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msknight

Michelle's corner

Michelle Knight. Writer, photographer, programmer, truck driver and general, all round nut case. Life is a journey and that's what this blog will probably end up being. Let's see where we go, eh? ;-)

Currently reading

Your Beauty Mark. All You Need to Get the Hair, Makeup, Glow, and Glam.
Dita von Teese
Progress: 208/256 pages

Sometimes, it's the little things that lift the day...

Kozlowski's post

When I read Rod Raglin's post  about Michael Kozlowski's post about living in a world of Terrrible Self Published Authors, I had to read for myself.

 

The whole author renumeration thing, I blogged about myself some time ago - "The Amazon Effect" where Nick Higham interviewed Mal Peet - http://msknight.com/loas/?p=1282

 

If you want to read all those articles and blog posts, feel free, but I'm going to restrict myself to Kozlowski's post, which generated 133 comments in itself. Not that I'm going to read all of those, but one comment from Bob Mayer did catch my eye...

"Since you're using a quote from me, I guess I need to weigh in. I haven't read the other comments because I'm sure they are full of outrage from indie authors. I agree with most of what you say except for a couple of assumptions you make without clear linkage. I think you have it backward in saying that indie authors are causing the decline of the eBook market. Successful indie authors are causing the decline of reported eBook sales. No one records my sales, other than Amazon, and I don't think they're releasing their data. The same is true for many indie and hybrid authors. I've been hearing "plateauing" and "declining" for years. Perhaps. But causality is questionable. I would say the chief executive of the Publishers Association has a dog in this hunt, so that can be taken the same as any comments from indie authors can be taken.


There is no doubt there is a flood of dreck and you can't tell anyone what they're written is dreck. I've seen it in three decades of working with writers. I also don't think the plethora of self-pub works is clogging up the system or hurting search engines-- those are driven by sales and coop money.


Ultimately none of this matters. To each their own and you seem to enjoy poking your nose into this hornet's nest. It really doesn't change anything."

In among all that Kozlowski put forward in his post, the one thing he (and others) failed to do, is offer any solutions to the situation.


He correctly identified that local book stores don't contain Indie authors. It would be stunning if they did, particularly authors from their own local areas. I was actually chatting with Waterstones, who did at one point, have a program that saw authors books be stocked in their local branches. However, in my case that came to nothing. Exactly why, however, I never got to the bottom of, but it looked like the whole program fell off the edge of a cliff.


The gatekeepers of the blogsphere are, themselves, not immune to the ego trips that Kozlowski aimed at indie authors and competitors of American Idol. Some of them are tied in to deals with Amazon and advertisers who run banner adverts on their blogspot blogs. I won't detail my own experiences, but suffice to say that I don't trust my reading recommendations to bloggers that gain an income from advertising, as they have a vested interest in picking works that are likely to drive the maximum traffic to their site. (that's why I spend my little precious time on BookLikes instead of Goodreads.) The big name works gain ever more coverage, while the needles in the Indie haystack stay there, because nobody's searching for them.


We need a reviewing site that is completely independent. Revenue generation to keep the lights on, should stay at a site/service level and authors should have to pay a small charge to submit their works for review. I do have a business model in my head for such a service, which has a small number of bars that have to be reached for a work to gain a trustworthy review. But an independent reviewing/blogging site is not enough. The classification system itself needs an overhaul so that it makes it easier for someone to search for works which suit their mood. The simple classification system we currently have, is not fit for purpose any more. When a reader comes to a site thinking, "I'm in the mood for a Victorian period comedy," current systems don't really support this way of browsing. One of my favorite cheesy films is, "Four Eyes and Six Guns," which is a comedy about an optometrist, set in the Wild West. Who'd have thought that such a combination even existed ?!


Me? I know that I'm not an experienced author. The small number of reviews that I do have, are scattered across the range. It is up to me to create a book that captures the imagination and makes people WANT to talk about it. That is the only way to go. Forced promotion is a short term solution that I hate whenever I see it, but it does overcome the problem that authors face... managing to get someone... anyone... to read the books and take the time to tell the world what they think.


I have estimated that I'll have a book worth reading in about another five years, if I keep up this level of practice. No short achievement for a dyslexic that works a nine to five and vlogs as well. But even if (and it's a big if) I do manage to reach that goal, then I do so in the hope that by the time I get there, that there will be a way to get an honest review of my efforts, and for people to see those reviews easily.


And those efforts are considerable for someone of my low resource. Friends and colleagues have edited my works, on top of the large amount of editing and reviewing that I put in myself. Even with all that effort, mistakes still make it through. 


I have commented in my vlogs numerous times, that the currency of the internet is trust. At the moment, with everyone out to grab whatever scraps they can in a world where the advertising model is starting to crumble, (as advertisers start to wake up to exactly how much of their money is being wasted)... if trust existed as a tradeable commodity on the stock exchange, it would be more valuable than gold, platinum, titanium... you get the drift.

 

Mayer past the perfect judgement on Kozlowski's post... "It really doesn't change anything."

Nearly there

The audio book version of Check Mate is very nearly there. Only a few description details that the publisher has to finish, and then I'll be able to put the direct link out.

 

This post, however, is to draw attention to the fact that once you purchase an e-book with them, that you get access to all the formats, so once you purchase a book... if you change e-readers later on down the road, you can download in whatever format suits you best. Or just download the lot and have them on-file ready to hand!!! - to my mind, this is much better than buying via a store that has a commercial interest into tying you down to their own format reader with DRM, so that you can't move your rightfully purchased books later on down the line.

 

In life news... I've been handling a bit of a mare lately, so my reading of books has taken a hit. Hopefully, I'll be able to use this weekend to tidy up and then get back into the groove. I really want to get the Dita Von Teese book finished.

 

Audio book publishers

If you haven't noticed, I've been a bit quiet lately.

 

I may be looking for a platform on which to publish the audio version of Check Mate. Not sure yet. My publisher is an indie, and I prefer to support Indie wherever possible.

 

As you can probably tell, that leaves Amazon, Apple, etc. off the radar for me.

 

So, if you've got any suggestions of Indie publishers of audio books, I'd be grateful for a heads up.

Reading progress update: I've read 208 out of 375 pages.

Your Beauty Mark. All You Need to Get the Hair, Makeup, Glow, and Glam. - Dita von Teese

This is a heavy book .... in both senses.

 

In the first sense, any arachnophobe should have this on their shelf. Hit a spider with this thing, and it's off to that big web in the sky after the first hit.

 

In the second sense, I've been off with housewife's knee for five days, and I've only got a little over half way through.

 

Part of that is the type of information. A mix of advice, history and life story, mixed in with pictures both by means of examples of said advice, and examples of her achievements in life. Also, it reads to me as if it is talking to those who have already spent a portion of their lives sat at a vanity table... and that's not me!!!

 

The big size is all the better for the pictures, so I'm not moaning about it; it's the size that it needs to be, in order to do the job properly. However, if I hadn't got my knee injury from shampooing the carpet the night before I started reading this... then I might have looked at the tome accusingly after seeing my knee become a tennis ball.

Reading progress update: I've read 111 out of 375 pages.

Your Beauty Mark. All You Need to Get the Hair, Makeup, Glow, and Glam. - Dita von Teese

For some reason, my copy runs to 375-ish pages, rather than the 256 listed here against the book. Pass. Who knows. No clue why. Such is life.

 

What I do know is that Dita had a grounding in reality before she chose the path of burlesque. And this is a life of art. Human art. In fact, a collection of different types of art, itself wrapped and mixed in a package that becomes Dita vonTeese.

 

She is perfectly aware that she occupies a space where few of us actually practically desire to go; such entrapments that are hers come at a price which I, for one, would not like to pay. However, she laces this with practical advice that all of us can follow. In other words, if you simply went out and bought the products that she listed... then you'd be missing the whole point. As she says; what works for her, might not work for others... but then hands over the keys to unlock your own journey, without breaking the kind of piggy bank that many of us endure these days.

 

So far, I have been through skin and am mostly my way through perfume. Perhaps the most poignant was the money she wasted with celebrity dermatologists, and found her saviour instead in someone who knew their science and was more interested in people, than fame.

 

 The dedication to the beauty of her chosen era can best be summed up in the kind of experience that might be found in the opening of an iPhone. The box that glides open gently under the pull of gravity. The new phone smell that teases the nose. The placement within the packaging and the very arrangement of the minimalist pieces themselves. Get to grips with that, and the effort and dedication that went behind the making of that experience, and you'll have a starting point to what drives Dita to the path she has chosen to follow.

 

Mixed in are segments of history that I never knew; and practical, sensible advice on things like diet and skin care.

 

This is a heavy, but worthwhile read so far.

The writer in me....

...wants this soooo badly. My bank manager says, "You're kidding. Get back to work."

 

https://www.qwerkywriter.com/

 

A bit of vintage reading...

I'm an amateur photographer, have been for most of my life. Magazines tend to repeat themselves on about a yearly cycle. You eventually get that de-ja vu feeling about the advice that's on offer.

 

I spotted these on flea bay and decided to give them a read. They're from 1938...

 

 

.and if you've read this far and want to see what kind of pictures I take... my general Flickr portfolio is here - https://www.flickr.com/photos/msknight/

Audio book with the publisher

This morning I uploaded the audio files for the book Check Mate, and gave the download link to the publisher.

 

Mono, Mp3 at 48 bit rate. The whole thing weighs in at 110.5 meg, including the tagging and compressed cover image with each mp3 file.

 

Download size is still relevant for various storage devices and people who are still on slow internet connections. The total run time is 5 hours, 5 minutes and 56 seconds. (It couldn't be 55 seconds... could it !!! - and no, I'm not editing it specifically to do that.)

 

Still... all I have to do now, is sit and wait for the feedback from the publisher. (crosses fingers and hopes)

Today... it happens....

I pick up the finished audio for Check Mate in a few hours.

 

I have my microphone packed, because I've got to re-record two phrases, but I'm loving it so far. He's even put in radio effects for some of the two-way communications. Some alteration to the narration speed, among other things, and I hope to be able to bring you a snippet in a week or two :-)

 

My first, full length audio book. Squeeeeeeeee !!!!

Review - The Shepherd's Crown - Terry Pratchett

The Shepherd's Crown - Terry Pratchett

I don't feel like I can give this book an actual star rating, if you know what I mean. Pratchett passed on in 2015 after the, "embuggerance," as he called it, finally got the better of him.

 

He did much in his life including campaigning for assisted suicide. An emotive subject from which he had an advantageous position in the discussion; ie. being well known and respected, his voice carried some weight and he could speak well.

 

My memories of Pratchett's Discworld series go back many years. When I was younger, reading a Pratchett book on a train was a sure fire way to be embarrassed as hell by the time I reached the final station. His writing was so funny that it was impossible to stifle a guffaw. Everyone else in the carriage would then look at me as if I was out of my mind. (they knew me too well!) Such was the power of a Pratchett book.

 

Discworld itself has been a growing environment. It has been a transformation. Sadly, it wasn't only the Discworld that transformed. Pratchett did also. His later works lost their sharp, observational humour and became more focused on the storyline itself. Not entirely a bad thing for a book, but it wasn't my original reason for picking up Pratchett.

 

To understand, "The Shepherd's Crown," it does pay to have read the appropriate books before in the Discworld series. The sub-wiki on the witches is here - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Witches_(Discworld) - and that's quite a lot of books.

 

There are very occasional patches where Pratchett's humour does still shine through, however...

 

Then he shouted so that the rest of the clan could hear him, "This elf is oor prisoner. A hostage, ye ken. That means ye are nae tae kill it until ye are told." He ignored the grumbles from the clan. "As tae the rest o' ye, tak guard around yon stones. And if they come in force show them what the Feegles can dae!"

Daft Wullie said, "I can play the harmonica."

Rob Anybody said, "Aye, weel, I suppose that puts the willies up me, so wud likely keep them awa."

 

Not exactly rip roaringly funny, but gives you an idea of Pratchett's original sense of fun. One of the more enduring lines early on in his Discworld career being, "In some parts of the city curiosity didn’t just kill the cat, it threw it in the river with lead weights tied to its feet.." - more here - http://www.chrisjoneswriting.com/terry-pratchett-quotes/category/curiosity - and don't forget to check the categories on the right hand side for more.

 

Like many of the Discworld books, there are a fair number of characters involved, but it was one of his abilities to be able to have a high number of characters in the story and still the reader is able to keep track of what's going on.

 

The story doesn't really, "complete," for me. If you come in to this book without having read what comes before, you will definitely be missing things about You the cat and other odds and sods that make this book what it is. Even if you have read them, then there are still things left without being fully addressed. I still want to know more about Mephistopheles the goat, for example. Pratchett gave things special properties without adequately explaining them for my inquisitive mind.

 

The final battle was a disappointment. It was over far, far too quickly. The whole book had been building up to that point and I, personally, found it to be wanting. I had been growing disappointed with his later books. I hadn't really picked up a book of my own accord for more than a decade. I only read them when family and friends gifted me one for a special occasion; as this was gifted to me also.

 

I guess that as Pratchett's writing moved him to greater fame and winning literary awards for the story and plot... he lost that devil-may-care humorous magic that I loved him for. Every time I eat a curry, Death crosses my mind, stood alone in the darkness of Ankh Morpork. Don't worry... read Mort (book 4, I believe.)

 

To conclude I guess that, for me personally, this isn't the pinnacle of Pratchett's writing career. Is it a statement of his life, and a true and honest memorial to the man that gave the world so much wit and laughter? Very possibly so. If you're going to read this, I highly recommend going through the whole series. It is worth the time I believe, for what little my humble opinion is worth.

Just decided to do a test...

I'm eyeing up a mechanical keyboard for work. At home I've got a mechanical keyboard with Cherry Brown switches. At work I have to put up with a mundane membrane keyboard which I wish I could throw through the window.

 

Well, my boss had to come to my workstation to type something in, and she liked it, so I said I was considering a mechanical keyboard and she could have this one when it came. The problem was, mechanical keys are usually noisy as hell in an office.

 

I did a bit of research and have one on order with Cherry Silent Red keys. Brand new, just released, it won't even be in stock before the end of next month... but in the mean time, I just decided to do a typing speed test. No practice, no limbering up, just straight in off the blocks on the membrane keyboard.

 

 

The computer tech cohort at my further education course, had to do typing as an element of our exam, so we were trained touch typists... not that we really did any traditional pool typing. We were also the generation that trained on the BBC Micro and used the IBM PC keyboards... you know the ones... they had metal backs and if you dropped them, they'd break your foot.

 

I've already dropped the cash on my new board - http://www.keyboardco.com/keyboard/uk-filco-majestouch-2-nkr-silent-soft-linear-action-keyboard.asp - so this is going to be interesting. I'll try the test again in a few months time, to see if the new keyboard actually makes a difference, or if my love of mechanical keyboards actually justifies the cost.

Free book for a few days

"The Sexual Compass" is still free for a few days more on Smashwords - https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/698913

 

You can find some reviews here - https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/25375024-the-sexual-compass

 

I reviewed it on Amazon in Jan 2015...

 

Full disclosure. I was on a chat about my book and Michael told me about his. He sent a copy, didn't request a review, but it's so good it's going to get one whether he likes it or not, because I thoroughly enjoyed it.

The blurb concentrates on the mice straight/gay experiment side, but actually Michael has used this as a skeleton key. He unlocks the door to an honest look at the human condition and how stupidly seriously we take ourselves on occasion. His writing is a nice, easy style and the diction is of an everyday level that means the book just flows naturally. He's even got things down to the little "super-secret-spy" conversations that people have with themselves in their head occasionally. The only negative in this, was one place in which a character had to put over a concept in such detail, that it felt out of character; but the rest of the book was a breeze.

All in all, it carries the message not to get so hung up on yourself, avoid getting stuck in a rut and that, now and then, you should take the time to reset your sexual compass.

The question that has no answer.

An interesting article regarding copyright popped up on the BBC - http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-40029781

 

Charles Dickens even went to the USA to protest his case and then, copyright was not granted to non-citizens, so his books were being pirated by all and sundry.

So, intellectual property reflects an economic trade-off, a balancing act. If it's too generous to the creators, then good ideas will take too long to copy, adapt and spread. If it's too stingy, then maybe we won't see the good ideas at all.

And now, how it has all changed. Thanks to the Mickey Mouse law as it is known, the USA is now the primary driver of extended copyright.

A few decades later, when American authors and inventors spoke with a more powerful voice, America's lawmakers began to take an increasingly fond view of the idea of intellectual property. Newspapers, once opposed to copyright, now rely upon it.

A strange beast indeed. The pendulum which gave unfettered freedoms has swung so far the other way that it hurts. Will it swing back? Who knows. And if it does, will it find a sensible medium or simply swing back too far the other way? This is a debate that will run and run. A question that has no answer. Is 0 a number?

Reading progress update: I've read 115 out of 352 pages.

The Shepherd's Crown - Terry Pratchett

Tiffany sighed. "Being a witch is a man's job; that's why it needs women to do it."

 

Enjoying this so far. Not like Pratchett's earlier works. Those were off the wall funny, while this has a more in-depth story to it and some very observant one-liners.

Doing productive stuff

When I look back over the last few years of my life, I think I've become fed up with being a never-ending consumer, and I've wanted to do creative things.

 

There are some creations I can't discuss in open forum... *ahem*... but writing has been among them. I also do YouTube videos and blog posts, mostly to pass on the little knowledge that I gain during my adventures.

 

While Check Mate is still being audio processed (it takes time when people are offering their help for free) I've turned my hand to rescuing vinyl. Actually I was into hi-fi in my teens, but last year I went back to it in a bit of a way, especially returning to vinyl and valve amps.

 

For those who are of a like mind, I put together a blog post on Ello, detailing how I clean second hand vinyl on the cheap. Ultrasonic cleaners cost two thousand pounds, and there's no way I can afford one of those... so I use a few mixtures and some special record cleaning brushes to keep the cost well below a hundred. Enjoy - https://ello.co/msknight/post/nh1j5yqadjardm6qx5qfwq