Posts Tagged ‘book’
When I decided to start writing my novel, “Inconstant Moon“, I bought a refurbished IBM Thinkpad to use exclusively for writing. This laptop came with a truncated version of Windows 98, because anything more recent wouldn’t fit on the tiny hard drive. Originally the machine would have came with a floppy drive, or perhaps a CD writer, but it has neither now.
Instead it’s got a DVD player and a slot for an Internet wireless card. I suspect the computer shop cobbled it together out of bits and pieces with the intent of creating a DVD watching laptop, though I’ve never even played a DVD in it. Today probably opt for a netbook, but for the moment, my laptop remains an excellent dedicated writing machine. And any technology we can keep out of the landfills is to the good.
I was relying on the USB port to be able to get documents in and out of the laptop. The problem is that Windows 98 didn’t recognize the USB port. Rather than mess around with Microsft patches, I decided to dump Windows and instead install Ubuntu, a gnu/linux free software operating system. [If you're interesting in finding out more about free software, Richard Stallman, founder of the free software movement, explains the four freedoms. here.]
So my my debut novel, “Inconstant Moon”, was written on a Linux machine, using the free OpenOffice Writer software.
But there was another problem with my laptop. I was unable to connect the wee beastie to the Internet. So when it came time to upload the novel, first to NaNoWriMo for the “win”, and then to CreateSpace for the proof, I hadn’t yet resolved the problems of connecting to the Internet with my laptop, so I used the USB thumbdrive to transfer my manuscript to my desktop machine, which was running Windows XP.
And transferring my novel into Windows meant the Ubuntu fonts didn’t work properly because Windows didn’t support the free software fonts (surprise). So transferring “Inconstant Moon” into Windows made it a visual disaster. But it was my only option. I had to replace the free fonts in Ubuntu with Windows proprietary fonts. It required reformatting, which was a great deal of work. But I did it and the whole thing looked good. All the subsequent editing on the desktop Windows machine for one reason only: I didn’t want to have to reformat every time I switched machines.
When the proof came back from Create Space it was gorgeous. I planned to proof read and then publish, but excellent new feedback from my beta readers transmogrified “proof reading” into “major editing”. The Windows fonts I had selected printed nicely in the proof, so I wanted to keep them. Nienke was quite taken with the look of the overall book design, which is a great compliment, and gratifying, as she is one of the people I look to as a natural arbiter of style. Everything in the proof looked so good I didn’t want to risk the book design by messing with the fonts.
And the next proof looked great, too. But again, proofing turned into editing, including the addition of several new scenes. Even so, this time through it was only a minor edit. The final rounds of editing “Inconstant Moon” took much longer than I thought, but I have to say I am very happy with the result.
@notveryalice has lately been exploring what makes art “good” in her blog. Personally, I find it extraordinarily difficult to tell if my own work is doing what I want it to without a lot of distance. I can read my own work with perfect objectivity… years after I’ve written it. First I have to get beyond remembering the writing with perfect clarity.
That’s why beta readers and/or editors are essential to the business of self publishing. Beta readers provide feedback and allow me to get a different perspective. Much of my confidence that I’ve written a good novel is from the feedback I’ve received. It is always a good sign when beta readers are so drawn in to the story they forget to flag the typos. The last rounds of editing have smoothed off the last rough edges and enriched the story. So I’m pleased.
The most important thing I’ve learned as a writer is when to stop. You can keep editing forever. That’s not what I want, I want my work to be out there. Anyway, although theoretically there is always room for improvement, once you go beyond the sweet spot, my experience tells me that the work generally goes downhill. With the final edit complete, the last bit of business before uploading “Inconstant Moon” to CreateSpace was research for an afterward “Notes on the Type” page.
I was aware that fonts might be covered by copyright, but, self publishing noob that I am, I foolishly had the idea that “Windows XP Professional” would have licensed the fonts they made available to me so that I would be able to use them in desk top publishing. But now the novel is done, and I’m planning to finalize it.
Just to be certain, I wanted to check that I could use the selected fonts for a commercial project. So I tried to find out what the license was. I spent days jumping through Windows hoops trying to find out what the license was. I’d chosen four fonts in the manuscript and on the cover. Perhaps some or all might not allow for self publishing, which is, after all, a commercial use.
What a shocking concept: the possibility that I might not be legally entitled to use the fonts included with the software. All I need to know is whether or not I can legally use the the fonts I’ve chosen in my novel. Like most self publishers, I don’t have legal advice on tap.
After a week of trying unsuccessfully to find out from Microsoft if I could legally use the five fonts I’d selected, I decided instead to dump all the old fonts and find free alternatives. What it came down to is that I simply couldn’t find out. Microsoft is much tougher than I am. [I expect I'll blog the details later.]
For me, of special importance is the ability to have licensing that will allow me to release my novel “Inconstant Moon” under a Creative Commons license. There was a moment of weakness when I considered paying the license fees just to get it over with. But the language of the license was disturbing. Although I’m not a lawyer, it certainly made it sound as though the font licenses might restrict my ability to use the Creative Commons license I want. Most frustrating is the fact that Microsoft does not make this information available on one of their web pages.
But it is simply not worth risking a copyright infringement lawsuit. The amount of time invested in this wild goose chase was more than enough, and it was time to pull the plug and look into free fonts.
the world of free fonts
Because I didn’t want to risk the successful book design, I had put off making the full fledged migration to Ubuntu I planned so I could keep the Microsoft fonts. But when I began looking for alternatives, the irony is that the wider world offers better choices under free licenses, and makes what’s on offer from Microsoft look pitiful by comparison. I will blog more about my situation later, in hopes of trying to help others avoid the problems I’ve been having. But first I need to get my novel finished.
Libreleft Books logo
When I decided to self publish, I decided I wanted my own imprint, so I came up with a name, “Libreleft Books.” The logo I designed for it consisted of encircling the ‘Libreleft Books’ text with a wreath of laurel leaves. It seemed like a good idea, as my name is Laurel, after all. The Laurel wreath has long been used as an emblem of quality, a symbol of superiority. Or, as @CharlieSheen famously says, #winning.
But. A conversation with @notveryalice reminded me that the movie festival circuit has embraced the laurel wreath as a symbol of festival winning. Which means that using my laurel wreath design might open myself up to charges of copyright or trademark infringement.
I have read about the ways copyright and trademark law are being used to suppress creativity and competition. And while no one is likely to confuse a book with a movie festival, lately the law no longer seems to make such distinctions.
Back in the days I wrote for television I had learned it was always safest to name a character something terribly common, like John Smith, or incredibly uncommon, like John Dortmunder. The most dangerous in terms of lawsuits is a name that only one person has. The extrapolation is that the safest course would be the redesign of my lovely Libreleft Books logo.
The very definition of chilling effect.
For an eleventh hour change, instead of my wreath, it would be safer to use a book. I’m pretty sure that the most common book publisher logo going is some graphic representation of a book. And the very commonness of the symbol is in itself protection. So I after dumping my beautiful wreath graphic, I drew a picture of a book to be the background. It has entailed a huge amount of effort, and what is galling is that it has delayed my self publication. I like this one too, but not as much as my crown of laurel leaves. But between the Caslon font and the wreath… well. Chill.
“but if there’s any profit, pls make a donation to organizations like Doctors Without Borders.”
I’ve done a wee bit of modification, adding a copyleft arrow as a serif on the capital L, extending the serifs into swashes to join the letters k and s. But that’s the thing about free: I am legally free to make these alterations. I’m not sure I’m happy with it, but I don’t have time to second guess just now. Maybe it’ll grow on me, or maybe I’ll change it down the road. The point is that I can proceed. So, thank you, Manfred Klein — and all the other designers and digitizers — for making sure to populate the Internet with free fonts.
So. There is a happy ending.
I am finishing up the reformatting, and my novel “Inconstant Moon” will be uploaded to CreateSpace by tomorrow. The chilling effect for fonts and logos hasn’t stopped me, but it did slow me down. And I will share the information in an effort to try to help others avoid the same trap, because the ability for writers to self publish is a good thing. And important.
My love of storytelling is probably why my favorite non-fiction reading has always been biography. I first remember delving into biography when I was in High School, I was a voracious reader, and so was on the lookout for new areas of interest once I’d already exhausted all the mystery, historical and science fiction in the school library.
Biographies can be a much more accessible way to learn about history because the subject is essentially a protagonist. I expect this is why A&E’s Biography show was so successful. For me though, a one hour segment is too superficial. I much prefer reading a book.
All biographies are not created equal. Some are easy to read and some are hard work. One of my favorite fiction writers wrote one of the most unreadable autobiographies I’ve ever tried to read. Autobiographers must not only list facts, they need to open up to the reader (or at least leave the reader feeling that they have). Most of the biographies I’ve read have been good, some for telling about an interesting life, some for being well written.
In fact I’m old enough that if I find myself halfway through a biography that hasn’t engaged me I’ll put it down. Life is too short and there is too much good stuff to read.
Of all the biographies I’ve read (and I’ve a heap I have yet to read), these are my favorites. I haven’t read any of them for quite a while, but they will all be re-read at least once more.
A Biography by Barbara Leaming
Undoubtedly a brilliant man, Welles frightened the world with an alien invasion on radio, was the radio voice of “The Shadow”, angered one of the most powerful men in the world with his cinema masterpiece “Citizen Kane” and he married Rita Hayworth. Orson Welles was an incredibly interesting guy, This biography is one of the weirdest biography/autobiographies I’ve ever found, but it was delicious. It’s hard to describe, but it’s a kind of cat and mouse game between the biographer and the formidable Mr. Welles. Well worth a read.
Agatha Christie: An Autobiography
I discovered Agatha Christie mysteries when I first started reading for fun in my teens. Inadvertently beginning with her first book (“The Secret Adversary”), Christie’s books were easy to lay hands on my an older sister was a big Miss Marple fan. So I read everything she wrote that I could find. Over the years I’ve heard people denigrate Christie’s writing as being simple and formulaic. Having gone back and re-read many of her books, I disagree. She did invent a kind of formula, but the stories were not formulaic. Her writing stands up today on re-reading as being just as good as I remember it.
When I discovered that my Dad had found her autobiography at a yard sale, I borrowed it. It was if anything more incredible reading than any one of her books. She led an interesting life. In fact, she opened up and shared herself enough that I felt I got to know her as a person not an abstraction. I loved this autobiography so much that I made a point of not returning it to my Dad until I’d gotten my hands on a copy for myself.
To the Stars: George Takei
The trekkie in me bought this book but it was a very good read. Mr. Takei is a brilliant and engaging man, and he writes very well indeed. The thing that I was totally unprepared for was the dynamite buried in his childhood.
As a Japanese American Takei spent a chunk of his World War II childhood in an American Detention Camp. He manages to both minimize the horrors with the breeziness of childhood resilience, but at the same time the adult writer in him makes the evil of the whole exercise very clear. Very heavy in parts, but worth it.
I actually encouraged my ten year old to read it for the first person account of history. And George Takei’s ability to look at life with wry wit makes the later bits both interesting and readable.
And of course all of Mr. Sulu’s fans will get a huge kick out of the behind the scenes Star Trek gossip. It is a good solid biography, though, not mere fan fare.
You can visit http://www.georgetakei.com/ to catch up with him nowadays.
Tracy and Hepburn: An Intimate Memoir
by Garson Kanin
This one is a little bit different because it is a biography of a couple. Written by their friend, writer/director Garson Kanin, this is the story of the bitter sweet off-screen relationship of Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn.
The combination of societies mores and his own catholic upbringing prevented movie star Spenser Tracy from divorcing his wife to marry Hepburn
Kanin makes it clear in this biography that had circumstances been different these two would have been happily married.
Kanin’s connection with his friends combined with his story telling ability brings his subjects alive, making this a very accessible read.
Stompin’ Tom: Before The Fame
by Stompin’ Tom Connors
Stompin’ Tom Connors is a Canadian icon. He was the first performer to actually write songs about Canada because he wanted to. And once begun, he wrote song after song about this land of ours. He does not have a beautiful singing voice, but his songs are incredibly engaging. Many of them cause me to laugh out loud.
Stompin’ Tom is a consummate showman, the ultimate self made man. But more than anyone living, Stompin’ Tom has given Canadians an identity to hang their hats on. I doubt that there’s a Canadian alive who has NOT heard of this man. Certainly every Canadian performing artist knows his name.
Connors travelled back and forth across Canada making a living as an entertainer, which is where he amassed his storehouse of material for songs and stories. But no record label would record him. So he recorded himself.
After becoming successful and even internationally known, incredibly Stompin Tom went on to do battle with dragons to fight for Canadian Content regulations to protect and support the young entertainers coming up after him. Pure class.
Of course, that’s not what this first volume of his autobiography is about. It’s about the hellacious childhood that the boy born Tommy Messer survived. It’s about a child torn from a young mother who had no support in a world without effective help for its weakest citizens. Its about injustice and hope.
This is probably the best biography I’ve ever read because Connors brings you right into his childhood, and makes you feel what it was like. The fact that he spoke so candidly and honestly about things that obviously hurt him deeply is why this book was such a mega hit in Canada. He made people understand.
I am amazed that this man has been able to accomplish so much in his life after the childhood he endured. He has survived and has triumphed, and has principles he believes in and stands up for. Stompin’ Tom Connors is willing and able to work selflessly for the betterment of the community. He’s downright inspirational.
Canada Post just honored Stompin’ Tom by putting him on a stamp.
But it was this biography that made Stompin’ Tom my hero.