Writing, publishing, geekdom, and errata.

Symphony #5 vs Galvanize and Paperback Believer

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I wanted to finish up this week of mashups with this one from DJs From Mars: Symphony #5 vs Galvanize:

While I like DJs From Mars, in the last few years they've developed a consistent pattern to their mashups where they're starting with a techno/house base and layering other works on top of that base. And they'll distort the hell out of the original works in order to make it fit with the techno base. I'm sure it works wonderfully for them in club performances; it's a great commercial product.

But it loses something of the artistry that you get with works like Go Home Production's "Paperback Believer":

I don't know if this is a sign that mashup has seen its day come and go - the Bootie Blog (which introduced me to many of these works) is still going strong, and they're getting new artists on a regular basis. As computers and the tech to make these kinds of works well has gotten cheaper and more accessible over the last decade, we've seen a lot of people trying their hand at mashups. Many of them badly.

But I'm reminded of a conversation I had with an impressively skill graffiti artist. I said that I'd love to have art like he could produce on more walls and public spaces, but the crappy tagging just annoyed me.

He looked at me funny, and said, "How do you think I got started?"

I hope you've enjoyed these mashups I've shared with you. There's a lot more out there; keep your eyes (and ears) open.

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Stronger Power, Hot Rock 'n' Roll, A Hard Girl's Night, Break the 21 Guns in D Major

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For a hard-hitting club beat, "Stronger Power" by Robin Skouteris delivers, with no less than ten artists mashed seamlessly into this one song from 2013:

And last year, DRA'man gave us Joan Jett and Hollywood Undead mixed together in "Hot Rock 'n' Roll":

And Wax Audio gave us "A Hard Girl's Night" mixing The Beatles and Motley Crue...

Bringing us into 2015, we have DJ Dumpz bringing us "Break the 21 Guns in D Major":

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Virgin O'Riley, Who Knew Someone Like You, In The Mood For Some Killing, Tainted Jesus

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What? The Who and Madonna? Why yes, in 2010, Go Home Productions mashed them together nicely with "Virgin O'Riley"

Not all mashups are upbeat and fun. Sometimes they can be well-crafted and tear-jerkers. In 2011, Mashup Germany created "Who Knew Someone Like You", which I still can't listen to without tearing up.

As a palate cleanser, let's check out DJ Schmolli's "In the Mood For Some Killing", which mixes The Glenn Miller Orchestra and Rage Against The Machine (yes really):

And to get us back into pop-land, DJ Lobsterdust gives us Depeche Mode and Soft Cell together with "Tainted Jesus":

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Seven Nation Army's Going On, Call Me Uprising, All The Single Ladies (In Mayberry), and Suit and Commercial

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More music to tickle your eardrums and twist your brain up today.

In 2008, DJ Fac did something either amazing or blasphemous by combining The White Stripes and The Backstreet Boys with "Seven Nation Army's Going On":

In 2009, we have CJR putting Muse and Blondie together like they're matching puzzle pieces:

Also in 2009, Party Ben created "All The Single Ladies (In Mayberry)", which is exactly what it sounds like. And while this is easily the "jokiest" entry in my list, it still works nicely.

And to finish out your Timberlake fix, The Hood Internet mashed him up with Daft Punk:

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Pink Wedding, Illiterate City, and Somebody to Praise

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Yup, we're doing mashups all this week.

To continue the rock/pop trend, in 2006 Go Home Productions produced "Pink Wedding":

And maybe this says more about my taste, but I really like these rock mashups, especially when they're paired with something completely unlike what they started with. Like Divide and Kreate's "Illiterate City", which mashes up Guns 'n' Roses and The Jackson Five...

But that goes the other way as well, like DJ Lobsterdust's "Somebody To Praise" which mashes up Jefferson Airplane and Fatboy Slim exquisitely...

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Stairway to Bootleg Heaven, Stayin Alive in the Wall, and Rock in Black

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There's a few mashup artists who have been around the whole decade. DJ Earworm is one of them. This track, "Stairway to Bootleg Heaven" was from back in 2004.

But it's not all airy dance stuff. In 2005, Go Home Productions put out this rocking mix of "Back in Black" and "We Will Rock You":

And for something completely different: Wax Audio's presentation of "Stayin' Alive In the Wall":

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Mashup Week At Ideatrash

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There are a lot of crappy mashups out there.  But I've found some really, really good ones over the last decade.  Ones that take good (or even not-so-good) songs and make them better.  Like "Get up Hitch A Ride":

So I'm going to spend this week sharing them with you. I hope you enjoy.

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You are Jack's Special Snowflake: A Review of The Flux by Ferrett Steinmetz

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It's difficult to say a lot about The Flux that isn't, in some way, a spoiler.

Which is a good thing. The Flux is pretty damn awesome, and you should just go read it.

I loved Flex when it came out. The thematic elements and innovative magic system were pretty awesome.

And with The Flux, Ferrett somehow improves that virtuoso performance while shaking off the few first-novel issues that he had. The characterization of family dynamics - particularly troubled ones - were spot on.  The references were, well.. sick. Out of control.

And the twists are surprising but make total and perfect sense.

But you can read a lot of other reviews and know that.

Here's the beautiful theme that makes The Flux special: It shows the power in your weird, whatever your weird might be.

As we get to see the wider world of 'mancy, we see all sorts of 'mancers, with all sorts of obsessions. Sometimes they could seem stupid or limiting. But we get to see how they can be beautiful in their own right... and how they can sometimes be far more than one originally suspected.

You are a special snowflake. And that kicks ass.

Like Flex, these themes don't dominate. They're there, they aren't exactly hidden, but they serve the story.

The Flux is a sequel that is superior to its original... and the original was a must-read. So go read this book, now.

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"While the amazons have the truth lasso, I've got tequila": Reviewing Animated DC Movies

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While everyone's been concerned with Man of Steel and the next DC live-action movie, there's been some seriously kick-ass animated films with DC heroes that haven't gotten enough attention.
Justice League: War is the weakest of the titles, and that's simply because it tries to give origin stories for all of the Justice League in one fell swoop.  It does, mind you, but it ends up being a movie that feels like a setup for another film in its own right.
Justice League: The New Frontier takes us back to WWII and the Silver Age.  As a result, this film is a nice nostalgic look back at these characters. Well worth watching.

But then we start to get to the standouts.
Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox is really more of a Flash story than a JL story (with some interesting echoes of season one of the current live-action TV series). Short form: The Flash manages to change history...but the consequences are horrific. Thomas Wayne as the Batman (yes, really) demonstrates the difference that his son makes in the role.
Justice League: Gods and Monsters plays with a serious alternate reality:  What if Zod was Kal-El's father instead? Batman is ... well, a lot more literal... in this reality, and Diana's harsh style of vengance is not tempered by Superman's boy scout nature. And then everything goes to hell. Well worth the digital rental.
There has already been a feature length Wonder Woman film. And despite including an origin story, this film is simply hands-down my favorite of all of these. In turns both witty and gritty, Diana (voiced by Keri Russell) and Steve (voiced by Nathan Fillion) literally save the world. Includes lines like "While the Amazons have the truth lasso, I have tequila..." followed by Diana drinking Steve under the table.

It should be noted that all of these films have a gritty element to them (especially the further down the list you get). People die. Often at the hands of our heroes.  So if you're expecting a "they parachute out of the plane" kind of film for the wee ones, you should be warned.

That said, these films are excellent. While I might quibble with the deus ex machina resolutions of several of these films (though not Wonder Woman), these set a high bar for superhero movies that DC will really need to stretch to reach in the future.

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Music Review: Resonance by VNV Nation

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I had my love of darkwave music reawakened recently; most of VNV Nation's discography falls squarely in that genre. But this album... this album is something more.
VNV Nation are an Irish/English Alternative-Electronic project.

The latest album "Resonance" sees some of VNV Nation's best known songs scored for Orchestra and Voice, and was recorded with the world renowned Babelsberg Film Orchestra.
Not everyone's going to like it - particularly if you're not a fan of their vocal style - but that's why it's so cool that you can preview it easily on Bandcamp. Highly recommended tracks:  "Nova", "Illusion", and "Beloved".

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What Kind Of Publishing Should Authors Choose?

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As a small publisher - and as someone who has done self-publishing in the past - I sometimes get asked why people should choose one path of publishing over another.

The answer is: Whatever SPECIFIC choice provides more value for you as an author.

And that’s going to be different for every author and publisher.

So let me spin you out an example. You have two small publishers - Alliteration Ink (my examples about me are 100% accurate) and OtherGuy Publishing (these details are real, but obfuscated).
  • Here’s where they are the same:
  • Both publishers have a minimal marketing budget - maybe an ad at a convention program book, maybe bookmarks, that sort of thing.
  • Both publishers allow authors a great deal of creative control when it comes to how the book looks, its cover, that sort of thing.
  • Neither publisher has enough reach or distribution deals to get physical books on the shelves in brick and mortar stores.
  • Both provide print and digital layout.
Here’s where they’re different:
  • Alliteration Ink hires editors per project, and does not have a full-time house editor. OtherGuy Publishers does.
  • Alliteration Ink pays for cover art. OtherGuy Publishers does not.
  • Alliteration Ink provides copies to authors at cost. OtherGuy Publishers provides them at 45% off the cover prices.
  • OtherGuy Publishers provides a royalty rate of 20% - 45%, depending on format. Alliteration Ink provides a royalty rate of 50%-65%, depending on the project.

I’m sure you can find a lot of other publishers - big and small - and compare these deals to theirs. A few years back, I met a small publisher who provides a much smaller royalty rate than I - but also routinely advertises in large publications.1 Making comparisons between small publishers - especially when they’re largely similar - can be useful.

Because when you're comparing two publishers like we have above, you can easily compare services and royalty rates. But when you're talking about multiple publishers, it gets to be too many variables at once.

So I suggest starting with a baseline of what it would cost to do it by yourself.1

Luckily, there are plenty of tools for doing exactly that.

So let’s say you have a 300 page book, about 75,000 words, with 6”x9” trim.

Go to the above link, click on the "buying copies" tab, and you can easily see what each copy of that book would cost you ($4.45). Good eBook layout is still somewhere around $2-$3 per thousand words as a base price ($225).  Let's say that print layout costs you the same - $225.  Covers can cost anywhere from $75-$300 or more. Let's guesstimate $200 here.  Editing prices likewise vary - but it’s something that you can shop for. For example, one quoted price from here would get us a price over $1500, another about $300.  Let's go with somewhere between those two and call it $900.

$225 + $225 + $200 + $900 = $1550

Add in also both the time and cost of advertising - though I've separated that out, since many times authors have to do this sort of thing regardless. Depends on the publisher.  But we're trying to keep it simple here, so we'll stop with these costs.

With a $15 retail price and about $10 profit per print book, you'd have to sell around 160 books in person to break even.

Yes, in person.

The amount you get from a sale on Amazon or other bookstores for your print book is a lot less.  Go to the "Royalties" tab and plug in those same numbers.  Instead of $10 profit per book, you're looking at $4.55 for each copy sold at Amazon (341 copies to break even), $7 for ones sold from the estore3, and only $1.55 for "expanded distribution", e.g. everywhere that isn't (1000 copies to break even).

So take a cold, hard look at what kind of sales you can expect.  (Kameron Hurley did a great post on this, pointing out:

The average book sells 3000 copies in its lifetime (Publishers Weekly, 2006).
Yes. It’s not missing a zero.
Take a breath and read that again.
But wait, there’s more!
The average traditionally published book which sells 3,000 in its entire lifetime in print only sells about 250-300 copies its first year.
But I’m going indie! you say. My odds are better!
No, grasshopper. Your odds are worse.
The average digital only author-published book sells 250 copies in its lifetime.
Yeah.  And that's also part of the equation - the risk if a book doesn't pay out is on the publisher, not you.

And while this isn't comprehensive (not at all), from this basic idea, you can start to figure out what your publisher is (or would be) making from your book.

And you can start asking yourself if they’re doing enough to earn that money.

1 While it's hard to predict with great certainty who will get more of your books out there, there's some things that you can look to in order to see whether or not they've got reach.
2 Or rather, what it would cost for you to hire someone to do all this for you.
3 There is no reason to use the estore. Just set up a store on your own website.


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An Interfaith Prayer Service That Was First Conducted Over Twitter

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Back in 2009, I created a twitter account simply for leading twitter prayer services.  It was run by a basic script engine - and could still be done with a simple script and command line twitter account like ttytter, though the original script I used would no longer work.

I thought - and still think - the delayed and incremental nature of Twitter would be useful for forcing time for reflection. To take each thought and really consider it.

In those still-early days of twitter, it was almost entirely participatory, and hashtags hadn't really been used strongly for organizing conversations. If I were to arrange something like this today, I might use a hashtag instead of a dedicated account.

But it just happened the once. I did it as a proof of concept; others thought it was interesting... but not interesting enough to participate in themselves.

But that's not the point.  The actual text of the service is no longer hosted anywhere, due to site changes and the like, so I thought I'd share it with you today. I've only altered it to reformat the text so it's in standard paragraphs.

Welcome to this multi-faith prayer service, conducted over Twitter. 
You may retweet the prayers after me if you like, but it is not necessary.  
This will take approximately one hour, and just over 100 tweets.  

Perhaps you're ill, perhaps you've gotten out of practice.  Maybe you're just reading this after the fact. It's hard to carve time to examine spiritual, the religious.  Real life gets in the way.  I hope this exercise will help you.

Regardless, this - to the best of our knowledge - the first twitter prayer service. So a brief explanation is in order.

On twitter, I have met a wide variety of faiths, and I do not wish to exclude my friends (or adversaries). While I come from a Roman Catholic tradition, this is not a Catholic (or Christian) service. I attempted to find several representative readings for us;  but it is not an exhaustive list.  If you have a particular passage in your holy (or secular) text that reflects the theme, please @reply later, or use the hash tag

Please use this time and format to reflect on the spiritual and divine in your own life. Reflect on your relationships and the people in your life.  While in India, the Sufis taught that the divine made all things, and is in all things.  Seeing the Divine is the hard part. Medevial Jewish monks did not call the divine strong or all-knowing, but instead that the divine was not weak. This reminded us that we cannot truly know the Divine, that our language is not sufficient.

From these principles I have drawn these prayers.  The Divine is not ignorant of your intent when you reflect on these.

Therefore, I do not invoke any of the names of the Divine.  This required altering some prayers slightly.

Amen is a traditional term that means literally we agree.  I hope to have crafted something here that fulfills that.

You have searched me and know me.  You know when I sit down and when I rise up; You discern my thoughts from far away. You search out my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways.  Even before a word is on my tongue, You know it completely.

First Prayer:
From the unreal, lead us to the Real; from darkness, lead us unto Light; from death, lead us to Immortality.
Om peace, peace, peace.

First Reading:
They who want to attain peace should practice being upright, humble, and capable of using loving speech. They will know how to live simply and happily, with senses calmed. They will do so without without coveting or being carried away by the emotions of the majority. 

May everyone be happy and safe, and may their hearts be filled with joy. May all living beings live in Security and Peace. May all of them dwell in perfect tranquility.

Let no one do harm to anyone. Let no one put the life of anyone in danger. Let no one, out of anger or ill will, wish anyone harm.

Just as a mother loves and protects her only child at the risk of her own life, 
we should cultivate the Boundless Love to offer to all living beings in the entire cosmos. We should let our boundless love pervade the whole universe, above, below, and across. Our love will know no obstacles, our heart will be absolutely free from hatred and enmity. 

Whether standing or walking, sitting or lying, as long as we are awake, we should maintain mindfulness of love in our own heart.
This is the noblest way of living. 

Second Prayer:
All praise is due to you, who have sent the prophets to teach us how to live as full human beings. 
Make us among those who can truly say, 'We hear and obey.' 
Awaken in our hearts those attributes you love the best, and help us to be Merciful, Compassionate, Just, and Patient with each other and with all those around us.

Second Reading:
While he was in Bethany, reclining at the table in the home of a man known as Simon the Leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, made of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on his head.

Some of those present were saying indignantly to one another, ''Why this waste of perfume? It could have been sold for more than a year's wages and the money given to the poor.'' And they rebuked her harshly.

''Leave her alone,'' said Jesus. ''Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want. But you will not always have me. She did what she could. She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial.''

The expression of love - in Western culture - has largely been shaped by gender.  Women talk of emotion, men do things for women. Women want to share their weaknesses and spend time together;  men wish to fix problems and buy things.

This separation happens with our faiths as well.  Too often, we become either locked in contemplation or just going through motions.

Both are required;  a balance must be struck.  The forms of love, the ways of showing it are different, but the love is the same. We must strive to respect and draw from both to be a whole person, and truly live the Divine way.

Remember:  In Mark, Yeshua was speaking to a bunch of men, used to doing things of action.  The disciple's way of caring was through action - selling the perfume and donating it.  They wanted to fix the problem.

But the woman showed emotional, ''impractical'' love.  Yeshua's wisdom comes in this:  He realized that both have value.

Our emotional needs are as important as our physical ones;  a balance of the two is needed to live a proper life.

So too must our love be expressed towards the Divine.  Not only must we love, but we must live so to show that love.

Third Prayer:
Mystery of Life, Source of All Being, we are thankful for the gifts of life and being, of love and connection. 
We are thankful for all the wonders of the world around us. 
We are thankful for each other and for all the members of our global family. 
May we have eyes that see, hearts that love and hands that are ready to serve in love and in kindness.

Please take the time to donate money to Kiva in lieu of any real ''collection plate''. 

Fourth Prayer:
Blessed are You, who bestows good things on the unworthy, and has bestowed on me every goodness.
Amen. They who have bestowed on you every goodness, may they continue to bestow on you every goodness. Selah.

Fifth Prayer
I vow to offer joy to one person in the morning and to help relieve the grief of one person in the afternoon.
I vow to live simply and sanely, content with just a few possessions, and to keep my body healthy.
I vow to let go of all worries and anxiety  in order to be light and free.
I am aware that I owe much to my parents, teachers, friends and all beings.
I vow to be worthy of their trust, to practice wholeheartedly,
so that understanding and compassion will flower, and i can help living beings be free from their suffering.

The Q'uran says:  ''What is good and what is evil are in no way commensurate.  
Return evil with some better thing and, so doing, you will make the one with whom you are at enmity to become like a close friend.  Only those who have patience can attain this, and any such, reaching it, come to possess great good fortune.''

Our call this week is to love.  Love is not just a card or a ring, love is not just carnality or helping out. Love is a complex thing we do not have enough words for, and many many meanings.

Challenge yourself in the coming week to love radically.  Love in new ways.  Challenge yourself to love those you think you hate.

Thank you for listening, and may you have a blessed week.

Many of the prayers are modified from the peaceCENTER at 

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Sometimes It's Not Just The Message, But The Messenger: Thoughts on Pope Francis

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A friend was surprised when I shared an image with the same text as this one on Facebook:

which, thanks to Pope Francis, isn't really that outrageous of a claim. I mean, check this article out, if you're skeptical: 9 Times Pope Francis Was More Progressive Than The Republican Party When It Came To U.S. Policy.

His reason for being surprised was later summarized in a post where he said:
If atheists love the current pope and what he says, what does that say about the Catholic church? Has everyone suddenly been converted, or am I not that familiar with what that church has taught?
And see, here's the thing.  The core principles of the faith - you know, the ones we've had for nearly two thousand years after one man had been nailed to a tree for saying how great it would be to be nice to people for a change - are the same. They're why I had returned to the church for a while.

But Jesus, save me from your followers.

Since Francis started talking about economic justice or expressing any religious tolerance, there's been a lot of folks who previously bleated about papal obedience backtracking all over themselves and saying that Francis doesn't dictate church law.  (They're right - but they also conveniently forgot that during JP2 and Benedict.)

And more importantly, it's people like that - or those who were more like Benedict - who drove me away from the Church. Their intolerance and hatred of those who had different opinions or ways of life physically repelled me... and those like me.

And during the abuse scandals - and the frankly horrific coverups that Benedict and most of the current bishopric participated in - many others fled the Church.

And then when you have prominent Catholics like Bill Donohue and Rick Santorum... well.

In my community, it seemed like intolerance, hatred, and blind adherence to authority were the key qualities of the most active members of the Church.

But with Pope Francis... things seem to have changed.

It isn't that the core teachings of the Church are any different.  

What's striking is that Pope Francis is so unlike so many of Catholicism's most vocal adherents... in the best possible way.

You can read a transcript of Pope Francis' speech to Congress here:

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