Coffee heat rising

Morons, Money, and Ay-Mazement

One of the excellent Chinese scholars for whom I’ve been privileged to work decided to try to pay through Western Union, which required, I expect, some extra hassle on that end. PayPal, as you may recall, dropped the ball colorfully some time back, forcing me to close my credit union account and reopen it with a different account number. The decision to quit using PayPal effectively closes down my business with clients in Asia, since there aren’t a lot of easy ways to transfer money internationally from the mainland. However, we did learn that Western Union does business there, so we decided to try it.

This experiment took place several weeks ago, right before I started to get sick with the current enervating epizoötic. When the client asked me to go over to a Western Union office to see if the money came through, I searched out a site that seemed not too alien — a Walgreen’s at Seventh Street and Camelback.

Western Union is popular here, because Latin American immigrants can use it conveniently to send remittances to family back home. It seems there’s a Western Union kiosk on every corner. So I go in there — at some risk to life and limb, since 7th and Camelback is one of the craziest intersections in a city full of crazed drivers — and am directed to a free-standing computer into which one is supposed to enter data and somehow extract money. How is unclear. I ask the clerk who supposedly knows how to work the thing: looking into her eyes is like gazing into a deep and motionless void.

Moving on, I reckon I’ll ponder through this conundrum later.

Now I come down with a bacterial infection followed by a viral bronchitis picked up from the Mayo’s ER, leading to a month of incapacitating illness. I haven’t been able to drag out of bed long enough to fix a decent meal, much less traipse around the city and do battle with a new-to-me system.

Client asks me to puhleeze find out whether payment has come through, a lot of time having passed with no word from me. I try to beg off. This whinge buys a day or two of delay. Finally I am importuned to get off my duff and go try to figure this out.

Having almost died trying to get into that Walgreen’s parking lot (and having no great craving to try again with Ms. EmptySpace), I call an office supply and FedEx store that The Copyeditor’s Desk often does business with and ask them if they by chance have Western Union.

“No,” says my guy. “But in my experience, every Fry’s grocery store in the city does.”

Oh yeah? Fry’s, you say? Well, hot damn. There’s a Fry’s supermarket right around the corner from M’hijito’s house…and just down the road from Costco, whereunto I also need to repair. Look it up online, and yep: that Fry’s does have Western Union.

Drive on down there, make my way across the rather menacing parking lot (at least this store does kindly have some fairly prominent security guards lurking around), surface at the customer service desk, and…migawd! Find a clerk with a measurable IQ! And the contraption is behind the desk, where the customers are neither expected nor allowed to put their sticky little paws on it.

This excellent young women sits down before the machine and shortly disgorges something over $400, which she forks over without even asking for a transaction fee.

Hallelujah, brothers and sisters! This, I realize, is enough to pay the cleaning lady for about five visits, obviating my having to make a cash run on AJ’s or the credit union for two or three months. If I were good, I would of course stash the cash in the corporate checking account. But I’m not good, and I no longer have to be good, because WonderAccountant and I converted the S-corp to a sole proprietorship, meaning (in effect) that the money is mine, mine, ALL MINE! All I need to do is file the receipt and an explanatory note with this year’s tax papers and hide the stash in the safe, where it will await the services of the Cleaning Lady from Heaven.

And best of all, I’ve met a human being with a measurable IQ.

The journey did not start out that way. Cruising down Main Drag East, out of the ‘Hood toward the precincts occupied by the Fry’s Market in question, I pass a fool cruising up the sidewalk on roller skates, a stupid grin on his face and a dog running beside him on a leash. The dog stands knee-high to the man — who himself is a good six feet tall. They are flying along within about two feet of a five-lane thoroughfare. Most of us drive 40 to 50 mph on said road, which is heavily trafficked. As I shot past this apparition, I counted eight cars around me. Nary a one of us could have stopped to avoid hitting him if he had stumbled into the street or if the dog had decided to shoot across the road after a cat or another dog.

So. Moron #1.

Of many. Every single goddamn moron in the city has to get in front of me. Heading south, a tow-truck flatbed does a Y-turn across all the lanes of north- and south-bound traffic to deliver his load of broken-down cars to a repair shop. Northbound, a city transit shuttle hogs the fast lane, and noooo, he’s not getting ready to turn left. He’s just having fun holding up traffic.

At any rate, having found a Western Union site with an employee who evinces actual competence overrides the annoyance factor entailed in having encountered three morons between here and there.

Now it’s on to Costco.

Yesterday when I visited the Costco up north, which has a fairly safe parking lot, I picked up a  bag of coffee. So sick was I that I didn’t even see the thing: just grabbed it and ran. When I went to stash the loot in the car, I finally noticed that it was a bag of Starbuck’s beans, not the San Francisco Bay brand I usually buy. Feeling slightly better today — and having to venture near the mid-town Costco anyway — I decide to brave the parking lot where the lunatic tried to kidnap my neighbor’s baby out of her car, there to return the Starbuck’s and get the preferred product. It’s early, so parking’s not a problem to speak of. And the place is not even very crowded yet.

Well, wouldn’tcha know it: As usual, Costco has ferreted out the product that I like and, naturally, gotten rid of it! No offense…you may think Starbuck’s coffee is just grand, but that, alas, would be be because as a red-blooded American you’re readily hornswaggled by advertising. It’s terrible, low-grade plonk dressed up in a corporate emperor’s new clothes. Try San Francisco Bay brand if you’d like to see what I mean. Or maybe not: if you do, you’ll never be able to swallow SB again…

Costco was charging a lot less than Amazon’s vendors demand, which made it eminently affordable. But no…I’m not paying $20 to have a bag of coffee beans dropped off at my front door for the porch pirates to steal.

So this made for yet another trip, over to AJ’s to buy a bag of their over-priced, locally roasted, just OK coffee.

By now I’m getting tired and light-headed, and again having trouble drawing enough air into the lungs to sustain life. Onward.

Into the ‘Hood, where I spot one of our pet bums plodding along the sidewalk by the park: a really filthy, scary-looking guy with his face and head shrouded under a hoodie. He approaches an athletic, sportily dressed young woman jogging toward him on the sidewalk and tries to panhandle her. I pull over, wait, and watch, figuring I may have to drive over there and pick her up. No: she repels him easily. She strides off. I wait. He does not turn to follow her. A small miracle.

Home at last. Let the dog out, start to fix lunch. A cop helicopter roars over and circles Upper Richistan a few times. Then he shoots across the street just to the north of the Funny Farm and takes off northerly along Conduit of Blight. Delightful.

Discretion being the better part, I decided to stir-fry some scallops in garlic over a stove burner rather than, as planned, grill a piece of steak outside for the mid-day feast. This made for a nice meal…and a nice mess to clean up. Ohhh well. The cleaning lady will earn her pay on Monday. 😉

Sooo…still sick but slightly better. I estimate another four weeks before the cough stops. Probably longer to get completely back to normal. Yea verily, quite possibly not until it gets hot again: that would put full recovery in May.



Life in Dystopia

Today I needed to accomplish three fairly minor errands:

  • Take the clogged-up vacuum cleaner to the repair shop to have it cleaned out;
  • Go to the post office and mail tax returns, return receipt requested;
  • Buy a new mattress to replace my 15-year-old number, which is sagging on both sides.

How easy does that sound, eh? None of these places is very far away. It should take maybe an hour, an hour and a half at the outside, to accomplish these small chores.

And how much time did it take?

Three hours of miserable, frustrating running around. I left around 11 a.m. and got back at almost 2 p.m.

First, to the post office, the one over by the freeway on the other side of Conduit of Blight Blvd. There I found a packed parking lot and a line extending to the back of the big reception area and curving along the wall.

Okayyyyy. Got better things to do than stand around with a sore back watching postal employees move as though they were swimming through molasses. Turn around, walk back out, climb in the car. Back out of the space, with  no one coming. A moron down the aisle can’t stand it, so floors the gas pedal and shoots around behind me. Fortunately I’m watching and so see the bastard coming. He misses me.

Schlep across the freeway and through a depressing slum, therein to visit the fabric store/vacuum cleaner repair store. Go to the front counter, where I ask about vacuum repair. (The place is primarily a fabric store for quilters.) Am told to go to the back of the (very large) store.

Walk to the back of the store. They tell me to go to the front counter.

Walk to the front counter. There I’m told they don’t repair Shark vacuums because they can’t get the parts. “That’s why they’re so cheap,” says the broad behind the counter. If you think I’m going to replace this thing with one of those Mieles you folks are peddling, you are FREAKING NUTS. They’re evidently lying, because at Amazon customers remark on having this, that, or the other item repaired on their Sharks, and Amazon sells Shark parts. But if the only repair shop in town refuses to fix it, my sole alternative is to buy a new one, which probably wouldn’t cost much more than paying those clowns to fix it. Ask them if they’ll toss the thing, and they say sure. I figure they’ll fix it and resell it, but WTF.

Now for another try at the post office.

There’s another PO near the ’hood, about the same distance from the Funny Farm as the one over in the blight by the freeway. This one is usually less busy; it’s better staffed, and the regulars there seem to be more competent than the bunch over by the freeway. So, traipse north of Gangbanger’s Way into Sunnyslope, park a good long distance from the door, and without much hope, trudge into the building.

And yup: the line there is even longer! People are backed all the way up to the door, a good 20 customers standing there looking bored and annoyed.


Drive down to the Albertson’s shopping center. There one can find a Matchbox Car store that has a postal counter.

“Can you send these envelopes return receipt requested?”

“Sure. Fill out these forms.”

No line. Zero waiting. Nil aggravation. Why didn’t I think of this at the outset? I must be getting senile.

Head on down to the Target, thereinat to buy a new Shark. To get there, I have to navigate endless signals around the accursed train tracks, playing touch-tag with the Bum Express lightrail all the way down to the Target/Walmart/Costco shopping center.

This Shark-purchasing task used to be easy. Not so anymore!

First time I bought a Shark at the Target, they had one (1) model. No hassle. Next time, they had two (yes, just 2). Not much of a hassle there, either. But today? They had a freaking can-can line of Shark vacuum cleaners! What exactly were the differences among these contraptions is unclear. Which is what and why? I decide to go home and look them up on Amazon, where I can at least see the rants and raves of random consumers.

Pick up a bag of tennis balls for the dog, walk to the front of the store, where the longest wall in the whole huge building is lined with checkout stands…most of them closed. Two self-serve stands way down on the south end and one self-serve stand way over on the north end are open…and vacant. Two (2) cash registers staffed by humans are serving lines of customers backed halfway to the cosmetics department.

Well, I figure, if I have to order from Amazon, I might as well buy the tennis balls there. Out the door.

On the way to the car, I reflect that Costco, which is right next door in an adjacent parking lot, vets its products pretty well. They have in the past carried Shark vacuums. If they have one, it’s probably the one their buyer thinks is the best.

Okay. Move the car a quarter-mile, traipse into the store, and track down the vacuums.

Yea verily, they do have Shark: only two models, each well rated at Amazon. I buy the one that looks most similar to the one I just tossed. A hundred sixty dollah!

Cheap, eh?

Peruse the mattresses. See a couple that will do the job nicely. Confirm that you can’t buy them there and arrange for delivery: you have to go online to give them your money and beg them to deliver the thing.

Having been told this before, I’ve watched for mattress stores as I’ve been trudging around the city. These seem to have been put out of business by Tuft & Needle, a popular mail-order product that has two stores in more affluent parts of the Valley.

Tuft & Needle, I’m sure, is wonderful. But their mattresses are made of foam. I’ve never cared for foam mattresses. Sorry, I may be retrograde (again), but I want an innerspring mattress, dammit! Besides, even if their mattresses are miracles from heaven, they don’t deliver and cart off the old stuff. The mattress I’ve got is so heavy I can’t even rotate it by myself, to say nothing of hauling it out to the alley.

No mattress companies. The department stores that used to carry mattresses have closed. WTF?

So I give up and figure I’ll have to order a Sealy or something from Costco’s online site. And lemme tellya…I really, truly, do NOT want to buy a mattress sight unseen.

There’s a Penney’s next door to that Costco, but the area is so downscale I think I’d do better to schlep to the Penney’s in Paradise Valley, or go over to the Whole Foods shopping center in the Biltmore area to see if the mattress store that used to be there is still holding forth. Choices are likely to be better in either of those garden spots.


Think of that: three hours to mail two envelopes and buy a (relatively) cheap vacuum cleaner.

The other day I was chatting with a friend about the dystopic nature of life in Our America. I think this kind of experience is emblematic of that dystopia.

Consider: in the name of political correctness, globalism, and corporate greed, what do we have?

  • Washers that do not wash clothes
  • Dishwashers that do not wash dishes
  • Wall ovens that burn themselves out if you set them to “broil,” to say nothing of trying to use the self-clean feature
  • Cheap foam mattresses sold to us as the be-all and end-all of sleeping luxury
  • Water-saving toilets that have to be flushed three times each time you use them — assuming they’ll flush at all
  • Water spigots that dispense water at a slow drizzle
  • Water heaters that cost $800
  • Steak that even fairly affluent Americans cannot afford
  • Farm-raised fish full of filth and chemicals
  • A steady diet of unhealthy, processed food
  • Cars that cost three times as much as your first home cost
  • Weed killers that do not kill weeds
  • Medications that promote drug addiction
  • Doctors whose goal is to get you hooked on medications of all varieties
  • Homeless drug addicts swarming the street corners and living in our alleys and yards
  • Prisons run by corporations that don’t even provide basic healthcare for the hordes of minor offenders warehoused there
  • Schools like prisons, where children are regularly terrorized in bullet-dodging drills
  • A plague of untreated mental illness (hence the need to teach children to dodge bullets)
  • Costs for basics — like cars and homes — that are now so high that most mothers have to work, leaving the kids in day-care: no option there
  • Cameras and microphones spying on us at every corner
  • Computers that record our every move, from purchases of bug spray online to what TV shows we watch
  • Jobs that do not pay a living wage
  • Decently paying blue-collar jobs sent off-shore
  • Junk merchandise, sold at upscale prices, shipped back into the country, made by underpaid workers in those off-shored jobs
  • Desperate, beleaguered citizens who elect a batsh!t corrupt administration in a mistaken effort to bring back the good old days…which really were better than what we have now, objectively speaking

Lovely, isn’t it?

We live in a dystopia. What marks that dystopia is exactly what my father used to worry about and, in his most pessimistic moments, would predict was gonna happen: Our standard of living is slipping.

He believed that America, simply by its top-heavy nature, risked sliding back into Third-World conditions. This, he feared, would happen for political and economic reasons. And he knew whereof he spoke, when it came to Third-World conditions. As a young pup, one of his first jobs was delivering milk in a horse-drawn wagon. He escaped Texas and went to sea, and then along came the Great Depression — when he and my mother passed ten days eating nothing but oranges and pancakes. And he spent most of his life sailing to Third-World countries, plus for 10 years we lived in a country that was a relic of the Middle Ages.

I used to think, when he’d go on about this subject, that it was just his right-wing craziness speaking. But he was right. 

It’s highly unlikely he would have voted for Donald Trump, and neither would my mother — they recognized corruption and lies in action. But the woman he married after my mother died surely would have — she shared his thinking about the inexorable downward slide of America, but in addition she was very stupid.

Still, my guess is he’d have cheerfully voted for Mike Pence. In a heartbeat. And it’s no wonder, when you look at what has happened and continues to happen to the lives of working-class Americans.

And in the lives of all of us.

Day’s end…at last…almost

Oh, god…have i ever been this tired?

God to Puling Human: Well. Yes. Of course you have. What are you going on about?

Up at 4:30. Write today’s rant. Post it on the one Facebook writers’ group I’ve found that seems to be pretty darned good. Fiddle with the pool. Shower in the backyard hose, wash chlorine out of hair. Feed dogs. Bolt down breakfast.

Paint face. Throw on clothes. Put up damp hair. Fly out the door to Scottsdale. Sit through meeting.

Excused from buying new picture frame by son, who found one in his garage to replace the one that broke when it fell off the wall. Convenient, because it means I don’t have to hang around Paradise Valley after the meeting until Aaron Bros opens at 10 a.m.

Stop at Sprouts to buy a couple of grocery items on the way home. Starved: cook up some pasta as a snack.

La Maya invites me over to talk, lunch, and paint (or, in my case, draw).  Get a little work done here and then head to her place. Have incredible RM food (RM: that would the Real Mexican) for lunch, beside self with joy. Discuss life, the universe, and all that, “all that” including politics, academia, business, and art.

She suggests that where marketing is concerned, the better part of valor is face-to-face contact, NOT social media. Together we dream up the idea that I should approach Changing Hands, the only independent bookstore that still thrives in the Valley, and offer to do a workshop (they throw these things all the time) on some aspect of self-publishing. In the act, I peddle my wares to the attendees.

We also propose that I should compile another bookoid, to be produced in PoD format and distributed at these proposed shindigs, that would be filled with tips for writers and self-publishers. I realize I already have enough material to generate such a creature. Easily.

Furthermore, we consider the possibility that I should offer a service course along the same lines for one of the local junior colleges. This, she suggests, would create a small market for all the non-naughty bookoids (we think the naughty ones had better not be suggested to the minions of the local community college district): chances are good that most of the students would buy the things, especially if they could be offered at a deep discount for a week or two during the courselet’s duration.

This, I think, is an exceptionally good idea. Especially if one of the bookoids is the proposed compendium of writing tips. 🙂

Back at the Funny Farm, now I sift through the entire body of Plain & Simple Press posts, dating back to early 20 and ought-14. Come up with 48,950 words.

Not bad. I’ll need about 80,000 words, so am almost 5/8 of the way there. Some passages can be expanded upon — for example, a live link to some article somewhere else can be replaced with a precis of the article. An introduction will add about 1,500 or 2 ,000 words. And I have in print an entire textbook of writing advice, from which I intend to self-plagiarize liberally.

If Melania can rip off the First Lady, I surely can rip off myself.

Next, I open an email from Amazon, responding to my demand to know why TF the 99-cent sale of the six books I put up for countdown sales didn’t work. Amazon’s factotum informs me that the countdown sale is in effect: it was set to start at 3:00 p.m.

Ohhhkaaayyy… I check a couple of the books and find that indeed by then they are showing as available for 99 cents.

But on reflection, I’m pretty sure that even though these old eyes need a pair of glasses to read a damned computer screen accurately, and even though a 3 looks sort of like an 8, I still can tell the difference between a 3 and an 8 and between a letter a and a letter p. No problem. The difference is sterling clear. I do not believe for one effing minute that I entered 3 p.m. instead of 8 a.m. SIX GODDAMN TIMES. But whatever. It looks like the sale is now online, even though I’ve lost the advantage of making it available for 99 cents on the entire first day of the goddamn sale.

Just about to throw it in when a message comes over from Jackie: How come the cookbook is still selling for $9.99?

Shee-ut! Damned if it ain’t.

I open the Amazon factotum’s email by way of sending another annoyed inquiry when I discover that down near the bottom, well below the fold, she claims I never set up the 30 Pounds / 4 Months book for the Countdown Sale.

That, alas, is flat out not so.

The 30# book was the first one I set up. I remember it well because the annoyance factor was so high. After I screwed around with that, figuring out how to operate the software to create the sale, I moved on to Cabin Fever and set up all five of the naughty books. Then, I posted my ads on Twitter and several Facebook sites, merrily crowing that the books would go on sale on June 21.

Later, when I got a notice from Kindle reminding me that I’d made all these arrangements, I discovered that the sales were scheduled for JULY 21, not June 21.

Re-entering the website and navigating back to the place to set things up, I found to my amazement that the drop-down month calendar where you have to select the start day was a JULY calendar, not June — a bit of a surprise, since I did this on June 10, and so naively assumed the calendar they shoved in my face to be the June calendar.

Experimentation showed there was no choice of any other month: it was July or nothing. So I had to go back into each of the books I’d already set up, to confirm that in fact the date Amazon had arrogated was July 21, not the June 21 I believed I was selecting.

I think I would have noticed if I hadn’t set up a sale for the 30# book. If I’d opened 30# on the “Bookshelf,” which I most certainly would have done — first, since that’s the one I expected to make money and that’s also the only one for which an inane “countdown” sale can work effectively — I would have noticed if I’d never set up the sale.

Then I had to go back to each of the two ads, change the dates in PowerPoint, convert to PDF, convert to TIF, crop the TIF, resize the TIF, convert to JPEG, and repost all the ads I’d put everywhere on the goddamn social media. This annoyance was also something I would have noticed.

Really, dealing with Amazon is the sh!ts. Some damnfool thing happens EVERY TIME you try to do something. There’s always some complication, some unnecessary hassle, some mindless pointless restriction that makes your life difficult, SOMETHING. And every, single, goddamn time you respond to one of these by trying to do a workaround, that screws you up even worse!

Not ONE thing that I’ve attempted on Amazon, from trying to create a Goodreads Author Page to trying to establish a pseudonym for Roberta Stuart, has worked without some kind of headache or hassle. NOTHING is simple at Amazon. NOTHING works in any sensible way.

If Bernie would please bring back the antitrust laws, I personally would lead a coup* to clean out all the airheaded Republicans and Democrats and install the man as king.

*Dude, little CIA factotum: it’s a joke.

The (not-so-much!) Joys of Amazon

I’ve about had it with Amazon. Honest to God, every effin’ time I try to do anything with any book on Amazon, I end up with my hands full of sh!t. This time? Well. Sumbeach, that’s about as articulate as I can get right this instant.

How about a couple of pictures, each worth a thousand words?


Naughty June 2016

I’ve posted these things, plus promotional copy and links, on websites, Facebook pages, Facebook Groups, and Twaddle from here to Hell and onward to Gone, day after day after brain-banging, mind-numbing DAY over the ten days or two weeks.

NINE Facebook pages and groups plus Twitter have been urging people to hurry on over to Amazon and buy these astonishingly wonderful books as dawn cracks on Thursday, July 21. Posts at these nine sites have gone up every single day, along with associated posts that gave me a chance to mention the alleged sale, EVERY DAY for the past day after day after endless day.

Understand: because no two FB pages or groups seem to post the same way, you end up dorking and dorking and dorking around to get them to do what you want. One page will respond to an inserted URL by inserting the web post with the image that appears closest to the top. Another will try to insert ALL the images in the post. Yet another will slap in the images in the righthand sidebar, which bear no relation at all to the content you’re trying to plug on FB. And still another will insert nothing. So for about 99% of them, you have to delete incorrect data and then go into your computer, track down the correct images, and  insert them. Then at Twitter you have to write all new promo copy, because of Twitter’s frustrating word count limitation, which is crimped even further by the need to add hashtags. And by the fact that Twitter reduces the character allowance to account for the size of the attached image. To minimize that, you have to convert your URL to Bitly, another time suck.

At one point, I figured the average number of time-wasting search-and-clicks per Facebook posting was 8. So 8 x 9 = 72 endless click-search-click-search-search-clicks per posting!!!! PER AD. There are two ads involved here.

Even if you’re pasting the promotional copy into each Facebook page/group (which cannot do for all of them), this process adds up to about two hours of mind-numbing computer diddling-around. Per session.

Multiply that by ten days, and you come up with a conservative(!) estimate of about 20 hours spent on this annoying, excruciatingly boring task.

So comes dawn’s early light today, I go on Amazon to check…because, you know, during this whole exercise a still small voice in the back of my mind has been nagging, whaddaya bet? whaddaya bet? Well. If I were a betting woman, I would’ve bet that Amazon would once again give me the shaft.

And I’d have been right.

Naturally, not one of the six books I’d set up for the Amazon Countdown Sale promo program offered any kind of markdown.

Well, except for the “take it for FREE” offer for those who subscribe to Amazon’s free borrowing program. That’s the one where Amazon spies on you to see how many pages you’ve clicked through. If the reader doesn’t “look” (snark!) at enough pages, the author doesn’t get paid. Yeah. Readers “buy” the book but the author doesn’t get paid.

Not that you get paid much in the “borrow” program anyway. You get a fraction of what you’d get if the person bought the book at the ludicrously tiny amount you can get away with charging for an e-book.

IMHO, Amazon is the single worst thing that has ever happened to publishing and to creative work.

Yes, it lets every would-be hobbyist writer get his or her work in front of a (mostly imaginary) public. And yes, it lets everyone get around the gatekeepers at real publishing houses.

But you know: those gatekeepers served a purpose. They knew (still do know) what sells and what doesn’t sell. When they decided to accept or reject a proposal or a manuscript, it was based on some real insight not just into the intrinsic quality of the work but also into its marketability. Even with those gatekeepers, if you’ve ever gone to a charitable book sale or a used book store, you’ll see that the market is simply awash in books, books, books, and more books: many more books than any single reader or even a group of readers could reasonably keep up with.

But now the market is more than awash. It’s DROWNING. It’s fuckin’ SUBMERGED in dreck! I just read a “published” book by some wannabe Great Writer of the Western World that’s full of punctuation errors, spelling errors, and…oh hell. The idea is good. It’s a salable concept. But the published bookoid is a mess:  the copy has apparently never been graced by either a copyeditor or a proofreader.

Both of those, BTW, were provided as a matter of course, free to the author, by real publishing houses.

Amazon single-handedly has degraded the overall quality of literature available to the public, destroyed the publishing industry, and further impoverished the lot of writers and artists.

And if you weren’t already wasting your time “publishing” (le mot juste is something more like “posting”) books that no publisher’s editor in hir right mind would look at twice, you get to waste it anyway jumping through Amazon’s endless “promotional” hoops to no avail.

“Disruption” is just a techno-euphemism for “destruction.”

Here’s what I’m gonna do:

I will leave the 40 or so books we have on Amazon there, since they generate all of about $12 a month…well, in a good month.

But meanwhile, I will convert them all to ePub (which I should have done in the first place!) and post them all on Smashwords — assuming I don’t have to pay through the schnozzola to get an e-book formatting expert to do the formatting so that SW will accept it. If I can’t, then I will post them all to Barnes & Noble. And I will post the Camptown Races bookoids at an online retailer that specializes in “romantic erotica” (no kidding: who knew?).

Then I am going to forget about it. If they sell themselves, bully. If not, WGAS. All of the energy and all of the time I’ve spent on trying to create and sell books? That will be fully diverted into trying to sell editorial and indexing services.

The Copyeditor’s Desk has been supporting this folly. It’s about time it started supporting me, instead.

Techno-Skeptic: What’s wrong with e-books & e-tunes

Sappho, the Tenth MuseIf you’ve been reading here for any length of time, you’ve come to realize that Funny is a dyed-in-the-wool techno-skeptic. Yea verily, even a techno-troglodyte. Today from Bloomberg comes a report that confirms my suspicions: China, uncomfortable with the twin horrors that are freedom of thought and freedom of expression, has shut down iTunes and iBooks. Herein lies the problem with e-books and e-tunes: you don’t really own them. You may pay for them, but it’s altogether too easy for someone to block you from reading or listening to them.

We’ve seen this happen with Amazon: there was, for example, the 2009 flap that arose when Amazon remotely erased digital editions of George Orwell’s 1984 (amazing choice!) from consumers’ Kindle devices. More recently, a Norwegian woman discovered all her paid-for content had been erased from her Kindle; Amazon flat refused to give an explanation for its actions.

As Amazon states in its ToS,  you don’t buy a Kindle book — you rent it: “Kindle content is licensed, not sold.” So, with this wonderful magical mystery machine, any creative work you buy can be taken away from you without warning and without recourse.

Apple has a similar proviso hidden in its iTunes ToS: “The Apple Software enables access to Apple’s iBookstore which permits you to license digital content, such as books (the”Service”).”

If Amazon can take it away, so can a government. And what we’re seeing in the current election cycle provides exactly zero reason to believe that Americans will forever be ruled by a fair, just, and civil government. There are those, probably crackpots, who think it never has been. In the Kurt Vonnegut novel in which we all live, the crackpot view could win out, over the long run. It never pays to dismiss “crazy”ideas  out of hand.

If you own a book made of paper and cardboard, yes, someone can take it away from you. Surely, they can throw it on a big bonfire and order you to stop thinking forbidden thoughts on pain of beheading. But they have to come into your home to take a hard-copy book away from you. They can’t just flick a switch somewhere and erase knowledge, opinion, and art.

A real book costs money. A real book takes up space. A real book collects dust. But a real book is yours.

IMHO, that’s worth it.

Let’s Test an Amazon Feature!

This morning comes in the email breathless news from Amazon about a feature that allows a blogger to post a free preview of a book, any book, into his or her site.

So, by golly, let’s try this. Plain & Simple Press just emitted the third and final collection of the Fire-Rider series, ever-so-aptly titled Homeward Bound. What happens when you embed the proposed code for the thing? Observe…

Et voila!

Well now. Isn’t that interesting?

Wonder if you can resize the thing so it will fit in a widget? And WTF do you suppose happened to the Roman numerals in the title data? I’m pretty sure I don’t habitually type XIII as XiiI. Dammit.

Oh well. This thing gives away an entire chapter for free, plus most of the front matter.

I’ll leave this for you to enjoy while I try to build a widget with the embed code. Meanwhile, notice that once you open this, there’s a link in the lower right that lets you toggle to full page. Nice!


Oookay… The code doesn’t seem to  lend itself to widgetizing for those who are code-unsavvy.

I’ll post previews of all three collections — gathering 18 books (each of which has anything from three to eight or ten chapters) in three electronic volumes — at Plain & Simple Press (probably on the “Books” page) and at the Fire-Rider site. Watch those spaces… This will take a few minutes, because like all things techish, it’s a pain in the butt.

It can be done, though…



Enraged publisher to Amazon CSR (believe it or not, you actually can find a “contact” link, buried on the bottom of the Author’s Bookshelf page in the finest of fine print, that lets you send a message to a someone in the vastness that is the Amazon behemoth):

I received an email plumping your new Amazon “preview” tool. Naturally, I posted links to a bunch of my Plain & Simple Press books at my websites, hoping to send readers your way. I posted a link to my Preview page ( on Twitter.

Double-checking a link, I clicked on the “Preview” link to my latest magnum opus, 30 Pounds / 4 Months. When I published this thing, I checked it carefully in the Kindle Previewer downloaded from your site. It looked perfect. This afternoon, using the same downloaded and installed Kindle Previewer, I just opened the .mobi file I posted and also downloaded to my hard drive at the time I published it it. In the Kindle Previewer tool that appears at your Bookshelf site, the layout looks PERFECT.

But when the Preview is viewed by clicking on the linked image generated by your “Preview” code, what you see is a FREAKING MESS!!!!!!!!! The subhead fonts are all screwed up: subheads are larger than level-A heads. Flush-left first grafs are indented further than regular indented paragraphs.

No wonder I’m selling a ton of them in hard copy but can’t get move the thing at all electronically! Your customers must think I’m a lunatic.

I had to take the first version of this book down and completely revamp it when a reader slammed the bejayzus out of it and me because it went online in a font jumble. It was, admittedly, my first effort at publishing through Amazon, and I mistakenly thought that what one saw in your simple online previewer was what one got. My error!

After spending many hours completely reformatting the thing from beginning to end using the appropriate styles, I re-uploaded it and checked it obsessively in your Kindle previewer. Not the one in the cloud, but the one you download and install on your computer, which supposedly comes closer to displaying the reader experience.

WTF? Can you explain this latest fiasco? I have put a lot of work into this book, and I am NOT HAPPY to see it screwed up again!!!!!  Especially after the viewer you folks promulgate in your “Bookshelf” function showed it to be as close to perfect as a human editor can make it.

Is the book as the reader purchases it a freaking mess? If it is, WHY is it a freaking mess?

If the formatting looks to the reader as it does in your downloadable Kindle previewer, why is it a freaking mess in your “Preview” come-on tool?

To coin a phrase: God damn it! I had no idea the format on the 30 Pounds / 4 Months book was all f*cked up. Again. It looked absolutely primo in the (huge!) Kindle Previewer that you download and install in your computer — the one that takes half your lifetime to load. It still looks primo.

But when you look at it through the new Kindle previewer sales tool, what you see is sh!t.

Now I suppose I’m going to have to take this version down, too. I actually have sold more of them in hard copy than in Kindle (the final print version should be here this week or early next week, for those of you who have ordered them).

Grrrr! You can be damn sure if that thing is a mess again…still…whatEVER…it’s not going back up on Amazon. We’ll convert the thing to ePub and post it at Nook and iBooks.

I. want. to. bite. someone. Jeff, my man? Are you there?