Formatting your manuscript for paperback publication

Paperback Books

Paperback Books

Formatting your manuscript for paperback publication with CreateSpace (CS) is a completely different project from formatting it for Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP).

You can save yourself a lot of work by approaching paperback publication correctly. I tackled both projects without much forethought and it created a ton of extra work for me. I just sat down and started typing my manuscript. I should have formatted MS Word first before I typed a single letter. This would have saved me hours of work later in reformatting the manuscript to get it correct.

In addition, I formatted my manuscript for Kindle first in order to get it up and published. Then I used that draft to work in CreateSpace. Big mistake. The formatting for KDP is completely different, more complicated in some ways. Many of the formatting steps required for electronic publishing are unnecessary for a paperback. In fact, they get in the way, as I was to discover.

Upon completion of your manuscript, including copy editing and proofreading, the first thing you need to do is to make a copy and label it so you can easily identify on which version you are working. This is extremely important. Keep the original untouched, make a copy, and then work on that copy so that you always have the original to go back to should you make mistakes and need to start over.

OK, onto formatting your manuscript for paperback.

Create an account on CS and follow the instructions provided. Here is a great link that tells you all about what is required:

First, you provide the title of your work. Next, you will require an ISBN. If you do not have your own (see previous post here for information on ISBNs), Amazon will provide one for you. As you complete each step, the little red circle adjacent to it will change to a green check-mark indicating that it has been properly completed. Each time you return to CS and log in, you need only to click on your book title to be taken to the next step.

Then, select the size of the book desired. I selected 6”x9” because it is common, a convenient size to carry about, and offers the widest distribution options. If your book has illustrations or pictures, you must allow for “bleed” to determine the exact trim size (click on the link for more information.) Next, select the interior type and paper color. Using colors in the book’s interior becomes prohibitively expensive. For that reason, I eliminated the color from several images I have in my work, and I am printing in B&W.

So far, so simple.

Divide your manuscript into three parts: the front matter, the body, and the back matter. This is a good idea, since each part can be formatted differently. For example, for the front matter (everything that comes before page one), the pagination can be eliminated completely, or a different font such as small roman numerals can be used. The copyright page, in particular, can require several different size fonts and, in some instances, italics.

In MS Word in the Page Layout pane, select the size of the book desired. The same tab also controls the margin settings (click here for more information on margins.) When a book is bound, the area in the center is known as the gutter. The gutter margins vary depending on the thickness of the book, the more pages, the larger the gutter margin needs to be. This is important for the dimensions  of the book cover. That is for another post.

For the body file, I choose to use page numbers centered in the footer. For the header, I choose to use different headers for odd and even pages. For odd pages, those on the right, I am using the chapter number and chapter title, and for even pages, I am using only the book title.

The use of chapter numbers and titles in the header requires that each chapter, i.e. section, be formatted separately. Originally, I had separated my chapters using page breaks. When it came time to include running headings I had to change each page break to a section break. Here’s a link to an explanation of the differences between the two. This was a major adjustments I had to make, one that took me hours to correct.

Highlight the header by double-clicking on the space above the page text. This will open the “Design” pane. In it, you will find a check box for different odd and even pages, so you can have different headings on alternate pages. From this pane, you can also insert page numbers at either the top or bottom, left, right, or centered, as you desire. You will also note a “link to previous” option in the navigation tab. This is crucial. It will light up, tying sections together. In order to change headings from one chapter to the next, this link must be turned off manually for each chapter.

This is as far as I’ve gotten. I am continuing to format my paperback and will keep you updated on my progress. Meanwhile, here are some cool links that may help:

If you open these links, you’ll find additional information available from the CS forums. I hope this helps.FotoFlexer_Photo Quill

On Creativity

Isaac Asimov

Isaac Asimov

Approximately two weeks ago, Arthur Obermayer, a friend of Isaac Asimov, published an essay by Asimov entitled On Creativity. The essay, as described by Obermayer, was in response to an invitation Asimov had received to participate in a government think-tank concerning nuclear weapons.

Isaac Asimov, besides being a prolific writer, had a PhD in biochemistry, was a professor at Boston University, a member of Mensa, and was widely considered one of the intellectuals of his time. As the author of hundreds of books, mostly science fiction, he came to realized early on that the secrecy of the think-tank might interfere with his ability to express himself freely. Consequently, he left the group, contributing this essay on creativity upon his departure. It is brief, and I recommend that you read it in its entirety in order to appreciate his take on creativity.

As a brief summary, he posits that the process of creativity is the same, regardless of the discipline, art or science, and that it is, indeed, an elusive, ethereal entity even to those “self-assured eccentrics” who create.

“To be a crackpot is not, however, enough in itself,” he went on to add.

Azimov’s thought is that creativity requires isolation, but that it can be enhanced by select groups of no more than five individuals, specialist in their own fields, coming together in casual, jovial, non-combative atmospheres such as around a dining room table, or in a restaurant. He does not mention the use of wine, but from my experiences, a bottle (or two) of a good Chardonnay or Cabernet can help to loosen tongues and inhibitions. In vino veritas.

He did feel that a leader was necessary to guide the group, but that the leader must be, of necessity, non-threatening, and that he/she should guide the group discussions using “shrewd questionings.”

As a writer, I found the essay fascinating. We writers are, by nature, creative individuals with varying degrees of talent. I agree with Asimov, in that I, too, demand isolation when I write, an isolation that is not understood even by those I love, who look at me quizzically, shaking their heads as they (finally) depart to allow me to work.

However, when not actually engaged in the process of banging on a keyboard, I do cherish the company of other artists – not necessarily just writers. Artists, from animators and architects, to painters and poets, from musicians and magicians to woodworkers and writers, all seem driven by the same demanding muscular muses.

My experience with  Asimov-like group-gathering goes something like this. The conversations among the artists usually start slowly and hesitantly, until someone makes a statement that grabs the attention of the group. At that point, the pace of the conversation picks up, until, soon, polite as intentions might be, interruptions become inevitable. Cross-talk is heard by everyone in the group, even as they are engaged in discussions of their own, but, inevitably, the bantering of the entire group solidifies around a single topic. Everyone is listening intently to everyone else’s ideas.

Then there comes silence, each participant lost in the depths of his/her own mind, crunching the ideas of the others, bouncing them against their own. Usually, everyone’s chin winds up on their chest, eyes mere slits, the creative juices overflowing.

The briefest of polite goodbyes barely register, and then, alone once again, the fingers cannot fly across the keys fast enough to keep up with the roaring avalanche of thoughts, trying to organize Pollock- paint-drops into patterns, scattered, loose, hither and yon, breathing as rapidly as the mind, flashing fingers too slow to keep up, until, until…exhaustion.

A rise from the chair, a deep breath, meandering into the kitchen to make a cup of coffee, unaware of familiar surroundings, sparks of thoughts still shooting off in all directions, hurrying back to the keys, sips of hot coffee scalding the lips because the new ideas will not be denied.

But…words come slower now, thankfully – but not so thankfully, because the rush was so delightfully intense. The words become more deliberate, still genuine, but not as scattered, as the pace continues to slow, until you sit back for another sip of that coffee – now cold.

Finally, fully under control, you sit back down to read what you have written, amazed at the prose, its sheer poetry, laughing at some convoluted, incoherent contrivances. You lean back, smile contentedly, and go to bed.

But sleep does not end the madness. Over the soundest of snores, the mind untwists those convoluted contrivances into smooth, ironed sentences with just a touch of the starch of common sense where needed.

First thing in the morning, you fix what the mind discovered while asleep, and, thus, the first of way-too-many rewrites begins. You are, after all, a writer.

Einstein said, “The intellect has little to do on the road to discovery. There comes a leap in consciousness, call it intuition or what you will, and the solution just comes to you and you know not how or from where.”

Your thoughts?FotoFlexer_Photo Quill

Piracy is never romantic, Jack Sparrow be damned

Not so Jolly Roger

Not so Jolly Roger

Piracy, banditry, or any other self-serving tag line you want to apply to thieves in the act of burglarizing intellectual property (IP) is never romantic, or audacious, or heroic, Jack Sparrow with his bandanna, earrings and self-effacing grin be damned.

Recently, Julie Andresen started a discussion on Google+ entitled “What are your thoughts on content piracy?” She got over thirty comments with opinions varying from “piracy is great,” to one advocating a personally administered penalty of “trans-anal evisceration.” Most of the heat came from a handful of the respondents, who purported to be listening but obviously were not hearing one another.

Ms. Andresen started her discussion by including a reasoned post, entitled The Question of Piracy by David Amerland in which Google stresses the major, and oft repeated, argument for piracy, namely, “Piracy often arises when consumer demand goes unmet by legitimate supply,” which, of course, is really no argument at all. It attempts to justify lawlessness by blaming inefficiency. With this reasoning, any time your mail is late you could go down to the Post Office to raid their coffers.

Here are some of the (slightly paraphrased, intent intact) arguments  in favor of piracy from that post. No names have been attributed to prevent author embarrassment:

  • Piracy is great. People who don’t want to pay for a book get to read it regardless and the author gets their work read and maybe some exposure. It’s a win-win. If that wasn’t the case, they’d have never read it, anyway, so…
  • It does not cost the creator much and provides him/her with exposure. Plus the more the public gets to know an author because of exposure to his/her work, the more personal the connection to that person becomes and the less likely they are to pirate his/her work.
  • While piracy may be against the law, there is insufficient data to prove it damages anyone.
  • Buying second hand anything  (like books or DVDs, etc.) is basically the same as piracy. None of that money goes to the creator or developer/publisher when you buy pre-owned.
  • Those who are against piracy, regardless of their reasoning, need to understand that their objections are practically irrelevant. They are not going to stop people from copying music, movies, books, or whatever. The market has changed, they must adjust.
  • Piracy is necessary. The copyright laws have been subverted by the media conglomerates in order to tie it up so that future generations won’t have access to it.
  • The industry is doing it to itself by charging too much.
  • You are presuming that you have the right to the buyer’s money. You don’t. Copying your work doesn’t actually deprive you of anything that you’re actually entitled to. If someone steals your car, you don’t have a car. If someone copies the bits and bytes of your story, you still have your story
  • Have you ever repeated a joke that you heard somewhere? What about the poor comedian you ripped off?
  • The default assumption against piracy is that every item downloaded is a retail loss. That’s nonsense. In the real world, people have limited budgets, and their entertainment budgets are realistically going to be smallest portion of their overall budget. Therefore, just because someone downloaded your book or movie or song doesn’t mean that they were going to give you money for it
  • I’d rather deal with pirates than the corporate looters of the publishing industry
  • There have been plagiarism laws on the books for decades and infringement laws as well. Enforcement has always been the problem and with global markets just a click away, the issues become more intractable. When the cost of defense is more than the loss, the only victories are Pyrrhic
  • Intellectual monopoly protections almost always hinge on Marxist notions of the labor theory of value. “I worked hard on this, so I must receive the benefit from it!”
  • I hope, for the sake of intellectual consistency if nothing else, you don’t use any elements from the public domain or the common cultural history of mankind. Since you evidently think that so-called intellectual property is identical to real, physical property, I can’t see how you can abide a time and statute-limited-definition of that property right.
  • The people who would pirate your material wouldn’t have bought your book anyway.

Notice that there is no real logic here. One excuse is offered after another, including some upside down interpretation of Marxism.

The main argument of this warped mentality is that if I want it, but it is unavailable for whatever reason, I will take it. This is akin to the argument that someone wearing a gold chain on a NYC subway deserves to be robbed, or that if a woman dresses provocatively and I desire her, I can rape her.

Their secondary argument is that piracy always has been and always will be, so I might as well participate.

And there is no shame.

Now, here are some of the arguments against piracy:

  • It robs the creator of his just dues
  • My concern isn’t piracy by an individual who wants to read, watch, or listen.  My concern are those who pirate with the intent to make money for themselves and/or their business concern from the pirated works
  • Piracy sucks, and people who do it should let me take money out of their pockets. It’s exactly the same thing
  • People pirate because they can get away with it. It has nothing to do with how much or how little something costs, or whether or not they “like” it
  • If I can’t get paid for what I do, why bother doing it? I have to eat, too. I have to pay bills. It takes months of hard work to create a book that must then be edited and proofed and formatted and a nice cover slapped on it. This stuff isn’t free. It’s asinine to say pirating is okay. Pirates steal from creative people. They’re taking the bread out of our mouths
  • Take enough of our work without compensation and pretty soon there will be nothing to steal
  • No one has the right to suggest that the IP creator should just bite the bullet and let his/her work go for free. We do NOT live in either a communist nor a socialist nor a fascist world…at least not yet.  IP anarchists be damned.
  • Copyright infringement is theft by any other name.
  • I am the creator.  My work is mine to monopolize.
  • At least pirates, thieves and scam artists are honest in their intent: “We will make as much from you and/or your stuff as we can get away with stealing.  IP abolitionists are off the cliff all the way around – beyond all rational mind,

I am not neutral. I believe in the ownership of intellectual property. I know how much work it takes to produce a product. If time is money, than all the time an artist takes to produce a work of art puts a value on that work. The popularity of the work determines how much people are willing to pay for it.

In no case is it free.FotoFlexer_Photo Quill

To copyright or not to copyright, that is the question

To be or not to be That is the question

To be or not to be
That is the question

To copyright or not to copyright, that is the question, but it should not be a question. To copyright is the only answer.

My post, Book Titles, Fonts and Copyright Changes, created a heady discussion about copyright problems, international and domestic, to a degree I had not anticipated, one that requires a continuing dialogue.

The Berne Convention of 1886 set forth basic international law regarding copyright, recognizing the copyrights of works of authors of all nations, in the same way that it recognizes the copyrights of its own citizens. It also required automatic, strong minimum standards while prohibiting mandatory registration. This means that your work is protected from the moment it is committed to some form of visual or audio copy.

The laws for copyrighting vary from country to country. In America, registration is made through the US Copyright Office. In Canada, you can register your work at the Canadian Intellectual Property Office. In the UK and AU, copyright is considered an “automatic right.” In New Zeeland, no registration is required, or even possible, other than that provided by the Berne Convention. Generally speaking, those governments that require/provide copyright services, charge fees of varying amounts depending on the service offered.

The date of copyright becomes important when there are conflicting claims of ownership. Once registered, as in places like the U.S. and Canada, the date becomes fixed. In places like UK, AU, and NZ a date can be established by sending a copy of the work to the applicable national library.

It is also a good idea to affix the copyright symbol ©, the year, your name and boilerplate copy such as, “ Except as provided by the Copyright Act no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in and for or by any means without the prior written permission of the publisher.” The wording varies, so use whatever satisfies your paranoia.

There are also differences about what excerpts are allowed between “fair use” (US), e.g. commentary, research, criticism, parody, news, teaching, archiving and scholarship and “fair dealing” (UK), e.g. research, review, criticism, news, and parody. Generally, U.S. policies are a bit more stringent. Also, in the US, in the case of lawsuits, only registered works can collect damages and attorney’s fees.

The length of copyright also varies by country. In the US, a copyright is good for 70 after the author’s death. In the UK, it is good for 50 years after death.

The Myth of the Poor Man’s Copyright

For a more complete examination of the Poor Man’s Copyright click on the link above. It is a terrific, straightforward discussion of this subject, generously provided by Jonathan Bailey on his blog, Plagiarism Today.

In short, the Poor Man’s Copyright is the idea that you can write a book, compose a song, draw a picture, etc, seal it in an envelope, and send it to yourself with the assumption that the date on the envelope will prove that its contents were mailed on such and such a date, thereby protecting the author.

No such luck- for several reasons:

  • There is no proof as to who created the work inside.
  • Envelopes can be steamed open.
  • You cannot sue in federal courts. Since the work in question was never registered nationally, any lawsuit becomes a local issue, subject to only local damages.

Read Mr. Bailey’s article for even more convincing arguments.

P.S. Do not be deceived by faux-government agencies offering to do the copyright-work for you. It is simple enough to do yourself. Trust me. I did it and so can you.

Danger still lurks!

OK, you’ve done the right thing and copyrighted your book with the US Copyright Office. Now, you are protected.

So I thought, too, until I read Vivian Greene’s comments on the post mentioned above.

First off, some nations that are signatories of the Berne Convention do not always honor their commitment. China is notorious for the theft of proprietary secrets.

Ms. Greene has had her work published in five countries, using her photo, for which she has received not a penny.

But it is not just in other countries. Here in the good, ole USA, companies have used Ms. Greene’s quotes on merchandise in stores as famous as Target, Wal-Mart, Nordstrom’s, and Whole Foods.

Here is her YouTube video: If this doesn’t scare any hesitancy out of you, nothing will.

But even copyrights cannot protect us completely.

Need we be reminded of Napster? There are those “out there” who believe that books and music should be free. They pass along the work of others because they enjoy what they read or hear, and “feel” that others should enjoy it too – without having to pay for it, of course. They give it away for free!

Why is there so little respect for the WORK of those of us who toil to create?

Protect yourself as best you can. Copyright your work!FotoFlexer_Photo Quill

Uploading your manuscript to Kindle

My published eBook

My published eBook

Uploading your manuscript to Kindle sounds like a simple process and it should be. However, if there are images in your manuscript there are extra steps involved that can cause problems.

As reported in a previous post, I used the nuclear option to format my manuscript and it worked just fine. However, I did not know how to proceed from there. So, I consulted Amazon’s KDP instructions and purchased Building Your Book for Kindle . I had been searching YouTube and elsewhere on the web with only limited success before I decided to download this book to my own Kindle. It proved to be just what I needed, a step by step walk-through from tips for formatting before you write, through front matter, Table of Contents, book cover, converting your manuscript to HTML, all the way through publishing and making changes after publishing. Plus, it was free.

I’m no genius, but I can follow instructions and all was going gangbusters until…I came to the chapter entitled “Converting Your Manuscript to HTML.”

This chapter led me through all the necessary steps up to the section “Books with Images: Creating a zipped file of your book contents.” This section contains five steps. Step 3, however, contains a CRITICAL ERROR. It states “Right click on the HTML file, scroll over ‘Send to’ and on the menu that appears, click ‘Compressed (zipped) folder.” This is incorrect.

Perhaps, it is my lock-step brain that enables me to follow directions that caused me unnecessary trouble, but trouble I got, two days worth of trouble.

It turns out that the proper procedure is to create a new folder for locking the images with the text in a zipped file. You can create the folder wherever you choose. I put it on my desktop. You then convert your manuscript to HTML by saving it as “Web Page, Filtered.” This automatically produces TWO files in the folder you just created. One file contains all your images  and the other is an HTML file of your book.

Now, instead of right clicking on the HTML file, as indicated in step 3, right click on THE FOLDER YOU CREATED and send it to the “compressed (zipped) folder.” This solved the problem, and I was able to upload the images with the text.

The author also goes on to advise that you can simply open the zipped file and edit changes in the HTML file by opening it with Microsoft Word. Attempting to open the zipped file caused my computer to shut down and warn me not to open it again. So, because of these instructions I spent hours researching zipping and unzipping files. I was so exasperated I learned nothing. That will have to be a lesson for another day.

In order to edit the mistakes I found when I previewed my book in KDP, it was necessary for me to open a new copy of my manuscript, to once again convert it to HTML, zip it and upload the new edition.

I needed to do this several times, but I finally got it right and uploaded text and images.

These problems caused a plummeting descent in my self-confidence. This is never good, especially when you get to be my age. Self-confidence has already begun its slow erosion with the accumulation of silly mistakes that I now make too often, forgetting why I entered a room in the first place, and the lack of ease in learning new tasks. As my wife says, “If I have to learn something new, something old has to drop out of the back of my head”

I will give the author of the book in question the benefit of the doubt and chalk the mistakes up to changes in the methods Amazon employs uploading images, and in my inability to learn how to properly use zipped files.

Happily, I uploaded the corrected version of my manuscript and published it.

I am now a published author. Check it out on Amazon. Cool huh! A published author. I am sitting here, typing this, infused with the warm feeling of accomplishment. This has been a long time in coming but I finally did it. Yea!

The next step is to publish the paperbound version and hold it in my hands. I have already begun the formatting process.FotoFlexer_Photo Quill

Book Titles, Fonts, and Copyright Changes

Garnished Gothic Style Font Letter "C"

Garnished Gothic Style Font
Letter “C”

Book titles are crucial, and fonts can be fun, but copyright changes are expensive.

I thought I had my book title down from almost the minute I finished my first draft, and I was happy with my choice, until I started reading about marketing.

Marketing, for those of us interested in establishing a name, or “brand” as it is often called, is even more crucial than the book title. A better way to put this would be that the book title can also be a crucial part of your marketing plan. If no one knows you are out there, no one will read your book, which is important even for those folks who write for the sheer enjoyment of the endeavor. They may not care about the financial rewards, but they do want to be read.

The original title of my book was A Noble Task. It reflected the book’s story, i.e. a boy’s task to solve a riddle, but it lacked pizzazz. It could easily get lost in the piles of books published every day.  I needed a title—and a book cover (more about that in a subsequent post)—that would grab the attention of readers looking for a YA fantasy. I also want the title to be able to be marketed in its own right. Therefore, I changed the title to The Riddle of Riddles.

This new title spoke more directly to the reader about the specificity of the task of my protagonist. Plus, I now had a subject, “riddles”, which I could exploit for marketing purposes, as opposed to a “task”, noble or not, which was too vanilla.

To that very purpose, I created a second website dedicated to just riddles, puzzles, logic problems, etc. This gave me a venue in which I could market riddles as well as my book, tying the two together.

Changing the title did cause me some concern. I had, of course, copyrighted the manuscript with the original title. After much thought, I decided that it would be best to register the new title change lest someone else, duplicitous, or just another creative mind at work, might find that particular title attractive. Registering just the title change with the copyright office was expensive, $130 dollars.

In preparation for publishing my manuscript, I thought some more pizzazz in the title font might be apropos, and fun. There are thousands of free fonts out there; a quick Google check will validate this. One common source for new fonts is, but there are many others. A few allow you to view the text you will be using in the new font style right there on their website before you decide to download. This is a convenient option that should be more readily available.

Since the title of my book conjures up thoughts of other fantasies now in print, I looked for a font that would express that medieval, gothic, Celtic look. There were many, and I selected a few to try out before downloading. What you see is not always what you get. On these websites, the font name is written in the font type, but when you translate it onto your page, it doesn’t always look as anticipated. The size of the font, its slant, the space between letters, and other hairy appendages can quickly dissuade its use.

Once you decide on the font you want, simply click on “Download.” A dialog box will appear containing the font name with a TTF file type. Click on it and then click on “Extract All Files.” Browse in the next dialogue box to where you want the file stored and click “Extract.”

The next step is to place the new font into your computer along with all the other fonts. To do this, click on the Start button, “Computer,” and then click on the “C” drive. A dialogue box opens. Select “Windows” and then “Fonts.” This will open a list of all the fonts that are already installed on your computer, the ones you get on the drop-down menu when you are in Word and are deciding on the font type and size. Drag and drop your new font into the list you have just opened and you have it forever.

I am still experimenting with embedding fonts so that readers who do not have a specific font embedded in their computers can still see what the author of the piece intended. So far I have had limited success. I could not successfully transfer my title in Press Gutenberg font onto my blog. So I still have work to do. I will keep you informed as to my progress.FotoFlexer_Photo Quill

Manuscript Image Manipulation


Bisected Yin-Yang

As mentioned in the previous blog, manuscript image manipulation is not my strong suit, but the use of images is a necessary part of our business. At the very least, we need to know how to utilize the images we use for our book covers. For some authors, the use of images in the body of our works is also a necessity. I am one.

Amazon has certain rules for the insertion of images in both eBooks and paperbacks. This is some of what I have learned so far.

First off, do not copy and then paste images into your manuscript. Use the “Insert” command, and then the “Picture” option in the “Illustrations” pane of Windows. Place the cursor to the bottom left of where the picture is to be placed and then insert the image.

Sometimes, only the outline of part of a box will show, especially if the picture is being inserted between lines of text. If this happens, click on the image of the box you can see to ensure that it is highlighted. Then select the “Format” tab up top. In the “Arrange” pane find “Text Wrapping.” This option will present several choices of how you want your image displayed:  in front of the text, behind the text, in the middle of the text, with the text above and below, etc. Click on your choice and that should solve the problem.

In my case, the series of images I needed to insert were all part of a single image, the Yin-Yang symbol. This is where the snipping tool mentioned in the previous blog, along with the free photo editor program GIMP, became invaluable.

Segmented Example

Segmented Example

My task was to separate that symbol into three segments, align two segments side by side to create three separate images, each different, for insertion into my manuscript. Here is an example image of one of the three segments I needed to create.

I must confess that I have no training in the use of any photo-editing program, so the following is all seat-of-the-pants learning. There are probably methods that are easier and more direct than those I enlisted, but here is how I proceeded.

Creative Commons is a great source for free images. I selected a yin-yang image from CC, divided it into the segments I desired using Windows “Insert”, “Shapes” and selecting the line type I needed (straight). That is how I formed the bisected image at the top of this blog.

Then it was time to use GIMP to segment it. First, I copied the image, and then using “File” & “Create” I was able to transfer the image from the clipboard into GIMP. If you play around a bit with GIMP you can teach yourself how to manipulate your images. Under the “Image” tab is “Transform” which enables you to flip and rotate the image. The “Tools” tab opens several important options, two of which are “Paint” (which is similar to the paint tool in Windows), and “Transform Tools” which will crop and resize images among other options. Noodle around. GIMP allows you to discard any mistakes and begin again fresh.

To actually cut the segment you want out of a larger image, select the “Tool” option “Paths.” Click on “Paths” to outline the path you want the cursor to take. Then click on the spot where the clipped segment is to begin. That becomes your first “anchor point.” Move the cursor to your next point and you will see a straight line trailing from the cursor. Click on your next anchor point. For curved lines, select anchor points close together to draw the curve you want. The more points, the more accurate the curve. When you return your cursor to the starting point to close out your selected area, a small square anchor box will appear to tie it all together. See the example above.

Now click on “Select” and “From Path.” Follow me closely here. This is not difficult. It just involves a number of steps. Once you have made the “Select” and “From Path” choices, click on “Edit” and then “Copy.” Click “Edit” again & then “Paste As.” Slide over to the option “New Image” and click on that. Voila! The image you segmented appears on a checkerboard background.

Now don’t make the same mistake as I did. I assumed that the checkerboard background was transparent. It is not. If you save it as is, you save that background as well.

So, the next step is to hide that background. To do this you click on “Layer” and then “New Layer” which presents several options, from naming the layer to various fill types. Since I was inserting my image on a typical white page, I selected “Background” and hit OK which hid the image I had just created behind a white layer.

Stay with me. We are almost done and you will be proud of what you have accomplished. Even though there are a number of steps involved here, it is a simple follow-each-step process. I found that I needed to write down each step in this process so I could repeat my actions.

The next step is to click on “Layer” again and go down to the “Stack” option. Of the new options presented, select “Layer to Top.” This will result in the image you desire showing up on a white background. Now you can go to “File” to “Export To” the image under any name you choose as a PNG file to your Pictures folder.

I do not pretend to know what each option along this process is able, or not, to do. I used YouTube videos as teaching aids to enable me to accomplish the above. You can do the same, to complete whatever image criteria you desire.

With the new images I created, I was able to play with them even more, to crop, resize, accent areas, add text, etc. If you do intend to play around, I found that I needed to resize and place the images first before doing any accenting because once accented, if you move the image you lose the accents.

OK. We now have the images we want. And now the snipping tool!

Actuate the snipping tool, click on the “New” and select the “Rectangular Snip.” Copy the parts of the image you want to insert into your manuscript, release the mouse button, save your work, and you can now “Insert” your “Picture” wherever you need it to be.

Congratulations fellow image manipulator. Well done!FotoFlexer_Photo Quill

The Handy-Dandy Snipping Tool

The snipping tool

The snipping tool

Have you heard of the handy-dandy snipping tool? I had not, and if you haven’t either, you are in for a treat. I just stumbled onto it, and it has proven to be an invaluable find.

The snipping tool comes loaded into Windows Vista – and later versions. It has screen shot capability, meaning that it enables the user to take snapshots of any part of the computer screen. It offers several functions not available with the Print Screen key – another tool of which I was unaware until recently even though it stares me in the face every time I sit down to write.

First, let’s discuss the Print Screen key since it is a simpler version of the Snipping Tool.

The Print Screen key is on the keyboard, top row, just to the right of the function keys (F1 – F12). It is simple to use. With a single key stroke, you can take a snapshot of your entire screen or, if you have an active screen open, you can take a snapshot of it if you prefer. You will not see anything happen but an image is saved automatically. You can then open it with “Paint” or Word, copy it, save it, even email it. This is useful if, for example, you get an error message you would like to email to tech support, or for capturing and sending an impressive picture that you’ve found.

To take a picture of the active screen only (without the wallpaper), press the ALT key and the Print Screen key simultaneously, and then proceed as mentioned above.

Now on to the Snipping Tool.

The Snipping Tool is found by clicking on the Start button, and then looking under the “Accessories” tab, or you can type “Snipping Tool” in the search box. It materializes in the form of the image at the top of this post. The Snipping Tool works just like the Print Screen key, but it provides extra functions.

Open the snipping tool and click on the options tab. A drop down menu appears that enables you to alter the tool to suit your needs. You can change the color of the border surrounding the information you capture to make it easier to see. You can show the  URL and the image together, or save the image to the clipboard, among other options. Check it out.

Clicking on the “New” option allows you to select one of four alternatives. The “Free Form snip” is just that. It allows you to draw any shape and the tool will capture everything within its borders. The “Rectangular” snip will draw a box around the area you want to capture. It operates much like a cropping tool. The “Window” snip will capture whatever is within the window, while the “Whole Screen” saves everything on the screen.

The “Rectangular” snip is particularly useful. It can be used anywhere on the screen to capture images of varying sizes. Select the “Rectangular” option, hold down the left button on the mouse, and drag the rectangle to encompass the desired information. As soon as you release the mouse button, a screen will automatically appear with your selection. It displays more options. The new screen will allow you to write on the image with a pen, highlight any part of the image in yellow, erase mistakes, send the image by email, copy it, and, best of all,  save it as a PNG, HTML, GIFF or JPEG file.

I am image impaired. I struggle with manipulating images, but these two tools, particularly the snipping tool, have solved many of my problems. I needed to insert images into my manuscript and was having all kinds of trouble doing so. Once I discovered the snipping tool, I was able to capture the images I needed, and manipulate them at will.

Another useful tool is GIMP. GIMP is a free program, and much like Photoshop and Illustrator, it allows you to crop, re-size and even cut out specific portions of images.

Try these tools and I think you’ll be pleased with their capabilities. They helped me.FotoFlexer_Photo Quill

Formatting your eBook for Kindle

The Nuclear Option

The Nuclear Option

When it comes to formatting eBooks for Kindle, there is a lot of information out there on this subject that is very limited in scope and can be misleading. If you visit YouTube you will find brief (5/10/20 minute) videos that purport to explain how you can format your eBook in 5 or 10 easy steps. You cannot. Amazon uses basic HTML code for publishing eBooks. To format without HTML coding requires following a strict and rather involved regime.

Some experts who prefer perfect products, or as close to perfect as one can get, warn against  using “meatgrinder” programs such as Scrivener, Smashwords and Calibre because they take your manuscript and force-feed it through their program. For the most part, however, these programs get very few complaints. In fact, raves are the norm but never having used them myself, I cannot voice an opinion. My manuscript is a young adult fantasy and I have used numerous unusual formatting techniques that may or may not be amenable to these programs so I decided not to use them.

Another option is to hire a professional formatter, but that is not an option for me.

After much searching, I came across this link by Matthews Lee Adams that I have been following step by step. It provides the type of simple explanations I find invaluable. Thank you, Matthew.

The first, and most crucial step, is to remove all formatting from your manuscript. To do this copy your manuscript, and paste it into notepad. Then copy it from notepad and paste it back into a new Word document. This is the so-called “nuclear option” because it eliminates all formatting. It also means that desirable formatting such as italics, bolding, underlining, etc. be reformatted, by hand, all over again.

I elected to use this “nuclear option” because of the numerous changes I made over months and months of revisions and because I sometimes jury-rig problems that I do not know how to correct properly.

Using the link above these are the procedures that I followed:

  • Once my unformatted manuscript was copied back into Word, I tackled eliminating errors that still existed. Many of us use a double space between sentences. That’s the way I was taught, but modern style requires only a single space. So I have retrained myself, and it is not too difficult a habit to break. If you initially used double spaces between sentences you can use the Find and Replace tool in Word to solve this problem quite easily (“Find” space space; “Replace” space.)
  • The other usual faux pas I made was to use the tab key for indenting paragraphs. This does not work for eBooks. In the Find and Replace tool there is box on the bottom labeled “Special.” Click on that box to get a drop-down menu with several choices, one of which is “Tab Character,” (^t). Select this option for the “Find” box, leave the “Replace With” box empty and then hit “Replace all.” This will eliminate all indents. In my case, I replaced my indents in chunks of pages instead of all at once because of my unique formatting.
  • But now the first line of each paragraph still needs to be indented. To do this you will need to go through your manuscript paragraph by paragraph and do the following. Place the cursor to the left of the first letter of each paragraph. This is the line that follows a hard return (hitting “Enter”). If you have trouble identifying hard returns, or any other format, turn on the format display. Then select “Page Layout” on the top line of Microsoft Word, and click on the itty-bitty arrow on the bottom right of the “Paragraph” pane. A drop-down menu appears with two tabs. The first reads “Indents and spacing.” That is the one you want. Half way down is the indentation section that has a box in its center titled “Special”. Click on the arrow in that box, select “first line” and click “OK.” Voila! You are now indented properly.
  • You may have divided one paragraph into two and left an extra space at the end of the first paragraph. Eliminate these spaces by inserting a period and blank space (. ) into “Find” and leaving “Replace” blank. I used similar procedures to find extra spaces in front of new paragraphs, and when I used various punctuations (exclamation, quotation marks, etc.)
  • Next you can begin to restore other formatting to make your work appear as you originally intended. Mr. Adams recommends using the document being formatted alongside an original copy to make some tasks easier. For example, if you have text italicized, bolded and/or underlined you will want to use the original copy to find where these passages are located. I have a large number of italics in my book so I went through the original and highlighted them all in red so that when it came time to make changes to the formatted copy, they were easier to spot. This was a tedious, but necessary, process.
  • There are similar requirements for en and em dashes, ellipses, and quotation marks, and don’t forget to change any superscripts, subscripts, or accented letters as well.
  • The link also has instructions for embedding your book cover properly and how to handle other front matters such as the title page, copyright, dedication and table of contents by the expeditious use of page breaks. Thankfully, this part is easy.

You can refer to the link above if I am confusing you. Adams does a much better job of explaining the process than I have here, albeit in a longer presentation.

The final (I hope) step is to use the “Save As” function to save your document in “Word 97-2003 Document Format” which is DOC and not DOCX as Kindle requires. This is extremely important so do not forget to do this after all your hard work.

This is as far as I’ve gotten so far. I’ll let you know how the rest works out as I go along. Meanwhile, good luck with your formatting, and if you come across any tips please pass them along so we can share them with others.FotoFlexer_Photo Quill

Motorcycles and rain do not go together


Adirondack Mountains

Motorcycles and rain do not go together. Unlike the comfort of a cage (car) in which you can employ your windshield wipers, turn on the defroster, turn up the radio, and stay dry and comfy, none of that is possible on a motorcycle in the rain.
Even with the best foul weather gear you are going to get wet. If you are not wearing a full-face helmet and gauntlet gloves each individual rain drop feels like a bee sting on the face and the back of your hands. The rain will find ways to whip around your helmet and down your neck, or seep in between your slicker pants and your boots to soak your socks (squishy socks are no fun.) I suppose that there are ways to prevent this (duct tape comes to mind), but for the most part getting wet is part of the price for getting caught in the rain.
While getting wet is merely an annoyance, wet pavement is out and out dangerous.
On a trip to find the Tennessee/Kentucky/Virginia tri-state marker some years back, we got caught on the top of a mountain during a vicious storm that blew out the lights in large sections of three states.

We had stayed in Marion, VA the night before and checked the weather before departing. A storm was supposed to pass through well to the north of us and later in the day. So we made sure to get an early start. We took this neat road, Route 16, north towards Tazewell, VA. That particular road is one of those thin-line, back roads I’ve been mentioning. It’s a great motorcycle road, a narrow lane with lots of twists and turns. If you MapQuest that route you will find that it takes over an hour to go just 30 miles, not because of any speed limits, but because of the contours of the road itself, and it’s so remote we needed to make sure there were gas stations along the way.
Unbeknownst to us at the time, a mere 4 miles in on rte. 16 we passed through Hungry Mother State Park. Legend has it that Native Americans had destroyed several settlements in the area, and taken Molly Marley and her small child captive. Molly and her child managed to escape, but Molly collapsed a short time later. Some locals came upon the child, and the only words the child uttered were “hungry mother.” A subsequent search found Molly but she was already dead. Today that area is called Hungry Mother State Park and the mountain is called Molly’s Knob (3270 ft). That’s not much of a mountain as mountains go, unless, of course, you get caught up on its top during a vicious storm.

Just like a woman, the storm changed her mind. She came in much earlier and farther to the south then forecast catching us unaware. The wind blew gale force, and its gusts came in swirls, stripping leaves from trees and sending branches crashing down onto the road in front of us and behind us. Exploding claps of thunder arrived simultaneously with numerous, vivid lightning strikes. Visibility was reduced to about 10 feet. There was no shelter, so we were forced to pick our way slowly, very slowly, down the mountain, carefully avoiding the slick, wet leaves that littered the roadway, dismounting to remove tree limbs where necessary.
We did come upon one cabin tucked into the woods just off the road. They had their lights on so we pulled over but when we knocked on their door to ask permission to park our bikes under their carport, we heard the doors lock and they turned off the lights. Since this was in the heart of red-neck country we thought it best to move on.
We continued down the mountain, picking up another rider along the way. He was huddled with his bike beneath a large tree, reluctant to ride on. When he saw us, he joined the caravan. Safety in numbers.
A couple of hours later we arrived in a two-horse town at the foot of the mountain. It was as welcome to us as Vegas would be to a cash-flush gambler. An abandoned store front with a wooden overhang provided shelter to wait out the rest of the storm, while our fellow rider regaled us with stories of his many bike trips. There is a camaraderie established between those with similar interests that makes for easy conversation. He thanked us for our company, and departed as soon as the rain passed. We executed a quick, partial change of clothes, wringing out those squishy socks. Luckily, the road was little traveled so no one caught us in our skivvies.
I mentioned that large portions of three states had lost power. That caused another problem. No electricity means no gas pumps would be working. We passed through a few small towns but all their pumps were out. At one stop a big fellow in blue overalls eyed us suspiciously at first, but warmed up quick enough as we related our dilemma. That’s not an uncommon experience with bikers. We are often mistrusted at first, but most folks seem genuinely interested in talking to you once you prove to be friendly. That big fellow now had a big grin, and he told us there was a town to the east that still had power, so we abandoned our planned route, but not our objective.
The sun came out and started drying our wet clothes and soggy boots as we started east. We found the open gas station with pumps running and were able to gas up.
Toward the end of that long day, we did find our tri-state marker, and added it to the list of our accomplishments. Then we hi-tailed it back to civilization by the quickest route possible. We were done with back roads for the rest of that day.