Tag Archives: books

The Curious Case of Life Imitating Art

The muse must have been looking over my shoulder yesterday because, unexpectedly, I stumbled upon a case of life imitating art. Or was art imitating life?

I’d spent most of the day walking my dog, talking with friends online, and reading Anna Quindlen’s novel, “Still Life with Breadcrumbs,” the story of a photographer whose career is in decline.

In late afternoon, I decided to take my car out for a spin, since the last time I’d started it up, it had been sluggish. I feared the battery was about to reach its moment of planned obsolescence. (That would be about par for 2020.) But I hoped that if I drove around for an hour or so, maybe I could revive it.

On a whim, I grabbed my camera before heading out (something I haven’t done in a while, since it’s been too hot during the day for photography). “You never know,” I thought, imagining for just a second a chance encounter with a dust devil, or maybe a space alien. The car sputtered to a reluctant start. Before it could die on me, I put it in gear and headed north.

My destination was Oracle, about half an hour up the road – an unincorporated town whose most famous resident to date has been Buffalo Bill Cody. En route, it occurred to me to plug in an audiobook that was in my phone.

Unfortunately, I’m not too good with modern audio systems in cars (or in phones, for that matter). In fact, I was surprised I’d managed to get the book copied into my phone at all. So as not to cause an accident, I turned off the main highway, Oracle Road, and onto Biosphere Road (which, inconsequentially, leads to Biosphere 2) in order to park, thumb through my owner’s manual, and figure out how to tell my car to read a book to me.

After a few hundred feet, I came to a turnaround. It looked like an ideal place for rattlesnakes and tarantulas to hang out, but I wasn’t planning to get out of the car and join their party, even if they were wearing masks. Heavy, dark storm clouds were gathering in the distance, and a few were above my head. I was anxious to queue up my book and get back on the road.

The clouds had other ideas. They suddenly moved out of the sun’s way, and a shaft of light landed on something smooth, tall, and bright along the trail: a scarred and dusty shrine in the middle of the desert.

It seemed to be a case of life imitating art. You see (spoiler alert), on page 37 in Still Life With Breadcrumbs, that book I’d been reading earlier that day, the protagonist goes for a hike in the woods and comes upon a shrine – a white wooden cross with a glittering child’s volleyball trophy lying on the ground next to it. She takes some photos.

I felt like life was trying to tell me something, so I shut off the engine, grabbed my camera, and got out of the car. Scoping out the ground for snakes or spiders, I cautiously approached the little memorial and took a few photos. As soon as I’d finished and gotten back in my car, I realized I might have made a mistake.

It was 107 degrees out, and there I was in the middle of the Arizona desert with a car whose battery was on its last legs. I wondered how long it would be before AAA could find me. I turned the key in the ignition. The engine choked for a few seconds, and then, reluctantly, it caught.

I sighed, turned the car around, and glanced back at the shrine, but by then the sun had ducked behind the clouds again; the scene was now in shadow. I’d gotten there just at the right moment.

All I could think of on the drive home was the phrase, “life imitates art.” So today I looked that up and learned a thing or two. The idea has been around since at least the time of Plato, who believed art was a poor imitation of life, and for that reason could be dangerous. Aristotle, on the other hand, welcomed art’s imitation of life. And Oscar Wilde’s take was that life imitates art more often than art imitates life. Even Dostoevsky got into the debate, describing it as more of a codependent relationship, where art imitates life, which then imitates art, causing life to owe its very existence to art.

As for me, I was totally flabbergasted by the way my life (finding the shrine) seemed to be imitating art (the book I’m reading). Or maybe art (the book) was imitating life (its pathos) which in turn was imitating art (the shrine). It’s something I thought was worth pondering, especially when I realized one more thread:

In “Still Life With Breadcrumbs,” the protagonist doesn’t notice a certain, possibly significant, detail on the cross until she gets home and enlarges the photo. That same thing happened to me – I didn’t notice the coins at the base of the statue until I got home. Can you spot them?

Shrine 5

I’ve searched online for other photos of this shrine but couldn’t find any, so I don’t know who it’s for. I wish I did. In any case, I think I’ll return soon and add some coins to their collection.

 

 

Dwarsligger: A New Dutch Invention

According to an article I read recently, the Netherlands is responsible for a number of important inventions, including:

  • the microscope
  • the telescope
  • the submarine
  • wi-fi
  • orange carrots

I admit that the above items are all really cool (especially orange carrots), but there’s a new invention on the horizon. I heard about it the other day on National Public Radio, so I believe it to be true. And its presence could revolutionize the literary world. Its name is:

DWARSLIGGER

The word “dwarsligger” comes from two Dutch words: “dwars,” which means “crossways,” and “liggen,” which means “to lie” (as in lying crossways), and which also can mean “a person or thing that stands out as different.” So, a dwarsligger is a different sort of thing that lies crossways. To see what this means in terms of books, try this:

  • Imagine a book that opens like a regular book, except that instead of a regular binding, it has a hinge.
  • Now turn the book sideways and imagine that the text is printed in landscape mode.
  • Make the book small, about the size of a cell phone.
  • Now make the pages really thin, like onion skin.

That’s a dwarsligger – a mini-book you can hold with one hand, with pages that can be flipped out of the way as you read them. It’s like swiping on an electronic device, but better. It’s a real book.

Dutton (part of Penguin Random House) just released its first set of dwarsliggers – all novels by YA author John Green. Being a John Green fan, I can’t wait to get my hands – er – hand on these little dwarsliggers.

And now, in honor of the U.S. midterm elections (November 6, don’t forget to vote!), I’m conducting a mini-poll of my own:

The 2018 LoriStory Official and Unbiased Pre-Election Day Book Poll:

Which of the following book formats is your favorite?

_____ Hardcover

_____ Paperback

_____ E-book

_____ Dwarsligger

_____ Wait for the movie

Vote for as many as you like in the comment section below.

nanopoblano2018-notrim

Writer’s Conference Revelations

Yesterday, I attended the 2018 Arizona SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) conference.

I learned a ton of information about writing everything from picture books to YA, both fiction and non-fiction, and I came away with so many fresh ideas that I think my brain is going to explode very soon. But wait — that just gave me an idea for a picture book called, “My Brain Feels Like It’s Exploding.”

The book sample that I had submitted to the conference was not one of the few chosen for a face-to-face critique by an agent, but I did receive a constructive and thoughtfully-written critique from a knowledgeable and experienced children’s book editor. For that I am forever grateful. So maybe I should write the definitive YA self-help book on “How to Handle Criticism.”

My First Page submission was not one of the 15 or so selected to be discussed by the faculty panel, but I gleaned important insights from the panel’s comments about others’ writing. Now that I have those insights, I’m actually glad mine wasn’t chosen to be showcased. I probably would have jumped up, knocked over my coffee, and tipped everyone off that the anonymous, flawed first draft up on the two gigantic screens was mine. How embarrassing that would have been! And now I have an idea for a Middle Grade science book: “Why People Blush.”

I was not sought out by agents wanting to sell my books, as I had secretly dreamed. One agent did ask me for my “elevator pitch” (after I’d delicately broached the subject), but I stumbled through it, and I don’t think I impressed her. Besides, she specializes in a totally different genre.

I didn’t even win a door prize.

But I LOVED the conference. It was stimulating, informative, inspiring, and friendly. I met some really nice writers, agents, editors, and illustrators, and I’m eagerly looking forward to being in touch with them and seeing them at the next writing conferences and events.

Within hours of the conference closing, I was back at it, revising not one but two books that I’m currently working on. And I plan to keep writing and revising and attending writer’s conferences forever. And thinking up goofy book ideas.

 

Bridges in Literature

I’m reading Richard Russo’s Bridge of Sighs. Actually, I’m working my way through all 27 hours and 4 minutes of the audiobook version (21 cds) while driving around town. If you see me cruising down the road while I’m immersed in this wonderful novel, please honk or wave, but not so much that you distract me and cause an accident. One can only concentrate on so much input at once while DWEEB (Driving While Enjoying an Excellent Book).

My favorite part of the book so far has to do with how we see life as we get older, as compared with how we view it from the vantage point of youth. I don’t want to try and paraphrase Russo’s well-crafted prose here, or deprive you of the pleasure of dwelling on the passage of time while screeching to a halt at a stop sign. Just go pick up a copy and read it, preferably the 480-page hard copy version that you can spend some time with while reclining comfortably in your armchair at home. The world will be a much safer place without two DWEEBs driving around in a book-induced reverie.

Reading Bridge of Sighs has gotten me thinking about bridges in general, and wondering how often they’re mentioned in literature, music, and other genres.  Off the top of my head, I immediately thought of Bridge on the River Kwai and Bridge Over Troubled Water. Given that a bridge would be a powerful symbol, representing transition and change, I guessed that the bridge image must be commonplace in popular culture. As is often the case, I guessed wrong.

After thinking very hard (a.k.a. “Googling”), I managed to find only seven books worth mentioning with the word “bridge” in the title:

  • Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
  • A Bridge Too Far by Cornelius Ryan
  • A View from the Bridge by Arthur Miller
  • An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge by Ambrose Bierce
  • The Bridge of San Luis Rey by Thornton Wilder
  • Mrs. Bridge by Evan S. Connell
  • Mr. Bridge by Evan S. Connell

(I just couldn’t bring myself to include The Bridges of Madison County.)

I then moved on to songs, and although there were some Top Ten song lists with “bridge” in the title, I’m only going to mention three here, because, to be honest, the other seven didn’t interest me:

  • Bridge over Troubled Water (Simon & Garfunkel)
  • Under the Bridge (Red Hot Chili Peppers)
  • London Bridge (Traditional)

Finally, I resorted to adding characters named “Bridge” to my list, and I’m glad I did, because all of them are important in their own right.

  • Walter and India Bridge in the movie, Mr. & Mrs. Bridge, based on the books about Mrs. and Mr. Bridge, listed above.

This is important because I read the books AND saw the movie, and the movie has both Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward in it, something that just makes me happy for some reason.

  • George Bailey’s bridge in the movie, It’s a Wonderful Life. 

Okay, the bridge is not actually a character, but if it were a character, its name would most certainly be Bridget, and it would have won an Oscar for best movie prop in a supporting role.

  • Ruby Bridges, the first black child to integrate an all-white school in the American south (Nov. 14, 1960).

Through My Eyes by Ruby Bridges tells Ms. Bridges’ story in her own words. I think her name is particularly symbolic.

Returning to the subject of Bridge of Sighs, I’m now on cd number 12 of 21, so I’m more than halfway across the bridge, so to speak. This is one of those books that I’ll be sorry to finish. I’ve already become quite attached to Lucy Lynch, its main character. Spoiler alert: Lucy is not at all the way you’re probably picturing him.

So if you see someone in the driver’s seat of a white Subaru Impreza, deep in thought while barreling toward you on the highway, maybe you’d better just stay out of their way, because it could very well be me, on the last page of the last chapter of Bridge of Sighs, possibly crying my eyes out, or smiling, or whatever it is Richard Russo has in store for me, and I wouldn’t want to have to plead DWEEB in traffic court.

 

What The Flair?

I’ve written a middle grade novel and am querying agents. Last month I received a request for a full manuscript.

Don’t worry, I’m not about to gloat and tell you how excited I am to be represented by a big-name publisher or how you can download a copy of my book.

Nope. Nothing of the kind. After reading my manuscript, the agent decided to pass. But she did give me something I’ll never forget: valuable constructive criticism, which in the end might turn out to be even better than an offer of representation.

(Bear with me … I’m trying to see the silver lining.)

What she said was that my character didn’t have that “unique flair” she was looking for.

My initial reaction (after telling myself that I hadn’t expected her to like it anyway) was irritation. I’d heard that publishers are looking for “edgy” characters these days, but I didn’t want to give my eight-year-old protagonist suicidal thoughts, nose rings, or tattoos. This edginess is just a phase, I told myself. Surely it will pass.

But then I got humble and gave myself a minute to see the book through the agent’s eyes. When I did, I had to admit that my character was a bit on the bland side. Not much of a personality, actually, except that she’s shy, lacking in confidence, and has a good imagination. She needed something more. That agent was right. My character needed flair.

But what exactly is flair?

Fairy Duster Flare

No, that’s “flare.”

According to my best friend Merriam (last name Webster), “flair” is a special skill or ability, a style, or even — in the old days — an odor. (The word “flair” comes from Latin, French, and Middle English words for scent or fragrance.)

So, if I’m to give my character a unique flair, how do I do that? Should she have some hidden talent, unique mannerisms, or — how unique would this be — a special smell?

I’ve decided to revise my book (again), keeping an eye on all the ways I can enhance my character’s unique flair. I don’t mind doing this. I think I’m going to love my character more when I’m finished with her. After all, isn’t a character’s uniqueness what we love about them, what makes us root for them, and why we’re sad when the book ends?

Think of some of your favorite characters in novels. The first one to pop into my mind is Holden Caulfield; the second is Aza Holmes. I loved them both, for totally different reasons. (And after reading the article about Holden Caulfield that I just linked to, I love him even more.) But the thing both Holden and Aza have in common is personality. They had unique flair, no doubt about it. That’s what I want for my character, and I’m going to try my best. I’m no J.D. Salinger or John Green, but I can sure as hell try to be a better Lori Bonati.

It’s like when I edit photographs. After some initial gross adjustments like cropping and straightening, I work on more subtle enhancements such as vibrancy, clarity, and color. Here’s an example of a photo I took recently before and after editing. This simple little photo was taken through the windshield of a car while it was moving. (Don’t panic, I wasn’t driving.)

BEFORE editing:

Fog Unedited

No flair at all. But check out that unique angle and dashboard reflection!

AFTER editing:

Fog Edited

The second photo sold online in one day. If only I could say that about my book.

Have you ever received feedback from an agent? If so, did you follow it?

The Writer’s Brush

Have you ever been immersed in a book and suddenly been struck by the knowledge that the writing isn’t just good, it’s great?

Of course you have. But what exactly is it about the writing that gets to you? What hits you over the head and makes you say, “Wow”? Is it what the writer has to say, or how they say it?

To my mind, great writing requires both. It not only has to impart something worth saying, but it has to say it in a particularly artful way. I came across an example of this today while reading “One-Eyed Cat,” by Paula Fox.

This book is an example of how characters, setting, mood, plot, and theme all come together delicately yet quite powerfully. The author has something to say to young adult readers, and she says it with finesse. I couldn’t help but think “Wow” to myself several times while reading. Here’s an example of what I mean:

 “The stillness was deep as though the earth itself had drawn in its breath. The only thing moving was a wasp near the roof of the outhouse. Ned watched it as its circles grew smaller and smaller until, all at once, it disappeared. Probably its nest was there just under the roof. Maybe there were snakes in back of the outhouse where the tangled grass grew thick. He suddenly recalled how Janet had flung her whole self against Billy, how the snake had flown out of his hands. A thought was buzzing and circling inside his head, a thought that stung like a wasp could sting.”

With those few sentences, the author creates a silence, then fills it with small terrors. She has not only created a mood, she’s put us right inside of Ned’s head and made us feel the sting of the painful thought that Ned can’t just swat away. That sting is the tangible representation of the book’s central theme.

After that paragraph, I couldn’t stop turning the pages. I was in Ned’s head and I wanted to know how things would turn out. The theme was what hooked me, and the writing style made me a very willing catch.

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And here’s another analogy: great writing is like great painting. The subject is important, but so is the execution. A splash of blue color on canvas is just that, unless it happens to be as majestically painted as Starry Night. A face could be quite boring unless it’s captured the mystery of the Mona Lisa or the terror of The Scream.

Great writing requires a solid subject and an artistic brush.

What examples of great writing have you read lately?

Your Sneak Preview

Go on … admit it. You’re curious about my new e-book, Standing in the Surf, available at Amazon.com. Well, look no further. What you see below is none other than the Introduction, in all its introductory glory! And just because you’re here, and I like you, from now until November 30 I’ll send you a link so you can view the entire book for FREE in the hopes that you’ll write a review. To get your free link, just fill out the contact form at the bottom of this post. And please don’t forget to leave a review on the Amazon page, here. THANKS!

AND NOW, WITHOUT FURTHER ADO … the INTRODUCTION:

Recently, I retired. Wanting to give my friends at work a parting gift, I wrote an amusing (to me) song called “Just Retired.” At my retirement luncheon, I handed out the lyrics and invited everyone to stand up and sing along with me. The melody was vaguely familiar — in fact, I might have stolen it — so my kind co-workers humored me by joining in. They even gave me a standing ovation, since they already were standing. (I recorded the song and put it on YouTube. You can listen to it right now.)

Did you like the part where I sang about how I’d soon be sleeping till nine or ten every day, and then I’d sit around like a lazy bum collecting Social Security? Well, I lied. I’m not one to sit around for very long. In fact, just one week after I retired, I became a traveling fool.

First, I visited my family in upstate New York, and then I flew to Seattle, where my husband Chuck was visiting his family. He’d rented a cabin on nearby Whidbey Island, in the area known as the Salish Sea. We thought it would be a great place to unwind. Ocean waves and hiking trails were just what I needed to get back in touch with life’s natural rhythms after years of Monday through Friday routines. We spent three weeks exploring the area. This book is my attempt to capture what I experienced at Whidbey Island, Camano Island, Stanley Park, and Vancouver Island during that time.

Speaking of rhythms, Chuck and I used to play music in a band called Pacific Buffalo. (You can read about us and hear our music at pacificbuffalo.com.) The reason I’m telling you about our band is so that I can explain how I came up with the title for this book.

“Standing in the Surf” is a combination of ”Standing Still” and “Old Man in the Surf,” two songs that Chuck wrote and that Pacific Buffalo recorded (as I’m sure you already know if you wisely decided to listen to our music). I was having a hard time creating a book title on my own. Since plagiarism had worked so well for me when I wrote my retirement song, I just borrowed a few words from Chuck’s song titles and told him about it later.

Although this book does contain actual photos of surf (most of which I took while standing), there are even more pictures of other things, like flowers, trees, people, and animals. To me, it’s all connected — just my way of expressing what it felt like, finally, to be free of the ringing alarm clock and to listen to nature’s heartbeat instead. It’s there in the pounding of the surf, but it’s also in the hiker’s footsteps, the squirrel’s chatter, and the petal’s unfolding.

This book can be read in either a standing, sitting, or lying down position. I don’t recommend reading it while surfing, though, unless you’re reading the e-book version and your device is waterproof.

Lori Bonati-Phillips, 2017

Standing in the Surf

For those of you who stayed tuned from my previous post (Trials and Tribulations of an E-book Author), I’m here to tell you that I was finally successful in formatting my photo book (Standing in the Surf) and uploading it to Amazon as an e-book. It went up on their website two days ago as a pre-order option, and went “live” today. So far I have sold 3 copies, one of which I bought myself just to see if the system was working, and one was purchased by my husband. Whoever buyer number 3 is, I wish I could hug you and buy you dinner, but I don’t know who you are.

I’ll get this out of the way right now:

If you want to buy the book, click here!

The “Look Inside This Book” feature also went live today, but wasn’t formatted correctly for an iPad or iPhone. It did look okay on my desktop computer, though. As far as I can tell, there’s no way to disable that feature or fix it once it’s been added. I decided to just be thankful for the little progress I’ve made and move on.

Being the masochist that I am, though, moving on meant trying to make my e-book into a paperback. I’ll spare you the nightmarish details of what I’ve gone through today to make that happen. Fingers crossed, the paperback will be available soon!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Trials and Tribulations of an E-book Author

Have you ever tried to publish an e-book? Talk about frustrating. All morning, I’ve been on countless websites, digging through notes, and tearing my hair out trying to get a handle on this, without much progress. If I ever go totally insane and decide to write another e-book again, please talk me out of it, or just direct me to this post so I’ll reconsider.

Writing the book was the easy part. Shortly after returning from vacation, I’d decided that the pictures in my camera might be good enough for a photo book. It took me a few days to learn how to use Lightroom (my new photo editing software) so that I’d have images good enough to print, and then a couple of weeks to put them in some semblance of order and start writing witty yet meaningful text to accompany them. It was a logical, step-by-step process, one that left me feeling semi-talented and fulfilled at the end of each day. Not so with creating an e-book. All I feel is dumb and dumber.

Yesterday, I thought my work was done. The good thing about Lightroom is that, with one push of a button, you can send your finished photo book to Blurb.com to be published. The bad thing about Lightroom is that you’re locked into Blurb, and Blurb’s great mission seems to be making hardcover and paperback books. To convert your Blurb book to an e-book, you’re up the creek without a paddle, a life raft, or a canoe.

But I went ahead and uploaded the book to Blurb anyway, because I didn’t know how else to make a book. With Blurb, you have to order at least one book (hard cover or paperback). I had set it up as a hardcover and hesitated changing it to soft, for fear that it would mess up my margins, etc. So I went ahead and sprung for one hardcover copy, knowing that if it turned out shitty I’d just hide it in my closet.

All advice I’ve read stresses the importance of printing out a copy of your draft before ordering your book. I wanted to do that, but in order to print the draft, I had to convert the file to something called “pdf.” (Pretty Damn Funny?) I had no idea what might happen if I clicked on the little “convert to pdf” button in Lightroom, so I didn’t print a draft copy. I feared that my text and photos would disappear or be converted into some unrecognizable electronic version of themselves. It was safer to just send the damn thing to Blurb and let them take over. After all, I’d proofread my book a thousand times, hadn’t I?

So I sent the damn thing in to Blurb.

Once I uploaded the book and ordered my copy, I was so relieved. “That’s that! I’m done!” I thought. But I could not have been more wrong.

Within a few minutes, I received an email from Blurb saying that the “pdf” version of my book was available to download. Thinking I’d better take a look, I excitedly downloaded it onto my phone and started reading. All was well until I got to page 14. Where was the photo for that page? Somehow, I must have deleted it by mistake before I clicked “send.” Luckily, the email said that I could cancel my order within one hour. I ran to my computer and cancelled my order. OK, fine. Now to put that damn photo back in.

I searched and searched and finally found the photo in my computer’s hard drive. I guess it must have gotten deleted from Lightroom when I hit “undo” too many times. I put it back in place and resubmitted my book order. Then I looked at the next download. Uh-oh. One of my photos had gotten rotated. I still have no idea how that happened. To rotate a photo takes pressing two keys simultaneously. There’s no way I can be blamed for that. But it was an easy fix. I just cancelled my second order and started from scratch (again).

Photo rotated, I proceeded to give my book one last proofread, and decided to change a word or two while I was at it. (Editing never ends.)

Another upload, another problem. This time another photo had disappeared. I cancelled order #3, found the missing photo (somehow moving it from the desktop to the hard drive was enough to send Blurb into a tizzy), put the photo back into the book, and made my fourth and final order.

But now we come to the really frustrating part: converting my precious photo book to an e-book. First I tried Blurb, since they already had the damn book. But their conversion process changed the font so that nothing fit anymore. It would have taken me days to fix it.

I spent two hours Googling and trying various conversion programs. None of them solved the problem. For example:

Calibre — it messed up the formatting even worse than Blurb did. It cut off parts of photos, moved whole sentences around, and changed the font.

Ingram Spark — their website sounded good and I’d met one of their reps at a workshop once. I even have one of their t-shirts. I decided to go with them, and even paid $85 so they could give me an e-book ISBN number (needed in order to use their e-book service). But then I tried to upload my file to them and was blocked by a message saying that I had to convert the document to EPub. It said to “click here” to learn more. I’m sure I read somewhere that Ingram Spark will convert your file to EPub for you. When you click, you get information about what EPub is, and a warning that if you have someone else (a “third party”) convert the file for you, you should run it through Ingram Spark’s program to make sure it’s compatible. But nowhere could I find a link to Ingram Spark’s EPub file conversion service. I searched the FAQ and blog sites on their website to no avail. I sent them an email, but was too impatient to wait for a response. I called them and was on hold for ten minutes. The person who answered had to put me on hold again while he checked with his supervisor to see if they had an EPub converter. They did NOT. They recommended a program called InDesign. I already own InDesign, but, like me, it’s complicated and out of date. I was not about to buy it again. I asked if I could get my $85 back (the money I’d just spent on an ISBN number) and they said no, but I could cancel the ISBN number if I wanted to. I thanked them and hung up.

Somehow, through all the Googling I did right after that, I landed in Kindle Land. Kindle has something that apparently might work. Hooray!

I went ahead and took the Kindle plunge. I closed my eyes, clicked on “download pdf file” in Lightroom, and uploaded it to Kindle — and, lo and behold, it worked. Sort of. What I now had was a “kpf” version. (Kindle Pays Fine?) There were no changes to font, margins, layout, or anything, except for the cover, which I had to redesign using one of their templates. It wasn’t exactly the same as the one I’d designed in Lightroom, but it didn’t look too bad.

The next step in the Kindle process was something called “KDP pricing.” (Kindle Doesn’t Pay?) It has something to do with setting the price of your book, but it’s not self-explanatory. I even tried Googling it. It’s apparently an algorithm comparing your book with others like it. It sat there “analyzing historical data” for about 20 minutes. The little circle just kept spinning. I finally gave up and hit the back arrow, wondering if I’d lose my whole morning’s work. It kicked me out and I had to sign in again. Of course, that involved looking up my Amazon password, which I never can remember.

Miraculously, I was back on the page with KDP pricing. I clicked the box and the circle started spinning again, with no sign of ever stopping. I punched the back arrow (a little harder this time) and was asked to choose a “KDP Royalty Plan,” either 35% or 70%. What the hell does that mean? I Googled it and learned that you should choose 70% if your book is priced $2.99 to $9.99; otherwise you can only choose 35%. Why doesn’t Kindle automatically do that for you, or at least tell you which one means what? My book is only $2.99 so I chose 70% royalties. Does that mean I make 70% on my book? Who knows? Because here’s what the screen then told me:

Rate     Delivery     Royalty

35%     $0.00           $1.40

70%     $17.05         $0.00

Wait, what?

Determined to persevere, I ignored the above confusing numbers and clicked the “submit for pre-order” button. (I had been advised at a workshop to set the book up for pre-orders first, and change it later. I have no idea why.)

I’m pretty sure the e-book is now in process, but I’m so confused that I’ll have to check on that later. I do know that I also tried creating a softcover book with Kindle. First I tried uploading my text, but Kindle wanted me to upload something called a manuscript version, adding that I should, “click here for more information about what a manuscript version is.” I clicked and got a long set of instructions that I had to copy and paste into Word so that I could refer back to them. About the fifth step down it said to find and upload the “revised” manuscript file. Which one is that? I guessed the “kpf” version and I guessed wrong. They wanted the pdf version. OMG. But it started to upload. The next thing I saw was this very special message: “Congratulations, your manuscript has uploaded!” Halleluiah. I’m almost done.

Oh, the damn cover.

After an hour of struggling with Kindle’s limited softcover options, the text on the binding disappeared and there was apparently no way to add it back. I finally managed to complete a reasonable facsimile of my original cover, although there’s still no binding edge. Maybe the book’s too skinny for that? Oh well, I submitted it anyway.

And now Kindle wants a different ISBN number for the softcover book. I think Blurb may have given me one yesterday, but of course it’s nowhere to be found —  not in the notes I hastily scribbled while going through all of this with Blurb yesterday, and not on my Blurb account page, either. I searched for a way to call Blurb, but “Blurb is no longer taking calls.” You have to email them! So I did.

I’m waiting for Blurb to get back to me about my ISBN number. Kindle won’t let me preview the book until I give them that number, so I guess my work is done for today.

Stay tuned!