Monday, August 27, 2012

Chapter Seven, sc. 1, 'The Art of Murder.'

(Preliminary design. Not finalized.)

Hypnotism had been around since the early 1700s. They had looked it up before coming here. Now the author of The Art and Science of Hypnotism sat before them, expounding on his craft.

“Three forms of hypnotic somnambulism are distinguished clinically. These include classical somnambulism in patients with hysterical neurosis on a juvenile-unstable basis, sensual-lucid somnambulism in patients with hysterical neurosis on a primitive personality basis, and sensual-split somnambulism in patients with pseudo-neurotic schizophrenia with a hysteroid clinical picture. The differential diagnostic importance of such forms of somnambulism is stressed in all the literature.”

Without any idea of what to expect, it was a letdown but also revealing that the office was decorated and furnished like any other professional’s, whether doctor, lawyer, or some other type of consultant.

“And you say that hypnosis really doesn’t involve mental illness, nor cause any lasting chemical or structural changes to the brain? It is a phenomena completely unrelated?” Gilles listened carefully, wondering if he was even competent to ask a proper question. “Well, I can see why you wrote the book on it.”

“Essentially, that is correct.” The Great Swami, an American whose real name, Edward Cole, was all over the passport and professional documents he had provided, was a showman but also a scientist in his own way.

He had to thoroughly understand the medium, which involved heavy audience participation in terms of individual but also group consciousness, and he had to understand his art, which Gilles took to be one of misdirection.

“The trance state is primarily a physiological state, which alters the state of consciousness, rather than a transcendental state, where I sort of impose my will upon yours. In purely psychological terms, most subjects actually do resist the trance, at least at first. It is not a magical spell, not in any sense of the word. The fact that popular ignorance often prefers this view is no concern of mine. It actually makes my job easier. The public performance is a show, after all. The subjects participate by choice, at some conscious level, for the practitioner has made them comfortable, relaxed, and they feel safe enough in letting go. They often believe the audience will keep them safe enough, at least in a public performance.”

“So you’re like a real doctor, then?” Levain stumbled as he tried to make notes, knowing he would never be able to reconstruct all of this later from the squiggles in his notebook.

“Oh, absolutely, I am a doctor, yes. But I am so much more than that.” The Great Swami nodded complacently. “I am also an avatar of Shiva, but that is beside the point.”

Gilles coughed politely, sure it was a joke. He was as stumped as Levain.

“Totally off the record, none of your subjects are plants?”

Cole grinned.

“Never, although that is a common misconception.”

Gilles wondered whether to believe him or not.

“So you liked my book?” Gilles wondered at the insecurity of the vain, or was it just the writers.

“Yes, I couldn’t put it down. I stayed up all Saturday night to read it.”

The Great Swami beamed at the statement.

“I’d be happy to sign it for you.”

“No, that’s quite all right, besides, it’s actually evidence in a homicide. But you may have misunderstood my question.”

“Not at all, Inspector, but there are no easy answers. The classical feeling, the belief among professionals, is that it is impossible to induce a person through a hypnotic trance, to do or perform some act of which they are fundamentally incapable, or which they have no real need to do. They must be predisposed to it, and even then I believe, and many experts believe, that to over-ride a person’s natural sense of caution, or consequence if you will, the basic instinct for self-preservation at all costs, makes the task impossible. The organism would react where the whole was threatened.”

“You mean it is impossible to over-rule the subconscious mind?” This was the meat Gilles was looking for.

“Something like that.” The Swami, who looked like a perfectly ordinary person in the quiet comfort of his office, was trying to be helpful, but unfortunately they could only tell him so much. “There is perhaps one exception, which I deal with in chapter nineteen.”

“Oh…oh, ah...” Gilles thought furiously. “Yes—group consciousness. With a large enough sample you believe anything is possible?”

The sound of Andre’s pencil overwhelmed the brief silence as The Great Swami gave him a look. They were serious.

“I believe that crowd psychology, and a kind of mass hypnotism, is likely more effective than attempting to suborn a single individual, considering the mass media and its reach and influence in modern society.”

Gilles wondered if the Great Swami had ever been consulted by the government, but he didn’t think so or the man would have mentioned it. Also, he was unlikely to say anything that was too controversial, or likely to be contradicted by any other competent practitioner. That much was self-evident.

“What about quitting tobacco?” Levain’s shrugged at Gilles’ inquiring glance. “Why not, Inspector? We might as well ask, now that we have him.”

A feeble grin escaped Maintenon. He had been expecting a fast-talking charlatan, a real shyster, and the man was nothing like they had expected.

“I might be able to help you quit smoking. It’s a long process, and it is by no means certain. Nicotine is one of the most addictive substances known to man. It’s a hard habit to break, and that’s just the truth. As far as convincing someone to commit a serious crime, let alone murder, again, in my opinion, it cannot be done. It would be harder, or at least take more time, than getting them to quit smoking.”

“And how do you feel about your book being found at a crime scene?” Gilles was floundering and he knew it.

“It sold hundreds of copies world-wide. I suppose I should be pleased, or something.” He settled back in the deeply-padded leather chair and crossed his fingers on his belly. “I’m flattered, really.”

There was an air of resignation in this statement. He must have had high hopes for it.

“Yes, I see your point. Well, thank you for your time.” They all rose for the obligatory round of hand-shaking and back-slapping.

Doctors were all the same in his opinion, although the fact that the Great Swami was a real doctor, with all kinds of degrees hung up on the wall, was of some anecdotal interest. The thing was that now he’d have to put a man on verifying the degrees were real. He probably made more money from all the quackery or perhaps the richer or more foolish people were more willing to pay good money for it. Judging by the house, he seemed to be doing all right, and had never heard of Theo Duval other than maybe reading something about him in the paper.

His game seemed to consist of a lot of listening and a lot of talking, in about equal amounts. Perhaps their jobs had more in common than he realized.


Saturday, August 25, 2012

What makes a character resonate?


What makes a character resonate with a reader?

It’s helpful if the reader likes them in some way, but it’s not entirely essential. A character who may begin as unprepossessing may encounter a problem that the reader can identify with. These can range from the grand, where the protagonist is the only one in the world who can stop the bad guys from kidnapping the president and replacing him with a body double; to smaller issues including common irritants. This might be something like an inbox full of spam or a broken muffler on their vehicle. That broken muffler might play a bigger role if the bad guys hear the protagonist arriving in a desperate, one-woman rescue bid. In that case a simple irritant has become a much bigger problem. It could be as simple as liking toasted tomato sandwiches, in fact making the antagonist eat one might humanize them a little…especially with lettuce, a slice of cheese and some grated onions, and just a hint of mayo.

Duty—a character has a duty, whether it’s paying the mortgage, protecting the public or just to try and keep a friend out of trouble. We all have our own duties, big and small, and so we can relate.

Science-fiction great Ben Bova says, ‘the protagonist and the antagonist each have a problem that they need to solve.’

I have a problem that I need to solve. I’ll bet you do too. I think I’m a protagonist rather than an antagonist, but we’ll let the readers decide. However, the key factor here is problem. In our example, the antagonist has a problem. He wants to replace the president with a body double in order to achieve some sort of a goal, perhaps justice for his own people, revenge or just plain evil reasons. The protagonist wants to prevent it even though they are alone, have little resources or training, and of course a duty to do the right thing.


Some of the most compelling characters are victims of injustice. To prevent this from becoming cliché, it has to be believable, and the back-story could be as simple as an innocent man being released from jail. The readers know he’s a good guy by his behaviour. Just because the author says they’re a victim of injustice doesn’t necessarily make it so. There have been plenty of trick endings written in fiction, and the readers are on the lookout for that. So their behaviour is key, and I think it’s in the little things—how they treat a kid, or a stranger, or even their manner of speaking. Do they ask questions, or make statements?


We have all suffered. A character might suffer pain, or grief, or loss. These are things we can all identify with. The antagonist also suffers, more often than not. The difference is in how they deal with it. The nice guy tries to deal with it with as little impact on the lives of others as possible, and the bad guy wants to destroy the world, or whatever. How they deal with problems is another key indicator of who’s who and who’s what, if you take my meaning here.

Who likes them?

This is important. If nice people like them, it can go two ways. They are either a genuinely nice person, or they are false and manipulative, a hypocrite and a con artist. While it is by no means as cut and dried in real life, these cues go a long way to letting the reader know who is the good one and who is the baddie.

Personal life is important. The real people have them, the bad guys are totally obsessed. They’re always busy doing bad things, right? Hobbies, pets, aging relatives, a small dependent child, these are the hallmarks of the well-rounded person. While Hitler loved his dogs and that guy in all the James Bond films was always stroking that danged white cat, there were enough other indicators to let us know this wasn’t the normal person.

Giving a character a phobia, or a cold, can help any number of readers identify with them—remember the cave full of snakes in the Indiana Jones movie. Most readers would not like to be in a cave full of snakes in real time. On a movie screen, it’s just fine and dandy. It’s a vicarious thrill.

(It also helps if they love someone. Or even just some thing.-ed.)

The reader’s expectations of the genre play a big role in character resonance. If they’re reading horror, it’s for the thrills and the chills. The protagonist must be at the centre of the action and must be in great danger for much of the time. A horror movie almost inevitably has a host of disparate characters. They give us all someone to like, and then when they’re killed by having a stainless steel spike driven into the head, it’s pretty easy to imagine how that feels, and there is a distinct emotional wrench. It’s all in great fun, of course. In terms of steel spikes, a lesser stimulus would of course carry a smaller emotional impact. A scene where someone takes an overdose of sleeping pills would take an entirely different treatment to get the same emotional shock. The spike in the head is much quicker of course, the death by sleeping pills has a much slower pace.

What makes a character resonate is that we can identify with what happens to them, how they feel about it, and how they react to it, even if it’s not exactly what we hope we would do under similar circumstances.

How many times in horror have we seen perfectly sensible people split up and search a rambling old house for a psychotic slasher? The emotional impetus of that is essentially one of sheer frustration. We yell at the screen. Don’t you just grind your teeth during those scenes? But that’s why they keep putting them in there, even when the universal audience response is that they don’t like it.

The characters' actions are not entirely logical, but there is that gut-level reaction. It’s something we can all identify with.

Additional comments are always welcome.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Fin de siecle.

'The Reader,' Felix Valloton, 1922.

At the peak of Byzantine culture, the social distinctions between classes reached their ultimate refinement. The same was true again in pre-Revolutionary France. I see a bit of that now: people want to divide themselves up into an infinite number of gradations, and this in societies that are on the face of it, democratic and egalitarian. The deference society, where we must defer to some authority, is not quite dead yet. There are those who think we still have it, or would like to bring it back with themselves as the sole constituted authority.

Fin de siecle.

Society has become decadent. We have arrived at the fin de siecle--the end of a era. We can mourn the passage of the old, or we can rejoice at our opportunity for a new beginning. 

At one time there were three estates of man. This was before the evolution of the nation-state with which we are all familiar. There was a martial class of kings and knights, whose duty was to protect the kingdom. There was the priestly class, whose duty was both spiritual and educational. They informed people of what to think and how to think it. Everything they said was backed up by the authority of God and the Bible. The third class was the labour class. Their duty was to do the actual work and support the other classes. Their recommended duty in the face of atrocious social conditions was patience and acceptance. They were better off to keep their mouths shut, or be hanged. Social mobility was very difficult. Society was stratified and everyone believed it was meant to stay that way.

Such an idea dies hard. It’s not dead yet. There are those who are still holding to the hierarchical notion, the idea that somehow, somebody who is head and shoulders above the crowd, must lead in the moral sense, and the legal sense, and the intellectual sense, and that others should have no choice but to conform and to follow.

Think of how easy it is to look down on someone…anyone, really. We have much to be grateful for. And this in a society where by law everyone is created equal. Even now, some are still more equal than others.

A conflict between the conservative and the inventive.

But my premise is that society is a conflict between the conservative and inventive. Isn’t invention a good thing? That largely depends on who you ask, and where their interest lies.

The internet is a great leveler. It is inventive, and a threat to conservatism. Now we can listen to all kinds of people and examine their ideas and see what they are worth. You want me to listen to your message—and accept it. There are those who are both didactic and extremely conservative. They see freedom of thinking and expression as a threat to the established order. They want us to stick to the old models in spite of evidence that there is a new way. They would prefer if we defer to them, let them do our thinking and learn nothing for ourselves that they do not approve of.

Literary area-bombing.

Much of the backlash against the rise of digital publishing is in fact a reaction to a perceived threat to someone’s interest. To target those who write something and publish it themselves is to pick an easy target. Some of them really aren’t very good. But those who aren’t very good are not the real threat to conservative, long-established power structures. Those folks are sure to fail. Those who are very, very good are the real threat. Lumping everyone into one basket is a kind of carpet-bombing, where the workers are the real targets. The history of WW II makes it clear that this is no way to stifle production of war materials or anything else. It was only when the U.S.A.A.F. went after oil targets, precision targets, when any appreciable effect could be discerned; and only in terms of fuel production. Airplanes and tanks were produced right up to the very end of Nazi Germany. Production rose at the height of area-bombing.

The fact is that traditional publishing cannot comprehend the nature of the threat (or more importantly, what to do about it,) any more than they can provide profitable publishing vehicles for everyone with something to say. The traditional models are not about communication, or learning, or teaching. They were about the passive consumption of entertainment and corporate profitability.

What if I write and publish a book and no one reads it? If nothing else, I have entertained myself, and in an active sense rather than passive. And I didn’t buy someone else’s product. More importantly, how in the hell does that affect you?

Gutenberg, the man who invented the printing press by popularly accepted accounts, was extremely unpopular with the Church, and arguably with the ruling classes. Knowledge, learning, and most important of all, teaching, are no longer monopolies of Church and state.

The mainstream publishing model held sway for decades, even centuries. Much that was published was crap in somebody’s eyes somewhere.

The internet has changed that. So has self-publishing. Now we have more of everything, in fact somewhere online you can find ‘Mein Kampf,’ Hitler’s turgid and almost incomprehensible ravings in book form—which used to be a ‘real’ book, that is to say one made out of paper and ink. When couples married, the state gave them an important gift—a copy of ‘Mein Kampf.’

The more sophisticated listen to everyone.

While it is true that the more sophisticated listen to as many relevant sources as possible before making up their own minds, there are people who feel very threatened by the rise of self-publishing. Here in Canada, the market is very small.

Some sources are saying much of what is published online is crap. This is actually a true statement, but bear in mind their editorials are also published online.

The Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval.

This is the fin de siecle—the end of an era. The world will be flooded with new books and surely this is a good thing, even if (or especially if,) no one in a position of ‘authority’ vets them or stamps them with the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval. Oprah Winfrey and Martha Stewart don’t have time to read it all anyway. To believe that everything touted by cultural arbiters like that is the result of a literary meritocracy is nonsense.

When has anyone ever touted a great book with a premise or point of view that they didn’t approve of?

Now publishing is so easy that anyone can do it. The mystery has been revealed and the monopoly broken. It’s now open to everyone with a computer and an internet connection. This much is true.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012


(Morguefile photo.)

Everyone has a different challenge, but we all have them.

Here are just a few of the challenges I face in the next few months. Yes, I have a plan, and I will win, in the long game.


In order to get royalties from Smashwords without paying a thirty percent withholding tax, I need an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number, (ITIN.) To do that, I need a birth certificate. Then I can apply for a passport. Then I can properly identify myself to the IRS and fill out W8EN forms, etc. Smashwords would be happy to put money into my Paypal account (next quarter,) but I don’t want to pay the withholding tax.

I have some qualms about mailing a passport and birth certificate to the IRS. There must be a better way, but that’s my immediate interpretation of their letter.

I’m very stubborn, incidentally.

Of course on an Ontario Disability Pension, finding $35.00 for a birth certificate application, $15-20.00 for a passport photo, and $80.00 for the passport may be challenging. That’s because I live 35 % below the poverty line and I’m already performing the miracle of the loaves and fishes on a daily basis as things stand now.

Why I don’t use Kick-starter to get some marketing images.

If I received a gift or series of gifts via ‘Kick-Starter,’ the ODSP would see it as income. They would allow the first $100.00 and then take fifty cents on the dollar in income penalties. They are notoriously ignorant when it comes to allowable expenses or investing back into a business. They make a ruling, and then I can appeal. It takes a year to get a hearing. I do not trust the process, which takes up an inordinate amount of time and you can’t get any justice from them anyway. If I can’t pay the rent, (65 % of my income,) I end up on the street. I find that sort of thing very disruptive to my work.

Getting the electronic funds transfer capability to get small royalties from Amazon is another challenge. The threshold is only $10.00 a month, but of course banks have monthly fees. The trick here is to get an account with access to U.S. banking. The royalties have to be more than the fees, and at some level it’s just not worth it. There’s not much point in getting that account, and paying fees, until I have the ITIN, and qualify under tax treaty for no withholding tax.

Marketing Images.

In order to get marketing images, I can’t get images without money, and I can’t get money without selling books, also subject to ODSP rules. Bit of a vicious circle, eh? That’s why it’s hard to break the cycle of poverty. Unpopular subject, so let’s move on.

Pen Names.

There’s not much point in opening up four or five more Smashwords accounts, and using a few more e-mail accounts, as long as the marketing images aren’t up to snuff. But I do see a point, hopefully not too far off, when I will probably do that. I would have a pen-name for the mysteries, that makes sense, and maybe one for the WW I parody memoir. Do I really need a pen-name for horror, fantasy and science fiction? Argh. Do I get more Twitter accounts and Facebook pages and pretend to be four or five different people? Argh. More workload—that’s what I see here, with a crappy old computer and not enough band-width. Everything takes forever.

Write more books and stories.

While suffering from a singular lack of motivation, and battling strong depression, I need to write more books, taking it on faith that somehow I will find the marketing images to give them an even chance in the world. Also, I would be taking it on faith that people will do the right thing by these books, by purchasing and reading them. Otherwise it would be pointless, as selling a half dozen copies a month is a waste of time, especially if I can never see any hope of improvement in sales or even getting what small monies are due. There’s not much point in getting angry. It is a waste of time.

Submit more stories to pro magazines.

Yeah. While attempting to back up all my work on a disc, due to the incipient and imminent computer crash that I expect will happen any day, I somehow locked up all the stories in my science fiction folder. What that means is that the stories are there, I simply don’t have permission to open them. I think this happened because one folder was just too big for the disc, and yet for some reason there was no way to back out of the process. While I can recover any story e-mailed by clicking on ‘sent’ in my e-mail box, I have never e-mailed anyone my list of submissions. What this means is that I have no idea if I have submitted a given story to a given market. I would prefer not to re-submit a story someone rejected previously, as it looks like sheer cussedness or ignorance, or not being able to take no for an answer.

I guess the answer here is to write more stuff.

When I get a minute.

Less serious is the fact that my document, ‘Titles,’ just a bunch of ideas for stories that I may or may not have gotten around to doing, is also gone. Again, I’ve never e-mailed that to anyone, so it’s not backed up in the e-mails. There may be a copy of that on a disc somewhere, but like the list of submissions, which was up to #700 last time I looked, it won‘t be up to date or complete.

I suppose any idea I had once I can have again. However, there was one incomplete story in my folder, and that one had never been e-mailed either. ‘The Deposits,’ the story in question, was sort of inspired by Robert J. Sawyer, but the world may have to live without such a tribute or parody for the foreseeable future. If you would like to know what that one was about, you’ll have to pay me $1,000.00 because I’m tired of people reading my blog and then running off with all sorts of ideas, and never even giving me a mention. You know who you are.

Over the next little while, I will be using my paint program to enhance my marketing images. Adobe CS6 requires a Pentium 4 chip to operate. I'm doing the best I can with what I have.

You'll notice I don't have a 'donate' button. If you seriously wanted to help in the success of this enterprise, the best thing anybody could do is to buy a book.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Excerpt: The Art of Murder.

(Preliminary cover, 'Art of Murder.')

They were in a straggling neighbourhood of working establishments behind a major thoroughfare. Gilles realized he was completely lost, not just in symbolic fashion but for real. He hadn’t been paying too much attention. He had other thoughts, most of them not good.

The taxi sputtered off up the road, trailing dust from the wheels and throwing up a cloud that hung in the air, yellowing the sunshine and desiccating the nostrils. Maintenon and Levain walked up the gravel drive towards a pair of shirtless workmen who were sweating and grunting as they heaved on the chains of an I-beam lifting device, trying to steady a slab of black granite as it swung back and forth. Their contraption was sturdy if obviously home-made. The thing looked like several hundred kilos in mass. Clearly there was some hazard, some difficulty involved. It was all so prosaic.

“Hey, Charles.” Levain stopped, and they waited for a moment to let them finish the operation.

“Hey, Andre.”

This involved setting the stone down on a ramp, and pushing it up on wooden rollers all of fifty millimetres thick and half a metre long, up into the back of a battered black Citroen C4, which had the rear seat removed for this purpose. Gilles saw buckets lined up beside the car, all ready to go, with smaller tools in them, and some shovels, long steel pinch bars, and more rollers. There was a pile of sand and gravel in a corner of the yard, and the shop was at the back, set well behind the house. There was a painted wooden sign over the large door that was visible from the street in daylight hours, but otherwise unlit. He saw a black dog on the back porch and one floodlight set high on a post in the farthest back corner.

After a bored look, the dog put his head down and blinked at them with a look of resignation.

The smell of cooking came from the vicinity of the back door. Gilles grinned unexpectedly, and shoved his hands into his pockets. There were birds singing from a shade tree that grew in the next door neighbour’s yard. Birds were not his strong suit, but they had a certain pugnacious cheerfulness.

“Merde!” It wouldn’t do to get a hand under the slab at the wrong time, but no damage done and the fellow chuckled again just as quickly.

The language was colourful but succinct, and as his apprentice set to lifting the stone with a bar and putting wooden wedges and props under it for security, the sturdy proprietor of the place dusted off his hands and shook first with Levain and then Gilles.

“And, what can I do for you, sir?”

Gilles eyes traveled up and down the lines of stones displayed as they would be set, in that they all sat on a base, although they had no names on them yet. One or two in the front row did have names, and he realized they were all finished and awaiting delivery. His eyes took in the stone laying flat in the back of the Citroen. It had a name on it, an elderly lady going by the dates. She had been predeceased by a husband and an infant. Her child had died. She knew what tragedy was, he thought. She understood loss.

“I want one like that.”

“It’s for his wife.” Levain beckoned Gilles to look at some of the others. “Seriously, Gilles, you might want to look at more than one stone. Come on.”

Maintenon reluctantly followed him along the line of memorials, big, small, simple and ornate. None of them had an actual price marked on them, but that wasn’t any real consideration. He just wanted to get it over with.

“No. I think the first one—and make sure he puts my name on there too, and my birthday. Then when the time comes, it’s a simple matter to chisel in the date of my decease.”

“Sure, boss. But please, come on in and talk to the man.” Levain turned and led the way, relieved to hear Maintenon’s footsteps crunching gravel behind. “I don’t think he uses a chisel. It’s a sand-blaster now.”

The boss had been a little funny lately, but no one else could really do this for him. He had to take charge of things himself.

Gilles found the air inside the workshop cool, a little damp and smelling oddly of something he couldn’t quite place. He counted out the bills as the man pulled out a book and took a pen out of the pocket from a shirt hanging on a peg.

Gilles gave her name, and the fellow gave him a quick look.

“He’ll pay the balance after inspecting the memorial in place.” Levain seemed to know a little bit about it.


“Er, yes.” Levain stepped in.

“This is the fellow I told you about, Charles.” Charles nodded.

“Oh, yes.” He went blank for a moment, but then he seemed to recall the incident. “And you want the black one? With a black base?”

“Yes, and he wants you to deliver it.” Levain seemed to be in charge now, and Gilles let him.

The man named a figure, and Levain shrugged, looking at Gilles. Gilles agreed, and the gentleman started putting figures together in a row on paper. It was a fairly simple sales contract.

Levain told him the name of the cemetery, and that affected the price somehow as well. There were certain fees involved, peculiar to the different establishments around the city. Gilles thought he had paid all of them already, but apparently that wasn’t so. This was different from a funeral, the fellow explained, and some folks went years without a monument while the survivors saved their pennies.

“For you, sir, I’ll let you have the base at half price.” Levain gave an encouraging nod.

“Thank you.” Gilles accepted it at face value.

It was only later, jammed side by side on the Metro when Levain explained that Charles’ wife’s cousin had been strangled by her no-good boyfriend, and that Maintenon was responsible for his apprehension and subsequent execution by guillotine. People had congratulated him before, upon the conviction of a killer. He never knew what to think or to say under those circumstances. There really was nothing valid to say—it sounded like moral condemnation, which he preferred not to do. Most perpetrators were as pathetic as they were dangerous.

“Who says justice is only for the rich, eh, Inspector?” Gilles grinned a little lopsidedly when he heard that one.

He really was feeling better about things, and the ache in his jaw was finally fading.

“We have an interesting errand for Monday.” Gilles’ voice was curiously flat, expressionless.

“Which is?” Levain’s eyebrows rose at the answer.

“We’re going to see a hypnotist.”

Levain thought he was joking.

“At your command, good sir.”

“I’m serious, Andre. Anyway, it’s better than a dentist.”

So he really was serious then.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Formatting an e-book short story collection as a 5 x 8" paperback.

(Set page size to 5.0 and 8.0)

Formatting a short story collection as a 5 x 8 POD print on demand paperback isn’t that much different than any other book.

Since I already have my collection, ‘The Paranoid Cat and other tales’ published as an e-book, I basically use the same file by copying it from a folder and pasting it on my desktop. I re-label it with ‘Paranoid Cat POD.’

A step-by-step process.

Step one is to put the cursor at the end of the front matter. Then click on page layout, click on breaks, and then go down and click on page break/section break. I’m using Word for the entire job. I make nice, simple paperbacks. I read somewhere that a good formatter can do this in about two hours.

Next, I scroll down all the way to the end, and put the cursor just after ‘The End’ and add another page/section break as before. Now we have three sections to the book.

The second step is to scroll down and put the cursor at the end of the last line of each of the stories in the collection. Simply click on page break. These are all in the same section, which is important.

Page size.

Step three is to define the page size, as my e-book .doc file is fine in an 8.5” x 11” size, but my paperback is 5 x 8. Again, this is found under the page layout tab. Click on size. Use the buttons to change from one size to another.

Margins and Gutter.

Next comes the margins. I am using 0.5” at the top, 0.6” at the bottom, 0.4” on the outside edge of the page. I’m using mirrored pages left and right, which is also located under size. The mirrored pages should only be for your text and not the front and end matter.

For my gutter, about 0.712 is the usual, and you can fiddle with that under margins, which is in the page layout section as well. The gutter increases in size with the number of pages. I’ve seen a book with zero gutter, and the text begins in the glue. It’s essentially unreadable. ‘Nuff said.

At this point, I went to Collections Canada ISBN service website and got myself an ISBN number, inserting it into the front matter. A paperback and an e-book of the same title have different ISBNs.


Next step is to scroll through the book and make sure all the story titles—what would correspond to chapter headings in a novel, are all down the same number of spaces. I will be using six 12-point spaces with zero trailing space. The important thing is that they are all consistent.


Now, it’s time to put the page numbers in. Sometimes I have trouble with it, as there is more than one way to get to the edit footer or format page numbers interface, but suffice it to say that you want the first page of your text to start at number one, and you want it on a right-hand page. Obviously, no book begins on a left-hand page. You do not want page numbers in the front matter, so make sure you click on ‘link to previous section’ if it’s highlighted and make sure it is turned off.


A similar process works for the headers, which in my PODs are very simple. I have the title, a comma, and then ‘by Louis Bertrand Shalako.’ It appears at the top of every page in the text, but not in the front or end matter at the back.

When you check your file, go to the end of the book and check for headers and page numbers. You can put the cursor in the header or footer and click, and a box will come up, ‘edit footer,’ etc. Make sure to click ‘link to previous section’ if it is highlighted in yellow, and turn it off, otherwise the page numbers will disappear in the previous section. Concerning footer style, I use the one called ‘tildes.’ And I use 10-point, usually in bold for page numbers. Cambria is nice font, which goes well with Times New Roman, which I use for text. For my headers, I usually go to a nine-point face, again in Cambria. For this I click on the format dialogue box so that I can pick a colour, and for this I use grey as opposed to black. That way the header is there, but it’s also unobtrusive.

The page numbers are far more important, and so I make them easier for the reader to see.

For a paperback, the final end matter doesn’t have to be mirrored, and you may have to turn this off, making sure not to link to previous section when you do it. Otherwise it has a tendency to stick out too much and Createspace will notify you that it’s outside the printed area of the page. The same is true for the front matter. It’s entirely a matter of taste as to whether front and end matter is centred, or justified left, or justified to both margins. A sentence with few words will stretch in an unattractive manner when justified on both margins.

For the text in your paperback, bear in mind my e-book is running a ragged right margin, so I’ll have to go through section by section and right justify everything. I do it section by section to avoid messing up the centering for the titles and scene breaks.

Inserting the proper number of blank pages.

Now, for the front matter, you put the cursor at the beginning of your copyright information and then insert three blank pages. The third one is your title page, my title is 18-point and my name is 12-point, and they are in bold Times New Roman. Next comes your copyright page, and then insert two more blank pages to separate the text. This is section one.

At the end of the book, simply insert enough pages so that your book ends, there is a blank, and then your author bio, links, next-book preview or whatever falls on the right hand page when you visualize your book in your head. This will always be an odd-numbered page, as the book started off on page one. A book will always have an even number of pages when going by the Word document page counter, that’s because every page has a back—it’s really a sheet of paper, even though we’re doing it all by computer.


In other notes, for headers with the author name on one side, and the title on another, sources say you can do this with Word, but I have no idea. I have done it successfully, including mirrored page numbers on the corner of the page, (rather than centered) using Open Office free software.


(The book has three separate sections.)