Category: DSI Academy (4+)

Resources for Writers ~

When it comes to writing, there are times we need a quick reference tool to help edit a new passage, design a cover, add background music, monitor social media posts, create a marketing platform, and perform other writing-related tasks.  I created a convenient list of resources shared by my many friends and fellow writers.  These are merely mentions, not promises, but you are welcome to try them.  It is also a work-in-progress with references yet to share, so feel free to check back later.  Please recommend new resources or comment on the features of those listed ~

Online Editing ~

Epub Conversion ~  Free online epub converter ~ Convert PDF, doc and other types of documents & books to ePub format, the standard format for ebooks, supported by almost every reading device including iPad, iPhone, iPod, Sony Reader, BeBook, Nook, Kobo (for Kindle use .mobi), and Stanza:

Covers, Photos, Banners ~ 

Covers ~ PhotoShop, PhotoImpact, PaintShop Pro, Publisher, Picassa. Free download:, Gimp (for PC)

Photos ~  Google Images,, (Stock Photog & Royalty Free Images),,,, ($1-20)

Banners ~

Music & Playlisting ~,


Book Platforms & Other Promotion on Book-related Sites ~,, LinkedIn,, Shelfari,, Author’s, Google+,, Amazon forums, Amazon Authors page, Amazon astore, Smashwords, Barnes&Noble/Nook, iTunes/iBooks, Kobo, Stanza, Epub, other writing-related sites and any book-related site including your website, blog, and email signature.

Funding platform ~

Royalties paid for writing ~

Creating Book Trailers ~ MacIntosh: iMovie, PowerPoint    PC?: MovieMakersMagic

Managing Social Media

Social Media Dashboards ~ manage and measure multiple social networks, schedule messages, track mentions, analyze traffic and which others?

Create Custom Business Facebook Page ~ publish professional pages without design/graphic/coding skills ~ and which others?


Writing ~ Self Publishing

Are you considering self-publishing?  Begin with the end in mind, by asking questions  ~

Why? How? Will you offer your book for sale?  Electronically?  Printed?  All of the above?  Are you ready to build up a readership by developing your author platform as you write your book?

As the publishing industry evolves, hundreds of thousands of authors are publishing profitable work now instead of waiting for the green light from agents and publishers.  Easy-to-access tools, popular ebook distribution, and improved marketing strategies have mushroomed your opportunities to share your writing, whether for profit or feedback. Be aware, some traditional publishers are showing signs of declining or ending their relationships with self-published authors.

The currently lucrative e-book market has attracted many self-publishers.  Modern electronic advances constantly improve electronic reading devices, and the number of readers who enjoy instant download has grown.  In addition, almost every book app is a free download for mobile ‘smart’ devices, including the iPad2 where I review other authors’ books on Nook, Kindle, iBook, and ePub platforms.

Some issues where a traditional publisher can be helpful:

  • The need for translation into 22 languages and distribution to a global market! Bingo!  If your topic is of interest to a broad market, you may need to find a publisher who will pick up your need to sell global rights
  • Traditional royalties:   The author earns 15% of a book’s retail price. The publisher gets 85%. Say the book sells for $20, and the author’s take is $3 with the publisher receiving $17. However, a mid-list or below author pays these expenses from their share:  marketing, book release parties, and incidentals such as posters, postage, etc. Of the author’s $3, the agent who matched the author to the publisher receives 15%, or $.45.  The final bottom line on the average type of ‘traditionally published royalty split author contract’ is $2.55, paid every six months, seven months after publishing. The first check for a book published in January is received in July, with the second check in January.
  • In comparison, the author earns about $7 from Amazon for the same $20 book, paid monthly. The traditionally published author gets a check every six months – seven months after publishing. TradPub in January, first check in July, second check in January.

To begin with, you may want to download the style guides of popular electronic publishers:  Smashwords, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, to name only a few.

With publishing options rapidly changing, few would profess expertise in self-publishing.  Least of all me, although I have researched the subject extensively.  And other authors have approached me for answers.  As my background in professional development skills, and coaching Disney workers, shows – I do enjoy helping others fulfill their dreams. In this case, authoring dreams.

We have self-published.  Friends have self-published.  My daughter has a high profile as a self-published author and web guru.  I have a relative on the board of IBPA (Independent Book Publishers of America).   And I’ve attended the international BEA (Book Expo America) event several years in a row, talking with traditional and Indie publishers at booths and in book signing queues.

The good news: self-publishing should cost you nothing.  Unless, of course, you are paying editors, artists, and other professionals or buying a supply of print books.  Following are several currently free publishing sites:

Electronic Books:

BookRix:  I’ve used this free service to practice book assembly, enter contests, garner advice to improve my delivery, and sharpen my skills in their forums.  It provides a newsletter, an attractive home page that you can design yourself, social writing friends, anonymity if preferred, and plenty of challenge so you never run out of content.  In addition, they will soon offer members an opportunity to sell their books on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other major e-book markets.

Smashwords: This service is highly recommended.  Submitting a book using their Premium Catalog guidelines allows your eBook entry into several major distribution channels: Apple, Sony, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Diesel and Scrollmotion, and they are negotiating with Amazon.  Smashwords to publish two poetry collections, and they’ve both made it to the Premium Catalog.  Set your own price with a minimum of $0.99, and you currently receive more than half of the selling price for each book.  It isn’t necessary to hire a formatter; they provide a free formatting guide to help you with the process.  Here is an upload and a quick checklist:

  1. Upload your book only after implementing the recommendations in The Smashwords Style Guide. (Smashwords reserves the right to remove poorly formatted books.)
  2. To publish an updated version of a previously uploaded book, use a different site: go to your Dashboard and click “Upload a new version.”
  3. You may upload a book only if you are the original author or exclusive publisher. (No public domain or Private Label Rights books will be allowed.)
  4. You have formatted accordingly, ensured it is a new book of which you have exclusively authored or have the right to publish.  Run, don’t walk, to this site and upload your book:

(Smashwords — Upload)  (

Barnes & Noble: Smashwords will publish to B&N if your book passes their style guide criteria and makes it into the Premium Catalog.  I have yet to use this, because of Smashwords. If you’re in a foreign country that requires financially complicated hoops, this might not be your publishing vehicle.  Many Indies have self-published through both B&N and Smashwords. B&N provides proprietary Formatting Guides and software allowing a preview of your eBook’s Nook appearance.  To publish, go to:

(Pub It! — Barnes & Noble)  (

Kindle Direct: This is one of the most popular formats. ‘Mobipocket’ is an eBook format supported on the Kindle, as well as Windows PCs and many other handheld devices, and is the most popular with customers.  Sign in using your Amazon account.   It is wonderful if you are reading with a Kindle, and because the Kindles is a very popular e-reading device, there will be many Kindle users in the Amazon Kindle Store searching for eBooks. Additionally, it is in the same family as CreateSpace.  Sites where your book will be offered for sale: • •, and • If you are familiar with HTML codes, formatting on this site will be easier. It is a bit more complicated than others, due to the need for HTML coding.  I have never found that a difficult step, even without formal training, because there is usually an example to follow, along with easy to read, non-technical, step by step processing information. You will currenty receive a 70% royalty payment.  To publish, go to:

(Kindle Direct — Sign In) (

All four are recommended ~ Smashwords first, then Kindle direct, then the others.   You will need these ready to upload:

A Catchy Title

Book Cover – your eye-catching first impression

Short Description of book – an important marketing and retail organizing tool – include the category, genre, keywords, language, licensing, and edition number, as well as an engaging description.  Keep details consistent with cover info and information provided online or in the book.

Longer description of book, for Smashwords

Your manuscript – generally in the PDF or .Docx MS Word format – be sure to check publisher’s style guide

An idea of where you want to sell and

Your selling price – priced competitively to others in genre

Short author bio

Paperback Books

When you offer printed paperbacks online, you are publishing-on-demand. In this manner you don’t need to buy the books first.  They will also publish any number you order. When selecting a printer, keep an eye peeled for vanity publishers who publish your book only if you buy a mandatory number of copies – often 500 to 1,000 copies, and sell them back to you. Here are few print-on-demand publishers:

CreateSpace: This service is free. I’ve never heard of buying pressure other than their PRO pack, which is worth the one time fee.  Your royalties increase and fees decrease when you order books. It’s a usefult ool to use if you expect to self-publish more than one book with the company. They will also sell your books through the Amazon market. To publish, go to:

(CreateSpace) ( There seem to be a lot of packages to buy at this site.  I’ve played around with this. Every package looks great, but don’t be fooled into buying one, when you could probably piece together cover art and edit your own work. One plus for foreign patrons is that they charge and pay in any currency, including £.  Formatting appears to be easy.  To publish, go to:

(Book Publishing — Lulu) (

Lightning Source: Research this carefully.  The website has a professional appearance, resolving a certain amount of scam concern, but other than an independent publishing house I’ve talked to with independent distribution channels, there is no one I know with experience at this site.  They provide information on international market strategy and global distribution with the benefits for small, medium, and large publishers. To publish, go to:

(Lightning Source) (

I can only recommend CreateSpace, as I no one I know of has published through Lulu, or heard of an indie author who self-published through Lightning Source. Enjoy your publishing experience!

Recently someone posed a question about ebooks vs print books.    They were running out of subject lines to catch our attention, and “Good morning, m’dears” didn’t sound very catchy.  The brain buster of the day is: which do you prefer, ebooks or traditional books? (I know, such a mind bender, huh…) Seriously though, which do you prefer and why?

Me?  Different formats for times and places, whatever works is great.   With a house already packed to the gills with print books, it’s nice to enjoy alternative formats that can be accessed wherever we are in the world.  It is so convenient!  Boredom has finally met its match.

Just before sleeping, there are print books. (Wouldn’t want to fall asleep on top of an electronic device and break it!). In the car there are books on disc.   Now we have new toys, the iPad and iPhone, and the world of electronic books has opened its door. Free iPhone and iPad apps are available for Kindle, Nook, iBooks, epub, and other readers, so an iPad owner can download books in almost any platform. Moreover, with ereaders we can often sample a portion of the book free to glimpse the author’s style before making a purchase decision. This is a very accommodating feature.

Yes, it’s a tempting new world.  The iPad tucks nicely under a pillow, in a bag, or inside a folding chair for an outdoor concert. While writing books on the computer, one can watch streaming video movies on one device and check email, social media, and other functions via smartphone.   Or watch a movie in bed and pause it to fall asleep reading a book.   Just be careful not to stay up all night exploring the incredible array of friends and activities associated with ebooks.

I have published in print books that make wonderful gifts and will last as long as they are loved.  Owners often display them face out on the shelf, something we cannot do with ebooks.  Besides writing, I edit ebooks, including some for print authors. Indie authors are an active group, and social media author groups are rapidly growing. It’s an exciting world where author and reader alike can catch a wave that is growing. Along with the books, we’re drawn heavily into a variety of emerging social media such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+.

Be aware that ebook layout differs from print.  For one thing, due to the wide variety of readers and the ability to view in one- or two-page spreads with variable size type, the book may vary in length and the layout isn’t always guaranteed.  Chapters may not start where planned.  Pictures designed to display across the page from a poem may not.  Tables of contents may spread across three pages instead of two.  Careful consideration must be given to these features when designing an ebook.

Whether you like print books or easily accessible ebooks, there is a plethora of new resource material  entering the market.  It is a great time to be alive.

Personally,  I like to snuggle up with a print book on some days and read using the iPad on others.  Which do you prefer ~ print or ebooks?

(I decided to publish and add to this later.  There is so much more!)

Chocolate Ink  ~  Writing with pure delicious love

No doubt about it, chocolate helps!  Life can be hard, but chocolate is a definite plus. Once upon a time, I thought chocolate was the deadliest food in existence.  Then one day, I saw the light and fell madly in love.

Dark chocolate labeled ‘70% or greater’ contains the most cacao and the least fat, sugar, and milk solids, making it the most healthy and guilt free.  I carry individually wrapped squares or small bars when I travel, keeping the treat to a piece a day.  It is the best mid-afternoon ‘pick-me-up’ I have ever found besides filtered water.

Then too, there are related chocolate goodies.  For instance, chocolate raspberry coffee.  I used to think to myself, ‘eewww raspberry and chocolate?! Who likes that stuff?’  Yup, it’s me – I eat and drink the stuff now. I can even lose weight with my little chocolate buddy if I want to.  Best of all, I can sit down with a steaming cup of chocolate raspberry or Jamaican Kahlua and caramel coffee – and write, write, write, happy and contentedly without the fattening snacks that often plague sedentary activities.

I just introduced my daughter, an immensely creative entrepreneur, to chocolate-flavored coffee roasted with Kahlua and caramel.  She was flabbergasted when I served it plain.  But she loved, loved, loved it!  Generally she serves coffee with flavored creamer, spice, sugar, chocolate powder, milk, etc, many of which contain trans fat or can irritate a sensitive digestive tract.  Let’s check the choices.  Heart attack? No. Colostomy? Not a good selection.  Allergies and lactose intolerance?  NO, no, no, just gimme half a cup of roasted beans with a chocolate flavor built into them and I’m happy.

Oh, chocolate stars!  Speaking of which, here is a recipe for brownies I could eat by the batch.  That’s why I rarely make brownies or chocolate chip cookies.   Dark chocolate raspberry is chopped and mixed in the batter, while squares decorate the top. Thankfully, many of us can enjoy an occasional chocolate overload.

Using a paddle attachment in a stand mixer bowl, mix together 1/2 cup melted unsalted butter, 3/4 cup light brown sugar, 3/4 cup sugar and 1 Tb vanilla extract.  Add 2 large eggs, one at a time. Add dry ingredients (3/4 cup all purpose flour, 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder and 1/2 tsp kosher salt, sifted together).  Spread half of the batter in a lightly greased 8×8″ baking pan.  Cut a chocolate raspberry (or caramel or mint chocolate) bar into 8 pieces and place randomly across the top. Spread the remaining batter on top and bake at 350F for 30 minutes.  After cooling for 30 minutes, unwrap 9 dark chocolate raspberry squares and distribute evenly across top.  Cool, cut, and enjoy!

While we eat our brownies, let’s talk writing.  I use a chocolate theme in both poetry and prose.  To my surprise, writing about chocolate feels almost as decadent as eating it.  ‘Chocolate Town’ is part of my first novel. ‘Chocolate Snowman’ is in “Firelight”, an illustrated poetry volume.

Why does chocolate bring us joy?  How does it enhance the pursuit of creativity?

Hello, it’s nice to meet you.  I am an author and a social creature, two facets that can compete.

I write whatever is needed, from illustrated poetry to mystery and ‘magical realism’ fantasy fiction to historical docufiction, whimsical escapades, and beyond.   When asked, I’ve illustrated a little for friends using ink, watermedia, other artwork, and photography.

At the current time I’m in the process of publishing my first full-length fiction novel, based on a beautiful, nautical vineyard peninsula.

Some time ago I took an early out from a rewarding human resources career to focus more on creativity, a facet that had been incubating intensely.  By then, my work life vs personal life was out of balance. Responsibility consumed everything.  I raised a family, took hundreds of business seminars, studied art, and collected enough supplies, equipment, exes, accolades, and stories to fill a studio twice over.

My interests grew during that time, broadening my experience.  I interned at Disney, coaching several who asked, then flew away to achieve their dreams.  Once I would have liked to be an Imagineer or an animator, a decorator, nurse, educational psychologist, travel consultant, even a scientist like half of my family, or anything but sit still.  Now I’d happily share a studio with my love in an area of great beauty and have more time to explore this great world.

Today I am a budding artist and emerging author.  I have stories in print books, short ebooks, and a great deal of well-established work awaiting refinement.  Often I mix genres, superimposing everyday reality with myths and legends, fairy tales, folktales, mystical, and non-traditional with traditional ideas. I have also written a historical reenactment.  Instead of using sorcery to achieve magic, I use incidents which many of us might consider everyday miracles, if not magical occurrences.  A few of my ‘tools’ push boundaries.  In the future I may become bolder.

Some of my fiction may be described within the film, literary and visual art genre of Magical realism.  It is a sub genre of speculative fiction and fantasy that, according to Wikipedia, is an aesthetic style or genre of fiction in which magical elements blend with the real world. A story explains these magical elements as real occurrences, presented in a straightforward manner that places the “real” and the “fantastic” in the same stream of thought.  If my writing fits this category, it is an interesting facet.

The cast of characters includes ordinary and extraordinary real life figures, superimposed with royalty (Emperors, Kings, and Celebs),  fantastical or ‘paranormal’ (Elves, fairies, leprechauns, restless spirits, half-breeds or partially transformed), and mythical pantheons (Mt. Olympus, Celtic, Eastern, Native American, and Hollywood).  Some villains are derived from ancient persona, nature gone wild, folklore given a new twist, or a corrosive element from the past that needs to be transformed and spun in new directions.

With interests stretching in many directions, it can be challenging deciding where to focus for the first  novel. Part of the confusion relates to contest entry.   They motivated me to write in various diverging themes. Their topics wander through a labyrinth.  I have a plethora of mini books online, complete with covers, descriptions, dedications, illustrations, and keywords.

“FireLight” was the first poetry I wrote.  This eBook is a 45-page illustrated ‘Fireside’ collection woven from images of romance, endings, and new beginnings that soar on the powerful winds of change, plus some bonus material and poems written to feature books in progress. This book rode high in international competition for a long time.

In the last year and a half, other short eBooks joined FireLight, such as “Music of the Wind,” “Magnificent Beast,” FaerySong,” “Watchers in the Wild,” “TeddyTears,” “Spirit: BlackHills Gold (in revision),” “Streak,” and “Toga.”  Other recent creations awaiting their place are  “Koko,” “Alchemyst,” “Warrior Amulet,”  “TerraFirma,” and “Methuseleh.”  Some are just waiting for revision, like  “Inches ‘N Seconds,” “BlackStrap Molasses,” “BrushWhipped,” “Three Drumming Gifts,” “Cinder Goose,” “MommaBomba,” “Boldness has Magic,” “Compass Rings” and others.  I am also completing several longer, well established projects:

“Velveteen Picture,” a magical holiday tale.

“Legacy,” the first novel featuring ‘Prickly Sage’ and my first full-length novel of any kind to be drafted in its entirety.

“NatSplat the Pumpkin Brat,” my first children’s saga about Discovery (Lunatic?) Island and Runaway Bay.

Recently published in print were:  “Treasures Beyond Measure,” “Eye ‘O the Storm,” “Falling for Fall,” “Music of the Wind,” “Silver Bells,” “Gingerbread Castle,” and a few poems…”Fireside Nights,” “Where?” and “Cello.”

But by far my favorite is the Enchanted World series. I really ought to complete this. The personal rewards are high but it will take considerable time.  Family, friends, and colleagues who have previewed are eagerly waiting to read the adventures of a character named BlackBerry Patches.  The series also features “TippyTop” for children.  The first two books (of a possible seven outlined) in the young adult series are quite well developed, and these adventures are fun to write because I have an excuse to exercise my imagination.  Together, they are part of an even larger series.

The adventures illustrate a playful self enhancement book and share some characters during a journey through a forest of patchwork dreams.  A virtual treehouse can be built a patch at a time by virtually stitching together ‘scraps of life’ with ‘multicolored thread’ into a maze of quilted branches, thus creating a guide for unsung heroes with dreams to fulfill.  Included is a compass I developed for my use when I experienced barriers to my own goals and dreams.  Other features shared between books are constructs I call ‘tools’.

This series percolated for most of my career.  I guess it’s no surprise it took on a life of its own.  If you attempt to run away from your own creation you’ll be hauled back by the thumbnails.  Just try!

My fondest hope – and perhaps only salvation, is to pull everything together, perhaps while writing with a great partner and collaborator.  Going it alone takes less energy, but when that is no longer fun we become more creative.  In the meantime, I am wondering if an anthology of all those other stories is in order, with proceeds benefiting a very helpful charity. I don’t know whether to include a few outside authors to retain freshness, but I think that is an idea worth developing.

Prompts and contest guidelines spawned several of the stories.  Some are fiction, some are real. Overall, though, with tweaking they are compatible with each other and could fit one umbrella topic.   In the future I’ll share more on writing, as I have relationships with a board member of IBPA (Independent Book Publishers), an author/publisher/cyber community guru, writing groups, authors, and a publisher I assisted at BEA (Book Expo America International) on several occasions.

Possible future topics I’m considering:  writing speculative fiction, creative nonfiction, characterization, plots, author platform building, personal motivation, marketing tips, and topics of special interest (especially to moi!).

Remember, if you are writing, these are your stories.   Run through walls.  Combine genres. Explore. Stories do not have to be complex and multidimensional.  Just write from the bottom of your heart and let your mind soar into the imaginative ozone if you find it has a propensity to do so.  Above all, make it believable.  If you like it, others will too!  Make it fun.  Treat.  Doodle. Write!

Do it creatively . .♫♥*`*• ..¸¸.☆

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