Writing, publishing, geekdom, and errata.

Icestorm and The Frozen Bananas - The Longer Version

storytime.pngI present proudly, my son's longer version of his story "Icestorm and the Frozen Bananas". I think it's great that he's writing - and that he's willing to share it with all of you.

It's also interesting to see the process here. This degree of change between the first draft and a final drabble is actually very similar to my own process, though I've internalized a lot of it now.

Anyway, without further ado:
Ice Sculptures - Sculptures de glace

Icestorm and the Frozen Bananas

Once upon a time, there was an ice dragon. This dragon had hunted humans for generations. His name was Icestorm. Many brave men have hunted the creature, most of them have failed, costing them their lives. Icestorm roams the lands turning crops to ice.

One day a boy, named Gentlewind, ran through the forests of banana trees. He was fourteen and on a mission to slay the dragon. The towns folk thought the boy would surely die because of his love for nature.

Gentlewind climbed up the icy mountain and stood at the entrance to dragon's lair.

“WHO GOES THERE!” boomed the dragon. “ARE YOU ANOTHER BRAVE WARRIOR COME TO DEFEAT ME?” it asked, mockingly.

“No mighty dragon, I am Gentlewind! I have come in peace!” Gentlewind answered.

“COME HERE GENTLEWIND, LET ME SEE YOUR FACE!” he said. Gentlewind walked in to the dragon's lair. When he entered the dragon looked at him. surprised to see a mere boy. “WHY HAVE YOU COME HERE BOY?” the dragon asked.

“I have come to ask that you stop eating humans.” Gentlewind said.


“Bananas, there are plenty of those.” Gentlewind replied. “Here I'll go get some for you to try.” Gentlewind said. Running as fast as he could. he grabbed a few bunches and ran back. “Here... try... these.” he said trying to catch his breath. The dragon took the bunches, froze them, and ate them.

“MM... THESE TASTE DELICIOUS!” the dragon exclaimed.

And that is how the dragon became friends with the humans. And boy were the monkeys in for a surprise!


Icestorm and The Frozen Bananas - A 100 Word Story

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While I also wrote a 100 word story this week for the Weekly Challenge, so did my son! When he writes these stories, I'll present them here as well until/if he gets his own space. As an extra treat, later today the original version (too long for the word count) that he wrote will go up as well!

storytime.pngYou know the drill!
read & listen & vote at the weekly challenge website, enter this week's challenge (it's "It's just Magic" and "Eyedrops"), listen to the story below or download via this direct link!


Icestorm and The Frozen Bananas

Icestorm the dragon ate warriors for breakfast. Every year, Icestorm roamed the lands, turning people and crops to ice.

A boy ran through the forests and up the mountain to Icestorm's cave.

“Who goes there?” roared the dragon. “Another warrior trying to kill me?”

“No, I want you to stop eating people!”

Icestorm laughed. “What should I eat, boy?”

The boy held out bananas from the forest. “Try these!”

The dragon's breath froze the fruit as he ate them. “Yummy!”

That's how Icestorm stopped eating people. But the monkeys were in for a surprise!

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Dense Academic Writing

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omgwtf.pngBlogging, e-mail, and the rest might be a wee bit... oh, frazzled for the next few days. (And has been for the past few as well.)

Why, you ask, oh hypothetical person who cares?

Let me share with you this sentence that I wrote last night:

To determine whether a priming effect occurred with this administration, I compared the mean “post test” scores (I2 and E2) for the internal and external axes for each variation of the CPS with the corresponding scores for the variants that omitted the first page of inventory questions. For example, I compared the mean score of CPS-D:I2 with CPS-D1:I2, as well as the mean score of CPS-D:E2 with CPS-D1:E2.

And I'm in the social sciences. LOL!

(Yes, that actually means something. And I actually know what that something is... but it hurts my head keeping track, so your patience is appreciated.)

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'Cause Ads don't make you rich

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publishing.pngAt least, not if you're anywhere my level of internet famous.

Google AdSense is currently cutting my first - yes first - check since I signed up for the program in... something like 2005. Maybe 2006. The earliest record it has archived is 2007.

Which means I've earned a grand total of just over $100.

Mind you, I don't plaster ads all over the place - in fact, I removed them from this blog and never had them on the homeschool resource blog - but it does kind of reinforce that ads have rarely been an effective "get-rich-quick" sort of thing.

Keep in mind that lots of people have ad-blockers as well, and I think it becomes obvious that simply running generic "ads" isn't a viable way of supporting your writing or publishing business.

If you've had better (or even worse) results, tell us about it in the comments.

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Hell is apparently 100 degrees F

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rant.pngLast week, National Geographic posted some images taken by Greenpeace of EU protests about a train carrying nuclear waste. These images show "red-hot nuclear waste" showing a "demonic glow"...

Except the thermal images, while dramatic, only scale up to 100 degrees Fahrenheit (37.7 degrees Celsius).

Look at that picture again. That same hellish glow is coming from the protester's heads. Oh GOD! We're DOOMED!

Oh yeah, and those are false-color images. The color scales are arbitrary. Cool blue could have been used to represent the hottest areas. Or black. Or chartreuse. Whatever.

Look, Greenpeace (and all the other environmental folks who jumped on this) - turn your damn brains back on. Scare tactics are not helping. Your CPU probably gets hotter than the outside of those cars (mine's 43 degrees C right now). Whoo hoo.

When you promote such easily-debunked crap as scare tactics, you're making it harder for every other environmental group to be taken seriously.

Seen The Light - A 100 Word Story

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Wait, wait. There's something different this week. My voice has been gone for most of the week, so it's not me. Instead, I asked my kiddo (pictured below) to write a story. After his first draft, we edited it down and tweaked it, then he recorded it. So even if you don't normally listen, do so this week and let him know how well he did.

storytime.pngYou know the drill - read & listen & vote at the weekly challenge website, enter this week's challenge (it's Frozen Bananas ... or maybe ForZen Bananas), listen to my story below or download via this direct link!

Image001.jpg"I was still twelve and just a kid," I told my class, "when I went fishing with my friend Beth. She caught five, and I caught four. That's because she had all the good bait, and I just had leftover hotdogs. We walked home, and then there was a bright light, and the UFO landed. The aliens said -"

"Jasper," said Mr. Hamlin, "a biography is a true story about our lives, not science fiction."

"Yessir," I said, as the class laughed at me.

They sure were surprised when my real parents came to pick me up in our flying saucer.

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random.pngEverybody's got some core beliefs about how the world works. (And yes, that's one of mine.) Certain outcomes are more likely than others, certain mythic elements actually pop up. Maybe they're expressed in terms of religion. Maybe they're expressed in terms of "oughts" and "shoulds". Commonly, you'll hear them most openly talked about in terms of story.

It doesn't really matter how an individual characterizes this sense of the underpinning structure of the universe. Just that as authors -- and people -- that we recognize that it exists.

This is the mechanism where small events have large emotional impacts for characters -- and people. Consider my really rather overwrought reaction to how the character of Donna Noble is dealt with in Doctor Who (caution: spoilers).

These are the underpinnings that we each have to believe. We selectively edit our perceptions and memories, we emphasize the evidence, we do whatever we have to. Whether you believe that "it'll all work out somehow" or that "people are always rewarded by their actions" or that "love will out" or "the universe gives us nothing more than we can handle" - it all works for us.

Until it doesn't. Until you're faced with some evidence that you can't ignore, rewrite, or work around. Until you are forced to realize that maybe the way you thought everything works isn't right at all. This isn't just yanking the carpet out, this is yanking the bloody planet out from underneath someone.

And it's here that stories - whether real, true, or some combination of both - have their power.

Because our characters - and ourselves - can realize that everything they believe in is false.

And we can go on believing anyway.

Moral Distance

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publishing.pngOne of the more interesting panels at World Fantasy this year was "The Moral Distance Between the Author and the Work". The description summed it up well:
What do we make of good art by bad people, or at least people of whom we disapprove?
Predictably, there was a lot of discussion about openly racist, sexist, and homophobic authors –as well as the time periods in which they wrote. (For example, was Howard the author as sexist as the Conan stories, or was that what would sell? Does it matter?)

There were two questions that didn't get as much play as I would have liked, and I'm going to pose them both here for you (as well as a little of my thoughts).

First: If a work of fiction has a particular theme, does society need to respond to that theme as a whole? Ayn Rand and Orwell (for two examples) wrote fiction –but they were very definitely intended to convey a particular message as much as any nonfiction political treatise. What about when a fictional character has a particular point of view?

The latter question is particularly interesting; I know a professor who recently had a college student attempt to cite Dan Brown's work as non-fiction even though the Davinci Code is explicitly mentioned as a work of fiction. If a college student (who presumably has some degree of training) is unable to tell the difference, should it be treated at the same level as non-fiction?

Second: At what point does a "bad" editor/publisher/publication mean that you won't sell your work to them? We aren't talking about behavior that gets you in Writer Beware, but personal behavior outside of the professional arena. Possible examples: Would you sell your fiction to a porn magazine (such as Playboy, which used to pay top dollar for fiction)? What if you knew the editor of a respectable publication was a sexist, racist, or homophobe? Would belonging to a different political party be bad enough? What if you knew that editor sexually harassed women at cons? (Resources for dealing with the last are here)

Obviously, the solution is to write a modern remake of "A Modest Proposal" as a straight piece and sell it to the scummiest person you know, but barring that... what do you do?

Worse - what do you do if the rest of your professional peers like that editor?

Your thoughts and discussion are welcomed.

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McDonaldization Is Us, And It's All Good

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soc_econ.pngThe McDonaldization of everything faded a little bit from the forefront of American consciousness over the last five years, but the process is still there. Perhaps we have simply become used to it - that not only can you go to most any American city and experience the same stores, the same chains, the same food, but that you can travel throughout the world and have the same experiences as well.

Or maybe it's because the rest of the world is fighting back.

Really, we should call it MarcoPoloization, if we have to call it anything. McDonalds may have been the most prominent characteristic, but "McDonaldization" is not a new process. The process began the first time Neandertals met Cro-Magnons and traded. It'scultural transfer, just like the kind that occurred when Marco Polo accompanied monks and brought back spices.

What is new is the speed with which this cultural transfer now occurs. It hit me when I was listening to dubstep over New Year's. Dubstep is a rather new musical subgenre - the first instances were somewhere around 2000 - but it largely stayed in London until 2005 or 2006.

Now I can hear (and like) dubstep only five years later. I can probably find a club that plays dubstep in my region, half a world away. I can marvel at the iterations of dubstep as it has morphed over the last decade - and see a prominent dubstep forum recognize a user who lives in an area where it's impossible to associate with other fans of the genre.

The speed of adoption for successful trends and fads has increased sharply because it is so easy and fast to transmit cultural ideas across long distances. Those popular trends and fads - the mega-hits - are what we point at when we talk about McDonaldization. The mega-hits have something good about them - otherwise they wouldn't spread so successfully - but they crowded out local variations. Think about the desolation of Wal*Marts - and the number of small businesses destroyed by that behemoth - across the American landscape and you get the idea.

But we cannot forget the inseperable good things that come from fast cultural transmission. First, our ideals travel as fast as our icons and franchises. It's never a perfect transmission (kimchee on your Pizza Hut pizza, anyone?), but it's far faster and easier than what the monks who traveled with Marco Polo faced. When innovation happens, there are few physical barriers to the innovation spreading quickly away from "spiky" centers of change. 1 As someone who grew up away from those spiky centers - but could still look at them - this is a good thing.

The other good thing is evidenced by my earlier example. There is an active dubstep fan who is so far away from the physical center of the genre that they can't hear it live. But they can still participate in a meaningful way, even being honored as a "user of the month" on a forum (that I can't find right now). And that's how things are fighting back. Small centers and locuses of innovation, difference, change, and even deviance are able to survive and even thrive. They are able to expand their numbers due to the same process that brought generic conformity to their door.

I recently saw a picture of Colonel Sanders wearing a kimono, and smiled. Our culture is spreading to the corners of the world - but the corners are spreading into the center as well. We are not creating a bland uniform cultural broth, but a chunky thick stew of goodness.

You may never have heard of any of the musical artists I like, and vice versa. And that's perfectly okay.

As one example, DubFx - a guy from Australia who now tours the EU. Listen below. Go buy his awesome stuff. And remember - in this chunky stew of culture, you don't have to be a superstar megahit to "make it" anymore.

1 Cultural resistance, of course, is a different story.

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"Herald Rising" - in Mages & Magic

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I mentioned this earlier, but I wanted to go into more detail "about the story".
The latest in the Blue Kingdoms books is now available digitally (the print run will be available later this year). My story, Herald Rising actually adds a completely new aspect to the shared world of the Blue Kingdoms. I try to answer (or begin to answer) this question: "What if something like the Cthulhu mythos had taken place in a fantasy universe?"

So here's the thing. The story - like so many do for me - came with an image - a cthonic golem, rampaging across the island. But it came with a problem.

But how to tell the story?

It took four tries for me to finally hit on the obvious: Tell a Lovecraftian story like a Lovecraftian story! Suddenly Allica the scribe jumped into my head, inheriting her uncle's papers and discovering the truth that no-one else had really seen. And that truth is only the tip of the iceberg.

And on top of all of that, I'm a bloody left-leaning liberal (mostly). I hate Lovecraft's racism and xenophobia. I hate the smug western european superiority throughout his works. But yet... there's something about Lovecraft's works that continue to speak to me.

So I had the challenge of writing this story while being fully aware of Lovecraft's issues... and avoiding them all. I think I did a pretty decent job of it, and I'd love to hear what you think.

You can read a sample of the book online at Smashwords, and pick up a ePub copy there, or a Kindle copy at Amazon. Perfect for that eReader you just got (or are about to get) - over six hours of reading pleasure for less than the price of coffee at Starbucks.

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New Fiction Up - Woman, Monster, Mother

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storytime.pngMy story "Woman, Monster, Mother" is up at The Edge of Propiniquity, which is run by Jennifer Brozek. Ms. Brozek is one of those fantastically organized and disciplined people who makes my overwork ethos look like slackerdom. Sure, I might be working online and at my day job and grad school - but the dishes aren't done, and I farm out a lot of jobs to the Kiddo (who doesn't mind earning cash for them).

Woman, Monster, Mother almost appeared in another publication that Ms. Brozek edited, but ended up at TEoP instead. This doesn't bother me one whit. :)

This is one of those stories where I think I should have a lot more to say about it than I do... but I don't. In many ways, it's a landmark story for me. My median story length tends to jump, then plateau, then jump again. This story marks the jump from 3k to 5k. I'd been watching a whole lot of Castle at the time, so that pacing influenced the story. I also layered in some "easter eggs", mostly with names.

The other thing with this story marks the first time I really transliterated someone from the real world - my dog Taylor, who was written in just after he died - and the emotions from one traumatic event (his death) were totally scraped up and used to describe some of Angelica's feelings. That felt a little strange to do, but I think it really makes some things work better.

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Are We There Yet? - A 100 Word Story

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Remember that there is a call for flash fiction on right now!

storytime.pngYou know the drill - read & listen & vote at the weekly challenge website, enter this week's challenge, listen to my story below or download via this direct link! (And yes, for the observant, this is another snippet from the Generation Ship world.)

ArrivalFifty years since we left Earth in our hollowed-out asteriods, so I'm sixty-seven. Thanks to hibernation, I only feel fifteen. They let me man the controls - I'm mature for my age. It makes the month rotation with my sister go by faster. I could do this for years and years and not feel anxious about getting to another star.

Amy calls over the comm, quick and panicky. She doesn't answer when I call back.

I hear a noise - one I've not heard since we left Earth.

A zombie moan.

Now I can't get off this ship fast enough.

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Book Review: A Scanner Darkly

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review.pngA Scanner Darkly is easily one of Philip K. Dick's best books. While many of them have been adapted into movies (often far removed from the source material), the film stays pretty close to the book. Regardless, I think the book does a far better job immersing you into the bizarre world that Dick imagines, forcing you to experientially confront the problems of self, identity, and free will that are at the heart of all of Dick's best work.

The book is slightly dated in technological details (recording tapes? how quaint!), but the depth of character and plot more than makes up for it. Things are confusing at times - we have unreliable narrators literally inside unreliable narrators - but in this meditation on the nature of who we are, one gets an unflinching look at both the banality of drug culture (still fundamentally unchanged) and the extremes law enforcement goes to trying to stop it, and the near-irreconciable differences between the two.

But who are you, really? Are you the person who makes those snarky anonymous comments on the internet? Are you the person fellow churchgoers see? Are you the person when you and your significant other (or perhaps even NOT your significant other) decide to do something to "spice things up"? Are you the person who is at the party or the person who answers with the approved company line on Monday morning? Which of those conflicting, contrasting, irreconciable people is really, truly, you?

A Scanner Darkly does not answer that question for you. But during the course of this novel, you might find yourself seeking out the answers for yourself.

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Bash string padding with SED

technology.pngI know, I mentioned a bit of this earlier, but it deserves its own post.

You can left and right pad strings in BASH with spaces using SED. You do not have to use printf or anything else (despite what everyone else says).(Derived from instructions here, which talk more about centering than padding.)

This is the important part of the code:
Left justify with string length of 80
sed -e :a -e 's/^.\{1,80\}$/& /;ta'
Right justify with string length of 80
sed -e :a -e 's/^.\{1,80\}$/ &/;ta'
Center with string length of 80.
sed -e :a -e 's/^.\{1,80\}$/ & /;ta'


Todo lists and SED tricks

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technology.pngWhat else is insomnia for besides programming?

Anytime my todo list (in a plain text file, using this script for management) is out of sight, I start forgetting stuff. But because I like to capture everything in my todo list, they get really long. I use the plain text todo list, and I'd previously come up with a way of choosing what bits of your todo txt file you wanted to see.

But what if you want to see the whole thing? In columns? (I use conky with linux, but the same principle should work with Samurize or Rainmeter - you just need access to the programs sed, fold, and column. I don't know if fold and column is in cygwin or not - but they're in OSX as well as Linux. You can also find a windows port of sed here. If you know for Windows/Cygwin, let me know!)

So you have your todo list as a single column, UNNUMBERED text file. (The todo script numbers it for you.) Here's the magic line of code:
sed = /home/user/todo/todo.txt | sed 'N;s/\n/ /' | fold |sed -e 's/[ \t]*$//' | sed -e '/^[0-9]/!s/[ \t]*/ /'| sed -e :a -e 's/^.\{1,80\}$/& /;ta'|column -c 200

Looks scary, right? Here's each bit with explanations.

Numbers our text file.
sed = /home/user/todo/todo.txt | sed 'N;s/\n/ /'

Textwraps our text file at 80 characters

Strips trailing whitespace
sed -e 's/[ \t]*$//'

Indents properly so that when a line is wrapped, it's all nice and pretty
sed -e '/^[0-9]/!s/[ \t]*/ /'

Pads the line to 80 characters with sed.
sed -e :a -e 's/^.\{1,80\}$/& /;ta'

Columnize it
column -c 200

So here it is as part of a conky rc file. Note the MUCH larger text buffer size:

text_buffer_size 8128
uppercase no
color1 F8DF58
update_interval 10
update_interval_on_battery 10
${color DarkSlateGray}${hr 2}
${color White}${execi 30 sed = /home/user/todo/todo.txt | sed 'N;s/\n/ /' | fold |sed -e 's/[ \t]*$//' | sed -e '/^[0-9]/!s/[ \t]*/ /'| sed -e :a -e 's/^.\{1,80\}$/& /;ta'|column -c 200}
${color DarkSlateGray}${hr 2}

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1 comment
Hope you have a happiest birfday EVAH!

Fake - a 100 Word Story

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Remember that there is a call for flash fiction on right now!

storytime.pngYou know the drill - read & listen & vote at the weekly challenge website, enter this week's challenge, listen to my story below or download via this direct link!

barbie and kenSee Sally. Sally likes Bobby. Sally has regular-sized breasts.

See Bobby. Bobby likes Sally. Bobby has inherited male pattern baldness.

Sally and Bobby date. Later, they get married. They care about each other.

See Sally look at the media. See Sally get envious of photoshopped silicone breasts.

See Bobby look at the media. See Bobby get envious of men with full heads of hair.

See Sally get new breasts. See Bobby get new hair. They are fake.

See Sally and Bobby hug.

While they hug, they don’t meet each other’s eyes.

More than hair and breasts is fake here.

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Dance, monkey, dance

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Watch the video first, if you haven't already seen it. (I was directed to it via boingboing)

random.pngI started off bored (I dislike this format of TV show).

I figured this would be another Susan Boyle kind of thing. "Look at the surprising places you find all this talent."

Then I thought it was mean they were setting her up to be laughed at.

And then I realized that she's so much better than I am. I don't mean skill (though probably there too). I mean that she could get up and do her thing in public, and be so happy about it.

What started out as the judges laughing at her seemed to become them laughing just from the sheer joy of it.

I don't want to know how "well" she did. I don't care.

Happiness' dance moved me more than any of the ballet or modern dance performances my mom drug me to as a kid.

There was not a lot of technical skill to Happiness' dance.

But there sure was a hell of a lot of art.

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I don't recommend Smashwords. You shouldn't either.

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I really can't believe it took me this long to realize what my major problem is with Smashwords.

Originally, I complained about the site loading slowly (it's faster now). I still complain that the Meatgrinder conversion service is flaky. There's an 80-odd page guide on how to properly format your Word document.

Yes, Word document. As in .DOC format. As in this snarky sentence: "If you don't have Microsoft Word, and you're unwilling to invest the approximate $140 to purchase a copy..." As in if you're using Open Office (for example), "you're on your own".

But that isn't my problem with Smashwords.

My problem is that Smashwords is set up to make you dependent on Smashwords.

B&N's PubIt! accepts ePub formatted books. Amazon's DTP accepts .Mobi formatted books. What I've discovered in my years of working with documents is that standards compliant documents convert to other standards compliant formats.

Remember all those "Optimized for [browser] webpages? They don't exist anymore because they became a pain to maintain as the standards upgraded and changed. Pages that held to the standard worked. Create a standards-compliant ePub, and you will be able to easily convert to any other format using a tool like Calibre.

But you can't upload an ePub at Smashwords. Instead, you've got to upload a specially-formatted document (that looks like hell anywhere else, in my experience), producing ePubs that you cannot sell anywhere else. Of course, if you want to get into the "Premium Catalog" (and see your book anywhere besides Smashword's own site) first-try, you can hire some of the recommended experts.

Even if you get good and fast at making your .DOC (shudder) file meet Smashword's specifications, you're still entirely at their mercy for whether or not your book ends up in the "Premium Catalog". You don't own your converted content.

Rely on that?

Nosir, thankyoukindly.

Right now, Smashwords is a middleman. As I mentioned yesterday, I have no problem with middlemen per se. My eBook conversion service makes me a middleman as well.

Unlike Smashwords, I'm using open standards that anyone can learn. Unlike Smashwords, I'm not trying to get everyone to conform to a standard that only I use.

When Smashwords accepts standard-compliant ePubs - when Smashwords recognizes that they provide a service that will not always be needed - then we can talk about how they're pro-author.

Logos! What do you think?

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You might have noticed the logos I've been using this week. I've got a couple of basic "topics" that almost everything falls into, so I made a logo for each of them. Also, when you click on individual posts, you should see "related posts". I added both when I found myself using them with other people's blogs; tell me what you think below!









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Distinguishing a Publishing Scam (clarification)

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publishing.pngAn important distinction I did not highlight yesterday was in the distinctions of how folks got paid.

First - Yog's Law. Money flows toward the author. Always.

There's nothing wrong with other folks getting a percentage - if the effort and work continue to be worth that percentage. For example, with the Crimson Pact anthology (still accepting flash fiction, by the way) I'm acting as the publisher. Ongoing marketing, supply, and distribution efforts are going to be borne by me, so there is a "publisher" percentage cut of profits. I am continuing to earn that money over time. (The total percentage to authors is still going to be more than B&N or Amazon's.)

Likewise, the editor (line editing, not copy editing) is being paid as a percentage - because his creative input will add value to the whole enterprise. The authors (as content creators) obviously deserve to reap the ongoing rewards of the enterprise.

In contrast, when I convert an eBook for someone else, I charge a flat rate. It's a one-time process that doesn't substantially add value to the work. Conversion, copyedits, and the like are essentially work for hire.

There are times for exceptions - but they should be up front and transparent. For example, I am making an exception for the first Crimson Pact anthology. This is for three reasons:

1. I am handling the publishing and conversion bits. (I'm not writing a short story for the anthology, by the way. I might submit a flash story, but it'll go through the same vetting process as everyone else.)

2. It is important to me to have the book start earning money for authors sooner. In other words, the book will "earn out" faster. Accounting-wise, I could have paid myself a flat rate and taken a larger chunk of the publisher pie, but I have this thing about paying flat rates before royalties. As it stands, I'm taking a risk doing a couple hundred dollars worth of work for what might be nothing, or might be a lot. Because I believe in the work - and because of #1 - I can get this project going and reward the creative talent first. I think this holds to the spirit of Yog's Law.

3. I'm capital-poor at the moment. As Alliteration Ink (yup, that's what the imprint's going to be called) gains some capital, I will move away from that model. The conversion will be paid out of the publishing company's existing funds, and then the "publisher" percentage will replenish those funds. That's what essentially happens with authors and advances against royalties.

Your thoughts (and disagreements) are welcomed.

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When it's not a scam

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I'm going to take a slight exception to something that Dean Wesley Smith said last year in his excellent post "The Scams". Go read it first before coming back here, really.

Back? Okay. This is the bit where I have a problem with what he says (and yes, he and I have already talked about this, so it's all good):

But sadly, very few writers will be able to jump past the built-up myth structure, so as more and more product is needed, and systems change, there will be, of course, people to help out the lazy writers. People who want to take a cut of the sales for doing little or nothing.

Mike Stackpole (among others) advocates the same thing. Writers need to do stuff themselves. And they're not wrong.

Yes, that's right. The guy who has a side business converting eBooks and is moving into digital publishing other people's work (starting with this anthology) says that they're right.

Any author can learn to do all this stuff themselves. And yes, there are already scammers out there ready to prey on you. (See this post about less-useful publishers and this one about avoiding scams.)

But you know what? There's going to be a non-zero number of authors who don't, for whatever reason. I'm not in a position to judge how valid their reasons are (or aren't). But I don't feel comfortable making their only options "sink or swim". That was the way the old linux forums (and all of usenet) used to be - and damn if that just turned people off of good software.

So yes, you can convert your own works to digital formats. (I am, in fact, writing a manual to help you do that without relying on any of the other automatic converters.) You can do all this stuff yourself. I encourage that.

But I think this is where a free-market solution makes sense. Hiring an eBook converter certainly doesn't make sense for me... but hiring a freelance editor or graphic design consultant might. Sure, I could learn to do all those things (better) - or I could write more.

We must provide and legitimize intermediate solutions between "sink" and "swim". I agree with Dean here as well:
But, with all this new freedom and new ideas and new delivery systems to readers comes problems for many writers. The changes (as in the past) will cause thousands of writers to just vanish from the business. So I’m going to try to detail out some trouble areas and the reasons behind these problems in hopes that I am blunt enough to help one or two writers stay out of the quicksand of lost dreams.
He's absolutely right. And services like mine - and other legitimate intermediaries - will help flatten the learning curve so we lose as few of our colleagues as possible as the world changes around us.

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Unmount media bash

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technology.pngYup, I'm sharing programming this week. And probably pictures. It's the first week back to school, and though I made one deadline, I've got two others smacking me in the face. So here's another bit of bash scripting that makes my life easier: unmounting all removable media (with y/n options) without having to mess with Nautilus. Escape colors used, of course.

I've posted it on pastebin.

It's also a good example of (working) nested case statements - looping through the files in a directory, choosing whether or not to work on them (obviously, I like my home directory mounted and /media/ISO is where I mount ISO images), and then giving the user the option of unmounting or not.

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Bear With A Sonic Screwdriver

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This is a bear with a sonic screwdriver.

Bear with a Sonic Screwdriver

Your argument is invalid.

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Quick Timer Script

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technology.pngThis is a really quick (but useful) countdown timer script for BASH. I call it (in a new terminal window) from tint2's clock, which makes it nice and accessible. I put it together because all the other timers and alarm clocks were complicated; I just want something to bother me when the laundry's done... and let me know how many minutes are left. An egg timer I can hear when I have headphones in...


echo -e "\E[0;36mPlease input the time you want to timer for in minutes."; tput sgr0
read number
while [ $number -gt 0 ]; do
echo The number of minutes remaining is $number
sleep 60
let number=number-1

while [ $COUNTER -lt 10 ]; do
#this calls a libnotify alert
notify-send --icon=config-date "WAKE UP"
#I like the Torchwood theme as an alarm... but you can use whatever you like.
mpg123 -q /home/username/sounds/Torchwood.mp3
sleep 60

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