ideatrash

Writing, publishing, geekdom, and errata.

Upcoming appearances... now in the sidebar.

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I've been putting my upcoming appearances (conventions and the like) in a public Google calendar for a while now (XML | ICAL | HTML), but I now also have it embedded in the sidebar of the blog and my webpage.

As far as what conventions I'm attending, it's still a work in progress.  I should officially be at:

Millennicon
MARCon
Mo*Con (though I still have to register there!)
Origins
CONTEXT

I'll be adding the actual panels - and several other local conventions that are in the works - over the next few days.

Please note:  If you want to make sure that you see me at these conventions, contact me ASAP so that we can get time scheduled.  I may be commuting to many of these conventions, so please contact me as soon as possible.

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Making Your Cover Image Show Up In Preview Views

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As longtime followers of this blog know, I think cover images are A Big Freaking Deal with eBooks.  I like seeing the book covers - both when I first start reading a book... and as a preview.  When you load (or sideload) an eBook and just get the default cover, it looks... unprofessional.  Doesn't matter who made it, it just looks cheap.

And, to my chagrin, I've been doing it wrong.

Luckily, the fix is a simple tweak to content.opf. Previously, I told you to do this:
<meta name="cover" content="images_blahblah.jpg"/>
Yeah, no. Change it to this instead:
<meta name="cover" content="cover-image"/>
and then when you're declaring your images, make sure you declare it as cover-image, like so:
<item id="cover-image" href="images/9781939840004.jpg" media-type="image/jpeg" />

I've updated my helper script to do this automagically - if you're on a Mac or *nix, you can use it. And if you want to see the whole content.opf, my default style.css, and (and my other eBook utilities), swing on by this GitHub repository.

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Colorize User NickNames in the middle of IRC messages ( colorize.pl XChat Plugin)

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technology.pngI've been using XChat2 for IRC for a while now (it's free, it's for Windows and *nix), and while looking for a solution to a different problem, I ran across the colorize perl script.  It colorizes a user's nickname even if it's in the middle of a message.

Unfortunately, the original webpage (which the link collections pointed toward) was offline.  I managed to dig up a copy from The Wayback Machine, and have it now as a gist on GitHub for anyone who might need it.

I did not author this script, nor I have I altered the script, I'm just keeping the useful script available to the public under the GPL license;  the documentation is below.

NAME

colorize.pl - Colorize messages and/or embedded nicks with corresponding colors.

VERSION

This documentation refers to colorize.pl version 0.0.3.

INSTALLATION

Short answer:

Put this file in your Xchat data directory (e.g. ~/.xchat2 on linux). Make sure you've turned on colored nick names in your preferences.

Long answer:

The following is from http://www.xchat.org/faq/#q218

18. How do I auto-load scripts at startup?

You just have to place the scripts into XChat's data directory. XChat will auto-load scripts if they have the right extension .e.g If a filename ends in .pl, it will be loaded as a Perl script. This data directory is different on each platform:

Windows

It depends on your version of Windows and where it stores the Application Data folder. On Windows XP it is usually:

C:\Documents and Settings\username\Application Data\X-Chat 2\


UNIX

~/.xchat2/ Where "~" represents your home directory i.e.: $HOME/.xchat2/

USAGE

/colorize [OPTION]

If no option is given, the default action is to show the current settings.

  ?, help - Display this help message

Enable/Disabling Colorization

  enable - Enable colorizing
  disable - Disable colorizing

Colorizing Schemes

  all - Colorize message and embedded nicks in message
  message - Colorize message only
  nicks - Colorize embedded nicks only

Example. To set colorization scheme to only colorize embedded nicks:

/colorize nicks

Note that you only need to type the first letter of the option. So the following command will also set the scheme to colorize just nicks:

/colorize n

CONFIGURATION

You can customize the type and color of the brackets that surround the nick names. The default is to not have any surrounding brackets.

To change the bracket type and color, go to the section labeled "BRACKET SETTINGS" towards the top of the script and edit the three variables:

 my $BRACKET_COLOR       = "";
 my $LEFT_BRACKET_STYLE  = '';
 my $RIGHT_BRACKET_STYLE = '';

You can use the %color hash defined at the top of the script for defining  $BRACKET_COLOR. For example, to set the bracket color to green, set the following:

 my $BRACKET_COLOR = $color{green};

The brackets can be any characters you want, you are not limited to  the usual '<' and '>'. For example, to set the bracket type to use parentheses, set the following:

 my $LEFT_BRACKET_STYLE  = '(';
 my $RIGHT_BRACKET_STYLE = ')';

INCOMPATIBILITIES

Xchat 2.0.8 or above is required to load this plugin.

BUGS AND LIMITATIONS

Please report any bugs you find to the author.  [EDIT: NOT STEVEN SAUS]

This version only colorizes messages sent by other users. It does not colorize messages sent by you or for you.

Patches welcome. :-)

SEE ALSO

http://ant.home.comcast.net/colorize is where this plugin is hosted.
[EDIT:  Now at https://gist.github.com/uriel1998/5026598]

http://www.xchat.org/docs/xchat2-perl.html has good documentation on writing perl plugins.

AUTHOR

jf3 at swift.fastmail.fm

LICENSE AND COPYRIGHT

This plugin is made available under the same license as XChat, which is the GPL. You can read it at http://www.gnu.org/licenses/gpl.txt.


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Get Yourself a MineCraft Alien On Your Face!

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So this is my normal MineCraft skin (as usual, kinda looks like me, down to facial hair, labcoat, etc).



And then I wanted to do something... interesting. So I made myself a little alien who is... gently caressing my skull.




If you're using SkinEdit (free, crossplatform, great tool!), you can add this critter as a "part" in "partpicker".  Save the PNG file below into the /parts directory (or folder) where SkinEdit resides.  Add to your skin.  Accept your new post on the USS Nostromo.

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Congratulations to the winner of the "Kicking the Habit" giveaway!

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There were many (many!) entries, but there could only be one winner - N. Hadjichristou! I'll be sending them the book later today. For everyone else, digital and print versions go live at the end of the month!

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Using Crowdfunding and WebComics to Overcome Difficulty (HUZZAH)

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It's easy to forget.

Even with my problems (and I got some), I'm a straight white cisgendered male... and playing on the easiest difficulty level.  Hell, thanks to the efforts of my parents, I was even insulated from most of the effects of being poor for part of my life... though I've been close enough since to understand this essay.

Where people really get screwed, though, is when these problems intersect.  It's called intersectionality (a nice primer here (PDF/QuickView).  Don't want to read that?  Here's the short form:  the impact of being in a disadvantaged group is not additive... it's multiplicative.1   Belong to one disadvantaged group?  Difficulty level of "Normal".  Belong to a second group at the same time?   You don't just bump one level to "Hard" - but go straight to "SUPER-HARD".

These labels would be funny if they weren't accurate in this context.

 So I ran across a site earlier today:  Mock Girl.  It's a new webcomic.  To be perfectly honest, it's not really my thing as a webcomic goes.  What struck me as impressive was why it exists. 

The author (Terra Snover) is a transgendered person in the process of transition... and is poor.  Terra has launched the comic as a way to use something she's passionate about (art) as a way to be able to afford reassignment surgery... along with some nice crowdfunding incentives as rewards for donations.

Which is a kind of awesome way to adjust that difficulty level back down. 

Go check out Mock Girl, read her story, and chip in a buck or two (or more) today.


1 This is actually a problematic way of looking at it - if for no other reason than it runs the risk of framing being in certain groups as being "bad". So I'll say this: it's only "bad" to be in one of these groups if you have bigoted people and bigoted systems.

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Keep It Simple In Your eBook Design (With A Practical Example)

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It's really, really tempting to get fancy when designing your eBooks.  I mean, there's all sorts of nice things that you should be able to do.  Even in my last example, when I showed where a background malfunctioned, the drop cap at the beginning of the chapter still worked, right?

Yeah... about that.

Again, this was part of a project for Jeff Carlson, where I was tweaking someone else's work.  Take a look at what happens to the drop cap when you start to mess with the font size:


Yes, that's right.  Eventually the drop cap is too big to fit on the page.... and wraps onto the next page of text.

Again, keep it simple.  You want your design to draw attention to your words... but not so much that it distracts from what you've written.




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I Want Your Vote (On What Song I Should Publicly Humiliate Myself With)

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The ENnies had a wonderfully silly idea for raising money.

Publisher Karaoke.

Well, folks, Eighth Day Genesis has been submitted for an ENnie1, which makes me eligible to help raise money by singing silly songs in front of a lot of people.

Singing songs... badly.  But with gusto.

But I need your help. First, only the top three fundraisers will actually sing before the ENnies. Something tells me that song selection will have something to do with that. Secondly, I've got a pretty narrow singing range, and these four songs I can do a passable rendition of.  (If, by passable, you mean "recognizable".)  

"Laundry Day"


"Wild Rover"


"Sweet Transvestite"


"Hero of Canton"


Sooooo. TIME TO VOTE!

I'm going to collect responses through



1 Not nominated... yet, though I'm hopeful. The nominations will be announced July 14th. You can see all submissions for the ENnies this year at http://www.ennie-awards.com/blog/2013-submissions/

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Hey... want to win a signed copy of my book BEFORE you can buy it?

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Why yes, this book:

srs steve is srs.


This is a GoodReads giveaway for a SIGNED advance/proof copy of Kicking the Habit and Other Stories, my first collection out under the Pursued by Bears imprint.  Not only does it have some awesome cover art by Len Peralta, but so much more it needs a warning label:



This collection contains the following:

Zombies looking for love. Robots looking for redemption. Time traveling honeymooners. Slaveowners summoning demons. The last scion of an alien empire hiding in the Old West. Vampires that don't sparkle. Fairies that don't sing. Other unnatural colors and flavors.

Side effects may include: emotion.


Again, this is for the ONE AND ONLY signed, PROOF copy of the book.  Go enter at bit.ly/giveakick RIGHT NOW - the giveaway ends on the evening of the 24th!  The book will be officially released on the 28th!

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(The Lack of) Cross-Device Consistency in eBook Previewers

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Cross-device compatibility is of the biggest problems facing eBook creators today.  While working on a conversion for a client, she was complaining about the "box" around the scene break image.

I looked to see if I'd accidentally put a border around it - nope.  Turns out that she had inverted the text/background colors... which did not invert the colors of the divider image, or its background.

Trying to work around those sorts of problems is difficult enough.  But the problem is made worse when you have to rely on previewers.

And realistically, we all have to.  How many varieties of nook and Kindle alone are there?  Let alone different sizes on phones... and then there's the fact that not all apps can support all the parts of the same file.

You would think that the official previewers for, say, Kindle, would always show the same thing.

I discovered this while doing the eBook conversion of The Frozen Sky for Jeff Carlson. He very specifically wanted the book to open on a specific page...


...and yet the same file opened on different pages. That's the online version of the Kindle Fire previewer on the left (showing the proper behavior) and the downloadable one for Windows on the right showing the wrong behavior.  For that matter, the "Look Inside" preview has it opening at yet a third location.

Remember, these are the official previewing tools for the same device.

Knowing that these sorts of variations occur should emphasize how important it is to keep it simple... but if that's not enough, wait until Friday.   (Until then, take a look at The Frozen Sky!)

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Welcoming Our Robot Overlords (and how it's not economic ruin)

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The news of a teachable industrial robot that costs less than many cars doesn't have to be scary.

That's for the same reason why outsourcing isn't necessarily scary.

Yes, both developments mean that unskilled and low skilled jobs are going to be few and far between.

I am also writing this blog post on a bit of handheld electronics that outstrips most of the computers I've used throughout my life... And it cost less. Before adjusting for inflation.

While the loss of jobs sucks, automation also drives down the cost of manufacture...especially for basic goods.

A scarcity of goods and the cost of manufacture have kept us from being able to supply a basic quality of life to ALL people.

With every improvement to efficiency, with every reduction in manufacturing costs, we come a step closer to being able to provide a basic level of sustenance to all people.

And it would no longer be dependent on whether or not they had a wage slave job.

That sounds like a worthy goal to me.

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Write How You Like, but Know How Other People Do It Too

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I usually write in plain text.

A space between paragraphs.  No indents - not by tabs, not automatically, and not by hitting the space bar 3, 5, or 7 times.  I might use something like Markdown or RTF if I need some formatting.

If I'm interested in version control I use my version script or git.

At least one author I know visibly twitches when I mention this.  They use Word exclusively.  They use track changes, and the newest format of .docx (and I think they're waiting for .docY).

An editor pal prefers LibreOffice and other FOSS tools.  Another person swears by Scrivener for the simplest document.  Another uses Google Docs.

And so on.

Here's the important things for you, the author and editor, to know:

1.  Use the tools and workflow that help you get done.
2.  Know how to make your tool output something that your editor (or your authors) can work with.

Yes, that means that you need to have access to multiple tools.  You need to spend enough time with the tools others use to be able to translate and adapt to what the people you're working with are comfortable using... when it comes time to work with them.

Who knows.  Maybe you'll find a new way of doing things that works even better for you.

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For When Your FILDI Is Low (A Meta-Your Ears Need This)

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hearthis
Every so often - and honestly, a lot more frequently than I would like - I get discouraged, paranoid, and depressed.

Usually, it's not because of anything actually happening.  All too often, it's simply something happening not fast enough, or quite the way I thought it would.  Even worse, sometimes it can be completely in my head and not reflect reality at all.

While it's often easy to see how silly it is after the fact, I found it really difficult to detect it happening in real-time.  It's even harder to combat those feelings in real-time.

Music helps.  Some inspirational things help.1

Sure, it's obvious most of the time.  It's stuff I've already learned.  But when I'm having one of these bad spells, I've forgotten them.

So I made this mix on 8tracks to help me remember:

Sometimes the universe seems to be telling you that you're not good enough.  That you can't do it.  That your dreams and aspirations are not only hopeless, but you were stupid to ever think you could be anything.

These are the songs I listen to to tell the universe to go screw itself.
I made it for myself, but I hope you find these as motivational as I do.  And please, share the music that gets you motivated - whether through your own mix on something like 8tracks or Spotify, or just in the comments here.


For When Your FILDI is Low from SenorWombat on 8tracks Radio.




1 Like Ze Frank's Invocation for Beginnings, from which the title is ripped, and which appears in the mix.

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Mentors and Tyrants: You Have to Let the Students Go.

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I got an invitation to speak at my local library on Friday.

That invitation was important to me - more important than I would have otherwise guessed.  I've been at (and spoken in front of) larger and more "prestigious" audiences than I will at my library.

But this is my town.  And they're actively seeking out my expertise.  Which is kind of awesome.

I like talking in front of people, and sharing what I know.  It's one of the reasons I enjoy panels so much at conventions, and have a really hard time staying in the dealer's room.  I've had people call me their "mentor" - which is both immensely gratifying... and immensely frightening.

The constant danger when teaching - whether in a classroom, at a talk, or as someone's mentor - is the echo chamber.  Your students (no matter how unofficial) start parroting back what you want to hear.  You reward and punish based on how closely they adhere to your gospel.  You start ostracizing those who challenge, those who do things differently, those who have different goals, those who question you.

When you do those things, you stop being a teacher and start being a tyrant.

There are a few "gurus" that I will point people toward.  Seth Godin consistently delivers up platform-agnostic insights into the nature of business.  Gary Vaynerchuck's Crush It! also delivers inspiration and insight without dictating a specific path.  Evo Terra doesn't suffer fools gladly... but he isn't threatened by a different point of view.

There are hundreds - millions - of wanna-be mentors out there.  And I believe there is one essential1 quality for someone to be a good mentor:

They have to know when to let go of their followers and their ideology.

When you see someone  who seems like they might be a good teacher, find out where their former students (or mentees) are.  See if they are succeeding, if they are still supported by this mentor, even after they've parted ways.  That's a good sign.

And if they're still helping to prop up the mentor themselves... well.  You get the idea.


1 Essential - meaning that without that quality, they cannot be a good mentor. That quality by itself is not sufficient to being a good mentor, though.

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Project Wonderful Adverts are Now Available Here

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As I mentioned a while back, I got rid of the coffee cups, and I was waiting for Project Wonderful to approve me as a place to host advertising

Yeah, well, that happened.

I'm not going to litter up the site - I'm only starting with two boxes off to the side.  Each one is a "half banner" - 234px by 60px.  And I'll be approving ads manually, so they shouldn't be anything offensive or scammy, either.

So I'd also ask that you whitelist Project Wonderful in Ghostery, Adblock, and the rest (a sample exclusion filter is in the right sidebar).  And if you would like to advertise on this blog, go right ahead!  Project Wonderful is a pretty spiffy program.

Here's two examples of the size of image you can use in advertising here right now.  



So we'll give this a try, and see how it goes.

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Need a Website For Yourself? Make Sure You Meet These Two Requirements First

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On the Digital Publishing G+ group (a great resource, and really pointing to where G+ has significant value) I answered a question about where to host your website, and thought I'd share here.

While the original question was about Google Sites, these rules apply to any webhost.

REQUIREMENTS FOR HOSTING YOUR WEBSITE

1.  Have your own domain name, preferably your name or initials.  You want your stuff branded with YOUR name/company/imprint, not anyone else's.  For example, this blog is hosted on blogger, so you can actually reach it via ideatrash.blogspot.com.  But most people know it as ideatrash.net (and when/if ideatrash.com comes up for sale at a price I can afford, that's gonna be mine too).

2.  Be able to move your content by simply downloading and uploading (and keep a copy on your local computer).  Let's say the webhost screws you over.  Or you outgrow the service they offer.  You don't want to spend the time recreating your whole website from one "template" to another - you want to be able to download your files, upload them elsewhere, and then just point the domain name at the new host.

As long as your solution can do that, it's up to personal taste.  Personally, I use Namecheap for both domain names and webhosting.

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The BSA's Straw Men: Attempts to Defend a Bigoted Organization With "Reasonable" Arguments

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This post about my son and his unease with the anti-homosexual agenda of the BSA has sparked several conversations with people, online and off. 

Two arguments against the post kept coming up, and from quarters that really surprised me.1


"I'm not directly supporting the BSA's anti-gay stance."  You're lying to yourself.  As long as the national BSA continues to have their ban, paying your membership dues is directly supporting a discriminatory organization.  As long as individual councils and districts maintain that ban, any portion of your money that goes to those organizations, including camping fees, is directly supporting a discriminatory organization.  When you identify yourself as belonging to an organization that prides itself on discriminating against groups of people, you are inherently saying that you approve of that discrimination.


"The BSA provides [services/community/insert thing here] that only an organization can provide or The BSA provides programs that my child can't get elsewhere."  That sucks, it really does.  You're not the only people to face this dilemma.  Take your kid camping on your own.  Write letters to the editor.  Refuse to be silent accomplices to bigotry. Support organizations fighting the ban.  Realize that the ban violates the very things the BSA is supposed to teach.

Also realize that this defense is totally irrelevant, and does not excuse the bigoted behavior.  When (or if) the BSA stops behaving in a bigoted manner, these are the things that will be a justification for returning to it.


For now, given the stance of the BSA, these "reasonable" arguments are crap.  It's time for the simple-as-hell test to see if something is bigoted:  Substitute the word "gay" with any other word.2

Imagine these two headlines (originals here and here), where I've changed only one word:

Boy Scouts of America Delays Decision on Membership Policy Banning Blacks

Boy Scouts to Continue Excluding Hispanic People

I sure as hell hope you wouldn't be cool with those headlines.

Which makes me wonder why so many people are so cool with the BSA discriminating against gays.

And if they'll be so cool about it when I start publicly, repeatedly, referring to them as bigots.


1 Yes, I'm referring to someone specifically here. If you're worried I mean you... well, yes. You should be worried if you think you could be mistaken for a bigot.
2 Except "atheist", because the BSA discriminates against atheists too... and in practice, good luck if you're a Scout who is not Christian.  Believe me.

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Switch - A 100 Word Story

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138.365 i'll stand in your life,

"Daaaaaaad!"

I trudge half-asleep down the dark hallway. My feet are freezing on the hardwood floor.

"Daaaaaaaaa-"

I open the door mid-yell and survey the room. Nothing under the bed. Window closed. But there's a red glow and hint of sulphur from the closet.

I grab the SuperSoaker from his shelf and open the closet door. A demon bares it's teeth at me. I pull the trigger and cover it in holy water.

"Done," I tell my son. "Now go back to sleep."

"Can I have a drink of water?" he asks.

I raise the squirt gun again.


Please note that the 100 Word Story Podcast is changing URLS to http://oneadayuntilthedayidie.com/!

Based around Laurence Simon's weekly challenge for the 100 word-stories podcast. The player above should have the audio for this week; if it doesn't, you can find the audio here to download.

I am updating these in a podcast feed (dubbed "Radio Free Steven the Nuclear Man" by Laurence). You can subscribe with this link (http://feeds.feedburner.com/Ideatrash) in your podcatcher or phone. You can also read and hear the rest of the entries at the 100 Word Stories podcast site.

"Drops of H2O ( The Filtered Water Treatment )" by J.Lang (feat. Airtone) is licensed under a Creative Commons license.

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Your Ears Need This: What's Left by Yellowdog Union

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Yellowdog Union is, quite possibly, exactly the right kind of punk rock n roll band for me.  Just fast enough, just melodic enough, just hard enough, just catchy enough.  It's damn near perfect.

The band itself is pretty new, but the musicians have been involved with the punk and rock scene in my hometown since, well, since we were kids.  As they put it, it's "genre Punk Rock n Roll by old guys..." But y'know, it sounds pretty damn good to me.

There's one single up on their bandcamp page right now, but they just finished recording a four-song EP, so with any luck we'll get to hear more good stuff from these guys. After you give this song a listen, go like 'em on Facebook so you know when their other songs go live on the interwebz. (Also, it's the singer's birthday today, so wish him a happy birthday on the band page!)

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Six Probable Outcomes From Amazon's Used Digital Sales Patent

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tl; dr:  DRM has a new reason to live.  Amazon is going to lock in more of the eBook market.  Authors, publishers, and readers need to break out of the frame Amazon put us all in - because it only benefits Amazon.  (And no, I'm not an Amazon-hater, thanks.)


Ophelias BooksThe First Sale doctrine suddenly became a whole hell of a lot more important yesterday, with Amazon getting a patent on selling used digital objects.  What these two rulings APPEAR to say1 is that people can sell "used" eBooks and MP3s.

There's a few things that are readily apparent2:

1.  DRM will make a comeback.  There will have to be a way to show that the "used" copy no longer exists on the seller's equipment.  Which means that Amazon just gave DRM another, completely different justification to live.  Ironically, the claim will be that DRM is necessary to prove that you "own" the content... even though DRM means you don't actually own your eBooks.  (Note:  This is a totally different argument than what I expected originally from Amazon, possibly because the "licensing" argument didn't play well.) Realistically, DRM will continue to be the most effective mechanism to keep people locked into using one storefront, and one storefront only.   This is bad, because...

2.  Amazon is going to get bigger.  Amazon holds this patent, and they're going to wave it in front of people as much as they can.  Which means Amazon will get a bigger market share in the eBook business.  Which is also bad, because...

3.  This will hurt authors and publishers.  As I keep saying, you can substitute any company you like for "Amazon" here.  Any company that gets too big starts to control the market.  A year ago, I said Amazon is the Wal*Mart of booksellers, and they've done little to convince me otherwise.  This move profits only Amazon, not anyone involved in the creation of the book.  Why do I say this?  Because...

4.  This will drive down eBook prices more.  Unlike Half-Priced Books or any used bookstore, this is a straight-up commodity trade.  There's no question about quality, no question about the condition of the eBook, no change in shipping methods.  I just listed some of my extra copies of books on sale with Amazon.  I had to price them below the retail price in order to sell them.  I'm sure the next person along will do the same thing.  Not only is it a race to the bottom, but it now involves direct competition with the publishers and authors for the exact same product.  Authors and publishers will have to race to the bottom as well.  Which means...

5.  The produce model suddenly becomes relevant again.   (If you don't know what the produce model is, go read this blog post from Dean Wesley Smith.)  This is bad, bad, bad, bad.  Because the longer your book is on sale, the more people there will be directly competing with the author for sales. And if you sell a gazillion copies in the first week, you can bet there will be a gazillion identical used copies a month or so later.  Which is how...

6.  Amazon can play both sides against each other3 .  I wondered how long that 70% option for authors would stay in place. Given that Barnes & Noble has (almost certainly, dammit) started circling the drain, I'm guessing that option will disappear shortly after B&N is gone.  But in the meantime, they can continue to say they're pro-author by keeping the 70% option, and KDP Select... while raking in money on the back end from "used" digital sales.  And Amazon can say they're on the side of the reader by pointing out how they can sell back their used books.

The False Frame

Mind you, these "sides" that Amazon has actively tried to cultivate are artificial distinctions Amazon created.  And that's the most powerful tool they have.  Amazon has set up this frame of a reader's frugality against the greed of those overpricing publishers... while enlisting authors to participate in this frame by dangling the 70% option in front of them. 

I have to admire the genius of it.  DRM to keep people locked to their store.  Used eBook sales to further deepen their market share.  A "soft" dictation of prices.  Pitting authors against publishers - which was probably necessary, but Amazon totally used that for all it's worth.  Training readers to think of eBooks as overpriced - and therefore, totally willing to resell those suckers.

How Amazon Can Save This Program

The one thing that nobody (yet) knows is whether or not Amazon is going to cut authors/publishers in on these used eBook deals.  If they do, then we're (merely) back to the same old monosopy/monopoly position we were a few days ago, just accelerated a bit.

How Authors and Publishers Can Futureproof Themselves

This one is simple to describe, but hard to do.  We break the frame.   It's the same one as with fighting piracy.  We cultivate relationships with fans.  Depending on what Amazon does, we point out that it can take money away from your favorite authors.  We make it clear that you have to support the things you love in order to have them continue.

That last may be the most important one.  This year, Alliteration Ink will be running two crowdfunding campaigns for some really worthy, awesome projects.  I'm doing it specifically because I want to be able to guarantee a particular payment to the authors involved in those projects.  Perhaps crowdfunding will be the way we get that initial support - some very smart and very keen people (Matt Forbeck being a great example) have been using this model.  What Amazon does after the fact simply doesn't matter as much.

In the meantime:

Authors - Reach out to your readers.  Let them know you're a real person, and you need and appreciate their support.

Readers - support the authors you love.  Buy their books whenever you can, and retail whenever you can.



1 I'm not a lawyer. Further, US law is notorious for having unintended externalities and perverse incentives. This is my best layman's guess as to some of the outcomes. I think the solution is vital, though.
2 I'm using authors and publishers kind of interchangeably here... because I'm talking about anyone involved in the creation of the eBook and who earns money from its sale to the public.
3 NOTE:  I am not saying Amazon is evil here.  They're a company out to make money.  I am saying that Amazon's interests and motivations are not the same as those of authors and publishers.

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Graphs of Alliteration Ink's Sales (presented with little commentary)

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Here's some graphs and numbers about the books Alliteration Ink has published over the last year. You can clearly see that fourth quarter in 2012 was not good - though the numbers seem to be trending back up (not pictured). You can also see where I realigned my reporting/payment calendar, so that December 2011 is a month by itself (and so there's a sharp dip in the middle that's artificial).

Some books did really well. Some have consistently chugged along. Some are actively growing as they find their audience.

First, sales in terms of units sold (as before, these numbers do not include units moved by authors at conventions or on their own websites where they sell their author copies):

Stacked unit sales

Each book as a percentage of total sales

Next for sales in terms of money (see above caveat again):



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Community vs. Big Bang Theory

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After watching the 4th season premier of Community last night and (thanks to my back injury) being able to catch up on The Big Bang Theory today...

Yes, it's official.  Community is for freaks and geeks and nerds.  BBT is about freaks and geeks and nerds.

And that's a damn big difference.

We laugh with Abed.  We laugh at Sheldon.  The essential social misfit nature of all of Community is accepted, or even celebrated. (This can't be good - he's dressed as himself!)  In BBT, playing D&D on Saturday or going to a comic convention is seen as something worthy of being mocked.

Community knows what the score is - hence, Abed's "happy place" sitcom in History 101.

If you're a freak, geek, nerd, or other outcast, welcome!

I'll laugh with you.  Not at you.

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Wherein I am Proud of My Son

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The Nuclear Kid moved out of state with his mom last June, so I wasn't involved in his decision to re-join the Boy Scouts.  And I figured that his mother talked to him about their homophobic attitude a month later, when they restated their bigotry.  Turns out, she hadn't.  He was unaware of the policy - but that's not my point here.

It was a national policy.  Even if he'd known, it would have been easy to imagine that his council and district would not be bigoted, given the chance.   And he loves the camping trips and activities, so I kept my mouth shut and let him make his own decisions.

And then the national BSA decided to lift the national ban, making it a local issue instead of a national one.  (UPDATE:  The BSA just decided to delay this decision until May.)  When I asked earlier this week how his scout meeting went, he told me:

"I didn't go.  They were meeting about how to keep gay people out of the Boy Scouts."

"Oh," I replied.  "How do you feel about that?"

"I don't like it," he said.  "I mean, I like the trips and camping, but I don't think I want to hang around a bunch of people who discriminate against gay people.  That's like being racist.  I just don't want to be around people who discriminate like that.  I'll stop going unless my mom makes me."

I am damn proud of my kid. Without any prompting, without any encouragement, he said:

I don't want to be around people who discriminate like that.


Good on you, kiddo. Good on you.

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And there go the coffee cups... (advertising, donations, and responsibility)

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I had the coffee cups for donations up there in the sidebar for a couple of years.  During the time they were on the site, I maybe got fifteen or twenty donations.  Don't get me wrong.  Those donations - and donators - were awesome.  Some of the donators have become friends or business associates as well, and that's awesome.

But that's trickled down to nothing, so I'm going to experiment with ads for a while.

I turned on the Google ads... and instantly had advertisements showing from the scammers trying to take advantage of authors.  

Um, no.

So instead, I've applied at Project Wonderful.  I've advertised through them before, and I was impressed at how their system works.  It's definitely designed to let people like me have advertisements... but be picky about the quality of them.  The fact I have to apply in order to show ads on the site is a clue how much they care about doing this stuff ethically.

And if you're advertising, their payment system is intuitive and simple.

With any degree of luck, the coffee cups will be replaced soon with some ad blocks from quality folks, with things you're (hopefully) interested in seeing.

And without scammers.

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Wherein I Continue To Keep Paying Authors Even If The Quarter Sucked

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(Note:  This is talking about the books I publish as Alliteration Ink, and does not include numbers for those books which I distribute.)

I've had a lot going around in my head about the way I do business, especially since I started last month by getting questioned semi-publicly about the viability of my business model.1

It didn't help seeing fourth quarter's earnings. They kind of sucked. All the numbers were down, across the board. I'm not sure why they're so low. Maybe the economy. Maybe series fatigue. Maybe a lack of in-person publicity. Maybe all of the above to varying degrees.

And then I realized something as I was preparing my end-of-year earnings statements for the authors2:

My business model means that these books still exist, and can keep earning money for the authors.


The royalty-based books can have a bad quarter, a slow launch, or any number of things happen, and it not matter at all. It's not good, but it's not the devastating blow that it would have been without modern technologies. I can keep selling the books indefinitely...and paying the authors indefinitely. And that's something awesome.

In 2013, I am going to be "levelling up" in a couple of different ways. One of them is experimenting more with different pay structures for authors in order to make sure that they get paid, and paid as well as I can manage.

It's nice to know that there's something in place that already works and can keep working, even if things suck for a while.


1 Long story, made more dramatic by misinterpretations all around.
2 Which did not count authors selling their own author copies.

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ONE HUNDRED EIGHTY

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The third minute ends, and everyone's heart takes a beat.

If it can. For some, the strain is too much. Others were flying, driving, swimming, and are now smears on the landscape.

Everyone else is alive again.

There were no gates. No fires. No waiting virgins, or cycles, or wheels, or reincarnation.

Just black. Absence. Nothing. No feelings, no sensation, no joy, no fear.

But now, three minutes after everyone's heart stopped, they know what waits.

And no matter how hard they pray in stone boxes, worship the planet among the plants, praise someone, anyone's glory, they know.

They know.


Please note that the 100 Word Story Podcast is changing URLS to http://oneadayuntilthedayidie.com/!

Based around Laurence Simon's weekly challenge for the 100 word-stories podcast. The player above should have the audio for this week; if it doesn't, you can find the audio here to download.

I am updating these in a podcast feed (dubbed "Radio Free Steven the Nuclear Man" by Laurence). You can subscribe with this link (http://feeds.feedburner.com/Ideatrash) in your podcatcher or phone. You can also read and hear the rest of the entries at the 100 Word Stories podcast site.

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Somewhat random business note....

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I just sent off 4th quarter 2012 payments to authors and editors (well, to those people who don't still use checks).  Overall receipts for the 4th quarter were down from 3rd quarter - down by quite a bit.1  Not quite sure what/how/why that happened, though I'm sure analyzing it.

For the authors and editors, I'm going to have more numbers and graphs upcoming.


1 Which makes my payment model a good thing - because while it sucks, I can keep sending authors payments and it can be turned around. Which, yay!

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Running Behind on EVERYTHING

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Hey folks:

I'm running behind on everything.  It's due to a personal issue that I don't want to get into here.   So the promised announcement, more detailed stuff about SIDEKICKS!,  4Q numbers and payments, and the like will be coming up over the weekend (for money) or next week (for announcements).




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