Martyn K Jones

Leg Iron Books

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Some notes on eBook formatting


Just had a story rejected as an eBook over formatting issues. Easily resolved, but a thoroughgoing pain to have to go over and redo work you thought you’d completed a month ago.

The trick seems to be that my specific eBook publisher needs the source document to have the story spilt into specific segments, like chapters. Now I find cutting up a story like this a bit limiting sometimes, as chapters can get in the way of a narrative flow by cutting it into distinct chunks. For some narratives they work, but for others, not. I find they tend to slow the flow of a story down too much, especially if you’re dealing with multiple related story lines.

For my Novella, ‘The Odd Machine‘ which is out as an eBook, I had to chop the story into fourteen distinct ‘chunks’ to satisfy the eBook criteria, with the factual story notes as a fifteenth section. As someone who can read at over twelve hundred words a minute when the mood takes him, I find chapters in this format are often too short and detract from the pleasure of reading.

When formatting, the simple rules to follow seem to be these,
Firstly; ensure that all indented paragraphs have no extra tabs in them. Always use the ‘Paragraph format’ tool with the ‘first line’ option selected. If you can get away with it, don’t use tabs in your manuscript at all.
Secondly; in the MSS file, the eBook title should be in ‘Heading 1’
Thirdly; the chapter headings should be in ‘Heading 2’ and any subsections in ‘Heading 3’. Anything else doesn’t seem to work.

Following these simple rules should ensure that your eBook gets out into the marketplace without any unwarranted and annoying formatting related delays.

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Cerberus


Am doing a first proof on a partial MSS I last worked on five years ago. I like it, but even I can see why the project ground to a halt though. The plot is too weak. The story runs out of steam at around the 45,000 word mark. Paints a great picture of a post-anarchy South London though.

My major issue is that in spite of there being enough detail, drama, sex and violence in the narrative, there are too many loose ends. No definite direction. Apart from that its very well written and has lots to maintain reader interest, including some quite elegant character quirks. Despite that, the MSS is in need of a revamp to get the story successfully from A to Z.

I think that apart from a jailbreak, the storyline tells little of my lead characters motivations and objectives. That is the projects main weakness. He’s swept along by events and doesn’t really take control of his destiny. He’s a great Deus ex machina, but needs a little something extra. In the words of Hitchcock, a Macguffin.

Aside from that, a little extra thought will make ‘Shifting States’ ready for market. Fifteen thousand words and a cliffhanger ending, perhaps. Four to six weeks work in between putting the last volume of the Stars Trilogy together, and beginning work on Earth’s Night.

Literary festival?


At a neighbours birthday party last night I got talking to a neighbour of mine (Kenn Joubert) who writes historical fiction (Even won an award for it), and we fell to discussing the issues surrounding self published works. Issues like the difficulties associated with getting your product to market. Most of them to do with distribution. Problems like Book shops being highly reluctant to stock non mainstream books except on terms that significantly reduce author royalties. Some who won’t even talk to self published authors, as though self publishing was some kind of communicable disease.

One of the ideas we bounced around was a regular series of Literary events for local self publish authors, purely on a co-operative basis. Nanaimo is a tourist stopover for Cruise ships, and the thought occurs that perhaps if we synchronised our events with cruise ship arrivals we might act firstly as a point of sale for member self publishers, secondly as an attraction for those cruise ship passengers who are looking for something to read where they can guarantee to talk to an author.

While the idea is all very nebulous at the moment, I can actually see it working; providing we get the mechanics of who does what agreed, and everyone sticks to their part of the ship. A downtown location would work best to make travel easier for visitors. A deal done with a local hotel, something that provides a focus for visitors. Like the Hay-on-Wye festival in the UK. Perhaps something coupled with a regular web presence. Rather than hiding our collective laurels under a bush, perhaps with a little goodwill such a concept can be made to work, and not cost us a fortune.

Why Vampires and Zombies?


I was in Chapters, our local bookstore this afternoon, and couldn’t help wondering at the proliferation of Vampire and Zombie related titles. Is it just me, or does anyone else out there find the whole living dead thing a bit old hat and rather tired?

From the salacious covers on display, I’d say there was some serious pseudo-erotic component in there. Particularly as there were a lot of sexy female vampire type covers. Fangs, fancy corsetry, high hemlines and plenty of voluptuous décolletage, that sort of thing. Oh well, if that’s what a section of the public wants, I’m glad there’s someone to cater for that particular low taste in literature.

As for Zombies. Well, the thing about zombies is that they’re dead and decomposing. After death, flesh rapidly loses its cohesion as bacteriological processes run their course. Connective tissue shrinks and binds, proteins dissolve and bits drop off. As for the whole brain eating meme, the digestive organs and mucosa are among the first things to rot on a corpse. So the suspension of witting disbelief has to be pretty strong for readers of the genre. Even if a zombie could get up enough of a lick of speed to catch you, its body is falling apart, and the wretched thing will have no digestive system to absorb your living grey and white matter as a protein source, even if it had sufficient strength to kill you, what with wasting flesh and disarticulation of joints. Smelly, yes, unhygienic certainly; but scary? Hmm. withholding judgement on that one.

All very macabre, but can’t compare to what living people are capable of inflicting on each other without supernatural intervention.

Work, work, work….


Have elected to rewrite Cerberus as a series of shorter works, as opposed to the original trilogy. Paul Calvin is too good a character to limit in that particular fashion. Telempathic Cop turned rebel solving mysteries? Shades of Sherlock Holmes, but not quite so full of himself. 50 – 60,000 words apiece, which should allow a higher output if there’s demand.

The follow on to the Stars trilogy I’m going to call ‘Earth’s Night’. No idea why. I just like the sound of it, that’s all. Similar format to the Stars trilogy, set two hundred years on. There’s a whole slew of ideas already in note form. All I have to do is finish ‘Darkness’ on schedule and move on.

New Page


I’ve gathered up all the links to my currently published work on a single page, which I’ve added to the blog. I’m quietly pleased about the result, because anyone who wants to access my work now has a single point of contact.

Between visits to Vets for poorly pup, nursemaiding old friends through bereavement, house moves, and subsequent skirmishes with bureaucracy, it has been a very busy time. Throw in the odd run in with food poisoning and Google shutting off my email, not to mention extra shift work, I think I’ve coped admirably. Did I mention it was raining heavily and that snow is expected this Friday?

All grist to the mill. Carry on remorseless. The world turns on.

I have no mail


Google has arbitrarily suspended my primary e-mail account for ‘unusual activity’ and is demanding my cell phone number to re-activate. I do not wish to give them my cell phone number, or other personal details.

I find the best way to avoid ID theft on the Internet is not to make your personal details available in the first place. This includes Google. If asked, I’d be inclined to think that their own security is compromised, and they don’t know how to fix it.

In the meantime, all my e-mail is inaccessible. At present I’m inclined to describe Google in terms that are short, Anglo-saxon, and considered obscene in polite society.

Update: Still fuming, but have got my e-mail back online with a changed password. Now I need to reset my e-mail client. Which is annoying.

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