The really impressive thing about this mission isn't the technology; it's the fact that the men in the planes completed a fourteen-hour mission.

Fourteen hours.
Where writers stand

From Publisher's Lunch (an industry newsletter)

Royalty Revisionism: New Macmillan Contracts Looks to Change eRoyalties and More
Macmillan ceo John Sargent wrote to agents earlier this week to present for the first time a new standardized boilerplate contract across all of the trade publisher's imprints and divisions that the company intends to introduce as of November 9, featuring a number of comprehensive changes in their basic business terms. The goal, he writes, is "to facilitate a more efficient contracting process, for ourselves as well as for our authors and their agents, and to make sure our author agreements reflect current business realities."

One notable effect, as agent Richard Curtis underscores on his blog, is a proposed new ebook royalty of just 20 percent of net receipts--a reduction from the 25 percent boilerplate offer from the other big six publishers. (Curtis's blog is the first public posting about the dispatch, and includes a pdf of Sargent's cover letter.) Sargent writes in his introductory letter that "as the methods for dissemination of content rapidly change and the distinctions between sales and licenses blur, we have determined that a single royalty rate, based on the amount received by the publisher, should apply to all exploitation of the content in digital form."

That "single royalty rate" also means the elimination of any distinction between electronic sales made by the publisher and electronic licenses by third parties--which more typically would provide for a 50/50 split--even as the opportunities for electronic licensing continue to expand. In addition to reducing authors' share of this income stream, it can be seen as a counter to the argument being softly floated by some agents lately that selling relationships with eretailer's proprietary formats, such as Kindle, should be accounted for as licenses rather than sales. For those who might resist such a change, Sargent underscores that "our starting premise is that digital rights in the content we publish in print book formats must be included in the basic grant of rights."

So, by my math, even if the publisher has none of the costs involved to physically produce the book, their contribution is still worth four times what the author's is.

And, by the way, that would work out to only about ten percent of the price a reader pays for the book.

Publishing as we know it is doomed.

No reason - just in the mood...
How much does it cost to buy NYC?

From the NY Times:
Newly released campaign records show the mayor, as of Friday, had spent $85 million on his latest re-election campaign, and is on pace to spend between $110 million and $140 million before the election on Nov. 3.

Gotta wonder what Bloomberg's return on investment ratio is . . .
Accuracy in fiction

So how accurate do you really have to be in a novel? Because after all, it is fiction.

Or to put it another way: If I put helicopters* aboard a destroyer that doesn't usually have any, would people notice? What if the destroyer is a member of the class -- the Arleigh Burkes, for example -- that does have the helicopters, except that this particular ship doesn't?

But I love the name of the ship, and its history. And it just feels right that it be in that scene, in that book.

But . . . I absolutely need the helicopter.

In the end, I renamed the ship. But I did use the original ship's motto, leaving it in as a wink to readers in the know.

* The point is a little more subtle, but it'll take me an hour to explain it, and by that time the playoff game will be on. And you won't care anyway . . .
Tickets, who's got tickets?

From the Daily News:

Yankees fans strike out trying to buy World Series tickets at Yankee Stadium box office
The Yankees are on the verge of a World Series berth, but many fans struck out Wednesday as they tried to score some tickets.

A Daily News reporter signed on to Yankees.com before tickets went on sale at 10 a.m. Around 10:01, the page redirected the reporter to Ticketmaster, where seats for Games 1, 2, 6 and 7 were up for sale.

The reporter selected "Best Available" for each game - but went 0-4. The tickets were gone by 10:07.

Afghanistan: The 'Decision' . . .

I realize it's just political bs, but anyone who really expects the Obama administration to announce its decision on what it's doing in Afghanistan before health care is resolved is simply out of touch with American politics. No way is Obama - or any President, to be fair - going to make that sort of controversial announcement while the fate of his most important piece of legislation is hanging by a few votes in congress.

If you're looking for what the decision going to be, consider this: a significant number of troops have already been detailed to Afghanistan since General McChrystal's report "leaked."

The number of troops the U.S. sends to Afghanistan may get the headlines, but the real issue is what to do about Pakistan. Or rather, al Quedastan, which better describes the area over the border. You can put a billion troops in Afghanistan, but if you're not willing to take the battle into the hills where the enemy really is, you're never going to beat him.

But unless the Pakistan government and its dysfunctional intelligence service and military get their act together, not even wiping out al Quedastan is going to solve the problem.
Uh-huh . . .

PC World - Google revealed its intention to launch an online bookstore dubbed Google Editions sometime in early 2010. Google plans to open for business with about 500,000 available titles from a variety of publishers. The new service will provide ebooks in a browser-centric, eReader-agnostic manner that will muddy the eReader water even more than it is today. Google Editions is entirely separate from Google Book Search, Google's project to scan all of the books of the world and make them available online.
RIP, Captain Lou

Louis Vincent Albano, 1933-2009. The world may never know a better manager.

The new Rogue Warrior is set primarily in Cuba. It's a really beautiful island, with some wonderful people.

Unfortunately, the island is also a clear example of what happens to a country when it's ruled by a Communist dictatorship. The economy in Cuba is not quite as bad as it was immediately after the collapse of the Soviet Union, when aid suddenly dried up. But there's still considerable poverty and hardship. And if you are even suspected of opposing the regime, or somehow earn the enmity of a person connected with it, your troubles become endless.

Seize the Day concerns the impending demise of Fidel, and we have quite a lot of fun with it. It was a fun book to work on. Hell, if you can't have fun hoodwinking a dictator and foiling his plot to screw America one last time, where can you have fun?

But the situation in Cuba, and its future, are serious matters. We hope that the Cuban people, indomitable, will continue to persevere. Some day, very soon, they'll be breathing free air again.
Grab it while it's hot

The new Rogue Warrior comes out this week, and Dick's doing about 3,478 radio interviews. Among others, if you're in the New York area, you can hear him on the Steve Malzberg show on WOR on the 15th. He's also going to be on Fox Radio, on Michael Dresser's show, on the Greenberg News show in Philly (hey Philadelphia, we're still with you), and like that...

(BTW: If he takes calls when he's on with Malzberg, be sure to ask why he's wearing his black tie and tux. It's for a good cause.)

Interested in buying the book? Here's a link at B&N.com.
More comments on Google's copyright theft

Google's self-serving op ed piece (see below) published in the Times the other day has generated a number of comments. Among them was this, from PatrickH*, Brooklyn:

Google is currently mounting an assault on copyright, and don't assume it is for altruistic motives.

In 2004, Google announced its intent to digitize all of the world's 80-100 million books - and to make most of them commercially available as orphaned works. The plan has been controversial since its inception.

Google began with the cooperation of several major libraries. The libraries gave Google access to their holdings. The problem is that libraries are libraries; they don't own the copyrights to the books they hold. In short, they gave Google the rights to other people's work. So far, Google has scanned over 10 million books.

In 2004, the Authors Guild and Association of American Publishers sued Google for copyright infringement. Last October the parties settled. The resulting agreement is 141 pages long, with 15 appendices of 179 pages. The implications for copyright holders are not clear, but what the litigants would get is breathtaking. As Lynn Chu, a principal at Writers Representatives LLC, wrote in the Wall Street Journal, March 28, 2009:

"[I]f approved by the federal court, [it would] permit Google to post out-of-print books for reading, sales, institutional licensing, ad sales, and other publishing exploitations, by Google, online. The settlement gives the class-action attorneys $30 million; a new, quasi-judicial bureaucracy called the Book Rights Registry $35 million...and $45 million for owners infringed up to now -- about $60 a title." http://online.wsj.com...

Google would keep just over a third of the profits generated by selling these books online. The rest would go to the Book Rights Registry run by publishers' and authors' representatives. In other words, 63% would go to the parties that sued Google. In theory, the Registry would attempt to locate the authors of orphaned works and pay them royalties. But as Ms. Chu points out, the parties that sued Google - and would therefore benefit from Google's infringement - have themselves traded away other people's rights in the bargain:

"No one elected these 'class representatives' to represent America's tens of thousands of authors and publishers to convey their digital rights to Google. Nor are the interests of this so-called class identical."

The US Department of Justice apparently agrees. Last Friday, it filed an objection to the settlement and advised the court to reject the settlement as written. On page 9 of their brief, the DOJ attorneys write:

"The structure of the Proposed Settlement itself, therefore, pits the interests of one part of the class (known rightsholders) against the interests of another part of the class (orphan works rightsholders). Google's commercial use of orphan works will generate revenues, which will be deposited with the Registry. Any unclaimed revenues, however, will inure to the benefit of the Registry and its registered rightsholders. Thus, the Registry and its registered rightsholders will benefit at the expense of every rightsholder who fails to come forward to claim profits from Google's commercial use of his or her work...

"The greater the economic exploitation of the works of unknown rightsholders by Google and the Registry, the stronger the incentive for known rightsholders to retain the unclaimed revenues for themselves." [Emphasis added]

The Department of Justice also warns that the settlement fails to comply with copyright, antitrust laws and the rules of class action litigation. http://www.usdoj.gov...

The US federal court was scheduled to hold a fairness hearing October 7. But over 400 objections from around the world have been filed by rightsholders, competitors to Google and (in addition to the US government) the governments of France and Germany. Yesterday we received news that the fairness hearing has been delayed.

The Google settlement has also been condemned by Marybeth Peters, Register of the US Copyright Office. Testifying before the House Judiciary Committee last Wednesday, Ms. Peters stated that it would allow Google to "operate under reverse principles of copyright law," adding "it could affect the exclusive rights of millions of copyright owners, in the United States and abroad, with respect to their abilities to control new products and new markets, for years and years to come." http://www.copyright.gov...

We haven't had much to say about this agreement because, with the notable exception of childrens' book illustrations (which for purposes of the settlement are considered part of the text) the agreement doesn't include visual art. Yet like the Orphan Works bill itself, the Google Book Settlement would be a radical change to copyright law.

Well said.

It's simply theft. Period.

* - From his comments, I assume he's a visual artist. But I don't know him and have never met him.
The Yankees ... wuh-inn!

Friday night's Yankee-Twins playoff game was hell of a lot of fun, even from the plebeian seats. ($20; getting them was like threading the eye of a needle with a pregnant fire hose.)

The Donald got booed, Reggie got cheered, and Tex got pied.

I'd love to see the stats on how many heart attacks were recorded from the eighth inning on.




But here's a question that transcends baseball:
Sure, you can get cheese and ketchup on your garlic fries, but should you?
Pakistan has how many nukes?

Militants Hold Hostages at Pakistan Army Headquarters

In a brazen attack on the heart of the Pakistani military, gunmen dressed in military fatigues stormed the headquarters of the nation’s army operations on Saturday, killing six people and taking 10 to 15 hostages, an army spokesman said.

Four militants were still holding the hostages early Sunday in a security office at the military headquarters in the garrison city of Rawalpindi, the spokesman, Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas, said.

No one should be shocked.
Propaganda of the Google sort . . .

Google's sunshine profit - oh wait, typo, I meant prophet - has an op ed piece in the NY Times today about how fantastic the Google agreement is for readers. I'd post a link but it's such a self-serving piece of bs that I don't want anyone wasting their time reading it.

But if you do, here's my response:

If what Google has done is such a great idea, and so nobly motivated, then surely Segey Brin won't object if Google's code and data are used and redistributed, at profit, by others, without consultation or prior arrangement. If intellectual property laws are so out of date when they are applied to "old media," aren't they even more anachronistic when applied to new? Surely the world would be spectacularly better if all coding were open source as soon as it was written, and all of the physical representations of that coding, and the tangible and intangible results, wherever they might reside, were accessible to all, without limitation or cost. It would be a win-win for all.

Idealism in the employ of profit making is an old cliche.

The worst part of the agreement is that, if you're an individual author without a huge wad of cash, you basically had to sign on to the agreement to guarantee* any future control over your work.

So basically, I had to form a partnership with the SOB who robbed me. But at least I can sleep better with the knowledge that I'm doing it for all mankind.


Should I worry?

My lawyer sent me this . . .

Problems loom

This is how books get too . . . something.

I'm writing a thriller with one main plot and a couple of side plots. (If it were a movie, you'd call the secondary threads b and c stories, related but not precisely part of the main story line.)

Generally when I work on a book, no matter how many subplots, etc. it has, I go straight through, with occasional deviations for interesting developments or research or just because why the hell not. Every so often, though, I'll concentrate on what I consider the main story or thread, then go back and work on the others.

Which is what I'm doing this time. In fact, I even went further - I plotted the different sections out for length, something I've never done with a big book.

The main story line was figured at 300 pages. It's now over 500.*

Heh. Probably ought to come up with an ending soon, ya think?

(*Figure a standard big book novel is going to be about 500-600 pages.)
Israel & Iran, addendum

So what does Israel get from its attack?

Three more years to perfect an anti-missile shield. If it can't be done in that period, it doesn't attack.
Iran's bomb

The NY Times today reports that the International Atomic Energy Agency believes that Iran can construct a nuclear bomb, which is pretty much what many people who have studied the situation believe.

Well, except for a good portion of the intelligence community, but that's a story in itself.

Iran has the materials, has the know-how, and very clearly is determined not only to build a bomb, but will. The only question is what, if anything, the rest of the world will do about it.

The real problem as far as the U.S. is concerned is this: in the short-term, it's not in the U.S.'s interests to bomb the hell out of their facilities. Iranian cooperation in Iraq and Afghanistan clearly outweighs the danger to the U.S. that an Iranian nuke would. Even long term - and even without a functioning and foolproof anti-ballistic missile system - Iran's direct threat to the U.S. in minuscule.

If you're Israel, on the other hand, the situation is completely reversed. A bomb (or missile) in the hands of a government that doesn't think you should exist is an obvious danger.

The Bush administration weighed the situation and, reportedly, nixed Israeli plans to take out the Iranian weapons program last year. Things really haven't changed from America's point of view, and won't, no matter who's in the White House.

Could Israel take out the Iranian weapons program?

All of the calculations you see consider an attack by Israeli aircraft. Such a raid would be difficult, since it would require a large number of sorties; given the size of the Iranian program, the distance from Israel, and the size of the Israeli air force, most calculations start with three completely separate waves of attack aircraft over a number of days.

But that's not the only way Israel could attack, even assuming it used conventional weapons. Israel not only has medium-range missiles that could strike Iran, it has been developing cruise missiles that can, or at some point in the very near future, will be able to do the job. The real problem for Israel is what happens next - the reaction of its allies even more than Iran must be weighed against the potential threat.

The irony in all of this is that the more money and manpower Iran devotes to the nuke program, the less resources it has to put into its actual economy. Iran sees itself as a world power; it has spent the last several years trying to build up connections and alliances around the globe, most notably in Venezuela. When you look at some of those operations, though, the country's lack of expertise and stature become apparent. They can't even manufacture bicycles efficiently, as a story in the Wall Street Journal detailed. (If you're looking for (unclassified) reasons U.S. and some, not all, European intelligence agencies are skeptical of the Iranian bomb program, that's exhibit one.)

Sanctions that further weaken the Iranian economy would help Israel indirectly, but at the end of the day, they're not going to prevent the Iranians from building nuclear weapons if it really wants to (and it does). For Israel, a strike after sanctions are in place would seem to be the best strategy - weaken the economy, and destroy the bombs. But of course its allies won't like that at all.

Not an easy dilemma. Based on past experience, I'd be betting on a strike against Iran at the beginning of next year - a strike that is launched mostly by missiles rather than planes, and that targets Iran's rocket program as well as its nuclear facilities, secret and otherwise.

NY Times story.
Wall Street Journal story. (You may need a subscription.)