Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The Big Challenge(s)

by Louis Bertrand Shalako


All Rights Reserved

With three novels in the can, the big challenge is time and patience. What feels like a hold-up can be a blessing in disguise.

I say this because my next three titles absolutely must have killer covers. While some ideas on that subject are afloat in the simmering fluid that is my brain-bucket, plans remain secret.

All will be revealed soon enough, or when I know it, or whichever comes first.

All three books must be re-written ten or twelve times each. When you’re talking your fourth novel release, you had better be hitting some basic minimum standards of literacy, that’s for sure.

During the formatting process, I’m pretty analytical, and keep spell-check and grammar-check turned on until the last minute. Uploading revisions doesn’t take much time, but all platforms have different time delays before the new one turns up for sale. All of them provide your previous version in the meantime, but it is ‘red-face time’ if someone spots an error.

You might run into some person who wrote their doctorate on your subject matter or something, and the scary thing is that they might not tell you! They will get a laugh out of it, though. They’ll tell all their friends, too.


Speaking of fact-checking and stuff like that, my working titles, which I must have simply for filing purposes, are, ‘Time-storm,’ and ‘Shape-Shifters,’ and then I have ‘Horse-catcher.’

Googling around reveals that one of my favourite SF authors, Gordon R. Dickson, has a book called ‘Time Storm.’ (1971.) He wrote the Dorsai books.

(I recommend ‘Tactics of Mistake,’ 1977. He also wrote ‘Time to Teleport,’ 1960.)

Gordon Dickson passed on in 2001. I don’t know about the Dragon books so much, but I wouldn’t mind a few dog-eared old SF paperbacks at the right price!

It’s a good idea to check all the titles, and figure out something different that still captures the essence of the idea. You really can’t copyright ‘shape-shifters,’ but I’ll bet there are a few movies and books out there. At Christmas, my nephew was playing with a toy—you guessed it, some kind of plastic ‘shape-shifters.’ It’s on the box, and kind of a service mark, which can be registered. It is an asset to its owner and they hate when you steal it. I’m not a copyright lawyer, but the words ‘shape-shifter’ are public domain and anyone can use them!


For a whole host of reasons my ‘schedule’ is pretty loose right now, and it might be time to set some kind of a deadline. Pick a project and just do it.

I’ve been shopping for cover art. I don’t know that much about art, but I know what I like—and I’ll know it when I see it. That Art Fundamentals course in community college might pay off after all! Just one of the benefits of a liberal, (and fairly cheap,) education.


My first novel, ‘Heaven Is Too Far Away’ would have been about 230,000 words without cutting, and it ended up about 180,000. This would not have been publishable by conventional standards without coming up with a trilogy or something, and I felt unable to cut it by 70,000 words. To come up with three logical endings for three volumes of 76,000+ words each, was and still is beyond my capacity to imagine. The book starts at the beginning and ends at the end. I must have read 150 books, mostly from the library, in order to write that book. At some point, I knew there was a possibility that a military historian or an enthusiast would read it.

If nothing else, I felt I could compete. While ongoing research into WW I will become ever more refined, if not even regressive or ‘bourgeois-revisionist’ in some ways, the basic facts are verifiable. For about a million reasons I have tried to write a few stories for a younger or less sophisticated audience in terms of science fiction.

What gets me time and time again is that I am essentially a comedy writer. That has its dangers, not the least of which is that it might be perceived as ‘mockery,’ which is essentially what it is anyway.

But it also makes it a hard sell, as I am finding out. I’m not afraid of a little research, but if I use sound, (and fairly simple) scientific concepts, especially the softer sciences, a really good writer might do well with a different demographic group.

Stories for youthful rocket scientists had better be good.


So my Smashwords edition of ‘The Handbag’s Tale’ had the same problem I talked about before. One small section had ‘squooshy’ text. The original file looked fine. I uploaded the correct file…I scrolled through every page of ‘Case’ in Kindle for PC and it looked fine. I would like to know what causes this problem. And it looks way worse in Mobipocket reader. Incidentally, Kindle for PC definitely ‘takes over’ every Mobi-type file in your hard drive. That can be a pain when you are testing files from other sources, because you never really know which one you are looking at.

It is irksome. All I could do was to re-upload that file and check it later, and of course I re-dated the file. When that didn’t work, I went back to the ‘nuclear option.’

1.) Take the original .doc file and save it as a .txt.
2.) Copy and paste into a fresh, blank .doc file.
3.) Re-format from scratch.
4.) Turn off pilcrows, grammar and spelling.
5.) Check front matter and re-upload.
6.) Check every page when it comes live.
7.) Cross your fingers and pray.

This worked beautifully, and so far I’ve given away nine or ten of them from Smashwords for E-Book Week, (March 6-12.)

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