Saturday, November 22, 2008

ABNA, seven months later

I noticed the 2009 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Contest was recently announced. Good luck to everyone who enters, but I won't be one of them.

My novel, Wrecking Civilization Before Lunch, made it to the Top 10 in the 2008 inaugural version. I neglected to mention that in my blog earlier this year because I spent all my blog time updating my blog on Amazon. And then I was so wiped out from the whole experience that I just haven't wanted to write anything until now.

I have mixed feelings about the whole thing. Sure it was great to be in the Top 10. It was absolutely fabulous to get such a great review from none other than Elizabeth Gilbert herself, who said my book was "a wonderful pileup of fun and good-time reading, the most improbable success story of the Amazon contest".

It was an incredible experience being on television twice and having newspapers write about me. It scared me to death, but it was still incredible. But would I do it all again?

Well, okay, yes I would. But if I knew what I know now, I would have invested a lot less emotion and self-esteem on it. I would suggest that to all the contestants for this year's event. Don't let the opinions of people, who more than likely didn't even read your stuff, get to you.

The reviews were mostly by fellow contestants, and most of those were either making deals with each other or exacting revenge for getting bad reviews. The rest of the reviewers seemed to be family and friends of the authors. Can you guess what kind of reviews they would give? My family and friends were no different and I would have throttled them if they had done otherwise.

I got five times as many great reviews (and I absolutely loved them all) as bad ones, but when the bad ones are by people who seem to be just out to hurt you and not even attempt to read your stuff, that's what you remember. Of my bad reviews, only one actually made an attempt to review my book, and she had given me a good review earlier in the contest (another one with sour grapes, I guess). The rest either just said I copied Douglas Adams or that they didn't like humor or they just made up things. One guy complained about my character named Joe. I don't have a character named Joe.

I really ended up thinking the contest was not so much about who everyone thought wrote the best book, but instead about who survived the review frenzy and had enough friends who were Amazon buyers to win in the end. No offense intended to the winner, who got several positive comments from the experts and I'm sure has written a great book. In fact, since it was Penguin editors who selected the Top 10, all of them are likely worthy of publication.

Lastly, I have to say I'm a bit surprised not to hear from the Penguin editor one expert reviewer said was so gung-ho about my book that he was the main support for getting it into the Top 10. Josh something? (Got that from the videos the Penguin Editors put together) Does he not like it so much now? Has he got a new job elsewhere? Has he fallen into a hole and can't get out?

Well anyway. I'm feeling better now and once again resuming my usual dedicated level of procrastination. I'll be sending queries out to agents and publishers any minute now. And I hereby declare that if I ever do get published, I will not read ANY reviews by ANYONE!

Unless its a good one. Who could resist reading that?? Of course I wouldn't know whether its good or not until I read it. Hmmmmm....this is going to take some thought.
Here is Elizabeth Gilbert's full review, just because I like reading it:

"What you have to love is when an author really puts it out there. I mean, there are tried and true clichéd themes for novels that will be with us till the end of time (star-crossed lovers, man against nature, hard-boiled detectives, awkward coming of age). And then there’s something like this: a lovable absent-minded scientist has invented some sort of eternally hovering machine-device, which 'might possibly remake society as it exists,' so of course an evil corporation wants to steal the device and use it for evil ends. And so – with the help of his loyal sweetheart (who happens to work for the evil corporation) and his somewhat loyal teenage stoner assistant (who prepares himself for a job interview by putting on 'a more business-like slouch') our hapless scientist goes on the lam, into the wilderness, chased the whole while by ruthless characters, having all sorts of adventures along the way. I know, I know – you’ve read it all before, right? Actually, of course – you haven’t, and if anyone had pitched this novel to me, I would have expressed serious doubts about what the author was up to – and why. But this book is actually a wonderful pileup of fun and good-time reading, the most improbable success story of the Amazon contest. This is a geeky and rewarding tale, filled with all sorts of stretches of imagination and unlikely characters. It feels something like a madcap, fast-paced Carl Hiaasen novel, but with a sort of Frankenstein-ian air about the thing. John Ring is a natural storyteller, and that’s a rare thing, indeed. His writing is fluid and confident, and you get the feeling he could spin a yarn for a few thousand more pages and still not run out of inventive ideas and snappy dialogue and the kind of romping cartoon violence that nobody (not even the victims) really seems to mind. I wasn’t crazy about the ending (the author killed his own appealing voice by turning over the final chapter to a 'newspaper article' –which was both unnecessary and anticlimactic) but when there was so much to enjoy before that point, there’s no reason to get fussy about the last words. One sharp edit, anyway, and that problem can be fixed – and then we’ll all be left with a mightily enjoyable story, indeed."

I wish I could send her an email to let her know how much I appreciate all she said. I really, really do appreciate it.

Time Warner and Roadrunner, the sequel

Well, all is well. I guess. No thanks to TW and RR.

I happened to find my password and was able to fix my site. Turns out you CAN pick option 1! And now everything is rosy and contentment in Ringland.

No thanks to TW and RR.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Time Warner and RoadRunner

So. I have a web site on Time Warner's roadrunner. I spent most of today getting it all fixed up because they are making me move it to a different place.

They VERY prominently gave me a choice between Option 1, with 10mb of space, or Option 2, with 40mb of space. Dummy that I am, I chose Option 2.

So I get all set up at this different place and THEN find out I can't use html any more. I have to use their online tool for people who apparently don't understand html.

I THEN discover that I also can no longer FTP my pages up.

And while I'm ruminating on that, I THEN find out that I can't back out of my option 2 choice. I'm stuck with it.

No mention of ANY of this when I was getting set up. The chat guy that explained it to me was terribly apologetic and said he would pass on my "feedback". The chat guy before him disconnected right after I asked him my questions.

I bet there is a LOT of complaining about Time Warner and Roadrunner right now.

Oh, and did i mention that, even if I did get the page how I wanted it, the top of the new page, about a fourth of the screen, is taken up with a giant ad and a huge Roadrunner menu layout.

Looks like I will be focusing more on my blog from now on.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

In the Top what?

I forgot to enter something here. Wrecking Civilization Before Lunch made it into the Top 100 of the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award competition, announced a couple weeks ago. It was such a great feeling to have gotten that far and yet I forgot to enter something here. I suspect that means I will never be a very good reporter. Well, that and I tend to make things up.

But I'm not making up the Top 100! No, no, you can go see for yourself: Top 100. I'm about 3/4 of the way down the first page. I'd ask people to give me some 5-star reviews, and you do still have time to do it, but I think that's just about over with.

Now I'm waiting nervously to see if I can keep going. They announce the Top 10 next Monday 3/3.

I'm trying not to think about it.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Publisher's Weekly review for Wrecking Civilization Before Lunch

At the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest, here is the Publisher's Weekly review for my novel, Wrecking Civilization Before Lunch:

manuscript review by Publishers Weekly, an independent organization
"This entertaining story of human ingenuity and decency battling against corporate greed takes place in Brookbury, Missouri, where in inventor Mark Goggin's lab there's a floating Barbie Dream House. When creepy intelligence operative Mr. York and recruiter Jenna Telfair from mammoth tech conglomerate General Micronet (GMN) visit Goggin's lab, they take notice of the dollhouse. Meanwhile, Matthias End, recently sacked by GMN, discovers that GMN is on a covert mission to acquire Goggin's antigravity device at any cost. As he races to warn Goggin, GMN's plans--led by York and "flatulent ass" Drake Endicott--proceed. Turmoil ensues: cars crash; bullets fly; lasers blaze; boats collide; jet-skis smash. The author evens weaves romance into this terrifically paced manuscript. The characters' banter is on-target, quick-witted and hilarious."

This is really amazing. I was looking for the review from Publisher's Weekly to get an idea what works and what doesn't work. The reviews I have so far are either from friends and family who are probably not entirely objective, from fellow semi-finalists whose motives are difficult to determine (although generally well-meaning, I have found), or from strangers who are the closest thing to objectivity, I suppose. And none of them has seen more than the excerpt, 5000 words out of 95,000.

But the Publisher's Weekly reviewer has seen the entire novel. And they said nothing but positive things. I can not even INFER any criticism from it. I thought there'd be something messed up or confusing.

By contrast, here is the review from an Amazon Top Reviewer:

Amazon Top Reviewer
"I have to admit, I did not know where this was going after I read it. You have evidently a young man looking for a job, he seems to be a nerd of some type, and he's literally going to the doorstep of a mad scientist. The problem I saw with the story was that it didn't make much sense in the beginning, and other than him finding weird things in the scientist's house, there didn't seem to be much conflict there. His personality wasn't really brought to the forefront enough to make him all that interesting, and it seemed that any interesting personality traits were being submerged in the plethora of weird things that he was finding in the scientist's house. I mean, cleaning robots, spontaneous combustion, cleaning rods. It was all too much to put in at the beginning of the story. I think if there was a much longer section on what this young man was about in the first place, what was actually driving him to get a job, and a more in-depth sense of what his thoughts and feelings were when he stepped into this weird situation, I think you'd end up with a better novel."

Clearly this person has read only the 5000-word excerpt; its the only part of the book they talk about. And they have not read the blurb describing Mark Goggin as the main character. They seem to think I should be going into great swathes of prose about Mark's teenage assistant Nathan, who is in reality a minor character in the story. The only legitimate criticism I could decipher was that I don't introduce much conflict in the story. Which is true. I am introducing characters at this point, building a background around which to then introduce the conflict. This is where the limits of looking at 5,000 words comes in, in deciding whether this will be a good story or not.

Strange isn't it, that they think my novel could be better, when they've only read 5% of it. And it makes them look a little careless for going on and on about a minor character too. There's no mention at all of the humor (which the Publisher's Weekly reviewer mentioned several times), which leads me to think this top reviewer either doesn't read much humor or they just don't have a sense of humor.

It makes it very hard for me to get much out of this review to improve the story.

The top reviewer missed the whole point of reading an excerpt. You cannot expect to find out about the plot, subplots, character motivations, conflict, or resolution, by reading the first 5,000 words of a book. Unless the book is, like, 10,000-words long.

What you can expect to get from it is an idea of the tone of the story, some introduction of characters and/or setting, a pretty solid impression of the writer's voice, and something of an idea of the writer's ability to put words together grammatically and form a coherent story.

In her Crapometer, Miss Snark slammed me because I started the book by following this teenager and not saying anything about the stuff in my blurb, which she really liked. The blurb covers the entire book, for goodness sake. If she wants to read everything covered in my blurb, she needs to read the entire book. But, to be fair, she was trying to look at 600 some excerpts and was intentionally giving a flip first-impression with most of them in an attempt to simulate what an actual agent would do. And the top reviewers, too, are used to reviewing an entire book. So no big deal.

I suddenly have this strong urge to send out some query letters.

Beware O Agents of the Literary!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Rating "Wrecking Civilization Before Lunch"

I'm not planning to rate myself at the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award competition. But if I did, it would be by paraphrasing the great fictional director James McCretin:

"Gleet! Terrific! Oh it's gleet! No problem! We'll sort it out on the floor! Sort it out on the floor! No problem. This book is basically pro-humanity and anti-bad things and it rips aside the hypocritical facade of our society's gin and tonic and leaves a lot of sacred cows rolling around in agony. Have a drink, have a drink."

That man was brilliant.

NOTE: I rated myself at the competition. Or rather James McCretin did. How's that for following up on my noble intentions!

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Wrecking Civilization Before Lunch

Comic Novel Goes on to the Semifinals

If you've been reading any of my stuff up to this point, then you're sure to be appalled and dismayed when I tell you that, not only did I enter the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award competition (ABNA), of which there were 5000 who successfully submitted their novels...not only did I make that 5000, but I somehow slipped through the cracks and made it into the semi-finals. 836 crack-slippers in all.

Before you register your dismay by throwing something at the dog or shaking your fists at the gods, please go take a look at my excerpt, which you can download for free. Read it, give a review if you're so inclined, then go ahead and throw something at the dog and curse the gods at your leisure. Hey, I'll throw something at my dog too, just to lend some moral support.

Wrecking Civilization Before Lunch is in the General Fiction category, on page 11 of 15 pages (420 entries in that category). Probably easier to click on the link above or below.

NOTE: they have revamped the pages and now the General Fiction goes on for something like 40 pages, alphabetized. So I'm on the last page.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Not you, Mr. Potato Head!

Mr. Potato Head in ecstasy bust

Another clean untainted childhood memory, crushed into fine powder.

I always thought he smiled a bit too much. Or not enough, depending on how his mouth was inserted.

What's next, the slinky dog dipped in cocaine?

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

1,500 years in jail isn't all that long

Biddeford Couple Faces More than 1,500 years in prison

You may be thinking 1,500 years in jail is a pretty long time. That's quite a few missed Christmases and birthdays, if you think about it, and your great, great, great, great, great grandchildren may not even recognize you when you get out. YOU may not recognize you.

This is, nevertheless, a just and consistent sentence for people with 60 some charges, each worth 20 years in prison. There are precedents, of course.

You may recall several years ago when a 19 year old man sent out emails to an entire school district asking for money to pay for his grandmother's funeral. The grandmother was blind stinking drunk and so may have looked dead, but a swift poke in the eye would have proved her very much alive.

The young man nevertheless collected almost $10,000 from nearly 1,500 very sympathetic people who then formed an unruly mob and quickly tracked the youth to a fine restaurant where he was impressing his girlfriend with money from his "new job". There, they beat him within an inch of his life with his own braised Duck ala Orange.

The boy was charged with 1,467 counts, each a maximum of 2 years, or 2,934 years in prison. Needless to say, the boy blamed his deadbeat dad, who it turned out was the one actually dead.

Need another example? Who could forget the jovial gentleman from the Philippines who thought it would be funny to send a virus to his three co-workers, which ended up all over the world and shut down half of Asia, gaining him a rather impressive prison sentence of 4,000,000 years and a $2 billion fine for damages. Ouch.

So, really, the couple getting 1,500 years could have had it a whole lot worse. In 4,000,000 years, its entirely possible that something could have happened to all their stuff! My car doesn't like to start after a whole weekend of sitting idle. I can't imagine how stubborn it would be after 4,000,000 years.

Minor Correction: I suppose I should mention now, months later, that some of this article was completely made up. I exaggerated one or two things, the numbers are a bit off, by one or two zeroes, or more, and the people involved, to be frank, do not exist. In fact the only truth to this entire piece is the link at the top. And I don't believe that crap for a second. I mean, c'mon! The things people will put on the internet just to get some attention. Pathetic!

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Setting the record straight

Some people have claimed that I am far too easy with the truth. Others will say I am creative about information. Still others will say I am ignorant about nearly everything and am desperately trying to come up with a plausible answer that cannot be conveniently debunked. At least not before I can leave the room.

Tell me: why can't these all be true? Is there no better or worse way to say that I on occasion tend to exaggerate, slightly?

Here is an example: Many years ago, before he began to wonder if I was a nincompoop and made up idiotic answers to his questions, my son wanted to know why the sky was blue. The simple answer, and one most of you would have uttered far too carelessly and easily, is "I have no idea." What kind of answer is that? Is that all you can do for your child? That was not for me, naturally. And I was certainly not going to stop watching "Dumber and Dumberest" to go look it up.

So I said, "I'm glad you asked that, son" with a calm air, and explained that the sky was blue because the world was surrounded by water vapor, a fact being covered up by the U.S. government for fear of causing a massive worldwide panic wherein we all tried to suck in a lot of air, all at once, so we wouldn't drown in case the water fell on us.

This simultaneous sucking in of air would then deplete the atmosphere so quickly and drastically that the ozone would come crashing to the ground, much like how a vacuum cleaner shoved into a small...uh, thing, looks like the planet earth with its ozone layer caving in.

And of course then we would all die because the ozone keeps the water in the air, so it and all the junk the U.S. government has been hiding from us in orbit--missiles and tanks and Jimmy Hoffa and so forth--would crash down on us.

It was then that I discovered that my son had left shortly after I said the word "glad". Short attention spans, that's the problem with children these days.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Radiohead Says: Pay What You Want

Radiohead Says: Pay What You Want

This is just fabulous. About time, boys!

Go here immediately and give them a tenner. Or a pence. Or an IOU. Listen to it for free for a bit and then give them some money.

I am just floored.

Anybody know how to convert dollars to pounds?

As I recall, figuring $1 = .8 pounds (a total guess), if I want to give them $15, then I'd need to put in.....4...carry the

Something on the order of 17,240 pounds. More or less.

Wait a minute....yes, that's right....hmmm....seems a bit too hefty, as pounds go.

Any mathematicians out there?

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Last second Post - Advice

I am a bit late for this post, so I will leave a short bit of advice for all those who need it:

Always keep your friends close and close your friend's keep.

Show a good time to your love, but love a good time at the show.

Be kind to sick passersby, and also kick the signs that pass...uh...sorry, got nothing there.

Beat the Monday morning blues by beating, that's not right.

Ignore stupid advice from the internet or you will stupidly advise the internet of your ignorance.

Hey this is pretty easy...I wonder if you could get a job doing this.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

China declares war on sex

China bans sexual sounds

Push-up bras banned in China

In a country with no shortage of babies and baby-making libidos, China has begun a subtle and clever war to eliminate sex completely. You thought the U.S. declaring war on a concept ("terrorism") was innovative and groundbreaking, the Chinese have said "suck on this a one time, budddyyy" by declaring war on human reproduction.

First they banned sound. This is government taking charge, don't you think? I'm not sure what they're going to do over there if they can't make any sounds. All sorts of new problems will begin. They'll be banning all sounds, you see, because while one person's "oh! oh! Oh!!!" may cause a stir in the loins, another person may be more turned on by short staccato bursts of air that sound like a hamster giggling. You may not find a car horn to be sexy, but where do you think they got the term auto erotica, huh?

And so, inevitably, China will become more and more silent, until people are afraid to even walk for fear that someone somewhere might get torqued up by squeaky shoes.

And now, while they are trying to figure out whether there's use for phones anymore, they won't be able to wear bras either. I have to admit some confusion here since uncovered breasts might make things a bit worse. At least it does over here in the U.S. Maybe they don't look at that part of the female anatomy.

Or maybe the next headline we'll read is "Chinese are banned from looking at boobs."

Friday, September 28, 2007

Witchdoctor Caught at Poll Tribunal

Witchdoctor Caught at poll tribunal

This is what happens with people who don't know what they're doing. Allow me to explain.

"Nigerian police have arrested a witchdoctor employed by a politician to perform rituals at an election tribunal, local media reported Thursday."

Mistake #1: "Witchdoctor" is a politically incorrect term. The politician in question is going to look pretty silly saying "My witchdoctor has adviced me to skewer my opponent with sharp, ha ha!...I mean, skewer my opponent's voodoo doll with sharp pins." Instead, they should call them what we call them here in the United States: lobbyist, political consultant, or Karl Rove.

"Officers caught Oluwole Abiodun Wednesday at the court building in southwestern Ondo state with charms and copies of the Bible and Koran in a black plastic bag."

Mistake #2: The Bible and the Koran? What kind of self-respecting witchdoctor would be reading books anyway?!

"A pot containing a rabbit, seven eggs, cowrie shells and palm oil was found nearby, the state News Agency of Nigeria said."

Mistake #3: You see where the mistake was made, right? Yes, that's right. No one, I mean not even your amateur, hobbyist witchdoctor, uses palm oil in their mixtures. Standard practice, as EVERYONE knows, is to use conola oil, which is much lower in fat. It also makes the rabbit come out fluffier and with fewer unpopped kernels.

"Hundreds of cases are being heard across Nigeria to resolve disputes arising from April elections that were so heavily rigged they were deemed not credible by international observers."

Here is the only sensible part of the whole thing. When you see that an election is heavily rigged, the only right and sensible thing to do is employ someone whose first instincts in dealing with such a situation is to cook a rabbit and wave plastic beads at suspicious-looking politicians.

Or, I suppose, you could cook the politicians and wave your beads at suspicious-looking rabbits.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Police in Shorts? Dresses? Kilts? Pajamas with Little Footies?

Police Department running low on Pants

This may at first seem to be the effect of the advocates of genderlessness, which is possibly not a real word.

How else do you explain the Police, the foundation of our lawful society, the enforcers of our safe, nearly-terrorist-free democracy, the rock between our hard place, the fillings in our, or pie maybe...and they no longer have a ready supply of pants to wear?

That's a rhetorical question, as I am about to give an answer and am unlikely to change it based on the reasoned assertions of anybody whatsoever.

Here is my thought, careful considered over the last one or two seconds: America's suppliers, Taiwan and China, are preparing to invade. Maybe Korea too.

Surprised? Yes, well, I'm very shrewd about these sorts of unlikely conspiracy theories. Consider this: If we have no pants, we can't come out of our bedrooms, much less our houses. Oh, I know there are a few guys who wander around their homes in the altogether, or maybe wearing less than that. But most will not trot on outside to give the world a better view as well.

So. If China and Taiwan and Korea (Where is Malaysia? I suspect them too) were to secretly get together and agree to create a shortage of pants, we'd be trapped in our own homes. Whole towns would instantly be deserted, churches and grocery stores (not that men go voluntarily to either of those places) would be bereft of male chromosomes, bars and football stadiums would close, online pornography would make more money than the US government. Sure we're the most heavily armed citizenry on the planet and we could probably take out any army with a monsoon of bullets and homemade incendiary devices. But do you really think any member of the NRA would run around fighting off fiendish invaders wearing their boxers with the beer cans on them?

No. No, this is the Apocalypse. I'm telling you. Better grab an extra pair of pants and hide in the basement. The end is near.