Saturday, November 16, 2013

Ebooks are here to stay.

There aren't going to be any food pictures or cat videos in this post. This one is just about words, and about how this amazing time we live in gives nearly everyone the opportunity to make their own words available to the entire world.

But first, an explanation.  All you have to do is take a look at that 'About Me' tab up there at the top and you'll see that I have a wide range of interests.  Go ahead.  I'll wait.

The down side to that is that there never seems to be enough time to devote to any one of them.  On any given day, my favorite out of that list will be different than the day before.  When there's a long lag between blog posts, that's most likely why.  I'm not making excuses, just speaking some truth.

And speaking of truth, the title of this entry is a big hunk of it.

I know a few readers who are going to take more than a little exception with what I'm about to lay out here.  Such is life.

Ebooks are the present.  They are also the future.

The reason I haven't been writing here is that I've been doing some other writing.  You saw on that list that I write smutty ebooks, right?  In between cooking and playing with cameras and keeping the bills paid, I'm experimenting with self-publishing.

Anyone who has ever written with the intention of getting published knows what a frustrating, humbling, sometimes humiliating experience it can be.  Professional writers love to tell stories of the endless rejections they've received, seeing them as a badge of honor.  The problem is that often the rejections don't have anything to do with the skill or talent of the writer.

We've all seen the stories of how many times books were rejected before finally finding a publisher and getting into print.  But how many other wonderful books were stillborn, not because quality was lacking, but for any number of dumb reasons?  Maybe an editor was having a bad day, or new on the job, or simply not very good at his job.  But the writer wasn't sufficiently thick-skinned, and gave up after a nasty note or two.  The writers I have known aren't always the most confident people, even if they are terrific writers.  Patience isn't necessarily and indicator of talent.  Neither is persistence.  Self publishing has long been an option, but it was expensive and ofter looked down upon by 'real' authors.

Ebook publishing has changed all that.  Now anyone with a computer can publish a book or short story or manifesto and have it distributed worldwide.  The nuts and bolts of how that all works is a Google search away, so I'm not going into that.  I'm saying that every writer that wants to be published should be published.

I can hear the complaints now.

But what about quality?  And the feel and smell of paper books?  What about loaning books and what about the high cost of reading hardware and all of that?

Quality?  That's an easy one.  Have you seen some of the crap that actually gets published?  Book editors aren't any better judges of quality than anyone else.  I have printed books that contain typos and misspellings and are still interesting books.  I've also bought books by 'professional' authors that don't have so much as a misplaced comma, but are brutally dull.

This is the wild west for writers, and it's a great time to be a reader.  Most indie ebooks sell for a couple dollars or less.  Indie writers are like indie filmmakers or indie artists.  It's not all about the money, it's about getting the work in front of eyeballs.

What about the feel and smell of paper?  Anybody have allergies?  An aversion to mold or bugs?  How about moving or travelling with printed books?  Screw that!  My ancient Nook reader is hardly state of the art, and it holds a hundred or more books, magazines, whatever.  Forty bucks on eBay, less than a couple new release hardbacks.  It takes up no more room than a couple of magazines, and silverfish don't eat plastic.

Lending?  The major sellers have lending features built-in to their readers.  Not a problem.

We're back to the big one, then: the hardware.

If you're reading this, you have the hardware.  Ereaders are great, but hardly a necessity.  Ebook software is available for just about any computer, along with smartphones, tablets, even game consoles.  What's more, ebooks are, if anything, more permanent than print.  Paper decays, and once it's ruined, it's gone.  Make a backup copy of your ebooks and you're golden.  Any bugs that remain will be worked out soon, I have no doubt.  Reading on a Nook or a Kinde or, better yet, a tablet computer, takes only a few minutes to get used to.

If you're a writer, what could be better?  Ebooks never go out of print or sell out.  Once you've sold one, you can be sure that your work will exist somewhere forever.

Just because books sell cheap doesn't mean there isn't money to be made as a writer.  Even at fire sale prices, writer's get a greater percentage of every ebook sale than they would get from any traditional publisher, ofter in excess of 70 percent.  Try and negotiate a deal like that for your dead tree book.  Since July, I've put out 14 short stories, and I started making money the very first week.  Print books are often in editing and printing for months before the author sees a penny.  Those big advances just don't exist for most writers.

I say all this as someone who has worked in professional publishing for more than half of his adult life.  The writing is on the LCD display.  Printing will be around for a long time, sure, but it will eventually be a boutique industry, like vinyl records or handmade paper.  But daily newspapers, magazines, and mainstream novels and non-fiction?  Forget it.

Embrace digital now.  It's the future!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Cast Iron Pizza Update

The 'Analog Camera Farewell Tour' will continue soon.  Some of the stories still to come:

  • A duplicate of my very first video rig - a VHS-C camcorder from the mid 1980s
  • A really expensive (in 1994) S-VHS camcorder that got me my first job in video
  • A 35mm rangefinder that could qualify for Social Security
  • and maybe a zombie video!

But tonight it's all about pizza!

We've had a few weeks to perfect our cast iron pizza process.  And I think we've just about got it.  I wrote a few posts back that pizza is a big deal, so there was no way we were going to settle for just 'ok'.

But before I get to the pizza update, I want to tell you what I've learned about the pan we're using.  I'm not an expert on this, so I'm only going by what I've read online.  On the back of the larger pan, it's stamped 'Long Life Skillet' and '1758a'.  Initially, I didn't pay much attention to the marking, since I didn't see a brand or a logo.  In truth, I figured that it was an imported piece with no real history.  Oh, how wrong I was. There are people who collect cast iron, and they have a presence on the web, just like pretty much every other hobby in existence.  This site has quite a bit of information on identifying cast iron cookware, including my pan.

I'm not going to go into all of the history here, since I'd like to keep the post moving, but here's the short version:  'Long Life' was a store brand of cast iron cookware produced by Wagner.  1758 is the design number, and the 'a' means it was from the first run of pans made of that design.  The even shorter version is that the pan is from somewhere in the 1930s and from a known American manufacturer.  I'm more than a little pleased that it is actually a vintage piece and over 80 years old.  Pretty cool.

We've added one more piece to the cast iron collection: a round griddle. I don't like buying new if I can help it, but the price was really good, we make eggs a lot, and I want to try pancakes soon.

Back to pizza.  The mistake we made the first time was simply using to much dough for the size of the pan.  This time, we made the same amount, but split it in half.  Instead of one really bready pie, we get two that are just right.  The new griddle is almost exactly the same size as the skillet, so we can make two at a time now.

Lisa has got the dough production down to a science.  She's using the same recipe as before, but letting is rise for a couple of hours and mixing seasonings right into the dough.

With the dough issue settled, it was time to experiment.  We made two different versions tonight: Mexican and Hawaiian.

The dough doesn't hang over the side of the pan anymore!

I'll probably cut the pineapple smaller next time.

Before and After

Not bad for a first attempt! 

The Mexican pizza is a favorite from back when out daughter was a baby and I was making pizzas for a living.

80 years worth of seasoning - you better believe it doesn't stick!

Damn, that's pretty!

Just add a little hot sauce if you're so inclined....
We don't even talk about ordering out for pizza anymore.  We can whip a couple of these beauties up faster than we can drive to any of the local pizza joints.

If anybody is interested in recipes, or maybe a video of how we make these, let me know in the comments.