Wanderings

Anything you dream is fiction,
and anything you accomplish is science,
the whole history of mankind is nothing but science fiction.
- Ray Bradbury
January 31st, 2006

Microphone Available


I have finally put up a PayPal buy-it link for my HP Multimedia Microphones. These are great for authors who want to produce audio versions of their stories. It is at my AudioCD.com website. The coding goes slowly. I have cleaned up almost all of the HTML, but the database stuff is not ready for prime time.






January 31st, 2006

Losing Touch – Flash story at AstoundingTales,com

I have a flash story (1000 words or less) at AstoundingTales.com in the Pole 69 contest. I’m not in the contest officially because I am an editor. Arthur is putting together the best of AstoundingTales part deux – the best flash. I wanted to be in the book, so I cobbled up a story out a dream I had the other night.
It features none other than Gracie the Wonder Cat!






January 30th, 2006

The Harrow

I received a rewrite request on a story that I sent to the Harrow. I am surprised at this. The story, Gremlins Over Normandy, is a light-weight piece. It is only 1900 words. The editors liked it, but thought that a few changes might make it a better story. I am faced with the dilemma of taking the time to rewrite a story that I’m not fond of, or forgo a possible sale on a story that I had considered trunked.
Here’s a little of what editor Michael R. Colangelo said:

Thanks for submitting ‘Gremlins Over Normandy’ to The Harrow. We’re going to pass, but I’d like to suggest a bit of a rewrite and (hopefully) see a resubmittal from you… I think the style actually lends itself to the story… Gives it a bit of a pulp flavor, which supports the theme quite well.

I love the pulp flavor comment because that is exactly what I was going for. Hey Arthur, would you like to do the rewrite?
They have a smeerp-ish slush management system at The Harrow. I submitted there mostly because I wanted to check out their system. Their response was 55 days – way too long. One would think that the automated system would speed things up.






January 30th, 2006

Voice to Text

My friend, John Ballard, has some audio interviews that he is trying to convert to text to help him with a book that he’s writing. He downloaded some software to try to help him.

I have been trying to convert text files to speech, but converting from speech to text is nearly impossible. The results are almost satanic, as though a demon is working as his personal secretary.

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Complex however menus and bogeysmenus and though he’s battling with reality, some 80 interweaving amongst billions and billions of diverse sources leveling the reality against the plane fieldbe to open and lowered information that really took off andhow he said in the February that were dug-debated another job do not. If I’ve done todayin the with and a contingent of andcan you say one sentence , I love us ago the city mediation has said that although the city mediation is the Oh boy and then happenin the those among the dead man was more the and the ADO to do itdeals on my heart for both those is the only worthless






January 29th, 2006

Larry and Ward’s Underwater Pictures

My brothers, Larry and Ward, went to St. John Virgin Islands. Larry had a camera that would take pictures underwater. He made me an image cd for the blog. Some of the pictures are a little blurry, some are pretty good. Larry’s Underwater Pictures.






January 28th, 2006

A Place to Hide

I recorded my first short story using one of the microphones that I will be offering to writers. The quality of the audio was excellent, although I am not that good a reader. I used Audacity to record it, normalize, bass boost and then equalize the audio. I re-recorded the title and there are some pops as a result. I don’t know how to blend the re-recorded stuff. You can listen to it. A Place to Hide Short Story MP3.
The story is 1,000 words (it originally appeared in Anotherealm.com flash in 2004). It is exactly 5 minutes long. I think that I read fast, but this should be useful information for those that want to gauge how long their stories will take to read. Multiply the word count by 5 and divide by 1,000.
If you listen, you will hear Ollie’s bell as he tries to get my attention.






January 26th, 2006

Outsourcing SpecFic Publishing Projects

Since all of the Java programming jobs have gone to India, I might as well try and make the most of it. The same economic conditions that have cut my pay by two thirds in 5 years can be used to make some money.

I am going to try to outsource some short run printing of Speculative Fiction to India.

There is a large demand for POD and Short Run printing. Small runs of books can be quite profitable. I am acutely aware of this because I have been published eleven times in short run books and magazines in the last two years. Speculative fiction, especially, appeals to a distributed audience. In SpecFic, either you are a best seller like King, or you are an occasional writer like myself with very little in between. The prozines, like Analog and Asimov’s, publish a few hundred stories per year. The not-so-pro zines publish thousands of stories a year, mostly on the internet.

Each story in AstoundingTales.com is read about 150 times on the average, most well over 200 times. I like to think this is above average. Since I have no other data, I will guess that stories in the 500 or so regular zines are read about 100 times each. Stories in the small SpecFic zines, by my guess (no data of course), get five million views per year. Online Magazines like Strange Horizons and the late Sci-Fi might total ten million views per year. Baen might do as well.

My point being that there may be as many as a million SpecFic readers out there, each reading dozens of stories.

There have been attempts to convert the freeloading surfers into cash customers. Selling subscriptions has worked in a few cases. Selling merchandizing and page ads have been tried. Some sites beg for donations. Unless a site has a sugar daddy, as I suspect some of the big sites do, the zines must operate in the red.

A more successful route has been to sell POD (Print-On-Demand) anthologies or short run magazines on paper based on the web zines. SamsDotPublishing.com claims some small success by selling hard copy versions of some of its zines, some chapbooks (short, magazine-like books) and even some stand-alone novels and collections.

The best POD publisher is LuLu.com, which does a good job and is somewhat cheaper than CafePress.com. Still a LuLu.com book usually goes for $10 or more. These are very high quality trade paperback style books, but they can’t compete with the 400 page novels that sell for $5 at the book store.

Short run book printing is not any better than POD, as far as price. I have received price quotes from some of the large and small “Vanity” publishers such as iUniverse and the price per book (including a little profit for the author) is hard to get below $10.

Enter my friend Kochumma from India. Koch is a fellow programmer. He has relatives in the printing business back in India.

At this point we are guessing that I can get a book printed that would cost $10 on LuLu.com for less than $2. The quality would not be as good (I don’t want heavy paper or thick covers). I would have to forgo proofing, as the turnaround would be too long. Shipping of the completed project would be six weeks. The minimum run might be 500 copies. This is all conjecture, though and I will hear some details in a week to ten days.

If the price is low, if the quality is good, if the minimum order is low, if there are no problems with customs… Lots of ifs. If this whole idea seems to work, I will go into the short run publishing business with my new Indian partners.

I think that POD sales are low due to the very high price of the product. I think that many more websites would produce anthologies and many more authors would self publish if the cost was lower. There is a pent up demand that can’t get over that elasticity hump occupied by LuLu.com. I think that I might be able to provide the next lower price level of short run publishing.

If this works out, my first book will be” how to create audio productions of creative writing”. I will be writing a 20 page booklet and I that will be my tryout of the Indian printing facilities. I will then set up a website and start a submission process. I will try to pick a few books that I think might sell. I will want anthologies of web zines. I would also like to try a few “How-to” type books.

I will set up a drop ship system where websites can sell the books in my catalog by putting a snippet of JavaScript on their pages and get a kickback on each of the books sold this way. The authors can also buy books at a discount and ship them out themselves. I am hoping that viral marketing might make this a success, without asking writers to buy their own books or be the only source of promotion.

I hope to be legit publisher in the long run. I don’t want to charge for publishing like iUniverse and I don’t want to have a marketing model that requires authors to buy their own books like Publish America, but I do want to create a system where small run “vanity” publishing can be made profitable. I can do this through outsourcing the printing and being creative with a web based support system.

So stay tune, boys and girls. There will be more on this. It may all come to nothing, or it might just turn into something interesting. Stay tuned.






January 24th, 2006

Even More Cute Cat Pictures

Justine demanded more cat pictures, so here you go. Ollie jumps on me and digs at my sweater. I had the camera out so I took some pics.


Here is a closeup of Blue. He doesn’t look so wild here. He was feral when we got him in the house and he lives under a chair. He is slowly getting used to us and this morning he made it up the stairs all the way to the landing. He is getting bolder and braver.

Blue is a fancy “Raggamuffin” cat. He probably cost his owners $2000 and they wouldn’t pay $75 to get him altered. We also have Ffafhrd and Max, which were both unaltered Males that wound up on our doorstep.






January 24th, 2006

Ollie soon to be Famous

Valley Cottage Animal Hospital has asked us to provide some pictures so that Ollie can be featured on their website. Here is what I wrote up.

After loosing two beloved cats to cancer in quick succession, we adopted from the pound two kittens, Gracie a small gray tabby girl and Ollie. Ollie, a bright orange tabby boy, was a sweet little fellow with a sweet temperament. We did not have him more than a few days, though, when he got very sick.
The vets at the Valley Cottage Animal Hospital quickly diagnosed the little fellow with Feline Panleukopenia, a highly infectious viral disease of cats. They warned us that the little kitten would probably not survive. Ollie was extremely ill. He was loosing blood from the damage the disease did to the lining of his intestines.
VCAH vets arranged that Ollie would receive around the clock care and blood transfusions from a heroic donor cat who often comes to the aid of sick cats at the hospital.
When we brought Ollie home, he could not stand up and we had to feed him with an eyedropper. Little by little, the little orange kitten recovered.
Today, Ollie is an active and curious 3 year old and is extremely affectionate. He demands to sit on our laps and sleeps curled up against us at night. He is smaller than his other cat friends, but he makes up for it with a big personality.

Here are some pictures of Ollie. None of them captures his smile, although his manic personality comes through loud and clear.









January 24th, 2006

Audio Update 2

Well, my attempt to create audio versions of my stories using the little digital voice recorder was a failure. The voice was very compressed and distorted and there was a loud hiss. On the plus side, I was able to record two stories (one of them twice) in one lunch break. They were shorter stories, 1,000 words and 1,300 words. By the time I was finished, my voice was hoarse.

(The rest of this post is geekspeak)


No response yet on selling my domain AudioCD.com. It looks like it was only a nibble.

My HarpAmps.com website crashed and I need a new Java host. I am in the process of consolidating all of my websites into one host. (Yes, putting my eggs all in one basket.) It will save me around $400 a year. It will be easy for most of the sites because they are just pages with no database or dynamic content. A few, like smeerp.com, will give me headaches. There is a lot of data there.

I am transferring my last domain out of Network Solutions to Register.com, and then I’ll point jt30.com to the new site. This is an old site and makes me good money. I have to be careful and make sure that the store software still works. I can turn it into a blog as soon its off the old hosting company. They were incompatible with blogging software.






January 23rd, 2006

Audio Update

For a over a year, I’ve been wanting to produce audio versions of my own stories and encourage other writers to make some, so that we could sell the results. I vowed that I would read a couple of my flash pieces into a PC and make them available this weekend. I did not do this. I brought my little voice recorder with me today, and I will go out to the truck at lunch and see what happens.
On the plus side, I bought 40 tiny microphones for PCs on eBay. I will make these available packaged with a copy of Audacity audio editing software for the cost of a box and postage on one of my websites. I hope this will encourage authors to produce audio copies of their stories.
There’s another issue here. I intended to do all of this using the URL AudioCD.com that Phil Chadeayne and I bought more than 10 years ago. I’ve done little or nothing with the site in many years. At first I made a store for CD and Tapes sales like half.com. This was before half.com and I did not have any way to promote it so it never took off. Then I made it an MP3 message board where you could trade MP3 files. That took off in the wrong direction and became a pirate board so I took it down. I then made it a search engine for music powered by affiliate links and it has paid its way since then.
Recently, I took the affiliate links down and started writing the audio exchange software to create custom stores for people who want to sell MP3 files. That has been stalled for a year by the lack of any MP3 files to sell.
This weekend I received an offer from someone to buy the domain name. I may be able to sell the web site. This would be one less domain to worry about, but I’d have to use another domain to sell the audio files.
I have WapFiction.com, Strangetales.net, AstoundMe.com, and PaperTheTown.com that I could use. WapFiction refers to WAP protocol used in cell phones. PaperTheTown was a resume site that tried to write, but gave up on (there’s no money in it). AstoundMe is the site that I use for my media related projects so I might use it. I also could use CThreePO.com, but I’d like to sell that, too.
This project does not seem like it will ever come together.






January 23rd, 2006

Low Tolerance for Rudeness Today

This kind of thing happens to everyone. Last night I went to buy some groceries. I had 9 items and I got in the 15 items or less line. The person in front of me had about 30 items. So they divided it into two orders and paid twice in order to avoid waiting in the slower lines. Not only did they make us all wait because of their larger order, but they made us wait while they paid twice. I guess they thought they could get through on a technicality. Just rude. They knew that they were being rude, but didn’t seem to care.
Here’s another: On a discussion board, someone asked a question on PC maintenance. I answered with a rather long post giving my advice. I am a PC expert and I make my living giving companies my opinion. I was giving it away there for free. The person answered back “Thanks for your two cents”. How am I to take this? Is this a casual use of a phrase or a comment on the quality of my post? It sounds sarcastic to me. It is difficult to tell without facial expressions or tonal quality of a voice. The post did upset me. I did not reply.
Perhaps I am being overly sensitive, but I am in a lousy mood today so don’t cross me.






January 22nd, 2006

January Trip to the Beach

We took a trip north this Sunday. In the previous post, I showed some pictures of United House Wrecking. When we left there we continued north to South Norwalk and Calf Pasture Beach. The Mural above, titled Calf Pasture Beach, by Alexander J. Rummle, is from the Norwalk City Hall, Common Council Hall.
Erica and I stopped by the beach on a brisk January Sunday and enjoyed a long walk along the shore. As you can see, the sand has been eroded by the recent nor’easters. I love the beach in the winter. It was not too windy. The temperature was in the low 40s so it was quite pleasant.
Click on the image on the left to view the image gallery.






January 22nd, 2006

Weekend Joy Ride: United House Wrecking

This weekend we went up to United House Wrecking in North Stamford, Connecticut. It is like a museum of interesting, oversize overpriced furniture and architectural pieces. I would love to own some of this. I would love to own a house that could fit some of it. They have free donuts and coffee, which made it worth the 40 miles to go visit. My only objection is that they mix reproduction items with the authentic antiques. The antiques say antiques, but the repros don’t say repro.
Click on the image to see the image gallery.