Showing posts from March, 2014

Ukraine Crisis: A Return to the Cold War?

The West has loudly condemned Putin and his grab on Crimea, forgetting that for most of its history, Crimea belonged to Russia and that it was only absent-mindedly handed over to the Ukraine some 60 years ago by Krushchev. This was a time when the Soviet Union was so solid that it was impossible to imagine that it might collapse some day, much less fragment the way it did. 

Putin is obviously a nostalgic politician dreaming of putting the broken Soviet giant back together again via his EuroAsian Union proposal (so far only joined by Belarus and Khazakstan).

But Putin's nostalgia is not something to take lightly. Russia's economy may well be no larger than Italy's, and Putin may rely excessively on carbon energy and gaz rather than attempt to build a diverse economy for the future (which would be much wiser), but his Russia is still a major nuclear power and therefore not to be trifled with.

Then, consider the effect of globalization: Russia is a major trading partner and prov…

Why Climate Change is Only a Side Show: the Sixth Extinction is Upon Us!

In the United States, Climate Change is often viewed with suspicion: many Americans don't believe in it, at best they'll agree that climate warming may have natural causes but they strongly refute the idea that it could be due to human action. And in any case, they reject any causal linkage with extinction of life on earth. Life has survived long periods of colder and warmer climate, they argue, and there's no reason to believe that this time will be any different, regardless of who's responsible for the warming - and supposing the warming actually occurs. 

For a strong statement expressing this viewpoint, see here, "global warming debunked" by Gary Ellis, who describes himself as an electrical engineer "with 40-plus years of work experience in electrical generation from methane gas to coal, natural gas and nuclear." Incidentally, not a climate specialist but a person whose life has been invested in energy extraction.

Right. You can always argue as he…

Do Artists and Writers Have a "Duty of Care"?

In terms of not just democracy but of caring for others, for their well-being and happiness, does an artist have "duty of care"? If you're a writer, whether fiction or non-fiction, whether a contributor to a paper or a blogger on the Net, should you be concerned with the moral value of what you write?

David Putnam thinks you should. See here:

He's talking about the media but he makes it clear that it applies to artists and writers too.

Personally, as a writer, I'm totally convinced he's right. Injecting a cause in story-telling isn't necessary of course, but it is desirable. It is part of "duty of care".

One striking example has recently come up: a reality show on MTV, "16 and Pregnant", a huge hit since it came out in 2009, had the remarkable effect of slowing down teenage pregnancies, a scourge in the United States that, among developed countries, has the highest birthrate rate among teenagers (American girls are ten times as likely to h…

Ukraine: The Unnecessary Crisis

With Crimea voting to secede and Ukraine torn between  the pro Russian East and anti-Russian West, not to mention the Muslem ethnic minority, it looks like a balkanization of Ukraine - and perhaps even a Cold War scenario if you throw in American and European indignant reactions and calls for sanctions against Russia.

But is all this hullaballoo really needed? After all, Putin is playing in his own backyard. Crimea is part of Russian History and an emotional part too - one million russians lost their lives in Crimea fighting the nazi occupants in World War II. People have a right to auto-determination, don't they?

Yet Obama and Merkel in primis will have none of it, rejecting any notion of geo-political regions. As soon as the results of the referendum in Crimea were in and Putin claimed victory, they called for sanctions. The sanctions passed were actually puny and aimed at a handful of individuals in Putin's entourage, carefully avoiding Putin himself, of course. 

Why bother w…

Readers vs. Watchers: The Digital Revolution is Not Over

Lately a huge controversy has developed around the theme "Indies are Beating Traditional Publishers", and one publishing guru, Mark Coker,  the father of Smashwords, has loudly predicted that self-published authors will outrun traditional publishers by 2020, see here. Indie authors, carried forward by the digital revolution that has lowered production costs and leveled the field, are in a feisty revolt led by Hugh Howey; find all the rebels on his Author Earnings website here.

This race between indies and publishers, no matter how exciting, obscures something much bigger: the sea change that is investing the entertainment industry as readers lose out to watchers

We're into a brave new digital world where the written word is losing out to the image.

Evidence of this vast change is still anecdotal, but putting all of it together, it adds up. 

Take ebook sales. After years of exuberant growth, ebook sales started to flatten out in 2013. I've blogged about this before (s…

Amazon's Latest Gimmick, the Book Countdown Deal: Does it Work?

The idea of a book countdown is fun: set the price at the lowest level allowed on Amazon, 99 cents, and watch it rise each day by one dollar - until it's back to the original price. There is an element of game betting: you, as the customer, have to beat the clock in order to win.

I recently tried it for my book "Luna Rising, the Full Saga", as those of you who receive my newsletter know. I thought that no matter what happened, it wouldn't hurt. This was a book that I had just published at the beginning of the year, a re-edition of an earlier novel (totally re-written and with a new cover), and it was sitting dead in digital dust. It obviously needed some kind of boost. 
Starting Thursday 27 February, the countdown was launched and by Saturday morning March 1st, this is what my book detail page looked like:

Wow, it ranked number 55 in the top 100 fiction ebooks in the category..."Metaphysical"! But wait a minute, what on earth is "metaphysical fiction"…

How to promote your book and win reviews at the same time

Reviews sell books, right? But the problem is to get them. Ads are easy, you pay for them but they tend to be ignored unless you tie them to a promotion, making your book free or at 99 cents for a short period. The grand-daddy of book promoters is of course BookBub, recently joined by EBookBargainUK and EbookSoda, all excellent sites if you want that kind of promotion.

But how about tying your efforts to garner reviews with free book promotions? 

Story Cartel has the answer, to check it out, see here. I thought I'd test it out. I recently joined and here's how my book looks on the Story Cartel site: free digital copies are distributed in exchange for honest reviews, thoughno one is required to post a review

Looks nice, doesn't it? It's sitting there together with related books and a notice clearly indicating how long the offer lasts (at the time of this writing, 17 more days). Actually offers on Story Cartel are meant to last 20 days (I already lost 3 days in telling yo…

A Writer's Quandary: To Blog in a Niche or Not to Blog?

Like every writer who starts out, I was told I should have an Internet presence, an easily recognizable brand. That's why I started this blog back in 2009 as a way to brand myself. I also got on Facebook and Twitter and Pinterest and scores of other sites.

On day one, I had one reader visit my blog: my husband. On day two, my kids joined in, I had three readers. Today, 419 posts later, I am nearing the 400 mark of daily visits and 10,000 visits per month. Lately I started a mirror blog on Wordpress with the same posts (see here) because I have followers over there who hadn't realized that my main blog is here. For some obscure reason, the Word Press and Blogger universes are separate.

If I look at my Google stats, I'm read everywhere, from Canada to China, though most of my traffic comes from the States. My bounce rate is very low, time spent on the site is fairly high (5 to 6 minutes) and some 20 percent of my visitors return. Inexplicably, traffic fluctuates wildly, th…

Ukraine on Auction to Highest Bidder

The European Union and Ukraine (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Yesterday, the United States offered a $1 billion aid package to Ukraine, today the Europe Union offers $15 billion (see here).

What is this, a new kind of game? Is Ukraine going to the highest bidder?

Putin is likely to react with disdain - but the fact is he is playing in his own backyard (geo-politically speaking) and there’s nothing anyone can (or probably should) do about it. 

In the end, it becomes a “face-saving” game where the solution to the crisis had better be sought at the United Nations rather than letting one super power (the US) or a group of countries (the European Union) strut forward alone, trying to shame Russia. 

The battle with Russia is inevitably going to be David against Goliath , where Goliath in this case will win because of the geo-political aspect (i.e. Russia is playing in its own backyard and will NEVER give up that port in Crimea, its natural door to the South).

In short, moving the problem to th…

What you learn in your 60s

Starting in 2014, there was a rash of Baby Boomer celebrations,from the Beatles appearing on the Ed Sullivan Show to President Kennedy's assassination. Possibly because 2014 was a milestone of sorts, that was the year that all boomers, even the youngest ones born in 1964, passed their 50th year. 

As a result, most boomers are now facing the "second act" in their lives. And celebrating. Right or wrong, it's all about Baby Boomers!  The time has come to consider what it means for our generation, and, in passing, dispelling some serious misconceptions about Baby Boomers. 

So here, in a nutshell, is what you learn in your 60s:
The biggest transition is realizing that you're the "sandwiched generation". In spite of all the hype about how rebellious Baby Boomers have shaped History, the truth is very different. You find you're not into politics and big events. You are responsible for both your old parents and your children. The parents may not be in their d…