YouTube’s guitar heroes

I know: It seems I never say anything positive about social media, because…mostly I don’t. I wouldn’t mind if most social media platforms (especially Twitter) disappeared tomorrow.

But even social media has a few upsides. One of these upsides is the abundance of very talented young musicians on YouTube. 

Sophie Lloyd, the guitarist in the video posted above, does a virtuoso job on the guitar. I took guitar lessons myself for a while in the very early 1980s. I couldn’t begin to do what she does, but I do have an insider’s understanding of how much practice it takes to play like that.  

I also love the rock bands of the 1980s–Van Halen, Boston, Rush, AC/DC, Def Leppard. A solid cover of any of their old songs is sure to get my attention. Continue reading “YouTube’s guitar heroes”

Jenna Moreci and WriterTube

“WriterTube” refers to the YouTube community of writers. Basically, it is an ongoing discussion about writing and (mostly self-) publishing with YouTube as the platform.

The vast majority of the WriterTube vloggers and commenters are teen girls and young women who are interested in the romance and young adult fantasy genres. I’m a 52-year-old man who writes and reads suspense, horror, and thrillers. WriterTube therefore isn’t a big draw for me, on either side of the camera.

Nevertheless, there are exceptions. From time to time, I have tuned in to the videos of Jenna Moreci. She was recently interviewed by Craig Martelle, whom I follow.

Most indie writers nowadays spend all of their time writing new fiction, and relatively little time building an online platform. Many indie writers have no fixed online presence beyond their Amazon sales page. As a result, they must spend disproportionately on various ads, mailing lists, and the like. Continue reading “Jenna Moreci and WriterTube”

‘The Far Side’ is back

There are many things about the 1980s that I miss.

The music was better, for one thing. (Def Leppard vs. Taylor Swift? No contest, dude.)

Everyone was much less uptight in the 1980s. Less angry about everything all the time.

Everyone seems to have burr up their keister about something in the 21st century. This is the age of trivial anger.

The 1980s were much more chill.

Also…we had ‘The Far Side’. Continue reading “‘The Far Side’ is back”

The ETB Online Books Project

Like all of you, in recent weeks I have been more preoccupied than usual with current events. As a result, the content here since mid-March has focused on the daily news.

The name of this site, though, is Edward Trimnell Books. I chose that name for a reason. Commentaries on the news will always have a place here. (I’m rather opinionated, as you may have noticed.) That said, this site isn’t, strictly speaking, a news site.  I primarily write books, many of which you can find on Amazon

This is a business for me. I’m an author, of course; but I’m also a micro-publisher.

Nevertheless, these are tough times for many readers. The COVID-19 shutdown has cut US economic activity by about a third. Unemployment now hovers at an unbelievable 18%. Hopefully the economy will be reopened soon, and the raw numbers will improve. Many people, though, will need time to recover from this unprecedented interruption to normal life.

In light of these highly unusual circumstances, I would like to make all of my books available to readers for free.

This is already the case with most of my existing library, if you’re a member of Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited program

I realize, though, that Kindle Unlimited won’t be the right option for some of you. And as much as I love Amazon, people were reading online long before anyone ever heard of a Kindle. 

One of the purposes of a website is to provide free online content. Without something for people to read, a website is nothing more than a glorified online brochure.

That’s what all too many websites are. I’ve always wanted this site to provide more to the reading community—especially in times like these.

I initially explored the idea of making more of my existing catalog available here on the site. The problem, though, is that I can’t make content freely available to you here, as well as in the Amazon Kindle Unlimited program. Amazon requires that all Kindle Unlimited titles be exclusive to the Amazon platform (in electronic form). I am bound by the terms of that contract, and I intend to abide by it. 

So I had another idea…

The Edward Trimnell Books Online Books Project

I’ve therefore decided to start making some titles available here on the site exclusively—or in advance of bookstore publication. These will not be serials, technically speaking, but I’ll be posting them a chapter at a time, as I write them. And you’ll be able to read them here for free. 

I have several titles in mind for the first round of online books. These will be a mixture of fiction and nonfiction. The fiction books will span several of the genres that I usually write in (thriller, horror, mystery). I also have some short stories planned.

And for those of you who have enjoyed all the news commentaries over these past few weeks, fear not: At least one of the titles I have in the works concerns politics. But whereas the daily blog posts typically deal with ephemeral headlines, the upcoming book one will dig deeper and involve more theory. 

The plan is to serialize several diverse titles at once, so that at least one of them will be something you’ll be interested in reading. As I say on ETB’s About page , I don’t expect anyone to like everything posted on this site, but everyone should be able to find at least something that they like. That’s one of the advantages of a variety format.

How can you support the Online Books Project?

No, this isn’t a prelude to asking you for money.

Some sites that provide free content immediately turn around and panhandle you at every turn—usually via requests to support them on Patreon. 

I don’t necessarily have a philosophical opposition to Patreon (or similar crowdfunding intermediaries, like Kickstarter). I’ll probably put up a Patreon page eventually, for readers who would like to voluntarily contribute. But if I’m going to make that an upfront requirement, I had might as well just put everything on Amazon first. A Patreon paywall is still a paywall.

***

But I still have bills to pay, just like everyone else. Can free content work with paying the bills? In part, yes. 

One of the really cool things about online content is that “free to the reader/viewer” need not mean “unpaid to the creator/publisher”. This principle goes all the way back to the origins of the Internet-as-we-know-it, in the 1990s.

In the beginning, at least, the Online Books Project will be sponsored the old-fashioned way: through the placement of a few unobtrusive ads.

Some of these ads will be for my books on Amazon. If you really like what you read here for free, consider purchasing a book of mine that isn’t part of the Online Books Project. You may also want to purchase an edited, proofread version of a book that appears online first. But that’s totally up to you.

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The Online Books Project will also be sponsored (sparingly) by banner ads and affiliate links to third-party products. I don’t fundamentally have any difficulty with the idea of supporting free content with third-party ads. That’s what newspapers, magazines, and television have done since time immemorial. 

Online ads have (not without some justification) gotten a bad rap in recent years. That’s because some sites have totally overdone the concept.

The online versions of The Independent and USA Today come to mind here. These sites are littered with dropdown full-screen ads, autoplay video ads, and many more extremely intrusive forms of advertising. 

Edward Trimnell Books is old-school all the way. Just like I hate social media (why would anyone want to bother with Snapchat or TikTok?), I’m also allergic to newfangled forms of online advertising. I keep the ads here low-key, like they were up till about 2003. 

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Those are my basic ideas about the Online Books Project.

I’ll be posting new content and new chapters daily, more or less, so check back often!

Amazon slashes affiliate commissions

And Amazon Associates learn to love Amazon a little less

This bombshell hit online publishers this week, both large and small:

Amazon Cuts Commission Rates for Advertising Affiliates

….Commission rates for several affiliate product categories are getting reduced significantly. For example rates for furniture and home improvement products have been cut to 3% from 8% while grocery product commission rates fell to 1% from 5%. The commission on ads for headphones, beauty products, musical instruments, and business and industrial supplies got reduced to 3% from 6%.

The commission reductions are a significant blow to some Amazon affiliates who rely on commissions as a main portion of their income. Websites like BuzzFeed publish buy lists that drive readers to Amazon products in return for a cut of those sales.

Amazon is one of the oldest affiliate programs on the Internet. I don’t know exactly when it launched, but Amazon Associates certainly dates back to the turn of this century. Continue reading “Amazon slashes affiliate commissions”

Mike DeWine and Amy Acton as ‘Laverne & Shirley’

Northeast Ohio animator creates hilarious ‘Laverne & Shirley’ theme song for Mike DeWine’s coronavirus briefings

To be clear, there is nothing humorous about the pandemic, or the considerable human suffering that has resulted from it.

Nevertheless, we can find the light side in some of the pandemic’s peripheral aspects.

These would certainly include the foolish hoarding of toilet paper.

And, of course, the daily press conferences with public officials who previously had negligible footprints outside their immediate polities. How many Americans outside of the New York/New England area gave Andrew Cuomo much serious thought two months ago? Continue reading “Mike DeWine and Amy Acton as ‘Laverne & Shirley’”

Malware on CNN.com

This morning I checked the day’s headlines on the CNN homepage, as is often my wont. I saw a story that interested me, and clicked on the article’s hyperlink.

The article page was a legitimate page on CNN’s website. But the page was loaded down with autoplay videos and obtrusive ads.

Almost immediately, a “Flash player” piece of malware began downloading onto my MacBook Air. I closed the browser immediately.

For the record: I don’t believe that CNN—or any major news outlet—is deliberately distributing malware. They are, however, so filled with ads from various ad brokers and networks, that invariably a bad apple or two slips through.

Some news sites are now almost completely filled with ads. (Local news sites seem to be the most grievous offenders in this regard.)

I’m not opposed to ad-supported online content. Since the beginning, ads have been the tool that have enabled most of the content on the Internet to be free. Without online advertising, the Internet would become a pay-as-you-go space. The only free content would be content from the government and public agencies, or cleverly disguised infomercials.

But online ads are not what they used to be. Online advertising started out as banner ads above and below, and to the right and the left of content. People who complained about that (and there are always people complaining) usually did so on ideological grounds. They didn’t like the idea that someone was making money from their online content.

Things have changed. Nowadays, many sites are more ads than content. And we’ve all uttered a few choice curse words at those full-screen drop-down ads that won’t go away.

Particularly odious are the autoplay video ads. I’ve noticed an annoying tendency toward autoplay videos of all kinds on news sites in recent years, and these videos invariably are preceded by ads.

I’m not here to encourage anyone to visit online gambling dens or Russian porn sites. But if you were avoiding such websites for fear of malware, well….you might be taking just as big a risk when you visit CNN.com.

Apple and the slowing iPhone

I love my iMac, my MacBook Air, and my iPhone, but I have a firm rule with all of these devices:

One operating system (OS) per device.

This isn’t really so radical, when you think about it. Prior to automated updates (circa 2010), this was the way that most people functioned by default. If you bought a PC with Windows 95, you didn’t upgrade it to Windows 98 or Windows 2000. You waited until you bought a new machine, and then you got Windows 98 or Windows 2000.

And so on.

I first ran into problems with automated updates in 2010, when updates from Microsoft crashed my perfectly good Gateway computer running Windows XP (still the best operating system that Microsoft ever developed). That was the point at which I became a Mac convert.

But I noticed something about my Mac devices: Whenever I upgraded to a new Mac OS (which Apple pushes relentlessly, especially on the iPhone), I noticed a significant drop in performance.

Apparently, I’m not the only one:

Apple will pay up to $500 million to settle lawsuit over slowing down older iPhones

I miss the days when changing your operating system was a user-initiated event, versus something that tech companies try to compel on users via the Internet.

Apple constantly pushes new versions of the iOS to my iPhone. And I constantly delete them, uninstalled.

Get it right the first time, Apple….and that goes for the other tech companies, as well.

‘American Dirt’ and another kowtow to the Internet mob

Yet another example of cancel culture in action. The book tour of Jeanine Cummins, author of the novel American Dirt, has been cancelled after the backlash of an Internet social justice mob.

What’s the issue? Apparently a woman who is not of Mexican heritage is not allowed to write a novel about Mexican migrants. 

Or so the mob declares. 

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Update: 124 relatively unknown authors have signed an open letter to Oprah Winfrey, asking Oprah to abet the book-burning project.

I’m not familiar with the majority of the authors. Quite a few of them, though, seem to be authors of competing books (also about the Mexican migrant experience) that have not achieved similar commercial success.

A hint of the green-eyed monster, perhaps?

Make of that what you will.

The Internet, Jonathan Franzen, and distractions

About a year ago, literary novelist Jonathan Franzen shared his “10 rules for novelists”. Number 8 was:

“It’s doubtful that anyone with an Internet connection at his workplace is writing good fiction.”

Jonathan Franzen

I’m not sure I would be this absolutist about the matter. But as someone old enough to have reached adulthood before the Internet was “a thing”, I can appreciate just how distracting cyberspace can be.

It was bad enough in the beginning. But then came social media (I’ll spare you my usual rant), and those damned smartphones. 

As for Jonathan Franzen: The guy gets a bad rap, and I’m not sure why. Yes, he is quirky and eccentric. Yes, he is fashionably progressive and eye-rollingly politically correct in his politics. But no more so than many other people in the arts.

I’ve read two of his novels: The Corrections (2001) and Freedom (2010). I thought both books were pretty good.