Uh-Oh, It’s Another Rant on How NOT to Write Female Characters!

Oh, yeah, I’m going there…again. And this is nearly kismet-level timing with Marquessa over at The Next Chapter who just published a writing challenge post about Pet Peeves. Check it out, and all of her other posts, too!

While her article covers three pet peeves, I’m only ranting about one of my biggest because you see, I’m really–I mean really–trying to read this book right now and the deeper I get into it, the less and less I like the Female MC. I’m not going to name the book or author here – and I don’t want this taken as a bad review, I’m only going to be focusing on using the Female Protagonist as an example for identical or similar issues I’ve seen in countless books for the same reasons.

I’ll note that it is written in the 1st Person POV. It’s very rare that I run across this problem with 3rd Person POV. I think it’s more commonly a character development issue that arises when trying to write from the inside of a character’s head. Especially, if the personality traits either weren’t fully fleshed out by the writer ahead of time or they’re just too unfamiliar with those traits to successfully narrate through them.

But I can’t help noticing that when a Female Protagonist written in the 1st Person goes into defensive mode, she automatically drops like 10 degrees in maturity level and never regains it.

Now, I’ll be the first to admit that it’s definitely a skill, and one that I do not possess. If I wrote in 1st Person, all of my characters would sound exactly the same.

Typically, I know within the first 2-3 pages if I like or dislike a protagonist no matter the POV it’s written in. However, 1st person can be a little sneakier. They can lure you in, get you hooked on the story, then start seriously disappointing you. And that’s exactly what’s happened in this case.

The story hooked me from the start with a powerful opening, the storyline has continued to intrigue me, and all of the other characters are engaging and well-written. And through the first few chapters I was totally on the Female MC’s sidelines with my pom-poms. So, what happened?

She met the Male MC. Suddenly, my confident, independent, mid-20’s, entrepreneurial heroine with a shadowed history and razor sharp instincts had reverted to a naïve, prideful, and often flaky 12-year-old, who doesn’t have an instinct to save her life and trusts everyone who smiles at her.

Uh…WTF? A minute ago she was a badass and now I want unfriend her on Facebook.

Not only that, but a 20-anything-year-old in a present-day story setting has never been alive before the invention of cellphones and all of the modern technology that we are keenly aware of thanks to TV, pop culture, media, and our own love for it – yet she questions how the Male MC could possibly know that she’s not where she’s supposed to be? It’s called GPS Tracking, you [insert bad name here] – it’s on EVERY PHONE. And worse – yep, it gets worse – he told her beforehand. I’m not kidding. He straight up told her that all of her devices are being monitored.

Did she think he was talking about someone else monitoring them? How would he know that if he wasn’t also monitoring them? Yet she’s so confused about how he could possibly know–and this is a prime example of the things that can go wrong that we’re not always aware of because we (as the writer) have all of the information that the readers don’t. In the next chapter, I learned that the Male MC has a hacker monitoring the ATC (Air Traffic Control) and that specific flight. So, the writer was trying to allude to this much grander, more elaborate way in which the Female MC’s every move is being tracked, but without readers having that piece of information combined with their common knowledge of GPS Tracking, this “allusion” has only succeeded in making the Female MC look dumb.

As the stakes are raised and more incidents are stacked in the mounting pile of CONCRETE EVIDENCE labeled “All the ways these bad guys have tried to kidnap or kill you” – the more the Female MC argues with the Male MC about how HE’S being paranoid and that “so-and-so” can’t possibly be a threat (“so-and-so” being someone she’s known less than 48 hours). And she repeatedly asks why she can’t just go back to her old life and alias (a name she already KNOWS the enemy has) in her previous town? (Where her apartment complex was just burned down and 2 of her 3 neighbors were killed and some mysterious guy claiming to be from her insurance company is asking the owner how to reach her even though all insurance companies have their client’s contact information already)….

Okay, I need a breather {Deep breath} – You probably do, too, so I’m going to end the main rant here and move on. Thanks for letting me vent, lol!

How Does This Happen?


Simple: With good intentions.

I’d really like to highlight this problem in a way that all of you aspiring and published writers might find useful, rather than just as constructive criticism. To me, this rampant issue with female characters is a genuine concern because it robs the readers of really great stories, which in turn robs the writers of all their hard work.

Every time I see this sudden invasion of the body-snatchers change happen with a Female Protagonist, it’s because the writer is trying (and failing) to make her appear “strong” and not easily “cowed” by an overbearing/Alpha/dominant man.

And that’s evidenced by everything I mentioned above PLUS the fact that all of her moments of defiance are immediately emphasized by her thoughts of how she’s “not going to back down,” and the next time the Male MC’s POV happens, he will also think about how those ‘stubborn’ ‘fiery’ qualities are so attractive and that her strength turns him on.

For 1) you shouldn’t need these little infomercial blasts to try and “sell” the image you’re aiming to convey of your characters, they should be nailing that image in the readers’ minds through their actions, inner monologue, and dialogue. But these little ‘supporting’ clusters all shouting the same message are painfully obvious, rather than happening within the organic flow of the story.

For 2) she’s not “strong,” if she’s a danger to herself and others. Her stubborn inability to face the truth of the situation has already resulted in 3 innocent deaths and 176 plane passengers nearly dying in an emergency crash landing, where many sustained injuries that required hospitalization. That’s not being a strong woman, and men who find that kind of toxic pride attractive – well, they deserve each other.

Unfortunately, this Female MC is so determined to keep her rose-colored glasses on that every time she thinks about a past incident that correlates with everything she’s recently learned, she brushes it off as impossibly connected to her current situation of danger. I would expect that with the first memory, and maybe even the second, but when you’ve got a distinct pattern of break-ins and signs of stalking that span a full decade and your Female lead is still dismissing it as nothing; there’s something seriously wrong.

And that is not foreshadowing, by the way. If you want your readers to have information without it yet being revealed to or pieced together by your protagonist, then do a scene in the Villain’s POV. Otherwise, the whole dismissal bit as a way to relay info to the readers just makes your character look stupid.

Your women DO NOT have to resort to immature, naïve, and self-destructive, stubborn behavior that may or may not put others in harms way just to “stand up” to a domineering Male MC.

Believe it or not, your strong, independent, mature, female leads can endure the overwhelming conflict between her physical attraction, her instinctual warnings, and her common sense, without losing brain cells in the process. She can still be smart, keep the man at arm’s length while she’s connecting dots and maintain enough of her wits not to constantly put herself in jeopardy just to prove how “independent” she is.

Because, let me tell you, all she’s actually proving is that she’d get herself killed within 5 minutes without the man’s help. What kind of message is that sending to your readers? Why is she suddenly so incapable of surviving without a man when she’s already made it 26 years without him?

Wouldn’t it be better to show them as equally matched forces who eventually have to stop clashing and work together to solve the problem, rather than immediately reducing your strong, female lead into the “damsel in distress” slot and calling it a day? And I’m all for the damsel trope when it’s due to outside forces beyond their control – not caused by their own denial –repeatedly.

Remember: You can build tension and conflict without compromising the core integrity of your characters’ personalities.

And that goes for all genders and all romantic coupling scenarios. A character is a character; they all follow the same rules and guidelines when it comes to fleshing them out.

Okay, everyone I’m ending here. I could pick things apart even further, but I would honestly rather have you takeaway the parts that resonate, help, or make a positive impact in your writing journey than continue sharing my frustration over a book I’m CHOOSING to read (I take full responsibility).

In short, please pay close attention to those negative personality disintegrations that can occur when your female protagonist is suddenly introduced to new upheavals, or that one person that triggers all of their defenses and hormones simultaneously. Yes, they’re going to make mistakes, that makes them real, but they have to learn from them. Characters should be growing with the story; maturing, resolving their inner-demons, not backsliding so fast it makes Benjamin Button’s head spin!

❤ Is it just me or does it feel like a Monday? I’m getting a definite Monday vibe here.

Dear Emoticon Gods,

Please create an emoji that specifically flips off Mondays.

Thank you.

Dear Indie | eBook Formatting Tips & Hacks for Kindle

Hi Indies!

Over the last week, I’ve spent a lot of time researching the best “free” ways to update the formatting for my books. I wasn’t happy with their blahzay interiors–and I also wanted to add content to the Back Matter that I didn’t have before.

I already shared the new chapter graphics in a previous post, but what I really wanted to know was how to use a drop cap that KDP wouldn’t automatically strip out.

There is one surefire way to have drop caps in your Kindle books: Use Kindle Create and sacrifice all control over font styles, graphics, etc. just for a drop cap. If you don’t care how unoriginal your book will look, then KC is a fast, easy approach to formatting your interior.

I do care, and I didn’t want to lose all of the work I’d already put into getting my interior the way I wanted, so I finally accepted that unless you’re good at coding (which, I’m not), there is no easy way to add drop caps for Kindle.

Note: If you are good at coding, then check out Derek Murphy’s video on inserting Drop Caps to Kindle.

I went through eBooks I’ve read by other authors just to get a feel for how they format their interiors. Of course, the best selling authors have professionals doing everything for them, so I skipped those.

Normally, drop caps wouldn’t cross my mind unless I was preparing a paperback file–BUT, when I added these chapter graphics, it didn’t quite look right with an ordinary First Paragraph. Viewing other author’s books that combined a graphic with a drop cap was easier and more pleasing on the eye. Here’s what I was stuck with:

Avarice Unleashed w/New Graphic, No Drop Cap

I soon discovered that wasn’t the only mess my books were in. As you can see in the image above, I was using Times New Roman, Single-Spaced with a jagged right alignment (technically it’s the Left alignment, but you know what I mean). None of the books I read on my Kindle app look like that. What the heck was I thinking?

After diving into more research, here is the best advice I’ve come across for the cleanest, easiest to read combination that Kindle will accept:

  • Georgia Font (12pt. for body)
  • 1.5 line spacing
  • Justified alignment.

It makes a big difference. And maybe I’m the last to learn this, but I’m sharing anyway. I also noticed that no one uses the “link back” to the Table of Contents anymore on their chapter headings–that was an old formatting tip from Smashwords. It’s an outdated practice, so I took all of those out, as well. Here’s what those changes left me with:

New Font, Spacing, & Alignment.

As you can see, those simple changes have already made my book 100% easier to read compared to the first image. Still, I was burning with determination to spice up that first paragraph. I went back to my Kindle and checked out other author’s books again and noticed that some of the ones I “thought” had drop caps really didn’t. It’s actually a simple hack, and this is what it looks like:

New “Fake” Drop Cap

Capitalize each letter for the first 2-3 words, then enlarge the first letter only (I used 24pt.), and select “Bold.” Voila, it has the similar appearance of a drop cap. Unfortunately, this has to be done manually each time, but that’s still a heck of a lot easier than coding. I’ve seen this used even when there isn’t a graphic and it still looks good.

I also noticed a lot of people inserting an image of the first letter for a more genuine drop cap effect, but this requires a lot of tweaking to get the spacing just right, which again takes some ability to mess with the coding, and I just don’t have those skills.

Now, that I finally had everything the way I wanted, all I had to do was upload my updated manuscript to KDP, right? 😐 Since I never had these formatting elements in place before, I’ve always just uploaded a .doc (Word) file. But here’s what Kindle did with that:

Collar Me Foxy .doc file in Kindle Previewer

Yep, it attributed the 24pt. size of that “fake” drop cap to the entire first paragraph’s spacing. And I’m ashamed to admit that I tried fixing the problem in the .doc file for about 30 minutes before remembering that KDP accepts other file types for publishing. Ugh! It was one of those days.

I use Calibre to preview all of my books before publishing because it will convert your .doc or .odt file to any other file extension you want. It’s 100% FREE and easy to use – I highly recommend it.

After messing around with conversions and viewing them on the KDP website, I chose ePub over mobi because it stayed truer to my formatting.

The biggest -ish is mobi’s answer to “justified” alignment, which is to stretch each line from margin-to-margin, resulting in irregular spacing between words. You’ve probably noticed this before in eBooks you’ve read, where random lines will have gaping spaces in between shorter words. It’s glaring, nobody likes it.

Mobi was also shrinking my graphics and/or moving them too far away from the Chapter heading. ePub doesn’t do any of that nonsense, and looks more like the .doc version. Here’s the final result:

ePub file in Kindle Previewer

Perfecto. 🙂

Two valuable pieces of advice to follow when formatting, is: 1) Make sure the layout and font styles match the genre of your book, and 2) Practice the Keep It Simple motto. You want your book to look like it was customized by a pro not Bedazzled by a 5-year-old.

Many best selling authors don’t even use images, or maybe just an ornamental divider, and those look really nice, too. The bottom line is you’re not using these graphics to sell books, that’s your story’s job.

Now, I have noticed a rise in graphics in the Back Matter of both best selling and non-best-selling books, usually for promoting other books, fan pages, and newsletter subscriptions. Again, you don’t want to go crazy, but at least these images aren’t in danger of distracting readers from your story. Here’s a couple of examples:

Promoting Hexed at the end of Avarice Unleashed
Using my Logo on the Newsletter Subscription page

Remember you are a brand name, so don’t feel bad about slapping your logo onto your work. That’s what it’s for.

Okay, that’s all for now, Indies. Hopefully, some of these tips and resource links help out in your writing/publishing journey.

❤ Stay Safe & Healthy!

Meet The Character | The Last Descendant

Everyone knows my story. It was a fucking blockbuster hit. But, they say truth is stranger than fiction. In my case, it’s just more depressing. No one would be applauding if they really knew all the things I’ve done; the accomplishments I let burn, and lives I destroyed when my own was in chaos. Fire may have been the start, orphaning me as a man, after I’d already been orphaned as a newborn. I was a rising star in the art world, a successful painter with a wealthy patron and my own gallery on the Cornish Coast.

I’ve also been a thief from early on, honing my skills on the streets of London. Hobbies are a healthy break from the monotony, any expert will tell you that.

But, I went mental to the point of utter detachment, returning to lucidity with no recollection. I lost days, possibly weeks all in one go, painting nightmarish portraits of evil, obscene landscapes of blood and depravity. I lived on whiskey and a will that wasn’t my own; a marionette caught in the twisted strings of my feverish mind.

Therapy was a last, desperate attempt to claw my way out. Instead, I was pushed beyond the brink of madness and that’s where I found clarity. It can happen. You can go so crazy you come out sane again on the other side. But, it’s a different kind of sane. It’s the irrevocable death of your former self. I was reborn scarred, changed, unable to return to the life I’d known. I closed my gallery, packed all of my possessions into storage, and abandoned the only family I had left. A clean break. I can’t hurt the ones I love if I’m not there, if they don’t have to hear my voice over the phone reminding them of the damage already wrought.

Across the pond, I kept my skills honed in Vegas, while learning new, highly pleasurable ones and working as a strip-club bouncer. That’s where they found me, all the ones who would turn my life into something only ever seen in movies, setting me on the path to becoming a vampire, and a prince.

Albeit, a prince of Hollywood, but for Americans that’s the closest thing they’ve got to royalty. So, I walk the red carpet same as I’ve done for three years now. I smile for the cameras, as every flashing bulb hurls me back to a rainy afternoon in a London cemetery–and I hate every fucking minute of their repetitive questions.

They want to know if I’ll make another movie, if I’ll play the same role the way my costars have, and the answer is always, agonizingly yes. Legend Studios has a running series and we’re all contracted to fulfill our character obligations. Whatever Evelyn wants, Evelyn gets. She rules our existence; controls our fates. If she wants the vampire, the last descendant of the Order of the Dragon, then she gets him.

When I left England, it was never with the intention of forging kinships again, but the running joke of my life has cast two new brothers for me. Much like this version of sanity, my bond with them is different. My siblings back home were family without blood because we came up together. With Trystan and Dorian, it’s the brotherhood of soldiers fighting the same war, suffering the same tragedies and injustices. We have a common enemy, and she’s drug us across the fucking country to scout a new filming location.

A new movie can only mean one thing: our family’s in danger of getting bigger. My mates and I are on guard, watching Evelyn to see who she’s watching. Keeping track of those she takes a keen interest to. So far, she only seems focused in the filming site. At her request, I seek out the man with the answer on whether or not she gets to use it.

I already know it will be a cold day in hell before Evelyn takes no for an answer, regardless of what the man says, but I do as I’m told like the good soldier I’ve never been. The sexy brunette that runs smack into me in the parking lot is a thrilling, unexpected distraction. I can’t recall the last time I’ve felt this kind of intense chemistry straight off. Discovering that she’s the one with the answer I need doesn’t deter me from pursuing more than just a business deal.

And it’s dangerous, I know. I’m losing sight of the mission, taking my attention off the enemy for the much better view of golden-green eyes and a mouth made for sin. But, I ca’t help it, her ignorance is just as enticing as her clever humor and gorgeous body. She’s never heard of Legend Studios before, isn’t familiar with any of their movies.

Kallie’s got to be the only woman on earth who has no idea about who or what I am. She’s never seen the vampire, the last Dracul, and I’m in no hurry to change that. To her, I’m just Luke, the infuriatingly quick-witted, silver-tongued Brit that can’t get enough of seeing her all flustered and blushing.

And when she threatens to douse me with mace if I get too cheeky, it’s a challenge I simply can’t turn away from. The feisty little Historian is about to learn that I am a man of many skills.

~ Lucien Alexander Drake

Click Image for Book Description

Dear Indie | Writing Challenges & Word Counts

Hi Indies!

This is just a quickie. I’m not promoting or being sponsored by Reedsy, I swear–but, I wanted to share that they have weekly writing challenges on their site that pay out $50 a week to winners. So, if you love writing challenges and fancy a go, you might want to check that out. Also, their writing prompts are a bit like challenges, too, only without the payout, and the best part is that they offer prompts for different genres.

I also came across 10 free lessons for writing “Short Stories.” Now, I was reading 300+ page novels as a young teen, so when I used to hear “short story,” to me that was anything under like 80,000 words. I had to cut out 3,000 words to meet my publisher’s word count limit of 100k words on my first published novel. Actually, on every novel they’ve published – but my point is: What exactly is your idea of a full-length novel, novella, and short story?

I now know, thanks the NaNoWriMo, that 50,000 words is considered a full-length novel, yet some people say it can actually be between 40-50,000 to be considered full-length. 😐 Really? That’s half a book! So what do you call a 100,000 word novel, then, a double-length novel???

Honestly, I was excited about the free lessons, because I know I can’t keep things short (see? I called this a quickie, and yet here we are) But, according to them, a short story is no longer than 20,000 words and I’m looking at that like “Yeah…that’s not happening.” That’s a submission to the Fantasy & Science Fiction Magazine, which granted, would be a ‘short story’ by definition, but like…shorter. More like an essay.

If my book is under 100,000 words in length – guaranteed it’s part of a series. The whole story is not beginning and ending between those two covers. Especially, considering that I have actual series where each book is 100k words. But, I’m really TRYING to write a “shorter” stand alone novel, and the struggle is real y’all. It’s real.

❤ What do you think about novels lengths and their word counts? Any tips on how to write shorter books?

Confessions of a Hybrid Author | It’s Not a Quantum Leap, But…

It’s fascinating to me that so many authors start with a story, and that story becomes their first finished rough draft and then, their first published book–no matter how long it takes them to accomplish each of those stages.

That is not how my writing journey started. The first rough draft I ever finished took me 5 years to complete and it’s still sitting on my computer unpublished, 11 years later. I’ve never even attempted to get it out on the market, and here’s where the plot thickens…

I write Erotic Romance. That’s my favorite genre to both read and write. Any kind of erotic romance; dark, light, kinky, paranormal, psychological, a combination of all of the above, it doesn’t matter.

But, my first completed manuscript was Epic Fantasy.

So, not a Quantum Leap, but…close-a-freakin-ough. Not only that ms, but the nearly completed sequel to it. Ready for the next plot twist?

That first book that gave me the thrill of writing “The End” is a spin-off from the first story I ever had an idea for when I was only 17 years old, and would take place between books 1 and 2 of the planned trilogy that has yet to be written.

Don’t look at me like that. I wish I could say it’s an exaggeration, but sadly, it’s not. However, I’ve already written a lengthy post about that dilemma right here, so I won’t rehash. What I really want to know is this:

Have any of you started off writing in one genre only to end up publishing in a completely different one?

If yes, did the genre(s) you were reading at the time play any part in that?

I didn’t take a direct reading path. One day I was a kid, reading children’s books, and the next I was grabbing books off my mom’s shelf, staying up too late reading V.C. Andrews and Ann Rule. Then, I went through what I call my ‘research’ phase, where the only books I read were about ancient Egypt and anything I could find on Vlad III of Wallachia.

My research on Vlad led me back into reading fiction for pleasure, diving right into Paranormal Romance with L.J. Smith, then taking a giant leap forward to Anne Rice. I was 14 when I read Interview With the Vampire, and that was two years before it was made into a movie. I gobbled down The Witching Hour after that and spent a lot of time dedicated to the Mayfair Witches before going back to the vamps.

Then, on a whim (aka I liked the cover art), I bought Kashiel’s Dart by Jacqueline Carey and no one even checked my ID at the cash register. O_o

Being introduced to High Fantasy and EXTREME Sadomasochism all in one book was a real eye-opener for my 16-year-old self. Christian who? Sorry Mr. Shades, you ain’t got nothing to bring to this table that hasn’t already been here waiting for you to catch the fuck up. #stillwaiting

Carey was a bit much for me to handle back then, not because of the whole *R.A.C.K. aspect as the main plot driven by an extremely masochistic protagonist, it was the High Fantasy of it all. Meanwhile, I was still reading Anne Rice like any dedicated fan would, but then a friend introduced me to Mercedes Lackey and I fell instantly in love. Not only was Epic Fantasy much easier to consume, it still had sex in it, so score!

I know it was a combination of these early influences that sparked my Epic Fantasy idea into life at 17, I just never expected it to become like the Venus Flytrap in Seymour’s basement; way too big and hungry for more.

But, despite it still being unpublished, completing that one Epic Fantasy manuscript knocked down whatever mental barrier had been standing strong in my head, and within two months I had written my second full-length novel start to finish; a Futuristic Romance, that would land me a contract with a publisher and become my first published work three years later.

I just had to prove to myself that I COULD finish writing a book, and it opened the flood gates. So, keep that in mind all you aspiring writers–sometimes it just takes reaching that finish line once, even if nothing comes of that particular draft! 😉

So, there’s my oddball confession. I’d love to hear from any of you who might have similar situations with switching genres or who might have also never published their first finished manuscript. Thoughts, feedback, questions, all are welcome–we creative types like knowing we’re not alone.

Unless, it’s for a book title. Stop using my book title ideas! ಠ_ಠ

❤ Happy Meh-day

*R.A.C.K. stands for Risk Awareness Consensual Kink, which covers the more extreme areas of S&M where physical injury, scarring, paralyzing, and even death have a higher chance of occurring.

Dear Indie | Book Editing Software & Sites

Hi, Indies!

Last time, I mentioned that I kind of got scammed by more than just that ridiculous font site – and I did. By Amazon.

I know, shocker.

Sometimes, I feel like I’m just really late to the party…like, there aren’t even Solo cups or streamers left laying around, I’m THAT far behind. But, while I was in my state of madness, determined to make Amazon do what I wanted with my chosen fonts, I came across an option I’d never heard about before: Kindle Create.

And that’s how Amazon scammed me. The website for it promised great things, so I spent hours downloading the software, going through the whole tutorial step-by-step. Anxiously, but patiently waiting for it to get to the part where it would tell me how to make the inside of my book look pretty…and it never did. KC offers 4 Theme choices – all of which went out of style in the ’80s when we were still making Minecraft-worthy pictures in computer lab on boxy old Apple desktops.

click to enlarge

In my continued search, I came across another book editing program provided by Reedsy. Now, if none of you have ever heard of Reedsy before (like me) it’s kind of like a community website where a bunch of professionals hang around waiting for an author to hire them. It’s blatantly focused on connecting writers with editors, cover artists, etc. – HOWEVER – they are also about helping Indies do their own thing for FREE.

One of those ways, is by providing an online book editor that – just like Grammarly Premium – stores your work in a cloud. So, there’s no downloading yet another program onto your already bogged computer and hassling with installation, tutorials, or any of that nonsense. Here’s a look:

click to enlarge

Scrivener users will find the left-hand task bar (indicated by the red arrow) familiar and easy to navigate with the ability to open and collapse the different sections of your book. But, the most “forward thinking” feature this program provides is indicated by the blue arrow. That’s right – online collaboration with your editor! You and your editor can make all the changes to your manuscript right there in one place. No emailing an entire manuscript back and forth, or worrying about conversion issues.

Conversion issues? : I use LibreOffice and my editor uses MS Word, so when we switch back and forth, it sometimes causes glitches in the recorded changes.

click to enlarge

Another similarity to Scrivener is the “Drop and Drag” feature that allows you to rearrange chapters, break your book up into parts, and even change a chapter to a back matter page, as indicated by the red arrow above. For my book showing, this would be a bonus chapter, but you could title it as the Afterward, Epilogue, etc.

Also, the title of the book you’re working on is always in the upper left corner, as shown inside the green circle, so you could have multiple tabs open to multiple projects at the same time without losing track of which one is which.

My favorite feature is the “Other Works” page (showing above) – not only does it allow you to upload book covers, as you see Hexed there, which we all know would grab a reader’s attention faster- but it allows you to include buy links from multiple retail sites all in one nifty little box, as shown with the blue arrow.

Granted, I do mostly KDP Select, but my Permafree book, Collar Me Foxy, is available all over, so this is a great option.

I’m still navigating the editor and will go through the entire process of at least one book to get a better idea about whether or not it’s worth writing there versus LibreOffice or Scrivener. But, I have to say the idea of starting a book in one place and taking it through the entire process without having to move it, is very appealing!

Once your book is 100% ready to launch, you’re supposed to be able to export it right from the editing program to every platform you plan on publishing with.

I’ll write a follow up post once I’ve gone through all of the steps to let you know how it goes. In the meantime, if you’re looking for new ideas &/or resources, Reedsy has a ton of other offers on their site like a Free 10-day publishing course, weekly prompt writing challenge, and check out this handy list of Tools:

click to enlarge

That’s it for now, Indies! As always, feel free to leave a comment, ask questions, or share some of your own experiences below. I’m forever on the lookout for ways to make the writing & self-publishing journey less painful for all of us, so you know I’ll be back as soon as I find more helpful tools or resources.

❤ Happy Sunday! If you’re an #SLS’er – I’ll see you on the flip side! ♫♪♫

Dear Indie | Fonts, Vectors, & Scams, Oh…snap!

Hi Indies! I’m back, and I have links!

In my last post, I touched base on some of the issues we DIY’ers face when working with a small budget and little-to-no experience. Formatting an eBook, which has “Floating Text” vs. formatting a paperback with “Fixed Text” is not only different, but sometimes it can be more difficult. Getting things to stay where you want them isn’t quite as easy when nothing’s pinned down.

But, Let’s Take It Back a Step

Before I was reminded of the whole issue with mobi changing fonts, my plan was to make the interior formatting of my eBook more cohesive with the cover. At first, I thought I could use the same title page I’d created on Canva for my paperbacks and insert it as an image into the document, like so…

Avarice Unleashed Title Page-page-001

Note: Canva only uses ‘free for commercial use’ fonts, so don’t worry about including something you create there in your books. If you’re ever in doubt, you can run a search online to make sure there are no restrictions on the font(s) you used.

The problem with using images happens when converting to a different file type. I not only use Calibre to create my ARC’s in EPUB, PDF & MOBI, but to get a general idea of what my eBook will look like on a Kindle once it’s published. Unfortunately, Calibre detects the title page image as the cover, even when I try to leave the first page blank and insert the image on the second page. That means, I can’t add the real cover without it replacing the title page, altogether.

So, I went in search of the next best thing: Free fonts!

I don’t know about your relationship with search engines, but mine is abysmal at best. I can never conjure the accurate key words to get the results I’m looking for. I’m especially leery about searching for things that will have potentially scammy results. Instead, I always look for articles about the best sites for that particular item. Because, there are a million bloggers who’ve already made that list for me. 😉 (Thanks, bloggers!)

I found an article naming the top free font sites that are not only legit, but specify license use types – This is crucial when dealing with publishing, because just like photographs, anything that is created by someone (a designer/artist/writer) is protected by copyrights and you don’t want to risk backlash of any kind.

Now usually, I end up checking out most, if not all of the sites an article lists–but I fell in love with the very first one I clicked on.

Font Squirrel is 100% legit and they go beyond awesomely user-friendly, right into amazeballs. Most sites will have a list of things you have to click on to find out what kind of license it has–not with this site. They tell you right under the font name with 4 little icons which appear in the order of: a monitor, a globe, a tablet, and a mobile phone.

FontScreenShot

These indicate what kind of license the font provides. If all of them are lit up as you can see in the red circle, then you’re good to go and can use that font everywhere for any reason. But, as shown by the blue circle near the bottom, if only 1 or 2 are lit up then you need to be careful how you use the font. 

For us writers, the icon you want lit up is the tablet – this is the commercial license that allows you to use the font in Ebooks and PDF documents. So, for the example screen shot above, the fonts “Chausson” and “Mondia,” would NOT be permitted in publishing eBooks or PDF files of any kind, but “Go,” and “Be Vietnam” would be allowed.

And when I searched their site for a font they didn’t have, it didn’t just pop up with a “Sorry,” it also gave me this: 

FSSS1Hi, can we get any more user friendly and super helpful than this? I know several sites that should be taking some serious notes here! 

Next, I wanted to find those decorative elements I’ve seen in other books and came across Public Domain Vectors. The absolute best feature this site offers, aside from a massive amount of FREE for commercial use vectors and clipart, is the SVG Editor.

PDSS1PDSS2

An SVG Editor is what you need to convert a Vector file into a Picture file like JPEG or PNG. Without the conversion, you’re not going to be able to use that image anywhere. Every other SVG editor online requires that you sign up, even if it’s free, they won’t let you use it without first becoming a registered member. No, thanks. I don’t plan on converting enough vectors to warrant a ton of spam mail.

The SVG Editor on this site is fast, easy to use, and best of all – doesn’t require a login! 😀

Another good place to search for vectors and clipart is Pixabay. Almost everyone uses Pixabay already for their license-free photos because they’re one of the rare sites that doesn’t require you to attribute/credit or link back to the photographer/designer, and often the site will have items you can’t find anywhere else.

One final mention is a site I would caution you TO AVOID and that is: all-free-download[dot]com. This site and the site it “links” to when you click on an artist’s name – are both 100% SCAMS.

One vector I downloaded, unzipped as an entirely different image altogether, so I went back to the original image on their website and “saved as” then ran a Google Photo search and that same sheet of designs has been circulating as a scam for years AND originated in Asia.

Another Vector file I downloaded and unzipped gave me only an .ai file. The extension .ai stands for and is strictly used with Adobe Illustrator. Now, if you happen to get a LEGITIMATE .ai file, you can convert it easily and for free with an online converter, or even by changing it to a PDF in your own computer and opening it that way. However, these were NOT legit extractions, since the only thing that opened was a warning from Adobe that the file belonged to them.

I ran my C-cleaner & virus software after that to put a stop to any tracker bugs or malware those files likely downloaded onto my computer. People don’t scam you for no reason. So, if they’re not charging money, then they’re probably attacking you through your own computer. It’s best to just avoid that site completely!

In my next post, I’m going to confess to another sort-of scam I fell for and talk about book editing sites/software. 

❤ Does anyone have a tummy ache from eating all that chocolate yesterday? I know, I wish I did, too… 😐 

p.s. If you’ve never installed fonts onto your computer before, I’m excited to say I just learned how to do that, myself. This is only for Windows, though (sorry, Mac users!)

  1. Go to Start Menu
  2. Click on Control Panel
  3. Find the “view by” option on the screen (usually in the top corner)
  4. Choose one of the icon options (large or small) – as this will allow you to see ALL of the folders
  5. Find the “Fonts” folder (it might take a minute or two for your computer to load all of your available fonts.
  6. Drag and drop your new font files anywhere on the screen and it will do the rest for you.

Vjola! Now, when you open your word processing software, those new fonts should be available to you.

Dear Indie | Book Formatting: More Error than Trial

First, Happy Free to Consume as Much Chocolate as You Want Without Feeling Guilty About It Day! ❤ I mean, why else do we celebrate it, really? 😛

Hi Indies! Long time, no post. I’ve been up to no good this past week, which has given me a ton of new resources and info to share with you about the nasty, tedious self-publishing step of formatting your book. Dun-dun-duuuun…! As such, I’ll have to break these up into separate posts (oh, darn).

The Biggest -ish With Book Formatting?

Money. Most writers are on a tight budget, so you’re probably not paying a professional to format and style the layout of your book. I made the mistake of hiring a cheap formatter with my first Indie book and ended up not even using the file because I was able to make one that was more attractive. This lesson taught me two valuable things:

  1. You definitely get what you pay for sometimes, and
  2. If and when you can, always ask for an example of a professional’s work BEFORE you hire them.

The second biggest -ish, is experience &/or training in professional formatting. Many of us just don’t have it. This whole issue came about for me, not because I’m awesome and have a new book coming out – but because I noticed that even on Kindle Unlimited, people who read the Avarice books never go on to read Hexed, which is the next book in line for the series.

It dawned on me that Avarice “looks” like a trilogy, rather than the beginning of a series, and added to that, there’s no information about Hexed in the back matter of those books because it didn’t exist at the time they were published. I decided that needed to be updated ASAP.

That’s when the publishing gods pushed me down the rabbit-hole and straight into Formatting Hell. Don’t laugh, it’s a real place.

The madness that ensued sounded something like this: “Well, since I’m already updating these files, I might as well make them look prettier while I’m at it!”

When you’re done laughing, we can move on…

What’s So Hard About Formatting, Anyway?

As readers, I’m sure you’ve noticed that some author’s eBooks have stylized fonts and decorative elements – even on Kindle! If you’re an Indie who’s formatting your own books without extensive, professional training, then you know that mobi is the only file extension that won’t support your beautiful font choices and will immediately change them when you upload to KDP or convert via Calibre.

That’s because Amazon likes to give people the choice of changing the fonts on their Kindle devices to one that’s easiest for them to read. So, how is that some authors manage to have these spectacular looking books that stand out in the competitive crowd? If you guessed it’s because they’re paying fancy professionals, that would be correct.

Unfortunately, after taking many avenues, all of which led to dead ends, I have hoisted my white flag and surrendered to the fact that there is no way for a non-professional, non-experienced formatter, to create a book file that KDP won’t strip bare upon arrival. Pervs.

So, if you’re in the same boat as me, my advice is this: just use a supported font like Times New Roman and apply ‘font effects’ such as Small Caps or Italicize to spice things up, so mobi won’t have a hernia. Save yourself the head-and-heartache, I already went through all of that for you the last few days.

‘Twas Not All in Vain

During this painful process, I managed to find some good sites and after a couple of days of vicious tweaking, I finally got one of my files completely updated and polished with a prettier interior than before. Wanna see?

BEFORE
AFTER

And I also changed out those ordinary **** scene break indicators for a decorative divider. See?

Vjola!

On top of those items, and adding all of the info for Hexed, I went ahead and cleaned up/reorganized some of the other front and back matter pages that were suffering from “This was the first book I ever formatted” syndrome. LOL I haven’t uploaded the new file to KDP just yet to know if there will be any issues – so fingers crossed!

Quick Note For Aspiring Writers: Never worry about updating books you already have published on KDP, it doesn’t render that book unavailable, your original version will stay active for purchase until Amazon approves and publishes the new file.

Up Next, I will go over the sites I found with links and details for fonts, clipart/vectors, graphics –  plus my experience with two different eBook editing programs so far!

❤ Seriously, who’s got the chocolate?

Confessions of a Hybrid Author | WTF?

Stop spending money on marketing. Seriously, put your credit card down and back away from the computer, this is not a drill.

Confession Time: I’ve written a couple of books that you’ve never seen or heard about because I don’t have them linked to any of my social media accounts, nor do I have them listed on my Goodreads or Amazon Author Page.

Why?

Because they’re old, excessively under-edited, and my publisher pissed me off (multiple times), so I decided that I was going to let them hide under the radar until I’m given my rights back. I can be a petty bitch that way.

How does any of this relate to marketing?

Because, they freaking sell! They sell even though I have done EVERYTHING in my power to keep them from selling. My publisher doesn’t provide marketing services – which is common with ePubs – and I have never advertised these books. They weren’t given to beta readers, I didn’t announce their release dates, and they have ZERO reviews.

If you were to go off the advice of every well-known, respectable marketing guru in the world, there is absolutely no way these books should be selling at all, let alone more copies in a 6 month span than my highly-marketed Indie books with 5-Star reviews!

I’m so gobsmacked right now. I just got my 6 month sales report and all I could do was stare at the print out like WTF just happened? First and foremost, it was not a good surprise – I’d been banking on NO book sales helping me get my rights back sooner. Secondly, it totally blew all of my beliefs right out of the water that it’s lack of MARKETING hurting my other book sales.

What a load of crap. Just stop. Don’t bother wasting your money. Apparently, if you want your books to sell, authors, all you have to do is try to make them NOT sell.

❤ And, I’m out.

p.s. If by some weird chance you decide to put this exercise into practice and it actually works, please, please let me know! It would be a trip to find out that I just inadvertently stumbled across the real secret to selling books – and yes, I’m still unhappy about it.

Dear Indie | Prologues, Prefaces, Forwards, Introductions & Epilogues

Hi Indies! I’ve been thinking about prologues a lot lately. Mainly because most of my original works have them and when I get the rights back from my publisher, I plan to polish them up and have them re-edited. But, it seems that more and more readers are expressing their dislike for prologues these days. It makes me wonder if I should cut them out of my revised books, or just leave them as is.

Looking back on when I was gobbling books up by the dozen as a teenager, it seems that ALL books had some kind of Prologue, Preface or Introduction and usually an Epilogue to boot. When I first started writing, I used them all of the time because I thought they were standard and therefore, made my manuscripts look more legit. But, are they really necessary for your book? What exactly is their purpose?

I had to do a bit of research, because I wasn’t too sure on the differences between some of these extra areas of a book, or why they’re used. Here’s a short breakdown of what I learned:

FORWARD: In my experience, I’ve only ever seen a Forward used when the book has been re-edited or translated by someone other than the author. Maybe it’s an adaption of The Master and Margarita, something that wasn’t originally written in English – or it’s just an extremely popular classic novel that’s been re-published a hundred million times. Either way, a Forward is never written by the author of the book. It is always written by someone else, usually with some kind of ‘authority’ on the subject or other credentials.

Your book doesn’t have to be re-edited or translated to have a Forward, though. You can have a Forward written for your book by another author as a marketing tool. The Forward sells YOU as an author to readers. The writer of the Forward will highlight what they liked most about your writing style, vocabulary, etc. It’s not about the book or the book’s content as much as it is about you as an author, and what the Forward’s writer thinks the readers will enjoy most about your awesome skills.

PREFACE: I’ve noticed that most authors use a “Dear Reader” rather than labeling it a Preface, but essentially, they’re the same thing. Like the Forward is designed to “sell” the author, the Preface can be used by the author to “sell” the story. It’s when they talk to readers about where the idea for their story came from, and how it evolved along the way. It can cover the writing process or character development, as well. For example: I recall reading a Preface by one of my favorite authors where she explained how she’d scrapped hundreds of pages of her original idea, because her MC had better ideas and wanted to do it his way, LOL – this kind of insight in a Preface can be endearing to your readers and have them already feeling some kind of connection to your main character.

As a marketing tool, a Preface can be just as big of a selling point as the “Blurb” or “Book Description.” You can use it to speak directly to your readers and boast about how much you think they’ll love your book, while leaving baited hooks that will further pique their interest in the story.

INTRODUCTION: The perfect example of an Introduction that comes immediately to my mind is actually from a movie, rather than a book and that was the opening scene of Harry Potter and The Sorcerer’s Stone where Hagrid first delivers the newly orphaned, infant Harry to the Dursley’s doorstep. This one short scene covered the entire foundation for the story to come, and gave just enough of the backstory that viewers knew exactly what kind of journey they were about to embark on with Harry.

The use of an Introduction seems to be more frequent and popular in Fantasy genres because they usually take place inside of a fictional world with elements unfamiliar to readers. By Introducing the story to your readers, you’re not only preparing them for what comes next, you’re also attempting to further pique their interest – so, once again, it can be a great marketing tool.

PROLOGUE: I think we’re all pretty familiar with and understand the purpose of a Prologue, I just didn’t want to leave it out. Typically, a Prologue is used to provide information to the readers about characters, a referenced event, or anything else that isn’t fully explained in the main story, itself, but you feel is vital for them to know to understand the plot completely. For example: In one of Nora Roberts’s series, she uses a Prologue in each book to show what happened to the ancestors of the main characters. Not only did this provide her the opportunity to share vital information with the readers, but it further invoked the ‘mystery’ of the whole, deepening her readers’ investment and interest in how the present-day plot would play out.

Most of the Prologues I’ve ever used was to flesh out a past event that will either come into play later on in the main story, or will explain one or more of the characters’ reasoning/personality/connections,etc. Prologues are good to use when the information you want to provide isn’t enough to flesh out a whole scene in the main story, or like the example above, doesn’t involve your main characters’, themselves, and may even take place long before their time. Prologues can help keep those bad “info-dumps” from showing up in your main story, as well.

EPILOGUE: Generally, an Epilogue is used to give readers a glimpse at your Main Characters at a future point. It can be an immediate future or years later. This can be for multiple reasons, either to tie up any loose ends, or to “introduce” some of the things that will be happening in the next book, if it’s a trilogy/series. While a lot of Epilogues seem to be geared toward satisfying the readers’ curiosity about what happens to the MC’s after the end of the book, sometimes it can be from a whole new character’s POV that is somehow connected to the story or Main Characters.

For example: I used an Epilogue at the end of Hearthstone Alpha to explain something that would happen in the next book, Little Queen. There were two purposes for this. One: it allowed me to give my readers pertinent information without the use of a dialogue info-dump later on in Little Queen – and two: it tied up a loose end from Hearthstone Alpha about a ‘missing’ sub-character. Since the Epilogue is written from that missing sub-character’s POV, it satisfies the readers’ curiosity about whatever came of him.

One thing that almost all of these extra areas have in common, is that they’re usually shorter than the length of one of your book’s chapters. Although, I have seen some pretty lengthy Forwards and Introductions before.

So, Indies, what’s your opinion on using these extra areas in novels? Do you think it’s solely dependent on the genre, or do you prefer your books without them? I’m mostly ambivalent, but in all honesty, those ‘extras’ can feel like treasured bonuses when they’re in a book I absolutely love and enjoy reading.

I do feel genre has a lot to do with whether or not an author uses a Preface, Introduction, or Forward, where Prologues and Epilogues tend to be more flexible. In today’s market, though, and especially for the Romance genres, I think readers appreciate when they’re used more sparingly. So, if there’s a way to work the same information into the main story, that might be the better way to go.

❤ Happy Tuesday! (Hey, at least it’s not Monday anymore) 😀