Frank Crowe: The Dam Builder Who Changed the Face of the Earth


coverIt’s an epic period of American history – the building of the Hoover Dam. See life through the eyes of folks from all walks of life who built the Dam; travel 21 miles on Death’s Highway, to Sin City, Las Vegas where legal gambling, whorehouses and cold beer await.

Building the Hoover Dam led America and the world out of the Great Depression. Seemingly foreshadowed with the death of worker John G. Tierney from the beginning, it end with the death ofPatrick W. Tierney, thirteen years to the day in the same river. From Theodore Roosevelt to Franklin Roosevelt, seven American Presidents were personally involved in the building of the Dam. Larger than the Pyramids, more complex than the Great Wall of China, the Hoover Dam helped populate the western United States. America became the bread basket of the world. This dam controls floods and drought in seven states, provides electricity, fresh drinking water to irrigate 1/4 million square miles of new farm land. The weight of the water behind the dam moved planet earth a fraction out of balance.

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/404800

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Times New Roman – why I try not to use it


man-with-glass-writing-at-desk-clerk-thank-you-card-paying-bills-dot-is-pen-ink-drawing[1]The Smashwords Style Guide indicates that when formatting your book to use the all-too-famous Times New Roman font. It’s the dream font, the golden ticket to getting things correct.  Mind you, it doesn’t say to use only that font or your book will be excluded from their premium catalog. It only gives it as a suggestion.

But I try not to use it anyway.

Why?  Elementary, my dear reader. Nooks, Kindles and possibly Nextbooks don’t use it. (I have no idea what my Nextbook uses; it won’t let me change the font settings to find out.) Why would I employ a font in my formatting that’s not going to get used in the first place? I’m not allowed to embed it – that would be considered distributing. It’s not in the reader systems to be found automatically by command. It’s silly to rely on it.

What font you use in your formatting is, in fact, largely irrelevant for the Smashwords system. Unless you’re uploading an epub (which you now can do providing it follows the Style Guide) you can’t embed a font for use. And all of the ereaders will go to their automatic default when they open that Smashwords book which calls for Times New Roman. In some cases that’s going to be Gill Sans, and in others that’s going to be Georgia. No two reader models are alike, they rarely even repeat fonts from one to another, and yes those fonts choices tend to be slightly unimaginative.

Okay so you feel a serif font like Times New Roman is easier to read as opposed to a sans-serif type like Gill Sans… but that’s not going to make a difference. Let me reiterate: in most cases Times New Roman is not there. It’s so that I’m left scratching my head wondering why Smashwords would recommend Times New Roman in the first place.

Well the obvious answer is because of all the authors out there who think Comic Sans is a nifty font – maybe it’s very nifty, but it’s also not very readable and often comes off as unprofessional. But even so, why not recommend Gills Sans or Trebuchet, both of which are in use with some ereaders? Possibly because not everyone’s computer may have Gill or Trebuchet installed, but they’re most likely to have Times. Except of that’s the case it’s just as logical to suggest Arial or maybe to give the readers a choice between the two fonts.

The darkest part of me suggests it’s a dark plot on the part of Mark Coker to drive me insane with authors who read the Style Guide and want their money back because I formatted using Helvetica. He sips wine at night in front of burning, black candles plotting my doom, watching the wax dribble down from the sheer heat of his onerous temper, while his vetter slaves tack away at Commodor 64 keys in the background.

While formatting, I’m doing things in such a way I get an idea of how things will look on your Nook, Kindle or even iPhone. This means I’m going to choose various fonts the readers use and not what Smashwords says to use. I’m going to use fonts that make sense – fonts I see when I test that file on my Nook Color. Fonts you will see when you sit down to read that book on your Kindle Paperwhite. And I’m not going to cater to just the newest reader models, either.

From time to time I’ll do a web search to see what fonts are in use. Tonight I found another possibility for the suggestion of Times New Roman – Apple iBooks uses Times New Roman, as well as:

  • Athelas
  • Charter
  • Georgia
  • Iowan
  • Seravek

At last we know where Times New Roman is in use. Some.

Well I don’t own an Apple anything. I can’t afford an Apple anything. It’s a big deal if I buy an apple, being as they give me intense heartburn. And last I checked, not everyone uses Apple. So my reasons still stand.

Currently my favorite fonts of choice are Gill Sans, Helvetica, and Caecelia. Caecelia and Helvetica are used by both Kindle AND the Nook. It’s like hitting two birds with one stone. If you have those fonts installed, you get to see what your book is going to look like (a little) when I’m done.

To wind this down, here is a list of fonts that are in use by other systems that are not Apple. They’re in no particular order, and I listed where they’re used by memory after compiling the list so I might have some of that part wrong. Still. It’s a good list in case you want to format your books in such a way you see how things are going to look the way I like to.

  • Caecelia (kindle, nook touch)
  • Helvetica (kindle, nook touch)
  • Baskerville (kindle paperwhite)
  • Futura (kindle)
  • Malabar (kindle paperwhite)
  • Gill Sans (nook touch,)
  • Amasis (nook touch)
  • Palatino (nook touch)
  • Trebuchet (nook touch)
  • Ascender Sans (nook color)
  • Dutch (nook color)
  • Georgia (nook color)
  • Century School Book (nook color)

… not seeing Times New Roman in there… anywhere… keep looking…..

Hard return, soft return… still not my fault.


Today I would like to address all of you clients out there: you wonderful, creative people that pay my bills and keep me happily busy. I need to talk to you about an issue that often gets confused as a formatting one, and I need to show you that you’re wrong. It’s not a formatting issue. It’s a grammatical issue. And I need to tell you this so as to avoid future arguments, misunderstandings, and demands for reimbursement. Oh, and hard feelings. I hate the hard feelings the most.

I’m talking about paragraph returns.

1. What exactly *is* a paragraph return? Well, it’s that handy little thing that happens when you hit the enter or return button on your keyboard after typing a sentence, a word, or just a string of gibberish. If you are trained to type the way I was, you’ll usually hit it with your right pinky. Go ahead, reach that pinky over… find it yet? Yeah. It’s right there.

Try typing something and hit the button. Your cursor jumped to the next line, didn’t it! Just like that you suddenly went from one line to another: this is how paragraph returns – and thus paragraphs in themselves – are born. Happy birthday little paragraph!

2. So what are paragraph returns for anyway? They break up monotonous thoughts and are the reason why when you are reading something by L. Ron Hubbard, his books don’t read like an untranslated version of the Holy Bible. It is considered good grammar to know when and where to break your paragraphs up.

For example: let’s just say that I’m typing along here and I want to talk to you about llamas. Well I know llamas are fluffy, and I know that their coats are used in the making of cashmere. Cashmere is considered a luxury item by some, especially poor people like myself. I can only think of one time in my life that I ever had anything cashmere. It was a cashmere sweater given to me by my boyfriend’s mother. I got to wear it one time, and then my mother – who knew nothing about cashmere – washed it and threw it in the dryer. When she was done with my sweater, I gave it to the little girl who lived across the street. It turns out that Bugs Bunny was right. Cashmere really does shrink a lot when washed wrong, and once that happens you can never wear your clothes again. These days I try not to buy any wool, and when I get cotton it’s always preshrunk. I like blue in cotton. That’s pretty.

That paragraph is a mess isn’t it. And even though I paid attention to my periods, proper usage of verbs, nouns and other such articles it’s still a mess. Why? Because the thoughts weren’t broken up properly into paragraphs. Like some nightmare blog filled with run-on sentences, this paragraph doesn’t know when to end.  So let me enter my paragraph returns and see what happens.

Well I know llamas are fluffy, and I know that their coats are used in the making of cashmere. Cashmere is considered a luxury item by some, especially poor people like myself. I can only think of one time in my life that I ever had anything cashmere.

It was a cashmere sweater given to me by my boyfriend’s mother. I got to wear it one time, and then my mother – who knew nothing about cashmere – washed it and threw it in the dryer. When she was done with my sweater, I gave it to the little girl who lived across the street.

It turns out that Bugs Bunny was right. Cashmere really does shrink a lot when washed wrong, and once that happens you can never wear your clothes again.

These days I try not to buy any wool, and when I get cotton it’s always preshrunk. I like blue in cotton. That’s pretty.

And you see, the thoughts were easier to keep track off, follow, and either enjoy or be bored with. The final choice is yours.

3. So what do paragraph returns have to do with formatting? They don’t, usually, and that’s my point. They are a proper grammar device. But they can fool you, those tricksy little paragraph returns, simply by the look of the thing. After all, formatting has to do with determining the final look of the book someone is going to read. And breaking up those paragraphs does indeed change the look of the thing. Why I got four separate paragraphs from one run-on monstrosity.

But even though that bit of the look was affected, the parts that I touch are only slightly dictated by the use of a paragraph return. For example, if you have one paragraph in Gil Sans bold type and the following paragraph in Times New Roman italics and I want it to stay that way, the existence of that paragraph returns enables me to tell the computer to keep things like that. It gets a little complicated from here and I won’t go into it. Just know that in formatting I will rarely add a return when I want to change the look of something.

You would not believe the books I get with hard returns where they don’t belong. I get books with dozens of hard returns in a row so as to move the title of a book to the next page. I get books with extra hard returns in the middle of sentences, at the end of the book, and sometimes it seems those returns are there because someone liked the enter button a little too much.

4. Which brings me to the issue we need to understand about each other. As a formatter, I sometimes end up returning books with paragraph returns in the wrong place. And I’m afraid this isn’t my fault. I’m sorry it happens. I wish it could be avoided. I hate it when it does. But it’s not my fault. Here is why.

I won’t add a return in the middle of a sentence. I won’t add a return just for the sake of adding. I won’t change your grammar at all if possible. I just don’t add returns unnecessarily. I will, however, remove returns from a book.

I remove them when there is a string of them to move text to a new page. I will remove them when they stand between paragraphs. I will remove them from the end of your book.

I will not remove them from the middle of a broken sentence. Why? The biggest reason is because I’m not reading your book while I format. I’m scanning it, I’m making it look pretty, but I am not reading your book. If I stopped to read your book when I formatted, I’d have to charge ten times the amount I charge now to compensate for the lost time. This is why you always have to have your book edited before you sent it for formatting.

The second biggest reason is that I’m not editing your book. Sometimes if I find a paragraph that’s broken in half with a hard return, I’ll do you the favor of fixing the problem. But I am not getting paid to look for those problems, and I’m certainly not getting paid to edit your book.  It’s nothing personal against you or your book, it’s just that as a formatter I often am approached with “Can you get this done within 24 hours?” – which hardly leaves me time to even think about looking for your grammatical errors much less time to fix them all. (Incidentally the rush jobs are usually the ones with the most grammatical errors. Food for thought.)

The third reason is because it’s in my best interest to get your book formatted as quickly as possible. I don’t like to cut corners, and I always will try to do a good job. But I’m not going to do things that will slow me down necessarily. You want your book back before you die of old age. I want to make a decent amount an hour. It’s a win-win situation.

So dear clients, I once again find myself asking you to please – please – get your books edited before you send them to me for formatting.  It’s okay if you miss these little things. It doesn’t make you a bad writer. My own first novel took me ten years of editing to fix, and in the end I had to beg my husband to go through it for me. That’s ten years of going over the thing repeatedly – because as the writer I couldn’t see the forest for the trees. There’s nothing wrong with missing a thing or two. It’s normal. It’s expected. It’s okay.

It does create conflict when you come to your formatter accusing them of not correcting those grammatical mistakes after the fact and expecting them to reformat your entire book for free because you finally took the time to have those mistakes fixed. I know hard returns look like a formatting error, but I promise you they’re not.

In the end it’s all about grammar. Much like the back point of my post.

Thanks for listening.

Policy Change – tables


Actually it’s not a policy change so much as a policy firming up.

If your book has more than one table, and those tables are too difficult to turn into text, we will NOT format your book.

Our reasons are pretty simple.

1. It’s not our job to write your book for you.

2. It’s time consuming and we don’t charge by the hour. If we did, our rates would be unreasonably high. And you’d be complaining that we’re taking too long to finish your book.

3. We probably would get it all wrong and you, the client, would be an unhappy camper.

 

So please, everyone out there. Make sure your book is ready for eBook formatting BEFORE you send it to your formatter… we beg you.

I’m for the right to bear arms, but bulleted lists are right out.


Bulleted lists, enigma of the eBook world. To use or not to use? Therein is the problem, and as often as I’ve researched the matter I’ve never found anyone who had a straight answer. I’ve found tutorials on how to do them, I’ve found naysayers who say to never use them, and I’ve found people who love them.

Well, after a lot of experimentation and research I have decided to become one of the naysayers. And I’m going to give you a straight answer as to why – isn’t that nice of me?

First, let’s look at bulleted lists. There are two kinds.

  • The kind that have a nifty little black “bullet” before each entry.
  • The kind that has a number or letter before each entry
  • As demonstrated in this list, or that other list. Depending.
  1. The kind that have a nifty little black “bullet” before each entry.
  2. The kind that has a number or letter before each entry
  3. As demonstrated in this list, or that other list. Depending.

These can be very handy little things, especially in  nonfiction books. They tidy things up. Hooray! However, there’s a dark side to these lists. Take a look at the following image.

See all those words that start with N-? The ones that read “No”. See the line that reads “Support for numbered and bulleted lists”? See the two No’s after it in the nice, neat little table? That is why you don’t use bulleted lists.

Now you’re asking me, “What happens if I use them anyway?” Well, for the KindleFire, Nook Color, BeBook, and various other systems you get bullets – providing you did them properly. That’s wonderful if you’re okay with shaving your audience down by how many thousands of people out there who own older or alternative ereaders and either cannot afford to get a newer version or simply do not want to. Those people don’t get to see the little black bullet. They get a strange square or a confusing question mark. Their list numbers slide off the left edge of their screen, and their document is a big mess.

So what do you do about that?

One answer split into two different solutions: You do them manually.

  • For the little black bullet, replace it with an asterick (*) or another standard symbol. Don’t use alternative symbols if you can: they also run the likelihood of becoming confused and turning into question marks.
  • For your numbered list, put the number at the start of the entry by hand as part of the sentence. In other words, don’t let Word (or whatever you’re using) automate it.
  • For the same of having a third item on this bulleted list, let me just reiterate that <ul> and <ol> are wonderful codes to use but should be avoided in eBooks.

You can make the lists a bit more “bulleted like” by changing your style in the CSS or by word to make the lines different. Instead of indenting the list by only .3″ as you would your paragraph, indent them by .6″ – name the style “Bullet” (which also happens to be the name of my dog). It’s that simple.

So there’s the straight answer. Don’t use bulleted lists – make pseudo bulleted lists. If you do them right, they look just as good without the problems you’d get the other way around.


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