Monday, August 20, 2012

My First e-book: The Christmas Kindness Advent Calendar

The idea for the Advent blog project occurred to me one November day.I didn't think about it--I just jumped in. Sometimes the best ideas work that way. My quest was to find a way around the blue feelings I tend to experience around the holidays. It has been my experience, since i am not a parent and no longer a daughter, that I'm trapped outside the usual holiday paradigms. Does that happen to you--do you ever feel like an outsider looking in on your own life as it zooms by? It's a weird concept, but from what I read I am not alone. Some people (me included sometimes) get to feeling sad because our adult holidays can never live up to the magical times we had as kids. Other people (me included sometimes) get so wrapped-up in Christmas preparations that they almost forget why we have a holiday in the first place.  I wondered--if I focused instead on the parts of the holiday that have meaning for me or the things that I simply enjoy, could I share these things with others who might need a boost? Would I have enough stories, recipes, crafts, and places to fill 25 days of Advent? Would readers want to see a photo of my Nativity scene with the German Oompah band included? My approach to the blog project, and then the ebook, was to be more inclusive than our media is. You don't have to have children, grandchildren, a freshly-cut Douglass Pine, or fancy parties to attend.

I did have enough ideas, especially since my readers gave me some great suggestions. I shared them, and my blog practically went viral for the month of December. It was exciting and joyful. I was caught up in the creativity of attempting to include photos and meaningful posts each day and appliqueing numbers for each day on fabric coasters. These appeared at the top of each post. My friends enjoyed the blog, told their friends, and my readership grew.  That wasn't my original intention for creating the Advent posts, but it remains a wonderful benefit! I look at my blog's analytics everyday to get an idea who is reading and what kinds of blogs get the most hits. I didn't bother doing that before the Advent project.

Why not, then, polish up this blog content, maybe add some depth here and there, and create an ebook? I worked on this new project steadily, and finally it is finished! It's available on Amazon as a Kindle ebook. I chose the Kindle platform because it seemed simple and required no advance cash. (I may consider adding more platforms later, depending on how this experiment works out.) Once the Microsoft Word document was finished, I went onto the Kindle publishing site and found a free video and a free accompanying ebook guide that show how to bring it online. If you are thinking of experimenting with ebooks, I recommend that you check these out while you are writing, so you can keep the various formatting tips in mind. For example, in order to make a working Table of Contents, you have to assign Heading Style #1 (on the tool bar in Word) to each chapter heading. I had to go back and do this to each day's offering. If I had known, I could have streamlined the process by fixing these as I wrote and edited and edited and edited.

This document then has to be saved as a "Web Page, Filtered." This terminology frightened me, but alas, it is one of the choices in the Save As drop-down box. Because I have many images in the text, I had to create a zip file which intimidated me. This was simple once I watched the video and looked at the guide. I also had to create some kind of cover. Amazon suggests using Microsoft Paint. I had never used that, but I managed to design something decent within the hour. That gets uploaded separately and doesn't go into the Word document (in case you were wondering). The actual uploading process took about an hour and was way simpler than I expected. The book showed up on Amazon the next morning. Here's where you can get your copy: The Christmas Kindness Advent Calendar.

What a thrill it is to have this particular project online and available to anyone. Did I mention it was a labor of love? Even better, the stories touched people and the ideas brought back memories. I couldn't be happier about this!

By the way, those numbered fabric doorsI used for each post or chapter did not go to waste. I used them in a big Advent Quilt, complete with pockets behind them and a gold Variable Star block on top. I included a description of how I put that together at the end of the ebook. Here's a peek:
That's Fred holding up the quilt in front of the neighbor's holly tree.

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