Saturday, March 16, 2013

Excerpt: The Vatican Caper

Chapter One
Know Your Wagner.

“Whoever wishes to understand National Socialism must know Wagner.”
Ludwig, his shooting partner, looked sideways at him. Ullrich couldn’t think of anything to say, but they’d been carrying on in whispers for a while now, and this vein of amusement was a good, rich ore. Ah! He had one after all.
“The Germans, Nietzsche wrote in Ecce Homo, have no idea of how vile they are.”
His companion grunted in disdain. The young man thought his was better. Ullrich kept quiet. Perhaps that was best. A jaded eye surveyed the diorama-scale scene laid out like a farmer’s breakfast.
The scope was cold up against Ullrich’s eyebrow. Stationed at the end of the square, nicely overlooking the balconies of the target area, the courtyard and surrounding edifices, they were as high up as they could get and still have any hope of quick escape. He fiddled with the adjustment screw. A man’s face leapt out into clear focus. Schneider. Sheer luck, for there was no way to anticipate which side of the vehicle he would get out of. It was terribly bad luck for the other.
Just a matter of perspective.
“Still not time.” They were completely silent, although at this range, low down behind the parapet, they could have probably had a long conversation in a fairly normal voice without tipping off the quarry.
They were getting out and forming up, each of them already a dead man, if only they knew it. But of course they did know it. They were fanatics every one. His trigger finger almost itched. He’d heard the saying, but never would have believed it before this.
To pull down on a brother officer was necessary, but no one said he had to like it. A professional soldier’s oath of service was deeply ingrained, and very hard to contradict. The finger gently squeezed, taking up the initial tension. The next thirty seconds dragged on. He let his heart settle.
“I’ve got number one.”
“Danke.” The tip of the other’s weapon moved slightly to the right and he grinned. “Sorry. I mean grazie.”
The youngster was trained well enough, and by all accounts, he could shoot. That was all that mattered, that and to listen well and follow instructions. They would be lucky to get about five minutes here and then they must be off.
He knew the face of Schneider, having studied photos of it intently. What had brought them to this time and place in exactly these circumstances was the result of a very long chain of causality. Changing any one factor might have brought a different outcome. It was a deterministic world, as Ullrich saw it.
“That’s strange.” Ludwig’s hoarse whisper was a shock.
“What is?”
“I don’t see any guards. But they were out there when we got here.”
Startled, Ullrich swung his scope over and through the scene, first to one door and then another. He was right. Shift change wasn’t for a while yet, and they would have to be relieved before they could go. There was something ominous in it, but they were too committed. There was no way to go back or shut this thing off now. It would mean fewer innocent casualties. He prayed they weren’t forming up for their famed pike charge of the sixteenth century.
“Will wonders never cease?” Ludwig glanced over and grinned at his own joke.
Ullrich grunted in acknowledgement, studying the scene, especially the windows and doors now. It would have to do.
“Just remember your escape plan.” He gave the lad’s shoulder a squeeze.
He leveled his own weapon and took the proper grip. Ullrich took another look at the range.
“Yes, sir.”
“Call me Rolf.”
The youngster grunted.
The enemy looked ready to move. All accounted for. The other posts were waiting for him to take the first shot. It was a privilege of rank, but also a point of planning in order to prevent mistakes. There would be no doubts and no questions on their part. Only he had the right to hesitate. It only took so much time for thirty men to dismount from the lorries.
“But for the Teuton, everlasting night would have settled upon the world…” He wasn’t sure if Ludwig had ever heard that one.
He pulled the trigger and the figure in his sights crumpled.


The introductory price of 'Master of Darkness' is 75 % off, or $1.25 using Smashwords' coupon code UK58X on checkout. Please feel free to rate, review, click on 'like,' pin it, or just share with friends. Thank you!

Friday, March 15, 2013

Formatting a paperback for Createspace.

Formatting a POD in Word.

So far I have written and published a novel and a novella. I wanted to take an ebook and turn it into a paperback using print on demand publishing. This entailed putting in a section break after the front matter and then after the text. This creates three sections to the book.
Next, I put a page break at the end of every chapter. Then I went through and made every chapter heading seven twelve-point spaces down from the top. The chapter number is twelve-point and the title fourteen-point. This is exactly the same in the ebook version. Then I adjusted the paper size to 5X8 (my ebooks were on regular typewriter sized pages) and set the gutter at 0.7 inches. The outer margin is set at 0.4 inches. The bottom is 0.4 and the top 0.7 again. This is because I have a header and the text should have some white space above it. The header and footer are also adjustable.
In doing ‘Master of Darkness,’ it ended up at 246 pages. I set it up to have mirrored margins, which is only important in the middle or text section. Page numbers are centred at the bottom. I’m using Word, incidentally. Windows XP.
There were a couple of chapters that ended with a bit of text on an otherwise blank page. I sort of made three short paragraphs one longer one, and this made the chapter shorter in terms of physical space. This saved a couple of pretty blank pages in the book, although there was one I couldn’t fix.
I don’t squish dialogue together, only exposition, and the sections probably had long paragraphs with a fairly long last line. These are hard to compress and get enough white space for any saved lines of text.
Part of the process is to go through and right-justify everything. You have to do it section by section or fix the headings, scene breaks and ‘The End’ if that’s what you have in there.
The process also includes inserting blank pages. Up front, I have two blank pages, which means one sheet of paper in the finished product. Next, there is the title page, on the other side of that the typical publishing information, ‘front matter.’ Then I have the story, although you could insert more blank pages, two at a time. At the end of the book is an author bio, and of course the back of that is another blank page to make up an even number of pages, numbered or otherwise.
When putting in page numbers, be sure to look at ‘link to previous section’ in the toolbar and make sure it’s turned off. To set the numbers, put the cursor on page one of the appropriate section. Click footer and format page numbers, there’s a thingy for sections in that dialogue box.
If numbers appear in different sections, go in there and separately remove them. Make sure it’s not linked to previous section and there you go.
This whole process took me approximately two hours. It’s a nice, simple product. When publishing it on Createspace, it might be necessary to fiddle with the marketing image depending on the location of titles and author name and how the program renders it in the free template. You have to keep all text back a half an inch from the edges, not necessarily true in an ebook, which don’t have a machine trim size.
It goes without saying that I’m kind of reluctant to load it up without scrolling through it a few times just to make sure everything looks okay. But that book will be up and on there shortly.
Once I get a proof in my hands, I could adjust things like the gutter and margins before approving the final book.
All of this was free. As to whether or not I will sell any books, that is an entirely different question.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Through the Meatgrinder.

I have been, figuratively and literally, through the meat grinder this weekend.
At first, I thought the boys being away at the sister-in-law’s place would be a boon. Four whole days to myself.
My novella, ‘The Painted Killer’ was set up for free with electronic coupon during Smashwords’ Ebook Week, and it seemed to be doing well. I gave away eighteen copies of it, which seems all right by my own limited experience.
So naturally, I wanted to publish my new novel, ‘Master of Darkness’ and try and get it up while Ebook Week was still going on. It ended Saturday night at midnight and I didn’t make it. It’s a high traffic time on Smashwords.
First of all, I got a notice on publishing it that the autovetter—Smashwords’ much-vaunted meatgrinder process—had found some issues. And of course on conversion the book pops up on the home page at the top of the column, at the height of prime time, during the peak of Ebook Week. So I downloaded Kindle and Epub versions and examined them.
The autovetter report said I was using tabs. But what got my attention was to discover two chapter fifteens in a book where there should only be one chapter fifteen.
I nipped back to Smashwords and unpublihsed the book in a hurry. There’s no sense in selling defectively formatted books if you don’t have to.
In the process of fixing that, which involves much scrolling down through the book, I did find tabs, little arrows revealed by clicking on the pilcrow, a double-legged ‘P’ on the toolbar on Word. I took them out.
Just as a precaution, I even nuked the file—save as a .txt, create a fresh .doc file and past it in—and reformatted the thing from scratch.
Another problem. The cover I liked, the one with my name in big red letters, looked fine on the computer. The red bleeds something fierce on the Smashwords site. So now I’m scrambling to put together another image on short notice.
It’s possible to download fonts into Word from the internet. On Windows 7, it’s supposedly a simple process. Do they work on Paint when you do that? Doesn’t seem quite so simple, does it? has a free editor, it has a few fonts. They’re all very small. Using a small image might be one thing, when you blow it up, the edges might bleed again. Sometimes sharpening a picture makes it look grainy or pebbly, sparkly somehow.
It looks like the book won’t be published this weekend after all! We’ll figure it out.
Here's what my original cover looked like:

It doesn't look so bad here on Blogger, but there's no telling how it would render on other sites.

You can check out my book here:

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Zach Neal: Just some guy with a day job.

In real life I work at an agency of the provincial government.
A small group of us were putting together a 350-page report on some obscure subject, of interest only to forestry management professionals, when someone mentioned, prophetically enough, that if we could do that in three or four weekends then there was no reason why we couldn’t write the next Great Canadian Novel. I don’t know if any of the others ever did anything about it.
It got me thinking, as I’d always enjoyed books and stories. In fact I worked on the high school paper.
Also at one time wanted to get into law enforcement. I’m not a really big guy or anything like that and it seemed a bit far fetched, and my life took a different turn. I suppose the attraction with the mysteries and thrillers is easy enough to understand, it looks fun to write and everyone seems to be doing it. But that's mostly what's on my own bookshelves.
Now, a couple of years later, I’m just some IT guy who writes, the more so since I am one of the younger widowers out there. That's a painful and personal story and I'll tell it some other time.
The Painted Killer arose out of my fascination for my Uncle Earl’s stories about the Hippie Era and some of the escapades which he claims to have witnessed or been involved in.
Inspiration is a fickle thing, even in hindsight, but with the recent decease of my wife I threw myself into the story more as an escape than anything. It allowed me to work a few things out, maybe.
I have a full-length novel coming out soon, and thanks to the freedom offered by digital publishing, I don’t have to go through the whole rigmarole of looking for agents, publishers or the like.
As stated clearly above, I have a day job, and I like it okay. It pays the bills.
My novel Master of Darkness will be available by April 1 or thereabouts.