Thank you for visiting!

You are invited to read Marcus of Abderus and the Inn at the Edge of the World, the first novel in my fantasy adventure series. Visit the Edge of the World! Come for the view, stay for the adventure!

Friday, September 30, 2011

I/O Magic Technology Review-

I/O Magic 3.5 IDE/SDA Enclosure, to be exact. First a little back story. Trust me, this may someday be useful information. My scintillating report will embed the information in the back of your mind where it will come forth when technical disaster strikes. It will, someday. Someday.

My wife's desktop computer finally gave up the ghost-in-the-machine, so to speak. Within the cold case lay a hard drive, filled with data. Photos and stuff. Important, in a personal kind of way. Now inaccessible. What to do? The Geek Squad geeks said it would take around four hundred dollars to even determine if the machine could be rebuilt. Recommendation? Yep. The computer retail section.

My wife now has a rather cheap Toshiba laptop, which even in it's cheapness is far better than the machine she just lost. However, the pictures and a few other things remained inaccessible. What to do? See the Geeks, again. Prospect; $100 to pull the data off to the media of our choice. We already have a portable hard drive, so that would be the total cost.

We later stopped by Office Depot to pick up a USB hub, one of those things that gives you a few more USB ports. Part of the Toshiba's cheapness was having only two USB ports. (Office Depot was next door to the hardware store where we were shopping for, uh, hardware.) I inquired as to the cost of getting the data off of the hard drive. It was $50, but I would have to buy a housing to make the hard drive an external hard drive.

"You can use this I/O housing." said the tech. "In fact, if you used this you could probably retrieve the data yourself." We left the store with a four port USB hub and the I/O Magic hard drive enclosure. Once I got home I followed the clear instructions and had the hard drive out of the old computer and into the new housing in about fifteen minutes. The kit includes everything you need, including cables, a power supply and very clear instructions.

As to using the drive, there were no instructions for that.  Fear not. It was much like plugging in a thumb-drive or any other USB file saving device. I searched the old drive, found the files we wanted, and moved them to the new machine. Total time, less than an hour.

Now we have a spare external hard drive. I haven't done anything with it, yet, but I figure I could reformat the device and use it for extra storage or as a back-up device. The old computer still has some usable memory, a DVD drive, and a wireless interface that can be cannibalized. Parts is parts, you know.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Seeds of our lives-
I once worked for a time for a gentleman who sold bee keeping supplies. I built some of his personal hive boxes for him. Being a retailer, he would quality control parts to be sold. The parts that were not of sufficient quality to sell to the retail public were set aside. These he would have assembled (by myself and my friend Sam) to use for his own bees. "My bees don't really care that much." he said.

As a consequence I got to know some beekeepers. One beekeeper kept a tray full of clover seeds in his truck. As he traveled around he would cast those seeds out to provide flowers for bees to use. His bees. Somebody else's bees. He didn't really care. He was seeding the future.

I also knew another fellow who would cast seeds freely from his vehicle. Let's say he was a horticulturalist dealing in herbs of a questionable legal status. In those days the status was really not in question. His motivation? Hey, you never know when you will need herbal fortification to improve the quality of music or movies. Seeding the future.

In my back yard I have some bird feeders. The seeds I have used are not the sterilized kind. Birds are sloppy eaters, and the have 'planted' some interesting things growing abundantly around their feeder. Some have grown up to provide even more seeds. The sloppy eating habits of those birds have provided even more seeds for them to eat. They were seeding the future.

Stories have seeds. I gather them wherever I go. I write them down in a little note book. I sometimes record them in my phone. I have emailed them to myself, and lost far more than I have saved. Where are they? Somewhere out there, seeding the future.

So, next time you are out there in the real world and do something a bit embarrassing or slightly off, you needn't worry about what may come of it. Just change your perspective. If beekeepers can cast out clover seeds, and fringe herbalists cast out future experience enhancements, it must be a very good thing to cast out story ideas into the world.

Relax. Be yourself. Seed the future. I will try and write it down.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Spam Sushi-

The comment management software I am using is called Comment Kahuna. It is free, and though rather rudimentary it does the job. You can create profiles which include a user name, email and website information that is auto-filled into the various blog comment forms you will be filling out.

The process begins by entering key words for which the software will search. The user interface is clear, simple and easy to use. Lists of blogs are generated and you simply tab through them to read and add comments. It all works rather well, and I have found a lot of blogs I otherwise would not have ever found.

There are some weaknesses in the software. It logs where you have been, but does not use that information to eliminate blogs you have commented on from the list. So, as you tab through you will see the same blogs come up again and again. If you run several separate searches using the same or similar key words you can find yourself thumbing through a great many blogs you have already seen.

This free software is a marketing ploy. You will subsequently receive offers to buy a more robust and automated software. The marketing is not too aggressive, and I find it easy enough to simply read the offers and delete them. I do read them, since the software marketer offers bits of advice with his pitch and some have been useful.

I have enjoyed using this product. I have been to blogs I otherwise would not have visited, and learned some things I would otherwise not have learned. Some are just a lot of fun to visit, and even my least positive experience taught me a few things about how to do this.

Karen, who was clearly critical of my marketing approach, offered the advice to make a sincere and genuine comment, and not add my link to my book right in the comment section. She suggested that I instead have a clearly placed link in my blog. I immediately modified my blog to have such a link, which I simply had overlooked before.

Using her helpful criticism I modified my way of doing these things. On blogs that are obviously personal projects and not intended as marketing vehicles I would not include a direct link to my books. However, on such sites as are obviously not just information sharing venues but vehicles for marketing I would place a link following a suitable comment.

As a consequence of using Comment Kahuna I have also discovered a community of independent self-publishing authors. Some, like Randolph Lalonde, have achieved sufficient success in independent publishing to quit the day job and write full-time. Most others are still building a following. Many purchase, read and revue other independent publisher's works.

However you use Comment Kahuna you gain what are called back-links. I don't fully understand how all of this works, but ultimately it makes your own website or blog more visible. You gain higher and higher placement in search lists. In other words, you shine brighter and people can find you.

If you are marketing yourself or a product on a very tight budget Comment Kahuna will prove to be a useful tool to add to your tool box. Since it is free it will cost you nothing to try.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Spam Maggots

So, did I mention I have been learning to promote my book? Yes? Well, I won't mention my book again this week. What I am learning about right now is Social Networking. This does not relate to Social Security, which is often in the news these days. Neither is it about Socialism, which might or might not be the same thing. No, this is about reaching out and meeting people both online and in real life.

I have spent part of the last week probing various blogs and web sites seeking people who might want to know about my book, which I said I wouldn't mention until at least next week. I tried to find blogs related to fantasy adventure and reading and things like that. Well, mostly those two words in particular. I found some. I read them. I posted a response here and there and a link to my book. The one I am not mentioning.

It was slow going.

I have been the recipient of SPAM over the years. Indeed, I have been constantly surprised by the number of people on the Internet interested in the size of part of my anatomy, how many people think I need reproduction Rolex watches, and how much I want to work from home, (which I pretty much do now.) So, I didn't want to become a Spammer. That would be bad.

Still, I sought a tool to assist me. One quite affordable was my thought. I found one. It was free. I find free quite affordable, so I downloaded it (after checking reviews and finding out if anyone had been killed or maimed by this particular software.) I tried working with it today. It really is a good tool for what I am doing.

Now what I don't want to do is leave a general comment in broken English with a very obviously unrelated link attached. That, I do believe, is SPAM. Not good. However, if I actually read the article, and deem the writer as one who might genuinely want to read my book, that is not Spam. Not really.

I tried to be respectful. For example, I read the article by a lady who was a writer and reader of fantasy literature. She should have been a good choice. I discovered that she was coping with a mental illness, and that the writing was as much a therapy and compulsion as anything else. I did not post there. Sure, she might like my book. You know, the one I am not mentioning. However, it just did not feel right.

It felt like SPAM.

Even so, I used the software to find a lot of sites. Interesting sites. Sites where I could leave a nice message relating to the material being covered and also refer to my book. Yeah, that book.

So, as I move on in my Spam-free adventure and get to know this software I might just eventually write a review. Some of you may have works you want to promote. Without Spam, of course.

Meanwhile, if you feel the need to drop a link to your site or product in the comments below, feel free. Just comment first in fairly sound English, with a related and nicely presented link. Oh, and don't post anonymously. I won't authorize anonymous posts with unrelated links.

That would be SPAM.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Electronic Book Readers-

One of my Facebook friends asked me when my books will be out in print. She wanted to read my works but did not have an electronic book reader. Unfortunately, the traditional way of getting into print is a long and arduous process, with winning an agent who must win a publisher and then the whole publishing circus.

Alternatively, I could go with a print-on-demand service. If someone orders my books a copy will be printed and sent to them. Not a bad system. At this point in my publishing adventure I am not prepared to shell out the hundreds of bucks to get the document formatted for print on demand. My budget for all of this is small. Ebooks are an affordable option, and the one I chose.

Ebooks have a lot of advantages. They all fit on smart phones, devices like the iTouch media player, pad format computers, and computers of all sorts. Most of these devices simply require you to download an ereader as an application or standard piece of software. These devices have various advantages and disadvantages.

For example, the smart phone you have with you always. Therefore, you will have any books you have loaded on the device with you wherever you go. The disadvantage is the size of the screen. Some people will find reading on a phone (or iTouch like device) difficult. Others will find it pleasant. I know of one woman who has read many books on her iTouch, and finds it just fine as a reader.

My reader of choice is the Nook, sold by Barnes and Noble. When they reduced the price to my chosen trigger point ($150) I bought one. The first model. I like the paper-like screen, as I can read it in full light and not get the computer screen wash-out common with phone and computer screens. By the way, the current prices have units below $150.

To get started it is easy to download a reader to your computer. There are quite a few free books available from various sources. They are easy to download and open with you reading software. Give computer reading a try and see how you like it. If you have a smart phone, try a reading application. The cost of getting started is quite low.

From there a reader can move on to evaluating other electronic reading devices. Sony has a nice one. Amazon has their Kindle, which was first on the market and still an excellent device. Kobo, which had been associated with the Borders distribution network, seems like an adequate device. Of course, there is also the Nook. Prices vary depending on the device and the features you might prefer.

If the cost of the device is of concern, don't forget the free books I mentioned. There are a lot of books out there that will cost you nothing. Paper books will never disappear, but the convenience of ebooks will grow on you. With the right kind of account you can often download a book in minutes, and be reading right away.

I recommend you give it a try. And, while you are trying, have a look my own works. I have enjoyed writing them. I would love for you to read them.

(Note: at present I am unaware of any way to read epub format writings on the Kindle. My works are not currently available in Kindle format.)

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Non-articulated Dreams-

I think that dreams, and the pursuits of dreams, are important in the life of a human. Most of the happiest people I have known (a sadly small number of people) were people who identified their dreams early in life and focused on fulfilling those dreams. Many others I have known have just drifted through life, much like I feel I have done.

Am I a happy person? Not so much so as I would like. Why is that? I don't think that I truly identified my dreams early in life, and those I had I did not nurture. Dreams need to be identified, then fed and pruned and given liberty to grow. I knew little about that in my youth, and apparently it was not a priority with those who were tasked with educating me.

Do I find fault with those people? No, I don't. I was not neglected with malicious intent. I was not neglected through laziness. I don't think I was neglected at all. I suspect that the idea of finding your own passion and letting it become a dream, then growing that dream, is just not a common concept.

Dreams are, in many social contexts, considered frivolous wastes of time. One must be practical, and responsible. You can't go off following dreams and still manage to live a good life. You have to earn a good living, and buy a house and all of those other things that make up the American Dream. Oh, wait. There's that word again. Dream.

I had a really good childhood. Our economic status was sufficient that I was not compelled to dig my way out of poverty just to get an even start with most other Americans. There were plenty of resources, had I a dream and a will to see it fulfilled. I simply had not gathered the skills of dreaming. Day dreaming, yes, but not the kind of dreaming that gives direction and motivation and fulfillment.

Yet I have attained to much I value. A good family. A nice home. My children are reasonably balanced human beings who are generally liked and respected. None of our troubles are the consequences of miscreant misbehavior. In retrospect, these are dreams I never articulated yet achieved nonetheless.

They are my non-articulated dreams. I have even achieved some whims that never really attained to the status of dreams. Like writing a novel, and seeing it published. Indeed, I have written and published three novels, and a collection of short stories. I had a whim of being a writer, but no real dream.

I cannot change my past, yet I sometimes wonder. What if I had really dreamed of being a writer? What if I had learned what it might take to become not just a writer, but a professional writer? I can only speculate, but it might have been an interesting life. More satisfying that the one I now live? I really can't say.

What I like to do now is encourage people to follow their dreams. Granted, a dream may not be practical, but that is part of the nurturing and pruning. The dream has to be given shape and fed the necessary resources to live in the real world. Shaping your dream will shape your life, and I suspect that it will be all the richer and more fulfilling for the effort.

There are, of course, dream killers out there. They will challenge your dream. It won't be practical, at least in their minds. It won't be responsible, this dream-chasing. As to those, I recommend you examine their lives. Do they seem happy? Do they appear to be fulfilled? Does their idea of practicality and responsibility contribute to a truly good life? If not, I suggest you distance yourself from them. They may poison your dream.

The road to dream fulfillment will, of course, have challenges. Roads always do. Those challenges can be incorporated into the dream, if you are creative and committed. Overcoming them will add richness to your dream, and give it context.

Dare to dream. Dare to follow your dreams. YOUR dreams.