Fiction Writing and Other Oddities

Sunday, December 30, 2007

E-Books and E-Book Readers

There has been a lot of news in the press lately about the current crop of e-book readers, such as the Sony Reader and's new Kindle. Since I have a book published (and will soon have two) in both an e-book and traditional print versions, I'm often asked if my book(s) can be read on such devices.

My fans will be relieved to know that the answer is a resounding Yes. At the moment, many smaller publishers like The Wild Rose Press, Ellora's Cave/Cerridwen Press, and others, may not have e-books in the Sony and Amazon Kindle stores, but readers can purchase their e-books as they always have directly from the publishers and sites like FictionWise. I believe many of the smaller presses are working to get their e-books into the Sony and Kindle stores, but that is not necessary for readers to enjoy their favorite e-books or other materials they need to read.

Most e-books purchased outside the Sony/Kindle stores are easily converted and transferred to e-book devices including's new Kindle and Sony's e-book reader.

A few extra steps may be needed to transfer your favorite books, however, you do have an additional benefit you may not be aware of. E-books from most publishers like The Wild Rose Press and Cerridwen Press/Ellora's Cave are not DRM-protected as are e-books purchased directly from the Kindle or Sony store. This means you can transfer books to whichever reading device you chose, and more importantly, you can back them up as needed. You are in complete control. When you acquire a new computer, you can transfer them just like any other file. In the future, if you decided to switch from Sony's device to the Kindle, vice versa, or even get an unknown future e-book device, you could still transfer and read your e-books.

So if you were one of the lucky ones to get a Kindle or Sony e-book Reader, here are a few tips to help you make your favorite e-books available on your new reader.


The Kindle uses a proprietary format (.azw) so you will need to convert your e-books. There are two ways to do this: a free way and a cheap way. You can convert e-books that are purchased in either MS Word format (.doc) or HTML. You can get the following types of files (or e-books in these formats) converted by either method listed below:

Microsoft Word, HTML, TXT, JPEG, GIF, PNG, BMP, PRC and MOBI files.

Special Note: .PDF (Adobe Acrobat) files are listed as an "experimental" format. Most readers find it best simply to download the MobiPocket Creator program (a free program) which will convert .PDF e-books to the MobiPocket (.PRC or .mobi) format. Once converted, you can transfer them directly to your Kindle from your computer through the USB cable. You do not need to take any additional steps if you use this method to convert and move e-books to your Kindle.

Free Way

You can e-mail the e-book to Replace yourname with your username, as defined when you got your Kindle and set up your Kindle account.

The file is converted to the Kindle .azw format and is sent back to you, through the e-mail address you registered for your Amazon account. You save the file on your computer. Once there, you transfer the file to your Kindle via the USB cable.

Note: You can transfer .TXT, MobiPocket (.prc or .mobi), .AZW, .AUD, and .MP3 files directly to the Kindle without e-mailing them for conversion. Just copy them from your computer to your Kindle through the USB cable.

When the Kindle is connected to your computer via the USB cable, it shows up as another hard drive in Windows Explorer. Just drag & drop the files into the Book folder of the Kindle.

Cheap Way

The cheap way to convert and move e-books to your Kindle costs $.10 per e-book. The advantage of this method over the free way is that the converted e-book is sent directly to your Kindle library where you can access it without connecting to your computer.

You e-mail the e-book to be converted to Replace yourname with your username, as defined when you got your Kindle and set up your Kindle account.

Sony Reader

The Reader supports .JPEG, .PNG, .PDF, .TXT, .RTF formatted e-books. It has an application, "CONNECT Reader," that can convert MS Word (.DOC) e-books to .RTF before copying them to the Reader from your computer. In most cases, you should use the "CONNECT Reader" software to transfer supported files to your Reader.

The text size for .PDF e-books transferred to the Reader is considered small by some readers, but if you hold down the <Size> button for five second, it will rotate the screen, which is a tremendous help.

In addition, you can purchase your e-books in HTML format and convert the e-book to .RTF, which would allow you to enlarge the font as you would with any other document on your Reader.

Hope this helps a few of you who were blessed with new electronic toys. As soon as I can save up enough money, I'm going to bless myself. J

May you achieve every success and dream,


Tuesday, December 18, 2007

2007 Goals

Happy Holidays!

I got up this morning thinking about what to blog about and realized it is almost time to review my goals from 2007 and begin creating new goals for 2008. I was in a pretty good mood, too. My editor for my new book, I Bid One American, gave me my first edits and they were extremely light (whew). And I managed to get those done, as well as finding a few more errors, this week so I could send it all back to her. I am really excited about this book and can't wait to get a publication date.

So I was really riding high. And I decided to go back to editing the traditional Regency I've been working on since November.

Of course, that was all before I did a google search of my desktop to find my 2007 goals and see how well I did this last year. And wow. Bummer. I had forgotten that I spent the better part of 2007 racking up a bunch more rejections. Publishing is such a strange business. Even published authors get rejected and get rejections from their current editors/publishers.

Here's irony for you:

I had a goal of selling several Regency romance and Regency romance/mysteries to my current publisher. But I ran into a few snags.

The books were too long for the line that published my first book. So I tried to cut them down and learned a very important lesson: some stories can't be cut down without losing their charm and integrity. Of course I didn't learn that until I butchered several of them and sent them to my editor. Who despised them—thereby proving to her that I'm a one-book wonder.

So there went my first four goals, right down the…well, you know where they went. And it was four goals since I actually had four manuscripts which were rejected. I wasted the better part of 2007 trying to cut back manuscripts that were already lean and deserved better treatment. Very sad.

But all was not lost. I took a step back and thought, well, what if I went to a different publisher with different length requirements? I could go back to an earlier version that had not been butchered and try that.

I did and I sold I Bid One American to The Wild Rose Press.

And I wrote a couple of short stories just for fun. I'm trying to sell Malice through Amazon's Connect program (if I didn't just jinx it by mentioning it) and still ruminating over where to sell My First Case. I also wrote a contemporary mystery called: Whacked!

Therefore, what did I get done in 2007?

  1. I learned not to butcher books. As a byproduct, I learned I'm already a "lean" writer (meaning I don't have any extra fluff in books—in fact, I probably need more fluff—not less) and cutting back a book is not a good idea unless I'm willing to totally gut it and remove subplots.
  2. Sold I Bid One American
  3. Finished my first draft of Whacked!
  4. Wrote Malice and submitted it to Amazon Connect
  5. Wrote My First Case
  6. Finished my first draft of a Regency romance (no title yet, though)
  7. Racked up six rejections
  8. Spent a lot of time learning about promotion and doing my best to promote my first book: Smuggled Rose, which is available in print now from Amazon.

I didn't do everything I wanted to do, but I did do some things I am proud of and I can't wait to see I Bid One American in print.

As 2007 roars to a close, it's time to reflect on our accomplishments and select new goals for the coming year. There are always new opportunities and even when we did not accomplish what we expected, we did manage to survive and learn a few things.

I sincerely hope each and every one of you can find at least one thing in 2007 that you can be proud of and has one more thing left to be done so you can start 2008 with anticipation and energy.
Have a wonderful holiday season and a bright new year!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Happy Holidays

The fall and winter seasons are my very favorite times of the year. And I am very pleased with my publisher, The Wild Rose Press (TWRP), who contracted I Bid One American. I love that story and am just thrilled to see it getting published. To my amazement, I no sooner signed the contract than I had a cover! Talk about a quick art department.

It looks like they are pretty quick off the mark in terms of getting books out there, which suits me. I'm hoping for a release date in early 2008. In the meantime, I'm putting the final touches on the first of a triple play of short stories, entitled: Malice, Revenge, and Murder. They are short stories set in the Regency period, in June 1809, August 1809, and September 1809, respectively. I hope to release them through Amazon Connect's Shorts program, although I know TWRP also publishes short stories so… One way or the other, 2008 is looking good to me as a writer.

Those three short stories are very loosely related—in fact the only real relationship between them is a reference to a certain character—but together I'm hoping they will do a nice job as the backstory for the hero in another of my books, The Vital Principle. With luck, I'm hoping to sell that one to TWRP, also. It's a—-yes—a Regency mystery/romance.

And here's the cool thing. As a writer, you're taught not to weigh down a story with a lot of background information (i.e. backstory) for your characters. But sometimes, a character's background includes one or more rather interesting events. Such as a murder or two. So rather than boring your audience, you can write related short stories that are, in essence, the backstory. The advantages of this are numerous.

  1. You get to write short stories, which are a lot of fun. J
  2. You can sell the short stories as a promotional tool for your bigger, bolder, badder (or gooder) novel.
  3. You can finally tell all those background bits to the readers, without annoying them by taking up pages and pages of reminisces and background as would happen if you did this in your actual novel. Your short stories are "what happened, when it happened" rather than, "oh, way back when, this happened…" memories stuck in your novel.
  4. You can round out your characters without doing the full-length novel/sequel thing (which I dislike intensely—I loathe sequels—speaking as a reader).

It's all good.

So now I have to get going and do just a few more edits on Malice so that I can send that story out this week.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Tense and the Reader

I'm blogging a little early this week since I'm about to go on a business trip and will have limited (i.e. no) opportunity to do so, much to my dismay. I haven't quite wrapped my head around the concept that I am not allowed to use my "work" laptop for any other activities. Since I object to carrying two laptops on the airplane… Well, you get the point.

This week I'm addressing something I ran into last night. It really bothered me. Tenses.

I'm hardly an expert in grammar—heck, I often forget how to spell the word 'grammar'—and I'm sitting here with a grammar book in front of me to make sure my rant is correct. Pathetic, true, but it does not negate this issue. And that issue is: use of simple present tense—or worse—present progressive. Or present perfect progressive.

Ah, you will say—you're writing that way yourself—right now. I know. But this isn't a piece of fiction and I'm not expecting you to get into the head of the main character—i.e. me. In fact, I recommend you stay out of my head, completely.

Now, I'm probably an old fuddy-duddy, so I admit that up front. Nonetheless, I've read a lot of experimental fiction, Science Fiction, and other just plain weird stuff and I've never run into any issue where the writing actually made my head hurt. I've read books I had to reread a few times to understand all the implications, but the writing was fine. It was invisible so that you could concentrate on the story and the concepts and not the author's use of verbs and tenses.

But just when you think it's safe to go in the water, you pick up a romance and/or a mystery and some author takes a hammer to your head.

About two years ago, I picked up this really, truly famous author's most recent book. I had never read her work before, but I'd listen to her speechify about writing and there were a series of movies based upon her books (mostly geared for young ladies). I thought, this ought to be a lot of fun. And wham, I read the first page and got a headache.

There was a bit of dialog followed by this sentence: The girl in the dressing room next to mine has a voice like a chipmunk.

I thought, well, okay, maybe it was just me—the reader. So I continued. There were a few more bits of dialog, and: I hear a sales clerk come over, his key chain clinking musically.

And I freaked out. My head started throbbing. I was like: What the heck tense is this and why is this author doing this to me? STOP IT—THE AGONY IS KILLING ME! However, grimly determined (because this was SUCH a popular author and I wanted to learn) I managed to suck up the pain and finish the book. But I only finished it because it was about 80% dialog and I just skipped all the action/narrative stuff. And I swore never to read another of her books. I've been true to my word.

That author, my friends, used present tense and it was horrible torture for the reader. It really put me off. I kept thinking—I am not there—I am not in the room with this bimbo narrator and I'm not seeing this. Who the heck is she talking to and when is this actually occurring. The writing got in the way of the story.

Writing should be invisible. You should get so absorbed by the story that you don't even notice the writer. In fact, Jenny Crusie has a rule that you shouldn't even use anything other than "said" for dialog tags because anything else makes the reader pause infinitesimally. (That may be going too far into the "make your writing invisible" but it does illuminate that dark corner a bit.) But here was this author that made me pause for every single verb.

Anyway. Maybe, I thought, this one book is just a fluke or weird thing this popular author is doing and no one else on the planet is writing this way. Because if they are, God Help Me, my reading days are numbered.

About two years passed. I went on about my business, reading and writing quite happily. Then I stumbled upon this wonderful mystery series on BBC America and I searched all over for the author of the books the series was based on. I found one book, and although it was not related to the series, it was so exquisitely written that I rushed out again and bought two other books from this author.

Last night I plucked one of the two books from my shelf and curled up in bed, planning on enjoying myself. And I read: London. A stifling early September afternoon, the sun beating down.

A little unsettling, to be sure, but I went with it. Then I got to the following sentence: Overnight bag and briefcase in one hand, handbag over her shoulder, Fran plunges down into the arguably worse hell…

Suddenly, for me, the reader, I start having issues with temporal displacement. I not only can't get into this, but I'm faced with: Who the Hell is she talking to and when is this taking place? Because it sure isn't now. But she says it is NOW. ARGH!

I really struggled through the first page, almost crying. My head throbbed. It only got worse. Because not only is the author using present tense, but the character suffers from flashbacks or memories (whatever you want to call them) where she explains who she works for and her circumstances. And it's all in the present tense which makes it really like some drug-induced hallucination where you can't keep straight what is happening for real, right now in present tense, and what isn't really happening but she's just thinking. Or really—isn't really thinking but it's the author in a God-like way explaining the heroine's job—but she's using present tense as if she's Fran, but not really, because why would Fran be thinking all this background sort of stuff?

I don't even know how to explain how confusing it was. Or how it really made me feel quite ill trying to read it and understand WHEN anything was happening. And to make matters worse, she didn't just have this character walking through the here-and-now in present tense, and sort of not remembering but thinking somehow in present tense about her job, employer and family, but…she also introduces actual memories. And the memories start out with a few sentences of past tense and then drift around between past, present and perhaps even a few progressive forms of past and present tense. Leaving you completely unable to get into the story because you're so busy trying to figure out what is going on, to whom and more importantly, when.

And as you can see from my own casual use of tense, I'm not perfect. But hey… This is a blog. Not a book.

So—here is what I, as a reader, did out of self-defense. I started to skim so that where the author had a phrase such as: Fran makes a run for it, I mentally substituted: Fran made a run for it. It was hard work. However, I got to the end of the first chapter.

Then the author switched point of view to another character and adopted the standard past tense we all know and love. THANK GOD. But by that time, I was shaken and mentally disturbed. Could I trust the author to now STAY in past tense or tenses like: past, past progressive or past perfect/past perfect progressive? Those, I can handle. I can even handle a few future tenses (future, future progressive, future perfect, future perfect progressive—whatever).

Now, this evening, I'm looking at this book and I'm thinking: why was the first chapter written that way? (And why did I just write that in present progressive—the very thing I hate? Ah, human frailty…)

However, back to my question. There was no—absolutely no—reason for it, particularly since in chapter two, the author adopted the more common and easy-to-read past tense. I read the blurb on the back of the book again and it says that first character is the book's heroine. And now I'm scared. I'm really scared that the author only moved to the comforting past tense for other characters and when she moves back to the heroine's point of view, she'll use that brain twisting present tense (and all it's ugly related brethren: present perfect, present progressive, & present perfect progressive).

I've lost my trust and faith in this author and she has scared me enough that I'm thinking I may not read any more for fear of running into another chapter of temporal displacement. And I'm sadly looking at her other book I purchased and haven't read yet. I'm having buyer's remorse. And yet there was that one, magical book she wrote which was so perfect. It's hard to believe she fumbled so badly on this other one.

Or maybe it's just me. Maybe this is the new "thing" and I'm just not getting it.

Finally, before I get back to my packing, I have only this to say: If you're an author, I'm begging you to avoid present tense (& its related forms) for the sake of your reader. Unless you have a really, really good reason—and frankly—I can't think of one.

Oh—that wasn't my final word. For those of you who are grammatically impaired (like me) here is a quick reference:


Present - He walks to the store

Present Perfect – He has walked to the store

Present Progressive – He is walking to the store

Present Perfect Progressive – He has been walking to the store


Past - He walked to the store

Past Perfect – He had walked to the store

Past Progressive – He was walking to the store

Past Perfect Progressive – He had been walking to the store


Future - He will walk to the store

Future Perfect – He will have walked to the store

Future Progressive – He will be walking to the store

Future Perfect Progressive – He will have been walking to the store

Have a good evening!