Dec 242012

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.

 Posted by at 17:46
Dec 202012

City of Angels

A long time ago I described this novel to my mother. Her response was: “If you don’t write it I will!”

She read it in manuscript before she died and told me, “I think you’ve got a blockbuster here!”

What’s it about?

Sometime in the near future, maybe just tomorrow, there may come a totally new form of life on this planet. An artificial intelligence, or AI.

What will it want? How will it perceive us?

One thing’s for sure – the world will never be the same again.

This is the story of the City of Angels.

I’ve updated and revised this second edition of City of Angels (along with a cool cover).

It’s more of a mainstream science-thriller than my traditional science fiction (or science fantasy).

Available in eBook format for Kindle, Nook, and Kobo. Also in paperback!

I hope you’ll give it a look.

 Posted by at 16:44
Dec 092012

Janis Ian is on tour again and she’ll be coming to Los Angeles, playing in Santa Monica at the intimate McCabe’s Guitar Shop on Sunday, March 24 2013. (Also up at CalTech on the 23rd.)

Not only is she the brilliant creator of zillions of songs, including At Seventeen and Society’s Child but she is a science fiction writer and wrote a special version of At Seventeen just for us fans, Welcome Home. You can hear it at her web site, here (scroll to the bottom of the page).

She’s on tour next year, here’s her full schedule.

Her concerts are a rare treat and she has a marvelous presence.

She was one of Mum’s favorite people — and when you’ll meet her, you’ll understand why!

She has also, just in time for Christmas, kicked off her current sale.

 Posted by at 13:14
Dec 092012

I had an idea for a long while to write an alternate history with steam that works for me.

Paul Johnson in his masterful The Birth of the Modern (sadly, still not available as an eBook) mentions that there was a serious chance that steam vehicles — cars — might have been created in the early 1800’s but that the entrenched forces of the carriage trade and the fledgling rail industry stymied it.

That comment was the seed for the foundation of this story.

What if, instead of creating a locomotive engine, someone created something else? Say, a steam horse? Or, rather, a cart raised on four walking legs?

And, as it the idea was an alternate history idea, I wanted to make it a good alternate history — so I decided that my inventor would create it up in Edinburgh just as Bonnie Prince Charlie liberated the city.

Of course, just to make things more interesting, my inventor had to be a girl (because in those early years of the 1700s women and children were still considered little more than property) — a girl born with a genius for steam and steel.

I had a lot of fun with this novel, so much so that I’ve already started the sequel — and if things seemed interesting before, they’re much more interesting now with the Stuarts returned to the combined throne of England, Scotland, Ireland, and Wales — and the Steam Walker was only the first invention of a fertile mind!

 Posted by at 08:10