Tuesday, September 28, 2010


I'm interviewed here, on Louise Wise' blog http://fb.me/I7phPEU6

Sunday, September 26, 2010

unwanted conversations

This would be a story where the protagonist is always getting trapped into unwanted conversations, being too polite to say no and walk away ...
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an other world

People just living their lives is not the kind of story i want to tell. It's all very nice if you want, but it doesn't interest me. I read today where vargas llosa said of borges that he presented a world entirely his own. That's more in line with what i aim for, not jut another world but an other world. Recognizably human and more or less contemporary but alternate, as if other paths were taken, other choices made but not on the large scale, only revealed in snapshots. I guess it's in the line of 'magical realism' only not that magical and not so realistic either, just a little off, a little odd. If there could be a society without religion, i would like to see it, not one that bans religion, but one that doesn't need it. That's the kind of other world i mean
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spirit of the age, contd

"If your work is to be true, and not a vapid parlor game, and if your work is trying to shine light in the human psyche's darkest, illest places, then you have to go there, and be it, and that's no casual undertaking". Novelist David Mitchell interviewed in the Paris Review ...

But isn't that itself the vapid parlor game of our age? The Hannibal Lectorization of contemporary literature? Getting into the mind of the murderer, the rapist, the child molester etc... It's all just another episode of Law and Order SUV (i know it's really SVU) ...

Why is that dark inner psyche stuff considered truer than the inverse? Again, the spirit of this age, not worth capturing
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Saturday, September 25, 2010

bridge to wtf?

What's with the killing of children in fiction and why do they give awards for that? Call it garp syndrome or whatever, but i ficking hate it
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Dawn Debris

reminded by Broken Bulbs Reader Art, I broke Dawn Debris out of Cashier World and posted it on Feedbooks

Here's the new cover:

Reader Art a la 'Broken Bulbs'

As reported here earlier, but worth repeating, I really enjoyed a book I found on Smashwords called 'Broken Bulbs' by Eddie Wright. I also like the 'reader art' you can find here, where readers have submitted their drawings of characters and scenes in this book. What a great idea, and good stuff too. I notice that the author is looking for comic artists as well to make a graphic novel of the book - I hope he finds what he needs to get that done. It'd be cool. I wanted to do that same thing about fifteen years ago for my story 'Dawn Debris in the Land of Many Things' (which I'm planning to break out of 'Cashier World' into its own little ebook). I tried to recruit an artist but had no luck. My own Windows Paint drawings were pretty meagre (one is currently the cover of 'Cashier World'). (The Dawn Debris story also has FedCorTron dentist recommendations, not too dissimilar from the Inspiration Toothpaste in Broken Bulbs - a parallel, where once again Like Minds Think Alike

I submitted this little graphic from the original web version of 'Dawn Debris'

I might try and come up with a drawing for Broken Bulbs - I would do it the way I do my covers; mess around with a photo Gimp-style. I'll think about it.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Rogue Characters

I like these quotes from a William Gibson interview

"I do sometimes have characters who aren’t point-of-view characters, who are put into the story to serve some minor function or fill out a scene, and they suddenly become hideously full of life, and start changing the course of the narrative, and I’m always delighted — because hideously full of life is at least full of life. The narrative then becomes unstable and inherently more interesting to work with, and has greater potential for going somewhere interesting."

"For whatever perverse reason, I tend to find genre fiction that meets the standard expectations to be not much fun, and not very interesting. What I want for myself as a reader is something that’s got feet like a thriller, and hands like science fiction, but I want it to do something else: ideally I want it to do something that I’ve never seen either a thriller or science fiction do.

Of course the drawback with that is that the reader who’s come in wanting a good science fiction novel or a good thriller comes away thinking, “Well, that’s not science fiction, and it’s not even a good thriller!” (Laughs.)"

(sounds like a prospective Inspector Mole reader! - did I mention here that I put 'Inspector Mole and the Frozen Stiff' on Feedbooks? It's 'Death Ray Butterfly' with the original title and cover. They're both there at the same time. Another thing you cannot do in the world of traditional publishing

Quaintus Apocalyptus

There's something nostalgic about reading futuristic Earth Doomsday novels, like 'Oryx and Crake', 'The Road', or 'The American Book of the Dead'. Nostalgic because it reminds me of my teenage years in the early 70's when I devoured such books, as 'Dr. Bloodmoney', 'The Sheep Look Up' and 'Stand on Zanzibar', and my early twenties when I wrote such stuff, complete with rogue presidents and mass upheavals. Nowadays, not so much.

(Disclaimer - I do have one apocalypse story out there on the market, my old 'Rampant Pheromonix', but that is not Earth and not political. It deals with an overpopulated culture of privacy dealing with a sudden epidemic of clairvoyance)

It seems commonplace nowadays to hear of disasters affecting hundreds of thousands, even millions of people, from the tsunami in the South Pacific to the earthquake in Haiti, the flooding in Pakistan, Hurricane Katrina, etc ... and yet these don't seem to affect the popular imagination as much as a loon with a bomb or a gun. We seem to need our bad guys, our bogeymen, our Osama Bin Ladens and Hitlers.

(I'm halfway through American Book of the Dead and, typical for me, am enjoying most the minor characters (Banski) and personal dramas (the home video villain). The big stuff doesn't attract me so much, and several of my buttons have been pressed (for example, individuals don't start 'evolving to a higher level of consciousness'. That's Deepak Chopra nonsense, not reality). Of course now I want to see what happens, but mainly because I like the narrator, his modesty and innocence.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

More Lore

Anonymous left a few more goodies on the bookstorelore blog

"Do you have a kids version of Harry Potter"

"Where is your book section" at the info desk at Barnes and Noble.

"I heard about a book on (local radio). Where is it" 

And yes you can get bookstore lore as an ebook for free from Smashwords but only the blog has those added bits contributed by readers


I really want to read The American Book of the Dead by Henry Baum. The author is a cool guy, the book has won some cool awards, and it sounded like something I would like, so I got a copy from Smashwords, downloaded it onto my trusty Sony Pocket Reader, and started to read it. Almost immediately I came up against one of my roadblocks. It begins with an eye-witness account of the events of 9/11 in New York City.

One time when I was dating, a woman asked me "what are your showstoppers?". I could only think, "people who use the word 'showstoppers'", but encountering 9/11 into a novel is, I'm afraid, one of my showstoppers! Hitler is another one. Stick Hitler into a novel and I cannot read it. Sorry. It isn't just the reality-intrusion of it. I can sometimes deal with intrusions of reality in fiction (although I really don't want to read about people eating at Applebee's, shopping at Target, or staying at the Hilton - make something up, for Christ's sake. You're a novelist, you can do it). In fact, one of my all-time favorite movies is based on a reality intrusion - Vincent Gallo's "Buffalo '66" revolves around the field goal kicker from the Buffalo Bills missing a field goal in the Super Bowl, which causes Billy to go to jail (he lost a bet and therefore owed the bookie a favor) and seek revenge on the kicker once he got out. I could appreciate that touchstone of reality in a work of fiction.

I will try and get past it. I will try again. I tweeted about this earlier today, and the author replied:

henrybaum: @pigeonweather 9-11 is mentioned only once in the introduction. It inspired the book, but it's not really "in" the book.

Okay, I will definitely get past it. I will. I promise!

It was like an allergic reaction, like when I tried to read 'The Road' and the guy "looked out at the nameless dark". I stopped and said, nameless? isn't it called 'night'? And then I couldn't go on ...

--------------  later that night

i've read the first 4 chapters of American Book of the Dead and am enjoying it. Funny thing is, I have to wonder if it occurred to Henry earlier, when replying to my tweet (in which I mentioned 9/11 and Hitler as my literary showstoppers) that I was bound to come across a mention of Hitler (and Wal-Mart) in the very next chapter - an unholy trifecta!!

i have so many pet peeves, i could write a giant coffee table book about them - Tom's Big Book Of Peeves. This one boils down to - "you're a writer, make it up!", like mentioning Burger King, for example. Make something up. Burger Heaven. Burgerville. It doesn't matter. We get the point.

If you're writing about a kid who loves a superhero, for god's sake, don't make it Spiderman. Make something up. Wooly Mammoth Man, for instance, and his arch-nemesis, The Yodeler. Everyone will get the point.

Two words. Make it up

.  .

Inspector Mole and the Frozen Stiff (goes international)

One reason I love Feedbooks is that my stories are getting downloaded (for free) all over the world. This is the spread from the first 32 copies of the re-issued 'Inspector Mole and the Frozen Stiff' (a.k.a. 'Death Ray Butterfly) from yesterday's first day. 1 copy in Malta equals 3.1%. I love it. 10 in the USA, 3 in the UK and so on ...

Further Notes on Self Publishing

This as part of the discussion of a self-publishing review blog post

These discussions always seem to end up revolving around the poles of vanity/slushpile versus the Borders New Arrivals table. A much more apt analogy to me is the historical role of the small/independent presses. These have long published quality products which find their way into the market via such large distributors as Ingram and Baker & Taylor. It is a difficult and not profitable undertaking, usually a labor of love, and in these respects as well I think quite comparable to the current efforts of indie author/publishers. The small press books generally fare best on the local level and in small independent bookstores where the personal touch carries some weight. Social networks - and websites such as this one - may perform a similar role for indie ebooks.

Distributors like Smashwords will, I think, find their way into the larger ecosystem, which I fully expect to remain dominated by a handful of large players, for several reasons. Linux proposed a similar 'revolutionary' moment and yet Microsoft continues to dominate, despite being way more expensive, insecure and unreliable. The music industry remains controlled by the same small number of big labels, long after their demise was prematurely celebrated. Also, these companies are part of the giant media conglomerates that set the cultural trends and narratives. Deals will be made with the distributors (from the monster Amazon to the emerging Smashwords-types), fitting everything into place.

There's no need to panic. The new boss will look very much like the old boss, nostrathomas predicts, and that's okay. If you like small presses, you will like indie authors, and people will seek them out and find them through supportive sites and networks like this one. It is not the end of literature, and it is not the end of publishing. It's just a bigger pie.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Trends in Self-Publishing

2010 has been the year in which I, along with many others, became involved with self-publishing. As part of that, I've been paying some attention to the overall trend and the various discussions going on around it. On the left of my blog here there are several links to some related sites - such as teleread, self-publishing review, indiebooks blog, etc ... My own involvement is not-for-profit (seeing as I give the stuff away for free), so I don't have a dog in this race (so to speak), which gives me a little objectivity, perhaps.

It certainly has been an interesting year. Kindles, iPads, cellphones and dedicated e-readers have emerged as very potent forces in the overall book world. Hardcover bestsellers may well be doomed in the near future, as they cannot compete in price, and make no sense in terms of their business model - the time lags both to market, and between their appearance and the paperback versions. Commercial ebooks are still relatively expensive - comparable to trade paperbacks - but are much more environmentally friendly. No trees are harmed in their production; the only ecological costs are the electricity and the batteries it takes to read them with. The tyranny of the corporate dominance of publishing still holds, but shows some signs of weakening, with the growth of "self-publishing", or "indie books" (the terminology is still up in the air). Some of these books are free, while many others are simply cheap. Arguments abound about their quality.

Many claim that only those books with the stamp of traditional publishing approval can be considered to be 'good', or at the very least 'professional'. Of course it is well known that a huge percentage of such books - well over 90% I believe - will go out of print within two years of their initial publication so, professional or not, good or not, they rapidly cease to exist commercially in the very model that celebrates them. Now, however, the authors of these books can self-publish once they regain the rights to their now out-of-print books, and can place them in the very same venues as the 'non-good' and 'non-professional' books - places such as Smashwords.

Meanwhile, many self-publishers have been striving to make the claim that some of them are really not that bad and are even pretty darn professional too (they proofread, for example, and invest many hours in their authorship), and they deserve to be taken seriously, although they are quick to admit there is a lot of crap floating around the same websites as their own works. Now, however, with the increasing number of "previously traditionally published bonafide" authors joining the self-publishing ranks, the indie authors are very happy to be associated with those who have this stamp of approval. It illustrates the sort of love-hate relationship that self-published authors have with the traditional publishing world. I've even seen some go so far (I read this today on a website that shall remain linkless) as to suggest that Smashwords implement some sort of indicator or filter or some other method of separating out the formerly "legitimately" published authors from the rabble who merely copy and paste their junk onto the site.

It is the first time in my experience I can remember 'being out-of-print' as a badge of honor.

It's a big playground with no shortage of jockeying for position. It's a revolutionary moment, and one thing that history indicates about revolutionary moments is they don't last long. Another thing history shows us is that orthodoxy soon sets in, and the new traditional comes to look pretty much like the old traditional. There will be those who, like the Sneetches of Dr. Seuss, have "stars upon thars". In other words, it will all shake out and fairly quickly too. Just as small presses have been eeking out their survival, barely, for generations, so too the indie and self-publishers will likely find their place on the sidelines. A few will emerge and be co-opted, touted as success stories and as heralds of a brave new model, but these will only serve to validate the new owners of the means of distribution, be it a Smashwords as a subsidiary of Amazon, or some other vertical integration.

I don't mean to sound like all of this is a bad thing. It isn't. There are a lot of good and even great aspects to what is now going on. Books will never need be out of print, ever again, and you will always be able to get them printed out, in book form, on demand, if you want to. Project Gutenberg and Google Books, among others, will make available to everyone everywhere - for little or no cost - the vast libraries of the world. Anyone who wants to can put their books out there and hustle and scuffle and market their brains off and have their personal success stories too. The keys to the kingdom of 'being published' have been melted down by the world wide web. There are no keys. There is no lock, but there's money, and as we all know, money talks.

Self-publishers, for the most part, are interested in, and motivated by, money, which paves the way for their voluntary and eager buying into the new publishing system being built and solidified as we speak. There will be a way in, and a way of doing things for fitting in, and the myth of the golden apple perpetuated in eternally ever-changing forms. Right now it's a wave, and you can try and surf it if you want, just bear in mind that, like all waves, this one is transitory, by definition.


naturally, as soon as I wrote this, I found an excellent recent post on the same subject by Nick Spalding, and had to add my own two cents to his:

Loved the post, especially after I just got through saying pretty much the same thing on my own blog. My expectation is that websites like Smashwords will end up being absorbed by companies like Amazon (they call it 'vertical integration') and that they _will_ find a way to separate the 'good' (what they most want to sell) from the 'bad' (what they don't give a crap about), and everyone will be happy. They'll throw some bones to a few 'indie' authors they 'discovered' (and YOU CAN BE ONE TOO) to enhance the kind of Horatio Alger myth that always goes over well. Everyone else will be like the current small presses who barely eek out a meager existence on the sidelines. There will be some tiered pricing involved, which will likely be rigged in favor of the 'good' stuff (meet our latest approved authors at a low low price, this week only, buy now and save). Hate to be cynical, but ... no, actually, I love to be cynical. It's just (as Lily Tomlin famously said) so hard to keep up.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Why? Question from a Reader

I received this email today:

"Never been on Smashwords before.  Your short book Zombie Nights was my first read. Enjoyed it, but wish it could have been longer. Felt a bit cheated.  You set up so many relationships and questions and such a good central idea of a guy coming back to his old life as a dead man. And then you went and pulled the plug on it all after 17 pages. Why?"

The feedback and the question touches on many issues I've thought about recently. Some of it has to do with my writing process, some of it has to do with the subject matter, and some of it has to do with my own sense of completion versus others' sense of same.

It's true that I introduced Dennis and Racine near the end and barely dealt with them at all. These characters, as well as Fripperone and his gang, do figure in two of my other stories written around the same time (Raisinheart and Death Ray Butterfly) but a reader of Zombie Nights has no way of knowing this. Perhaps I should include an addendum to that effect ("for more on these bullies and murderers, please see ..."). 

As for the sudden ending - I think that zombie stories only end one way, with the zombie getting his or her head chopped off. It seems to be one of the unwritten rules of the genre and I thought to bring it about quickly, because the alternative was only to delay the inevitable. Should the zombie go and work in the soup kitchen (which is what would have happened), what purpose would it serve? I felt it was enough to give that plot line a showing, but that it wasn't necessary to actually go there. Besides, it would have bored me to write it, and it is one of my major weaknesses as a writer that I hate boring myself, even when it would satisfy some readers' desires for "more". 

The interesting thing to me was to try and imagine the initial experience of the zombie on reanimation, how would it feel, think, breathe, etc ... Its lack of physical needs led me to think about its lack of desire in general, how our bodies motivate us, provide us the will to live, the drive to 'do'. Without hunger, without sexual desire, without motivation, we are nothing. The zombie is this nothing, and his existence is completely pointless. He even has no desire for revenge, since he is incapable of desire of any kind. His existence is that of a shadow, and in this case he is a shadow that is afraid of shadows. In some ways he is based on my gray cat, the most scarediest cat of all time. I felt no need to prolong this kind of existence - one day, one week, one hour more or less would have brought nothing to him, and I think he realized this, and didn't care. He was a suicidal zombie, in the end.

I tried to hint at this by describing the story as 'existential', because the meaningless of his being was the central point of the story, and his sudden demise did nothing but bring it to a close. Racine was, in this sense, an angel of mercy. It was a mercy killing, which she merely dispatched with efficiency. Her murder of Fripperone, however, was one of revenge, and she put some emotion into it. I suppose I could've done a better job of drawing that contrast there. I thought I did make the point, though, that it is the living who are the dangerous ones among us, not the dead, which are, in fact, quite harmless. Dennis laughs in the end to underline the whole joke of the zombie motif. Zombies seem to be the new Martians, or Communists, or Muslims, or whatever it is we seem to need to project our fears on. I could never take it seriously, but I've since found that a lot of people do. 

To me, the story ended abruptly in the same way as a cat which gets hit by a car in the middle of the night. The zombie was roadkill, and maybe that was a shame (some people seemed to like him) but not exactly a tragedy. He was already dead, for one thing, and for another, some stories cannot - and should not - have a satisfactory ending, and I felt that this was one of those. I know there's always a risk in doing that (my wife wants all of my stories to end with a wedding), but I tend to follow my instincts, right or wrong. In this case, I still like what I did with it, but I accept that others do not.

The reader replied to the above:

"It seemed to me that you had set up a very interesting situation where a man only comes to realise after his death that he has no idea who he has been. He goes in search of the real Dave and in the process seems to start becoming a better human being dead than he was alive. That idea was what I liked. Personally I can take or leave the whole zombie/vampire etc genre.  I never thought of him as a zombie really.  Interesting that you think people can’t be human without needs."

My further response:

Yes, that is the question I found interesting to think about - whether a person can be human without needs. It touches on the whole Buddhist outlook of things. I tend to come down on a more materialist view, where a definition of 'life', at least on this planet, is defined by physical drives (whether plant or animal), as opposed to non-living things (mineral), which are not.

Curiously, another reader, who gave the story a one star rating, said that precisely 'a zombie cannot be a better human being dead than he was alive' - almost the same exact words. This was an unwritten rule I was unaware of :}

(afterthought - you find a book for free, read it, enjoy it, get some ideas from it - and feel cheated?)

Monday, September 20, 2010

Like Minds Think Alike

A bit of circular referencing led me to some very enjoyable reading today, beginning right here at selfpublishingreview.com. I had written a blog post about giving away my stories via Smashwords and Feedbooks, and one of the people commenting on the post was Moxie Mezcal. At the same time, I had come across a reference to an e-book called Broken Bulbs, by Eddie Wright, which sounded intriguing, and thought I had seen it on Smashwords at one time. I searched for it on Smashwords, and found it, discovering at the same time that one of the people who had reviewed it on that site was the very same Moxie Mezcal. Clicking on that link brought me to her author's page, where she too is a proponent of 'guerrilla fiction' and has posted some of her works there as well.
It should not have been surprising, and yet it pleasantly was, that I enjoyed both of these books immensely - 'Broken Bulbs' is simultaneously gruesome and hysterical, quite inventive and captivating, and '3' a collection of short stories by Moxie Mezcal, had me in the grip of their ever-deepening and compelling mysteries. Would I recommend these books? Absolutely, but to whom? Not to everyone, because 'everyone' would not necessarily like them. I would recommend them, then, to the people who would like them, but who are these people?
The whole 'recommendation engine' issue has got me baffled lately. I understand how it's supposed to work - crowd-sourcing and all that - but in practice I've been mystified. On Goodreads and Amazon and Barnes and Noble I have seen people giving a single star to Edgar Allan Poe and 5 stars to their favorite Romance writer. I suppose this serves a purpose for those sites which give you recommendations based on your own feedback, but in these cases, are your ratings not meant for other people, but only for your own future selection options? Why should they be public in that case? In my own case, I've received a number of one star ratings (along with threes and fours and fives) and wonder what that means, if anything. Is the aggregate rating a measure of the mainstream? The higher the average, the more acceptably mainstream is the work, and vice versa? If that is the case, how could one distinguish between the offbeat from the merely wretched?
I think you have to look at the body of the reviewers' reviews to get the picture - is this person of a like mind? That's the only possible use I can think of, personally, for these systems. It certainly worked that way for me today, from Eddie Wright to Moxie Mezcal - these like minds were very much to my liking. Five stars all around!

3 Stories by Moxie Mezcal

Another great find on Smashwords is this writer, Moxie Mezcal. I just read her collection '3' on a sick day off from work and enjoyed it very much, especially the first and third, which are mysteries of different sorts. The first story, called 'Home Movie', is about a porn-store clerk investigating an apparent snuff-flick accidentally discovered by customers. The third, called 'Fake', is about a journalist who concocted a hoax about a murder victim. The middle story, '1999', in which 'nothing happens', suggests a sort of mystery by the end, but didn't draw me in the way the other two did. I especially enjoyed the way the stories operated, this 'drawing in' of the reader, deeper and deeper until you think you've reached the heart of the matter, but find you're only halfway there. They keep going, and that's the mark of a fine storyteller, in my view, because by a certain point of most stories, you think you know how it's going to end, what's going on, who's who and all that, but when 'you think you know, but you don't know' (to quote the inimitable Jim Mora), that's when you find yourself under the spell.

Broken Bulbs

An excerst of a screenplay from the novel 'Broken Bulbs', by Eddie Wright, available on Smashwords



The Nowhere is filled with nothing.

NO ONE, 20’s, not so tall and not so short, does nothing.


and a couple of memorable quotes:

"Why do people insist on pinky swearing? What’s so special about the pinky? Why is it considered such an honest appendage?"

"Everything is equal, Frank. Everything is nothing. Everything is our minds interpretation of what we see and the values that we ourselves place on them. All anyone wants in their lives is something. And if we look at anything and if we chose to place any value on any thing in our lives we have something. It all exists within us. We only have what we know. And we only know what we know. And what we know is that everything is actually nothing and nothing is actually everything. Because something and nothing and everything are all the same. All nothing is something if we want it to be."


About a junkie screenwriter more or less.

This is the one of the best books I've found on Smashwords so far. The Moxie Mezcal review below sums it up very well. What got me was the banal suburban fantasies of the edgy urban darkside badtrip ("I wonder if there would be a TV show that we would watch every week together. I wonder if she would think of it as our show."). This kind of juxtaposition gets me every time. The screenplay. 'Nothing', is perfect. Birdhouse goldmine. It's funny and wretched at the same time.  "There’s nothing quite like nothingness."

Review by: Moxie Mezcal on Jun. 06, 2010 : star star star star star
Broken Bulbs is either about a junkie trying to write a screenplay or a writer who thinks he needs to fix in order to create. Either way, it's a compelling meditation about the intersection of art and addiction and the way that both are essentially born of our need to feel like our life has meaning. Narratively, the book plays out like a bad trip, existing in a world that's all blood and puke and festering wounds and desperation. But often it's the worst trips that are the most revealing, showing us the parts of our souls that are ugly and petty, tearing down the barriers between the stories we tell ourselves and the truths we try to evade. It's gritty, it's ugly, it's brazenly experimental in both form and style, it's allegorical, it's satirical, it's as darkly engrossing as staring at someone's disfiguring wounds, and yet it also manages to be profoundly cathartic.

Ins and Outs of Ratings Systems

Thought I'd do a little research on this topic, since it continues to baffle me, and came across some interesting notions. This article, which seems a bit obsessive, in which a blogger discusses how he has refined his use of ratings systems over time, introduced the idea to me that people use these systems in order to guide the services' recommendations to themselves. In other words, if I don't want Amazon to recommend any Romance books to me, I should give Romance books one-star. It is an introverted usage of the ratings systems, and that hadn't occurred to me before. I had assumed that ratings were extroverted, a shouting into the world 'i like this' and 'i hate that', but from the introverted point of view, the rater is talking to the system, not to other people. That makes some sense for sites with recommendation engines (Amazon, for example), but not for others such as YouTube, which are more 'popularity machines' - here only the extroverted usage makes sense.

The extroverted usage leads to an aggregated result that tells you how 'mainstream' something is (a song, a video, a book). The higher the average rating, the more mainstream, because mainstream simply means 'appealing more to the average consumer'. This interesting post shows that most star ratings at YouTube are either 5 or 1, which pretty much makes the range insignificant. It might as well be binary (on a scale of 0 to 1), which is why I think sites like Facebook merely have a Like button (and YouTube has also gone in that direction). Also, these sites are more interested in being positive than in becoming hate-collectives.

Bilj/Imaginary Friend

Still thinking about the story of the so-called imaginary friend. Maybe it could be a social networking theme. We all have so-called 'friends' on facebook etc ... these are real people but might as well be imaginary since we rarely if ever actually see them in person. Bilj Bjurnjurd was a 'friend' like this in 'Renegade Robot', and he's been angling to have a story written about himself ever since, so just maybe ....

Saturday, September 18, 2010


Reading Poe's novel, Narrative of A Gordon Pym, astonished again at his precedence at writing sea adventure novels. is there any genre he did not invent? while adding it to my goodreads list, i checked out the comments, amazed to see people giving it one star! who are these people and what have they ever written? the star rating system has to go. i was glad to see that youtube has done away with it. goodreads and everyone else ought to, as well. it seems to mean nothing more than 'i am an idiot and thought you would like to know that'
Published with Blogger-droid v1.5.9

Friday, September 17, 2010

mind control in action

We're seeing it more and more every day. Every time you hear the word 'marxist' you know that someone is merely parroting Fox News. a larger and larger segment of the population is being turned into mynah birds - squawking the talking points that are being repeated ad nauseum into their receptive brains. There is no thought involved - what goes in is what comes out. Today, Delaware senatorial candidate Christine O'donnell railed against 'the ruling class', which consists of the 'elite', which is 'marxist' and 'anti-american' and is in direct opposition to "we the people".

You could take the rhetoric of the student movement of the nineteen sixties, turn it precisely inside out, and this is what you get. Back then it was 'the system' that was a 'dictatorship' run by the very same elites. ("death to the fascist insect that preys upon the blood of the people")

It is entirely a matter of Fox News and its related talk shows, which are engaged in an all-out propaganda war against their enemies. Their enemies are really anyone who differs in any way from their party line. It is Pravda-America.

Someone has got to pull that plug, somehow. Are we really going to be ruled by this mob?

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

free != not good

Most of what you hear about free ebooks is how terrible they must be, by definition! free == not good. But just last week I read a wonderful book that I found out about through Wikipedia (free!). The book is titled “The Infant’s Skull” and was written by a 19th century French writer named Eugene Sue. I got the book (for free) from Project Gutenberg (bless them!), and downloaded it onto my Android (open-source) cell-phone and read it on the Aldiko book reader (a free app). Of course, I might also have found it just as well through the public library system, but it’s very unlikely I would ever have found a copy in any bookstore.
I have also found some (free) contemporary stories I’ve enjoyed on Smashwords and Feedbooks, Wattpad and Lulu and elsewhere. Like anything, “you have to dig through much earth to find a little gold” (Heraclitus), but that is also a good thing – the adventure of discovery.
I like to think that storytelling is an ancient tradition, and for most of human history it’s been more a matter of sharing and community than a business model. I like to celebrate that idea also. We can see the world of free ebooks as a jumbled mess, or we can choose to see it as a monster jam session. I encourage everyone I know who likes to write to put their stories out there. You might as well.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Why I Am Not An Author

To be an author is to get paid for writing. I've heard this often enough that I've become quite comfortable with not being an author. Instead, I am someone who makes up stories and gives them away for free on the internet. I have always wanted to do this, but until the past year or so, it was not a serious option. Now, thanks to the emergent convergence of e-books and e-readers and iPads and iPhones and Androids and all the other great stuff coming out, it is not only an option, but the perfect one for me.

I've put out more than two dozen ebooks, mainly through Smashwords and Feedbooks. I love both of those websites for different reasons. Smashwords is doing a great job of distributing through different venues and making itself known in the world. Feedbooks is responsible for a ton of international downloads for my stories. Also, since I'm a huge fan of 19th century literature, I use Feedbooks to feed my own reading habit. It occurs to me that most of my favorite writers are either dead or otherwise never made a penny from me, so why should I honor this connection of writing and money? Everywhere I turn, it comes down to that. I wanted to sever that chain, and I have, for myself.

I am also not an author because I'm not one of those writers who are 'masters of craft' or style or technique. I am not a 'wordsmith'. I never took a class in the art of fiction. All of that is just fine - I'm not criticizing or judging anyone else - I just like to make up stories and write them down. I tend to write in a hurry (because I have a job and a family and and friends not a whole lot of free time or unlimited energy). I live with a story for the days or weeks I am inventing it. I think about it while commuting or walking the dog or riding my bike - whenever I can. My stories have a limited life span in my mind. Once I know how they're going to end, I just have to finish it up quickly so I can move on. Between stories I like to absorb impressions from the world around me. I don't worry about writing or not writing. I don't care if I ever write another story or not.

Not being an author has been very liberating for me. I give all my stories away for no other reason than because that's exactly what I've always wanted to do. I worked in bookstores for nearly twenty years, and witnessed firsthand the brief shelf-life of most books. All is vanity, saith the preacher, and publishing - whether by industry or self - is certainly included in that. There are a few authors who are giving their stories away electronically - of course Cory Doctorow comes immediately to mind - and I really love that. I do use Lulu to print-on-demand, since my parents refuse to read anything but an actual book, and I do like to give them my stories, but I'm not out to 'drive sales' or even move in that mode. I also have my stories on Amazon Kindle. Unfortunately, I cannot yet give them away for free in that venue, but have to charge a minimal ninety nine cents. I am hoping to do away with that once Smashwords gets their distribution package with Amazon settled.

I've had some interesting experiences as a giveaway storyteller. Thanks to an accident of timing on getfreeebooks.com, my story 'Zombie Nights' remained on their front page for nearly two months, and ended up spending the summer as the #1 download at Smashwords. Also, thanks to that website, I have four other books in the top 100 most downloaded ebooks. On the flipside, I've received a numbers of really rude comments by people who didn't like my stories. I don't know about you, but when I don't like something I'm reading, I just put it down, and read something else. I don't understand the impulse to trash someone's stuff. And yet, this has also been amusing, and I've learned a bit more about what I like to call 'the unwritten rules of impossible things'. For example, in Zombie Nights, my zombie doesn't go around eating flesh. Instead, he's kind of puzzled as to why he's even around, and is kind of bored and has to think of something to do. Even though I presented the story as an 'existential resurrection thriller', some people didn't think it was funny, or even acceptable, to break the unwritten rules about zombies!

I wasn't used to experiencing these reactions, but now I do know a little about it. One year ago, although I'd been writing my stories for twenty-five years, hardly more than a dozen people had ever read any of them. In these few short months, that number has ballooned into tens of thousands, and I even had someone ask me if she could translate one of my stories into Farsi. How cool is that?

A friend of mine has an ethic of gardening. One tomato is great, she says. Anything more is abundance. This is how I feel about my self-publishing experience.


It's better than being an author. 


the whole ebook phenomenon should be a reminder that storytelling is not dependent on any particular business model.
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Saturday, September 11, 2010


finished the final chapter - the denouement if you will - of my 'Unwritten Rules of Impossible Things' (formerly 'Deer in the Roomlights')

When I know how everything else in the book will go, I have to just write it all down right away. I can't be bothered to hold back any longer. The improvisation is everything to me - the process of thinking about it, day after day, while walking the dog or commuting or taking a bike ride or lunch break, and then, when I can see the end of the line, it's all over.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010


new twitter hash tag - #twitchar - random character sketches in 129 characters or less

#twitchar: little guy named Gustav with long greasy black hair and a a 19th century handlebar mustache - liked only dope, hendrix and harleys

off the charts

literally. Zombie Nights finally dropped to #2 on the Smashwords downloads list (replaced by the Smashwords Style Guide - required reading for all Smashwords authors). It went to #1 on July 1, so it spent 2 months in that spot. The day it went to #1 it was reviled in comments by certain erotica fans who could not believe it had legitimately displaced their favorite smut title (which has since also been surpassed by German Alcala and M. David Blake's fun works). Something about being #1, I guess, brings out the worst in critics.

Speaking of which, my poor Death Ray Butterfy has now received 2 1-star ratings on the goodreads.com web site. People like to vote thumbs down, it seems. This person gave it such a low rating because the 'tongue-in-cheek style' was not to his taste. Heck, Lady Gaga is not to my taste. Do I go around marking all her stuff with 1 star? (Um, no.) I don't like Romance Novels - do I click on every one and give it one star? (that would be no, again).

My rule is simple. 5 stars if I love it. 4 stars if I like it. No rating otherwise.

But that's just me ...

I was following the twitter feed of indiebooksblog, but stopped, because it was basically about 'how i made money' or 'how you can make money', or 'i wish i could make money', or 'how do i make money', you get the drift. Here's an idea:

Write what you know you love, not what you think or hope that lots and lots of other people might want to give you money for.

Monday, September 06, 2010

Smashwords Bio

I've been writing for many years and only recently started putting my books out there as free e-books. I've got a whole bunch of them; most are short novels, usually around 20,000 words. I tend to write fast and make everything up as I go along, so the stories often change radically from day to day, and sometimes end up far from where I thought they would go. The joy of writing, for me, is in the adventure of improvisation. Most of my books have elements of science fiction, mystery, satire, suspense, supernatural and more, but I just think of them as stories.

'Renegade Robot' is my newest story. It's a light-hearted comic take on the myth of the 'Singularity', that event after which "nothing will ever be the same again". In these days of constant, well-funded hysteria, how could we distinguish a real Singularity (if and when it comes) from any other panicky 'headline of the day'? In 'Renegade Robot', our hero is a "robot exterminator", stamping out minor infestations of nuisance rogue robots, who gets caught up in a frantic news cycle.

Q: Why did you go indie?

Indie e-books on the internet are a dream come true for me. I've never been interested in publishing for money, but always wanted to share my stories. I've also been inspired by the open-source software movement, and by the talented local musicians in my neighborhood who love to play together and just have a great time. I've always wished that art and culture would be more about sharing and community, and less about grabbing every penny you can find. It's just the way I feel about it.

Q: Who are your favorite authors in your genre?

I'm mostly partial to madly inventive innovators, humorists, absurdists and satirists of all ages, including Jorge Luis Borges, Philip K Dick, Stanislaw Lem, Kurt Vonnegut, Mark Twain, Italo Calvino, Franz Kafka, Julio Cortazar, Eugene Ionesco, Luis Bunuel, and Macedonio Fernandez. 

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Today in 'Everything We Know Is Wrong'

thanks to the great website, http://kottke.org, i learned this today. The classical Greek and Roman statues and buildings which we know as white marble things were originally painted, and brightly painted, like buses in the third world today. And science can now re-create what they actually looked like. Once again, everything we know is wrong.

Billy Budd, Sailor

I recently saw the movie of this story, with Peter Ustinov, Robert Ryan and a very young Terence Stamp in the title role. The film was quite impressive, as is the book, in different ways. The film went further in illustrating the motives and reasons behind Claggart's hatred of Billy, for one thing, but is very much worth seeing, as the book is worth reading. It's astonishing to know that this story was never published during Melville's lifetime; it was not published until more than 30 years after his death. The story is not so much about good versus evil, or even the cruelty and arbitrary nature of fate, as it is about the inexplicable mysteries of character and events, and the infinite complexity of life.

Friday, September 03, 2010


a tortoise that tells on his friends is a turtle-tale