Hey, cool!

Amazon.com has reduced the price of the trade paperback of Comet Jack to $8.63! I didn't even know they could do that, but I am totally delighted.

67,000 words, most of them in complete sentences no less, a sweet cover. I know I'm utterly biased, but this sure sounds cheap for hours of entertainment:

Kindle and Nook: still $2.99

Paperback from Amazon: $8.63

Trade Paperback Books Now Available!

Comet Jack is not just for modern e-book readers any longer.

Actual, physical trade paperbacks are now available, featuring 248 real paper pages, Phineas's incredible cover, and that new book smell!

You can find them for sale here:



These definitely look cool sitting on the shelf. (I am clearly biased, though. Please judge for yourself.)

And, of course, Comet Jack is still available for Kindle and Nook, for only $2.99!

Quantum locking

Wow. This looks like it's right out of Star Wars--a floating, flying object, trailing smoke. But this is real science, not science fiction or special effects.

Here's an article that explains how it works.


So CreateSpace sent me my physical proof a few weeks ago. I checked it for formatting and everything looked fine. They recommended I read through it too. Now I've read it. A lot. Like ten times. More if you include early drafts. I was tempted to just let it go, approve it, and have the trade paperback available for purchase. There are some people waiting for it.

But I read it anyway. First I found a hyphen problem. No big deal. Then I found a paragraph that wasn't indented. Not great, but maybe not enough to hold up production. Then I found a sentence that was messed up--on my last edit, I'd changed it's structure but forgotten to delete a word. That did it. Now, this is what it looks like:

I now know how misspelled words, jarring repetition, and wrong punctuation make it into books. Seriously, I had combed through it before. And several people had read it too, catching a bunch of mistakes.

Granted, a few of these are stylistic tweaks, such as fixing a sentence for clarity or trimming some unnecessary words, but most of these are straight up editing issues. (Note: See * below for a special note on Scrivener, smart quotes, and em dashes!)

I'll be uploading the finished product shortly, and the trade paperback will be available soon. The great thing about the eBooks is that I can update them at any time.

So... if anyone who reads it finds errors (or questionable writing!), please drop me a note at oops [don't forget to put at sign here] cometjack [dot] com so I can review it. It takes a village, people. (And, yes, I know I just put "village" and "people" right next to each other.)


* Note: Here's another very specific editing problem I had, and its solution, just in case it'll help other Scrivener users. If you don't use Scrivener, don't care too much about typesetting, then you can probably skip this as it will bore you to tears.

I imported the original text of this novel in plain text, from Word, meaning I'd stripped out the smart quotes (those quotes that "hug" the dialogue, instead of being just straight up and down) and em dashes (those long dashes you see in books, instead of the double dash, like so: --). I realized, for appearances sake, I wanted these back in. No problem, I thought, Scrivener can handle this.

There is a way to convert straight quotes to smart quotes: In Group View mode, select all your scenes, have your cursor in the text window, then do: Format > Convert > Quotes to Smart Quotes.

Next, you have to find and replace all the double dashes to em-dashes. You can just type a double-dash in the text window, followed by a space, and Scrivener turns it into an em-dash. Delete the space, select the em-dash, cut it, then paste it in the Replace box of find and replace. (In Find, you obviously put your double dash.) I found the first one, hit Replace to make sure it did what I wanted, then hit Replace All.

Are you done? Not quite. One more problem: In Scrivener, the smart quotes are backwards following an em-dash in dialogue. (I predict at least one person will find this by googling that exact phrase... unless Scrivener makes an easy fix for this in the next release.)

Here's how I fixed that: in the text box (right in your document), type


The dash will turn into an em-dash. By typing two quotes, you'll get one of each kind. Delete the quote that points away from the em-dash (the wrong one). Now select the em-dash and remaining perfect quote, cut, and paste into the Replace box of find and replace. Copy one of the offending em-dash/smart-quote couples into the Find box, then do your find and replace thing. (Again, I started with one or two, made sure I liked the results, then hit Replace All.)

So there you have it. I'm sure Scrivener will have a more elegant solution soon. Maybe there's one already that I don't know about. If so, please share! If not, I hope this saved you the couple hours it took me to search for solutions than invent this one.

Happy formatting!

Fermilab shuts down the Tevtron

After 28 years of smashing particles, Fermilab shut down the Tevatron last Friday. To commemorate this, I recommend you do three things:

1. Google Fermilab and look at it on Google maps. You can see the big circle right next to it. That gives you some idea of the scale.

2. Watch this excellent video, where a scientist and artist tracked themselves via GPS riding bikes around the main ring of the Tevatron. It's cool.

3. Read this excellent quote which brings a tear to my eye because of its simple truth. Over three decades ago, the first director of Fermilab, when questioned in Congress about whether the proposed accelerator would be good for national defense or for what, Robert Rathburn Wilson replied:

"It has only to do with the respect with which we regard one another, the dignity of man, our love of culture. It has to do with: Are we good painters, good sculptors, great poets? I mean all the things we really venerate in our country and are patriotic about. It has nothing to do directly with defending our country except to make it worth defending."

Wow. I got goosebumps typing it. Right on, Dr. Wilson.

(source for #3: this article. Look especially near the bottom, with the paragraph that starts, "All good accelerators...")