Saturday, January 29, 2011

What To Do When You're Not Writing.

by Louis Bertrand Shalako

c2011

All Rights Reserved


What do I do when I am not writing? Well, I might be going through my list of submissions, to make sure seven days have passed since my last rejection. Some markets have this stipulation in their submission guidelines. I might go through my list of stories, all in one or two folders, e.g. 'sci-fi stories,' or 'non-fic subs,' some simple label like that.

I have three postal submissions all ready to go. I just need postage, i.e. Monday morning, out they go.

This sci-fi/f/h/spec-fic folder has a fair number of stories in it, and sometimes I literally submit to pro markets and the 'for the luv' markets, and everything in between. I look for new markets in other writer's posts on facebook and stick them in a document file.

There is always stuff to do.

I might be going through a folder and deleting old versions, or even just different formats--while one market might require a .txt file pasted into the body of an e-mail, there is little call for it later, whether the story is accepted or rejected. 'Delete.'

I might be reading everything I can get my hands on regarding the business side of the publishing industry, and I'm not reading ancient history either. I prefer to look into the future where I have the opportunity to do a little re-writing.

'I want some input.'

I check out market lists. If you do it fairly regularly, you might be the very first guy to ever submit to a new market. Some editor, sweating it out in hopes of getting some good submissions and making a go of things in a pretty tough world, will remember your name for quite a while.

So, if I am not writing anything, I act like a businessman, an editor, a publisher, a researcher, literally anything rather than some unemployed guy just killing time. It may look all the same to an objective, outside observer, but my time is 'directed.' It can still be fun and relaxing, and we often stumble across ideas and inspiration.

As a publisher of my own works, I still have concerns of an ethical nature. On some theoretical level, I understand that some publishers might pull a few strings and make things happen--put someone's name in for an award, that sort of thing. I don't know if it's the world's second largest inferiority complex or what, but yeah...that's a toughie.

At some point I have to go and input some data into the Canadian SF Association database, so that I can be in there for all of history. I think I'll just put my very best published work...just one in there and be very, very humble. Oh, and there is a deadline. But that one will take some grab-myself-by-the-scruff-of-the-neck type of motivation.

We are privileged to be able to do this at all. (And we bleeping well know it.)

Okay, facebook is not exactly face-to-face, 'let's go have a beer, boys and girls,' but here we are rubbing shoulders with some of the greatest writers, poets, and artists of our time, and a few guys in disguise for some very good reasons.

You really can't put a price on that.

Let's just call it, 'precious,' and leave it there for the moment!

It keeps life interesting.

What else have I got going on? Twitter is kind of tough. What the hell am I going to say? But a little research goes a long way, too.

I'm always leery about signing up for new things. There is a workload, a learning curve, some chance of spam or whatever. In that sense, it is a kind of game. I like to think it through a little bit before making any hasty decisions. Nothing in life comes for free. What do I hope to gain, what is the cost, up front and hidden, and what are the dangers, obvious and otherwise?

There is a fair bit of disinformation out there, and not all posts, statements, or opinions expressed by acknowledged experts are appropriate to my own business model. It really does pay to listen. After a while, you learn who your friends are, among other things. You learn who to listen to; and who to ignore...or tolerate.

That little stint in journalism school might pay off after all.

UPDATE: I just went through all my blogs and updated the ads. Simple little things, and try to keep it tight. (And sometimes I come back later and look for typos.)

-louis

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Parkinson's Disease.

by Louis Bertrand Shalako

c2010

All Rights Reserved


Parkinson's Disease is different from Alzheimer's. In Alzeimer's, the classic presentation is of a person 'losing their mind,' especially memory, the kind of dementia where a person doesn't know who they are, or where they live, etc. Nine fresh quarts of milk in the fridge, and they bring another one home. They go to the bank and end up in another town, sort of thing.

Parkinson's is a chemical imbalance in the brain-stem, which affects major locomotor groups. This means coordination, balance, and mobility issues. This imbalance causes false nerve impulses, which cause the tremors, and my dad can have pretty big tremors of the arms that go on a long time. He has trouble sleeping, what with the arms going all the time. My dad has no strength, he can barely open a packet of lunch meat.

He can barely put his coat on, and I have to be there to help him off with it. He gets to the door, and he can just sort of freeze there. It's like he can't remember how to walk. After some time, maybe thirty or forty seconds, his whole body starts to shake, because he wants to walk and just can't do it. Sometimes I go over, hold him gently and give him a little push, and he starts right up!

Routine is a big thing for my dad, although his mind is still maybe eighty or ninety percent...I don't know, maybe a little less.

There are things he can't remember--he might go to put out a bag of garbage and forget there is a bag of salt in the front closet. If he fell on ice, all I know is that it is real hard to get him up again. And if he did it at five a.m. and it was minus 22 degrees, and if I didn't hear it...well.

I cut his meat up for him, I help him on with his socks and pants, dry him off after his bath or shower...I don't know. At some point I started to deteriorate.

It isn't really necessary to justify sticking my old man in a retirement home. But it is necessary to think it all through, and do the best thing for the man. We owe him that much. We've got a nice place for him and he can afford it. Other than that, my sister has been really good, and I'm glad I got some help with it.

Big Changes: A Nexus, Crux, Watershed Moment, etc...

by Louis Bertrand Shalako

c2010

All Rights Reserved


The next few months look very busy for us here at Shalako Publishing, what with our dad going into an old age home, the need to prepare a house that has seen little maintenance for forty years for market, and developing our web presence, and a few other things.

Just clearing out a lot of old junk, and putting a few tons of it to the curb will take some time and energy. Pop has deteriorated quite a bit in only a month, and some say he won't actually come out of the old age home--he's supposed to be 'trying it out,' and I'm getting a two-week 'respite.'

That's the story, and everyone seems to be sticking to it...I can't shake 'em.

What that means is that I can drag all of his model airplanes out and take pictures. I need the photos for some online ads. Dumb things, questions like, 'who gets my roller skates--they cost $500,' will no doubt rear their ugly heads. Hopefully the seeds of dissension are minimal.

(I don't frickin' want 'em.)

In some ways I can't deal with it, but I do have a brother and sister.

All I can really do is to put my head down and try and achieve as much as I can regarding my own goals. As for writing new material, I don't know why, but it is about the farthest thing from my mind.

With three novels in the can, and some small experience in self publishing, maybe I just feel more in control of my own future, or maybe I just got hooked on editing! You have to admit, it can be all-absorbing, and it is a new skill.

All of this leads to my own fate. Where the hell will I be living in three months? Theoretically, my number comes up for geared to income housing in May or June. I get two refusals, and then I either take the third option or go off the list and then re-apply, which results in another 18-month to two-year waiting list.

Here's the thing: I might be going from a house in a fairly affluent working-class neighbourhood to an eleventh-floor highrise. I have a cat...an outdoor cat. Right now, my back gate opens onto a park of three hundred acres...you see my point. A balcony is something people jump off, in my humble opinion.

I have a bicycle, camping equipment, construction tools, a canoe, model airplanes, dressers, desks...the whole lot wouldn't bring $500 at auction. So I have some angst, all things considered. The 'replacement value' of all this junk is considerable. Do I have a garage sale, let it go for pennies on the hundred dollars, or store it indefinitely? And if so, why?

But the truth is, my dad needs more care than I can actually give him, including physiotherapy, constant supervision, help dressing, the whole schlemiel.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Marketing 101: Drop Shipping, Distribution, Promotion.

by Louis Bertrand Shalako

c2010

All Rights Reserved


On Lulu.com there is a bulk cost book calculator. One hundred copies of 'The Case of the Curious Killers' would cost about $1,018.00. A thousand books was about $8,500 and ten thousand was $76,000. First, we see that the cost per book goes from $12-$13 down to $10, then $8.50, and then to $7.60.

Presumably there might be some price break on bulk shipping. In this example, an extra 4,000 words in a manuscript, half a blank page in nine differenet places, and excessive end matter, bring costs up significantly. The minimum order to put one title on shelves across a territory would have to be something on the order of $100,000 to $200,000.

A few years ago, I ordered something from the east coast and it was shipped from the west coast. The product was made in Japan. That's called 'drop-shipping.' It saves the retailer and ultimately the customer money, if this is indeed an edge on the competition, and if it results in lower cost to the consumer. This could be done creatively with POD publshers in different parts of the world. Much food for thought here. Essentially what we need then is a POD platform in Germany, a translation, some kind of quality control, and a German 'campaign.'

A Print On Demand publication solves the problem of lack of initial capital. It replaces physical plant and material costs. It is a kind of 'drop-shipping hyphen drop manufacturing,' which has certain limitations. Lulu offers a cheaper grade of paper, but only inside the US shipping; i.e., a limited market. One book would cost $21.00 to ship to my house here in Canada, and that's a hard sell for a paperback book.

Starting up a business and learning one's way around by serving a niche market is not exactly unheard of, but the fact is I have no experience in retail sales or management. However, I have gone past business planning to, er; 'business experimentation.'

One thing I remember from being a stock boy at K-Mart (going back a few decades,) was that they had regular promotions. 'Dollar-forty-four days,' and things like that.

The e-books lend themselves to this very nicely, because I can literally give a different one away every month, for free. This is why reading my own stuff and revising the hell out of it, is a necessary part of the process. Before I can effectively promote a product, I prefer to have full confidence that it actually does the job.

E-book sales generate data. If I shoot my yap off about the government one day on facebook, and the next day see a spike in sales figures, well, it's an obvious inference, isn't it?

Forgetting that, it appears that a little over a hundred previews, which are people actually downloading a sample and 'viewing' it, sells two e-books. Bear in mind that people don't necessarily judge a book by its cover, but the cover is an important key to attracting their attention.

So what I want to do in the short term is to generate views. I want people to sample the product, to enjoy it, to see that 'it really isn't so bad after all,' and then I want them to tell two friends, who hopefully will also tell two friends.

If my product is any good, someone will buy it. The most expensive product I have is twenty bucks; and the e-books are all under two bucks as I recall. I've got them in pretty much every major online bookstore, except the iStore, iTunes, and Apple...and I'm not even too sure about that. They might show up there sooner or later.


No one knows what a difference a year of thoughtful, professional applicaton might bring in terms of sales results. Assuming that I have a pretty good chance of living to about 85, this could go anywhere.

Plot Versus Description.

by Louis Bertrand Shalako

c2010

All Rights Reserved


Example One:

The door hinges squeaked eerily in the evening breeze. The door thunked softly against the wall as John entered with gun drawn. His savage eyes sweeping the room for danger, he listened intently. Moonlit branches cast cool shadows across the indistinct floor, soft underfoot. His quarry had to be here.

Example Two:

The door hinges gleamed dully in the soft moonlight, the thick wood dark in the corner of the room, away from the light cast by a hundred heavily-mullioned Georgian windows. The door swung across the patterned Astrakhan rug, woven in a multi-hued potpouri of colours and textures, all of them warm and inviting. A tall, svelte John Vermilion-Dragonpuss stepped lightly into the room. Ignoring the plate with a big ham which had a bite out of it, and the Cezanne on the wall, heavily shadowed, he was both tense and casual at the same time. With his big, black gun drawn from his brown leather holster, with his right hand, as it was on his right hip, it was like heavy and stuff, he listened for anything unusual, anything out of the ordinary, anything at all that he might hear...his boots rested casually on that rug, oh, so soft and expensive.

The moon, hovering far above the silken landscape below, cast its cool and uninviting light across the floor through the windows Elmer Toboggan had purchased at the quaint old glazier and doughnut shop in the village three days before, and what a tale that was to tell.

John's eyes were savage. He had forgotten why he came in here in the first place!

***

Okay, what is my point? Simply this: the first example is what I call 'plot-based' writing style and the other is clearly descriptive. Okay, so I hammed it up a bit.

I began reading a historical romance novel this one time, and it took eight pages to get three horsemen from the top of a hill to the bottom of the hill, another three pages to get to the village, and five pages to get to the door of the inn.

Right about there is where I simply quit reading.

The first sentence of Marcel Proust's 'In A Budding Grove,' is 125 words long. It goes something like this:

My mother, when it was a question of our having M. de Norpois to dinner for the first time, having expressed her regret that Professor Cottard was away from home, and that she herself had quite ceased to see anything of Swann, since either of these might have helped to entertain the old Ambassador, my father replied that so eminent a guest, so distinguished a man of science as Cottard could never be out of place at a dinner-table, but that Swann, with his ostentation, his habit of crying aloud from the housetops the name of everyone that he knew, however slightly, was an impossible vulgarian whom the Marquis de Norpois would be sure to dismiss as—to use his own epithet—a ‘pestilent’ fellow...

I was looking at the page count in my reader. It said '847 pages,' and I can proudly claim to have read the first eight or ten of them.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Busy, Busy, Busy. Jam-Up!

by Louis Bertrand Shalako

c2010

All Rights Reserved


When I worked at Fibreglas Canada back about 1977, there was a platform up above and in between the baggers on S-3 and S-4, which were production lines for pink batt insulation.

"Jam up!"

When you heard guys shouting that, you were sort of galvanized into action, spinning around and then pelting up the steps; unless you were actually on a machine. In which case you had problems of your own. The line would be chucking batts all over the place.

Cut lengthwise by roller knives and cut transversely by pneumatic choppers, the line moved along at a pretty good clip, from the ovens where the continuous blanket was cooked, to the line up of automatic baggers where the fibreglass batts were packaged.

All of the scrap after a jam up went into the pile beside a manual bagger. Anything unsalvageable went to the nodulator.

The first time I ever heard the thing, I thought, 'Soylent Green is people.'

A nodulator is a drum (and some fixed knives) with a lot of spikes sticking out of it, rotating at high speed. The sound of that thing chewing into a big blanket, or a load of acoustic ceiling tiles, was memorable.

More than one guy died or lost a limb in that thing.

***

I had a jam up last night. I don't know, some kind of information overload.

My brain took in a big chunk of data. Like a six-inch thick wet blanket of white wool, undercooked and half raw...a big long one, and it must have dragged some other stuff in with it. Step back quick if that happens. Don't stand on the scrap!

It doesn't pay to get too tired, and I have been going great guns. The brain can only integrate what it has learned so fast. While the overview may be fine, details and operations may still be fuzzy, or even unlearned. Short-term memory requires repetition, (and successful repetition,) in order to integrate into long-term memory.

Only then, in my opinion, does the brain really know what it is doing. It has 'learned' it.

***

Today I cooked dinner, did my dad's laundry, took him to the grocery store, went out and put some big envelopes on my credit card. I bought smokes and a coffee.

I printed out a 41-page crime story, wrote 'nano-brief' cover letters, made up SASE's and envelopes, and all that sort of thing. They go out Monday when I get my entitlement.

Oh, yeah! A blog entry. It looks like 'Paranoid Cat' went through into Google Books quite quickly, and yet two other books, entered previously, are still processing. Then, in the evening, some kind of tech issues with the site. I can't get in to check, but they are building or prepping for Google E-Books Canada, or whatever. (I suspect.)

In between times, I work on my ODSP books. And then I need to do the income tax and figure out my next 'life decision.' (Huh.)

What with helping dad on with his pants, and his socks, and just trying to keep on top of things generally, I wonder what it is that I am missing now...or next!

Remind me to call the optometrist. My eyes are going.

Theoretically, I need to write some new material.

Other than that, not much happening.


Notes: I wrote down three or four things to do tomorrow.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Visualization, Daydreaming; Plotting and Scheming.

by Louis Bertrand Shalako

c2010

All Rights Reserved


In the process of reconfiguring my brain-bucket for high performance, certain challenges arose. One of these is multitasking. It seems odd that a person could plot out a novel in literally one-minute increments. This involves a process of applied daydreaming, or 'visualization.'

This builds up a store of imagery in the appropriate database inside of your head or mine.

Just now, I visualized a hero-type entering a building where the Great Mojo lives, and the influences are both obvious and irrelevant--Bruce Willis as John Maclean, (hopefully I spelled that right,) running in bare feet across broken glass...as well as Dr. Peter Watts. I forget the title, but the climax happens in a big, forbidding edifice, the headquarters of some secretive organization.

It's also kind of irrelevant, although in parody, it's helpful to pick a half a dozen story-features and stick to them. Examples include 'Blazing Saddles,' and "The Producers,' by Mel Brooks. These are films, obviously--one wonders what the actual screenplay was to read. It is great acting and comic instinct that makes parody work, and not 'accuracy,' if you think in terms of 'Spaceballs.'

My little data store of images, characters and ideas is growing, and at some point we need to talk about structure. To some degree, I can decide upon an era, music, clothes, cars, names, colours, etc. Characterization is independent of plot.

But the structure of a novel is kind of like a template--things sort of plug in where they are needed, as much as anything. For me, the ending is crucial. Otherwise, and this may seem odd, I just don't know where to start.

Figure out where it ends, and then 'step back two hundred and fifty pages,' which is a trick in itself. For that reason, a thin sort of first draft is okay, right?

A professional writer like Robert J. Sawyer will describe a character's appearance right upon first arrival in the book.

Why can't I do that? Modeling for success is an old and well-known ploy.

And so we come to 'process.' Once you have all the tools, and all the materials, and learn the trade...it really is just an industrial process after a while.

There are times when my logic may seem a litte fuzzy. That's why I talk to myself, it helps me to talk my way through unfamiliar operations, and identify problem areas.

It's a kind of self-checking routine: because when I'm cussin' and swearing, it's time to rest and re-evaluate.

The one thing I should probably do is to take better notes.

They help you to remember.

Notes: Yes. I'm about to post some submissions, and once again I'm double-thinking myself. Where in the hell will I be living when they inevitably reject my manuscript submission?

Because I don't think it will be here. Theoretically, I can put in a card at the post office...if I sent an e-mail to a major publisher saying I had moved, that one will never get through...never.

Does that seem negative?

That seems kind of negative, doesn't it.

Version Control, Perception Management.

by Louis Bertrand Shalako

c2010

All Rights Reserved


Wow. More questions, more answers, and more challenges. I only have about seven or eight projects in my 'New Book Versions' folder. There were 153 items in that folder.

I've been going through it. Deleting stuff. For each book I would need the original cover image and the final cover image. I need one good, clean and up to date master file in something like a .doc, nicely formatted a la trade paperback, and one e-book.

Maybe one pdf of them each. In that folder I might need, cover images, master files, blurbs all written up and a promo pic of yours truly and not much else.

Another author, an fb friend, was perturbed because she had just spent endless hours revising an older version of a project. I've done the same thing. What I have done is to take my latest revision of 'The Paranoid Cat and other tales,' and simply tacked the date jan2311 into the file name. Even so, uploading that version to a number of sites has essentially taken all day.

I don't know if I can delete a book on Google Books while it is still processing. Theoretically I need a html file to upload to Amazon. It's the preferred format.

Stumbling around in the Google site, I see they do indeed have Google e-books up and running. All I have to do is go back and start filling in fields. My work is never done, and one success spawns more challenges, doesn't it?

Life's funny that way.

I don't know where I will be in a year, but that's enough time to learn my way around a little better. That's a fair amount of time to learn marketing, and I don't know...maybe mellow out and try to socialize a bit more.

Compared to where I was a year ago, I'm doing all right. It's important to keep it all in perspective, and manage one's perceptions to a certain extent.

Up until now, my biggest failures have been inattention to detail, impulsiveness, and haste. Also, by focusing on tiny details, my narrowed attention fails to observe the big picture...okay, a little pompous-sounding, but you get the idea.

In terms of perception management, I do get a little uptight at the thought of all that work, but it is my job, and there is no one forcing me to sit here for hours a day--it's my own choice.

I'm lucky to be able to do it. Just to have the opportunity. Thank God I'm not 18 years old. I would pooh-pooh this chance, and let it slip by. I know that for a fact.

So that's my challenge to myself: to become about a million times more professional than I am right now. To learn the business side of it. To look at the big picture once in a while...and to socialize more!

Throw in three more POD's, another title or two, and I don't know what all. Short stories, poems and a lot of talk-talk-talk. Oh, yeah. Polish up the old skill-set.

We've got a fair bit of stuff on our plate.


Saturday, January 22, 2011

Beauty in the Details.

by Louis Bertrand Shalako

c2010

All Rights Reserved


The beauty lies in the details, but by focusing in on one thing, we might miss out on another. Having taken a little time to study what I did, and then how other people do things, I now have a basis for comparison.

My e-books seem to be formatted pretty well by the standards of the day and bearing in mind the diversity of devices they are expected to operate in. That seems fine, and as I read more e-books, I will probably find better ways to do things. This is true in any industry, and as far as 'newbies' go, I'm not exactly hopeless. Also, as an author, my primary focus is on the writing, not the typesetting or book design.

I care about the story and who reads it. That is what I tend to focus on in terms of skills development and even simply 'reading for the job.'

In that sense, I think I did a pretty good job, even to get into Smashwords, for example. They call it 'the meatgrinder' for a reason, ladies and gentlemen.

I can crack open any number of paperbacks and see that my work varies from the norm. For one, mass-market paperbacks are expensive enough to produce. It is also my assertion that ten percent of all production is wasted. Again, this holds true in any industry.

They need to save paper, and even ink. They need to save time. It's a competitve business. They might in one case have three blank lines at the end of a chapter, and then the start of a new chapter. This might be on the left-hand page. It doesn't bother me, and I had to make a few compromises in my own project. For one thing, on Lulu, a 411-page book is the max in the 4X7" size. There was simply no way to add more blank pages or end matter. It is true that a little compression of the text, by laying it out exactly like a mass-market book might have saved a few pages.

In that sense, my layout is a 'mistake.' However, on a POD platform such as Lulu, there is no possibility (at least for my own purposes,) of 'ten percent waste production.'

The key to any system of setting type is readability. It has to be smooth, neat and unobtrusive. For another editor to look at the work, I suspect with my layout this is not the case, but of course it is the end user, the reader that I actually care about.

Conformity has not been my strong suit in the past. An editor once put red ink all over my page.

He said, 'Don't mix up two persons' dialogue in the same sentence,' and as far as I know he's still right.

'Don't mix up two people's thoughts in the same sentence,' he wrote.

By focusing on the one thing, I missed the other. And now, you know the rest of the story.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Donut Vs. Doughnut.


Today, I jumped in the car and went up the road. I found myself turning into the local drive-through doughnut* shop. That’s fine as far as it goes, but I was actually going to the grocery store.

My dad just gave up his driver’s license. Normally he would have gone to the grocery store.

Was I driving on ‘automatic?’

Was it ‘muscle memory,’ so beloved of fable and song?

Was my mind ‘elsewhere?’

What happened…was I even conscious? Was I ‘sleep-driving?'

***

Norbert Wiener (1894-1964) was an American mathematician and the founder of cybernetics.

During WW II, Wiener attempted to produce a mathematical and electronic system for communicating vital information in such areas as radar and anti-aircraft gun control.

He became interested in automatic computing and feedback theory.

Wiener founded the study of cybernetics. Cybernetics deals with the automatic control of machinery by computers, ‘robotics,’ but also the study of the human brain and nervous system.

The two systems are analogous in the interrelationship of communication and control systems. The difference is organic. It is a matter of degree and complexity of design and function.

He wrote ‘Cybernetics,’ (1948,) and ‘The Human Use of Human Beings,’ (1950.)

In philosophy and psychology, ‘will’ is considered to be a capacity to choose among alternative courses of action.

This is held to be true particularly when the action is directed toward a specific goal or is governed by definite ideals and principles of conduct. This is in contrast to behaviour which stems from instinct, impulse, reflex or habit, none of which involves a conscious decision-making process.

What is artificial ‘intelligence?’ Is it the ability to choose between two or more courses of action, none of which lead directly to clearly defined or decisive outcomes?

For the sake of modernity, let us accept John Dewey’s notion that will is not a faculty of the mind that we are born with; neither is it acquired through heredity.

He saw it as a product of experience, evolving gradually in the mind and personality of the individual. Otherwise we are stuck with ancient philosophers, or metaphysics, neither of which are very satisfactory in the age we live in.

Let them quest for God or the soul, the meaning of life if they will. We will attempt to find ‘artificial intelligence.’

If you blog on Google, or post on Facebook for a while, you will note that the ads that magically appear actually appear pretty relevant after a time. This is not a machine ‘learning’ in the classic sense. What happens is that little ‘crawler bots’ run up and down every line of text and note key words. Those words are collated in terms of subject, frequency, and association with other words. Then, if you are blogging about child care, diaper and fomula ads appear on your blog, even if you have never actually used the word ‘diaper,’ or ‘formula.’

It would seem that our machine can compare imputs, and choose between a number of courses of action, and it requires no real ‘will’ of its own. And if a machine did something unexpected, we would merely consider it a glitch or malfunction. We would inquire no further—the machine is merely broken.

Or is it? Is it really broken? Maybe it was just trying to tell us something.

But ‘will’ is a human attribute.

My will directed me to the grocery store…habit took me to the doughnut shop.

Somehow my brain, being elsewhere, still managed to drive the car safely, (or maybe even a little too fast,) and it eventually took over and got me to the destination.

‘No harm done,’ and it made me think, which is not always a good thing, but I like it.

Maybe I am being held in thrall by Tim Horton’s. Everyone says they put something in that coffee to make you go back.

Public opinion has a certain wisdom of its own, and the stuff in there is caffeine.

Nicotine is the most powerfully addictive drug I have ever had, and without coffee and smokes, I would be miserable.

In that sense the 'stick and carrot' are involved in behavioural training...right?

*Editor’s Note: For our U.S. readers, that’s ‘donut.’

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Patience is a Virtue.

by Louis Bertrand Shalako

c2010

All Rights Reserved


After practically giving up on getting my books into Google Books shortly before Christmas, I screwed up some guts and tried again. And again, the uploads kept failing. What I was getting was 'file name error' in the reports, time and time again.

Here is how you get into Google Books: make a nice clean pdf, with cover images, etc.

Now name your file: 012345678901.pdf

What this means is that you take your ISBN and remove the hyphens. Remove your name and your title. Essentially, the machine didn't care if my book was 'The Case of the Curious Killers, by Louis Bertrand Shalako.' When I uploaded it as, 978986687129.pdf the machine ate it right up.

***

So now I have a fairly well-formatted POD file, in Open Office, of my book 'Core Values.'

I just did this a week or two ago...but I cannot figure out how to get page numbers on opposite sides. I have them all nice and sequential. They seem to start on the right page...what the heck? It has to be some small thing...why go nuts over it?

Is it really important for me to jam out another POD tonight? Is it absolutely vital to spew out another three paperbacks by the end of the month?

What is all this for? Is it going to get me cut off of ODSP and nothing more? Changing one's life might er; take a little time. Bleep! I'm simply in no position to handle it right now...yikes!

Problem solv-ed, as Clouseau would say. Patience is a virtue, and a little perspective doesn't hurt either.

***

By clicking on account settings in 'Lulu,' I noticed that I can send an automatic e-mail thanking customers for their purchase. What an amazing feature! Awesome. What I need now is one of those product coupons.

Now, on Amazon, I have noticed that my books have no write-up in terms of a blurb.

There must be some way...right? Why can't I see that? There are times when I am not writing a thing and I still manage to keep busy. I need to dispose of about a hundred bogus and spurious versions, inevitably spawned during the learning process.

***

Sorry, I keep updating things. But if you check your e-mail settings, you may see something in there that says 'options.' This is where you go to make a 'signature' for your custom e-mails. I simply haven't found the time, right? But you could stick a product coupon-code into your thank-you note. Give them a break on the next purchase, you know the theory. People think signature means as in pen and ink. The way to do this is still a mystery, but I have been tempted to sign a full-size sheet of paper with a big magic marker. Then simply scan it and save it as a .doc. After that I kind of get lost, but it should be possible, er; somehow. Save it as an 'object,' or something.

Oh, yeah. Photoshop failed to install. I should have turned off antivirus, but oh, well. No one man can know everything.

But you have to admit, I'm getting pretty good. Not bad for an old bald-headed guy.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Rags to Riches: A Horatio Alger Story.






















by Louis Bertrand Shalako

c2010

All Rights Reserved

'I'm just some boy who growed up in a holler.' -General Charles 'Chuck' Yeager, the first man to beat Mach One at its own game.

On January 1/2004 I resolved 'to finish a novel, just finish it, no matter how bad it was, even if it killed me.'

As of today, I have four published e-books and my first Print On Demand trade paperback in the skunkworks.

We're bashing tin, and going at it hammer and tongs...we're cooking with gas and firing on all eight.

I still have three novels in the can. I have enough short stories for at least another two collections. If I get desperate, I can publish my poetry book.

I haven't written a thing other than blog posts since late November, and I don't really worry too much about that.

There is plenty of work to be done. We are learning the basic tools and techniques of social networking, and having a heck of a lot of fun along the way.

There probably are more things for me to write. Their time will come.

We're making some new friends and learning our craft.

It doesn't get much better than this, ladies and gentlemen.

Money is the least of our worries, odd as that may seem to an impartial, objective observer using commonly accepted terms of reference in realtime.

-louis

Sunday, January 9, 2011

LuluPODfile Nearly Complete.

























(Proposed rear image, 'The Case of the Curious Killers.')

by Louis Bertrand Shalako

c2010

All Rights Reserved


It looks like my file is all set to go, although I just scrolled through it and found two more minor formatting errors.

Basically, I'm just stalling. In all liklihood there will be changes that need to be made after reading the proof copy. So why fight it?

I'm still unable to right-justify the text on the rear cover art, so it may be a couple of days yet. The text on the front cover is a little too near the edge.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Time In A Bottle. And Why Gravity Bends Reality.




Time is not a physical constant. While time can be measured precisely at a given location, the effect of gravitation on time is that it expands and contracts.

Yet it is my sense that time does not stretch, but perhaps the gaps between quanta of time may become enlarged. Like Formula One cars, the gaps between them open up as they accelerate onto the straightaways, and the ‘cars,’ or quanta, bunch up under braking and turning—and turning, or ‘lateral acceleration,’ is indistinguishable from gravity. Gravity bends light, so why not time, or even ‘reality’ itself?

In a 1971 experiment, atomic clocks were carried on supersonic aircraft. One traveled east, (in the direction of Earth’s rotation,) and the other traveled west.

After the globe-encircling flights, the clocks on both planes either gained or lost time when compared to a ground-based atomic clock.

This was confirmation of a predicted effect of relativity. Mathematics predicted it, and experiment confirmed the existence of time dilation. Now, it seems to me that the speed, or velocity of the aircraft, relative to the magnetic field, is what causes the actual time dilation. The aircraft are crossing magnetic lines of force, which causes the temporal distortion.

Let us assume that we can isolate this one variable in the equation. Now solve for all other operations, factors, sets, etc. This answer is fine if there is no motion, (or no gravity.) Now, hit this ‘answer’ with your last variable-factor, i.e., ‘velocity in a magnetic field of x-force.’ This isolated variable means the answer we end up with is not a constant, it can be ‘accurate to the tenth decimal place,’ and even ‘precise,’ without ever quite being correct.

That is because there really is no correct answer. Would time distort in the presence of gravity but in the absence of motion? Good question, but if it does, it must distort less than it would at a higher velocity. The answer is that the dilation is both variable and a constant. This is a necessary fiction, in some sense. It is the correct answer mathematically, but philosophically, ‘wrong.’ The trouble is you have nothing else to compare it with, in keeping with our notion of ‘relativity.’

You can cut something in half an infinite number of times, and each quantum of time is a separate and distinct entity. Could we cut a quantum of time in half, and what would happen if we did? Would it break reality? Would it sever the time line, and yet that is a contradiction, for it cannot start twice…? If a quantum exhibits characteristics of both a wave and a particle at the same time, is it divisible at all?

Can we do both, or neither, at one and the same time, or separately?

If you made yourself really, really, small, you would see the forces of the universe at work—you would see magnetic lines of force, and stretching off into your future, little white marks like the lines on a highway. The nearest quanta look ‘big’ and the farther they are away, they look ‘small.’ At some point, they appear to be a continuous white line. These are quanta of time.

You would see electrons buzzing around in their orbits and the little strings that keep them from flying away, and the links between molecules.

You would see things that only God has ever seen before. Statistically speaking, at a temperature of absolute zero, there will still be molecular motion. Statistically speaking, it ‘must’ be happening. No one can ‘prove’ it, except mathematically. Is time temperature dependent? Would time stand still at zero degrees K? My personal opinion is that time marches on regardless.

Can we save time in a bottle? I don’t know.

In a previous monograph, I referred to reality as a ‘bubble,’ expanding outwards from a point of singularity. Reality does not exist inside the bubble, it is in fact the skin of the bubble itself. Points relative to each other on that ‘bubble’ of reality will expand away from each other as time goes on. This is simple topology.

So-called ‘reality,’ is a one-dimensional plane surface that is not flat—it is a hollow sphere, made of a material of infinite thinness. We live inside of that material. We cannot go ‘forward,’ in the direction of expansion, for that is the future and it hasn’t happened yet, and worse, it may never happen. We cannot go back, for that is the past, and to go back into the past is to change the unchangeable. All we can do is to remain in our matrix, an infinite expressed in one-dimensional topological terms.

My little handheld calculator only goes up to eight digits, and with my education, I don’t mess around with powers and scientific notation and stuff like that.

In order to understand things, we must describe them. The language must necessarily be precise. In that sense, by taking three lines from the encyclopedia, and constructing my own premise, I am ‘looking for truth,’ or ‘knowledge,’ insofar as that is possible.*

Setting the math aside for the moment, what I am really trying to say is, ‘truth may be sought by a careful analysis of language,’ for language is a tool for seeing things inside of our own heads.

The more words we have, the better we understand them, the more knowledge that opens up to us. When you consider that mathematics is really just a language of great precision, one that we can use to describe things in objective terms, then it becomes apparent there are some serious gaps in my own education.

*One of the ‘variables’ in writing is the level of education, or even merely the interest of the reader. It’s pretty likely someone much more knowledgeable than I will simply move on, while another person might be overwhelmed, and another might be intrigued by the possibilities. Some might see it as an absurdity, or find it boring. If you made it this far, thank you and have a good day. You really are a beautiful person. (This really is bullshit, Louis. -ed.) (Yes, I know. But it's good bullshit. -Louis)

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Nuts and Bolts. Boring Old POD File.

by Louis Bertrand Shalako

c2010

All Rights Reserved


The basic problem with my print on demand (POD) file for 'The Case of the Curious Killers,' is that the left indents went all nutzo and the solution sort of makes the right margin crooked again.

Maybe it's just a matter of pecking away and rewriting sentences for two or three weeks...in which case I don't know if I can really hack it.

It seems that other people can format a file to make a nice right margin justified book, and so shall I...hopefully.

If worst comes to worst, I will take my most recent and up to date 'Smashfile' and simply EPUB it to Lulu.com! I say that because I honestly thought or believed that Epub-ing stripped out page and chapter breaks.

Over on 'Goodreads,' my e-books all seem to open up on the cover in the normal way, but then they scroll down like flowing text in an e-reader of some sort.

Yet another author's book that I checked goes page-by-page and chapter by chapter. She had a table of contents, and that may be the difference. Goodreads only uploads Epubs, so I am curious as to the actual difference.

Do I seem confused by all these versions, and all of these formats???

It seems like an important question, as over at Lulu.com, you can upload an Epub file...to produce your paperback. I have to admit, I am curious what all this is going to look like.

One of my options is to take another clean file--again the Smashwords .doc file--and pursue the 'nuclear option' outlined in the Smashwords Style Guide.

It may come down to that. Basically just make a .txt and start again, and maybe pray a little bit.

***

Promotion:

Promotion also has its challenges for me. On Goodreads, you have to have a print book to participate in their 'giveaways.' While this would be expensive anyway for certain people depending upon their personal circumstances, it sounds like a really good idea.

For that reason, I have gone into my book settings, the 'edit book' button up on the right side of the individual book page, and set the price/terms to 'free.' If I see that that works, I will announce my 'giveaway.' (I guess.)

And at that point, the formatting really starts to matter, doesn't it?

That's the nuts and bolts of self-publishing, bearing in mind that all of our mistakes are on public display at the forum. It is as glamorous as all hell.

Another basic problem is shyness. Who in the hell am I to ask someone to review my book? And why should they?

To participate in discussion groups implies some knowledge of the subject matter. If I review someone's book, theoretically it should be a new release! No one really needs another review of 'Huckleberry Finn,' or whatever.

My everything for free business model has its stregths and it has its weaknesses. It starts to fall apart at some point...

Monday, January 3, 2011

Oops!



























by Louis Bertrand Shalako

c2010

All Rights Reserved

Oops!

I was going through all my folders, trying to get all my documents in one, pictures in another, unused desktop icons in another, etc.

Opening up my Open Office program, I clicked on my book, the only real file in there, and of course it said, 'The File Does Not Exist.'

After a moment of quick and liquid dread, I recalled that at least I hadn't emptied the recycle bin, and a quick file search did indeed reveal the elusive file.

We've been through the first 220+ pages of a 425-page work, and it will be some time yet. I don't want to put out a printed book with lousy, ragged right margins.

***

I got the book 'Case' posted to Spalding's Racket. This is not a review site, but hopefully the book gets a little more exposure. I e-mailed pdf copies to a couple of places, but the one to my old college bounced! I'll have to check out that address. The place is still there...I drove past it the other day.

I see people having giveaways and contests and things like that. I should obviously be doing that. It's probably irrational to think my inbox would be flooded with requests. I have sent out three books for review, and a couple of queries, and who knows? We might be fortunate, and if we're not receptive to criticism we ain't going nowhere. I obviously lack self-esteem or something. Maybe I'm just shy!

But there must be a way to do it. Pick a platform and set the price to 'free,' and then people can download a free book from a site they trust, right? And no stuff in my inbox. With that, it will take some time for the price change to filter through. Obviously, I would use my best book, and stuff like that. I'll have to think it out, or write some kind of blurb for it. I might want to plan it...?

***

The local library lends out e-books. How do I get in there? I don't have a clue, and the website doesn't have anything on that. It takes guts or something to even ask. It doesn't really matter if I get paid for them, we're trying to build readership, and get talked about to some extent.

Something like that.

***

It was nice to get out of the house for a while today. The above picture was taken fifty metres, maybe a little less off of Sarnia's Canatara Park. HP E-317 pic by lous.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

A Long Job.

by Louis Bertrand Shalako

c2010

All Rights Reserved


Still working on that Lulu POD file.

This part of the process is a long job. I'm checking every left indent in the file, and any deviation, even as little as one-tenth of an inch, sticks out. If you like the story and kind of get into it, you might not notice, but if you are inclined to be critical to begin with, or have low expectations, you might.

So far I've only done about eighty pages out of over four hundred. Another thing I have noticed, is that if a word on the end of a line ends in 'f,' then the curl of the 'f' sticks out a little into the right margin. It is possible to rewrite the sentence, and make sure there are no 'f's on the end of the line. Sticking a few words into a line to aid in the justification process is time consuming and a pain in the ass, and like any rewrite, it has to make sense.

What I find strange is that taking an old smashfile and converting it to .txt really did not cure this problem, not in this Open Office program.

The smashfile would have had indents defined under the 'define paragraph' thingy, and turning it into a .txt preserves indents pretty well. I made those files in Word. They look fine in the e-books.

If nothing else, setting a two-month deadline for myself shows something.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Justification.





















That's a rubber band stretched down the side to check indents...

by Louis Bertrand Shalako

c2010

All Rights Reserved


I am starting off the year with a little bit of back pain, and the sort of fuzzy, nagging headache that goes on for days or even longer.

No, I am not hung over from New Year's celebrations as I did not drink. I paid off my credit card last month, and thus will be going completely without money for forty long, dark and cold days and nights.

But it's all in a good cause, namely and to wit, balancing the massive provincial deficit on the backs of the most vulnerable people in the nation. And a little justification goes a long way, which is one reason I'm always so rude to the government. 'I feel your pain.' And I sure wouldn't want you to have no justification.

So anyway, I have the right hand margins of 'The Case of the Curious Killers' er; 'justified,' as it were, and of course now the left indents have gone all kooky. I've noted this sort of thing before, when working with an old file that has been through three or four random computer crashes and the changes from Word '93, Word 97, Word 2003, .doc to .docx. It is 'the usual thing.'

Now I am engaged in the painstaking and painsgiving process of combing the work one line at a time. Each of the indents must be as precise as I can make it, for we are all aware that as a writer I will be judged by the typesetting, among other things.

Other artists will tell you, it is extremely unwise to have your work condemned by those who refuse to read it...

For the record, I took an old 'smashfile,' although perhaps not the most current and upt to date one; and saved it as a .txt file. Then I imported or pasted it in to the Open Office program. But more experience editors have noted problems with right margin justification in the past, and Microsoft Word was specifically mentioned.

There is no end matter at the far end of the book. There will be a blurb just inside the front cover. I still need to do the cover design again, for the e-books had no real outer back cover.

I should throw another couple of blank pages in there and dedicate it to my mom.

Other than that, it is just a matter of finding the time to work on it. I only checked about thirteen pges today, and now I really need to get out of this chair.