Live Through Us at The Burrow


August 2015

The Proof is in the Writing-OK, worst pun ever

So my proof came-

prrofing your book

And while my family and friends were ecstatic, I took it in hand and scoured over it like a mason over his last layer of brick work. They’re dying to look through it and show it off, and all I’m thinking is, “Ugh! Do I have to read it again?!


See. It took many many many hours of comparing fonts and typesets and spacing and margins-blech! But I finally got, I think, it all done. However, I still have to go over it all and make sure-groan!

finalizing your proof

And the book looks really nice. Really nice.

anya and the secrets of cupola

But during this process, I noticed something about myself. I already knew that I am horridly picky about what I will read. And all this time, I thought I was a snob thinking, “I can do better than that!” But the good news is, I’m not, or I can’t, or…  hmm…

I started reading my book for the first time as a book, and I knew I would find things in it I wouldn’t find before. But the good news, like I said, is that I was just as harsh about it as I am with everyone else’s. This is why I don’t do reviews of the books I read like most authors do. Because I rarely, if ever, have anything nice to say. And the last thing I want to do is invoke a bunch of evil reviews of my own writing! But as I found myself being as horribly horrid about my own writing as I am about everyone else’s, it made me feel a little better. Maybe I’m not such a snobby reader after all! 😀 !

I also discovered something that needs to be added to my list of formatting reminders: Once you have FINALLY finished formatting the inside of your book, recheck the page numbers on your TOC. My loving husband was going through it and immediately noticed that chapter 2 did not, in fact, start where it was supposed to. Duh! I should have realized it and didn’t, but those page numbers are going to change when the margins and fonts do.

CS suggests that you review your proof three times.

  1. Check format: headers, spacing, footers, page numbers, TOC, index
  2. Review images and graphics
  3. Look for grammatical errors and typos

I’m just on chapter 2, and I’m already marking my proof up with an orange pen. I’m having to force myself not to go into full edit mode, but I am marking legitimate typos and the like. (Oh November 14th, November 14th, wherefore art thou?)

Baby Chicks!!!

This is my absolute FAVORITE part of farming.  Yes, you heard that right, better than seedlings, better than harvest, even better than a new calf.

It’s baby chicks!

Broody hen has been trying to hatch a batch all summer.  Yes, ALL summer!!!

broody hen


Her first clutch, she got up too much.  They didn’t incubate.  She took a few weeks off, I dare say two, and sat another one.  Four weeks later, we checked the eggs and destroyed all of them. (It should only take 3 weeks). Hens have been known to brood themselves to death. The eggs were not incubated, and it was at that time that we seriously considered retiring George since he obviously wasn’t doing his job.

But, even though we went through the coop, took every egg we could find (even the duck’s), she sat. The very next day. We took those eggs. She sat.  By that afternoon, she had more from the other girls, and sat on them.


We decided to wait this batch out, see if George really was useless, and I’m glad we did because-

Today, I heard chirping.  I had the calendar marked to check on her Monday, so it was early, but not too much I don’t guess. I waited around to see if I could hear another chirp. And I did.  But still, without proof…  So I gave up and went to fill their feeder. She jumped down to eat and revealed-

new baby chick


Only one was willing to brave the new world for the camera.  He’s the same one I picked up and cooed while she ate.  When she turned towards me and puffed up like … well … a broody hen, I put him back, apologized, and went to get my camera.  By the time I was back, so was she.

Drat it!!

Two yellows and one black ‘in.  Yippee!!  She’s still sitting, so it’s possible to get more, but I doubt it.  They look like they hatched yesterday. The barn cats are being moved indoors, as is the custom until the chicks are bigger. And we may have to break the kennel out to protect them from the rats.  Hopefully, she’ll introduce them to the world soon and we can clean her nest out and get to work. Wish them luck!!

UPDATE-I went out tonight and saw her down with her chicks on the floor.  We cleaned out her nest and destroyed the rest of the eggs.  Probably 7 or so.  None of which were fertile.  They were bad. Really bad. Smell for a mile bad. This means George will have to be retired.  We’ll get a new one (maybe) next spring.

But, with her being on the floor, and in the corner of the coop, we kenneled her.  It’s just not safe for those chicks not to be up at night. So far so good!

Formatting Your Book

I recently put the finishing touches on my Createspace (henceforth called CS) book.  The paperback version. Allow me to pass along my lessons learned:  (This only applies to fiction. Non-fiction works will have different stats.)

  • Do not buy your UPC until you have finished everything else-I cannot stress this enough, and this is why it it first.  Reasons will be explained as you read further.
    • This is because your price on CS is based on the number of pages. In other words, the royalty calculator that uses per page is pointless until you’re positive how many pages you have. How many pages you have is not, necessarily, how many pages you have.  See margins below
  • Adjust your paper to the correct size and margins.  I know, you just finished making it all pretty double spaced Times for your potential agent, but CS is not your potential agent.  Take out a bunch of books similar to yours.  Measure their length and width, not depth, that’s later.  Make your paper size that length and width, or as close to it as CS and Word will let you.
  • Now for the margins. See those little dotted lines on CS’s internal reviewer? (henceforth called IR) Taunting little brats, aren’t they? Don’t worry about getting too close to them.  I ordered a proof, and learned exactly how far away from the page’s edges I was. I then measured the margins are similar books and compared them.  Through this comparison, I learned that I could remove .25″ from both the left and the right.  I then adjusted the top and bottom.  It was time consuming and tedious, but most definitely necessary.  This adjustment, along with the font (see below), took off 50 pages, and allowed me to keep my original price, and therefore UPC. (I had to learn the first lesson the hard way)
  • Indentations.  You will want to change your first line indents to .25″, not .5″. Not only will it read better, but it will look like all the other fiction books.
  • Font-I used Garamond 11.  I then changed the spacing to “Exactly 15.5”. For more information on that, google “leading”. I decided on this font and point size by printing out pages and comparing them to books I had on hand.  You can find a plethora of articles on book font.  I suggest you look at similar books, or books you find easily readable.  Remember this-it’s not how pretty it is, it’s how readable it is.
  • Cream versus white-I chose white, and then I looked up the difference.  Things to keep in mind:
    • Cream paper is thicker. This was helpful to me, as it made my spine thicker, and therefore my spinal art more attractive.
    • Cream paper is more readable. My husband hates it, and I can see that, but he has an eye disorder that makes him see things differently than everyone else. He has a white proof with 12 pt Times, so he’s happy!  (Suffice it to say, I do NOT recommend 12pt Times for your font-lol!)
    • Cream is more traditional. If it’s a novel, not a picture book, or a non-fiction, cream is expected.
  • And lastly, and I know this isn’t the interior, the cover.  I proofed a glossy cover. I don’t like matte covers.  Everyone swears by them, says they last longer, that they ‘don’t get fingerprints”, and look more traditional. I say, “Who looks at fingerprints on a book?” Aren’t they usually being read or on a shelf? Matte gets scuffed, the edges tear, so therefore, I do NOT think matte lasts longer.  And as far as appearances, watch this great comparison video for that:

So yes, I’m going with glossy.  I believe it looks nicer, lasts longer, and makes my cover art pop better.

I hope this helps you in your formatting, and good luck!

Cover revealed!!

I recently received my “final” cover from my illustrator.  This is what I received.

orig layout


Yeah, that’s kinda how I thought about it too.  So, I turned it into this:

Full Layout testing scroll

And this, is the final cover for Book 1 of the Anya series.  Hope you like it!

Things I do and do not share with J.K. Rowling

I was watching videos on the Kitchen Queen cookstove:

And one of the vids suggested was this:

I knew some about her.  Who doesn’t? But I had no idea about all of this.  It was really creepy how much we had in common, and possibly explains why I am such a fan of HP and find her and her life story so interesting.  Things I share:

  1. I was also supposed to be a boy. My name was supposed to be David.
  2. I didn’t have the pixie cut, but my hair was cut like a boy’s.  I was often mistaken as a boy when I was very young. I was finally allowed to have long hair when I was 10.  It upset my mother deeply
  3. One of my favorite places to play was a forest in my cousin’s back yard in Atlanta.  But we didn’t get to visit more than once or twice a year.
  4. She gets her character names from people in her life.  So do I.
  5. I was raised in one faith, regularly attending services, and changed to another as an adult.
  6. My mother spent about 2 years fighting cancer.  She called me while I was on a family vacation in WDW to announce the diagnosis. The diseases are different, but I also lost my mother at a similar junction in life.
  7. I too am living on “welfare” while I write. My husband is blind, and we live on his disability and what we’re able to grow on our farm. This also resulted in clinical depression for me. I still always expect the worst to happen.  Everyday that I get up, I know someone in my house is dead and fear course through my veins until I’ve heard and seen everyone say “good morning”. I’ve gotten used to it by now though.
  8. My writing is also my therapy against my feelings of dread and fear.
  9. She never expected to be a best seller.  I don’t expect to ever be one.  I will be happy to break even.

Things I do not share:

  1. She was the first born.  I was the third.  The first in my family was a stillborn male. She wore girls clothes, as far as I can tell, but I wore my brother’s clothing until … I think 1st grade.
  2. My home hair cuts included scotch tape and bowls.  There weren’t near as bad hers.
  3. She had a sister to play with, and they had great adventures together.  I was more of a tag-along, despised and hated by my older brother and cousin.  Therefore, I do not view forests as a safety zone, but a survivalist zone, for I was often left on my own.
  4. She cleaned a St Luke’s church, I attended a youth group at a St. Luke’s church.
  5. I most definitely believe in God, and my faith is very strong.
  6. While her mother’s death destroyed her relationship with her father, it strengthened mine.  We had and have troubles, but we work through them. My mother’s death did not affect my writing to my knowledge.
  7. My husband is not an alcoholic abuser.  He is my biggest supporter in my writing, and I love him dearly.
  8. My feelings of dread and fear stem from a different source, one that is too involved for this post, but I’m sure it’s obvious in Anya if you read it.
  9. And the most important and biggest difference, I will never reach her success level.  That’s not entirely my bleak outlook on life, it’s realism.

Do I compare myself to her often? No, that’s silly.  I just watched this video, and when it showed #1 in the lists up there, my attention was immediately grasped.  And the rest just fell into place.


The New Puppy

Arlis got a new puppy


His name is Bandit



And he’s causing a great deal of issues.


First off, I want to say that I don’t post pictures for every little event in my life.  So, when I woke up at 2AM this morning and cleaned up a completely destroyed bathroom, I wasn’t thinking, “Oh!  I wonder who else would like to see this?” Instead, I was thinking, “It’s just a puppy.  It’s just a puppy.  It’s just a puppy.”

This “Bandit” is inflicting a great deal of unnecessary stress upon me.  And while today he seems to have learned not to constantly scream, that doesn’t replace my missing 10 days of sleep, endless hours of cleaning carpets, mattresses, and bedsheets; nor does it remove the memory of stepping out of bed into a fresh pile of poop or waking up to pee in my bed.

On top of that, I’m trying to work with an illustrator.  For the first time.  Allow me to pass on what I have learned:

I would love to share the illustrations with you on here, as I think that would help, but I’m not sure how my illustrator would feel about that, so I won’t.


I didn’t want to give too many details because I didn’t want to come across as picky.  That turned out to be a bad decision.  Trust me on this.  Better to get it all out asap.

2-They’re professional, but be nice.  Follow the sandwich rule.

Whenever I give notes or crits, I follow the sandwich rule.  Start with a compliment.  Find one.  Period.  Then add your notes.  Then end with a different compliment.  If you’re doing crits, you’ll want to add a few more compliments in there periodically, but there’s no need to go overboard.  You want to keep from crushing them, not blow them up.

3-Be patient.  It takes time.

My illustrator had drawings to me quick.  Like real quick.  Don’t expect that.  Also, a great deal of the time is the going back and forth.  Here’s what ours looked like:

  • Receive character sketches
  • Notes on what needs to be changed.  In my case, it was their age and a couple of things that were my fault
  • Receive three design choices with updated characters
  • I took the drawings to a beta reader and her age appropriate daughter.  It was hard.  He wanted me to get back to him that day, and I was able to.  But if you’re given something like that, you need to tell them it will take some time if you need it.  They should understand that.  I was able to choose, but I had him change a few things.
  • Receive choice with changes described in my notes
  • I wrote back with a few minor details that needed looking at.

So that’s where we are now.  As you can see, it’s a long process.  Be patient.

My First Writer’s Block

I had never had writer’s block before.  So I had no idea if it was going to come in the form of wood or steel or cow pie.  But it came.  And it was formless and void.

And very, very unwelcome.

I hadn’t written in over a week.  I spent all last week cleaning out my dad’s house, negotiation with my illustrator, dealing with book legalities, having a birthday party for my son, setting up a web page, fb page, changing my twitter account.  I could go on, but I don’t want you to run screaming.

So when I sat down today, I was almost, surprisingly, excited to start writing again.

And then I read where I was.

Booorrriiiiiinnnggg!  I had no idea where I was, who was going where, or what they were doing.  I did forget to pray before my session.  That does help.  Always.  So I can blame that if I want to, but I’ll be honest.  When I did finally pray, I distinctly heard, “You’re done for the day.”

But I didn’t want to be done.  I was supposed to write 1200 words.  1000 at the bare minimum, not 736.  But it was 736.

So what’s the problem?

This isn’t the first time I’ve had a hard time writing this book before, but it is the first time I quit before the blessed 1000.  See, the first book was fun.  I didn’t have to write it.  I wanted to.  Now, I want to write this one, but I also have to.  I am pushing myself more than I did on the first one, and it’s showing.  I’m already at 20,000 in like, half the time.  But are they a good 20,000 words? Who knows? I tell myself that most of the first novel’s draft didn’t make it to the end, why worry about the second?  And I usually don’t.,  But today I did.

I tell myself, today was the first day back in over a week.  It’s OK to be short.  And it is.  But I think tomorrow I’m going to tell myself something else.

Write what you want to.

I have a few scenes in my mind that I know.  That I want to write.  I may just pick one of those.  Will it be the next scene? Probably not.  But that is why I bought Scrivener in the first place, is it not? To be able to put the book in order more easily later?

So, my first writer’s block may not have been exactly what I was expecting, but I hope I at least learned from it. 🙂

Judging a Book by Its Cover

I judge a book by its cover.  Who doesn’t?  So, when you go to get a cover for your book, you will want the best you can get.  I set a budget for mine.  I won’t go into details, but I couldn’t go over this budget.  I wanted a book cover with cel shading drawings.  Like these:

Shadows mapmaker 0c286aff235c57d13b22098ee10c0a90

You can click on them to make them bigger.

Too many children’s book, imo, are too realistic on the cover.  That just says boooorrrriiiiiiiing to me.  I want something that says, “I am awesome and fun!”  So, I looked at SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) to find my illustrator.  And here is what I found:

A.J. Cosmo:  Blog and SCBWI profile gallery

Is his work not awesome?  Does it not scream fun fun fun?!  My favorite was the Princess.  Love it! And, he was in my budget.  Truly a Godsend!  Thank you, God!

So, now you’ve found a illustrator, what do you do?  You sign a contract.  I trusted this guy, but let’s not be stupid.  Sign a contract, I don’t care if it’s your uncle George.  Especially is it’s your Uncle George.  I contacted an IP lawyer.  They wanted $700.

*blank face with stunned blinking*

That wasn’t going to happen, but it did cover copyrighting too. (yeah, cause that made it worth it). Instead, I copyrighted it myself (piece of cake) and found this contract online. Now, change the state to the state of the illustrator (It makes them feel safer to know it’s with their home state, and you are getting the most out of this, so it’s only fair). The illustrator may not have a company name.  You can leave that off if you need to.  Use your real name (You can put your pen name in parenthesis or “ie”, and probably should even).  That will save you a bundle, and let’s face it, if you do sell a 100,000 copies, you can afford a better contract then, right?

Good luck!

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