Category Archives: eBooks

Free eBook, 21 January 2013

NiaS trade 3D cover

My novel is again free for Kindle, January 21st. You can find a long excerpt here, or here’s a brief sampler:


“Your ETA was out by fourteen minutes,” Tessa mutters through a cigarette as she banks to line up the dirt strip.

“The wind changed,” Cordell replies. “You haven’t set the gyrocompass in an hour.”

Tessa says nothing, stubs out the cigarette. Cordell rubs his chin, pledges to recheck his plotting. His eyes follow a bolt of green which runs from the hills below to the opposite horizon, impaling at the plain’s midpoint the clustered structures of a town surrounded by a lowrise sprawl of slum. The runway lies within an irrigated patch of green, some sort of orchard, though it’s hard to tell from this altitude.

“Do they know we’re coming?” Cordell asks.

“Yeah. Yesterday.”

The plane descends steeply, and Tessa battles a crosswind, twisting the yoke to the left while standing on the right rudder pedal, nose askew of the centreline. She trims the elevator, drops the flaps, and throttles back, releasing rudder and aileron, allowing the plane to straighten out. The craft sinks to the sand and they rumble down the runway, decelerating as Tessa cuts the throttles. Cordell looks through the side window, sees limes dangling from the branches like verdant Christmas ornaments, gleaming in the sunlight. He spots among the shrubbery a yellow bulldozer parked with its blade facing the runway and for an instant he sees what looks like a man in military fatigues crouched in the seat.

He is about to comment when Tessa barks, “What’s this?” Cordell stretches his neck to look through her side window, sees an army truck with soldiers clustered in the back pull out from among the trees and onto the runway’s edge, matching their speed.

“Up!” Cordell cries. “Up up up, take us up! It’s a trap!”

“Yeah, got it,” Tessa says, reaching for the throttles before she calls, “Not enough runway!”

She stands on the brakes and they slam into their restraints. The plane pitches forward and Cordell feels the cockpit tilt sickeningly, thinks the tailwheel has lifted and they are tipping onto the nose. Tessa lets up and the tail thumps to the ground. The army truck continues until the soldiers hammer on the cab’s roof and the vehicle brakes. Tessa whirls the plane to face down the strip. “Puts wind behind us, but here goes,” she growls. She slams the throttles forward.

There is motion in the trees on the runway’s left side, and then like a yellow animal scooting headlong into traffic the bulldozer emerges and rolls onto the strip. It reaches the centreline and stops and the soldier in the seat turns to watch their approach, his mouth agape. Tessa grits her teeth, grunts, “All right, soldier. A little game of pollo.”

With only seconds to escape, the soldier leaps from the bulldozer’s saddle and lopes into the trees. Tessa pumps the brakes while Cordell grips the armrests and the Duck skids towards the yellow machine. A moment before collision Tessa swerves off the runway and they race for the trees. Cordell throws his hands over his face, hears the slap of leaves and twigs against the wings and fuselage. He hears branches snapping and the hollow tattoo of trunks against the aluminum, and when he lowers his hands he sees greenery whip against his window.

They stop. Tessa struggles out of her harness and launches her hand under her seat. It emerges clutching a nickelplated Beretta. She checks the magazine, chambers a round, and darts down the aisle.

“Wait,” Cordell yells. “Wait!”

He thrashes out of his seatbelt and hobbles down the aisle where Tessa is lifting a curtain from a window.

They hear from outside a truck’s approach, hear it skid to a stop, footsteps on dirt, voices. Then someone thumps on the door.

Abra la puerta!” a voice demands.

Without a thought Cordell’s hand shoots out and plucks the Beretta from Tessa’s hand. They are both amazed by the speed of this move, and Tessa turns to him with a bewildered look. Then they each notice the weapon in Cordell’s hand, and Tessa makes a move for it, but Cordell draws it back. Her face flushes with rage.

“Give me that,” she growls.

Fear prickles along Cordell’s spine. “No,” he says softly.

“Bechard, I’m serious. Give me that gun.”

“I can’t, Tessa. You don’t stand a chance.”

She steps towards him like a panther, muscles tensed, ready to pounce. “That’s for me to decide.”

“Thank me later,” he says.

She leaps. With a flick of his wrist Cordell tosses the gun away just as she topples him, her hands snapping around his wrists. The fall winds him and the back of his head slams against the deck. She scrambles on top, straddles him, clamping his hips between her knees with surprising force. “Give it back!” she yells, spraying his face with spittle. He turns his head and struggles. Then she spots his empty hand and her grip falters. She is about to jump up when the door flies open and a dozen rifle barrels bristle inside. Tessa roars with rage, rears up, and with a mighty swing slugs Cordell in the jaw.


That Was Fun, Let’s Do It Again!

4.5 stars!

My novel Night is a Shadow Cast By the World is free from Amazon again, this time on New Year’s Day. Start 2013 with a rollicking adventure.

Wander through the pink city of Jaipur, explore an eccentric book store, smuggle guns, fly a DC-3 below radar, play the flute with exquisite skill (and kill somebody with your performance), walk a brilliant dog, eat sushi, drink stinky water, fix things with epoxy, ride a camel, spy on supermodels, fight the CIA, sign a confession, take a bath, deceive your inlaws, flirt with an old flame, swear in church, drink tequila and dance in the alameda, brush up on your Spanish, steal a fuel truck, try on a dhoti, foil a Russian plot, land on a burning runway, fly a kite, crack a secret password, pick a lock, set off some fireworks, mitigate poverty, study your spouse’s dreams…all this happens! Really!

Details here.

My Novel, Free on Xmas Day

NiaS paperback

My exciting literary adventure novel about books and aviation and travel and love, Night is a Shadow Cast By the World, normally USD$3.99 for the ebook, is free on December 25th from the Amazon Kindle Store. Grab yourself a copy for your (new that day?) Kindle, Apple iOS device, Android device, or to read on your Mac or Windows computer. There’s a lot of information, including an excerpt (and a link to the serialization of the first third of the novel) available on the book’s official website.

If you prefer a paperback, you can get it from Amazon here, or from Lulu here.

Read it, and let me know what you think. And happy holidays!

iTunesMetadata.plist EPUB validation error explained

Problem: you use the epub validation tool at Threepress Consulting, and consistently receive this error:

WARNING: [your epub file name].epub: item (iTunesMetadata.plist) exists in the zip file, but is not declared in the OPF file

Reason: you tested your epub by dropping it into iTunes. That’s all you have to do for this rogue file to be injected into the epub and make it invalid. You don’t even have to sync it to a device. You would expect iTunes to simply copy the file without manipulating the original’s contents, but such is not the case.

Solution: you can unzip the epub (on the Mac, I like the the ePub_UnZip_1.0 and ePub_Zip_1.0.3 Applescripts), delete the iTunesMetadata.plist file, and rezip it, or you can avoid the problem entirely by duplicating your epub file and dropping that into iTunes, leaving the original intact.

Smashwords Kind of Sucks Lately

The buzz used to be that the best place to publish your ebook was Smashwords, as they would rapidly and faithfully push your book to the big retailers such as Amazon, Apple, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, and Sony, but it seems that the company has been damaged by its own success, which has made them slow to respond (if you can get support at all) and sloppy in their practices. I originally began publishing Night is a Shadow Cast By the World at Smashwords, expecting to let them distribute it to all the aforementioned channels, but I quickly ran into a few hitches with the epubs that Smashwords’s notorious Meatgrinder produced, such as:

  1. inability to set the text on a page labelled “Part One” down slightly from the top of the page; it turns out that the Meatgrinder uses the Calibre engine (if you dissect the resulting epub, you’ll find styles named “Calibre1,” “Calibre2,” etc.) to convert files to various formats, and Calibre by default invokes a TOC entry for and inserts a page break immediately before certain terms, as defined in their Xpath expressions: “chapter|book|section|part|prologue|epilogue”; Calibre allows you to refine these choices; Meatgrinder does not. After a ton of experimentation (17 uploads, conversions, and test downloads from Smashwords) I solved this issue by converting the words “Part One” into a graphic element. See, spammers do have something to teach us.
  2. consistent insertion of a blank page in front of every page break when the epub is viewed on an iOS device like an iPhone and iPad. The book has 56 chapters, which means iOS readers would be required to perform 56 superfluous screen swipes to get through the book – unacceptable.
For the second issue I found that I could run the resulting epub through Calibre and have it bump out a new epub – and this one was flawless. (I subsequently donated $10 to the Calibre team – if you’ve ever used this fine program, you should do the same.) Because I could get no traction at all dealing with Smashwords staff (several emails to their support department remain unanswered even today, ten days after I sent them) I decided to forgo Smashwords for iBooks distribution, and deal directly with Apple. It took a week to get my iTunes Connect account approved, and I just uploaded the book this morning and am awaiting approval. I expect this will take at least another week.
I figured while I was at it why not have a go with Kindle Direct Publishing, and that proved to be even easier than Apple. I signed up, uploaded my book, and in under four hours the book was live and on sale at the Kindle Store – astonishing after all the trouble with Smashwords and the long wait time to get iTunes Connect approval. Whatever bad things you might have to say about Amazon (and there are a lot), they aren’t the king of book distribution for nothing.
I decided to keep the book in the running at Smashwords to get into some of the smaller and more difficult markets: Kobo, B&N, and Sony. Today, a week after I submitted the book for Premium Channel approval at Smashwords, I got this response:
Well I’d already done the Ctrl-A method, in fact, I had run the book through the Nuclear Option, with excellent results, and the epub looks spectacular – exactly the  way I want it to look (and I’m a professional typesetter, with over 60 print books under my belt). Is this some uninformed newbie employee, who saw that I used various font sizes for the title page and chapter headings, and is fanatically following some Mark Coker rule-of-law rule in the Smashwords Style Guide? I think so, or at least I hope so. If there’s some Coker edict that will only let you use two font sizes throughout an entire book, I give up on Smashwords. I’ve since resubmitted the book without any changes at all – let’s see how far it gets. In the meantime, I’ve started investigating selling directly through Kobo, for starters, as dealing with Smashwords thus far has proved to be deeply unsatisfying.

Update: On December 27th, I received an email from someone named Raylene:

Thanks for the email. I took a look at your book and everything looks great. I went in and approved your book! 🙂

It took awhile, but Smashwords eventually came through. Thanks, Raylene!