Friday, April 18, 2014

No Computer In The Computer Room

We have a room in our house we call the Computer Room, When we moved into this house 13 years ago, it was the age of stationary personal computers and dial up internet. The family computer had its own room and that’s where everyone went to do their business online and off. 

Lately I’ve been referring to it as the spare room. With laptops we can go anywhere in the house and it seems silly to call it the computer room when there’s no computer in it.

Right now it’s a junk room. It’s a way station for all the stuff that isn’t being used now, but could be useful some day. If not to us, then to the poor and needy.

It’s my intention to turn that room into a proper office, with a desk and a laptop that only lives there. And a printer. And files. And everything neatly put away.

But first I have to wade through all that stuff.

So far I’ve found lots of framed photos, including several I had taken of my daughter when she was three months old. She’s a freshman in college now, and while I like having photos of her around to remind me of when she was little, the one with her toothless little mouth wide open and her eyes closed, wearing the blue dress my Aunt Lorraine got for her when she was born is not something I want to look at every day.

But it’s hard to throw away photos, especially of your own sweet baby.

And then there are the computer disks. Remember those little squares of plastic you put in a slot in the hard drive? There are stacks of them in the spare room. I’m pretty sure the information they contain is not all that important, but on the off chance that there’s vital personal data on there that some identity thief is willing to dig through our trash and run through the old PC he happens to have on hand, we have to come up with some other way to dispose of them.

What a world we live in. The ever changing technological march forward prevents us from reading the things we recorded just five years ago. And we can’t even throw them out. Gotta think of the environment, you know.

Which gives me an immense appreciation of the written word. Also in that room, stashed away on a closet shelf, are 44 years of my journals, going all the way back to 1970. And while the paper may have yellowed and the ink may have faded a bit, I can still read every word. Well most of them--my handwriting was not always legible.

Sometimes I pick one up at random, looking for an entry on or close to the current date to see what I was doing twenty years or so ago.

And I don’t have to dig up a twenty year old electronic device to do it.

Some day soon I hope to have all the junk cleared from that room. But my journals will remain, a method of recordkeeping that will never be obsolete.  

Judy Nichols is the author of several books available on Amazon/

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

You Want How Much To Publish My Book???

Got a book on New Age philosophy that you want to publish but don’t know where to start? Or perhaps a metaphysical novel? Or a memoir of a profound spiritual journey?

If so, Turning Stone Press is looking for you.

Here’s their mission statement:

“Specializing in nonfiction and fiction titles with spiritual, metaphysical, or self-help themes, Turning Stone Press curates every book published, carefully selecting only those titles that fit within specific parameters.

“Our objective is to offer an exclusive opportunity for authors within these genres to reach their intended readers by providing them with the tools and support needed to give their work the best possible chance for success.

“If you’re looking for a publisher that thinks outside the traditional publishing box, Turning Stone Press is for you.”
And then you click on the “Download Services” PDF. Once you get to the second page you discover that all that outside the traditional publishing box thinking will cost you a coll $7500.
Somehow, I doubt if Turning Stone Press is all that selective when every author they sign up brings in another $7500 in the coffers.
Technically, publishing your own book is free, but face it, coming up with a cohesive, well written, error free manuscript all on your own is next to impossible. You will make more than a million separate key strokes in the course of writing your book. Even with spell check to alert you of your errors, you will still miss lots and lots of them.
And having written it yourself, you become too close to the story. You don’t notice the holes in the plot or the fact that the character you think is hilarious comes off as a crude stereotype. That’s what editors do. They get rid of the superfluous adverbs, the inconsistencies and eliminate the boring parts that readers tend to skip over.
Unless you happen to be married to one (lucky you), you have to pay them.
But a good editor will not cost you anywhere near $7500.  I did a little checking online. Amazon’s Create Space comprehensive editing package is $470 per 10,000 words, so a 70,000 word novel will cost you $3290. Other editors will charge less, but it’s generally between $1000 to $3000 for a full length novel.
Covers cost money, too. You can get a custom designed cover for around $500 to $800. Or if you want to buy “off the rack,” there are pre-made covers that cost around $20. Fill in the title of your book and your name and you’re done.
Even if you go all out and get the full Create Space package plus a custom designed cover, your total cost would be around $4000, about half the price of publishing with Turning Stone.
So what else do you get? Turning Stone’s website says that marketing help is included. Every author receives a press release, a marketing plan and social media tips.
Those are all things you can do yourself for free. If you google “Write a press release,” hundreds of sites pop up with the titles “How To Write A Press Release.”  Or if you don’t feel like writing it yourself, there’s a site called Send2Press  that will do it for $200.  The Forbes site offers a template for a marketing plan.
And there are no end to tips on how to use social media. Just go to Twitter and use this hashtag (for the uninitiated, a hashtag is a word with the “#” sign in front used to look for a topic other people are tweeting about ) #bookmarketing. You’ll find a host of links to everything you’d ever want to know about book marketing online, and then some.
I’m sure Turning Stone is not the only press offering publishing services for a fee. They may do wonderful work. But before you hand over your life savings to them, you should be aware that the primary source of income for this outfit comes from selling its publishing services, not from book sales.  
Don’t worry, you’re not alone. There’s plenty of help on the web.
Here are are a few links:
With a little help, you can do this yourself and keep about five grand in your savings account.

Friday, April 4, 2014

A Song For You

"My gift is my song and this one’s for you.”

"Your Song." Elton John sang it, but Bernie Taupin wrote the words. I’ve often wondered who it was for. We’ll never know. Taupin said he wrote it when he was 17 and that it’s not about anyone in particular. I think he’s just being discreet.

Perhaps the ultimate act of love is to write a song for someone, something so heart breakingly beautiful that it makes everyone who hears it cry softly, feeling the song’s emotion to the depths of their souls.

A song like “Fix You.”

Chris Martin wrote it for Gwyneth Paltrow when her father died. It’s a song that captures the feelings of loss and grief and helplessness in the face of death like lightning in a bottle.

And the tears come streaming down your face
When you lose something you can’t replace
When you love someone, but it goes to waste
Could it be worse?

Lights will guide you home.
And ignite your bones.
And I will try to fix you.

Unless you’ve been living in a cave for the last month, you probably know that Martin and Paltrow have “consciously uncoupled,” or as we in the real world say, have decided to get a divorce.

If my husband had written a song like that for me, I’d stay with him to the end of time and then some. But I’m not Gwyneth Paltrow and my husband is not Chris Martin.

Even though we had the album, I don’t remember hearing it until I saw the 2007 documentary “Young@Heart,” about a choir of senior citizens who sing alternative rock songs like “I Wanna Be Sedated” by the Ramones and “Road to Nowhere” by the Talking Heads. 

It was supposed to be a duet sung by two of the men, but one of them died before the performance, so the remaining one sang it as a solo, sitting on a chair, with the tubes from his oxygen tank in his nose, with the rest of the choir singing background. I guarantee, you won’t be able to get through it dry eyed.

And there is the beauty of this song. Everyone who hears it makes it their own. When I hear it, I don’t think of Gwyneth Paltrow at all, I think of my mother, who passed away last summer. Coldplay performed the song at the memorial service for Steve Jobs, so I’m sure his family think of him when they hear it.

Obviously, no one knows what happens in a marriage. It is the business of the two people in it and no one else. But in exchange for such a beautiful song, wouldn’t you think twice about leaving?

Here is the song performed by Young@Heart Fred Knittle, who died at the age of 83 in 2009.

Judy Nichols is the author of several books available on Amazon/