On Formatting

Most characters in post-apocalyptic movies have some kind of sidekick. Sometimes it’s a dog (I Am Legend); sometimes it’s an irritating child (The Road); sometimes it’s a gaggle of hangers-on (Dawn of the Dead), and sometimes it’s a midget/man-child (Beyond Thunderdome).

I am pretty sure my post-apocalyptic sidekick will be a cockatiel, which is at least different.

On the plus side, she can whistle the Imperial March when we sweep into a room, so I don’t have to carry a boom box around with me. With that said, I’m not sure how intimidating I’m going to be when I’m making threatening speeches and she keeps cutting in with “Hey bird!” and making kissing noises.

Or maybe that will make people more fearful. “I hear it’s the bird running the show. They speak to each other in code.”

“I wonder about that bird,” Mother mused yesterday, when I told her about Juno’s penchant for hurling things at me to get my attention. “Is this typical cockatiel intelligence being displayed in a bird that’s a sole pet? Or is she really, really smart?”

Vocally, Juno is more like a budgie than a cockatiel. My family has had talking cockatiels (male and female) over the years, and yes, they can be very loud…but Juno literally goes all day. Babbling, talking, singing. People are floored. “Doesn’t it have an off switch?” is a popular question. She was utterly silent in the first two months I had her–active, yes, but very quiet, chirping only when she wanted to know where I was, or if a friend and I were talking and she wanted to be included. I seriously think she developed this vocal habit because she knows that’s how people communicate, and she’s around people all the time. We are loud, so she is loud.

My uncle suggests she is preparing an uprising a la Planet of the Apes. “Remember Arab Summer?” he asked on Facebook. “This is Bird Winter.”

To which I had to say, “Well, winter is coming.”

Post-apocalyptic merriment is well underway in that zombie story. In the original novel, there was quite a long wait between “the first end of the world” (meteor impacts) and “the second end of the world” (the dead rising). That was part of my plot…the slow unraveling of society. By making it a dedicated zombie novella, I’ve had to push up the arrival of the undead, which is…it’s proving a little more difficult to work all of that in. Timing is everything.

I’m planning on finishing up a couple of the articles I’ve had sitting on my desk, and then…doing a dry run in ebook formatting. Once I figured out that it’s basically converting the Word document to a type of HTML (or maybe it’s XHTML…I don’t know…it’s something), I found approaching it far less daunting. It probably still won’t be a ton of fun, but what can you do.

There are two schools of thought regarding ebook formatting. One is this: Writers write. If you can farm it out, do so. The other is that you might as well do it on your own if you can.

I subscribe to the second school of thought. Granted, if I can’t figure this out after a couple of tries, I will pony up the cash and hire someone to do it. But it never hurts to learn a new skill, particularly in this economy.

Off I go! Wish me luck.

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