Author Archives: acflory

About acflory

I am the kind of person who always has to know why things are the way they are so my interests range from genetics and biology to politics and what makes people tick. For fun I play online mmorpgs, read, listen to a music, dance when I get the chance and landscape my rather large block. Work is writing. When a story I am working on is going well I'm on cloud nine. On bad days I go out and dig big holes...

KDP pricing vs IngramSpark pricing

I’ve just been speaking to IngramSpark [Australia] and discovered that Ingram only charge for the actual print cost of a paperback!!!!

-dance-

No idea why that’s such a big deal?

Allow me to explain. 🙂

When you print [and sell] your paperback through KDP, your royalty is calculated as the difference between the sale price of the book and two things:

  1. the print cost
  2. the cost of distributing [i.e. selling] through Amazon

Amazon’s distribution cost will always be 40% of the List Price [the sale price], but the print cost will vary depending on what, and how, you print. For example, black & white costs much less than colour.

To explain how distribution and print cost affect royalty, I’m cheating a bit and taking the next bit straight out of my KDP how-to book:

Royalty = (List Price – 40% [to Amazon]) – Printing

Or to put it another way, when your paperback sells on Amazon:

  1. Amazon takes its share – 40% – from the total sale price,
  2. This leaves 60% of the total sale price.
  3. From this 60%, Amazon takes the actual print costs.
  4. Whatever is left over is your royalty.

To illustrate this point, let’s say the List Price of a book is $10 and the print cost is $5.

  1. From that $10, Amazon takes $4 – i.e. 40%.
  2. That leaves $6.
  3. From that $6, Amazon takes $5 – i.e. the cost of the printing.
  4. That then leaves $1 as the royalty owed to the author.

 [10 – 4] – 5 = 1

Note: back when you had the option of selling your paperback directly through CreateSpace, the cost of selling through CS was 20% rather than the 40% owed to Amazon, but there was still a charge.

Knowing how Amazon and CreateSpace calculate royalties, I assumed that IngramSpark must have a distribution cost factored in there somewhere as well. But they don’t, and I couldn’t be happier! IngramSpark will distributre your paperback worldwide without charging for the distribution. All they charge is the print cost. Suddenly, the setup fee and the revision fee don’t feel so bad any more.

Until I see exactly how Amazon and IngramSpark function together, I won’t be completely sure of my figures, but I am now itching to try it and see. And of course, you’ll be the first to know what I’ve learned. 😀

cheers

Meeks

 


New cover, image 1

The second KDP how-to is almost ready to go. This one is for a tiny marketplace of those who want to publish memoirs and other graphic heavy non-fiction books. Soooo…I’ve been playing with images. 😀

I found the original image on freeimages.com and it looked like this:

It was a great beginning but I wanted the image to tell the story of the book. So I added some images that are unique to my writing.

Anyway, I had fun. Oh! And the very first IngramSpark print book arrived today! I have to say that the quality is excellent, and I’m now ready to get all my books printed in Australia. More on that in a future post.

It’s been a good day, and I hope yours was enjoyable too. 🙂

cheers

Meeks

p.s. no comments as this is just a little post.


Warrandyte, bushfires & PALs

It’s only half way through September, and the grass is still green, but scratch an inch or two below the surface, and the ground is bone dry. Or at least it is in hilly Warrandyte where the rain flows off long before it can properly soak in.

So, I’m worried about the fast approaching bushfire season. East Gippsland is said to be most at risk this year, but the Green Wedge in Nillumbik Shire can’t be too far behind. And we have more people living in the shire:

‘The Nillumbik Shire Estimated Resident Population for 2017 is 64,626, with a population density of 1.50 persons per hectare.’

That’s a lot of people, but when you look at where most of them live, the figures take on a deeper meaning:

The area outlined on the map is the Shire of Nillumbik. If you read the legend to the right of the map, you’ll see that most of our population clusters in the pink and red areas to the south [the pink area circled in orange is my area, North Warrandyte].

An important feature not shown on the map is that much of the southern part of the Shire is intersected by the Yarra River.

The two areas circle in orange represent the two bridges that are the only way of crossing the Yarra from my side of the Shire.

The Offspring and I live on the north side of the Yarra, so we have to cross the Warrandyte bridge to get into Warrandyte Village, and from there to somewhere further south.

That bridge is currently being extended from 2 lanes to 3, but it’s not finished, and access is even worse than normal. Going in the other direction, we have to go through Eltham and cross a second, 2 lane bridge to get south of the river.

Guess which direction the worst bushfires come from! Clever you, yes, the north. Caught between fire and water, lovely.

Now, let’s have a look at the terrain around Nth Warrandyte. This is an aerial view of the area around the bridge:

The blue line is obviously the river. The red bit is the bridge in the middle of the orange bullseye. Up from the bridge is Nth Warrandyte. Down from the bridge is Warrandyte village, a popular tourist spot on weekends.

A feature you can’t see from that aerial photo is the terrain. Up hill and down dale describes it pretty well. The perfect playground for bushfires that love racing up hill.

All that dark green stuff? Gum trees and scrub, all of it native and all of it evolved to burn. My block is  relatively open, but further from the main road the blocks are densely treed and the only way in or out is often via dirt roads.

I have every fire protection under the sun. Most of the houses in my area have nothing. Even the pre-school and CFA fire station are nestled in amongst the trees with no in-ground water tanks, roof sprinklers or fire-resistant shutters. The area is a bushfire disaster waiting to happen, and Nillumbik Shire Council has done nothing to mitigate the risk, for years and years and years. If you’re interested, here’s a post from May, 2017 that looks at the Council’s budget for bushfire mitigation. Yup, they really take it seriously…

So, I’m worried, but this year there may just be a bit of hope on the horizon. Two years ago, an organisation called Pro-active Landowners [PALs] became a force to be reckoned with, and the Council elected in 2016…changed.

The following recommendations are taken from a recent PALs submission to Council:

Essentially, PALs is recommending that the bushfire danger in the Shire [which is huge] be managed.

It sounds so simply, yet for decades, Council has done anything but. I don’t know whether the interest group within the Council felt that nothing could be done to manage the risk – i.e. act of god etc. Or they were so determined not to let big, bad developers ‘ruin the green wedge’ that they were happy to see it all burn instead.

Council mitigated nothing while tying the hands of the CFA [the Country Fire Authority is supposed to save us from bushfires]. Worse, Council stopped landowners from protecting themselves either. You have no idea how good it feels to finally have a voice.

If the PALs recommendations bear fruit, we will finally be able to reduce the fuel load in the Shire. Fuel load is the leaf litter, twigs, branches and undergrowth that feeds a bushfire, and Warrandyte has masses of it. But even if every resident of Warrandyte cleaned up religiously, there are great swathes of public land that are virtually untouched because the previous Council wanted to keep things ‘natural’.

The irony is that the Green Wedge is anything but natural.

Pre-settlement, the Aboriginals used to manage the land by doing many, small, cool burns. These cool burns created a patchwork of burnt and unburnt land so that the native fauna had somewhere to escape to. The net result was that the fuel loads never grew too high.

In areas not managed by the Aboriginals, nature itself managed the land with lightning strikes. Lightning would start small bushfires that would run until they finally died out. Again, because these small bushfires happened so regularly, the fuel load did not have a chance to become truly dangerous.

And then the white man came along with his English farming practices. Farmed land had to be protected, so bushfires had to be put out before they could do much damage. The net result was that parts of the land were over managed – i.e. the farms – and great big areas were left completely unmanaged, allowing the fuel loads to grow. The character of the land changed, and the bushfires turned vicious. 1939 was a very bad year, and so was 2009.

2009 was the year in which ‘…173 people tragically lost their lives, 414 were injured, more than a million wild and domesticated animals were lost and 450,000 hectares of land were burned’ in the Black Saturday bushfires.

If you’ve ever built a camp fire, or an open fire in a hearth, you’ll know that fire needs just two things to burn – fuel and oxygen. That’s why you build a teepee of twigs and dry kindling to start the fire. The open structure allows air in to feed the flames. After the fire is going though, the kindling is no longer needed because hot air rises, sucking in cooler air from below.

A bushfire does much the same, and the bigger the fire the more powerful it becomes, preheating the fuel ahead of it so it will burn even faster. The Black Saturday fire was so powerful, it generated its own weather.

No amount of human technology could have stopped the Black Saturday fires once they started. But a bit of wisdom might have stopped them from starting, or at least reduced the loss of life. But we weren’t wise.

Two acknowledged experts in bushfire behaviour submitted reports to Nillumbik Council prior to Black Saturday. Both reports warned about the dangerous levels of fuel in the Shire. Both reports were ignored. 9 years on, the lessons still have not been learned: when it comes to bushfires, fuel load is the only thing we can actually control.

The Black Saturday Royal Commission recommended mandatory prescribed burns of 5% to public lands each year. They haven’t happened, and part of the reason they haven’t happened is because of the bureaucratic red-tape that’s required before a burn can take place. Sadly, the weather rarely keeps these kinds of ‘appointments’ so either burns are cancelled because the conditions are all wrong – rain or high winds – or they go ahead in less than optimal conditions. And sometimes they get out of control. So even less incentive to do burns.

I’m no expert on bushfire management, but I can’t help wondering why we can’t let the CFA do mini burns every single day that the weather conditions are suitable? Why do burns have to be these big, dangerous things?

When I burn off, I do lots of smaller piles rather than one huge one. It makes sense to me. Mini burns, often. It would work, why can’t we at least try it?

The PALs submission to Nillumbik Shire Council may not solve all our bush fire woes but it would be a huge step in the right direction. Fingers and toes crossed that commonsense finally prevails in the Shire of Nillumbik.

Meeks

 

 


Microsoft Windows 7 update – ‘known issue’ never resolved

Warning: technical post with rant.

Because I’m a baby geek, I have my Windows Updates set to notify but not install. This gives me the chance to look at all the updates and decide which ones to install and which ones to ‘hide’.

Why bother?

Because of ‘known issues’ such as this one:

 

There is an issue with Windows and a third-party software that is related to a missing file (oem<number>.inf). Because of this issue, after you apply this update, the network interface controller will stop working.

Not ‘may stop working’ but ‘will stop working’. Ut oh.

Note: a ‘known issue’ is a problem introduced into the system by the update that the Microsoft developers couldn’t fix in time for that update. The problem with the ‘network interface controller’ [lovingly known as NIC] not working is that your internet connection stops working too.

Most of these ‘known issues’ get fixed as part of the next round of updates, so it pays not to be an early adopter. Sometimes, however, a ‘known issue’ comes with a workaround, or a fix. The fix for the ‘known issue’ with the NIC is this:

  1. To locate the network device, launch devmgmt.msc; it may appear under Other Devices.

  2. To automatically rediscover the NIC and install drivers, select Scan for Hardware Changes from the Action menu.

a. Alternatively, install the drivers for the network device by right-clicking the device and choosing Update. Then choose Search automatically for updated driver software or Browse my computer for driver software.

I’m not a complete n00b when it comes to my computer, and I do know how to install drivers, but it seems to me that something is missing from step 1. Where am I supposed to launch ‘devmgmt.msc’ from? I suspect it’s the Run command line but I’m not sure.

The alternative might be easier as I think I know where to find the device listing, but if the old driver has been corrupted during the ‘problem’, I have no idea what driver the pc will re-install.

Will I have to dig out the very old motherboard setup disk which I may or may not be able to find?

Or will I have to carry my pc down to the repair shop to get someone more knowledgeable to ‘fix’ the update problem for me?

For all these reasons, I have not installed that particular update, but Microsoft continues to sneak it in under each successive optional ‘quality rollup’. It’s become so ridiculous that I just have to look at the size of the update – 229.2 MB – to know what’s in it.

When I first started ignoring this nasty update, I did so because I expected Microsoft to resolve this ‘known issue’ in much the same way as they resolve most other ‘known issues’. Better late than never, right?

Unfortunately, Microsoft has no intention of resolving this particuler issue. Or perhaps they can’t. Just for fun, I followed the link to More Information today and followed the trail of updates back as far as March 13, 2018 before I gave up. The issue with the NIC, and it’s nasty fix, were repeated in each and every update.

So now I’m wondering what happened to other Windows 7 users out there. Did they all install the original nasty update, fix their pc’s and move on? Or was there a tsunami of outrage that I missed?

I’m never going to install this update until Microsoft resolves the issue because this is a problem of their own making, and no company is so big that it should be allowed to get away with such obvious cheating.

Not happy,

Meeks

 


Hunting the Phoenix, by Audrey Driscoll

I don’t think I can define the difference between a craftsman and an artist, but I know it when I see it, and Audrey Driscoll is an artist. I know, because I am a craftsman, a good one, but not an artist.

So, enough navel gazing. What is it about ‘Hunting the Phoenix’ that’s so special?

Simple answer: everything.

‘Hunting the Phoenix’ is the fourth and last book of the Herbert West series, but it is also the climax of the preceding three books. Imagine the steps of a pyramid with the Phoenix as its apex. Or if music is more your thing, imagine a classical symphony in which each movement builds upon the last to achieve the soaring notes that grab your heart and lift you out of yourself. That is the Phoenix.

At its core, every work of fiction strives for just one thing – to persuade the reader to suspend disbelief, to become part of the story, and the Herbert West series is no different. Written in a style that is reminiscent of classical literature, the story lulls the reader into a pleasant sense of security. ‘Oh, this is what the story is about…’ And then the surprises begin. Small ones at first, as you realise the author is more daring than you thought, then more profound as the truly shocking events begin to unfold.

Each book in the series is like this, but in the Phoenix the shocks go deep. I admit, there were a couple of spots where I had to stop and shake my head in disbelief. Such careful, restrained, beautiful writing and she takes it there?

Yet ‘there’ is exactly where the story needs to go in order for the ending, the climax, to feel both unexpected and absolutely right.

I’m sure no one will be surprised when I say that the quality of the writing is superb. What may surprise some people is that it is written in the First Person POV [point-of-view], and I don’t usually like First Person POV. This time, however, I barely noticed because Driscoll effortlessly avoids every single pitfall that goes with First Person POV. As with C.J.Cherryh’s Foreigner series, the POV is perfect and exactly what the story requires.

I wish I could give ‘Hunting the Phoenix’ a 10 out of 5 but even my limited math knows that’s impossible. Suffice to say that this book, in fact the whole series, is as close to perfect as a story can get. It joins a relatively short list of books, including Dostoevsky’s ‘Crime and Punishment’, that I consider to be exceptional, and I would recommend it to anyone who wants more.

I’m just about to use parts of this post as a review on Amazon. If you want to read the series, the order of the books is:

  1. The Friendship of Mortals
  2. The Journey: Islands of the Gulf, Volume 1
  3. The Treasure: Islands of the Gulf, Volume 2
  4. Hunting the Phoenix

And please, leave a review on Amazon because these books truly do deserve to become modern classics.

cheers

Meeks

 


KDP, CreateSpace, Fate and Me

I know the title sounds a bit pretentious, but as I begin yet another round of editing on the KDP how-to, I can’t help feeling that Fate is looking out for me. How else to explain the fact that the IngramSpark review result came back just one day after KDP swallowed CreateSpace whole?

To give you an idea of the timeline, I approved the KDP how-to for publishing by CreateSpace just one day before the announcement of the merger.

On the day of the announcement, I logged back into the KDP website and discovered that I could no longer migrate my CreateSpace books over to KDP manually. The option to do so was gone, completely. The before and after screenshots below highlight the change in the KDP interface.

This is how the KDP interface looked before the merger:

If you clicked the button for ‘No’, you’d be shown the options for uploading new content. If you clicked the button for ‘Yes’, you’d be shown options for migrating your existing paperback from Createspace to KDP.

Now look at the same part of the interface after the merger:

As you can see, the CreateSpace option is gone entirely. I can only assume that KDP has decided to control the entire merger itself. On the one hand, this will make things easier for authors because the whole thing is now out of our hands. On the other hand, excuse the pun, it may also mean that we’re in for an almighty mess as thousands of books are moved from one system to the other, en masse.

Once the dust settles, I strongly recommend that all self-published authors check their books carefully. In particular, make sure that the ‘Print Options’ on the KDP interface correctly reflect the trim size of your book and the cover finish.

The shaded boxes are the default selections. One book I migrated manually had the cover finish shown as ‘Matte’ rather than ‘Glossy’. It was easy to fix, but it pays to be vigilant.

Getting back to my timeline, the change in the KDP interface means that I will have to take out an entire section of my KDP how-to: for the CreateSpace/KDP version, the KDP Textbook Creator version and…for the IngramSpark version.

And here’s where Fate stepped in. The review of the IngramSpark version did not arrive until one day after the announcement of the KDP-CreateSpace merger.

To understand why I’m so happy, you have to understand how the IngramSpark system works. The sequence of steps goes something like this:

  1. You upload your book and cover.
  2. You review a digital version of the book and cover.
  3. You approve the book and cover for review by IngramSpark.
  4. IngramSpark do a technical review of the book and cover and email you a report.
  5. You can then make revisions to the book and cover.
  6. When the book is as perfect as you can make it, you give final approval for the book and cover to be printed.

Note: there is no printed proof with IngramSpark, only the digital proof.

Now here’s the important part. Once you do step 6., any revision, no matter how big or small, will incur a $25 AUD charge.

To bring this point into context, I’ve already uploaded about 4 versions of the KDP how-to interior and at least 2 versions of the cover, all at different times. In dollar terms, that could have cost me $150 AUD. Luckily, I was still at step 4. above when the KDP/CreateSpace merger was announced. That means I can still edit the how-to, free of charge.

Coincidentally, this fortuitous timing also means that I won’t be approving the two original CreateSpace how-to’s for printing by IngramSpark at all [I have them uploaded but was waiting to get all my books approved, printed and shipped at once].

So there you have it, more editing but less frustration thanks to a helping hand from Fate. 🙂

I know a lot of you are self-published authors as well; how are you finding the changes? Pleased that you won’t have to move your books to KDP manually? Or a bit apprehensive?

cheers

Meeks


Beautiful artwork in the sea – The Coralarium

This sculpture installation literally took my breath away.

You can read about the artwork and the artist on My OBT. Thanks Donna!

cheers

Meeks


When is close too close?

This will be a post about POV – point-of-view – in writing, so if this kind of thing bores you to tears, look away now. For everyone else, I have a question:

Do you enjoy First Person POV – i.e. the type of story that is all about what ‘I said’, ‘I saw’, ‘I did’, ‘I thought’, ‘I felt’?

The reason I ask is because I’ve never particularly enjoyed First Person POV, but I didn’t actively hate it until I began reading the second book in First Person POV in almost as many days.

The first story I read was actually pretty good. It had a lot of the elements I look for in a good sci-fi story. But it also had a heroine I simply could not ‘like’. She vacillated between ridiculously wimpy not-quite-adult and hardcore, kickarse hero. The motivation was there, but it was almost too much, along the lines of ‘familiarity breeds contempt’.

I like characters that aren’t perfect. I like them to have quirks, weaknesses, flaws. I even like them to be ‘broken’ because then there’s the hope that they will heal and grow. What I don’t like is seeing them from the inside.

I won’t name the story or the protagonist because I’ve suddenly realised that these are criticisms I apply to almost all First Person POV fiction. There have been exceptions [C.J.Cherryh’s Foreigner series is one], but they are rare, imho.

This issue crystalized for me when I started reading the second ‘Me, Me, Me’ story. It was even worse. Just a few chapters in and I couldn’t read any more. Not only did it have editing issues, it had a main character whose motivation can only be described as schizophrenic. This particular character spent virtually the whole first chapter being paranoid, for no real reason. Then she did a complete about face and…

Enough. I doubt that the author concerned will ever read my blog, or this post, but I don’t want to say anything that might identify the story because I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. Writing is hard. Publishing is harder, and none of us need other authors criticising us in public. That’s why I never leave reviews of books I’ve hated. Sadly, I hate this one.

Moving on. So what do I like?

I like Close Third Person POV – i.e. where we see the character from the outside, but also get some thoughts and feelings.

I also like reading more than one POV – i.e. where we get to see the story through the eyes of two or more characters. Importantly, we get to see the main character[s] through the eyes of other characters.

I know that some of you find multiple POVs distracting, and I can understand that; you’re reading along happily and suddenly, bang, total change of POV, of scene, of story arc etc. Unless you enjoy that particular technique, multiple POVs can be hard work. Nevertheless, don’t you think we get a more truthful version of the main character when we see them through the eyes of others?

I know I’ve been surprised by how others see me, sometimes in a good way, sometimes not. When I’m honest with myself, however, the change of perspective usually makes me grow as a person.

I’m not saying that I lie, to myself or others, but I’ve learned that we all see ourselves through the prism of some sort of bias. Confident people generally see themselves as hero material. Less confident people may focus on their flaws to the exclusion of their good qualities. Outsiders, however, can often see things we are incapable of seeing in ourselves.

Just as I believe this ‘outsider’ view is healthy for real people, I also believe it can work for characters in fiction. I think it helps to balance out the internal distortions of ego, providing a more realistic, and often likable, character.

Coincidentally, this outsider view also allows the author to avoid the necessity of writing that awful mirror scene. You know the one:

‘Look at me. I’m looking at myself in the mirror/pond/reflective glass so I can describe what I look like to you, the reader’.

That technique is a tool, and like any tool, it has its time and place, but like all the other tools in the writer’s bag of tricks, it shouldn’t be abused. And it shouldn’t be…predictable.

Okay, that’s probably more on writing than I’m comfortable with, but I would like to know what everyone else thinks. I really am open to persuasion. 🙂

Agree?

Disagree?

‘Yes but…?

‘You’ve just been reading the wrong books…?’

‘Boooooring…?

cheers

Meeks


New tech…rebuilding teeth

As someone who has had more root canal treatments than she cares to remember, this new tech is very close to my heart gum indeed. 😉

Okay, jokes aside, researchers have come up with a way of doing root canal treatments that may allow the dental pulp inside the tooth to re-grow. If the dental pulp does regrow, it radically cuts down the likelihood of re-infection later on.

Watch this video for an overview:

If you want to know more, you can read the entire article on New Atlas

As an ageing sci-fi tragic with temperamental teeth and a phobia about dentists, I can see this treatment totally revolutionising dentistry. Instead of a mouthful of fillings, or those awful, fake choppers, maybe we’ll all have a mouthful of bio-identical teeth.

Bring it on, I say!

Meeks

 


The Stress Test – before & after?

I haven’t actually done the stress test yet, that joy happens this afternoon, but I find myself stressing about the stress test because:

This is how I imagine myself to be:

But this is how I fear I’ll be after the stress test!

-sigh-

What is a stress test?

Basically, it’s a way to test how your body works under conditions of stress. The stress is provided by a treadmill. The test is to see whether you drop dead after 10 minutes of running on the treadmill…

Back when I used to go to the gym, I could run for 20 minutes, on an incline and step off feeling pretty good. Now? Close to 20 years later? I’m dreading it, not least because I know that my vanity will make me try harder than I should at 65…

-sigh-

According to the ECG, my heart is fine. Yet despite that, my blood pressure is nudging the top of the normal range. Something has caused this change because for most of my life, my blood pressure never deviated from ‘average’.

So…the stress test. I just hope I don’t end up as wet and smelly as that labrador. 😦

Meeks

 


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