The Reality War



A new time travel, action-adventure series begins with The Reality War Book1: The Slough of Despond, out now

Kindle (Free*) | (Free*) . ePub Kobo (free) | iTunes (free) | Smashwords (free) | Nook (free) | Sony (free)

Paperback  US  | UK   *book1 free on 31 Jan 2013. Check price before purchase.

Click here for further details.

Book 2 now available for Kindle  | and out now  in paperback and ePUB eBook format. Click here for further details.

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Railgun recoil: why Newton won’t be denied.

bomb1Over at the Human Legion website today, I’ve finished off my personal journey through the world of railgun recoil, using an old-school bomb, and a game of billiards, and a little help from my dad!

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Railguns in science fiction

a portable railgun

a portable railgun

The problem with railguns in science fiction is that they are fast becoming science fact. So I thought I’d better get my facts right. I posted part 1 of my recoil and railguns series today. You can read it here.

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Amazon v Hachette: Don’t Believe The Spin


Very interesting tale of what really goes on in the book industry, and of how much internet chatter may actually be influenced by hidden PR campaigns.

Originally posted on David Gaughran:

amazonhachetteThe internet is seething over Amazon’s reported hardball tactics in negotiations with Hachette.

Newspapers and blogs are filled with heated opinion pieces, decrying Amazon’s domination of the book business.

Actual facts are thinner on the ground, however, and if history is any guide, we haven’t heard the full story. Here’s how it started.

In a historical quirk of the trade, publishers and booksellers negotiate co-op deals at the same time as the general agreement to carry titles. (For those who don’t know, co-op is the industry term for preferred in-store placement, such as face-out instead of spine-out, position on end-caps, front tables, window displays, and so on.)

At publishers’ insistence, the same practice has continued in the online and e-book world, namely that negotiations regarding virtual co-op (e.g. high visibility spots on retailer sites) take place at the same time as discussions over general terms and publisher-retailer discounts.

There is a lot…

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Now you can learn the secret of green energy…

TheUltimateGreenEnergy_prodcat_200px_96dpiOne of my mini-collections of YA fantasy and sci-fi stories is free today and tomorrow on Kindle. I wrote them really for my son rather than to make a zillion sales, but you can enjoy them yourself too by downloading for free from

You don’t need a Kindle device; you can read Kindle-format books on PC, Mac, Android and iOS [See here for details]

Getting high up the free download ‘bestseller’ charts is fun, and although it doesn’t make me any money directly, the publicity could help.

Crustias_logo_91px_300dpi_left_padded_TextSo pop over to , grab the goodies, and put a smile on my alter-ego Crustias’s face :-)


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Writing tips: how to write robust paragraphs in Word

[In this post, I'm going to address a topic that some of you might consider pretty basic: how to write a paragraph using Microsoft Word. It certainly is fundamental but I would say around 15% of the manuscripts I receive in my capacity of publisher, editor, or formatter, have been written by authors who do not know how to tell Word when a paragraph has finished. With a lot of additional rework and luck, you can just about get away without knowing how to do this if you self-publish a paperback, but if you self-publish an eBook starting with a Word document without properly defined paragraphs then the results will be unreadable – Tim]

The most fundamental task of a word processor is to wrap lines for you automatically.

If you were looking at the paperback book from which this post was extracted, you would see it consists for the most part of paragraphs, each of which is separated from the next by a small gap. Most paragraphs have more than one line of words. In fact, you are reading such a paragraph now.

When you type such a paragraph into Microsoft Word, the correct approach is to keep on typing until you get to the end of the paragraph. Then you tell Word that you’ve finished the paragraph by pressing the Enter key. Then you start typing the next paragraph.

For simplicity I’m using the term ‘Enter key’. You might refer to it as ‘Return’ or ‘Carriage return/ line feed’. The button on my keyboard has a short downward line followed by a longer line to the left that terminates in an arrow. These are all names for the same button. It is very rare for PC/Windows software to distinguish between them, but some Mac software does, including Word.

You must not tap the Enter key until you have finished the paragraph. Inside a paragraph, it is the word processor’s responsibility to automatically decide when a line has finished and so it needs to start the next word on a new line. If you try to do this yourself by hitting the Enter key in the middle of a paragraph, then you are going to have a badly formatted paperback book. And if you use the same Word manuscript as the basis of your eBook edition, that is likely to be even worse. In the latter case, I’m not talking ‘doesn’t quite look professionally formatted’, I mean ‘utterly unreadable, ask for money back and complain about poor quality to Amazon.’

The reason is simple. You might think you are setting a new line at the correct place. But it is dependent upon variables such as font size, margins and page size. As soon as any of these variables change, your new line will be in the wrong place. And with eBooks, all of these variables are completely out of your control.

I’m going to repeat the previous paragraph but I’m going to insert a paragraph break at the end of each line. When I wrote this in Microsoft Word on my computer, the lines appeared to wrap perfectly. I can’t tell precisely how this will look on whatever device you are using to read this post, but I am sure it won’t look good. If you are using a Word document to send to Amazon KDP or Smashwords, or using a Word document as the input to an automated conversion tool, such as Calibre, then this is the kind of result you should expect if you don’t set paragraphs as I’ve explained.

The reason is simple. You might think you are setting a new line at the

correct place. But it is dependent upon font size, margins and page size.

As soon as any of these variables change, your new line will be in the

wrong place. And with eBooks, all of these variables are completely out

of your control.

The screenshot below shows how your document should look.

How your paragraphs SHOULD look

Notice in the Ribbon that I’ve ringed the show/hide button (¶). Setting show/hide on means that I see a paragraph mark at the end of each paragraph and a section break at the end of the page.

The ‘show/hide’ or ‘paragraph mark’ (¶) is properly called a ‘pilcrow’. This blog post has been extracted from the manuscript I wrote for a book. When I needed to enter a pilcrow into the text, for the paperback I added the Pilcrow through ‘Insert Character’ from the Ribbon and picked the ‘Arial Unicode MS’ character set and went hunting for the pilcrow. For the eBook version, readers won’t have the Arial Unicode MS font installed on their readers (unless reading using Kindle Reader for PC), but through the magic of Unicode, if your eBook reader has any font that includes the pilcrow, then your reader should be able swap to that typeface and display the character. Modern eBook devices and tablets have good enough Unicode support to display pilcrows and many thousands of characters beyond, although my Kobo readers Mini isn’t able to use fallback fonts in this way.

Unless you’re writing a book on formatting, you probably won’t need to enter a pilcrow yourself, but I’m using it as an example of how you can get special characters into your book.

Now we’ll see the same text but with the paragraphs broken up. Here I’ve hit the Enter key at the end of each line instead of at the end of each paragraph. Remember, if we turned off the show/hide option (and so hide the pilcrows) both examples would initially look identical. But if we changed page size, margins, font, font size or even our version of Word, the lines would break in the wrong place in the second example but would adjust automatically in the first.

How your paragraphs SHOULD NOT look!

Pilcrows don’t always look the same. The most obvious difference is that sometimes the head is filled in and sometimes not. In the screenshot above, the text uses a font called Palatino Linotype, and for that font the pilcrows are hollow. At the bottom I’ve added three blank lines in another font: Calibri, for which the pilcrow is filled in.

I’ve written so far about using the Enter key before the end of the paragraph. Sometimes people keep pressing the space bar or the tab key for the same effect. This has the same results and causes the same formatting disasters as soon as any of the variables changes (such as font size or margins).


Follow this link to my other writing and publishing tips

This article was adapted from ‘Format Your Print Book for Createspace: 2nd Edition‘ available now as a Kindle eBook, and as a 296 page paperback:

eBook: |

Paperback |

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Tips for self-publishers: Typography 103 — Kerning and Spacing

If you look back at the advanced font tab in Microsoft Word, there’s an entry there for Kerning. This isn’t specific to OpenType fonts and is something you should keep an eye on with your titles (for example, chapter headings, book and part title pages). Kerning refers to moving characters closer together to avoid unnecessary gaps. It’s generally a good thing to have kerning set on for headings and titles. For example if you have a capital W followed by a lower case ‘a’, where should the ‘a’ start? With a kerned font the ‘a’ will shelter somewhat under the ‘W’, which looks neater and more professional. With Word up to and including Word 2013, there is no control to fine tune kerning: it is either on or off.



Back in the advanced font tab, you will see a spacing option. This simply places a gap between characters if expanded or reduces spacing if condensed. Best used for special effects and titles, I’ve given expanded examples below for an idea of how chapter headings might look. I’ve set the first example to have normal spacing, expanded 3 points, and expanded 9 points.


You can also have different settings for each character within the same paragraph. For example:


Here I’ve added a manual line feed between the two lines (Shift + Enter). The first line has normal spacing and the second 6pt expanded, except for the final letter (‘Y’) which has normal spacing (because otherwise the subtitle would be offset from the right-hand margin).

Of course, you could achieve an expanded effect by adding space characters, but if you’re doing this frequently (e.g. with chapter headings) then it is easier and more consistent to apply and change if you are setting expanded characters through a heading style rather than direct formatting.

Follow this link to my other writing and publishing tips

This article was adapted from ‘Format Your Print Book for Createspace: 2nd Edition‘ available now as a Kindle eBook, and as a 296 page paperback:

eBook: |

Paperback |

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Tips for self-publishers: Typography 102 – OpenType

Special Effects with OpenType

If you look up the fonts on your computer you will see nearly all are defined as Truetype or OpenType (in Windows you do this from the Fonts section of the Control Panel app). For our purposes the difference between the two formats is that OpenType allows font designers standard ways to define fancy variations such as ligatures, Stylistic sets, and number styles. Because they are defined in a standard way, Word 2010 and later can let you use them directly from the Ribbon.

Other than that, the differences between Truetype and OpenType are unimportant for us with one possible exception: older versions of Windows may crash when using certain OpenType fonts in Word (those that use something called ‘Postscript outlines’). Certainly I found OpenType fonts unstable when I was briefly running Word 2010 on Windows XP. I am typing these words in Word 2013 on Windows 8 where OpenType and Truetype both work equally well.

To access these OpenType features you need Word 2010 or later. From the font dialog you’re familiar with, move to the Advanced tab. Word 2013 makes these easier to get to. From the Ribbon click the text effects button from the Font section of the Home menu. Underneath the text effects such as shadow and outline, you get access to the OpenType features.

Accessing OpenType features


Ligatures are combinations of characters that are bound together into a single glyph, such as combining ‘f’ and ‘l’ into a single glyph fl. They can add a little flash if you want old-fashioned ornate titles, but are rarely used. If you want them on, pick a Ligature option other than ‘none’ and Word will automatically substitute a ligature for predefined character combinations.

The ligature that got away.

There is one ligature that is so popular, we no longer know that’s what it is. The Latin word ‘et’ means ‘and’ in English. The et ligature was in common everyday use in Roman times and never went away. Today we call it the ampersand.

Number forms

Number forms are more important because they can cause problems if you don’t realize what they are.

Take these example chapter titles. I’m using Constantia font with default settings.


The weight of the ‘7’ and ‘6’ is centered consistently and by design, but some people will look at that and think the ‘7’ is in the wrong place. I’ve had plenty of beta readers complain that the ‘7’ is somehow in a subscript setting and that this is an error. It’s not. It’s how the ‘old-style’ number form is defined for this and several other fonts. In the case of Constantia, old-style is the default number form.

If change the number form from ‘default’ to ‘lining’, I get this:


Now the numbers are vertically aligned at their tops but arguably look less elegant.



The lining number form is easier to read if you’re using tabulated data. Elsewhere it’s a matter of taste. I’d use old-style for my steampunk, historical adventure, romance novel and lining for my science fiction, non-fiction, or modern-day spy thriller.

Stylistic sets

Font designers can design variations of their fonts that have alternate versions of some or all glyphs. There aren’t many fonts that use this feature. Gabriola from Microsoft is one that does.

Recent versions of the Impact font provided by Microsoft as part of Windows also have stylistic sets, as you can see in this postcard I produced to advertise my Greyhart Press business locally.

Advanced OpenType features in practice

The special way the letters ‘E’ and ‘R’ combine and ‘T’ and ‘H’ are also contextual alternatives. Or at least I think they are. In actual fact, in Word, the contextual alternative box makes no difference for the Impact font; you get the fancy alternatives by picking stylistic sets instead. And yet how each word is styled depends on the letters contain within it.

I think it’s best to consider the distinction loose, dependent on the font designer’s interpretation, and just have fun and play. While playing, though, remember that a little ‘flash’ goes a long way in typography. In my postcard example, I wanted to get across the message that a local publisher from a small town in England, had topped the bestseller charts across the Atlantic in America. That’s why I only used the fancy stylistic sets in the three places that most got that message across, while keeping the other text plain.

Contextual Alternatives

If you tick this box, then the font design can override certain combinations of characters. It is very font-specific and not very common, but an example would be a cursive script (one that looks like handwriting) that replaces certain common words (‘of’ ‘and’ ‘the’) with contextual alternative glyphs designed specifically for use with those words. Put another way, instead of having the glyph for the letters ‘a’, ‘n’, and ‘d’ there might be three special glyphs that put together makes a neater version of ‘and’.

Next time we’ll see kerning and spacing examples.

Follow this link to my other writing and publishing tips

This article was adapted from ‘Format Your Print Book for Createspace: 2nd Edition‘ available now as a Kindle eBook, and as a 296 page paperback:

eBook: |

Paperback |


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Tips for self-publishers: Typography 101

We’re going to be talking about fonts in the next few posts. Before we do, it makes sense to introduce a few basic terms and concepts in typography: the science and art of lettering.

Let’s look at a letter


Don’t worry, I’m not going all Sesame Street on you. ‘A’ is the only letter we need. We’re interested in typography here, so let me describe that specific letter ‘A’ as it appears in the paperback version of this book.

That character is an upper case letter ‘A’ which is part of a font called Times New Roman. Instead of a ‘character’ I might also refer to it as a glyph, which means one entry in the list of characters and other shapes defined in the font. We’ll see more about glyphs in a moment.

Now let’s look at another glyph.


It’s still an ‘A’ and if I’m running Microsoft Word under Windows, then my Font menu in the Ribbon still says it is Times New Roman. However, the definition of the glyph actually comes from a different font file. This time it comes from the Times New Roman Italic font file, a font where the glyph for every letter slants to the right.

The fact that Windows does all this in the background for you is usually a good thing. All you need to know is that the ‘I’ button makes text italic and ‘B’ makes it bold. Not only that, but with most fonts – certainly almost all those that come with Windows and Microsoft Office, the result will be a true italic or bold glyph and not a glyph that has been created on the fly and can look ugly (what’s called a faux glyph). If you’re very unlucky though, this can go wrong as I explain in  Typography 909, a chapter later in my book.

Mac OS works differently from Windows: all the font variants in the font family are presented in font dialogs. You get to see Times New Roman Italic listed as a separate font from Times New Roman, and you get to see Times New Roman Bold, and Bold Italic too.

Under the hood, Macs work the same way as Windows in that if you select some text in Times New Roman font and press the ‘I’ button to make it italic – then this will automatically change the font for that text to Times New Roman Italic. Macs allow the additional option of selecting text and then changing the font of that text to be an italic or bold font, or whatever.

Some handy definitions

People often mix up terms such as ‘typeface’ and ‘fonts’. It can get confusing so I’ve set out below the definitions that I use.

Font — a set of characters (called glyphs). For example, Times New Roman Bold, Times New Roman, and Times New Roman Italic are all separate fonts.

Typeface — a set of related fonts. For example, Times New Roman is a typeface that consists for a normally weighted font, a bold font, an italic font, and a bold-italic font.

‘Typeface family’ — Some typefaces have ‘sibling’ fonts. For example, Deja Vu family has monotype, sans-serif, and serif typefaces. In practice, the difference between typeface and typeface family isn’t always so clear cut. When picking fonts to use, selecting fonts from the same typeface family is one good approach because the fonts will not ‘fight’ each other. Typeface family is not a widely or consistently used term, but the concept is worth knowing.

Faux glyphs — where Microsoft Word (or another app) knows you want a character to be bold, small cap or whatever, but builds the glyph for you by altering the regular glyph rather than picking a font that is designed to be bold, or small cap etc. For almost all general-purpose fonts you will come across, the only faux glyphs you will see in Word will be for small caps. Faux glyphs are much more common with fancy and display fonts.

Next time, we’ll look at OpenType special effects such as ligatures and stylistic sets.

Follow this link to my other writing and publishing tips

This article was adapted from ‘Format Your Print Book for Createspace: 2nd Edition‘ available now as a Kindle eBook, and as a 296 page paperback:

eBook: |

Paperback |


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Tips for self-publishers: How to publish your back catalog

I’ve worked with a number of authors who have a back catalog of traditionally printed books for which the rights have now reverted to them. This throws up a number of problems when they wish to republish their books, whether as eBooks, paperbacks or both.

If you have your original Word or other word processing document, then your task is much easier, but take care with copy editing. Most commonly the document file you have is what was sent to the publisher before final copy editing. In other words, you need to go through copy editing again. Even if the bulk of copy editing was contained within your Word document, it’s common for a few last-minute changes to have been made at the publisher’s end.

If your publisher gave you a PDF of the finished book, then this carries its own problems. You can convert a PDF to Word format, but the result is not pretty. Unless you are publishing a paperback of the same trim size (page dimensions) as the publisher’s PDF then this will require a lot of work to knock it into an acceptable state before publishing but still a better result than the last resort: scanning.

Scanning is the most common way to re-publish an old book in my professional experience. Take a paperback, scan the pages using an OCR scanner (Optical Character Recognition), assemble the scans into a single Word document, tidy, format, republish.

This sounds simple, after all most inkjet printers can do OCR scanning these days, but scanning isn’t as easy as it looks, and even the best scanning will leave many difficult-to-spot errors.

The first scanning task is to turn the printed version of your book into a single Word document (or other word processor). The best way is to pay a professional to do this. Google for ‘book scanning’ services in your country and get some quotes. You’re looking here for a service provided by a printing company. If you have the time and patience you can do this yourself with a cheap multi-function printer, but expect the professionals to do a faster and better job of it.

Even a professional job will still be loaded with errors. For example, suppose you have a character called ‘Saul’. The OCR software will have a very hard time telling the difference between ‘Saul’ and ‘Soul’. Most likely you will get a random mixture of both. Your spell checker will not complain about either so that won’t help. Most problems can be identified by reading out aloud or converting to an eBook format and getting your iPad or Kindle or whatever to read to you. But in the case of ‘Saul’ / ‘Soul’ even that won’t help.


Jeff Noon is one of the authors I worked with on their back catalog. Jeff proof read very thoroughly before I saw the manuscripts, which helped enormously. Click on the image to see Jeff’s new eBook editions.

And a more amateurish job will be laden with spelling errors for you to address. The OCR software will struggle to differentiate between the number ‘1’ and the lower-case character ‘l’. ‘6’ and ‘b’ may look the same depending on the font. It may decide an opening double quote is actually a superscript ‘m’ and a closing double quote is a superscript ‘3’.

The best approach to publishing a scanned in book is to accept right from the beginning that tidying a scanned book is a lengthy task. Use a variety of proofing techniques at the start, and then expect to use beta or proof readers to pick up the few examples you missed.

Here are some techniques to use:

  • Distrust every use of a numeral. Check for every use of the number ‘1’. Then search for every use of ‘2’ etc.
  • Investigate every single spelling error reported by your word processor (usually shown with a red underline in Word). If you are certain the word is correct but isn’t in Word’s dictionary, click the option to ‘add to dictionary’.
  • Investigate every grammar error (usually shown with a green underline in Word). Yes, I know this is tedious. Word will report scores of grammar errors where you know better. Sometimes when there is an error in your manuscript, Word can’t identify the error directly, but knows something isn’t right and so flags a grammar error. In other words, when the grammar checker finds a genuine error the grammar rule it tells you has been broken is usually nonsense, but if you look deeper into the sentence, there is a real error lurking underneath. Remember the example above of ‘Soul’/ ‘Saul’? There is a good chance that the grammar checker will spot this.
  • Investigate every suggested word. Word 2007 started putting blue squiggly lines under words it thinks you might have mistaken and suggests what you should have used instead. For example it’s and its. With each new edition of Word this seems to get more accurate. You should be looking at these in any case, but if you’re scanning in a book, go through all the blue squiggles now.
  • Get a computer to read the results back. There are various ways to do this. The easiest is on an eReader such as Kindle or iPad/iPhone. Check your manual to see whether your device manages text-to-speech. To transfer your book to your eReader, do this:
    • On your computer, download a free eBook management tool called Calibre.
    • Save your manuscript from Word as html format.
    • From Calibre, Add Book. Browse to the html file you saved and add that.
    • Convert the book to the required format. MOBI for Kindles and ePUB for everything else.
    • Connect your device to your computer using your USB cable.
    • Once Calibre has detected your device, right click the book on your Calibre library screen and ‘send to main memory’ on your device.
    • From Calibre, eject your device.
    • Disconnect your eReader and set your device’s text-to-speech option running.
    • Doing this with Apple tablets and phones doesn’t always work. Apple wants you to do everything through iTunes. I use Dropbox to send myself files to my iPad, but you could email yourself.

The Takeaway from this Post

  • If you have the rights, then taking back control of your back catalog and self-publishing can be tremendously fulfilling.
  • However, don’t underestimate the work required to get your old books up to scratch, especially if you have to scan them in.

Follow this link to my other writing and publishing tips

This article was adapted from ‘Format Your Print Book for Createspace: 2nd Edition‘ available now as a Kindle eBook, and as a 296 page paperback:

eBook: |

Paperback |

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Grey DeLisle: Interview with a Voice Actress Extraordinaire!


Wow! Can’t believe I missed Armand getting to interview the marvelous Grey DeLisle, the voice of Daphne Blake in the 21st century.

Originally posted on Inezian's Notes.:

Grey with the extraordinary  cast of characters that she's voiced.

Grey with the extraordinary cast of characters that she’s voiced.

For my third Granite State Comicon interview, I am starstruck to be hosting the interview with voice actress Grey DeLisle! Grey began her entertainment career as a stand up comic and singer (releasing a number of albums), but has more recently turned her talents to voice acting, with a stunning list of credits. If you or your children watch cartoons, chances are good that you’ve seen (or heard) some of her work in shows like Fairly Odd Parents, Scooby Doo, Handy Manny, and the Penguins of Madagascar. She has also done extensive voice work for major video game releases.

Q: For many of us, the careers of voice actors are a bit of mystery. It’s sort of like trapeze artists or cruise ship captains. Obviously, someone does those jobs, but we often wonder: How did they get there in the…

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