Thursday, February 25, 2010

Smash your Way onto Kindle

This time last year, hardly anyone had heard of Kindle, a new grayscale, mobile reading application for electronic books. Originally released in 2007 by Amazon, this hardware became available internationally in October of 2009. By the end of the year, Amazon estimated that they had sold 1.5 million units of the original Kindle 1, as well as the newer version, the Kindle 2, priced at $299 US. For the first time ever, sales of e-books exceeded those of books in print on Christmas Day of 2009.

Americans who have their books in print on Amazon can apply for Kindle directly through the company. Then they can easily upload their book in the form of the PDF. This is a cinch compared to what the global community has to go through because at the moment, Amazon only accepts Kindle applications from people living in the U.S. That's hard to understand from an international company, but I think they've applied this restriction because Amazon is paying royalties directly through American bank accounts. So if you are an American author, just log into Amazon and apply for your Kindle account. Then transfer your book and Amazon does all the dirty work. You just sit back and collect the money.

International authors can use to publish, promote and distribute their books. Since they pay a higher percent of royalties, Americans may also consider using this free website to convert material. The downside to Smashwords is that they require a very specific type of formatting in order to make your book presentable to upload. That's because Smashwords goes beyond Kindle; they recognize that people are also downloading e-books and reading them on other apps like the Apple iPhone/iPod Touch, the Sony Reader, the BlackBerry, Windows Mobile Smartphone, Palm Treo, etc.

Personally, I found the formatting process to be complicated, but the technical support was fantastic. First, the company has a free style glide that takes the reader step-by-step through the formatting process. Second, a real live person answers e-mail if you write and talk about your distress! In fact, I formatted my hip replacement book on New Year's Eve day and actually received a response from one of the heads of the company. He bent over backwards to help me out and get my book going.

In addition, Smashwords has a list of low-cost people to hire if you'd rather sit through a root canal than reformat tab and paragraph indents. Finally, Smashwords will take your newly formatted e-book and put it on the Amazon Kindle Store, Barnes & Noble, Sony and Kobo (formerly Shortcovers), so you have a greater distribution with them than through Amazon alone.

With technology changing so quickly, we want to keep up with current trends. It's also important to multi-stream our income and have our books in a variety of formats. E-books used to be tedious because they had to be read on a desktop or laptop, but those days are long gone. A Kindle reader can hold up to 1500 non-illustrated books-- make sure that yours is one of them.

Sigrid Macdonald is the author of Be Your Own Editor. Visit her at Buy Be Your Own Editor directly through me by hitting the Contact Me button or sending an e-mail to sigridmac at Or simplifiy your life and get it on PayPal.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Today's Writing Tip -- One Word or Two?

Some words are confusing because they can be spelled as either one word or two. Take percent, anymore, or every day.

Percent was originally spelled as two words, and the British and Canadians continue that trend; however, in the U.S., it's spelled as one word.

Anymore means different things when it's spelled as one word or two. If you're wondering if there is extra chocolate mousse, you would say, "Is there any more chocolate?" (This is reminiscent of Oliver Twist.) In that case, the word means additional. But if you've had too much chocolate -- hard to envision, but I'm sure that it happens to some people -- then you want to say, "No, thanks. I don't even want to see chocolate anymore!" In the last example, anymore means ever again.

Every day is two words when you're using it as a noun. But when you're using everyday as an adjective, make it one word. Here is an example. "Every day I go about my everyday activities."
If you're unsure about when to use one word or two, drop me a comment and I'll reply.

Happy writing! Sigrid

Buy Be Your Own Editor directly through me by hitting the Contact Me button or sending an e-mail to sigridmac at Or simplifiy your life and get it on PayPal.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Bruce Atchison Reviews Be Your Own Editor

We all understand that writing is a craft but it need not be a mysterious or tedious one. Sigrid Macdonald, a Canadian author and editor, has just written a guide to editing that is both informative and conversational. Even irksome subjects such as punctuation and sentence structure are handled in a light-hearted way. This book is perfect for beginners and serves as a refreshing reminder to long-time writers.

English was never my best subject in school. I dreaded receiving my essays back from my Language Arts teacher because I knew there would be red Xs and incomprehensible scribbles all over the page. My mind turned to mush daily as the teacher rambled on about conjunctions and clauses. Worse yet, nobody took the time to explain why my modifiers were misplaced or why my participles were dangling. A book such as Be Your Own Editor would have helped me get better marks and I would have appreciated the flashes of humour in the text.

Sigrid's book takes much of the mystery out of writing and does it with comradely kindness. From building confidence to publishing a story or non-fiction text, this guide will be of help to all who apply its lessons. While the book is not a replacement for style guides and the impartial scrutiny of somebody not emotionally invested in the work, it does serve to remind authors of all calibers about the basic mistakes we all make.

Be Your Own Editor can be purchased through Lulu Enterprises as an e-book and will be in paperback form in February. Visit Sigrid's blog for more information.

Bruce Atchison -- Canadian author of Deliverance from Jericho (Six Years in a Blind

Posted on Canadian Authors' Network

Buy Be Your Own Editor directly through me by hitting the Contact Me button or sending an e-mail to sigridmac at Or simplifiy your life and get it on PayPal.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Interview with Bruce Atchison: Being a Visually-Impaired Writer

Interview with Bruce Atchison: Being a Visually-Impaired Writer

Sigrid Macdonald: What kind of special challenges do you face as a visually-impaired writer?

Bruce Atchison: Writing is intensively visual and the procedure of composing a manuscript is oriented toward people with sight. In my case, I can't just pick up a style guide or magazine and read it since I'm almost blind. This also rules out using computers unless they are equipped with screen-reading software that converts the text on the screen to synthetic speech. Totally blind writers are in a worse
bind than I am since I have enough vision to use a magnifier. Imagine how lost you'd be if PCs and Macs had no monitors. Because I can't drive, writerly activities such as doing book signings and readings are out of the question. I personally can't tolerate noise so I moved out to a small hamlet where it's much easier for
me to focus on the synthetic voice from my computer. Because I need isolation to stay sane, I can only promote my writing online or at the local level.

Sigrid Macdonald: That must be very frustrating. Kudos to you for persisting. Are these challenges mainly technical in terms of navigating in Microsoft Word or on the Internet? Or do you also have difficulty describing things if you can't quite see them anymore, or have never seen them clearly?

Bruce Atchison: Though talking computers and the Internet help with writing and research, many programs cause problems with my screen reading software. WordPerfect 12 is one which I can't use because the program clashes with my screen reader. Furthermore, sighted writers can just click on icons but I need to learn keyboard commands, such as Alt F4, to accomplish the same things. Some programs are only accessible with icons so I can't use them. For example, I bought a CD-ROM of a study Bible but I could only access some of its features. Installing printer programs is especially frustrating as my screen reader can't speak the graphic text displayed on the monitor. Fortunately, I have enough sight in my right eye to use a powerful magnifying glass. Even so, it's a real pain to read like that and I really shouldn't be straining what little vision I have lest I lose it. The same happens with graphics-laden sites.

Then there's the problem of homonyms. Words like "berth" and "birth" sound exactly alike. Describing some aspects of scenes is difficult too. Since I've never seen clearly, I don't know what an "oily expression" or similar descriptions look like. I'm tempted to write a short story where the protagonist describes things in terms of blurs and smears instead of the usual visual descriptions. This may give those blessed with good sight an idea of what visually-disabled folks experience. One example of explaining how I see was when I once told a woman that I had trouble walking down her wooden steps because I couldn't tell what was a step and what was a crack. She immediately understood what I meant.

Sigrid Macdonald: I'd love to read a book that described the way you see the world; it would really raise awareness. Tell me about your first book on Jericho. Why did you write it and what would you like the reader to understand about it?

Bruce Atchison: My first book was actually When a Man Loves a Rabbit (Learning and Living With Bunnies),a memoir of my experiences living with house rabbits. I wrote Deliverance From Jericho(Six Years in a Blind School)because the friends who I told about my childhood experiences were astonished that I had to be sent so far from home to attend school. I did go to public school locally first but some government official decided I'd be better off "with my own kind." Though I described the heartbreak of being far from home and all I loved, I also included vignettes of what life was like in that institution. Some of them were outrageous but others were quite hilarious.

I've recently published a blog post at called "The Toilet Paper Caper." It's about the time I learned that soggy toilet paper would stick to the ceiling if it was well-packed and thrown there. I also wrote in Deliverance from Jericho of the effect that the government-run school had on me. Being isolated at that institution made it hard for me to reintegrate into society but I've done rather well. I graduated from public junior high and high school with fairly good marks, though I didn't matriculate.

Sigrid Macdonald: Luckily, we've come a long way since young children like you were sent so far away from home. You must've been so homesick and frightened. What a terrible thing to do to a child, but of course the government thought that they were acting in your best interest. Bruce, is there anything else that you'd like to tell readers?

Bruce Atchison: Though When a Man Loves a Rabbit(Learning and Living With Bunnies) was a reasonably light-hearted and entertaining book, I feel that Deliverance From Jericho (Six Years in a Blind School)has a very important message. Children have a natural longing to be home with their biological parents. Even those who were adopted, like my half sister, feel the pull to be with their real mom and dad. Social engineering schemes such as Jericho Hill School for the Deaf and Blind ignored these factors and kept us apart from society. Had I owned a magnifying glass and monocular (an optical device for reading the blackboard), I could have gone all the way through public school. Institutions also tend to increase the risk of sexual abuse. Jericho was closed in 1998 when 350 deaf students and alumni won a class action suit against the British Columbia government. We blind kids didn't suffer any overt sexual abuse but a gym teacher was fired for playing a lewd game with us.

My hope is that my memoir of those years will encourage parents of disabled children to keep them at home and teach them how to live independently. I was so pathetic when I left Jericho that I didn't even know how to catch a bus or cross a busy street. Nobody there taught us those essential skills that public school students learn early on. If any of your readers are interested in finding out more about me and my books, they can go to the site, e-mail me at, or check out my page. I post updates there on my upcoming How I Was Razed memoir, the story of my involvement with a cult church, and on other writing activities.

Sigrid Macdonald: Yes, those institutions were rife with sexual and emotional abuse. I'm glad that you didn't have to endure that, but it's shocking that you weren't taught any life skills there or that you could have gone to public school with a magnifier! I'm sure that readers will learn quite a bit about life at the blind school, as well as your love for bunnies, in your writing. Bruce, thanks so much for illuminating us on your books and what it's like to be a writer with a visual impairment.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Book Review by Sid Allcorn

“…May you always be excited by the process as much as the byproduct of your writing.”

I could not pass up this quote from Be Your Own Editor. Sigrid has been my editor for three books now, and has always kept my process exciting by her waving of her magic wand over my notes. I am constantly reminded of this now as I read her masterful treatise on being your own editor.

Sigrid will mesmerize you as she spins her humour, anecdotes and good old–fashioned practical examples into a web of enlightenment. The best part about this book is the power of taking you from where you are to where you should be, and still inspiring and encouraging you all the way.

Bravo, Sigrid. Lead on.

At 74 years young, Sid Allcorn is a writer whose fictional heroine has the job of recreating the world, along with her husband Colin as emissaries of God. It is called "Ordinary Woman, Extraordinary Circumstances." Read more about Sid at

Buy Be Your Own Editor directly through me by hitting the Contact Me button or sending an e-mail to sigridmac at Or simplifiy your life and get it on PayPal.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Review of Be Your Own Editor by Alex Binkley

Sigrid Macdonald has done aspiring and published writers alike a big favor by publishing Be Your Own Editor. It’s a highly readable guide to turning a mass of words into a publishable essay, short story, magazine article or book. She provides handy advice on fixing aggravating spelling and grammar mistakes that mar the best arguments and liveliest prose. Anyone struggling to finish an assignment, article or chapter will find useful tips for overcoming everything from the dreaded writer’s block to insipid language.

Macdonald, an editor and author, writes in a straightforward style about subjects that too often are rendered in stultifying academicism. She draws on her experiences to provide good examples about navigating the fine points of grammar and spelling. She has organized the book into chapters that cover pertinent topics such as what to do when the first draft is finished and polishing the prose for submission. In between is excellent advice on punctuation, consistency and how to get the most from the ubiquitous spell checker. And a few chuckles about the foibles of writers and editors along the way.

Alex Binkley is a freelance journalist and writer, and 35-year member of the Parliamentary Press Gallery in Ottawa. He also writes for trade publications and does a weekly column for True North Perspectives.

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