I have not yet upgraded to Windows 10, and I don’t intend to do that. Not because I don’t like change but because when my husband did it, he found that his HP laser printer, which is the same model I have for my computer, wouldn’t work with Windows 10, and HP’s latest driver for this printer is for Windows 8. It feels like the return of Vista, where they released it before any of the peripherals were ready for it.

Now here’s the killer. I was working away from my desk yesterday and returned to find an announcement on my computer from Windows advising me that they had scheduled my update  to Windows 10 and it was due to start installing itself in about ten minutes. I was able to cancel it, but the nerve of those bas***** for trying to foist junk on me that I don’t want when I wasn’t around. So beware!

A brief update: After devoting a day and a half to trying to get my husband’s printer to work, it did start working, and I’m not even sure which of the many things I tried was successful. But that doesn’t matter, because within a few days it stopped again, and now only seems to work when it feels like it, and you never know when that might be. There’d never been a problem with it before Windows 10, and my same printer, which I’ve actually had longer than he’s had his, is working perfectly fine (probably because I’m treating Windows 10 with the same caution I’d use with the plague).





Could It Be…

Could it be that all the typos I encounter are not my fault?
At one point in my life I was a very good and very fast typist (clocked in at 125 wpm in a classroom typing test). But since becoming an indie author, I’ve found my typing has become terrible. It’s still fast, but I find a lot of weird mistakes and  often wondered if senility was encroaching on me far too soon…

Until earlier this week. I was sitting working on my laptop (using Word 2013), and while I don’t remember what the sentence I was typing said exactly, I do know it contained the words ‘to need.’ I typed them and the words that followed them, and was sitting there looking at the screen as I considered changing something when I saw the words ‘to need’ merge and form the word ‘toned.’ ‘Toned’ was in no way, shape or form the word I wanted.

I thought this was some weird glitch until the next day when I typed ‘with her.’ As with ‘to need,’ within moments ‘with her’ had changed itself into ‘wither.’

What is going on here?

I did some checking and found a suggestion of turning off the autocorrect. The problem with that was when it is off, it does not give you that squiggly line to let you know something is wrong; I deliberately made some mistakes which remained unheralded by a Word warning.  So I turned it back on because I do want that warning for those times when I’m not deliberately messing things up.

I still haven’t found a solution and probably won’t. Unless it turns out I have a defective Word program or a haunted laptop, I’m writing this as a warning to anyone else who has encountered strange words in their work lest they conclude, as I did briefly, that their mind is going and they better write faster than ever before they turn into something that only takes up space. It seems that at least some errors are not our fault.

My last post, as I recall, was on some of the helpful tricks Word can do for you. But this new trick of Word is something we can all live without.


The word on Word

All work and no play has left me feeling very, very dull, so the most exciting thing I have to post about after a very long hiatus are some tricks I’ve learned about Word. Perhaps everyone else in the world already knows these things, but they were all new to me and some have been quite helpful.

I’m sure as e-authors, we all know about en and em dashes, the en the shorter dash that’s used almost like parenthesis, the em the longer dash and when used in dialogue usually denotes a pause or someone having cut the speaker off.  In theory, Word creates the appropriately sized dash when you use two hyphens in a row. If there is a space before the double-hyphen, Word will make it an en dash, and if there is no space, i.e., if the double-hyphen starts at the end of the previous word, it will make it an em dash. But it doesn’t always do that. If you paused too long between typing the hyphens or if you go back to insert it later, most often it will simply show two hyphens with a little space between them. It doesn’t look quite the same; when I find them in reading an eBook, it seems a bit jarring.  To guarantee you’ll always get the dash of your choice, you can make an en dash by using Control and the minus sign on the numeric pad on the right hand side of the keyboard. For an em dash, you use Control, Alt, and the minus sign on the numeric keypad. This will not work if you use Control and the actual hyphen on the number row on the keyboard.

You can have Word create an ellipsis for you by using Control, Alt and the period.

Did you know that if you’re using an ellipsis to denote that someone has just let their statement trail off, all you use is the ellipsis, not the ellipsis followed by a period. To put a period there means there is something deleted from that sentence. Just a weird thing I came across serendipitously when looking for something else in a grammar book.

Also, during that same search, I came across something I’d been taught — or at least thought I’d been taught — back in grade school, which was that if you use ‘if’ it is always paired with ‘were.’ Not true. You use ‘if’ + ‘were’ when you are referring to a future or improbable event (If I were king) and ‘if’ + ‘was’ when it refers to the present or something very likely to happen (If he was at work today, I didn’t see him).

Back to Word. I was using ‘Find and Replace’ to change a character’s name. I can’t quite remember what the character’s name was and what I changed it to. But when I did that using F&R and let it do it automatically rather than pause to let me okay each one, it changed those letters even when they appeared in the middle of a word. What a mess that was to fix. I’ve since learned that if you put a space at the end of the word you’re trying to find, it will prevent things like that. The example I can give you (not the one from my original mistake) is changing a character’s name from Tim to Tom. Without a space at the end of tim, any word with ‘tim’  in it would be changed, e.g., intimate to intomate, time to tome.

I had a manuscript that, when converted to single space, had double spacing between the paragraphs. I know some people do that, but it just smacks of trying to make your book look longer than it actually is. I wanted to take those double spaces out and to do that manually would have taken ages since it was a 300+ page manuscript. But you can do it with Find and Replace.  For the find,  you use two sets of a caret and a p (^p^p) and on the replace line just one set (^p). It worked perfectly.

There you are. Those are the tricks I can remember at the moment. If more come to mind, I’ll post about then another time.

Happy writing!



The 4th of July

As Indie Authors, the 4th of July should be our favorite holiday, even though we didn’t have to formally declare independence from traditional publishers; Amazon, and others, paved the way for us.

But it seems like America could be celebrating on the wrong day. I  had remembered hearing from some source that the Declaration of Independence actually hadn’t been signed on the 4th, but I hadn’t known until I read the article linked below that it wasn’t until July 9 that the finally colony (New York) signed the Declaration (the other 12 colonies had signed it on July 2nd). Maybe it’s because hearing ‘the 4th of July’ for so many years that ‘the 9th of July’ just doesn’t have the right ring to it.

In any event, Happy Independence Day to all Indie Authors!





Weirdness with Word

I’ve mentioned in earlier posts that I email my Word copy of a manuscript to my Kindle as part of the proofreading-editing-finalizing process before publishing. Lately I’ve found a problem, not with the manuscripts themselves, but with the chapter titles. I use a customized Word Style based on Heading 1, with built-in centering and a bold 14-point font (as opposed to the 12 point font for the body of the piece) for chapter headings.  The problem I’ve found is that not all chapter headings are being centered when it goes to Kindle.  It’s been very erratic; maybe the first few are centered, followed but a random few that aren’t, and then, about mid-way through, none of the chapter headings will be centered.  Mind you, on Word itself, it looks just fine, with all the chapter headings centered.

I posted the problem on the formatting forum on the KDP community. I got some suggestions that I should be using HTML rather than Word for a manuscript. That’s not going to happen.  I know enough about HTML to create italics or a bold type, but that’s not going to get me through an entire manuscript. Someone suggested that once the manuscript was uploaded to KDP, the problem would resolve itself on its own during the conversion to Mobi.  It didn’t.  Another suggestion was that I covert the file to Mobi myself. I suppose a conversion to Mobi on Calibre or whatever the program is that does that would become easy after I’d done it a few times.  But I’m not a techy and once I learned you could use Word for a KDP manuscript, I decided to stick with that.

One kind person, however, made the suggestion that I hit Enter before I start typing the chapter heading so that there is one empty line above it.  And that worked. All chapter headings have been centered since I started doing that.  (Prior to learning this trick, I simply changed them to flush on the left rather than have it look like I was, at best, inconsistent when I prepared the manuscript, or at worst, drunk.

If you find your headings coming out wonky, try the Enter trick. I hope it will work for you, too.

Does Writer = Drama Queen?

That thing that you do, after your day job, in your free time, too early in the morning, too late at night. That thing you read about, write about, think about, in fact fantasize about. That thing you do when you’re all alone and there’s no one to impress, nothing to prove, no money to be made, simply a passion to pursue. That’s it. That’s your thing. That’s your heart, your guide. That’s the thing you must, must do.” 

—Jes Allen

I received the above quote in a daily email  from Values.com. It seemed to fit in perfectly with what I had realized lately:  that there are two things I do which, once I start, I’m reluctant to stop. They are working in my yard and garden, and working on my books.  The two are actually related, because yard work is kind of mindless, and I use that time to plot and plan books.

Earlier this week, I had to take the morning off to wait for a repairman.  He was due at 11, and after working on my book from about 6 to 8, I decided I still had time to do some weeding. An hour turned to two, but I forced myself to stop so I could clean up and not be forced to keep at least 10 feet away from the repairman.

It was then that I discovered I had a tick bite.  The first time this happened it freaked me out – I mean, a bug has burrowed under my skin!  But I don’t live in an area with many deer and I have never heard of an outbreak of Lyme disease anywhere near me, so it ceased being a big deal.  I just pinched it out of my skin and went on with my day.

Or so I thought.  By noon, the area was swollen and red and about the diameter of a quarter.    By two, the area encompassed most of the underside of my arm and was giving off a lot of heat.

I try not to be a hypochondriac.  I was raised by one, who also, I sincerely believe, had Munchausen’s by Proxy given the number of times she’d drag my sister and me to the doctor having self-diagnosed us with some fatal disease (wishful thinking on her part?).  As a result, I tend to be dismissive of all things medical, and if I feel sick, I simply tell myself I’m not.

But this swollen arm bothered me greatly.  I began imagining what it would be like if I ended up having my arm amputated.  How would I write?  Yes, that was my big concern.  It was my right arm and I’m right handed. I didn’t think I could write with my left hand, and I prefer to use a computer anyway, and how could I type with just one hand? I know there are programs where you can dictate to your computer, but I much prefer writing; verbal communication is not my thing. I prefer email to phone without a doubt.

Long story short (or is it too late for that?), a few days have passed,  the swelling is back to being quarter-sized. It is still red and blistered where the tick had burrowed in, but otherwise, I am back to normal.  And I’m wondering why I had such a dramatic reaction to a bug bite (my mental reaction, not the physical reaction).  I don’t want to believe I’m turning into a hypochondriac, so I’ve decided it has to do with being a writer. I was giving my imagination free reign to play the situation to the hilt just in case there was something there I might be able to use someday in a scene in a book (thought that’s not the type of thing I write, at least at the present).

Has anyone else found that becoming a writer has turned you into a Drama Queen (I’m using the term generically; Drama King just doesn’t have the same ring to it)?


As you no doubt are aware, baseball season is upon us again.  I am in no way, shape or form a sports fan of any kind.  (I did like basketball at one time but quit watching when Michael Jordan retired the first time, and was still too angry at him for doing that to watch when he came out of retirement briefly. I’ve given up on the game entirely.)  Baseball has never held my interest as it is so infernally slow that to me it’s the sports equivalent of watching paint dry.  But as if to make up for my lack of baseball enthusiasm, I married a man who lives for baseball.  And if that isn’t enough, he’s a Cubs fan and believes whole-heartedly every year that this year is going to be the year they make it to the series.

Because of the arrangement of our house, it is almost impossible for me not to hear any baseball game my husband watches.  That, combined with the upcoming Memorial Day weekend, made me start thinking of rituals (because what is a holiday but another form of ritual?).  I remember Wayne Boggs’ ritual was to eat chicken before each game (which I only know because it was featured in a magazine article that included chicken recipes).  I think Sammy Sosa did something-or-other involving kissing his fingers or his cross before he’d go to bat.  I’ve heard other things about never washing socks or other nonsensical matters.

Rituals and baseball segued into thinking of rituals and writers.  I had a college professor who told our class a rather odd ritual Somerset Maugham allegedly used, but as I couldn’t find any verification of its veracity, I’m not going to repeat it here.  I did discover that Victor Hugo wrote nude because that meant he couldn’t leave the house and therefore had to write.  (It seemed to me, though, that would only work if his clothes were all kept somewhere with a time-released lock. Otherwise, what was to stop him from just getting dressed and going out?) Truman Capote supposedly wrote lying down. (Didn’t he write in the days before astronaut pens? Maybe he dictated, or used a pencil, because I don’t think a suspended typewriter would be very easy to use.) Ernest Hemmingway purportedly wrote while standing up until noon, and then got drunk.

I realized that I had a writing ritual, or I used to.  Before I would start writing each day, I would play a game of FreeCell.  This was not, as you may think, a delaying tactic.  Rather, it was to keep in mind what the description of FreeCell claimed, that every game was winnable if you just kept trying.  In writing terms, I translated that to mean there was a way to get around any kind of roadblock I found when I was writing, and I played the game before I started to write to reinforce that idea.

Then came a new computer, with Windows 8.1 (which I hate) and Word 2013 (which I pretty nearly hate, as it’s missing some features I really liked on 2010, and it moved things to different categories on the ribbon, apparently just for the sake of moving things).  But worst of all, there were no games included with Windows 8. Then I learned I could go to the Windows app store and download a free game pack that included FreeCell.  Or so they said.  I have tried to download it numerous times with the same results:  nada.  I forget the exact message they give me, but it boils down to ‘can’t be done’ without any further explanation.  I’ve tried downloading other companies’ versions of FreeCell with no better results.  For some reason my new computer will just not accept FreeCell into its fold.

I still have my old computer with its working version of FreeCell, and I suppose I could have started there with a game and then gone on to the new computer, but it seemed like too much bother. So my ritual died, until baseball and Memorial Day rolled around and started me thinking that perhaps I should start a new ritual.

Since FreeCell is out, I’ve decided to go in another direction. My new ritual will involve eating chocolate. Lots and lots of chocolate.

The new ritual  may actually be better than FreeCell.


Change of Attitude

I had the morning off today (which is always nice, except it means I show up in the afternoon and have to fit in a full day’s work). I decided to devote the morning to finishing getting a manuscript ready for  publishing.  This meant I was adding the front and back matter, and creating the live (or whatever the correct term is) Table of Contents.  I sat there adding the bookmarks to the chapter headings, then putting in the hyperlinks, and mentally grumbling to myself about what a big pain it is you know where. I was making it even worse by thinking about another book I have to do this for that had even more chapters than the one I was working on (100+ vs. today’s 48) and how awful it was going to be to work on that one, and how lucky ‘real’ books authors were not to have to do this.

Then it struck me that this chore was a small price to pay to get what I’d always wanted, a published book.  Yes, it would be nice to be a traditional author who has a publishing house to do all the scut work, but the reality is that was probably never going to happen.  I reminded myself how, one of the last times I sent out a query letter (which I had slaved over, like we all do), I got an automatic rejection email within 10 seconds of my having hit send.  I thought about how I have complete control not only over what I write but what is published.  You have to be a really, really big name author to have that in the traditional publishing world.  (Does anybody else remember how Stephen King came out with a different edition of The Stand several years after it was originally published; it was the version he had wanted published but was not yet well-known enough not to have his editors pare it down to what they considered a more commercial length).  People may grumble a lot about dealing with Amazon, but they have never once that I know of rejected a manuscript that was uploaded on the basis of  ‘not for us’ or told anyone to make it shorter before it could be offered for sale.

So with that change in attitude, I happily finished my Table of Contents.

Then I remembered I hadn’t yet written a blurb.  As the late Gilda Radner (or one of her characters on SNL) used to say, “It’s always something.”

Errors of Opinion

“Errors of opinion may be tolerated where reason is left free to combat it.”  Thomas Jefferson to Pierre Samuel Dupont de Nemours, 1816

I fell in love with the phrase ‘errors of opinion’ the first time I read this quote.  That was several years before I became an eBook author.  Once I started publishing eBooks, I thought that ‘errors of opinion’ was the perfect attitude to take toward any less-than-favorable reviews.  Someone didn’t like a book?  They simply have an error of opinion.

The downside in eBook-review world is that the second part of the saying, citing that ‘reason is left free to combat it,’ can’t be exercised there.  I’ve always read that to respond to a review, good or bad, is an absolutely no-no.  In fact, one person reported on the KDP forums a few months ago that when she responded to a negatively worded 3-star review with an apology because the reader hadn’t liked the book, the reviewer then changed the review to 1 star. I took that cautionary tale as a reinforcement not to respond to any reviews, good or bad.

One also has to think of being equitable.  If unfavorable reviews are ‘errors of opinion,’ wouldn’t favorable reviews have to be judged the same way?

Which may be a good reason to stop paying attention to reviews entirely.  It’s all subjective, and eBook authors may be best served by ignoring  reviews and concentrating on their writing.

(If you think you may be the only person in the world who ever got a bad review, watch this and you won’t feel so alone:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U5tHwKROuJI ) (In the event the link doesn’t work, it’s under Bestselling Authors Read Mean Reviews.)

Now for a bit of flagrant self-promotion:  One month and one day after my goal date for publishing the next Helen Wiels Mystery, it’s finally published.  You can find it here:  http://amzn.com/B00W85KVRW


What do books and babies have in common?

I wasted some of my limited reading time on a memoir which ultimately had very little appeal to me. However, the author, a traditionally published writer, did mention one thing that made me stop and think. It was an offhand comment about how it took nine months from the time she turned in a completed manuscript until it was published and began making her money.

Of course the link between babies and books is that figure of nine months for their production.

The author, however, didn’t say writing the book took nine months (and from the quality of the writing, I’ll hazard that nine weeks, or even nine days, was more like it). I’m not sure how long the actual physical process of printing a book takes. A writer who spoke at my library said she was at a writers’ convention where her publisher had a P.O.D. machine (or whatever it is properly called), and was producing her books on the spot for anyone who purchased one. Whether traditional publishers use such equipment and produce truckloads of books within a few hours, I can’t say. But if you allot half the nine months for the physical process of printing, binding, and distributing the books, that leaves four and a half months for everything else: editing, proofreading, creating the cover, and writing the blurb. And that is when a team of professionals is doing that work.

Speaking for myself, I’m always eager to get a new book out there, and I don’t think I’m alone in that. I’ve seen posts on the KDP forums where authors have mentioned writing and publishing a book every month (and those posters were talking about novels, not those 20-some page pamphlets that abound in e-books). To me both writing and getting a book ready to publish within a month seems impossible. But in the past I had rather blithely assumed that a month or so was all that was needed to whip an already-completed manuscript in shape and put it out there.

Which may be the reason why I’ve had to do post-publishing editing and corrections on every book I’ve published. So on my most recent book I took a lot more time with it, and I’m hoping when it goes live (by tomorrow morning possibly; it’s in review now), that will be it, and I won’t have to go through more edits or corrections. I still love the book, but I swear I have most of it memorized from working on it so much.

I’m telling myself now that it’s all right to take the time I need to get the book just right before I push it out into the world, and not base its emergence on some self-imposed arbitrary deadline.

So what do books and babies have in common? They both need the right amount of time before they’re done.