BOGO Babies, Bogus Research, and BOGO Rulings

Twins

The Twins

As some of you know, Kris and I jokingly refer to the twins as our BOGO babies. We actually weren’t the first to bestow this title. Many years ago, one of my very straight grad school friends asked us if we planned to have children. We were at a baby shower, so this question was being bandied about among most of the room’s occupants. When I said that yes, in fact, we were planning to start a family quite soon, our friends asked who would carry the baby, how many kids we wanted, and how we were planning to proceed—adoption, fostering, artificial insemination, IVF?

Artificial with an anonymous donor, we told them; and if that didn’t work, then IVF or adoption, in that order. Kris wanted to be pregnant, and I supported her wish to have that experience.

“IVF?” one of my friends repeated. “Look out—you may end up with a BOGO baby.”

“BOGO?” another friend questioned.

“You know—buy one get one free.”

Everyone laughed, and Kris joked, “I can just hear one of them saying, ‘You were the free one. At least Moms paid for me.’”

At eleven and a half months, the twins are unable to form actual words, let alone sentences, so we haven’t heard that one yet. They do squabble in their own mysterious language, but they also hold hands occasionally at meal times, pat each other on the back, and smile widely and often at each other. Among other things:

We’ve been told that one of the wonderful things about twins is their bond, and at almost a year, we’re definitely starting to see signs of an “us-against-the-world” approach. It’s lovely, and I’m glad they have each other and their big sister, who they both watch raptly whenever she slows down long enough to inhabit their space. Kris and I planned on two children and ended up with three, and though the numbers can be overwhelming at times (they outnumber us, literally), we adore each of them. They are such different people, each her own and simultaneously not her own. Our daughters are ours and their selves and each other’s, a multitude of steadily expanding identities I am forced to acknowledge almost daily.

2014032495145824

The Girls

Our children’s identities aren’t the only things changing rapidly, of course. This morning over my second cup of tea, I came across a Slate.com article about the recent federal court ruling in Michigan, my home state and, coincidentally, the place where Kris’s brother and sister-in-law (the famous G) and our nephews currently reside. In the most recent blow against American anti-gay marriage policies, a federal judge declared last week that Michigan’s voter-enacted ban on gay marriage is unconstitutional. But the judge didn’t just strike a blow in favor of LGBT rights. He also took the opportunity to expose and discredit an insidious tactic that anti-gay activists have used in their attempts to block forward movement on same-sex marriage in the U.S.—namely, the invention of biased research that purports to prove that children are disadvantaged by being raised by gay or lesbian parents.

In my last blog post, I ranted about the attorneys who argue that same-sex marriage should be illegal because of the “damage” done to children of gay parents. Yet even worse are the pseudo-intellectuals like Dr. Mark Regnerus of the University of Texas at Austin, who purposely interpret data to make their research results align with religious-based bias against gay marriage.

In a 2012 study funded by religious conservatives and published by the journal Social Science Research, Regnerus claimed falsely that children of same-sex parents fared worse than those of straight parents. The main problem with this claim? The children he references in the study were actually raised in traditional heterosexual marriages that broke up over one parent’s extra-marital affair(s) with a member of the same sex. Regnerus’s “children of gay parents” are, in fact, children of failed heterosexual marriages.

Yet despite having his study condemned by oh, say, a couple of hundred scholarly peers, disavowed by his own department, and found in an internal audit by SSR to have “serious flaws and distortions,” Regnerus continues to insist that his findings should be used to prevent the legalization of gay marriage.

Bill Schuette, the Attorney General of Michigan, agrees, and recently put Regnerus, along with a handful of similar “scholars,” on the stand to defend Michigan’s ban on gay marriage. Once again, the anti-gay side argued that gays shouldn’t be allowed to legally marry because we shouldn’t be allowed to legally parent.

The Girls' Moms

The Girls’ Legally Married Moms

Even though we already are married; even though we already are parenting; even though the consensus from scholars across a variety of disciplines is that the “the adjustment, development and psychological well-being of children are unrelated to parental sexual orientation and that the children of lesbian and gay parents are as likely as those of heterosexual parents to flourish.” (Source: http://bit.ly/1rCmjtg)

According to Dr. Nathaniel Frank, an Ivy League-educated scholar, Regnerus’s research is part of an intentional strategy to prevent change in the currently anti-gay marriage status quo in the majority of American states:

As the New York Times recently reported, in 2010 the conservative Heritage Foundation gathered social conservatives consisting of Catholic intellectuals, researchers, activists and funders at a Washington meeting to plot their approach. The idea was for conservative scholars to generate research claiming that gay marriage harms children by placing them in unstable gay homes and by upending marital norms for straights. A solid consensus of actual scholarship—not the fixed kind being ginned up at Heritage—has consistently found that gay parenting does not disadvantage kids, and no research has shown gay marriage having any impact on straight marriage rates. But trafficking in truth was not the plan. The plan was to tap into a sordid history of linking gay people with threatening kids, and to produce skewed research that could be used as talking points to demagogue the public. (Source: http://slate.me/1mvA78a)

The beauty of the Michigan ruling last week is that the LGBT community got a BOGO decision—not only did U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman determine that Michigan’s ban on gay marriage is unconstitutional, he also struck a blow against the false prophet/profiteering of researchers like Regnerus and the other “academics” who recently testified on behalf of the State of Michigan that gay parents damage children. As Dr. Frank writes:

Judge Friedman didn’t fall for any of it. “The Court finds Regnerus’s testimony entirely unbelievable and not worthy of serious consideration,” he wrote in what must be one of the most stinging and decisive repudiations of an expert witness in memory. He cited evidence that the conservative research was “hastily concocted at the behest of a third-party funder” which clearly expressed its wish for skewed results. Dismissing the defense’s other witnesses just as strongly, the judge wrote that “The Court was unable to accord the testimony of Marks, Price, and Allen any significant weight.” He concluded that “The most that can be said of these witnesses’ testimony is that the ‘no differences’ consensus has not been proven with scientific certainty, not that there is any credible evidence showing that children raised by same-sex couples fare worse than those raised by heterosexual couples.” (Source: http://slate.me/1mvA78)

I won’t pretend that same-sex parents have some sort of corner on excellent parenting. I don’t claim that we make better parents than our straight peers, even though recent studies may or may not have said something along those lines. So much goes into parenting, and so many of us are clueless when we start out, that I honestly believe it’s difficult to come up with quantitative data on something that is impacted by a multitude of factors—age, race, socioeconomic class, family of origin, education level, personality type, sexual orientation, cultural/ethnic background. But at the same time, I absolutely reject the notion that same-sex parents disadvantage our children. And so does the research, Mark Regnerus and his discredited ilk notwithstanding.

Different children respond to the same parenting style in widely divergent ways, not to mention to social situations, classrooms, teachers, peer groups, standardized tests, and so on and so forth. To someone like me, largely untrained in statistics and the social sciences, comparing straight parents to gay parents seems like comparing apples to oranges. Or like comparing Alex to Ellie or Ellie to Sydney.

MarsRover

The Girls & their Mars Rover

All three of our children share the same DNA, the same parents, the same household, potentially the same inherited traits. And yet where Alex and Sydney are cautious and observant, Ellie launches herself into the world with seemingly no fear (or easily discernible judgment). While Alex and Ellie wrestle and giggle together, Sydney is content to play on her own or snuggle with one of her moms. While Ellie and Alex run through the house, Ellie clinging to a wall for support on her still wobbly legs, Sydney paces slowly and deliberately down the center of the long hall, bowed legs wide for maximum stability. While Alex and Sydney seem happiest reading a book or dancing to a tune, Ellie appears to crave motion and discovery.

Our three girls—they are all themselves, and ours, and each other’s. And we are lucky to have them. Whether they’re lucky to have us, only they can decide in due time, and despite all their similarities—Ellie and Sydney have shared almost everything so far, and will continue to do so because that is the way of twindom, for better or worse—our daughters might not even agree on that. Which is okay, because no matter what, Kris and I love them, and we always will.

And speaking of love, I hope you’ll join Kris and me in offering your prayers and condolences to the people of nearby Oso, Washington, who have seen their community so devastated by last Saturday’s catastrophic mudslide. If you can, I hope you’ll join us in giving to the Red Cross. Call 800-733-2767 to donate or text “RedCross” to 90999 to have $10 charged to your phone bill. Or visit the Washington state Combined Fund Drive’s special campaign to help victims: http://www.cfd.wa.gov/cfd/Mudslide-Relief-Campaign.aspx. Thank you in advance for your support.

Posted in Family, gay marriage, LGBT rights, Parenting, Twins | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Winter Birthdays and AP Headlines

Last weekend, Alex turned three. Two years ago for her first birthday, we sent out party invitations and ended up with a full house: 25 adults and 11 children. To say that Alex was overwhelmed is like saying the Affordable Care Act websites didn’t work quite as expected at first.

Alex loves a crowd, clearly.

Alex loves a crowd, clearly.

This time around, we only invited half a dozen children, with one parent per child to maintain control while keeping the crowd to a minimum. By Thursday we were set with party favors, cupcake plans, and the requisite Elmo balloon when Alex started sniffling and whining. Kris and I exchanged worried glances. The birthday girl was coming down with a cold.

By the weekend, Alex was a sick little kid. She slept on me most of Friday night, and on Saturday morning she followed me around the house moaning, “Mimi, I don’t like it.” And, “Mimi, I need help from you.” Exhausted from the previous night’s sleeplessness, I have to admit that at first I found my constant companion somewhat unwelcome. But by mid-morning she was so miserable that I gave up any thought of spending time with the twins or my parents, who are currently visiting. I spent the majority of Saturday holding Alex, including a two-hour nap on the living room couch where she burrowed against me twitching and wheezing while I read WWII history on my phone’s Kindle app.

That afternoon, we finally cancelled the party. This was the second year in a row we’d had to change plans for Alex’s birthday due to illness, leading Kris to remark, “Winter birthdays suck.”

This bug seemed like more than a measly cold to me. Alex, our prolific eater who has never met a vegetable she didn’t like, barely ate anything that day other than the fruit and honey-cinnamon concoction we offered her. By nightfall, I was genuinely worried.

“Something’s wrong with her,” I fretted to Kris as we got ready for bed. “Something’s really wrong.”

Kris hugged me. “She has a bad cold. She’ll be okay in a few days.”

bday-girlLooking back, of course, I realize that it may have been the profound lack of sleep that kept making me tear up that night. After a better night’s sleep, Alex woke up the next morning not cured but significantly less clingy and far more smiley. I, however, was no less grouchy.

I did feel a little silly for worrying as I had, but that’s parenting. As my sister-in-law G. once said, no one warns you ahead of time that once you have a child, you will worry constantly. Irrationally, rationally, logically, illogically—your worry travels with you, just as your love does. And just like your love, your worry is easily triggered by a look, a word, a touch.

By Monday morning, Alex was back to almost normal, i.e. dancing and singing made-up words to made-up tunes.

“I’m so glad you feel better,” I told her, smiling at her across the breakfast table.

A little while later, I checked the online news headlines.  And here’s the first headline I saw the morning after Alex’s birthday: “Lawyers: Gay marriage a detriment to children” – Associated Press

First thing Monday morning, and already the AP was crafting headlines giving top billing to the baseless, bigoted opinions of anti-gay hate groups.

Here’s what the headlines should have read:

  • “Attorneys defend same-sex married couples from well-funded hate groups”
  • “Homophobic groups target gay parents—again”
  • “Anti-gay bullies old enough to know better”
  • “Federal court battle pits Bible-thumping bigots against peace-loving, tax-paying, law-abiding gay folks”

Instead, a week rarely passes without some headline proclaiming that same-sex marriage damages children. My marriage. Damages my children. That’s what they’re saying.

Know what damages children? Not having parents who love them. Not having homes to live in and beds to sleep in. Not having food and attention and care and affection. Not being able to sing made-up songs while they dance around a room with a gaggle of adoring adults looking on. Oh, yeah—and being told by bigots that their family isn’t real, doesn’t count, shouldn’t be allowed to exist.

A friend of mine has a child that she and her wife adopted. Recently she told me that the little girl had been born to straight parents who were in the system because low IQs prevented them from being able to take care of themselves, let alone a baby. Social Services knew that the woman was pregnant, and her social worker was anxious to ensure the baby’s safety. But a few days before the little girl was born, her parents vanished off the radar for six full weeks. By the time the social worker found them, the baby was in such bad shape that she had to be airlifted to the hospital and fed via a stomach tube for two weeks.

Now, a few years later, you’d never know that this vivacious, laughing little girl nearly died at the hands of her heterosexual biological parents. And why is that? Because her adoptive moms have given her nothing but love and attention and care. They have provided her with a loving home, and given her the therapy and attention that she needed to overcome such a rocky start in life.

“She’s the light of my life,” my friend told me recently. “She is literally the best thing that has ever happened to me.”

I knew exactly what she meant. We sat together in her living room watching our daughters play together, our eyes brimming with the same tears of love—and worry—for our children.

After last weekend, when I held my daughter and bathed her and fed her and soothed her and sung to her and cried for her and grabbed only a handful of hours of sleep for myself, my temper is necessarily short. As Alex could tell you, I was not in the best mood this morning when she woke me up at 4:30, nor was I very pleasant when she kicked me in her desperation to avoid having a bath a short time later.

“When you’re tired,” the late actor James Gandolfini once noted, “every single thing that somebody else does makes you mad.” Another bit of wisdom all new parents should be given.

Today, armed with sleeplessness and fresh worry, I want to say “F— you” to the anti-gay activists. F— off, you hate-spewing hypocrites. You call yourselves Christians? I think not. And Jesus probably thinks not, too.

Obviously, I’ve gotta get more sleep. In the meantime, I’ll leave you with an image of Alex on one of her recent good days during Family Dance Party, an after-dinner tradition we usually manage to observe three or four nights a week:

dance-partyHer shirt says, “Give peas a chance”–an adage we might all keep in mind, really.

Posted in Family, gay marriage, Parenting | Tagged , | 6 Comments

It’s Not Autobiography. Not Really, Anyway.

One of the hazards of writing fiction in first person is that readers, whether consciously or not, often confuse the author with the narrator. I’ve had plenty of readers familiar with Solstice, which features dual first-person point-of-view characters, ask, “Which narrator is you?” And the answer, as most writers will tell you, is both Sam and Emily and neither of them. Like many others, I favor the smorgasbord technique of character development—borrow a little here from myself, a little there from my closest friends and loved ones, a pinch of invention, and tidbits from work, movies, and other novels, and voila! A character is born.

I wasn’t surprised, then, when a recent review on Amazon for Flight included this sentence: “The main character Ashley is drawn so well that I found myself wondering at times if this was an autobiography.” She added, “I don’t really think it is, but it’s a testament to the realism and complexity of Ashley that I even wondered.” (Thank you, Amazon reader!)

Flattering, no? But while nice for me, the author, to read, this comment also points to the larger issue of author/narrator conflation, which in turn reminds me that I wrote a “Next Big Thing” blog post on Flight last summer that I never actually posted on my blog–which sort of sums up my 2013 writing life nicely, I think. So here it is. Perhaps it will offer a broader explanation of what I do and don’t share with Ashley, my latest view-point protagonist.

(By the way, for an entertaining take on the craft of characterization, check out Andrew Miller’s 2011 piece in The Guardian.)

What is the working title of your next book?

Flight.

Where did the idea come from for the book?

In the mid-1980s, a plane crash in Detroit made national headlines. An airliner crashed on take-off, killing everyone on board except a 4-year-old girl. My parents and I were on a road trip to look at colleges the week of the crash, and our route home took us along I-94 in Detroit where the plane had gone down less than a week before. The large debris had been cleared but the impact on the landscape was still evident. The impact on my parents and me was also evident—we talked of little else during the two-hour drive home from Detroit.

Later, in college, when I fell in love for the first time, it happened to be with a woman whose father had died in a plane crash six months before we met. Her grief was still raw and remained so during our year together. That experience somehow intertwined in my mind with the accident whose aftermath I had witnessed. When I sat down to write my first serious post-college novel, the story of Flight came to me almost entirely intact. The first draft was high on plot and low on character development, so when I started rewriting it a couple of years ago, I focused on setting, character, and all the other elements I’d neglected in my first, early rush to get the story out of  my head in some form.

What genre does your book fall under?

Contemporary fiction/coming-of-age/new adult. It features a love story, too, but it is not, as several reviewers have noted, a traditional lesbian romance.

What is the synopsis or blurb of your book?

It’s June 1993, and Ashley Lake has just been reminded that she is not a lucky person. As a small child, she lost her parents in a plane crash from which she emerged as sole survivor. More recently, as a high school senior, she watched the aunt who raised her succumb to cancer, leaving her to wonder: Am I cursed?

Rocked by her aunt’s death, Ash puts plans for a collegiate track and field career on hold and moves to New York City. But even as she settles into life in The City, Ash knows she can’t stay forever. Because while it doesn’t look like she’ll be the next Wilma Rudolph, she still might find an encouraging college coach and welcoming teammates. Possibly, even, the perfect place—or person—to call home.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

That’s a tough one. I would say Jessica Biel in her Seventh Heaven days would make a pretty good Ash, but I don’t have a time machine, so…

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

Self-published via my imprint, Second Growth Books.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

One year, although that was more than fifteen years ago, so the first draft seems more like a plan for a novel than a fully articulated manuscript.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

The aforementioned brushes with aviation accidents, along with the illnesses/passing of assorted persons in my life. My godmother, Alice, died of cancer when I was seven. She was the first person other than my parents to hold me in the hospital when I was born, so losing her was rough. Kris and I named our oldest daughter “Alex” in honor of Alice—a slightly more modern take on a classic name.

My mother has also battled with illness. She has an immune system disorder, but when I was in high school she received various incorrect diagnoses, at least two of which were terminal. For a while, there, I thought we would lose her. Fortunately, the misdiagnoses were eventually corrected, but the impact of that experience on me as a teenager and young adult has had a significant influence on the stories I tell.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

My Mom’s family is from Chattanooga, TN, and one of my father’s aunts lived in Signal Mountain, where Ash hails from. I also lived in New York City right after college, and I wrote the first draft of Flight shortly after leaving the East Coast for Seattle (the first time), so the novel contains a fairly detailed description of a newcomer’s reaction to the Big Apple in the early 1990s. Also, for fans of my earlier sports-themed novels, there’s a fair bit of action and rumination involving running and cycling. Individual rather than team sports, but fun nonetheless, I hope! I’m sure my marathon-running father would agree.

So no, not autobiography. But not not autobiography, either, just the usual author’s smorgasbord. As my wife says, be careful what you share with me–it just might end up in a book.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Self-Publishing with CreateSpace and Amazon in Twenty Not-So-Easy Steps

I’ve now self-published three novels with CreateSpace (print) and Amazon/Nook/my website (eBooks), and while I’m not an expert, I have developed a system that seems to work. At least, it works for me. When I went to launch Flight last month, though, I realized it had been more than a year since my last release. That primer I’d intended to write in late 2012 when I published Gay Pride & Prejudice? Yeah, turns out it would have been exceedingly helpful to have on hand this time around, particularly the Byzantine steps needed to create a print-ready cover PDF for CreateSpace.

So while I waited for CS to review the print files for Flight, I quickly typed up the steps to my process. I wasn’t trying for the nice round number of 20; just worked out that way. Of course, it’s more like 41 steps if you count the nested lists… Anyway, many of these notes are very specific and seemingly esoteric if you haven’t gone through the process, but I thought I would share them anyway for anyone interested in the steps I take to make a book. My hope is that they might actually be useful for someone else engaged in the self-publishing revolution, too.

Summary

Before I move on to the steps to my self-publishing process, I thought I would quickly summarize them:

(1)  Write the text in MS Word using a formatted template from CreateSpace
(2)  Download a custom cover template from CreateSpace
(3)  Buy inexpensive high-res cover art and use Photoshop/Illustrator to create the cover
(4)  Upload completed interior and cover files separately to CS (typically in PDF format) to be reviewed at their end for print-readiness
(5)  Order a print proof copy, revise the final draft, upload files, and proof again
(6)  Take the truly final, completed text and convert it to eBook format(s)
(7)  Upload eBook files to various vendors and to your website to sell

Voila! Sounds easy, right? Right.

So here are those steps with much more detail and advice gleaned usually the hard way by moi. Let me know if you have any questions by posting a comment—chances are, if you’re wondering about something, so is someone else.

The Steps as I See Them

  1. Choose paperback trim size (8.5 x 5.5 for me) and download the formatted Microsoft Word template from CreateSpace: https://www.createspace.com/Products/Book/InteriorPDF.jsp
  2. Write the novel. Revise the novel. Go away for a week minimum, a month preferably. Read the novel and revise again. Have others (a minimum of two, preferably someone with editorial skills and experience!) read the manuscript when you think it’s complete. Revise again.
  3. Set up the book at CreateSpace.com. (If you don’t already have a CS account, you will need to register, which involves sharing your Social Security number for tax purposes and a bank account for direct deposit of your future spoils.) Pick either a CreateSpace ISBN for your new project or your own. (I use my own so that the publisher of record is my imprint, Second Growth Books, not CreateSpace/Amazon, but that also means my book isn’t available for libraries to order from Amazon.) You can buy your own from Bowker (https://www.myidentifiers.com/).
  4. Once your book is in close to final shape, download a custom cover template for your chosen trim size and number of pages from CreateSpace: https://www.createspace.com/Help/Book/Artwork.do
  5. Edit the PNG file in Photoshop. For my self-published titles, I buy royalty-free stock photos (Flight, Family Jewels) or vectors (Gay Pride & Prejudice) from http://BigstockPhoto.com—seriously affordable and good high-res images. You’ll need the cover photos to be larger than 1200×1600, so I definitely recommend buying a high-res cover image from a professional website that offers royalty-free options.
  6. Once your cover is complete, print it to a PDF file in high print quality according to these specifications:
    • Fonts and images are embedded.
    • Specified page size matches the intended trim size plus bleed (if applicable). You may lose the bleed you included in your native document if not printed to the proper size.
    • Bookmarks, annotations, and comments are disabled.
    • Document security (any type) is not used.
    • PDF/X format is used. PDF/X is preferred, but if you are submitting non-PDF/X files (for example, PDF/A), any comments, forms, or other non-printing objects could be removed during our review process.
    • Transparent objects are flattened.
    • Spreads and printer’s marks are disabled.
    • Downsampling, or decreasing resolution, of images is disabled.
  7. Other important print-to-PDF settings:
    • Page size = custom; match the document size specified in Photoshop (in inches). Or choose an existing paper size and modify it to match the Photoshop document size—typically 19 x 13 inches.
    • Landscape
    • Minimum 300 dpi
  8. Upload your interior file to CreateSpace as either a .doc or, if you have a bunch of interior art work, printed to PDF file using the same settings as the cover file. I’ve done each for different books and had good results.
  9. Upload your cover file to CreateSpace.
  10. CS will review the files and let you know when they are ready to be proofed, usually in about 24 hours.
  11. Use CS’s online proof review option first. Once you’re satisfied with the cover and interior there, order a print proof copy.
  12. Use the time it takes for your proof to reach you to rest, work on your promo materials/website/Bowker record, or connect with neglected family and friends. Do not think about your book cover or content!
    hawaii

    Kauai, December 2007

    Whew, thought we should take a visual break, too. The text in this post breaks the rules for online text chunking! And yes, “chunking” is a word. Really.

  13. When you receive your proof copy, set aside a day or two (if you can; I know, right?) and read through your book as quickly as you can in order to catch consistency issues and other errors. Mark any changes directly on the page. Have a second reader do the same, if possible. The more eyes, the better.
  14. Edit your interior file in Word. Try not to make any other changes than what you’ve marked in your proof copy—the more changes you make, the more chances for new errors. (Trust me on this one.)
  15. When your file is complete, upload to CreateSpace. They will review the files one more time (24 hours or less) and let you know when your book is ready to go on sale.
  16. Now that your text is absolutely final, work on your eBook. One option: Pay CS $69 to convert your book to Kindle. Or find someone else to convert your book —the CreateSpace Community Forums have lots of folks who do the service well and on the cheap side.
  17. If you want to do it yourself, here’s what I do:
    1. Obtain the ePub template/coding directions from somewhere reliable—I got mine from wiki (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/EPUB), believe it or not, but plenty of other options are available.
    2. Code the book in Notepad (admin files) and DreamWeaver or another WYSIWYG HTML/XML editor (content files). Note: For the content files (chapters), cut and paste your text into Notepad first and then into your HTML editor. This strips all Word formatting out, which is what you want but also a pain because then you have to go through the text in your HTML editor and manually add back in any text formatting, like italics. Fortunately, Word allows you to search for character formatting (i.e., italics), so it’s not as impossible as it sounds. Just very time consuming.
    3. Use WinZip to compress the parts of the eBook. Be sure to add the mimetype file to the archive first, or the resulting .zip file won’t work.
    4. Once the file has been created, manually change the extension from .zip to .epub. (Ignore any warnings that might pop up.)
    5. Validate your ePub file (check it for errors) at http://validator.idpf.org/.
    6. Fix any code/compiling errors and re-validate as many times as it takes. For me, usually about three to five times of receiving errors, Googling them to find out how to fix them, fixing them, and revalidating.
    7. Convert your ePub to .mobi and any other format you want (I use Calibre); .mobi works on the Kindle and .epub works on Sony, Barnes & Noble’s Nook, iBooks, and other ePub-based readers.
    8. Create the Kindle record at http://kdp.amazon.com. (You’ll have to register as a Kindle Author/Publisher and link a bank account/SSN if you haven’t already done so.)
    9. Create the Nook record at https://www.nookpress.com/. Again, you’ll have to register if you’re not already a B&N Author/Publisher.
    10. Create the record at http://smashwords.com for even more distribution options. However, this involves reformatting a second Word file, which is also very, very time-consuming, which is why I have yet to do so. But I’m told it’s the way to go, so someday I probably will try it.
  18. If you want to sell paperback copies directly from your website, create a link to Amazon as an affiliate or a link to your CS store—you earn higher royalties on your CS store, FYI.
  19. If you want to sell eBooks directly from your website, connect with an online shopping cart system if you don’t already have that capability. I use eJunkie hooked up to a PayPal account, which came highly recommended from other self-publishers on the CS community forum. A bit non-intuitive at first, but if you’re a little bit techie, it’ll come.
  20. Ta da! You’re done! Well, sort of. You should have already started promoting (a trailer is good—I create mine with Animoto, borrowing their stock photos when possible but also pulling from Morguefile, WikiCommons, and my own image collection, and then edit in Adobe Premiere Elements), but marketing and promotion is a never-ending side job for most authors.

This probably sounds like a lot of work, and, as my wife can attest, it is. But once you’ve launched your first self-publishing title, the system is in place. For the next title, you just use your templates and your existing online accounts, and half of the steps (okay, maybe, like, a quarter) are already set.

In conclusion, self-publishing a title takes a fraction of the time writing a book takes, but it is not for the faint of heart. Nor is it for the technically-averse.

Software programs I own and use:

  • Microsoft Word
  • Notepad
  • Photoshop
  • Illustrator
  • Acrobat Pro
  • Adobe Premiere Elements
  • DreamWeaver

Websites I use and/or own (heh heh):

Last and not least, good luck, and may the self-publishing force be with you!

Posted in Self-Publishing, Writing | Tagged , , , | 5 Comments

First Reviews and a Book Giveaway

I know, you’re not supposed to read your own reviews. But for me it’s hard to resist, which is why I know that Flight is doing surprisingly well so far–it’s currently #11 on the Amazon Kindle bestseller list for lesbian fiction, and out of four reviews to date on Amazon and Goodreads, Flight has garnered an average of 4.75 stars out of 5. A loyal reader (you know who you are, C.) wrote to tell me, “Flight is an incredibly positive journey, not in the shallow sense of the absence of sorrow or pain, but in finding in love and life the courage to search and discover.” Another reader commented, “What a thought-provoking book! Slow food for the mind.”

SlowFoodSo why after five other well-received and decently selling books do I find all of this surprising? Probably because like many other writers (and artists and musicians), I am way too close to my own work to be able judge the merits of anything I produce. I mean, of course I like what I write. Why else would I spend so much time and energy on my novels? It’s not like I’m turning out runaway bestsellers; clearly I haven’t sold my fiction-writing soul at this point.

But it is still gratifying to have people I’ve never met announce publicly that they loved my book. And, of course, a relief, because I’m not sure I’ll ever completely quiet the little voice in the back of my mind whispering that I’ll never write anything good. Four years, six books, and only a few bad reviews in, that voice is much smaller than it used to be. Perhaps a decade from now it will have faded into nothingness. One can hope.

The funny thing is, the worst review I ever received was for an unpublished book, a historical mystery/romance that I entered many years ago in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest. I made it to the semi-finalist round, which meant I got to have a (supposedly) real Publisher’s Weekly reviewer take a gander. Lucky me. Suffice it to say, the reviewer detested the novel, and very ably and snarkily detailed exactly why, pulling zero punches in what seemed to my bruised ego like an attempt to convince me to give up writing fiction altogether.

abna-badgeLooking back, I now feel fortunate that I got that egregiously awful review out of the way in a venue that few people other than my friends and family members saw. I’m also glad I didn’t let that jerk–who has probably penned nothing more than snarky reviews himself–convince me to quit. If my literary-fiction-leaning grad school classmates and professors didn’t succeed on that front, I guess a random stranger didn’t have much of a shot, either.

But the thing I’ve come to realize about books that everyone else probably already knew is that taste is subjective. Some readers like one of my books and not the others, some like them all, and some don’t like any. And that’s okay. An estimated 95% of the books published in the US sell fewer than 1,000 copies. Given that reality, life is good.

Okay, so enough on reviews and sales and fragile author egos. The other part of this post relates to a giveaway: For those who don’t already know, I’m giving away a paperback copy of Flight on Goodreads. Sign up at  http://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/75931-flight before December 31 for a shot at winning a signed copy, or pick up an eBook copy–still only $3.99…

Happy Holidays to everyone, and happy reading!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

New novel, Flight, is out–finally…

I say finally because with our current family situation, writing time has been hard to find. Not to mention time to edit a final draft, design the book cover, proof the print copy, and code the ebook version… But it’s done! Woo hoo!

My website is updated with all the necessary details, including information on a sale I’m running now through the end of the year: all 3 of my latest ebooks for $10. Flight is only $3.99, while Family Jewels and Gay Pride & Prejudice are each only $2.99, for a limited time. Buying direct from me gets me the largest royalty, of course, but all of the ebooks are marked down on Amazon, too, except Gay P&P which is still “processing” for some reason.

The TwinsWhen I told my sister that I was disappointed I’ve only managed to put out one book in the last fourteen months, she responded, “But you have eight-month-old twins!” Fresh from a psychological counseling conference, she added, “Why don’t you frame it as, ‘I have infant twins, and I still managed to publish a book!’”

I’m not sure that’s how we writers do things, though. At least, not this writer. I guard my writing time jealously, mostly because I have a day job, and I begrudge the loss of an evening of writing, let alone many months of lost evenings. That doesn’t mean I don’t love being a parent, of course, just that it’s difficult sometimes to find balance in the form of family, work, and writing. But rather too full a life than too empty–in fact, that’s the  struggle in reverse that my protagonist, Ash, faces in Flight.

And look at that. I managed to bring the conversation back to writing. Because that’s what we writers do.

Happy Holidays, and happy reading…

Posted in Fiction, Parenting, Self-Publishing, Twins | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

A Quiet Weekend–Er, Few Hours

Last night, Kris and I went to a holiday party hosted by another two-mom family, and rife with young children with same-sex and a few opposite-sex parents. We actually left the house only fifteen minutes later than planned–a record?–and even managed to stop at the bookmobile along the way to pick up some items on reserve. (I Heart the Bookmobile!)

At the party, we commandeered a corner of our friends’ sectional couch and proceeded to entertain all three children while managing to hold adult (though somewhat child-centered) conversations with six different people. Okay, so two were a couple, but still. Not bad for our first party with all three bubbas.

One of the women we talked to, let’s call her Sarah, was at our friends’ daughter’s two-year-old birthday party back in March, when Kris was 33 weeks pregnant. Upon learning that we were having twins, Sarah infamously commented: “Your life is over!” Last night, she apologized for her prior indelicacy. I assured her, “It’s okay. Turns out you were right.” And everyone chuckled.

I wasn’t really kidding, though. Fellow parents of three under three are nodding sagely right about now, while others are probably sucking their teeth in disapproval. For all of those who might question this characterization, I have a clip for you to watch:

Enough said.

Unbelievably, all three children slept well last night, after a good week or ten days of boycotting sleep. Of course, we paid for our smugness today by having to deal with three crabby, grouchy children. Typical…

So why is this post called “A Quiet Weekend–Er, Few Hours” you ask? Because Kris just packed the tribe up and took them to visit friends, clearing out for a few hours so that I could–roll the drums–proof the print copy of Flight, my new novel! The proof copy arrived on Friday, and I’ve been trying to find time to get it read ever since. My wife graciously offered me a quiet few hours to get some work done. Sweet, hmm?

Proof copy--on sale Dec 10-ish!

Proof copy–on sale Dec 10-ish!

I’m pleased with how the cover turned out, but definitely finding changes to be made to the interior files. CreateSpace makes it easy to update, though, and I won’t have to proof a print copy again, which means the book will be on sale in a week and a half or so (12/10ish–in time for the holidays!), assuming I find time to code the ebook versions. Someday I’ll write a post about how I make my books with CreateSpace, Photoshop, an ePub template, and Calibre. So satisfying to design the cover, interior, and everything else–the perfect blend for my geek/creative sides.

In the meantime, I’ve updated my author website. To find out more about the book, visit www.katejchristie.com. The trailer is below, and for those interested in checking out the official excerpt, read on…

Posted in Family, Fiction, Twins, Writing | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments