A blog ain’t what it used to be

A blog is part of the problem, too. And what is the problem? The whole dang internet, it seems. Social media has made us all turn into assholes (turn into from what? is not a question I’ve heard yet). This has happened because things started out free and then money had to be made so then there were ads, and ads work on the Pavlovian principles of behaviorism so there you have it. We’ve been trained like rats in the service of the almighty dollar (or ruble, or whatever). This, at least, is the new common wisdom emanating from luminaries such as Jaron Lanier, one of the idealists who paved the way for all this in the first place.

It’s a compelling revisionism, but it seems to me that the internet started out “free” because there were few other mechanisms to entice adoption. The model still serves. Companies regularly offer free or discounted service for the first month, or the first year, before the real fees kick in, and the internet was no different, just on a larger scale. In 1992 there were not that many people logging on to AOL. By 2002 the world had changed. It made no sense for the internet to serve as a vehicle for mass propaganda before it was where the masses were. Now the masses are here, so the power-hungry follow the crowd and lap it up.

In the process we can mourn the innocence lost. I recently paged back to the beginnings of this blog, back to 2006, when free was still a thing and the blogosphere was people expressing themselves and appreciating each other. I enjoyed the people I followed then more than the social media stars I follow on Twitter today (where I do most of my followings). Most of them have long since left blogging. Blogs ain’t what they used to be at all. Where they started out as general takes on the world at large, most honed down over time to specializations. My own veered off into the weeds of free self-publishing, another lost and vanished idealism.

Eventually this blog became just one more self-publishing outlet for my shorter fictions and I’m fine with that.  I’ve long done most of my fiction writing on private blogger.com sites, because it’s already backed up “in the cloud” to begin with so I don’t have to be further uploading anything anywhere.

I’ve done the same with my (admittedly mediocre at best) music stuff, on soundcloud.com. Lately I’ve been using text-to-speech engines to produce what I call “machine spoken word” stuff. The latest idea is to take some of my recent flash fictions, from Fragments from Books that Don’t exist, and get them told by bots with electronica – today’s selection features voices from the new Amazon Polly service. This here is Hoonang Tea:


The Free Indie Reader #1 Report: More than 500 downloads so far

It’s been three weeks since we launched The Free Indie Reader #1 and I can report more than 500 downloads so far from the 4 distributors it’s currently available from, including, in order:

Feedbooks #1 with 172 downloads

Free-Ebooks.net #2 with 168 downloads

Smashwords #3 with a (fairly disappointing) 139

Obooko  #4 with 35 downloads

The Smashwords numbers are disappointing for a few reasons, primarily because that is the link I’ve used the most in my (largely useless) social-media-marketing campaign, which has been posting on forums such as mobilereads and mobilism and various goodreads groups as well as sff.com and a few others i’ve quite forgotten, not to mention tweets and such.

I’m also a bit frustrated with Smashwords because it has yet to get “premium” approval for distribution into their channels, such as iBookstore and Barnes & Noble. Some of their rules are fairly silly, such as requiring the author name to be on the cover and the same as on the title page, which doesn’t make much sense for this particular book (being an anthology, more or less like a magazine, without a single author) and in general for their business model because it means they have people physically looking at each cover and matching the author names they see with the contents in the files – not a scalable practice at all. And a quite foolishly arbitrary rule in the first place, in my humble opinion. Why is the cover any of their business, other than size and a certain threshhold of quality? Most of the covers on that site are shite, in any case.

Also, they complained about links to author’s blogs and websites inside the book! This makes even less sense. Of course authors want to publicize themselves inside their ebooks! It’s obvious. Anyway, I’m still struggling with them over that. And to think they’re #3 anyway in terms of downloads, partly no doubt because there’s no spanking in the title or chestal regions on the cover.

Well, it continues to be a fun endeavor. I’m even toying a bit with the new  “book referral” service called bookarma, which looks to be probably a useless spam machine. Also I wanted to try out bookbaby.com for distribution, but they came back with so many complaints about my Calibre-converted ePub files that I doubt I’ll spend any more time on them.

Last but not least, Amazon is unfortunately out of the question, because one cannot price one’s books for free there, and The Free Indie Reader would not be free were it not free. It’s been my experience that my books which have been made free on Amazon are downloaded at about twice the rate of those on feedbooks/smashwords/ibookstore/barnes&noble, which are all more or less tied for second place overall.

If anyone has any more suggestions on how to blab about The Free Indie Reader in a productive way, I’d love to hear them. The contributing authors have been great about blogging and tweeting and I have a strong feeling that many of the downloads are due more to their efforts than to mine.

Downloads are the goal after all. We want people reading this book so they can discover for themselves, like I did for myself, just how good these writers are, and by “these writers” I mean:

Lisa Thatcher, a writer and culture reviewer par excellence who maintains a most fascinating blog

Paul Samael, who also reviews free e-books and has introduced me to many great indie authors through his website

Carla R. Herrera, who has written several gripping SF books, all worth reading, and you can find her at her website

Giando Sigurani, the author of the dazzling novel “Mister Mercury” whose home can be found here

Willie Wit, the prolific author of tantalizing flash fictions

Michael Graeme, who has written many books across many genres and maintains The Rivendale Review

Judy B, who’s wide variety of works can be found online at Onze Productions

Review Unto Others

The Golden Rule applies even to the internet. So many horror stories! So many intrigues! So many life lessons that can basically be boiled back down to “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

Here’s one about a writer’s experience with Yelp-bounceback – give somebody a bad review of their business and don’t be surprised when they Google you back and slam your brand new novel!

Here is one of many threads about a recent Goodreads controversy about what constitutes a proper review and what is considered to be rude and ill-considered insulting of authors and/or readers. I’ve kept to the surface level of that particular social network, found some reviewers whose taste I happily hijack but otherwise not getting deep or personal in any way there. Who knows what shadows lurk in the hearts of anonymous bookworms?

Finally, a cautionary tale about someone I know who was messing around on Twitter, found some white supremacists there and started taunting them believing himself to be anonymous, only to have them track him down, show up at his office and smash his car windows in, as well as write letters to the Human Resources department of his company accusing him of various petty thefts and such.

It’s a jungle out there, if an invisible one.

Today we hear about 60 millions Spaniards “spied upon” in one month by the NSA. Kind of makes you want to hang up your keyboard and go back to whispering down the lane

The Fine Art of Button Pushing

But first, the quote of the day:

Il piacere di alzar la testa tutto l’anni e ben pagato da certi quarti d’ora che bisogna passar

From Stendhal’s “The Red and the Black” (“the pleasure of going around with one’s head held high all year is well paid for by certain quarters of an hour one must endure”)

Meme of the day: List 5 of your buttons that can be pushed to effect every time

1) Non Sequiters. Such as, when people demand that we atheists justify our non-belief in God. As if! Like I have to prove it to you that goldfish never speak Chinese!!

2) Cover-ups. When people sweep things under the rug and pretend that everything is fine. Never fails to rile.

3) Race-baiting. Republicans like Hannity and Limbaugh are just dying to come out and accuse Obama supporters of being “nigger lovers” but just can’t bring themselves to say the words, so they try and use other words instead, but come on! I double dog dare you to!

4) Honest brokers. People who claim impartiality when it’s obviously not true, like the United States in the Middle East. Obama today was saying that Iran has caused problems there – oh, really? Did they invade and occupy anybody? Did they sell everybody tons of weapons? Did they go around overthrowing anybody’s government, like we overthrew theirs? Really. Troublemakers!

5) Lackeys. There are people who do not do their job, but wait for you to do it for them, then copy it and claim some credit. When they approach, my stress level rises. Invariably.

If I were a meme-spreader, I would “tag” certain people, but when people do that to me, that’s button push number six – like the woman who once asked me what my dating showstoppers were, and I immediately realized that one of them is people who use the term “showstoppers”.

Nothing Nice To Say

Sometimes it’s hard to stick to my ‘blog comment’ rule, which is, if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything. Like anyone, I often come across blog posts full of ignorance or foolishness (according to me) and it’s sooo tempting, but what’s the point of getting into ‘arguments’ with phantoms? or with real people in reali life, for that matter? And there are certain blogs that keep me on the edge of posting comments I will regret – maybe I read them just to test myself and remind myself of the rule.

I know that whenever I do ‘fall off the wagon’, I hate it.

nice quote i saw today – McCain may be Seabiscuit, but Obama is Secretariat …

also was informed that blogging is sooo 2004 and the 2008 thing to do is twitter and facebook, which of course, by next year, will be soooo 2008. as it happens, due to my work (cellphone software testing) i have to plug into all of these things, and i find them all interesting and useful in their own way. i suppose it depends on what your goal is. if you want to be the Most Important Person With Ideas Everyone Will Listen To, well, good luck in general.

Facebook kind of blands-out the concept of friendship (there’s proably a better way to put it)

Twitter is like public instant-messaging, which you can do with IM groups anyway, or email aliases, for that matter.

Blogging for me has always been like the spiral bound notebook I used to keep, which I called ‘So Much Things To Say’, and as such, it suits me just fine for that purpose.

AS for what is soooo this year or that, who cares?

Re-reading now The Count of Monte Cristo (A. Dumas) but the unabridged version, the one with opium, hashish and lesbianism. Who knew?

“When one associates with madmen, one must train as a maniac”


Not only is Facebook moving in to new offices around the corner from mine, but they’re closing in on me by degrees of separation as well. I had referenced Missy Tonight’ on my Facebook page, a friend commented on it, and the one and only Penn Jillette commented on her comment on her page! Gosh, it sure is a small world after all!

(another commenter asked if I was a “fully credentialed” atheist! hey, that might be another way to cash in – start an atheist accreditation program. I can see the syllabus now:
How to Start Living and Stop Pestering Jesus
How to Be Born, Exist, and Die
A Practical Guide to Imaginary Friendship

feel free to add your own …