Friday, August 31, 2012

Flyers = Sales?

Despite a complete dearth of responses by any of you to my request for feedback on the idea of a neighbourhood flyer for No Brother of Mine, I went ahead and printed up 50 copies anyway. This morning I distributed them into mailboxes in our general vicinity, and this afternoon we got our first sale as a result! That more than pays for the printing costs, meaning that this particular operation is already in the black now.

Hopefully we'll get more than just the one sale, though.

[Update Sep 4/12: And we got our second sale as a result of the flyers today. Now we're cooking!]

[Update Sep 8/12: Two more sales courtesy of the flyers, bringing the total to 4!]

[Update Sep 12/12: As I posted about above, six additional sales came along thanks to someone in the neighbourhood who works at the St. Joseph's Hospital gift shop. Total now stands at 10!]

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Well, At Least Paul Ryan Made History Last Night

Too bad for him he made history by delivering the most dishonest convention speech ever!

Comic Sans Font Gets No Love

I used it affectionately for the chapter titles of my AgileMan books, but apparently even the artist whose work inspired Microsoft's creation of the Comic Sans font, the great Dave Gibbons, has no love for it!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Pink Floyd - "Moonhead" 1969

This little gem is downright surreal:

Read more about it here, if you're so inclined.

Whenever I watch video of moon walks, I'm always terrified that one of the astronauts is going to rip a hole in his suit, despite the fact that I know that nothing like that ever happened. Sort of like the way I get nervous watching my DVD of Game 7 between the Rangers and Canucks from 1994.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

"It's A Quagmire"

I don't know whether to laugh or cry after reading this New York Times article about online reviews and how many of them are fake. I've tried to nag people to review (or at least rate) my books on the various websites they're sold on, but it's sometimes like pulling teeth to get anyone to do so. (Thanks, once again, to those who have done it, though. Much appreciated!) And now I find out that I could've just been paying for positive reviews, like so many other authors apparently have.

Somehow I think I'm still better off without that, however. I'm happier counting on a growing word of mouth campaign to eventually build up a large enough reading audience to keep me writing. To paraphrase those old Smith-Barney ads, I'm trying to be successful the old-fashioned way: by earning it!

Gold Rush Madness

As hard as it is to believe, there's actually a groundswell of enthusiasm among American Conservatives to return to a gold standard. Once again, Professor Krugman shows just why that's such an incredibly bad idea.

It's like that old saying, "Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it." The current crop of Republicans seem bound, bent and determined to prove the truth in that!

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Rest In Peace Neil Armstrong

He was never comfortable with the fame that his one small step and one giant leap earned him on July 20, 1969, but I guess now he won't have to deal with that any longer.

I fell asleep, down in our rec room, waiting for that historic event to happen, back when I was 6 years old. To this day, I think that if I'd been even just a couple of years older, I would've made it! I do remember the excitement of the time, though: it seemed as though walking on the moon proved that we were destined for great things, as a species. Too bad we've spent so much of the ensuing 40+ years failing to live up to that.

Anyway, here's to Neil!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Marketing No Brother Of Mine In The Neighbourhood

Soliciting opinions on the following:

I had an idea this afternoon about printing up a flyer about No Brother of Mine, basically describing the premise of the book and explaining who I am, including contact info such as phone # and e-mail address, and then sticking a copy of the flyer into a bunch of mailboxes of homes in our neighbourhood.

I'd obviously tailor the flyer toward a neighbourhood angle - "Hi neighbour! You may have seen my wife and I out walking but did you know that I've also recently published a book that's been getting very good reviews from everyone who's read it?" sort of thing - to play upon the familiarity aspect of who I am. I'd probably print up 50 copies of the flyer, distribute them and see if anything came of it (i.e. sales or other interest).

It's a pretty low cost form of marketing/advertising, which appeals. However, I'm a little leary that some people might find the flyer annoying or inappropriate.

Thoughts? Please leave them as Comments here, if you have any.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

What Institutional Ignorance Leads To

One of the big news stories south of the border this weekend has been the moronic comment by a Republican Senate candidate who claimed that women can't get pregnant as a result of 'legitimate rape' because the female body has some innate defense against that.

This, of course, is exactly the sort of thing you'd expect to hear from a representative of a movement that denounces science and values ignorance above all else. If you're in that group, then it makes perfect sense that you'd buy into all sorts of ridiculous crap, as you struggle to build up your Rube Goldberg contraption of a belief system. Every moral dilemma that challenges your precarious world view requires another layer of fairy dust - such as a woman's body being able to reject the seed of a rapist - to be sprinkled over the ground around you. Thus you can argue that the Earth is only a few thousand years old, that men and women coexisted with dinosaurs, that all proof of the existence of evolution is actually the result of a worldwide conspiracy of scientists, that the planet isn't really warming up, and so on.

What I can't get, though, is how there can be enough people so deluded in the U.S. that the party that represents those beliefs continues to get members elected. That really boggles my mind.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

30 Pieces Of Advice On Writing

Tammy pointed me toward this lovely little article that features short, bite-sized quotations from a wide variety of authors, providing advice on their craft. Some I'd seen before; others were entirely new to me.

While many of the suggestions resonate with me, I think the one that I probably live by the most is # 14, from James Patterson:

"I'm always pretending that I'm sitting across from somebody. I'm telling them a story, and I don't want them to get up until it's finished."

No Brother of Mine, judging from all the feedback so far, seems to have come the closest to that target of anything I've written.

Of course, I also strive to be faithful to Elmore Leonard's # 8:

"I try to leave out the parts that people skip."

That one, of course, tends to be highly subjective. So I do a slight variation on it: I try to leave out the parts that I tend to skip as a reader.

Friday, August 17, 2012

It's Starting To Feel Real

We were lucky enough to have great-niece Emma here for another 2-day visit, this week. Her primary goals this time around were, I believe:
  1. Bring some clothes with her so that the official move-in, at the beginning of the school year, wouldn't be so dramatic.
  2. Take the bus to and from the university so that she could familiarize herself with the route.
  3. Buy as many of her textbooks for the first term as she could find.

I assisted with the 2nd and 3rd items, and I suppose even the 1st one (as I did some loading and unloading of the car), and they all definitely made it start to feel real this week.

She's actually coming to live with us.

It's a pretty exciting prospect for Vicki and I, as we adore Emma and think she's a fantastic young lady. But there's also a bit of the ol' "fear of the unknown," at least in my heart, considering that Vicki and I have been on our own for something like 7 years now. Adjusting to having a 'younger person' (is that the politically correct term at the moment?) in the house again is probably going to be... interesting, to say the least. But it's now only 2 weeks away, so I suppose it's too late to change our minds about it, right?


Just kidding, Emma, if you happen to be reading this. We can't wait for you to get here!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Just The Kind Of Leadership We Don't Need

Did the folks of Toronto really vote in this buffoon as mayor who's almost certainly going to kill someone on the road before he changes his ways? I guess we do get the kind of leaders we deserve, as sad as that is.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

What Paul Ryan Makes Me Think Of

Paul Krugman, on Paul Ryan (who famously said that Ayn Rand is the reason he got into politics):

"There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old's life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs."

If Mitt Romney's selection of Ryan as his running mate this weekend didn't give the election in November to Barack Obama, then the American people are even stupider than I thought... which is a pretty tall order, these days.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

3rd Novel Progress Update

This afternoon I finished the 2nd chapter of my 3rd novel. It took me over a month to get through it, but most of that time was spent in the activity commonly known as "not writing." Part of that was due to waiting on feedback on Chapter 1 from Tammy, which never came due to her crazy busy work schedule down in Melbourne, but mostly it was just me procrastinating.

Last weekend, though, Vicki and Julie began 'pestering' me with questions about the book, which got the creative juices flowing again. A week, and 20 pages of writing later, it's coming along quite nicely. I accomplished everything I wanted to in the second chapter, including providing some nice backstory to several of the characters.

I should also mention, for posterity, that I have the book's title already in mind, and have had it since before I started writing the first page. That's different than either of the first two novels, where the title came to me well into the writing. For the first one, I think I was about halfway through when I floated Game Over as a possibiity to Julie, and she immediately loved it and started rattling off all the ways in which it would work. I believe I was several chapters into No Brother of Mine before I started even thinking of titles, and it was really the line of dialogue, "No brother of mine would try to kill his own father," that sold me on the utility of that particular choice. This time around, however, I had the title before I really had much of the story. So we'll see how that works!

Friday, August 10, 2012

On This Date In History

I've probably mentioned this factoid on the blog before, but am currently too lazy to look and see.

Anyway, 37 years ago today (Aug 10, 1975), while on a family trip to Cedar Point amusement park, we stopped at a convenience store in Sandusky, Ohio, and I went inside to see if they had any comic books. I'd left for this trip as the owner of 998 comics, you see, and I was hoping to maybe pick up # 1000 before I got back home. (And yes, I'd counted my comics... and even started cataloguing them by this point!)

As luck would have it, there was a 3-pack of comics in the store that I was sure I didn't own at least 2/3 of, since you couldn't really see the comic in the middle of the bag. It turned out I needed all 3, and so that mystery middle comic - Detective Comics # 452 - became the thousandth comic in my collection!

And it's been all gravy since then.

[Update later that evening: Yup, sure enough, I covered this 2 years ago. Oh well, it's a good enough story to show up a couple of times here!]

Entertainment As Research

Vicki and I just viewed Raiders of the Lost Ark for the umpteenth time, but interestingly, this was the first time I've ever watched it as research for a book I'm writing.

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

In Other Brain Surgery News...

... Disney just announced that Joss Whedon will return to write and direct the sequel to this year's blockbuster, The Avengers. Considering that the film has already grossed over a billion (with a 'b') dollars worldwide, and that jaw-dropping figure doesn't include any DVD/Blu-Ray revenue yet, can we officially call this a no-brainer? Not to say that the House that Mickey Built couldn't have royally screwed the pooch on this one, but thankfully: they didn't.

Saturday, August 04, 2012

Climate Change: Here, And Worse Than Expected

That's the finding of a soon-to-be-published new analysis of recent weather changes, as NASA scientist James Hansen reports in a new article:

"This is not a climate model or a prediction but actual observations of weather events and temperatures that have happened. Our analysis shows that it is no longer enough to say that global warming will increase the likelihood of extreme weather and to repeat the caveat that no individual weather event can be directly linked to climate change. To the contrary, our analysis shows that, for the extreme hot weather of the recent past, there is virtually no explanation other than climate change."


"These weather events are not simply an example of what climate change could bring. They are caused by climate change. The odds that natural variability created these extremes are minuscule, vanishingly small. To count on those odds would be like quitting your job and playing the lottery every morning to pay the bills."

This peer-reviewed analysis won't stop the deniers from denying, of course. I just hope that someday they get called on the carpet and held accountable for all the damage they've done by spreading their misinformation. It'd be a very small bit of justice served, admittedly, but at least there'd be that.

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Don't Abandon The Teaching Of Algebra

While I'm not tutoring anymore, I still find the topic of education - especially Math education - to be quite fascinating. When I saw a New York Times piece entitled "Is Algebra Necessary?", I immediately disagreed with several of the points in it. Fortunately, others more invested in the question have provided detailed responses to it, such as this one.

A key sentence in that preceding response, I think, is:

"Few pre-college math teachers majored or even minored in math, and until more teachers do, improvements will be hard to come by."

That's something I've heard, again and again, from students I've tutored. It's not at all uncommon for a high school Calculus or Functions teacher to rely on students in the class to explain the solutions to particularly tough questions... raising the question, "Did the teacher even understand the solution himself/herself?" It seems to be extremely rare for Math geeks from high school to end up as teachers, since they more commonly go into Engineering, Computer Science or related technical fields. And yet, logically, you want someone very comfortable with high school Math to be teaching it, don't you?

Until that disconnect is fixed, we can expect more and more young people to follow Barbie's example, and declare resignedly that "Math is hard."

Nice Post On Agile And Why It Works

Many of the most commonly tossed around objections to Agile are covered off in this Forbes article, making it a very good read indeed.