Putting the life back in science fiction


Indexing is Vexing
September 26, 2015, 11:58 pm
Filed under: book, indexing, writing | Tags: , ,

I’ve been indexing the manuscript, and as with everything associated with this book, it’s more involved than I thought it would be. Fortunately, rather than lunging in to use Word’s indexing functions, I decided to read Nancy Mulvany’s very good Indexing Books, Second Edition (link to BigMuddy), so I learned that everything I was ready to do was, shall we say, suboptimal?  Yes, this is a textbook for people who create indices, and I do advise reading it before you launch into indexing.

It’s not that indexing is technically difficult, it’s that an index is a “paratext” (a parasitic separate text?) that reorganizes the book to enable someone looking for a particular bit of text to rapidly find it. Creating one can’t be done by machine, because the essential trick is getting inside the readers’ minds and anticipating how they will search for information and what they will search for. Yes, I could hire someone to do it for me, but that would cost hard money, and this is definitely a soft money project.  So I’m lumping it myself, and hoping that I can figure out how you’re going to go looking through the index.

One grumble about Mulvany’s book is that I decided to get the Kindle edition.  It has a beautiful index, of course, but all the Kindle converters did was to copy the index as if it was a table, so on my little Paperwhite, I can’t enlarge it.  All I have is page after page of two column index in flyspeck 3 font, too small to read without a magnifying glass, no links, page numbers noted and irrelevant in a Kindle edition.  In other words, in a textbook on indexing, the index on my version is totally useless.

Very few ebooks have functional, hyperlinked indices, but if I’m not being overly ambitious, I’m going to try to make a working index for the electronic version of my book.  Right now it looks like creating the electronic index involves radically reformatting the manuscript, feeding it into Caliber, and likely as not making various and unspeakable sacrifices to nameless deities.  Whether Amazon will carry the resulting file is another one of those interesting questions that hopefully I can answer in the next month or two.

While I could easily rant on about how ebooks are worse than paper books, I think this makes the case.  It’s beyond silly to have an electronic document with no hyperlinks and no way to resize images, but that’s what I’m supposed to create, unless I put in some extra effort.  Oh well. Good thing I’m stubborn.

The only take-home from this is that if you care about your readers having an index handy, put the requisite effort into it.  If you’re into DIY indexing, Mulvaney’s book is required reading, and if you’re planning on selling your manuscript (especially if it’s non-fiction), get the Chicago Manual of Style (preferably the dead tree version), because apparently it has warped brains in the American publishing industry more than other style manuals, and they will expect you to follow it, except when they don’t.

Back to the coal face.



It’s NaNoWriMo time!
October 27, 2011, 5:55 pm
Filed under: fall, writing | Tags: ,

Just a quick note. For a while, I’ve done the NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) challenge. If you’ve ever wanted to write a novel, this is the time and way to do it. Go to http://www.nanowrimo.org/ and get involved.

What is NaNoWriMo? Simply a race to write 50,000 words by November 30. That’s 50,000 words of anything. At the end, you call it a novel, upload the file to get your word count verified, and you can scratch “write a novel” off your life-list. You don’t win anything, it’s simply for self-satisfaction and the true sense of accomplishment when you get it done.

Of course it will be unreadable, but that’s not really the point. Think of this as a marathon brainstorm to get ideas out of your head, into a space where you can do something with them. I’ve started my last two novels that way, and it’s a great way to get in the habit of writing 1667.67 words per day. On average. In my case, those 50,000 words have included things like brainstorming, outlining, background research, character descriptions, and actual novel.

Right now, I’m working on the sequel to Ghosts of Deep Time, and I’m behind where I want to be. There’s this pesky little 2.5 billion year gap I need to fill in. Cretaceous or Triassic? The sequel (The Archean Dragon) won’t be done December 1st, but I’ll have 2.5 billion years of something better than what I have now, and I’ll have the novel done (hopefully) a month or two thereafter.

Anyone else joining in? Spread the word. It’s free, it’s fulfilling, and it teaches you things about yourself that you never knew, like the fact that you can write 50,000 words in a month, even though Thanksgiving is in November too. I even recommend it for grad students attempting to finish their theses and dissertations, although in the life sciences, you do NOT need 50,000 words to graduate. It just feels that way. Use those 44,000 extra words to express how you feel about your thesis and your life in epic detail.

Good luck to all who enter.



And now for something completely different…
October 6, 2011, 5:23 pm
Filed under: fantasy, fiction, science fiction, Worldbuilding, writing | Tags: , , ,

Oddly enough, I’ve been meaning to put this up for over a week. Originally, I was going to wait until I had the book ready for sale, but you know, reality has it’s own agenda. All of a sudden, a bunch of things suddenly erupted onto my schedule like post-rain mushrooms. Smashwords takes a bit of time to publish things, so I thought I’d put the teaser up now.

It’s my second book, and this one is in the spirit of Poul Anderson’s Time Patrol. The title is The Ghosts of Deep Time, and the book contains a novel and a short story.

From the back cover:

“A consultant finds a fossilized pack in the desert, then finds himself back in the Miocene with a criminal gang.

A game warden busts a group of trespassing druids in a wildlife sanctuary. They vanish in a green flash and he loses his job, only to be recruited for something much bigger.

This is the big secret: time travel is easy. There are over four billion years in Earth’s past. The deeper one goes in time, the more alien the Earth is. Still, people have settled most of Earth’s history. Of course they live without a trace, for that is the law of deep time. To do otherwise could create paradoxes, bifurcating histories, even time wars and mass extinctions.

Where there is law, there is also crime. When crimes span millions of years, law enforcement takes a special kind of officer. An ex-game warden can be the perfect recruit. At the right time.”

Here’s a sample. Enjoy! The Smashwords version will be available in a couple of weeks, and a paper version will be available through Lulu late next week. I’ll add links as things progress.

Update: It’s now available as an trade paperback from Lulu in electronic formats (Kindle, Nook) from Smashwords. Amazon is coming in a bit. In the meantime, you can purchase it from either of these two fine companies.