Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Feels like Christmas Eve

Anyone who knows me, or has read many of these blog posts know that small children frequently recognize me as Santa Claus. Well, there are more gift giving days than Christmas Eve, especially for an author searching for a little recognition.

This week, I'm shipping out large quantities of my latest novel, Golden Girl, to various people for free. Some of the people receiving my gifts are people I want to reward for helping me make it a better book. Some are bloggers and people who write reviews for magazines, but there are a number of people who I know only by their addresses and the fact that they are judges for contests like the Newbery.

Just ten minutes ago, I was in the groove, stuffing the cover letter and making sure that the inside address was the same one that went on the outside of the bubble pack envelope. They're all librarians, more or less. It really feels like the night before Christmas, knowing I'm sending out a book that's going to bring a smile, somewhere. Yes, I know that there's a chance that the books will get lost in the shuffle along with hundreds, maybe thousands of other books. Still, I have a feeling that the adventures of Debra Barr and her hops through time in her nightgown will please the librarian/judge, or the assistant who is intrigued by the cover, or by the end user reader thumbing through the shelves a year from now.

It feels wonderful, sending out books to Wyoming, or Chicago, or even Austin, knowing there's a smile a-coming.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Golden Girl Kindle Conversion

I seem to be running behind on my whole to-do list. Golden Girl is out in trade paperback but I only got around to converting the time travel novel to Kindle format today. I took this opportunity to make notes of my conversion process which will form the bulk of this post.

I have laid out the book using Adobe InDesign as my layout program, and since I bought the CS4 Suite package, I also have Dreamweaver as a web page editor. This makes a relatively streamlined workflow, but not everything is as smooth as it could be.

Luckily, I have been following the process of doing all my markup as styles. This simplifies the process downstream. So here is what I did today:
  • Duplicate final version of Indesign master into the Kindle Work directory
  • Export to Dreamweaver (HTML) with options:
    • Export Document
    • Bullets and numbers to lists
    • Copy images optimized
    • JPEG Medium Baseline
    • Empty CSS Declarations
  • Open HTML file in a new non-server site under Dreamweaver
  • Begin HTML cleanup
    • Using Dreamweaver site window, move all images from folder created by InDesign to the same level as the HTML file, allowing Dreamweaver to fix all the image links as it moves them. Delete empty image folder.
    • Format only by adding content to the CSS declarations at the first of the file
    • Trim down all excess in the title page/copyright page/etc, so to get to the text as soon as possible. Reduce font size on boilerplate stuff. Do without front flyleaf page etc.
    • Change ISBN number if you're using separate number for ebooks.
    • If an image doesn't work in the smaller ebook reduced resolution, delete it or fix it. Delete surrounding image tags as well. I removed the two maps that were in the paper edition because they were useless at the screen resolutions.
    • The original Table of Contents doesn't survive the export to HTML, so you have to rebuild it manually by putting an anchor id at each chapter title and building a list of links at the TOC position in the file.
      • find each chapter title
      • insert named anchor before the text
      • name them Chapter01, Chapter02, etc.
      • at TOC location, build list of links with #Chapter01 etc as link and Chapter name as text.
    • Step through PDF of printed version and find any specialized layout. Check the corresponding CSS block and try to make an acceptable ebook alternative. I had some Courier text and some special bold items, in addition to blockquoted sections.
    • Note: the InDesign to Dreamweaver conversion will occasionally lose some markup and mis-place photos. Recheck it all manually.
    • Immediately after the body tag, insert cover image art sized to the Kindle screen.
    • Check-Links-Sitewide and remove images that you've de-linked in your HTML cleanup so you don't accidentally upload them.
    • Insert a mbp:pagebreak tag in the document wherever a pagebreak is needed.
  • Make a ZIP archive of the Kindle folder containing the HTML and image files all at the same level.
  • Go to dtp.amazon.com and fill in the forms, upload the zip file and a larger cover image file for the product page on the web.
  • Once converted, check it in their preview window, but don't freak if there are bugs. The previewer isn't too hot. Try reloading and see if the same error occurs again at the same place. Eventually, either fix errors in the HTML, or guess that the previewer is in error and publish it.
  • Once published, download a sample or buy your own book and proof it in a real Kindle or iPhone kindle app. If there are errors, you can fix and re-upload and republish.
  • Once you're happy, announce it to the world.

As of this blog entry date, the Kindle submission process isn't completed, so it won't be there for sale for some time yet. I'll blog and tweet when it is and I've completed my error checking.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Driving Labrador: Goose Bay to Blanc Sablon

(August 16-18)
I wanted to start this section of the road trip with a map showing where Goose Bay was, and the route of the ferry that went around the peninsula to get to Cartwright down on the Atlantic, but I have discovered to my dismay that while Google Maps are just wonderful for parts of the world, places like Labrador can be left out in the cold. I'll just have to wave my hands and gesture.

Now, by the time you read this, it might have changed, but when we blundered into our Labrador part of the trip with essentially no maps and just the word of friends met on the road, it was the case that the main highway across Labrador, 500, was not connected to the rest of the roads down along the southern coastline on the St. Lawrence Seaway. A road was being built, but it wasn't open yet. The only way to get there, was to take a ferry from Goose Bay out across Lake Melville, through the straits at Rigolet and into the Atlantic to reach Cartwright. From there, more gravel highways cut down across the peninsula to reach the towns on the St. Lawrence.
It was a wonderful ferry ride on the Sir Robert Bond for me, starting on Sunday afternoon. Lake Melville was smooth and protected and the photographers were out in force taking sunset and rainbow pictures. I noticed a number of summer cabins? down at the water line on islands that we passed. Most were pre-fab buildings that could have been hauled out on a barge or sledded over once the lake froze. Passing through left me many puzzles I'd love to take the time to solve.
After dark, almost everyone went inside to escape the chill. I found a place relatively protected from the wind and watched the stars. It was fascinating to me, watching the constellations and predicting the ship's course by how the radar tower crossed the stars. The only other person out there was a Labradorian who was waiting until we passed Rigolet at the passage into the Atlantic. It was his opinion that the opening of the road directly from Goose Bay to Cartwright would put the ferry out of business, and incidentally cause the abandonment of many of the small harbor towns like Rigolet which were served by the ferries.
Morning came, after I gave up on the upper bunk and slept on one of the airline-like seats inside. We unloaded at Cartwright along with many other travelers, some of which were in a hurry to make the day long drive down to Blanc-Sablon to catch the next ferry over to Nova Scotia. We took our time, stopping to let Mary Ann take a few pictures of the fishing villages and lighthouses along this lesser-traveled part of the St. Lawrence.
We spent the night in striking distance of the ferry and took some time the next day to sneak down the coast on the Quebec side past Blanc-Sablon. The terrain was fascinating, with solid rock landscapes and the waterfalls, err... chutes d'eau, that pass over them.

I pestered Mary Ann to get back in line for the ferry early, and we did, luckily, because we'd misread the schedule and it left an hour earlier than we'd expected. Labrador and Newfoundland are actually one province, but I can't help but think of them as seperate places. Labrador even has a flag of it's own. It was a fascinating place, a frontier. I hope I get back soon.