Manuscript Image Manipulation

Yin-Yang

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

DCIM104SPORT

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.

Three grubby bikers discussing forgiveness

Au Sable Chasm

Au Sable Chasm

Three grubby bikers wound up discussing forgiveness, of all things, after getting delayed by a rainstorm in upstate NY. Their original intent was to gas up, grab some chow, and continue their journey from Fort Ticonderoga up to Au Sable Chasm, but a violent rain storm changed all that.

Discussing forgiveness was not even on their radar. They were concerned with how long it was going to take for the front to pass through. When it became apparent from a smart phone weather app that it was probably going to be a lengthy wait (six hours as it turned out), they had no choice but to shelter their bikes, and then hunker down over some chili dogs and coffee.

The forgiveness discussion started after maps had been pored over exploring all possible avenues of escaping the rain, after the routes of previous trips had been reviewed, and after outlines for future trips had been recorded.

There was no direct spark that began the conversation, nor was there any unfinished business between the brothers that required more forgiveness then that they had already granted each other. Brothers are bound to butt heads over hurt feelings, women, or who Mom loved best, and those matters had been put to rest long ago. In fact, the brothers could talk about past problems between them, and shake their heads in disbelief that they could have been so selfish, so childish, and so ignorant.

But there was something about forgiveness that piqued their interest. Motorcycle joys mature with age and experience.

Forgiveness, they decided, is simple to understand, yet difficult to implement. There is the simple, superficial forgiveness of words spoken merely in the desire to just get along. Yet the mere act of saying “I forgive you,” doubles-down forgiveness. The heart of the one forgiven is eased and, at the same time, a sense of peace is granted to the forgiver the very moment the words are spoken. It’s palpable.

Forgiveness eliminates the desire for vengeance. Brother Brian described the futility of vengeance, that long, rainy afternoon, with the example of an individual who swallows poison expecting it to kill his adversary. Don’t swallow the poison. Forgive your enemies.

But forgiving is hard. I get all self-righteous, and stubborn about it. I am the one, after all, who has been wronged by that stupid mother-fucker and he doesn’t give a shit about how I feel. Fuck him! I’ll fix that bastard!

My mind goes off somewhere (close to hell), devising elaborate schemes for revenge, the nastier the better. Yeah…yeah, I know, vengeance is a dish best served cold and I will serve it cold – well…not icy-cold. There has to be some heat in it or I will not enjoy my vengeance as much as I want to, and I do, SO, want to bask in my vengeance!

Instead, the lesson is that I must forgive. As hard as this may be, its upside is that its rewards are immediate. Like a single tab of Tums, forgiveness neutralizes the cauldron of boiling bile in the pit of the stomach.

Additionally, there is a satisfaction available in realizing that our enemies are forever possessed by their demons. BUT we must not revel in that self-satisfaction because it only diminishes us. Evil-doers will remain caught in the traps of their own making until they learn to forgive themselves, and change their ways.

Forgiving one’s self can be the most difficult type of forgiveness of all.

Let’s take divinity out of Christ for a moment – just for purposes of this discussion. Christ, the philosopher, preached forgiveness. It was a central message of his ministry. He taught not only the forgiveness of others (“Let he who is without sin cast the first stone”), but he also taught forgiveness of self. Christ taught that we must admit to our own wrongdoings, our faults – our “sins”, and repent. The result is the elimination of the burden of that sin. We free ourselves to live our futures newborn, or, as some say, born again.

To brother Gregory, forgiving is two words – for giving him the freedom to let go and get on with his life. When we forgive we don’t change the past, we change our futures. Forgiving is a gift we give ourselves.

There is visible proof of the power of forgiveness. Pope John Paul II forgave the man who tried to assassinate him and the man converted to Christianity. We expect that of Popes but other examples can be taken from the news headlines. The so-called Green River Killer is a self-confessed serial killer of scores of female prostitutes. The man committed so many murders he could not even remember which victims were which. Throughout his incarceration, he showed no signs of remorse. He remained a stone-cold killer. At his sentencing, family members of his victims were allowed to speak. Most cursed him but the father of one of the victims forgave him. Only then did his stone-cold demeanor break. You can see it for yourself here.

The discussion about forgiveness made that long, rainy afternoon memorable.

After the storm passed, the brothers mounted their bikes and headed for Lake Saranac, a necessary change of plans due to the weather. The sky was still gray but the weatherman had assured them that the rain had passed.

Not so. A short run out of Ticonderoga it started to drizzle. They rode on hoping for a change for the better, but the drizzle turned into a cold, hard rain. They pushed on for another two hours, finally arriving at their lodging for the night with stiff, frozen fingers and cold, cramped legs.

They didn’t forget to forgive the weatherman.FotoFlexer_Photo Quill

Motorcycle joys mature with age and experience

maturity

Maturity

Motorcycle joys mature with age and experience. Even though I was a fully grown adult when I start riding motorcycles I still had some growing up to do when it came to acting sensibly.

I had been interested in riding for years but no one I knew rode a motorcycle until the winter I got a job as a bartender down in Charlotte Amalie, St Thomas. My brother, Brian, was teaching school down there, riding his motorcycle to and from work. That was all the impetus I needed. My time had arrived.

At the age of 30, I purchased a 500cc Triumph Trophy. I taught myself the basics, with special emphasis on safety since I was scared to death of dying. Thus began my riding career. I have owned numerous motorcycles and I have been riding ever since.

Over the years, the joys I get from riding my motorcycle have matured. I still get a charge accelerating up steep hills. The roar of the engine is like that of a tiger just released from a cage expressing its need for freedom. But now when I get to the top of the hill I back off on the throttle a bit. Instead of continuing my hell-bent roar like I used to do early on, I look down the road ahead of me, the road I just crested, to see what lies beyond. If the road ahead is full of twists and turns and properly pitched pavement I might – no, I would – continue the roar. There is nothing like a good motorcycle road. Ahh! The Tail of the Dragon, Rte 129, down in Deals Gap, NC, 318 turns in 11miles. Whoo-whee! Now there’s a motorcycle road. OK…maybe I have not fully matured – yet.

I no longer take main highways either, unless absolutely necessary. I prefer the back roads as mentioned in the previous blog. First of all, you are not screaming down a four (six, eight) lane highway just to keep up with the chore-focused frenzy. Few folk are enjoying that drive. They have their eyes locked down the highway desperately looking for the off ramp. Where’s the off ramp… where’s the off ramp?

Highways are dangerous. Every road is dangerous but highways with their high speeds, wild-weaving traffic patterns, and wind-gusting monster trucks are particularly deadly. Yeah, a back road is a wiser choice.

For the most part I drive slower now too. I enjoy the ride more than the speed and it is a lot safer. Since the advent of cell phones/smart phones the dangers on the roads for all drivers have increased exponentially. This is especially true for motorcyclists. Drivers who text and drive are 23 times more likely to have an accident. And as if that isn’t scary enough, texting and driving is six times more dangerous than DRUNK DRIVING!

I live on Long Island, NY which is a densely populated area with way too much traffic. Except for extended trips with my brothers I seldom ride my bike anymore except for an occasional jaunt over the bay bridges to our barrier island where traffic is light and nature is near. Aside from the necessity for safety, slowing down also enhances sensory awareness. The Atlantic Ocean washes the shore there. You can see it, hear it, and smell it.

074

Roadside stream

On our latest trip through the Adirondacks that sensory awareness was most welcome. I was able to enjoy glimpses of a high, thin waterfall cascading down a heavily-forested cliff side. I could hear the joyous shrieks of children splashing in the icy waters of the boulder-strewn stream that meandered alongside the roadway. I could smell the green of freshly harvested corn fields. The pungent odors of horse manure and a pancaked skunk wrinkled my nose before being left quickly behind.

I have also learned not to ride in the rain. That sounds like a no-brainer but it is not always possible to anticipate when and where you might encounter inclement weather. On this latest trip, we had the modern convenience of smart phones with weather apps. We had heard on the news that a violent storm was to pass through the area so when we left Fort Ticonderoga to gas up, we checked the weather.

An interesting aside here. Fort Ticonderoga is not a state or national park. It is privately owned and presently run by a non-profit organization, funded by donations and park admission fees. It was purchased by the Pell family and restored after decades of neglect. They have done a great job and the fort is worth visiting for its vistas as well as for its history, including reenactments of the Revolutionary War era.

But back to the bad weather. A front with heavy rains and high winds extended from Canada down to Long Island, and was headed east. We were headed west towards Saranac Lake and there was no way to punch through that front without encountering the storm. So we just stayed put for six hours talking about forgiveness. Motorcycle joys mature with age and experience.FotoFlexer_Photo Quill

Take back roads whenever possible

Back roads lead everywhere

Back roads lead everywhere

Take back roads whenever possible. I just got back from a five day, 1000 mile long motorcycle  trip with my two brothers through a bit of New York State’s Adirondack Mountains. Wherever possible we took back roads.

As mentioned in the first blog (The Journey is the Destination) on this website, both of my brothers enjoy motorcycling. Each of us took up the hobby at different times, and has had differing experiences, but because of our common interest we ride together whenever possible.

Our usual outings are to visit tri-state markers – just because they’re there – and because their locations are usually so far out in the boondocks they provide an excuse for us to go exploring. So far we have visited 18 of the 36 dry land markers.

Last week the three of us took a trip to the Adirondacks. This was our so-called “Lake” trip, because of all the lakes we visited: Lake George, Lake Champlain, Saranac Lake, Lake Placid, Mirror Lake, Great Sacandaga Lake and Colgate Lake. In addition we took a side trip to the summit of Whiteface Mountain, took in Au Sable Chasm, and visited with friends and family.

And we took back roads. Some pass through towns so small there isn’t even a cross street, where houses crowd right to the edge of the road, with old folks sitting on their porches who wave as you pass by. In some towns the road takes you passed paint-peeling buildings with sagging roofs that testify to a lack of work ethic. They are crumbling, dilapidated towns with barefoot children playing in the dirt too close to the road and dogs that chase you for a lap or so. Some roads circle through proud towns with meticulously mowed lawns, pots of bright flowers hung on parking meters, enormous American flags flopping lazily atop high flag poles in front of the volunteer fire departments and city halls. Each road has its own personality. Every road is unique.

Back roads take longer to traverse so you need to allow more time if you have a timetable to maintain. But that extra time is never wasted, even when you get delayed at a railroad crossing by a freight train pulling in excess of 100 cars. Depending on its speed you can be there a while. You turn off the bike, dismount, retrieve some water from your saddle bags, stretch your legs (that needed stretching though you had not yet noticed), lean back up against the bike, and watch the hawks circling unhurriedly overhead. Then, with one or two last deep knee bends, and a wave to the lone workman in the back of the caboose, you mount your bike and you’re on your way again. You never even consider checking your watch.

Some back roads become dirt roads. They are dangerous because of the loose gravel but they are the only roads that can take you to where the few choose to travel. You’ll need a good map, a gazetteer if you can find one, because dirt roads have a way of becoming narrow trails that just might turn into nearly impassable pathways. You know the ones; the ones leading to the abandoned quarry that’s now filled with water. There is always a tree by the water’s edge with a rope tied to one of its limbs for swinging out over its mirror-like waters.  Kids will be kids. Or the trail that leads to a long-ago-abandoned fire tower with its broken-slatted ladder climb to the top for vista views of hazy mountains in distant states. You’ll have to swing a leg off your bike and hike a bit to get to most of these destinations but the exercise is good for you and it’s fun.

I know. We cannot follow every dirt road wherever they all lead. There just isn’t time in a single life-time. But there is time to follow a few. Look for the thinnest lines you can find on your gazetteer. They are the roads that lead from where you are, to where you want to go, but do not yet know how to get there. Follow them. They will surprise you with the most revelations. They yield unsolicited knowledge. They are a bit edgy.FotoFlexer_Photo Quill

International Standard Book Numbers (ISBN)

International Standard Book Number

ISBN

International Standard Book Numbers (ISBN) are numerical sequences issued as book identifiers. They are required to publish and distribute a book. They consist of thirteen digits that are used to identify the title, author, edition, binding, and publisher of a given work. They are unique to each book and each variation of that book.

They are country specific, meaning that an agency in the nation in which the book is published is responsible for issuing ISBNs. In the U.S. the only company authorized to do so is RR Bowker.

In order to purchase ISBNs you must create an account with Bowker. ISBNs are expensive. A single number costs $125 dollars, but you can buy them in bulk which drops the price considerably, e.g. 10 numbers cost $295 dollars and 1000 cost $1000 dollars. If you choose to buy in bulk, the company will store your unused ISBNs until such time as you need them.

Bowker also sells barcodes which are used with hardcover and paperback editions.

Each book and/or variations of that book, except reprints, require a different number. This means that a hardcover, paperback, large print, and audio books of the same work would all require different ISBNs. This is also true for new editions and successive books in a series. In no case may you use the same number for different versions of the same work, e.g. paperback and audio. See https://www.myidentifiers.com/help/isbn for a listing of what products require numbers.

When you select a POD publisher to print your book, you will be required to provide an ISBN. If you do not have one, most POD companies will provide one for you, usually at a nominal cost ($10), sometimes for free. They can do this because they buy in bulk. If you use the ISBN they provide, they are credited as your publisher.

You will notice that ebooks are not mentioned in the above link. Bowker does say on its website that ebooks require an ISBN. However, some authorities on the subject question that assertion. Bowker is, after all, in the business of selling numbers.

Many (most?) ebooks do not have an ISBN. Their authors use the numbers that their POD company supplies. Each company has its own system of assigning tracking numbers. Amazon, for example, does not require an ISBN for its ebooks. It assigns its own 10-digit ASIN (Amazon Standard Identification Number). Barnes and Noble uses a similar system. They do not require an ISBN either, but in this case they assign a 13 digit BN number. Apple’s iBookstore, requires an ISBN for all titles including ebooks.

There are several circumstances where you might need, or desire, an ISBN for your ebook.

  • As mentioned in the previous blog, you will have to provide your own ISBN if you have created your own publishing company and want your ebook credited to your company.
  • If you have any intentions of selling your book in another country you will be required to have an ISBN.
  • ISBNs are the ultimate tracking device. To insure that all your royalties are credited to your account, it is a wise idea to assign a number to each variation of your work including ebooks.
  • Your book will have a better chance of being found by search engines with an ISBN.
  • If you want to maximize your sales by selling your book through multiple retailers you may need an ISBN. This is a murky area with differing viewpoints. Some “authorities” on the subject state that you need a separate number for MOBI, ePub and PDF formats because end users need to know whether the e-book that they are purchasing will work on their device.

The following information is taken directly from the CreateSpace website. If Amazon assigns your book an ISBN, you cannot use the ISBN with another publishing platform. AND, with a custom ISBN, you cannot use the ISBN with another publisher. AND, for libraries and academic institutions, you must have a CreateSpace assigned ISBN.

If you do decide to apply an ISBN to any of your books, outside of the POD realm, it is up to you to complete the process. You MUST return to your Bowker MyIdentifiers account to enter the title, edition, binding, publisher, etc for each book so that the books information is tied to the correct number. This is how the rest of the world will find your book.

You will also want your book listed in the Bowker’s Books In Print database. An ISBN gives you this ability, and will make it easier for search engines to find your book. You must make sure you are listed there.

The ISBN is placed on the copyright page of the book, including ebooks.

The call is yours to make. Yes, ISBNs are expensive and the responsibility of applying all the necessary information to link your books with your numbers lies with you, but there are advantages as outlined above. My take is that assigning ISBNs to each variation of your books is a good investment if you desire to maximize your book’s exposure.FotoFlexer_Photo Quill

Publish using your own publishing company

 

 

Start your own publishing company

Start your own publishing company

Publish using your own publishing company. It is easy but is it necessary?

You can have your book printed by any print-on-demand (POD) publisher by following the steps outlined on their websites. Pick a POD company like CreateSpace and publish your book under their imprint. It’s as simple as that. For many of us, this is the way to go. But there is also the option of forming your own publishing company. You still use a POD publisher but your title uses the imprint of your own publishing company.

So, what are the pros and cons of each option?

The primary benefit of using a POD publisher is the ease of the process. They do much of the work for you. It is also cheaper, a lot cheaper. You do not have to pay for a lawyer or to file the necessary paperwork to form a new business. In addition, POD publishers will provide the necessary ISBN (International Standard Book Number), and a barcode to identify your book, for a nominal fee, in some cases for free. This is a substantial savings because a single ISBN costs $125 and a single barcode costs $50. If you decide to form your own publishing company you will have to pony up for all these expenses.

The major benefit of starting your own company is pride. The book is yours. You are the publisher and your individual imprint appears more professional.

This is no small matter. With the opportunity to self publish, authors with varying degrees of dedication, have taken to the market place. An estimated 3000 books are published every day. Of these there are, unfortunately, a lot of slap-dash books with a CreateSpace, Lulu, Lightning, et al imprint on their spines. With your own imprint you stand out. If you take that kind of pride in your work, form your own publishing company, bite the bullet and buy a block of ISBNs. More about ISBNs in the next blog.

Two other concerns bear addressing here. In the past it was reported that the brick and mortar book stores would not sell CreateSpace books. That appears to no longer be true. Here is a link to a letter from Barnes and Noble explaining their business approach to self published books.

There is also a YouTube video claiming that certain contests will not consider self published books for their awards. I have not been able to verify the truth of this assertion.

If you do decide to form your own publishing company, here are the steps to follow:

  • The first step in starting any business is to decide which type of business you need. You can choose between a sole proprietorship, a partnership or a corporation. In a sole proprietorship you are the owner of the business, responsible for all its obligations. With a partnership, those responsibilities are spread out among the partners. A corporation can consist of a single individual or a group. Its main benefit is that it limits personal liability. The corporation becomes responsible, not the individual, for any monetary losses or lawsuits. Most authors write their own books so a sole proprietorship is probably best. You can always upgrade to a corporation/LLC at a later date if you desire.
  • Unless you intend to hire employees to help you, another benefit of a sole proprietorship is that there is no requirement for an Employer Identification Number (EIN). And there are no special taxes.
  • The next step is to decide on a name for your company. You can choose to use your own name, or you can create one. If you choose to create a name it is called “Doing Business As” or DBA. You must check to ensure that the name you select is available. This is a simple procedure. Most municipalities have an online search service where you can check.

I live in Suffolk County, New York. I was able to download the necessary forms from the County Clerk’s office and check for my business name online. Once all the forms were filled out, I submitted them to the County Clerk and received my DBA.

  • With your DBA in hand you can open a bank account in the name of your new company if you so choose. This is a good idea because it enables you to separate business and personal accounts.
  • Here is a government website for the many specifics related to starting your own business. http://www.sba.gov/content/follow-these-steps-starting-business.

If you do go the route of forming your own publishing company you might also consider generating a logo. That way when you publish your book, the logo will accompany the name of the publishing company. It will look more professional – part of that standing out from the crowd mentality.FotoFlexer_Photo Quill

Proofreading produces professional products

chisel

Proofread, proofread, proofread

Proofreading produces professional products. It is the final step before your manuscript gets writ in stone and it cannot be ignored.

After you finished writing your first draft, then rewriting and rewriting and rewriting, you sent this “finished” work out to a copy editor for review. At least I hope you did. Copy editing is generally considered an essential step in the publishing process. I’ve covered that subject twice in these blogs because copy editing is so crucial.

When you got your manuscript back, you made the necessary corrections as proposed by your copy editor.

Generally speaking, we make most of these changes but not all. After all, this is our work and we know our story best. So while the copy editor may suggest modifications, we do not have to agree with all of them. I made about 90% of the suggested changes, but I left alone those that I felt best expressed my original intent.

So, finally, we are done.

Not so fast.

As you corrected your work, you may have found, as I did, that some of the wording had now become clumsy and needed further revising. Sometimes I was also visited by the inspiration genie while making these changes. This entailed adding or, in some cases, removing copy. So now what?

PROOFREADING.

You can proofread your manuscript yourself, but having read and reread and reread it so many times you have probably become word-blinded and will be unable see your own mistakes. So it’s probably best to have fresh eyes read your work for you, to see if they can find any errors.

And they will, which will then entail making these additional, final corrections. A renown author of numerous books once informed me that the last step he took before sending his work out to the publisher was to read it BACKWARD. You are allowed to groan here. I did.

I did read my manuscript backwards, as difficult and boring as that was, and I did find mistakes. Don’t ask me how the brain knew, but it did.

Guess what? Since that backward read, I have made additional changes (can we ever let go of our darlings?) necessitating a final proofread. I am now in the process of making these final (please let this be true) corrections which will then require another backward read. Groan.

This is proofreading and we cannot do without it.

One last note:

Proofreading and copy editing are, apparently, not exact sciences. Below, I have included examples of how different experts corrected my work according to their own styles and interpretations of the Chicago Manual of Style (CMS).

I have the luxury of knowing several professionals. I sent my work for proofreading to a PhD, a MFA, and an English teacher with 50 years of experience. This is in addition to the copy editor I hired to review my work and whose changes I had diligently (90%) employed.

Here are examples of how these proofreaders differed:

Example 1:

“Do not let the word hostile frighten you, Will. How about the word challenging?”

“Do not let the word hostile frighten you, Will. How about the word challenging?”

“Do not let the word ‘hostile’ frighten you, Will. How about the word ‘challenging’?”

Example 2:

“First you have two different systems; one for time and one for distance. Now, within your distance system you have two separate systems; miles and/or kilometers.

“First, you have two different systems — one for time and one for distance. Now, within your distance system, you have two separate systems — miles and/or kilometers. (; here is wrong)

Example 3:

“Any agent of the BGK, that is who.”

“Any agent of the BGK that is who.”

“Any agent of the BGK. That is who.”

So, which variation should you choose? Google any confusing issues and use those results, tempered by your own common sense. You must use precise wording in order to express the exact sentiments that you are trying to convey to the reader.

This does not mean that you will not get your manuscript sent back to you all marked up in red again. This is my best understanding of the process of proofreading, and I have no other advice to offer.

I welcome your experiences. Please share your take on the proofreading process so we can all become better writers. Thanks.FotoFlexer_Photo Quill