Just Say No To Zero Population Growth

Michelle Duggar, 45, and her husband, Jim Bob, have revealed they are expecting their twentieth child. Well, whoopee. What a surprise. And just when we were hoping for the joys of menopause to hit Michelle.

“We are so excited,” Michelle said. “I was not thinking that God would give us another one, and we are just so grateful.” I’ll bet you are grateful. Now it’s for sure your TV show will be renewed for another season.

The Duggar’s motto is “There’s always room for one more.” Really? Is that the motto? Is that what it means to bring a child into the world? Why not have another one, we have room in the dorm, one of the older ones is moving out. What was her name again? Not sure, but it starts with the letter “J”.

Seems as if that’s a bit of a superficial motto but then, when you’re into hyping your reality show and your new book “A Love That Multiplies”, that’s as good a motto as any.

Jim Bob (his name would have to be Jim Bob, isn’t it fitting?) joked “I don’t know how it happened.” Ha, ha! Isn’t Jim Bob funny?

Jim Bob looks like he’s been driving the Clown Car, and says (all joking aside about him not knowing how it works) that they “didn’t want to stop at an odd number.” Oh, well then, that makes perfect sense. So given that 20 is an even number, and the fact that they already live in a house big enough to house the cast of Saturday Night Live and there’s always room for one more, why not bring another human being into this world? Those are good reasons. As good as any I can think of to take on the responsibility of another child.

It’s obscene. That these self-professed Christian people continue to do this, take advantage of the fact that Michelle’s eggs are refusing to give up and Jim Bob’s Super Sperm are still paddling upstream, in order to procreate again and again so they can get on the national news, and all over the internet, and write more books, and get the title of their TV show changed to 20 Kids and Counting. It is materialistic and irresponsible and reprehensible. What selfish individuals they must be.

And of course, the twenty kids and their future spouses are brain-washed into thinking that this is the right thing to do and what if each couple procreates ten times over? Michelle and Jim Bob (I still can’t believe his name is really Jim Bob), will have 400 grandchildren.

It “takes a village” to raise a child. It will take a village to house the Duggars and their children and grandchildren.

What if we all did that?

I know, I know, Michelle and Jim Bob don’t care about that. They are just glad that they did it first, and they are the lucky ones to get the reality show. All the couples who come after them and have twenty kids won’t be so lucky. But maybe if they start earlier, and have one per year until they’re 45, they might be able to out-procreate the Duggars by half a dozen kids or so. And don’t forget multiple births. An added bonus!

It’s a job to them. See, we have to have all these kids so we can get on the Today Show, and everyone will know who we are, and we can write books, and make lots of money. That way, Jim Bob doesn’t have to work too hard at being a “realtor”.

Never mind that we have recently hit a world population of seven billion and we are running out of resources. Don’t you worry about that, Michelle and Jim Bob. You just think about how that new little one is going to increase your coffers, and get you more attention, okay? Because that’s what you’re doing, despite all your lamentations otherwise, that you are “grateful for each and every gift of a child”. I guess you could look at it as a “gift”.

I put a scene in my novel, Whatever Happened to Lily?, about this very thing. No one ever mentioned it, and it was a bit disappointing, because I’d hoped it would be a social commentary of sorts. That the girl Katie, who Jay wanted to get it on with, was only interested in marriage and having twenty children to become “warriors for God”. He didn’t want any part of that scenario. Good for Jay, he thinks a lot like I do.

I thought a long time about writing this, because it has all been said before, by others, again and again, how these people don’t get it. It enrages me, that they WILL NOT STOP IT. And I will supply no links to any website that condones the behavior of the Duggars or anyone else in the quiverfull movement.

Images in Ebook Files – How to Include Them and Maintain Sanity

I recently rereleased my first novel, Whatever Happened to Lily? I took on this effort because of a stupid error on my part, I hadn’t been consistent with the author name among the print versions and Kindle versions of my two novels. I felt it important enough to change, so asked how this might be done.

Alas. The author name is engraved, set, permanent, not to be changed! And the book has to be completely redone in order to put a new name on it. After some thought I decided I’d go for it, and so if I was going to go that far, I might as well reread it and see what stood out as needing work, or being eliminated, or otherwise crappy writing. I found some things I didn’t like, and added a couple of parts to make the character (Jay) seem less of a turd. I also added a washed out image on one of the front title pages and tweaked the cover. I uploaded this to CreateSpace and all is well.

I ordered a proof, decided I messed up the cover, fixed that and ordered another proof and liked it, plus the interior. That was finished, but now the Kindle version must match the printed version so I did that too.

The Kindle version requires a Microsoft Word document with different formatting. It must have no headers or footers, and the dropped cap and small caps at the beginning of each chapter must be removed.

Next it can be saved as html and, in the past, this was the end of that process. But wait! I wanted images in the Kindle version too, I thought that would make it look more professional. I see the cover picture on some of the books I’m downloading, and I want mine there too, plus I want that washed out title page included.

I transferred the html file to my Kindle and (naturally) the images weren’t there. Figures. That would be way too easy.

I spent two (that’s TWO) days on figuring out how to do this, and I am still not satisfied with the outcome, although the Kindle version looks fine now. I got on the KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) message boards and sure enough, there is plenty of chatter about how to include images. Lots of posts that begin with “Help!!” so I know I’m in the right place. They all say, put your images in a folder along with your html file and zip them together and upload the zip file.

Ah! Of course, why didn’t I think of that? It doesn’t know where to find them. I did what they said. Interestingly enough, all three files ended up on my Kindle, both images and the html file, and looking at the html file revealed that the images were, uh, missing. Still missing. A couple of problems here. One, I DON’T want those image files uploaded as separate files, and two, I DO want them to be included in the html.

I am one of the unlucky people who can’t just chalk this up to experience and look for another way. That would be too easy. No, I’m one of those who will find out why this doesn’t work, dammit, zipping up three files shouldn’t be rocket science.

Maybe the path inside the html file is wrong, I thought, and I fiddled with that, wasted more time. Finally I had to give it up. This is a very hard thing for me to do. I decided I had to try to use some software that I had downloaded a few months back, but hadn’t really used, called Mobipocket Creator.

Another learning curve, but I used that and I did get the images to appear inside the file. But now I had formatting issues. It appears, this software ignores those hard break lines you put in the Word doc, which is then converted in the html file, but when creating the mobi file, it ignores those blank lines.

Wonderful. I now have to Google that and discovered that I can create a Style in word. The first line should have 24 pts (points?) before it, which is about three lines. I’d never done too much with Styles so this was good information.

Once that Style was created I could apply it to the first paragraph of each chapter. I was pleased with the end result, but am still frustrated that the first method didn’t work.

There was an interim step in the process where I downloaded more software called Sigil. This was before I ended up with Mobipocket. Sigil informed me that I had to update my browser to IE9 which I’ve been putting off. I did it, and now I have another learning curve to figure out where everything went. My favorites used to be on the left, now they’re on the right. The refresh button moved. And where is the Print button?! I had to actually Google to find out and it seems you have to press the Alt key in order to get the File Edit Tools, etc. menu which then allows you to enable the Command Bar with the printer button on it. Really? The Alt key? Is this really an upgrade? Seems like we’re going back to the olden days, where you had to know secret combinations of keys.

All I want is a browser, a damn browser. I want it to be familiar, and useful, and intuitive. I thought we had that. I don’t mind the upgrade, but why can’t the basic functionality, and the location of buttons, stay the same? It sounds like Change For Change Sake to me, and that is never a good idea.

Even though I want to write, it seems that so much of my time is devoted to trifling stuff like this. I guess I have no choice but still, it is distracting, frustrating and counter-productive.

Now, back to writing.

Editing and re-editing

Is everyone on vacation? It’s been a rough week, as far as blog readers go. I can see how many readers there are! I’m watching you and I’m not feeling the joy right now. It’s times like these I think, why bother? My post is late this week too, due to a family emergency.

And furthermore, and as an aside, I travelled to Rochester, New York Monday (the afore-mentioned emergency) and had lunch in a Cracker Barrel (don’t ask, it’s because this particular restaurant chain is the only one where you can get “greens” yet greens are never ordered by the person who insists we must stop at Cracker Barrel). There we were at the Cracker Barrel and I discovered that they had Halloween decorations out, complete with eerily laughing brooms which skimmed magically across the floor. Just what everyone needs, right? Brooms that travel by themselves?

But the point is, on July 18th we are subjected to Halloween crap? If I’m not mistaken, it’s over three months until we will need any of it, if “need” is the operational word here.

When we were at the front counter paying the bill, the Cracker Barrel lady tried to push candy on us.

“Three for the price of two!” she promised.

“Well, I see you have your Halloween stuff out already,” I said, ignoring the candy offer.

“Oh, yes,” she said, as if this were a good thing.

And I, being in a not-good frame of mind, said, “You know that is exactly what I hate about your place here. I can’t stand it that you have this stuff out so early.”

Ignoring my obvious disdain, she said, “Our Thanksgiving display is out too, over there.” She pointed to an area on the other side of the store. The “store” by the way, could be the subject of a whole other blog, but a talking broom that skims the floor is a clue as to the quality of the merchandise sold there.

I said, “You know, it’s July and I’m pretty sure I’m not ready to think about Thanksgiving. When does the Christmas stuff come out, anyway?” (I may have said something a little worse than “stuff”, I’m not sure, but remember, I was in a crappy mood.)

“The last week in July,” she announced, and I think she was kind of proud about that, as if, we can SO compete with the big time – the box stores and Macy’s and even J.C. Penney and Sears!

Whatever.

Here’s the real blog content now:

A few months back a friend of mine commented that when she searched for my books on Amazon, they don’t both come up under Lynn Schneider, but Whatever Happened to Lily? the print version, comes up only under Lynette. So searching for books under the author name of Lynn Schneider does not bring up everything, which is two print versions and two kindle versions, but one print and two kindle versions. Not good.

Way back when, without properly thinking it through, I listed the author name as “Lynette” then decided I wanted to change it to Lynn. But too late, the author name is listed as Lynette. I asked CreateSpace about this and they informed me that that I’d have to rerelease the book because the author name can’t be changed.

The kindle versions are not an issue. These are easily changed.

I’m going to rerelease both the print and kindle versions of the novel, but first I thought I’d edit it again, to see if it could still stand up to my newly acquired writing standards. This is what I found.

I found a lot of overused, duplicate, unnecessary words. I tend to use words like “that”, “so”, and “just” way too much. These words are “throwaway words”. Many times they can be eliminated. For instance, take this sentence:

I had known what it would likely say, that my wife looked nice, that my daughter was beautiful and that I looked wonderful. And she did say all that and more, that she had cried when she saw it, that it had likely been a mistake to ask to see it, because it had upset her more than she would have thought possible.

I count way too many “thats”, in fact there are six of them. Some of these are superfluous. Here is the correction:

I had known what it would likely say, that my wife looked nice, my daughter was beautiful and I looked wonderful. And she did say all that and more. She had cried when she saw it, and it had likely been a mistake to ask to see it, because it had upset her more than she would have thought possible.

Take this sentence: He thought that he might go back inside. The “that” is not needed. He thought he might go back inside.

Sometimes “that” is needed, but 75% of the time it’s not. So I always have to edit for “that”.

Other words I overuse (especially in dialogue) are “just” and “so”. I’m not sure why, but I tend to use these words ad nauseum and must edit them out.

For example:

“So, I was just walking by your house and saw that the light was on in your room, so I figured that it would be okay for me to ring your doorbell.”

This can (and should) be edited, unless for some reason, all those extraneous words seem necessary in order to make the point, that the character is kind of clueless.

“I was walking by your house and saw the light was on in your room, and figured it would be okay for me to ring your doorbell.”

The corrected sentence gets rid of a couple of occurrences of “so” and “that” and a “just”.

Another thing I noticed and which I wanted to fix, is inappropriate punctuation after sentences that contain dialogue.

“That has nothing to do with me,” she shut the refrigerator with a thump.

Incorrect!

If dialog is followed by an attribution (she said, for example), it can be thus:

“That has nothing to do with me,” she said and she shut the refrigerator with a thump.

Or:

“That has nothing to do with me.” She shut the refrigerator with a thump.

But really, I wanted to edit the character, Jay. The more I thought about it, the more I believed he was a crude jerk, when he goes for a run in order to “decide” whether he should continue his cyber-relationship with Lily or not. What a weasel. He runs and thinks about how his marriage sucks and how it’s not really his fault, that it’s Nan’s fault – blah, blah. Meh. He needs to own it. He is the one who wanted it, he decided to do it, he needs to be responsible for his decisions without blaming others. Here is the new passage:

As I ran, I thought about my marriage to Nan. It had been on a gradual decline and I couldn’t say when it had first begun, but I wondered if now that Grace was gone, there really wasn’t a reason for us to be together any longer, as she had suggested. She was tired of the whole situation, of me, and my feelings for Lily.

[Seems like he is telling himself what he wants to hear in the above paragraph.]

If I were honest with myself I would have to admit that I loved her, but not like I’d loved Lily. She seemed unapproachable to me now. No matter what I said or did, I couldn’t get past the wall she had built up between us. She didn’t want me now. I had a role in it too, of course, with what was happening between Lily and me. I tried to tell myself it was Nan who was solely responsible, but I knew it wasn’t so.

[He’s being honest with himself, aren’t we lucky? She’d (Nan) had built up a wall. With good reason, and he’s starting to feel like he might have done some things to affect their situation. Wow. How very perceptive.]

My chest hurt, and I had to stop. I felt bad, shaking and nauseous. I wondered if I had overdone it, was I having some sort of attack? A heart attack maybe? I had never entertained the possibility that such a thing could happen. I was healthy, a runner. Look at my father, still vital in his eighties. But something felt twisted, and I sank down onto the sand.

[My male characters all tend to have physical issues, chest pains and the like, when they get upset.]

My breathing slowed and I felt better and realized it must have been some kind of panic attack, that the combination of the run and my delusions about myself had thrown me into.

[An aha moment, he’s realized he has delusions about himself.]

Because it had nothing to do with Nan. It wasn’t my perceived notion that my marriage was going sour that would make it okay to establish some sort of relationship with Lily. It was me. I was solely responsible for it, I wanted it. I didn’t have the strength to not want it. I wanted to know Lily again. I wanted to have something with her. I couldn’t stop it. I was a weak, horrible person. I knew that. But I couldn’t stop it.

[Finally. He acknowledges what the reader already knows. The author wanted him to come across as a very sympathetic character, but blaming others for his actions doesn’t work. He will still be a nice guy in the readers’ eyes, I think, but with imperfections and real-life temptations and decisions to make.]

By the time I reached home, I’d made my decision what to do about Lily and I needed to tell Nan what had happened.

My male characters aren’t alpha males, like in romance novels. One of my good friends told me she thought I did women characters better and my male characters were a little “wussy”. I’d like to think Jay isn’t wussy, but he’s no alpha male.

I don’t believe in alpha males. I don’t think there are any, but if there is a sliding scale between alpha and wussy, Jay falls somewhere in between.

The above are some of the things I needed to do to my novel to (I hope) improve it. I hadn’t read it in a long time, more than a year, and I found I still liked it, but there were a few things I wanted to change about it to make it even better.

Design Your Own Book Cover

Recently, I read a couple of blogs about creating book covers. I probably should have read the articles before I designed my own book covers, instead of after, but mostly I read them hoping they would reinforce what I already knew.

I knew early on that I didn’t want to use the book cover designs available in CreateSpace (or BookSurge before it was CreateSpace), and someone suggested BookCoverPro. I investigated and decided to go for it, it was a fairly simple graphics package, and all the basics were there, adding text, borders, boxes, pictures. Once you put in the size of your cover, and the number of pages in your book, it figures out what size the cover (back, spine and front) must be and presents you with a blank template.

My first attempt was pretty basic, I plopped a picture of the Gulf of Mexico and clouds, with sun shining through on and sized it to cover the entire area.


After that I added text, and was done. This was a very simple cover, indeed, probably a bit too basic. I was going for a feeling, of loneliness, or melancholy. I’m not sure I succeeded with that. Once inside the book, the reader might think it was a picture the main character, Jay, had taken, because he is an amateur photographer.


My second attempt was a little more involved.

The wilted flower is referred to twice in the book, and it’s meant to be symbolic. That perhaps Lydia, to whom it was given, should have looked at it, drooped and dead before it could blossom, as an omen that her relationship with Geo be allowed to go the way of the rosebud. It comes back into the story years later and she tells him, “This is what happened to the first one.”

I bought a miniature rose bush in a pot, at Kroger’s and snipped the bud, placed it in a glass of water and waited. A few days later, it was perfect. So I took pictures of it, pictures on a black background, pictures with a bright background, with and without flash. This is the one I chose:


I used my photo editing software to get rid of the background and fill with black. I use a package called Photo Studio 5.5, which came with my Canon camera, and it’s a subset of what PhotoShop offers, but is usually enough. You can buy PhotoShop but it’s a bit pricey and if you aren’t very serious about editing pictures, it might be overkill. A good alternative is to download a free copy of GIMP which is every bit as comprehensive as PhotoShop, and it’s free. There are tutorials available about how to do anything you want in GIMP. I wonder how they do it, the authors of GIMP, offer such a complex, professional-looking package for no cost. There will be a learning curve to it, and I haven’t mastered it yet either, but I plan to.

Now the picture looks like this:


I made the cover of the book black and put the picture on, made the text white and I liked the combination, of dark pink, black and white with green. I got a little more creative with the back cover this time, put a picture of the author there, a dark pink box, and inside that another light gray box, which made the dark pink now a border, with black text.


The first blog I read, The Dos and Don’ts of Cover Design, stressed three points, and I felt I had them all covered.

Letters that pop. I had that, white letters and a black background, and black letters against a pale background. Check.

Contrast. The dark pink against the black, and white lettering, I think that’s contrast. Check.

It should say something about the book. Not sure I can give a check here, although maybe it counts that there is a story about the wilted flower inside.

All in all, I’d say I didn’t do too badly here. On to the next article. Ten Tips for Effective Book Covers.

The title should be big and easy to read. Check, the title is big enough.

Don’t forget to review a thumbnail image of the cover. Check, it looks okay as a thumbnail.

Do not use any of the following fonts (anywhere!): Comic Sans or Papyrus. Check, used standard font.

No font explosions! (And avoid special styling.) Check, no explosions.

Do not use your own artwork, or your children’s artwork, on the cover. Does photography count? Probably not, check.

Do not use cheap clip art on your cover. Check, no clip art.

Do not stick an image inside a box on the cover. Check, no image inside a box.

Avoid gradients. Check, that’s where the color washes from dark to light.

Avoid garish color combinations. Check, I don’t think I did that.

Finally: Don’t design your own cover. No check! Uh oh.

And there was a Bonus tip: No sunrise photos, no sunset photos, no ocean photos, no fluffy clouds. Can’t check either, as there are three out of four here, on the cover of Whatever Happened to Lily?

I am not too sure how well I fared on the Ten Tips.

What do you think?