Red Ned Tudor Mysteries

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Prognostications and Pouting: Ebooks! The Horror ! The Horror!

Prognostications and Pouting: Ebooks! The Horror ! The Horror!: "A Fevered Imagination, Ebooks! The Horror ! The Horror! Good day my well regarded viewers, devoted House-ophiles all. I hope this..."

Ebooks! The Horror ! The Horror!

A Fevered Imagination, Ebooks! The Horror ! The Horror!

Good day my well regarded viewers, devoted House-ophiles all.  I hope this latest missive finds you all in excellent health. No need for consultation from the good doctor? No physick or bleeding required, hmm? Excellent just remember the balancing of the four humours is an important part of your chosen physician’s duties, making sure that one doesn’t suffer from any excesses of black bile that could trigger an angry or choleric disposition. What’s that you say? Well let the good doctor give you an example from real life. Last week we had a light hearted discussion of the potential advantages of e-publishing. A simple piece, of course packed full of, ahem, wisdom and foresight. Unfortunately it seems to have prompted all manner of ragingly rabid articles from the publishing industry in both the press and on the blogging scene. All warned in stern tones of calamity, both dire and dreadful, if agents and publishers loose control of the literature market. Now, they are the perfect example of what I’m talking about.

My diagnosis is as follows;

An excess of choler ‘made light by its very strong heat has been drawn inexorably upwards in fumes and bodily steams until it has reached the moist atmosphere of the brain. Once there its mellifluous strength has overthrown the natural order of that noble organ and caused a madness of frenzy and delirium. Based on my reading of the Secreta Secretorum

Now as for treatment, mayhap ice baths to bring down the inflamed choler. Perhaps if that doesn’t help, the application of an electrical stimulus to the tender portions may drive off the evil vapours. If even that fails, then I fear they are in God’s hands since we have reached the limits of physical medicine. After that only prayer and scourging can bring them back from the haunts of Bedlam.

What was that? Are you implying that the use of cattle prods is a tad harsh, unbefitting of the status of a master of physick? I fear that if anything we are being too gentle in our treatments. Let me give you a further example of the depth of their current mania. One Antipodean ‘self styled editor’s blog in a recent entry openly gloated with unrestrained joy over rejected applications some hundred years old. Satisfaction is gained in many diverse practices and we must learn to be broad minded. It takes all types I suppose. But then they wistfully remarked how satisfying it still was, to crush those undeserving worms who dare question ‘their’ literary judgement. I mean to say they must be right, after all dozens of agents and publishers justifiably knocked back that minor no talent non-entity JK Rowling, and well her books hardly made a ripple in modern culture did they? At this point the good doctor’s uber editor has included the following. This household of Houslings now possesses not one set of JK Rowling books but two, as second son decided he wanted his own copies.

Though that is a minor symptom of the delirium, I have found others more severe as this snippet from a relatively recent publishing conference will show;

“…today’s book publishers have some significant advantages as they compete for their places of prominence in the niched world that is evolving. The book publishers’ royalty relationship with authors is a key strength. It means that authors will collaborate by blogging or posting articles without necessarily demanding compensation.” Mike Shatzkin Publishing the Story of the Future Seminar 2007

Now that segment speaks of a real problem with delusions of grandeur, a true brain fever of the worst sort, similar to the one that afflicted my Lord Essex in his rebellion against her Sovereign Majesty Queen Elizabeth. Perhaps it is best expressed by a more modern concept- megalomania. I’m sure all my readers know the sort of difficulties that affliction can cause-lots of cannon fodder driven forward by ‘incentives’.

Now onto the next symptom of the malady, from the choleric vapours permeating the brain, to the inability to distinguish reality;

On their blog another local and ‘anonymous’ ‘publishing’ identity has displayed a confusion when it comes to simple numbers.

if you buy a Kindle for $189 and your first e-book is $20, you're essentially paying $209 to buy that e-book. Extract from anonymous blogger 20/01/11
If I remember correctly, Kindle was reduced to $139 sometime around August 2010 and a quick search on Amazon’s Kindle ebook list gives prices from 99c to an average $8.00. As for this strange logic, if you applied that to the purchase of a new car then your drive home from the showroom is $25,000 plus a tank of fuel ($35) equalling a ten kilometre trip worth $25,035. Terribly expensive isn’t it?
The same blogger unfortunately continues their mental confusion with the following;

and thousands of e-books available, will covers for each individual book matter any more? Perhaps not. Rather, the author's brand may have more significance as a visual cue. Just like the old wax seal on an envelope, the author's personal brand will identify their e-books as a product… Extract from anonymous blogger 20/01/11

Apparently in ‘their’ regard, the reader has no more wit than a sheep who can be easily led by a glowing brand name. So the supposition of this particular delusion is that brand name surpasses quality. Even more disturbing is the suggestion that covers, the eye candy and memory mnemonics of all modern books, magazines, games and the linchpin of the internet graphics surge, will be in the e-revolution, superfluous. I ask you, is this the discourse of a sane and rational person?

What was that you said?

Oh, of course I’ll reattach the electrodes!

Ehh… up the voltage? Certainly, after all it is essential to expel that vile humour. The screams you say, a bit LOUD? Don’t worry it’s just temporary until the laudanum kicks in. Anyway pain is good for healing process!

In the meantime the good doctor asks you to consider whether agents and publishers have been those stout gatekeepers of literary quality, as they querulously maintain. I’m sure, as discerning consumers and intelligent people you haven’t rushed out to buy a book because a marketer has said, in blaring tones that it’s the latest must read! Or have you ever looked at an over promoted book in absolute disbelief at its lack of a story, plot, editing or even coherence. Or perhaps thought quietly to your self that perhaps a drunken snail on a keyboard could do better? Well the good doctor respects the reading public and I’m certain you’ll all act responsibly and not foam and rave like those poor deluded fools we’ve been prescribing. Just remember as they rattle their chains and moan they deserve our pity.

What? Another serve of shock therapy? If you insist, I only do this for the greater good.

As the good doctor say keep taking the pills!

And watch out for the first two Red Ned Tudor murder mysteries Cardinal’s Angels and the Queen’s Oranges they’re coming out soon on Smashwords and Amazon!

Friday, January 14, 2011

To Epublish or not Epublish, that is the Question?

Epublishing a Chance for Writers?

Greetings my well regarded readers, all several of you, I hope that this New Year celebration and holiday has left you relaxed and refreshed rather than frazzled and stressed out. If the later then a good firkin of methaglyn will definitely restore the balance of the humours and good cheer. I thought today we’d discuss a vexing subject of our literary times; whether it is nobler to published in print or suffer the slings and arrows of epublishing.
As many of you will have seen before Christmas and since there has been an absolute hysteria from both the publishing and retailing industries regarding the proliferation of ebooks and their electronic readers plus the growing impact of online purchases. Here in the Antipodes it has even prompted large retailing chains to howl indignantly over the apparent unfair GST (Goods and Sales Tax) status of on line purchase. Apparently their extremely expensive marketing consultants completely missed the steady growth of companies like Amazon or Ebay and the increasing strength of the Aussie dollar over this last decade.

One wonders how every one else appeared to pick up this trend while senior executives and consultants missed it, are they perhaps they’re still living in a pre digital pre internet world? Though maybe that’s not so surprising, this same collection of highly qualified and experienced commerce experts also totally missed the six months or more of warnings of the Great Economic Meltdown so perhaps we should allow them some latitude in relation to the internet.
After all the siren song of voodoo economics is so hard to give up.

There done that, vented my spleen now on to e-publishing.

On my way up to my old friend Nick’s funeral I spent quite a few hours with many of my old school friends, and as expected we swapped stories about families and current pursuits. All of a sudden I found that I had to condense four plus years of trying to get published the traditional way and going along the new e-publish path into a very short explanation, and to be honest it wasn’t that easy. I found that a lot of myths had grown up around the getting published process, ones that now I examine them are very difficult to accept.
Now in a very light hearted and satirical fashion the good doctor covered the perils and processes of publishing in a prior blog (see Publishing Gregory House), so just regard this as part 2.

Publishing, The Sequel!

The Query Tread Mill

Long accepted practice has the aspiring author send off a two hundred word or so grovelling query letter outlining their brilliant literary masterpiece along with a brief outline of qualifications, suitability and marketability to an agent or publishing house. On the surface this is a sound practical process and has been so for over a hundred years. It is meant as a sorting mechanism to winnow out the literary wheat from the chaff, however real life proves more quirky.
Most agents and publishers make it very plain in their web pages (those that have them, which is by no means all) that your query will be handled in due course ranging in time from weeks to months. After that little flash of truth you’re then informed that during this lengthy process of deliberation if during that time you get tired of waiting for a reply and decide to send your query to anyone else. The original recipients will trash your query and put a big black mark next to your name.
Alright lets do the maths lets say you’ve narrowed down twenty A grade ‘potentials’ and give each a two month turnaround (this is an average period, some claim one month turnaround other three or longer). That’s three and one third years!
Excuse me? Let me get this right, you want ‘me’ to put my business proposal on hold for how long? Until you’ve deigned to notify me if my proposal has even been ‘reviewed’ before I can send it to someone else? I mean, is this for real? Isn’t that a touch monopolistic as well as incredibly un-business like and impractical? Not to mention woefully Dickensian?

Quality Assured?

Over the Aethernet one apocryphal tale does the rounds, a well known author as a test sent off hundreds of query letters based on an already popular and published work. The result was dismal, not only did they gain few replies, most of those hadn’t twigged to the apparently obvious clues. Oh dear human nature strikes again!
The other point in queries that always concerns me is that while query letters make time management sense, I’m not sure the ability to churn out a two hundred word bite is necessarily the same as that required for a one or two hundred thousand word novel.
To give a comparable real world example, it would be like judging a student’s year long efforts solely on a two paragraph submission. As if any teacher could get away with that! Opps, bad example but you get the drift.


Some of the complaints from the publishing industry have focused with a ferociously rabid righteous indignation on the expected drop in editing and story quality with the anticipated flood of e-published books surging tsunami like into the market. If they are to be believed the rampant barbarian hordes of almost illiteracy are howling at the gates, battering rams swinging, slavering with eagerness to defile the chaste virgins of literature. Well maybe not quite like that, but that’s not far off the level of hysteria as currently portrayed. The advent of the personal computer over twenty years ago was heralded as the dawn of the new age of literary expansion, more talented writers would be able to produce a greater volume and diversity of stories. So it has proved, however we are now told most of them are functionally illiterate without the guiding hand and steady editing pencil of the experienced agent and publisher.

Having taught high school and university level courses there is a shadow of truth there, but perhaps no more than in any generation of complaints about education quality. Now I strongly agree that editing is the key to any successful writing, god knows I’d be in a pickle without my uber-editor Jocelyn to rearrange the commas or sort out the phrases and adjectival clauses. However I find the strident proclamations of the publishing industry as bastions of writing and language to be somewhat hollow.

Several books of my recent acquaintance proved to be the denizens of strange and unusual realms of grammar, one book of a popular adventure genre had a three page sentence before the first full stop. While a recently highly praised and awarded literati winner swapped around tenses more frequently than serves in a ping pong match. This may be postmodern démodé but it made the story impossible to figure out who was saying what to whom and why. That of course is the extreme or maybe not. Perhaps I’m being too picky, but after spending twenty plus dollars I like a story to be:
a) Interesting
b) Well written
c) Coherent
d) Entertaining or scary, or gut wrenching, or full of pathos, or even thoughtful
e) Edited, in that the main characters retains their own names throughout the story
f) Or we do not display the Tudor attitude to spelling (a very ‘individual’ approach)

After twenty dollars plus I have found there is rarely a guarantee of quality, so as for being guardians of the public weal of language and quality products I would have to rate them as a dismal failure.

Publicity, Marketing and… Distance

Traditional agents and publishers frequently promise to handle all the publicity and marketing of your literary creation. Well that’d be fine if only you could trust they’d do a good job, I mean I only have to mention the plethora of headless bimbo covers of previous blogs. Oh dear sorry about that, the sarcasm gear slipped into overdrive again. Damn that dicky clutch! What I meant to say was that publishers and agents will ‘encourage’ you to do book signings and engage in marketing and promotions as well as set up a website and of course social media is a must! Hang on we’ve got a slight problem there. Isn’t that exactly what I have to do as an e-publisher? Well what do you know it actually is! And I don’t get charged a marketing percentage or agent’s fee and its all tax deductable to me, wow amazing! Why didn’t I think of this before?

As an Aussie I understand the tyranny of distance. It’s a damn vast place with a thousand kilometres between each major city. So travelling around for me isn’t unusual. Authors are frequently told they have to get out and market their work via book signings and media events. Now this may be easy for those living in Capital cites like London or the New England to Richmond Va. region or even L.A (sometimes). However if you don’t, like a very large number of aspiring authors, then distance is your enemy in so many ways. One of the greatest obstacles is surprisingly prejudice based on region. Unfortunately a significant number of urbanites, their life circumscribed by concrete and pavement, frequently regard your queries and submissions as coming from deepest Hicksville or Uppercumbucka West and sneeringly automatically bin them. Sorry seen it.

The solution of course is simple, use the internet. The action however is another matter requiring intelligence, forethought and dedication.

Money !!!
Now we enter the sordid world or finance where the purity of art is soiled by grubby commercial considerations. Ain’t it wonderful! Now in the current market the author, that’s the person who slaved away for months to produce the work is the least compensated, garnering usually a lot less than twenty percent of the ‘net’ profit more often fifteen or ten. Now lots of publishing companies will huff affrontedly over that ‘figure’ claiming the high cost of printing, distribution, marketing and publishing expenses. In some case they may even have justification, however according to ‘modern’ accounting practices whether the author’s work sells or not they still make money on it. Now we arrive at e-publishing placing a book in the electronic market place does not involve either distribution, or printing. So the question is how can a publisher still claim such a high percentage? Personally I’ll cut out all those expensive and superfluous middle men and go with Smashwords, who guarantee that around 80% of the sale price goes to the authors. Thanks Mark Crocker for returning power to the authors keep up the good work!

So we’ve had a very satirical cruise through all the reasons why I’m going for e-publishing. I must add that the publishing world is not all bad. Out there in publisher land there has to be some decent hardworking agents and publishers. However their impact on the market has unfortunately been minimal. I, like many other authors, am now exercising my ‘free market’ rights and going digital, so hope to see you soon on an ebook reader of your choice!

As the good doctor says keep taking the pills!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

In Memoriam Nick Sams

 Vale Nick
To all my readers I wish you a happy and safe New Year in the hope that it will be an improvement on the last.  Traditionally the New Year break or the twelve days of Christmas and the older Roman Saturnalia was a pause in the yearly cycle.  Up north its when the Yule tide log is ceremonially burned as symbol of the returning power of the sun, as those enduring a northern winter begin to count the days until the cold departs.  Always it has been a time of renewal and new hope, when pledges are made for the coming seasons and the old year is recalled in both happy memory and regret.  All of us around the world celebrated, mostly with family and community
 -- some of you I’m sure saw the wonderful fireworks from Sydney Harbour Bridge.  That was always my favourite New Years spot and a pleasant inspiring sight to carry into the next year.
For the good Doctor it is the same, on this New Years Eve he managed to catch up with a dozen old school friends and their families, who’d travelled in some cases thousands of miles to share the pledging of troths and swap old stories and new.  In a few instance I hadn’t seen these dear friends for far too many years.  The usual excuses of life and drama that we often come up with always feel so inadequate when you greet them after such a long break.  However with the lads of the KDD fellowship Knox Drinking and Driving society 1978, though here I must pause and add in real honesty that never in all those years did they undertake those pursuits at the same time.  Not ever!  But I digress, apart from the fact that they were good honest friends at school, one of their endearing traits is their welcome and friendship is always extended to any new members of the fellowship either by marriage, association or just visitors.
Their other unfailing trait is that no matter how long the time lag, distance or irregularity of contact, when you do finally coincide, it is as if you’d only been away a few weeks.  The wry smile, the hug, the joyful welcome its always there and always the same. 
Now I know dear friends and readers that the Doctor has usually given forth in a lightly satirical tone regarding some the common misconceptions and mistruths of modern life and history to entertain and enlighten.  Though you no doubt understood that the articles on the Great War where very much from the heart.
In this missive I am forced to put aside the common banter and talk about loss.  In my study of history I often came across references to the ravages of plague famine and war and the toll that had upon the Medieval or Tudor family.  Frequently it has been lightly glossed over, by dare I say older usually single male academics with the dismissive tone of ‘well they lost so many all the time, no doubt they where used to it, grief and loss was different in those days’. 

At that point the tome usually hits the wall.  I find the offhanded dismissive-ness deeply offensive and insulting as if inferring that our ancestors weren’t capable of human emotion.  If I recall my prehistory correctly some years ago a grave was discovered containing flowers and red ochre pigment sprinkled over the body.  Quite clearly it pointed to respect, love and grieving.  That was a hundred or so thousand years ago.  To be blunt despite some of our more destructive habits that one human trait at least has remained constant.  We genuinely mourn our departed, because we loved and regarded them, so their loss hurts us deeply. 
So at this stage in the discussion I have to admit to my own loss and it isn’t damned academic. 
At New Years Eve, I once more met up with a very old friend Nick Sams. We had talked on and off over the years and swapped greetings via the KDD network but for sixteen odd years we actually hadn’t shaken hands or exchanged personal G’days or met our associated partners and children.
Well as I said above, it was as if it had only been weeks not years.  So as you’d expect we caught up and our partners got on and the kids enjoyed each other’s company as only they can.  Thus finally we departed after many pleasant hours enfolded in the love and community that is the KDD and the New Year looked a damned sight better for their company, fellowship and regard.  

I find that at this stage of my life I do not possess that common rose tinted view of my past or of the shared time at school, or to be honest of my then fellow adolescents.  Some of them where right little shits and it wouldn’t surprise me to find a few have fled the country over dubious financial schemes or regularly engage in questionable moral decisions.   Unfortunately that’s part of the human condition.  But it does have a balance, those people at the other end of the spectrum, who are despite all the travails of life, are basically ‘good men’.  As I said I’m somewhat cursed with honesty so this isn’t idle flattery or gratuitous praise, the KDD has more than its fair share of good men (and women) who’ve stood beside others in difficult times because it was the right thing to do and not because it was popular or expedient.  But because it’s what you do; real duty, honour and humanity. 

After all that wind up now for the loss.  My friend Nick Sams died suddenly this week on Jan 3 while walking with one of his school friends.  Duncan Mc and other bystanders present acted immediately and got him off to hospital.  Unfortunately the damage to the heart was far more severe and that evening, well you get the drift. 
Now I didn’t know Nick near well enough over the past few years, but I do remember him at school as if it were last week.  His friendly mischievous grin is all so easy to recall.  I remember him even better because he actually was genuinely friendly.  I cannot recall a single instance of petty meanness or spite so common of adolescent lads in an exclusive school.  If you needed a hand he was always there.  In all the reports of his actions since then I haven’t heard he’d strayed from the essence of that personable lad it was good to be with.  Now I’m not saying he was a saint, but from what I saw NYE he still had that glowing sparkle of care, love and humanity that made me proud be enfolded in his continuing regard.
As Mark Anthony said of Caesar
I come to bury Caesar not to praise him, the good that men do is oft interned with their bones, while the evil lives on. 

Well damn it!  It wasn’t so for Nick Sams I cannot grieve for him as Sarah and his girls do and our compassion really does go out to you in this sudden tragedy. 

But each of us can help no matter where we are, we can remember Nick; his smile, his laugh, his helping hand.  For instance the work on the whirly gig last New Years Day, where the ready camaraderie of the KDD was there to help out.  As for others if you knew him, his memory is enhanced by a smile and a tear.

Bye Nick

Ever since I've known him he's always been the friendliest and hospitable friend, and so keen to be one of us.  He loved his family dearly and after being with him, I always left happy and with a smile on my face. ‘Stuart’.

Nick’s sense of inner good humour always shone through. ‘Cathy’

I find myself at the conclusion of reading your proposed blog, sad at our loss, thinking deeply of Sarah and her two.  Where will our “league of extraordinary gentlemen" be without him?  We are now so much poorer. ‘Cameron’
In other words, for David and I, it was a normal, wonderful day with old school buddies, and there were no signs of anything wrong, right till the end.
We will all, I'm sure, have our own special memories of Nick.  And I'm sure, he will live in our memories, very vividly!  Duncan Mc’

Farewell to one of a kind gentleman who blessed us with his enthusiasm for life. He will be sorely missed by us all. Our love and thoughts are with Sarah Megan and Kate
‘Duncan M’

I will never forget both the care Nick showed as I struggled to have a child then the delight when we knew Mitch was to arrive on his birthday. Nick even brought us both home from the hospital. So very sad that Mitch will not have the opportunity to share more birthdays with Nick and in later years, share a beer.  ‘Chris B’

He will always be in my thoughts.  I remember most his pleasure in others – his focus on others.  His openness, friendliness, kindness. 
For my 40th birthday, Nick, Andrew and myself did a little pub crawl.  The idea was to sample an ale or two from each of the boutique/micro breweries in the CBD of Sydney.  We went by train, of course.  On the way, Nick introduced me to a “Triple J” – being Jack Daniels, Jim Beam and Johnny Walker, plus air.  Just to get us started, you see.  I remember a night of just good friends, good talk and good ale.  Thank you Nick, for that great night.
I remember Nick coping with loss of employment – obviously hurting, but not letting it destroy his basic optimism.  His willingness and preparedness to do anything, try anything.  A doer, not a complainer.  We talked a lot in those days – those difficult days.
Throughout it all, his basic goodness, his generous nature did not change.  The Nick I knew in High School is the Nick I really enjoyed catching up with at New Year’s Eve.
 Vale Nick.  ‘Angus’

The following is from Duncan and he gives us a very vivid picture of his time with Nick on his last day with us.

Can I just tell you all briefly about my last day with Nick (and David M) , especially coz is was so, so normal, right till the end of the afternoon.

It was one of those typical last days we had guests staying with us, so what were we all going to do?  And possibly more typical, the girls went shopping and to the beach, and the boys... well there was Nick, David and myself, and Nick came up with this idea: "how about go-karting?" There wasn't much convincing needed for David and I, so off we went about 1pm.  Way over the other side of Melbourne, but that was fine, David had to be dropped off at Melbourne Airport to go back to Sydney, and the airport wasn't that far from the kart track. We were only on the track for 10 minutes, but the 3 of had a ball!  The chat in the car during all those km's was terrific.

We dropped off David at the airport.  Nick and I headed home from the airport about 3:30pm via a sculpture on the side of the freeway on the way back.  I had to point it out to Nick after Robyn had spoken to him about it.  As we approached the city, I suggested a cup of coffee at Port Melbourne. He readily agreed.  Although after a few minutes, I thought to ask: "would you prefer a drink at a bar?"  Nick said, no, coffee's
good !

The two of had a really great chat right thru the arvo, as he and I always did, I'm sure just like he did with you all.  Coffee at the Port Melbourne cafe was terrific. A pleasant little french patisserie on Bay Street. We sat inside, chatted more and watched the world go by.  Very, very relaxing.  As usual, Nick was great company.
And still, as thru the whole day so far, Nick was very much the lovable Nick we all knew and loved. Nothing was any different.

We headed home from Port Melbourne at about 4:30pm and again had 25 minutes to chat with Nick on the way home. We had planned a BBQ for Nick & Sarah's last night at our place. So we needed to stop at a supermarket on the way home just for a few small things. So we stopped at Sandringham Coles.

It wasn't until then, just as we got out of the car at Coles, that Nick complained of what he said was "heart burn". But it only put a slight frown on his face. We walked the 25 metres to the entrance of Coles, and there, he wanted to sit down. From there, he basically started show signs of collapsing.

It wasn't long before we had an ambulance there, and Sarah was there in minutes via Robyn's car, in time to go with Nick to the hospital. All the time at Coles, bar about 10 seconds when he seemed to blackout, he was awake, and quite "with it". Even while on the ambo's stretcher, easily recognised Sarah from 20 metres away, and called out her name and waved to her before she got to him.

In other words, for David and I, it was a normal, wonderful day with old school buddies, and there were no signs of anything wrong, right till the end.

We will all, I'm sure, have our own special memories of Nick.  And I'm sure, he will live in our memories, very vividly !

Thanks Duncan I realise how difficult that was to compose and get down. In parting as my name sake Dr Gregory House would no doubt say;
“You’re not immortal y'know, the human body is surprisingly frail and vulnerable. So god damn it, take care of it!”

"Oh yes and take the pills!"