Every place I've ever lived has been designed for that "average American family," with lots of bedrooms, living room, dining room, family room, etc. The problem was that I was a single person, not an average family. I needed space, but for hobbies, not people. And because I'm over 6'2", bending over to use sinks designed for children was a constant frustration. Over the years, I collected a list of things I would change if I could have my dream house. As I approached retirement, I realized time was running out for that house; it was now or never.

Dreams are not always perfect, however. I could never afford my dream house, a spacious Southern California home overlooking the Pacific Ocean. But I could afford a modest ranch house, with a 20-mile drive to the beach. It was a very long way from perfect, but it had potential.

This blog documents the process of turning that small average house into something that matches my lifestyle. It will be as close to my dream house as I can make it. I'm doing all the work myself to stretch my resources. By not hiring contractors, I can afford high quality materials, and I'll know the job is always done right. The remodeling will be my primary avocation for a few years, even as I try to fit in my writing and other hobbies.

It promises to be an interesting journey, and a challenging one!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Samsara's Einstein spaceship design

Much of Samsara is set on the spherical spaceship, the "Einstein."  I didn't get far in writing before realizing that I would have to first design the ship in some detail in order to describe what was going on inside it, and to do so consistently throughout the story.  The following schematics established the basic design; the rest is in my head.  All views are from the top except the second page (side view).
 - Chris

Thursday, January 27, 2011

On creating a Kindle e-book

Converting a novel from a word processing file to a Kindle e-book turned out to be both easier and more difficult that I had at first imagined.  I use a Mac and Apple's "Pages" word processing app, both of which I like very much.  But the challenge of converting to the EPUB e-book format, from some instructions I found online, seemed Byzantine in the extreme (perhaps because they really wanted you to use their conversion service).  I dreamed writer's block.

The big break came soon after when Apple updated Pages with the capability to export a word processing document to EPUB format, ostensibly so that people could read their word processing documents on their iPads.  So I bought a new version of Pages and then discovered that Kindles could not display EPUB files.  Bummer.  Then I discovered that amazon could convert EPUB files to their own Kindle format.  Hooray!  And they had a "KindlePreviewer" app to see how your converted EPUB file would look on Kindle.

So off I went, full of new optimism.

Unfortunately, I discovered that the double conversion process was not as articulate as advertised, a feeling echoed in a forum frequented by other Kindle converters.  In went the nicely formatted novel and out the other end came something only vaguely recognizable.  Centered section breaks (3 dots) were centered sometimes and left justified sometimes.  Text would appear in one size for awhile and then inexplicably appear in a larger font for one or two paragraphs before reverting to the former size.  The table of contents disappeared.  Bold text turned into regular, sometimes.

I couldn't see any obvious reason for any of this.  I turned on the invisibles and noticed I had ended some paragraphs with one or more spaces, so I went through the whole novel and deleted all of those.  I changed all the centered headings and breaks to left-justified.  I converted the whole novel to a different font, made the size of everything bigger, and then smaller again.

I converted and previewed close to 20 different versions of the word processing file before getting something plain but consistent, that worked.  A compromise to be sure, but it was presentable.

Amazon likes HTML, I learned.  Since I hand coded two other web sites (e.g. www.dtvprimer.com), I briefly considered coding whole novels in HTML before regaining my sanity, especially after reading that e-reader HTML is not the same as web site HTML.  On the other hand, if it would give me control . . .

But that's a challenge for the future.  In the meantime, plain is fine for fiction.  It's the words that count.

I'm hoping the conversion apps will soon be jacked up with little of my fictional AI mojo.