author in the field, which will only serve to hinder him as word gets around of his lack of basic etiquette, but also shows that the spin he puts out about himself is just that – spin.

This has proved to me that my decision not to beta read for others is a valid one, and one that I shall stick to in future. It’s not that I’m unhelpful or want to keep other authors down, it’s because when I give hours of my time to someone without charge, and they can’t even acknowledge my contribution, I feel like a fool.

I will be nobody’s fool, so don’t ever ask me to beta read, or read for review.

Parting ways with Smashwords

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Today marks the ending of a relationship that has been good. It’s like breaking up with a boyfriend you’ve become comfortable with, and although you feel sad, you suddenly realise that now you can take more notice of all those other fish that people say are in the sea. They are there too.

A few days ago, I published my ninth novel, A.W.O.L, a sci fi romance. All my previous eight novels have been published in both paperback and e-book formats, and this new one is no different. For the last eight books, I have used multiple publishing platforms, to increase my visibility around as many sites as possible, and this new books is no different. For the last eight books I have used Smashwords as one of e-book publishing platforms, but this new book is very different.

Smashwords have always been one of my favourite publishing sites, because of their distribution, which has always been pretty fantastic. The trouble with Amazon, is that although most people buy from there, Amazon only make ebooks for the Kindle. Not everyone uses a Kindle. Some folks use iPads, iPhones, Palm readers, Nooks and loads of other e-reader devices. For these other e-reader devices, you need sites that produce e-books in the appropriate formats for these e-reader devices to use. There are loads of sites that sell e-books for all these other e-reader devices. iTunes, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, Sony, Diesel and many others, and Smashwords distributes your book to many of these. Up until recently, they were the only one who had such a wide distribution.

Many authors hate Smashwords, and are quite happy to vocalise their hatred. The upload process, what Smashwords calls ‘the meatgrinder’ is unnecessarily difficult, and any deviation from an extremely strict formatting process, results in refusal of your file. They do produce a free book to guide you through their formatting process, and if followed very strictly, upload should go without a problem. There is zero margin for error or creative expression in your formatting though, which is another annoying thing.

Smashwords also insist you list them as your publisher on your copyright page, which is one of the main things everyone hates about them. Not content with taking a cut of your royalties, they also require to be your publisher.

Up until now, I have never had any problems uploading to Smashwords. It has always gone through first time and I’ve been perplexed as to why so many other authors all say they have so many problems. I now fully understand all those other authors, and join them in their hatred.

My Word subscription ran out, and I could not afford the £80 needed to renew it, so I used Kingsoft Writer to format A.W.O.L and uploaded to Lulu, Createspace and Amazon KDP without a problem. I always do two formats for ebook, one for KDP and one for Smashwords, as they require totally different formatting, and this time was the same. When I tried to upload the file to Smashwords however, it refused it, saying that the file was an application/KSWPS file with a .doc extension. Not only do I not have the first clue what a KSWPS file is, I’ve no idea how to change it. So I paid for renewal of Word, which meant I could not pay the rent that week, and opened the file in Word, and saved it again from there, renaming it completely. Smashwords still refused to accept it. I then copied the document into a fresh word document, and totally reformatted from scratch, entirely in Word, saved from Word and renamed again. Smashwords still refused to accept it.

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I got in touch with their support, and heard from a guy called Kevin, who asked me to send him my content and cover shot files, which I did. He then said they uploaded fine when he tried, but they won’t when I try. He finally admitted that he hasn’t a clue why this is happening.

Having ranted about this on my facebook page, someone gave me a link to a page called Draft2Digital, which is an ebook publishing platform who distribute to iTunes, Barnes and Noble, and Kobo. With nothing to lose, I took a look and uploaded the book, which was accepted straight away and is now for sale at those three outlets. It seems that the only way Smashwords distribution is better, is because they also distribute to Sony ebooks and Diesel.  Pfffffft……….!

Draft2Digital will do your title page, copyright page, table of contents and end papers for you (about the author, other works by etc) if you haven’t done them yourself, and there is no style guide you have to follow, and no demands for them to be listed as your publisher. Just upload your formatted file and away you go. They are also trying to secure distribution with several other well known ebook sites, so they will soon have a distribution network to beat all others.

I have sold a few books at Smashwords, but not so many that I’m not prepared to leave when there’s a better service available. My book has been available through Draft2Digital for just a couple of days, and already there’s been a sale. I’m happy with them so far and have no intention of fighting with Smashwords anymore.

The eight books that are already up at Smashwords can stay there, but I will not be using them again in the future. This has put me off them for good. I will use Draft2Digital for my future books and will recommend them to everyone. If Smashwords wants to get back into favour with authors, they need to shake themselves up. Their meatgrinder is too hard to navigate, the demand for listing as publisher is just wrong, and the famous lack of support is just not acceptable. Sites like Draft2Digital show how easy it is to provide a service without making the process difficult, and more publishing sites like them will pop up as time goes on.

Bye bye Smashwords, you suck cock.  I won’t miss you, and I’m happy with all the other services that are available now.

UPDATE – April 3rd

Today I got another email from Kevin, saying that the only thing he can suggest is to try uploading via Firefox, even though I hate it.  If it still won’t work, then he said “it obviously wasn’t meant to be.” So I very reluctantly downloaded Firefox (I detest it with a passion) and tried the upload. The file uploaded without a problem, just to make me look like a twit. Apart from not liking my title being all capitals, and making me change it to Awol (with initial capital only), it uploaded smoothly and is now in the queue for pro catalogue review.

I will wait until it is safely accepted in the pro catalogue before deciding whether to delete it from Draft2Digital, as it might cause a problem with the distribution. D2D distributes to B&N, Kobo and iTunes, and so does Smashwords, so the fact that the book is already at those locations with D2D might cause a hiccup that Smashwords doesn’t like.