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If You Ever Want to See Your Cute Little Data Again… July 2, 2017

Posted by bobv451 in business, computers, Free.
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Ransomware. Kinda. I got pulled into a scam cum ransomware nightmare the other day because I wanted to clean up the links on my computer. Some were 404s, some worked but I no longer cared about–those got deleted. I hit one that might have been lurking for more than 5 years and…

Sirens! Dire warning that if I turned off the computer it would turn into a brick when I rebooted. Zeus Virus! I would be responsible for bringing down Microsoft! (Really–it said that) Call the Microsoft number at the bottom. Just to get rid of the strident noise by means other than turning down the speakers looked beneficial. I called. Not exactly a “hello, we’re Microsoft” but intimated as much. I spoke with my new best friend Stephanie in Mumbai (neither the name given nor where I was calling, I suspect–this is a generic name I use for tech support) who assured me if I did not take care of the virus by letting her assume control of my computer it would bring down the entire Microsoft network. It snuck in under my anti-virus programs, under the firewall, over my head like the Sword of Damocles.

While bringing down the mighty Microsoft might not be a bad idea, it struck me I wasn’t talking to anyone at Microsoft and pointed questions to this effect always sidled away–”we work as subcontractors to Microsoft.” To save my precious computer, whose operating system would be toast (and, guilt-inducingly, the entire MS network) if I didn’t comply, all I had to do was fork over $350.

I only paid $350 for the computer a few years ago. Getting up a new browser tab, I moved what data I could to a flashdrive. All the while my new best friend Stephanie in Mumbai was shouting for me not to do it, I was going to crash Microsoft. And if I had any other computers attached to the wifi network, they were infected, too. I doubted iOS on my iPad was in danger, but…

Against mnbfSiM’s exhortations, I turned off the computer, rebooted and got rid of the siren and strident warning. Ran Avast and found 2 deeply hidden viruses and expunged them. Then discovered every penny I pay for Avast is worth it. There is a subroutine that automatically protects data from ransomware (and can be configured for any folder). I hadn’t known that before. Avast is awesome. It’s worth paying for. Anti-virus. Firewall. Go for it. I am doubly glad I did, even if the ransomware demand was somewhat oblique and depended on me being doubly dumb, not only handing over remote control of my computer but also giving my credit card number.

Avast. It’s free. But the for-pay upgrade is necessary in this day and age. (And, as far as I know, kept the entire Microsoft network from crashing).



Playing In My Own Sandbox (part 2) April 13, 2014

Posted by bobv451 in business, e-books, Free, ideas, VIPub, westerns, Wild West, writing.
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Nothing is certain but change. That’s the way of life, but not necessarily so in series. If you intend to do a limited series, say a trilogy, your protagonist can have a character arc where all kinds of flaws are corrected or augmented by the end of the series. The protagonist usually grows as a person and responds to the vicissitudes of the plot thrown at him/her. This makes for a satisfying conclusion but presents a problem if the series stretches to more titles.

Readers get invested in the character. Watching one grow and change is fine if the series ends in a predetermined number of titles. If the series has multiple entries, this isn’t such a good idea. A reader coming into the series after 5 or 6 titles (or 50 or 60) can fall in love with that character, go back to read earlier titles and find the character doesn’t measure up. End of interest. Ebooks have the advantage of always being in print so a reader can scrounge up the first book and ride the wave through all the titles and enjoy the character development. But in a print series, this isn’t an easy thing. Print books go OP (out of print) in a few weeks.

Some many-authored long-running series like the Jake Logan books insist that the main character (in this case, John Slocum) never change from the traits listed in the series bible. Authors don’t have to deal with changes or details a book or a hundred books earlier. But what’s an author to do with a static protagonist?

The answer comes in the secondary characters. They can change (or even die). The protagonist carries the plot and everyone around can learn and grow or devolve. End of book, satisfying character changes, but not in the protagonist who moves on, as is, to begin a new adventure.

I am trying something a bit different in a western series starting in October. The protagonist in The Great West Detective Agency is a gambler and something of a wastrel whose liking for the ladies always gets him in trouble. It’s a print series so Lucas Stanton’s not going to change much, but I hit upon the idea of publishing short stories using secondary characters to augment the plot. What are the histories behind the characters in the book? The dance hall girl or the bartender? The sidekick or the femme fatale? The curious “source of all information” or the hellfire and brimstone preacher or the sweet young thing who entices Stanton into a new mystery? This volume (the first will be called 4 Lives) will be an ebook and maybe PoD. But it gives a chance for the behind the scenes look at the characters and how they got to where they are in the book, leaving the protagonist free to push the plot.

If you want a free copy of 4 Lives when it is ready in a month or so to see what I’m doing, drop me a line via my website at http://www.cenotaphroad.com and mention it. Be sure to tell me what your preferred format is.

Great West Detective Agency

Great West Detective Agency

Welcome to the New Mayan Long Count December 22, 2012

Posted by bobv451 in business, e-books, End of the World, Free, sci-fi, science fiction, steampunk, VIPub, writing.
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Survived the last 5125 and unfortunately the new page on the Mayan calendar doesn’t have any of those frisky Mayan maidens with cavorting jaguars, either. Next time.

For those of you looking forward to the next end times but unsure what to do until then, let me remind you I’m having a super duper post-apocalyptic sale in my store on all sci-fi titles. Only a couple more days so hurry hurry hurry.

Today’s Lio cartoon sums up so much so well so quickly in 2 frames.


Well, That Was Special September 4, 2012

Posted by bobv451 in autographing, business, contest, e-books, Free, movies, Texas, VIPub, writing.
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My mistake on yesterday’s blog. Zumaya is doing the trivia hunt but, as I can be, I was a day late and a dollar short. Actually, not $ short but days late.

Makes me feel guilty about this, though. So, a trivia contest run by yhos. Same question as before. What was my first published science fiction book? If you really don’t know, check my website. Email me the answer at rvardeman451@comcast.net You have one week. Ends midnight Sept 10. Prizes will be ebooks off my online store. First five will be winners! Not that you all aren’t now, of course,

Been doing family visit stuff and loving it. Hit a couple movies. I thought Lawless was ok but really liked Premium Rush, much to my surprise. That one’s a 90 minute chase scene–and they make it work. I was sorta rewriting lines in Lawless but only found one small scene I’d have changed in Premium Rush toward the end. Wasn’t built up before getting trotted onstage and eliminating it wouldn’t have affected the plot one iota (and, of course, in my feeble mind, would have improved it).

Odds and ends. Congrats to all the Hugo winners and what’s with the streaming company killing the feed because its bot detected DRM violation (that wasn’t there)? Welcome to world of robots telling us what’s legal. Robocop, anyone? Except without the human brain? Skynet won’t let us see Neil Gaiman? Everyone’s a critic, including the silicon brained among us…or are they among us, rather than being our new masters?

Something happened on Sep 1 to drive up my count 10x. Big search item? Texas State Flag.

Best joke recently: I set my DVR to record “The Biggest Loser” but it won’t record anything but Dallas Cowboys games.

Must return to the word mines. This is “my” month to start new projects rather than complete old ones. Want 2 novel proposals and 2 short stories done by this time in Oct, when I must get going on a new western. Which brings me to the cover on Karl Lassiter’s China Jack. Click on it below, but don’t expect terracotta soldiers in the book (I chose this from 3 since it appealed to my narcissistic sense and, besides, probably won’t see the light of day anywhere but on Kindle. It makes a compelling b&w thumbnail!)

Boo…Boo…Bubonicon. 44 August 23, 2012

Posted by bobv451 in autographing, Billy the Kid, conventions, e-books, fantasy, Free, movies, movies & TV, New Mexico, nostalgia, science fiction, sense of wonder, VIPub, westerns, writing.
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This weekend. Starting tomorrow! Coming amazingly fast this year–and anticipated even more since I missed last year.

Brandon Sanderson is GoH and via reports from GenCon he will make one fantastic guest of honor. Michael Cassutt is the TM and Ursula Vernon artist GoH. Wow. And George RR Martin and dozens of other writers will be there, too. But you can read all about this at the convention web site.

Want more info? Great article in the UNM student paper about us.

My schedule is packed to the gunwales. First out of the chute on Friday (that’s tomorrow as I write this!) is the Crazy Buck Rogers panel. 4-5pm. Following that I have a reading or discussion or whatever you want for an hour, 7:30-8:30PM. I’ve got a trio of stories I can offer up. A horror story (Avian Evisceration Device) from Career Guide to Your Job in Hell,, a fantasy (Memory of Wind) or a mystery mashup with Sherlock Holmes and Sir Denis Nayland Smith (Adventure of the Greenwich First Light). I don’t like to read so I am quite willing to talk about writing in general, ebooks, e-making your own, what to e-expect and all that good stuff. After all, my ebooks are now available in India via the Kindle. I can even be paid in rupees. If they offered royalties in a hard currency (say, Canadian loonies) that would be better. But I’ll take it in soft currency, ie, USD.

But wait, there’s more. There is the Cheesemagnet Panel at 9:30-11PM, if you don’t get enough cheesy movie talk in your workaday life.

Saturday the 25th? Why, yes, I have a panel 4-5PM on marketing sf via stuffing it into a teeny little niche. Instantly following that in the same room is the 5:20-6:30PM mass autographing, if your Higgs boson provides you enough mass to autograph. I don’t anticipate having much in the way of books to sell, so stock up from Nina and Ron Else in the huckster room (Who Else? Books), but I will have a copy or two of some titles (credit cards accepted). If you ask during the autographing, I will tell you how to get 44% off e-titles from my online store. Ebooks only, please, for this offer.

For most fans this would be enough. Not for yhos. Sunday.1:00-3:30PM auction. Super stuff. Super silly stuff, all auctioned off by the Bcon team of crazies (sans Gordon, alas–doctor things prevent him from attending this year)

This is coming up over the weekend. The past couple weeks have been filled. Finished 1.5 stories in a min-anthology I am doing before I speak at the 23rd Lincoln County Cowboy Symposium.

Also finished copyedits on China Jack, due out Dec 11 (you better read it quick–only 10 days from release date until the Mayan Apocalypse). And almost done on the edits for the final Star Frontier title, Black Nebula.

And work proceeds apace on the final touches for God of War 2.

Plus work on tax accounting stuff, student mss and generally goofing off. I leave you with this. My very first published book has been e-reprinted. This is it! Grab it at this low price while you can.

My first published book!


Time Enough For…Time August 12, 2012

Posted by bobv451 in business, e-books, End of the World, fantasy, Free, movies, movies & TV, sci-fi, science fiction, VIPub, web & computers, westerns, writing.

Woefully absent from these pages during the past 10 days or so, I have experimented with time management and trying to see where It All Goes. A good 3 hrs a day can be sucked up by kitty videos, Facebook and other nonproductive pursuits. The question is: do I garner enough enjoyment from these online time wasters compared with dealing in real world stuff.

While I’d rather watch the cat videos or guys getting smashed in the balls in new and extraordinary ways more than cleaning the garage or doing bookkeeping, they ought to be treated as candy. A little bit is good, a lot will ruin the waistline. I am getting more work done (and amazingly enough, looking forward to doing it) and not missing the blog quite so much.

A momentary diversion. About FB. I have been nailed finally with the Timeline format. Don’t like it, don’t see how it is an improvement, but Zuckerberg can flip us all off and there’s nothing we can do other than stop using FB. I find it useful to let everyone know what’s going on in a timely, concise way that stays around (unlike Twitter, which I have also cut waaay back on) such as the release of Sandcats of Rhyl and how it was free last week. And only $3.03 now. But I don’t want to play games and I will delete anyone posting to my page (I hate that feature letting anyone else post to my page) anything I deem unsocial. This can include but is not limited to calling anyone a Nazi (and I don’t even agree with Godwin’s Law), politics, and how “fill in the blank” is a baby killer who wants granny to eat dog food before shoving her over a cliff to steal her wheelchair. But that’s just me.

All that eats away at my time, hitting that delete button. I would rather be writing. I suppose in the old days watching TV was the time killer. Now it’s the Internet. Another fun tool to be managed. I do have the odd picture of time wasted on the Internet swirling down a drain that clogs up and then the temporal pressure gets so immense that it explodes in a Big Bang and creates a new universe. Maybe the Internet does have a purpose

How have I used my freed up time? Four titles in the Jade Demons Quartet are prepped and getting ready to be posted. A western short story is about half done. The synopsis for a new sf book is shaping up and another western synopsis is about ready to launch into writing phase. Western Fictioneers has a fabulous new project in the works, of which I intend to be a part with my novel contribution. And Empires of Steam and Rust is showing signs of life once more with new stories promised because of my time shiftings so I can pursue this.

I never thought of my time as being wasted reading, but I do watching TV, playing video games and surfing the Internet. Why is that? More to think about until next time.

Networking That Promo July 8, 2012

Posted by bobv451 in business, e-books, education, Free, ideas, inventions, money, VIPub, writing.
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Finding the “right” way to promote and market your VIPub e-book might not exist. There are always new ways cropping up, ways too numerous for one person to ever keep up with. Therein lies the wonder of both the Internet with its writers’ newsgroups and old-fashioned face-to-face networking. Here are a few ideas that have cropped up in the past month or so I want to pass along (one idea from each of 3 contact methods).

First off from Merlyn via e-mail is unglue.it, a combination of Kickstarter and Project Gutenberg. From the way I read it, you put up a project as in Kickstarter and if you get the money (let’s call it an “advance” as in “work for hire that’s all you’re going to get” advance), then the book goes out into a free worldwide lending library. You keep the advance but anyone anywhere can d/l your book. Setting the price for the advance would be tricky but with first novel advances running around $3k now, I suspect you might be able to do that well. But a different approach to using this appeals to me. I haven’t tried it but I might. I have a lot of reprint book series I want to get out there. Put the first up for a nominal amount with links to all the rest on Kindle, Nook, my bookstore. This would give a small advance on book #1 and potentially big marketing clout on the remainder. (I am not sold on Kindle’s Select program–I see damned little return after putting out titles for free–this drives huge numbers to Amazon but not with followup to actually buy *my* books, even in the same series).

Next is leanpub.com via f-2-f at First Friday. Jerry said he put a book up and was pulling in $100/day over the first 3 weeks it had been up. He does technical books of huge girth and weighty content and the book might actually have gone out for $100, so he’s selling 20 copies to a limited techie niche. But the nice thing about leanpub.com is the ability to publish serialized fiction and get paid along the way. Also, their 90% royalty (minus 50 cents) and ability to price up to $500 beats Kindle. Assuming $13 Kindle max for 70%, this is Kindle=$9.10 vs Leanpub=$11.20. At the $5 price I put my titles, Kindle=$3.50 vs Leanpub=$4.00 Even looking at short stories at $1, Kindle=$0.35 vs Leanpub=$0.40 (which is the same as on Nook). Definitely a site worth checking out to see if it matches any project ideas you might have.

Last is via a writers’ newsgroup. At First Friday one member touted a startup business for doing book trailers. She got in on the ground floor to promote and paid $150 for a 1 minute trailer. Haven’t seen it but undoubtedly it would be professional quality. Future book trailers would cost more. However on the IAMTW newsgroup was mention of a free book trailer site, animoto. You supply the text and pictures (likely book covers and illustrations) and the program generates a 30 second trailer, complete with graphics and music. Unlimited and free. For a mere $25/yr you can do full-length videos or the next step up is $250 with about anything you could want. Professional stuff costs even more with reselling, etc tossed in. But even at the “pro” level this would cost only about what a single book trailer would if done by someone else. You get an idea what can be done on this sample page.

I am certainly going to give it a go on a 30 sec trailer for something. The next month is going to be full of finishing a new western ASAP but there will be time in there to play with animoto. I’ll post the results (of course I will!)

If you give any of these a try, let me know how it works out for you.

CephaloBob at work!

Yours, Mine, and Theirs July 5, 2012

Posted by bobv451 in business, e-books, education, Free, money, VIPub, writing.
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An interesting synchronicity impinged on my world today. Kris Rusch at http://www.kriswrites.com has a wonderful piece on how universities might teach writing but not becoming a working writer, ie, making money at it. “Creative” writing is somehow the end goal rather than paying the rent and keeping the cats in food. In my experience, I’ve found such creative writing programs scoff at actually being paid for the writing–but being a professor teaching how not to make a living at writing is a fine. Fame=literary acceptance, if that fame is limited to literary circles. Fame=making big bucks means the work is inferior.

Read Kris’ blog. It’s got a lot more on her take on creative writing programs vs other fields (hey, I took exactly 2 English courses in college–I tested out of Eng 101, 102 was nothing but Melville and Am Lit 201 was, shudder, nothing but Puritan diaries. All I got out of that was what the Puritans meant by “rogering.” I majored in physics undergrad and engineering in grad school where coming up with nifty problems and finding ways of solving them was the reason. But never was it held out that taking money for the solutions or research was a bad thing.)

Along with this a couple days ago a writer who has 2x more books published than I ever will lamented about his career. He’d written over 400 books, 7 hit the NYT bestseller list, 3 in #1, he is in still demand and yet…and yet he worried over his legacy. The reason? He’s also written under 60+ pen names. All the bestsellers were done as ghost work and his name didn’t appear anywhere. Known in editorial circles, sure, and highly valued as a writer who can deliver the goods. But most of what he’s written isn’t really his being work for hire.

A friend with dozens of titles to his credit realized his work had been all gaming tie-in. Those weren’t his books. They were work-for-hire. His name graced the covers, but they weren’t *his* books in the sense that he controlled anything about them. With today’s legacy publishing contracts, all rights are being tied up, especially e-rights. Depending on the contract, those might be granted for a very long time. With publishing venues changing so rapidly, how much faith you have in the traditional publishers to capitalize on new markets depends on whether you want to buy some swamp land along the mighty Rio Grande.

VIPub (Vertically Integrated Publishing) gives you the chance to control the books and methods of distribution yourself. If you have to promote legacy publishers’ books anyway, why not dip your toe in the VIPub market and do that yourself–and reap the benefits? And, of course, take the risk the book might not go anywhere? This can be a balancing act between advance money and money stretched out over 3-5 years, but controlling the rights completely to your own work might be a good thing for both your pocket book and your ego. It’s great seeing your name in print. It can be even greater controlling how and when your own name is in print.

Reading Writing May 18, 2012

Posted by bobv451 in autographing, charity, conventions, fantasy, Free, writing.
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The value of autographings has been a subject of discussion here, with the vague conclusion that it benefits the bookstore more than the writer. And many bookstores look on them as a hassle and not worth the effort (I have 2 autographings next month here in Albuquerque, both as Jackson Lowry–the first at Page One on June 13 and the next at B&N Coronado on June 15.) (And a couple all day signings as yhos at Albuquerque Comic Expo June 8-10) Busy week in June.

But prior to that is a form of autographing that doesn’t require anyone to put out money, though in this case I hope many of you do. I will be reading a first draft of my short story, “Memory of Wind,” in Second Life as part of the Relay For Life, donations to benefit cancer research. I’ll post a location in SL later but the date is 24 May at 6PM SLT.

I am not a fan of readings and don’t think I am all that good doing it, but this is for a worthwhile charity (as opposed to the BLFM fund–that stands for Better Lunches For Me. Send me lots of money so I can eat better! After donating to Relay for Life.) Why do you like to hear an author read? Some authors, notably Harlan, don’t read as much as they perform. One thing this is going to force me to do is keep all those fantasy names pronounceable The worst title I ever came up with was Beasts of the Mist. I cannot say that without lisping.

For those of you who can’t make it to the SL reading, I’ll have a page on my website after Sunday with the text of “Memory of Wind.” That story, btw, is being submitted to an original anthology. Fingers crossed on its reception. I am batting .500 selling here. This could push me to .667 sales or drop me to .333. Either of those is pretty good for the majors, I am told.

This cartoon caught my fancy today. Makes me want to replace my tinfoil hat.

So How Hard Should VIPub Authors Worry? May 7, 2012

Posted by bobv451 in business, e-books, Free, ideas, money, VIPub, writing.
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The buzz about Amazon charging VIPub (Vertically Integrated Publishing) authors to sell their books rises again. Being the 800 lb gorilla with its nose under the publishing tent, Amazon can pretty well do whatever it wants.

So, more than taking 30% off the top already, what would Amazon gain? The upside doesn’t seem too great to me for Amazon to begin charging a posting fee in addition to the sales fee they already receive. The cost of keeping an ebook on a server is pretty small. Even multiplied by millions, books don’t take up much space. (All my books over the years–and it is in the hundreds–wouldn’t fill a single CD. In fact, most of that CD would be empty. Don’t even go there talking about a DVD.) The storage intensive products are videos for Amazon, and they seem intent on bumping heads with Netflix for streaming and even offering a challenge to the cable companies, looking for their own original content.

Songs, videos, those suck up the bandwidth. And how. I’ve seen guesstimates that 80% of bandwidth is vacuumed up by Netflix in the evenings.

Moving ebooks is small potatoes, so why charge? Bookkeeping is automated for Amazon. Humans don’t even need to enter the virtual domain once it is put into action.

But what if Amazon did charge? It would hit me worse than most since I’ve got over 50 titles up. Even a fee of a $1/mo/title would cut into my revenues big time. This would force me to do two things. The first would be removing all the short fiction since that is only there as a gateway to my novels where the $$ is. The second?

Really pushing hard on my own online store. I had to move it today to a new host. $50/yr to sell unlimited stuff. Plus whatever I pay to register the domain name every year (a few dollars more). No 30% cut to Amazon. And not as much traffic, either. So a fusion of short story/novel sales on my store coupled with select titles posted with Amazon would be ideal. What would go onto Amazon likely would be the first novel in a trilogy with links to my store for the complete set. In this way, any fee Amazon charged to post the title would become advertising expense.

Another possibility is that Amazon would charge the fee only for those titles not enrolled in their Select program. This would give them exclusivity on a title without them paying a dime for the privilege. I have had limited success with the Kindle Select, but others rave about it. If Amazon did this, posting the first book in a trilogy exclusively might work for VIPub authors with their own stores, too. Put Book#1 up on Amazon Select–cannot sell this on my store–but also sell an omnibus of all 3 books at a price below what the remaining 2 titles would go for individually. In essence, give #1 for free with the purchase of #2 and #3. The bulk of the money still goes to you, the author, using Amazon as a billboard.

Would other online booksellers pop up? You bet. This would drain revenue in the long run from Amazon. Not as much as video or music, maybe, but some. They are in the biz to add to their revenue without spending any money, if they can. Why encourage competition when you can crush it?

There must be other ways to thread this needle, but whatever happens the ball is in Amazon’s court. Will they take it and stop the game or return it so we figure how to put some spin on it?