How Dying Changed My Life

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On May 4, 1995 I died seven times. That’s what the surgical notes revealed. I might not know any of that except my health insurance required that I obtain the full transcript and forward it to them – so that they could later tell me what they considered unnecessary and therefore were not going to cover. But that’s another story for another blog.

Shortly after returning home to Connecticut from a trip to Florida to visit my parents, I came down with the symptoms of what I believed to be the flu. After running a high fever for an entire weekend, my wife insisted I see my doctor. Since I had been diagnosed with a heart murmur my primary care physician was a cardiologist. After doing some blood work I was admitted to the hospital for treatment of a both a strep and a staph infection in my blood. It was the beginning of a month long ordeal.

The blood borne infection pretty much destroyed my mitral valve requiring open heart surgery to replace it and repair a fistula – a hole inside my heart between the ventricles. The procedure took seventeen hours to complete and, as previously stated, I died seven times before finally being revived.

As an aside, if you can prevent the need for open heart surgery by exercise and eating properly, do so. It’s no fun waking up in a recovery room with cotton mouth from being on with the distinct sensation of a four-ton boulder resting on your lungs.

I survived, of course. It sucked spending my 39th birthday in a cardiac care ward but it was preferable to how things  turned out otherwise, had my wife not insisted I go to the doctor.

What changed in my life from before to after the surgery was my general outlook on life. I was a workaholic retail manager, pretty much married to my job. Prior to the illness I believed I was on the fast track to being promoted to general store manager and all the time I spent away form my family was more than justified because of how much I was being compensated in stock options and such. I was going to wealthy, after all. After a month in the hospital and three months of recovery, my status at work changed – though not officially.

I was still a salaried manager. While I was on medical leave I was compensated with regular checks, same as if I was working. Despite having to fight with my health insurance to cover my hospitalization and treatment, all but $7000 of the nearly $130,000 in bills was eventually paid. It could have been a lot worse. But, even after returning to work without any medical restrictions, every time someone from upper management came to visit my store, the first thing they asked me about was my health. Over time, it became clear they were never going to promote me into a higher stress position. And I’m certain they thought they had my best interests at heart.

Still, there were other changes as well, mostly with my relationships with my kids who I had all but ignored for the eight years I had been working as a retail manager. I valued my time at home and spent it with my son and two daughters. However, something else happened while I was sick. I had vivid dreams that lingered well after my recovery.

Although I had been playing at writing for some time – one and off since junior high school, really – I had never taken it all that seriously. I suppose that in the back of my mind I thought about publishing a book one day. I’d finished a manuscript at one point during college and considered submitting it to publishers. I’m glad I didn’t because it really sucked. At the time I thought it was an achievement, though. And maybe it was in a sense. I mean, after that I knew I could write something of considerable length and complexity. Afterwards, while I was military, I served as unit historian and wrote and published an award winning 400+ page unit history. So, I knew I had it in me to publish things. It was just I’d never done anything with my fiction stories.

I submitted a few things of a technical nature to computer technology periodicals. Some things were posted online. I had become a self-taught computer technician and some people sought my advice on things.

Before the illness I had begun digitizing the material I had composed on typewritten pages. I continued doing that while recovering from the surgery. So I had a few hundred pages of stuff formatted so that I could edit and revise with my computer serving as a word processor. But even after I returned to work I set aside at least three or four hours a day for writing and/or revising. In the process those fever generated vivid dreams I had carried around in my head since the illness began to erupt onto the virtual pages of  my computer screen.

Those hours were stolen from my wife, of course. Nightly she would ask me when I was coming to bed. She never understood the obsession that I’d developed and eventually it ended our relationship.

I can’t say whether I’d been a writer had I never fallen ill in the Spring of 1995. I have had the writing bug for most of my life. But I doubt I would have ever finished One Over X, my first novel. You see, I was comfortable with a practical life founded on going to work every day. I made enough money that it was easy to forego pursuing any dreams left over from my youth. I never envisioned how much my life could change, or that I would eventually become a author.

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Ironing Out the Wrinkles in a Plot

In some ways publishing Fried Windows in May of last year created a few paradoxes for the main character Brent. WARNING: If you haven’t read the book, you might want to before continuing on. I’m about to reveal some things about the plot.

There are some relationships Brent and characters in my other novels, particularly Andy Hunter, Terry Harper, Lee Anders Johnston and Caroline Henderson from One Over X (two of six books published) and The Power of X (as yet unpublished). There is also a loose connection between the mother  in Becoming Thuperman and Terry Harper – as they attended high school together. Brent meets Terry Harper while he attends Purdue University where the latter is pursuing aa doctorate in applied physics and eventually becomes a professor before taking a tenured position at the University of Texas.

Brent and Lee Anders Johnston hale from neighboring towns in rural Ohio. Both were musicians in their teen years. Brent actually played bass for a brief while in a band that Lee led. Lee was best friends with the lead guitar from Brent’s garage band – which is how they met. Ironically, as they were both the sons of farmers, their fathers knew one another, though not very well.

After the disintegration of Brent’s garage band over an issue about performing a Rock Opera Brent wrote for his senior English project – a piece on Beowulf – Brent and Lee perform an acoustic set at the Christmas party of a friend of Brent. It is the last time Brent and Lee perform together for nearly twenty years, though the two of them conspired during their connection to compose a few songs that will end up reuniting them in later years – and reinvigorating Lee’s career as a professional musician.

Lee departs Rock as his vehicle of musical  expression and begins playing Blues with a couple of musicians while he attends Purdue University – where he studies Engineering and meets Terry Harper, his professor of physics. In Lee’s Junior year at Purdue his folks sell their farm in Ohio and retire to Texas. Lee transfers to the University of Texas. The following year, Terry Harper is offered a tenured position at UT, based on his recently published best seller on astral physics the university. And, so Lee and Terry reconnect at UT and the Lee changes his major to physics.

While in Austin and immersed in the vibrant artistic community, Lee joins a country band called Faction. At a bar in Austin he meets Caroline Henderson, the daughter of Joseph Henderson, CEO of HENCO. They share a few dates before establishing a relationship.

When Lee is offered a research job in Colorado, three of the original members of the band follow him there. They form the nucleus of a new Faction that lands a recording contract. Lee and Caroline have a long distance relationship until she completes college.

To pursue his musical career,  Lee quits his job and accompanies the band to Memphis where they record their first album.  Then, against her father’s protests, Caroline joins Lee and goes on tour with Faction, actually performing with the band as a background singer.

So, where is Andy Hunter is all this? Anyone who has read One Over X, knows that both Andy and Lee have a relationship in another version of reality, where both work for Henco. Lee works at a product assembly facility while Andy is a coder for the instructions loaded into the devices the company makes. The company’s CEO is Caroline Henderson who took up the reins when her father, Joseph Henderson passed away – never knowing she is to the Andy who was born of an unwed mother who used to work for the Hendersons.

In the other world, the one where Caroline and Andy grew up as siblings, Andy studies applied physics at UT Austin and becomes enamored with Dr. Harper to the point that he begins writing a boot about him. In the process he attempts to create a device based on Harper’s hypotheses that can cancel out the effects of the electromagnetic fields of the Earth – theoretically opening portals to every other dimension.

The powers that be – as in the Universal Powers That Be – are not amused with Andy’s devise of how it throws a significant distortion into the over all matrix of fabricated reality – the shell they created as the distracting illusion of life. With it Andy can, pretty much, go wherever he wants – as long at he knows his destination. Therein lies the rub.  Andy knows that the device can do but doesn’t understand it’s potential. And in the process of exploring it he becomes genetically altered to be more like an extraterrestrial ancestor of humanity than a man.

Brent is a transplanted straddler, born into the world to correct the problems Andy will eventually cause. He gets sidetracked with his own issues and adventures but, moreover, he is intended to defeat Andy’s modification to the design. Brent is naturally drawn toward the people he needs to connect with in order to fix things. Yet he is uncooperative in dealing directly with any of his new found friends.  As a result, Andy changes many things both for Earth and Anter’x, a directly connect world – via wormholes – on the other side of the galaxy. There the wolfcats thrive – for a while anyway, along with a primordial ancestor of humanity called the Hovdin and a race called Sabatin that enslaved the Hovdin for a time.

In The Attributes, a two book set that I wrote a while back, all the timelines and plot lines are resolved. Imagine that! Me crop 2

 

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Where Is Alabaster Cove?

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Somewhere between the coastal mountains and the Pacific Ocean in northern California there is a mythical town called Alabaster Cove. At least, I think that’s where to begin looking for it. You see, on top of everything else I have problems with, reality being one of them, there are random people I know who like making up stuff. In other words, my world is largely populated with writers.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with being a writer – unless you ask someone who actually lives with one. I’m sure my ex has a pretty long list of things she never really liked about living with me. Anyway, one of the writers I know fairly well conjured Alabaster Cove into existence. I’m not sure where it came from. Maybe it was an inspiration caught between imagination and a dream. You know the place, somewhere under the rainbow – or should that be over? Let’s just say, for the sake of argument, that the place actually does exist even if only in Deek Rhew’s mind.

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Deek is part of a dynamic duo of fiction writing. Erin Rhew, his wife, is an accomplished sci-fi/fantasy writer. Deek does mystery/detective stuff. Together they constitute what Kurt Vonnegut Jr. referred to as a Nation of Two. They were born to be together. All they had to do was find one another and suddenly their lives made sense. And everyone else who knows them cannot think of one without the other. They are that inseparable. That, by the way, trumps what I was saying about living with writers. When both people in a relationship write for a living the result can be magical. Not sure if they plan to collaborate on anything – a sci-fi who dun it? Well, I’d buy it. For the present she proof reads his stuff and vice versa. Each is the other’s biggest fan.

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They live somewhere about in Oregon. It rains there a lot. Since I know a lot of prolific writers who live in the Pacific Northwest, maybe the weather has a bit to do with why they write so much. Maybe I should live there instead of sunny (mostly, anyway) Florida. It would be an experience waking up in a world where I would be surrounded with writers, each of us trying to one up the other with a quick turn of a phrase. Come to think of it, maybe that wouldn’t be such a good thing after all.

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Deek’s latest effort is a novella titled Birth of an American Gigolo. Disclaimer: it’s not an autobiography. The novella is set in the aforementioned Alabaster Cove. It is also a place mentioned in Deek’s upcoming novel, 122 Rules. So, if you aim to become totally immersed in the fantasy of Deek’s fiction, and want to get to know the people who populate the mythical town of Alabaster Cove, Birth of an American Gigolo is the jumping off point. Please make sure your life vest is fastened securely before doing so. Deek is pretty good at telling stories that drag you inside and hold you captive for however long it takes you to read them.

 

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Review of Rose Montague’s Norma Jean’s School of Witchery: Book 2 Ghost School

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First, let’s get the disclaimer out of the way. Rose and I have a professional relationship as fantasy authors. We read and critique one another’s work and do it honestly, I believe. I enjoy her writing so much that I support her art by purchasing her books. I’m pretty certain that someday she will be well known in the field and I may actually resort to name dropping.

A few months back when Rose Montague began to tease publically about a new Norma Jean’s School of Witchery book, I was elated. I enjoyed reading book 1. How could I not? There’s a namesake character in it. Imagine that! So, because she made an announcement about book 2, I knew the next book in the series was being edited for publication.

I always enjoy reading Rose’s books because in her fictitious universe damned near anything is possible. Also, I’m not sure there is any issue she will shy away from in her writing. As a result, her characters feel pretty realistic. Despite the genre and the fact that most characters have some pretty outstanding abilities to change the world to suit them, they have situations, problems with relationships and they need a little help from their friends from time to time to resolve things. So, as I began reading this one I was wondering what new wrinkles Rose might introduce. And after reading Ghost School, Book 2 of the series, I am not disappointed. There is a good deal of unexpected in this book.

I don’t think it’s a spoiler to mention there are zombies. Lots of them. And, true to form, Rose’s zombies aren’t exactly your run-of-the-mill sort. Jewel, our returning heroine from Book 1, confronts several other challenges only one of which is figuring out what to do with a town or two filled with zombies and an evil, megalomaniacal necromancer who not only conjures them from the grave but also has stolen a piece of serious, super-secret military technology that is designed to amplify magical powers to a quantum level. Oh great! A bad witch on steroids! You get the picture.

There are other returning favorites from book 1 of the series and Jewel needs their help in dealing with the bad guy. Meanwhile, we learn all sorts of amazing new things about Jewel as she explores and defines her magical powers. Hint, she’s not just a pyro, folks.

The ending is surprising but necessary for what I think lies ahead and I can’t wait to read it. Also, there is apparently another spin-off in the works. Imagine that! Three series set in one highly imaginative universe. Gives me goosebumps.

If you’re reading this, stop after the next sentence. Read Book 1 first! Oops, you’re still reading, aren’t you? Well, you should never consider reading book 2 of a series before book 1. I mean, who does that?  So, first go get book 1. And, although this series isn’t written to depend much on Rose’s other series, its characters appear in this one from time to time. So, you may as well hop on over and start reading Jade and Jane, Rose’s two other published books about Jewel’s family members. There is a third book on its way in that series as well, so be on the lookout.

If you are new to Rose Montague’s work, she’s a gifted storyteller with a vivid and sometimes wild imagination. Her work sparkles with the magic she binds to the pages with spells that only she knows how to create. She has a great feel for characters and setting up challenges that leaves readers wondering how in the hell do you overcome that? Her target audience is Young Adult. She is unabashedly a writer as well as an avid reader of the genre. If you look, you’ll see her reviewing the works of other YA writers. Although I’m no longer technically in that chronological mix, I’m still hanging in spirit. The trick is to never grow up, right? I know I never will. Just ask my kids. Anyway, I enjoy a good YA book every now and then, and Rose never disappoints.

I give this a strong 5 for imagination, content and storytelling but a 4 for editing. In one place the POV shifts from Jewel to another character named Louise. A chapter break segregates it, so just be aware that toward the middle of the book that is coming. The shift is necessary and it does portend to some future things. There are a few missed typos. C’mon, every book has some, right? My overall rating is still 5.

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Feeding The Need

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Those of us who write understand the gnawing of an idea that enters our consciousness through a dream or, perhaps, a simple crazy, disjointed, random thought that occurs during any given day. Eventually, it can lead to a story. That story may be several pages, a novel or several novels. But that is pretty-much how the process begins. And it isn’t like you can ignore the impulse to write. If you try, it will make you ill or turn you into an alcoholic. There is no other option but to write until having writ you can move on – usually to the next warped idea that comes to mind.

As a published author one of the frequently asked questions is: ‘When did you first know that what you were writing was a novel.” I have to qualify some things before I answer that, with regard to my present novel in release, Fried Windows (In a Light White Sauce). Unlike the other thirty-some-odd manuscripts I have archived somewhere or the other, FW started out to be a collection of short stories. Those stories had recurring characters and the world – or rather universe – was shared. But when I wrote FW in draft it was sixteen separate short stories. At some point, fairly close to when I decided to submit it to Pandamoon Publishing, I decided to stitch it together as a novel. After that effort there were a couple of other chapters feathered into the story, just so that it made some sense and had flow as well as a story arc. Even so, I submitted what are the first two chapters to an online magazine. Independently a friend edited them, gratis – which was all I could afford. I loved her suggestions and went with most of them. The result: I submitted the two chapters as a single short story, fully expecting it to become my launch pad, a series submitted as installments to the magazine. At some point I would assemble the whole into a collection. That was my idea, anyway.

I was pretty much homeless at the time, and would have lived on the streets if not for the accommodations and largess of my brother-in-law and oldest sister. I did odd jobs for him as a way of paying my keep. But mainly I wrote and made great progress on a lot of that manuscripts I had never had the time to deal with while working 55+ hours a week as a retail manager.

I was not in a good place after what most have termed a mental meltdown. Of course, I don’t see it that way. Leaving my last previous job made all the sense in the world because. I honestly believe, I’d be dead by now had I not done so. After living in my brother-in-law’s house for nearly a year he delivered an ultimatum about my writing: sell something, or find a real job – as in anything that pays a weekly wage.

He and I have very different perspectives on money.

He has always believed I was my father’s prodigal son. I have always understood that money is as worthless as the paper it is printed on – a more durable sort of toilet paper, actually, especially so if  the majority of people ever bother to consult Webster’s as to the definition of fiduciary – which defines our monetary system. My sister got in the middle of all that. Of course, she loves me as her baby brother. But the reality of my situation put a lot of stress on her, and I appreciated that. I was divorced. My ex-wife pretty much sapped all my savings away in the process of paying debts for an ill-fated business venture. We filed for bankruptcy just before we divorced.

I’m not blaming her for everything here. There were more than enough errors to go around. But had I done what I wanted to do instead of listening to her, I think things might have turned out better. But, then, really, who knows?

What I am certain of is that my kids were better off for having experienced the negative side of happens to an otherwise apparently successful, affluent married couple. We had the $300k home in Connecticut. Paid cash for it. We had cars we owned outright as well. My company was making money and selling my stock options afforded me a lifestyle I had not yet earned. Our kids were attending the best school system in the state. But, within the course of a year and a half, it all unraveled. The tragedy took a few more years to fully play-out, but that when the decline started,around the time I was hospitalized for endocarditis.

I had open heart surgery in May of 1995 to repair a failing mitral valve. As I was recovering I was following O. J. Simpson’s trial on TV. I died seven times during the surgery. I would have never known that had I not needed to fax the transcripts of the surgery to the insurance carrier. They were disputing everything, of course. From my side of the experience, I had a couple of very long and persistent bizarre dreams during that experience. And those are also incorporated into The Wolfcat Chronicles, a series I have under contract with Pandamoon Publishing.

I toyed with writing for most of my life. I wrote a manuscript called Tarot while I was in college. Some of that lead directly to The Wolfcat Chronicles. I really and honestly believed Tarot would be published. I retyped it – you had to use typewriter back then – and allowed someone, a friend I respected, to read it. I expected her to tell me, “I love it send it away to a publisher now!” What she told me was a bit more sobering. “This is really a great rough draft. What you need to do is find a good editor.”

Dream shaken but not shattered. I still have that manuscript in a box somewhere about. I have consulted it several times over the years whenever I was beset with excessive hubris. It grounds me. Think of it as the portrait of Dorian Gray that is kept in the attic.

I went on a hiatus from writing fiction while I served it the USAF as a crypto-linguist and unit historian. In that secondary role I composed a 400+ page document that is, technically, my first published work. The distribution was exclusive to those with Top Secret SCI clearances. Maybe four or five people every looked at it. It won an award though. So, at some point, I assume someone must have read it. As odd as it might seem for a fiction writer, that was the impetus for me to pursue my other stories.  All of it came into resolute focus when I was recovering for the surgery. I needed to do something as a legacy for my children if not for myself.

It’s been a long and often frustrating journey spanning twenty years to this point. Fried Windows completes one part of my life and begets another, the life of a published author. Imagine that!

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Review of Justin Lee Anderson’s Carpet Diem

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Imagine the big bang was a little mistake that rapidly spun out of control, the result of divine siblings messing around and being unable to stop it. Of course they roll with it, wagering on which species will evolve to dominate. But the game was rigged from the outset so that it isn’t supposed to end in a stalemate.

The title Carpet Diem is a play on the Latin for “Seize the Day”. In this case, Justin Lee Anderson’s novel might be called Carpe Vestis or Seize the Rug. A unique, ancient artifact that Simon Debovar inherits from his uncle, a renowned archeologist, is the source considerable divine interest. You see, what Simon has decided to keep as his living room carpet proves to be the thirteenth and final piece of the ages contest pitting angels against demons. It is all they need to resolve the eternal competition, but according to the Rules, they must have the present owner give it to one or the other sides.

The rug, along with the rest of Simon’s considerable inheritance, came into Simon’s possession thirteen years ago after nearly all of his relations die at a family reunion, the result of an apparent accident involving pudding. As the sole named heir he becomes instantly loaded. And he, an asocial sort retreats even further from society, holed up in an apartment as an antisocial hermit who generally hates people mainly because they smell bad. Simon has disabled his doorbell to prevent anyone from ringing it. But then, after more than a decade of silence, it sounds, waking him from his sleep. He doesn’t answer the door so much from the curiosity of who might be calling but instead to learn how, after all this time, it has managed to ring. Those responsible are an unlikely pair, an angel named Daniel and a demon named Lily who have come bearing propositions. They have long since thrown in together to find the last artifact and are about to make their tempting offers to Simon in exchange. Yes, this is that kind of story, stretching the limits of imagination in the process of advancing plot and having some laughs along the way.

Justin Lee Anderson writes in the tradition of heavyweights like Neil Gaiman, Terry Pratchett and Douglas Adams but with a style all his own. He provides a host of bizarre and seemingly unnavigable situations for his characters, which include just about everything supernatural from witches and wizards to teleporters, ghosts and, of all things, an all-knowing deer. There are even some beings that are undefined in the nature of the universe, with unlimited abilities – just to make things more interesting. With imagination unbridled Anderson writes an absurd adventure leaving the reader wondering where it might go next. And the answer is, just about anywhere.

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Preparing a Manuscript for Publication

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It seems that each time an ARC is created from a Word doc into Kindle MOBI a number of formatting errors appear. Amazon and CreateSpace have instructions on how to eliminate some common problems that will prevent a title from being accepted but, from experience, the guidelines do not cover every issue that may arise.

Part of the problem is that there seems to be as many different ways of creating a manuscript writing as there are authors. Some of us old timers started writing on typewriters and, at some point, graduated to word processors well before the advent of programs designed for personal computers. Since each word processor had its own set of rules, personal style was influenced by the hardware used. This created a lot of habits that complicate the use of Microsoft Word for producing a manuscript.

Here is a non-inclusive list of the known issues author can address and fix in advance of submitting a final version of a manuscript for editing and eventual publication. This list assumes you are using Microsoft Word, but it may apply to other, similar programs like Open Office.

  1. Do not use tabs when indenting. This throws off the spacing in an eBook.
  2. Use left justification only. At some point in the finishing stages of the editing process the document will be set for left and right adjustment.
  3. Do not use spaces to indent. Again this throws off spacing in an eBook.
  4. Regardless of what you were taught in school about two spaces between sentences, that is only used for scholarly work and is not done in novels. In the past typesetters charged by the character, including spaces, so publisher saved money by minimizing the use of spaces.
  5. Ensure there are no extra spaces at the end of a paragraph.
  6. Ensure there are no extra spaces at the beginning of a paragraph.
  7. Ensure there are no extra spaces between words throughout the document. A useful tool for finding extra spaces with Word is showing hidden characters. In the most recent version of MS Word it is turned on automatically when you show paragraph ends. Look for the paragraph symbol in the tool bar.
  8. Set the ruler in MS Word to automatically indent the number of necessary spaces at the beginning of a paragraph.
  9. Set up the Page Properties to single space between paragraphs. If your manuscript is later set to double space, as it should be for greater ease of editing throughout the process, when the document is converted, so will the spacing between paragraphs. Then, when it is converted to single space for publication, there will not be an extra 1 ½ lines between paragraphs (which is MS Word’s default). Word is designed mainly for business use. For writing a novel it must be adjusted.
  10. Book titles and chapter headers that are centered on the page need to be adjusted so that the centering is from the margin edge not the set paragraph indent. This also applies to any special characters used to indicate a change of scene in the body of a chapter. Also End or The End, if you have concluded your manuscript in that way, need to be centered from the margin not the indent.
  11. Now, here’s the biggy. Between chapters in a manuscript you will need to insert a page break. This forces the Kindle Conversion to start your next chapter at the top of a fresh page. Otherwise your next chapter will appear immediately after, as in the next line, following the concluding sentence of the previous chapter. Still, that may not be enough. If your chapter ends on the last line of the previous page, you will need to insert the page break at the top of the ensuing page, followed by a new line. For the sake of having the beginning of chapters look consistent through a book on Kindle, it may be necessary to insert a new line after each instance of a page break. A page break should be used on the title page, the dedication page, table of contents page and each blank page you wish you have in the body of the manuscript. If the table of contents page is longer than a single page allow the document to flow onto the ensuing page. Set the page break at the conclusion of the last page of the table of contents.

If manuscripts are created according to these standards or adjusted to them prior to submitting to a publisher in the editing process it will significantly reduce the amount of time and effort required for finding all the formatting issues created in the Kindle conversion process. Generally speaking, if the manuscript is set up for Kindle, the CreateSpace conversion will also go more smoothly, as will conversions to ePub and other eBook and print formats.

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Review of Chrissy Lessey’s The Hunted Book Two of The Crystal Coast Series

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The Hunted focuses on the interactions of the characters Chrissy Lessey created in The Secret Keepers and The Coven. The inherent conflict between the good witches of the coven in the small, picturesque coastal town of Beaufort, NC and the evil ones who are descendants of Blackbeard the pirate is extended in a thoroughly engaging way.

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First, Lessey reveals more of the backstory, allowing the reader to know about 17th Century events that precipitated the coven’s hasty departure from their homes in Salem, Massachusetts. As you will remember, under the leadership of their new queen Lucia, the founding members of the coven establish their own colony. Lucia’s daughter, Charlotte and two other young witches are sacrificed to deflect the interest of Blackbeard the pirate in their island home. The young witches are taken aboard Blackbeard’s ship and, in due course, transported to the North Carolina Coast.

Susan Moore and her daughter Vanessa are direct descendants of the notorious pirate. Queen Lucia’s lineage carries to the present as Queen Patricia, her daughter and heir, Stevie, and the five-year-old Charlie, Stevie’s son, who struggles with both autism and his emerging magical powers. Patricia possesses the fabled amethyst amulet that, in the past, Queen Diana entrusted to her daughter Lucia on the fateful night that Puritan Reverend Samuel Parris precipitated the witch hunts. Diana sacrificed herself so that her coven could escape.

The Hunted picks up shortly after the conclusion of The Coven as Stevie, Dylan and Charlie attempt to make a future together. But Stevie has yet to tell her ex-husband, Sam, about her new relationship. We also learn more about what happened to Vanessa Moore in the aftermath of the explosion of the boat she was on. And finally we visit with Susan Moore, Vanessa’s mother, who the local coven has stripped of her powers and had her committed to an insane asylum.

Susan befriends Chaplain Benjamin Parris, the proud direct descendant of Samuel, intending to use his interest in eradicating witches from the world to focus on the coven. Lessey sets the key players in place for the fiery confrontation ahead.

Despite Vanessa’s failure in The Coven to secure the amethyst amulet for her mother, Susan still covets it for its ability to enhance its bearer’s powers. If she can secure the amulet her bound powers will be restored and she will become the most powerful witch in the world. She plans to use her newly restored and enhanced powers to seize control of the coven and force those who banded together against her to bow down to her as their queen. In Chaplain Parris, Susan finds a willing, if at first unwitting, assistant.

The Hunted is very well-written, fast-paced and engaging. Lessey advances the storyline masterfully, more than fulfilling the promise of The Coven. The characters feel as real as their North Carolina hometown. You expect to be able to go there and meet these fictional people who are members of The Historical Society. At the conclusion there is little doubt where the tale is heading for the third installment. I look forward to reading it.

The Hunted is due out in the Fall of 2015 from Pandamoon Publishing. Review is based on an author supplied Advance Readers Copy.

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WIndows 10 – Plus Two Weeks, More or Less

WIndows 10 – Plus Two Weeks, More or Less.

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Windows 10 – To Update or Not to Update

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As the 29 July 2015 release date for Windows 10 approaches Microsoft has been releasing security updates in fairly rapid succession. These appear to be bug fixes as well as patches for security issues. Think of it as a kind of fix everything at once update. Unfortunately, there has been some device drivers updated as well, most notably NVidia graphics drivers. These appear to adversely impact people who are using SLI (multiple graphics cards) and multiple monitor configurations. In essence this is the serious gamer community that use Windows as a platform because, lets face it, Mac OS X has never been a great gaming platform and developer support for game development in Linux is primitive at best. In other words, Windows is the only significant platform for serious, cutting edge PC gaming.

Upgrading to Windows 10 may make a lot of sense for the gamer. It supports Direct X 12, which will not be released for any previous of Windows. So, even though there aren’t a lot of games out there that use Direct X 12, there certainly will be and their releases dates could come fast and furious with Christmas only five months away. What else would you get the gamer on your shopping list but a the latest and greatest game?

The problem with NVidia and Microsoft is that there appears to be two different version of drivers for the graphics cards. Now, normally you’d think the hardware manufacturer’s drivers would take precedence. But from past experience I have not always trusted the hardware manufacturer’s versions of any software to work out of the box. I’m not saying Microsoft has a great track record for releasing stable software but when it comes to drivers that work with Windows, usually the Microsoft version has been tested on a variety of systems. Gamers, however, want the fasted drivers for their machines and that is usually whatever the hardware maker has just posted. It may be barely better than a beta version of a driver.

Apparently what has happened in the past couple of days is kind of the reserve situation. You see Microsoft wants to increase its control, over the upgrade and update process to ensure stability of the installed base for Windows 10. That means they will release software updates and force them to be installed. Once released Windows will update on either a fast ring – immediately – or a slow ring – within a month of an updates release. The Windows 10  Beta Testers, aka Windows Insiders, are receiving these security updates that at present include display drivers and a number of other pieces of software that probably wouldn’t normally come in a security patch.  It may be to save time on execution of the patches, but it has cause some serious problems for some people out there with rather exotic configuration. I would point out that they should not be running Windows 10 in the first place but, being of a gamer mentality and wanting the latest and greatest…well, that’s why they are running Windows 10 and having problems with the upgrades. and updates. They want what’s cutting edge technology, even if it is a little buggy at times.

The bugs in these drivers range from not being able to boot a system normally to losing multiple monitor support, to having the driver attempting to install multiple times, once for each graphics card installed,  to having a system unable to boot at all.

I’m not a gamer, though I share the mentality of a gamer in wanting to run the latest updates and being at the cutting edge of things. My graphics driver is for the Intel chip on a Surface Pro 3. That driver works in all but a few feature functions that were supported with the original driver under Windows 8 and 8.1, namely being able to rotate the Surface while in tablet mode and have the chip change from landscape to portrait automatically. This may be something that needed to be ironed out between the touch screen LCD display manufacturer, Intel and Microsoft. And the way Windows 10 is made to default to desktop verse tablet mode (unless specified otherwise) I’m not too sure there will be a driver written that does support the feature. For me that is not a deal breaker in upgrading to Windows 10. As a writer I use the Surface almost always with either the portable keyboard or a Bluetooth keyboard while it is connected to a Surface Pro 3 docking station. In the latter configuration, I have an external monitor that allows pivoting to portrait mode for editing pages. This I have to tell the driver to do that, though supposedly the device supports the function with its software (on some operating system out there, perhaps Mac OS X). For the most part, that works for me, doing it manually at needed. There are a couple of minor glitches with the monitor when exiting from sleep mode and that requires me to cycle the power on the monitor, but it is a livable situation at this point.

I guess my point about whether to upgrade or not depends on how interested you are in running the latest software. You have to be ready for glitches and some inconvenience. So I’m not sure what all the online whining is about. Microsoft is sprinting to the finish line for the Wednesday deadline for the release of Windows 10. They are pumping out fixes for this, that and the other. But technically it is still beta software, regardless of whether this was the RTM version the OEM’s receive a couple of weeks ago. All things considered, I think this is remarkably stable as an operating system that is receiving new updates every few hours.

If you use your computer daily and need it to be as stable as possible and don’t really have the time to manage updating it and learning new features, DON’T upgrade to Windows 10 right away. If you are like me and see things as a challenge, like solving a puzzle, and don’t mind some inconvenience in the process just to be able to play with the newest technology, then DO upgrade. For all of those somewhere between those extremes, it’s your choice. If you hate Windows 8.1 and want to have something more like Windows 7’s desktop, then give Windows 10 a whirl. For everyone else, including those with some exotic configurations of hardware, give it a few weeks to a month for Microsoft to get all the driver support stabilized.

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