Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Reminders of...

...those wonderful vanity publishers. There's a new one on the block - Green Shore. I won't link them because I don't want to give them the hits, but according to the wonderful Victoria at Writer Beware they're going as far as to create fake Facebook pages of fake authors. Sigh.

Here's the thing.

Vanity publishers generally don't offer a very good deal. That is, their packages are seldom cheaper than you would get buying those services yourself. If they include marketing, the marketing is often half-assed. Why? They've already been paid - unlike real publishers, who make their money off of book sales.

Again, if you want to self publish, you are better off buying the editing and cover art yourself and learning how to do the conversion and layout (If you really can't, there are people who will do it for a reasonable price - heck, I'd do simple ebook conversion for a price, but I encourage people to learn. It's not hard).

You'll get a better deal and because the editor is working for you not a third party you'll retain the creative control that is, after all, why most "indies" self publish.

And if you want a real publisher? No reputable publisher asks for money from their authors up front. A few even give you the money up front (advances are rare these days, but not completely non-existent). Reputable publishers use the money from the last book to pay for the next one.

And any publisher that claims to be something new, different, and amazing - isn't.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

A Should-Have-Been-Expected Benefit

So, we know that fish tend to frequent underwater structures - but somehow people are surprised that this includes offshore wind turbines.

The discovery was made by seal researchers, who spotted that some seals were visiting one column after another. To a seal, the bottom of a wind turbine is basically a buffet. Researchers are now suggesting that it might be possible to site and design turbines to increase this effect and benefit fish and other wildlife...and possibly even fishermen.


Seals are cute.

Monday, July 21, 2014

A Few Notes On Kindle Unlimited

The news of Amazon's new "unlimited library" or "Netflix for books" service broke after I posted on Friday.

And one of the first things I was asked was why only some of the anthologies I'm in were on it.

So, I'm going to explain a little bit about how it works from the author/publisher side of things.

Kindle Unlimited works fairly simply. Amazon sets aside money - at first from their capital, and presumably eventually tied to the number of subscribers. Authors/publishers get a percentage of this fund prorated to how many times their books are borrowed.

It's potentially a good way for an author to be found by new readers. However, there are some roadblocks.

The biggest is that to enroll your books in Kindle Unlimited, they have to be in the Kindle Select program. This means that the electronic version of the book can only be sold through Amazon. The Select program has quite a few perks associated with it, including Amazon taking a lower commission on sales and some free promo stuff. Some authors/publishers, however, feel that those perks are not worth the price of limiting their books to one ecosystem. Being in Amazon Select means your book is only available in .mobi format, which is proprietary to Amazon. This is a fairly small deal as any phone can read .mobi books (I have the app on my phone myself, as my ereader is a Nook). It also means that you can't sell through other outlets and, which matters to some people, you can't sell to traditional libraries - libraries purchase their ebooks through other systems. If you are an e-only publisher, this is a big deal.

Additionally, a few authors don't like the KU terms and are pulling their books out of the system. Others are putting some books in and not others - there's been a fair bit of talk that KU might be a good outlet for short fiction "singles," which are hard to sell.

What it boils down to is that for each individual book, each individual author or publisher has to make the decision of whether to enroll that book or not. It's nothing personal to those looking for books on KU - it's a matter of doing business and choosing the strategy that we think will lead to the most sales. (And this isn't a knock on Amazon either - they too are choosing the strategy they think will make the most money).

Friday, July 18, 2014

Friday Updates

The cover for Strange Voyages is done and interior art is in full string (backers - look for a special surprise perk to come your way).

As the publisher tweeted about it - I can now reveal that I've been working on the script for a steampunk graphic novel, Rapscallion. (That's literally all you get right now, folks).

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Let's Get This Straight...

...the giant crater that suddenly appeared in Siberia was not a crashed alien spaceship. We know that because we know it wasn't caused by something hitting out of the sky (like, say, a meteorite).

What caused it? It was probably a very large gas explosion. Gas extraction is taking place not that far from the area - for those who don't know, it's the Russian peninsular of Yamal, literally called "The Ends of the Earth" by its original inhabitants. A bit of melting of the permafrost in areas where methane is close to the surface can cause explosions. This one is just unusually large. Scientists aren't entirely sure exactly what caused it, but it definitely seems to have happened from below. Thus, it's closer to a sinkhole than a crater.

(Apparently some people are blaming ET. Nope. I wish that was remotely possible, but nope.)

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Squishy Robots?

So, we might be one step closer to the T1000.

The robots created aren't that good at shapeshifting - or remotely humanoid - but they can switch between soft and squishy and rigid - based off of temperature. Of course, it's a DARPA (military) project, so one could envision listening devices squeezing into cracks. Or bombs. Or robot tentacles squeezing into small spaces to defuse IEDs without disturbing their surroundings.

The new robots might also be useful in surgery, search and rescue and even, if the price comes down far enough, home repair and maintenance.

Of course, they'll also be put to other uses...I'll leave that to the imagination of my adult readers.


Tuesday, July 15, 2014


Aww. That puppy or kitten is so adorable.

Experiments made in Russia with foxes indicate that breeding for "tameness" - a lack of fear of humans and willingness to stay with us - also produced features we associate with domestic animals such as floppy ears, weird tails and patched coats.

Scientists call it "domestication syndrome." And it appears to have an effect in the brain. Or rather, selecting for tameness brings out a neural crest deficit - a reduction in the stem cells that eventually create the adrenal glands, making the animal less fearful. In dogs and rabbits this is also associated with floppy ears, which are caused by a cartilage deficit - something which might be harmful in the wild, but isn't a problem for our domesticated critters. (Floppy ears in horses cause major problems with socialization and on the rare occasion that they show up, horses with the defect are not bred on).

Here's a theory, though.

Do we find animals with "domestication syndrome" cute because we actually subconsciously know they're more tame and thus less dangerous? This doesn't explain how some people can see a very high degree of cuteness in wild animals such as otters or even (albeit more rarely) snakes, but for most human beings...we look for "cute" features that include floppy ears, curly tails and flat faces.

Just a thought.