Deals: "Taken" by Tim LaHaye

For those of you who enjoy reading, riffing, critiquing, and fan ficing the various Left Behind novels and spin offs, 'Taken" by Tim LaHaye is currently free in eBook form. This collection apparently contains the first four books in the "Young Trib Force" series.

Links:
Amazon
B&N
Sony
ChristianBook

Credit for bringing the deal to my attention goes to Mobile Read, as is so often the case.

Twilight: The Unbearable Lightness of Being... Edward Cullen

Twilight Recap: Bella has caught sight of Edward Cullen in the cafeteria and now dreads attending Biology class with him in light of his strange and hostile behavior last week. 

Twilight, Chapter 2: Open Book

   For the rest of the lunch hour I very carefully kept my eyes at my own table. I decided to honor the bargain I’d made with myself. Since he didn’t look angry, I would go to Biology. My stomach did frightened little flips at the thought of sitting next to him again.

You will recall from last week that Bella has spent the bulk of her lunch hour (a) not eating anything, (b) studiously sipping sugar soda, and (c) seriously considering faking an illness in order to hide in the nurse's office for the entirety of Biology class. While studying Edward, she decided that "If he was glaring at me, I would skip Biology, like the coward I was."

Open Thread: Because Everyone Else Does These

I can never really participate in those Open Thread "what are you listening to" threads that everyone does on the weekend, because I listen to things that pretty much no one has ever heard of. Not because I'm cool or anything, but rather because I'm hopelessly geeky. Really, there is no coolness to be had from hanging out with me, but I'm okay with that. *grin*

But lately I've been thinking we need open threads around here because by gum I like hearing you guys speak and I like hearing you speak on things that aren't necessarily ON TOPIC to whatever inane thing I've decided to write and publish online that day about ElfQuest or H.G. Wells or the nuances between a Nook and a Sony Reader.

So this is a completely open talk-about-whatever-you-want thread. But because it's an internet law that these have to be about music, here is my "what are you listening to" entry for the week. Are you ready? It's *really* nerdy. Ok, deep breath. Here:

I am listening to Heather Alexander's "King of Elfland's Daughter".

It's filk music, which is new folk music designed around fantasy/scifi works of fiction. This particular song is based on the novel of the same name, which can be bought in paperbook form here or downloaded in ebook form here

I would have liked this song regardless (I'm a huge fan of Heather Alexander / Alexander James) but it's interesting to me that the YouTube clip has spawned some interesting Twilight comparisons. Would you give up your mortal life to go off with the King of Elfland's daughter? The consensus on the YouTube board is that it pretty much depends. For myself, I like that the song implies that the two have something of a childhood history together -- and knowing how the fae sometimes traditionally operate in literature, it's not 100% clear how much of a choice the young man was given...

I really need to read the book, but I haven't gotten to it yet.

Tropes: In Defense of Adaptations

Earlier this month I re-read H.G. Wells' "The Time Machine" only to discover that I'd never actually read it before.

Let me back up. I knew the story, of course -- when I was a child, I owned one of those "Great Illustrated Classics" versions, a tiny little pocket-sized book that was covered in illustrations every other page. I cannot remember how I came by the book, but I suspect my parents bought it for me under the impression that reading would improve my mind, and that anything deemed a 'classic' by the powers-that-be would not threaten my moral fiber with ungodly thoughts. (I wasn't, in contrast, allowed to read anything with dragons on the cover until I went away for college, due to their association in my mother's mind with Satan.)

eReader: Running CM7 on a Nook Color from SD Card (REPOST)

Recently I noticed that my Running CM7 on a Nook Color from SD Card post has over 100 comments! As far as I'm concerned, that's really awesome, but at the same time, I thought I should start a clean thread for new people coming to the process.

There are two reasons for this:

  1. With a clean post, I can incorporate some "lessons learned".
  2. With a clean post, new commentors won't have that sinking "oh dear, do I need to read all these before I go on" feeling. I hate that feeling when I'm starting a new project.

So here we go...

Getting Your Stuff Together

Here is a list of all the things you will need:
  1. A Nook Color.
  2. A micro SD card. There's no mandatory size / format / manufacturer for this process, but quality does matter and I have no idea how you tell the "good" ones from the "bad" ones without buying them first. I use this micro SD card - I own three of these now, all from this listing on Amazon, and two of them are running CM7 for Nook Colors so I know they work well. 
  3. You'll need a way to connect your micro SD card to your computer - something like this.
  4. An image-writing program like WinImage. I used WinImage85 in my tutorial.
  5. The CM7 installer image here. Note that the ".gz" extension is a compressed format - you'll need to unzip it with a program like WinRar
  6. The CM7 build here. (Download the update-cm-ETCETERA-.zip file. Do not unzip - just leave as is.)
  7. The CM7 google apps installer here. (Scroll to the bottom until you see this download link.)



Prepping Your Nook Color

A lot of people don't need to prep their Nook Color for this method, but several commentors in the initial thread noted issues with starting from scratch on an NC running 1.2.0 firmware. Because of this, I would recommend using the UnLockr method of flashing your Nook Color to the 1.0.1 firmware. The video can be found here (The UnLockr) and it's very quick and easy to follow their video -- the process should take maybe 20 minutes.

Installing CM7 to the SD Card

Now a slew of videos to follow along with:
  • Video 1 is an introduction to the process and gets you from "What is this whole CM7 thing that Ana keeps talking about?" to "Mmkay, we're putting the SD card in the computer now."
  • Video 2 is a step-by-step computer tutorial showing how to use WinImage to write the CM7 installer to the SD card and how to move the CM7 build file over to the imaged card.
  • Video 3 shows you how to put the SD card into your Nook Color so that the CM7 installer can build CM7 onto the SD card for actual use, and what to expect when you boot up CM7 for the first time.
  • Video 4 is another step-by-step computer tutorial for where to put the gapps (Google apps) installer on your SD card for installation to the CM7 build.
  • Video 5 shows you how to walk through the Google apps installation process, how to connect to WiFi, and how shiny and cool CM7 is once you've done this final step.

Couple of things to note here:
  1. First, make sure you're right-clicking WinImage and selecting "Run As Administrator" because that will affect what options are available from inside the image-writing program. 
  2. Second, if you're feeling adventurous you can combine the Google Apps installation into an earlier step, but I think it's best to install everything in "baby steps" to keep it simple.
  3. Third, if you boot up the NC and just see the little blue CM7 surfer guy but nothing seems to happen: Wait about 5 minutes. The first boot takes awhile. If it doesn't clear up, press the "n" button on the front of the device a few times. Then hold the "n" down. Then graduate to hard-rebooting (holding the power button until it turns off and then rebooting). Then move to the next step section:

Troubleshooting Your Nook Color

Three out of four dentists don't have any trouble with their installation, but some people do have some issues. Let's go through them here.
  1. It just doesn't work -- it's broken. This is the scariest thing, but we'll see if we can't fix it, ok? Turn the NC off. Pop the SD card out. Boot up the NC. Does it boot up with the B&N software? If no, you'll need to reinstall the firmware by going back to the UnLockr. If yes, then worst case you have to start the CM7 install over again. Wipe the SD card (you'll need a partition manager like this one here) and start over -- or you may consider trying a different SD card brand.
  2. CM7 boots up but the Google Market is force-closing. Yuck. Can you redo Video 4 and 5 and reinstall the gapps package from within recovery mode? This is your best bet -- probably the first install didn't go right for some reason. Or, if you're having trouble downloading from the market, you may be running into:
  3. CM7 boots up but the WiFi connection isn't working. The easiest way to test this is to reboot into the stock B&N OS and see if the WiFi works there. If the WiFi works on the B&N environment, but not on the CM7 environment, you may have Cynthia's problem: she managed to clear it up by going into the tablet settings and setting the "save" settings from SD card to external memory.

Backing Up Your Nook Color

You may just want to backup your system data and apps, in which case I strongly recommend the Titanium Backup and Titanium Media Sync apps from the Google Market. However, if you want to back up the entire kit-and-kaboodle of your SD card as an image, you can do so with WinImage.
  1. Turn off your Nook Color. 
  2. Remove the SD card and insert it into your computer card reader. 
  3. Open the WinImage program as adminstrator.
  4. Select Disk --> "Creating Virtual Hard Disk image from physical drive..."
  5. Pick your SD card at the prompt. 
  6. Save the image as an "*.ima" file to your local computer. 
  7. After the image is saved, you'll be able to browse the partitions in WinImage - just ignore this and shut it down. 


To restore the image to a new SD card, follow these steps:
  1. Pop in a new SD card of the same size (or larger). 
  2. Open the WinImage program. 
  3. Select Disk --> "Restore Virtual Hard Disk image on physical drive..."
  4. Pick your new SD card at the prompt. 
  5. The image will save to the SD card - when you pop it into your Nook Color and boot up, everything should be the same as it was when you backed up the initial SD card. 
Warning: Writing this image to the new SD card will partition the new card and the only way to get the card back to normal is to use a partition manager like this one here.

Credit

As a final note, credits must be given where credit is most definitely due:
  1. Credit to The Unlockr for the stock firmware 1.0.1 factory reset method
  2. Credit to the Cyanogen team for the CM7 build, the gapps install, and their tutorial here
  3. Credit to VeryGreen for the size-agnostic SD card CM7 installer.
  4. Credit to Quinxy von Besiex for his article on SD card vs internal memory rooting
  5. Credit to Quinxy von Besiex for his bluetooth keyboard instructions which I use with this keyboard.
  6. Credit to the community of MobileRead for introducing me to the concept of CM7. 
  7. Credit to all my commentors for helping me improve this tutorial! 
I hope that someone finds this tutorial helpful, and I appreciate any and all comments, emails, questions, and constructive criticisms.

    Claymore: Choosing Death Wisely

    Claymore Recap: Clare has traveled in secrecy to the Holy City of Rabona. Her assignment is to quietly engage and defeat a powerful yoma who has been preying on the priests of the city cathedral. If she is discovered in the course of her assignment, the human guards of the city will put her to death as an abomination.

    Claymore, Episode 4: Clare's Awakening

    Episode 4 opens with Clare taking a serious blow from the yoma; a blow that she could have avoided, but she took upon herself in order to save the lives of the two human guards who had been chasing her. This sacrificial act doesn't kill her, but her survival is more a credit to her own powers of healing than to the people whose care she must endure. The soldiers call her a demon and sneer that "humans should defend humans"; the priest, in his fear and disgust of the Claymore bodies has decided to provide us a very clear example of Worst Aid in bandaging Clare's uniform rather than her actual body.

    Twilight: Being Flung From the Narrative

    Twilight Recap: Just when she thought it was safe to relax at school, Bella has spotted the frightening Edward Cullen across the cafeteria. The sight of him puts her immediately off her lunch, and she must grapple with the fears he evoked in her Biology class the last time they met. 

    Twilight, Chapter 2: Open Book


       I sipped my soda slowly, my stomach churning. Twice Mike asked, with unnecessary concern, how I was feeling. I told him it was nothing, but I was wondering if I should play it up and escape to the nurse’s office for the next hour.

    Sometimes it strikes me that Bella rarely takes the long view of things. As a character, she's not exactly impulsive, but at the same time she seldom seems to think past her current decisions. I almost wonder if we couldn't apply this trait to every major character decision she's made thus far.

    Metapost: Off Until Saturday

    Faithful readers, I'm afraid I must be offline for Thursday and Friday of this week (also known as "tomorrow" and "the next day"), so there will be no Thursday e-Reader post or Friday Randomness this week -- I apologize. There will be a Saturday Twilight, as usual, so stay tuned for that.

    In other news, for Amazon Kindle users, there is a Big Sale going on this week. So I guess that's kind of an e-Reader related post. Have a fun week, guys -- and keep posting comments as I can read and respond to them on my phone. ;)

    Poke the Publisher: Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency

    I love the work of Douglas Adams -- I love "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" (well, the first three books anyway), and I love the two Dirk Gently books. I love the combination of dry humor, sardonic wit, and Sherlock Holmes + aliens + Norse mythology. I love most of all that the detective protagonist is a slovenly and utterly undesirable man -- and the women around him notice it instead of falling at his feet like so many detective stories.

    The Dirk Gently series is available in eBook form, but only (apparently) in the UK, not the Americas. This makes me terribly agitated, and when I get agitated, bystanders tend to turn into soda machines, I'm afraid. (And just last week I accidentally turned a lamp into a kitten. Quite distressing.)

    Amazon links for poking are here:

    Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency
    The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul

    Remember: Readers who post in the comments that they've poked the publisher via any or all of these links will be mentioned in a subsequent "Poke the Publisher" entry, which is a level of fame that will open doors at least as easily as infinite wealth, extravagant beauty, and perpetual immortality.

    Also remember: By poking the publisher, you are not indicating that YOU are waiting to buy this book in e-Book format, but rather that your dear friend Ana is waiting to buy this book in e-Book format to review, dissect, deconstruct, and otherwise desecrate for your reading pleasure. And buy it I shall, just as soon as it comes available in the U.S. of A.

    Credit for last week's Poke the Publisher feature must go to Gelliebean and Brin Bellway. It's entirely possible that these two are the immortal incarnations of ancient Norse deities -- and if they are, it would be best to stay on their good side and not to unduly agitate or disturb them. Now if you'll excuse me, I must clean my refrigerator before it becomes a Guilt God.

    Narnia: Identifying with the Aggressor

    Narnia Recap: Lucy has stepped into the Wardrobe and found herself in the magical land of Narnia. She takes tea in the home of a faun before he confesses that he has been employed to kidnap human children. Lucy begs to be let go and the faun accompanies her back to the magical portal so that she might escape.

    The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, Chapter 3: Edmund and the Wardrobe

       LUCY RAN OUT OF THE EMPTY ROOM into the passage and found the other three.
       "It's all right," she repeated, "I've come back." [...]
       "So you've been hiding, have you?" said Peter. "Poor old Lu, hiding and nobody noticed! You'll have to hide longer than that if you want people to start looking for you."
       "But I've been away for hours and hours," said Lucy.
       The others all stared at one another.
       "Batty!" said Edmund, tapping his head. "Quite batty."

    Edmund, the second youngest Pevensie, has already been rather unsubtly telegraphed to us as something of a villain -- his first recorded words in the novel, after all, are a harsh grumble at his sister Susan to stop imitating their mother, and his attitude does not improve materially from there. Now that Lucy has tumbled from the wardrobe back into her own world and is about to receive a harsh lesson in Narnia Time, Edmund will be the first and the most vociferous voice labeling Lucy insane.

    Author Interview: Matthew Bayan on "The Firecracker King"

    Ana: Matthew, an excerpt from your novel “Firecracker King” was submitted in the ABNA 2010 contest. Your excerpt started out as a particularly light and whimsical tale with the character of Jake: a young boy who lives an almost idyllic life on the lake, swimming, fishing, and orchestrating elaborate firecracker wars on the night surface of the lake. Just when reviewers had your excerpt pegged as a whimsical coming-of-age drama, you then slapped the readers in the face with a haunting and utterly unexpected dead body pulled up from the river, and the excerpt ended with readers chilled and wanting to know so much more. Can you tell us more about your novel and where it goes from the end of the excerpt? What sorts of themes do you explore and what do you hope the reader will take away from the experience?

    Matthew: I was glad that the twist from idyllic summer to something darker worked. One of the major themes is the contrast between childhood and adulthood. Not that adulthood necessarily becomes evil, but that the simpleness of childhood gets so much more complex and within that complexity people can make bad choices. There are many places in the novel where the reader gets to enjoy the fun of youth; but these places are often shattered by evil people. At its core "The Firecracker King" is about the choices that a boy must make to become a man and the inner strength it takes to do right when it would be so much easier to look the other way.

    Ana: I really like that -- definitely as we move into adulthood the world can seem a darker place sometimes. What was your inspiration when writing your novel? Were you influenced by a specific author or work that inspired you to add your voice to this genre?

    Matthew: "The Firecracker King" started as a memoir-styled coming of age novel. Somewhere along the way I saw how I could create an overarching umbrella of a murder mystery that pulled together all the bits and pieces. The battle between good and evil inside Jake is very fertile ground for setting the murder mystery. I also like action, so it was easy to get seduced into something I call The Hardy Boys meet Fatal Attraction.

    All of the references to authors within the story are actually writers I devoured in my youth. As I mentioned them I felt they were looking over my shoulder; I wanted them to feel I was doing at least a decent job.

    Ana: For the first few pages of “Firecracker King”, it’s difficult to avoid comparisons to Mark Twain’s “Tom Sawyer” - the setting and characterization seems like such a perfect mixture of the playful spirit of youth and an idyllic summer atmosphere, and it’s easy for the reader to sink into the narrative of living on a lake, swimming every day, and staging exotic firecracker battles at night. And Jake has a young ruthlessness about him as he haggles for firecrackers and supplies his friends at tremendous markups. Of course, the ideal summer gets wrecked rather badly when the dead body shows up… If you could compare your novel to any other existing work, which one would it be and why?

    Matthew: I wasn’t consciously trying to emulate any particular novel or author. However, I’ve had a number of high school and college readers compare "The Firecracker King" to either "To Kill A Mockingbird" or "A Catcher In The Rye". I’m not a fan of Catcher, but To Kill A Mockingbird is one of my favorite books. That’s a pretty flattering comparison. You mention Tom Sawyer, but if there is any comparison to Twain, it would be Huck Finn. Huck’s story is much darker with a lot more hanging in the balance. Huck changes over the course of the book as he realizes the evils of slavery and his own mistakes toward slavery. In some ways Jake’s character arc is similar as he ultimately must make a choice that will change his life and the lives of every other character in the book.

    Ana: Is this your first or only finished work, or have you written other novels? If you have written other novels, how do they compare to this one? Do you have any more novels planned, either as a follow-up to this one, or as a completely different novel or genre?

    Matthew: I have written several other novels, but I feel that "The Firecracker King" is the best so far. I have been very successful with non-fiction, have an agent, etc. However, my agent doesn’t handle Young Adult, so I need to find a new agent for "The Firecracker King".

    I’m working on a thriller that deals with nuclear weapons, the Middle East, and how political corruption in Washington DC threatens our existence.

    Ana: I was first introduced to your novel through the Amazon Breakthrough Award contest of 2010. What prompted you to enter the contest, and what were your overall feelings towards the contest in general?

    Matthew: I had just run "The Firecracker King" through two different writing critique groups and had done major rewrites. I felt it was ready when a friend told me about the contest the night before the deadline. I just thought, “What the hell,” and uploaded my entry. I made it to the quarterfinals and was rather pleased.

    I had read most of the YA entries and saw which ones made it further in the contest and which were culled out. I felt that the judges were looking for something middle of the road, not too threatening, more Miss Marple than Hannibal Lecter. The Firecracker King has violence, murder, betrayal, and a whiff of incest. I didn’t take the manuscript’s elimination as a bad mark on the writing, but more a rejection of the edginess of the material. I’ve since read some really over the top YA novels and I’m beginning to think "The Firecracker King" IS middle of the road compared to some of what’s out there.

    Ana: Ha, well and it's worth repeating that what the grown-ups want to publish may not be what the kids want to actually read -- Harry Potter, Twilight, A Series of Unfortunate Events, and many more popular YA books all have their fair share of violence! Are you currently published or self-published? Where can readers obtain a copy of your novel for them to enjoy? If you’re not currently published, how can readers “sign up” to be notified when your novel does become available?

    Matthew: Unfortunately, "The Firecracker King" is not in print. Yet. Three agents are currently reading the full manuscript. I don’t intend to self-publish it. It’s Vegas or bust, baby!

    I had a bestseller with "Eat Fat, Be Healthy: When a Low-Fat Diet Can Kill You" which, though non-fiction, was written as “fictional non-fiction.” It got good reviews. The one I liked the best was “reads like a thriller.” Exactly what I had hoped for.

    Yes, my web site is www.matthewbayan.com. As material becomes available, I’ll update the site.

    Ana: Matthew, thank you so very much for being willing to participate in this guest blog interview. Is there anything else you’d like to add?

    Matthew: You asked good questions. They made me think about issues in the manuscript that I hadn’t really addressed previously.

    Twilight: A Eulogy for Food

    Twilight Recap: Bella has passed her first weekend in Forks without incident. She has passed the time doing household chores, reading her homework assignments, and visiting the Forks library briefly.

    Twilight, Chapter 2: Open Book

    Once again we come to one of those delightful Rorschach passages where it's very easy to like or dislike Bella depending on how the reader interprets the passage.

       People greeted me in the parking lot Monday morning. I didn’t know all their names, but I waved back and smiled at everyone. It was colder this morning, but happily not raining. In English, Mike took his accustomed seat by my side. We had a pop quiz on Wuthering Heights. It was straightforward, very easy.
       All in all, I was feeling a lot more comfortable than I had thought I would feel by this point. More comfortable than I had ever expected to feel here.

    Tropes: The Curse of the Smart Girl

    Recently, in a review of the third Percy Jackson book, I accused all the women in the series of being "Faux Action Girls" -- women whose prowess and usefulness in a given situation is more of an Informed Attribute than anything that the reader ever gets to see. What was interesting (and frustrating) to me at the time was that a lot of the tropers on TV Tropes didn't really see it the same way -- sure, the Annabeth character in the movie was a Faux Action Girl, but the one in the book is smart and intelligent and her advice saves the day more than once in the series. That makes her useful, right? Wrong.

    The problem, at least in my opinion, is that being the Smart Girl in a novel doesn't make a female character strong, useful, and meaningful to the story -- it makes them less so.

    eReaders: Using the Folder Organizer Android App

    So you've set up your Nook Color with CM7 or you've bought your first Android tablet reader and now you're wondering "how the heck do I organize all my apps?" Very simply: you buy the super-cool Folder Organizer app in the Google marketplace.

    Now, Android does have the native ability to create "desktop" folders. But I don't like the native Android folder functionality and neither do most right-thinking people. At least, not the three I've talked to about Android. And one of them may just have been agreeing with me to get me to go away. But that's a big enough sample for me, so tally onward and whatnot.

    The Folder Organizer app by Fabio Collini is the best folder organizer for Android that I've tried. You can find it in the Google market by searching for "Folder Organizer"; it should look a little something like this:


    The raison d'etre of the Folder Organizer app is to let you create desktop folders for your Android apps, but there's a lot of neat extra functionality included, such as the ability to automatically file "unlabeled" (i.e., new downloads) apps into a specific folder, and the ability to set custom icons for the folder links (check out the iPhone/Android icon sets on Deviant Art for a lot of pretty alternatives). Here's two folders that I keep on my Android devices: Reading apps and Writing apps:


    When I click the Reading folder, the folder opens to show all the apps that I've filed under that heading:


    That one icon on my desktop -- the Reading folder -- contains twelve apps in it, so the space saving capabilities of this Folder Organizer app should be pretty obvious at this point. ;)

    So how do you set up Folder Organizer? Well, after you download it from the Google market, you should be able to access it in your app directory:


    There it is, down at the bottom left hand corner. Open that up and you'll find yourself in the Folder Organizer main screen:


    "Labels" are what the folders are called in the app; the "label" term was picked -- I assume -- to convey the fact that an app can be in multiple folder/label categories. You don't have any labels yet, but the "New Label" button at the bottom can fix that. The first time you set up the app, you'll probably want to create a bunch of labels first and then go through the "Apps" screen one by one; here's what the "Apps" page looks like:


    Of course, my stuff is all labeled already. After you've labeled the majority of your existing stuff, you probably won't want to use the "Apps" page anymore; it's easier to just set up a label for "unlabeled" apps and visit that label through the "Label" page each time you download something new and need to tag it. The "Label" page looks like this:


    You can press the little gray arrows to expand the label to see the actual apps in that label; from there you can update those apps to be labeled as you please. The blue arrows let you change the details of the label itself; here are the details for my "#unlabeled" label:


    As you can see, there are a LOT of options available with Folder Organizer. I only use labels for holding apps, but if you go into that "Choose" button, you'll see that Folder Organizer can also hold a plethora of other things, including internet bookmarks, people contacts, and app shortcuts.

    Once you have your labels set up, you'll want to slap them onto your desktop. That's what folders are for, after all. Go to your desktop and long-press to add a widget. The exact process will differ a little depending on what launcher you're using; I use Zeam at the moment, so it's actually more like "Long-Press --> Item --> Widget".



    Pick the "Folder Organizer Folder Link". There's a whole bunch of Folder Organizer widget options, but you want the "folder link" one at the top of the list.


    Then you'll need to pick which folder you want to link to with this widget:


    And, easy-peasy, now your folder will appear on your desktop with whatever icon you assigned to it:


    Aw... look how happy it is!

    Poke the Publisher: The Cats of Lloyd Alexander

    I have fond childhood memories of Lloyd Alexander's writings. The Chronicles of Prydain are probably his most famous works, but I always far more enjoyed his "one off" tales of cats and magic. "The Cat Who Wished To Be a Man" was a fun and fascinating fish out of water tale with a transmuted cat who slowly becomes more and more human over time; "The Town Cats" was a delightful collection of short stories that include a princess whose cat helps her show her strict father that her true love is indeed true, and a cat whose chess playing prowess teaches a spoiled young ruler that sometimes the best word you can possibly hear is 'no'.

    Lloyd Alexander passed away in 2007, and I do expect that the state of his estate is probably in the same copyright flux that many of our Poke the Publisher authors are currently lost in. I have no doubt, though, that the e-Publishing of his stories would be beneficial to many readers and would additionally help to support his heirs in the coming years, so I'd like to take a moment to encourage everyone to remind the current paper-back publisher that it would be worthwhile to open negotiations with his heirs for electronic editions to be published.

    Amazon links here:

    The Chronicles of Prydain
    The Cat Who Wished To Be a Man
    The Town Cats
    The Vesper Holly Books

    Also, if you want to listen to theme music while poking the publisher, I recommend Heather Dale's haunting The Prydwen Sails Again, from her Trail of Lancelot series. It's not *quite* the same spelling, but it's close enough for me!

    Remember: Readers who post in the comments that they've poked the publisher via any or all of these links will be mentioned in a subsequent "Poke the Publisher" entry, which is a level of fame that will open doors at least as easily as infinite wealth, extravagant beauty, and perpetual immortality.

    Also remember: By poking the publisher, you are not indicating that YOU are waiting to buy this book in e-Book format, but rather that your dear friend Ana is waiting to buy this book in e-Book format to review, dissect, deconstruct, and otherwise desecrate for your reading pleasure. And buy it I shall, just as soon as it comes available in the U.S. of A.

    Credit for last week's Poke the Publisher feature must go to Charleen Merced, Brin Bellway, Amaryllis, Cupcakedoll, Gelliebean, and Kristy Griffin. I'm not saying that all these people started life as cats and later became transmuted into humans via a cranky and cantankerous wizard, but if they did it would certainly go a long way towards explaining their super-human reflexes and hypersensitive instincts.

    Claymore: Protection in a Dangerous World

    Claymore Recap: Clare has completed her duty to her childhood friend Elena and now receives a new assignment from the Organization -- she is to secretly infiltrate a holy city where Claymores are banned and destroy a massive Yoma that has gone on a rampage within the city cathedral.

    Claymore, Episode 3: The Darkness in Paradise

    Episode 3 brings a new assignment to Clare: the holy city of Rabona has been infiltrated by a large and powerful yoma, and priests and guards within the cathedral are being massacred nightly at an alarming rate. The head priest has contacted the Organization for a contract of a single Claymore to be dispatched to the city to save the humans from their monster.

    Twilight: D-I-Y Characterization

    Twilight Recap: Bella and Charlie have finished their almost-completely-silent dinner, and Bella has asked tentatively about the Cullen children and why they don't fit in at school. After Charlie rants extensively about how the town is lucky to have the Cullens, Bella hastily drops the subject. 

    Twilight, Chapter 2: Open Book

       We lapsed back into silence as we finished eating. He cleared the table while I started on the dishes. He went back to the TV, and after I finished washing the dishes by hand — no dishwasher — I went upstairs unwillingly to work on my math homework. I could feel a tradition in the making.

    I swear I'm not trying to get hung up on the division of chores in the Swan household, despite blog posts to the contrary, but it frustrates me to no end that Bella -- as the only female in the household -- is apparently expected to be involved in pretty much every stage of food production. She has bought the food, made the food, set the table, served the food, and is now washing the dishes.

    eReader: pBook to eBook Conversion

    So you have a paper book (pBook) that you want in eBook form and you've been poking the publisher in vain for days, weeks, months, or even years and nothing has come of it. And you're looking at that pBook thinking, you know, I could maybe turn that into an eBook myself, but you're not sure how to go about it cheaply. Well, I'm going to walk you through the cheapest, crappiest possible way to turn a pBook into an eBook shy of typing the darn thing in yourself.

    WARNINGS!

    • You are going to ruin your paper book copy in the process of this method.
    • You are not going to get a high quality ePub format out of this method; you're going to get a series of scanned images that will be lumped into an image-based PDF. That means that the final book will have no text reflow and will only be readable on a device that supports image-based PDFs. If you're okay with that, continue on; if you're not okay with it, or you don't know what that means, STOP. The reason you are not going to get a high quality ePub format out of this method and are instead getting an image-based PDF is because the scanners and software that can pull text out of an image and perform OCR (optical character recognition) to render the image-words into text-words are expensive. Most people don't have the cash to invest in really good hardware and software to properly convert paper books, nor to pay for a conversion company to do it. So this method is really for picture books only unless you're prepared to put in the money and muscle to go all the way. (See my note at the end.)
    • This method takes a long time and is really only for the obsessive-compulsive eReader.

    Okay. Let's check our equipment list. I use:
    1. Canon PIXMA MX860 Wireless All-In-One Printer. Review here. I use this because it was simply what I had on hand at the time; the most important feature is the stack-feed scanning capabilities. 
    2. X-Acto Knife. This will be useful when cutting the strings for sewn books. 
    3. Bulk rename utility. This is freeware, and will be used to rename your scans. 
    4. Irfanview image editing software. This is freeware, and will be used to batch trim the scans.
    5. Quick PDF tools. This is freeware, and will be used to compile the final book. 
    6. A book. For this example, we will use James Lilek's delightful Gallery of Regrettable Foods
    NOTE: Click any of the pictures in this tutorial to enlarge them for clarity.

    Step 1: Destruction

    First we're going to need to separate the book into individual pages. This is a long process that requires patience.

    If the book is sewn, flip gently through looking for the straps that occur in the spine every few pages; lay the book flat and slice the straps with the X-Acto knife. This will liberate a few pages; gently disengage them from the spine, but leave them in position as you work through the book. Once you've cut all the straps, flip back to the beginning of the book and gently begin to remove the still-attached pages. The easiest way to do this is hold a hand flat on the rest of the pages while you gently tear or cut with the X-Acto knife the attached page. Pages that came from from the sewn binding are usually TWO pages with the sewing down the center and will have to be torn from their other half -- the easiest way to facilitate a clean tear is to bend the pages along their middle crease. There are YouTube videos for all this, but as long as you are slow and careful, you should be fine.



    If the book is glued in place, you will have to get a hairdryer on the lowest setting and gently blow on the spine to loosen the book pages. As the glue softens, pull the pages out one by one. Be careful not to smear the glue on yourself or the other pages; lay the pages aside so that the glue can dry. Once again, there are YouTube videos for this; for some books, it may be easiest to soften the glue to remove the spine and then just cut the edge with all the glue on it with a heavy duty paper cutter. You can find these for use at some libraries and some places that offer lamination services, like Mardel or Hobby Lobby. Kinkos probably has them, too.

    Step 2: Scanning

    Unless you have a duplex scanner, you'll need to scan one side of the book and then the other side. (I.e., odd numbered pages and then even numbered ones.) The Canon scanner I use does have duplex scanning, but only for 8x11 inch sheets, which most books aren't. Slap a pile of paper on the scanner feed (usually you won't be able to do the whole book in one go -- for this example, I divided the pile into four parts), and let the scanner do its work.

    NOTE: Don't leave the room while this is happening. You really want to be able to catch feed jams when they happen, not three hours later when the paper has been permanently creased.


    The scanner will have scanned all your odd-numbered sheets, and likely will have named them something like "IMG_01, IMG_02, IMG_03...". This is wrong, and we need to rename them now so that we can add the even-numbered sheets in later.


    Create a new folder. Call it "Odd Numbers" or something similar. Put all your scans so far in that folder. Now right click on the folder and choose "Bulk Rename Here". (If you don't see that option, reinstall the Bulk Rename Utility and try again.)


    In order to sort everything properly later, we need to give everything the same name plus an appended page number. The Bulk Rename Utility will let us do this easily. You need to set the following fields:

    File (2): A fixed name will go here. I used "Lilek - "
    Numbering (10): The important things here are the Pad (select 3, for an XXX format) and the Increment (select 2, since we've skipped a page per scan).

    Set the Start number to 1, and locate the book's "Page 1" via the page numbers on each sheet. Since book numbers frequently don't show until several pages in, you might (a) have to count backwards (in this case, the first numbered page was Page 9, so I had to count back from there) and (b) you may have some "leftover" front pages that shade back into the negative numbers. You can deal with those later -- the important thing now is to make sure that your file naming matches the book numbers.

    Select all the files in the Bulk Rename gui and see their projected name in green on the right. Once everything lines up properly, hit "Rename" and poof.


    Now is a great time for you to actually look through your scans and triple check that the page numbers and file names match. It's entirely possible that your scanner missed a page and it's a lot easier to find it now than later.

    Once you're done with the odd-numbered pages, take your stack of pages, turn them over, and slap them back into the scanner to get the even-numbered pages. Once you have all the scans done, create a second folder, name it "Even Numbers", put all the scans in there, and use the Bulk Rename Utility to re-number them properly. Once again, double check that everything is in there and that the scanner didn't miss a page -- mine missed 2 pages of ~200 in this example.

    NOTE: Do not combine the two folders yet -- keep the even and odd numbered scans separate.

    Step 3: Trimming

    So now you've got your scans, but since your printer is cheap, you've got all this white space around the pictures that you don't want or need. You're going to want to trim that space and you're not going to want to do it 200 separate times.

    So. First things first. Go through your pictures with Windows Photo Viewer or whatever you have standard on your machine and make sure all the pages are oriented right side up. Sometimes your scanner flips stuff upside down just to make your life interesting.

    Now. Look through your even and odd numbered folders for white space patterns. Some of your pictures will have white space on the top of the picture, some will have it on the bottom. In general, this divide will occur between the even numbered scans and the odd ones, but there will probably be a few oddballs that need moving from one side or the other. Isolate all your "white space on top" files in one folder and all your "white space on bottom" files in the other.


    Right click one of the images to "Open With" Irfanview.
    Select File --> Batch Conversion:


    This dialog will open:


    Click the "Advanced" tab:


    What we're interested in is the CROP option up in the left hand corner. Let's talk about those values. The X-Position/Y-Position simply tells the program where in the OLD image to start the NEW image. The Width/Height determines the width/height TOTAL of the new image.

    Width-wise, I've told the program to take the old images and crop off everything to the left of 180 pixels and crop off everything to the right of the old 2410 pixel mark (2410 - 180 = 2230). Height-wise, I've told the program to start at the top of the image and gobble up everything 2460 pixels down, but then to crop everything below that. This is for all my "white space at the bottom and on the sides" images.

    So how did I get the pixel widths? Just open the image in MS Paint or something similar, hover your cursor around the sides, and watch the status bar at the bottom:


    If you enlarge the image above, you'll see two sets of numbers at the bottom. The 2550x3300 is the picture's total width and height; the 180x2237 is where my cursor was hovering at time of taking the screenshot. That 180 is the same 180 I used for my X-Pos above.

    Once you've set the Advanced options, click OK. Select all the images in the Batch Conversion files at the top and hit Add. The Input files dialogue at the bottom should populate. Set the output directory you want (I recommend a third folder called "LilekBatch") and then select "Start Batch". A dialogue will pop up telling you that the files are converting.


    Once that's done, we need to do the same thing with the "white space on the bottom and sides" files. It's the same exact process, but with different Y-Pos values. (Your X-Pos values will probably be the same if you used the scanner's physical guide-rails to keep everything centered when you were scanning.)


    Note that the only difference here is that the Y-Pos starting position has moved. The total width and height should remain the same. Go ahead and let the batch converter dump the new files in with the last batch conversion ("LilekBatch").

    Step 4: Merging

    Now you should have a big folder of images that have been scanned in, named according to their page number in the original book, and carefully trimmed of white space. Open the first image in Windows Photo Viewer and start flipping through the images to make sure everything is as it should be. Check this carefully -- an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure in this case.

    Once you're satisfied that everything is in exactly the correct order and scanned as perfectly as you want them, select every image in the file and right click on the first one in the series. Select Quick PDF Tools --> Convert --> Image to PDF, and select that you want a single PDF file. Give the file a name and presto.


    Now you have an image-based PDF format eBook out of your sadly destroyed pBook. Slap that baby into Calibre and back it up to a cloud storage area or something, because you don't want to lose it after all that work!

    Cover in Adobe Reader

    Page 9 in Adobe Reader

    Cover on Sony PRS 950 (Portrait View)

    Page 9 on Sony PRS 950 (Landscape View)

    There it is in all of its "Meh" glory on my Sony reader. (I warned you that this was a lot of work just to satisfy an obsessive-compulsive need. No sense in complaining now.) Enjoy.

    Step 5: Recycling

    What do you do with your ruined pBook? Well, you can try to bind it back together if you really want, but in most cases this will be utterly impossible. You can re-purpose the pages into delightful paper crafts. Or you can recycle the pages in the recycle bin and let the city take them to be turned into recycled paper. You can shred them and use them for kitty litter, although now that I say that, it occurs to me that you probably shouldn't because god knows what the dye in the book will do to their little paws. Ditto for using the paper as a firestarter in the fireplace. Just please don't throw the book in the garbage.

    NOTE: Going a Step Further with OCR Software

    If you are seriously interested in going to the next step in scanning and springing for an OCR (optical character recognition) program to turn your PDF images into Word text documents that can be converted into ePub, the ABBYY software FineReader10 is currently on sale for $170 rather than their usual $400.

    I bought this software on the recommendation of a cut-and-scan enthusiast friend, and it does do a surprisingly good job with a really high level of accuracy, but there are still going to be a lot of "hand work" and manual corrections needed before the book is 100% perfect. And an awful lot of the outcome is going to depend on the quality of your scanner -- with my scanner, I have to go back and re-scan 5% of a book to get the best, cleanest OCR results.

    I don't really recommend investing in this software unless you're just absolutely fanatical about conversion like I am, but if you *are* like me, the sale is quite a value at the moment and I felt I should mention it.