I'm a writer. There, I've admitted it. I wonder if there's a 12-Step program for folks like me...

Most of this blog will be about writing for a living. Or maybe about trying to earn a living as a writer. Or maybe about trying to have a life while you write.

And maybe I'll be able to avoid the driving temptation to write about politics. But I'm not very good around temptation, so all I can promise is that I'll try to avoid writing about politics.

But I will write about the software I use, and the software I try out, and what I think about it. I actually spent lots of years in software testing - as a tester and as a manager of testing departments. I actually started work in software development in 1971, so I have a bit of experience with computers to back up what I have to say on this subject.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas and a Happy new Year to Everyone

 

Including Sir Timothy John Berners-Lee, who made this blog post possible in every meaning of the word. Berners-Lee is a British computer science professional who, while based at CERN in Geneva, pulled together the concepts of hypertext, Transmission Control Protocol and Domain name ideas and sent the very first hypertext message to another computer on 25 December. Twenty-one years ago.

image

Sir Timothy John Berners-Lee

The world we know today simply would not exist if Tim Berners-Lee had been working as an accountant in London, or selling shoes in Chicago.

No email, no weather on your desktop (probably no desktop), no internet banking (and no on-line porn or gambling), no direct deposit of your paycheck, no web sites to visit of any kind, no on-line libraries, no Amazon or eBay. Nothing would exist as we know it today if Berners-Lee hadn’t stretched his mind to pull all of those bits of technology together.

In the twenty-one years since that day the entire world has been transformed. Oddly enough, very few people have noticed. Most of them have taken it for granted, as they do just about everything else in their lives.

Sir Timothy John Berners-Lee and Santa Clause have a few things in common. On the whole, though, Berners-Lee has given much more to the world.

Below are a few links that will provide a bit more information on this most amazing individual.

http://www.achievement.org/autodoc/page/ber1bio-1

http://www.w3.org/People/Berners-Lee/Longer.html

Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year.  May it be safe and profitable for each and every one of us.

The next time you send an email, slip a link to this blog post into it.

Be safe out there.

Friday, December 23, 2011

I bought a Kindle, and I feel like a traitor

 

I’m not exactly sure what or who I might have betrayed, though.  Maybe I just feel like I’ve let my side down. But I’ve had my novels selling on both Kindle and Nook for about a year, and I had no idea what an eBook actually looked like.

So, I bought a Kindle “Touch” with WiFi. It’s grey-scale and does not have 3G capability, though the Touch does come in a 3G/WiFi version. But I will NOT purchase ANY electronic product that requires a contract/monthly payment plan. Will not. Ever. Period.

So I might have spent a bit over $100.00 on my Touch, but I didn’t spend $200.00 on a Kindle Fire. Good for me. That just means I kept that hundred bucks in My pocket. Right where it belongs.

So I am very happy with my Touch. Along with the device I bought a protective leather cover for a few dollars more, and it is well worth the price. I can download an eBook in a few seconds, read it at my leisure, and enjoy it. It is lightweight, the screen is clear even in low light (or maybe I just have really good close-up vision) and the books are remarkably inexpensive (more or less, anyway).

But I can’t bend down a page to mark my place. Of course, I can always tear up a bit of napkin and stick it between the front cover and the view screen. But once you start to read a book you can simply put the device down or even turn it off, and when you find yourself with a bit of time all you have to do is start it up and you are right back in the novel where you left off. No need for bookmarks.

Truth to tell, I have yet to buy one of my own books to see what they look like on the device. But I’ll get a round to it. Some day. Once I finish reading the books I’ve got on it now. Maybe.

I bought Taylor Anderson’s “Firestorm” http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_i_2_15?url=search-alias%3Ddigital-text&field-keywords=taylor+anderson+kindle+books&sprefix=taylor+anderson

This is the latest in his ‘Destroyermen’ series, and enjoyed it immensely. Anderson is a master of the alternate universe genre. His world is well crafted and true to itself, and all of the characters in it are real people. His plotting is impeccable and the stories move along so well by the end of the tale you find yourself hungry for the next in the series. I cannot recommend his work highly enough.

Michael J. Sullivan has his “Riyria Revelations” series out in 3 volumes:

http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Ddigital-text&field-keywords=michael+j+sullivan+kindle+books&rh=n%3A133140011%2Ck%3Amichael+j+sullivan+kindle+books&ajr=0

I’ve read “Theft of Swords” and “Rise of Empire” and have “Heir of Novron” on order. Sullivan writes in the Swords and Sorcery genre and his writing is superb; lots of light humor and dark deeds, along with a bit of love and romance and more than enough thrills and chills to keep the reader entranced.

I downloaded his free short story “the Viscount and the Witch” and read it in less than an hour. It provides a bit of backstory to the relationship between his main characters, Hadrian and Royce. Very enjoyable.

Next on my gotta-have-this-book list is “Ghost Story”, by one of my all-time favorite authors, Jim Butcher. It truly is unputdownable (Relax, it’s okay; I’m an author. I can do things like that. I have a license. Really).

http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_i_3_11?url=search-alias%3Ddigital-text&field-keywords=jim+butcher+kindle+books&sprefix=jim+butcher

For all you Dresden Files fans, Ghost Story is a must read.

Next on my gotta-read-this-book list is “The Undertaker”, by William Brown.

http://billbrownwritesnovels.wordpress.com/

Bill writes murder/mystery novels with some very interesting plots. I just picked up on his blog thanks to a recommendation on FaceBook by another author, Allan Ansorge.

http://aeansorge.com/

Allan writes mysteries with a lot of humor and curious plot twists. he does stuff with his characters I could never get away with, and he does it with an √©lan that is simply amazing. I’ve met Allan a few times at group book signings. he really is quite a character, and an authentic nice guy.

All of the media pundits, including my very own, Don McCauley, say I should be ending my blog posts with a “Call to Action”. So here it is, folks:

Have Merry Christmas, Happy Hannukka, and a Safe and Profitable New Year!

Monday, December 19, 2011

What I did with my weekend

 

I have been an active member of the Clay County Writer’s Group here in Florida for a few years. I don’t make all of the meetings; there’s just too much to do with researching and writing and cleaning my room, eating and sleeping that I just don’t have that much time for meetings. Not to mention marketing, personal appearances, selling and signing books and so on. But I do get to as many of the meetings as I can.

I mean, who else can a writer talk to other than other writers? Nobody else understands what we go through to put out a book a year. I hate writers who claim they can write a book a month. I hate them even more when they actually do write a book a month. I even know a few of them.

You know who you are.

It takes me two years to research and write a sellable novel, which means that if I want to release a novel a year I have to well and truly bust my butt to meet those deadlines. Somehow I manage, though I am not quite sure how; I don’t work hard, or put in long hours, and heaven knows I spend a lot of time stumbling around  looking for my sandals or wondering if I should shave that day (not to mention all of the novels I read. It makes me furious how many authors have stolen ideas from me before I even had a chance to think them up).

No wonder it takes me two year to write a novel.

So this past Saturday Clay County Writers Group held it end of the year meeting in St. Augustine, Florida, the home of the Ancient City Writers Group. They meet once a month in the North Ponce De Leon Public Library. I got there about fifteen minutes before the meeting started and met Maureen Jung, the leading light of the Clay County Writers a few minutes later. She was there to give a talk to the combined groups on the changing world of communications.

And it is changing, rapidly. I was familiar with much of what she had to say, since I do most of my own blogging, social media posting, news releases for local events and so on, and work directly with communications folks who do the stuff I don’t know how to do (that is a long list we can get into later).

But Maureen has been doing work in the communications field for many more years than I have, and on a scale way, way beyond my amateurish abilities. Most of her work nowadays involves the medical field, including documentation, grant proposals, providing training seminars for people new to the field and lots, lots more. She knows this stuff inside and out.

We had around fifty people in the two groups of writers and there was little time to sit around and chat. But I di meet a few new writers, and spoke with them briefly before the meeting go under way, and we exchanged cards as the meeting broke up.

What Maureen had to say, in brief, is the following: email is critical to communication today – read your emails aloud BEFORE you send them out. Be specific and concise. Avoid wordiness and humor. People who receive your emails are very busy and your humor may fall on very sensitive ears. Wordiness is confusing and may create confusion in the mind of the reader or worse, it may cause a reaction the complete opposite of what you intended.

Email, Facebook and other social media sites, web sites and recent phenomena such as Twitter are quickly overtaking face to face meetings and telephone conversations as the most important means of communication. The world is rapidly becoming more and more of a global marketplace very existence depends on fast communication for its livelihood.

In all of your communications, provide a headline, body text and closing/call to action with additional information below that if the reader has time or interest in pursuing it. The headline should be clear and concise. The body text should be no more than three or four short and informative sentences and the closing should contain a short summary and a call to action.

People today have no time to read long and involved emails, and when browsing they will only rarely look beyond the top half of the home page of any web site they go to. If, that is, they even land on your home page.

Search engines direct traffic on he web nowadays, so if your web site is not in the top half of the first page of Google, Yahoo or Bing! it is highly unlikely anyone will ever lay eyes on your URL or have the chance to read the few lines of text the search engine uses to describe your site.

(I will add here that if you do not know anything about Search Engine Optimization you are either very lucky and probably well off or very, very ignorant. If you are a writer hoping to get your web site noticed, you had better start looking into SEO or take up another line of work.)

The point of her talk on communication is this. The communication industry (oh, yes it is an industry) is changing to meet the needs of the day. the way we did things when we grew up (well, when I grew up, anyway) no longer apply, or apply in new and different ways. We need to change the way we communicate without losing site of why we communicate – to exchange ideas and information.

Brevity is king.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

I was Hit by a Nasty Piece of Malware this Morning

 

It’s called Win 7 Internet Protection. It is accurately termed a ‘Shape Shifter’ because it will configure itself to whatever Operating System you are using. Nasty, because it does present itself as a new version of your Windows security tool and ostensibly it has found a Trojan in one of more locations among your files. those place include any System Optimizers, Anti-virus/malware utilities and even your browsers.

When it notifies you of the presence of the trojan it will offer to clean up your system for you. But when you select Clean’ it will send you to a page where you pay for the cleaning service – 1 year for $60.00.. If you back out of that without paying you will find yourself blocked from access to any of your anti-virus/malware utilities and even your browser.

It is a nasty piece of work, indeed. Be very, very careful of what you do at this point. the people who wrote this critter are not your friends. Several web sites identify this software as malware and even provide an accurate description of how it behaves. Then they offer to sell you the means to repair your system.

There is a much easier and far less costly way to do that. ‘Restore’ your operating system to a  point at least 24-hours before you noticed the malware. If you are working in Windows 7, click on the globe at the bottom left corner of your screen and in the search box type ‘restore’ and hit the Enter key. Then select the restore point and click the Go button.

Once your system has rebooted, run your anti-virus/malware software. And maybe even download the free version of Zone Alarm. It’s good, and it’s cheap.

I got rid of it, despite its blocking access to my anti-virus and system optimizer tools. But it made me very, very angry. I was lucky, and smart. You can be, as well

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

News Release

 

PRHeaderNEW

ButtonQuickInfo

Florida author Gary Showalter has announced the release of his third novel, 'Twisted Key'. Showalter writes in the tradition of John D. MacDonald, Elmore Leonard, James Grippando and Carl Hiassen. 
ButtonFull%20Release
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Florida Author Gary Showalter Announces Release Of Mystery Novel ‘Twisted Key’

Gary Showalter writes in the tradition of John D. MacDonald, Elmore Leonard, James Grippando and Carl Hiassen. His novels have been called 'impossible to put down'

[City State - Date, 2011]  Florida author Gary Showalter has announced the release of his latest novel, ‘Twisted Key’. In addition to his other novels, ‘The Big Bend’ and ‘Hog Valley’, ‘Twisted Key’ is available in paperback, Kindle and Nook formats.
Gary Showalter’s works follow in the tradition of great mystery novelists such as John D. MacDonald, Elmore Leonard, James Grippando and Carl Hiassen.
In the ‘Twisted Key’ storyline, retired cop Terry Rankin has taken on a new client; Fatima al Natsche, a Muslim woman living under a sentence of death for her work on behalf of women suffering under Islamic law. Terry’s a businessman – he’ll protect just about anyone who can pay the freight. In fact, he admires Ms. Al Natsche and the sacrifices she’s made to get her message out.
But when her daughter flies over from Norway and gets snatched off the street in front of her mother’s home, all of the masks come off and all of the dirty little secrets come out to play in the Florida sun.
"In 'Hog Valley', my second book," stated Showalter, "I introduced Fatima al Natsche as a new client. I was fascinated by her 'backstory' and spent idle time while completing 'Hog Valley' thinking about what the future might hold for that new relationship between Terry Rankin and al Natsche. And I wanted to write a story about the wreck of a treasure ship nobody even knew existed. 'Twisted Key' is the result of all of that game playing I did with al Natsche and Rankin. It turned into a cracking good story, and is currently outselling my first two novels. It's not only a tale about a buried treasure, and greed, and revenge. It's a story of what lies beneath - what really motivates people - what you learn when all of the masks come off and people are forced to expose themselves for what they truly are."
A recent Amazon reviewer stated that Showalter’s latest book “has a lot going for it. The background he brings to the story adds considerably to the tale, including knowledge of boats, weapons, the Florida coastline, etc. Plus, the story line itself is big and complex enough to keep the reader engaged. It's a tale worth telling.”
Gary Showalter is available for media interviews and can be reached using the information below, or by email at gary@garyshowalter.com. More information is available at his website. Click  on the “For The Media” button on the left side of the home page for a complete bio, photographs, podcasts and transcripts of interviews, etc. All of Showalter’s novels are available in both print and electronic versions at Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble.
Profile:
Gary Showalter was born in Honolulu, Hawaii. He lived in Aruba, Florida and the Panama Canal Zone before joining the U.S. Army during the 1960s. He served in the Israel Defense Forces Reserves for sixteen years, and when not on active duty he worked in government and private security. He has also served in senior management positions in two software development companies in Israel.
During his time in Israel, Mr. Showalter published articles dealing with international terror and the Israel-Arab conflict in the Jerusalem Post, Israel national News and several political science web sites.
Mr. Showalter returned to the United States in the fall of 2003.
Contact:
Gary Showalter
gary@garyshowalter.com
www.garyshowalter.com

ButtonImages

Gary_Showalter_Headshot                              Gary_Showalter_Cover
Author Gary Showalter                                                                    Twisted Key cover



 

ButtonMultiMedia%20copy

clicktoplayaudio

ButtonSocial

button_seednewsvine
Seed Newsvine

ReTweet This Release
Click On The Logo Below

twitter_logo

lg-share-en

Copyright 2011 Free Publicity Focus Group

Thursday, December 8, 2011

“Lonesome Cove” update, and more


It’s been a busy week around here. Yesterday – I can’t remember any further back than yesterday, except for when I was three years old, and that’s not relevant to this story – I drove to Ocala for a photo shoot. I also met with Mickey Summers, who is working on the cover art for “Lonesome Cove”.  We discussed a few changes to the layout, and he has some ideas about deepening the color and adding a few highlights to enhance the mood of the picture. He should have it done near the end of this month. We also discussed the manuscript. Mickey’s my initial editor while I’m still in manuscript, and he has saved me tons of money and hours of work over the years, so I listen very closely to what he has to say. Every one of my novels is as good as it is due to his input.
I’m just lucky that way.
Nancy Tucker-Garcia is an old family friend and Ocala girl presently living in Kansas. Yes, a few people do live in Kansas (but we all know where they come for their vacations, don’t we). She is a professional photographer and runs a design and layout company (www.ngphotoanddesign.com). She contacted me last week and said she would be visiting friends for a week and she would do a photo shoot with me if I could make it to Ocala. Well, I’m nobody’s fool, so I said yes. My sister and I drove down and spent most of Wednesday with her. We walked around downtown Ocala and Nancy had me posing here, there and in several other places while she worked her magic Nikon with some whacking great lens on.
When I got up this morning and logged on, she already had a few photos posted on FB, so I snagged them and added them to the Media section on my web site. Now, I’m almost as old as dirt, barely housebroken and I don’t even own an iron. Nobody ever accused me of being a clothes horse, either. But Nancy is so good she makes me look good, and that takes more than a hint of skill.  Here’s one of the two she posted on FB:
GaryDoorLeaningColor7Dec2011
I should have the rest of the photos she took after the first of the year, and I’ll select a few head shots for promo packs and so on.
It’s supposed to rain in Green Cove Springs, Florida, tomorrow. Say, what? That’s only important if you live in Green Cove Springs, right? Why bother everyone else with that bit of trivia? Well, I’m going to be at the Military Museum of North Florida early in the morning, setting up my marquee tent and putting my books on display for the Arts & Crafts Fair. And the Military Museum of North Florida just happens to be about a mile east of Green Cove Springs, right along the St. John’s River.
But it’s only supposed to rain during the morning. The mid-day and afternoon temps should climb all the way up to 64 degrees. Imagine that for a brief moment. Florida, winter (well, almost winter) and temperatures a balmy 64 degrees! Now, that’s worth writing home about.
Kindle has set up a very attractive plan for authors who either do publish or are thinking about publishing for the platform. Since My novels are already Kindle-ized, nobody had to twist my arm to get me to sign up. You might check the Kindle Owners Lending Library page (http://www.amazon.com/gp/feature.html/ref%3dtouch_off_wel_em_koll?&docId=1000739811) for details on this offer. I mean, borrowing books is a whole lot cheaper than buying them right? And besides, you’ve been thinking about buying one anyway…
Speaking of Kindles, I’ve been publishing for the platform for a few years, now, and realized I had no idea how my novels look on the device. Publishing involves no cost to the author, and it is pretty much a do-it-yourself affair (but be sure you have all of your little duckies in a row or you just mike an incredible mess of things).  I’ve spent the last few months arguing myself silly over actually plunking down good money to buy a Kindle so I could check the quality of the formatting for myself.
The Kindle publisher uses a ridiculously small Preview screen once the software has your files formatted for the device – it’s so small there should be a law against it – and the only real way of checking your page layout and formatting is by seeing the novel on a Kindle.
So, I bought a Kindle Touch, and I am so far very pleased with it. And no, I haven’t bought a copy of one of my novels for it, yet. But I did buy “Firestorm”, by Taylor Anderson. If you have any interest in ‘alternate worlds’ novels, his are right at the top of the list, in my book.
So, if you’re going to be in Green Cove Springs this Saturday, drop by the Military Museum on SR 16 and say hello. Take 17 south through Green Cove and turn left onto 16. The museum is on Bunker ave. about a mile down on your right. And bring a raincoat – you might need it.