WordPress.com Hack

Recently, the venerable blog host WordPress.com was massively hacked. If you subscribed to an RSS feed for a WordPress.com site, the hack started sending you rafts of spam emails for scams of all descriptions.

How does this affect you’n’me? With any luck it doesn’t…UNLESS you subscribed to the Plain and Simple Press website’s blog several years ago.

When I first started the P&S blog — the one that has been posting chapters from my various bookoids — it was on WordPress.com, and it was titled “Writers Plain & Simple.”

After a while, our Web guru, Grayson Bell, suggested we move the blog from WordPress.com to the server that now hosts Funny about Money and make it a subdomain of Plain & Simple Press, which also resides at Bigscoots. This freed us from some of WordPress.com’s peculiarities and put all our shiny little pebbles in one bucket.

If you are a long-time subscriber to Plain & Simple Press’s blog and you suddenly find yourself besieged by junk emails, check the URL in your RSS feed. It should NOT end in wordpress.com. The site’s correct address is http://www.plainandsimplepress.com.

I have now deleted the old P&S Press site from WordPress.com. The current P&S blog and is hosted at Bigscoots.com, and so the URL contains no reference to WordPress.

Of iPhones and Spinning Wheels and Ella’s Story

Ever have one of those days when your wheels are spinning nonstop for about 18 hours? Or you feel like your nose has been pressed to the grindstone all day but it comes off not sharpened but duller than when you started?

I feel like I’ve been working steadily but have accomplished almost nothing. But really, that’s not true. By the end of the day, this week’s installment of Ella’s Story managed, somehow, to get finished and posted. As of yesterday evening, I had an idea where it was going but no idea how to get there.

LOL! Is this what one of my late, great editors used to call, crabbily, “backing into the story”? Maybe I need one of those guys back today, to snap the whip! 😀

Cranking fiction on a deadline is not easy. Nonfiction? A magazine or newspaper article? Nooo problem. You start with all the facts and you know how to tie them into the who-what-when-where-why-and-how rope. Your only hold-up is landing interviews. But fiction…you may have a vague idea where you’re going with it, but often — make that usually — you don’t have the specifics. You have to make them up. And that, heaven help you, is actual work.

Horrors.

Oh, but sooo many opportunities to procrastinate! What? Me, work?

§ The big potted ficus plant — a six-foot-high tree, really — the one that fell over in the most recent storm, was so traumatized that now it’s dropping its leaves. At first I thought it had dessicated somehow. Maybe the irrigation dripper that goes to its pot broke somehow when the thing crashed to the ground and got bashed by the downpour? But I don’t think so. So: four possibilities:

a) Somehow it actually did get dried out and, of course, in this crazy heat, could not survive any degree of dehydration.
b) Somehow it got overwatered. Ficus hates to be overwatered.
c) It got shocked when it fell over and whacked on the paving. Ficus will drop their leaves if you move them into a new room. Slamming it on the ground have unnerved the thing.
d) It has a disease or fungus.

The first three events, it can survive. The fourth: not so much. All one can do, though, is watch it and see what happens. This is not a good time for it to lose its leaves, since it the shade it provides shelters a roomful of cherry furniture from the morning sun glaring in through an east-facing Arcadia door.

§ Amazing article in The New Yorker…reminiscent of a friend’s life story. Had to read the whole, very long thing…then send it along to her. Took half the morning. But I drank a lot of good coffee and munched a lot of good chocolate in the process…

§ Credit union has informed us that it’s revamping its online presence. This warning, of course, is the equivalent of screaming DUCK FOR COVER! in a crowded room. The alarm is heightened by their telling us that we’d better download and save six months’ worth of transactions. Just in case.

Well. Of course that took for-freaking-EVER. God, how I hate messing with that kind of digital ditz! In the course of it, I discovered about $600 in the medical savings account, which either was transferred there by accident during the last C.U. fuck-up or, for reasons unknown, did not get applied to debt to the Mayo. Probably the latter: chances are I paid it out of cash flow without remembering to replenish the checking account from that savings account. And that would explain why I ran out of money two months early this year…

§ Cleaning! Pick up the mess. Wash the dog blankets. Clean the kitchen. If I use the leaf blower to blower the loose dog hair out of the garage, will the dog hair actually get ejected and blown down the driveway to the street, or will it just go airborne, float around in there, and then settle back to the floor?

§ And, totally NOT least, the cell phone issue.

I’ve decided that I probably want to buy an iPhone and feed it with TracFone minutes. Supposedly, the iPhone is relatively easy for old people to learn to use. And TracFone’s by-the-minute plan has worked well with the cheapo model I’ve been carrying around for automotive emergencies. And the price: enormously right.

TracFone is selling four iPhones for relatively reasonable prices. Apparently if you’re willing to settle for an older model, you do NOT have to pay a grand to get your hands on one.

If you don’t use the phone a lot, TracFone has a lot to recommend it. No monthly payments, and pretty much what you see is what you get: no little surprises to blindside you. I’ve been using it for the throw-away phone for a couple years now: totally hassle-free, as opposed to the endlessly annoying T-Mobile. You only need to pay for as much service as you’re likely to use. TrackFone’s current “bargain” iPhone comes with 750 minutes and 1,000 texts to use over 60 days. Well, that’s about ten times as much of either of those things as I would need.

Apple offers classes in the use of the iPhone, so my plan is to go over there tomorrow, study the phones and the prices there, ask if you HAVE to have bought the phone from Apple directly to get into their classes, and then make a decision.

Cox is gouging me $117 a month for land-line service that is questionably reliable and guaranteed to go down when the power’s out. And with their damned modem, I can’t attach my fancy call blocker that was working so amazingly well. And of course, Cox is resisting NoMoRobo with all its corporate strength: they simply refuse to provide it. As for the iPhone? There’s a NoMoRobo app!

Said app is not well liked by Fanboys. However, Apple also has an app called “RoboKiller,” which IS very well reviewed. Actually, it’s more than just well reviewed…it sounds delicious. Check out this one:

This is an awesome service.
Nov 9, 2017

ND
I forwarded my calls a while back to the service when I first signed up because I was having a real issue with getting a lot of spam phone calls. I said it and basically forgot about it. Recently I had reason to go to the application to look it up because I had a question about something and I came across all of the phone calls that were blocked and many of them with a voicemail messages. When I listened to the voicemail messages, I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Some of the recorded voicemail messages that were saved or absolutely hilarious. Since these spam callers call me and waste my time every time they get me on the phone, I have to admit I took a little bit of pleasure and wasting their time right back. They were actually trying to have conversations with the bots and they weren’t giving up. Meaning the spam callers. And I could hear the uncertainty in their voices and some of the conversations and it was friggin hilarious. When I listened to all the voicemails, I swear I just wanted to throw my arms around these guys at RoboKiller and give them a big hug. Best freaking service I’ve come across in a long time and well worth the money and the results are literally hilarious. If you were having problems getting a lot of unwanted phone calls, I absolutely and wholeheartedly recommend this service. You seriously need to check this out. These guys are geniuses. Some of those voicemails just had me rolling in tears.

THE must have app!
May 19, 2018

MaxxxRocket
Without a doubt, Robokiller is the most invaluable, user-friendly and entertaining app available today. I was inundated with daily calls me from companies I ordered something from a decade ago. I couldn’t block them because they always called from a different number. Now, thanks to Robokiller, not only am I not bothered by these calls, I get a taste of sweet revenge. Unsolicited calls are automatically answered by any one of the 43 (and growing) “people” you select to take the call; from someone hard of hearing to someone in the midst of a crisis. All the pre-recorded performances are spot on and truly funny. Every time a solicitor tries, hopelessly, to communicate with one of the recordings, you can play it back, save it, even share it with friends. You can also record your self answering the phone, and, after years of hearing the same sales pitch, I’ve made recordings of myself so in synch with their pitch, I can have them going in circles for five minutes and thinking they’re talking to someone. Really, I cannot say enough about this brilliantly conceived and well designed app.

Hee HEEE! If that’s any indication, the app alone may be worth the phone’s price!

I’m now spending $1400/year on the land line that is no longer a land line and that goes out when the power’s down (i.e., when you’re most likely to need to make an emergency call!). Once the phone is paid for (and the business can afford it, no problem), TracFone costs between $7 and $30 a month, depending on the number of minutes you choose to buy over time. Seven bucks will get you 60 minutes’ worth for 90 days. And $25 buys 500 minutes for 60 days. I would be very surprised if I spend an hour on the phone over the course of a month. My son hates talking on the phone, and most people stay in touch through email.

That’s a far cry from $117 a month!

My plan is to get the proposed iPhone. Keep the clamshell phone I use for car emergencies, which is absurdly cheap, but have “minutes” only for the iPhone. Then buy several more of the cheapo clamshell phones, keep them charged, and set the cheapies in strategic places around the house for emergency use only. By law all phones have to be able to call 911, whether they’re connected to a “plan” or not. So…given the concern that I might fall and bust my hip, my idea is to set a cheapie phone on or near the floor in every room in the house. Most of the rooms have cabinets that have shelves or drawers near the floor. Those that don’t…I can just set one of these things unobtrusively under piece of furniture, or in pot of fake flowers. There are a ton of places to set these things where no one would notice them but I would know where they are.

And then… Good-bye land line!

She breathes…she moves…she…writes?

A day late and a whole lotta dollars short…finally got around to typing up and posting this week’s chapter of Ella’s Story.

The other two books I’ve been giving away as * FREE READS * at Plain & Simple Press — If You’d Asked Me and The Complete Writer — were finished long before I dreamed up this idea. But Ella’s Story was a work in progress. A lot of progress: quite a few chapters were in hand at the time I started this project.

But a few weeks ago the completed chapters ran out, leaving me to keep up with the publishing schedule by writing a new chapter a week. Talk about draftig!

So now we know how if felt to be Charles Dickens and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Fyodor Dostoyevski and Alexandre Dumas and Herman Melville Henry James and Gustave Flaubert and Harriet Beecher Stowe and … if only we were one of them! 😀

The blog format, it seems to me, naturally lends itself to serializing novels. But…

How exactly you would make any money on it escapes me. I suppose you could sell advertising around such a thing. Or ask people to pay to subscribe. Or donate to your cause.

I knew writing a chapter a week would be a challenge. When you study late 19th- and early 20th-century lit, you occasionally come across some writer’s complaint about what a struggle it was to crank out fiction, week in and week out, for serial publication. Alas, though…I’ve never anything but overconfident.

Mwa ha ha! A better way to publish *FREE BOOKS*

Over at Plain & Simple Press, I’ve been giving away free installments of Ella’s Story, If You’d Asked Me..., and The Complete Writer. You could either read them as blog posts at the P&S “News” site, or, free-for-the-asking, get your hands on a PDF of the entire Complete Writer or Asked. Or read the chapters online, collected at each bookoid’s dedicated page. Since Ella’s Story is a work in progress, it wasn’t available in PDF.

But…now it is. 🙂

We (that we would be Wonder-Guru Grayson Bell  and yrs truly, the P&S proprietor) realized that the reason Writer’s dedicated page had staggered to a dead stop was that there’s a limit to the amount of data WordPress will tolerate on a single page. Writer was right up against it. So I proposed to take down the individual chapters from that page, consolidate them in a PDF, and repost. Grayson thought not: a giant PDF would have the same effect of choking WordPress. BUT…several PDFs would not do that. Probably.

This theory proved correct. The Complete Writer‘s content to date is now published in two PDF segments: section I, “Write Tight,” and section II, “Make It Perfect.” The next seven chapters, which comprise the print book’s third part, “Writing Nonfiction,” will go up one at a time; then when they’re all posted, they’ll be moved into a new PDF, leaving the page free for the next section’s chapters.

Nonfiction books lend themselves to this strategy, since they often fall neatly into sections. That’s not always true of fiction.

And it’s especially not so true of Ella’s Story, which works more like a kind of telenovela than a traditional novel. I write wherever the characters lead me, which just now is toward a revolution on some other planet.

Or someplace. Maybe.

Nevertheless, the Ella’s Story dedicated page was, as of late last week, beginning to swim through a vat of taffy. Looked like the same problem that tripped up Writer was afflicting Ella.

Monday (just yesterday!??), I posted chapter 22.

So, it occurred to my fevered brain that the content could be posted, pretty much without regard to what was going on in the plotline, in 10-chapter doses. No logic there…but then there’s not a lot of logic to Ella’s Story, anyway, at least not in any external sense. So…wtf.

Last night I packaged the first 20 chapters in two PDFs, creatively named “Part 1” and “Part 2.” Each holds 10 chapters, complete with full-color illustrations.

The remaining two chapters are posted separately on the page, below the links to the PDFs, and also as blog posts at “News.”

This turns out to be pretty cool for the reader. What it means is that instead of having to scroll through up to half-a-dozen blog posts or a-a-a-l-l-l the way down to the bottom of an infinite dedicated web page, you can visit said dedicated web page and find the most recent installments right under your nose. And if you’ve wandered off for awhile but can remember where you were the last time you visited, you can easily find your jumping-off point in the PDFs.

🙂

As you might imagine, I’m feeling pretty smug about this scheme. Come on over and check it out! Ella’s Story, chapters 1 through 22…now in easy access.

Askin’ and Writin’

In the writin’ department…

The current Answer to the Great Questions of the World is online at Plain & Simple Press, as is this week’s serialization of Ella’s Story. So…avail yourself of the FREE READS…and if you would please, kindly plug them on Facebook, Twitter, & waypoints, that would be lovely. 🙂

Finally, at last, I’m getting a little traction on the Drugging of America proposal. Can’t recall whether I mentioned this here, at P&S Press, or not at all…but the plan is to peddle this book to a scholarly press (since it’s richly researched). First on the list of prospects is U of Toronto Press, which recently published a rather slight book (as academic books go) about the length of the planned Drugging opus. Short, that is…

I need to make a run on the GDU library to compile a full list. Figure I’ll need at least a dozen. What I used to do — and probably will do again, even though it’s considered dreadfully bad form — is send out proposals to six publishers at a time. Back in the day, I’d have a list of around 20 likely publishers. Then as a rejection came in, I’d just turn it around and send it off to the next outfit on the list. So at any given time, about half a dozen proposals would be on the float.

This is highly problematic. In the first place, editors hate it. In the second, the scholarly publishing club is quite small, so if your idea is striking and your proposal strong, the risk that you’ll get caught out is pretty high. Piss them off and they’ll reject you, no matter how great your idea is.

Creating a book proposal is a project. You need to have completed an introduction and two or three chapters, a table of contents, and a chapter outline. Then you need to survey the market to see what’s out there on the same or related subject and explain how yours is different and why it’s better. You need to articulate the proposed audience and find out how large it is. If you have half a brain, you’ll also suggest some avenues through which the book might be marketed.

For Toronto, I’ll have to update my CV…oh, ugh! An academic CV is a gawdawful long thing, and this one of course will reveal my age, which will make it harder to talk them into buying anything I write.

I’ll also have to unpublish the Drugging of America blog series, because of course they will NOT want to know that this material has been informally distributed online. That will be something we accidentally forget to mention in the proposal.

At this point, the posts amount to draft chapters. So I have seven chapters reasonably close to completion (which will need to be elaborated on), plus I need to write two more from scratch: one on the FDA & its conflicts of interest and one on the practice called “disease mongering” and the medicalization of conditions that do not need treatment or that may not even exist in the patient.

Because seven of the proposed chapters are pretty much in hand (they’ll need some work, but nothing very crushing), I think I can crank the book out by the end of the summer. Today I wrote an introduction and rewrote the bloggity “Overprescription” into full-fledged chapter form. Remaining: revise, edit, clean up the documentation.

If a contract comes in with greater speed than one would expect — say Toronto buys it and they do so within eight or ten weeks — then I certainly will put the thing together by the end of August, at the latest. There’s not that much to do…and some motivation in the form of a check or at least a promise to publish will move what is left to do right along.

A contract in hand will give me access to the Mayo, Johns Hopkins, Stanford, and waypoints, thereinat to interview experts on the subject. Some quotes will help a lot, as long as they don’t come across as too very journalistic.

Sometimes academic presses do not pay an advance against royalties. Really, for an academic author, “pay” for a book comes in the form of promotion and tenure, both of which mean substantial salary increases.

Obviously, I’m past the P&T stage of my career. But y’know, I’d like to get just one more book — just one — in print through a real publisher. I mean…well…it’s not like three aren’t enough. But still. Just one more real book through a real publishing house. Please?

Putting your squibs up on Amazon and pretending that makes you a “published author” is great fun in a hobbyist-y way. Sort of like…I don’t know…knitting baseball caps. But it’s totally self-absorbed and self-centered. It doesn’t prove you’ve done anything other than click “post” to upload a file to a gigantic electronic scam. Publishing it is not.

Not real publishing, I mean: in the sense of fazing a book idea past a canny editor and a team of marketers who know what’s good, who know what sells, and who know what the hell they’re doing, then engaging battle with peer reviewers, revising and editing passages again, and so on. When you come to the end of that process, then you feel like you’ve accomplished something.

The overprescription issue is big in Canada. Canadians being brighter than Americans these days are all over the issue, with government-sponsored programs to alert pharmacists, doctors, and members of the public. Although the US has a small effort going, it is as nothing compared to the program Canada has. So I think I can use that interest to my advantage with a Canadian press.

The more I look at the matter, the more astonishing it appears. People in this country are outrageously overmedicated. There’s no question folks in the medical profession know about it — with the exception of some investigative reporting, most of the published reports and assessment of the issue appear in medical journals. But it doesn’t seem to be registering with practitioners. As far as I can see, though, there’s almost nothing out there that is science-based but written for the average Joe or Jane, which is what I propose to produce. Worst Pills, Best Pills, which was the best thing on the market this side of PDR, went out of print years ago, replaced by a pay-to-peek website.

I’m dead sure there’s a market for a plain-English book that describes the problem, how to recognize when it’s happening to you, and how to deal with it.

 

How to Be a Writer: Progress!

Did you know:
At least half the process of writing a publishable story, article, or book is REVISING AND EDITING!

Just posted Chapter 6 of The Complete Writer over at Plain & Simple Press. This follows the intro to a whole section on how to revise and edit your own golden words.

{chortle!} I’ve actually made a strong case, in front of classrooms full of writing students, that two thirds of the writing process is revision and polishing. And IMHO that’s true: the main part of writing is rewriting.

Come on over and check out the first salvo in Part II. The book has six chapters on “Making It Perfect.” I plan to put up a chapter a week — one every Friday. So if you wish to proceed at a stately pace, check in to the Plain & Simple Press blog along about afternoon on any given Friday. Comin’ up, then: Section II, “Making It Perfect:”

Chapter 6. The Importance of Revising and Editing
Chapter 7. Six Steps to Revising and Polishing
Chapter 8. Two Kinds of Revising
Chapter 9. Revising with Reader Feedback
Chapter 10. Working with a Professional Editor
Chapter 11. Getting to Know a Style Manual

And I’m also gathering all the chapters in one place at P&S Press, so if you’ve missed the first five chapters (Section I, “Write Right”), check out The Complete Writer in its growing entirety.