Tuesday, July 07, 2015

My New Story: 'I, Manikin'

My brand new story "I, Manikin" is now available on Amazon.


In the near future, rebel cell group members confront the reality that they have been infiltrated by a government manikin sent to spy on them. But who is it? The manikins are indistinguishable from humans. One of their group has recently died from a supposed accident that they believe was orchestrated by the government. They must identify and destroy the manikin before he can do them any further harm.

This short story is about 6,000 words in length. It is the first of a number of envisioned "manikin" stories and novels. I hope you enjoy it.

Monday, July 06, 2015

I Republished My Story 'The Smartphone'

My short story "The Smartphone" has been republished is now available on Amazon again. I've decided to keep it as a standalone single for $0.99.

From the Afterword:

Does Rory's new smartphone possess an unusual power to see things others can't? Is his estranged son a terrorist? And are the FBI visiting again? What does his wife think about all this?

The Smartphone was inspired by two famous short stories: “Signs and Symbols” by Vladimir Nabokov and “The Enormous Radio” by John Cheever. I hope you like my attempt to merge the two into my own narrative about an unusual smartphone (a descendant of Cheever’s radio) displaying strange videos of extreme personal interest to its owner.

Nabokov’s story is short but powerful, and I attempted to duplicate that effect here. The Smartphone is intended to be short and not dwell on details.

I hope readers aren’t upset about the seemingly abrupt ending. I’ve always been a fan of what Ernest Hemingway called the “Wow” ending and I tried to achieve that effect here. But I was also echoing Nabokov. In his story, the phone rings one last time at the end of his story. And from the “signs and symbols” Nabokov placed in the narrative, the readers is supposed to understand that the final call is not another wrong number but something deliberate and sad. With the same idea in mind, when the FBI approaches the house a final time at the end of my story, the “signs and symbols” within the narrative are intended to lead the reader into understanding that it isn’t just the FBI asking about their son again, but something else entirely. I ask myself, how would I continue the story if I wanted to do that, and I can only laugh at the idea, since that would take the story into a kind of alternate reality!

This work is about 3,000 words in length, which means about 15 minutes to read.

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Scribd Dumping Erotica, Romance Titles Must Be a Good Thing

As someone who has never written or read a single Romance or Erotica book, I'm not shedding any tears over the news that Scribd is dumping something like 80-90 percent of the Erotica and Romance novels available at their site, including those written by best-selling authors.

Apparently Romance fans are voracious readers, and Scribd is paying authors and publishers of such novels far more than their business model can sustain. It's not a problem with any other genres.

I've noticed whenever I search a book title in Amazon, the top results come up with book covers of men without shirts and women with their hands on the men's bare chests. The top bestsellers seem to be these types of books. So it's plain to anyone that Romance and smut are what many people are reading.

If these titles are to be reduced and their peddlers paid far less handsomely, I consider it a good thing, because if there are fewer Romance titles around, maybe some of those readers will look elsewhere, to fiction genres where the writing and the plots are far superior.

A problem with self-published authors is that so many writers are doing it; therefore, it's tough to get you and your books noticed, unless you write Romance and Erotica where the public's appetite is so powerful and all-consuming, an author is not in much danger of being ignored. But if you write books with any kind of quality to them, you struggle.

Scribd plans to eliminate Romance/Erotica that are the most popular and have the highest word counts. I blogged recently about writers who write with a certain word count in mind, no matter what, and this is a big reason why some choose to do that--an economic payoff from book subscription services such as Scribd when a lot of readers read all those words. But now Scribd is worrying about how it will make a profit in a world dominated by Romance titles and readers and authors.

If others, such as Amazon and Barnes & Noble, want to reduce their Romance holdings as well, no tears from me. Imagine all those frustrated Romance readers with noting left to read except different genres such as Science Fiction, Mystery, Literary. Poor things.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

My Upcoming Novel 'Drone Fever'

My next novel will be Drone Fever. I'm arranging all the scenes and chapters in order now (as usual, not writing from beginning to end in sequence). The word count at the moment is about 70,000 and the finished book will likely be about 80,000.

The story is about a man who develops a strong interest in drones as a hobby. But he becomes nosy and uses his drones to watch his neighbors through their windows. In a house down the block, he sees what might be a murder.

Is he spending too much time on drones instead of his job, and did he see a murder or not? More questions and strange happenings proceed until the final resolution.

I can't compare it to any novel but it reminds me of two movies: Alfred Hitchcock's Rear Window and Vertigo. Think of Jimmy Stewart's binoculars replaced by a recreational drone. As for Vertigo, the identity of some of the people in Drone Fever is unclear. Are they who they seem to be or are others pretending to be them for unknown reasons? The genre is Suspense/Thriller I suppose, though I'm always having trouble defining my stories like that.

I expect it to take another month or two. Stay tuned! I think it's the best of anything I've published so far (but they all say that don't they).

After Drone Fever, my next books will be:

Attack of the Manikins
10 people visit a resort island for much-needed rest and relaxation but instead are attacked by manikins. What really happens to the 10 visitors? And who or what are the manikins? I think of this book as a literary novel masquerading as a pulp thriller due to the sensationalistic plot.

The Sucker List
A shady investment company uses a sucker list to contact new clients and drain their bank accounts. But that's where things start. A second sucker list emerges with a different set of names and nobody's gonna bother to call.

The Elevator
A new skyscraper with a shopping mall is built in a small town and everyone attends the grand opening, but the strange security guards and their boss have their own plans for the building and everyone in it. An elevator that seems to be alive and thinks for itself.

Here is my Amazon Author Page.

Anti-Confederate Hysteria Sweeps the Nation

Don't you get the impression a virus is sweeping through the United States that causes Confederatephobia?

All of a sudden, everyone is treating the Confederate flag and all things Confederate as if they are worse than Nazis or Satanists. Walmart, Amazon, Apple, Sears, Ebay, politicians, everybody is jumping on the anti-Confederate bandwagon in the space of a few days. Many have noted that Nazi memorabilia is still available at some of those companies.

The trigger was the church shooting in Charleston, South Carolina. But that had nothing to do with the Confederate flag. But somehow, that flag is equated with mass murder of blacks by whites, if I'm reading the situation correctly.

As someone from the north (Ohio), the Confederate flag to me means the side that lost the Civil War. That's what I think of when I see it. The side that lost.

Groups on the liberal side of the political spectrum have been itching to get rid of the flag and the church deaths provided a means to latch on to that and equate the flag with murder of innocent people.

Wiping the Confederate flag off the map is historical revisionism, cultural cleansing. Are we supposed to pretend it isn't a significant part of our national history? I've noticed a lot of times, when something is banned, it tends to give it more power.

Whenever this national hysteria ends, we'll see that banning a flag didn't help anything, and is counterproductive in the long run.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Do You Add Words To Your Novel So It Will Sell Better?

The topic of Word Count is popular on message boards for self-publishing authors. How long is a novel? Novella? Short Story? Short Short Story?

The word count for each can vary widely depending on who you listen to. Wikipedia tells me a mystery novel (60,000 to 80,000) is typically shorter than a thriller (100,000+). A Novella could be anywhere from 7,500 to 40,000. A Short Story is between 1,000 and 20,000. Shorter than 1,000 words is now called Flash Fiction or a Short Short Story.

A popular commentator for Writer's Digest says any novel under 70,000 words is "too short" and the ideal range is 80,000 to 90,000. I can't buy these numbers because they would rule out many of the greatest novels ever written. For example: Fahrenheit 451, The Great Gatsby, As I Lay Dying, The Scarlet Letter, The Sun Also Rises, The Stranger, and probably every single one of the ~400 novels written by Georges Simenon.

On the message boards, writers talk about an ideal word count that sells better than shorter or longer books. So each book is then written with that word count in mind. If the count is too short, more words are added until you arrive at the "sweet spot" that sells so well.

Is this really true? People who buy books are looking for a certain page range and word count? Books of a certain length sell better for no other reason than the word count? I can hardly believe it.

How do you have any integrity writing primarily for a certain word count because you think you need that many for the most sales? Or am I thinking in the wrong terms? How can your book be worth reading if you padded it with an extra 25,000 words that were completely unnecessary for the narrative but might help it sell better? Aren't you just writing a load of crap?

It seems to me from reading those self-publishing author boards that a fair number of writers do this. Write 125,000 words, for example, and that sells better than a mere 100,000. It all sounds silly and ridiculous to my ears. 25,000 words of garbage because you think a longer book will sell more copies?

In which genre do they write? Erotica? Romance? So many authors who self-publish on Amazon are writing for no reason than to make a profit, not because they have anything to say or want to write a good book. But how do you acquire that kind of mindset where your only concern is sales and not the internal qualities of your narrative? And how do good books become noticed amidst all the trash? No one seems to have figured that out yet. The answer is well off in the distance.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

UK Says Snowden's Secret Files Cracked by Russia, China

The UK Sunday Times reported that Russia and China have cracked the top secret files stolen by Ed Snowden, forcing Great Britain to withdraw their spies from ongoing operations in hostile countries, as their lives were now in danger. No word yet from US officials.

Snowden's supporters question this news story and question its timing, coming 2 days after the UK's terrorism watchdog published a review into terrorism legislation, which was set up amid public concerns over surveillance sparked by Snowden's revelations.

Is this news story fake? Is it possible the encrypted files have not been broken? And are we to believe those who say Vladimir Putin and China don't even have a copy of them?

Opinion Polls on Snowden

April 2015: 64% of American familiar with him held a negative view, but 56% of those between the ages of 18-35 regard him in positive terms. Young Americans think he has served the public interest, while older people think the opposite. These findings are similar to a poll taken about a year ago.

But in Europe, Snowden approval ratings are much higher--84% in Germany and Italy, 80% in France, Netherlands, and Spain, and 54% in the UK.

Will this news turn world public opinion against Snowden?

The PR Battle Over Snowden

If the intelligence community here and in the UK are waging a PR battle against Snowden, they are doing a very poor job of it. You hardly hear the CIA/NSA side of the story. Michael Hayden is the only person I can think of stating the CIA/NSA case against Snowden.

Imagine a 3-way presidential election between Snowden, Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush. He would likely win the millennial vote over Clinton and Bush.

Young American millennials (you know, those who gave us Barack Obama twice) continue to overlook the damage Snowden has done to his country. They choose to see only the positive side of it: NSA was spying on everyone and no one knew and who approved of it and what about potential abuses of that power? They forget about the danger to their own security and those around the world who are fighting to keep it but have been compromised by Snowden making a point that could have been made without giving Russia and China the crown jewels. Only a tragedy with Snowden’s fingerprints all over it will change their view of him.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Apple iBooks Scam: Why Are Classic Novels Cheap On iTunes But Not On Amazon?

Update 06/27/15: The answer is that these cheap editions of classic novels are often pulled from the Apple iBooks store. Either by Apple or the publisher over copyright, I'm not sure. But when they are pulled off the store, you are no longer able to read those books that you purchased from Apple.
The only way you could maintain access to the books is if you download them to your computer. How would a person do that, I asked Apple support. You would need a Mac, was the answer. I don't have a Mac, I didn't have one when I bought the books in question, and I have no plans to buy one.

So if you're like me and you bought any cheap editions of classic books, eventually you lose not only the ability to read the books but whatever you paid for them. No refunds from Apple, I'm told. It's in their terms of service (as if that's an acceptable practice!).

I'm sticking with Amazon to buy my books in the future. I have no way of knowing if a book I buy on Apple iTunes will disappear along with my ability to read it and the price I paid!

Warning to all readers who might buy something on the Apple iTunes iBooks store!


I've noticed some famous, classic novels (in e-book format) available on iTunes (iBooks) at prices you normally expect from old books in the public domain, yet I'm not sure that's the case with any of these. And I see no attempt at price matching from Amazon Books. And the prices of these books on Barnes & Noble's Nook bookstore are in line with Amazon. Are all these English versions from different publishers on iTunes legal, I ask myself. Hmm.

For example:

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury (1953)
iTunes: $0.99; $2.99; and $9.99
Amazon: $9.99
Nook: $9.99

Catch-22 by Joseph Heller (1961)
iTunes: $0.99; $2.99; $3.99; and $11.99
Amazon: $11.99
Nook: $11.99

On The Road by Jack Kerouac (1957)
iTunes: $0.99; $2.99; and $13.99
Amazon: $8.85
Nook: $13.99

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath (1963)
iTunes: $1.99 and $2.99
Amazon: Not available as an e-book
Nook: $9.99

Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov (1955)
iTunes: $0.99; $1.99; $2.99; and $8.99
Amazon: $8.99
Nook: $11.99

The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway (1952)
iTunes: $0.99; $1.99; $2.99; $3,99; and $8.99
Amazon: $8.99
Nook: $8.99

And there are more examples. I'm just asking the question why so many cheap editions can be had on iTunes but not on Amazon or Nook. You would think Amazon would price match unless some legal issue is involved. It's unusual to see such a price disparity, but the iTunes cheap editions can be had for only certain authors and not others. I don't see anything cheap for, say, John Updike, Saul Bellow, Philip Roth, Norman Mailer, or Robert Ludlum.

Seems a bit strange to me, that's all.