Formatting Your Book Made Easy

Lake MinnetonkaWelcome to my series, Lessons Learned. Over the next few posts, I’ll share some tips I learned from publishing my latest book, 101 Things to Do on Lake Minnetonka. In a nutshell, I think that I broke the code on making the process easier and seamless. Formatting was simplified.

Formatting Your Book

I completed another book last year called All Plants Are Edible Once. This book was a personal project. I wrote it for me. However, I procrastinated. And the main reason was formatting.

Completing e-books is a breeze compared to print. Even with templates, it still borders on maddening. My bane was the headers. Tip: as good as Libre Office is, Microsoft handles the job much better. I was frustrated. Then, I stumbled upon Pressbooks.

Formatting with Pressbooks

If you use WordPress, you’ll find using Pressbooks simple to use. You can easily create parts, chapters, and sections. For my 101 book, these features proved to be invaluable.

I set up parts for each city on Lake Minnetonka. Then, each to-do item became a chapter. In doing it this way, I was able to get the nice numbering for each one with a chapter number.

What made it so powerful was the customization. I could make some chapters without numbers to keep the correct order of items. I could also add HTML code to force page breaks. That was HUGE.

Making It Pretty

What I really loved was the vast collection of themes. With over 50 to choose from, you can select the right theme for your project. I chose Atwood.

The site also includes a cover generator. It works just as well as CreateSpace, but you need your own image. I ended up using my own formatted image, but used the cover creator for the layout. The nice thing about it is that it gives you recommended dimensions so you can correctly size your image.

You can create both e-book and print book covers. The beauty of this particular feature is that I don’t have to worry about a backup copy of either. It resides on the site.

Exporting Your Book

You can export both a PDF and e-book file. The site will export it in ePub or MOBI, with other choices too. And yes, it does cost. But for all the frustration it removed, I think it is priceless. The cost is $19.99 for an e-book alone or both print and e-book export for $99. Hit the link below to get 25 percent off.

The process of publishing 101 Things to Do on Lake Minnetonka was so much easier. I was able to preview my files to clean them up. Again, I have that handy backup on the site. If you’re a writer looking for an easier system for formatting your book, you can’t go wrong with Pressbooks.

Go to the Upgrade page and enter the referral code, CDRWEBORG in all caps to get 25 percent off.

Happy Pub Day to Me!

101 MinnetonkaJune 28th marked an important day in this writer’s life. My latest book, 101 Things to Do on Lake Minnetonka, was released. After months of hard work and stress, the day have finally arrived. I can say that it is done.

For those of you not familiar with Lake Minnetonka, it is the ninth largest lake in Minnesota. Located west of the Twin Cities, the lake differs from others. You can describe it as a chain of lakes. Some have been naturally connected, but others among the 24 bays were later connected via channels.

That’s what makes it unique. If you are a boater, you can appreciate a place where there are, in essence, 24 different lakes. But it’s more than boating.

There are numerous stories surrounding the lake. I found the history absolutely fascinating. The book bridges the gap between the history and the land, like an interactive experience. Of all the books I’ve written, this one was a true labor of love.

Take a peak and see what you think. I’d be ever so grateful if you’d share the link.

Preview Link

Imagining Better Writing

thinkingIt’s always interesting when real life confirms science. A meta-analysis by the University of Toronto does just that. Researchers found that images, primarily paintings, activate specific neurons associated with learning and inner thoughts and emotions.

It also sets up a system that activates the brain’s reward circuit. In a way, it’s like your own classical conditioning experiment. The positive reinforcement from visualizing and creating feeds into this system.

Using Images

Novel writing software often uses images with character and location sketches. Along with the detailed notes of profession, looks, and quirks, you can also select images to represent the main features of your work. I’ve followed this practice with my previous mystery and now with my new work-in-progress.

All of my characters have faces—and homes! A quick search online led me to the perfect houses and furnishings for all of the major scenes in my book. Having this material handy makes writing so much easier.

They don’t have to be online images, though it does keep things tidy. A gardening book from my bookshelf gave me the ideal setting for one of my character’s backyard. It added a new dimension to my writing experience to have a visual. And it’s certainly something you can bring to your own work.

The Science Behind It

With advances in neuroscience, we’re able to peak behind the Oz curtain and see what’s going on. Susan Reynold’s book, Fire Up Your Writing Brain, delves more deeply into the science of writing. Our brains continue to develop and change all through our lives, a concept known as neuroplasticity.

Building habits and routines adds this process, as does a healthy dose of mindfulness and gratitude. Images for elements of your book are one way to start cultivating those good practices.

Here’s my challenge to you: if you are writing a book, visualize it. Collect images to represent the elements of your project. Think on them before you write, and use them as you write. See if your writing doesn’t take on a greater sense of place and vibrancy.

By Chris DR/

photo credit: The Thinker via photopin (license)

Writing Practice to the Rescue!

backhoe interupts writing practiceI have fashioned a new writing practice for myself. Routine are important elements in a writer’s life. I wanted the security and familiarity it could offer. It became especially important when my life turned upside down.

Making Peace Out of Chaos

It began the week after Christmas. I was startled awake by the sound of chainsaws. Then, there was the crashing sounds of limbs breaking and the shaking of the floor and house. Construction of the rain garden and drainage fix on our land had begun.

Through a lack of foresight and bad planning, our lot became the trough for the surface runoff from the main drag, the schools, and the subdivision across the street. The runoff dug an ever larger trench into the land, with flooding and nasty sediment filling the yard every spring. The city had come to fix its wrong.

The first two weeks meant backhoes, semis of boulders, and diggers on the property. The large picture windows of our house, cabin really, meant no privacy as workers walked the length of the trench, laying out guidelines for the trench. It was hell. It was also driving me nuts.

I didn’t want to leave as the workers took down trees close to the house. I didn’t want to come home to a tree trunk through my roof. So, I stayed. But I needed an escape.

Welcoming a New Writing Practice

Usually, I sit at my desk and listen to Focus @Will. This time, I used headphones to take me away. I plugged into the Ambient channel. It was like magic. I am so grateful for noise-cancelling headphones!

Midst the chaos, I found peace. The music negated any sounds of backhoes and back-up lights. I was in my own world. And it was a world occupied by the characters of my working novel, another in my Jack Hunter series of mysteries. This one is titled, Lying at the Door.

I must confess to feeling a bit naughty. I made myself totally inaccessible. I couldn’t hear my phone ring, nor did I want to. I didn’t hear the chiming of my Ship’s Bell app (which I love, BTW). It was just me, the music, and the world of my mystery. I couldn’t have asked for more.

It seemed like such a simple thing, but it empowered me. I faced a problem and found a solution that restored calm in my life. If I could tackle that annoyance, I could handle anything, even outrageous interruptions to my writing practice. My dad’s words, “There’s no such word as can’t,” sounded in my mind.

Yes, Dad, you were right.

By Chris DR/

photo credit: Moved 18 feet west via photopin (license)

Using Psychology to Develop Complex Characters

complex characters brainsIf there’s one thing we can say for certain about people, it’s that they never cease to amaze. We do things for stupid reasons, no reason, and dubious ones too. Moreover, our personal survival factors into our actions more than we realize. We lie and deceive, but not just to others. As Richard Feynman once said,

“The first principle is that you must not fool yourself—and you are the easiest person to fool.”

Seeing Into the Human Mind

We navigate our world via mental shortcuts or heuristics. They don’t always make our actions logical or reasonable. They offer explanations. And as Dutch philosopher, Baruch Spinoza, reminds us,

“I have made a ceaseless effort not to ridicule, not to bewail, not to scorn human actions, but to understand them.”

Wiser words may never have been spoken. It is these very human characteristics that you can use in your writing to create complex characters. Sometimes people don’t make sense. But that’s okay. What a boring world it would be if all our actions followed a straight, logical path!

Biases and Fallacies, Oh, My!

Some of the best sources of human foibles come from our biases and fallacies. They direct our actions sometimes down weird and dark roads. In addition, they provide an explanation for those what-was-he-thinking moments. See if you recognize any of them in yourself.

The Ad Ignorantiam Fallacy

This fallacy often appears in political discussions. You may see it crop up in discussions about the paranormal too. In this case, someone makes the case that if you can’t disprove something, it must be true.

A classic example that you may hear in the news involves GMOs. If you can’t prove they’re 100 percent safe, they must be harmful. It’s the precautionary principle gone wild. I hope you can see the flawed logic and the erroneous displacement of the burden of proof. The latter rests with the ones making claims of harm.

Post Hoc, Ergo Propter Poc

The post hoc, ergo propter hoc or after this, therefore because of this error is a bit trickier. In these cases, we look for reasons after the fact. It can appear innocently enough as when a golfer wears a certain color shirt on the last day of the tournament for good luck. It always worked in the past. Of course, it will work now.

In its more serious form, it shows up in popular media. A study comes out that suggests a correlation between A and B. The unwitting—or witting—journalist confuses correlation and causation. Any beginning stats student will tell you that they are not the same thing. And a study is not the same thing as a controlled experiment.

The point of this discussion is show that the many paths that our logic takes. We sometimes use flawed reasoning. Because of this trait, our characters should do likewise. Realistic and complex characters must use the same fallacies and biases to navigate their fictional worlds. When you do, you create a character who is human-like and complex. And it’ll add a lot to your writing. Chris DR

photo credit: “Where is my Mind” les dernières folies de Goin sur la décadence de l’Occident… via photopin (license)