Self-Publishing 4

Do it yourself self-publishing can be a scary thought, but if you can write a book and get it ready to publish, then you do have enough skills to get that book out there. I took the plunge and so can you.

What made me change my attitude from scary to possible? Sure, I talked to others who had done it, but I was still hesitant, until I came across a book by Lucinda Moebius called Write Well Publish Right. First of all, I was interested in reading a book about writing from a high school and college teacher. Her book is what she teaches her students from beginning to the end at publishing. Mainly, I thought maybe I could implement some of her concepts into ideas for teaching language to small groups. Moreover, what I really took away from this book is that it is possible for me to self-publish a book.

Lucinda states that it is easy with the use of the formatting guides available through ePublishing platforms. She hired a formatter for the Kindle version of her science fiction books, but formatted the Smashwords version on her own. Also, she had help with her cover, hired an editor, and went through Amazon CreateSpace as her printer. Many times she states that it is up to you to do your own research and do what is best for you.

Yes, she inspired me, so I went to and got started. There an author can put in the title and paste in your manuscript and cover. Remember you have to have an ISBN number for your e-book, another one for your print book and CreateSpace can provide them for you. I did have to hire help with the e-book, my son did the front cover work, then I hired Fiverr for the spine and back cover for which I paid a little extra. Instead of five dollars with Fiverr, it was ten dollars and I’m very happy with their work.

I learned that the CreateSpace process for me was somewhere between adding art and print to a Vistaprint writing advertisement to doing my own taxes (on an easier year).

Yesterday, I went to hear multi-published author, Joanne Pence, give a talk about self-publishing at my local writers group in the Boise area. After already using CreateSpace, I learned the following information:

For those of you that want to add a publishing name to their self-pubbed books, Joanne says that you can go through SBA.GOV for your assumed business name. Registering a name will cost you $25.00. For my writing business name of Melland Publishing, LLC, I went through the Secretary of Idaho and paid $100.

Joanne also says that off-white or cream is the paper color of most fiction books. The 6 x 9 inch book size is becoming the industry standard and costs less than a book sized 5 ½ x 8 1/2 inches. You can buy a cheaper, older version of Adobe Photoshop on eBay for making your own covers.

Finally, Joanne adds that, especially for multi-published authors, the value of going to and using them exclusively to sell your e-book for your first 90 days can give you five free days on Amazon. It’s a way to get your name out there in hopes of readers choosing to buy and read your other books. After 90 days you can renew with them, or you can put your book into an .epub format and download it to other bookselling sites.

Yet, as Lucinda says, you need to do your own study and then decide what is best for you.


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,


I don’t hate winter. I don’t. I complain about winter more than any one human being really should, but that’s only because there’s just so darn much of it. San Franciscans complain about fog but they couldn’t really stand to live in San Francisco if they hated it. Seattle-ites complain about the rain, but they couldn’t bear those long grey winters if they really loathed it. My little mountainous corner of Idaho has winter and I complain, but I’d never survive if I really hated it.

Winter just feels so big, and lasts so long, that I never really escape it. Snow lingers on the mountains I see from my windows into July, which is also the month where I start fretting if I haven’t ordered firewood yet. I’ve lived here for seven years as an adult, and during one of those years I saw snowflakes, at least once, eleven months out of twelve. (That was a bad year. Summer lasted from July 1st, when the temperature broke 70 degrees for the first time, to August 29th. On Aug 30th it snowed.)

This wasn’t one of those years. This year we had a truly glorious summer that started early in May (MAY!) and lasted deep into September. My problem is that I’m already thinking about winter. Dreading it, preparing for it, fretting over how cold it will be and whether it will be a heavy snow year or a light one. Wondering if this is the year I should finally buy studded tires for my car. (Last year I got stuck in my driveway and had to put on chains to make it to the house.) Wondering when my neighbor will get around to delivering the firewood I ordered (in July).

It’s fall, and fall is glorious, but instead of enjoying it, I have a laser-like focus on what’s to come. But, except for getting on my neighbor about that delayed firewood, there’s nothing I can do. Winter will come, and it will be exactly as harsh or as mild as the jet stream (and whatever else goes into making weather, heck if I know) dictates and my dithering won’t change that. Maybe we’ll get a big storm and I won’t be able to make it into work and they’ll just have to figure out how to do without me. And maybe we won’t. That’s all for the future. This is a lesson I have to re-learn constantly. My life is happening *now* and I’m missing it.

Right now? The maple by my drive is a glorious red and the aspens that fringe my pasture are turning yellow. The crocuses are blooming, just like they do in the spring, making my flower beds look almost season-less. It’s time for butternut squash soup and pumpkin chocolate chip cookies, and digging my bread pans out and putting them to use. I have a home-made chai recipe that never feels right any other time of year. NaNoWriMo is just around the corner and I’m plotting out the last half of my never-ending book in the grand hope that maybe, this November, I’ll finish it. So I’m trying not to think about winter. I’m preparing, but I’m trying, so damn hard, to enjoy the fall. To “be here now” as Ram Dass wrote.

What about you? What are you doing to be here now? To mark and enjoy the changing season?


Posted by on October 3, 2013 in Idaho


Bad Guy Tree

No, this isn’t a new exotic cultivar. It’s my take/process of keeping track of all the plot lines so they don’t fall through the cracks of the story. Since I write mystery that’s the model I’ll use.


The Bad Guy


The narrowing of suspects


Suspect Number 1      Suspect Number 2      Suspect Number 3


Flesh out the motive


This is a good place to slip in a twist.                Eliminate Suspect Number 3


A clue that change everything                                 The resolution of a red herring


Hint at the Motive


A twist sending everyone in the wrong direction      Evidence that points to several people


The collection of evidence                                   Chasing clues


Introduce the bad guy in a subtle way


The change in the real world


The murder


The real world

The roots are the backstory. They’re there, but you can’t see them. And as with plants, if there’s a problem, you look to the roots/soil first for the problem.

The idea is a sort of outline that really isn’t. (My traumatic memories involving outlining sentences in my childhood prevent me from labeling anything an outline. But that’s for my therapist.) I put mine on a white board so I can turn around and look at any time. It also allows me to erase things or switch them around as the need arises. Using paper, in my case, is a terrible waste of forest resources.

The tree allows me to make notes around the edges—I’ll have a brainstorm in the middle of a scene about something that has nothing to do with what’s going on at the moment. These brain flurries are always flashes of brilliance…especially when I try to recall them later and can’t. The tree highlights the main points and allows me to keep track of what’s going on when.

In a mystery, you must know who the bad guy is before you start. If you don’t, you run the risk of wandering around your plot looking for him and the story becoming hopelessly convoluted. A mystery is all about the puzzle…and characters. But the puzzle has to be there or your readers won’t go along for the ride. And if they do once, a true mystery fan won’t pick up your next book. This happened to me with an author I enjoyed. Her books were humorous and fast-paced. Then she committed the ultimate sin in mystery. The puzzle fell apart so she just ended the book. Needless to say, I won’t spend another dime on one of her books. Yes, I do hold a grudge.

The beauty of the tree is you can add as many suspects, clues, red herrings, and twists as you like. And if you decide a red herring has promise, you can make it relevant. If a new twist occurs to you, drop him/it in and add the leaf to the tree.

If you’re one of those who likes to have parallel plots, this is a great way to keep track of both of them. Simply, hang them side-by-side.

You can also plug in the Writer’s Journey steps and characters. Or use the tree for romance. You can also keep track of the myth you’re employing, plug in a romance, slip in twists and turns, and keep track of them all.

I hope this sparks some ideas to help you with your process.


Posted by on October 1, 2013 in Idaho


Finding Some Time

Finding the time to write is a challenge for almost every writer I know. Most of us don’t have the luxury of doing it on a full time basis. It takes some resourcefulness but if you put your mind to it, you can usually pick out a few times during the day that you can squeeze in a little creativity. This may mean sitting down to type, jotting down some ideas in a notebook or even just taking advantage of a few moments to mull some ideas over in your mind.

Always keep a pen and paper handy so you will be prepared when an opportunity presents itself. It may be while you’re waiting at an appointment, in the pick-up line at school or during soccer practice. While it might seem that the only spare minute you have in a day is while sitting at a red light, I don’t encourage utilizing this time for writing or daydreaming.

There are other less obvious possibilities too.  For example, you could have your child write with you. Keep them busy by setting them up with paper and colored pencils to explore their own creative side.

I’ve even heard of writers that plot ideas out with a dry erase marker while in the shower. Now that’s ingenuity.

Also, don’t be afraid to say no. Treat your writing time like you would any other job. Set aside time for it and make it a priority. It’s not easy but with a little perseverance and schedule tweaking it can be done. It helps to remind yourself often of how good it feels when you’ve taken the time to write. Every little bit helps you move closer to the ultimate goal of finishing that book.

Where do you squeeze in some writing time?


Posted by on September 26, 2013 in Idaho


Doesn’t Everybody Know About Freezer Jam?

The raspberries are ripe! This is a big thing around our house. We finally have a big enough crop to make freezer jam without buying any extra. I’m a raspberry lover, and I tell you, it’s every bit as hard to find fresh raspberries as it is to find great tomatoes.

jam 013

I picked the bushes clean the last few days, had some on ice cream, yum, and set about gathering what I needed for jam. Of course, I didn’t have enough sugar. Which made me think, could one ever have too much sugar? Sorry, my mind wandered there for just a bit.

It’s been a couple of years since the last time I made jam, so I decided to check the internet and see if there were any new recipes. I found that the recipes had changed slightly since I’d made it last and it’s even easier that before. One website I found was Tastes Better From Scratch, and something caught my eye.

In the comments, a number of people said they’d never heard of freezer jam. Yeah, it surprised me too. I grew up thinking everyone had a mother or grandmother who made freezer jam from strawberries, raspberries, blackberries or any other fruit you can imagine. I’m going to try the grapefruit next.

So for those of you who haven’t enjoyed the heaven that is raspberry freezer jam on your morning toast or dinner biscuits, there is a simple way to make it with no canning allowed.

jam 017

After extensive research, I found that the best recipe is the one in the box of fruit pectin. I used Sure-Gel, but any kind will do. They make regular and low sugar, and I made both to see which one is best. We like the low sugar, but even in that one, there is a lot of sugar. Don’t use less as it prevents spoilage.

The instructions are simple. First mash the fruit and measure out the sugar. Each type of pectin has a slightly different recipe, but in all of them it is important to measure exactly, otherwise your jam will come out runny.

Make sure you stir until the sugar is dissolved and no granules are left. This usually takes me longer than the recipe suggests. When all the ingredients are mixed, spoon them into small glass or plastic containers and let them sit for twenty-four hours on your counter. Don’t worry, they won’t spoil. Then freeze up to a year.

Since I have never learned to can, this way we can have great homemade jam all winter.  Time to enjoy the jam yourself or put it in cute jars and give as a gift.

Were you raised with freezer jam? What is your favorite flavor?


Posted by on September 24, 2013 in Idaho


September Meal Rescue

It’s September. School has been in session for almost three weeks. As usual, I’m overloaded, behind, and exhausted. I manage to get some writing done on the weekends, not much, but at least some.

I’m underwater and struggling to reach the surface. During this crazy time, cooking has taken a backseat. Squeezing in everything I’ve got to do is hard enough. I can’t deal with cooking dinner as well.

Truth time. I gave up cooking a few years ago. I occasionally dabble. By dabble, I mean once every few weeks I throw a meal together. I have an easy receipt that is delicious, easy to make, and will allow you time to get a few words onto the page.

Steph’s White Chili Chicken (Tonya Jeppson shared this receipt)
3 chicken breasts (frozen)
1 can cream of chicken soup
2 cups (1 can) chicken broth
1 cup water
2 cans diced green chilies
Add sautéed onions and peppers
Fresh Cilantro
2 Tablespoons oregano
Lawry’s (optional)
6-8 bread bowls or just rolls

Saute onions and red or green peppers in butter. Then dump everything into the crockpot. Cook on low for 8-10 hours or high for 6 hours. Serve in a bread bowl. You can throw in frozen chicken the night before and cook on low till dinner. It’s so easy.
I like to add another can of cream of chicken soup along with an additional cup of water.

Writers get hungry and want a meal. Do you have a simple receipt to share?


Posted by on September 19, 2013 in Idaho


Note to Self: The Scenic Route is Slow

My daughter and I are on a road trip to the Oregon coast this week. I grew up in mountains and rivers, so I’m not one of those people who yearns for the coast. But I confess, it is a delightful escape from temperatures in the high 90s and fiery smoke-filled air in Boise.

We took a route getting to our favorite coastal spot that we haven’t taken before. So we had no idea what to expect. One road we took looked shorter on the map, but when we turned onto it, the sign indicated it was a “Scenic Byway.” Now, I’ve been around the bend enough times to know that translates as “Slow. Enter only if you time.” Fortunately, we did.

It occurred to me that this is a good metaphor for the way I write. Mostly slowly. Taking lots of time. Enjoying the view. I know others who proceed in a very methodical, planned way, but I tend to turn onto a road and see what it’s like.

My writing process usually looks something like this:

First, the idea hits. I avoid the urge (mostly out of the wisdom of having spent years jumping on each new idea only to have it go nowhere) to start writing. If an idea sticks with me for several months, I know it’s a keeper. I let the idea percolate in my mind, letting details and characters develop, almost as if in utero. Slowly.

Once I am ready to write, I don’t create and outline or a plan. That’s not my style. I often have an idea of the overall arc of the story I’m looking at, which is one reason I let it go through the percolating process. I jump in and start my first draft, following my main character wherever he/she leads me. Sometimes we take detours that don’t really add to the plot, but that I maybe needed to write in order to know something I need to know. I write the first draft all the way through without revising. I know people who revise as they go, but I like to keep my momentum going forward.

Once I have a first draft, I begin showing the manuscript to other readers, such as my trusted and fantastic critique group. (Note: all authors should have a critique group, or at least a few trusted readers who will give you a thorough critique.) I make notes as they critique and they usually write comments on the manuscript. Plus, I generally have a lot of my own changes I want to make. It might take me up to a year to go through a revision. Slowly. I let the story live in my head again, pondering moments that don’t seem to work until a solution comes to me. I write a lot of new scenes, expand scenes that I rushed through in the first draft, and delete a LOT of scenes, or even entire chapters. Sometimes entire characters. To me, one of the most important revision tools is the willingness to cut stuff out. Or “kill your darllings,” as we often hear at writing workshops.

I am not a fast writer. Which isn’t a problem for me. I’m not in a hurry to get to a final destination. I have that luxury at the moment. Several of my published friends live by deadlines and frequently feel pressured to the point of ineptitude. I don’t mind writing to deadlines for short pieces, but I think (ask me later if I still feel this way) the blessing of being “pre-published” in the book industry is that I can take all the time I need. I have several manuscripts that I have done this way, and I’ve noticed the process gets more efficient all the time. What used to take years I can now do in months. I can see more readily what needs to be changed.

This didn’t happen overnight. I didn’t learn it all at one weekend workshop. I have learned my style and my craft through long, slow years of trying, failing, trying again. Learning each step of the way. There is always something around the next bend, but you have to drive slowly enough to see it.


Posted by on September 17, 2013 in readers, Revising, writing, writing craft, writing slow