Over the past year I’ve made a few ebooks. My class in college self-published an anthology and, because I was insane at the time, I was the Associate Editor and Webmaster. This meant I had to learn how to e-publish. I thought it would be easy. Oh how wrong I was, Afterwards this publishing experience (slightly embellished on my CV) led to me getting a few other jobs, including one in Coiscéim, an Irish language publishing house. In my time there I had to put my money where my mouth was and publish some of their back catalogue online. I think my experience may be useful to anyone who’s thinking of self-publishing online, so without further ado, How to Make an Ebook in 14 Easy Steps:
Recently I’ve gotten into short stories in a big way. Most of what I write at the moment is short stories. I’m going to try and review one most Sundays because there is some incredible, often overlooked, stuff out there in this format.
‘Earworm’ is by Julian Gough and is the second story in Town and Country, this year’s Faber anthology of New Irish Short Stories. It is edited by the wonderful Kevin Barry, though he did not contribute a story. Two of my friends had stories in it so we all went to the launch at the Dublin Writers’ Festival and had a great night. Theirs were the only stories I had read in advance of the event so on the bus home I began to duck in and out of other stories.
I’d never even heard of Julian Gough before but this story… Wow. Earworm is a word from German (ohrwurm) that describes a catchy piece of music. The story follows two young computer geeks, one based in America, the other in Germany, who meet on 4chan on Star Wars day (May the 4th) and really hit it off. The story is littered with contemporary references like this and it’s a breath of fresh air to a lot of Irish stories that would have you believe DeV’s vision of girls dancing at the crossroads still reigns supreme. While they have the potential to become annoying they never reach that stage. Rather they make the characters very authentic seeming and they fit in with a story based around the internet, and the references are deftly explained by their context so the reader is never left in the dark.
The characters in this decide to build a virus that will spread through computers to humans. They mathematically analyse popular songs and why people keep listening to songs they know are shit, why things like Rebecca Black’s ‘Friday’ get so many plays. It’s hard not to get caught up in their obsessive research and joy as their theories are proved correct time and again. The writing has an amazing energy to it and has a few things to say about regret, about relationships and about governments control and censorship of the internet (which I particularly like in light of all the talk about SOPA and PIPA from a few months ago). These messages are subtle and take a back seat to the plot, though it might have been nice to learn a bit more about the characters and I’m not keen on the final lines of the story.
When they release their song onto the internet all hell breaks loose as the world slows down to listen, and listen and listen, the music industry panics and governments see this as cyberterrorism. The collection is fantastic but if you’re in Easons and can’t make your mind up about buying it have a sneaky read of this story first, it won’t disappoint.
Notable Lines: “Did I feel this good because I’d helped build this song, or because the song would make anyone feel this good? TB was lying on his bed, laughing hysterically. We need civilians, I said. We need to check…”
This is the first fiction book I’ve read from a fellow Navanite (that’s what we call people who are from Navan, because we’re cool like that). I’m not entirely sure what I expected from this book so I feel I should tell the whole story of how I came to read it. Gather Round!
Due to my financial circumstances I was living in Navan, near my Mom’s place of work. One day a customer was mentioning to Mom that her Father had written a book. Mom took her cue and started mentioning how I had just finished a Masters in Creative Writing and was trying to get published etc etc and they had a nice little chat while everyone else in the queue waited. A few days later the woman returned to the shop with a signed copy of her Father’s book for me to read.
While it was a lovely, incredibly thoughtful gesture, it was one of those situations I hate. I have stacks of books in my to-read pile and most of them were books I really wanted to read and had been looking forward to. A quick skim of the blurb on The Wormdigger’s Daughter tole me it was most certainly not my kind of book. I resent these situations because I feel obliged to read these books, books that a friend gives me because “Oh my God, you’ll just love it, it’s so you!” and it really really isn’t me at all. These books waste time that I could spend reading other, sexier books (Or re-reading Terry Pratchett). But in the past two years I’ve made up my mind to read more broadly. Being forced to read outside my genre in college really helped my writing and reading books I hate or thought were terrible *cough* Twilight *cough* taught me a lot about what not to do and the market and other things like that so I put The Wormdigger’s Daughter in the middle of my to-read pile and soon after it was buried in an avalanche of books and forgotten Every now and then the title tugged at my memory.
Despite the impression I got from the blurb there is no denying that The Wormdigger’s Daughter is a damn intriguing title. Eventually I sat down to read it and I’m glad I did. I was expecting a woe is me, Angela’s Ashes, those damn English, look how crap Ireland is kind of story. It is, in essence, a very simple story with a very simple framing narrative. Molly and Frank work on a landlord’s estate. Three of their children die quite young. Their only surviving child is a girl called Angel. The landlord lays a claim to her and to protect Angel the family run away in the dead of night. They are accused of stealing which means they have to keep running and their whole lives focus around keeping Angel safe and secret. it is clear this life is not sustainable. This story is told my Molly and Frank many years later to the author as a young man. The characters rarely stray into three dimensional territory and I believe the resolution of Angel’s story is a bit too neat (though that may be just the cynic in me unwilling to believe that people can quite regularly be selfless).
But the real reason to read this story is not for the authentic, detailed rendition of life in feudal Ireland. It is for the way the story is told. We are traditionally a nation of story tellers and there is a very strong oral tradition in Ireland. This book perfectly captures the rhythm of verbal storytelling. IT reminds me of listening to my grandparents or old men in the book telling epics that you don’t want to end. The language is very simple with lots of repeated phrases as the couple tell their story again and again. As a result it trips along at a lovely pace as this language sucks you into the family’s trials and tribulations. It is hypnotic, I read most of it in one sitting which I rarely have time to do these days.
It seems to be based on a true story, though I cannot confirm this. And while this story has plenty of dark moments it has an overriding note of happiness and perseverance which is quite rare in these days of fashionable gritty realism. A pleasant surprise and definitely worth a read if you have interest in Irish history.