Category: The Craft of Writing

Posts relating to the how of writing.

The fourth ‘Chinese’ curse

The fourth ‘Chinese’ curse

I imagine you’ve all heard of the three ‘Chinese’ curses:

1. May you live in interesting times.

2. May you be recognized by people in high places.

3. May you get what you wish for.

Have you ever thought, though, how nicely these ‘curses’ fit into the outline and structure of most stories?

Think of Harry Potter for example.  Or To Kill A Mockingbird.  For that matter, the start of Dragonflight (which is really the novelette, Weyr Search) has all three coming together in a marvelous confluence.

In my teenage years, I came across what I thought should be a fourth Chinese curse and then forgot it.  I’ve been spending the odd decade or two lost in pursuing the lost curse and tonight I think I might have stumbled once more upon it.

Here it is:

May you all your dreams come true.

(Another possibility and perhaps even more daunting would be:

May you find the final curse.)

Anyway… just thought I’d share.  After all, May you share your blessings. 🙂


Todd’s Way of Making an eBook

Todd’s Way of Making an eBook

As you may have noticed, in the past year, I’ve produced and published no less than four eBooks.

I thought that some people might be interested in my process.

A lot of the way I do things was influenced by my first project – coverting Dragonholder into eBook format. Because Dragonholder had so many pictures and they all needed captions, I felt that I had to manage things from the ground up. So I learned that the basic format for eBooks is the epub format which itself is nothing more than a carefully arranged and compressed ZIP file.

The guts of the ZIP file is a set of HTML (really, XHTML) files, CSS stylesheets, and images. So if you know HTML and CSS already, you’re at least halfway there. If you don’t go to w3schools and work your way through their marvelous tutorials – you’ll be an expert in no time!

After many false starts, I found that Sigil, the open source (free) EPUB editor was the best way to put a book together.

For me, I would copy from a Word document, paste into a new HTML file in Sigil, spend hours fuming and fussing, and then – voila! – a working eBook in EPUB format.

Actually, for me, I would take what I’d copy’d out of Word, paste it into Vim which is Vi-Improved – a standard UNIX/Linux editor and then I’d massage what I got from Word into something I could paste into Sigil without going nuts.

Specifically, I’d arranged it so that every one of my paragraphs was indented (that’s sorta normal), that I used the ‘#’ symbol for a section break and that I used ‘–‘ to indicate an em dash (a long dash). Then, in Vim, I’d use the regular expression editor to convert the ‘#’ lines to my special section break, convert ‘–‘ into em dash ‘—’, and then put paragraph wrappers ‘>s;p<‘ and ‘>s;/p<‘ around all my paragraphs, copy ALL THAT and paste it into Sigil where, with a bit more fiddling, I’d have the basic chapter. After that, I’d compare my Word document with what I had in Sigil to pick up all the italic text.

Sigil makes a Table of Contents pretty easily, so that’s no problem.

With all that done, I move to the next step which involves Calibre, “The one stop solution for all your e-book needs.” Calibre is also open source (free) and quite powerful. I can get Calibre to convert from EPUB format to MOBI (old Kindle format) and to AZW3 (new Kindle format) as well as pretty much anything else under the sun.

From Calibre, I usually drop a copy down to my Kindle for purviewing (and typo-hunting).

I can also save an RTF file which I use to create my trade paperback books (but that’s another story).

So, there you have it! Oh, of course you’ve got to set up accounts with Amazon for their Kindle and, if you want, with Barnes&Noble to publish with them and finally with whoever you’ve chosen for your Print-On-Demand publisher (I use Createspace). And, if you’re thinking about publishing in the Apple iBookstore, you need to have an ISBN (International Standard Book Number). [10 ISBN’s can be bought for $250, 1000 ISBN’s for $1000 — sigh]

If you’re not so technical or persnickety (or worried about putting image into text in a particular format), I’ve heard many people say good things about Smashwords.

Writers Workshop at Dragon*con

Writers Workshop at Dragon*con

Jody Lynn Nye will once again be offering a two-day science fiction and fantasy writers workshop at DragonCon, over Labor Day weekend in Atlanta, GA.

Among the subjects to be covered during the two-day course (Thursday 8/30/12 and Friday 8/31/12) are story structure, character development, world-building, narrative hook, research, description, collaboration, nonfiction, format, the business of writing, marketing and promotion.

Guest lecturers will speak during the course on topics involving their expertise. Signed up to instruct this year are Todd McCaffrey (co-author, Dragonriders of Pern), David Gerrold (“The Trouble with Tribbles,” The Martian Child), and Toni Weisskopf (Publisher, Baen books).

The students are encouraged to ask questions after the experts’ presentations. The aim of this workshop is to help aspiring writers to learn to practice their craft at a professional level.

Students of every level are welcome, from beginners to those writers who are starting to sell their work.

For more information and to sign up, please visit the description on the DragonCon website,

Save the Cat! writes a novel

Save the Cat! writes a novel

Jody Lynn Nye flew out to join me in a weekend Save the Cat! workshop the 28-29th of April.

It was a challenging and inspirational weekend ably led by Jessica Brody.  If you're interested in learning a great technique for outlining, then consider attending the next Novel-writing Beat Sheet Workshop June 9-10 2012 in Los Angeles.

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