Elizabethan London

Elizabethan London
Tyburn was an infamous execution spot west of London, used since medieval times. The Tyburn "tree" - a unique, multi-person gallows - erected in 1571 became a popular public spectacle, drawing crowds of thousands.Tyburn Tree blog is less blood-thirsty but hopefully topical, interesting and informative, if slightly bent to my personal topics of interest - books, writing, history, technology, with a smattering of politics and dash of pop culture, science and the downright strange. So "take a ride to Tyburn" and see what happens...

Thursday, May 29, 2014

The Jesuit Letter Kickstarter

Want to help bring a new novel into the world?

I've launched my publishing Kickstarter campaign to help me take my new book The Jesuit Letter into publication, and I’m looking for help.  The Jesuit Letter is a completed 112,000 word novel.  It is historical fiction, set in the Elizabethan era.

I started working on this project about six years ago and after three years of research, two years of writing and a year of editing and procrastination, I've decided to self-publish.  To do so, I need to invest in a professional copy edit, cover & layout design for the book.

Kickstarter is the first step on the road. The project page can be found here.  

Kickstarter, in case you aren't familiar with it, is a crowd-funding platform, a new way to fund creative projects. It helps bring new, innovative, inspiring projects, big and small, to life through direct support. Funding on Kickstarter is an all-or-nothing proposition — the project needs to reach the funding goal in order to receive any money, so every bit of support helps, whether it is backing the project or just telling friends!

In return for backing the publication of The Jesuit Letter, supporters get a selection of great rewards for their contribution, including a copy of the finished e-book. They also get the excitement of helping bring a new creative project into the world.

For details on The Jesuit Letter Kickstarter and how you can support bringing this project to life, check out The Jesuit Letter Kickstarter project page, get inspired and help bring this project to life!  Just click on the Big Green Button that says “Back This Project”.

Let me know if you have any questions or concerns about the project or if you just want to find out about the Kickstarter experience.

Thanks for your support and please be sure to tell your friends!


Monday, May 26, 2014

Gotham Knights

If you've never dropped by Dead End Thrills, check out this gorgeous art created from the game Batman: Arkham City...

I would love to get these as posters.

Orbital Blue

In case you haven't seen it, the ISS has added an live streaming orbital HD camera feed.  You can watch a birds-eye view of the ISS circling the globe in about 90 minutes.  Every 45 minutes you get to watch the sunrise or sunset, with the darkening terminator either fading away or marching inexorably towards you.

I recommend putting it on full-screen, HD and watching it roll on past.

It's a big planet.

As an added bonus, check out "The Long Swath", a 15 minute long, hypnotic pass filmed from the Landsat Data Continuity Mission, that runs from southern Russia, down through the Middle East, East Africa and into Southern Africa.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

The Jesuit Letter Book Trailer

I've updated and tightened up the Jesuit Letter Book Trailer for my pending Kickstarter campaign.

Let me know what you think.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

The Tudors by Peter Ackroyd

The Tudors by acclaimed British author Peter Ackroyd is the second volume in his new History of England series, although reading the first book (Foundation) is by no means necessary  Ackroyd's highly readable, engaging review of the reigns of the corpulent and much-wedded Henry VIII, Bloody Mary and Elizabeth I (interrupted albeit briefly by Henry VII's son Edward VI's six year reign).

Ackroyd brings the same sharp acumen and evocative social insight evident in his previous works Foundation and in London: A Biography.  Ackroyd hangs the overarching story-line on the key events and players but lavishes particular attention on the belief systems and intricacies of the burgeoning English Reformation which drove Tudor rule.  He has a particular talent for interweaving the tiniest of details and tying them back to the epic sweep of history.

Dry it is not, however it is by necessity somewhat cursory on some of the more infamous events of the period.  Ackroyd is a brilliant writer and, given his background and focus on cultural roots and sociology, he brings a different and often highly discerning eye to the historical events of the period.  He keeps a fairly razor eye on the roots of the English Reformation and the events therein, rather than, as many histories of the period do, highlighting the soap opera of Henry VIII's long procession of wives.  He provides a strong thematic thread for the ebb and flow of England's slide away from Catholicism, tying the many elements traditionally linked back to Tudor power, into a broader context.

Ackroyd provides a solid, eminently readable book that any student of the era would be wise to crack open.

The Armory gallery at the Met, in all it's splendor, with Henry VIII's armor on display.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Publication Blues or Entrepreneurial Opportunity? The Road to Self-Publishing

When I started writing my novel, my concept for getting the book published was, at best, unfinished.  I had the usual vague thoughts of submitting to a bevy of agents and then finding a publisher.  As the book progressed, so did my nascent understanding of the world of publishing.  And right now, it is very apparent that publishing is undergoing a sea change.

Publishing is a 19th century endeavor seemingly being dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st century.

The fundamentals of the process haven't changed: writers still write; agents represent & sell; publishers edit, fix, design, market & publish; and readers purchase or borrow & read, however the model is in the violent throes of being torn apart bodily and re-built.

The value chain for publishing is evolving.  Technology and the electronic revolution have shattered existing traditional models like Humpty Dumpty toppling off the wall.  Humpty is not getting put back together again, rather, he is going bionic.

The advent of digital publishing is a key element, facilitating a new form of portable, low-cost readers and smart-phone apps that allow almost zero-cost for reproduction of a digitized work.  All the sunk costs, physical constraints and weight inherent in a printed book have been hacked away in a shower of pixels.

But the real revolutionary change isn't found in just the format. Traditional distribution channels and controls have also been torn asunder, with Internet-based digital distribution of content allowing for a profound shift in the revenue streams, reach and power structure of the publishing industry.

What that will end up looking like I haven't a clue, but as a neophyte writer, the opportunities that these technology changes offer have a clarion siren call.

E-publishing, also called variously self-publishing and artisan publishing, offers a fresh paradigm for writers, along with a new set of obstacles and challenges.  Self-publishing provides writers with digital tools that essentially move self-publishing out of the expensive "vanity press" model of the past and into an affordable "turnkey" operation of the future, albeit with its own complexities and learning curve.

The barriers between writer and reader have never been lower.

One critical issue for writers is that diving into the new model of self-publishing pushes a significant portion of the assumed risk and the workload back onto the writer.  In traditional publishing models, writers still carry the weight and investment of time and effort of putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboards) in creating their work. The risk assumption inherent in creation of the physical book & distribution of that book - costs, editing, design, printing, promotion, distribution to stores etc. - were previously assumed by the publisher.  If a book flopped, a publisher could be out a significant investment, so the majority of publishers put some investment in the product to insure it met acceptable minimal levels of quality.  With self-publishing, that risk - and inherent production/distribution costs - are now assumed by the writer.

Self-published writers are now an entrepreneurial model of publishing.  They control all aspects of their product, the end quality of the work and how it arrives with readers.  They are responsible for decisions around writing, editing, layout, design, covers, pre-publication promotion, distribution, formats, pricing, revisions etc.  They own their product and they own their business, for good or ill.  At the end of the day, the writer becomes responsible for the reader's experience.

It can be a daunting task.  No one can be an expert at everything and so the spin-off opportunities for services are already underway.  "Booktrepreneurs" can source editing, design, marketing assistance, PR, or distribution through a broad range of freelancers and turnkey operations with multiple packages for all levels.

The issue for writers is that this requires additional resources - time and money, the twin demons of every business.  If you choose to self-publish, you need to determine how much time & money you are willing to invest in your success.  Quality product requires an investment.  And this increases the risk that you may not succeed.  Costs are now unloaded onto the writer and self-publishing generally doesn't provide a fat advance to cushion the risk (although more and more, neither do traditional publishers).

The fruit of this choice is evident in any browse through Amazon's Kindle store.  There are more than a million e-publications available, thousands of them available as free downloads or for a mere $.99.  Self-publishing thus is a double-edged sword.  Yes, technology has opened up the world for anyone with a computer to write, publish and distribute with minimal resource & time outlays, but at the same time the barriers to entry that traditional publishing imposed, served to sift and winnow the vast array of printed chaff for quality writing, for commercial viability, for originality, product quality and the list goes on.

The Kindle store can be a vast universe of poorly edited, badly written works that have been thrown up for download.  In this maelstrom, how do you as a writer make your work stand out?  How do you manage your risk?  How do you effectively price your work when your competition is basically free?

How to make your work stand out? The same way publishers have always made specific works stand out - building market awareness & visibility through marketing, advertising, publicity & promotion.  As a self-publishing "Booktrepreneur" you will need to assess your time, your resources, and most importantly your return on the marketing you will do.  Social media, linking into reader communities for your specific genre, developing and requesting reviews are probably the better low cost approaches. 

How do you manage your risk? The same way any entrepreneur does - on the basis of risk, reward and what is an acceptable balance for you in your endeavors.  It will vary for everyone, dependent on their circumstances.

How do you effectively compete or price your work when your competition is basically free? The same way any business in a commoditized competitive market does - you change the game and compete on something other than price.

Competing on price is a poor choice.  No matter what you do, if you are trying to price match in this highly commodotized marketplace you will find that you are forced to drive your price down to the lowest common denominator.  It is very hard to make much of a margin on "free", unless your books are just a corollary of what you are selling (i.e. you have a free ebook that helps sell your consulting services).

So how can you compete on other factors?  Right now there are dozens of models being experimented with and tried across the marketplace including: genre-specific approaches, serialization, subscription, bundling with other authors, and customization.  Short stories & novellas are becoming more viable and are probably more supportable at a $.99 price point for the shorter time to write and the lower resource costs to roll them out.  Leveraging a series strategy or multiple-book strategy of low cost entry with higher cost follow-ups is one potential model.

Giving readers a quality reading experience and providing superlative writing and story is probably the single best point of differentiation for any writer. 

The Long Tail

One of the other advantages of "booktrepreneurship" is that you have the advantage of maintaining and building your presence and your work over time.  With publishers, a physical book that doesn't sell a specific number of copies in a set time frame, is bound for the remaindered bin or will drift out of print.  Self-published e-books have the ability to build an audience over time, unbound by the standard demands of market-driven investment.  It can take the time to find an audience and can develop over much longer, more patient time frames then the traditional market permits.

Self-publishing is not a magic bullet.  Currently print books still outstrip e-books in market share, reach, distribution, marketing and visibility.  However it does provide a tool that opens up enormous opportunities for writers to directly access their readership and the market, and is forcing a massive change into an industry that has been slow to grasp the implications of the digital revolution.

As for myself, I've decided to jump into the deep end of the pool.  I will be publishing my own novel online in 2014, using a Kickstarter in the next few weeks to raise funds for editing & cover design (My Kickstarter preview: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1678683250/397284808?token=7adc8cda).

Now I get to join the ranks of booktrepreneurs...

Friday, May 9, 2014

London Through the Ages

Check out this fascinating video revealing the growth and evolution of London through the ages.
The London Evolution Animation is courtesy of The Bartlett Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis, English Heritage, The Centre for Smart Infrastructure and Construction and the Museum of London Archaeology.  Kudos to Polly Hudson (PHD) who initiated and directed the project.

The video shows uses geo-referenced road network data, protected buildings and structures to show how the city has grown and evolved over the past millenia.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Farley Mowat has passed....

“Somewhere to the eastward a wolf howled; lightly, questioningly. I knew the voice, for I had heard it many times before. It was George, sounding the wasteland for an echo from the missing members of his family. But for me it was a voice which spoke of the lost world which once was ours before we chose the alien role; a world which I had glimpsed and almost entered...only to be excluded, at the end, by my own self.”
― Farley Mowat, Never Cry Wolf

More at http://www.cbc.ca/news/arts/farley-mowat-dead-at-92-1.2634772

Monday, May 5, 2014

Floating on a word cloud...

I ran across a nice word cloud generator online (www.wordle.net)  Being unable to resist tinkering with every strange online tool I run across, by way of experiment I dropped in some song lyrics...

Atlantic City by Bruce Springsteen...

Mix in a bit of Queen...

...The Stones...
 ...and lastly some AC/DC.

Pick a song and give it a try.