Formatting Your eBook for Publication


Formatting Your eBook for Publication

Natalie Bright

I tried.

With open mind, I tried to learn everything about book formatting, because smart business owners should have an understanding about every component of their operation. Because I kept reading about issues with Microsoft Word conversions, I decided it might be best to make sure my book looks perfect in the format each distributor prefers.

The Scrivener online class was great [learnscrivenerfast.com] and I LOVE how organized my writing projects are, but the power of Scrivener is in the compile feature. I don’t like those 15 space paragraph indentions when my book comes up in the Kindle previewer and I cannot make them go away. Uhggg.

Another online class on Adobe InDesign for my picture books, researching conversion software with reviews out the whazoo (use this one vs. never use it, only use this one…), more instructional videos. And yes, I know there is exceptional software for MACs only. Don’t own one.

Appeals to our 20-something office manager who is supposed to be keeping our other stuff going while I do book stuff. Even she couldn’t help me, and she’s brilliant, so moving on. 1 month, 2 months, 3 months. What did I write during that time, you might wonder? A few blogs and the draft for an easy reader, and we did finish parent taught driver’s education which is HUGE and has nothing to do with my writing career.

Here is a rundown on the different formats to take our book “wide”. In a nutshell, set up an account and submit your properly formatted manuscript:

Amazon Kindle: MOBI

Kobo: refer to their conversion guidelines, but everything is converted to EPUB.

Smashwords: prefers DOC, DOCX which goes through a MeatGrinder, which turns it into an EPUB.

CreateSpace: PDF for print; fonts and pics must be embedded.

Ingram/Lightning Source: refer to the 37 page “File Creation Guide” (yikes! This made my stomach hurt.)

Draft2Digital: Their process creates an EPUB. Good news: you can skip the distributors above, as D2D will do the conversions for free and put it everywhere you want for 10% of your sales.

The Question

So, it boils down to this very important question: would you hire me to do your book formatting?

Absolutely NOT. Are you crazy? You are a savvy Indie Author and a smart business owner to boot. I wouldn’t hire me either, so I fired myself. There is this guy I know who is an absolute whiz and saved me another three months of learning software that I have no desire to understand.

Thank you, Phillip! www.GessertBooks.com

The Next Question

Accounts are set-up, submitted books are approved, tiny prayer for no typos, and then I am moving on to the next question. Who are my readers and where can I find them?

 

WORDS WITH POTENTAIL


WORDS WITH POTENTAIL

Natalie Bright

At last week’s critique meeting, we listened to a story that had been written many years ago. Even though this writer has improved greatly, it was solid—very entertaining and horrifying—we loved it! The potential is even greater based on the feedback. Written as a short story, it’s going to be part of an anthology. I think this author is on the right track by compiling several of her strongest short stories together in one publication. ( I can hardly wait to buy that book, Nandy Ekle!)
Whatever your work in progress might be, whatever fire is burning in your gut at this very minute, whatever idea deserves your attention, those words can become something entirely different in the future. Keep your mind open to the opportunities. For heaven’s sake, don’t delete it! Even bad writing has potential. You can’t edit a blank page. (Wish I had all of those stories and poems I wrote in college. I tossed that journal years ago.)
After I found my way back to writing, a story I wrote about a cowboy called Cecil was accepted in an anthology published by TCU Press almost 13 years later. There is no way I could have known that I would meet a ranch hand with the same name! Meeting the real-life, horse-riding cowboy named Cecil just added more depth and color to my short story. It needed work and it needed a critique from WordsmithSix peeps, for sure. The story became better because of my experiences a decade later. With the help of my critique group, that short story became good enough for publication.
You may be at a point in your writing when it seems rejection is a clear message to give up your dreams of becoming a published author. The very first words by David Morrell, creator of Rambo, keeps echoing through my brain after I heard his talk at an Oklahoma conference,

“Don’t question the why.”

I share this because I have spent, actually wasted, too many years questioning the why. And now I’m asking myself, why for different reasons. Why didn’t I finish that book? I’m staring at a stack of sticky notes and marked up articles for blog ideas, so why didn’t I write them? There’s no way that I could have known back in 1999 that I’d need material in 2017 for two blogs and three orgnizational newsletters. I would have never imagined that I’d have a talented critique group who could boost my confidence and my words. The struggle to write never ceases. Now I’m faced with a part-time day job that will probably go back to full-time soon, and I’ll be frustratingly juggling writing time. What crazy life is this? Opps, there I go again—questioning the why.

The story is in us. The story picked us. We can’t possibly know why. I have to keep reminding myself to stop stressing and find joy in the process.

“Every story I’ve written was written because I had to write it. Writing stories is like breathing for me, it is my life.”
RAY BRADBURY

Find Natalie’s blogs and articles here:
Blogging every Monday about writing life at wordsmithsix.com
Blogging every Friday about the Texas Panhandle at “Prairie Purview”. Read her blogs at nataliebright.com or on the Amazon Author page.
Sign up for here for the newsletter: nataliebright.com
Natalie is editor of “The Window”, the official newsletter of one of the oldest writing organizations in the country, Texas High Plains Writers, org. 1920 in Amarillo, Texas. Here’s the link. panhandleprowriters.org.

Do Readers Care about Your Rants?


Do Readers Care about Your Rants?

Natalie Bright

I discovered a new author! To be honest it has been several, but I want to blog about one in particular. I found this author through a $1.99 special eBook promotion. There’s a lot to love about those glorious special promotions on Amazon, BookBub, Kobo, FreeBooksy, even GoodReads. There is no greater joy as a reader than to discover an author, that’s new to me, with an entire blacklist. This particular author writes stories rich with historical detail and senses of the time period, and the characters are deeply developed. And even better, this author has written a how-to book on writing. I’m jumping with joy!

Turning to social media as a reader and new fan, I want to learn more about this writer’s inspiration and process. Of course there is a website, blog and even several podcast interviews. Good stuff. And then there is Twitter. This author’s twitter feed is jammed with political rants and reTweets along with vicious opinions. Personal opinions and observations include numerous comments about how ignorant “ALL of the voters” are who voted for the other candidate. Obviously a person passionate about our political situation, but as a new reader do I really care?

Whether I agree or not, I absolutely respect the right to sound off. However as I new fan, I have to take pause and wonder about posting a book review. I can’t decide if I’ll buy another book from this author. As an Indie author and business owner, I must pass on recommending the how-to book on writing. Th is isn’t mildly stating an opinion. The heated and sometimes vulgar opinions by this particular author permeates their platform. I’m very sad.

On the other hand, will this even reflect back on me? Perhaps I’m over-reacting?

On my personal Facebook, as I’ve blogged about before, I get likes and comments from extreme liberals directly followed by comments from extreme conservatives, and everyone in between. I like that. It makes for an interesting mix of people I call friends. I have over 3,500 followers on Twitter. I’m sure they are not all of like mind.

An indie authors, we have opportunities to reach potential readers on a worldwide scale. If you are active on various platforms or maybe you guest blog on someone’s site, most likely you may connect with readers from all cultural backgrounds, political leanings, and spiritual beliefs.

As a business owner and Indie Author, you want to reach and connect with as many readers as possible, so why would you want to offend them before they’ve even given your work a chance?

These are crazy, crazy times.

Do you stop buying books from authors who expresses views differently from yours?

 

Responses to My Amazon Question


Responses to My Amazon Question

Natalie Bright

In last week’s post, I blogged about concerns I had with the sales report for my new nonfiction picture book series, RESCUE ANIMALS. I have been promoting this book like crazy on a local level and was concerned with the reportedly 10 sales. All four books were enrolled into KDP Select, but the number of free downloads is not available on the reports. Here is what I posted on the Amazon Community Board:

“Specifically regarding ASIN: B01M0K6F6G FLASH, The True Story of a Rescue Horse. I have been promoting this eBook heavily in our local area. With just two events I reached close to 1000 people in the first month of release. At one school of 700, we know of at least 300 kids who had FLASH on their phones before they went home that day. I can count at least 50+ friends and family who ordered it as well. Total sales for that time period according to Amazon: TEN. In the meantime I’ve suspended all promo ads and local events, until I can figure out what is going on with my account. Maybe I missed something on the banking information or the pricing page? Can anyone think of something I might have set-up wrong? Thanks in advance for your time and expertise.”

I have since learned that Amazon had a major crash during the week I released FLASH. That might explain some of the reporting issues. Also below are the responses to the Community Forum question above, which is an open forum where KDP authors post their questions and concerns. Rather than joing the storm of accusations about how Amazon is ripping authors off, my first concern was that it might be a problem on my part. As I noted in the previous blog post, the sales ranking for FLASH made it to #5 under the sub-category Children’s eBooks/nonfiction/Farms and Ranch, but still only 10 total sales.

To date, I’ve had four responses to my question:

Amazon Community Forum Response #1:
The grade range for the book is P-5. I don’t know any kids 10 and under who have credit card privileges to shop at will online without parental approval (or parents thereof who would appreciate their kids coming home from school with purchases urged during a school-sponsored marketing pitch—what were you doing checking their phones?). Perhaps 300 small children downloaded the sample to appease the adults applying pressure. Unless friends and family can produce receipts for their purchases, they may also be being polite for the sake of appeasement.
If your Prior Months’ Royalties reports and Payments table show you’re owed money that you haven’t received, there may be a problem with your banking or tax information.

If they say you’ve gotten only 10 sales… you’ve gotten only 10 sales. The sales rank of nearly 1.3 million is consistent with that level of activity.

Response #2 & #3 from the same person:
Quando vai sair os pagamentos de janeiro e fevereiro ? Which translates to: When you are going out payments in January and February?
Hoje já é 18 de fevereiro – Today is February 18th.

Response #4
On the Reports Tab, what do the ORDERS total for that time period?
It is the blue line.

Response #1 was surprising and way out of left field. I’m not going to spark a debate in the forum, but I do want to address that here, specifically to make the point that I did not check kids phones. The point I was trying to make was that the promotion was concentrated to our local area because the horse is well known. The editor and horses’ owner is a music teacher, and everyone at her school, including the kids, parents and her coworkers, are very excited about this book. Each kid got bookmark. The kids probably showed their phone to their music teacher because they were excited and wanted her to see that they had the story. I’m assuming that some of those families have Amazon Prime memberships and hopefully took advantage of the free download.

My two boys were allowed to purchase things online with their phones by middle school age. It was part of their allowance for chores. They had a set amount each month and could purchase music on iTunes. (They did not want the Kindle App, although I really pushed it.) I thought it was a good way for them to learn money management and how to stick to a budget. If they went over budget, they had to do extra work for that month. Strange to me how a question about book pricing set-up shifted to parenting. Such is the world we live in today.

The Amazon Giant we Love

There is a book published on Amazon every five minutes. That’s great news for readers. Obviously, there will be glitches on a world wide scale. It is amazing that we can publish our work with ease and find the books we need, with delivery in a few days.

And then there was this food for thought about Amazon ranking:

According to John Skalzi: “a) if you don’t know how it works, you don’t know why you rank as you do, at any particular time, b) it’s foolish to be invested in a ranking whose mechanism is unknown to you, c) outside of Amazon, the ranking has no relevance.” Authors love validation and those rankings in subdivision categories is basically a “participation ribbon” as Mr. Skalzi explains. whatever.scalzi.com

“Every second you take to worry about your author ranking is every moment you’re not spending writing a book or promoting a book.” Jim Kukrel, sellmorebooksshow.com

In conclusion: I really believe the future is eBooks and as this evovles over the word wide stage there will be a great need for new and original content. As for FLASH, the numbers are the numbers and they’re not changing…just keep writing.

flash-true-story-cover_low

The Giant that is AMAZON


The Giant that is AMAZON

Natalie Bright

Amazon for Readers

I love Amazon. In fact, while drinking coffee I just ordered two eBooks this morning (added to the hundreds more on my Kindle). At the first of the school year, we found a book on the bubonic plague, rush delivery, for a report my teenager had to write. He turned in his paper on time. My college student found two of his textbooks this semester, at greatly reduced prices, because he didn’t want to wait several weeks for the university bookstore to restock. Don’t get me started on my one of a kind, first edition books that I found through Amazon. Absolute treasures. If you ever come by my office, I will gladly show you. Amazon has changed my world for the better.

Amazon for Indie Authors

From a writers prespective, Amazon can be an entirely differrent exprience. More specifically, ASIN: B01M0K6F6G FLASH, The True Story of a Rescue Horse.

I have been promoting this eBook heavily because this horse is somewhat of a celebrity in our local area. My business plan was to fund print copies from eBook sales. With just two events I reached close to 1000 people in the first month of release. At one school of 700, we know of at least 300 kids who had FLASH on their phones before they went home that day. I can count at least 50+ friends and family who told me they ordered it as well. Total sales for that time period according to Amazon: 10.
Ten. That’s the number I reported to the professional photographer, making her split $3.08. We have spent a year working on stories about FLASH. There are four on Amazon, with six more titles in production for my new Rescue Animal Series which launched in September 2016. FLASH was enrolled in Kindle Select making it free for subscribers, which did gain me a few five star reviews and it did reach #5 on a bestseller list under Nonfiction Children-Lifestyles-Farm and Ranch. That’s exciting, but Amazon does not provide numbers of free downloads so I have no idea which of my promotional efforts were effective during that time period. Facebook ads? The school event? The email blasts? The Twitter or Instagram posts? I have no idea the final amount I’ve spent in promotion, because thinking about adding up those numbers makes me nauseated.

Where do KDP authors go to find the aswers they seek? There is no service phone number. Maybe I have my banking information or the pricing page set up wrong? There is no address where I can send a letter to request an audit. The instructions are to post my concerns on a public forum where other Amazon KDP authors can weigh in on my issues (a unique service offered by no other business owner ever). Amazon makes for a horrible business partner. After I finish this blog post, I’m going to post my concerns on the forum. In the meantime, I’ve suspended all advertising promos and cancelled all future events. I had big plans for FLASH in 2017, but I’m not spending any more energy (or $$$) for someone else to gain the benefit of sales from this book. That’s just bad business. My book sales have flat-lined. This relationship Indie Authors have with Amazon is an unbreakable bond. They are our savior and our frustration. My Amazon Author Page looks alright with a few book covers. I’m writing and getting my work out there, and yet if no one is buying or reading my books, then I’ve failed in finding potential readers. How can I make this relationship better for my business and for my creative soul? There are a million new books published every year. This is a long, long marathon to reach and find potential readers. There really is no finish line.

Moving forward means I’ll probably be uploading more books to Amazon this year; the children’s book creator is a genius tool. For Indie Publishers, Amazon does offer the best option because so many people love them as much as I do. I’ll be buying more books from Amazon for certain. They make it so easy. But as a business owner, I do not want to give up on this picture book series. There is still work to be done.

I’ll let you know if I find out anything from the forum. In the meantime…we’ll just keep writing.

Point of View: Omniscient


Point of View: Omniscient

Natalie Bright

“The coffee-room had no other occupant, that forenoon, than the gentleman in brown. His breakfast-table was drawn before the fire, and as he sat, with its light shining on him, waiting for the meal, he sat so still, that he might have been sitting for his portrait.

… He wore an odd little sleek crisp flaxen wig, setting very close to his head: which wig, it is to be presumed, was made of hair, but which looked far more as though it were spun from filaments of silk or glass. His linen, though not of a fineness in accordance with his stockings, was as white as the tops of the waves that broke upon the neighboring beach, or the specks of sail that glinted in the sunlight far at sea.”
The exert above, from A Tale of Two Cities (Dickens, 1946) is an example of storytelling in an omniscient viewpoint.

I’m working on a story with alternating 3rd person and first person, but wondered if I should consider rewrites in omniscient. I need to review point of view to decide, so I’m sharing the information with you as I refresh my memory. Your suggestions and comments are always welcome.

Omniscient Defined

There is no identifiable character observing the scene above and relaying the information. Instead a narrator, who is not identified, tells the tale.

This is not to be confused with head-hopping, where the reader gets into the head of one character, to another, and then back to another. Normally, when the writer changes the viewpoint, or gets into another character’s head, there is a paragraph break or double-double space into a new scene. We’ll take a closer look at head-hopping in a future blog.

With omniscient viewpoint, the narrator conveys the scene without allowing characters to know what they shouldn’t. The narrator in the above example does not let us know the gentleman’s internal thoughts or feelings. We have no idea what he is thinking, however we might have a clue based on his actions.

Here’s another example from Dickens’ The Tale of Two Cities:

“”Good Day!” said Monsieur Defarge, looking down at the white head that bent low over the shoemaking. It was raised for a moment, and a very faint voice responded to the salutation, as if it were at a distance:

“Good day!”

“You are still hard at work, I see?”

After a long silence, the head was lifted for another moment, and the voice replied, “Yes—I am working.” This time, a pair of haggard eyes had looked at the questioner, before the face had dropped again.

The faintness of the voice was pitiable and dreadful…”
As a reader, we are never told what the shoemaker is thinking, but obviously from his actions, he is weary and maybe a little aggravated at the interruption.

Have you writing in Omniscient view point? What difficulties have you encountered?

Thanks for following WordsmithSix!

Ten Steps to Crafting A Picture Book


Ten Steps to Crafting A Picture Book

Natalie Bright

The step by step process I used to create and publish a nonfiction photo-illustrated picture book for Amazon Kindle using PowerPoint.

1. Words. Write the words first. After slogging through various processes to create a kids’ book series, for me, it all begins with the words. Picture books are typically 1000 words or less, and have a solid beginning, middle and end. Edit your story until every word is an absolute essential jewel. Involve you critique group and BETA readers in this process. The owner of the animals featured in my books became the editor to ensure accuracy.

2. Images. Match the images to your words. While writing, envision what types of photos you need such as royalty free pictures, scanned art work, or graphics. If you use your own photographs, be aware that you may have to obtain releases from the recognizable people in those pics before you publish. Research any legals issues that might apply specific to your situation. I used a combination of my own photos, partnered with a professional photographer, and created clip art specific to the series.

3. Edit. You may have to adjust the text, swap out a few pictures or two, or stay on the hunt for the exact photo you need. You can find picture book templates online. A storyboard tacked to the wall or taped to a dry board can give you a whole new perspective. Stay with the theme and don’t rush the creative process. This is the fun part. Absolutely the words are important, but the pictures enhance the telling of the story.

4. PowerPoint. In my mind, an eBook is not a print book. A print picture book is not an eBook. Over the years, I’ve watched with great curiosity kids swiping through pages on their mother’s iPhones. This is a totally different experience than having a picture book laying across your lap. I kept this in mind as I thought about the animal stories I wanted to share with the world. After eight months and much trial and error with many different processes and multiple do-overs using various software options, I finally settled on Microsoft PowerPoint. The high def pictures are easy to insert, text boxes can be moved around, resizing is super easy, and graphics are a snap to add. Each slide would be one page in the eBook. The pictures I used in the Flash books were taken by a professional photographer because I wanted to capture those beautiful rescue horses in the best possible way.

5. Design. Now is the time to get serious about designing your cover and the pages of your book. I hired a graphic designer to design a professional cover and to provide guidance on compatible colors and layout. We purposely have a cover that looks like a regular thumb nail, but the inside of the book is landscape. Someone else helped with designing clip art and graphics, because honestly by the time I’d written the words and matched text with pics, my brain was fried. Having another pair of creative eyes speeds up the process. Compensation can be by the hour or a share of book sales. Make sure the creative team you’ve put together all share in your vision of the finished product. You are the conductor of this great

6. Facts. Work on front matter, back matter, bios of the contributors, a killer tag line and update all your social media sites. For kids books, I always like to include a glossary of terms and a fact section. Post a few teasers for a “book cover reveal” to Twitter and Facebook. Think about your target market and the key words you’ll need for Amazon. Add the book covers to your Amazon Author page.

7. Kindle Kids’ Book Creator. Here’s the best news: save your PowerPoint manuscript as a PDF and it opens right up into Kids Book Creator, which is a dream for indie authors. Book Creator is self-explanatory, but if you’re not sure about the how, there are several excellent help videos on YouTube (writers are such a giving lot!). After your book is in Creator and before you go live, be sure to use the review mode and view your book on all devices.

8. Launch. Yay, you did it!

9. Promote. There are so many options out there to promote Indie Authors, but readers can’t read the book unless they know about it. The Rescue Animal Series was launched in October 2016 with four books and more in the works for 2017. I know my little series will not be a runaway best seller at first, but I love these animals and I remain in awe of the people who care for them. I wanted to share their stories with the world, and hopefully we’ll reach the point where book sales can lend support to some of their efforts.

10. Holy Book Club, Batman, there’s a stinkin’ typo! Yep. That’s exactly what we found. After several people had read over that text many, many times, there it was. Ultimately, it’s me, the author who shoulders the blame. Thank goodness Amazon makes it easy to replace the previous manuscript. Go back to your PowerPoint file, make the changes, resave as a PDF 2nd version, re-upload to Kids’ Book Creator again to create a new Mobi file, and update the original manuscript in your Amazon KDP account.

You can do this! I hope this article saves you hours of trial and error. All the best for a creative 2017, and thanks for following WordsmithSix.

Natalie Bright is author of the Animal Rescue Series; true stories about animals with second chances.

Goals 2017 Happy New Year!


Goals 2017

Happy New Year!

In looking back over my writing goals from the past years, I am reminded how drastically career goals can change from one year to the next.

In a previous post, “FOUR YEARS FROM NOW”, the blog covers an idea from Joanna Penn, thecreativepenn.com, about modeling your writing career around the four year Olympic games. I love that idea because the publishing industry moves like molasses. By looking at things over a multiple year perspective you might be surprised at how much work you accomplished.

PRIORITIES

When I get up in the morning, there are two primary goals that I want to achieve every day, besides the usual day job and life happens stuff.

1) write

2) exercise

Writing feeds my soul, and exercise because I’m not getting any younger. It’s beyond my comprehension why I’m loading the dishwasher at eleven o’clock at night and I have yet to accomplish either of those two things. What did I do all day?

Pressing Onward

The muse of ideas in 2016 that materialized has shifted my priorities in a big way for 2017. Has that ever happened to you?

A rescue horse and his trainer fell into my life, and their story is finally a reality as an eBook. Because of a great team of extremely creative people, the RESCUE ANIMAL SERIES was born! We have four titles so far, with many more to come. This project has totally shifted my focus from two middle grade novel series currently in progress, to promoting this new picture book series. Who knew? Sometimes the story chooses the writer.

NEWSLETTERS

In 2017 I will be doing more newsletters and blogs. I love reading blogs, and for me, blogs are fun to write. They’re short, narrowly focused, informative, and include interaction with readers. Of course, we’ll continue our popular wordsmithsix.com blog site about story craft.

As the newly elected Newsletter Editor & Publicity Chair for Texas High Plains Writers (formerly known as Panhandle Professional Writers), I’ll be cranking out newsletters and announcements for that group over the next two years. The TPHM Window is FREE to anyone. Let me know if you’re interested, and I can add you to the distribution list. If you live anywhere near the Texas Panhandle, you can join the THPW writing organization for only $36 per year and you’ll be added to the eList automatically. We meet every other month in Amarillo. It’s a great time to network and talk writing. panhandleprowriters.org

PRAIRIE PURVIEW is the blog featured on the home page of my website. Posts are about the history of Texas and life in the Texas Panhandle, with particular focus on the western lifestyle. Please check that out each month. I’m also doing a NAT’s eNEWS which will be an extension of the rescue animals and their owners. Think of it like a behind the scenes as we create the books. You can sign up for my free eNewsletter via my website nataliebright.com

Also in 2017 are two projects near and dear to my heart. My uncle and I are working on a family genealogy book about the John G. Williams clan from of North Carolina and following their journey to Texas. Along those same lines is a book about the cattle industry in the Texas panhandle, that will be filled with original recipes and photos of working cowboys and cowgirls featuring our own cow/calf operation and the Sanford Ranch, located in the Texas Panhandle.

IT’S ALL IN YOUR HEAD

I’m wondering, do you have a story tugging at your heart and occupying head space? I have so many! How do you decide which one to write? Tell us about your work in progress.

I may have to dig into the ‘discard’ file drawer and revive a small-town tale about heartache, a new life, and a second chance for love. I don’t know why I’ve been obsessing over this story for the past few months, but perhaps it has some redeeming qualities. The characters are driving me crazy.

Wow! That’s a lot of writing to be done in 2017. I am so excited, and I am determined to stay on track with my story telling this year.

It’s not looking that great for yoga.

Hope your 2017 is filled with an abundance of

glorious words, sweet tea and sunshine!

What’s that Smell?


What’s that Smell?

Natalie Bright

Using the five senses to draw readers into your fictional world is probably something you’ve heard before.

THE SMELLS OF CHRISTMAS

What better time of year brings back more memories than the holidays? Last week the owner of our local Mexican food restaurant shared the memories of his grandmother’s kitchen. She lived in a small house, and kept plastic over the windows for added insulation against the cold winter wind. The smells from her tiny kitchen were overwhelming when he stepped inside. Flour tortillas, sizzling beef, cinnamon, sugar and hot chili peppers. As he described the scene it was almost like I was there. I really miss my grandmother’s kitchen too.

HIGH SCHOOL TIME WARP

About a month ago I was reminded how powerful the five senses can create emotion. I walked into my son’s high school band hall. BAM! It was as if I’d been transported through time.

The sensory overload swept me away. The dusty smell from feet taking countless steps on a carpeted floor. The scent of sweat, with 100+ bodies in one room. A few notes from a trumpet. The solid clank of a locker door. A scale of notes by a clarinet. The constant, unending chatter of young voices.

My heart beat a little faster and my throat closed. My eyes actually misted over. I froze. In my mind’s eye I was back there; the Dimmitt High School band hall. The faces of the Bobcat marching band floated through my mind. If we could only go back to those moments for one day. Would you? I certainly would. I would revisit every sight and sound and horrible smell, and I’d go armed with a notebook this time. I’d write it all down to keep that moment forever ingrained into my memory.

A band director snapped me out of my time warp. “Can I help you?” he asked.

I just stood there, gripping three cases of goldfish snacks. “They go around the corner. First door to the left,” he said.

My journey down memory lane was done. Reality crashed around me.

EMOTION IS A POWERFUL THING

There was one other time when a smell overwhelmed me with emotion. My father has been dead almost fifteen years. He owned a welding shop and I hung out there most every day. Several years ago, I toured a huge plant in New Mexico that made natural gas circulating systems as part of a work related field trip. The entire back portion of the plant was a welding room. I walked through the plastic stipes covering the door into a personal meltdown. The smell of heated metal was overwhelming. My eyes filled with tears and it was all I could do to not sob uncontrollably. My father had suffered a long, slow battle with cancer. He had died at home and the visual image of paramedics carrying his body out of the house will forever haunt me. I have no idea what our tour guide said. We took a slow walk through the space and I honestly did not know if I would be able to hold it together.

EMOTIONAL TRIGGERS

How powerful our emotions can be when something triggers those memories. Think about how this kind of sensory overload might be for your characters. Create a history for them and then bring them crashing back into reality. The memories can be good, or sometimes that smell might recall something horrific.

KICKING THINGS UP A NOTCH

A children’s author, in describing her process, explained that she makes one final pass of her manuscript to add sensory images. Wish I could remember who said that and give credit, but it was one of those invaluable tidbits I picked up at a writer’s conference. At the point her story is solid, she adds even more sight, sounds, and smells which bumps everything up a notch. The reader can’t help but be immersed even more into that fictional world.

May the sights, sounds and smells of the holiday inspire you!

Merry Christmas!

Nataliebright.com