Wednesday, November 30, 2011

If You Like Your Legacy Publishing

You can keep your legacy publishing.

There was a post by someone yesterday somewhere--if you can find it good/bad for you, it wasn't that pleasant to read--that basically said "Indie writers suck!" AND AND AND "I am so much better than they are because I am a literary writer, an artist and I appeal to the elites of the world, not the stupid semi-literate peasants."

It's funny how Charles Dickens wrote for the masses and now he's considered one of the greats.  Ditto Shakespeare.  And double ditto Chaucer who actually WROTE in English when the language of the court in England was French.  He wasn't writing for his royal pals, he was writing for the "underclass".

Here's another funny observation.  The more people talk about classlessness, the more you know they believe they are in the elite upper class.  Not to put too fine a point on it--the insufferable elite upper class.

Did you see where in Communist China the off-spring of the ruling class live like royalty driving around in Mercedes wearing tailored suits and going to the best restaurants?  I thought the point of China was that EVERYONE rode a bicycle and ate maggoty rice.


I am such a prole.  All I can think about...well is about my car getting fixed, but also that tomorrow Kindle Lending opens to indies.

When Bad Apple went free on BN, the sales of BA 2 and 3 (Burning Daylight & Rise) increased even though I upped the price of them.  So yeah, I'm very interested in making BA 1 free on Amazon.  Although my YA sales at Amazon are not anything to brag about.  Different sort of readers at Amazon and BN.  Different.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Speed--It's What's For Dinner

Not that kind of speed.

When you're thinking about something it seems to find you.  I do think about writing fast, or too fast, quite a bit.  I was much faster when I started out than now.  In order to write for television, you have to be fast so I fit right in.  Television is an arena where you don't question if something really works, if it comes to you, it's good enough.

Then I had a long stretch where speed didn't matter, asked a lot of questions and massaged everything.  Now I thought I was someplace in the middle of the two but yesterday a former sitcom writer told me how really fast I write.  I'm not.  He must be REALLY SLOW  ;-) .  There was a blog post somewhere about writing 10,000 words a day and how to achieve that.  Wow.  I'm encased in concrete compared to that.

I like to play computer games to think about nothing.  I'm sure that's one reason why I don't do particularly well but then I found out the big scoring gamers do lines of coke before playing.  This is nuts.  So I just felt like well I'm not doing drugs to score an extra 50 points in Crescendo Catcher.

How your mind organizes information may have a lot to do with this speed issue.  It's all about your brain, isn't it?  I have a friend who is always telling me to write X or Y and I say "I don't have those ideas, where am I going to get them?"  Because he's not a writer, he doesn't understand you are limited by the way your mind works.  You're limited (Sorry!  This may not be a popular thing to say but it's the truth) by your life experiences, your philosophies, your background, your upbringing.  I could not write a police procedural well for $50,000.  If the money dangled in front of me kept going up, obviously at some point I would give it my best shot.  But it wouldn't be as good as someone who really thinks in that way.  It would be mechanical for me, not organic.  It would show.

Why are we writing so fast?  Is it because it's so easy to be published now?  Is it to make money?  Is it excitement?  Because we have so much to say it's like a mental dam burst?  It's nice that there are so many readers, isn't it?  Everyone kept saying no one would write letters anymore and then email showed up.  Then it was people don't read and ebooks show up and people have 500 books on their To Be Read list.

If speed's for dinner, what's for dessert?

Kobo Touch e-Reader $70 at until 11/29

My latest experiment with lighting effects in Photoshop.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Ice Cream Parlor

Since I forgot to publish it on BN, I rectified that today and I'm not looking forward to doing that again anytime soon.  There were a myriad of computer/programming type problems that stumped me and they weren't easily solved.  My last resort was downloading Sigil which I struggled with the first times I tried it and I still don't have a clue but it did what I needed.  I know I lost all my page breaks.

I also had to remake the cover since it was lost when all my pictures were wiped out a while back.  Most of the psd (Photoshop) files weren't recoverable, so that was one of them.  I simplified it and even still it took much longer than I wanted to invest.

At some point I may redo it but heck, I'm busy! 

I had a good day yesterday at BN.  I honestly can't tell what each day's sales are at Amazon since they're cumulative.

I saw where Amazon UK pulled some bestselling book without notifying the author and they lost thousands of dollars in sales.  That's a very unfortunate story but as long as indie publishers have no recourse at all against the Kronos of Amazon, we'll keep hearing about these incidents.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Light Beams and Other Thoughts

Currently making the round on the internet is a "sad" picture of a dog standing by his master's grave.  The dog is in an incredibly heavenly beam of light and we're assured it isn't Photoshopped.

Some people really like these sentimental, heart-touching images.  The story is plenty sad for me and I won't go into the details and I won't show the image.  But the photo looks fake to me.  In that it's not a beam from heaven it's either a crap camera doing what it does best--making a hash of things--or someone helped it with Photoshop and did a crap job.  Why do I say this?  Because if I tried to reproduce mist or a beam it would be less substantive.  This is pretty dark/heavy handed.  The beam is so thick the dog is almost obscured.   Have I ever seen a beam of light from heaven, well, no, can't say that I have.  So maybe this is real.

Remember a couple months ago there was a picture of a dog laying by his master's casket at the funeral?  The family insists that the way the image was reported was completely incorrect.  I'm not saying dogs have been known to not leave their human's side, I'm just saying in these 2 instances I'm a skeptic.  OTOH, I think dogs are a blessing from G-d even if Caprice is sitting here expecting me to do something for her and I have no idea what.  Criminey, if it was Lassie, she'd tell me!  I suspect G-d works in more mysterious ways than this.

After what seems like forever The Ice Cream Parlor got a review on Amazon.  And apparently I forgot to publish it on BN.  How did that happen?

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5.0 out of 5 stars a nocalorie delight, November 5, 2011
This review is from: The Ice Cream Parlor (Kindle Edition)
this is a delicious is a well written history of ice cream.what surprises me is that i am the first reviewer.i love ice cream and i love this book.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Flash of Light

Is live on BN and a copy already sold so thank you whoever you are.  I just uploaded it to Amazon so who knows how long that will take.

I wanted an eye-catching light effect and there are a number of things you can do in Photoshop to get you there.
This time I chose 3D.  I'm not sure when that became available but it's in CS4.  My somewhat older computer has just enough power to manage 3D which I'm told puts a lot of demand on the system/video card. 

While this looks complicated it's really pretty straight forward and simple to achieve.  You create the text then go into 3D mode, create the ghost effect and then pull it forward thereby expanding it.  You can make it any color you want with hue/saturation and you're done.  I used a Photoshop filter to create the lens flare because, after all, Kip is a photographer.  Again very simple.  I don't think it takes more than 10 or 15 minutes.

I'm looking forward to Kindle Lending opening up to indies in 5 days and learning what the specifics are.  I suspect as long as you can get out of it, I will give it a whirl

I "watched" the movie Country Strong this morning because of a free premium channels weekend.  When you're rooting for the main character to die, something is really wrong.  So what was Kelly's problem?  I don't know.  She was kind of a horrible person.  If everyone else is okay with adultery, I'm actually not, so her sleeping with her husband and boyfriend at the same time seems kind of emotionally sleazy to me.  I think instead of the spa she went to for rehab, she should have gone to the ranch that Gabe Milne went to in Flash.  Anyway I see so few movies, I didn't know who any of the actors were except Mrs Coldplay.  All the men seemed to have beards which made it hard for me to tell them apart.  They were all quite furry.  Is that the same Tim McGraw as is married to Faith Hill or some other Tim McGraw?  That was very confusing and I spent a lot of time pondering that instead of trying to unravel the stupid plot.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Wow Amazon DE

I don't make it a point to check the books very often here or any other country so I was quite surprised to see this for Mr Mitnick's Harem

Fremdsprachige translates to foreign language according to the google translator.  So maybe it's possible to sell in Germany without being in German.  I'm sure it would help but I'm not convinced $3000 worth which was what the translator woman quoted me.

Mr Mitnick's Harem is a book that hasn't found its audience yet which is disappointing but probably predictable.  It's not like other mysteries.  A lot of lip service is paid to nonconformity but when it comes right down to it, people want the same thing but different.  They don't want different.  Some people do but most people find their comfort zone with everyone else.  I didn't think this was that off-genre but apparently it is.

I included a number of illustrations in it.  Why?  Because I like to.  Didn't books used to be illustrated?  Not just children's books?  I don't know.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Giving The Audience What They Want

This would seem to be a no-brainer.  It's perhaps not as simple in practice as it seems.  Some people can tap into what people want and others don't quite hit the mark.  Don't read further if you think I'm going to give you the solution but I can say a couple things.

Know your audience and be true to them.  How do you know your audience?  Decide who your audience is.  Is the audience people like you?  That's fine.  Figure it out and then don't annoy them.

Longtime readers of this blog know I worked on the soap opera One Life To Live.  I had been a fan of the show for years (with some interruptions)  and knew it inside out.  I think my favorite soap of all times  was probably Days of Our Lives.  What I really liked was the normalcy and goodness of the core characters Tom and Alice Horton.  I liked how they celebrated the holidays.  Today, Thanksgiving, there would be a big family feast.  Iconic family.  Tomorrow, the women would go shopping and come home to have turkey sandwiches.  Not the stuff of drama but the stuff of life.  Every year, same thing.  I loved it.  Since the show is still running, I was not in the minority.

Yesterday on One Life To Live Bo and what's her name... Nora (gee, I should remember since she's played by Hilary Bailey and I gave Hilary her first major role in TV on The Doctors when I was the headwriter there) spent all day with their comatose son.  It was a semi- voice over narration with Matthew commenting on the various characters throughout the hour and the show ended something like "Everyone had a memorable day.  I did, too.  It was the day I died."  Close-up of heart machine flatlined, cut to horrified parents.

Way to go OLTL!  You just violated every rule in daytime.  This is the reason you were cancelled.  Good.  Killing a child on a holiday.  Is that supposed to be edgy?   Thank you for that.  The show has about 5 weeks left and you spoil it.  Good going. 

People watch Law & Order: SVU to see children raped, maimed and murdered.  You don't do that on a soap.  Or let me say you can, but few people are going to praise you for those kind of choices.  If you'd like to argue that point with me just let me point out when I took over The Doctors it was the lowest rate soap.  Even then I had 4,000,000 viewers a day.  This year OLTL 2,500,000.  There may be a lot of reasons why viewership is down over the years, and I'm going to say crappy writing by arrogant writers who don't know and respect their audience is right there at the top.

Be sincere.  Write from your heart.  Respect yourself, your characters and your audience.  Do the best work you're capable of.  Strive to do better.  You may not be more successful but you will be a better person.  One last thought--Be grateful and give back to the life that gave you so much.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Shorts and Pricing

For anyone new to the blog, I'm not crazy about the 99 cents price point.  I read somewhere that neither is Jeff Bezos who thinks the right price is $2.99 and up.  As in most things there is some kind of equation between size and price.  The bigger something is, the more expensive.  If you're already at 99 cents, and you write something short, you can't price the thing lower so all you can do is raise the price of everything else.

I think this in an unfortunate time to be raising prices given the economy here and around the world but if someone just spend $200 on a Fire, maybe they're not hurting that much.

I've been collecting public domain images in a number of topics for the past couple years and thought I would compile them into a short book.  It's less that I believe such a thing will sell and more the enjoyment of doing it as well as doing something other than fiction that won't be a huge investment in my time.  I don't know what that's worth.  $0?  Free in the Kindle Lending Program?  99 cents because there's no other choice?

Do people want short?  They should.  There used to be magazines full of short stories. Given everyone's attenuated attention spans, this would seem like a good direction to go in.  More choice is always better than less.  Unless of course you are incapable of making up your mind and prefer no choice at all which is often me, sad to say.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Bleary Thoughts On Potentially Anything

I got to the end of Flash 2 yesterday,  I'm not done but I got to the end.  The nice part, because I don't outline, is that while I generally know where I'm going, I don't know the details so I get to be surprised.  The end is a nice moment.  I doubt very much if there will be a Flash 3 but if I went back, the door is still open.  It also can be thought of as closed.  Winning!  (I sorta miss Charlie Sheen being around to say that every 20 minutes.)

Kindle Lending Library, Overdrive, legacy publishing/agents as publishers.  There must be some clever thing  to say about there being 2 modes to live in-- fear or confidence.   Probably would come from either an ex-Seal Team member, a motivational speaker or a rabbi.  Hey that's a good start to a joke.  An ex-Seal Team member, a motivational speaker and a rabbi go into a  bar....

You know people are coming from fear when the level of passion used to attack something is in the meter's red zone.  Amazon is taking over the world.  How?  Google has already taken over the world.  They're spying on us, tracking us around the net, reading our email and few people say a word.  My message to Sergy Brin "If you really think I'm worthy of that kind of attention, be my stalker, I don't give a flip."  Ditto Jeff Bezos.  Take over the book buying world.  Find a niche and fill it.  Provide a service people want and they'll show up.  He's obviously doing something right, why attack him now?  Overdrive?  Seems to be another case of pigs at the trough.  Legacy publishing/agents jumping from the sinking ship--nothing to do with me.  Although I admit to enjoying some delicious schadenfreude mit schlage.

Publishing in the last 20 years did not treat me well.  If they suffer, if agents lose their jobs and businesses, well that requires a tiny bit of brief, passing compassion.  But it's really, to quote the movie Valley Girl, "Bad karma, dear".  Maybe the taxpayers can bail them out, too.  I mean like Bertlesmann surely needs more money.  Sony is practically on the street corners in Santa suits, with a bento box collecting donations.

Back in the real world where people do stuff instead of whining, I'm going to do a book of winter photos now that I have the whole camera thing sorted out.  I did some final test shots yesterday? the day before? and came to a conclusion.  You can skip this if you're bored.  Let me assume Nikon actually fixed the body and now the body is 100%.  It comes home and it's not appreciably better.  Now it has to be the lenses.  Okay so the 55-200 for some reason is not as fantastic a lens as Ken Rockwell insists.  That's why I spent so much to get the 85 mm 1.8 (reminding you the 1.4 costs 3 x the price and is really the same lens but for the extra f stop).  I take test shots with the 85 and they're not sharp.  I was practically beside myself.  What is going on?  It's a brand new lens and it's supposedly one of the best Nikon makes and it's crap, too?  How is any of this possible?  So I unscrew the old UV filter from an old lens that I put on the 85 just to protect it temporarily.  I shoot with a naked lens.  Beautiful.  What?  The Romor lens filter is crap?  How did I never notice that before?  (Other than the fact I never had a computer or Photoshop to study the images obsessively with film.)  Yesterday with Amazon Prime, thank you Jeff Bezos, my Tiffen filter arrived in 2 days as promised.  Screw that on.  Take test shots.  Everything is fine.

I will just say this again.  I wish Nikon would make a camera and lens with the sole concentration on taking the finest images possible without the video capabilities, the bells and whistles and all the other high speed low light crap that I don't need.  Think Nikon F again.  Build the finest camera in the world, made in Japan with Japanese, not Chinese parts, with 1 purpose--take a great image.  It could cost under $2000 and it would be a service to humanity.

The Naughty List

Monday, November 21, 2011

Design--Let's Talk About Fonts

Here's an interesting vid with much food for thought.   Designing Book Covers 101 sorta

So, yes, I agree with everything on the surface.  There are always exceptions and this is of course his opinion.
But let's talk about the whole font thing.

I think that's one of the most problematic elements of designing a cover and over the past 19 months I've tried numerous fonts and passed on most because I didn't think they worked.  I'm not sure I agree that a font like Times New Roman or Arial screams homemade but I am sure that weird fonts do.   Something like Curlz which is cute is just too cute PLUS it's very difficult to read in thumbnail size.  Arial is easy to read in thumbnail.  So score one for Arial.

One of my favorite--love it!--fonts is the very elegant cursive font I use to watermark my photos.  It doesn't work on a cover.  I tried it with Fling.  It doesn't work.  And I'm willing to go so far as to say cursive does not work in 99% of the attempts.  The scrollier something is, the more curls, the more bends or angles, the harder to read.  That's reality.

When I was looking to do housekeeping on my hard drive I realized I had way too many fonts stored for any rational non graphic designer.  There are a couple I use and go back to them every time after trying 25 others.
What fonts?  A couple are marking pen types like I used for Summer Horse.  I want to fall in love with a san serif font but I haven't yet.  I used Trajan Pro for Flash and used it again for Flash 2 (yes, the cover is done).  I tried a couple others but with the lighting effect, they weren't substantial enough.

Finding the right font is an investment in time.  I can't imagine how many hours I've spent looking at fonts--it's that important.

As for the vid's point #1 that the author's name should be large.  It depends.  I've said before I don't like text cluttering up the design.  For me, as a photographer, I generally don't like to see text on the image so I don't do it.  Should your name be bigger?  Maybe your name should be as big as your ego.  I don't know.

I invite you to scroll through the cover images on the right.  The ones on top are my design.  When you get to the Gingerbread thing, the Wish You Were Here books, the Idiot book--those are all Big Six books.  Can you see my name on any of them?

What offends my sense of design more than how large an author's name is, is how crappy the color choices are.
Blue or black text on a yellow background doesn't work for me.  Outlining the text in black with the idea that it will stand out more effectively doesn't work for me.  Amateurish artwork on the cover is really bad and there's no excuse when you can get a stock photo or vector graphic for $3.

So for me the simpler the font the better.  Make it readable.  What I do is get up from the computer and walk a couple steps away from the computer to see what the design looks like from a distance.  If I can read it and understand it, I'm fine.  If not, I make it more readable.
The less confident in your abilities as a designer--and you know I want you to do your own covers--the simpler they should be.  Look at covers on Amazon .  Learn from them.  Mimic the techniques.  You can do it.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

What I Want For Christmas (Bookwise)

For Charlie (Dream Horse) to be where he is today

Charlie was a real horse, most of the events in the book actually happened.  I bought him from a lovely young woman, Sindy, who was going to college to be a vet. 

Horses, sorry to say, aren't like dogs.  I'm not even sure dogs are like dogs.  But horses don't care about people.  Any movie that portrays affection between horse and human is a load of horse manure.  Some horses will treat you like another horse which is great and all you should expect. 

What a horse is very capable of is preference.  A horse will prefer one human to another because they've come to trust they will not treat them in a way that makes them uncomfortable. 

The horse on the cover of Dream Horse is my horse, Sparky.  He definitely preferred me above all humans but he didn't like humans, that included me.   Charlie had a very similar relationship with Sindy.  He really preferred her and no one else could get the same results or cooperation from him that she did.

Rumor has it that Amazon will  open up the Kindle lending program to indie publishers the first week of Dec.  The specifics are unknown but Joe Konrath hinted they are very  good.  The stumbling block might be that you must be exclusive to Kindle.  Pull your book from all other sites.  If you were selling well elsewhere this could be a major hit.  I remember seeing Amanda Hocking's sales figures from last year.  She was selling thousands of books a month at BN.  How is Amazon going to compensate for that loss?  Of course, few of us sell the way she does.

I have a Nook.  The reviews at BN have generally been very nice for my books unlike Amazon where I've had my share of drunk trolls.  Do I want to abandon those readers?  What is Amazon going to do for me?  What if 50,000 writers sign up the first week.  A very small marketplace is flooded with a whole lot of material.

The lending library is only for Amazon Prime members.  That's great for everyone who gets a Kindle Fire for Christmas since it comes with a free trial.  That's great for Amazon since they will have a ton of books to lure more people in and more people to stay after the free trial.  How is it good for a book like Dream Horse?  We know it's good for Konrath and his circle of friends.  They're all self-referencing at this point.  Others of us not so much, I suspect.

If you can decide what to make available to the program, I'm good with it.  If you have to make all your books available, it's a more difficult decision to make.  YMMV.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Books Wondrous and Boring

I came across a novel Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children.  This is marvelous, inventive and not published by one of the Big Six.  Before it was published, the movie rights were snatched.  As should have been.

Not everyone has a mind that can conceive of the truly strange.  But what we can all aspire to is to think more deeply, more fully, commit ourselves to the process of writing instead of churning out the same boring, expected dreck.  Of course, some people want the expected.  They will pay good money for the expected and be very cross if they don't get what they expected.  So if that's your goal, then pull out all the stops and do that.  But if there's something inside you that keeps annoying you like a tiny pebble in your shoe that there is more to be said and in a different way, do that.

On one blog or another this week someone will put forth an argument that legacy publishing is dead.  No it's not, someone else will say.  Indie writing sucks.  Not more than legacy, someone (usually me) will reply.

What's the name of this blog?  Real Writing For A Digital World.

If you're going to do this, don't phone it in.  Really write.  Make it count.  Make everything you do count.  Do less but do everything more fully, more completely.  Everything can be published.  There are no agents or editors standing in your way.  You can be the writer you always thought you could be.  The only one getting in your way now is you.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Nikon D7k

I sent the body in for servicing and have been checking everyday for status.  "In shop" was what it was designated all week.  So was I very surprised to come home from a quick trip to the anabaptist market to find it was now "shipping".  Yay.  Imagine my further surprise when I clicked on the tracking link that it was on the UPS truck and would arrive in under 2 hours.

What did they do?  Replaced the Autofocus gear shaft.  Adjusted the Autofocus.  Upgraded the firmware.  Cleaned it so well it looks like it's never been touched by human hands.

I ran some test shots.  Color me disappointed with the 55-200 zoom.  It's a cheap lens and looks like it.  The 85 mm is about 3X the $ and looks like it.  I know which lens I'll be using from now on.

I was using the Nook Color this morning to check my non-sales at BN and I wanted to see what the new Sweeps cover looks like on a tab and I wound up unpublishing it.  Some idiot computer genius said a couple months ago there is no need for desktops anymore now that tablets have been invented.  Fill in the blank with whatever swear words appeal to you.  Are you nuts?  Adults fingers are too big for a tablet unless you keep pinching or whatever the reverse is called--spreading, embiggening?  And just tell me how in all that is holy you would write an entire book with 1 finger on the fake keyboard.  Or does that much work require a portable keyboard to go along with the tablet?  AFAIC that just destroyed the point of the tab.  A tablet is perfect for reading.  It's okay for some other things but probably the older you are, the less patience you have with its limitations.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

New Cover For Sweeps

I don't remember what my initial idea was.  Probably it was the version with a girl in a bathtub.  I contacted a very competent artist in Holland to do the drawing but I guess language was a barrier.  I couldn't find a photo nor a vector graphic.  I came up with one with bubbles.   That didn't work.   Then I found a stock illustration.  Settled.  Not thrilled with it  but these things are only temporary anyway.  For me.  Geez, if I paid $300 I'd keep the thing forever.

Then I was going through some old postcards and found a girl in a bathtub.  It doesn't scream vintage to me even if it is so I thought I'd give it a whirl for a couple weeks or until the end of the year.  I'm going to put it on BN for now, Amazon later or never.  I don't have to make up my mind this afternoon.

Technical explanation--

I had a vintage postage image.  I tweaked it in Lightroom, brightened it, clarified it and hit it with the luminance function to remove all the noise that had accumulated in the last 100 years.  I suppose I could have attempted to tint her pink or something.  It always looks so phony.

In Photoshop, I lifted the girl and tub off the original background and turned it into a PNG file (no background).

For the background I used a gradient fill I had made for something else, then hit that with a mild Gaussian blur.

I made a new layer and placed the PNG on that.

I made new layer for the background bubbles.  (Best not to work on the original image.  Use layers in case you screw up.)  The bubbles are a Photoshop brush I got from somewhere on the net.  Google Photoshop bubbles brushes.  You'll find them.  Download the file then click to open.  Photoshop will do the rest for you.

I made a new layer for the title.  In Blending Options, I hit that with a small stroke using a gradient I had made for something else.   This is how you get the bubbles behind the text.

I made a new layer for the foreground bubbles.  This is how you get the bubbles on top of the text.

I made a new layer for my name.

Easy, huh?

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

How To Fail

1) Don't do anything.
2) If you do make the mistake of starting to do something, don't finish.
3) If you persist in the mistake of doing something, make sure you get bogged down in extraneous details.  Worry about things that don't matter.  That will insure #2.
4) Never read the FAQ.
5) Don't take advice from anyone with experience.
6) Find something better/more pressing to do.
7) Make inventive excuses for not doing what you said you wanted to do.
8) Understand that forces larger than you are working against you so you will fail anyway.
9) Everyone who is doing what you want to do has an unspecified advantage.
10) You don't really want to do this anyway, it was all just a mistake.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Early Adopters

What has surprised me today is the fight some people are putting up against digital publishing.  Not content to let the rest of us get on with it (and fail abysmally according to them) these people have to loudly point out where we're wrong and they're correct.  Digital publishing is a passing phase or something.

It's not a passing phase anymore than the printing press was.  And because there must be a villain, that would be Amazon.  As I said, this stance has to be considered a psychological problem and I don't know how to respond to it by now.

Let me say it again, because I'm not ready to get to work on Flash 2 for the day yet.  I don't understand why today you would be trying to get an agent for your book.  This is an arc that will take approx. 5 years of your life if everything works perfectly and at the end of the 5 years when you finally have a published paper book in your hands, legacy publishing will be a shadow of what it is today and that's a shadow of what it used to be.  Borders no longer exists.  Where are you going to sell this book?  What readers are going to drive to a bookstore and find you when an alternative already exists?  The trend of bookstores closing is not recent.  Do you think that's going to change?  Why would it?  What can a bookstore offer readers that Amazon doesn't?

When I lived in California, there was a lovely little bookstore on State Street in Santa Barbara.  It was very cute.  They moved across  the street into a larger space.  They had comfy chairs, tables and a wood burning fireplace in the middle.  They had a ton of books and neat things for sale.  Then Barnes & Noble moved in further down the street.  Earthling Books no longer is there.  It's no longer anywhere.

Santa Barbara's Independent Bookstores

I'm sorry about this, too.  I'm sorry there are no malt shops either.  But just because I like cherry cokes doesn't mean you can't get the syrup and pour it into a coke at home.  People are staying home for lots of reasons.  Convenience, price, selection among them.  You have to deal with the reality as it exists, not as you wish it to be.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Fortune Favors The Bold

Some writers still show varying degrees of reluctance to embrace digital publishing.  This must be recognized as a personal psychological issue and nothing to do with digital publishing. 

Does that sound  mean?  It shouldn't.  There is nothing mean spirited about the truth anymore than digital is anything other than what it is.  If you don't want to publish digitally, here's a simple solution--don't.

There is no point in talking about all the crap books being published.   There are crap books being published and some of them are doing very well.  Readers respond to them for a reason.  I can remember reading a book by someone who is now quite famous and rich and one of this writer's first works was terrible.  Unbelievably bad, to me.  That person got better as a writer over the years but what didn't change was that this person always came up with very inventive stories.  Readers were willing to forgive the amateurish writing for the pretty good story.

I don't worry about the competition.  I'm very clear on what I do and only I do what I do.  Only you do what you do.  I make a great Barbara Morgenroth and a really crappy Amanda Hocking.

There's always competition.  You are always in the middle of the field whoever you are.  You are good at one thing and never good at everything.  It doesn't matter who you are.

Put blinders on and do your work without looking around to see what everyone else is doing.  Or if it makes you that uncomfortable--do something else.  Life is too short to make yourself miserable.

Louise Brooks

Saturday, November 12, 2011

What Did You Buy

Say you buy a book to download from Barnes and Noble for your Nook and then you decide to get a Kindle Fire because of all the goodies Amazon throws in.  Then you realize you want to read NOT LOW MAINTENANCE on your Kindle but oops it's in epub not mobi.  Here's the question.  Should it be a felony for you to convert the intellectual property you paid for into another format even if it involves copying it?

What are we buying?  Are we buying a 1 time use?  Is it ours to use on whatever device we have, or can they specify how we're to use it?  Then are we renting it?  What exactly are we buying?

Music has been through this already with iTunes and their proprietary format.  It was an annoyance.  It's reassuring to see that publishing learned nothing from the music business, at least they're consistent in the not-learning by experience mode.

But I'm sure the lobbyists and politicians who make up the laws are thrilled with the money exchanging hands.  Pigs at the trough.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Big Gamble

I watched X Factor last night.  I wasn't so impressed by any of it except Drew.  She's 14 but that's really a footnote since she's probably the "best" of the lot.  There are a lot of ways to be good and there are a number of good singers/performers in this group of contestants.  I like Josh Kracjik but not last night.  I think Melanie Amaro has a very fine voice and is as good as any current singer but so what.  I think Rachel Crow is very good and can deliver, is amazing for a 13 year old but still, what is it about Drew?

She's different.  She's good AND she's not like everyone else.  (I still don't get how you learn to do that by the time you're 14.)

It's easy to copy what's already successful.  Oh geez, when they announced Melanie was going to sing something from The Bodyguard, I cringed.  "Oh no, please not I Will Always Love You" I said to Caprice.  (Caprice who I'm still talking to because she didn't kill the cat and Dinky did last night.).  Not that I don't love that song, under certain circumstances I do.  Like this

It's probably not going to get better than that, so I think it's skipable.

So Melanie sung something that Simon loved but I can't even remember what it was and it didn't have that much of a tune.  I'm sure if Melanie had done IWALY it would have been as good as Leona Lewis' version.  Apparently once you are that good, it's not that hard to copy Whitney Houston.

The point being Drew didn't copy anyone.  She actually is herself and references herself.  This of course is dangerous because most of the time the public doesn't want you, they want Whitney or Stephen King or Nora Roberts/whoever.

(I just want to say to LA Reid--How is that little rapper kid different every week?)

So you can try to copy someone who is successful and can get on the gravy train while it's still rolling, or you can be yourself.  Do you trust yourself that much?

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Robert Muchamore Tells Us How To Write a Book

A while back I read two different book series for teen boys.  Since I don't have a lot good to say about them, I won't name them.  They were, I suppose, relatively entertaining and certainly popular.  So I'm not the target audience, not even close.  Last week I heard about Robert Muchamore, who has published a wildly popular and multi-volume series in England.  I think Simon & Schuster brought them out here but a couple of the early ones are out of print already so it didn't click in the US and it's not digital.  I ordered the first one used from Amazon and it arrived on Monday.  I will be honest and say I didn't expect much.

How wrong I was.  This guy can really tell a rousing story.  The other two series were deadly boring with all their action sequences.  How's that possible?  I don't know.  This is the opposite.  I felt caught up in the action, felt a connection to the characters and their situation.  Muchamore knows what to tell the reader, just how much background or information they need.  He knows the right things to say.

It's not polished, it's not elegant, it's not literary but it's believable.  I understand who James Adams is and why he acts the way he does.  The other series--I saw the explanations but didn't care.  Those characters can live or die.  Okay.  What's it to me.

There's a lesson to be learned in how to draw the reader in and obviously his vast success proves that even boys who only want to play video games and watch football respond to well-crafted characters.

I haven't finished watching this video.  I'm sure he has the air about him of not taking it seriously but that's probably as deceptive as his book.

New Cover For Summer Horse

For a couple months I've felt some level of discontent with the cover for Summer Horse.  The background was a scan of an old shipping label and it began to seem too much of a mustard color for me.

So this morning I replaced it at BN with this

It's not more perfect, it's different.  I liked the sense that the other cover was a picture of a real scrapbook page, probably created by Wynne because originally there were ink splatters and it's pretty messy.    She emptied her pockets and treasure drawer and threw things down thinking she would come back later.  Unfortunately, Wynne doesn't come back later, she's already onto the next thing.  If she'd given the task to Nicki, the new image is what we would have.  It's brighter and cleaner--Wynne didn't get near this one.

I think this is the right time for face lifts because Christmas is coming.  Not that all the lovely people who don't have readers yet have seen the covers, but bumping up the visual excitement is a good idea.  Maybe changing the cover every 6 months or so is a good idea.

Monday, November 7, 2011

BN Lowers Price of New Nook Color

The company also lowered the price on the Nook Color, which previously cost $249, to $199. This competes directly with Amazon’s Kindle Fire device. Previously $139, the Nook Touch is now $99, which competes with the Kindle Touch’s ad supported version. The Nook, however, does not have ads.

Tough decision to make.

Something About Time

Time Is On My Side.
Time Has Come Today.

What's this about?  It's about the spread of life.  How things change. For me, going from paper to digital.  I'm writing more than ever, having more fun with it.

Yesterday I got an email from my pal in England.  She read Flash and loved it, thought it could be a movie.  Nice idea, but only if it was a web movie or something.  And she sent me a picture of a box of shoes she bought while on vacation in Italy.  WHAT?  I looked at it quickly with my mind really on Flash 2.  Then about 5 minutes later I realized something.

It's a freaking cake!  She's starting a business.  She never did this before and suddenly she's going to bake these incredible cakes.

Okay, so yes, I should have realized it was a cake especially since I had watched the Lego Cake Challenge on Food TV just a couple hours earlier.  That's how hard I concentrate on my work.  When I'm writing, I'm really focused, so no, I didn't immediately recognize it as dessert.

You can do something different at any time.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Cover Art Again, Yours Not Mine

This issue of cover art is never far from my mind.  It shouldn't be from yours either unless you're just going to contract it out and have someone you trust already lined up.  If you're going it on your own, this is something you should be thinking about a lot because it's important.  

We've talked about bargain stock photos--haven't we?--but I have to admit even though a good number of my covers do have photos on them, I'm not convinced it's the best way to go.

Some months ago I saw the cover Carl Graves did for Konrath's Trapped.  It's just the title but the text effect is exciting and eye-catching.  I'm sure it would work for a paper book but I know it works for digital.

I'm trying to think where I was yesterday and  saw a website with a background image that impressed me.  It had great juxtaposition between dark and color, and the text was strong.  Maybe it wasn't that strong since I don't remember the words, but, visually,  it was a grabber.  Every time I see something like that, I learn, I take some information away.

Look at the covers other people have done or have had done and learn.  What works for you?  What doesn't? How can you, at whatever skill level you're at, approach that same effect?  What are you trying to convey about your book with the cover?

Back to the Flash title/technique, what I felt was lacking as I worked along was the capability of multicolor.  There are often a number of ways to get to the same place with Photoshop.  When I googled the question, I got back a number of solutions that were off the mark.  Then I saw one I thought was also off since it was about turning a black & white photo into something with a couple of different colors.  When I read the steps I was unconvinced but when I tried it out, I was pleased.  I don't think this is the only way to get there, tho, and now I have a couple other ideas to try on my own.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Experiment in Freeness

I decided to publish Bad Apple 1 on Smashwords at $0, only in epub and not for distribution.  How long would it take Amazon to drop the Kindle price, I wondered.

Since yesterday afternoon 42 copies have been downloaded and it's been linked in 5 libraries.  I also raised the price of 2 and 3 to $1.99 at Amazon and BN.  We'll see how long I last thru this experiment.

Amazon has announced a Kindle lending library.  If you have Amazon Prime, you can borrow books to read.  Someone said this leads the way to a subscription service like Netflix where you would borrow books.
How do authors get paid in this case?  Someone said something about advertisements.  If it's like the minimalistic adverts on Hulu, I'm not opposed to that.  I'm sure it doesn't apply to indie books anyway.

I'll confess what a big/huge/major sticking point for me is re: any fantasy type novel.  It's when I can't pronounce the main character's name.  My reaction is "Screw this" and I drop the book.  How do you pronounce Riyira?
I'm sure I'm missing out on a lot (actually I should be honest and admit I'm not at all convinced of that).  Maybe I just don't have the fantasy gene.

Friday, November 4, 2011

New Cover For Flash

I'm sure I would be very reluctant to change covers if I paid for one.  I think the only cover I haven't changed is Not Low Maintenance.  No wait, I haven't changed Just Kate either.  Nor the Mitnicks.  Let's stop there before my memory kicks in.  The point is I've changed most of them at least once and some quite a few times like Nothing Serious which yes, is selling now better than before.

Other than financial, there's no point not to change.  It's not as if anyone is going to recognize the cover.  Everyone is new all the time.  It's not like a bookstore (yeah you're lucky if the book will be there long enough to have a cover change) where they could see you one week and miss you the next because they don't see the same artwork.

Yesterday morning I figured I would invest an hour or two into the new cover and be done.  I had an idea what I wanted to achieve and all I had to do was get the right Photoshop tutorial and I'd be back to Flash 2.  About 3 tutes later I realized, again, anything having to do with the Pen Tool and pathways was still a stumbling block for me.  I probably need to do Pen Tool 101 before moving onto things requiring a real skillset.

I googled Photoshop light effects text again and this time turned up with a different approach--3D.  So I went with that.   The tute was good.  My very fine, tho older, computer was pushed to its limit and past once with a crash so I probably need a new video card and maybe more memory if I wanted to continue doing 3D.

My results weren't enough like the ones in the tute to leave things well enough alone.  I added an outerglow to the text and a little bevel otherwise the light didn't impact the text enough.  Then I merged all layers otherwise the lens flare filter doesn't work.  That has to be done on the working layer, it can't be on its own layer and you can overlay it like in you know a layer.  I saved the work before doing the lens flare because once you save merged layers that's the end, you don't unmerge them.

Hours invested--all afternoon.

I'm happy enough with this cover.  It's a little static, a little less colorful than I had in mind.  The original cover was very static and even though the idea of it was right--beautiful woman shielding herself from the paparazzi, it was very posed and she was stiff.  There was no sense of immediacy, movement or drama.  I'm glad I only paid $3 for the photo.

I suppose there is no real debate except in my mind about how large the author's name should be.  If a vast number of fans gave two hoots and a holler about me, then I suppose I would want my name larger.  The reason it is not larger is that I prefer to see the artwork.  Text on art is a necessary evil or at least to me a drawback.  That's why I try to keep the two elements separated.  Other people have different opinions.

Thursday, November 3, 2011


I understand that people in one way or another have always liked to be taken from their personal reality and experience something else.  That's storytelling.  I just wonder why right now "fantasy" seems to be such a huge genre.  Lump all the vampires, paranormal, sci fi and such in there.  Anything that does not smack of real world.
Is this world so terrible that we must escape?

My sales at Amazon are in the tank.  Not so much at BN.

Here's a vintage postcard.  I didn't clean it up in Photoshop but I did run a couple functions in Lightroom on it.  I read somewhere that Lightroom is a Photoshop Lite--they both do the same things.  As I've said for the last 18 months or so the learning curve on PS is very steep, it's hard to navigate and the help from Adobe is not very helpful.  I don't know how to do in there what I could do in Lightroom so easily.  It all depends on what you need to do.  If you need to build a cover, you want Photoshop or something like it (GIMP although I could never figure that one out).  Lightroom is really good at tweaking images.



Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Flotsam and Jetsom

Let me start with this little sweetmeat given what yesterday's post was about.

Author Loses Royalties From 5,104 Books

Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing platform offers authors a great way to self-publish books, but authors using the platform should proceed with caution. Author James Crawford reported that he lost royalties for 5,104 downloads of his book when Amazon slashed his book’s price without his permission.
eBookNewser has more: “After noticing a huge spike in downloads over night for his novel Blood Soaked & Contagious, Crawford went to see what was going on with his book. It turns out that Amazon dropped the price of his zombie novel to free, after finding the book cheaper on another site, as per the company’s terms. The problem is that Amazon was wrong about the other listing.”
According to the author, the other offer was actually for a few free sample chapters from Barnes & Noble. While Amazon has corrected the error and his eBook is now on sale for $5.99 in the Kindle Store, they don’t plan to pay out on the 5,104 books that were given away for free. Crawford (pictured, via) published an email from Amazon: “We’re sorry, we’re unable to pay royalties for your sales when your title was listed at $0 on our website. As per our KDP Terms and Conditions, we retain discretion over the retail price of a Kindle book.”
Crawford expressed his frustration in his blog: “KDP’s terms stipulate that they will change the price if they find the SAME work priced differently elsewhere. This isn’t what happened with me. They found something that is quite similar, asked no questions, and used their power to discount my novel 100%.”

Wow.  No questions asked.  No discussion with the author.  Amazon acting on their own.
Yeah.  I don't see a problem with that mindset, do you?

The $35 Aakashic Records tab will now be available in the US for $60 or whatever.  It sounds fairly stripped down and probably can be matched pretty closely on price with a tab on sale.  Like (TODAY ONLY)

New Velocity Micro Cruz Full Color 7” Reader with Media Player, Wi-Fi and Google Android R101

retail price: $199.99
you save: $140.00(70%)
your price: $59.99 

I have no idea what this tab is anymore than I do the Aakashic Records one, so research and do the homework before spending $.
As I say every time one of these deals comes along, well I say Yippee because that just means more readers and more sales.  I would say I love to see the spinning, gyrations and contortions of those who continue to defend legacy publishing in the face of all evidence that it's being superseded by digital, but there's so much blooming spinning from everywhere that it just makes people look like stupid Luddites.  Time only progresses.  The only time time doesn't go forward is in sci fi.  People in NYC living in apartment buildings can't have vegetable gardens to sustain themselves.  We don't have an agrarian society any longer no matter how green your dreams.  And paper publishing is not going to make a resurgence.

However, while time might not move backwards, things can be repeated.  I expect I will repeat that paper publishing is not coming back quite a few more times in the next years.

Some blogger decided that all self-published books suck.  All?  Really?  And the cure for this is EDITORS! 

Pardon my disbelief.  I don't think so.  I can't explain the psychology of specific writers.  Some may want an editor.  Some may need one but don't think so.  Some don't need one.  Some people may think they should be an editor and shouldn't.  It's a real skill to be able to see past all the words and find out what's going on.  It can also take real skill to be able to fix that once it's pointed out.  Self-published books aren't going away and some of them are pretty sucky.  Some readers are pretty sucky too.  Some legacy pubbed books suck bigtime.  So what's the cure for that, more editors?  Or self-published books where writers can control the quality of the work.

I was still bothered by the softness of the Nikon D7K so a week ago I started the process of sending images to them to study and determine what the problem was, if there was one.  I love--doesn't everyone, be honest--being agreed with so it was good to be told by a tech that yes, the images were substandard.  But that meant I had to pack up the body and ship it to Nikon for repair since it's still under warranty.  I have no idea when it'll come home.

I wish Nikon would make a camera that took beautiful clear images without all the bells and whistles.  I don't need video capability in my DSLR.  It seems stupid.  So you wind up paying for functions you will never use.  Just make it possible, Nikon, to take the great kind of images my Nikon F did so effortlessly.  Put all the research, technology and construction into quality, not hoop jumping.

Update:  This morning I got an anonymous comment that I spelled jetsam wrong.  I had gone to and looked because I was so tired after not sleeping, I think I could have misspelled my own name. (2 T's or 1?????)  So I chose jetsom because that's where my fingers went first.  Again I suppose Anonymous was proving that drunk troll complaining about objet/object was right.  I'm sure this person won't return to the scene of his big triumph catching my "error" but I offer this copy/paste from anyway.  And actually we learn that it's from jettison, so yes at one point in its history there were 2 T's.


[jet-suhm] Origin


[jet-suhm] Show IPA
goods cast overboard deliberately, as to lighten a vessel or improve its stability in an emergency, which sink where jettisoned or are washed ashore.
Also, jet·som.
Compare flotsam, lagan.
Origin: 1560–70; alteration of jetson, syncopated variant of jettison
flotsam, jetsam.


Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Ruminations on Reviews or Something

"Wow. This book is incredibly raunchy! However, that's what makes it a great summer beach read in the tradition of Judith Krantz and Jackie Collins. Sex (gay AND straight), drugs, rock & roll, reality TV - you name it, this book has it. Definitely not a book for the faint-of-heart.

It's a quick read, and even though the 3 main characters are annoying in the beginning (you wonder how they can be so stupid), you do become invested in the story and in finding out how they are going to fix (or in one case, ruin) their lives.

What really annoyed me, however, was the constant references to brand names. Did I really need to know the brand name of EVERY piece of clothing Liza put on for a date, including her bracelets and fragrance, not to mention her shoes and bag?? I don't mind a brand name here and there, but in this book they were constant, and the book started to read more like a luxury goods catalog.

The ending was a bit rushed and disappointing. As I got towards the end of the book I actually wondered if I was missing a bunch of pages, because I couldn't believe the story was going to be over in just 10 pages. The Page Six style epilogue wrapped things up just a little too neatly."

This to be nameless novel was published by St. Martins so I'm not really surprised that the 2nd sentence mentions the raunch content as Diane Reverand, the editor there, seems to judge all good writing by that yardstick.  This, by the way, was a positive review at Amazon.  Really puts my bad reviews in context!

I don't actually want to talk about this but it came up someplace else, so I'll give it a quick spin around the block.
Kindle Desktop Publishing is not a free service.  Writers pay for the privilege of selling there.  What does Kindle/Amazon owe writers beyond probably the top selling site for just about everything on the planet?  I get 30% of what I sell for a 99 cent book.  That means Amazon gets 70%.  Hey, nice profit for having a site already built and everything just fits in to the existing structure.  This is such a good deal for Amazon, they are selling the Fire below cost.  What does that tell us?  That they're making out like bandits on the ebook market.

To which I will continue to say to Jeff Bezos, well done you.  This is not about money.

HOWEVER.  Back to the objects/objets thing.  Where is the machinery that  protects the authors from potentially malicious and/or stupid readers?  Why does Amazon automatically take the side of the reader without giving the author a fair hearing to defend their work?

Do you AS A WRITER, and I think it's fair for the sake of this argument that you have a vested interest in the outcome and are not a non-writer who can comment dispassionately throwing judgments about willy-nilly, want Amazon to dictate word choices or content of your book based on the complaint of one reader?

Where does it stop?  How much input from a nameless individual being protected by Amazon will you accept graciously in exchange for your shot at 35 cents?

If you were in a similar situation in legacy publishing would you in the very least write at explanation of the passage to the editor?

Prime example.  My last hardcover ever (I expect) was edited by someone with no knowledge of aviation and the book is in large part about aviation.  She thought I made a mistake and confused altitude and attitude.  Of course, as a private pilot I made no such mistake and explained the difference fully.  The explanation was accepted and the book was published with no change.

Shouldn't we expect the same from Amazon?  If not, why not? They're protecting the reader.  Don't writers deserve consideration as well.  All writers, not just Konrath and Eisler?

I know I'm ahead of the curve on this.  I know 99.9% think I'm nuts.  You all won't in another couple years.
This is a big deal.