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Wednesday

Why the Islamic State Must be Stopped

The Islamic State (IS) flag shows that strong, contemporary branding can coexist with 7th century ideology.
The cold-blooded murder of journalist James Foley, as reported on 19 August, 2014, is notable for many reasons:

  • It was the first known blow by IS against the US.
  • It was planned and filmed.
  • It was broadcast on social media.
  • It will further limit the ability of journalists to report on the horrors of the Middle East.
  • A British man is thought to have committed the act.
  • It followed multiple massacres of Iraqi soldiers and civilians.
  • It followed US airstrikes on IS, which followed three years of US inaction in Syria.
  • And it happened against a broader backdrop of a Middle East in flames and in danger of general collapse and/or all-out war.

IS exploded into the global consciousness in just the past couple of months, as it seized a huge chunk of the Middle East, including oil fields, US weaponry and that dam. But its roots go back to al-Qaeda in Iraq and Bin Laden's vision of a Muslim Caliphate stretching from Afghanistan and Pakistan, across the Middle East, North Africa and into Spain. IS wants to erase all modern borders between Muslim countries - many drawn by the notorious Sykes-Picot Agreement during WW1 - and create a hardcore (Sunni) Muslim superstate, governed by Sharia (religious) law and with a huge chip on its shoulder towards the West, USA and Britain in particular. The complete destruction of Israel is also on the IS agenda.

Some believe that US policy post 9/11 was to engineer a Sunni Vs Shia civil war, getting both key Muslim ideologies to fight each other back to the Stone Age. We may be nearing that reality, but in a messier way than any analyst or strategist could have foreseen. What with Wikileaks, Snowden and the NSA revelations, Russia resurgent, Western hypocrisy exposed, the Arab Spring, Iran's nuclear weapons programme, Gaza, Syria, Europe's impotence, China's calm waiting, the collapse of the (grossly unfair and exploitative) global financial system and civil rights riots on the streets of America, the world is a huge mess. Where are the good guys? There are no good guys any more. The mask has slipped, the curtain is torn down forever.

And into the moral vacuum has stepped the Islamic State. They don't have our Western morals, of course. They have seventh century Sunni Islamic morals. But for the desperate, hate-filled Muslims of Syria, Iraq and Europe, who have seen their lands, wealth and people plundered by foreign powers and the West's client dictators, the IS moral compass is magnetic, powerful and, most worryingly, successful.

IS is approaching critical mass. If it succeeds in grabbing more territory in the Middle East, in completing a coup in a West-leaning dictatorship, or in launching a spectacular attack on the US or Europe, it will draw even more disillusioned, angry young Muslims to its ranks and deliver a tangible model to the millions of Muslims who know only lives of grinding poverty in lands of plenty.

The Islamic State, described as a cancer by President Obama, must be stopped, before it imposes its insanity across Muslim lands and, eventually, the world. If it requires Western boots on the ground to achieve the destruction of IS, let's leave faith and prayers and all thoughts of crusade behind and fight for liberty, equality and humanity. Britain and France must take responsibility for drafting the borders in the Middle East, the cause of much of the strife, so Europe should take the lead in attacking IS. By helping to fix past wrongs we in the West must learn something about ourselves and our role in this horrible reality. The European Union was invented to deal with history and avoid its repetition. Here we go again...

The IS Caliphate was declared on 29 June, 2014. At the time of writing, it still stands.

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Sunday

An Online Survey into the Human Condition

The Human Condition Online Survey by Gary J Byrnes

What is the human condition? This is a subject I tackle in my writing and I'm trying to improve my understanding of what makes us human, our hopes and fears. I'd really appreciate your help with an online survey, it'll only take a couple of minutes and your input is totally anonymous. Many thanks!

Find the survey here: http://goo.gl/PcgUlE

What is the human condition? It can be loosely defined as the unalterable and unique realities that affect all people, regardless of gender, age, race, religion, culture or class. It is your perception of what it is to be human.

An ongoing attempt at understanding the human condition is found in literature, art, history and philosophy. Most importantly, an attempt at understanding is going on right now, in you. If you can share your current feelings about being human, you will help me to better discover a universal meaning of life and humanity in my writing.

Your answers are entirely confidential and cannot be attributed to you by me. So please be as honest as your human condition allows. Upon completing the survey, you will be able to access summary charts of the responses collected to date. Many thanks.

Connect at www.GaryJByrnes.com

Wednesday

Publish Your Ebook - Best Routes to Market

The ebook revolution is nearing the end of the beginning, with ebook sales value due to exceed printed book sales any time now. Of course, ebooks are much cheaper to buy, so unit sales are already well beyond print. Certainly, the cost of production gives ebooks an enormous edge over print. Once the book is written and the cover designed, then production and distribution costs are essentially zero. Add widening availability and the adoption of innovative business models and you have realities like the first (printed) bookless public library recently opening in Texas. And since no books are being printed on paper, using chemical inks, transported around on smelly trucks and generally returned to the publisher for pulping (this happens to maybe 90% of printed books), ebooks are environmentally sustainable.

And the benefits for authors have been beyond revolutionary, with commission on sales of 45-75% the norm, compared to 10-15% from the traditional publishers. Going indie gives authors complete control over the whole distribution process and it's so fast - once the manuscript is finished, the cover designed and metadata (descriptions and keywords) defined, your book can be onsale worldwide in minutes, with complete global coverage in every key market within a day or two. This is phenomenal! And ebook sales are scalable, which means that once the work is done, it can generate revenues for the rest of your life, without the need for any further blood, sweat or tears. Best of all, writers want to be read, so independent publishing allows them to reach readers, without having to go through the 'filter' of the mainstream publishers who, let's be real, publish an awful lot of shit. (Most of which, as has been said, people don't want to read, so gets pulped.)

As well as fiction, ebooks are an excellent route for distributing non-fiction to a global audience, as you can include images and internal and external links. Businesses can also use this route to tell their stories to customers and potential customers, to be read on ebook devices from iPhones to Kindles, independent of wi-fi access.

So, you're sold on publishing an ebook though the indie route. Now, how do you go about it?

Smashwords.com
Mark Coker and Smashwords have been championing indie publishers since the revolution began, and have given us powerful tools, letting the smallest operator - author, agent or publisher - compete at the highest level. Key to Smashwords is its direct distribution route into all Apple iBookstores. The bulk of my ebook sales are through Apple, and Smashwords has made this not just possible, but easy. Apple's new iOS upgrade, due later in 2014, will incorporate their iBook reader and ebook store access into every iPhone and iPad - at the moment you need to seek it out - so expect phenomenal growth in ebook sales after this game-changing development.

To distribute through Smashwords, you'll need a properly-formatted MS Word document, all formatting to meet the specs in Mark Coker's fabulously useful ebook, Smashwords Style Guide, available free here. You'll also need a professional quality cover image and a gripping description. Think of the purchasing decision you make when buying a printed book - cover, back cover description, opening paragraph - then realise that all these have to work in ebook format. Additionally, your SEO - Search Engine Optimisation - has to be strong, and your cover needs to look good when represented as a tiny icon.

Once you upload your files to Smashwords, their system will convert your files into all the most popular ebook reading formats, as well as PDF and online reading. Once you pass this process, your book is instantly for sale on Smashwords, though you can choose to distribute for free if you like. Then your book is checked - by a human! - to see that it meets the demanding specs for premium distribution. This is key because, once you get premium approval, Smashwords delivers your ebook to Apple, Barnes & Noble and Kobo, as well as into new subscription services Scribd and Oyster. Further, Smashwords will send your book to library distributors Baker & Taylor and OverDrive. You will need an ISBN for this, but Smashwords supplies these for free.

With Smashwords, you get daily sales reporting, payment every quarter (via PayPal), the ability to generate discount coupons (for use in Smashwords store only) and space for an author interview.



Amazon Kindle Direct Programme (KDP)
Amazon is currently battling the big traditional publishers, many of whom want to charge more for ebooks than printed books! Amazon will win in the end. It's been stated that the only person essential to the publication process is the author and this is true. Amazon's KDP programme offers powerful tools to the indie publisher, including virtually instant sales graphs, the ability to preview ebooks on different reading devices, content spellcheck and age targeting. Amazon also offers the KDP Select programme, whereby authors who offer their ebooks exclusively on the KDP platform can share in a fund whenever their book is borrowed.

The Kindle publishing interface is quite straightforward. As with Smashwords, key requirements are a Word doc with similar formatting to Smashwords, a cover image and metadata. Amazon also offers Author Central, a bio page in many key marketplaces. This is certainly worth completing.

KDP payments are directly into your bank account, monthly, though you need to reach a threshold before payments in currencies different to your own can be made.



Google Play
Google are new to the market for ebooks on Play, and it shows. The registration and upload interface is quite tricky and sales reporting is poor. You need an Epub file to upload your ebook to Play, which should help you to reach readers on the Android platform. Luckily, you can download a perfect Epub file from your book page on Smashwords.


My overall advice:

  1. Get your ebooks into all three distribution routes, in the order shown above.
  2. Don't bother with exclusivity on Amazon.
  3. Make sure your ebook content is properly proofed, edited and formatted.
  4. If you can't design a professional cover image yourself, get help.
  5. Think long and hard about your metadata, looking closely at search volumes and book categories.

Good luck and Up the Revolution!



For more help with publishing your ebooks, contact gary@webtimesten.ie, tel 087 249 3051.

Friday

New #Ebook Release - Thriller Box Set by Gary J Byrnes

THRILLER BOX SET by Gary J Byrnes, now on sale in every good ebook marketplace. Excluding Kobo*. Find it now:







Fabulous value Thriller Box Set. Three full-length thrillers at an unbelievably low price (US$0.99), for a limited time only. Your summer holiday reading problems are solved with Gary J Byrnes’s bestselling novels, now brought together for the very first time.

Pure Mad: The Dagger Award nominated crime thriller, set in Ireland’s bubble economy, when cocaine, gang wars, dirty money and dangerous sex were a way of life. Join private detective Charlie Doyle on a mindbending journey into the dark heart of a country gone mad. 

The God Virus: A forensics expert near London is given DNA proof that humans evolved from stardust, that God does not need to exist. When his wife is murdered, he’s the prime suspect. Dark forces will stop at nothing to silence Dr William Bunk in this globespanning conspiracy thriller.

The Death of Osama bin Laden - An Alternative History: A detailed examination of the birth of Al-Qaeda, as told by one of bin Laden’s most trusted lieutenants and a heartstopping vision of what might have been.

Thriller Box Set by Gary J Byrnes, author of number one bestseller, 9/11 Trilogy. Download it today and get your summer holiday reading sorted.

*I do not distribute my writing through Kobo, including online stores such as Eason which are fed titles by Kobo, as Kobo is owned by Japanese ecommerce giant Rakuten, which is the world's biggest online marketplace for elephant ivory products.

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Find out more at www.garyjbyrnes.com

Stay in touch on Facebook at www.facebook.com/garyjbyrnesthrillerwriter

Saturday

The UN Must Investigate Ireland's Catholic Past and Save Us from Ourselves

President of Ireland, Eamon de Valera, kissing the episcopal ring of Catholic Archbishop of Dublin John Charles McQuaid at the turning of the sod ceremony, University College Dublin, 1962. Photo: UCD Archives
Dublin City Councillor Mannix Flynn has called for the United Nations to be brought in to investigate the horrors of Ireland's mass graves. As well as investigating the undocumented burials of hundreds of vulnerable children, the UN should look at all the abuses committed by the Catholic Church in Ireland and identify the politicians and civil servants that facilitated them.

What's brought us to this sorry point in Irish history? Ireland is a Catholic-controlled country, governed by a tiny elite which has always bent the knee to the Catholic Church and the global capitalist elite, whether they are in New York, London or Brussels. Yes, there was a blip from 1916-21, when a small number of genuine republicans managed to wrest independence from the British Empire. But after a vicious Civil War, 1921-22, our best and brightest were slaughtered by their fellow Irish, leaving the conservatives to define the new Republic. So they kept the Empire's control systems in place and allowed the Catholic Church to define the nation's morality, even to the extent of the Church taking complete control of Ireland's education and health systems. we have had investigations and we have concluded that the Church abused tens of thousands over decades, much of the twentieth century.

And as for the poor unmarried mothers and their kids? They were to be punished, that was God's Will. And punished they were, as the recent discovery of a mass grave of perhaps 800 dead children in Tuam, County Galway attests. These children, born out of Catholic wedlock, through no fault of their own, were brutalised, starved and mistreated by the nuns who took control of them with the blessing of the State. They were, essentially, murdered by religion in the name of the Irish State. And we must assume that there are many more such mass graves throughout this septic isle.

So how can we find justice for these children? Can the Irish Establishment, which continues to allow the Roman Catholic Church to dominate education and health and is more concerned about our bond prices than the growing inequality in society, can this gilded, aloof cluster of grey men in grey suits truly grasp the horror that lies in Ireland's dark heart? Unlikely. So we must hope that external forces, ideally in the form of the United Nations, comes to save us from ourselves, by unearthing (literally) the truth so that we can learn from it and aspire once more to the genuine ideals of our first republicans.

The timeframe for the investigation should begin in 1937, the year we adopted Eamon de Valera's Constitution which, in its preamble, states:


"In the Name of the Most Holy Trinity, from Whom is all authority and to Whom, as our final end, all actions both of men and States must be referred,
We, the people of √Čire,
Humbly acknowledging all our obligations to our Divine Lord, Jesus Christ... "


...giving a green light to Catholic priests and nuns to act above the law as they carried out their dastardly deeds.

Ireland is a truly rotten state. We are in a downward spiral to malaise, melancholy and madness. This cannot go on.

THRILLER BOX SET by Gary J Byrnes, now available for pre-order, release date Friday, June 13, 2014.

Thriller Box Set by Gary J Byrnes

THRILLER BOX SET by Gary J Byrnes, now available for pre-order, release date Friday, June 13, 2014.




Check your local ebook supplier territory.

Fabulous value Thriller Box Set. Three full-length thrillers at an unbelievably low price, for a limited time only. Your summer holiday reading problems are solved with Gary J Byrnes’s bestselling novels, now brought together for the very first time.

Pure Mad: The Dagger Award nominated crime thriller, set in Ireland’s bubble economy, when cocaine, gang wars, dirty money and dangerous sex were a way of life. Join private detective Charlie Doyle on a mindbending journey into the dark heart of a country gone mad. 

The God Virus: A forensics expert near London is given DNA proof that humans evolved from stardust, that God does not need to exist. When his wife is murdered, he’s the prime suspect. Dark forces will stop at nothing to silence Dr William Bunk in this globespanning conspiracy thriller.

The Death of Osama bin Laden - An Alternative History: A detailed examination of the birth of Al-Qaeda, as told by one of bin Laden’s most trusted lieutenants and a heartstopping vision of what might have been.

Thriller Box Set by Gary J Byrnes, author of number one bestseller, 9/11 Trilogy. Pre-order today and get your summer holiday reading sorted.





Thursday

Voteman, Ireland, Europe and the Illusion of Democracy

Voteman - "Vote or I will destroy you!"
I was shocked to learn that the nation's councillors have cost us €52 million over the past two years. I don't buy the line that this is the price of democracy, as recent council votes in Dublin have not reflected the wishes of the people. I refer to the decisions to keep the toll on the East Link bridge and to reject the opportunity for the electorate to choose their mayor. And Irish local democracy seems to be defined by an X Factor-style popularity contest, with thousands of hideous posters of really alarmingly ugly candidates hanging on every lamp post in the land. I would like to see some of the candidates hanging on lamp posts - especially the tired old fucks who've been around for years, and the members of political dynasties that have been screwing us over since 'independence' - but probably not in a way that they'd like.

But there is an alternative. It would involve sacking every councillor and giving every citizen a direct voice in local government. For a fraction of the cost of maintaining our councils, we can build and run a web-based, participative local democracy, giving citizens a real, ongoing say in how our cities and towns are managed. Our current council structure dates back to 1898. Isn't it time for a fresh look at local government?

Ireland votes in local elections on Friday, May 23rd, when we will also vote for our members of the European Parliament, which is just as pointless and deluded as Irish local government, just on a bigger and vastly more expensive scale. Europe is run by unelected people, such as Manuel Barroso and Baroness(!) Catherine Ashton. The parliament is just a talking shop, a distraction, costing EU taxpayers €1.756 TRILLION - that's €1,756 BILLION. A YEAR! I needed a sit down after discovering that figure.

The most striking thing about this vote will be the proportion of the vote secured by UKIP and other anti-EU parties. If UKIP do as well as expected, then Britain's withdrawal from the European Union becomes a real probability (it is already a possibility). That act, if it happens, will have more of an impact on Ireland than every election - local, national or European - since the foundation of the State. I fear it may end up marking Ireland's return to the UK fold (the Queen's visit here and President Higgins's visit there can be described as a 'softening up' process). Which will bring about civil war.

Meanwhile, the single best thing to ever, ever come out of the illusion of European democracy, Denmark's Voteman cartoon, was pulled just a day after release. I will vote on May 25th, as I fear Voteman will come and get me if I don't. See it for yourself, then dare to defy Voteman:

http://www.theguardian.com/world/video/2014/may/13/danish-parliament-cartoon-sex-violence-european-elections-video

Find out more about the cost of the European Parliament, straight from the horse's mouth (blood pressure warning):
http://www.europarl.europa.eu/aboutparliament/en/00059f3ea3/The-budget-of-the-European-Parliament.html
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THRILLER BOX SET by Gary J Byrnes, now available to pre-order. Find links at: www.GaryJByrnes.com