Thursday, July 28, 2011

Why Comb Bound Reader Copies?

Today was the day for printing and binding...no, it's after midnight.  Yesterday was the day.  It's a long slow process to produce this very limited run of a pre-pub novel so that a handful of helpful people can read it and scribble all their notes all over it.  The printer glitched a number of times.  I ran out of toner for the laser printer.  Working the comb binder kills my back, so I have to build these over several hours with break time in between.

And it's certainly crossed my mind that I could print the novel to a PDF, upload it to Lulu, slap a default cover on it and have them printed and shipped to me for not too much more than I'm spending doing it all manually.

But I won't change any time soon.  I think I like this compromise.  I've tried a number of different ways, with a dozen or so different novels.

A decade or so ago, I talked Mac, a co-worker at Motorola, to read several of my novels.  Back then, I gave him the regular manuscript, a ream of double-spaced courier printed paper loose in a box.  After all, that's what the publishers wanted.

But after getting his feedback, I realized I'm not getting this first-reader advice from editors in some publishing house in Manhattan.  I'm getting feedback from real people who read books.  And the books they read are single-spaced, with a good font in narrower columns.  And they don't have to work though hundreds of loose sheets of paper either.  So my first variation was based on magazine formatting.  I was using Microsoft Word at the time, so it wasn't terribly difficult to write a macro to change the font and spacing, and throw it into a two-column format.  That's what I used for several books.

Then by the time I began formatting books for real, I had acquired Adobe InDesign and could handily create the proper formatting for the 6 x 9 inch pages I'd be using.  So, it was easy to create the PDF that Lulu wanted, and I used that to create Advance Reader Copy books back when I was trying to get pre-publication reviews.

So why am I still printing a 6 x 9 page to 8.5 x 11 sheets and comb binding them?  I think it's to encourage my first-readers to mark up the pages.  Many people have a real problem marking in books.  I'm not sending these to professional copyeditors or proofreaders who do this all the time.  I'm trying to get the feedback of readers, and everyone is used to marking on 8.5 x 11 inch pages in various types of binders, especially if they have big fat margins.  Giving them a trade paperback is a different animal and I just have to believe they would be more reluctant to mark it up.

So, I'm stuck with a process that chews up the toner cartridges and leaves me with a back ache, but if I catch those typos and horrible sentences before publication date, it's all worth it.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

My Lion Report

So, I'm in my second day of OSX 10.7 and it's getting better.  I expected to like 10.7 AKA Lion.  I'm always an early adopter of these things.  I took the precaution of making a separate 10.6 partition so that I could still use some of the obsoleted software, but I haven't had to use it yet.  I also installed the free Scroll Reverser tool that let me get used to the new standard scroll direction on my trackpad.  That took a little over a day before I forgot about it.  One scroll direction is as good as another and if it's the same direction my iPad uses, then all the better.

At first, I started using full screen mode for apps whole-heartedly, but I've had to back off on the Safari version.  Whole screen mode there hides my bookmark bar unless you go bump the cursor up against the top of the screen to make it unhide itself, and that just makes every trip to the bookmarks about three times harder.  Instead I moved Safari to it's own screen manually and just sized it as large as it would go.  I get most of the benefits of full-screen without the side-effects.

There's definitely a learning curve with Mission Control, which took over the grid of Spaces that I used to use, but it's getting comfortable.  I did have about six hours or so of feeling like Lion was a mistake, but that's going away.  Just a GUI learning curve thing and I've been through that too many times to count.

Thus far, I would recommend users to switch to Lion, but expect to bull through the period of strangeness, knowing it'll get better very soon.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

No Fish Left Behind

We've been in drought conditions for quite a while now.  For the third time in the decades I've lived here, the pond on the eastern side of the property is going dry.  It's barely a puddle down in the bottom.  And I have no fear that any of the fish I stocked the pond with back a year and a half ago will go to waste.  Most of the ponds in this area are dry or nearly so, so any open water attracts egrets and herons.  There's even a little group of ducks from I don't know where (on the left side of the picture) that are living here now.  From a bird-watching perspective, it's fascinating.  From a fisherman's view, it's heartbreaking.  Personally, I have my fingers crossed for hurricane storms to come and dump a few feet of water my way.

My tweets from Feb 9, 2010:

Getting ready to stock fish in the pond. 100 catfish 100 perch 10 larger bass http://twitpic.com/129kn7
Letting the minnow sized fish get used to the pond temperature before turning them loose.  http://twitpic.com/129l0k
These bass are acting too tame. I would have preferred little ones but it's all the truck had.  http://twitpic.com/129n3f
The perch adapted the quickest, schooling up and heading off together.



Monday, July 11, 2011

Emperor Dad Ebooks are Now On Sale

This is an experiment for me.  Way back before I had any idea what price to set my ebooks at, I chose $4.99 as a reasonable value.  Royalties from that price had returned about the same per sale as a paper copy sold off Amazon.

But things have changed since then, and I haven't kept up with the shifting marketplace.  One reason was my reluctance to tinker with the 'product' once it was already on the shelf, so to speak.  But the combination of having Emperor Dad serialized on my Henry's Stories e-magazine for free and stories I've heard of vastly increased volume when books are dropped in price, I'm trying this experiment.

Starting today, as soon as the various marketplaces update their databases, Emperor Dad will be available for 99-cents.  Depending on the results, I might adjust the prices on the other novels as well.  Perhaps a sliding scale based on age perhaps?  I don't know.  This is an experiment.

So if you have a Kindle or a Nook or what-not.  Check your favorite ebookstore and see if you can pick up a copy for next to nothing.  

InDesign CS5.5, ePubs and Blockquotes

Juggling ebooks never ends, does it.  I have been working to leverage the enhancements to InDesign in its CS5.5 incarnation, hoping to streamline my ebook production.  Ideally, I'd create one copy of the book, formatted for trade paperback, and then with the use of the Articles panel, remove and re-order to eliminate some excess not used for the ebook versions and use anchored images to keep them showing up in the e-text in the proper places.  I am also using the ability to edit for export the tags associated with paragraph styles.

So I was rudely interrupted from my pleasant dream when epubcheck complained loudly that all my blockquoted text was illegal.

It seems this is illegal:

<blockquote>
this is text
</blockquote>

Which used to be just fine.
Now it's supposed to be:

<blockquote>
<p>
this is text
</p>
</blockquote>

Now I have to decide whether to edit the code manually, or learn how to make InDesign generate the proper code.

UPDATE:  It seems the easy solution is to ignore the tag exporting for blockquote.  Instead of selecting 'blockquote' for a section of indented text, leave it at [Automatic].  This will export a <p&gl; tag with a special class and generate CSS that will indent the section.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Repairing Cracks in the Pool

It was a true dilemma.  The exceptional drought in this part of Texas had pushed my pool a little too far.  The cycles of wet and dry over the years had caused the ground to settle such that the pool's plaster skin had cracked.

Now, the cracks had been there for a few years, but there had been no noticeable water loss before.  This year, with water rationing ratcheting up, I was having to add water to the pool frequently just to keep it at a level for the water pump to function.  No water circulation and the pool would go to pea soup green in no time flat.  I've had it happen before.

So we called the pool leak specialists.  Austech Pools advertising sounded good, so although it seemed expensive (don't mind me, everything seems expensive), we called them in.
Arriving with hydrophones and all kinds of cool gear, they quickly determined that no, it wasn't a pipe leak.  Those cracks had just gotten wider and were the main cause of my water loss.  I winced a little when they gave me a repair quote, but I'd either pay it in water bills, or run up against rationing limits or something else, so I had them come back.

Well, yesterday, they drained the pool.  Today was the day for the repair.  Superficially, it looked simple.  He took a routing tool and dug into the cracks to make them wider.  Then he filled them in with an epoxy substance and smoothed it over.

We chatted the whole time about science fiction, philosophy and the like, so it was and interesting morning.  In the end, the cracks were patched and now I wait for several days for the sealant to properly cure before refilling the pool.  The birds, the honeybees, the squirrels and I will all appreciate it when the water is back.

Saturday, July 02, 2011

How long did it take to write your novel?

How long did it take to write your novel?  I've gotten this question a number of times, and it throws me a little, because of the way I write.

Right now, today, I have several writing/publishing tasks to do:



  • Star Time, my latest novel, is just now coming to market, so I have to update my Henry Melton website, update the Wire Rim Books website, write emails to potential reviewers, notify the local book stores, and generally make some noise so that people will know that the new novel is out.

  • Star Time needs to be converted into e-book formats and placed with all the Kindle store/ Barns and Noble/ Kobo, Apple iBookstore, and Google Editions.

  • I need to file copyright for the latest works, update my travel plans for conventions, etc.

  • The next scheduled novel, The Copper Room, a YA Science fiction time-travel-ish story is written in first draft, but I need to start collecting First Readers to send hand-printed copies to so that they can mark it up and tell me where I've messed up.


  • The direct sequel to Star Time, titled The Kingdom of the Hill Country, is outlined, but only 10,000 words or so into the first draft.  I'm spending half my work day right now working on that story.

  • My personal magazine, Henry's Stories, has to be updated.  I'm sort of committed to putting out 2,000 words every MWF, on there.  That means polishing up some unpublished stories, reformatting previously published ones, or writing new ones.  While I can mine the old stuff, I really need a constant influx of new stuff as well, so that means I have to fit short fiction writing in with the novels.

  • So, considering that a typical day might have some or all of these elements running, it's hard to put a clear label of how long it takes to write a novel.  The short answer is that in the past, I've written two novels a year.  But that was before a lot of this publishing, marketing stuff got in the way.

    Oh, yes, and I have to have a life fitted in there somewhere.