Third Time’s A Charm

I’m currently writing my third novel. So far, that’s been comprised of repeatedly rewriting the first two chapters and watching a shit-ton of Netflix. I think I’ve watched every British crime series available and have found myself in awe of how, in all this time, the English are forever without an umbrella during a rainstorm, never seek shelter from it and talk on their bloody cell phones whilst standing in a downpour. Of course, these are fictional Brits, but still, it seems to be almost a fetish and it’s slightly galling.

Friends have noted how much I’ve talked about the watching (I have a long “recommend” list) but not so much about the writing. I get it. It sounds like a whole bunch of procrastination. Sometimes, it feels that way, too. But, while I’m making the most of my Netflix subscription, there’s another kind of work going on. The internal development is happening. Characters are taking shape, coming into their voices, scenes are evolving, dialogue exchanges noted. While I might appear slothlike, curled up on the sofa, I’m actually getting things done. A good portion of writing doesn’t look anything like writing at all.

Earlier this week, I had the pleasure of being at a book club where TEMPORARY served as this month’s novel. A few attendees asked me about my process and smiled, eyes wide with curiosity about how something like bookwriting is done. I gave them the Sorkin line: “Sometimes, writing looks a whole lot like lying on the sofa watching TV.” The smiles remained but I did see their enthusiasm deflate. “Really?” one asked. “Really,” I answered.

I went on to explain that the more I write, the more I find it to be like a pregnancy — from what I know about that in theory. In the early months, you are exhausted and slightly nauseated. You know there’s a long road ahead of you and you have to take care of yourself as well as this creature you’re creating. You can feel the quickening and know there are parts growing, developing into what you have envisioned and becoming something of its own.

Then, there’s the phase when you are full of energy. You cannot wait to do all the things you want to do…and there’s so much you want to do! That’s when the nesting starts; you don’t want to leave your home because you have to focus on this creation, spiffy things up and fortify its world. It’s a glorious time. However, unlike expectant mothers, writers don’t have shiny hair and glowing skin. This is where we get a bit pasty from lack of sunshine and couldn’t be bothered with hair and makeup and all that jazz because we are creating.

Finally, in those last few months, you simply want it over. Be done with it. You want to push, push, push to get it out get it out get it out because you are puffy with it, exhausted by it and you really want to get back to your real life. You sleep less, make hard choices faster and are sort of unpleasant to be around because, if you are around others, you tend to resent them because how dare they take you away from the push.

When these kind ladies asked how long it took me to write it, the eight months made even more sense and I was slightly chuffed at the anaolgy I just delivered. (They were all mothers and I can’t tell you how much I appeciated those ladies embracing a book about an unmarried woman with zero desire for kids.) Yet, I’ve come to find that when asking a writer about their process, those inquiring expect something other than how much “Broadchurch” you’ve viewed while tinkering with a page. What I think they expect, and sort of deep down want to hear, is, “Well, there is a bit of human sacrifice involved.” No one wants to hear how boring and isolating it is in between the elation and accomplishment.

What’s making this a bit different for me is that it’s the first time in a long time (twelve years) that I’ve written a book not based on something else I wrote. TEMPORARY started out as an idea for a telelvision series with three episodes written; so, basically, a fair chunk of that had been sorted. I’d done plenty of original screenplays in that time, but those have a lot more white on the page than a novel’s manuscript, a set page limit and strict structure. Screenplays are easy. Novels are a bit more of a pain in the arse. It should be comforting that I’ve had the story for Book Three in my head for nearly three years — I know where it’s starting, how it ends and key plot points to hit — but there are over twenty characters, three cities and a five-year time span, and it’s going to get complicated. Really complicated. See why I’d rather watch “Marcella”? But no one sits down to write a book because they want to do it. Writers write because we have to.

In some ways, this book feels charmed by those challenges. While I’ve been digesting “River” and “The Five” and “Paranoia”, the characters are coming to life, making some of their own choices (sounds weird, but it’s a writer thing) and the world is taking shape.  But now it’s time to get down to business and start crafting the chapters, put those words and worlds and people on the page. I’m rather excited to see where it takes me.

There are threads that weave through each novel to connect them, and not just their ZIP code, but this is likely the last in the Venice series. The first novel was about success, the second was about failure and the third is about compassion. Keep an eye out for EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE AT THE VENTURA COUNTY LINE early next year.




Me vs. Amazon KDP

Dear Friends:

Due to Amazon’s refusal to print the cover as intended (with the letters spilling off the edges), I have had to remove the paperback from their store. It makes me sad because I want readers to have a choice in where and how they make their purchase and Amazon is a favorite for many (plus, I wanted to offer the ebook free with paperback purchase, which Amazon offers). You can order the paperback through any bookseller via the ISBN number (978-0-9997625-1-6), and I’ll be setting up a retail shop on my website soon wherein you would be purchasing from the IngramSpark Aerio distribution (drop-shipped directly to you).

I have been trying to work with Amazon to get them to see the silliness in this matter (all because the letters go off the edge). I believe as an independent author/publisher, I have a right to such a design choice. As IngramSpark, the company who does the POD for all the major publishing houses, did approve the cover should rather prove the point with Amazon, but they will not budge. That left me with little choice than to remove the paperback from Amazon. It will be available in a few weeks when IngramSparks takes over the distribution on Amazon.

I do apologize for this inconvenience if you were planning on purchasing the paperback from Amazon, and appreciate your patience and support. I’ll let you know when the shop on my site is ready.

SAM xo

P.S. ~ Below is a photo of the paperback. The book on the left is the proof copy from Amazon KDP. The right is the book from IngramSpark. I still think it’s a striking cover and can’t quite see why Amazon won’t approve it. Can you?


Learning Curves

There’s no feeling quite like finishing your book/screenplay/project. It must be something like the high from childbirth; you forget all the pain and just love what you have created.

And then the hard work starts:





Last week, I finally finished my second novel, TEMPORARY, which I was hoping to have done by the end of November. (Best laid plans and all that.) This was the first full book I’ve done writing in Scrivener and the first time I’ve used Vellum to format. Both platforms have learning curves and quirks. Here’s what I stumbled upon:

Scrivener Autocorrect Formatting Goofs

There are oodles of YouTubes on how to set up Scrivener before you compile and export to Word. What I think they don’t mention (honestly, I’ve never watched one all the way through because they tend to be looooooooong) is that all your special little autocorrects will be obliterated. Your smart quotes will be no more. Your double-hyphen-to-emdashes will disappear. Your three periods to condensed ellipsis will also be jacked. I didn’t use any superscripts, but I would assume those would be trashed, too. It was an un-fun discovery to make when you are just this side of a 300-page book.

Solution: Simply Find/Replace All

Take the cruddy version of the quote/dashes/ellipsis and copy/paste it into the Find field, then correct it in the doc and copy/paste that into the Replace field. Hit that handy “Replace All” button and Bob’s your uncle.

Vellum vs. The Super Picky Formatter

I went ahead and purchased the full Vellum for both ebook and print. I have to say that I LOVE the ebook formatting, how easy and elegant and super smart it is, and how quickly and effortlessly the multiple formats for your selected vendors are created. This was the FIRST time I got my upload onto iBooks accepted on the FIRST try. Worth the price of admission just for that. However…

When it comes to print, I want/need more options. If I want to move a line lower and change the font size for that section (specifically, the front and back matter), I need to be able to do it. And maybe this is my ignorance to the product. To be very honest, I didn’t do a whole lot of research on it because I just wanted to get the book done. Perhaps the solution would be to have one version for ebook and a second for print and configure as needed (you can have both versions in a single Vellum file and choose what is used for each, and that’s pretty genius). But, as the frustration mounted, I figured it would be faster to go with what I know rather than spend time researching a solution with Vellum that I feared did not exist (yet).

Solution: Pick Your Battles

After a bit of profanity, I decided to simply format the ebook in Vellum and do the print version in Word.

Word, I Wish I Know How to Quit You

Word is not something we love; it’s something we’re stuck with and forced to use because it is ubiquitous…and no one’s really come up with anything better that can be used on both Mac and PC (which is super important when you write on Mac and your proofreader is totally PC).

Probably one of the smarter things I’ve done is create a template for a 5×8 book with the layout just how I like it. Yes, I had to copy/paste each chapter/section into it, and that wasn’t exactly a blast, but it went quickly and it was easy. The next step setting the Drop Cap and then hyphenating in lieu of kerning to rid a paragraph of awkward gaps. While Word purports to offer this feature, it is far from perfect. Doing it by hand is far from perfect either, but it’s pretty easy to eyeball.

Final Semi-Pro Tips

Clean Copy  Keep a “clean” copy of your book for future changes. By “clean”, I mean formatted only to paper-size and chapter/section breaks. No hyphenation breaks. No Drop Caps. This is your safety net. This is the copy you will use to re-import to Vellum (though you can make changes in Vellum itself) if you’ve done a major overhaul. This copy can also serve as a template for your next book.

Lists  Keep a record of your ISBNs and store codes for each of your books for easy entry into Vellum because one of the more stellar offerings of the platform is entering store info for your other books. So, if your reader is viewing your book on Kindle and they want to buy another tome of yours, when they touch that hyperlink, it will take them to Amazon. On a Nook, it will take them to B&N, etc., etc. Pretty sweet, yes? Therefore, put all this information in one place to make life easier. Same for ISBN entry in each vendor/platform setup. And, while you don’t always need an ISBN, you should seriously consider getting your own and not relying on freebies.

ISBNs If you are going to continue as a professional, independent author/publisher, you should have proper ISBNs that link your books to your imprint and not that of the vendor giving you one for free. Are they pricey? Yep. But you can get a bundle from Bowker that makes it less painful in the long run. I opted for a 10-pack that came with 5 barcodes. That should cover 5 books — one ISBN per version (paperback and ebook), one barcode per book. Sign up with Bowker/MyIdentifiers to receive sale information to save even more. There’s a 100-bundle offer that I missed that really was a sweet deal; maybe next time. The ISBNs are not transferable, so keep that in mind before you purchase.

There are always going to be frustrations and learning curves as software changes and new platforms are offered. I’ve come to find that when you find something that works, keep it. Writing is hard enough; getting your book to market should be as easy as possible. That being said, don’t be afraid to try something new. And don’t be shy about investing in yourself. I wince when I think of the “investment” I made into SAME ink in 2017, but I do feel like it’s paying off already. Not a bad way to start off 2018.

Now, on to writing novel #3.

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