Author Archives: funny

Ella: This Week

Yeah, you’re right: I haven’t finished writing this week’s installment of Ella’s Story, even though it lurks inside the brain ready to jump forth like Athena springing from the forehead of Zeus. And yes, yes, I did have three weeks to crank a paltry 1500 words or so, and so no, no, there’s no excuse. But…well…yes, I do have a whole slew of excuses, not the least of which is the demise of my beautiful little sidekick, Cassie the Corgi.

Cassie died, two weeks and a day ago, of adrenal cancer. Or possibly of veterinary malpractice, depending on your take on the sequence of events: she was not autopsied. That was quite a trauma — a long-drawn-out one — for the Human, who remains considerably depressed, even though Cassie was 13 years old and past the mean life expectancy for a corgi.

So: Excuse No. 1: I’m stunned. Crushed. Paralyzed in the creativity department.

Yeah. Sure.

Actually, getting yourself all wrought up and depressed usually spurs creativity (and truth to tell, I now have any number of Varn  scenarios floating around in the head),. So: yeah, sure.

But there’s more:

Toward the end, Cassie had to be lifted on and off the bed many times a day. In her last day or two, though she was awake and responsive, she was almost inert. And she had a habit of positioning herself in clumsy poses just out of reach of the Human. Once when I picked her up, I felt something go r-i-i-i-i-i-p in the vicinity of the rib cage and thought “ohhh shit!” And yup: back pain that’s damn near crippling.

Managed to get her to the vet and attend her passing to the Other World. But after that? The pain has been blinding.

Trust me: after those adventures I did not feel like articulating a fantasy about imaginary people in a galaxy far, far away…

Then…oh yes, then: I fell and sprained my wrist. Even though nothing was broken and it’s slowly healing, this added another layer of long-term pain.

To make things more interesting, I’m allergic to NSAIDs. Yeah. All of them: aspirin, acetaminophen, ibuprofen, you name it. Though I have some oxycontin left from piles of pills the doctors foisted on me during the Year of the Surgeries (six surgeries in 12 months…), I do not use addictive drugs. So…no…I have another plan for those, which has to do with the Final Exit, whenever the time comes. I ain’t using that stuff for a pained back and a pained wrist.

That left, as the only viable analgesic, booze. Whiskey. Or wine. Depending on the mood. Works, you know. So, to some extent, do physical therapy exercises and yoga poses, which one can manage when one is adequately numbed by a shot of whiskey or a glass of cabernet.

So: excuses two and three:

  • In too much pain to write
  • too shit-faced to write

Hey. Even writers get sick leave, eh? And bereavement leave, right?


Them’s my excuses, and I’m stickin’ to them.

Are Bites from Toy Dogs Common?

Just for you: a chapter from If You’d Asked Me…the ultimate collection of bathroom or waiting room reading, A new chapter appears here every three weeks, usually by Friday. You can get a complete copy, right now, in PDF format, or, if you like, as a paperback. For details, visit our Books page or send a request through our Contact form.

Section II: Going to the Dogs
(Or Cats)

9. How prevalent are injuries from toy dogs?

Don’t know how prevalent they are, but I do know my neighbor, an elderly woman, was seriously injured by her Yorkie. She’d gone outside where her husband was puttering and had carried the little dog in her arms so it wouldn’t run away.

Something set the dog off, and it attacked her, biting both hands and both arms. It tore tendons in both of her hands—she had to have surgery to repair the damage.

A dog doesn’t have to be large to inflict serious damage.

How to Prepare Your MS for Publishing: E-books

How to Prepare Your Manuscript for Publishing:

The Complete Writer
Section VII: Publishers and Self-Publishers

This book is a work in progress. A new chapter appears here each week, usually on Fridays. You can buy a copy of the entire book, right now, in PDF format, or, if you like, as a paperback. You also can find links to the chapters that have appeared so far at our special page for The Complete Writer. For details, visit our Books page or send a request through our Contact form.


How to Prepare Your MS for Self-Publishing: E-books

This chapter is not for the technically proficient. If you know HTML and CSS—and know them well—format your document in ePub and be done with it. You can submit an ePub file to any of the major e-book distributors. Freeware that will simplify your life is Calibre. Its documentation is written in techese and difficult for the untechnical to learn.

For the rest of us, there’s hope: it’s not difficult to format a Word document for Kindle if—and only if—it consists mostly of plain narrative, with no graphics. That means no pictures, no diagrams, no graphs, no maps, no boxed pull-outs: nothing but plain sentences, paragraphs, chapter titles, and basic subheads.

Anything more complex—such as the book you have in your hands—requires a format conversion program such as InDesign, Apple Pages, or Calibre. Unless you’re familiar with such software, you’ll find a professional e-book formatter’s services well worth the very reasonable cost.

Formatting basics

In either event, your entire document must be formatted using Word’s “Styles” function. This includes titles, subtitles, paragraphs, captions, footnotes, and the like.

Do this whether you intend to attempt a DIY project or whether you will hire a professional formatter to do it right. Do not fail to set the formatting with your word processor’s “styles.”

Instruction on how to use Word is beyond this book’s scope, but you can find how-to’s by clicking on “Help” or by searching for the desired function in Google.

The font you select is irrelevant to e-book formatting. In Kindle, the reader can select fonts and sizes according to need or whim. So you can simply use Word’s default or, if you prefer a less unsightly font, select Times or Times New Roman.

Margin settings are similarly irrelevant in e-book formatting. In Word, then, use the default margins (1 inch top and bottom; 1 inch left and right).

So, using “Styles,” go through the manuscript and apply the chapter title style to each chapter title, the level 1 subhead to each main subhead, the level 2 subhead to each sub-subhead, the paragraph style to each paragraph, the bulleted list style to each bulleted list, and so on. Do not use the Format… command to accomplish this task. You need to have all the formatting set up with “Styles.”

This includes italic, boldface, and small caps as well.

The easiest way to accomplish this is by using an e-book format template. A number of these are available. These come with preformatted styles for all elements in your manuscript.

Remember: in any word processing program (Word, Pages, GoogleDocs, Open Office, etc.), what you see on the page is NOT what you get. An e-book displays “flowable” text. That means it changes to suit the reader’s preferences and to adapt to the device on which it is viewed.

Page numbers go away. So do your pretty running headers. Knowing this, remove pagination and running headers from your document.

Formatting for heads and subheads may be arbitrary. Do set the heads and subheads using your word processor’s “styles.” Their format will come out looking distinct, if you set them consistently. However, they may look different from what you expect.

The live table of contents needs to be formatted on a PC, not a Mac. You will need a ToC with live links; if you don’t know how to create one of these (in Word, go to Format > Document Elements > Table of Contents), you should hire someone who does or, preferably, hire a professional e-book designer to do the entire job.

Graphics of any kind (this includes photographs, drawings, tables, graphs, maps, lists, and anything else along those lines) are very tricky to install in an e-book. It’s possible to do so using a word processing program, but it’s difficult and requires real technical proficiency.

For this reason, a book that contains any complexity at all beyond A- and B-level subheads is best consigned to an experienced, technologically proficient e-book designer.

Drop caps installed in a word processor do not compute on Kindle readers. Do not use drop caps in an e-book. Doing so will create a mess.

This is an example of a drop cap.

If you want to fancify your first paragraphs, try setting the first few words in all caps, like this:

IT WAS A DARK AND STORMY NIGHT in outer Richistan, the wind howling through the mountain passes and…

Small caps would look much more professional. But not all versions of Kindle can read your DIY small caps. If you set your first view words in small caps….

…you may get IT WAS A DARK AND STORMY NIGHT in your published e-book, depending on how it’s viewed.

The best candidate for DIY e-book formatting is a work of fiction with plain-vanilla formatting: one that contains nothing more complicated than chapter titles and an occasional subhead. If it contains a map, a diagram, dingbats formatted as jpegs, or anything even faintly out of the ordinary, hire an e-book formatter.

Before you upload your book to kindle . . .

First, write the keywords, category and the description. These are not things you want to scribble on the fly, as they’re presented to you in Kindle’s online form.

The keywords and categories will guide your readers to your book. Think, from a reader’s point of view, what category or keyword a person might search for that would bring up your book. You get two browsing categories (often they do not fit: this book will probably be classified under “self-help” and “crafts and hobbies” ), and seven keywords.

Converting and posting your book to kindle

It is possible to convert a Word document directly to Kindle (i.e., .mobi format) from your “Bookshelf” page. I strongly urge you to rethink this scheme if your book has any level of complexity at all. The book you are reading, for example, will be formatted by a professional.

You will need a correctly designed and sized “cover” image in JPEG format. Please see the previous chapter for discussion of this issue.

I have used Amazon’s online Kindle conversion software for Camptown Races books, which are short, very simple, and contain no formatting other than the book title, the chapter titles, and the paragraphs. For this purpose, it has worked satisfactorily—but bear in mind, readers do not pick up light erotica for its elegant design. Converting any layout more sophisticated than a very plain novel will give you a migraine.

Review your document line by line to be sure you have formatted everything, including single words set in italic or boldface, using the “Styles” function.

In a separate reading, proofread carefully. You may want to get a friend or employee to proofread the copy, since your eye will fill in what your mind knows to be correct, and even with Word’s spell-checker running, you will miss some typos.

Set up a book-seller’s account with Amazon’s Author Central. The instructions are posted online;[5] it’s not as complicated as it looks. Select Kindle Direct Publishing.

You can go through CreateSpace, which has many services and tools for self-publishers. Personally, I use Kindle Direct because I have heard so many horror stories from people who have tried CreateSpace: bad design, second-rate products, poor customer service, various incomprehensible hassles—in my opinion, it’s better to have more direct control over production. You do not need CreateSpace to build an e-book file and publish it to Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Smashwords.

Once you’re registered with Author Central, follow the steps to publish your book from your “Bookshelf” page. This is rote and very simple.

All you have to do is upload your Word file, and Amazon’s software will automatically convert it to Kindle format.

Three things you should know about this process:

  1. Your book cover needs to be prepared as a high quality JPEG—at least 300 dpi—and sized at about 1200 x 1800 pixels. You can’t upload a PDF here.
  2. Amazon has a spellchecker. Even though you think your manuscript is perfect after the ten proofreadings you’ve gone through, and even though the spellchecker flags exotic place names or unusual proper names, it will catch typos that you missed! Every time. Be sure to look at the spellchecker’s results and go through each item.
  3. Amazon gives you two choices for reviewing the completed .mobi file:
  4. You can read it online in Amazon’s online Kindle reader; or
  5. You can download a Kindle reader to your computer, download the .mobi file, and read the thing in your terminal.

Your best choice, hands-down, is to download the Kindle reader, then download the .mobi file and read it in your resident Kindle reader.

While no two Kindle devices necessarily show a given .mobi file the same way, the online Kindle reader at Author Central is a disaster, particularly if you have even slightly complex formatting, or if you have changed the formatting within a document before uploading it.

The first book I published on Amazon contained a lot of lists and several levels of heads and subheads. It looked fine in the online Kindle reader, so I clicked “publish.”

Forthwith, up came an angry review from a reader who complained about a mishmash of weird formatting.

I downloaded the book to my iPad and opened it in the iPad’s Kindle reader and saw she was right: the whole thing was a mess!

I had to remove the book from Amazon, rename it, get a new ISBN, produce all new marketing materials, and hire an e-book formatter to completely reformat the 350-page book from beginning to end.

Back at Author Central, I downloaded the Kindle reader offered there and used that to open the delinquent .mobi file. It, like my unhappy reader’s device, revealed a formatting jumble. So, the message there is don’t, under any circumstances, use Amazon’s online Kindle Reviewer as a quick way to review your book during the upload process.

After you’ve downloaded Author Central’s kindle reader, you can also download the .mobi file to your computer. This allows you to save it to disk. Back up the book in every format you create and store it to an external hard drive: this includes your word-processed version, PDF, .mobi, ePub, and anything else you encounter.

Follow the steps through the online form. Set your price, click on the “agree” box, and click done. Your book will go online within a couple of days.

KDP Direct vs. KDP Select

Amazon will pressure you, at the time you upload your book and in various communications, to join its KDP Select program. Supposedly this step up from the entry-level KDP Direct will supercharge your sales.

Personally, I find KDP Select to be somewhat problematic. Primary reason: when you enroll in KDP Select, you agree to embargo your book. You can’t sell it anywhere but on Amazon: not at Barnes & Noble, not down at the local grocery store, not through Smashwords, not even from your own website.

If you have published the work as a series and also as a “boxed set” or complete book and you have put even one of the serials in KDP Select, the complete book containing the embargoed work is also embargoed!

Additionally, KDP Select limits your pricing to no more than $9.99. If you consider how many hours it takes to write and format a book and how much you could have earned during those hours on a freelance or employee basis, you’ll soon realize that you would have to sell a boatload of books at $9.99 to earn even minimum wage, to say nothing of covering your costs and making the book turn a profit.

KDP Select automatically enrolls your book in Amazon’s “lending” program, which essentially gives your book away for free. The theory here is that people who join the lending program will pay to do so. A pool of money is set aside from these fees, to be paid to authors whose books are “borrowed” in this way.

But Amazon spies on its book users. Those who “borrow” your book must open it and look at a certain number of pages. You are paid—if you’re paid—according to the percentage of the book the reader has eyeballed.

Let me put it this way: you can supercharge a snail. You’ll still have a snail.

To my mind, it’s just not worth giving Amazon full control over where you sell your book and who reads it. Some authors have reported good results from KDP Select; others have seen no change in sales. My guess is that those who are happy with it have strong marketing programs elsewhere and would have seen decent sales had they maintained their independence and stayed with KDP Direct.

I recently ran a one-week KDP Select “countdown” sale of six titles—a cookbook and five erotic romances. I hyped the bargains from one end of the social media to the other. During the entire month of that sale, I sold eighteen books. Revenues were $18.97: about the same as I earn month by month without slashing the prices to 99 cents.

Working with a professional e-book formatter

Let me say it one more time: you are best served by hiring an e-book formatter to convert your book to electronic format. Unless you love spending hour after hour after hour trudging up and down Himalayan learning curves, unless you like wasting your time, and unless frustration is a gratifying emotion for you, please do consider farming out your manuscript to an expert formatter.

E-book formatters not only can save you a great deal of time (and time is money if you write or edit on a contract basis), they also know how to get images to work in electronic files, how to optimize the files for viewing on a wide variety of readers, and how to set them up so that browsing buyers will see the most tempting part of your book first.

Here’s what the person will need:

  • The manuscript, carefully proofread and thoroughly, accurately formatted in your word processor’s “Styles” function.
  • Images in high-quality JPEG format. Each image should be sharp, clear, and at least 300 dpi.
  • Your completed cover, also as a high-quality JPEG.

Be sure your manuscript is as edited as it’s going to get, so as to spare the formatter unnecessary extra work.


Ella’s Story, Chapter 35

Ella’s Story

Ella’s Story follows people who live ordinary lives as citizens of a vast interstellar empire. Indeed, a galactic empire. Each chapter will be posted individually here at the Plain & Simple Press blog about once every three weeks, and then links will be collected at a single page devoted to the book. Come on over to the Ella’s Story page to find all the chapters published so far, as well as the cast of characters and a list of place names.

Chapter 35

Sigi, the personification of common sense, bent over the big table in the downstairs kitchen and eating hall, where she had spread out her draft plans for the proposed new clinic. Her short ebony hair, lit by the dining hall’s light-walls and lanterns, glowed with a shine that spoke of her robust health and energy. Dorin and Darl, uniformed like Sigi and all the kitchen and scullery crew in the Kaïna’s aqua-blue liveries, studied the sheet she had unrolled across the tabletop.

The afternoon was past half-done, and Ella had come downstairs to check on the happenings and give herself a moment’s break.

Slender and sturdy, the young woman worked with rare concentration, Ella thought. Around her pots clattered, domestic machinery grumbled, kitchen servants gossipped and laughed, a couple of small children tussled over a set of toys. Banging pots and pans, Lior the cook genially ordered his crew around, while his wife Tabit, one of Ella’s fondest friends, clucked over Darl, who, Tabit had decided, needed hot tea and personal care.

Ella slid onto a bench near the cluster around Sigi. As if by magic, a grey mug appeared at her elbow. Tabit poured steamy tea into it.

“Good day,” the plump woman greeted her. “How’s your day?” Her curly hair was graying amiably.

“Quiet enough. You?”

“About the same. But a dull moment never goes unpunished: we need to go into town to reprovision for the Kaïna’s dinner party.”

Ella sipped the brew in silence, watching the carpenter woman and the new doctor pore over the evolving floor plan.

“This wall,” Sigi was saying, “holds up the roof from here to here.” She indicated points on the exterior walls. “We can’t take it down. But we can put new doorways in it. Or close up old ones.

“Where do you want water to come in?”

Darl gazed at the diagram, apparently thinking. “There should be a sink and a tap in the exam room. And any lab space – that’ll need hot and cold running water. And if we’re to do any surgical procedures, the room where that happens will have to get the same: hot and cold.”

“That’s a lot of plumbing,” Sigi remarked.

“Yeah,” Dorin agreed. “But if you had a couple of those rooms back-to-back, a single source could supply them both. Just run the spigots from the same connection, only on either side of the wall.”

“Uh huh,” Sigi agreed. “That gives us two. We’ll still need a third outlet.

An exquisitely unmechanical soul, Tabit distracted Ella’s attention from the strategy session. “Do you mind if I take Bintje into town with us this evening?”

Ella smiled. “Then you can listen to her bellyaching!”

Tabit laughed. “Give her some slack, sister. She’s never been pregnant before.” Tabit had three children in the Kaïna’s service, two of them mostly grown and holding jobs in the city.

“Thank the Goddess for that!”

“Well, there are some small favors to be grateful for. How about it?”

“I suppose. Just don’t let her out of your sight.”

“She’s not going anywhere.”

That is the truth.”

The clinic’s layout grew more concrete beneath their gaze: a shaded walkway along the front face (this would require a new extension of the roof to be built, filling a good week of Sigi’s time); a reception room with a desk, communication and records equipment, and seating for the proposed patients to wait; behind that a suite of rooms to include one dedicated to examination, one for whatever procedures Darl could conduct on his own, and a lab. But wait! He would need a private office, no? Rearrange that plan…

As this discussion proceeded, the mother herself appeared at the top of the stairs.

“Oh, dear Goddess. Did you tell her you were going to ask me about that trip into town?”

“No!” Tabit replied. “She reads minds, hm?”

“I must have done something to offend. It would be kind if She would tell me what it was… Would you hie her over here, please?”

Tabit gave her a co-conspirator’s glance and got up to retrieve the girl. Or, as Ella thought of her, the brat.

Bintje and Tabit approaching, Ella rose to her feet and broke into the group’s conversation.

“Would you like to meet your first patient, Mr. Darl?”

He looked a shade blindsided but gamely replied, “Of course.”

Ella wasn’t sure how much Dorin had told him about the Bintje situation. As little as possible, she imagined.

She presented the young woman with a gentle push toward him.

“This is Bintje. Bintje, Darl here is our new doctor. And Darl, Bintje is our new mother.”

He smiled – a little uncertainly, she thought. “Evidently,” he said. “I’m glad to meet you, Bintje.”

The girl also looked uncertain. “Mr. Darl,” she greeted him. “Welcome to our home. I hope…you like it here.”

“Darl will be taking care of you, now that he’s on his feet.”

“Oh,” Bintje said, almost a gasp. “But…won’t I be able to see Piritsi again?” Piritsi was the village midwife, who had delivered every baby born at Skyhill within living memory. “I’m supposed to go to her tomorrow afternoon.” Bintje shot a sidewise glance at Darl and then looked up at Ella.

Just the kind of backtalk Ella expected. The expecting annoyed her more, not less. The expecting, she reflected with an inscrutable smile, all the way around.

“Well, you understand…the reason the Kaïna bought this man was so that he could care for her people here at Skyhill. He is a doctor, after all.”

Bintje looked to Tabit for support. Tabit shrugged. Bintje’s face reddened. She appeared to be about to cry. “But…”

Ella cut her off with a glance. Bintje evoked an even more dramatically downcast face.

“Wait a minute,” Darl interjected. “May I go with you? I’d like to meet the town’s midwife. It would be good for me to know her…and she and I might be able to work together, no?”

Tabit smiled and raised her eyebrows. Ella couldn’t guess whether this meant she was amused or questioning what would happen next.

“Well, I…”

“Why not?” Tabit said. “Then you won’t have to take her into town yourself tomorrow, sister. Or send me with her.”

Bintje assumed a hopeful expression.

“You could just put off today’s trip until tomorrow, sister,” Ella pointed out.

“There are some things Cook needs for tonight,” Tabit replied. This one always had an answer at hand, Ella thought. Was she another Bintje when she was a young thing? Couldn’t be: surely this world was never visited by two of them.

“All right,” she capitulated. Bintje’s woebegotten clouds disappeared and her face lit up with a broad smile. Tabit nodded her approval in silence.

“What are you doing down here, anyway?” Ella asked. Bintje was supposed to be cleaning the rooftop pool patio at this time of day.

“I’m hungry.”

Eating for two. Fine: “Well, get yourself a snack and then get yourself back to work.”

The prospective mother supplied and Tabit returned to the food prep crew, Ella turned to Darl before he could get too re-engaged in the plan-fest.

“You,” she said: “We need to talk. When you’re done, will you come see me, please?” It was not a request. “I’ll be in my office at the top end of the women’s quarters. Or, if I’m not there, out in the atrium.”

“Sure,” he said.

Yes, ma’am,” she corrected him as she walked away.


Not very much later, Darl found his way to Ella’s door, near the entry to the single women’s part of the slave quarters.

“Did I speak out of turn?” he asked, instantly after the new hello’s were exchanged. She gestured to him to take a seat near her desk.

“No, not at all. Not really. I’m just feeling a little cranky today.” He looked unconvinced. “Just remember: it’s ma’am for a female overseer or a free woman. Madame for a woman aristrocrat. And sir for just about everyone else. But that’s not what we need to talk about.”

He sat down and looked attentive, refraining from any further question or comment.

“Actually, it’s a good idea for you to go with Bintje to meet her midwife. And I think it’s an interesting idea that you might be able to work with her – Piritsi, I mean – in some professional way.”

“Women who are trained to help deliver babies are often very competent,” he remarked.

“Well… You need to realize that these people are not like…say, some paramedic on Samdela. A town attached to a Varn aristrocrat’s estate is not so much a town as a village. The inmates are pretty rural.”

“I imagine.”

“You’ll see, soon enough. It’s a nice change from the estate, though. And Bintje loves to bucket into town, at the drop of anyone’s hat.”

“Well. She’s very young.”

“Isn’t she. Look, there are some things you need to understand about that young lady. You can take her into town, that’s fine. But do not – do not under any circumstances – let her out of your sight. You’ll both know where you’re supposed to go and what you’re supposed to be doing. Go there, do that, and then come back.

Do not let her talk you into taking any side trips or going to some shop or visiting whoever she thinks she’d like to visit or stopping at the town snack bar. Understand?”

“I think so.”

“There’s nothing to think about this. It’s into town, take her to Piritsi, chat with Piritsi as you please, then turn around and bring her back here. If she says she’d like to go do something while you and Piritsi are talking, tell her ‘no.’ No exceptions. Keep her in your sight all the time.”

“Well…all right.” he sounded nonplussed. Or puzzled. She felt she should continue:

“Bintje, she can be quite a pistol. She knows she’s on restriction for a good long time – and she’s already very tired of it. She will try to pull some sort of fast one. Believe me. Don’t let her get away with it. Hm?”

“All right.”

“Truly, Darl: she will try to take advantage of you if she figures she can get away with it. Keep her in hand. Yes?”

“I understand. And I will.” He smiled. “You make her sound like an unholy terror.”

“No more than some of us were at that age,” Ella replied, mellowing a bit. “But yes,” she laughed softly, “you could use that term.”

If You’d Asked: Why does the dog hate that guy?

Just for you: a chapter from If You’d Asked Me…the ultimate collection of bathroom or waiting room reading, A new chapter appears here every three weeks, usually by Friday. You can get a complete copy, right now, in PDF format, or, if you like, as a paperback. For details, visit our Books page or send a request through our Contact form.

Section II: Going to the Dogs
(Or Cats)

8. Why do dogs dislike some people for no apparent reason?

Mental telepathy?

While the argument that dogs do not dislike humans for no reason—but may do so for no reason apparent to their own human—makes good, logical sense, I can testify that it ain’t necessarily so.

I had a German shepherd, Anna, who had never been abused, never had a negative encounter with any male human, and was generally mellow and friendly with strangers. She liked men: she doted on my boyfriend and she loved my son.

I used to take this dog to a sidewalk cafe that occupied the front of a local upscale grocery market. My friend and I would buy some coffee and we would sit around watching the rich people come and go and socializing with the locals. Other people would do the same, also bringing their dogs.

This was an effective way to socialize our dogs to humans and to other dogs.

One lovely day I’m sitting there swilling coffee. The dog is loafing by my side, seemingly calm and happy. She has schmoozed with other people and patiently resisted her interest in dismembering other dogs. Life is good.

Suddenly, out of the blue, she springs to her feet and explodes in a barking rage. Highly alarmed, she is launching into full Ger-shep defensive mode. The object of her fury is at first invisible to me. In a minute, though, I realize she’s focused on a man way across the parking lot. This guy is at least 100 yards away. He has only just set foot in the parking lot, having crossed a main drag between the market and a mid-rise office building.

He is a well-groomed, ordinary-looking man in a business suit—he looks like a lawyer or a business executive, which is probably exactly what he is. He’s doing nothing out of the ordinary: just walking along at a normal pace, headed to the market to pick up the usual take-out lunch. I have never met this man; therefore, my dog has never met the man, since she has dwelt with me since she was six weeks old.

The dog goes batsh!t. If I’d dropped her leash, she would have gone after him and absolutely would have attacked him.

He apparently didn’t realize he was the object of the barking frenzy (who would?). He proceeded calmly into the grocery store—fortunately we were seated a distance away from the entrance.

He goes inside, buys his lunch, comes back out, and heads for the office. Soon as she spots him coming out, she goes bonkers again. She barks at this man until he finally crosses the six-lane thoroughfare between the parking lot and the office building.

Turns out this guy was something of a regular. Every time the man would appear off in the distance when we were sitting there, Anna would fly into another rage. Once he drove up in a car, parked, and got out to walk into the store: flying rage.

The dog never had any close-up interaction with the man; he ignored her and didn’t even look in our direction. I’m sure he just thought it was an obnoxious dog, and never realized he personally was setting her off.

Not one other human being ever had that effect on Anna during the entire 12 years of her life. I did not know him nor had I even noticed his existence the first time she went off on him. There may have been some cue unnoticeable to humans—maybe he was a serial dog murderer and stank of dog blood, who knows?

But as far as I could tell there was exactly zero reason for the dog to want to kill that man.

How to Prepare Your MS for Publishing: Parts of a Book

How to Prepare Your Manuscript for Publishing:
The Parts of a Book

The Complete Writer
Section VII: Publishers and Self-Publishers

 This book is a work in progress. A new chapter appears here each week, usually on Fridays.  You can buy a copy of the entire book, right now, in PDF format, or, if you like, as a paperback. You also can find links to the chapters that have appeared so far at our special page for The Complete Writer. For details, visit our Books page or send a request through our Contact form.


Preparing Your Manuscript for Publishing I:
The Parts of a Book

Every book that follows the Chicago Manual of Style—the standard of the book publishing industry—contains certain set parts. These are broadly known as the front matter (half-title or bastard title, title page, copyright page, dedication, epigraph, table of contents, foreword or preface); text (author’s introduction and book’s the main content); and back matter (appendixes, index, author’s bio). Running headers and footers, including pagination, are also part of the book, as are various graphics. The cover, too, is a book part.

Let’s take a brief look at each of these.

Front matter

The half title, sometimes called a bastard title, is the first page of the book. This page displays the main title only, without the subtitle or any other details. It appears on the right-hand side (“recto” page); the back of this sheet (the “verso” page) is left blank, unless the book is part of a series. In that case, the title and volume number of the series, the general editor’s name, and sometimes the titles of previous volumes in the series may appear on the verso side of the half-title.

Often, a paperback does not include a half-title. As you can see, this book has no half-title. Neither do e-books.

The title page starts with the book’s main title. On the next line, the subtitle (if any) should appear, followed by the author’s name and the name and city of the publishing house.

In this book, which was created with a commercial template, the book’s title appears in 36-point Big Caslon small caps; the subtitle is in the same font in 12-point caps and lower-case (cc/lc), and the author’s byline is in 18-point cc/lc. The publisher’s name and city are set in 14-point cc/lc.

No law governs the choice of fonts, the size, or the position. The lines may be centered or flush left, as desired. But the design of the title page should match or be compatible with the design for the content of the book.

The copyright page appears on the back side (verso) of the title page. The copyright statement looks like this:

Copyright YYYY Copyright Holder


Copyright © YYYY Copyright Holder


Copyright 2016 Oliver Q. Boxankle

If you wish to include a reminder that you will sue the bedoodles out of anyone who infringes on your rights, this is the place to do it:

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law.

This gassy statement is redundant. The fact that you have a copyright in the material and you have neither sold it nor released it to the public domain means the same thing as the verbiage above. Anything you create in a reproducible medium—including writing—is automatically copyrighted as you create it. You own the copyright on it by virtue of your having made it. Copyright will always belong to you, unless you choose to sell some or all of your rights in the work.

If there’s some other copyright information that should be included, such as acknowledgement of previously published material, include it here.

Some parts of this book originally appeared in The Essential Feature, by Victoria Hay (Columbia University Press, 1990).

Include the name of the publisher and contact information. Some sources suggest you include an address. If you’re self-publishing and working out of your home, obviously this is ill-advised. Instead, include a contact page at your website, or else rent a mailbox through the postal service or a private mailboxes shop. Although you need to include the publisher’s city, do not include an address where anyone can find you in person and do not include a telephone number that rings directly to you personally or to a home office.

Plain & Simple Press
Phoenix, Arizona

Next, credit special contributors, such as graphic artists (cover design, interior design and layout, photographer(s), editor, and the like).

Book Layout ©2013

This credits the designer of the template used to lay out the book’s interior; the template itself is copyrighted. If a graphic designer laid out the interior, credit that artist here; similarly credit the artist who designed your cover, and the photographer (if any) who provided the image.

Don’t neglect to include the edition number and your ISBN on the copyright page.

Book Title/ Victoria Hay. —1st ed.
SBN 978-0-0000000-0-0

You’ll need to get a new ISBN for each new edition, and also for every format in which the book appears. That is, the ePub version has its own ISBN, as does the Kindle version, as does the paperback version, as does the hardback version.

Traditional publishers also include the Library of Congress Cataloguing-in-Publication (CIP) data.[1] Unless you are selling your book through brick-and-mortar bookstores, it’s not necessary. If you hope to get your book into libraries, you’ll need a Library of Congress Preassigned Control Number (PCN) so you can get a CIP, which is required by libraries. CIP is not readily available to self-published authors, and so to navigate these shoals you will need to do some research.[2]

You may include a brief biographical note of the author or other contributors. If this information is given on the copyright page, it appears at the top of the page and the name or names must be consistent with their appearance on the title page. Often, as in this book, the author’s bio appears at the end of the book.

What is an ISBN and why do you need it? Or do you need it?

“ISBN” stands for International Standard Book Number. A special ISBN is set up for each book in a system provided by Bowker.[3] It is a universal, unique identifier that enables publishers and booksellers to manage fulfillment and inventory. Each format for a book must have a separate ISBN.

To get into Books in Print your book must have an ISBN. Libraries will not carry books unless they’re in Books in Print. So, you need an ISBN if you are going to ask your local library to carry your self-published book.

Similarly, brick-and-mortar bookstores require an ISBN. Many barriers to selling in real bookstores confront self-publishers; this is one of them. If you think you want to jump those hurdles, start right away by registering an ISBN with Bowker for your print book.

Contrary to what a certain large retailer would like you to believe, an ASIN is not the same as an ISBN. “ASIN” stands for Amazon Standard Identification Number. It’s just an inventory number for Amazon; it has no meaning in any other context. The ISBN is universally recognized and used by retailers, libraries, distributors, and fulfillers.

You do not need to an ASIN at Amazon because amazon will assign one. An ISBN is needed to sell through most other retailers and for lending libraries.

With the ISBN, you can acquire a bar code for your hard-copy book. All retailers, including Amazon, require a bar code for paperback and hardback books. Once you have the ISBN, you can get a bar code from Bowker, for a fee. However, free bar codes are available on the Internet.[4] A bar code includes your ISBN (providing a tracking number for the retailer and for you) and the book’s retail price.

A dedication or epigraph (or both) may appear after the copyright page. Each of these occupies the recto side (odd-numbered) of its own page, with a blank verso side.

The table of contents appears next, also starting on the recto side of the page. You can generate a table of contents in Word. For electronic publication, this is required (an e-book formatter will create it in HTML ). You should know that at this time Amazon cannot recognize the code used to generate a table of contents on any Apple device or program. Thus if you write in Word for the Mac or in Pages, your TofC will have to be updated in Word, Scrivener, or InDesign for a PC. Be prepared for this frustrating and potentially time-consuming complication.

The foreword, preface. acknowledgments, and introduction follow the table of contents. A preface is written by the author and often signed or initialed. A foreword is written by someone other than the author. It may appear as a selling point: “With a Foreword by [Famous Personage]!”

The introduction may appear as part of the front matter if it is written by someone other than the author. In that case, it should follow the foreword and be paginated in lower-case roman numerals. An introduction written by the author usually is presented as part of the text and paginated in Arabic numerals.


The text is the main body of the book. It consists of the author’s introduction (if any) and the book’s contents. It is divided into chapters that may be organized into parts (as the present book is). Chapters are often subdivided with subheads.

Chapters should be approximately of similar length. Chapter titles should be short and to the point; avoid whimsy and cuteness. Each chapter starts on a recto (odd-numbered) page; no running header appears on a chapter’s first page, although a page number may appear at the bottom of the page. You can move the running header (including the page number) into a running footer on each chapter’s first page. This is tricky to accomplish in Word; you’ll need to Google or otherwise find the instructions for how to do this in your version of Word.

Technically, a chapter title is a level B head (the book title being the level A head). However, layout artists and editors commonly call the chapter title level A, subheads level B, and sub-subheads level C. This is true of most templates designed for use in Word.

Set each section title, chapter title, and subhead in a recognizable, distinct typeface and position. In this book, for example, section titles are set in 20-point Big Caslon, four single spaces below the top margin, [setting these two details in WordPress is beyond my skills!] centered, roman (not boldface, not italic) and numbered with a centered Roman numeral. Thus:


The Writing Life

The template used to lay out this book includes a special format for the chapter number: gray, roman indented .5 inch, with 48 points before and 12 points after (there are 72 points in an inch—in theory).


The chapter title itself is set in 24-point Cambria, roman, flush left, 20 points before and 0 points after:

Chapter Title

Subheads are set in Big Caslon 11.5 points, small caps, flush left, with 12 points leading before and 6 points after, and sub-subheads, which generally should be avoided for nonacademic books, also need their own distinctive formatting. Because of the limitations of WordPress, I’m unable to illustrate these here. Many nonfiction books will show examples of subheads.

They may stand alone, like this:

Here Is a Subhead (a B-level head)
A sub-subhead might look like
Or It Might Look Like This

In any event, B-level heads should all be formatted the same.

Subheads at a lower level may be presented in run-in format, like this:

A run-in subhead. In this case the subhead is set, sentence-style, as part of the paragraph. It’s distinguished with bold-face type.

The first paragraph below a chapter head or subhead should be set flush left, no indent, as you will see in the format throughout The Complete Writer.

Back matter

Back matter includes glossaries, lists of place names or proper names, appendixes, endnotes (headed Notes in Chicago style), a bibliography or reference list as needed, a list contributors, the index, and possibly a biography of the author.

The cover

Much has been said among the DIY set about book covers. Although it’s possible to trick one out in Amazon’s cover-building software, in PowerPoint, in Acrobat, in InDesign, or in a freeware program called Gimp, I strongly recommend that you hire a graphic designer to create your cover.

All the programs that allow you to build a DIY cover amount to GIGO: garbage in, garbage out. To create an effective cover that will help sell your book, you need to understand the principles of artistic design, typesetting, cover lines, and configuration for commercial marketability. Designing a cover for an e-book requires a different set of skills and knowledge than designing one for print.

An e-book cover consists only of the “front” cover. Because it is presented in thumbnail size, it must be designed so that its picture, its title, and the author’s byline jump out of a very tiny image.

A cover for a paperback book is designed as a wrap-around: it includes, on the left-hand side, the copy and images for the back cover, set in two or three blocks; then, in the center, the correctly sized spine with the title and author’s name running vertically; and finally, on the right-hand side, the image and cover lines for the front cover. The spine’s width must be calculated and accommodated correctly in the design, with the front and back covers adjusted accordingly. The entire production must be fitted accurately to your book’s trim size: the vertical and horizontal dimensions of the final printed product.

Learning to do these things, learning the software, and doing the job over and over and over until you get it right is about as unfun as unfun can get. Do yourself a favor and hire a designer.

Ella’s Story, Chapter 34

Progress is mighty slow on this particular magnum opus. Three weeks have passed since chapter 33 went live, and lo, I’ve written…ahem…well…this:

Ella’s Story

Ella’s Story follows people who live ordinary lives as citizens of a vast interstellar empire. Indeed, a galactic empire. Each chapter will be posted individually here at the Plain & Simple Press blog about once every three weeks, and then links will be collected at a single page devoted to the book. Come on over to the Ella’s Story page to find all the chapters published so far, as well as the cast of characters and a list of place names.

Chapter 34

Of course. They had passkeys, only legitimately. “I’ll be right down there, Yia. Get the women in their bunks and don’t let them out. Unless one of the Suits asks you to. Understood?”

She shut Yiadwene off, called Security, and asked them to send a Blacksuit to her quarters.

Before she could end that exchange, a page from Bhotil flashed up on the vidspot.

“What the hell is going on?” he demanded. He pulled on a company uniform shirt over his head, covering a skin-tight gray undershirt, then ran his fingers through his hair to brush it off his face. “Chief Geffad says the women’s quarters were breached?” Ella could see Yiadwene watching in a tile on the vid exchange’s viewer, and Geffad in another.

“Yiadwene says some guy got in and tried to stab Ella. But Ella’s all right. She’s here with me.”

“With you.”

“Yes, sir.”

“In your quarters.”

“That’s right, sir.”

Bhotil fell silent for a second. The Blacksuit chief said nothing.

“Boss,” Vighdi said, “would you please come up here so we can talk about this? And Chief Geffad, we need an armed guard here. We’re in the senior staff women’s quarters.”

“I gathered,” he said drily. “A crew is on their way up. They should get there in a couple of minutes.”

Bhotil said, “I’m going down to the slave women’s quarters first, Vighdi. Soon as I finish talking with Yiadwene, I’ll come up in your direction. Keep Ella there with you, if you will. And…well, don’t go wandering around. Keep the door locked.”

“Of course.”

“We’ll need to let the other senior staff women know what’s up,” Geffad remarked.

“I’d like to keep at least some sort of a lid on this, until we have a better grip on things,” Bhotil replied. He strapped a work belt around his waist.

“Most of them will be asleep,” Vighdi said. “Tell your people to come in quietly. And don’t send an army up here.”

Geffad made no reply but nodded, seemingly in agreement. Or at least acquiescing.

“If they knew where Ella was, they wouldn’t have sent their spook to her bunk,” Bho observed. “Let’s send just a couple of Blacksuits over to the staff quarters. And station them inside the doors, so they’re not so obvious. Vighdi, can you let them in when they get to your parts?”

“Sure. Tell them to signal me direct – don’t make a lot of noise out there.”

“Are the doors locked now?”

Vighdi touched a control panel near the vidspot. “No.”

“Well, lock them.”

She’d hit the switch before the words left his mouth.

“What’ll we tell the women? They’ll see the guard when they get up for breakfast.”

“It’s a security exercise,” Geffad suggested.


Bho snuffed a kind of chuckle. “If you can think of something better, use it. Just let the rest of us know what it is.” He headed out the door. “I’ll be up at your place shortly.”

If You’d Asked: The Dark Side of Living in Phoenix

Just for you: a chapter from If You’d Asked Me…the ultimate collection of bathroom or waiting room reading, A new chapter appears here every three weeks, usually by Friday. You can get a complete copy, right now, in PDF format, or, if you like, as a paperback. For details, visit our Books page or send a request through our Contact form.

Here’s an add to Section I (God is Great, Beer is Good, and People Are Crazy!) that just came along:

Section I: God is Great, Beer is Good, and People are Crazy!

What’s the dark side of living in Phoenix, Arizona?

Poverty. Low income in general for most who would be in the middle class in other areas. Public schools, whose teachers are paid on the poverty level, rank near the bottom nationwide, year after year. Anyone who can afford it puts their kids in private or religious schools, further impoverishing the public schools and further lowering the standard of public education.

Arizona is a right-to-work-for-nothing state. This means most people here earn minimum wage or less, while a privileged few are amazingly affluent.

This city — or rather cluster of cities that includes Phoenix, Scottsdale, Glendale, Tempe, and a slew of suburbs and exurbs — consists of endless tracts of low-income areas. Some districts, such as the large area south of the downtown, resemble third-world favelas. Most of the west side is a vast, dreary, dangerous slum, where shootings and drug crime occur daily. The east side and Scottsdale are safer but are quite affluent — to live over there in a house comparable to my 47-year-old centrally located tract home would cost at least a hundred thousand dollars more than I can get for my house. That’s what it costs to live where ghetto-birds don’t hover overhead every day and where you can go into the neighborhood market without running a gauntlet of panhandlers in the parking lot. The place is overrun with drug-addicted transients. To get the bums out of the fancifying central business area, our city fathers & mothers put them on the lightrail and transport them to the north central area, where we now host one 24-hour meth clinic and where installing a second such institution is proposed.

Driving on the local roads — which in the city of Phoenix proper are poorly maintained — is as you can imagine a bit of a nightmare, since you share space with people who are stressed, unhappy, and often frustrated or angry. Many are high or drunk. I call them “my fellow homicidal drivers.” Driving conditions are scary at best and dangerous at worst. Road-rage attacks, including homicides, are commonplace.

Here’s a selection of today’s news stories…and it was a slow news day:

Unless you have a lot of money and a guarantee of a job that will continue to provide a hefty income, don’t come here.

 Within 45 minutes, this rant elicited a scolding reply:

To which I cheerfully responded:

Yup. It is pretty depressing. We were asked for the downside…and lo! There IS a downside. Sweetness and light won’t change that.

Phoenix used to be a nice place to live…but the influx of hordes of people has even changed the climate, to say nothing of the social conditions. To say that LA is worse than Px does not change the fact that this place enjoys dismal poverty, crime, corruption, homelessness, and untreated mental illness/drug addiction. If you live in my part of town — North Central — you, too, enjoy a cesspool of in-your-face homelessness. By way of escaping it (a panhandler literally CHASED me around a grocery-store parking lot in my neighborhood), I drive halfway across the city to do routine shopping. I have been rescued from a home invader by a SWAT team, transients sift through our garbage searching for discarded documents that can be sold for identity theft, bums case our homes looking for convenient ways to break in, no child’s bicycle is safe even inside a locked fenced yard, and those who are unfortunate enough to have carports instead of lockable garages simply expect their cars to be pilfered. There’s a homeless camp next to the neighborhood school playground (one of the residents jumped a neighbor’s backyard fence to molest her two small girls). And our honored city parents actually fessed up, off the record, that they let the bums ride the lightrail for free by way of moving them out of the downtown renovation area and dumping them in our part of the city.

🙂 I’ve lived in LA, too. And didn’t like it there for the same reasons that today I don’t much like it here. If I didn’t have family here, you may be sure I’d be long gone. When you don’t have to live in LA-style circumstances, you shouldn’t.

Woo HOO! I had a defender! Another reader commented:

I agree with all of the above, it’s why I left Arizona for another western state. You can add state sanctioned racism to the above list. Run by the Good old boy network, I see a light at the end of the tunnel with the election of Krysten Sinema.

And I replied, feeling smug:

Well, we shall see. A lot of Arizonans are moderate Republicans — I worked for Barry Goldwater’s election myself, when I was a teenager in Southern California. Today he looks liberal, compared to the extremists who have glommed onto the Republican party (you don’t want to know what he had to say about the religious right shortly before he died — and Quora wouldn’t let me post it). But Goldwater Republicans then were the era’s equivalent of today’s far-right Republicans (remember “In your heart you know he’s right”? 😀 ) One could fear that someday the our contemporary Trumpeters will look “moderate,” hevvin help us. Poverty breeds resentment of the status quo. And from what I’ve heard from workin’ folks around me, quite a few of them think the far right will save them from the vast, often world-wide forces that have trashed their standard of living and their feeling of well-being.

It may take a better educated electorate than we have at this time to move the state’s politics to the center. We budged a little at the mid-term. But only time will tell what the majority here really think and feel.

Why Publish with a Mainstream Press? The Complete Writer

Why Publish with a Mainstream Press?

The Complete Writer
Section VII: Publishers and Self-Publishers

This book is a work in progress. A new chapter appears here each week, usually on Fridays.  You can buy a copy of the entire book, right now, in PDF format, or, if you like, as a paperback. You also can find links to the chapters that have appeared so far at our special page for The Complete Writer. For details, visit our Books page or send a request through our Contact form.


Why Publish with a Mainstream Press?

One reason: Creds

Several of my friends and acquaintances have immersed themselves so deeply in the indie publishing/self-publishing phenomenon that they can’t see why anyone would want to publish through an old-fashioned brick-and-mortar mainstream publisher. After all, they cry, look at how much more money you can make on sales of your book through Amazon!

To that I have this to say:

  1. Fat chance and good luck with that.
  2. Even if you make more per retail transaction, you’re still very unlikely to make as much publishing a good, truly promising book through Amazon as you would on an advance against sales from a major publishing house. And . . .
  3. Let’s look at the whole picture.

Here’s the thing: even if you publish regularly on Amazon, you’re unlikely to earn a living at it. Sure, some people do. But most people don’t. And dreaming about being a Writer with a Capital W does not put food on the table or a roof over your head.

Unless you have a working spouse or independent wealth, what you need to be a Writer is a job that will support you while leaving you enough hours in the day, every day, to do the work of writing. And those hours cannot occur after eight or ten hours in the salt mine: writing is every bit as much a job as slinging hamburgers or preparing tax returns or painting houses or pushing some company’s papers. The Writing Hours need to occur when you’re fresh enough and energetic enough to devote your full attention to your job of preference.

There is a type of work that fills the bill: full-time (not adjunct!) teaching in higher education, preferably at a university. Preferably in a graduate-level writing program. Whereas in the olden days artists and writers were supported by aristocratic patrons—dukes and earls and kings and such—today’s patron is the university. Universities (and, to a lesser degree, two- and four-year colleges) support artists and writers by employing them in jobs that are light on labor and heavy on prestige. And the “prestige” part is the part they expect you to deliver.

To provide that—to get a tenure-track job at all—you have to be published through a recognizable press. And that does not include CreateSpace. As with any tenurable position, jobs in writing programs require more than just publishing. It’s not that you’re published. It’s where you’re published. You have to be published with a first-line trade or scholarly press that has gatekeepers—editors and marketers and reviewers who assess the quality of your manuscript before it’s accepted for publication.

A book or two published through a recognizable house will open the doors to jobs that ask only that you teach two or three sections of creative writing or literature in exchange for freedom and time to build your career as a writer. It doesn’t have to be a Big Five publisher. An academic press or a small (but real: not CreateSpace, not Nook, not iBooks, not Kindle) publisher will do the job.

I landed a full-time university teaching job complete with excellent benefits, very nice office space, a decent salary, and a future on the strength of two books published through university presses and one through a major commercial publishing house. If I were to apply for such a job today, my CV would contain no mention of the books published through Amazon’s Kindle platform. Amazon wonders notwithstanding, any whiff of a self-published book could be fatal.

Could I earn more by aggressively marketing a self-published book with broad appeal than I would by publishing the same book through a mainstream publisher? Maybe. Let’s suppose we even say “sure.”

But that income would be short-term. It would peter out in a few years, maybe even in a single year. To stave off the evil day, I would have to devote an inordinate amount of time to marketing and to hustling sales.

A salary from an academic job, on the other hand, will remain a salary as long as I hold the job, whether I publish more books or not. The academic employer will match contributions to a 403(b). It will offer a health insurance plan. It will offer disability insurance. It will give me an annual travel budget to cover junkets to various professional conferences. It will, in a word, support me.

Now, I’m not saying no one ever cobbles together a living wage by cranking out self-published books. No doubt some people do—maybe a lot of people. But it’s an iffy proposition.

If your books are good enough to sell to enough readers for the proceeds to support you, then they’re good enough to sell to a mainstream publisher. And the kind of job you can land with a few mainstream publications on the CV will support you steadily and usually better than a catch-as-catch-can income stream from Amazon will.

Mainstream publication gives you credentials—the credentials you need to persuade an academic patron (a university or community college) to support you while you keep on writing.



Two steps backward…

…for every one step forward, eh? Doesn’t it sometimes feel that way? 😀 Lately it’s felt like that way all the time, here at the Funny Farm.

Like just this instant, f’r example: I actually did write a coherent first paragraph to this damn post. Then wanted to italicize a word or two, highlighted and hit command-I for the purpose, and AUUUGHHHHHH! Whatever keys I hit formed a magical mystery “delete” command…and disappeared the entire post!

Doing it all over again is getting to be the story of my life. The exceptionally tedious story of my life. One catastrophe after another has been holding forth in these parts, leaving me too tired to write anything on Ella’s Story, when I’m not too distracted.

Rejiggering the “publication” schedule so as to post one chapter of just ONE of the three books in hand per week was a lucky move that turned into a godsend. Because The Complete Writer and If You’d Asked…” are finished and sitting in Word subdirectories, it was relatively easy (though incredibly ditzy) to post all the chapters for both books and schedule WordPress to publish them on specific dates. This freed me from a weekly brain-banging computer hoop jump, two weeks out of three. And this, I imagined, would free up a couple of hours a week to write Ella.


So…why wasn’t I making any progress? Yesterday I realized that every time I sit down to work on that thing there’s another interruption. Yep. I started to type a sentence, got through ONE phrase, and had to jump up and tend to another crisis, phone call, barkfest, doorbell ringer or whatfreakingEVER. Even when I’ve got time carved out to do my thing, I can’t stay focused long enough to build up a head of steam.

It is amazing how much ditz the computer adds to chores that ought to be fairly straightforward.

Today, for example, I wanted to install live links in the Ella’s Story page, so that if a person wanted to read the thing, said person could simply run down the page and click on links to the chapters, in the order of the narrative. Et voilà! Sounds pretty simple, doesn’t it?

No. Installing links to 33 posts is an activity that consumes freaking HOURS.

To locate the post, get the URL, go back to “edit page” for the Ella’s Story page, insert the link, make it open in a new page, change the color of the link to match the theme’s color scheme, and on and on requires NINE point-and-click-and-copy-paste-or-type maneuvers for EACH LINK. Consider: for 33 posts that’s TWO HUNDRED AND NINETY-SEVEN DITZY MIND-NUMBING OPERATIONS!

By the time you’ve fixed the 87 gerjillion typos your flapping fingers insert, it’s well over 300 operations. Brain-banging tedious!

No wonder I don’t get around to doing it…one can always find a way to avoid doing that kind of workoid.