I’m Back



Now there’s a scene from the past.


It’s been a brutal couple of months. Brutal.


I missed the routine that writing a weekly blog forces; I actually welcome deadlines. They help me focus. Even more, I missed the easy comaraderie that was beginning to build here after two years.


At the same time, my priorities had changed. I had to get my memoir back alive and, simply, I had bitten off more than I could chew.  Or, to stay with the metaphor woven throughout my book, I’d jumped off that high dive and instead of figuring it out on the way down, I crashed …





… a few times.



Thanks to blogs.disney.com
Thanks to blogs.disney.com



It hurt.  I hurt.



And it was a bit scary.  I was scared.



But, I learned something in the process.



About me, too; not just about ebook publishing.



And that was good.



What did I learn?  I learned that I still jump quickly. Too quickly, perhaps. But certainly before I’ve lined up all my ducks, as it were.

I’ve long known that I learn best by doing, trying it on, experimenting, exploring. I’ve often jumped before I see where I’ll land. The fall, to me, is part of the journey. It’s a matter of trust and it’s not for everybody.


Do you remember how I ended my memoir? I talked about how, in Kazakhstan, I had learned that while I might still jump off those metaphorical high dives, I would now stand on the board a bit longer and enjoy the view before I jumped.


Well, when Victoria Twead at Ant Press (my publisher at the time) announced she was leaving the publishing business–to focus more on her writing–and would turn my books back to me (everything would stay the same except that now I’d get 100% of the royalties) I forgot that lesson.


I thought only that here was the “perfect” opportunity to make those edits I’d been wanting to make.  A little tweaking here, a typo fix there.  I already had the edits marked in one of my hard copy proofs. How hard could it be to enter them in the manuscript and then upload them onto Create Space, Kindle, and the myriad other venues Victoria had my book on?




In a word, VERY



Remember this guy?  



Thanks to yogajourneytocalm.wordpress.com/



Sisyphus was the fella in Greek legend who kept pushing that rock up the hill, only to have it roll back down again. And again, and again.

I thought of him often over these past few months. Empathized with him, lots. I walked that proverbial mile in his shoes.


Here’s a quick summary of my jumps. Perhaps you’ll find something that will help you.  I hope so; that might make me feel there was some benefit to my months of angst.


In the beginning . . .

Not only had I thought this the perfect time to make those edits in my manuscript, it seemed to me this was also the perfect time to jump into Scrivener, software geared specifically for writers. So, I downloaded my $40 copy, moved my manuscript over, separated all the chapters as suggested, and made my changes.  That took a little longer than expected as I had to keep looking things up in the manual, but overall, it went well. I was glad I was now in the Scrivener camp.  Until  …



… I tried to upload it to Create Space.


Or was it Kindle?


I forget which.


It’s something like childbirth, you know.  In the moment, the experience is the worst thing that’s ever happened to you. But, once it’s over, once you hold that baby, you can’t remember what the fuss was about.


Frankly, I don’t recall the gruesome details. Suffice it to say, once that rock came rolling back down the hill for the umpteenth time, I knew I needed to concentrate better. I’d already skipped a few blog posts by the time I made it official (here).  My blog had become an important part of my life over the previous two years and I didn’t like how it had suddenly become an afterthought. It deserved better. But I knew something had to go. And so, with some sadness, I pulled away, officially, (here). At the time I had no idea how long this would take.


EBOOK Lessons Learned: Use Word. I might still compose in Scrivener. But once I’m ready to format, I’ll do it from a CLEANED UP Word document. (See Mark Coker’s Nuclear Method, Step #5 in his Smashwords-style-guide. Download it now. It’s free).
[learn_more caption=”A little aside here: “] When I started out, I no longer had Word on my computer. Last November, the salesman for my new Mac had insisted that Pages would do anything Word could do and, wanting to save money, I believed him. Did you know Pages does not do facing page headers?  No; I didn’t either. A Create Space (the POD service through Amazon) service rep told me this after I’d spent far too long working on my headers. I’m grateful; I wish I knew his name, I’d thank him.

There are other things Pages won’t do, but I forget what they are.  What I do remember is that Smashwords (a distributor to myriad ebook readers) offers a number of free downloads that I used to great effect. And, for the overwhelmed and war weary, they offer a list of formaters you can hire for less than $50 to get your final file up and live.  Had I known this on Day One . . .     [/learn_more]

I also needed to reach out for help.
And I did.


To the readers of Victoria Twead’s We Love Memoirs FB Authors’ Group who listened to my cries and sympathized, and especially to Sue Clamp who reached back and held my hand — all the way from the UK — I say Thank You.  Sue got me through Scrivener.


To Adri Araya, one of the many customer service reps at KDP (that’s Kindle Direct Publishing; I’d never heard of it either) who spent hours fine tuning the formatting of my manuscript so it would meet KDP’s criteria, I say Thank you.  Adri got me live on KDP.


To Melissa Nayyar, my Google Chat buddy, who helped me through the maze I found myself in trying to get onto Google Play, the latest eReader — it’s for Androids and PDF readers, and isn’t covered by Smashwords — I say Thank You.


To Suzanne Rhodes, director of our local hospice choir and a fellow tenor who also works with Macs (doing web designs, btw — in case you’re looking), I say Thank You. Suzanne worked some sort of magic with my screwed-up Word doc (I hadn’t yet discovered Smashwords or Mark Coker’s NUCLEAR METHOD for cleaning it up), creating two pdfs so my front matter pagination wasn’t lost, then combining them again into one pdf, all the while keeping an eye out for errant blank pages, undifferentiated section breaks, and weirdly sized glyphs. It all boggled the mind, mine at least; not hers. Suzanne got me live on Create Space.


To Anne McKinsey, my cover designer, who ran off new covers for my newly paginated books in short order, I say Thank You. I couldn’t have gotten the new books (print and large print) live on Create Space without new covers — their spines anyway.  You see, I’d removed all the photos, so the pagination was down. Life was just easier with no photos bleeding off the page. 


And an easier life is what it was all about. As my old coffee mug says,

“Enjoy life. This is not a dress rehearsal.”



Thanks to my ever-handy photographer-in-residence, Woody Starkweather
Thanks to my ever-handy photographer-in-residence, Woody Starkweather


Which brings me, at last, to my husband Woody Starkweather, who really missed me and let me know, in his own inimical way, just how much.  I’m still smiling. And I very much say Thank You.  🙂


I’m still talking to the folks at KDP and Amazon to get my three versions merged into one book entry; I still have an updated Kindle version to upload; and I still have a 99 cent promotion to explore. But, at least my print books are back (both regular and large print) and my ebooks are live on all (ALL) the other eReaders.  I hadn’t heard of half of them.


Life has gone back to the normally crazy mix that it is. A mix that reminds me daily to take time to be still.  We are not HUMAN DOINGS, after all. We’re HUMAN BEINGS.


Thanks to buddhadoodles.com
Thanks to buddhadoodles.com



How about you? Have you gotten caught up in some sort of chaos? How did you handle it?  


21 Responses

  1. Susan Jackson
    | Reply

    Sorry you had so much to go thru but glad you found the wondrrful people to help. Glad you are back!!

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Thanks, Susan. I’m glad to find you here. Thanks for commenting. The folks at We Love Memoirs were my first stop, though I think I limited my angst to the Authors’ Group. Do come back.

  2. Ian Mathie
    | Reply

    It’s so good to see you back in your former sparkling form Janet. Clearly it’s been a long haul, but well done you for sticking with it and coming out on top at the end.

    So welcome back to the world of the Being. Now do as your coffee mug says, Enjoy Life! 🙂

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Yes, Ian, I love that coffee mug. I’d actually bought it about 25 years ago, when I was in the PhD program at Kent State. I bought it for a professor who (I thought) could use the daily reminder. Then, realized I could too, so bought two. Everytime I use it, I think of him. Learned recently he died way too early. John Lough taught Comparative Politics and taught it well. As always, I’m glad you stopped by.

  3. Merril Smith
    | Reply

    It sounds like you really went through a lot to get your book (re)published. Thanks for sharing your story–I’m sure it will be helpful to many people, including me if I decide to publish that way. It sounds like you had many great people who helped you through it.

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      I was in a panic at a few points, Merril. But it confirmed (as if I needed confirmation) just how important this book is to me. I really want it out there, and in the best possible shape it can be. I see Sharon has added a few more tidbits below, so I’m hoping this post will find many welcoming eyes over the next few weeks. Glad you dropped in.

  4. Marian Beaman
    | Reply

    To your Sisyphus image I will add Handsel and Gretel’s bread-crumbs. You always show the way, Janet. However, it sounds so complex even though you had guidance and some free help along the way.

    Now, for m, back to WORD and draft one. Yes, I do have Scrivener, both the app and the guide from Joseph Michael, (or maybe it’s Michael Joseph). Down the road, looks like – Far. Down. The. Road.

    Hope you had a blast in Chincoteague with Mom. Yes, do enjoy each day!

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      HI Marian. I’m still havinga blast, as it were. We’re leaving tomorrow afternoon for Ohio. A two day trip the way we’re doing it. (Lots of stopping). I’m thinking I tsill like Scrivener. I’m organizing all these Deleted Scenes, for example, in Scrivener getting ready for that 99 cent ebook bonus. Or maybe it’ll be a give-away. Not sure yet. I”ve learned a lot. And Sharon (below) has added pointers that I too learned. Only thing is, she REMEMBERS them. That was part of my problem. I’d figure something out, only to forget it way too soon.

  5. Sharon Lippincott
    | Reply

    Janet, I relate to so much that you say. Bravo for soldiering through. I’m sorry I didn’t realize you were having such trouble — I would have held one more of your many hands. But you got there!

    For those who might follow those breadcrumbs, let me add a couple of thoughts gained from my own rocky leaps — I’m a couple of books ahead of you.

    The Smashwords Style Guide is a bible for self-publishers. Coker’s method of washing out all Word junk works well. But it does NOT remove headers, page numbers and auto-generated Table of Contents. That must be done BEFORE nuking, as you surely found out.

    For those starting fresh with a manuscript, rigorously applying STYLES as you go will give you a workable manuscript that you can use to transition from the PDF (print) source to the HTML document you need for Kindle. Meticulous STYLES smooth the transition and keep things consistent.

    If you feel the need to nuke, do it before you format for print. Stick with one document until all editing is squeaky clean to keep the two versions consistent. After that, if you must edit, keep the two versions open side-by-side and replicate stroke for stroke, as you go. Do one edit two times before going on to the next to make sure you get it done both places the same way.

    This advice comes from my own rocky leap. I’m a couple of books ahead of you.

    I look forward to progress reports!

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Sharon, you have really strengthened this post. Thank you. I’ve been thorugh and done all of the pieces you mention here. But for the life of me (well, that may be a bit of hyperbole) I couldn’t remember. The piece about DON’T format before you NUKE was one I remember! I had all my foreign words in italic! Then, I didn’t.
      I really do feel like a pioneer. And we pioneers must stick together. Rising tide raises all boats (and all that). THANK you, for your very generous offering here. (You really should be in the WLM Author’s group. Interested? We’re discussing promos at the moment).

  6. Laurie Buchanan
    | Reply

    Janet – After a nasty bout with the spin cycle in the proverbial wringer, you’re back. It’s been said that “what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger”. Clearly you’re Herculean!

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Hi Laurie, Welcome. I love that spin cycle metaphor. That does fit, as I recall. Round and round and round I went. “What doesn’t kill us makes us dizzy?” Is that one too?

  7. JOAN Z. Rough
    | Reply

    Welcome back, Janet. The world does not stop spinning when we take a break, but things get done and we learn lots of stuff, especially about ourselves.

    I hope spring has arrived up your way. If it hasn’t it will soon be there. Here in VA it’s magical. I’m getting in lots of garden time.

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Hi Joan. I so resonated with your, “the world goes not stop spinning because we take a break.” Thank goodness. It brought “Stop the world; I want to get off” to mind. Do you remember it?
      I’m glad you’re back too.

  8. Kathleen Pooler
    | Reply

    Dear Janet, the same hutszpah (sp?) you showed us in your memoir, your willingness to sell everything at the age of 50 and devote your life to helping others in the Peace Corps shines through in in this latest challenge with updating your book. You are such a trooper and a model for all of us. The empowered woman, unleashed! Just imagine how much you have learned and how many wonderful people you have met through this grueling process. I’m thrilled you’re baaack and I’m also happy all that agony is behind you. Onward!

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Indeed, Kathy. We are all pioneers in this strange new land. And, as you know too, we all learn from each other. We’re building a great community, one filled with technologically unsophisticated but willing to learn baby boomers who know we can’t do it alone. Who knows where we’ll wind up? Not me. I’m just hanging on and enjoying the ride.

  9. SusanJackson
    | Reply

    Love your blog and glad you finished (?) what you were workong on!!

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Hi Susan. I sometimes wonder what “finished” will look like. Your ? Was well placed. Thank you.

  10. Shirley Hershey Showalter
    | Reply

    Janet, I too welcome you back. The work you did in the last eight weeks makes me dizzy just reading about it. I admire not only your willingness to take action but also your tenacity. I hate having to learn technical things by trial and error.

    Thanks for sharing your woes and your eventual triumph. And for keeping us laughing all the way.

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Ah tenacity. That’s the socially acceptable form of stubborness, yes? A mixed blessing to be sure. Or is that a double-edged sword. Choices, choices; always choices. Thanks for stopping by, Shirley. And, “welcome back,” yourself.

  11. […] now I’m feeling it again. I’m back, as I announced last month (here), but where do I go from […]

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