Sunday, July 8, 2018

Climate Change: Will We Ever Do Anything?

I saw this quote in an article today:

“We didn’t trigger climate change on purpose. It was an accident. Any technological civilization that evolves on any planet cannot help but trigger climate change. Climate change is not our fault. Not doing something about it — that will be our fault.”

-- Astrophysicist Adam Frank

It seems the right-wing wants to deny it even exists - they do this by discrediting the scientists, even science itself! That's a loser attitude. The right-wing war against facts, against science, against expertise has to be squelched. We can use our brains to apply better technology to try and mitigate the effects of climate change, even if it's too late to stop it altogether. Let's get started.

Read the entire article.

Learned Something New: Railroad Drumheads

I went to the Monticello Railroad Museum Saturday, July 7. It was a perfect day and I had a great time. They had a display of railroad drumheads. I had never heard the term before. These things were placed on the back of passenger trains to identify them. They were also lit so they would be visible at night. I suppose they were valuable to railroad personnel - it might have been a way to know which train was what, but I imagine they were also used as advertising. It's hard to tell from the pictures, but they were about 2 feet in diameter.

I like the idea of naming trains. I also thought they were beautiful as art - simple, bold, my kind of graphic design!

Monday, June 25, 2018

Self-Publishing: Some Harsh Criticism!

I'm back from sunny, cool and dry Lake Tahoe! So far, a little humidity actually feels good, but I'm sure I will be back to whining later in the summer.

A couple of articles caught my eye today:

"A lot of people should never be published. It’s a harsh thing to say, but there are people who simply don’t know how to convey an idea, an image or an emotion ... There are plenty of writers who should be published but don’t believe in their own words enough to approach publishers. In a similar way, there are a lot of writers whose writing isn’t up to scratch, who believe nothing better has been written under the sun."

I will say that I know my clients get their books edited, and some pay a lot of money and devote a lot of time to that process. The author is mainly talking about people who write and immediately publish afterward - no editing, possibly no revision. Like I do when I click "Publish" on this blog! 😀

Read Steven Mehler's take on whether self-publishing is ruining the art of writing.

* * *

How has self-publishing changed? Nicole Dieker writes about how the industry has changed between her first and second book. From the article:

"The book industry is partly kept afloat by a shadow economy in which the main currency is bullshit."

Read her entire article.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Hybrid Publishing Advice from Jane Friedman

From her post:

  • Some services have started calling themselves “hybrid publishers” because it sounds more fashionable and savvy, yet offer low-quality results and service. 
  • Most marketing and publicity service packages, while well-meaning, are not worth your investment. 
  • Avoid companies that take advantage of author inexperience and use high-pressure sales tactics, such as AuthorSolutions imprints (AuthorHouse, iUniverse, WestBow, Archway, and others). 
  • To check the reputation of a service, search for Mick Rooney’s Independent Publishing Magazine website.
Read the entire article, which also contains advice regarding traditional big-5 and small press publishing:

Monday, June 11, 2018

More Evidence People Suck: More Scams to Fleece Writers

Two articles caught my eye today during my daily scan of various blogs:

So-called hybrid publishing

"Because of indie publishing, the old vanity presses are reinventing themselves to look like hybrid small publishers or publishing service providers."

Your book could be a movie!

"These people are asking an indie author to pay a huge amount of money to a screenwriter to write a screenplay based on a self-published book."

Read the entire article.


"Bad players in our industry prey upon unsuspecting independent authors by disguising themselves as traditional publishing houses and using deceptive marketing tactics ...  They take advantage of new authors’ naivete, peddle false promises, sometimes even swindling them into signing away the rights to their manuscripts. Then, they leave the author with a fat bill ... Some companies will host faux writing or book contests for big cash prizes or the chance of a lucrative publishing contract. These contests are usually a front for piracy or for trying to get their marketing hooks into you. Don’t buy into them."

Read the entire article.

Please, think before you sign up.

P.S. - I say more evidence people suck because I read about a dog-fighting ring that kidnaps people's pets and heard a podcast about human trafficking (someone in the area tried to buy a 14 year old girl for sex!) right here in my own backyard. So, I have a somewhat sour view of people right now.

Saturday, June 9, 2018


I've expanded my presence on Goodreads. I beefed up my profile description, indicated my preferred genres (cheap, trashy novels wasn't one of the options, but I did the best I could) and found some more friends. I've struggled with the marketing side of self-publishing since I formatted my first book 5 years ago. I've read that authors (and publishers) need an active social media presence. But where? Some "experts" say Facebook, some Twitter, and some Instagram. Goodreads is rarely mentioned. As of September 2017, Goodreads reported 65 million members. That's only 3% of Facebook's 2.19 billion users. But, those 65 million users are mostly readers, prone to buying books - and reviewing them. (How many of your Facebook friends are avid readers?) I have read books about advertising that say you should go where your customers already are to get the word out. It seems apparent to me that authors, publishers and readers should spend more time interacting on Goodreads. I don't mean you should abandon other social media outlets, but shift some time toward Goodreads. If you love books and reading, the conversations are bound to be more stimulating that yet more posts about President CombOver! 😃

Writers: Too Easy to Fleece

Writers, especially those desperate for publication and validation, are easy targets. There is a business model based on this! Two examples of this business model in action: hybrid publishing and writing contests.

Hybrid Publishing

It used to be called vanity publishing. The 21st century name for it is hybrid publishing. A friend of mine sent his manuscript out looking for an agent or publisher. So far, one has responded. They claim his book has been reviewed and chosen, but really they have chosen him to be a customer. For around $2,400 they will publish his book. The price itself is not outrageous. I've been through this process a number of times now and believe it's difficult to adequately self-publish a book for less that that. Even though the number sounds right, there is still more work to do before you sign up.
  • Check the Better Business Bureau website ( and search for the company. Check the Writer Beware® website ( I check both of these, in addition to a google search, to see if their offer is a scam or if there are lots of complaints about their service. 
  • Can the publisher execute? Look closely at their website. Is it well done? Do they do a good job promoting their own books on their own website? Look at their books on Amazon. How do the covers and the marketing descriptions look? Buy one of their books, or at least check out a few pages using the "Look Inside" feature, to see how well they edited the book. Just because it's a low price doesn't mean it's a good value.
  • Finally, pay close attention to the terms of the deal, the fine print. What rights are you giving up? For how long? What is your cut? How often will you be paid (Createspace pays monthly)? Is everything clearly defined? For example, my friend's deal stated he would receive 50% of the net profits. We could not find any definition of net profit. I would want to know. How much, if any, control will you have over the final edit and the cover?
My bottom line: If you are going to spend that much money self-publishing anyway, why not get all the profits and have all the control over the finished product? What value is there in going with a no-name publisher who is charging you for the privilege?


Poets & Writers magazine had an article in the May / June 2018 edition about writing contests. P&W studied 651 contests held in 2017. 514 charged a median entry fee of $20. The remaining 137 charged no fee at all. The 514 that charged a fee paid out $1,855,875 in prize money. The 137 that charged no fee paid out $5,154,660! The big difference: 77% of the sponsors of the no-fee contests were non-profits or universities. The majority of the fee-charging contests were sponsored by private companies seeking to profit. My bottom line: never, ever pay a fee to enter a writing contest. Just don't do it. Let's boycott the fee-charging contests and make them go away.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Wednesday, June 6, 2018, Architecture Foundation Tour

I went downtown today to take the Chicago Architecture Foundation Modern Masterpieces:
Marina City and the IBM Building tour. The weather was quite variable. Nice on the train ride down and the walk to lunch at O'Briens on the riverwalk, The clouds darkened at lunch and the beginning of the tour, getting really nice again at the end of the tour and walk back to the train station.

Looking northeast from my seat at lunch on Chicago's riverwalk.

Looking northwest at lunch. Note the darkening skies. Marina Towers are the
round buildings on the left and the IBM building is the black monolith on the right.

The State Street bridge is raised to let some sailboats through while I ate. The bridges
are massive and awesome when raised.

Looking southwest from Marina Towers.

Straight up at the east tower of
Marina Towers and the IBM
Building east of it. 

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Lynne Handy's Latest Book is Now Available!

Lynne Handy's latest book, Let Us Be Raucous, is now available on Amazon! I played a small part in its production - I did the interior design and assembled the cover (though the cover art itself, and all the illustrations inside, are Lynne's). I did read some of it as I formatted the interior and there is some powerful stuff in here.

Note: If you click on the link and buy this book, I get a tiny, tiny commission! I am part of the Amazon Associates program. Occasionally I will promote or review a book and usually the link will earn me a commission if you buy the book. Don't see any bad reviews? I rarely finish a book that isn't worth my time. I give them until about page 50 or so before I decide that life is too short. If I don't read the whole book, I don't review it.

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Summer morning in Geneva, Illinois:

Graham's Ice Cream. It's only 9-something, but soon these chairs will be occupied with people eating ice cream.

Perfect morning to sit outside and consume your morning caffeine! 

Waiting for the train into the city; I suspect they are hoping it's cooler by the lake.

I'm Just a Mid-Century Modern Kind of Guy

On Wednesday (May 23, 2018), I went into Chicago to take a Chicago Architecture Foundation tour of the Inland Steel Building. Built in 1958, it is a classic example of modern architecture. It was a beautiful day to go into the city, as I hope the pictures show.

Willis Tower, or as I will always call it: the Sears Building

Stunning day. Lots of people out!

Sailboats heading out to Lake Michigan for the summer, waiting for the bridge to go up.

Lots of boat traffic on a gorgeous day!

Just a picture of buildings because it's my blog and I can.
The Inland Steel Building

Artwork in the lobby, added when the building was built.
Radiant One by Richard Lippold

Radiant One - foreground.
Blood Mirror by Anish Kapoor, added in 2017 in background.

Shot of the lobby from Monroe - no columns in the interior of the building
makes great light and feeling of open space!

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Do You Need An SSL?


I received an email today that looked like this from my web hosting company:

You may have received one also. If not, you probably will. Google is changing things a bit in July and sites that do not utilize a secure, encrypted connection will contain a "Not Secure" designation. You can tell a secure site from an unsecure site by the URL. If the URL contains "https//," it's a secured site and the information to it is encrypted. If the URL contains "http://," it isn't secured. Sites are already labeled as not secured. Today, the website shows this on some browsers. Look in the upper left corner, next to the URL. It says Not Secure. I think in July you're going to see that and the little triangle, in red or yellow, to highlight it.

You can click the little "i" next to the Not Secure phrase to get an explanation.

As you can see, it says that you should not enter any sensitive information on this site, like passwords or credit card information.

Should you care about all this?

If your site is display-only, probably not. Will people be put off when they see "Not Secure" on your site? I bet most won't even notice. It's likely they don't notice now. People will probably learn not to enter data on sites that aren't secure, but will probably not stop going to sites that show that warning. If your site does take credit card information, requires a sign on to interact, or takes email addresses, then you may have a problem. If you sell things off your site, but all your payment transactions are handled by Paypal (for example - there are other options that are also secure), you may have to explain it a little better on your site, but you should be OK. If you have a newsletter signup, you may want to switch and use the Mailchimp or Constant Contact signup page (which is secured) rather than your own. So, you might have to make some minor tweaks.

What are your options?

  1. Do nothing. If your site is a blog or a site talking about your books but you never ask for any input then you can simply leave it be. Evaluate after the July 1st change and see if it impacts your traffic.
  2. Pay your hosting company for the SSL certificate. My hosting company offers an SSL certificate for one website for $60 the first year, $75 after that. That's above the hosting fee you are already paying. 
  3. Switch. As you can see, I switched back to Google's blogspot, where I started blogging 12 years ago. Most of you that know me know I'm cheap - and blogspot is free and already offers the SSL coverage. Other options: if you are a Wordpress fan, consider moving to (that is Wordpress's hosting platform - you are probably using Wordpress on another company like GoDaddy or Bluehost). Since they are both Wordpress, the transition should be fairly smooth. Or, you could consider Squarespace or Wix, but that might require a re-do of your site. All three of these options offer SSL coverage as part of the standard offering. Previously, these options could be more expensive than hosting packages like GoDaddy or Bluehost, but after you add in the cost of the SSL coverage, it's about equal., Wix, and Squarespace offer ease of use options over hosting Wordpress on traditional hosting platforms. 

There's no reason to panic and do something immediately, despite what the ads imply (remember, they have something to sell you). You might have to make a change if you see your Google ranking take a dive (Google says it will give "more points" to secured sites) or if you hear from your fans that they are now leery of going to your site. But, I'd wait until after the July 1 transition and see what happens.