Archive for December, 2014

Freebie! And more on promotions.

December 30, 2014

My short story ‘Ants’ is now being published free on various outlets. Not Amazon; that price is forbidden! But in time, Amazon will catch on and lower their price to match what Apple, B&N, Kobo, Scribd, and PageFoundry will give you.

I’m also switching my novella ‘Hands’ to those publishers, but probably not free. I’ll keep it at the $0.99 price. I’m doing a fast re-edit to get it more publication-ready, removing some of the ‘forsoothness’ to make it appeal more to a broader variety of readers. Expect it to be available there in a week or so. I’ll be done before that time, but Apple and B&N are usually slow at publishing an ebook when the manuscript is sent to them.

There are three separate promotions scheduled for January, one on the 2nd, one on the 13th, and the third on the 17th. Each promotion is being done through a different company, BookSends, Kindle Book Review, and Ereader News Today. If you’re a reader of ebooks, subscribe to their free email service. They send out notices regarding books that are temporarily discounted or free. It’s a good deal for readers, and good for authors in that it allows our books to be shown to potential readers as one of a few rather than one of hundreds that Amazon or others publishes ever day.

I’ll be reporting back on what results were achieved later on. I’m hoping to come up with a ‘star’ rating system based on cost versus benefits. This sounds simple, but it’s not; some of the benefits aren’t quantifiable. For example, BookBub sends out a mailer with only one or two titles, and that goes to perhaps a hundred thousand potential buyers. From this, you might expect perhaps two thousand purchases. At a royalty of $0.35 for a book discounted to $0.99, you’ll need at least a thousand downloads to recoup the cost of $350 to promote your book. Rating agencies warn that the cost may not be met. So why invest that much money, or worse, pay $270 (??) to promote a free book? That latter might get you thousands of downloads, but whether the books are ever read is questionable. The reason lies in advertising theory; the first time potential customers see your name, they ignore it. But by the time they’ve seen it five times, they’re more willing to take a chance and spend money.

I won’t offer my novels free in the future; I tried it once, decided it wasn’t a good plan for me. But I will offer the books at substantial discounts, down to $0.99 in most cases. I’m also considering permanent drops of the first books in a series at that price, loss leaders in effect. But doing that means that the books are shut out of some potential promotion options, because the promoters will only email out titles that are discounted. So I don’t yet have a decision.

A final note: 2014 has been a wild ride, I’m hoping that 2015 will be as good for me as I hope it is for YOU! Happy New Year, everyone!

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Toward a Fair Corporate Tax

December 12, 2014

It’s past time we reformed our tax laws, including corporate/business taxes.
Others have said this, but my motives are different.
I favor a gross-receipts tax. And it must be applied equally to every sale of goods or services that takes place in this country.
I don’t care where the company originated, where it’s currently based. If that company wants access to the American market, pay the tax.
As an example, consider Toblerone. They’re a Swiss company that makes chocolate, good chocolate as a matter of fact.
They can sell their product in Switzerland, no effect on American taxes. BUT…if they sell in the US, the US buyer will pay a business GR Tax, say 10% as a ball-park figure. It might be as much as 20%, in practical terms; I’ve a reason for selecting that figure.
US companies MIGHT, I emphasize MIGHT, get a deduction for salaries paid to US workers, who pay US personal taxes. But even so, I would limit the deduction for top salaries. As for benefits, if the company wants to pay them, fold the value into individual income, and tax the entire package.
The European nations already do this. You might not be aware of it, but they do.
I’m an American, I write books, I market them through Amazon, an American company that also has foreign subsidiaries. My books sell in many of the world’s largest nations. As an example, I’ve sold books in France, in the UK, in Canada, in Australia, in Japan.
Amazon pays a Value-Added Tax, VAT, on each book I sell in the EU. Note that I’m not a citizen there, but my sales to those markets are taxed.
I think we should do the same.
Suppose every sale by a company based in the US, in Mexico, in China, in Indonesia, in Vietnam, in Korea, in Japan, paid the same tax rate as a company in Omaha?
So why shouldn’t we? A more important question is, why CAN’T we?
We’ve signed various ‘free trade’ agreements. Mexican car parts, for example, are shipped to the US where they’re put into vehicles that are sold to US citizens. There are many others. They come in essentially tax-free. Others, folks like Romney, pay taxes in places like Switzerland and deduct those from they pay their own government. They switch sales to tax havens, hide profits offshore, all while taking advantage of the US laws and the US Government.
Free Trade isn’t. It’s a scam that takes our economy out of the hands of our government and hands it over to international businesses. Those agreements are essentially worthless; other nations aren’t nearly as willing to honor the spirit of such agreements and even the lax ‘laws’ are also broken.
It’s past time this was changed.
I don’t have much hope of that, however; look at the House’s version of the Omnibus budget bill, you’ll see where the next Congress will focus their attention.

Race, and Other Irrelevant Matters

December 11, 2014

An Australian friend posted a link in a FB group I’m a part of. Discussion ensued, and eventually I posted my own comment. You might find it interesting.
Times have changed. They began changing for me in 1956.
I grew up in the segregated south, in Louisiana. I had a couple of jobs part time while I was going to high school. I hadn’t experienced the hatred of some, the fear; my father employed men of color for a time, they were invited in to have lunch with us. In every case, they refused; I didn’t understand why. Later I realized that if someone had seen them, they might have been whipped or lynched. The possibility alone was enough to make them refuse. It also might have had to do with colored culture in those days.
But in ’56, I started working for a movie theater. I worked under the supervision of a black man. He was the first one I ever got to know. He supervised because he knew a lot more than I did. Economics in action.
In 1958 I joined the Army. There were African-Americans in uniform, we lived and ate together, and by 1959 my best friend was A-A. (note that the terms had begun to change; later they would be ‘black’.) In time I would serve with black men, have charge of some, work under the supervision of others.
In 1963 I found myself stationed at a missile base in Chicago. Guess what? That city was as prejudiced as anything I’d seen in the south. Granted, Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi were probably worse, but I’d never been to those places.
Before the civil rights movement gained much traction, I took part in an early sit-in, in El Paso. We went to a restaurant for breakfast, we’d been going there for months, but then we took a black soldier with us. They refused to serve us. Eventually we simply went into the kitchen, cooked our own breakfast, made out our own tickets, and paid them. We carefully left a one-cent tip by each plate and never went back again.
In 1964, my girlfriend (now my wife of 49+ years) decided she wanted to go to Birmingham. I told her no; if she went, that was the end of the relationship. But if she was serious, we could start in Chicago, and so we did. We went ‘block-busting’, trying to find housing in all-white neighborhoods for black college students. Frustrating, no headlines, no marches in the street…but we did what we could.
And that was only the beginning. Yeah, this country isn’t perfect. But if you look only at my personal experiences, you can see the change happening.
Music happened. Sports happened. Popular culture happened. Politics happened. Somewhere along the way, almost all of us began to drop the unreasoning part.
Now let’s look at the reasoning part of current civil rights.
There are parts of every major city where whites should not venture, especially after dark. Complain about Trayvon Martin if you will, but there have been multiple instances of whites venturing into areas controlled by one or the other street gangs, black or latin. Some have been mugged, some killed. A video made during one of the LA Riots showed the rioters dragging a white man from a truck and smashing a concrete block into his head. I think he survived, but badly brain-damaged.
You see, there are blacks and browns, probably yellows (Asians) who are just as quick to assault a white as some whites are to assault people of color. That conveniently gets forgotten in the rhetoric.
So: take Ferguson. Why is it overwhelmingly black?
I didn’t force anyone to live there. The residents made that choice. Why?
I currently live in New Mexico, before that I lived in El Paso, Texas. The areas are only about 250 miles apart.
I’m part of a minority in both places. They’re both majority Mexican by ancestry.
I chose to live in those places. No one made me do that. No one made the other residents live there either.
That too is ignored in the rhetoric.
Prejudice? Indeed…but that’s not a characteristic of one color. ALL of us practice it to an extent. Consciously? Now that, we have some control over.
Which is why so many public figures in this country are race-irrelevant.
Soapbox is yours…

Hard Choices

December 10, 2014

Written as a commentary regarding the release of the Senate investigation into the Bush administrations’s interrogation of the terrorists behind the WTC attack, and others:
I agree with the basic theme, that torture is morally wrong, but failing to do all that you can to protect the citizens you’re responsible for is also wrong. The difficulty comes in deciding what ‘all that you can’ means.
For political leaders, there’s rarely a ‘right’ choice. Most of the choices have a degree of ‘wrong’ about them. It’s why politicians get blamed not only for what they do but also for what they fail to do.
I’m not as certain about the answer as most appear to be.
Short term, the choice Bush and Cheney made was probably correct. Long term, they were probably wrong. No one knew, going in, whether the harsh approach they tried would work.
The attack on the WTC was a symptom; the disease is expansionist Islam. And no one yet has a solution.
There’s a fundamental problem; we’re trying to send the jihadists to the corner so they can meditate on the mischief they’ve caused, they’re looking for matches to burn the house down.
We know that some countries support this anti-Crusade, including Saudi Arabia. But they have oil, we need oil, so we tolerate their mostly-covert support for people who attack us. Hard choices.
The mosques, many of them, are places where preachers preach hate and death and destruction. We know this, but because they’re churches, centers of religion, we dare not destroy them. The madrassas teach the Koran, they brainwash students into believing that their only value is in dying for religion, martyrdom. We don’t attack those either. Hard choices.
Bush and others made hard choices. There were, are, consequences. But they’ve never acknowledged the hard choices, never admitted that more than morality was involved. There was also ‘face’, the urge to finish what father had started, and profit, oil from places like Iraq. Maybe the choices weren’t so hard after all.
But we must judge solely on what they did, because they’ve never explained their thinking. Were they right, or wrong? I don’t know. If their efforts saved lives, then the hard decision was justified. If not, and we may never know the truth of this, they were wrong.
Unfortunately, right or wrong, we citizens are the ones who must face the consequences of what the Bush-Cheney administration did.
I’m not going to agonize over whether the jihadists will use this as a pretext to launch new attacks. Pretexts they’ve got; the motive for Islam is always the same, kill, destroy, intimidate. Force nonbelievers to submit. That’s what the word means, after all.
Are there moderate Muslims? Some claim there are. But the radicals get the press, and the moderates don’t repudiate them. Even where moderation is supposed to exist, in places such as the US and Britain and Europe, we see former moderate believers become radicalized, decide to leave for the ME and join ISIS. That doesn’t seem to be common in other religions, conversion by coercion. Or kidnapping for fun and profit, then executing the hostage even after he’s converted. Expansionist, radical, Islam also has an element of thuggery about it.
Hard choices; but at some point, at some time, we’re going to be faced with other hard choices.
Can we coexist with radical Islam? Or will we be forced to engage in a campaign to eradicate them or at least suppress them so the point they’re more irritant than danger.
Hard choices.
So far, they’re winning. We’re being forced to change, they’re not.
And part of that change is that government officials, here in the US and elsewhere, are making hard choices we wish weren’t necessary.
Harsh interrogations, maybe successful or maybe not? Or see another disaster unfold where innocent citizens are killed for no better reason than that their deaths terrorize others.
We’re going to have to make hard choices too.