The Night Sky

To save money the council now switches off the street lights in our street in the early hours. The result is magical. We have the night sky back. The stars, from being fogged and distant, are now distinct, glittering and close. The sky is once more a starlit canopy. At this season Orion is perfectly framed by the buildings, a huge presence, with studded belt and sword. This morning, for one morning only, he held, in his raised left hand, the full moon, a ball of light, a shining snowball. Ice glittered on the roofs in the moonlight.

Publishing Dionysos’ Island

The piles of books – my book! – the friends, neighbours, family and fellow-writers, my reading listened to carefully, questions and answers, congratulations, copies bought and signed, the mingling, with glasses of wine, of the diversity of people I know. The book launch. It feels like the end of the endeavour, when of course it’s just the beginning. But it is the end of the process of turning my manuscript into my book. So, before getting on with the real job of getting Dionysos’ Island out there, I’ll tell that story.

The manuscript’s finished. (Manuscript means of course ‘hand-written’, which I like, even if I did type it in Appleworks on my ancient ibook.) Now to turn it into a book.

First, move the Appleworks file onto my mac mini. Then open the file in Pages. (You can open Word files in Pages, too.) Pages is Apple’s very sophisticated word processing application, and costs a mere £13.99 from the App Store. I set the whole book in Pages: page size, chapters and sections, left and right pages, page numbering, margins, line spacing, even kerning (adjusting the space between characters to improve the look, called, not unreasonably ‘character spacing’ in Pages) etc, etc, and this was what, converted to a pdf, went to the printers. And it looks great, totally professional. It can also easily be used for e-books. So – three cheers for Pages.
(A couple of warning notes, however. First, I was involved in setting both my previous books, First Cut and Diggers and Dreamers, and without some experience, it can be a steep learning curve. Second – proof reading. We all know the limits of spell checkers, and the Pages Proofreader is also limited and bizarrely politically-correct. I proofread by going through the ms several times, but ideally get someone competent to proof-read for you.)

I did, however, outsource the cover – I know my limits. An excellent graphic designer lives in the same town, and she is really good at converting the ragbag of images and sketches I take to her into a great cover that’s all marked up ready for the printer. Thank you, Linda and Joss (he’s the techie). Cost: £250.

Who to publish? That’s easy. Having decided to publish my first book several years ago, and gone through the usual dispiriting and time-consuming process of approaching agents and publishers, I decided to self-publish, and set up, with a fellow-writer (Sebastian Hayes – check him out on – he’s pretty much the cleverest person I know), Brimstone Press ( To quote: ‘Brimstone Press enables writers to self-publish and market their books within an environment of shared expertise and experience.’ End of plug. Dionysos’ Island will be our thirty-third title.

Printing. My previous books were printed by Antony Rowe, who were the early leaders in short-run and print-on-demand digital printing. However the new kids on the block are imprintdigital. Several Brimstone authors have used them. Their website has an easy-to-use price calculator, and they are straightforward, fast (one day for a proof copy, under a week to print), and excellent quality. They’re a small outfit, run from a barn in the Devon countryside, nimble, and their price easily undercut Antony Rowe’s. However I did have a problem with them printing the wrong cover finish, which although it was eventually resolved, made me hope they don’t sacrifice care for speed. But, an excellent print job.

So, the books are here. Now to get selling!