Category Archives: News

Somewhere and Nowhere

an open box of booksMy new book is here! Somewhere and Nowhere recounts my adventures riding my bike from New Jersey to Oregon with my friend Mary. Along the way, there were a lot of “life lessons” about balance and living in the present moment.

I began writing a few years after the trip, in 2008. First I wrote what I remembered, but this didn’t amount to much. Then I got out the trip log (in which I recorded our route, miles, and other data), my spottily kept journal, the maps (which we’d stared at multiple times each day), and the 2200 photographs Mary and I had taken. I began piecing all this together, and memories began to return. I wrote down everything, resulting in a first draft of 353,439 words.

big stack of papers

The original draft

I knew I wanted to write a story for others, though, so I began cutting material. This was easy at first: what I ate for lunch, random photos I took, and other dead-end material. I also knew the book should have a theme, but there were so many possibilities. Some, like “wherever you go, people are nice,” seemed too trite. Eventually, however, I realized that many of my ideas (such as, daydreaming too much is harmful, and, I repeatedly get stuck in the past, and, worry results from my mind inventing problems) were variations of one theme: it is better to live in the present moment. This book theme was also the current theme of my life, as I tried to be happier and let go of past problems. So the bike trip story merged with the learning that continued afterwards. Once this happened, I was able to cut material that did not support the theme.

I worked with an editor who helped me see places that the manuscript could be better. Then I put it aside for a few years as I worked on starting an editing business and writing fiction. When I came back to it, I was able to see the writing differently, and rewrote passages with everything I had learned. Several friends acted as beta readers and gave feedback. I went over the manuscript so many times: on the screen, on printed pages, and reading aloud.

Then it just felt done. It was spring of 2016.

Ken with a pallet of book boxes

Ken delivers the books to my parents’ garage

I self-published Bread Science in 2006 because I could not get anyone to publish it. This time, I self-published because I did not want to sell the rights to my story. I also wanted to do the self-publishing process again; I had spotty notes from the first time, but I kept thorough notes this time so I could share them. So many steps come after the writing is done: choosing and scanning photos, creating a cover, and designing the nook interior. I also spent months working on permissions: I read books on the subject and made a huge spreadsheet of all the copyrighted material in the book (which, I found out, includes artwork that I photographed), all the potential privacy issues (some of which existed even if I changed people’s names), and any other possible problem. I changed some passages to avoid issues and wrote to ask permission in other cases.

Mom holds up a book out of the box

Mom with the first book out of the box!

When the book was finally done, I uploaded it to my printer, Thomson-Shore. They only had to contact me three times with errors! This was much easier than in 2006, when I was rushing to the university library to use InDesign with the files on a USB drive (invented just in time!), and when the printer’s server didn’t have enough space for my giant book! The books arrived on April 3; my parents are still acting as the distribution office.

Since the books shipped from the printer, I’ve been filled with doubt. I consider how unimportant my story is—there are so many bigger problems in the world than my personal dilemmas. I worry that I should have gone over the text one last time, that it could have been better, that I’ve forgotten to change someone’s name or that my narrator is way too whiny and self-involved. But I already decided that Somewhere and Nowhere is a success to me even if it sells no copies because I learned so much while writing it. As I did on the bike trip so long ago, I am trying not to worry about it!

Books are for sale at

New Book Is Almost Here

proofs of Somewhere and NowhereThis week I received my proofs from the printer!

Other than the cover being a bit brighter than anticipated, they look like I hoped they would. But instead of being excited, I just feel mildly sick. Was I crazy to write such a personal memoir to share with the public? Have I failed to protect the privacy of anyone, in spite of how careful I was with details? Is it bad that I have no marketing plan?

Then I remembered that this was pretty much how I felt in the months leading up to the bike trip: Was I crazy? Had I forgotten something major? Was it foolish not to have more of a plan? And the bike trip turned out to be the most positive, life-changing undertaking of my life. So probably this book will turn out to be okay, too.

I have since decided to plan a book launch party. The library often hosts them, so I wouldn’t have to find a willing bookstore (which might be hard because the book is self-published), and I probably have enough friends who’d come that the room wouldn’t be awkwardly empty.

So stay tuned! The book should soon be here.

A Short Guide to Self-Publishing

I’ve finished the Short Guide to Self-Publishing that I first drafted ten years ago!

a sample of a sell sheetThe guide covers self-publishing a book without using a company or middleman to manage the process. You might choose to outsource a task to an expert (a copy editor or a cover designer, for example), and you’ll pay a printer to print and bind your books, but no one will be taking a cut of your sales.

Self-publishing this way is a lot of work, so I want interested parties to have an idea of what they’re be getting into, should they pursue it. I hope that the guide will help people who decide to do move forward with self-publishing avoid the mistakes I made.

You can download the guide for free here:


You can see all my guides here:


chart showing word counts plotted for each dayNaNoWriMo in February?

I had a story idea this weekend, and I knew that if I waited until November, it might be gone. But without NaNoWriMo, I wondered, how would I stay on track?

I love the camaraderie of NaNoWriMo, but I realized that what keeps me going is the bar chart. So I made myself a chart to use. If you want to write 50,000 in 30 days (any 30 days you choose!) and a chart would help, download it here. (On my computer, when I click on the link, the file automatically downloads.)

Numbers (for Mac):


First Time at AWP

Last week I attended the AWP (American Writers and Writing Programs) conference in Washington, DC. It was my first time at AWP, which was an overwhelming affair: six sessions each day with up to 35 choices, a monstrous book fair, evening meetups, and events throughout the city.

view inside the convention center

Inside the DC convention center

The first day, I attended all six sessions, each of which included a panel of four or five experts. The morning sessions were filled with practical information about how to land an agent, what it is like to have a book deal, what residencies are looking for in a writer, and how to give and receive feedback effectively. The afternoon sessions were less helpful: the panelists read essays they’d written on the subject, told personal stories, or read excerpts from their own books as examples. This was less interesting to me, or maybe I was just exhausted from the day’s nonstop activity.

While I gathered lots of information, I didn’t speak to a single person all day. The conference format, with only 15 minutes between sessions, made it hard. After each session, people would line up to speak to the panelists, who often included published authors, agents, editors at presses, and bookstore owners. While I would have welcomed an interaction, I didn’t have anything to pitch or a clear goal, so I didn’t join these lines. Late in the day, when I stepped into the book fair, I began to suspect that this was where the networking happened.

view from the convention center

The view at the quiet table where I had lunch on Day 2

I met a writer on the metro who’d spent the first two days navigating the book fair, pitching her book to presses she had selected ahead of time. This surprised me; I’d thought the presses were only there to sell books. I resolved to spend more time in the book fair. At first, it was hard: my natural aversion to talking to people, particularly people trying to sell me something, kicked in. Thankfully, I’d been tasked with bringing home pencils, so I forced myself to talk to anyone who had pencils at the table. I gradually came to understand the types of vendors in the book fair:

  • Small presses selling books and, apparently, looking for authors
  • Literary magazines selling subscriptions and looking for submissions
  • MFA programs, which include low-residency options
  • Residency programs, which include competitive programs that are sometimes free to attend, and programs that anyone can attend for a fee
  • Other: Groups for writers, groups of editors looking for writers, a service to help writers submit to literary magazines, and more
Emma Straub and Ann Patchett onstage during their event

Emma Straub and Ann Patchett with the moderator

I also spent one session listening to “a conversation with Emma Straub and Ann Patchett,” which was delightful. Both women are successful writers, and they talked about their lives, how they became writers, and which 2017 books they are looking forward to.

I had noticed that the conference seemed very academic: some sessions had super-specific titles or focused on teaching writing, and the assumption seemed to be that we writers were all writing literary works. (I had hoped to meet a romance novel publisher but didn’t see a single mention of romance!) I also noticed a dearth of information about self-publishing. This struck me because I’d heard panelists (including successfully published authors) talk about the disappointments of book deals, the number of good books that don’t get published and the luck involved in successfully publishing, and the inability to live off of one’s writing royalties, even as a successful author. On the third day, I encountered outright hostility toward self-publishers in one panel, where a bookstore owner who won’t work with self-publishers made the assumption that people self-publish only because they’ve failed to publish traditionally. I was happy to find some booths in the book fair, such as the Authors Guild, that supported self-publishing.

Attending the conference helped me see its possibilities. I hope to go next year, perhaps with a book to pitch to presses, or perhaps as a panelist discussing the trials and joys of self-publishing (one can dream!).

Book Is at the Printer!

Last week, I uploaded Somewhere and Nowhere to my printer’s website. If all goes well (and I’m really hoping I had everything formatted correctly), it should be here in a few weeks.

My dad is already at work designing ads for his Facebook feed. I found this one particularly amusing:

dad's ad for book with rocket launching

I’ll post again when the book is available. My next task is to reformat the book as an ebook!

How to Self-Publish an eBook

I’ve been tying up loose ends. After ten years, I finally revisited the notes I’d made for A Short Guide to Self-Publishing. Once I had a draft manuscript, created in Word using font styles to make it easy to publish as an ebook, I decided to redo my other short guides to make them all consistent in appearance.

ebook diagramThere were big changes in the guide How to Self-Publish an eBook, which contains all my notes from doing that process—not so much in the content but in the format. I hope it is easier to read now. You can access it here:


I’m currently redoing How to Build a Simple WordPress Website, which was really dated. Some friends are reading the draft of the guide to self-publishing. You can see all the guides here.

Goodbye to an Old “Friend”

Okay, it’s not really a friend. It’s my original Two Blue Books website. I read that Google will be prioritizing mobile-friendly sites in its search results, and it was the final kick in the pants I needed to create a new site.

front page of old websiteA friend helped me build the site in 2006, before the popularity of content management systems and DIY blog websites. He found a template PHP page and style sheet, and we FTP-ed them to my website host’s server and changed all the colors. I thought I should go with yellows and browns, something bread-like, but the green and pink won me over. It seemed like a tribute to the original title I had planned for Bread Science, which was Bread and Roses. (Thankfully I was talked out of it!)

My favorite part about the site, in addition to how easy it’s been (no software updates or database backups), is the random quote at the top of each page. It comes from a list in the code—here they are:

  • “If thou tastest a crust of bread, thou tastest all the stars and all the heavens.” —Robert Browning (1812–1889), English poet
  • “As we have seen, bread, and especially dry bread, evokes secretion of considerably larger quantities of saliva than meat.” —Ivan Pavlov”
  • “How can a nation be great if its bread tastes like Kleenex?” —Julia Child
  • “I understand the big food companies are developing a tearless onion. I think they can do it—after all, they’ve already given us tasteless bread.” —Robert Orben
  • “Without bread all is misery.” —William Cobbett (1763?–1835), British journalist
  • “Bread and water–these are the things nature requires. For such things no man is too poor, and whosoever can limit his desire to them alone can rival Jupiter for happiness.” —Seneca
  • “We have learned to see in bread an instrument of community between men—the flavour of bread shared has no equal.” —Antoine de Saint-Exupery
  • “The universe of bread is made up of a nostalgia for one’s childhood, the hard work of farmers, miller and bakers and the distinctive pleasure given by something ‘authentic’ and flavourful.” —Jerome Assire
  • “One’s own simple bread is much better than someone else’s pilaf.” —Azerbaijani Proverb
  • “Never fall out with your bread and butter.” —English Proverb
  • “Whose bread I eat: his song I sing.” —German Proverb
  • “The dog wags his tail, not for you, but for your bread.” —Portuguese Proverb
  • “A crust eaten in peace is better than a banquet partaken in anxiety.” —Aesop
  • “Everyone is kneaded out of the same dough but not baked in the same oven.” —Yiddish Proverb
  • “The sky is the daily bread of the eyes.” —Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • “When you have only two pennies left in the world, buy a loaf of bread with one, and a lily with the other.” —Chinese Proverb
  • “We light the oven so that everyone may bake bread in it.” —Jose Marti (1853–1895)

Each time I’ve thought about building a new site, I’ve gone to look at the old one and been arrested by how much I liked it. So before I take it down, I wanted to post this memorial, for ten years of good service.

How to Lay Out a Book in InDesign

a page from the bookI recently designed my second book, Somewhere and Nowhere, using Adobe InDesign for the page layout. Given the additional ten years of InDesign experience I’ve gained since my first book (when I was basically at level 0), things went much more smoothly this time. I hadn’t attempted to format any text ahead of time in Word, and I used styles and added flourishes like drop caps.

I took notes so that I’d have a guide to follow next time. I am sharing them in the hope that they might be useful to other self-publishers.

Download a PDF here.

Get the EPUB file free at Gumroad:
Please note: three of the images in the EPUB version would not convert properly, no matter what I tried. You can see them but they don’t look quite right.

Get the MOBI file free at Gumroad:

NaNoWriMo 2016

Nanowrimo badgeWell, November is over, and I did it: I wrote a 50,000 word novel!

I first participated in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) in 2014, when I wrote Intelligence, a new adult fiction novel that is still in the works. The goal of NaNoWriMo is simply to get a draft out, which will then be revised. It helps to be able to tell yourself, It doesn’t have to be good, just keep going.

In 2014, I felt like I had a coffee buzz the entire month. I wrote in the morning, and then went to work where my officemates consistently asked, “Are you okay?” Ideas would pop into my head all day long, and I’d race home to incorporate them.

So I was looking forward to participating this year. But it was very different. After the busiest October on record (2 weekend-long weddings, 3 day-long work events, my 20th college reunion, the state fair, and Halloween), I woke on November 1 thinking, “There’s no way I can write.” But I did. And I wrote every day after that, in spite of feeling like a slug.

Nanowrimo chart of word countI plateaued mid-month with no ideas. I’d already written everything I’d imagined, and I had 25,000 words to go. I tried to let go of the outline that had formed in my head, and new action emerged: there’d be a revolution, with a battle scene, and then the second villain would emerge, necessitating another encounter. Then in the last week, it struck me that the entire story was extremely childish and that I have no ability to craft fiction. But I kept going. So, there it is, my chart of 50,000 words in one month.

You may be wondering why I haven’t said a word about the actual novel. Well, it’s a romance novel. I wrote it because I wanted to do NaNoWriMo, it seemed too soon to start the sequel of Intelligence, and I didn’t have another idea. I also find writing romance liberating–it gives me this feeling that I can write whatever I want, which is a feeling I’d like to cultivate. And, romance may be a good way to make money as a writer, while working on additional, non-money-making projects. I’m still considering how to present my romance writing to the world–I might use a pen name to keep my bread-class-teaching self separate from my romance-writing self. So for now, I’ll just say that it’s a romance novel in a fantasy world.