iPhone Basics presentation Wednesday in Naples

I’ll be in Naples, Florida, next week to visit family and make a presentation on my book Take Control of iPhone Basics at the Naples Mac user group meeting.

If you’re planning to attend the meeting, you might want to check out my blog iPhone 4 Tips.

Family news

Hale’s Ales, the Grand Illusion, Full Tilt Ice Cream, Cafe Paloma, the Tractor Travern, and T.S. McHugh’s are hosting events to benefit Northwest Folklife.

Sometimes it takes a sad event to bring you home to your family.

Last month, Northwest folk arts organizer and guru Warren Argo died unexpectedly. The contributions to the community Warren had spearheaded and supported during his life have filled articles, blog posts and memorials in the past few weeks. He was a community organizer in the truest sense of the phrase — and a real mensch.

Fifteen years ago, I had the honor of serving on the board of Northwest Folklife with Warren, who was among the festival founders and perennial organizers. Tuesday night, I was elected to fill the remainder of Warren’s term on the board. I’m honored to have been asked. And I’m jazzed to be back.

It’s a great board, a great staff, and applications for performers for the Memorial Day festival are already pouring in — hundreds of musicians volunteering to play for free. This spring they’ll be joined by thousands of volunteers who’ll emcee, stage manage, greet, guide, and otherwise supplement Northwest Folklife’s small core staff to make the four-day free festival happen — for a quarter of a million visitors.

It’s going to be a tremendous year. Please join us at some of the Night for Folklife events being held in the next month at Hale’s Ales, Lucid Jazz Club, the Grand Illusion, Full Tilt Ice Cream, Cafe Paloma, Laughing Lady Cafe, the Tractor Travern, Eddie’s Trackside Bar and Grill in Monroe, and T.S. McHugh’s. There’ll also be  dances throughout the region. Details here.

I wrote it! Wait, now you want me to talk about it?

This MacVoices radio interview was a delightful, if unexpected, part of promoting my new ebook.


The new ebook Take Control of iPhone Basics, iOS 4 Edition


This summer I wrote a 138-page book for new and intermediate iPhone users. Take Control of iPhone Basics, iOS 4 Edition, is part of the Take Control series of ebooks (also available in print editions) published by Adam and Tonya Engst at TidBITS Publishing. I’d edited two books for them, and was thrilled when Tonya asked me to take on a writing project myself.

The writing process is iterative: You outline, you research topics, you write sections, you get technical and editorial reviews, and you rewrite. At the end it was tweak, tweak, tweak — plus another round of research and writing to cover the updated operating system for the iPhone.

Maybe you’re not supposed to say this, but I totally enjoyed writing the book.

I also enjoyed, as the writing gave way to editing, developing a modest marketing plan for the book. I didn’t want to find myself in the place where I’ve seen so many authors land: The book goes live, but there’s no support material. Fortunately, Take Control does a fabulous job of creating a book/author page and sending out targeted press releases. But I knew I needed to do much, much more.

A Blog

In July, as I was researching the book, I started the iPhone 4 Tips blog. I used it to write about iPhone accessories, apps, news, and research that didn’t quite fit into the book. Now it includes some information about the book itself — plus the updates to the ebook that Take Control will be issuing. (A huge “thank you” to the makers of the magical DoubleTake software I used to stitch together multiple screenshots to create the graphic for the blog’s header.)

Business Cards

I ordered business cards for the ebook. The problem with using my own business cards is that most prospective customers for the book don’t want to reach me — they want to buy the book. Making them email me, or go to this website — or even to the iPhone 4 Tips website — and hunt around for a link to the ebook is obviously not the way to make sales. The card has the URL for the Take Control sales page. I’ve since met several fiction authors who use book business cards, complete with graphics from the book’s cover.

Social Media

My marketing plan included a list of my existing social media identities: Linkedin, Facebook, Twitter, and some specialized professional lists. I drafted little blurbs for each that I used, with a bit of modification, when the book came out earlier this week. I’m still working my way through that list, crafting blurbs that are appropriate for each list. It’s difficult not to feel that I’m spamming people, so I’ve carefully studied the way that each community handles this type of announcement.

My partner, Tom, is an established member of two major web communities; his postings about the book on those sites, using short budURLs I created, have been more effective than mine in generating click-throughs.

The Unexpected

Now we get to the interesting part: What went, not wrong, but not at all the way I’d expected?

First, I sprained my ankle the day before the book went live, which meant that I was implementing the PR plan while alternately in severe pain or pretty thoroughly drugged. I used a proofreader.

Second, there were radio interviews. I’d been lining up some speaking engagements, but somehow overlooked the radio and podcast world. I found out that Take Control authors get invited to be on some of the major technology shows. The irony here, of course, is that my book is less for geeks than it is for the people who pester geeks when they can’t find their email.

Chuck Joiner, of MacVoices, made my first radio interview a delightful experience. You can stream or download the interview.

Audio interviews require earphones and a microphone, I discovered. Fortunately, I have top-of-the-line noise-canceling earphones. I was not as well prepared on the microphone front — deep in my closet I found a box labeled “audio” that contained an ancient, cheap USB mic with a flimsy plastic mic stand. Fortunately, it worked (taped firmly to the desk), even when the cat leaped on the desk in the middle of the taping and began gnawing on it.

As for the content of the radio interviews, I’m realizing that I need more preparation. More on that, later.

This is a “website.” At last.

It’s “website.” The 16th edition of The Chicago Manual of Style has caught up with the digital age.

93/365 Dictionary and Chicago Manual of Style
Image by eiratansey via Flickr

Not a Web site, or a Website. It’s a website. The new, online, edition of The Chicago Manual of Style has spoken.

The 16th edition of the copy editors’ bible has caught up with the digital age. And who better to welcome it in than Jesse Vernon, the copy editor at the Seattle weekly newspaper The Stranger. If you read right to the end, you’ll find out about the paper’s in-house list of spellings for words they use that are, for some reason, not found in the dictionary.

“Sometimes, Chicago outright tells writers to make shit up,” Vernon explains.

New frontier in presentations

After playing with Prezi.com, it’s hard to go back to creating Powerpoint, or even Keynote, presentations.

Check out this a lovely Prezi presentation on Transhumanism 101 Willow Brugh gave today at Gnomedex. After playing around with this, I’ll have difficulty returning to creating Powerpoint, or even Keynote, presentations.

An image from the Transhumanism presention done in Prezi.

Live from Gnomedex 10

I’ll be at Gnomedex Friday and Saturday, soaking up new ideas.

I’ll be at Gnomedex Friday and Saturday, soaking up new ideas and meeting new people.

Working at a computer, connecting via all the usual social media platforms, certainly gives you the feeling of being exposed to new ideas. But the in-person experience is so much less controllable and, usually, so much better.

I’ll report back on the highlights — or maybe I’ll see you there and we’ll get to talk.

Swimming upstream

My favorite Seth Godin book is the recent Linchpins.

Last week I had a day in which I felt as though I were moving backwards. Every small, simple step I took, I got shoved backwards. Every road I took had a roadblock. People who are usually supportive were suddenly cranky and irrational.

Fortunately, my email included the daily blog post from Seth Godin. He has a talent for getting a lot of us past the roadblocks, and inspiring us to charm the cranky and irrational — or sometimes, to learn a valuable lesson by examining why people are being cranky and irrational.

My favorite Seth Godin book is the recent Linchpin: Are You Indispensible? Today he released an addendum to the book that profiles people who are linchpins, from Wired’s Chris Anderson to Jo Ann McGrath, a high school teacher. It’s free! Enjoy.


Wikipedia defines it as “the act of using a person’s name in an original story as an in-joke.”

Tuckerization is one of the little perks of being an established writer. You get to attach your friends’ names to your bit characters. While I suspect it has a long, long history, the modern use of Tuckerization takes its name from science fiction editor Wilson Tucker who made a practice of it.

The most recent twist for authors is auctioning off to third parties the privilege of submitting the names to be Tuckerized.

I bring this up because Michael Swanwick (winner of Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy awards) is offering a version of Tuckerization as part of his fund-raising gig for the Clarion West Writers Workshop Write-a-thon. For $10 sponsorships, he will write you your own short-short and post it online at his blog and on the Clarion West website.

Visit the Write-a-thon site to read excerpts of fiction from the 74 participating writers (including Swanwick, Kij Johnson, Kelley Eskridge, Cat Rambo, Eileen Gunn, Vonda McIntyre, Nisi Shawl — and me. Use the Pay Pal button on any of our pages to make a donation to support the Clarion West workshop program. We thank you!

Publishing and the “D” word

Publishing isn’t dead. It just looks different. The way it has looked different every few decades (or, perhaps, every century) since Grak & Thog published the first stone tablet and underpaid the content producer. Ink-stained wretches whining over their absinthe never go out of style.

I think I’m at risk of having my credentials as a blogger-about-writing revoked if I don’t address the question “Is Publishing Dead?”

Everywhere I go on the web, there seem to be armies of literary zombies staggering around groaning “We’re dead. We’re dead.” Among the crowd is Garrison Keillor who in a recent New York Times op-ed piece summed up the future of publishing as “18 million authors in America, each with an average of 14 readers, eight of whom are blood relatives. Average annual earnings: $1.75.”

On the other side of the argument are the literary vampires, who seem to have no trouble finding plenty of fresh blood on the writing scene. (Perhaps this explains why so many best sellers these days are about…vampires.)

In an effort to stave off attacks from either faction, I’ll make my point quickly:

Publishing isn’t dead. It just looks different. The way it has looked different every few decades (or, perhaps, every century) since Grak & Thog published the first stone tablet and underpaid the content producer. Ink-stained wretches whining over their absinthe never go out of style. (You notice how absinthe has recently made a rebound? Now is the time to be on the lookout for collectible quill pens and inkwells. You heard it here.)

For those of you with a bit of reading time, a few observations:

Books. Easy publishing has resulted not only in a proliferation of really bad books but, sadly, a proliferation of bad books that have the cores of quite decent books in them. There’s no longer any motivation to edit, refine, and restructure a book for years to gain the attention of a publisher (who’s likely to treat you like a peon, anyway). It’s just too easy to self-publish. The result is that the author breaks even in the short term, but the actual book suffers. On the bright side: Great books on obscure topics are easier to publish and easier for readers to find.

Editors. While publishing is busy shape shifting in dark corners, it’s editing that’s on its death bed. (Or possibly on its deathbed or death-bed — who knows, these days? As long as you don’t put an apostrophe in the possessive “its,” you can get away with quite a bit these days. Particularly if you steer clear of Martha and the Knights of Good Grammar at SPOGG.) People who used to be editors have turned into content producers and writers where they edit content the way that your mother used to tuck a napkin into your sack lunch — hoping, vainly, that someone will appreciate it. It’s increasingly common to see books published by major companies that have received only a cursory edit and, apparently, no proofreading at all. It’s sad, but editors are nearly extinct.

Publishers. The people and companies that make money by redistributing what writers (and other artists) produce will always be with us. Today they’re running around buying domain names, signing contracts with printing, binding, and shipping companies, and negotiating deals with distributors (from Costco for print to Amazon and Apple for digital publications). No matter how many editors they lay off—while wailing about downsizing and “the state of publishing these days”—many of the same folks are still at the top and, not so mysteriously, still in business. And they’re still interested in authors who write the sorts of stories that readers still buy — whether as ebooks, audio books, or print volumes. Publishers are doing just fine.

Authors. While the threshold for becoming a published author has been lowered dramatically by inexpensive self-publishing and internet marketing, the layout of the literary world once a new writer crosses that threshold and stands, blinking, in the lobby is pretty much the same as before. The big hitters. The cool people. The literary-prize winners. The mid-listers. The late-bloomers. And the one-hit wonders. Authors are in the same place they’ve always been.

I never blog anymore

Hyperbole is like acid — splash too much of it around and it starts to eat away the ground you’re standing on.

Untrue. But does truth matter?

As one of the owners of Snopes.com told the New York Times recently, “When you’re looking at truth versus gossip, truth doesn’t stand a chance.”

I found that pronouncement amusing and heartening. But I think the biggest enemy of truth these days is not gossip, but gossip’s close buddy, hyperbole.

It used to be that people who didn’t like a restaurant complained that the food tasted like sawdust, the waitpersons were rude, and the patrons at the adjoining table carried on like frat boys.

No more.

Now citizen reviewers on Yelp proclaim that “this taco place ruined my life” and “I was, like, permanently traumatized by this sashimi.” People who leave comments on Amazon.com frequently assure us that a book is “the worst book, ever.”

From an editorial perspective, hyperbole is like acid — splash around too much of it around and it starts to eat away the ground you’re standing on.

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