Wednesday, 13 June 2012

PTSD / Vet's Wife Self-Publishing / Chapter 33 Excerpt

The clock ticks louder and pressure is building.  Will I make my self-imposed book release date of July 4th?  A GIANT QUESTION MARK! 
Chapter One of my memoir, Diary of a Vet's Wife, Loving and Living with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, begins on July 3rd . . . this date is huge to the topic of my story.

My final draft of the MANUSCRIPT was emailed to my self-publisher on Monday, June 4th, for basic formatting.  What surprised me was a feeling I can only liken to the empty nest syndrome.  I've put my HEART and SOUL into my writing for so many years, I feel lost without it!  Do all writers experience this with their first book?  I've sent my heart out into the world, the house echoes with emptiness.  Will the world be KIND or CRUEL?   

An avid reader all my life, I never stopped to think how much work went into publishing the bazillion books buttering our planet that I took for granted.  But I do NOW!  As a novice, it's enormous!  Am I just a wimp?  Or too much of a perfectionist?  No one else complains.

I can only note that the past is beautiful because one never realises an emotion at the time.  It expands later, and thus we don't have complete emotions about the present, only about the past.
           -Virginia Woolf

(I've placed the following excerpt here for my READERS ONLY, so they don't have to plow through the publishing jargon that I share with other writers).

Chapter 33 Excerpt . . .

     I turned in my sleep, automatically reaching for my husband.  But my hand touched cold empty sheets.  I opened one eye and glanced at the clock.  It was 4:00 a.m.  An alarm went off in my head; the bars close at two.  Unable to fall back to sleep I slipped out of bed, wandered out into the hall and turned on the light.  Shivering in a thin nightgown, I made my way to the living room.  There in the shadows Lorne slept on the couch, fully clothed, curled in a fetal position.  Still half asleep, I shuffled barefoot across the carpet; my only thought was to coax my husband to bed where he would be more comfortable.
     “Lorne,” I whispered, leaning over him, gently laying my hand on his shoulder.
     Suddenly, his eyes snapped open.  He leapt from the couch, landing in a tight crouching position.  His jaw muscles twitched in the dim light, his fists clenched at his chest, ready to strike.  He scared me to death.
     “LORNE!” I shouted, backing away, “IT’S ME, NANCY!”
     Hearing my voice, his eyes came into focus and his facial expression softened.  He was groggy and shaken, but he realized where he was and straightened up, letting his hands drop to his side. 
     “God damn it, Nancy,” he reprimanded me, “don’t ever do that again.  I could have hurt you bad.  And God knows I don’t ever want to do that.”  Shaking his head, he ran his fingers through his hair.  “Nancy, you just don’t understand.  You have no idea what I’m capable of doing.  Promise me you’ll never do that again.”
     “I promise,” I said timidly, sinking into the couch.  I reached up and turned on the lamp.
     Lorne sat down next to me, his brow creased, confusion obscuring his face.  He lit a cigarette, leaned forward, rested his elbows on his knees, and stared out into the dark kitchen.      
      “Baby, I’ve seen and done things I can’t tell you about.  Terrible things,” he said, not looking at me.  “The jungle in Nam was hell.  And the nights were worse.  Black as pitch, you couldn’t see your hand in front of your face; I never saw anything like it.  You sleep with one eye open.  You never knew when one of those gooks in their black pajamas would reach out and stick a knife in your gut.  Couldn’t see the little bastards but you knew they were there.  You couldn’t hear ‘em but you could smell ‘em.  Never knew who would get it next.  Which sorry bastard would get his throat slit?. . .  

My Latest Trials and Triumphs . . .   

My last blog detailed my encounter with the MUSIC PUBLISHING world. Their quick response was welcome, but I later learned there were "two writers names" on the copyright of the lyrics that were THE END of  my story!  Okay, now what?  The good price I was quoted was good only if the other writer agreed to it.  If not, they were each to be paid the higher price!

Thank goodness, my self-publisher saved me a lot of money.  They refused to COUNT BOOKS SOLD, which was a requirement in the copyright.  Can't count books printed one at a time!  Instead, I stubbornly rewrote the last chapter without using the song lyrics . . . even though it REALLY HAPPENED. 

Note:  For the full impact of Chapter 107,  the reader might want a copy of the words to Are You Lonesome Tonight? close at hand.

FORMATTING - The process of "laying out" text and illustrations to convert a manuscript into a finished book page design                 Independent Self-Publishing - the complete guide by Michael N. Marcus

Personally, I lack expertise when it comes to the whistles and bells that hide behind the written words on my computer screen, which magnifies my challenge with formatting my manuscript.

Once the manuscript was submitted and accepted by the self-publisher, my next step was agreeing to the contract and payment.  At that time, they wanted information for THE BOOK TEXT FILE . . . I chose 5.5 x 8.5 (black and white interior only) and creme color paper.

This self-publisher has a limit of 14 ACCEPTABLE FONTS that are used by their printer, allowing the writer to use ONLY TWO of these fonts throughout the manuscript.  The end result:  I chose Palatino Linograph for the body of my text and Arial for titles.  It was time consuming to adjust my 108 chapters to this requirement.  I know there's an easier way, but I wasn't taking a chance of messing up my work at this late stage.

Also notedTabs should be set at .25 or .3, not .5.  DO NOT USE TABS TO INDENT PARAGRAPHS.  Tabs should be replaced with indents.  No idea how to safely perform this task!

(My self-publisher agreed to handle the few tasks I shyed away from).

I think it was at this point I actually REALIZED we were converting a 8.5 x 11 manuscript, 408 double-spaced pages into a 5.5 x 8.5 Trade Paperback!  This meant my book could grow to 500 pages, including blank pages and PART NUMBER inserts.  Not good!  TOO BIG!  The price of a book is determined by the page count.

My challenge: SHRINK THE BOOK!

I ended up outlining a templet of the 5.5 x 8.5 printable area on a clear plastic sleeve with a marker.  Then I proceeded to change fonts, sizing and spacing on one page my manuscript.  One at a time, I'd slip them into the sleeve. This allowed me to judge which combinations would be EASIEST TO READ, while downsizing my work.  I changed the style and size of the chapter number and title as well.

I was on a MISSION - DOWNSIZE the number of pages to cut the cost to the buyer.

As I was formatting, I noticed the WASTED space at the end of many chapters.  

I skimmed through books, looking for ways I could conserve space and I found what I was looking for in a book by Elizabeth Gilbert - "rolling chapters."  Gilbert's publisher began each new chapter within a FEW SPACES of the previous chapter.  A few spaces, a bold chapter number and her story continued, eliminating wasted space.  Actually, I never noticed it until I began my research.  Gilbert's publisher may have done this for the same reason.  And it looks GREAT!

The END RESULT - 188 single spaced 8.5 x 11 pages.  I won't know the final count, nor the thickness of the cover spine, until my manuscript is returned for final proofing.

My FINAL STEP -  To alert my book cover designer in Australia the spine width, which is necessary in completing his work. Once the cover and manuscript are downloaded to the self-publisher - I wait for the galley (first copy printed).  And the BIRTH of my first book. :)

To be continued . . .

Lessons learned . . . my two cents

"What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us."     
                                                                       ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson


  1. I, too, am the wife of a combat Vietnam Veteran. I, too, have many written journals of the up close and personal hell we have survived. I have been writing a book for years, but it sounds like you might be able to direct me. If you could communicate with me it would be much appreciated. I am interested in finding out about he self publishing part, which seems to be hanging me up as well as the notations you made regarding the frustration of getting published. If you woud ever like to commiserate my email is: Thanks in advance and good luck for your first book! i truely believe what we have to say needs to be heard.

    1. Dear ILAFF, I will definitely make contact with you. This is one of the reasons I wrote this book. To bring other spouses to the surface and give them a voice. We survived and have nothing to be ashamed of. I believe there's thousands upon thousands of "us" around the world. We've been wounded but have survived, and we can give comfort and strength to one another.

      I'll touch base at soon as I can. In the meantime, scan my other blogs, I've shared a lot of writing and self-publishing trials and errors.

      Please know I'm with you from now on. I wish I knew your name. We'll talk soon.

  2. I love your writing Nancy. So amazing this journey you are taking. And as you say, so difficult - and who knew- the letting go too.

  3. Hi Lori. Thank you for stopping by and your kind words. It has been a journey with a capital J, but you too, are on a journey! I'm here if you need me. How was Africa? Miss you. xo

  4. hello Nancy -- I too love your writing and am eagerly awaiting publication of your book!

    And.. thank you for your comment today -- I replied on my blog -- I wanted to let you know because I'd really like for you to hear my words. Never ever doubt the power of your words to touch someone else...


    1. Louise, your message has given me hope that I have done the right thing for the right reason in writing my memoir. It's not all pretty but every life has it's shadows and pain. Some more so than others. We now live in an era where the internet allows us reach into corners and touch those in need of love and understanding. I've read enough of your work to know the corners you've ventured into and I want to be like you when I "grow up.":)