Writing – A Review

I recommend two books on writing: Gotham Writers Workshop: Writing Fiction edited by Alexander Steele and Essentials of Screenwriting: The Art, Craft, and Business of Film and Television Writing by Richard Walter.

GWW covers the fiction writing craft–character, plot, point of view, etc.–suitable for all formats: short stories, essays, novels, etc. If I had to guess, this is one of the sources from which the myriads of writing books on the market draw their lessons. GWW purports to give the same materials you might get at an expensive writers workshop (except without the feedback, or the expense).

There’s a remarkably detailed overview of EoS on its Amazon page. I was interested in screenwriting which is covered in the first third of the book. I didn’t read the rest of the book which describes the sales and management involved in a screenwriting career.

My major take away from GWW is: rewrite, rewrite, and rewrite a third time. The idea of writing a draft, rewriting it from memory, and rewriting that one, again from memory, strikes me as an excellent way to deeply involve the subconscious in the story’s development.

I admit it goes against my personality to do this repetitive process. But I acknowledge its value and will endeavor to reduce it to practice in some form or other. My stories need more than just multiple revisions before sending them off for professional editing. These editors have never urged total rewrites because of policy (i.e., they like the return business).

EoS emphasizes developing an integrated story. Any element that advances the story and/or develops the characters is in; whatever doesn’t do these two things is out. If it moves the story or characters forward almost anything is in. However, if the story starts out as a sweet romantic comedy set in the South Bronx, don’t have the Martians invade and conquer the Earth in chapter 7.

Here’s an entire ‘Essentials of Screenwriting – Complete Film Courage Interview’ with UCLA Professor Richard Walter on YouTube. Please be aware that there are a few instances of coarse language during the interview. The following is an excerpt from this interview with a self-described crazy old hippie.

‘Most Important Thing I Teach My Screenwriting Students,’ UCLA Prof. Richard Walter, June 11, 2013

WSBG Cover Reveal

Who Shall Be God is a fictional account of the struggles between two families, the Stadists and the Libertas, who live in an east coast US city, north and south of the 38th parallel, respectively. Mandated Memoranda Publishing will release it on Amazon in late 2015 or early 2016.

Cincinnata Stadist is a central figure whom we experience as a rough and tumble seven-year old growing up through her teen years into a young adult. She witnesses much more than she can appreciate at the time. What will become of her?

Her father and mother arrive in town under clouded circumstances, already on a downward slide they cannot reverse. The Libertas arrive soon after, they’re risk-takers who create unique opportunities. Both families get embroiled in the town’s politics. Who wins, who loses?

Always in the background, making things happen. Feared by those who do his bidding. Respected by those who serve the town and despised by those who serve themselves. Everyone wonders what this mysterious man, Joshua, is up to. Is he responsible for what goes on in the town?

One of the novel’s thematic undercurrents follows from the Book of Isaiah, chapter 57, verses 1-2 and 20-21:

The righteous man perishes, and no one lays it to heart;

Devout men are taken away, while no one understands.

For the righteous man is taken away from calamity; he enters into peace;

They rest in their beds who walk in their uprightness…

“…But the wicked are like the tossing sea;

For it cannot be quiet, and its waters toss up mire and dirt.

There is no peace,” says my God, “for the wicked.”

The cover is not finished, this is only a mock-up. The foreground characters and scenery need a lot of work. We thank all those who commented on the cover concept. Look for Mandated Memoranda Publishing’s logo in the book’s back matter.

At the moment, we’re studying how to be better story tellers. We’re also doing the research required to define our story’s milieu. Plotting work starts soon. We want this to be our best effort yet.

In the face of ten-cent per page books, Mandated Memoranda Publishing intends to sell this book at one or two cents per page. We hope Who Shall Be God accomplishes the goals for which it is offered to you, our dear readers.

WSBG cover

Who Shall Be God Cover – Quarter Scale Mock-up
Copyright 2015-2016 – All Rights Reserved

No Rest

We are now planning Mandated Memoranda Publishing’s next novel: Who Shall Be God. We have characters, certain scenes, and even a cover image in mind already. We’re investigating background materials for the theme of the novel. Since it deals with political conflict reflected through two families, we’re reading The Fourth Revolution by John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge and Alien Powers by Kenneth Minogue. However, we always have a biblical theme in mind too.

The scripture: Isaiah 57 jumped out at us based on our reading of The Art of Dramatic Writing by L. Egri. Here are the pertinent parts:

The righteous man perishes,

    and no one lays it to heart;

devout men are taken away,

    while no one understands.

For the righteous man is taken away from calamity;

    he enters into peace;

they rest in their beds

    who walk in their uprightness.

Isaiah 57:1-2 English Standard Version (ESV)

But the wicked are like the tossing sea;

    for it cannot be quiet,

    and its waters toss up mire and dirt.

There is no peace,” says my God, “for the wicked.”

Isaiah 57:20-21 (ESV)

We commonly know the last verse (repeated elsewhere in Isaiah 48:22, 57:20, 57:21) as the phrase:

“No rest for the wicked [or weary]”.

As we always do, let’s consult Calvin to get his take on Isaiah’s verses:

The righteous man hath perished…And no man layeth it to heart. …The Lord holds out as a mirror this event of his providence, more remarkable than all others, that he takes away good and worthy men out of this life, when he determines to chastise his people severely. But no man considers it, or reflects that it is a token of approaching destruction, that God gathers them, and places them in safety from being distressed by prevailing afflictions.

…The general meaning is, that wicked men grievously deceive themselves by supposing that there is no greater happiness than to have life continued to a great age, and by thus pluming themselves on their superiority to the servants of God, who die early. Being attached to the world, they likewise harden themselves by this pretense that, by nothing else than a manifestation of God’s favor towards them, while others die, they continue to be safe and sound…

Men of mercy are gathered. …But, since God, in many passages of Scripture, represents gentleness and kindness as a distinguishing mark of his children, this may be, as I have said, a definition of true righteousness.

Hence we see that the Lord, at that time, gathered many good men, whose death portended some dreadful calamity, and yet that the Jews [the Prophet’s proximate audience] paid no regard to such forewarnings, and even proceeded to more daring lengths of wickedness; for they thought that all went well with them, when they were the survivors of many excellent men.

Peace shall come. The Prophet describes what shall be the condition of believers in death; for the wicked, who think that there is no life but the present, imagine that good men have perished; because in death they see nothing but ruin. For this reason he says that “Peace shall come,” which is more desirable than a thousand lives full of trouble; as if he compared them to discharged soldiers, who are and allowed to enjoy case and quietness.

They shall rest in their beds. He adds the metaphor of sleep, in order to show that they shall be absolutely free from all the uneasiness of cares, just as if they were safely pleasantly asleep “on their beds.”

Whosoever walketh before him. …as if he had said, “Whosoever walketh before God shall enjoy peace.” Thus, when righteous men die, and their various labors are finished, and their course is ended, they are called to peace and repose. They “rest in their beds,” because they do not yet enjoy perfect blessedness and glory; but they wail; for the last day of the resurrection, when everything shall be perfectly restored; and that, I think, is what Isaiah meant.

By these comments, Calvin seems to echo Revelation 18:4.

Then I heard another voice from heaven saying,

“Come out of her, my people,

lest you take part in her sins,

lest you share in her plagues;”

Revelation 18:4 (ESV)

As for Isaiah’s second couplet, Calvin says:

But the wicked. …But because the reprobate make false pretensions to the name of God, and vainly glory in it, the Prophet shows that there is no reason why they should flatter themselves, or advance any claim, on the ground of this promise, since they can have no share in this peace. Nor will it avail them anything, that God, having compassion upon his people, receives them into favor, and commands peace to be proclaimed to them.

As the troubled sea. That metaphor of “the sea” is elegant and very well fitted to describe the uneasiness of the wicked; for of itself “the sea is troubled.” …Most appropriately, therefore, has the Prophet compared them to a stormy and troubled sea. Whoever then wishes to avoid these alarms and this frightful agony of heart, let him not reject that peace which the Lord offers to him. There can be no middle course between them; for, if you do not lay aside sinful desires and accept of this peace, you must unavoidably be miserably distressed and tormented.

There is no peace to the wicked. He confirms the preceding statement, namely, that in vain shall the reprobate endeavor to seek peace, for everywhere they will meet with war. It is God who threatens war, and therefore there can be no hope of “peace.” Wicked men would indeed wish to enjoy peace, and ardently long for it; for there is nothing which they more eagerly desire than to be at ease, and to lull their consciences, that they may freely take their pleasures and indulge in their vices.

They drive away all thoughts about the judgment of God, and endeavor to stupefy themselves and to repose in indolence, and think that these are the best ways and methods of obtaining peace. But they never shall enjoy it; for, until men have been reconciled to God, conscience will never cease to annoy and carry on war with them.

Saith my God. Thus he represents God as the only author of peace, that he may, by this dreadful threatening, tear from the Jews their dearest pleasures; and calls him “his God,” in opposition to the vain boasting of those who falsely boasted of his name; for they cannot acknowledge God, so long as they reject his Prophet and his doctrine. For this reason the Prophet boldly declares that he has received a command from God to declare perpetual war against them.

There is no rest for the wicked; no rest now or in eternity. Turn away from evil ways and do good.

Triumph of Death, 1562, Pieter Breughel the Elder

Triumph of Death, 1562, Pieter Breughel the Elder (1526/1530–1569), Museo del Prado, Madrid, Public Domain

A Digital Carol – A Tale for Our Generation – Candidate Press Release

Mandated Memoranda Publishing Announces Fourth Book

 A Digital Carol – A Tale for Our Generation, By Adolphus Writer, Exclusively on Amazon as a Kindle Edition, a Mandated Memoranda Publishing, LLC release.

SYRACUSE, N.Y., Dec. 20, 2014 /PR Company TBD/ — A Digital Carol – A Tale for Our Generation is the old Dickens’s favorite—A Christmas Carol—reimagined. We now face a monstrous egotist who questions the very premise of his existence and ours.

ADC Cover

A Digital Carol – A Tale for Our Generation, by Adolphus Writer, 2014 Copyright, All Rights Reserved

We no longer believe in ghosts, do we? I thought not. But we invest our time and attention in the promise of virtual reality for entertainment and, as some might wish it, our evolutionary destiny. Of course, this is only the latest manifestation of our desire to create our own heaven, on our own terms, here on earth.

A Digital Carol is Dickens’s A Christmas Carol retold with new forms and modern perspectives. No longer do we read a tale of a mean miser who, through sorrowful experiences, becomes kindly. We now face a monstrous egotist who teeters between damnation and redemption.

This speculative fiction story’s goal is not to inspire a more joyous holiday or a more generous spirit, but to question the very premise of our existence. Are we too far into the dark night of the soul for anything but drastic measures?

Quotes

“No one anticipated the unfortunate events that have taken place, sir. They would rather die than subject their families to these horrors.”—Solicitor for community charity

“Perhaps it’s best that they do die. It reduces the surplus population. We have no need of them all anymore. Not one of them. Worldwide.”—Eli Benjamin Ezer (aka E. Ben. Ezer)

Review

“Writer’s (Tragic Wonders, 2013…) novella reimagines Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol as a cautionary sci-fi tale…Writer’s interpretation is an intriguing retelling, as it does much more than merely change the classic tale’s setting and style.” —Kirkus Reviews

About the Author

Adolphus Writer holds a doctorate in theoretical physics. After he graduated, he took a job at a large US defense firm applying his creative and analytical skills to pressing problems. He married Ninja (NEEN–yuh) S. Writer after she completed her service with the German Federal Defense forces.

During the economic downturn spanning the first and second decades of the twenty–first century, his job was eliminated and he was terminated. In early 2012, Adolphus established Mandated Memoranda Publishing, LLC as a way to support the lifestyle to which he and his family had become accustomed. He says they like to eat on a daily basis and stay debt–free.

About the Publisher

Mandated Memoranda Publishing, LLC published Tiānmìng – Mandate of Heaven as a Kindle edition in June 2013. It is an everyman’s spy adventure – a reluctant journalist’s tale of economic calamity, geologic catastrophe, geopolitical power shifts, and the beginnings of a hands–on surveillance state.

Our second Kindle Edition is Tragic Wonders – Stories, Poems, and Essays to Ponder which presents faith in Christ as a plausible alternative through brief narratives of realism, thriller, and science fiction. It was published on Amazon in December 2013.

Our upcoming fourth Kindle edition, Who Shall Be God, is a fictional account of the struggles between two families, the Stadists and the Libertas, who live in an east coast US city, north and south of the 38th parallel, respectively. It will be published on Amazon in late 2015 or early 2016.

We plan to release a fifth Kindle edition in late 2016 or early 2017. The working title for this book is China Dream. The book’s still in process, as is the dream itself. However, could the dream tragically turn into a nightmare instead?

Book details

A Digital Carol – A Tale for Our Generation

By Adolphus Writer

amazon.com/dp/B00PVFS5AQ

Genre: science fiction, Christian futuristic

1st edition, released November 19, 2014

By Mandated Memoranda Publishing, LLC

Exclusively as an Amazon Kindle Edition

ASIN: B00PVFS5AQ

ISBN: 978-0-9855327-2-7

Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited

90 pages (estimated)

Connect with us online

On Twitter (@AdolphusWriter)

On Amazon (Inside the Book available)

On Google+

On Facebook

On Goodreads (Excerpt available)

On Booklife

Mandated Memoranda Publishing, LLC

mandatedmemorandainquiry at outlook dot com

ADC Punch List

No, it’s not something that one makes before sitting down around the Thanksgiving table. From Wikipedia, a punch list:

…Takes its name from the historical process of punching a hole in the margin of the document, next to one of the items on the list. This indicated that the work was completed for that particular construction task. Two copies of the list were punched at the same time to provide an identical record for the architect and contractor. [citation needed]

Although, I suppose, a punch list could be used for nefarious purposes, Mandated Memoranda Publishing formulated and used one to develop and market our newest book: A Digital Carol – A Tale for Our Generation. We refer to it as ADC.

We’ve become fairly practiced at generating Kindle books. We’ve reported on our eBook development for previous books: Tragic Wonders – Stories, Poems, and Essays to Ponder and Tiānmìng – Mandate of Heaven.

Earlier descriptions give more insight into the detailed development. As we’ve said before, your mileage may vary. Please consider this list as what it is: steps in a conditional and evolving process meant for adaptation and improvisation.

As an amusing aside, we helped surface a software bug in the Kindle Fire HD device’s Kindle Reader application (version 9.5_1190027510 (before Oct. 28, 2014) progressing to 9.5_1190027710 (as of Dec. 4, 2014)). According to some Amazon Customer Service representatives, it’s been widely reported from multiple users. I managed to send Amazon a device log to examine (using the Fire HD device’s help service). Additionally, one worker was able to duplicate the issue on her Fire HD device with her own book selection. It seems to occur generally with all Kindle eBooks.

We assured ourselves it was a device application issue by downloading our eBook (the AZW file) to our PC. Then we ran Kindle Previewer, version 2.923 in Fire HD emulation mode to check the book cover under midnight, sepia, and normal backgrounds. It rendered correctly and repeatedly in emulation mode. We also tested four randomly selected books we had purchased before the update (system update 4.5.1) was installed.

This testing followed running the original KDP generated MOBI file of our own book through a full Quality Assurance schedule using Kindle Previewer in E-Ink, Fire, and iPad (w/ side-loading) modes. We also tested the original KDP generated MOBI with the Kindle PC application and an AZK file side-loaded onto an iPad. Our book rendered correctly on all platforms but the Fire HD device. We almost halted publication because of the issue but went through with it anyway based on our intuition and experience.

What happens when the issue occurs is that any eBook’s cover (the JPG or GIF image at the book front) renders correctly when the selected background is midnight. It renders incorrectly when the background is changed to sepia or normal (white). The cover is surrounded by a background toned frame but the cover is either blacked (or whited) out or obscured by a dark semitransparent overlay.

The phenomenon is repeatable so long as the book is open. Once the book is closed and reopened, the issue changes. In this second instance, the cover renders correctly with sepia and normal background, but this time the midnight background obscures the cover.

One Amazon Customer Service rep said the issue was viewed as content related (i.e., the eBooks were at fault). She recognized the issue was a device application issue.

The best analogy I can give is this. Pretend you’ve taken a photo with your phone. You view the photo with the camera app and it looks good. You decide to improve how the photo looks so you open a photo-enhancement app on the phone. There, the photo is blacked out. Puzzled, you reopen the camera app. The photo is there and seems unchanged from when you took it. You close the camera app and reopen the enhancement app. This time the photo is whited out. Concerned, you email the photo to your PC where it looks just as colorful as it did in the camera app. Clearly, the enhancement app on the phone is at fault, not the photograph itself.

The photo represents all Kindle eBooks. The camera app and the PC app represent all Kindle Reader apps except the one on the Fire HD device. The enhancement app on the phone represents the Kindle Reader app on the Fire HD device. It is the Kindle Reader app on the Fire HD device that is at fault.

I hope Amazon Software personnel find and fix the bug (perhaps a test software artifact left active after product release?). Not resolving the issue could adversely affect all Amazon eBook sales this Christmas buying season. I wouldn’t want to be on the customer service staff if it is not fixed.

Obviously, these are our personal observations and opinions. EBook development seems never to be without excitement. Maybe it will be different next year? We resolved the previous bug we reported on our own (a rectifiable Windows ‘run with graphics processor’ selection for Kindle Previewer’s phantomjs_mobi82html executable file). Not so with this one, I’m afraid. As of yesterday, I think they still think it’s a data (or user!) issue. Such is the way of medium to large-sized software organizations.

POST UPDATE (12182014): Amazon has upgraded the Kindle Fire HD (3rd Gen) System software version to 4.5.2 and the HD device’s Kindle Reader to 9.6_1190216910. The reader was updated before the system software and appears to have resolved the cover rendering problem. This puts Amazon software in the ranks of Microsoft who actually fix their issues in a timely manner rather than letting them linger for weeks, months, and years.

Here’s the structured procedure we followed in the development and marketing of A Digital Carol – A Tale for Our Generation. We’ve also added some details on our HTML generation. This is our punch list:

Fact find from recent KDP newsletters

Kindlefy ADC version 1 – 3

  1. Add ISBN
  2. Spell check and search for errant spaces
  3. Create HTML
  4. Prepare Two Structure Files (Check To Press archive)
  5. Create File Folders (Check To Press archive)
  6. Update Kindle Previewer (KP)
  7. Generate MOBI and AZK files using KP
  8. Examine with KP (use spreadsheet for QA)
  9. Examine on Fire, PW, and iPad
  10. Revise original and go to 3 or Finish

Revise Blurb (do word count based page estimate ~130 pages; ASIN assignment)

Author interview, ADC Status, and MM posts: ADC status, Author interview (hit themes: Economic divide, Jobs automated, AI demons, War, and Population), Character Interview, Excerpts (?)

Dry run finalization of manuscript and generation of PDF

Recheck KF8 on HW

Start KDP entry for ADC [DO NOT SUBMIT]

Receive Copyedited Manuscript back from Kirkus (due November 17, received November 12)

Finalize manuscript, generate PDF

Submit PDF for review

Kirkus review ($575 for rush – suppressible if bad)

Books and Culture (?) – delayed

Publishers Weekly Indie aka Booklife (free if accepted)

Red City Review ($40) – delayed

Kindlefy ADC version 4

  1. Compare new manuscript with existing HTML (Use KDP generated version)
  2. Transcribe deltas into existing HTML
  3. Spell check updated HTML for transcription errors
  4. Buff em> versus i> and em> punctuation issues leave well enough alone (also French sp. not perfect; issue with images and font size, too)
  5. Repeat general HTML check over (used IE)
  6. Compare PDF source with HTML in Word
  7. Update Kindle Previewer (KP)
  8. Generate MOBI and AZK files using KP
  9. Do Kindle Fire only QA check on KP version
  10. Run KP MOBI (KF8) through KDP to get testable MOBI file, folders with HTML [check book data; DO NOT SUBMIT]
  11. Generate AZK from KDP file
  12. Examine KDP MOBI with KP (use spreadsheet for QA)
  13. Examine on Fire, PW, and iPad
  14. Revise and go to 3 or submit to KDP

Investigate Bowker listing?

Submit ADC for sale via KDP [Submitted to KDP Wednesday Nov 19, 2014, Published on Wednsday, Nov. 19, 2014] [ADC Pre-order unrealistic (Up to 90 days early; By Nov. 18 for 28 release?)]

Submit application for Copyright to LOC (need publication date)

Buy book and push to all devices, check out background color on cover issue

Follow up with KDP and Kindle development on this Fire HD device issue (kindle app version 9.5_1190027510).

Submit PDF for review:

Red City Review ($40)

Books and Culture (Free)

Update Author Central as necessary

Solicit reviews from Vine and other Amazon reviewers (see Dickens’s works)

Use Goodreads Authors program posts and adverts

Solicit Amazon Singles

Update Blurb/Press Release with ASIN and Amazon page estimate

Update MM Blog posts with ASIN and Amazon page estimate

Create PR Newswire Press Release from Blurb and Red City or Kirkus Reviews (Times Square and don’t forget Twitter Leisure, $400~)

Solicit other Reviews (if Kirkus Review good)

Economist

WSJ

Here’s the HTML process:

On Word file (97–2003 versions seem cleaner upon HTML conversion)

Remove cover

Reinforce styles (especially in author bio)

Substitute en dashs for hyphens (to account for Kindle rendering)

Replace book signing image with jpg

Save as ‘filtered web file’

Name: Adolphus Writer

Title: A Digital Carol – A Tale for Our Generation

On HTML

Simplify page breaks as per KDP guidelines

Move ‘<a> </a>’ out of ‘<h1> </h1>’ for chapter titles

Change ‘a name’ to ‘a id’ in all occurrences

Fix centered stars custom style

Remove excess formatting styles (i.e., those not used in manuscript body)

Clean Styles

Add ‘../image/’ to JPGs

Add text size: 200%, 150%, and 120% to centered title, centered subtitle, and h1 respectively

Add back font variant small caps to centered title

Make sure all styles have text indent as appropriate (0pt)

Remove color, text size (except as specified above), spacing

Adjust margin left to 0in instead of 0.3in as appropriate

Replace i> with em> except for foreign words

Assure punctuation italicized appropriately (see copyedited version)

Remove font color, text size, text spacing, lang[uage] references, and all span references in text

There you have it. I wish you well in your publishing adventures.

ADC Cover quarter scale, Copyrighted, All Rights Reserved

A Digital Carol – A Tale for Our Generation Cover – quarter scale (copyrighted, all rights reserved)

ADC Author Interview

We here at Mandated Memoranda Publishing, LLC, are gearing up for a book unveiling. Here’s an author interview for the taking. All we ask is that you use the Q & A ‘as is,’ notify us of your intention to use the material, and send us a link ahead of your post via our email address. Thanks.

MM email address

Book Title: A Digital Carol – A Tale for Our Generation

Author: Adolphus Writer

Publisher: Mandated Memoranda Publishing, LLC

Genre: Science Fiction, Christian Futuristic

Publication date: November 19, 2014

Short author bio:

Adolphus Writer holds a doctorate in theoretical physics. After he graduated, he took a job at a large US defense firm applying his creative and analytical skills to pressing problems. He married Ninja (NEEN–yuh) S. Writer after she completed her service with the German Federal Defense forces.

During the economic downturn spanning the first and second decades of the twenty–first century, his job was eliminated and he was terminated. In early 2012, Adolphus established Mandated Memoranda Publishing, LLC as a way to support the lifestyle to which he and his family had become accustomed. He says they like to eat on a daily basis and stay debt–free.

Book Synopsis:

A Digital Carol – A Tale for Our Generation is the old Dickens’ favorite—A Christmas Carol—reimagined. We now face a monstrous egotist who questions the very premise of his existence and ours.

Images:

ADC Book Cover

ADC Cover quarter scale, Copyrighted, All Rights Reserved

Author

Adolphus Writer Picture

Contact information: mandatedmemorandainquiry at outlook dot com

Purchase link: Amazon Kindle eBook exclusively

Website / Blog: Mandated Memoranda Publishing, LLC

Twitter:

Adolphus Writer (@AdolphusWriter)

Other Social Media:

On Goodreads

On Google+

On Facebook

ABOUT YOUR BOOK AND WRITING PROCESS

Tell us a little about your book.

I think the ADC’s preface sums it up well without giving too much away:

We no longer believe in ghosts, do we? I thought not. But we invest our time and attention in the promise of virtual reality for entertainment and, as some might wish it, our evolutionary destiny. Of course, this is only the latest manifestation of our desire to create our own heaven, on our own terms, here on earth.

A Digital Carol is Dickens’ A Christmas Carol retold with new forms and modern perspectives. No longer do we read a tale of a mean miser who, through sorrowful experiences, becomes kindly. We now face a monstrous egotist who teeters between damnation and redemption.

This speculative fiction story’s goal is not to inspire a more joyous holiday or a more generous spirit, but to question the very premise of our existence. Are we too far into the dark night of the soul for anything but drastic measures?

The chapter titles have more flair than the original story, too:

Preface

Chapter 1 – You Disgust Me, Sir

Chapter 2 – Left Behind? No, Wait

Chapter 3 – Why Were You Holding Out?

Chapter 4 – What I Need From You

Chapter 5 – A Long, Long Way Down

Chapter 6 – Ben’s Recovery

Chapter 7 – A Very Good Year

About the Author

How did you come up with the title?

It’s probably obvious: A Christmas Carol becomes A Digital Carol. Dickens’ used the trope of spiritualism popular in his day. We chose Artificial Intelligence (AI) gone awry popular in ours. Neither Dickens nor we advocate for these movements. Although both stories are set during the Christmas season, we changed our title to A Digital Carol to emphasize the modern nature of the reimagined story.

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

If it’s stated anywhere in ADC, we’d have to say that the preface hints most directly at our message:

All of us want to create, in some shape or fashion, our own heaven, on our own terms, here on earth. Whether we believe it or not, we, even as the story’s main character: E. Ben Ezer, teeter between damnation and redemption. We hope this story prompts all readers to question the very premise of their existence.

How much of the book is realistic?

All of it. Of course, at least as of this writing, everything is greatly exaggerated in the story. We have a growing economic divide, jobs automated away, AI demons, Wars, and cries of over–population. We’ve recently experienced a worldwide financial crisis that may not be over. We have wars and rumors of wars raging in places most of us cannot find on a map. We have various elites that view the majority of us as low information and hardly worth the investment (e.g., look at real wages, job statistics, and offshored corporate income). We also have philosophical movements that put agrarian gentrification for the privileged above economic prosperity for all. I could go on as could you.

What is your writing process?

Get to the computer every morning and type until bed time. Yeah, right, as if that would happen. It’s the goal, but we only have that leisure on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Saturdays. The rest of the week is broken up by appointments.

Prior to starting a manuscript, we do a lot of daily reading on relevant topics to establish our mindset and a reservoir of facts from which we draw. As the writing progresses, we do less reading each day.

Did you hire an editor to review your manuscript before publishing?

We used to use advanced copy readers for early critiques. However, your friends and acquaintances shouldn’t be put on the spot when it comes to bald criticism. And, it’s this kind of criticism that you need. We’ve decided, from now on, to go to paid editing early in the development process.

Several shops offer quick turnarounds and direct communications. Pay the money and get the best you can afford. We chose to do three collaborative editing sessions before a final copyedit phase. I feel we have a better product for it.

Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?

Our collaborative editor for our second and third sessions recommended reading 120 pages from The Art of Dramatic Writing: Its Basis in the Creative Interpretation of Human Motives by Lajos Egri. Specifically, she recommended the chapter on ‘Conflict’. We read most of the book, actually. The author’s drama principles are useful; his science and philosophy are forgettable.

How long did it take to write your latest release?

Our first manuscript iteration is dated mid–November 2013. We sent the manuscript off for the first collaborative editing session June 2014. We received our manuscript from our third collaborative editing session October 2014. The manuscript is about 21,500 words.

Do you have a favorite line or scene from your latest release?

I think this exchange captures the initial mood of the story:

“No one anticipated the unfortunate events that have taken place, sir. They would rather die than subject their families to these horrors.”—Solicitor for community charity

“Perhaps it’s best that they do die. It reduces the surplus population. We have no need of them all anymore. Not one of them. Worldwide.”—Eli Benjamin Ezer

Eli Benjamin Ezer (also known as E. Ben. Ezer) is our main character. Honestly, I didn’t like the name Scrooge and each of his new names has an interesting meaning. The solicitor reappears later in the story (as his counterpart does in the original story).

ABOUT PUBLISHING AND MARKETING

What are the future plans for you and this book?

After we get the copyedited manuscript back, we’ll generate a PDF file and submit it for reviews at: Kirkus Review, Books and Culture, Publishers Weekly, and Red City Review.

In parallel, we’ll kindlefy the manuscript and post it to Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) for sale by the end of November 2014. We’re already on Goodreads and plan to hold an event prior to Christmas.

If the reviews are fair to middlin’ or better, we’ll request ADC become a Kindle Single and solicit reviews from newspapers to which we subscribe.

What have you learned during your self-publishing journey?

How to quickly generate clean HTML from Microsoft Word and accurate Amazon KF8 files from the HTML. We have yet to figure out Kindle for iOS to our dismay.

GENERAL QUESTIONS

Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?

I can remember standing up in class, at age seven, and declaring I wanted to write a book about nuclear energy. I read widely in fiction and non-fiction throughout my schooling and afterwards. I had always planned on writing and publishing after retirement. The economic downturn merely accelerated the schedule.

Have you published anything else?

Mandated Memoranda Publishing, LLC has published Tiānmìng – Mandate of Heaven  as a Kindle edition in June 2013. It is an everyman’s spy adventure – a reluctant journalist’s tale of economic calamity, geologic catastrophe, geopolitical power shifts, and the beginnings of a hands–on surveillance state.

Our second Kindle Edition is Tragic Wonders – Stories, Poems, and Essays to Ponder which presents faith in Christ as a plausible alternative through brief narratives of realism, thriller, and science fiction. It was published on Amazon in December 2013.

What’s next for you?

We plan to release a fourth Kindle edition: Who Shall Be God, a fictional account of the struggles between two families, the Stadists and the Libertas, who live in an east coast US city, north and south of the 38th parallel, respectively. It will be published on Amazon in late 2015 or early 2016.

Our fifth planned Kindle edition is due in late 2016 or early 2017. The working title for this book is China Dream. It’s still in process, as is the dream itself. However, could it turn into a nightmare instead?

A Digital Carol – A Tale for Our Generation — A Status Report

We at Mandated Memoranda Publishing have been working on our third book: A Digital Carol – A Tale for Our Generation. This is the old Dickens‘ favorite—A Christmas Carol—reimagined. We now face a monstrous egotist who questions the very premise of his existence and ours. Its genre is sci-fi but I prefer the non–conformist genre speculative fiction.

We’ve updated our book blurb yet again. We plan on posting an Author Interview, a Character Interview, and a Candidate Press Release in the coming weeks. We’ve managed to streamline our Kindlefication and campaign processes further and may try to summarize them in outline form (our punch list).

We’ve labored through three rounds of collaborative editing, read Lajos Egri on how to create drama, and are now Kindlefying (are you listening, Oxford English Dictionary?) the manuscript while we wait for the final copyedited manuscript. We’ll fold those edits in and generate our Kindle book.

We also plan to solicit paid reviews and, if those are fair to middlin’, pursue Amazon Singles status and reviews by two newspapers to which we subscribe. We may ask Amazon for Singles consideration in any case because there is no accounting for taste when it comes to reviewers (both our experience and our collaborative editors bear this out).

Our aim is to publish the Kindle book by Black Friday (or Cyber Monday depending on the vagaries of Amazon KDP). We’ll add the book to Goodreads and do promotion there. We hope to have okay reviews by mid-December. We’ll add those to the Amazon product page. Then we’ll do a press release with the reviews (if one of the review companies doesn’t offer first).

For those of you who follow our devotional postings (under the Ponderings category), we plan to add four more after we get the book online. We’ll cover: Sanctification, Fiery Trials, Assurance, and Salvation. We plan on starting book four: Who Shall Be God during December. Postings at that time will reflect our research. As always, we appreciate your ongoing support for Mandated Memoranda Publishing.

ADC Cover quarter scale, Copyrighted, All Rights Reserved

A Digital Carol – A Tale for Our Generation Cover – quarter scale (copyrighted, all rights reserved)

 

Quo Vadis III

We here at Mandated Memoranda Publishing have just released book four to our advanced copy readers. Yes, this is actually book three, but we missed our Christmas deadline, ergo, book four. The title is A Digital Carol. From the protean blurb with which we’ve been toying:

This is a tale from our childhoods retold in modern language and forms. The story’s goal is not to inspire a more joyous holiday or a more generous giving spirit, but to question the very premise of our existence. We are too late into the dark night of the soul for anything but drastic measures.

We purchased the imagery for the cover and hope to post the blurb and quarter scale cover image on the MM books tab soon. We plan to use the same editing service that we used for Tragic Wonders to better effect this time. If we get a good review (who knows), then we’ll splurge on professional promotion.

Apropos of nothing more than sympathy for the Ukrainian people, here’s Wikimedia Commons Picture of the Year 2013 – Second place finisher:

National park Holy Mountains, Donetsk Oblast, Ukraine

National park “Sviati Hory” (Holy Mountains), Donetsk Oblast, Ukraine – Attribution: Balkhovitin (License: CC BY-SA 3.0)

Meanwhile, as folks eagerly purchase in app gaming benefits, we scour the interwebs everyday researching for our next two books. Book three is titled Who Shall Be God and book five is China Dream.

Some of the books we plan to read for WSBG are:

The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion—Jonathan Haidt

The Servile Mind: How Democracy Erodes the Moral Life—Kenneth Minogue

The Revolt Against the Masses: How Liberalism Has Undermined the Middle Class—Fred Siegel

Liberty: Rethinking an Imperiled Ideal—Glenn Tinder

The Three Languages of Politics—Arnold Kling

Some articles that have impressed us are:

Progressives Against Progress—Fred Siegel (City Journal, 2010)

Can We Be Good Without God—Glenn Tinder (Atlantic, 1989)

The False Equation of Atheism and Intellectual Sophistication—Emma Green (Atlantic, 2014)

Bigger Than Phil—Adam Gopnik (The New Yorker, 2014)

Keeping the Faith in My Doubt—John Horgan (NY Times, 2004)

I don’t think I’m giving too much away when I quote Tinder from his Atlantic article:

Tocqueville suggested approvingly that Christianity tends to make a people “circumspect and undecided.” with “its impulses…checked and its works unfinished.” This expresses well the spirit of reform inherent in Christian faith. Christianity is radical, but it is also hesitant. This is partly, of course, because Christianity restrains our self-assurance. Efforts at social transformation must always encounter unforeseen complexities, difficulties, limits, and tragedies. Caution is in order. But Christian hesitancy has deeper grounds than prudence and more compelling motives than wariness of practical blunders. Hesitation expresses a consciousness of the mystery of being and the dignity of every person. It provides a moment for consulting destiny. Recent decades have seen heroic political commitments in behalf of social reform, but hesitation has been evident mainly in the service of self-interest. Christian faith, however, suggests that hesitation should have a part in our most conscientious deeds. It is a formality that is fitting when we cross the frontier between meditation and action. And like all significant formalities, it is a mark of respect—for God and for the creatures with whom we share the earth.

Is our program this year a tad ambitious? You betcha. Worse still, we hope to write about these and other sources in the coming weeks and months.

Self–Publishing – Love It or Leave It (Part 2)

A few days ago, I hit the ‘save and publish’ button on the Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) website to launch Mandated Memoranda Publishing’s second book: Tragic Wonders – Stories, Poems, and Essays to Ponder. I found one glaring (to me) error in a chapter title very late in the quality control process. I left it.

This post is an update to a previous article on self–publishing. Several things are new with Kindle Previewer software and my process.

The Kindle Previewer (KP) version I used is 2.92. KDP no longer provides an emulated means to check your Kindle files targeted to iPhone/iPad. It generates a file with extension .azk. You’re supposed to sideload it to your Apple device to test it. I have no Apple device.

Additionally, KP 2.92 generates a fault when it produces the .azk file. Windows captures the fault this way:

Description  
Faulting Application Path: C:\..\Amazon\Kindle Previewer\lib\phantomjs_mobi82html.exe
Problem signature  
Problem Event Name: BEX
Application Name: phantomjs_mobi82html.exe
Application Version: 0.0.0.0
Application Timestamp: 4f7753dc
Fault Module Name: nvinit.dll_unloaded
Fault Module Version: 0.0.0.0
Fault Module Timestamp: 50ef1ca7
Exception Offset: 7520ce59
Exception Code: c0000005
Exception Data: 00000008
OS Version: 6.1.7601.2.1.0.256.48
Locale ID: 1033
Additional Information 1: 0a9e
Additional Information 2: 0a9e372d3b4ad19135b953a78882e789
Additional Information 3: 0a9e
Additional Information 4: 0a9e372d3b4ad19135b953a78882e789
Extra information about the problem  
Bucket ID: 4075841998

I sent a query to KDP about the fault and didn’t receive a reply once they figured I wasn’t asking for advice on my .azk file. This was a tad disturbing, to say the least. Then I went ahead and published Tragic Wonders. A friend with an iPhone purchased the book and said it worked fine. However, on 10 January 2014, I received a query from KDP about this issue. We’ll see if anything good results from the continued discussion.

Enough talk of Amazon’s problems. On to the new features of our process, some of which may be technical. We discovered and corrected some upsetting features imposed by Microsoft’s Notepad application. We used the text–align style attribute for chapter titles and table of contents (TOC) entries. We figured out some intricacies of nested .ncx file logical TOCs. We tried a different approach for page-breaks. Finally, we used Kindle Previewer to generate our last few .mobi files that we submitted to Amazon KDP.

We discovered through some disturbing errors in our .mobi files that Notepad was inserting non–printing characters. How could we tell if they were non–printing? It showed up in truncated logical TOC entries (generated by Kindlegen from .ncx entries) during the QA review. It also showed up in HTML TOC errors in the .mobi file text. Both errors occurred at the point where the lines in the files (.ncx and .htm) word wrapped.

It turns out this is well documented and has been an issue since Notepad first appeared. A workaround is: don’t narrow the Notepad application window so any TOC or logical TOC text word wraps. If you’ve done so and you have funny truncation error then you can retype those entries like I did (very tedious). A solution may be to use Notepad++ (but I haven’t, yet).

We used the text–align attribute to left justify chapter titles and TOC style entries. Amazon’s Kindle Publishing Guidelines only discourage specifying alignment for body text so it reflows freely.

We figured out some intricacies of nested .ncx file logical TOCs (and didn’t figure out other things). This is  genericized excerpt from our .ncx file:

ncx

I call your attention to the em space setting off Story Title 1 as an indent. This conveniently differentiated story titles from section titles. Turns out there is another way, but not all eBook distributors use that method.

Having had difficulty with page breaks in our first book Tiānmìng – Mandate of Heaven, we tried a different approach to page-breaks this time. Using <br> without <p> or other formatting to end chapters seems to work. This is an example of what we did:

htm

We discovered that KDP was using a file structure to read and assemble their .mobi file (the one you can download from them) after you submit your files to KDP. I remember reading about that somewhere in the literature but now I had a concrete example in the zipped HTML files KDP produced for download. I recommend you use those HTML files for further development once most of your bugs are shaken out (i.e., after final edits are long done and most formatting issues have been retired).

You’ll need to package your files into separate folders labeled: image, xml, and html. The image folder contains your image files. The html folder contains your .htm file (if you use one .htm file like I have, up to now). And the xml folder contains your .ncx file. The .opf file should reside with these folders either on the desktop or in your working folder. The files that come from KDP expect this structure (you can see the changes from your original files in the downloaded ones when you compare them).

We used the HTML files KDP generated to finish our development after we went a few rounds with Amazon KDP’s Kindlegen to shake out bugs. This led us to use Kindle Previewer on our .opf file to produce a .mobi file. Kindle Previewer invokes Kindlegen and even produces the verbose error report we use to validate our .mobi files. We submitted the resulting .mobi file to KDP and did final quality assurance (QA) testing with the .mobi KDP produced from our submittal. I plan on structuring my files using this new approach in future books.

After I completed my book, I happened on these two eBooks on Kindle formatting and process. The first, The eBook Design and Development Guide [Kindle Edition], by Paul Salvette (Author), emphasizes formatting using cascading style sheets (CSS). It does a masterful job of explaining in simple terms how to use them. The process that is described bypasses the MS Word to filtered webpage step by copying and pasting the original manuscript into a text file and proceeding from there. I think this approach avoids some errors while enabling others.

The second book, EBook Formatting: KF8, Mobi & EPUB [Kindle Edition] by Matt Harrison (Author, Illustrator), says it is purely concerned with formatting. Heavily programming oriented, I expect it will provide clues for me to format my next book more professionally.

I’m not sure why Amazon’s KDP Systems Architect or chief designers can’t put out a series of books on Kindle book development akin to Microsoft’s series. I’d be first in line to buy the reference (if it’s $9.99 or less, of course).