Category Archives: Technology

Tech stuff of both the good and bad kinds

Biting the bullet

What with everything going a little sideways in the last seventy two hours, I’ve compounded my various felonies by signing up for Simon Fraser University’s Certificate in Technical Communication course. Three modules, the first of which is now bought and paid for. Most of the ground I’ve covered as paid work before, but as the saying goes in BC “If you haven’t got the right piece of paper”. My XML and HTML are a bit rusty, I need to get totally au courant with the Canadian style guide, and I’m fine with editing PDF’s, but now with WordPerfect I have the best tool for any writing job. Might even be worth my while buying Corel’s PDF editor, although I’ve already got an old Adobe 5.0 licence and software buried somewhere in my collection.

Now Angie’s on the home stretch of her biology teaching course, which the Education Ministry have insisted upon, the educational burden will shift onto my shoulders and she can relax and enjoy the Summer. However, my April and May will be spent head firmly wedged in English textbooks and burnishing my CV until it gleams. I have DreamWeaver if need be as a web site builder, and a spare domain name to experiment with, so away I’ll go. I also need to put in some serious work on my professional online presence, which is a bit sketchy at present.

Of course this will mean delays on the creative writing front, but as that doesn’t pay many bills, it will be done during ‘leisure’ time only. ‘Darkness’ has just undergone a major narrative restructure, and between now and Tuesday when we head off to the UK for a week, ‘A Falling of Angels’ will be getting similar treatment. If I’m really lucky, I may even get some writing time in while we’re on the move or hanging around in England. If not c’est la vie.

New profile picture

Martyn K Jones new profile After so long hiding behind work cap and shades on my profile picture, I’ve elected to change my profile avatar for something more realistic.

This picture was taken with Angies new iPad while she was getting fixed up with new contact lenses this afternoon. Cameras and sound on those things are surprisingly good. If I didn’t have other pressures on my finances, I’d buy one like a shot. With a wireless keyboard of course, but the screens are that good there’s little of the eyestrain associated with less advanced kinds of LCD monitors. Don’t even get me started on the various ‘aps’. Saw one yesterday which gave live weather data and sea states. Stunning quality. Awesome. And I don’t use that term lightly.

Now Angie’s told me to step away from the keyboard and take some time out. Our subscription issue of Psychology Today just arrived and I need to do a little reading up on addictive personality types for ‘A falling of Angels’.

Facebook back up and running

After a delve through the locked files on my laptop, I came up with the coded answer to my Facebook security question. Thank goodness for that. Now I can access my Facebook page again. No doubt I’ll have to repeat the performance when we go over to Ireland on the 20th, and again on our way to Amsterdam on the 24th and 25th. Thence on my way back to Vancouver and home. Yet now I’ve gotten the answer I need, that shouldn’t prove a problem. Have had to decline one invitation in London, as I’ll be in the wrong country. Sorry chaps.

Lots of discussions within the family about the future, in more ways than one. There are plots and counter plots in the offing which will be great if they all work out. Haven’t been able to get back together with old friends because they probably don’t check their Facebook messages that often. Pity, but there you go. This is real life, and I’ll have to put up with it until something better comes along.

‘Sky’ and ‘Falling’ have been uploaded through Kobo’s ‘Writinglife’ programme to get them out to a wider market. No negative bounceback from iBookstore and Barnes & Noble, so I think I’m all good there. I thought writing and proofing the books on its own was pretty hard work, but the learning curve on the distribution and marketing side is pretty steep too. That aside, I feel a lot more comfortable with what I now have out in the marketplace.

Packing and packaging

Packing and paperwork become a priority from today. We leave on Sunday for the UK, and all the paperwork is being double checked and then checked again. Arranging feeding exercise and watering of dog. Treats and presents for Jo and Laura. Flight, hotel and car hire bookings obsessively pored over. Scanning the small print in travel insurance. Checking cash supplies. Credit cards brought out of cold storage. The usual travel minutiae.

One thing I’m trying to get up and running before we go is some editions of ‘Sky’, ‘Falling’, and ‘Head of the Beast’ in the Kobo marketplace. From what I’ve read so far, since I exclusively hold the copy and publishing rights, I can utilise existing ISBN’s and simply have Kobo as a separate distribution platform for eBooks. My only issue at present is setting up the royalty payments. Despite repeated checks with my bank and a dozen failed attempts with Kobo, their site won’t register my account to set up the electronic funds transfer or direct payment. No doubt I’m missing a trick. Somewhere along the line. Possibly. I need to read the FAQ’s no doubt. Again. Perhaps it’s too early in the morning. Yet there’s this driven streak in me that won’t let go. I’ve started, so I’m going to damn well finish. Get it out of the way so I can enjoy time with family and friends without having to worry about it. Although I’m sure there will be something else to obsess about.

I haven’t even started packing.

To Kobo or not to Kobo?

Just had a very polite reminder from the Kobo people about their Writerslife program. The issue here is getting into the Kobo Library program, which is a very low cost way of accessing the Library system here in BC. Haven’t had time to examine the interface just yet, but perhaps when I’ve finished the final drafts I’ll be shunting a copy of one of my eBook manuscripts onto their distribution system just as an experiment. Just to see how it goes. Specifically as a ‘Kobo’ edition. Or maybe not.

I’m not sure exactly how their process works, and will need to read the fine print to be sure I don’t go snarling myself up in legal shenanigans over rights issues. Perhaps if I clearly mark which serial rights have been ‘sold’ via which organisation, I should be on fairly safe ground. Memo to self; check copyright law in Blacks Writers Guide and its North American twin.

Another two or three days work to go before the first two MSS are ready to begin their journey from raw document to eBook. I was going to use, because I understand how their system works, and because they have distribution links to Barnes & Noble, Amazon, and iBookstore. As far as eReader platforms are concerned this covers the Nook, iPad and most Kindles. But on the other hand, in the battle of the formats, Kobo seem to be quite popular as the reading platform of choice in my target market of choice; the more mature Sci-fi reader.

Is Kobo the eBook of the future?

Yesterday Angie and I finally bit the bullet and purchased an eReader. Specifically a Kobo Glo. Since then it’s been information overload. My learning curve is tightening like a hairpin bend. Libraries. Distributors. A whole world we knew nothing about. The scope and size of the opportunities it has brought up are simply enormous.

Up until yesterday I thought I was, in my own small way fairly well informed about eBooks, Digital Rights Management and the various electronic formats, but I’d like to say this; my mind has officially been blown. Megaton range. All via a Kobo Glo. No other eReader has quite opened the door like this. Not to just a whole new world, but a whole new continuum. I actually feel a little overwhelmed. I think I’ve just caught a glimpse of an almost unlimited publishing future, and it has the Kobo label firmly stamped in one corner.

What with that and learning how to produce my own hams from pork shoulders, plus our wedding anniversary, this is going to make for a full weekend.

Old stock and a series of freebies #SelfPublishing

Got talking to a work buddy yesterday afternoon about publicity, Facebook and Twitter. He suggested giving a freebie eBook away as a kind of loss leader. Just to “Get the conversation going” as he put it. As I’m working evening shifts all this week, I’m using my day times revising some of my back catalogue of short stories ready for free release via Smashwords. Smashwords seem to have the widest distribution for various eBook formats, rather taking the pain out of providing separate editions for one group of platforms.

I think a good chunky read can be boilerplated together from a mix of sci-fi and supernatural stuff that doesn’t really fit in with my currently themed body of work. On the other hand, it’s amazing what you find when you start digging on your hard drive. Found a couple of short, thousand word pieces that fit in beautifully with the narrative for ‘A falling of Angels’, the next in the Cerberus series. Another few story fragments that can be hammered into fully fledged, and quite satisfying prose with a minimum of effort. There are a few that rage, a few that weep, and a couple with built in quirky smiles, like ‘Polish Ted’. Many of them set in an England I am all too familiar with. Although a few years ago I did rewrite a version of ‘Polish Ted’ for a US setting under the title ‘Cold Warrior’, and as a story it still worked beautifully. I might even bolt that one in as a ‘contrast and compare’ exercise. Just run the stories one after the other. See what the feedback is like. It’s as easy a way to put a 100,000 word collection together in a relatively short period of time.

Plenty of entertainment. For free. Give me a month or less.

Hashtags and social media for promotion #SelfPublishing

While looking around at cross-platforming my latest eBook and getting it listed by as many distribution outlets as possible, I came across a number of articles on Twitter Hashtags. This morning one dropped into my inbox from my LinkedIn membership; “100 Hashtags every writer should know”, and a quick browse brought up “Why use Hashtags?”. Also worth a peruse is “Why Hashtags fail”.

In isolation no article tells the whole story, but put together they’ve filled in important gaps in my knowledge. I’ve previously said that I suck at social media, but maybe by following the guidelines, there is a chance of becoming less sucky than before.

Popping the Kobo question

I’ve just submitted a question to the Kobo guys regarding getting existing ePub formatted titles with existing ISBN’s listed on the Kobo marketplace. I’m sure it’s not as complicated as it looks. It’s Friday, and I’m not expecting any kind of reply until at least midweek next week. About the same time the proof paperback of Head of the Beast drops onto my doormat. Should Kobo work out that makes three large market places with product placement.

Note to self: must check out the listings to make sure sufficient excerpts and tasters are available to sufficiently whet reading appetites. As soon as proof is okayed and listed on Amazon, I’ll cut and paste a taster on the Amazon page.

Money is tight right at the moment, and I’ve no spare cash to spend on marketing. So it’s head down and keep on punching keys, preparing product for release into the public domain. Keep the day job and keep throwing things at the wall. Something is bound to stick sooner or later. Although I’d rather it was sooner.

New site page

Working on the next volume in the Stars trilogy, I’m also currently adding to this web site. The latest addition is an overview page for ‘The Sky full of Stars’, which is the first volume in the series. At over 150,000 words it’s a weighty read, and probably overlong, but it tells the tale I wanted to tell. Another overview page for ‘Falling through the stars’ is also now up.

Over the weekend, Angie and I had a long talk about what was happening in our relationship, and how the frustrations of the past two years have been wearing me down emotionally. Angie, being the wise and wonderful woman that she is, agreed with me on a partial solution. A seventy pound punchbag. Below are pictures of punchbag after hauling it up two flights of stairs, and rigged ready for use. I only use the outdoors lash up when it’s dry, and haul it in after each and every use, which in itself is good exercise, and I feel better than after trying to run. Running is bad for my injured left knee, and thumping a punchbag lets me work up a quick and dirty sweat without putting too much strain on my knees old rugby sustained injury.

As you can see, all this pent up violence has my poor dog terrified.
We’ve also booked a much needed spa break over Christmas. We both need it.

Master of my own domain

While the muse has deserted me, mid murder scene, I’m doing what I normally do in these circumstances, which is simply to find myself something non-keyboard related while my subconscious mulls things over. Today I am building Angie a wine rack and also have taken the step of registering my own domain name for this site and the ‘Martyn Jones’ brand name, There’s also a new Facebook page which is completely public without my youngest daughters weird and wonderful collection of pictures making an appearance. There are a few odd code glitches at the moment, like the ‘like’ button being inoperative, but I’ll fix that in the next few days or so.

Sites exclusively for the Stars trilogy and Paul Calvin novels will follow. As will a picture of the completed and filled wine rack.

Spurious reviews and sock puppetry

They say all is fair in love and war. and the same rules seem increasingly to apply to publishing your own work. It appears some people think posting spurious negative reviews, under a spurious identity on Amazon and similar with authors in the same genre will boost their own popularity. Now it seems that what was only suspected is real, and more widespread even than previously suspected.

Anyone who publishes online, or puts their written work in the public domain is subject to criticism. Some justified, some plain mischievous, and also we find, downright malicious and dishonest. Reviews where the critical voice cannot possibly have read enough of the work in question to critique it properly, yet posts a one star or less review. Then posts a five star review on their own work under another user ID.

Personally, I rarely take notice of critics. Their world view is not often one that I share, and something that might wow them can leave me utterly cold and unimpressed. Some say the Brontes were literary classics. Like many others who trawled through their prose at high school, I would disagree. Most of Dickens leaves me quite unimpressed, but hand me Donne, Shakespeare, Kipling, or Chaucer and it’s a case of “I’m just slinking off for a quiet read – back next week.” I also prefer science fiction and fantasy authors like Heinlein, Niven, Pournelle Hamilton, Bear, Harrison, Barnes, Butcher, and Pratchett. They have an ease of reading that lets me immerse myself in their fictional worlds, almost too deeply to come up for air. Although even in that hallowed list there are some pieces of work I’m not too fond of.

Overall I’ve always tended to look at critics as a negative force, and now much less than trustworthy because anyone can be a critic, even competing authors. Online honesty in criticism, it would seem, is now at a premium. Cheap at that price too, as cheap as at $5 a time for ‘raves’. Apparently there is a modest buck to be made by freelance writers playing this deceitful game.

Such dishonesty often hides under the poisoned umbrella of ‘online relationship management’. Yet the problems demise, while not yet in sight, might be looking at a form of online Armageddon in the not too distant future. Software tools are becoming available to track and detect such spurious sock puppetry, and the battle against false reviewers, trolls and similar online pests will soon turn.

For my own part I find myself mostly flying under the radar of the fake reviewers. My sales are nothing to write home about; but then I do not write for critics. I write for myself.

Curiosity on Mars, the movie

Watch all of this animation. This is gorgeous.

So far the MSL mission matches all of this eleven minute trailer. There is a shorter, one and a half minute trailer available on Youtube. Truly awesome.

Off to talk to motorcycle dealers today. If I’m really lucky, a test ride on (appropriately enough) a Triumph Rocket III.


One of the things that is an annoying distraction in this life is software updates. Particularly software updates that should not have come out of beta. At the moment I’m reserving some significant bile for Firefox 14.0.1 and more particularly Adobe Flash 11.3. The trouble started about three weeks ago when Angie updated her copy of Firefox, and then upgraded Flash. Normally there isn’t an issue with Firefox and Flash, but Angie seemed to have uploaded the 64 bit as opposed to the 32 bit version of Flash. Videos would not play. Youtube became a closed book, and trying to do any video conversion on her eighteen month old Windows & laptop became impossible. Being the households tech support, I fixed the problem by uninstalling the 64 bit and installing the 32. Functionality was restored; videos would play in Firefox again, and I thought I was off the hook and could get back to work.

In all innocence I then upgraded my own Firefox Browser and Adobe Flash to the ‘recommended’ Adobe Flash 11.3 and Firefox 14.0.1 releases. Videos stopped playing in every browser. The only solution was to uninstall all four of my browsers and reinstall earlier versions. These are now working fine. Videos play, hyperlinks link, and all I seem to lose in some of the functions from, excuse my pun, the flashier advertisements.

Overall, this has cost me an equivalent of four writing days, because I’ve been too occupied or annoyed to focus on my work. As far as browsers go, I happen to like Mozilla based products, but not ones that shouldn’t have been released on an unwitting public.

I suppose you could say I’ve been firefoxed, and I’m not very happy about it.