# Writing Echoes

Delijah's Writing Blog

## NaNoWriMo Sponsor Offer Review: Blurb’s BookWright Program, softcover and ebook

As part of the NaNo winning ‘prices’, some companies offer to print you one of your books for free (although you have to pay for shipping). This is totally clickbait, I know, but what the hell, I like it. This year I plan to review the process on the three companies that do it – CreateSpace, Lulu and Blurb.

The catch for Blurb’s offer is that you need to use their program, BookWright in order to get the following, as stated in the NaNoWriMo Winners’ page:

• One softcover copy of your novel in our 6×9 inch Trade format, up to 480 pages with Economy black and white printing (offer expires January 31, 2015). How do you do it? Just use Blurb BookWright™, our free layout software, to design your book. Try out our new novel templates to get a head start.
• Free conversion of your book from BookWright to a reflowable eBook for Apple® iPad® (EPUB3 format) or Amazon Kindle® (KF8 format).
• Entry into a draw where you could win free editorial services from a member of Blurb’s Dream Team network of publishing professionals.

#### Formatting process

I had been editing a couple of the short yakuza-centric stories with the idea of making a compilation of them, and this was my chance. The code was good until January 31st and I had two stories out of the four I wanted ready, and one halfway. Ready, for me, means proofread (at least by me, I do my best), formatted and converted into $\LaTeX$ format.

Here comes my first surprise. BookWright does not take pdf, at all. It wants rtf formats. It wants me to format my document in a text processor and feed the formatted document to the program. The automatic index does not stay when I do the conversion, and neither can I do changing headers – those which are different for each chapter – I need to go with a static one, and aligning that is a nightmare so I give it up.

After fighting with the layout for ages – and discovering that the best way to “undo” is to close the program without saving your changes, I get a new surprise – there is no way to generate an index unless it is… the old way. Aka doing it by hand. Needless to say, I was less than impressed – I mean, even Microsoft Word can do your tables of content automatically, even if it blows sometimes. That should be something basic, imo. And by hand, I mean going to the page, writing it down, and making the dotted line and trying hard as hell to align it.

BookWright complained a lot about fonts, as apparently you need to license fonts for eBook creating? Not going to criticise that, although I was peeved at first at how much it complained about good ol’ Times New Roman. I decided to go with Arial in the end because it is always a safe option.

I finally managed to format everything, although it took a ridiculous amount of time. I had to make sure that all the chapters started on an odd page, make the index, and resize titles, things that my $\LaTeX$ coding does for me, usually. I should have left a blank page before setting the title page, though, but I only realised that when I got the printed copy. We’ll get to that.

The next step was setting up the cover. I had the 6 x 9” cover in high resolution template, so that was no problem, and I managed to do both the back and front covers without trouble. The spine, however, gave me some trouble as I did not manage to find any indications on what size to measure. After a few educated guesses, I make the cover for the softcover book and the eBook (here I messed up a bit with proportions, my own fault).

BookWright has three main working focuses: covers, pages (main text) and background (where you set the layout, headers, page numbers, etc). Aside from the issues mentioned above, the program in general did not come through as too user-friendly for me, it was very slow and stopped responding at times. It would not adapt to my screen either. I did double-check that some of the things I wanted to do in the forums, and saw that they could not be done, but not all of them – it might be possible that you can do some of them and I just did not find the way.

Choosing / Creating the project

Formatting the text (1)

Formatting the text (2)

Background and layout

Designing the softcover

#### Ordering process

The uploading and ordering is easy enough, as is the ordering and paying process, which is done through the web. You obviously need an account with Blurb, though. You upload from BookWright and the wizard takes you through the correct steps. The code was easy to use, and the shipping was reasonable. What amazed me was the price they had for you to download the extra pdf.

Ordering and paying

End of the ordering process

#### The eBook

Looks neat. The white thing on the cover is my fault, I did not realise that I needed to resize the cover a bit. Regarding the inside, the index is not linked, which is annoying. The header is added automatically, which is nice. The reflowing one/two pages works pretty cool too (shown on my Kindle for iPad).

eBook Cover

eBook Index

eBook – one page

eBook – Two pages

#### The softcover

The outside covers are very, very cool, they are not too shiny even if you are – as I am – a matte fan. The inside printing is well-defined and clear, however I find the paper a bit too thin, a lot can be read from the backpage. The gluing feels extremely good. However, not convinced by how the book came out a bit wavy.

One image is worth a thousand words so:

Softcover front cover

Softcover inner pages

Softcover titlepage

Softcover: wavy side

#### The TL;DR

I would not recommend them as a launching program, too much hassle. I am not sure if their pro package is better as I have not tried it though. The InDesign plug might be a solution, but as I mentioned, I use $\LaTeX$ and I am pretty happy with it, so BookWright is not my best option.

I’m doing the whole formatting again with a friend soon, so I’ll let you know if the second time feels better.
ETA: Nope. Still a mess.

## Universe Weaving

You might have noticed on the last post that there was a blank day in 2013 when I did not write. That day I was in Tokyo, more precisely in Hikawa Jinja, and I decided that I wanted to delve deeper into the Hyakki Yagyō universe. To be honest, I had not really let go of that verse and last year I wrote about 7500 words in related stories. However, what I felt like doing that day was adding to the main book, to the original story. I took notes for two new chapters, and when I came back I filed those notes with all the writing material, and sort of forgot about them.

Hikawa Jinja, Akasaka, Tokyo, with awful lighting, I know.

I did not really forget about them, if I am completely honest. I just put them aside because I was somewhat scared of picking up the main book again and finding that I could not add to it. To my surprise, it was not that hard – as a matter of fact it has almost been ridiculously easy. The two chapters have been written, and they have flowed rather well – aside from not feeling like writing sometimes due to personal issues. Both chapters have been written, one set in Hikawa Jinja, as planned, the other one set in Ueno Zoo, also as planned, adding about 11,000 words to a 51,000 word story. Right now, I am considering though writing some more within that verse, another marginally-related story, set a few years after the first (and main) one, but I am scared that it’ll get out of hand XD”

On another note, I have been noticing lately my little obsession for weaving universes into each other. I knew that Lifequake and Axis 95/11 belonged to the same universe, but during a recent edit I found myself linking both to Blood Moon. While it makes sense, well, it is strange that the chance was so open and it was such an easy thing to do. In the same way, I am now absolutely sure that The Barman and Shorai are likewise joined – by the dogs, if you want details. Apparently Tamon will be Tadashi’s obedience instructor when he gets his dog Taki in a few years (yes, Shorai should last a few years. And I’m on its sixth month. Urgh.). Then there is also the Retriever universe, which in my mind still lacks a closing with the secondary characters. And well, of course, the Osaka Guardians series…

While I don’t think this is something ‘new’ for me, it suddenly hit me as I wrote the edit into Axis 95/11 that I really like those little insiders. They are fun. I like weaving.

## Blood Moon first edit

Blood Moon is a relatively short yakuza story that takes place a lesser-known ward of Tokyo, Ota-ku, where Haneda airport is located.

Originally the story had two parts, a 6,000 words prologue setting the main character’s background, and the main one, 20,000 words, which are the story itself. Soon after I started the editing, I began wondering if all the background was actually necessary to get to know the characters, and after a couple of pages, I decided that it wasn’t. Thus, I cut it all out. It was good having written it, as it gave me a feeling of knowing the characters, but the content itself was not necessary. I did not have to go into Kojiro’s eye surgery procedure to convey that he had had sight problems when he was younger.

I think that after undergoing the editing, Blood Moon has improved a great deal, although still needs double checking and more work. However, now I think that it is a consistent story.

The main character, Kojiro, has settled down in my mind, and his inner struggle makes sense enough so he can be a coherent guy all throughout the plot, and his actions – that at first looked whimsical and random – make sense now. Takemura has started to get a bit of a third dimension, and the secondaries are rounder, and can actually be told apart!

If you are curious, you can have a first sneak peak at the WIP here (around 1,500 words):

## Blood Moon Writing Report

Better late than never, they say, and over a month late is better than not at all XD

Clocking at 26,000 words, Blood Moon is a yakuza short story that needs lots of work. It has a 5,000 word prologue that should be cut away (as it tells instead of showing), or integrated into the rest of the story, but that allowed me to get a feeling of the characters before delving into the main story.

The story was originally inspired by King Lear’s adaptation by Akira Kurosawa, Ran. In King Lear the King divides the kingdom among his three children, and it backfires badly. In Blood Moon, the old leader of a the Yoshida clan suffers a stroke before officially announcing that he wished the hereditary line to skip his son, so his older grandson inherits the direction of the Family.

Said father, of course, is not happy to be skipped.

The story follows Yoshida Kojiro, who is the younger grandson. Although he is not the designed heir, he finds himself caught in the war as he belongs to what has lately been named ‘the corporate yakuza’. He knows his way in business – both the legal and shady ones, and thus he is a key pawn in the chess game.

Kojiro, supported with his bodyguard Takemura Shintaro, is in charge of controlling the smuggling traffic through the Haneda airport. Unfortunately, other Asian mafias, aware of the internal power struggle in the Yoshida group, start trying to make a move into their turf, and that includes Haneda.

All hell breaks loose when an anonymous would-be killer stabs Kojiro within the airport lounge, and nobody knows whether the hit was an inside or outside job.

Blood Moon is up to day the most violent and ‘real-life-like’ yakuza story I’ve written (all those books had to weight in some XD), and it needs lots of work, which I plan to invest this summer.

## 111,111 Words

I hit a fun number (which is mostly approximate anyway) of words written this year and I thought I’d do a small update of what I have been up to lately. I built a little graphic (click the image for bigger), but part of it is retroactive, and thus the dates vs. words per day might be a bit whoozy before February 15th, as I grabbed the creation date of the file, the final wordcount and divided accordingly. It still can give a general idea of what I’ve been doing.

I’ve talked about Kuraokami already so I won’t go into that. Tokyo Shadows and Shorai are unfinished and will be revisited in another post. Also, the red bars reading “blog” are pretty self-explanatory, I’d say.

The Yuki Onna’s Prey is a short-story follow-up to Hyakki Yagyō set ten years after the original story. While I was writing it, I had a list of yōkai I wanted to use, but I never got an idea to bring the Yuki Onna up, until this. It’s a fun short story.

Some of the short stories can be found around the blog, you can visit the “Read” page for them. This year, I have written eight short stories / flash fiction under 5000 words. It seems that I have been focusing more on medium-length plots.

Blood Moon is a yakuza story (big surprise, I know) short of 30,000 words and that I believe it should be cut at least in 10,000. The real plot length is around 18,000, but was done sort of free-writing and has lots of repetition and awful narrative. However, I believe it can become something good with the appropriate tailoring.

The Gadir Gates, which I aim to finish soon, is about 22,500 and I don’t think it will surpass 25,000-26,000 words. I started this story to write out some frustration about science [geekery]. I think the teaching side became a bit too overboard so I will have to revise that before it is readable too. After I am done, however, I plan to go back to Tokyo Shadows, fix the structure and write the two-and-a-half chapters that I need to wrap it up.

I plan to tackle The Shikigami of Blood this Novembers, let’s see how that works as it still needs a lot of work. I would also try to get somewhere with Shorai, which I’ve started about five times by now XD

ETA: Never mind. My spreadsheet was wrong XD I forgot to add up The Yuki Onna’s Prey to the final count, so the actual number is closer to 117680, and if you count the blog entries (which I don’t, I just graph them XD), the number is 122999. Unless I forgot something else…