How to Use the New Kindle Kids’ Book Creator (Tutorial)

Got a kids’ book looking for a publishing home? Chris Mullen breaks down the how-to of Kindle’s new Kids’ Book Creator.


Kids 1


KDP Kids features a new FREE, easy-to-use tool for designing illustrated children’s books. It’s called the Kindle Kids’ Book Creator.

Will this tool work well for your book?

  • If all (or most) of your book consist of illustrations, and some (or all) of the pages also have text, this tool provides an EASY way to create pop-up text for Kindle devices (and apps).
  • If your book reads more like a novel or chapter book where many pages have just text, I recommend creating a reflowable e-book instead.

First, I will tell you a little bit about the tool, and then I will show you how to use it. It really is easy!


Kindle Kids’ Book Creator solves a major hurdle in creating Kindle e-books:

  • Pop-up text makes it much easier to read illustrated children’s books on small devices, such as cell phones.
  • As I’ll…

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Death Row Meals: San Quentin

Prison Food

Confession: Research is my favorite thing about writing. Why? Because I get sidetracked.

Today’s shiny bauble is San Quentin, or more specifically San Quentin reviews. With Tripadvisor-like lingo, Yelp reviewers (both prisoners and visitors) give bouquets and brickbats (mostly brickbats) to their prison surroundings. My favorite quote below:


Dylan D gives San Quentin 3 stars, justifying his average rating with these comments:

I really wanted to love this place.


When I arrived there was a HUGE line for food, so my hopes got pretty high right off the bat.  Everyone seemed really excited for the food so I assumed I was in for a real treat.


It was pretty busy, but I was able to find a table.  Again, I understand this is buffet style, but when I asked the gentleman by the front door near where I was sitting if I could sit further from the door he was SUPER RUDE about it.  He just motioned for me to sit back down, but at least the front door led to a hallway and not the outside, so although it was raining, I figured I’d be fine.


With the reputation of this place, I thought I would be blown away, but honestly I found most of it to be really underwhelming.


The beans were my favorite part.  They had a subtle smoky flavor and the texture was just right.  However, I did not like the viscosity of the broth they were in.  It was so runny it contaminated my other sides and then I wasn’t even sure what I was eating.  But when I focused on the beans I must admit, I did enjoy them.

There is no way that the brisket was grass fed, It was too stringy and when I asked the server what farm the meat was from, he just stared at me like I was crazy.  Way to train your staff, San Quentin.

I also had a side of carrots and peas.  I don’t really like carrots and peas but the colors were so vibrant I accepted when the server gestured with the ladle.  On the plate it looked like a wonderful heirloom salad bringing a nice aesthetic quality to the display.  I must say, again, I was underwhelmed.  The carrots were mushy and the peas were either not very ripe or undercooked, but they almost had a crunch to them.  What are these PEA NUTS?!  I did, however enjoy the cut of the carrot, the ends were rounded so it’s not too awkward of a mouthful.  But really, the peas and carrots’ best contribution was visual, and that is not making the cut.

It seems public tours of San Quentin have been discontinued, but this YouTube video gives you a peek into a cellmate’s lodgings:

Amazon vs. Hachette—and YOU!

A good, thoughtful look at the Amazon/Hachette dispute.


Book Prices

Amazon-Hachette Dispute

I won’t tell you what to think.

  • I will make some points for both sides.
  • I will mention ways that this may impact both authors and readers.
  • I will show you what you can do, no matter which side you favor.

The main point is that Amazon appears to be pushing for more e-books ordinarily priced above $10 to be priced at $9.99. Hachette (and other publishers) appears to want the freedom to price e-books as they see fit, including those in the $14.99 to $19.99 price range.

A little clarification:

  • Amazon openly acknowledged that some books, such as e-textbooks, should be priced $10 and up (see Reference 1 below). Amazon is NOT insisting that ALL e-books should be $9.99 or less.
  • Hachette is NOT asking to price ALL e-books $14.99 and up. The issue arose over specific e-books.

Whether YOU read books or write them, YOU  are…

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Indie Publishing: What’s Copyright?

Meriam-Webster defines copyright as “the exclusive legal right to reproduce, publish, sell, or distribute the matter and form of something (as a literary, musical, or artistic work).

Copyright protects your intellectual property (for our purposes, your book or ebook) as soon as it’s put into permanent form (again, for our purposes, your book or ebook).

While your de facto copyright exists from that moment, the length of time for which you will keep that copyright protection varies from country to country. In the United States and the European Union, protection lasts the life of the author plus 70 years. But in some countries – notably Canada and New Zealand – copyright protection lasts the life of the author plus 50 years. Additionally, you may want to formally register your copyright with your country’s copyright board, as that copyright certificate of registration can be used in court as evidence of ownership.

Find the copyright detail for your country at these sites:

United States Copyright Office

Copyright Board of Canada

European Union

Australian Copyright Council

Copyright Council of New Zealand

Copyright recognizes that your fictional world/characters belong to you, but it’s not uncommon for writers to have similar plots. You can copyright your story, but you can’t copyright an idea.

You also can’t copyright a book title. My book, Sin Eater, lists along with at least a half dozen other books on Amazon of the same name. That’s not even taking into account the variations of that name: The Sin Eater, Sin Eating, etc.

What’s the difference between copyright and a trademark or patent? While copyright protects the original work of writers, a trademark protects words, designs, symbols or phrases (eg., KleenexTM)  and a patent protects inventions or discoveries.

We’ll explore more about copyright and its relationship to fair use in upcoming blogposts. For now, your take-away point should be that copyright automatically exists when an original work is created.


Building a Killer Email List

Great idea!

David Gaughran

wanted-alt71-200x300There is a lot of upheaval in publishing today and I think that’s likely to increase rather than decrease. The best insurance policy any writer can have against the future is a targeted mailing list.

I’ve written before about how the author with the biggest mailing list wins, and I’ve invited Nick Stephenson along today because he’s got some great ideas on how to boost your list.

The cool thing about his approach is that it’s something anyone can do. And, as you will see, it really, really works. Here’s Nick with more:

Building a Killer Email List

As an author, I try to read as much as possible. I tend to get excited over 8 or 9 different authors across a few different genres, and I always buy their new releases as soon as I hear about them. Whenever I find out there’s a new book on the shelves, I go…

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Death Row Meals: Victor Feguer Prisoner # 28105

It used to be my party ice-breaker question: If you were going to die tomorrow, what would you choose as your final meal?

As you might imagine, the question quickly thinned the crowd of people who wanted to hang around me for the evening. But it’s a question that death row inmates have had to consider time and again as an execution date draws closer.

This set of blog posts takes a look at their fascinating choices and speculates about the reasons surrounding those choices.
Victor FeguerFirst up is Victor Feguer. Executed by hanging on March 15, 1963 in Iowa, Feguer’s last meal request was a single olive. With the pit. He tucked the pit into the pocket of his suit the morning of his execution. I could find no information on the significance of the olive to Feguer.

Diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic, Feguer had a long history of mental illness culminating in the kidnapping and murder of Dr Edward Bartels. The motive for the murder is unclear; it seems Feguer randomly selected Bartels name and number from a phone book. He lured Bartels to his apartment on a house call with a story about a wife in pain after a recent surgery. In fact, Feguer had no wife.

There are theories that Feguer simply wanted to get morphine or Demerol from the doctor, but whatever his motivation, it ended in the death of Bartels, a father of three and with his wife expecting a fourth child.

Captured when trying to sell Bartel’s 1959 Rambler, Feguel revealed the location of the doctor’s body but pinned the crime on a fictional “Alex Dupree”.

After Feguel’s death it would be 38 years before the next federal execution in Iowa – Timothy McVeigh.

Indie Publishing – Is it For You?

I’ve been fortunate to have published across a diverse spectrum – fiction, non-fiction, travel, business, food, education, relationships. Until this year, my writing has been published the traditional way (editor, publishing house), but this year I opted to try out self-publishing.

And it’s been a blast.

I started by publishing one of my out-of-print books (my publishing house, like so many, has gone under), a piece of non-fiction on conspiracy theories. There was comfort in knowing the material was solid, especially as I navigated the uncharted channels of self-publishing. I’d considered self-publishing years ago, when indie publishing online was in its infancy, but was put off by all the layers legwork.

There are a lot of hoops to jump through in indie publishing. Viewed at once, it can be overwhelming, but broken down into single tasks the job becomes do-able. Get an EIN, an ISBN, a CIP. Decide on a single source aggregate distributor (simpler, but lower royalties), handle distribution yourself, or some hybrid of the two. Social networking platforms. Goodreads, Books In Print. Beta readers, cover artists, editing.

Have you toyed with the idea of self-publishing? I’m not gonna lie. It’s a lot of work. It’s also a lot of fun. If you like control of your projects and love to learn, indie publishing might be for you.

This set of blog posts will be a breakdown of the steps you’ll need to take to get from I’ve-Written-A-Book to I’ve-Published-A-Book. I’m Canadian, so my experiences will have that flavo(u)r, but many of the steps will be common to anyone looking to publish. Example: In Canada, ISBN numbers are free; in the U.S., ISBN numbers must be purchased. Where possible, I’ll include country specific information.

Welcome to my world of indie publishing and I hope I can make your journey to publication less complicated than mine was.

Dinner & a Good Book: Never Pick a Pretty Woman by Mary M. Forbes

Every Friday I post a reading recommendation for the weekend. This week curl up with Mary M. Forbe’s Never Pick a Pretty WomanSophie Donnelly is looking for a home, a husband and children; Jake McCallum needs a wife to help with his ranch. 

What would be a good food and beverage pairing for this book? Unfortunately, Sophie can’t cook, but I’m betting even she could handle these delicious choices.  Shortrib Sandwiches courtesy of The Pioneer Woman, washed down with a strong cuppa coffee … Cowboy Coffee from Michael Smith at the Food Network.

And now, on to the delicious details of this weekend’s reading offering …
Never Pick a Pretty Woman_Cover
AUTHOR LINKS Never Pick a Pretty Woman
Mary M. Forbes’s  Website:





Sophie cupped her face in her hands, elbows digging into her upper legs and rocked. Her legs and arms trembled. Surely something would come to her. Then it did. She wanted to go back home. She wanted to see her mom. Her mom, her only real true friend, would have the right answers.  Her mom would help her.

She sensed a presence beside her. Someone crouched nearby.  Somebody brushed her arm with a hand. But she dared not look, so sure it would be Dennis. Dennis must never realize how much he hurt her.  She couldn’t give him that satisfaction. Besides she might well start punching that smug know-it-all face.

“What can I do to help you?

Her head whipped around and her green eyes widened in shock. This wasn’t Dennis. This apparition appeared to be a cowboy in her dreams.  His eyes were narrowed, sultry and dark with long black lashes to match his short dark hair. A cowboy hat was tilted back to reveal his incredible features. His eyes suddenly widened in surprise when he saw her face, then dropped to the ground.  He swore. Perplexed, she wanted to ask him what that was about. Before she had the chance, she noticed he was dangling the straps of her sandals with one finger.

“Prince Charming?” Light banter slipped easily inside. Something familiar and calming.

“You want your shoes back little princess?”

He smiled. It took her a moment to compose herself. His smile was breathtaking and vaguely familiar. Had she met him somewhere? No, surely she would remember if she had.


Born and bred on  western stories by Zane Grey and Louis L’Amour, I grew up in the middle of nowhere Saskatchewan.  Although modern life intervened, I soon realized the similarities between my life and North American western past. From riding horses, playing cowboys and Indians with real Indians combined with the scenery of vast, open prairies and endless horizons I was living my dream.


Dinner & a Good Book: Katya Binks Came Home From Away by Mahrie Reid

Every week I post a reading recommendation for the weekend. This weekend curl up with Mahrie G. Reid’s Katya Binks Came Home From Away. It’s set in the fictional Nova Scotia community of Caleb Cove and, as such, is part of the Caleb Cove series Mahrie writes.

What would be a good food and beverage pairing for this book? This Lobster Chowder from Nova Scotia Tourism is fabulously simple. Ditto for this Lunenburg Lemonade from Taste of Nova Scotia.

And now, on to the delicious details of this weekend’s reading offering …

Katya Binks Came Home From AwayLINKS Katya Binks Came Home From Away
Mahrie G Reid’s  Website:

Kelsey Maxwell searches for her birth father and walks into an investigation with dead bodies and a knife wielding maniac. Not what she had in mind when she started her quest. She teams up with ex-cop Sam Logan to evade a kidnap attempt, the killer and, in the end, the police. As the stakes rise, she may have to shoot to kill in order to save her birth father. Will she get a chance to know him? And what about the sexy Sam Logan? No matter what happens, her life is changed forever.



Kelsey added a frown to the finger wag. “Whatever you heard, if Dad wanted you to know, he’d have invited you to the meeting. To talk about it is gossiping.”

“Andy asked Dad, and I quote, for your hand in marriage.”

Kelsey spit coffee. “What.” Forget the no-gossip rule. This involved her. She grabbed a napkin and wiped up the coffee spatter.

“Figured you might feel like that.” Brock grinned. “I know how it is with Becky and me,” he said and blushed. “and I never got the idea you and Andy were like that.”

“No bloody way,” Kelsey said. “We work together. We’ve gone to company parties and movies. But that’s it.” She sliced a hand through the air. “Period. End of sentence. End of story.” What possessed Andy to think she’d marry him?

Brock snorted. “Well, Andy never did mention love and Dad never asked. They talked about you becoming a partner at the firm and about Andy and you helping run the ranch. The benefits of you two getting married. That type of thing. The conversation held all the charm of selling a prized heifer.”

Playlist for a Dental Appointment

I just scheduled my annual cleaning of the ivories and I thought I’d put together a playlist for the event. Because, you know, avoiding actual work.

Chomper and the Bicuspids give a foot-stomping rendition of the reasons to brush daily here.

AJ Jenkins provides a catchy, cheerful tune here.

But you probably aren’t seven, right?

Good news. Your dental playlist doesn’t need to be a syrupy sweet concoction of light, childish tunes. Go blues-y with Lonnie Johnson’s 1928 recording of The Toothache Blues.

A little darker and probably more in keeping with many of our dental fears and experiences: the Dentist Song by Galahad

The Root of All Evil by Psychostick

and Cranium’s Dentist of Death

No playlist would be complete without Steve Martin’s the Dentist! song from Little Shop of Horrors.

Here’s a bit of interesting trivia. Martin went on to play wealthy dentist Dr. Frank Sangster (in Novocaine), seduced from the loving arms of his fiancé by a patient coming to him for a root canal.

Need a laugh to get you through your appointment? I recommend Cavity Search by Weird Al Yankovic. Although there’s a painful touch of truth to his humor.


And in writing related news, here’s a blog link to the history of toothpaste by romance writer Mary Forbes.