On this blog every Tuesday and Friday I write about story techniques, structure, and/or publishing. Comments and questions are welcome. I also have a personal blog, Amy Deardon, on which I write about a variety of topics purely as they catch my fancy.

I've written one novel, A Lever Long Enough, that I'm honored to say has won two awards. In my life BC (before children) I was a scientist who did bench research.

My book, The Story Template: Conquer Writer's Block Using the Universal Structure of Story, is now available in both hard-copy and e-book formats. I also coach would-be novelists and screenwriters to develop their story. YOU CAN CONTACT ME at amydeardon at yahoo dot com.

Friday, August 31, 2012

How to Select a Phone Number for Your Story

When I was in tenth grade two kids in my class, Peter and Jim, once bragged they'd made prank telephone calls the previous night. They laughed recounting adventures. "The best one was that woman screaming when Pete said, 'Lady, did you know your phone number spells BAT SH*T?' "

Ah yes, youth. Imagine what a nightmare it would be if your phone number was published in a novel or movie. I'm still remembering an 80s song I heard with the refrain: Jenny, don't lose my number: 867 5309.

This is why the phone company decided to set aside a group of phone numbers just for aspiring novelists and screenwriters. Using these numbers, you can feel safe that you won't unwittingly torment innocent people and force them to change phone numbers.

They decided that 555 was a good prefix for these numbers (Easy as Pi by Jamie Buchan) because no major place names in the USA begin with a combination of J, K, and L (the letters linked with the 5 on the phone keyboard). Of course there is one widely used 555 number: 555 1212, the information number, that I also use when calling Pizza Hut because I don't think it's any of their business to keep my phone number on file. (Of course they can get it anyway with identification software, but oh well). Another 555 phone number, 555 2368, will get you the Ghostbusters, Jim Rockford of The Rockford Files, and Jaime Sommers from the Bionic Woman.

But I digress. To cut to the chase, these *safe* numbers for fiction writers are the phone numbers 555-0100 through 555-0199. Use them!

I hope today's blog gives you a moment's smile -- I thought this was funny, although also an important point if you DO need a phone number. Dial carefully :-)

Reference: http://www.mentalfloss.com/blogs/archives/85558http://www.mentalfloss.com/blogs/archives/85558

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Four Life Blocks

Holly Lisle describes four blocks in your life that can prevent you from writing (as well as other things):

SAFE -- in small doses, playing it safe is a good thing. For example, it might be smarter to study for your exam than go out to play. However, if you're too *SAFE* in life you will never break out or take risks to do something exciting and individual. You will live your life in a bottle rather than learning to do what you, and you alone, were meant to do. Push yourself to do things that are uncomfortable for you.

PERFECT -- it's important to do a job well rather than slap-dash it off. However, perfectionism can prevent you from actually finishing a job. NO ONE can do everything perfectly, all the time. Even with unlimited time it's not possible to be "perfect" because we are imperfect creatures living in an imperfect world. Furthermore, we learn from our mistakes. Set time limits and finish the task well, badly, or indifferently, then move on. Otherwise you will never grow and create. Give yourself only ten minutes to do a writing task, for example, and you won't have time to make it perfect.

VICTIM -- we all suffer from physical problems and slights from interpersonal relationships, and these are not fair. However, if you dwell on these problems, what you deserve, and how you are being ripped off, rather than moving ahead, you have moved into a victim mentality that leaves you feeling helpless and unable to do things for yourself. Interestingly enough, many politicians and advertisers try to convince you that you are a victim so that you will empower THEM, by your vote or money or actions. List all the things you are grateful for -- including material comforts (refrigerators, toilets) and all the people who care about you. Think on these things, instead of what you DON'T have.

FEEL -- It's important to be able to feel -- say to give sympathy, or mercy. However, the human animal is made to THINK as well as feel. If you don't objectively evaluate claims and decisions you will be in trouble. It's a spunky and adventurous thing to fly to Paris for the weekend, but this might not be the best use of your resources (time and money). If you don't have the money you're in even more trouble -- you can use your credit card, of course, but then you have to repay the money with high interest. When anyone makes a statement, evaluate it. Will that makeup REALLY make you look ten years younger? Should you REALLY buy insurance because a cute gekko tells you this is the best kind? Balancing the thinking and feeling axes makes you a complete person.


These attitudes are helpful to consider not just for writing, but for life. I have to admit myself to being guilty of some of them. Hope you find them helpful to ponder also, and happy writing!

Friday, August 24, 2012

Novel Writing Contest

A fun writing contest is now open...

This is the PHOENIX RATTLER Contest for unpublished novelists. You can enter up to ten pages (from the beginning), plus you must include a 100 word synopsis. Categories include:

Contemporary Fiction
Contemporary Romance
Historical Fiction
Historical Romance
Romantic Suspense
Women's Fiction
Speculative Fiction
Young Adult

This contest will be judged by literary agents and editors.

The cost is $25 to enter. This contest is similar to the ACFW Genesis contest held in April -- these contests are beneficial because you will receive, at the minimum, multiple objective critiques of your work.

But you must hurry! Deadline is September 1st. Winner will be announced January 5 2013.

You can check it out at http://christianwritersofthewest.weebly.com/2012-phoenix-rattler-contest.html

Friday, August 17, 2012

How to Publish an E-Book: Part Six

This series discusses how you can format, e-publish, and sell a book on Amazon (Kindle) and Barnes and Noble (Nook).

The two most important factors determining whether someone purchases your e-book are your cover and your description. Today I'll give some tips for writing a stand-out description.

For both fiction and nonfiction, first study the backs of book covers and e-book descriptions to get a sense for what works.

For fiction, use a 15-20 word logline at the top. Then intrigue your reader by describing just enough of your story to interest him to read more. Finally, end your description with a cliffhanger or question.

Here's an example: My description for my novel A LEVER LONG ENOUGH

(110 words)

A small military team travels back in time to film the theft of Jesus’ body from the tomb.

The Israeli team, led by Benjamin Feinan, has exactly seventy-two hours to collect the video evidence. Failure threatens the existence of Israel and may cause the world to slip into all-out war. Drawn into a web of first-century deception and death, the only way to escape is for Benjamin to change the past. In the present, a traitor attempts to sabotage the mission and seize control of the military complex. Only Benjamin can reveal him, but he is trapped two thousand years away.

Even with a time machine, time is running out.


For non-fiction, start your description with a question based on the title of your book. Then list bullet points that describe what your book is about. Finally, finish with a quick summary.

Here's an example: My description for my How-To book THE STORY TEMPLATE

(157 words)

Writing a novel or screenplay sounds like a fabulous idea. But where do you start? And how do you finish?

Award-winning author, Amy Deardon, answers these questions in The Story Template: Conquer Writer’s Block Using the Universal Structure of Story. This approach will help you focus your creativity and complete your unique and compelling story, script, or novel. With this tool and more than 100 targeted writing exercises, you will learn to:

* Ascertain the four foundational story pillars, and use the “secret weapon” of the story template, to structure your story.

* Build character depth with believable change.

* Create subplots to raise tension while you deepen and contrast story themes.

* Review writing techniques that shape your ideas into a compelling manuscript.

The Story Template is a product of Amy’s comprehensive research—as well as her personal experience—for what makes a story “work.” No matter your level of accomplishment, this book will help you build a better story.

Copyright 2012 by Amy Deardon. All rights reserved.

check out www.ebooklistingservices.com

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

How to Publish an E-Book: Part Five

This series discusses how you can format, e-publish, and sell a book on Amazon (Kindle) and Barnes and Noble (Nook).

Today I'll go over how to actually post your book onto the Amazon, and Barnes and Noble sites. These two sites are similar.

Since Amazon sells more e-books than Barnes and Noble, I recommend you do Amazon first.

Amazon also has a program called Amazon Prime, which allows your e-book to be borrowed by certain Kindle owners (those who have signed up for the Amazon Prime program). Amazon pays you a certain percentage based on how many people borrow your book. The positive is that you increase your readership base on Amazon. The negative is that you are not permitted to sell your e-book on any other site. You commit to this agreement for 90 days at a time, so you can change your mind if you wish. Yes, this is another example of Amazon's tactics to further take over the book world. Even so, you may wish to consider if this will be a beneficial arrangement for you. A benefit of this program is that you can (although don't have to) offer your book for free for any five days out of the 90 day agreement. This tactic may be helpful for driving up purchases and therefore rankings on the site.

To open an account, go to Amazon.com, scroll to the bottom of the page, and click on "Independently Publish with Us." Under the "Kindle Books" section select "Get Started." From the Welcome page select "Sign In" or "Sign Up."

You may wish to create a new publishing account, even if you already have an Amazon account. A separate publishing account prevents your buying and your selling from becoming tangled. On the other hand, it’s two accounts with two emails and two passwords. If you have formed a publishing company, you definitely want to establish a new publishing company account.

You first need to read the Amazon agreement for e-publishing, and agree to the terms. The terms are reasonable, BTW. You then need to fill out your account information. You must put in true information, not pseudonyms: real name, address, and phone number, and social security number or EIN number. You also need to fill in your bank account information so Amazon can electronically make payments. Sadly, Paypal accounts don't work.

Next, you need to fill out your book information. Your book description is important, so I'll go over a few tips for writing this on Friday.

Amazon also asks if your e-book has an ISBN. The ISBN is a unique number identifying your book. While not necessary for an e-book, I recommend that you use one if your e-book also has a print edition. If you include one, you need separate ISBNs for e-book and print. Hmm, I see another essay about these.

You MUST have the legal right to publish this book. Even though you wrote this book, YOU MAY NOT HAVE THE RIGHTS IF YOU SIGNED WITH A SUBSIDY PUBLISHER TO PRODUCE YOUR BOOK, EVEN IF ONLY IN A PRINT FORMAT. Check your contract before you e-publish your book. This is yet another reason I don't like subsidy publishers; I don't think this is fair.

You must decide whether or not you want to enable Digital Rights Management (DRM). Once you e-publish your book, you cannot change this decision. Digital Rights Management is an attempt for protecting e-books from unauthorized downloading with reportedly spotty success. If DRM is enabled, the e-book will only be able to be downloaded once or a small number of times by each buyer. If DRM is not enabled, the e-book file can be downloaded as many times as desired by each buyer. DRM enabling can annoy people. Consider with your work whether you want to err on the side of Theft or Obscurity (John Kremer’s tongue-in-cheek dilemma for small publishers). For myself, I always disable the DRM option.

Next, you upload your carefully formatted e-book text and your cover image. Take some time to preview it. If you find errors you can easily reload it. BTW even after your e-book is published you can re-upload it, so don't worry if you make a mistake.

For pricing, you must charge at least $0.99. You receive 35% of the selling price if your e-book is priced between $0.99 and $2.98; or if it's more expensive than $9.99. If your e-book is priced between these points, you can receive 70% of the selling price if you meet a few easy requirements such as not offering the e-book for a lower price elsewhere.

When you're finished, hit the publish button and you're officially an author.

To list your e-book on Barnes and Noble, go to www.pubit.com. The process is similar.

On Friday I'll discuss some tips to write a product description.

Copyright 2012 by Amy Deardon. All rights reserved.

check out www.ebooklistingservices.comhttp://www.ebooklistingservices.com

Friday, August 10, 2012

How to Publish an E-Book: Part Four

This series discusses how you can format, e-publish, and sell a book on Amazon (Kindle) and Barnes and Noble (Nook).

The two most important factors determining whether someone purchases your e-book are:

E-Book Description
E-Book Cover

I'll discuss next week some tips for writing the description. This entry will discuss how to get a beautiful e-book cover.

The e-book cover gives a “finishing touch” to your e-book. The cover is not only at the front of the downloaded book, but also is displayed as a thumbnail graphic for your book listing on e-bookstores such as Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Before you start, study e-book covers of similar books to yours on Amazon and other sites. Determine what sorts of covers you like, and why.

You can hire people to design e-book covers. Some inexpensive sources are:

www.fiverr.com -- the most inexpensive site.

www.vworker.com and www.guru.com -- these sites hold payment in escrow until you’re happy. If you use one of these sites, don’t offer/pay more than about $25-$30 for the cover.

If you’re good with graphics you may want to design your own cover.

The simplest cover is just text with a colored background. More complex covers use one or more graphics/images with text.

Study, study, study before you purchase or  develop your own cover.

For your e-cover make sure that the graphics/images are in the free domain, or you have the rights or a license  to use them. If you purchase or use graphics/images, check carefully how you are able to use them. For example, there may be restrictions on circulation (how widely distributed is your document) or time limits. Determine how you are allowed to modify the graphics/images.

DO NOT just copy a graphic/image you like from the internet. You don’t want to steal. Always investigate rights.

Some sites with free or low-cost images are:

If you use a white background for your cover, make sure that you include a border so that the cover doesn’t “float” on the white web page listing site.

The cover jpeg should have a dpi resolution (dots per inch) of 300, and not have fewer than 500 pixels on the longest side.

The recommended e-book cover size is about 600 x 900 pixels.

Text conversion programs like Calibre and Mobipocket work well for converting a Word document into .mobi or .ePub formats. However, for this series of articles we will use the Amazon and Barnes&Noble DTP (Digital Text Platform) to convert your e-book.

Next week I'll discuss how to e-publish your book on Amazon, and Barnes and Noble.

Copyright 2012 by Amy Deardon. All rights reserved.

check out www.ebooklistingservices.com

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

How to Publish an E-Book: Part Three

This series discusses how you can format, e-publish, and sell a book on Amazon (Kindle) and Barnes and Noble (Nook).

I'll be talking today about inserting charts, diagrams, tables, and illustrations. I'll also go over formatting a professional table of contents.

Illustrations usually (but not always) translate well to the Kindle and Nook. The Kindle and some Nooks use e-ink that only displays in grayscale. The Kindle Fire and other Nooks have a full color screen. Make sure therefore that your illustrations and diagrams will be understandable if they are in just black and white.

To insert diagrams within the body of your manuscript, you first need to name the jpeg files correctly since some formatting platforms are touchy. Simply name the file in lower case letters with no spaces -- for example, I might name an illustration "publishonkindle.jpeg."

Next, go to the Insert menu and insert the file where you want it to go. Put in page breaks before and/or after the illustration if you wish.

Remember that the e-book formatting platforms don't correctly translate hard tabs or most formatting marks. If you need to use a table within your text, create it in a jpeg that you can insert within the body of your manuscript like any other jpeg.


Table of Contents (TOC) gives a professional presentation to your book, whether it’s fiction or nonfiction. The TOC allows easy navigation through the front matter, back matter, and body of your work. TOC are most elegantly formed through Headings, but also may be perfectly formatted using hyperlinks. This is the method I'll discuss today.

To start, at the beginning of your book type out your table of contents. You'll link it soon.

Hyperlinks are formed through a two-step process:

1) the location to which you want the hyperlink to travel is BOOKMARKED.

2) the desired clickable word or phrase is HYPERLINKED to the bookmark.

To form a BOOKMARK place your cursor at the location to which you wish to navigate. Go to the Insert menu --> Links --> Bookmark and type in a short name for this location (only you will see this).

To form a HYPERLINK highlight the word or phrase that you want to be the hyperlink. When the reader clicks on this word or phrase, he will travel to your bookmark. Then go to the Insert menu --> Links --> Hyperlink --> Place in This Document --> select the bookmark short name.

Your hyperlink in your table of contents will now appear underlined and blue. You can control-click the hyperlink to check the hyperlink goes to the correct location. Continue this process until your entire Table of Contents (TOC) is highlighted. Check to make sure all links are correct.

Finally, you need to mark the TOC so that the e-book reader recognizes it for the reader. Simply type "Table of Contents" at the top of your TOC, then bookmark it with "TOC."

On Friday I'll discuss how to get a beautiful e-book cover.

Copyright 2012 by Amy Deardon. All rights reserved.

check out www.ebooklistingservices.com

Friday, August 3, 2012

How to Publish an E-Book: Part Two

This series discusses how you can format, e-publish, and sell a book on Amazon (Kindle) and Barnes and Noble (Nook).

There are several platforms you can use for e-publishing your book, but you first need to format your Word document so that it can be translated. This is what I'll talk about today.

Open your Word document and save a new copy in an RTF format. This needs to be a single document with all of your chapters, NOT multiple single-chapter documents. You can keep the standard page layout, or for fun you can reformat your paper size to “A5” (5.83” x 8.27”) simply to get a better visual idea of what your text may look like on Kindle. However you have your page layout, you want to make sure that your margin markers (the triangles on your top ruler) are not past the white areas of the ruler – if they are, when the document is translated the words may extend beyond the reader screen, and therefore not be able to be read.

Once you have your margins, remove all hard (tab) indents, and all hard returns except at the ends of paragraphs. If you want to visualize where they are in your manuscript to make it easier to find them, turn on the "view formatting marks" option. If you don't know where this option is, hit the F1 key and type in "format symbols" or "format marks" to find out how to display them. Do the indents through the ruler at the top of the page -- move the top triangle over about half an inch.

Select all the text in your document and make it 12 point, justified (instead of ragged right edges), and single spaced (or 1.15 spaced).

Use the same boring serif font for all of your text -- Times New Roman or Garamond. Don't use tricky symbols or fancy formatting (anything beyond bold, italics, and centering text), since e-book conversion programs cannot reliably translate these.

Also, make sure that you don't have a blank line between paragraphs, either through two hard returns or through the automatic formatting if you have Word 2007. To take these out of Word 2007, first make sure all your text is still selected, then under the Home key at the top, look under the "Paragraph" section. The fifth box with lines shows a box with two arrows pointing up and down. Hit that one. At the bottom of this arrow hit the "remove space from..." tab.

You will not need headers and footers either. Eliminate these from your document. (NOTE: just leaving in blank lines in the header or footer is not sufficient -- get rid of these in the formatting).

Next, you'll need to format each chapter. For each chapter heading line, remove that indent on the ruler above the document so that it is flush with the left side. Then, center "Chapter One" or "1" or whatever you're using for your chapter headings, and make it "20 point" and "bold" (or other formatting if you desire). Do a hard return after this. Your text starts on the next line.

(NOTE: for all centering, including in your text body, always eliminate the indent on the ruler so that the line is flush left). If you want to have something like a fancy chapter heading with graphics or a squiggle, you can save this as a jpeg and embed it at the beginning of each chapter. Don’t forget to check the preview before publishing.

At the end of each chapter, insert a page break. Do this even if your text ends on the last line of the page and your adding the page break adds a blank page to your manuscript. Remember, the formatting YOU see is not the formatting the Kindle user sees. At the end of the final chapter, put in a hard return, then center ~THE END~ in 16 point text.

If you have offset passages of your text -- for example a letter that your heroine reads -- center this text and italicize it, or otherwise format it so that it looks good to you. Again, no fancy fonts.

Here is a summary checklist for your document:

File saved in RTF format.
Margin tabs within white space of ruler.
No hard tabs.
No hard returns except at the ends of paragraphs.
No blank lines after paragraphs.
Font is 12 point Serif font (Times New Roman or Garamond).
Justified text.
No headers or footers.
Chapter heading tab is flush left.
Chapter heading is centered, 20 point, and bold.
Hard page break goes after the end of each chapter.
Right after the last chapter, drop a line or two and center “~The End~” in 16 point font.
If back matter is present, put in a hard page break after “The End” and start new section.


Next week I'll discuss charts, diagrams, tables, illustrations, and formatting a professional table of contents.

Copyright 2012 by Amy Deardon. All rights reserved.

check out www.ebooklistingservices.com