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Sunday, December 1, 2019

Rule212 on tour!

In Minor Key (Wynter Wild book 8), Wynter and her brothers are about to take their indie rock band Rule212 on tour.

Barring unforseen diversions and detours, this is the route their three-week tour will take them, starting in Aurora CO, ending in Seattle WA:

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Wynter Wild Series Timeline (books 1-7)

Following on from the last post's timeline of events before book 1 started, here's the timeline for the major events of books 1-7. Note: There are spoilers here for those books, although I've avoided giving away too much. If you've read the books, then reading the event should trigger a reminder of "what really happened".

I keep a detailed spreadsheet with a separate column for each major character, and a day-by-day accounting of events. For example, here's a screenshot showing the entries for book 1 (and some of book 2) (click to enlarge):

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Wynter Wild Series Timeline (pre book 1)

Once my Wynter Wild series started approaching the half-million-word count a couple of years ago, and I decided to make the effort to turn it all into books, I realized I was going to have to start keeping very detailed notes, especially with the timeline.

The story is linear but characters frequently mention past events. To make everything consistent, I kept a spreadsheet of events in the characters' lives. While writing book 6, which introduces backstory from the previous generation, I took the timeline all the way back to 1963 when Bill Brown and Sylvia Heathcote (Ellie's parents) got married in Vermont.

Below is the timeline of events prior to the start of Little Sister Song (book 1). Note that there are major spoilers here from books 1 to 7. Coming up next will be the timeline that the first few books cover.

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Cover Reveal: Book 8 of the Wynter Wild Series

Continuing on the headless girl theme, I present the cover for book 8 of the Wynter Wild series, which is titled Minor Key.

Monday, November 4, 2019

Wynter's Prom Dress

In the chapter of Duet (Wynter Wild #7) I recently uploaded to Wattpad, it's Wynter's prom night.

She's not much of a dress girl, but in keeping with social convention she borrowed an appropriate bridesmaid dress from Dusk and it looks something like this (along with the dendrobium orchid corsage):

Saturday, November 2, 2019

Making a Theremin

The theremin has fascinated me for many years. Recently I watched some YouTube videos on how to play it, and got the urge to give it a try. Apparently, it's easier to play if you have experience with the violin -- an instrument I played, and hated, for 7 long years. So I figured I could give it a go. The instrument itself costs at least $450, but I found a $100 kit on eBay and purchased it...

... Not realizing you need an electrical engineering degree to assemble it! Where's Jesse when I need him?

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Craft Tutorial: Dragon Spines and Tail

Yesterday I wrote a tutorial to make your own dragon wings. Today I made the spines and tail for the costume, and here's how.

I wanted a long row of spines, with tail attached, that I could pin onto the costume after the wings were harnessed on. I cut two 3cm-wide strips of plastic sheet (from a poster frame), but you could use sturdy card although it won't give the tail the same "bounce" as plastic does. Whatever you use, it needs to be something with firm edges, so you can pull the felt triangles around it, which forces the triangles to stand up straight.

For the spines my daughter chose white glitter felt, which comes in A4 sheets. You could use card, maybe metallic-coated or with a pattern, in a color that matches the rest of the costume. It needs to be able to stand up by itself.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Craft Tutorial: Garbage Bag Dragon Wings

A couple of weeks ago my daughter announced she wanted to be a white dragon for Halloween. There are a dragon costume options available in the stores but none are white, other than the How To Train Your Dragon Light Fury for younger children. (My daughter is 9 and skinny, but so tall she wears age 12 clothes.)

I boldly said I'd make her dragon wings, and rather than the soft type hanging from the arms, I decided to make proper shaped wings coming out of her back. I don't know what I was thinking! But my husband cleared his weekend D&D game off the trestle tables so I had a big workspace, and today I finished them (other than the harness). I thought I'd share how I made them.

Initially I found an online tutorial showing how to turn two kites into amazing wings, and I tried to replicate this. The only suitable kites I could find were rainbow colored. White spray paint failed to cover the color (it just doesn't stick to that fabric, and isn't thick enough), so I decided to start from scratch using white garbage bags and garden wire.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

A Narrow Escape: The Doomed R101 Airship

My daughter and her dad were going through her National Geographic Kids "How Things Work" book tonight, and were reading the chapter on dirigibles, which mentioned the British R101 rigid airship.

This reminded me of a story my dad likes to tell about his father, John (Jack) Creasy, born in 1899. Jack was a chemist whose company, Titanine Ltd., supplied the nitrocellulose paint, otherwise known as "dope", for fabric used to cover the R101. After the ship was built, his team went on a tour of the airship. The story goes that Jack was so horrified by the workmanship, he declined a free ticket for its maiden overseas voyage to India in October 1930.

Sunday, October 20, 2019

NEW RELEASE: Natural Harmonics (Book 6)

Natural Harmonics is book 6 of the Wynter Wild series. The reason Wynter looks so happy on the cover is because her band is finally getting gigs and she loves playing live!

The ebook is now available for purchase for a teeny tiny price:

Amazon USA (US$2.99)
Amazon AUS
Amazon UK

It's also available in multiple formats on Smashwords, and through other online retailers. (BTW I accidentally pasted the book 7 description into the Amazon upload, and it'll take a day or two to fix. Big oops! Even I get confused when I'm working on three different books in the series at the same time.)


Friday, October 18, 2019

Breaking the Rules: What the What with the Wattys?

The other day I checked out the 2019 Wattys winners, looking for books to add to my reading list, and to get an idea of the kind of stories that win.

I started uploading my Wynter Wild series to Wattpad in December 2018, which in theory made the first few books eligible for the 2019 Wattys. I'd never heard of the Wattys until I joined Wattpad, but of course I considered entering Little Sister Song, come June, for the chance to become one of the ~60 winners. An award is great exposure for any writer using this platform where there are 500 million stories fighting for attention.

When I read the rules and found that published works were ineligible, I had to put that idea aside. (At the time, the later books in the series that weren't yet published were eligible, but I saw no point in entering book 5 or 6 of a long series, as it's necessary to read them in order.)

But back to those Wattys winners: On a hunch, I searched for one of the stories on Amazon and discovered it was self-published earlier this year (same title, author, and cover). I checked the other winners and found a second winning story on Amazon.

This blog post is partly a bitchfest about why ineligible stories won the award when I (and no doubt many others) specifically gave up our chance and did not enter because of the exclusivity rule. Yes, the chances of winning are minisculefor example, your story has to impress a "Story DNA" computer algorithm before a human even lays eyes on itbut that's not the point. And it's partly a piece of advice to Wattpad to get their house in order and be more professional about their contest, to avoid this problem reoccuring.

Monday, October 14, 2019

Rhubarb Crumble, Or Not

My sister's green thumb rescued my rhubarb plant (see previous post), and this week she gave me a bundle of its bounty so I thought I'd post a crumble recipe.

I grew up on apple, rhubarb, and peach crumble (not all in the same dish, except for the first two, sometimes) and my mother claims she used the recipe from the old Be-Ro cookbook, published in the 1920s. (Be-Ro was a brand of flour.) I also grew up using this cookbook for cakes and pancakes, etc. 


The crumble recipe called for rubbing in the fat and flour, then adding sugar, and baking it as a topping on stewed apple. Over the years we modified it a bit, such as adding oats or desiccated coconut, using crunchy raw sugar instead of white or soft brown, and using half self-raising flour to add some texture.

Monday, October 7, 2019

Gardening Woes

My least favorite pastime is killing plants. Unfortunately, I keep doing it.

Unlike my main character Wynter, every plant left in my care suffers a quick (hopefully painless) death. So when I discovered one of our major supermarket chains is giving away a free seed kit with every $30 spent (aimed at kids, like all similar promos - last month it was Lion King Ooshies), I was probably less thrilled than many parents. Not because it isn’t fun and easy to sprout seeds with your kids (it is!), but because I know damn well those seedlings are going to keel over and die as soon as I repot them and attempt to turn them into useful veggies, herbs, and flowers.

Saturday, October 5, 2019

Mail Order Chicks Spotify Playlist

Wynter plays in an all-girl band (that isn't all-girl), Mail Order Chicks, starting in book 5. They play mostly 80s-90s British pop covers, so I made a playlist of the songs mentioned along with a few others they've probably played now and then.

Link to Spotify playlist.




You can find a more extensive playlist from the Wynter Wild books in this blog post.

Thursday, October 3, 2019

One Night Vacation - How Many Tiny Things Can Go Wrong?

Since my daughter is on school vacation, we decided to spend a couple of days, along with my mum, on the coast where my sister has a caravan. There were already six in the caravan, so we stayed the night in a nearby motel. MCP was home alone, fending for himself, because I didn't have time to restock the fridge before I left. He appears to have survived on hash browns and bacon.

How many little challenges can we fit into one 36-hour period?

Saturday, September 14, 2019

The Fairn Boys' Motorcycles

Wynter's brothers each ride a different motorcycle. I know nothing about motorcycles, except what it feels like to ride on the back of Caleb's bike because my husband owned it, back in Arizona.

Caleb's bike is the 1985 Honda V65 Magna. It was manufactured for a few years during the mid 80s, and as the first power cruiser it really was called the "Beast", V4 engine, 1100cc, 116 horse power, with fast acceleration, low vibration, and high top speed. The bike below (1983 model) includes the "goofy" saddle bags that Caleb is so proud of. All photos from bikez.com. Click the images for more info.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Duet - Bits and Pieces

Now that book 7 Duet is up and running on Wattpad, here are some bits and pieces from the first few chapters. No spoilers here if you've read up to chapter 5.

These are two songs Rule212 plays at the Christmas party:
A Google Maps image of the house on which I based Dwayne Orion's ultra modern mansion on Lake Washington (note the Greek temple lap pool out the back):

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Cover Reveal! Book 7 Duet

I've started posting Duet to Wattpad, and earlier I asked readers to vote on one of two covers (same model, different poses). This one won, so here is the finalized book 7 cover!


Wynter is now fully in the swing of playing live gigs around Seattle, and sometimes farther afield. She lives for that hour on stage, a bubble of music shared with her brothers while the audience clamors for more. Offstage, things aren't running quite as smootly.

I'm working on editing these chapters, uploading as I go, and also getting book 6 ready to publish as an ebook.


Saturday, September 7, 2019

Naming Characters and a List of My Characters

Today I'm trawling baby naming sites to come with a new character name. I've accumulated quite a number of characters in my 10-book series, so any time I add in a new character (or decide to change an existing character's name) it becomes a bit of a drama to find something that isn't too similar to a name I've used before.

I keep a list of every named character, along with a brief description, if given (I tend not to over-describe them), and when they were first introduced. Currently the list has grown to over 300 names. Many of these are obviously minor characters or even off-hand references to people who never appear on-screen, but I've tried nevertheless to keep the names distinct.

Friday, August 23, 2019

Creating a paperback cover from the Kindle cover

Continuing from the previous post, today I'll look at creating your paperback cover from your Kindle cover.

As you work through the steps via your KDP dashboard, you'll reach the area where you create your cover. Unless you have experience creating wraparound covers, with the correct spine width, you'll want to choose the first option: Use Cover Creator to make your book cover. Then click the Launch Cover Creator button.

The cover has three parts - front, spine, and back. Click the Choose Layout icon and select a layout from the premade templates. These all affect how the back cover will look. If you want an author bio and photo, there are a few different options there. I have nothing but the blurb on my back cover, so I select the final option:

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Converting Kindle to Paperback - a few tips


This week I published books 2 & 3 of the Wynter Wild series as paperbacks. You can purchase them here, although I can't (Amazon doesn't have a POD service in Australia):

Out of Tune (Book 2)
Rhythm & Rhyme (Book 3)

I wrote a blog series on formatting your paperback, which you can read starting here: Nitty-Gritty Formatting for Print Books: Making Word Do What You Want, Part 1

Amazon makes this process - in theory - easy to do via your KDP dashboard. You can either use their inbuilt formatter, which is actually not that easy if you're fussy about a particular look, or reformat your own Word file and upload that.

Which is what I did, before remembering that it's even better to "save as" a pdf and upload that. It's important to embed your fonts when creating the pdf, which in Word 10 is done like this:


Saturday, August 3, 2019

Wattpad's plan to make money from writers

The way these things used to go: a writer spends hundreds of hours writing a book, and a reader pays a few dollars to read it. Writers who didn't find an agent or publisher essentially didn't get read.

Things have changed in the last 20 years, and now we have Wattpad.

Wattpad provides authors with a free platform and huge potential audience for their work, and readers can read their books for free. Then Wattpad introduced paid stories, where select authors are invited to put their work behind a paywall. From comments I've read, some readers were up in arms about this because they didn't want to pay for what they used to get for free. Personally I think it's an excellent idea to have a paid tier, but I'm biased toward paying people for the work they do.

Friday, August 2, 2019

My book characters collect Pins

A long time ago I created a Pinterest site for the Wynter Wild series, when I was researching ideas for their new home.

It's since expanded into individual boards for each of the main characters - not that I can imagine any but Wynter actually using Pinterest.

So far I've made the following boards:

Monday, July 29, 2019

Distortion Book 5 is OUT NOW

Distortion is Book 5 in the Wynter Wild series, and it's out now on Amazon for US$2.99! Also available in other formats on Smashwords. If you're enjoying the series, please don't forget to rate and review it on Amazon or on Goodreads.


Read on for the blurb.

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Social media for my book characters??!

So I've been thinking of doing this for a while because it amuses me...

My book characters got Instagram accounts!

Wynter
Jesse
Indio

It's mostly just the three of them talking to each other in comments, but feel free to follow and say hi. They don't know they're book characters, so they can't see comments that break the fourth wall. Don't go dropping spoilers or asking them what it's like to be a book character, for example.

Also Caleb, although he refused to get a personal account so it's for band news.

I also made a website for Rule212 for no apparent reason and there's nothing there...




Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Distortion (book 5) links & playlist

For those of you who've just finished reading book 5 Distortion on Wattpad, here's a few fun bits of additional info...

The Mail Order Chicks are formed in book 5 -- here's a Spotify playlist of a few songs they cover (most of which are mentioned by name), including those from a later book (when they re-form). Scroll down within the frame for the complete list.

Saturday, July 6, 2019

July sale: My books are half-price (and free!)

For the month of July 2019, books 3 & 4 in the Wynter Wild series are half price (US$1.50) at Amazon (Kindle) and Smashwords (has multiple formats available). Click the links below to purchase. And don't forget to download books 1 & 2 for FREE!

Rhythm & Rhyme $1.50

Amazon US
Amazon AUS
Amazon UK
Smashwords





Lost Melodies $1.50

Amazon US
Amazon AUS
Amazon UK
Smashwords


Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Cover reveal! Book 6 Natural Harmonics

I recently updated all my covers to use a friendlier font and to add the series name and number, which is important because the books need to be read in order. On Wattpad I just posted the book 6 cover -- the book is called Natural Harmonics and is premised on Wynter's band, Rule212, as they begin the play live around Seattle and garner a fanbase.


Like my other titles, there is a double meaning to this one which becomes apparent as you read the book.

Natural Harmonics will be on Wattpad in a few weeks. I also plan to release Distortion (book 5) as an ebook soon, and books 2 and 3 as paperbacks.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Prospect: A Movie Review of Sorts

Here's one for my Song of Scarabaeus readers...

I'm constantly disappointed by science fiction movies these days, and after watching Netflix's Prospect (2018) tonight, I've figured out why.

When it comes to science fiction, my favorite trope is "gritty spaceship and rag-tag crew". It's why I wrote the Scarabaeus series. Midway through writing that book, I remember reading about a forthcoming "gritty spaceship with ragtag crew" series called Firefly and I felt like Joss Whedon had extracted it from my head. (My husband now tells me it's all just Starcraft, which I'd never heard of.)

Anyway, I don't know why I like gritty spaceships and ragtag crews but that's my preferred subgenre. The sci-fi tropes I enjoy less are horror elements, bodysnatching in all its guises, a present or near-future setting, or post-apocalyptic setting, supernatural or magical technology, and gimmicks like time travel. There are movies with these elements that I've enjoyed, but they don't capture my imagination so well.

Saturday, May 18, 2019

DISTORTION (Book 5) is posting now on Wattpad!

(That makes it sound like it's posting itself.)

So I've started posting book 5 of the Wynter Wild series to Wattpad, where you can read it for free. The blurb is below.

The title Distortion follows the musical theme of the previous books, and refers to what's going on in this family and in Wynter's life in particular.

Wynter has grown on me more and more as I've been writing these books. She made herself a "blank slate" when she left the cult-like ashram, realizing that to survive she needed to fit in and forget the past. Of course no one can completely put the past behind them, and in Distortion everyone is realizing just how much the past, specifically their mother, still affects them today. It has distorted Wynter's new identity, her social abilities, her concept of love, and her relationships.


Sunday, May 5, 2019

Wynter Wild Books Spotify Playlist

In no particular order, these are the songs mentioned, or played in some form, in books 1-4 of my Wynter Wild series. The text link takes you to Spotify, and the embedded graphic plays a sample of each song. I'll be making more playlists in the future to give you an idea of what the various bands in the book sound like.

I'm not necessarily a huge fan of all these songs. They're just the ones that get a mention. The majority are classics because, as Indio says, no one's playing rock n' roll anymore...

A few notes about where the songs appear:

Indio gave Jenny the sheet music to The Devil Went Down to Georgia for her birthday.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Genre Expectations

Lost Melodies is the fourth instalment of the Wynter Wild series. Wynter is a teenager, but this series is not YA.

On Wattpad, where I'm uploading the book, readers skew young. The stats say 30% of my readers are under 18, 30% are 18-25, 30% are unspecified, and the remaining 10% are 25+. YA, of course, is read as eagerly by adults as by teens, but the expectations are the same: as a publishing genre, YA by definition deals with teen concerns.

The Wynter Wild series isn't YA. Three of my POV characters are adults, but the New Adult label doesn't fit either because (1) they are male, and (2) their stories aren't romances. I used to refer to the series as a Family Saga although it only covers a few years. An author who rated the series on Goodreads called it "New Adult Family Saga" and I like that... but it's not a genre that publishers recognize. (Publishers need to know where to "shelve" a book and a random crossover is a hard sell.)

In addition to publishing genres, there are Wattpad genres - not only main categories such as General Fiction (where I put this series) and Teen Fiction, but also tags by which readers can search for what they like. My series has certain tags for visibility, such as teen and cult and music, as well as the popular "little sister/older brothers"-type tags (a subgenre I never knew existed when I wrote the series). This subgenre comes with expectations of its own that I can't fulfill...

Friday, April 19, 2019

Nitty-Gritty Formatting for Print Books: Making Word Do What You Want, Part 2

In Part 1 of "Making Word Do What You Want" we looked at your options for making attractive matching page lengths. Today, I'm talking about hyphenation. If you're finding this series of Nitty-Gritty series useful, please share!

The alignment of text in a novel is fully justified, meaning the left and right margins are flush (even). The software achieves this by stretching out the spaces between words to a greater or lesser extent. Professional layout software also adjusts letter spacing (to a less obvious extent), which Word doesn't do.

The longer the words you use, and the larger the font (i.e. the shorter the line length), the more likely it is you'll get ugly spaces between words. In the sample below (I've increased font size to emphasize the problem), the first paragraph looks fine, but the words in the second paragraph are widely spaced because the word "important" didn't fit on the previous line:

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Nitty-Gritty Formatting for Print Books: Making Word Do What You Want, Part 1

When I worked in a publishing house, the job of laying out books, or "layout", belonged to the inhouse book designer and the (out of house) typesetter. They used book design software such as InDesign, which has magical tools to address the nitty-gritty formatting issues to turn a raw manuscript into a beautiful book. (I come from the textbook publishing world, where things are ten times more complex than novels.)

Can a word processor like Microsoft Word replicate professional layout software? The answer is no, but you can come close. In the next two posts I'll look at two things layout software does with ease to make a book look nicer, and which you can sort-of replicate in Word... but with warnings and caveats. Today, page length.

Sunday, April 14, 2019

The House on Tiger Mountain - plan view

If you're reading book 4 Lost Melodies on Wattpad right now, I created a plan of the old farmhouse that the family buys in Washington state. My previous post showed the front view.

So, below is the plan with the room assignment when they first move in (it changes over time, and the furniture isn't accurate - e.g. some bedrooms are "junk rooms" rather than having beds in them).

Shown here is the first floor (what we call the "ground floor" in the UK and Australia) of the house on the right, with the basement on the left slotting underneath, and the second floor on the left fitting directly on top.

This gives you an idea of what the deck looks like, as it wasn't visible in the front-view image in the previous post.

Saturday, April 13, 2019

The House on Tiger Mountain

My book family buys a run-down old farmhouse at the end of book 3 (Rhythm & Rhyme) on Tiger Mountain, east of Seattle. It's on five acres of land backing on to a state forest, and is hidden behind a stone wall.

This house becomes a character in its own right in the series, so I spent some time imagining it, drawing the plans, and eventually mocking up a view from the front. The house is eccentric, which in this case is another way of saying *ugly*, built in stages over the years.

I think I have a slight obsession with houses. We grew up with huge drawerfuls of Lego, and all I ever made with Lego was houses. I didn't play with the houses. I just made them. The three most fun parts about making Lego houses were:

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

The Future of My Books on Wattpad


I am a terrible salesperson and it's never really bothered me. Now that I'm taking the indie publishing route, apparently I have to start doing the sales thing. I've read all kinds of advice on how to market books, and I've been going about it sort of haphazardly. I am trying a particular marketing strategy in the pricing of my books, although I'm not sure I'll stick to it.

Books 1 to 4 in the Wynter Wild series have been, or will be, uploaded first to Wattpad. I chose that platform because it's huge, it allows for immediate interaction with readers, which I love, and it's free to use for everyone. Wattpad has a young-skewing audience, many of whom don't (and probably won't ever) pay for ebooks, so it's been more of a testing ground to discover readers' reactions.

I always intended to release Little Sister Song as a free ebook to generate some interest in the series, and I've also released book 2 Out of Tune for free as well.

So now I need to formulate a marketing strategy for the remaining books (7.5 of which are written).

Monday, April 8, 2019

Nitty-Gritty Formatting for Print Books: Body Text Font Choices

If you're formatting your novel (either the raw manuscript, or an existing ebook) for distribution as a paperback, choosing the main font of the text is one of your most important decisions. After all, it's what your reader is going to be staring at for the next few hours of their life.

Commercial novels usually use serif fonts for the body text (although you'll find sans serif in YA and children's titles). It's allegedly easier to read because the serifs group the letters together so that the eye more easily sees a single word as it travels over the page. Readers are probably therefore more used to seeing serif fonts, and for the body text I think it's a good idea to use them. Chapter headers can be anything you like, of course, as long as they're legible.

Google "best fonts for a novel" and you'll find lots of lists of recommendations. But aside from how the font looks, and whether you can afford it (or whether your free fonts have a commercial license), there are some other considerations. All the fonts mentioned below are free (or come with Word).

Little Sister Song - paperback edition

If you like the feel of a book in your hand... Little Sister Song is now available as a paperback edition at most Amazon marketplaces (check your local site):

Buy at Amazon US
Buy at Amazon UK

Unfortunately, Amazon Australia doesn't offer this service so my Aussie readers will have to order from Amazon US and pay shipping. Even I wasn't able to order a proof copy, so please let me know if you do order the book and discover something horribly wrong with it!

I worked for many years as an editor, helping to create books with other people's names on the cover. I remember the thrill of receiving my box of author copies of Song of Scarabaeus and holding in my hands a book with my name on the cover.

And this time, the book with my name on the cover is one I wrote, edited, and formatted as an indie publisher!

My current blog series looks in-depth at formatting your manuscript for a print book,

Sunday, April 7, 2019

Nitty-Gritty Formatting for Print Books: Font Sizes Part 2

These posts are a formatting series for indie authors looking to produce professional looking paperbacks. In part 1 of my tips on font sizes, we looked at the cover, title page, copyright page, and chapter headings. In part 2 we'll be looking at body text, and header and footer formatting, including a bit of technical stuff to get things looking nice. Other posts in the series are listed and linked at the bottom of this one.

Body text 
Font size for your main body text is the one you've probably thought about the most. You may decide to deliberately use a large font for the visually impaired, but if not then take a look at a commercial novel and compare it to a printed page of yours. The biggest error I see is using too large a font. This makes your book more expensive for readers (or lowers your profit) because it'll increase the length of your book, and it doesn't look professional.


Saturday, April 6, 2019

Nitty-Gritty Formatting for Print Books: Font Sizes Part 1

In my ongoing series, I'm looking at all the little things you can do, as an indie author, to make your paperback book look more professional. I'm assuming you're starting with an ebook manuscript but it still applies if you're starting from scratch (i.e. with the scrappy all-over-the-place file you actually typed your story into, using whatever font and color appealed to you that day).

How do I decide on my font size?

There are actually several points during the formatting of your print book where this question needs to be asked. When you format an ebook manuscript, it's less important because most ebook devices allow the user to adjust the font size.

Flick through a commercial novel and you'll see different fonts and font sizes used throughout:

Friday, April 5, 2019

Nitty-Gritty Formatting for Print Books: Hard & Soft Section Breaks

Today's nitty-gritty is all about section breaks. Not Microsoft Word's section break that enables you to change the layout, margins, headers & footers separately, but the visual section breaks on a printed page, that little row of asterisks or hashes or wingdings used to separate time jumps, POV shifts, or a new location.

You don't control the pagination in an ebook, beyond adding forced page breaks to start each chapter (which may or may not appear in the final ebook, depending on the platform). The text flows from start to finish on your readers' Kindles and Nooks and mobile devices without page numbering. To delineate "jumps" in the narrative in an ebook, you've probably used a centered set of symbols, with a line-space above and below, to indicate these shifts:

* * *

Bonus points if the symbols are in sync with the book theme. I should've gone with:


But I wasn't organized enough.

Did you know there are two kinds of section break?

Nitty-Gritty Formatting Your Indie Print Book

I recently re-formatted my ebook Word files for to create files for paperback printing via Amazon. It can be a laborious process, especially for perfectionists (that's me). Establishing a checklist is invaluable for working methodically.

This series of blog posts gets into the nitty-gritty of making your paperbacks... beautiful! It will also make your checklist longer.

Okay, perhaps most of us, as readers, don't care whether our paperbacks -- I'm talking about the interior text -- are beautiful. But I labor over those little details. So, let's get stuck into it.

You probably know the standard advice, and if you don't you can look at a commercially printed book and figure it out -- such as:

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Three Horn Toots

It's been a weekend of headaches jumping though Amazon's hoops to get the plagiarized versions of my first two books removed from their store. This process reset to 99c the "permanently free" price-matching Amazon did for me, but it looks like the books are free once again in the Australian and US stores. I've asked for them to be free across all marketplaces.

On April 1st, Little Sister Song hit the top 100 free Kindles in the Literary Fiction category, which was a huge and pleasant surprise. Today it's still there, ranked at #78, and Out of Tune is at #99. I took screenshot evidence! Thank you to readers who downloaded the books. Breaking the #100 barrier is important because it then appears in the Best Sellers lists, which means readers browsing the category for something to read will come across it, even when they've never heard of the author.

Sunday, March 31, 2019

FREE books on Amazon and funny pirated copies

UPDATE 2 April: In the process of Amazon removing the pirated versions, they reset the prices of my books, so they won't be free again for another 2-3 days.

I managed to persuade Amazon to "price match" my books with Smashwords and Barnes & Noble -- so they are now free! This was my original intention when I released the ebooks, but it's not possible to set a KDP book to free when you first publish it. However, they are now free -- at least until (and if) I enroll them in Kindle Unlimited (which will require removing them from the other retailers and Wattpad).

There are currently pirated versions of both books for sale on Amazon (how bold is that!) priced at around $4 (the price changes by the hour, it seems). They have delightful new covers (bonus points for making them sort of relevant??)...

Friday, March 29, 2019

Caleb's House Rules

By the time Caleb was a young teenager, he had pretty much taken over running the household. Over the years, he established a lengthy unwritten list of house rules to keep control over his brothers (and later, Wynter). Here's a list of most of the rules mentioned in the books (including later books you won't have read yet). The numbering system is a "running joke", as Indio describes it -- a number is given whenever the rule is mentioned (and listed here), but they're not written down in the Fairn household and change randomly.

Although rule 1 states only Caleb makes the rules, his siblings have given it a shot now and then, as you can see.

So... would you survive in Caleb's house? The full table of rules follows...





Wednesday, March 27, 2019

DIY Cover design step-by-step

Given my history working in publishing, I figured I should be able to manage self-publishing as a one-woman team... And I sort of have, along with, of course, the help of a huge knowledge base written by generous experts on various blogs, and my beta readers.

Today I'm looking at my cover design process for the Wynter Wild books -- for the indie authors out there who don't have design experience and want to do it themselves, you might find it helpful. Note, I'm not a designer so my experience comes with editing book covers and providing feedback in a professional setting. I take my hat off to designers of all stripes and what I've learned comes from watching them work.

Because I did these covers on the cheap, I started with a free stock image from Pixabay, which has royalty-free images for personal and commercial use. (I also spent $49 at Shutterstock for a ten additional images used in later covers.) There are other similar sites but I find the search engine on Pixabay better than most -- that is, if you search for "guitar girl" you'll get pictures of girls with guitars instead of pictures of girls and pictures of guitars.


Monday, March 25, 2019

Introducing Blunderbelly

In my Wynter Wild series, middle brother Indio plays in a college band called Blunderbelly. It sounds like a name they dreamed up while drunk or high, and I have no idea how it came to me as I was neither at the time...
Blunderbelly's never gonna make the big time. I love it, and I love those guys, but no one's really listening to rock music these days.

No one but me??

Blunderbelly consists of Indio Fairn on lead vocals and guitar, Turk on lead guitar, an unnamed bass player, and Eduardo on drums (who could use a lesson or two from Jesse, according to Jesse). They play a mix of covers and original music.

To give you an idea of the sort of music Blunderbelly plays, here's a list of songs that sound like them.

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Lost Melodies: Sneak Peek

Sneak peek at the first chapter (2500 words or so) of Lost Melodies, book 4 of the Wynter Wild series. Hi to my Wattpad readers who've headed this way! I'll be uploading the complete book, chapter by chapter, to Wattpad when I've finished editing.

CLICK "read more" to keep going...

Jesse kept the hot brunette in his line of sight as he got on all fours on the mat for some spinal waves. Her fantastic body was the second-best thing about his morning so far.

Best. Yoga class. Ever.

“Inhale. Connect to your deep inner core strength. Exhale. Connect to your outer core strength. Inhale…”

The instructor’s soothing voice led them through the exercises. The brunette glanced over her shoulder at Jesse with a coy smile as she extended her lithe body into a side angle pose, and demonstrated her admirable flexibility by arching back into the camel pose. Jesse did his best to keep up, conscious of not straining anything.

When flirting at yoga, how big a risk of injury should one take?

Sunburnt Stars: A Conversation That Happened #11


Friday, March 22, 2019

Writer's Bible: Keeping Track of All the Stuff

Today I'm talking about bibles ("books" or "scrolls"), a term writers and screenwriters use to refer to their notes.

The more you write in a particular world, the more vital a bible becomes. This can be especially true if you're writing genre fiction, where you're inventing a world. I'm writing a contemporary series and yet somehow my bible has become... huge.

I use Google Docs to organize my work - my straightforward method is simply to apply H1, H2, H3 levels as I go, to organize information, and then go to View / Show Document Outline, which puts your headings down the left side of the document as a quick contents list. Word has the same feature (View / Navigation Pane).

There are two kinds of information that go into my bible:

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Smashwords author interview

I've written an author interview at Smashwords (based on their suggested questions) to share a bit more about my writing life and process, and the Wynter Wild series. Check it out here.



If you have any additional questions you'd like to see on there, let me know by commenting here, and I'll add them.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Cover reveal! Book 4 Lost Melodies


Here 'tis! Lost Melodies is the fourth installment of the Wynter Wild series. I've almost finished uploading book 3 to Wattpad, and it'll be a few weeks before I start uploading book 4. NOTE: It will be tagged "Mature" on Wattpad, as it's suitable for ages 16+ due to adult themes (among other things).

Meanwhile, I'll be posting a bonus chapter there (actually part of the prequel, which will become flashbacks in a future sequel) about the first time Wynter and Xay met at the ashram.

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Little Sister Song - free on Smashwords

I've published Little Sister Song to Smashwords and it's free! Available in several formats.



I'm hoping to persuade Amazon to make the book free there, too, which was always my intention.

Sunday, March 3, 2019

Little Sister Song is out now on Kindle


 Little Sister Song on Amazon
I've just published Little Sister Song (book 1 of the Wynter Wild series) on Kindle:


The book also has a Goodreads page.

My intention was to distribute the first couple of books (at least) free to generate interest in the series, so I've been posting it to Wattpad. Given Amazon has a minimum US$0.99 price, that's what it costs. If I enrol the book in Kindle Unlimited to make it free for subscribers, I'll have to remove it from Wattpad for at least 90 days - I'm debating whether to do that.

If you'd like to support the book please consider a purchase or writing a review. The book and its sequels have had a phenomenal response on Wattpad from loyal readers, and I'll be forever grateful for their support that encouraged me to keep putting the book out there.

Sunday, February 17, 2019

What's it like on Wattpad? Part 3

I've been talking about my experience so far after a couple of months sharing my books on Wattpad.

Wattpad allows you to tag your stories so interested readers can find them. It was through the tag system I first realized there's a sub-genre of general and YA fiction revolving around siblings. In most cases, the protagonist is a girl in her early-to-mid teens, the siblings are mostly older, mostly boys, and the stories are first-person accounts.

There are sub-sub-genres in this category. I've found stories where the relationships are fairly toxic (the girl is bullied and physically abused... all in good fun??!), where she's subjected to intrusive or humorous overprotectiveness by her brothers, or where she has a more easy-going relationship with her siblings punctuated by endless pranking.

Whatever floats your boat, you can probably find it on Wattpad. [read more]

Friday, February 15, 2019

What's it like on Wattpad? Part 2

In my last post I talked about my reasons for using Wattpad, and how my first two books are doing since I started uploading them, chapter by chapter, about 6 weeks ago.

I wanted to share a few thoughts about how this method of sharing my books differs on a more personal level with the two sci-fi books I had published a few years ago.

Most obviously, Wattpad doesn't pay (although there are ways to monetize your writing). My alternative was to self-publish straight to Kindle and other ebook formats. In the end I decided not to do this because I had zero audience (given this is a different genre and it's been years since I published). The sheer size of the ebook store on Amazon makes it unlikely anyone would find my books before they sank into oblivion. [read more]

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

What's it like on Wattpad?


In late December I started uploading chapters of Little Sister Song to Wattpad. That story is now complete on the site, and I've almost finished uploading Out of Tune (book 2) as well. I thought I'd talk a bit about my reasons for using Wattpad to distribute these books, and my experience so far.