.

.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Your book shouldn't have a hickey


When I was a teenager, a hickey was bruise caused by sucking skin, usually on the neck. On Mondays, kids proudly displayed their hickeys as indicators of intense passion over the weekend.


In printing, a hickey (also known as a bull’s eye or fish eye) is a spot or imperfection on a printed paper caused by dirt.


(above) When newspapers were “pasted up” by hand it was common for extraneous strips of paper with text on them, or nothing on them, to get dropped onto what would become the printing plate—and their images would be printed. (Newspaper article above was written by yours truly for the Brown & White at Lehigh University in 1966 -- when college students used slide rules, cigarettes cost 27 cents a pack and there were no iPads. However, sex had been invented.)


(above) It’s unlikely that you will encounter those problems in a book made with word-processing software, a PDF and print on demand or e-publishing -- but there is a 21st century version of the hickey.

If you use the Print Screen function of your computer, or software such as
Snagit, you might accidentally capture an image with a cursor or pointer in it. Be careful.

...

top photo from Janek B. Thanks. 

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Michael's mixed experiences with chick-lit

Chick-lit (not to be confused with candy-coated Chiclets gum), is literature written to be read by chicks. Chick-lit is the text equivalent of chick flicks. The books are often romantic and usually written for women in their 20s and 30s. There are sub-genres for teen, matron, Latina, Christian and Asian chicks. I'm not sure if lesbian books are considered chick-lit.

Most guys don't like chick-lit or chick flicks, even if they like chicks. It's usually easy to avoid chick-lit by reading the title and/or looking at the cover. 


The “bodice-ripper” novel is a popular genre, and the covers generally follow a strict formula. There's very sensual, decorative type that may be hard to read. The primary image is usually a male hunk with long hair and no shirt, and a good-looking, long-haired woman in old-fashioned clothing with some exposed skin. Illustrations are more common than photographs. The name of the author is often fake and often larger than the title.



On the other hand, a book for guys (at least for straight guys) is less frilly, and likely to have simple type and primary colors.

Another way to detect chick lit is to scan the reviews on Amazon. If almost all of the positive reviews are from chicks, and you have a penis, you should probably find something else to read.

However, I do have a penis and I've read three pieces of chick-lit, and liked two of them very much.

My most recent immersion in chick-lit is Star Crossed, a memoir by Bette Isacoff. Set in New England in the late 60s, Star Crossed is the poignant, funny, and inspirational chronicle of an interfaith courtship at a time when interfaith love was exotic and forbidden.
 
When Bette met Richard in 1968, he was a seventeen-year-old Jewish kid. She, at twenty-one, was a Catholic college senior doing a practice-teaching assignment at his high school. Seven weeks later, they were engaged. To say their two-year courtship was ill-received is an understatement. After graduation, Bette did not have the option of getting her own apartment. Instead she returned home, to parents determined to break up the unlikely couple. She was denied all contact with Richard. He was told to find a Jewish girl. The harder their families tried to pull them apart, the tighter they clung together.


This couple faced not one impediment to marriage, but four: religion, age (at a developmental stage when it is significant), education level, and the tenor of the times—a culture in which Jews and Catholics rarely married “outside.” Throw into the mix outraged parents, scornful siblings, snickering friends, legal obstacles, uncooperative clergy . . . and still, they persevered. With secret post office boxes, clandestine meetings, and Bette’s extended family, who conspired with Richard against their own blood kin, the curious relationship was nurtured.


In the last decade, 45% of all U.S. marriages have been between people of different faiths.1 Today there are a number of books about the technicalities of blending an interfaith family. Yet this is the only book written from the perspective of a blissful, hugely successful forty-three year marriage that has withstood all the naysayers and skeptics. Cross-generational as well as cross-cultural, Star Crossed speaks to young men and women considering or entering an interfaith relationship; it challenges the old order espoused by their parents; and it is a nostalgic look back to a simpler time.

Star Crossed is a love story a man can enjoy.

I knew Richard, the boy who became the man it was written about. Men who read this book may be jealous of Richard because of Bette's mixture of love and writing ability. I wish someone would write a book like this about me.
 


Here's some weird fiction and reality: In a chapter in my own memoir, Stories I'd Tell My Children (but maybe not until they're adults), I tell about my time as a Jewish high school senior dating an older Catholic student-teacher from Albertus Magnus College. That chapter is fiction, but was real for Bette and Richard. The real Bette attended the same college as my fictional girlfriend. No, Bette and I did not collaborate. This is just a coincidence. Wow.

(By the way, Bette gets extra points for a perfect cover image that reinforces the title much better than on most of the books I see.)

Barbara Barth's The Unfaithful Widow is a collection of essays and fragmented thoughts on finding joy again after the loss of a mate. A memoir of the first year alone written with warmth and laughter, no subject is taboo. From dealing with the funeral home (Can I show your our upgraded cremation package?) to dating again (He ran in the door, looked at me and said “I’ve left something in my car.” He never returned). Sprinkle in a bevy of rescue dogs (Finally a good nights sleep with someone new in my bed.) and those questions you hate to ask (Condoms anyone?). A story for anyone who has suffered loss and is determined to become their own super hero.

Barbara says "The Unfaithful Widow will make your heart ache while tickling your ribs." She's right.

In her review, Audrey Frank said, "This is a book for anyone who has a void to fill in her life."

That's much too limiting.

No void is necessary, and the book is not just for females. It's a book for anyone seeking entertainment and anyone who might benefit from inspiration to keep going. It's also for everyone who likes dogs and soft-core dirty talk.

Barbara Barth is a master (mistress?) storyteller, with an uncanny ability to recall or recreate dialog. She is able to pluck humor from sadness. She shows proper respect for the past without being a prisoner of the past. Barbara demonstrates impressive resilience, strength and the ability to keep looking ahead despite widowhood, bad dates, and the death of a dog. Her unwillingness to accept cliche roles dictated by age, custom or gender are important lessons for everyone.

I don't want to concentrate only on the inspirational aspects of the book, because it is a LOT OF FUN. I read the Kindle version on a bumpy train ride. I was tired and woozy. A lesser book would have made me turn off my iPad. With Barbara's book, I kept tapping to turn the electronic pages to see what happens next. The woman sitting next to me wondered what was making me laugh and she started reading along with me. I read faster than she did, and let her catch up before I turned the pages.

Although I didn't "get" the cover illustration (it's apparently a chick thing) and at times I thought I was overhearing a conversation that was meant just for women (number of bras owned, evaluating a man's butt), at other times I thought Barbara was talking directly to me.

Buy the book and hear what Barbara has to say to you. You won't be disappointed.

I buy about two books each week, and finish about three books each week. At this time, I buy about 90% ebooks and 10% pbooks. A year ago I was only about 40% e.
 
Despite my intense consumption of words, I doubt that I've read more than a couple of works of fiction since I was in college. I was part of the class of '68 -- just like Billy Clinton, Georgie Bush and Donny Trump -- so college was a long time ago.

I'm not sure why this is so, but I seem to have developed two parallel media streams.
 
The nonfiction books I read are often as entertaining and exciting as they are educational and informative. If I want pure relaxation, I watch television or movies -- but I don't read novels.

I know it seems weird, so a few ago I decided to read a novel.

I had encountered author Susan G. Bell on the SheWrites website. Susan mentioned her new novel, When the Getting was Good, which dealt with Wall Street trading in the 1980s, and a woman in a largely men's world.

As one of the few testically equipped members of SheWrites, I can empathize with those in the gender minority. I also enjoyed the "Wall Street," "Barbarians at the Gate" and "The Bonfires of the Vanities" movies, and Susan's book has received excellent reviews. It seemed like a good candidate for my test.

I had one other motive. The book was published by Author House, and I was curious to see the quality of a book they produced.

I had one reservation. The focus of the cover illustration is a woman, and the title is in a pinkish text box. Those are pretty good signs of chick-lit -- which I would normally avoid.

Susan and I had some prepurchase discussion online.

She said: "I don't think my novel is chick-lit, though I'm not completely sure what that term means; I've had positive responses from men too, and I hope that you will feel the same.  While I hope women younger than I am will enjoy reading When the Getting Was Good, it's not chick lit . . . though there is a rectangle of pink on the cover. A friend, who is director of an angel investment network for women entrepreneurs, likes Kate Munro -- my novel's heroine -- specifically because she is strong, balanced, and 'not neurotic, a nymphomaniac, or a bitch.' Not that there's anything wrong with that type of protagonist, but I wanted to tell the story of how a strong woman responds to a dilemma in her work place."

So, with much apparently in its favor, I paid Amazon $18.89 and received the book.

Susan is a skilled and entertaining writer who knows her subject perfectly well. She creates believable dialog and I could easily get inside the physical environments she invented. It's a perfectly good novel and well worth the praise it received from others.

BUT... I just could not "get into it."


Apparently, at age 64, I had the patience of a two-year-old.

I've been conditioned by years of watching "Law & Order," "Bones," "Crossing Jordan," "The Closer," "The Mentalist," "Criminal Minds," "NCIS" and "CSI" -- where we see a corpse before the first commercial; and James Bond movies with dozens of corpses and at least one gorgeous woman before the title comes on screen.

  • When I'm reading nonfiction, a leisurely narrative is just fine.
  • But when I'm in the fiction mode, my brain automatically craves ACTION -- and there were no car crashes or murders in the first few pages to hook me on Susan's book.
Page four presented another problem. Susan wrote: "Jim still had the bearing of the college athlete he'd once been. His expensive cotton shirt, boldly striped in sapphire blue, fit snugly, accentuating what good shape he was in."

That sure seems like a sign of chick-lit, or gay-lit
.
I'm a happy, horny heterosexual. I'm a 100% supporter of women's rights and gay rights, but I am a bit uncomfortable reading about shapely men in tight shirts, whether they're expensive cotton or cheap polyester.

I'm much more comfortable reading about shapely women in tight shirts, or with no shirts.

 
I may have been conditioned by sexist literature since I was very young. My parents bought me the Tom Swift books -- not Nancy Drew books.

I'm not a sexist. In fact, I'm a feminist. But I am the product of the 1950s culture and I don't like reading about men viewed through the eyes of a woman.
 
I bought Susan's book as I said I would. I promised to read it, and I started to read it . . . but I could not continue.

Apparently, the combination of chick-lit and fiction is a fatal diet for me.

This guy's mixed experiences with chick-lit

Chick-lit (not to be confused with candy-coated Chiclets gum), is literature written to be read by chicks. Chick-lit is the text equivalent of chick flicks. The books are often romantic and usually written for women in their 20s and 30s. There are sub-genres for teen, matron, Latina, Christian and Asian chicks. I'm not sure if lesbian books are considered chick-lit.

Most guys don't like chick-lit or chick flicks, even if they like chicks. It's usually easy to avoid chick-lit by reading the title and/or looking at the cover. 


The “bodice-ripper” novel is a popular genre, and the covers generally follow a strict formula. There's very sensual, decorative type that may be hard to read. The primary image is usually a male hunk with long hair and no shirt, and a good-looking, long-haired woman in old-fashioned clothing with some exposed skin. Illustrations are more common than photographs. The name of the author is often fake and often larger than the title.



On the other hand, a book for guys (at least for straight guys) is less frilly, and likely to have simple type and primary colors.

Another way to detect chick lit is to scan the reviews on Amazon. If almost all of the positive reviews are from chicks, and you have a penis, you should probably find something else to read.

However, I do have a penis and I've read three pieces of chick-lit, and liked two of them very much.

My most recent immersion in chick-lit is Star Crossed, a memoir by Bette Isacoff. Set in New England in the late 60s, Star Crossed is the poignant, funny, and inspirational chronicle of an interfaith courtship at a time when interfaith love was exotic and forbidden.
 
When Bette met Richard in 1968, he was a seventeen-year-old Jewish kid. She, at twenty-one, was a Catholic college senior doing a practice-teaching assignment at his high school. Seven weeks later, they were engaged. To say their two-year courtship was ill-received is an understatement. After graduation, Bette did not have the option of getting her own apartment. Instead she returned home, to parents determined to break up the unlikely couple. She was denied all contact with Richard. He was told to find a Jewish girl. The harder their families tried to pull them apart, the tighter they clung together.


This couple faced not one impediment to marriage, but four: religion, age (at a developmental stage when it is significant), education level, and the tenor of the times—a culture in which Jews and Catholics rarely married “outside.” Throw into the mix outraged parents, scornful siblings, snickering friends, legal obstacles, uncooperative clergy . . . and still, they persevered. With secret post office boxes, clandestine meetings, and Bette’s extended family, who conspired with Richard against their own blood kin, the curious relationship was nurtured.


In the last decade, 45% of all U.S. marriages have been between people of different faiths.1 Today there are a number of books about the technicalities of blending an interfaith family. Yet this is the only book written from the perspective of a blissful, hugely successful forty-three year marriage that has withstood all the naysayers and skeptics. Cross-generational as well as cross-cultural, Star Crossed speaks to young men and women considering or entering an interfaith relationship; it challenges the old order espoused by their parents; and it is a nostalgic look back to a simpler time.

Star Crossed is a love story a man can enjoy.

I knew Richard, the boy who became the man it was written about. Men who read this book may be jealous of Richard because of Bette's mixture of love and writing ability. I wish someone would write a book like this about me.
 


Here's some weird fiction and reality: In a chapter in my own memoir, Stories I'd Tell My Children (but maybe not until they're adults), I tell about my time as a Jewish high school senior dating an older Catholic student-teacher from Albertus Magnus College. That chapter is fiction, but was real for Bette and Richard. The real Bette attended the same college as my fictional girlfriend. No, Bette and I did not collaborate. This is just a coincidence. Wow.

(By the way, Bette gets extra points for a perfect cover image that reinforces the title much better than on most of the books I see.)

Barbara Barth's The Unfaithful Widow is a collection of essays and fragmented thoughts on finding joy again after the loss of a mate. A memoir of the first year alone written with warmth and laughter, no subject is taboo. From dealing with the funeral home (Can I show your our upgraded cremation package?) to dating again (He ran in the door, looked at me and said “I’ve left something in my car.” He never returned). Sprinkle in a bevy of rescue dogs (Finally a good nights sleep with someone new in my bed.) and those questions you hate to ask (Condoms anyone?). A story for anyone who has suffered loss and is determined to become their own super hero.

Barbara says "The Unfaithful Widow will make your heart ache while tickling your ribs." She's right.

In her review, Audrey Frank said, "This is a book for anyone who has a void to fill in her life."

That's much too limiting.

No void is necessary, and the book is not just for females. It's a book for anyone seeking entertainment and anyone who might benefit from inspiration to keep going. It's also for everyone who likes dogs and soft-core dirty talk.

Barbara Barth is a master (mistress?) storyteller, with an uncanny ability to recall or recreate dialog. She is able to pluck humor from sadness. She shows proper respect for the past without being a prisoner of the past. Barbara demonstrates impressive resilience, strength and the ability to keep looking ahead despite widowhood, bad dates, and the death of a dog. Her unwillingness to accept cliche roles dictated by age, custom or gender are important lessons for everyone.

I don't want to concentrate only on the inspirational aspects of the book, because it is a LOT OF FUN. I read the Kindle version on a bumpy train ride. I was tired and woozy. A lesser book would have made me turn off my iPad. With Barbara's book, I kept tapping to turn the electronic pages to see what happens next. The woman sitting next to me wondered what was making me laugh and she started reading along with me. I read faster than she did, and let her catch up before I turned the pages.

Although I didn't "get" the cover illustration (it's apparently a chick thing) and at times I thought I was overhearing a conversation that was meant just for women (number of bras owned, evaluating a man's butt), at other times I thought Barbara was talking directly to me.

Buy the book and hear what Barbara has to say to you. You won't be disappointed.

I buy about two books each week, and finish about three books each week. At this time, I buy about 90% ebooks and 10% pbooks. A year ago I was only about 40% e.
 
Despite my intense consumption of words, I doubt that I've read more than a couple of works of fiction since I was in college. I was part of the class of '68 -- just like Billy Clinton, Georgie Bush and Donny Trump -- so college was a long time ago.

I'm not sure why this is so, but I seem to have developed two parallel media streams.
 
The nonfiction books I read are often as entertaining and exciting as they are educational and informative. If I want pure relaxation, I watch television or movies -- but I don't read novels.

I know it seems weird, so a few ago I decided to read a novel.

I had encountered author Susan G. Bell on the SheWrites website. Susan mentioned her new novel, When the Getting was Good, which dealt with Wall Street trading in the 1980s, and a woman in a largely men's world.

As one of the few testically equipped members of SheWrites, I can empathize with those in the gender minority. I also enjoyed the "Wall Street," "Barbarians at the Gate" and "The Bonfires of the Vanities" movies, and Susan's book has received excellent reviews. It seemed like a good candidate for my test.

I had one other motive. The book was published by Author House, and I was curious to see the quality of a book they produced.

I had one reservation. The focus of the cover illustration is a woman, and the title is in a pinkish text box. Those are pretty good signs of chick-lit -- which I would normally avoid.

Susan and I had some prepurchase discussion online.

She said: "I don't think my novel is chick-lit, though I'm not completely sure what that term means; I've had positive responses from men too, and I hope that you will feel the same.  While I hope women younger than I am will enjoy reading When the Getting Was Good, it's not chick lit . . . though there is a rectangle of pink on the cover. A friend, who is director of an angel investment network for women entrepreneurs, likes Kate Munro -- my novel's heroine -- specifically because she is strong, balanced, and 'not neurotic, a nymphomaniac, or a bitch.' Not that there's anything wrong with that type of protagonist, but I wanted to tell the story of how a strong woman responds to a dilemma in her work place."

So, with much apparently in its favor, I paid Amazon $18.89 and received the book.

Susan is a skilled and entertaining writer who knows her subject perfectly well. She creates believable dialog and I could easily get inside the physical environments she invented. It's a perfectly good novel and well worth the praise it received from others.

BUT... I just could not "get into it."


Apparently, at age 64, I had the patience of a two-year-old.

I've been conditioned by years of watching "Law & Order," "Bones," "Crossing Jordan," "The Closer," "The Mentalist," "Criminal Minds," "NCIS" and "CSI" -- where we see a corpse before the first commercial; and James Bond movies with dozens of corpses and at least one gorgeous woman before the title comes on screen.

  • When I'm reading nonfiction, a leisurely narrative is just fine.
  • But when I'm in the fiction mode, my brain automatically craves ACTION -- and there were no car crashes or murders in the first few pages to hook me on Susan's book.
Page four presented another problem. Susan wrote: "Jim still had the bearing of the college athlete he'd once been. His expensive cotton shirt, boldly striped in sapphire blue, fit snugly, accentuating what good shape he was in."

That sure seems like a sign of chick-lit, or gay-lit
.
I'm a happy, horny heterosexual. I'm a 100% supporter of women's rights and gay rights, but I am a bit uncomfortable reading about shapely men in tight shirts, whether they're expensive cotton or cheap polyester.

I'm much more comfortable reading about shapely women in tight shirts, or with no shirts.

 
I may have been conditioned by sexist literature since I was very young. My parents bought me the Tom Swift books -- not Nancy Drew books.

I'm not a sexist. In fact, I'm a feminist. But I am the product of the 1950s culture and I don't like reading about men viewed through the eyes of a woman.
 
I bought Susan's book as I said I would. I promised to read it, and I started to read it . . . but I could not continue.

Apparently, the combination of chick-lit and fiction is a fatal diet for me.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Academy Award nominations for just a few words: sex, ego, headline, history, sex, drugs, dialog



"I'm a slut, not a murderer": suspect on Bones.


"I have come here to chew bubblegum and kick ass -- and I'm all out of bubble gum."
: Rowdy Roddy Piper




"Victim of Dog-Authorized Anal Assault Receives $1.6 million settlement": Forbes.com 



“Over?  Did you say ‘over’? Nothing is over until we decide it is! Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor? Hell no!”: John Belushi as Bluto Blutarsky in Animal House

  

“Women need a reason to have sex. Men just need a place.”: Billy Crystal as Mitch Robbins in City Slickers 



“Foul-mouthed? Fuck you!”: Eddie Murphy as Axel Foley in Beverly Hills Cop
  

 
“Opinions are like assholes. Everybody has one.”: Clint Eastwood as “Dirty” Harry Callahan in The Dead Pool 


 
“She thinks I’m a pervert because I drank our water bed.” “Stop whining and eat your shiksa.”: Woody Allen as Miles Monroe in Sleeper



“There was a moment last night, when she was sandwiched be­tween the two Finnish dwarves and the Maori tribesmen, where I thought, wow, I could really spend the rest of my life with this woman.”: Ben Stiller as Derek Zoolander in Zoolander 



“I have a penis and a brain and only enough blood to run one at a time.”: Robin Williams on the Tonight Show 


 
“Listen, let’s get one thing straight. In the hours you’re here taking care of my mother, no ganja.”: James Gandolfini as Tony Soprano in The Sopranos 


 
“Fuck ’em if they can’t take a joke.”: various people, including me. (No, that's not me. It just looks a bit like me.)
 



-----

police car photo from KOB TV, Thanx.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Hyp-hena-ti-on c-an b-e h-ila-rio-us. B-e ca-ref-ul


I take a perverse joy in discovering stupid hyphenations produced by Microsoft Word. One recent discovery is "bin-aural," instead of "bi-naural." It's not as good as "the-rapist," "of-fline" "fi-ne" and "proo-freader," but is worth including in my li-st.

Microsoft, however, is not the only offender. The New York Daily News has presented us with a powerful piece of innovative typography:

iP-hone

Ebooks, where word flow is controlled by software -- not sentient beings -- produce some gems. I recently savored a wonderful memoir, the Kindle edition of The Brothers Emanuel, by Ezekiel J. "Zeke" Emanuel. On one page I encountered "swit-ching." Is it related to the I Ching?

Automatic hyphenation by ebook readers is both funny and sad. I’ve seen “booksto-re,” “disappoin-ting, “depen-ding” and “increa-sing” -- within a few pages in the same book.

Microsoft Word often seems to guess or to follow a rule based on recognizable patterns rather than consult an internal dictionary. It sometimes makes bad guesses. Word 2010 is a little bit better than 2007. 


[above] Strangely, hyphenation is debatable. Microsoft Word and Dictionary.com accept “eve-ryone.” Merriam-Webster does not. Neither do I. My own rule for hyphenation is that the first part of a hyphenated word should not be pronounced differently by itself than when it’s part of a larger word. I think most people expect “eve” to be pronounced “eev”—not “ev” or ev-uh.” The “eve” in “eve-ning” is not pronounced like the “eve” in “eve-ryone.”

Word’s hyphenation system sometimes makes bad guesses and you’ll have to overrule its decisions. Proofread very carefully and never have complete faith in robots.

“The-rapist” is my favorite abomination sanctioned by Microsoft. I also really like “of-fline” “who-lesaler,” “Fa-cebook,” “books-tore,” “upl-oad,” “wastel-and,” “proo-freading,” “apo-strophe,” “li-mited,” “identic-al,” “firs-thand,” “fru-strating,” “whe-never,” “foo-ter,” “miles-tone,” “grays-cale,” “distri-bute,” “percen-tage,” “prin-ter,” “fami-liarity,” “misunders-tanding,” “mi-nimize,” “sa-les,” “me-thod,” “libra-rian,” “mi-spronounced,” “alt-hough” and “bet-ween.”

Word often assumes that the letter “e” indicates the end of a syllable as in “be-come” and causes errors like “Ste-ve,” “the-se,” “cre-dit” and “se-tup.”

Word recognizes that “par” is a common syllable, 

which leads to “par-chment.” Maybe Bill Gates retired too soon.  Someone has to fix this stuff.

You may want to override Word’s hyphenation decision with “heteronyms” -- words that are spelled the same way but have two meanings and are pronounced in two ways. Word gives you “min-ute” when you want “mi-nute” and rec-ord even if you want “re-cord.” The automatic hyphenation “inva-lid” makes it seem like you are writing about someone who is ailing, not an “in-valid” contract. Word 2007 and 2010 won’t hyphenate either “Po-lish” or “pol-ish.”

Word’s automatic hyphenation can give weird results with proper names, such as “Fe-dex,” “Publi-shAmerica” and “Pa-nasonic.”

The free “Writer” software from Open Office has problems, too. It produced “unders-tanding.”

I once read a book that advised, “If you do not use a professional your manuscript will not be perfect. Do not proofread it yourself and declare it perfect.” The professional approved “loo-ked,” “winso-me” and “proo-freader.” Ouch.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Simon & Schuster attempted to bribe me. Should I call the cops? What about misleading advertising, incest and conflict of interest?




I have frequently written about the expansion of Author Solutions, Inc ("ASI"). It has become the pay-to-publish behemoth by gobbling up and combining former competitors such as Wordclay and Trafford and doing deals with traditional publishers including Harlequin and Hay House, and even Writer's Digest magazine. There are many complaints online about ASI from its author-customers and I wrote a detailed commentary about a particularly shitty book published by ASI's "top" Xlibris brand.

I wrote about formerly respectable publisher Simon & Schuster doing a deal with the devil by setting up Archway Publishing, a pay-to-publish brand operated by ASI. Since then, ASI was bought by Pearson (owner of Penguin and other traditional publishers) for $116 million -- at about the same time that Penguin was merging with competitor Random House. Penguin has set up Partridge Publishing to serve self-publishing authors in Asia

It's logical to assume that even more self-pub labels will appear -- as false competitors. ASI sends out email and operates websites that appear to help writers decide among various self-publishing companies -- but all of the possible recommendations are ASI brands!
  • Even weirder, we now have the strange situation where the combined Penguin-Random will profit when writers pay up to $24,999 to competitor Simon & Schuster on a money-losing, ego-driven fantasy to become a "published author." 
  • Will the stockholders and directors of Simon & Schuster object to Archway enriching Random Penguin in an apparent conflict of interest?
  • Is it corruption when Writer's Digest reviews a book published by Abbot Press or another ASI brand? Will the magazine ignore a book that competes with an Abbot book or an Archway book?
  • Is it incest (or just a violation of basic playground rules of fair play) if Simon & Schuster tries to 'adopt' a book published by Abbot or Westbow Press, Balboa Press or DellArte Press -- the offspring of ASI and other "traditional" publishers? Would that be like Woody Allen marrying Soon-Yi Previn?
  • How soon will the New York Times, Publishers Weekly and Kirkus Reviews do deals with ASI? ASI is eager to find new partners. It says: "we develop everything including the initial website design, products and services and the lead generation plan. In addition, we provide all sales, production, fulfillment and customer support. These imprints . . . present an unmatched opportunity for the partner to discover new talent cost-efficiently.
And now, more sleaze:

A while ago I (and some other people who write blogs
aimed at authors) received emails about Archway from Veda Kumarjiguda, "digital coordinator" at Simon & Schuster.

When I read the first paragraph and the first two sentences in the second paragraph I assumed that someone smart at S&S had discovered that I had said terrible things about Archway -- and was reaching out to try to change my opinion. Maybe Veda wanted me to know that S&S is sensitive to criticism and has decided to turn things around, to produce high-quality books at reasonable prices with good service to authors.

But, no! S&S was offering me a bribe (which they call a "bounty") if I help the company extract money from eager and naive writers.


Dear Michael,

Simon & Schuster recently launched Archway Publishing as a new type of offering for self-publishing authors. With services delivered by Author Solutions, Archway was developed to help authors achieve their publishing goals and reach their desired audience. S&S has provided guidelines on book design, introduced certain unique self-publishing services, designed packages tailored to meet specific author objectives, and will monitor titles for potential acquisition.

Your blog is an important resource to help authors navigate the variety of self-publishing options. We believe Archway is a unique new service for authors, and would be valued by your readers. The Archway Affiliate Program enables partners to earn a $100 bounty for each author they refer who publishes with Archway.  Click here  to learn more about the affiliate program.  In addition, we'd like to extend to your audience a 10% discount off any Archway package, when referred though affiliate links on your site.  We can also create contests, webinars, and creative for your site, or discuss other ways to work together.

Please let me know if you have time for a brief call and visit www.archwaypublishing.com to learn more about Archway.

You're probably expecting me to provide some lame humor based on "Mutiny on the Bounty," so here it is:

So, no, Veda, I will not be bribed. I will not accept money to help you get customers. In fact, I will work even harder to help you fail.

However, there is a way I would try to help you and would send customers to you (and you don't have to pay me a penny).

  • Just publish good books and treat authors right. It's not that difficult.

There must be someone at S&S who knows how to do the right thing. Please find her and put her in charge of Archway.



Friday, January 16, 2015

Was Otis Redding's ass wet when he sat on the dock of the bay?



Otis Redding sang "(Sittin') On the Dock of the Bay." It's a very nice song, but the key lyric makes no sense to people with nautical knowledge.
  • Nitpickers like me know that Otis was sitting on a pier, or maybe a wharf or a jetty or a quay.
  • The actual dock is the space in the water next to whatever Otis was sitting on.
  • Non-nitpickers are free to sit or stand on docks.
(below) We have "dry docks" in addition to the more common wet docks.

And, of course, Star Ships visit space docks.


Er...what's up, Doc?


Thursday, January 15, 2015

Should you trust the New York Times or the Associated Press? Or neither?


The Associated Press is a non-profit cooperative news-gathering organization founded in 1846. That's when five New York City newspapers financed a pony-express route to bring news of the Mexican War north more quickly than the Post Office could. 

The New York Times became a member in 1851. It has not decided to quit the AP in more than a century and a half.

The Times both uses news supplied by AP reporters, and makes news available to other media via the AP.

The Times and the AP compete in the publication of writing "style" books. I own, use, like and recommend both books.



A while ago, working from the same information, The New York Times ("the newspaper of record") and the Associated Press ("the largest and oldest news organization in the world")  came up with very different headlines (up at the top).

You can believe the one you prefer -- or neither of them.

(Yes, I know that a college and a university are not the same thing, but apparently the headline writers didn't care about the difference.)

This reminds me of the time when I was an editor at Rolling Stone magazine in Manhattan in the early 1970s. I walked up Madison Avenue to get to my office at 78 East 56th Street. There was a point where I could see giant clocks on both the Newsweek Building and the IBM Building. The clocks were often more than two minutes apart. I can't remember them ever agreeing.

Whom do we trust?

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

I was propositioned on Craigslist by two gay guys and someone promoting a sex fetish club




I've recently used Craigslist to sell an old motor scooter, an older bicycle and a picnic table.

I've also listed some furniture and an assortment of hooks, shelves and other display devices for the "slatwall" panels often used in stores.


I got some stupid questions, some too-low offers, and some sexy emails:

From Arthur Delgado: I saw your post and thought I would give this a shot. Im all yours tomorrow after work around 3:30pm ish so let's have dinner. My cell # is 445-XXXX (last four digits redacted) so text me. Can you send me your pictures to my cell so I know you are real and I will reply back with mine too. I even uploaded a video for you on my profile, do you like it? I promise Im not a weirdo just want to become friends and maybe more!"
  • I'm relieved to know that Arthur is "not a weirdo."

From Todd Mitchell: I read your ad and decided to ask you something important. I am married and caught my partner cheating on me so I must get even! My coworker said cl would be the best place to find somebody who I can hook up with for one time only so thought the hell, I would email someone I thought sounded incredible in the ad and came across yours! You seem real and interesting so would you be maybe interested in chatting online first to see if we're feeling each other? To prove to you that I am real, I uploaded all of my pix, phone #, and a special note for you only under my private profile page. Can you call me today if you think I am hot? This way I can weed out bots and scammers as I'm sick of them! I bet you'll be astonished to see who I am! :)
  • Hmm, I wonder if I can fix up Arthur and Todd. I wonder if they need any shelf brackets or hooks.

But wait -- there's more. This came in from Jeffrey King:

Are you real? This might be unusual but I see that you live nearby and was inquiring if you would like to join our secret adult fun club. Basically we are seeking out local members with needs to test their sexual fetishes or sexual needs in 5 star hotels. You'll be introduced to lots of hotties and you will pair up with whoever you want. There's no cost, very discreet and safe!

One and only thing we do require is that you must create a free adult facebook profile to verify that you are not underage and local. That is all. Once you do so, sexy locals will send you a private message with their phone # and pictures. Why don't you see to see who's available for you? You'll be surprised!
...

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Authors: do you know about oldstyle and newer styles?

You’ve probably been unaware — or maybe dimly aware — that some numbers are the same height as uppercase letters and some are the same height as lowercase letters; and some — not all — of the smaller ones have ascenders and descenders.

Below is a comparison of the numbers in two serif faces,  Times New Roman ("TNR") and Constantia:


The full-height numbers are called lining numbers, and the variable-height numbers are called old oldstyle figures. In the years shown on the coins below, the American penny used oldstyle figures and the Canadian penny had lining numbers.




The advantage of oldstyle figures is that they don’t POP OUT from the text like uppercase letters, but instead blend in with the words. Strangely, the digits 6 and 8 are the same  height in both systems, so “6668886868” would pop out just as much in TNR as in Constantia.

If you are using a face with lining numbers in a large size where you want to decrease the line spacing, you must allow more space than with numbers without descenders.
If you are using a face with oldstyle figures in text, you can have a problem if you have a reference to a zero (o) which looks just like the letter “o.” Temporarily switch to another face with a full-height zero.



Some “expert set” type packages for faces that normally use oldstyle numbers also include lining numbers to provide extra design freedom.

(from my upcomng Typography for Independent Publishers.)