Category Archives: Headshots

Still Learning Book Covers and G.I.M.P.

A print book cover is much more difficult than an e-book cover. You have to consider the quality of the graphics, and having things in exactly the right place is extremely important.
A print book cover is much more difficult than an e-book cover. You have to consider the quality of the graphics, and having things in exactly the right place is extremely important.

As I’ve mentioned before on the blog, I hate dealing with book covers. I should just hire this done, to someone with more artistic talents who is also learned in graphic arts programs. Alas, I don’t want to have my writing activities indebted to the family budget, so I’m on a pay-as-you-go basis. Right now, that means that, with a few exceptions, I make my own covers.

Here's the print book cover for "In Front of Fifty Thousand Screaming People". I want the "Headshots" to be as good as this, which was a cover I did based on the e-book cover my son did.
Here’s the print book cover for “In Front of Fifty Thousand Screaming People”. I want the “Headshots” to be as good as this, which was a cover I did based on the e-book cover my son did.

But I hate it. That also means I have to use a free graphics arts program, rather than expensive programs such as Photoshop or Illustrator. That means G.I.M.P. I believe I’ve also written about hating G.I.M.P. I hate it because it is difficult to use. That’s partly because I don’t understand some of the graphic arts terms, but also because the documentation is poor. I’ve found some third-party help with G.I.M.P., such as article, or videos on YouTube. But, to be honest, they all do their thing by assuming the reader/watcher know more than I do. They’ll say “after you’ve selected the layer” or some such thing, assuming I know how to select a layer, when I don’t. It’s maddening.

Here's the e-book cover for "Headshots". I wanted to improve the font some, and, of course, add the spine and back cover, making it all the right size in the right place at a good quality.
Here’s the e-book cover for “Headshots”. I wanted to improve the font some, and, of course, add the spine and back cover, making it all the right size in the right place at a good quality.

In terms of creating the cover for a print book, however, I’m starting to get more comfortable with the whole process. I didn’t say I was proficient, or that I enjoyed it, or was good at it; just that I was more comfortable. I have come to learn the basic steps needed: figure the exact size of the cover wrap; create a canvas that size; create a “size overall” layer; create a front cover layer; create a back cover layer; create a spine box layer; position these where they need to go; add words and graphics to each. Piece of cake, right?

Several times I’ve gotten something to work, but didn’t really know how I did it, and thus couldn’t replicate it for the next cover, or even for another part of the cover I was working on. For the last cover I asked one of our landscape architects at work to help me to understand what I had to do to move layers into the right place: centered, left, right, whatever. We got it to work, but didn’t really know why—or at least I didn’t.

Here's what I've got so far. I still need to improve the font on the front. But, overall, not bad. I'm not unhappy.
Here’s what I’ve got so far. I still need to improve the font on the front. But, overall, not bad. I’m not unhappy.

Last Friday, I was working on the cover for the print edition of Headshots. I want to have it out for the end of baseball season, which is fast approaching. I had begun this cover about three weeks ago, but got bogged down and left it. I started on the noon hour, but had little luck, so was continuing into the afternoon (guess I’ll charge that time to vacation). I went to the break room for coffee, and ran into our corporate CADD trainer, who I supervise. He asked how it was going, and I said “Great if I could figure out how to use G.I.M.P.” He said that was something he could help me with.

Back to my office we went, and I said I was having trouble 1) placing layers where I want them, which G.I.M.P. calls “Align” or “Distribute”; and 2) filling a layer with color. He showed me how to do the latter, though I don’t think I remember it today; I’ll see at noon. But he couldn’t figure out the G.I.M.P. commands for alignment. He’s a wiz at graphic arts, so I didn’t feel too bad.

But while he was there, I tried something. I wanted to center the “spine box” layer on the “overall size” layer. That assures that the spine will be in the right place. I tried something. I made the Align command active. Then I chose “Active Layer” as the target. Now, the program doesn’t say that drop down menu is to select the target, but when you hover the mouse over it, the words “Select target” appear. Then I went to the list of layers on a side panel and chose “Overall size”. Then I moved the mouse over the spine box on the canvas and clicked it. At that point the arrows in Alignment command box went from grayed-out to active. Aha! I clicked center, and poof! the spine box moved to the center of the overall size, just like magic.

I quickly wrote those steps out, so I wouldn’t forget them. Then I did “undo” several times, until the spine box was back out of position (I saved the file first). I looked at the list of instructions I’d written, and followed them. Again, the spine box moved to the right place. It didn’t seem like magic that time. It seemed almost logical, and replicatable.

I have a long way to go on creating covers. The graphic arts program is the mechanics. I’m slowly but surely getting to know that. The whole artistic thing—what looks good, what looks professional, what will attract a buyer to a book—is something I have to still work on. But I’m getting there. I’m almost at the point of knowing enough to be dangerous.

Publishing Tasks Wear Me Out

After a four day weekend trip to Meade, Kansas, for the funeral of my wife’s aunt, we returned home Monday evening, around 6:15 p.m. That’s what I call getting in in good time. After unpacking and relaxing a little, I went to The Dungeon, with the intent of resuming my writing career.

The e-book has been available for two weeks, but I'm just now working on the print book.
The e-book has been available for two weeks, but I’m just now working on the print book.

However, I saw that I had two directions to go in, and that one was necessary and one was optional. On the weekend I had spent some time reading for research into my next church history novel. I could continue with that, as well as re-read what I’ve written in my workplace humor novel, and decide which I would do next. Those two, together, form one direction: a writing path.

The other direction was publishing tasks. I need to get the print version of Documenting America: Civil War Edition finished and published. I need to get the print version of Headshots finished and published. On Monday evening, as I sat trying to make the decision, the former needed only a little work, while the latter had the interior done (I think; it’s been a while since I did it), and the cover needs to be done. I also need to get recent books listed on Goodreads, and a couple of short stories added to Smashwords.

I could see right away that the publishing tasks were more important right now. Yet, I couldn’t do them. Just something about them made me want to not start them. The same was true Tuesday and Wednesday. I couldn’t make myself do them. The DA:CWE cover it on my computer at work, and the interior on my computer at home. I guess it’s also on OneDrive, but I don’t really know how to use that or access it from work. But at work, in my personal time, I couldn’t make myself work on the cover. At home, I couldn’t make myself finish the interior. Consequently, Monday-Tuesday-Wednesday I got nothing done on my writing/publishing.

Yesterday was different. Thursday morning, before work started, I pulled up the cover in G.I.M.P. Just using that program makes me want to vomit. But, I didn’t really have much to do. I had one block of text I needed to change the font on, move an image a little, and I was done. I couldn’t figure out how to make the text changes. I looked in the manual, in some on-line tutorials, all with no help. Finally, I looked closer at my cover, and could see that the text, which was placed in the cover by someone else for the last book in the series, wasn’t a text layer at all; it was an image that couldn’t be changed. I quickly deleted that layer, created a text layer and put the text in with the correct font. I had the cover done and saved at 8:05 a.m.

Then, last night I took a look at the interior. I had finished it a couple of weeks ago, but wanted to give it one more look-through, just to make sure. I did that, and judged it “done”. I e-mailed it to my office (because I don’t know how to use OneDrive) to make the PDF today. I’ll do that shortly. At that point, I’ll have the cover and the interior files done, and on the same computer, and so will do the upload. I hope to have the finished on the noon hour today.

It won't be long before I'll be working on the print version of this.
It won’t be long before I’ll be working on the print version of this.

That brings me to Headshots. I think this weekend I’ll see what I can do with that. If the interior is really done, all that will be left is the print cover. That will have to wait until next week, unless I wake up my old computer (which had G.I.M. P.) and try to do it there. They say it’s to rain much of the weekend. How I would love to get Headshots done.

Adding books to Goodreads is easy; there’s just a few steps to go through. Adding the short stores to Smashwords will take a little formatting, but that should be only 30 minutes for each. Who know? Maybe by Sunday I can have all my publishing tasks behind me, and Monday I’ll be ready to get back to writing tasks. I’ll give you a report then.

Update on Writing and Publishing Plans

Back on January 16, I laid out my publishing plains for the year, with special emphasis on the first quarter. At the end of that post I said I’d come back after the first quarter to give you an idea on my progress. Well, we’re now half-way through the second quarter, and I just now remembered I’m supposed to do that. Sorry that I didn’t follow through.

Documenting America
The Civil War Edition of my “Documenting America” series is nearing completion.

I can give a report now, for sure. I listed nine bulleted items that I wanted to accomplish in the first quarter. I’ll repeat them here, and give the progress  report on each one.

  • Jan 1: Begin reading for research for Documenting America: Civil War Edition. I wrote then: I achieved this. I’m reading a little almost every day for this.
  • Jan: Complete the first draft of Preserve The Revelation. I wrote then: I actually did this Saturday, Jan 14, at 8:10 p.m.
  • Jan 31: Edit Doctor Luke’s Assistant and republish it. I re-read this in 2016 with an eye toward making edits in it. I’m ready to go with typing. This schedule should be doable. I achieved this. I don’t remember the exact day, but while letting Preserve The Revelation sit a while, I typed the DLA edits and republished it, both in e-book and print form.
  • Feb 15: Edit Preserve The Revelation once. I achieved this, I think by Feb 15.
  • Feb 28: Edit Preserve The Revelation again, which I hope will be the final edit. I achieved this, though it turned out to NOT be the final edit. I had to do one additional round.
  • It's published as an e-book at Amazon; print book and other e-book formats, though some editing for Apple remains.
    It’s published as an e-book at Amazon; print book and other e-book formats, though some editing for Apple remains.

    Mar 15: Publish Preserve The Revelation. Much must be done for this to happen, some of which I’ve already set in motion. I achieved this, though not quite by my target date. The e-book was published March 23, and the print book on April 5.

  • Apr 1: Publish Headshots as a print book. I’m unclear of where I stand with this. In 2016 I edited and re-published the e-book version of this. I don’t remember how I did my edits, whether to a master file or to the e-book file. I’ll know more when I get back to this, probably early to mid-March. No, didn’t achieve this. Instead, I switched my attention to the next item.
  • Apr 2: Resume writing on Documenting America: Civil War Edition. Actually, I hope to write some on this much sooner than that. But I’ll be satisfied with not doing so until early April. My guess is I’ll have two months of writing to do on it. I achieved this. In fact, I’ve been able to give it much more attention than I anticipated. I wrote about this a week ago. As of last night, I have only four chapters to go to finish the first draft.
  • Blog on a regular Monday and Friday schedule. I’ve already missed a couple of those. I’ll be satisfied if I have 40 to 50 blog posts for the year. I achieved this. Since my Jan 16 post, I don’t think I’ve missed a scheduled day of blogging. Or, if I did, I blogged a day late, but got it done.

As for my overall publishing plans for the year, here’s what I wrote before, along with the progress report.

  • Finish my novel-in-progress, Preserve The Revelation, and publish both as an e-book and in print. Done!
  • Finish my non-fiction book-in-progress, Documenting America: Civil War Edition, and publish both as an e-book and in print. I said I was 40% done in January, based on work of a couple of years ago. I’m now sitting at 95% done on the first draft.
  • Four chapters done in the next volume; hopefully it will be a 2017 publication.
    Four chapters done in the next volume; hopefully it will be a 2017 publication.

    Finish my workplace humor novella-in-progress, The Gutter Chronicles: Volume 2, and publish both as an e-book and in print. Nothing done on this yet. I haven’t given up on it.

  • Write a new story in the Danny Tompkins short story series. Done! I published this on March 16.
  • Write a new story in the Sharon Williams Fonseca series. Nothing done on this yet. The plot for the next story still hasn’t come to me; though, to be honest, I’ve had a few glimmers into the plot, but have pushed them aside to work on other things.
  • Finish Carlyle’s Chartism Through The Ages, a non-fiction work. Not even thinking about this at present.
  • Continue working on Thomas Carlyle Chronological Composition Bibliography. Not even thinking about this at present.

Two other items have come to mind, which I’m adding to the list. Call me foolish, but I’m doing it.

  • Publish the six Danny Tompkins stories as a box set, both in e-book and in print. This should be fairly simple, the hardest part being the cover. Together, they will be just long enough for a print book.
  • Publish my research into the Stephen Cross family of Newbury, Massachusetts. This was genealogy work into my wife’s family, Stephen’s wife being the sister of Lynda’s great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandfather. I’m planning a much longer book on the whole family of ten siblings, but that’s going to have to wait a while. Meanwhile, I have this part done, needing only a little narrative and formatting. It will be 80 to 100 pages, I believe, which would be a nice little genealogy book.

So there you have it, new publishing plans for the year, but no specific publishing goals for the rest of the second quarter. I’ll be back with future writing/publishing goals and reports.

Research: On to the Next Book

It's published as an e-book at Amazon; print book and other e-book formats will follow soon.
It’s published as an e-book at Amazon; print book and other e-book formats will follow soon.

Preserve The Revelation is published. It’s not selling, but it’s published. The proof copy of the print book should arrive today. I’ll get the e-book up for Nook, Kobo, Apple, etc. this weekend. Time to move on to something else.

That something else is my next book, Documenting America: Civil War Edition. There’s a long story to this book that I’ll try to make short and simple. My first full-length book to publish, back in May 2011, was Documenting America: Lessons from the United States’ Historical Documents. I enjoyed writing that. I found so many available documents, in this information age where digitized historical documents come online every day, that I knew I could make it into a series. Before long I had more than a dozen titles, all of which I knew I could easily write.

Published in May, 2011, I've sold a whopping 54 copies of this.
Published in May, 2011, I’ve sold a whopping 54 copies of this.

I decided my next one would be on the Civil War. The first one didn’t concentrate on one era in US history. Instead, I selected a variety of documents that interested me, from 1711 to 1898. It was fun, finding the documents, excerpting them, writing something about their historical significance, and tying them to an issue we face today. I had actually written a number of them as published and potential newspaper columns. When I decided, in February 2011 that I would make it into a book, it came together quickly.

Fast forward to mid-2013. I was searching around for what book to write next. The US was in the midst of the sesquicentennial of the Civil War. I decided to make that the next one. I decided what the year limits would be, made a quick outline of the first few chapters, and wrote the first chapter. At the same time I was writing first chapters of three other books, to see which one felt right. Alas, Operation Lotus Sunday flowed easiest, and I wrote and published that. Once that was done I picked up DA-CW Ed again, added more to the Table of Contents, and wrote a couple more chapters. For some reason, it still didn’t feel right, and I went on to other things.

The next time I looked at it was early 2015. The sesquicentennial was about over. I had lost that window. Not that such a deadline was critical, but if I wanted to gain a few sales from the Civil War interest that the anniversary was generating…

What am I saying? When have any of my books ever found interest from current events? The election of 2012 didn’t help The Candy Store Generation, even though it included a discussion of that election as the campaign was being waged. The Chicago Cubs’ drive for their first pennant in 108 years last fall didn’t help sales of In Front of Fifty Thousand Screaming People or Headshots, not one bit. The idea that I thought Civil War anniversaries would help my book to sell was, at best laughable, and at worst delusional. I guess one can always dream.

I've already started thinking about the cover to the Civil War Edition. It takes me a long time to make a cover on my own.
I’ve already started thinking about the cover to the Civil War Edition. It takes me a long time to make a cover on my own.

Still, I took up the book again and worked on it, taking it up to about forty percent complete before I once again set it aside, somewhere around February 2015. Why did I do that? I still planned to write the book. But as I dug into the source documents behind the major events of the Civil War, two problems hit me full blast. One, I got tired of all the battles. When you write about a major war, battles will be predominant in the contents; you can’t avoid that. Second, I would read the source documents and start falling asleep. No joke; they were either boring me or I simply couldn’t concentrate on them. Still, from time to time over the years, I pulled the book out, even as I was working on other things, and either researched, wrote, or edited what I already had.

Now it’s 2017. No meaningful Civil War anniversaries will come up for decades. Yet, with my novel done and published, and trying to decide on what to publish next, I decided to return to DA-CW Ed. In January, I returned to my main source document, the Annals of America, and read. Lo and behold, I was able to read with amazing retention and clarity. I’m not sure what the difference was between early 2015 and early 2017, but it was a huge difference. I went to Atlanta for a conference in February, took my source book with me, and read and read and read and didn’t get tired of it.

So, what’s the status of the book? I have thirty chapters identified, which will be the final count. I have source documents in hand for all but one of those, and it’s possible I even have it for that one, reading it pending. I have my Word file created and correctly organized. I have about twelve chapters fully written (subject to editing, of course), and I have the source documents in my file for all but about eight of the chapters. Last night I added the Siege of Vicksburg source document, and began editing it. In terms of organization, I’m about 95 percent there. In terms of source documents, I’m about 60 percent there. In terms of original writing—hmmm, that tougher to figure. Maybe not more than 20 percent. Still a lot of battles to write about and draw lessons from.

Last December, I established a goal of having this published in May 2017. That’s only two months. I’m not sure I can do that in time. My actual writing will begin this weekend (if I get my income taxes done, that is; otherwise it will be next week or weekend). I’ll blog about my progress from time to time, or will post it on my Facebook author page.

2017 Writing and Publishing Plans

So, as stated in my last post, 2016 was a dismal year for book sales. And, actually, I had only one new item published in 2016, plus a couple of re-dos, and one print book added to an e-book that was already out. But now it’s 2017. Time to make new plans to feed old hopes. We’re 16 days into 2017, and I’ve already made progress.

I’m going to give two lists. The first is the new material I hope to work on this year, without regards to priority. The second is a sort of to-do list for the first few months. I can’t really see beyond that right now. I’ll need to update that to-do list based on what I actually achieve. I might do that quarterly.

Here’s the first list.

  • Finish my novel-in-progress, Preserve The Revelation, and publish both as an e-book and in print. When the year started I was about 80 to 85% done (best guess).
  • Finish my non-fiction book-in-progress, Documenting America: Civil War Edition, and publish both as an e-book and in print. I believe I’m about 40% done with this.
  • Finish my workplace humor novella-in-progress, The Gutter Chronicles: Volume 2, and publish both as an e-book and in print. I think I’m around 30% done with this.
  • Write a new story in the Danny Tompkins short story series. I think this will be the last. But, then, I also thought that about the last one. I’ve put a few words on paper, but haven’t yet typed anything.
  • Write a new story in the Sharon Williams Fonseca series. While this series hasn’t sold, I want to stick with it for a while. I know where in the world the next story will take place, but a plot hasn’t yet come to me.
  • Finish Carlyle’s Chartism Through The Ages, a non-fiction work. It’s close to 80% complete, but the last 20% is going to be a killer.
  • Continue working on Thomas Carlyle Chronological Composition Bibliography. I’m not sure how close I am to finishing. I plan on working on it a little each morning at work. Perhaps I’ll finish it some day, perhaps not. I’m going to plod away at it for a while.

Here’s the second list. Some of these will have target dates, some won’t. The order is approximately first to last, though with plenty of overlap.

  • Jan 1: Begin reading for research for Documenting America: Civil War Edition. I achieved this. I’m reading a little almost every day for this.
  • Jan: Complete the first draft of Preserve The Revelation. I actually did this Saturday, Jan 14, at 8:10 p.m. It’s now with a beta reader while it simmers for a week or two before I tackle the edits on it. However, don’t think I’m ahead of schedule on this. My original goal was to finish it in 2016. I came close, but missed it.
  • Jan 31: Edit Doctor Luke’s Assistant and republish it. I re-read this in 2016 with an eye toward making edits in it. I’m ready to go with typing. This schedule should be doable.
  • Feb 15: Edit Preserve The Revelation once
  • Feb 28: Edit Preserve The Revelation again, which I hope will be the final edit.
  • Mar 15: Publish Preserve The Revelation. Much must be done for this to happen, some of which I’ve already set in motion.
  • Apr 1: Publish Headshots as a print book. I’m unclear of where I stand with this. In 2016 I edited and re-published the e-book version of this. I don’t remember how I did my edits, whether to a master file or to the e-book file. I’ll know more when I get back to this, probably early to mid-March.
  • Apr 2: Resume writing on Documenting America: Civil War Edition. Actually, I hope to write some on this much sooner than that. But I’ll be satisfied with not doing so until early April. My guess is I’ll have two months of writing to do on it.
  • Blog on a regular Monday and Friday schedule. I’ve already missed a couple of those. I’ll be satisfied if I have 40 to 50 blog posts for the year.

So, that’s my first quarter to-do list. How close I’ll come to achieving it the posts of this blog must tell. Stay tuned.

Unfinished Writing Projects

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMy intention for today was to write a lengthy post on the status of several writing projects. However, two things intervene. First, I’m in New Orleans on a business trip. I’m not sure I feel like taking time to do a detailed analysis of my writing-in-progress. Second, since around Sunday my gumption for writing has tanked. At present I don’t know that I care much if I write any more or not. The reasons for that are complicated and I won’t go into them here. Suffice to say these are not the days for me to be making bold plans for adding to my published titles.

I will say a few words about my projects. The easiest one should be to publish my last short story, “Sierra Kilo Bravo“, at Smashwords, making it available to Nook, Apple, etc. That means pulling up the file for the Kindle publication, making a few simple changes, and hitting Publish. Along with that I want to republish the other stories in the series to add a link to this one to it. Also fairly simple. But I haven’t felt like doing it, now a month since it went live for Kindle.

Another fairly easy project will be to correct typos in my two baseball novels, In Front of Fifty Thousand Screaming People and Headshots. I re-read them some time ago on my Nook, found enough typos in each to warrant fixing them. This is a one-day project for each book. So far, I just haven’t felt like it.

SBC book front coverThen, I have some typos to fix and new data to add to my family history book, Seth Boynton Cheney: Mystery Man of the West. This is a little more complicated. It’s a print book, so unless I want to have the cover redone due to pages added I’ll need to add the new data without too much lengthening. The good news is I sort of planned for this, putting a couple of blank pages at the end of the book. So long as the new data doesn’t take up more than them, I should be okay. I have some of these marked, and one of my wife’s cousins also marked some. She didn’t give them to me, but will when I ask her. This should be my priority, I suppose, but so far—you guessed it—I just haven’t felt like it. A related project, some cousins have asked me to publish a color edition of this. That will require rework of the cover, since the page thickness is different when you print in color, but otherwise is a simple thing. I need to do that right after making the corrections to the black & white edition.

So what does that leave as far as w-I-p go? I have three books started:

  • Preserve The Revelation. This is a sequel to my first church history novel, Doctor Luke’s Assistant. A couple of years ago, when in a period of uncertainty as to what my next project should be, I wrote the first chapter of this. Since then ideas for the book continue to find their way into my conscious thinking.
  • Documenting America: Civil War Edition. This would be the next in my Documenting America series. I got well into this last year and early this year. I’d guess it’s 40 percent done. I have pushed this far from my current thoughts.
  • The Gutter Chronicles, Volume 2. The first volume was a reasonable success at the office. I’ve completed three chapters in that, and am well along with the fourth. It’s been over a year since I’ve worked on it, but I’d say I’m about 20 percent done. Ideas for remaining chapters of this have been bubbling up of late.

TCEEA print cover 01That leaves my two Thomas Carlyle projects, wanting to join their brother on my virtual bookshelf. These are the two I’m actively working on. At the office I use my free time to work on Thomas Carlyle Chronological Composition Bibliography. At home I use free time to work on Thomas Carlyle’s “Chartism” Through the Ages. Both are well along, though neither is close to being done. They are perhaps silly things to work on, as neither would be a commercial success. However, at least these two are holding my interest.

Well, this post ran longer than I expected. Still, it’s the short version. I write it not so much as to inform you, my loyal readers, about what’s coming, as to help me bring order to the chaos that’s happening in my head and finding it’s way to paper and pixels. May the order come soon.

Rethinking

Book sales in April through August are significantly better than they were in January through March. So why am I so depressed about book sales?

Because, except for a couple of special circumstances, I’ve had close to zero sales of late. Last month I put In Front of Fifty Thousand Screaming People on sale for $0.99; the regular price is $3.99. I did this, intending for it to last a week, because the sequel, Headshots, was to be released August 28, and I hoped a sale on the first might spark sales on the second. That’s what the conventional wisdom is, at least.

Well, the sale resulted in 7 sales of FTSP and exactly 1 sale of Headshots. I had two pre-orders of Headshots, but when I asked Amazon why only one sale they said the other pre-order was never paid, so they never shipped the book.  One sale of a novel that included a pre-order time and some notifications on Facebook is pathetic, to say the least.

The other special circumstance was the release of the paperback copy of The Gutter Chronicles, Volume 1 in June. I sold 23 copies of that in the office and to a couple of clients. Since then none. Except for these two circumstances, I’ve sold 47 books this year. That’s for 17 items published. It’s true, I don’t do a lot of promotion. I’m sure my FB friends get tired of what promotional posts I do make. My two blogs have almost no readers, so the promotion I do on them probably results in no sales. So, any sales I have are the occasional drive-by sale. I don’t know that I have any/many from relatives, acquaintances, or on-line friends. I know that a couple of co-workers bought electronic copies of The Gutter Chronicles earlier in the year.

I have several works-in-progress. I’ll probably finish and publish them, but beyond that I have no vision and no plan. I’ll write more about this on Friday.

I Enjoy Editing

Right now, or I guess I should say for the past several days, when not consumed by the busyness of life not related to writing, rather than writing I’ve been editing. I agreed to be a beta reader for a cousin who has completed a memoir, her sixth or seventh book. She has been beta reader for me a couple of times, and I was glad to finally be able to do this for her.

The memoir is painful to read, as her life had much trouble and trauma, things she had to overcome. I had some of that in my own life, but hers was different, more painful I think. Reading it has been hard. Until last night when I got to the point where she writes uplifting chapters about her Christian conversion. I have another 40 or 50 pages to go, which I hope to finish tonight. I was actually hoping to finish it last night, but a late start and a need to quit earlier than intended due to working on a sleep deficit put me behind where I wanted to be. Tonight, possibly I’ll finish, though I need to make a major grocery run tonight. We’ll see.

Some writers say they like to write, but they hate editing. They hate editing not only their own work but also the works of others. I don’t find it to be that way. Maybe all the editing I’ve had to do over the years for my engineering career has prepared me for editing in my creative writing. To me it’s an exciting thing to look at words on a page, figure out what the writer (myself or someone else) intended to communicate to the reader, and see if I can find a better way to say it.

A high school and college friend recently was one of my beta readers on Headshots. He sent me a couple of pages of notes, which identified some typos, and indicated places where he thought the plot was sub-optimal, or where character actions were not believable because something hadn’t been set up correctly. I agreed with most of his comments, and looked for ways to make those corrections to the text.

What I found was that fixing these things didn’t take a lot of time or words. Adding one sentence, somewhere in the text, might be all it took to foreshadow a coming event. A plot issue could be fixed in a similar manner. At other times, it took adding in a whole scene (maybe a short one) to fix the problem.  Either way, I enjoyed the process.

Now, I’m enjoying the editing I’m doing as a beta reader. For a memoir it’s different than for a novel. Events happened, and the memoir is conveying them factually along with the writer’s thoughts, emotions, reactions, etc. A memoir can’t have a plot hole, can it? Not really, but it can give information that is sprung on the reader in a less than optimal way. Found one of them last night. It can have good sentences and awkward sentences. Plenty for an editor to do.

Of course, we’ll see how the cuz likes it. “What? You want to change my sentence? No way!!” Or maybe, “It’s fine how it is, thank you.” Or possible, “Thanks; that will make it better.” As writers we fall in love with our words, sentences, paragraphs, and books/stories. Changing them is sometimes hard. The cuz might look at the Word file, filled with track changes notations, and wonder if it was a good idea sending it to me.

That’s okay. I have enjoyed the process. Maybe, if I don’t make it as a writer, I can be an editor some day.

HEADSHOTS Available for Pre-Order

Headshots 2014-07-09 Cover 01Yesterday was my scheduled day to post to this blog. I didn’t do it, however, as I spent my pre-work hour at the office on putting some finishing touches on Headshots. That meant putting back in some new chapter divisions, working on the copyright page, and something else I can’t remember right now. That took up the time I would otherwise have spent writing a post. I still intended to write one, either on the noon hour or at home after work.

Alas, the noon hour went by on something else, and when I got home I discovered I had failed to e-mail myself the Headshots file I’d worked on at the office. So I had to do all that work over again, an hour more or less. My goal was to upload it to Amazon last night, and take advantage of their new pre-order feature on Kindle Direct Publishing, with an issue date of August 28. So I did the work over again, tweaked the copyright page a little more, built a table of contents, and added the “About the Author” and “Works by the Author” sections. This took another hour, more or less.

When that was done I went to KDP and began the uploading process. This is not difficult, but it is somewhat tedious. You have to pick your book’s genre (you’re allowed to list it in two) and add description for the book. I find both of those fairly difficult to do. As for genres, I put it in:

> Fiction > Sports

> Fiction > Thrillers > Crime

I suppose those work. As for description, I used this as the tag line: A young pitcher must make a comeback while protecting his family from Mafia hit men. That seemed a good one-line description. I was supposed to add something more, much more, but moved on for the moment to other parts of the uploading process. The cover gave me some trouble, as I had never adjusted the size to the dimensions Kindle and Smashwords wants. It took me a while to get the right file loaded and to make the adjustment, but it was done. With the book file uploaded, I checked it on the Kindle previewer. It seems the chapter titles aren’t displaying correctly on the Kindle. They are correct in the Word file. I decided that was something I could fix between now and the 28th, so didn’t worry about it.

I went to the second page of the uploading form and worked on pricing, royalty rate, rights, etc. I had it all done. As I’d been at it for two and a half hours and was tired of it all, I clicked on “Publish”.  I got the notice that it would be about twelve hours before it showed up at Amazon as available to pre-order. All was well. Then I remembered I’d never gone back and finished the book description. All that was there was the one-liner.

So today, sometime, I’ll need to finish the book description and re-publish. Hopefully that won’t take too long. Here’s the link to the book in its pre-order state:

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00MVFV6R8

My next step is to see if I want to make another change suggested by all my beta readers. They all said too many characters were introduced in the first three chapters, making it overwhelming. In response to that I had already written out one character, a police detective. Well, I didn’t actually write him out; I just deleted his name from the text. I had already decided I could delete the names of two key associates of the New York Mafia Don. They had no real role in the first chapter—they were just there, and I had referred to them by name. I could introduce them in the chapters where they first appeared with substantive contributions to the story.

I went upstairs and began marking up a copy of the book. I re-read the first three chapters. As I said , taking out the associates names were fairly easy. I decided the only other names I could remove from those three chapters were of the three Cubs’ players who had had slumps during the playoffs in the first book, In Front of Fifty Thousand Screaming People. They are key characters in Headshots, but I decided they really didn’t need to be introduced by name in the first three chapters. So I took an hour to go through those chapters, see what would need to be changed or moved to make it a good change, and marked-up the manuscript accordingly. That took me all the way till bed time.

My mind was very tired by then, but I was satisfied. I knew I could delete six character names from the first three chapters, which should improve the reading experience. The book publishing was in progress. Yes, I still had more to do, but that was okay. For now all was good. And there’s lots of time between now and August 28th to make other corrections. And I still have the Smashwords edition to prepare, but won’t have that up until the publication date.

Headshots is my 17th item published, all at Amazon, and all but one at Smashwords. Hopefully this will spur sales.