“phenomena of nature resemble the scattered leaves of the Sibylline prophecies; a word only, or a single syllable, is written on each leaf, which, when separately considered, conveys no instruction to the mind; but when, by the labor of patient investigation, every fragment is replaced in its appropriate connection, the whole begins at once to speak a perspicuous and harmonious language.” Thomas Young, Introduction to A Course of Lectures on Natural Philosophy and Mechanical Arts, 1807
(cited from The Last Man Who Knew Everything, by Andrew Robinson.)
Thomas Young (1773 – 1829) sought these clues throughout his life. A child prodigy with interest in classics and mathematics, he was, according to Wikipedia, a British polymath who made notable contributions to the fields of physics, physiology and Egyptology. As Young himself attested, these discoveries did not happen randomly, nor were they results of some “lucky guess.” In The Last Man Who Knew Everything, Young’s biographer pieces together how Young’s scientific ideas were developed, communicated and treated by his contemporaries, by later scientists and by biographers. Continue reading →
“How can publishers influence the books AISA picks?” she asked.
Scott grinned, finding Lisa’s cluelessness funny.
Answer the dumb question, Daphne told Scott in her mind. She did not like women who looked glamorous without making any visible effort, especially if they were silly and ignorant. But neither Lisa’s enviable appearance nor her questionable intelligence justified Scott’s leering smile. “Advertisement,” Daphne said when she concluded that no one else would bother to reply. From Muse Delusion (AISA stands for Artificial Intelligence Shopping Assistant.)
In April, I tried to wear a publisher’s hat and promote Muse Delusion by making the ebook free for five days on Amazon. The promotional “push” started with an announcement on this blog. Nothing happened at first, but a few hours later Muse Delusion was among the six thousand highest-ranked free ebooks on Amazon. Certainly not impressive, but at least a proof that everything worked as intended. Paid promotions on the second and third days (Fussy Librarian on April 6 and Freebooksy on April 7) made all the difference. Muse Delusion made its debut in various bestsellers charts. I watched in disbelief as it gradually climbed up in the “sales” ranking (it was free).
Well, watched is an understatement. A more realistic description is: click, refresh, check another country, click, refresh, see no change, disconnect and try to focus on something more productive; repeat the sequence. When I noticed a change, it was documented with a screenshot. This craziness started early in the morning and continued after midnight. Luckily, it ended after two days. The screenshots remain.
Muse Delusion is no longer enrolled in Kindle Unlimited, so I cannot make another free promotion. On the plus side, the ebook is now available on Kobo, Apple Books, and Barnes & Noble in addition to Amazon.
“God damn the man who shot President Kennedy!” Robbie Doyle said out loud without thinking. The class turned as one and stared at Robbie. Miss Rodgers actually dropped the book she was holding. From 29th Street South by Nicholas Rogers.
It seems that an entire generation can recall what they were doing when they heard about Kennedy’s assassination, but Robbie’s response drew me to read on. The sheer absurdity of being sent to the principal by the teacher, the conversations and the people Robbie met that day, created an illusion that I was there, watching and listening to real people. This uncanny immersion continued as the story progressed, and news headlines entwined with Robbie’s private life. I cannot say that I liked everything I read – the hatred during the civil rights demonstrations, Robbie’s friend almost raped – but the bad things did not spoil the story. It has dark moments in a rich canvas with many bright episodes.
The Changelings – a clan of educated rats – know a lot about people. People know little about rats except that they steal food and cause plagues. When the Changelings arrive to a town that suffers from a shortage of food, they find, as expected, townspeople who hate rats and want to see them gone, by whatever means that takes. But no one is prepared for what else they’ll find in the town.
On one level, “The Pied Piper of … Discworld” is a humorous take on famous fairy-tales. Both sides assume that their opponents will react like they do in fairy-tales, and the “fun” is that nothing happens as prescribed. On another level, the story deals with animal cruelty and its consequences. Survival is tricky when the bad guys do more than getting rid of rats with poison and traps.
Finally, the long anticipated novel, Muse Delusion, is published!!! (OK, long-anticipated, and written, by me).
The initial idea for the novel emerged during a family vacation in the spring break of 2015. I could practically see in my mind’s eye the members of the Hopeville Murder Club finding an unresponsive woman in an empty house, what they dreaded, and how they responded. The guy this novel is dedicated to liked the idea. He suggested that I write a lighthearted story. I wanted it to be a love story about two people who seemingly have nothing in common, a contemporary tale with a touch of Greek mythology. Five years later, the story can be distilled to this:
Theoretically, anyone who writes a book can publish it on Amazon. Practically, it’s much easier (and cheaper) to send a copy to those who want to read the book than to go through the process of publishing it. Even if one doesn’t intend to make any money off of it (e.g. by offering it for free), when an author makes their book available for the public, they probably want to it be read. Amazon’s Kindle store, with its millions of readers, sounds like the ideal venue. But with millions of books available, the odds that strangers will find a book by an unknown writer (indie or not) are dishearteningly small.
The book Amazon Decoded tackles this problem and provides indie authors with tools which increase the odds that their books will be discovered by readers. A hint – getting the “giant recommendation engine powering the Kindle Store” (the AI, for short) to put one’s book in front of potential readers is neither simple nor cheap. Nevertheless, David Gaughran argues that this is possible, and shows the pieces of puzzle involved in the process. Continue reading →
“Do. Or do not. There is no try.” -Yoda, The Empire Strikes Back
One of the things that distinguishes a classic from a random highly successful book or movie is that one can return to a classic decades after it was created and still find it engaging and relevant. The Empire Strikes Back (TESB) was a huge success when it was released in May 1980. According to Wikipedia, “The Empire Strikes Back had a significant impact on filmmaking and popular culture, being regarded as a rare example of a sequel that transcends the original. The climax, in which Vader reveals to Luke that he is his father, is often cited as one of the greatest plot twists in cinematic history.”
In retrospect, TESB turned out to be a classic. Continue reading →
The first connection between electricity and magnetism was found by Ørsted on 21 April 1820. Hans Christian Ørsted (14 August 1777 – 9 March 1851) was a Danish scientist. He became a professor at the University of Copenhagen in 1806. His famous discovery, known as Ørsted’s law, states that an electric current creates a magnetic field.
“Style was the clothes; voice was the body.
The instant I hit that realization I felt a circuit close inside me, switching on an engine in my brain. Suddenly all the little unrelated things I knew about writing (or brashly thought I knew) arranged themselves into a pattern so clear and precise that it knocked the breath out of me.” J. Michael Straczynski, Becoming Superman
Becoming Superman is an autobiography of a science fiction and comics writer, J. Michael Straczynski. It is also a page turner, a powerful story that amazingly enough, is real. As Neil Gaiman concluded in his introduction: “We follow him through several careers, and in each career he learns how to do it, how to set out and make something happen that ought, by any stretch of imagination, to have been impossible. It’s his willingness to learn, his quiet persistence, and his willingness to do the work that are his superpowers. He has become a diamond.”
Reading the book during a weekend, I found there another “superpower”: hate. Hatred for a father he describes as a monster formed the author’s worldview, sustained him physically at times he might otherwise crumble, and shaped his character when the closest he had to a “role-model” were comic book heroes like Superman. This is not, however, a hateful book. The author’s hate does not drip from every page. It is used like lampposts placed to illuminate bends on a road, so a passerby would see what he had experienced as a boy and while growing up, what he overcame, and what he still has to cope with. Continue reading →