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.”

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.

 

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.

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.

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.)

Free Zombie Stuff Today

On facebook there’s an event happening today called the Zombie Fest Free eBook Bonanza! There are lots and lots of giveaways of ebooks, artwork, and other stuff. Every ten minutes something is being given way. Anyway, sometime during the day (not sure when) a couple of copies of Oasis are going to be awarded. edit: Oasis is going to be free for anyone who wants it, you just need to find the link when you get there.

So if you’re into zombies, go check it out.

In other news…

So much for my early April release of Journey of St. Laurent. My buddy Dane did an editing pass for me, and made a ton of good suggestions. Yes, I want to be done with the book and move on, but I’d also like for it not to suck. So hang in there just a little longer.

Some More Freeware

Yes, I have project ADD. It doesn't help that I have some programming knowledge. Every time I want a piece of software and I can't immediately find exactly what I want, I start making my own. I have hard drives filled with half finished projects.

A little while ago I was digging through some of these old project ideas and I came across the framework for a very simple dream journal. I wrote it intending for it to be released for android and iOS via phonegap.

I hit a technical problem at the time that I could never get straightened out, so I got bored and set it aside.

Fast forward a year or so, and I decided it would be pretty straightforward to make it work on the desktop instead. A couple of days later, I had it working.

If that sort of thing interests you, go check it out: Free Dream Journal Software

The Cover of St. Laurent

I’m putting the final touches on The Journey of St. Laurent, and I thought I’d share what I’ve ended up with as a cover. I may end up tweaking the text a little more, but maybe not.

I’m pretty excited. Adam Masterman painted this one for me as well as the one for Oasis.

cover

Also, if anybody out there is interested in reading the packaged up Journey to help me comb for typos, please let me know. I’d be forever grateful. Just leave a comment on this post, or shoot me an email if you have my address. Or tweet at me.

What Happens Next?

Well, once this goes live on Amazon et al, I’m going to be locking up most of the chapters here on the site. I know that’s a huge bummer for some of you, but I have given it a lot of thought, and that’s just the way it’s going to be. I’m also going to be republishing Oasis soon, with the new first chapter, and I’ll finally get the paperback cover to match the ebook cover. It’s likely I’ll be setting a password for most of the Oasis posts as well.

Then next project I’ll be polishing up will be the “How to Self Publish a Book” book. Once that is over, I’ll go back to fiction, and try to stay focused on it for a while. All my side programming and design projects are fun, but when I look back, I realize I have enjoyed story writing more.

I Think I Have a Problem

You know all those celebrities that get plastic surgery over and over? Sometimes I feel like that’s me with the theme of this blog. I can’t help myself. Every few months, it seems like, I have this uncontrollable urge to tweak my theme. If I give in to this temptation, this tweaking always turns into a total site redesign and rebuild from the ground up.

Anyway, that’s what happened here last week.

Two or three hours that could have been spent actually writing have been lost forever, but at least I have a new theme. But just check out how neat and responsive it is! Go ahead, go and resize your browser window. Make it skinny and then full screen. Stop rolling your eyes at me. It’s awesome.

If you see anything that looks unreadable or out of place, please let me know.

You know, so I can tweak it.

In other news, I think by Friday I’ll be ready to post something real about the new SPAB! If I’m lucky I’ll also be done with my edits to The Journey of St. Laurent. I’ll ask if there’s any of you that want to help me track down any typos.

I’m getting so close. I can’t wait to start completing my long list of works-in-progress.

 

Just Checking In

It’s been a while since I posted anything, so I thought I’d catch you up. Here’s updates as to what I’m working on.

  • SPAB! – this is my simple to use self publishing program. It’s been rewritten to remove dependencies on other programs. It automatically produces the various files you need to upload to the various self-publishing sites. Right now, I’m only packaging it for Windows, but it’s written in python, so I’ll (someday) package it up for other platforms, or at least drop the code on github so that anyone with python installed can run it. I’m very exited about this, and I’ll need some of you folks to help me test it out. This software is also central to my next project, which is-
  • HowToSelfPublishABook.org – this is my tutorial site. I’m rewriting everything to make a simple, cohesive book. I’ll eventually release it as an ebook on Kindle et al. with a couple of bonus chapters for those more advanced types. Needless to say, SPAB! is part of the workflow I’ll be teaching. I haven’t gotten far yet, but you’re welcome to check it out. I’m also using that site to showcase the new version of Book WP.
  • The Journey of St. Laurent – I bet you thought I’d forgotten all about it, didn’t you. Well, now I’ve edited 57 chapters. I’m in the home stretch. I have a feeling the epilogue is going to change, I’ve written out a couple of unnecessary secondary characters, and in general I think it’s a way more gooder awesomer book.
  • I’ll be republishing Oasis in Paperback so it can have the new cover to match the ebook version. And I’m adding a brand new first chapter!
  • Once I get all that taken care of, I’ll finish up the Children’s book I’ve been working on.
  • I’m in early stages of planning a series of novelettes/novellas.
  • I’m toying with the idea of making and selling a couple of smartphone apps.
  • And I’m writing another tiny piece of software related to audio drama scripts (of which I have ideas for many).

 

What’s happening?

Here’s what’s going on in my world recently. I may not have been posting here, but I’ve been staying busy.

  • I’m on Chapter 52 of my “Journey…” edits. The end is in sight!
  • I’m about 3/4 done writing the kid’s book. I think. My daughters ask me every night if I’m ever going to finish it, so I have to keep working.
  • I just wrote a poem explaining my new purpose in life.
  • I’m rewriting SPAB! (Anybody remember that?) in python. Rather than drive other programs to do the file preparation, SPAB will be doing it all.
  • I’m re-writing my how to self-publish a book site. I wanted to focus and streamline the process (hint – it’s going to use the new SPAB)
  • Oh, and in the next week or so, I’ll be releasing the next version of my WordPress theme Book WP. You can already see it in action over at HowToSelfPublishABook.org. It’s been simplified and betterified.

What’s Happening?

Okay, so I got mad at the internet after the great website hack debacle of 2012. Obviously, I haven’t posted anything here in a while, although I did post about how I won the election over at my other blog.

Even though I’ve been quiet, I’ve still been busy. There are a bunch of projects that I’m working on. So if you care, here’s what you can look forward to:

  • A new version of Book WP. This is actually pretty much ready to go right now. It streamlines a couple of things, it’s responsive, there are a couple more options on the back end.
  • The Journey of St. Laurent – I finally rewrote the section in the middle that I’ve been dreading/having trouble with, so now I’ve started hitting the edits again. It feels good to be making progress again.
  • How to Self-Publish a Book – After much thought, I’ve decided to do some major edits, and rewrite the site to be a more focused book. As a result I’ll be cutting a lot of stuff and moving all the guest posts over here (Hope that’s okay, darcknyt). I’ve just got to figure out the correct way to install permanent redirects for those.
  • I’ve also been working on another couple of non-writing-related essays and articles for my personal site. My goal is to post there once a month.

In other news, I’m trying out a new tool for posting this. More on that if it works.

Hacked, and Hacked Again

I’m starting to get a little tired of this crap. I have a bunch of sites hosted on one account. A couple of weeks ago all of them were hacked. A line of code was added to every php file in my account. That code would sometimes automatically redirect people to one of a list of websites.

So after pulling my hair out for a while, I changed all ftp passwords and my backend host password,and got my unix command line on and removed all the code from the infected files. Then I made sure that every site with wordpress was up do date (several weren’t). And I scanned both computers that I use to access the backend to these sites and checked them with two additional malware/virus scanners besides my standard one. (Nothing found).

Two days later, it happens again. I double double check, and apparently I missed one installation of wordpress. For the heck of it, I also went through all my sites, deleting a whole bunch of scripts in case one of those has a vulnerability.

Then I made sure that my hosting account was set to records all raw access logs so I can catch/ban the perpetrator if it ever happens again.

I’ve been so mad that I haven’t written anything in like three weeks.