Monday, August 27, 2012

Blogging Is Hard

I've been a slacker.

Not an author-ish slacker, but a marketing slacker.  Let's face it - blogging is hard.  Marketing a self-published book is hard.  Selling a self-published book is hard.

On top of all that, I started a new job at the end of the spring and there went all that wonderful time I had for doing nothing but working on book stuff.

Starting a new job is hard.

So, though absent these many months, I'm glad to come back, to whoever may ever read such a thing, to announce that I've released my second book in my Somewhat Silly Story series with a follow up to Sir Nathan and the Quest for Queen Gobbledeegook.

I feel it's a better story, with better illustrations and I'm really proud of it.  You can learn more at

And ... book number 3 is already in the works!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Now On Video!

You can now see a video promo for Sir Nathan and the Quest for Queen Gobblegook!

See it here on YouTube and learn more about the book and the author on!


Monday, June 4, 2012

The Road To You Know Where Is Paved With You Know What

So, so long since I've posted a blog update.  And no real good reason for that.  Well ... maybe two good reasons.

First reason is because I started a new job.  Suddenly all that free time I had to loaf around and write and edit and market went right out the window.  I guess that's why they call it "work" and not "stay home, but we'll still pay your salary".

The second reason is because I was caught up in releasing book # 2, Sir Nathan and the Troublesome Task.  Those pesky books take work!  Who knew?  I had most of the writing done before the new job started, but hadn't put in much edit time.  I found myself working during the evening, after my son went to bed, when I was a lot less alert and productive.  Not good.  I also had the edits from three great helpers to fold in, too, so my thanks to Deb and Mike and Liz for all their input.  Don't know where I'd be without their help.

There.  I don't know if those can count as "good" reasons.  But that's why I've been delinquent.  Now the book is available on Smashwords and Amazon and, as soon as the website cooperates, Barnes & Noble.  Frankly, though, putting the books out as e-books doesn't do much for me for book sales.  Seems like the kids want a tangible paperback they can hold in their hands.  The e-books do help me get pointed in the right direction for release of the paperbacks, so they're not completely useless.  And they help me to start getting the word out there.

This spring I was lucky to be invited to speak with three different groups of students about Sir Nathan and the Quest for Queen Gobbledeegook.  I visited a 4th grade class at Brooklyn Elementary School, I met with a TAG program at Shorewood Elementary and just last week I met with all the kids, kindergarten through 5th, at Pecatonica Elementary School.  Great fun and the kids were awesome!  I also get to talk to a local summer-school program in just a few weeks.

Here's hoping to continued visits this coming fall where I can hear what the kids think about Sir Nathan and the Troublesome Task.  I think they're going to like it, even better!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Kids. Are They ALL Crazy?

A sunny morning starts the day in which I eagerly anticipate getting on with more editing of book number two in my Somewhat Silly Story series.  I'm pretty excited about this one, liking it more than the first story and really hopes that it helps to spread the word of the books.

But, before any book-work can be done, there's the small matter of two boys to deal with.  The first is my almost-10-year-old son, who needs to be ushered off to school.  The second is the youngster, the 21-month-old golden retriever that needs a walk.

This morning, my son woke up on his own, easily fifteen minutes earlier than the earliest we would go and roust him from bed.  The last two nights, he's been sleeping on the floor of his room.  This, coupled with a recent desire to see how long he can hold his breath, has my wife puzzled.  I have an easy explanation.  "He's 9."  The answer seems to satisfy her.

Because he's up and at them and rarin' to go, he's falling prey to his most-consistent fallacy.  On mornings like this, he falls under the delusional attitude of, "Oh, we got plenty of time."  And, indeed, if he wakes up as early as he did, then indeed there is plenty of it.  But, what he often fails to realize, time and time again, is that "plenty of time" is a self-correcting problem.  As he sits with his toys in the morning sunshine, simulating yet another battle of one kind or another, the sands of time are trickling away.  As he plays with the Star Wars pen that came in my box of Cheerios, the clock ticks on.  As he discusses and debates and sometimes argues with me about how cold/warm the day is going to be and what sort of clothing is appropriate for the weather, time marches on.

So, inevitably, we come to that point where I announce that it's time to get to school.  "What?!" comes his cry of shocked and even hurt surprise.  It's as if I somehow conspired against him, sneakily whispering to the clocks of the house and convincing them to move the minute hand ahead when my son wasn't looking.  I've grown so tired of this angry outburst of his, I've taken to pretending I don't understand his intentions and act is if he's saying "What?" because he didn't hear what I said.

"IT'S TIME ... TO GO TO ... SCHOOL!" I'll dramatically shout, cupping my hands around my mouth to amplify my voice.

"I know!  I heard you!" is the usual reply, most likely followed by some sort of grunt of disgruntlement.

Ah, kids.  I can often be heard expressing the opinion that children will the best, and worst, thing that ever happen to you.  If he's going to continue to act all hurt that somehow it's time for bed, or time for school, or time for dinner, then I'm going to continue to find different ways to torment him.  It's probably a built-in human survival instinct.  Once I build my time-machine, I'm going to enjoy going back in time and enjoy watching pre-historic parents tease their children as a way of blowing off the steams of frustration.


Friday, March 30, 2012

Build A Better Mousetrap

The easiest part of the whole being-an-author process so far has been actually writing the books.  People have asked me how I can just sit down and plunk away at the keyboard and come up with a book.  For me, it's not too tough, especially since I'm focusing on silly fantasy adventure stories.  In that sort of world, anything is possible, so I don't have to worry too much about reality.  I just unhinge my brain and let the goofiest oddities bubble to the surface and call it a day.

So what's difficult?  Editing and (of course) selling/marketing the book.  But put aside the latter for the moment.  That's always going to be hard and I don't know that there's much any of us can do to make it easier, other than becoming the next J. K. Rowling.

That leaves editing.  Typesetting.  Pushing and shoving all those words around.  Being a little bit cheap about such things and a little bit strapped for cash, I'm using OpenOffice to write.  It's free.  It's pretty much Word, which Microsoft doesn't even support anymore for the Mac.  It does all I need it to do, right? Well, sure, but so does a printing press from the 1800's, but I'm not about to handset all that type.

I've always hated Word.  As far as software has come, why is word-processing software still such a pain? I shouldn't have to have a master's degree in Word to be able to type on my computer.  It feels like they've just been layering on new features since the original release and the software has become this big tangled mess of confusion.  I wrestled so much with headers and footers in my first book that I was ready to throw the computer across the room.

It shouldn't be this hard.

So I admit to being really interested in Scrivener.  Saw an article about it online and checked out its features on the website.  I'm tempted.  I truly am.  Someone made some software considering ease of use and practicality?  Unheard of!  Just the mention of features that get you around scrolling and scrolling through your work make me salivate.  I just may have to try it for book #3.

Has anybody used this?  Anybody have any reports?  I'd love to hear.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Book Review: Wanted Dead or Undead

A first for this blog ... a book review!

I recently got the chance to review Angela Scott's "Wanted: Dead or Undead".  As the website states, it's a "western romance ... zombie style".

Needless to say, being a bit of a curmudgeon, I had certain pre-conceived notions going into reading this book.  The zombie thing is all the rage right now.  The Walking Dead just finished up its second season with a bit of a cliff hanger.  Zombie movies are rearing their undead heads just like it's the golden days of horror movies, with blobs and giant ants and Godzillas everywhere you look.  The odd, paranormal genre is in full swing, propelled on by the likes of the Sookie Stackhouse books by Charlaine Harris.  Just look at all the classics being re-written with zombies: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies,  Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters and Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter to name a few.

So, to be honest, when I first started the book I imagined it was just going to be a lot of zombies chewing on people's heads, but only set in the wild west.

"Look out, Jimbo," cried Duke as a zombie ate Jimbo's face.

Now, don't get me wrong.  I like the zombie genre.  Other than some gaping gaps in the mentality of the script writers for the Walking Dead (why does Karl never stay in the house?), I eagerly await the next episode.  I enjoyed Zombieland.  I will gush about Shaun of the Dead to anyone who will sit still long enough.  I liked World War Z well enough.

So.  I had some reservations about "Wanted: Dead or Undead".  Small publisher.  An author without a lot of experience under her belt.  Was it just going to be blood and guts splattered on the walls of the local saloon instead of on the walls of the strip-mall?  Was it just going to be The Outlaw Josey Wales ... and Zombies?


The first chapter kind of felt like it was just going to be blood and guts and mayhem, but it was all just setting up the backstory of one of the main protagonists, simply known as Red.  And her story is just one of several twists that left me surprised.  More and more, as I read, I saw that it wasn't a zombie story.  And as Red meets and joins other humans just trying to survive, I came to realize it was mainly a story about the interaction between the human survivors, that just happened to be set in the wild west.  And that just happened to have zombies.

Now, normally I run for the hills when we start to get into all sorts of in-depth peeks into what the characters are thinking.  Sure, I want them to be more than 2-dimensional tools, but let's not spend entire chapters on them wrestling with their emotions.  But Angela Scott pretty much hit the nail on the head for me.  Just enough delving into Red's mind and that of a potential love interest, Trace Monroe, along with others that they run into.

More than once I was caught off guard by the direction that the story took.  And the twists and turns made me want to read more.

In the end, I would have liked to have seen the characters spend just a little bit more time contemplating what the zombie apocalypse meant.  In some ways they took it a little too much in stride.  I also would like there to have been just a teensy bit more exploration of what exactly it was going to take the characters to survive.  In the wild west, would there have been plenty of bullets around for the taking what with everyone armed to the teeth for the constant onslaught of flesh-eating beasties roaming the land.  And lastly, I would have liked to have had a little bit more resolution of some the problems put before the characters instead of leaving them for subsequent books, but that just speaks of how involved I was feeling.

And remember, I'm a bit of a curmudgeon.  Normal people don't have the problems with stories that I do.  I'm looking at you, The Walking Dead!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

It's All Ball Bearings These Days

Hobnobber Squirrel
A Hobnobber Squirrel
I am 80% finished with the first draft of the 2nd book in the Somewhat Silly Story series.  And as I write, I'm finding it to be an interesting adventure in trying to keep this second book in line with what I set forth in the first.

Is Sir Nathan, the Hero of Mariskatania, shouting about goodness and honor and smiting enough?  Is his horse, Tupolev, always walking the fine line between friendship and complete frustration with the Hero and his headstrong ways?  Are the characters they meet silly and interesting and fun?

When I wrote the first book, it was pretty much just a stream-of-consciousness sort of effort.  It was initially written just for me to give to my young nieces and nephews for fun and I had no real plan to follow.  Now, 9 years or so later, after I've dusted it off and re-written and re-edited it, I've had to be more careful and strive to create something that a general public would enjoy.

So when I started writing book #2, I found that I needed to be much more stringent in how I attacked things.  The book needed to seem familiar to anyone that had read book 1, but still stand out on its own.  The first book was written in five parts.  Part 1 introduced us to the world and the Hero and explained that Queen Gobbledeegook was missing.  There!  Easy!  Now he's got somewhere to go and Parts 2 through 5 took him to four distinct locations where he met up against four distinct adversaries.

So, with book 2, it should be the same way, right?  Because kids want some of that formulaic process, to ground them in the known while at the same time you whisk them into the unknown?  Right?  Maybe not.  Who am I to say?  But that's my plan and I'm sticking to it.

So now I had to stick to plan.  Another five part book.  Another adventure for the Hero.  Part 1 to explain the problem and four other parts for him to solve it, each with their own distinct locale and antagonist.

And don't forget the Hobnobber Squirrels!  Perhaps my favorite thing to come out of the first book was Hobnobber Squirrels:

"The Hobnobber Squirrels scampered through the branches of the Huckle Nut Trees, looking for Huckle Nuts to eat. This was an odd thing for them to do because Huckle Nuts are extremely poisonous to Hobnobber Squirrels. Maybe that was why there were so very few of the fuzzy, blue creatures to be found."

They're fluffy.  They're cute.  They're ridiculous and the name rolls of the tongue in a somewhat silly way.  They turned out to be a great bit of set-dressing to sprinkle into the book here and there, especially contrasted against the pink leaves of the Hootentoot Trees.  If ever my books are popular enough to warrant plush toys for marketing, you can bet the Hobnobber's are going to be first in line.  

So, do we just keep shoving the squirrels at the reader in book 2?  Or do we come up with something different?  Remember, we're trying to follow a formula here - something for the reader to look forward to now that they're familiar with my writing style.  

Eventually, about halfway through writing the first draft, I came up with something that I'm just as giddy about as I was the Hobnobber Squirrels.  It's new, it's different, it's cute ... possibly cuter than the squirrels.  Would it happen to make a good plush toy?  Yes, but that's only by accident.  Am I going to tell you what it is?  


A writer has to have some secrets, after all.  

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The Fox is Guarding the Hen House

I have been at this book-selling thing for five and a half weeks now.  At first with just e-book offerings and now, in the past half a week, with a paperback version available as well.

I groomed and edited and polished my book before releasing it unto the world.  I double-groomed and edited and polished before I let it go out the door in print.  And, every day, I've been hitting the marketing world, trying to spread the word about my work.  I am in a mode where I'm just hoping that word will spread and have no delusions that I'm going to be filthy rich from my work any day now.

I'm constantly hitting the interwebs, reading and investigating and checking into all those things you're "supposed to do" to market your book.  I've got a website, a Facebook page, a Twitter account, a Pinterest account, this blog ... I've saturated the internet so well so that my book comes up easily in any Google search.  I'm a graphic designer and web programmer by trade, so I'm not daunted by marketing my work online.  It's what I get paid for.

Yet, I've come to one odd conclusion/theory/hypothesis.  I feel as if I'm a salesman in a store filled with other salespeople, all trying to sell the same thing, with nary a customer in sight.

On Twitter, people find my account and my tweets because of my mentions of writing.  They follow me.  I do the same to them and to others that I find the same way.  And we're all yelling and screaming and babbling about our book.  Sometimes we're coy and put out little snippets and artful boasts.  Sometimes we're blunt and just yell to anyone who will listen to buy our book.  Right now I have less than 200 followers and about the same number that I follow.  And already, the constant stream of tweets from them all is a deafening chorus that I can't follow.  I try to check in a few times a day.  I follow links that sound interesting.  I re-tweet informative stuff.  I re-tweet for others who have been friendly to me and who seem to have something worthwhile to mention.

But in any way is this a viable way to get buyers?

On Facebook, I have several followers of my book page, mostly friends and family and a few friends-of-friends.  But I also am starting to get some followers who are joining along because we all signed up at a website that helps you generate more followers.  It's just like Twitter.  They're following me so I can follow them, but who among us is taking time to read through the other's pages, looking for worthwhile books to purchase vs. how many are just going through the motions?

Yes, it could conceivably help, as a potential buyer could check out my page and think that my work must have some value to it if so many people are following it.  But that feels like a long shot.  And it kind of doesn't feel honest.

Wouldn't it be better, somehow, to have a Facebook page filled with people who are familiar with my book and discuss whether or not it has any value?  Or is that just a pipe-dream, reserved for only the truly successful authors?

I'm realize and accept that I haven't been at this that long.  But right now ... what I wouldn't give for just one review or mention or conversation with someone that found my book, read it, and had something to say that wasn't a friend or family member.  Someone whom I don't know and who isn't just being nice. I'd like to know that it is possible to get word of my book out there and that people will find it.

Patience, Monty.  Climb the ladder.  Am I right?

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Now In Paperback!

I'm tickled and delighted and a bunch of other of other adjectives that my silly fairy-tale, Sir Nathan and the Quest for Queen Gobbledeegook, is now available as an actual, hold-in-your-hands, paperback!

Terribly exciting stuff!

It's available from CreateSpace, which is the Amazon-owned company that actual creates the print-on-demand books, as well as through the Amazon website itself.

I receive a greater commission for any purchases through CreateSpace, but I'm thinking I won't really be directing people to that site.  I have limited control over the online store's appearance and it just comes across a little bit shady, especially to anyone needing to enter credit card information.  Also, it asks that you create an account in order to purchase, which is a bit odd, because what are the odds a customer is going to be ordering anything else through CreateSpace?

Instead, I'll be directing potential buyers to the more recognized Amazon website, even though I get about half the commission.  I'd rather customers feel confident about placing their orders and really, I'm more interesting just in getting word of my book out there than in reaping in coins, hand over fist.  Maybe I can complain about all the lost zillions of dollars when I'm selling more than zero books a day.

The nice thing about using CreateSpace is that I can order what they call "author copies" of the book, which I can have to hand out and sell myself.  That's where I'd make the greatest amount of money.  Look for me setting up a combination lemonade and paperback stand in my driveway now that the weather is warming up.

So.  Interested in a funny fairy-tale for the 8-12 year age range?  It's got adventure.  It's got laughs.  It's got blue squirrels and mechanical monkeys.  It's available, through Amazon, right here!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Will It Hit The Spot?

The first paid advertising I'm going to try is with a website called

This will be an interesting experiment as a way to get word of the Sir Nathan book series out there.  The Our Mom Spot website is one I came upon when looking for places to spread word of a children's book.  The site is a comprehensive collection of a wide variety of topics, all obviously aimed at moms and parents in general.

You can see the site's submission guidelines here.

It's tough to tell where to throw money in the interest of marketing a self-published book.  The possibilities are endless.  Online marketing is a part of my normal career and a path I've trod many times in the past.  An author can contemplate everything from Facebook ads to Google ads to subscribing to a wide variety of websites out there that claim they'll market your work.

I'm not keen on Facebook ads, as I feel they're often ignored as just junk that pops up on the screen.  I certainly never look at them.  Google pay-per-click ads, on the right side of the screen of any search result, used to be considered that way, too.  People just tuned them out like they do car commercials on the radio.  But now, those Google ads have become very relevant.  Other than those few ads that are set up to appear no matter what the user is searching for, the vast majority of them are very specifically targeted.  Looking for pet supplies?  The ads are going to be all about dog brushes and cat toys.  They're actually a great way to find what you're looking for and I've used them very effectively for clients in the past.

But how many people are just entering a bland Google search for "children's books"?  Not many, I would suspect.  They might get a recommendation off a blog, but it's more likely they're coming from friends.  For my son, a lot of the times it's just a case of going to the book store and seeing what looks good.

So why tried a paid ad with Our Mom Spot?  Mainly because the focus of the website towards parents, coupled with an inexpensive and organized ad process, seems like a wonderful place to give it a try.  Will I have any way of measuring the effectiveness of the ad?  None that I can think of.  Not unless I demand that everyone who buys the book lets me know how they heard about it.  Good luck with that.

I plan on setting up an ad on their website just as soon as my book is available in print, which will be in less than a week.  Let's keep our fingers crossed.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Too Many Websites

I'm at that point in the self-publishing adventure where I'm looking for opportunities to market my book.  And I'm almost running into too many website choices.

There are plenty of recommended sites out there, but I'm seriously doubting the need for them all.  Currently, my silly fairy tale is available through Amazon, Smashwords and Barnes and Noble.  I point to these sites with my Facebook account, my Twitter account and this blog.  How many more sites should I dump my details into?  There definitely seems to be a point of diminishing returns.

A website such as wasn't too tough to set up with my author profile and book information.  But why?  Are there users going to that website to look for a book over a much more comprehensive site like Amazon?  There's another website,, that seems to do the same thing, but won't let me edit details about my profile or book very easily.  Somehow the website has me down for my fairy tale twice, but won't let me delete one of the postings.  And, try as I might, I can't get an image for the book cover to upload.  Is this site really going to bring me any sales?  It's difficult to believe that it will.

As a web designer and programmer, I've been in those conversations where someone's got the bit in their teeth about "inventing" a new website that the world is going to flock to.  "It's going to be great!  It's going to be awesome!  It's going to have shooting lasers and holograms and everyone is going to want to go there!"  Yeah, right.  These projects would leave me feeling ill.  Just look at the difficult time Google+ is having trying to get into a market already dominated by Facebook.  And is the Bing search engine taking over for Google?

So, unless these sites can truly be innovative, there doesn't seem to be a point.  And, if they can't get the basics down (such as letting me upload a cover graphic), there REALLY doesn't seem to be a point.

Another website,, gave me a little hope in that you can submit your book and offer it for free to people willing to read it and give an honest review.  Again, the site seems to be a little hit or miss in its functionality and I wonder if anything will come of the time I spent submitting there.

I feel I'm getting more traffic just using the forums for the Kindle and the Nook and others to get my book info out there.

Next on the list: tackling the Goodreads author program.  I'm skeptical.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

You Like Me! You Really Like Me!

I just returned from visiting a 4th grade class that has been reading my book, Sir Nathan and the Quest for Queen Gobbledeegook.
[ amazon | smashwords | barnes and noble ]

It was a fantastic visit, better than I could have expected.  The kids were well-bahaved, polite and (most exciting!) interested!  I have a 4th grade son and I know how they can behave.  One Christmas, my wife and I tended to my son's class during the holiday pageant, watching over the class when it wasn't there turn to be down in the gym, singing their 4th grade hearts out.  Those kids were terrible!  Sure, they were stirred up because of the special event.  But my wife and I quickly went from polite adults handing out suggestions to gruff grown-ups, barking out orders.

On the contrary, this class was wonderful.  They've been reading a bit of my book, out loud, in class each day.  They were near the end today, but unfortunately we didn't have enough time for me to read to them the rest of the book.  I believe they are about 10 pages shy of the ending.

Now, I am the first one to recognize and realize that not every one is going to adore my work and fawn over me and gush about what they love.  I also realize that a lot of what these kids wrote in their letters to me were just because they had to come up with something to write and of course they're going to say things about how it's their favorite book or how I'm the best writer, ever.  No, it was their comments after I was done reading to them that touched me the most.  These kids had imaginings and visualizations deep down in their brains - specific pictures about what was going on in the story.  That showed to me how they were listening and enjoying the story.  And that, more than anything else, is near and dear to me.  I could have ten-times the sales I have right now and it wouldn't mean as much as these kids and their simple enjoyment of my book.

Plus, it was interesting to see how they were excited about the print proof that I had taken in with me.  The book isn't quite ready to be available in a print-on-demand version, but the fact that I had a solid, tangible, actual paper book in my hand was the coolest thing they had ever seen, or so you would think from their reactions.

So, yes, kids over-exaggerate and gush, just to get their own attention.  I get that.  I recognize that.  But they weren't faking the giggles at the silly moments and they weren't faking groans of disappointment when it was time to stop reading.

Or maybe they were.  You know how devious kids can be.

Monday, February 20, 2012


TANSTAAFL, indeed.  Or is there?

Sir Nathan and the Quest for Queen Gobbledeegook is free through the end of February, 2012, off the Smashwords site listing!

Just enter the coupon code "BB58K" at checkout.

Sir Nathan and the Quest for Queen Gobbledeegook is a silly fairy tale, written for 'tween boys and girls, and for those young at heart.

Queen Gobbledeegook has gone missing and it is up to Sir Nathan, the Hero of Mariskatania, to find her. Along the way he meets all sorts of odd folks, including pixies and wizards and a hulking creature named Mitzy that likes to knit. The land of Mariskatania is a colorful one, filled with bright Jubb Jubb Trees and fuzzy, blue Hobnobber Squirrels who spend all their time looking for a snack that's likely to kill them.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

The Spaces In-Between ... Leave Room For Us To Grow

2 spaces at the end of every typed sentence.  That's what I was taught upon the IBM Selectric typewriters we had for typing class in high-school.  Does such a thing exist anymore?  (I mean the typing class, not the typewriter.)  And, it was actually an semester-long class.  How can you have a class that lasts for an entire half a school year, only teaching typing?  Harkening back, I guess it was about more than typing.  This class was clearly a hold-over from the "Let's teach girls to be secretaries!" days.  There was also a shorthand class and an accounting class.  It was the early 80's, after all.

I remember that the class wasn't just about where to put your fingers and getting your words-per-minute speed up to a respectable number.  (I type in the 80-90 words-per-minute range, he noted smugly.)  It was how to type a letter, how to type an order form, blah, blah, blah.  All sorts of different things that I, to this day, have probably never used other than the typing itself.  And because, as a kid, we had a typewriter at the house, I was already familiar with where the keys were.  I could hammer something out at a respectable pace using the two-fingered pecking mode.  So for me, it mainly taught me how to hold my hands.  And, it taught me to hit the space bar twice, after every sentence.

Why did this suddenly come up?  I'm reading through a printed proof of my fairy tale before hitting the "Okay" button on Create Space and offering it up to the world as a print-on-demand book.  Those double-spaces really show up in print.  The HTML of web pages can and does automatically ignore two spaces in a row, so this blog might not be suffering from such an old-fashioned habit.  I don't know.  I'll have to check once I publish this post.  I'm a graphic designer and web-programmer by trade, so it's interesting to think that all my web work doesn't show the double-space yet all my print work does.

One thing is clear - the double space has to go.  I've got to get myself out of this habit.  But it's going to be hard to unlearn.  In the same way I got in the habit of putting a horizontal line through my 7's and my Z's, to make them easier to read in math class, it's something that happens without any conscious thought on my part.  In a print piece of work, it's really a big no-no.  Here's an interesting article about it on

One bit of exciting news ... I was able to use Find and Replace in OpenOffice to whittle all those double spaces down to single ones.  Kachow!  Now to see if I can get it to get ride of all my tabbed indents so I can using the automatic first-line indent like you're supposed to.

Friday, February 17, 2012

ISBN's and You.

Really puzzled about ISBN's.  International Standard Book Numbers.

My first inquiries into the things had me believing that I was going to have to plunk down some cash to get one.  But then I saw that Smashwords, the website on which I was going to release my first self-published work, would give you a free one.  They listed the variety of ISBN's that you could get and seemed to be saying that if you paid for one, that it was only a sort of vanity sort of affair and not really necessary.


Originally I had intended to first put things out there on Amazon, but Smashwords had a great guide to self-publication and was going to give me this free ISBN.  So I pored through their guide, grabbed the ISBN they gave me and released my work onto the world.  Then it was easy to release the same book on Amazon, with just a little change to the book's front matter, using the ISBN Smashwords had given me.

But now it seems as if that ISBN isn't a magic cure-all for what I needed.  On other websites where I've gone to market my book, entering that ISBN gives you a "book not found" error.  Often, you can go ahead and enter the book anyway, leaving the ISBN blank.  But that leaves me wondering if I needed to get one of the paid-for ISBN's anyway if I wanted people to really be able to find my book.

Working with the Create Space website to make my book available as a print-on-demand version, it turns out that website is going to give me another free ISBN.  The Smashwords guide did tell me that I didn't want to use the same ISBN for my e-book version as I was using for a print version, so that works out.  But am I going to run into the same trouble trying to market the print copy of the book?  Will I run into websites that don't recognize the ISBN?  If so, what's the point of getting the free version?

Wikipedia tells me that issuance (their word, not mine) of ISBN's in the U.S.A. is the responsibility of a private company. R. R. Bowker.  The article mentions prices ranging up to $125 for a single number.  Yep, they weren't kidding.  But I can get 1,000 ISBN's for $1,000!  What a deal!  For $250, you can get 10 ISBN's, so maybe for many first-time, self-publishing authors, that's the way to go.  Get a variety of the numbers for various e-book and print versions of your book.  I'm working on book #2, so am going to have go through this all again soon, so maybe having multiple ISBN's to use would be helpful.  There's just the sticking point of not having $250 to drop, let along $125.  

So, the mystery continues.  We'll see if somewhere down the road, all these free ISBN's end up being worth what I paid for them and I end up having to switch all my books to purchased numbers.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

An Excerpt! An Excerpt! There's going to be an Excerpt!

An excerpt from Part IV of Sir Nathan and the Quest for Queen Gobbledeegook, available on Smashwords and Amazon.  Coming soon to Barnes and Noble's site for the Nook.


The sun shone out of a dazzling, blue sky and warmed the forest floor. The weather was changing, getting cooler in preparation for winter. The leaves of the Hootentoot Trees were shifting colors with the change in seasons, going from green to white with pink polka-dots. Nothing looked more stunning than an entire forest of Hootentoot Trees in the fall.
Every puff of wind caused more and more of the changed leaves to drop gently from the trees, where they would swirl and waft and scream all the way to the ground, for nothing has a greater fear of falling than the leaves of a Hootentoot Tree. If you were going to go for a walk through a Hootentoot Forest during the fall on a particularly windy day, you'd be smart to bring some ear plugs.
The forest floor was covered in a colorful carpet of leaves. Chattering Hobnobber Squirrels hopped and scurried about. The dry, autumn leaves crackled and crunched underfoot and the noise caused by the busy squirrels was almost as loud as all the screams of the terrified, falling foliage.
The Hobnobber Squirrels were busy looking for Huckle Nuts from the few Huckle Nut Trees scattered amongst the Hootentoots to store for the long winter months ahead. Fortunately for them, they weren't finding very many, for nothing is more poisonous to a Hobnobber Squirrel than a few tastes of Huckle Nut. In the dazzling sunshine, the fuzzy, blue squirrels stood out brightly against the background of the forest floor covered in pink polka-dot leaves. There were even a few late-season Grumble Bees buzzing here and there, muttering about how cold it was already getting at night even though summer had just ended.
It was a wonderful, crisp autumn day to be out in the woods. It was a day where the chill in the air was countered by the toasty warmth of the sunshine. And the Hobnobber Squirrels chattered happily as they searched for nuts, all of them just as delighted with the day as they could be.
Except for one.
This one particular squirrel just sat on a stump. If you listened closely, and you could find a quiet moment amongst all of the wailing leaves, you just might have been able to hear an occasional naughty word or two come from the squirrel's tiny mouth.
Even when other Hobnobber Squirrels came over and chattered excitedly to him in a friendly way, this squirrel just scowled and hid behind his bushy, blue tail.
Another polka-dotted leaf fell screaming past the grumpy Hobnobber Squirrel to land on a growing pile of leaves right next to the stump on which he sat.
“You know, you're not helping things,” said the squirrel to the mound of leaves.
A muffled voice came from the center of the pile. “I don't care. I'm not going.”
It was evident this discussion had been ongoing for quite some time and was probably what had the squirrel in such a foul mood. That and the fact he was a squirrel instead of a horse.
“You know, it's not like you really have a choice. This is your job! You swore an oath, and everything! If you don't do this, who will?”
A vague grunt from the bottom of the leaf pile was the Squirrel's only answer.
It had already been a very difficult morning and it seemed as if things weren't going to change any time soon. Tupolev was not pleased. He had been caught up in some hasty actions back at the Warlock's castle and he was extremely grumpy. Whether or not he had been turned into a Hobnobber Squirrel, he wasn't about to take any more of this nonsense.
To anyone that didn't know what was going on, it would have appeared completely normal and innocent. They would have thought there was nothing unusual about a fluffy, blue Hobnobber Squirrel sitting on a stump in the middle of a Hootentoot Forest. Sure, they might have noticed all the other Hobnobber Squirrels were hopping this way and that, chasing each other through the trees and digging through the accumulating piles of leaves, while this particular squirrel just sat on the stump with a very angry look on his face. They might have also noticed it seemed as if the squirrel were paying an awful lot of attention to a particularly large mound of leaves beside the stump. And if they were very observant, they might have also thought they could hear the squirrel talking in a high-pitched squeak. Not only did the squirrel appear to be talking, but it appeared to be talking to the pile of leaves.
Now, for anyone who knows a thing or two about Hobnobber Squirrels, they might not have thought this very odd. It might have actually seemed to be the first normal thing they had ever observed a Hobnobber Squirrel doing, since the fuzzy creatures usually spent most of their time looking for a snack guaranteed to kill them. No, it would only have seemed unusual when they saw the squirrel hop down from the stump and burrow its way into the pile of leaves, brandishing its sharp teeth. That's when they would have observed the mound of polka-dot foliage explode in an eruption of pink and white. The sound of that explosion was, “Yeeeeeaaaaarrrrrrgghhh!”
When the echoes of the explosion died away and the flurry of Hootentoot leaves once again wafted to the forest floor, Sir Nathan was left standing next to the stump, reaching under his armor to rub at a delicate place that only recently had been bitten by a horse turned into a squirrel.
“Why did you go and do a thing like that?!” demanded Sir Nathan. He was convinced he was most likely bleeding to death from the tiny nip Tupolev had given him.
Tupolev, who very recently had been a massive horse, emerged from under a few scattered leaves rubbing an ear that had gotten pinched in Sir Nathan's chain mail.
“What else was I supposed to do?” asked the squirrel. “Nothing else was working and we need to get moving.”
The Hero's only answer was a scowl. He knew he had been pouting quite a bit for the past several hours. He knew that everything the squirrel had told him about honor and duty were true. He knew it was up to him to find the missing Queen Gobbledeegook. He just felt very overwhelmed.
They had been searching for the missing Queen for a long, long time. The Hero had travelled further beyond the borders of Mariskatania than anyone ever had before and he felt no closer to finding the Queen than he was when he had started. It was starting to feel like it was all too much. For a Hero who had never before felt so much as a teaspoon of doubt or an inch of fear, this whole journey was really starting to depress him. Normally he would have just crashed through his duties like he always did … waving his Sword of Power and yelling about honor and duty. In the past, that had always seemed to sort things out fast enough so he could make it back to the Palace before they were done bolting on the Whining And Dining Room for the evening meal.
But this mission was making him seriously consider quitting his job as Hero of Mariskatania and becoming a gardner or a baker or a kite maker. 

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Paranoid About PubIt

I'm terribly tickled that Smashwords was the first website that I chose to dig into for this crazy, self-publishing mission I'm on.  Though there was a lot to consider, the site has a very helpful publishing guide as well as a follow-up marketing guide.

After that, tackling Amazon's system was a bit easier.  I had already gone through the process and, despite a considerable lack of reassurance from the site, I felt confident plunking my work into the interwebs ether.

Next I tried my hand in the whole Create Space world.  It was a different tangle of snakes, in that it was dealing with a printed copy of the book.  I'm still untangling that coil of serpents.

And now, PubIt.  Or is it "PubIt!"  Gotta include that exclamation mark!  This site reminds me of YouTube ... just feels like anyone could throw anything up there without any consideration.  Didn't come across any style-guides, didn't see any introductory videos, no little pop-up message patting me on the back for a job well done.  In all honesty, I didn't go looking for them, but when you're dealing with something as important to one's self as publishing a manuscript that you've poured blood, sweat and caffeine into, you'd like the website to be a little upfront with making sure you've done what you're supposed to do.

I think the only pat about PubIt that's preventing the world from throwing up every bit of typed prose to ever land on a computer monitor is that you have to link your account to a bank account.  You know, for all that money flowing in!  (Side note: this author has made less than $20 after having a book available for two weeks.  The money does NOT quickly flow in.  Be prepared for that.)

I guess that I would expect, when dealing with a service where my work is going to be available on a website with "Barnes and Noble" in big letters at the top, that they'd be a bit more upfront with the how-to's and the why-for's.  Or perhaps it is their intention to use the vagueness of the system to screen out the pansies and those faint-of-heart.  Or, a third idea, maybe this is all part of the internet revolution and the doors are flung wide for any and all to see and be seen!



As a web-designer and programmer by trade, it's more likely they just didn't put together as good a site as they could have.

The struggle continues.

*follow-up - this addition to the post was entered four hours after the original post.

My bad!  PubIt DOES give you a style guide ... AFTER you've uploaded a file.

(*sarcasm follows)
No reason I could think of to want some sort of layout guide BEFORE I created, converted and uploaded a file.  Nope.

First, the PubIt uploader wouldn't accept that I had uploaded a file.  It just didn't want to accept my .doc file.  Now, to be fair, the .doc file was created in OpenOffice ... could that be why?

Anyhow, I just converted the file into an EPUB file using an online conversion tool and uploaded that instead.  Of course, every time I tried to upload a new file type, the PubIt uploader page would forget my book description, key words and author bio, so I had to input those each time.  It remembered all the other info I input, including my cover image, so not sure why this particular data was kicked out.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Confusion Will Be My Epitaph

I have to say that using Create Space (or is it more accurately known as "CreateSpace" or something clever?) has been the most difficult part of the whole self-publishing process so far.  Second most difficult has been self-publishing the e-book on Amazon.  This all makes sense because, wouldn't you know it, Create Space is an Amazon company.

Fair being fair, I have to say I've been very pleased with the ability to self-publish onto  There's something terribly exciting about going to a website I've used for years with satisfaction and being able to see my own e-book posted there.  Makes me feel all important and cool.  Potential buyers can easily read some of the book there and most folks have purchased from the site before.  As my son says, "Easy-peasy, rice and cheesy."  

But getting the e-book onto Amazon was a bit of a more difficult and daunting task than it was getting it up onto  The Amazon introductory video makes it seem easy and straightforward, but there's a whole lot less hand-holding along the way.  You end up clicking the "submit" button while biting your lip with a cringe.  Did I do it right?  Did I just accidentally push my book out there for $99 instead of $.99?  

So of course the Create Space process had to be even more convoluted.  Get ready to be a typesetter and a graphic artist, in addition to being an author.  The great beauty of Create Space is that people can purchase a paperback form of your book without you having to get discovered by a publishing company and without you having to fork out hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars of your own money for a big press run.  I think.  

You see, Create Space doesn't do a great job of informing you up front what exactly they do and how exactly they work.  Since I was out, trying to self-publish, I jumped in to learn the way I learn best ... by just plowing ahead to see what happens.  So far, I've uploaded my manuscript along with a cover graphic and soon I'll be received a paper and ink proof of my book in the mail.  Wow!  My book, in physical form, in my hands to hold and look at and turn the pages of!  I think.  The website just doesn't really clue you in to what's going on.  

Fortunately, I'm a graphic designer and layout person by trade, so I was able to handle these aspects.  But still it was a big headache.  You can't just upload your manuscript.  If you're printing a 5" x 8" book, your manuscript needs by in a 5" x 8" layout.  And, since word processing programs are a tool of the devil, there's no easy way you're going to just bring up some menu and change the entire layout size of your manuscript with a click or two of the mouse.  Oh, no, it's never that easy.  Hey, there goes all your margins!  Hey, all of your tabbed indents aren't working correctly now!  Hey, isn't it amazing that several blank pages are suddenly showing up, scattered through your work?  Fun stuff!  

Then, make a high-quality graphic, which includes the art for the spine of the book being in the exact right position and upload it as a PDF.  What's that?  You don't have all the software for this?  Well, feel free to shell out hundreds of dollars and the Create Space staff will do it for you.  So much for the "self" in "self publishing".  

Please don't get me wrong.  I'm in love with the online tools available to me.  I never would have been able to pull this off 10 years ago.  And though I've been writing for my own amusement ever since I was in the 6th grade, this is the first time I've ever tried to put something out there for the world to see.  Do I have the gumption to knock on the doors of a thousand publishers in the hopes of getting my work recognized?  Probably not, especially since some publishers state that they don't accept unsolicited manuscripts.  

We'll see how this all turns out.  I'm certainly not burning up the charts with my book sales.  Yet.

One Step Closer To Insanity

My somewhat silly fairy tale is already available as a digital download on both Smashwords and Amazon.

But now I inch closer to having a solid paper and ink book that could actually be held in one's hand.  But, oh, the hoops through which we jump!

Details are forthcoming.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Where Are My Trained Monkeys?

I might have thought that actually writing a book was the difficult part of writing a book.  I would have thought that sitting my hind-quarters down and smashing the keys to form words and sentences for a long-enough period of time to actually create something one could point to and say, "Book!" would be the difficult part.

But it's not.

The difficult part isn't even the time when, after you've finished writing your book, you go back and re-read it for typos and errors and general semantic ugliness.  And then you do that again.  And then you do that some more.  And some more and some more and some more.

Just when you're about ready to pluck out your own eyes lest you're tempted to keep up flailing efforts to become an author, that's when the difficult part hits you.  Marketing.

Surprisingly enough, self-publishing a book online does not cause the world to immediately download a million copies.  Who knew?  While I didn't expect to become the next J. K. Rowling overnight, I expected a slight interest.  A minor interest.  A fleeting interest.  I don't think pity-purchases from your friends count.

I guess, if I were to go out and bury a million dollars in cash in my backyard, I'm not going to end up with a thousand people armed with pickaxes and shovels tearing up my lawn.  Not without letting them know there's money to be found.  So, maybe my book isn't worthy of a million dollars.  But it's worthy, I feel confident about that.  So it's on to the difficult work.  It's on to letting the masses know that there's treasure to be found and just where they can find it.

Can't I just sit back and be the creative genius, while my trained monkeys do all the marketing work?  No? They haven't invented trained marketing monkeys yet?  Hmmm ... I might be more successful creating teams of story-selling simians than I would be at being an author.  Will have to look into that.