Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Weird Wednesday - Flying Humanoids Over Mexico

Today's Weird Wednesday is a special guest post from M. Pax, a talented SF&F writer who also enjoys the occasional bit of weirdness. Be sure to check out her always interesting blog posts at Wistful Nebulae and her website, which has tons of cool stuff. Let the weirdness begin, M. Pax:

Reports have been cropping up of terrifying encounters with flying “humanoids” in Mexico. One of the most fascinating reports comes from a police officer in Monterrey. He says he was attacked in January 2004 by a flying entity draped in black.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

NANO Day 1

Well it was a busy weekend and even busier last couple of days. Here's the first day of #NaNoWriMo, and I'm already exhausted ;)

But did get over 2k words written :)

Don't worry, I won't post every day, just milestones haha.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

NaNoWriMo Oh No!

I have officially decided to do the NaNoWriMo thing. If you haven't heard of NaNoWriMo (I hadn't until recently,) it is sort of a competition where the goal is to write a novel in one month. So, it is NAtional NOvel WRIting MOnth. Get it? In this case, the goal is 50,000 words. The competition is with yourself, and if you achieve the goal, you win! It's not exactly going to be easy adding to an already busy schedule, but what the heck, right? It should be fun. If anybody wants to add me as a buddy, here is my NaNoWriMo page.

So what shall I write about? Hmm. How about a down and out princess who goes on the road to find adventure in a mystical magic land? It's a strange place where pirates are good guys and dragons talk with funny accents and magic spells are obsolete almost as soon as they are created. There will be plenty of daring do, with swords and sorcery and punks who don't follow any of the Wizard Guild's rules. We'll see all this and more, in The Land of Lor.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Pulp Science Fiction from USPS

Today the print version of Mythik Imagination #1 finally came in the mail :) It's a collection of three short science fiction stories in pulp magazine format of the 30s & 40s. If you wanna check it out, you can find it at Indy Planet for only three bucks. If you want the free eBook version, there is a handy graphic in the sidebar to your left with links to all eBook formats (including Issuu, which is basically an on-line version of the printed pages.)
Look what's peeking out of the envelope.

Hey why does my new magazine look all old and worn out?

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Keeping Up With The Mythik

Well, I have good news and bad news. The bad news is that I have been neglecting the blog - although some might consider that the good news ;) The good news is that the reason I have been neglecting the blog is because I have been busy writing and working on cool projects.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Zombies Are People Too!

I've always liked Halloween stories, so I decided to make one of my own. The Human Ate My Pumpkin! is a Halloween short story from the Zombie point of view:
The Human Ate My Pumpkin! is .99 cents on Amazon and FREE on Smashwords.
It wasn't just any other night in the unlife of Ned The Undead, it was Halloween! But the world had changed a lot lately, and nothing seemed to turn out the way he expected. Find out why Zombies are people too, in "The Human Ate My Pumpkin!"
Hopefully it will be free on Amazon in time for Halloween. Of course, you can always shell out the 99 cents right now ;) Or, just get it free on Smashwords.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Free eBook Update

Well it has been about a week since Amazon changed the price of Mythik Imagination #1 to free. Although it hasn't had the massive tsunami of downloads I've heard about for other free eBooks, it has been fun to see it high up on the charts. It went up all the way to #6 in Science Fiction, and I think it's still in the top 50.

So if you want to check it out, now is a good time, and you don't have anything to lose :)

Soon I'll be making another surprise announcement (heh, well not too much of a surprise) just in time for Halloween.

Stay tuned, stay Mythik and thanks for reading!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About The Space Shuttle

After attending the #EndeavourLA Launch Event NASA Tweetup, I thought it would be cool to have a little tribute to the recently retired STS (Space Transportation System.) Although the original Space Transportation System was much more ambitious than just a reusable orbiter, the Space Shuttle was an amazing feat of engineering and accomplished a lot of pretty incredible things. Here's an infographic from Space.com after the jump:

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

#EndeavorLA Nasa Tweetup


I was lucky enough to attend the #EndeavorLA Launch event, thanks to NASA Tweetup
and @casciencecenter. If you haven't heard about the Tweetups, they are part of a social media program by NASA, where you can sign up and may be randomly chosen to attend an event. All they ask is that you tweet about it :) This was the first one I signed up for. This event was to "sign over the pink slip" of Space Shuttle Endeavour from NASA to the California Science Center. I'm not sure exactly when the shuttle will actually arrive, but I can't wait to go back and see it.

So come on with me for a virtual tour, and let's see what happened!

The California Science Center is very cool, with lots of hands-on exhibits.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Mythik Imagination #1 Print Preview

The print version of Mythik Imagination #1 is just about ready. To see what it will look like, here is an on-line print preview:




You can also view it by going to Mythik Imagination #1 Print Version.

Thanks for reading!

Friday, September 30, 2011

Weekend eBooks

This week I plan to do a little Kindling and have loaded up some cool new eBooks (ha ha, yep I read on the iPhone! Crazy...) You also might want to check these out:

First up is Semper Audacia by M. Pax. $0.99

"Space opera. Novelette. 13,200 words. Alone. Leda is the last living member of the brigade, the sole defender of her world. War took everyone she knew, leaving her in the company of memories and ghosts. Or is it madness?

The siren blares. The enemy is coming. Or is it? The approaching vessel isn't a friendly design, but it answers with the correct code. Leda must figure out whether the arrival is reinforcements or the final assault. In an aging flyer, she ventures out to meet her world's fate, the last stand."



Next is Hunted - The Flash Gold Chronicles by Lindsay Buroker. $1.49

"Self-taught tinkerer Kali McAlister is determined to build an airship and escape the frigid Yukon forever. Unfortunately, she’s the heir to the secrets of flash gold, an alchemical energy source that tends to make her a popular target for bandits, gangsters, and pirates.

With the help of her bounty-hunting business partner, Cedar, Kali has outwitted and eluded attackers before, and she thinks she’s prepared for anything. Then her ex-fiancĂ© strolls into her workshop.

As if fooling her once wasn’t enough, he aims to embroil her in a fresh scheme. Meanwhile, a new nemesis is stalking her, a shrouded figure with an arsenal of deadly machines that make Kali’s inventions seem like toys. This time, it’ll take more than her ingenuity and Cedar’s combat skills to survive.

Hunted is a 27,000-word steampunk novella.

Printed page count equivalent: 120"

And Imperium - A Caulborn Novel by Nicholas Olivo. $2.99

"Vincent Corinthos leads a triple life. As a secret agent, he handles paranormal threats; as a god, he protects his followers from evil forces; as a stock clerk, he keeps the back room of an antique store tidy.

When one of his fellow agents goes missing, Vincent begins with the usual suspects. His investigation reveals that Boston’s latest supernatural threat is also waging war on his followers, and has diabolic intentions for the city’s paranormal citizens.

Now, with the aid of a new partner and a gremlin, Vincent must locate the missing agent, defend his followers and learn the identity of his adversaries before they can revive a malevolent force that’s been dormant since World War II."

I'm already a fan of Buroker's Flash Gold series, and the premises of Semper Audacia and Imperium look pretty awesome. Now I just need to find the time to actually read...

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Mythik Imagination #1 is a Free eBook

Mythik Imagination #1 is now a free eBook on Smashwords. It's also free on Barnes & Noble and iTunes. It's not free for the Amazon Kindle yet, but if any volunteers out there would like to let Amazon know they should adjust the price to free, that would be way cool. Thanks to Savvy Self Publishing for the tip on how to make Kindle eBooks free!

I'm not quite ready to announce a release date for Mythik Imagination #2 Weird West Edition just yet, but hopefully it will be ready soon.

I'm trying to make up for time lost over the summer, and if all goes according to plan, the next issues of Mythik Imagination will be much closer together :)

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Weird Wednesday - Strange Places

So I've been collecting a small database of, shall we say, odd places. I have a theory that if you dig around enough, you can probably find something weird about just about any place. But the locations in this list sort of stand up and shout out how odd they really are and don't require much digging at all. I've been using the list for possible locations in some Weird West stories. Strangely enough, most of them have the word "canyon" or "devil" in their name. Bonus points if they have both. And if it's not "canyon" or "devil," it's a mountain. So if you ever see a sign pointing the way to "Devil Mountain Canyon," go the other way. Alright, now for the list:

Monday, September 26, 2011

Spaceship Links


Well, my amateur rocket science obsession has just about run its course. Until the resulting stories are published, anyway ;) But for those of you who haven't been completely driven away by all the equations, here are some final cool links about the final frontier:
  • Basics of Space Flight - A complete tutorial from JPL. It starts at the beginning and walks you through every aspect of space travel.
  • The N Prize - That's right, launch your very own tiny satellite into space, and win a prize! (Please let me know if you actually succeed in doing this, cuz it seems waaaay cool.)
  • SpinCalc - A handy little program that lets you see how much artificial gravity you generate by spinning.
  • Orbit Diagrams - Courtesy of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, this cool site shows all kinds of interesting views of our little home solar system.
  • Mars Design Reference - From NASA, this has everything you ever wanted to know about a real-life trip to Mars.
  • Thruster Calculator - You can input your own numbers or let the computer do it for you (Try out the AM-Beam Torchship (which is powered by anti-matter,) put in a Mass Ratio of 4 and reach 23% of the speed of light!
Okay, that's that for that. Next up: The Weird West!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

How To Build A Spaceship - Part 4

MPD Thruster
In Part 3, we plugged our numbers into the equations and did the calculations. So let's look at what we came up with:

Mythik Magnetoplasmadynamic Mars Expedition Ship
Mission - Fly to Mars, look around, and return to Earth.
Distance - .5 AU or 74,799,000,000 meters.
Ship - Orbit to orbit Mars Expedition vessel. "Fire Baton" class generating 1G artificial gravity by spinning around the central core. The artificial gravity is good for the health of our crew and also helps simplify things like plumbing and all the other things that act surprisingly weird in micro gravity. It's powered by two 15MW nuclear reactors, generating 6MW of electrical power.
Length - 125 Meters. The reactors are at one end, the Habitat Module at the other end, connected by trusses from the central core. The distance of our crew from the reactors, combined with the radiation shield, keeps the amount of radiation exposure to safe levels for the duration of the mission. There is a "storm cellar" in the center of the Habitat with extra shielding in case of solar flares, etc.
Thrusters - Six Magnetoplasmadymaic (MPD) Thrusters, which have 25 Newtons of thrust each. Three thrusters are on each side of the central core. Our design is what's known as Nuclear Electric Propulsion. The nukes make the electricity which powers the thrusters. Another design is Nuclear Thermal Propulsion, where the nukes are the thrusters.
Wet Mass - 145,400kg
Dry Mass - 75,400kg
Propellant Mass - 70,000kg
Propellant Tanks Mass - 4,000kg
Drive - 32,200kg - Includes all power systems, radiation shield, radiators, etc.
Hull - 5,000kg - Includes central core, thrusters, truss, etc.
Payload - 34,200kg - Consists of TransHab inflatable crew module, including all life support systems, navigation, control systems, etc.
Thrust - 150 Newtons
Specific Impulse - 5,000 seconds
Mass Ratio - 1.92
Exhaust Velocity - 49,050m/s
Ship Delta V - 32,210m/s
Acceleration - .001 m/s
Travel Time - 197 Days (6.6 Months)
Mission Delta V - 17,568m/s

Okay! There are a couple of issues:

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

How To Build A Spaceship - Part 3


In Part 2 we looked at some of the variables we need to know or calculate to determine our spaceship design. Now, we'll look at the elements of the ship itself.

Just as a Ferrari has specific parts such as engine, chassis, suspension, brakes, body etc., a spaceship can be broken down into necessary, specific components.

We'll need a drive (no warp drives here!) and propellant, hull, and a payload section.

The design I'm going to initially copy is from the NASA Artificial Gravity for Human Exploration Missions report. I must admit, I picked this one because it looks cool and has some rather interesting quirks that I think would make for a great story setting. It uses the "fire baton" concept to create artificial gravity by spinning the entire ship. The power reactors are on one end, and the payload (the habitat or crew module) is balanced on the other end. The ship rotates around the center, where the propellant tanks and thrusters are located. Our thrust will be provided by six Magnetoplasmadynamic (MPD) thrusters, which get their power from six turbo alternators which convert the thermal energy from two nuclear reactors into electrical power. So it will break down like this:
  • Drive - 2 nuclear reactors, 6 turbo alternators, radiators, radiation shield and assorted gizmos.
  • Propellant  - This is the Lithium propellant that our MPD thrusters will use.
  • Hull - this is the central core, the truss that connects the Drive and Habitat modules to the core, and guy wires, etc. In this particular design, our thrusters are also considered to be part of the Hull section, although they are commonly in the Drive section. This will also include the mass of our tanks that hold the propellant. You'll note the hull is nothing like an ocean liner or the Starship Enterprise. It is pretty much just a skeleton that connects the other parts of the ship. Ah, the elegance of space travel!
  • Payload - This consists of our habitat module, which is a self-contained, inflatable TransHab design.
First, we'll need to figure out how much mass our spaceship has...

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

How To Build A Spaceship - Part 2

Okay, so the Ferrari Road Trip from Part 1 showed us that we needed to know a few things to figure out the time and cost of our trip. And Flying Cars, Jetpacks and Video Phones showed us that just because something hasn't been done, doesn't mean it can't be done. And, if in space, no one can hear you scream, then no one can charge your credit card, either, right? So we're going to almost forget about cost for now, except for two terms: "Realistic" and "Sci-Fi." I'll define those two terms:

  • "Realistic Cost" - If enough people in the right places want to do it, and it's based on something that somebody really smart really came up with, then it can be done eventually.
  • "Sci-Fi Cost" - If Old Ben can buy two 1-way tickets (Droids ride free) on the Millennium Falcon for 17,000 somethings, then that's all that matters.
So forget about cost for now, except to say that we'll use "Realistic Cost" and that any power plant or engine that we consider would be something our Rocketpunk characters would willingly spend lots of time and money to develop.

So much for cost. What we're most interested in is realistic time frames for our trips in space. So that means we'll have to figure out our power and fuel and propellant requirements. We'll also need to know the distances involved. Pretty much just like our little jaunt in the 250 GT from LA to NYC, right? Surprisingly, yes. Hey, it ain't rocket science!

Monday, September 19, 2011

How To Build A Spaceship - Part 1

1961 Ferrari 250 GT California
So you wanna build a spaceship, eh? Well, first we are gonna need a car. A Ferrari, in fact.

That's what we'll use for this little opening metaphor, anyway. Don't worry, it will be a lot more fun than a typical "If Train A leaves Chicago at 50mph..." story problem. This metaphor will get us into space!

Let's say you want a fun road trip from from Los Angeles to New York City. Being a curious and thrifty person, you also want to know how long it will take and how gas you'll need. To determine these things, you need to figure out a bunch of other things. We'll simplify our trip (this is, after all, just a metaphor) and say that you will drive non-stop, Smokey And The Bandit style. We will need to know how far it is from LA to NYC, how fast your car can go, what kind of gas mileage the car gets at that speed and how much gas the car's fuel tank holds. We're going to say "who cares" to the cost of both gas and car and "borrow" a car, Ferris Bueller style.)

Monday, September 12, 2011

Flying Cars, Jetpacks, and Video Phones

When I was in the first grade, I figured that by now, I would be working on a space station. After all, back then by now was an entire lifetime away, and my dad had a model of the lunar lander next to the TV in our living room. I mean, come on, if humans could land on the moon before I was born, then surely there would soon be a continual need for more than a dozen people in space at any one time. Surely by the second decade of the 21st century there would be at least thousands of people on huge space stations, lunar bases, and if all went well, even on Mars and beyond. As a matter of fact, by now we should be testing out Starships and deciding which exoplanet to visit first.

Let's see... Wright Brothers - 1903. Apollo - 1969. Moon Base Alpha - 1979. Clark County Space Station - 1989. Asimov Mars Base 1 - 1999.  Right? Right?!

Well, maybe not quite. As I mentioned in The Orion Battleship, Just because we can do something, doesn't mean we will. And conversely, just because we haven't done something, doesn't mean we can't do it. Yes, there is no Mars base. And the progress curve from Kitty Hawk to Apollo suddenly plateaued just when it looked like it was going to reach all the way to infinity. The problem, of course, is staring you in the face. That's right, blame it on your iMac. Or that box wired to your flat panel monitor. The trouble all started with the transistor.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Go Ahead, Punk...


So a while ago I came up with an idea... What if some of NASA's (and others) plans developed in the 1950's through 1970s actually came to fruition, instead of being cancelled? What would our world (and the solar system) now look like if projects like Orion and the Lenticular Reentry Vehicle and the original Space Transportation System were developed and put into use? And what if the natural progression beyond those projects had continued?

Naturally, I'm not the first to think of such a thing. In fact, there are already at least two really cool web sites concerning this idea. I've already mentioned one of them on this blog, called Atomic Rockets. The other is Rocketpunk Manifesto. The term for this concept, of course, is Rocketpunk.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Weird Wednesday: Orion Battleship

A "small" Project Orion ship
Today's edition of Weird Wednesday features the Orion Battleship.

But first, a little history:

Sponsored by the U.S. Government, Project Orion dates back all the way to the late 1940's and officially began in 1958. The idea was to explode nuclear devices behind a space ship and ride the shock wave forward. 800 atomic blasts later, and you've ridden an atomic hop ball into orbit. Keep it up and you could even get to Pluto and back in under a year - if you managed to stay in one piece.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

July Update

Well I have been a very bad blogger and twittererer. But I do have an excuse. No, it's not something quite as cool as having George Lucas demand I write the screenplay to Indiana Jones 5 or anything like that. But I have been very busy with the cool day job.

Sharp-eyed readers will note my tentative release date for MI#2 has come and gone. That is disappointing, but since my workload isn't going to let up any time soon, I am re-tentatively assigning the new release date of early August (how's that for vague?)

Also, my new email address is jon@jonmac.me. Don't ask, it's a long story. But if anybody has sent me an email and I never responded, it is because my old domain got all messed up. This new one works great, though :)

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Weird Wednesday - The Evolution Machine

First, check out this article from New Scientist about The Evolution Machine. It's OK, I'll wait.

I love the description in the first paragraph of what sounds like a mad scientist Lego Machine mixed with Dr. Frankenstein designer labware and tormented bacteria. And, it would all fit on the desk in your dorm room or spare bedroom:
"Say hello to the evolution machine. It can achieve in days what takes genetic engineers years. So far it is just a prototype, but if its proponents are to be believed, future versions could revolutionise biology, allowing us to evolve new organisms or rewrite whole genomes with ease. It might even transform humanity itself."
That last line is pretty bold, but it's the aim of a geneticist from Harvard Medical School named George Church. His group has created this machine designed to "evolve" biological organisms using "highly directed evolution." This method of genetic engineering has been christened MAGE - Multiplex Automated Genome Engineering.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Mythik Imagination #1 Reviewed

There's a good review of Mythik Imagination #1 at Frida Fantastic. Frida really knows her speculative fiction, and has a good breakdown of the three stories in MI#1. I like these kinds of reviews because they give you such a great idea of what the stories are like, you can decide if they might be for you or not.

While the above is for the readers out there, this next bit (also from Frida) is for you writers: How To Get Book Reviewers To Ignore You. I can't believe there is even a necessity for such a post, but apparently many Indie Authors have a problem with following directions and common sense. So go read it and don't let it happen to you! Er, wait... Better go quick before I take the link down - I just realized the more people who eliminate themselves from the writer gene pool means better odds for me ;)

Anyway, check out Frida Fantastic.  Even if you are interested in none of the above, she has great in-depth, insightful reviews. She really cares about reading and readers. And probably has too much of a soft spot for Indie Authors. Just remember Lester Bangs' advice from Almost Famous. And that's my review of the reviewer :)

Coming up tomorrow: Another exciting edition of Weird Wednesday.

Monday, June 27, 2011

FYI - Barnes & Noble and iTunes Added

It looks like the distribution to Barnes & Noble and iTunes has finally gone through for Mythik Imagination #1. So that's the good news..

But.


Since this blog is the "behind the scenes exclusive view" of all things Mythik (we are all about transparency, right?) I will say that I'm still not entirely happy with what the Smashwords Meatgrinder and I came up with in regards to the formatting of all the Smashwords versions of MI#1 (which includes iTunes and B&N.) I am a bit hesitant, though, to upload a new version to "fix" what isn't really broken. I might make it worse (haha, a very minor version of the "Unintended Consequences" scenario from the last Weird Wednesday.) Anyway, the problem is that sometimes the chapter breaks seem to cut off the titles. I was sure when I first downloaded and tested, it worked fine, but now it looks like it doesn't. It's very frustrating, after following the Style Guide so carefully. Anyway, I will try to make improvements with #2. On the flip side, I was very pleased with the Kindle version.

And in other FYI news, I'm making the final revisions to the print edition of MI#1. I think it will look really cool. So stay tuned for that.

I'm really excited about the MI#1 Podiobook. I'm behind schedule on that, but it should be a cross between the old CBS Radio Mystery Theater and a spoken-word Twilight Zone. Unfortunately, I haven't been able to "make use of time, let not advantage slip." Ha that's Shakespeare - who says the SF genre isn't literate? But I've got some good actors lined up and hopefully will get it done soon.

I'm still struggling to get MI#2 finished. So much to do, so little time...

What projects are you working on?

Friday, June 24, 2011

Disco Friday

Ha, fooled you. It's not Disco as in late '70s music and ducks, but Disco as in Disco-very. Get it? I know, whatever.

Anyway, here are a few things I've discovered in my virtual travels that you might find interesting:
  • Book Trailers for Promotion - Yay or Nay? - This is a nice little overview of the Book Trailer Phenomenon. Okay, cool. But you really have to look at the hilarious videos at the end of the post. I mean, really. Right now. I know everybody always says everything is hilarious, and everybody always says look right now blah, blah, blah, but in this case it really is really funny. If you've published a book or even considered it, these vids will be especially hilarious. Okay, I'm not going to use the word hilarious any more. Thanks to Lindsay Buroker.
  • How to rise above the self-published slush pile - A great point-by-point guide that any Indie Author would do well to study. Thanks to Frida Fantastic.
  • HitRECord.org - This just might be my favorite place on the internet. Which might seem odd, considering I haven't been there in ages. To tell the truth, it is a bit overwhelming to me, and I could easily spend hours there. You can find me as Jon Mac and check out some of the stuff we've RECorded. Now with work and writing and publishing and whatnot, I don't have the time, but hopefully that will change soon. You are no doubt very busy, too, but you should still try to check it out. If you are a creative type at all, HitRECord will make you feel like a kid in a candy store. It's a treasure trove of artists, writers, videographers, editors, singers, musicians and more. Everybody can use everybody else's stuff and there are always a lot of amazing collaborations going on. If you like to be more of a looker than a doer, then there are plenty of projects/art/music/conversations to see, hear and feel (yes, they even make physical objects as well as media of the electro variety.) You can take part as little or as much as you want. Thanks to Joseph Gordon-Levitt (aka Regular Joe.)
Do you have any cool links you'd like to share?

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Interviewed by Nicholas Olivo

I've been lucky enough to be interviewed by Nicholas Olivo. He also has funny posts and very good Scrivener tutorials, so I recommend you check out his site even if you skip my interview.

Since we're being all personal and whatnot, I'll take this opportunity to say "Thanks, Nick!" It is actually really cool that somebody I didn't know took the time and interest to find out more about Mythik Imagination and me.

All right, I need to get back to work.

Thanks, stay Mythik and stay tuned :)
-Jon

Weird Wednesday - Lifeboat Foundation


At first, I thought the Lifeboat Foundation was a made up thing. Maybe some kind of J.J. Abrams-esque fictional web site along the lines of the Hanso Foundation. But nope, it appears to be the real deal.

The purpose of the Lifeboat Foundation is to protect humanity from, well, just about everything. From nano-plagues to asteroidal extinction, they have a plan to save the day. Heck, they even have backups for backups.

Ark-I, a self sustaining space colony, is their "fallback position in case programs such as our BioShield and NanoShield fail." That's some serious safety! The foundation is a treasure trove of sometimes weird, but always fascinating, emerging technologies such as: smart dust, space guns, and space elevators. I also like how they apply Murphy's Law to artificial intelligence. You just know that can't end well.

And I love how they connect SETI with the reason why you really need to have somebody keeping an eye on you. Check out this quote on their Security Preserver page:
"There's a long-standing problem in astronomy called the Fermi Paradox, named for physicist Enrico Fermi who first proposed it in 1950. If the universe should be teeming with life, asked Fermi, then where are all the aliens? The question is even more vexing today: SETI, the search for extraterrestrial intelligence with radio telescopes, has utterly failed to turn up any sign of alien life forms. Why?

One chillingly likely possibility is that, as the ability to wreak damage on a grand scale becomes more readily available to individuals, soon enough just one malcontent, or one lunatic, will be able to destroy an entire world. Perhaps countless alien civilizations have already been wiped out by single terrorists who'd been left alone to work unmonitored in their private laboratories."
So the reason we are alone in the Universe is because ET mad scientists always blow everything up before they can say "Hi." If that isn't grist for the pulp mill, I don't know what is!

The quote is actually from science fiction writer Robert J. Sawyer, which the Lifeboat Foundation uses to illustrate their point about how there should be debate about the role of surveillance in the future.

One very interesting (heck they are all interesting) LF program is the AI Shield. One of the greatest threats we may face is the age-old problem of Unintended Consequences:
"Consider the simple case of an AGI that has been given the uncontroversial goal of eradicating malaria. A reasonable human expectation would be that such an AI would complete its goal by conventional means: perhaps by developing a new anti-malarial drug, or by initiating a program of mosquito control. The problem is that there are many other ways of eradicating malaria, some of which are undesirable. For example, an AGI might choose to eradicate malaria by eradicating all mammals."
Thankfully, The Lifeboat Foundation is on the job to avoid just those kind of situations. That may be bad news  for HAL, Colossus, and Sky-Net, but good news for us. Umm, assuming you aren't an artificially intelligent silicon-based life form. And if you are, please like my Facebook page.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Step by Step Scrivener to Kindle Tutorial

There are many ways to get your content onto a Kindle. But it's not so simple finding a way that produces satisfactory results. For Mythik Imagination #1, I used an .html template (shout out to Derek J. Canyon "Thanks for the template!") and formatted by hand. It seemed to work pretty well, but is tedious if you have to do a lot of unusual formatting. For instance I needed a lot of italics, so it was a pain to add the many, many, many HTML tags by hand.

My goal was to find a program I could use to write all my drafts, then be able to export to send to the proofreader/editor, then paste in the final locked words, then export to a nicely formatted and professional looking Kindle file, ready for uploading. I think I've found a one-stop method of doing all that, using Scrivener.

Scrivener is a great little program that has big capabilities. It is really amazing with all the things it can do. I don't know most of those things yet, because I've been focused on just one thing: Kindle formatting. You can Google dozens of Scrivener tutorials (and heck, even read the manual haha,) and you can also go see Nicholas Olivo for good Scrivener tutorials.

You should know the basics of Scrivener before using this tutorial. I also have a disclaimer. This method seems to work really well in my tests. But, I'm paranoid, so I won't be entirely convinced until I actually upload to Amazon, then buy the finished product and see what the buyer sees. So, I'm not guaranteeing anything just yet. But it should give you a head start to see for yourself if you like this technique or not. - UPDATE: So I have now used this method on The Human Ate My Pumpkin! and it worked great :)

For convenience sake, here are some helpful links before we start:

All right, you have written your masterpiece, and now you want to get it on a Kindle, using Scrivener. Here's how to do it:

Step-1
First, you will need to download and install two programs (available for Mac or PC) from Amazon:

The first is KindleGen, which is the program that Scrivener will use to do the actual converting to .mobi format.

The second is Kindle Previewer, which will let you see how your newly created .mobi file will look on a Kindle device or app.

So download those now and install them. It's okay, I'll wait.

I'm going to assume that you've figured out the basics of how Scrivener works, including the Compile command. But, if you haven't, I'll give you head start:



Select File>Compile…

Then select Compile For: Kindle eBook (.mobi) and select KindleGen from the Compilation Options.



Now you need to tell Scrivener where to find the KindleGen program. So, just point it to wherever you installed KindleGen. There's also a handy link to the Amazon KindleGen download page if you haven't downloaded it yet.

Okay, now you are ready to rock. Cancel the compile window and let's get down to bizness!

Step-2
Here's a new, blank Scrivener project:



Organize Scrivener's binder the way you want your Kindle book to look. You will see I used a combination of folders and files. In the Scrivener Universe, folders and files are essentially the same. They are both containers that you can also write on. But when you compile, you can set each of those types to do different things. So here I have six sections that will be in my book:



Front Matter (folder)
Contents (folder)
Chapter 1 (file)
Chapter 2 (file)
Chapter 3 (file)
Back Matter (file)

Front Matter is just a fancy way of saying "All the stuff that comes before your actual story," like the title and copyright info, etc. The consensus seems to be to keep the front matter short. The Chapters are, well, chapters of your novel, but in my case, they will be my short stories. The Back Matter is whatever you have after your story, such as an Afterword, links to your website and other books, excerpts from other books, whatever.

So here is what I will have for my book:


What you name these folders and files is very important, because the Compile settings will use these names to automatically title each of your sections using the folder or file name. It works like this: The title of my front matter will be Mythik Imagination #2, which will also have the text of the copyright etc. The title of my contents page will be Contents: and it will have the text of my table of contents. Each of my chapters will be titled with their respective names and contain the text of the actual story. Got it? Good.

Also, remember that that folders can have text, just like files. So, my front matter folder (called Mythik Imagination #2) will have the text of the front matter written on it. (You can think of it as an empty folder, since it doesn't contain anything inside it, but it has the text of the front matter --copyright etc.-- written on it.) The Contents folder is the same. Make sense? No?Don't worry; it will all become clear.

Step-3
Next, we are going to create our Table of Contents. I select all of my chapters, which are The Silver Skull, The Schofield Crew, Requiem For The Wild West, and Author's Note.


Then I go to the menu bar and select Edit>Copy Special>Copy Documents as Scrivener Links:


Boom! Now I select the empty Contents folder:


Then right click (control-click on Mac) in the editing area and select Paste:


And viola:


There is our table of contents. Note, this screen shot is after I selected Align Text Center and I have Show Invisibles turned on, which is why you see those backwards "P" symbol things. For more detail about creating an eBook table of contents, you can look at the Scrivener User Manual, at the bottom of page 252.

Step-4
There's one more thing to do before we compile. You've already got your cover art, right? Right? Please say yes. Good! 

Here's some bonus info on the interior Kindle cover. First, do not confuse this with the Catalog Cover. The Catalog Cover is the super-duper high quality image you upload when publishing on the Amazon KDP site.

But forget that for now. Right now we are concerned with the actual cover image that will be the very first page of your Kindle book. This is known as the Cover Image Within Kindle Book. Oddly enough, help for that can be found on the page titled: Formatting Images Within Kindle Book

You don't know it, but I just backspaced over a bunch of info that would have turned this into a graphics tutorial. Instead, I'll just say this:

Cover Image Within Kindle Book specs:
Format: .jpg
Dimensions: about 600 pixels wide by 800 pixels tall
File Size: 127KB or less

That's a pretty small file size, so you may have to tweak the export settings of your graphics program to get the size right. It's worth the effort, though. Try to get as close to 127KB without going over, because your image will look better. My file size was 125KB, and it looks sharp and clean. Theoretically, if your image's file size is too big, KDP will do extra compression to reduce the size and it may not look very good.

Now, name it something logical, like Interior_Cover.jpg and save it where you can find it. Now drag it into the Research folder in the Binder of Scrivener:

Very good.


Okay, so now let's say you have all the content of your front matter, chapters and back matter. It's all been proofread and edited and is word perfect, right? Right. Now let's make it a Kindle book!

Step-5
Go back to Compile:


Compile: Contents
Make sure you have selected Compile For: Kindle eBook (.mobi) and then select Contents under Compilation Options:


We are going to include all of our folders and files. We want to checkmark Pg Break Before for everything except Mythik Imagination #2 (our Front Matter.)

Step-6
Compile: Formatting

Here, we are going to include the Title and Text for Folders and for files. We are not checkmarking anything on the middle line, because those are File Groups, which we aren't using. Here's why I made the front matter and contents folders instead of files. Because now we can set the Folder Title to "Heading 1" and set the Page padding to 3 lines.


AND we can set the Files Title to Heading 1 (or a different Heading if we wanted) and set Page padding to 8 lines. Heading changes the size of the Title, and Page padding determines how far down the page the Title is. So we end up with different settings for our Files, which are also our chapters.

Step-7
Compile: Processing Options

I'm not going to get into all of the reasons for the various settings (yes, we are trained monkeys pressing buttons.) Just make sure it looks like the pic.

Step-8
Compile: Separators

Section breaks determine where the Kindle will start new pages. The way our layout is organized, we want to have a Section break between everything. Just do it, please.

Step-9
Compile: Cover
Now we get to use the cover image we worked so hard on in Step-4:


Just select the cover image. It's pretty straightforward, especially if that's the only image in your Research folder.

Step-10
Compile: E-Book Options

Copy these settings. Make sure that whatever text you type into the "HTML table of contents title:" field matches exactly the name of your Contents: folder. Note that here I used "Contents:" with the colon. That is because my Contents: folder actually has a colon:



When Scrivener compiles, it will automatically add the folder and page names, remember? so my final contents page will look like this:


Okay, we're almost done…

Step-11
HTML Options


Make sure "Convert Scrivener links to HTML links" is checkmarked.

All the other Compilation Options should be fine to leave in their default settings.

Step-12
Hit the Compile button.

When you save it, you will have a file ending in .mobi. That is your Kindle book :)

Step-13
Open up the Kindle Previewer and drag your newly created .mobi file into Kindle Previewer. You should see a nicely formatted, professional looking Kindle book. Check it over and over again to make sure everything turned out the way you planned.


That's it. You should be able to upload the .mobi file to KDP and be good to go. Theoretically. I will make an update to this once I've done it. But in the meantime, this should give you a good idea of how to format your Kindle book using Scrivener.

So test it out, experiment, and have fun!

Friday, June 17, 2011

The Great Indy Summer Read Giveaway

Guess what? It's time for The Great Indy Summer Read Giveaway!! Katja at www.coffeemugged.net is hosting this cool event where you could get some free books.

Of course, one of those books just happens to be of the Mythik variety ;)

You can also check out the books at Goodreads.

There will be a LOT of winners, which will be chosen randomly. Find out how you can increase your chances of winning by reading the instructions page.

1st winner will receive 10 different books

2nd & 3rd winners will receive 5 different books
4th & 5th winners will receive 3 different books
6th – 10th winners will receive 2 different books

So have fun and good luck!


Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Weird Wednesday - The Flying Wombat

Welcome to Weird Wednesday. Today we feature what I think is one of the most surprising cars of all time: The 1938 Phantom Corsair. If there was ever a real-life Pulp Hero-mobile, this is it.

It was nicknamed The Flying Wombat, due to the part it played in a 1938 movie, and you can bet I'll be having some pulp adventure character flying down a moonlit midnight road in this baby.

I debated whether it was actually weird enough to be featured in a Weird Wednesday. But imagine how wild it would have seemed to other motorists who pulled up next to the Flying Wombat in 1938! Designed by Rust Heinz, an heir to the famous ketchup fortune, and Maurice Schwartz, the Phantom Corsair was supposed to be the Motor Car of Tomorrow.

It had such futuristic features as air-conditioning, push-button doors, electric 4-speed automatic transmission, front-wheel drive, tinted non-glare windshield, aircraft-style instrument panel with over 20 dials and switches, a radio with dual speakers, and a 4.7 liter V8 engine. And it could comfortably seat a hero and five sidekicks while racing along at 115 mph with no wind noise.

But sadly, it was not to be. Rust Heinz died shortly after the first car was completed, and plans to put the design into production were dropped. We can only wonder how history might have been changed if the Flying Wombat had been able to compete with the likes of Cadillac, Nash and Studebaker.

For some really cool eye candy, check out these amazing pics of the Flying Wombat.

Today you can find the one and only Phantom Corsair in the biggest little city in the world, at the National Automobile Museum in Reno, Nevada.