Thursday, November 19, 2015

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Goodbye to a Friend

“It was good to see you, Bill. Catch you later!”
Those were my last words to a friend. Days later—yesterday—he was gone.
It was sudden and fast. A car crash. His car struck another.
Something that made no sense to me. Bill was not the reckless type. Then, finally, a little more detail became known: he was in apparent cardiac arrest when the accident happened.
There is the possibility that he was already gone before the cars collided.
Sleeves rolled up, ready to help, Bill was one of those people who was always there. Someone you always expected to be there. His hand was always there to shake mine. He always made the effort to seek me out and make me feel welcome. That was the kind of person he was.
And now, he isn’t there.
At the same time, he is.
A common platitude used by people in times of death is, “I’m sorry for your loss.”
Only, in this matter, there is no loss. I gained from having known Bill. And what many others have gained knowing him.
No matter how much I wish I could change what happened, I can’t. 
Instead, moving forward, I will pick up the candle of his example and use that as a light to guide others.
My friend will be missed. But I won’t wallow in the pain of sorrow. Instead, I will reach out my hand and clasp the hands of others with a grip of friendship and welcome.
Just as Bill did the last time I saw him.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Taylor Swift vs. Apple Over Compensation

It’s funny how quickly things can change.
When Apple upped and announced that they were not going to pay artists for music streamed during the three month trial period, I immediately thought that was patently unfair. Here, the wealthiest company in the world, was essentially funding its business plan on the backs of the artists who were barely scraping by on the few pennies that trickled down to them from one song sale to another. I had a nice missive half put together addressing my reaction to this policy.
Then Taylor Swift swung in and announced she would not be releasing her new Album on iTunes because of Apple’s policy that they would not pay artists for music streamed during a listener’s three-month free trial of the iTunes radio service. Her message spread around the world like wildfire, being picked up by most major news outlets and social sites.
Eddy Cue, Apple’s Vice President of Internet Software and Services, relented his position and announced that Apple would indeed continue to pay artists their due during the free month trial period offered for new customers to Apple’s streaming service.
So, problem solved, issue averted, life moves on. Musicians will be paid for their music and Apple will wade into the music streaming business.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Reviewed! (Maybe)

British author Mark Lawrence put out a challenge: have self-published fantasy authors submit their books to be reviewed by highly respected bloggers who write about fantasy and review books.
The structure of the challenge is to have ten reviewers be assigned 25 books each. From those, they will select one favorite to be submitted to the final pool. Once ten books have been submitted by the reviewers, then all the reviewers would read each of the books in the final pool and score each of those books. The book with the highest cumulative score would win.
From 250 to 10 to 1.
So what does that one book win? The prize is to have reviews posted by each and all the bloggers.
In other words, a huge publicity surge and promotional event.
I submitted Aggadeh Chronicles Book 1: Nobody to be considered. It has been accepted into the first round.
For all the self-published authors who submitted their work for consideration, there is still more opportunity. The reviewers have the liberty to review any of the books in their block. If a given book isn’t selected as their finalist, the reviewer can still review that book. So, even a second or third place finish can still be a win for any of the authors in the challenge. The worst thing that could happen is the reviewer didn’t like the book and doesn’t post a review for it.
For the bloggers, they just got a whole heap of potentially good books to read through. Many of them expressed a lot of interest and enthusiasm for the project, wanting to get more self-published titles into their collections of reviews.
The competition is going to be fierce. Going through the list of titles, I recognized a number of the other authors and I must say that they are very good writers.
The reviewers themselves are also highly qualified. They are not just random people who post occasional book reviews. Some have won awards for their work. They receive submissions from publishers to review their newest offerings. They all have large followings with thousands of readers.
It’s that last point that makes this such an important undertaking: large audiences. The winning author gets exposed to many potential new readers. The question on everyone’s mind—both author and reviewer alike—is will this result in a surge in sales for the winning author? For the author, the payout is obvious. But there is a something in it for the reviewer: demonstration of relevance. Did the review have any impact at all? Are people really reading these recommendations?
There is a third group with skin in the game: the self-publishing community at large. Self-publishing, while it is hitting the writing industry like a hurricane, still carries a bit of stigma in the industry. But as self-published writers crowd out trade-published writers in the bestsellers lists and begin to rake in million-copy sales, it is getting harder and harder to dismiss self-published authors as sub par.
The reviewers commented how they were excited to be looking at self-published work from independent authors. That reviewers are interested in promoting self-published books is a big step. It used to be incredibly difficult to get a reviewer to look at a self-published book. The famous New York Times bestsellers list only began accepting content from self-published authors two years ago.
What makes or breaks a good book is how visible the author can make the book to the reading public. If reviewers are becoming excited about promoting self-published books, this opens a huge promotion channel for independent authors. In this, everybody wins.
I say thank you to Mr. Lawrence and his idea to bring together independent reviewers and writers.
Now I just have to wait and see if I make the next cut. Stay tuned…!

Update–2015-03-26: Oops! Had a wrong link above. I forgot to paste the URL when I created the link, so it defaulted to another site by my writing program. (fixed)

Update-2015-05-12: Nope, didn't make the cut. Why? As I said above, the competition was very tough as there were some really good writers in the group. Only one can get the nod, and it wasn't mine. Better luck next time! :) Need the reviewer write a review for it? No, that's totally up to the reviewer.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Readers Rejecting Ebooks? Not Quite…

Or so the headline claims.
It’s a good article. Read it. But keep in mind there are some very misleading points in the article.
The headline should have been: “Today’s College Students Prefer Printed Textbooks Over Reading on Computer Screens.
That would have been far more accurate and much less misleading.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

SFWA Now Says "YES!" to Self-published Writers

At long last it has finally happened: the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) has voted to allow self-publication and small press credits to be accepted for membership and associate membership in their organization. The final vote was 6 to 1 in favor of changing their bylaws.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Self-Publishing is Hard

I discovered writing when I was nine-years-old. A fourth-grade creative-writing exercise by my teacher, Lark McGuire, was an absolute epiphany for me. And I mean the Biblical scale kind of epiphany, where the rest of the world fades away and you are standing in beams of heavenly light while angels are singing kind of epiphany. The more I read, the more I wanted to write. By the time I reached fifth grade, I pretty much knew that I wanted to be a writer when I grew up.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Fuzzy Star

Ladies and Gentelmen, I give you Comet Lovejoy…

What makes this especially fun, since I first spotted the comet with binoculars a few hours ago the comet has clearly changed its position in the sky.

If you aren't sure, it is the fuzzy green star. In the wide angle view, it is roughly 2 o'clock to the big tree in the center. Just above the two stars that make up Taurus' knee, forming a triangle with the two slightly fainter stars.

It was only 15°F/-9.4°C, so I didn't stay outside long enough to work out any better images. (Don't do this in your underwear.)(Unless you have a hot tub. Then definitely do it naked.)

30sec. f/5 iso800 18mm

15sec. f/5 iso 800 70mm

15sec. f/5 iso400 70mm

Wanted: Working Tools For a Novelist

I am done with word processors.
I need a novel processor!
I am not writing a business office document. I am not writing a letter of communication to a colleague. I am not writing a pamphlet. I am not writing sections, I am writing chapters. I have front matter. I have afterwords. Author’s notes. Indices. Footnotes. A book title. Page numbers. Particular formatting that I need for print or ebooks. I have editors that go over my tripe prose with a fine-toothed comb. Spine-width calculations (for print). Word counts. Outlines. Custom dictionaries attached to the manuscript I’m working on now.
I am writing a novel.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Shakin' It in New England

We had an earthquake this morning. A 3.3 on the Richter Scale. Sure, my friends in California and Japan might chuckle at this, but for here in New England it is a novelty.
Here there be movin' rocks!
Boom! Yeah.
The epicenter was in the southwest corner of Sterling, CT and shook a number of homes in the area for several seconds. A friend of mine who lives fairly close to the epicenter commented that her fish definitely do not like earthquakes because there was water splashed all over her living room floor. (Her fishtank is almost 500 gallons and her fish are huge.)
There was another, smaller, earthquake on Friday. I suspect they are probably related, in that the smaller one may have released some stress that in turn, increased stress on the other part of the fault that released this morning.
While rare, earthquakes do happen here. Most of the time, they go unnoticed. More often than not, when an earthquake is felt most people around here think it was just a truck rumbling by the house until it occurs to them they didn’t hear an engine. And then there are the ones like this morning’s earthquake that actually are able to shake the house.
I was far enough away from the epicenter of this morning’s quake that I didn’t feel a thing. I only learned about it when I checked the weather and the weather map showed the epicenter, indicating the earthquake had occurred less than an hour before.
What makes it more interesting is I know very well right where the epicenter happened, as I go past this spot frequently when I'm out riding. It's a beautiful road, following along the top of a ridge and passing through farm land—it's one of Connecticut's scenic byways.
To date, I cannot definitively say that I have experienced an earthquake. It is possible that I have and simply have not recognized the situation. Over the years, every once in a while I would hear a boom or two and my house would shudder. One in particular that happened while I was a teenager I remember very specifically that the house shuddered a moment and the load springs on the garage doors vibrated enough to make some noise. However, I live a couple miles from a rock quarry, and sometimes when they were blasting the vibrations could be felt. So, it is more likely I was experiencing that and not an actual seismic event.
Other situations, I remember older friends and neighbors commenting that they could hear the sonic booms from the Concord leaving New York City and that the booms would shake their houses. The problem with that assumption is that the Concord would be going supersonic after it was clear of US soil, which means the sonic boom would be going away from us, not at us. However, when that I  stop and think about it, I wonder if these were small, local earthquakes they were describing.
It's always been a private interest of mine to watch for stone walls in New England woods. Over 150 years ago, most of New England was cleared of trees, and farmers pulled the rocks out of the ground and built walls to delineate their farm fields. When farming faded away from New England, the forests grew back, leaving iconic stone walls mysteriously hidden in the woods. The walls were built in straight lines. So any wall that has an odd shift in it, could actually be crossing a fault line that has slipped over the years. One of these days, I'm going to find one. Then I'll be able to say, I found a seismic fault.
In 1989 after the Loma Prieta earthquake, I wrote an article about earthquakes in New England for the Brockton Enterprise. I like to think that my article may have inspired one New England resident to consider her insurance options.
After learning that a fault line ran up along the Taunton River from Narraganset Sound, a woman who lived near Fall River, MA decided she wanted to get earthquake insurance for her home. After arguing with her husband about it, she called her insurance agent and added earthquake coverage to their home insurance for a tiny increase to their premium.
A while later, in 1996 there was a small earthquake in the Fall River area. The insurance agent, recalling his client adding the earthquake insurance, decided to give her a call, just for some laughs.
Did you know we just had an earthquake, he asked.
No, she replied,
While he had her on the phone, he had her walk around the house to see if anything had been damaged—no there wasn’t. 
Then he suggested she go outside.
While they were having a good laugh, she stepped outside and looked around and didn’t see any—oh, wait. There was an odd crack in the driveway.
The crack didn’t go across the driveway, it went right up the middle.
The insurance agent suggested she follow it.
It went right up into the garage. And through the garage floor. Through the foundation of the house. And right on through the in-ground swimming pool which was in the process of draining out.
So, for an insurance rider that cost no more than maybe $5 per month, it turned out their house had suffered over $70,000 worth of damage from the earthquake!
“The Faithful shall be rewarded…”
What makes New England earthquakes fun is that scientists cannot fully explain them with the current seismological model. Does that mean that science is wrong, that the earth is actually flat, only 6,000 years old, and humans danced with dinosaurs? No, it simply means that while we generally know what causes earthquakes and why they happen, we don’t know all the things that can cause an earthquake. We don’t know fully all the mechanisms behind earthquakes and what finally triggers one or another. If we did, then the daily weather report would include an alert that there would be an earthquake in Sterling, CT at 6:38AM and residents should take the family crystal off the shelves and put towels around the family fishtanks.
New England is geologically interesting.
It was formed as part of Gondwana, the southern half of the Pangea supercontinent. When the African plate slammed into the North America plate, the Appalachian Mountains were thrust into the air. Eventually, tectonic forces reversed and Pangea began to pull apart.
The land that would eventually become New England was right in the middle of this rifting process. The Connecticut River missed being the Atlantic Ocean by just 70 miles. The rift that created the Atlantic Ocean still exists today as the Mid-Oceanic Ridge. The tectonic forces that are spreading the Atlantic Ocean wider are pushing North America against the Pacific plate, the edge of which is along the California coast and is why there are so many strong earthquakes along the west coast.
New England was in the middle of a lot of pushing and pulling over the eons. Now, it lies almost at the halfway point between the Mid-Oceanic Ridge and the Pacific coast subduction zone. Expanding this to a wider field of view, the whole Appalachian Mountain chain marks this border, with New England at the northern end.
New England is part of the snowplow pushing North America over the Pacific plate (and a few more smaller plates).
There’s more to it.
We also just got out of an ice age just over 10,000 years ago. As the extended ice cap receded, all that weight from the ice was removed. The continental rock around here is still rebounding from the weight and rising, bit by bit. That introduces stresses, too.
At some point or another, something has to give.
Not the most sophisticated geological dissertation, but it gets the point across. Every now and then, New England shakes, rocks, rattles, and rolls. And splashes water out of fish tanks.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Kindle Unlimited Running Over Self-published Authors?

Kindle Unlimited is Amazon’s subscription service where readers pay $10 per month to have unlimited reading privileges on books that are in the Kindle Select program. Amazon created the service to compete against ebook subscription services such as Scribd ($9/mo.) and Oyster ($10/mo.).