Friday, March 16, 2012

Next up: Ebook of 'Gin Fizz'

A bit of good news arrived yesterday from my agent: The original publisher has reverted all rights to my 1997 book Flight of the Gin Fizz: Midlife at 4,500 Feet.

This means I'm now free to convert it into an ebook and publish it myself. I'll begin the job this summer and complete it by fall.

Gin Fizz, for those unfamiliar with it, tells how I learned to fly, obtained a pilot's certificate, and had a literary adventure with it. This was retracing the pioneering 1911 coast-to-coast flight of Calbraith Perry Rodgers in a flimsy Wright Brothers-built biplane called the Vin Fiz. (I used a little two-seater Cessna 150 dubbed Gin Fizz for the re-enactment.)

The reviews were encouraging, especially that in the New York Times Book Review, but sales were dismal, primarily because of a bottom-line upheaval at HarperCollins just before the book was published, a tempest that resulted in the departure of my editor. The book was "orphaned," as they say in the trade, without anyone to push its promotion.

Maybe the ebook will find a bigger audience.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

'eZephyr' is almost done

Just three weeks remain to the planned launch of the ebook version of Zephyr: Tracking a Dream Across America. The last few days have been busy:

Creating an index for an ebook famously requires heavy-duty sweating, and I decided not to try to replicate the one in the original print Zephyr. Rather, I laboriously taught myself how to create a Table of Contents with Word. (Laborious because I don't really know Word very well. I'm one of those users who learns only what he needs to know and then forgets most of it.)

But Calibri, the free ebook creation software that turns Word-generated .html files into .mobi files for Kindle and .epub files for Nook and most everything else, does not do tables of contents very well. Calibri recognizes standard chapter headings such as "Chapter 1, Chapter 2," etc., but won't pick up a Preface, an Introduction, an Epilogue and so on.

There may be a way to make Calibri do the job by going into the software code, but I am not smart enough for that. So I Googled the problem and found a reader's suggestion: Use free software called Sigil to read the .epub file created by Calibri, then tell Sigil what headings to recognize for a table of contents, and finally save the .epub file.

The next step is to feed the .epub file back into Calibri and tell Calibri to save it as a Kindle .mobi file.

Success! Now I have a .mobi file for Kindle and an .epub file for Nook—both with full tables of contents linked to all chapter headings.

Later on I'll do the same for Sony Reader and Kobo, and maybe learn how to use Apple iBook Author to create a fancy interactive ebook with sound and perhaps even video.

Zephyr's not finished yet. Monday I head out on a ten-day trip aboard the California Zephyr to get some more photographs and also interview a few folks for the Epilogue. I'll also stop in Glenwood Springs, Colorado, for a few days to take the waters and see a couple of Amtrakers featured in the original book. Then I'll head on to San Francisco Bay for a weekend.

Being an author is hard work but it has benefits.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

On the track of Old Abe

My TrainWeb trip report on our ride from Chicago to St. Louis and back on Amtrak's Lincoln Service is now online.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Website change

My website has been spruced up with a new home page promoting the upcoming ebook edition of Zephyr: Tracking a Dream Across America. There are also new page link buttons and a few new pages devoted to the old nonfiction books. Go have a look and tell me what you think. Thanks.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Heading for a ruckus?

Next week I'm heading to St. Louis for a speaking gig, this one at the annual Early Hearing Detection & Intervention meeting, which draws hundreds of medical personnel, teachers and parents of deaf children from around the country to discuss the issues of hearing problems in infants.

I'm speaking on "Writing While Deaf," about the effect my profound deafness has had on my career in the hearing world as an editor and writer.  I'm going by train—Amtrak's Lincoln Service between Chicago and St. Louis—and naturally there will be a report on the rail trip on my TrainWeb blog.

Will there be a report on the EHDI conference? Probably not; deafness in infancy is not my field of expertise. But if anything interesting happens on the political protest front, maybe.

Several groups devoted to Deaf culture and American Sign Language have vowed to demonstrate at the conference. They hold that deafness is not a medical condition to be cured, but a culture to be celebrated. They want babies to learn ASL and enjoy the benefits of Deaf culture rather than undergoing surgical intervention with cochlear implants and the like.

I respect their point of view, and hope they will also respect mine. I believe that deaf people are not all alike, that each instance of deafness is different, that our diversity should be celebrated, not squelched, and that the choices that informed and concerned parents make for their youngsters should be honored, not attacked.

According to the conference organizers, the groups planning to protest were invited to join in the proceedings to air their points of view. (In fact, several official presenters will be offering insights on  teaching ASL to deaf babies.) But the groups refused, choosing instead to picket.

Security will be tight, the EHDI organizers said in an e-mail the other day, saying they hoped the protests would be peaceful and orderly.
This will be interesting. Stay tuned.

[MARCH 6. There were some "unpleasant" events at the conference, the organizers said when we arrived March 5, and the head of the group wanted to assign me a bodyguard to prevent anything untoward from happening, but we encountered absolutely nothing except polite and congenial people. I'll confess to being a little disappointed. It might have been bracing to debate points of view, and perhaps new understanding of both sides might have been achieved.]