Category Archives: General musings

General musings on life, the Universe and how stuff works

Wikipedia shutdown – why it matters



I’m putting my miniscule support behind the current anti-SOPA and PIPA protests by Wikipedia and Google for one good reason; I write about futures where the State and commercial interests become all powerful, with democracy and the rights of individuals undermined to the point of extinction. Where any attempt to break free is met with immediate military force, and only the actions of a few can make a difference.

It’s not that I’m worried about the existence or non, of Facebook, Twitter, Picasa, and all the Social Media. It’s more the ‘This is what we have-and you will eat your greens’ attitude of the corporations pushing said odious legislation, that gets so far up my nose it’s giving me a massive sinus headache.

What about work that doesn’t meet the corporate models interests? Stuff that would never see the light of day otherwise apart from ‘Art House’ productions? Shutting down the file sharing sites would effectively sever the small productions’ chains of dissemination and distribution.

Today’s protest matters. Why? Because it supports diversity not conformity. Because it’s grass roots, not astroturfing. Because the needs, wants and dreams of the many outweigh the demands of the few.

I’m now a ‘literary luminary’


Martyn Jones at November book signingFinally got the picture taken of me, grinning like a maniac at my first ever book signing. Still not comfortable with seeing myself smiling, or the shine off my head. However, life moves on, and despite not doing much writing over Christmas, things have been moving gradually in the right direction.

Helping out with taking down our local Museums ‘La Belle Epoque’ display and gossiping with display guru Rick Slingerland about various things, when Amy, the museums Programs Director wanders into the display area we were taking down, sees me lying on on my back undoing bolts with an electric screwdriver in hand and asks to talk to me “When you’re vertical.”
“Sure.” Said I, finished what I was doing, and being a gentleman stood up to talk to her.

the upshot of our conversation was that I’ve been invited to do a presentation as one of the local ‘Literary Luminaries’, in which local writers get to do short presentations about their work on the 26th February. Although at the time of writing my name isn’t on the blog or any visible online publicity yet, but then I wasn’t asked until shortly before 11. Even in these days of instant connectivity, Facebook and Twitter, someone has to write the news down first.

Feeling mildly pleased with myself. Must get a couple of posters and some promotional stuff made. Fortunately I picked up some extra work over Christmas which will pay for such small expenses. I’m almost looking forward to it; which is unusual for me and public appearances.

Authors rights


There’s a spirited little discussion between writers going on in the LinkedIn forums. Mostly on the “How does a writer get an agent in 2012” thread. I read several comments regarding copyright, where authors wanted the rights to their work returned and had difficulties getting the necessary permissions from their previous publishers.

Not being a lawyer, but fairly switched on legally speaking, my younger stepdaughter passed her law degree with honours and specialised in that area. So we have had discussions.

The thing is, when you sell a book to a publisher, what they are buying is the ‘right to publish’ for a given edition. If the writer has not been so blinkered by excitement of getting a deal and signed away everything. Did that once for a short story. Never again. The specific rights sold might be the US / UK book rights, the publishing rights for a screenplay based on your work, forget what they’re called, have to look them up. Anything like that. Only complete newbies sign away all the rights to a given piece of work, but then we’ve all been there. Excited and bright eyed because you’ve actually sold something, and so desperate not to lose that sale that you don’t bother to read the deal on the table.

Well, that’s my understanding. However, with the current boom in eBooks, print on demand services and self publishing, the field is wide open. This may mean the days of the publishers advance are coming to an end, but the self publisher seems to get a bigger slice of the pie, so better royalties.

Getting ready for festivities


Yesterday I had a minor baptism of fire regarding Christmas trees. On Friday, Angie and I were outside our local supermarket discussing buying a tree for Christmas. Angie was fretting about one shedding needles all over the place, and I was just letting her concerns just bounce off me. One of the locals noticed our dilemma, stopped by and was pretty disparaging about the quality of Supermarket trees. “Go see Mike’s place.” He advised, referring to Mike Gogo’s sawmill and Christmas tree farm on Nanaimo Lakes Road.
“Sure, I know where that is.” I said naively. So off we went.

Drove round to the sawmill to be greeted with a “Looking for a Christmas tree?” from the man himself, followed by “Follow me.” As he drove his car out of the Sawmill yard. So we followed to the sign where it says ‘Office’.
“Okay. How does it work?” We asked after the usual British Columbian small talk was exchanged.
“Take this saw. Go pick your tree. Twenty five dollars.” Said one of Mike’s girls, handing me a yellow twenty four inch bow saw. I left Angie at the office to pay our twenty five bucks while I went hunting the twenty plus acre site for a suitable sized tree.

After about twenty five minutes and several false alarm, plus a lot of tripping and muted anglo-saxon over frosty ground, I found a tree that would serve our purpose. At a gnats over eight feet high, it looked just the ticket. Trimming away enough of the straggly lower boughs, I took ten minutes to fell the nine year old fir with the little hand saw. Then fifteen minutes carrying my sixty pound plus trophy back to our car, where my wife announced that she hadn’t been able to pay as Mike only took cash, and she hadn’t brought any. After a moments chagrin and embarrassment, we asked if we could put the tree aside and pick it up when we paid on Saturday. “No problem.” Was the reply.

On Saturday morning, Joanna, my younger Stepdaughter drove us over to the Christmas tree farm, where the tree was christened ‘Douglas’ (Don’t ask) and cargo strapped onto her cars roof rack for transport home. No prizes for guessing who was given the task of clearing most of the bugs off the tree and erecting said item. So, here it is. with me smiling. Sorry about the smile. I’m not very good at them. Always think I look like a grinning idiot.

Will catch up with Twitter and Facebook too in a while. Providing I’m not running Christmas errands. At present all my major projects are on hold as the ‘important’ things like the festive season take precedence. Although ‘The Odd Machine’ should be accepted for Amazon, Barnes and Noble and the iBookstore fairly shortly if my latest ‘fix’ for the project works (See previous post). Once that’s done, I can pitch back into working on the promised ‘Cerberus’ Novellas and final volume of the Stars trilogy.

In addition, my issues with online readings have been resolved. My cameras data card required reformatting, as the little tinker was throwing up memory controller data errors when downloading onto my venerable desktop. This little frustration was probably down to memory fragments from repeated downloads clogging up my SD card. After formatting, all is functional again.

As soon as I can finish a reading without too many fluffs and interruptions, I’ll post a couple on Youtube and embed them on a blog page.

An issue with Lulu.com


If there were any logic in the world, my novella, ‘The Odd Machine‘ would already be on Amazon, iBookstore and Barnes & Noble.

At the current count, I’ve had a distribution message bounced back at me in three separate emails at eight day intervals for the following reasons;

“Given author(s), title or subtitle don’t match your files” – Yes they do. The fields exactly match the selected author profile.

“There’s a subtitle on your cover that needs to be added to your metadata.” – Sorry, but no, unless Lulu.com’s conversion process is incomplete, I’ve filled in all the fields available to me.

“Please add “A Novella” from your cover to your metadata.” – Why was this information not forthcoming in the first email?

My manuscript file conversion completes perfectly every time, and no error messages ever come back at that stage. It’s the 4-5 day lag that is getting overly frustrating. I am currently approaching the end of my EVA tether, and Lulu appear to have shut down all support apart from a pro forma guide and the discussion forums. Replying to their ‘error’ email address throws up a ‘message undeliverable’ report.

Currently not very impressed.

UPDATE: For those suffering the same issue, I think I have an answer. Check ‘file’ then ‘properties’ before uploading your text file, especially if using a Lulu.com document template. If the ‘collar and cuffs match’ all should be well. Am kicking myself for not cracking it sooner.

Distractions


Hardly any writing output for the past few days. Too many distractions. That, and a feeling of having been kicked in the side. I think I must have pulled a muscle shifting logs. All I know is that it hurts enough to interfere with my breathing. Being ill on Tuesday didn’t help, the feeling of being bunged up and hardly being able to see out of my left eye. Every time I coughed was like being punched in the ribs. Still a little creaky.

Began Thursday with long, rambling conversation with Angie about psychology and what I call ‘behavioural response loops’ which many substitute for real thought and awareness. The way a loss of conscious thought whole days (and for some, lives) can disappear into a kind of mental fog without significant action. Days plagued by unnecessary trivia caused by people who ‘forgot’. The feeling of being stalled because others haven’t done their bit. Nothing that can’t be fixed, of course, but nothing that shouldn’t have been broken in the first place. This has been the defining characteristic of the past week.

Daughter is currently going through one of her noisy phases, breaking into raucous song when I would rather have quiet to work. There are also passports to be renewed and a thousand other things getting in the way of sustained effort on the manuscript front. Especially on the run up to Christmas. I’ve never been much of a ‘festive’ person, and while I don’t mind doing grown up stuff, tend to baulk at being expected to get all happy clappy at the behest of others. It’s not something that sits well with me. Too artificial, too forced. Partying for the sake of it was something I left behind at seventeen.

To break the creative impasse, I’ve been doing readings to camera to put up on YouTube. Not bad, but I’d never noticed before that I have a slight stammer. Not much, just the odd stumble over some simple words and phrases, but despite my drama training my verbal glitch shows up whenever I try to read a little too quickly. Thinking about it, I’ve never been all that comfortable in my own skin, and tend to do much better when I read ‘In Character’. Perhaps I need to develop a ‘reader’ character and let him take over when I want to speak in public.

Friday night we took the evening off to go and see ‘Puss in Boots‘ at the movies. A good chuckle raised me out of my immediate fugue state, and as such I can thoroughly recommend the film. The cat specific and ‘fairytale’ gags are pretty good, the DreamWorks animation superb as always, and the 3D exceptional. Worth seeing twice. One for the DVD collection.

There’s also a music lesson to book. Perhaps a session of almost reducing some poor guitar teacher to tears at my lack of talent might help.

These past few days have taught me that some days you just to write off as too much trouble to get your head down properly.

Exile


I’ve been an admirer of Steve Knightleys songs for some time, but this one brought me up short. Listening to the lyrics touches me on so many levels. A sense of something lost beyond reach of time and space. A feeling of a life moved on and bereft of the feelings anchoring it. A hollow darkness where something, I’m not sure what, used to be.

Carried by the flow of Steve’s words I am transported to my South Warwickshire roots. Rain on my face, and chill air catching the back of my throat. Long, solitary walks on grey English country days. Coast path walking around Cornwall with rain driving through my clothing and the wild wicked surf a slipped footstep away. Bare feet on deliciously early morning dew wet turf. Slanted morning sunlight through trees, golden light in my eyes, and a sense of being touched in the very soul by something with no voice. A massive catalogue of memory accessed with the keys of pointless longing. The sad, hopeless knowledge that these moments are part of something that no longer exists.

A beautiful, evocative song for the exiled. Because I know there is no going home, for home is neither the place, and no longer where I left it.

Update: I’ve been thinking about this, and the thought has occurred that if I was very, incredibly lucky and some Producer person took a real liking to my work and wanted to make a movie of it; as in the case of ‘Steel’, Richard Matheson’s 1956 short story behind the hit movie ‘Real Steel‘. The people I’d insist on doing at least some of the music would be Steve Knightley and Show of Hands. ‘Exile’ hits a nerve with a particular sequence from ‘Sky Full of Stars‘ and oddly enough the tone of isolation felt by my lead character in ‘The Odd Machine‘.

Literary festival?


At a neighbours birthday party last night I got talking to a neighbour of mine (Kenn Joubert) who writes historical fiction (Even won an award for it), and we fell to discussing the issues surrounding self published works. Issues like the difficulties associated with getting your product to market. Most of them to do with distribution. Problems like Book shops being highly reluctant to stock non mainstream books except on terms that significantly reduce author royalties. Some who won’t even talk to self published authors, as though self publishing was some kind of communicable disease.

One of the ideas we bounced around was a regular series of Literary events for local self publish authors, purely on a co-operative basis. Nanaimo is a tourist stopover for Cruise ships, and the thought occurs that perhaps if we synchronised our events with cruise ship arrivals we might act firstly as a point of sale for member self publishers, secondly as an attraction for those cruise ship passengers who are looking for something to read where they can guarantee to talk to an author.

While the idea is all very nebulous at the moment, I can actually see it working; providing we get the mechanics of who does what agreed, and everyone sticks to their part of the ship. A downtown location would work best to make travel easier for visitors. A deal done with a local hotel, something that provides a focus for visitors. Like the Hay-on-Wye festival in the UK. Perhaps something coupled with a regular web presence. Rather than hiding our collective laurels under a bush, perhaps with a little goodwill such a concept can be made to work, and not cost us a fortune.

I have no mail


Google has arbitrarily suspended my primary e-mail account for ‘unusual activity’ and is demanding my cell phone number to re-activate. I do not wish to give them my cell phone number, or other personal details.

I find the best way to avoid ID theft on the Internet is not to make your personal details available in the first place. This includes Google. If asked, I’d be inclined to think that their own security is compromised, and they don’t know how to fix it.

In the meantime, all my e-mail is inaccessible. At present I’m inclined to describe Google in terms that are short, Anglo-saxon, and considered obscene in polite society.

Update: Still fuming, but have got my e-mail back online with a changed password. Now I need to reset my e-mail client. Which is annoying.