Speaking Of Recycling…

Yesterday was Earth Day, and in honor of that, today I am recycling a piece I wrote last year in order to share it with you anew. If you print it out, I think you will also find that it is compostable, so it is doubly environmentally conscious. (Dang, I’m good!)

Isn’t It Romantic—Or…Could It Be the Death of You?

You might think that, as someone who writes romances, I would be prone to seeing opportunities for romance all around me in real life, too. And I am…to a certain extent. Problem is, I also like to write things like suspense and even the occasional sinister ghost story. Which means I have just as great a tendency to see the potential for harm in even the most innocent of situations.

What can I say? I’m an author. We’re a disturbed people.

So it makes it hard for me to plan elaborate romantic scenarios for my husband and me even though—in theory—I think date night is a wonderful idea. Maybe you do, too. If so, I feel it is my solemn duty to make you aware of some potential pitfalls you may not have anticipated. Consider these examples:

  • Go for a horse and carriage ride through the park. Surely you’re joking. Didn’t you see that Seinfeld episode? If you have no idea what I’m talking about, Google it, please. For your own protection.
  • Pass secret love notes in the library. Very romantic—until your love notes inadvertently get intercepted either by a militant librarian who shames you in front of the whole library…or by a secret government operative who mistakes your love-talk for an enemy agent’s code. Hey, it could happen.
  • Take a leisurely stroll through the woods, hand-in-hand. According to modern cinema, this is every axe murderer’s dream scenario. At least promise me you’ll bring pepper spray. Or a taser.
  • Meander along back roads without any particular destination in mind. Uh huh. Then your GPS breaks down, your car gets a flat tire, and three days later Search and Rescue workers find you and your sweetie battling it out over who gets to gorge themselves on that lone Tic Tac you discovered in the back of the glove compartment. Few relationships survive this kind of thing.
  • Share an ice cream cone on a scorching summer day. Certain people may be a tad possessive over their ice cream cones and turn feral if anyone else tries to take a bite. My husband has the scars to prove it.
  • Go for a midnight swim in a lake. Nothing good EVER lives at the bottom of a lake. Don’t you ever go to the movies?
  • Go singing/dancing in the rain. Concerned onlookers will likely call 911, and police will gently escort you to the psychiatric ward of the nearest hospital.
  • Walk barefoot in the park. Um…not everybody cleans up after their dogs when they walk them, you know.
  • Kidnap your special someone from work. A coworker gets the wrong idea, makes a call, and WHAMO!—a SWAT team tackles you in the parking lot.
  • Sign up for a sculpting class together. Sure it was romantic in Ghost. But it didn’t turn out so well in Naked Gun, did it? And who’s going to clean up the mess, I ask you? Who?

I hope these examples have given you reason to think twice before diving willy-nilly into something reckless like a moonlit picnic or any other hazardous activities with your special someone. Take my advice: just stay in, curl up on the couch together, and read a good book. Like, say…The Bargain, a delightful contemporary romance featuring a socially-awkward tomboy and the reformed ladies’ man she just might sweep off his feet. No, really, it’s delightful. My mother said so.

And in the meantime…let’s all be very careful out there.

Feldman’s How-To-Format-For-Self-Publishing Guide (Or…How To Wind Up In The Fetal Position)

Nearly every author who’s writing these days has at least considered going the self-publishing route, even if only for a brief moment.  Some authors then simply lie down until the feeling passes, but others decide to take the plunge.

After having a couple of books published the traditional way, I decided to take the self-publishing plunge myself to see what it was like.  And since I’m not exactly rolling in dough, I decided to save money on publishing costs by learning how to do the formatting myself. Lots of other people were doing it, and I figured I was a halfway-intelligent person.  How hard could it be, right?

Take Kindle formatting for example.  You’ll find plenty of technical advice online and elsewhere about how to go about formatting, but here’s my own personal approach and what worked for me:

1)  Scour internet for advice on Kindle formatting tips.  Wonder if you should be troubled by the fact that much of it is dated 2010 or thereabouts.  Keep searching despite the ominous cloud of doubt forming over your head…

2)  Stumble across assorted YouTube tutorials on Kindle formatting.  Start watching first tutorial.  Realize two hours later that you’ve somehow transitioned to watching funny cat videos instead.  Backtrack to original tutorial.

3)  Download help-guides such as Amazon’s Building Your Book For Kindle and read from cover to cover.  Discover you did everything WRONG when you first typed up your manuscript, including spacing, tabs, page breaks, etc. and will now have to figure out how to go back and alter it.  Weep gently.

4)  Eat ice cream.

5)  Go back and alter original manuscript to fit Kindle formatting parameters.  Wonder why your computer’s version of Word doesn’t seem to match ANY of the ones in the online YouTube tutorials.  Resist urge to go back and re-watch funny cat videos.

6)  Learn what that Hyperlink option is in Word that you’ve never even known you had before.  Use it to create a Table of Contents that allows you to hop around to desired spots in your manuscript.  Hop to every single one just to make sure they work, cackling with glee when they actually do and earning worried looks from your spouse/roommate/hamster.

7)  Upload cover art to Kindle Direct that you have either A) purchased from an experienced and professional cover artist or B) attempted to create yourself for free and now would like to burn before someone else sees it.  (Now while it’s true there are some folks out there who have great confidence in their abilities to doodle around with software and create something marvelous, I am not one of them, so options A and B were the only possibilities for me.)

8)  Try to convert your manuscript to HTML.

9)  Fail miserably and curl up into fetal position.  Unfurl after spouse has coaxed you out with offers of more ice cream.

10)  Eat proffered ice cream.

11)  Reread directions on converting to HTML.  Attempt conversion for second time.  Jump up and down with joy when it finally works.

12)  Enter book’s information on Kindle Direct website (description, keywords, etc.) and upload brand-spanking new HTML version.

13)  Preview book on the handy dandy Kindle Previewer tool.  Wonder why book has mysterious extra symbols showing up that you don’t remember putting there.  Find a gazillion typos that you’re positive weren’t there before.  Wonder if God is punishing you.

14)  Consider having ice cream pumped into you intravenously.

15)  Fix typos, convert to HTML again, upload revised file, and preview.

16)  See mysterious extra symbols are just as mysteriously gone now.  Don’t know why, don’t care.  Grab spouse/roommate/hamster and dance around the room.

17)  Publish.

18)  Celebrate by eating ice cream.

Again, this is just what worked for me.  You might prefer a different approach.  Some writers prefer to hire someone to do the formatting for them, which–in hindsight–might actually have been cheaper for me considering all the money I spent on ice cream.  On the other hand, I did feel a tremendous sense of pride afterwards, knowing that I had accomplished this particular feat myself.  After I stopped twitching, at least.

And on that note… best of luck in your self-publishing adventures.  🙂