Friday, December 31, 2010

The End of the Matter.





















--the initial layout of 'The Case of the Curious Killers.' Page one, chapter one.


by Louis Bertrand Shalako

c2010

All Rights Reserved


This morning I started formatting my file for Publishing On Demand at Lulu.com, and perhaps other platforms. The Open Office 3.2 program seemed easy enough at first, and after a previous experience, where it literally took eight to ten hours to learn how to format book page numbers using Word, to properly number the pages in two hours seemed good. The left page has the number on the left bottom corner and the right page has the number in the right bottom corner. (In or on?)

The program is Open Office 3.2, a free download. The problem arises when I think that I need to have 'end matter' at the 'end' of the book. I guess I could simply have, 'The End,' and that's fine--but only if the very next page is the inside rear cover of the book, which is never the case in a real book.

The problem is a simple one. I want to end the text, on page 464. Then I want two blank pages, and a short bio, a pic and a URL. Then I need another blank page, (the 'reverse' of that one,) and then and only then should we be looking at the inner back cover. (Arguably there are books with many blanks front and rear, but I'm keeping it simple.)

I have several pages not numbered in the front of the book, 464 pages of text, and then for whatever reason I cannot start a new section with no numbers.

The help pages do not seem to cover this issue, although there are a number of ways to do the first section.

For some reason I seem to recall that Lulu or Wordclay or somebody out there 'inserts an appropriate number of blank pages' in order to make up the proper printing format. (I'm not sure if that's the right word, but a sheet of paper cannot be sliced in half thin-wise and have 'no page' on the other side...right?)

A blank sheet is two blank pages...right?

The simple solution may be to simply write, 'The End,' and then that is in fact the last page. Honestly, if I can find that reference to 'inserting blank end matter pages,' at Lulu or somewhere, then I can put my picture on the back. But the back should have a 200-word blurb describing the book and its characters. With an ISBN, a barcode, a URL and my picture, it gets a little crowded. (I would be more than happy to sacrifice the picture, but this is 2011.)

In some books, there is an author blurb just inside the book, on the first page.

(Asimov, 'The Martian Way,' Grafton Books, 1965, as well as Dick Francis, 'The Danger,' Pan, 1983.)

Maybe I could try formatting for a new section using the old i, ii, iii, sort of numbering, but it still isn't right. That belongs in a more academic sort of work.

It is possible to try Adobe Digital Editions, and learn how to embed fonts. It's just more time, right? The problem is if I run into a snag with that one as well.

Maybe I'm making a big thing out of nothing, but it seems important.

Sorry, I almost forgot. I'm still looking for a rear cover image. Stars, or something, maybe some ringed planet or something.

'Whatever.'

Thursday, December 30, 2010

POD File. (For Dummies.)



















This book has nine-point text, a Mentor edition of 'The Odyssey' in a pocketbook sized paperback.


by Louis Bertrand Shalako

c2010

All Rights Reserved


So far the POD file for 'The Case of the Curious Killers' is going fairly well. A minor point, but I didn't grab the most up to date file. But I would have gone through it anyway, a quick re-write won't hurt the thing.

It is tempting to open up the margins a little more. One 4x7 I have here has a .25 inner margin and about .375 outer. But with this template both measurements have to be the same, because of the left-hand/right-hand page thing. They have to match in a mirror-like image sort of a way. That's my interpretation, but I will check and fool around with it.

Otherwise the left page has a big gutter and the right page a small one, is what I'm saying. At Smashwords, for formatting we are advised to keep it simple, no more than two types and sizes of font, stuff like that. Nothing over 16-point, etc. But those were all e-books. This is a little different.

I haven't run across anything like that on Lulu, but they do stress embedding your fonts to make the printable Pdf. There are instructions for OpenOffice on how to do that. (Editor's Note: He is talking about making Pdf's in Adobe Digital Editions.)

Right. I was confused, but I'm all right now...

Ten-point looks fine for the text, and it again looks like about 427 pages. The 741-page figure I got the other day was clearly wrong, but I still don't know what happened there. I'm paying attention to the proper number of blank sheets. Page numbering should not be a problem...okay, it's not immediately obvious, but I can try it as a .doc file in Word and import it again...maybe.

In other words, I'm taking my time and thinking it out as best I can. Realistically, I probably will have to go through a couple of proofs, maybe more.

I could upload a file and pay someone $300.00, allegedly. I would be waiting a lot longer, on my income. This way I learn how to do it for myself. The postal delays will be the worst thing--it's almost inevitable that we discover some little thing in the file before we even get a copy by mail.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

In Like Flynn.

by Louis Bertrand Shalako

c2010

All Rights Reserved


Today I spent some time familiarizing myself with OpenOffice 3.2.0 and made a couple of test files. The last one has a size of 4.25 X 6.875" and that one looks okay.

The first few times I tried to set the password on Goodreads, the link was broken right in the middle and that ain't going to work, but we got her fixed. Now we are good to go. At this point, we have uploaded our four e-books into the system, and cover images and stuff like that will be available later tonight. (If not already.)

We were interested to see that the data came from Barnes and Noble--in Goodreads, if you become interested in their author program, you can search your titles right there. Just type them in, it's a bibliophile website after all.

We are indeed in Barnes & Noble with 'Paranoid Cat and other tales,' for sure. B & N sells the Nook reader, as I recall. The other books must be there or will soon appear there.

It would seem that taking a look at our Smashwords Distribution Channel Manager was a good thing to do once in a while, and clicking on that 'ISBN' thingy might not have been a mistake--there is some controversy as to whether e-books should have a separate and distinct ISBN for every variation of format, i.e. an ISBN for your txt, your PDF, your Epubs...I make no comment, but you have to respect the retailer's requirements or you just ain't getting in. Did I say ain't?

'I'm just some boy who grew up in a holler.' (Chuck Yeager.)

There was someone else...oh, yes. I had better check to see if we're in Diesel.

So tomorrow we start the POD file for a Lulu of a edition of 'The Case of the Curious Killers,' which I guess you could say is coming soon in paperback to a fine online bookstore near you.

Over the course of December I really haven't written much. I haven't submitted very many stories. But if I managed to nail another four to six outlets for my books, then I'm doing okay.

We are 'In Like Flynn.'

With time and a little luck, 'Case' might even be sitting on a shelf in a 'real' bookstore, sooner than even I might think.

New Things, New Ideas. New Challenges.

by Louis Bertrand Shalako

c2010

All Rights Reserved


Our basic premise is cross-linking multiple platforms in social networking.

After joining Goodreads many months ago, I kind of forgot about it. I had no idea of what it was for, and for a number of reasons I don't actually read a lot of new releases. At the time, I was busy editing stuff.

So when I went back, I couldn't get in. It turns out I have 37 friends there! But I was accepting requests in my e-mail box, and reading a blog post by Angel McCoy once in a while.

Today I managed to hack my way back in, change the password, and begin the process of getting the 'author profile,' and hopefully some cover images in there.

Last night I successfully downloaded OpenOffice 3.2.0 or whatever, and it is a clean, safe download. It installed correctly. It seems to work fine, and the overall impression is one of speed--this thing is quick. I've got one file in there now, and no doubt there is some time-consuming learning curve.

Theoretically, I will have a POD version of 'The Case of the Curious Killers,' up on Lulu, Wordclay, and who knows, maybe CreateSpace within about two months. Yeah, I thought it out.

In order to stand up in front of a roomful of people and talk about my work, it would be helpful to have something to hold in my hand. Something I can let the people hold in their hand, to see the quality of the thing, and to feel the tactile allure of a brand-new book. At fifteen, or even twenty bucks, the thing is not too out of hand price-wise, and this gives me the opportunity to direct people to the website, the Amazon Kindle versions, the e-books, which are probably more profitable anyway.

For that price, I will definitely sign it for you.

I have read poems, and a few very short things in front of an 'audience,' and always read some story or other at writer's group meeetings, etc. The biggest crowd was about twenty-eight people. In some way, I know I can do it. That part is just a 'performance.' I may be a little more wooden one-on-one, but I have plenty to talk about and they will probably ask pretty general questions. I have a good voice and stuff like that, and at a height of 6'5" people kind of look up to me.

That cover for 'Heaven Is Too Far Away' needs to be re-done. My 'paint' program, another free download, should fix that, it's just a a matter of finding the time. Searching images is almost maddening...it really is.

So far I use the Twitter account very little to talk, but I listen well. I look for data and intelligence about the marketplace and what it is thinking. Every so often I grab one and share it on Facebook.

I suppose I understand the basic principles of social networking and cross-linking, multi platforms and multi formats. Too see how it all interrelates, and mutually supports itself...learning how to use it...that all takes time.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Dreaded Three-Page Synopsis.

by Louis Bertrand Shalako

c2010

All Rights Reserved


'The Case of the Curious Killers.'

When a recently divorced Brendan Hartle sells up and moves to Toronto, he has no idea what a cosmic sea-change his life is about to take. Working as a security guard, first at a mall, then on a strike, he has the sense of waiting for something. Working an overtime shift, when he finds an unlocked door on an aircraft hangar; he goes in and finds a very efficient-looking spacecraft in there. He just can’t help himself—he has to look inside.

A simulacrum, a kind of mechanically-projected persona; invites him to take a little trip to the stars: it seems he’s mentioned by name in some ancient prophecy. While poo-pooing the actual Prophecy, the Empire feels he may be useful as a public relations or propaganda exercise. They also want to see what he can do.

Whether he’s learning to fly an advanced Imperial Scout vessel, flirting with a Princess; or caught up in the music of the Deadly Dancers; Brendan keeps an open mind to all he sees around him. His skepticism keeps him sane, his basic aggression keeps him alive long enough to solve the mystery.

He really is a kind of revelation to the Centralian Empire. He chases pirates and dukes it out with jealous suitors. He ambushes and blows away the hit men sent to kill him, escapes from every trap except one: the trap of love. In the end he falls in love with an alien slave girl; finding her vulnerability during the moulting process irresistible.

Together, they represent the start of a whole new race of men, and the book winds up with the two of them together, she’s pregnant, and they decide to call the child 'Star Seed.'

Perhaps less ambitious than previous works, the book is action-packed, the pace is good, and the people are real. The dialogue rips with wit and satire, the characters have clear motivations, and the whole thing is just a heck of a lot of fun.

It is entertainment, and excellent value for the money. The book is not overloaded with science, quirks and quarks and splitting hairs. It’s fun, pure and simple. The economical style of writing hearkens back to Amazing Stories of the 1930’s, where the focus is on action, character, setting, and imagination.

Author's Note: I hate the dreaded three-page synopsis, and quite frankly I try to squeeze it into one page single spaced. The only thing I can add would be the characters' names and that the science that is there is either accurate or a clear parody of something 'real.'

Basically, the guy is Brendan Hartle, the girl is 'Layla,' and the simulacrum is 'Sim.' There are probably thirty, maybe forty named characters, many of them aliens, in the book. In terms of parody, the crustaceans and avians are fun to work with.

(Remind me to learn how to write a synopsis. And a query.)

The Dreaded Three-Page Synopsis.

New Year's Revolutions.

by Louis Bertrand Shalako

c2010

All Rights Reserved


Here are a few New Year's, er; 'revolutions.'

I would like to better understand the systems at my disposal. I clicked on the wrong thing and now all of a sudden I'm getting ISBN notifications...what the?

I need to spend one more minute on a submission and not miss that one little thing.

I need to read a book once in a while!

I need a place to live. Some secret lair from whence I could direct the revolution...

I need to let a story sit for about a week, and study it some more.

I need to write at least one more novel this year and one fairly long short story per week.

I need to get out of here once in a while. Seriously, locking yourself in the basement for a year is not good, no matter what the goal or reason.

I must get dad into an old age home by hook or by crook.

I need to get rid of nineteen tonnes of junk and somehow keep that piece of shit car on the road...

I wouldn't mind a girlfriend, as long as she doesn't make a pest of herself.

I should try not to be such a grumpy old bastard. Honestly, I'm really not that old.

I got to find some hope, or some optimism, or something somewhere.

I don't want to leap into things impulsively, or desperately.

Other than that, I don't know what to say. I probably missed a few things.

The Mystery Shopper.

by Louis Bertrand Shalako

c2010

All Rights Reserved


Today I was the Mystery Shopper. It was kind of fun.

I went to The Book Keeper in Sarnia's Northgate Shopping Plaza and checked out the competition, or at least some of it.

I saw Tor Books science fiction paperbacks going for $9.99 and I saw another imprint going for a low of $8.99. There were some other books there going for $12.99, these were the 5x8s as opposed to the 4x7s.

The big shocker was Lee Childs' 'Die Trying,' a thriller going for $18.99 in paperback.

Honestly, I guess I had some idea of what to expect, because I have 'Kite Runner,' by Khaled Hoseini, a #1 NY TImes bestseller, (paperback,) and the price on the back says $14.00.

That one says 'June 2003' inside. But this all puts the $15.00 Martin Renaud was selling his graphic trilogy for per volume into perspective. I was also a bit stunned by the calculator figures from Lulu and WordClay. Those came in about $13.00 for 'The Case of the Curious Killers.'

So my business plan progresses with each new piece of knowledge. If I can make a nice proof copy and sell my books POD, then I can certainly make a file that would print well and make a good bookstore-quality product.

The Book Keeper is independently owned, and lots of local authors have gotten in there. In some ways, it's just a matter of finding the confidence.

Over the years, I have become quite good at scraping the bottom of a barrel.

I might need to do a little more research, but I know I can do this. And Martin got his books into a few Coles as well...hmn.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Reading and Research. Experimentation.



















4 X 7 template on screen

by Louis Bertrand Shalako

c2010

All Rights Reserved


Reading and research are important. Before I go ahead with POD publishing I want to know as much about it as I possibly can. I have located templates for word documents and have been experimenting with a 4x7" template. (Google 'templates Instant Publisher.')

It seems to work fine, as long you paste .txt into it--a .doc brings its own formatting and size with it, apparently.

The initial impression is that I have to use 8-point or it looks like a kid's book.

The really big question is how it will look. What will the final product be? I wish I could visualize it for myself, rather than taking chances with my time and money.

The letters in the pocketbook I am using for reference are certainly less than one-eighth of an inch.

I went into the Wordclay site, which is another free POD publisher. This is a site where you can learn a few things and watch small slide presentations, (two to five slides, only five pages,) and I didn't have to sign up. What struck me is that there appeared to be only three sizes available, the closest to what I want being 5x8.

Ultimately, I don't want a 5x8, however, other reading indicated that some sizes are shall we say, 'more easily profitable in very small print runs.'

That is indeed a consideration: with Lulu or Wordclay, or any other POD/free publisher, you can never really get a discount for volume, as long as customers are essentially ordering one book at a time. I can't honestly say I've read everything in there, but the Terms of Service are long and tedious...but similar to others I have read.

In order to get a discount, you have to order so many books. A cost/price of $10.00 per book drops significantly when you order a hundred or a thousand. Okay, that's obvious. But apparently the 5x8 is more popular...with the publisher? And those guys don't care what's on the page. They're selling ink and paper, in the final analysis.

That ink and paper must have some mark-up, or why do it?

The problems of being an author are entirely my own.

So now I have to calculate the odds of ever placing a big order, and what impression both I and the customer would get from a funny sized book. At a mark-up of a dollar a book, am I really doing this for money?

That 4x7 template works out to 731 pages, so there is something funny going on there too. The story is 104,000 words, as I recall. It's better not to just wing it. I am at least learning what questions to ask.

But that can't be a 731-page book. It can't be.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Pulp Fiction. For Real.



Common sizes.

'Hondo,' by Louis L'Amour,
is a pocketbook.






by Louis Bertrand Shalako

c2010

All Rights Reserved



Time for another scatter-brained post. What I have been doing is researching POD at Lulu.com.

I've made a pdf in a 5x7" format, for example. This has big wide margins all around and the information from Lulu says they 'scale it down' to 75%. They offer a free downloadable template, for both the cover and the manuscript.

This is fine, but the template wouldn't open on my desktop and it took all day and a lot of reading before I stumbled across another post where the author mentions his own template is for OpenOffice.org.

A little light went off in my head, as Lulu also points the way to OpenOffice software in their help pages...so it looks, maybe, by a process of pure and irrational deduction, that I need to download the 76-meg file from them. (2.0.0 minimum noted by Lulu.)

And maybe, just maybe I will get the answers I need. It's a matter of comfort zone, important enough to any control freak.

But in the paperback by Thomas Harris, 'Hannibal,' the left margin 'gutter?' is about 3/8 of an inch and the outer margin about 1/4", maybe a little more.

So what I need to do is format a new pdf, from a .doc file, built up in the 4.25 x 6.875 inch size, with appropriate margins at left, right, top and bottom.

I will take pains to include the proper number of blank pages, and in some small idiosyncratic way, minimal but tasteful end matter.

My great dream in life is to produce the finest in pulp fiction that I possibly can.

At Lulu, in order to publish a book for sale, the author must purchase a 'proof copy.' My initial calculation shows a 427-page book in this class will run about $13.04, although at this point I have no idea of whether that is my cost or what? Or what? You sort of have to sort of er; fudge your way around inside any of these websites to learn what's going on. I could 'publish' what I have in a heartbeat.

Let's assume that I am either distitute of any cash whatsoever, or a cheap prick.

Either way, wouldn't it be nice to simply nail it the first time around? Rather than fixing this, and that, and the other thing, and end up with twenty bogus, unsellable copies of the book laying around?

One of my big questions in this size of book is the margin and font size. My first impression in a .doc was that it looked like a children's book, due to the big size and few words on the page!

But I will work that out as I go along.

Anyway, that's one of my goals for 2011. I want to publish, 'The Case of the Curious Killers,' as a POD somewhere, using my micropublishing business model.

Notes. I printed out a re-sized B & W of the cover, which startled me until I remembered that I now have this little wide-screen monitor, which stretches tthings wider. Comparing it to an actual paperback in the same size shows that the text is a little too close to the edge of the book.

The jargon is important, otherwise you don't really know what you are talking about. That seems clear enough.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Notes to Myself: No Third Option.

by Louis Bertrand Shalako

c2010

All Rights Reserved


On Lulu I now have four e-books in pdf format. On opening up the preview, they all look more or less the same. According to my reading of the help pages, I could try to make Epub files by using Calibre. That's fine, as my pdf's, once converted to Epubs, revealed all sorts of errors and warnings when subjected to a free verification site/process. Simply put, Lulu's system wouldn't eat them.

The only trouble there is, I actually sat through the Calibre sales pitch and demo/tutorials...I already had a system that worked...I don't know. I just don't know! That was months ago.

It's a question of how badly I feel I need Epubs, or any format, really; on Lulu, when I already have them on Smashwords. (Or Kindle, or whatever.) How much time would it take? And is it ultimately worth it? Those pdfs on Lulu are all based on the Smashwords .doc files. They're very clean, with minimal formatting, and in that sense, the fully-formatted pdfs that I make at home are much more attractive, book-like objects. Two I made months ago loaded up fine...the next ones didn't. If I have four books on one site, in one format, they should all look the same in terms of formatting.

At the very least, now the pdfs read 'Lulu Edition' inside, rather than 'Smashwords Edition,' which is what started this whole ball of wax off to begin with. (I used Smashwords Epubs to upload to Lulu in a moment of brain-fade. Those converted to Epubs.)

Incidentally, I dragged and dropped a simple pdf, the one that wouldn't load into the Lulu site, into my PC Mobipocket Reader. It took some time to 'build' a file, essentially the same process as the Mobi Creator uses, and the final product was readable.

All formatting was stripped away. All blank lines, all centering, all paragraph indents were gone. This might be fine to read on a phone. The original pdf opened up with the exact same formatting you can see on Lulu. All you have to do is click on it. So, why anyone would do that for any other thing except to read the file on a phone is a mystery. As for the two books on Myebook.com, they hold the account open, and people can read them if they want to.

No matter what I try there, I can't get the next two books to load up. And for that reason I am reluctant to remove the previous two book versions and try to fix any little problems, like the fact that page one starts on the left when it so easily could have started on a right-hand page. For that reason alone, the Myebook reader has been useful. Assuming I can get things to load into it, it can be used as a 'book-simulator.'

This is a nit-picking, detail-oriented process, I don't much like looking like an ass all the time, and it's no wonder that I am unhappy. This is not creativity, it is merely necessary to learn it, and to learn it well.

But it clearly isn't my strong suit.

I've been going through a bunch of leads for reviews and stuff like that. The few good ones seldom review e-books, and there are quite a few ringers. I got the list from a paid service whom I won't identify, and quite frankly, much of it looks like bullshit, except for the obvious ones like Amazon and Barnes & Noble, etc.

Looking back, a year ago my goal was to self-publish one paperback book, at my own expense, and I started off with a basis of no knowledge whatsoever. In a very real sense I have failed at achieving the goal! The e-book industry is a growth industry, with real potential for the future. If I had more nerve, I might charge $20.00 an hour to format e-books for people, but of course that just leads to angst and conflict with the ODSP. Either I succeed brilliantly, beyond my wildest dreams and get off of ODSP, or fail miserably, and stay on it. There is no third option. That is about all I have to say in my defense.

Friday, December 24, 2010

State of the World 2010.

by Louis Bertrand Shalako

c2010

All Rights Reserved


This is our state of the world address for the end of 2010.

I managed to get two e-books up on Myebook and all subsequent attempts have failed. After spending the day making a fresh pdf of 'The Case of the Curious Killers,' it is disappointing. I tried re-naming the file, etc. I don't know what is going on there. But at least I have two books there.

I checked into Lulu.com, and there are four books there available as pdf's at $1.99 each. I don't quite know what I did wrong there, as the first bunch were EPUB's. At least I can see a product page, and I understand the system. After reading a bunch of automated e-mails, it was clear that some of the problems were due to clicking on the wrong button.

'Print run failure notices,' etc. As for POD with Lulu, maybe in a month or two. Not right now, although my new pdf of 'Case' is an obvious candidate. I make nice pdf's, after all this experience.

I asked some questions of Google rep 'Mark,' and that was maybe 24-36 hours ago. No response, but it is Christmas Eve. All I can do is try to delete stuff and keep the account open...? For some reason that I can't determine exactly.

I've opened up the Distribution Channels on Smashwords, and in a few days and weeks maybe the books will after all appear in Diesel, Barnes & Noble, Apple and God, I just don't know where.

I reported my income to the Ontario Disability Support Program and they are threatening me with 'income interruption.' I won't even get a royalty check until I earn over $100.00.

The ODSP is asking me, "Are you still operating a business?"

They refused my application for the 'Work Related Benefit,' (up to $500 annually,) because, according to them , "You are operating a business and therefore don't qualify."

I have decided not to appeal if they cut me off, neither will I apply for or accept welfare. All I can do is report my income honestly and let them behave the way they always do. It's not like the bastards ever ask a question.

Addendum: Here we go again. I found a free online service that will turn any one of a number of formats into EPUB files. This file failed to upload to Lulu. So I simply republished in pdf. Fine as far as that goes.

I stuck that EPUB file in my Mobipocket Reader and it seems to have huge spaces between the lines, page numbers appear there but no page breaks...it's a mess. My question is, does the Lulu conversiion process strip all that out? I had better get back there and see if I can preview that content...

...and we're back. Three of them look very good, but 'Heaven' has an extra cover image inside, which is not serious. I'll see if I can fix that tonight. I've reduced prices at Lulu to $1.49, and apparently pdf's are supported in virtually all devices.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

What Am I Doing Wrong, Mark?

by Louis Bertrand Shalako

c2010

All Rights Reserved


All righty then. I sent a contact e-mail to Google Books and asked them to close my account and not to contact me. Predictably, I have a very nice e-mail from 'Mark,'
who no doubt would like to know what it is all about.

Mark, I have information on four books in the system, and the file uploads keep failing. Now, when I try to install Google Uploader, I get a warning.

It says, 'There was an error in the database signature,' and it also says, 'this file is from a trusted source but it is either out of date or not yet valid.'

Okay, Mark, in your e-mail you point out that I might want to participate in Google E-Books and yes; that is true.

What am I doing wrong, Mark?

I am uploading pdf's and hopefully the form ISBN-Content (Title?) is correct...right?


ADDENDUM: What I did was to paste that into an e-mail and shoot it back to Mark. Hopefully we get some data, and we'll keep you posted.

All right, so on Lulu I uploaded EPUB's that unfortuately had 'Smashwords Edition' inside. The only way to solve that was to edit the original .doc file and make a free pdf. Now instead of selling EPUB on Lulu, it looks like I am selling pdf's on Lulu. On some theoretical level, I understand that now the thing to do is to take the corrected pdf versions and make EPUB's...somehow, somewhere. Er; someday.

On the plus side, the pdf's on Lulu clearly state, 'This Lulu Edition published by Shalako Publishing,' and that sort of thing is important for the sake of credibility.

Right?

So far I have worked an 11-hour day, but it's early yet, and who knows, it might even get better.

EVEN MORE: Eight hours this morning and about five so far tonight. That doesn't include cooking, going to the grocery store, cleaning the bathroom and doing the laundry. Twenty bucks in gas and a couple packs of smokes...thank God no one called and volunteered to give me 'respite.'

They want to sit on my couch for a couple of hours and do nothing? While I take my eleven bucks and go off and attend to some personal needs?

'Bleep you.'

I now have four pdf's on Lulu. I have two books for online reading at Myebook and I don't know what all. I uploaded two more books to Google Books just in case I'm doing something right, added Twitter to my Smashwords profile, read things, and just kept kind of busy in a general sort of way...

Festina Lente. Make Haste Slowly.

by Louis Bertrand Shalako

c2010

All Rights Reserved


The danger in talking about our work is that we reveal too much. All this must look so badly organized and scatter-brained.

This morning I have been working away since about 6:00 a.m. I'm trying to get four e-books up on Lulu.com.

Theoretically it is a nice easy job and at first it was going well. You can upload a variety of file types, and once you've gotten in and so far into the process you can go back and edit the cover image--at first it looks like you're stuck with their generic design, but just keep going.

Anyhow, it's easy enough to download a free author file from Smashwords, in EPUB format, and that seems to work well. The problem is that those have the phrase, 'This Smashwords Edition published by...etc.'

It should be easy enough to take that out. I have an original .doc file, and that's fine, it is a supported file format.

I don't know how to explain or even figure out what is going on in there. But I uploaded at least two proper .doc files, and those should be all right. Unable to locate one of the others, I used an EPUB file until I can fix the offending phrase, (and the ethical thing to do is not to promote this for a while, right?)

Okay. Now that fourth file was up once and then I deleted it. Now I cannot load either .doc or EPUB file, the error warning comes up and it just won't eat it. I don't know, and for some reason it seems to go into another interface--it's not the same one as the e-book publisher. Is the thing confused? Does it think I'm trying to convert an existing print book?

Intuitive as I undoubtedly am, this one will require a little analysis. For all I know, this will 'clear itself up,' after 24 hours or so. How the hell would I know?

This sure looks glamourous from the point of view of an objective witness.

The basic idea with Lulu is to find out if I can really publish POD for 'free until you sell.'

Now, that's a whole 'nother ball of wax, with bar code placement, book spine text/design, and 'rear cover art.'

Clearly this is another learning curve, and I do get tired sometimes.

On Smashwords, I can go in and read online in html format for free. That is the first 'x-percent' of the book. On Lulu, the 'preview'; is author selected. I chose small excerpts from around inside the books. It might have been better to stick with the first few pages, and then I could more easily check the opening materials.

1.) Maybe make an edited pdf.

2.) Try again!

3.) Try other file types.

4.) Try making a fresh edited EPUB with Mobi Creator.

5.) Keep thinking.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Google Books.

by Louis Bertrand Shalako

c2010

All Rights Reserved

I have just requested through the contact form that Google shut down my Google Books account for the 'Partner Program.'

I have also advised them not to contact me regarding the account or the contact form.

Prep Notes. Checklist.
















by Louis Bertrand Shalako

c2010

All Rights Reserved


Let us assume that I intend to upload a series of four e-books to Lulu.com. Let us also assume that I will pursue POD with Lulu or some other entity.

Have I read the contract and terms of service?

Let's skip the obvious and get down to brass tacks.

First I need to make sure all four cover shots are the same size, and that the size 'sticks,' and in the case of 'Heaven,' I've noted some glitches or problems.

Assuming it is a pdf-type upload, I should comb through it yet one more time for any little errors. Having caught a few, then I must upload any new file to all previous pdf-based platforms!

Everything has its logic, and creates its own workload.

Everything takes time, and four books means four times as much time.

For that reason, one might focus on one service provider, such as 'Lulu,' for example, and really try to learn your way around that site. Trying to do several at once has some obvious dangers.

(I recently discovered my 'Channel Distribution Manager' at Smashwords. Now, where the heck did that thing come from?)

The thing to do is to prep all four titles in terms of e-books, and then do the same in terms of print. At the very least, this will be a different page or set of pages in the site.

(Incidentally, I'm already signed up, which saves time later. I wrote the username and password down in my notebook! Too many freakin' accounts.)

For a print book, Lulu insists on a new or different ISBN, which is indeed free. It is one more piece of data to keep track of and quote correctly every time.

Print books would require rear cover art, (not done,) and a 120-220 word blurb describing the story and the characters to some degree. It's a hook, and it must be carefully written. (Mine need review.)

I will review the covers, and maybe try to clean up 'Heaven.' That's all I can promise.

People (Mom,) have noted that my profile picture is not the best. With a face like mine, we're just going to have to live with it. That's the best picture anyone has ever taken of me. My copyright page is not perfect, and I should study someone else's before finalizing it. There is room for some variation, but I will keep it businesslike.

Forewords, dedications, and stuff like that is all optional. I really didn't worry about it in the e-books. Print may be different, I'm sure Mom would agree. Quoting sources in the back of fiction books is kind of idiosyncratic. I was tempted once.

Once I have all four books 'perfected,' in pdf, (or whatever format,) then I'm good to go.

The one thing I would like to know before going to a lot of work is the price of the finished paperback. The way to do that research is to go in and look at a lot of other books on whatever site...right?

One thing I really, really need to do is to go through folders and discard a lot of old versions. I've been spawning old versions at an alarming rate. It's quite daunting to open up a folder and see thirty or forty of them in there.

Love the new technology. Four views this evening at Myebook.com. It gets the name out there if nothing else!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Thinking Out Loud. Print on Demand Paperbacks.

by Louis Bertrand Shalako

c2010

All Rights Reserved


My mother asked me on the phone, 'Do you remember where you were a yaer ago?"

"No," I replied. (End of story.)

I am still having trouble figuring out what is happening to my two uploads at Google Books.com. I will let them sit for a day or two and then have another look. If the interface is impenetrable, and if I cannot figure out how to read their minds, I will simply delete the account.

Today I am researching a number of options for 2011.

These include Createspace, Lulu.com, and Lulu e-books. Planet Ebook may have a way to upload. Then there is iUniverse and some others.

For some reason I got hung up on Borders. Maybe it was the US bank account thing, I will try to iron that out.

The basic premise with publishing print on demand paperbacks is that people may be more inclined to purchase one if they get something more tangible than an e-book.

It's like Hollywood movies, people don't have a problem paying for a DVD in a nice package from a store, but often the same people don't see a problem downloading a pirated video for free. Essentially a stream of data seems 'worthless,' and yet they are more than happy to pay for packaging! They have been well-educated by the media, or so it would seem. Lately I noticed that they are shrink-wrapping cucumbers. Next it will be individual green beans or something...for our convenience.

One of the things that strikes me about Createspace is that the approx 5.25 x 7-something inch books are more expensive than the 6 x 9 inch books. That bothers me for some reason. All those old Robert A. Heinlein pulps were that pocketbook size, and Dick Francis, and Alistair Maclean...so that's why I want it too!

What the hell, it's my money and my ego at stake here.

I guess if I go ahead with this, it's better not to go charging in without doing the research. But it would be nice to provide paperbacks one way or another.

That leads to the question of which book to do first, one already published as an e-book, or a new title? It would take a few days maybe, to make a nice Pdf of 'The Case of the Curious Killers,' or whatever format is required for whatever platform.

It would take two months to rewrite and format a new title, perhaps 'Shape-shifters.'

I'll get a little drunk one of these nights and just decide!

In this case, the preview capability of Myebook.com will come in handy. It would be nice if I knew a little more of the jargon.

Other than that, it's not necessary to decide right away. In cases of doubt, I simply revert back to the no-cost option.

By the end of 2011, I will probably have two more titles published, at least one POD paperback to market, and with a little luck and a lot of hard work, I will write at the very least another collection of stories and hopefully, another novel.

Tommorrow I need to take a tape measure, a pen and a notepad and go to a bookstore...okay, so I used to be a carpenter, but I want to look at their prices, and sizes, and things like that. Steal a few ideas for covers...things like that.


UPDATE: These blog entries seem pretty organic, in that they keep growing. Okay, let's follow this through logically: Lulu publishes e-books. So why not upload four e-books to that site? It's another platform, it takes advantage of traffic through their site, and gains visibility and exposure. That follows logically enough on my 'everything for free' business model. And, why not publish POD if it is indeed free 'until you sell?'

Don't go by what I say--I am so often wrong. Read the stuff and make up your own mind. As stated in a previous post, 'what a difference a year will make.'

All of this seems dreadfully important right now. Just 'thinking out loud,' I could live with the cover art in terms of a paperback 'Core Values.' I just happen to have a Pdf which requires some small modifications...huh. Huh. (Huh!)

Well, what do you know?



Monday, December 20, 2010

Experimentation and Exploration.



















-detail from cover of 'Heaven Is Too Far Away.'


by Louis Bertrand Shalako

c2010

All Rights Reserved


Right now it looks like there are two books processing through Google Books.com; and I can't see how to upload a new version until, er; 'something happens.' One of the things I can tell you about a Google site is that it is all very consistent, where no one thing stands out from the page...you really have to read around in there.

(I'm sure I will find it...)

Over at Myebook.com; I have uploaded an improved version of 'Heaven Is Too Far Away,' which had the title page mucked up for some reason. That particular cover image has been the bane of my existence, and it appears too small in this context. I can't get it to go any bigger on one of my blogs, either. That one baffles me.

That one is done processing for the second time. It will take a day or two for all of this to shake down. I am not super impressed with the Myebook reader, because the text is just too small. That being said, I had to try it. At forty-nine cents, it's a pretty cheap read, although you do have to sign in and become a member. On the plus side, the customer doesn't have to worry about downloads. It's a toss-up. The link-up to Paypal was easy enough, as I had all the data required from a foreign sale, which as I recall was an electronic deposit.

In a few days, I will attempt Borders, as well as Barnes & Noble, which as the reader may recall requires a US bank account. If there are bugs, you can send e-mails back and forth, and the thing will get resolved. So far there are no sales to worry about anyway, at least on Myebook!

At this point, I could cancel the Myebook account and consider myself truly blessed, for I have learned much.

That is the benefit of exploration and experimentation.

By looking at the two books in the Myebook reader, I noticed the cover art is too small for 'Heaven Is Too Far Away,' and then decided to follow the advice of a guy called Viktor Oey, who is an advocate for a common literary format for e-books.

Someday I will figure out how to insert links into blogger! But here is the URL.

http://www.planetebook.com/mainpage.asp?webpageid=176

He's talking about professional standards, and while the formatting for other e-book readers is different, it still requires technical accuracy.

For that reason, in twenty-four hours, I have opened the account, published and deleted the two books...and now both books at least have an extra blank page in between the copyright page and the first page of the text. Incidentally, there was a lot of angst as I recall, back in August or September about properly page-numbering the Pdf's. Page one is actually page four or, um; five of the book. Right? No one wants to see 'page one' on the front cover.

No honest effort is truly wasted. Just for the record, in order to take those Pdf's to a printer and make 'real' books, I would still have to insert a couple of more blank pages appropriately, come up with rear cover art, and make new Pdf's. This is immediately obvious in the Myebook reader system. The picture and blurb at the back of the book is fine for 'interior of rear cover copy.'

(Why in the hell won't that link work? Argh!)

UPDATE: I have just been reviewing Smashwords' 'Distribution Channel Manager,' which I knew about but seems hard to find unless you look right where it is...anyhow, soon I will have a couple of more outlets. Or maybe not, Applestore and somebody else.

What strikes me is that I have put in at least ten hours at the computer, and on the face of it, have accomplished little more than this blog entry. I still don't know what's going on in Google Books, or if maybe they send a link to activate or something. Tommorrow's another day!

And I still have to attempt the US big-box (and hopefully big bucks,)bookstores.

Pricing. And Platforms.

by Louis Bertrand Shalako

c2010

All Rights Reserved


What a busy weekend. So far I have lowered prices in the U.K. Kindle store for all four books. These are now available at a price of 1.71 GBP. I also went into Smashwords and lowered the price of the first two novels, 'Core Values,' and 'Heaven Is Too Far Away,' down to $1.49 (I think.) Both of those Smashwords Editions are available in all formats and are available for online reading.

Now I am in the Amazon Kindle Store U.S. and U.K., Smashwords, Kobo, and in Indigo/Chapters. This includes all four books. Hopefully those will turn up elsewhere in time.

Also this weekend, I have been publishing the books, using Pdf's with the newer cover art--the old versions had the red text, all murky in the case of 'Heaven.' The newer ones were done with Softonic's 'Paint' program.

These books should appear on Google Books.com and at Myebook.com in the very near future. Simply put, it takes me a while to sort of plow around in there like a bull in a china shop and learn the system, figure out how to get it right, etc. Paypal and bank verificaton, all of that stuff. What do I do if it doesn't work?

The basic premise is to get the books out on as many different platforms as possible, and certainly Pdf's can be priced lower, right?

Originally, I tried to get into Myebook.com back in late August or early September, but somehow got mired up in the sign-up process! Part of that problem was the verification process for Paypal; and I suppose my eyes were going nuts at the time.

At first the prices were definitely too high, at $7.99 and $5.99.

Another challenge is reviews. So far I have submitted two books for review; and one book for consideration but that site is merely for posting and discussion.

For some reason I'm still shy about attaching the books to e-mails and sending them all over hell's half-acre.

At some point I need to buy a new notebook and try to keep track of all this stuff.

UPDATE: Sorry, I think there are only a couple of books so far in Kobo and etc. Like I said, it's a lot to keep up with! And I'm the one who's doing it.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Reporting on Androgynous Unicorns.

by Louis Bertrand Shalako

c2010

All Rights Reserved


A funny thing about journalists is that they never answer questions! But it's pretty simple.

A reporter always knows far more than he can safely tell anyone.

Ask a reporter, 'How come so-and-so is not running in the election?'

The reporter will not say, 'Because his wife is undergoing chemotherapy, his son is in rehab, his eldest daughter just dropped out of university and eloped, the baby has the measles, the car is broke, the cat has a broken leg and he doesn't have the money..."

That's not a reporter or even a commentator; that is a gossip.

A reporter is also a student of human nature, and he knows damn well you will run, not walk; to the nearest doughnut shop, and belt all this out at the top of your lungs to a very interested audience, and it is none of their beusiness is it?

What a reporter is supposed to do is to ask questions, and they will not contradict a statement made by any person. It never happens!

(And if the Mayor says the moon is made of blue cheese and inhabited by androgynous unicorns, then I suppose that really would be front-page news. The public has a right to know about that!)*

All they can really do is write it up, report it, and let the consumer decide what is truth and what isn't.

Is it the job of a reporter to educate to some extent?

I would say yes. When that becomes persuasion rather than education, then ladies and gentlemen, we have a problem.

*It is the opinion of this writer that all unicorns are androgynous.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Modeling after the Successful...?
















by Louis Bertrand Shalako

c2010

All Rights Reserved


For January first, I need some kind of big new project, and a novel is big enough. There are lots of things floating around. I just have to pick a direction, and Alistair Maclean keeps popping into my head.

What would he write next? Bearing in mind what I have done before?

In order to become successful, a person might consider the technique of 'modeling' their behaviour after someone more successful than themselves.

In terms of writing this involves trying to figure out which authors you really loved as a kid, I suppose, or some book that really impressed you.

Almost any writer remembers wanting to be a cop or a private detective at some point in their life, or a military hero, or the heroine in a romantic historical fantasy; a witch, a champion horse-rider, or whatever.

The so-called 'child-adult' continues to pursue these notions well beyond reasonable extent, but that is where all art ultimately stems from.

When I was a kid I stayed home 'sick' from school, and lay in bed reading all of my mom's books.

That's one reason why it was so hard to determine what was 'adult' content in a book.

When I consider what I read at age ten, or age fourteen, then you realize that the ratings and warnings are for the peace of mind of the retailers and not much more.

I wanted to be like Hercule Poirot.

After reading 'The Young Lions,' I asked a question.

"Mommy! What's a 'wor'?"

"How is it spelled?" she asked.

"W-h-o-r-e," I replied.

Your kid's head won't explode if he gets a hold of the wrong book, but you might want to exercise some guidance.

As for me, I liked Alistair Maclean as a young man, and if I could write anything, I guess I want to be like him. Clint Eastwood, 'Where Eagles Dare,' (and Richard Burton,) and Harrison Ford, 'Force 10 from Navarone,' and plenty of other (Edward Fox, and was that Gregory Peck?) fine actors were in films made from his books, and you have to like that.

It might begin something like this:

It was the road of death, and it led straight to nowhere, but he loved it for all the right reasons.
Too many legends had died here, and a constellation of lesser lights. For the moment he was alone with their ghosts and the howl of the tires and the rumble and bark of the exhaust. Downshifting from fourth into third, Archie eased out the clutch and touched the brake, and she drifted through, clipping the apex of the right-hander at a clean seventy-five.
A lorry lumbered along up ahead, and there were vehicles in the oncoming lane. The Panzerotti Special squatted on the road like a panther, lithe and supple.
Archie put it in fifth gear and let the revs drop. The brakes seemed all right, but with two days to go, they had better pull something out of their sleeves…

Thursday, December 9, 2010

New Things. Keeping It Screwed On Straight.

by Louis Bertrand Shalako

c2010

All Rights Reserved


Okay, so tomorrow the Victorian Order of Nurses nurse will be here at ten o'clock. I need to be back with my smokes and coffee by then! The Evil Doctor Louis has never treated a bum-scuff on a 79 year-old man before, and we are grateful for their assistance.

I learned with a quick Google search that I have two books in Kobo Bookstore, good news indeed and just in time for the season. Those royalty checks will come from smashwords, as I recall, but I should check that out ASAP.

For some reason I'm not writing much right now, but clearly more stuff is in the works. Right now I'm researching places and platforms for reviews of my books, and some of these will include magazines listed on ralan.com and duotrope.com, etc.

With four e-books on Amazon in Kindle format, and four books on Smnashwords in multiple formats, and now the two books in Kobo Bookstore in multiple formats, things look promising for the new year.

In time I will have four books in Kobo, and hopefully get into Diesel, Applestore, you know the program.

I'm tweeting now. Several people participated in an experimental live chat with Brian Thomas Schmidt and Mike Resnick, sci-fi's record holder in terms of awards. Hopefully that will go better next time, Wednesday night at 9:00 here: #sffwrtcht (twitter.) We were either all on different pages or different app's.

As long as we can keep our heads screwed on straight, we should do all right. Other than that, it's time to learn marketing and social networking and all that jazz.

Excerpt. 'Core Values.'



The big cat sat on a branch, licking its chops, purring in contentment. Tasting the fresh blood of a rabbit from its paws and muzzle, she cleaned herself carefully. The smell of blood was a sure warning to other meals, still on the hoof or crouching cautiously in their burrows.

While she groomed her thick tawny fur, she was still always alert, always listening, smelling the wood-smoke and other flavours on the wind. She curled her right paw around and cleaned between each toe with her raspy, almost prehensile tongue. Then she did the other front paw, then each hind foot, with no hint of the precarious perch. Her balance and flexibility was a miracle of creation.

The killing was easy in these parts, and while the big cat was unaware of the fine geographic distinctions, she had unwittingly moved back into her natural range. She was home, and didn’t even know it. The killing was easy so the living was easy, and now the big cat had no natural enemies, no other top-of-the-food-chain predators competing directly with her; nor preying upon her. No other predators to spook a herd of white-tailed deer, fat and sassy after a long summer; no wolves spoiling the perfect set-up at the last instant, to cross ahead of the herd when the wind was wrong, or to leave a scent by a water source, and make them move on to another. She had the herd all to herself.

She was familiar with the black bears, who were a hereditary enemy, and sparks flew when they met. Yet she had not smelled any in so long she knew they were absent. She did not waste a lot of time contemplating this; she merely accepted it, and it was good.

While the barking of nervous dogs was often in the air, there were no wolves, and no sign of their past presence, no hint of a pack in the vicinity. No wolverines, no badgers, although their smaller cousins, and pretty good eating when happenstance allowed, such as the groundhog, the raccoon and the possum were in abundance. No moose, the only creature besides one other which truly frightened the big cat. There were plenty of the two-legged noisy ones. She felt a kind of caution and a kind of disdain for them, for they did not act properly, and seemed quite mad in their mindless pursuits; mysterious, and unknowable. She had never eaten one, not even been tempted. They smelled bad, looked odd, and since she had never tasted the meat, could not offer an opinion; and had never really developed a hankering to try it.

The deer that were her favourite meal were big, fat and plentiful, and showed signs of complacency, although lately they were more skittish. She knew nothing of hunting seasons, but they did and they knew, at least the adults, what time of year it was.

It was the time of the rut, when the sound of antlers rattling against other antlers would tell her where to go; tufts of hair on the trees to show where they had rubbed against, removing unwanted scruffy last-season fur; to make way for the glossy new coat.

The sweet-smelling tracks were by the water hole, where almost any morning, she could lie in wait and make a try for one. But now it was time to curl up and go to sleep, with her hindquarters rubbing reassuringly against the tree, head on paws, and tail curled around her like an expensive stole; on the upwind side to keep the chill away from her toes. A splishing and splashing came from the bowl of the valley nearby, where the creek curled around upon itself, and ran slow and deep. There was nothing in particular there that she liked to eat, and nothing in particular there that she feared. She put her head down and slept, mind you; with one ear open. One ear tracked the sound as it made its way down the flowing river. Finally, even that movement ceased, and after while, so did the purring. Her breath was soft, deep and even.

Pale frosty light glistened on the bark of oak branches around her perch, high above the blackened woods, all a-shiver with uncertain breezes, coming and going as is their wont.


END

This excerpt is from 'Core Values,' avaliable from Amazon and other fine retailers.

(Photo: Bas Lammers, Creative Commons Share-Attribute 2.0 Generic.)

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Learning the Ropes: Criticism and Feedback.


Morguefile, effects by Louis.



When I first began submitting short stories, I made one hundred eighty-five submissions before I got a hit, and that story still hasn’t come out yet.

Since May of 2009, I have made five hundred and ninety-seven submissions. Maybe half a dozen of those were book subs. Previously, I had made an estimated seventy-five book submissions, and a few others. Those were all by post. They also take a very, very long time. I used to submit to contests, which also takes a very long time, but you often do get the jury’s criticisms.

There is a difference in terms of feedback, and it is a vital one. The difference is time. A book rejection rarely if ever has any feedback or criticism attached to it. I know of one exception, and the gentleman edits two pages of your submission and sends them back to you along with your rejection slip. Mine had more red ink of his than the black ink I put there! It hurt like hell. A few hours later, I was re-writing happily enough, because, ‘now I knew what I had to do. ‘

Asimov’s, Alfred Hitchcock’s, or Ellery Queen’s will not send you criticism or a reason for your story rejection. They get tens of thousands of subs a year. To give even one person criticism is an unfair advantage in a competitive business. They don’t have time to do everyone, and how could you choose? Hard-luck stories? It is favouritism, especially at the lowest levels. How they treat top-profile authors is a whole ‘nuther story. (They ask for revisions.)

So the difference is time, and early in the career, criticism is absolutely vital. I never would have figured that out without actually trying different things. People who are further along the learning curve tend to forget what they struggled with twenty or thirty years ago. Maybe they made six submissions and started making money! Their experience is simply different. Mine is not exactly unique.

Some editors do give feedback, and criticism, and reasons for rejection. Rejection hurts? These guys are your best friends. ‘Learning the ropes,’ sounds like a nautical term. But it’s really a boxing term. In the early part of any career, you spend a fair amount of time on the ropes…it’s inevitable, and a part of the learning curve. You will see scars in the mirror, and you will have earned them.

The reason for rejection may be a simple one. Recently I subbed a story unthinkingly, and it was simply too long. The story itself may be fine. By checking the guidelines, I might have saved us both a little time.

My first submissions were combed out of a printed media guide at the local library, but getting on the internet has really freed me. This may seem nuts, but I did everything wrong—and I still got published. I sent original stories to foreign reprint markets, who mostly publish ‘known’ authors previously published in English, or writers in their own language.

Some of the inappropriate submissions I made were too long, or too short, reading period closed, improper format, failure to put my own name on things, no word count, or wrong genre. Every mistake in the book, and I still managed to get in. So far, the rate of acceptance is still running at about four percent, and most of those aren’t even professionally-paying markets. That is still twenty-five in a year and a half, with a few subs still out there. It proves ‘even a dummy like me can do it,’ and who hasn’t heard that one before?

There is plenty to learn. That’s for sure. But it’s just a matter of blood, tears, toil and sweat.

It is a matter of time. A short story has structure, and so does a novel. The criticisms come back to you a lot faster, sometimes three days as opposed to eight months or longer. And so you learn faster.

As far as writing novels goes, the more I do, the better I will get at it, and it is not that hard to see a big difference from the first to the fourth, fifth and sixth, which is where I began to get pretty comfortable with straightforward narrative fiction writing.

I can go back and look at stuff I submitted a year and a half ago, and sometimes I just shudder!

You can’t be afraid to take it on the chin once in a while, or you ain’t going anywhere.

Note: as of this re-post, (May 6/12, I'm up to 693 submissions.)

TOC: The Paranoid Cat and other tales.

The Paranoid Cat
The Acolyte
Thirty Years Gone
Sea of Tranquility
The New School
Wendigo
A Near Miss
Flash Video
The Jesus Christ Show
The Bottle Cap
Repelatron Raceway
Nanobots in the Lawn
Whale-Mart
Fortean Phenomena
The Comet
Bloody Dream

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Marketing 101. E-Books.

by Louis Bertrand Shalako

c2010

All Rights Reserved


I know so little about internet marketing that I read pretty thoroughly. While I am always interested in what other people have to say on the subject, I don’t always have the sort of experienced judgment to know which writer really has something to say and which one doesn’t.

I also have a few thoughts of my own, which are either lame, or brilliant, depending upon who we ask! But in my own limited experience, the toughest calls are ‘which contracts not to sign,’ quite honestly. Those are real gut-twisting decisions; because you don’t know when or if you will ever get another offer, let alone a better one.

Going by classic theory, I should be sending out complimentary promotional copies, and according to one highly placed source, ‘the more the better.’ His absolutely top-line publisher gives him fifteen or twenty, and he would prefer a hundred. If I mailed paperback books by Canada Post, it is slow. But we also know that it will eventually get there. We have no way of knowing what happens to that mail once it arrives at its destination, but someone would open that envelope or package for sure. That paperback is going home with somebody.

From ‘createspace,’ this would cost $11.99 plus shipping and handling, (last time I looked.)

It is a free gift. It has value. It is tangible. You can hold it in your hand and feel the weight. You can wrap it up and give it to Aunt Minnie for Christmas.

With an e-book, theoretically I could send out an unlimited number of free promotional copies, a gift of some value, if you will. I probably should be doing it, but I’m not. Here’s why.

Theoretically, if I have the right e-mail address it will arrive very quickly at its destination. Ah, but we ourselves are rather reluctant to click on attachments, and so are they. We know there is some risk in clicking on a link, and so do they. We have junk folders and spam filters, and so do they.

The problem is, with a free promotional e-book, is how to let them know that it is safe, or that it is coming, or available upon request. How do they even know that it is there? The trick is to let them know who you are, maybe.

There are other factors. Aunt Minnie doesn’t know what an e-book is, and does not own a computer, and doesn’t want Kindle, Kobo, or whatever. People love books, and change is often threatening or merely unwelcome. It is a free country. It is her choice, and my challenge.

How much time staff members spend combing through e-mail junk and spam folders is unknown to this writer.

Now. Any system can be defeated by using its own rules against it. And my business model is predicated on getting every possible service for free. That’s because this February is my fifteenth anniversary on disability, and poverty has its own logic which I won’t dwell on. I guess you could say education costs money, or time, or effort, or something.

At the risk of seeming to be hypersensitive, I am perfectly aware that I am in no position to offer e-book advice to aspiring authors. I know no more than you do, and arguably less. It is true that I could self-publish POD with createspace and lulu.com. The former would cost about $300.00 US or thereabouts. I simply don’t have the money, and I will not have that money for months, maybe longer. Four titles equals $1200.00, and I would have one author’s copy per title. This is ‘vanity publishing,’ with all due respect, at its best.

I may be sarcastic, to some small degree. Buddy, there’s no way in hell that I’m throwing that on my credit card at 28 % per annum. I want to see some sales and some traffic. I want to generate some buzz. Show me the demand for my product and I will find the money to invest in increased profits. Show me enough demand, I will go the bank and ask for a loan!

And I make no claims whatsoever about knowing what I am doing. It is an experiment, no more, no less. I have nothing to lose and much to gain, and you win by playing the game.

The only way I can lose is if I quit; and a ‘quick victory’ is a myth of military science.

That is the theory, until someone respectable and credible tells me different; or my circumstances change.

So how do I defeat the system? I have a plan. I have the wit to conceive it and the audacity to carry it out.

The details of this plan are confidential, but will become apparent as time goes on.

Oh, and don’t forget to sign up as a follower on my blog.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Louis Is In The Building.

by Louis Bertrand Shalako

c2010

All Rights Reserved

I have abandoned several stories in the last week or ten days. It's clear that I am floundering. Wallowing, even. Ideas are sometimes hard to come by, and I don't necessarily delete these things, but they are essentially spiked. I have abandoned, 'Home to Ithaca,' and the western, and something else...whatever.

To write sci-fi, and then detective fiction, and then horror, and then try a western is not a bad thing as far as it goes, but it lacks focus. When I submitted the detective story, I seriously worried about what might happen if it was accepted.

What would I think? What would I do then?

Somehow I have managed to weasel my way into the sci-fi building, through a basement window. The glass was cracked, the putty was missing in places, and the latch no good, I guess you could say.

But I am in the building.

While the training in spec-fic certainly has not harmed me, to try to learn another genre right from the ground up would take time.

As for the western, 'Guns at Mule Creek,' by 'Gus Whittaker,' (or 'whatever') it has its allure. But I would be bringing nothing new to the genre. I'm sure I could pulp out 75,000 words.

More than anything else, I am tired, oh, so tired. With four e-books out there and twenty or so stories to show for it, I guess I have a right. It has been a good year.

While I have earned a rest, I also don't know what to do next, and that is sheer hell!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Excerpt. 'Home to Ithaca,' (subject to change.)

by Louis Bertrand Shalako

c2010

All Rights Reserved


“Ithaca, here we come,” grinned Ulysses in anticipation of a good journey, feasting his eyes and his senses on the hills, and fields and pastures of Greece.

“It feels good to be dry again,” said the hoplite Aristides. “The ground still pitches underfoot, but the lingering memory of the wine last night helps, rather than hinders.”

“Some country air, and what a beautiful country we share, shall clear your head out!” noted Thucydides.

“No need to shout,” noted Ulysses, ambling along between the other two. “Feast your eyes, my friends, and feast your lungs, and your hearts, for surely that is the best cure for a well-earned hangover. Some good, honest walking is what you fellows require.”

He lengthened his stride and soon had them cursing and laughing.

“Slow down, Ulysses, or you shall walk alone!” said his elder companion, the sturdy and studious Thucydides. “Eager as you are to taste the sweet delights of home and the lovely Penelope, we will sleep by the road tonight one way or another.”

“Look at the olive trees,” sighed Aristides. “The gods may have Mount Olympus to themselves, heroes as we undoubtedly are. Give me home, and good honest toil upon my own soil. Give me peace and quiet, my wife and my daughters, my brothers and sisters, and my olive trees. Give me my sparkling stream and my good horses, for surely never was there a finer team.”

“You can speak or be silent, I shall enjoy this walk one way or another,” agreed Ulysses. “But, oh, if only I could fly, I would tarry not with you my friends, but go upon the wings of Pegasus!”

***

Author's note: So this is what I have bitten into and it sure looks interesting. As for putting Thucydides in there, it's early yet and it's easy enough to change a name. If you are already familiar with Homer's classic tale, then the challenges are easy to see, especially as I hope to make a short story of about 10,000-20,000 words.

I would also prefer to remain as true as possible to the spirit of the original and in some ways to ignore 'back story.' I have no idea of how long this will take or where it might eventually be published.

I have a simple nuts and bolts approach to writing. What I need is a good rough draft that has a beginning, a middle, a climax, and an ending that is nice and short.

By printing out the relevant book-notes studied by millions of students over the years, I can keep the basic facts straight. While not a big fan of fantasy, I think I can deal with the story in purely human terms, as if it were historical fiction and nothing else.

In some sense, Ulysses himself is a myth, and Homer's work is a hard act to follow. Like the character I am studying, I kind of like to take a few risks, but I also like to think it through.

So far, I'm having a blast. I can't wait for the bloodbath scene, and the final act, if I can call it that, may end up being sublime comedy.

As for the tendency to make it a sort of half-rhyming prose, I don't know why that is. It just sort of happened.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Professionalism Check List. Common Errors.

by Louis Bertrand Shalako

c2010

All Rights Reserved


Re-write every story before making a new submission.

Use proper manuscript format, unless otherwise specifically stated.

Read the guidelines again, before each submission.

Put my ID on every submission except where otherwise specifically stated.

Include the word count on the submission itself unless otherwise stated.

Try to determine the country of the publisher and use the appropriate style, (U.S., U.K., Canada.)

Fact-check every single thing in the story where I am relying on memory.

Is this an appropriate submission?

Am I submitting to the highest possible paying market place?

Learn how to write a decent query or do not send it.

Note every submission in my List of Subs.

My most common errors: see list above.

Taxes and Death.

by Louis Bertrand Shalako

c2010

All Rights Reserved


Ten or fifteen years ago, the music industry lobbied the government of Canada to put a fifty cent tax on cassette tapes. This was because I was ripping off the music industry every time I bought a cassette tape to record my guitar practice.

That’s because I am a criminal. Oh, yeah, and that tax is still in place.

Why, it was only last week when somebody or other was looking for a new tax, because if I re-read the magazine I just purchased, I was ripping them off.

Oh, yeah, I remember now—some asshole wants to tax hard drives because every time I use my computer, I am ripping off their God-given (or God-damned,) rights. Somehow. I don’t know, it’s not my job to explain it, as the CRTC will rubberstamp it anyway. That’s their job.

So now the big Canadian music stars (Alannah Noniabu, Melville Straighto, The Knucklehead Shitberries, Freddie and the Fucksticks,) are lobbying the CRTC for a tax on MP-3’s, and of course the reason given is that somehow I am a criminal for liking music or something. An MP-3 is a stream of data, actually, but somehow the government doesn’t know this. They want to tax my data. That is the real issue here, but none of them will admit it—listen to the streaming lies coming out of their lying, thieving, fucking dingbat media outlets.

You know, it seems like it was only last year when I lobbied the CRTC against CTV’s (The Olympic Channel,) demand for a $10 per month tax on cable. Oh, yes, Canwest Global just sold their unprofitable EM broadcast stations to some foreign dingbat who will instantly transform those into money making outfits, (or otherwise they just got ripped off.) I guess that tax pays them to take it off Canwest’s hands. That and the thirteen percent HST in Ontario. That tax killed the BC premier. Dalton McGuinty seems pretty safe, for some reason. The mainstream media always says, the 'tax and spend' NDP. Hah! They haven't governed since the early nineties, ancient history. The media carried all the demands for the present massive deficit on their front pages and their evening news.

They also endorsed it in their editorials, yeah; it was called 'stimulus.'

You want to know the truth? I watch the Weather Network. Otherwise I can’t stand looking at the fucking television, and incidentally, the fact that ‘Heartland’ was picked up by CBC and French public TV is not exactly a ringing endorsement of the milieu.

(I won’t comment on French public TV. It’s not my job, thank you very much.)

I haven’t been to a movie in the theatre for thirty years. I haven’t been in a bookstore in about the same amount of time. I have not bought a CD in at least ten years. I haven’t bought a magazine since 1986.

I fell from a scaffold and broke my back in three places, but I got a fuck of a lot more spine than you piss-ants. Just for the record, I’m not asking for anything.

What I am doing, is telling you fucking jerks to fuck off.

One more thing: I hereby demand a fifty-cent tax on every every e-book reader bought by a Canadian. That’s because I have four published e-books. And I’m getting ripped off, I tell you. It’s just a rip-off, and every one of them is one hundred fucking percent Canadian Content.

I’ll be back next week with a few more formats and demands. Why, I’m a Canadian artist, I tell you. I’m a fucking star.

Why don’t you fucking assholes go apply for a cultural grant or something, your fucking back’s not fucking broken.

Aw, fuck, somebody please kill me.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Editor's Note:



In a previous post, Louis thinks he may have confused the First Law of Motion for the First Law of Thermodynamics.

The first law of motion states, 'for every action there will be an opposite and equal reaction.'

The first law of thermodynamics states, 'if you place two bodies of unequal temperature together, the heat will flow from the one with the highest temperature to the one of lower temperature until the two bodies are in equilibrium.'

The lesson is a simple one: why rely on memory when it is so easy to check the facts?

Louis had the law right but the name wrong! Yet this could so easily have been caught.

We regret any inconvenience. If Louis can remember which post that was...we could go and fix it. Louis says he has fixed it.

Sorry about all that. Never mind. -ed.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Excerpt. 'The Handbag's Tale.'






















Ernst Ludwig Kirchner 1913 (Street Scene.)


by Louis Bertrand Shalako

c2010

All Rights Reserved


Maintenon regarded the woman as Levain took notes. Her eyes gleamed dully across the desk, scarred with the cigarette burns of a million other interviews. The uniformed police had provided reams of notes for them. They had no witnesses and no one to arrest.

“Smoke?” he offered.

She shook her head, numb. Eloise was very vulnerable, pale blonde hair limp and her features showing fatigue. Her shoulders were slumped. She had been given a moment to wipe away the streaks of mascara from her tears. She was composed, now, he thought.

“Do you mind?”

The sound of the match flaring was loud in the stillness, the only other noise some intermittent typing in the distance.

She just ignored him, dumbly. She looked away at Levain for a moment, then met his eyes.

“I’m very sorry for all of this,” he began. “But we need to ask you a few questions.”

Andre scribbled away in the oppressive silence as the inspector blew a smoke ring up towards the light.

Andre looked up for a moment.

“Would you like some tea?” he asked pleasantly.

Andre looked quickly over at Maintenon.

“She’s had a nasty shock,” he told the inspector.

“No, thank you,” she said.

Maintenon went on with the questioning.

“So you are Eloise Charpentier from Cevennes. You moved here three years ago, and you work at the insurance company, and you live in apartment nineteen, one-forty-four Rue de la Portiers?”

“Yes,” she said.

“And you were looking for your purse?” asked Maintenon.

“Yes!” she agreed.

“Why were you looking for your purse in the alley?” asked the inspector.

She coloured slightly.

“I thought that I must have lost it there,” she said.

“Ah,” noted Maintenon. “Yet you did not know this deceased gentlemen, although he was at the party. He was involved briefly with another young lady, a certain Mademoiselle Vernier, also awaiting interview at this moment.”

“If you say so, sir,” she mumbled.

“Who did you arrive with?” he asked.

“With Guillaume,” she said.

“Were you smoking hashish with Guillaume in the alley?” asked Maintenon. “Or smooching?”

None of this seemed to be going anywhere and deep in his heart Maintenon knew they were just going through the motions.

***

So what we have is a dead body, an era, a place, (Paris,) and a group of suspects. At Genrecon 2009, I asked crime writer Dennis Collins if he sort of 'must have' a definite ending in mind, and then, 'write toward it.'

"No, I had to finish my first book just to find out who did it!" he recalled.

So that's about where I am right now. While it is true that I could simply pick a character and make them the killer, at this point in time i have no idea who killed the portly playboy banker Emile Danton. (Or even why!)

The goal at this point is simply to advance the story, by a couple of thousand words a day and see what happens. Maybe Inspector Maintenon and his husky sidekick Sergeant Levain will get a lucky break.

Editor's Note: this story is now complete at 11,000 words.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Handling Rejection.

by Louis Bertrand Shalako

c2010

All Rights Reserved


The key thing in dealing with rejection is to immediately sit down and submit that story somewhere else. If you receive criticisms with the rejection, naturally you should take them into account. But more often there is no criticism. Take another look at it, and then send it off again.

For a writer there is nothing more positive than reaching that point in the story when you know you really have something--something 'real,' but the second best thing is submitting. It is, after all; a positive, optimistic thing, filled with hope and promise.

My hand trembled the first time I made an e-mail submission. But then, I didn't know what would happen...and anything can happen, (at some theoretical level.)

Since May 2009 I have made 574 submissions, including short stories, books and poetry. My success rate hovers around four percent. This naturally does not include stories published on my own blog, or self-published e-books. Do the math. I guess you could say that I have learned to deal with rejection to some extent, although it still does hurt from time to time. This largely depends on how much of an emotional investment you having riding on it...right?

But it's not over until you say it is over, either. You really can't lose, unless you choose to quit.

I could bump up the success rate by plying the fledgling markets. What I am doing is submitting new stories to pro markets, at least my best stories. It keeps me sharp.

(Sharper.)

I submitted to a fledgling market last week. I would like to find a place for that story, and you never really know, do you?

The next thing on the agenda is to try a few submissions to the People's Republic of China. I have subbed there before, but had no luck. But now I have ten months of very hard training in re-writing and editing...and I make my own luck.

Most of the time there is no real valid reason for rejection. Like any smart shopper, the editor simply wasn't interested. They have only so much to spend and a pretty good idea of what they want, or at least they will know it when they see it.

This is the key to submitting: 'They will know it when they see it."

Thus we strive for excellence, and try to get inside the editor's head a little bit.

This post may be updated later.

Oh, yeah! I almost forgot. I got a couple of rejection slips today...but then I also subbed six or seven new ones!

You would have to be some kind of masochist to want this job.

I wouldn't have it any other way.

UPDATE:

The other day I made a foriegn-language submission, and within two days I've placed a story in Nova Fantasia, (Galician, Spain.) And it was just too easy, although we all know how much the Spanish like soccer, Fernando Alonso and science fiction.

Every thing in life has its price, and success is no exception, oddly enough. I have no idea of when that will come out. Also, once you begin to actually place stories rather than just submitting them all over hell's half-acre, then it starts to matter about what the rights are. This leads to more reading, more thinking and more care and attention. It is more time-consuming. You become more selective in the markets you submit to, always with one eye on the rights. When it's no longer free, then you begin to consider the price, and whether it's really worth it--like those subs to China I mentioned earlier.

Simply put, no pay except maybe a few copies. I give away some rights, in a nation of a billion people, none of whom have ever heard my name.

The magazine has 400,000 readers, many of whom speak English and are on the internet where they could buy one of my e-books...it's a trade-off. One magazine publishes the story in Chinese and English, which makes it a reprint, (or half-price) back home. It's a new foreign-language credit...very prestigious.

Yes, and at some point you have to figure out a way to keep track of it all.

You really have to consider the price of successfully placing a story in that market.



Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Role of Weather in Fiction.












by Louis Bertrand Shalako

c2010

All Rights Reserved


Weather plays an important role in fiction. When writing a story, it is surprising how often the weather outside somehow makes it into the story. In ‘Heaven Is Too Far Away,’ which involves a lot of WW I flying, it is only natural that weather comes to the forefront in much of the action, and of course over a long story seasonal changes play a role as well.

Describing winter flying is easy enough for the typical radio-control pilot, as we don’t get to sit in a nice warm cabin. I have flown models in -25 Celsius temperatures with winds of 25-35 k’s right in the face. The first thing that happens is the eyes water up, and there really is a chance of freezing your eyeballs.

The most vulnerable parts of the body in terms of frostbite would be the fingers and the ears.

In writing science fiction, for example in my as-yet unreleased fourth novel, ‘Time-storm,’ the weather on an alien planet can be fun, interesting and challenging to write about. When creating an entire ecosystem for your characters to run around in, if the planet is hot, this has some bearing on the attire or wardrobe! If it’s cold, they either dress for it or freeze. It is just that simple, although whether they’re in silver-lame body suits, or the more modern ‘insul-suits,’ as I used in ‘Time-storm,’ is the option of the artist.

When describing an alien species, one has to think of the environment that it inhabits. For that reason the Altheans, the native aliens in 'Time-storm,' have short, dark fur, short muzzles, their ears are small and tightly bundled up to the head, and they have all sorts of other environmental adaptations. These evolutionary changes are all driven by the climate zone, as well as seasonal temperature variations in the area they live in, i.e. all weather related.

It just occurred to me that fantasy, as opposed to science fiction, leaves evolution out of the picture—and wizards and magicians control the weather. The really strange thing is; that I never knew that until after I wrote it. I guess that’s one reason why we do it. You learn something new every day in this business.

Fantasy has its own weather. In ‘Shape-shifters,’ as yet unreleased, Jean Gagnon arrives in the town of Scudmore just a few weeks before Christmas. All the action, indoors and out, is affected by the fact that it is winter, and Jean spends some time show shoveling. Other characters in the book take off to Florida, or just spend time in gossip at the local coffee shop. All the outdoor scenes take winter into account. Plot-wise I even take advantage of it, in the sense that everyone is leaving tracks, or suffers if they’re not dressed for the conditions, or merely wonders how they are going to pay the gas bill. Before running out of the house, characters might take time to put on a coat.

Life, (or fiction,) is a series of conflicts, in the sense that we all have our own selfish interests. Winter just adds an additional burden to those characters, in the case of ‘Shape-shifters.’

To some degree weather might play a role in our moods or perceptions. As writers, the mood we are in undoubtedly has some effect on what we write.

Author Update as of May 31. 2012. 'The Shape-Shifters' and other books menitoned in the text are available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, Kobo, Sony, Diesel Books, etc. Interestingly enough, tomorrow I begin work on my second mystery novel. The first scene is an easy one. It's called, 'A body in the Seine,' and it's taking shape in my head as a grey, miserable day where the focus is not on gore, or grossing out the reader so much as drawing attention to the humble nature of most of such incidents. There is no ID on the body, and the attending gendrames are tired and grumpy from being up all through a busy night shift. It's grit rather than gristle.

The scene is Paris, in 1926. The book pays some homage to John Dickson Carr, a master of the locked-room mystery. I will be putting a twist on things, don't worry about that. The thing is half plotted out now. There will be some sensuality in there, but not erotica per se. A little full frontal nudity never hurt anyone!

Especially if it's done properly...

For more on this project and what goes into writing a mystery novel, check out 'The Art of Murder.'

According to the Weather Network, we're looking at a solid twnety-four hours of precipitation, and chilly temperatures, so again, this will be incorporated into the novel, in terms of sound, chill, and other dismal terms.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Using Google Maps to Plot a Story.



Lausanne through Google Maps. E-317 photo, shot from computer screen.

by Louis Bertrand Shalako

c2010

All Rights Reserved


In my story, 'Bushman,' appearing in Aurora Wolf's anthology, 'Aurora in the Dawn,' I was familiar with the geography as I had lived in the Oakville and Hamilton area years before. The problem was that I could not remember the name of one road in particular. So I used the free Google map feature that appears in any Google search page.

I followed Appleby Line north and discovered the road was Britannia, and then I checked things like Bushman's point of ambush, and got a feel for distances and terrain, etc. Other than forgetting Britannia Road, my memory seemed pretty good.

Now when I went to write, 'The New School,' which appears in my short story collection, 'The Paranoid Cat and other tales,' I had an idea for a YA fantasy that took place in a girl's school. I don't know why, but Switzerland immediately sprang to mind. Only one problem, I have never been to Switzerland, right? I picked Lausanne for one reason or another, and then I zoomed in and had a look.

And so in my story, the first scene involves the small family unit arriving at the school. They get stuck in a situation where they have to make about five right turns to get to where they are going. You see, Lausanne has lots of one-way streets in the downtown area. They also have a building just like the one described in my story. Right across the street--the track and field athletic facilities, just like it says in the story.

In that sense, the internet is a great equalizer for the aspiring writer on a budget.