A Hodgepodge of Useful Bits & Pieces – Mid-January 2014

Posted January 15, 2014 by Kathy Davie in Author Resources, Building Your Own Website, Conference/Workshop, Hodgepodge Newsletter, Marketing, Publishing, Writing

Contents of this Post

Posts that share a common theme — Bookstores, Kids, Social Media, etc.—are in ALL CAPS.

The Hodgepodge of Bits & Pieces is a bimonthly link round-up of articles and posts I’ve run across online which I thought may be of interest to writers and readers. I’d appreciate feedback on any of the bits or pieces which spoke to you—good or bad!

And I found Ron Carlson and his: “I always write from my own experiences whether I’ve had them or not.”

– Barbara Ganley, “On Learning to Tell It True

In General

Scribd Piracy Controversy

Scribd Profiting From Piracy?

Michael Capobianco from Writer Beware writes of “Scribd‘s New eBook Subscription Service: Partnering with Publishers, Profiting from Piracy“, and he discusses its “all-you-can-eat subscription service that allows access to an unlimited number of eBooks for $8.99 a month. A membership that allows “unauthorized ‘previews’ of many other books” with a complicated perecentage-read formula that determines IF a book is paid for. Capobianco also notes that Scribd‘s old “not-necessarily-legal user uploads of copyrighted works–is still there. Only now Scribd has monetized them, since you can only see a ‘preview’ of the material for free, and must be a paid subscriber to access the whole unauthorized upload.”

Capobianco also mentions a Smashwords blog post with two important bits of information for writers:

  • To qualify for Scribd distribution via Smashwords, the book must be Premium Catalog approved
  • By distributing your book to Scribd via Smashwords, you’ll also help prevent and remove unauthorized versions of your work at Scribd
  • The percentage-read means that “fully functional navigation in your eBook is essential for the formula to kick in. (To learn how to upgrade your eBook’s navigation, check out Read Coker’s recent blog post and video, How to Add Navigation to a Smashwords eBook.)

Scribd Responds to Capobianco

Calvin Reid at Publishers Weekly reports that “Scribd Responds to Writer Beware on Pirated Content” with a list of actions they are taking to remove pirated content, but Capobianco ain’t impressed.

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Just for Fun


‘Half Nelsons’: A Pitch for Indie Support

This is a practical request from Patrick Carman, author of the Pulse trilogy among others, for a “truce” with Amazon. That readers buy half their books from Amazon and the other half from brick-and-mortar bookstores. That seems fair. I know we’re all caught by today’s economy with those cheap deals from Amazon with shipping right to our door. And yet we also need to find balance in our lives and get out the door every once in awhile. Why not include stopping at the bookstore (with the kids!) and picking up a new novel, a how-to, or simply chatting with whoever’s in the shop? Keep our “Main Street”, help keep our bookstores around.

Best Kids’ Bookstores

Susan Banchek at Daily Candy sets us on the trail of the “Best Kids’ Bookstores Coast to Coast” in a slide show featuring its choices coast to coast, with 17 locations highlighted where people can “replenish your supply of bedtime stories” from Dallas to D.C.

Marketing Solutions for Indies

Beth Golay, marketing manager and events coordinator for Watermark Books and Cafe in Wichita, Kansas, for 12 years, is starting Books and Whatnot, an online newsletter meant to provide marketing solutions for independent booksellers.


Mrs. Nelson’s Toy & Book Shop in La Verne closed its doors for the last time on January 5, 2014, but the Nelson name lives on in a FaceBook proposal from Patrick Carman, author of the Pulse trilogy among others, for a truce with Amazon, the half-Nelson.

Mr. Mopps’ Children’s Books opened in October in Berkeley at 1417A Martin Luther King Jr. Way as “an immersive literary environment for kids”.


The CDA Press reports that The Well-Read Moose Bookstore “will open in April in a 2,700-square-foot space at 2048 Main St. in Coeur d’Alene” and “combine book sales with community events and [a] wine [bar], books for all ages and host both author signings as well as book clubs.”


Claire Kirch at Publishers Weekly reports that “Big Hat Books, the only general, full-service independent bookstore in Indianapolis dedicated to new books, is closing its doors within the next week so that its owner, Elizabeth Houghton Barden, can ‘deal with health issues’. Barden, who was in a car accident several years ago, plans to use the time off to also ‘reimagine the business’. To that end, Barden is looking for a new retail space for Big Hat, which is in Indy’s Broad Ripple neighborhood.”


Owl & Turtle Bookshop in Camden “is seeking either a business partner to join her or someone to buy the store completely” as she learned over the holidays that she’ll need to be “the sole support for her 25-year-old son, who has autism”.

New Jersey

Sages Pages in Madison will be closed while the shop and the insurance company work together [hopefully] to help the bookstore recover from flooding caused by a broken water main.

New York

Shelf Awareness wants everyone aware that “a fundraising effort has been launched at GiveForward for Scott Meyer, co-owner of Merritt Books in Millbrook. He is battling cancer and this initiative was created to help with mounting medical bills. Noting that ‘there are few better friends to authors and book lovers than Scott Meyer,’ organizers of the fundraiser said that for years he ‘has tirelessly championed authors in the old-school tradition of hand-selling, promoting books on local radio shows and publications, sponsoring and stocking book-fairs throughout several counties, and organizing five annual Millbrook Literary Festivals. Owing to his inexhaustible enthusiasm and constant promotion of authors, he’s been called the Tasmanian devil of booksellers … ‘”

As someone who adores history and landmark buildings, let alone bookstores, I regret to read Charles V. Bagli’s New York Times article, “Bookstore May Have to Flee the Wrecking Ball, Again” about yet more “development” with the destruction of the current Rizzoli Bookstore.

North Carolina

Scuppernong Books in Greensboro is holding its grand opening party 6-10 p.m., on Saturday, February 1.


Francis Pellicciaro at The Lantern reports that “3 Ohio State campus bookstores closing doors“: College Town, located at 1770 North High Street, closed within the last month (textbooks can still be purchased or rented through the Neebo website); University Book Exchange, located at 10 East 15th Avenue, is set to close its store by the end of spring semester; and, Buckeye Books, located at 2060 North High Street, closed during fall semester.

Beehive Books in Delaware will be closing at the end of the month due to health issues.


The Writers’ Workshoppe in Port Townsend has merged with Imprint Books, as reported by the Peninsula Daily News, blending a traditional bookstore and the Workshoppe, which specializes in workshops and books for writers.

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A Reminder of the Digital Public Library of America

I first mentioned the Digital Public Library back in the May Hodgepodge and this roundup from Andrew Albanese at Publishers Weekly about the “The Top 10 Library Stories of 2013” along with a dig at Obama’s health website disaster in that the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) was voted one of Time Magazine‘s “50 best web sites of 2013”. Primarily, however, this roundup item is simply a reminder for those of you interested in research that the DPLA is an “‘open, distributed network of comprehensive online resources’ that would draw on collections from the nation’s libraries, universities, archives, and museums”.

“‘The next time you’re tempted to waste 10 minutes looking at an online slideshow of cat pictures,’ wrote Time reporter Harry McCracken, ‘point your browser at the Digital Public Library of America instead.'”

Users can currently access “more than [5] million items via a powerful search function, as well as create timeline and map views. There is even a free mobile app that puts the DPLA in your pocket.”

OverDrive Has Great Year

Digital Book World notes that “OverDrive’s Record-Breaking Year: 102 Million Digital Checkouts“—up 44% over 2012—with “a surge in mobile device usage highlights the demand for on-the-go access, with more than half of all digital checkouts coming from mobile platforms”. And the word is that OverDrive is planning great support for enhanced books in 2014.

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2014 BIO Award

Stacy Schiff has won the 2014 BIO Award, given by members of Biographers International Organization to a colleague who has made “a major contribution to the advancement of the art and craft of the genre”. And it’s just one of many awards she’s received.

Minotaur Books and the Private Eye Writers of America Novel-Writing Contest Winner

Alison Flood at The Guardian writes of “a convicted murderer who has been jailed since 1988, who pieced together a vision of the outside world gleaned from episodes of Law and Order and novels to write a serial killer thriller that” enabled Alaric Hunt, incarcerated indefinitely, to win “a novel-writing contest run by Minotaur Books and the Private Eye Writers of America for Cuts Through Bone.

2013 TS Eliot Prize

Joshua Farrington at the Bookseller reports that Sinéad Morrissey, Belfast’s inaugural poet laureate, has won the TS Eliot Prize for her collection, Parallax, finally winning the prize after being shortlisted four times in 2002, 2005, 2009, and 2013.

2014 Digital Book Awards

“The Digital Book Awards recognize innovation, creativity and excellence in all aspects of digital book publishing. Each year, award winners and finalists in 15 categories demonstrate fresh thinking, inspired design, and bold technology integration, pushing the boundaries of what’s possible in this constantly evolving publishing arena.

The awards encompass all forms of digital publishing that are available to consumers as eBooks, enhanced digital books and apps, to showcase and reward the work of authors, developers, and publishers.”

Click here if you’re curious as to who the finalists were (and there were some pips!) and the definitions of the categories.

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Stop the Cyber Bullies

Kristen Lamb has a post on “Are Some Humans Born to Bully? Born to Be Victims? Can It Be Changed?“, which is kids-related. It’s where bullies need to be stopped. I know this isn’t a particularly bookish bit of news, but it is a very important topic, and, um, you have to read it, so I figure it qualifies *looks down as she rubs her toe of her shoe back and forth in the dirt* I’m with Lamb on “Before we go too far, I am not in the camp of ‘Blame DNA or Blame Mom’. We are humans not holly bushes and we have the power of choice.”

How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character by Paul Tough: Review Part 1

Cynthia White at The Things You Can Read is a schoolteacher with a passion for educating kids, an enthusiasm deepened by the birth of her own kids. I was blown away when reading her post” about Paul Tough’s How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character. She says that she’s only partway through and found so much good advice and great ideas that she has to break her review up to contain it all. And with what she says so far … WOW … Parents, you may want to read this one—the post AND the book *grin*!

S/he Doesn’t Like to Read

Josie Leavitt at Publishers Weekly talks about the struggle parents have with the kids who read and those who don’t, and she has a good suggestion I’d like to add to: don’t push your kid(s) into reading. Instead think of what they like and find a book that revolves around that. Maybe pick up a variety of books in different genres. (I did this for two of my non-reading sisters, picking up the piles at a used book store so I could afford the variety. I’m pleased to say I created at least one monster!) Then, as Leavitt says, leave it lying around. It “Turns Out, She Is a Reader“.

Staples Adds Textbook Rental

Publishers Weekly notes that “Staples Adds Textbook Rental“, which isn’t making colleges happy, but should be easier on the student pocketbook!

American Booksellers Association’s Winter Institute 9 Silent Auction

This is a chance to do some good for kids in the American Booksellers Association’s Winter Institute 9 Silent Auction and raffle of children’s book art on Thursday, January 23, 6-7:30pm in the lobby of the Seattle Westin during the author reception. The The American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression (ABFFE) will auction off “more than 30 works by leading artists with proceeds going to support ABFFE, the Kids’ Right to Read Project, and Banned Books Week.

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Get a Heads-Up on Authors to Follow

I just learned about Author Alarms, a site that sends you an email when a author you like (you do have to input the author’s name into the system) puts a new book out. The beauty of it is that it only tells you when a new book has come out. It won’t send out teasers. Which may not be your thing … LOL …

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Time Zone Converter

Ran across a Time Zone Converter on a site scheduling Twitter chats and it had this TZC link in parentheses, very handy) which thrilled me to tears. I figured if any of you were like me … *eye roll* … you sometimes screw up figuring the correct hour for a meeting, phone call, or Internet interaction of some sort. They also have a 99¢ iPhone app.

If anyone can figure out how to make it work so that I can include a link in the writing workshops section to make it easier for those of us who are time-and-math-challenged to simply click and get the appropriate time for each of us … I’d love ya forever!

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The Alcatel MagicFlip is Probably the Lightest eBook Reader I’ve Ever Handled

Nate Hoffelder at The Digital Reader notes that “The Alcatel MagicFlip is Probably the Lightest eBook Reader I’ve Ever Handled” with a note that “it could indeed be an excellent complement to a smartphone, even more so than the txtr beagle (a 5″ eReader with a similar smartphone companion design)”. Although, it doesn’t sound very practical yet, and I must confess I’m confused as to how it makes a companion to a smartphone … Anyone want to weigh in??

Amazon’s Kindle Kiosks

Todd Bishop and Taylor Soper at Geekwire spotted the “Surprise: Amazon tests physical retail with ‘Kindle Kiosk’” vending machines at the McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas, site of this year’s Consumer Electronics Show and have noted that the machines are “spreading to include events, malls and airports”, making it simple for “customers (like you!) [to have] another easy way to purchase accessories and also Kindle e-readers and Kindle Fire tablets.”

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Bookish Sold Already?

Edward Nawotka at Publishing Perspectives writes of “The Bookish Sale: Was it Preordained?“, and I’m surprised that Hachette, Penguin, and Simon & Schuster sold it off so soon after launching. It’s only been eleven months, but I suspect that Nawotka is right in conjecturing that Department of Justice trial on collusion played a big part in this decision.

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Win a Book or 90

Simon & Schuster is celebrating its 90 years of publishing with its “Simon & Schuster 90th Anniversary Library, a list of the staff’s favorite 90 titles from those 90 years. (The site features a timeline of S&S’s history.) Starting today [Jan 10] and continuing for the next 90 days, S&S is highlighting the 90 Years, 90 Books Sweepstakes, offering titles from the Anniversary Library. Everyone who enters the daily drawing in the sweepstakes is automatically entered to win the grand prize of a complete set of the Library. There will also be drawings to win the Library at the ALA Midwinter meeting later this month, BEA’s Consumer Day in May, the ALA annual meeting in June and at the National Council of Teachers of English annual meeting in November.

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New Perspectives Thru Reading

Cassandra Neace at BookRiot is promoting a good idea in “On Reading Writers of Color“, that of making a concerted effort to read books written by authors who are not white or of European descent. Authors who will help us to see the world through their eyes, gain a different perspective, and learn about other cultures.

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Ripping on the Pro Book Reviewer

Peter Damien at BookRiot tears into the Professional Book Reviewer with his post, “The Decline and Fall of the Book Reviewing Empire“, and he’s too funny as he rips them a new one. And every word is true. It’s readers like y’all that really make the difference for books succeeding or failing. When you talk about the ones you like, ask friends about books they like. Heck, we all know what many of the pro reviewers are like, giving praise to movies and books that we wonder what the heck about and ignore movies and books that we adore … and don’t understand why those didn’t get the nod. Read it and have a laugh.

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Book Subscription Deal in Hard Copy

Rebecca Joines Schinsky at BookRiot writes of a book subscription deal for $50 a quarter (every three months) which includes shipping for U.S. subscribers (there is a separate deal for international subscribers). It’s something BookRiot cooked up with Quarterly to introduce books that the staff at BookRiot thinks you would like, and they do a variety of added-value perks to make this a unique offer to subscribers. I’m not sure it’s worth it, but you should make your own decision.

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Looking for More YA to Read?

Kelley Jensen at BookRiot lists a “2014 YA Fiction Preview: 60 Titles for Your January – June Radar“, and she really does have a list of 60 upcoming publications for YA readers. Most of ’em are authors I haven’t read, so I’m passing the info on to those of you who are passionate about your YA.

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New National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature

Author Kate DiCamillo, the fourth author to hold the position, was sworn in as the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature at the Library of Congress on January 11.

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Gone Girl Pic & Script Changes

Whoa, Gillian Flynn is writing the screenplay for the Gone Girl movie, and she’s thrown out the third act to rewrite it from scratch. Seems “the film’s ending will differentiate from the book” per Julie Miller from Vanity Fair.

First Trailer for Outlander Series!

Starz has released the first trailer for the upcoming TV series based on Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series, which will premiere this summer.

Sam Heughan is cast as Jamie Fraser and Caitriona Balfe as Claire Randall.

Game of Thrones Trailer Released

HBO has released a trailer for Game of Thrones season 4, which premieres April 6.

Stars Set For Ten Thousand Saints

Ethan Hawke and Asa Butterfield will star in the film adaptation of Eleanor Henderson’s novel Ten Thousand Saints, Deadline.com reported. The movie, directed by Bob Pulcini and Shari Berman (American Splendor), also stars Hailee Steinfeld (Ender’s Game).

Cast Additions for The Diary of a Teenage Girl

Kristen Wiig, Alexander Skarsgard, and Bel Powley have joined the cast of The Diary of a Teenage Girl, based on Phoebe Gloeckner’s graphic novel and directed by Marielle Heller.

New Cast Members Added to Mortdecai

“Aubrey Plaza, Oliver Platt and Jeff Goldblum have been added to the Mortdecai cast that already included Johnny Depp, Ewan McGregor, and Gwyneth Paltrow, Deadline.com reported. The film is based on Kyril Bonfiglioli’s three-novel anthology.

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Big in Japan

David Gordon writes of his unexpected success when he was “Big in Japan” in The New York Times, and it’s too, too funny. He has a wry, deprecating wit and appreciates the contrast between cluelessness in Japan and his anonymity in America. It could be us …

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BINC Scholarships

Shelf Awareness notes that “The Book Industry Charitable (Binc) Foundation is accepting applications from now until February 28 for the expanded Binc Foundation Scholarship program. The program will offer two scholarships at the $10,000 level, and up to 51 $3,500 awards, together totaling $198,500, to eligible current bookstore employees or owners and their dependents, as well as former Borders Group employees and their dependents. Awards may be used for tuition, fees, books, supplies and room and board. Funds may also be used after the 2014-2015 academic year.”

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WSJ Book Club Sign-Ups

Alexandra Alter at the Wall Street Journal notes that the WSJ Book Club launched yesterday. Led by authors, the guest host picks the book and guides readers through it with its “first guest host, Elizabeth Gilbert, who will lead a discussion of Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall (my review). Future hosts include Neil Gaiman and Gillian Flynn. Book club participants may pose questions and join the discussion on Twitter, using the hashtag #WSJbookclub. So far, more than 650 people have signed up for the club.”

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17 Best Bromances In Literature

The Huffington Post notes “17 Best Bromances In Literature“, and some of the choices will surprise you.

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Russian Poet Regina Derieva, Dead at 64

Bengt Jangfeldt at The Guardian reports on the travails of a religious Russian poet, Regina Derieva, who “in her best poems achieved that true metaphysical quality” and whom Joseph Brodsky called “a great poet,” died December 11.

Novelist Elizabeth Jane Howard, Dead at 90

Sarah Shaffi at The Bookseller writes of the “Tributes paid to Elizabeth Jane Howard” of a life cut short—I know, it doesn’t seem possible that one could say that of a 90-year-old, but in light of her achievements and her thoughts, she was much too young. Howard’s publisher, Maria Rejt, said, “Elizabeth Jane Howard leaves a body of work—non-fiction and 15 novels including the Cazalet quintet—that is remarkable in its profound humanity.”

“Her novels illuminate and celebrate what it means to be alive—regardless of age, gender or circumstance—and they moved and inspired countless readers, as her vivacity and wisdom inspired her friends in her own eventful and extremely generous life.”

Activist Poet & Playwright, Amiri Baraka, Dead at 79

Carolyn Kellog at the Los Angeles Times writes of “playwright, poet, critic, and activist Amiri Baraka, ‘one of the most prominent and controversial African American voices in the world of American letters,’ died [January 10]” at 79. Newark Mayor Luis Quintana told the Star-Ledger that the former New Jersey poet laureate will be sorely missed: “He was more than a poet; he was a leader in his own right.”

For those of you interested in “black literature, black politics, black music, black theater”, you should be reading Amiri Baraka for his own work as well as the impact he had on society. “Poet and literary activist E. Ethelbert Miller wrote[: ]’Yes, for many of us he was like a father—a guiding star. He was a cultural activist who taught us how to understand the motion of history. He was controversial at times because he was passionate and the times and our social condition demanded nothing less. Baraka taught us how to examine our beauty as well as our ugliness.'” Sounds like the type of man (or woman!) we need more of …

Short Story Writer, Novelist, Neal Barrett, Jr., Dead at 84

Neal Barrett, Jr., the author of more than 50 novels (including The Hereafter Gang) and many short stories and who was named Author Emeritus by the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers Association in 2010, died Sunday, Locus Online reported.

Medieval Mystery Writer, Margaret Frazer, Dead Too Young at 66

I hate this. I hate it when the world loses a great writer, and I do consider Gail Frazer (Margaret Frazer was, at the end, her pen name alone) a great writer. She wrote the Joliffe the Player series as well as the Dame Frevisse series, and I will regret that we won’t learn anymore about Frevisse or Joliffe … If you’re interested in reading more about Frazer, one of her sons has set up a page of tributes and memoriams.

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Amazon’s Bogus Anti-Apple Crusade

Kathleen Sharp at Salon looks at “Amazon’s Bogus Anti-Apple Crusade“, and there’s some interesting information in here which points to eBook prices having gone down in the contested time period with Sharpe stating that consumers actually benefited from the Big 6’s actions. Amazon benefited as well as it dropped prices for consumers to encourage them to move into Kindles, and with 90% of the eBook market, I’d say it worked. Of course, there are a lot of independent bookstores who don’t agree. Sharp also goes into the Berman vs. Apple controversy, and it does seem suspicious that Judge Cote and Berman are friends. As for the secret meetings they hold in which they discuss Apple, well …

You may remember that Amazon helped persuade the U.S. Department of Justice to sue Apple in April 2012, claiming that Apple conspired with five of the nation’s largest publishers to fix the price of e-books at a level different than what Amazon had set. Amazon, the web’s biggest retailer, had been selling published books at a money-losing rate of $9.99. Why? To get us to buy its Kindle e-book reader, and to dominate the e-book market. Amazon’s strategy worked. According to court documents, the firm soon controlled 90 percent of the e-book market.

Andrew Albanese reports that Judge Cote told Apple to stop playin’ around and get with the program.

Why is it that I feel those classes on monopolies and coercion were a waste of time??

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Bavaria Trying to Resuscitate Weltbild

Reuters reports on Yahoo Finance that the state of “Bavaria considers financial backing for insolvent Weltbild bookseller“, the Catholic book publisher and “part-owner of Germany’s second biggest brick-and-mortar bookstore chain Hugendubel”, to keep it from folding. There seem to be a lot of conflicting reasons for its collapse, but I do have to laugh that they got caught selling erotica after condemning it. Seems they stopped selling it, and now they’re going down the tubes. Hypocrisy much?

Rüdiger Wischenbart at Publishers Weekly provides greater depth—without my snark!—in “Germany Girds for Fallout from Weltbild Insolvency“.

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More Class Action Suits Against B&N

Publishers Weekly reports more “Class Action Suits Filed Against B&N“. If you got gift certificates for Christmas … use ’em.

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Writing Tips


A Grand Taxonomy of Insults

LOL, just when you’re getting bored with thinking up interesting insults, along comes Shane Jones’ “A grand taxonomy poster of Shakespearean insults” over at Design Faves.

A Spoonful of Sugar …

Makes me think of Mary Poppins … Mike Rendell’s post, “A Spoonful of Sugar” is a fascinating look at sugar in the late 1700s with the types available and the tools required to use it.

Rendell has another useful post on food, “Never put the ketchup bottle on the table… the origins of ketchup, catsup or kitchup” along with a note about the first cookery book in America. Could be useful …

Hannah Glasse’s Cookery: 1708 – 1770

Celtnet.org showcases old, and I mean OLD recipes from ancient, Roman, medieval, Elizabethan, Hannah Glasse and Mrs. Beeton, and more.

A History in Words: Balaclava, Cardigan, Raglan

For those of you who enjoy the history of words, this post, “Balaclava, Cardigan, Raglan” by James Harbeck in his Sesquiotic blog looks back at the homage paid by these three wearables and the battle that inspired them.

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The Tough Chick in Modern Fantasy: Sexist?

Kira Lyn Blue at Kiralynblue has an intriguing post, “The Tough Chick in Modern Fantasy: Sexist?” and raises good points about why the Tough Chick appears to predominate in novels. What I particularly liked about her post is that she fully intends to combine “feminism” and women’s need for a woman in a frontline role with rational reasons for her primary character’s position in the battle line. BUT. What I really love about this post is that she is writing about her dilemma. Blue is looking at the issue of the Tough Chick, exploring why she exists, discussing reader expectations, and laying out the idea of how she intends to make her Tough Chick character realistic without destroying our “demands” for that frontline. AND Blue is engendering interest in her novel at the same time as she’s asking for reader responses. Very clever and well-designed to make us question our choices at the same time. Brava.

Maximize Conflict in Your Novel

Kristen Lamb has a great post, “The Tips to Maximize Conflict in Your Novel“, on how to up the conflict and tension for your protagonist.

The Flaming Chainsaws

This is so perfect after Lamb’s post on conflict as Benjamin Percy’s post over at Glimmer Train, “The Dance of the Flaming Chainsaws“, provides some of those tools to help figure out the conflicts your character(s) may be enduring—and I sure enjoyed his analogy of the flaming chainsaws, LOL.

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Common Core Creates Opportunities

Neal Goff at Digital Book World is right in “How Publishers Can Take Advantage of the New Common Core Educational Standards” with his valid point about all the new books and eBooks publishers can sell that incorporate Common Core standards. This means writers also have an opportunity, and Goff includes a very useful bit at the end on how you might take advantage of the possibilities … so what’cha waitin’ fer … git writin’ *grin* !

Common Core State Standards suggest a set of core standards in math and English/language arts (ELA) that the individual states can adopt instead of leaving each state to set its own. It also makes it easier to compare students from state to state. It’s “completely voluntary at the state level and are merely a set of educational goals” with “45 states plus the District of Columbia” adopting CCSS. “(A 46th state, Minnesota, is adopting the ELA standards but not the math. The non-adopting states are Alaska, Nebraska, Texas, and Virginia.)”

For $19.99, Goff suggests Demystifying the Common Core: How Trade Publishers Can Profit from the New Curriculum Standards by Neal Goff to read for a “deeper understanding”. Hey, at worst, it’s a useful post on how to market your own work.

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How To Find A Writing Mentor

The Writers’ Relief staff wrote about “How To Find A Writing Mentor” with a useful list of suggestions on where to find them.

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Stuck for a Character Name?

Well, it’s different if a bit simplistic. If you click over to Uinames.com, the instruction will have you hit the space bar, and it generates a name—first and last. Keep hitting the space bar to generate more names. Switch between male and female names by choosing the appropriate icon in the upper left corner of the screen.

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Scientific Algorithms Predict Success

Matthew Sparkes at The Telegraph starts with his intriguing headline, “Scientists find secret to writing a best-selling novel” that does not have the magic wand effect. Nope, its back to good writing and good editing as you slice and dice the clichés, excess verbs, and those banned-in-Boston adverbs right out.

By downloading classic books from the Project Gutenberg archive they were able to analyse texts with their algorithm and compare its predictions to historical information on the success of the work. Everything from science fiction to classic literature and poetry was included.

I think it’s worth a read—to learn more about “statistical stylometry, which mathematically examines the use of words and grammar, [and] was found to be ‘surprisingly effective’ in determining how popular a book would be. The results will make you want to curse.

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Your Publishing Path is Not Set in Stone

Oh lord, this could fit in so many places: here in Writing Tips, over in Publishing Business, or slipped into Marketing Ideas, but since it all comes down to the writing … Kristen Lamb made a good point directly at writers in her post, “Three Tips for Finding the Perfect Publishing Path“, “Traditional houses are encouraging writers to self-publish prequels, short stories, or even stories involving supporting characters to keep the fan fires burning between books”. And it’s a suggestion to be seriously considered.

Primarily, though, Lamb speaks of the varied paths in publishing and how authors no longer need to follow one forever, that choices are possible depending upon where you are in your life.

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It’s Not Just What You Know

Lucy McCarraher at ALLi discovered that “Writing Novels: How to Get the Balance Right Between Fact & Fiction” is not just writing about what you know but structure and its key elements along with a real sense of the world you are creating. Hey, it’s permission to dream … !

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Upcoming Writing Conferences

I’m not endorsing these, I’m simply relating the information.

C.S. Lakin has a post on “Advice I Wish I’d Been Given When I Started My Novel-Writing Journey“, and it’s all about the writing workshops, whether it’s classes you pay for, books you study, or critique groups, Lakin believes you can’t be a good writer until you get out of your own way. I hate it when people make sense, and I don’t wanna follow it … !

Date Location Conference/Workshop
Jan 18, 2014
Grub Street, Boston MA Slam Poetry
Taught by Regie Gibson in a very special slam poetry class to prepare you to master slam poetry competitions. This class will focus on performance, radical-performance, choosing poems for competition, crowd dynamics, and more. Slam poetry uniquely combines elements of different genres to create one of the most engaging new forms of self-expression. This class will be especially helpful for those who want to compete for Grub Street’s teen slam team during next month’s auditions taking place after February’s YAWP session.
Jan 18, 2014
Grub Street, Boston MA Fantasy Fiction
Taught by KL Pereira.

This class will focus on speculative fiction, a nifty umbrella term used to describe all sorts of fantastical literature, from science fiction and the supernatural to horror and the superhero. In this class, we’ll start with discussing the elements of speculative fiction (not just spaceships and timelords). We’ll learn how to create our own unique speculative characters and stories, consider all-important genre questions (does my vampire really have to sparkle?) and even chat about how to successfully incorporate speculative elements into existing works.

Jan 18, 2014
Grub Street, Boston MA Fiction
Taught by Nadine Kenney Johnstone.

In the beginning, there was the story and it was good. In this course, you’ll learn and practice the tried-and-true elements of fiction. Through a series of fun directed writing exercises, we will explore the terrain of fiction: mining for material, constructing characters and settings, shaping vivid dialogue, understanding point of view, and finding your voice. We will discuss the process of writing and the strengths and weaknesses of the work we produce in class. We will read and discuss published stories in regards to craft, then write exercises inspired by the stories. A supportive and generative experience for all types of fiction writers.

Jan 20-Feb 16, 2014
$134 for DBW Members
Online How to Create a Book App
This course will take you through understanding the book app opportunity, planning your app, finding the right developer (or DIY tool), and planning and budgeting your project.

Find out how to publish your book as a book app and get guaranteed distribution with instant access to a growing and global market. You can create your book as an app, even if you’re not technically inclined.

Jan 25, 2014
2-3:30pm EST
WANA Virtual Classroom Many Roads to Rome—Which Publishing Path is Best?
Kristen Lamb is the instructor, and will discuss the various publishing paths and help you find the one that, now, suits you, your personality and writing, best.
Jan 29, 2014
10am PST
1pm EST
LIVE only webinar, there will be no recording
Ask Twitter” Live-Only Webinar
Ask the social media experts from Twitter themselves. Courtesy of HubSpot, this exclusive Q&A-style webinar with Twitter is a one-time, live only event, which means there will be no recording — so make sure you don’t miss out!

Twitter is a powerful social media tool that can help you grow your reach to generate new leads and revenue. In this free webinar, you’ll learn how to take your Twitter marketing to the next level and get more customers from your social media efforts, as Twitter & HubSpot experts answer your questions directly and give you tips and tricks on how to attract customers now.

Jan 30 2014
12-1pm EST
Online Reaching Readers Through Direct-to-Consumer Sales and Marketing
“The rise of new media and social networking is opening up a plethora of alternatives. Indie authors and legacy publishers alike are finding novel ways to put their content directly under readers’ noses.

What you’ll learn:

  • About the current landscape for direct-to-consumer sales and marketing in the book industry
  • What to outsource and what to do in-house
  • How to take advantage of new and social media to build a vertical campaign
  • To efficiently leverage existing resources to create new sales and marketing opportunities
  • Learn to conceive and execute a successful, cost-effective direct-to-consumer strategy
Deadline Feb 2, 2014
by 12pm EST
$149 ea ms
Online Deadline to Submit for 3/1 Weekend of Manuscript Consultations
If you want to participate in Grub Street’s Weekend of Manuscript Consultations, this is the deadline to submit 25 pages of your manuscript and “get 30-minutes of immediate, one-on-one feedback from a Grub instructor” during the March 1 event.
Feb 15, 2014
Grub Street, Boston MA Slam Poetry Team Audition
For the second year in a row, Grub Street is forming it’s own high school slam poetry team to compete in this year’s Louder Than A Bomb slam poetry competition. Last year, our slam team made it all the way to the finals!

Register for a spot to audition for the team today. We’re looking for 6 students to create a slam team. Students will perform their poems to a group of judges and their fellow slam participants. Each student will need 3 poems (memorization is ideal, but not required) to compete, and will have no more than 3 minutes to perform each poem (The shorter, the better, as your score will be penalized for going over the time limit). We will have a panel of slam poetry judges that will give scores after each performance. If you have any questions, please email sean@grubstreet.org.

For more about Louder Than A Bomb, check out the trailer for a documentary that chronicles four teams as they compete in the first ever Louder Than A Bomb slam poetry competition.

Mar 1, 2014
11am-4pm EST
$149 ea ms
Grub St,
Boston MA
Weekend of Manuscript Consultations
Look to the submission deadline above, if you want to participate in a 30-minute one-on-one consultation with various members of the Grub Street creative writing faculty for feedback on “polish[ing] your work before an agent sees it at The Muse and the Marketplace.
Deadline Mar 28, 2014
5pm EST
Boston MA
2014 Summer Teen Fellowship Applications Open
The application period is now open for Grub Street’s 2014 Summer Teen Fellowship. The Fellowship is a three-week creative writing program open to all incoming 9th-12th graders in the Boston area and will be taking place July 14th—July 31st. This is a great opportunity for all aspiring writers, with intensive writing workshops, visits from established authors and publishing professionals, and much more. Plus, in the tradition of adult writing fellowships, students accepted into the program will receive a stipend of $300 upon completion.

The YAWP Fellowship is by application only and 18 students will be chosen to participate.

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The Publishing Business

BookBaby Having a Sale

BookBaby, an eBook converter and print distributor, is having a sale until the end of January 31, 2014, for custom-printed books that are ready in five days to be used for sales, ARCs, trade shows, conferences, etc. BookBaby claims “you can get as few as 25 copies when you order from BookBaby Print“.

Use BBPRINT100 at checkout to receive your discount.

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Hybrid Publishers are Succeeding

David Vinjamuri at Forbes discusses “How Hybrid Publishers Innovate To Succeed” and points out the challenges to the traditional book publishing industry: “The publishing industry has been challenged by the online sales success of Amazon, the rise of eBooks, print-on-demand and most recently by self-publishing.” Vinjamuri has a useful definition of who the new hybrid publisher is: “businesses [that] combine traits of both traditional publishers and indie authors with a dash of Silicon Valley technology”. He includes a short list of companies including one that offers a pay-per-service model and notes the top three points that appear common to the most successful. Vinjamuri also notes that the model appears to be working well. Writers, you may want to take a look …

There’s also the negative in that most hybrid publishers use print-on-demand POD and major review sites still lump them in with self-publishers and literary awards won’t consider them. But do consider whether either of these possibilities were on your radar anyway.

“There’s some irony to this, as Brooke Warner, the co-founder of She Writes notes, ‘The bias against POD is insane. Traditional publishers use POD for their backlists and to say that it’s okay for the backlist and not okay for the frontlist makes no sense.'”

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IndieReader Launches IRIS with Edelweiss

IR Staff have reported in “Want Your Book Sold In Independent Bookstores Nationwide?” that the “IndieReader, a consumer guide to self-published books and their authors, has launched IndieReader In-Store (IRIS), which helps self-published authors to get their titles on Edelweiss. The cost to indie authors is $399 per title (jesus, makes NetGalley look very reasonable) and includes an IndieReader book review that will accompany the title in the Edelweiss database. The fee also includes entry in the Edelweiss Digital Review Copy (DRC) module. Similar in function to NetGalley, this is a secure, controlled way for authors to share their DRCs with reviewers, bloggers, librarians, media, booksellers, wholesalers, etc. Additional services, including various forms of bookstore outreach, are available for additional fees.” Seems rather expensive …

Amy Edelman, founder of IndieReader, makes a good point that self-pubbed eBooks do need a variety of sales venues, especially after the October debacle with Kobo and WHSmith as written about in the November Hodgepodge.

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4 Things to Remember Before Crowdfunding Your Book

Rose Fox at Publishers Weekly talks about the budgetary considerations authors/publishers don’t think of when they’re thinking of crowdfunding their book.

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The PW Digital Publishing Startup Review, 2014

The Publishers Weekly staff pulled up a list of publishing start-ups and had a look to see how well they’re doing, if they’re still in business, and how they changed their business model. It could be a useful peek for authors looking for ideas on where or how to distribute their books or if you’re looking for publishers.

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eBook Cover Design Awards, December 2013

Joel Friedlander of The Book Designer has posted his “eBook Cover Design Awards, December 2013“. Look ’em over and read Friedlander’s comments for a self-educating moment in learning about designing a good eBook cover.

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Take a Print Copy

Chris Robley has a post, “How printing your book can help you get a book deal” at BookBaby blog in which he discusses the benefits Scott McCormick discovered of taking Last Chance, Mr. Pants! as a hard copy to the SCBWI conference. Not only did he end up with an agent and a publishing deal, he also improved on his book after getting feedback from fellow authors and illustrators.

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Don’t Anyone Put Me in Charge

Do not pass GO. Do not NOT read this! Hugh Howey never minds being controversial or saying what he thinks, and he goes to town with his list of 13 things the publishing industry can do to revive itself. And, wow … Read this and TAKE NOTES!

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S&S Launching New SF Imprint, Simon451

“Simon & Schuster is starting a new adult trade science fiction imprint called Simon451. The imprint will release titles in both print and digital, but will focus on digital-firsts, and e-book originals. The first Simon451 titles will be brought to market in October 2014.”

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Publishers Still Too Self-Centric

Digital Book World has a post on “Biggest Problems Facing Publishing: Disappearing Shelf Space, Discovery, Pace of Change“, and of course, the publishers all want authors who already have a platform. As Dominique Raccah, CEO of Naperville, Illinois-based publisher SourceBooks points out, why do authors need a publisher if they already have a platform? Instead, she suggests that publishers learn from the authors what works.

That shelf space issue, well, it comes back to the idea of a half-Nelson, doesn’t it?

As for discovery … puh-lease. What do publishers think social media is doing, but putting online what’s been happening for decades over the backyard fence, kitchen tables, and the phone. I recently read an article by Peter Damien on “The Decline and Fall of the Book Reviewing Empire” that points out what the rest of us know: it’s us, the little guys, the readers, who have always been those out discovering great reads. Er-duh.

As for the pace of change, yeah. It’s a hard slog when we’d rather be poking away at the computer, writing the next Great American Novel, and instead we have to be creating platforms so we can market our books more effectively. On the other hand, the changes have opened up so many possibilities for authors and so many ways to get our books published, that this simply isn’t a bad thing.

Ya know, I can’t tell if this particular article was intended to be a poke at publishers or . . .?

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Why John Green Still Has a Publisher

Jeremy Greenfield has a post at Forbes in which Tim O’Reilly, CEO of O’Reilly Media, asks John Green why, with all those adoring fans at his fingertips, what does he need a book publisher for?. His Twitter responses are interesting.

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Slicebooks Trying Out Private Beta

I spoke of Slicebooks in the mid-April Hodgepodge, and now a press release on Digital Book World reveals that “Slicebooks, a web service publishers use to create new custom content by slicing and remixing ebooks, has just launched the new Slicebooks Store in private beta. The Slicebooks Store features ebooks ‘whole or by the slice’ and offers the world’s first eBook Remixer. For the first time, teachers, trainers, students, travelers, or any eBook customer can mix and match content from various books and instantly create their own custom eBook.”

Slicebooks plans to open a public beta sometime in the first quarter. Any publishers interested in joining the private beta should contact Slicebooks at beta@slicebook.com.

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How I Do It: Melissa Foster’s Top Tips for Self-Publishing Success

Melissa Foster has written a post at ALLi on her own approach to self-publishing and how she balances her writing with her life.

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Free Guidebook for Indies

Over at ALLi, Dan Holloway (r.) and Debbie Young, the ALLi blog editor, are compiling a free guidebook, Open Up To Indie Authors: A Guide, which will offer an assessment of the opportunities for book industry people, including libraries, to work together with indie authors. The guide also offers a basic outline of some best practices and etiquette for both indie authors and their potential partners.

ALLi is looking for
its members to take part in a global launch with Kobo.com in April 2014. If you’d like to take part (members only) email Debbie Young and let her know.

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Marketing Ideas

The Bestselling Books of 2013

Clare Swanson at Publishers Weekly points out “The Bestselling Books of 2013” whether they’re the Nielsen BookScan top 20, Kindles’ top 20, or Amazon’s top 20 print books.

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Interview With An Author: Ginnah Howard

Writers’ Relief conducted an “Interview With An Author: Ginnah Howard“, and she dishes on what life was like pre-Internet and on the difference between having one book published by one of the Big 5 and a second by a small press. Very useful information, and it points out the work you’ll have to do no matter what. She also has some new suggestions for marketing I haven’t read before.

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Focusing Your PR Efforts

Joan Stewart in her Publicity Hound newsletter mentioned “Us[ing] Niche Blogger Directories” as part of your PR campaign as they “includes a detailed description, ranking, and links to the blogger’s Twitter, Faceboook, Google+, Pinterest and Instagram accounts, which means many more opportunities to connect with these influencers. A little heart-shaped icon with the letters “PR” denotes a PR-friendly blog. This directory will save hours of research time!”

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Stand Out With Your Google+ Post

Another Joan Stewart tip is the Google+ Cheatsheets “that shows you how to format your text so it’s boldface, italicized, or includes a strikethrough”. Handy to help your Google+ post stand out!

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Real Life: Turning to Tumblr for Book Promotion and Secret Keeping

Sue Corbett at Publishers Weekly posts about “Turning to Tumblr for Book Promotion and Secret Keeping” regarding a marketing campaign for We Were Liars by E. Lockhart. It’s a trick that requires the plot be kept quiet, and Corbett discusses how Delacorte (Random House) will carry it off.

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Data, the Elephant in the Room

Digital Book World looks at data, or rather, “Chantal Restivo-Alessi, chief digital officer at HarperCollins,R joined Ken Brooks, McGraw-Hill senior vice president of global supply management, Chad Phelps, chief digital officer of F+W Media, which owns and operates Digital Book World, and Ken Michaels, Macmillan Science and Education global chief operating officer, for a discussion of the ways data can drive publishers’ decision-making” with some of their recommendations following:

  1. Only gather data that informs process. According to Brooks, “it’s not so much about the data” as what you intend to do with it. Think specifically about the questions you want to answer.
  2. Share the data you collect. “You don’t want to centralize the control” of that information, Restivo-Alessi said. Distribute data across the entire organization, translating where necessary to make it useful to decision-makers on a day-to-day basis.
  3. Then do something with it. Data is meaningless on its own. The trick, according to Restivo-Alessi, is “moving from data to insights to actions.”
  4. Track smaller patterns and gradually build out. Phelps suggested starting with the tools closest at hand. Watch strategic indicators on Google analytics to identify trends. Then test certain products with key audiences, observe consumer behavior and adapt editorial strategy accordingly. Entire verticals can be built that way.
  5. Look beyond the consumer/editorial side. Brooks pointed out that publishers have substantial fixed investments in print assets, and declining sales of physical units can hurt bottom lines. Keep track of transactional and inventory data to better manage those shifts.”

It is something we should pay attention to in our marketing efforts. And I don’t wanna do it either. I figure, you may want to come along for the ride as we learn more about this elephant in the room.

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Get Your Book on NetGalley

Over at ALLi, Ben Cameron explains “How to Reach Book Reviewers via NetGalley, and it’s well worth reading down to the end for a cheaper option. (The NetGalley service is used by trade publishers to put books in front of reviewers and book bloggers.)

I have to confess I am one of those readers who doesn’t get their reviews up on a timely basis … I do plan to … eventually.

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Why Email Trumps Social Media

Jason Kong does a guest post at Kimberley Grabas’ Your Writer Platform on “5 Surprising Reasons Why Email Trumps Social Media“, and (I never thought I’d be saying these words *eye roll*) why this old-fashioned style of communication is a blessing. It’s not flashy, but it is safe from digital sharecropping.

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Building Your Own Website

Stop the Cyber Bullies

Kristen Lamb has a post on “Are Some Humans Born to Bully? Born to Be Victims? Can It Be Changed?“, which starts off sounding kids-related, but segues into the topic of cyber bullies and how to stop them. The first part of Lamb’s post sets us up for why it’s important to stop the bullying and then relates it to the bullying authors endure on the Internet whether it’s through blogs or social reading sites.

Bullies need to be stopped. I’m with Lamb on “Before we go too far, I am not in the camp of ‘Blame DNA or Blame Mom’. We are humans not holly bushes and we have the power of choice.” It is a case of nature and nurture. I believe that both have an effect on the individual, and there are no excuses for continuing with such poor behavior.

Another post on bullying, “Brave New Bullying: Goodreads Gangs, Amazon Attacks—What Are Writers to Do?“, has a similar progression with Lamb’s noting the horrors she endured in school and in the workplace and then follows it with specifics on dealing with the bullies. Including the mention of “Jay Donovan at TechSurgeons. Jay is an amazing human being, a tireless champion for writers and he IS The Digital Dark Knight. He’s a computer genius who can have said troll chasing his own @$$ down a hole of frustrated nothing. There are ways to protect yourself digitally and Jay is a master of security. Even if you want to take some preventative measures, talk to Jay.”

Please share this with others, and let’s do what we can to stop bullying of any kind.

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Color Thief

This is too, too cool! Lakesh Dhakar has created a fab bit of code, the Color Thief, that creates a color palette based on any image. He provides three sample images, just click and check out the pretty colors. But the really great part is being able to drag your own image onto a placeholder and clicking for its color palette! You’ll still have to sample the colors to get their hexadecimal codes, but … ooh, pretty … *grin*!

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Build Your Own “Santa Tracker”

Yeah, I’m asking you to extrapolate here. What 14 Islands did to create the Santa Tracker for Google may be something you’d like to play with for your own author website. Of course, you may simply be curious about how it was done. So come along and visit with 14 Islands to see a “Case Study: How we built the scenes on Google Santa Tracker” playing with SVGs, JavaScript, CSS3, and more.

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