Category Archives: Innovation

Watch This Space

 Attention: Our attempt to go live Monday failed due to  a delay in the transfer of domain name to our new host.  Meet the new host, same as the old host…  In any event, we’re doing all we can to speed our comeback.  Please keep trying.  I have been “assured” that the worst possible case will be Saturday the 23rd.
Since popping into existence on or about the 25th of January, 2010
, Uphill Writing has gone through several changes.  Now—fasten your seatbelts—we’re about to go through a total remake, remodel.  None of what you come to UhW for now will be lost, and we will continue writing about writing, issuing challenges, and saying things designed to provoke, but we’ll be adding so much more.


Look for UhW to be a clearing house for writing resources, opportunities, news, reviews, and all things writing.  Look for the latest on contests, how to enter, and what it takes to win. 

This will be more than just a facelift, it is our intention to give you as much support as possible, because we believe there is no need for you to be Writing without a net.


How to Name Your Characters and Avoid Readers

Have you ever gotten stuck when it came time to name a character?

I have.  I’ve resulted to thumbing through the phone book, looking through newspapers, watching TV and just wool-gathering.  Sometimes that works.

I have to admit I’ve been taken to task for some of my character’s names.  Sometimes I’ve backed down and changed them, sometimes a name seemed just too good to pass up.  The main character from my novel FIVE, Ray Kurtz, for example, took some heat from “Heart of Darkness” fans, but I stand by it anyway. 

Are there rules for names in novels?  Well, yes, but nothing really hard and fast.  For example, having the names of all of your characters start with “J” is not a great idea.  Why?  Despite the time, effort and love we pour into our work, not all of our readers will have the patience to figure out that Jamie, Jan, Joe, Jon,  and John are different characters.  They’ll get lost.

You can make up names for your characters, but consider this, how many friends to you have with truly unique names?  …and, how often do they all get together in the same room for tea and scones?

Cute names can be a problem, too.  Robert “Rob” Banks, for instance.  Or one of my old favorite, Helen Fire…  clever yes, good for a serious character?  Not on your tintype.

And this, of course, brings us to SPACE ALIENS.   OK, I got it.  Aliens from another planet are not likely to have names like “John Jones” (with apologies to DCs Martian Manhunter).  But come on, names like K’Lktz’P’B’Frum-mptlla cannot be pronounced by your readers—unless they too are space aliens, and perhaps related to K’Lktz’P’B’Frum-mptlla. 


But wait, Doctor Scott, you say, if I can’t use cute and clever names like those, and I can’t use all names starting with the same letter, and I can’t be truly alien, what’s a writer to do?

One thing you could do is to use any of the following excellent name generators:

These are just four of the many sites that offer this help.  I like the first one, The Seventh Sanctum best, because it is massive and massively useful.

Then, again, you could just say, “What th’ heck?” and go with K’Lktz’P’B’Frum-mptlla

Rewriting or revisioning?

Often in the morning, sitting at my computer, watching the clock, and frantically looking for a topic for the first post, I relent and grab a book from my pile of novels and writing texts.  Sometimes that even helps.

It helped today.

One of my all-time favorite novels is “The Magus” by John Fowles.  It is a wonderful book filled with complex characters and subplots.  It has been called ‘A major work of mounting tensions in which the human mind is the guinea-pig’

One of the features of this book is how long it took Fowles to write, and what he did with the novel after it was finished.

He began writing “The Magus” in the 1950s, originally calling the manuscript “The God Game“.  If you’ve read the book you will know that this title also fits well.  “The Magus” was his first “completed” novel, but his second to see publication. 

It took him 12 years to write and rewrite the novel.  I read it the year it was released, and as said above, loved the book.  But, here is where it gets really interesting.  While the book was published, was both commercially and critically a success, he did not feel it was finished.

Fowles continued to work on the novel and finally republished it in 1977.  I was startled by this, but hurried to purchase it nonetheless.  Once again I was enthralled by the story.  So seamless was Fowles rewrite that I was hard put to find the differences between the versions.  (Of course many years had passed between reading the first and revised versions.)

How does this touch you and me?  Even though the chances that one of my novels will reach the same level of recognition as Fowles’, what he did gives me hope about quality.  One of the fears I have—and it is one that has held me back—is that the work isn’t quite ready to see light of day… that just another run-through will clean up the red herrings, the dead herrings,  the last few typos or logical flaws.  Then I think that no amount of editing and re-reading will ever find all the mistakes in a basically flawed work, I put the manuscript away and work on a new project.

Does this sound familiar?  Surely not all of you will have fallen prey to this, but perhaps some of you?

What Fowles teaches us by the way he handled his wildly successful book is this, just because it’s been published, it doesn’t mean you can’t make it better.

Stephen King re-released his epic novel, “The Stand” (another novel very high on my list of greats).  Not being sure of the quality of our work is a good thing.  Paranoia about completion can serve you, but just so far.

The trick, I think, is to do the best you can, and let it go.  There may always be time for a fresher version.

Your thoughts?

An Unpaid Endorsement

The little badge at the left proclaims that “I can’t say this”, but, aww, g’wan, I’m gonna anyway.

I seldom (read never in this venue) endorse paid products, but something has come to mind (not to mention to hand) that shifts the balance for at least this once.  It is the Livescribe Echo Smartpen.  While the price is a bit high for a ball-point pen, it is quite a deal for a pen that can do so much more than take notes.

I got the mid-range version of the Echo Smartpen because I didn’t know if I would really use it, or if it would perform as advertised.  I am not disappointed with or with the capacity (4 gigabytes – over 400 hours of recording.  The more expensive model has 8GB and boasts over 800 hours of recording).

Recording?  Yep.  The pen will record a lecture as you take notes.  The microphone and playback built into the pen are excellent quality.  But wait, you say, couldn’t you get that much recording, or more on a regular digital recorder?  Possibly, but in the case of the Echo Smartpen, the notes you make are directly linked to the audio that is being simultaneously recorded.  In fact, you can go back to your paper notes and touch the tip of the pen to any part of the notes to get the full audio replayed.

And that is just a part of what this pen does.  You can upload your notes to a special desktop app for your computer (PC or Mac), and later search for information dynamically.  Once notes are uploaded you can remove them from the pen and release the space in the device.  That means, for me at least, that 4gb is plenty of room.

The pen also supports any number of apps, some free, and very few more than a few dollars in cost.  These apps include specialized dictionaries, useful utilities, and even games.  One of the apps that comes with the pen allows you to draw an eight-note piano on a page, and then play it with the pen tip, including several different instruments and several rhythm tracks.

For me, as a writer, I find the pen invaluable when it comes to brainstorming new story or novel ideas.  I can make brief notes while waxing rhetorical about the idea and lose none of my ideas.  You just gotta love that.

So, should you rush out and buy one of these?  I did, but I’m Mr. Gadget Guy.  I’d say go to Livescribe‘s site and watch the very brief videos that show how the pen works before springing for one.  I’m glad I bought mine, and I’ve used it every day since I got it.

How to Market Your eBook

Image: I made this one.

OK, OK, we’re putting the cart before the horse a bit here.  Oh, wait, there are those of you who don’t know what a horse cart is.  Let me put it another way:  We’re talking about marketing a book before we’ve got it finished. 

Isn’t that a bit precipitous? 

Ah, well.  UhW may be known for ideas… but not necessarily for cohesive thought.  ))

As CreateSpace is now a sponsor for the Fremont Area Writers Club “MeetUp” group, I thought I’d take a closer look at what it is all about.  As you probably know CreateSpace is a function of Amazon, and is a “front end” for authors, musicians and film makers.  That is to say, it allows you to market your products on-line for a percentage of the profit.

I have to say that of all the systems I’ve seen so far, this one appears to be the easiest to get into, and has the least fiscal impact upon the seller.

For writers this means that you can sell physical or eBooks online immediately if your book is ready.  If I am reading this correctly, the only upfront cost for a paper book would be if you chose to purchases copies of your own book, and in that case the price is very good.  A black and white interior book of 300 pages in a standard 5″x 8″ size would cost you $7.50 each.  Reselling the book on your website or personally for $10 or $12 would bring you a good profit and would beat the prices of most other POD publishers I’ve reviewed.

They also have a “Pro” plan that costs $39 for the first year, and $5 a year thereafter.  It greatly reduces the cost of copies of your book to you, and increases the amount paid to you in royalties


Now, don’t get me wrong.  I have not viewed every offer out there, but CreateSpace can sell your book as a paper or as an eBook, and… let me guess, you’ve purchased a book or nine from Amazon yourself… right?

I’ll continue to look into what’s out there for us, but I gotta say, this one sounds sweet.

Quick note:

I’ll be out of the blogging business for the next week or so.  Well, there may be an occasional “hiya” or short piece, but I will not be keeping up regular posts for this period (Saturday through Saturday), except for a special Guest Post Saturday morning.

How to Use Open Office to Create Your eBook


Image: I made this one.


Over the last several sessions we’ve looked at various “professional” eBook services.

We have discovered that there is more to it than just writing… but then, that’s true of all publishing these days, isn’t it?

We have learned that the best physical format for an eBook is a PDF file, specifically as a PDF file’s physical format will not be changed by the reading device in any important way.  Graphs, graphics, special characters, font sizes and the like will stay as created when using a PDF format.

We have seen that after writing and formatting, the process of serving the eBook comes to light.

We know that an eBook can be “marketed” by simply placing a link on your site, which along with a free PayPal, can give you the ability to sell your work.

We have also seen writers who give their books away, or who trade a download link for an email subscription (a very good idea), or for other information.

Today I want to present an alternative method for the creation of your eBook.  Using Open Office, a free replacement for Microsoft Office, all the tools you need to create your eBook are available.  But first, a word about Open Office.  Open Office is a wonderful suite of applications which do everything Microsoft Office does (and a bit more).  The files created by the spreadsheet, the word processor, the data manager, and all components can be saved in Microsoft formats, and are completely compatible.

I switched over to OO when I started counting up the number of times I’ve had to purchase new versions of the Microsoft product just to keep up. 



Open Office updates continue to be free.  Hmm… costly vs. free… I choose free.  Especially as I don’t lose any functionality.

Now, for the process.  Rather than steal the information, I’ll just send you to a “eHow” link that gives you what you need.  Use Open Office to create an eBook.

Take a look, and let me know what you think…

eBooks: Looking For the Magic Bullet

Image: I made this one.

We’re still looking for the mythical, mystical magic bullet that will turn our Blogs into eBooks.

Alas, are we destined to keep looking day after day?

From the results I’ve seen so far, I’m guessing we’re a long way from being able to wave our hands over the screen and make an eBook appear.

That said, I have found an interesting resource for potential eBookers.  It is called eBook Template Source, and while some of the items listed (specifically software for making a cover for your book) have a price tag on them, most of what is offered there is free.

In fact, I’d say that this is what our Uphill Writing Series wants to be when it grows up: just like the eBook Template Source, but with a pile of added features.

In any event, take a look at this site.  Let me know what you think.

I’d say we’re finally closing in on the right track.

…of course, we’re still looking…