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Saturday, October 18, 2008

Christmas Sales on Infinite Realities!

I've decided to discount my book, Infinite Realities, that I sell from my web site as we approach Christmas. Amazon has never discounted it nor other major retailers. So, leading up to Christmas at least, I'm selling author-signed copies of my book from my web site at $6.99 plus $2.75 shipping. (Normal retail price is $9.99) I also have a few copies of Strange World's of Lunacy left as well if you want to add that to your cart.

This book makes a good gift for people of all ages. M. Keaton had this to say about the book:
The prose is direct, often conversational, allowing even younger readers to enjoy the book while the themes are sufficiently mature in scope to engage readers of any age.

Spread the word!


Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Using Open Office for Novel Writing

This information is based upon Open Office version 2.3.

Open Office is a suite of software applications, including a word processor, spreadsheet, presentation software, and database. It is an "open source" application which for the end user means it is free to download and use on your computer. It rivals MS Office for ability, and on the whole does a good job of it, actually improving in some areas. You can download and read more about it at:

One of the cool things for authors is the ability to set up Open Office's Writer (the word processor) to accomplish many of the task novel writing software claims to make easier. Task like easily navigating in your document, quickly moving scenes or chapters, automatic renumbering of scenes and chapters, as well as document wide task like saving to a Word doc file, printing, formatting, find/replace, etc.

However, it takes a little setting up to accomplish these task. But it is time well spent before beginning a big project like a novel.

Setting up styles

The first thing to do will be to set up some styles. There are three paragraph styles you will need. Novel Body, Chapter, and Scene.

Novel Body:

This should be the style the body of your text will be in. Naturally, you would want this to be in "Standard Submission" format. Open the "Style and Formatting" box by hitting the F11 button, or in the menu, "Format," "Styles and Formatting." A window box will pop open listing various styles.

* Right-click on a default style, like "Text body" and select "New".
* Give your new style a name, replacing the "Untitled" name it gives, such as "Novel Body" or whatever you prefer.
* Select a non-proportional font from the "Font" tab like "Courier New" and make it 12 point.
* Select the "Indents and Spacing" tab, set the first line indent to "0.5" and the line spacing to "double."
* Click "OK" and your new style has been created.


Do the same as above, right-clicking on "Heading 2". Modify this to select the font of your choice, you can left set it or center it. But in the "Organizer" tab, give it the name, "Chapter" and set "Novel Body" (or whatever name you gave it above) to be the next style used after pressing enter. In the "Indents and Spacing" tab make sure all indents are 0.0. Click "OK".


How you set up the scene style depends on how you intend to use it. The most common way would be to set it up as a heading, which will work for most functions.

In the "Styles and Formatting" box, right-click the heading style you would like to show scene headings as (recommend Heading 3), and select "New." Give it the name in the "Organizer" tab as "Scene" and select "Novel Body" in the "Next style" field. Make any other adjustments necessary and then click "OK" to save this style. If scene headings are going to be printed out, you will probably want to set this as italics and centered.

You will be able to show either scene headers you type like, "The beast rips him apart," or you can simply show numbered scenes that will change automatically if you move them. Once you are ready to print, but don't want to print those as headings, you right-click the style in the "Style and Formatting" box, and select "Modify." Then "Font Effects" and click the "hidden" box in the lower-right corner. Once you click "OK" those headers will not print out. Remove that check to once again show them.

If you are going to use the first paragraph of each scene as it's "marker," then right-click the "Novel Body" style we created at the top and select "New." Simply give it the name "Scene" and select "Novel Body" as the "Next" text to pop up. The first paragraph of each scene will have this style.

Setting up Header Hierarchy

Now that the styles are set up, it is time to make them part of the heading outline. Click "Tools" in the menu, and then, "Outline numbering." In the "Level" window on the left, select "1". In the center drop down box, select the "Chapter" paragraph style we created earlier. In the "Number" drop down box, select "1, 2, 3..." from the list. In the "Before" field, enter "Chapter " with the space on the end. Leave it blank if you only want the chapter number to show up, but no additional text.

Now in the "Level" window, click "2". Select "Scene" from the paragraph style drop down list. If you want them automatically numbered, select "1, 2, 3..." in the "Number" drop down box. If you want "Scene" for a title, in the "Before" field enter "Scene " with the space on the end. In the "After" field, enter a ":" or whatever you might want.

You have set up your outline headers so that Chapter and Scene paragraph styles point to a level in the outline and will show up in the Navigator as well as automatically reflect numbering based on what order they are in the document.

Saving for future use:

Naturally, you'll want to save this so you can use it anytime. If you have these styles set up as you want them, and there is no text in the Writer document at the time, save this as a template.

Click in the menu "File," "Templates," and "Save." Click on "My Templates" to save there, and give the new template a name, like "Novels".

When you want to start a new novel file, click on the drop down arrow to the right of the new button and select "Templates and Documents". Select "Novels" from the "My Templates" folder and click "OK" to open a file. Your novel styles will be available for use, without affecting Writer's standard defaults.

Using the styles for writing a novel

To make use of the new setup, open the Navigator window in your document if not already open. This shows up as a compass looking graphic in the tool bar, or you can click "Edit" and "Navigator," or hit F5. If the window is floating, you can dock it by dragging it to a side. If you can't see it, make sure the right side of the Navigator box isn't slid all the way to the left by clicking on a handle and dragging the window open. You should see a list of several items, the first one being "Headings" which we are interested in. Open it up far enough so you can see the four boxes on the far right of the window's toolbar that allow for movement of the pieces. They look like "text" with arrows beside them going up or down, right or left.

Now, you can either begin writing a novel, outlining, or you can take a novel you have already started and prep it.


To outline, start with a synopsis. Type that out first. You can start with a small one, and build to a larger one. You can even detail out characters here if you wish, for easy future reference.

On the first chapter, click F11 and double-click the "Chapter" style. You will see the "Chapter 1" appear, centered and formatted as you set up. You can either leave it at that, or hit enter, then give the chapter a title by using a standard header style, like Header 2. Center if need be.

Below that, summarize the plot point(s) this chapter should fill. Once done, hit enter, and then do this over for the next chapter.

Once done, you can go back to the top to detail out each scene if you so desire. Click under the chapter summary/plot point. Hit F11 and double-click the "Scene" style. Type out any heading desired, or just a summary of that scene's plot point.

Just write it!

If you're the type that just starts writing, when you are ready to begin the first chapter, hit F11, and double-click the "Chapter" style. The Chapter and # will appear automatically. Hit enter.

Then click F11, and double-click "Scene". If set, it will automatically pop in the scene number and text in. You can then enter a header, or if set for it, the first paragraph of your scene. Then type away.

Next scene comes up, do the same thing. Next chapter, double-click on the "Chapter" style. Once used in your document, you can also see them in the style drop down box in the toolbar that is opened by default in Open Office Writer.

As an added tip, you can also set in the "Text Flow" tab of the style, to automatically start a new page at each chapter. Hit F11, right-click "Chapter" style and select "Modify." Select the "Text Flow" tab, and check the "Insert" box in the "Break" section. Make sure "Page" is in the next drop down box, and "Before" in the far right one. Now when you double-click the Chapter style, it will add in a new page as well as the text with automatic number formatting.

Import it:

This is a more tedious process. Open your novel in OO Writer. Hit Ctrl-A to mark all text in the document. Double-click the "Novel Body" style in the style window, and all the text will be changed to the standard submission format.

Now, go through your novel and apply the Chapter and Scene styles to the appropriate spots. You may need to delete chapter number info if you have manually entered it before.

Navigating and Moving Text

Now that you have done this work, you should see in the Navigator, under "Headings" a list of the chapters and scenes in an outline format. If you do not, make sure you have the "Display" set to show at least 2 levels, but safest to set it for all ten.

To go to a scene in the Navigator, double-click on that scene. You are now there.

To move a scene or chapter, select that scene or chapter. Use the buttons at the top of the Navigator window, square text boxes with arrows pointing up and down, to move the scene or chapter to a new location. If you have the tips turned on, it will call them "Promote a chapter" and "Demote a chapter." By clicking on the button with the arrow going down, it moves your scene or chapter one section down. Likewise, the up arrow moves it up. Click on it enough times till it is where you want it.

You will notice that automatic scene or chapter numbers will adjust as you move it around. This effectively allows you to shuffle pieces any way you want within your document.

And since this is all one document (not chapters in individual files), you can easily get a word count for the whole project, or do a find/replace if you need to change something over the whole project, set formatting for printing, etc. Anything you can do in a regular OO Writer document, you can do here because that is what this is.

The down side is if you want a word count of a section in the middle of your novel. Or if your publisher/agent wants one chapter of your novel sent to them. It means first marking the section in question, and then running a word count, or doing a copy/paste into a new document to save separately.

You can get a word count of a chapter fairly easily if it is the last chapter in your document. When ready, double-click on the chapter in the Navigator. Hold down the "Ctrl-Shift" keys and hit "End". It will mark the chapter to the end of the document. Then run the word count.

You can use the master document feature in OO Writer, which has its benefits. You can drag and drop the chapters to move them around, but creating scenes in it becomes cumbersome because you will either have a separate file for each scene or keep the scenes in each chapter file, which means to move scenes between chapters requires a mark, cut and paste operation. If scenes are in each chapter file, it also means you lose the detailed "overview" of your whole project, chapters and scenes, that you get with it all in one document.

However, the automatic numbering will still work for chapters in the master document. Within a chapter file, it will always say "Chapter 1" but in the master document, they will be numbered according to their position.

In the master document, you can also easily edit the chapter file (each chapter is its own separate file) and get a word count of just that chapter, or send the file to someone who wants that one chapter without any fuss. The downside to it, is it is harder to move scenes from one chapter to another, and there are restrictions on what you can do in a master document. (You can't save it to one large file, for instance without the master document "features," but have to copy/paste the whole document into a regular Writer file.)

Some of the writer software duplication here is a bit crude, like story plotting and character notes. You may find it easier to keep track of those either in another Writer file, or other application like Excel or a database. But this can give you a free, novel-writing application with the flexibility of the big boys, but with a full featured word processor (unlike many of them). Just a little time investment to set it up.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

An Interesting Interview

Today, Abandoned Towers Magazine posted an interview with me on their web site!

A good range of questions were asked, and I did my best to answer them. Worth checking out if you want to get into the inner workings of my mind. Or maybe, just peaking in is all you want to do. Either way, check out the interview.

You can either use this link, or you can go to the Abandoned Towers Magazine, click on "Interviews" on the bottom left, then on "Interview with R. L. Copple."


Friday, October 10, 2008

FenCon is a lot of FunCon

As some of you know—and if you don't, well, now I'm telling you—I attended FenCon 2008 on Oct. 3-5. This is the first sci-fi/fantasy fiction convention I've attended. About a month ago, my publisher put out a call for anyone within range of Dallas, TX to come and help him at the convention. He had purchased a book table spot in the dealer room.

I thought about it (for less than a minute) and decided I could give that a go. Next thing you know, I'm signed up for FenCon. But not only signed up, I was encouraged to offer my services as a writer, editor, podcaster, and all around good guy, to sit in on any panels they might have need of. Low and behold, I'm classified as a guest, put on a panel for audio books, and my mug shot gets thrown on the list of guests.

So, Oct. 3rd rolls around, and I'm off to Dallas, about a 3.5 hour drive to the north side of Dallas. Nice trip except for the traffic once I came into Dallas. But a thankfully uneventful drive other than the nice scenery I took in on the back roads.

I found the hotel without any trouble, and figured I had better see if Bill, my publisher, had arrived yet or not. The first great thing of my convention was finally getting to meet Bill Snodgrass face to face. We've been working together for two years now via phone and email. And you know what the crazy thing is? Though I brought my camera, I didn't take any pictures, nor did I get any of Bill. All the pictures you see here are ones he took, and he never took any of himself! Sneaky. I was just so caught up in the uniqueness of the event it never crossed my mind to get my camera out and get a snapshot of him.

When I arrived, Bill already had the book table set up. For a publisher who has only five fiction, two anthologies, and about four non-fiction books, he made the table look fairly full. We had some consigned books from other people there as well, about four or five. And you can tell each of his books had about three to four facings. Throw in the candy and the tee-shirts, and we had ourselves a cozy corner to trap passer-by into our book-buying lair.

And that we did do. Between Bill and I, we chatted with several people. Made some friends, and hopefully some fans. The book table is where I spent most of my time, and I have the sales to prove it. Between Bill and I, we sold six copies of my book, Infinite Realities—the most out of the DEP table sales that weekend. Of course, it helps to have the author there to ask questions and sign the book for you!







But one of the coolest sales was to an English teacher of a charter high school. He mentioned that his class has been studying allegory, metaphor, and similes. They had just finished a section on the C. S. Lewis Narnia series. I mentioned my book was allegorical. He read the back where it mentions it has similarities to Everyman, and became interested because that was next on their list to study. He bought the book, and if he decides to use it, around 100 students could be studying my book! Awesome!

Another interesting development is I found out how enticing my cover really is. Most all the other DEP books have artist work for cover art, mostly depicting the characters in the book. We had an artist lined up to do my cover, and he was working on a scene where Sisko and Gabrielle are being pulled apart as Sisko is lead to his execution. That would have been pretty cool. But, the artist had some personal issues which derailed his attempts to do the cover art, and had to back out at the last minute. That left Bill and I without a cover and no time left to go find another artist short of waiting for a few months.

So, I had a photo of a gnarled tree by the water, and a picture of my wedding ring. Gave those to Bill, and he did the rest of the magic. Since the inscription written on the ring is in Hebrew, he had the idea of putting the Hebrew infinitive forms of "to give" and "to receive" above and below the ring. The result was pretty good, I thought. Mysterious, ancient feel, and probably some people wondering if some unknown author could pull off a book about a "magical" ring without being cliché. (So far, everyone's said it was originally good!)

But whether the artsy yet dark gnarled tree photo, the sharp lettering (one person commented on that), or the Hebrew words, among all the great artwork covers at the table, about five times at least people were drawn to look closer at my book. One person was just scanning, but upon seeing my book walked over to it and picked it up. So something there catches the eye and makes people want to see what it is. Bill did an excellent job with that one!

Our table was just two tables down from the author signing table. I didn't know there would be such a thing, or that little o' me would even qualify for it. But Saturday Bill commented that I should do a signing. I knew I wouldn't have a line or a lot to sign, but how cool would that be? So after a quick talk to the program director, next thing you know, I'm scheduled to sit for an hour at the signing table.

When my time came around, I sat next to Rachel Caine, a science fiction/horror writer who has written several books. Now, she had a line. Some people with a box or stack of her books. We chatted a bit when she wasn't busy signing. But another lady came and sat on my left. Found out she was Doris Egan, the executive producer of the hit TV series, "House." We talked a bit, as she wasn't as busy signing. I signed one book for a new friend we made while there. Her name is Michelle. We had a nice conversation for a while about writing and stories she's working on. Very bubbly personality.

So that was a cool new experience I wasn't expecting, to sit with such a crowd and do my best to act like I belonged. It was fun and enjoyable.

We did, however, do other things. One activity I participated in was the "Buzz Blaster" radio play. I saw the try-outs listed on the program for Friday evening, and thought I would give it a shot. As it happened, Bill and I went out to eat and came back too late to make it. So I figured that was out.

Saturday morning, I sat on my one and only panel, called "Reading with Your Ears," the similarities and differences between print books and audio book. My experience working with stories for Ray Gun Radio Podcast earned me a spot there, and I had a chance to share my vast store of knowledge with everyone. Well, okay, maybe not vast. More like a nice little storage closet full than a warehouse. But enough to fill my time on the panel. Everyone seemed to enjoy the panel and the members of the panel all had adequate time to speak their mind.

As it turned out, the writer and producer of the "Buzz Blaster" radio plays was also the moderator of this panel. When I mentioned in my introduction that I hosted the Ray Gun Radio podcast, his wife who sat on the front row, her face lit up. I didn't see his face, but based on how quickly he cornered me when the panel was over, they had obviously heard the show. Come to find out, they did need one more part for the "Buzz Blaster" radio play. Oddly enough, it was the biggest part of the whole show. Not Buzz himself, who ends up out of the show one third of the way in, but Buzz's sidekick Lefty. Ironically, the sidekick gets the girl and ends up being the "hero" of the show. Dave, the writer and producer, said in this tenth episode he wanted to kill Buzz off, but due to fan demand, didn't fully go through with it. But for practical purposes, it appears he's dead.

So I show up for the rehearsal, and directly after that we tape the performance with an audience watching. The hardest thing was to get your mouth to the one microphone everyone shared, without bumping into the mic, and keeping your eyes on the script while turning pages quietly. In case you're wondering, the paper cup was to produce the effect of talking over the radio. And, the tall one in the picture is me. The other is Dave, writer and producer, who had one part in the play.

One note: we are hoping to work out putting these into the Ray Gun Radio Podcast. Stay tuned!

Aside from eating, sleeping, working the book table, we also had a little fun. Saturday night was costume night, and there were plenty of very interesting people walking around. I would throw up a lot of pictures, but I don't want to put people's faces who I don' t know up on the web. So the one's selected here I figured was innocent enough.

There was a cross between Scotty and a storm trooper.



































And one lady who had more than once face. It was freaky when she walked away from you.




















And here is a whole group of costumed folks. This gives you an idea the lengths some go to dress up for this event.


Another item of interest was the guest of honor, Gregory Benford, a hard science fiction writer with some awards and books to his name. He stopped by the book table and chatted with me for a while, mostly about the demise of "Enterprise" since he was hired to work up a story arc, but couldn't get the cooperation of the producers for it. A fun guy to chat with, down to earth and very knowledgeable.

One last cool note. Had a chance to talk with Andrew McKee, one of the The Brobdingnagian Bards while they were waiting in the hall for their turn to go sing. Aside from other pieces of info, I had a chance to tell him about a song I had written for my up and coming book, "Transitional Realties." I told him when I had written it, they came to mind as someone who had the right sound I had in mind for it.

He said I could send it to him, and told me a few things it needed to be to work. More than likely he'll read it and say it's not for him, but I'm glad for the invitation and you never know, it just might strike a chord for him. We'll see.

So, left Dallas feeling pretty good about all that had happened. Met a lot of people, made some new friends, and hopefully some fans. Met Bill Snodgrass in person, and rubbed shoulders with some folks further along in the field than I. All in all a great weekend. And guess what? I'm already making plans to be at the next one in September 2009. Hope to see some of you there.