Friday, December 31, 2010

Fantastic Future Friday: A sure way to have a better future

Today is the last day of 2010 and a traditional day to drink until you pass out. The best way to have a good chance at having a fantastic 2011 is not to drink and drive this New Years. Spending the New Year in a prison cell, hospital or coffin would be a sucky future.

So tonight I hope everyone has fun at their parties, but doesn't get behind the wheel afterwards.

After all, living through the night is the best way to have a fantastic future.

By Darrell B. Nelson author of Alien Thoughts

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Thieving Thursday: Left Cheek

I hadn't been planning on doing a Thieving Thursday today but I ran across this post:

According to research revealed in this Slate story, Americans are twice as likely to report regularly attending Christian church services as to actually go to church services with any sort of regularity. Which, apparently, means that we're no more religious than, say, Europe.

But of course, there's more than meets the eye, right? A few thoughts:

To read the rest of the post go to Left Cheek.

By Darrell B. Nelson author of Alien Thoughts

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Writing Wednesday: 2010

2010 was a great learning process for me, if not the most productive in terms of shear volume.

I wrote one book that I feel is publishable, THE PIZZA DIARIES, and got halfway through two others. Not quite as productive as I would have liked in terms of finished products. However I did an awful lot of revising and editing.

I've rewritten more this year than I actually wrote. I've done well over 100,000 words of revisions on my own stuff and offered over 5,000 of suggestions for other peoples work. As far as writing I wrote a little over 100,000 words, not counting this blog.

I will have to admit that my writing has gotten much better even in the first draft stage, but it has slowed way down. This problem will work itself out as things I'm picking up in the critiques and revisions start to become automatic, instead of having to write something, think about it and rewrite it.

The other learning process I'm going through is learning to format ebooks. It really isn't that hard just time intensive. A nice thing about it is as I read my work, while doing the formating, my mind doesn't get caught up in the story so it is a great way to do the final edit.

I was hoping to have a treat for all the readers of this blog and put out a free ebook of some of my short stories before the end of the year. But due to a lot things I won't be able to do that until the end of January.

So for next year I plan on writing, critiquing, revising, rinse, lather, repeat.

By Darrell B. Nelson author of Alien Thoughts

Monday, December 27, 2010

My Lovely Christmas Present:

Over Christmas I got a lovely little Windows virus. I went to use my old Macfee Anti-Virus program and the virus was so bad it wouldn't run. Fun.

So I am done with Windows. On my PC I switched to Ubuntu (Linux) and I'll use my Mac for formating things in MS Office. Ubuntu comes with OpenOffice and reads the Word formating, even the higher functions like TOCs, comments and stuff.

I'll be playing around with the new operating system and seeing what it can do. So far I've been able to do all the things that I could do in Windows except ASP Programming which I haven't done seriously in a few years anyway.

I haven't used Linux in nearly a decade so it is a little different than it was then.

I was wondering if there are any other people out there that have given Windows the boot?

By Darrell B. Nelson author of Alien Thoughts

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas Everyone

sketchy santa fails - Anybody Ask For Something In Carbonite?
see more Sketchy Santas

I just want wish everyone a Merry Christmas.

By Darrell B. Nelson author of Alien Thoughts

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Writing Wednesday: Reading for Pleasure

One easy trap for writers to fall into is to forget why they started writing in the first place. This has happened to me a couple of times. The first time was when I was in my junior year in college, I was taking a lot of lit classes and a couple writing classes and I started to dread reading and writing. I didn’t pick up a book I didn’t have to for a few years after that.

Recently, I fell into this same pattern. When picking out books to read I didn’t think about if it was a plot I would like but if it was a style I could learn from. I started examining the style of writing more than just enjoying the novel.

Basically I forgot why I wanted to be a writer.

I became a writer because I love reading books. I love getting caught up in another world, imagining I am somewhere else, and living a different life. In other words enjoying experience the author has created.

When I started writing I wanted to create an experience of my own that I would enjoy and hopefully others would too. But recently I’ve been too bogged down in the details to enjoy the books I read.

So I picked up a book that I loved when I was a kid, one that I knew I couldn’t examine the style as its style would be laughed at today. I reread “The Mysterious Island” by one of the first, and in my opinion one of the best, Science Fiction writers ever Jules Verne.

With Jules Verne writings there is a fantastic sense of the wonder of science, even if that science is dated, that fills every page. The overwhelming feeling of, that with a combination of intelligence and hard work humans can do anything. Added to that the imagery that he puts on the paper makes it easy to get totally absorbed in his writing and ignore the style, which is totally contradictory to the style that modern novels have.

It is the powerful unspoken message, or Donnee, and great imagery that makes Verne’s books classic.

As far Verne being published today he would be laughed at. The POV shifts unexpectedly and constantly, rather than being the invisible narrator he stops and asks the reader questions, he puts in huge info-dumps, ect. But his books are still great to read.

So to all writers that read this blog I want to give you this one piece of advice. Remember to take time out to read for pleasure not to analyze the writing.

I’d also like to ask a question, what books do you enjoy that have a writing style that would never be published in today’s market?

By Darrell B. Nelson author of Alien Thoughts

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Temper Tantrum Tuesday: Kids and Guns in the Global Economy

My wife and I thought about having a kid recently but here in America the costs of medical care through pregnancy is between $25,000 and $30,000. I didn’t care as that would just be added to my debts just like the yearly interest of roughly the same amount. But my wife didn’t want that extra debt added on.

So I found this article very interesting, “Giving Birth outsourced to India” It turns out that for between $7,000 and $20,000 you can go over to India and a surrogate mother will have the pregnancy for you. This is cheaper than doing it the natural way over here in the US.

So for anywhere between one quarter and four-fifths of the cost of giving birth in the US you can have a mother in India do it for you. Not only are the cost savings significant but it also very labor saving. Instead of nine months of pregnancy it’s just a plane trip to India to drop off the sperm and eggs a nine-month wait and then a plane trip to pick up the kid. It’s about as easy a way to give birth as you can imagine.

There are a couple of little problems with this right now. First, the companies in India are voluntarily restricting this program to actual infertile couples. They don’t except couples that want to do it for economic reasons or just for the convenience. But it is unregulated so I’m sure they’ll loosen up and start having baby mills that will advertise the cost savings and convenience of doing it this way.

The second problem is they will probably want actual cash, not just do it and hope the person will pay. That’s where another news item caught my eye.

90% of the guns used in Mexico for the drug wars come from the US this has jacked up the prices of guns. Guns smuggled into Mexico have a profit of $250 to $350 per gun. Source. In Arizona a person can buy 15 guns without question, it’s only when you buy 16 or more that they ask if you plan to do more than hunt desert rats. So a middle-aged couple could stop by a gun shop, buy 30 guns, 15 each, and drive across the border and make a $7,500 profit. No one is going to question a middle-aged couple with no priors.

That’s enough to fund having a kid.

Thanks to the new global economy it is possible to get around the high cost of giving birth in the US. You just need to have no morals. Of course, none of this would be necessary if our healthcare costs were in line with the rest of the world.

By Darrell B. Nelson author of Alien Thoughts

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Shut-up Stupid Sunday: The Creationist Museum

In northern Kentucky the “Creation Museum” is expanding with government money, to show everyone how a 600-year-old man led the dinosaurs on to an Ark, so they could all live happily in the town of Bedrock. Except for the Bedrock part I am not making that up.

They are doing this to advance their claim that the Earth is only 6,000 years old. Somehow they have come up with that number from the bible. They explain away the reason that the Mehrgarh,who had been around for about 4,000 years before that, failed to write down this little fact was they weren’t Christian so they purposefully ignored the event.

Now one would think if you were standing around minding your own business and the heavens and Earth were suddenly created you might think that this type of thing was note worthy, but apparently not.

Oddly enough the Sumerians felt the same way about it.

The whole premise that the Creationists use is that they need to reject the scientific idea that you gather evidence and use that evidence to reach a logic conclusion and check to see that all the evidence supports that conclusion. If it doesn’t you go back and find one that does.

The Creationists instead make a conclusion from the bible and search for evidence to back it up. Any evidence that doesn’t fit their conclusion is discarded.

I’m not making that up Answers In Genesis, the parent group for the museum, says on their website:

“The Bible—the “history book of the universe”—provides a reliable, eye-witness account of the beginning of all things, and can be trusted to tell the truth in all areas it touches on. Therefore, we are able to use it to help us make sense of this present world. When properly understood, the “evidence” confirms the biblical account.”

Basically having children tour the museum tries to get them to reject all science and logic and be totally ignorant about the world around them. It is bad enough that followers want to inflict this on their own children but at least they are paying money that they have worked for to abuse their children in this way. Now the State of Kentucky is using taxpayers money to help them abuse their children.

The lawmakers state a study done by the museum’s founder Ken Ham’s business partner that shows the Ark will be twice as popular as the Cincinnati Zoo and compete with King's Island as the regions top tourist spot. The lawmakers who refer to that study have never read it, of course.

So to all those involved in funding and making an Ark that shows how humans and dinosaurs rode it to survive the great flood, I say, “Shut-up stupid, the premise that you are teaching is a form of psychological abuse on the children. If done privately it is in the gray area between Freedom of Religion and Child Abuse. When you start using taxpayer money to fund this thing it loses the shield of Freedom of Religion and is just plain child abuse.”

Update: The museum's founder Ken Ham has revealed the secret economic study shows that 2 out of 3 people in America will come to abuse their children. Source: Barefoot and Progressive.

By Darrell B. Nelson author of Alien Thoughts

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Civil Rights Saturday

Breaking news: The Senate actually did something!

The Republican Filibuster of repealing DADT was overcome in a 63-33 vote. That means that it can be voted on in an up or down vote.

Six GOP senators broke with their party in favor of repeal. Republicans supporting the bill were Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, Olympia Snowe of Maine, Scott Brown of Massachusetts, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, George Voinovich of Ohio, and Mark Kirk of Illinois.

I’d like to thank these Republicans for bravely standing up and voting for something that 3/4 of Americans want.

This is a good step towards making it so that gays and lesbians are no longer treated as second class citizens.

By Darrell B. Nelson author of Alien Thoughts

Friday, December 17, 2010

Not so Distant and not so Fantastic Future: 2011

It is the season to make predictions for what is coming next years, so I will gladly jump on board.

In 2010 oil consumption reached a record amount, 88.8 million barrels a day. Last time oil consumption got into this range was 2008 and the price of oil went to around $150 a barrel and gas cost over $4 per gallon.

My Prediction: Gas prices will rise through the winter to around $3.50 then back off to under $3 in the spring. This summer oil prices will rise to over $150 again maybe hit a new record and gas prices will rise into the mid $4 range. There is a chance that this might break the political gridlock in Washington in August, and the Republican congress and the Democratic Senate might get behind Obama’s compromise for Cash for Clunkers II in exchange for more incentives for off-shore drilling. Gas prices will drop below $4 a gallon in the fall and the Dems will say it was because of Cash for Clunkers II and the Republicans will say it was because of the promise of future off-shore drilling. They will both be wrong as gas prices always drop in the fall. The final result will be that US oil consumption will be down between 0.5% to 0.8% and the economy will actually get a boost from people buying more efficient cars. The decrease in US consumption will not be enough to offset the growing Chinese demand of between 2% to 3% and prices will start rising over $4 a barrel again in the winter.

There will be a breakthrough in solar panels in output, weight and cost of around 10% bringing the installation cost down to around $7,000. Government rebates and tax incentives will make the final cost of installation under $2,000. Enough people will switch so that utilities won’t have to build many new power plants.

The increasing price of oil will make biofuels more attractive. Washington will continue to push ethanol, the worst of the biofuels, but algae derived diesel will become economically feasible. Electric utilities will start using algae based carbon capture to make algae derived diesel. Of course they will pass the installation costs on to the consumer in the form of a $0.01/kw rate hike. As they start making money off the algae derived diesel this money will be turned into profit, which a large portion will go to lobbying. King Coal and the utilities will actually start lobbying FOR carbon recycling. They still won’t have the clout of Big Oil and Agrobiz that will keep pushing ethanol but it will be a start.



John Boehner will find it impossible to control the teabaggers that got elected and will have to turn to Nancy Pelosi to get anything done in the House. This will make him cry. Pelosi will get the establishment Republicans to make some good deals on legislation only to have Obama undermine her and have more right wing legislation passed.


The Senate will continue to block any legislation that is put forward until they absolutely have no choice.


Obama will continue to “compromise” and make deals with the Republicans that no Republican President could pass. My only hope is that he stands firm on his pledge to put science in its rightful place of 2% to 3% GDP and continues to fund research. This is possible as science is so vast a subject it can be funded while allowing research to go forward even while caving into the specific objections the teabaggers have.


The pent up demand from 2 years of depression will make the economy grow at a slightly faster rate than most predict in the first half of the year about 2% then the push for energy efficiency will make the economy grow faster in the second half. Record profits for banks and the stock market will get near or break the record high. Unemployment will drop to around or slightly below 9%.


NASA will end the Shuttle missions in spring and in the later part of the year start announcing new plans for rocket engines, they will be under huge criticism for not reusing the old SSME in different configurations that don’t do anything to reduce the cost per launch.

SpaceX will have a few successful launches and start supplying the ISS for NASA. Even though the missions were jumpstarted through NASA, people will use these launches as a reason to demand NASA’s budget be cut.

The DAWN space probe will land on Vesta, an asteroid that is considered to be very boring. People are in for a surprise. It might not make the news but something will be found on Vesta that will change the way we think about the origin of the Solar System. I know this because every other time space probes have visited “boring” sites the results have blown people away. The Voyager probes looking at the moons of Jupiter are the best examples.


Here is where 2011 will get ugly. Wikileaks or one of their clones will release inside information about the big banks, this won’t say anything that isn’t already known. The banks have been screwing their customers and the people in a million different ways and because they bribe all the governments there is no official way to stop them.

Some radicals will take this as a reason to act on their own and launch a terror campaign on the banks. Hopefully it will be directed at property not people, but these things always get out of hand.

These attacks on the banks will make governments respond with even tighter anti-terrorism laws and a call to censor the websites that leaked the information, instead of actually prosecuting the banks.

There will be a few riots but they will be quickly put down with nothing changing just making the rioters anger swell.


2011 will be a year of slight improvement for most people and nothing will be done to address the long-term problems in our society. Not addressing them in 2011 will lead to huge problems in 2012 when all hell will break loose.

By Darrell B. Nelson author of Alien Thoughts

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Writing Wednesday: Alien Thoughts

Today I am launching my first eBook: ALIEN THOUGHTS. It is available at Amazon through their Kindle Platform. It took me a week to format it for Kindle but looking it over on the Kindle for PC it looks incredible.

For all other eReaders it is also available at Smashwords.

It is this point in a normal Book Release post that the author usually begs people to buy their book. If you’ve checked out my blog anytime in the past 2 years you know I don’t do things the normal way. I don’t want people rushing out and buying the book.

At the Kindle Store they offer the first 4 chapters as a sample, at Smashwords they offer 20% of the book as a sample. In both samples there is enough of the book to a good feeling for the main character Simon Yar. He is the favorite of all the characters I’ve ever written; every time I review the book I get caught up in his struggles.

So if you are interested in getting caught up in a world slowly transforming in a way that only a person with extreme Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder can see, but can’t be sure if he is just being paranoid, then please download the sample. If you like the main character, you’ll like the book. If you don’t like him then the book isn’t for you and save your $2.99 for my next eBook that I hope to release next month.

As readers of this blog know, I am a junkie for feedback so let me know if you like it, hate it or any other emotion.

Download the sample for free at:

Amazon (Kindle Version)
Smashwords (All Versions)

By Darrell B. Nelson author of ALIEN THOUGHTS

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Temper Tantrum Tuesday: Formatting E-Books

I decided to take the plunge into ebooks and publish ALIEN THOUGHTS that way. The thing I really like about ebooks is that the reader can preview the book before buying it. That means I know that the reader won’t be parting with their hard-earned $2.99 only to not read the book.

ALIEN THOUGHTS is the type of book that this is really an issue because if you read the first 30,000 words you’re going to spend the $3 to continue. But if it isn’t your thing you’ll never make it through the first 30,000 and stop before paying any money. So no one can feel ripped off.

The formatting is a process in itself. I went through two processes. Kindle and Smashwords both have different ways of handling the publishing process.

Kindle is harder to format for, and doesn’t offer as much help but they do have one huge advantage. They have a preview feature, it is crude and the advanced Kindle features are deactivated in the preview but it is a preview. This means you can look over your work before it is published and find errors in the formatting that are impossible to spot otherwise.

Smashwords offers much better support and instructions and has error checking software to find problems. Unfortunately it doesn’t offer a preview at all. As soon as you load up your book it is live and people start downloading it. So you can’t visually see the problem until after people start downloading your book.

I’m sure these problems will be resolved in the future but it is a pain right now.

So to all the people who downloaded samples of my book from Smashwords and found the Table of Contents broke and a few extra tabs in the body, just download the sample again after 4pm Eastern today and you’ll find it fixed. Unfortunately the early downloaders got to see my practice formatting and I hope those errors aren’t too distracting.

If you want to read the first 30,000 words of my book it is available at Smashwords: ALIEN THOUGHTS

By Darrell B. Nelson author of Alien Thoughts

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Shut-up Stupid Sunday: President Obama

The Senate had three important pieces of legislation to pass last week. Extending the Bush Tax Cuts for the middle class while letting the tax cuts for the top 2% expire, Repealing DADT, and healthcare for the 9/11 emergency responders.

All three failed. So Obama blamed the progressives.

Roughly 2/3 of Americans want the Tax cuts for millionaires to expire, ¾ want DADT repealed and as far as I can tell everyone except the 42 Republicans who voted against it want the 9/11 heroes to get medical treatment for the health problems they got from saving peoples lives that day.

I could put up the links to my pages supporting Obama in the past, but if you click on a random link on this blog you will probably find one. So I can’t be accused of not supporting him. But one thing I was waiting for was for him to stand up and fight back against the Republicans, I guess I was waiting for something that will never come.

He got angry all right, but directed that anger on us Progressives that put him into office instead of the GOP that are acting like spoiled brats.

If there ever was I time to get into a fight with the GOP it is now. An overwhelming majority of the American people want these bills to pass. But instead of taking on the GOP Obama is attacking his supporters for not voting with the minority.

President Obama: The GOP has shown that it is willing to destroy the economy in order to get a political advantage, so don’t give them one.

Instead of asking Bill Clinton to back you on your compromise, which gives the GOP everything they ask for, ask Bill to come down to Kentucky. In 2007 he was here enough to be considered a legal resident. He is the most popular politician in this state. If he were to tour Kentucky talking about how Mitch McConnell is holding the middle class hostage and voted against giving the 9/11 first responders healthcare, I sure Ms McConnell would back down.

If you need a knife to hold to Mitch’s throat here is one. Bill could move to Kentucky and run against Mitch in 2012. Bill would cream him. Mitch McConnell would do anything and I mean anything to keep that from happening.

McConnell knows he isn’t well liked here in his home state. He barely got re-elected. Bring the fight to him, have Bill campaign down here in Kentucky he couldn’t withstand that.

So Obama when you attack progressives for not supporting you when you give the GOP more than they could ever get under George W Bush I say to you, “Shut-up stupid, not only are you going against the wishes of the people who put you into office. You are going against the wishes of the Majority of The American People. If ever there was a time to fight it is now. I am one of the hostages that the GOP is using. If unemployment benefits are cut I lose a lot of customers, but I will take that smaller paycheck and find a way to survive and proudly endure that sacrifice if you would fight them on these issues.”

By Darrell B. Nelson author of Invasive Thoughts

Friday, December 10, 2010

Fantastic Future Friday: Falcon 9

This week SpaceX put a capsule into Orbit and had it circle the Earth twice and then it went through a perfect re-entry to land within a few miles of its target area. This is great news for the future of space exploration.

With SpaceX’s success they are quickly getting ready to take over the job of supplying the ISS with cargo as well as making a viable alternative for the launch of commercial satellites. Soon commercial launches could take over the work in Low Earth Orbit.

This is how the US Space Program was envisioned, with NASA leading the way with the far bleeding edge of research and development and private industry picking up and following the trail they had blazed.

Soon Orbital Sciences Corp. will be testing a launcher of their own and Low Earth Orbit will be even more accessible.

With private companies taking over the day-to-day business of Low Earth Orbit, NASA can go back to what they excel at, the bleeding edge research of space. Like designing a Super Heavy Lift Launcher, hopefully with a totally new engine, and exploring near Earth Asteroids.

This successful test is leading the way to a fantastic future.

By Darrell B. Nelson author of Invasive Thoughts

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Writing Wednesday: Turning Personal Demons into Personnel Demons

Last month I tried to turn-off my internal editor and crank out a book quickly, with limited success. I could write stuff I knew would have to be edited later, I avoided the temptation to go back and change earlier scenes and a few other things that always slow me down. However looking at the 25,000 words I wrote. They are pretty good. Better than my second novel after 3 rewrites.

A big part of the problem is I don’t want to totally turn-off my internal editor, I value the input and spotting problems in a paragraph a few paragraphs later saves me a lot of work later on. I just need my editor to use its indoor voice instead of a megaphone.

Struggling with my internal editor for a month I feel as if it is a living breathing character. Whenever I get that feeling I know exactly what to do. I turn it into a character in one of my books.

I quickly typed out the first two chapters of my sequel to THE SETTING EARTH with my internal editor being a major character and it has me inspired. I have no idea if the book will be any good and for once I really don’t care, at least not at this point. But it is nice to sit down with a personal demon of mine, and work together on a project instead of arguing with it.

By Darrell B. Nelson author of Invasive Thoughts

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Temper Tantrum Tuesday: Robbing the Wrong People

In the last 30 years the financial world has become a global entity of its own, separate from individual nations. I’m not going into vast conspiracy and New World Order territory here, just stating facts.

In the last decades they were allowed to run amuck and no government had the power to regulate them. It all crashed in 2008 and they are robbing the “little people” to continue their unsustainable ways. In America the fed has given them 3.3 Trillion Dollars to gamble with in the hope that they won’t blow it like they did with their money before. A few (very few) reporters have asked Economists, “What happens if they do lose that money?” the answer: “Hell if I know.”

Basically the bankers have robbed the American people of 3.3 Trillion Dollars and there is no plan to get it back.

In Ireland the banks have gone to the next step of robbing the “little people” after using up Ireland’s imaginary money, they have given them the Irish Pension Fund, the equivalent to the American Social Security Trust Fund. They feel confident in stealing this as there has been no uproar in the US over the banks stealing our money and the Irish are gentle people just like Americans.

There is one slight problem with that thinking; the economies of The Republic of Ireland and the British State of Northern Ireland are intertwined. The British attacked Ireland in the 15th century and the Irish fought the occupation until reaching a peace accord in 1998. Basically the longest damn war in history.

Although the Irish Republican Army officially disbanded 4 years ago, there are still quite a few members that did take part in the conflict. They remember the tactics and organizational methods to inflict terror on the government. The bankers are softer targets than the English Soldiers that they used to target.

The Irish people have been fighting unjust rule for over 500 years and the bankers have decided these are the people that they are going to rob.

The Irish Republican Army and the American version the Molly Maguires aren’t known for playing nice. The Molly Maguires used to strike back at Industrialists who took advantage of the Irish by kidnapping their entire families. The IRA had no problems targeting the children of English Leaders who were Anti-Irish.

I don’t wish violence on anyone, I truly don’t. But at some point there has to be a toll paid for banks that act stupidly, and robbing the people of Ireland is about as stupid as you can get. The people of America might allow the bankers to rob us blind, but I really don’t see the people of Ireland rolling over and excepting this without some backlash.

By Darrell B. Nelson author of Invasive Thoughts

Monday, December 6, 2010

An old article came back to life

In February of 2009, I wrote a little article on how to make your food budget last longer and posted it on Associated Content. It received a couple views and I didn't think about it again.

Now with the Senate Republicans blocking the extension of unemployment benefits that little article has become really popular as people start thinking about taking extreme measures to feed their families.

If you are planning on using this method to feed your family I would suggest going to the high schools in the financial district to employ this method.

By Darrell B. Nelson author of Invasive Thoughts

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Saturn Saturday

Here is a little vid of Saturn's moon Hyperion taken from the Cassini space probe:

By Darrell B. Nelson author of Invasive Thoughts

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Ebook formatting: Stuff every writer needs to know

It doesn’t matter if you plan on personally formatting your book for the Kindle and other ebook formats, or go through a traditional publisher. There are some things that are unique to ebooks that a writer must be aware of or not even a professional formatter can save you.

1. Chapter Titles vs. Numbered Chapters.

In the printed book this is totally a matter of style, a totally artistic decision that the writer has to ponder, “Do my Chapter Titles help tell the story?” if yes then go with Titles, if no then go with numbers. Some famous authors mix it up use both titles for major breaks in the story and numbered chapters for breaks in the action.

In an ebook, the Table of Contents is the major navigation tool and the first thing someone sees when they buy your book. If it looks like this:

Table of Contents
Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3

It won’t turn the reader off, it just won’t impress them. It is more impressive if it looks like this:

Table of Contents
Chapter 1: The meaning of life
Chapter 2: The Pope Elopes
Chapter 3: The question that can’t be answered

In the era of ebooks if you are thinking about titles vs. chapter numbers you should go with titles as long as they don’t distract from the story.

2. The White Stuff

People have complained on the Kindle that White space, the area that isn’t text, looks horrible. This is the opposite of writing for websites, as a huge block of text looks very intimidating. Personally with printed books I like the pages to be broken up and have multiple paragraphs. I hate it when a single paragraph goes on for over a page.

Because of my experience writing for websites and my dislike of long paragraphs I tend to break up my writing into several short paragraphs, probably too many. The “rules” for paragraphs are the loosest of any grammar rules in the English language.

From Wikipedia:
A paragraph (from the Greek paragraphos, "to write beside" or "written beside") is a self-contained unit of a discourse in writing dealing with a particular point or idea. Paragraphs consist of one or more sentences.

The universal rules for going to a new paragraph are:
a) A non-sequitur, literally meaning, “Does not Follow”. “He looked longingly into her eyes. The cat exploded.”

If the action suddenly switches a new paragraph is needed.

b) Dialog: “Hi,” he said. “Hi,” she said. “Do you live around here often?” he said. “Only on the 6th Sunday of every third month,” she replied.

Not breaking that up gets really confusing, really quickly.

In revising a manuscript for an ebook beware of too much white space and look at your paragraphs to see if the paragraph break is really necessary and if in doubt leave it out. The exception being if your entire chapter is one long paragraph or if you are using the paragraph structure to enhance an action scene.

3. Weird quirks

Kindle still has a few weird quirks like it doesn’t handle subscripts and superscripts, so while writing whenever possible remember to write out things like 1st, 2nd, 3rd as first, second, and third. This task is tougher with word as it loves superscripts and puts them in whenever it can even when they aren’t supposed to be there.

Obvious Disclaimer

This post isn’t intended to be a technical guide for formatting an ebook, just a few observations that writers need to take into account when writing or revising a manuscript. If you self-publish or have a traditional publisher handle your book a good deal of your royalties will come from ebooks, so these are things to keep in mind.

If you’ve written a book I highly recommend that you go to the Kindle store at Amazon and try formatting it for the Kindle. They allow you play around with your draft version as long as you like as long as you don’t hit publish. Even if you don’t plan on self-publishing it through them eventually someone will have to format it for the Kindle and if you can see the process behind it you can make your book easier to format into an ebook. Which will make it more attractive, which will sell more copies.

By Darrell B. Nelson author of Invasive Thoughts

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Writing Wednesday: NaNoWriMo

I only got halfway in the NaNoWriMo challenge and finished with 25,000 words. I blame it on two things.

First the weather, for the entire month of November right up until Thanksgiving it was sunny with temperatures between 50 and 75. It’s hard to sit in my office and write when it is so nice outside.

Second, I put the first chapter of my novel THE SETTING EARTH on Scribophile, a site where you can get your work critiqued by other writers and I got some really great critiques.

So even though I fell short of my goal for NaNoWriMo, I had a great month and really got the first chapter of my other novel in great shape.

Here it is after I made the changes that 5 people suggested:

The Setting Earth
Chapter 1: The Arrival

“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference,” Sam thought as his left hand gripped the small pistol in his pocket aimed at his lover.

He forced himself to look at his right hand, his thumb poised over the button that would decide the fate of all humanity. Both fates would bring an end to civilization as he knew it. One fate would destroy all human poverty and suffering along with the struggles and redemptions that all humans must go through, the other would destroy all human life. He didn’t know if his action, or inaction, would bring on which fate.

He had to choose who he should trust. Should he trust the woman who despised everything his world stood for and who lied to him since he met her, or should he trust the government of Earth that had manipulated him and the rest of the population since birth?

It wasn’t a position he ever planned on being in. A month ago he was just a mid-level engineer, for Christ’s Sake.


One month earlier:

“Into the lion’s den.” Sam took a deep breath as he approached the group of off-world engineers in the cafeteria, watching their reactions as he made his way over to their table. Ganymede engineers hated everything about Earth and all Earthers. They felt they were superior to the planet their ancestors had come from. He had prepared himself for this moment during his 6-week journey from Earth to Solar System’s largest asteroid, Ceres.

If it were up to him, he would avoid the deviant engineers like the plague. Taught from childhood to avoid exposure to unorthodox views, he was sure he could resist contamination. His palms sweated. “I will not react to their jibes, we have to work together.”

Taking his mind off the problem of how to deal with people Sam concentrated on an unexpected physics problem. Under the low gravity of Ceres he only weighed 5 pounds, but he still had his full 150 pounds of mass pushing him forward towards the Engineers’ table. He barely managed to get his feet in the right position so he could slide the last five feet to gently bump into the table to stop his momentum. The five engineers stopped their conversation to stare up at the man who bumped into their table.

“Come join us,” a gray bearded engineer said enthusiastically. “We are talking about the project. I’m sure you have some unique thoughts on it.”

“Okay.” Sam had assumed it would be difficult to break into their social circle. It appeared he assumed wrong, he wondered what other assumptions he had made were wrong.

“I’m Mark by the way. I work on the targeting system.” The gray bearded engineer introduced himself. “You’re the new engineer from Earth I assume.”

“Sam.” He tried to lower his tray onto the table and dropped his arms faster than the tray fell in the low gravity. It slowly drifted downward until he caught it again. “How’d you guess?”

“It’s the walk,” Mark told him. “It takes Earthers a while to adjust to being two kilos. You can’t really learn to walk properly in the cramped quarters of a spaceship, and the engineer coveralls were a dead give away. So how long have you been on Ceres?”

“Just arrived this morning,” he said, maneuvering to slowly sit down. The low gravity wasn’t helping him with this so after a long half second he grabbed the chair and pulled himself into it. While dealing with the low gravity he made sure to put on his best poker face to avoid showing his fear that if his mission was unsuccessful he would be a man without a planet. He would never be welcome back on Earth, assuming there was an Earth to go back to.

“Come to spy on our project?” one of the younger male engineers asked grinning.

Before he could respond a female engineer, who looked to be roughly Sam’s age, mid 30s, but he knew she probably grew up in the low gravity of Jupiter’s largest moon Ganymede and he had no idea if that affected the aging process, replied. “Of course he is John, but I for one have nothing to hide.”

“You don’t hide much from anyone, do you Emma?” Mark joked.

“I don’t have anything to be embarrassed about, unlike you,” Emma shot back then turned to Sam, “Let me show you something else low gravity does, other than make it hard for Earthers to walk.”

She lifted her shirt and let her breasts flop out. She jiggled for a split second then remained perfectly still. Without Earth’s strong gravity pulling them down they continued to dance, jiggling around like they had a mind of their own.

“Put those away.” The remaining male engineer laughed when he saw the expression of shock on Sam’s face. “You’re embarrassing our new friend.”

Sam instinctively looked around for the authorities that would stop this sort of lewd public display. Back on Earth few women would be bold enough not to wear a suppressing bra that tried to hide their femininity. Here the women wandered around in the thinnest shirts, proudly putting themselves on display. The idea of a woman flashing a complete stranger was unheard of, and probably illegal, back on Earth.

“Oh, sorry about that,” Emma told him pulling her shirt back down. “I didn’t mean to make you blush.”

“I… was just surprised.” Even as he felt his cheeks burning as the blood rushed into them, he was oddly grateful. Her immoral display had turned the conversation away from whether he was a spy or not. He would hate to have his cover blown in the first five minutes of his mission.

“I guess what they say about Earth is true then?” the youngest female engineer asked.

“What’s that?” Sam asked.

“That you guys have stopped having sex.” She smiled.

“Oh we still have it,” Sam told the girl who looked barely old enough to be out of high school. “We just don’t do it on the cafeteria table.”

“So how do you improve your technique if you don’t have a panel of judges grading you?” she asked with a straight face.

Sam had heard the stories about how the off-worlders were promiscuous but that seemed extreme. He opened his mouth to say something but no words came out.

“Dude, you totally believed me, didn’t you?” she asked starting a round of laughter at the table.

“I’m sorry,” she said when she regained her composure. “I didn’t mean to pick on you. It’s just we’ve all heard the stories about Earthers and I wanted to test to see if they were true.”

“Stories?” Sam had to ask.

“You know, that woman try to look like men in public, and that sex for purposes other than reproduction is outlawed,” she said.

It was Sam’s turn to laugh. “I’m not sure how you could enforce a law like that. It’s true that we consider it a virtue to wait until marriage to have sex, but even that isn’t followed by everyone. There are many people who would like to have sex for reasons other than procreation outlawed, but most people understand you can’t enforce that type of thing. As far as our fashions, we don’t live in a climate controlled environment like you guys so our fashions tend to be more utilitarian than just for fashion sake.”

“I also wanted to do a twist on the old space corridor legend,” she told him.

“Legend?” Sam asked.

“Supposedly at Selene University, on the Moon, an Earther biologist substituted for the regular Professor,” she explained. “He was comfortable talking about how sperm contained acids, fructose and enzymes and stuff but no salt, which made the sixteen year old girl from Ganymede in the front row ask, ‘Then how come it tastes so salty?’ The Earther professor turned red and had to leave the room.”

The entire table laughed except Sam.

“How’s that funny?” He really couldn’t see why they would find someone’s normal reaction to a girl’s improper behavior funny.

“The biologist got embarrassed about…” She started and looked at Sam’s blank expression. “He couldn’t answer a question about a normal part of life…something people do everyday…”

“Maria, if you do that everyday,” Mark joked, “I’ll stop by tonight.”

“I didn’t mean I do it every day,” she told him. “Not recently anyway. I said people in general.”

“Let’s stop picking on poor Sam,” Emma told the group turning to look at him. “You have to forgive us. We don’t come into much contact with Earthers. Most of the Earthers that come off world are either like them…” She nodded towards the group of laborers that had been on the ship with Sam. They were at their own table praying before their meal. “Or them…” She nodded towards the group of accountants still in business suits going over numbers while they ate.

“All the Earthers I’ve met either want to convert me, or feel that they need to know why I used four sheets of toilet paper to wipe instead of three,” she continued. “You’re the first one who has joined us. Us… heathens, I believe we’re called.”

“Well, that’s cause he’s a spy.” John laughed at his own joke.

“And he’ll learn all about our super secret fashion techniques,” Emma shot back. Sam was grateful she veered the conversation away from his being a spy again.

“Actually, I’m about as sick of those guys as you are,” Sam said quietly so the other tables couldn’t hear. “I spent over a month on board the ship with both groups listening to how my bowel movements were part of God’s plan and having the other group record everything that happened in the bathroom so they could judge to see how it compared with the average. I mean I’m religious and cost conscious and all, but they take it too far. Even for Earth standards.

“It’s good to talk about anything else.” Sam was a little surprised at the feeling of relief he got from stating something that would be considered unorthodox and have him viewed with suspicion back on Earth.

“How did you do?” Maria asked him after a moment of silence at the table.

“How’d I do what?” Sam was baffled.

“How did your bathroom scores rank against everyone else?” Maria grinned.

“It took a little practice but towards the end I think I beat out the competition.” Sam grinned, “I’m expecting a trophy when I get back home.”

“I think you’ll fit in just fine,” Emma told him after laughing at his joke. “You’re going to be working on the Diverter with us, right?”

“That’s why I’m here,” Sam said, grateful for the change in subject.

“Good, I’ll have your assignments laid out for you after lunch,” she told him.

“You’re the project manager?” Sam’s jaw dropped.

“You’re surprised?” she asked.

“It’s just…” Sam paused to think of a tactful way to phrase his feelings.

“I’m sorry, like I said I haven’t met a lot of Earthers.” She stared into his eyes making it even harder for Sam to think. “I’m not up to date with your prejudices.”

“It’s not that.” Sam defended himself. “I’m not used to the boss flashing her… goofing around with the subordinates.”

“Why not?” Emma asked.

“Doesn’t it make it hard to be the boss later?” Sam asked.

“That’s right, I heard Earthers have a higher…a stacked…a pyramid type organizational structure,” Maria said. “They, I mean you, group people into classes to assign work projects.”

“I think you mean hierarchy,” Sam told her. “How else would you get things done?”

“I think you’ll be in for a surprise.” Emma gave him a captivating smile. “Our work structure is a little more relaxed out here. Speaking of that is everyone finished?”

After they all confirmed she said, “Well, let’s get back at it.”

Sam hopped up out of his seat and floated towards the 10-foot high ceiling and would have hit his head if he hadn’t put his arm out. When his feet were back on the ground, he looked at the engineers at the table expecting them to laugh at his mistake. Everyone except for the middle-aged engineer who had asked Emma to cover up earlier ignored his unexpected leap towards the ceiling and continued cleaning up their areas.

“What you have to do; is follow the three-point rule. Always keep three points of contact, that means using both your hands and feet. Hold the table like this…” He grabbed the table and stood up. “That will keep you from bouncing around the room.”

“Thanks,” Sam told him.

“No Problem.” The engineer offered his hand, “Phil by the way. If you’re wondering on how to adjust to life here, just ask me.”

“Thanks again.” Sam welcomed the support but he remembered the instructions he had been given before leaving Earth: Gain their trust but don’t lose sight of your mission.

On his way out of the cafeteria, Sam watched how the group of engineers “walked” with strange swaying shuffles. Sam tried to imitate it with some success until he got to the door. He aimed for the door but noticed he was veering too far to the right. To correct his trajectory he put his right foot forward but it seemed to slide effortlessly across the very rough floor and he bumped in to the doorframe.

He put his left foot back to try to regain his balance but it couldn’t find any traction and he felt himself slowly falling over. The process took over a second so he had more than enough time to prepare to hit the ground. Instinctively, he turned in midair and put out both arms to stop his fall and was surprised that one arm would have been enough.

He was stuck in a push-up position unsure if he should just push himself back up with his arms, or get onto his knees and get his feet under him like he would on Earth.

The question resolved itself when Phil held out his hand. With Phil’s help he was able easily right himself.

“Until you get used to our gravity, don’t be afraid to put your hand out to stop your momentum,” Phil told him. “Trust me, it’s damn hard to hurt yourself in this gravity.”

“Thanks,” was all Sam was able to mutter.

On the way to the work area, Sam took Phil’s advice and used his hands on the corridor walls often. He felt like a fool not being able to walk properly, but his new friends just ignored his bouncing around. Sam couldn’t help but fear that his obvious inability to conform with the rest of the group would catch the attention of the authorities like it would on Earth, but here everyone treated his not fitting in as normal.

All of Sam’s concerns about fitting in, his mission, everything except his love of an engineering challenge was ripped from his mind as soon as he entered the underground structure as big as a football stadium that was filled with the enormous machine he would be working on.

By Darrell B. Nelson author of Invasive Thoughts