Friday, December 31, 2010

Writing Goals For 2011

There is nothing quite like giving your hopes and aspirations some substance by writing them down in black and white.

Like most people, I can say, "I'm going to do this" or "I'm planning on doing that" and really mean it, yet never accomplish what I said I was going to do. Sometimes, as it is with ideas for articles or stories, I will actually forget what I said I was going to do. Sometimes, if it is something that is uncomfortable for me to do, I can easily ignore my unwritten intention.

But when you write it down, make a list, type it out and commit it to reality in this world, then those hopes and aspirations become goals; concrete, substantial goals that look back at you as you look at them, reminding you that you gave life to them and are responsible for them and to them.

I've never been one for making New Year's Resolutions as I consider them to, in reality, be short-term, wishful-thinking exercises that seldom, if ever, bear any lasting fruit. But I do endorse setting realistic, reachable goals that will result in long-term growth in your personal and professional life.

These are my writing goals for 2011:

1. Write at least one article for at least two different local print publications.  - There are a few, not a lot but a few print publications in the surrounding areas of where I live and, while I have lots of web writing samples, I need print clips to give some weight to my writing resume.

2. Write at least one article for at least one regional print publication.

3. Write at least three guest blog posts.  - As a way of getting your work out in front of the blogosphere, guest posts are a great way to spread your name and abilities. They also tend to help bring visitors back to your own website and blog, if they are interested in what you write and how you write it.

4. Write at least one article for at least three different online publications, apart from the guest blog posts.  - The web is full of online publishers that need content to fill their web pages and even though I write for 5 of my own pages or blogs, I'd love to extend myself even further to readers around the Internet.

5. Write at least one e-book to give away and one e-book to sell.  - In that order so that I can gain some personal experience in producing an e-book with some helpful and/or needed information before marketing a larger e-book with more substantial information and content that will make it worth a fair price. I've been working on some ideas and need to focus even more sharply on final subject matters for both of these projects.
2011 will be the year that I immerse myself even further in a freelance writing career designed to allow me to write on a variety of subjects while earning a comfortable living and expanding my own knowledge and experience.

Have you made any similar writing goals? Or have you already met those goals and are moving on to new writing peaks? If so, I'd love to hear of your current writing goals or how you met these goals in the past. Please feel free to leave a comment below.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

No Demand For Demand Media?

Today's article on the CNNMoney site explains that, while Demand Media's CEO Richard Rosenblatt believes his company has the ability to raise much needed capital through an IPO, Wall Street and the Securities Exchange Commission are not quite so sure. Both its business model and accounting practices are being called into question; chief among them, that Demand's Adsense ratings are completely dependent on the way they have gamed Google's algorithm (and that said algorithms can be altered by Google at any time to stop the high ratings), and the questionable quality of content Demand provides through its cheaply compensated content providers.

On Wall Street, at the very least, it appears there is no demand for Demand Media.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Book Quote

"Books are becoming everything to me. If I had at this moment any choice of life, I would bury myself in one of those immense libraries and never pass a waking hour without a book." - Thomas B. Macaulay

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Angry Robot Open to Unsolicited Manuscripts for One Month Only!

If you have a science fiction or fantasy manuscript lying in your desk drawer, or an idea for such a story that is about to burst out of your mind and onto your computer screen, then British-based publisher Angry Robot has some good news for you.

For one month only, that month being March 2011, Angry Robot will accept unsolicited manuscripts for possible publication. Like most publishers, Angry Robot usually only accepts story proposals from literary agents, but for the entire month of March 2011 they will review any unsolicited story that is submitted.

Angry Robot’s Editor, Lee Harris, said, "We're delighted to be able to offer this opportunity to unpublished and unrepresented novelists. There are a lot of exciting authors out there, just waiting to be discovered, and we'd like to be able to help them kick-start their careers."

Further details can be found on their submissions page.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Stephen King Names The Best Books He's Read in 2010

Stephen King is a regular columnist for Entertainment Weekly magazine and in the issue cover-dated December 17, 2010, Mr. King lists the 10 best books he's read this year, being careful to point out that this does NOT mean they were published this year. I'm feeling a bit culturally deprived because I have not read even one of these books, though a couple have been on my list of "want to read."

10. City of Thieves by David Benioff

9. The Help by Kathryn Stockett (the first one of these on my "want to read" list)

8. Swamplandia! by Karen Russell

7. Blood's a Rover by James Ellroy

6. Matterhorn by Karl Marlantes

5. Last Night in Twisted River by John Irving

4. Savages by Don Winslow

3. I'd Know You Anywhere by Laura Lippman

2. Freedom by Jonathan Franzen (the second one of these on my "want to read" list)

1. Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace

Have you read any of these books yet? If so, would you count them as a "best book read in 2010"?

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Is Your E-Book Watching You?

I have a Kindle, an iPhone and a laptop; all of which I read e-books on. I enjoy the convenience of being able to download books immediately and at my convenience. I enjoy getting popular books at a discount and being able to read quite a number of books that interest me for free.  I enjoy being able to move from one device to another device and picking up where I left off on the previous device.

Now, like the TV's in 1984 that watch the viewer, we find out that our e-books are watching us and the data they are compiling is astounding.

"They know how fast you read because you have to click to turn the page," says Cindy Cohn, legal director at the nonprofit Electronic Frontier Foundation. "It knows if you skip to the end to read how it turns out."

And obviously where you purchase your e-reader or book from will have a database full of information on YOU.

"[The Kindle] is just one more string in their bow," says author Scott Turow, president of the Authors Guild. "They could tell you with precision the age, the zip codes, gender and other interests of the people who bought my books. Now you can throw on top of that the fact that a certain number of them quit reading at Page 45."

But more than that simple information is stored in their databases.

According to the NPR article, the day may not be far off when someone's alibi is called into question because their e-reader's built in GPS will show that they were not at their alibi location when they claimed to be, but rather were at the point of the crime.

Ultimately, the more networked we become the more personal information we give up to enjoy the benefits of that networking. All that convenience comes with a price and some, like best-selling author Stephen King, acknowledge the duality of the situation.

"Ultimately, this sort of thing scares the hell out of me,"
King says. "But it is the way that things are."

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Interview With Science Fiction Author Greg Bear

Lightspeed Magazine just posted a Feature Interview with Greg Bear, conducted by John Joseph Adams & David Barr Kirtley. Bear is the author of several Science Fiction novels, including his latest "Hull Zero Three" which I finished a couple of months ago after being given a pre-publication copy by the lovely Gina at Malaprop's Bookstore in Asheville, NC.

This is an interesting interview an encompasses more than just Mr. Bear's writing accomplishments. We get a peek into his thought processes when coming up with a story, as well as a bit of his history apart from writing.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Google eBookstore Opens

Google's foray into the ebook business, which was supposed to happen earlier this year, was officially unveiled today with the launch of Google eBookstore.

I've already downloaded the iPhone app and a couple of free books so I could take it for a spin. I found the experience comparable to reading on my iPhone using Stanza and by that I mean enjoyable and easy. You can choose your preferred font, adjust font size, line spacing and choose day or night reading mode.

There are more than 3 million books available and enough free ones to last you the rest of your life. In perusing the list I noticed most bestsellers priced at $9.99 and some as low as $4.99. The books are readable using iPhone and Android apps, web-based reader software for your laptop or desktop and on most eReader devices...except the Kindle.

The books are kept "in the cloud" allowing you to access them from anywhere an Internet connection is available. You can bookmark a spot while reading on your laptop and pick up at the same point on your smartphone or eReader device. And you can buy your books through Google or any of several independent partners. No matter where you buy your eBooks, they all appear on your bookshelf which, by the way, has unlimited storage.

Do you read eBooks? And if so, is the Google eBookstore something you would try?

Sunday, December 5, 2010

New York Times' 100 Notable Books of 2010

Today's New York Times Sunday Book Review section carries their list of 100 Notable Books of 2010. I note with some dismay that I can find not one of their chosen tomes in my own list of books I have read this past year (see my "What I've Read In 2010" sidebar on my blog site), but I see several in their list that I intend to read in 2011. I'm particularly interested in "How To Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe", "American Subversive", "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks" and "Life."

Almost as interesting as NYT's choices is their Books Blog post of November 24, 2010 explaining HOW the 100 are chosen. However, it's not the explanation of their methodology (which is, as they freely admit, rather subjective) that holds my interest; rather, it is the comments that contain the titles of books NOT included which piques my interest. That and the fact that only 18 people commented.

Have you read any of the New York Times' 100 Notable Books of 2010?

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Amazon Sells Books That Are Free On Project Gutenberg

Project Gutenberg, the subject of yesterday's post, offers the largest collection of copyright-free digitized books available for no charge. A PG volunteer points out that Amazon, the world's largest Internet book retailer, has been selling books that are free on PG.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Project Gutenberg Comes Under Fire From Major Authors

Renowned science fiction author Greg Bear and Astrid Anderson Bear, his wife and daughter of another great science fiction author, Poul Anderson, have issued a statement claiming that Project Gutenberg may have infringed on the rights of some authors by improperly putting their protected works in the public domain after committing what they feel is a misreading of copyright law.

Here is their full public statement:

The online site Project Gutenberg (PG) is systematically declaring copyrights void in many literary works published in the 1940s, 1950s, and later, with a special focus on stories published in science fiction pulp magazines. Project Gutenberg then makes these works freely available on the internet though their website, where the scanned texts are further disseminated by and other online text outlets.

After conducting legal research on the LEXIS database of legal cases, decisions, and precedents, we have demonstrated conclusively that PG was making incorrect determinations regarding public domain status in many, many works that originally appeared in magazine form. The Poul Anderson estate has been able to get one work, "The Escape", that PG had firmly declared to be public domain, removed from their site. PG’s original reasoning was that since the magazine it appeared in had never actually filed for copyright, the work was unprotected. "The Escape", printed in 1953, was the first half of Anderson’s well-known novel BRAINWAVE, which was published and properly copyrighted the following year.

However, even if "The Escape" had not been published as a novel, it would have remained under copyright protection until 1981 (28 years) and been eligible for copyright renewal. Authors of that era, and Anderson in particular, were very aware of the need to renew copyrights, and typically meticulously kept their copyright protections up to date. Copyright law for works created more recently is much easier: life plus 70 years. (Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act, 1998).

Why is a work that appeared in a magazine that did not file proper copyright paperwork protected by copyright law? The opinion in a major case in the US 2nd Circuit Court, Goodis v. United Artists Television, explains: ". . .We unanimously conclude that where a magazine has purchased the right of first publication under circumstances which show that the author has no intention to donate his work to the public, copyright notice in the magazine’s name is sufficient to obtain a valid copyright on behalf of the beneficial owner, the author or proprietor." The opinion goes on at length regarding the creation of copyright at the time of publication. The full text of Goodis is available here.

A second major case in copyright law, Abend v. MCA, Inc., Universal Film Exchange, James Stewart, estate of Alfred Hitchcock, et al, in the 9th Circuit, upholds this ruling and references Goodis lavishly. The full text of Abend is available here.

According to an email from Project Gutenberg’s CEO, Dr. Greg Newby, PG has changed their procedures for research of copyright non-renewal following the takedown of the Anderson work, although as of this writing (11/21/10) they have not posted these changes on their website. Dr. Newby says PG has also put a hold on public domain determinations for non-renewals. They do not seem to be reviewing the status of works already posted.

Authors and estates with works that are listed as public domain on PG’s site need to check out the true copyright status of those works, If they are posted on PG in error, PG needs to be notified via a DMCA notice. This is a powerful tool, created by the Digital Millenium Copyright Act. A DMCA notice is a legal document that states the rights of the copyright holder and demands that illegally posted material be taken down. For a summary of the DMCA in general, go here. There are many online forms for the DMCA notices, such as this one.

DMCA notices also need to be filed with other sites such as, demanding removal of the texts from the sites. The DMCAs may not be honored until PG has pulled a title, as PG is considered the "gold standard" of copyright determination - all titles available there are thought (wrongly) to be free and clear for exploitation by anyone. Small, independent publishers are taking advantage of these treasures and making physical copies, usually with print-on-demand technology, and selling them through Amazon and other sites. Estates and authors should search out these publishers and make their rights known. Estates and authors can demand that publication stop immediately, and that all proceeds be turned over to them as the rightful copyright holder. It should be noted that these publishers don't feel they are pirates, they feel they are merely taking advantage of opportunities that are perfectly legal. They are wrong, and need to be put in the right of it.

In general, Project Gutenberg is doing a tremendous service by making available texts that have truly long since fallen out of copyright, but they are clearly overstepping their original mandate. They are not merely exploiting orphan works, but practicing a wholesale kidnapping of works that are under copyright protection. Authors and estates need to aggressively take back what belongs to them.

- Astrid Anderson Bear
Greg Bear

Project Gutenberg was founded in 1971 and is the first and oldest aggregator of digital publications that have fallen into the public domain because their copyright protections (under U.S. Copyright Laws) have lapsed. Project Gutenberg currently claims over 33,000 items in its collection, which are available in multiple digital formats and without charge. I've read several of their available texts through the Stanza application on my iPhone, Kindle and laptop and have appreciated the ability to do so.

It will be interesting to see how this situation shakes out. Some people feel that the Bears are "whining" (their critics' term, not mine) without cause while others feel that Project Gutenberg may be, intentionally or not, moving beyond their founding philosophy. This may be a simple case of a difference of legal interpretation or opinion that will be decided by the courts, or it may be more than that. I'm inclined to think that the Bears would not have issued a public statement such as the one above without having their concerns previously rebuffed by PG, but then I don't know the Bears by anything other than Mr. Bear's writing and Mrs. Bear's paternal ancestry, so my inclinations count for less than nothing.

What are your thoughts?

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Weakness In Me

In addition to being the title of one of my favorite Joan Armatrading songs, my post title today will explore a little bit of my "Kryptonite", so to speak.

I was reading my brother-in-law's blog the other day in which he discussed a conversation he had with a friend about those interview questions we're all asked at some point. Typically you're asked what you would say are your strengths and then what are your weaknesses. If you've been in a position to do a lot of interviewing you've heard them and perhaps you've even prepared yourself ahead of time for them, as most job coaches advise.

By the way, my stock answer was one that was recommended by job coaches; you take one of your strengths and turn it around into a weakness. Thus, my strength of being detail-oriented becomes a weakness of being too easily drawn into missing the big picture. Most interviewers today are familiar with the tactic, but "back in the day" they were awed by your insight and impressed that, "Hey, this guy really doesn't have any BAD weaknesses."

But, truth be told, I DO have a bad weakness. I know, I know it's hard to believe, but I really do.

cc licensed flickr photo by Rennett Stowe
Now, if you ask my wife, she'll have a whole list of weaknesses she sees in me, with the biggest being that she thinks I'm a procrastinator. However, I turn that around into one of my strengths (see, it works both ways); that I'm cautious and deliberate. I do not run blindly into things without feeling that I have equipped myself with all the information possible to make the right decision. Here's an easy analogy; if we walk into a store together, my wife will make impulse buys and I will not.

No, the weakness in me is much more insidious. At least with Kryptonite, Superman can do his best to avoid it, construct lead shielding for it or even have friends remove it safely away from him. But the weakness in me is truly in me, and that makes overcoming it all the more difficult and more of a never-ending battle.

Because the weakness in me is a lack of self-confidence. No matter how much praise and accolades my wife, family or friends may heap upon me for my writing (and I love hearing every morsel of it) my inner demon tells me they're only saying that because they have to. Objectively, I don't believe that, but subjectively, my lack of self-confidence takes over and rises up larger than the praise. Even when the big media conglomerate picked my posts out of a hyperlocal blog and asked me to write for them, I thought it was a joke someone was playing or that a mistake had been made and they really meant to contact the person who posted above or below me.

cc licensed flickr photo by Brooke Raymond
But where this weakness really does the most damage is in causing me to not submit my writing to possible outlets. I know every writer (ok, most of them) have this issue to some degree and the advice is always the same; just grow a tougher skin and get used to rejection slips, but I can't even seem to get to the point of sending something out. Whether it's samples for other online outlets or blogs or sending a travel story to a magazine or a short story to  a contest or anthology, my lack of self-confidence holds me back from even taking the first step.

So, that's the weakness in me. But I've been fighting it a lot lately and I'll keep fighting it. One day you'll see my work in places other than this blog, of that I'm confident.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

The World's Greatest Bookshops

cc licensed flickr photo by foto.bulle:
Lonely Planet posted their list of the World's Greatest Bookshops a couple of days ago. Obviously, their choices would be subjective and may not always be what you or I would designate as a great bookshop, but their qualifier, " are our picks for the best spots to browse, buy, hang out, find sanctuary among the shelves, rave about your favourite writers and meet book-loving characters." helps ease our sense of disagreement.

I have never visited any of the bookshops they choose and have been physically close to only one of their 10 choices. Two of my largest regrets in visiting Paris, France were not visiting The Catacombs and not stopping in to at least browse through Shakespeare & Company. But at least I always have a valid reason to return, right?

Have you been to any of the 10 bookshops listed by Lonely Planet? Are there any bookshops not on the list you have visited that you believe should be included?

Friday, November 12, 2010

New York Times Adds E-books To Best Sellers Lists

Beginning in early 2011, The New York Times will publish e-book best seller lists in fiction and nonfiction, alongside its existing 14 lists for hardcovers, paperbacks, children's books, and graphic books.

"We've had our eye on e-book sales since e-books began," said Janet Elder, the editor of news surveys and election analysis for The Times. "It was clear that e-books were taking a greater and greater share of total sales, and we wanted to be able to tell our readers which titles were selling and how they fit together with print sales."

As little as three years ago e-books were still viewed as "experimental" and only acknowledged as being in the realm of self-published authors, which therefore made them beneath the notice of "reputable" publishers and reviewers. Now, with the explosion in popularity of e-readers and the convenience of carrying hundreds of books with you in a space the size of a small notebook, e-books have taken another large step toward legitimacy with The Times announcement.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

"Pedophile's Guide" Ignites Controversy For Amazon

An author who availed himself of Amazon's Self-Publishing Program has written an ebook entitled "The Pedophile’s Guide to Love and Pleasure" and the result has been a firestorm of controversy for the giant online retailer/publisher.

Is this a freedom of speech issue or does a book about this kind of reprehensible behavior deserve censorship?

When I checked at 6:45pm today there were 1,085 1 star ratings (Amazon does not have any lower rating, so people use the 1 star rating to make a point of disapproval) and 517 comments that appear to all be calling for the book to be removed from Amazon, with many promising to boycott Amazon until such time as it is removed.

As a writer myself, I naturally chafe at the thought of anyone censoring my words, but I can also understand the passion this subject engenders. For some people this is a clear-cut issue, for others it may not be. What are your thoughts?

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Conference Call with Author Kevin J. Anderson

I've read many of Kevin J. Anderson's books and enjoyed each one. This should be an educational and enlightening conference call.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

A Week Inside Demand Studios

Here's a well-written inside look at the experience of a professional journalist attempting to work for online content provider Demand Studios for a week. As with all personal experiences, your mileage may vary. In the interest of full disclosure, I submitted a sample of my writing to them a couple of weeks ago and received a "No thank you" response.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Want To Write, Produce and Market an Ebook?

Here's a link to an excellent live chat on Twitter last Wednesday hosted by WordCount's Michelle Rafter with guest freelance writer Susan Johnston, who blogs at The Urban Muse. Lots of great  information from Ms. Johnston on how she successfully wrote, produced and marketed her first ebook, The Urban Muse Guide to Online Writing Markets earlier this year.

You can read the transcript of the chat here.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Can You Correctly Spell The 25 Most Commonly Misspelled Words? has posted a quiz composed of The 25 Most Commonly Misspelled Words. I scored 23 out of 27 (there are two bonus questions for British variant words) or 85% which does not make me happy. I expected 100%, seeing as how I was the Spelling Bee champion for my elementary school, lol.

Here's the quiz, let me know how you score.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Bookmans Does Book Dominoes

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Which Twitter Program Is Best?

Once upon a time, when I was heavily involved in using Twitter, I discovered Tweetdeck and was very happy with it. A few months ago I bought a new laptop after the screen on my old one cracked. Since I wasn't doing a lot of tweeting at the time, other than occasionally checking my iPhone Tweetdeck app, I didn't bother adding Tweetdeck to my new laptop.

Now that I have the blog up and running and am trying to use social media like Facebook and Twitter  more often, I've decided to install a Twitter program on my new laptop. But I'm wondering if there is something newer, shinier and better performing than Tweetdeck, or if it's still the best choice?

What do you use, and what do you like about it?

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The 4-Hour Workweek

                              I'm currently reading Timothy Ferriss' "The 4-Hour Workweek" on my Kindle. If you've read it, what were your impressions?

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Beautiful Part Of Writing

"The beautiful part of writing is that you don't have to get it right the first time, unlike, say, a brain surgeon. You can always do it better, find the exact word, the apt phrase, the leaping simile." - Robert Cormier
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