Tag Archives: Kindle

Work(s) in progress update

Sorry for the irregular posting schedule this week. I’m in training which means I don’t have to come in until 9am instead of my usual 7am. Much as I love you guys, I’m taking advantage of the extra sleep šŸ˜‰

I thought I’d give you guys a quick update on my “secretĀ non-fiction project”. I’m still on target for October 15-31st, anĀ aggressiveĀ but manageable goal. Lately this has been taking up more and more of my time, as would be expected, but sometimes it leaves me without a lot else to talk about (so sorry to those of you around me whose ears have fallen off from all the talking šŸ™‚ ). I’m very excited about this project, and think it will be something that technical and non-technical people can enjoy, but I am equally looking forward to the day I can hit “publish” on Kindle Direct Publishing and settle down for the relaxing tasks of marketing and working on the “next big thing.”

Though I’m calling this my “secret non-fiction project” many of you have probably already guessed the topic, and I’ll do a more formal reveal in a couple of weeks once I’ve got something cool like a cover to show you. All I can say at the moment is that I in large part have you, the blogging community, to thank for this project, and I can say without a doubt that if it weren’t for all if you, this book wouldn’t be written, let alone coming out in 2-2.5 months. So thanks, sincerely.

Word count’s not quite the right metric for completeness on this project (and for technical reasons Word not only can’t give me an accurate word count but has thrown up its hands on my spelling and grammar. The reason for this will become apparent shortly). For now I can say that maybe 60-70% of illustrations are complete, all technical aspects are drafted, and 60-70% formatted, and I’m two-thirds of the way through drafting chapter 3 of 6. Chapter 1 was by far the longest, and Chapter 6 will probably be the shortest, though I do have variousĀ appendices, prefaces, and other things to complete as well. I’m taking Friday off to another full-time writing day, my third so far, and each has been glorious.

One last thing, after this project releases I’m hoping to take some crunch time to do a last revision on my first-second novel, Surreality. I’m tentatively projecting a release date of January –Ā FebruaryĀ 2013 (I’ll have a better idea once I get my hands on it again). The snippet from the awards post a couple of months ago came from this work, and I think its high time I shared it with all of you. Then its back to DM revisions and looking for publishers, and who knows what else (NaNo anyone?)

(Additional Note: AGFV will post next week. I know technically tomorrow is the third Thursday of the month, but I’m usually thinking of a date more like the 21st and I want to have something great for you guys, any suggestions you might have are always welcome in the comments).

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Filed under Books + Publishing, Internal Debate 42, Writing, Writing Goals

A Hard Slog

Three months from today I’m releasing a book. Last week I wasn’t even sure how to begin the second chapter.

It’s a little weird to be writing a book and to not be sure where you’re going. This happens all the time in fiction, at least for me. I have a pretty good sense of the beginning, some pivotal scenes in the middle, and the ending, but not the other scenes, theĀ way-stationsĀ on the way to my big moment.

This can be even more dismaying when you’re trying to write non-fiction. There’s a certain level of expertise in your field of study you’re supposed to have. You’re trying to be a teacher, while at the same time you’re a student, a researcher. There are times when you’re not sure you know enough, and other moments of insight when everything seems to fit together.

I guess in both these cases it’s a matter of showing your work.

When I was writing my rough draft of DM I had about five or six movie scenes that would replay in my mind, at various points in the story. Answers to the questions I’d been laying out, pivotal alliances, betrayals, action sequences. But those moments were just mindless action without the context of the text around it.

For non-fiction this seems to come up even more. I’ve had the answer to the second chapter for over a month now, a working program that does what it is supposed to do, but no real idea as to how it did it. More than anything my goal is to write about this subject in a way that is understandable to enthusiasts not experts. To describe processes and methods without the technicalities, to show every step that I can of how I got from one page to the next.

Last weekend I was working hard, finishing my first chapter, and working out the notes for the second and third. The little red haired girl was away and so I decided to pull half a college all-nighter, working til about 2am in the morning. HIMYM may think nothing good happens after 2am but writers know better. This is when our minds our tired, our defenses down, and the work we’ve been doing for hours finally has a chance to spin around and make connections. I understood what I’d been staring at for weeks, and in a few days I was writing furiously on the next chapter, confident there was actually something I had to say.

What’s the takeaway from this experience? That hard work and determination will eventually lead to a solution. Maybe. In fiction one of the best ways to get from point A to B was to keep writing, and if I cut a few days worth of writing in revision it was worth it for the gems that were left. For this project it’s a little different yet the same. I’m trying to keep it in my head, while at the same time trying to attack it from all different angles, working for hours or just a few minutes, sitting in my office or a coffee shop. Reading a book on the Kindle or a hard-copy.

Some people need to keep a routine, a set process for how they bang out a days work, and so do I. It’s just that my routine is to switch it up all the time.

I’m at the midpoint of my non-fiction project. There’s less written then I would have hoped by this point, and yet I am excited. Having a deadline is good for me, and truly engaging with a subject in a deep and meaningful way is something I don’t have a lot of excuse to do. I’ll keep trying to share any lessons I learn, but the simplest is this:

Write, whether you feel like it or not, wherever and however you want.


Filed under Writing, Writing Goals

5% of Five (#1) – 5 Free “Humor” Kindle Books

Damn you HundredZeros!

Thanks to you and sites like ManyBooks and the Baen Free Library, I now have more books than I know what to do with on my Kindle. I was already at the point where I didn’t have time to read all my print books, and you’ve gone and made it worse. There’s only one thing to do…

Make more snap decisions.

Introducing 5% of Five!!!!

5% of Five is the new irregular feature here at BenTrubeWriter, featuring reviews of the first 5% of five free books. Hopefully these posts will be helpful in telling you what’s worth your time (and lack of money), and what you’d be better off avoiding.

Our Rating Scale!!!!

5 – I really enjoyed this. I would (and may have already) spent money to buy other books by this author.

4 – I’m intrigued, I will have to finish this at some point.

3 – Some good parts, overall so-so.

2 – I’m glad this was free. It was pretty bad.


Today’s Books (Humor)

Kids Say The Cutest Things When They're DrunkKids Say The Cutest Things When They’re Drunk – The best part of this is the title. I was kind of expecting some bizarre narratives of weird things kids had done, but the book starts with a test on whether you’re ready to be a parent. Obvious warning signs that you’re not ready, you don’t want to clean diapers, lose all your free time (and money), and are a pedophile. If you want to read a funny book on parenting, try Mother On Fire, by Sandra Tsing Loh (Not free, but far more worth your time). Rating 1.

Silly SignsSilly Signs – I read 100% of this, in about 5 minutes. Mostly pun based humor. One or two laughs, but generally pretty lowbrow. The book is presented in cartoon format without a lot of variation. It might be worth your zero dollars, but IĀ guaranteeĀ an instant archival after one reading. Also there seemed to be some formatting glitches (blank pages) on my Kindle. Rating 2.

Funny Jokes For AdultsFunny Jokes For Adults – By Adult they mean clean but “intelligent” humor. Probably at the level of “Humor in Uniform” or other such columns in Reader’s Digest. Nothing that made me laugh out loud, but maybe a few jokes that I’d retell with a little tweaking. Formatting is the biggest problem with this. The original document must have used very small fonts, since I had to turn my text most of the way up to make it readable. Rating 3.

Obama SutraObama Sutra – Another book where the best part is the title. I knew this would probably be pretty silly, but I was actually looking for some decent Obama based humor here. By the third page or so they were already making a Clinton joke, and most of the Obama jokes definitely came from one side of the political aisle. I bet in the right hands a more “fair and balanced” and far funnier book could be crafted with this title, but not this one. Rating 1.

The Book Of Biff #1The Book Of Biff #1 Target Practice – This book filled a need I didn’t even know I had, single panel comics for the Kindle. Biff is a bald man with some serious eyebrows and mustache who gets himself into all sorts of weird situations. Is he human, an alien, or a toaster? The Book Of Biff is an online comic by Chris Hallbeck that’s been going on and off for more than a decade. To date there are 10 collections of 100+ comics a piece, most $2.99 but this one is free! I’m not sure if I’ll buy the rest at $2.99, but I did pick up Volume 5 which is discounted at $0.99. Rating 5.

That’s it, our 5% of Five. What did you think?


Filed under Books + Publishing, Round-Ups

10 formatting tips for the Kindle

Last week I started the actual writing part of my non-fiction project, diving straight into the perils and frustrations of the Kindle format. For plain text the formatting is pretty straightforward, but add pictures, equations and source code to the mix and you have a whole different ballgame. Writing an eBook for the Kindle is like designing a web-page in the mid 90s, with a lot of the same restrictions, but this guide will help you through some of the trickier bits.

1) Use Microsoft Word – It’s a little frustrating for me as an open source advocate to suggest that you have to use Microsoft software, but it just makes your life easier. All of Amazon’s guides are geared to this format, particularly the post 2007 versions of Office. For text you might be able to get away with LibreOffice, AbiWord or OpenOffice, but with equations code and styles, it’s best to go with Amazon’s recommendations.

2) Pick up the free guides – Amazon has two free guides on how to format and publish for the Kindle. While these don’t cover everything, they are a quick read and will give you a good feel for the whole process from draft to finished product. Of particular use are the sections on paragraph formatting and preparing front matter like the Table of Contents.

3) Own a Kindle – Seems straightforward but this is crucial. If you are like me, you’ll want to test your book as you go along rather than waiting till the end of the process. While Amazon does provide emulators, there is nothing like having the actual piece of hardware you’ll be publishing on. I recommend the Kindle Touch for this, even for projects that involve color pictures. Color’s gonna look good on the Fire and the iPad, but you won’t know how it’ll look on eInk till you try it.

4) Use a maximum of two levels of Table of Contents – While the guide suggests only one, you can have links to sub-sections within your chapter by using Header 2, if you’ve been using Header 1 for the main chapter titles. You can do three levels using Header 3, but the Kindle Table of Contents will show both Header 2 and 3 at the same level.

5) Don’t use bullets, but if you must… – Use a white bullet with a black outline. Bullets come with an automatic tab in Microsoft Word and tabs are a no-no in eBook formatting. The white bullet has the least noticeable indent and looks fairly close to how it looks in Word.

6) The equation editor is your friend – For anything mathematical, the equation editor looks more professional and ensures that it will look the way you want it to across sizes of screen and text. When the equation is saved out it is saved as an image so it is not subject to the whims of resizing.

7) Don’t use Courier for Code, use HTML Code Style – Word has a number of pre-defined styles. If you’re publishing source code like HTML or C++, HTML Code Style seems to be what the professionals use. It’s a tight font that allows for a lot of content per line, with a fixed width look, without the ridiculous spacing of Courier. Also use two spaces for indenting instead of tabs.

8) Back to the days of JPEG – The Kindle supports individual images in JPEG format (and a few others but not PNG), up to 127 KB. To give you some perspective my 5MP Camera from about 9 years ago takes 1-2MB pictures (or 8 to 16 times the maximum size). My new 14MP camera takes 14MB pictures (more than 100 times the max file size). You’ll need to take advantage of Word’s image compression tools, as well as compressing ahead of time. My advice, resize to a 600 pixel width (max width resolution for most Kindles) using IrfanView, then open in Paint or something else to compress further. When you save out the book as HTML you’ll be able to see final image sizes in the associated folder.

9) Use Calibre to convert to Amazon formatCalibre is an excellent eBook management and conversion manager, able to be used portably and across most OS’s. Only downside is they update frequently and updating requires downloading the full installer instead of simply patches, but library is maintained across versions.

10) Format as you write – There may an inclination to just bang out the text of your book, and insert pictures and other things later, but this opens the possibility of forgetting images, equations, and having to do a lot of insertions which Word is not always the best at. Also use page breaks near images if you want to be sure certain text appears with them.

Last thing is simply give yourself more time than you think you needed. Formatting a heavily imaged book can be time consuming, but the final result is ridiculously satisfying. Have fun šŸ™‚


Filed under Trube On Tech, Writing