Category Archives: ePub

Want to read a story about oceans, colonizing other worlds, friendship, and how time and memory are part of the fabric of the universe? Oh, good. Here’s my short story “Tear Apart Worlds”, first published in Pen-Ultimate: A Speculative Fiction Anthology, Edited by LJ Cohen  and Talib S. Hussain.

Tear Apart Worlds – PDF
Tear Apart Worlds – EPUB
Tear Apart Worlds – MOBI


Seaborn Books Timeline

Several readers have asked for details on how the “seaborn books” are connected, and in what ways. Most of the books and stories I have written over the last ten years are tied together in one timeline, sharing characters, a couple of them extending over a generation. A few clearly share the same setting–our near-future world, with seaborn characters, but without Kassandra making much of an appearance–or not at all (Salvage).

You may have noticed that there’s a genre mix, from what would neatly fall into fantasy, urban fantasy, dark fantasy, etc. to stories that could legitimately be categorized as science fiction or tech-thriller (Nanowhere, Salvage), to stories that may not clearly fall into any bucket (Winterdim). Futuristic fantasy?

You may have noticed that most of these stories take place in the future. That’s on purpose. You could also look at the stories in this timeline and see the advance of technology from one to the next–especially when you get twenty or ninety years into the future, from Nanowhere to Teller and finally to Winterdim. I am a software engineer and technologist, so I am always interested in the progress of technology, where it will lead us, and where it will be applied in the fields of health, culture, military, and–very important to me–in or on the ocean, in support of preserving ocean wildlife as well as how we will continue to provide enough seafood for the world’s every growing market for it.

Want to print out the timeline, or get a closer look?

Let me know if you see typos, problems with the order or dates. I threw this together quickly, a lot of of it coming out of long email discussions with Georg (, Lorena (, and others. Also, I mention characters, plot direction for future books, and other details that you may consider spoilers, so read some of the longer blocks of fine print at your own risk!


Are you a Kobo reader?

Good news then! The Seaborn books are now available direct from Kobo books.


Salvage is out from Masque Books!

Salvage—the first book in a new Seaborn series—is a fantasy/thriller with lots of cool shipboard stuff, bad guys with guns, commercial diving, weird things happening in the deep, and one seriously badass toymaker.

Get it now from, Barnes & Noble, Wizard’s Tower Books (UK), and more!

Here’s the back cover copy:

Salvage specialist Captain Jayson Wilraven finds his life and the lives of his crew in peril when a strange charterer wants a mysterious sunken vessel hidden, not raised—and sends armed mercenaries to make sure his orders are followed. Meanwhile, Jon Andreden’s trial of an underwater smart machine is disrupted by a weird organic submersible. His life is soon turned dangerously upside down when he meets its creator, the beautiful Laeina, who recruits him to help find her missing sister. The parallel adventures lead to an underworld of people who live in the sea—the seaborn—as well as secret naval projects, a ship-sinking monster, and the first rumblings of a war of immortals over control of human civilization.

Using Amazon’s KDP Select Program

As most of us know Amazon’s KDP Select program requires an exclusive agreement to publish an ebook through Amazon’s Kindle book channel, which means that while registered with KDP Select the book can only be available for any of the flavors of Kindle.  Not on the Nook, in the iBookstore, on your web site, or in another book.

You get two things in return.

1. You get to run five-day free book campaigns–one per quarter I believe, which can get you significant “promo sales” numbers in most cases. That means hundreds, sometimes thousands of readers have your story, your book cover, and your name on their devices.  Amazon’s also been very smart about how free books appear to buyers without spoiling the normal buying channel.  It’s almost as if you’re in a bookstore with two different dimensions, and you see full-price and free books on the same end cap depending on which way you tilt your head.  I think it works.

2. Amazon Prime customers can “borrow” your book for free and Amazon pays you some amount per unit “sold”–the amount determined each month.  Some months the amount is greater than the author’s side of the royalty split, especially if you’re in the $.99 – $3.99 range.

Those are the general rules–if I have them right.  But I don’t really take complete advantage of all of KDP Select’s features.  I use the program mostly for short stories, collections, and novellas. I have had full novels in Select but the borrowing thing never worked steadily to my advantage. (In other words, I don’t mind having a particular story or collection of stories exclusively in KDP Select, but I really want my full novels in as many sales channels as possible. I sell enough books through B&N, iBooks, Kobo that offering them exclusively through Amazon wouldn’t make up for the losses elsewhere).

For me at least KDP Select is about finding my readers.

Writers write stories and readers read them, but pairing those two up may not be as easy as it appears.  Or maybe that’s simple to understand–because I do understand–but difficult to accept when it’s my writing that some readers don’t want to read.

As a reader it’s perfectly clear.  I like certain kinds of books and I dislike other kinds.  I like many authors, but there a some I don’t like. Just like everyone else. And it’s not always clear from a cover, from a name, or from the description that any particular book is going to be my kind of book.

The strategy is about finding your readers by using solid storytelling and a decent cover in the giveaways–and most importantly links in the ebook to your other books in Amazon (more about tricks with linking at the end).  You want to offer your more compelling shorter work, something that will lead some of those readers to your novels.  (I know it may be that your kind of readers don’t even look at the free books.  I’m sure that’s true for literary and a few other genres, but if you’re writing anything close to mainstream science fiction, fantasy, or horror, some of your readers are out there scanning the first few pages of Amazon’s top freebies.  I know it because I’ve had giveaway ebooks ranked 1 for some fairly narrow fiction category and thousands of people suddenly felt the strange urge to get my free book.  Of course the lower your ebook’s rank the more people see it and want it. Crazy).

That’s pretty much it. KDP Select allows me to give away an ebook for five days (I don’t do one day here, another day there, but straight five day runs) and in that time readers will definitely grab the books.  If some small percentage of them remember my name, or like my storytelling, and go on to buy one or two of my other books, that’s a success to me.

Get four or five of your novellas, short stories, books in the program and run a free campaign one at a time across each quarter. I’d love to hear how it works out. Email me if you have questions:

A note about linking out to other books in Amazon

First, if you’re not linking to your other works in Amazon then you should.  Put an “Also by the author” or something like that in the beginning and at the end of your ebook. Go do that now!

I haven’t dug into this as much as I should, but here’s what I know:  say you have an “Also by the author” page in your Kindle book, and you’re using standard anchor tags to make those links hot—e.g., “<a href=…”, if you’re using a Kindle device with web browsing (Fire, etc.) then the links will get you to the Amazon product page for the linked book.  However if you’re using the Kindle app on the iPhone or iPad there is a restriction (This is an Apple restriction) on linking out to the Amazon store from within the app. If you’re using “” or Amazon’s URL shortener, “” in your links then you will run into problems. If you use a 3rd party URL shortener ( or one of the others , but I don’t think works for this because it creates a link through Amazon’s own shortener.) or your own redirection process then you should be fine, and your book page will show up inside the Kindle app.

Here’s an example.

Both of these links will go to the same book page–the B0041OSB7A is the ASIN or Amazon’s own product identifier:

On the “Also by the author” page in your ebook you will have something like this in html:

<a href="">Seaborn</a>

But it won’t work in the Kindle app on the iPhone or iPad.  Use something like this instead:

<a href="">Seaborn</a>



Where eBooks are Going—Pop-ups in EPUB 3

This isn’t about whether or not we’re going to have or how often we’re going to be reading eBooks in the next few years, because I assume that’s been thoroughly answered to everyone’s satisfaction.

This is a little view into what they may look like in the next few years, focusing on one cool feature: pop-up glossary or footnote data inside your books. Before you run off saying this isn’t for fiction, think about how often you’ve been in the middle of a complex SF or fantasy novel and wished for a f**king character list—especially when half the character names seem to start with the letter K!  (Yes, that’s an actual quote from a reader). With science fiction you’re dealing with advanced technology that may require a little optional background info—selectable or ignored at the reader’s choice. Choice is always good, but clarity and one click away from answers is…priceless.

Let me walk you through it and then you decide if this is for you and your books.
I’m going to begin with the end and show you what it looks like first, along with a sample chapter you can read and use in iBooks to see what’s going on.

Right after this part, because this is where I spent a good deal of time. And because I think it’s cool:

I built a prototype web app that automates adding the pop-ups to your EPUBs. The app takes an EPUB page (good old HTML with some new bits in it), lets you add descriptions for characters, places, events, and then adds the code, references, and pop-up functions into the page. If all goes well you should be able to drop this into your ePub file and load it up in a reader that supports the type:epub attribute (e.g., iBooks 2.0 and higher). Screenshots and a link to the builder below.

Back to the beginning. Here’s what the pop-up glossary info looks like in iBooks—which currently supports this portion of the EPUB 3 spec:

Click for the full view: 


Click for the full view:


Here’s the working example of Seaborn I built with the web app I made. Download it and view it in iBooks or other EPUB 3 reader, or just hit this page with your iPad and click the link.  You should get an “Open in iBooks” dialog and then you’re set. 


Here’s the link andbelow ita walk-through of the app that I made to generate the EPUB with pop-ups.
Pop-up Glossary Builder app



You get to the next page, which looks like this:


When you get to the bottom of the page…



Keep in mind that this is pretty experimental right now. The parser for the nouns and phrases is very simple, and the find/replace operations don’t take into account words or phrases inside other words and phrasesso a link for “Atlantic” will also be dropped into the link for “Atlantic Ocean”.

Another thing: you will probably have to update your XML Namespace to point here:

What this means is that at the top of your EPUB file you’ll see something like this: 

<?xml version=”1.0″ encoding=”UTF-8″ ?>
<html xmlns=””>

Change the part that says xmlns: … to this:


Link structure

To make pop-up links in your EPUB files here’s what you do:

Wrap any words or phrases you want to explain in an anchor tag with epub:type=”noteref” with the href pointing to an in-document location, like this:

<a epub:type=”noteref” href=”#prax”>Prax</a>

Then, at the bottom of the page (I put mine right before the end body tag </body>) add an HTML5 <aside> tag, which supporting readers/browsers won’t show with the page.  This is where you stick your pop-up text and images:

<aside epub:type=”footnote” id=”prax”><p> <img src=”../Images/person.png” /> Praxinos (Prahx-ee-nos) was the third Wreath-wearer, King of the Seaborn, from House Alkimides. Kassandra calls him “Prax” for short.</p></aside>

Okay, that’s it for now. Let me know if you find any of this useful, how it can work better, all that stuff.  Leave a comment!

Big thank you to Liz Castro for her post on pop-ups in EPUB 3 at Pigs, Gourds, and Wikis.

Other things I was thinking about: EPUB is broken up into one file per chapter, section, or some kind of logical text break. So, you can have different text for the same word or phrase in different chapters, which allows you to reveal just enough info about a character without revealing too much and spoiling the plot or suspense. Also, wouldn’t it be nice at some point if you could turn links on or off?



Category: Books, ebook, ePub, EPUB 3 | Tags: , , , , , , ,

Saltwater Witch Graphic Novel Free at Amazon

And so far so good:



Nanowhere is officially out. We're running a winter promotional and through the end of the month it's only .99 cents at Amazon, B&N, and iBooks. I posted a couple of my scene studies in watercolors below.

eBook | | |
Barnes & Noble
Apple iBooks



NanowhereCoverArtNanowhere… it's a love story with all the usual elements: rogue soldiers, computer hacking, tyranny, cryptography, hit-men with an affinity for rolled adhesives, rebellious skateboarders, and sentient billion-node self-organizing nanotech ghosts.

Here's a clip of Cory Doctorow's kind words on Boing Boing:

Chris Howard has released an…interesting and well-written…sf thriller called Nanowhere along with a bunch of supplementary materials that purports to be the lab notes and publications of one of the book's characters …

Here are a couple of my Nanowhere scene studies in watercolors:



Category: art, Books, ebook, ePub, nanowhere

The Wreath of Poseidon

This will be available soon! The Wreath of Poseidon is basically Saltwater Witch remixed by my daughter Chloe and I.  This version of the story is in 3rd person (Saltwater Witch is in 1st), and this version is a bit longer, contains more story, including some scenes cut from the original. We went back to the original 3rd person story I wrote in 2003 with some help from a nine-year-old Chloe (She's seventeen now).        

Nanowhere is back!

The second edition of my tech thriller Nanowhere is out, although the official release–in print–won't be until next month or early 2012.  The ebook's available right now at Amazon and B&N on the Kindle, Fire, Nook, and any device with the Kindle or nook apps.  (More eBook formats and channels to follow).

This edition has a bunch of edits over the original version, which came out in 2005, and includes two of the research reports by the character John Andreden at the back of the book.

The eBook cover is on the left and the print book is below.

Here's some of the back cover copy:

Nanowhere… it's a love story with all the usual elements: rogue soldiers, computer hacking, tyranny, cryptography, hit-men with an affinity for rolled adhesives, rebellious skateboarders, and sentient billion-node self-organizing nanotech ghosts.

Here's a clip of Cory Doctorow's kind words on Boing Boing:

Chris Howard has released an…interesting and well-written…sf thriller called Nanowhere along with a bunch of supplementary materials that purports to be the lab notes and publications of one of the book's characters … | | |
Barnes & Noble

Nanowhere book cover art