How to Format a Book-sized PDF on a MAC

Indie publishing is an adventure. It also comes with a steep learning curve and can cause all manner of frustration and back-aches as you sit at the computer for hours cursing and sighing, and occasionally cheering when you finally get something right. I’ve become tenacious and OCD about publishing, and I crowed last night when I finally got it.

One of the tasks that seems to give writers the most trouble is preparing their finished manuscript for upload to the distributer (CreateSpace, IngramSpark, etc). I don’t usually publish how-to posts, but as I’ve been learning, I’ve encountered so many people having the same issues, I thought I’d try and simplify the process with a few key moves.

First of all, this is for writers using a Mac. The basic question I googled the past few days was this: how do I save a pdf copy in book size on a Mac? This is what I figured out after reading a zillion threads written by frustrated Mac users. I discovered that Macs are built to do this, so you don’t need to buy Acrobat software. You just need to know how to do it.

A Word About Formatting Ebooks

Ebooks and print books need two completely different formats. Kindle Direct Publishing provides an excellent guide for formatting and uploading your ebook to Amazon. Just follow along and you’ll be successful. (Although one glitch I have discovered  is that when you use a MAC, you have to save the final Word doc as a Web Page, Filtered in order to get an HTML file for upload. Otherwise, any photos don’t appear when you proof it online.) Another format you will need to upload is ePub for Kobo, I-books, etc.) I publish through IngramSpark so I upload the ePub version on their site. You can download Calibre for free (thanks Sionnach for this tip) and convert several formats in a snap. But print books are a whole different process.

Formatting Print Books

To Sleep With Stones_eCover_Final _small_

So. Print books. First of all, the formatting is different. You want your book to be visually appealing, error-free, and set up professionally using Word styles. You have to pay every time you upload a new edition to IngramSpark, so try to get it right. (Right now, they’re offering free revisions until May 31 and a new title upload for free until June 30.)

I’m preparing to release the Hollystone Mysteries as a trilogy within the next year, so I’m setting up my own formatting guide using Word styles so they’re all consistent. The last few weeks, I’ve been re-editing book two. I decided to change the book size from 6″ x 9″ to 5.5″ x 8.5″ because I thought it might look and feel better. After editing and formatting, it grew from 276 pages to 310 pages and that meant the trim size would be off for my existing cover. My cover designer, Kat McCarthy at Aeternum Designs, graciously resized the cover for me. Thanks Kat. It took a lot of finagling to get the most white space as possible without going over those 310 pages. Last night I was still playing with this—even changing words here and there to make it fit. As I said…OCD.

When I thought I had it perfect, I drove down to Staples with my Word file on a flash drive because they said they could convert it to the size I needed in a couple of minutes. However, once it was up on their screen, my fancy font that matches my cover (Celtic Garamond Pro) didn’t show up. I’d used it for the title page, drop caps, and headings, so I was ready to scream! “Bring us a PDF and we can re-size it for you no problem,” she said. So I drove home and hunkered down at the desk again. While I was giving it one more appraisal, I noticed that on page 6 the scene break icon and the page number were not centred correctly. (This is where the OCD kicks in). I discovered that the footer style was set to “normal” which meant it had a .25 indent and that was throwing off the centring. I fixed that and played with the white space some more. Then I put it up on the big screen.

Suddenly, I noticed that the first four pages (section 1) were actually appearing in book-size; whereas the rest of the book was still showing with the text in book-size but on 8.5″ x 11″ paper. This is the problem people are screaming about on the threads. So I went back in and tried one last time. Hallelujah!  This, in three steps, is what I discovered over the last three days.

How to Save a Book-sized PDF on a MAC

  1. Go to File—Page Setup. Set the desired size (5.5 x 8.5) formatted for any printer. Make sure everything in Word is perfect. Check all styles to be sure everything is centred correctly. Check paragraph format—watch for first line indents that need to be removed that will affect the centring).
  2. Go to top screen menu: Format—Document. Check all margins and “apply to whole document”— If  just “this section” is ticked, it won’t work. (This was the clincher!) And you have to do this every time because it defaults. Even making this demo pdf of my first chapter, I found errors and had to resize the doc.
  3. Go to File—Print and in the bottom left click on “pdf” and choose “save to pdf”

This should save the document in the book size you are expecting and look exactly like the interior of your book. Here’s the saved PDF of the front pages and first chapter of To Sleep with Stones so you can see what I mean about fonts and text and white space.

Stones chapter 1

Good luck on your Indie publishing journey. If you get stuck or have any questions, contact me or leave a comment and I’ll try to help you as best I can.

with all good wishes,






Stephen King as Mentor

Reading Stephen King’s 1991 article “The Symbolic Language of Dreams” blissed out my writer’s spirit–that seed deep in my soul that ruptures occasionally when watered with shivering truth. This phenomenon occurs too rarely and signalled that the man had something to tell me.

UnknownStephen King


salems-lotI remember reading Salem’s Lot in the late 1970s. It was the book that turned me off horror. Not because it was bad—because it was mesmerizingly sinister. We were living in rural southern Ontario at the time, and my husband, a musician, was on the road three weeks out of four. Our farm, set well back from the road, was a staggering breath away from Salem Road and a friend of mine dug graves less than a mile up that road at Salem Cemetery.

And so, I closed King’s books. Ironically, I’ve watched movie versions of his books over the years: Misery, Hearts in Atlantis, Carrie, Stand by Me, The Green Mile, Dolores Claiborne; and I love Haven so much I’m ready to relocate clear across the country.

But books are different. Perhaps because the images emerge from our own imagination. Words perch at your fingertips, thirsting for a stream of blood; an opening where absorbed through the flesh and synapse, they can become real.

My current Hollystone Mysteries series features some sinister vampires, so I opened the cover of Salem’s Lot and began again.

And what did I learn from the Master?
pacing: keep the reader in a slow pant so by the time you hit the climax they’re craving it like a drug
detail: slow it all down by painting graphic pictures with your words
heroes are not always leading men. In Salem’s Lot, the unlikely four who take on Barlow the vampire are: an elderly English teacher, a young novelist, a doctor, and a twelve-year-old boy who makes models of monsters.
allow your eccentric beliefs to emerge and flourish. The following dialogue from Salem’s Lot reflects a personal belief that nonhuman objects can take on the emotions of human’s actions and certain people who are sensitively tuned can feel it. I concur with the narrator in this passage; not that he hallucinated the whole thing, but that houses and landscapes absorb emotions that can manifest with the right catalyst.

“Probably I was so keyed up that I hallucinated the whole thing. On the other hand, there may be some truth in that idea that houses absorb the emotions that are spent in them, that they hold a kind of… dry charge. Perhaps the right personality, that of an imaginative boy, for instance, could act as a catalyst on that dry charge, and cause it to produce an active manifestation of … of something. I’m not talking about ghosts, precisely. I’m talking about a kind of psychic television in three dimensions. Perhaps even something alive. A monster, if you like” (42).


Memories of Nootka Lighthouse

Four years ago, I was working as a relief lighthouse keeper for the Canadian Coast Guard. I’d taken a year off teaching to explore and destress and try something new.

Between March 27 and May 23, I stayed at Nootka and recorded my adventures, and misadventures, in a journal and a blog. This was my house for eight weeks.

my house (1).jpg


I’ve been thinking about that time a lot lately. This summer, I am planning to take the Uchuck III day cruise from Gold River to Friendly Cove, so I can walk those beaches and trails once again. I had hoped to visit with Mark, the lighthouse keeper I worked with at that time, but apparently Mark and Joanne retired last September. So, all I can say is “Congratulations!” from afar.

People often ask me what I did there. This video and article written and recorded last August with Mark and Joanne brings it all back to me. It is a beautiful landscape, rife with history—some of which is tragic—and I feel blessed that I was able to spend some quality time there.

This is my post from April 22, 2014.

And this is the pebble beach—one of my favourite places in the world. I can’t wait to walk here again this summer.




Books & More Books



When I saw this funky bookshop on Twitter yesterday, I decided to find it. As if by magic (which no doubt it was) I discovered Iron Dog Books parked in front of Moody Ales this afternoon. They were there supporting AJ Devlin. Jeremy and I have done a couple of readings together so I’d come to congratulate him on the launch of Cobra Clutch and buy a signed copy. The place was packed–Sunday afternoon in the Brewery District of Port Moody–a successful launch for AJ Devlin and Cobra Clutch! #cobraclutch



Cobra Clutch is a fast-paced, hard-hitting debut novel by AJ Devlin that has an unstoppable combo: a signature move of raucous humour with a super finisher of gritty realism.

And here’s a great endorsement from Sam Wiebe: “In this fast-paced, energetic debut, Devlin ingeniously merges the worlds of pro wrestling and private eyes into a breakneck adventure that will leave readers breathless. Intense and cinematic.”

That’s no surprise since AJ earned a Master of Fine Arts in Screenwriting from the American Film Institute, and gave Hollywood a shot before moving back home to Port Moody.

After visiting Moody Ales, I had to check out the bookmobile. I grew up with a bookmobile in small-town Ontario. Perhaps, that’s why I was thrilled to see Iron Dog Books. It’s an innovative enterprise. Here is their Twitter description:

Itinerant Indigenous bookseller perched atop Burnaby Mtn. selling new & used books. Hours: Tues & Thurs 9am-6pm @ Cornerstone Town Square (Simon Fraser University) 

Hilary told me that Saturdays this summer, they will be parked at the Port Moody Museum beside Rocky Point Park. It’s a small intimate space, so she’s choosy about her stock. Their mission is to bring books to places that don’t have used book stores. So, come by and browse for some great finds on her shelves. You never know who you might run into. And if the temperature ever starts to rise, there are four craft breweries right across the street, home-crafted ice cream in the park, and a funky new shuttle bus coming in July that will  link Inlet Centre, Rocky Point Park and Moody Centre.

Port Moody, you rock!

To Render a Raven: Draft Done!

IMG_4331.jpgIt was lovely today to receive a text from a friend that said: “Your book is featured at the front door of Reflections!!!” Of course, I had to go and take a look. Reflections is a funky metaphysical store that just celebrated its 30th Anniversary in Coquitlam. Carole, who has just retired and passed the store over to her daughter-in-law, has supported Indie authors and publishers all along the way. This is something we desperately need and truly appreciate. I haven’t been promoting my books the last few months, so it’s fantastic to see the store promoting my work.

I’ve been focussed on drafting book three of the Hollystone Mysteries: To Render a Raven. I finished writing it this week!

The story picks up the Hollystone witches a year after To Sleep with Stones and sets them on another thrilling adventure. Estrada and his crew must rush up the Strait of Georgia (BC Coast) in a “borrowed” yacht to rescue a baby who has been stolen by vampires. Fortunately, I spent some time exploring the coast during my stint as a relief lighthouse keeper (Life on the BC Lights) and I’ve been able to use some of what I experienced in this fabulous setting. As I’ve done in my other two books, I’ve interwoven the story of the vampire antagonists with that of our mystical heroes.

I tweaked my writing process this time around. I always use the Hero’s Journey model to plot a loose scenario as I am a Joseph Campbell junkie. But this time, I just kept asking: what happens now? I know some writers create detailed plot outlines before they begin to write, but that’s way too cerebral for this freedom-seeking INFP. I need to open up to the character’s thoughts and feelings and let them tell me the story. Sometimes, it’s like arguing with your GPS: they’re trying to take me somewhere and I’m not sure that’s where I want to go. I have to trust them and listen carefully to what they’re saying. When I get stuck, it’s usually because one of the other characters wants to take over. I write in multiple viewpoints, so I also have to ask: who is going to narrate this scene? Often, they surprise me. Partway through, I remember saying to a friend: I don’t think X is going to make it. He’s crossed too many lines. I won’t say who X is, or if he made it or not, but I will say that I loved him in the end.

The hardest thing I did was write 86,000 words without talking about the storyline or the characters who are part of my world. I know some writers share their ongoing projects and receive feedback at writer’s groups, but I’ve been a hermit. I’ve talked some with a trusted author-friend who is beta-reading for me right now, but otherwise it’s been an internalized process. I’m now looking for a couple of ebook beta readers to give me feedback regarding pacing and clarity. If you’re interested and you’re an experienced reader of urban fantasy, thrillers, or mysteries, please drop me an email:

I’m excited to be working with an editor this time, and will write more about that experience as it unfolds.

with all good wishes,



Rockton #3

This Fallen Prey, Kelley Armstrong

reviewed in the Ottawa Review of Books, March 2018

The meaning behind the title of Kelley Armstrong’s latest Rockton crime novel, This Fallen Prey, still alludes me. Does This Fallen Prey refer to the victims of the serial killer who is dropped off bound and gagged without warning? There are several victims in this fast-paced thriller. Or is the thrill killer, himself, This Fallen Prey? Oliver Brady claims to be the victim of a rich and powerful step-father bent on cheating him out of his inheritance. Gregory Wallace has $15 million reasons to frame his step-son as a serial killer, and has paid a million dollars to send him to Rockton for a six-month stint. The problem for our heroes, Sheriff Eric Dalton and Detective Casey Butler, is what to do with Brady while he’s there under their watch. Once the townsfolk discover they’re housing a psychotic serial killer no one will be safe, including Brady.

This is Armstrong’s third Casey Butler detective novel. It is as fast and flawless as City of the Lost, the book that introduces us to this dysfunctional Yukon town. Rockton is a fabricated town, built in the wilderness to house people who need to go missing. Many are victims in need of protection; others, like Casey, have been both victimized and killed. In the second book, A Darkness Absolute, Casey seals the deal with rugged backwoods sheriff, Eric Dalton, and becomes mama to a bouncing Newfoundland puppy named Storm.

In fact, the dog, who is now eight-months-old and learning to track, is a major character in the novel, as is the setting. Much of the story centres around the search for Oliver Brady, who escapes early on with the help of one of Rockton’s citizens. Casey and Dalton must battle hostiles and wild animals, while avoiding snipers; all the while, trying to keep the puppy safe. Anyone who owns a dog will understand what it’s like to hike with a dog in the woods. Dangers lurk everywhere. And, Kelley Armstrong has done her canine research.

In my favourite scene, Storm lurches free of Casey’s grip and bounds after a mountain lion with the detective in pursuit. Casey chases, knowing that the cat is heading for a cliff where it can turn around, leap onto her dog’s back, and break her neck. Casey shouts out a series of commands—too many words and pointless—as Storm is too far away to hear and focussed on nothing but chasing this kitty. This creates sheer terror for Casey, who must somehow save her puppy, and any reader who has ever lost control of her dog. Like Casey, Storm is not just there for show. Armstrong not only uses the dog to heighten the adventure, but as a clever device to advance the plot.

This is Casey’s story. Though she’s searching along with her partner, Eric Dalton, everyone defers to her, including the sheriff. A tiny Mandarin-speaking murderer turned detective, Casey is fearless, intelligent, intuitive, and scarred.  Sometimes, she makes mistakes, and sometimes she knows the truth with just a look. Preferring to sleep out on the balcony under the stars, Casey provides us with an opportunity to experience this secret dystopian Yukon town and its surrounding wildness.

As the search continues, Dalton and Casey discover corpses. By chapter forty, I write in my journal: Brady appears to be a ruthless murderer but there must be a twist. If there isn’t, I will be disappointed. Then Brady’s step-dad arrives and I’m not disappointed. By chapter sixty, I’m still wondering, along with Casey, if Brady is a serial killer, or if he really is being framed by his step-dad. He almost has me convinced. Is he, or isn’t he? How will Casey discover the truth? And who will die in the process?