Writing Echoes

Delijah's Writing Blog

Tag Archives: Lifequake

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.

Loading

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Choosing / Creating the project

Choosing / Creating the project

Formatting the text (1)

Formatting the text (1)

Formatting the text (2)

Formatting the text (2)

Adding page numbers

Adding page numbers

Background and layout

Background and layout

Designing the softcover

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.

Choosing formats to updload

Choosing formats to updload

Upload process

Upload process

Order finalised

Ordering and paying

End of the ordering process

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 Cover

eBook Index

eBook Index

eBook - one page

eBook – one page

eBook - Two pages

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 front cover

Softcover inner pages

Softcover inner pages

Softcover titlepage

Softcover titlepage

Softcover: wavy side

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.

The 2012 500-words-a-day experiment: Final

The 500-words-a-day experiment ran from 19th January to 30th June, 2012. Originally it was a way to work daily on Victim #14 but it became something else along the way – yes, I am aware that there were four blank days early in February, but sometimes life sucks. Eventually blog posts became part of the deal, since they were writing about writing (note: in the graph, the blog posts before May are counted for the day they were published even if they were written in two different days, since I was not keeping track by then).

This is how the final result looks:

I threw all the numbers together today, and the final count is 161546 words for the whole period, 136902 of them in stories. Wow. I had not counted the whole until now XD” (This makes me remember that I haven’t updated my wordcount spreadsheet since forever, too).

The first thing that calls my attention when looking at this graph is that apparently I am not as irregular with the blog as I thought. Second, I think it is obvious that Victim #14 holds the highest word counts, with those two over-four-thousand-words days.

Some of the Inferno coursework is available [link], as is Autumn Lullaby [link], they are very short one-shots.

I wrote a very silly piece having Kim from Victim #14 meet Aaron and Masaharu from the Retriever universe that did not even get a title. It is a bit strange because I did it for laughs, but I’ve eventually written a lot in the Retriever universe [link] lately, during the experiment I developed Binary, which I did not finish until recently to be honest (more about the Retriever universe to come). I’ve told you about Lifequake [link] and I have mentioned Wren a couple of times [link] but never really ellaborated (*into the list*).

“Terazuma” is a background character in the Osaka Guardians universe [link]; he might not even be featured in the main series, but writing him was fun. Infatuation Trap was a free writing exercise that in the end looked nothing like what I had imagined, and that brought Hyakki Yagyō’s Satoshi [link] back to the front of my mind.

Evaluating the whole experiment I have learnt a few things about my writing and myself:

  • Is relatively easy for me to keep going with the daily-writing scheme when I have something I am actually enjoying and looking forward to work on everyday
  • I have revived a couple of old / zombie plotbunnies with interesting results, none or few expected
  • When I write things I am not convinced about, I don’t enjoy it and I find it more tedious than fun.
  • Even something I love can burnout me if I force it too much. Sometimes it is better to give it a break and come back with renewed energy. Writing Hyakki Yagyō felt awesome compared to the last 2000 words on Binary.
  • My brain is flexible enough to work on two stories / different verse on the same day. However, I need to either focus on writing or editing

In short: it was really awesome, but I am glad I stopped when I did to take a mental break when things became too much and writing too difficult and tedious. I am however wondering if I would have done better having a complete back-up plan and always a story to write without having to force my brain.

Also, there’s a short story lost somewhere in those numbers, I think it is camouflaged as a blog post. It’s about a doggie who makes a trip to the community trash can and brushes the heaven of a four-pounder…

Lifequake

A while back I told you about a zombie plotbunny of mine here [link]. Miyamae Haruma, architect apprentice, finds himself in a little bit of a bind when he is doing an assessment of Yokosuke Thermal Powerplant. There is an earthquake and one of the towers collapses on top of the main building, trapping him and other three survivors inside. It is a bit of a tale of how they try to get out.

Last time I wrote about Lifequake I did not know much aside from the beginning of the story, the main premises – a recently broken-up couple, one of them is trapped inside, the other one is trying to get the first one out. Eventually, the one outside developed to Akita Reijiro, firefighter with some jealousy issues. Haru’s life depends on Akita’s fighting now.

When you’re out there fighting fire you can’t make it personal. It is your job. If you make it personal, then it is not your job, and that is dangerous. Sometimes, however, it is the fire itself that makes it personal – and it targets something that you cherish. The only thing that you can do then is fight. Because if you don’t fight, then you have already lost.

– Akita Reijirou

Today I know exactly which tower fell, in what direction, I know where the fuel leaked and the ocean caught fire. Silly as it might be, seeing Yokosuka Power Plant was one hell of a rush.

Here is what I saw:



I hope I can soon put together pictures for you to know where I place my characters, because I have a lot to show you. I know now where Gabriel and Akira boarded for Hanoi in Narita, where little Nao used to hunt trashcans for food or where the Ice Dragon vs Nemoto swordfight happened. I have been at the spot Nao called the Black Serpent from Tokyo, seen where he bought his phone and could walk to the ramen place. All in all, people, brace yourselves. The pictures are coming.

(Also, I am working on retagging and recategorising the whole blog. I’ll keep you posted, sorry if you use that for navigation. It will be messed up for a bit.)