November 16, 2010

Stone Song's hypothesis strengthened by archaeology

* Acoustic archaeology is an emerging field that melds acoustical analysis and old-fashioned bone-hunting.
* Ancient people created fun house-like temples that featured scary sound effects.
* Some of the sites were likely built by people who took sensory-altering drugs.
The 3,000 year-old Chavin culture produced tunnels and mazes with eerie sound effects.

* Maya Teased Ears Through Architecture
* Stonehenge Acoustics Ideal for Trance-Like Tunes

Researchers are uncovering the secrets of ancient civilizations who built fun house-like temples that may have scared the pants off worshipers with scary sound effects, light shows and perhaps drug-induced psychedelic trips.

The emerging field of acoustic archaeology is a marriage of high-tech acoustic analysis and old-fashioned bone-hunting. The results of this scientific collaboration is an new understanding of cultures who used sound effects as entertainment, religion and a form of political control.

Miriam Kolar, a researcher at Stanford University's Center for Computer Research and Acoustics, has been studying the 3,000 year-old Chavin culture in the high plains of Peru. Kolar and her colleagues have been mapping a maze of underground tunnels, drains and hallways in which echoes don't sound like echoes.

"The structures could be physically disorienting and the acoustic environment is very different than the natural world," Kolar said. Ancient drawings from the Chavin culture show a people who were fascinated with sensory experiences -- ancient hippies if you will.

"The iconography shows people mixed with animal features in altered states of being," said Kolar, who is presenting her recent work at a conference in Cancun, Mexico this week. "There is peyote and mucus trails out of the nose indicative of people using psychoactive plant substances. They were taking drugs and having a hallucinogenic experience."

If that wasn't enough, the mazes at Chavin de Huantar also include air ducts that use sunlight to produce distorted shadows of the maze's human participants. And sound waves from giant marine shells found in the maze in 2001 may have produced a frequency that actually rattled the eyeballs of those peyote-using ancients, Kolar said.

"We consider sound to be important," said Kolar. "We've gathered a lot of data and we're finally starting to publish it."

The Chavin de Huantar site in Peru isn't the only place where sound played an important role. The Mayan rulers at Chichen Itza in the Yucatan also figured out how to use sound for crowd control. David Lubman, an acoustic engineer who has spent the past 12 years studying the Mayan site, says a strange bird-like echo from the Kukulkan temple was actually constructed on purpose.

"It's sort of spooky," Lubman said from Irvine, Calif. "It's not an ordinary echo."

Lubman's analysis compared the acoustic soundprint of the quetzal bird, which was revered by Mayans, to the sound of the echo at Chichen Itza. They two sounds matched.

Lublin said the secret is in the acoustic properties of the steep staircase on the temple's front.

Other new research presented at this week's Acoustical Society of America conference in Cancun shows that Mayan rulers figured out how to build a public address system in the site's giant ball court. That allowed kings to address hundreds of warriors and subjects without screaming.

In England, British researchers are using modern tools of acoustics to figure out what drumming noises may have sounded like to ancient visitors to Stonehenge.

October 12, 2010

Another endorsement for novellas

Amazon called on writers and publishers on Tuesday to submit short works to a new section of the US online retail giant's electronic bookstore called "Kindle Singles.


Amazon said Kindle Singles will showcase works that are "twice the length of a New Yorker feature or as much as a few chapters of a typical book."

"Today's announcement is a call to serious writers, thinkers, scientists, business leaders, historians, politicians and publishers to join Amazon in making such works available to readers around the world," Amazon said.

The Seattle, Washington-based company said writers have traditionally been faced with a choice of "less than 10,000 words or more than 50,000."

"Works either had to be short enough for a magazine article or long enough to deliver the 'heft' required for book marketing and distribution," it said.

"But in many cases, 10,000 to 30,000 words (roughly 30 to 90 pages) might be the perfect, natural length to lay out a single killer idea, well researched, well argued and well illustrated," Amazon said in a statement.

As examples, it cited a "business lesson, a political point of view, a scientific argument, or a beautifully crafted essay on a current event."

Kindle Singles will have their own section in the online Kindle Store and be "priced much less than a typical book," Amazon said.

"Ideas and the words to deliver them should be crafted to their natural length, not to an artificial marketing length that justifies a particular price or a certain format," said Russ Grandinetti, vice president of Kindle Content.

"With Kindle Singles, we're reaching out to publishers and accomplished writers and we're excited to see what they create."

September 28, 2010

Word on the Street, Toronto

Went to Toronto on Sunday-by train-and spent several hours in Queens Park wandering around the Word on the Street literary festival.
Lots of books on show/sale, with quite a few small publishers and a few of the big boys represented. Tents with panel discussions/talks on things like cooking demos-cookbooks are a perennial best selling genre, -e-publishing/ebooks, various aspects of writing, authors reading their own work & talking about same. There was a big area for childrens books, several religous tents; Islam, Kabbalah, Buddhism, all had outreach efforts.
I met some other writers, one of whom I knew slightly online from the Authonomy website, and found a new small publisher which specialises in novellas. Great, I shall certainly see what I can send them. I find the novella length comfortable, but there seems no market for them except by self-publishing as an ebook. By that I mean few publishers accept submissions at that length, not that readers don't read them.
Quattro Books are Canadian, in a relatively untouched market area. I hope they do well. Certainly the novella length is suited for the ebook market.
Also found contacts with illustrators for a possible graphic novel effort. Recently I contacted another author who has several books on Amazon ideally suited for that genre and suggested he look into that; like me he is a wrinkly oldie with few contacts among the younger arty crowd where underemployed graphic artists are.
So in all definitely worth geting up at 5am to get the train to To. Back next year.

August 21, 2010

Marilyn Monroe

Right now I am attempting to write an 'interview' with Marilyn Monroe for a competition on Suzannah Burke's blog.
Poor Norma Jean had so many names in her lifetime - her mother misled her about who her father was, though of course it is quite possible her mother didn't actually know - she had a birth certificate in one name, but was brought up by foster parents, in an orphanage, all over the place. Never more than two years or so with any caregiver at a stretch before being moved again. No wonder her sense of identity was fragile, and her life one long attempt to be whatever she thought others wanted her to be.
Playing a part was what she did in every situation. With an IQ of 168 she was way over the intelligence of everybody around her, which can only have fed her sense of isolation.
Left school at 16, married, and divorced again by twenty, attended UCLA and studied Art and Literature, read widely, and projected the archetypal Ditzy Blonde image.
She modelled her appearance and public persona equally carefully. For instance, after working for several years(from age 9) in the orphanage kitchen, she famously scrubbed a lettuce leaf by leaf with detergent on being told by her roommate to 'wash the lettuce for a salad' This was widely publicised as an example of how impractical and incapable of 'normal' household tasks she was. Which of course is why she did it, to get that image firmly into the press and public's impression of her.

August 4, 2010

Marketing matters- Open Sky

In New York apparently there is a thriving business which links every possible marketing opportunity onto e-books, same way as Disney does with movies.
If the book mentions a hotel and spa, sell the spa water; if it is located somewhere exotic, travel is obvious.
So the book becomes incidental to the Product, as far as the profit oriented marketers are concerned.
There is something similar going on with a South African writer who has a new book coming soon; in the world of her book everyone has 'companion animals' like sloths or ant-eaters or monkeys which they carry around everywhere. These seem to be there to provide a marketing opportunity for no doubt expensive 'licensed' stuffed toys of exotic and unusual species not often thought of as pets and so unlikely to be already produced by competing toy makers.
So I am sorta on a parallel track with 'Eland Dances'- same idea with an animal connection, but more realistic and less of the commercial possibilities.
The difference between say 'Lion King' and 'Born Free' perhaps.

August 3, 2010

Eland Dances first 400 words

Victorine Lieske has posted the first 400 words of Eland Dances on her blog http://victorinewrites.blogspot.com/ as part of her ongoing 'hook Victorine Challenge'. I am glad to report that she says she was 'hooked'

July 29, 2010

Published a single short story

To see what happens, more than in expectation of lots of sales, I have put "An Addendum to the Affair of the Dog which Did Not Bark" up on smashwords and Amazon for Kindle, priced @ 99cents, the minimum allowed (except for free)
This is a bit less than 2,000 words, and is a Sherlock Holmes story.
On smashwords -- http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/19953

Or Amazon -- http://www.amazon.com/Addendum-Affair-Bark-Shortreads-ebook/dp/B003XRE52Q/ref=ntt_at_ep_dpi_3

July 28, 2010

Now featured on Authors on Show Blog

Got a surprise message today, a personal message on Authonomy, to tell me my novel 'Eland Dances' is now featured on the Authors on Show blog (not the main site). I had been expecting to be featured on their main site in November, but exposure is good, regardless.
They have my author profile and a synopsis up, with a link to my Authonomy page, and another link to this blog. I was expecting the first chapter to be posted actually. Perhaps this is too long for their site.
I hope they will put a link to 'In the Valley stories' on smashwords & amazon kindle; certainly i am going to ask if this is possible.

July 7, 2010

Using ultrasound to control toxic algal blooms

Using ultrasound to control toxic algal blooms
July 7, 2010 Using ultrasound to control toxic algal blooms

(PhysOrg.com) -- University of Adelaide researchers are investigating the use of ultrasound as an environmentally friendly and cheaper alternative to controlling blue-green algae in our fresh water supplies.


In collaboration with water industry organisations including SA Water, the researchers are starting a three-year project to find the best process for using ultrasound in large volumes of water to combat this significant world-wide water quality problem.

Chief Investigator Dr Carl Howard, from the University's School of Mechanical Engineering, says researchers will be testing different amplitudes and frequencies of ultrasound.

"We've already shown in laboratory tests that ultrasound is effective at neutralising blue-green algae," says Dr Howard.

"We know it works but we don't yet know the best frequencies, amplitudes and duration for the most effective, economic and efficient process."

Blue-green algae (or cyanobacteria) can affect health and causes other water quality and environmental problems when it accumulates and forms 'blooms' in fresh water. It is currently controlled by the application of chemical treatments.

Dr Howard says ultrasound - at high amplitudes - is used for treating sewage and in other chemical processes but hasn't been practical for fresh water treatment. Ultrasound at high amplitudes breaks down the cell walls of the blue-green algae, releasing toxins into the water.

"The novel part of our solution is that we will be using ultrasound at low amplitudes where it immobilises the blue-green algae without releasing its toxins into the water and with lower energy input," Dr Howard says.

The researchers propose mounting ultrasound generators inside large underwater columns containing mixers which will draw the water through for treatment as it flows past.

The main industry partner, SA Water, has been working with University of Adelaide researchers over the past 15 years on a range of chemical and water circulation techniques in reservoirs and the River Murray to help tackle this problem.

The project has been granted $400,000 under the latest round of the Australian Research Council's (ARC) Linkage Projects scheme.

"This project is an innovative and exciting development in this area of research which has the potential to provide many benefits to drinking water supplies both locally and nationally," says SA Water Biology Research Leader Associate Professor Mike Burch.

Provided by University of Adelaide (news : web)

June 22, 2010

Progress

Well,'In the Valley stories' has begun its swift inexorable climb to the top of Amazon's Best Seller list. Sold 1 today for a grand total of 2 - my cut is $1.40. Also, someone has posted that they will buy a copy 'soon' so I count that as 1/2 a sale.
What happened was J.A. Konrath/Jack Kilbourn put a new book up, and offered to buy a copy of their book from every author on Kindle boards who bought a copy of his book.
Well I splurged, spent $4.99 to buy a copy - it's a Horror/ Thriller selling for $2.99 to US customers.
He bought In the Valley stories, along with a whole lot of other books, and achieved his purpose, got into the Amazon top 100 sellers. Momentum pays off it looks like - he must have spent a fair bit, but will recoup that easily in the added sales he gets from the exposure.
A marketing lesson indeed.
Then, too, the person who bought the very first copy, Ann, will have her book up soon, and I shall probably buy a copy - keep the circle going.

June 9, 2010

Another Ad experiment

My daughter, Penny, has put out a Facebook ad, this time targeted at UK, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe, people who read and like adventure books. This one was based on a pay per click model, instead of simple pay per impression. Cost of $10.00

Results are 16 clicks from 20,000 exposures, so a much better ratio there; I think she just sent them to smashwords site, as she said the actual book address was too long. During the time it ran, 1 book was downloaded, as far as I can tell.
Total downloads from smashwords now 15, all free with use of the coupon(GR96T)which is good until Sunday 13th.
I have posted on several threads on Kindle Boards,got included in the free books thread run by knbr - this may have drawn several of the downloads on the 6th &7th, and of course on Facebook, Kindle, Authonomy, Slushpilereader and Authors on Show. Also signed up for a first page critique at http://yourfirstpage.blogspot.com/ and posted the first chapter of Eland Dances on http://nightreading.ning.com/ for critique/comments.

June 6, 2010

Slowly, slowly, catches?

So far- Sunday night, 10 downloads from smashwords and 1 sale on Amazon. Have to believe in the snowball principle, things start slow and build momentum; still priced at $3.99 for Canadians & $1.99 for Americans, $ 2.34 for Irish, and so on.

That may be important, I don't know. There are so many free e-books available, perhaps I should join that list and use the short stories just to attract interest. My one solitary customer e-mailed me to say she wanted to know about anything else I write about Africa, so I have 1 sure sale for Eland Dances when it is published.

I've spent a lot of time online, reading kindle Boards, Twitting, Facebook, other writing blogs, and of course Authonomy. Done almost zero actual writing, which should be - finishing Stone Song, getting on with extending In the Valley to full book length, and going over Eland again.

There are a couple of factual glitches there - kapenta come from Lake Tanganyika, not Lake Malawi(I actually knew that)& rock art north of the Zambezi features elephants instead of eland, with the area between the Limpopo and Zambezi having both. So elephant are the Northern Power animals-close to what I have written at least.

I also really need to write Big Sid into a role in Rhodesia, perhaps integrate him into the Salisbury trip and later in the finale or penultimate chapter. Make that last scene more dramatic, more touch & go, with a couple of twists in who has the upper hand --

June 1, 2010

Amazon pricing

When I put In the Valley stories up on Amazon for sale as a Kindle e-book, I priced it at $1.99 US. However when I searched for it on Amazon.com it came up with a price of $3.99; I contacted them to ask about this large price jump, and this morning received this reply

Hello Philip,

Your Kindle book is listed at a price of $1.99. Please note, all items available in the Kindle store are listed in U.S. dollars (USD), and the availability and pricing of titles from the Kindle Store varies by your home country or region.

If you're browsing in the Kindle store from a location outside of the US, you may see a price higher than what you listed on the DTP web site.

There are a number of reasons why prices for Kindle titles may vary from region to region, including taxes and other operating costs. We understand your concern about prices, and we share that concern -- we will continue our efforts to reduce costs and offer the best possible prices to customers in every region. We hope you will continue to use our platform for sales in the US and internationally. Also, note that the royalties will be based on the list price you provide on your DTP dashboard.

I hope this information is helpful. If you have any further question, please feel free to send an e-mail to dtp-support@amazon.com.

Thank you for using Amazon DTP.

Did I answer your question?

The question is answered, but I can't believe that with the Canadian Dollar almost equal to the US Dollar, a doubling in price can be legitimately explained as they have. Probably the answer is that they see an opportunity to make money on a very flimsy excuse - notice that 'royalties will be based on the list price you provide on your DTP dashboard.'
In other words, they will pay me 35% of $1.99, and keep the remaining $3.29 for themselves. Wow!

Amazon author page

I have an author page on Amazon.com now, and have added an rss feed from this blog, so in fact this post should show up there soon.
No sales yet, and I don't expect many either, but so far this has been very useful in learning how things work there, and in going through all the hoops involved.
If I decide to put Eland Dances on Amazon then I will have already laid the groundwork, and will know the best way to do things.
I am considering editing Heavy and Light Tales, perhaps by removing the worst stories in it, adding some newer ones and looking at the ones worth keeping with a severe editorial eye. Then perhaps putting it out as a 2nd edition e-book only for Kindle & perhaps smashwords.

May 31, 2010

Trying direct sales too

I have placed a button on my Books page which takes you to Paypal, where you have the option of paying me directly through their service for a copy of 'In the Valley'$1.99. same price, but this way I keep all the revenue, instead of 35% from Amazon or 50% from Smashwords.

I will have to do a test to see if this works, but should go
1) someone gives Paypal $1.99(CAD)
2)Paypal notifies me by e-mail
3)I send them a PDF copy by e-mail

I don't expect to sell many, or in fact any, this way, but I want to try the system. If everything works well, this could ramp up; with ISBN nos to use for other books, who knows?

May 28, 2010

Final ad stats

The Facebook ad has finished its 24 hour run; stats are - 70,735 impressions, for a total of 13 clicks; @$1.08per click & total cost of $14.07
As an experiment, to see what happens,it worked; as really helpful to book downloads - nope.
Smashwords stats didn't budge, so I doubt if any clickers got further than the Facebook page.

May 27, 2010

Now published on Amazon

Just finished uploading 'In the Valley Stories' to Amazon, for sale on their Kindle reader. Have also removed Amazon as a sales channel from Smashwords, so they will sell on all their other outlets and I will sell directly on Amazon. Same price -$1.99- just a slightly bigger cut this way.
It will take about 48 hrs for approval, and then it will be available there as well. Amazon has about 170 times as many customers as Smashwords apparently.
Have also registered with the Canadian authorities as a Publisher, and will be getting ISBNs to use - about 5 business days, so late next week.

The ad is still running on Face Book; at 12.40 am Friday they record 59,000 impressions, and 11 clicks, for a cost of $11.+

Update on Facebook ad 9pm

Now over 40,000 impressions (or whatever the proper word is) and just 7 clicks, at a cost of $8 something. Quite a low percentage, but not zero, so structured and targeted better this may be a worthwhile thing to do again.
Most importantly one click has to take people directly to the book, not as with this, to my Facebook page where they have to click again to go to smashwords etc.
But some exposure, and more importantly an idea of how this all works.
Over $1 per click would be worth it perhaps, if they actually downloaded the book.

Facebook Ad update 1:15 pm Thursday

Well, I had booked the ad to run from 6am Thursday to 6am Friday.
Didn't realise it had to be approved by an office run on Pacific time, so it only started to run around noon orso (not sure of exact time)
I checked a couple of minutes ago, and had one click recorded from almost 9,000 'showings', at a cost to then of $2.25.
Will check to see if they went on to the smashwords site.
Maybe a pay-per-click option would be better? At 47cents or so per click I want to have returns- come to that, that is still better than present option.

May 26, 2010

Facebook advert

I'm stepping up the marketing/visibility drive with 2 Facebook initiatives; firstly I've put an ad on their classified ads section (free) giving the details of 'In the Valley stories' and the smashwords URL with the coupon code (GR96T)which can be used to get it free.
Secondly, I'm trying a 24 hour paid advert. from 6am Toronto time Thursday to 6am Toronto time Friday, targeted at USA residents who speak English and read books. They estimate reaching about 22,000 people per day with this, at a cost of 47cents per 1,000 people; for a total of around $10+ (0.47 x 22 = $10.34).
They have analysis software, counts % clicks- number of people who see it vs number who click and go to my page; then further stats, from smashwords number who go and download; see if there is a reasonable return for the $10 investment.
Would be better if I could direct traffic straight to either smashwords or my own sales page but they give very limited word allowance in the ad.
I will be monitoring this tomorrow for sure

Strong Scene Honourable mention

My 'action' opening for 'Eland Dances' was entered in the May Strong Scenes competition. Didn't make it to finalist, but is one of the Honourable Mentions. Good, but not quite the best. Since that is a matter of individual preference/taste I'm happy.

May 25, 2010

Kindle Boards

Joined Kindle boards this evening - another way to spend time not writing. Right now I am concentrating on building a web-presence with the idea of maybe actually generating interest in my writing.
So far quite a bit of effort for miniscule tangible returns.
Interesting though, virtually meeting people from all over, mosly fellow wannabe writers of course. Some interesting blogs out there, of course some of those are now on my Links page.

May 24, 2010

Twitter

Signed up for Twitter yesterday, as people say it is worthwhile.
Maybe.
My handle there is philwrite
Spent some time chatting etc, finding how to Twit and so on. Then got ambitous and put a link to In the Valley along with a free ebook coupon code on several threads.
Went to Smashwords today to check the results.
Zero 'sales'(which includes free downloads) and as far as I can see, also zero samples downloaded.
However the stats show 150+ page looks, which is way up from about 4 or 5 daily.
So probably that means whoever was looking is the wrong demographic. Just not the market to aim for. What is though?
Will have to try and direct efforts at the likeliest readers - lit fic readers most likely.

May 19, 2010

Eland Dances - action opening

Welcome to the Jungle

The front edge of the wing looked wrong. I squinted against the reflected tropical sunlight and focused on the area where I’d seen something move. I hoped it wasn’t real. Maybe a hallucination, a flashback, like they said happened sometimes when you’d dropped acid. I looked away, squeezed my eyes tight shut, and then looked again.

No such luck. One of the aluminium plates vibrated up and down. Another rivet popped out, and a bigger section of the wing worked itself loose. If I hadn’t seen that rivet fly, it wouldn’t have been worth a second glance. The wings always flapped and bent around, and nothing ever happened, on these journeys from home in Zambia to school in England and back.

I grabbed one of the cabin crew by her arm as she passed. She turned quite sharply, but my face must have showed something, as she said, “There is a bag in the pocket here, if you want to be sick.”

“Oh, thanks no, I’m fine, but could you take a look out the window? I don’t think the wing is supposed to have loose pieces. I mean there're some rivets missing.”

“I’m sure it’s nothing. There is just some turbulence, that’s why the seat belt light is still on. The wings are made so they can bend, so the plane is more stable. I am sure they checked everything while we were refuelling in Brazzaville.”

“Well, I know, but this isn’t normal.”

As we watched, several more rivets gave up, and the loose plate started to move even more. She put her finger on her lips in a shushing motion, and walked away towards the front of the plane. She reappeared with a youngish man with gold braid on his shoulders. After he’d examined the view of the wing for a bit, he spoke quietly to her, and went back to the cockpit.

“Would you mind to change seats? There is nothing to worry about, of course, but we want to keep an eye on things, and this window is best for that,” she said. “Would you like a snack perhaps? We have chocolate ice cream and fresh strawberries in First Class.”

So of course I went and sat further towards the front of the plane, next to a tall lean man with a military haircut and a bristly brown moustache.

He turned in his seat and reached out his hand, “Lucien Versteeg. I am with the United Nations force in the Congo. Pleased to meet you.”

“Peter Fitt. Just going home to Zambia, from school. Well actually, I’m done with school now, so I’m going to work for the Agriculture Department for a while, and then I’m going on to University.” We shook hands, and then my promised ice cream arrived, together with a glass of whisky on ice for Lucien.

We watched as another of the cockpit crew strolled through the passenger cabin. He happened to stop and look casually out at the view by my old seat.

I explained what I'd seen out the window, and Lucien shrugged and waved a dismissive hand.

"Nothing to worry about then. So Peter, you live with your parents in Zambia? Your father is with the big mining company, or a farmer perhaps?"

"Not a farmer. He, well my stepfather actually, he works in the Ministry of Agriculture. My mother is dead now, so there's just him and my younger sister and brother. We have the same mother, had I mean, and Henry and mum married after dad died, when I was quite young."

I thought, ‘Babbling. Must be actually quite nervous. He couldn’t be interested in all that family history crap.’

"So that is why you have a job in the ministry. I see. Do you have other relatives in Zambia?"

‘This guy’s really making an effort to keep me talking. Maybe he wants to practice his English’ I thought.

"Well, Henry, my stepfather, has a sister in Salisbury, in Rhodesia, two hundred miles away. It seems further because that's another country, and they have those political problems. My real dad's family are all down in Capetown, in South Africa. That's a long way from Lusaka. I haven't seen them in a long time, but I expect we'll meet when I go down there after Christmas." I dug into the ice cream.

"Salisbury? That's where I am going. I've been offered a contract. Training their security people. Of course there are some problems lately with those insurgents. You know, typical communist trained troublemakers." He swirled the liquor in his glass and watched as the ice cubes twirled and settled.

"Red revolution is what the Russians and the Chinese want, you know. The colour of blood. The more heated a war becomes, with more turmoil and hardship, the easier it is for their people to get into top positions, into power."

He put his glass down on the tray and looked directly at me. "They don't care about the people, or if the place is called Zimbabwe or Rhodesia. Just about power, to push out the British and extend their own influence. Forget about freedom and everyone having equal rights and all that liberal stuff. Democracy does not work in Africa. Power comes from the gun. Believe me, I have seen things in the Congo. You know what they like. One man one vote, maybe. But only once."

I noticed Lucien was keeping an eye on the activity up and down to my old seat, as the crew all nonchalantly strolled through in turn, while he'd kept me busy talking. Worth worrying about, then.

I scraped up the last ice cream and licked the spoon. "I don't know about all that. Of course there are a few power freaks, but Zambia is doing just fine with the elected Parliament. I mean, there aren't many jobs or industries except the mines, but we are pushing ahead with modern farming methods, what they call the Green Revolution. That way no-one will go hungry. After all this is nineteen sixty seven you know, and it's time for people to realise peace and love are what everyone wants."

Lucien smiled with his lips pressed tight, and then concentrated on his glass.
The 'buckle seat belts' signs lit up, and the cabin crew bustled around collecting everything loose and checking everyone.

The blonde stewardess took my empty bowl and Lucien's glass, and folded my tray up. Lucien took care of his own tray, and then buckled his seat belt. I followed his example.

The plane banked into a steep turn, and the overhead speaker announced, “We are going to land again, as there are still some maintenance tasks which were not performed on our stopover in Republique du Congo. Nothing important, but our Air France safety people are particular about these things, and so we are going to land again at the nearest airport.”

Of course the same announcement was made in French, which produced quite a reaction from one passenger.

May 17, 2010

Sound tech summary for Stone Song.

The premise of 'Stone Song' is that ultra and infra-sound can be used to influence people's moods and actions; this is fairly well established with the use of sound devices to keep teens from loitering in malls. Elephants use low frequency sound to communicate and may also influence predators' moods. This is the basis of 'In the Valley'
Combine those two with a crew of nasties, oppose them with a Wicca girl and a 'normal' guy. Then throw in the recent announcement that ultra sound can sterilise men; in the hands of Baddies that could lead to involuntary sterilisation of any population group - Moslems, Catholics, immigrants, anyone identifiable as a group they don't like. Coupled with the mood and action influencers,there's plenty to work on. I already have that, very simple to slip the sterilisation possibility in - wow Hitler would've loved that.

Writing more 'In the Valley'

I intend to continue the story of Ndinga the poacher, just carrying on from where the short story left him. If I can produce 1 to 2,000 words a week with a reasonable development of plot and character etc, it might be possible to serialise it for anyone interested via kwikreads, where I've posted 'the story so far'.
Would be nice if that brand new site would start getting some traffic. If not, I will have lost very little by posting it there - I wrote the story more than two years ago, and I'm not going to shop it around anymore. Best New Writing did it for me, keeping it a full year and stringing me along with 'you have reached the next round' right up to 'finalist'and then just silence. Not even 'thanks for letting us have your story exclusively for a year but we aren't going to publish it.'

May 14, 2010

published on Smashwords

I have put a 20,000 word short story collection on Smashwords; title 'In the Valley'; They convert works into all current e-reader formats, including for Kindle (Amazon) and for phones.
Priced at $1.99 which is the minimum Amazon will sell anything for.
All those stories have just been sitting in my computer, doing very little, not being read, so there's little to lose.

May 13, 2010

New Website for selling short stories

I have put some short stories up on kwikreads, a brand new, still in construction site. The intention there is to supply reads to people for their phones, commuters stc. Using the fraxion payment system people can buy a few thousand words at a time.
This model works in Japan, where their best selling novels are sold as series, read on phones.
Hope it works.

May 11, 2010

Phones as reading devices

Perhaps the next big market for fiction are all those people on their daily commutes with cell/mobile phones in their pockets and time on their hands.
In Japan currently there are several best-selling authors who write serials for people to read on their phones. The rest of us will likely follow those tech-leaders.
I have recently been in contact with people who are getting the technology and web-sites together to enable written words - stories, serial episodes etc.- to be bought for pennies and read a few thousand words at a time on phones or other mobile devices.
I am probably going to try out some short stories with them, see how it goes.
hopefully it will all come together in the next short while.

May 10, 2010

Stone Songs

I have posted the first few chapters of my work-in-progress on Slushpilereader. Let's see what sort of reaction it gets. Needs editing, and is incomplete.

May 9, 2010

New Weapons Technology

This looks like a formidable advance in hand weapons. An advantage for the US until someone sells it to their opponents.

Army to test XM25 'smart' grenade launcher rifle (w/ Video)
May 9, 2010 by Lisa Zyga XM25

(PhysOrg.com) -- The US Army has recently announced plans to test the high-tech XM25 airburst grenade launcher this summer in Afghanistan, unleashing a weapon that veterans predict could be a game-changing advantage in the war. The XM25 can fire 25mm rounds that explode at any distance set by a soldier, effective at a range of up to 700 m. Because the 14-pound, $25,000 gun can fire rounds in just seconds, it could replace the need to call in fire missions, artillery or airstrikes in some situations, which can take anywhere from several minutes to an hour to arrive.

Army officials say that the XM25 could be ideal in current situations in Afghanistan, where the enemy tends to hide behind barriers such as walls and trees or in underground trenches, often at distances of 300 m or more. Right now, such targets are difficult to hit even for skilled marksmen, since a bullet is only lethal if it hits the head or vital organs.

Since the blast radius of the XM25 is equivalent to a hand grenade, it could allow US soldiers to target and kill these hidden snipers. For example, if an enemy is hiding inside a distant building, a soldier can point the gun at the building’s fa├žade, which measures the distance using lasers and sensors. The soldier can then add (or subtract) a smaller distance so that the round explodes at an estimated location close to the enemy. When the soldier fires, the microchip-embedded round tracks the distance it has traveled by the number of times it rotates. Upon exploding, the 25mm round spreads shrapnel in all directions, likely killing anyone nearby. Compared to a typical M4 carbine, the gun doesn’t require extreme precision to kill even at these long ranges, potentially making it one of the deadliest hand weapons in the Army's arsenal.

May 6, 2010

Vampires

Vampires carry an aura of elegance combined with dominance and a predatory nature; just those things which attract many women to 'Bad Boys'. Their attraction in stories relies on the possibility of their positive emotions being awoken, while the aura of mystery and danger adds spice to the mundane lives of afficionados/afficionadas.
Vampire tales seem to be a perennial, dying away and surging back into popularity again as each new generation discovers the attraction and reads, to thrill at a world of monsters lurking just maybe at the edge of the circle of firelight, beyond the lamp's glow, outside the window, in the hollow places beyond reach of the sun.

May 5, 2010

Other writers

Some other writers have quite active websites and are very good at networking. I am lucky enough to have grabbed on to Jo Ellis' coat-tails in this respect; she has very kindly added this blog to her links list. There are a number of good writers links there, as well as Jo Ellis own site, with details of her books and so on.

May 1, 2010

Slushpilereader

Eland Dances is now on a website I just found out about; people post their writing to be read and rated as 'Publish' or 'Don't publish' and read and rate that of other people. The top rated works will get published, they say. But even if that doesn't happen, this is obviously more exposure to possible agents and editors.
The site is password protected, that is, you have to register before reading and voting.

Slushpilereader - this is the url for Eland Dances there;-

http://www.slushpilereader.com/index.php?option=com_manuscripts&view=book&id=262&Itemid=5&hashb=NDc1

April 23, 2010

book trailer

I have uploaded a one minute video (actually stills in a slide-show with music/sounds)as a Book Trailer for 'Eland Dances'

try http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gGQduFuI5qg; copy and paste

April 18, 2010

Book ideas percolating

So now, recent news concerns several crucial brain manipulating technologies :-
1)Sound frequencies, for gross level mood influencing, or simply trophic-like responses.
2)Magnetic influence on specific parts of a brain can influence 'moral' judgement
3)Electrode arrays can now be implanted directly on the brain surface, and so can monitor and potentially influence activity. Currently this would be at the level of preventing epileptic seizures and perhaps overcoming nerve damage to receive and transmit messages to muscles. Could be much more though.

Very interesting, from a 'what if?' perspective.

Brain control advance- getting scary?

A brain-recording device that melts into place
April 18, 2010

Neural electrode array wrapped onto a model of the brain. The wrapping process occurs spontaneously, driven by dissolution of a thin, supporting base of silk. Credit: Please credit C. Conway and J. Rogers, Beckman Institute
Scientists have developed a brain implant that essentially melts into place, snugly fitting to the brain's surface. The technology could pave the way for better devices to monitor and control seizures, and to transmit signals from the brain past damaged parts of the spinal "These implants have the potential to maximize the contact between electrodes and brain tissue, while minimizing damage to the brain. They could provide a platform for a range of devices with applications in epilepsy, spinal cord injuries and other neurological disorders," said Walter Koroshetz, M.D., deputy director of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), part of the National Institutes of Health.
The study, published in Nature Materials, shows that the ultrathin flexible implants, made partly from silk, can record brain activity more faithfully than thicker implants embedded with similar electronics.
The simplest devices for recording from the brain are needle-like electrodes that can penetrate deep into brain tissue. More state-of-the-art devices, called micro-electrode arrays, consist of dozens of semi-flexible wire electrodes, usually fixed to rigid silicon grids that do not conform to the brain's shape.
In people with epilepsy, the arrays could be used to detect when seizures first begin, and deliver pulses to shut the seizures down. In people with spinal cord injuries, the technology has promise for reading complex signals in the brain that direct movement, and routing those signals to healthy muscles or prosthetic devices.
"The focus of our study was to make ultrathin arrays that conform to the complex shape of the brain, and limit the amount of tissue damage and inflammation," said Brian Litt, M.D., an author on the study and an associate professor of neurology at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine in Philadelphia. The silk-based implants developed by Dr. Litt and his colleagues can hug the brain like shrink wrap, collapsing into its grooves and stretching over its rounded surfaces.
The implants contain metal electrodes that are 500 microns thick, or about five times the thickness of a human hair. The absence of sharp electrodes and rigid surfaces should improve safety, with less damage to brain tissue. Also, the implants' ability to mold to the brain's surface could provide better stability; the brain sometimes shifts in the skull and the implant could move with it. Finally, by spreading across the brain, the implants have the potential to capture the activity of large networks of brain cells, Dr. Litt said.
Besides its flexibility, silk was chosen as the base material because it is durable enough to undergo patterning of thin metal traces for electrodes and other electronics. It can also be engineered to avoid inflammatory reactions, and to dissolve at controlled time points, from almost immediately after implantation to years later. The electrode arrays can be printed onto layers of polyimide (a type of plastic) and silk, which can then be positioned on the brain.
To make and test the silk-based implants, Dr. Litt collaborated with scientists at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign and at Tufts University outside Boston. John Rogers, Ph.D., a professor of materials science and engineering at the University of Illinois, invented the flexible electronics. David Kaplan, Ph.D., and Fiorenzo Omenetto, Ph.D., professors of biomedical engineering at Tufts, engineered the tissue-compatible silk. Dr. Litt used the electronics and silk technology to design the implants, which were fabricated at the University of Illinois.
Recently, the team described a flexible silicon device for recording from the heart and detecting an abnormal heartbeat.
In the current study, the researchers approached the design of a brain implant by first optimizing the mechanics of silk films and their ability to hug the brain. They tested electrode arrays of varying thickness on complex objects, brain models and ultimately in the brains of living, anesthetized animals.
The arrays consisted of 30 electrodes in a 5x6 pattern on an ultrathin layer of polyimide - with or without a silk base. These experiments led to the development of an array with a mesh base of polyimide and silk that dissolves once it makes contact with the brain - so that the array ends up tightly hugging the brain.
Next, they tested the ability of these implants to record the animals' brain activity. By recording signals from the brain's visual center in response to visual stimulation, they found that the ultrathin polyimide-silk arrays captured more robust signals compared to thicker implants.
In the future, the researchers hope to design implants that are more densely packed with electrodes to achieve higher resolution recordings.
"It may also be possible to compress the silk-based implants and deliver them to the brain, through a catheter, in forms that are instrumented with a range of high performance, active electronic components," Dr. Rogers said.

April 14, 2010

book trailer

I've made a trailer for Eland Dances, with royalty free images I found online and some sounds and music that were in the Mac i-movie program. Problem is getting it online now, as my internet connection is a bit slow.
If possible I'd like to get it on this blog, but probably will load it to U-Tube and put a link on here.

April 12, 2010

Roseandthornjournal Spring edition

Rose and Thorn Journal will publish their Spring 2010 edition on the 15th April. My story 'Have you Seen the Elephant' will be in it.
This is an adapted version of a chapter in 'Eland Dances'-- in the book this chapter is 'Bad Moon Rising'

March 30, 2010

Magnetic morality

Now here's some meat for the next book, after I finish my 2009 Nano-novel, that is. That deals with the possible ramifications of using high and low frequency sound to influence the moods and actions of others. I have 50,00 words, but it needs a lot of work, and I've been busy with Authonomy.com,where 'Eland Dances' has been posted for 6 weeks now. Got to #380 out of about 5,000 on their site, so far.

Anyway, this news about the Moral Compass being vulnerable to magnetism has me going hmmm.

Turning off someone's moral compass is as easy as holding a magnet up to their head, new research from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology suggests.

Rather than judging people based on their actions, most people tend to judge based on the intent of those actions, too.

If a man trips his girlfriend on the sidewalk, for example, we determine if he is morally wrong based on whether it was by accident or on purpose.

But when a small area of the brain just above the right ear, called the right temporo-parietal junction, is disabled, we lose that ability entirely.

Instead, we judge the morality of an action based solely on its outcome. In this case, whether the girlfriend was hurt. If she came out of the trip unharmed, then the boyfriend was, morally speaking, in the clear regardless of whether he meant to injure her.

In the research project, led by Liane Young at MIT, people were asked to evaluate different scenarios like the one above and grade the morality of each person in question. Then a magnet was applied to the outside of their head just above the temporo-parietal junction, disabling the subject's ability to interpret intent.

The results astounded the researchers.

"Subjects were asked to judge how permissible it is for someone to let his girlfriend walk across a bridge he knows to be unsafe, even if she ends up making it across safely," said Anne Trafton, a spokeswoman at MIT.

"In such cases, a judgment based solely on the outcome would hold the perpetrator morally blameless, even though it appears he intended to do harm."

“You think of morality as being a really high-level behaviour,” she continued. “To be able to apply [a magnetic field] to a specific brain region and change people’s moral judgments is really astonishing.” Next, researchers want to examine perceptions of luck in moral judgment. A drunk driver, for example, may or may not kill someone as a result of their actions and whether they do is largely considered to be up to luck.

But the unlucky driver tends to be judged "more morally blameworthy,"

researchers suggest, even though both drivers did the same thing.

Young now hopes to discover if disabling the same part of the brain that determines intent has any effect on peoples' perceptions of luck.









Environment

March 9, 2010

Short story to be published

Just got an e-mail from Rose and Thorn Journal that they will be publishing my 2000 word story 'Have you Seen the Elephant?'in their spring 2010 issue. www.roseandthornejournal.com
This will be an unpaid publication, but every little bit helps.

March 1, 2010

One year later, here we are again

Time to get doing again. I have recently uploaded the latest version of 'Eland Dances' on Authonomy.com. There are quite a few other aspiring writers, together with some published authors, who frequent the site.
The carrot is the long-shot possibility of some browsing agent or editor noticing your work and perhaps signing a contract. There is the even more unlikely possibility of Harper Collins, who run the site, liking something they see. The top five books in any given month get a review by Harper Collins editors.
Oh yes, everyone reads and 'backs' work they like. Each backing earns points, and these accumulate. The top five have each been backed by at least 1,200 others. After 2 weeks, mine has been backed by 97.
I don't expect to reach the top rating, but have had feedback from some, either praise or minor critique. Essentially if someone just plain doesn't like your stuff, you don't hear of it, because they simply pass over to something else.
I have been sending out short stories, with some success, and have sent queries to a couple of agents, and the manuscript to one publisher, with no success.
during November i did the NanoWrimo thing again, and now have something over 50,000 words, the bones of another book. Before I get into completing that, I would like to get 'Eland' going again, perhaps published. If there's nothing doing from conventional routes, I shall self-publish, and let Amazon sell it for Kindle.