Saturday, June 25, 2011

Some random thoughts about John Locke

Just a couple of days before the media blitz revealing the news that John Locke had reached (actually exceeded) a million sales for his eBooks, I downloaded a sample chapter of his Vegas Moon (A Donovan Creed Novel). I did so because my sister purchased a copy -- she has an abiding interest in Las Vegas since it's my home -- and because it has a Vegas theme, much like my
Desert of Deceit.

After wading through the preliminary and obligatory pre-book verbiage, I was ready to rock and roll. But after reading just the first sentence, wasn't sure I wanted to read further.

Understand, I'm not a grammarian; I'm average, which I'm told isn't good enough for readers. I rely on a good editor to point out flaws in the structure of my sentences. One of my biggest problem areas is the use of commas. I guess I should say overuse.

And that's what stopped me in my tracks with the Locke book, a little phrase, offset by commas, that just didn't sound right in my ears. Maybe the comma belongs there; I'll ask my editor.

Okay, so I didn't let that stop me because sometimes even a book with misspellings and bad grammar has good plotting, interesting characters, and some kind of redemption ... I read the rest of the sample and decided not to buy the full version. I've read a lot of hard-boiled mysteries, police procedure novels, and suspense but I just couldn't get involved with this one.

What the heck was wrong?

To figure it out, I turned to Amazon where the first three pages of reviews talked about how hilarious the character (Donovan Creed) was and how the author keeps you laughing all the way through the book.

Okay. Just how funny is getting a colonoscopy without sedation? Just the prep for the procedure is enough to make you throw up!

Maybe I'm getting too sentimental as I age but I can't see myself falling in love with Donovan Creed; I can't even see myself having dinner with him!

Then there's the dialog. Three pages of single sentence conversation left me wondering who was talking to whom about what.

Finally, I take issue with stretching reality. I know how to suspend my disbelief but I live in Vegas. I know there's no casino that's going to take the kind of action this Lucky character throws out. I also know a lot of professional gamblers personally and they'll all admit that they've never been able to achieve a 68 percent win rate.

All in all, though, a million books! That's impressive. Just not my type, I guess.
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Thursday, June 23, 2011

Getting readers to your blog

I'm on the hunt for readers.

Actually, I've been hoping to increase my readership since the day I started blogging. That's why I subscribe to bunches of newsletters and blogs that focus on luring interested folks to my party here. The trouble is, since starting this little gig, I haven't seen anything new that has increased my readership!

Of the dozens of tips I've explored, just a couple have brought positive results. But for the most part, each has been little more than a repetition of another. It's been so frustrating, I'm wondering if I should just rewrite some of those repetitive blogs. After all, they drew me in; maybe I can use them to draw someone here.

So far, I've resisted some of the hard-sell stuff because, athough it would be nice to see some green, my focus isn't on money making.

I look at the blog as a journal I've never been able to keep, a place to lay down the random thoughts that come to me like fireflies at night, to let the voices in my head be heard, even when they don't make sense to me.

It make sense to me to do this because I have an interest in random thoughts and advice -- not just from other writers but from readers of everything and anything. It's an unfathomable universe out there with a huge amount of information. And since life seems to be a never-ending learning experience, why join the hunt?

I can't see how search engine optimization (SEO) and pay-per-click would do much more than take readers away from the blog.

But then ... I'm not about to second-guess the people who are touting their advice for blogging so I'm off to explore some of the ideas I've tabled.
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Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Free graphics software for starving writers and artists

Last time around, I promised some links to free graphics software and I’m about to deliver.

Back when I was a devout Mac user, I purchased all the software necessary to have fun creating graphics, do page layouts, and edit documents. You can imagine the cost was high. But I learned enough to put my new skills to task, and for many years, I worked in editing and production jobs for several different publications.

Then one day, one of the companies that employed me as a freelancer decided to go PC, which meant I'd have to acquire different skills to keep the job. The learning curve wasn’t a problem, but as an independent contractor, I had numerous assignments that had to be done at home. That meant a new computer and all new (costly) software.

Time passes; I’ve moved away from the gainfully employed world and morphed into a full time writer. From time to time, as it happens to every user of technology, I have to replace equipment.

A couple of months ago, my aging (only three years old but full of fragments of junk accumulated over those three years) laptop decided to develop a mind of its own. Crashes, slow response, programs refusing to work, that kind of thing.

So it was off to the marketplace for a new laptop.

A screenshot from the vector graphics editor I...Image via Wikipedia
A screenshot from the vector graphics editor Inkscape
Trouble is, my older software wouldn’t work with my newer technology.

That’s when I started searching for an alternate choice and that’s when I found Inkscape and Gimp.

Inkscape is a super piece of vector graphics software similar to Adobe Illustrator, except it’s FREE.

Gimp is a free image manipulation software similar to Adobe Photoshop, except it’s FREE.

If you’re in need of either kind of software, try these out before spending big bucks on the other products.

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Friday, June 10, 2011

ebook, eBook, Ebook, or EBook - I messed up

I just realized I've been messing up.

I've been spelling eBooks and all related eStuff with lower case second letter.

Even more embarrassing: I didn't realize could create a proper noun in the middle of a word.(Yes, I realize iPod is an example.)

And to add what looks like I never took an English class (yet alone taught English), I didn't know a word (actually several words) existed to explain this. Oh, and by the way, the spell checks all show the words as questionable.)

It's called CamelCase (camel case, camel-case, medial capitals ...) -- Thanks to Google and Wikipedia.

So, to apologize, I created the graphic that accompanies this post, and next time I'll tell you how I did it without spending a cent on the software used.
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Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Free eBooks: What's up with that?

I’m a bit discouraged about the world of eBooks.

Even though the electronic age unofficially belongs to a generation to which I no longer belong to, I’m a big fan of the changes of the “revolution.” However, I’m not happy about the residual effects, the innocent ravages of change.

Note please: The malaise has nothing to do with my own endeavors in the field. It’s something I’ve been ruminating about for a while now and it surfaced from random thought to full-blown reality this morning. That’s when I read my newsletter from American Editor

In the newsletter, the author listed 22 eBooks recently added to his eReader. Great! He also listed four hardcover books he’d acquired. Then, without mentioning how he acquired those tomes, he admitted that of the 22 electronic books he added to his TBR (to be read) pile, most (90%) were free!

I can’t remember the last time I walked into a bookstore, picked up a dozen books, and walked out without paying for them. I’m not talking about stealing; I’m saying free!

Why are so many new-age author/publishers willing to give their work away?

I’m sure part of the reason has to do with advice. Just about every blog, article, chat room and discussion board recommends that newly published authors should offer freebies. I think another part of the reason has to do with the competition. With so many books flooding the electronic world, competition is becoming fierce; getting noticed is tougher.

Writers who thought finding an agent or getting through the hallowed doors of the print publishing buildings was daunting, now find themselves in similar disheartening circumstances.

I’m not so sure we should follow the trend by giving away our work. Is there another profession so hard up for “customers” that does so?

We all know the annual income for many writers falls below the poverty level. My biggest concern is that it’s tumbling even further because of the free trend.

Like the big publishers, I’d offer review copies to qualified reviewers. That’s a legitimate avenue toward publicity. I could be wrong but I don’t believe giving titles away randomly to a large population will enhance a writer’s public image. So I stand against what looks to be conventional wisdom (everything’s fast in the electronic age) and say NO TO FREEBIES.

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Monday, June 6, 2011

Print publishing is not dead

Because I publish my work in electronic editions, I frequent the ebook forums and chat rooms and in particular the kindle boards to keep up to date on all topics that focus on ebooks. One of the most talked about topics on these sites is whether or not the publishing world as we have known it is doomed.
A 12" record, a 7″ record, and a CD-ROM.Image via Wikipedia

No, I don’t think print on paper, hardbound or paperbound books, will disappear from the face of the earth. I believe the subject can be compared to the music industry.

There was a time (through the 1950s) when a handful of record companies ruled the world of music. If musicians couldn’t get a deal with one of the five or six big outfits, they were relegated to obscurity. Their work was virtually invisible. But with the emergence of rock and roll, independent producers created their own labels to showcase singers who didn’t fit the traditional mold. Then came Motown and the music industry changed forever.

Technology changed, of course, and the 45 rpm record took a back seat to the vinyl LP for a while, then the eight track hit the market only to be overtaken by the cassette, which eventually fell out of favor, replaced by the CD, and now we have the mp3 player. And with the advancements came independent producers and companies.

But, did jazz die? Did classical music become obscure? Did big labels suddenly fall off the face of the earth?

Guess what? Changes in taste and technology aside, the big record companies of the past are still alive. Music is still alive.

I think publishing will follow suit. Tastes will shift; technology will continue to make headway; the dominant publishers will continue to publish and independent publishers will make their voices read.
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Thursday, June 2, 2011

The letter writer

Last month, I attended a high school class reunion. Actually, the reason for traveling cross country was more to visit family (and a few bookstores) than to see how much my old mates could "lie" about how great everybody looked and how much they haven’t changed.

What surprised me about the gathering of old graduates was a “gift” from an old bud … a packet of letters I’d written during my first few years in college.

Reading them, I was surprised that my letter writing style mirrored my fiction writing, and that it remained similar decades later.

I used to write letters all the time, to friends and relatives, because back then, I enjoyed the process. I used fountain pens, ballpoint pens and pencils and carved my feelings and thoughts into lined and unlined paper. Sometimes I wrote on the inside and/or outside of the envelopes.

I recall hearing from some letter recipients about how my messages inspired or created a smile.

I don’t remember when I stopped writing letters; I think I’ll blame the electric typewriter since I don’t recall typing letters. But, reading these epistles created in another life made me smile … and made me wonder: Does anyone write letters anymore?

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Is blogging a waste of time?

Friend of mine asked, “Why do you waste your time blogging?”

I’m not sure what kind of expression registered on my face but I think I looked totally blank, stunned into a frozen posture of disbelief, not certain I heard her right.

“Did you read my early posts?” I asked.

“Yeah, I read them. You’ve got all these people living in your head, talking up a storm. But this blogging doesn’t make money, does it?”

I didn’t want to get into a philosophical discussion about the value of blogging. A quick search and she’ll find hundreds of posts about the purpose behind the blogging urge with a ton of the results focusing on how to make money with a blog.

That last part doesn’t interest me – much. Sure, I’d like people who read these pages to click on the titles I refer to now and again and buy them. But the purpose of the links is to add flavor and to point out content that will fulfill the reader’s search for related information.  

Those affiliate links aren’t going to pay my rent; hell, they won’t even pay for the pens I need to write the rent check.  

Sure, I wouldn’t mine supplementing my income from blogging revenue. Sure, I’d like readers to buy the ebook titles I’ve authored and flog here. But blogging for dollars isn’t part of the master plan.

I don’t do it for money any more than I walk two miles a day for money, any more than I pet my dog for money, any more than I spend an evening carousing the Vegas Strip with friends for money, any more than I listen to music.

Are any of those endeavors a waste of my time?

I don’t think so.

(And now for the shameless commerce part ....)