Saturday, December 17, 2011

The Structure of WATERSPELL

I’m about to settle down with the manuscript of WATERSPELL Book 3: The Wisewoman to make my final revisions and get it ready for a Spring 2012 release. While sorting my notes, I found a triangle I had sketched as a visual summary of how the trilogy is structured.


At the base—that is, at the bottom tip of this downward-pointing triangle—we find The Wisewoman: she who is the instigating character, the one who gets the ball rolling.

The upward-sloping left leg of the triangle represents Book 1: The Warlock. The wisewoman (Megella, pronounced Meg-Ella) sends Carin off on her quest, then remains in the background as that initial part of the story unfolds.

The top line of the structure represents Book 2: The Wysard. In this, the middle segment, Carin and Verek continue the quest, with Megella deep in the background, barely mentioned. As depicted in this little diagram of mine, during Book 2 Megella is visually and literally removed from the main action.

It’s in Book 3: The Wisewoman that Megella comes into her own. The rightmost leg of the triangle takes us back toward the beginning, back toward the woman who started things moving in the first place. In Book 3, Meg steps into the foreground, joining Carin and Verek and taking a prominent role as they conclude the quest.


The fascinating thing is: A downward-pointing triangle is the alchemical symbol for water! Get it? WATER-SPELL?

You might think I must have fully understood this structure before I began writing. But no: It only came into focus when I was deep into the writing of Book 3.

Something tells me, however, that the wisewoman has always seen how things connect. From the beginning, she’s been aware of her place at the core of the whole complex framework.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

A Glossary of Good Old Words

“The difference between the almost-right word and the right word is really a large matter—it’s the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning. ... A powerful agent is the right word. Whenever we come upon one of those intensely right words in a book or a newspaper the resulting effect is physical as well as spiritual, and electrically prompt.”
—Mark Twain

“Short words are best and the old words when short are best of all.”
—Winston Churchill

“In the expression of the emotions originality merits the first consideration.... The words used, however, should be old ones.”
—Fujiwara no Teika (1162-1241)

Finding the right words for WATERSPELL—words with the flavor of medieval speech and the patina of age on them; words possessing the virtue of brevity—became a great treasure hunt, luring me into hundred-year-old dictionaries, enriching me with the troves of golden synonyms that make English such a versatile tongue, and delighting me with the color and variety of the language as it once was used. Here is a glossary of terms from the trilogy that you may find as intriguing, in their unfamiliarity or their long history, as I did.

Key: Where possible, I’ve told what sort of word or phrase it is (dialectal English, old slang, archaic, chiefly Scottish, etc.) or named the date or the century of its origins in English (14c, etc.). Terms from the fictitious Ladrehdinian language (Lad) are boldface and italic, and you’ll just have to take my word that they mean what I say they do.

“You can be a little ungrammatical if you come from the right part of the country.”
—Robert Frost

arrah: Irish expression of surprise or excitement

bannock: a flat bread or cake of oatmeal or barley meal (British Celtic, before 1000)

bantling: a very young child (16c)

bedizened: dressed or adorned gaudily (1661)

betony: a plant of the mint family, used in medicine and dyeing (before 1000)

bindweed: a twining plant (vine) that wraps around and strangles whatever it grows upon (16c)

blackguard: scoundrel, villain (16c)

blackheart: warlock, witch, wizard or wysard, sorcerer (Lad)

blencathar: blind cave salamander (Lad)

bloodguilt: guilt resulting from bloodshed (16c)

bowstring: to strangle with the string of an archer's bow (14c)

bray: to crush or grind, as seeds in a mortar (14c)

buskins: laced boots (16c)

byre: barn (before 12c)

cadger: one who gets what he wants by imposing on another's generosity or friendship (Scots, 13c)

calendula: pot marigold; herb with showy, musky-scented flowers, used medicinally (1789)

callet-fish: cuttlefish (Lad)

caltrop: a device with four metal points so arranged that when any three are on the ground the fourth projects upward as a hazard to the hooves of horses (15c)

cant: lively, lusty (dial Eng, 14c)

cantrip: witch's trick, magic spell (Scot—probably an alteration of "caltrop")

carking: burdensome, annoying (16c)

casque-bug: insect of Lad. with a shape suggestive of a helmet (casque)

chalse: magical shackle or fetter (Lad)

chit: a pert young woman (16c)

clewbird: a bird of Lad. with fluffy feathers that give it a rounded shape suggestive of a ball of yarn (a clew) (before 12c)

cockcrow: dawn (13c)

costrel: a water bottle similar to a canteen, flat on one side to nestle nicely against the body for easy carrying (14c)

cyhnaith: a powdered healing herb, bronze in color and hotter than hell (Lad)

darkling: in the dark; vaguely threatening or menacing (15c)

dhera: a tart, sweet liquor made from currants (Lad)

didnae: didn't (Scots Eng)

farsinchia: netherworld of the damned; the infernal regions; hell (Lad)

faugh: interjection used to express disgust or abhorrence (16c)

fay: fairy, elf (14c)

fetch-life: wraith that fetches the soul of a dying person

feverfew: herb used as a remedy for fever and headache (15c)

fey: fated to die, or marked by an otherworldly air or attitude (Scots, before 12c)

fìleen: a term of endearment (Lad, akin to "filly" and the Irish "colleen" combined)

firedrake: a fire-breathing dragon (before 12c)

firestone: pyrite used for striking fire; flint (before 12c)

firkin: a unit of capacity equal to 1/4 barrel (14c)

firstling: the first of a kind; the first result; first offspring (16c)

footle: talk or act foolishly; waste time (1892)

footling: lacking judgment or ability; lacking use or value; trivial (1897)

forfend: ward off; prevent (14c)

gê: earth, ground (Lad, akin to Greek "geo")

gillie: a (young) male attendant or servant (Scottish Gaelic and Irish, 1705)

glenondew: antacid (Lad)

hell-wain: hell wagon (before 12c)

hyweldda: potion for treating concussion (Lad)

jennet: female donkey (15c)

kitling: young creature (Brit. dial., 13c)

knacker: buyer of worn-out domestic animals or their carcasses to use as animal food or for their hides (1812—probably from Eng. dial. "saddlemaker")

Lake Maidens: Welsh fairies of the underworld, whose entrance to the human world is by the lakes

lathy: thin and narrow like a lath (13c)

lay: a narrative poem (13c)

lurcher: one who lurks; spy (archaic)

Macassar-Oil: an oil used as a hairdressing (1800)

minx: a pert, impudent girl

numbles: animal entrails used as food (13c)

quillwort: a fernlike, aquatic plant with quill-like leaves

ravening: rapacious; voracious (16c)

recto: right-hand page of an open book; on the right-hand leaf

reiver: raider (Scots, before 12c)

savitar: mythical monster similar to a dragon (Lad)

scrag: execute by hanging or garroting; wring the neck of; choke, manhandle; kill, murder (1752)

’scried/’scrying: shortened form of “descried/descrying”—finding out; discovering (14c)

scurf: dandruff (before 12c)

skimble-skamble: rambling or confused; senseless (16c)

slipstone: fine-grained sharpening stone for putting an edge on a knife

smallclothes: underclothes

spade: a unit of length (dimension unknown; this use of the word spade comes from “The Banshee of the MacCarthys,” in Irish Fairy & Folk Tales: “My mother ... asked Leary ... how far we were from Mr. Bourke's? ‘’Tis about ten spades from this to the cross [crossroad], and we have then only to turn to the left into the avenue, ma'am.’”)

span: the distance from the end of the thumb to the end of the little finger of a spread hand; equal to 9 inches (before 12c)

sprat: a small or young fish; by extension, a young, small, or insignificant person

starveling: one who is thin from lack of food (16c)

stone: a unit of weight, equal to 14 lbs. (before 12c)

strap oil, dose of: punishment (old slang, from "a flogging with a strap")

tatterdemalion: a person dressed in ragged clothing (1608)

tench: a freshwater food fish (14c)

trull: loose woman, strumpet (16c)

unchancy: dangerous (Scot—16c)

varlet: a base unprincipled person; knave (15c)

verso: left-hand page of an open book

vetiver: long, fragrant roots of a grass yielding an aromatic oil

wencel: child, girl (Old Eng, giving rise to "wench," 13c)

whiffet: a small, young, or unimportant person

wight: a living being; creature (before 12c)

woad: an herb yielding blue dyestuff from its leaves (before 12c)

woundwort: a plant of the mint family, used medicinally (16c)

Lest enthusiasm run away with me, another line of good advice is:

"In composing, as a general rule, run your pen through every other word you have written; you have no idea what vigor it will give your style."
—Sydney Smith, Lady Holland's Memoir (1855)

Saturday, December 10, 2011


They’re here! The NOOK Book editions of WATERSPELL Books 1 and 2 are now available for download:

Book 1: The Warlock (Nook book) $2.99
Book 2: The Wysard (Nook book) $2.99

Barnes & Noble was kind of slow on the uptake. Amazon has had the Kindle Editions available for many days now:

Kindle Edition—Book 1: The Warlock $2.99
Kindle Edition—Book 2: The Wysard $2.99

Amazon also has the advantage in showing more of the book details, including a synopsis or Book Description of each title. I hope Barnes & Noble will eventually add a Description of each. Heaven knows, I’ve done my best to make the information available, to wit:

Drawn into the schemes of an angry wizard, Carin glimpses the place she once called home. It lies upon a shore that seems unreachable. To learn where she belongs, and how to get there, the teenage traveler must decipher the words of an alien book, follow the clues in a bewitched poem, conjure a dragon from a pool of magic—and tread carefully around a seductive but volatile, emotionally scarred sorcerer who can’t seem to decide whether to love her or kill her.

After blundering into the last stronghold of magic, Carin discovers that she is right to fear the wizard Verek. He is using her to seal the ruptures in the void, and she may be nothing more to him than an expendable weapon. What will he do with her—or to her—when his world is again secure? Or has he erred in believing that the last bridge has been broken? The quest may not, in fact, be over … and Lord Verek may find himself not quite as willing to dispose of his fiery water-sylph, Carin, as he once believed himself to be.

Author Kathy Lay has posted an insightful interview with author and bookseller Cerelle Woods. Cerelle says: “There’s just nothing better than seeing a kid come in with that light in their eyes, on FIRE about an author or a series. The truth is that it’s usually a series. … Kids love series … love to keep reading about their favorite characters.”

Ah, yes. I remember my own childhood adoration of Madeleine L’Engle, Andre Norton, and Jim Kjelgaard. I scarfed up everything I could find by them. I also had the complete Trixie Belden series.

I’m still crazy for series. Harry Potter, of course. The Chronicles of Narnia. Anne McCaffrey’s Pern books. The Brother Cadfael books. I could go on for pages. There’s something warmly welcoming about a series, where you know the characters and a lot of their backstory. And as the series progresses, the reader is often treated to fascinating new details about the characters. Only late in the Brother Cadfael books do we learn the whole story of Cadfael’s life as a soldier and his missed opportunities with the son he didn’t know he had.

Reading a series is like living a life. Short stories? Not my favorite—they’re over too quick. Give me a long series of long, intricate books—with a cup of good coffee in hand—and I’ll rate myself among the happiest people on the planet.

Thank you, Kathy and Cerelle, for the interview. Good job, good information.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Do Readers Dislike Suspense?

Here's a "Health & Science" news brief from the 9/2/11 THE WEEK magazine that I found fascinating:

Mysteries without mystery

Have you ever been tempted to flip to the end of a mystery novel? Go ahead. Suspense, a new study has found, is irrelevant to our enjoyment of a story. In fact, say researchers at the University of California at San Diego, most people like stories more if they know in advance how they end--even with plots that hinge on a mystery or a twist. The researchers set up different versions of 12 short stories written by authors such as Agatha Christie, Raymond Carver, and Anton Chekhov. One came with an introduction that spoiled the ending; one had a spoiler embedded in the middle of the text; and a third appeared just as its author had written it. Surprisingly, readers who learned the endings of their stories up front reported liking them much more on a scale of one to 10 than did readers of the other two versions. Why? The pleasure readers get from a good story, researcher Jonathan Leavitt tells, has far more to do with the quality of the writing and character development than with a nail-biting plot. Once a reader knows how a story turns out, Leavitt says, he or she "can focus on a deeper understanding of the story."

Interesting! That was my experience with the final Harry Potter book. I enjoyed reading it a second time far more than I liked the first time. On the reread, I knew how it would turn out, so instead of worrying about the fate of Harry, Hermione, Ron, or Hagrid, I could just focus on the writing and the interactions between the characters.

The UC-San Diego study seems to contradict what so many New York editors say they want: a "high-concept" (i.e., gimmicky) plot. What readers really want may be good writing. But many times I have witnessed the NY crowd treating the quality of the writing as irrelevant, while looking for nothing in a story except a tricky or "commercial" plot or gimmick.

Food for thought!

The complete article at BBC News:

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Facebook: Personal Profile or Author Page?

Not a week ago, I was saying I didn’t want to join Facebook. But a friend who’s much more of a Luddite than I am said she thought I’d enjoy it. And then I read a good article in by Farhad Manjoo: “Everyone else is on Facebook. Why aren’t you?

Manjoo covers all my objections: that it’s just something else to distract a human from the business of real life; that it keeps people at the computer when we already spend WAY too much time at the computer; that a writer updating her Facebook page is a writer who's not writing; that Facebook “friends” don’t substitute for the real thing; that it’s a gross invasion of privacy; etc. etc.

I won’t repeat all the points Manjoo makes in rebuttal. I’ll just give you the link again so you can read the article for yourself.


Deborah J. Lightfoot


Manjoo convinced me: Today I joined Facebook. I did it in a small way, with an “Author Page” instead of a personal profile.

From what I think I know about it all, an Author Page seems like it’ll be less work than a personal profile. Whatever I post to my Author Page will be wholly public—viewable by everyone, the same as my blog.

Which means I won’t have to keep track of various groups. I’ve heard that some Facebook users restrict their high school buddies to one group, their college friends to another, and their friends from work to yet another. Egads! I’m not that organized. I’d rather have one page with book-related content that’s viewable by everyone.

One friend from my childhood commented, a year or so ago, that she’d looked for me on Facebook but didn’t find me there. So then she Googled my name and found my website.

I suppose now I’ll be findable on Facebook. That’s sort of the point—I think.

It’s not like I was actively keeping my light under a bushel, pre-Facebook. I’ve had a website since 2000. Then I got another one through The Authors Guild. Then I set up a WATERSPELL-only site at The Authors Guild. Then I got a page at SCBWI, the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. And of course there are pages devoted to my backlist books from my other life: The LH7 Ranch, Trail Fever, and A Century in the Works.

Now there are pages at Amazon and Barnes & Noble devoted to my new novels: WATERSPELL Book 1: The Warlock and WATERSPELL Book 2: The Wysard. And I’ve got a profile page at Smashwords.

I was pretty easily findable pre-Facebook. But now maybe I’ll be where people expect me to be. If Facebook serves a useful purpose, perhaps it is in the site’s ability to pull together a big chunk of the world’s population, all under one roof.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Passion Between the Pages

In The Life of Charlotte Brontë (1857), Charlotte’s friend and biographer, Elizabeth Gaskell, described Charlotte’s reaction to the success of her novel Jane Eyre. Elizabeth had asked Charlotte “whether the popularity to which the novel attained had taken her by surprise.”

This, wrote Gaskell, was Charlotte’s response:

“She hesitated a little, and then said: ‘I believed that what had impressed me so forcibly when I wrote it, must make a strong impression on any one who read it. I was not surprised at those who read ‘Jane Eyre’ being deeply interested in it; but I hardly expected that a book by an unknown author could find readers.’”

I love the honesty of Charlotte’s answer. Many writers would have felt compelled to say they were “shocked, simply shocked” to have produced such a success as Jane Eyre. But Charlotte knew the strength of her words. I suspect she would only have been shocked had people not found her novel to be compulsively readable.

It’s the difference between writing with passion—writing from the heart—versus writing that is little more than an intellectual exercise, or a cynical attempt at producing something the market will deem “commercial.” The books that have stayed with me are the books that reveal something of the author’s heart and soul. They’ve got fire. Between the pages, they seethe with passion. Not (necessarily) passion of the romantic sort, but the kind of passion that has the writer up at 2 a.m., pounding the keys.

I can’t say for sure (since I don’t know him personally), but I suspect that Philip Pullman poured a lot of himself into His Dark Materials, the trilogy that begins with The Golden Compass. And I’d be willing to wager that Ursula K. Le Guin grew a bit obsessed with her Earthsea universe. She started the books in 1968 with A Wizard of Earthsea and was still writing about the world of Earthsea in 2001.

That’s what I want from a writer: Passion. Obsession. Fire in the belly.

When I was writing the first two books of my WATERSPELL trilogy, I took time to record some thoughts about the process and post them on what is now my oldest website. At WATERSPELL: Interview With the Author, I said:

“Writing WATERSPELL became an obsession. I couldn’t let it alone. I’d be up until 2 or 3 in the morning, then spring out of bed after a few hours’ sleep and start pounding the keyboard again. It was an exhilarating experience. There’s something mystical about being awake in the middle of the night, hearing voices in your head as the characters talk to each other—or shout at each other, as is often the case with Carin and Verek—and typing as fast as you can to get the whole confrontation down on paper in ‘real time,’ while the characters are speaking.”

I fervently hope the passion and the immediacy that I felt while the story poured out of me is still there on the page for the reader today. I feel tolerably confident that it is. Everyone who read WATERSPELL in manuscript told me they couldn’t put it down.

Now the books are out there, published, in the real world, and I’m hoping readers will find these two fantasy novels by an unknown writer. Everyone tells me to get on Facebook, but I value my privacy too much to willingly surrender my entire existence to that particularly insinuative social-media platform.

So for now, I’ll just drop a line to virtually everyone in my e-mail address book. You say you only hear from me when I’ve got new books to promote? Well, what would you expect? When I’m writing, I don’t have time to e-mail you.

Such is a writer’s social life. We end up socializing with no one except other writers. Writers understand when a fellow author drops out of sight for months at a time. “Normal people” just think it’s rude. Normal people don’t understand how deeply abnormal a truly passionate writer can be. Bleeding on the keyboard is not the healthiest way to spend one’s life. But it’s likely to produce books that achieve what the writer set out to do.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

WATERSPELL E-Books for Kindle and Nook

WATERSPELL Book 1: The Warlock and Book 2: The Wysard are available as Kindle e-books for $2.99 each.

If you have a Nook instead, you can download the .epub versions at Smashwords (Book 1 here and Book 2 here) and sideload them onto your Nook. Or just wait a week or two, and both books will be available from Barnes & Noble for direct purchase and downloading to your Nook.

Sign up to receive my blog posts in your e-mail (see "Follow by Email," below right) and I’ll tell you as soon as the Nook books are available via Barnes & Noble.


Many people complain about the difficulties of formatting their books for publishing at Smashwords. I, too, balked at the 72-page Smashwords Style Guide that Mark Coker posted. I read only about half of it before I threw up my hands and just dove in.

And quickly enough, I learned what works well and what doesn’t work when you’re formatting a Word .doc file to upload. Most importantly, I learned to use the Heading 1 style for chapter titles and anything else that should show up as a clickable or “tappable” item in the Contents sidebar.

I also learned to set a first-line indent in the paragraph’s Normal style instead of using the Tab key to indent paragraphs. And I figured out pretty quick that, when centering text, I must remove that first-line indent from the Centered style, or the centered text would be pushed slightly over to the right.

I now consider myself something of a Smashwords expert. The Book 1: The Warlock and Book 2: The Wysard .epub files that I produced at Smashwords look perfect on my Nook. The .mobi files also look great on the free Kindle reading app for PC that I installed on my computer.


Since Smashwords does not yet distribute to Amazon, I also went to Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) so Amazon customers could more easily download my books to their Kindles.

Good gracious, what a hassle! The same Word .doc that uploaded seamlessly at Smashwords did not work well at KDP.

Problem 1: No paragraph indents. During conversion to the Kindle format, the 0.25" paragraph indent disappeared throughout both books.

Problem 2: Dropped italics. Also during the Kindle conversion, some—not all—italics disappeared. This was as serious a problem as the lack of paragraph indents. I use italics to indicate internal dialogue. Without that visual cue, some passages of WATERSPELL were rendered nearly unintelligible.

I searched around and found out how to “Modify Converted Content.” It turns out that the Kindle format is HTML. To restore my paragraph indents and my italics, I had to download the HTML file off KDP, unzip it, and open and edit the HTML file with Microsoft Word.

Restoring the paragraph indents was merely a matter of editing the underlying style. That took seconds.

It required hours, however, to “Compare Documents”—KDP’s HTML file against my original Word document—to identify all instances of dropped italics. I paged through the comparison file, and every time I found text tagged “Not Italic” I had to locate that passage in the HTML file and reapply the italics. Maddening!

Finally, however, I got both books repaired. Then I had to “re-zip” my edited HTML, which I didn’t know how to do. A quick search online, however, found these instructions:

“Highlight the files you want to zip and right-click, then on the menu tab, hover over ‘send to’ — there’s an option in there for sending to ‘compressed (zipped) folder’ — click that and you're done.”

Bless you, Queber, author of this tip.

I re-zipped both books and uploaded them back to KDP. And as far as I can tell, by perusing a sample of each using my desktop Kindle Reader app, my edits held. The paragraphs are properly indented now, and the internal dialogue is once again italicized.


All things considered, I’ve found Smashwords far easier to work with than KDP. Though some people speak disparagingly about Smashwords’ “meat grinder,” I have been perfectly satisfied with the quality of the e-book conversions there. My e-books come out error-free—which is more than I can say for KDP.


Here’s a list of everything I’ve published, to date, via Smashwords. All of these items are available as Nook Books. To find them, just search on your Nook for “seven rivers publishing.” (My WATERSPELL e-books aren’t in the official Barnes & Noble Nook catalog as of this writing, but they’ll appear soon.)

WATERSPELL Book 1: The Warlock $0.99 (Limited-time discount price)

And for those with Kindles, you can sample and purchase my WATERSPELL e-books here:

What fun! This is a lot of work, but I’m enjoying the chance to learn new things. I also love being the mistress of my own fate.

"Life is something like a trumpet.
If you don't put anything in,
you won't get anything out."
—Composer W.C. Handy

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

How to Read E-Books Without an E-Reader Device

     To open and read an e-book, you don’t need to own an e-reader device like a Kindle or a Nook. Just download the free software that lets you use your computer or smartphone to enjoy e-books. The programs are quick to download and install, and they’re easy and fun to use.


To open a Kindle (.mobi) file, download a free Kindle Reading App. Choose from the list shown here for the iPhone, Windows PC, Mac, BlackBerry, iPad, or Android phone.


To open and read a NOOK or Sony Reader (.epub) e-book on your computer, download Adobe Digital Editions.


Barnes & Noble also has free NOOK apps for various devices: iPad, iPhone, Android, PC, and Mac.


     Installing and using these free applications is a great way to experience the rapidly expanding world of e-books. Try them all, and decide which suits you best before you go out and buy a NOOK or a Kindle. Or save your money and just use the free e-book apps on your laptop or smartphone.

     E-books are so much cheaper than printed books, I'm surprised by the number of people who are resisting the change-over. If everybody who uses a computer would install an e-reader app, then buy a few $2.99 e-books, they'd see why some of us longtime readers have rapidly come to prefer e-books over print books.

    The e-books of my five-star-rated WATERSPELL fantasy trilogy are a mere $2.99 each:

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

WATERSPELL Paperbacks on Sale Everywhere!

The online bookstores have caught on: WATERSPELL Books 1 and 2 (paperbacks) are now available through both Amazon and Barnes & Noble:

Barnes & Noble:


The covers have not yet shown up at Amazon, and the Book Descriptions are missing at Barnes & Noble—leaving me to wonder why the booksellers don’t just import the complete bibliographic info from either Bowker—Books in Print or from the Lightning Source catalogs (the daily catalogs LSI provides to its U.S. and international distribution partners). But it’s a start—10 days after the official publication date, the WATERSPELL paperbacks are for sale pretty much everywhere.


It’s easy to see why readers prefer e-books to either paperbacks or hardcovers. The WATERSPELL paperbacks sell for (Book 1) $17 and (Book 2) $18, for a total outlay of $35 for the set.

Compare that to a typical e-book price of $3, $5, or $9 for thick fantasy novels like mine. Any rational person will prefer the e-books.

I chose to release WATERSPELL in both formats, however, because I wanted hard copies to take to events, to send to reviewers, and to satisfy all the folks who continue to tell me they want “real” books, not e-books. I’m confident they’ll come around to e-books eventually. With the paperbacks, I’m just humoring them until they figure out that e-books are a much better deal.


Here’s why the WATERSPELL paperbacks cost so much—

Cost of printing = $5.89 (384 pages x .013 print cost per page + .90 unit cost per book)
Wholesale price = $8.47 (the price the retailers pay for each book—a 50% discount off the list price)

Cost of printing = $6.67 (444 pages x .013 print cost per page + .90 unit cost per book)
Wholesale price = $8.98 (the price the retailers pay per book—a 50% discount off list)

The list price is twice the wholesale price—that's standard. It means the retail outlets—Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc.—are making a profit of $17.45 on each two-book set.

The publisher, however, makes only $4.89 on each two-book set. Add up the wholesale price (8.47 + 8.98 = 17.45) and then subtract the cost of printing (5.89 + 6.67 = 12.56) and that leaves a profit to the publisher of $4.89. That’s less than a third as much as the retailers make.

To show these numbers another way:

A reader buys both books and pays full list price of $34.90
The bookseller receives half that total, for a profit of $17.45
The printer gets most of what’s left: printing cost of $12.56
The publisher and author share the rest of the money: $4.89

From this, it’s apparent that paperbacks and hardcovers are expensive because everyone in the production and sales chain makes a tidy profit. The reader pays dearly, yet the publisher/author gets little of the money: In this example, the publisher/author gets only 14% of what the reader pays. Assuming a 10% royalty to the author—$3.49—the poor publisher makes only $1.40.

Which is why e-books are destined to take over the industry. Why pay for ink on paper when the same book can be published electronically for a fraction of the cost?


Some of you are following my “adventures with Accurance,” the company I hired to help me produce my books. I have detailed Task 1: The Covers Are Finished and Task 2: The Text Formatting Is Finished.

My next posting about Accurance will be Task 3: Print Setup and Distribution. Obviously the “print setup” has been accomplished. The paperbacks are now available.

But I’m still trying to figure out what Accurance means by “distribution.” When I get my questions answered, I’ll blog about that part of the process.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

WATERSPELL Paperbacks Are Now On Sale!

They’re in print! WATERSPELL Books 1 and 2, The Warlock and The Wysard, are now available through “normal distribution channels.”

Lightning Source, the printer, defines those channels as, Barnes & NobleIngram, and Baker & Taylor.

The official publication date was October 31, 2011.

The Book 1 ($16.95) and Book 2 ($17.95) paperbacks have already shown up at Amazon, but the covers are not displayed there yet.

Conversely, the covers are gloriously shown (Book 1 and Book 2) at Borders in Australia. But Down Under, the books are shown as “Out of Stock.”

I trust that all the booksellers will post the complete and correct ordering info, sooner rather than later. For now, I’m just delighted that the paperbacks are officially in existence and on sale.

For books this thick (approx. 400 pages each), the e-book editions are going to be less expensive, and therefore more appealing to fantasy readers who like long books but don’t want to lug around volumes that weigh a pound or more.

The e-book editions of both titles should be available later in November.

I’m doing a happy little dance as I type. These books have been my grand obsession for quite a long time, and now they’re finally finished, published, and on sale.

Next, I must get back to final revisions on WATERSPELL Book 3: The Wisewoman, to have it ready for paperback and e-book publication in Spring 2012.


Saturday, October 15, 2011

Manuscripts: Shred ’Em or Store ’Em?

A recent Angie’s List “Big Deal” offered mobile shredding at a deep discount. Sierra Shred of Frisco, Texas, will come out to my place and shred 600 pounds of sensitive documents for just $65—half off the normal price.

Since signing up for a visit from Sierra’s shredder truck, I’ve been busy going through closets and file cabinets, gathering up ancient tax return documents, bank statements, canceled checks, credit card statements and the like. What a joy it will be to see that clutter get safely shredded and hauled off for recycling.


Other piles of paper are giving me pause, however. I have old drafts of my WATERSPELL trilogy going back for … well, going back a lot of years (more than I care to confess).

I know I don’t need to keep all those drafts. But I’ve never been comfortable tossing complete manuscripts—even draft manuscripts—into the regular recycled-paper bin. It’s not like I’m a famous author whose fans will go dumpster-diving to get a pre-release peak at my latest creation. Even so: I’ve been boxing my old drafts rather than let my husband take them to our neighborhood recycling center along with our junk mail, expired magazines, and exhausted newspapers.

Now’s my chance to permanently dispose of those old drafts. Once they are shredded, I can rest easy knowing that my intellectual property is safe from dumpster-divers.


Yet, I’m reluctant to get rid of ALL my drafts. The incremental ones can go—those with only cleanup edits from printout to printout.

I’ve decided to save the oldest drafts, however, and any that show the deep revisions I made as I progressed in my understanding of the history I was recording. The world of WATERSPELL became a very real place to me during all the years I spent learning about it, its inhabitants, and its history. To throw away my archives would be a vandalic act.

But at least I can reduce the volume of stored manuscripts by a third or more. And maybe when I become famous (!) a well-known research library will ask me for my draft manuscripts so students and scholars can follow the evolution of WATERSPELL from start to finish.

I’d best keep the phone number for Sierra Shred, though, in case nobody ever expresses a burning desire to study my authorial process. (Hmm … Maybe it’s best that no one but my closest writer-friends ever see those earliest drafts.)


All this spring-cleaning activity (never mind that it's fall—I do my spring cleaning as the spirit moves me) inspired me to post a de-cluttering essay at Smashwords.

It's free—please help yourself to "SIMPLE GREEN: Confessions of a Former Earthchild" at

Here's the synopsis:
SIMPLE GREEN: CONFESSIONS OF A FORMER EARTHCHILD, by a semi-lapsed environmentalist, is a rumination on keepsakes and mementos and how best to Reduce, Reuse, & Recycle them after somebody dies and leaves all their stuff behind—a life’s residue, inevitably destined for the landfill, unless a sentimental collector intervenes. A personal essay/memoir by Deborah J. Lightfoot, author of the WATERSPELL fantasy trilogy.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

TASK 2: The Text Formatting Is Finished

Oh happy day! It’s been like pulling teeth to get to this point, but FINALLY the Accurance Group has finished the interior formatting for WATERSPELL Book 1: The Warlock, and also for Book 2: The Wysard.

I expected this part of the process to be quick and easy. They took the text straight from my Word .doc files and formatted it as printable PDFs with running heads and justified margins. “What could go wrong?” I asked myself.

Let me count the ways:


ORIGINAL OUTPUT (8/22/2011): They omitted all of the front matter that I’d supplied: copyright page, dedication, Contents page, epigraph.

FIRST REVISION (9/6/2011): They inserted the front matter OK, but they introduced a typo (theirs, not mine) into the dedication page, a strange, stray hyphen: “an–d its sequels.”

SECOND REVISION (9/14/2011): Whereas I’d been expecting this run of galley proofs to be the final, clean copy, they inexplicably fouled up the established, customer-approved pagination scheme. They dropped the blank book-page (a page that we’d intentionally left blank) after the Prologue, with the result that all of the pages from Chapter 1 to the end of the book were no longer correctly numbered. They replaced the formerly correct page numbers on the Contents page with the now-incorrect page numbers. Instead of centering the epigraph on the page facing the Prologue, they set it flush-left. And they mistakenly slapped running heads on the first page of the Prologue and the first page of Chapter 1. (I described this mess in detail at "Me, My Team, and DIY.")

THIRD REVISION (9/17/2011): Things got quite interesting at this point. Previously, the first line of the book’s title, on the title page, had been set in the font shown at left. I wasn’t crazy about it, but it was readable and I was OK with it. But suddenly, on this particular proof run, that first line showed up in Mistral (calligraphic—second image at left).

 “Wow!” I thought. “Somebody is finally taking an interest in this project. They’ve given some thought to how a faux-medieval fantasy novel should be presented.” I’m not sure I would have chosen Mistral, if I’d been doing the choosing, but I was so pleased to see a glimmer of interest on the part of the typesetter, I happily accepted this change of typefaces.

But the danged epigraph was still not right. They’d finally got it centered left-to-right, but it was crowding the top margin. While all of this back-and-forth had been happening with Book 1, Accurance had successfully finished the page formatting for Book 2. And the Book 2 epigraph was attractively centered on its page, both horizontally and vertically (top-to-bottom as well as left-to-right). Of course, I wanted the Book 1 epigraph to be presented the same as the Book 2 epigraph (this is a series, after all); and so that is what I requested.

FOURTH REVISION (9/30/2011): Oh my God! Will you LOOK at what they did to the first line of the title, on the title page? Without authorization—without a word of permission from me—they changed the font from Mistral to some kind of dreadful Edwardian script. Nothing could be less appropriate for these world-hopping science-fictional fantasy novels of mine. I almost puked. (I fully lost my temper.)

On the plus side, the epigraph had finally found its proper spot in the middle of the page facing the Prologue, but the line-breaks within the epigraph were still not correct. No matter how many times I said to “Set it up like the epigraph in job # 8917” (their number for my Book 2), they had failed to do it.

Of course, by this point I would have let the danged epigraph go, in the interest of moving these books along to the next process. (I was hoping for an October release date for the POD paperbacks, but that’s unlikely to happen now.)

Under no circumstances, however, could I accept that horrible Edwardian script on the title page. So I sent the proofs back for yet another run.

FIFTH REVISION (10/4/2011): Oh happy day! Mistral is back on the title page, the Book 1 epigraph finally looks like the Book 2 epigraph, I’ve signed off on the galley proofs, and we can finally go to the next step. It’s taken at least two weeks longer than it should have to get to this point, but at last we can proceed.


The package of services I bought from includes (1) cover design, (2) interior formatting, (3) print publishing setup and distribution, and (4) e-book conversion and distribution.

Now that we’re finally finished with steps 1 and 2—covers and interiors—I’m hoping that steps 3 and 4—POD publishing (Lightning Source) and e-book distribution—will move along quickly and simultaneously.

If you can stand the suspense, keep checking here on my blog. I’ll continue to post progress reports.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

FOUR STAR FUNERALS: An Anthology About Death

It’s published! The e-book written by the members of the Four Star Critique Group is now available at Smashwords:

We’re proud of it. This is our first venture, as a group, into e-publishing. Without doubt, we’ll do more.

Cover art copyright © 2011
by David R. Davis
FOUR STAR FUNERALS: AN ANTHOLOGY ABOUT DEATH (in three parts: Memoir, Poetry, & Fiction) packs the emotional wallop of Titanic, darkened with a dash of Tales From the Crypt. This 10-author anthology about death and its aftershocks will sear your soul, make you laugh … and ultimately help you heal, if you’re haunted by a death that has upended your emotions in ways you never expected.

By Ann Barrington, David R. Davis, Melissa Russell Deur, Patricia Holland, Kathryn Lay, Deborah J. Lightfoot, Martha Moore, Cecile Odell, Diane Roberts, and BJ Stone.

Click here to read about the history of this project.


After e-publishing our FUNERALS anthology today, I also published a short piece that’s in the same vein, but it didn’t quite fit in the collection. SIMPLE GREEN is available for free at Smashwords.

SIMPLE GREEN: CONFESSIONS OF A FORMER EARTHCHILD, by a semi-lapsed environmentalist, is a rumination on keepsakes and mementos and how best to Reduce, Reuse, & Recycle them after somebody dies and leaves all their stuff behind—a life’s residue, inevitably destined for the landfill, unless a sentimental collector intervenes. A personal essay/memoir by Deborah J. Lightfoot, author of the WATERSPELL fantasy trilogy.

 Please take a look. I hope you enjoy both books.

For free e-reader software (it lets you read e-books on your computer, if you don't have a Nook, Kindle, etc.) download Adobe Digital Editions.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Self-Editing: Using Your Brain (My First E-Book)

I have published my first e-book: SELF-EDITING: Bringing Out Your Best (Two Half Brains Make a Whole Writer). It’s at Smashwords for $0.99 (free until the end of September, using coupon code HF63Y).

Summary: "For writers in all genres, tips and tricks for (partially) computer-aided editing and for invoking the critical faculties of your logical left brain at just the right time. We’ll use the Find feature to locate predictable problems: 'ly' adverbs, overuse of commas, qualifiers that leech the life from writing. Then on to meatier matters of self-editing: eliminating wordiness, changing passive voice to active, when to show and how best to tell (with specifics, not generalities), subtlety, pacing, etc. Drawn from the presenter’s years of experience in newspaper, magazine, and book writing and editing, this e-book offers nuts-and-bolts advice on fixing common errors."


From this venture into e-publishing, I’ve learned several things:

It’s really difficult to control the look of an e-book. On my NOOK (in .epub format) my Self-Editing book looks great. All the block quotes and examples are properly indented and set off from the body of the text, and they are in the same size type as for the body, and thus they’re easy to read.

But when the book is viewed in a Web browser (in HTML) the block quotes are rendered in tiny type that’s almost impossible to read.

I can’t control the format that people choose to view, but I can recommend an e-book reader that gives digital books (.epub) a more pleasing configuration:

Adobe Digital Editions ( is free, it’s easy to use, and it faithfully preserves an e-book’s original formatting (including any clickable, embedded hyperlinks).


Cover art copyright (c) 2011 by David R. Davis
I hope I sell some copies of my new e-book, but my primary purpose is to get experience with the publishing interface so I’ll feel confident about publishing FOUR STAR FUNERALS, an anthology written by the members of my critique group. They are counting on me to get it right, and I’m finding that this e-publishing business can be simple (when you’re publishing your own work) but complicated when you’re acting as the publisher for other writers.

Smashwords offers a wordy document that purports to explain the process of “upgrading” to Publisher status. What it says about “ghost” accounts baffles me.

It also warns me: “DO NOT upgrade your account to Publisher status unless you plan to immediately publish two or more authors on Smashwords.”

Well, darn. That means I don’t get to practice it before I actually do it.

I shall persevere, however. This isn’t rocket science.

For now, I must settle down with the manuscript of FOUR STAR FUNERALS and reread my contributions to the anthology. It’s always best to proofread before publishing.


My thanks to David Davis for both covers: my SELF-EDITING book, and our collective FOUR STAR FUNERALS. I have no idea how to create e-book covers. I’m lucky to be able to call on David’s artistic talents.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Publishing: Me, My Team, and DIY

Today marks the one-month anniversary of me engaging the services of the Accurance Group to do interior formatting, cover design, POD paperback setup and distribution, and e-book conversion and distribution, for my WATERSPELL fantasy trilogy.

What have we accomplished since August 15?
  • All three covers are done (see them in the column at right). I’m very pleased with the covers, and I continue to get compliments on them.
  • I’ve seen and proofread (well, actually, my husband proofread) galley proofs of WATERSPELL Book 1: The Warlock (384 pages), and Book 2: The Wysard (440 pages).

The first run of galley proofs looked good except they were missing all the front matter (copyright page, dedication page, Contents, and epigraph). I took the opportunity, via Accurance’s “Galley Edits & Corrections Sheet,” to point out the oversights.

They did an excellent job then, incorporating the front matter in the second run of galleys. So when I sent them my final tweaks—a few minor refinements to the front matter and the “About the Author” page at the back of the book—I expected “my team” to whip out those changes in no time, and give me a finished set of error-free galleys, in PDF form.

But oops! They apparently entrusted my final tweaks to a newbie on their text-formatting team. The newbie had the temerity (or the poor judgment) to make changes where I had not indicated or authorized any. The most serious transgression was the newbie’s unilateral decision to drop the blank book-page that separated the Prologue (page 1) from the first page of Chapter 1. The dropping of the blank page (page 2) caused all of the pages from there to the end to be mis-numbered—out of sync with the page numbers on the Contents page.

Even sillier, the newbie added a page header to the top of the Prologue and on the first page of Chapter 1. She or he should know enough about book design to know that a chapter's opening page carries no running head.

So instead of having, in my possession, a finished set of error-free galleys for Book 1, I’ve sent back a third “Galley Edits & Corrections Sheet.” I’m hoping the production department will assign my original text-formatting team-member, and not allow the newbie to get anywhere near my books.


The only reason I’m blogging about this (relatively minor) snafu is that it makes me wonder: If changes like those I just described can be made in my book, without my authorization or permission, is there a possibility of more serious errors being introduced on pages that I have already proofread and approved?

The prospect makes my veins run ice. It is not physically or mentally possible to personally proofread every new output of 400-page galley proofs, looking for errors that creep in while my back is turned.

However, I believe I see a solution. When I finally receive a finished set of galley proofs, I can copy-and-paste the text from those PDFs into a new Microsoft Word document. I can then Compare Documents, comparing my original book file against Accurance’s text-formatting output, to assure myself that no creepy errors slipped in, between rounds of galley-edits.

When I first engaged the services of the Accurance Group, I committed myself to blog about the experience—the good, the great, the frustrating, or whatever I may yet encounter. My purpose in chronicling the entire process is to allow you, my fellow independent authors, to decide for yourself if you want to hire some help with your publishing ventures, or you want to do it all yourself.

If you decide to go solo, an excellent quick-start guide is Tricks, Tactics, and Techniques from Published Authors: Thoughts on Traditional vs. E-book Publishing, a brand-new e-book by my very well-published friends Jan Peck and David Davis.

Tricks includes information on and links to the major digital publishing services: Smashwords, Kindle Direct Publishing, CreateSpace, Lulu, and Barnes & Noble PubIt.

(Lightning Source is not mentioned, but it’s the POD service I plan to use. I’ll report on it when I’ve got firsthand experience with LSI.)

Tricks also includes fascinating facts about the current state of the publishing world, with information about traditional publishing, and when and why you might want to consider going that route.

The book will save you days—possibly weeks—of searching the Web for information on your publishing options. I recommend it highly, as a quick but comprehensive overview of what’s out there for writers who are ready to take matters into their own hands.

For me, I knew that between updating my various websites, taking on various (paying) freelance-writing assignments, finishing WATERSPELL Book 3: The Wisewoman (which I plan to release next spring)—and maybe even taking a few days of vacation this fall, for a rest-break that I believe I’ve earned—I would not have time to properly e-publish WATERSPELL in strict DIY fashion.

And so I hired the Accurance Group. So far, I’m glad I did. Despite the occasional glitch, they are saving me loads of time and effort.

Stay tuned: My e-publishing adventure will continue.