Tag Archives: books

Saltwater Witch Giveaway at GoodReads!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Saltwater Witch by Chris Howard

Saltwater Witch

by Chris Howard

Giveaway ends March 08, 2013.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to win

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: http://www.idpf.org/2007/ops

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=”http://www.w3.org/1999/xhtml”>

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: , , , , , , ,

UPS just dropped off a box…

Two proof copies of the trade paper edition of Seaborn. I'm going to put these in for a GoodReads Giveaway.


Some thoughts on reading and why readers read books

Every book isn't for everyone–every author knows that.  In part, an editor's–or editorial team's–job is to select books that a lot of people will want to read.  At the same time–and publishers of course should and do take every advantage of this–there are pressures on readers to read a particular book. Readers can be compelled to read simply by the fame of the author, pressures of friends, media, "everyone's reading title X –don't be left out."

Every reader is an investor.

Books aren't like paintings, or even like short stories, in that there's usually a significant amount of time a reader has to invest in the process, paying in time and running against an anticipated enjoyment.  In most cases a reader has a sense of what's going to take place during the reading,  a projected pleasure in the experience.    You know how it is.  You read books.  Books are very intimate devices for conveying the story, and you're so close to these characters, you're in their world, sometimes in their heads, and you share in their successes and failures.  There's a rush in their triumph, and tears in their despair–don't tell me you've never cried, or at least felt that tug at your eyes while reading a book.  Come on, a sniffle?  What are you, a zombie?  There has to be a sense of "this is going to be good" (good covers a lot of ground, so I won't focus on that) or most of us would never pick up a book over fifty pages.  It just wouldn't be worth it.

Paintings aren't exactly like that.  You can–and in many cases should–spend more than a few minutes exploring an illustration or painting to see what you can pull out of it.  No art is completely passive.  With short stories, it's the same, but a little closer to books.  In some ways, short stories are more like poetry in their mode of conveying the story or an idea.  (I don't know if this analogy works, but in the same way that children are certainly not little adults–thinking of the way kids are sometimes treated in school or in sports–short stories are not little books.  It's not even a matter of growth or seriousness or whatever makes the difference.  Children are sharp and bright (sometimes sharper and brighter than many adults) and have a different way of looking at the world.  We read short stories in a different mode than novels.  Anyway, not going to drag this analogy out, some other post, maybe).

Books aren't like movies in that they aren't as passive a medium.  Your brain not only has to take in the words, it has to seriously get involved in creating, rendering, imagining the scene, characters, and action the author has created.  Books are demanding. 

Now there are a couple connections I can think of between books and movies.  One, if a book has been made into a movie, book sales spike.  A publisher will often release a tie-in edition, not only targeting people who want to read the book before the movie, but those who see the movie, love the characters, the world, and want to go back into it at their own time, at a more leisurely pace.  Almost like holiday in…pick your favorite world. 

Another connection is audio books.  There is the notion of a captive audience with a movie.  You've paid your $8 dollars to get in, you got your popcorn and a comfy chair.  You're going to sit there and watch just about whatever comes your way.  A printed book doesn't have a captive audience, or only has one in limited senses  (e.g., huge fan, I'll read anything by this author, I'm totally into their worlds).  An audio book on the other hand, appears to me, to be similar to a movie in this way.  I don't know about your take on audio books.  I listen to them while driving, because, well, that's the only safe way to "read" with both hands on the wheel and eyes on the road.  I spend a couple hours driving to and from work every weekday, and that's where I do it.  I can't listen to a book outside of a car, however.  In fact, many times I've gone out Friday night to buy the particular book I have going in the car, because I've been dumped, edge of my car seat, at some pivotal point in the story, and I can't wait for Monday to pick it up again.  (I'm usually done by Monday in these cases as well).  I do think there is a captive audience feature to audio books that makes them something like a movie, but again, not really part of this post, and something to explore some other time.

How about different kinds of reading?  This sort of goes back to the differences between novels and short stories and poetry.  There are different kinds of reading because there are different kinds of writing.  Even within a particular form of the medium.  A novel can be a rollercoaster  (starts off steep and fast and never seems to stop plummeting), a piece of chocolate (slowly savored), a thick rich stew, a cutting ocean storm, and sometimes you're not sure what it is, even after the last page.  Books can be subtle, they can make you bleed.  Many times, you just don't know what you're in for with a book.

This ties in to how you read a book, and the suspension of judgment on the part of a reader.  To start a book you need a certain sense of "let this author's words roll in like scenery on the other side of the car window" –just take them in, render them in your head, and follow the story.  It's almost like a willed blindness, the ability to turn your reading faculty over to the author, and letting the story take over.  No reader will get far in any story if dreading the next word is part of the experience.

The suspension of judgment isn't just about belief in a made up world–a world with no solid core with floating cities–or aspects of it like breathing underwater, it's about getting into the story, accepting it as real, taking in words that would normally appear absurd in a real setting, and letting them into your head without a snicker.  It's about taking the fantastic seriously.  (Nothing absurd ever happens in the real world, right?)

I think this suspension of judgment is less trouble for typical SF and fantasy readers, because we've already trained our minds in reading process mode to perform this, we have the habit, but even within the genres it's still an issue–and will always be.  It even depends on the reader's mood, level of immunity to distraction, and the fact that authors try cool new things with writing, or bring back writing styles that went out of style a hundred years ago and require careful reading to get into.  It's also true that suspension of judgment becomes much more difficult with non-fiction, especially when you try to read a book of ideas to which you are adamantly opposed.  Entering a fantasy world is far easier.  

I think this is the notion of "getting into a book."  Even when you've read a particular author's work befor
e and your anticipation of enjoyment is high, you still need to get into any book.  That's just the way the medium works, a property of fiction in general.  All books have to be gotten into, which doesn't really sound good, but you know what I mean.  Even outside genre, there's a need for any reader to accept what the author is presenting, in whatever style, through characters of any kind.  It's not just that characters have to feel real, with real problems, I think some of them have to even be likable, or provide enough intrigue that you'd follow them to find out what they're up to.

So, what makes you read?  What draws you to any book, to a new author's book?  What makes you stick it out through a tough to read book?  What do you as a reader get out of the reading experience?  What do you expect to get out of it, but sometimes do not?

Go get into a book!


Seaborn Review at Amberkatze’s Book Blog

Cool review over at Amberkatze’s Book Blog:

A new world is born in this fantasy work of art. The sea has alot on offer in this fresh and unique debut book by Chris Howard. With some darkness, alot of depth and some fantastic characters this is a must read for any fantasy fans who like the sea aspect or who just want to try something a little different…

Full review here:

Shelf pic!

Amy, you rock!  Here’s a pic she sent from her phone from Barnes in Burlington, MA.  These are the first on the shelf books I’ve seen.  The contest is still running, looking for more pics of Seaborn in stores.  See contest info here: Seaborn in the Wild contest


The publicity value of the genus Architeuthis

Right off, I’ll say I do not have a marketing background.  I’m an author, artist, and software engineer.  The author side of me wants more people to know about the release of my novel SEABORN (three weeks or so).  The engineer in me wants to take over the world.  The artist in me just wants to draw cephalopods–well, anyone or anything from the sea really.


I’m a long time reader/fan of PZ Myers’ blog Pharyngula.

I can draw a satisfactory giant squid (Architeuthis sp.) if pressed.

I have a book coming out in less than a month.

On the drive home from work Monday evening I saw a car with a "My German Shepherd is Smarter than your Honor Student" sticker on the bumper.

Put it all together.

Take these ingredients, roll them up with touch of Zazzle, and you get something interesting.  I couldn’t tell you if it means anything, but Dr. Myers was kind enough to link back to my blog, to the SaltwaterWitch.com site, to the hastily set up Zazzle page to buy bumperstickers.

I drew a quick giant squid with the line, "My Pet Giant Squid is Smarter than your Honor Student," along with the Seaborn book web site, SaltwaterWitch.com, opened a Zazzle account, and posted the sticker for the world to buy.

Zazzle tells me that I’ve sold five stickers so far.

What else?  More than 700 visitors to my blog and to SaltwaterWitch.com from Pharyngula.  I’m going to guess that all–or very nearly all–of these visits are from people who have never heard of me, know nothing about Seaborn, do not read my blog. 

I didn’t plan for this, didn’t do anything other than put Seaborn info, name, SaltwaterWitch.com, etc., on the stickers, and this was really for me to put on my car.  It was a lark, goofing around.  But what if it wasn’t a lark?  Wait… Lark?  The bird?  Can’t we pick something frisky and serendipitous from the sea to represent my carefree episode?  Like, what if it wasn’t a shark?  Or, what if it wasn’t a Tuberculate Pelagic Octopus?  Maybe someone will buy a book?  Can you plan these things?

I couldn’t tell you.   



Img_0123 Four years of blogging and I have never done a cat or sick post.  I’ts about time.  Here’s our cat Niki, with our German Shepherd, Keia.  She’s the coolest cat.  I’m sick as a dog, a bit of the flu.  We’re talking about full on…no, not going to go there.

Before it set in, I was having one of the best times I have ever had at a con.  Speaking from my fairly newby con-going experience (World Fantasy, Boskone, commercial pub cons like BEA, and now WisCon).  This is my first WisCon, and I will be back next year, on some panels, doing a reading or two.  Here’s me and Kathy Sedia (Secret History of Moscow).  I’m in other pictures, just not on my camera.  Will post when I get them!


Boskone 45 update

Skott and I drove down to the Westin along the Boston waterfront after work on Friday to catch a couple of the panels at Boskone, meet some cool publishers and writers, find out how the Naval War College plays games, the usual stuff.  The preso by Christopher Weuve on Naval Analysis Through Iterative Wargaming was very interesting.  He went through historic gaming, the war college’s influence in decision making, how the games are played, won, lost, cool stuff. 

We also took in a panel with the amazing Karl Schroeder on forecasting the future, how he’s been working with government and industry groups to prepare possible futures for the policy makers in these industries and government departments.  Karl talked about the scenario building processes, the elitism of typical futurism–and futurists, time frames–pretty short 10 -20 year forecasts.   One of the interesting–even more interesting than the already interesting forecasting projects he’s been a part of–was a book-length work, Crisis in Zefra, he wrote for the Canadian army (Directorate of Land Strategic Concepts of National Defense Canada), basically dramatized future military operations in a fictional citystate preparing to hold its first democratic elections.   SF author’s dream, right there.

We said hello, shook hands–between panels–with Tobias Buckell, and then saw him later with sort of a Stross-Buckell mashup in the hotel’s lobby.  (Some issues with all of us meeting in the restaurant, apparently).  I asked Sarah Beth Durst about getting on Boskone panels for next year, and she and Paul Park and Craig Shaw Gardner gave me some great advice.  Me on a panel?  Won’t that be crazy?

Had a couple chats with Kelly Link and Gavin Grant (in the same place, the Small Beer Press booth, but at different times) about the future of publishing, ebooks, phones, Creative Commons licensing, and the commercial uses of user generated content.  This last is for a product I’m working on, launching some time end of March, early April.  More on that when I can.  Skott picked up a couple books.  I picked up The Privilege of the Sword by Ellen Kushner there.

Also stopped to talk to Cynthia at Withywindle Books, talked about art, the upcoming release of Seabon (Juno Books) in July!  I actually had my picture taken. 

Some great panels this year, interesting new directions, how to write battles, painting demos from Bob Eggleton and Omar Rayyan.  The Higgins Armory is here all weekend with armored combat demonstrations–how can you not love that?   A bunch of our writing group got together in the evening for talk and dinner with Craig Shaw Gardner and Jeff Carver. 

I also chatted with Craig and a few others about a new title for The New Sirens, and I’m now running a contest here.  Check out it.  Help me find a title, and win art, ARCs, something cool.  More info here: http://the0phrastus.typepad.com/

Pics.  Just a few from my phone.  Karl Schroeder, Gavin Grant (just after he used Skott’s iPhone to take our picture), Higgins Armory demo.  Click on them to see the larger versions.

Karlschroeder Gavingrant