Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Gloomy Sing-off #1

source

Announcing what I hope to be an irregular feature on this blog: Gloomy Sing-offs! That's right, let's take the gloomiest, most demoralizing songs in existence and force them to fight to the death!

And where better to start than with Tim Burton's dystopic Christmas nightmare. Yea, you already know where I'm going with this. Which version of Sally's Song is the gloomiest?

Monday, January 30, 2012

Finally, a DRM Article with a Lysenko Reference

And in Publisher's Weekly, no less!
Talking with the lower echelon employees of publishing reminds me of a description I once read about the mutual embarrassment of Western and Soviet biologists when they talked about genetics. Soviet-era scientists were required, on pain of imprisonment, to endorse Lysenkoism, a discredited theory of inheritance favored by Stalin for ideological reasons. Lysenko believed, incorrectly, that you could create heritable characteristics by changing a parent organism—that is, if you cut off one of a frog’s legs, a certain number of its offspring would be born with three legs.
The author then goes on to discuss the concept of "social DRM". *shudder*
If there is anything that exemplifies the delusional nature in some publishing boardrooms today, however, it is the phrase “social DRM.” For those unfamiliar with the term, social DRM is another name for an unencrypted e-book that has the purchaser’s name (and often contact information) inserted in it, via some kind of digital watermarking. The idea is that e-book customers will be reluctant to share their e-books around if they know that their name and information will travel with the books, either because they don’t want to be shamed for being patient zero in a widespread epidemic of unauthorized copying, or out of fear of legal reprisals from publishers should a copy with their name on it show up on the Pirate Bay.
- read the rest here

Now, I have to point out that Lysenko wasn't entirely wrong. Stress can in fact alter the genetic code. And in addition to the discovery of transposable elements that activate during periods of stress, new studies in the field of epigenetics have confirmed that the genetic code is not the only source of inheritable data. (The real problem with 'Lysenkoism' was the USSR requiring its scientists to adhere to a specific dogma.)

Nice work on the article Mr. Doctorow. Five points to Gryffindor!

B.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Tangere Ulcus


Sunshine I saw you through the hanging vine
A memory of what is mine fading away
But this night heals the ground
And the moonlight steals the sound
I could leave suddenly unafraid

B.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Ten Points to the Rusch

I agreed so completely/entirely/emphatically with this post from Kristine Kathryn Rusch that all my head nodding action began to feel like a workout. All indie writers need to read this post. In fact, all indie writers need to lazer-etch this post into their cortex:

We all know how traditional publishing ignores readers. But how do indie writers ignore readers?

By focusing on sales and “promotion” and “discoverability” and downloads and free to the exclusion of everything else.

Many indie writers have one book and they promote the hell of out that thing. They give it away for free, they join Kindle Select to “maximize discoverability” (ignoring Nook & IBook readers), and they sell it for 99 cents, thinking that will increase their sales.

So…let’s imagine that these writers are successful. Let’s imagine that they do get millions of people downloading their books. Out of those millions, at least half a million will read that book, and out of that half million, 250,000 will like it.

Then what?

Then nothing. That’s the problem. Nothing happens. Even if those successful indie writers eventually write another book, they have to start all over from scratch, because the readers who like what they did—those 250,000 readers—they will have forgotten the indie writer in six months.

How many of you folks can tell me without looking what you were reading in the last week of January 2011? How many of you can tell me the name of the author who wrote the book? How many of you can tell me the name of an author who wrote one book—and only one book—that you read and liked five years ago?

I’d be surprised if any of you can.

You indie writers treat your readers as badly as traditional publishers do. And you do it in the exact same way. You deny your readers the next book.

...

The reason so many writers, like S.M. Stirling or Mike Shepherd or Patricia Briggs, hit the bestseller list with a book from the middle of their series is because readers who have been reading previous books in the series want that next book the moment it comes out. If you look at last week’s post on bestsellers, you’ll see that bestsellers are tied to velocity (the rapidity of sales) in the week of release. Well, what’s better suited to that than the next book in a beloved series?

The writer has earned that velocity, that instant readership for the new book, by writing excellent books in the past and building reader loyalty.

Until two years ago, the writer needed luck as well—the luck that they were with a publisher who was willing to build the book, or a sales force that was willing to promote backlist, or an editor who fought to have earlier titles in the series re-released. The writer also had to gamble that something bad didn’t happen during the week of release. (For example, Sara Paretsky had to recover from her bad numbers on one of her series books, which was released on 9/11/01—yep, that September 11.)

Now the writer has time to build readership. If a traditional publisher has taken books out of print, the writer can get her rights back and issue the book herself (sometimes with a hefty fight, but she can do it). The writer can continue a series that traditional publishing determines isn’t worth their time. The writer has time.

If she has the patience.

And what’s going on with so many indie writers is that they only look at the short term.

From the perspective of a long-term career, painstakingly built one reader at a time, I believe that the writers who are happy that they’ve had 10,000 downloads of a free book (and that’s their only book or their only mystery novel or their only romance novel) don’t understand what they’re doing.

Not only are they getting nothing for their years of hard work. They’re also pissing off the readers who think of a free book as a promise of more good things to come.

Save your promotions for your tenth book. Better yet, don’t promote at all. Write the eleventh book.

Read Rusch's whole article here.

B.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

So, You Write Fantasy?




] Don't usually see you at these things.

} *swig*  I hate crowds.

] Oh. What do you usually do after exams?

} *swig*  I go find a coffee shop and write.

] *blink*  *frown*  So you what, write essays and stuff?

} I wrote essays back in high school. Always hated them. Putting the thesis in the first paragraph was the worst idea humanity ever had. Rather swim a mile in bacon grease. I write books now. Books are fun.

] *squint* ... books?

} They're kinda like long essays without a thesis in the first paragraph.

] Thanks, ass.  *swig*  But how do you, like, write a whole book?

} The same way you get through a night shift—one page at a time.

] You're clever.

} Not clever enough.

] *sigh*  Yea, the test was hard.

} The tests are always hard. They're designed to kill the ego before it grows heads and tails. Biggest risk with this group.

] Yea.

} *swig*

] What kind of books?

} *cringe*  *deep breath*  Fantasy.

] Seriously?

} Yep. I call my style fantastic realism. It's like fantasy but believable. Like if there was a dragon in my book, it would need the appropriate wingspan to lift his mass. In fact, I once spent a whole afternoon calculating out the wingspan required to loft a human-sized object into the air with a flapping motion—none of that gliding crud for this scenario—we're talking bonified flying humans.

I based my calculations off Quetzalcoatlus. It was tedious. I almost died.

] Quetza-what?

} Quetzalcoatlus northropi. It was the largest flying animal ever recorded. Ten meter wingspan...probably. It might have been double that. Hard to say at this point. And the bigger trouble is that the weight estimates for the darn species are all over the place. Some journal articles said that these protobirds weighed about 70 kilos. Others said they were nearer 250 kilos.

] That's a pretty big variance.

} Your tellin' me. But I still want to give these human-sized flying objects wings—and I'm not gonna abandon my principles of fantastic realism—so I Emailed the scientist.

] You Emailed the….wait, the scientist?

} Yea, the one who discovered the fossil.

] Seriously?

} Yea, believe it or not, you can do that. I said I was researching for a book. He was chill.

] He was...but it was for a fantasy book.

} Wasn't a need to know factoid. Besides, he didn't ask what I was working on. I used my old school address. Freakin' free pass to knowledge, that thing.

] So what'd he say?

} Said the problem I was hung up on was the wrong one. Said that as the flying animal gets larger, it needs to stretch its mass out more linearly. Said humans didn't have long enough necks. Said he started researching the buggers for that very reason. Wanted to see if humans could fly. Dude went to college, went to graduate school, did his post-graduate research, and published on the topic. Then he was at an airport bar in Seattle. Started this conversation with what turned out to be an aeronautical engineer. The engi-nerd blew his entire life's mission out of the water with a complimentary pen and a napkin. Man can't fly, he said. He doesn't have the diffusion of mass necessary for the deed.

] *swig*  Bummer.

} For the scientist dude, yes. For me, it was an easy fix.

] How?

} I threw in some magic. A linearizing spell. Works like a charm.

] But...I thought you said your style was fantastical realism. Isn't throwing in some magic cheating?

} *swig*  Of course. But the most important thing you need to remember about reality is that everybody hates reality. Reality is full of daylong exams and triplicate forms and car payments and Fleet enemas dribbling out the backside. No one complains when you bloody up the bastard a bit. Heck, some'll even pay the price of admission.

] That's rather unsettling.

} So is bourbon.  *swig*  Yet, we order it over a Shirley Temple every single time.

] True... *frown grows*

} Now what?

] It's just...fantasy? You're a medical student. Why are you writing fantasy?

} I need to get my swings in. I know I'm losin' this fight, but I'd rather go down like Porkins.

] I'd rather be Wedge Antilles.

} *smirk*  One death star run isn't enough?

] What can I say, the Force is for lamers. I like to work with my hands.

} Have you considered surgery?

B.

[Don't read too far into this short. It ain't real, and the actual convo didn't happen. I'm just working out some writer's cramps.]

Friday, January 20, 2012

Apple Needs to Rethink Its iBook Author EULA

More details on the iBook Author EULA from CNET's Ed Bott...

"Over the years, I have read hundreds of license agreements, looking for little gotchas and clear descriptions of rights. But I have never, ever seen a legal document like the one Apple has attached to its new iBooks Author program.

I read EULAs so you don’t have to. I’ve spent years reading end user license agreements, EULAs, looking for little gotchas or just trying to figure out what the agreement allows and doesn’t allow.

I have never seen a EULA as mind-bogglingly greedy and evil as Apple’s EULA for its new ebook authoring program.

Dan Wineman calls it “unprecedented audacity” on Apple’s part. For people like me, who write and sell books, access to multiple markets is essential. But that’s prohibited: 
'Apple, in this EULA, is claiming a right not just to its software, but to its software’s output. It’s akin to Microsoft trying to restrict what people can do with Word documents, or Adobe declaring that if you use Photoshop to export a JPEG, you can’t freely sell it to Getty. As far as I know, in the consumer software industry, this practice is unprecedented.'
Exactly: Imagine if Microsoft said you had to pay them 30% of your speaking fees if you used a PowerPoint deck in a speech."

- read the rest of Mr. Bott's article here

As usual, authors must be aware. As content creators, it is our responsibility to read our contracts with care. This isn't like when we were consumers. We can't just walk away after we sign stuff. We have dogs in the race now. If we want to make money off of what we pen, we need to spend time and money protecting the rights to our work.

Personally, I expect Apple to modify the terms of the EULA in short order. I have difficulty believing this is what they intended. This is probably a case of a legal department getting a bit ahead of their management (rather than the clumsiest attempt at copyright domination in the history of the world). But we don't sign on intentions. We sign on contracts. My suggestion (not a lawyer; don't wanna be one) is to wait for a correction to the EULA language before even considering to publish your work with iBook Author software.

B.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Apple Announces iBooks 2 for Textbooks

From Engadget...


Apple's announcement is a very exciting development for the textbook market. The ability to generate interactive textbooks with that incredible highlighting feature is a big step forward. I think we are finally getting a glimpse of what learning might be like in ten years time. Not too pleased with this tiny caveat, however:

"Cupertino is giving authors the ability to set their own prices as long as they remain $14.99 or under. In exchange, Apple takes a 30 percent cut, and requires authors take an oath of fealty to Tim Cook -- ok, not really, but any e-textbook author that wants access to the iPad-toting masses must make his or her work an exclusive to iBooks 2. So there you have it folks, if you want to take a gander at these awesome new e-textbooks, you'll have to jump on the iOS bandwagon."

-source

I just don't see the advantage in demanding exclusivity. These books are going to cost a fortune to make, and publishers are going to need large audiences to cover their expenses. I understand the desire to limit sales to an Apple controlled channel, but how is this going to be a sustainable position for content providers?

I would have placed the priority on allowing content providers the opportunity to provide a superior eTextbook through Apple channels (slick eTextbook creation software, easy uploads, great margins, and an improved eBookstore browsing experience) rather than setting up artificial roadblocks. The move reeks of 1990's Apple thinking, and it gives Amazon an enormous opening: Now the eBook giant can demand exclusivity too. Publishers will then be forced to choose between them, and I doubt many are going to end up selecting the smaller Apple market.

Hopefully, Apple sees the light and corrects this oversight soon.

B.

CRITICAL UPDATE FOR AUTHORSHere is a breakdown of the iBooks Author License provided by Venomous Porrige. Please take the time to read it BEFORE you publish your book on the iBookstore. The relevant discussion on the Passive Voice is here.

Jeepers Creepers. Read your contracts, people.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Stopped SOPA Must Be; On This All Depends

Help me, end-user. You're my only hope.

We interrupt this blog for an important message from the internet...

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Math Crack

I have a secret. I'm very bad at math.

Yea, I liked to write code as a kid. Yea, I love to help fellow researchers do statistical analyses. But everything I've been able to achieve in math has been the result of brute force rather than true talent. In no other subject have I struggled so hard. In no other academic domain have I become so aware of my limits.

But that doesn't mean I hate math. I love math. I love to read about math. I love to hear about math. I find it fascinating. But math isn't like music. It is easy to go listen to Yo-Yo Ma play his cello but near impossible to sit down and watch a mathematician think through a problem. That's why I love watching Vi Hart's videos. She offers up that rare experience, and I think her projects are just plain beautiful.



Dilated Peoples also like working the angles.


Evidence, the master of aikido
I let go, karate confrontations
Evidence, scientist in innovation
I locks on when I travels around planets
Smooth but got a ruff edge like Pulitzer pianists
Display mucho attack, receive payments for the cadence
A in this, you get fit fowl with flagrance
Free agents on the dotted line more hard to sign
Not easily impressed with gold mines and whole nines
I'm somewhere in-between never rushed and in a hurry
And when I swing my bat, I don't think I'll miss like baseball

I never really got that verse until recently. Their lyrics seem to get smarter as I get older. ::) Now I'm gonna go ice my head..

B.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Zero Sight Price Bump

Just a heads-up: The price of Zero Sight will be increasing to $3.99 in a few days. At the moment, it is still available at $2.99 on Amazon (marked down actually, until the B&N price updates). The change will probably occur at the end of this week.

Some of you have been advocating this price increase for some time. I've been somewhat hesitant to do so, fearing it might reduce the amount of "impulse buys" Zero Sight generates. But a number of other indie authors are having success at the $3.99 and $4.99 price points, so I've decided to give it a shot. I'll let you know if it affects sales.

Thanks again for your support,

B.

Update (1/14/11): The price was updated last night

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

A Great Week For Reviews

I received a big surprise earlier this week when FBC's Mihir Wanchoo released his Top Reads of 2011 list.


He awarded Zero Sight Debut Novel of the Year, and Zero Sum made it onto his novels of the year list right behind Blake Crouch's Run!
"Brian’s books were possibly the find of the year for me, combing humor, action and an exciting writing style, the Zero Sight series is one to be absolutely savored. Currently writing his third book Brian’s witty prose makes him an excellent addition to the writer league of Butcher, Hearne, Marquitz, etc."
I cannot express how cool it is to have my books featured on FBC, let alone be awarded Debut of the Year.

Thanks, Mihir!

And if that wasn't wonderful enough, Lady Danielle from Bitten by Books just released reviews of both books today!


Bitten by Books review of Zero Sight
"Zero Sight is an exciting, fast-paced, refreshing novel in the young adult genre, one that adults can enjoy equally."
Bitten by Books review of Zero Sum
"Zero Sum is a must-read for fantasy lovers. This novel has a lot of wit, unforgettable characters, great writing, and lots of intriguing fantasy elements and action that will keep a reader entertained from start to finish."
Thanks, Lady Danielle!

As always, if you run a review site, I am always happy to send you ARC copies of my books. We indies sink or swim based on reader word-of-mouth, and I'm truly indebted to all the brave spelunkers that risk a read.

Now back to writing ZS3...

B.
...
About Fantasy Book Critic: Fantasy Book Critic is a website dedicated to the promotion of Fantasy, Science fiction, Horror, YA/Children’s Books and other Speculative Fiction through Book Reviews, Interviews, Giveaways, Virtual Book Tours, Press Releases and more. Launched in 2007, Fantasy Book Critic currently works with the following publishers: Tor/Forge, Del Rey, Doubleday, Hachette Book Group USA, Bantam Spectra, HarperCollins, DAW, Roc/Ace, Little, Brown and Co., Ballantine, Simon and Schuster, Scholastic, Transworld / Random House UK, Pan Macmillan, HarperVoyager, Gollancz/Orion, Wizards of the Coast, St. Martin's Press, The Overlook Press, Solaris, Orbit, Pyr, Angry Robot, Myrmidon, Night Shade, Subterranean Press, PS Publishing, etc. Fantasy Book Critic has also worked with independent publishers, print-on-demand publishers, self-published authors, and comic book publishers.
...
About Bitten by Books: The focus of the Bitten by Books website is to provide book reviews for all types of paranormal fiction, urban fantasy and horror. Our reviewers share an avid love of all things paranormal and of course of books! You may see an occasional fantasy or Sci-fi review as well, as sometimes authors overlap genres or the genres incorporate one another. Bitten by Books prides itself on offering our readers honest book reviews, author interviews, interesting guest blog spots and fun contests. Whether you love paperback books or e-books, make http://bittenbybooks.com your only stop for all things in the paranormal fiction genre. If you are a reader, author or publisher of paranormal fiction be sure to join our awesome community The Blood Bank and connect with like minded people.
...

Thursday, January 5, 2012

B&N is in Ebook Hell



In case you forgot that things were not going well in the print publishing industry, on the heels of bookseller Borders' bankruptcy earlier this year,

Barnes & Noble Inc. said it [is] exploring a plan to separate its successful but costly Nook electronic-book business as it warned investors that full-year results would show much more red ink than previously forecast.
...
Shares sank nearly 24% in Thursday morning trading.
...
"We see substantial value in what we've built with our Nook business in only two years, and we believe it's the right time to investigate our options to unlock that value," Chief Executive William Lynch said.
...
The company said its warning of a larger full-year loss resulted "primarily" from a "shortfall in the expected sales of Nook Simple Touch" as well as additional investments to expand the Nook business such as advertising support.

John Kell, WSJ [note: content of article was updated after this posting]

Here's the problem with separating the two businesses: the online Nook experience is still terrible. It is nearly impossible to find new books on the Nook website. Most friends that own Nooks use Amazon's website for their browsing, and the B&N site for their actual purchasing. B&N has only been able to drive sales of Nook readers because they are using their massive cross-country store infrastructure to sell Nooks to their brick and mortar customer base. How can they hope to push Nooks if they are not in stores?

And Nook's online marketing is anemic too. I cannot go anywhere on the internet without running into an Amazon or Apple product. I haven't seen a new Nook advert in ages.

So, if the online shopping experience is bad, if people only normally come across the Nook while shopping at B&N retail stores, and if they have no clear source of capital to save either of these two "new" companies, how the heck is B&N going to be able to enhance their share of the e-book market?

That explains the plummeting B&N share price.

And if you didn't hear,

On Wednesday, The Wall Street Journal reported that Barnes & Noble has put its Sterling Publishing business up for sale, signaling a likely end to its decades-long involvement in the publishing of its own books.

The questions I'm asking myself:
  1. Where the heck am I going to buy print books next year?
  2. Will publishers face another inventory return nightmare like during the Borders collapse...and can they all weather it?
  3. What is Apple's next move? (There are already plenty of rumors.)
  4. And what am I going to do with my Nook Color, turn it into a picture frame?
B.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Bob Anderson, Sword Master, 1922-2012


"I never took up the sword. I think the sword took me up."
—Bob Anderson

We lost a legend today. Bob Anderson was responsible for most of the sword awesomeness in American cinematography for the past five decades. Oh yea, and he did Darth Vader's swordplay.

"Bob Anderson was the man who actually did Vader’s fighting. It was always supposed to be a secret, but I finally told George I didn’t think it was fair any more. Bob worked so bloody hard that he deserves some recognition. It’s ridiculous to preserve the myth that it’s all done by one man."
—Mark Hamil, 1983 interview

Sword Master / Fight Arranger / Fencing coach
  • The Hobbit (2012)
  • Alatriste (2006)
  • The Legend of Zorro (2005)
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)
  • Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003)
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002)
  •  Die Another Day (2002)
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)
  • The Mask of Zorro (1998)
  • The Phantom (1996)
  • First Knight (1995)
  • The Three Musketeers (1993)
  • By the Sword (1991)
  • The Princess Bride (1987)
  • Highlander (1986)
  • Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope (1977)
  • Barry Lyndon (1975)
  • Kidnapped (1971)
  • Don't Lose Your Head (1966)
  • The Moonraker (1958)
Stunts
  • Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi (1983)
  • Superman II (1980)
  • Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (1980) 
    • Stunt Double for Darth Vader
  • Candleshoe (1977)
  • Star Wars (1977)
  • One of Our Dinosaurs is Missing (1975)
  • Kidnapped (1971)
  • Casino Royale (1967)
  • From Russia with Love (1963)
  • The Guns of Navarone (1961)
  • Il maestro di Don Giovanni (1954)
  • The Master of Ballantrae (1953)
Actor
  • Reclaiming the Blade (2009): himself
  • Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (1980): Imperial Officer
  • Candleshoe (1977): Hood
  • Doctor Who (1968): Fighting Guard in the serial "The Enemy of the World"
Freakin' incredible career.

My favorite duel isn't from an Anderson choreographed film, however.


Don't blink. You might miss it.

B.

Update, from reddit:


Sunday, January 1, 2012

Four Sentences


All the lessons of history in four sentences:
Whom the gods would destroy, they first make mad with power.
The mills of God grind slowly, but they grind exceedingly small.
The bee fertilizes the flower it robs.
When it is dark enough, you can see the stars.
Charles A. Beard

I watch four movies during the holidays. Jaws, because it offers one last glimmer of what man was. The Shawshank Redemption, because it presents man as he is. And To Kill A Mockingbird, because it tells us what man should be. (It's A Wonderful Life doesn't do it for me, and I have no idea why.) I also re-read a collection of quotes that I've been compiling for over ten years. Beard's surprises me every time.

B.