Category Archives: Books

Hassle Central, reporting in…

It’s been awhile since I posted here, more out of laziness and general harassment than intent. “Upgrading” both my Macs to OS X El Capitan was a big mistake. It’s a buggy program and has almost disabled the little MacBook Pro — the machine I use most of the time because sitting at a desk makes the aged back hurt. A lot.

So bad is it that I’m seriously considering buying a PC to replace the laptop. Big step backward for me: I really, really don’t want to relearn Windows (ugh!), nor do I want to have to “upgrade” to Office 365 so as to work on a Windows machine.

Actually, though, getting a lightweight Windows laptop to use only for Word and Excel tasks would probably make sense. You can still buy a standalone copy of Office 2016, and it will run fairly trouble-free on Windows.

Not so much on a Mac. The reason I did not update to the latest operating system, Sierra (don’t those cutesy names aggravate you?), is that my version of Word will not run at all on Sierra. Neither will Office 2016, at least not without endless bugs.

And the reason I do not want to sign up for Office 365? How can I count the reasons?

Foremost are these three:

1. It’s a rip-off. Renting the damn program with a monthly payment will quickly cause the cost to add up — and up, and up, and up — to way more than the cost of a program resident in your own computer. I resent that more than I can say.

2. Much of the work I do is proprietary. I do not want to be working on my clients’ projects in the flickin’ CLOUD! Indeed, sometimes I have to sign an agreement that I will not allow anyone else to see the client’s research or to put it at risk of being seen by anyone else. Sticking some scientist’s paper on a Microsoft server could put me at risk of liability. Even if I wanted to do that. Which I don’t.

3. Functionality of documents created or edited in non-365 versions may be limited. So it’s questionable whether I’d even be able to work on a document using more than one of my computers, even if one were a Windows machine.

Truly, this is a mess. I don’t know which way to jump and am truly furious that Apple has turned my computers from “it just works” to “it just doesn’t work.”

Meanwhile, in saner realms:

Delivered a presentation yesterday:Structure of Feature Articles.”

People in the audience wanted to buy the new book, The Complete Writer. It’s still in page proofs — I need to cut the back cover copy some and adjust the design accordingly, and need to check the second proofs AGAIN. But by the next meeting, I hope to have a carton of hard-copy paperbacks to tote out to the group.

Incoming paid work has…come in. Read about 17,000 words of academicese compiled by a pair of ESL co-authors.

These people hold me in awe. They’re required to publish in English-language journals. And they do it — with panache.

Can you imagine an American academic writing a dissertation or a scholarly paper in Chinese? Fat chance! It’s all we can manage just to stumble through a PhD program in English…and many US universities have quit requiring a second and third language for the PhD.

I could probably write a journal article in French and have it come out about on a par with what the Chinese authors produce in English. But folks…as an undergraduate I majored in French! Not in math, not in economics, not in communications, not in political science…. Criminey!

And as for the novel: ça va, lentement.

Weirdly, drafting scenes in ink with a real pen is one of the things that’s making me resent the computer hassles as passionately as I have come to do.

A pen and a piece of paper do not go offline. They do not crash and shut down everything you’re working on

Well, OK: the pen can run out of ink. But when it does, you do not lose any of the words you’ve just written. The two other documents you’re working on do not disappear into the ether. The spreadsheet you’ve been wrestling with does not lose an hours’ or a day’s worth of data.

You can carry a pen and a notebook around, and it will work anywhere you choose. You do not have to sign a pen and paper into a coffee house’s network, thereby rendering it and all your private information open to hackers.

Nobody is interested in stealing a pen and a notebook, so you do not have to lock up your draft behind a deadbolt or hide it under a pile of blankets when you put it in the back of the car.

You do not have to plug a pen and a notebook into anything. Their battery never runs out of juice.

They do not waste hour after hour of your time in techno-hassles.

And they never, ever, EVER need a new goddamn operating system!

The Five Worst Novice Writing Clichés

Recently I was asked to opine upon the five worst writing clichés that I encounter in reading and editing.

It’s a big question: the clichés go on and on. How many ways, in genre writing, can you tell the same story without beginning to sound a little stale? In nonfiction, most writers emit little that is new and much that is familiar. And there’s the question of whether the inquiring mind means cliché on the line level, or cliché on the structural or plot level.

On the line level?

1. I would say that “in today’s modern society” takes the proverbial cake. Note how you can’t even describe it without invoking yet another cliché.

“In today’s modern society” is a space-filling freshman-compism. However, just the other day I saw it used in an academic paper by someone who had attained the Ph.D. and was emitting what one might expect to be new and fresh knowledge. Well. One might expect it until one realized the mind behind the paper thinks in cliché.

On the structural or plot level?

2. Deus ex machina has got to be one of the worst offenders. The last three novels I’ve read have placed their heroes in terrifying predicaments, only to rescue them with the proverbial cavalry. When you design a standard plot, as you know, the plot line rises through several crises or turning points, in which the characters become tangled in some sort of conflict. The thing is, the protagonist needs to get herself out of the predicament on her own. She or he cannot be rescued by a merciful god, saved in the nick of time by the police, relieved when some pursuer is struck by lightning. How many times can God drop down out of heaven to rescue people, anyway?

3. Secretly, bad guys and bad girls are wannabe nice folks, eh? The whore (or thug) with a heart of gold is a sweet thought, but alas, another cliché, sort of like cute kittens, puppies, and baby armadillos on Facebook.

4. Endless sagas that go on and on through novel after novel. I’m guilty of this myself. Deep in the bowels of my computer is the plot outline of yet another Fire-Rider story. How much can one say about these folks’ adventures, anyway? Occasionally you’ll hit it big with a character that readers love, such as, say, Sherlock Holmes or Hercule Poirot. That’s the time to keep writing until the world runs out of paper and bandwidth. But for most genre novels that appear on Amazon, a series is just an excuse to keep turning out the same story over and over. It becomes its own cliché.

5. Black (Native American, Latino, Asian, immigrant, whatEVER) characters who save the day through their pure angelic virtue and unassailable wisdom. People who are members of ethnic groups other than your own are people, just like you. They are not different, at base, from other human beings. Each of us is an amalgam of the good, the bad; the wise, the foolish. To deny this is to flatten the character — to show the character as more than human is to show him as less than human. And to my mind, it patronizes. Give your characters equal-opportunity humanity. Please.

What are your “favorite” clichés?

Images: DepositPhotos
Seen on TV: © valentint
Deus Ex Machina: © yellow2j
Kitten: © simply
To Be Continued: © iqoncept
Stereotype: © Rawpixel

New Book a-Borning…

Okay, okay…let’s face it: I can’t resist writing things.

Selling them? Well…if I could sell, I’d be living high off the hog from proceeds of used car sales. Or some such.

Here’s what’s up: a new idea for a book combined with new determination to do a halfway decent job of selling it.

smoking-coverThe magnum opus: The Complete Writer: The Ultimate Guide to Writing, Publishing, and Living the Writer’s Life. It is, in a word, encyclopedic. The thing covers short form and long form, fiction and nonfiction, print and Web…you name it.

The marketing plan: Different.

My idea is not to try to market the book on Amazon at all. Well…it’ll have a presence in the form of a Kindle bookoid. If a few people buy it there, fine. Mostly, though, I’d like customers to buy the book direct from me: from this website.

But by and large the strategy will emphasize face-to-face marketing: presentations, seminars, dog-and-pony shows, radio shows, podcasts, interviews…whatEVER. When I go to speak to a group in person, I’ll bring a few hard copies to sell — and of course handouts with links to the Plain & Simple Press website. If an organization gives me a speaker’s fee, then its attendees (within reason) will get the book for free.

Paypal can be set up on a website to accept payment for digital and print orders. And it’s easy enough to download a Kindle or ePub book into your reading device — I’ll publish instructions to make this easy.

I’ll also sell hard copies, either in person or from Plain & Simple books. And I’ll try to peddle the thing to libraries.

There are a surprising number of venues for public speaking, including 87 gerjillion small business networking groups, whose members are constantly trolling for new blood in the form of speakers. Podcasts are pretty promising, too.

Before I actually make the thing available to the public, I’m going to do a little hustling up front. Make arrangements for speaking events, get on some podcasts, invite myself to radio shows, pitch stories or columns to business publications on tangentially related topics.

Ancillary to the project: I’m not getting in a big slobbering hurry to do this. I’m going to take my time figuring out what needs to be done, meeting and schmoozing with people, getting things set up in advance, planning give-aways, laying groundwork. Then when the thing finally goes online, a whole series of pitches will already be set up and ready to go. Instead of thrashing around trying to figure out what might work and how to do it, I’ll have already figured that out. And the groundwork will be laid.

Ideally, one would hire a marketing agent. Alas, though, I can’t afford such a creature. And…it’s easy enough to see that fellow scribblers in the West Valley Writers Workshop — a marketing group for writers — are making sales on their own, without benefit of expensive hired guns.

A slower pace and a more carefully considered, focused strategy will make it easier to handle the little crises that naturally arise every time you try to do anything you want to do (as opposed to all the things you have to do). Whether or not it sells books, that’s going to make life a lot easier.


New Writing Book Almost Ready!!!

Hot diggety! My latest magnum opus, The Compleat Writer, is just about ready to go to press! Woo hooo!!!

I’ve been working on it around a river of paying work that — never fails! — has been flooding in the door. It never rains but it pours around this place.

Long dry spells are interrupted by three- and four-week spates of 18-hour days, seven days a week. A brief break in that deluge (yeah: like one day) freed up enough time to finish formatting the book for print. So as of about 3:00 this afternoon, it’s about ready to go.

Here’s the title page:

Compleat Writer

Still working on the cover, though. Not thrilled with the first effort, nor do I think the second choice of images is very promising, either.  Here’s a screen grab of a rough draft:

BlankBook1Meh!  My software won’t let me create a curvy effect for the subtitle pasted over the blank journal page, so it looks pretty sappy. But…even if it looked just like it was written on the page, I’m not ecstatic about the thing.

The image below elicited an admiring comment from a blog reader who thought it was for the cover. I like the image (both are from Shutterstock). But I’m afraid it’s so busy that coverlines will get even MORE lost in it than in the wood grain in the photo above. Which is already plenty lost, thanks.

Smoking Typewriter shutterstock_176605295It has its charm, though, doesn’t it? But…I dunno…it just doesn’t look like it would have enough room for coverlines.

But…one could reduce it, frame it with black or…gray?? red???…and set the coverlines outside the image. I guess. Will play around with it when I have time.

This is a cover-all-the-bases book. I managed to reduce the length to a little over 300 pages by cutting as much as possible and using a 7-x-10-inch template. I think it’s going to work pretty well…and it DOES measure up to its “compleat” title! Check out the table of contents:

Table of Contents

Alas, WordPress won’t let me paste a table into this page without making a hash of it, so if you’re interested, click on that link to download a PDF.

It’s going to contain a lot of information for people who want to write and self-publish their golden words. The book targets a wide range of potential readers:

  • Anyone who wants to write articles, books, or blogs at a professional level
  • Business owners who need to create books or blogs for marketing or personal purposes.
  • Writers of nonfiction
  • Writers of fiction
  • Book authors deciding whether to self-publish or to seek a traditional publisher
  • People who hope to make a living as freelance writers or independent publishers

When I came up with the idea for The Compleat Writer, the plan was to create a book that I could give to my editorial clients at The Copyeditor’s Desk. At the outset, most of my clientele consisted of academics, nonprofits, and small businesses who publish through scholarly or traditional presses. Over time, though, more people have asked me to help prepare books—fiction and nonfiction—for independent publication on Amazon and waypoints. Now, most of them are business and nonprofit executives and indie publishers.

Truth to tell, I haven’t even decided whether to post this thing on Amazon. I may sell it only through my website and give it to people at venues where I speak. The plan is to hustle up a bunch of speaking engagements and then show off this book as evidence that I know what I’m talking about.


The good ole days!

And…I do know a couple of presses that would probably pick it up, if I sent the right pitch. It basically brings my second book, The Essential Feature, published by Columbia, into the 21st century. That book actually sold pretty well and is still returning some royalties, but about half or three-quarters of it is out of date. No one ever heard of a blog at the time I wrote it…for that matter, the “Internet” was defined by AOL.

So I think an update would probably sell to a real-world publisher.

Xywrite2Can you imagine? I wrote The Essential Feature in XyWrite! Bet some of you young pups never heard of XyWrite…  It was a pure ASCII program, incredibly easy to use and, for the day, amazingly powerful. Assuming you knew DOS, that is.

Anyway, if it appears on Amazon or Smashwords, obviously no real-world publisher will pick it up. But I probably can get away with producing a few bound copies, as long as I don’t advertise them too extravagantly on the Internet.

My feeling is, though, that I don’t much want to wait two years to get print copies of this thing. It’s intended as a marketing tool, and that’s what I need it for. The Copyeditor’s Desk could comfortably increase its workflow by about 50% to 75%. That would keep me and my hired help in shoes and socks and create enough income, reliably, to cover the overhead. When you send a manuscript to an academic press, they send it out to peer reviewers, who take their sweet time reading it. Then you have to dicker back and forth about their critiques, sometimes rewriting and sometimes having to put up a fight to demonstrate that some half-baked remark is…half-baked. It takes forever.

Of course, the product is better. But…two or three years, when I can post…uhm, “publish” the thing on Amazon in 20 minutes? It’s not like this book is going to help me get tenure! 😀

Actually, one of the book’s arguments is that under some circumstances, self-publishing is a better choice than the traditional route. This would be one of those circumstances.

College: Are You Getting What You Pay For?

If you’re attending a college or university or if you have a child in college, you need to read this book.

IMG_3006As a college student, or as a student’s parent, you face endless tuition increases. Do you know what that tuition is buying — and not buying?

Some 80% of college instructors are not professors at all, but underpaid, often underqualified part-time adjuncts. Fewer and fewer American students get what they pay for when they arrive on a college campus. Meanwhile, graduate programs churn out thousands of would-be college faculty with master’s and doctoral degrees, few of whom ever land full-time jobs in education.

Quality of higher education drops as full-time faculty disappear and are replaced by part-timers with no infrastructure, low pay, no benefits, and no representation.

This book explains the short- and long-term effects of replacing professors with part-timers and chronicles one adjunct’s semester in America’s largest community college district. Available at Amazon (click on the link) or in a handsome print copy through Plain & Simple Press’s Contact Page.

If you're attending a college or university or if you have a child in college, you need to read this book.

Chalkboard image: Shutterstock. © 2016 ImageFlow

Slave Labor: Do you REALLY want that PhD?

IMG_3006Lo, what should I find at Amazon this morning but a nice review of Slave Labor! And then, while seeking something else, a confirmation of Slave Labor’s thesis in Yuval Bar-Or‘s Is a Ph.D. for Me?, verbosely but accurately subtitled  Life in the Ivory Tower: A Cautionary Guide for Aspiring Doctoral Students. 

Too many young men and women who go into PhD and MFA programs have no idea what awaits them. Every would-be graduate student should read these two books.

Bar-OrIf you understand what to expect and if you have an independent source of income, by all means get a PhD in whatever subject warms your heart. But bear in mind that a PhD is a professional degree, not a program whose purpose is to turn out a man (or woman) for all seasons.

A “professional” degree should get you into a profession, but more and more PhD programs fail to do that. As a steadily increasing proportion of American faculty is relegated to the sweat-shop, your chance of landing a full-time job that will support you and a family is remote, at best.

Do you REALLY want that Phd? Too many young men and women who go into Ph.D. and MFA programs have no idea what awaits them. Food for thought about college programs.Do I regret having pursued a doctorate? Not much. But my circumstances were exceptional:

  • I was  married to a man who was among the top 3 percent of earners in this country.
  • He was a public-intellectual sort of guy who ran in some very brainy circles, and so adding a PhD to my name made me a variety of trophy wife.
  • My real job was to support him in the community, take care of his home, raise his child, and manage his social life. So, as a practical matter I had gainful employment outside of academia.
  • And I stumbled into journalism, pretty much by serendipity. While the doctorate didn’t directly affect my performance there, behind the scenes it did help me to land the best job of my working lifetime, an editorial position at a large regional magazine.
  • Twenty years of journalism experience plus the disused doctorate got me in the door, after a divorce, to a full-time (but nontenurable!) position at a large state university. As Bar-Or suggests, academia is not the happiest place to put food on your table. But in the unlikely event that you obtain full-time work, it suffices.

Often, though, I reflect that had I started in magazine journalism after I finished the master’s degree, I would have had one hell of a lot more fun and, by using the time to gain job experience, would have gone much further up the executive stairwell.

Some doctoral degrees will give you entrée to corporate and high-level government jobs. Economics is one of them. A master’s in journalism is another (I would not pursue a PhD in that trade). The PhD in psychology has some potential, but in terms of earning a living, a master’s in nursing can help you to become a psychiatric nurse practitioner, which more reliably will return a six-figure income.

Think it through. Don’t get a doctorate in a subject just because you “love” it. Get a doctorate, if you must, solely as a career move. And be damn sure that career will be open to you when you complete the degree.

What are some guidelines that might help you think this decision through? Start with these:

  1. Never assume you’ll be able to get a job in university or community-college teaching. To the contrary: assume that at best you’ll spend several years as a grossly underpaid part-time adjunct, that you’ll be outlandishly lucky to nail a full-time position, and if you do, it probably will be in Podunk, South Dakota.
  2. Research employment avenues in government and business. Get on the phone (talk to somebody!) and request informational interviews with people who are in the kinds of jobs you think your degree might lead to. Ask how difficult it is to obtain work in that person’s field, and whether the doctorate would be an asset, a hindrance, or a neutral embellishment.
  3. Select your school with care. In academe, the quality of your degree-granting institution matters. Every advertisement for a full-time opening draws hundreds of qualified applicants: competition is beyond fierce. Especially for academic jobs, it’s crucial to take your degree at an R-1 university. If you don’t know what that is, think about some other line of work.
  4. Do not imagine that even though everyone else has a tough time getting an academic job, it won’t be that way for you. No matter how good you are, you are not special!
  5. Do not imagine that you’ll get your foot in the door as an adjunct or research associate and then in a year or two the department will be thrilled to take you on full-time.
  6. Get an exquisitely clear view of how much the program will cost. Remember to include the cost of housing, food, and commuting, as well as books, tuition, and the school’s miscellaneous rips.
  7. If you have to finance graduate school with a loan, calculate realistically how long it will take to pay it off and how much it will cost you over that period. And don’t forget to add an extra year in school, beyond what you imagine it will take to complete the degree. Most people spend a year or more after their coursework to write the dissertation.
  8. Consider pursuing the degree in another country, such as Canada, where tuition may be lower than US schools charge these days.

PhD image: Shutterstock. © 2016 Lemon Tree Images

Call for Stories! Cat stories

shutterstock_381223837 catHave you ever had a problem with a neighbor’s cats? How was it resolved? Or was it? For a book on cats, we’re looking for stories about issues related to cats allowed to run free.

Please tell us yours. What was the problem? Did any property or personal injury (to you, to your kids, or to your pets) result? Did any legal action ensue? Were you able to resolve the problem with steps that were within the law? Please navigate the Plain & Simple website and share your story on our “Contact” page.

Image: Shutterstock. © 2016 Polina Nogovitsyna

Snowed In? Warm up with an easy pot roast

Classic pot roast made easy with this simple crockpot recipe. It can simmer all day while you're at work.

We’re told our friends on the East Coast are getting snowed on again. If you’re cold and feeling harried, try this easy, delicious crockpot roast. It can simmer all day while you’re at work, or you can speed it along by way of nourishing the kids on a snow day. Serve it over rice and it shouldn’t put on too many pounds:

La Maya’s Port-laced Crockpot Roast

Prep time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: low 8 to 10 hours, or high 4 to 5 hours
Makes 8 to 10 servings

A classic pot roast made easy

A classic pot roast made easy

You Need:

  • 2½- to 3-pound beef chuck roast
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion (1 medium)
  • 1/2 cup port wine
  • 8-ounce box or can of tomato sauce, preferably a low-salt brand such as Pomí
  • 3 Tbsp quick-cooking tapioca
  • 1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp dried thyme, crushed (or use up to a Tbsp fresh thyme)
  • 1 tsp dried oregano or marjoram (or up to a Tbsp fresh herbs)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
The Douro Valley — Home of port wine.

The Douro Valley — Home of port wine.

Trim any excess fat from meat. If needed, cut the roast to fit your slow cooker. Place the meat in the crockpot.

Make a cooking stock by combining the cut-up onion, port, tomato sauce, tapioca, Worcestershire sauce, herbs, and garlic. Pour this combination over the meat.

Cover and cook on the cooker’s low-heat setting for 8 to 10 hours, or on high-heat setting for 4 to 5 hours.

Transfer the cooked meat to a serving dish. Skim fat from gravy. Pass gravy with the roast and serve with pasta, potatoes, or rice.

Enjoy! And stay warm.

This is one of over a hundred delicious and good-for-you recipes in 30 Pounds/ 4 Months, your guide to losing weight while eating like the Queen of Sheba. Find the Kindle version at Amazon or buy a print copy direct from Plain & Simple Press.

Classic pot roast made easy: Shutterstock. © 2016 bolsher

Pot roast: Mark Miller (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
Douro Valley: Bruno Rodrigues, CC BY-SA 3.0,

30 Pounds/4 Months: WOW!

Lose 40 Pounds in 4 MonthsOkay, I have to admit: I’m surprised. I had no idea the new diet and cookery book, 30 Pounds / 4 Months, would go over the way it has, right out of the box. The other evening I sold $100 worth of print copies in less than 15 minutes.

Here it is again, not to belabor its spectacular cover:

→ → →

The print copy came out looking very good. I’m pleased with the cover, whose image was created by Foxy Forest Manufacture. And the interior design, facilitated by Joel Friedlander’s book design group, looks clear, readable, and professional.

However, I’m less than thrilled with the Kindle version. There, we uploaded to Amazon’s .mobi platform, and the book appeared to go up without a hitch. Proofreading in Amazon’s downloadable “Kindle Previewer” — the one you install on your computer, never the online version in Amazon’s cloud — showed an e-book that looked similarly clean and crisp.

We thought it was perfect.

Then in the course of posting “preview” links so prospective buyers and the merely curious could read a hefty chunk of the book’s contents, I noticed the interior content was all wonky! B-level heads appeared larger than the chapter titles, and paragraphs intended to be set first line flush left showed first-line indent…including all the lines on the copyright page.

Downloading the .mobi file to my iPad — a trick, since it has to be opened from an e-mail — showed the same corrupted formatting in the iPad’s Kindle reader.

I do not know when I’ve ever been so furious! At least, not since the last time I was that mad.

So my e-book designer, who does not come cheap, now has the manuscript and is trying to wrestle it into something that will look halfway decent on Kindle. I’ve asked him to produce it as an ePub, a format that can look very handsome, indeed, as an iBook, so we can market it at Barnes and Noble as well as at Plain & Simple Press.

Until then the print version is available here: email us from our “Contact” page with a request for the book, your name, and your address (will not be shared with anyone, ever!). The price is currently discounted to $10. Shipping and handling within the United States is $7.95, for a total cost to US customers of $17.95.

If you would like the book shipped outside the US, let us know and we’ll provide the cost for international shipping for your approval, before sending it to you.

Building the Print Empire

Okay, okay: “the print anthill.” What can one say?

Manager at a local Whole Foods opined that 30 Pounds/4 Months might find a place on the store’s shelves. However, the buyer for that segment of the store had left and they hadn’t replaced him yet; he suggested I come back in a few weeks and try again.

Well, that’s heartening. It’s not the only WF in town, not by a long shot. Plus we have a local chain of gourmet stores that really is friendly to local businesses. One of my neighbors started baking and selling very fancy (indeed!) cookies after she and her husband were laid off during the Recession. She started with Local Gourmet right down the street, and before she knew it had more business than she could handle. The income kept the wolf from the door: they did not lose their home, nor did financial disaster befall them when they had a baby in the middle of all this.

I figure a diet book that urges people to buy nothing but whole, fresh foods and shows how to fix them should be right up the alley for those worthy grocery purveyors.

Also, believe it or not we still have one surviving REAL bookstore here. It’s much beloved and is doing well enough to branch out. It has two stores, one of them right down the road. And I’m told the owner has said she will consider peddling self-published books if they look professionally designed. Dorkish, no…but if you’ve done a decent job of writing & design: maybe.

So my plan is to take the 30 Pounds and Slave Labor in her direction, also bearing with me the fistful of books I’ve emitted through “traditional” publishers, so she’ll know I’m more than the average little old lady with a publishing hobby.

Accordingly, I decided to order a copy of Slave Labor and one of the first collected Fire-Rider volumes through the new PoD vendor. Thought it would be a piece of cake…but it turned into a humongous project that absorbed the entire day.

An old friend who used to do design for Arizona Highways and was the art director at Scottsdale Magazine for years did the Slave Labor cover. And a very nice job of it he did, indeed. It was the first of my little publishing efforts, and so it never occurred to me to ask him to provide not just a PDF but also a high-resolution JPEG or TIFF. At the time, I didn’t know any better.

Asked for the latter, he couldn’t find one. The PDF he’d sent me was 72 dpi. Why? No clue. But that was all I had.

I’d created a wrap-around cover for Slave Labor quite some time ago, but it also seems only to exist in PDF. To sell the book through a retailer, I needed to add a bar code, which I hadn’t done before because I had no intention of selling a print version at all. There seemed to be no way to add a new design element to a PDF.

So I had to take the PDF of the Kindle cover (72dpi????? HOW did I get this thing on Amazon?) and convert that to a JPEG and then create a new cover and then add the bar code.

In converting from PDF to JPEG on a Mac, you can tell Preview to save a 72 dps file at a resolution of 300 dps. That’s rather futile, because if you don’t have 300 dps to start with, you’re not going to end up with anything like a real 300 dps image. It’s kind of like trying to turn a piece of gauze into percale: yeah, you can weave more lengths of cotton thread into it, and yeah, you’ll probably end up with a sturdier piece of cloth. But it ain’t a-gonna be percale. Similarly, your system can “guess” at the colors of the missing pixels and where they might have been, but the result ain’t a-gonna be a true 300 dps image.

It certainly won’t print with the perfect definition. But I think it’ll be good enough for government work. I hope. I reproduced the back cover and tightened up the back cover copy. Looks OK, I think. I hope.


The copy was easy enough: it was already formatted and just went right up there.

Posting the Fire-Rider collection to the PoD folks’ site was another matter altogether. The cover was ready to go, but as I looked at the content…not so much.

Among the many fixes that needed to be made: one chapter’s first page, which which should have appeared on a recto (odd-numbered) page…well, it did so, but only with an extra blank page (i.e., two blank pages) in front of it.

Say what?

Fixing that screwed up the TofC, but that’s not such a big deal with a print book.

Then I realized…waaaaiiitaminit here! If this were a real print book, when a verso page is left blank it would also be unnumbered. Well, no: it would be numbered but the page number and running header or footer would not appear on that page, just as they do not appear on the opening page of a chapter.

It’s easy to persuade Wyrd to refrain from showing headers & page numbers on first pages. But…that’s about as far as it goes.

The fix is simple, but it’s (urk!) manual. To hide the running header/footer on a blank verso page, you have to insert a “shape” (a rectangle will do the trick), set it to show no fill, no line, no shadow (yes, goddamn Wyrd auto-inserts a freaking shadow on those things). Then bring it forward, keep it in the body (not in the header or footer) and slide it over so it will cover the offending characters. Works like a charm, as long as you’re not bothered by activities best described as “time-consuming, ditzy, and annoying.” It helps a great deal if your bookoid is not 320 pages long…

That and a few other housekeeping tasks helped to fill a good 12 hours. But I think the result will be very attractive.

FR Hard Copy 1 Take 3 LoRes. jpg

If you’d like to buy a five-star reviewed sci-fi saga, lemme know in the comments below. I figure to make a profit selling it in a bookstore, I’d need to charge $12 to $14. But because you’re You, I’ll discount it to $9 + shipping and handling.