The Leak Is Capped. Now I Have A Question.

Now that the cap is in place, I have a doozy of a question for BP.

Why the f*** did you not have a contingency plan in place for this already?  Why was that cap not standing by when the well was up and running?  Why, in God’s name (or anyone else’s), would you drill for a toxic substance where it could potentially wreak untold havoc on not just the immediate vicinity but the entire goddamned Atlantic Ocean?

Spare me the comments that Obama should have done this or Bush did that or Fox News or lies of the liberal media or any other political bullshit.  All of that is completely irrelevant.  Let’s focus on who f***ed up royally here:  BP.

Is it not true that BP’s own monster rig was found listing dangerously to one side before a hurricane struck it in 2005?  And no, the hurricane was not Katrina.  It was Daniel.  Go look it up.

Is it also not true that BP’s own consultants told them that a refinery explosion was, in fact, the result of the company cutting too many corners?

And what of the latest fiasco?  Is it not true that, in a rush to get a well online, the valve designed to prevent this sort of catastrophe was installed backward?  And that the company running the rig warned BP about it?

We’ve seen a lot of major corporate failures this decade due to inertia, greed, or poor risk-taking.  That kills companies everyday.

BP’s incompetence kills people, poisons the food supply, and has done more to wreck the economy again than anything Washington can do on a bad day.

Here’s a modest proposal:  Seize BP’s North American operations and make them the property of the states of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida.  Kick back some cash to Cuba, Mexico, and the Bahamas out of the profits.  BP is punished like no other company has ever been punished before, and hey, look at that!  All kinds of funding to clean up the Gulf and finish rebuilding New Orleans.

How Does A Writer Rise Above The Crowd?

So ebooks are booming and promise to do so for the foreseeable future.  One only need look at JA Konrath to know that it’s possible to not only make money in ebooks, but to go it alone.

On the flip side, how does one go it alone and sell enough copies to make it worthwhile?  Sure, if you’re a midlist writer, you’ve already got a following.  But what if you’re an unknown?  How do you rise above the tide?  Already, we’re seeing a repeat of cheap POD self-publishing.  Granted, the stigma is nowhere near as great, mainly because it doesn’t register on Bookscan.

Yet.

Still, Calibre and Smashwords make it easy for anyone who’s written books to format an ebook and upload it to the major sellers.  So if it only takes a few mouse clicks to get into Barnes & Noble, onto Sony and iBooks, and available for Kindle, how do you rise above the sea of books out there?  It’s already tough to sell your book in print, particularly since the major publishers simply won’t fund the type of marketing necessary to sell books.

Joe Konrath often repeats the same keys to success over and over again:  Good cover, proper format, and, above all, write a good book! He also hammers on price point, suggesting $2.99 to be the magic number.

OK, so you’ve written a good book, formatted it cleanly, and have a good cover.  You’re selling it for $2.99.  Now what?  If you’re an unknown, how do you move enough copies of your book that it pays a reasonable amount of money?

That, kids, is the $64,000 question.  So what’s the answer.

MTM Cincinnati: Loveland Castle

In a ravine along the Little Miami River sits Castle LaRoche, better known as Loveland Castle.  The Castle is one of the more interesting attractions in Loveland.  Based on tenth century castles in Europe, it was built by Harry Andrews, a World War I veteran who objected to the use of guns and machines in modern warfare, preferring the sword of old.  So how does a US Army vet get through the first mechanized war if he objects to firearms?

Harry was a nurse.  Discharged after suffering meningitis (during which he was declared dead), Andrews spent six months in Europe after his discharge visiting castles.  His imagination stirred, he settled to the Cincinnati area to found (or, as the Order puts it, reactivate) the Knights of the Golden Trail, an order open to any man willing to help save civilization.  As part of his dream, he built Loveland Castle.

The Order currently owns and operates the Castle.  A popular tourist attraction, it’s also rented out for weddings and for Scout functions.  Open all year for tours, it is only available for private functions during warm weather months.  It is possible to spend the night in the Castle.  However, before making your reservation, keep in mind this is a working tenth-century-style building.  There is no heat or electricity, and the only bathroom is a porta-john in the parking lot.

The gardens also attract people and are integral to the Castle’s charm.  Sir Harry, as he styled himself (as do all the Knights), even kept a hidden room in the garden.  It was not discovered until after his death when that section of the Castle suffered some structural damage.  The Castle maintains a blog updating the news on the gardens and posting pictures.  Plants are maintained in a greenhouse during cold weather.

To find out how to get to Loveland Castle or just learn about the Knights of the Golden Trail, check out http://www.lovelandcastle.com/

More at the My Town Monday blog.

John Tyler: The Accidental President By Edward Crapon

If John Tyler is remembered for one thing, it’s establishing the precedent of the vice president taking over for the president upon his death.  The Constitution wasn’t very clear on the matter.  Fortunately, someone suggested to Tyler that he ought to think about what might happen if President-elect William Henry Harrison, then the oldest man elected to the White House, died in office.  So Tyler thought about it.  However, when Harrison contracted pneumonia only a few weeks into his term, Tyler was likely surprised he’d have to think about it so soon.

As Tyler took the oath, he earned the derisive nickname “His Accidency.”  Tyler ignored it and also refused to open any mail addressed to “Acting President Tyler.”

The second thing Tyler is remembered for is defecting to the Confederacy in his final days in office.  The CSA mourned his death in 1862.  However, the Union government and states met Tyler’s death with thundering silence.  To date, Tyler remains the only former president consider a traitor.  But Tyler, being a slave-holding Virginian, had little choice.  If he deserves any scorn, it’s for his vigorous defense of slavery.

But Tyler did have some accomplishments to his name.  Tyler laid the groundwork to open up trade with China and created relations with Hawaii that allowed annexation and eventual statehood.  He managed to chase the British out of the islands after a rogue Royal Navy commander forced King Kamehameha III to sign over control the Great Britain.  However, Tyler’s schemes to annex Texas raise some troubling Constitutional questions.  He negotiated the treaty secretly, promising Sam Houston’s government military protection if Mexico retaliated.  The Constitution requires a president to notify Congress of any military action.  Also, Tyler used a questionable joint resolution procedure to bypass the rule requiring treaties be ratified by 2/3 of the Senate.  Instead, the joint resolution merely approved Texas’ statehood if the government in Austin agreed to it.  (Obviously, they did.)

Tyler did not start his presidency well.  He completely rejected the Whig agenda and kicked Henry Clay, the de facto leader of the Whig Party, out of the White House.  The Whigs responded by kicking him out.

But it’s slavery that keeps Tyler ranked at the bottom of presidential rankings, perpetually lumped with Pierce, Buchanan, and Andrew Johnson.  As a congressman and senator, John Tyler espoused a policy of diffusion, where expanding US territory would help dissipate slavery.  During his years in the White House, though, Tyler drifted into an ardent defender of slavery, mainly because he found abolitionists so offensive.  Though evidence shows Tyler to have been a humane slave master, he nonetheless showed his racist proclivities by not releasing his slaves in his will and openly warning about a coming race war if blacks and whites had to live on equal footing.  In the days leading up to Lincoln’s inauguration, the sixteenth president slammed the door in Tyler’s face telling him he would tolerate no further extension of slavery.

It’s Tyler’s loyalty to slave-holding society that has doomed him to remain at the bottom of presidential rankings.

Getting Off Oil Won’t Happen Overnight

We’ve been waffling since the summer of $4 gas.  We’ve gone from demanding electric cars now to drill, baby, drill back to wanting electric cars to come out sooner.  And we don’t mean the $50K Tesla sedan.  (Dear Mr. Tesla, drop the price by 50% and I’ll drop by the dealership.  Until then, forget it.)

The BP debacle in the Gulf has, I think, permanently etched the need to get off oil as soon as possible permanently into the American consciousness.  It’s dirty, dangerous, and too often supplied by people who hate us.  But we need to think clearly about this as we make the shift.  For starters…

  • Let’s stop using the idiotic phrase “oil addiction.”  We’re not “addicted” to oil.  We’re trapped by it.  Alternatives have been available since the 1970’s, but no one thought it was that important.  The embargo of the early 1970’s should have been a hint, but we Americans do have short memories, much to our detriment.  When someone offers a viable alternative, we’ll get off of it.
  • Despite the disaster in the Gulf, I don’t believe we should stop drilling.  But while I feel for Bobby Jindahl, who is scared that his state is going to get hit hard in the wallet without some petroleum jobs, I agree with the current government position of keeping the drills silent until the oil industry can prove it can drill without pissing in our collective swimming pool.  And when they do, prove they can staunch a leak in DAYS instead of MONTHS.  When they don’t, there needs to be pain involved as a consequence.  Massive, make-the-CEO-and-the-board-and-all-senior-management-curl-up-in-the-fetal-position-and-beg-for-death type pain.  The CEO of BP should be forced to live in a trailer on a Wal-Mart greeter’s salary while the government divvies up his personal wealth among the victims in the Gulf.
  • Let’s stop this BS about electric cars just transferring the pollution to the electric grid.  First of all, it still produces less emissions than millions of gas-belching cars on the road now.  Second, it’s easier to replace obsolete coal-burning plants with something cleaner over a couple of decades than it is to retrofit those millions of gas boxes rolling down the highway.
  • America, lose the train phobia.  Yes, Cincinnati, I’m looking at you.  It’s embarrassing that the nation that put men on the moon has become a bunch of Fox News-watching whiny little pussies.  Or do you truly enjoy being raped by Delta, United, et. al?  I don’t.  More trains, less cars and jets.  Stop whining.
  • That seven percent of scientists who say there’s no global warming?  They work for oil companies.  I would not believe an oil company if it said the sky was blue and I was standing in the middle of Death Valley with no cloud in sight even if I looked up.  So why believe these sellouts?  Oh, because the alternative is scarier?  Hey, stupid!  Cowering under the sheets is not American.
  • This is not going to get fixed overnight.  But please stop writing off solutions because they’re not perfect.  Guess what?  Perfect is for fantasy writers.  Perfect does not exist and never will.  Ever.  Not when humans are involved.  If you can’t accept something that improves the problem, you’re the problem.

Ebook Authors: Less Format, More Content. Please.

In the past six months, ebooks have absolutely exploded as a viable format.  Yours truly, who was waiting for something like the iPad and its competitors now coming onto the market, even owns a Kindle now.  Why?  Price and ease of use.  Midlisters are reviving their careers by forgoing their print publishers and taking it directly to the people.  Witness JA Konrath’s success with ebooks to the point of yanking two print novels before they made it into the pipeline because he wanted more control.  These books will likely sell.  And the good news is only Joe’s bank book counts.  No more kowtowing to a mindless accounting group that thinks only in terms of blockbusters.

But we all know publishing isn’t dead.  It’s changing.  E-presses are in the offing, and two have already gone live.  In fact, we’ve probably entered the era where new publishers and small presses would be wise to eschew print, at least in their early stages, in favor of ebooks.  Why would an author go with such an enterprise when they’d have to share the money with a publisher?

We can’t all be JA Konrath.  Books still needed to be edited, formatted, given a cover, and marketed, all those things print publishers still do but most ebook authors can’t afford to do themselves.  Before you tell me I can hire an editor for less than my mortgage payments, go look at the latest economic news.  Go on.  I’ll wait.

Yeah, share the wealth, get the help.

But…

Too many ebook authors are talking about being ebook authors.  So let me ask a pertinent question:  Why does your book belong on my Kindle?

Yes, you wrote a book and are selling it to the world.  Enough with the format talk already.  What’s the book about?