Saturday, February 25, 2012

Geek Q for February 24, 2012

Shevi’s Geek Q for today: 134 (pretty good!)

Activities: played Monty Python Fluxx with my husband and daughter, and we had the great time. (We're all huge Monty Python geeks.)

Ate: homemade lentil soup

Fun level: high

Creativity level: low

Brain activity: good, although I did have to play the "My brain hurts" card at one point. 

Thursday, February 23, 2012

How do you get anything done when you have too many things to do?

I have so many things on my to-do list, I can't choose what to do first. What do you do in situations like this?

Here it is:


1. Edit Ride of Your Life--keep notes of where everything is in the Amazing Lands Theme Park so you can draw a map of it.

2. Outline Dream. Write. Publish. in three sections of 10,000 words each. The first section should be about the dream to write. Why do people want to write a book? What are the right reasons? What are the wrong reasons? The wrong reasons--like wanting to achieve the kind of financial success that J.K. Rowling has had or because you think writing is easy--will prevent you from realizing your dream before you've even begun. But the right reasons--to educate, inspire, entertain or help readers in some way--will motivate you more. We're used to not giving ourselves what we want, but it's harder to let someone else down. And you have to give yourself little dreams along the way. You should also choose dreams that depend only on you, not others. NaNoWriMo is a good example. The second section about writing would be about letting go of your internal editor, different ways to find time to write, ways to motivate and reward yourself, editing, and recommended books on writing. And the last section will be about the different options writers have when it comes to publishing, how these apply to your dream, and how to make that dream come true.This will be followed with a list of resources about making your dreams come true, writing, publishing, and marketing. 

3. The best books for author visits are hardcover picture books, so pick one of mine to turn into both a paperback and a hardcover book. Make sure the hardcover isn't priced higher than $17.95 retail. Which book should it be? Alphabetical Disorder, Click the Dog, Fay Fairy's Very Big Problem or one I haven't illustrated yet, like The Glass Butterfly, Green Dreams, Can You Talk Like the Animals? or Princess Lucy, the Fairies & the Goblins? It might be better to work out which one in reverse--work out what would make a good author visit, and then create a book around that. Then create a lesson plan for an author visit.

4. Design swag for Toren the Teller's Tale, like t-shirts expressing the magic of stories. What about your other books? You want to be able to give out stuff like that during author visits or contests.

5. Write a story for Purim and come up with a lunch menu that fits the theme I've chosen. (Purim is a Jewish holiday where people give food to their friends. Every year I try to come up with a fun theme. This year I'm doing a garden theme, and I have an idea for a story involving Esther and a bee, which would tie the theme together.)

6. Reread We Are Not Alone: The Writer's Guide to Social Media, and try to figure out how to utilize social media better. Create a plan and put it into action.

7. Write a three-part series on my blog on Amazon's future brick-and-mortar store. Part one: collect all the rumors and my ideas of the reason for these rumors. Part two: explain all the pitfalls Amazon would encounter in a brick-and-mortar store, and how I think Amazon can overcome them. Part three: a design of an Amazon store I think could work (possibly with drawings to illustrate my ideas).

8. Finish reading Class Act, and make a plan of action based on it so you can start making money from author visits.

9. Create a Geek Stuff section on my blog.

10. Take the lessons I've been teaching my daughter on how to make a comic book and turn them into blog posts. Also consider turning them into a book.

Daily Geek Quotient (or GQ)

Shevi’s Geek Q for today: 100 (down and then up to average out)

I was depressed today because my entry in the ABNA contest didn't make it through to the next round. After watching The Big Bang Theory, Parks and Recreation, The Office (with guest Katherine Tate), and Up All Night, and listening to some great songs (including "The Gates" by  Da Vinci's Notebook) on my Funny Music Pandora station, I'm feeling a little better. 

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

I gave in...

I gave in and joined Pinterest. Here's a link to my "Dream" page:

It's fun to look at the inspirational photos and illustrations. I also created a page called "I love books."

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Everybody Has a Story

In a New York Times editorial from September 28, 2002, Joseph Epstein quotes a survey that claims 81% of Americans would like to write a book. (I don't know how reliable that survey is, but Epstein doesn't cite or question the specific source.) That's about four out of every five people who dream of someday publishing a book. But Epstein goes on to tell his readers, “Save the typing, save the trees, save the high tax on your own vanity. Don't write that book, my advice is, don't even think about it. Keep it inside you, where it belongs.

Even though he's written over a dozen books, he think you shouldn't even attempt to write one. He thinks you should abandon your dream. Why? Because he thinks your book isn't necessary. It won't be good enough, and it won't offer readers anything new. 

I disagree. 

I believe that everyone has a story worth telling. 

CBS New correspondent Steve Hartman believes that too. Every couple of weeks between 1998 and 2004, Hartman had someone throw a dart at a map of the United States. The dart would land on some random location, and the phone book helped him choose a random house. He then did a story on someone who lived there--and the stories were always fascinating. That's because people--real, everyday people, the kind of people Epstein thinks shouldn't write a book--are fascinating. They're full of surprises. There's so much you don't know about them.

This segment was called "Everybody Has a Story." The name says it all. I believe everybody truly does have a story. Not everyone knows what that story is--and even those who do rarely know how to tell it well--but that doesn't mean their story shouldn't be told. On the contrary. I'm grateful for every story that's saved, and sad for all the stories we've lost, because they were never written down.

I believe that a story is a gift. The right story can give a reader knowledge, inspiration, entertainment, encouragement, or hope. Your story is a gift, a gift someone probably needs to make his or her life better. How sad would this world be if we all kept our stories inside? How selfish would that be?

If you dream of writing a book someday, you should write a book. It might take a while for you to figure out what your story is--what gift you have to offer and to whom--but once you do, you should realize your dream.

There's a story only you can write, and there's someone who needs to read it. Don't let them down. Don't let your dream down.

Everybody has a story worth telling. What's yours?

More technical difficulties...

I couldn't login to my Google account on my Android phone, which once again leads me to believe the problem is with my phone. I put anti-virus software on it, but it didn't find anything. I'm stumped.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

We are experiencing technical difficulties. Please stand by . . .

I found out my Hotmail account was hacked on Friday. On Saturday I got a sty in my eye. I still have the sty, and now on top of that, I have a paper cut. They do say bad things come in threes, so hopefully all this has passed and I can get back to work.

Friday, February 17, 2012


 How this happened is a complete mystery. Apparently someone started sending spam from it last night at 2:30 AM. McAfee was running with a Firewall, and says nothing is wrong. System Mechanics says the same. I had a secure password, too, which I promptly changed. We do use a wireless modem, but it should be secure. At first I thought it was my Android phone, but that doesn't fit the timing. I wasn't using my phone at 2:30 AM.

Anyway, I'm extremely sorry if you received spam from my account.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Daily Geek Quotient (or GQ)

Shevi’s Geek Q for today: 124

Activities: Word games at the library. Played Big Boggle, Taboo, and You've Been Sentenced

Fun level: Pretty good

Creativity level: Not bad. Taboo and You've Been Sentenced lead to some really creative thinking

Brain activity: High

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Daily Geek Quotient (or GQ)

Shevi’s Geek Q for today: 122 (not bad)

Activities: On Wednesdays, I'm giving my daughter a course on how to make a graphic novel. Today we worked on layout, and I showed her some options for a sample comics page she's working on. She came up with some very cool ideas, and I think she did a good job.

Ate: I experimented with sushi in a pathetic attempt to recreate Simply Sushi's delicious crunch roll. It was okay, but it wasn't nearly as great as Simply Sushi's rolls. 

Fun level: Okay, although I wish I had more time to play my new Professor Layton game.

Creativity level: High

Brain activity: Pretty high. Teaching is fun, but challenging.

The Why and How of Indie Publishing Hardcover Editions

My husband and I are currently working on the hardcover edition of Toren the Teller's Tale, and I think the information we're collecting might benefit others, so here it is.

Why make a hardcover edition?

Hardcover editions are better for libraries. 

Having a hardcover means your book will be shelved on a shelf and not jammed into a carousel. (We learned this the hard way with our Dan Quixote paperback. After seeing how mangled it got, we created a new "school and library edition" paperback that fits a carousel better and has discussion questions on individualism, conformity and bullying in the back. The largest format that fits the carousels well is 5.25"x8", so I highly recommend sticking to that size when it comes to a paperback.)

J.A. Konrath recommends publishing your book in every possible format to open it to the most markets, and I agree.

Having a hardcover library edition is particularly important if you are considering doing school and libary visits, which are a good way to market a children's book and--more importantly--a potential source of additional income. 

While you'll probably sell paperbacks to students (if you decide to sell copies in connection to your visits), the hardcover edition will be better for readings and will probably appeal more to the librarian or library media specialist. It's less important if your genre is one that's rarely published in hardcover, like paperback romance.

So how do I make a hardcover edition?

Lightning Source is a good POD provider, because it does hardcovers and works with libraries. It's owned by Ingram, which is a distributor that works with everyone, particularly libraries. Working with Lightning Source will get your book into Ingram's catalogs, which are sent to libraries and schools. 

Lightning Source is, however, notoriously difficult to figure out. It can also be rather expensive, not only because of the setup fee, but because it asks that books be formatted in Adobe Acrobat as a PDF/X-1a:2001 compliant file, and Adobe Acrobat costs hundreds of dollars. We're currently trying to see if we can use Nuance PDF Create instead, but unfortunately Lightning Source charges for each upload that isn't formatted correctly. It's risky. One of the reasons we chose CreateSpace for our paperbacks is that the startup cost is $0. CreateSpace will even provide you with an ISBN (Lightning Source doesn't, so you have to buy your own). CreateSpace is also a lot easier to use.

We're still in middle of working with Lightning Source, but here are a few things we've learned.

While most libary books have jackets, there are some children's books that have laminated covers. 

I prefer laminated, because it doesn't rip and it's easier to clean. Some titles like this are the Wimpy Kid books, the Origami Yoda books, and Cornelia Funke's Dragon Rider.  

This means that if your book is similar, there's no reason why it shouldn't have a laminated cover. All of these covers are matte, although they have glossy elements. I don't know if CreateSpace allows for glossy elements, but it does allow for some gold. Dragon Rider has the title and the author's name in gold, so that's something to consider if you're interested, although it will cost more.

The main thing we've been researching lately is pricing. 

How much should you charge for a hardcover edition?

This is what I found out. First, go to page 20 on this PDF document:

You'll find there are several options. 

Your book will probably be a small hardcover, as "small" refers to the dimensions of the book, not the number of pages. (My guess is that "large" hardcover refers mostly to picture-book dimensions.) Your book will therefore cost $6.00 + $0.013 per page (a book with a jacket costs $1.55 more) per copy to print. A 500-page book, for example, costs $12.50 to print.

But that doesn't tell you how much the retail cost of your book should be. 

Lightning Source recommends that you allow for sellers to take 55% of list price if you want the widest distribution. This lets the stores sell your book at a discount.

This means you should divide your printing costs by 0.45 to get the minimum retail price for your book, which in the case of a 500-page book would be $27.78. You should then add a bit so you're not selling at a loss.

The next question then becomes, "How much will the market bear?"

To find out, go to the current New York Times besteller hardcover list for your type of book. 

In the case of my 500-page children's/YA novel, that would be this list: 

While most books are priced below $20, Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick is listed at $29.99, which means this is the top of the range of what you can charge for this kind of book. Fortunately, that's stil $2 over the minimum, so it could work out for this particular book.

Don't expect to make a lot on hardcover editions. The main benefit is just to offer that option for those who need it, like some libraries.

Having a hardcover edition of your book can help you get it on library shelves

If you have any additional information, comments, or questions about hardcover editions, please add them below. Thanks, and I hope this helps!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Daily Geek Quotient (or GQ)

Shevi’s Geek Q for today: 142 (Genius!)

You CAN get happiness in the mail! I ordered Professor Layton and the Last Specter, and it arrived today! 

I've already started playing it, and it's so much geeky fun. I know it's not as great as Professor Layton and the Unwound Future, which is the best video game EVER (anyone with a heart would have to shed a few tears at the end of that game), but who cares? It's still a Professor Layton game with all those wonderful puzzles. 

The only problem is that the battery on the Nintendo DS started dying, and I couldn't find the charger, so I couldn't play more than a few minutes. Of course, that just gives me something to look forward to when the DS is fully charged. I'm so happy, I'm geeking out! Yes!

The song "Crazy Dreams" from last night's episode of Smash.

I loved the bittersweet irony of this song that one of the characters sang at the end of last night's episode of Smash. Two women up for the role of a lifetime, and only one can get it. One's dream comes true, while the other's is broken.

Still, it's something we all need to believe. Sometimes even crazy dreams do come true.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Daily Geek Quotient (or GQ)

Shevi’s Geek Q for today: 90 (Low) 

Where has all my geek joy gone for today? At least I saw this week's Once Upon a Time, and I really enjoyed it. What a surprising story for Beauty and the Beast. And the ending was so sad. 

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Daily Geek Quotient (or GQ)

Shevi’s Geek Q for today: 132 (pretty high!)

Activities: Watched Weird Al Yankovic on The Late, Late Show with Craig Ferguson and laughed myself silly. Here it is: 

Am I the only person who thinks Weird Al talks and acts like a Muppet?

Ate: Sushi, which I made myself. It was very good, but I think I probably should have passed on the Trop-a-Rocka diet Snapple. (It didn't like me.)

Bought: One Kingdom Hearts tee and this awesome Doctor Who tee (based on the Van Gogh episode) in navy from FYE in the mall, which had a buy one tee get one half-off sale: 

Fun level: Pretty good

Creativity level: Low

Brain activity: Stimulated from this fascinating article on how play seems to be a natural part of life, even in forms as lowly as ants: How cool is that? 

Yesterday's Geek Quotient

Shevi’s Geek Q for today: 122 (good)

Activities: Won two games of Rummikub. Read The New Rules of Marketing & PR: How to Use Social Media, Online Video, Mobile Applications, Blogs, News Releases, and Viral Marketing to Reach Buyers Directly, which is very good, and Class Act: Sell More Books Through School and Library Author Appearances, which is necessary, but disappointing (maybe I'll write a review to explain why). Watched my favorite show on TV nowadays, The Big Bang Theory. Also watched Grimm, which was great as always, and Saturday Night Live with guest host quirky girl Zooey Deschanel.

Ate: Lentil soup

Wore: My robot necklace

Fun level: Very high. Laughed a lot.

Creativity level: Daydreamed a lot about Gilbert and friends as well as a design for what I imagine the ideal Amazon store would look like

Brain activity: Active from playing games and daydreaming

Friday, February 10, 2012

Daily Geek Quotient (or GQ)

Shevi’s Geek Q for today: 80 (Very low)


I need an infusion of geek happiness STAT! Any suggestions?

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Daily Geek Quotient (or GQ)

Shevi’s Geek Q for today: 143 (High!)

Activities: Geeking out with excitement to find out TWO of my books are now available at Amazon in PAPERBACK, Dan Quixote
: Boy of Nuevo Jersey and  Toren the Teller’s Tale! Yes! Also went the local comic book store to for a games evening. Played Fluxx, which is silly and a lot of fun, Bohnanza, which was kind of fun, and Ingenius, which is very clever. 

Ate: Sweet potato sushi from the Shoprite (it wasn't fresh, so it wasn't very good) and a California roll from the local pizza place, which was delicious

Wore: A steampunk angel t-shirt (from ThinkGeek) and one of my new prism necklaces
Bought: Put the Monty Python version of Fluxx in my Amazon shopping cart, although I haven't bought it yet
Fun level: Great!

Creativity level: so-so, because I was working on the library edition of Dan Quixote, and I had to make some changes to the cover. I also added a classroom discussion section on conformity, individualism, and bullying to the end of the book

Brain activity: Between all the formatting and playing intelligent games, very active

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Daily Geek Quotient (or GQ)

Shevi’s Geek Q for today: 115 (only average)

I did almost no geek things today. 
I hope this makes up for it.
In honor of conductor John Williams's 80th birthday
I present one of the most awesome YouTube videos ever.

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Daily Geek Quotient (or GQ)

Shevi’s Geek Q for today: 132 (pretty high!)

Activities: Geeking out with excitement over holding the proof for the paperback version of Toren the Teller’s Tale in my hands! Yes! Also watched the pilot for Smash, which for me was geek love, because Debra Messing plays—a writer! Yes, she’s a playwright, but I majored in Theater Studies, as well as English Literature, so as far as I’m concerned, it counts.  I loved it. 

Ate: Sushi, which I made myself—delicious!

Fun level: Pretty good, but could be higher

Creativity level: Pretty good, but could be higher. Added some pages to my blog (see “About Me” and “My Books” above)

Brain activity: Very active, working on my blog and formatting my books

Indie publishing is harder than it looks...

New issues keep cropping up when you indie publish. Here's an example.

We donated a paperback version of Dan Quixote: Boy of Nuevo Jersey to our local library, but we couldn't find it on the shelf. It turns out that because it's a paperback, it was shoved into a paperback carousel. It's humorous, realistic contemporary children's fiction, but it was jammed into the fantasy carousel. And when I say shoved and jammed, I mean it. The book had been damaged because it didn't quite fit. It was just a bit too tall.

There are two things we learned from this.

First, write the genre on the back cover or the spine. This makes it easier for librarians to know where to put it.

Second, don't make your paperback any bigger than 5.25" wide by 8" high. It's okay to make a hardcover book bigger, but paperbacks are likely to be put on carousels, and they will get damaged if they're any bigger than that.

Now I need to reformat the paperback of Dan Quixote: Boy of Nuevo Jersey to the right dimensions, and I should resubmit the cover so that it says "children's humorous fiction" on the back. I'll probably readjust the price so that I can sell it in more markets. (Createspace gives a different royalty for each market, and the price I gave the book made it only available through Createspace and Amazon.)

We're also having a hard time working things out for Lightning Source so we can get hardcover editions of Dan Quixote and Toren the Teller's Tale, but that's a whole other issue.

Monday, February 06, 2012

GQ for February 6th, 2012

SHEVI'S GQ FOR TODAY IS: 121 (Just Above Average)

Bought  Professor Layton and the Last Specter  used from Amazon for $25.47. (I've been drooling over it for months)
Nick and Nora pajamas (no geek factor there), but I'm wearing them with fuzzy magenta Animal slippers. That's Animal with a capital A, as in the drummer from the Muppets. "Eat drums! Eat drums!"
Played Words with Friends and The Sims Social, formatted a PDF copy of Toren the Teller's Tale and emailed it to an old friend, struggled with a bad Internet connection, blogged about my theories about Once Upon a Time
Homemade Gluten-lactose-sugar-free chocolate pancakes, mini latkes with yogurt and unsweetened apple sauce (not much of a geek factor)
Fun level: 
So so
Creativity level: 
Low, although at least I wrote a blog post
Brain activity:
My brain has gone for a walk, so I guess it's somewhat active, although goofing off

Once Upon a Time, enter the “writer”

Once Upon a Time image from

SPOILER ALERT: This is not about something that will definitely happen in the modern-fairy-tale show, Once Upon a Time, but it's something I think will happen. This is based on scenes from previous episodes, so if you haven't seen them yet, don't read this. If my guess is correct, I have to tip my hat to the writers. It's brilliant.

A new character, a stranger, recently appeared in the little town of Storybrooke. 

Here are the things we know so far about this stranger. 

He rides a motorcycle and carries a weird box. Regina, who is the modern-day version of the evil queen, doesn't know who he is, and she's wary of him. 

When Emma questions the stranger about the box, he says he'll show her the contents if she agrees to let him buy her a drink. She agrees. He opens the box to reveal an old typewriter. She asks him why he's carrying it, and he explains that he's a writer. Earlier he tells Henry the box contains something he needs to take care of the thing he came to Storybrooke to do. 

In the following episode, the storybook that contains all the stories of the fairy-tale characters in Storybrooke is stolen from the place where Henry--Emma's son who was adopted by Regina--had hidden it. We later see it's in the stranger's possession.  

Henry knows the rules that govern the town, and according to Henry, outsiders never come to Storybrooke. This means this stranger isn't an outsider. But he also can't be an ordinary resident of Storybrooke, because Henry also says that "bad things" happen whenever residents of the town try to leave it. 

But maybe there's a loophole. 

The fact that the stranger carries a typewriter is very suspicious.

 He says he's a writer, but he's carrying a typewriter, not a laptop or a tablet computer. He's not so old that he might be the kind of writer who refuses to use technology. The typewriter he has is one that writers haven't used in about 25-30 years. Emma is 28 years old, and we know that the day she was born is the day the storybook characters became frozen in time and were banished to our world and the little town of Storybrooke. Why then does this writer use a typewriter from the time Emma was born and the storybook characters became real world characters who are stuck in time, never aging, never changing, and never able to leave?

Henry's storybook tells all the stories of the characters in Storybrooke--which are different from the stories as we know them. In Henry's book--the one now in the stranger's hands--Rumpelstiltskin kills Cinderella's fairy godmother and then grants Cinderella her wishes for a price. Snow White is an outlaw living in the forest, who meets Prince Charming when she robs his carriage. Prince Charming is forced to marry to King Midas's daughter. Nothing is what it's supposed to be.     

Think about it. Let's say you're a storybook character in Storybrooke, and you're unhappy about the way things are. Let's say you come across this book, and you somehow figure out that you're one of the characters in it. You realize all the other people in the town are also characters in the book, and you see that all of you are somehow stuck in this one place and time. How long does it take you to realize that if you want things to chance, you're going to have to change the original fairy tale? 

So you're sitting there looking at this book, and you're thinking about what edits would serve you best. Should you make yourself rich? Handsome? Happy? Brilliant? All the people who were those things in the fairy-tale world are now under Regina's control. No, the smartest thing you could do, would be to write yourself out of the story.

Now you probably think that if I'm right, the writers are very clever, but not really brilliant. Okay, so the stranger wrote himself out of the story. So what? 

Here's the really brilliant part: if the writer did it once, he could do it again

A few edits here and there, and the entire fairy-tale back story has to fit the changes. And what changes in the back story, affects the contemporary story line as well. The last time he edited it, he freed himself from the town and from Regina. What happens the next time he edits it? Does someone else get freed? Does someone die? Does he become imprisoned again? And how will this affect everything else? 

This means that at the very moment you think you know it all, the writer can step in and change everything again.  And that means the story could continue over several seasons, each time with something else changing everything

Which is very cool.

I love stories about stories and storytellers. I suppose that's obvious considering I wrote Toren the Teller's Tale, as well a blog post about the role of the storyteller in my favorite movie, The Princess Bride. I was still on the fence about Once Upon a Time, but if this show goes in the direction I think it's going, I'm sold. 

What about you? What do you think of Once Upon a Time? Do you have any theories about where it's heading?