Showing posts from July, 2011

Twitter vs.Facebook, with Google+ the winner?

Image via Wikipedia

Will Google+ be the winner a year from now? Chances are good. But of course, it's too soon to tell.

It's a very fluid, fast-changing situation. Millions have already joined Google+ before it even went public (you could get in only with an invitation). Reportedly some 20 millions, and that's just in one month! Plus some very authoritative tech-savvy people (see the NYT article below) are already comparing Google+ with the rest of 'em and declaring Google+ the winner!

Because of the way it handles privacy rights: you put people in "circles" that determine who sees what. So, you're safe at last from that kitty picture-loving friend who hounded you down on your Facebook Page and filled your wall with nonsense. A definite advantage.

And Google+ is ahead of both Facebook and Twitter on other neat techie things like group chatting (called Huddles) and a button to share anything with everyone in your circles (called Sparks - I haven't used…

Three SimpleTricks to Increase Traffic to Your Blog

Image via Wikipedia
Are you suffering from a case of "flat traffic"?

There's tons of advice around Internet on how to increase traffic to your site, and for us writers, one of the best and most recent posts on the subject is Scott Berkun's: click here to read. I've also listed some interesting related articles below for your use.

But, wow, so much work!

Isn't there a simpler way to do it? I mean, like fundamental things that you shouldn't miss out on and that really, really work?

I've tried to understand the problem and after looking around Internet for some time, here's what I found. But before identifying possible tricks, let's get our figures straight so we know what we're talking about.

We are NOT talking about the number of "hits"on your site per day. A "hit" is just a person that happens on your blog and decides that's the wrong place to be and leaves immediately, without reading anything beyond the first few w…

How to Start Your Novel with a Splash

Image by Chaval Brasil via Flickr
The hardest part of writing a novel is... the beginning! I don't know about you, but for me, it is something I do and redo and I'm rarely satisfied with it. You know your book has to start with a splash - that's what literary agents and publishers expect, that's what readers want - you just know you've got to do it, but God, it is hard!

Recently Passive Guy had a wonderful post about it where he quoted the openings of current romance bestsellers. Here's his pick:

Once upon a time, there was a woman who discovered she had turned into the wrong person. Anne Tyler, Back When We Were Grownups ~ In our family, there was no clear line between religion and fly fishing. We lived at the junction of great trout rivers in Montana, and our father was a Presbyterian minister and a fly fisherman who tied his own flies and taught others. He told us about Christ’s disciples being fishermen, and we were left to assume, as my brother and I did, that…

Amy Winehouse is Dead at 27, like Janice Joplin

Amy Winehouse in 2007 at Eurockéennes Festival Image via Wikipedia
Amy Winehouse was found dead in her London home by the police, yesterday afternoon, 23 July. She was only 27 - just like Janice Joplin who died at the same 1970. Forty years separate them, yet they share the same sort of amazing trajectory in their career and life:  huge success and a desperate addition to drugs and alcohol. Both were known for striking vocals and a love for soul and jazz.

There the similarities end. Janice was born in Texas in a middle class white American family: her mother worked in a college, her father was an engineer at Texaco. Amy was born in London, the daughter of a taxi driver of Russian origin and an English pharmacist. In both the girls' families, music had an important place but while Janice wavered between painting and singing, finally becoming famous with her break through hit A piece of my heart only two years before her death, Amy was an instant success at twenty with her d…

The Summer of our Debt Discontent

G20 Heads of GovernmentImage by DonkeyHotey via Flickr
The United States struggles with removing a debt ceiling by 2 August while Europe struggles to bail out Greece and save the Euro.

What if both efforts failed?

What if rating agencies downgraded the US debt and extended the downgrading already started by Fitch on Greece's debt to the rest of the ailing European economies, Portugal, Ireland and especially the big ones, Spain and Italy?

A nightmare scenario?

This couldn't be a worse summer, with the two events coming together in time.

How likely is it that this will cause a cataclysmic collapse of the world economy?

I know, you expect me to say this is highly unlikely.

I wish I could say that.

But the truth is, we are saddled on both sides of the Atlantic with an irresponsible class of politicians who either don't understand the challenges they are facing or don't want to understand. All these guys think of is to satisfy their own electorate, people who perhaps voted…

A Great Artist is Dead, Long Live Lucien Freud!

Portrait of Lucien Freud by Francis Bacon 1964 (Study III)Image by Cea. via Flickr
Lucien Freud, the greatest 20th century artist after Picasso, the friend and arch-rival of Francis Bacon, died yesterday, age 88.  The greatest living artist of our times is no more.

To me, he was one of the greatest artists of all times. Now that he is gone, well, it's a shock. We all have to go of course, and he was an old man who had lived a very long, full and ultimately incredibly successful life.

Still, I am profoundly sad and feel it as a personal loss. I never met him, I only knew him through his paintings. But when someone like that goes, someone you admire and relate to because their incomparable art is there to establish the link between him and you-the-viewer, well, you feel it in the pit of your stomach.

                        Lucien Freud                        Image via  Wikipedia
Lucien Freud was the grand-son of Sigmund Freud, the founder of modern psychology. And, true to his inheri…

Book Promotion Stressing You Out? Here's How To Survive!

Cricket Ball Image via Wikipedia
Marketing in the digital age is a whole new ball game for everybody, but especially for writers. We all know that publishers expect their authors to do most of their own promotion and it is rumored that if you don't have at least 600 followers on Twitter, you won't get a contract!

And those of us who've gone into self-publishing are provided with opportunities that didn't exist just two or three years ago but also experience the full blast of the digital revolution - I know, I'm a self-published writer! Once upon a time, I was "traditionally" published (here in Italy and in Italian - I'm multilingual) and I used to let the publisher handle marketing issues.

No longer.

All of us self-pubbed writers have to think of how best to reach out to our readers and grab their attention long enough so that they'll click on that damn buy button! We've got Amanda Hocking, John Locke and Joe Konrath as models! They've all…

The Curious Case of Belgium: A Headless State

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Belgium has been "headless", i.e. without a government for over a year: a world record, even beating Iraq at it!

Why is that? We all know the problems between the Flemish (Dutch speaking) and Walloons (French speaking). We all know this has been going on for as long as Belgium has existed.

The political parties can't get their act together and nominate a government, so the country carries on with a caretaker government, with good old Leterme at the helm. Regularly, there's an effort to put together a government, and just as regularly it fails. The Flemish won't hear about it: they're fed up with government funds - resulting from their tax payments, because they are the richer taxpayers - going to the Walloons, who are the poorer ones.

What is so very curious about the situation is this: the country is doing fine, thank you, without any government in power. It's doing fine financially and economically (at least it's no worse than mo…

Military Democracy: an Inevitable Outcome of the Arab Spring?

Image by Kodak Agfa via Flickr
The Arab Spring could spawn off a new kind of political animal: the military democracy. Egypt seems to be headed in that direction.

In spite of the summer heat, protests have recently multiplied in Cairo's famed Tahrir Square, and the usual pattern of soft response from the Egyptian Military Council has not placated the protesters. They insist they want Mubarak tried right away, that the military are taking too much time to move the country into a new democratic government, that the role of the military should be reduced and civil society given priority. As one of the protest leaders told the BBC: "We want a proper transition to democracy".

Now the military have announced they are directly participating in the drafting of the new Constitution through the adoption of a "declaration of basic principles" to govern it. It seems, according to legal experts involved in drafting these principles, that the military's expenditures woul…

The Greek Crisis is Becoming a Euro-Crisis!

Image by Vicky TGAW via Flickr
Now you can add Italy to the original PIGS quartet!  We're up to PIIGS, and what other letters are next?

The UK Guardian came up with this wonderful Euro-crisis Song that explains it all: click HERE. 

Enjoyed it? Yes, better laugh than cry over it.

Friday 15 July 2011 or, what is more likely, Monday 18th,  the European Big Heads will again have a "special summit meeting" in Brussels  to "decide" on how to proceed. So far, "decisions" have eluded them.

Still, it could be D-Day for the Euro.

Or should I say a C-Day? D is for default, natch, and C is for crisis.

How did we ever get there? The credit rating agencies have added fuel to the fire, no question about it, but the fire was started by the Europeans themselves.

Now everybody suddenly realizes that the Euro does not exist. It's a figment of the (European) imagination. A daydream that hasn't come to pass. Because a currency needs a Central Bank (the Euro's…

The Credit Rating Agencies' Hidden Agenda: Rock the World Economy!

Image via Wikipedia
The credit rating agencies are threatening country after country with "rating downgrade". Many erstwhile respectable countries find themselves degraded to "junk" status - yet these are countries with a long History and hard-working citizens, like Portugal and Greece (yes, there are honest citizens there too, even if the Germans don't believe it!).

It's like going to school: if you're a "well-behaved" government keeping your debt under control, then you earn an A, even a triple A, like the United States.

If you're "badly-behaved" and can't keep your debt from blowing out of control, then you get a "B", and fewer investors will buy your bonds (some funds have strict rules about buying only A rated bonds). If you still won't toe the line, then you get a "C" and no investors will buy your bonds the next time you go to market to refill your coffers.

In a nutshell, that's how credit r…