In Fiction Books, How Do You Know If You Can Trust Your Narrator?

Jan 22, 2014 by

In Fiction Books, How Do You Know If You Can Trust Your Narrator?The Fiction Writer's Handbook

I picked up Shelly Lowenkopf‘s eBook, The Fiction Writer’s Handbook yesterday off BookBub for $.99 and have been glancing through it as it’s designed to be used. It’s not a straight read. But in the “Revision” section a question jumped out at me I have never pondered before and I don’t recall an episode in fiction where it’s been used against those reading the book but the stark question or concept is this:  In a work of fiction, how do you know if you can trust the voice who is narrating the work? 

I’ve done my share of writing over the years, and I consider myself moderately well-read. I don’t read enough, at least in fiction, because mostly my work focuses on non-fiction, educational content, growing businesses, technical writing, etc.  But I do enjoy a good story and stories are at the central point of what I feel is my purpose in life.

So I come to you now with this simple question. When you’re reading a work of fiction, how do you know that the voice/person telling the story actually has it all together?  Do you have it all together?  I don’t.

So if I began telling you a story, what do I have to do to establish to you that I know what I’m talking about?  Even in a work of non-fiction, I assume this still would hold. Yes, I could roll out a litany of my past accomplishments and tell briefly my life story, but what if the author decided to jade them a little, unbeknownst to the narrator?  What if the character, in what wasn’t said in the narration, purposely left off some of the details or skewed them?

Is that a compelling enough of a hook to keep the work going? But if the narrator isn’t able to say “hey, I’m messing with your head here and skewing some of this, so don’t believe everything I tell you,” then where are you as a reader? If you keep reading and then find out later, would that make you angry with the author or is that one of the special dynamics of the work that would make a better story and better experience for you?

It is an interesting literary situation.

So what do you say?

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A Word About RAM MacBook Pro

Nov 5, 2013 by

A Word About RAM MacBook Pro

I have one of the last 17-inch MacBook Pros, with 2.4 GHz, Intel Core i7.  It came with 4 GBs of RAM, and for what we do making books for iPad and the videos that go into them with Adobe After Effects, Audition and Premier Pro CC, RAM is in demand.

A few months ago, I ordered an 8 GB ram card from Crucial to soup up the MBP. Installing the card was sort of easy, just undo the 10 screws on the bottom, pop out the old 2 GB cards and then pop in the Crucial card and onward. Except I actually had trouble seating the Crucial card and wound up getting a Genius at Henderson & Knox to seat it right.

Then, this summer, in discussions with Jamaal Jackson at, he said I could up the MBP up to 16 GBs. I questioned that announcement, but he said, “Google it!”  I did, and yes, you can pump a MBP up to 16 GBs of RAM. Crucial RAM Sticks 8 GBs

So a few weeks ago, not wanting to wait for Crucial to make a delivery and headed out of town, I stopped in at Fry’s in Dallas and bought a new 8 GB stick, but this one was made by Corsair.  After seating it myself again, the MBP started beeping at me — three beeps over and over is a signal that you have a RAM issue — and I never really could get the thing to work right.

Last night, I went to the Apple Store at Northpark Mall in Dallas, and Taylor, one of the geniuses there took my MBP to the back after I explained the issue. For what should have taken about two minutes, it lasted for about 10-15 and apparently in that time, he did some testing for me.

What he came back and said is that he, as a Genius, recommends the Crucial cards and NOT the Corsair sticks.  Of course, I could pay Apple $200 for their cards, but hey, Crucial is like $80, and Corsair was about $75.  Why not the Corsairs? He says the boards on them are a “little thicker” than the Crucial cards so when you put the thicker one in the top slot, it can pop out when the bottom one is thinner. So, he said he put the Crucial card on top.  He said if there are other issues, that I should scrap the Corsair and go with another Crucial card.

So, I recommend if you’re going to upgrade RAM on your MacBook Pro, it’s recommended that you use Crucial sticks, not Corsair.

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Donny Claxton Speaks At Central Texas Learning and Technology Summit

Oct 14, 2013 by

Donny Claxton Speaks At Central Texas Learning and Technology Summit 

Friday, Oct. 11, 2013, I had the privilege of presenting during the Austin and San Antonio Chapter ASTD conference entitled the Central Texas Learning and Technology Summit.

The focus was on mobile learning and the technologies that make it all work.

My presentation, after more than 20 months of use of iBooks Author and building eBooks as well, was about eBooks and Books For iPad: what one can do with them and how to make them.

A copy of my presentation is available for download from a public link on Dropbox. If you have an iPad, you’ll need to download the file first to your computer and then load it into iTunes before syncing it to your iPad.  (And of course, you must be running at least iOS 5.1 and have iBooks 3.)

Donny Claxton speaking in San Antonio during an ASTD conference on mobile learning.

Donny Claxton speaking in San Antonio during an ASTD conference on mobile learning.

Even I was amazed at some of the presentations and developments taking place in the world of mobile apps and technologies. It’s inspiring to see some things that we only could have dreamed about a few years ago are quickly coming to fruition and even are already behind the curve, even though they’re likely still very much ahead of most.

George Saltsman from Abilene Christian University, who helped lead us into the development of books for iPad also spoke about changes that are coming in the pedagogy of education, while Dr. Robbie Melton from the University of Tennessee’s Board Regents showed off some amazing new gadgets and apps that are changing the workforce around the world.

FROM MY PRESENTATION, you will see a discussion about many of the amazing widgets and products we’ve built for books for iPad and a healthy discussion about whether or not we should even continue to call these products “books.” Also discussed are some of the variations and differences in this emerging field of technology, like the difference between EPUB 2.0.1 and EPUB 3.0 and what those two things mean to someone trying to decide on an eReader or an author trying to figure out which platform they should be publishing their materials on.

After my presentation, I was flooded with requests for more information, business cards and LinkedIn requests.

If you have any questions about how to make an eBook in EPUB or an interactive book for the iPad using 3D animations, movies, interactive timelines, puzzles and more, please reach out and let me know.


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iBooks Author Full Screen Background Now Black: How’d We Do That?

Aug 2, 2013 by

iBooks Author Full Screen Background Now Black: How’d We Do That? 

As we noted before, Apple defaulted the background screen in iBooks Author to display photos on a WHITE background when an image is displayed full-screen. One of our clients didn’t like that and said it washed out the image. He was right.  In Gallery in iBooks Author, full-screen display changes the background to BLACK and images punch out much better. (Look at the last two images in this post. You’ll see what we mean.)

The problem is, by Apple’s design, there’s no way to change the background from white to black or any other color.  Apple has decided they shall remain on a white bg.

So how did we get around this?


iBooks Author's Inspector Window Featuring Gallery

iBooks Author’s Inspector Window Featuring Gallery

In the Inspection window, the last tab to the right has a Layout/Interaction menu for working with photos.  Even if you just want to display one picture, we recommend you drop the GALLERY widget onto a page, and then load in the one image. (Of course, images should be .pngs, no larger than 2048 x 1536, and have a dpi of 132).  This is an important step. You cannot just change an Image over to the Photo designation we’re going to describe for this to work!

STEP 2:  To create a new option under the drop down menu, highlight Gallery and hold it.  You will see the “Edit Label Styles … ” dialogue area at the bottom of the menu open.  Click on it.

Hold down Gallery for this new menu to open.

Hold down Gallery for this new menu to open.

STEP 3: A new dialogue box will open allowing you to either add (+) or delete options(-).  Press + and name your new setting.  We chose PHOTO since Image is already in use and we didn’t want to create confusion.

STEP 4: Go to the Inspector window after highlighting the Gallery listing for the image and change it from Gallery to Photo (or whatever designation you created.) Then add whatever titling and caption options that are necessary for the style of your project.

That’s really all you have to do.  You’ve now created a Gallery widget and changed it’s designation, but it’s still technically a Gallery widget. You’re just going to display one photo in it.



What’s the difference?

Here’s the image saved as a straight up Image file in iBooks Author when the image is increased to full-screen:

A full-screen image in iBooks Author displays on an annoying white background.

A full-screen image in iBooks Author displays on an annoying white background.


This is what happens once you follow the steps outlined above–loading an image in a Gallery and then changing it’s designation to Photo or the name of your choosing.

A Gallery Widget in iBook Author Renamed To Photo to Display on a Black Background.

A Gallery Widget in iBook Author Renamed To Photo to Display on a Black Background.


One Small Problem: The only problem with this solution is the fact that Gallery photos are formatted in a 2:3 proportion and there’s no changing that. This will only work if you don’t care if you can’t show the entire image in the window, meaning it will have to be popped open to display in full.  So, while it is a solution, it doesn’t match the power of displaying and entire image as you can with just Image.

Obviously, it’d be easier to fix this if Apple provided a setting for it, but they don’t and from conversations with them, it doesn’t sound like it’s going to happen anytime soon.  So here’s the workaround and thanks, Apple.

Once you create the Photo designation, it’s just a matter then of remembering to load all images as Galleries and then just not adding more than one photo to them if you’re going to display one pic.  If you’re going to do a Gallery as it was intended, you just leave the Gallery named Gallery and keep on going.  If you want to display the thumbnails, that’s easy.  Just check the box and they’ll pop up.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The page displayed is an example of one of the photos to be included in our ongoing Bach project.  Exciting news to follow soon!  



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Apple please fix iBooks Author full screen image background settings

Jul 24, 2013 by

Apple please fix iBooks Author full screen image background settings

 iBooks Author full-screen image white BG

Per Apple, at present, one can’t change the white background that displays on a full-screen png in iBooks Author.

Our Bach book client we are working with in iBooks Author has a legitimate beef with Apple and in our research, we can’t find a workable solution.

If one sets a photo to open full-screen in a book for iPad made with iBooks Author 2.0 the image presents on a screen with a white background.

If you set two photos, .PNGs, in a gallery and then open them full-screen, they present on a screen with a black background.

In the design of a book for iPad, not every book needs to go into a gallery, but in our book on Bach, which is going to be one of the most in depth pieces of work on J.S. Bach, it’s annoying to see the images against the white when they would clearly stand out better against the black.

I thought about putting all images on a screen that’s 2048 x 1536 and on a black BG and then using the Alpha to remove the black in the initial image, but that takes away the black in full-screen as well.  Not a solution.

The only other option would be to put every photo into a “gallery” setting and just not add the thumbnails on images that are not multiple .PNGs, but that seems like it’d get wonky and it’d seem that a gallery, by definition, would consist of two or more images.

In iBooks Author gallery images display with a black background on full-screen, but even this setting can't be changed.

In iBooks Author gallery images display with a black background on full-screen, but even this setting can’t be changed.

Apple, Please Fix This

A search of the message boards and a call to Apple Support has revealed that indeed, at this writing on July 24, 2013, there is no way to change a setting in the Inspector panel to remedy this.

Audio Page Specific

The other major complaint we are having as we build this vast work of Bach is that a reader can’t tap on the MP4 files we’re embedding and turn the page.  Audio and video files are page specific, so a reader listening to the music and reading can only read the page they’re on and hear what they’re wanting to listen to….


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When God Redefines The Possible Book for iPad on iBookstore

Jun 3, 2013 by

When God Redefines The Possible Book for iPad on iBookstore


 ‘When God Redefines The Possible’ Now Available AT

MONTGOMERY, AL—Former Senior Minister of Frazer Memorial United Methodist Church in Montgomery, John Ed Mathison, is making history again. This time, he’s teamed up with a former Alabama governor’s press secretary to release an innovative, interactive book exclusively for the iPad that will change how people around the world follow a daily devotional or use social media to hold “Sunday School classes worldwide.”

When God Redefines The Possible

When God Redefines The Possible, John Ed Mathison’s book for iPad.

Mathison recently released When God Redefines The Possible on Apple’s iBookstore, a title he published in paperback in November. The new work, complete with 22 videos, interactive puzzles, quizzes and Bible references can be used on the more than 100 million iPad and iPad mini devices in use around the world.

The book can be downloaded from the iBookstore by visiting

Production began in January with Claxton Creative, LLC of Dallas, led by Donald J. Claxton, former the former press secretary of Gov. Fob James and assistant press secretary to former Gov. Guy Hunt.

“We have taken a book printed in black and white and brought it to life with short video clips in multiple chapters that are designed to help readers prepare their minds for the text that follows by asking some important questions or giving some insight about what they’re about to read,” Mathison said. “With the rapid adoption of iPads in schools all across Montgomery and around the world, this is the new type of curriculum tool that readers young and old are finding more and more engaging and enriching in their study.

“It only makes sense to apply this same technology to something like a daily devotional where people can use these technological advances to draw closer to God and use social media to draw closer to other believers and non-believers around the world,” Mathison said.

Mathison’s book, which is 109-pages in print, expanded to 192 pages on the iPad and contains more than 50 chapters of colorful and important ministry lessons and encourages readers to see that God is still doing miracles, even in today’s turbulent times.

The videos, produced by another former aide to Gov. Hunt, Stacey Rimer Stakely, and shot at Frazer by Matthew Gamble, feature Mathison talking about healthy eating, God doing things in people’s lives they could not have anticipated, and even references to his late father, Si Mathison.

“John Ed Mathison has been a leader in ministry for almost 50 years and the exciting thing about this book for iPad is that it proves he’s still a leader in ministry even though he’s been retired from Frazer for a couple of years now,” Claxton said. “We have worked with him to produce a new tool that uses the latest in technology to help spread the word of God. That, in and of itself, is an example of God redefining the possible, as the technology for this didn’t even exist 17 months ago.”

Claxton said versions for readers using Amazon’s Kindle, Barnes and Noble’s Nook are near completion as well.

“John Ed’s use of digital books will make his work available to anyone in the world with a computer, tablet or smartphone,” Claxton said.

John Ed, who served 36 years as Senior Minister of Frazer Memorial United Methodist Church in Montgomery, said he is excited to begin this new phase of his ministry.

“I have said before that ‘it is easy to have a Gutenberg mentality when we live in a Google reality.’ and taking converting my writings and teachings into a digital format so that people around the world can share and interact with each other through the social media tools and interactivity functions within the book is an example of where ministry must grow in order to reach those needing and yearning to hear the word of God,” Mathison said. “I’m excited for the potentials this brings for ministry. God really has redefined the possible.”

Claxton is no stranger to innovation and change. He was dubbed as the “foremost student iconoclast” in Dr. John Fair’s 1990 book about Auburn University at Montgomery’s first 20 years. In July 1994, he made candidate Fob James the first statewide candidate in Alabama to have a published email address. In March of 1995, he began writing the original pages for the state of Alabama’s website, which was launched and featured as the lead story in the Montgomery Advertiser in August 1995.  In 2001 he became the communications director for the Dallas Independent School District, then the 12th largest school district in the nation and helped pass the largest education bond program in Texas history—a $1.37 billion program. In 2012, his company began producing books for the iPad, including Dr. Mark Van Stone’s interactive text 2012: Science & Prophecy of the Ancient Maya and There’s A Zombie In My Treehouse by Ken Plume, John Robinson and Len Peralta of Atlanta. The company also has begun production on a book for Learning Forward, one of the largest professional development organizations in the world for schoolteachers.

Claxton Creative, LLC

Claxton Creative is a Dallas-based full-service public relations firm focused on the development of interactive, multi-touch publications for mobile devices worldwide.

John Ed Mathison Leadership Ministries

The John Ed Mathison Leadership Ministries was formed in 2008, as John Ed reached the mandatory retirement age of the United Methodist Church. The ministry is a member of the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability. The mission of the ministry is to bring honor and glory to the Kingdom of God by training leaders for Kingdom work. John Ed actively speaks to churches, conferences and leadership training programs on a local, national and global scale. More information is available at



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