Formatting with Word following Scrivener requires nerves of steel

Chapter One sample pageIT’S LATE, BUT I’M WINNING THE PAPER WAR!

Here I am, 2:20 A.M. the night before Thanksgiving (a holiday we celebrate by making homemade pizza, one per customer, exactly as required – and which will not be shared), having reached a good place in the battle to turn Scrivener’s .doc output into a pdf for a POD at CreateSpace, the next step in the publishing journey.

Software Tools determine workflow

I HAVE Scrivener, and I HAVE Word. I know how to use them, more or less, and I am still hooked on the general plan of keeping only ONE master file in Scrivener, and producing the various output formats from there WITHOUT changing anything but the front and back matter (ebooks generally get a shorter version, print books get the full glorious everything).

[That reminds me – don’t forget the ISBN – it has to go on the back cover and the Copyright page.]

Anyhoo, Scrivener, plus a tiny bit of assistance from TextWrangler and an epub unzip/zip Applescript (in my one-click method of producing epubs, which then get folded into mobi files by Amazon), was perfectly adequate, nay wonderful, for the ebook.

But print books are made of sterner stuff.

Scrivener is NOT a word-processor

It comes pretty darn close if you have a simple book, and will go straight to pdf if you want it to.

But, since it isn’t a word-processor, it won’t do widow and orphan control, and it won’t do hyphenation, and they tell you that right up front. Neither of these things were important for the ebook, which was lucky for me: I get to learn these things in stages.

But Scrivener produces the .doc file for Word to work on

And this is where my cunning methods came as close as I could manage to having Scrivener pass almost-finished work to the next stage of processing.

This is the stage at which the Compile pane shines.

Set up for .doc output, and then remember to save your changes (update the preset) every single time you put some work into the Compile selections, or you will remember I said this: the minute you finish a Compile, Scrivener forgets anything you didn’t save.

This ‘feature’ allows you to make a change and try it out with no effect beyond a new version of the exported file, but I don’t tend to make versions: I know what I want, and I keep twitching the little switches until I have what I want, and then I save and back that one up compulsively.

What choices do you make in Scrivener BEFORE compiling?

Every single one you can.

Fonts: if you want, as I did, Goudy Serial Xbold 24, for your book title, it is far easier to pick it in the Compile Formatting pane, than to go into a nice fresh Word doc and start from scratch, EVEN IF you remembered to create a Style to save that font selection.

Vertical spacing: if you look at the little editor pane that comes up in Formatting, you will notice that over on the right side there is a line-spacing widget on the ruler. That holds the key to making headers like mine with several parts (Kary, Sanctuary, 8 PM) look exactly the way you want them. Do NOT do vertical line spacing with returns! You are not a typist any more. Use your paragraph spacing, cleverly labeled ‘other.’ You will thank me.

Keep with: Another wonderful little doohickey. It’s under the Format>formatting tab in Scrivener, and, if you use it on both parts of the header, you are telling it to keep the header line with the date/time/place line, and that one with the first paragraph of the scene. Which entirely removes the problem of header separated from their subheading and/or text.

Margins, and facing pages: I tried doing this in Word. It bit me. It was much easier to set it up in Scrivener and pass it on. This is the dialogue in the Compile page setup. I’m using a left and right margin of 0.5″, PLUS .25″ for the gutter margin. The image below shows the way the page will be laid out if there is only one page, with the extra margin on the left; if you choose the ‘facing pages’ option, you will get the mirror page on the left, with the extra gutter margin on its right.

Gutter margin setupThis is backward in my mind, but that’s how it works. YOU don’t do that part, Scrivener does after you check ‘facing pages.’ Which means in a standard book, you create the right hand side page of a two-page spread BEFORE the left hand page.

The page at the top of this post IS a right hand page. If you look, you can see the gutter margin extra space on its LEFT side. I prefer all my chapter to start on the right – I think it looks nicer, even though it wastes a few pages where you need a blank page on the left.

Table of contents: to do that in Word, you have to select each piece you want to be in it (front matter, chapter headings), apply a heading Style, and then use Word’s elaborate setup. Or you can use Scrivener, get the Binder to look the way you want the ToC to look, Copy Special (as ToC), and paste it where you want it. Then, as you compile, somewhere between the two programs they put the page numbers in. If you do it that way, you may have to update page numbers manually; and Word will fight you like a possessed man for control, but that’s what delete buttons are for. And Undo. Scrivener was easier. Neither was easy. I have one.

Justification: left, right, ragged, justified – but not right indent. Sigh. After the ebooks wouldn’t, I was hoping Scrivener could pass a right indent on to Word. Nope. So I generated a Style in Word which will indent anything I apply it to equally on BOTH sides, and that is now done.

Paper size and pdf size: Scrivener for the win. Once set up though, Word keeps trying to put you back on 8.5 x 11 paper; keep and eye on it when you create your 6 x 9 pdf.

Choices to make in Word

Formatting of headers and footers beyond the basics you get from Scrivener with the content and the page numbers; restart at number 1 on the first page of the story.

I also formatted the footers with a paragraph style which put a few points of space above them – otherwise it looked as if the text were sitting on the footer. Ditto for the headers: 4 pts of space after the paragraph with the name of the book and the chapter on alternating sides – and it didn’t look as if the header was sitting on the text.

Sections: I wanted my prologue AND my chapters, my Title page, and my Part page (Book 1 of the trilogy), to be right hand pages; I put my cursor on each page, chose Format Document, selected ‘odd page’ for them, and let it apply just to the section. Voila – everything tidy on the right, and the gutter margins in the right places.

Widows and orphans: Finally – Word does a magnificent job on its own (though, as you would suppose, it is hard to handle a lot of short paragraphs – dialogue – and not end up with parts of paragraphs: a 3 line paragraph at the end of a page can end up with two of its lines on one page, and the other on the next. If you REALLY want to keep lines together, you will have to do manual control with Keep together, or use my backup trick: there are 8 lines of padding at the beginning of each chapter (from the top of the page to the first line), but it one goes missing or I add one, you’d never know.

Right indent/margin: I WILL have my epigraphs indented on both sides, or die trying! They just LOOK wrong indented only on one side.

FONTS: There’s a reason God invented fonts. Because sometimes you just need to make things stand out, such as your name at the bottom of the title page, or the chapter title. These are aesthetic choices, and if you are designing your own interior, you get to make them. I hope it’s not a horror show when I get the proof copy back. My one little excursion into the fun of fonts is the Prothalamion/prologue, which I had great fun making look like The New Yorker at quick glance.

I’ve gotten far enough to have solved all the problems

Good for the brain, and slow with brain fog.

Front matter, back matter, the prologue, title, and part pages – and ONE chapter complete with headers and footers, and my methods are done.

All I have to do is finish the remaining 19 chapters, update the page numbers for the chapters in the table of contents, check everything – and upload.

Methodology is hard – this part is just work. And it shall be done soon, and I can go back to writing, with the paper version of Pride’s Children sitting on Amazon’s shelves.

By the way – all this fuss, and it doesn’t look that different from the ebook. Sigh.

Now aren’t you glad you asked?



The self-published writer takes pleasure in interior layout


Have you ever held a hardcover book in your hands, one produced in the traditional way on an offset press by a publisher, and been very unhappy about the choices made by whoever designed the interior layout of the book?

Easy to criticize:

The gutter margin is so narrow that you are fighting the spine all the time you’re trying to read – or breaking the spine so it will lie a bit flatter.

The part of the page with words on it seems surrounded by a huge amount of white space: the outside margins are huge.

With all that space, they really should have made the letters bigger – so that you could read them.

The running headers and footers are absolutely useless for navigating the book – there is no information there beyond the name of the book and a page number.

The font is so light it is hard to read.

The font is thick and dark and hard to read.

The italics seem provided by a different alien species: smaller, much thinner, and with an entirely different appearance to them.

The italics are almost indistinguishable from the regular font – except that they are slightly tilted, and maybe the lower-case ‘a’ is different.

The script used for Chapter headings and other niceties is not legible.

There is too much use of bold and underline and italics and numbers (usually this is from non-fiction) and bullets and…

There are simply too many typefaces to the page.

The fonts fight.

Have I missed your pet peeve? Drop it in the comments.

But it isn’t easy to do this whole design thing, as you learn when you set out to lay out the chapters, scenes, headers, and text for your own book.

I have 7000+ fonts acquired from Summitsoft. I have purchased the license to a few more fonts, and I have downloaded a few free ones to use. There are a LOT of fonts out there, in the same amazing variety as tropical birds. Feathers and foofaraws everywhere in sight, some mightily interfering with the readability of the font face, others (like the dyslexia font) designed to guide you gently to understanding.

Add bold, italic, extra-expanded regular, xbold (extra bold), heavy, light… and you have enough choices to seriously shoot yourself in the foot.

Font use simplified?

They have to play nice. Two or three COMPLEMENTARY fonts should do it on a page.

Here the EDUCATED eye is the final arbiter, so go look at a lot of fonts and layouts, including nice templates sold on many helpful sites.

If you find one you REALLY like, it may be easier – and cheaper (in time) in the long run – to purchase the rights to use one for your books. Or this series of books.

If, on the other hand, you’re going to have to do a lot of customizing to get what you want, templates limit you.

How often do you get to design a book?

I don’t know about you, but it will be a rare occurrence for me, so, natch, I want to dig in to see if I can learn enough for basic competence.

Plus add a few fillips I’ve always wanted. To make it beautiful to me.

Now we come to the part about prologues:

I wrote Pride’s Children a prologue (labeled it Prothalamion after the prologue in Dorothy Sayers’ Busman’s Honeymoon, one of my favorite books, and a spiritual ancestor to Pride’s Children).

It is 145 words long (very short as prologues go), set AFTER the story that will occur in this book (note dates), and has caused a significant split among readers – some who loved the taste of the future, and others who thought I give away too much information.

From the very beginning, when I added it about two years ago as I started serializing Pride’s Children on this blog, it was intended to be a fictional beginning to an article in The New Yorker.

NOTE: the disclaimer reminding you this is a work of FICTION immediately precedes the Prothalamion in the ebook – and was COMPLETELY missed by my first reader even when printed at the top of the page containing the prologue, who looked up at me after she read the page and asked, “Is this true?”

So when it came time to ask myself how it should LOOK, I repeated my pilgrimage to the august magazine’s website (the eye doctor’s office is where I normally read it in paper form – a subscription would bring me to a complete halt once a week), to get serious about the details.

I took screenshots of everything from the masthead to the beginning drop caps on a few articles (nice big fat sans serif font, single capital, in a space to the left of the top three lines, its top slightly below the ascenders of that top line, and its bottom roughly level with the bottom of the third line) to how the articles are dated, titled, and attributed.

I printed out the fonts that had potential from the Collection labeled Windows Office Compatible in my copy of Word 2011 for Mac, and started writing the same chunk of text in different fonts and strengths.

And quickly ran into the uniqueness of the New Yorker’s font, Irvin. I didn’t need a LOT of the font – if you look at the image above, only a one-line phrase is in the special font – so I went looking for a proper license to use it – and discovered that there are several similar fonts out there, and a commercial license was $55 – per weight.

It seemed too much for the one line, so I went digging, and found a lovely re-drawn New Yorker-type font – completely free, from Allen R. Walden, at Software Friends, Inc. He has a number of fonts similar to those of TV shows and movies. It is not THE New Yorker font, it is a similar one that gives, as we say in Spanish, ‘el tacazo’ – literally, the big taco hit; figuratively, the same impression. It comes in far fewer faces and weights, but for my purposes, it is perfect. I downloaded the font, the font page, and the license page for future reference, and proceeded to format the one line in the faux New Yorker font that no one will ever look that closely at!

Word gave me a nice drop cap with Arial Black (a native font), and I chose Cambria for the body text of the ‘quote’, and several different weights of Arial and Arial bold.

I gave the New Yorker a Department of Celebrities, and I think it will do – the purpose is not to distract you from the content (imagine how you would feel if it were in Courier 12?), but to subtly emphasize the illusion of verisimilitude that fiction depends on so as not to suspend the reader’s disbelief.

What next? Is it all this complicated?

Thank goodness, no. I managed the ebook with NO fonts, using only the size of the font to set things off, and emphasizing with bold and italics. The user even gets to pick the actual font to read in.

But there will be echoes of the Goudy Serial font I used for the cover in the Chapter headings, and the interior layout uses a lovely little font called Alido that I was fortunate enough to find in my Summitsoft package, and which comes in 7 different weights.

This was my one hoped-for excursion into fancy fonts (we of my generation remember the craziness in printed materials when fonts were first made available to computer enthusiasts with things such as MacPaint); it would be tedious in the extreme to have to fight fonts all book long.

I will play a tiny bit with fonts for the title page, etc., but I have had my fun, and now I have to go in, and format everything else for your reading ease and convenience.

As we say, Your Mileage May Vary. If you recoil in horror, hand it all over to the pros. Me, I play.

While we are playing, did you notice who wrote the article in the image?

Just published? Shark-infested waters lie ahead


I’m new at this. Maybe I’m too sensitive, maybe I’ve been reading the self-publishing blogs too long, but it bothers me that I’m being circled by sharks before the ink is dry on my copyright notice (which led to a flurry of emails from a company offering to ‘publish me’) and the fifth and sixth ‘friend request’ on Goodreads come from 1) an ad agency wanting to ‘talk books’ pretending to be an actual person, and 2) someone offering me a long list of paid review services (for the uninitiated reader, paid reviews are unethical. Period).

I believe people who have used paid commercial reviewers (Kirkus, if I recall correctly, offers such a service to indies: we’ll review your book for $495, but won’t guarantee we’ll print it or that it will be positive) have been unhappy with the results: expensive, and not resulting in sales. If you have any interest in those kinds of reviews, read a bunch of them and compare to the book/book sample – see if you agree with the reviewers – before you cough up cash.

Other places advertise books – BookBub is one – and claim great results for additional readers AND reviews. Supposedly they’re worth the money – but they don’t solicit the writer; the writer goes to them.

Readers and reviews have to be EARNED – it is a frustrating and time-consuming proposition.

Here you thought writing a book was hard!

Writing new content takes back seat to chores

Pride's Children business card 1


I am acutely conscious that I am not producing blog content – or updating the look of the blogs – very frequently.

I won’t say I’m sorry – that is lame. Or I am, but in a vague background way moderated by PRIORITIES.

The current priority? Getting the POD out of my new process (which involves going from Scrivener, to Word, to a pdf, to CreateSpace – with a stop at Pixelmator for a full front-and-back cover).

Why? Because then I will have some time during which I hope a proof copy will be winging its way to me – time I can use to fill some of the other holes in the process.

Jumping the priority queue: new business cards?

Today I will see someone who MAY be interested – and all of a sudden I realized I have nothing to leave with him. My old business cards are not suitable AND I’m out of them.

I figured if I’m going to go to the trouble of printing new ones, I should take a few minutes (I can hear the laughing starting up already – cut it out!) and make a new one.

After all, how hard can it be?

Whip out Pixelmator. Oops. Not sure I remember how to do this.

Whip out Word – the file where I have the old ones.

Spend a frustrating hour remembering my Pixelmator tools, and fighting against the fact that what I know about HOW to do things is woefully and intrinsically opposite to what graphic artists live with daily (don’t get me started on how masks work – backward and counterintuitive).

I manage to start regaining control when the file I change finally settles down at the size of a standard business card – 3.5 x 2 inches. The trick: store the canvas size you set FIRST – otherwise it assumes what you’re pasting in – the image of the book cover which will be a small part of the finished product – is the size you want, and your business card is now about an inch tall – and proportionately wide.

I won’t bore you with the details – it wasn’t really hard, just counterintuitive because computers do what you tell them to do, not what you WANT them to do.

It’s done.

Now I just have to remember my instructions to myself about where to cut these babies out of the page – so the finished product looks properly centered.

And then get back to whatever was next in the queue before this little project took over.

Next? Oh, yes.

Nap! And lunch! And then the appointment for which I did this.

You are now updated. I’m not lazy – just tired and massively overwhelmed by the delightful but unending learning opportunities that present themselves.


Prime? Own a Kindle? Borrow Pride’s Children FREE

LEARN SOMETHING NEW EVERY DAY: Kindle Owner’s Lending Library

And a PRIME membership.

Just figured this out (we’ve had a Prime membership for years):

Go to the product page (link above). IF you have a Prime membership AND own an actual Kindle device, you may borrow a Kindle edition book for FREE every month – and Pride’s Children qualifies. Just select borrow for free next to the Prime symbol to the right of the book cover. Duh, Alicia!

Rankings for books and authors INCLUDE borrows, so if you like, you can read the final, cleaned up published version of Pride’s Children: PURGATORY (Book 1) at no cost to you! And I get credit.

I’m sure everybody else but me knows this, and I probably did at one point (when I was just a reader), but it NEVER OCCURRED TO ME that MY book would qualify.

Did you know this about Prime? Do you use it? You can borrow, yup, do the math, twelve books a year. IF they are available in KOLL and you own a Kindle device. And the publisher has made the book available.

My excuse: brain fog. Ay, ay, ay – what a head! ¡Qué cabeza!

Cross-posted at

PRIDE’S CHILDREN is live on Amazon


This is the post I’ve been waiting fifteen years to write.

October 29, 2015 at 1:19 AM
I’m in shock – it went from Pending to Publishing in ten minutes, and I have my ASIN: B017AZLTLG (this is how you know you have the genuine article; if pirates steal a book and put it up, it will not have the same ASIN – just sayin’.)

I also now know why people sit there and watch their Dashboards. It is hypnotic.

October 29, 2015 at 2:32 AM
I bought the first copy – and got it free. Good omen – we had a credit of 0.99.


Other than some basic marketing bits (like letting everyone in the whole world know), I will now be sedate, take myself to bed, and get some sleep. It has been a long hard couple of days trying to make my brain wrap itself around arcane Scrivener bits until the formatted ebook looked the way I wanted it to.

KU (Kindle Unlimited) is like Netflix for reading. I believe it is 9.99 for all you can read (of the books enrolled – lots); they may have a month’s free trial, too. It’s a great deal if you like long, expensive books.

I still have to figure out how to make an image on my blog clickable, but the caption is attached to the book page.


I set this blog/site up until I can regain complete control of my actual domain (long story). If you want to be informed when Book 2 is available, or when the Kindle Countdown Deal (which will have a day or two at 0.99, and happen in about a month) for Book 1 is live, drop by the new site, and Follow.

It will just be for the books, and I hope to put up more content just about the story.

I’ll keep working on it until it’s at least a solid small site, so be prepared for a few orange traffic cones.


I’m SO happy I did the one-click Scrivener setup – it allowed me to make changes, and immediately see how they would translate – and, believe me, today I needed all the help I could get.

In addition, I did the CSS work to get my RIGHT INDENTS! This I will only have to do this once (took me less than an hour because I had done shorter versions before – and my method still worked – phew!). If I have to make changes to the text, they would have to be pretty major for me to have to change the CSS files – and then would only be for the chapters which got the changes. So that’s set up – and Book 2 should be able to sail right through the formatting step.

NOW WHAT? Writing, naturally.

Now I just have to take the rough draft to something approaching writing.

A month or so on catching up on household To Do list items (there are, ahem, DUST bunnies from The Night of the Lepus).

And getting the books’ calendar up to date, and hoping against hope the story is still there, and making sure that things like character description stay the same… You know, work.

I’m so EXCITED – I wrote in my notes that now I know why people sit and watch their Amazon Dashboards and hit Refresh repeatedly. It’s addictive.

Thanks for your support, my dearest friends.

What say you?


Pride’s Children Cover, Book Description Reveal

PC: Book 1

Pride’s Children: Purgatory — Book One of the Trilogy

~ ~ ~


“I, KARENNA ELIZABETH Ashe, being of sound mind, do… But that’s it, isn’t it? Being here proves I am not of sound mind…

So begins Book One of the Pride’s Children trilogy: Kary immediately regrets the misplaced sense of noblesse oblige which compels her to appear, live on national television—at exorbitant personal cost.

What she cannot anticipate is an entanglement with Hollywood that destroys her carefully-constructed solitudinarian life.

A contemporary mainstream love story, in the epic tradition of Jane Eyre, and Dorothy L. Sayers’ four-novel bond between Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane, Pride’s Children starts with a very public chance encounter, and eventually stretches over three separate continents.

~ ~ ~

Colm Herron, Irish author of The Wake (And What Jeremiah Did Next), The Fabricator, and Further Adventures of James Joyce: “I was there, Alicia. THERE, in that sweaty studio, aware of the audience, rooting for Kary, contemptuous of Dana until, well, until I saw for sure that she was more than a plastic chat-show hostess. I wondered what Andrew was thinking. I could guess. I think his snort was involuntary and then thought better of. No better tribute can I pay than all that I’ve written above. I don’t make this comment idly. This to me is top gear.”

Herbert Collins (Saskatchewan), reader: “I feel Andrew’s emotions, and feel for him. You have successfully given your readers a story that appeals to men and women. It is wonderfully written.” and “Pride’s Children has helped me to look inside myself and see many things I need to see and deal with. I have never read a work of fiction that has touched me so powerfully! I love it and will be rereading many times.”

J. E. Hallows, author of Rebellious Rogue: “I’ve just finished reading Pride’s Children [Book 1]. That last chapter was beautiful. Probably the most moving chapter of all, which is a great way to end the story.”

Kevin Gebhard, American actor, screenwriter, and author of The Steeps: “You’re right-on. It’s hard to believe you’re not writing this from [a movie] set.” or “You really know how to write this stuff—like you were tucked in a coffee shop on Rodeo Drive (I lived in L.A. for five years).” and “Oh, to be in a writer’s head. Living amongst imaginary people. What could be better? But then comes the actual writing part. You caught it all.”

~ ~ ~

~ ~ ~

The above is the description that will accompany the ebook on Amazon (and be the back cover copy for the POD version as soon as I get that ready).

Here is my entire marketing plan (I need to write Books 2-3):

  1. Until publication later this week (I hope before November 1, 2105), if you have been following along and reading as I put Pride’s Children, Book One, up on this blog, and would like an eARC (electronic Advance Reading Copy), email me at abehrhardt [AT] gmail, and I will email you back your preferred format: epub, mobi, or pdf. ARCs are usually sent to reviewers, but I don’t have the energy to do that – and continue writing. IF YOU CHOOSE, you can then write a review (preferably without spoilers) which you can put up on Amazon AFTER I launch (save it until then – I don’t want to even see them until/unless they are officially posted by the reviewer – do not tempt me!). IF you write a review, please include ‘I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion’ in the review, as per Amazon’s requirements, or they may decide to remove your review (as you will not be a ‘verified purchase.’)
  2. As soon as I launch (there will be another post announcing the date and time), Pride’s Children will be on sale for $0.99 for three days. Reviews from ‘verified purchasers’ welcome anytime from here on, too.
  3. After that, I will put it in KDP Select, and enroll PC in Kindle Unlimited AND raise the price to its publication price of $8.99.
  4. When the book has been up long enough (30 days minimum) AND the POD is available for sale (dunno how long that will take me, as it includes mailing proof copies from Createspace to me), I will run a Kindle Countdown Deal, something KDP-Select allows once every 90 days, and you will have a chance to acquire it at 0.99, 1.99, … over a period of 7 days, until it is back at 8.99.
  5. I don’t know when there might be another Countdown Deal; I’m only thinking as far as the first, but wouldn’t be able to do another for several months in any case.

~ ~ ~

Thank you to followers, readers, and commenters – you have kept me sane for the past two years while I posted this, and we are at the starting gate for…?

Wish me luck. Joe Konrath insists there is a huge element of luck involved. I’ve now done all I can do.

I can’t wait to get to polishing Books 2 and 3.

The Newfangled Writer gets a Book to Market


I have been MIA for a number of weeks here, and it has been for a necessary reason: once I got Pride’s Children, Book 1, out of the category of ‘writing’ and into the category of ‘prepare a product for market,’ I was completely out of my areas of expertise.

But I have also been in an area where my basic do-it-yourself nature has taken over in a big way, AND I have had little that I felt was useful to other people.

You can’t teach people how to learn. They have their own individual methods by the time they are past young adulthood: a combination of their predilection, say, for audio over visual, or kinesthetic over being lectured to.

Adult learning is Self taught

It is because people have to become fast at learning, once they’re out of school.

School should be focused on 1) basic knowledge of the world, and 2) developing the capacity to teach yourself anything you need (which doesn’t preclude more formal academic learning, if desired).

So, in the course of writing, I first started thinking something I could write on this blog MIGHT be of assistance to another writer learning to write. Then I moved to a stage (long-term readers might remember) when I explicitly cautioned people that I was writing not so much to provide instruction in my particular methodology, but to provide entertainment at how convoluted and ‘special’ that methodology had become.

Pick the best teacher – only rarely another complete beginner

Now I’ve moved to the stage where few care what I have to say precisely because I’m such a beginner at most of the remaining tasks of publication that there are far better teachers out there, and my bumblings aren’t even special any more, and therefore have little entertainment value.

Do you, Dear Reader, need to learn how quickly a graphics file with layers (Pixelmator, Photoshop) gets humongous? If you do your own graphics, you already know. If you don’t, and have no intention of ever trying, you don’t need to know. Really, you don’t. If I write it, you’ll skip it!

So I haven’t had much to write about that I would spend time turning into a blog post.

Have I been idle? You can bet your sweet biffy I haven’t.

In the interim, however, I have been working my little tail off (while sitting in this chair and trying not to let the enormous amount of time in a sitting position make the sciatica and mobility problems any worse).

EVERYTHING else has gone on the ‘To be done when I get this thing up on Amazon’ list.

A very long list that includes anything I could put off or postpone (even though I’ve been postponing since March, when I finished the what I thought was completely finished and polished version of Book 1):

  • Routine maintenance on the ol’ body.
  • Sorting out paperwork.
  • Making anything in my workflow better and more efficient.
  • Dealing with clothes (and the season has now again gone back to cool, and I think I bought two pairs of shorts I haven’t used over the summer – that’s all).
  • Vacations.
  • Getting a new assistant and working with her/him to organize this place.
  • Holly’s Tiny House pictures
  • CFS posts and walking posts and house posts
  • … (I won’t bore you – you each have a list like this)

I foolishly thought that if I just concentrated, I could get this thing up on Amazon, and get to writing/revising/editing Book 2.

But the time has now occupied FIVE MONTHS of my life.

Where DOES the time go?

Graphics took a good three months – I had a lot to learn, have (I think) blogged about it a bit. However, I was not willing to put my new cover, the final product of said graphics, up too soon. Jinx? Dunno.

I’m getting to the point where I must COMMIT – and it will be time to do a cover reveal very soon.

All this, of course, at the extremely slow pace of my brain-fogged thinking apparatus, which still (thank the Lord!) operates for a while every day even though it is mostly sidetracked at the station.

Getting to Mt. Doom and actually tossing The RING into the fire

One of the interesting things that happened as I spent a LOT of time on things I am NOT good at (yet?), was that Fear, or what Stephen Pressfield calls Resistance, or possibly self-protection (if you never publish, nobody can fault you for being too revelatory, or a terrible writer, or full of yourself) gets a HUGE second chance.

And had to be battled back down to its homunculus size. Several times. Possibly more than once per ITEM (editing, formatting an ebook, graphics, Amazon keyword – all count as items), because in each new field of endeavor you are an ignorant beginner again and should not dare to have an opinion or tread where the angels don’t go).

To summarize this all up: I have been incredibly busy, incredibly productive, incredibly frustrated. And life has had its own little share of cherry bombs and landmines.

KNOWING there is a light at the end of your tunnel, and not a train

But I am getting extremely close, since:


In that department, once the proofers and the beta readers have had their say, it will be done – because most of my part is done.

Don’t quote me. And I have no idea how long it will take me to do the book description’s final version, or to rewrite the tiny Prologue if I’m going to, or to create front and back matter and then credit Oxford University Press properly for allowing me to use quotations from the King James Version of the Holy Bible, or a hundred tiny details like that.

But that final editing thing? It was a bear I didn’t expect to see coming out of the woods – and it is finished. Done. Vanquished. Vanished. Vamoosed. Va-beared?

Except for typos – and any extremely unlucky plot holes, etc., my lovely helpers may turn up.

Thank you, Gentle Reader, for your patience.

The now Extremely Near Future

I will soon be asking for a bit of help from readers, so if you’ve always wanted to be part of the team who gets the eARC (electronic Advanced Reading Copy) of a novel, or one of the Influencers in the adoption of something new, there will be opportunities. And much gratitude.

So thank you ALSO for keeping me functioning and working all this time.

This, the first time, will not happen again. Do you remember yours for a big project?

Thanks to for the quote software.

2015 update on megadoses of vitamin B1, CFS, and writing


Whatever they call it, CFS, ME, ME/CFS, CFIDS, SEID… they still have no answers I can believe. I can’t go to a doctor in my state (NJ), get tests which determine what I have and how severe it is, get a prescription for medicine which helps my symptoms (brain fog, pain, post-exertional collapse, swollen lymph glands, and perpetual exhaustion, among other things), and have a doctor titrate the right doses so I get better.

Or, heavens, get cured.

Grasping at the available straws

Vitamin B1 in megadoses (plus Celebrex, a cox-2 inhibitor used mostly by arthritis patients – which helps with pain) is the ONLY thing that has helped of the many things I’ve tried in 25, almost 26 years of having the disease half of all doctors (including my primary) still believe either doesn’t exist or is all in my head.

I’ve gotten used to that state of being – I can’t change it myself – and I refuse to let it take the rest of my life away from me.

For all the posts I’ve written about this over the last couple of years, type ‘B1’ into my search box. There you will find out where I got this idea, why it seems relatively safe, and how I’ve experimented with it.

How much is a megadose – and what do I actually take now?

I’ve been meaning to update the B1 information for a while, because the B1 posts (type B1 into the search box) are some of my most popular, but I was hoping to have a better report.

I tried a couple of things which I will discuss after reviewing my ‘protocol,’ but they didn’t work for me, so I have little new to report – except that I tried them and what they were.

I AM TRYING TO FINISH A BOOK – PRIDE’s CHILDREN, Book 1 is almost ready to publish – and moving slowly and relentlessly in that direction, but that’s why there haven’t been many blog posts.

And, curiously, I don’t seem to have much to blog about, except when, in the process of getting Pride’s Children, Book 1, ready to go up on Amazon, I run into a wall, and have to figure out how to get through it. AND haven’t seen anyone else solve that particular problem for me in a way I can use.

I seem not to think in blog-size chunks when buried in the minutiae of chasing plot holes and typos.

But I’ve wanted to do this update since I did the failed experiments.


Vitamin B1 Protocol I use (self-invented):

I set out five ‘doses’ of B1 every morning.

A dose consists of 500 mg. of Solgar Super Potency Vitamin B1 plus a 160 mg. capsule of Piping Rock Benfotiamine (fat-soluble B1).

Why the change in benfotiamine? Because my original pills, which came from Source Naturals, had a bad batch, and the pills (150 mg.) would crumble when I set out my five doses for the day, something which hadn’t happened before.

We went around with the company who sold them to me, and they replaced them with another set of bottles – from the same batch, and with the same problem – so that was that. I can’t be without it (I think – I haven’t tried), and I can’t in clear conscience take pills that crumble into dust.

EVEN though the capsules may have the exact same dust – they were MEANT to be capsules.

I have that as a reason – your mileage may vary. For the year and a half before that, the Source Naturals were fine – and they probably will be again. I may try them again, but right now I need at least the illusion of consistency – I’m trying to finish a book!

So how do I take my doses? Note change:

On the basis of learning that the B1 is supposed to be a co-enzyme for the metabolism of carbohydrate (of which I eat as little as possible), I take one ‘dose’ with each meal or snack.

That’s it – simple.

I often find, at the end of the day, that I’ve omitted one or two doses – the brain forgot. I don’t notice enough of a difference to know it there is one – but then the thing that does the noticing is the same brain that doesn’t work.

The REST of the Protocol:

I’m taking 3-5 naps a day. Again.(See below on what I tried to get around that.)

Some of those naps I spend doing breathing and gentle exercises, stretches, and isometrics. Other times I crash into a deep sleep. It depends on many things, including whether I got a good night’s sleep, and whether I’ve been fighting to put the nap off as long as possible. The brain fog doesn’t help.

My naps are 35 min. with a timer. Except that sometimes I go a lot longer. I let myself sleep if I need it – nighttime sleep is erratic, but doesn’t seem to depend on how many naps I take, or how long they are. So I just listen to my body if I can.

Failed experiment #1: STIMULANTS

Long story, but I was getting useful effects from taking half a Bronkaid tablet (ephedrine as a bronco-dilator, OTC). I would take only a nap or two, and even thought my peak brain efficiency didn’t seem appreciably higher, I seemed to be in my best state for longer every day.

That was good – and I loved it, and I used the extra good time to make writing progress a bit faster.

The bad part was that 1) my blood pressure started rising, and 2) the muscle pains got horrific – razor blades embedded in my flesh.

After some internet searching, I found that the first effect was not uncommon in older people like me.

And the other one ditto – except that some people suggested drinking more water, and I tried that – but ultimately it didn’t work.

Horrific pain was the killer – I stopped taking the Bronkaid that way (off label – do not use unless you are prepared to accept the consequences, or don’t get them). I could NOT get rid of the pain, and spent a lot of time doing stretches, yoga, etc., and was taking way to many extra pain pills.

But it DID work, and I miss its effect. It was nice to be a bit more coherent, take fewer naps, and get more done.

Failed experiment #1: MANGANESE

Portkelly, who commented on one of my early B1 posts, mentioned that he takes 10 mg. of manganese with the B1 – I think every time.


APPARENTLY, if your system doesn’t process the manganese (source: the internet), and if you are older this cn happen, it ACCUMULATES – and again raises your blood pressure.

This getting old is not for sissies – when I tried adding the manganese, just 10 mg. a day (not a dose), MY blood pressure started rising.

As soon as I noticed it, I cut out the Mn – BP dropped in a week or so to normal.

So now I add ONE 10 mg. capsule to my pills ONCE a WEEK, so I have a small amount available (think I), but don’t have the BP effect.


I am NOT recommending either of these experiments. I am reporting on them.

I realize I am in the older demographic – and probably have compromised everything, and so get the side effects.

But I cannot, in due conscience, recommend anything I’m not using, and that actually caused me problems.

Maybe somebody younger will be luckier.

Will I keep taking B1? YES – daily

The B1 has not had any side effects, and I still think it give me that remaining one daily period in midday where I can actually think and write.

When I’m finished with this book, I may try again to see if the effect goes away if I stop taking the B1 ‘doses’ up to 5 times a day, but right now it’s in the category of superstitious behavior needed to get me through to publication, and I’ve done al the experimenting I’m going to do for the foreseeable future – I can’t afford the side effects of my failed experiments.

So, yes, I’m taking it.

Is it working for me?

In general, comparing to before, I think it helps 15-20% part of the time.

But I also realize I’m a more mature writer, and have made the effort to be professional about it, getting to that chair every day to write.

I may be fooling myself, but it’s not as if anyone has come up with anything else that I can be sure works.

Be careful with all this stuff – pray for SOMEONE to figure this disease out. If we had medicines that worked for pain, brain fog, post-exertional collapse, swollen lymph glands, exhaustion – and all the rest of our symptoms – we wouldn’t be looking for anecdotes.

Feel free to comment – but I have no additional information, no expertise, and no medical training.

How to deal with plot holes


Plot holes are especially hard to deal with when you are getting near the end, because they require a functioning brain to make sure the fix works, and I am even less likely than usual to have such an unfogged brain simply because of the pressure involved in making sure everything is taken care of, preferably BEFORE publication.

So it’s a bit of a catch 22 situation, and a place where the indie freedom to put off the launch another week or so is a Godsend.

I can’t imagine what it would be like with a deadline.

And someone like me should probably eschew using the pre-order feature on Amazon due to the likelihood of ‘something came up.’

I would imagine we first-timers should ALSO not push our luck.

Plot holes have a lot in common with potholes:

Somebody has to notice them, either by reading (driving) that scene, chapter, or set of chapters (street) that contains it – or by having someone else do it – and reporting back to the person in charge.

A systematic sweep of the work in question – this is known as beta reading or editing, depending on who does it – is preferable to having someone discover the hole by getting caught by it AFTER purchase, something which results in either broken axles or suspension of disbelief if they get big enough.

And, from what I’ve read, that leads to annoyed reviews. Not a good start.

Plot holes basically come in three sizes:

  • Small – affects a scene or chapter only, and is easily fixed within that scene or chapter without upsetting the external timeline between scenes (much). (Fill: asphalt)
  • Medium – big enough to require checking a series of scenes and chapters, so as to make sure the connections between the pieces have all been checked in the final product. (Roughly equivalent to paving the streets in my development.)
  • Really big – otherwise known as sinkholes, a big plot hole ruins the story in such a way that the whole thing is toast, and, depending on when you find it, will require a major rewrite, or the abandoning of the whole project. I hope not to create that kind.

Finding the holes:

I have enough distance from the writing as it has taken me forever to do some of the auxiliary tasks such as learning enough graphics to do a cover. Principal writing was completed on Palm Sunday, back in March.

So it is possible to read like a reader – constructing the story world out of the words as I go along, and listening carefully to when the mind says ‘Huh?’

Fixing carefully

The small ones get fixed easily as you notice them, because their spatial extent is usually obvious. Oops – this should be Saturday, not Sunday – is easy enough to change.

If you think about it, the medium-size ones are both the hardest to find, and the hardest to fix, because little pieces of old text have a tendency to hide in non-obvious places, such as internal monologue or someone’s reply to a piece of dialogue. So a great deal of care is going to be necessary in the finding and planning, but the implementation should be straightforward.

If you have Really Big Plot Holes, you may need professional help. Good luck!

The process of fixing the darn things needs to proceed in an orderly manner. Quick fixes, such as when my township fills the hole with some asphalt and a prayer, usually results in a repair which doesn’t last long.

I did a few quick fixes as I was writing Pride’s Children and posting them online every week, and only one or two people noticed: the fix was good enough to move on, or didn’t affect the story when the reader had to remember details from week to week. To be fair, I thought I had stopped, fixed the timeline completely, and tapered the edges of the fix into the ends and beginnings for a smooth continuum, and I had updated the calendar so I could proceed from there without worrying

I pride myself on my potholes: they are in the timeline, but are minor glitches, and they don’t make you question the story, just whether you remember correctly having heard a date before.

Where do plot holes like this originate?

I thought about that one for a while, and realized that, for the medium-size plot holes I’m dealing with, the hole came into existence because a particular piece of dramatic story worked so well in several different places that I had not done the hard work of deciding in advance where it would be BEST, and thought it would be obvious where the best location was – as I went along in the writing.

Example (but not in this book):

The easiest one I can think of is the typical timeline for when a woman tells the world she is expecting a baby. There is an obvious limited timeline between conception and delivery, and, for some women, the later dates make it fairly obvious that something is going to happen, but people are surprisingly bad at telling exactly how far along a pregnant woman is. And we hear stories on a regular basis of girl who delivered a baby at the prom – and claim that neither she nor anyone in the family had any idea she was in the family way.

I think there may be a good bit of denial or deception involved there, and the two or three cases in which I was close enough to have a pretty good idea, this was the truth. But even in those, families were not paying attention to loose clothing and moodiness because teenagers are often that way when not expecting.

In any case, having gone far afield with an example, the point is that the announcement of either a baby on the way or an actual baby changes a lot of things forever, and thus picking the right time and place has major consequences.

So it isn’t surprising, if a little one is on the way, for the writer’s brain to ask the question of how it would affect the characters and the story depending on where, when, and to whom the event is revealed – and for some of those to affect what happens in scenes which later turn out to be before anyone knew!

MY plot holes

The plot holes in Pride’s Children, Book 1, are not hard to fix – and I thought I already had fixed them – until reading in sequence had some of the questions I thought I’d already answered popping up again.

They are sequence events: something happens before something else when it was intended to happen after.

Not to worry.

Plot holes respond well to logic.

I have the calendar involved, a list of the scenes, the affected bits of text. I watch whose point of view is called for – and pay attention to whether something is internal or external to the calendar. And I try to see the story as something that actually happened – so a comparison to ‘reality’ helps check for consistency and order.

In addition, I’m asking myself to choose – which involves a bit of writing back and forth with myself, and deciding, on the page, which sequence will be true, and why. Then I record that decision in writing in the Journal.

Then I have to go in and make sure the fixes, where necessary, do not interrupt the flow. These are plot holes which must be fixed, but their previous incarnation did not interrupt the flow, so that must stay the same. Inconspicuous mends, feathered in.

Needless to say, I don’t want to have to do this again, so I’ve checked out a couple of other sequences – and most are just fine.

And I’m going at the fixes VERY slowly.

So if you wonder why I haven’t been writing blog posts, remember I have CFS and that makes it slow to fix things, especially when I have to be extra careful not to make things worse!

I’ll get there.

Next time – planning prevents potholes

I think I’ve learned a few things – make sure your calendar is set concrete before you start writing. Liquid is fine when you’re planning, but at some point you have to be able to write your initials in it, and have them stay.

Keep the calendar current, and change timing with great trepidation; the brain is happy to throw up new ideas – it gets bored easily.

But I will think several times before moving ANYTHING during the writing, no matter how much it takes me out of the writing: running into holes when you thought you were done is very discouraging.

Like any other writing problem, you can’t avoid all of them, so it’s important not to get TOO discouraged when you’re not actually the god of your particular universe, and can’t make things be exactly as written. Oh, well – that’s what editing is for.


It’s still far, far better to find them while you can fix things (and preferably before the POD Accept button is clicked) – no one will ever know.

Do you have other kinds of plot holes that have bitten you? Solutions which work?

Editing the self: the writer’s final frontier


I’m almost finished. I have three chapters of Pride’s Children, Book 1, left to edit – out of twenty.

It seems a good time to stop and review the lessons of editing, as this is the last time I’ll do this for the first time.

Editing is a good kind of boring work.

The purpose is to make things better, whether you thought your writing was already good enough, or whether you’ve been postponing all those little decisions while you were writing so you could finish.

‘Better’ is subjective AND objective.

I’m eschewing the ‘professional editor’ step.

So I have to do an especially good job myself, or be subject to the standard complaint about indies, that they really need a professional editor.

Some do, some don’t.

What is really necessary is that the WORK be edited to a PROFESSIONAL STANDARD.

So, if I’m going to do this myself, I need to put my reputation on the line. But most importantly, I need to learn to do the work, and edit my writing down to the last jot and tittle.

The writer has CHOICES to make

The hard part: take, for example, cliches. While you don’t want too many cliches in your writing (and AutoCrit flags a huge bunch of them), in every scene you have to decide if THIS character USES cliches, to that extent, and therefore they stay. Can you almost tell which character it is because of which and how many cliches are used?

Or spelling: Andrew is Irish; to make the point, I throw in an occasional ‘colour’ or ‘whilst’ in his thoughts in his pov – which either makes you think I can’t spell, or charms you into remembering he’s a bit foreign.

Or flashbacks: Bianca’s father lives on in her head, in the form of little sayings he used. Aphorisms. Am I using too many? Do they work? Is it reasonable for her to remember his words? Yes, given her backstory – and this is the only way you learn some things about her.

The main problem? I keep getting pulled in to reading.

Then I stop, pull myself back out, go back to the protocol I’ve established over the long slog of editing I’ve been doing since I finished figuring out how to format my ebooks and compile with one click.

It slows down the forward progress to keep reading sections.

I still have NOT read Pride’s Children, Book 1, from beginning to end. I haven’t dared. I want to keep my eyes as fresh as possible to catch… well, if I knew, I would have fixed it already.

But my brain does seem to be on full alert at some level, because I have run into a number of small but important things, startled myself by noticing, pulled up the whole text (all 160K words – something Scrivener does without a hiccup, and which I never liked doing in Word), and found that yup, I DID use the same saint’s name for two churches on two different continents. Not that it matters – Catholic churches all over the world share names. For example, when we moved to Hamilton, NJ, our parish was St. Gregory the Great’s – and that is the name of the last parish I had in Southern California when I was a child, before I moved to Mexico at 7, and yes, I still have the school patch from way back then. But I digress.

It was easier to give the church in Colorado a different saint’s name than the one in Ireland, Co. Galway. Easier than explaining it.

The things I’d been postponing or waiting for

I ran the parts which needed to be an accurate expression of Catholic dogma (very tiny parts, but important to what one of the characters, Kary, believes) past my parish priest – he suggested I not use the name of an actual local church. So that church had to be renamed, as well. He also kindly said my dogma was okay – no unintended flubs. That was encouraging. As usual, the author accepts responsibility, in writing, for all errors, but it’s still nice to know 1) I sought advice, and 2) passed.

NAMES – last chance

It’s not that hard to change names before you publish – but PC has a cast of thousands (okay, 64 named characters in the three books, so far), and I’ve tried very hard not to reuse names or initials, and it isn’t that easy to find a name that fits in with the rest. Welcome to St. Bartholomew’s. Phew. Nobody names a kid Bartholomew any more (thought there are some Barts out there), so it was easy enough. Fortunately, there are plenty of odd, long saint’s names, and we now ALSO have a St. Augustine’s. For which I have to decide which pronunciation of to use, as I’m planning to do the audiobook ‘as read by author.’

I give characters easy names, and keep a detailed bible, but there are only 26 letters in the alphabet (a few more if you include the letters unique to Spanish), and this is my last chance to make sure that my character names are unique, their initials are unique, and that I don’t have unintended consequences (the character whose initials were B. S. has been renamed).

Is that a plot hole? Check the CALENDAR

When you write on a scene-by-scene basis, even with a very detailed plan/outline/plot and a calendar, you eventually get to the place where everything is stitched together, and has to hang as a unit. I’m at that point, and I’m finding that I want to make small changes. I doubt anyone else will pay attention that closely, but I do believe readers create a gestalt as they go, and subconsciously notice things which make them go ‘Huh?’

I’m supersensitive – that’s my job – so a reader won’t have to go ‘Huh?’ I sincerely hope.

It’s ALWAYS the writer’s responsibility: the buck stops here

The process is slow at times: yesterday, I noticed a flaw in the editing software – I used a particular verb way too many times in one scene, enough times that I noticed, but the software never flagged it as an ‘overused word’ – and so, since I want the editing software as good as possible (so I don’t have to remember to do things on my own), I took the time to give them feedback (which they kindly appreciated). And then I tackled the job of finding replacement ways to say something that did NOT involve that verb quite as many times. Lazy brain, tired brain – each one of these original expressions was fine, and colloquial, and often the simplest expression of an idea – but cumulatively (and I don’t know how I didn’t catch them before I posted that particular scene online), too much.

Now I have to go over the WHOLE thing one more time – to see if that was an accidental bad habit one week when I was polishing THAT scene, or whether I do it all the time! Aargh!

Beta readers and commenters are HELPERS

BTW – writing in public, posting your work as you go, does not necessarily make it error free: readers who are reading for story don’t notice these things. They cut you WAY too much slack. Thanks guys – I think that means your attention was otherwise occupied.

It doesn’t excuse ME.

And that is the report from the trenches: I’m almost at the end of editing, and willing to do whatever is necessary so my words don’t get in the way of you enjoying my story when you read it as a whole.

And if you’re wondering why the blog posts have been few and far between: this stuff takes a lot of time, and a lot out of you. I’m procrastinating right now – there are those final three chapters, and that little bit to examine about the timeline, and…

If you’re a writer, comments welcome. If you’re a reader, do you think I’m crazy?


PS: I’m now using Anti-Social to great effect. I added all the sites I usually surf to the list of social sites I want to avoid, and Anti-Social kindly blocks me from accessing them during my chosen working period – once I set said working period. Great little programs, Freedom and Anti-Social (from the same folks). Make one decision (breakable, but at a cost in time that makes it an actual choice), and it is now just enough harder to surf that my brain often doesn’t bother.

PPS Thanks to Quozio for the easy quotation images.

Writer’s Reflections on Eloi and Morlock: Hummingbirds and Ants




I put the hummingbird feeder out but two days ago, when I noticed the hummingbirds flitting around the drying coneflowers. Hamilton, New Jersey, is reaching that part of the summer where most of the red flowers have bloomed (my Bee Balm), and it is harder to find food for the little hummers that delight the eye.

And that do no work that benefits anyone but themselves and their babies.

The ants – my nemeses – have already smelled the sugar, climbed the pole, and started feasting on the sugar water not intended for them.

Hummingbirds – cute.

Ants – not cute.

Hummingbirds – deserving of treats.

Ants – NOT deserving of the drops they steal from the hummingbirds’ pit stop.

So much in this world depends on ‘cute.’

Ants work hard, toiling away with no chance of spouse or little ones of their own, caught in a permanent life of caring for someone else’s children, finding food, and losing their little lives for the good of the hive.

While hummingbirds live on their model good looks. There goes another one! I am happy! It deigned to stop and sample my free lunch.

I know a model’s life is hard, that beauty comes from semi-starvation and hours spent primping.

Don’t tell me the little bird is working hard for its babies, somewhere up in the top of the tree next door where I’ve seen them zoom at dusk. I know that. It also has a mate. It fears the predators, the feral cats my neighbor insists on feeding. But it gets to do this while being stunningly beautiful (the male. I know – I never said Nature was fair). Little Eloi.

And it gets to FLY. I would LOVE to fly unaided, as it does.

I don’t want to be an ant, lost in a dark tunnel under the earth, with millions of indistinguishable coworkers – female, but that doesn’t matter. I don’t want brief visits to the sun, laying trails for others to follow to food, having an appendage ripped off in a battle with a rival colony.

An imperfect hummingbird dies. An imperfect ant soldiers on, until it can’t.

I am an ant. Not a very good one. I’m one of those broken imperfect ones. A nice solid Morlock by training.

I would rather be a hummingbird.


To write good titles channel a newspaperman


Part of the background of the novel I’m working so hard to get ready for publication is my fascination with celebrities, a tiny but life-long sideline of mine: in Mexico growing up, we read HOLA – which told you everything going on with anyone who was anyone, including the royal houses of Europe.

In the States, as an adult, I indulge this by reading People and similar magazines – at the dentist/doctor’s office. There is so much repetition, that once you have a good base, keeping up isn’t as hard as you think – you just tuck each new bit (which will probably recapitulate everything that ever happen in the celeb’s life) into your matrix of ‘data,’ and come back to it in a couple of months.

Life is a Soap Opera

I may have mentioned at some point that I have serialized Pride’s Children, Book 1, on several sites – to make connections in the online indie world, meet people, get new readers and their feedback.

One of these sites is VentureGalleries, and one of the two guys who runs it, Caleb Pritle, III, has been putting up chunks several times a week.

He chooses a 1000-1200 piece at a time, adds an episode title, and puts it up on the site.

He has the most outrageous episode titles, but the interesting thing to me has been that every one of them is lifted from somewhere in the episode.

When in the world did I write THAT?

The episodes aren’t quite scenes – his choice of divisions is to give serial readers a predictable size and approximate time-length piece, to be read on things like mobile phones.

So, for the fun of it, I’m going to go through the episodes he’s put up, and list them with their titles, and you’ll see what I mean.

One important bit: Caleb is an old newspaperman (I mean ‘experienced,’ not ‘agèd,’ when I say ‘old’) – and headlines have to grab. And he has a sensationalist turn of mind anyway – check out some of his books.

I honestly can’t remember writing some of these gems (the titles), but they are always IN the episode.

I’ve learned a lot about titles and grabbing attention from reading what he has been doing with my own words.

Thanks, Caleb!

Some ‘interesting’ episode titles:

3 – To hell with safe choices. She was going for…

6 – Did he have an affair with his co-star?

13 – Whatever the cost, her beauty was worth it.

14 – Love them, leave them, you never get to keep them.

24 – He liked living in the lap of luxury.

27 – It might be better posting an armed guard.

35 – For a writer, she was woefully inarticulate.

47 – She was jail bait, a child playing dress-up.

68 – Seeking sanctuary in the middle of the night.

74 – He sulked away like the coward he was.

86 – A woman who doesn’t gossip is a rare…

93 – Sincere flattery almost always worked.

99 – Sex changed everything and could never be undone.

109 – She had planned to expend her sexual tension.

116 – Why had she revealed her sordid secret?

128 – Would they fight a duel over a movie role?

136 – Hell’s deadline for tips was midnight.

144 – Was her mother sleeping around with movie stars?

152 – The most erotic thing a woman could do for a man.

158 – Why did she pray for the unborn baby to die.

163 – Was he on his way to hell?

He’s not done yet, so there will be more for me to shake my head at

They have ebooks and regular books and blog posts – always something going on.

This isn’t the full list – it’s not all posted there yet – but I can remember shaking my head at his ability to turn my simple words into lurid headlines when a particularly good one came across my desk.

How do you title your work, and what grabs your attention?

Thanks to for the ability to make quotes.

DEAR BRAIN: stop protecting me from finishing


I’m having trouble getting started after a day away, because of roofers hammering on the roof all day yesterday – and because I have to stop and think at a scene I thought was done.

It is easy to lose faith when it’s been a long slog, it seems I’m no closer to the end than I was three months ago (I honestly believed I’d be published by now), and I run into what turns out to be a minor rethinking in a scene that was hard to write.

It’s not the scene.

I think I know what to do, and it’s a minor set of corrections to make reality and fiction overlap somewhere in the middle. The rule is: if you’re going to use the real world, either do it accurately, or CHOOSE to do it differently.

I don’t know why it seems necessary to me to anchor this book in the real world and time – I think it has something to do with making the implausible seem eminently possible at the end.

It isn’t even a requirement – fiction does NOT have to make sense.

But I’ve chosen to anchor many parts in the real world (for my values of ‘real’), so it threw me when I thought I had done so, and Google Earth showed me I had not.

Why blame Google Earth?

Well, because there was a car trip in there (during which some serious thinking is going on), and it went from a slightly fuzzy place (Kary’s house) to a very real place where I’ve been myself, and which is the reason this part of the story got set in New Hampshire.

So I thought I was on solid ground and had planned this out – and that the hard part was giving a framework to the thinking going on, NOT the car trip it is inserted into.

(BTW, notice that I’m not mentioning WHICH trip I’m referring to – don’t want to spoil the magic if there is any.)

I think this is more symptomatic of FINISHING than of any small flaw in the plot or writing.

It’s the EXCUSE

The reason why this long effort can simply not be finished, ever.

And once I stop and write this, thus taking all these horrifying doubts from the inside of my brain, where I am incapable of sorting them out (CFS brain fog redux!) to the cold hard (okay, hot hard – it was over 100°F here yesterday – those poor roofers!) light of day, then I see its size (not so big) instead of its shadow (humongous), and I can think of getting back to work.

Steven Pressfield (Turning Pro and others) calls this ‘Resistance’ and reminds us that the apparent size of Resistance is related to the success possible just around the corner. As you get closer to your goal, the Resistance grows (because, I think, your self is trying to protect you from the negative consequences of success such as NOT having success or having success that is too big for your britches or whatever). So you won’t get hurt.

This is getting a little boring.

So I take all this garbage out of my head, put it on the page (thus proving I am NOT blocked, at least not in writing to you, Dear Diary), and can examine it dispassionately.

It’s just a small bump in the editing.

It is easily fixable.

When it’s fixed, the next bump will appear on the horizon, and I will deal with it.

And there will be more.

And then, just as in all the tasks before, from writing to cover to formatting to, well editing), it will be over.

The TO DO list is FINITE.

Thanks for listening, Dear Diary.



PS Stories of similar will be commiserated with, encourgament  met with great approval, and will accept chocolate (virtual if that’s all you got)

Drastic change in writer habits during final editing

PRIDE'S CHILDREN, Chapter 1, Scene 1 final editing changes.

PRIDE’S CHILDREN, Chapter 1, Scene 1 final editing changes.


I need my brain ON to edit.

That’s basically it.

I can’t edit with my regular brain (CFS brain fog galore) – too many tiny critical decisions to make. And every one of those edits/changes/corrections has to be RIGHT, because that’s what I mean by ‘FINAL EDIT.’

I’m not doing this again, unless one of my hardy beta readers or proofreaders points out that I’ve made another dum-dum. FACTUAL errors WILL be corrected. Stylistic ones NOT. This is it, folks, get your digs in now or forever hold your PIECE.

In Chapter 1, Scene 1, I made over 50 edits. None of them major (no plot or character changes), I am happy to say, but all of them necessary. That is a lot of decisions for someone decision-challenged at the best of times.

I’m writing this post as I go about the complete change in working patterns, and how it affects the writer, ME. In case it helps someone else, or merely for the entertainment value.

So, just block the internet and proceed in a nice quiet environment?

The hardest part right now is that I have to leave the internet unblocked: I’m fact checking, getting quotes right, and using my editing software (over and over and over after changes). My editing software is online. Sigh.

I need to be able to get to my blog and Wattpad to collect comments.

All those critical words left as I posted scenes I am now mining for gold: if something bothered ONE reader enough to mention it in the comments, you can be sure it bothered others – who didn’t take the time to notice, analyze, and write to me about it. Thanks, commenters! You rock.

I’m happy to say it’s been POSSIBLE. Have you noticed a dearth of posts by regulars lately? Summer? I don’t remember from previous years, but it seems I have to surf harder to find anything acceptable to read, and then I dump it more easily because there ISN’T any, and get to work in spite of the distractions. So ‘surfing the internet’ isn’t the distraction it could be.

Reading and storing critiques (and I must admit, some of the lovely positive comments) is taking a fair amount of time. I might have done it as I posted, but then Pride’s Children would probably never have happened – you’re not supposed to put too much time into fixing minutiae as you write, or you get bogged down in far worse questions about native intelligence, ability, and the suitability of the WIP.

[I’m looking into Anti-Social, a little brother of Freedom which blocks only social sites – and any others you add to its list. Possibly I could add everything else I regularly surf – and see if that was good enough.]

Best ways to use editing software

I use AutoCrit, because, although it is online (I think they’re tinkering with it and making it better, though I’d rather have a standalone on my computer), it has the most and the easiest-to-use features for fiction I’ve found in all the software I tried.

Its best feature is a VERY light hand on suggestions – and those based more on a database of similar fiction. Some of the editing software out there thinks it’s an English teacher. And the grammar editors, such as the one included with Word, are painful. Especially for writers of fiction, but just painful.

Problem areas in my writing

My repeated sins are those of a tired or lazy brain: I find myself using the same words, often with different meanings, because a particular word, once used, leaves some kind of mental trace that gives it preference the next time I need a word. A halo, if you please.

Just in the image that starts this post, you see an example: the original has ‘quiet little book signing’ and ‘he lay so quiet.’ On the first page. Within paragraphs of each other. Eeek!

And in something that’s been up for years – nobody ever mentioned this! C’mon people, I ASKED for critique! I meant it!

But the almost-final version of that scene was written either before I purchased AutoCrit, or somewhere within my first months of having it, and didn’t go through the extensive vetting I do now (and am re-doing for every scene before I let them out to paying customers).

I guess you might say it’s a testament to my writing skills and beautiful storytelling that I got away with this – in a story that’s been read here and on Wattpad AT LEAST a hundred times all the way through.

BTW, that’s no excuse.

Other problems in my writing

I think I’ll keep the rest of them quiet for now; there are many, many are fixable, and I would rather seem like a polished writer than completely let you all down!

RELEVANCE to the final DIY product

The remainder of this post is about USING the editing software – but once I get into a working loop, I can usually forget most of the distractions of the net at least for a while, so it’s been worth it.

DO NOTE that you lose all your italics when you paste things into AC, which sometimes makes for oddities.

But it has also been a complete disruption of ‘the way I write.’

And useful to find out that, if I have to, I can.

I don’t like it; the freedom feels uncomfortably like lack of boundaries between the writing world and the real one.

And note that I don’t apply AC to writing until I’M finished with writing AND editing on my own. I don’t use AC to write; only for final revision – and then VERY thoroughly.

And afterward I let the computer read it to me – and I listen.

 So which AutoCrit features are my most useful ones?

All of them. I use every single one of the tabs at least part of the time. Oh, except for Pacing. I don’t get why that one picks certain paragraphs to flag.

I’m often quite surprised at what it turns up in a ‘finished’ scene.

AC’s little grammar lessons on each topic are a quick review of good practices. (Click on How do I use… link).

Other than that, here’s the list of features for subscribers, underlined (the free version lets you check 500 words max, and only gives you access to a couple of the features):

Pacing and Momentum:

The feature I use here is Sentence Variation. It shows you a bar graph of EVERY sentence in your text in order, and summarizes how many of each you have. I use it especially to check my LONG sentences – click on the bar, and they are highlighted in the text – to make sure they parse correctly into chunks and don’t FEEL long.


Dialogue Tags – I use as few as possible, so it’s nice to have them flag the ‘saids,’ which I use mainly to keep groups scenes moving well. In group scenes, more creative dialogue tags may interfere with just keeping the reader clear as to who’s speaking, so ‘said’ is my go to. Otherwise, such as in the example above where I replaced

“You seemed startled,” said Elise Carter, her face a study in tact, “and then you went further into that head of yours.”


“You seemed alarmed.” Elise’s face was a study in tact. “Then you went further into that head of yours.”

To me, the second is more like Kary’s perception than the first, which sounds like a narrator, so I like the second one better. Plus why would she think of Elise’s last name? So I arranged for you to find out Elise’s last name a bit later in the scene in a more natural way, and one more edit DONE.

Adverbs in Dialogue – I rarely use ‘said quietly’ instead of ‘whispered’ unless there is a real distinction there, but often those adverb/weak verb combinations CAN be replaced with a single stronger verb, and it’s a good idea to check what on Earth your brain was thinking when you wrote the thing.

Strong writing:

I check Adverbs, Cliches, Redundancies, and Unnecessary filler words. Each is a quick judgement call. For some characters, the cliches are on purpose.

I mostly ignore Passive Voice and Showing vs. Telling, as I don’t do those things accidentally.

Word choice:

Initial Pronouns and Names and Sentence Starters are useful if you have a habit of clunky sentences, all starting with a name, pronoun, conjunction (And, But…), or ‘ing’ construction.

Generic descriptions flags things like ‘very’ and ‘great.’ I use those mostly in sarcastic comments in direct internal monologue, ie the character talking to herself, or in dialogue to show a character’s speech patterns. But it IS useful to do a quick check to see if you really need ‘really’ in that sentence.

I don’t like the way Homonyms is executed. I get the impression they don’t want to show their actual list, or it is too long to show conveniently, but it shows ALL possible homonyms at the same time, with no way to just check the versions of ‘your’ – so I find it quite useless. There is no way I’m going to write ‘ewe’ when I mean ‘you,’ so having it flagged doesn’t help me at all.

Those I have problems with I do on my own with the Find function in Scrivener, and I’ve tried adding them to the Personal Words selection, but there is a problem there I’ve asked them to look into when a word has an apostrophe. So I know darn well there are ‘yours’ in there, and I can’t find them in AC. Otherwise, Personal Words can be useful – if you think you have a bad habit of overusing certain uncommon words (I have ‘autopilot’ in there), you can add it to your personal list, and AC will flag them for you. I seem to have broken this feature, so I’ve sent in a question about what to do, and haven’t gotten a response yet. The words I put in before I got cute and tried to add some of the homonyms I have trouble with (so I can see just them) still work.


Repeated Words, Repeated Uncommon Words, and Repeated phrases help you notice when you’ve used the same thing within a paragraph or two. Word frequency and Phrase frequency examine the whole text you inserted into the Editor, to give you a total count. Both are quite handy.

I use this one a lot, and examine what it highlights very carefully before I decide whether to leave a repeat or use a synonym – and then I have to rerun the analysis with the new text, because I have the habit of repeating a different word when I change a duplicate.

Sometimes editing repetition feels like chasing my tail, but IF I use it, I want it to be by choice, not accident – for a specific purpose, rather than because my brain is lazy or fogged. Another set of judgment calls, supported by a program which shows me what I actually did, rather than what I think I did.

Compare to fiction:

This last tab has two selections – Overused Words and Combination Report. The latter does Overused Words, Repeated Words and Phrases, and Personal Words in a clickable format so you can check all these things quickly in one place if you wish to.

But the main point is to compare YOUR work to a database consisting of: fiction (default), YA fiction, SFF, or Romance, and to show you how your choice of words stacks up to a wide variety of works in these categories. This is new – there used to be just fiction and non-fiction (I think – it seems to have disappeared, and I may be remembering incorrectly as I never used AC for non-fiction like blog posts).

All comments welcome – editing is a perennial.