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.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Famous People: Stay Away From Me

I was in a bookstore in Washington, DC's Georgetown neighborhood some time ago. Checking out the new books and bargain shelves and whatnot. I felt someone looking at me so I turned away from the book covers and standing at the end of the book range was a man in a suit with sunglasses, an earpiece, and packing heat. He wasn't in there for the books. Then I looked to the other side of me and I suddenly noticed not five feet away was one of the most famous and powerful men in the entire country.

My immediate reaction was to slowly but surely put physical distance between me and the celebrity. The last thing I want is to be in the crosshairs of a security detail with itchy trigger fingers.

After I had extricated myself from the danger zone, my next thought was, What the hell are you doing in here? This place is for normal people. Famous people like you don't belong here, so go home! I've wondered what prompts such people to temporarily think of themselves as commoners and pretend they can shop and browse like anyone else. And the dude in the bookstore actually seemed uncomfortable that I was so near him! It made me think that power can twist the human mind in a knot, for those who aren't suited to handle it.

It's always a problem when powerful people of the kind who walk around with security details following them decide they are going to mingle with the common folk. Think of President Obama and Joe Biden going out to lunch at a local eatery. The traffic jams. The security. Everyone has to get out of the way. It's hell for everyone but them. And for what? Pretending is what politicians do, along with actors and entertainment folk. They have that in common.

I don't get a thrill from meeting celebrities. I consider them a nuisance. And I don't want them around me because a lot of things can likely happen and none of them are good. But I'm aware that a lot of people love celebrities so much they are willing to pay for the privilege of shaking their hand and snapping a photo. I mean the "Meet & Greet" events that are usually associated with entertainment acts.

I wouldn't know because I've never paid for such a thing, so I went to Google and it seems these Meet & Greets can cost anywhere from below $100 to at least $1,000--for example, a photo op with Miley Cyrus. It all depends on whether the artist is A List, B List, C List, or lower.

I've thought of all the people in the world I admire and can't come up with even one name of anybody I would be willing to pay to see up close and shake their hand and snap a selfie. A hundred bucks? A thousand? Somehow I'm immune to this celebrity virus that causes so many others to go bonkers at the sight of such people.

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

I Don't Need A Personal Library Book Embosser

I was going through some used books the other day and noticed some of them included a personal library book embossed stamp on the first page. And the books had been owned by a few different people.

It occurred to me at that moment that it had never occurred to me in my life that I might want my own book embosser so I could include one of those round stamps in all my books that said, "From the Library of Stephen Leary."

What's the value of such a stamp, I'm now wondering. Vanity? A way to claim ownership of the book so everybody knows it's mine, unless a thief steals it and tears off the embossed page?

After perusing Amazon, I see these embossing devices sell for about $20, which I think is pretty cheap. But no matter what the price, it seems pointless and a waste of time and effort. Unless you are a famous author, the stamp doesn't add value to the book, it detracts from it. And anyway, a book's value is enhanced by a famous author's signature, not his embossed stamp. Nothing stopping me from buying an embosser and stamping "From the Library of Ernest Hemingway" in all my books. Doesn't prove Hemingway ever owned my books.

I expect somehow "digital embossers" will appear soon so those of us who own e-books can emboss them with our digital stamp. But who would see the stamp besides me, the owner, so who cares?

Supposedly Apple is working on a way to digitally sign e-books, which seems more useful and exciting.

Monday, June 08, 2015

The Price of a Painting Versus the Price of an Ebook

Over the weekend I stopped by a Farmer's Market in Old Town Alexandria, Virginia. In addition to the food vendors were several artists selling their paintings.

The prices, I knew before looking, were steep. $100 for a small painting. Bins with small prints inside plastic wrappers: $50. I wish I could support local artists and buy their paintings but my wallet screamed at me to stay away. I'm not doubting for a moment they are talented artists.

When I saw the price tags on the paintings, I immediately thought of my own ebooks on Amazon's Kindle store, and those of so many other writers. $2.99. And $0.99. Heck, skilled authors are giving away their books free of charge! Some very talented writers are selling their creative output for a mere fraction of what you must pay for a small work of art--and we're not even talking originals, but just prints and things of lesser value than the original.

I think the writers (myself included) who sell on Amazon are as talented at what we do as those painters are at their chosen artistic medium. Yet 50 of our ebooks could be bought for the price on one small work of art at that market. Ebooks are a far better value than paintings. How many authors can put a price tag of $100 on their ebooks and expect to sell any? How many copies of their paintings do those artists sell?

Even the most popular writers on the planet sell their books for somewhere between $5-$10 and lower prices can be had through regular sales promotions.

Ebooks sell much better than paintings, I suspect. Millions of books are sold every year. Paintings? Far fewer. Suppose they were priced the same as ebooks? Why aren't they?