Thursday, January 28, 2016


Back in the pre-Internet 1970s, when memes were spread by the Reader's Digest and Paul Harvey, we had this clever saying: Keep it Simple, Stupid. K-I-S-S. The urban myth was this was an unfailable mantra for engineers. Because the more complex a machine is, the more things can go wrong and it can break down.

I have always found that life is the perfect place to apply KISS. Take shoes. My wife has a closet full of shoes. I own about six pairs, ranging from sneakers to work boots, and including my beloved "Universal Shoes"--dressy 3/4 boots that could at a glance pass for work shoes. I can run in them, wear them with slacks, they keep my feet dry and warm, and if they get muddy are easy to clean off. They embody Keeping it Simple, because I don't have to decide what shoes to wear in the morning, I can just grab my dark brown universal boot-shoes and go. 

I also enjoy KISS when it comes to food. Meat and potatoes--'nuff said. I don't need a garden shredded and poured into a bowl. My steak doesn't need to be sprinkled with every spice known to man. Complicated is gross, as far as I'm concerned. Burgers have only one acceptable topping--cheese. Everything else drowns out the flavor of the beef. 

And for breakfast, I like bacon and eggs. Or maybe donuts... Donuts are these round things with a hole in the middle. They have a sugar glaze, or maybe chocolate, and sometimes sprinkles. A twisted piece of cinnamon-covered bread pretending to be a strand of DNA isn't a donut. A tube made of donut material covered in chocolate isn't a donut. No, none of the hundred-different offerings of bakers aren't donuts, they're pastries. As I said, donuts are round with a hole in the middle. Keep it simple.

In the past, when people didn't have a cow to butcher and eat, they scrounged for food. They rounded up a bit of carrot here, a slice of potato there, a handful of grass, maybe some leaves from their favorite shade tree... it all got shredded and mixed together and topped with a tiny sliver of fish. Because they didn't have anything. Trust me, those folks would have loved a huge steak, gleefully pushing the bowl of leftovers away. But today the more crap is on your plate, the fancier it is. Fancy sucks.

When McDonald's first opened, they had a menu of less than ten things. Ordering was easy. The chain grew to enormous size, conquering the world and becoming a staple in most nations. Today, they have dozens of items to chose from--and specialty, seasonal or test market items as well. Sales are lagging. Maybe they should have kept it simple?

Don't get me wrong, choice is great. I like to turn on the TV and flip through Netflix's options. I just wish there weren't hundreds of shows (that all seem the same), or that they could at least group them better in categories and sub-categories. It's like trying to pick one guppy at the petstore from a tank filled with hundreds. Choice has gotten out of control. 

How many remote controls do you own? Wouldn't one with maybe ten buttons be better? How many apps are on your smart phone? How many colors are at the paint store, forcing you to stand there deciding for hours on end? 

Video games are awesome. As are portable gaming systems, but give a kid a ball and take them outside on a nice sunny day, with a gentle breeze and shirt-sleeve temperatures and they'll have more fun than you could imagine. No worrying if the ball is charged, has a good wifi signal or if the cartridge is inserted properly. 

Vacations should be simple--they're when we momentarily escape the hectic struggle of everyday life. I'm sure Disney World is swell, with its smelly crowds, long lines, and product-placement rides, but a day at the beach is much better. With or without a picnic basket. 

Complexity has even swallowed politics. Anyone remember the "Affordable" Healthcare Act? Legislation so voluminous that many a politician admitted to not having even read it in it's entirety. Then there's the daily pork added onto proposed legislation--career politicians sneaking in funding or rules they want. C'mon guys--keep it simple. All legislation should read like the Bill of Rights, not like a medical journal. 

I dunno, maybe it's Baskin-Robbins' fault. Their 31 flavors may have started it all. 31 flavors... more like 31 choices but we know you're really only going to choose from 8... It sure seems like all I do now is have to spend time deciding--whether I'm shopping on or walking down the potato chip aisle at my local grocery store. It's all just too much. Do I need five flavors of Doritos or thirteen of Pringles? 

Simplicity rules. 

I pledge to keep simplicity in my life, from my meat and potatoes all the way to my internet presence. Cascading style sheets? Pfffft. HTML is simpler and easier to understand. 

Anything simple you miss or doggedly refuse to abandon? Tell me about it in the comments below...

Thursday, January 21, 2016

THOR'S DAY RANT: The Box is a Lie

So, there's been this trend the past few years in the self-publishing circles that now seems to have become cannon. You know, like how we call all tissues Kleenex. I'm talking about "box sets".

What, praytell, am I talking about? I'm talking about ebooks being offered in bundles online. For example, let's say there's five e-novels in the Lacy Underwere, Monster Hunter Series. Rather than buy Book 1-5 individually to get your pantied paranormal prose on, you can buy all five books at once: as a "box set"--downloaded to your Kindle...

Okay, so I'm going to come off as a grammar nazi here, but if you aren't selling anything physical, it is NOT a box set. It's a compilation. Or an Omnibus. There is no box. Even if GLaDOS didn't write this one, THE BOX IS A LIE. 

I have wondered for over a year how this inaccurate description has become so widespread. Were the women writing all the femme fatale fiction not well-versed in reading? Had they never head of an Omnibus? Did they think "compilation" was a fancy word for mix-tape? Or were these scheming scribblers out to hornswaggle their customers, categorizing their readers as unable to comprehend the correct term for such a package deal?

In any event, it drives me bonkers every time I read authors bragging about their new "box set". I remember when Star Wars came out on VHS in a box set. Or Indiana Jones. THOSE were box sets. I don't think I've ever purchased books on a boxed set. Generally, books come out with huge gaps of time between them. I mean, who on earth is going to risk all that money on a whole set of books they've never read before. And if you have read them, why do you need a non-existent Box to virtually hold them? With movies, at least there's new versions, like classic Han-shot-first, or maybe re-master animorphic surround sound. 

Pffooey. "Box set" is just another deceitful marketing term, like "less filling" or "kid approved". My fellow authors, I implore you to stick to tradition and call those collections Omnibuses! 

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Thor's Day Rant: Books are for Chicks!

If self-publishing has taught me anything over the past four years it's this: books are for chicks. 

Yes, this is a sour grapes post. But hey, grapes are nature's candy... 

Back in the 1980s, I was an avid reader of men's fiction. Lots of dudes were. Series like "The Destroyer" and "Mack Bolan" were always in fresh supply at the book store--until they sold out. Tarzan, Conan, and a host of other manly he-man adventures kicked ass on the printed page and saved damsels in distress. Communism was a four-letter word and the only people allowed to be feminine were chicks. 

Books weren't our only entertainment. We had video games. 8-bit wonders that required your imagination to smooth out blocky pixels to get the same experience books and comic books provided. Movies produced by companies like Golan Globus were full of manly action, with the likes of Schwarzenegger, Stallone, and of course, Chuck Norris. Hell, even our President kicked ass--Ronald Reagan, who got shot, but survived. Ah, good times, good times. 

Fast forward three decades. A pencil-necked geek who rides girls bicycles and winces every time he says "gun" is in the White House. Downloadable mods for video games allow prepubescent boys and basement dwellers to see virtual nude women who damn near look real. Of our five hundred-plus channels of Cable/Satellite/Internet TV, two thirds are sports. Netflix, Hulu, Xbox and so many more on-demand sources spew out continuous streams of movies. And then there's the porn. The free, on-demand, never-ending supply of porn. 

No wonder men don't read anymore. 

Even if they did, we've produced a culture of namby-pamby, pantywaisted, she-male, body spray-wearing "hipsters" who would have been stuffed in their lockers or worse in my day. Most women, even the scrawny ones, act more manly. It's an emasculated society of wussies that give guys like Adam Carolla and Ted Nugent fits. If any of these modern "guys" could peel themselves away from their X-boxes and pornhubs, they'd probably be reading Jane Austen, 50 Shades of Gray, or the latest issue of Cosmopolitan. 

What does this mean for the aspiring author?

Well, men make up slightly less than half of our society. There are women. They read. A lot. Alas, they read literary porn--smut books euphemistically called "romances". Or as my grandad called them back in the day, "crotch novels". Lots of crotch novels sell. Many a woman, or mansies posing as women, have made their fortune selling smut. 

If you are a man of my generation, you may be taking offense. Well, suck it. You're part of the problem too, clinging to your rotting, yellowed pages of dead trees, stubbornly refusing to embrace modern technology. "I like the feel of a real book" you whine like bitches. You like the "real thing"? That doesn't stop you from watching porn or eating low fat this or low calorie that. When I was a kid everyone wondered where their Dick Tracy wristwatch communicators were. The future so many bleated for is here, and your clinging to your protective polybags like the Amish to peanut brittle. Luddites. Buy a damned ebook reader already. You've got 82 inch big screen TVs and surround sound--a far cry from the cathode ray tube black and white 13" sets most of us grew up watching in our rooms. Why won't you read ebooks? You can still collect your dead trees, putting them in their book shelf shrines, and carrying their digital editions around with you everywhere. 

I'm straying off topic...

The point of all this is, yes, you can write and self-publish books for male audience, but they aren't going to find many readers. My own series of modern men's adventure seems to have more female readers than male... not that surprising when you consider the hit TV show "Supernatural" also has a predominantly female audience--something like 80%, if I remember correctly. Not all women read smut. 

Success as an author these days seems to come down to if/thens. If you're backed by a Big 5 publisher, you get prime shelf space in book stores. People see, they buy. If you're an indie, you've got to be writing in the correct genre to make lots of sales. If you're a male, forget selling much, because modern chicks are sick of white male authors dominating the industry and will boycott your work with feminist fervor. 

Self-publishing is a glorious thing, especially for readers. In years past, consumers were forced to read what the literary agents and publishers "liked". Variety just wasn't there. In today's market, just about any kind of story you can imagine is out there. True, you might be one of five people reading it, but it's there. This is crucial for indies just starting out. Not because you should chase a genre, but because you should have realistic expectations about what you're going to sale. 

Of course, since men don't read, only aspiring chick authors will have read this, and I doubt many will have made it to the end. Ah, well, if you have, good luck with your chosen genre--you may well need it.

(Disclaimer: Soldiers in the field read paperbacks... they don't require batteries, are far more durable and can provide material for a variety of other uses. Reading paperbacks if you're a service member is pragmatism, not a rejection of technology. Thank you for your service!)