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I'm glad you could stop by. Pull up a chair and pour a cold one. (BTW, it's pronounced "sawl-ya", which is Irish for "S") Scroll down to see what I've been up to, lately. Leave your comments, but understand: all comments are moderated and spam is deleted, unread. Site design information is all the way down at the bottom of each page, as is direct contact info. Sign up for our email news for latest titles and advance review availability. All of our titles are always available in print and in every eBook format from a variety of book sellers.
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Nov 5 15

Free Kindle Bundle Four Days Only!


odeirgLegacyKindlecover96dpiToday through Monday, a very special bundle of my first two novels, The Red Gate and The Gatekeepers will be free for Kindle Readers.

The O’Deirg Legacy…
This is immersive, transporting reading with an authentic period voice for a perfect Irish destination. An Irish family struggles to keep their sheep farm, beginning with The Red Gate, set in Co. Mayo in 1911 and continuing with The Gatekeepers, ten years later, at the beginning of the Irish Civil War. When Finn brings up a hand full of mud after falling into a pasture sinkhole, their peaceful lives begin to unravel. Inside is a cannily worked antique bronze bead. It leads them to discover an ancient hall and its legacy hidden below their sheep. Inside are secrets their family has been charged with preserving and protecting for more than a thousand years. Their legacy holds them to the land and despite the odds, they endure and prosper, finding new strengths and unexpected alliances. Lucky for them, ancient Pre-Celtic Earth-Magic abounds throughout, but no wizards or dragons. Combines brand new editions  into one volume at a very special price.

Buy at Amazon or at Amazon UK


Oct 28 15

Text Fonts: Book Design Choices Don’t End With The Cover…

by Richard Sutton

typeslugsI had a conversation with a client today regarding their choices for the font chosen for the text of the body of the novel being produced. While I can certainly understand how a writer doesn’t want to extend the production questions and decisions beyond those most immediately important, I think it’s all too common for the decisions about the inside of a book to take a back seat to the cover. It’s certainly the less exciting part of the creative process of bringing a book to market. Since most writers work in Word or one of the various compatible software suites, the choice of text type can seem to be just an automatic kind of thing. Just a one more default fill-in. In my own experience, however; the choice of the font used for text can be critical to the success of the book. It’s an important consideration that I think, really deserves its own segment of the entire book marketing process. Here’s where my thinking begins: a book is a consumer product. In order to make it appealing on the shelf (online or in a bookstore) it needs an effective cover (product packaging) to attract and hold the potential buyer. However, the design of the book itself ventures into an area so constantly exploited in modern product marketing — the idea of user friendliness.

Product engineers and designers spend a great deal of time insuring that the typical target consumer’s experience using their product will be enjoyable. Hopefully, good enough to generate a word-of-mouth recommendation and/or a repurchase of future offerings. For a publisher, the user friendliness of their product can be enhanced through the selection of an easy to follow page layout, easy to locate Tables of Contents, glossaries and other reference material and a well-targeted text font. Choosing the right text font can make sure your reader will be grabbed by your words, not by their struggle to read them. Legibility is a critical component of a successful, well-designed book. Taking the time to effectively tailor the text font to your target reader goes a long way towards making the reading experience seamless and transparent, even fun, rather than the chore we all remember from High School Textbooks.

With the arrival years ago, of rapidly rising paper costs, many publishers found that text font selection influences the page count significantly. Since then, reducing their costs has become a very important consideration when producing a print book. Text is often set in small sizes and in slightly condensed (squeezed) fonts that can make it very hard for an older reader to enjoy. As Independents through, we have an opportunity to actually produce a better product in print than many publishers can afford to do. Since most of our books are produced Print-On-Demand, we have the luxury of making sure our text is as legible as possible. We can take extra steps on finessing the text font decision to produce a much easier-to-read product. Giving our readers that kind of user-friendly reading experience can bring them back for the latest book and help spread the word.

Like every designer I do have several favorites. These have been arrived at through years of trial and error and the nuance of typographic design, itself a subject of a great deal if information and detail. If you’d appreciate knowing a bit more about the subject, there are volumes written about it. I posted a mini-course on the subject a couple of years back, which may also help fill-in some of the blanks. But my choices for a specific book may not work for your book, your readers or your overall design, so rather than provide a checklist of fonts to try, I’d rather provide a way for a writer to learn to trust their eyes and find fonts that work perfectly for their readers. It takes a couple of extra steps, but they are not hard to accomplish and the payback will be worth it.

Step One, consider the genre and style of your book. Your text font selection should be narrowed down to those fonts that support and enhance the story. For example, setting a period story with a modern, san-serif typeface (no feet) might not be the best idea. Actually, most newer serif type fonts are especially nuanced and “hinted” for print legibility and often, in the right context look better on the printed page than an equally legible san-serif font. In the same way, there are brand new fonts specifically designed for onscreen viewing rather than the reflective viewing that occurs off a print page. They are designed for the screen and should be used for your eBook formats while different font choices can optimize your print pages. This leads into step two… trial by reader…

Step Two involves setting up and printing a couple of dummy pages from your manuscript in the actual book trim size. 5×8 is a good approximation of page size for an eBook. The page should not be a heading page, such as a chapter head or break, but be a page from within a chapter. Next set your margins up for the ones you have found to be easiest of the eyes from your own reading. If you are using a header, add that in as well as page numbering in the position you prefer. Now try out different type fonts for the selection of text. I recommend using fonts that are supplied native in your software, or if you wish to purchase a specific font you have seen in existing books you enjoy reading, do so, but realize that you may need to embed the font in the document you will be eventually uploading for production if the producer doesn’t own a copy of that font. In my own decision process, I print out several identical pages in different type fonts, trim them down, then offer them to my trusted Beta Readers for their opinions. This isn’t an editing issue. It’s a step to help decide the easiest reading presentation, so it can be a part of your testing after your manuscript is edited and ready for the marketplace.

How to deal with the results? It’s simple enough. If everyone you submit the reader samples to has a differing range of opinions, then you can feel safe that your choices are equal to your readers, but if you find agreement on specific samples either pro, or con, then you have information that should help you decide. After you’ve done this a few times, you’ll train your own eyes as to how your readers perceive fonts and eventually you’ll find your favorites. Your books will be significantly more user friendly than the books produced without this extra consideration. The time you spend with your first few books, experimenting with text fonts, will never be wasted, and will save you on production costs in the long run.

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As always, your questions and opinions matter to me, so if you have something to add, don’t hesitate to post it in a reply…

Oct 9 15


by Richard Sutton

le4aff842-m0mThe recent shocking news from Umpqua Community College sent my heart spinning with streams of memory that flooded in. Memories of my childhood in Roseburg are some of the fondest I have, which made the evil committed there all the more painful. It broke my heart that the town that had welcomed my pitiful little family with open arms, could have been attacked so tragically.

Though it was home to me only for two years, in fifth and sixth grades, Roseburg Oregon had already felt almost like home before we moved there. My grandma and her husband Vern, the only grandfather I ever knew, had lived there for many years bringing us to visit on frequent car-trips. He and Grandma frequently entertained around the baby grand piano in their living room. Vern was a former concert pianist. He had the playing chops to go with his reputation and a flamboyant, outgoing personality that suited his local TV celebrity status. In the course of these musical evenings we’d be allowed in the very plush, off-limits living room, until it was bedtime and we would trudge upstairs to the sound of adult laughter and show tunes. To this day, I can remember long passages of Rachmaninoff because of the love for music that these sessions taught me.

The first sight of Roseburg I remember was at night. At the end of a very long day on the road, we drove up over the crest of the highway and below us the lights spread out across several small, interconnected valleys. Oddly, the reason for our moving there wasn’t a happy one. My parents had suddenly separated and Mom took us to live near her mother to find her feet again. It was scary for a kid, but the fact that I remembered the place helped a lot. It was also the home of The Indian Theatre, where a kid could enjoy an entire Saturday matinee for only thirty-five cents. Sometimes I could earn a whole dollar helping out at Grandma’s after school. From Grandma’s house with its big, spreading magnolia tree, it was an easy walk downhill into town.

We found a little rental down a side street. Mom got work in the local hospital and though money was tight, we made friends and enjoyed our new digs. The house had recently been a storefront, so the front yard was concrete and the front window was a big expanse of plate glass, but Mom made drapes and soon it was cozy and comfortable. We had plenty of room out back for a vegetable garden and there was a good climbing tree, too. Friendly neighbors and a nice postman made it work.

It had a share of excitement, too as the gaping ruins and crater in the center of town still marked the explosion of a parked Fertilizer truck a couple of years earlier. It felt to a kid like a small, rugged place where anything could happen. I liked it a lot, despite its lack of an ocean beach, a major zoo and the Palm trees which were steady companions back in San Diego. We all reinvented ourselves closer to the sensibilities of the Oregon Lumber Capital and began to feel at home.

We adopted two Guinea Pigs and named them Magoo and O’Malley, and they had full run of the place. It was our first home in Oregon, but we had lived near Seattle and in Idaho so the tall, brooding trees lined up along the tops of the hills, the huge logging trucks and the ubiquitous mills all felt inviting. Besides, the little town smelled of sawdust, pine pitch and wood smoke. For years I figured the Douglas Fir was named after the county considering how closely connected Roseburg was with the various forest industries that thrived in those days. One of my very favorite memories is of the cherry-red glow of the towering, conical sawdust burners’ tops as we drove past a lumber mill after dark.

I also grew to love the black cat logo of Copeland Lumber Co. and still own a cap from Roseburg Forest Products Plant 4, now long closed, where many of my school friends’ Dads worked. The forests, rivers and mountains nearby filled our lives with adventures. We got to know trees, animals and birds by name and spent many hours walking along woodland paths or narrow farm roads, transfixed by the beauty of our surroundings. We hiked it and fished it all, many times over.

roseburg_oregon_large_letter_scenes_postcard-rc5c92a1ffdef49ea87389487605dcba6_vgbaq_8byvr_324My Dad re-joined us there the next year, living in a big red trailer on the banks of the Umpqua River while he and Mom worked out their issues. We moved from the little storefront house a few miles out of town along the Umpqua into a classic farmhouse and our lives as a complete family began again. The year I was to go into the seventh grade, we moved up to Springfield to follow Dad’s newest job change. A few years later, we moved north again and by the time I returned to Eugene for college, Grandma and Vern had split up. She’d moved down to Klamath Falls.

I had no remaining family connection to the town, but have carried happy memories of Roseburg my whole life. I was very happy to have had one opportunity years later, to introduce my wife to Vern on a pass through on our way up to see my folks. Returning to New York, some months later I got word that Vern had died. My mother sent on his obituary where I learned further about his connection with the local schools’ music programs and how he had touched many lives. Grandma passed after him and then both my parents went on to their next adventures.

Today I pulled the old Plant 4 hat out of the closet and I swear it still smells like pine smoke and sawdust. There’s a little bit of Roseburg sawdust that will never come out from beneath my fingernails. I’m so proud that I knew Roseburg and its hardy, friendly people. I hope they can eventually find peace in the aftermath of the senseless killings and that life can soon return to its warm, even pace and rhythm which is truly unique in all the world.

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Oct 6 15

Pitches: Missing the Mark with a Shotgun is Easier Than You Think…

by Richard Sutton, the American Association of Retired People has been running a new ad on NY Metro TV lately. It features a couple in logo-emblazoned red jackets repeating a catch-phrase, “Real Possibilities in NY” in conversation and through a bull-horn, alluding to free events. I find it annoying. For me, it falls flat for a couple of important reasons.

First, there is no benefit content at all, so it feels like the kind of ads run by corporations to increase their public awareness level just before a stock offering. Second, it isn’t targeted very effectively. AARP’s market are retired people. People who have been around the block a few times.

If you’ve been pitched to your whole life — say for fifty or more years — you know when your being pitched and can easily disregard any message if it doesn’t carry direct connection with your actual life. That’s one reason why I believe “lifestyle” advertising is wasted on anyone over fifty. Our aspirations are very different from younger generations. As a result, we’re a tougher market to break into. Of course, if all of AARP’s copywriters and communications people are in their twenties and thirties, they wouldn’t get this point at all, and would write the kind of excitement-based copy that would appeal to their own generation, wouldn’t they?

The point if this observation is to highlight just how critical it is to really understand your market. Now, with the bombardment of ad pitches hitting us every waking moment, an effective one has to be very well crafted. One of the things I’ve noticed, from the perspective of a retired adman, is just how many advertisers think that simply taking their message onto a trendy, band-wagon is enough to get results. Well, the internet is nothing if not composed of high volumes of that kind of traffic, but I don’t think that approach is going to be as effective as it might, especially to an older market.

But whichever demographic you are targeting, your pitching needs to be crafted to make a solid, personal connection with potential customers. Back in the day, the great, older account executives that took me “under the wing” usually stressed that ad copy needs to contain real benefits to the specific consumer, otherwise, it’s just a lot of verbiage. “Engage your market,” they’d tell me; “give them a reason to reply, but always make sure their reply can’t be a simple, NO”.

For Self-Published Authors, this admonition is critical because of the shrinking ability of a single message to even be seen, given all the pitches flying through the ether. Most writers I know want to have a best-selling book to their credit, but accepting that paring down the market and narrowing your sights is more effective than painting in big broad strokes to capture the widest visibility, seems to be a counter-intuitive lesson. Still, in the majority of cases, without very deep pockets to support a media blow-out and celeb endorsement, it’s the best choice left on the table.

We all have unique voices in our writing. Not just the content of our stories, but the voice that brings the story into the heart of a reader. While a specific reader may have already read two or three versions of your break-out plotline, chances are, if they’re not acquainted with your work, your telling of that story is unique for them. That unique flavor should be a main ingredient in your marketing mix along with how it connects with them inside. Trust it.

You know the kind of folks that have responded to your humor and viewpoint your whole life. Your friends among them, these are your target readers. Your time spent in getting to really know what moves them, what motivates them and what their interests are, will never be wasted as long as you shape your pitches accordingly. It will also make you a better friend. Don’t just go out into a noisy city with a bull-horn. For every single person that listens, remember there are three thousand (not hard data, just my estimate) that find it annoying and turn away. But if your message is a directed, personal whisper, even in Times Square you’ll make a connection. Maybe especially in Times Square, but that’s a whole ‘nother discussion…

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Sep 22 15

Sainthood for Father Serra? Wait a minute…


An interview with author Michael Llewellyn…

When I was a 4th-Grade Student in San Diego, California; my favorite part of the week’s lessons was always the California History segment Miss Wells taught. She told us the story of a tiny, frail priest, who walked from Vera Cruz, Mexico all the way up the coast, reaching eventually the location for his Mission Church which eventually became a line of churches set a day’s march apart along the Camino Real — the Spanish Royal Highway connecting their colony together in a network of commerce and soul-saving. My mental image of Father Junipero Serra as a kindly little padre in his brown Franciscan robes dispensing mercy and goodness to the California Native people, persisted until I began to learn the actual history of the Spanish Conquest of the Southwest including California as an adult.

Almost completely at odds with the carefully curated, vacation-brochure story of the peaceful Missions was the brutal truth. The chain of missions including churches and working ranches and farms were actually sites where monstrous cruelty, slavery, starvation, kidnapping and torture were doled out to the Native parishioners for generations. All carefully overseen or ignored by the Franciscan Friars and priests, including Father Serra. All men of their times, serving Cross and King.

Author Michael Llewellyn

Author Michael Llewellyn

Today, we’re discussing the controversial record of the Missions with author Michael Llewellyn. A gifted writer of meticulously researched historic fiction whose 2014 mystery novel, Communion of Sinners, uncovers this well-hidden past.

Good Morning, Michael. With sainthood almost a fait accompli for Father Serra, your book struck a strong chord with me. I was mostly acquainted with your Historic Novels set in New Orleans before reading this book. What brought you to uncover the truth about a priest so revered he’s called the Father of California?

A: Good morning, Richard, and thank you for asking me to talk about my book, Communion of Sinners. When I first visited the California missions, like most tourists I was seduced by their beauty and charmed by the history, at least how it was presented on-site. When I visited the Carmel Mission, I saw a woman in the courtyard reading a book I hadn’t seen in the gift shop. It was Life in a California Mission, the journal of Jean Francoise De La Peyrouse*, a French explorer who visited Monterey in 1786. The woman said such books were never sold at the missions because they told the truth, not what the Catholic Church wanted visitors to believe. Of course I was intrigued enough to read the book and was horrified by what I found, there and also in Indians, Franciscans, and Spanish Colonization: The Impact of the Mission System on California Indians by Robert H. Jackson. Both books were eye-openers, real revelations if you will. Instead of more mythologizing about the “child-like Indians and pious padres,” I found a world of oppression and outright cruelty. Rather than coming voluntarily to the missions, the Indians were more often herded there by Spanish soldiers, punished if they resisted forced labor and forbidden to leave. If they escaped, they were re-captured, returned and punished. Father Serra himself said, and I’m quoting here, “That spiritual fathers should punish their sons, the Indians, with blows appears to be as old as the conquest of the Americas.” In 1783, three years after he made that remark, no less than the Governor of California, Pedro Fages, filed a complaint against Serra for excessive punishment of the Indians. Not just punishment, mind you. Excessive punishment! And this is the man the Vatican wants to canonize!

CofSIt certainly was a surprise when I heard there was a huge push to complete the process when the new Pope visits. When important decisions that affect millions of people are made without consideration of the direct past, it always seems less like omission and more like subterfuge. But then, I’ve always been an ardent student of history.   I understand you grew up in Tennessee, a state with a long and honored past. Did your childhood experiences bring you to write historic subjects or were you drawn to it from another direction?

A: When you grow up in the South, history is omnipresent and, for me anyway, it seemed a natural thing to write about. I was taught from an early age to respect my history, heritage and traditions. I’m old enough to remember a South that has all but disappeared and, while it was deeply flawed by racial segregation, it nevertheless had a magical, indefinable something that burrowed under your skin and stayed there. Harper Lee and Truman Capote captured the Southerner’s childhood best. As far as the Native Americans are concerned, I knew from an early age about the Cherokees and the Trail of Tears ripping them from their homeland in east Tennessee and western North Carolina and sending them to Oklahoma. Their story has been told many times, which is not the case for the Mission Indians. What little voice they had needed to be turned way up and I tried to help with Communion of Sinners. One of my main characters, Javier Chamales, is a modern-day Chumash with links taking the reader from contemporary Santa Cruz to the past when the missions held sway.

The Catholic Church has recently made attempts through Papal decrees, to distance themselves from their own past. I remember an apology made to many indigenous Nations of South America and the Caribbean for excesses and cruelty committed in the process of bringing the Word of God to them. Did writing Communion of Sinners provide a pulpit for you to try and share the truth of the Missions? It has been a seriously controversial subject in California for many years, I understand.

A: I’m not sure I like the word “pulpit” because I don’t want to sound preachy. But, yes, it’s high time the truth about the missions is told. It’s the responsibility of historical fiction authors, at least those who take our work seriously, to educate and enlighten and not perpetuate myths and hearsay. Father Serra and his ilk presented a serious challenge because it’s so very difficult to wrap our 21st century mindsets around 18th century behavior. Here’s what I wrote in my Author’s Notes for Communion of Sinners. “I believe most Franciscan missionaries were sincere, devoted men and that Serra fought hard to protect his neophytes from the soldiers, but he and his fellow friars were ill-prepared to grasp the radically different world of the Indians or how the imposition of European standards would annihilate the very souls they sought to save. The results were attitudes ranging from avuncular affection to vicious disgust, and there’s no denying the missions were akin to Nazi forced labor camps.” Serra’s punishment hardly emulated the famously gentle and compassionate St. Francis, who founded the Franciscan order. If a California governor and other friars were appalled by his behavior, how could Serra himself be so unaware and unbending? For that matter, how can the Vatican not be aware in 2015? I’m not Catholic so I won’t judge the veracity of Serra’s supposedly miraculous cure for that nun with lupus centuries after his death, but I do find it bemusing that the church has dispensed with the second requisite miracle in order to fast-track Serra to sainthood. If the Vatican is really so desperate for saints, can’t they do better than this guy?

I sure hope so. Hypocrisy doesn’t go very well with faith. I  grew up all over the Western States and always had a deep interest in American Indian culture. It seems the arts, traditions and stories of many of the indigenous cultures are taught and explored in literature really frequently, but that there is very little out there about the California Native cultures. I’ve learned that there was more diversity of culture and tradition in California than in any other Mainland region. Is there a reason or reasons why their stories and traditions have been so neglected?

A: That remains a mystery, Richard. I can only speculate that they were eclipsed by more famous tribes because they weren’t as glamorous or sexy. Most everyone knows about Pueblo pottery and Tlingit totem poles and Sioux beadwork, about Geronimo and Sitting Bull and Wounded Knee. What history and culture the Mission Indians had was pretty quickly erased by the Spanish and the padres, and California school children, as you say, were taught only what the State and the Catholics deemed appropriate. What monstrous conceit! I should mention here that the Indians were themselves almost erased by Mission rule. In that period, 1769-1832, the population plummeted from 130,000 to 73,000. Many deaths came from European diseases the Indians could not fight, but plenty died of starvation, neglect and brutality.

It’s incredible to think that in its day, that kind of destruction and death were just accepted as inevitable things that occurred with Colonialism and swept under the carpet. At the very least least today we can acknowledge the truth and its lingering effects all these years later and try to do the right thing for those victim’s descendants who still survive.

You’ve been a very prolific author, with some seventeen titles available. I’ve read a few of your other books and have seen one common thread is a fascination with the interplay of diverse cultures. You’ve lived in a few places where this is very evident, haven’t you? We even share a couple of them.

A: I’ve been fortunate to live in Greenwich Village, the French Quarter and Santa Fe, all of which boast overlapping cultures. My favorite is New Orleans with its exotic French/Spanish/African roots, later watered by English, Irish, Italian, German and, after Katrina, Mexican arrivals. This polyglot mix is reflected in the food and music which is, happily, ever-evolving and makes living there a real pleasure. In 1967, I was lucky enough to live in the house where Margaret Mitchell wrote Gone with the Wind, but believe me that’s another story.

Upper West Side of NYC for me, but I really understand the overlaps. They sure keep your mind working. Have you found that spending time in a place where a project is set helps the writing? I know my own experiences out on the road and as a newcomer in many places has influenced my own work a great deal.

A: Absolutely. New Orleans is again the best example. I set several books there because the history is almost palpable. Once during carnival season I was standing on my 1833 French Quarter gallery in a twilight fog so dense I could barely see across the street. While listening to the riverboats, carriage harnesses and hooves, and cathedral bells, I saw a group of revelers dressed in hooded capes, swirling through the fog down below. I realized everything I saw and heard belonged to another century, as did the buildings around me. That, of course was the perfect location and inspiration for my first time travel book, Still Time.

PastTimeYour most recent novel Past Time, is the second in a Time-Travel historic series. It places your characters in the Winter Court of the Romanovs in Saint Petersburg just before the revolution. What specifically brought your interest to bear on a subject that has intrigued writers for so long?

A: Some places in time simply speak to you. Venice in the 16th century, Tudor London and Paris in the twenties come to mind. I’d always had an interest in the Romanovs and will never forget seeing the Amber Room of the Catherine Palace in St. Petersburg. It trumped any excess I’d ever seen and drove me to learn more about the Romanovs. When I read about Marie Pavlovna, the feisty and fiery Grand Duchess who dared tell the Russian parliament that she wanted the Tsarina Alexandra annihilated, I wanted my time traveling heroine, Madeleine, to meet her. Their encounter is what drives the plot of Past Time.

As one of your loyal readers, I’m always wondering where you’ll take us next. Any clues as to a project currently in the works?

A: Sure. The third book, Over Time, catapults Madeleine to Haiti in 1820 where she meets the black King Henry I and his Queen Marie-Louise. She also meets the Duke of Marmelade and, no, I did not make that up. There’s a reason for that old adage that truth is stranger than fiction.

That it is. I’ll be looking forward to news of its release. Thanks Michael,  for your insights on the truth of the California Missions. I hope the truth is considered before the Pope makes his final decision and shows the California Mission Indians the respect they have so long deserved.

StillTimeI’m glad to introduce my readers to Michael Llewellyn’s work. I’ve read many of them and always found myself absorbed and carried along on a great story line with real fleshed-out characters I care about. They’ve also made my brain work a bit and I always leave them with questions and ideas spinning out from that point.  For more information about the writer and his work, be sure to visit his

Facebook Page at

Amazon Author Page at

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*Jean Francoise De La Peyrouse biographical information is available on the French Language Wikipedia which you can translate by pasting the url into Google Translate.


September 23, 2015 Canonization Update from the Washington Post:


Sep 11 15

14 Years Later…

Recovered drawing... more information below...

Construction drawing… more information below…





















September 11, 2001 changed the world. Even in tiny hamlets miles away, the moment was felt intensely. For some, who suffered personal loss, grief has become part of their everyday lives. For others, an abiding sense of duty remains. This is a story I wrote some months afterwards that concerns one small village on Long Island and how one long-tern resident was affected.

Broom Duty

By Richard Sutton

©2015, All Rights Reserved by the Author

At least he had time to get a drink. The sun was sending shadows across the sidewalks by the time he’d crawled out of the sack, but it was still bright enough to make him blink a few times. Karl’s eyes weren’t any good anymore. He rubbed the small of his back, which still ached from too much time in bed as he shuffled across the road and started down towards Main Street.

The bar would still be quiet, this early. He smiled at a young mother and her little girl – too big for the stroller. “Good afternoon,” he said in his best public voice. She gave him a sideways glance and hurried past without a reply. He checked his fly. OK, this time.

He slowly passed several storefronts. A few of them still let him inside. Up ahead, one of the merchants he knew was sitting on the bench by the door to his shop. Karl steered himself in that direction. “Good afternoon, Mr. James.”

“Good afternoon, Karl,” replied the shopkeeper, his head buried in some papers on his lap. He glanced up.

“How’s your day going?”

“Well,” began Karl, “not too well, I’m afraid… I seem to have lost my wallet again.”

Mr. James drew his lips down a bit, looking up into Karl’s bleary eyes. “How much do you need?”

“Forty dollars should do it until I can contact my attorney. Of course, I’ll return the funds as soon as possible.” Karl began staring at the wooden porch floor as the shopkeeper rose. He left Karl standing there, blinking while he went inside the store. It took him only a few moments, but he returned, extending his hand.

“Here’s a twenty. It’s all I can afford, Karl,” adding, “It’s the last time. Don’t ask me again.”

Karl lightly slipped the protruding bill from between the shopkeeper’s fingers, repeating himself as he turned, “I’ll return the funds as soon as possible.”

The shop keeper sat down and watched Karl shuffle off down the street toward his regular afternoon destination, the dark little bar stuffed into the side room of one of the local restaurants. He shook his head, thinking about whether it had been a good idea to cut Karl off. He remembered when Karl had actually been a regular customer, but even then, the decline was easy to see. The money was still there, though, from what he’d heard. He shuffled the invoices in his lap, stood and went inside to figure out where the money was going to come from to pay them.


Karl almost bumped into the delivery man bringing a load of liquor into the restaurant on his hand truck. Karl apologized, saying, “I’m terribly sorry.” He got a sneer and a grunt from the guy. Karl then stood there, looking at the door for a few moments, nervously fingering the twenty. Karl knew that just a few doors further down, another merchant would probably give him another twenty, but… it was getting late. He didn’t want to be sitting in the bar when the dinner guests came through the door. They would stare at him, and eventually someone seated at a nearby table would say something and he’d be ushered out. He didn’t want that to happen, so he went inside, carefully looking around the dining room to make sure it was unoccupied before finding the furthest stool, against the far wall in the cubicle where the bar was.

“Hey there, Karl,” said the bartender, unloading shiny bottles from boxes on the floor. “I’ll be right with you.”

“What’ll it be today?” The bartender waited while Karl went through the regular charade.

“Well, let me see… my throat is a bit dry… maybe I’ll have a glass of sherry… no, make it an Old-Fashioned. Just one.”

“Coming right up” replied the bartender, already dropping the cherry to the squat, brown drink. Karl, he knew from daily experience. From the six years he’d worked behind that bar he knew that there would be two more drinks, then the money would be gone. He didn’t expect a tip this time as Karl was looking particularly ratty today. Probably hadn’t showered in a few days. Karl used to tip him pretty well, around the first of each month when the Trust put funds into Karl’s bank account. By the third week, no more tips and only three drinks. But at least he could cut him some slack. He’d heard the old guy was some kind of war hero, back in the day.

Later, Karl rose from his stool slowly, his hands braced on the bar to steady himself, pushing back the stool with one foot. He turned towards the door, and shuffled out as the bartender gave him a quiet nod. A couple with children was being seated in the far corner and it was time to leave. He’d been sucking the ice for a while, anyway. He smiled vaguely in their direction before pushing the door open and heading back along Main Street.

“Smelled something awful, didn’t he?” The restaurant owner said to the bartender, adding, “You can always toss him out. Don’t worry about it. His family doesn’t have any clout left around here. He scares the customers away.”

“Sometimes,” replied the bartender, polishing a glass. “But, he wasn’t any trouble, and I never have any other customers that early.”

“Well, just so you know I’ve got no problem with you tossing him.”


Karl wore a slight smile all the way back along Main Street, it was getting dark by the time he made it back to his weed-blown driveway. The oyster shells crunched under his feet. He made it back to the barn, through what had once been a port cochere. Its last paint peeled and sloughed off many years before. Just inside the door, Karl felt for the long handle of a push-broom which he pulled out, trudging back down the driveway towards Main Street, the broom clutched tightly in his hand and tucked under an arm. His other arm extended slightly away from his body for balance.

Karl stopped at the side door sillcock, drinking from the ancient, cracked hose lying along the foundation. He set the broom against the bare clapboard siding and splashed water into his face from the hose, rubbing it across his balding head, so he could tuck the wild hair behind his ears and it would stay long enough to get him on the bus. He ran his finger across his teeth and gums, then took another drink, swirled it around then spat it out.

Karl’s personal hygiene for the day complete, he picked up the broom and headed towards the bus stop. He got there just as the street lights clicked on, and sat down on the aluminum bench slats.


Bill wiped his eyes. It had been a long shift, but it was almost over, just a few more runs. From the back of the bus he heard a conversation in muffled tones from the remaining two fares. Up ahead he thought he saw… yep, it was the old guy with the broom. He almost thought he’d pass him tonight, remembering how bad he stunk the last time he threw him off. He swung the big wheel over and the bus slid up to its stop. Bill hoped Karl had the fare. He wouldn’t mind letting him ride free in this direction, but there were other fares in the back.

Karl slowly climbed the steps. “Good evening.” He said to the driver. Bill just nodded and clicked the fare-box open as Karl rummaged through his pockets. A couple of coins clinked. Bill nodded as Karl dropped them into the slot. Three quarters and a dime. Short by almost half, but Bill didn’t mind as long as the sound of a fare falling could be heard in the back. Karl thanked him and took a seat a few rows back. Bill pulled away shaking his head over the smell Karl left in his wake.

When they got to the last stop, at the LIRR rail, Karl rose and turned to the couple in the back, saying “Good evening,” then repeated it to the driver as he passed him, the long broom banging against the cage as he slowly climbed down the steps to the pavement. The couple slid out, probably on their way to the city for a show, thought the driver. He closed the door and watched as the old guy shuffled off towards an empty spot in the parking lot. The driver had seen him take that broom to the same spot, almost every night, for as long as he could remember, whether there was a car parked there or not. He’s an odd old bird, thought Bill as he shifted into gear and left the curb.
From inside the station house, the night shift ticket clerk watched an old man sweep one parking space clean, then move on to a different space, not the next one, but one just out of sight. He knew he’d see him earlier, a few rows back. He sweep a few spots, then he’d go on to a few more. He sipped his coffee, wondering about what kind of crazy could make you do that, night after night. He’d even asked the security agent that patrolled the lot a couple of years before.

“That’s old Karl,” the rent-a-cop told him, “he comes from local money. He told me once that he felt someone had to take care of it, so I let him sweep. He’s harmless.”

“Why do they let him go around looking like that, the station clerk asked, “he looks like a derelict.”

“There’s no one left here, they all moved away. He used to dress better and such, but I guess he’s got no one to look after him now. I hear the money’s still there, though.”

Karl came back into view, under one of the security lights carefully sweeping around a parked car. The clerk thought about how careful he was not to touch any cars, but he would sweep all around them, then move on to the next space and sweep it, whether it was occupied or not. Money or not, the old guy was clearly nuts. Really nuts, he recalled, thinking of the last winter. The outer door swung open and another young couple came up to his window.
“Hey, what up with the old loon and the broom?” the young man asked the clerk after paying for two off-peak round trips. “He almost knocked that broom up against our new BMW.”

“He really stinks.” The young woman added, “Creepy.”
The clerk nodded, replying, “He’s been sweeping the same parking spaces since late September of 2001. He’s harmless, and I’ve never seen him touch a car. He’s no threat to anyone”

“Well, that’s a relief,” said the young man looking at his watch. “So he’s nuts or something?”

“I guess so,” replied the clerk, hoping they’d just go sit down to wait.

“Why the same spaces?”

The clerk almost rolled his eyes. He’d told this story a few times every single week for years, now. “Well, from what we can figure out, those are the parking spaces that remained occupied for a couple of weeks after the Trade Center attack on 9/11. After they towed the cars off, the old guy shows up and starts sweeping up where the cars had been. He’s been doing it ever since, too. Even in the snow.”

Really? All winter?” The young woman’s eyes grew round. “Did he know someone that died?”

“I don’t know,” said the clerk, “but you could ask him. He’ll be sweeping a spot right next to the platform in a few minutes, before the train gets here.”

The young woman just shivered and said, “I don’t think so.” Looking up at her boyfriend, for accord. He nodded, saying, “we’ll just stay inside.”
They took a seat near the platform door, and sure enough, in five minutes, Karl was outside, sweeping the last space before the bus returned to take him home. He swept it top to bottom, then side to side. When he was finished there wasn’t even a grain of sand lying on the pavement where a car had stood almost two weeks before it was towed. Karl walked to the station door and opened it, putting his head inside and saying toward the ticket window, “All finished. Good evening.” He returned to the outside bench where the bus would pull up in a few minutes.

He reached into both trousers pockets but came up empty. His jacket pockets were empty as well. He stretched out his hands and two fingers on the left hand still carried nice signet rings set with stones. One was turquoise and one was lapis lazuli, its deep blue surface reflecting the security lights in the parking lot. He pulled this one off the finger with some difficulty to offer it to the driver instead of a fare, if the driver would be so kind as to accept it.

The screech of the train wheels braking woke Karl as the headlight beams from the bus brushed across his form, slumped on the bench. He sat up, rubbing his eyes, and pulled himself to his feet, the ring held tightly in one hand. Bill wouldn’t take it, covering the far box slot with his hand, so Karl slid it back on. He got off at his regular stop and crossed the street looking after the bus. He’s a gentleman, that driver, Karl thought as he crossed the street, a real gentleman.

# # # #

Drawing: This is one of the images from a folio of drawings of the Twin Towers during their construction. It contained several artist views of the phases of construction of the towers from various vantage points nearby. The small, ornate church and cemetery in the foreground survived with no damage at all, despite its proximity.

Sep 5 15

The Species That Tells Stories

Santa Cruz Mountains: Cave of the Hands in Argentina

Santa Cruz Mountains: Cave of the Hands in Argentina

There is so much philosophical discussion around the idea that we are different from animals. Religious doctrine is often supported with a creation story that shows a definite break-out when it came to our ancient forebears. Somehow, say the writs, the Creator of the Heavens and Earth had something special in mind when it came to humans.

At least in most “civilized”, Western European traditions, we are not supposed to relate to the rest of living things as respected relations, but rather as chattal. Of course, I admit that I don’t feel that way at all and I also don’t pretend to understand the intention of any Creator. But as close as we are to all life, physically and even mentally, to the higher organisms (who made that distinction, anyway?), we do have one aspect of our lives on this planet that is decidedly different than most other mammals. As far as I know, we are the only storytellers.

We are the storytelling species, the organism whose memory and consciousness can be assembled into narrative that will be understood by others over time. A good story, as we all know, outlasts almost all of the damage that time can inflict on living things. many stories that are still retold in all kinds of variable forms, have been around for thousands of years. Sometimes the actual historic individual that originated a story is remembered as part of the tale, but in most cases, the origin has been lost and the story absorbed into a common, human collective memory. Shared by all who walk on two legs, or at least most humans.

The trick, for a storyteller to weave such tales that their stories are considered special, or moving or important, is to get into the listener’s heart where the story can connect with the feelings and memories the story evokes. While a unique take or engaging delivery on an old tale can revitalize its acceptance, there is something about raw honesty that can connect a storyteller across all kinds of subjects and all kinds of listeners. Since as writers, we’re not always handy to tell our stories directly to our listeners, our words need to carry that kind of honesty if they are to make that kind of deep connection. It’s a skill that can only be grown carefully, from the seed. It has to be practiced over and over again. If it’s done properly, it will shine through no matter how we embellish or skew the structure, characters or their behavior. It will shine through no matter the world the stories take place in, real or created. The honesty of experience and feeling is the heart of a story that makes connection. Everything else is the vehicle.

From the time that we blew colored rock pigment upon our hands as they were pressed into the wall of a cave, like the one pictured above, in the Argentine Santa Cruz Mountains, we’ve felt a deep need to make a statement. Tell others that once, we were here. We share moments in our lives and lessons learned with others, who may themselves share those moments and share the lessons. We tell stories. It’s what we do.

“SantaCruz-CuevaManos-P2210651b” by Mariano – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons






Jul 31 15

The O’Deirg Legacy Bundle Kindle Countdown Week! 99 Cents Right Now!



“Immersive, transporting reading with an authentic period voice for a perfect Irish Summer reading destination.”

The O’Deirg Legacy, a bundled Kindle version of the first two books in the series, is now available at a very special regular price: $3.99. From Sepotember 1, for one week, it will begin at only 99 cents for early orders!

It brings together brand new editions of the award winning, beloved books, The Red Gate and The Gatekeepers. These books introduced readers to the O’Deirg and Quinn families of Western Co. Mayo and their struggle to preserve their farm and protect its ancient secrets. It will only be available on Amazon for Kindle. Watch this spot for the update announcement and the date of the launch party. There will be special giveaways also, so sign up to my RSS feed or follow me on Twitter, to be sure of the launch notice.


redgateawardAmazon Review of The Red Gate by Bersaba…

“A beautifully written historical fantasy set in the early years of the 20th century.

I think I love the writing in this book even more than the story. It’s lyrical and descriptive and that alone made this book a joy to read. That being said: I also loved the story. It’s intriguing and suspenseful with very likeable as well as despicable characters. The viewpoint switches from time to time to give you an overall picture of events and I felt myself fuming when seeing things from the viewpoint of one of the characters I didn’t like. All in all Sutton managed to get me totally engrossed in the life of the O’Deirg family (especially Finn, my favourite character) and although the book luckily doesn’t have a cliffhanger ending, I’m curious what’s next for the O’Deirg family and their sheep.”

gatekeeperscoverrgb96Amazon Review of The Gatekeepers by Author Doreen McGettigan…

“In this sequel to the Red Gate author Richard Sutton seamlessly continues the saga of an Irish family charged with keeping an ancient secret.
The O’Dierg’s lives are rich with love and hope but also have their share of tragedy, sacrifice and old family skeletons. Their story of war, cousins arriving from America, strange connections and the old family secret flowed, blending fiction and history nicely. The author’s descriptions in this novel are poetic. I wanted to be there…”

All of Richard Sutton’s books are available from Amazon, B&N, Kobo, Smashwords, Sonybooks, Applebooks and many other booksellers both online and on the street, but the new bundle is exclusive for Amazon and Kindle Readers

Jul 22 15

The Care & Conservation of Beta Readers…


Several years ago, a new phrase crept into my vocabulary. I wasn’t sure where I first heard it, but it was repeated regularly among writing circles in online conversations such as, “Three of my Beta Readers agreed on it, so I revised it.” Beta Readers sounded like something I could use, so I set out to discover them, wherever they were hiding.

Caution! Beta Crossing!

Caution! Beta Crossing!

I had an editor, and a proofreader. Or two or three… but my pockets were already running pretty thin, so I was concerned about what an additional pair of eyes would cost me. After conversing with a few authors of Honest-to-God Stature, I realized that instead of an additional staff item, Beta Readers were actually a rare species that writers needed to treasure  and conserve once found.

There was a time when their species was restricted to the narrow spaces in publishing office cubicles between desks of editors and the place where the mailcarts were stashed, next to the slushpile. They were never very abundant, but once they were discovered, they usually were treated pretty well, unless they mentioned they really wanted to grow up to be editors.  Then they were worked to the bone and fed scraps only. Some of them migrated to the darker halls of academia where the majority scraped out a thankless, meager existence while a few flourished, once shown a modicum of appreciation.

The point is, for self-published authors today, finding readers who would be willing to read your novel before it is actually published and then report back to you is a critical part of putting the final polish on a project. However, there are some writers who seem to be of the belief that if you throw an unedited manuscript at a group of beta readers, you’ll get a group edit at a cut rate. That is not the case. Group edits are a terrible thing to indulge in. In order for your project to actually read like something you’ve written, it’s critical that you and your editor have a solid relationship defined by trust. You don’t get that from “friends” who’ll “take a look, no problems”. Editors have some cred that comes from experience as well as some connection to the industry to give them a useful viewpoint. Beta Readers, on the other hand, provide a completely different service.

A Beta Reader is a reader who enjoys the genre of your project, is vetted to be worthy of your trust, but is still seen as a reader. It isn’t a beta reader’s job to proofread a sloppy manuscript and write notes all over the margins so that the writer can clean up the mess. Nor is it a Beta Reader’s job to pinpoint all the glaring dead-ends and red herrings in a meandering novel and suggest every fix. A Beta Read is supposed to be a pleasure read. It should be a finished novel, not a manuscript. That means all the tidying has already been accomplished and that the story is almost as completely polished as it’s going to get.

Some Beta Readers are personal friends who just enjoy reading, but don’t mind jotting down a few overall impressions or annoyances. Some of them even know how to write well and may be authors themselves. Beta Reading is not a job description, because it’s not supposed to be a job. A Beta’s report isn’t a high school book report. It may only be two paragraphs, or even two sentences, but sometimes, those impressions, when compiled along with impressions from other Betas, can create just the right bit of suggestion for a writer to get an even higher shine on the project before it goes to pitching or to production. Of course, if they catch a few instances where the spell-checker bounced over real words in the wrong places, that’s even better.

The real value is in learning how to separate out one reader’s unique impressions from the shared findings of a group of Beta Readers. I’ve known some authors rely upon as many as six of them. These are readers who know and enjoy the writer’s work and voice and can share their impressions with enough clarity that together, they can be parsed down into a few discrete ideas. The writer may or may not see any or all as something the project needs. For example, if the Betas are all over the map, but sparing in their criticism, many writers will simply see that the read went pretty well. If, however the Betas’ comments connect with each other and are directed, then there may be an issue at the heart of their impressions that needs to be addressed. It’s not a checklist kind of thing, more of an interpretive art that gets better with age and repetition.

Besides those you know and love, finding Betas in the wilds of the internet can be difficult if you haven’t done lots of research first. One of the best ways to research potential readers is to join reading groups and spend a lot of time listening and reading posts about other writers’ work. It also behooves you to keep your own writing close to the cuff. Online Reader Groups tend to make revealed writers about as welcome as a Baptist preacher at a poker game.  Do, however, take part in conversation about the kind of writing, stories and characters you like within a specific genre and see who engages with you. Mention books you’ve read that you really love. Provide lots of opportunities for group members to find common ground with you. When you find honest points of agreement and can honestly say you enjoy communicating with another member, you may have found a potential Beta Reader. But remember, it takes time and patience. Don’t just run out there beating a drum while offering free books. If you present it as a sideshow, those are the kind of results you can expect. It’s more like leaving a trail of crumbs in the moonlight than a flashing neon sign with big arrows.

Finally, after all a Beta Reader can do for a writer, there are just a few things a writer can do to make the Beta want to hang around and keep in touch. Beyond not asking for a Beta Read and then expecting a free proofread and edit, acknowledging their help and critical suggestion is very important. Some writers do it in a section of the book along with all the other thankyous. At the very least, it should include a free drink or five and a copy of the finished book along with the toast. If the Beta is another writer, you will need to keep reminding yourself that you owe a reciprocal favor of their choosing. While the world may see writing as a solitary profession, those of us who do it, know better. There are so many people who help a writer in the process of creation and perfecting a project, we need to do whatever we can to remember them and give them our sincere thanks. In part, we do it because we want to cultivate their help for use in future work, but in part, there’s a bit of their spirit in the final mix, and it would really annoy our muses if we didn’t acknowledge that. Where would we be, then?

It isn’t always easy to coax Beta Readers out in the open to rally around your current work, but make sure they know that you’re not asking them to muck out a neglected stall. That’s a good start. Once they emerge and are willing to share the ride with you, even only a short distance, it will mean better writing for you and for all your eventual readers. If you are really lucky, they may even stick around long enough to share the next ride with you, too. Good luck in your hunting.
# # # #

As usual, your comments are encouraged and appreciated…

Jul 18 15

Wearing Two Hats At Once…


Production Formatting for Writers — How you can wear more than one hat at a time and not even be aware of it…

Last night I watched a film with my wife that involved writers passing reams of manuscript paper between themselves for the purpose of “notes”. I laughed as it seemed pretty anachronistic. I may be wrong, but at least my own little niche of the Publishing Industry exists almost completely paper-free. I’m also at a point where I don’t do a lot of cold pitching of my work; which means that some of the old pitfalls I remember in having to convert page sizes, line spacing, margins, etc. to meet the requirements of various industry readers/editors needs is gone. Almost completely.

Remember these?

Remember these?

My mental notion of a “manuscript” has gone from 500 pages of double-spaced typewritten text, to 60K words in a compatible doc. file. Except in the movies, where the old concept of lugging around all that paper seems to endure. Well, piles of stacked sheets are more interesting than a thumbdrive lying upon a desk, I guess. But thinking about all the time I’ve had to pare down the processes to their most basic, from first draft through to print pages, has brought me to a few points about the actual time on keyboard. Here are some tips, if you can call them that, that have removed error and reduced time overall in making a written idea into a viable product…

Page Size…
I set up my copy of Word to default to the nearest page size I most often use in my print books, 5 1/2 x 8 1/2. I came to this size after seeing that a print book of 60K words looks kinda like a pamphlet in the 6×9 trim, but reducing the trim size down to the old pup-fiction paperback size usually gives me a more substantial looking page count. That wouldn’t matter for younger readers or for eBook publication, but for my own work, which is also read by older readers who like paper books, it is a real consideration.

Another benefit to getting away from letter sized manuscript pages is that the word flow is much easier to control when formatting for print and eProduction. There are very few surprises with widowed words, or ugly page breaks, or poor word-spacing when you are writing a draft in actual production size. If you have a sudden need to send out a pitch sample on paper or in an agency-requested format, you can always create a new filename with those specs, whatever they may be.

Which leads me into another trick I use to fool myself into keeping on top of which version of my work I’m revising, submitting, uploading, etc. My first book, I uploaded my interior file; then realized after an early review came in listing multiple, grievous errors, that I’d sent up the old version of the file! I quickly renamed the file after re-checking all the known (at that time…) edits and proofreader’s notes. Now, each time I even make a single revision to a file, it gets a new, numerically sequenced filename. I usually only keep the original draft file and the three most recent versions to make sure I don’t confuse myself any more than is needed. That first book, The Red Gate (2006), went through eleven rewrites as well as three proofreader passes and still was messed up when launched. I never want to repeat that and renaming the files helps keep me honest.

Text Type Size…
Another default setup in Word that I use is the size of my text. I never draft anything in smaller than twelve point type. My eyes are too old now to read comfortably smaller than twelve point. I have that point brought home regularly when I receive an Advanced Reader Copy of a new book — usually a bound galley proof — to review. Often the publisher wants to set these in 10 point type to save on paper costs. In that size, a print book is almost impossible for me to read more than a few pages of, even with my reading glasses. For my own readers, it would be a very poor idea to save paper. Several of my reviews have been slowed down while the publisher’s publicist figured out how to get an eBook ARC to me, since they don’t provide them in big numbers, partly for security reasons. I’ve ended up purchasing early release copies for either ePub or Kindle formats because the ARC I received was just too hard to read to review without prejudice.

The Sequence…
The way a self-published writer can envision the launch of a new title is significantly different than the way an industry-published writer thinks about it. I’ve learned to setup my draft defaults to eliminate potential conversion issues later on, but the sequence of release is a player, too. Since I’m not a series writer, I’m not strictly locked into Amazon Kindle as my preferred vehicle. I actually like the flexibility that ePub formatting allows between devices.

Since I don’t usually enroll my books into KDP Select, I begin the process by writing my draft in a format that will work in an ePub conversion. That means I don’t use heading defaults in Word or tabs, either. I set up a simple first line indent with no intra-paragraph spacing added, and flush-left chapter heads. For chapter head spacing, I use only three or four consecutive returns, and always end a chapter with a page break. This minimizes the oddball, hidden formatting that Word employs to only a few instances. Later, I’ll make my chapter heads bold faced and/or italic. I’ll do it not with a “heading default” but by selecting the text then choosing bold/ital and a larger size from the Home tab in Word. I turn on the “reveal hidden characters” switch, too, just in case there are the occasional tab or other gremlin. Tabs cause all kinds of issues in an ePub conversion that you won’t get in a KDP Kindle conversion. That’s because the ePub is a very different animal from a Kindle file. Kindle converts from a pdf file, which is, in effect, a snapshot of the formatted page, complete. A Kindle file can re-sample (re-size) the individual pages through the Adobe Reader software, to the widths of different devices, but an ePub (which is the root file format also for Sony and iBook, Kobo, etc. ) actually re-flows the text and word-wrap according to the reader used. It is a much more flexible format, but one which requires less hidden MS Word-junk to run properly.

Another place that trouble often crops up in conversions is that for ePub conversion, your Word file should show no headers or footers or page numbers, since these are created “on the fly” in the reader. It also means that a working Table of Contents linked to bookmarks within the document is absolutely critical. Word, however, generates a TofC from its own proprietary heading default tags. This can work adequately in a pdf to Kindle conversion, but not if you want to covert after the fact, to ePub. So, to make the sequence as trouble free as possible, I format my drafts according to ePub needs, first. It’s always a small matter, later, to format for print, adding the headers and page numbers. Since the page size is the print trim size I get few surprises in page breaks, word flow, and can massage my margins to achieve the best word spacing on a justified (flush left and right) page. Justified type, I’ve pointed out before, can create visible white gutters or vertical rivers through the page as a result of irregular word spacing that can occur if the type size and/or margin widths are not set up to work together. That causes eye strain and slows down a read, so I try to minimize any of these problems. Once I have a print file, it’s easy enough to convert to pdf for KDP Kindle and to send off the interior to print production, to my Print on Demand producer, CreateSpace. There are other providers a self-published author can choose as well. Find one you fit well with and stick with them, as long as they have real distribution.

Cover Design and Production…
I always begin my sequence of cover design by setting up the front cover to the trim size at 300 dpi resolution, for print. I also set up any images I import as bitmaps, to 32-bit, CMYK* image formatting. This is the color “space” for print. It means larger file sizes, but it is easy enough to “re-sample” the image down to 24-bit RGB* for eBook covers later. That way I’m always working from larger to smaller, making the best resolution images work into the design as well as possible. I also work in a vector-based program, for the page layout and typography so that the clarity of overlaid text and titling is independent of the resolution of underlying illustration or photo imaging. Since my books all go into print, I will choose images that wrap around a print cover so that I can carry the reader’s eye around the spine to the back to read the blurb and the “buy this” motivator. I can easily crop the results to the page size and resolution for an eBook cover, and it creates a nice continuity of design between the two kinds of books among my titles. I realize that not all writers are equipped to do their own cover design and production, but every writer should take some time to learn a bit about the process and try to be conversant in “design-ese” for more effective communication with the design and illustration pros you will engage.

The Results…
At the end of the day, you can wear more than one hat at once, it turns out. If you can keep the end results in mind, while focusing upon the writing by implementing some of the downstream basics in your default draft writing setup, you’ll save yourself a lot of aggravation later. In this way, you can write your drafts as free as a writer, but invisibly constrained for eventual production needs by your clever choices of defaults in your software. Give it a try and see.

Late Addition…

Word loves to make everything easy for you. It gives you all those neat, pre-formatted “buttons” on the toolbar with different kinds of headings on them so one-click will be enough to set your chapter heads and titles, etc. apart from the text, visually. Unfortunately they come with a lot of baggage. When Word sees a heading, it automatically creates a hidden, numerical bookmark. Those bookmarks exist in the document whether you link to them manually in your Table of Contents, or not. They don’t affect the creation of an appropriate pdf file to upload to Kindle KDP, but they do create serious issues with a working, linked TofC in an ePub or many other formats and have to be removed manually from the file in order to convert properly to these additional eBook formats. Of course, if you want to put all your eggs in the Amazon Basket, no problems. If, however, you’d like to make your books available to people who read using a Nook, Sony iPhone or other reader, you’ll need to make sure these are not present in your compatible .doc upload interior file. The way I do it for my own work, is to write the entire draft using only the normal text designation/format. I then, go back and select each title or chapter head and add the larger point size, bold and ital as needed, from the HOME tab, not using the Headings buttons. This way, there are few Word fingerprints on the resulting file to confuse and annoy conversion processes in various formats. Jus’ sayin’.

# # # #

*CMYK v. RGB These are the two color models used to reproduce images. CMYK — named for Cyan, Magenta, Yellow Black. These are the ink colors used in industry-standard color printing for a paper book. Their visible transmission of the light is reflective. RGB — named for Red Green Blue. These are the primary colors of the three beams of light used in a monitor to create 16.7 Million colors, plus. From a monitor or reading device, the light that is visible is transmitted directly to the eye, not reflected off the page. These two color models are different but they can be easily manipulated individually and optimized for their intended use.

As always your comments and questions are always welcome!