Showing posts with label Amazon. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Amazon. Show all posts

06 February 2022

Mailorder Murder


Few things are sadder than suicide, the hopeless decision to end one’s life. Amazon is making it easy with an old product marketed in new ways. The same sort of web sites that promote foolish vaccination theories also promote ways to commit suicide. Sadly, that information is a bit more accurate.

Anyone familiar with wines knows of sulfites, nitrates, and nitrites. One or more is thought to cause red wine headache (RWH) although the evidence is contradictory and white wines often contain more of the compounds than reds.

Sodium nitrate and nitrite figure heavily in chocolate, coffee, and processed meats. Sodium nitrite and nitrate are used as a food preservative and give hotdogs and corned beef that unique pinkish hue. Sodium nitrite can kill Clostridium botulinum (botulism) and Listeria, helping to prevent food poisoning.

But it’s not all good news.

Sodium nitrate occurs naturally in some vegetables, fruits, grains and converts to sodium nitrite, an antioxidant, upon the tongue. Medically, sodium nitrite can treat cyanide poisoning, one of the great ironies. It can be used to bring about suicide and prevent suicide.

The New York Times reveals a scandal

As the New York Times reports, those intent upon suicide are turning to on-line ordering sodium nitrite. Consumers can buy a $10 bottle or a 25kg bag of sodium nitrite.

Amazon is taking the brunt of on-line orders, although other social media platforms disseminate instructions along with suicide ideology. But once Amazon’s buying pattern algorithms kicked in, it began to suggest items to aid in suicide.

As history has shown, what can be used for suicide can be used for homicide. We live in a fictional world, but we have to be mindful of the real planet where miscreants wander among us.

The New Yorker reveals a mystery

As for suicide, the claim of a painless passage isn’t true. An intriguing deadly mystery in New York in 1944 described eleven men who’d succumbed to the poison.

Victims capable of reporting their status mention headaches, sometimes splitting headaches.

sodium nitrite, sodium nitrate chemical structures

Symptoms include:

  • Bluish skin from a lack of oxygen,
  • Difficulty breathing,
  • Nausea, diarrhea, vomiting,
  • Dark brown blood,
  • Dehydration from loss of bodily fluids,
  • Fast pulse, dizziness, weakness,
  • Abdominal pain,
  • Convulsions,
  • Coma.

Importantly, here are a few ways from the CDC to treat sodium nitrite poisoning.

  • Intubation and oxygen treatment,
  • Gastric lavage,
  • Methylene blue, antidote for nitrite poisoning.

Please, live long and prosper.

07 November 2021

Professional Tips – Kindle Edition


e-reader spilling books

Blatant Teaser

If you’re a Kindle owner and avid consumer of ebooks, today’s hottest tip will more than repay the price of your SleuthSayers subscription. This article includes a startlingly simple way to open your Kindle to the vast library of ePub titles available to everyone… except Kindle users.

Most of my comments are directed toward the Kindle PaperWhite. The Kindle Fire is a different machine with different capabilities. For example, you can ‘side-load’ Android apps to read formats and read aloud that the Kindle e-Ink tablets won’t allow.

But first…

Self-editing is at best problematic. Once a draft is completed, we must first rid a text of errors and then refine and smooth the writing. I’m not alone in this, but I may be more prone to skid-reading than many of my colleagues.

In latter stages of the editing process, I read a story aloud and have the computer read it back to me. I’ve discovered reading from different platforms (laptop, desktop, tablet, even a printed page) often reveals bugs that may have lurked for ages, defying me to spot them.

I like to take a break from the computer, load a document on my tablet, put my feet up on the sofa, and either read or let the tablet read to me. Android and Apple app stores offer several free programs that will do this. Most accept the world’s most common format, .ePub, but not the proprietary Amazon formats, AZW, AZW3, KF8, KFX, MOBI, and so on. Likewise, Kindles refuse to read ePub formats, locking readers into the Amazon ‘eco-system’.

One of the early Kindle models would read aloud documents, but what Amazon giveth (albeit for lots of money), Amazon taketh away. When Amazon announced that functionality had returned in later PaperWhite models, they limited it to Kindle commands for the visually impaired and Audible™ books.

Proprietary formats have been a problem throughout the ereader industry, following the same history of word processors, the first practical programs for personal computers. Companies would throw up fences around their products, refusing to write to ‘foreign’ file types and making it as difficult as possible for others to read theirs. The most common ebook format is ePub, the open technical standard published by the International Digital Publishing Forum, a standard Kindle will not read.

eReaders

  • Amazon Kindle dominates about 80% of the North American market, much less so in other parts of the world. Its native formats are .azw and .mobi.
  • Rakuten Kobo (Kobo is an anagram of book) is the only major global competitor to Amazon. They sell worldwide, everywhere except the US. That may change with their partnership with Walmart.
  • Pocketbook is sold mainly in Oceania and states of the former Soviet Union.
  • Barnes & Noble Nook (and Samsung Nook) was one of the first ereaders on the market, quickly steamrolled by Amazon. They have a spotty market mostly in the US.

eFFective (not)

I have a relatively recent Kindle PaperWhite that I occasionally use, but its strict limitations on what I can load onto it usually leave it on the shelf. Seldom do I bother to create .mobi files just for the Kindle. It’s far easier to use an iPad or Android tablet with free third-party apps to read free ebooks.

eAuthors?

I’ve been experimenting loading on Microsoft Word .docx and .rtf files. Using the eReader, I can mark up manuscripts by pressing a word, expanding the range of the word if necessary, and then typing in a note of the text I want to change. Unlike a Word-type app on a tablet where I might change the text directly, I’m restricted to marking up text, but that can be useful.

In-Line Markups
  List of Markups
Kindle screen with notes and highlights
Kindle screen with notes expanded

Usually I note the change, which I then effect when I return to my computer. Initially, I keyed in ‘Del’ for deletion of a word or phrase, but now I simply highlight the words (using the same mechanism), which serves to remind me what has to go.

Kindle notation number in box

The main visual difference is that a note will contain an identifying superscript number in a tiny box. When tapped, the note pops up in a window.

Amazon.com can display Kindle notes and highlights in a browser window, which would be wonderfully convenient for editing but… forget that route for now. Once again, Amazon permits browser viewing of notes only for books purchased from them. Amazon giveth, Amazon taketh away.

In case you’re wondering, that special URL is

SleuthSayers Auto-Magical, Tremendous, Stupendous,
Super-Fantastically All Powerful, Fabulous Kindle Tip

You have a Kindle PaperWhite and would like to read an .epub file on it, one that Amazon won’t allow. If you email it to your kindle.com address, you’ll receive a message like this:

Dear Customer,
The following document, sent at 11:04 PM on Sat, Nov 06, 2021
GMT could not be delivered to the Kindle you specified:
    * ExoticEroticRomanceNo54.epub

Uh-oh. But try the following additional step, which might be a programmer’s ‘back door’. I have no other logical explanation why this works… it just does.

  1. Rename your ebook extension from .epub to .png … that’s right, the graphics format. For example, rename your novel
     ExoticEroticRomanceNo54.epub
               to
     ExoticEroticRomanceNo54.png
  2. Email it to your kindle.com address as usual. You do have one of those, don’t you? It’s mentioned in your Kindle settings.
  3. Transfer should take only moments, but grab a coffee, then see if your story is on your Kindle.

Did it work? Thank us later!

e-reader spilling books

05 April 2020

Customer Support Gig


HDD - hard disc drive
HDD

SSD - solid state drive
SSD
The Fates are having fun with me. I had to replace a computer and a central air conditioner in the same week.

My keyboard had been acting up– two dead keys, then a third. Apple has announced a new 14" MacBook Pro and days ago they brought out a gorgeous new MacBook Air with enticing specs. To tide me over until the we get to compare the new Pro, I ordered a refurbished computer from Amazon.

There must be some Jewish saying to the effect nothing is ever simple. Amazon shipped the wrong one, and I’ve been having polite chats with their India call center, who can’t understand what the problem is. I asked or a supervisor. The conversation went, starting with me…
“… and it arrived with a 500gig hard disc drive instead of a 512gig solid state drive.”
“So sir, you’re missing 12 giggy… gig things?”
“Gigs, gigabytes, but that’s not the major problem. It came with a HDD, not a SSD.”
“So if we send you 12 gigs, you’re okay?”
“Noooo. You’d have to send 512 packed in… a solid… state… drive.”
“But then you’d have more than a thousand gigs.”
“Therefore I need to return the computer.”
“Just for 12 gigs? Sir, I understand you are not happy and I apologize. I can offer you $15 in credit.”
Ah, writers got to love Mumbai Customer Support.

Next Time… Cooling my Heels in a Heat Wave

24 February 2018

How long should we write?
Bad Girl confronts the hard question


by Melodie Campbell (Bad Girl)

Is there an age at which we should stop writing novels? Philip Roth thought so. In his late seventies, he stopped writing because he felt his best books were behind him, and any future writing would be inferior. (His word.)

A colleague, Barbara Fradkin, brought this to my attention the other day, and it started a heated discussion.

Many authors have written past their prime. I can name two (P.D. James and Mary Stewart) who were favourites of mine. But their last few books weren’t all that good, in my opinion. Perhaps too long, too ponderous; plots convoluted and not as well conceived…they lacked the magic I associated with those writers. I was disappointed. And somewhat embarrassed.

What an odd reaction. I was embarrassed for my literary heroes, that they had written past their best days. And I don’t want that to happen to me.

The thing is, how will we know?

One might argue that it’s easier to know in these days with the Internet. Amazon reviewers will tell us when our work isn’t up to par. Oh boy, will they tell us.

But I want to know before that last book is released. How will I tell?

The Idea-Well

I’ve had 100 comedy credits, 40 short stories and 14 books published. I’m working on number 15. That’s 55 fiction plots already used up. A lot more, if you count the comedy. How many original plot ideas can I hope to have in my lifetime? Some might argue that there are no original plot ideas, but I look at it differently. In the case of authors who are getting published in the traditional markets, every story we manage to sell is one the publisher hasn’t seen before, in that it takes a different spin. It may be we are reusing themes, but the route an author takes to send us on that journey – the roadmap – will be different.

One day, I expect my idea-well will dry up.

The Chess Game You Can’t Win

I’m paraphrasing my colleague here, but writing a mystery is particularly complex. It usually is a matter of extreme planning. Suspects, motives, red herrings, multiple clues…a good mystery novel is perhaps the most difficult type of book to write. I liken it to a chess game. You have so many pieces on the board, they all do different things, and you have to keep track of all of them.

It gets harder as you get older. I am not yet a senior citizen, but already I am finding the demands of my current book (a detective mystery) enormous. Usually I write capers, which are shorter but equally meticulously plotted. You just don’t sit down and write these things. You plan them for weeks, and re-examine them as you go. You need to be sharp. Your memory needs to be first-rate.

My memory needs a grade A mechanic and a complete overhaul.

The Pain, the Pain

Ouch. My back hurts. I’ve been here four hours with two breaks. Not sure how I’m going to get up. It will require two hands on the desk, and legs far apart. Then a brief stretch before I can loosen the back so as not to walk like an injured chimp.

My wrists are starting to act up. Decades at the computer have given me weird repetitive stress injuries. Not just the common ones. My eyes are blurry. And then there’s my neck.

Okay, I’ll stop now. If you look at my photo, you’ll see a smiling perky gal with still-thick auburn hair. That photo lies. I may *look* like that, but…

You get the picture <sic>.

Writing is work – hard work, mentally and physically. I’m getting ready to face the day when it becomes too much work. Maybe, as I find novels more difficult to write, I’ll switch back to shorter fiction, my original love. If these short stories continue to be published by the big magazines (how I love AHMM) then I assume the great abyss is still some steps away.

But it’s getting closer.

How about you? Do you plan to write until you reach that big computer room in the sky?



Just launched! The B-Team 

They do wrong for all the right reasons, and sometimes it even works!
Available at Chapters, Barnes & Noble, Amazon, and all the usual online suspects.

23 January 2016

Star Ratings and what they Mean (in which we get serious for a short while...)


When my first novel was published, my mentor told me: “Don’t look at your reviews on Amazon and Goodreads.  Particularly Goodreads.  No, really.  Don’t.  If your book continues to sell, then you know it is good.  If your publisher buys your next book, then you know it is good.  Don’t  torture yourself by reading the criticism of non-writers.”

I found it next to impossible to follow his advice.  The lure of reviews on your work is pretty strong.

It took ten books – all published by traditional publishers – before I really felt I had a handle on ‘the dreaded review star rating.’  Here’s my list. (My opinion only, everyone. You may have a different interpretation.)

Anatomy of Star ratings

Five stars:  Just one word: Joy!
Bless them, every one.  A million thanks to reviewers who take the time to tell you they loved your book.

Four stars:  Okay, they really liked it. Maybe even loved it.  But even if they loved it, some people  reserve five stars for their very favourite authors, and the masters, like Jane Austen.  And literary writers.  A genre novel is...well…a genre novel.  Not quite as worthy (in some eyes).  But they really enjoyed it.

Three stars:  These are the ones that make me sad.  A reader is telling me that the book was okay.  I want them to think it was great!  Sometimes, this can be a reader who loved your books in another genre, and decided to try this book that is in a different genre, one they don’t normally read.  Often, they will give you that clue in the review (“I don’t normally read scifi”). 

For instance, I have enjoyed Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series very much.  Recently, I tried one of her romantic comedies (classified under the Romance genre.)  I am not a romance reader, and not surprisingly, I found this book lacking in the type of fast-paced plot I enjoy.  I would probably give it a 3 rating, where no doubt a seasoned romance reader would give it a 4 or 5.

Two stars:  These are often people who wandered into your book by mistake.  They thought it sounded interesting, so they bought it thinking it was one thing, and it wasn’t.  They’re mad at having spent money on something that isn’t their thing.  It’s not a happy event when you get these, but understand that these people aren’t your market.

One star:  These are simply people who enjoy hurting others.  Ignore them.  I do.

Here’s my advice, if you find that reviews haunt you, and keep you from writing:

1.  Stop reading them.  Really.  

2.  Never comment on a review.  Never.

3.   If you can, employ a personal assistant to read your reviews as they come in, and forward you the good ones only.  (This is my dream.  One day.)

One more thing: When you give away a book for free, there is a downside: you often get people picking it up who wouldn't normally spend money on that type of book.  Not surprisingly, they might not like it, as they are not your market.  Always expect some poor reviews, if you give a book away.  There are still many good reasons to do so.  Just be prepared.

Just out!
Book 4 in the award-winning Goddaughter screwball mob caper series ("Hilarious" - Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine)

The Goddaughter Caper
Available pretty much everywhere, but here's the link to Amazon

05 November 2014

Sinking in the Amazon


by Robert Lopresti

About a bad habit (one of many) new authors can get into.  For a tune: think sea chantey.

I'm so proud I can hardly speak
My new novel came out last week
At the web I took a peek
To see how the sales went on
    They were low but began to rise
    I thought I was in for a sweet surprise
    All of a sudden, right before my eyes
    I was sinking in the Amazon
  
Sinking in the Amazon!
Sinking in the Amazon!
Where have all my readers gone?
I was sinking in the Amazon

My friends swore they would buy my book
Critics said it was worth a look
These sales figures have got me shook
This duckling should be a swan
    Some bad novels are doing well
    But my little masterpiece does not sell
    And while it drops toward the pits of hell
    I am sinking in the Amazon

Sinking in the Amazon!
Sinking in the Amazon!
Fiction should outsell non-
I am sinking in the Amazon

I stared so hard I began to squint
I wished these numbers would take a hint
I act like the sales race is a sprint
When I know it's a marathon
    Buy my book and the numbers lift
    Pass me by and the patterns drift
    Maybe my Uncle Ed needs a gift!
    I'm sinking in the Amazon

Sinking in the Amazon!
Sinking in the Amazon!
Is my career a con?
I am sinking in the Amazon

I know that I should be writing more
But now I really can't tell what for
If my books just squat in the big e-store
When they ought to fly hither and yon
    How can I make  my brain gears mesh?
    The spirit's weak and so's the flesh
    I slip to that site and I hit refresh
    And I'm sinking in the Amazon

Sinking in the Amazon!
Sinking in the Amazon!
Deader than Babylon
Sinking in the Amazon


30 August 2014

Why Writers Drink


“Recent studies show that approximately 40% of writers are manic depressive. The rest of us just drink.” (I sold this to a comedian during my comedy writing years.)
THE ARTFUL GODDAUGHTER launches this Monday on Amazon, Kobo and in bookstores.
This is the third book in the Derringer and Arthur Ellis Award-winning comedy series about a reluctant mob Goddaughter who can’t seem to leave the family business.

As it happens, I also finished writing the 4th book of the trilogy <sic> this week.  I am now in that stage of euphoria mixed with abject fear.  Here’s why:

Below are the 8 stages of birthing a novel, and why fiction writers drink.

THE STAGE OF:
1.  JOY – You are finished your manuscript.  Damn, it’s good!  The best thing you’ve written, and it’s ALL DONE and on deadline!  Time to open the Glenlivet.

2.  ANGST -  You submit manuscript to your publisher.  Yes, even though they’ve already published 5 of your novels, you still don’t know if they will publish this one.  Will they like it?  Is it as funny as you think it is?  Is it garbage?  Glenlivet is required to get through the next few days/weeks.

3.  RELIEF - They send you a contract – YAY!  You are not a has-been!  Your baby, which was a year in the making (not merely 9 months) will have a life!
Glenlivet is required to celebrate.

4.  ASTONISHMENT – The first round of edits come back.  What do they mean you have substantive changes to make?  That story was PERFECT, dammit!  They got the 15th draft, not the 1st.  Commiserate with other writers over Glenlivet in the bar at The Drake. 

5.  CRIPPLING SELF-DOUBT – The changes they require are impossible.  You’ll never be able to keep it funny/full of high tension, by taking out or changing that scene.  What about the integrity?  Motivation? And what’s so darn bad about being ‘too slapstick,’ anyway?  This is comedy! 
Can’t sleep.  Look for Glenlivet.

6.  ACCEPTANCE – Okay, you’re rewriting, and somehow it’s working.  Figured out how to write around their concerns.  New scene is not bad.  Not as good as the original, of course (why couldn’t they see that) but still a good scene.  Phew.  You’re still a professional. 
Professionals drink Glenlivet, right?

7.  JOY – They accept all your changes!  YAY!  All systems go. This baby will have a life. 
Celebrate the pending birth with a wee dram of Glenlivet.

8.  ANGST -  Are they kidding?  THAT’S the cover? 

Melodie Campbell drinks Glenlivet just south of Toronto, and lurks at www.melodiecampbell.com.  To be clear, she loves the cover of The Artful Goddaughter (Orca Books).