Friday, March 14, 2014

City of Burning Shadows Revealed

City of Burning Shadows
Cover art by Jordan Grimmer

Joshua "Ash" Drake is a man in hiding.

Hiding from the past, from the horror of his life as a priest after the gods disappeared.

Hiding from his emotions, denying the nightmares that haunt his sleep and the anger that fuels his days.

Most of all, hiding from the truth―

that no matter how much he keeps his head down, no matter how he clings to the echoes of everyday life, his city—his world—is dying.

When a new technology offers salvation to his desperate city, Ash must reach out to people he left behind and step back into the world that almost killed him. But coming out of hiding now could be the worst mistake Ash has ever made.

Because there are monsters in the darkness, feeding the chaos, watching the city burn. And once those monsters know his name, Ash will never be able to hide again.

City of Burning Shadows is the first volume in Apocrypha: The Dying World, a new series from author Barbara J. Webb.

Back in mid-January, I posted about my work on Barbara's novel, which she planned to self-publish. At the time of my blog post, however, the cover art had not yet been finalized.

As you can see, not only is the cover art complete, but City of Burning Shadows is now available as a Kindle ebook as well as in a trade paperback print edition.

In that previous blog post I recommended that you make a note -- in whatever note-taking manner you utilize -- to add City of Burning Shadows to your forthcoming books list. Well, now is your opportunity to snag a copy of the book itself, show your support for an independent, self-publishing author, and enjoy a quality read as well.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

The Ebook Tango with Judith Moffett - Denouement

Tiny TangoFinally, Tiny Tango by Judith Moffett was published as a Kindle ebook on Amazon. I had the idea for an ebook (Step 1), we obtained a cover design based on an original Janet Aulisio black and white illustration (Step 2), and after much cursing at the Machine (Step 3) we had a published ebook.

So why "Tiny Tango"?

"Tiny Tango" the novella was a finalist for both the Hugo Award and the Nebula Award; and as I mentioned in the first part of this series, had the James Tiptree Jr. Award been presented in 1990 (the first award was presented in 1991 so "TT" missed it by one year) I am certain that "Tiny Tango" would have made the short list, and quite possibly won the award for that year.

I first read "TT" in the February 1989 issue of Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine. It was one of those stories that, when you came upon a certain scene, you could be heard saying out loud -- to yourself, to no one in particular -- "You gotta be kidding me!" I don't mean that in the sarcastic sense, or the "ha ha" sense, I mean it in the sense of scratching your head, realizing no one had written of this, and in this way, before. As I also previously mentioned, Matthew Cheney, in a Mumpsimus blog post in 2009, included "Tiny Tango" in his list of twenty-one "Mindblowing!" stories; Matthew went on to say:
"Tiny Tango" is a story I read when it first appeared in Asimov's, and it completely blew me away and broke my heart. I was young and just learning what science fiction could do, and it was one of the key stories in showing me the breadth of emotional and conceptual possibilities.
And here's what Judy wrote about the story, which appears on the next to the last page in the published ebook:
"Tiny Tango" forms Chapter 3 of The Ragged World, the first volume in Judith Moffett's Holy Ground Trilogy; the other two volumes are Time, Like an Ever-Rolling Stream, and The Bird Shaman. The trilogy deals with the arrival on earth of two symbiotic alien races, the Hefn and the Gafr, whose technology enables them to take control of the planet in an effort to save it from environmental disaster. The alien takeover is important at this story's end, but the tale of Nancy Sandford and her struggle to survive HIV stands by itself, enriched but not enabled by the larger context formed by the trilogy. Writing in 1987, Moffett's educated guesses about the course of the AIDS epidemic, its treatments and social consequences, fall wide of the mark. But it hardly matters. What we have here is not a predictive study of medical and technical know-how, but the timeless tale of a particular individual's refusal to accept defeat, the means she finds and invents to cope with a desperate plight. "Tiny Tango" was a finalist in the novella category for the Nebula Award in 1989, and for the Hugo Award in 1990. Volumes I and II of the Holy Ground Trilogy were named New York Times Notable Books for 1991 and 1992, respectively. "Tiny Tango" is also included in Ian Sales's list: "100 Great Science Fiction Stories by Women."

How can you not want to read this story?

Note to book reviewers: If you have a book review blog and/or you review regularly on Goodreads and/or you review for the Kindle community, and you would like to review Tiny Tango, please send an email to:

Include in the email a link to your book review blog, community, and/or your Goodreads book review page, and I'll be in touch. Keep in mind that you will be reviewing a Kindle mobi ebook.

Note to potential readers of The Holy Ground Trilogy: For those who may consider purchasing this trilogy, please be aware that signed (and inscribed, if you wish) copies of The Bird Shaman may be purchased directly from author Judith Moffett. Here's the link: you'll find the order form in the right frame of the web page.

Friday, March 7, 2014

The Ebook Tango with Judith Moffett - Step 3

Tiny TangoWhen last we saw (virtually speaking, that is) the intrepid ebook adventurers:

In Step 1 I came up with the idea to publish Judith Moffett's award-nominated story Tiny Tango as a Kindle ebook; and by the end of Step 2, we had the final design for the ebook's cover.

But even before we had begun work on the book cover, Judy and I had already copy edited the story itself, multiple times in fact. Judy provided me with a Word file of the "Tiny Tango" story, we each did a copy edit, comparing notes and edits until we were both satisfied.

Not having created an ebook from scratch prior to this, I relied on the Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) "Simplified Formatting Guide" on the KDP website.

After reviewing KDP's suggestions for what to include in the book, I then asked Judy to draft a dedication page as part of the front matter, and, for the back of the book, an author bio page as well as a page that would introduce readers to "Tiny Tango," its genesis and how it is part of a larger trilogy of novels. I in turn wrote the copyright page. And, as we are wont to do, all pages went through a series of tweaks and copy edits.

When I entered this additional content into the "Tiny Tango" Word doc, I took advantage of the hyperlink capability of a digital ebook: I entered links to Jenn Reese's Tiger Bright Studios and my More Red Ink blog on the copyright page; I entered links to Amazon for all three volumes of the Holy Ground Trilogy, of which "Tiny Tango" is just a small part, in addition to a few other appropriate links; and on Judy's bio page I linked to her website.

I know there are a variety of tools available for creating and formatting files for ebooks -- I have one author friend who uses Scrivener exclusively. But I'm an MS Word guy all the way. Here are a few noteworthy points for aspiring ebook publishers who use Word:
  • Use margin indents, rather than tabs or spaces, to set off each new paragraph.
  • Use page breaks to separate parts of the book (e.g. title page, copyright page, dedication page, preface, etc.) as well as to separate chapters within the story itself.
  • Use bold formatting and/or italics formatting when needed, as the conversion process will pick up these formats.
  • Insert images into the document using the Insert → Picture option from the menu; do not use cut&paste to insert images.

Since "Tiny Tango" was just a single story, I didn't need an "active" (i.e. hyperlinked) contents page, nor did I need to set up "Go To" functionality (Kindle users will understand this).

The one question that I had, though (at least as far as I knew at that point!), concerned the relationship between the book cover and the ebook: Did I need to insert the book cover into the MS Word file manually? Or, did the KDP conversion process do this for me? The KDP site has a number of instructional resources and FAQs, but I wasn't able to find my answer. So, based on what information I did have at the time, I assumed that I had to manually insert the cover image into the MS Word file. This, of course, turned out to be an incorrect assumption, which I figured out later, after the fact.

So, I inserted the "Tiny Tango" cover image as page one of the MS Word file; and then I inserted the full black and white illustration by Janet Aulisio on page 3, the page after the title page.

Speaking of image files, a couple other pointers: Amazon charges for digital transfer services, so you need to have your ebook file as small as possible. This means using the best image format, which is JPG, ensuring that the image size is no larger than absolutely necessary, and using image file compression as well. KDP also has dimension requirements for the ebook cover, but I wasn't worried because I knew Jenn Reese had our backs. She provided a cover image of 2250 x 3000 pixels, along with a smaller (600 x 800 pixels), thumbnail-size graphic.

At this point I was ready to save my completed MS Word file in the format that Amazon required: a "Web Page, Filtered" htm file. So far so good.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

A few words from Steve Wozniak

If you love what you do and are willing to do what it takes, it's within your reach. And it'll be worth every minute you spend alone at night, thinking and thinking about what it is you want to design or build. It'll be worth it, I promise.
~ Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple Computer

March 5, 1975: The Homebrew Computer Club had its first meeting 39 years ago today. Steve Wozniak was a founding member of this group of Silicon Valley computer hobbyists and he says that it inspired the design and development of the Apple I. (quote courtesy of Goodreads)

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

The Ebook Tango with Judith Moffett - Step 2

Tiny TangoTo recap Step 1: Last fall I suggested to my friend, the author Judith Moffett, that she publish her Hugo and Nebula award-nominated story Tiny Tango as a Kindle ebook.

Of course, I knew up front that by making this suggestion I would be doing most of the technical heavy lifting on this project. And, for the most part, I thrive on this type of tech stuff, as Judy well knows. Except, that is, on those rare occasions when the hardware and/or software seems to be getting the better of me. Then it comes down to Man (me!) vs. Machine -- and I'm not going to lose to a machine! [And it would probably be best to not be within hearing range of me when such occasions arise.]

At this point in the process we had a full-size (2164 x 1755 pixels) JPG file of the "Tiny Tango" artwork by Janet Aulisio that graced the story's opening pages in the February 1989 issue of Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine. Our task was to somehow fit this two-page illo onto an ebook-sized cover -- with the appropriate typography -- and make it intriguing enough that readers just might want to purchase the ebook itself. So, I needed to find a quality graphic designer.

The first person I thought to contact was author Bradley P. Beaulieu. I worked for Brad on his self-published short fiction collection, Lest Our Passage Be Forgotten & Other Stories (which I blogged about here). Brad recommended Jenn Reese, of Tiger Bright Studios: "She has a great eye for covers, charges a reasonable fee, and would have all the answers your friend needs in terms of direction for the cover." I couldn't ask for a better recommendation than that. Plus, when I checked out the Tiger Bright Studios website, I discovered a number of book titles by authors whom I knew personally, so that influenced my decision as well.

I made the initial contact with Jenn Reese, explained our need, and provided her with the b&w JPG file. Shortly thereafter, Judy took over the discussion, since she was the one to agree to terms and make all the final cover decisions.

Jenn first provided us with three options for how we might tackle the cover, keeping in mind that the graphic was much wider than a standard ebook cover. So to fit the entire illo on the cover, the graphic would have to be reduced in size considerably. Here are the three initial mockups that Jenn sent us:

Mockup #1

Mockup #2

Mockup #3

Though we wanted the full illustration on the cover, we certainly couldn't have all the white space that would entail; plus, all the fine detail that Janet Aulisio crafted into the illustration would be lost at this smaller scale. So, Judy opted for mockup #1, but with a change: the cover would feature just the reaper, but needed to include the reaper's scythe in full. And I then suggested that we include the full illustration within the ebook itself, after the title page.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

The Ebook Tango with Judith Moffett - Step 1

Tiny TangoOccasionally, I'll come up with a fairly cool idea. Not one that I've necessarily thought through completely, of course, but a cool idea nonetheless. The most recent instance of such a cool idea occurred this past fall when I contacted author Judith Moffett and suggested she publish her Hugo and Nebula award-nominated story "Tiny Tango" as an ebook.

[Additional award note: And I have no doubt that, had the James Tiptree, Jr. Award been presented in 1990 (for works published in 1989), "Tiny Tango" would also have made that award's short list, if not won the award outright.]

I blogged about Judith Moffett and her novels and stories back in 2010 (here). At the time I referenced -- and quoted from -- Matthew Cheney's Mumpsimus blog post in which he wrote about "Mindblowing" stories that affected him as both a reader and writer. One such story was "Tiny Tango."

Then, most recently, writer/critic/reviewer Ian Sales posted his list of "100 Great Science Fiction Stories by Women," which also included "Tiny Tango." And that list was what pushed me over the edge, so to speak, and into said cool idea.

If you click on the Tiny Tango cover graphic pictured above, or the text link in this sentence, you will be swept away to Amazon's World of Kindle and to the Tiny Tango ebook listing: we were, in fact, successful in our efforts to publish the story as an ebook. But the path to get there, well, that's the story I'm about to tell you....

When "Tiny Tango" originally appeared in the February 1989 issue of Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine, a black-and-white illustration by Janet Aulisio accompanied the opening pages of the story. Judith informed me that she owns the original illustration, which is currently mounted on the wall above her desk. She purchased it from the artist shortly after the story was published -- and assuming she can obtain permission to do so, she wants to use the illo for the cover of the Tiny Tango ebook.

So began our task of tracking down Janet Aulisio in order to obtain her permission. Following a lengthy online search on both our parts, we discovered that Ms. Aulisio has no online presence whatsoever: no website, no blog, no Facebook page, no storefront. Judith then contacted ASFA -- the Association of Science Fiction & Fantasy Artists -- only to learn that they were unable to help either: Janet Aulisio was not a member and they had no record of her contact information. A further web search yielded a 2012 interview with Ms. Aulisio, conducted by Scott Taylor for Black Gate magazine. So I emailed John O'Neill, the BG publisher, who put me in touch with Scott Taylor, who in turn passed on my contact info to Janet Aulisio. After Janet contacted me, I forwarded her email to Judith, and she obtained the artist's permission to use the illustration for the cover of the Tiny Tango ebook.

Judith then had the original b&w illustration scanned into a PDF, and I used a conversion tool to covert the PDF to a JPG file. So far so good.

copyright ©1989 by Janet Aulisio

Then one day, maybe a couple months or so after that cool idea first hit me, the light bulb finally lit: I have a black-and-white illustration to use for the book cover, an illustration that encompassed two facing pages when it appeared in Asimov's. But an ebook only has a front cover; there is no wrap-around cover art on an ebook, no landscape layout. How was I going to fit this illustration on the cover? And even if I could figure that out somehow, I didn't have the appropriate tools (e.g PaintShop or its equivalent), nor do I know how to use such tools, to create such a cover, and with the necessary typography, too. I will be the first to admit: I am not a graphic designer.

Though I didn't know how to do this myself, I did know people who could help me, or at least who could point me in the right direction.

To be continued:
The Ebook Tango with Judith Moffett - Step 2