Tuesday, June 23, 2015

A Publisher's Nightmare

The previous blog post, Tools of the Trade, showed our keypad with shortcuts to aid in book editing. You may (or may not) have noticed a couple of keys with odd characters on them.

The key near the middle shows what looks like a long dash and the one on the lower left has three dots. The long dash is called an em dash. It is about three times as long as a hyphen and has special applications in writing. It can be used for emphasis in place of a comma, colon or parenthesis. In fiction writing, parenthesis and, to some measure, colons aren't generally used. The em dash can be used in their place. Microsoft Word has a shortcut key combination for inserting an em dash (Alt+Ctl+Num-, easy to remember, huh? That's why we include it on our shortcut keypad.) The Punctuation Guide has more details on the em dash's applications.

The three dots are called an ellipsis and are used to represent missing text, for example from a partial quote or dialog trailing off or… It is worth noting that the ellipsis is a single character in Word (inserted by Alt+Ctl+.) and not three separate periods. Once again, The Punctuation Guide gives you more complete usage info for the ellipsis.

The nightmare? Writers have a tendency to use the em dash and the ellipsis interchangeably rather than correctly. It ends up being the editor's or publisher's task to correct them before publication. They also may get overused with writers trailing off sentences with ellipses when a period is called for, or using an em dash when a simple comma is best.

Free bonus characterthe en dash. It is a single character about two hyphens wide and is used to separate numbers, e.g. twentythree.

Writersplease help end this nightmare…

Updatefree bonus video:

Monday, June 22, 2015

Tools of the Trade

or, Computers Make the Man.

The "goto" tool in this biz is Microsoft Word. While there are other ways to get text into a computer, massage it into shape and send it off to the world, Word is the de facto standard for such machinations. We also rely heavily on the Adobe tools, including Photoshop and Acrobat.

I have started experimenting with a new toya piece of hardware.

Yup, that's a USB keypad. "But, wait," you say. "Don't you have one of those on your keyboard already?" Very perceptive. If the picture showed more, you would see it at the other end of my keyboard.

This new keypad does more than meets the eye (mostly cause I haven't labelled it, yet). It does not duplicate the function of the keyboard keypad, but instead adds shortcuts to many of the most-used editing functions like copy, paste and so forth. How it does this magic is via an HID macro program. What in the world is that?

Not that you need to know to make it work, but HID is the protocol that USB keypads (and mice and) use to communicate. Macros, for this purpose, allow key substitution. On my keypad, when you press "-", you actually get a cut command. When you press "+", you get paste. Here is my current key map:

Most of the document editing around here can be done with my right hand on the mouse and my left hand on the keypad. There are no awkward control keys to press. Of course you can use the HID macro program to make the keys anything you like. It was actually developed for gaming use.

You can label the keys to suit. This instructables article explains how to make key labels and where to find the HID macro software. (One note about thatI just discovered that if the software isn't running, the new key functions don't work. I will be adding it to my startup folder.)

Friday, June 19, 2015

Success! Now What?

Our first launch party is in the books. It was moderately successful with a good turnout but lots of leftover cookies. Bob personalized copies of all his books and had his picture taken with many fans.

But now what? We can't just sit on our successes. There must be more! For Bob there a more book signings (see Events to the right). There is also another book.

We will be re-releasing the fourth book of Robert Spiller's Bonnie Pinkwater Mysteries series: Radical Equations. Proof copies are on their way to us. As soon as we're sure the book is perfect (that's possible, right?),  we'll get it to Amazon Kindle and CreateSpace. You know we'll let you know when that happens. In the meantime, here's a look at the updated cover.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

To The Moon!

Well, maybe not that far yet. But there will be a launch on Saturday!

Saturday, June 13, 2015 from 1:00 to 4:00PM will be the launch party for Robert Spiller's latest book, Napier's Bones, at the Manitou Art Center in Manitou Springs, Colorado.

Along with signed copies of all Bob's books, there will be giveaways, music, juggling lessons(!), and treats. Come help us kick off his latest title!

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Designer Logos

A business should have a logo. Should that statement end with a question mark? Please discuss in the comment section.

In the meantime, we decided some kind of logo might be nice to add to our new business cards. But logos can cost large dollars and take many parsecs to develop. And you also should have some idea of what you want. The idea seemed like a good place to start. What would represent Jmars Ink, a very (very, very) small publishing company? We create books and custom merchandise (we started with a mug for the book Napier's Bones) so how about a pencil and a mug? Why not? There was no one to stop us.

Here is the first concept sketch:

We sent this off to one of our graphic arts friends, Craig at Veggie Graphics, and he returned his stylized takes on the drawing:

I then asked, "Is it possible to get a simple outline as well?" His response was "Why yes!", along with this:

As you can see above in our header, this white version of the mug and pencil logo represents. Did we make the right choice? Should we keep trying? Should we just get back to work? Let us know in the comments.