Sam Dastyari – one rotten apple or just the tip of the iceberg?

I’ve been having a conversation over on The Passive Voice that has disturbed me greatly. Not because it was unpleasant or rude, but because it has made me feel terribly naive at the ripe old age of 65.

To backtrack a little, the conversation began as a discussion about Amazon. We’re all pretty much Indie writers on TPV so Amazon features rather often in our conversations. Anyway, these are the relevant bits of a recent conversation between myself and Felix J Torres:

FJT: ..They [Amazon] are definitely being demonized like Microsoft ca 1995.
Hopefully, unlike MS in those days, they have more than one part time lobbyist in DC and have a few bought and paid for politicians in their pocket.

Me: ..So cynical! I most sincerely hope Bezos is smart enough not to have to do business like that.

FJT: ..If he doesn’t Amazon will get the same treatment Microsoft got for not contributing enough corporate funds to the politicians….

All that is a matter of record.

As is the fact that MS now has one of the larger contingents in DC and regularly provide PCs and free software to Congress people…

Me: ..I’m not denying it happens under the label of ‘lobbying’, but Amazon succeeded despite not doing what all the other companies were doing. If Bezos caves to the soft-corruption game of ‘gifting’ politicians, the ones to suffer long term will be /us/.
Apologies but Amazon is the /only/ large company that I admire. [I am so cringing now]

FJT: ..Well, of course consumers suffer.
The cost added by the politicians and bureaucrats gets added to the sale price….

Once one player alerts the politicians there is money to be had in a market they don’t back off. Rather they descend en masse…

Bezos would have to be an idiot to hear all the baying dogs calling for a lynching of Amazon and do nothing despite of what happened to Microsoft.

And he isn’t.
Amazon’s publicly reported lobbying has been growing steadily. Even faster than their online sales are growing…

Me: ..So there is open corruption that everybody knows about and accepts as normal?
In certain much maligned countries that might be known as ‘baksheesh’.

FJT: ..

Oh, just because it’s common knowledge doesn’t mean it’s accepted.

But every once in a while a congressman gets caught and arrested with a brown bag with $30K. (Seems to be the going rate in the House. Senators are a lot more expensive.)

Most politicians aren’t that blatant and merely call it “serving their constituents”. And many wrap themselves in principle like “protecting competition” or “looking out for the little people”.

Me: ..A member of the Labor party here in Australia – Sam Dastyari – was caught getting cosy with some Chinese business man, twice. He was finally kicked out but now I wonder whether he wasn’t just the tip of the iceberg, the one blatant idiot who got caught.
Could I get any more disillusioned?
I will never understand why so many Americans picked a certain person to be their ‘champion’ against the swamp, but I’m starting to understand why they need a champion in the first place.

I have only quoted what I thought were the relevant parts of the conversation, but if you’re interested, you can find the whole thing here:

http://www.thepassivevoice.com/2018/01/why-amazon-is-the-new-microsoft/#comment-408446

Just scroll down a bit.

So, is this something everyone else already knew except me?

I would like to think that Australia is less caught up in this nudge-nudge-wink-wink epidemic of greed, but I’m not a complete fool. How many more Sam Dastyari’s are there amongst our politicians? Do they all take bribes of one sort or another? Is that why, once the politics dies down, nothing is ever done to change this bloody situation?

I’ve long thought the  concept of lobbying was wrong: in a democracy, the only people influencing politicians should be the voters. And yes, I know lobbyists are voters too, as are CEO’s of huge corporations blah blah, but if this bribery is as rampant as it appears, then our democracy is just a great big off-colour joke. 😦

Not happy Jan.

Meeks

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If anyone is having trouble with the link in the post, please click on the picture of the book on the sidebar to the right of the post.

Thanks,

Meeks


It’s up!

Just downloaded a copy onto my Kindle and I can already see a problem – despite changing the font size to 24, it’s still miles too small. The screenshots turned out better than expected though and you can zoom in and out which is great.

Anyway, here’s the link again:

cheers

Meeks

 


A one day freebie for self-publishers

Sorry for the short notice everyone, but I’ve just put the ebook version of  ‘How to Print Your Novel with CreateSpace‘ up for one free day on Amazon.

The good news is that it’s scheduled for tomorrow, January 13th 2018 [about dinner time on the east coast of Australia].

The bad news is that it’s only available for the Kindle Fire tablets and the Kindle app. – i.e. it’s not available on the ordinary Kindles.

The reason is that the ebook version was created using the Amazon Textbook Creator, and Textbook Creator files don’t work on the ordinary Kindles. Given how many screenshots and illustrations there are in the How-to, that’s probably not such a bad thing as you really need to see them in colour.

If you’re ready to self-publish a print book of your own, or even if you’re still at the dreaming stage, please, PLEASE download the book tomorrow and keep it for future reference. The information in the book can be found on the internet – that’s how I found it all – but you’ll have to search for it, so get the book and have it all in the one place, in step-by-step order. 🙂

I’m keeping the freebie to just one day because I’m hoping the pirates won’t find out about it until it’s too late. This is just my theory, right, but I believe the free days we all use to market our books play into the hands of the pirates. They download our books, break the DRM if there is one, and then use our books as ‘bait’ for unwary readers hoping for a free book.

Again, I’m only theorizing here, but I found my first book on a couple of pirate sites some time ago. I didn’t want to go too deep in case I picked up a nasty infection, but one site used free books to lure people into a marketing scam. The other one? I don’t know but my anti-virus did not like it one little bit.

Anyway, that’s the long version of why I try not to put my books on free anymore. It’s also the reason this blog post is the only marketing I intend to do.

Okay, so January 13th on Amazon [dinner time for Aussies]:

https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss/146-8929991-5956327?url=search-alias%3Ddigital-text&field-keywords=How+to+Print+Your+Novel+with+CreateSpace

I hope you all know that I’d really appreciate knowing if/where there are errors, or why something doesn’t work. 🙂

cheers

Meeks

 


#Corel Draw 8’s Skew function and a new graphic for Twitter

…and here it is!

For those unfamiliar with Twitter, we’re allowed to ‘pin’ one tweet to our home page, or whatever it’s called. That tweet can be anything, including a post from another social media site such as WordPress. If there’s an attention-grabbing graphic on that pinned tweet then other people are more likely to click to see what it’s all about. Well, that’s the theory anyway. 🙂

Until now, I’ve been using the awesome 3D looking graphic Chris Graham [The Story Reading Ape] created for me back in 2017. If you follow me on Twitter you’ve probably seen it a million times:

I still like the graphic, but the Innerscape episodes no longer exist so it was well and truly time for a new one. And this is where the Skew comes in.

I used Corel Draw 8 again, and I’m fairly happy with the result, but it wasn’t all smooth sailing. Part of that was my own fault as I underestimated the size of each book’s cover graphic. Corel can usually handle them without a hiccup, but this time it kept stalling on certain functions and flat out refused to allow me to export the finished ‘group’ of images.

I investigated the usual suspects – file size, hidden parts of images that take up a lot of resources, a bottleneck in the clipboard. Nothing. Zip. Nada.

What on earth was going on?

I’m ashamed to admit that it took me hours to finally realise that the Corel ‘Skew’ function was the problem. Basically, skewing a complex graphic or group of graphics is not like adjusting the size or any of the other, ordinary transformations. It uses resources. Lots and lots of resources. I could get away with one or two applications of the skew but after that, it was as if the whole system was seizing up.

My computer is over three years old now, and it was middle of the road even when I had it built, so my problems with skew could have been exacerbated by lack-lustre computing power. Nevertheless, skew itself must have been doing something strange as well because when I tried to export the graphic, Corel couldn’t even display it in the export screen.

Anyway, lesson learned – use Skew sparingly and preferably not at all on big images/groups.

Time now to get Twitter sorted. 🙂

cheers

Meeks

 


It’s lucky my prose isn’t purple…

Okay, I admit it, I’ve been playing all day, and I’ve reached the point where I don’t know what works and what doesn’t anymore, so..purple? Too much? Hurts the eyes? Makes you gag?

You’re allowed to be honest. The purple was not my first choice. In fact, I wanted something much more tasteful, like this:

It’s pretty, and I put a lot of work into the ‘window’, including making the window frames in Corel, but none of the WordPress themes worked with the image as the background. I guess if I had my own website, I could design it however I wanted, but these days it’s just not worth the cost of the domain, plus the hosting, plus the ongoing headaches…

And then there was the problem of functionality. I wanted visitors to be able to see my books without having to go digging for them because…ahem, I am a writer. So I looked at an old theme with a ‘carousel’, but it just didn’t do it for me either. So I decided to jazz up the theme I’ve had since 2011. Elegant Grunge isn’t new, and it’s not pretty, but it is functional.

Oh, and the purple kind of tones with the purple of the binary star image, you know, melding the symbols for Innerscape and Vokhtah? -sigh-

So. Do I keep the purple? Change the purple? Sleep on it and try again tomorrow?

Meeks


Achievements, failures and RESOLUTIONS!

In a fond farewell to 2017 I thought I’d list my achievements:

I worked out how to use CreateSpace [after years of thinking it was too hard] and created print versions of 4/5 of my sci-fi novels, including all four covers for:

  • Miira
  • The Godsend
  • Nabatea
  • The Vintage Egg

I used the CreateSpace experience to write, produce the cover and print a non-fiction book called How to Print Your Novel with CreateSpace.

Then I got all ambitious and decided to do one for more complicated books. I am enormously proud to annouce that How to Print Non-Fiction with CreateSpace was uploaded to the CreateSpace website at 9:50pm December 31, 2017. Yep, I just scraped it in. The Non-Fiction book is not available yet as I want to road-test it a bit first, but at least it’s up there. 🙂

As for the failures, most were small – like trying to replace the bulb in my rangehood and failing miserably – and some were just plain enfuriating. I mean, I’m a grown woman, right? I eat well, stay fairly healthy, I even do a bit of physical exercise out in the garden…so why can’t I lose weight? I don’t want to lose a lot, just 5 or 6 kilos…grrrrr.

Anyway, let’s not talk about the past. 2017 is DONE. It is over, finished, consigned to the trash heap of history. 2018 is going to be a lot better and for me it’s already started…Ta Dah

You are looking at the ebook version of How To Print Your Novel with CreateSpace!

Remember that poll I ran a short while ago? The one where I asked you which screenshots were easier to see? Well the results were overwhelmingly in favour of the coloured screenshots, but that left me with a terrible problem as I knew the print version would be seriously expensive [around about $25 USD for the longer how-to].

And then I stumbled across a new-ish Kindle app called the Kindle Textbook Creator. Could this be the answer to my problems?

Before I continue I have to send Chris McMullin a huge thank you. Chris is a publishing guru who writes textbooks and wonderful, clear blog posts about all sorts of technical things. One of his posts became my ‘bible’ as I researched the Textbook Creator:

Optimizing Amazon’s Free Kindle Textbook Creator Publishing Tool

If any of you have thought about writing say, a cookbook, but were put off by the tech, I strongly recommend that you read Chris’ post and get to work.

Anyway, I took Chris’ advice, optimised a copy of How to Print Your Novel for the Kindle [Fire only] and went to work. I finished turning it into an e-textbook just about 2 hours ago and uploaded it straight to KDP. It was a breeze!

The Textbook Creator uses PDF files just like CreateSpace, and basically makes each PDF ‘page’ one page for the Kindle. But the thing that really makes it standout is the clean, efficient interface that makes everything intuitive and easy. Amazon definitely got it right with this one.

So there we go, two days into 2018 and I have an e-textbook to my name. 🙂

And finally to those resolutions. First up, I’m going to convert the How to Print Non-Fiction book into an e-textbook too. Then I’m going to take the Offspring’s advice and re-visit the cookbook I started a few years back. But mostly, I’m going to focus on the Vokhtah saga. Because I’m turning 65 in 10 days and I can feel my creative clock ticking. I’m a slow writer, and there are still a lot of stories I want to tell.

Oh…and that diet thing? I’m determined to win that battle too!

So, what about you? Do you make New Year’s resolutions? Do you manage to keep any of them? Should I just shut up now? -giggles-

Happy 2018 my friends,

Meeks


Surreal Ink Drawings

I’ve always loved black and white line drawings, but these ones are simply mind boggling. Enjoy!

ALK3R

Ben Tolman is an illustrator based in Washington DC who already exhibited his work at the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery, among others.

View original post 45 more words


Politics – do we really care?

I’ve always had a problem with ‘-isms’ – communism, socialism, facism, capitalism, republicanism, you name it – because they all seem to miss the point about people. Homo Sapiens doesn’t give a flying fruit bat about politics until things go wrong.

I was a kid in the late Menzies era of Australia [1949-1966], and I remember hearing some adults moan about elections while others moaned about the general apathy of the Australian voter. You see, in Australia, we have compulsory voting…and the times were good.

In fact, by the early 60’s, the populations of the Western world were better off, generally, than they had ever been before. Not quite the age of surplus envisioned by Marx, but close, and some of us really were able to live ‘…from each according to his ability, to each according to his need.’ That’s what the Age of Aquarius, Flower Power and Free Love were really all about.

Yet, on an individual level, despite the lack of scarcity, we still suffered from greed and envy and other ‘first world’ problems as we see-sawed between co-operation and competition. Because that is how the human animal is made – neither saint nor sinner but a combination of both.

And in a roundabout way, our dual nature is exactly why compulsory voting should be mandatory in all representational democracies. Voters are human and apathetic…and the silent majority doesn’t give a shit. That is why we have to be forced into protecting democracy, because democracy only works if the apathetic majority moderates the extremes on both the Right and the Left.

If I had my way, I would do away with all career politicians entirely. Instead, I would replace them with ordinary people, plucked off the street as for jury duty. These reluctant amateurs would bring their own strengths and weaknesses to the table, but their very reluctance might result in some genuine ‘…government of the people, for the people, by the people’.

Human beings won’t change, ever. That’s why we have to devise better systems to make it possible for this disparate tribe to live together in mutual protection and safety.

Only by understanding and working around our own weaknesses can we avoid going the way of the dinosaur and the dodo.

May 2018 be a better year than 2017.

Meeks


Happy Christmas Eve :)

I was born in Hungary, and for us, Christmas always meant Christmas Eve.

It’s a tradition my parents and I continued after coming to Australia, so The Offspring and I just finished my version of Duck a l’Orange, roast chicken with mushroom stuffing, braised brocolini and chocolate mousse cake for dessert. But life is all about compromise and adaptation so the presents won’t be opened until tomorrow morning, then we’ll join the rest of the family for a traditional [Aussie] Christmas lunch.

Wherever you are, and whenever you celebrate Christmas, don’t stress too much and just enjoy the company of loved ones [and good food].

Kellemes Karácsonyi Ünnepeket kívánunk mindenkinek!

-hugs-

Meeks


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