It’s been said over and over again that you should never edit your own book. After three months of preparing my three manuscripts for publishing, I’m not sure that self-formatting is a good idea either.
Having said that, formatting isn’t difficult, just detailed and tedious, and takes a lot of time and patience. I formatted each book for three different platforms. No wonder it took me forever: the Legacy has 71 chapters and 467 pages, and the Guardian (now published!) 77 chapters and 524 pages. In comparison to these two, Best Friends and Other Lovers, my contemporary love story collection, was child’s play–it has a different structure (no formal chapters) and “only” 250 pages.
I first prepared my books for Amazon KDP e-book and paperback. KDP has excellent step-by-step instructions for both formats. They also have two types of templates for paperback, but they didn’t work for me so I took the safer yet longer route and followed the procedure for formatting MS Word files.
To get my books into libraries, I used to use Smashwords, which has quite a complicated style guide. My friend J. P. McLean told me to try Draft2Digital, the vendor that also distributes to all the major retailers online, including OverDrive, which is often the only pathway to public libraries.
D2D is easy to use, despite the occasional glitches. There are limits to what you can do in D2D, and you reach them fast. D2D offers several templates, three to four for each major genre and non-fiction. Comparing to the sleek, elegant look of KDP e-book/paperback, D2D is more basic, but overall, I was happy with the result, and would recommend it to anyone who wants her/his book to be added to the OverDrive collection without too much fuss.
So why did I say I should’ve stayed away from formatting my own books? Because I couldn’t stop making changes, finding small imperfections, adding a space here, changing a word there. I couldn’t get myself to press the “Publish” button, leaving it for the next day, after just one more checkup, after another go through all 71 or 77 chapters again. And again. And again. (And I’m sure I missed something.)
I would format a book for someone else, but next time I might just pay a formatter to do it for me.
And then, finally, I did click on that button, and the last one in the row, the paperback format of Guardian of the Realm, is up. When it comes to my books on Amazon, I don’t hold my breath, however. I have neither time nor money for any kind of promotion. The paperbacks are for my pleasure only anyway — I like to be able to touch my books. But the D2D versions have already achieved their purpose. The Legacy and Guardian are on OverDrive now, and I expect the third one to join them soon. My library is going to buy them and the readers will find them. They always do.
And, before I forget,
A part of me was relieved when I dropped Astrid off at the hospital.
Before last night I hadn’t even been sure if I believed in werewolf bonding. I’d always thought that it was wrong to be left without a choice. There was nothing great about some random, unknown power ruling one of the most important aspects of your life.
Then Astrid’s fingers had touched my throat, and the shock of our irreversible, unchangeable, eternal connection shot from my neck down my spinal cord, spreading through my body, my soul, my mind.
I had never met Astrid before yesterday. I knew she existed—back home, her name was on everybody’s lips—I’d seen her pictures many times in the last six months. Nothing had foretold one of the greatest events of my life. Her lovely but serious face and smart, deep-blue eyes hadn’t evoked any specific emotion. The only detail that had stuck in my mind was her luxurious hair—a long, silky golden-copperish cascade that looked like a halo around her face.
She too had felt the bond, but didn’t seem to know what it was. I knew, which didn’t prevent me from feeling like I was struck by a thunderbolt when it happened.
I didn’t want to be bonded, not to her, not to anyone, yet I could do nothing about it. I found comfort in the fact that she would’ve attracted me anyway. Probably. Physically, she wasn’t my type, but she did have that something that I liked in women: confidence, a brilliant mind, wit and charm.
Later, watching her sitting across the table, her arms crossed over her chest, I tried to imagine her reaction when she learned we were bonded. I could see her cool wizard mind struggling to grasp the concept of the bond and many others she was about to discover. Oh, that was going to be interesting. She’d been ready to jeopardize her safety by refusing to come to Red Cliffs because her opinion hadn’t been considered. Wait until she learned she had no choice but to fall in love with me.
The other part of me, the one that wasn’t relieved, didn’t like being separate from her. The darned bond had already started working. That was a new feeling, both exciting and frustrating. Annoying because, again, it had been forced upon me. Exciting, well, because I could hardly wait to have that not-my-type-of woman beside me again.
I shook my head and smiled. Seven-of-Nine from Star Trek Voyager, exactly my type of woman, would say that resistance was futile.
I returned to Astrid’s house. Her scent was all over it, and I inhaled it thirstily. She smelled fresh, of rain and wind, of a clear spring morning, of the sea breeze. Deep, deep under all these elemental essences, there was a subtle touch of musk, earthy and tangy.
All insanely arousing.
I talked to James and my mother, without revealing too many details of my first encounter with my step-cousin, then spent several hours on my laptop trying to catch up with my work.
It was around eleven when I became restless, so going to see Tristan seemed like a good idea.
The hospital administration, including Tristan’s office, was on the fourth floor. I asked to see him and he instructed the receptionist to send me up.
A brass plate on the door read Dr. Tristan Blake, and under that CEO, Hospital Services, without the usual string of titles that people from the medical profession were sometimes so fond of. Tristan had several medical specialties, but he was one of the most laid-back people I’d ever known.
He was reading a medical journal when I opened the door, and rose to greet me.
“The first thing Astrid asked me this morning was if you were her blood relative, then if you were married,” he said, gesturing toward an empty chair across his desk. “Interesting, isn’t it?”
I felt a surge of primal male pride. “Did she now? What did you tell her?”
“That you are not married and, to the best of my knowledge, not her blood relative. She’ll kill me if she knows I told you, so don’t mention it to her. And no reason for that cocky grin; she asked that for practical reasons. You are about to camp at her place for several weeks, so she would prefer you were unmarried, cousin or not. Espresso?”
I couldn’t hide my smile. No, she hadn’t asked just for the practical reasons. “Sure,” I said. “She made something undrinkable this morning. So, what did she say?”
“Nothing. Hard to tell if she was relieved or disappointed. Wizards are not easy to read.” Tristan walked to the small table beside the window that held a coffee machine. He took two cups from the top of it, set them on the drip tray and filled the filter with ground coffee. The fresh aroma of Arabica beans filled the air.
Tristan pressed the power button and leaned against the windowsill. The machine made a soft hiss and started dripping coffee into the cups.
“She was relieved, take my word for it,” I said, and took a deep breath. “She’s my bond mate, Tristan.”
For an instant, he didn’t get it.
“You’re kidding!” he said when the meaning reached his mind. “Wow. What now? How did Astrid take it? How come she hadn’t mentioned it this morning?”
“She doesn’t know. I’m afraid to break the news to her.”
“She’ll freak out. And if you tell her you snooped around her house yesterday, she’ll kick you out. And what then?”
“You have an excellent nose,” I said. “At this point, she doesn’t need to know about the bond. Or that I was in her house. After she spends some time in Red Cliffs, she’ll understand us better. She’ll learn such things are necessary.”
Tristan smirked. “Good luck with that. So, what about you? How do you feel about the bond?”
“I’ve already freaked out. It’ll take a while to accept it, mentally and emotionally.”
“What are you going to do?”
“Proceed with the plan. Take her home. I don’t know more than that.”
“Do you like her?”
I raked my hand through my hair. “As if I have a freaking choice. Man, I met her yesterday. People think that bonding is romantic. It’s damn scary. Your finger touches a stranger and the next thing you know you’re tied to her for the rest of your life.” Which could be (and most of the time was), very, very long.
The dripping stopped. The coffee machine pipped a signal that the espressos were ready. Tristan grabbed them, placed them on the desk and pushed one in my direction. “Sugar?”
“Thanks,” I said, taking a spoon and a small crystal bowl with white cubes. With something that looked more like an old-fashioned surgical instrument than sugar cube tongs, I picked one piece and dropped it in my coffee.
“All species have bonding of one kind or another,” Tristan said, taking back his seat. I passed him the bowl and the tongs.
“Yes, but ours is a more complex process. We bond on two different levels: our human and wolf spirits. Everybody must be in sync with everybody else. It usually happens easily and instantly, but it can also be a lengthy process.”
“It’s not always simple for us, either. Outside of our own kind, we most often bond with humans. No matter how civilized we are, on the subconscious level, we still consider them a source of ‘food’. An inferior species, on the bottom of the evolutionary scale, although, in terms of survival, it’s just the opposite—they’re above us since they don’t need us, we need them. Still, we are predators, they are prey. And then, poof—you found yourself bonded to a human. No, my friend, bonding often doesn’t go smoothly.”
“To be honest, it never made much sense to me. Relationships are messy enough without it. It only complicates things even more.”
Tristan shook his head. “Here you’re wrong. We might not understand many aspects of it, but bonding doesn’t happen haphazardly. That wouldn’t make any sense. Regarding Astrid, you should cheer up. It’ll be easy to love her. You’ll see when you know her better.”
“We’ll see,” I said, stirring my coffee. “There’s nothing I can do about it now anyway. Bonded or not, Astrid still needs my help to learn how to control her changes.”
“It’s more than that. Her transformations are not only uncontrollable but difficult and painful as well.”
“Painful? She said she blacked out, but she didn’t mention it was painful,” I said, feeling a strange tightening in my chest. I wanted to find her, hold her tight so that nothing could hurt her anymore.
Where was she now, I wondered, trying to pick up her scent.
The bond seemed to be interfering with my common sense. I made an effort to refocus on the conversation.
“It’s always been painful for her, and it’s becoming worse. She does it quickly, faster than you. Maybe that’s the reason. She’s an enormous wolf, way bigger than her human size would suggest. But then, when she turns, she’s nothing like you guys. There isn’t that burst of energy and life that always impresses me when I see you changing. She’s exhausted.”
Her words came back to me. “When you see my change, you’ll understand my lack of enthusiasm.” And I had all but accused her last night of being prejudicial. “Why are they painful? Why is she weak afterward? Do you have any explanation?”
Tristan scratched his head. “I believe it’s because she’s an ellida. Alas, that’s all I can say. As you know, very little is known about them.”
He was right. Ellidas were rare and mysterious female offspring of rare unions between werewolves and wizards. There had been only a handful of ellidas in our history.
“Every ellida is different, but there are still some things they all share,” I said. “Their first change happens in late puberty. After that, they quickly establish control over the process. It didn’t happen with Astrid.”
“Well, she’s just different. Despite all her difficulties, she comes out of her shifting just fine. I always check her after the transformation. There is no damage, nothing unusual. She needs a day or two to become herself again.”
Two days! Of course she hated it, I thought, trying hard not to imagine her curled up in pain, exhausted, unable to move. “I’ll find out why she suffers through the change,” I said. “What can you tell about her genetic makeup? That’s your field.”
One of Tristan’s specialties was in medical genetics.
“She combines the best of both kinds, of course. She’s an ellida.”
“I know that. But emotionally, socially? Privately?”
“Astrid’s much more emotional than wizards in general. You know them; they’re like a crossover between Tolkien’s Elves and Mr. Spock from Star Trek. Their rational side is prominent. Not that they do not feel, they do, as intensely as we do, they just don’t show it. She does.”
Tristan smiled at some private thought, then took a sip of his espresso and continued, “She’s fiercely independent. Don’t expect her to be submissive to you or anybody else. Or dominant, for that matter, at least not in her human form. Those concepts are still alien to her. She’s a private person. A loyal friend. Smart, well-educated and sophisticated. She’s very serious but can be funny to the bone.”
“As a doctor?”
Tristan’s face lit up. “Born to be one. She is both an orthopedic and trauma surgeon, and brilliant in both fields. Wizards are doctors par excellence, but she’s exceptional even by their standards. I’ve haven’t seen anything like that in a long time.”
“She doesn’t resemble Rowena.”
“No, she took after Hal. From inside? We’re all a combination of inherited and acquired characteristics. She has the best of both in her.”
“She seems more levelheaded than her mother was,” I said before I could think twice.
Tristan gave a sharp look. “Oh, for Chrissake, Jack! Rowena was eighteen, a teenager caught in serious grownup circumstances. Passionate, impatient. Too young to be married, too young to have a child. Hal was a great man, but he could be reckless and irresponsible. Like it or not, Astrid has her mother’s passion, her feistiness.” He pointed his finger at me. “And I’ll tell you something else. No matter what Red Cliffs thinks, Rowena had nothing to do with Hal’s and your father’s deaths. No one can convince me otherwise. No one!”
“She set things into motion, but it was Seth who killed them, not Rowena. I’m aware of that.”
“Jack, Astrid’s a mature and responsible young woman,” Tristan said, his voice softening with true affection for his young friend. “An old soul. I tease her sometimes that she was born as a twenty-five-year-old woman. She had a few stormy teenage years, but even that was just a typical hormonal rebellion, although Gottfried and Ella probably wouldn’t agree.”
Tristan’s phone buzzed. He took it out from his pocket and read the message “Astrid’s done for today. By the way, Liv expects you two at our place tonight. I mentioned it to Astrid. She said she’d talk to you.” He gave me a devilish smile. “Oh, Liv will be ecstatic when she hears about the bond.”
I bet she would be. “Don’t mention it in front of Astrid. I’ll tell her.”
“No, I’ll only tell Liv,” he said with a wicked grin.
I ignored it and checked my phone for messages. “I told Astrid to text me when she was done so that I could pick her up.”
“Next time ask her, don’t tell her. Then she might do it. Why don’t you surprise her? She’ll be down in five minutes.”
I rubbed my chin. “Damn. I’m bonded to her, she’s not even my type,” I said and stood. “She’s too serious. And too slim.” I meekly tried my futile resistance one more time. And no boobs. I added another irrelevant complaint to the whole list of other ridiculous ones, but at least I knew better than to say it aloud. Tristan was a first-rate old-school gentleman, and Astrid was his protégé.
He looked at me as if I’d suddenly sprouted a second head. “She’s beautiful. You should think beyond bonding. Believe me, you’ll be eating out of her hand before you know it, and you’ll love it.”
I heard my friend’s hearty laugh as I closed the door behind me.
Handbag over her shoulder, her light coat draped over her arm, Astrid stepped out of the elevator. She tilted her head and looked at me with an arched eyebrow.
I walked to her, I took the coat from her hands and helped her to put it on. I rested my hands on her shoulders and let the warm current run between us for a moment.
“I came to see Tristan,” I said before she could ask me what I was doing in the hospital.
She turned to me. “Ah. To talk about me.” The little smile that lurked in her blue eyes reached her lips. In a split second, I realized what Tristan had tried to tell me just a few minutes ago. You are beautiful! I almost said aloud, looking at her as if I hadn’t seen her last night at all.
She opened her coat to smooth the blue dress under it. Last night she was in an oversized shirt. This morning she’d been fully dressed when she left her bedroom, her coat included. Now I realized I was mistaken about at least one more thing. Or rather two. The boobs.
I laughed aloud and wrapped my arm around her shoulders. She glanced at me from under her lashes, but stayed close, the smile still lingered on her face.
I had a secret, and for the time being, I wasn’t going to share it with her. For a while, I’d decided, I would enjoy the fact that she didn’t have a clue that I was about to happen to her.