Monday, January 31, 2011

Paper Versions

I started this experiment with Impossible Charlie in 2008 I think it was.  I formatted it myself (however crudely that might be said by some of the small actual self-publishers)  with the help of my pal.  This was so painful and so difficult, I was glad to be done with it and vowed never to do it again.

I did research all the major printers and went with Lightning Source.  It's a real printer, they do about 44 million books a year.  I think CreateSpace uses them.  If the address is in TN, probably yes.  They don't hold your hand, they don't help except if the thing is too wrong to print.  I don't suggest anyone do this because, boy, I don't want to do it again.

But every month for the last 3 months, I get a notification from Lightning Source that they'd printed and shipped copies.  Not before Nov. tho.  Nothing.  I sold a few (under 5) in the intervening years but once Summer Horse started selling and dragged Charlie/Dream Horse with it, people are choosing paper books.

I still think it's too much work but if you want to, it's probably worth the experience.

The Perpetual Crisis Or Why We Can Never Just Be In A Good Mood

I think this has something to do with writing but it has more to do with life. 

People like drugs.  They like alcohol.  They like anything that stimulates them and there's nothing that stimulates like a burst of adrenaline that you get when you're in a big freaking crisis.  So for a lot of people--and too many of them are journalists, nattering nabobs of negativity and stupid (and I mean stupid like the pol who was worried about Guam tipping over if too many people stood on the shore) politicians

--the stage isn't their stage if they're not braying about doom.  We are force-fed a diet of crisis.  Nothing is ever good, nothing is ever right either in the world at large or our world at small.

I'm not going to change your mind if you're addicted to emergency living.  However, I will try to help.  If you look for the good, however small it may seem to be, *your* outlook will improve.  Is there anything more important about how comfortable you are in your life?  Don't you want inner peace?  Do you really want to be upset all the time?  This is getting in the way of solving our problems.

On that note, I have plenty of problems to solve today before the huge snowstorm tomoro or whenever. 

Think good it will be good.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Guest Blogger --Bakari Akil II

This is an interesting (and intelligent) man who isn't doing commercial fiction.  I like that he's tackling something serious that there doesn't seem to be much of a market for yet.  Anyone who is willing to get on board now,  has my admiration.  Our day will come, too.

Who are you?

Bakari Akil II

What do you do for a living?

I am a professor and I teach communication courses.

What would you like to do for a living?

I enjoy being a professor but if I had my way I would write professionally for a

What’s your educational background?

I have a Bachelor’s in Law and Society, a Masters in Social Science and I earned my
Ph.D. in Mass Communications from Florida State University. Go Noles!

How did you become interested in writing?

I have always been attracted to writing. Even as a child I would always be putting
together little booklets and trying to tell stories. In high school I wanted to be a
comedy writer so I would often write funny little stories and force them on my
friends. I’d also leave them in random places around school and then sit back and
watch people’s reaction to the material I wrote.

How did that work out?

Not too well! All I write now is non-fiction.

You also write for Psychology Today. How did you become interested in that
type of writing?

Once my desire to be a comedy writer died down I still continued writing. I never
viewed myself as a writer and I still don’t but I was always typing something up
or writing something down. Even when I didn’t have an audience I always had a
need to put my thoughts in a coherent form. Whatever I was involved in I wrote
about. I still have notebooks filled with writings about topics I was interested in my
twenties with subjects like Spanish, history, comedy, philosophy (mine of course),
city planning and the list goes on.

As an undergraduate I became very impressed with scholars and their contribution
to the public’s understanding of complex topics. When I became a graduate student
I became interested in academic theories and its ability to explain human behavior.
That is when I decided to become a public scholar. I wanted to be the link between
academic scholarship and the public.

At first I didn’t know how to do that and so I turned to journalism. When I learned
something or experienced it I had an immediate need to share and journalism
offered me that opportunity. But then in the early 2000s I started to read books like
Idea Virus, The Tipping Point, Everything Bad is Good for You and a lot of books that
were about looking at issues in a counterintuitive way based on academic research. I
realized that I had found my niche.

Why did you feel qualified to write this type of material?

First, academic ideas had already started to creep into my writing because I was
one. Most of the authors writing these types of books were not academics, per se,
but they were willing to do the legwork to gather the material and then translate it
for a public audience. For me it wasn’t legwork it was a huge part of my professional
and personal life. What made the leap easy is that I also wrote non-stop for public

By the time I started writing my blog, Communication Central, for Psychology Today
I had been writing that type of material for about eight years.

You also have a number of books strictly available for e-readers. Why did you
decide to go the e-publishing route?

My first and only book deal (in 2008) was a terrible one. I was more anxious to
have my book published as an academic as opposed to being concerned with what
I would get out of the deal so I did a lot of things that violated Rule 101 for authors.
I signed a lousy deal and put not just the ball, but also all of my equipment, in their
court. I signed away the rights to use that information how I see fit, didn’t ask for an
advance and I have never seen a penny for my efforts. They also priced the book as
high as a college textbook ($100) so it is not and will never be a practical purchase
for anyone.

I vowed not to do something like that again. As the publisher sought me out I still
had no plans of writing a book for public consumption. But my writings on different
subjects were getting longer and longer. Finally in 2009 I had about two or three
manuscripts around the house and I was considering just blogging the information.
I was already a professor and had a comfortable lifestyle so I didn’t feel like going
through the trouble I’d heard so many authors talk about in trying to score a book deal.

But as I looked at the amount of information I compiled something bothered me
about doing that. My wife and some other people thought I would be crazy to just
release it on the Internet and argued against it. At the same time I had begun to
bump into some of Joe Konrath’s work (just like everyone else it seems). That’s
when Amazon became an option for me.

How many books do you have out and what is your latest?

I have eleven books published through Amazon, Barnes & Noble (Pubit) and Lulu
and my latest is Psychology from all Angles.

What is Psychology from all Angles about?

I use a lot of communication and psychological theories to explain why humans
behave as they do when I lecture. To keep it interesting I use a lot of entertaining
and humorous real world examples to keep the attention of my students. I decided
to use this approach when putting this book together.

In it I discuss how we often overestimate what we have to do to succeed instead of
trying to find out the specific tasks we need to achieve the outcomes we desire. I
also cover obscure academic theories as well as a lot of media theories that affect
how we process information and in turn influences the decisions we make.

Do you have any other interests besides writing?

Besides spending time with my family, I am very involved in Brazilian Jiu-jitsu (since
2004), which is a form of wrestling with submissions. I also have a Judo background.

Do you compete?

No I just love the sporting aspect of it. I have played a lot of sports in my life and I
believe it’s one of the highest ways one can express intelligence through one’s body.
That’s why I train in it.

Any last words?

I would like to thank Barbara for providing me the opportunity to introduce myself
and my new book to her readers.

And we thank you, Bakari.

Psychology From All Angles

Psychology Today Blog

Bakari's Blog

Saturday, January 29, 2011

The December Anomaly

Sheila asked me to be specific.  I won't go back and get the exact numbers but this will be close.

By the end of Dec. 2010 I had sold exactly 850 books at BN.  By a week or so later it jumped to about 1119.  They lag in reporting.

In Dec. I sold like 65 books at Amazon.  Yeah I know that's a crazy difference.  But I was excited because I had gotten --by 1/1/11-- to 900 which was a great achievement considering my sales are predominantly in middle reader books.

As of today at BN I've sold about 850 copies (of all my books).  At Amazon it's over 100 with Dream Horse leading the way.

The audiences are really really different at the 2 sites. I do nothing to market the books.  I'm not aware of any way to market middle reader ebooks, or get reviews for them.  I have the blog and I don't think kids come here (I hope not!)  I hope that answers the question.  I'm having a You've Got Mail "My head's all woozy, what did you say again and I love plastic daisies they're so cheerful" afternoon.

Anomalies and Abuse

I thought last month was an anomaly because of the holidays but I'm very much at the same sales point at BN as I was last month at this time.  I'm way over any previous month at Amazon.  

A few years ago I used to hang around Absolute Write.  It's a nice community of (mostly jolly) writers.   Maybe newbie writers don't understand how they will be abused by this system.  Some people maybe even enjoy it--some people are that strange.   You can learn how certain agents behave so that's always good but what's the point of an agent anymore?  These people used to be facilitators now they're roadblocks.  They don't even keep their irritation to themselves anymore.  They have blogs and spew their meanness to writers in general.  Why?  Doesn't this seem self-defeating to anyone but me? 

If you think there is an unlimited pool of good writers who will eventually show up at your inbox offering you the pleasure of making money off of them, I guess it seems reasonable you can treat many of them like debris (you know the word I wanted to use).  That pool is not unlimited.  At some point either every good writer (shrug/eyeroll) will have an agent and it's not you, or the rest of the good writers will have had enough abuse and go digital.

Back in Nov. I sent an editor at NAL a proposal for a book series.  Just to remind everyone, that would not be my first series either in books or in television.  I have demonstrated to 4 million people a day that I can write a continuing story.  (Yes, that was my audience at NBC)  She has not yet gotten back to me.  What's the problem?  It was about 4 pages long.  I bet I never hear from her.  And she thought I was a good writer.

You'll be treated to a guest post today or tomoro, sorry I'm under the weather and not able to accomplish much.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Shocka! Morals Clause

I didn't know we still had morals in this country.  (Not joking)  Between the pornography and "alternate" lifestyles and the politicians like Barney Frank stealing from us left and right, Chris Dodd like a pig at the trough and making "waitress sandwiches" with Teddy "The Swimmer" Kennedy who left Mary Jo Kopechne to drown and was lauded as a great man, there is nothing high minded about those elitists telling us what's good for us but not them.

I have been good about keeping these thoughts to myself all these months.  But after this weekend maybe I'm just too exhausted with it all.

So here's a post from Ursula K Guin's blog (or Richard Curtis--I don't know I'm frankly lucky to be able to stand up without keeling over so I'm not going to figure out here's X from Y thru G thing right now)

Just one more good reason to be shot of tradpub.

And let me add one thing--I watch Fox News. So all the braying and guffawing about Rupert Murdoch in the comments section is just the same as HuffPo except better grammar & spelling.

New language in the termination provision of the Harper’s boilerplate gives them the right to cancel a contract if “Author’s conduct evidences a lack of due regard for public conventions and morals, or if Author commits a crime or any other act that will tend to bring Author into serious contempt, and such behavior would materially damage the Work’s reputation or sales.” The consequences? Harper can terminate your book deal. Not only that, you’ll have to repay your advance. Harper may also avail itself of “other legal remedies” against you.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Back After A Few Days Away

And I was without computer, so it was very nice to come home to these rankings for Dream Horse at Amazon.

At B&N it's number 922 of all ebooks.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

What Is The Value of Traditional Publishing?

I admit I don't have an answer for that question.  A year ago I would have said that's where the money is.  But if you can't get to the money, then it has no value.

I understand very well that unpublished authors would like to be verified in some way.  If you are published traditionally that says you're good enough.  If you're not published you're obviously not good enough.  Then how do you explain me and so many published, professional writers who can't get editors and agents to reply to query letters?  Are we to believe our work is substandard?  It will be difficult to convince me of that.  We're not current enough?  May I remind you that my bestselling book is 30 years old.  You could argue that our work is not "marketable". 

I don't want to play these games anymore with them when there's a legit game in town called digital.  I'm tired of jumping through the hoops, I'm tired of being abused and mistreated.  Maybe I recognize these situations when they're happening better than someone who hasn't been published and is so eager to be accepted.  I can't understand waiting for a year for an editor to reply on a pitch for a 2nd book for them.  Two words.  Professional Courtesy.  It doesn't exist anymore.  Okay.  Fine with me.

I don't even want to think about my knitting book with Alpha/Penguin, it was such a disaster.  But let me say this--my advance was for $18,000.  The company couldn't even bestir itself to get it into the chain stores.  I still "owe" them $16,000.  You cannot do enough marketing on your own to counteract what the publisher won't do.  Because of the first editor on the project, the book was 18 months late and missed the peak selling interest in beginner knitting books.  There's no amount of websitery or blogging you can do to counteract that reality.  My interest in making them money by additional blood, sweat and tears waned rapidly as this project progressed.
$16,000 is a lot of money to earn to pay them back (at pennies on the dollar) for their mistakes.  I had to pay for all the supplies, a good camera and 2 different illustrators.  I had to pay the agent.  I wound up with nothing.  Am I suppose to invest my own money to make them money now?  Am I supposed to take out a loan to pay them back so we're even?  (No, they're not asking for the money back, that's not how it works.)   Should I set up my own book tour?  Hire a publicity agent?  The answer is no.  This book was 2 years of upset and it's an embarrassment.  This is how you get authors fleeing from traditional publishing.

by me

Friday, January 21, 2011

Raised By Wolves

Alternate title "Malicious Reviews".

I've talked about dear urrggg before who decided to vent on my book's Nook page because she doesn't know how to use her Nook.  And then she was joined by someone even less capable of connecting to the internet and downloading a book successfully.  Who was then joined by someone who was able to download the book but it took an hour but she did give the book a 5 star review and thank you, whoever you are.  And most definitely yes, I did alert B&N to this issue, they checked and there is no reason on their end or my end why these customers experienced difficulties.

Here's the reality.  No author can control the website customers are downloading from, nor can they magically control the download speed at their house. 

Yesterday we had a winner over at Amazon.  Someone who was raised by wolves, because humans couldn't possibly do that bad a job at it, decided that there were 10 misspelled words per page and made a huge deal over it.  Considering that at least 1 time a month someone gets a refund from Amazon for 1 of my books (mostly I think it's because they hit the buy button instead of the sample) if losing 99 cents is so painful, just ask for a refund.  But no.  A malicious review needs to be posted for the world to see.

After discussing this with my pal, I decided to leave the review there and not ask Amazon to remove it.  This performance of bad temperament deserves to be seen by the entire planet.  It can stay there forever.

Of course my first reaction was wow, the formatting on this thing must have gone haywire during the conversion.  I'm in the process of going back to all the books, converting them into html for Amazon, making sure they are as perfect as I know how to do and then uploading them again.  It's a time consuming process and not at the top of my list of all I must get accomplished each day. 

Imagine my surprise when this book, even in docx, converted perfectly to html, the indents were there and guess what--no misspellings.  So a word to the wise--lay off the drugs.  Your eyes will stop spinning in your head like pinwheels and you'll be able to read simple sentences without thinking "the" is really spelled "teh".

Bodiam by Phillip C, photoshop by me

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

For This Incredibly Small Sum Of Money

You too can be published this year!

Wow!  I'm going to rush right over to Lulu and save $950!

2011 is going to be your year.

Did you know Lulu authors who use Lulu professional services sell twice as many books? It's true!

If it's been awhile since you looked into our publishing pack options, you're in for a pleasant surprise. Our professional services team is pleased to announce simplified solutions, which will save you even more time and money.

From now until January 24, enter code SVCNEWYEAR305 to save 20% off any Publishing Pack. Save up to $950. 

Let me tell you a story, a true one.  I stumbled upon a guy, I'll name names--Tony Harold I think it was--who was going to set up a publishing company here in America.  We exchanged some emails and I sent him a novel.  He liked it.  He wanted to publish it.  I told my friend who lived far far away.  Simon (not his real name) sent Tony his novel.  This novel was really quite good, very funny and deserved to be published but of course tradpub wasn't interested.   Tony liked Simon's book.  That was good.  Simon flew in from far far away, and Tony flew in from far far away, and I came in quite a way and we all met.  Tony had promised to give me an advance that day but he started backpedaling.  He was spinning and lying in a way I had never quite seen before, and I had seen a lot of bad behavior.  I got up and walked out.  Say an hour later Simon got out of the meeting and we met for lunch.  He signed with Tony.  I couldn't believe what I was hearing.  Simon had just witnessed me being abused by Tony and STILL he was comfortable signing with this guy.  I tried to talk him out of it.  But I suspect Simon thought it was mostly my fault, I can be difficult to get along with and maybe got offended that Tony wanted a rewrite.  Okey Dokey.  Fast forward like 2 years.  Simon's book was published.  I received a copy, it was fine physically, but everything else was wrong wrong wrong.  Big lawsuit later...You know it was all sorrow.  I don't even think Simon writes anymore and that's a tragedy.  It's our loss.

"Simon" if you read this, fly to where your power is!  Write comedy!  EPUB!!!

That's how I feel about Lulu claiming anything about writers selling twice as much with their package.  What, someone sells 2 instead of 1?  Don't believe it.  This publishing thing the way it is now should cost you ZERO.  Learn how to do everything yourself, all knowledge is power.  Don't pay anyone to do what you can do.  The age of writers being desperate is over.  That's so 20th Century.

Are you going to tell me that Lulu presents you with a paper book?  Test market it first as an ebook.  If people are clamoring for a paper book, then go with Lulu or CreateSpace.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

New Cover For Sweeps

Cover art can often be problematic.  If you're already a good artist, you are golden.  Most of us aren't that fortunate.  I started my freshman year in college thinking I would be an art major and within a week I was a photography major.  But I don't know how often a photo is really useful as artwork.  Altho I don't see me changing the cover of Bad Apple anytime soon (ever) and I did that photo.

I've been struggling with Sweeps for...from the beginning.  I still don't think that's the right title for it but I never come up with something better.  Since it's been selling a little bit at Amazon this month, I'll stick with Sweeps.  But the cover doesn't really do it justice.  I considered hiring a designer but I never got a clear sense of what he intended for the quite substantial amount of money he wanted.  Then I learned that HP Mallory bought the cover art and used Photoshop to tinker it together.  I decided to search the stock image sites again, this time looking for vector art instead of photography.  I found her image so I knew I was on the right track.  I found an image I thought I could work with. 

There were a couple issues with this image I liked well enough.  Since it was intended for Valentine's Day, it was loaded with hearts.  That didn't help me.  If I wanted to stay with Sweeps and the soap opera inflection, I needed to get rid of the hearts, the box of candy and find a free broom.  I would like to change the skin tone but every time I changed it, everything else also got dulled down/a pink cast over it.  Someday I'll go back and try to figure that out but I have too much to do to be hung up on something that won't bother anyone else.

Yes, it would have been nice to have a guy in the image, too.  I couldn't find that.  I don't think I can learn how to do vector art, nor am I artistically inclined enough to come up with the right ideas.  So you make do.

This is the image I'm uploading to Amazon today.

Monday, January 17, 2011

BN Update From Last Month

They maybe have a final total now.  I thought the final total was Jan. 1 or whatever.  That was 850.  There's a new total today.  1119.


It's Hard To Find A Title For This One

England does tend to express ideas we don't in the former colonies.  Remember quite a few months back there was some whacked out editor for a women's magazine who found it creepy to breast feed?

Now we have Virginia Ironside speaking up on sexuality.  I wouldn't be fair to you if I didn't point out that she also said this "If I were the mother of a suffering child – I mean a deeply suffering child – I would be the first to want to put a pillow over its face . . . If it was a child I really loved, who was in agony, I think any good mother would." a couple months ago.  Read about it here:  The Gruniad

The ease with which she assumes "any good mother would" is shocking.  And I'd say no.  Good and mothers who kill are words that don't belong in the same sentence.

This is a strange concept to me. I don't believe in killing people for convenience sake.  Life is precious.  You're supposed to prolong life, not take it. 

So when Ginny's latest stunner came over the intertubes today, I was reluctant to even look but I skimmed.  Here's the link
We Paid The Price For Free Love

I'll give you 2 pull quotes from this "reflective" "thought piece"

To be honest, I mainly remember the 60s as an endless round of miserable promiscuity, a time when often it seemed easier and, believe it or not, more polite, to sleep with a man than to chuck him out of your flat. I recall a complete stranger once slipping into bed beside me when I was staying in an all-male household in Oxford, and feeling so baffled about what the right thing was to do that I let him have sex with me; I remember being got drunk by a grossly fat tabloid newspaper journalist and taken back to a flat belonging to a friend of his to which he had a key, being subjected to what would now be described as rape, and still thinking it was my fault for accepting so much wine. I remember going out to dinner with a young lawyer who inveigled me back to his flat saying he’d got to pick something up before he could take me home, and then suggested we have sex. ‘Oh no,’ I said feebly. ‘I’m too tired.’ ‘Oh, go on,’ he replied. ‘It’ll only take a couple of minutes.’ So I did. 


The other reason that sex was so grim was that now it was so easy, the art of seduction had flown out of the window. I’m sure this was partly why working-class men became so much more attractive to everyone in the 60s. They’d always found, with less birth control available among the working classes and expensive abortion
not an option, that in order to get a girl into bed they had to work really hard at the
chat-up lines. But as for men considering women’s feelings – why should they?
They continued to satisfy their own needs and never for a moment considered whether the women they were having sex with found it pleasurable or satisfying. Most of us girls, at least those on the London rock scene as I was, didn’t have a clue as to what sex could be like when it was good. When we weren’t crying, we’d giggle, like the schoolgirls we were, about our exploits, without realising how damaging our sexual behaviour was both to our self-esteem and our souls.

Really?  Wow.  Who da thought?  Discuss amongst yourselves.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Accuracy in Media

"That's a laugh."  That's a quote from a New Yorker cartoon.  Two of Robin Hood's merry men are sitting under a tree and one says to the other "Maid Marion.  That's a laugh."

That's funny, isn't it.  Until you think about the insult to Marion.  They wouldn't say "Robin Hood is a virgin, good on him."  It's unimaginable.  Robin would have to be a great swordsman.  Speaking of which, I'll bet you didn't know Basil Rathbone actually was an excellent swordsman and did his own stunts in the movies.  Sorry I couldn't embed the only clip from Robin Hood there was but Zorro's always good.

I was trying to think of good advice to give us.  There's an explosion of success being recorded at Konrath's blog and I'm stumbling trying to not so much make sense of it as trying to fit myself into it.

If you can follow the direction of the money/sales, go for it.  As Konrath put it. it's like the Gold Rush.  Or the land rush.  There's so much excitement for certain genres, almost anything can do really well as long as you come close.  There is no scorn for commercial fiction, only praise.  People love it and they're entertained. 

I've never been very good at that and time hasn't changed that sad fact.  I would love to be able to pay off my credit card debt in one month because I wrote a cool paranormal romance.  (I don't even know what constitutes one.)  If you can't and need to tell the stories in you, then try to be accurate in all aspects.  Michaelangelo's statue of David is more interesting than a block of marble.  Why?  Because it's accurate.  It was carved with exquisite attention to detail.  Sculptors (it is always said) remove everything that doesn't look like the statue they have in mind.  That's good advice.  Remove everything that doesn't look like your story.

"A designer knows he has achieved perfection not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away."  -- Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Friday, January 14, 2011

It's Either I'm Very Nosy

Or "You're really a good listener," so said John Valenti (Hi, John.)

The truth is I'm both.  I'm very nosy but I apologize.  Like today at WalMart, the cashier was talking to the customer behind me and I couldn't avoid hearing so I listened.  Tanya (not her real name!) looked young, but tired, and said she had a child grown and on her own already.  I thought she was 26 tops.  But she was in her thirties and proceeded to start on her life story.  I interrupted and said "I'm sorry if I'm being too nosy and don't tell me if you don't want to.  Where's the father in all this?"

Tanya apparently wanted to tell her story.  People just want to be heard.  If you're listening to them, they're visible.  I think that's what "good listener" means.

My rabbi is a very unique person.  In Chassidic teachings, the importance of focusing your attention on what you're doing is stated time after time.  Listen to the people, honor their life by paying attention to them.   When you're reading, read for meaning, pay attention  If you're writing, pay attention to what you're doing.  Life shouldn't be slap dash, trying to get through this part so you can get to the next part faster.  This part is important or you wouldn't be here.

So poor Tanya had a tough life but picked herself up, got on track and is managing quite well.  I hope my interest in her story made her feel better this morning and I hope she knows she made an impression on me.

Good Shabbos

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Novels Aren't Screenplays

Geez, where's she going today?

First off, I feel like I've talked entirely too much about myself lately so now I'm going to talk about my writing.  Just kidding.  But I am going to talk about writing.

Last year (not that long ago, is it) I read something by a nonfiction writer.  It was obvious she could write but for me she was struggling with how to tell a story, an exercise that was totally alien to her.  What did I tell her?  I named a couple screenwriting books and told her to go study them.  Which got her hackles up to some degree.  And she asked someone who seemed bigger and smarter than me and that person told her to go read some books about screenwriting.

Why is this good advice?  Because a script has to tell the complete story in under 120 pages.  Every scene has to matter, impart vital information and keep the audience watching.  A screenplay has a very definite structure.  There are 3 acts and each one performs an important function.

Well, who cares?  Novels aren't screenplays.  No but they do have a structure.  The reason why this structure works is that it works.  Whether it's because people expect it or if it works because of the way the universe is organized doesn't matter.  The 3 Act structure has been around since the days of the ancient Greek playwrights.  If it didn't work it would have been abandoned long ago--people are not that stupid.  (Don't ask me to prove it.)

All bets and all rules are not off just because we went digital.  Good writing, wonderful writing, ...oh skip it, this is obviously not the goal of most people attempting to write.

I read something recently that came well recommended and it was like fanfic.  There were vast passages--and I mean hundred of pages--that could have easily been ditched.  Why?  Because they didn't tell us anything.  We didn't learn more about the character of the characters and since character is revealed through action and there was no action, there was nothing much going on.  It was like one long Twitter experience.  "Wow!  I just brushed my teeth and used a different flavor toothpaste!"  "I just got in the car and am going to work!"  "BummerCity!  I'm stuck at a railroad crossing and the train is sooooo long!"

This is not efficient storytelling.  It's like a webcam aimed at someone's living room.  (You thought I was going to say bedroom but then there would have been at least a vague hope of something happening)

I started reading a book that spent a couple pages on a woman shaving her legs.  I thought "Gee, this is strange."  Is the word du jour random?  It's random if you have all the words in the dictionary in a hopper, you spin it and pick one out.  Then it's random.  It was also useless and boring.  I don't want to see a woman shaving her legs or a character going to the bathroom either.  Sorry.  There are a number of things I don't want to see and those are two of them.

What I'm saying is that it's good to make sure what you're writing is interesting to someone other that just you.  And even if for some random reason other people like this Twitter style of writing, you can entertain the notion of  being more precise in what you're trying to convey in your book.  Think about the construction of your story.
Does everything belong on the page/screen?  Does everything add to our understanding of the story, situation and characters?  Has what you're saying been said before in the story just in a slightly different manner?  If the scenes are similar, do they each tell us something we didn't know before?

If you don't care about any of this, I wish I could think of something clever to say but all that comes to me is that I have no idea why you're writing.  So if you are one of those people, post a comment and explain it.  Help us understand--even if it's not in your writing style ;-)

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Dumplings and Avalon

Good Chinese food is a long drive from here.  Japanese is a shorter drive but not close either.  I made delicious dumplings for dinner and recommend Andrea Nguyen's book Asian Dumplings.  It's an excellent cookbook on many levels.  It has a good. encouraging tone, there are sufficient illustrations, mouth-watering (no, really) photos, and the recipes are simple  No one should be reluctant to try dumplings at home if they have this book.  She has a website too with some vids to help you out.  Hint:  you don't need ground pork, use Perdue ground chicken instead.  With all the other flavors, you won't tell the difference.

Okay.   Avalon.  I got an email from the head honcho of the Avalon writers blog.  She seemed very nice and welcomed me into the fold since my book is being published in less than a month.  Gee, maybe the editor could have mentioned it to me since she mentioned it to them.  But that's fine.  Let's just get it over with.

The strange part is that these women have banded together to have a nice blog, and it is a nice blog, done by nice ladies (that'll give you a clue why I don't belong there since I guess I've had words with the last 3 editors on my book).  She said this is good publicity.

Screech!  Okay, back up this truck.  Beep!  Beep!  Beep!

Avalon prints enough copies to cover the advance and they're like Vinny Gambini "I'm done wid this one."  There is no you get royalties from Avalon.  Am I revealing a secret?  I don't know.  But that's what one of their writers told me a year ago.  I sure didn't hear it from anyone in the company before I signed the contract because if I had Love In The Air would be a Nook already.  Thank God (really, not just a phrase to say) I got Disconnected/Paige Turning/Nothing Serious back from them.  I suppose that is very clever business on their part when so many companies pulp their books and writers don't earn back their advances.  So bravo to them.

But hang on, I thought, if I get interviewed by them as they wish, I get to mention my other books.  That's publicity that counts.  So I'll give you the link when it happens.

I spent about 5 hours today with the Dream Horse html file to try to determine what went wrong.  I still don't see a reason why the spaces between some words are missing.  The only thing I can figure is that it's a symptom of another issue.

I used Dream Weaver for a while.  What a horrible experience.  It's just too complicated.  It's too Adobe.  I tried a number of other similar programs and was lost with all of them.  Then my last resort was trying Expression Web, a Microsoft program.  I resist MS whenever possible.  I seriously doubt if they had anything to do with the creation of this program--it's too good, too logical, too simple.  It works.  I recommend this for other people who know very little about html or css.  You'll get a lot of help with this program.

Apparently, also something not announced upfront, Amazon would really prefer it if you submitted books in html.
Okay.  What I was saying yesterday to my pal (my go-to guy for all questions computer) it's not like ebooks were invented last year.  They've been around for awhile.  Why is there no word processing program--Word, Open Office, that saves in epub or mobi.  What, is everyone too busy creating apps for phones or whatever?

The whole process of turning a document into an acceptable ebook is ridiculous.  So from the ridiculous to the sublime....

Here is the only clip I could find of When My Dreams Come True from the Marx Brothers movie, The Cocoanuts released in 1929, filmed at the Astoria Studio in Astoria, Queens, NY.  Things don't come with a better pedigree than this.  Earlier it had been a stage play on Broadway for a couple years written by the great George Kaufman, adapted for the film by the great Morrie Ryskind, starring the great Marx Brothers with music by the really super great Irving Berlin.  This is where the famous routine Why A Duck comes from.  Sure the technology of sound is new here and it's looks like a filmed stage play but it's still wonderful. 

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Fleeting Success

First, because the formatting won't let me put it at the end, I have come to a conclusion about vampires.  I've been thinking about this whole issue (not the vampire part that's a big yawn but what's behind it) for years, unfortunately the discussion doesn't perhaps belong on this blog.  Amanda Hocking nailed the situation as well as could be, that probably accounts for her enormous success with her series.  She tapped into exactly what concerns people.  As written, it explains everything.  I'm not sure how obvious that is to most people reading the books but still it's there.

I will still say I'm curious about the transformation from---no I'm not, sorry, I do understand it.  Not to leave you  completely hanging--there is a clue that exists in the arc of how vampires were originally portrayed to the way they're portrayed now.  This is the key to opening the door to figuring out this "phenomenon".

The first time I saw the explanation for this general question was in Umberto Eco's Foucault's Pendulum.  As with everything he writes, this is a very dense book, layer built upon layer.  And it's a wonderful adventure tale.  But again, maybe Umberto and I just make life too complicated.

On to temporal successes.   These things change by the hour and it would be better if it was in kiddie lit per se the way Summer Horse was at BN, but still this is very nice and again, what's selling sells.

Dream Horse

Saturday, January 8, 2011

The Potpourri Of My Saturday

There's been a terrible act of violence in Tucson as I write this we don't know exactly what so I'll refrain from commenting but it's obvious that the lives of some will never be the same.  That's tragic and losses are painful, the reasons haunting and mysterious. 

I have had no sales at BN for 2 days.  Sales are quite nice at Amazon where they stunk on ice last month.  Suddenly, out of nowhere, for no reason or activity of mine, Not Low Maintenance is selling well.  Books that are selling sell.  They get on the list--NLM is #87 or something, I guess that's enough to be seen--so they sell.

I didn't mention this but I did hear from the support team at BN and no, there is no problem with Just Kate, it downloads just fine so the two customers who decided to leave poor reviews on the book without reading it are just incompetent somehow.  Those reviews will eventually be removed.  Although it was supposed to be 8 hours and it's 24 and they're still there, I guess it'll happen eventually.

I suppose this blog is different than others in that I try to reflect on things in a writerly way so others may reflect as well.  I can't give you a good reason why thinking more fully is better.  Other people achieve great success with no thinking whatsoever.  It's a more interesting way to live.  Maybe there are no other layers.  Maybe everything is just as it seems on the surface.  Maybe that's why people are so bored and discontented with their lives.

Maybe people have stopped asking "why?"  If they have, that's sad.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Pizza For Dinner!

After spending 5 hours trying to reformat Burning Daylight to suit Amazon. I decided, heck, treat city.  I will talk to you about the pizza but I'm sure you are so hanging on my every word about the formatting.

I have no idea what went wrong.  I stripped the formatting a numbers of times--hence the 5 hours.  I was looking at the non printing characters.  It looked fine in Word DOC (not docX) and yet when I uploaded it, the emulator always had no indents.  The simplest thing for me to do was to comb back thru it a final time after accepting there would be no indents, I could at least add a space between the paragraphs.  More Smashwordsish than normal Kindle but I can't solve it better than that today.  Sometime when I'm hankering for a project, I'll try again.

Pizza.  This is so easy but you do have to be somewhat prepared.  Actually it's going to sound so difficult....

The dough is terrific and can be used for pizza or bread or rolls.  You can make bialys out of it.  This is from Richard Bertinet and he's a very nice man so I recommend highly his books Dough and Crust both of which I have and loved and wrote him to tell him so and he wrote back.

You really need a scale.  Or try to do some math but weighing is always better in the kitchen--sorry about that.
I cut this in 1/2 but you do what you need to do.

18 oz bread flour
11 oz warm water
2 teaspoons yeast
2 teaspoons salt

You can add 2 oz of semolina flour which gives it a nice nutty taste but if you don't have that, no problem.  Just remember you're aiming at 18 oz.  Not 20.  Throw that into your mixer which is heresy because Richard wants you to do this by hand but come on, I don't have the time and I hate the mess.  It's a sticky dough.  Refrain from adding more flour.  Seriously.  Let it mix away until the flour absorbs the liquid.  It will.  No there is no sugar and no oil in the recipe.  Don't think I'm making a mistake.  Mix mix mix until it's smooth and not so sticky.  Put in a floured bowl--I know he goes against everything you ever did with bread, but trust me this will convert you.  Let rise until doubled OR here comes some more heresy.  Use the microwave as a proofing box.    Put the dough in a heat proof glass bowl, cover with a towel, insert a cup measure full of water into the microwave.  Heat on low for 40 seconds.  Don't open the door for 7 min.  Turn bowl.  Heat on low again for 40 seconds.  Wait 7 minutes.  Okay, you just sped-proofed the dough.  Note:  If you were really making bread, you'd want to remove the dough, shape it, put it in baking pans or whatever and go thru a 2nd rise.  But pizza dough isn't bread.

Take some dough, (not all of it, be sensible!) spread it out thin, best on some parchment paper if you don't have a baking stone.  Top with your choice of toppings.  Bake at the highest temp your oven will get to until done.  Should be 10-14 min.


You'll thank me for this.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Unbelievable If True

I just went to B&N PubIt to check on something or other and there's the login page with the Nooks and the bookcovers.  Suddenly I realized that one of the covers was extremely familiar to me.  When I looked closer it was Summer Horse.

I don't know if they have some computer way so that everyone who logs in has one of their covers show up or if it was chosen, but still it's a cool experience.

2nd from left bottom row on the bottom right Nook.  Big left Nook in the back, top row, 1st image on the right.

Update:  Most of you have probably been there and know it's not some weird computer program that manages to insert a cover that belongs to the person who's logging in.  It's Summer Horse in the image for everyone.  

Vampire Knits

To while away those hours when the sun is out, what's a vampire to do?  There are just so many games of Boggle you  can play.  Knitting!  That's it.  Glad I thought of it.  Do I need needles or can I use bones?

No, no, I'm not making it up.  It's a real book (and actually it gave me an idea).

Do vampires get cold?  But this isn't really for vampires, who I've heard are not that fashion conscious.  It's for people who want to pretend to be vampires.  We've talked about this before here and I still don't get it.  Yes, I read Amanda Hocking's My Blood Approves and I still don't get it.

I don't watch much television because my throat gets irritated from shouting at the screen so often.  And I hate commercials.  (What's with AMC?  That used to be commercial free and now it's info-mercials and the 3 Stooges.  We PAY for cable or satellite and we still have commercials.)  But a while back I caught part of a documentary on people who love vampires.  There's a book to write "Women who Love Vampires and the Vampires who only love the right Blood Type" (These things write themselves!)  One quite attractive woman said that a human man could never live up to her desires in a companion the way a vampire could.

What kind of twisted psychology is this?

Please my audience of 9 year olds, come back in 10 years to read the rest--

I suppose it's the equivalent, in some very bizarre way, of men who are addicted to porn only wanting a relationship (?) with a porn-actress type woman.  What kind of woman is in a porn movie?  She never has the dishes to do or a job to get to or children, she is always available for sex.  You can tell that by that blank stare with the semi open mouth pout they all wear.  It's good they're wearing that because they wear precious little besides that.  So the perfect woman likes, nay loves, sex.  She doesn't have to love the man she's with, better if she didn't because there's a three-some in the wings.  She's a contortionist and perfectly toned.   When she's not having sex, she's working out at the gym in preparation for having sex.  In many ways, she's a body temperature blow up doll.  Perfect.  She fits all the requirements.

What are the qualifications for this perfect vampire...thing?  Apparently vampires altho they are far less than monogamous in regards to bloodsucking, they are emotionally the vampiric equivalent of Gorilla Glue.  They are capable of such depth of commitment and bonding, NASA is trying to use some of their juice to stick the heat tiles back on the shuttles.  There's something exciting about being in a relationship with a vampire, sort of like falling in love with Scott Peterson or the Menendez Brothers.  Sure they killed before but they won't kill you because you are perfect and they love you.

Maybe someone will come up with a 12 step program.  "Vlad Tepes, grant me the serenity to accept the vampire I cannot change, Change the vampire I can, And the ability to know the difference between the blood types that would really be bad for me."

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Update on the Uploading

Apparently Nook takes .docx but Kindle chokes on it.  It accepted the .doc file with no trouble at all.
Just a little small problem--most of the formatting is gone.

Both Nook and Kindle want text that has the first line of each paragraph indented.  No spaces between the paragraphs.  (Smashwords is the opposite.)

What I have now is no space and no indent as shown by the screenshot of the kindle emulator.

Again, it's fine in Word so I don't know how to fix it unless I strip the formatting and redo it in hopes that pleases kindle.

What annoys me is that while the big boys go to their fake war over the standard format the rest of us have to tolerate the chaos.  I hate the proprietary stuff.  Windows Media player insists on what they want.  iTunes insists on something different.   I hate the Apple insists on you using a Mac to upload to their bookstore.  Just settle on one thing and let's get on with it!

That's what I hate.  What I love is that, apparently,  reading between the lines and putting together the hints, Amanda Hocking turned down a big publishing deal in favor of continuing on her own.  Brava Amanda!  Score one for the people.

For Your Entertainment and Approval

I present Hal Roach.

Some years ago I worked on a proposal for a book with that title.  For a while in the early 1930's that's how the Hal Roach movies began.  Two girls would come on stage and say "For your entertainment and approval, Hal Roach presents his Rascals....We thank you."

I always loved Our Gang/The Little Rascals and TCM is doing a marathon yesterday and today.  They're showing the silents, one is on as I write and I've never seen those before.  I think I know the dialogue of all the talkies by heart.  But as I was walking past the television, I realized there was something for us to learn.  Not only from Hal Roach who was a genius at all things comedic but from how the Our Gang movies came about.

He was in his studio office, looked outside his window and there were kids playing.

That's what it took.  If you believe there is wonderment in the smallest moments of life, story will be available to you.  You only need to observe life.  It's happening all around you in its complexity and in its simplicity.   Hal Roach decided he would tell the stories of these children and created film history.

For a brief overview Hal RoachOur Gang.

Hal Roach

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The Sea of Swirly Twirly Formatting

I'll have to get a reader--as soon as I can afford one.

Every means to check the formatting of Burning Daylight gives me different results.  I keep saying I can't fix it if I can't see it here on my computer in Word.

I've separated sections of the chapters with musical notes.  I thought that was cute.  Kindle thought it was a swell idea.  Nook is confused--I get question marks.  Ok.  I don't know how to solve that except to do 2 different versions and in the Nook I'll insert jpgs of musical notes.

What a freaking hassle.  I don't know what's wrong.  I sent the document to my pal who knows much more about computers than I do but unfortunately he doesn't have Word, he uses Open Office.  What he sees instead of musical notes is Open Office's response to nonprinting characters.  What I see is musical notes but tiny.  But it hardly matters to me what OO is thinking because I'm working in Word.

Oh it doesn't stop there.

Nook objects strenuously to the formatting of the lyrics.  I "indented" (you're not allowed to do this by tab so I used the ruler thing.  Kindle was pretty okay with it.

All the images were tiny with Nook.  Same size images with the Kindle emulator are fine.  Again, I can't fix this because I don't know what's wrong and what I see in Word is fine.

So okay let's put it in Calibre and see what the epub file looks like.  Crummy is a word I would use.  But you can't edit in Calibre you have to use Sigil.  So that's what I face this afternoon.

At this point in reader development, the less formatting you have, the better off you are.  Maybe iPads are better but since you can't upload to their store with anything but a Mac and I have a PC, I have no idea.  Since iPad uses epub format and so does Nook, either I go thru Smashwords or not at all.  Since I want to control my books at B&N, I won't use Smashwords.  So no Apple Bookstore for me.

I guess nearly everything I said yesterday was disproven today.  What a dismaying thought.  Actually tho, to be perfectly fair to myself, I was the one who pulled the file off Nook.  It would have been acceptable the way it was.  If epub couldn't read the notes I could have left the space blank like with all the other books.

I don't know what's bothering Amazon today but I'm pretty sure I didn't have anything to do with Elvis' death nor do I have anything to do with why Amazon can't get the file converted.  If BN managed to do it in about 3 minutes, it's not me.

The less formatting you do the better.

3 hours later.  Amazon is still struggling to convert the file.  Everything is fine with BN.  As far as I can tell.  I should be able to see it tomorrow.  After all they don't take 3 days to publish like Amazon does.

Monday, January 3, 2011

I'm Confused

I'm on a mailing list for self-publishers.  These are mostly small publishers getting books printed by real printers, not CreateSpace.  They do a lot of talking about what software to use.  To boil it down 1) if you want to pay for a program, use InDesign (Alert Alert Alert--this is an Adobe product, Adobe doesn't believe in helping you, that's why it took me 4 months to learn Photoshop to the minimal degree I have achieved).  2) if you want freeware use LaTex or something.  Both will drive you nuts.  You will need to take a course in how to use them but you will eventually wind up with a book with a perfect lay-out.  I don't read these posts anymore.

Every week or so someone who has done absolutely no research will ask how to format an ebook and who should they hire to do this.  Worse, they ask who the good ebook publishers are.   Answer--YOU ARE.  Learn how.  They never go to Amazon or Nook or even Smashwords to read the faq on how to do this.

I am so confused by this, I don't know what to make of it.  It's true I stopped uploading to Smashwords because my files kept getting kicked back to me due to formatting.  I've never had a problem with Kindle or Nook.  It's not that hard to do.  I assume most people use Word.  As the industry standard for just about everything, Word is prepared to do what they want.  Open Office is less prepared but perfectly capable.  Here's a suggestion I learned after much agitation--write the thing in Word, format it in Word, submit it in Word.  End of most of the problems.

Some of my books were written in Word Perfect and converted into Open Office.  This will always create a hassle.  Suggestion--strip all the formatting first and reformat.  How do you strip all the formatting?  Well Word will do that for you (theoretically) but copy the thing to Notepad, save as txt, open it in the word processing program and you're good to go.

You can find all this info by Googling it.  I don't understand why people don't start at the beginning and work through the process in a logical fashion.  I don't understand all the problems with inserting images into a digital book.  Almost all my books have illustrations/photos.  I don't think they look great on a B&W reader but I'm planning ahead for when people have color readers.  I try to choose images that will look relatively good in B&W.  I don't understand why people don't simply download a sample of a book like theirs and see how it was done.

I understand how this is very exciting.  You are going to publish your book and for some reason, you are so excited you can't think straight.  Slow down.  Do some research and attempt to do everything for yourself.  Teach yourself how to write.  Read John Gardner's book on writing.  Teach yourself how to edit.  Teach yourself how to step back from the project.  Learn basic cover design.  This is your book.  Enjoy the process fully.  I always wanted to make movies.  And I mean make them from start to finish.  Now I get to make books.  I love it. 

Or are we at a place where ewriters need to pay eeditors and edesigners?  Isn't that what we just left but instead of them paying you, you have to pay them?

No I haven't finished Burning Daylight yet but it is on the reformatted pass so I'm getting there.

from the NYT so they don't get mad at me

Sunday, January 2, 2011


coming in 2011.
  1. Self-publishing lost its stigma
    rinzler.jpgIn today's tight traditional publishing market, agents, editors, and publishers are now encouraging authors to test market their book by self-publishing. Yay! Self-publishing has finally lost its stigma. So if you've been dissed by agents in the past, 2011 might be your year to try again. Alan Rinzler is a longtime acquiring and developmental editor at major publishing houses and an independent editor with private clients. "Literary agents have been the missing link for self-published writers trying to break through into mainstream publishing," he states in Literary agents open the door to self-published writers. "But new attitudes are taking hold, especially among younger up-and-coming literary agents."

Are you on drugs?
Yes.  Literary agents are the missing link.  There was a find of really old teeth in a cave near Jerusalem recently.  DNA testing proved they belonged to the now extinct category of pre-humans called Literarius Agentinius.
Geez!  Why would you try to break into mainstream publishing now???  Go back and reread Joe Konrath's last post.
Last month I sold nearly 900 copies of books mainstream publishing donned a necklace of garlic to avoid.  They would have held up a cross but anything smacking of religion (except Islam) is like Kryptonite to them.
What do I care what tradpub thinks of me anymore?
Diss me once, shame on you.  Diss me twice?  I don't think so.

Whistling past the graveyard much?

New Year, New Thoughts

I hope this will be a two-parter where I come back later today and say I published Burning Daylight.  I wasn't even close yesterday.  I'm 1/2 way thru the final pass where I add illustrations.  Then I reformat and do another pass.  The book is over 300 pages long, it takes time.

Last month made me think this epubbing is a real thing for me.  Sure it's a very real thing for people writing in other categories.  Gee,  It's been a really long time, years, since anyone has wanted to read what I wrote.  Then to see the sales.  I thought well Christmas Day is an anomaly.  But the anomaly persists and yesterday Dream Horse outsold Summer Horse by 2 copies.  And I think the total was 50 books.  BN accounting is weird and can take 48 hours to rectify all the numbers.  I don't know what the total for the month was--something under 900 between BN & Amazon.

Bad Apple sold 10 yesterday.  This says there is hope to reach a niche audience.  This also suggests there is hope for the series.  I'm okay with doing BA3 Rise With the Wind and having no one read it.  I've been writing for years and having no one read any of it.  But to think people might at some point be waiting for it, excited about it.  Wow.  Just Wow.

I've talked about niche markets before.  And that article from the WSJ I pointed you to a couple days ago talked about niche markets in the music world.  Damian Kulash said that bands were getting sponsorship.  Some years back I think it was the jewelry company Bulgari that had an author do product placement in her book.  That was shocking to some degree.  But the world has changed.  I'd be perfectly happy to say Fender guitar instead of just guitar if Fender would pay me.  I would not be perfectly happy to say Tru drank a Diet Coke instead of milk.  Would I insert an ad at the end of the book?  It depends, doesn't it?  It depends on whether I think the product is good and helps the reader and doesn't conflict with the book.  I may not be saying that in a year's time, things may have changed so much.

Is the writing on the wall? Joe Konrath isn't "predicting" the end of traditional publishing as we know it but he's scrying it.  Maybe at some point all, or most, books will be POD (print on demand).  A couple years ago I purchased from Amazon a book on a Jewish town in France in the Middle Ages.  It probably sells 3 copies a year or something.  When I received it, it was obviously POD.  Maybe in the future, you won't say it looks POD (even if that's the accepted form of publishing everything).  If you're already formatting and designing the heck out of a book, the POD will look great, instead of a hastily thrown together cover for what's not a "book" but a manuscript.  I don't think we're at the point where books go away.  Yet.  In a hundred years?  Maybe so.  It's only 50 years ago (don't hold me to the exact numbers) when you bought music on vinyl.  You bought singles, 45s.  Then it was 8 tracks.  Then cassettes.  Then CDs.  Now I don't want to be searching for John Rutter's CD--where did I put that?--I just want it to be on my hard drive.  Maybe that's how we'll feel about our libraries as well.