Then, when we grabbed some quick Chinese take-out, we opened the first of our fortune cookies and we read -- Only tears can bring a dreamer back to earth.
It bugged us. We'd expected the cookie to contain some vague bit of nothing -- A man who embraces happiness is a happy man -- because that type of inspirational blather seems to be the norm these days. It never offends the customers.
Our cookie, though, decided to get down to business. It was not only telling us about the future, it was warning us. We only wish we knew what it meant.
Is there some way to spin these words into a positive inspirational message? Not that we can see.
That will teach us to go around, having dreams. Once life kicks in, those sobs will start coming and we'll finally see existence for the giant suck hole it is. And we've got some family members think, it's about time.
Around the same time, as if to prove that life is a giant suck hole, a friend sent us an e-mail, warning us about Amazon's new Paperwhite reading device. She wrote, "I've heard that MS Word files aren't formatting correctly. You may need to reinstall your files using some other program or people won't be able to read your stuff."
Well, damn. (And double damn because, if you're not interested in formatting e-novels, the rest of this info is kind of boring. So, thanks for dropping by, we hope we'll see you next week, say hi to the cousins for us, okay?)
We didn't have a Kindle Paperwhite to try so we started contacting other writers in the area. Somebody else said our friend was wrong, a couple of somebodies said she was right, and everyone seemed to want to use a different program for their manuscripts. One person used OpenOffice (free), another used MobiPocket (also free), others used Calibre (free) or Scrivener ($40 but there's a free trial) some used Sigil (free...I think) and one guy insisted, "Like it or not, you've got to learn some html" which would be free except for the terribleness of having to study html.
Instead, we dropped $27, and bought 100 downloads of the Kinstant Formatter. $27 was a bargain if the program was as dead simple as advertised. The way it's supposed to work, you pays your money, you load your MS Word document (.doc, .docx or .odt) and your cover image into the Formatter, and you're done. Plus, the Formatter group promised: "Future-proof all of your books… do the work ONCE and only ONLY… because KinstantFormatter is using the ONLY tool Amazon has promised will work indefinitely." (This is a direct quote. So they're not not advertising copywriters, okay? Give 'em a break.)
It's hard to believe Amazon has promised to make the little-known Kinstant Formatter their prime formatting tool in the future but the K.I. people had never lied to us before so...
We plugged in our re-edited Aly's Luck. The manuscript downloaded quickly. We filled in the cover (which can be up to 5 MB but ours wasn't anything that large). Piece of cake. We put in the book title and author's name, as required, and looked at the advanced options:
Remove line breaks
Remove blank lines
Try to improve bullet points
Compress jpeg images
-- which only confused us but, happily, the K.I. people had selected some of the options for us. They also provided an instant "document analysis", revealing:
- Didn't find a table of contents
- Can't build a TOC - no Headings found
- Tabs found: 1
- Line breaks found: 2
- Blank lines found: 5
-- even if they didn't tell us why any of this mattered. Ignoring their analysis (because we didn't know what to do about it) we pushed the GENERATE Kindle epub button and, bingo!, our revised Aly was ready for our inspection. Except we couldn't read it because we hadn't downloaded Adobe Digital Editions (free), so we did that. It still didn't work. We then downloaded the Kindle Previewer, to see if that might fix the problem, and it wouldn't read it, either.
Over the next few hours, we worked with the K.I. customer service people to fix the problem. They were quick and responsive but they seemed as stumped as we were. Each time we tried to fix something, we used another of our 100 downloads. Use enough of those puppies and you'll need to dig out another $27.
Finally, we solved the problem. The people who understand nothing about computers.
I know. Incredible.
As it turns out, the Kindle Previewer settings have to be manually adjusted for Windows 7/Vista 32 or it can't read the books created by the Formatter. Since our computer runs Windows 7, it created a problem. (If you're having this problem, Amazon says, "Set the compatibility mode for Kindle Previewer to Windows XP SP3 so that it launches correctly. To set the compatibility mode, please locate the Kindle Previewer shortcut in your Start Menu. Right click on it and click on Properties. In the Compatibility tab, click on the check box labeled Run this program in compatibility mode for: and select Windows XP (Service Pack 3)" from the drop down list.) Oddly, the customer service people didn't have a clue about this but they tried to help us, and tried hard, so we forgive them.
After we adjusted settings, everything went smoothly. The reformatted Luck is now up on Amazon and The Atheist's Daughter is currently undergoing its review. Unless something changes, we're once again feeling happy and optimistic.
And our fortune cookie writer can go bite himself.
**One more note! Cassandra Parkin is having a birthday this week. We love Cassandra Parkin, she's a wonderful writer, and we think her New World Fairy Tales is just terrific. We're not suggesting you should download it but you'll be pleased if you do. Happy birthday, C.P.!**