Don’t Lose Hope – Desolate is FREE!

| About Ali's Books

Corny, right? Sorry. Couldn’t help myself!


Desolate (Desolation #2)

Where darkness lives, all will become desolate.

Desi chose Midgard over Hel, over her father, Loki, but she couldn’t banish the Shadow that lives within her.

Working with The Hallowed, she remains vigilant against her father’s forces. When she’s injured by a strange demon, old temptations rise, and the darkness that hides within her may mean the destruction of all that she’s been fighting for.


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Pirate Tales are on Sale!

| About Ali's Books


The jump across the multiverses was supposed to be easy. But when a miscalculation sends thirteen-year-old twins Jayce and Val Jump into another dimension, their reality splinters.

They discover a girl who holds the key to time itself and the boys make a promise to her dying father to protect her and the secret.

But mechanical malfunctions plague their small ship, terrifying space pirates chase them across time and space, and betrayal waits for them at home. If they ever make it home.



Can the past be unbroken?

Everything about Pete’s life stinks. His dad is dead, his grandfather doesn’t even remember him, his mom cries all the time, and they’re about to lose their crappy old house to the bank.

And Pete’s twin brother Henry blames him for all of it.

While cleaning out the attic, the boys discover an old seaman’s trunk that transports them back in time where they’re forced to battle the raging sea and pirates bent on their destruction. Pete and Henry will have to work together to fix the broken past—or they won’t have a future to return to.


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The Return of Ninja Mode!

| About Ali, About Writing

If you’ve been with me long enough to remember me as the Story Ninja (capable of kicking outlines into line, sneaking up on bad guys and writing a story with stealth and awesomeness), then you remember Ninja Mode!

On January 3rd, my sweetheart David was diagnosed with choroidal melanoma – a type of cancer that sits on his retina. The past two weeks have been a whirlwind! We learned that the cancer was bad, and had probably spread to his body. So the hunt for the cancer began in earnest and we tried to prepare for the worst while hoping for the best.

We were blessed and the BEST IT IS! The cancer appears to be limited to his eye–we are so relieved!

I’d been considering blogging less in order to WRITE MORE BOOKS, but I love blogging, so I’ve had a hard time deciding. But David’s diagnosis has forced me to truly evaluate how I use my time and with so many more doctor appointments added to the mix, it seemed the best decision was obvious.

For the time being, I’ll only be posting author-ish stuff like book news and appearances, etc. I hope you’re okay with that. I realize I may lose some of you who like to read about my dealings with Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue, but I hope you’ll understand. One of the things we must do to minimize our symptoms is minimize our stress. You know how difficult that can be! But when something can be removed from your plate–well, you should do it.

So I’m going into Ninja Mode, my friends. It’s time for me to focus on my family and WRITE A LOT OF WORDS! I plan to bring you not one, but SIX books this year!

Visit me on my Facebook Page if you want to stay in touch! Much love to all of you! <3


Bullet Journal For the Win!

| About Ali

I’ve always been a list girl. To-do lists, shopping lists, routine lists, cleaning lists … if it’s something with steps, I’m all over it. David gave me my first “real planner” back in 1991. It was a Franklin Covey planner and it was awesome! I used Franklin planners for years after that. All the way until the iPhone, I think. I tried every app and system known to man, but there’s something about the writing of things that’s cathartic, revealing and informative. Electronic lists and planners simply wouldn’t cut it.

So back to paper planners, I went. I tried the Franklin planner again, the Happy Planner, and others. And then, back in April of 2016, I tried a bullet journal. And it was a game changer.

A bullet journal is a master-list keeper of sorts, that can be anything and everything you want it to be. Check out to learn more about the method as it was originally intended. I think the best approach is to study the method, and then allow yourself the freedom to discover your own method.

Once you get looking around, you’ll find a plethora of bullet journal examples, many with art that will blow your mind. I am not so crafty as all that. I like it, I just can’t do it. Plus, I don’t have the time. But if you’re anything like me, you’ll love seeing examples of other people’s journals because it will help you inform your own choices. Which brings me to today! I want to share with you my 2017 journal (at least the first one, I expect I’ll use two to three this year) and the method I’m currently enjoying.

When I started using a bullet journal, I bought a grid notebook for $5 at Office Max. It’s was a good journal, and a great first one as it helped me discover if the bullet journal (BuJo for short) method was going to be a good one for me.

Now I use a Leuchtturm1917, medium size hardcover A5 notebook with dotted pages and I LOVE it. The feel of the hardcover book, the weight of the pages, the quality of the binding–these are the reasons I love this notebook.

I don’t have favorite markers or anything like that, but I am absolutely addicted to the G2 Pen, 0.38 ultra fine point. and this handy caddy is perfect for mobility around the house. I also use the Leuchtturm pen loop so I can keep my pen with my book at all times. Last year I did whatever color notebooks I felt like at the time. This year, though, I think I’ll try to keep to one color (I already have two of the raspberry journals above, so raspberry it is!) I think it’ll help keep my storage uniform and well, the “order” of it appeals to me.

Okay! Pardon the poor picture qualities, but come take a look inside my BuJo!

My first attempt at art. And the quote to shape my purpose for the year.

I chose the word THRIVE as my focus word for 2017. I want to do more than just survive in my hurty body, ya know? If I can’t make IT do the things I want it to do, then by golly I’m going to do all I can to enjoy, love and succeed at my life despite it. I’m going to THRIVE.

In preparation for the new year, I worked through guided coursework created by Kim at Sublime Reflection. The life categories and top ten goals here are from that worksheet–though now I’ve refined them a bit. Mainly, my top TWO goals are to 1) Draw nearer to God and 2) Treat my writing like a full time job. (Which I should have been doing for a long time now but have always fallen short of.)

My master calendar (titled as a nod to the Doctor). It carries on over two more pages.
Master task list and a place to corral gift ideas.
A “Happy Home” spread to keep track of home cleaning routines. One of my goals this year is to discover “Me-Friendly” routines that I can stick to.
Movies, TV & Books tracker to give me a spot to jot down what’s coming out that I’d like to check out. I put “Favorites” on my list of pages I wanted to create but now I can’t remember what it was supposed to be for. Time will tell!

I’m the president of my sons’ lacrosse club, so I’ve included a place to track notes and spending. I wish I’d also included a schedule of games and such. The coolest part about BuJo’s is that I can add in a LaX calendar ANYWHERE. I’ll add it to my index (another reason to love the Leuchtturm because it comes with a built-in index and numbered pages – otherwise you have to create your own) and maybe even add a tab for easy access).

My writing spread is probably my favorite and the one I’m most eager to start using. It’s got a place to track the projects, their genre, series, projected and actual release dates. And it also has a pixel calendar to track my daily word counts throughout the year. This is purely for fun. I have a goal of writing four thousand words a day, which is totally do-able for me, I’m just bad at getting my butt in the chair and doing the work. So I want to track my progress in a pretty way just for kicks and giggles.

A place to collect blog ideas and categorize them – then schedule them. The calendar didn’t quite turn out as planned. Oh well. It’s all a work in progress and perfection is NOT the aim of the game.
A Book of Mormon reading map! You could easily do this for the Bible or any other scripture or text that you want to read this year! And of course my super simple January titlepage, with penguins I cut off a super cute Christmas card I got this year.

Weekly spread! It gives me an overview of what I can expect from my week and the tasks I must accomplish.

I made my January titlepage and calendar before I remembered that I really like to use Washi Tape to define the start of each month. I made little tabs (you can sort of see them on the left page in the image above) so the page is easy to grab. I do this on each month, seasonally color-coded to some extent for easy visibility. It’s very handy! Except when you put it on AFTER you’ve done your spread, it messes with your pretty text and what have-you. Note to Self: Remember to add the washi before creating the monthly layout.

An example of a daily spread with a place for scheduling on the left and journaling on the right.
An example of a Saturday/Sunday spread.

And there you have it! I hope some of these ideas help spark ideas of your own and they’re helpful to you. I highly recommend you check out #bulletjournal and #bulletjournaljunkies on Instagram – and then join the Bullet Journal Junkies Facebook group. Lots of super amazing help, support and ideas there.

So what about YOU? Do you keep a planner of any kind? Are you tempted by bullet journals? Do you have any questions? 

Oh, and let’s not forget …




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Merry Christmas & a Happy New Year!

| blog

Hi my friends! You have been so good to me this past year – thank you! I tried to blog more often/regularly, and you were supportive and communicative–especially on Facebook and Twitter. I’m thinking of 2017 and what, if anything, I’d like to change around here … I’d love your opinion!

These are the things I’m thinking of:

  • I like writing more personal posts once a week (I usually post them on Mondays). I’ve been thinking of at least trying to write about topics that are also in my books; like family, self-worth, addiction, darkness and light, suicide, relationships and more. Kind of heavy topics, but … I’m sort of thinking that, as a writer, I should give you more of what you might see when you read my books.
  • I’d still like to do my Writer Wednesdays where I teach something. I’m thinking I might focus my thoughts on advice for new writers.
  • I really enjoy doing Fan Friday where I talk about books I’ve read or would like to read. I don’t mind if I don’t always get one of them in, but they’re fun to do when I can. Every good book deserves a shout out, right?
  • I’ll be doing a lot more promotions, sales and PUBLISHING in 2017! Yeah! So I’m thinking of doing Teaser Tuesdays, where I post snippets from my books. Maybe not every week but sometimes.
  • I AM AN AUTHOR. I need to be less afraid to come out and say that. I need to share about my books. Also, I need to make writing BOOKS and publishing my priority, so I might not always be here to blog.

So … what do you think? Do you approve of my ideas? Do you have any requests? Topics or whatnot you’d like to see? I really do appreciate you and want you to feel like your time here is worth your while.

And … like I said, gonna be doing more promotions–starting now! Become, first in the Desolation series, is free today through the 29th. If you haven’t read it yet, now’d be a good time to grab it! Do you have a friend who would like it? Maybe you could share it with them. Or, if you’ve read it–maybe you’d consider leaving a review on Amazon. Reviews are as good as gold to authors. It’s how new readers know whether or not a new book/new author is worth taking a chance on. Thank you so much!


Here’s a couple tweets you could use to make sharing easy–I appreciate all the help I can get!

I’m taking a break until January … It’s my 25th wedding anniversary! I can hardly believe it. Maybe when I get back I’ll tell you my and David’s story–it’s guaranteed to be something of a shocker!

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I’m a Prepper!

| About Marketing, About Publishing, About Writing

No, not the end-of-the-world kinda prepper, but the get-ready-for-2017 kind. I’ve got a lot of plans! I’ve never really shied away from telling you about what my goals are, and I’ve never yet met the goals I’ve laid out, lol. But, hey. They’ve kept me moving forward, they have helped me focus my efforts. So that’s something, right?

I haven’t set my goals, per se, yet, but I’m working on it. I haven’t been a very good authorpreneur the last couple years. I haven’t been writing and publishing like I ought to. So these are the things that I’m thinking about as I’m brainstorming and getting ready to set my goals for 2017:

  • Write more books!
  • Regularly run KDP promos
  • What’s the Amazon giveaway program?
  • Run ads!
  • Be more proactive in my bookselling – run sales and giveaways, etc.
  • Develop a few more presentations
  • Pitch presentations to more conferences
  • Pitch my and Mikey’s presentations to schools and libraries
  • Make an effort to be more informed of publishing news
  • Focus more on my work than formatting/working for others

Just some thoughts flitting around this little ol’ brain of mine.

What are some things you’re thinking about as you prepare for 2017?

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Me & Chronic Illness: Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

| blog

Chronic Fatigue (ME/CFS) is a tricky thing. It’s so easy to confuse with Fybromyalgia, because it feels a lot like the muscle fatigue you can get with FMS. It took me a long time to be able to distinguish between the two.

First a little background: When I was about eleven years old, I got bronchitis so bad that I was kept home from school for months. My mom’s passed away, so I can’t ask her for more info and that’s all I can really remember. I got asthma after that. In junior high and high school, I periodically suffered from such exhaustion that I could barely do my life. I was on the track team, a cheerleader, and a sax player in a couple bands. I HAD to do my life. They tested me for mono every time, and every time the results were negative.

I began to develop problems with my uterus. And later, when I tried to have babies, I found it extremely difficult because I’d developed a blood disorder called antiphospholipid antibody syndrome.

I developed a heart problem, called neurocardio syncopy. Basically my brain and my heart don’t always communicate properly.

It’s important to know the background because it’s part of ME/CFS – only I didn’t know until this year.

My Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Symptoms:

  • Deep, penetrating fatigue. It’s more than being tired. It’s exhaustion so true that it hurts. I can have difficulty walking, thinking, being alive.
  • Vision problems. Halos, stars, blurriness–a lot like when you’re getting a migraine.
  • Post-exertion malaise. If I do too much (and “too much” may be as simple as walking for two minutes too long OR doing a lot of heavy brain-work) I could be down on my back for a week, unable to do any walking (or anything) at all.
  • Widespread pain. Sometimes the fatigue feels like pain and I don’t recognize it for what it is at first.
  • Sore throat & cough. This is a recurring thing and often the precursor of a flare.
  • Low-grade fever: Like the sore throat and cough, this is recurring. It’s like having the flu and happens often.
  • Infections. Strep throat, urinary tract infections. Blech.

How I Live with ME/CFS:

Honestly, I wasn’t living with it well, at all. And for me, ME is by far more troublesome than FMS. Thankfully, I was selected to become a patient at Bateman Horne Center in Salt Lake City, Utah. I’ve met many people who haven’t been able to get in there and I feel bad because the Center has been so good for me.

Dr. Holladay, a doctor at BHC, quickly came to a conclusion that needed to be examined, so he had my blood tested for a few types of pneumonia bacteria. He said that if he was right, it would explain everything I was describing to him AND the things I experienced when I was younger that I noted above.

And, he was right. I have two different types of bacteria in my blood–where it absolutely doesn’t belong. It’s Dr. Holladay’s opinion that I was misdiagnosed as a girl when I had bronchitis. Probably, I had pneumonia and because I wasn’t properly treated for it, I never really got better. The bacteria, free to roam my body at will, have set up colonies here or there and wreaked havoc–like the lung and heart problems. They cause the infections, which spark the fever. They cause the sore throat, the cough … everything.

I was overjoyed to discover there was a REAL THING wrong with me! I wasn’t crazy, after all! But … there isn’t a cure or treatment for the levels of bacteria I have that has proven to be effective over the long term. Thankfully the BHC team is working so hard to make progress in the diagnosis and treatment of this disorder that I’m hopeful there might be some options for me, soon.

In the meantime, I take Lyrica, which I think helps a bit with energy and also helps with the FMS pain. I also take Trazadone to help me sleep, so at least I get a decent start to my day. I’m set up for the best possible outcome.

Hardest of all, is learning to take it easy. Sometimes (most of the time), I can do the barest of exercise. I used to love lifting weights and doing Jazzercise. Now, I walk my double cul-de-sac and that’s a big win. I ride my little recumbant bike for five (sometimes just two!) minutes. I love to do very basic yoga, too … but it’s very easy to do too much. Mostly because my brain thinks, “This is a beginner’s program! I only have to hold the pose for fifteen more seconds. Come on, Ali. You should be able to do this.”

Should is the worst word for CFS sufferers. Only one should matters: listen to your body. And be okay with it. So not easy.

We’re supposed to do “graded exercise”, where you start with a tiny bit of exercise, like two minutes, then you’re done and see how you feel. If you felt good, you can do three minutes next time. As soon as you come to a number that feels like too much, and you feel bad afterward, you’re to back off to the previous number that you felt good at. Last spring I got up to walking 7,000 steps a day, which was an amazing accomplishment for me, by following the graduated approach. However now I’m back to 1,500 steps a day or so.

With ME/CFS, you have got to listen to your body because you cannot push yourself. The same is true with FMS, but the cost is higher with ME/CFS, I think.

It’s so hard not to be able to do the things I’d like to do, or to do as much as I’d like. I’ve been having a hard time this fall and winter. My Christmastree has been up since December first, the ornaments have been out for the last three days, and I’m still not done hanging the ornaments.

I grow mostly weeds in my yard, when I wish I had flowers. Even when I plant flowers, I can’t keep up on the weeds that grow all around them and smother them.

I just now realized that I forgot, again, to put on a load of laundry and we won’t have underwear tomorrow. But it’s after eight in the evening and I am DONE for the day. Evenings are extremely hard for me.

I hate not being able to do things that I love, like hikes and walks and biking and horseback riding and, and, and.

All I can do is remember that I wasn’t put on this Earth to just survive, but to thrive. Even if my body is uncooperative, and my house is less than awesome, and my laundry is still undone, I, ali, can thrive. I can shine and be awesome and be happy and be a friend, a mother, a writer, a wife. Because I am not my body. My body is simply a vessel where my spirit lives while I’m on Earth. Learning to thrive while inside this less-than-perfect body is maybe my greatest challenge in this life.

I don’t like to fail, it’s true. And I’m a “failure” at health and fitness, home care, gardening–whatever. But I will not fail at thriving within the limitations of my body. I will not fail at being happy.

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Fan Friday: The Dragons of Dorcastle by Jack Campbell

| About Reading

I started listening to this series a couple years ago (there’s five books in all) and I loved it. It took a bit for me to get into, but primarily because it’s a highly unique and complicated world so there was some work to set it all up. But once I was in? W.O.W.

This series, this world and style of writing, opened up my mind to the possibilities of storytelling. And seriously raised the bar for what I expect from both the stories I read and the stories I write.

I listened to it on Audible, with MacLeod Andrews narrating. I LOVE HIM!!! He’s my favorite narrator by far.

The Dragons of Dorcastle a genre-bending tale that blends science fiction, steam punk and fantasy. Check it out!

dragonsFor centuries, the two Great Guilds have controlled the world of Dematr. The Mechanics and the Mages have been bitter rivals, agreeing only on the need to keep the world they rule from changing. But now a Storm approaches, one that could sweep away everything that humans have built. Only one person has any chance of uniting enough of the world behind her to stop the Storm, but the Great Guilds and many others will stop at nothing to defeat her.

Mari is a brilliant young Mechanic, just out of the Guild Halls, where she has spent most of her life learning how to run the steam locomotives and other devices of her Guild. Alain is the youngest Mage ever to learn how to change the world he sees with the power of his mind. Each has been taught that the works of the other’s Guild are frauds. But when their caravan is destroyed, they begin to discover how much has been kept from them.

As they survive danger after danger, Alain discovers what Mari doesn’t know – that she was long ago prophesized as the only one who can save their world. When Mari reawakens emotions he had been taught to deny, Alain realizes he must sacrifice everything to save her. Mari, fighting her own feelings, discovers that only together can she and Alain hope to stay alive and overcome the Dragons of Dorcastle.


john_hemry_1Jack Campbell is the pen name of John G. Hemry, a retired U.S. Navy officer. His father (LCDR Jack M. Hemry, USN ret.) is a mustang (an officer who was promoted through the enlisted ranks), so John grew up living everywhere from Pensacola, Florida to San Diego, California, including an especially memorable few year on Midway Island.

John graduated from Lyons High School in Lyons, Kansas in 1974, then attended the U.S. Naval Academy (Class of ’78), where he was labeled “the un-Midshipman” by his roommates.

John speaks the remnants of Russian painstakingly pounded into him by Professor Vladimir Tolstoy (yes, he was related to that Tolstoy).

He lives in Maryland with a wife who is too good for him and three great kids. The two eldest children are diagnosed as autistic but are slowly improving with therapies, education and medications.

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How to Format a Pretty Print Book Without Going Insane

| About Publishing

Stick with me, kids. I’ll show ya how it’s done–using Microsoft Word.

Prepare Your Manuscript

When we write, we accidentally or intentionally, add artifacts that seem like a good idea at the time but can end up causing havoc to your formatting efforts. Here’s how to take care of that problem:

Identify & Mark Italics

Mark each instance of italics with a symbol not found in your manuscript; I use a + on either side of the italics

Continue through entire document

Find > Advanced Find > More > Format > Font > Font Style: Italic




Find Next

Use Notepad++ (or similar free program) to Clear Formatting Gremlins

CTRL-A to copy the entire MS

Open Notepad++

Paste in manuscript

Edit > Blank Operations > Trim Trailing and Leading Spaces


Blank Operations > Tab to Space


CTRL-A to copy manuscript

Your Word Document Set Up

Now that your document is squeaky-clean, you can set up the basics of your document.

Create New Document

Paste corrected manuscript into new document

Find +

Reset italics

Replace + with nothing and choose Replace All

Side Note:
Make sure your Word Settings are going to help you, not hurt you.
File > Options > Proofing > AutoCorrect Options > AutoFormat As You Type > check “straight quotes with smart quotes” and “hyphens with dash”

Save (Do this often!)

Set Up Layout

Decide what Trim Size: This is the size of book you want. Novels are typically 5×8, 5.5×8.5 or 6×9.

Two popular vendors, Createspace and Ingram Spark have different trim sizes from one another—decide who you’re going to publish with and choose from their trim sizes.

Paper Layout > Print Size > More Paper Sizes


Under Paper tab, set trim size, don’t click OK


Click on Margins

These instructions are for up to 500 pages. Increase your margins according to this guide:

Margins > Top, Bottom, Inside: .76”

Increase Inside margins for bigger books

Outside > .6”

Gutter > .14”

Mirror Margins

Whole Document

Do not click OK


Layout > New Page

Different Odd and Even

Different first page

I like .3” headers and footers, but it is personal taste

NOW you can click OK


Set Up Text

CTRL-A > Right click on highlighted text > Paragraph > Alignment: Justified > Special > First Line: 0.3” > Spacing before and after should be 0 > Line Spacing 1.25


Click “Don’t add space between paragraphs of the same style”

Do not click OK

Click “Line and Page Breaks”

Uncheck all options except “Don’t hyphenate” (as in: CHECK “don’t hyphenate”)


Now click OK

While text is highlighted, select your font style and size. My favorite is Garamond, 12pt, but other popular choices are Times New Roman, and Book Antiqua.

Professional Stylist’s Tip:

Make sure your Word Settings are going to help you, not hurt you.

File > Options > Proofing > AutoCorrect Options > AutoFormat As You Type > check “straight quotes with smart quotes” and “hyphens with dash”

Stylize Your Book

*Click “Show/Hide” to reveal codes so you can easily see your line spacing and indents.


Decide if you want a basic design or a graphic design that would apply to your titlepages, chapter headers and scene breaks.

Graphic Design

If you choose a graphic design, you can use Gimp or Photoshop. You don’t need to be a graphic artist. Buy designs or flourishes from stock photo places like BigStockPhoto or Shutterstock, etc. Some designs are just part of the art program and available for free.

Start with a canvas of 3” by 2” and 300 dpi. All images must be a minimum of 250 dpi for printing, so I always go with 300 dpi, transparent background. From here you can play around and find the size that works for your design.

Don’t forget to create a matching or complimentary scene break.


Play with that until you create a design you like. Save as a .jpg, maximum quality. (I save as a TIFF, compressing all layers, because I believe it’s better quality, but it’s up to you.)

Basic Design

If you’re doing a non-graphic design, you can still make your book pretty. You can vary the font size like I did here:


And/or you can use lines or shapes built into Windows:

Use a symbol font (free) to create a unique scene break (this one is font Futurama Alien)


Putting it All Together “time to put your face on”

Front Matter

First page, before any of your text; is a titlepage. I prefer to put a plain titlepage first. Your book’s title, no author name. Then, Insert > Page Break

Second page can either be left blank, or be used to list the books in the book your series, or your entire list. Then, Insert Page break.

Third page: Insert the title page with the author’s name.

Fourth page is for your copyright info.

Standard Copyright Text:

Copyright © year by Author Name
Published by Imprint Name (if using one)
All Rights Reserved.

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

No part of this book can be reproduced in any form or by electronic or mechanical means including information storage and retrieval systems, without the express written permission of the author. The only exception is by a reviewer who may quote short excerpts in a review.

ISBN: insert number here

Edited by Name of Editor/Editor’s URL
Cover Design by Name of Cover Designer/Designer’s URL

Find Author on the web!
Add Social Media Links Here

Highlight copyright section and reduce text size to 11 or 10. Set special to none and line spacing to single.

Insert > Page Break

Fifth page is for your dedication if you have one, then Insert > Page Break

Sixth page Insert > Blank Page

Seventh page is either for your Table of Contents (in which case, you Insert > Page Break) or for the start of your book.

Side Note:

It’s important to understand how the pages on your screen to relate to a printed book.

Each page has a front and a back. In Word, when looking at a two-page spread, your front page is the left page, back page is on the right.

Titlepage, Titlepage, Dedication and/or Table of Contents and then the First Page of your first chapter should be on the front page.

The Book

Setting font and layout.

Highlight all text from first line in the novel to the end.

Paragraph > Alignment: Justified > Special > 0.3” > Spacing: set to zero before and after > Line Spacing: 1.25

Set the Line and Page Breaks as you did for the copyright.

The first page of each chapter.

Your chapter header should be placed between 1/4 – 1/3 down the page, depending on the size of your chapter header.

The easiest placement for your chapter header is Center, but you can align it to the left or right, you’ll just have to think about consistency each time you start a new chapter to make sure it falls to the outside, whether it’s on a front or back page.

Place your chapter header.

Leave 2-3 line spaces between the header and the text.

The first line of your chapter should be aligned left. I just place my cursor at the first letter and drag the ruler to the side rather than go through the trouble of the paragraph dialogue.

You have a few options for the first line of your chapter.

  1. Leave your text as is
  2. Use a unique font
  3. Insert a drop cap. Place cursor at first letter. Insert > Drop Cap > Drop Cap Options. From there choose Dropped, then font, default drop is 3 lines, but you can do up to 6 for a dramatic effect.

Add Headers and Page Numbers:

It’s important to do this step here, because it will make things much easier for you later. For this step, you should view your document in a two-page spread.

Double-click in the top margin, either left or right, it doesn’t matter.

Header & Footer Tools, Uncheck “Link to Previous Section”


The left page header should contain your book’s title; right page is for your author name. You can choose to center these, or align them to the outside margin (just remember the latter is tricky and not for beginners as you’ll have to do some extra work to make sure they behave.) The font size should be a little smaller, 8-11pt depending on the type of font used.

Double-click in the bottom margin, left side.

Header & Footer Tools > Page Number > Bottom of the Page > Page Number 2


This will place your page number in the center of your page. If you’re doing an outside alignment, you can choose that as you desire.

If you’ve centered your number, slide the First Line Indent to the left so the number is truly centered and not indented.

Double-click the page number to highlight it. You can change the font here to match your style.

Highlight or double-click again > Right Click > Format Page Numbers


Choose Start at – and enter 1.


How to treat a scene break:

Text > Blank Line > Scene Break, centered > Blank Line

The next section of text should be aligned to the left.

How to end a chapter:

This is very important!

After your text, before the next chapter …

Insert > Page Layout > Breaks > New Page


Continuing through to the end:

Subsequent chapters start on the next following page, whether it’s a front or back page.

Format the rest of the chapters following the same manner as the first.

Continuing with Headers and Footers:

Your Headers should remain stable, and shouldn’t need any correction. Just check to make sure the book title remains on the left (front page) and author title remains on the right (back page.)

On your second chapter, however, you will need to double-click on the page number on the first page of the chapter, and choose “Continue from previous section.” You won’t need to repeat this step, only this one time.

Back Matter:

This includes your Acknowledgements, About the Author Section, and any other material you’d like to include.

Finish off the text of your book, before your back matter, with a section break.

Back matter text should be aligned to the left with a space between each paragraph. You may want to set these pages to single space, as well … depending on how lengthy they are.

Your Author Photo should be 2” wide, and a minimum of 300 dpi.

Double-click the header, unlink the back matter section from the body of the book. Unlink the sections on the next three pages, then delete the content – the book title and author name.

You can choose to either leave the page numbers or delete them. It’s up to you.

Professional Stylist’s Tip:

Use the proper format for oft-misunderstood punctuation:

En-dashes are often used where em-dashes should be. Remember; N-dashes are for Numbers and M-dashes are for Manuscripts.

To format em-dashes the word, two dashes, and the next word should be typed without any spaces: wordhyphenhyphenword

The Finishing Touches

This last step is one most often missed by the amateur formatter. Remember all the empty boxes I asked you to leave in the “set up text” section? That step will help you immensely.

What are widows and orphans?

In formatting terms, a “widow” is a word or line of text that is by itself at the top of a page. An orphan is a lone word on its own line at the end of a paragraph.


Correcting Widows and Orphans:

Adjust widows using the paragraph function. When you spy a widow, you want to either tighten the spacing to bring the last line onto the same page as the rest of the paragraph, or widen the spacing to push a companion line onto the next page. Don’t worry—you’ll be making such tiny adjustments to the spacing that it won’t be noticeable.

If you’re using 1.25” spacing, and you want to tighten the spacing, try 1.23”, gradually decreasing by .01 until the widow joins its companions at the bottom of the page.

If you want to expand the spacing, to push a companion line to the next page, try 1.27” and increase by .01 increments until you achieve the desired effect.

Adjust orphans by using the font dialogue. *Note: I don’t always correct orphans. They can have great emotional impact. However I do always correct orphaned punctuation or small words that don’t benefit from the visual impact.

Decide whether you’d like to bring that last word up onto previous line—a good choice if the word is small, like “me” or “to”—or widen the spacing between letters to push another word or two down onto the orphan’s line.

Highlight the paragraph containing the orphan.

Right click > Font > Advanced > Expanded/Condensed from the “Spacing” dropdown.


Choose condensed if you want to bring the last word up and expanded if you want to push some words down to join the orphan.

Once you’ve selected whether you’re tightening, or condensing, turn your attention to the “By” selection box.

To condense a line, start with .2pt and gradually increase the “kerning” (that’s the measurement between letters, which is what’s happening when we make these adjustments) until your text is placed how you’d like.

To expand a line, start with the default 1pt and increase one point at a time.

Last Looks

This is tedious but oh-so-important if you want a professional, truly pretty, book.

Start at the beginning of your book, then take a slow scroll through it.

  • Check your headers to make sure they appear on every page they should (NOT on the first page of new chapters.)
  • Check your page numbers to make sure they follow proper numerical order.
  • Check line spacing above chapter headers to make sure they’re consistent throughout the book.
  • Check spacing between chapter headers and first lines.
  • Check drop caps to make sure they’re consistent.
  • Check widows and orphans.

Creating the File for Vendors

For Createspace:

Install Adobe Acrobat if you don’t have it already.

File > Print > Printer: Adobe PDF > Printer Properties

Leave “Default Settings” as is, then click “Edit”

Don’t click OK

General > Compatibility: Acrobat 5.0 > Object Level Compression: Off > Auto-Rotate Pages: Off

Don’t click OK


Images >

Color Images: Bicubic Downsample set to 305 pixels per inch for images above 320 pixels > change compression to JPEG and quality to Maximum

Grayscale Images: Bicubic Downsample set to 305 pixels per inch for images above 320 pixels > change compression to JPEG and quality to Maximum


Do not click OK

Fonts > UNcheck “Subset embedded fonts”

In the Embedding dialogue, choose the fonts used in your document, then click “Add.” You should see them appear in the “Always Embed” window

Do not click OK


Color > Color Management Policies: Leave Color Unchanged

Click Save As and save with a unique name at the prompt. I like to save series with the series name, so I can just choose that series name in the Default Settings step.


Now you can click OK!

Make sure Adobe PDF Security is set to “None”

Check page size is correct

UNcheck “Rely on system fonts only”

Click OK


Make sure that when you upload to Createspace, you choose the same trim size as you created the document.

For Ingram Spark:

For Ingram Spark you’re going to need a professional copy of Adobe Acrobat. This will run you a couple hundred dollars OR you can purchase a monthly subscription to Adobe Acrobat Pro for $10/month … and cancel when you’re done with it.

File > Print > Printer: Adobe PDF > Printer Properties

In the Adobe PDF Document Properties dialogue box, choose Adobe PDF Settings

From the Default Settings drop-down menu, choose PDF/X-1a2001

Make sure “Rely on system fonts only” Unchecked

Click on EDIT


From the task bar on the left, choose Fonts, then make sure “Subset embedded fonts” is UNchecked.

In the Embedding dialogue, choose the fonts used in your document, then click “Add.” You should see them appear in the “Always Embed” window. Once you’ve added all the fonts used, click OK.


Save with a unique name at the prompt. I like to save series with the series name, so I can just choose that series name in the Default Settings step.

One Last Step

Please do not neglect this step.

Order a proof copy of your book, and when it arrives … after the requiset screaming and sqwee-ing … take a red pen, a cup of something good, and settle down in a comfy chair for good long read.

Read your book carefully. Not only are you more likely to identify editorial errors, you need to identify formatting flubs.

Make the necessary corrections, then resubmit, and repeat!

Professional Stylist’s Tip:

Don’t fret over extra pages.

You may find additional blank pages in your book, sometimes one in the front, often extras in the back. Providing you yourself haven’t included any blank pages in your manuscript, there’s nothing you can do about these. They’re created by the printer and are necessary for binding.

You may also see a barcode printed on one of those pages—can’t get rid of that, either.

Are you still alive? Let me know if you have any questions!


Me & Chronic Illness: How I Deal with Fibromyalgia

| About Ali

ali_chronic2I kick it in its ugly butt!

Or, you know. That’s the idea.

Truth is, FMS pain can make it difficult to do anything let alone kicking any butts. But, I can’t just let it rule my life, ya know?

The Meds I Take

I am in no way a medical professional, but I do want to be frank about what I’ve tried and what’s worked for me because I know how hard it can be when you’re trying to find answers. 

Newly diagnosed with FMS, living in a new state and new city, newborn twins and a special needs foster son and life was really getting me down. I thought I was coping well, but later I would come to see things differently.

For fifteen of my sixteen fibro years, I took way too much Ibuprofen to cope with my troubles. I never really told a doctor how much I was taking, but it was probably in the neighborhood of sixteen pills a day of whatever the strongest variety I could find. I knew it was more than the recommended dose but it also wasn’t an opioid so I was glad I wasn’t getting addicted to painkillers. Sure, it might not have had quite the same adverse affects, but it still damaged my stomach and made my headaches worse. I didn’t know that too much ibuprofen would cause headaches but sure enough, when I finally started “coming off” them the headaches improved. But the pain felt so much worse.

I started taking Amitryptilene near the beginning of my adventure with FMS, as well. To help me get to sleep and stay asleep. It helped a little and didn’t seem to cause me any troubles except it made my mouth dry. But over the years the sleeping got worse anyway. Finally I was sleeping about three hours a night, and even those few hours weren’t high quality. So when my Amitryptilene ran out in the spring of ’15, I didn’t refill it.

And gradually, something remarkable happened. I started to feel happier. I didn’t realize I’d been UNhappy, and I don’t think I was, per se, but I wasn’t myself. I began to feel more like I did years and years ago. Happy, cheerful. Outgoing. I thought motherhood or aging had changed me. But now, looking back, I think it was just easy to miss because of our move and life situation and all the jazz that happened at the same time as my diagnosis and starting the meds. It was a pretty startling realization.

For obvious reasons I didn’t want to go back on that medicine but I was also desperate to sleep. Everything I did caused me such fatigue I could barely function. I was so tired but I couldn’t nap, couldn’t sleep. After doing a sleep study, getting a CPAP machine and starting Cymbalta, I began to hurt a little less and sleep a little more. Thank goodness! I was also referred to the Bateman Horne Center in Salt Lake City and, miracle of miracles, I got in.

They started me on Lyrica (I know a lot of people have trouble with this, but for me it’s been great.) Lyrica helps me with the nerve pain (that rush of pain that overwhelms me when I’m roughed with) and, I think, gives me a teensy bit of energy. So small it’s hardly worth noting, but I think maybe it’s there.

The Stuff I Do

I really wish I had a hot tub. When I was first diagnosed I had a friend who also had FMS and she had a hot tub. She swore by it and I’ve always thought since then that I needed a doctor to prescribe me one or something. 😛 But I’ve had to make due without one.

So I’ve become really good friends with heating pads. I own three of them. When the pain is really bad, I lie down on the couch, tucked in with a heating pad or two or three.

Doctors always tell you to exercise, and FMS people always say “How can I exercise when I hurt so much?” Especially when it’s in your feet. The worst! While I despise all doctors who have told me this blithely, I do agree that movement is super important. I hurt less when I move more. But I’ve learned the movement, for me, has to be small.

I tried real exercising, but it always caused me too much pain. For a long time I fought that, because I loved working out and not being able to hard on me. Eventually I learned the very hard lesson that I couldn’t do things the way I wanted to. I needed to let go of perfection. More on that in a bit …

I walk. Slowly, and not very far. I do yoga–pretty much just stretching. Like, yoga for beginners, even though I’ve been doing it for years. Sometimes I can do more yoga, but suddenly the line is there and I’ve gone over it and … I’m done.

Probably the most effective thing I do, is use a timer. I use it for everything, everywhere. Fifteen minutes for housework (or less if needed!). But I never go past it. If I do, I’ll pay for it later, and it’s much easier to not cross that threshold, but to manage myself beforehand.

Most importantly–I use a timer. I sit to work, set my timer for 15 to 30 minutes. When the timer goes off I get up and go do something. Usually a bit of housework, or a walk around my cul de sac, or turn over laundry. Just something small, like five to ten minutes, then I’m back to work and my timer gets reset.

And, I ask for help. Oh man, that’s hard. See a trend here? Everything’s hard. Why not make it easier on yourself when you can? My family can’t read my mind, but they can help me–when I ask.

Things change and change often. The hardest part is reminding myself that it’s okay and to go with the flow.

The Way I Think

Going with the flow takes constant reminders to myself. I can’t fight my body. In fact, fighting it just causes more grief. Even after all these years I worry about the lazy, crazy and looking for attention, but that gets me nowhere. Pain is part of my life, but frowning through it really does make it worse. Moaning and complaining = feels worse.

However, smiling lightens your mood and makes it easier to deal with the stuff. It seems trite, I know, but I truly believe it works. So I find things I enjoy doing while sitting around. I love to crochet, so I make baby blankets for all the millions of babies being born into our extended family. I write (obviously). I try to be productive, every day, even if that productivity isn’t immediately obvious to others. At least I know I’ve done something. Achieved or accomplished something.

My little dog, Rocky, helps me a lot. He helps me smile, to not feel alone, to feel loved “even though.” It’s easier to keep my chin up when he’s with me.


And, I pray. Everything is easier when God’s with me. Even if He doesn’t always give me what I want, He gives me what I need.

This is not an easy illness. Medication only helps a little, so I’ve had to find real-life ways to live with Fibromyalgia. I need to ask for help, give myself a break, and be kind to myself.

My story isn’t quite over. Next week I’ll talk about my experience with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.