The Friday Fishwrap Celebrates Summer!

Best Wishes, Dear George:

The BBC Trust has chosen George Entwistle as it’s new Director General. To thatwe say Huzzah!

Despite the many and varied challenges he will be facing, the Friday Fishwrap thinks this is a brilliant move on the trusts part. George is a BBC insider from the creative side of the house, but with plenty of business savvy… and we hope, the political skills he’ll need to navigate the icy waters of Parliament… from which flow the funds needed to produce quality programming.

… and speaking of Quality Programming

As a long-time fan of Inspector Morse, I want to say thanks so very much to our friends at PBS, Masterpiece Theatre and to all involved in the brilliantly written, acted, produced and directed Endeavour

I hope we’ll be seeing more of young Morse.

Meanwhile, The Heat Goes On:

Go almost anywhere in America these days and the only thing one can say is; it’s too hot. Record temperatures have blasted the lower forty-eight for the past week, along with record electricity and water bills.

Lawns everywhere are, except for the weeds, turning brown… but emergency rooms are also seeing record numbers of patients suffering sunstroke and heat exhaustion.

Please, have fun and enjoy the summer, but use common sense. Stay in the shade, keep cool and stay hydrated… non-alcoholically.

In The News:

… From Andrei C at the Dice Blog Network

Had you been paying  attention and not celebrating on July Fourth, you might have learned the European Parliament voted to refuse to ratify ACTA.

Though the outcome was expected, the numbers were telling: 478 to 39.

The popular sentiment against the bill has been running deep in Europe. Earlier in the year, hundreds of thousands marched against it while millions signed anti-treaty petitions.

In the end, the European Parliament concluded that ACTA cannot guarantee adequate privacy protection for citizens.

The vote against ACTA marks the first time the parliament used its powers under the Lisbon Treaty to reject an international trade agreement. Without Europe’s ratification,  chances are ACTA will die as a global effort.

Still, its implementation is being debated in a number of nations, including the U.S., Australia, Canada, Japan, Mexico, South Korea and Switzerland. If six countries ratify, it comes into force within their borders.

And unfortunately, the spirit of ACTA could return to life under another name and with different interpretations.

We at Pages For Small Wages hope wiser heads prevail.

Putting It On The Line, On-Line:

This autumn more than a million students are going to take part in an experiment  that could re-invent the landscape of higher education. Some of the biggest powerhouses in US higher education are offering online courses – testing how their expertise and scholarship can be brought to a global audience.

Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have formed a $60m (£38m) alliance to launch edX, a platform to deliver courses online – with the modest ambition of “revolutionising education around the world”.

edX will provide online interactive courses which can be studied by anyone, anywhere, with no admission requirements and, at least at present, without charge.

You can learn more about it here.

And last but not least for this edition of The Friday Fishwrap…

Here’s wishing you a swinging 

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Monday Musings: Baked And Overloaded

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again:  

The problem with self-publishing is: too many books are published too soon.

Count my voice as just one amongst many across the publishing world that continue to advise self-publishers to get help with editing. 

Not just copyediting but story editing as well. 

More at Forbes On-line.

… Next Up… 

The Department Of Information Overload 

How much of your day do you spend on Social Media, email, mobile chat, etc?

I’d be willing to bet the answer is: far too much.  

When it cuts into your productivity and begins to affect your life and your relationship with family and friends, it’s time to stop and take stock.

OFW Editor-In-Chief Carlos Cortes has done just that, and has some sage words of advice about this dangerous addiction.

And last but not least, it really is…

The Long Hot Summer

With forest fires ablaze in Colorado and elsewhere, average daily temperatures in excess of 100 degrees Fahrenheit across the midwest, and what rain we do get being either too little or too much to do more than be runoff into storm sewers, the summer drought of 2012 may be the worst we’ve seen in years. 

Overloaded power grids can easily become as fragile as raw eggs and air conditioning systems becomes prone to break-down and over-heating, which in turn can cause homes to turn from cool shelter to blazing inferno in a blink. So keep cool, but conserve your energy use.

I know it’s the fourth of July holiday week, but with this weather, outdoor barbecue can cause grass fires that just as quickly turn into flash fires and/or third degree burns or worse.

If you must shoot off fireworks, keep the water hose or buckets of water and sand handy to put out the flames.

Take it easy with that favourite brand of fire-water, especially in this heat, for a little will go a long way.

And whatever else you do, Please… Do NOT Drink and Drive.

You don’t want to become 

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Monday Musings: And Another Thing

The Gods We Pray To?

Writers tend to invoke a variety of deities, and not just “the one, all seeing, almighty” during the course of a writing day.

We pray for Wisdom, to know what to write that will get agents and publishers excited.

We pray not to be made a fool of or make a fool of ourselves when pitching an idea to our agent or publisher… or that our editor doesn’t misinterpret something so badly that the meaning of something in our manuscript becomes perverted or so lost that it is no longer relevant to the story. 

We pray to the deity in charge of Swollen Ankles and other sore anatomical features for relief after a long day of climbing and descending staircases, searching through mouldy, dust-filled boxes in even mouldier, dust-filled basements and archive rooms, looking for research material for the current WiP  or the one we’re planning to do next.

… And of course we pray to any deity that will listen to make it 5 p.m. already so that we can go have drink or three.

Writing is Ten percent Inspiration and 90 percent Perspiration

Some people think that writers/authors finds all of their ideas and inspiration where we live, where we work, and from what we read, see and hear; that unless we are brain-dead, intoxicated or traumatised beyond coherent thought, anyone who is a writer would find it impossible not to fill a blank page.

Another public perception of the writer/author is that we are all either drunks, drug addicts, sybarites or highly disturbed people who should be kept away from the public save for book tours and signings.

The truth is, save for a signing where the author is standing next to a mug-shot and a stack of their books, most people couldn’t pick an author out of a crowd… unless it happens to be a crowd of authors in a bar during a book convention.   

While some of us are paid to do what we love, most writers/authors work for a living. We’re teachers, librarians, business executives, doctors, bartenders, janitors, etc… 

Some of us are even stay at home parents who are busy raising a family, cleaning, shopping and cooking for our spouse and/or off-spring.

Despite the music blaring from behind the sound-proof door that was installed for the teenagers room, the repetitious noise from the game console in the family room that make one want to take a shot-gun to it, and the incessant ringing of the telephone… despite having it changed to yet another unlisted number yesterday, we still manage to find time to write.

Even if we have to do it in the garage at 3am.

Book Reviews That Do Not Amuse

Not everything an author writes is going to be well accepted… much less beloved by everyone who reads a particular book.

And authors, especially prolific ones who publish several books each year… each of which is part of a different series, will inevitably write the occasional ‘clinker.’ 

Still…  there is nothing more frustrating for a writer to read than reviews that aren’t  [reviews]  but instead a gush of passive/aggressive wishy-washy nonsense about how much the reader likes the authors body of work as a whole and therefore is supportive of the book…

But? 

The reviewer then goes on to whine and kvetch about all the things they didn’t like. 

By the end of these kind of reviews I’m left wondering why the reader bothered to read the book, much less write about it. 

And so…

I would like to pass on a piece of wisdom. It’s called The First rule of reviewing, which states… 

If you have nothing good to say, nothing constructive to add, then say nothing.

Please!

… And Thank You! 

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The Friday Fishwrap: Fails The Turing Test

Touring Turing

Take a spin around the World Wide Web today and tomorrow and you’ll see many different posts about the amazing yet far too short life of Alan Mathison Turing.

The Alan Turing Year: 2012 marks the celebration of the life and scientific influence of Alan Turing on the occasion of the centenary of his birth on 23 June 1912. Turing had an important influence on computing, computer science, artificial intelligence, developmental biology, and the mathematical theory of computability and made important contributions to code-breaking during the Second World War.

Happy One Hundredth Birthday to you sir, and thank you.

Meanwhile, I keep Pratchetting onward….

One of the things I love about Terry Pratchett is the way that things from Discworld keep popping up here in the real one. Remember Where’s My Cow?

In Snuff, we find Commander Vimes once again reading to his son.

Vimes’ prompt arrival got a nod of approval from Sybil, who gingerly handed him a new book to read to Young Sam. Vimes looked at the cover. The title was “The World of Poo“.

When his wife was out of eyeshot he carefully leafed through it. Well, okay, you had to accept that the world had moved on and these days fairy stories were probably not going to be about twinkly little things with wings.

As he turned page after page, it dawned on him that whoever had written this book, they certainly knew what would make kids like Young Sam laugh until they were nearly sick.

The bit about sailing down the river almost made him smile. But interspersed with the scatology was actually quite interesting stuff about septic tanks and dunnakin divers and gongfermors and how dog muck helped make the very best leather, and other things that you never thought you would need to know, but once heard somehow lodged in your mind.

There are but a handful of authors who have gone to the lengths Sir Terry and his merry band of faithful followers have gone to present and make as complete a world as one will find surrounding Discworld. 

And so, while we eagerly await this falls arrival of Dodger, we have this gut-spltting contribution by Miss Felicity Beedle to keep us warm.

When All Else Fails, Kickstart It

I’ve been a fan of Kickstarter since it began, and I’m delighted to be able to play a part in helping to bring some amazing and worthy book projects to completion and publication. Two of the most recent are;

Tales of the Emerald Serpent (Ghosts of Taux), an anthology edited by Scott Taylor 

… and Faerie Blood, by Angela Korrati

If you’re looking to read some really great Fantasy writing, I urge you to buy a copy of these books. I think you’ll be as enchanted and delighted with them as I’ve been.

And take a spin over to Kickstarter.  There are some fantastic projects out there, like I HATE READING! : children’s app & eBook that need our help to get off the ground. 

Until next time, Write Well.

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The Friday Fishwrap Goes For A Song

“Music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to be silent.”
~Victor Hugo

Writing may be a solitary endeavour, but rarely is it a silent one, not even when you’re sitting in a great library. The sights, scents and sounds of books and of people going about their individual endeavours colours ones sense in a way that sitting in your favourite room, listening to music can rarely do.

While I’ve never been a fan of having music blasting in my ears as I write, sitting on a hill overlooking an outdoor amphitheatre while a concert is underway or at the back of the room in a nightclub while the musical entertainment for the evening performs… the sights, sounds and scent of the world adds far more colour and texture to the words I would put on the page than if I were simply staring at a computer screen or page of a notebook.

There is a lot to be said for music. As a musician, I know that the range of emotions I can express with my voice or musical instruments are far greater than those I can using words on a page, and I also know the creative effect of the emotions music can invoke in writers, artists and other musicians.

And so, today, we present a little musical interlude from Caldera. I hope you enjoy it and I wish you a great weekend.

If you’re not behind on your deadlines, get out and listen to a live performance. It will change the way you listen to music… and the way you write.

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Monday Musings: On Writing

If this is a writers Blog, why don’t you write about writing?

So goes the sixty-four thousand dollar question, which I was asked over this past weekend for about the sixty-four thousandth time.

Simple answer? I’m too busy…. and that really is not pure unadulterated B.S.

Beyond my work as a writer/editor/publisher, I do write about writing and books, but I also write about the complex technologies that are behind this thing we call The Global Internet and the user portion of that network… the World Wide Web to which,  unless you are are reading his via an RSS text-based news-reader, you are currently connected.

Why?

If you’re reading books on a Kindle or other network accessible book-reader, an iPad or other network accessible tablet , laptop or desktop or via your IpTV (a television that runs applications that are connected to the internet) you’ve used the Internet to get to an eStore (eCommerce site) on the World Wide Web to buy those books. If you’re reading downloaded content, you are or were using the internet to get to it.

The book or files you downloaded came from storage attached to a server attached to a host which is attached to the internet via a series of routers and bridges… and it is entirely possible that the majority of that hardware is sitting in one of our world-wide data-centres and/or network management centres.

If you’ve used any one of a number of on-line ebook format converters, it is likely it is sitting on one of our hosts that resides out there in “The Cloud”… which really means computing hosts running many virtual servers sitting in a building somewhere in the world at one or more of our worldwide locations that is connected to one or more sets of data storage devices residing somewhere within that infrastructure at any given moment, depending upon what is being accessed by which user from who knows where who is a client/customer of who knows which company that is one of our client/customers.

Add to that the attached Print On Demand servers located at various centres around the world that churn out hundreds of books and thousands of user manuals for everything from toasters to jet aeroplanes… every day… that ship directly to assembly plants or customers based on shipping orders from clients…

But, you don’t write about the mechanics of writing.

A lot of writers write about the art of writing as they learn it. Others write about it from the standpoint of experience after years of success in print as a published author.

I could, as both writer/editor and published author with years of experience behind me offer kernels of knowledge and bits of wisdom gained from experience over the twenty plus years in the business… but I won’t.

If I were a well-known “name” I suppose I would be obliged to offer random rewards to readers and fellow writers alike, but there are so many others who do it so very well that I am content to read and learn… and kibitz on the rare occasion that I feel I have something to contribute.

I also do not, in the normal course of a day use profanity, nor do I feel the need to employ it to express anger or urgency or to make a point… or to piss you off, but that’s my choice.

And I Do Not, as a blogger, feel obliged to use anger or opposition in order to draw readers or elicit commentary from you, my readers. If you have something to say, to add to the discussion, then you will via the comment box.

If you want to read about my ideas on the mechanics of writing, you can read my monthly commentary  On Writing Well articles at On Fiction Writing or read one of the many excellent writers blogs published by our members and friends.

So, until next time, Write Well.

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The Friday Fishwrap: Remembers When

This has been a week to remember the past and look forward to the future.

On Tuesday, June fifth, 2012 we said a sad farewell to a great author. Ray Bradbury was 91 years old. Although he is remembered most for his contributions to Science Fiction,  he was, and considered himself to be an author of fantasy. He was a consummate observer and reporter of the human condition… with all its foibles.

D-Day

Wednesday, June sixth, 1944 was D-Day, the day the joint Allied Armed Forces launched the invasion that would lead to the retaking of Europe and the end of World War II.

Wednesday, June sixth, 2012 was IpV6 Day, the day that Internet addressing began to change for the better.

The difference between these two momentous occasions is that on Wednesday, nothing [bad] happened. We flipped a few switches, just as we have for each test of the new addressing scheme, and it worked.  The only difference is that this time we’ve left them on. 

Only one percent of the world wide internet is using IPv6 as we speak, but it’s a one hundred sixty-seven percent (167%) improvement from the day before.

We expect to see the most IpV6 usage growth first in the enterprise and business commerce arenas over the next two years.

As for most internet users, the effect will (for now) be relatively transparent… as it should be.

Mac & Cheese

Twenty-five years ago, on June 7th, Apple released the Mac II, the first Open-Architecture Mac. It helped Apple survive and thrive in the end-user and Enterprise marketplace during the years Steve Jobs was away from the company he co-founded, at a time when it was needed.   

Happy Anniversary to the big Open Mac!

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Monday Madness: How to Succeed In Publishing Without Really Trying?

I Heard It Through The Grapevine:

At BEA 2012, Bowker vice-president for publishing services Kelly Gallagher released their newest self-published books figures.

For 2011, the number of self-published titles (based on ISBNs) was 211,269. The numbers for 2010 were 133,036.

Two Hundred Eleven Thousand plus self-published books were written and published last year?

My head hurts just thinking about it.

Among the other insights Gallagher shared on the self-publishing market: the most popular genre in terms of units is fiction (45%), but that nonfiction leads in sales (38%).

The average price for a self-published fiction book was… $6.94  Nonfiction titles commanded $19.32.

And while e-books accounted for 41% of self-published units, they only accounted for 11% of sales. The reason? The average self-published e-book sold for $3.18, while trade paperbacks had an average price of $12.68 and hardcovers averaged $14.40.

According to Bowker, Amazon’s CreateSpace was the largest player in the self-publishing space last year, publishing 57,602 titles; AuthorSolutions‘ various imprints did 41,605 books, and Lulu 30,019.

I don’t have the statistics at hand but I’d be willing to place a small bet that the percentage of first-time, first-book authors on that list exceeds ninety precent.

I’d  also suspect that over ninety percent of those authors will sell far less than one hundred books each.

Lies, Damn Lies & Statistics

I read eight (8) to ten (10) professionally published books a month. My completion rate (that means I read a book from front to back without tossing it because it was either awful or so boring or so badly edited I couldn’t stand it) is around ninety-five (95) percent.

Also, in any given month I read (or attempt to) somewhere between fifteen and twenty manuscripts. My completion rate is less than than five percent.

The number of self-published titles I read last year was twenty (20). I finished exactly six (6) of them. For the year 2010 the numbers were twelve (12) and three (3).

And the reasons for low completion rate?

More than one mis-spelled word per page over the first ten pages, characters changing names and/or genders from chapter-to-chapter, lack of cohesiveness to the story…

And the number one reason?

Plot Failure.

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The Friday Fishwrap: May Be Hazardous To Your Health

Words To Live By

There are a lot of words that, by themselves mean nothing, but in conjunction with other words can gain you followers… and some of them might be unwanted.  

There is a list of keywords that the United States governments Department of Homeland Security (DHS) scans the internet for. Find enough of them in the same Blogs or web-sites and you can bet that the DHS or some other TLA (Three Letter Acronym) Agency will be watching and/or analysing your pages to see if you are a threat to National Security.

Lifehacker has published a complete list here. 

… And although it may cause a tempest-in-a-tea-cup… No, reading this will not cause an epidemic… We Hope.

Kiss Your Internet (and personal) Privacy Goodbye

Despite efforts to the contrary, the U.S. House of Republican Zealots Representatives approved CISPA earlier this year and now the U.S. Senate has to analyze it. If CISPA passes,  federal agencies will have the right to invade and share the personal information and online correspondence of anyone living in the U.S.

..And those who already collect private information… like social network websites?

They’ll be protected by this law… and can freely share this type of information… with the government.

Meanwhile… Back at The Ranch

While everyone was busy paying attention to The Zook and the less-than-stellar FaceBook IPO, a non-profit group called Fight for the Future had a an insanely great idea… and created the Internet Defense League.

The Internet Defense League’s logo is a Batman-like alert signal: a perfect choice.

Any website, blog or even a YouTube channel can join this league and fight against anti-piracy laws.  You join the league by accessing their website and signing up to receive a “sample alert code.”

The next time there’s an emergency, the league will inform you and send new code. Then, according to the league, it’s your decision to “pull the trigger” and activate its emergency broadcast system.

An impressive group have already joined the league, among them: Reddit, Mozilla, WordPress, Chezburger, Craiglist, Imgur, Electronic Frontier Foundation, and Cloudflare. 

and they’re just getting started.

And finally for this Friday, OFW Editor-In-Chief Carlos J Cortes takes a look at the increasing sales in export books and examines the topic of Ethical Censorship.

Have a great weekend, and Write Well.

Posted in Books, First Amendment, Freedom of the Press, Information Technology, Paying Attention, People, Pirates, Polly want a pint o'ale, Things you might have learned had you been paying attention, Thinking, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Terrible Tuesday: Two Steps Forward, Three Steps Back.

A long time ago, when someone learned a trade they had to first learn to make the tools of their trade before they could apprentice with a master craftsman.

As a tradesman learned to use those tools in the pursuit of their chosen craft they would often discover better ways of doing things and would create new tools that allowed them to be both more creative and to work smarter. This sort of technological advancement worked well for a long time.

Then along came the industrial revolution. Standardisation became the key to mass reproducibility of products, and along with manufacturing standardisation came tool standardisation. Technological advancement continued, but craftsman still used, more-or-less the same tools.

With the advent of Distributed and Mobile Information Technology, companies continued the trend in standardisation. The advantage was that everyone in the same division or functional area used the same platform and applications.

From an infrastructure standpoint it meant easily supportable standardised configurations. If a system became not repairable, you could easily replace it. Most systems and software applications were were commodity items that could be bulk-purchased and licensed at a discount.

As the use of wireless networks has increased and commodity device prices to fall, the use of BYOD (Bring Your Own Device)… personal devices, owned by employees and contractors rather than the employer was seen by some as a way to reduce the cost of corporate computing overhead… but the technological and security challenges for companies that were never fully considered in the past have hit hard, and with it a whole new set of costs.

Network and data security, typically implemented around the centralised data-centre architecture had to be re-thought. Many companies were still struggling with those issues when the advent of cloud-computing… a still natal technology that is still experiencing the pains of juvenile immaturity…  tossed a monkey-wrench in the works.

New technology might be fun and exciting for those of us who are technologists and craftsmen, but from a business standpoint it is a double-edged sword.

With so many companies finding an ever increasing dependence upon eCommerce, the state of technology has only increased the potential for loss of data due to theft or network intrusion.

And because of this, the idea being promoted by some of BYOT (Bring Your Own Tools) … i.e. non-standardised applications, is neither a good or welcome idea right now. It’s like bringing your own books to the library because you don’t like whats on the shelves.

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