Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Wednesday wanderings

Fame at last

My novel How and why Lisa's Dad got to be famous is reviewed by the Underground Literary Alliance, no less. Crumbs. You can read it for free, of course. The novel, that is. (Thanks to Steve Clackson for pointing me to the review.)

The ULA book-review blog was started in September, and is edited by Victor Schwartzman. (Victor also, by the way, runs a blog about blood pressure, if you have that problem.)

Victor describes the ULA blog as follows: 'The Underground Literary Alliance is a loosely knit group of literary miscreants. We are primarily zine writers, which often means we are only published on the internet. We believe literature today can and must be more provocative. The blog’s real purpose is to draw attention to great underground writing.'

River of Possibilities

Speaking of free reads, Marti Lawrence has made her novel River of Possibilities available as a free PDF. You can also buy it, and her other stuff, on Lulu.

Scott Stein gets to work

Scott Stein has a novel coming out early next year, and he's wrestling with the problem of how to get it known. (Don't we all? Actually I don't, much, which is why...)

Anyway, Scott has embarked on an ambitious programme which seems to involve at least as much work as writing the book. There are four separate web sites, three of them featuring characters in the book, and the fourth is operated by a 'group of students' who are campaigning for the principal character as President.

All four of these sites are extensive, and interlock. It would take some time to explore them all. The one I like best is that of caseworker Alice Pitney, whose motto is: 'Not wanting help is the clearest possible indication that in fact you need it.' Right on, sister.

And you thought you'd finished once you wrote the book!

Here are the links:
Mean Martin Manning's home page
Mean Martin Manning for President
It's Dr. Karen
Caseworker Alice Pitney's blog

The Jimston Journal

The Jimston Journal is a free online zine, describing itself as a publication for the arts.

The editor, a man of exquisite good taste, describes the GOB as someone who 'has been quick to spot changing trends in the arts.' Well, gee -- scuffs toe of boot on the ground in embarrassed fashion -- I dunno about that. I just sit here and read stuff, is all.

Anyway, there's fiction, photography, and a lot more. It takes a lot of work to put together something like this.

Black Horse extra

I have remarked here in the past, more than once, about my fondness for prolific writers: the 5,000 words a day men -- they were mostly men, though see below -- who churned out stuff for the pulp magazines.

Before I forget, there's a book about those 1930s guys, and an excellent read it is too. It's by Harold Brainerd Hersey. Title: Pulpwood Editor. Publisher: Fred. A Stokes & Co., New York, 1937. It's the autobiography of a man who cracked the whip over the galley slaves, but written with great affection and respect, and it's full of extraordinary stories. There are quite a few copies on Abebooks but unfortunately they're not cheap. Try a good library.

But I digress. I got on to the million-words-a-year men because the latest edition of Black Horse Extra has articles about a couple of such in the field of westerns, Lauran Paine and Keith Hetherington.

The western, it seems, is alive and well. It's one of those niche areas with a loyal core of readers who've never even heard of the Booker (lucky them).

Oh, and Misfit Lil is still at it. And so, it seems, are her sisters.

Way back in 1972, bestselling novelist Dean Koontz noted that women are outstanding writers of westerns. "Women often have a talent for research and a feel for historical periods," he said. For many years, the late Irene Ord, formerly a romance author, penned BHWs under several male pseudonyms... Today, the Hale line has not only Gillian F. Taylor, but the women who write first-class western novels as Eugene Clifton, Layne Kenric, Steven Gray, T. M. Dolan, Terry Murphy and Ty Kirwan.

Black Horse Western novels are issued by Robert Hale in England, and come out at the rate of ten a month. (No, I am not making that up.)

Not so miserable?

Amid all the discussion about misery memoirs perhaps I can point you to one book which is definitely fiction, though doubtless based partly on fact. And it has a positive ending. The book is Matilda, by Bill Walsh (a retired plasterer), published by Penguin, and you can read a review of it in the Irish Emigrant.

The economics of publishing

Galleycat reports that Forbes, the business and finance specialists, have produced a report on publishing.

Contents include Cory Doctorow on why he gives away free copies of his books (you really should have already read one of his various statements about this), a piece by a man who has written 2,923 book reviews for Amazon, and charges for it, and a video on the future of publishing.

Also found on Galleycat is a reference to a rather more scholarly book on the economics of publishing. Entitled The Culture and Commerce of Publishing in the 21st Century, it's written by three Fordham University professors. 'It's a nutty business but a great business,' says one of them.

Well, it is if you don't weaken.

I suspect that not many people will read this book. In my experience, most people who work in an industry not only know very little about the larger picture of that industry, but they don't want to know. They just wait for five o'clock. Which is all very human, and from a certain point of view it's a good thing: it does create a window of opportunity for those who are prepared to take a bit of trouble.

Lulu book wins prize

David Lindsley, a UK engineer of mature years, I think we may say, has won a prestigious award from the Royal Academy of Engineering.

David's book, Far Point, was published through in February of this year. It has now won a prize at the "Engineering Media Challenge" book awards in London. The aim of the Challenge is to present a positive image of the engineering profession -- through books, plays, radio or TV dramas, or other formats. The contest was launched this year by Britain's Royal Academy of Engineering in collaboration with the Institution of Civil Engineers, the Institution of Mechanical Engineers and the Institution of Civil Engineering Surveyors. These are serious people.

PDF on the cheap

Do you ever need to convert a file to PDF format?. Lucky you if you don't. If you do, you can either buy Adobe's Acrobat program, which costs a small fortune, or look for something cheaper.

I once had an early copy of Acrobat, but it doesn't work on Windows XP. So I have been trying out a number of freebies. To be precise: PDF995, CutePDF, and PDF Creator.

Even with the proper gear, Acrobat, you soon discover that making PDF files is a complicated and tricky business. And if you're making a PDF for a professional printer, a file which is going to be turned into a book, you probably have to have Acrobat to do a good job.

However, the freebies work, after a fashion, if you just want to produce a longish file to post on the web, for instance.

Just as a test, I made a PDF of the same file, using each of the three programs. And funnily enough the end result looks different in each of them. The one with the darkest, clearest print was PDF995.

However, be warned that, if your original file is in a reduced page size, say 9" x 6" instead of the normal A4 (or whatever), the free programs will still reproduce it as if it was laid out on A4. And sometimes they have a nasty habit of altering the layout, so that a page which you have carefully adjusted to finish on page 29 will suddenly run over on to page 30.

You don't get much for nothing. If you want a program halfway between free and Acrobat, try Serif PagePlus. The current version is PagePlus 11, but earlier ones can sometimes be found as free handouts on the CDs on the cover of computer magazines, and version 8 onwards will create PDFs. You do, however, have to learn how to use the program, which takes 20 to 30 hours. At least.

Next year, I believe, the new version of Word will contain a built-in facility for PDF conversion. WordPerfect, I think, can do it already.

Isn't the publishing world fun?


Anonymous said...

I'm guessing you weren't outraged by the Underground Alliance review of your novel.

"Lisa’s Dad is like a breath of fresh air in a cold, dark crypt. First and most importantly, this book is entertaining ... The story moves quickly, is too short to ever get boring, avoids cliché, has an interesting, contemporary and modern-day concept ... Overall, it’s just well-roundedly entertaining. And secondly, it fulfills the other golden rule: heart."


Jeremy Snippet

Anonymous said...

If you want to make pdf files easily, just get a Mac!

You can create pdfs in two clicks in its main word processing program, which also includes inbuilt desktop publishing possibilities that are far superior to Word. And if you want to, you can create Word documents from the same program and you can even get Word directly for Mac.

I've found it so much better than faffing around with programs for Windows. Try it in a shop and see what you think!

Anonymous said...

An utterly charming review of your book--and so well deserved. "...better than a long list of best-sellers lining the shelves or award lists these days."

And you accuse me of being prolific in MY praises!

Anonymous said...

Nice book! And thanks for making it available for free online. I like your writing style.

Simon Haynes said...

Re: PDFs. Just download and install the free OpenOffice suite. You can open Word/Excel/etc and save to PDF.

Anonymous said...

Nice article on printing digitally, I'll be sure to give your free novel a try sometime. Just found the site and thought I'd say I like it.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the mention! I look forward to hearing your thoughts on my debut novel!

Benjamin Jones said...

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