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As promised, I’m my own Actual Content Tuesday guest today. I now have two small (and cheap–I mean inexpensive) e-reader formatted books up at Smashwords and Amazon. Here’s how:

What you need to know how to do to publish on Smashwords and Kindle:

It really isn’t HARD to publish on Smashwords and Kindle, just fiddly. Here’s some stuff about it.

First, why publish both places, since Smashwords formats for Kindle? Well, mostly because I wanted to fast-track into the Amazon catalog.

Downside: Amazon wouldn’t let me price my book for less than $1, and the publishing agreement was that I wouldn’t price it for less anywhere else. I wanted books to GIVE AWAY as promotional items.

Workaround: I priced the books for $1 on Amazon and $1 on Smashwords, but Smashwords let me generate a coupon for the price of the book, and I sent the code to people on Twitter and Facebook and certain email lists. So it was sorta free and sorta not free.

So anyway, I went to and signed up and downloaded their free Style Guide. Then I found OUT STANDING IN THE FIELD: THE INDIE AUTHOR’S TWO-STEP GUIDE TO PUBLISHING IN THE KINDLE STORE by FREE PRESS Publications. I got the free Smashwords edition, but it’s also available in print: Print Edition: ISBN 1438293461

Good stuff. I recommend you read both documents. They both walk you through doing this and that, but just in case they want you to do stuff you don’t know how to do, a walk-through from me follows this blah-blah.


Okay, so I downloaded and read the Smashwords style guide and the FREE PRESS Kindle guide. I saved the document I wanted to publish in two new places: Kindle Version and Smashwords Version. Tell you why later.

I went through the Smashwords style guide point by point and made the formatting revisions asked for. In MA’S HOT FLASHES, I used block paragraphing because my paragraphs in the micro-mini-flash fiction are so short indentions would seldom show up. In THE KING OF CHEROKEE CREEK, I used first line indents. The style guides are really good at telling you how to do these, especially with my walk-throughs as additional guides.

I went through the FREE PRESS Kindle guide and made the formatting changes for that. I like the notion of setting the size of the page and the margins to emulate what the Kindle format will look like. ONLY A GOOD NOTION FOR THE AMAZON SITE PUBLICATION! Smashwords publishes in multiple formats, and what you see on your screen is NOT what you’ll get in most of those formats. Amazon only does the one version, though, so using FREE PRESS’ suggested page size and margins works really well for formatting your book for them.

My graphic arts skills are practically non-existant, but I have a daughter and a friend who are wizards at it. I knocked together a cover for MA’S HOT FLASHES and emailed it to both of them. Each gave me a critique of it, which helped me make it look halfway decent. I also read the THE NON-DESIGNER’S DESIGN BOOK by Robin Williams (not that Robin Williams–a different Robin Williams), a most excellent book about typographic design principles using just fonts (proximity, alignment, repetition and contrast). MOST useful.

I opened GIMP (like Photoshop, only free) and clicked File, New and made it 600 wide x 900 tall, with a dpi (ppi) of 300. I think I didn’t need to do this, because I think either Amazon or Smashwords or both turned out to have a cover design wizard or something I could have used. Since I work on dial-up, I do as much work off-line as possible, so I preferred to mess around with GIMP myself. Also, I just like to mess around.

I went to and signed up and signed in. DTP stands for Dead Tree Prevention. No, it doesn’t; it stands for Digital Text Platform. Anyway, I followed the on-screen instructions, remembering to click Save Entries at every step, previewed the book on a Kindle emulator, liked it, and clicked Publish. A couple of days later, I saw that lovely word, LIVE next to my manuscript!

Meanwhile, I went to and signed up and signed in. Followed their on-screen instructions, sat there for a bazillion years while their “meatgrinder” converted my manuscript to various formats. It converted. Came back a couple of days later and saw that my manuscript wasn’t up to snuff for the Premium Catelog because of poor formatting–I had forgotten to enter twice before page breaks (about which more later). So I did that to my Smashwords Version manuscript, uploaded again, sat there for another bazillion years for it to convert again, and came back a couple of days later to find I had done it right.


What you need to know how to do to publish on Smashwords and Kindle:

Know how to look at the formatting codes of your document.

Why? You need to make sure you know if you’ve gotten rid of all your tabs and junk.

Here’s how: Click the backward P thing on your toolbar at the top of the page, just below the menu bar.

Know how to save your book or story as a Word .doc or .rtf file, OR format HTML.

Why? Smashwords prefers a Word .doc or .rtf file. Amazon’s first choice is HTML, but a Word .doc works fine. Smashwords “converts” your document into many formats, including HTML and plain text. Their HTML and text versions tend to want to delete centering, so centered text become uncentered, but not many people will care about that, so I don’t worry about it. I just don’t. There are more important things than that to worry about. Listen, don’t get me started.

Here’s how: Open your document. Click on the word File in the menu bar at the top of the page. Instead of clicking Save, click Save As. A dialog box will open, letting you choose where you want to save the file and what you want to name it. Toward the bottom of that window is a place where you can choose the file type. Choose Word .doc. Save it. Ta-daaa!

Know how to modify the Normal template.

Why? Word inserts all kinds of stuff you can’t see. Even if you turn on the Show formatting feature, there are codes embedded. So you have to make “normal” be what Smashwords wants it to be. Or, if you want to, you can set up a Style called Smashwords. But I just modified the Normal style.

Here’s how: Click Format, Style and click on Normal. Normal needs to be Times New Roman, 12 point, flush left, single space. You can change all these and more from this dialog box by clicking Modify, Format then selecting Font (to select Times New Roman, 12 point), Paragraph (to make sure your Indents and Spacing settings are Alignment = Left, Outline level = Body Text, Line spacing = Single and Indentation, Special = First line, By = .3).

Know how to turn off the AutoFormat As You Type feature of Word.

Why? Smashwords doesn’t like curly quotes or em or en dashes. Smashwords likes straight quotes and double dashes like this: — Like you get when you type in plain text, like you do in Notepad.

Here’s how: Open Word. On the menu bar, click Tools, AutoCorrect, AutoFormat As You Type. Uncheck any boxes that are checked. Now select the AutoFormat tab in the same dialog box and uncheck any boxes that are checked. Close the box.

Know how to find and replace curly quotes, curly apostrophes and em or en dashes or ellipses. After you change all these to straight quotes, straight apostrophes and double dashes, save the document under another name or in another folder. I have a folder for Smashwords Version and a folder for Amazon Version. The reason for this is that Amazon’s Kindle DOES like curly quotes, etc., and it’s easier to open a curly doc and uncurl it and then save the uncurly version elsewhere than it is to uncurl a doc and replace the curly one and then have to re-curl it for Amazon. Never mind. Just do like I’m telling you. You want a document with the pretty punctuation for Amazon and a document with the straight punctuation for Smashwords.

Why? I told you already–Smashwords doesn’t like curly quotes or em or en dashes. Smashwords likes straight quotes and double dashes like this: — Like you get when you type in plain text, like you do in Notepad and triple-dot ellipses(…) not real ellipses (…).

Here’s how if your document has pretty punctuation and you need to make it plain for Smashwords: Highlight a curly quotation mark then click Edit, Replace. The fancy quote mark should be in the Find what place. Type a quotation mark in the Replace with place. Click Replace All. If this doesn’t take care of the opening quote mark AND the closing quote mark, select the one it didn’t fix and repeat. Do the same to replace curly apostrophes with straight ones and solid dashes with double dashes.

Here’s how if your document has straight quotes/apostrophes and double dashes and you want to replace them with fancy punctuation: Go into Tools, AutoCorrect, AutoFormat As You Type and AutoFormat and CHECK the boxes for “straight quotes” with”smart quotes” and Symbol characters with symbols. Then highlight one of your straight quotes, click on Edit, Replace and type a quotation mark into the Replace with place. Repeat with apostrophe and dash.

DON’T depend on a page break to make a new page. I mean, it’s okay to do that–Kindle will understand–but ALSO hit enter (make new paragraph) a couple of times before the page break. Otherwise, the Smashwords formats that don’t recognize the Page Break command won’t put any break between the last paragraph you want on a page and the first paragraph you want on the next page. Some formats don’t do pages–it’s all one solid document. And they said scrolls were a thing of the past.

DON’T get frustrated if you can’t make your pages look like you want them to. They won’t look the same in the various formats. They just won’t. Just remember to hit enter a couple of times before you insert a hard page break.

DON’T space down a bunch of times to isolate text on a page. No more than four space-downs, or your readers will get blank pages, and they don’t want blank pages.

DO remember, when publishing on Kindle, to click SAVE ENTRIES at each stage of publishing.

Although Smashwords tells you to enter the price of your book giving the example $0.99USD, DON’T enter it that way. Enter 0.99 or 1.00 or 5.64 or whatever you want to charge, without the dollar sign and without the USD.

Well, that’s about all I can think of. It’s really pretty easy. I mean, if I can do it, you can do it. If there’s anything I didn’t cover and that wasn’t covered by the Amazon and Smashwords FAQs, ask about it or share your answers.


Writing prompt: What book would your main character publish him/herself? Family history? Cookbook? Fiction? Would it be a good book, or a crummy one, or wildly popular with a niche market?

Had a party yesterday, and I baked bread as per ARTISAN BREAD IN FIVE MINUTES A DAY and made some spreads. Here they are:

Pineapple Spread

  • mascarpone cheese
  • powdered sugar
  • crushed pineapple (drained but not dry)

Mix to taste, refrigerate, remove about an hour before serving to soften enough to spread.

Cheese Spread
As I told the son-in-law who asked what was in it, “Cheese, cheese, cheese, cheese and cheese.” I used:

  • cream cheese, softened
  • mild cheddar, shredded or grated
  • bit of sharp cheddar, shredded or grated
  • Parmesan, shredded or grated
  • bit of mayo
  • Italian seasoned bread crumbs

Except for the bread crumbs, mush it all up and roll it into a ball. Roll it in the bread crumbs. Refrigerate. Remove about an hour before serving.

Edith’s Thing
So called because my friend Edith got me hooked on it.

  • cream cheese, softened
  • bit of mayo
  • red pepper jelly

Mix cream cheese and mayo and form into a square or rectangle or, damn, I don’t care. Spoon some red pepper jelly over it. The red pepper jelly has some bite, but its sweetness and the bland cheese mix really well with it. WONDERFUL spread.

Now for the Snoopy Dance–

*danse-danse, danse-danse*

Why am I snoopy dancing? Because I just heard back from Sword & Sorceress XXV that the story I sent them is being held for further consideration. That by no means indicates that I’m in, but it does mean that I’m not out. Yet.

I takes my snoopy dances where I can gets ’em. *danse-danse, danse-danse*


writing prompt: Give a character something to be happy about.

Get your mind out of the gutter. I’m having an orgy of writing talk. First I met with Jane, then #4 daughter and I went to WRaP (WRite And Promote) meeting, then came back to her apartment and talked story, then slept a bit and got up and talked story some more, then I’m going to Southern Indiana Writers meeting tonight.

If you write, you know there’s nothing more fascinating than talking story. It’s even better than writing, because you don’t have to do any work. Of course, that’s like saying talking food is better than cooking because you don’t have to get onion fumes in your eyes. You also don’t end up with something to eat. But, on the other hand, when you’re talking story, you ARE working. You’re learning stuff about writing from each other–and from yourself. You’re working your way through problems in your own writing or in your understanding of the process. So, by talking story, you’re not only enjoying the heck out of the time, you also come out of it with lots of food for thought.

Okay, that metaphor is long past over.

Now I have to go–#4 daughter and I have lots more story to talk, and only so many hours before I leave for the next leg of my traveling writers’ conference!


writing prompt: One of the things we talked about is how powerful reflected characterization is–that is, showing something about your character by how other people react to or speak about him/her. So pick a character trait and show that a character has it without having him/her demonstrate it.

It’s a gorgeous day today, and I don’t have a thing on my calendar until this afternoon! I finished the edits on EEL’S REVERENCE for Echelon Press yesterday and it’ll take a couple of days for them to go over them and see if everything’s copacetic. So guess what I’m doing today?

Going to hunt mushrooms
Going to try to set up a fan page on FaceBook for Uncle Phineas, one of the mercenary priests in EEL.

I check the garden every day. The rhubarb is leafed up and the stalks are starting to lengthen. We usually have enough to eat by the middle of April. YUM! The asparagus isn’t up yet, but I’m looking for it. I saw some other stuff sprouting, but I don’t know what Charlie planted where, so I don’t know what it is. Not potatoes–not yet. I love to see potatoes coming up–looks like tiny green fists punching through the earth. SO COOL!

Charlie started kale inside a month or so ago and has the pots out on the porch to “harden off” before he transplants them to the garden. Our #4 daughter used to call seedlings “seed plants” when she was small, I guess because they were plants she watched grow from seed.

So I’m happy today. 🙂 The only problem is, I could enjoy browsing the woods, away from all contact, except that my mother worries that I might fall and be helpless out there (a reasonable concern), so I have to take my cell phone. Hmmmm….I could turn off the ringer, so I could call out but nobody could call in. Hmmmm….

writing prompt: Write a bit about a character who cares deeply about seasonal changes.

It snowed AGAIN, so we got up yesterday to an inch or so and school was on a two-hour delay and the back roads (we live on a BACK back road–back roads call their mamas before they turn onto OUR road and call again when they’re safely off of it)…. I forgot where I was. Oh, yeah–The back roads were treacherous. But things warmed up, and the snow melted off and the sun came out. Happy ending!

I finally got to take my picture of the snowdrops. They hadn’t opened for the day, but maybe you can see their little buds. I love these guys–first flowers of the season here.

#4 daughter came over and we went to dinner and then to the Southern Indiana Writers Group meeting. Ginny brought a SWELL story for our upcoming FUTURE PERFECT: TENSE IN SPACE anthology!

So, all in all, it was a lovely day.


writing prompt: Create a character who keeps track of the time of year by what flowers are in bloom. A real TOUGH character.

This connection is so bad, I haven’t been able to post to FaceBook or even to Twitter, except maybe once to each. This is gettin srs! Iz missin mai daileh lolcat ficks!

Been working on a story to submit to SSXXV, though, and that’s good. I copied out the resolution of the story, transferring it from the notebook I keep in my purse. I wrote out the resolution one day while was waiting for somebody, and now it’s tack onto the end of the working manuscript.

MICROSOFT WORD TIP: In case you didn’t know, you can split the screen, so one part of it shows one part of the manuscript and the other part shows another part. Useful for copying bits from one location to another, and useful for keeping your rough notes in one part of the ‘script and the part you’re working on in the other. Works better for me than having two files open.

I didn’t get to go to Louisville to have my lunch with Jane, but she called me and we had a nice long talk. We could have talked for hours, as we do in person, which is a pretty obvious statement, I guess, but my ears got tired of having a phone up against them.


writing prompt: Write a character who is snowbound with only one means of communication with the outside world.

As Terry Pratchett’s witch character Granny Weatherwax says, on the sign she holds while she’s immobilized through “borrowing” another body, I antn’t dead.

A week ago last Thursday, I put a foot wrong and then I put another foot wrong and I fell down sideways. After I finished bouncing around, I discovered that I had sprained my foot. Again. The same foot I always sprain. I guess that’s a good thing–at least I don’t have TWO bum dogs. So there I was, lying on my bed of pain, enjoying the attention, and my mother decides she just HAS to have appendicitis for Christmas.

Saturday afternoon, our daughter #3 took Mom to the ER and they put her in the hospital. The doctor happened to be in and the OR team was finishing up an operation, so they scrubbed up again and took her in. Over the midnight between Saturday and Sunday, they took out her appendix. It took her several days to come back from it enough for them to send her home. I spent a lot of the days with her at the hospital, and I went home with her and spent a couple of days and nights with her.

Altogether, I’ve been off-line so long I can hardly remember my way around the ether.

Since she’s been home, I’ve been cooking for her. One night, just as I got ready to put supper on the table, she says, “I wish we could have some salad. Do we have anything for salad?” I said, “We have slaw.” She said, “I don’t want slaw.” I said, “We could have fruit.” Fruit sounded good. So I opened a can of pears and divided them into individual bowls. I drizzled them with honey and sprinkled them with cinnamon, and they were heavenly.

Today, she had some chicken breasts she wanted cooked before they got freezer burn, about half a can of sliced black olives and a sad and wrinkled red bell pepper. Here is what I made:


  • 1 package frozen chicken breasts
  • 3 celery stalks, diced
  • 2 green onions, diced
  • 1/2 can ripe olives, sliced
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and cut into strips
  • salt, pepper, rosemary
  • olive oil

Oil a baking pan with the olive oil. Put the frozen chicken breasts in the pan in a single layer. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, rosemary, onion, celery and olives. Cover and bake at 350F for 1 hour. This will throw off quite a bit of liquid, which you should save for soup.


In other news, I was asked to do a further rewrite of “Leaving the Turtle”, the short story I submitted to Norilana Press’ WARRIOR WISEWOMAN anthology. Roby James is a terrific editor–she pinpoints just what’s needed. None of this “It just doesn’t work for me” stuff. She KNOWS why it doesn’t work, and she tells you. Invaluable! I hope I’ve done it right this time–I would be so honored to be in an anthology edited by such a spot-on professional.

I also got my contracts, edits, formatting instructions and other necessaries from Echelon Press. Been busy as well as HURTED. And I haven’t even started my Christmas baking!


writing prompt: Sprain a character’s foot and see how he/she behaves.

Yes, I know, everything I do is as still as I can manage. I’d grow roots, if I didn’t have to get up to cook. What I meant was, I am continuing to write DOWN AND DIRTY DEATH. I told my #4 daughter last night that I’m about to kill a character (since this is a cozy, the murder will happen offstage). She was like, “It better not be Huff! I like Huff!” That’s always such a nice thing for a writer to hear: A reader likes one or more characters so much, the fictional death of that fictional character would hurt. I’ve felt that myself, many times, as a reader. It’s a compliment to hear it as a writer.

Hint to daughter #4: *whispering* It isn’t Huff. */whispering*

Now I have to get ready to go the the Book Box used book sale and then grandson’s b-day party. Any words today? Time will tell.


writing prompt: What literary character would you hate to have seen killed? Like to have seen killed? Wish hadn’t been killed?

No picsh today–scroll down for past pictures of The Costume. But here’s today’s clue: I am a book. Not a character in a book, but a book title.

Again, the winner of this contest gets a copy of THE GIFT OF MURDER, an anthology of winter holiday mysteries to benefit Toys For Tots. For a taste of what’s in this anthology, see Jack Hardway’s review. If you already have a copy of the anthology, I have a few others from which to choose.nano_09

I’ve been working away at the Warrior Wisewoman story. It seems to be coming together–although I’ve thought that before! I have all day today and (I think) all day tomorrow to work on it. Then it’ll be time for NaNoWriMo! Not sure if I’ll get anything done on that on November 1, since Mom and I are going to the Kentucky Opera to see OF MICE AND MEN right after church. Well, I tell a lie–RIGHT after church, we’re going to eat. THEN we’re going to the opera.

Just heard from Sue at the Harrison County Public Library–I’ll be selling and signing copies of THE GIFT OF MURDER on Saturday, November 21 from 1-4. If you’ve bought a copy elsewhere and want it signed, bring it in. Bring in a toy to donate to the kids and get coupons good for use at Magdalena’s and at the Friends of the Library’s Book Box (used book building). Good stuff, there. I buy books and movies there all the time. Er…at the Book Box, I mean. I buy food and coffee at Magdalena’s.


writing prompt: What’s the best toy you got for Christmas when you were a kid? My top three might have been a magic set, a chemistry set and a bike.


That’s what Charlie’s Aunt Ora Maye used to say about pretty things. They say that the more brightly colored a vegetable is, the better it is for you. I can hardly believe that anything so beautifulpurdy and that tastes so good can also be healthy. The farmers’ market season is winding down–boo hoo for me! We celebrated Meatless Monday yesterday with this feast. Red tomatoes, golden corn, green kale (dressed with brown soy sauce) and orange butternut squash.

I didn’t remember how I cooked butternut squash the only other time I made it, so I got out Mark Bittman’s HOW TO COOK EVERYTHING and got a recipe. This is a paraphrase.


  • olive oil
  • garlic
  • 1/4 cup stock or bouillon
  • seasonings to taste
  • butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cubed

Heat olive oil and heat garlic until fragrant–remove garlic. I just use garlic-infused olive oil and save a step. Add stock or bouillon. I used vegetarian vegetable, but chicken or any other you like will do. This is a sweet squash, so I’m thinking honey ham broth would be excellent. Add squash. Turn to medium to get the stock bubbling, then cover and reduce heat. Cook for 15 minutes. Remove cover and raise the temp. Cook, WATCHING CAREFULLY, for another 10 minutes or so, until all the liquid evaporates. Stir the squash until you feel like Okay, that’s enough of that.

Charlie and I both liked it. He said he liked it better than acorn squash, which has been our go-to winter squash. I’m definitely going to branch out into other squashes. YUM.

In other news, I did the edits on my science fiction story this morning and really like the changes. Just some tweaks, I’m happy to say, since it mostly worked. Now I need to reread the other science fiction story I’m submitting and see if it needs any work before I take it in to the group.


writing prompt: Get out an old story and see if it works. If it doesn’t start out with a tug, try cutting the first scene. Go on–you can always put it back. Cut out everything until you get to the first tug–a problem, a challenge, a conflict, an emotional punch. See if you can start the story there and fill in anything important that happened before that. No fair putting a punchy first sentence and then flashing back to the boring stuff. I do that all the time, and it’s sucky.


Here is where I ramble on about whatever happens to fall through my mind. I also have a professional site, where I post about my books, stories, news and appearances. Every month, I post a “Hot Flash” there–a story or prose poem of about 50 words. I hope you enjoy your visit. –Marian Allen

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