Tuesday, October 22, 2013

On Censorship

As some of you may have heard, about two weeks ago an internet web pundit was shocked! Shocked and stunned to find out that OMG!!! Amazon sells porn!

Well not so much porn as erotica, but to a guy on a small website desperate for hits erotica equals porn equals controversy, so porn it is. Then of course the Daily Mail in the UK picked up on this and had a huge Sunday spread complete with pictures and the outraged 'parent'.

But they didn't go after Amazon, they went after WM Smith, one of the largest book sellers in the UK (Aside: I notice that they DIDN'T complain about all those Fifty Shades of Gray (FSOG) hardcovers in the shop windows - porn in hardcover is AOK apparently). So what did WM Smith do? Why they folded like a cheap suit, and shut down their entire online ebook store. Yup, pulled the whole thing.

But wait! There's more!

Kobo, which rumor claims has been on the verge of bankruptcy for years now, supplied WM Smith with all of its ebooks. Erotica has been very good to Kobo, taking its sales from almost naught to a very large number over the last year. And that's erotica written by independent authors, not erotica being pushed by the publishing houses.

Well obviously the problem here isn't really erotica, it's independent authors! So Kobo unceremoniously pulled all independent authors from its online store in the UK. Not just erotica, all of them. In their next move of blazing stupidity they pulled all erotica authors from the rest of their sites worldwide, but again, not all authors, just those who are indies. So if you wrote something that violates the new rules, as long as it is published by a publishing house, you're okay. But if you have one piece of anything that may be suspect, your entire catalog got dumped.

So yes, a LOT of people are very upset. Understand none of what has been censored is illegal, all of it is 100 percent legal to write, read, and own. As to what was banned? Anything 'abusive', anything depicting rape, incest, and faux-incest. Faux-incest, for those of you who have never heard of it, is consensual sex between adults who are step siblings, or step parents, in short people who are not actually related to each other. In most parts of the world (if not all of it) this isn't even illegal! And in case you haven't noticed, bestiality is actually perfectly fine with Kobo. They didn't pull any of that - not that I care, but I think it shows the hypocrisy of this entire campaign. Especially when books like FSOG are suddenly garnering a lot of competition from indy authors - remember that FSOG started out as an ebook.

So is this censorship? A lot of folks claim it isn't, but in truth it is. Is it illegal? Well actually, yes in most parts of the free world it is, but not because they are refusing to sell works they find 'objectionable', but because they are applying these rules to one group of people (self-published authors) and not another (authors published by publishing companies). There are a number of laws that address that issue, and when this entire act really smells like something one of the publishing houses cooked up in order to cut down on the competition, well I'll be surprised if one of the bigger indies doesn't eventually sue. As there are a lot of indies out there pulling down 6 figure royalties, trust me when I say I suspect one of them is going to sue over this. As I've said before, an average indy author makes way more money that a good, or even great, publishing house author.

What bugs me the most however is the number of people (authors) who are willing to jump on the side of censorship because they don't like erotica. This is censorship, and it is unethical if not illegal. These books are perfectly legal and adults want to buy them. If this stands, what will they censor next? Romance has just as much sex, and I mean highly descriptive XXX sex, as much and as dirty as any erotica novel out there. Don't believe me? Walk into a Barnes & Nobles and pick some up. Women like their porn, and they like it a lot more than men do! And they get to buy theirs in book shops and grocery stores everywhere. That it is as bad or worse than men's porn is the best kept secret in publishing today.

And then of course, after romance, what gets banned next? Books that convey ideas that the establishment doesn't like? You know, books like Gulliver's Travels? Or maybe something by Rush Limbaugh or Jon Stewart? Censorship is a slippery slope and I'm embarrassed that so many people, especially authors, don't know this. Yes they always go after the erotica or porn first, but that is the canary in the coal mine. For people who actually read history, we have seen this before.

Here in the states only Amazon has signed on to this behavior, and it seems they're only banning faux-incest, (real incest, rape, and bestiality are already banned on Amazon). None of the other book stores seem to be getting involved (Apple already is pretty strict on Adult novels, but that seems to be something across the boards with them). Smashwords is trying to do what they can to help the authors, and Barnes & Nobles just seems to be ignoring the whole kerfluffle here in the US.

So support Smashwords, or B&N - go buy a banned book today!

Remember, if you don't stand up to defend the rights of others, no one will be left to help you defend yours when they finally get around to taking them.

Friday, October 11, 2013

New cover!

Well I got a new cover for 'The Hammer Commission' done and it is going live as I type this.
I was never exactly happy with the original cover, and I ended up commissioning Rod Redux (http://coversbyredux.blogspot.com/) to do a new one for me.
I'm hopeful that this will draw in more eyeballs, so far everyone who has read the book seems to have liked it, I really haven't gotten any bad reviews.


I noticed that for all the traffic I was drawing in to look at the book's page on Amazon, I wasn't getting many sales. I suspect that the cover just wasn't grabbing them enough for them to read the blurb and maybe the first page or two of the story. In any case, time will tell and I'm hoping for better results now. Sadly I don't think most of my scifi readers will read this story, as it's paranormal/supernatural, but it was a story I really wanted to write. Now it is just wait and see if sales pick up.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Cut/edited scene from my last novel

This is something I had written a while ago, it was part of something larger and was intended to go into the 'Hammer Commission', a little insight into Mark's personal character.

But almost all of it was cut. The basic scene is still there, but the detail was cut back, and the entire thing reduced to about a half page. It didn't really move the story forward to justify that much detail, and was a bit off track. Anyway, here it is for you to judge.


            Opening the choke fully he pressed the starter and twisted the throttle slightly, it took a little longer than it should have to start, but the bowls were dry and the twin fuel pumps needed a moment to fill them. He closed the choke slowly, keeping the idle at a grand then put on his helmet. Carburetors were well out of vogue, few if any sport bikes still used them, but the mighty Zed with four of them outperformed most bikes with fuel injection made today, and nearly all of the F.I. bikes made in its day.
            Pulling in the clutch he kicked it down into first and giving a little increase on the throttle he let out the clutch and rolled out onto the street. He took the first block easy, never crap where you sleep after all. Getting out onto the main drag he quickly accelerated and turned the choke all the way off. While the bike still was too cold to idle without it, it wouldn’t be seeing any revs below 3K from this point on.
            Revving the bike once more as he turned onto the highway, he listened for any complaints from the engine, there were none of course, and the temp gauge had come up off the stop a little. Then it was full throttle, shift, shift, shift, shift, all without a clutch, level off at 120 and shift once more. The highway was open and fairly straight. The cars on it might as well be standing still as he arced around them and sped through the night. One joker in a corvette tried to race him, but down two and wide open throttle and the corvette quickly was lost behind him as 160 almost instantly appeared on the speedo. By the time the corvette got up to that kind of speed he’d be miles ahead. He never understood why people in cars wanted to race bikes. Stock his bike did 186mph.
            It was definitely no longer stock.
            After a few more miles he rolled it back down to an even hundred, goosing it up every once in a while. Police weren’t really much of a problem this time of night, they couldn’t really track with a copter in the dark and there were few cars out there to see him anyway. Any he might run into would be miles away before they could even begin a chase. No, the road was open, and it was his. He didn’t get to ride like this as often as he might like to anymore. It had been months since he’d made any kind of real run on the bike at all, being stuck tooling around on the small restricted bikes in Spain. Six hundred cc’s just wasn’t enough for him anymore.
            The miles quickly passed by, he was up in the mountains now, dealing with the long sweepers and having to downshift and occasionally slow for a few of the tighter corners. In another half hour he’d turn around and head back, eventually descending out of the mountains and back into the desert known as Sacramento. But for now it was just him, the bike, and the road. The roar of the engine, the air rushing past, white headlights and red taillights.
            There wasn’t much thinking at speeds like these, you mainly lived in the moment, maybe a song ran through your head, repeating over and over. Pick your line, ride it. Sort each car as a target and assign it a probability of doing something stupid. Avoid those with visible signs of damage as much as possible. Flip off those who hit their brakes when they saw him behind them as he passed. Watch out for bow effects on the big trucks. Find the line, ride it.
            And when all else fails crack the throttle open just a little more. Speed is your life, your life is speed. The more smash, the more control you have over the situation, the faster you can react, the faster you can maneuver. The sad little secret that they don’t teach you in driver’s ed or the official handbooks, on a motorcycle your safety lies in your speed.
            When he finally pulled back off the highway and wound down through the secondary streets, checking his mirrors just to be sure he hadn’t picked up any unwanted company, he felt relaxed. Things were clearer now. Coasting into the driveway, turning the bike off, pushing it into the garage and locking it all back up.
            They all had their little sins, their little vices. This was his.

Monday, September 16, 2013

And this counts as hard science fiction?

So, I saw this book on Amazon that is in the top 40 for science fiction, hard science fiction.

Now it wasn't a bad story, though one of the main themes was apparently how much sex a female android could have with other women in the future. Yes there was science fiction in the story, but it was listed as a hard science fiction story. It was more space opera than science fiction. The writing was okay and the story was okay.

But I think most people would agree that in the realm of science fiction, I'm a better writer. Because well, I actually write science fiction. And my stories do not center around sex.

But this story is outselling me by at least a hundred to one.

I think I do need to get better covers, which will mean spending more money. Don't need to work on writing skills, spelling, grammar, or even story. Cause I got most of the folks in the top one hundred tied or beat on that. Maybe I also need to put more sex in the stories too. Like say one good sex scene in each chapter? And maybe make almost all of it lesbian sex. Cause wow, even in science fiction lesbian sex appears to be more important than story, or anything else.

I guess I really have no idea what it takes to write an indie best seller, cause what is making the list these days in many cases just isn't all that good.

Saturday, September 07, 2013

My G2 finally died

And of course at a time when I really can't afford $300 or so to buy a new phone because I go on vacation in a few days.
To be honest, it was a pretty crappy phone. Had lots of problems and I had to replace it under warranty once, and the replacement phone quickly developed the same problems. HTC really doesn't make good phones anymore. The G2 was never as good as my G1, but because they keep changing stuff to force you to upgrade, I couldn't go back to my G1 (and I tried).

So now to figure out what to get next. I need a phone, my work depends on one as all of my work contact stuff is based on my cellphone number.


Monday, August 19, 2013

It's that time of year again

Where the light outside in the morning has almost a kind of muted greenish tinge to it, from all the smoke from the local forest fires. It gets like this around august every year now.
What's interesting is back in the 80's when I first moved out here? This didn't happen very often. Now it happens all the time. I think I know why, but I don't know for sure.

I think it's safe to say it's a flop...

The Hammer Commission that is. When I did the give-away on it via Amazon I gave 380 copies away in fairly short order. Didn't get a single review out of that (that I know of, hard to tell with those giveaways). But after I put it on sale I got 5 reviews in fairly short order.
Which isn't bad when you consider I have sold only eleven copies of the book to date. Eight of those where in the first two months after publication.

So yeah, it's a flop.

I don't know if it's the story, for the most part everyone I've heard from (with one exception) liked the book. I have to assume they're being straight with me, I'd hate to think people were lying about that. So this makes me think that I need to advertise the book someplace other than the few places I had been. But I have no idea where that would be. Or if it is even worth it at this point.

But unless something major changes, I'm pretty much done with that genre and the stories in it. I had a few more I was planning on writing if the book sold. But it's not selling at all really. To be honest I'm thinking of maybe just sticking to sci-fi and the heck with everything else I have in the works. Cause that stuff is selling, and lately it is starting to trend upwards again. Not as good as the numbers were for last year, but it is getting better.

Course the Big Six are doing what they can to shut us indies down, and I'm sure that's not helping sales either. Amazon and Barnes & Noble seemed to have stopped promoting indy authors pretty much completely. I know many authors have taken a hit on their sales numbers in the last few months, but they're all still chugging away, and some folks are still doing rather well. So time will tell.

Monday, July 22, 2013

It's not just a game, it's an addiction!

Kerbal Space Program. That is my crack these days.

It all started quite a few months ago when a friend stopped by, we don't get to catch up much anymore and over the course of the night he told me about this new game he had bought on steam, it isn't even out yet, it's still in development! He also told me it is highly addictive and once you sit down to play it, the next thing you know is that half the day has gone by.

He wasn't kidding either. I'm an engineer by training, so anything that lets me build stuff is always dangerous.

So Kerbal Space Program (KSP), is basically this: You are on the planet Kerbal, you have these little green guys (Kerbals) and they have built a space center. There is a tracking station (to let you pick any ships already in space and do things with them), A Vertical Assembly Building (VAB) and a Hanger like assembly building to build aircraft and rocket planes (this portion still has the most development to do, so I haven't been using it).

You have a bunch of parts, sub-assemblies is more like it really, and you put them together to build space ships. Which you then launch and fly into orbit. Or to the Mun (Kerbal has two moons actuall, Mun is the closet). Or to one of the other planets (there are two planets closer to the sun, three or four farther out - many of which have moons, one of which is a Jupiter analog and has about six moons). And all of this is in relativistic space with full physics.

Oh, and there are no instructions, yet. A few tutorial videos made by those who have gone before us, but that's it. It's still in dev remember.

It took me a few tries to get a ship built that could achieve orbit and stay there. My BSEE included a LOT of physics courses, so I have an advantage over a lot of folks. Docking is an art form in that you have the most basic of computers and the camera angles can change at random and there is no 'cockpit view' which for a pilot like me makes it really hard. It took me literally weeks to master it. But I did it, and can still do it if pressed to (like last night), but one of the nice things about KSP is the ability to make modules for it, or download them. So I downloaded 'MechJeb' which is basically a flight computer, and a mod my friend wrote that contains a fuel cell powered by electricity.

MechJeb is great because I no longer have to fly my ship into orbit. Or land it. I just call up the 'console' that does it, program in the data and let it go. As taking off and getting into orbit takes about a half hour, you can understand how helpful this is. Same for landing. I can go do something else while that takes place and just take a look every so often to make sure things are progressing properly and don't need human intervention.

Docking especially so. Docking can take hours! I'm not kidding on that either. Even with the docking program running things it can still take an hour. Last night took me I think four, and I was using the autopilot on and off - the ship was too big and had some render issues apparently which was driving the autopilot crazy. But big ships move slow. So I would let the autopilot run it for a while, then jump on and make some corrections, then back to autopilot. Except for the last hour, that was all by hand. I'll come back to that.

So at this point in KSP I have sent probes to every planet, and landed actual people on every planet but two. I have had to rethink and build special landers to rescue stranded astronauts (asto-kerbals?) from planets that there lander could not take off from. I even sent a swarm of 22 rovers to Eve to try and blanket the planet for fun. Due to a bug in the program I have lost about a half of those on re-entry at this point. KSP doesn't handle MIRV'ed landers very well. If they spread out too far, they are automatically deleted in atmosphere. As it took me days in realtime to get the space ship carring all those rovers, it was a little annoying. You can speed up time in KSP, but when you have a ship that is made up of 1500 parts, well it chugs along really slowly. 10 rl seconds to make one game second. So speeding it up 10,000 times doesn't help all that much on a year long voyage. Especially when you have to do course corrections and delta V-burns in order to end up in orbit around your destination.

I tell you I have really learned a lot about orbital mechanics and insertion burns over the last month.

So at this point I have been to all the planets, have flags on almost all of them, and probes on all of them. I even have some automated fuel station satellites around some of the further planets and a couple of (now empty) rescue vehicles out there should I need to use them again. I may download one of the modules that has habitat stuff and start launching those into space and see about colonizing a few of the other planets, but we will see.

My current project has been to build 'stupid space ships'. One is a massive launcher so big that it can burn straight out of orbit on a direct flight without having to do a Holtzman's transfer or any other fuel saving activity. Of course half the time it blows up on ascent; with so many struts and parts on it, it only takes one failure of a linkage somewhere and the whole thing starts to come apart. A quick staging action will save the upper stages, but then you've still lost all that speed, so that sort of defeats the purpose.

The next 'stupid ship' was one that had the command module buried in the bottom of the rocket between the boosters and was one really large and interconnected tank with a loooooong probe boom off the top. Difficult to fly, but easier once you jettisoned the boom (which could be controlled remotely). The third stupid ship was a bunch of tanks in a cross pattern with a central tank that they were all attached to. I put engines out on the arms to counter the stresses they'd be seeing during ascent, and a lot of struts to keep the thing from tearing itself apart. Amazingly enough, it actually made it into orbit.

So I made it the hub of my newest space station, and I took my stupid rocket number 2 (actually two of them) and docked them to two of the four arms to start on making a truly large and ugly space station. I think I spent 10 hrs doing that yesterday, I'll see if I can't add a few pictures so you can see what I'm talking about.

So if you like building things and have an interest in space KSB is definitely something you might want to stay away from. Or you'll end up losing days of free time running your own little space program.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

I need a new Doctor.

It’s not that I don’t like my doctor, I do. It’s not that he’s not a good doctor, he’s a very good doctor.

So why do I need a new doctor?

Because the put him in a call center. That’s right, I can no longer call my doctor’s office. I can no longer talk to anyone on my doctor’s staff. I can no longer talk to my doctor.
I talk to a call center.

The people at the call center have no idea who I am, and after holding to get my call answered they ask for ALL of my information, way more than they need, to identify me. Then they pull up my chart. Then I deal with them, people who have NO medical experience or knowledge.
There is no contact between me and my doctor.
There is no contact between me and ANYONE on the doctor’s staff who talks to the doctor.

It takes a week to get any feedback on anything. It takes 15 minutes to a half hour to deal with the people on the phone to get anything done.

On top of this my doctor’s office was moved. Sutter Health moved him out of his office of 20 years (along with a bunch of others) where I know nobody, I think his staff might have gotten changed as well. So just stopping by to talk to anyone there has gotten difficult as well.

So thank you Sutter Medical. You have successfully come between me and my doctor.

So I need a new doctor.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Yeah, it's my Birthday. And I'm feeling every year of it. Just don't know if that's a good thing or a bad thing!:-)

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Should I charge more?

I'm starting to think I'm not charging enough for my books, when I see people writing less, and charging more, and doing okay with sales. Makes you wonder.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

I need reviews (to counteract the ones who are paying for them)

It's never fun to find out that several of the now famous ebook authors got famous by paying a grand or two to a company to generate fake reviews on Amazon. You can do some google searches, this all came out in the last month. Now that they're famous, some of them ratted out the service. Guess they didn't want any competition? And of course they're not being punished for it. It's not like they're bad writers, really, but how can I compete? On Amazon it is Ratings and Reviews that determine rankings, not sales. If all the people who bought my books (several thousand at this point) rated them, I'd be a highly ranked author and I wouldn't have to spend hundreds of dollars on advertising to get the word out. Because Amazon promotes high ranking books. So if you've ever read my stuff and liked it, pop on over to Amazon and rate it! Please!!! It's hard to keep writing stuff, if people don't care enough to take 5 seconds and assign a star rating to it. Or take another 20 seconds to write a few words about it. Authors LIVE off of reviews, more than anything else. I also write under a pen name, I write slightly cheesy paranormal romance. Most of the stuff averages about 12K words. I can pop one out in a weekend. I don't write a lot of them because I don't enjoy it as much. But I sell a lot of them. I also have probably gotten more reviews for those than I have my novels. Women love the stuff and want me to keep writing it - and they tell me by writing reviews. If I enjoyed it more, I'd write a lot more of it and give up on the scifi and fantasy. But I don't enjoy it all that much, I started out doing it for fun, and using it as a tool to work on dialogue and story structure. So quit being such a passive audience, tell me if you like it. Then rate it and review it! And do the same for any other author you like out there. Otherwise don't be surprised if they go away. -John

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

So what next?

That's the current question, what do I write next? I have another sort of modern day/old world fantasy book that's about 2/3rds through the first draft. A fantasy novel half written (and another in the same world that needs a complete re-write). Then there are a few stories for which the ideas and a general plot outline have been laid down, those are almost all scifi in the 'Children of Steel' universe. At the moment I'm not feeling all that driven to write anything, having just finished my last novel fairly recently and trying to do some actual marketing. I hate marketing, but I can't afford to hire someone to do it for me, so I have to do it myself. If all the people who read my books would just rate them and write a review, I wouldn't have to market almost at all, because ratings and reviews are what determine your position on Amazon and other sites. For the life of me I can not understand why 99.9 percent of all readers are just too lazy to click on a star rating for the book they just read. Especially if they like it. It's the MAIN reason I'm getting away from writing anthro/furry novels: I've sold about 5 thousand copies and got 20 reviews. That's a 0.4 percent rate! Meanwhile for the latest not anthro novel I sold 4 and got one review, that's 25 percent... So yeah, not a lot of incentive to write more anthro.

Monday, April 29, 2013

The Hammer Commission

Well the new book is finally out:

Did one of the Amazon give-aways the first weekend. Hopefully some of those folks will write a review. I don't understand why people refuse to click on the star ratings for a book, or even just write a few words to say if they like it or not. Reviews are a -major- part of the ranking system at Amazon, they're more important than sales really.

So remember, if you like a book, click on the 5 stars and write 10 or twenty words telling people that you liked it!

Sunday, April 28, 2013

First Post

So, a writing blog, or an author's blog, or whatever you wish to call it. I've decided that I probably should put up something to talk about my books and my writing, a spot dedicated to just dealing with that and not much else.

It will be interesting to see what the results are. As for the title, well that comes from a comment from an old friend.