April 30, 2008

All Things Great and Good

Thanks to Ginosion, I have another review for Honest, the Martian Ate Your Dog, woo hoo! Ginosion’s a good friend and I appreciate him taking the time to write a review immediately upon reading my blog post yesterday. So, I think I’m going to dedicate this post to Ginosion and other good and great things on the Internet that have come my way recently :)

I am a subscriber to WOSSNAME which is a great e-mail newsletter for fans of Terry Pratchett and his Discworld series. Yes, they are all good and great things but that’s not the thrust of this article here :) In the latest issue of WOSSNAME, they featured Discworld art by an artist named Ruben de Vela. Now I like good art. I can’t draw well enough to beat a man with palsy in a gun battle, but I certainly enjoy good art when I see it. And I was blown away by the examples of Ruben’s artwork that WOSSNAME featured. (Oh yeah, if you’re curious, the newsletter linked to Squeak, A Hat Full of Sky, and Angua by Ruben.)

While I enjoyed all of the images, I was especially struck by the one of Angua. There were so many tiny little details to the piece which brought the spirit of Discworld to life; from the tower of art in the background to the posters on the wall which, instead of gibberish, had actual Discworld (and Ankh Morpork) related stuff. Additionally, the kind of 3D perspective the painting had and the quaint old-world feel that the buildings conveyed was just fabulous.

Of cousre, this was before I discovered Ruben’s deviantART gallery and discovered his own comments on the image. Apparently there were things I’d missed about the image in my first few looks, like Gaspode the wonder dog and CMOT Dibbler! That just confirmed, in my own mind at least, how intricate and detailed that particular image was :)

As I think I’ve mentioned before here on this blog, I enjoy the detailed, crammed-to-the-brim-with-references covers that Josh Kirby used to do, especially for the Discworld series. I absolutely love that kind of artwork over your normal, humdrum one-idea, one-image kind of cover. Ruben looks as if he might be the kind of person who can pull off the Josh Kirby-esque artwork that I love so much. I wish him the best and hope that someday, he will indeed be doing work equivalent to that of Kirby because we need another Kirby, darn it! 😀

April 29, 2008

First Review of “Honest, the Martian Ate Your Dog!”

Woo hoo! I’ve got my first review (scroll to the bottom of the page) and it’s pretty good! And no, I didn’t write it myself or get a friend to do it for me :p I do know the person who wrote the review – at least, I think I do …

I moderate a board on this writing forum called Absolute Write where writerly types gather together to help each other, to swap stories and to discuss the art and craft of writing :) I had helped somebody on the forums with a minor problem they had and they were kind enough to offer to do something back for me. I asked them to do a review of my book if they had the time.

This person actually went on to buy the book because they said that they’d read a few chapters and liked it enough to buy the book :) And then yesterday, I happened to scroll to the bottom of the Honest, the Martian Ate Your Dog page on Lulu, and happened to notice that I had a review! It appears that the review was written a couple of days ago. Not sure if it takes that much time for a review to come up on Lulu or if I had actually missed the review for a few days :p

Whatever the case, I’m happy with the review. Now to see if I can get a second review from somebody… 😀

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Posted by Fahim at 6:23 am  |  3 Comments

April 28, 2008

In, Designing with InDesign

I spent most of yesterday in, doing layout work on C3, the magazine I edit. Not that I go out most other days, but that’s a different story :) And yes, if I edit the mag, what was I doing working with the layout?

Basically, the layout is done by another person who’s supposed to have years of exeprience with InDesign, which is what we use to layout the magazine. Unfortunately, we tend to get into cycles where I’d send a change back, they’d fix it and send it back and I’d find something else has gone wrong. So we’d go back and forth like ten times to get things finally sorted out. We just didn’t have time for that this time.

The magazine should have been out already and I was getting slightly annoyed at the delays. So I asked if I could have the InDesign file myself so that I could do all the necessary changes at my end, fix all the things which annoyed me and so on and get things ready to go.

I got the file and it turned out that the other person likes to do things the hard way :-( InDesign provides a heck of a lot of tools which make repetitive stuff like templates, page numbers a breeze. You simply have to set up a master properly and you can modify the master to propagate your changes across your whole document. But the person doing the layout didn’t seem to understand all the nuances of doing a master such as layers and overriding master elements. So they were doing separate masters for almost every new page and editing/embedding some of the text in the master itself. It was a bit of a mess.

I spent most of the day sorting things out, fixing issue details which would otherwise have gone to print with incorrect information, and even re-arranging some images in the layout so that there wouldn’t be so much unused space.

I do have to wonder, how much of a given application do most "normal" users actually use? Do they know all the features that are there? Or do they simply try to "bruteforce" their way through the task instead of using the tools available to them?

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Posted by Fahim at 6:44 am  |  No Comments

April 25, 2008

First There Was Weird Science …

… And now there’s Lulu-science :) Laurie invented the term yesterday when talking about my curiosity to know how many places you are bumped up the ranks with one book sale on Lulu.

Thanks to my friend Ginosion, who bought a copy of Honest, the Martian Ate Your Dog, we are well on the way to learning what the impact of one book sale is on Lulu rankings :) Of course, the thing is, we probably have to wait a month for the next tabulation of rankings and so it’ll be a while before the next update on Lulu-science, but I will be sure to keep everybody posted as to how things go. (Of course, don’t let that stop you from buying a copy of my book, if you’ve been considering it 😀 Or simply download the free e-book version, see what you think of it and if you like it, then go buy the printed version …)

In other news, I am back to posting more regularly. I don’t know if this has anything to do with the switch back to WordPress or if I simply had been too tired of blogging, but I do find that I want to blog again. I do wonder if the WordPress interface has something to do with it though because in using it, I seem to find the WordPress control panel easier and more responsive than the MovableType one. Of course, this is not empirical data, just subject opinion …

April 24, 2008

“Honest, the Martian Ate Your Dog” Jumps 10,000+ Places in Lulu Sales Rankings!

I kid you not :) My book, Honest, the Martian Ate Your Dog, has jumped over 10,000 places in the Lulu sales ranks. Last week when I checked the rankings, I was somewhere around 61,729 or something similar. I check today and I am at 50,227 :)

OK, I’ll let you in on a little secret (and you probably knew this already if you know anything about self-publishing, Lulu etc.) – I only sold three books (as far as I know) for that huge jump in sales rankings :p

The thing that confuses me though is the fact that this jump in rankings did not take place for over a month after the sales occurred. But then again, that’s probably how the Lulu sales-ranking system works. Now that I think about it, if they have a return policy, that also probably allows them to take returns into account when calculating the sales rank.

Anyway, a month or so ago, I had sold two books within a short period of time and that’s when I thought about sales rankings. So I began checking the sales rankings to see if they changed. They didn’t as far as I could tell. Then I sold another book. I checked the sales rankings again. Still no change. So I thought that perhaps three books weren’t enough to make a dent in the sales rankings and gave up checking on them. Then today I happened to check the book page (as I normally do occasionally :p) and noticed that the sales rank had changed … and how! I guess it just takes a while for the rankings to change …

My question now is, how much more will my rankings go up if one more book is purchased? Anybody wanna give it a try? 😀

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Posted by Fahim at 12:06 pm  |  2 Comments

April 23, 2008

Back To Pressing Word

Yes, it’s happened again :p Once upon an era ago, I used to use MovableType (MT) but I switched to WordPress (WP) when the MovableType license became too restrictive and commercialized. I switched back to MovableType when they opened up the license and at a time when WordPress development was stagnating. And now, to complicate matters even further, I have switched back to WordPress because I hate the "improvements" made to MovableType 4.0 and don’t really want to upgrade to that particular interface/release :)

Of course, switching back and forth between blogging applications is never an easy or fun task :) The MT to WP importer included with WP is good enough if all you want is your entries (and perhaps comments, I forget now, I really haven’t used the built-in importer in a long time) transferred over. However, I usually want an exact copy of my current blog transferred over including authors, comments, categories, tags and even blogrolls, if possible :) So, I had to do the work myself.

I had previously written a script to transfer most of the above from MT to WP but when I tried to use the script, I discovered that database changes had left the script behind :p So, I had to sit down and figure out the changes made to both MT and WP table structures all over again. After a couple of hours of work, I had a new script which allowed me to transfer over everything from my existing MT 3.x installation to WP 2.5 :) (Yes, I will put the script up for download soon …)

But that’s not all there is to it, right? I had to get my old theme converted over. But I was lucky there because I had originally converted my WP theme over to MT when I switched to MT the last time and I still had the old WP theme. So a few tweaks later, I was ready to go there. But wait … there was more to be done …

I post to my blog using my own offline blogging utility, Blog. So I had to test Blog to make sure that it worked fine with the latest version of WP. And wouldn’t you know it, there was an issue – tagging, which had worked fine under MT, was not working with WP. I had to find the issue and fix it. Then, I had to get all the plugins I wanted, configure them, check that they worked fine and then deploy them.

Finally, all the work is done. And I’m ready to get back to WordPress. So here’s Solipsistic Meanderings once again in WP :)

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Posted by Fahim at 8:58 am  |  2 Comments