Story Research: Tree Rings and Daughter Universes

Every day, we decide on a course of action. Get out of bed. Take a shower. Go to work. Or maybe not.

Some decisions we may even wonder if we made the right choice. Especially when those decisions change our life or the life of someone we love.

But have you ever wondered if there is a version of yourself in a parallel world who made a different choice?

This is the essence of Hugh Everett’s Daughter Universes Theory. He proposed that every situation with multiple outcomes creates a copy of the universe where the other outcomes play out. Imagine spacetime as a tree branching into an alternate dimensions.

My story worlds are based on Hugh Everett’s theory, and I wondered, imagining spacetime as an endless tree, could remnants of the past surround us like the rings on a tree?

I’ve been exploring this question while writing the second book in my middle grade series, Snow Globe Travelers: Salvaged Time. It has led me to create a few tech devices for the story. (If you’re interested, I’ve pinned a handful of articles from my research on the Salvaged Time Pinterest board.)

What do you think—do remnants of the past surround us like the rings on a tree? If we created a device to view these remnants of time, what would they tell us?

Keagan’s Review of “Still Small Voice” by Allen Brokken

This is a book review written by my son. It has been published with his permission.

Still Small Voice is a middle-grade Christian fantasy novel by Allen Brokken. The story includes many unique elements, such as sacred animals with special gifts and physical forms of good and evil.

Lauren, Aiden, and Ethan are tasked with lighting the Towers of Light and freeing their parents from the Darkness. They try to convince their uncle to take them to Blooming Glen so they can light the Tower of Light. However, their uncle wants to take them to their grandmother’s house and unknowingly leads them off their path. Their enemies prepare traps for them along the way and almost succeed in capturing them.

I enjoyed Still Small Voice. The story is told from multiple points of view, which gave me a better picture of what was going on. There was always something interesting happening. The story did end on a bit of a cliffhangercliff hanger, but that made me want to read more.

I recommend Still Small Voice to anyone who enjoys reading fantasy adventure novels with faith-based messages.

Still Small Voice is available on Amazon.

About Still Small Voice

As defenders of the light, Lauren, Aiden and Ethan take up the Armor of God and embark on a journey to stop the dark forces invading their land.

Because of their faith, twelve-year-old Lauren and her younger brothers, Aiden and Ethan, prevailed in the battle for the Tower of Light. But their victory did not stop the Dark One. Darkness continues to spread across Zoura’s frontier.

Now, in a vision, Mother tells them to light a second tower in Blooming Glen. Before they can set out on their journey with the Knight Protector, their Uncle arrives with a different set of instructions. He doesn’t trust the Knight Protector or the Mighty Mercenaries and believes the children should go to grandma’s house instead.

Unyielding in his belief, Uncle unknowingly leads the children off their path. And a misguided acolyte follows them. Lurking in the shadows, he strikes at every opportunity as the dark forces prepare to descend.

Lauren, Aiden, and Ethan are Zoura’s last defense. Can they convince their Uncle of the truth—that he must listen to the still small voice—and make it to Blooming Glen before the Dark One’s forces overtake them?

Fans of Little House on the Prairie will feel at home in the series’ classic frontier setting, and the sincerity of the children’s love for one another and desire to do the right thing will bring a smile to readers and listeners of all ages.

About Allen Brokken

Allen Brokken is a teacher at heart, a husband and father most of all. He’s a joyful writer by the abundant grace of God. Follow his endeavors @towersoflight, @twodadsandajoke, and Your children can grow their own faith and love of God by following the adventures of Lauren, Aiden, and Ethan (plus their pets!) at

Thanks to Greg Pattridge for hosting MMGM! Be sure to check out the other Marvelous Middle Grade Monday posts!

10 Common Formatting Mistakes

Professional book interiors require more than software.

Typesetting is the arrangement of text and images for publication, commonly known as formatting. It’s an art form that requires knowledge and experience.

Software applications like Word, Vellum, and Amazon’s Kindle Create do offer indie publishers DIY alternatives, but even the best ones don’t prevent mistakes. If you want to craft a professional interior, you need to know more about the art of typesetting.

Enhance Reader Experience

Have you ever noticed the interior design of a book? What drew your attention to it?

A lot goes into publishing a book: editing, copywriting, cover design, formatting, printing, distribution, and more. It adds up quickly, costing both time and money.

As a novice indie author, DIY formatting seemed like a simple way to save money. During my career in the tech industry, I’d produced nearly two dozen technical documents. I knew how to use Word and Adobe and how to format documents according to specifications. It didn’t seem like formatting a book for publication would be so different.

But the depth of knowledge and details that go into formatting a book goes beyond formatting technical documentation. As a result, I made several mistakes that couldn’t be ignored and I had to reformat the books. It cost me both time and money (in the form of change fees and extra proof copies).

My typesetting skills have come a long way since then. Dedicated study and experience has taught me much (and continues to do so). I’ve learned that the purpose of interior formatting isn’t just to produce a readable format, but to create a design that adds ambiance to the story—enhancing the reader’s experience. And that quality craftsmanship requires more than the right tools.

Crafting a professional book interior requires more than software.

Format like a Professional

Adding ambiance to a story through interior formatting is a challenge for even skilled typesetters. However, following good design principles and avoiding common mistakes is a good place to start. To help, I’ve complied a list of ten common formatting mistakes and included a printable formatting checklist below.

#1 Widowed & Orphaned Lines

When the last line of a paragraph is the first line on a page, it’s called a widowed line. When the first line of a paragraph is the last line on a page, it’s called an orphaned line. Widowed and orphaned lines can disrupt the flow and pacing of a story. They’re also easy to overlook, and even software programs like Vellum don’t prevent them from happening.

#2 Indenting First Paragraphs

Industry standard manuscript formatting requires indenting the first line of every paragraph. However, purpose dictates conventions, and with the interior formatting of books, design and reader experience prevail over function. Thus, the first line of the first paragraph in each chapter should not be indented.

#3 Left-Aligned

Book text should be formatted as justified, not left-aligned. Justified appears similar to left-aligned, except that justified also aligns the line endings on the right to create a more visually symmetrical and balanced page design.

#4 Mismatched Trim Size

Trim size is the physical dimensions of the book. It’s an important consideration for cover design, but it also affects the interior design for printed copies. The interior file for a print book needs to match the exterior trim size. Otherwise, the margins in the printed copies will be off. It may not be noticeable with some designs, but with other designs it could be problematic.

#5 Full Page Images

Full page images can be tricky to incorporate because of margin and print bleed requirements. The interior margins and print bleeds must be formatted correctly and consistently throughout the file. If they aren’t, then full page images may not cover the entire page or text margins may be too narrow.

#6 Image Optimization for Digital Formats

While higher resolution files are best for producing crisp images in print, the file size of higher resolution files are detrimental to ebooks. Larger files increase the cost of ebook delivery and the amount of memory needed to download and store an ebook. If an ebook’s file size is too large, readers may have trouble downloading it or choose to pass on it altogether.

Image optimization is about finding the right balance between all of an image’s properties to create a smaller file for ebooks without sacrificing quality.

#7 Front Matter & #8 Back Matter

Front and back matter are the collection of pages that appear before and after the story. Some of these pages are optional, but some are not. All books should have at least have a title page, a copyright page, and an author biography page, and, when possible, include the pages that connect readers to more books by the author.

Also, book design begins with the exterior cover and should flow consistently throughout the entire book—including front and back matter.

#9 Chapter Headings

Chapter headings should be consistent throughout the book and appear one third to halfway down the page. Centered chapter headings are more common, but left or right aligned chapter headings are also acceptable.

#10 Font

Font is a subtle way of adding ambiance to a story—much like lighting a candle to set the mood. Some styles are better suited to certain genres, but keep the font choice simple for readability.

As an example, look at the differences in the fonts below. All are the same size, but each one adds a different ambiance to the sentence. Some are more formal than others. Which do you like best and why?

All in the Details

The interior design of a book is where marketing and storytelling meet. It should invite readers in and elevate the reading experience. The key to achieving this result lies in using the right tools and understanding the art of typesetting.

Have you encountered any book designs that elevated your reading experience?

Looking for a professional?

In addition to being a writer and artist, I’m also a certified copyeditor who offers formatting and proofreading services. Learn more >>

Preparing for Anything

Are you a planner?

Occasionally, I lose myself to planning and organizing. It isn’t something I’d include on a list of of things I like to do. But there’s a certain level of comfort and contentment that comes because of it. Its quiet joy instills the feeling of knowing what’s expected and excitement for what’s coming.

However, life has a way of throwing unexpected curveballs (even before 2020) which makes it challenging to find a balance between structure and flexibility when planning.

I’ve used the Momentum Planner system for the last three years. It’s a great tool for staying focused and keeping on track. This year, I created additional writer-business specific pages to go along with it and I wanted to share them, in case they might be of use to others.

(If you’re looking for a planner, check Kara J Lovett’s post Best Types of Planners and Organizers for Productivity, Home, & Work: 2021.)

Book Suggestions for your Goodreads Challenge Goal

On the topic of goals, if you’re looking for books to fulfill your Goodreads Challenge goal this year, check out the ones listed below. All ten of the books below were featured in the top posts on this blog from 2020. Click on the links to view the original posts. (The last two link to the same post.)

  1. Lost on the Titanic by Jessica Rinker
  2. Burn by J.M. Hackman
  3. Still Small Voice by Allen Brokken
  4. The Curse of the Blacknoc Witch by Tori V. Rainn
  5. The Edge of Everywhen by A.S. Mackey
  6. Maylie and the Maze by M.L. Tarpley
  7. Heart of the Curiosity by H.L. Burke
  8. Light of Mine by Allen Brokken
  9. Sir Cumference and the Dragon of Pi by Cindy Neuschwander
  10. Not A Wake by Mike Keith

A Prayer for All

Will you join me in prayer today?

I am a follower of Christ first. I strive to follow His lead: to honor God’s commands, to love even those who hate me, and to share the gospel—the story of Christ and His sacrifice in order that all might be saved.

But I am also still human. And the one thing that comes to mind in the midst of everything this year is spiritual warfare: the battle of evil forces to gain influence over human beings.

Today, as an important election is carried out in our country, during a year like no other, it’s easy to focus on that. It’s all over the news here. But there’s so much more going on in the world than today’s election. This year has impacted everyone around the globe.

So instead of just praying for the election and the US—will you will join me in praying for everyone in all countries?

Prayer is powerful.