The ancient art of accidental preservation

This is a follow-up to the blog written on May 12th titled, “Did the written word make us who we are?”

It’s a catchy little title for a blog that discussed the advent of the written word, and the invention of the printing press—I know, I know, fascinating stuff. You can read it for yourself below:

This post has a solid tie-in to the original. One of the immediate unforeseen problems the printing press caused was a shortage of binding materials. Suddenly everybody—well those who could read I guess—wanted access to more and more books.

The answer lay all around. Hundreds of thousands of those antiquated, fallen-out-of-fashion parchments. Like an old iPhone 6 nobody wanted, manuscripts were suddenly yesterday’s technology. Those old stiff pieces of sheep or goat skin with handwritten and hand-illuminated gospels, poems, Roman laws, and religious scripts, now all outdated and no longer needed. A wonderful and free resource, perfect for the 16th Century bookbinder busy assembling the new cutting-edge technology of the printed word.

Many works dating back to the 6th Century and before were destroyed in this manner. Scholars have known about the practice for a long time, but it wasn’t until recently that they had the technology to read what was hidden within the bindings.

Computational imaging and signal processing advances opened up a whole new way to read these texts

Mark Walton, senior scientist at the Northwestern University-Art Institute of Chicago Center for Scientific Studies (NU-ACCESS).

The book that initially caught the researcher’s eye and made it worthy of further investigation was a 1537 copy of “Works and Days” by the Greek poet Hesiod, a writer who likely lived during the same period as Homer. It was evident that the spine and inside cover were composed of much earlier parchment.

What was revealed in the spine and manuscript inside the cover was a sixth-century Roman law code with notes referencing the church’s canon law.

OK—so that one turned out to be pretty dull to everybody except scholars of 6th Century Roman bye-laws, but, believe me, those guys, they are losing their shit right now.

What is important is that thousands and thousands of these manuscripts were re-purposed in this manner, and who knows what wealth of history and information lies hidden in the spines of all the books printed in the 16th and 17th centuries? What secrets, scandals, and schemes that could have been lost forever are waiting for modern scholars to unveil?

Somehow, inadvertently, all of this history that might have otherwise been lost, burnt, or otherwise destroyed has become assimilated and preserved into the structure of the first modern books. And only now, through 21st-century technology has it once again become retrievable.

Probably just me and Greta, but we think that’s pretty cool. Right?

I would love it if you could find time to follow the blog or give me a like. A share would be amazing and always feel free to give my own books a read on Amazon Kindle Unlimited.

The essence of our ancestors

A line in a book I am reading made me think rather too deeply about something. And that surely is the power of the written word. Something banal and taken entirely for granted can spark a sudden feeling, an emotion, and all of a sudden it inspires a change of perspective.

The book is “The Splendid and the Vile” by Erik Larson. The book details the first few months of Churchill’s tempestuous months in power as the world stepped slowly but inexorably towards inevitable global conflict.

The line that sent me reeling describes the first days of the Blitz of London. That Hitler would bomb civilians in London was inevitable, he had done the same to Rotterdam in his recent conquest of the Netherlands.

Death and destruction was to be expected, and the residents of the great city were prepared, or at least as much as they could be, for the human cost of the 5,300 tons of high explosives the Luftwaffe would drop over the course of the first 24 nights.

What wasn’t expected is what Larson described in vivid detail. It was the thick red-brown fog of dust that was disturbed by the detonations of the bombs that rained down on the ancient capital. The explosions caused buildings to shake and caused the dust to billow out of ‘eaves and attics, roofs and chimneys, hearths and furnaces—dust from the age of Cromwell, Dickens and Victoria.’

But not only of the age of Cromwell and Dickens but actually of our ancestors who lived in that era. Dust in our homes can be constituted of up to 50% sloughed off human skin cells. The rest is a mixture of human hair, pet hair, clothing fibers, dead bacteria, dust mites, soil particles, pollen and the desiccated exoskeletons of insects. The dust dislodged by the German bombers, the dust that clogged the throats and coated the faces, clothes and belongings of those Londoners was in fact the skin cells and hair of those who had lived in those residences before them.

I mention this not to urge you to run to the cupboard under the stairs were you keep the vacuum cleaner but to marvel at how reading can invoke such sentiments.

‘Reading Is just looking at a dead piece of wood for hours and hallucinating,’ said somebody in a quote on the internet I couldn’t attribute correctly, and I think thats startlingly true.

I hope to achieve something similar, in some small way with the books I write.

https://andycwareing.com/books/

To KENP or not to make any moolah?

A good friend read my latest book using his Kindle Unlimited account (five star review btw – thanks Dave). As we chatted, something occurred to him and his voice took on a guilty edge.

“You do get paid for Kindle Unlimited reads right?”

Kindle Unlimited is an additional subscription service that provides Amazon users access to over 1,000,000 titles published as ebooks at no additional fee after the subscription fee is paid. In the USA the monthly charge is $9.99 a month and in the UK £7.99 a month.

The short answer to Dave’s question is that yes, I do get paid on KU reads.

The longer answer is – nowhere near as much as I would like.

An author gets paid from the KENP global fund allocation. KENP stands for Kindle Edition Normalized Pages, so I am guessing the name was made up by some old bearded guy in IT rather than some seventeen year-old whizz kid in the marketing department.

Essentially, it equates to the royalty an author receives for each single page read. The current global fund for August 2022 is $45.1 million. I know, I wet my pants a little when I first saw that number. But of course that pot is shared between all page reads in all territories.

What it works out to is a payout of $0.004263264 per page read. Jinkies! So I need to have somebody read 3 pages to get a single cent in revenue.

I decided at the beginning of the year to focus not on unit sales, although please believe me, ebook, paperback and hardback sales will always remain the bee’s knees, the mutt’s nuts if you will. Instead, my focus for this year is on growing my Kindle Unlimited readership. All three of my published books are currently available on KU.

Amazon are also smart (I know you already know that), they only pay once per any individuals read of a page. If the reader love your book so much they read it again and again, tough luck, no additional payment, which is also true of a physical book of course.

The bigger issue for a writer is that KU members tend to download books for later reading, so it becomes tremendously difficult to fathom how your book is doing. It might take months (years?) for a KU member to get around to reading your wonderful little book.

Reporting is also skewed, at least in my experience, by markets and time zones. I tend to see a large jump in KENP reads overnight, which I assume is due to the AWS servers consolidating data in Seattle, and another smaller bump around midday in the UK, the only two markets my books really sell in. I also don’t see page reads if a reader goes offline for a while, so sometimes I will go a day or two with almost nothing in my sales dashboard, and then all of a sudden a page read spiking in the thousands.

Being a dumb optimist I always get over excited when I see a jump in sales, and assume it is the start of an upward trend that will make me fantastically successful and immediately start the search for ocean going yachts, only to see my sales drop all the way back down again the next day. It would be less sad if I didn’t let this pattern surprise me over and over again.

Of course being part of Kindle Unlimited has plus points. One huge advantage to being part of KU is access to those precious members. If I run a free price promotion on one book, Amazon will market my book for me for free, That puts my book in front of tens of thousands of users on their Amazon product pages, Sure I might give a few hundred copies away, but I also get free advertising to all of those wonderful KU members. It’s almost a win/win. If I am lucky I get some reviews from the freebie hungry crowd, but I also get paid on the page reads from the Kindle Unlimited glitterati.

I have also got better at back matter in all of my books. I used to think that back matter was that thick greasy hair you see on fat blokes lying face down on the beach in Benidorm and the Florida Red Neck Riviera, but it turns out to be a way to instruct and cajole a reader who hopefully enjoyed book one to immediately find and download book two, and three, and four.

All my books now have back matter formatted and structured in the same way. It is comprised of a sincere thank you for the current read, a suggestion (begging letter really) to leave an honest review and step by step instructions on how to find my other works.

If you have downloaded or bought a book, I thank you. Do please leave a review if you can spare the time. Follow, me, follow the blog, follow your dreams, follow the yellow brick road, just don’t follow clowns holding balloons. Or any clowns now I really come to think about it.

Thanks for reading….

More out of order than a Pulp Fiction movie

I was thrilled at the beginning of this month to release my third book. Ignoring, for a moment, my supernatural thriller novel, it was book two in my travel memoir series and was aptly titled, “It’s not as bad as it looks.”

Book two continues and completes the story started in “Mistakes were Made” which was inspired by our unfortunately timed attempt to move from the USA to a beachside idyll of retirement in sunny Spain. It was badly timed because we began preparations for the journey in March 2020 and, if you cast your mind back for a moment, 2020 was forever immortalized by something else of some small consequence that was to happen later that year.


With “It’s not as bad as it looks” bringing the tale up to current day, I was left thinking about what to write next.

I have two other work in progress (WIP) projects I am currently working on, and to be honest I should really be focussing on them instead of writing this blog and thinking of yet another side project, but I enjoyed writing the funny travel memoirs and people seem to enjoy them. Then I had a thought…

It brought to mind a series of travel adventures I took part in during a miss-spent youth, when I was both single and the fortunate owner of large and rapid motorcycles. This was in the mid-1980’s, a period during which I was in my late teens and early twenties. Unlike all of my friends, instead of flying to Ibiza to drink copious amounts of cold fizzy lager and chase girls, each year I took a few weeks off work and picked a suitably remote and challenging destination to ride my bike to.

Without exception, the trips were all lonely and arduous. Both too hot and too cold, too wet and too arid; every one an arse cheek pummeling slog of endurance, and looking back I have to say, I wonder what on earth I was thinking. But I am certain that those trips hold pay dirt, a veritable cornucopia of humorous anecdotes and interesting trivia about a world long gone. If only, thirty years later, I can coax the increasingly feeble bag of grey tapioca that is now my brain into remembering a single one of them.

There were the usual easy trips to Europe, France and Italy mainly, but I also rode through the entirety of Scandinavia to reach Nord Cap, far inside the Arctic Circle, and one fateful year a scary ride through the communist Eastern Bloc to reach Istanbul and eventually Asia.

I do recall there were dead horses and armed checkpoints, reindeers eaten and tortoises run over, all amid a smattering of crashes, injuries and lasting friendships. I was terribly young and most of the time entirely ignorant of the danger I was barely skirting in my exposure and isolation.

That’s me below, stood beside my woefully uncomfortable GPZ1000RX, wearing a giant condom, and enjoying myself not one bit at the crossing into the Arctic Circle.

Ibiza? What were they thinking, those sun-kissed fools!

Andy C Wareing crossing into the Arctic Circle

Unfortunately, it means that book three, if it does get written, will be way out of chronological sequence with the other two. It doesn’t seem to have done Star Wars or Pulp Fiction any harm, but I do wonder how to market that and how it would be received.

Let me know your thoughts if you can, and follow the blog, and give me a follow if you are interested in hearing more about this and other projects.

Oh, and don’t forget to read book one and book two in the laugh out loud travel memoir series. Available to buy on your local Amazon store and always free on Kindle Unlimited.

And, last thought I promise, writers need hugs too and the biggest, squeeziest hug you can give to a writer is an honest review.

Thanks for the kind read.

Give a hug - leave a review

The challenges and opportunities of writing in multiple genres.

In traditional publishing it has long been the mantra that an author needed to pick, and subsequently stick to, a single genre.

“You need to specialize, because a publisher can’t afford to try and reach a whole new audience with every single book. As an author, neither can you.


– Rachelle Gardner, Literary Agent

Certainly, writing in multiple genres creates significantly more work and less opportunity to leverage existing, publications. But the quote above relates more to traditional publishing. The Indie publishing world allows for a little more leeway even if it brings with it additional challenges.

A newsletter is a good example, People subscribe, usually, because a book resonates, it speaks to them, and through it they make a connection to the author. They want more of the same. If somebody subscribed because they enjoyed ‘Mistakes were Made,’ my humorous little travel memoir, then they are unlikely to be interested in hearing about my next Science Fiction or Paranormal book.

Proof in point, this year I have been remiss with keeping my newsletter up to date for that precise reason.

It also makes advertising and marketing more of a challenge, for similar reasons. There is little point offering a discount on my little travel series to a reader who wants more gore and horror (although there has been a fair amount of terror in some of the Airbnb’s we have stayed in on our travels).

Still, somehow, I find that is the path that I have chosen to tread. To date I have published one amusing travel memoir and one supernatural thriller. There is also a fully completed manuscript out there, circulating around literary agents, written in the Science Fiction/Fantasy genre.

And, today, (drum rolls please), I am excited to announce, that Book Two in the travel memoir series, ‘It’s not as bad as it looks’ has just been released on Amazon stores worldwide.

Click on the image below to buy a copy or read it for free on Kindle Select.

It's not as bad as it looks

The latest book follows on from our journey documented in Mistakes were Made. It begins in Somerset and then…well, you will just have to read it to find out…

With that WIP completed, my attention shifts back to finishing the sequel to ‘The Haunting of Edgar Allan Poe.’ It is currently about 50% finished and should be published by the end of the year.

I simply enjoy writing in different genres. I have ideas for several new books circulating in this crusty hairless, old noggin, and relish the opportunity and challenge of writing in whatever genres they end up dropping into.

I recognize that by doing so I have probably made the path to any commercial success steeper and more slippery than it perhaps needed to be. I guess, if I wanted to take an easier path I could have written something commercially more viable, something about sex craved bitey vampires from Mars clothed only in boob tubes and mini-skirts (oh, there’s an idea—one sec while I make a note).

I think, in the end, two things resonate for me. Write what I want to write and do it as well as I possibly can.

Abraham Lincoln said it better than me.

I do the very best I know how – the very best I can; and I mean to keep on doing so until the end.

Follow the blog, give me a like and a share. Check out the rest of the books and don’t forget to feed the author’s ego and line that threadbare pocket and leave an honest review!


The bullet hole paradox

I saw a post the other day, on LinkedIn of all places, that piqued my interest. It was titled “the bullet hole paradox.” A more accurate term is survivorship bias.

Survivorship bias

During World War II, fighter and bomber planes would come back from battle, riddled with bullet holes from a combination of the guns of enemy fighters and the Flack bombardments. FlaK is the german short term for Flugabwehrkanone – essentially an 88mm projectile which exploded at altitude, sending out jagged metal fragments that tore through nearby aircraft. It also left that characteristic black cloud hanging in the sky that we all remember from WWII movies.

B-17 Flying Fortress Attacked by Me-109s

The Allies analyzed the returning aircraft. They found the areas that were most commonly hit by enemy fire were the fuselage, the outer wings, and the tail. They sought to add armor to these most commonly damaged parts of the planes to reduce the number that was shot down.

Spitfire

Lucky for them, as armor is expensive and heavy, Abraham Wald, a Hungarian-Jewish statistician pointed out that there was another way to look at the data. Perhaps, he cleverly deduced, the reason that some areas of the returning planes were not covered in bullet holes was because the planes that were shot in those areas did not in fact return.

Wald’s singular insight led to the armor being added where there had been no holes, the cockpit, and the engines. This ‘leap of logic’ I shall call it, helped turn the tide of the war.

The problem is seldom information scarcity, but rather in the interpretation of the data itself, and that interpretation is often biased by our upbringing, our education, our “intuition” and our life experiences.


It turns out that survivorship bias is present in many parts of our lives.

Cats

Yep – bare with me…

There has long been a belief that cats that fall from fewer than six stories have greater injuries than cats who fall from more than six stories. The reason I was told, was that cats reach terminal velocity after righting themselves at about five stories, and then presumably, thrilled with this acrobatic feat, relax, land on their feet and stroll away, while their more vertically challenged cousins lacked both time and flexibility and hit the pavement in a more uncontrolled and permanent fashion.

One, possibly more likely version of this story would be survivorship bias. This version of events simply states that cats that die in any fall are less likely to be brought to a veterinarian than injured cats, and thus many of the cats killed in falls from higher buildings are simply not reported.

The arts

This concept of survivorship bias is interesting right? Well, I thought so. But what does it have to do with writing? Well, the theory goes that it is prevalent in the arts as well.

Why is the music of the 70’s and 80’s so well regarded? Survivorship bias provides a possible answer. Only the best music from those eras continues to be played. They are the tracks that survived the ravages of time.

Who remembers ‘Shaddap You Face by Joe Dolce’ or ‘The Birdie Song by The Tweets’ from the 1980’s? Sadly, I do.

All of today’s music, both brilliant and dreadful remains current and so we unconsciously apply our biases.

I think the same thing is true of some cornerstones of literature. I am reading a novel right now. The story is solid, not this person’s best I suspect, but it’s good. This author has written bestsellers and had some of the best movies ever adapted from his works. But the actual writing. Meh. It’s just OK.

OK – so 99% of you clicked away because you think this is all hard cheese from a self-published nobody (and you would be right in thinking that). But honestly, one page had four paragraphs and they all began with the word ‘then’. How can that be considered great writing?

Reading is hugely down to personal taste, but I remember finishing reading ‘Catcher in the Rye’ and throwing the paperback directly in the dustbin with a combined huge sigh of relief at finishing, and a wistful groan at the not inconsiderable moments of my life I would never get back. ‘The English Patient’ was a brilliant film adaptation of one of the most tedious books I ever had the displeasure to slog through, and you, my friend are talking to someone who has read ‘The Silmarillion’ three times and managed to finish, and even moderately enjoy, Homer’s ‘The Iliad’ AND ‘The Odyssey’.

There is a little of the Emperor’s new clothes applied to many facets of our lives, and apparently, previously unknown to me, a liberal dash of survivorship bias as well. I read a review on Amazon the other day and the kindly fellow stated that he ‘refused to read books by self-published authors because they are all amateurish and baldy written.’ — Baldy written you say? All of them? What an utter knob!

I carry my inner bias too, we all do, it’s partly what makes us who we are. All I ask is that every now and again we all attempt to rise above those limitations and give some of the Indie authors out there a chance and an honest review. Together we can create a new group of survivors.

I hope you enjoy reading the blog as much as I enjoy writing it!

It is wonderful to connect with like-minded people who might even read and like my books, so, give me a like and click below to follow the blog and follow me on social.

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