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Things Have Changed (as well as FB) September 22, 2011

Posted by bobv451 in business, cats, e-books, food, movies & TV, music, sci-fi, Second Life, VIPub, writing.
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A couple days ago I blogged about reviews and reading/not reading them. Since progress always marches on (and sometimes over us, as witnessed by the “upgrade” in Facebook) what’s a reader to do without a reviewer?

The answer is pretty obvious if you read ebooks. There is a sample function that lets you read the first few pages of the work. If you like what you read, go for it. If you don’t, you’ve gone to a primary source (your own likes/dislikes) and spent about the same amount of time as reading someone else’s review. The latter requires you to decipher the reviewer’s opinions and use them as a filter. If the reviewer hates s&s and gives a bad review, this is pretty worthless since the best s&s would get the same level of contempt. If the reviewer hates s&s and gives a good review, you might have to dig further. Reviewer a friend? Having a good day? Something else? You still don’t know.

Read the sample chapter yourself and decide. What a concept, forming your own opinion rather than relying on an outsourced one.

Last night in Mike Stackpole’s office hours (Second Life) he made the point that we writers are entertainers. A long time ago Poul Anderson famously said we are in competition for the reader’s beer money. Do they buy our book or a six pack? Cost is about the same. This is an example of indirect competition. We are indirectly in competition with all forms of entertainment, video games, movies, amusement parks, music, baseball games, tv, even that six-pack. (Think of this as an example. You want to go to a restaurant and there’s a McD’s at hand. Next to it is an Applebee’s–indirect competition. They both serve food but different kinds in different atmosphere. Next to that is a Burger Thief. Direct competition since both food and ambiance are on a par with McD’s. Which do you choose? This is the heart of direct & indirect competition.)

Direct competition comes from other authors, other books (pretty much in the same genre). It’s always good for a business to identify both customers and potential customers. How do we do things better than tv or movies? How do we give the reader a superior experience to another author? This is all part of VIPub and the business of writing.

Cats and Dogs August 1, 2011

Posted by bobv451 in cats, weird news.
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Parade Magazine, the Sunday newspaper supplement, is hardly a news magazine. The “spontaneous” questions in their Q&A section always miraculously tie in with some movie or tv release. The World’s Smartest Woman answers questions you could look up using google. The recipe section is typical. Forty-seven new ways to prepare arugula in yogurt and aspic. The “fact” articles tend to be silly.

This week’s was “Which is the Better Pet, Cats or Dogs?” A patently unanswerable question since not once does a question address “are you allergic?” You sneeze when you meet a cat, don’t get a cat. So if you want a pet, a dog is the better choice. And vice versa. But their questions are all slanted to denigrating cats.

Dogs supposedly can understand 137 words. 137? Mighty specific number. Is the dog a genius is he understands 138? An idiot if he can only figure out 136? This reminds me of the statement: 87% of all statistics are made up on the spot. 137? As John Stossel would say, “give me a break.”

According to the article, dogs are thus superior because they understand more words. Not mentioned is that cats can give voice to more than 100 sounds, lots more than a dog can howl. Indicates to me communication cat2cat is far richer than dog2dog.

Dogs are pack animals. Cats aren’t. (Think of a house cat as a small tiger, at least psychologically). If you want a snuffling sycophant sniffing your crotch and licking your face, go with a dog. IOW, you want to be worshiped, dogs are the way to go. Cats couldn’t care less. Unless they want you to feed them.

I am certainly biased in the matter. I don’t like dogs, do have cats. But space filler articles like the one in Parade all too often these days pass as “fact” and even “news.” Bottom line. You want a pet. Don’t depend on Parade to give you a fair appraisal. Got to the pound, look around, and maybe just maybe, you’ll connect with one of the beasties (canine or feline). In the never ending posts of cat pictures, here’s one of my current black cat (a rescue cat going into his 5th yr of ruling my household for me).

X-ray rules!

“Don’t Let the Sound of Your Own Wheels Drive You Crazy” June 19, 2011

Posted by bobv451 in cats, conventions, history, ideas, Texas, weather, westerns, writing.
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It’s been like that this week. Tiring driving back and forth to eastern Oklahoma. I missed getting my car pummeled with baseball-sized hail by 24 hours in Oklahoma City. OKC is, by the way, a horror to drive through. One pass through they closed I-40 due to a wreck. Another closure dealt with an ammunition truck overturned. Closures of all but one lane makes for a terrifying Venturi effect along the damned whappa-whappa-whappa concrete slab freeway. If they didn’t have the highway numbers painted on the roadbed, I’m not sure I could ever get through the spaghetti maze of roads.

But there is some benefit staring at the miles of miles in the Panhandle, zooming past the largest cross in North America (Groom, TX), seeing the devastation of drought and fire, seeing the flooding in OK only miles to the east. First time I was in Tahlequah about 6 weeks ago, it was so dry that the lightning bugs weren’t even out at night. This time big ones flashed their cheery greeting since it had rained so much in the interim. Love lighting bugs. Hate bugs. Especially the vampire-sized mosquitoes. One good suck at a vein and I am drained.

But the benefit of driving. This is probably wrong but my brain turns off on empty stretches, and there were lots of them. Not much traffic (except for the idiot woman from Arkansas in a mini Cooper who would zoot past me at 85, then slow to 60 so I’d pass and then repeat. Endlessly. Or the subcompact piled 3 stories high with…who knows what. The cross winds were having a field day with that poor sucker. I won’t even mention the mugger trucker so stoned he could hardly stay in two lanes and a shoulder. Or the semi that got blown over just west of Amarillo.) The benefit of turning off my mind. Yes, I am still groggy from the road.

Ideas pile up and spill out since I don’t have any other distractions. No phone, no cats, no doorbell, that funny noise that wasn’t there a minute before (if I get one of those on the road, I turn up the CD until I can’t hear it any longer) I hit upon a nice fantasy short story idea for an anthology that I hope I’m not too late to submit to. Got to write the story, but it’s a good one, so… Two new western plots. A story line for a new Jackson Lowry novel. Rewriting mentally a story I had just done (wrong pov, I figured, but am letting it stand with only a small amount of additional stuff required). Some mental writing on Hot Rail to Hell. Very productive drives idea-wise. Not once did I think of Pantex blowing up as I passed. But I did think of the helium mines. And of course thinking on the Albuquerque Comic Expo at the end of this week. Wheee!

I leave you with this…

Jobs of the Future February 7, 2011

Posted by bobv451 in cats, death, ideas, inventions, science, web & computers, writing.
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First off, let me make this perfectly clear. I hate hackers. Last June it took 3 long days in the shop to get a rootkit virus pried loose from my OS. Three days and $200. And I suspect this was quick since I had an expedited hurry up rush order on it. Right now, a friend (Hey, Ken) likely has the same problem. His computer delivers porn to him endlessly. Or at least that’s what he’s telling his wife. From the symptoms, he’s got a rootkit virus on his computer, too.

Somebody dropped the Stuxnet virus onto the Iranian centrifuges. Cyberwar is happening all around us, whether it is Denial Of Service or trojans or stuff I have no idea about. That’s what makes this story of DARPA all the more important.

They are seriously looking into developing nonhackable systems. I’ve mentioned the quantum entanglement as a possible way of doing this. These systems are interesting but CRASH (Clean-slate Design of Resilient, Adaptive, Secure Host) based on the human immune system? I suspect they mean roving white blood cells (or their cyber equivalents) killing off viruses. An intriguing approach but what if those hackers turn their attention to the real thing?

What would it take them to hack the human immune system? AIDS might look like a mere head cold with the full attention of legions of hackers going after compromising our wondrous phagocytes. Turning them into rampaging monsters phagocytosing everything would eat us up from the inside out. Don’t tell me a hacker wouldn’t take some sick joy in turning you into a blob of gray goo.

This might be needed for a RoboNet. HAL, anyone? And a HAL that can heal itself? Or are we talking SkyNet?

Back in the 1870s, epidemics were relatively insignificant because of the distance and the long travel times between communities. An infected would die before reaching an uninfected town. Epidemics are more the stuff of urban populations, which protected rural communities then and make us so vulnerable now. The Spanish Flu epidemic was the first big hit of the 20th century. Human to human disease becomes easier than relying on rats to carry the Black Death (which wouldn’t have been as bad if there hadn’t been that silly fear of cats being demonic–I have an entirely black cat (even the whiskers) that the pound said had been hard to place because people don’t want black cats for superstitious reasons. Maybe I should have listened, at least in this one’s case since he is into everything all the time. He must sleep but I have no idea when.)

But getting hackers looking into systems similar to the human immune system might just bring about unforeseen consequences.

Plague Preventer

Serve Up That Roadkill November 23, 2010

Posted by bobv451 in cats, ideas, UFOs, weird news.
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Ken sent this link along about a guy advocating roadkill for Thanksgiving

I suppose the green movement is everywhere and the old saw about “waste not want not” might even become “waist not want knot” depending on what you find. I got to thinking, always a serious disaster sign, and decided if I wanted to got his route, it ought to be as a connoisseur.

To wit (or half wit): I want my Thanksgiving roadkill to be gourmet. Flat cat, Goodyear 2009. Deer, Michelin 2008. Armadillo, Pirelli 2010. Coyote, Dunlop 1981. (Harder to determine since there won’t be any tread left, so all the more desirable…).

Ken suggested that around Roswell there might be an alien or two run over and available. Unidentified Flattened Objets, as he said. Aliens, the other gray meat.

Choose wisely, ye potential gourmand wannabes.

Whatya Gonna Pay? November 4, 2010

Posted by bobv451 in cats, e-books, fantasy, iPad, science fiction, VIPub, westerns, writing.
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Just as the word count discussion is going on over at Western Fictioneers, another one of interest is expanding on another writers’ forum. This one has to do with the proper price we should charge for e-books.

Mike Stackpole has made the best argument–the online price must be less than the paperback price. Why should you pay the same for an electronic copy as a paper one? That makes sense to me since you have to provide your own reader, be it Kindle or Nook or iPad or even your desktop computer. Or iPhone or other handheld. You ought to get a break in price.

But with pbs going at $10 now, where’s the price point. One author said he puts his novels out at 99cents. Problem with this is one of how readers value what they get. If it’s only worth 99 cents to the author, is it really worth anything to the reader? Evidence points to “no.” A high profile author puts his out at $6.50 and is doing well. I think $5 is reasonable for my books.

But those are novels. What about short stories? Again sub $1 entries don’t do too well. I have mine at $1.99 and this seems to work just fine–because this is what they’re worth to me. I have put out stories for free (and they have been hugely d/l’d) but have no evidence these sparked purchases of other work.

This isn’t to say sampling doesn’t work for longer fiction. Give the potential reader a couple chapters of a novel. They like, they buy. They don’t like, they move on. I am considering putting up The Cenotaph Road as a free book with the 5 subsequent books in the series at $5 each. What do you think? Or should I just let potential readers sample the first few chapters in each book?

Most all, selling fiction from my store is best for all concerned. You get to see what’s new (and sometimes not put up on Kindle, Nook or iPad) and I get a larger cut and keep eating so I can keep putting up new material. I die of starvation, and the cats wouldn’t dine as well for as long off my corpse, either. Buy off my store for the sake of my cats.

Here’s the cover (sans lettering so far) for a soon to be posted short story set in “Jackson Lowry’s” Tales of Mesilla series. Cover photo by Mike Thomspon, and a good one it is. Look for “Fifteen Dollars” soon.

Up (Outside) the Air October 27, 2010

Posted by bobv451 in cats, conventions, e-books, iPad, movies, robot rights, science, science fiction, sense of wonder, space, VIPub, writing.
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Tom Swift and his Outpost in Space was one of my favorites in the series (I like giant robots, too). I wondered at the time why Tom didn’t build a Stanford torus but years later I figured that one out for myself. Better to have it at zero-g than try to balance shifting masses or play traffic cop for when crew left the rim and went to the center. Wobble wobble.

I found this with some of the oldie space station ideas. I still like the O’Neill colonies the best (obviously–I have done 2 short stories in a future universe where the sky is filled with them).
Burn the Sky On Wings of Plague. Also on the Kindle. And I am plotting out a new one, “Fade to Nova.”

I was less a fan of the Tom Swift, Boy Inventor (series5) Space Hotel since it read too much like a bad sf movie with air vents you can crawl through and some bogus dangers when real ones would have worked better. But orbiting stations are the in thing, with private companies talking about them and the Chinese with one going up any time now.

But I do like the idea of an inflatable space hotel, reportedly coming up in Q2, ‘11 (not to be confused with economy ruining QE2)

While this is all really up there in the air, I hope to be cruising along at 35,000 ft this time tomorrow on my way to World Fantasy Con in Columbus, with a plane change at Midway. May the weather cooperate since I have my iPaddy, tux and everything ready to go (almost–I need to get the cat out of my suitcase or he’s in for a long and harrowing weekend). [If the weather doesn’t cooperate, *I* may have a harrowing weekend ahead of me.]

Be back on the other side of the WFC. Feel free to browse my blog, my site, my store.

Bits and Pieces and Lights in the Sky October 22, 2010

Posted by bobv451 in cats, Chain story, e-books, movies & TV, VIPub, weird news, writing.
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UFO sightings tend to go in cycles. Sometimes none for a long time (post 9/11 saw a minimum, it seems) but now they are picking up again. One over China.; One over NYC in broad daylight. And one caught very nicely on video in El Paso. Terri, my stalwart correspondent in El Paso, says it was a nighttime drop of a crack parachute team. Not sure if it was for a show, but it would seem not or the word would have gone out. This might be something like our past idiot mayor tried with a string of intensely bright lights along Sandia Crest’s ridgeline to advertise the city’s tricentennial. Mostly it stirred up things then with the lying TV and news media saying they knew nothing about it and then was ignored during the actual celebration. I think. I don’t really remember much of the celebration. Nor does anyone else, but I bet a lot of politicians’ bank accounts were feathered nicely.

But there are other news items that make me struggle to figure out the reasoning. A guy up in northern NM was just sentenced to 8 yrs for killing his dog. The dog bit somebody so he decided to kill it. He tried to cut its throat with a knife but couldn’t do it (I think it was a pit bull so the musculature might have been pretty heavy). He said he wanted to shoot the dog but since he was a convicted felon couldn’t own a gun, so he used a chainsaw. The thought processes going on here defeat me–but I wish he’d gotten more than 8 years, which is more than most murderers of humans get in this state. This guy is so dangerously whacked out he ought to be up the river for ever.

The lack of depth in news reporting these days is fascinating to observe. Water conservation limits were smashed–proof we are wasting water. But the water main not a mile from my house broke, spewed thousands if not millions of gallons of water and dug a 15′ deep hole (this while I was in Ruidoso–water to house was shut off for 2 days and my son said he had to give the cats bottled water. They now insist on Evian…) The break went on for hours and hours until they could turn off the feeder (this is under a major–the major–intersection in the area). No mention of how this break might have affected the overage was reported.

New story at the Chain Story Project.

Silly stuff at Cheese Magnet.

Not only have I finished the rewrite on God of War 2, my first three titles are posted on the new Barnes & Noble Nook e-book site. To Demons Bound, Moonlight in the Meg and Hammer & Fangs.

Find your nook, snuggle into a cranny and read one of them!

Whew September 29, 2010

Posted by bobv451 in cats.
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My coauthor had to go to the doc this morning (new clinic, same doctor) for the usual. Rabies, etc but it was decided, reluctantly on my part, to have dental cleaning. This had been done a couple years earlier. I hate having it done to myself but do every 6 months anyway. So every couple years for Isotope isn’t all that bad, though general anesthetic is necessary.

A full blood test was done but a urine sample was required. Well, that proved a problem. A 6 hr problem but all was finally squeezed out. Poor Isotope had not eaten this morning (the only way to catch the cat is to lure him with food–let him eat and he’s desaparecido) so we got home this afternoon. But he won’t eat. I can’t leave the food out or the other cat (who looks like a furry tank) would vacuum it up. When I went to San Diego I’d left out food for 4 days. It was gone in two, so it was good I had someone coming in to check the water. But Isotope is going hungry since he rejected the food I put out (while the other was locked up).

I need to post this fast because Isotope has to go back for the actual cleaning in a couple weeks (after I bop on down to Ruidoso) and if he knew by reading this he would be impossible to find out. Cat Who Walks Through Walls? Cat who teleports to light-years distant star system!

I worked somewhat sporadically today worrying over him, so tonight I need to get down to real work. Want to get several chapters into what I am tentatively calling Slocum Along Corpse River. (And today I just receive my copies of Slocum and the Dirty Dozen.)

Back to work.

Beetlebaum Using an iPad in a Nudist Colony to Research Billy the Kid August 1, 2010

Posted by bobv451 in cats, e-books, ideas, inventions, iPad, movies, movies & TV, sci-fi, VIPub, web & computers, writing.

OK, I lied over on my website. I am trying this as a title. Those words and phrases are the big search items.

But I do want to throw in how utterly wonderful I think the iPad is. The people at the local store may be closer to Apple Idiots than Apple Geniuses but the product is superb. I went so far as to install wifi in the house to use it all over the place. When I find the cats running their paws over the screen, I’ll know how really useful this device can be. Cat porn. *shudder*

In the “It had To Come” category. The universal translator has been a staple of sf long before Star Trek, though that seems to be the area where most journalists first discovered the concept. It seems our universal speechifier is closer to becoming a reality. Now, can they program this to translate rap lyrics? Or is that too alien. Will I need one to explore caves in Australia since the tour guides speak Klingon?

I wanted to mention a new project of good buddy Scott Phillips. If you love old, goofy movies as much as I do (and anywhere near as much as Scott), check out Cheese Magnet. Stuff about wretched movies but Scott is too much a gentleman to plug his own book, Unsafe on Any Screen, so I will.

Available on Kindle, in print and even on the iPad. I told you that was a wonderful gadget.

Speaking of crappy movies, saw one last night that managed to fail on so many levels it is hardly worth mentioning. Jack Hunter and the Lost Treasure of Ugarit For some reason it got 4* on imdb. Go figure. But it had Joanne Kelly from Warehouse 13 in it, so I watched. OK, kinda watched. I was playing with my iPad. Horrible acting, a plot ripped from any of a dozen other better movies and destined to raise the question: why? Why waste time and effort when you can make a truly awful movie you will remember rather than a forgettably bad one?

Some things man was not meant to know.