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Archive for February, 2012

Daydream Believer

February 29, 2012 Leave a comment

I will not add to the large online flow about the death of Davy Jones, except to say that my first-ever, personally owned music album was Monkees Headquarters.  It was released a week before my ninth birthday, so it was probably a birthday gift.

 

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Categories: Uncategorized

Status Report

February 27, 2012 Leave a comment

Tomorrow is my two-week blog-aversary.  What have I done so far?

Well, I have edited three stories into publishable pablum, out in Google Docs, two of which I mean to publish on Amazon and one of which I published on this blog.  That leaves one more story to edit, Iron Man.  (Again, not that Iron Man)

I have created an author’s account on Amazon.  Meant to also create an author’s page, but apparently they won’t let you do that until you actually publish something with them.  Okay.

Created one poor man’s book cover using MS Paint – yes, Paint!  I almost forgot it existed, but there it is, still listed under accessories.  Would have preferred Corel Draw or one of the nameless others, but Paint seems to do what I want, which isn’t much.

That’s about the level of progress I am at right now.  I also notice that nobody is following this blog anymore, my wife being in Florida for the week.  That’s okay.  The point was to write, not necessarily to be read.  (Better dead than read!)  Still, when I am rich and famous, those people who left will feel terrible that they were not here to watch the battle.

Or not.

 

Categories: Publishing

Death Markers

February 27, 2012 Leave a comment

Internet was out all day.  Turns out that our new cable box was sending something up the line that was intermittently knocking out the internet in the whole neighborhood.  All is well now.

Driving around today I was reminded of another pet peeve – those flowery markers along the road where somebody died in a car wreck.

Now I do understand it to a point.  Family and friends, grieving for loved one who died in a senseless auto accident, put up one of those markers and promise to maintain it for years to come.  They are in pain and my heart goes out to them.

But I just don’t see the point.  My thinking is, except for a very few who die in acts of heroism, where a person dies is one of the least important things about them.  If you want to memorialize someone, memorialize their life, not their death.

Just think if they had such death markers in hospital rooms.  No patient would get a wink of sleep.

And nobody would ever step foot into a nursing home.

 

Categories: Uncategorized

Living in Stockholm

February 26, 2012 Leave a comment

Went to the service station today.  For those of you whose earliest memories include Power Rangers, a service station is what we used to, sometimes, call gas stations.  They really did provide service.  Not only would a man work the pump and put fuel in the car for you, but another guy would clean your windshield, pop the hood, check the oil, and sometimes even check the tire pressure.  If you don’t know what this would look like, please refer to Marty McFly’s arrival in 1955.

This is all, of course, gone the way of the dodo bird.  It was already fading in the 1970s, even before self service came along, due to rising wages.  Now it just flat does not happen, except at a few concierge filling stations in very rich areas.

The reason I think of this is because, every time I go to a gas station now, I am confronted by one of my personal pet peeves.  A few years ago, events conspired to return me, somewhat permanently, to the land of my birth: Long Island, New York.  Here in New York, when one fills one’s car with gasoline, one is obliged to hold the nozzle the whole time.  That’s right!  The little clicky thing in the handle isn’t there.  It was there.  You can see where it was forcibly, surgically removed from the nozzle, but it is gone.

You do not see this in any other part of the country.  Even the two or three states that have outlawed self service – to “create jobs,” I am sure – have allowed the clicky thing.  Here, either by law or insurance company fiat, they just do not have them.

This upsets me so much, because I cannot use the time while my tank is filling up to clean my windshield or check my oil, things I have to do myself now, due to self service.  No, I have to stand there like a monkey, holding the nozzle open with my opposable digits.  So, if I want to clean my windshield or check my oil, I have to wait until I am done filling the tank – which of course I cannot do, because by the time I am done, there will be another monkey with opposable digits waiting for my pump.  It is a shame, of course, because it would be nice to be able to use the window-cleaning equipment they leave out so freely available and it would be nice to find out that my car needs oil while I am standing at a place that happens to sell it.  But, it is just not to be.  Not in New York, anyhow, where we are apparently very different.

Now, when you ask people here about this, they are sure that it serves a purpose, that there is a good and true reason why New Yorkers cannot be trusted with a device that other states in the Union have used for decades with reckless abandon.  People here, who know about the device from their worldly travels, will chime right in and tell you that they are not safe, that they cause too many spills, are dangerous and harmful to the environment.  They would not have been banned otherwise.

Yet this attitude is demonstrably wrong.  If the wondrous labor-saving devices were too prone to error, they would have been banned long ago, across the country, either by politicians or insurance companies.  But go to Indiana, go to Nebraska, go even to California, and you will see them there, still in use, after decades of experience.

Sadly, this attitude is nearly universal.  No, not about the clicky thing, but about laws and conventions in general.  Go somewhere that garbage pickup is municipal and the people there will assure you that it is the only practical way, although cities and towns of any size can be found across the country that thrive with private garbage pickup.  People with municipal power or sewer or water will also assure you that any other way will not work or would be open to price gouging.  Most of my neighbors in Southampton Township believe that the only true path to leaf removal is through the town’s Highway Department.

This is basically Stockholm Syndrome at work: over time, one tends to identify with one’s captors.  Choice is taken away and we assume that it was taken away for good reasons or with the best of intentions or aren’t those guys really nice, after all.  Some people will vocally support a woman’s right to choose abortion, while others would champion the right to choose a personal firearm, yet very few around here would allow a gas station owner to decide whether a he can offer his customers a simple, proven convenience.

 

Distribution

February 24, 2012 Leave a comment

I doubt I am breaking new ground here, but the opportunities for publishing and distribution are growing rapidly and not just for literature.  Amazon does not just let you distribute non-corporeal books, but music, audio, and video as well.  This brave new world we are living in allows us far more access to willing audiences, without a pimp – um, publisher – coming between us.

One sample I came upon a few months ago, though it has been going on for some years now, is Star Trek Phase II.  This group of fans in upstate New York has built sets, made costumes, written scripts and put together new episodes of the old series, with new actors playing the old roles.  They are worth a look.

http://www.startreknewvoyages.com/

You know what?  It is not too bad.  The acting is uneven in many cases and the voluntary nature of the operation has led to a few cast changes.  The stories are good, sometimes better than some of the originals.  The effects are actually better.  The best thing is, they get better with every episode.  They are learning.

You can download the episodes from their site or watch them, in slices, on YouTube.  It all, apparently, runs on donations.  Paramount has said they can do what they do, so long as they do not make a profit on it.  Not sure how that is determined and, just thinking out loud, there are many charities in the world that have professional staff.

If you look out on the Internet, you will find many other fan groups that have put together original series based on Star Trek in all of its forms and you can watch them.  Most of them have pretty low production values and the scripts, from the little I have seen, are not much better.  There was even a Next Generation inspired show from Eastern Europe – not too surprising when you think about the soviet nature of Roddenberry’s later creations.

Still, these series are all labors of love and you have to respect that.  Of course, it isn’t all Star Trek.  There are many other internet-only or YouTube-only series out there for your enjoyment.  One of them, a new series call L5, was put together for about $15,000.

l5-series.com

Yes, most of this stuff is sci-fi or fantasy.  Hey, the geeks built the internet, they get to go first – after the pornographers.  The raunchy comedies and reality shows will be along in no time, I’m sure, although the major networks give you plenty of that right now for free.

On that topic, here is my point, I think.  We started with the Big Three Networks.  Cable added far more choices.  But we didn’t really seem to get that much choice, just more of the same.  The problem, I always thought, was the high cost of television production.  With so much money at stake, studios still wanted to stick with the tried and true.  I had expected the creation of fifty-plus channels to lead to lower production costs, out of necessity, but that did not seem to happen.

Well, yes, it did in a way.  There was a time when just about every show I watched came out of Canada or New Zealand, because it was cheaper to produce there.  Hollywood was just too expensive, because they would not change their habits.  What I thought would happen was that we would get low-cost regional and local studios across the country, putting out shows of moderate quality on lower-than-moderate budgets and that this, in the end, would force Hollywood to economize as well.  Neither of these really happened.

Now it does seem to be happening.  These little groups, creating programming, mostly for themselves, will succeed in lowering the costs of production and, in the process, lowering the barriers to entry.  Local theater groups will make video productions of dramas and comedies and try to get them seen across the country and across the globe.

Which brings us to the problem of distribution.  Sure, I can put my book out on Amazon and James Crawley can put his Star Trek episodes on the internet, but what is going to direct the consumers to come and consume?  If we no longer need the publishers to publish, we still need some mechanism to market our wares.  Sure, the existing distributors might do this in the future.  Random House may very well bring its marketing expertise to bear in selling electronic books and TNT may decide to pick up some internet series and show it on their network.

However, there are other avenues coming open.  I am not a big fan of social media, but maybe that is how we will market in the future, with the “Like” button and the opinions of those in our self-selected groups.  Word of mouth, amplified by the “Forward” button.  This is the piece of the puzzle that is still missing and I do not have a clear vision of how this will work.

And I want to sell books, dammit!

 

Categories: Technology

Free Fiction

February 22, 2012 Leave a comment

So, while writing about primaries and taking care of non-blog, non-writing issues, I have found a little time to do some work.  I have been editing the stories I wish to publish, prior to downloading them to Word, which will be prior to uploading them to Amazon.  Also, I took a look at Nook – that is, I went to the Barnes & Noble site to see what they had for authors and, as reported elsewhere, they do have a very similar and FREE publishing service for e-books.  So, once I get the stories on Amazon, I will get them to Nook.  And, yes, before anyone has to tell me, I know that there is also Smashwords and a couple of other services to look into.

Meanwhile, for those patient few who have been reading this and to, perhaps, persuade anyone who happens to be passing through that they want to buy my paying copy when it comes out, I thought I would offer up a free story.  In fact, I have done so.  If you go to the top of the page and click on “Stories,” you will find it.

It is called “About Face.”  I will not bother to describe it – it is fairly short, in fact, the shortest of all my stories.  It is also the oldest.  In my one year of community college, long ago, I took Creative Writing from a professor who published foot poetry.  Or something.  So I wrote a little piece of post-apocalyptic survival science fiction.  Yes, you guessed it, this was in the Seventies.  The course, naturally, put me totally off of writing and it was at least a decade before I even began thinking about those possibilities.

I rewrote “Luther,” as I then called it, many years later, don’t remember when, making it longer and more robust.  I may have been slightly proud of it.  Not sure if any copy of either version exists.  It was years later, probably when I was in Alaska, that the thought occurred to me to rewrite it as a comedy, sort of, washing out all the post-apocalyptic nonsense in the process.  It has remained untouched and mostly unread for a long time now.  I did polish it a little tonight, taking out some of the awkward.

I hope you like it.

 

Categories: Publishing

Surviving the Transition

February 21, 2012 Leave a comment

When I started this, last week, I said I only had one blog that I read regularly.  I was somewhat wrong.  There is another website I have been going to very regularly, every week, and that is the site of Kristine Katherine Rusch, a writer of many decades experience.

I guess, because it was not presented exactly as a blog, I did not think of it that way.  But since she wrote “Writing Like Its 1999” back in May, she has faithfully added a follow-up article every week.

What does she write about?  Writing, of course.  Well, to be more precise, publishing.  She writes at length about the myriad changes in the publishing industry, what new alternatives have been created, and how even best-selling authors have been getting short-changed or shafted by agents and publishers.

If you are interested in writing as a profession, then you should read her articles.  For your convenience, she has just put them all together and published them as an e-book, which I am pleased to link to below.

http://kriswrites.com/2012/02/18/surviving-the-transition/

 

Categories: Publishing