“Julius Wright” selected for Round 2 of Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award

Category: Books

I’ve decided to try submitting some of my works to various independent novel contests. One of the biggest around is the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award (or ABNA), which is great because it is hosted by Amazon and CreateSpace. Since I use both of those services to self publish (search for The Human Algorithm on Amazon or CreateSpace), this was a no brainer.

Now I had to decide what book to submit. So far, I have written the 3 novels for “The Algorithm Trilogy”. The first is already self published, which doesn’t disqualify it from this contest, but I wanted to focus on a different title. I didn’t think it would be a good idea to submit the second or third in the trilogy without the first. That left me with just my newest offering, freshly typed up last November during NaNoWriMo. The working title is The Long Life of Julius Wright.

ABNA was targeting about 10,000 submissions (no official report on how many they got), that would be submitting to 5 different categories.  The first round was a review of a 300 word “pitch”.  Of the 10,000 entrants, 20% (about 2,000) would be selected for round 2.  The following rounds will review a 5,000 word excerpt, the entire manuscript, and finally a community vote for the winner.

After waiting for an entire month, ABNA released the selected pitches, and The Long Life of Julius Wright was accepted into the second round!  Below is the pitch that made it.  I will post again when I get the results for Round 3 (after another month).

After 70 long years, Julius Wright is finally dying. He has spent the last 40 years in doctor’s care, and his last wish is to send a package to the FBI. A package that he claims contains an account of his life from struggling student to a rich entrepreneur who had it all, and his descent into mental incapacitation. The package is not just a record, but the memories themselves.

Will Taylor of the FBI is the agent who gets the cases that no other department would dare touch. Cases like a crazy man’s dying wish to share his memories. Agent Taylor is the only one who can see that there is more to the story of Julius Wright and he is soon proven correct.

In Julius’ memories, the days repeat themselves, like echoes of reality. And then there is the box. A simple leather bound box, with a lid concealing a single plastic red cover and a metallic bat switch. Every night Julius makes a choice. If he flips the switch, his life proceeds like normal, but if he doesn’t activate the box, time will rewind to the beginning of the day, with no one but Julius aware of the repetition. A fresh start; the opportunity to correct the past day’s mistakes.
Agent Taylor relives Julius’ past as he confesses the details of his extraordinarily long life. He watches the days that Julius repeated over and over until he achieved perfection in wealth, life and love. So how did Julius, who had it all, end up alone and incapacitated for the past 40 years? Only his memories will tell.

Read More

The Spam Solution – Premium Service Providers

Category: Technology

 No one likes Spam(citation needed).  It seems like no matter what countermeasures are employed, Spam is the inevitable result of owning an e-mail address.  I remember purchasing this domain name (www.stovercash.com), and creating a new e-mail with it, and being completely spam free for years.  In then end, they found me.  The bots, the spammers, the scammers, whoever they are.  I could try moving my domain name, my e-mail address.  Staying one step ahead of the shady underbelly of the prescription medicine advertising market, but what is the point?  So I decided not to run from it.

I could try to defend my domain, install more spam filtering programs, or filter my e-mail through gmail or other services.  They do a great job of catching the junk.  But even the best services leak a small percentage of junk through, and a small percentage of spam is still dozens of e-mails a week.  Let’s say the filter is able to catch them all, it will surely catch one or two legitimate e-mails, which is worse than letting through a hundred spam.  Especially for businesses that rely on e-mail communication as mission critical to replace all other correspondences.  The risk isn’t worth it. 

So how do we calculate what spam is worth?  Luckily, there are a considerable number of math nerds out there who love to analyze this exact problem.  So I will close the calculator app and warm up the copy/paste keys.  A few years ago in mid 2010, spam hit an all time high, with 225 billion e-mails sent per day.  Fortunately, that number has been reduced dramatically, and is now holding at about 40 billion e-mails per day.  The number is likely too large to mean anything tangible, so let me try to put it into perspective.  Let’s print each spam e-mail that is sent to paper.  It would only take 19 seconds before the paper stack reaches the height of Mount Everest.  If everyone has exactly 1 e-mail address and receives an even amount of spam, we are talking 6 spam messages a day.  Not too bad, but by looking at my inbox, I don’t think everyone is bearing the same load that I am.

So now we know how much spam there is.  What is the cost?  There are a few different ways to measure that.  First, let’s assume that every spam e-mail is trapped by the spam filter.  Problem solved, right?  Wrong.  The e-mail is still being transmitted across the internet.  Using routers, bandwidth, clock cycles, energy.  How much power does one e-mail use?  Not much.  How much power does all the spam in a year use?  Apparently enough to power 2.4 million homes all year according to this abcnews article (http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/GlobalWarming/story?id=7343518&page=1#.UdoytEHkt2A).  Power isn’t free, and I am not talking about money.  The power used to send spam in one year can generate 17 million metric tons of CO2 emmissions, which accounts for 2% of the total global emmissions.  Unfortunately spam wastes more than just power, it also wastes our time.  The most recent estimate says the spam likely sucks about $50 billion dollars out of productivity.  That is the entire GDP of Guatemala.  Maybe the rest of the world can just hire the entire workforce of Guatemala to filter our spam for us?

I have another solution.  One that is simple, and will eliminate virtually all spam.  The reason spam is so popular is because it costs nothing to those who generate it.  This article (http://www.clickz.com/clickz/column/2138759/make-spammers-pay-before-you-do) suggests that the cost of spam to the sender is $0.00001 per message.  The spammer literally just needs one sucker in millions to turn a profit.  If each e-mail cost a fraction of a cent more, the profit margin would plummet, and spammers would have to find a new creative outlet.  This is not a new idea, but it is one that has not seriously been taken into consideration.  Instead of spending millions on government programs to track down spammers and shut down their operation, which never seems to leave a dent in the overall yearly spam numbers, we could eradicate all spam, and it would only cost a few cents to the individual.

Let’s talk logistics.  How do we begin charging for a service that is completely free.  One option is government intervention.  If lawmakers wanted to tackle this problem, or generate some additional revenue, they could pass an e-mail tax.  I imagine this would be very unpopular, but it would get the job done.  Another option is to have a company, someone established in the e-mail game, who wanted to take on the spam problem.  Google, Yahoo, or Microsoft come to mind as popular service providers that currently offer free e-mail services.  They could continue to offer their free e-mail service, but also introduce a new domain (@pmail.com, the p is for premium for example).  If you opt in to this premium service any e-mails that you send to an @pmail domain would cost $0.0001, or some other extremely small number.  Additionally, the owner of the e-mail account can “whitelist” e-mail addresses which will not be charged when e-mail is received from that address.  Let’s say an individual sent 50 e-mails a day to non whitelist addresses, which would be high for a non business account, the e-mail hosting would cost less than $20 a YEAR.  That is a manageable number for the services provided.  Since the fees are so low, there would likely need to be a minimum to manage the account.

How would users with non premium accounts get billed when sending e-mails to a premium account?  Again, if you are e-mailing a close contact, they just need to whitelist your e-mail and you won’t get charged the per e-mail price.  Otherwise, upon e-mailing a premium e-mail account, an automatic bounce back response would be sent to their e-mail notifying them that they need to register an account, linked to a payment method.  The user could register their e-mail, payment method, and information about their e-mail habits to prevent unauthorized sending (such as allowed IP address ranges, max e-mails a day, etc.).

What is the likelihood this will happen?  Probably not too good right now, considering the low amount of buzz on this topic.  But the plan above seems like it would be low risk for an established e-mail provider, such as Google to get into.  If the project fails, would it be any worse than Google Wave?  However, if the project takes off, a business like Google could find another avenue to monetize a service that is currently being funded primarily through unpopular obtrusive ads.  Being the first in the game would likely invite a huge number of new users and power in the next generation of e-mail communication.  Not to mention saving a rain forest or two and my sanity in the process.

Read More

IndieAuthorLand Interview

Category: Books

Now that The Human Algorithm is available on Amazon, it is becoming ever more clear to me the struggles that a self published indie author has to go through.  With only one book available, I am not ready to plunge headfirst into marketing, but I would like to start building my presence.  So that if someone were to look for exactly what I have to offer, they can find me.  It takes time, and it is time any independent author would rather spend writing.

So far, I have the facebook page for the book, the blog, and a few other links circulating around on various writing and publishing sites.  But one of the most valuable resources I have found so far is IndieAuthorLand.com.  The site is dedicated to promoting books by independent authors, and the price is currently free.  Most other indie author resource require a per day payment, or a yearly membership.  IndieAuthorLand, however, will promote your book with a personalized interview, and all you have to do is ask.  the downside is that they promote a lot of books, with little quality control.  The upside is that you get free exposure, and it will help to increase your web presence.

My interview, which I think went rather well, was published on May 20th.  Please make sure to check out the IndieAuthorLand Interview for The Human Algorithm.

After submitting my book to IndieAuthorLand.com, I made the top 10 books of the week.  I am hoping to keep the momentum going for a little longer, because after this promotion, I haven’t found a lot of other quality sites to work with.  When I do find them, I will be sure to post them here.

Read More

A new genre: Real Tech

Category: BooksTechnology

If someone were to ask me what genre the Algorithm Trilogy falls in, I would say Sci-Fi.  When I submitted the book to a publisher for consideration, I started with publishers who specialize in Sci-Fi, which in retrospect was likely a problem.  The first installment, The Human Algorithm, was submitted to Kindle with that genre.  I would prefer to use a different genre, though, but I have yet to hear of one that fits.  Until then, I will just refer to it as Real Tech, for realistic technology.

I wanted to stay away from the label of Sci-Fi.  What is the difference between genres of Sci-Fi and Real Tech?  Nothing, because I just made it up.  But when I think of Sci-Fi, I think of a galaxy far away, aliens, time travel (stay tuned for more on that), lasers, space, and pushing the limits of physics to their theoretical boundaries in the name of literature.  I didn’t want to go there with this book.  I want it to be futuristic, but realistic.  There are definitely areas in the book that will stretch the imagination, but the technology is all real.  In fact, every piece of hardware or software, building or vehicle are all based on theories being worked on today.  Not just theories, but realistic projects that we will likely see many of them become physical manifestations within our lifetimes.

The problem with writing about realistic technology, though, is that I can barely get through a single revision without the ideas in my book becoming outdated.  The first iterations of The Human Algorithm were written before any of the new generation tablets had reached the market.  I say “new generation” because Apple didn’t invent tablets with the iPad, they have been around for a while, but were definitely popularized by Apple.  I didn’t even know anyone with an iPhone when the majority of the plot was taking shape, and Android was still a promise, not a movement.  Now the concept of a PED is a logical next step, not a forward thinking notion.  Maybe that is why people prefer the far out Sci-Fi style, because it is a lot harder to be disproven until the work is a classic.  In one of the many revisions of the book, I had to add more features and devices to keep the book futuristic, rather than a relic of the past.  It’s apparent that the ideas I have added to the Human Algorithm will likely be old news much sooner than I had hoped.  I am fine with freezing the story, however, and calling it a period piece.  Letting the plot drive the interest with technology as the accents along the way, rather than a traditional science fiction endeavor where the technology plays center stage.

Or we can just say it isn’t even Earth and then I don’t have to answer to anybody.  But that is the Sci-Fi way out, and I promised you a Real Tech book.

Read More

The Human Algorithm available on Amazon Kindle

Category: Books

The Human Algorithm CoverFive years after the concept, three and a half years after finishing the first draft, two years after my first and only rejection letter, seven months after finishing the trilogy, and five months after launching this website, I can now say that my first novel, the first book of the Algorithm Trilogy, The Human Algorithm, is now available for purchase from the Amazon Kindle store.  In all that time, I have been married, lived in two different homes, seen the birth of my first child, cheered for 3 Alabama National Championships, and revised this book seven times.  I will likely continue the revisions and post some deleted scenes on this website.  I doubt I will ever be satisfied with the book, but I think that is just part of being an author.  I do promise that I will move on to future books and not let the obsession with editing bring the publishing process to a halt.

I expect that the frequency of posts will pick up now as well.  Now that the book is out, now that the child is out.  Upcoming posts include creating the book covers, more information on the Algorithm Trilogy future, publishing process so far (kindle and others), an excerpt from the second book and more.  Or possibly less.  But hopefully more.

One more gratuitous link in case you missed the last one: Buy The Human Algorithm for the Kindle

May the Fourth be with you

Read More

Kindle Publishing: The Algorithm Trilogy

Category: BooksTechnology

Write novel, check.  Edit novel, check.  Edit novel again, check.  Edit novel a third time, check.  Continue editing, check.  Somewhere between the editing and the continued editing, I had to find the time to prepare the book for publishing.  I decided to go with Kindle publishing for a number of reasons.  I have been on board with the Kindle devices from the first generation.  You know, the device that was shaped like a doorstop, had a removable battery that was prone to removing itself, and the page buttons placed precariously near where a normal user would place their hands.  If you have no clue what I am talking about, you were probably smart enough to be a second generation adopter, and I envy you.

Why Amazon?  The obvious reason is that Amazon dominates the eBook market.  Amazon has an absurd marketshare of not just eReaders, but also number of eBooks sold.  Beyond that, I have also followed Amazon’s publishing strategy closely over the last five years.  Personally, I agree with the Amazon business strategy.  There are two main topics that most people take issue with.

First, the book format on Kindle is proprietary, instead of using the widely accepted and open ePub format.  How does the file format affect 99% of all consumers?  It doesn’t.  Which is why this is a moot point.  The proprietary format is Amazon’s way to force users to buy books from their online store instead of getting their eBooks from other sources.  It is still possible to use other eBook formats, they just have to be converted.  The majority of consumers will find this too time consuming and would pay the premium for convenience.  I am a firm believer that ease-of-use and user experience deserves a monetary premium.  If it didn’t, the iPad would have been extinct within the first year.

The second issue that many people have with the Kindle has to do with royalties, pricing, and treatment of publishers.  To simplify a complex problem, Amazon has instituted policies that drive down book prices, such as the famous $9.99 price point.  The publishing industry claims that the price point that Amazon is trying to reach is unsustainable.  To be honest, the publishing industry is correct, the prices that Amazon wants to reach cannot support publishers, editors, agents, cover designers, promoters, and the rest of the entourage.  This is not an accident.  It is Amazon’s intent to remove everyone but themselves and the writers from the equation, because it is a lot easier to split the money two way.  Personally, I think that old way of publishing won’t die anytime soon, but a lot of the business will transform to match the new technology.  Instead of publishers and agents being the gatekeepers to the community, books will be offered up via self publishing, and the user rating system will tell the public what is worth reading and what isn’t.  The better the internet becomes at delivering relevant content from originator to user, the more we will see the middle men industries decline.  If we extrapolate that idea to the extreme, you can see how easy it was to even brand the government as a “middle man” between citizens and their laws and taxes, which could be replaced by the “Algorithm of Mass Opinion” like in the Algorithm Trilogy.

Without going into too much more detail, I feel the need to answer one more question that is fairly obvious at this point. Why did I choose to self publish instead of trying the traditional route.  In full disclosure, I did send the book to a major Sci-Fi publisher, and received a very heartfelt formula rejection letter that I fully intend on framing and hanging on the wall.  I didn’t think I would be lucky enough to get picked up on my first try.  I actually just submitted the book to follow through with the entire book writing process.  I could continue to submit to publishers but decided against it for a few reasons.  My main goal is just to get published, by any means.  Finding a publisher or an agent that fits into my unique genre is incredibly tough, and finding one that accepts open submissions is nearly impossible.  And, lastly, after reading horror stories of extremely talented writers being rejected dozens of times by publishers, I realized that my chances of getting struck by lightning are looking much better than being chosen by a publisher.

Read More

The Boot Up of The Human Algorithm

Category: Books

For the first post after the first post, I wanted to cover a little about exactly how my first three books progressed from nothing to something.  Tracing the beginning of a something like an idea is a daunting task.  It is conceivable that I could go back as far as middle school classes or writing stories on AOL BB’s (bulletin boards) or a great extinct website called The Reader’s Vine or even my first failed attempt to write a book back in High School.  I will leave that ancient history for another post on another day.  For this book, there are a couple notable events that stand out in my mind as the main catalysts.

The idea to write about computers and technology was a no-brainer for me.  They say to write about what you know, especially when it is your first book, or if you are struggling to get words on the page.  Since I took my first computer programming class in 11th grade I knew I would be a computer programmer.  After school I went into software development.  So when I started coming up with ideas for a book, technology was my entry point.  I wanted to focus on the software side of technology, but I felt like that was too intangible to write a whole story about.  Hardware, cell phones, TV’s and the like don’t particularly interest me as much as software, but when you know “computers” you instantly get lumped into a bucket that family and friends refer to as “Tech Support”.  So over time, I have developed a substantial knowledge on the topic, sufficient to supplement the software in the book.

With the genre decided, I needed a story, characters, and a setting.  By nature, I can be a bit of a procrastinator.  The best motivator that I have found is a challenge.  Set a goal and a date, make it a competition, and make it difficult.  So when I heard about National Novel Writing Month, I signed up immediately.  National Novel Writing Month (or more affectionately known as NaNoWriMo) is a personal challenge to write 50,000 words in the month of November.  The first year I heard about this, I started a few days late (which already makes a touch challenge nearly impossible), but I also missed some days due to work commitments.  But during the days I did participate, I started the tale of the Human Algorithm, with a few key differences.  The law enforcement / police character was not the main character, but a secondary one, still very important to the plot, but not the absolute focus.  The main character was a computer programmer, of course.  So as you can tell, these characters were eventually merged.  Many of the elements of this first book survived into the Algortihm Trilogy.  For example, there was a SHADE type organization that operated in secret, and a DMZ area where technology was barren.  The writing of this first draft had a number of plot problems and silly scenes that did not fit the tone I wanted to achieve.  So after I abandoned my first attempt at NaNoWriMo, I also archived this original writing for reference, bust started again from scratch.  The following year I took another shot at the 50,000 word challenge, this time armed with 2 full sized poster boards drawn from edge to edge with diagrams of the world and flow charts of the plot.  The second time I succeeded.  Five full length revisions and I feel like it is time to let the words out into the Internet, where they rightfully belong.

Read More

books.stovercash is live

Category: Website

To fit with the sci-fi /computer theme, the most appropriate introduction would be “Hello, World”.  That is, of course, the default first test that programmers use on any new programming language.  And now I realize that in 3 books I never had Nic say, “Hello, World”.  That is likely a mistake I will have rectified before the books go to print.

With the impending doom of the physically printed word, I wonder what phrase will replace “go to print”.  Maybe people will instead say “Become downloadable”.  But even that has an expiration date assuming everything will be cloud based so downloading will eventually go the way of print.  At which point we will just say “Become available for access”.  I am not suggesting we use these terms.  I am hoping someone more clever will develop the new standard phrases.

Which brings me to the point of this post and the point of this site.  I have launched this subdomain site to supplement the eventual kindle self-publishing of my first three books, known currently as “The Algorithm Trilogy”.  And assuming I continue on my current projected trajectory, there will be more books forthcoming at the conclusion of these works.

I’ve decided against closing with the antipodal of my opening statement, as “Goodbye, World” carries a much different feeling to it.  I will leave this first post at that, with more details to follow.


Read More