Yeah, I’d ghostwrite…

I came across an interesting (at least to me) article about the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew series of books. Specifically, it talks about the business of writing those books. They are all written by ghostwriters under a house name. Authors are given a flat fee, and no royalties.

The thing that jumped out at me was the parts where it talks about the money. Yes, I love the idea of royalties, but I think it’s still perfectly fair for a company to work out for-hire flat fees to authors. I don’t know what would make creative work fundamentally different from other kinds of work. No construction worker complains if he doesn’t get a slice of a building’s revenue. I’d totally jump at the chance to write a YA novel or two in an established series. I’d run laughing to the bank with my flat fee, and I’d frame copies of the books.

I’m not sure why this thought deserves a post, but I’m trying to write something, be it fiction or not, every day.

Meanwhile, back in real world land…

In my day job, our office manager / administrative assistant is leaving. She’s moving out of state for very good non-work related reasons and I wish her all the best. As a result, I have been tasked with hiring her successor. Hiring is not something I’m really good at, and it’s not something I do a lot of. It is stressing me out.

After writing many job postings, sorting piles of resumes, and running several unfocussed interviews, I offered the job to someone who accepted. Yay!

After a day and a half of training with the outgoing person, the new hiree comes into my office to tell me she’s accepted another position elsewhere. One that pays less per hour (we are actually salaried, but whatever) but they say they’ll make sure she gets lots of overtime. Gee, that sounds like a fun place to work. I didn’t have the financial flexibility to compete with what she says she thinks she can make at the other place so I wished her well and sent her on her way.

Now I’m back to square one. A couple of the other go-getter promising candidates have already accepted positions elsewhere.

That’s really it. I just wanted to vent to somebody.

Also, I’ve been getting the itch to write again. Maybe I’m getting more sleep.

Some of my Favorite Procedural Tropes

So I’ve been watching a bunch of police procedural shows as of late. I gravitate to the “wildly eccentric maverick solves crimes” flavor of mysteries over the “gritty hyper-realistic team solves crimes stretched from today’s headlines” variety. Although I take in a few of those as well. I think I watch these shows mostly because there is not enough Doctor Who around to keep me happy.

The other day as I was watching it struck me again just how similar most episodes are. Here are a few of the things that always make me laugh/roll my eyes.

1. Heroes Don’t Need Helmets

“Everybody ready?” Detective Habidy’s perfect hair waves in the magic stiff breeze that flows through every apartment building ever. She looks back at her fellow policemen. Harsh hallways lights reflect sharply off their helmets with bulletproof visors. The three that will follow directly after Detective Habidy into the murderer’s abode carry shiny bullet shields as well.

Detective Habidy takes a moment to notice how much larger and more restrictive their vests are as well. Hers barely covers her rib cage.

It doesn’t matter, though. It doesn’t matter what carnage lurks beyond the door. Heroes don’t need helmets.

2. Kick Down Door, Sneak Around the House

Our hero, the sidekick, and a team of well-armored redshirts are crowed around a locked door. The hero pounds on the door, “Mr. Evilsmythe? We have a warrant!” There is no response for two seconds, so it’s now time to slam a shoulder against the door. It shatters with an unsettling crunchy sound that reverberates down the street. Once the door is noisily reduced to splinters, the whole team tiptoes in, whispering “Clear” to one another. And they all know they must sneak, or Mr. Evilsmythe will know they are here.

3. Turn in Your Badge. And your Gun.

“You wanted to see me, chief.”

“Have a seat, Flint.”

“Something wrong?”

“I just got off the phone with the mayor. This last stunt of yours was too much. Now my butt’s on the line. You need to back things off.”

“Chief, this is the eighties! If I don’t play rough that cokehead is going to kill again.”

“You play rough and it’ll be your job.”

“You have to let me do this my way.”

“That’s it. Turn in your badge. And your gun.”

4. Instant Impossible Arcane Knowledge

“Wait, what’s this?” Detective Boringguy pulls something off the serrated knife. “It might be a thread from our killer’s glove, left while he was wiping the blood off.”

“Doubtful.” Consultant Knowzit yanks the tiny clue away. He raises it to his eye, squinting and straining. “Just as I thought. See the way it bends in the breeze? Modern textiles don’t do that. This thread is almost certainly an antique, and it is exactly the type of thread that was used to make canvases in the fifteenth century by the dutch masters. We’re looking for a left handed art aficionado with a caffeine addiction.”

“Just like the harmless guy we met in scene two that could have no possible connection to the crime?”

“The same.”

5. TMI Gloat

“You must be joking, detective.” Slasher McGee puts on his ice cold ultra arrogant gaze. “But you and I both know you’ll never be able able to prove it.”

“Actually we will. Do you remember that note you left your nanny in scene two? We can link the ink on that paper to a custom pen which we know you purchased last Wednesday at the upscale stationary market on Fifth. With that pen and note, we can trace your movements to the victim’s summer home. Also by some enormous stretch of logic, it provides motive for blackmail and even murder.”

“Hmm.” Slasher shrugs. “Well, thanks detective.”

“For what?”

“For telling me what exactly will be the state’s case against me and what evidence I have to discredit when this goes to trial – all before you even arrest me.”

The detective snaps his fingers. “Shucks.”

“As long as I can keep myself from monologuing about how much I hated the victim and how she totally deserved it and how you all would have murdered her the same way I did if it had happened to you, then I’ll be fine.”

Max E Stone Stops by for a Chat

Tell me three things about yourself that you think everyone should know.

  1. I’m not perfect. I’m learning my craft as I go in this wonderful world of writing and publishing.
  2. My first stories at 9 years old were anything but child’s play. I impressed and also concerned and even scared many of the adults around me with my tales of murder and downright gory violence (I swear they just came to me).
  3. I love to travel and hope to work the world in my works, one book at a time.

So what are a couple of places you’d like to visit and later mix into your fiction?

I would definitely like to mix in Sweden. I’ll be visiting there soon so I’m sure an idea will pop up while I’m there. I’d also want to try Nebraska, maybe, just to see what story would come out of it.

Tell me one thing almost nobody knows about you.

Some people know this about me but not many others do: I was a huge jerk. I was very mean and my words cut deep. Even when I should, I just didn’t shut up. Its a miracle I didn’t get beat up and that I actually still have friends from my childhood.

Do you have any odd writing habits?

Ice water and jazz. Ice water keeps me awake since I’m off coffee for good and jazz relaxes me and gets the juices flowing.

I’m a big fan of jazz, too. Who are a couple of your Jazz favorites?

Wow, how much time do you have? Just to name a couple, I’m huge fan of Thelonius Monk and Miles Davis. I also enjoy Renee Olstead. She played the oldest daughter on the sitcom, “Still Standing.” When I saw her perform “Summertime” on the show, I was blown away and I’ve loved her music ever since.

I saw on your website something about the Harambee Foundation. What is it and how are you involved?

The Harambee Foundation is a worldwide project that aids parts of Africa through a variety of initiatives that are meant to provide for the many communities there.When I went to Italy a couple of summers ago, I learned of Harambee Gwassi-Kenya, or the Italian Kenya Scout Development Project, from some friends who live there. This particular project works with Kenya in creating and building schools and enriching the land for the betterment of the citizens in accordance with food, nutrition, and more. Its a great cause. They do a lot of good. As for my involvement, I share and talk about it as much as I can, but I’m hoping to do more in the future. You can find out more about Harambee and how to get involved through my website or on their facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/IksdpProgettoHarambeeKenya

Tell me a little about your newest book.

My newest book, the third in what I call the Warren-Bennett-Johnson series, One Minute There, centers on Rhode Island Detective Stephen Bennett who, along with the authorities, is on a frantic search for his step-daughter Melissa, an emotionally fragile girl who disappeared leaving a two victims and a blood trail behind. Bennett is desperate to find her first and his search takes him well beyond New England, where he discovers the girl’s numerous secrets and that he and the cops aren’t the only ones looking for her.

[You can pre-order One Minute There on Amazon.]

What’s next for you?

An audiobook of number 2 in the Warren-Bennett-Johnson series, The Bleeding, is currently underway and is being narrated by the amazing Noah Michael Levine. It’s going to be great! Also, I’m currently working on the next in the series, Black Cradle, which is due out in August.

How can people find out more about you and your books?

You can always contact me or follow me on my website, facebook, or twitter:

The Last Hero, I had to write it (Guest Post by Nathaniel Danes)

This is a guest post from Nathaniel Danes. He can be found at: Facebook, Twitter, Blogspot, and his official website.

I never thought I’d write a book. Heck, for most of my life, getting beyond page three of any school writing project felt like a Herculean task. I think the difference between now and then, is my writing doesn’t feel forced, like the story is there, I just need to get it out. Maybe that’s the difference between writing what you want as opposed to what you have too.

Thinking about it now, it almost feels as if The Last Hero grew itself organically rather than having been written. My over active imagination, love for military history, science fiction addiction, blindness, failed military career, daughter, and more were filtered through my fingers onto the page. It’s a nexus where several pieces of my life came together. Believe me, that sounds far easier than it was.

I’ve always used my imagination as an escape hatch from life. As far back as I can remember I’d bolt from mundane situations in my mind, transporting myself to excitement and adventure. I’m sure most kids do this, but for me, I’ve never stopped. Today, I do this as a coping mechanism. I’m loosing my sight to a genetic disorder, reason for my failed military career, and I find it relaxing to drift off into worlds where I don’t have that limitation.

These fantasies were always content to live inside my head until I read The Forever War. That classic sparked something inside me. Science fiction has always been my preferred genre for TV and movies, but as far as books go, I used to only read military history. After stumbling upon The Forever War everything changed. I couldn’t read enough military science fiction and those stories in my head started to become restless.

I also can’t understate the importance of my daughter’s birth in helping to shape the story in my first novel. There are a select few things I truly love in his world, my wife for one, so the feeling isn’t foreign to me. However, I honestly wasn’t prepared for the body blow of raw emotion, of pure unconditional love, I felt the second I held my baby girl for the first time. From then on, I couldn’t imagine a universe that she wasn’t a part of, where that incredible connection didn’t exist. Her presence in my life enriched and brought depth to my fantasy worlds. She brought meaning and purpose to them.

Literally bursting at the seems, I had to get the stories out. So, I started to write and write, then I rewrote and rewrote. Before I knew it, a few years had pasted and I’d written four books. Finally, I decided to try and get one published. Fortunately, Solstice Publishing saw fit to give me a chance and agreed to release the The Last Hero.

If you read my book, I hope you enjoy if and can feel the passion that went into its creation. It will be the first of many, I don’t have a choice, the stories have to come out.

Last Hero cover art

Get The Last Hero on Amazon

A Quick Publishing Story

Okay, so I’m going to be volunteering some time at a local school teaching a programming class. I have things arranged at work and I’m pretty excited about it. Over the last couple of months I’ve been going over there to set up a computer lab for them. This has given me a much need full on nerd experience. I used Edubuntu to set up a server and a bunch of thin clients. It’s totally slick. Big thanks to the folks who developed the Linux Terminal Server Project and those who built it into the Edubuntu distribution. You all made me feel like a hero.

Anyway, because I’m basically in total control of the class, I had to figure out what to teach. After much hair-pulling (okay not really, as I’ve been shaving my head for over a year now…) I settled on scratch. It’s a simple programming language developed by MIT. It has a simple gui interface and through it you can learn a good overview of programming concepts. One of the big selling points for me is that Harvard has produced and open sourced a curriculum for scratch. As in, a curriculum that can be used with kids, not CS majors in college.

There’s only one issue I had with it – there are only pdfs available for the teacher’s manual and the student workbook. I didn’t want to have to print off 119 pages of worksheets for each student. That sounds too much like work.

Fortunately, I have experience self publishing!

I would like to stress at this point that Harvard has released the manual and workbook under a creative commons share alike licence, and they have made no physical books available, only the pdfs.

Anyway, as you probably guessed, that means I have taken matters into my own hands. I took the pdf for the workbook, made a simple cover, and uploaded to createspace. I’m not really looking to get into the educational publishing market, but dang it, I need printed cheap workbooks for my class. So I have it all set up now and published. I’m charging only enough so that I can use the global distribution and make it available everywhere. The book’s live on Amazon now.

And then I realized that the pdf didn’t include page numbers. Sigh. Now, Harvard does make a .doc available of the workbook, so I could open that up and try to mess with whatever formatting they have going on, but again, that sounds like too much work. So I searched around and found A-PDF Watermark, which is in fact pay software, but it’s a lot less than the full adobe acrobat, and it let me overlay page numbers in a way that looks nice. Anyway, things should update soon and then no one can complain about the books at all.

And that’s my story. I should probably do the instructor manual, too.

Merry Christmas, all.

*Sigh* Yet Another Attempted Scam

So I’ve given up on implementing a couple of projects. Not ones that I’ve mentioned here. Other stuff. I got domains for them a long time ago. Now, I can either let the domains expire, or I can try to sell the domains. I figure, “What the heck? Why not try to sell them?” So I find a decent domain marketplace (Sedo.com) and list the domains. The next day I get an email from contact@web-hosting-solution.info (he’s a scammer, so I feel no guilt publishing the email…):

Hello!

I’m a representative of an investor from Strasbourg (France). He is interested in purchasing [My Domain].

My client has $497,000 budget for several domains. Just include your price to the subject line.

If you have other domain names please send them to me. I have regular meetings with major internet investors and may offer them your best names.

How do you want to get paid? Escrow, Wire or Paypal?

Best Regards,

Martin Roisman

Vice President

VP Web Solutions

Switzerland
Basel
Feldberstrasse 64
Phone: 61 263 71 84

Okay, so it already looks spammy/scammy, what with the “My investor has a half mil” crap and such. But hey, I am trying to sell the domain, so I email him back.

I currently have the domain listed through Sedo.com. I would prefer to work through their escrow. Here’s the listing.

[link to my listing at Sedo]

And I soon get a response

I’m unhappy with your low price. It does not allow me to earn a good commission on this sale. Please note I don’t buy your domain. I’m a representative. I buy your domain for my client. So I’m very motivated to finish this deal. I’m ready to help you with the process, transfer and any other things.

I’m not interested in sales under 1000 usd. I suggest you to change your price to $5000. Of course, the budget of my client is not unlimited but he can afford this sum. Ok?

What country are you from? Do you sell a domain or a web site? Web site is not necessary. My client is more interested in the domain name only.

He is also interested in purchasing gambling, accounting, insurance and adult names.

How can we pay you (PayPal, Western Union, escrow.com etc.)? If this is your first time domain sale I may help you with the sale/transfer process.

Are you a member of domain seller communities/forums? Probably, we know each other under some nicknames?

So that clinches it. This guy is a scammer of one way or another. I had the domain listed at $399, and this guy wants me to add $4601 to the price? Just so his “client” can pay a whole lot more? Anybody who would do that is unethical and not to be trusted. Plus, dangling a bigger payoff in front of me is just a way to get a mark on the hook. I google it up and find out this is a common scam. If I keep going he’s going to ask me to get some kind of “website certification” so his investor can know I’m legit. The certification is expensive, and once a mark has paid for it, this “Domain Broker” guy will disappear. Still, I’m always interested in this kind of thing, so I raise the price on Sedo and email him back:

I changed the price per your request. I am mostly a web developer. I usually buy domain names when I have a website, app or business idea. Sometimes I have to let go of the idea, then I’ll sell the domain. So yeah, I’ve bought and sold a few names, but I’m not really in the business of it, so I don’t read any seller forums or anything. This is the first time I’ve listed on sedo.com, though, and I’ll be using their built in escrow system.

Sure enough, the guy responds:

5000 – Ok.

Before we proceed with the sale my client needs only one thing from you:

My client is an experienced investor and he buys certified domains only to avoid potential risks with trademarks and overpriced/stolen domains. So simple certificates from GoDaddy or Sedo do not suit the needs of my client. He needs a complete certification with a valuation and a trademark infringement verification.

The proper certification contains three points:

1. Independent valuation of the market price. It will show your domain name is not overpriced. On the other hand if the valuation comes higher we will increase the price accordingly.

2. Trademark infringement verification. It proves your domain has no trademark problems.

3. Verification of the owner. It proves you are a legitimate owner and your domain has no any obligations and restrictions. I’m sure that you are a legitimate owner so it will be only a formality.

If your domain has been certified please email me the certificate and we will proceed with the sale. If you don’t have the certificate it’s not a problem. I may send you a link where you can obtain it. You can read about the certificate agency at http://answers.google-answers.net/archive/threadview109625.htm (“Domain Broker” is my nickname).
.
Please don’t worry. It takes 1-2 minutes to order it. The results will be sent to you within 24 hours. Then you send me the certificate via email and we’ll proceed with the sale As a broker I’m very interested in a good valuation part of this certificate because my client pays me a commission (10-15% of the sale price) on every domain purchase. So I’m not interested in a low price too.

The process is very easy:

1. Go to the certificate agency site and order a certificate. Just submit your domains and let them know you have a buyer with $X,XXX offer and need a valuation near this value. After several hours you will get the results. If the price in your certificate comes higher we will increase our offer accordingly.

2. Then send these results via email and we’ll proceed with the deal.

If you are new to the certification process I can help you with the step by step instructions.

This email, of course, has many problems. I wonder how hard this guy will try to get my $200 or whatever the “certification” costs. Will he just let me go if I balk at all?

Okay, sounds good. But before I order I have a couple of questions.

1. Why do I have to pay for your client’s due diligence? If he’s demanding an appraisal, he should order one himself. That way, he’d be more sure of the valuation. I don’t want him to feel like he’s being scammed.

2. Anybody can make a free, fast search at the trademark office’s website. Just do a search. Again, your client should feel much more confident if he makes the search himself directly from the source.

3. Anybody can readily verify ownership by using any public whois service. After all, it’s where you got my contact information, no? What is the certificate authority going to do to verify that a whois search cannot?

I’m excited for this deal to move forward. Please answer my questions so I feel comfortable in the process.

I’d like to point out something from his email. He references google-answers.net. The domain google-answers.net is spoofed to look like the now defunct google answers platform. It is also owned by somebody other than google. Also, while the link itself works, there is nothing else, not even a landing page on answers.google-answers.net or on google-answers.net.

Anyway, he sends me a response:

It’s a standard practice to provide buyers with the TM verification and certification. It’s very important for us to know the real market value of your domain and be sure the domain has no trademark problems.

We cannot order it. This service can be ordered by an owner only. They will verify you.They provide deeper analysis. It’s not only the WHO IS check. They also appraise your domain and verify all possible trademark risks. My client needs an opinion of independent experts.

My client won’t proceed without this verification.

My favorite part is where he says, “It’s very important for us to know the real market value…” this is two emails after he asks me to jack up the price over 1,000%. There is so much in his email that I could rip on in my next response, but I’ll see if I can string him along just a little longer.

I think you might be mistaken about their requirements. Nowhere on certificationagency.net’s website does it say that only owners can order a valuation. In fact, it does not ever even ask if you are an owner. It just whisks you through to the pay now page. I even read their user agreement. They must have changed their policy since last you checked. They would be shooting themselves in the foot if they said “only owners,” anyway, as none of the other domain appraisers have that restriction.If your client is looking at a long list of names in which to invest, I’m sure he’d be willing to spring for one of certificationagency’s bulk options, as the price is much, much cheaper per domain. Like 70 euros per domain cheaper. And as you said, he has almost $500,000 with which to do his investing. Still, if he is such a tightwad, I’d be happy to reimburse your client for the portion of his bill that pertains to my domain’s valuation, or to reduce my price accordingly. I would just need a copy of the valuation or a copy of a receipt so I can track the expense on my taxes.

He responds:

The certificate will become your own property. You can use it to sell to any buyer.  It increases the value of your domain. So it’s a common practice when the seller pays for it.

There is no risk for you. You can use the certificate to sell your domain to any serious seller. Without the certificate you can sell your domain for $200-$300 only. So sooner or later you will have to order it. Please don’t worry. All my clients ordered certifications there. They give good values.

My response:

Well, the reason I am reluctant to order another is I have already received another appraisal. I was just lowballing the price on sedo so that I could start an auction and really see what the market will bear. Will you ask your client if he will accept an appraisal from DomainAppraisal.org? After all DomainAppraisal is BBB certified, and their appraisals are “trusted by the IRS.” They are also an “Unbiased appraisal company.” Certificationagency is none of those things.

Also, you should really warn your client. Faked certificates could easily be sent via email. Your client would not be able to verify that the certificate really came from where he wanted it to. I’ll attach an example. You really have to be careful out there, as there are many scammers, and they’re out to get ill-gotten gains in their pockets from honest folk.

This is why all serious investors order their own appraisals. As a domain broker, you should be teaching him these things.

Here’s my attachment:

certificate2

Hours later, I go to bed thinking that he’s given up. But low and behold, in the morning I have a message waiting.

The certification agency sends an URL of the certificate so you can check it’s legitimacy on their web site. So fake certificates are not possible in this case. That’s why my client trusts this site.

I’m getting bored now, so I’m going to start asking for stuff until he gives up. Here’s my response:

I still have concerns about certificationagency that you never answered. Why don’t they even have the name of their company on the page? How can your client trust such a shoddily designed website? Also, you still haven’t addressed the fact that ANYONE CAN ORDER AN APPRAISAL ON ANY DOMAIN. You have not told me why your client is not willing to pay for his own due diligence, especially when he can order it at such a heavily discounted price if he does it in bulk. This is something investors in EVERY INDUSTRY IN THE WHOLE WORLD do.

Still, I’m willing to pay for the appraisal as long as your client places an earnest money payment into escrow. $500 is probably fair. That way I could know FOR CERTAIN that he’s serious, and not just some shameful, disgusting, amoral, scammer person. This is common practice, and in fact is one of the reasons escrow accounts exist in the first place.

And it looks like that was enough. Haven’t heard from him in two days.


I’d go around the net reporting this jerk’s activity, but most big internet companies make it hard to contact them directly, so I will just write a couple of open letters and hope they are found by the right people.
First Microsoft,
Dear Microsoft/Hotmail,
You have a user, dntrading@hotmail.com, who is the registrant for WEB-HOSTING-SOLUTION.INFO. This user is using that domain to perpetrate fraud and scam people out of their money in a domain registration scheme. Please investigate and disable this user’s account if you find it violates your terms of service.
Thanks,
Bryce
Now the big G.
Dear Google,
There is a website, google-answers.net, that is clearly infringing on your trademarked logo and impersonating your now-defunct Google answers service. They are doing this as part of a scam. You can see an instance of this fraud here: http://answers.google-answers.net/archive/threadview109625.htm Please have your lawyers issue cease and desist letters to the registrants, the host, and the sponsoring registrar.
Thanks,
Bryce
Now for all website registrations involved.
Dear GoDaddy,
Three domains (web-hosting-solution.info, certificationagency.net, and google-answers.net) are working together as part of a scam to steal peoples money. I do not know if all three are owned by the same entity, but you are listed as the sponsoring registrar for all three. Please turn over these domain owners’ contact information to local law enforcement agencies.
Thanks,
Bryce
And last:
Dear other owners of domain names:
Please be careful out there. Scammers abound.
Cheers,
Bryce

What I’ve been up to.

Okay, so I just launched yet another piece of software. It’s for Markdown nerds like myself. It is a previewer / exporter. I wrote it because the preview screens in most markdown editors suck. It’s commercial this time unlike the many freebies I’ve put out. That’s mostly because I’m still paying off the 9 week early baby my wife and I had almost 9 months ago. Every little bit helps.

You can check it out at http://www.textprex.com.

Also, I’ve been finishing up the re-redo of my How To Self Publish a Book project. I have the processes all down (I think) I just need to finish documenting them. I worked out an excellent paperback template as I’ve been helping a couple of people self-publish, including my sister-in-law. You can see her book  here. The other book will go up next week sometime.

After that, I’ll finish up the kids’ book that’s been gathering digital dust for so long.

Yesterday, a SMS Conversation With My Wife

Wife: Wait till you see the mess I just found.

Wife:

mess

Me: Yikes. Is that diaper creme?

Wife: Xander is in so much trouble when I find him.

Me: What makes you think it was Xander?

5 minutes pass.

Wife: Found him.

Wife:

xander

Me: Whoa.

Wife: He just told me that he is Santa Claus.

The 20 Trades Project

This is the ad I’m placing in some local online classifieds as well as on craigslist.


 

Terrific Water Tank Trailer for Trade

I’m looking to trade this water tank trailer for something else. Something I want more than this tank. I’m not sure yet what would be, so go ahead and make me an offer.

About the trailer: this trailer has a big water tank on it. At one point, the tank held propane, however since that time a tap has been drilled and it’s been filled with water. As such it will no longer hold propane. Note the hitch type. You’ll need one of those hook trailer hitches to take it home with you.

As you can see in the pictures, the tank has been much used and well loved and is no longer in new condition.The tires hold air. They were put on new when the tank was purchased a couple of years ago. I have them back on the rim and pumped up, and as soon as I find my phone, Ill swap out the pictures.

Possible uses:

* Put a leaky hose on it and drip irrigate your tomatoes all day long with warm water for a week, probably more.

* Tow it behind a jeep or something in a parade. Get all the kids in your neighborhood to walk behind it, filling their squirt guns on the fly so they can hose down parade watchers. You will be the most loved AND hated person in the parade.

* Hold cleanup water to make any location a possible scout camp.

* Put your keys in. That way you’ll always know where to find them.

* If you’re good with welding and torch cutting, you could cut into this sucker and make a truly epic mobile grill / smoker. You would be invited to all the cool parties. Bonus points if you coat it with heat resistant pink paint so that it resembles a pig.

* Use as cover during a firefight.

* Speaking of fire, you could paint it red and pretend it’s a fire truck.

* Fill with candy to make the world’s most extreme pinata.

I suppose I might accept a cash offer, but I’d really rather trade for something. Especially something interesting.

water water2


 

This is the beginning of an experiment wherein my father and I are going to make 20 total trades to see what we end up with. We suspect this process may take a while. If anything amusing happens with this, I’ll let you know.

 

Stone Patrick

What are three things about you that you want everybody to know?

1. My interest in writing a novel started late in life, when I was in my 40’s, as I resisted putting words to paper for the longest time. Only when I realized that I enjoyed telling stories did I think about creating a book as an outlet to the stories that I wanted to tell.

2. I don’t lead a very interesting life and nothing truly exciting ever happens to me, so a lot of what I like to write about are adventures that I wish I could have.

3. I hope to someday be rich and famous so that I can quit my day job and devote 100% of my free time to travelling the world, visiting the places that I have only read about or seen on TV.

What is one thing about you that almost nobody knows?

1. I would love to be a NASCAR driver!

Let’s say you sell a million copies of your book tomorrow. Where’s the first place you visit?

While this is a tough question to answer, my first choice would be to go on a Mediterranean cruise with my wife. We would start in Lisbon, Portugal and travel to Spain, Italy, Greece, and then end in Israel.

Was there a specific moment that made you say “You know, I should write a novel.”?

That moment hit me when I started reading a e-zine published by Randy Ingermanson aka The Snowflake Guy. His approach to writing a novel was very matter-of-fact, and I continue to subscribe to his monthly newsletter because of the quality of information that he provides to both new and experienced authors.

So did you actually use the snowflake method when writing The Fallen Body?

I did not use the snowflake method when writing The Fallen Body. Instead, I created a series of action scenes — about twenty or so — that outlined the general plot, and then wrote those scenes one right after the other. I created transitional scenes in between when needed and weaved them all together.

Tell me about The Fallen Body.

The Fallen Body is about a small-town lawyer, Taylour Dixxon, who meets Sarah Cockrell Baines, a New Jersey socialite and millionairess. Their budding friendship begins with promise. However, soon after they meet, Sarah is arrested for the murder of her husband. When Taylour volunteers to defend Sarah, she has no idea that her struggling solo law practice in the sleepy, fictional, small town of Marlinsville, Texas, will be turned upside down. From a lovable, adolescent nephew who moves in with her, to a hired assassin who is determined to hide the truth, and a handsome Texas Ranger who becomes the object of affection in a love triangle between the two friends, Taylour’s life will never be the same.

So what is next for you as a writer?

I am going to continue the Taylour Dixxon series with at least two more books, one of which I have already started. My goal is to have the second one done by October 2014 so that I can start the third during NaNoWriMo in November 2014.

What should I have asked, if only I had known you well enough to ask?

Q: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

The book starts out focusing on the death of Neil Baines, and how a small-town lawyer, Taylour Dixxon, found herself defending the wife, who is the one accused of perpetrating the crime. I chose a small-town lawyer because I wanted to highlight the challenges that these sole practitioners face, day in and day out, as they try to practice law outside of the big city. The message that I want the reader to come away with is that the job of a lawyer, especially in a small town, is vitally important to the sustainability of order in society. It can sometimes be a thankless job, but in the end, Taylour knows that this is where she belongs.

For more about Stone Patrick & The Fallen Body:

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Interview with Daniel Danser

Today I have an interview with Daniel Danser, Author of “The God Particle.”

What are three things about yourself you think everybody should know?

The inspiration for The God Particle came after a business trip to Geneva, Switzerland. I was winding down after a hard days work in the hotel bar when I overheard two technicians from the nearby CERN Institute discussing the Hadron Collider. On the television were the devastating scenes of the 2011 Japanese tsunami. I put the two together, which formed the plot for the book.

Whilst doing my research for the novel I came up against a lot of resistance from the scientific community when I started asking poignant questions, such as: How can we be sure that the recent spate of so-called natural disasters aren’t as a result of something we are doing? Has humanity reached a tipping point of developing technology so profound, that it can destroy the human race? What if the motives for scientific discovery are not necessarily for the benefit of mankind?

Which brings me to my third point; I discovered that the search for the God Particle has already cost the contributing countries $15 billion. Putting that into perspective NASA cut their space exploration program to save $310 million that’s a third of what CERN spend every year on running costs for the Large Hadron Collider. So what are they going to do when they find the God Particle? The last time such a vast amount of money was spent on a single project by so many countries was in 1943, it was codenamed The Manhattan Project and the outcome was the atomic bomb! Need I say any more?

What is one thing almost nobody knows?

What almost nobody knows about me is that since I published The God Particle, I have been threatened and intimidated to such an extent that I have felt compelled, for the safety of my family, to leave my home country and relocate to the relative anonymity of The Middle East…and of course Daniel Danser isn’t my real name!

Hope it’s not too heavy for you but the more people who know the truth, the safer I will be.

Do you come from a scientific profession, or did you start this as a writer looking for good ideas?

I’ve always been interested in science – ever since my first chemistry set as a child. It was my best subject at school and I’ve always kept abreast of the latest developments by reading scientific journals. I’m sure that if I hadn’t taken up writing as a profession, the lure of the Bunsen burner, white lab coat and wild hair would have got me in the end.

You obviously feel pretty strongly about the dangers of some scientific research. Why write about them in a novel rather than pursue a more journalistic venue?

When I left university I worked in the newspaper industry and the sad truth is that stories get manipulated and edited for the benefit of the media owners. The great advantage of ebooks is that you can express your opinions without fear of censorship and get your message over to a global audience.

The other downside of newspapers is their transient nature; a ‘big’ story will hit the headlines for one day, if it gets enough response there may be a follow-up article the next day but then that’s it. It will inevitably get replaced by the next ‘big’ story, such is our appetite for new news. An ebook on the other hand is more enduring, once published its out there for future generations to discover.

Don’t get me wrong, “The God Particle” isn’t the gospel according to Daniel Danser, it’s a work of science fiction based on science fact; an action-adventure thriller that takes the popular theory – “Every time the world’s largest machine (the Large Hadron Collider), fires-up, a so-called ‘natural’ disaster occurs – tsunami, earthquake volcanic eruption etc” – to the next level. The hypothesis has been around for a while, I’ve just added the flesh to the bones in a way that I hope will entertain as well as inform.

So what is “The God Particle” all about?

CERN’s Hadron Collider is the world’s most powerful machine; its sole purpose is to prove the existence of the mysterious God Particles – the essential building blocks of the universe. But after a series of global catastrophes, suspicion arises as to whether they are occurring naturally or are somehow connected to the collider’s experiments.

After the sudden death of the project’s director general, professor of physics at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Tom Halligan, is headhunted by CERN’s governing council to continue the search for the elusive particles.

He is soon embroiled in a titanic struggle against sinister forces that are intent on creating a chain of events, the outcome of which will determine the fate of mankind.

The battle to save the planet from annihilation is being fought by the most unlikely of heroes.

What did you do to help your book crack the Amazon top 30 for its category?

I knew from the outset that writing a good novel was only the beginning of the journey to becoming a best seller. When you put your pen down that’s when the real work start. You have to have a marketing strategy that will differentiate your book from the millions that are available, this involves using all the tools that are available on the web – blogging, interviews, online reviewers, facebook, twitter, youtube and of course your own website.

What is next for you as a writer?

People who have read my book are saying that they can’t wait for the sequel and as tempting as it is to sit down and write my next novel, I’m disciplined enough to know that you have to maintain the momentum generated by the current one, otherwise it could slip into oblivion. So more blogging, more interviews and more tweets. Ultimately I would like to see the book turned into a film but that’s a whole new skill-set I have to learn to attract the right people in the film industry, having said that, I am a quick learner.

What should I have asked you if only I had known you well enough to ask?

Good question – I suppose you should have asked me when my birthday was, so you could have sent me a card (it was last week by-the-way). If I were interviewing myself, I would ask, “What drives you as a writer?” and the simple answer would be to make people think about what’s really going on around them. I’ve already spoken about how certain people have reacted to the novel and if I can inspire others to ask the same questions that I have asked then maybe when there’s enough of us we will get the answers.

To learn more about Daniel Danser:

God-Particle600

Meet William M. Brandon III

Today I’m pleased to introduce William M Brandon III. He just released a new novel called SILENCE and was kind enough to spend some time trading emails with me.

William and his wife.

William and his wife.

What are three things you think everybody should know about you?

  1. I’m a Los Angeles ex-pat, having escaped to the simpler life in NE Georgia. My recent move w/ my Wife and our six-year-old son is the 56th time I’ve changed addresses in my life.
  2. I prefer to write on typewriters.
  3. I began SILENCE when I was 19 years old (I am currently 38)

What is one thing almost nobody knows?

I love the Peaches’ album “Teaches of Peaches”

56 moves is a lot. You’re probably pretty good at it by now. 

Very good; prior to meeting my wife I had my worldly possessions down to three boxes and my typewriters. Less is always more in that regard.

Do you have plans to settle down there in Georgia?

We are definitely very settled. We plan to stay here until our little man graduates from school, then the Wife and I may skip the country for a little while.

Okay, I’m intrigued by the typewriters thing. Do you have one at home that you use to do the first draft or something?

I have several: a Burroughs (of adding Machine fame), a Olivetti Lettera 22,1923 Remington Portable, 1966 Smith-Corona, and an Olympia SM-4. The Olympia is the only fully functioning typer at present, although the Lettera is very close and so is the Smith-Corona. When I start a long project I like to start on a typewriter because it prohibits me from editing the hell out of everything I write. Using a typewriter helps me put together a body of work to edit, rather than editing to death a few pages and paragraphs  which I inevitably do on a laptop. My first attempt at a novel (SILENCE) was written long hand on legal pads at first – my desktop typing was far slower than my printing. While I was taking the initial parts of SILENCE and putting them together, my company performed an office product purge and I took home a late 80s electric typewriter. I loved being able to produce sheets of writing rapidly, and I have a deep nostalgia for the use of typewriters as a means of collecting ideas and thoughts. However, when it comes to editing a 300 page manuscript, I’m a big advocate of the laptop!

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One of William’s many machines.

Are there aftermarket parts available for those old typewriters, or do you have to search thrift and antique stores?

No sir, it’s all cannibalism now; weak machines have to be sacrificed to keep the strong ones going. For 70s/80s machines there is a dwindling supply of parts, but prior to that your best hope is to find a cheap typewriter on eBay, an antique store, or an estate sale and use it for spare parts. People also become creative, e.g. degradation of the piece of rubber surrounding the platen is a very common issue with antique typers. Industrial rubber isn’t manufactured on the level it once was, so collectors developed ways of stripping wires and taking their coating and applying it to typewriter platens…voila! The outland areas of Hollywood, like Burbank, and North Hollywood are excellent for typewriter shopping: all of the old movie props flow through the second-hand and antique stores and are usually in good enough condition. There is also a full typewriter repair and restoration shop in Glassell Park, California, but I haven’t found its equivalent in Georgia.

Any other hobbies besides writing and typewriters?

I’m an auto-didact, so pretty much anything that inspires me to learn. I’ve been programming in PHP and SQL for a little over a decade. Though I primarily use this skill for profit, it very much began as a quest for knowledge. I also do a lot of design work, from web design, to branding, to publication and digital layout. I’ve also been a drummer in bands off and on for the past twenty-five years. However, keeping up with my step-son’s VAST knowledge of dinosaurs is probably the most intensive hobby I presently participate in :)

Have you been writing SILENCE on and off this whole time, or is it something that you just put away for a while and recently dug back out and finished up?

I stopped working on it in 2000, aside from correcting an occasional spelling or grammatical error, it remained untouched until last year. That made the project very interesting: since SILENCE I’ve written several novels, and a bevy of short stories, so my writing has changed, refined I hope. I decided to send the manuscript to my editor, Elise Portale, as unchanged as possible from the 2000 version. Elise did a superb job of challenging me to develop many underdeveloped parts of the plot and to further develop the characters. Making changes, edits and additions in my old “voice” was a lot of fun and less paradigm-shifting than I had feared. I consider the manuscript done now, prior to completing the novella for Black Hill Press it felt unfinished to say the least.

So give me the elevator pitch for SILENCE.

SILENCE is about a man who is almost completely ruled by his desires. He is the embodiment of reckless youth; recklessness I experienced my early twenties. Dean O’Leary, SILENCE‘s protagonist suffers from a lack of subtlety and as a result is akin to the old saying, “He’d burn the house down because the front door squeaks.” It’s a love story, a journey, a and a thriller as seen through the eyes of a person consumed by his desires and always just short of complete personal destruction.
Thanks William!
For more about William M Brandon III:

Plus, if you’re in the area, you can catch William doing book signings this month at Hendershot’s in Athens, Ga, on April 16th (http://hendershotscoffee.com/event/silence-by-william-bill-m-brandon-iii-book-signing-and-reading/) and at Book Soup in Los Angeles on May 16th (http://agentofdiscord.com/book-soup-los-angeles-may-16th/)

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Dean O’Leary is a man who lives on the edge: of life, love, and happiness. After a bank robbery gone horribly wrong, Dean leaves his life of crime in Los Angeles and exiles himself to the cold grey sands of Las Vegas. A cruel and unusual twist of fate shows Dean a life filled with the love and hope that he has always thought impossible, and then rips it away. With nothing left to lose, Dean goes all in on one final crime.
Editor’s Quote:

“Many a yarn has been woven around the quest for love. But that familiar tale starts to fray at the edges when young Dean O’Leary, a bank robber whose pinstripe suit is a better fit than the age in which he lives, packs up his cigarettes and his battered heart to start fresh in Las Vegas. With a voice and style that drag you in, Brandon sets up a character whose neurotic, mile-a-minute mind echoes the desire, anxiety, depression, and insanity found at every intersection on the road to love. From Dean’s ultimate highs to his rock-bottom lows (making a quick pit-stop at the surreal), Brandon will take you on an emotional walk in a desperate man’s wing-tip shoes—and you’ll be hooked from the very first step.”-Elise Portale

Idea for a Book I Will Never Write #2

I wrote this as an entry to Bruce Schneier’s Seventh Movie-Plot Threat Contest. I guess that makes it a movie I will never write, then. But you never know, as I already have a bunch of outlines for a political thriller / hacker series. If that ever happens, this may get worked into something.

A plucky young hacker is hired by a freshman senator after he receives an encrypted blackmail message signed by his contact at a major campaign-contributing corporation. She doesn’t care about the politics, only her fee. He is being blackmailed for information that he thought was stored securely on his computer. He says she needs to be careful, and she shows him the stun gun in her purse.

She buys him a brand new laptop, and within hours she notices it sending out packets of information. The computer must have spyware that no vendor is catching. That night a scary man breaks into the senator’s office, steals something valuable and implants a tiny hardware device in the new laptop. She follows him out, but loses him outside near an NSA office.

She social engineers her way into the contact’s office at the corporation. While she is there, his computer receives an encrypted message from the senator with the subject “For the right price…” On her way out of the office she glimpses the scary man in a crowd.

Back with the senator, she learns not only that he didn’t send the email she saw, but that he received another threat email from the computer she was using- while she was using it.

Upon further research, she finds a lot of network traffic heading to and from the senator’s machine to the NSA office she saw before. Using a packet capturing device, she is able to discover that the NSA office is transferring huge amounts of data with the big NSA facility in Utah, but the data is all encrypted.

She breaks into the NSA office, and figures out what is going on. The NSA is using the senator as a honeypot against the corporation, and the corporation as a blackmailer against the senator. This is done automatically, and without human interaction. It knows what will work best, and it knows how to mimic everybody’s communication patterns, due to the ubiquitous data harvesting. It knows everyone’s encryption keys and sensitive data due to trojan spyware and hardware devices. It is not just the senator and the corporation being manipulated either. It is thousands of people, maybe millions – anyone with power or money. Before she collects hard evidence or installs a backdoor, the scary man shows up and almost kills her.

She reports to the senator, who is obviously conflicted over something. He fires her and pleads with her to stay away. She argues with him, having decided the money isn’t important after all. As she leaves the senator’s office the scary man attacks her. She manages to stun him, then grab the gun he drops. She shoots him as he charges. She steals his NSA ID and uses it to enter the NSA office, where she uses mad hacking skills to destroy the automatic people-controlling system.

Two weeks later, she is approached by another politician saying he’s received an encrypted blackmail message signed by his contact at a major labor union.

How to Combine wav/mp3 Files (Using free tools)

I know that this is random, but I came upon this problem for a project at work. Googling it led me to a bunch of commercial solutions and non-useful resources. I wanted at least one useful article to have a chance in the search engines.

Here was my Problem

I have many directories of wav files that in the old days were used to create a CD set which we sold. We haven’t sold the CD course for several years now, and the boss recently said “Let’s release the whole shebang for free as a podcast or something.” I could go through and convert and tag all the wav files to mp3s and then post them separately. But I’m lazy and some of the 18 or so CDs have over 20 tracks. How much easier would it be if I could just combine one CD’s worth of material into a single track?

This is pretty straightforward to do in Audacity, but I would still have to import all those tracks and line them up end to end. I wanted something a little more automated. What I found was a command line tool called sox. Sox is cross platform, so you can do this on Win/Mac/Linux, although my comments will be directed specifically for the windows crowd.

Now to The Useful Part

  1. Download & install sox (Sound Exchange) Make sure you put sox on your “path.” If you don’t know how to do that, here’s one walkthrough.
  2. Download & unzip the LAME mp3 Encoder into the sox directory. On that download page, I used the x86-Win32 version. You’ll need this if you are working with mp3 files.
  3. Put a bunch of audio files that you want to merge into a directory.
  4. Open a command window in that directory. If you are in the windows file explorer, you go can hold down shift while right clicking on a folder. “Open command window here” will appear on the pop up menu.
  5. Type the sox command.
    sox input_file_name_1.wav input_file_name_2.wav [... more input file names] output_file_name.mp3

    Now let sox do it’s magic. My files were already conveniently named in the order I wanted them in the merged file, so I could use

    sox *.wav output.mp3

    Note: if you have a lot of files, this will take a while. Just have faith that your prompt will eventually come back.

  6. Rejoice

You can do a lot more with sox if you want the output mp3 to have different-than-the-default quality and bit rate. You can also boost volume and do all sorts of other processing. All of that, however is beyond the scope of this post.

There, now I only have to tag 18 files rather than spend a whole day doing it.

Oh, and if you’re at all curious as to the project I’m doing, it’s a real estate investment training course. I’ll start posting the audio files within a day or two.

Selling Books for Bitcoin

Bitcoin?

Let’s just assume you’ve already heard of bitcoins. If you haven’t, check out this bitcoin introduction video or read this article

I like the idea of bitcoins for several reasons.

  1. The cryptography and peer-to-peer basis for it appeal to my nerd self.
  2. The anonymous and unregulated nature of it appeals to my libertarian self.
  3. The feeless transactions appeal to my business self.

That’s not so say I’m switching any real portion of my finances to bitcoins. Sure, I love the ideas behind it, but there are wild swings in the dollar to bitcoin exchange rate, so I’m a little bit weary of exchanging cash for bitcoins at MtGox or any of the other exchanges.

However, I have a couple of novels with all the rights, so I figured “Why not just sell my ebooks for some bitcoin?” After all, it shouldn’t cost me anything, and I might get some new readers to boot. And if I do sell a few copies, maybe I’ll be able to buy something awesome at the Bitcoin Store.

If you’d like to join me in trying out bitcoins without risking your dollars, here’s how to get started.

First Steps

The first step is to get a bitcoin wallet. You can think of a bitcoin wallet as a bank account where you’ll get paid. You have a bunch of options. Here’s a list of wallets

For what it’s worth, I started with the Blockchain Browser Extension

Bitcoin eBook Stores

Once you’ve got a way to receive payments, publishing your book is similar to the self publishing tools available through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Smashwords.

If you’ve self published at other places, you probably have epub, mobi, and pdf versions of your book. Put them in a zip file. That way whoever buys your book will get it in a format he can use. Make you you tell people in your product descriptions exactly what they’re getting.

Now it’s time to check out the places where you can list your book. There’s only a couple of stores at this point. Only one seems to actually work, and that’s http://coindl.com. There’s also http://www.bitbooks.co, but it’s not quite production ready yet.

CoinDL.com

CoinDL is a general digital goods marketplace. They sell music, software, ebooks, and such. It isn’t well organized for authors, and the eBooks section currently has no subcategories. I’m certain as their catalog grows they’ll gave to fix that.

To get going, you need to first sign up for an account, then apply to become a vendor.

Sometimes it takes them a while. It took about 3 weeks for them to approve my application. Then once you upload your book, you have to wait for them to review your file. One good thing is that you can set the base price of your book in US dollars. The site then figures out what to charge the customer based on the current exchange rate. With the volatility in that rate, this is a good thing.

Like I said, There are a couple of other ebook stores out there, but I think they need to work out some technical issues before they will really work.

Fortunately, there is another way to go about it…

Sell it Yourself.

You can do this the old fashioned way by having buyers send money to your bitcoin wallet and then you manually send them an email with your book. That seems like a lot of work, though. Unless you only plan on selling one book a month, you probably want to automate the process.

I looked around and found some possible solutions.

  1. Universal Digital Shop
  2. Bitshop
  3. WordPress + WooCommerce + Bitcoin Payments for WooCommerce. (You’ll need an Electrum Wallet for this one)
  4. Satoshibox
  5. BTC File

Here’s the deal with the first three: I’m not going to walk you through using them (at least today.) If you’re nerdy enough to even want this, you probably don’t need my help. And you’ll need to be very comfortable installing software on your own website to do these.

Numbers 4 and 5 are easier and require no software installation. They are general solutions for selling any digital file, so they’ll work for ebooks just fine.

Satoshi Box

I listed Oasis at Satoshi Box. It took like 20 seconds. You can see it here. It’s a one screen setup process. Super easy. If you then go to that sales page from the same computer you used to upload the file, you’ll have access to some editing features.

Pros:

  • Super easy to set up.
  • There is a built-in affiliate system (also easy to use.)
  • You can delete your file if you need to.
  • There’s a page to see some basic stats (hits and purchases).
  • Currently free to use.

Cons:

  • You can’t change the price of your book.
  • You have to upload your file again to a new “box” with a new price, then go to your old one and set it to forward to your new “box”.
  • The system to edit your file is way insecure. It just checks to see if your computer is the one that uploaded the file, and then gives you editing access. Never upload anything from a public computer.
  • Also, the sales page is rather plain, and you can’t add any description or images, just a title.
  • It provides no way for a customer to find your book. there’s no browsing or categories or search or anything. You have to drive all traffic to it yourself.

BTC File

BTC File is a service similar to Satoshi Box. It can be used to sell any digital file you want. I uploaded The Journey of St. Laurent here Again, start to finish, it took less than a minute.

Pros:

  • You can set the price based on whichever currency you want, and that amount will be converted to bitcoin when a user visits your purchase link.
  • You can edit the price anytime.
  • Setup is super easy, just drop a file onto the form, then set the price and your bitcoin address.

Cons:

  • All someone would need is your edit url to change the price or commandeer the payment address. Protect that edit url at least as well as you would any password. Also, save that url or you’ll never be able to edit anything. There is no way for you to recover it if you lode it.
  • There is no title or description of your book that a buyer sees. They only see the name of the file you uploaded.
  • It provides no way for a customer to find your book. there’s no browsing or categories or search or anything. You have to drive all traffic to it yourself.

In Conclusion

Well, there you have it. Now you can get started earning some bitcoin.

And maybe some weekend if there’s any interest I’ll put up some kind of directory for BTC File and Satoshi Box uploaded ebooks.

Idea for a Book I Will Never Write #1

Okay, so have you heard about the crazy ant problem in Texas? It makes me itch all over just to think about them. Go read that article. I’ll wait here.

Done? Good.

Here’s the second bit of ant-related bizarreness: Zombie ants.

Here’s the story idea that I will never have time to write. You’re welcome to it, although I suspect that you as a writer already have too many of your own ideas as it is.

The idea for the story’s milieu is the intersection of those two news items. Crazy ants invade and spread so much that whole town are being abandoned. The human population shifts itself ever northward. Traditionally exterminating the ants becomes a problem: the colonies are just too strong and they spread too quick. So some genius comes up with the right strategy. She thinks, “You know what we need? We need a pesticide that spreads itself.” She sets herself to making the zombie ant fungus capable of targeting the crazy ants. Problem solved, right? It would be, except that in her zest to make the fungus more potent or capable of spread, now the fungus can infect humans.

Queue the creepy music.

As a side note, scientists seem to think that both of these oddities have their origin in Brazil. So here’s an eco-bonus addendum to the idea: Maybe it’s the rain forest fighting back…

Also, if you’re a scientist, you should totally get on creating pesticides that spread themselves. Bacterias, viruses (virii?), or fungi, it doesn’t matter. Some may call this field of study biological warfare, but I say it’s just pest control. Once you nail this, you’ll be Soros-Gates-Koch-Walton rich. What could possibly go wrong?

Paperback Writer

I reformatted and updated the paperback version of Oasis so that the paperback cover now matches the (much better) ebook cover. It’s available on Amazon now.

I also got things set up for The Journey of St. Laurent, but as I looked over my proof copy, I noticed a typo on the back cover. Oops. Now I need to wait out the review process again, and order a new proof.

For both, I used Createspace’s new matte cover. Let me tell you, the glossy covers don’t look bad, but the matte ones look great.

Self Publishing is Easy; Writing Still Hard

josl_title

Over the weekend I published the ebook version of The Journey of St. Laurent. I started the whole process Saturday night with a plain text manuscript. About an hour later, I was done. As in done submitting the proper files to three different stores. Each website took whatever time it needed verifying my submission (all had done so by Sunday night, with one half exception) The novel is currently available here:

Gee, Bryce,  how did you do it so fast?

I did not have to sign up for new accounts at any of the three places, so that did save me an extra hour of waiting for confirmation emails and  looking up banking information. Also, I pre-wrote the book description and other info that I was going to need when filling out publishing forms.

The secret, then, to self publishing quickly is automation.

As I’ve discussed before, I primarily use plain text editors and I format the text as I write using markdown. For fiction, this mostly means putting a “#” before chapter titles and then wrapping words/phrases that I want italicized with asterisks. So it’s not like it’s a lot of extra work or anything.

But since my novel was in markdown, and I’ve had a cover ready for almost a year now, there was very little to do.

First, I used SPAB to produce the epub for Barnes and Noble. (Yes, SPAB produces a bunch of other files that can be used, but I wanted to be extra picky about formatting.)

Second, I used Amazon’s Kindle Previewer to convert both the epub mentioned above and the zipped html (produced by SPAB) to mobi, then I picked the one that looked the best to me. That mobi went to Amazon.

Third, I used pandoc along with templates I made for the old version of SPAB to make a LibreOffice odt file. I opened LibreOffice and saved it as a word doc. The word doc got uploaded to Smashwords.

In all fairness, I probably could have just used SPAB and been done with it. However, the file that SPAB produces for Smashwords is an epub. Smashwords will take an epub, but it won’t convert that epub to the ten or so other formats it likes to sell. The book was for sale at Smashwords itself very quickly, but is still pending review to be distributed everywhere Smashwords distributes. That’s the half exception.

Still, the files I needed were ready to go within 15 minutes. Then it was a matter of uploading and filling in forms.

But writing is still hard

Publishing the book was a snap. And even if you don’t use the same method or tools I do, it is still pretty easy. But do you know what wasn’t easy? Writing the thing. Also: editing it.

I’m confident this is a much stronger novel than the last one, but the more I write, the more I recognize my writing weaknesses.

Anyway, the tools to self publish will continue to get better and easier. That only means we writers should spend the extra time bettering our craft.

All Done

Okay, I’ve done several “last” editing passes on the Journey of St. Laurent. I’m pretty happy with the end result. Also, if I don’t quit now, I’ll never finish editing it.

Over the next couple of days I’m going to password protect the posts that make up the final 2/3 of the first draft. Within a day or so after that, the ebook versions should start appearing in Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Smashwords. Paperback to follow in the next couple of weeks.

After I set those things in motion, I’ll be updating Oasis. I added a new first chapter and combed out a couple of lingering typos. The paperback cover is also going to change to match the ebook cover.

And then I’d like to finish up some of the projects I have lying around – the fairy tale book, the “how to self publish” site, at least on of the short stories I’ve started.

Another Editing Update

I finished going over Dane’s suggested edits a little while ago. He helped me out tremendously. Go buy his books. I cut a ton of fat from the story. Like 20,000 words worth. The book just came back from yet another editor, who was searching for typos and major inconsistencies. It should only take a day or two to go over them.

After that, I may very well be ready to prep the thing for publishing.

Five Ways to Plan a Story

NaNoWriMo is upon us again. I don’t think I’ll be trying to hammer out a novel, but maybe I’ll finish up that kid’s book I’ve been sitting on.

As I’ve been planning my next project, I’ve been thinking (again) about the various storytelling frameworks that I’ve come across. Many of these contain similar concepts, but I think all are different enough to be useful.

So without further ado, and in no particular order, here are five of my favorite teachings on story planning.

Dan Harmon’s Story Circles

Dan Harmon is the creator of the TV show “Community.” This borrows heavily from Christopher Vogler’s “The Writer’s Journey,” which in turn borrows from Joseph Campbell’s “Hero Journey.”

Story Structure (Larry Brooks)

Larry’s written several novels and integrates lots of storytelling ideas from the screenwriting world.

5 Act Structure (a la Shakespeare, via Film Crit Hulk)

It’s no secret. I love Film Crit Hulk. His all-caps manifestos are fantastic.

Jim Butcher Style Planning

Jim Butcher pens fantasy novels. He has plenty of writing street cred, with 20 novels published, also had a TV series made from one of his series. He has a (apparently now-defunct) livejournal where he used to lay down some of his thoughts on writing. The part that deals with planning a story is actually the last one “Putting it all Together.”

The Snowflake Method

This was my first introduction to story planning/structure of any kind. It’s an excellent way to write a novel.

The Snowflake Method

Templates

I built some little templates to help me out when I’m planning a new story.

Here they are in two formats: plain text and as a WriteMonkey plugin. You’ll have to make a donation to WriteMonkey to unlock the plugins ability, but I think it’s worth it.

  • Story Planning Worksheets – Zipped .txt files
  • Story Planning Templates – Zipped WriteMonkey plugin. Just unzip the file then copy the “Story Planner Templates” folder into your WriteMonkey’s (ver 1.5+) “plugins” folder. Next time you start WriteMonkey, hit Ctrl+F10 to insert the story planning text. I like to insert it into the repository so I can use it like a story bible.

Too Many Projects

Again, I have started too many projects. I really need to focus on one at a time until they’re done. I guess I did finish the theme update.

Anyway, I haven’t forgotten Journey of St. Laurent. It’s just that editing is such hard work. Sometime this week I’ll dive back into it.

I’m also going to try hard to curtail the number of programming side projects so I can focus on the fiction writing. That being said, I do have another piece of freeware ready to be released as soon as I write up some kind of introduction to it. It’s for writing audio drama scripts, which I’m currently into (again.)