Saturday, February 26, 2011

FIne Tuning.

by Louis Bertrand Shalako


All Rights Reserved

Since publishing my first two ebooks back in September 2010, much has been learned.

The most recent questions revolve around the use of pdf download files as free giveaways or retail products.

The problem is that while a pdf can be a beautifully formatted document, for flowing-text devices or the desktop reader equivalents, it is not only unnecessary, but right justificaton stretches or 'squishes' the text when there are few words in a line. Oddly, the tag end of a line composed of a few words is unaffected.

A half-baked solution is to simply tell the people looking at the product, 'This version suitable for PC viewing using Adobe,' or 'This version intended for mobile devices.'

The pdf's on Smashwords have ragged right margins for two reasons, the first of which is that they are derived from your original .doc file, which also has ragged right edges for conversion to Epub and Mobi, etc. They have ragged right edges to be read in a portable device. Pdf's are supported in virtually all devices, portable and otherwise.

A question arises when someone buys a pdf copy from Smashwords.

What if they read it on a PC or laptop?

"Can't this guy format a simple document file?" they may ask.

On, I have pdf's of products for giveaway purposes. I did this for two reasons. On other platforms, I would be giving away Epub or Mobi, and I would prefer if people buy those. At $0.99 I don't see a problem with my attitude! But if someone downloads a free pdf from Lulu and it has right margin justification, and if they try to read it in a mobile device, the text may be 'squished' for that reason in some places.

The problem is one of labeling. None of these platforms really allow a lot of space for extra product description. Of course, it can't be too long to begin with. A lot of potential customers would find the explanation boring, and educating consumers is time consuming.

So the obvious answer is to dump pdf's altogether. This brings up another issue.

How to give stuff away for free without having it become a time wasting process of shooting e-mails with attachments back and forth. There are some issues of privacy and other risks on both sides involved here. To give stuff away on Smashwords goes through all distribution channels. This seems pretty logical, and why in the hell didn't I do it that way before?

On Smashwords or Kindle, and on other platforms, it is possible to set the price for 'free.' The logical choice would be Smashwords, as it puts the product out in a number of formats. Only one problem--no right hand justification is possible. Because they might read it in a portable device...right? And if they read on a home PC using Adobe, they'll wonder why I didn't justify the right margins. This is no-win for me.

As time goes on, some platforms will become more flexible with an eye to gaining a competitive edge. Using Smashwords as an example, it would be nice to use the system to sell Epub, Mobi, and other formats, and to give away pdf's, all nicely formatted for reading in Adobe without having to worry about 'customer experience' issues.

Virtually everyone has Adobe on their computer. Convincing people to download Kindle for PC, Android, or whatever, (free downloads from Amazon,) or Mobipocket, or any one of a hundred other possibilities, and then read the product in that interface, is part of the job.

I say that because on my home PC, the product, when used as intended, (but maybe not as instructed,) seems all right.

Should I just put a short explanation in the front matter of every edition? But why tell anyone in the first place?

I've had one book returned for unknown reasons. None of these platforms seems to give this kind of feedback. That would be priceless. I don't ever want to argue or try to convince a disappointed customer. But it sure would be nice to have this vital piece of data.

What is surprising is how long it takes to figure some of this out. I am working on my own, and simple time factors come into play.


Right now I am managing at least five learning curves that immediately spring to mind. These are writing, editing, publishing, marketing and the whole tech side.

The sensitivity training is going pretty well too. We sell a book once in a while, and that's important.

It shows us what is possible.


Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Space Web.

“’ow are you feeling, mate?" asked Cor Blimey.

He continued rubbing the tired feet of the first mate. Michael Bubble was playing softly in the background, and it wasn’t a recording—it was the real McCoy, complete with banjo and xylophone accompaniment.

Rapudah Thebewdah sighed in pure bliss, the hiss of the aromatherapy program a silent reminder to get her credit limit raised.

“Fine, thank you, captain,” she practically shivered in a sober and objective analysis of the facts.

“Oi! Don’t wet nuffink spoyo wet,” said Cor.

“All right, all right,” she said, putting her teacup back on the rim of the samovar and seven-headed hookah combo, a fake family heirloom from the 1950’s in Grand Rapids, as she always said.

There was a companionable silence as Cor prattled on silently, lips moving in fretful counterpoint to the lonely thoughts rattling inside of his brain-bucket right there beside the door.

“Sensual,” she said.

“Come a gyne?” he said.

“Sensual,” she clarified. “I feel sensual.”

“Buggah me dingo,” said Cor. “So do Oi.”


As Cor inserted the dental-floss needle to administer a cooling, mint-flavoured douche to the spleen, the ship lurched, once, but once was enough and zero would have gone unnoticed.

“Two and two togethah and Oi think we’s just hit something! Buggah!” said Cor, all his efforts rendered nugatory by the unexpected come-uppance of the good ship Bonnie Dune.

“We had better have a look,” sighed Rapudah, noting that the pitch and yaw readouts were way up in the red.

So that was okay, then.

“Wot is that?” said Cor with unusual clarity.

The rueful pair stared at the display. It looked like something cylindrical or tubular was stuck to the hull plating up near the nose.

Swinging the external camera head around, Cor showed Rapudah the thing, or stuff.

“Why, that goes on for parsecs!” she gasped. “What the heck is it?”

“That’s not the word Oi would have used,” noted Cor lugubriously, there was another word, and it was one which he probably couldn’t even spell.

As the ship rotated and spun around, Cor was struck by inspiration.

“What should Oi do?” he asked.

“Throttle down!” she suggested languidly. “It’s just a waste of fuel at this point.”


“Wot the bluddy heow is thet?” blurted Cor.

An abstractly patterned grid or net appeared to be strung in space.

“It looks like a net!” Rapudah gasped, womanly bosom heaving with sternly expressed emotions.

"Aw wuss,” noted Cor. “A bluddy spoidah wib! Buggah!”

Briefly, for a short period of time, their eyes met in inscrutably silent query…

“Whudduhyah think, muthah?” Cor said to her in an interrogative fashion.

“Let’s have a look,” she ventured.

And nothing ventured, nothing wasted.


The slightly transparent filament was indeed stuck to the forward port nichrotrowettlicker, er; assembly.

“So woddah wy goonna do neow?” solicited Cor in an eclectic comment on the state of the Cosmos as a hole.

“Torch it off, maybe,” suggested Rapudah. “Before it rains, or something.”

“Rhynes? Rhynes? Aw yew mad, wooman?”

As Cor engorged his fanciful gaze upon the lovely mien of the chick he was banging, her jaw dropped and she pointed o’er his shoulder.

“Ah!” she screamed, and then she was saying stuff like, ‘Eaugh, yuck!” and clinging to poor old Cor like a bluddy limpet.

Gracelessly swinging around on the maneuvering jets as was his custom, Cor saw the biggest bluddy space spider the erstwhile pair had ever encountered, before or since.

“Buggah me dingo,” said Cor in awe, as the thing reeled them in from the vicinity of a big gas giant with a ring system that made his hemorrhoids look sick.

“We’d better get out of here,” noted Rapudah in a kind of pissed-off objectivity.

Still, it wouldn’t do to be eaten by the thing when they could so easily get away…maybe.


Rapudah had a plan.

“We’ll suit up,” she explained. “You go out there and kill it with the spear-gun, and I’ll keep the airlock open.”

“Roight!” said Cor. “And then wot?”

“Then we can cut the thing off,” she patiently and angrily explained.

“Oh! Roight!” he said. “Woy do you need a suit?”

“In case you forget to close the door again,” she noted sweetly. “Remember last time?”

“Buggah me dingo,” noted Cor in acknowledgement of this deep and fundamental truth.


So that’s what they did. Not only that, Rapudah figured the skin would fetch a Kazillion space-pence at the auction house on Earwig Nine.

“Well, you’ve earned your reward,” she said, chucking her clothes in the general direction of the galley where Cor was boiling lots of water and tearing up sheets for bandages.

Cor came into the room with a cheerful, expectant look on his homely visage.

“We could have some oice cream, muthah,” he said. “That woo’on be so bad roight about now.”



Tuesday, February 22, 2011

His Blood Ran Cold.

My book 'Core Values,' in Kindle for PC. May be language unsuitable for minors.

My product in Kindle's publisher preview. An excerpt from 'Thirty Years Gone.'

by Louis Bertrand Shalako


All Rights Reserved

Today I downloaded Kindle for PC again. The idea was to thoroughly check all of my products. This only makes sense. I was a few pages into my latest release, the short story, 'The Handbag's Tale,' when I saw that there were half a dozen lines all screwy. The text was written in 12-point and that is a certain size in the desktop PC reader. But these few lines looked like maybe six-point.

My blood ran cold. The word 'irritating' and a few cuss words come to mind. And so then I went to Smashwords and downloaded the Mobi version of every book, and stuck them into the Kindle for PC. They looked beautiful, again. I flipped through every page of two books, and checked fully half of the third, and zipped through at random concerning the last two books. I could not find a problem. These are the source files for the Kindle files, right?

So then, I went back to Kindle and tried to download a sample of 'Core Values.' That worked fine. When I opened it up, it said, 'Smashwords Edition' inside, which is just plain rude to Amazon! So then the old heart and respiration went up markedly.

To make a long story short, what you need to do is to go to Kindle, your dashboard, and click on 'edit details.' At the bottom of the page is the preview, which I always use anyway.

All the first four books were fine--they all say 'Published by Shalako Publishing' inside.

For whatever reason, I uploaded a revision to 'Handbag' last night. I used the preview--too many problems with version control in the past months have taught me some tough lessons. Right now I can't fix it--I have to wait and see if it's broke.

You can't do anything while the process is incomplete.

All I can do is pray sometimes. So far no one has bought that short story on Amazon. There was a missing word, right in the first couple of paragraphs. Published on the weekend, somebody bought one on Smashwords. Sorry about that! Let me know and I will replace it. But will the new version have the flaw when reading it on my desktop?

There is the need to market, promote and advertise my product. That is very, very hard to do if I have questions and doubts, constantly revolving around in the back of my mind. In that sense, today's mock panic attack may have some value. I was in the grocery store, and I saw a kid's school notebook for $0.99. It might be handy to get one and write out a simple checklist or God I don't know what! Also putting dates in the file name would help if I did it consistently to the same file. I just dumped over half a meg from the recycle bin.

I have no effing idea what was in there and I don't care.

Apparently, if you download Kindle for PC, it sort of takes over your filing system and converts a bunch of other Mobi-type books to a Kindle look-alike. I opened up one folder and was startled to see about twenty Kindle Editions in there, and I sure as hell haven't downloaded that many free samples of my own books. I'm still trying to figure out how that works, but Amazon doesn't care about Smashwords or Mobipocket or whatever. Why should they? That may be why I uninstalled Kindle for PC some time ago. What might be fine for a general reader is a pain in the pattooties for a self published author, especially as you go along and get more titles.

Yet I have to check the product once in a while.

Tonight I ate steak, salad and new potatoes for dinner. That has to count for something. It sure beats Ramen or lining up at the soup kitchen.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

New Product Development.

cShalako 2011

Over the weekend here at the skunkworks we were focusing on new product development. While the actual product is simple enough, we had some tedious quibbles with quality control, and then version control.

Then we impulsively revised our pricing on a mere whim.

Now the reader is privileged to witness the codeine-fueled ravings of a lunatic on the subject of 'The Handbag's Tale.' This is an 11,300 word short story, which was subbed to the best market and rejected.

Being unwilling to settle for second best, I thought I would just have some fun with it, which to be clear, is better than first best...right?

Inspector Maintenon and Sergeant Levain are on the lookout for an inept burglar who works by the light of the full moon, and they know that being the end of the month, his rent must be due.

Stumbling upon the still-warm body of pudgy playboy banker Emile Danton, the pair are presented with a pretty puzzle.

I dropped formula for a kind of artistic feel. I like Dada art, which might include a fur-lined cup, spoon and saucer. 'Found' objects for sculpture, painting on glass.

Look, the thing was fun to write, okay? That's all I'm saying. There is a theatre mentioned in the story, which came into being in 1923, and the only trolley or tram I can find in Paris went out of existence in 1924. That's a pretty narrow time frame, but there are no political or current events mentioned in the story. As for whether or not a few wealthy people would use horse-drawn carriages to attend a funeral in 1924, it is certainly possible.

If I was seriously worried, I would simply drop the theatre from the story! What also strikes me about the story is that it is a lot of dialogue. In that sense, maybe I could have done it as a play. I wouldn't know how to type that up, unfortunately. It will have to wait for another day!

The real motivation was that I could produce another ebook, which I like doing, and share it with people if that's what they want to do.

My operation is continously evolving. Now I have another book to put in my free rotation, which is essentially a new thing free every month.

There are always questions of version control, quality control, and there is not enough time in the day.

While I definitely need to produce new books, stories and poetry, I have serious thoughts on the business side.

That's simmering on the back burner for now.

Friday, February 18, 2011

The Two P's.

by Louis Bertrand Shalako


All Rights Reserved

As an independent self-published author, my two toughest challenges right now are both big and small.

These are 'Proofreading and Promotion.'

I've been submitting stories all over the place, and in this very tight professional market, it is terribly discouraging to re-read a story and find a missing word or a typo.

While 'writing fast,' has its allure, simply putting the thing away for a day or two might have helped. I have no beta-readers, and in fact had never heard of them before this year.

The dividing line between success and failure can be razor-thin at times. Editors all over the world are looking for any excuse to reject, and to cut down that pile of very professional looking submissions.


In her recent blog post, Kristine Kathryn Rusch says, 'The best promotion is getting your work out there.' (I'm paraphrasing, but that's what she said.)

A story in a professional magazine immediately brings you to the attention of thousands of committed readers.

Promotion is hard for one very good reason: as self published authors, we still don't really know if the work is any good. Without any good reviews, and no feedback from beta readers, it really is a tough thing.

We don't want to make unreasonable claims, and we don't want to be perceived as dishonest, or bad writers, or whatever.

In my own case, simple shyness and lack of confidence makes it hard to ask anyone for a guest post slot.

Why would anyone care what I think? I don't have a big name, I don't have big sales numbers to brag about. I don't even have any track record of success in 'a previous life,' as I have been on a very small pension for about fifteen years. The fact that I was sports editor of a small weekly paper years ago, or wrote a couple of magazine articles along the way, is not particularly impressive or helpful.

The one vital element in all of this is time. I do have something of a head start, with three more novels 'in the can,' enough short stories to keep submitting them, and a few more available to produce another collection this year.

I will put out a pretty good poetry book at some point, and the world will become my oyster.

Over time, the trickle of books that I am selling now will become a flood.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Cultivating Trust.

by Louis Bertrand Shalako


All Rights Reserved

No commerce can take place without some element of trust. Building trustful and fruitful relationships is the key to any successful business.

This is especially true in the virtual world. How does the little old lady from Pasadena know that you can be trusted and you're not just going to grab the cheque, 'perform some work so it isn't legally fraud,' and then bolt?

She doesn't. Building relationships takes time. If facebook and its counterparts are now the new Main Street, then let us go back to that model of 'kinder and gentler times.'

The past really wasn't Mayberry, okay? But the important thing to remember is that in the old village economy, everyone knew everybody else, and quite a bit about their personal business.

They knew who drank, who strayed, and whose kid was sick, and whose grandmother was dying. People don't buy things out of sympathy for your suffering, far from it.

They buy things from people they like, trust, respect or admire. They buy things they need, want or like. If you've ever really felt like you were screwed over by someone you liked, you probably never went back. You might have gone out of your way not to go back--and not out of spite, but sheer self-defense.

There has been some question as to whether 'you' are the product; or if some 'artifact' that can be 'shipped' and then 'billed' is the real product.

Labels are useful for convenience, although they have their limitations.

I am a writer. I write things, things which I then sell or try to sell to editors and publishers and readers around the world. It's what I do.

Whether we write on sheer speculation or sign people up for a monthly newsletter, really doesn't matter. People work hard for their money and they like to know who they are dealing with.

Simply interacting with people helps them to get to know you. Serving them in some way lets them get some idea of who you are.

Twitter is a wonderful medium for social networking.

First and foremost, it is a rich source of relevant posts. I get data and tips for my work.

The 'perfect tweet' would be helpful, informative, relevant, funny, non-threatening, and not cryptic or even enigmatic. It would be targeted at your audience, your followers, who are presumably there for a reason.

If you need to remove a person or entity from the list of people you are 'following, just do it. To tolerate someone is one thing, to take abuse out of politeness is another.

Like facebook, sometimes I just sit there and listen. This is a skill which is highly-underrated in today's virtual economy.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

The Art of Writing

by Louis Bertrand Shalako


All Rights Reserved

He reached with his hand for the doorknob.

He reached for the doorknob.

Inside of his head he was thinking, “What is going on with Fred?”

“What is going on with Fred?” he wondered.

John arrived at the farmhouse, where he found there were no vehicles in the driveway or parked out front, although he couldn’t say for sure if there were any in the barn, so he approached cautiously.

Arriving at the farmhouse, no vehicles were visible. The barn was locked shut. John couldn’t see in the windows. His spine crawled. It was too quiet and there was no guarantee the place was deserted. *

* The obvious conclusion here is that some words are simply unnecessary. It seems clear that more information is being conveyed using the same approximate number of words in the second example. Not so immediately obvious from the third example is ‘pacing.’ Look closely and you will see the story has advanced about the same amount. He arrives at the same place. We're getting a lot more work done.

What is different is the mood of the story. It is more ‘suspenseful.’ The impression is that the speed of the story is 'faster.' It's not--it just feels faster-paced when each and every word advances the story, describes, or sets mood.

‘His spine crawled,’ and ‘it was too quiet,’ are cliches. In the previous sentence there was no room to put ‘extra stuff’ in; because it was too wordy and poorly organized to begin with.

So now we have this:

Arriving at Fred’s place, the barn was locked shut. The half-rotten old plank door rattled in the breeze, despite the new brass padlock. He was almost sure someone was watching from the house.

Reaching with his hand for the doorknob on the door of the house, inside of his head he was thinking the thought, ‘I wonder what the heck is up with old Fred?” (Sorry. –ed.)

Next Time: semi-colons and where you can stick them.

Notes: First, I do edit online when I could simply use the preview feature. If the screen jumps on you, send me an e-mail at

Secondly, there is some method here. It is analytical. Look at the following sentence:

Brendan was angry and didn’t want to take it anymore.

I have a similar sentence in a blurb on and maybe a few other places.

Is 'anymore' a real word? I just typed it into a document file and used Word's 'spelling and grammar check' feature. The word 'didn't' was underlined in green because it is a contraction. The word 'anymore' was not underlined in green or red. Somebody somewhere thinks it is a word.

In a previous blog post I think I noted that Word's spelling and grammar check may become some kind of international standard. No doubt there will still be local the absence of any other quick help, it will have to do.

Note to Self: 'french fries' should be capitalized, i.e., 'French fries.'

Friday, February 11, 2011

The Future of the Book

by Louis Bertrand Shalako


All Rights Reserved

The future of the book has never looked healthier. Books are available to more people in more venues and more formats than ever before. This new access to freedom of information will create vast social upheavals. Not just for repressive states, where Egypt immediately springs to mind, but for our own country as well.

Every big media conglomerate will continue to produce paper and ink books in hardcover, paperbacks, limited editions and boxed sets. They will all enter the e-book field, but then they all make audiobooks and produce the things on CD. They have global distribution and they will use it.

These books will tie in to existing media operations, like Oprah's book club and Stephen Colbert's renouwned science fiction books, especially the Tech Hansen series.

It's just merchandising. Several authorities have noted there is no 'morality' in this industry.

That is why they call it 'an industry.'

What will change is that the specialty houses will for the most part disappear or be bought out by the conglomerates. There will be mergers and acquisitions.

It is debt and the inability to repay that killed them. It is lack of leadership and foresight that killed them. In Canada, a dependence on subsidies will kill them.

The recession that never could affect Canada because we're immune according to CTV News Channel is what killed them.

What this means to human freedom and dignity in the long term is still up to us, or at least we the writers might have some input. The better people among us will make sure of that.

To the entry-level author, you either just got the last contract going, or you don't have one at all. In the first case, you got a different deal than someone two or three years ago. In the second case, you do not know the difference, and now are in the same boat as any other author looking at self-publishing. Your other option is to polish your skills and keep submitting. This might take years, or you might get, 'lucky.'

For most, it is not in their best interest to disparage self-publishing no matter who does it, because this is now the normal working environment.

But what is really going to happen in a big way, is that the predators will flourish. That is absolutely, dead-certain in the short term. That's because all the people are still looking for reassurance. They're looking for praise, and they're looking for someone to promote them, and instruct them, and baby them, and they're looking for validation of the dream they hold.

"What a great read! And so beautifully written," one such acceptance letter might read. "Thank God you haven't signed a contract with someone else. All we want is all rights in all media and all languages and all formats for five years with an automatic renewal for four years clause and if we come out with another edition it extends the contract accordingly."

(Similar letter and contract on file. -ed.)

Just what a new author wants to hear, isn't it? A little too good to be true, isn't it? Kind of like all those self-published books with the five-star ratings three days after they appear online.

We heard that 'everyone has at least one good book in them,' and it's true, isn't it?

If you sign that, they will own your book or a piece of it for the rest of your life.

Check with a lawyer, all right? Someone sends you a contract, call a lawyer. It is a fact of life. Just do it.

Vanity publishing will flourish for those who cannot handle the truth. This is a job. You have to get training and you have to work at it. When I tell people I am training as an editor they think I am the one that is crazy? Hah!

Good writing will flourish for those with the patience to pursue it and the work ethic to continue on when everyone else thinks you have already failed, and is ashamed of your stubbornly holding on to what is not just a goal, but a higher aspiration.

Realistically, the enthusiastic amateurs will publish some books, make no money, find they are unable to take the heat or the kidding, and drop by the wayside. They will cherish the dream, and maybe come back to it when they are older and more mature.

The future of the book is healthier than ever. The industry will somehow adapt, improvise and overcome.

What is really new is that guys like me now stand a chance. That's new. That's different.

It is not social mobility that is the big threat to the established order.

It's debt, and some new ideas.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Strategy and Tactics.

by Louis Bertrand Shalako


All Rights Reserved

I just got a rejection and according to the rules of engagement, the thing to do is to resubmit it immediately.

Checking the preferred market, I noted that their upper word limit is 4,000 words and my story, the best thing that I have available, is over 5,000 words. It would be bad tactics to submit the story to this market.

The simple strategy is to search the listings for another market. It should be a market where the story has not been subbed before, and it should be comparable in terms of pay or the next notch down the totem pole.


I have a story which in some ways is kind of lame. Difficult to define, I guess maybe it doesn't belong in Clarkesworld right beside Dr. Peter Watts, who I suspect would not be particularly pleased.

The problem is, to submit it to a fledgling market, or try to take five or ten bucks off some poor schmuck; all the while convinced that I really love the guy like a brother and I'm doing him a favour is bullshit. If it is a lame story, that ain't his fault.

All that being said, I can still take a lame story, and use it in a blog, especially if I had art to go with it, or submit it after some stiff rewriting to a more appropriate market. Here again, I keep coming back to youth markets, Christian markets, or whatever. Just remember, the classic science fiction of the Golden Age created stories and characters that we remembered with little explicit sex, and gore. Even now, it seems that 'language' is a kind of a deal breaker in certain markets. (Even my own blog, for the most part.)


Strategy is different than tactics. Tactics are short-term, dealing with a crisis or implementing a plan.

Strategy is long term. My strategy of submitting good stories to good markets, working patiently to earn my entry into the Science Fiction Writers of America, to read every 'bleeping' thing that I can get on the industry, is a good strategy. It holds true for anyone.

The story I just submitted might be crap! The strategy is still good. Assuming a story gets placed, then having my books self-published and out there, all ready to go, in all formats is a good one.

The strategy of teaching myself how to edit is a good one. The strategy of learning how to format my own work is a good one.

Tactics take a certain situational awareness and a flair for the dramatic.

Strategy takes patience, and wisdom, and total comprehension of the operating environment.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Ebook 'Covers'

by Louis Bertrand Shalako


All Rights Reserved

If none of my books are ever released as print books, then the standards and concerns that apply to print books do not apply.

If people are shopping for books using an iPad, phone, Kindle, etc, then first of all the screen size is small. While some people have big screen computer monitors at home, the most popular accessories are portable. They are, after all, status symbols as well as practical devices. The people who buy them are mobile, and pressed for time. If you are at home, why do you need an ebook at all, is one way of looking at it.

For that reason, it might be wise to have different versions of a cover, one for electronic, where the thumbnails might be quite small, and one for a print version.

Small text, blurbs, all of that can go on the webpage where it is sold. The image is merely a marketing image rather than a 'cover.' Do people judge a book by a cover? No, but they do judge whether to look inside the first time by its cover. Of all the things I would like change, the cover of 'Core Values' is one of them! I have no ideas. That's the real problem, and I suppose I am stuck with it.

An ebook doesn't need rear cover art unless previously published in print, and then it is either a courtesy or a convention.

The point is that tiny little images that barely work on a paperback might not be too good for ebooks, and for that reason we experiment with short titles, big text and big images.

There is no doubt that a free giveaway product would benefit from a really attractive 'cover.' The basic file or product is the same.

Many have remarked over the centuries, how seldom do the pictures on book covers resemble the stuff that actually happened in the book. That never stopped anyone from buying them.

If I had a really good cover image in mind, one that I thought I could produce very well, then I would be more likely to publish another novel. As it is, I'm not even really submitting the things around.

There are some good reasons for that which I might talk about later.


Notes: I have two stories to be submittted tomorrow. Having something on the desk for the morning kind of helps me to get going. By later in the day, something has been 'produced,' and then maybe I kind of wing it a little more and follow my interest and see where it leads. The one story is a fragment of something I abandoned back in November, and the other is an old story, re-polished in the light of newly-acquired skills. It is more prosaically written than my recent stuff, but that's okay. The thing is to polish it and take out unnecesary words. I can maybe submit it somewhere for a younger group of readers.

Children's literature is anything but easy, and it's a very competitive field.

Anyway, it can't hurt to try. It's also lucrative, incidentally. (Or so I've heard.)


I woke up this morning and thought I had broken my left heel! Man does that hurt, and I have no idea how it happened. This is actually a good thing, as surely I would have remembered any major physical trauma from the day before. Maybe it's just a tendon pull.

It really makes going up a set of stairs a kind of misery...let me tell you. The problem there is no hand rails into the basement, and now my right knee is packing it in. Old injuries. Lower back all stiff and sore!

It's just too negative to blog about!

So the hell with it.

UPDATE: the chat with horror author Jeremy C. Shipp at #sffwrtcht went very well, and a big thumbs-up to Bryan Thomas Schmidt for hosting. That's Wednesdays at nine p.m. and Bryan's on facebook if you want more data.

I think I have the hang of TweetDeck now.


by Louis Bertrand Shalako


All Rights Reserved

First of all, the best promotion for our books and stories is to place good stories in good markets.

Back in November, when I finally got the time to write more material, after e-publishing my first four titles, I managed to smash out about 44,000 words. It was 'nano month.' I participated without really competing.

One thing I did was to experiment with a western. The three or four pages I did looked okay, but with no major plot, or conflict, or 'gag' in mind, I didn't complete it.

All righty then. So two months later, after not writing much, I dug the thing out and finished it. What I did was to think of Mike Resnick, and his 'weird westerns,' and I realized that hard science wasn't always necessary to write a good story.

By throwing in telepathy, an alien horse, a plastic planet and the Evil Dr. Schmitt-Rotluff, and by focusing on word choice and 'patter,' (or rythm, maybe,) I came up with something new for me.

That is the value of persistence. I had one file with a bunch of titles in it. One of those was basically a blank document file. Just a title and a byline! I must have been hard up that day.

Anyhow, again, the title was enough to get me going, and there must have been some idea there in my brain the first time around. Sure enough, another story, only 550 words, but I like what I have.

So now, I'm going through all the pro markets on There aren't a lot of them, and I have subs in at quite a few already.

The thing to do now is to take out and polish every previously unpublished story. To really think about what's there. Is it just plain lame? Is it badly written, or a bunch of political bull-crap wrapped up in an otherwise interesting premise? Is it the start of a pretty good novel that I just didn't feel like writing?

Today I took about 430 words out of a story that was only about a year old. It's been subbed out maybe five or six times and I never had any luck. At the time, I didn't think it was too badly-written. Only one guy gave any real serious discussion, the rest were all form rejections. By cutting out words that were simply unnecessary, I figure that story has a much better chance.

I don't know if I could ever submit a story 65 times like a friend says. Who knows; maybe if we live long enough...but seriously folks, one has to wonder if we have seriously pissed off an editor, or what. Sooner or later, someone else will piss them off, and that makes it easier to forget about me!

Ultimately persistence does pay off, if you keep coming back with better and better stories.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

A Crawling Sensation Between the Shoulder Blades.

What is it about this work that means we can't take a day off once in a while? You really do have to love it.

A few brief notes on the day's impressions.

I signed up for Tweetdeck last night, set it up, fooled around with it a while, and then shut it down. This morning, I fired the thing up and was learning the system, which as anyone who has used it knows, is actually fairly simple.

I noted that Gary Moore, the guitarist for 'Thin Lizzie,' died in his sleep in Spain or whatever, and like a dummy I clicked on the thing and began a 'new search.'

Oh, wow. Holy, crap! The updates were flying in thick as flies on a fresh baby blanket...the little doo-wop alarm was going boing-boing-boing, boing-boing-boing, BOING!

The effin' pane or window that popped up each and every time was right over the upper right-hand tool icons....boing-boing-POP! It's one thing to just turn the audio down, but...

I had to click on the 'x' in the left hand corner of each and every new pane, and then quickly try to get at my wrench and them updates were just going like sick. Just sick.

...and I could't shut the effin' thing down. It was like trying to break missile lock and maybe you left it a bit too late already....oh, Jesus, I don't know what happened, but I broke the lock and went into silent running. As soon as I popped my effin' head back up over the horizon, the bastards locked me right up again, and I had to go nap-of-the-earth for a while. Effin' piss me off!

I took that thing all apart, disinstalled it, and set it up all again, but it started right up as soon as I launched. Note: should have gone to the home page and deleted my account, but it's okay because I eventually managed to zap the friggin' thing. Deleting my account might have entailed using some variation on my name, a different password. I don't know. (Who knows?)

To make a long story short, all I had to do was to delete that particular column...and I don't know, ah; maybe make an appointment with the optometrist.

I don't know what the hell happened there, ladies and gentlemen, but ah; I figure epileptics have gone 'grand mal' and died in that thing...

The last three or four days were actually kind of relaxing, but some real stress is lurking below the surface.

I have to go and get some tea bags or something.

A vacation would be ever so nice.

UPDATE: Yeah, I just found a missing word in one of my own recent submissions. That irks me, but I am definitely working too hard. It's already next week. (00:13 a.m. Monday morning.)

Friday, February 4, 2011

Reading, reading, reading.

by Louis Bertrand Shalako


All Rights Reserved

On recently, I revised my POD project of 'The Case of the Curious Killers.' The site must have been plagued by glitches that night. As I recall, the thing wouldn't go in if it was over 411 pages.

This bothered me for some reason. In re-reading, it clearly states in Lulu data somewhere, 'Max size 740 pages' in the 4x7" class of pocket book.

I also noticed something in there somewhere about half inch margins being the minimum. My margins were set at .38 left and right. After making this change, my book was 435 pages overall.

The file uploaded just that that worked, I'm considering a couple more blank pages in the front matter. The whole process seems very organic, but then my brain is organic, and so are my eyes. So far, no one has bought that paperback, and I guess no harm has been done!


Speaking of organic processes, I have set the goal of learning more about social media, and Twitter in particular. One of my challenges is to identify some specific demographic group and write and I suppose tweet for them.

In the writing, it's fine to try a young adult science fiction story, or a raunchy humour story, or a fantasy, or a horror story.

How do people know what to expect? This whole notion of branding is intriguing, because it is so important.

Tagging is another one: my Amazon Kindle Platform account was tagged lackadaisically, and I went in there and added some more key words, and checked all the other accounts I could think of.


In the past few days, I have combed through my folder and made a few more subs to pro markets, semi-pro markets, and people who pay good money for stories. One commonly-accepted theory is that every story will eventually find a market. I suspect that only holds true for the really top-ranked professionals, but there's no reason not to submit a story...anywhere one can think of.


I read an article called, 'Fifty ways to improve your results on twitter,' or whatever. That link is stuck in a document file, and I plan on reading that one about ten times! It's a lot to take in all at once, but I have already implemented five or six of the suggestions. We'll see what works. Not all of the suggestions are practical to someone with a crap camera, or no cell-phone! Yet anything you can do with a phone can probably be done with a home PC.

That one bears some deep thought, but I think I am actually signed up for tweetdeck. I have never been back there, but I am signed up!

Interestingly enough, there may be room for some informal teamwork on Twitter and other social media as well.

Should I capitalize 'tweetdeck,' and not capitalize 'Facebook?'

Who cares. I'm tired and the day is not over.

Update: Going into my new Lulu POD file, I checked three very specific revisions of a scientific nature, and yes, I did indeed upload the correct file! 'Version Control.' (And if I catch any dumb little mistake, I'll fix it and do it again.)

Also, the last time I checked into Google books, I still had two ebooks 'processing.' This should not take three weeks as books one and four uploaded sucessfully. The problem here is no 'action required' reports, so no feedback. At some point I will try to re-upload, but for an unknown author, the revenue to be generated by free reads and page-impressions is ludicrous anyway. When Google Ebooks Canada gets up and running, (reportedly by this summer,) then I want to be in there...right? For the time being, two free reads on there is fine.

A man with a plan is better off than a man with no plan at all.

Let's see here...yes. A useful tip: sites that are well edited are more sucessful than ones that are not edited at all.

On twitter, I was thinking some of my little 'three-liners,' a kind of fairly structrured free verse might go well. The last thing you want to do on twitter is get too edgy, and that might include being a little too cryptic or even enigmatic. Sometimes a person on a social network might make a person kind of creeped out. While a friend might have a bad day, this sort of thing is best avoided in your own presentation. As for the aura coming off of another; trust your instincts first and foremost.

You can block, remove, report, whatever. At some point I became a little more discriminating about clicking on any particular potential friend. No doubt facebook would like to know what makes a person pass up a pretty girl to click on some fat old lady with blue hair, or maybe go for a book cover with a big green toad and a bright red rose...but that's another story.

I must be learning a lot because I have so many more questions.