Sunday, May 31, 2009
The news is all wiki news, so I'll be brief. GLBT Bookshelf is growing at a fantastic rate, and looking so good, the boss at EditMe (the company which owns and hosts the engine) has complimented it, and has Twittered about it.
All this is fantastic ... but I have to admit that it's turned into a hell of a lot more work than I thought it would. I still haven't tackled the two remaining HELLGATE books, and tomorrow is July. I want (passionately, desperately) to have the series finished by Christmas, and these are going to be two very, VERY large books... hmmm.
Anyway, the wiki might be a lot of work, but it's also immensely satisfying. It's coming together into something that's already looking superb, and it's only been a month since I started with a blank page.
A few bugs have come out of the woodwork -- for instance, we've discovered the hard way that Mac users can't "shake hands" properly with the interfac, so can't build their own pages. This is damned annoying (and that's a euphemism!), and in the short term, the only solution we've been able to offer is, "so long as you have your materials together, we'll build your pages for you."
So, if there are Mac users out there who are cussing up a storm, don't give up just yet. Get over to the wiki and drop us a line.
In other news, AQUAMARINE has appeared on Kindle: and oddly enough, my Kindle sales have more than doubled lately. They're still not as wide, nor as lucrative, as one would have imagined, given that there are such vast numbers of Kindles out there, but we're coming along...
...That makes eight Keegans available for your Kindle now -- the 9th will be Storm Tide, next week. And then the whole NARC series will "go up" all of a piece -- they'll also go up to Smashwords at the same time, so if you've been waiting for Jarrat and Stone on the phone (and there's a thought worthy of the warm fuzzies), you don't have much longer to wait!
Little else is happening in this neck of the woods. It's just work, same old same old, although I will say that watching the wiki grow is quite exciting.
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
Which means the price of their ordinary paperback is shooting skywards at disastrous rates, due to the markup situation:
That's US$29, give or take loose change. Add $16 for postage. Run the conversion to Aussie dollars ... about A$65.
And what about the hard covers? Well there are several, and they come in at about US$46. Plus postage, and run the exchange rate ... A$88.75 or so. Yeeeouch.
Well, Lulu won't be selling many copies with a 30% markup over the Amazon paperbacks, but I guess I appreciate the effort. Also (as rotten as this sounds) this might help sales in a kind of backward-forwards-logicky kind of way. Potential Customer arrives on Amazon, searches on Mel Keegan, clicks 'see all copies' and all the prices are showcased, from the high to the low. S/he finds out s/he can get a paperback of (say) The Swordsman for US$22.50 rather than a hardcover for US$46 ... and the numbers are so widely disparate, the CreateSpace paperback looks comparatively cheap. This fosters the "impulse buy," and -- click.
It's not going to do much for Lulu, though. At these prices, I just can't see people buying. I ask myself, would I? Could I?! However, it could be great for Keegan, because right now, two things come out of this. One: everything I put at Lulu is showing up on Amazon without me doing one damned thing. My listings at Amazon blow out way high, which means, Two: I can call in some favors from pals, have them go in and do "clever" reviews that remark on how you don't have to pay top-dollar for the Hellgates, for instance. You can "buy direct and bank the difference.
In other words, I'll bribe Aricia with chocolate, coffee and Kirby Crow books, and hopefully she'll buzz off over to Amazon, review the Hellgate books (which she loves, if the way I'm getting harassed to finish the series is anything to go by; AG, get off my case while I get the bloody wiki up and running!) ... and in the course of the review, she'll mention that they're far cheaper if you go to Lulu and buy direct.
This whole thing is a barometer of what's going on in the POD industry since the global economic bust-up, and in the immortal words of numerous movies, "well, this can't be good."
Right now, Lulu is masking the desperate necessity to go out there as a seller with an email: "Congratulations! Your novel has been selected to enter the Amazon markeplace." Uh ... yeah, right. They used to charge A$140 for this service, and the fact is, there is no way they can compete out there, with a 30% markup.
Now, with many writers, it might work for them. Not every writer who's at Lulu has managed to get themselves onto Amazon also. I hopes Lulu *does* manage to scare up enough business to keep their oars in the water, because they've been the best in the POD printshop trade -- they have an extremely nice product, and they'll do business with people outside the USA. Lately, however, they have to be feeling the pressure from the CreateSpace competition, and I sympathize. I really do.
However, this is cool --
Ol' Mel just scored an Author Page at Amazon ... which is good going, because this is *not* something you make yourself. You can edit it, but THEY make the page. Which means someone decided it was worth making a page for MK. Right now there isn't a whole lot on it; I need to add rafts of titles (they have 4, most of then 15 years old), a bio (I'm the Invisible Author at present) and so on. But it's nice to have this.
Wiki news? It's growing like the proverbial mushroom. It's also a lot more work than I'd originally hoped. I'm manning the Help Desk, and am not-quite-surprised that people are finding an astonishing variety of ways to make it go wrong! It's not totally intuitive, it's true -- but, honest engine, guys, it's the best one out there. Trust me: after the EditMe engine, it gets progressively more complex. EditMe is simple, streamlined, and fairly inexpensive ... one hell of a lot less expensive than trying to do this with the originally-planned Joomla interface.
There have been about 60 sign-ups since I announced the wiki, and we're waiting for those folks to feed content into their pages. About half have been *very* busy, adding reams of material (thank you, all!) and it's going to be astonishing by the time everyone has added their stuff. Give it a couple more weeks.
The only downside is that it's taking a lot of my time, while my own pages are being neglected; and as for writing ...?! It's not happening! Maybe in June. I've promised HELLGATE, and good golly, HELLGATE it will be.
Saturday, May 23, 2009
A few posts ago (before the Wolverine review, I mentioned that I was working on something in the background, and would have a new project to launch soon.
It launched a few days ago, and it's already doing fine. Looking superb:
It's a wiki! Not just a book wiki (or a writing, or publishing, wiki) but specifically a GLBT book wiki, for writers, editors, publishers, reviewers, bookseller and, of course, readers.
It's also a bookstore:
...and with better than 30 writers coming online in the first few days, and many, many more about to join us in the next couple of weeks, this is certainly going to become *the* place to shop for GLBT titles ... rub shoulders with writers, check up on the community's publishing news, find a Beta reader or a cover artist, and -- so on!
Where in the world did this idea come from?
The AmazonFail three-ring circus was actually the trigger. I blogged a little about it here: http://mel-keegan.blogspot.com/2009/04/amazon-apoloigizes-profusely-hands-up.html
...in fact, I just don't/can't believe it happened as a result of human error. I have the strongest intuition that it was a covert attempt to "filter out" content that, frankly, various pundits high up in the Amazonian stratosphere, where the Board of Directors convenes, would rather not see on Amazon. Or anywhere else for that matter.
There are numerous reasons for company directors to want to see GLBT books out. They're not quite the thing you want your eight year olds stumbling into accidentally. They're inclined to make "GLBT" sound actually legitimate to the ears of older teens who know they've grown up gay and are in the process of "guilting themselves straight." And of course, since we're all going to burn in hell for our sins, we have to be saved from ourselves ... it's the only decent thing to do, evangelically speaking. Amazon lives in the States, and ... 'nuff said. (Old Glory flutters proudly over the Land of God. Oh, dear.)
Anyway, to cut to the chase: I've been aware for a long, long time that there remains a high degree of discrimination in online culture. Now, one can shrug off (or sigh off) the snarky remarks you see in YouTube comments, and so forth, as being not worth the pixels it takes to display them.
(Example: Person A uploads a video of Irish dancer Michael Flatley, Person B responds with, "Amazing! The man is absolutely fantastic, never seen anything like it!" And something (god knows what) makes Person B add, "except for th fact hes gay ha ha ha lol" (and you notice the typo, the lack of punctuation, and the vapid 'ha ha ha' and 'lol' -- which are supposedly one's permit to do and say anything in cyberspace ... because it's funny. Sorry guys: not laughing.)
That kind of stupidity is something you have to live with. I wish there were a magic trick to make it vanish, but, people being what they are, we're stuck with it, permanently. However, when mega-business -- like Google, like Amazon -- decides to filter you out, it would be perfectly possible for them to make vast swathes of the world literally vanish.
Many of us (indie writers and publishers, for a start) have very little more visible profile than our online presence. Take this away from us, and we're as good as invisible. And that can't be good.
My hackles tend to rise when this sort of thing happens. I get ... motivated.
We need a hedge, I thought, against possible (probable?) filtering. Because the reason Amazon got caught is that the technology wan't quite up to the task. Yet. The reason Google has been clearly seen, filtering gay content in broad daylight, is because the programming is a few years short of where it needs to be, to get the job done invisibly.
Fast forward to 2011 or 2012. They try it again, and because of the exponential development rates in the realms of code ... yup, it works. GLBT writers and publishers will vanish off the face of the Internet --
Unless we have a hedge of some kind against this: we get together and make a noise. We develop a community that's big enough to generate its own weather patterns. We kick in about a buck apiece and buy the advertising we need to make us high-visibility...
In which case, Google, Amazon and the rest can do a lot less to hurt us than they could, say ... now. Most of us are still shockingly isolated; small groups have knotted together, but there still isn't anything remotely like the vast community which would be needed to ensure immunity to discrimination. The "power of community" blows me away. So --
The first platforms I researched were Joolma, SQL and their accompanying Apache -- and these are wonderful. They're also bloody expensive. I did look at this. I also passed on, when I saw the pricetag and the time lag. How's six months and upwards of five grand sound? Doubtless, about November we'd have launched a GLBT Bookshelf that looked a lot like Amazon itself! But who's going to put up the investment capital?! (Why are you all looking at me, suddenly?!)
So... the whole thing turned into a wiki.
If you can blog, you can wiki. In fact, even if you can't blog, you can wiki. It's no more complex than the Blogger interface ... and it's a lot of fun.
Writers are coming aboard rapidly, and I hope we're also going to attract cover artists, editors, reviewers, publishers, booksellers. It's exciting. It's very exciting. It's a place where we can not only blog and talk, but post articles, artwork galore, and (better yet) SELL our books.
Now, there are lots of book community sites around, like Author's Den and Book Hitch. But "GLBT" is yet another careful quarantine zone at these sites. In fact, Author's Den states emphatically that they don't want, won't have, "adult content" on their site, becausesaid site is open to children. That's fair enough, too, but ... where does it leave GLBT writers, whose content is always lumped in with the "adult" stuff, even when it's mild by comparison (because we're going to burn, and oughtta be saved from ourselves) ...? And also, there's no provision for using Author's Den, Book Hitch, Shelfari and so on, as a bookstore --
Got it covered, guys. GLBT Bookshelf has a bookstore designed in, and you're exhorted to get your affiliate code from Amazon, B&N, Diesel, wherever, and plug it right into the pages that are created and maintained by yourself.
From my perspective, the whole thing is the answer to a prayer.
Go over there, have a look, and ... join us. Register (FREE), and log in to start making your own pages. Enjoy!
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
So I went along to the 2:00pm session yesterday at the Megaplex.
The CG effects are nowhere near as poor as the critics are blathering on about. A couple of the shots look a little bit "fake" by the standards of 2009, but in 1999, the same shots would have blown your brains out. (Get real here: a couple of less-than-perfect CGI shots do not make unmitigated crap out of an entire movie. )
There are two, maybe three, genuinely wobbly bits in the plotting. (Get real, again: it's a comic book. Turn a blind eye to the wobbly bits and concentrate on the important element: Hugh Jackman is the sexiest thing on two legs.) Unless you are terminally heterosexual, and male, or a terminally hetero female in lust for a pixie like Elijah Wood, there is no way in any world that you could call the movie "dull" or "dry." In fact, you may need a bib, because you'll spend just under two hours in a full-on drool.
The plot is NOT "overly complex," and my guess is that the critics who employed this old chestnut as a reason to smack Wolverine with a D or an F spent one half of the time texting and the other half running out to the bathroom and/or parking lot for a smoke. The plot is not complex at all, so long as you're wide awake. The same bozo-grade critics levelled the identical lame criticism at the third Pirates of the Caribbean movie. Guys, let me give you a tip: drink less at the press meeting before you go to the theater, and stop blaming the movie after you anaesthetised yourself on several gallons of free champagne. I hope you had the hangovers you damned-well deserve.
And no, I am NOT blind to the fact that a couple of the CG shots are less than staggering by current standards; and the plot has a hole you could drive a Mack truck through. However, Hugh Jackman acted his a$$ off, and lived in the gym while making this opus. The results are somewhat spectacular. And in Keegan's not so humble opinion (which comes to you complete with fresh bib), he's more than enough to make up for the shortcomings of the rest of the movie. And I know, I'm biased. I paid for the movie ticket (while critics get theirs free!) so I'm allowed a degree of bias. I bought the bias option with my ten bucks.
Now, let me give you the POSITIVES that 1001 critics are falling over themselves to utterly ignore ... and it beats hell out of me why they do this:
- Fully 95% of the CG work is just fine.
- A solid cast gives sterling performances.
- The dialog is, on the whole, realistic and believable.
- The film offers unexpected, and welcome, humor.
- The cinematography is stunning, with marvelous wilderness locations.
- The sets are extremely atmospheric and evocative.
- It's an ACTION movie, hence the ACTION sequences, and there are plenty ... would you go to the ballet and then call it rubbish because of all the dancing?!
- The SOUND balance is crystal clear, sharp and admirable. I never missed a word.
- The FOLEY work is spot-on. Most of the bozo-brigade critics who're currently rubbishing this movie wouldn't even know what the word "foley" means.
- The film's visual editing is crisp and clear. There is NEVER any ambiguity in the denouement, which is more than can be said for numerous movies which have been lauded by the same critics.
- The film score, or soundtrack music, is extremely good...
- ... and did I mention that Hugh Jackman is the sexiest thing on two legs?
So ends Keegan's verdict. I'm giving the movie 4 out of 5 stars, because you certainly can drive a tank through the most major hole in the plot. For myself, I don't actually give that much of a "stuff" about a couple of off-kilter CG shots; and the remainder of the production is of a very high standard.
So ... why all the rotten reviews?
There are many reasons, I'm sure. Far too many action movies have jaded the critics, since the early 1980s, when Arnie and Sly got into overdrive. Then again, is it vaguely possible that US film critics harbor a deep-seated, possibly even unconscious resentment about the fact that Hugh Jackman is an Aussie, born and bred? More than a decade of massive special effects movies have made some people so "CG happy" that when a shot or two fall short of the expected standard, they bin the entire movie ... which would be like dumping the whole live symphony orchestra performance in the bin because a few individual musicians hit blue notes here and there. I do believe that certain critics have just had enough, more than enough, of these big action movies, and would much rather be watching something else (which is fair enough; I just wish they'd bugger off and review something else, and leave someone who still enjoys actioners to cover them) ... and lastly, I wonder how many of these critics watched the movie with their partner going consistently gaga over Jackman for two hours in the seat beside them, and growled at the screen, "I'll get you for this, you Aussie bastard, if it's the last thing I do!" The pen being mightier than the claw in our own world, they unsheathed their own ballpoint weapon and did their worst -- secure in the knowledge that professional motion picture folk never, never ever respond to critics, no matter what stupidity is printed. Such is the etiquette of the trade. If you're a movie critic, you have an official license to literally babble through your hat and say what you like. And my gods, they do.
Lastly, there's also safety in numbers. When everyone else is calling a certain movie crap, you run the risk of not being "one of us," if you tell the truth and say you enjoyed the hell out of it, and could clearly see the 85% of the movie that was brilliant -- as well as the faults!
Well Keegan -- being Keegan -- is giving Wolverine four out of five stars, and is going to go see it again next week.
And no, I don't like movie critics.
To Hugh Jackman, if anyone significant sees this and forwards it: Cheers, mate. You did good.
Ciao for now,
Tuesday, May 12, 2009
Exploring the Outer Reaches of Literature with Author Mel Keegan
I do know that a good number of writers and self-marketers read this blog, and I'd like to exhort you to go over to Mark's for the interview. Keegan being Keegan, there's some interesting stuff in there ... it's also tremendously interesting to take time out and look around the Smashwords blog itself. Shows you how far you can come, in a single year; http://blog.smashwords.com/
In other news, more Keegans are appearing in the Amazon engine, with "Lulu Press" as the seller. Stopover (one of the NARC books) has appeared in the last few hours; and if they're going to be out there marketing one NARC book, they'll do all five. This is incredibly odd -- to reiterate, I have no agreement with them, to facilitate this, have signed nothing, know nothing about this! To use Lulu as a springboard to get to Amazon used to cost you A$140 per book -- and technically, still does. I haven't paid a bean. What goes on? I have the strongest, unhappiest suspicion that Lulu is out there touting for business because the marketplace has "slowed down" to critical levels.
What can you say? I wish them well. If they can drive sales to the Lulu printshops (in other words, get them away from CreateSpace, which is Amazon's wholly owned subsidiary, and until extremely recently was the only easy and affordable way to get to Amazon, for a writer living in a Country Not America), then more power to them. So long as Keegan gets the royalty, I don't have a syllable to say in opposition. Go for it, kids.
And now ... back to work. I'm about a week off the launch of a brand-new project which is going to take everyone by surprise. It's not just good, it's looking great -- and it goes back to that Bright Idea I had at the time of the AmazonFail debacle.
Give me one more week -- perhaps less -- and watch out for a newsletter!
Monday, May 11, 2009
Suffice to say, I have zip, zero, nada, nil as per any idea of what goes on; but I have a sneaky feeling I might just know. And alas, it ain't good news.
Lulu is out there touting for business, right? They're actively pushing books -- mine, among those of numerous other writers, I could guess. They're doing it for nothing?? This can only mean that they, too, are feeling the recession biting, and are actively out there, selling books -- which is something they never did before.
Times are getting tougher, guys.
And audiences are getting harder to please: good gods, have you seen the WOLVERINE reviews?!!! I don't think I've ever seen a movie pounded so hard. Now, I haven't seen the movie -- and might not get the chance to, before the DVD comes out, but I really don't believe any company could spend a couple of years and about fifty million dollars on a project, and have it be as bad as the critics are saying...
- Fans of the many comic books in which Wolverine has featured will rue what has become of their favourite characters.
- Falling somewhere between noble failure and modest success, 'Wolverine' is ultimately a generic Summer film actioneer that will quickly be forgotten
- If, in real time, the dull X-Men Origins prequel actually were the first X-Men film produced, it might have been the last.
- The amount of muscle on display is the film's most remarkable aspect, unless you count how unforgivably dull it is.
- ...A story line that isn't emotionally involving and action sequences that for the most part aren't that exciting, presented within a story that's full of potholes.
- X-Men Origins is really a series of action sequences, the usual mix of bangs, chases and fights, held together by a plot so predictable that you get no points for guessing right.
- It's dull, bone-crushing, special-effects stuff, of interest only to hardcore fans who've probably read it all in Marvel comics.
- Each CGI set piece erases distance, space, weight, gravity and wit. It’s empty, soulless action -- visual noise.
- Everything that happens seems to play out as if following a checklist. It’s Paint by Numbers: The Movie.
Ciao for now,
Sunday, May 10, 2009
So far, so good: here's where the plot thickens. And I'll tell you, you could stand a spoon up in this one!
If you use Lulu.com as your printer, you pay a very hefty whack of cash to get a global distribution package for your title, which gets you onto the Big A. It costs about A$140 (US$100) for this service -- which I never optioned, because I have no need of it, and (!!) because in any case it's only available to writers residing in the USA! Being downunder, I always curled my lip at this as yet another door closed in the face of "foreigners" ... even though I admit, it didn't want to go through it in any case. Ahem. (Suppose I'd wanted to.)
So, there is no way in any world that one of my books could show up on Amazon as PUBLISHED by DreamCraft, and SOLD by Lulu, right?
You'd think so. But something weird is going on -- click this image to get the full-size, readable one, and notice where it says, Seller: LULU PRESS.
And meanwhile, here's the listing from lower down the page in the details:
Does anyone have the slightest inkling as to what what's going on? Lulu (the printer!) is out there selling at least one of my books, which is something that isn't supposed to happen, can't happen, couldn't happen until the day arrived when Satan skated to work --
Anyone looked outside lately?
As I began: curiouser and curiouser. Not that I'm complaining ... so long as I get paid, if they want to get on the stick and sell copies for me -- kids, go for it!
In fact, let's give them a little help. If you've been wanting the classic second edition cover but didn't want to order from Lulu direct, well, order from Amazon and Lulu can ship it (which is exactly what they'd do if you ordered from Lulu direct!
Here you go:
And speaking of things Amazon, take a squizz at this:
Monday, May 4, 2009
The Swordsman by Mel Keegan
...marvelous review, for which I'm most grateful.
Behind the scenes, I'm very, VERY busy with a new project which will be sprung on you soon. This one is exciting -- it's also extremely time consuming, which is why I'm blogging less lately. There's only 24 hours in day, and I have to sleep. Occasionally.
Back to work!
Ciao for now,
An invention that could change the internet for ever
Revolutionary new web software could put giants such as Google in the shade when it comes out later this month. Andrew Johnson reports...
Sunday, 3 May 2009
The biggest internet revolution for a generation will be unveiled this month with the launch of software that will understand questions and give specific, tailored answers in a way that the web has never managed before.
The new system, Wolfram Alpha, showcased at Harvard University in the US last week, takes the first step towards what many consider to be the internet's Holy Grail – a global store of information that understands and responds to ordinary language in the same way a person does.
Although the system is still new, it has already produced massive interest and excitement among technology pundits and internet watchers.
Computer experts believe the new search engine will be an evolutionary leap in the development of the internet. Nova Spivack, an internet and computer expert, said that Wolfram Alpha could prove just as important as Google. "It is really impressive and significant," he wrote. "In fact it may be as important for the web (and the world) as Google, but for a different purpose.
Tom Simpson, of the blog Convergenceofeverything.com, said: "What are the wider implications exactly? A new paradigm for using computers and the web? Probably. Emerging artificial intelligence and a step towards a self-organising internet? Possibly... I think this could be big."
Wolfram Alpha will not only give a straight answer to questions such as "how high is Mount Everest?", but it will also produce a neat page of related information – all properly sourced – such as geographical location and nearby towns, and other mountains, complete with graphs and charts.
The real innovation, however, is in its ability to work things out "on the fly", according to its British inventor, Dr Stephen Wolfram. If you ask it to compare the height of Mount Everest to the length of the Golden Gate Bridge, it will tell you. Or ask what the weather was like in London on the day John F Kennedy was assassinated, it will cross-check and provide the answer. Ask it about D sharp major, it will play the scale. Type in "10 flips for four heads" and it will guess that you need to know the probability of coin-tossing. If you want to know when the next solar eclipse over Chicago is, or the exact current location of the International Space Station, it can work it out.
...read the full feature here:
...It's brilliant. Admittedly, Wolfram Alpha still an uneducated genius at this point (read the article!) but ... how long does it take a genius with a mind the size of the WWW to soak up, cross-reference and comprehend the entirety of human culture?
Give them six months. And then, Google will have to compete with the OTHER thousand pound gorilla in its forest. And at that point, the question will be, "Who's in charge?"
The rot didn't set in at Google till after the original business was sold off, and a bunch of dollar-greedy morality police got hold of it. All the money grubbing, the cheating of publishing partners in the Adsense program, the filtering-out of content the high-mucky-mucks in the Boardroom don't like (anything gay, or gay-friendly, for a start). All this is the result of human intervention in the search engine's protocols...
And the same thing could happen to the Wolfram Alpha model. If money-grubbing morality police get hold of it, it'll just do a faster, smarter, better job of cooking the books and skewing the internet off kilter --
In fact, in a worst case scenario, Google will buy it, or controlling shares of it, and promptly reshape it in the Big G's image, so that more money sluices home to The Goog, advertising continues to stuff the web like a Christmas turkey, some people get ripped off royally, and others vanish off the face of the internet because they've been filtered out of existence.
But maybe, just maybe, the owners and developers of the new search engine will have a leeetle bit more integrity, and won't sell out. Settle for twenty billion dollars instead of shooting for the cool half trillion. Maybe the "self organizing internet" is something that can actually come to pass. Maybe the self-styled morality police won't be able to get in there and organize the internet from the standpoint of Creationism, Republicanism, or some brand of 'ism which seeks to shape the thinking patterns of the whole globe in its own image.
We can hope. I, for one, am hoping! You know me ... the eternal; optimist.
Ciao for now,