Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Danny's Tavern--A Collection of Neighborhood Stories 1935-1975


Our guest today is Dr. Thomas Melvin, P.E. I'm looking forward to reading his book, Danny's Tavern! I think you'll enjoy his explanation of how this collection of short stories came into being.---Mary Ann

A few years ago I wrote a novel-The Great American Story-so I thought, “Two Winds To Vandalia”. It was about two Cain & Abel brothers and an accident at a nuclear power plant. But 20 or so rejection slips later convinced me otherwise.


My friend Bill Flynn was a bartender at Danny’s Tavern. He was always writing too but his finished work never saw the light of day. He wrote the real life stories that the patrons at this neighborhood tavern shared with him.


Upon his passing, all of those writings were discovered in boxes in the basement and might have been thrown out. But Bill left behind a hand written note that they were to be given to me.


The stories shared in Danny’s Tavern could have happened anywhere, any year and in any economy. Neighborhood taverns are places people go to share stories and sometimes the type of secret you could only confess to a relative stranger.


They are centers of neighborhood culture and conversation and no matter where you live or are traveling to you just feel more connected to the rest of the world, when you’re there.


They are safe havens you can go to for answers when you’ve been laid off for the very first time and you feel like you’re the only one that’s ever happened to. They are where you go to brag endlessly to relative strangers about how you finally met the woman of your dreams who thinks you’re the man of hers.


Perhaps most importantly, in an economy where all the rules of how to be successful seem to have changed, your own “Danny’s Tavern” is where you know you can you go to share your greatest hopes and dreams, and find a community that will hold you accountable for achieving them.


Just as the All Things Writing blog image says “Writing is the recording of life as it passes you by” and Bill Flynn’s writings captured the lives of 26 characters through the ups and downs of life, unfiltered, authentic and timeless.


About the Author:


Dr Thomas Melvin P.E. graduated from the Doctoral Program at Nova Southeastern University and received a Distinguished Research Award for his dissertation, in 1996. For over twenty years he worked as an Engineering Consultant for the Medcon Engineering Corporation. He has lectured throughout the U.S. on Construction and Facilities Management.

His career began at the age of ten having worked at everything from scraping barnacles off of tugboats, to shoveling coal on a steamship, jumping out of planes as a US Paratrooper, to teaching engineering, to project management consulting at Harvard University. He is also the author of Practical Psychology in Construction
Management published by Van Nostrand Reinhold and Danny’s Tavern – A Collection of Neighborhood Stories 1935-1975

His facebook page is:

Readers can buy the book here:

Monday, February 25, 2013

Divide And Conquer!

So I've recently put the finishing touches on an epic masterpiece that is finally going to catapult me to the fame and reward I so richly deserve. Time to start sending out those queries so I can take my pick of the offers as they roll in!

Dear Ms. YAgent:
Please consider representing my new YA dystopian, science fiction, paranormal, suspense, romantic, literary thriller ZOMBIE CAFE. It is currently 139,000 words -

"Right..." bemoans the agent for the thousandth time today, her eyes glazing over, followed by a stream of consciousness - Like Barnes&Noble is going to devote three inches of shelf space, per copy, to a complete unknown. Not to mention the cost of churning out and distributing this tome. Just reading it the first time is going to take twice as long as that Ahmish Space Opera burning a hole through my Kindle. <Delete>

So what is an aspiring published writer to do?

Our politicians do it to the popular masses every day, so why shouldn't we do it to the capitalist industry that refuses to recognize the talent that is verily glugging out of our ears and getting our keyboard all sticky?

Honestly, there's a lot of junk out there, but a lot of great writing, as well. Since I went with a small indie press I've really started paying attention to the work that is already out there. You've probably got some really good stuff. I've got some good stuff, too. My writing partner's debut Foreseen* is getting some incredible reviews on Goodreads. Just because it isn't traditionally published doesn't mean it isn't good stuff.

But frankly, my best work to date, which I would prefer to traditionally publish, isn't getting much attention in the queryverse. One of the reasons, at 139K words, It's Too Damn Long. There's a very good reason that 90% of debut novels that get published are less than 100,000 words. Or rather, some very good reasons. Reasons . Plural:

  1. Paper costs more than ever before. 
  2. Printing costs more than ever before. 
  3. Shelf space in book stores is more limited and competitive than ever before.
  4. Publisher cash is more limited than ever before.
  5. Publisher time is more limited than ever before.
  6. Customer cash is more limited than ever before.
  7. Customer time is more limited than ever before.
  8. I'm a debut author.
  9. Getting the point?
  10. Hello...?

This book was already slated to be the first in a series. So guess what? It just became two books! And instead of three LONG books, it'll be five shorter ones. Now, not only have I written the first in the series, the second in the series is automatically 75% complete. I also get to include some of the scenes I cut out of the original manuscript in my misguided attempts to make it shorter. And it just so happens there is a fantastic spot to wrap things up yet leave a powerful cliff hanger. It's almost like I intended to do it this way, just like that guy who scored a goal in the Europa League last week. At least he said he was shooting. I always do.

I'm really quite proud of this book. Yet every time I write a query letter I balk when I would write 139K -gack- thousand -gack- words <coughing spasm>. It was dumb. I knew better. I know better. Time to stop being my own worst enemy, at least in this particular case. Time to divide. Time to conquer.

Until next time,

John C. Brewer is the author of Multiplayer an MMOG YA SF novel, and The Silla Project, a North Korean nuclear romance. You can learn more about him and what he is doing at his website,

*Foreseen, Terri-Lynne Smiles.

Friday, February 22, 2013

The Garden: The Unauthorized Biography of Adam and Eve by Paul T. Harry--a review

I had the privilege of getting to interview science fiction writer Paul T. Harry a few months ago about his fabulous writing skills and his book, The 5 Moons of Tiiana. I knew after the interview that he was going to be a writer to watch. When the chance to review his latest book came along, I couldn't resist! But then again, it's hard to resist a book with such a tempting title...The Garden: An Unauthorized Biography of Adam and Eve.

Here is the publisher's blurb:

Nearly every religion and society in the world today begins with the story of Adam and Eve. And yet, this most basic story is couched in mysticism, myth, and vague detail. Did such a couple really exist? Were they the first man and woman on our planet, or is there more to the story?
For two hundred thousand years the Neanderthal race ruled Earth, then mysteriously, 40,000 years ago they disappeared forever leaving behind a new race of people -- the Cro-Magnon. Why? What happened back then that changed our history forever?
The Garden of Eden -- a perfect home built and designed for two people until the serpent arrived. Who was the serpent? And what was he doing there in the first place? Is there a chance that the serpent is actually a reference to some hidden sexual transgression?
Imagine traveling billions of light years across space to settle an unknown world populated by primitive barbarians. Imagine being alone, just you and your spouse, the two of you in charge of an entire world with only your faith and your mission to guide you -- and, of course, the devil waiting for that fatal mistake.
Could you have done things better?                                                             

A Love Story
A Saga of Good vs Evil
The Beginning of Humanity's Historic Journey
This is a clever retelling of the story of Adam and Eve with a cool sci/fi twist that I found really engaging. I was impressed with so many elements of this book, and while I've seen the Adam and Eve plot used before in science fiction, this version really played with some new ideas that worked for me.
So, basically Adam and Eve are aliens. Their job is to come to Terran (Earth) and fix the crazy stuff that's been happening there since another alien, Mikatta, got out of hand.  Because of Mikatta's antics before Adam and Eve arrive on the planet, the tribes already living there are not exactly the pillars of civilized society. As you might expect, the arrival of Adam and Eve brings some of the tribes joy and causes trouble with the others. There's a lot of pride going on with Earth's hottest alien couple as they strive to take command, but eventually they discover the pitfalls of being rulers.
The most impressive thing in this novel is the world building the author has undertaken. The alien society Adam and Eve come from is written about in great detail, and it was easy to imagine this whole other race of beings with a goal of experimenting on other planets and civilizations. I could picture Mr. Harry's description of the Big Bang vividly, as well as, the evolution of man.
I also liked the idea that Adam and Eve were scientists in their original world, but somewhat naive (even with all their training) when it came to life on Terran. Mikatta, who represents the Satan from the traditional tale, is brutal, sneaky, and full of loathing. An extremely well written character, Mikatta gets my vote for the Best Bad Guy That I've Read In A Long Time. Then again...he is the devil....
For me, there were only a few places where this story fell short. Remember that world building thing I was talking about? Well, it's pretty detailed with lots of names and places that are unfamiliar--typical science fiction stuff. Unfortunately, it was hard to keep all the names straight, and I did feel that parts of the narrative were a little slow and bogged with almost too much detail.
But remember folks, I'm always the first to admit that I'm blond and sometimes my brain is slow!
All in all, I enjoyed this story and would recommend it to the readers at All Things Writing! Want more on the author? Want the link to get the book? Click below!
Author Bio:
Paul T. Harry attended the University of Nevada Las Vegas as an English major with a theater arts minor before beginning his career as a writer and music producer. He also worked as an editor with Second Avenue Songwriter’s magazine and has spent the last 30 years writing novels, screenplays and short stories. Paul is married with four children and resides in Gold Canyon, outside Phoenix.
·         Website
·         Twitter
·         Goodreads

Thursday, February 21, 2013

10 Things not to put in your book description

Over the next 2 weeks I'm going to look at writing a winning book (product) description. As is always my wont in these things, I like to use humor to make a point and so this week's blog is about what not to do. I hope that my readers here will be amused but, be warned, you'll find examples of everything for real out there in Internetland.
Obviously some people just don't get the joke, do they? See how many you’ve been guilty of at some time or another.
Rip off a review
We all like getting nice reviews, don't we, but sometimes they can be very thin on the ground. Time goes by and then, at long last, someone says something appreciative about your masterpiece so (naturally enough) you want to draw everyone's attention to it (and away from the bad comments). Rather than hope the pearls of wisdom will be found from amidst all the porcine by-products of those less enamored with your efforts, you copy and paste selected complimentary text into your summary. Don’t let the little matter of breach of copyright (which is held by the reviewer) stop you. Of course, you could try and get their permission (if you have contact details) but why waste time on it?
Don't you just love it when you see things like "Unputdownable", "Fantastic" or "Incredible" (or any similar variant)? Since we don't all like the same thing, such a claim must logically be flawed but don’t let that stop you. The more suspicious creatures out there might think that the reason a book is being hardsold is because it can't sell itself any other way but that’s their problem, after all.
The idea is to get as many sales as possible – correct? Therefore it’s a cracking marketing idea to say it’s also got werewolves and vampires in when it’s actually an historical melodrama, or that it’s cram-packed with action when it’s really a political intrigue. When it comes down to it, what’s a few porkies (British rhyming slang - pork pies = lies) between friends? Everyone does it, after all. Unfortunately it might get you a lot of returns and some lousy reviews but just bite the bullet and ignore them.
You’ve written the book for goodness sake – what more do people want? If they want to know more about the book – buy it (d’uh – that’s the idea) and, if they want to know more about you, they can go to your Facebook page. Leave it all to the sample text or the 'Look Within' feature which is what they’re for, after all.
Trash someone else's book
Your book's a great work of literature, isn't it? Well, why not boost its position by climbing on the shoulders of someone else's efforts? Make it clear how bad another author's work is in comparison to your own and, if you can, include a nice little libelous comment such as “Author X plagiarizes Author Y’s work” or (better still) quote them as saying that their own readers are “Suckers” (à la 'Doing a Ratner')
Boast that it's all things to everyone
You think your book's out there with the best so say so. Tell everyone it's better than sliced bread and that it's something that they'll want to read over and over again (until the sequel comes out, of course). Choose your words carefully so that you appeal to as many of the romantics, the paranormals, the eroticists and the crime fraternities as you can. I call this the Knock-Off Swiss Army Knife Syndrome - something which claims to be able to do hundreds of different jobs but which, because it's neither one thing nor another, falls apart the first time you use it.

Times are hard, the book's not selling, so why not tell everyone how badly you need the sales? The sympathy card works for some people so roll up those shirtsleeves, break out your bow and let's have a nice little sing-song played on the heartstrings of your readers. Sadly, no matter how good a fiddler you are, this is going to sound off-key to even the deafest of ears (and there will be many of those).
Just copy a bit of the book’s text
If the book's good, it should more or less sell itself, right? Give 'em a key snippet of text - that'll hook them, won't it? Why tell them what the book’s about; if they want to know they can damned well buy a copy and they don’t need to know about you – that’s personal.
Buyers have just arrived at your book's page and they're met with a bewildering host of text - the title, background information, description and summary, price, adverts for 'similar books' <spits> etc. You've spent ages crafting your description so giving it the attention it deserves is the least readers can do. TO HELP THEM, WHY NOT WRITE IT ALL IN CAPITALS - THAT'LL MAKE IT STAND OUT.
Insult the reader
You published your book a year ago and there are still people on the planet who've not read or even heard about it. Ridiculous as that must seem, it's going to be true so why not do a bit of a customer survey and ask the address of the cave they've been living in or if they've been comatose for 12 months (and, if so, why wasn't their next of kin reading it to them)? Readers love having their thoughts provoked like this and it'll surely only serve to pique their interests.
And now I’ve just one thing left to leave you with: “Please read my book, it's brilliant and I need the sales SO BUY IT NOW!!!”

Clive West runs a publishing business called Any Subject Books as well as being an author in his own right. He's always on the look-out for talented new writers with something to say - if that describes you, visit their 'Writers Wanted' page. You can also see more about the company on Facebook.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Wishing for A Highlander--a review

Today's book made me hungry.

Really hungry.

Perhaps I shouldn't say what it made me hungry for (my mom reads this blog from time to time!), but let's just say it wasn't for food...

Wishing for a Highlander by Jessi Gage is one of my favorite kinds of romance books. It has humor, a sassy heroine, a hot warrior type with self confidence issues, and fun plot twists that keep you engaged the whole time. We were also fortunate to have had her as a guest blogger at All Things Writing yesterday. Read her piece on What To Bring When You Travel Through Time.

 Here is the publisher's blurb:

While examining Andrew Carnegie’s lucky rosewood box, single-and-pregnant museum worker Melanie makes a tongue in cheek wish on the artifact--for a Highland warrior to help her forget about her cheating ex. Suddenly transported to the middle of a clan skirmish in sixteenth-century Scotland, she realizes she should have been a tad more specific.


Darcy, laird in waiting, should be the most eligible bachelor in Ackergill, but a cruel prank played on him in his teenage years has led him to believe he is too large under his kilt to ever join with a woman. He has committed himself to a life of bachelorhood, running his deceased father's windmills and keeping up the family manor house...alone.


Darcy's uncle, Laird Steafan welcomes the strangely dressed woman into his clan, immediately marrying her to Darcy in hopes of an heir. But when Steafan learns of her magic box and brands her a witch, Darcy must do what any good husband would--protect his wife, even if it means forsaking his clan.


WARNING: A pregnant museum worker, a sixteenth-century Scot, and a meddlesome wishing box.
Yep, it's time travel romance that reminded me of Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series. Melanie falls through a time portal due to her idle wish on a special box and ends up coming through the stone circles (think Stonehenge style) to old school Scotland.  Like Gabaldon's book, Melanie meets a Highlander warrior who sweeps her off her feet.
However, here's the big difference for me between the two tales: tongue in cheek humor and a heck of a lot less Scottish history lessons. While I love the Outlander, the history bogged it down for me to the point of where I never finished the series! That's not the case here. Wishing for a Highlander is a tight tale that has you rooting for Melanie and Darcy to get together.
I loved that Melanie was pregnant, and  I kept wondering how the author was going to make this romance thing work. After all, pregnancy isn't always the most romantic thing!  But she pulled it off by creating a hero who feels like an outcast and has sympathy for the strange woman from another time. While Darcy is a the macho type that must be present in  a romance, he comes off as a human being capable of changing his thought process.
Melanie is a well written, down to Earth character who makes you laugh with her quirkiness and wonder if she really wants to go home to her time. I thought the chemistry between her and Darcy was fun!
Of course, every romance like this has it's bad guys. Lord Stefan is definitely a guy with a few issues of his own. He has a thing about witches and the fact that Melanie speaks differently and has this odd box, has him immediately wanting to set up a campfire and start roasting our heroine. Again, I was surprised at how well developed his character turned out to be. Let's just say that he's not the traditional bad guy.
I enjoyed the character of Anya. She's the one who sort of keeps the revenge ball rolling as the story goes along since she has had a past with Darcy.
Okay, it's time for the sex talk. How does Wishing for a Highlander measure up? Hot, hot, hot! I will not be going into detail on the subject, but it's well written stuff that makes you want to go out and buy your man a kilt!
Great book!
Click on the link below to purchase your copy today.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

What to Pack When You Travel Through Time by guest blogger, Jessi Gage

I just love today's author, Jessi Gage. I have a review going up tomorrow of her book Wishing for a Highlander. Witty, fast paced, and full of romance, Wishing for a Highlander is a great read! Enjoy Ms. Gage's blog post on time travel. I know I did!---Mary Ann

Thank you for having me Mary Ann! I'm so excited to guest blog for All Things Writing today. To celebrate the release of my very first novel, I’m talking about one of my favorite topics today, time-travel.

Time-travel romance is a much loved genre with diehard fans. I am one of those fans, and it all started with Diana Gabaldon's Outlander. One of the things I love the most about the genre is the way rigid perspectives on women's roles can be challenged, and that it's not just the Neanderthal men we send our women hurtling through time to fall in love with who are challenged. The women are often challenged too, challenged to embrace a supportive role when they were raised to be the star of their own lives, challenged to choose between love and the goals they once had for themselves, challenged to envision new goals that center on the one person they realize they can never live without.


But before you can have the fabulous epiphany moment where the hero and heroine make astronomical sacrifices in order to be together, there are always some challenges to overcome. Here are a few of my favorites:


Poor Cell Phone Reception


Nina Bangs’ Pleasure Master is one of my all-time favorite time-travel romances. One of the quirkiest, funniest parts of the story was that the time-traveling heroine’s cell phone still worked! She could call her hair-dresser best friend and discuss her strange predicament. Even the historical Highland hottie gets in on the phone action, withstanding a verbal lashing from said best friend. It’s a hoot and a half.


So when you time travel, bring your cell phone if you want, but chances are, it won’t work. Just so you know.


Language Barriers


“I doona understand ye, lass?”

“Haud your weesht!”

“What is it ye be blathering about, now?”


Part of our fascination with the time-travel genre is that we love men with accents. One nice thing about fiction is we can often get around the likelihood that our hero and heroine would have no idea whatsoever what the other is saying. We can fudge the dialect (because, honestly, who’s going to know since no one reading our books was alive then and probably only a few will be linguistic purists). We can insert a magical device to aid with translating. We can make the hero or the heroine a language genius who can learn a new language by the immersion method in a handful of days. We could even do what Maggie Shayne does in Miranda’s Viking, and make the modern-day heroine an expert in the hero’s time-period, complete with a working knowledge of his dead language...and so on. (By the way, Maggie Shayne is one of the few authors I know about who have brought an ancient hero into the modern-day world. The reason you don’t see that much is a topic all its own, worthy of a whole separate blog post.)


So make sure to keep your translation dictionary or your magic translation stone on you whenever you anticipate time travel might occur.


Birth Control


Nothing puts a damper on a hot and heavy interlude in the laird’s private chambers like a sexually responsible heroine asking the question, “So, uh, do you have a box of condoms in that antique armoire?”


How do we get around our modern sensibilities when it comes to sex with historical heroes? Really, this topic covers double the ground, because not only are we concerned with the possibility of unwanted pregnancies, but our modern-day heroines (and the heroes that want to boink them) should be concerned about STDs as well. For the purpose of today’s discussion, I’m going to focus solely on birth control, because I have yet to meet a romance hero or heroine with an STD. Not that it couldn’t happen, just, it’s not the norm.


While some may find it forgivable in fiction, especially escapist fiction, for birth control not to come up at all, there are plenty of authors who have dealt with the issue in creative ways that don’t throw the reader out of the story. In Outlander, Claire has reproductive issues that make it unlikely for her to get pregnant. Outlander also touches on some herbal anti-contraceptives. I found those sections fascinating and educational as well as entertaining.


In Wishing for a Highlander, my heroine Melanie is conveniently (though not so conveniently for her) already pregnant. That’s right, I send a single and pregnant woman hurtling through time. And I’m not the only one. Diana Gabaldon does it too, though I won’t put any spoilers in and reveal who or when in the series.


My favorite method of dealing (or not dealing) with birth control is having the hero and heroine be married before they do the wild thing the first time. That’s in no way meant to imply that pregnancy outside of marriage is always unwanted. But in the time-travel romances I’ve read where marriage precedes wild-monkey, screaming-awesome sex, there is often an attitude of well, if it happens, it happens, and it’s okay because we’re totally in love.


So, definitely, bring a several-month supply of your contraceptive of choice whenever you time-travel unless you’re okay with creating a love child with your historical hottie.


What one item would you absolutely refuse to time-travel without? My answer: My strawberry flavored Chap Stick


Thanks again for having me, Mary Ann (and the rest of All Things Writing’s contributors)! It's always great to connect with a fellow Lyrical author.


I’m celebrating my new release with Lyrical Press, Wishing for a Highlander, and would appreciate “likes” and “tags” on Amazon and votes on Goodreads’ list of Best Highland/Scotland Romance Novels for anyone who has time for a click or two. As of the writing of this post, Wishing for a Highlander is #35 on the list. (Note: to vote on Goodreads, you have to have an account and have the book you vote on be marked “want to read” or “have read”)
While examining Andrew Carnegie’s lucky rosewood box, single-and-pregnant museum worker Melanie makes a tongue in cheek wish on the artifact--for a Highland warrior to help her forget about her cheating ex. Suddenly transported to the middle of a clan skirmish in sixteenth-century Scotland, she realizes she should have been a tad more specific.
Darcy, laird in waiting, should be the most eligible bachelor in Ackergill, but a cruel prank played on him in his teenage years has led him to believe he is too large under his kilt to ever join with a woman. He has committed himself to a life of bachelorhood, running his deceased father's windmills and keeping up the family manor house...alone.
Darcy's uncle, Laird Steafan welcomes the strangely dressed woman into his clan, immediately marrying her to Darcy in hopes of an heir. But when Steafan learns of her magic box and brands her a witch, Darcy must do what any good husband would--protect his wife, even if it means forsaking his clan.
WARNING: A pregnant museum worker, a sixteenth-century Scot, and a meddlesome wishing box.
Size might have its advantages when it came to fighting, but those few boons fell far short of making up for the problems it caused. Being the biggest and the strongest had gotten him into far more trouble than it had gotten him out of. Swallowing his regret for how careless he’d been with her, he sought to determine whom she belonged to, whom, saints forbid, he might owe.
“Whose wife are ye, then? Not a Gunn’s or I wouldna have had to rescue you from one.”
“I’m not married,” the lass said. “And thank you for the rescuing, by the way. I can’t believe I dropped the dirk. Stupid.” She shook her head.
His heart warmed at her thanks. He didn’t hear many kind words from the lasses and would take what he could get, even from a dishonored woman who had caught a bairn out wedlock. Oddly, he didn’t think poorly of her. Whether it was her worried brow, her guileless, soft mouth, or her vulnerable size, he had not the heart to condemn her.
He didn’t even mind so much that she found him distasteful for his size, although talking with her now, she didn’t seem overly upset to be in his arms. He endeavored to keep her talking, keep her distracted from her disgust.
“Ye never answered my first question,” he said. “Who are you? And where are ye from if ye’re no’ English?”
“Ugh. I don’t know. Is there an answer that won’t get me burned at the stake or locked up in a ward for the hopelessly insane?”
Like most things out of her mouth, that had been a peculiar answer. “Ye could try the truth,” he offered, slowing his pace since he heard Archie’s voice not far off.
“No,” she said flatly. “I couldn’t. At least not the whole truth. How about we just go with my name, Melanie, and with the honest fact that I’m a long way from home and I have no idea how to get back.” Her green eyes pierced his. “I’m afraid you might be stuck with me, Darcy Keith.”

Jessi lives with her husband and children in the Seattle area. In addition to writing paranormal romance, she’s a wife, a mom, an audiologist, a church-goer, a Ford driver, a PC user, and a coffee snob. Her guiding tenet in her writing is that good triumphs over evil, but not before evil gives good one heck of a run for its money. The last time she imagined a world without romance novels, her husband found her crouched in the corner, rocking.
For more information about Wishing for a Highlander or Jessi’s other works, swing by her blog or website.


Monday, February 18, 2013

Creating Simple eBooks for Your eReader

In my last post I talked about how using my Kindle for editing helped me stop fiddling with my manuscript and actually read it from beginning to end. If you're a writer you know how hard that can be. Even printing it out on paper doesn't always guarantee you'll get through it without pulling out that red pen and going to town. Putting it on my Kindle really helped me get a feel for the manuscript while giving me enough tools to flag typos and make a few simple notes.

It's actually quite easy to make eBooks if you aren't planning on distributing them to the world. That is a lot more tedious and takes a lot more time. If there are interested parties out there I may talk about that in the future, but for now, we just want a file you can slap on your eReader for your convenience or maybe to pass along to a beta reader.

To do this, you will need Word, a text editor, and Calibre, a great eBook management tool that you can download here. You'll wonder how you lived without it, and best of all, it's free. (Though if you use it often - and you will - you really should support the project.)

1) Start with a file in Word. If you're a Pages user, export it to Word. I'm not a huge fan of Word - or any Microsoft product - to be perfectly honest, but you can't really get around using them from time to time. Open your file in Word. If you want to have a searchable Table of Contents on your reader, go through and reformat every chapter heading as "Heading 1." It only takes a few minutes and is worth it for navigational purposes. Save the file as a web page.

2) Open the web page file with a text editor. I use TextWrangler on my Mac but there are plenty of free ones out there. Search on " class=MsoNormal"(include the space) and do a global replace with "". Basically, you're replacing it with nothing. Save it.

3) Now open Calibre. If you've never used Calibre you might want to take a little time to get familiar with the tool. It is very powerful but I'm not going to go into that here. We're just creating a quick and dirty eBook to help you get your editorial job finished. Click the Add Books button, navigate to your html file, and open it. If you want, you can use the Edit Metadata button to change the title to something more recognizable, but you really don't need to worry about the Metadata here. We're more interested in the Convert Books button.

4) Click the Convert Books button and you get a new window. At the top left, use the drop-down menu to select the Input Format as "ZIP" and in the opposite corner, the Output Format as "EPUB". Under Look and Feel check the "Remove Spacing Between Paragraph" checkbox. If you wanted a Table of Contents and formatted the chapter headings as H1, click the Structure Detection button and enter "//h:h1" in the Detect Chapters and Insert Page Breaks dialog boxes. Under the Table of Contents button insert "//h:h1" in the Level 1 TOC dialog box.

5) Click the OK button at the bottom right. It'll churn for a minute and produce your EPUB file.

6) To convert your EPUB to MOBI, click the Convert Books button again, and this time set the input to EPUB and the output to MOBI. Uncheck the "Remove Spacing Between Paragraphs" box under the  Look and Feel Button, and type "Table of Contents" into the Table of Contents dialog box under the MOBI Output button and click OK. It'll crunch for a moment and spit out your MOBI file.

7) Now, if you plug your eReader into your computer, you get a new button in Calibre that you can use to directly manipulate the memory of your reader. Add your converted file to the main memory and you are ready to start reading without printing out your manuscript!

The first time you do this it'll seem daunting and take 30 or 45 minutes to get your text editor set up and Calibre installed, etc. (This is still less time than printing out 350 pages.) After you've done it a few times it takes less than five minutes. Calibre is powerful enough to create publication quality files for upload directly to Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Google Play, or wherever, but there are some additional steps that you need to take not only in Caliber, but also in preparing the manuscript if you want to come out with a quality product.

Good luck and I'd love to hear if this streamlines your development process.

Until next time,

John C. Brewer is the author of Multiplayer an MMOG YA SF novel, and The Silla Project, a North Korean nuclear romance. You can learn more about him and what he is doing at his website,

Saturday, February 16, 2013

The Tapestry of Writing--by guest blogger, Diana Jackson

The Tapestry of Writing

I was talking to a friend the other day and he likened writing a story to weaving. This is a quote from Wikipedia about weaving a tapestry:

Tapestry is a form of textile art, woven on a vertical loom. It is composed of two sets of interlaced threads, those running parallel to the length (called the warp) and those parallel to the width (called the weft); the warp threads are set up under tension on a loom, and the weft thread is passed back and forth across part or all of the warps. Tapestry is weft-faced weaving, in which all the warp threads are hidden in the completed work, unlike cloth weaving where both the warp and the weft threads may be visible. In tapestry weaving, weft yarns are typically discontinuous; the artisan interlaces each coloured weft back and forth in its own small pattern area. It is a plain weft-faced weave having weft threads of different colours worked over portions of the warp to form the design.” 

The framework When writing historical Fiction first we set up a framework or story plan, these are the parameters, the timeframe or era, the beginning and end.

The warp comes next, with a more detailed outline of where the story is going to, character descriptions and their relationships and historical facts gleaned through research to base the novel on, all of which will be almost hidden once the story is complete.

The creative weft of the story After this careful preparation it is time to add the colourful storyline and allow our imagination to take over. Our story weaves through our plan and the bare bones of our characters and research, bringing them to life. Each section is painstakingly crafted, including detailed accounts of each scene. Each strand of colour is significant, however short.

Tying up loose ends, editing and proof reading Mind you, I would like to add another step to this analogy because the weaver always works from the back, tying up any loose threads and beginning new colours so that the joins are invisible. The weaver always makes sure that there is just the correct amount of tension. Too little and the tapestry will be disjointed and may show holes but too much and the final picture will be buckled and spoilt. 

When the weaver has completed the final thread of his work, he or she makes sure that all loose ends are secure and as neatly trimmed as possible.  It is only at that point when the author believes that he or she has reached as near to perfection as possible that the work is turned over to reveal the whole picture for the very first time and it’s ready for the reader.

Waiting with a mixture of excitement and nervousness for the reviews Novels, like artwork are then critically appraised.

Interestingly my mind leapt at this point to the idiom:

To spin a yarn

Tell a story, especially a long drawn-out or totally fanciful one, as in This author really knows how to spin a yarn, or Whenever he's late he spins some yarn about a crisis. Originally a nautical term dating from about 1800, this expression probably owes its life to the fact that it embodies a double meaning, yarn  signifying both "spun fibre" and "a tale."

So there you have it. From the initial planning stages through to writing, proof reading, editing and finally revealing the published novel to an appreciative audience; I wish you good fortune in weaving your masterpiece.

Does anyone know any more interesting analogies?

Diana Jackson writes historical fiction and has brought out two books in the Riduna series, ‘Riduna’ and ‘Ancasta Guide me Swiftly Home,’ based mainly in the Channel Islands including Alderney and Guernsey and back on the mainland in Southampton between 1865 and 1920.

This is the second post in

Diana Jackson’s Weekend Blog Tour.

You can find details and more of her ‘Muse, Reviews and News’ on her blog: