Let me take you underground

Deadline is May 9!! Win a free signed copy of my book, “Underground At Springdale: Volume 1.” You’ve got some competition! 69 people have entered to win!

Underground@Springdale, Volume One, will keep you engaged with the true stories of 38 individuals buried in Historic Springdale Cemetery, in Peoria, Illinois.

Includes color photos and grave locations. Most of this collection originally appeared on the blog springdale.blogpeoria.com. This publication contains expanded stories along with the previously unpublished “Leslie Don Puterbaugh: Springdale’s largest funeral.”




Tactile attention

Companies are always handing out trinkets and toys and even swag. They do that because they want you to remember them and they want you to take some action. Obviously, that action is to hire them or buy their product.

But, does a “leave behind” accomplish that? I bought a Pets.com sock puppet. I still have it. I adore it. But, the truth is, I never bought anything else from Pets.com even though I had three indoor cats and Pets.com is a well-known story of failure.

It was not entirely my fault that Pets.com failed. It also had to do with the dot.com bubble bursting.

But, Pets.com is proof that just giving (or selling) someone a marketing piece does not guarantee a response. Even selling them a cool marketing item does not spell success.

When I worked at the University of Illinois, our department needed to conduct a survey of our stakeholders but we were feeling discouraged because there is always a low survey response rate, especially compared to all the work that goes into creating a survey instrument and collecting all that data. I suggested something I remembered from grad school. In the most simplistic explanation I can give you, we remember what we touch or interact with.

We sent a teabag with each survey, and invited the respondents to relax with a cup of hot tea while they answered our survey and then returned it to us. Yes, it cost a bit more. We had to buy teabags and we had to take time stuffing them into the envelopes by hand. But, the survey return rate was huge!

Authors can leave “leave behinds.” (The more I use that term, the less I like it.) Just use your imagination. What will inspire readers or editors or retailers to interact with you?

I recommend that you choose a “leave behind”—what a cumbersome term–that will inspire not just a single response but an ongoing interaction with you.

I’m always looking for a new way to gain the attention of customers. As I have mentioned previously, I will be participating in Writers On The River, as a sponsor. I want to create some swag but I’m not fond of junk. I am very fond of anything that is unique and that will actually be used.

My newest innovation is the portrait-orientation style folded business card. I added my basic info and when you flip it over, you find, in light gray ink, “Pssst…I am a foldover bookmark.”

Below that is a list of my self-publishing services. Writers read. Writers use bookmarks. And I want to keep my business card in the hands of potential customers. I don’t want my card in a Rolex. Plus, I want my potential customers to have the menu of my services, located on the back, literally in their hands when they need it.So, if they use it as a bookmark, they are likely to use it—and perhaps several times a day. And, a reader can’t resist reading something, right?


I found some really unique business cards at Tiny Prints, which is where I ordered mine. Take a look. Explore.

If you want a copy of my business card, attend Writers on the River, in July. Fun fact: Do you realize the acronym spells WOTR which, if you say it aloud, is Water? 

Anything I can help you with? Email me at contact@thinkfastwritefast.com.



What every writer must write

The one thing every writer needs to write is their author bio. It goes on the book jacket, it goes inside the book, it goes in PR pieces and it, perhaps most importantly, goes on your Author’s Page on Amazon.

I just took a close look at what is being sold on Amazon and have been astonished to see that very few writers even have an author’s page. Every author of every book for sale on Amazon is missing a great opportunity by not creating an author’s page.

How does it happen? You write it.

This is self-publishing. You have to self-publish your author’s page, as well.

If you allow yourself to indulge in writer’s block, divert your mind and write your author’s bio, even if you haven’t finished anything yet.

Write about who you are, what your writing experience and motivation is and add a photo. Take advantage of SEO and select terms that are commonly used in your specific field. If you wanted someone to find you via a Search, what words would you expect them to search? Incorporate thoseo words in your author’s bio.

Not sure how to write it? Just look at any Author’s Page on Amazon.



When most people set out to write, the TOC is not the first thing they think of.

But, if you plan to self-publish, it is a good idea.

If you plan to publish an eBook, it is essential.

The Table of Contents is a Word References feature (OpenOffice, too).. It is part of the “programming” that goes on behind the scenes while you type. It is one example of Word doing some of the thinking for you.

When you download a publish-on-demand book template, you will find that it includes a Table of Contents. You don’t have to get very elaborate. You can literally leave the chapter names as “Chapter 1,” “Chapter 2,” and so on. But it does help guide your reader if you name the chapters. Plus, most of us look at the chapter titles when we decided whether to read a book or not. A numeric chapter name is not going to convince anyone to buy a book. But, you should have chapters and a table of contents so the reader can go directly to a chapter.

If you plan to publish a digital version of your book, format the print version for publishing first. Trust me.

The automatically-generated TOC is based the Styles palette, but uses the References palette.

To see how this works, download a template from a publishing site.  You don’t need a Createspace account to download a template for this exercise. Go to HERE to download the pre-formatted template for a book that is 8.25 inches tall and 6 inches wide. It is just one of more than a dozen sizes you can choose from.

Open the Styles Palette in the Home ribbon menu. To do, this click on the little icon in the lower right-hand corner of the Styles Palette.


The Styles panel opens on the right-hand side of the page.

Far down the list, you will see “CSP – Chapter Title.” All of the “CSP” styles are the basic Createspace styles. The other styles are ones you may, or may not, need to use. Later, you might even want to create your own.

The Style called “CSP-Chapter Title” is the key that generates a Table of Contents. Any item that is formatted as “CSP-Chapter Title” will automatically generate an item in the Table of Contents.

That means if you need to create additional chapters, format the title with “CSP-Chapter Title.” When you update the TOC, Word will automatically add that chapter. It’s just name your chapter, highlight it and apply the chapter style, and update the TOC.

There is nothing magic about “CSP-Chapter Title.” You can create any Style you want for your chapter headings and call that Style anything you want. You just need to remember what it is called.

Did I lose you? Let’s take a closer look.

Hover over the “CSP-Chapter Title” until you see a dropdown arrow appear at the right-hand end of the Style in the list. Hovering will show what kind of formatting will be applied.

But, it helps to know how many times the formatting has been applied within this document. If you know you should have 16 chapters, click on the “CSP-Chapter Title” Style to see the popup window.  Does it show 16 chapters?


No. The “CSP-Chapter Title” Styles has only been applied in 14 instances.You would need to find the other two chapter headings and apply the same chapter Style to them.

Don’t change anything else on this style, at this time. (You can quickly change the font, size or color used for all your chapter headings by modifying and updating the Style, but we will save that for another time.)

If you want to see, in detail, what formatting is included with the template, click on Modify. The Modify Style window appears and shows how text formatted as “CSP-Chapter Title” Style will appear.


Chapter Titles are Paragraph styles, meaning they will modify all the text until the next hard return. All you do is highly the chapter name and choose “CSP-Chapter Title” Styles to make the text:

Times New Roman, 14, All caps, centered, single line-spacing with no space below.

Let’s say we do have the correct number of chapters formatted with the “CSP-Chapter Title” Style. Now we want those chapter titles to show up in our Table of Contents.

The Table of Contents in this template you downloaded is on page 5. (Type CONTROL+G, 5 to get there quickly.)

This is NOT a functioning TOC. You will have to create one that updates automatically. You do not want to have to type the TOC manually, and then keep all the page numbers manually. Word needs to do all of that for you.

To create your own functioning TOC, hover above the chapters listed in the Contents on page 5. You will see the following. It is just a table, not a Table of Contents. The word “Contents” was just manually typed in.


I prefer to keep the word “Content” until I have completed the TOC setup and have it working. But, the fake TOC needs to be deleted. To do that, highlight the table.

Tap the Delete key. The fake table is gone. Now we will create the real TOC.

Before we begin, we know that the first chapter is “1 Chapter Name” and begins on page 1.


We want to give this chapter a name that means something. We’re going to rename it “1 In the Beginning.”


Rename as many chapters as you want before we begin. You can rename all the rest of them at any point so don’t worry if you aren’t ready to name them all. When you are finished naming chapters, we’ll create the TOC.

Go back to the page where the word Content is, where you deleted the fake TOC. One reason I leave the word Content there is that, if I get confused, I can use the Find command to locate Comment.

Move your cursor one line below the word Content, for now. (When we are done, we will delete the word Content.)

The Table of Contents Panel is on the References Palette in the ribbon menu. Click on the dropdown at the bottom of Table of Contents. We are going to Insert Table of Contents.


You will need to “decorate” your TOC, by selecting Styles, in order for Word to pick up the chapters for your Table of Contents. There are defaults you will need to change.


When the Table of Contents popup window appears, you will see examples of TOC formatting. In the default example,  you will see the Print Preview shows Heading 1, Heading 2 and Heading 3. These are headings for different levels of content. Heading 1 would be a chapter; Heading 2 would be a subsection of that chapter; and Heading 3 would be a subsection of the subsection of the chapter. Keep in mind that the default TOC consists of THREE heading levels. In this template, we are going to use only 1.

To do that, we click on the 1 Options Button. That opens the Table of Contents Options window.

There are 4 things we need to change in this window.

In our template, we know that “CSP-Chapter Title” is the Style for all of our chapters. The default Style is Heading 1. We need to change that. Use the scrollbar all the way over on the right to scroll down through all the Styles in this template.

2  In the box next to the Style “CSP-Chapter Title,” type a number “1”. 3 The moment you do, a checkmark will appear next to “CSP-Chapter Title.”

Now, all text formatted as the “CSP-Chapter Title” Style will be included in our Table of Contents.

BUT WAIT, the Table of Contents Options still show that text formatted as Heading 1 should be level 1 in your TOC.

You probably don’t have anything formatted as Heading 1 – but just to be sure, 4 I delete the number “1” from the TOC level. Doing that makes 5 the checkmark next to Heading 1 disappear.

I do the same with Heading 2 and Heading 3.

Click Okay.

The TOC will automatically appear, with corresponding pages numbers.

Since we changed the name of the first chapter to “1 In the Beginning,” that is what appears in our TOC. Rename your chapters whenever it feels convenient.

Then go back to the References Palette and find the Table of Contents panel. Click on Update Table.


A popup will ask whether you want to update page numbers only, or whether you want to update the entire table. I usually choose entire table.

If you don’t fiddle with this template too much, you can safely paste your text into the chapters or type your chapter content right in the template.

This is the basic TOC you will need for either a print book or an eBook. You can now safely delete the original line that has only the word “Contents” on it.

You can alter the Style for your chapters to a different font, or size. But, if you rename the Style in the process, you will need to go back to the Table of Contents setup, find the new Style you want to use for chapters and make sure that is selected as Level One in the Table of Contents format.

Once you understand how the Styles work, you can make your books look attractive and appealing. Books should be more than just words. They should include this roadmap we call chapters and they should be consistently formatted.

Many people are overwhelmed by this very first and very basic task. If you are, hire someone to do it for you. (Yes, I can do that for you!)



How to create a glossary in Word

Most of us are using Microsoft Word, or with OpenOffice, to format our books and eBooks. Unfortunately, neither one has an automatic feature that will create a glossary. A glossary has to be created manually.

I have seen a gazillion exotic ways to create macros and use VB to do this, ad nauseum.

That’s ridiculous. Anyone who understands the basic concept of Styles can automatically generate a Glossary without a bit of programming or recording macros.

You only have to type the word Glossary to make it happen. That’s all. Otherwise, it is just clicking all the way.

hackTo add a word or a term to a glossary, create it as a Style.

To do that, open the Styles palette.

Create a new Style and name it Glossary.

For “Style Based On:” choose Normal, or whatever Style you are using for the body text style.

For “Style for Following Paragraph:” choose Normal, or whatever Style you are using for the body text style.

Click “Okay” to save the Glossary Style.

Manually locate every word or phrase you want to include in the Glossary.

Change the style for that text to Glossary by highlighting the text and clicking on Glossary in your Styles palette.

Do that for every word or phrase you want included in the Glossary.


Once you are finished, go back to the Styles palette.

Now, carefully click on the dropdown next to the Glossary style you created.

Choose “Select All X Instances” (“X” will tell you the number of Glossary entries you have selected).

Click Control + C to copy all instances.

Now move your cursor to the location in your document where you want the Glossary to appear.

Click Control + P to paste all Glossary (style) entries at the current location.

Every bit of text you formatted as Glossary style will appear.

Go to your browser and delete all the bookmarks to the endless number of webpages explaining how to waste a whole lot of time programming and breathe a sigh of relief because you will never need to look at them. 

You’re welcome!


Bonus Hack: Once you create the Glossary and save your file, you can safely format all text as any other Style. You only need the Glossary style until you generate the Glossary.





Where do you start writing?

Today, I’m going to actually talk about writing words. Where do you start? I highly recommend outlining, however you define outlining. It can be formal or not. I personally like to outline with an Excel spreadsheet because it is so easy to rearrange items. One author claims he actually writes IN Excel. True story.

Word has a great built-in outliner.

Pick one.

The purpose of an outline is to keep your story on track. If you can’t think your way through an outline, it may be difficult to think your way through a story, let alone a book.

I like to feel like I have at least the beginning and end outlined. Then I go back and write the first paragraph after I have written everything else. Sometimes, I realize I started out with an assumption that changed a bit as the story took place.

But, we need a place to put those words. The ultimate question for self-publishers is whether to start with a well-formatted document or something very plain text. I’ve done both.

With non-fiction, I tend to be less likely to rearrange major portions or chapters. So, with non-fiction, I begin with a template and format as I go. I start by naming each of the chapters. That helps keep me on track.

I do believe it is important to envision what your book is going to look like. Do you want to publish an eBook, or a printed book? What size book are you planning? Do you need a dust jacket? A spiral binding? There are lots of options out there.

It’s just a lot easier if you start with formatting, in my opinion. I use an outline to create chapters and then I go from there.

It really helps to begin with formatting if you anticipate including a glossary. Even fiction can need a glossary to define those out-of-this-world Sci-Fi worlds and so on.

To create a glossary, you have to select the word and manually add it to the glossary. That may be easier to do, as you are writing.

Next time? How to create a glossary.

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