After accidentally publishing my paperback on Amazon before it was ready (don't get me started), which I am now calling the unofficial “Soft launch”, I was able to correctly upload the paperback and the Kindle version. Now, pending review, the paperback will be available immediately, and the Kindle available for pre-sale before the November 1 launch date. Why is the paperback not on pre-sale? Don’t get me started…
This is not going to be a bitch session about Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing. As much as it could be, there is a learning curve in any new endeavor. It would be nice, however, if there were a few more checks and balances throughout the process.
First things first: Why did I decide to go with Amazon? A few reasons: It doesn’t cost anything to publish with them. Since you do all the work formatting and publishing, they just take a percentage of the sales, and Amazon is HUGE, but you knew that. I also could not advertise my first book there, since it wasn't exclusive.
I paid to publish my first book, and I don’t regret it. The company that I used, Friesen Press, did a great job with my cover and interior, and they make my book available across all major online sellers. They also provided me with marketing advice and learning modules. Was it money well spent? Not yet…I am still hoping to recoup my costs, but I did learn a lot.
KDP provides templates to use to format your manuscript. Great, but wait! I used the 5x8 paperback template, uploaded it, and found that the margins were off. So I did it again. And again. Then readjusted the margins. And again, and so on until it looked right. It should be easier than that. I lost count how many times I uploaded mt MS.
Then I realized it did not have page numbers. Ever try to insert page numbers into a word doc? OMG. You have to create headers/footers, then if you want the numbering to start anywhere other than the first page, you bang your head against the wall for a while, because it feels better than the headache you get trying to follow the instructions.
The cover program in KDP allows you to use their templates or separately upload your own. This should be combined since the templates are limited in structure.
How long did it take? Too long. And my head hurts, but it’s done. Book #2. Yeah!
The Knot at the End of the Rope now available for pre-sale on Kindle:
or now, in paperback:
As I sit here writing, I can see the leaves—that have already changed color—falling in a cascade of hues, from brilliant reds, oranges, and yellows. It makes me think about the upcoming months.
Not everyone experiences the changes in the same way. I suppose that, in a way, I’m lucky. I get to see four distinct seasons, each with its own charms and annoyances. There is something about a cool fall day, with the sun providing a wave of warmth, once the wind dies down, that makes you feel that the year is winding to a close. Fall weather feels like fall weather. That is, even though the sun is over the same latitude as it is in spring, it seems just a little bit cooler. Probably because we have gotten used to the warm/hot summer temperatures. In the fall, temperatures that force us to don long sleeves are the same temperatures in the spring that make us stand in the snow with shorts and a t-shirt.
If you live in the higher latitudes, you get those wonderful long days of summer, when the sun stays up late and outdoor activities seem to just keep going. Ever go golfing at 9 PM? It’s pretty sweet. Going to bed is often a challenge since the lingering twilight can mess with your internal clock. Whether you are a night owl or a morning person, those twelve-plus hours of daylight are going to make you happy.
Spring always has that sense of renewal or rebirth, as it awakens from its hibernation. Humanity seems to creep slowly out of its shelters, pallid faces soaking up the sun’s rays. There is nothing like seeing the new leaves and flowers bringing color back to the world. My one annoyance about spring? Pick up your dog’s poop, people! I even see it in its little bags, tucked into snowbanks. Oh, and the slush.
I have written several poems on the environment, so here is a poem from my book, Lines by Leon: Poems, Prose, and Pictures:
The first snow covers up the grime
The dirt fights through a bit at a time
A battle of earth and sky
Who will win and who will die?
Spring washes the battleground
Rain washes the warrior found
Summer pushes up the green
Blanketing evidential sights unseen
Fall sheds the season’s growth
Leaving skeletons, nature’s ghosts
What about winter, you ask? Well, ask me to write about it in January…
One of my favorite radio shows is Under the Influence by Terry O'Reilly. It is on CBC radio, which is Canada’s version of NPR in the USA. As with most shows these days, you can get it on a podcast. What makes it my favorite? I always learn something interesting about the advertising business.
When trying to decide on how I was going to brand myself, I had to think about how I want to be remembered.
The title of my book, Lines by Leon, is a reference to the many lines that I have created. Lines of poetry, plotlines in a story, lines in a pencil sketch, and lines of music. The alliteration was a bonus. It was because of that that I choose it for my domain name. I was able to use it for my Twitter account, but not for my Instagram. Why not? It was taken – by a talented artist who had posted a few sketches 3 or 4 years ago, and nothing since. I messaged him (twice), asking if I could use it, since obviously he was not, but I received no response. I was primarily going to use it for my comic, The Miniscules, so I used @theminiscules, but decided later to keep the brand name consistent over all platforms. My only option was: lines_by_leon. Not the end of the world, but I dislike wasting underscores.
My logo, taken from my book cover, is from the sketch that I did called Hopes, Dreams, and Wishes:
It represents how elements in our lives may seem out of our control. Often, it may seem that they are at the mercy of the winds but chasing them sure is fun. The original was quite faint on the first scan:
So, I darkened it up with Photoshop:
I then moved some of the bubbles around to create a longer illustration for my bookmark:
I printed a bunch to give away in my books and for promotional use. I decided to get the original illustration printed in cardstock for framing. I have them for sale on my website.
It still makes me smile when I look at it.
So when you think of Leon Stevens, think of a dreamer still searching for the one bubble that can be caught (and as an amazing writer!).
Taking the pulse of the nation. Identifying trends. Collecting statistics. Surveys have been around for centuries (Really? Sure, why not…). The first survey that I took was a mail-in from inside of a chocolate bar wrapper. I think that I received a free chocobar for that. Whoo-hoo!
Wait a minute. That’s not right. The first one I took came across my desk in elementary school. As I unfolded the note, the question was revealed to me in flowing cursive (with a little heart above the i):
Do you like me? Yes / No
Survey says: Yes. Margin for error, 50%, nine times out of ten.
Next came the chocolate bar survey.
I am always (usually) polite to telemarketers. They are doing their job, and it’s not to annoy you. Some are very good, not allowing any spaces or pauses in their script for me to interject, “Sorry, I am not interested and don’t want to waste your time.” Once I get my 2 cents in, I am justified to up my aggravation level. All they have to say is, “Thank you for your time,” and I am happy. But if they insist on continuing, I will tell them that I’m hanging up – my courtesy to them.
I started adding surveys to some of my blog posts. Of course, I had to make them humorous. Then I decided to make a slightly longer survey for my newsletter subscribers to find out a bit of where they had heard of me. I use a few different promotional sites, so I wanted to know where my money is best spent. Of course, I had to make it humorous. Stop by if you nave a few minutes to waste.
Lines by Leon: The Survey
Without surveys, we wind up with products like New Coke. Without surveys, I may write a romance novel. Without surveys, we:
The ultimate survey is an election, where the result has immediate consequences. So, make sure you have decided on the product that gives you the least discomfort – the one that you can live with for four years.
I’ll leave you with one last survey:
Do you like me? Yes / No
I want to thank you for taking part in my writing journey. Writers write to share their ideas, visions, and emotions, and I hope that you find my weekly rambles entertaining. I write in a lot of different styles, which may or may not be the best way to keep a readership.
I think about it this way: My writing is like a box of...(I'll stop there to avoid copyright infringement). But it is. You know the one, that assorted box that you get at Christmas, the one with the candy map. You always go after your favorites, but sometimes you take a little nibble of the one with the chocolate squiggle. Maybe you discover that you like it, or perhaps it makes you glad you didn't buy a whole box of strawberry creams. Aren't caramels supposed to be soft?
What was the first thing that I wrote that wasn't part of a school assignment? Probably a song lyric, but I always scrapped it because I was never happy with the result. When I decided to pursue classical guitar studies, I began to compose, letting the music provide the emotion instead of words. I wrote many pieces, some I wrote down, still others I forgot. I recorded some, but it never came out polished. I make too many mistakes, I can never play as close to perfection as I want, I get nervous performing in front of people or a microphone, so it takes a lot of takes to get something that I am OK with. The first piece that I wrote is called Riviera Galliard, which is an homage to the Renaissance composer, John Dowland. I hope that I can record it and share it with you. There is my incentive.
I wrote a few others in the same style before turning to acoustic guitar after hearing the Canadian guitarist Don Ross. Unfortunately, most of those pieces have been lost. Either I can’t find the scores that I wrote down, or my memory decided that I didn’t need to know those anymore. I can still dig up little snippets, but it is like reading a corner ripped out of a book.
Fast forward to my poetic journey. I ventured back into lyric writing to make sense of a difficult situation. The poems followed as some of the unused ideas became short poetic pieces. Most of my poetry is short and not too complicated. As one reader put it: “Lines by Leon is an eclectic mix of poetry and thoughtful, personal reflection. The ideas are straightforward with an understandable simplicity. “ I wanted people to reflect on the poems and seek connections without having to try to interpret deep philosophical meanings or search for underlying cryptic messages.
During my poetic journey, I started to sketch images that came to me. Some of these images evoked ideas that became my short, short stories, one or two paragraphs that tell part of a story and leaves the rest to your imagination. Some of my stories became longer, but still without conclusion, similar to waking from a dream and lying in bed thinking--what the…?
Enter science fiction: My forever favorite. If you have read my blog post, Returning to Roots (and I hope that you have), you will know that my father introduced me to this genre. We would watch science fiction T.V. shows, and he would read me stories. It was only natural that I would turn to this topic as my writing developed. I was able to cross my styles when I wrote a series of post-apocalyptic poems that are featured in my next book, The Knot at the End of the Rope.
I also want to keep a sense of humor in my writing. Some of my poems and stories will hopefully make you chuckle or smile. My blogs and newsletters give me a chance to poke fun at things, be cynical at current events, and showcase my odd sense of humor.
Some writers stick to the same formula, and their readers stick with them, which is perfectly understandable. A successful author wrote that to be successful, you have to write what your audience wants. I do want to entertain readers, but I’m not trying to make everybody happy. I’m trying to make myself happy, by hopefully providing material that can be enjoyed by others.
If you are here for my poetry, fear not, I continue to write and still have pages to revise. It took me three years to get to my first book, and I promise that it won’t take another three for the next. For my sci-fi fans, I am proud to share my short stories, which could not have happened if it wasn’t for my father. Let’s all gather to share to love of the written word—no matter the style.
Let’s say that you speak 5 languages: ABCDE. For simplicity sake, we assume you are fluent in all of them. Now, you are giving a speech to 10 people who have varying degrees of fluency in some of those languages (represented my font size). Most everyone speaks A, many speak B, a few C and D, and one E.
1 – ABCD 2 – ABC 3 – ABD 4 – ABCD 5 – AC 6 – A 7 – ACD 8 - AB
9 - A 10 - E
The first time through, everyone - except for 10 - is going to be able to understand it to some degree. Then you repeat the lecture four more times until everybody has heard it in their preferred language. Now, you ask if there are any questions. There are many because each person has their own strengths and weakness in each language. So, you answer each question and translate it for the others, as to not duplicate any questions. You then spend the rest of the time with 9 and 10 because 9 doesn’t understand “A” very well, and 10 has only heard everything once.
Ever been to a lecture like that? Of course not. If you were 1, 2, or 3, you would probably be bored and leave after the first reading, or just start talking to each other, while if you were 4-8, you would wonder why 1-3 are leaving, but being glad you are not 9 or 10, because they just don’t seem to understand, although it does frustrate you that the lecturer is talking to them more and not answering your questions (that was a really long sentence that I just wrote, sorry.) If you were 9 or 10, you would probably be on your smartphone most of the time because you don’t understand the 4 other languages.
Does that sound like a disastrous lecture?
Now, imagine that the lecturer is an educator, and the attendees are the students with different learning styles and accommodation needs. Welcome to a classroom. But wait! A classroom with only 10 students? In every teacher’s dream. Class size average is about 25, which means some have a lot more…
With possibly smaller class sizes mandated due to COVID-19 occupancy restrictions, there will be a need for more teachers, and each teacher will be able to devote more time to each student. If there is a silver lining to the crisis, then let’s hope that it works in favor of the teachers and their students.
I received this from Medium.com on Tuesday:
Your payment summary for July 1 – July 31, 2020
We’ve sent you $0.04 (USD)
Your payment was sent to your Stripe account on August 4, 2020, and will automatically transfer to your bank account or debit card on file. This may take up to 5-7 business days.
I knew writing was going to be tough…At least with the exchange, I received $0.05.
The goal for most authors is to earn a living writing. Unfortunately, for many, it’s not going to happen. Making some money? Sure. Writing full time and making scads of dough? Not happening for most of us. As you can tell by the above graphic, unless I pare down my expenses a bit (just a bit…), I’m going to need more income streams.
Joking aside, there are many avenues for writers theses days, Medium being one of my latest finds. It is a site for news/entertainment/general interest/poetry etc. I started on a similar site, vocal.media, and had a few views of my articles (mostly reworked blog posts). Posting the same content to Medium gained me more reads and followers in a few weeks then the months that I used Vocal. As you can see, views=$, or in this case, cents. But as a writer, you want to gain a readership, so any exposure is worth it.
What do I like writing the most? I think my science fiction stories compel me to write more, but I do thoroughly enjoy coming up with topics for my blog. I still write poems from time to time, but not at the rate that I did when I started.
I didn’t start writing to make money, but I enjoy writing, and if I can make a living from it, I’m going to try. If my writing helps someone get through tough times like it did for me, or if a reader finds it entertaining, I’m OK with that too…
I didn’t think that I needed too much editing done on my poetry book (such arrogance!). With some of the grammatical freedoms us poets (see how I put myself in with all the other great writers?) are granted, I figured that the most important aspect was spelling, so spell check, and some reading from friends/family would suffice. Was it a good choice? In hindsight, not the best, but I’m still satisfied with the result. The problem is that you read what you believe that you wrote, not what is actually on the page, unless you go word by word (which I did), so you still can miss things.
I’m looking for an editor for my science fiction book. I’m a new writer, still learning the rules and trying to find my voice, so it was important to me to find a professional to guide me. I sent out some writing samples to several editors, and what surprised me was that the edits that I got back were very different.
Some came back as if they were just run through the same writing checker that I used, while others had detailed notes on why certain changes were made. Some editors focused on the continually changing tense (which I knew, but was hoping that it was appropriate – nope); others did not mention it at all (was I that good of a writer?).
I received several quotes that mentioned that they enjoyed the story that I had sent and were excited about this project. I hoped that they were not just buttering me up. A few didn’t say anything about it – is that what I want in an editor?
A writer must connect with their editor, to be on the same page (Ha!) so to speak, and is an important relationship in a writer’s life. This will be a hard decision that I can’t take too long to make.
Did I make any spelling errors? Ask my editor…oh, that was me today.
What is funny? Anything that makes you laugh I suspect. Or chuckle, snicker, chortle, giggle, or smile. The measure of real humor is something that makes you laugh when you are alone. Think about it. When was the last time that you laughed out loud all alone? For most of us, it is rare, if non-existent. But, as they say, laughter is the best medicine. One feels contented after a good, long laugh.
I remember a time when I was sitting in the mall with my sister reading a newly purchased Calvin and Hobbes book. I remember it fondly because of the tears running down my cheeks from laughing so hard. Then there was the time that I couldn’t place my drive-thru order because I couldn’t talk through all my laughter (I don’t remember why, though). Then there was the time my mom said something that no one expected her to say…
You can’t feel angry when you are laughing. Or sad, or alone, or helpless…Pain disappears for a while (not counting the pain in your side). You can laugh so hard that you cry, and those tears can wash away any sad thoughts- at least for awhile. Laughing is contagious. Try to hold a straight face while others around you are partaking in the joy.
I like to make people laugh. It makes me happy. Most of my writing these days has a humorous edge to it, even with some of the more serious topics. Some of my ideas were the catalyst for my cartoon, The Miniscules.
People’s sense of humor evolves. What was funny as a child (farts) is not necessarily funny as an adult (notice that I said not necessarily, I bet you know someone who still laughs at them). Children get some of their sense of humor from their parents, and they also get it from peers and pop culture. Schools can be a breeding ground for hurtful humor, but I know that our educators do their best to teach what is acceptable.
Humor is constantly changing. What was thought of as humorous in the past is no longer acceptable. Many comedians went through times (some still do) of pushing boundaries and limits, using race, gender, sexual orientation, status, profanity, and taboo subjects in order to get a rise or laugh out of the crowd. People supported this questionable content, demanding more profane, edgier routines.
I know. I was there. I admit, I laughed. Now I don’t.
One last thought: Has anybody ever laughed at a “Knock, Knock” joke?
I like space stuff. I always have. If I had the chance to go into space, I would. No hesitation. I credit my father for reading science fiction stories to me as a child, and watching Star Trek, Space 1999, and Lost in Space on Saturdays. I remember being fascinated with the Time Life books: The Solar System, Space, The Sun. I don’t know what the first sci-fi book that I read on my own was, but if I had to guess, I think that it was The Illustrated Man by Ray Bradbury.
I experienced a partial solar eclipse once. I think that it was around 84.2% (no, my memory isn’t that good…). My pinhole telescope and welder’s glass provided a very cool image for a pre-teen kid. When the first Viking pictures from Mars were broadcast, I thought for sure we (humanity, not my family) would be living there sooner rather than later.
My family bought my father a telescope for Christmas one year. I think that I championed that idea more to serve my desire to have one. Seeing the craters and mountains of the moon, the rings of Saturn, and the moons of Jupiter for the first time was a dream come true. I think that I had hoped that he would build an observatory in his backyard. No Keck observatory for me…
So, it was odd that when I started to write, I didn’t start writing science fiction. No, not really. My poetry served its purpose, and I continue to be inspired to write it. But my head was always in the stars. If I had a book in my hand, it was more than likely about space. I always got excited when a new sci-fi T.V. series or movie came out.
I’ll quote from the introduction of my next project:
“I decided to write a series of short stories in the style of the early years of science fiction, where scientific knowledge wasn’t king, and imagination drove the author to create…”
I should probably talk about the title of this post. I missed seeing Halley’s comet. I don’t remember why; I’ll just blame it in the clouds because I can’t think of any reason that I didn’t stay up all night to see it. I did see a comet in the ’90s, and now I have an opportunity to see another. So, I’ll set my alarm, get up stupid early, travel away from the light pollution of the city, and gaze upon an object millions of years old.