Wednesday, November 20, 2013

New tools this year

I had a post a while back about the use of Markdown which then got converted in to ePUB and then to MOBI for Kindle.

I've moved on from that to reStructuredText with Sphinx extensions.

It's a simple plain-text markup -- but far more flexible than Markdown.

It also has direct ePUB output support. The initial "epub theme" isn't super awesome for novels -- it is considered "experimental" -- and the entire tool was designed for technical documentation, but tweaking the theme is straight-forward. I'll be providing a link to the theme I use.

I use a script to give myself a little more flexibility. On its own, Sphinx is great, but I wanted some specific features that weren't available out of the box.

I'll be talking about this more in later posts. I think I have a system in place that will allow me to keep my world notes for all novels in a shared world together, plus single-source an annotated behind-the-scenes version of the novel along with the released version. I should even be able to manage the issue of edits and tracking changes/comments on the source without using Microsoft Word's "track changes" feature.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Procrastinating with the Rijks Museum

I took a break from working on my NaNoWriMo novel to head over to and whip up a quick cover and banner.

"Veggie Time" is the working title of the book. I'm not really happy with it, but it gave me something to stick in the Gimp and can be easily changed later.

This uses the Amazon-recommended best dimensions for a Kindle book cover. I've heard people complain these dimensions look a little thin -- but when I loaded up the image on my phone it all made sense as it almost filled the whole screen.

The Amazon recommendation for the cover is located at and the current "best dimensions" as of today were
1563 on the short side, and 2500 on the long side.

The aspect ratio is different than the one required to upload a cover to the NaNoWriMo site, so I had to make a separate cover for that. I got best results actually creating a separate cover. The vast change in dimensions (230x300) meant that the subtitle ("A novel about vegetables and parthenogenesis") was illegible when I just scaled the text.

As an extra NaNo bonus, I've since realized I misspelled "parthenogenesis" on the cover. Since it is
saved as separate layers in The Gimp, it is trivial to fix.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

We create worlds.

Reposting from a comment on Google+.

In The Number of the Beast by Robert A. Heinlein, the main characters use a device to travel to alternate universes -- and winds up in fictional universes.

Many years ago I had a dream in which I was giving a presentation or teaching a class. I said, "This is why we're here." I raised my hand, and I created a universe.

Years later, I found myself in a dream, going to a particular time and place on a world I had created. I was as a deity, complete with people fighting each other in my name (two groups indistinguishable to me) and at least one woman petitioning me to bring her son back to life. (I did not, for it would have bound me to that place and time.)

I went to a particular time and place on this world and looked up to watch the birth of the heavens, knowing that while there were other people on the planet, I was the only one looking up and seeing this event. What I saw was the transformation from a mathematical abstraction of a universe to a living, organic universe. It was so beautiful that I collapsed to the ground and wept. (The only time I have cried from overwhelming beauty.)

We, authors, create worlds. Are they real enough that a device may someday allow someone to physically traverse from our world to one of our creation? It would be delightful to think so. All I can say is that it is why I am here. It isn't to be worshiped in isolation, but to share the beauty with others.