Tag Archives: Kindle

Tic [toc] – A clickable Table of Contents!

It’s almost midnight but I finally did it! Vokhtah now has a proper Table of Contents right at the front – and you don’t have to use the awkward Kindle Go-to function to see it or use it. 😀

To explain why this is making me so happy I have to backtrack a little to a comment Metan made last week about moving the Vokhtan dictionary to the front so people could see it.

Given the extreme ‘otherness’ issues of Vokhtah, and the fact that so much is explained in the dictionary, I finally pulled my finger out and re-arranged the layout to have the dictionary right at the front.

Unfortunately, when I transferred the new file to my Kindle so I could check it out, I discovered to my horror that the dictionary went on for pages and pages – literally about 20 odd. Sci-fi or not, I couldn’t see people patiently paging through so much just to get to the start of the actual story. 😦

That was when I realised the problem was not so much that the dictionary was at the back, but that no one knew it was there.

My next experiment was to type up a manual Table of Contents showing the dictionary, and insert it into the book. I put the new page at the front, where it would be nice and visible. It looked good, but was like a politician’s promise – not worth the pixels it was written in because it had no functionality. To look something up in the dictionary you still had to get to the end of the book, or fiddle with the Kindle Go-to function.

By this point I was literally pulling chunks of hair out. In desperation I emailed the wonderful Mark Fassett [the developer of StoryBox, the writing software I use].

Was there someway of setting up a clickable Table of Contents in the actual ebook, I asked.

[toc] Mark replied. He actually said a few more things as well, but the nub of it was that lovely little command.

Of course my implementation managed to screw things up the first time around, but now I know how to do it – and it works like an absolute dream! Ta dah!

table of contents 015

What you see in that pic is an actual page of the book. It’s not the Go-to function. Each chapter heading is a link that will take you straight to the relevant chapter. I wish I’d known how to do this back when I first published Vokhtah. Oh well…

And now, in case there are other StoryBox users out there wanting to do the same thing, this is what I did :

Step 1 Add a new document [not chapter or scene] to your story.

Step 2 Move that document to the exact position where you want the Table of Contents to appear.

Step 3 Type [toc] in the new document.

Step 4 In the Properties pane, be sure to tick the boxes for ‘Include in Manuscript’ and ‘Page Break before’.

storybox properties

Step 5 Select Export, make sure the output format is set to mobi, and be sure to untick the box that says ‘Start at first text’.

storybox open to first text

And that’s it, except for one more little thing. If, like me, you use Calibre to convert your mobi file to Kindle format, do NOT mess with any of the Calibre settings for Table of Contents. That was my big mistake. I messed. None of those settings are needed because that lovely, wonderful [toc] command has already done all the work.

StoryBox truly is an amazing writing tool. I’ve loved it all along, but today I’m just in awe of how powerful it is. If you write, and you’re an indie, then you need StoryBox. I’m serious.

Good night all!


Stepping outside my comfort zone #2 with My Gentleman Vampire

canstockphoto8443816In Stepping Outside my Comfort Zone #1, I dipped into First Chapters, and found a sophisticated YA novel. This time round, I overcame my dislike of all things sparkly to read the first chapter of a vampire novel like no other.

Imagine you come home one day and find a gorgeous man in your kitchen. He’s barefoot and wearing a pink apron. And, he’s just done the dishes.

I know if that were me I’d be pinching myself. Unfortunately there’s a catch, in fact a whole series of them. First he’s gay – isn’t it always the way? Second, he thinks your cat, Arabella, is really a human who was bewitched for sleeping with the wrong guy. Third, he thinks he can read your mind. And fourth, well …

“There’s one more, teensy thing I need to tell you. Have some wine.”

I did as I was told, took a big swig of wine, and swallowed hard. His tone suggested this was about to get even weirder.

“There’s just no easy way to say this. I am a vampire.”

gentleman vampire coverI can’t lie. After learning that this gorgeous man is living in the heroine’s basement, the big reveal wasn’t exactly a surprise, but I laughed anyway because it was the perfect ending to a delicious chapter. In fact, I was so taken with that chapter I bought the book.  Yes, I bought a vampire book, and I’m urging you to buy it too. 🙂

Which book? My Gentleman Vampire, by Lois Lewandowski. This little gem will set you back all of 99 cents if you have a Kindle.

But the point of this post is not to recommend one specific book. The point is to show what an amazing smorgasbord of writing talent you’ll find in First Chapters, the book of samples.  And guess what? First Chapters is free for the next two days.

Honestly, what have you got to lose?

Happy reading,


When one door closes another opens

I received another email from Amazon support this morning :

“We’ll contact you with more information by the end of the day on Friday, August the 2nd.”


Assuming Amazon tech support do find the problem, and fix it in that time frame, the Egg will now be released on the Kindle two days after I start my new course [the Cert IV in Training]. That means my marketing campaign for the Egg is up in smoke. Ass I’m a serial monogamist – i.e. I can only focus on one major thing at a time – once the course begins, everything else will take a backseat.

I will do some marketing of course, but most of my spare time and energy will be devoted to keeping my blog alive, and continuing with my writing.

Is fate trying to tell me something?


If it is, I can’t seem to decode the message.

But all is not gloom and doom. As The Daughter is away, and I’m at a loose end this weekend, I’ve decided to spend my time working out how to publish to the Kobo. If I’m successful, the Egg may start its life in Canada. [The Kobo e-reader is manufactured by a Canadian company, and is very popular there].

The reason I chose the Kobo for my next foray into e-readers was because I’ve been reading some good things about its development, and I think it will be an interesting player in the market once the Nook is phased out [plus I found a very detailed how-to guide which always helps].

If the Kobo experiment works, I may bite the bullet and set my sights on The Meatgrinder next.

For the non-Indies out there, The Meatgrinder is the quasi affectionate name given to the Smashwords program. It’s reputed to be a beast, and I’ve circled it warily for over a year, never quite daring to give it a go.

So there you have it – a disappointing outcome with positive highlights. Wish me luck!


p.s. This is my 341st post. Just 24 more and I’ll have 365! It’s taken me almost two years to get to this point, but I’m going to celebrate anyway. More on that later.

I promised you a reminder, so here it is!

vokhtah new promoTimezones aside, Vokhtah will be free  on the Kindle from March 1 – 5.

I know that not many of you are into science fiction, but if you’re the tiniest bit curious, or know someone who might be, please help me make Vokhtah more ‘visible’.

Every person who downloads a free copy will be like a pebble thrown into a still pond; you will make ripples. One day those ripples may even push Vokhtah high enough in the rankings that complete strangers will give it a go.

The same applies to feedback. You don’t have to write a review, although I would love it if you did. No, by feedback I mean just a one-liner saying whether you liked Vokhtah, or loathed it.

Okay, that’s the end of the begging. Now I have to go make a couple of chocolate mousse cakes for my niece’s wedding tomorrow. I’ll try and take a couple of photos before it’s all eaten. 🙂



My countdown boo boo on Vokhtah

Some of you may notice that the bright yellow image counting down until Vokhtah goes free, is gone. The reason is simple, I forgot February only has 28 days. As a result, all the countdown images were wrong. -sigh-

I honestly don’t know how I managed to stuff things up so completely. I remember worrying about the timezone differences between Australia and the rest of the world. That was why I would try to change the image during the overlap period when most of us are on the same date.

I totally obsessed about timezones, yet not once did that little voice in my head say “Hang on, don’t you think it might be a nice idea to check the calendar?”

It was not until my sister-in-law rang, with some last minute news about her daughter’s up-coming wedding on March 2nd, that it hit me – March the 2nd is on Saturday… which means March the 1st must be on Friday. Tomorrow, here in the Antipodes. 😦

Egg-on-face >> Blush >> Realization >> Horror >> Chagrin >> Vigorous kicking of self.

I think we can safe say that I am an absolute moron when it comes to marketing. My only saving grace is that I did realize eventually. So please accept my apologies. Vokhtah will be free sometime tomorrow, all over the world.

Now I’m going to make a stiff coffee and slink back to the dog house.


p.s. I can hardly wait for Saturday Rani! Love you. 🙂

Getting it wrong, first time, every time…

Today I was forcibly reminded of why people used to like my user manuals [back when I was a tech. writer]. Because I always managed to get things wrong when learning a new software program, I always assumed that anyone prepared to read a user manual would be the same, only a little less sanguine about making mistakes [after all they had paid for that piece of software, I hadn’t].

Sadly, my enormous capacity to make mistakes is not quite so welcome now that I’m trying to publish my first ebook. The only silver lining I can see is that, if I ever get all this sorted, I’ll have a lot of material for a post on how to use StoryBox to produce a Kindle-ready ebook.

Not that any of this is StoryBox’s fault. Nope. The fault lies with Word’s Track Changes, and my own ignorance of how this useful feature actually works. 😦 For example, I worked out how to delete my editor’s comments, but I had no idea I was supposed to click accept, or reject, for each small change she made to the manuscript. The kind of changes I’m talking about are little things, like adding commas. I grew up in an era when we didn’t put commas before ‘and’ and ‘but’ so there were a lot of commas required. Another thing I did not know was that turning Track Changes off does not in fact, turn the feature off, it only hides it.

So, after doing all the final edits, I thought my MS was ready to be imported back into StoryBox as an .rft [rich text format] file. Imagine my horror when I fire up StoryBox, import my MS and find a million commas underlined!

Before I go any further I should explain why I need to import the MS back to StoryBox in the first place. Okay, so I wrote the story in StoryBox because it’s a great tool for the actual writing part of things. Then, when it was time to edit the MS, I had to export the file to Word so my editor and I could use the Track Changes feature.

So far so good. The problem, however, is that I want to publish my MS on the Kindle, and it just so happens StoryBox has a wonderful feature that allows me to export my MS as a .mobi file with ease [.mobi is needed for the Kindle]. However to do that, I have to first re-import the edited file back into StoryBox. The only other alternative would be to duplicate all those edits in the original StoryBox file. Hah. Not bloody likely.

To cut a long, sad story short, I’ve wasted most of today learning from my mistakes. Tomorrow I will cross all my fingers and toes while I import the ‘clean’ MS back into StoryBox. If all goes well, I will then be ready to work out the next step, which is the ISBN. -sigh- And some time after that I will have to face the pitfalls of creating a cover image for the book… [Insert sounds of disgust and frustration.]

As many of you know I’m normally a glass-half full type of person. I’m hardwired to see the good in any situation, but I have to be honest and say that, just at the moment, my silver lining is looking a little tarnished. I really, really think it’s time for some mindless fun, so mmo, here I come!

Meeka signing out.




The pricing of ebooks

I’ve been hooked on ebooks since getting my first Kindle about six months ago. I love the convenience of carrying a whole library around in a device that weighs less than a novella. I love the fact that I can slip the Kindle into my very small shoulder bag and have something to read while I wait for a bus, stand in a queue or have a quick cup of coffee. I also love the fact that I can adjust the font size and read without my reading glasses [which I hate].

Yet convenience and portability alone would not be enough to keep me attached to my Kindle. The thing that really keeps me addicted is the price of the books that I can now read.

In my pre-Kindle days I would ration my reading to authors I knew because the price of books was so ridiculously high. $30 AUD for a book is a lot for someone who can devour two books a week. So I read far fewer books. And the big six traditional publishers are fairly and squarely to blame. Their greed has literally priced print books beyond the reach of all but the most die-hard readers. If they are in trouble now then they have only themselves to blame.

I have no deep, philosophical problem with the idea of profit but I do resent the kind of profit taking that goes hand in hand with price gouging. Not only is it greedy, price gouging is also rather stupid in the long term. Why kill the goose that lays the golden eggs? Or in this case both the goose and the goslings. Not only are millions of readers being ripped off but so are most authors.

In an environment where only the middlemen [the publishers and the retailers] reap the benefits something always has to give. Borders and Angus & Robertson have already foundered and the big six publishers will be next because demand is no longer matching supply. Readers are demanding access to books at a fair price and the ebook revolution is giving it to them.

Yet even now the big six publishers are trying to milk readers of their hard earned dollars by pricing ebooks at a ridiculous level. Why would any reader pay $20 for a brand new ebook when the paperback version can often be found at a cheaper price?

Think about it. The author gets the same tiny royalty whether their work is printed or digital but the publisher gets a whole lot more for a digital sale* than they would for the print sale because publishing an ebook costs next to nothing! No paper, no printing costs, no  storage costs, no transportation costs, no cost of returns when a title doesn’t sell.

Traditionally these are all the costs that publishers have cited for the high price of print books. Now they are saying that printing is just a tiny cost and that it is the ‘other’ costs that make ebooks expensive. ‘Other’ costs?  Such as? Well, apparently manuscripts have to be converted to a whole range of different e-formats and that’s expensive. Really?

Having talked to a lot of indie authors my reaction to ‘conversion costs’ is : BULLSHIT! Indies do conversions every day with far smaller budgets and yet they can afford to price their work at anything from 0.99c to the standard of $2.99! I’ll talk about quality later in this post.

Then the publishers cite the cost of marketing. Now to most readers this would sound like a fair cost because they do not know that only a tiny percentage of A-list authors get any marketing at all! These are the authors who are most likely to produce best sellers. Every other author must do their own marketing. If they can. Just like indie authors. There is one huge difference though. When an indie author makes a sale he or she keeps most of the profits. When a mid-list author makes a sale they still only receive a miserly royalty payment.

And now to the question of indie quality vs traditional quality. As a reader I can testify to reading some real stinkers from indie authors. Quite frankly there are a lot of snake-oil authors out there who dash something off in a month and slap it onto Amazon in the hope of getting rich from the gullibility of readers. There are also many dedicated authors who try their hardest but can’t afford a professional editor to massage their stories into shape. And then there are the wunderkind, indie authors who spend years writing their books, self-edit, get beta readers, self-edit again, scrimp and save to hire professional editors; all so that they can put their name to something good.

Yet these wonderful books are still priced at $2.99.

Since starting this blog and getting my Kindle I have discovered true gems amongst the indie offerings. These are books that old time publishers would have recognized as worth publishing. They are books that I would have bought even at a higher price because they are so damn good. Yet neither they, nor their authors are getting the recognition they deserve. Part of the reason for that is that these authors are not snake-oil salesmen. They do their marketing but they have integrity so they don’t ‘hard sell’. They don’t spam Twitter and Facebook and all the other social media sites with their advertising. They are genuine people who are dedicated to just one thing – writing.

So, the next time you’re looking for an ebook to read why not spend a little time and effort investigating the indie offerings. You can’t miss them. They’re the ones for $2.99 instead of  $20. Even if you buy six of them for a total cost of $17.94 and enjoy only one you  are still saving yourself $2.06. That’s almost the price of another book!

As a voracious reader on a budget I’m going to be spending 90% of my reading dollars on indie books. I’ll also be sticking pins into voodoo dolls named after the big six publishers. I really, really hate being ripped off!



* Apparently the big six publishers and Apple have been colluding in some price fixing by setting the price of ebooks themselves instead of allowing retailers to set the price. Given the legal controversy now raging over this price fixing I hope that things will change back to the wholesale model soon. At least the wholesale model had some relevance to supply and demand.

20 Kindle power

Ok, I admit it – the title was me trying to be clever but if you stick with me all will be revealed!

Candlepower or candela is a way of measuring luminosity and dates back to the days when we used candles. So 20 candlepower would be the equivalent of the light provided by 20 candles [all lit of course]. And then along came Edison with his electric light bulb. Now candles are relegated to the utility draw where they wait, unused and unloved until a birthday cake comes along or a blackout or a romantic dinner for two.

Sadly, the advent of e-readers like the Kindle  is going to do to books what the light bulb did to candles. Books may not become collectors’ items for a generation or two yet, but we can see the demise of the mass market paperback already in the sales figures coming out of Amazon. Ebook sales are soaring as more and more people like me discover how convenient and cheap ebooks are. In the past I would only buy books written by my favourite authors because here in Australia books can cost up to $30 AUD. Each. That is an investment not an impulse buy. With my Kindle though I can buy an ebook by an unknown author for as little as 0.99c.

And this brings me to the meaning of my title – I have downloaded 20 ebooks in the last month thanks to Kindle power.  Of that first 20  I have read 19. I will probably never finish that last unread book because it was not well written and annoyed me. In the past I would have agonized over wasting the price of a book but now I can happily move on to the next promising story because none of them cost more than the price of one decent latte.

Cost is not the only benefit of ebooks though;  freedom to explore is just as important. In the last month I have discovered some wonderful new writers – Mary Robinette Kowal, Candy Korman, Lord David Prosser, Stephen Faulds –  many of whom are self-published indie authors whose books never appear on the shelves of traditional bookshops. Without ebooks I would never have discovered them. For that alone my Kindle has been worth the investment but it has other, less obvious benefits as well. I’m getting horribly short-sighted so the ability to adjust the font is a god send. Now I can read in comfort without having to wear those horrible reading glasses that make the world swim whenever you look up from the page.  Another benefit is that I can sling my Kindle in my bag and take it with me wherever I go  – without feeling as if I’m carrying a brick in my bag!

I still love the look and feel of real books and I always will but in the future I will be choosing the ones I want to own and keep in a very  different way.  Instead of browsing the shelves of bookshops and taking a punt on a book that ‘looks interesting’ I will be reading the ebook version first. If it lives up to expectations and is a ‘keeper’ then I will buy the hard copy version and give it a home on my own bookshelves. That is the power of the ebook. That is the power of my Kindle.

Something is always lost when new technology comes along so I feel sad to think that my great, great, grandchildren may only see paper books in museums but it’s always better to swim with the tide than to drown trying to swim against it.  Vive le livrel!

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