Category Archives: Uncategorized

Writer: MIA

Oh my…the writer has been absent for a LONG time. Alas! MIA here at Plain & Simple Press for a number of reasons. Multiple-guess choices:

Side effects of an over-the-counter insomnia nostrum
Too many 112-degree days
All of the above
Some of the above
None of the above

{cackle!} “None of the above”…wish I’d thought of that when I was teaching…

For several weeks my time was co-opted by a string of new Chinese academic writers. One of them needed a 100-page study Englished in seven days flat. That was a bit of a challenge…but we did it. She was pleased and sent colleagues my way.

In the middle of this, of course, our client journal’s editors started posting raw copy for next issue’s articles. And a local creative writer showed up at the door begging for professional editing.

And I kept slamming away on the book, whenever a free moment arose.

Then I slid into a blue funk that rendered me almost nonfunctional. About all I could do was sit and stare at the computer. Played a lot of Spider Solitaire and Mah Jongg games.

The depression I attributed to the demise of one of my dearest clients, a wonderful man who seemed hale and hearty and who has been a joy to work with. And his death is very sad, for a variety of reasons that affect people all around the globe. But not so much as to make one  unable to move.

It wasn’t until yesterday that I realized how sick the melatonin I’d been taking was making me. A bad kickback from a single dose sent me in search of side-effects of the damn stuff, which causes transient depression as well as headaches, irritability, lethargy, and other fun phenomena.

The Complete Writer is almost done. Now about halfway through drafting the index, I’ll probably will finish that today or tomorrow, at which point it’ll be ready to send over to the e-book formatter. Then I’ll prepare the cover for the print version.

I have a new plan for marketing this book and probably all the other P&S tomes, to be described in a future post. Just now it’s time to get back to work. In the meantime, how do you like this draft cover?

Test 2 Smoking Cover


Overcapitalization…Spare Us!

Not the corporate kind of over-capitalization! The writerly kind of over-capitalization.

BlogA largerdJust finished editing a set of author bios for an issue of one of our client scholarly journals. The journal’s senior editors ask contributors to toot their own horns in short squibs that are collected at the back of the book. And my, they do toot! In majescule!

Olivia Boxankle is an Associate Professor of Cultural and Linguistic Studies in the Department of English at the Great Desert University. She earned her PhD in Postmodern Babble at Erewhon College, after which she spent ten years as Adjunct Instructor of Early Unemployability Studies at Podunk Community College, before joining GDU in 1999 as an Assistant Professor.

No. No no no no nooooo….

The tenure track does not confer divinity upon its members. Therefore, titles such as assistant professor, associate professor, or even full professor are not capitalized unless they are used as part of the person’s name.

  • Olivia Boxankle is an associate professor.
  • We saw Professor Olivia Boxankle’s outstanding presentation at last winter’s Modern Language Association conference.

See the difference?

What about Dr. Wallbanger, who happens to earn a high six-figure salary (plus bonuses pushing his income into the seven-figure range) as president of the august institution that employs him?

  • Harvey Wallbanger is president of the Great Desert University.
  • The newspaper mentioned President Wallbanger’s salary in the article that reported next semester’s 25% tuition increase.

The only person who gets to have his or her title as president capitalized is the President of the United States. Period. Well…unless you’re writing in and for some other country, in which case the title is lower-cased like those of other mortals.

  • Barack Obama is President of the United States.

Back to the bios: The name of an academic subject is lower-cased, unless it happens to be a proper name or place name.

  • She is a professor of geology.
  • She is a professor of ethnic studies.
  • She is a professor of Spanish.
  • She is a professor of English.

However, if the name of an academic subject coincides with the official name of a department, it may be capitalized, just as the name of a business is capitalized:

  • She is a professor in the Department of Cultural and Linguistic Studies.
  • She teaches cultural and linguistic studies.
  • She teaches in the Ethnic Studies Department.
  • She teaches ethnic studies.
  • She is the chief executive officer of High-Flying Widgets, Inc.

It seems so self-evident, no? Then why do people do this?

Because…in the corporate world, people’s titles are often capitalized because the boss said so. Or because the marketing department said so. Companies, like journals, magazines, and newspapers, have their own in-house style based on a standard style manual (Associated Press style, in the case of businesses) but with its own embellishments. One such embellishment is capitalization of the Honored Leaders’ titles, even though in the real world that would be…well, wrong:

  • Joe Blow is Chief Executive Officer of the Blowhard Corporation.

But books and scholarly journals generally follow Chicago style or the style manual appropriate to research articles for their discipline (such as the American Psychological Association or the Modern Language Association manuals). These tend to inveigh against pointless capitalization. You may have to glorify your current boss with capital letters. But once you’re no longer working at that company, knock it off!

And don’t do it at all for faculty members and their generic academic disciplines. It peeves the editor.

Writing a book? An article? You really should have an editor review your golden words before you submit them for publication. Contact us at The Copyeditor’s Desk for information and estimates.

News from Plain & Simple Press

Dark Kindle LoRes An Update from Our Sponsor, Plain & Simple Press. 🙂

On the advice of our new marketing guru, we’ve decided to consolidate Writers Plain & Simple and with the Plain & Simple Press blog, so we can share updates on new books as well as the writerly chit-chat we’ve indulged in here.

This will help a lot with the workload as well as with the focus of our marketing efforts: instead of keeping up three websites, we’ll be able to concentrate on just one.

Come on over and have a look! The P&S Blog will offer you all sorts of goodies related to our array of books:

We’ll surely include the tips, commentary, and chatter about writing, editing, and publishing you’ve seen here at Writers Plain & Simple.

So, change your bookmark and come follow Plain & Simple Press.
Looking forward to hearing from you there!

3-cover ad LoRes

Fire-Rider: Fire and Ice

The second set of Fire-Rider stories, Fire and Ice, is up at Amazon. Herein is told the amazing exploit of Kaybrel Fire-Rider and his cousin, Jag Bova Snow-Killer, and how they came to earn those honorifics. And, to some extent, what kind of men they really were.

Or will be, since the action takes place a thousand years or more in the future.

Get it. You’ll love it. Whether you do or not, review it!

fire book 2ai

The Fire-Rider Collections

The Fire-Rider saga having won a garland of five-star reviews, we’re collecting the entire story — 18 books! — in three sets of collected tales. The first two are online at Amazon now:

The Saga Begins, Books I through VI, relates young Tavio Ombertín’s escape from the burning city of Roksan and his adoption by the reluctant warlord Kaybrel Kubna of Moor Lek. An entirely new life awaits the young man, whose intelligence and exotic view of the coming adventures will influence his fierce mentor as much as the older man affects him.

fire book 2ai

The second volume, Fire and Ice, relates the terrifying story of the Battle of Loma Alda and follows the warrior bands as they retreat into the icy peaks of the Sehrra Range. Kaybrel and his cousin Jag Bova earn the titles “Fire-Rider” and “Snow-Killer” through their desperate acts of heroism.

fire book 2ai

Buy all 12 stories at Amazon!

ePub Revelation

Sometimes things we think things are a lot more complicated than they really are. Sometimes things that look difficult are surprisingly simple.

To wit: ePub generation.

It’s all very nice to create a perfect .mobi file at Amazon, download it to disk, and murmur contentedly, “Now I have a perfect .mobi file!” It’s quite another thing to realize you also need an ePub file if you’re to publish through Nook, iTunes, Smashwords, or at any of various specialized marketing sites such as AllRomanceEbooks.

Often has my good friend the eBook designer urged upon me the difficulty of converting Word docs to Mobi and ePub formats. How hard this is! That’s the message.

To pay someone $50 or $100 for a single ebook, emitted about once in a year or maybe once in a lifetime: that’s one thing. But Camptown Races and Plain & Simple have been publishing eight to ten books a month. Even at our calmer, more conservative pace, we’re publishing four a month.

That represents a lot of dollars to place ebooks on lesser sites that Amazon’s.

Gasping at the potential cost, I sought to find a way to convert our copy to ePub format in-house, rather than having to hire the job out.

The search led me to Scrivener, that widely loved word-processing-cum-formatting platform. Among its many admirable characteristics, it allows you to convert your completed bookoid to ePub.

I downloaded a free trial subscription. Even though I needed only one of its features — ePub conversion — it appeared that this was the simplest and most reliable system for accomplishing that one, lonely desire.

Scrivener is a complex and sophisticated piece of software. It’s not something you just turn on and start using. Its  designers present you with a set of tutorials, which naturally I started working on right after I downloaded the freebie.

The tutorials are organized in five segments. To get through just one of them, the simple introductory section, took me over an hour!

At a bare minimum,  we’re looking at five hours of plodding through online lessons, just to start using this thing in all its complicated glory. That’s when all I want to do is convert an already completed and formatted file to ePub!

Today I revisited an old Google search: convert Word to ePub. I came across a promising tool called Online-Convert and also learned it’s pretty well reviewed by random users on the Internet.

Assessing how the product would look to future readers posed a problem: I would have to get the ePub file into my iPad’s “Bookshelf” function so I could see it in an ePub reader. I do not know how to do that, do not want to know how to do it, and would have to persuade my equally stubborn but Mac-Knowledgeable son to come to my house to make all this happen.

Time passed, during which I decided the path of least resistance must be to learn to use Scrivener. (Yea verily: that is the challenge involved in getting a reluctant offspring to apply tech skills to an aging parent’s needs and desires.)

But lo!

A new discovery: FireFox has a new add-on that allows you to read an ePub in the browser!

How perfect this is, I do not know. It’s decently reviewed by vocal users on the Web. And at first blush, it does let you see the general qualities of a converted file.

First I loaded one of the short, simple Racy Books into the thing by converting a .mobi file to ePub.

The result: a live table of contents that works accurately, very plain-vanilla but readable enough body content, and a good enough cover image.

Next: upload the complex and difficult 30 Pounds / 4 Months cookbook, replete with heads, subheads, sub-subheads, bulleted lists, and footnotes(!).

In about 30 seconds, Online-Convert produced an ePub version.

Only two problems presented themselves:

  • Chapter headings were set Roman in the original template, and so they appear disappointingly unemphatic in the ePub conversion.
  • B-level subheads are seen as chapter headings, triggering a page break before each subhead.

Easy to fix, both of them. And of course, neither headache presents itself in a plain, straightforward work of fiction.

Think of that: This one online tool saves me at least five hours of learning-curve shenanigans, plus the cost of having to purchase a challenging new computer program.

Lhudly sing huzzah!

Comin' Our Way

Comin’ Our Way!

Erotica vs. Porn

What we have here is an author who would like to publish with Camptown Races Press and whom we would like to have writing for us. Just plowed through his latest effort.

Where’s my coffee? Toss in an extra shot of espresso, please…

So I’m trying, as I have tried with various clients in the past, to explain about writing sex scenes. This boils down, really, to explaining the difference between erotica and pornography.

Pornography is a variety of erotica, but erotica is not a variety of pornography. As author Kate Douglas wrote in her essay “Writing the Fine Line between Erotica and Porn” (published in Shoshanna Evers’s collection, How to Write Hot Sex), the term erotic means “having to do with sexual love; amatory.” Pornography is “intended primarily to arouse sexual desire.” Amatory has to do with love, whereas unalloyed sexual desire amounts to lust.

There’s a difference.

As I was watching our Nimrod’s chess pieces characters move around the checkerboard through the story line, a neat little aphorism came to mind:


So perfect for posting to Twitter.

By the way, if you enjoy erotic romance, don’t miss the special sale on not one, not two, not three, but FIVE of Camptown Race’s Racy Books for Racy Readers! An Amazon Count-Down starts July 21 and runs just one week to July 28.

Naughty June 2016


Writing as a “Fulfilling” Occupation

Now that the Girls have made their way to Twitter, we here at Plain & Simple Press are being treated to a carnival of tweets, chatter, strangeness, exuberance, commercial crassness, and Insight. Has it only been four days since the Camptown Ladies hit Twitter? The little pistols already have 113 followers…and counting. Every time we check in, lo! the count has grown.

Here’s something to share from one Mark Rubinstein, who introduces himself as a psychiatrist, Huff Post columnist, and author of several books with intriguing titles. Says he: “Some writers won’t admit it, but it’s a treat to walk into a bookstore and see your books on a shelf.”

You got it, brother!

Some years ago, a rococo shopping center in Scottsdale hosted a Shakespeare and Company franchise (remember back when books were sold in structures built of bricks and drywall?). The friend who accompanied me on a junket to that mall was only vaguely aware that I spent eight or ten hours a day in the employ of various regional and national magazines and newspapers, hacking away on a contract basis. And without doubt, she had no clue that I’d published several books by then. Not on Amazon, either. 😉

Aimlessly puttering from store to store, we wandered in to that once august boutique bookstore. While she browsed, I cruised the magazine racks and then passed by the nonfiction book section. Three of my books were on Shakespeare & Company’s shelves…and wasn’t that nice? Mm hmm.

About the time she came back to collect me and suggest we find a place for lunch, it occurred to me that my byline appeared in over half a dozen publications the bookstore was peddling.

LOL! Talk about your ego trip!

Over a lifetime, I’ve vacillated back and forth between higher education and journalism or Writing with a Capital W. When people learn that I’ve been a “teacher” (which is what they think academics are), they love to natter on about how “fulfilling” teaching is. (These generally are folks who never have worked for minimum wage and who do not know what is involved in trying to live on $1120 a month generated by a contract joblet that adds up to the equivalent of a full-time teaching load.)

It would be altogether too cynical to tell you (truthfully) that “fulfilling” is seeing your name on the “Pay to the order of” line of a check from a magazine or book publisher.

But I will say this: There is something deeply satisfying about holding a book in your hand and being able to say, “I made this.” Same is true of a magazine: when you are part of an editorial team, a special pleasure resides in picking up an issue of that rag and knowing that, even though it will fly into the recycling bin before the end of the month, you made that.

That is not true of teaching. Eventually, yes: you will get some satisfying feedback, long LONG after the fact, when some former student finds you on the Internet and e-mails to say you made some difference in her or his life.

But that feedback comes so slowly, at such a far remove, that “satisfying” is hardly le mot juste. Yeah, it’s good to think you might influence some young person’s life for the better, maybe, somehow, some way. But as a practical matter, the day in and day out of overwork, exploitation, hopelessness in the face of a student body largely comprised of people who are not now and never will be prepared for college-level work, raised-in-a-barn manners, and piddling pay: all that tends to override any sense of “fulfillment” or “satisfaction.”

Yes, indeed. It is a treat to walk into a bookstore and see your books on the shelf.