Bartenders Save Humanity – a guest post from Paul Krueger

Following on from my post yesterday about his book Last Call at the Nightshade Lounge, today I’m delighted to share a guest post from author Paul Krueger in which he talks bartending, magic and creating a world where getting drunk gives you superpowers. Over to you Paul…

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By now, I’ve had to quick-pitch Last Call at the Nightshade Lounge to a great many people. Over time, I’ve worn its concept down to a simple phrase I can throw out with rote fluency: “it’s about a secret society of bartenders who fight demons using alcohol magic.” The story is also about Chicago, and one’s relationship with their job, and the plight of the millennial college graduate in a post-Recession world, but the booze magic bit is always what seems to pique the most interest.

I read a lot of different types of books, but urban fantasy will always be my comfort zone. I find something fascinating about the idea of pulling up the floorboards of our world to catch a glimpse of something bigger, scarier, and more wondrous just past the edge of what we know. But so much of the genre is crowded with magical law enforcement: cops, private eyes, and government spooks, all patrolling the night with badges and wands. When I sat down to write an urban fantasy of my own, I knew I wanted to highlight a different class of worker entirely: the women and men who work in food service.

Last Call’s magic system came directly from the years I spent working in New York City restaurants. I was a barista, not a bartender, but the impetus was the same: find a way to showcase service industry professionals for the superheroes they are. It led me to creating a world where getting drunk literally gives you superpowers, instead of just making you feel like you had them. And it also literalized the idea that service jobs like bartending are deeply, deeply important, and that the people who do them are important, too.

Cocktails lent themselves to this idea enormously. Their preparation has a ritualistic air to it, though professionals and enthusiasts will debate the particulars of it until the end of time. And the fact that alcohol consumption tends to be an evening activity gave me a stronger tie to the conventions of urban fantasy, whose best bits take place at night more often than not. And on top of that, it gave me an excellent excuse to take an in-depth approach to my research.

But again, that magic system was just supposed to be a vehicle. The idea was always to democratize magic, and put it in the hands of people who were looked down on. It was supposed to be a skill anyone could learn, if they were curious enough, or brave enough, or humble enough to submit themselves to the service of others. All that might seem a bit high-minded for what was essentially just a silly idea I took way too seriously. But the truth is, people who work in food service are already superheroes.



Paul Krueger is the debut author of Last Call at the Nightshade Lounge, published by Quirk Books, available from all good books stores in paperback, priced $14.99 (US) and £11.99 (UK). For more information, please visit, or follow Paul on Twitter @notlikeFreddy.


Creating Book Apps With AppOpus – a guest post by Russell Phillips

Digital publishing has opened up a wider range of options for authors than ever before, but few of us are making the most of them. Today I have a guest post from Russell Phillips, on a format with exciting new possibilities, and one few authors are considering – book apps.

Over to you, Russell…


This post will explain how to create book apps for Android phones and tablets, which can be uploaded to Google Play and the Amazon Appstore, both of which pay 70% of list price per sale. The apps are created using an application called AppOpus Builder. At the time of writing, this costs $99, with a 30-day money-back guarantee. You’ll also need to install the free Java Development Kit (JDK).

AppOpus Builder creates apps that are effectively an ebook with a built-in ebook reader. The reader software includes a search facility and text-to-speech (TTS). It’s not as fully featured as some ebook reader apps, but it has all the essentials, and TTS is a nice addition. My only complaint is that the user has to tap a button to turn pages, instead of swiping. The developers have said that they’ll consider adding swipe page turns in a future version.

Why a Book App?

If you know HTML, CSS, and JavaScript, it’s possible to make ebook apps that are far more interactive than standard ebooks. Depending on your niche, this might be a big advantage or it may be an irrelevance. In the Operation Nimrod app, it is possible to display the floor plans at any point in the book, which isn’t possible in the ebooks. This is a useful feature, which isn’t really feasible in a standard ebook, but it’s barely scratching the surface of what is possible.

There is another, less direct, advantage. The Google Play store offers A/B testing of descriptions, something that is not currently offered by any of the ebook or print book vendors. The results could be applied to the book’s other formats, with the caveat that what works for the app won’t necessarily work for other formats.

Ultimately, the only way to be sure whether a book app will sell is to create one and see. So far, I’ve sold very few of the paid versions of my apps. The ad-supported ones do better, but generate very little income. On the other hand, they don’t seem to affect sales of the print and ebook formats. I haven’t tried Amazon Underground yet, but it would be interesting to see how that compares.

KDP Select

It’s not entirely clear to me whether or not a book created with AppOpus is covered by KDP Select’s exclusivity requirement. The Terms and Conditions for KDP Select state that “During this period of exclusivity, you cannot sell or distribute, or give anyone else the right to sell or distribute, your Digital Book (or a book that is substantially similar), in digital format in any territory where you have rights.”An app is certainly a “digital format” and I suspect that it would be considered “substantially similar”, since it is effectively a book with a built-in ereader app. However, I’m not a lawyer and I don’t work for Amazon, so I may be wrong.

Source Files

AppOpus Builder is not a writing tool. Rather, it will take a collection of files (one per chapter), and turn them into an Android app. HTML files are strongly recommended for the source files, but it can also import RTF and plain text files. A basic knowledge of HTML is therefore useful, but not essential. JavaScript can also be included, and can be used to add a level of interactivity to book apps. For the purposes of this post, I’m going to assume a basic knowledge of HTML and CSS. HTML Dog has some good HTML tutorials if you need them.

Images and JavaScript

Put all of your content files in a single folder. Images, JavaScript, and other media should go in a sub-folder. When referencing external files in the HTML, prefix the path with a “./”. For example, where you might normally have an image tag such as:
<img src=”foo/bar.png”>

In AppOpus Builder you should instead use:
<img src=”./foo/bar.png”>

Linking to Other Apps

You can include links to web pages or other apps in the app store. To link to an app, you will need to know its Package Name (see the Application section below). Assuming the app’s package name is, the link to the Google Play store would be and the link to the app in the Amazon Appstore would be

These links can be used in web pages as well as in apps.

Running AppOpus Builder

AppOpus Builder consists of two files, AppOpusBuilder_Commercial.jar and AppOpusBuilder_Commercial_Ads.jar, which are delivered in a zip file. Unzip them to a convenient location, then double-click on the relevant one to run the program. Both versions work in the same way, but AppOpusBuilder_Commercial_Ads.jar includes a small advert at the bottom of the screen in the finished book app. This gives the possibility of offering a free version with adverts, and a paid version without adverts. This is a reasonably common option with Android apps.

If adverts are not included, the book app will require no special permissions. If adverts are included, the book app will require some special permissions, so that the app can download and display adverts.



Chances are that you’ve already got a cover, and hopefully it was designed by a professional. You can use this in AppOpus, but there are other options. As you move your cursor around the display on the Cover tab, different parts are highlighted. If you want to just use your existing ebook cover, click when the edge of the rectangle is highlighted. In the dialogue box that appears, click foreground-image and select your file. Then, click foreground-scale-type and select either “fit” or “fill”. “Fit” will scale the image to fit in the screen without changing the aspect ratio. If the aspect ratio of the image doesn’t match that of the screen, there will be blank space around the image. “Fill” will stretch the image to fill the screen, avoiding blank space, but stretching (and distorting) the image out of shape if the screen’s aspect ratio doesn’t match that of the image. Remember that the user may turn the device onto its side, so that the width is larger than the height, so the distortion may be significant.

If you don’t want a fixed image that will either have blank space or be distorted, the cover can be configured to automatically adjust to the screen size and orientation. In this case, you can set images and text separately. Two images can be chosen, a background image (which will always be stretched to fill the screen) and a foreground image. In addition to the two scaling options mentioned above, there is also “center” and “pack”. “Center” will position the image in the centre of the screen. Any parts of the image too large to fit on the screen will not be displayed. “Pack” positions the image below the title text. The text can be split into header, title, and footer sections. Simply click on the relevant area, then specify the font, size, colour, and text to display.


Screenshot_-_ContentsRather confusingly (to me at least), the Contents tab does not define the table of contents for the book. Rather, it is used to determine how the table of contents is presented.

Click on the table of contents to see the options dialogue. Most of it is self-explanatory. If the disable-tts box is ticked, there will be no text-to-speech option in the finished app.

If the show-about box is ticked, an extra “About AppOpus” entry will be added to the bottom of the book app’s table of contents. When tapped, this entry will display a “Powered by AppOpus” screen. I disable this screen, but it includes a message at the bottom directing the user to for help and troubleshooting, so you may wish to leave it enabled.

If you wish to display ads in your book app, you’ll need an AdMob account, which in turn requires an AdSense account and an AdWords account. These can be created during the AdMob sign up process. In order to set up ads in your app, add the app under the Monetise tab of AdMob, then create an Ad Unit for it. In AppOpus, enter the Ad unit ID in the admob-id box in the options dialogue on the Contentstab. Once the app is available in Google Play, link the ad to the app on the AdMob home page.


Screenshot_-_ChaptersOn the Chapters tab, click the folder icon in the bottom-right corner. In the dialogue box that appears, select the folder containing the content files and click Open. All of the files will be listed in the table.

Drag and drop the chapters into the correct order. Click on a chapter name to edit it. The chapters will appear in the table of contents as they are listed on this tab. If a file is renamed, click the refresh button at the bottom of the screen to reload the list.

Note: if you re-open a saved file, the chapters may not be in the correct order. Make sure you check them before creating a new .apk file.



Signing and Keystores

Android apps need to be digitally signed. AppOpus Builder signs the app file, but it needs a keystore file in order to do so.

If you already have a keystore file, click on the Keystore… button to select it, then fill in the Keypass, Storepass and Alias boxes.


If you don’t have a keystore file, click on the Generate Key… button. This opens the Key Certificate Tool, which is used to create the keystore file. Click the Output As… button to select a file to save the keystore as. It is very important to keep the keystore file, alias, and passwords safe. If you wish to update an app, you will need the keystore file that you used to create it.

Fill in the text boxes using the following as a guide:

  • Common Name: Your name
  • Organizational Unit: Put something like “Apps” or “Mobile apps”
  • Organization: If you have a publishing company name, use that. If not, use your name
  • City, state, country: The city, state and country where you live
  • Alias: Leave this blank
  • Key password, store password: The passwords. You will need these if you have to update the app later

Click Generate Key to create the keystore file. The Keystore, Keypass (Key password) and Storepass (Store password) fields in AppOpus Builder will be automatically filled in.


To select the launch icon (displayed on the phone/tablet) click Launch Icon PNG… and select a .png image file. I use the same icon as in the Google and Android app stores. I haven’t been able to determine what the splash icon is used for, and so I use the same image file for that.

Title is the title that will appear on the phone/tablet, under the launch icon. I suggest you use the same title as you set in the app stores, but note that the Google Play store won’t allow titles longer than 30 characters.

The Package Name must be unique among your apps, and should be in com.domain.appname format. For instance, if your website is and your app is called Awesome Book, the package name would be If, like me, you have a domain, just use instead of com, eg

The Version Number is used by Android to determine if an app has been updated, so make sure that every time you update an app, you increase the version number before creating the .apk file.

Finally, click Output As… to select the destination .apk file and click Create App to create the app.

Testing the App

You now have an Android app, packaged as a .apk file. If you wish to install it on your Android phone or tablet for testing before uploading, you will need to go to Settings and tick the Unknown sourcesbox (depending on your device, that will be under Applications or Security). Once that is done, copy the file to your phone or tablet and tap on it to install.

If you don’t have an Android phone or tablet, and don’t want to buy one (a cheap one should be sufficient, as long as it’s running Android v2.3.3 or later), you can install an emulator. The Google and Amazon app markets both require screenshots to be uploaded when listing a new app, so you will need something to run your app on.

Both app stores have a facility for sending test versions to specific users before releasing the app to the general public. When uploading a .apk to Google, select the Beta or Alpha tab. On Amazon, select Live App Testing. For Google Play, the testers have to be members of a Google+ community or a Google Group. On Amazon, you simply enter a list of names and email addresses. In both cases, only the testers will be able to access the test version of the file. In both cases, you can add yourself as a tester. I strongly recommend doing this so that you can try the app on your own phone or tablet before submitting it for sale.

App Stores

To sell on the app stores, you will need to register. It’s free to register on the Amazon Appstore, while Google Play charges a one-off registration fee of $25. Once registered, uploading a new app is reasonably straightforward and similar to uploading an ebook to the various stores. I’ve found that the vast majority of my sales (over 95%) are from Google Play.

Both stores require certain images to be uploaded along with a description, etc. There is some commonality in the images they require. I suggest creating the following images, so that you have everything required for both stores:

  • Icon, 114 x 114 pixels. PNG, with transparency
  • Icon, 512 x 512 pixels. PNG, with transparency
  • Promotional graphic, 1024 pixels wide x 500 pixels high. JPEG or PNG, no transparency
  • At least three screenshots, JPEG or PNG.

Make sure that all of your screenshots are one of the following resolutions: 800 x 480px, 1024 x 600px, 1280 x 720px, 1280 x 800px, 1920 x 1080px, 1920 x 1200px, or 2560 x 1600px.

Both stores will accept videos, too. For Google Play the video will need to be hosted on YouTube, whereas for Amazon the video file is uploaded directly.

There are a few differences between the two app stores, explained below.

Google Play

Once an app is on sale at Google Play, it is possible to A/B test the graphics and description. Under Store Listing click Experiments to get started. The graphics (icons, screenshots, etc) and description can both be tested in this way. Although the test results are only directly relevant to the app, they also provide an indirect way of testing descriptions to be used on ebook and print book stores.

The Amazon Appstore doesn’t appear to have an equivalent of Amazon’s Author Pages, but Google Play does: Developer Pages. Once an app has been published, click Settings then Developer page to set yours up. A short description, developer icon and header image are compulsory. You can also enter your website’s URL and choose one app to be featured, giving it pride of place on the page.

Google Play doesn’t allow pre-orders, or initial app availability to be set for a future date. However, updates can be set to go live in the future (Google calls this “timed publishing”). If the app is initially published to the Beta or Alpha channel, timed publishing will be available for updates. So, if you wish to use timed publishing for a new release, make sure you publish an initial version to the Beta or Alpha channel, then publish an update to the production channel.

A recent addition is the User Acquisition Performance report, which gives details of the number of visitors to the Google Play store listing, and how many of those people installed the app.

Amazon Appstore

Neither store allows pre-orders, but Amazon does allow availability to be set for a date in the future. This does, at least, allow you to set a date for the app to become available, making it easier to release it on the same date as other formats.

The Amazon Appstore now has Amazon Underground, which is similar to KDP Select for ebooks. Users install the Amazon Underground app, which gives them access to the apps enrolled into Amazon Underground for free. Developers are paid for the time that users spend in the app, currently at the rate of $0.0020/£0.0013/€0.0018 per minute.

Amazon Underground doesn’t require exclusivity, but it does require some slight changes to the app. It must have a unique package name. Amazon recommends appending “.underground”. For instance, an app with the package name would have the package name on Amazon Underground. The app must also have the Amazon Underground branding added to the launch icon. The Migrating Your App to Amazon Underground page has full details of all the required changes.

About The Author

Russell Phillips is a computer geek and an award-winning author of military technology and history. Born and brought up in a mining village in South Yorkshire, he has lived and worked in South Yorkshire, Lincolnshire, Cumbria and Staffordshire. His articles have been published in several magazines, and he has been interviewed for the American edition of The Voice of Russia. He currently lives in Stoke-on-Trent with his wife and two children.

To MFA or Not to MFA, that is the Question

Today I have a guest post from Phoebe Darqueling, the fine mind behind steampunk blog For Whom the Gear Turns. Archaeologist, blogger, world traveller and general adventurer Phoebe is here to talk about the whys and wherefores of a formal education in writing. Over to Ms Darqueling…

The Write Stuff

I am a writer. Or at least, I think I am…

It has taken me a long time to really feel ownership of that word. I have a few different projects and jobs that I cobble together to make my life and the common denominator is writing. Yet, I felt like a poseur most of the time. It was only in the past few months, in fact, that I felt comfortable saying it was my occupation when the inevitable “What do you do for a living?” question came up when meeting someone new.

So why the reticence? First of all, I don’t actually make a living from writing. I have a blog that I hope to parley into a book, a novel I hope to finish and get published, and a seasonal job writing for a creativity competition for middle school kids, but that doesn’t add up to a “real” job. Secondly, I don’t have a degree in writing. It is hard to feel like I can claim a title when I haven’t been put through my paces, or gotten the external validation that a degree can bring.

I know, lots of authors don’t have a writing degree. It isn’t a prerequisite for success, and it even has the capacity to hinder a blossoming writer through excessive criticism. The internet is making it possible for many new books by indie authors to find an audience, so getting a superfluous degree can seem like a total waste of time and energy. But at the same time, I feel like it could be the right choice for me.

Working the System

The British and American systems work a bit differently, so let me lay down some facts for you. Depending on the university, a Master of Arts in the US can actually mean a person has failed. An MA is what people are awarded on their way to getting a PhD, and if they wash out of their doctorate the MA is what they get as a consolation prize. This convention varies by discipline, but in the Humanities this is often the case.

A Master of Fine Arts (MFA), on the other hand, is a “terminal” degree. This may sound deadly, but really it just means that it is always meant to signify completion of a program. Unlike British Masters programs which are done in 12 months, MFAs can last two-three years, making them a much bigger commitment. But, in order to teach creative writing or other English courses at a college with any amount of prestige a person usually must hold an MFA or PhD.

Personally, I love to teach. I cut my teeth teaching English as a foreign language in Bulgaria last year, so after dealing with a classroom of five-year-olds who couldn’t understand a word I said I think I could handle teaching at a college level. I’ve also been a writing tutor before, and I really enjoy working with people to create structure and add texture to their writing projects. My husband is an academic, so chances are that we will always be affiliated with a university once he finishes his PhD in History, and it isn’t unusual for them to offer lecturer positions to spouses of incoming professors as long as they’ve got the credentials. I’m not saying this would be guaranteed, but if I got an MFA it would open up the possibility.

Know Thyself

I already have a Masters of Arts in Museum Studies (one of the rare terminal MA programs) but even when they were handing me my certificate I knew I would probably pursue another degree sometime in the future. Frankly, I like school. I like deadlines and parameters. I like being creative and pushing the envelope, but I am most comfortable if someone else gives me the envelope to push against.

For instance, let’s say I want to make potato salad for the first time. First, I look up recipes, usually three but sometimes more. They’ve got exact quantities laid out right there for me, but do I follow any of them? Nope. I make something up. I use the research I do for inspiration and approximations, but what I have at the end is unique (and delicious).

For me, one of the most important things a degree program could offer is structure, like a recipe. But what goes in and comes out at the end would be all me. I may be assigned to write a short story about overcoming an obstacle, but I would be able to choose the obstacle, the protagonist, the time and place. In other words, I would get to choose my own ingredients.

The structure that I crave could easily drive other people crazy. They might rail against being told what to write and when, and this is a perfectly valid complaint. I, on the other hand, see it as a challenge. It would be an opportunity to write stories that I wouldn’t think to write otherwise. There would be topics to explore and forms of writing to try that I may not encounter just sitting at home on my laptop.

Don’t Callous, We’ll Call You

In the best creative writing programs, a large portion of a student’s time is devoted to attending workshops. These offer the chance for students to have their work read by not just their professors but also by their peers. This is followed by feedback from one’s classmates and discussion about how to improve a particular work. At their worst, these types of sessions can be heart-wrenching, especially for a writer who is unsure of herself. But at their best, they can be an invaluable tool in a writer’s development.

So far, I have shared my fiction with friends and family. They love what I write and have very little to suggest to make improvements. This may be good for my ego, but is it good for my writing? And furthermore, is it good for me as a person who aspires to be published? It is one thing to please the people who already love you, but quite a different story to win over strangers. Especially when these strangers are critics who build their careers on picking apart the work of others.

I’ll admit, the idea of having a room full of my peers take turns telling me what is wrong with something I’ve written is pretty scary. But at the same time, it is something I would have to get used to as a published author. Workshops can act as a means both to improve one’s writing as well to get practice taking criticism gracefully. Like riding a bike, listening to things you may not want to hear takes practice, but in time it becomes second nature. And if you don’t want to ride a bike, take the bus, but I for one feel that I am ready to take off my training wheels.

(Financial) Woe is Me

As I’ve already said, I don’t get paid to write. I love to do it, but unfortunately for so many of us love don’t pay the bills. As totally pragmatic and unromantic as it is to say, being enrolled in a degree program can also offer financial support. There are many programs in the US that fully fund their incoming students for the duration of their program, including summer stipends to allow them to keep writing even when school isn’t in session.

They usually do this through a combination of fellowships, grants and teaching assignments. Fellowships waive the tuition and fees, grants can help students travel and participate in workshops and conferences, and teaching makes up the rest. Teaching is not necessary in every program, but I see it as an invaluable tool for reflection. It is one thing to talk about something like narrative structure as a student in a class, but as a teacher a person needs to understand something so well that they can impart that knowledge to others.

Most importantly, the financial support provided by a degree program would allow me to write more. The teaching load would mean that it wouldn’t be full-time, but it would still be more than I currently feel I can afford to do. All I want is to finish my novel and move on to the editing stage, but the pressure to do something that makes money is mounting and my book is getting covered with pixelated dust on its digital shelf. If I am ever going to finish it and get it out into the world in a form I am proud to share I will need some help. As I don’t have any obscure relatives about to kick the bucket and leave me their estate, an MFA seems like a viable solution.

My other big writing project is a nonfiction book. To get this type of publishing deal, a person needs to carry a certain amount of social, commercial or academic cache. A formal degree could also be the boost I need in my resume to get the other book off the ground. I’ll keep my fingers crossed that my proposal will get accepted and I will get that most coveted of perks, the advance, but until then I have to seek other means of supporting my writing addiction.

The Next Steps

After weighing the various costs and benefits of an MFA degree, I’ve decided to go for it. For my personality and my situation, it seems like the right thing to do. So what’s next? I’ll have to choose the right programs to apply to, jump through their various hoops and go through the agony of waiting and probably rejection. Most programs only have a dozen or so spots open each year so there is fierce competition, which means I can expect at least some rejection down the line. So why put myself through all the potential heartache?

Because I am a writer.

Click on the image for more thoughts from Phoebe, and all sorts of steampunk fun.
Click on the image for more thoughts from Phoebe, and all sorts of steampunk fun.

How To: Large Print Books

Today’s post is a guest post from indie author Russell Phillips. If you like what you read, or are interested in military history, then please check out Russell’s site.

Over to Russell….

How To: Large Print

Some time ago, I decided to release a large print edition of A Damn Close-Run Thing. It’s not necessarily something that I would recommend to other indie authors, unless you have reason to believe that there is a market for a large print version. In that case, this post should help you create something that is genuinely useful for those people that struggle to read standard print.

Font and Font Size

Obviously, large print books need a larger font size than normal. 16 point is generally considered a minimum size, though 18 point is recommended if at all possible. Having decided on a minimum font size, there should be no text in a smaller size. Page numbers, copyright information, etc should all be at least as large as the main body text. Headings should use a larger font size, as with normal print, but nothing should be smaller than the minimum size that you choose.


It is also important to consider the font face. A sans-serif font should be used, and if at all possible, avoid using italics, underlining, or blocks of capital letters. I recommend the Tiresias LPfont. This font has been specifically designed for use in large print documents, and can be freely downloaded from the Tiresias website. (Note that the contents of the Tiresias website is in the process of being moved to theRNIB website).

White Space

In general, plenty of white space makes a book easier to read for those with sight issues. Single spacing can make it difficult to find the start of the next line, so use 1.25 or 1.5 spacing instead. Similarly, indented paragraphs can make it hard to find the start, so use block paragraphs instead of indented paragraphs.

Margins should be wider, at least 25mm (1 inch) wide. If you have footnotes, move them to the end of the chapter or to a section at the end of the book, so that they do not clutter the page.

Left Align

Most print books use full-justified text, so that the right side of the text is lined up along the right margin. However, this leads to uneven gaps between words. For this reason, left-justified (or ragged-right) text is more readable, and so should be used in large print books.

Headings should also be left-aligned rather than centre-aligned. This makes them easier to find.

Images should be aligned to the left for the same reason, but there should be no text to the right of the image. A partially-sighted reader may not realise that there is text next to the image. The image should be clear, and any text inside the image should obey the same rules as the rest of the text in the book. If possible, move the text out of the image. If this isn’t possible, ensure that there is good contrast and that the text is on a plain background.

All text must be horizontal, including things like labels on diagrams and images.

Keep Things Together

It is important to keep related items connected, without large spaces. If your contents page doesn’t already have a row of dots between the chapter name/number and the page number, add them. Tables should usually have lines around the cells. It is also important to avoid widows and orphans (single lines from a paragraph at the top or bottom of a page).

Don’t use hyphens. If a word won’t fit on a line, put the whole word on the next line rather than splitting it with a hyphen. Hyphenated words (eg u-boat) should be on one line, not split over two lines at the hyphen.

Use a Clear Layout

Hopefully your books have a consistent layout already, but this is particularly important when designing books for the partially sighted. Headings should be clearly different to the body text. It’s a good idea to include chapter names on page headers if possible, as it allows the reader to easily determine where they are in the book.

Mark it as Large Print

Finally, make it clear that the book is a large print edition. In Createspace, make sure that the “Large Print” box is ticked on the Description page. This will allow Amazon and other retailers to categorise it as a large print edition. In order to make it clear to human readers, however, the title should be modified. This need be no more than appending “(Large Print)\” to the end of the title. The cover should be marked to show that it is a large print edition. This can be as simple as a coloured band with “Large Print Edition” printed in it.


Further Reading

This blog post covers the essential points. If you wish to find out more, the following are likely to be useful:


Making a large print version of paper books isn’t too difficult, although a large number of images will make it more challenging. In my experience, sales have been minimal. That may be true for you too, but the only way to find out for sure is to try it.

You’re weird – a guest post by JH Mae

“You’re weird.”

That phrase has been directed at me a few times. I’m not sure what people intend when they accuse me of it, but I know it’s not often a compliment. “Weird” is one those murky distinctions – you can’t really say what it is, but you know it when you see it.

For instance …

When I was in college I took a life-drawing class. One of our models was this spindly, dark-haired fellow who, before he disrobed, I recognized instantly as the guy who walked around campus wearing a top hat and a cape.

He was weird. But that’s not a bad thing.

If I know anything about weirdoes it’s that we’re necessary. As uncomfortable as we make the world with our collection of antique medical instruments, or our library of biographies on serial killers, or our closet full of Marvel costumes, the world needs our off-beat way of thinking.

It needs people who don’t see the world in the same colors as everyone else.

My stories have been called weird. No matter what the topic, something is always … off. I have one about a Broadway actor turned zombie who’s auditioning for a post-apocalyptic theater company before his body completely decomposes. And another about a woman who learns she was a psychotic murderer in a past life. Then there’s a love story between a morgue attendant and a vampire that explores the purpose of love and death.

There are plenty of standard, cookie-cutter, five-minute stories I could write. But I’d be so bored. And if the world was filled with the same dry toast ideas, we’d all be terribly bored.

The world needs weirdoes –Salvador Dalis, Terry Gilliams, and Stephen Kings– simply because of how different we see things. We aren’t afraid of darkness, we like to twist the normal until it’s unrecognizable, we see the potential for magic and wonder in a humdrum world.

In everyday life, dragons, zombies and magic assassins aren’t real – but they are in Game of Thrones thanks to George R.R. Martin’s weird imagination. Who would’ve thought to combine mummies, outer space and the Orient Express? One of the weirdoes who writes for “Doctor Who.” And those horror movies you love so much? Written by people who ask frightening questions – like what would happen if we could express our darker natures by torturing people in a creepy, clandestine hostel?

When weird people search their minds for ideas, they open up doors to unexplored places. Places people blessed with “normal” minds – ones that don’t automatically turn down twisted alleyways – can explore safely. Weirdoes create worlds that are wondrous, unnerving and innovative, all at the same time, and bring spontaneity, variety and fun to life.

I’ll close with another story, about a young woman I know who also goes a bit off script. One day, she was walking down the street and came upon a stranger who was inside a store, washing the windows. She stood outside and watched the stranger for a while, then put up her hand and followed the stranger’s hand like a mirror image. And then she left, without even saying “hello.”

Only a weirdo would do that. And I like the way she thinks.


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Thanks to fellow writer JH Mae for today’s guest post. JH is a reader, writer and maker of pizza from Northern New York. You can check out her blog and links to her stories here. I particularly like her post on how to stay sane while working at home. Since reading it I have been giving myself verbal abuse and setting unreasonable deadlines for my Batman toy – it helps remind me of what I don’t miss.

Using Regular Expressions To Find Common Errors – a guest post by Russell Phillips

Today I have the honour of hosting another guest post from indie author Russell Phillips. Russell combines an insider’s knowledge of the challenges of indie publishing with a computer programmer’s awareness of how to get the most out of the tools available to us, and this post brings those things together to offer a technological solution to many of your editing needs.

Over to you Russell…

Using Regular Expressions To Find Common Errors

I have a great editor, but I understand that she is human, and therefore she makes mistakes, and misses things, just like I do. Therefore, I like to try and make my manuscript as good as I can before I hand it over to her. The trouble with editing your own work, of course, is that all too often, your brain sees what is supposed to be there, not what is actually there.


One tool I use for finding errors is regular expressions. Regular expressions are like search and replace on steroids. Instead of finding simple strings of text, regular expressions provide a way to find patterns within the text. This makes them ideal for finding certain types of error that can occur all too easily when writing a long piece of text. The use of copy & paste, deleting, etc, can mean that even simple grammatical mistakes or typos can slip in and not be noticed.

Below I have listed some regular expression searches that I currently use on my manuscripts before sending them to my editor. To use one of them, simply copy it into the “Find” box in your word processor, just as you would type in a word you wanted to search for in the text. Note that they are formatted with a different background colour because spaces at the start or end can be important. It is possible to use regular expressions to replace text, but I haven’t included replacement expressions because I prefer to be cautious and make corrections manually. I’ve tried to order them in increasing complexity, and I’ve included some explanatory text for each one.

The expressions given below should work in LibreOffice and Scrivener version 2.4 or later (earlier versions don’t support regular expressions). Microsoft Word also supports regular expressions, although the syntax is rather unusual, so you’ll need to check the documentation for help. Whichever software you use, you will have to tell it that you’re doing a regular expression search, rather than a normal text search. In LibreOffice Writer, use the “Find and Replace” function (not “Find”). Click “Other Options” in the dialogue box, and tick the “Regular expressions” tickbox. In Scrivener project search, select “RegEx” from the operator section of the magnifying glass icon menu. In Scrivener document find, select “Regular Expressions (RegEx)” from the “Find Options” drop-down menu.

Note that, when copying and pasting from your browser into the search box, make sure that the quotation marks are correct – they sometimes get mangled.

Punctuation And Quotation Marks

This is a simple expression, but there are two versions. In British English, the convention is to have commas and full stops outside quotation marks, whereas in US English, commas and full stops are placed inside the quotation marks.

Expression to find commas and full stops inside quotation marks (use this if you write in British English):


Expression to find commas and full stops outside quotation marks (use this if you write in US English):


These simple expressions match a quotation mark followed or preceded by a full stop or a comma. Square brackets are used to group characters, so that if any character in the square brackets is present, a match is found. In this case, the square brackets are used to match a full stop or comma, but nothing else.

“a” instead of “an”

This expression will find words that begin with a vowel immediately preceded by “a”, instead of “an”:

a [aeiou]

The first three characters are simple: space, lower case “a”, space. Then square brackets are used to group all five vowels. Note that the “Match case” option must be selected in LibreOffice for it to work correctly.

Oxford Commas

At school, I was taught not to use Oxford commas, but I use them in my books because they can avoid ambiguity. Unfortunately, because I didn’t use them for so long, I frequently forget to add them. Consequently, one of the first regular expressions I wrote to check for errors in my writing was to spot missing Oxford commas. Note that this won’t find every sentence that is missing an Oxford comma, but that’s why you have a human editor 🙂

w+, w+ and 

If you have the opposite problem, and you don’t want Oxford commas, the following expression should find them:

w+, w+, and 

“w” matches a word character, ie any character that can be part of a word (letters, numbers, etc). The “+” means at least one of the preceding characters must be present, so “w+” matches a word.

Missing Capital After Full Stop

I started using this expression after seeing this error in a book published by HarperCollins. If the big publishers can miss such basic mistakes, so can the rest of us.

Note that the “Match case” option must be selected in LibreOffice for it to work correctly. Acronyms followed by lower case letters, eg “The N.C.O. said” will not be matched.

[^.][^A-Z]. [a-z]

This expression introduces a new twist on the use of square brackets: if the first character in the square brackets is a “^”, it matches anything NOT in the group. So, “[^.][A-Z]” matches anything that is not a full stop, followed by anything that is not an uppercase letter. The next term is “.”, which matches a full stop. When not in square brackets, a full stop is a wildcard, but placing a backslash before it tells the regular expression engine to treat it as a full stop, not as a wildcard. Finally, it matches a space followed by a lowercase letter.

Missing Brackets

It’s far too easy to forget to close brackets, or to accidentally delete the closing bracket. This expression will find an opening bracket that doesn’t have a matching closing bracket.


Since parentheses have a special meaning in regular expressions, the opening bracket is prefixed with a backslash. This tells the regular expression engine to treat it as a simple opening bracket. The “[^)]” matches any character that is not a closing bracket, and the “*” means “match this zero or more times”. Finally, the “$” indicates the end of the line/paragraph.

Repeated Word

Repeated words crop up sometimes, and often aren’t noticed if the word happens to appear at the end of one line and the start of the next line.

b(w+)b b1b

This one may look rather odd, but is simple once you understand it. As above, “w+” is used to match a word. The parentheses are used to group the characters that are matched, so that they can be referred to later in the expression. The “1” matches the group in the parentheses. “b” denotes a word boundary. In this case, it is used to ensure that only complete words are matched. Without the word boundaries, it would match a term like “anderson song” as the “son” would be matched in both words.

Putting all that together, this expression matches a complete word, followed by at least one space, followed by the same complete word.

Want To Learn More?

If you want to learn to write regular expressions to find the mistakes that you find yourself making, is an excellent learning resource, and has a regular expression tester, which will also explain the elements of the regular expression. Finally, feel free to ask questions in the comments, and I will try to help.


About the blogger

Russell Phillips is an author of books on military history and technology. Born and brought up in a mining village in South Yorkshire, Russell has lived and worked in South Yorkshire, Lincolnshire, Cumbria and Staffordshire. His articles have been published in Miniature Wargames, Wargames Illustrated, and the Society of Twentieth Century WargamersJournal. He has been interviewed for the American edition of The Voice of Russia. He currently lives in Stoke-on-Trent with his wife and two children.


Picture by Joanna Penn via Flickr Creative Commons.

Where Did Storm Go? Representing Race and Gender in Superhero Films

Conflict is common over the depiction of race and gender in speculative fiction. As a middle-class first-world white bloke I recognise that I’m in a very privileged position and over-represented in popular culture. But as a nerd I also recognise why people get defensive about challenges to a frequently mocked subculture. I’ve written a post about this and recent superhero films over one Curnblog. Here’s the start of it…

Where Did Storm Go? Representing Race and Gender in Superhero Films

Superhero films and the comics that spawned them are famous for their traditionally white male fan-base. It’s a fan-base to which the creators play, with the vast majority of superheroes, and particularly the high profile ones, being white men.

This raises issues for the balanced representation of gender and race and for the diversity of perspectives possible within these stories. It becomes even more problematic as these stories reach out to a wider audience, perpetuating norms of white male cultural dominance. But why is this so common? And is an opportunity for change being squandered?

Talking raccoons are surprisingly well represented in the Marvel universe
Talking raccoons are surprisingly well represented in the Marvel universe

To read the rest please hop on over to Curnblog. And while you’re there I also recommend Anthony Pilloud‘s ‘The Fallibility of Superheroes‘, an interesting article on the troubling moral structure of the Marvel universe.


For more on issues of representation you might also want to check out this rough transcript of a panel R A Smith was on at LonCon.

And if you have any thoughts on the subject or links to other interesting articles then please leave a comment.

Writing With Your Body

Among the many ideas I like to poke holes in is the concept that our bodies and minds are somehow separate things. Our bodies are absolutely fundamental to the way our thinking works, and can be a great source of writing energy and inspiration. Yesterday I had the honour of rambling on this subject over on Felip Adan Lerma’s blog. Here’s the beginning of that post:

Writing with your body

Sancho McCann

Thinking, and therefore writing, is about more than just our brains. Those squishy masses of grey cells and synapses sit within our bodies and are inextricably entangled with them. Despite the dualistic thinking that we sometimes slip into, the mind and body are not separate.

For writers this has two main implications. One is that you really need to take care of your body. But the more exciting implication is that you can use your body to help you to think and write better…


To read more, including some practical ideas for moving your body around and so sharpening your writing, head on over and read Guest Post : Andrew Knighton – Writing With Your Body.

And tomorrow the roles are reversed, as Felipe Adan brings his own thoughts on writing to this blog, celebrating the joys of short form writing.


In the meantime, don’t forget to check out my new story collection, Riding the Mainspring, available on all your different Amazons, including for the Americans, for us Brits, and of course the much-neglected Canadian Amazon (there you go Sue – this time I included Canada!).


Exercise photo by Sancho McCann via Flickrcreative commons.

The Freedom of the Modern Writer

I had a guest post earlier this week on Wayne Halm’s Golfing on Kauai blog. That might seem an odd choice, given that my one encounter with golf involved ripping my back open on barbed wire at the age of twelve (it’s a funnier story than it sounds – well, less hideous anyway). But Wayne also discusses writing on his blog, and my post is about that – about where we’re at right now as writers and readers. So please pop on over to Wayne’s blog and enjoy The Freedom of the Modern Writer. And while you’re there why not read up on your golf? Just beware the barbed wire.

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On an unrelated note, thank you to those of you who took the time to respond to my post yesterday about depression, whether with a comment, a like, or talking with me about it elsewhere. That was a tough post for me to write and put out into the world, but it was important to me to say it, and your supportive feedback meant a lot.

Tomorrow there’ll be a link to another guest post I’ve written, this time for Josh Stanton. So the second half of my discussion from Monday will finally appear on Friday. Maybe. Assuming nothing else comes up in the meantime.

Wow, when did this place suddenly get so busy?