Monday, February 4, 2013

Helping Hands

E-publishing has a learning curve, but fortunately there are a lot of sources out there that can help you learn relatively quickly. This will concentrate largely on Kindle, because that's where I publish. Maybe later I'll post a few about other platforms as well.

Oh - and all of these are free.

If you don’t have a Kindle, aren’t sure you want to buy one, but would like to try the experience of reading e-books—and if you have a PC computer—you can download and install a free application from, Kindle for PC, that will allow you to read Kindle files on your computer. It’s free, and you can find it at

If you want to publish your book at in e-book form for Kindle readers, the actual publication process is free (though you may invest in things like purchasing a professionally-made cover, registering your copyright, or buying an ISBN—but these steps are optional, not required).  The program is Kindle Direct Publishing, and you can sign up for it here:

Amazon has free guides to publishing for Kindle. You’ll need a Kindle or Kindle for PC to read them, unless you download a .pdf file instead. Here are a few of them:

Building Your Book for Kindle

Publish on Amazon Kindle with Kindle Direct Publishing:

Kindle Publishing Unleashed

Calibre (pronounced like the caliber of a bullet) is a free program that you must download and install. It has its own e-book reader, and best of all, it can format your manuscripts as e-books for Amazon Kindle, Barnes & Noble Nook, IPad, and others.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

What if...?

I don't know if other genre writers play the game, but science-fiction writers sure do: What if...and then?

Theodore Sturgeon said that the key to being a good writer was to ask the question "What if?" And the key to being a great writer was to ask the next question.

In science fiction, it works like this: Gun control is a hot issue right now. So let's ask some questions about gun control. What if...everyone was required to pack a weapon from the age of ten upward?

You could get a story out of that. But then ask the next question, which could go in infinite directions: What if mass murder became the norm and no one even noticed it? What if one kid absolutely refused to go armed? What if someone created a device that rendered all explosives inert, including those in cartridges?

You get more stories that way. Keep asking them and answering them in your head until you hit one that gives you an "ah-hah!" moment. There's your story: something no one else (to your knowledge, anyway) has considered in fiction.

It can work in all other forms of fiction as well. What if orphaned Oliver Twist breaks free of the workhouse and falls in with thieves? And what if, unknown to him, he is heir to a fortune?

What if a woman asks a detective to help her out of a jam on the very day after the detective's partner has been killed? And what if every word that comes out of the woman's mouth is a lie? And what if she is seeking a solid-gold statuette of a falcon....?

Sturgeon was right. You can get a whole lot of food for thought and a whole lot of mileage out of simply asking the next question.