Shifting Gears … Again

I’ve spent most of the last three years working with a nice bunch of folks at Trapdoor Technologies. Our mission was creating an iOS iPad app for role-playing games, specifically, the Pathfinder RPG. The app was released last year and we had also released rulebooks and adventures from a few small publishers. By Spring we were officially licensed with Paizo the publisher of the Pathfinder ruleset and the main publisher of hundreds of adventures for that game. At GenCon in August we released our first officially branded Pathfinder adventures, and me and my team of content designers were chugging along producing one or more adventures each week plus additional rule books. Throughout, the development team continued to refine the app and add new features. It was just getting going—subscriptions and sales were just starting to pick up!

The next step was to launch a kickstarter to help us fund our transition to Android. I believe getting this supercool app on Android would have opened up a big market to us. But, October happened. Our user-base growth and sales just weren’t happening fast enough. Our investors, God love em, just couldn’t keep up the outlay. I don’t blame them them at all. It was a large sum they had invested, and good returns on the investment was still months if not more than another year away.

So the hard decision was made to cease operations. That doesn’t take anything away from the tremendous work our tiny group did, what they all accomplished was pretty awesome. The app itself is still operational. It still works for those who are currently subscribed and using it. You can’t buy it on iTunes at this point, though, since support and development has stopped.

It’s sad that the project isn’t continuing, and also that this group of people, who I’ve grown to like immensely, aren’t working together anymore.

For me, I never really stopped doing a bit of book design and production on the side, sometimes to the point of burnout! Sixty-hour weeks I will not miss! So, I will continue to do book design for my clients. I’ll also be updating and revamping my site here as soon as I possibly can!


Yes. It has. What a year.

For me, a time of transition, sadness, hope, dashed hopes, new hope, and perseverance. Just prior to the beginning of 2014, Stephens Press shut its doors permanently. I finished out 2013 and the first few months of 2014 as a  freelance book shepherd—helping authors bring their book-babies to the reading public. An endeavor I still love, and haven’t completely left behind. In September, I lost my dearest friend, business partner, and sister after a long, long, hard fought battle with leukemia. (She taught me everything including what bravery really is.)

Not quite a year ago I was approached by Chris Matney of Trapdoor Technologies to help bring a new product to market. A world away from producing trade books, but not really. Codename: Morningstar is an app for tabletop role playing games (RPG). Games that at their heart rely on story, and storytelling.

So, from designing and helping to publish trade books of all descriptions and subject matter to adventure stories specifically designed to take players on a quest in a game setting. Not such a stretch as I’d imagined. Long story short: I spent a year designing and converting content from the best known (and literal granddaddy) of all RPG games, Dungeons & Dragons. Trapdoor Technologies had signed a contract with Wizards of the Coast creators of D&D and a wholly owned subsidiary of Hasbro, Inc. to produce the “official companion app” to the tabletop game.CodenameMorningstar

Our mobile application would revolutionize the table top gaming world. And, it is very very cool (or whatever the kids say today). An entire team of dedicated programmers, project managers, designers, and social media mavens, and not to leave out our angel-like investors, went to work to make this dream become a reality.

Our app was ready to bring to the gaming world. But then, at literally the last minute, Wizards pulled out. They and we found we had a fundamentally different approach and philosophy with regards to digital publishing. (To this day Wizards embraces print publishing and has not dipped their toes into the mobile e-book pool.) It seems (in this writer’s opinion) that they are struggling existentially with the same paradigm shift that trade publishers had battered at, and finally breached about five years ago.

Where did that leave us? With a fantastic product, but no blessing to use the D&D content that I had slaved over to convert it for use in the app. All, at our investor’s expense—Wizards and Hasbro donated not one gold piece to this effort. If I sound bitter, its because I am. A little bit. Mostly I am disappointed and mad that all that work went for naught. But not the work on the app itself—for which I claim no credit, at all.

But, all is not lost. We really, really want to see this product get made and released. So we’ve taken to the internets to ask for crowdfunding. Yes, it was nearly ready, but now we have to remove the Wizards content and ruleset (which is thousands of pages) and replace it with an open gaming ruleset and all new adventure content. Because of the app’s extreme integration with the rules and content—this will take time—and none of us work for free. We like living indoors and eating.

Thus, we need additional funding. And, I am asking you all to think about pledging—even if you aren’t gamers. If you are gamers then check out the list of rewards. When we fund you will receive (in the Spring) an awesome tool for your gaming experience and possibly some excellent swag, too. If you can’t pledge please share with your tribe of friends and family our Codename: Morningstar Kickstarter campaign. We don’t have much more time to pull this off.

Here’s a quick 90 second overview of our app in use around the gaming table. Please share!

Also, please support this Thunderclap campaign to help us reach a larger audience. If we get 100 supporters before Monday Dec. 22nd we will reach exponentially thousands more people. It costs you NOTHING but a few seconds and a few clicks.

As for me and Trapdoor Technologies, we’ll persevere. It’s what we do. Trapdoor has other irons in the fire. Our core technology will take us in other directions in the new world of digital, mobile publishing. What that looks like in terms of my job remains to be seen. I will not turn my back on indie/small publishers, or writers/authors in the mainstream either. I can’t, it’s in my blood, and I love it too much.

So, it goes. Another year brings hopes, dreams, joy and sadness, and … we keep on keeping on.

I post this with high hopes for the new year, for me and mine, and you and yours.



It’s taken me a long, long time to finally post an update. Sorry about that. Though, since no one follows an inactive blog it may not really matter. It’s my indecision and reluctance that has kept me from following up on what I’ve been doing since the end of Stephens Press.

I love book design. I really, really do. If I could make my living doing just that, I would. Times have changed though and with change comes new opportunities. Just such came along for me, the proverbial offer I couldn’t refuse. (and just in time!)

I have made the leap from working as a paper book and ebook designer to working at a start-up mobile app developer. Tech muscles I didn’t know I had are getting stretched now. You can see more of what I am doing here: DungeonScape

I am the Lead Content Architect for Trapdoor Technologies—a bunch of super-smart, super-nice geeks who are making the the “Official Companion to the Dungeons & Dragons Tabletop RPG”. I know, me? Right. I am learning all sorts of nerdy stuff I never knew before.

Much of my past experience as a book designer, and ebook producer is coming into play in this new venture—and I am learning so much MORE about enhanced ebooks, apps and stuff-like, which will no doubt have very useful applications in many kinds of new-fangled digital publishing ventures in the future as well. Believe me, I am grateful and paying attention! Though the “learn by doing” method I am undergoing is painful at times—it is worth it—always.

But what this means right now is that I had to make a choice. There are only so many hours in a 60-hour work week, and I just have had to face the fact that I cannot do more than I am doing right now. So, that means I have to say that for the foreseeable future I cannot take on any new freelance projects. (Much as I would like to—and my designer fingers do get itchy—but I just can’t.)

I have a few projects that are left started and hanging, and I will finish them. But no more new projects, for now.  How long “now” will last I do not know. I never like to say never.

DungeonScape and subsequent projects for TrapdoorTechnologies could keep me busier than any sane person for the rest of my career. I sincerely hope the company is a big success! This first project in the Dungeons & Dragons universe is big, and promising, and could last a long, long time, leading to new opportunities for the company. At this very moment anything is possible.

So … I will continue to never say never. I may want to come back to freelance book design. So this blog will stay where it is. Heck I may even post from time to time. Or, gasp, maybe I’ll even update my portfolio. (Ha, nah.) Though I am more active these days on Facebook and you can catch me there.

Meanwhile I wish all of my author friends the best, keep on writing and publishing!



Well, it’s off to press. My last official book for Stephens Press. It’s titled: Nevada: 150 Years in the Silver State. This baby has been in the oven for about a year. It’s good and done. My midwifery career is culminating in the birth of an important and, dare I say, damn good book.

I can’t take credit for that. Not its damn goodness. I helped make the baby pretty, and eased it’s path into the world. That’s what I’ve done this past decade or so—help the dreams of authors become the actual books they hoped to see born. (That’s how I see it anyway.)

My job as a book designer has been to be the creative conduit for the visual embodiment of the authors’ visions. I don’t see in my work my vision so much as theirs—I’ve succeeded if I can get out of the way and bring their vision forward in a way that enhances their voice—and yet addresses the needs of the market. (And, hopefully, looks really good besides.)

Stephens Press had a nice long run and we, Publisher, Carolyn Hayes Uber, the editors, other support team members, authors, and myself included; we produced many, many books of which we can all be justly proud. This one, perhaps fittingly, may just be the most important one.

Have to shout out kudos to editor Geoff Schumacher for his tireless efforts on this project. In addition to the managing editor job (on top of his other job as publisher of the Ames Tribune in Iowa) he wrote an article and the eloquent introduction to the book, and he herded cats (er,  more than 70 writers and  numbers of photographers). No small task! Rick Sherman, in Las Vegas, wrangled sponsors, without which this project wouldn’t have seen the light of day. And of course Mike Ferguson, former CEO of Stephens Media, who believed in us long enough to see this project become a reality. And again, Carolyn Hayes Uber who successfully pitched this book to the Nevada Sesquicentennial Commission and got the ball rolling in the first place. I handled design, production, print management, and all things birth related.

This year, 2014, the state of Nevada celebrates its Sesquicentennial—150 years! We were honored to have been chosen to represent the state with the official book for that milestone. And now my work is nearly done. The final files are uploading to the printer, literally RIGHT now.

In the springtime this large volume will hit bookstores in Nevada and online everywhere else. But here’s sneak peak at the cover, and a spread or two. Nevada 150 Years in the Silver State is 12″x9″ and 296 pages! (Told you, it’s big!)  It’s chock full of great stories about Nevada past present and possibly future, and tons of photos. It will retail for $29.95. Actually it’s already available for pre-order on Amazon now.

Nevada 150 Years in the Silver State






Read more about it:

This is the story of Nevada, told on its 150th birthday.

More than seventy Nevada writers have contributed their words to capture the state’s rich history, diverse culture, and amazing places. Their words are complemented by hundreds of photographs depicting Nevada’s gritty past, desert vistas, and urban splendor.

Nevada’s rugged landscape is a prominent character in this story, but the people, from regular folks to the world’s most famous figures, give this book its narrative force. The persistent prospectors who discovered the state’s hidden stores of precious metals … the mobsters who built the casino business … the entertainers who lit up the stages … the politicians and business leaders who led the way … the homegrown artists and athletes who have made the state proud. They are all here.

Nevada: 150 Years in the Silver State delves into the state’s nineteenth century origins and its twentieth century triumphs. But today’s Nevada, in all its ragged glory, is well represented as well, particularly through a dozen beautifully written personal essays.

This book is an informative and entertaining companion to the array of commemorative activities taking place across the state. But it will endure well beyond 2014 as a testament to Nevada’s kaleidoscopic grandeur.

As a final project for a publishing house, we could do worse. And it’s a nice parting gift. As for me, I have some new tricks up my sleeve. I’m moving on to a new and exciting career, building on the things I’ve learned from this one. Not leaving book design entirely, and I’ll never stop loving books. But things are evolving for me. I’ll write more about that later.

Meanwhile, happy 2014 to you all!


Sometimes people do strange things with their Word files. One of the strangest is treating it like it’s a typewriter. Remember the days when you had to hit a return to get the carriage to fly back to the right and ring the bell so your keys could keep typing on the next line? You don’t? Well some people do and apparently it’s a hard habit to break.

I’m working on a current book project in which the author has typed a return after every line, between every line, and some additional ones too. Then there were spaces used to center text, tabs for some graphs, but not all, and other inconsistencies. He did apply a Word style to the text, but he only used one style throughout the doc. So, when he went back in and edited his text that style sometimes lost its indent, though kept the same style applied. I am not sure why Word does this, but it does.

I couldn’t tell where he meant the real ¶ to end a graph  because the ¶ returns were everywhere. In desperation I started whining on Facebook, and thank you to you InDesigners for trying to help! There didn’t seem to be anything I could do in Word to fix this without going line by line and reading to figure out what was a real paragraph ending, and what should have been a space. But maybe GREP could help. GREP means: General Regular Expression Parser. Yeah, I don’t know what that means either. It’s like search and replace on steroids. (Word can’t do GREP or at least I don’t know how.)

I know very little about it—I can do some simple things with it because mainly they have some common search strings built in to InDesign. Designer, Angela Bowman, had a good idea to try inserting tabs where some of the returns had been placed. Then using the tabs to find and replace later. But how to isolate the right places?

So I imported the raw chapter doc into InDesign. First, I searched for every instance of +Italic and applied my Character Style Italics because if I hadn’t done that the locally applied style from Word would have been wiped out. Word to the wise  Word user: Please USE ¶ styles and Character (a)styles consistently and not just select the word and make it bold or italics. This is vital if you expect the file to later become an ebook. (or even a print book)

The rest of this is the result of a full day of experimentation, because as I said, I don’t know GREP.

Then I did a GREP search for an applied format (not a style because that wasn’t consistent). I searched for: +first indent 0.5″. Because every new graph seemed to have that in common. Others seemed to have a return but not followed by an indented line. Lo and behold, it found every indented line. But I couldn’t get the thing to just insert a tab—it wanted to wipe out the text after the tab. No, not good. Instead, after much searching and crying I found something that may help. Here it is if you’re an InDesign user this may be useful. (I named my query “Find Indent Insert Tab”) and saved it in the custom queries.

Screen Shot 2013-12-17 at 6.01.07 PM

The screen shot is a little small, so these are the settings: In the GREP tab!

Find what: ^(.)  Means ^=beginning of paragraph, (.) any character*

Change to: \t$1 Means insert a tab in front of Found text*


Find format: +First line indent of o.5″

Change format: Apply style Body Text  (In this case I just to decided to apply my already created Body Text ¶ Style to everything and then go back a restyle what I needed to.

That’s the FIRST step. The point was to remove all the ¶returns that were unneeded. I don’t really WANT tabs.

In the Text tab of the Find/Change dialogue box I searched for all the ¶returns and replaced them with a space. (So now there’s one big block of text and NO returns.)

Then I searched for all the Tabs I inserted and replaced them with a return. So that left me with all the text styled the same, but at least I have real returns—or what I think are real returns. I still had to go through and add back in some returns that got eliminated that shouldn’t have, and remove the extra spaces, apply all the OTHER text styles, etc. But it went a long way toward changing a completely unusable document into something a little less painful.

I’ll keep trying to find some refinements that may take some more of the line by line work out, but that’s for another day (tomorrow). Like maybe I should have added another return (^p^p to ^p^p^p and then removed just the ^p^p?)  I don’t know that may not work—but still some experimenting left to do.

Only 140,000 words to go!

*Credit to Michael Murphy (trainer on for this code. He was using it to do something else, but if I hadn’t seen that, I’d never have figured this out.

Next week I learn CSS! (ha.)