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Wednesday, February 16th 2011

10:07 AM

RIP Borders

Today was the day we've been waiting for with horror and frustration. Borders, America's second largest chain bookseller (behind Barnes and Noble) has declared bankruptcy. They'll continue to operate under Chapter 11 (a part of the bankruptcy law that allows corporate reorganization) but are shedding hundreds of their stores, including the stores nearest to me. They're also leaving a number of publishers in the lurch as publishers ship books to Borders (and other retailers) on order rather than waiting for checks to clear.

Borders was an early leader in the movement from tiny cramped bookstores to expansive stores with comfortable couches to sit and browse, including coffee shops to sip and linger. It's a wonderful model--for people who love books like I do, who love to see what's new and read a few pages before we actually buy the book. Borders was also among the more friendly retailers for romance which is one of the genres that I read, write and publish. I can't count the number of booksignings I've attended at local Borders.

Some will say that eBooks killed Borders and there's a certain element of truth there. At their start, Borders was a technology leader but they fell behind in the 1990s and never really caught up. Their eBook efforts always seemed half-hearted--as if they didn't really believe in eBooks and wished they'd go away. Barnes and Noble, in contrast, has tried to create a model where eBooks and bookstores co-exist. Walk into a B&N with your Nook and you can sit down and read eBooks, just as you can sit down and read books. You can browse the bookshelves and, if you see something that looks good, buy it on your Nook right there. Still, there would probably be more truth to the thought that Wal-Mart killed Borders. By cream-skimming the best-sellers, Wal-Mart leaves Borders and other pure booksellers with the lower volume, higher cost books to sell. It's a sensible business decision for Wal-Mart, but poison for Borders.

A bookstore is a destination, a resting point, a magnet, and an encouragement to writers. Bookstores have also been wonderful (although low-paying) employment opportunities for writers and booklovers (and future agents and publicists).  I'm sad that our local Borders are no more--just as most of our local independents are no more. The gap they leave for the city, and the literary world, will be hard to fill. Borders is likely to come out of bankruptcy at some point but I doubt it will ever be the same.

So, Borders wasn't my favorite store and their upper management did much of the damage to themselves, but they're part of the literary family and those of us who love books can't help feeling a loss. RIP to the Borders we once knew.

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Tuesday, December 28th 2010

12:26 PM

Lost Computer

I sometimes forget how completely dependent I am on my main computer. I spend a good portion of every day writing on my NEC Mobilepro, which is an outdated but incredibly useful PDA/Computer hybrid that is very small and portable and holds a great charge. Then there's my new Nook Color (and Karen's Kindle when I can wrestle that away from her) which I use for reading and for quick Internet access. And of course there's the laptop, which I'm using now and which is convenient for when I'm downstairs or otherwise don't want to be tied to the desk. But the desktop is where I run my PhotoShop, which I need for book covers. It's where I keep my excell files that I use to keep track of sales.  It's also where I have my e-mail folders. I use e-mail folders for just about everything. Most especially, I use them for keeping track of my correspondence with my authors and for storing submissions.

When I got home from our holidays yesterday, my computer simply didn't respond to the power button. I'm hoping that perhaps a connection broke or maybe the power supply is out. If so, it'll simply be a matter of spending a few bucks and getting a new power supply. If the entire thing is dead, I should still be able to get my data...but it might take a bit longer. In particular, the e-mail might cause problems if I have to upgrade to a new computer that's no longer compatible with Outlook Express. At any rate, while I'm confident I'll be able to get everything operational, I am running around worried now. I'll report on progress.

Have you checked out Michael A. Kechula's WRITING GENRE FLASH FICTION THE MINIMALIST WAY yet? I think it's a good one. Just go to www.booksforabuck.com and click on the cover.



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Sunday, December 19th 2010

10:24 AM

Nook Color

I don't know if I'm a gadget freak or not. When I started ePublishing back in the dark ages of the industry, I bought an outdated Palm III, which worked surprisingly well as an eReading device. Although its small screen could only hold a paragraph or two, my brain quickly adjusted to the size and I was able to read comfortably. It did take me about one book to get used to it, though.

A few years ago, my friend and author Christina O'Donnelly sent me an eBookWise for Christmas which was a great gift and much enjoyed. The larger format made for something a bit more like the experience of reading a page and I enjoyed the fact that the eBookWise was back-lit, meaning that I could read it in bed after Karen had fallen asleep (she gets grumpy when I turn the light on). Unfortunately, I ran my desk chair over the eBookWise USB cord a few too many times and I'm now unable to reload it. I'm going to break down and invest in a new cord (it doesn't use the standard format USB although I understand it is something one can purchase...maybe my next trip to Radio Shack).

Increasingly, in 2010, though, my customers were asking questions about reading on their Kindles and I decided I needed to go the Kindle route. Naturally I bought a month or so before the $100-plus price reduction but got a wonderful Kindle-2 (the Kindle-3s now out are supposed to be much better as well as cheaper). The only problem with the Kindle is that Karen, who's been intrigued by eBooks but not really interested in reading that way, abruptly became a convert. Since she'd actually bought the Kindle, she gets first dibs. If I'd been just an ordinary reader, I would have bought another Kindle as I'm very happy with this technology and I struggled with the Nook the time I went to Barnes and Noble to check it out. But I really thought it would be a good idea to have a Nook as well as the Kindle because many of my customers are Nook owners, so I broke down and bought the Color Nook as my Christmas present to myself. ("Merry Christmas, Rob." "Thanks, it's what I've always wanted.") I spent yesterday playing with my new toy and I like it a lot. I'll give you some pros and cons (compared to the Kindle).

Pros: It's a beautiful screen with far superior web browsing capabilities. It's back-lit, which means I can read in bed again. It supports an external memory card which means easier file transfer and more books (something useful to anyone reading lots of submissions). It's color, which isn't especially important for most books but might be useful for some. I haven't tried the BN exclusive features (free reading in BN stores, etc.) but I'm looking forward to these. The internet capabilities are good enough that I won't need to haul a laptop along when I travel, which is nice.

Cons: I find the Kindle's store easier to use and it's much easier to find free books for Kindle (top 100 free). I've read a number of classics (e.g., Dracula) I've always wanted to read but never gotten around to. The battery life isn't as good. Outdoor readability isn't as good. The Kindle whispernet works anywhere but the color Nook only networks with wi-fi. The Kindle is also much lighter, although the color Nook is light enough to be usable as a reader. Although the Kindle's web browser is not very good, it is good enough for emergency use (e.g., checking for any customer questions while traveling) and, as I said, because it uses Whispernet, I don't need to find a Wi-Fi hot spot. It is a lot more expensive than the Kindle or black-and-white Nook. Battery life is better on the electronic paper devices than the backlit screen.

Frankly, I don't think you can go wrong with either of these devices. I'm thinking that at least now I'm in a fair position to trade with Karen.

Time is running out to buy THE ELF-QUEEN'S BOUNTY for a buck. Tuesday evening, the price goes up to $3.99. Here's the link: http://www.booksforabuck.com/sfpages/sf_10/elf-queen.html. Here's the cover:



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Sunday, December 12th 2010

9:07 PM

Do you unfriend?

I'm not the world's expert on social networking but I do spend a bit of time every day on Facebook. It's a nice way to keep up with friends and people I've met and would otherwise have lost touch with. Today, for example, I learned that Craig, who I used to play Evony with, went for a run. Way to go, Craig. I've also reconnected with some high school buddies (hi Craig, Barry, Kay) whom I would never have found were it not for social networking. So, that's pretty cool.

Because I'm a writer and publisher, I get a lot of friend requests from people I don't knkow but who are fellow writers or industry professionals. I always accept them (I don't always accept the beautiful Russian girls looking for passion but I would if I thought they weren't scam artists looking for what little money I have). As a result, though, I have a wide assortment of 'friends.' Some of them write genres I would never read. Some of them have political opinions that I not only disagree with but believe to be suicidal. Since I joined Facebook, though, I never un-friended any of them. (Some may have unfriended me, of course. Not sure). After all, there is a grain of truth in every political persuasion (Conservatives worry about government waste, of which there is plenty. Liberals worry about what happens when institutions (both governmental and private) go about their business without concern for who they hurt (if we'd put government and trial lawyers out of business, would BP really have bothered capping their spill?). As for religion, well, who knows, maybe I'll learn something from those who disagree with me.

But today, I reached my limit. When 'friends' write things that I not only disagree with but am ashamed to allow on my wall, attacking others (in this case, attacking gays), calling them names, and saying that he doesn't want anyone who disagrees with him posting, it was time for me to take that giant step in social networking and pick my first unfriend.

I'm all about open discussions. I'm not so much on name-calling. I don't know, what do you think? Should I have gritted my teeth in the name of marketing? Let me know.



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Monday, November 15th 2010

8:55 PM

Van Gogh Deception sale ending

With all of our novels, we celebrate by putting them on sale for their first month of availability. That's part of where our business name came from--books for a buck. Although all of our books are affordable, the sale does end after the first month (don't you just love those places that advertise short-term sales but that seem to always have the sale going on?). Our October release, THE VAN GOGH DECEPTION by Michael Paulson, will go to regular pricing tomorrow. Regular pricing is only $3.99, so it's not a disaster if you wait, but heck, you can buy it now for a buck and have money left over to buy more books. What could be better than that? FYI, THE VAN GOGH DECEPTION is a very fun mystery dealing with art fraud, diamond theft, and an American in Paris. Here's the link: http://www.booksforabuck.com/mystery/mys_10/van-gogh-deception.html. (Available in multiple eBook formats including HTML, Adobe PDF, Kindle/Mobipocket, ePub (Nook/Sony), eReader and Microsoft Reader.)

Author Michael Paulson suggested that I ask about the connection between alcohol and creativity. Certainly there is a historical link between alcohol abuse and writers. Writing is a lonely profession (and no, the voices in your head don't count as friends). There also seems to be a correlation between creativity and depression and alcohol is traditionally a self-medication for depression. I rarely drink and write, although I've been known to have a beer or two in the evenings. But there are other authors who can't face the keyboard without a bottle. I enjoyed Stephen King's "On Writing" but I was blown away by his comment that there are whole books he doesn't remember writing because he was so deeply under the influence (not just alcohol in his case). I'd value any thoughts.

Not really following naturally, but I'm at word 28200 in my NaNoWriMo quest to write a novel in the month of November.

So, the BooksForABuck.com book of the day is THE VAN GOGH DECEPTION by Michael Paulson. It's a fun mystery and it's still on sale for a buck--until tomorrow evening. Here's the link again: http://www.booksforabuck.com/mystery/mys_10/van-gogh-deception.html. Here's the cover (cover design by Karen Leabo):


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Wednesday, November 3rd 2010

9:25 PM

It's NaNoWriMo

November is national novel writing month. This is a completely voluntary activity but each year, thousands of otherwise normal (and thousands of completely non-normal) people buckle down and see if they can write a novel. Clearly you can't expect to churn out a perfect novel in a sigle month, but sometimes it's a good thing to turn off that internal editor, allow yourself the opportunity to pick words that may be less than perfect, and get something written. I think it was Nora Roberts who said that you can fix a bad book, but you can't fix a book you didn't write.

For the past three years, and again this year, I've participated in NaNoWriMo, each time succeeding in writing 50K words in a single month. None of my NaNoWriMo books is published, although I think I'll publish NaNoCorporate in 2011--it had seemed less relevant after Obama's election but is suddenly relevant once again. Who would have guessed. It's not a political story, it's simply a novel set in a near-future world extrapolated from reasonable technology trends along with an extreme libertarian political structure. Last year, I wrote a young adult fantasy. I'd thought I would write another in this genre this year, but something happened and I started a romance instead.

If you're interested in participating, you can head over to www.nanowrimo.org, and sign up. It's free and there are lots of activities all over the world, so you can go hang out with other writers--or just give yourself permission to write the book of your heart. The goal, by the way, is 50,000 words. All of my books have been longer. I won by finishing the 50k words, not always by finishing the book. Even when I write "The End" I have a long editing process (hence none of the books being published).

I'm going to make KINGMAKER by Rob Preece the www.BooksForABuck.com book of the day. When her parents are murdered, Ellie Winters follows clues that lead her to an alternate earth. The power struggle there led to her parents' death, but she has to decide which side to support...and whether to become Kingmaker. Only $3.99. Here's the link: http://www.booksforabuck.com/sfpages/sf_05/kingmaker.html. Here's the cover (cover design by Karen Leabo):


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Friday, October 29th 2010

10:20 PM

The Liberal Agenda

One of my friends posted a facebook post about how liberals and conservatives seem to have different genetic makeups. There was a quick discussion about liberalism being a birth defect (ha ha) and then someone brought up 'the liberal agenda.' I'm not sure I know what the liberal agenda is, but I'm pretty sure it's not whatever the poster thought it was. So, I thought I'd try to put together a liberal agenda and see what's so hateful about it.

We believe that justice should apply evenly and not be based on wealth, race, religion or sex. Clearly thare are those who believe differently.

We believe that society, working through the institution of government, has a role to play in protecting consumers, policing corporate self-interest, and providing a safety-net for those who would otherwise have nothing. Reasonable people may argue that libertarian self-interest could achieve these goals or, if not, that private charity could fill any gaps. Liberals don't deny the benefits of private charity (and tend to support charities generously). We also believe in market approaches when possible. We also believe neither fully meets the needs.

We believe that governments should generally not interfere with individuals social life. Thus, we support prayer in schools, where this prayer is the result of students freely choosing to pray, but oppose government-mandated prayer. (This is an area where many 'social conservatives' disagree, believing that school officials should be able to impose mandatory prayer on students with taxpayer support).

We believe that opportunities should be made available to all. As a result, liberals tend to be active in supporting public funding of schools and universities.

No liberal I know has an agenda of banning Christianity, replacing Christianity with Islam, replacing our mixed economy with complete government ownership of all means of production (although I know some communists who believe this), forced marriage between races, or any of the other weird things we are sometimes accused of.

Most liberals I know believe that our conservative friends have the interests of our country at heart. We recognize that some traditionally liberal policies have unintended but undesirable consequences (traditional welfare, for example, has tended to fragment low-income families because this aid was generally only available to single parents with children) but generally don't think a recognition of problems always requires wholesale rejection of any attempts to improve the world. We would prefer for our conservative friends to similarly accept that we are attempting to do our best for our country, rather than assume that our disagreements reflect some evil intent on our part. Clearly there are evil liberals, just as there are evil conservatives. In my experience, however, this is the exception rather than the rule.

I'd welcome any feedback.


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Tuesday, October 19th 2010

9:41 PM

Favorite authors

Have you ever had a favorite author you kept reading despite being disappointed every time? I've had several authors whose early works I absolutely loved, then found myself reading book after book, hoping that the author would discover that magic again. Robert Parker is one...his early Spenser novels are works of magic but in his later Spenser novels, he almost seemed to caracature himself. And trying to read Mark Twain's 'Tom Sawyer Detective' is purely painful. I try to keep my authors, and myself, from getting that late bookitis but I'm not sure I understand it. I think part of it is the usual perfectionism thing--once you've written a really excellent and well-received book, you want every book to be that good and you can easily write the soul out of them (I think this happened to Joseph Heller with Something Happened, the next book after his monumental Catch-22). But this doesn't really explain all of the problems. For example, nobowy would call David Weber's Honor Harrington stories masterpieces of prose but the early books were exciting and engagingly written. The later books in the series are ponderous and slow. A second possibility is that authors refuse to be edited once they achieve a level of fame. I understand that this is what happened to George Lucas with his Star Wars series. Definitely too bad.

One good thing about being a small publisher, none of my authors make enough money that they think they know it all and can tell me and the reader to go and shove it. Everyone working with me is anxious to push that extra bit, get the little edge. That's the way I like it.

It's been a busy week. I spent most of last week at a bridge tournament, coming away with one win (in a 4 session knock-out). Then I published this month's novel, THE VAN GOGH DECEPTION by Michael Paulson (Paulson's original title was 'The Flat' I think The Van Gogh Deception works a lot better. What do you think?). It's a story about art forgery, diamond theft, murder and an American in Paris. Paulson always writes with a wry wit but VAN GOGH is laugh-out-loud funny. As with all of our books, it's on sale for the first month for only a buck. I also got a few corrections from Kenneth E. Ingle for the paperback version of TO KILL A THIEF, and was excited to see that TO KILL A JUDGE by Paul Nelson was the Fictionwise #1 bestseller in the thriller category.

I've also posted some reviews, for David Drake's WHAT DISTANT DEEPS, Blythe Giffor'd IN THE MASTER'S BED, and Lois McMaster Bujold's THE WARRIOR'S APPRENTICE. All three are above average. The Bujold book is a classic--and available for free from the Baen Free Library.

I'm going to make THE VAN GOGH DECEPTION the www.booksforabuck.com book of the day. A tale of love, art forgery, diamond theft and murder, THE VAN GOGH DECEPTION is a lot of fun. Available in HTML, Adobe PDF, Kindle/Mobipocket, ePub, eReader and Microsoft Reader formats. It's regular price is $3.99 but it's only a buck for the next month. Here's the link: http://www.booksforabuck.com/mystery/mys_10/van-gogh-deception.html. Here's the cover (cover design by Karen Leabo):


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Monday, October 11th 2010

9:52 PM

World War II

We had a nice visit this weekend from my mother and her significant other. They were in San Pedro celebrating Walt's 65th HS reunion. Walt is a WW-II veteran. When I was a kid, it seemed like all the grown men were WW-II veterans. My grandfather, whom I remember well, was a WW-I veteran who remembered Civil War veterans marching in parades. Now, though, the WW-II veterans are aging and becoming more and more scarce.

I wonder how the world would be different if America had joined the League of Nations and we'd made it into something effective. Was some sort of war inevitable? Or could we have avoided both WW-II and the cold war that came afterward? Russia/USSR was a joke before the war. They lost to Finland, for goodness sake. They were pulled into the modern age by a combination of German assault and US/UK's desperate need to keep them in the war. It's hard to imagine how bad it would have been if Germany and the USSR had reached a separate peace (or if they'd been able to maintain the alliance they created at the beginning of the war).

Anyway, it's fascinating to talk to people from an earlier generation from me and to think that it won't be long before people don't remember the Viet Nam war and the protests against it, along with the moon race--two factors that fundamentally pulled us into the modern era. I remember how hopeful we were that we could make things better. We were idiots, of course, but at least we were straining to learn. I get frustrated by the anti-intellectual movement that seems dominant in our country today.

Karen and I went to Barnes and Noble tonight. First time I've been in a physical bookstore for a while and I checked out the nook. It's less intuitive than the kindle but it didn't take me long before I was able to get around. I liked the color panel and the way you could actually use it for web buttons and things. Naturally I visited the BooksForABuck.com website and checked out some of our books available for the Nook. I'm thinking about buying one. Anyone who owns one have thoughts?

I'm going to make GOD OF TRAITORS by Zdravka Evtimova the www.BooksForABuck.com book of the day. A mysterious plague, strange dolls, and people whose personalities radically change. Something is going on, but finding out what is a challenge, especially if there's a traitor in the police force. Near-future SF by Zdravka. Only $2.99. Here's the link: http://www.booksforabuck.com/sfpages/sf_04/god_traitors.html. Here's the cover (cover design by Jane Graves):


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Friday, October 8th 2010

8:42 PM

Do you NaNoWriMo?

November, if you didn't know, is National Novel Writing Month. The goal is that people around the world dedicate the month to actually writing a novel. I've participated over the past three years and have just signed up to participate again in 2010.

Now, you may be wondering, is it really possible to write a novel in a month? And, is it a good thing to write a novel in only a month? You may even be wondering, does the world need any more novels? Aren't there enough people churning out novels already without this encouragement?

The answer to the first question is yes, it is certainly possible to write a novel in a month. The emphasis on NaNoWriMo is writing the novel, not polishing, honing, and editing it. My novel (not yet published) Paid For Princess, written in a month (but edited over several more) has won a writing contest and placed in others.

The answer to the second question is, maybe. Is it good to write a novel in a month? WEll, it can be fairly consuming. If you have better things to do, maybe you should do them. This is a general rule of writing, by the way. If you've got something better to do, do that instead. Writing is a fairly painful way to spend your life with, in most cases, pitiful financial reward.

Does the world need more novels? Well, I can't ready all the novels out there, so in a sense the answer is no. But in another sense, I get a huge joy out of finding a new novel, a new author. I think the world needs another Jasper Fforde novel, another Terry Pratchett novel, and of course, more novels by Rob Preece, Amy Eastlake, Robyn Anders and the other BooksForABuck.com authors (if you don't know why I name those three in particular, ask and I'll tell you).

If you've always thought you'd write a novel some day, maybe NaNoWriMo is what you need to give you that kick in the pants. And if you're already a writer, it can be very motivating to get together with other writers, sit down and just write like crazy. I'm looking forward to it and I haven't even decided what I'm going to write.

I'm going to make QUEST FOR THE TALISMAN by Michael Faris the www.BooksForABuck.com book of the day. A brave airship crew sets off in a search for a mysterious artifact...one that may just determine the fate of their planet. Only $3.99. Here's the link: http://www.booksforabuck.com/sfpages/sf_03/dooda.html. Here's the cover:


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