Kindle and the Red Top-Down (The Hawk flies again)

So the red top-down went missing. It wasn’t as if I could call the police. Not that I had left the keys in the ignition. The trouble was it was an imaginary 1963 red MGB. I found it  myself in the word document titled Hour of the Hawk v.8 for Vellum, put it back where it belonged between Chpt. 4 “Too Many Kids” and “The Sitter” which had got promoted to Chpt. 5. O.K. done!

But no!!! One hundred and four people had already downloaded my mystery Hour of the Hawk. ( Without that clue-filled chapter, they wouldn’t understand the vision of the car at the bottom of the cliff. They wouldn’t understand why Xiao Yu ended up in a mental ward. They wouldn’t understand why Joanna Hunter’s life was in danger. They would think I was a terrible writer or that they were stupid.

Both J. and M. went for the latter. Thank God, C. who had listened to me talking about the plot, said, “Do you describe the flood?” OMG. Of course I do. Where was it?

That was Sunday, Dec. 31.

I don’t want you to think I did all this calmly and quietly. I could barely remember how to turn the computer on, and I wasted a good deal of time staring at the Kindle upload page, which I could not now comprehend. I felt as if I had never seen it before.

I shook of course. I had a dry mouth. My fingers blundered.

Well, that’s what got the red MGB lost in the first place. As I went through the Vellum version the umpteenth check, I saw the heading “Chapter Five”. It didn’t need to be there. Right below it was “5. The Red Top-Down”. I went to the tools and clicked “hide in book”. The tool did its job all too well. I didn’t. I didn’t do one more sweep as I should have.

At first, a KIndle employee, K, working late on Sun, New Year’s Eve, answered reassuringly, saying they would review the change and if it was a serious error, they would forward a link to buyers so they could get the chapter.

Serious, yes, serious! I shot back.

On New Year’s Day, I bought new versions for 5 friends I knew had downloaded it. Kindle wouldn’t let them “buy” the book twice. Somehow I managed to get myself and my sister, Georgia, the updated version. I e-mailed the chapter to the others.

The terrible thing was, except for C., they hadn’t missed it.

Then I waited. Not quietly. I sent Kindle ever more hysterical e-mails. A. responded with increasing empathy. Once she used the word ‘noble’. No, strictly venal. But it was up to K and the Star Chamber that would examine the book for quality.

It was a quantity problem, I replied.

Publishing a book, like giving birth, is a jarring experience. What was once a comforting inner presence is now out there in the world causing problems. I cried at any and all TV shows. Talk about baby blues.

Finally last night, I lost it. I wrote an e-mail lamenting my destroyed reputation and subsequent breakdown. I felt as if I were praying to an absent God. But still I was careful.  You don’t want to piss God off too much. Then I went to bed and read Fire and Fury – on KIndle.

This morning, dear heaven, I got an e-mail. I had passed the audition. Word would go out to all 104 readers telling them how to get a new version.

Vellum is a formatting program, recommended by Joanna Penn in her blog. “Why I changed from Scrivener to Vellum.” It formats your book in about 10 seconds in 8 different formats, including Print On Demand. It’s way too easy to use. See above.

Oh, my children used to call our green 1963 MGB the top-down.



Getting the Hawk off the Ground: editing con.

red tailed hawkThis post is one of a series of posts about my experience writing and editing my mystery, Hour of the Hawk, which may interest and help other writers and mystery readers. The previous two are linked below.

When you go on-line for advice on how to edit your novel, you are advised that you need a professional editor – by professional editors, of course. They say this is essential if you are going to self-publish. Been there. Done that. Paid for formatting in both Kindle and Smashwords by 52 Novels and for a cover design by Stewart A. Williams. Still haven’t made back the costs, so I’m glad I didn’t add another $500 for an editor.

It’s my fault Never Tell didn’t sell. It was a memoir about an abusive childhood , and, although it has a bouncy, resilient narrative voice, I lost heart trying to market it. Of course, I went the self-publishing route after a valiant effort to find an agent. Here I am again.

The Book Butchers also advise  that you do your own edit before you hire an editor, and let you download free advice: 25 Self-Editing Tips for Indie Writers. As we know, you have to give away your work to build a market these days. They say you can save money by getting your book into better shape before you submit it to them – if you have the nerve, given their name. Plus you save them the bane of my teaching life, correcting grammar errors.I found their ideas useful.

I downloaded Stein on Writing ($9.99) onto my iPad,and found his editing advice more helpful. By now I was taking multiple trips through my manuscript as I followed instructions. I also signed up for Joanna Penn advised a three step edit: a structural edit, a line edit for word choice, grammar and sentence structure and a proof reading edit handled by someone else. There were a number of other e-books I considered, but I figured the basics had been covered.

I have a friend who is a great proof reader, but she can’t do my book because a bear cub was harmed in its making. Off-stage,I hasten to add. We don’t witness the cub’s death by game warden, nor do we witness its mother’s revenge, which, while somewhat misguided, is fatal. I told her it is fiction, but she remembered that such a thing actually happened in the mountains where I was staying and that made it real enough for her. As I said last time, I taught English. Critic A learned from me. Critic B also taught English. Critic C can cover a page with red ink. I trust the real proof reader at the end of the line will find only typos. Or not.

In my next post, later today, I will go back to the topic of editing for narrative voice.





To e-Read or not to e-Read

This week, I read another pronouncement by a Book Lover that he, bibliophile that he is, would never consider reading an e-book, he being Joe Queenan, who has written a memoir One for the Books. Robert Fulford, critic for the National Post calls the memoir “a funny, fractious and ecstatic book about his (Queenan’s) life as an obsessive reader.”

Queenan spends 2 hours a day reading and claims to have read 6,000 books since he was 7 when he began reading to escape his violent, alcoholic father and emotionally distant, manic-depressive mother.

Well, good for you, Joe, and la-dee-da. Who hasn’t? Who didn’t? And I swear I have already given away that number of read books while still retaining a couple thousand more. You can see Joe has rubbed me the wrong way and I haven’t read his book yet, but I intend to enjoy it nevertheless.

In addition, Fulford reports that Queenan refuses to read any book in which the character attends private school, including Catcher in the Rye, self-actualization books, books described as “luminous” and he considers To Kill a Mockingbird a historically suspect novel about Just the Nicest White Man Ever. That is not the end of the list of what he will not read.

Queenan enjoys the sensual experience of the book as object, the feel of it in his hands, the visual impression of print on paper, the smell, the memories evoked of where and when he got it.

Fulford, himself, recounts the 3 life rules he taught his daughters: 1. never fold down a page, 2. never leave a book open face down, 3. never leave the house without a book.

Once we have enjoyed the irony of the fact these are supposed to primary life rules, we can evaluate them. Number 3 is – it goes without saying – undeniably a prime directive. You can endure the interminable waits that transit companies, airlines, hospitals, doctors, and city hall throw at you with your mind buried in a book. Today I watched a young woman walking up from the main bus route reading every step of the way. And I have a friend who got a ticket for reading in a traffic jam. Well, they weren’t going anywhere!

Personally, I do not regard books as sacred. They are too important.

I do not turn down corners except in dire emergencies. Having said that, dire emergencies do arise, times when the bookmark has vanished and there are no available sales slips, transit tokens and certainly no dollar bills, here in the Great White North, to make do as markers. Since many of the mysteries I read are 3rd or 4th hand or more, I spend time straightening other people’s dog-ears. I would never dog-ear a library book nor would I underline or write in one and more than once, I have wanted to hunt down someone who did. Their comments are without exception puerile. (Look that up, desecrator!)

My own books are a different question. I write on the back flyleaf reminding myself of ideas that struck me as interesting and noting the page number. I generally don’t underline but I might note a word at the top of the page to help me find the idea later. Of course, I read in the bathtub, although not in the shower. Of course, I read at my solitary table at home and in restaurants. Of course jam gets involved and grease, but never ketchup. I hate ketchup.

Once my young daughter came home indignant that her school librarian had told her that never, never, under any circumstances, should she read, even her own books, in the tub or at the table. Daughter and I just shook our heads in pity: librarian was not a true reader.

A true reader is omnivorous and will find books wherever possible -in discard bins, big box bookstores, second hand stores in mouldy basements and, of course, in e-readers. Even Robert Fulford, Queenan’s reviewer, confesses that he read One for the Books on his Kindle.

I have an old Kindle that my sister, Georgia, gave me. She has its twin. Mine is still in her name, so whatever book she buys also downloads to mine and vice versa. I bought Lee Child’s new book A Wanted Man and she also downloaded it. She did wait until I had finished; otherwise, we would have got confused. It would have automatically gone to the last page of whoever had used it last. Note to Lee Child: if I had bought the hardcover, I would have loaned it to her.

I love the Kindle for that reason and because I can hear about a book and have it in my hands in seconds. (Full disclosure: I have also published an e-book Never Tell: recovered memories of a daughter of the Knights Templar. See So if I am snowed in or too sick to go out, if I can’t get to sleep, if I need to consult a book I don’t have, I can find it easily on Amazon and download it. It all goes on Georgia’s charge card!

Apparently, it is now possible to download e-books from our library, but I haven’t got there yet.

I can’t write notes on the back flyleaf of an e-book. I can’t even keep a record of page numbers -there are no page numbers, just % of book read – and ideas, but I am dealing with 5 year-old technology and I’m betting other tablet users can. It is annoying to go back and search for a reference as I had to do when writing the post “Jack Reacher: a long way from Virginia”. But it was not impossible and was no doubt instrumental in building me new neural pathways, so necessary in one of such advanced years.