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Saturday

So, How's World War 3 Going For You?

Destroy IS - God does not exist - All people are equal
It will be interesting to see what future historians make of us and these days. When will they set as the start date for this great conflict that is slowly eating the world and our hopes for the future? Will it be September 24, 2014, when President Obama told the UN that the war against IS/ISIS/ISIL was just the beginning of a wider struggle against fundamentalist Islamic ideology? Will it be June 29, 2014, when the new caliphate was declared (caliph means successor, the first caliphate declared in the Arabian peninsula back in 632, after the death of the Prophet Muhammad).

Will the start of WW3 be dated at September 11, 2001, when the al-Qaeda attacks on the US punched the liberal western world in the gut, almost causing the collapse of society, but leading directly to the financial crisis that has made the 99% so tired, miserable and hopeless? Or will it be back in August 1996, when Osama bin Laden issued his Declaration of War Against the Americans Occupying the Land of the Two Holy Places (US troops were deployed to Saudi Arabia by President George HW Bush in 1990, enraging Muslims. Most were withdrawn in 2003.) Is it only a declared war when the superpower decides to name it so? Or did it really get serious with al-Qaeda's second declaration of war, fatwa, on February 23, 1998?

The second fatwa states that three facts that are known to everyone compel war against the United States. First, the United States has been occupying the lands of Islam in the holiest of places. Second, the crusader-Zionist alliance has inflicted great devastation upon the Iraqi people. Third, the United States' goal is to serve the Jews' petty state and divert attention from its occupation of Jerusalem and murder of Muslims there. It concludes with instructions to all Muslims everywhere:



The ruling to kill the Americans and their allies -- civilians and military -- is an individual duty for every Muslim who can do it in any country in which it is possible to do it. Every Muslim who believes in God and wishes to be rewarded should comply with God's order to kill the Americans and plunder their money wherever and whenever they find it.






Or should we go back a little further? Perhaps to 1095, when Pope Urban II proclaimed the First Crusade with the stated goal of restoring Christian access to holy places in and near Jerusalem. Two centuries of war ensued. Two centuries. Or should we go back to 636, when Muslims forces defeated the Byzantines at the battle of Yarmouk (in Syria) to take control of the famed Levant? Or back again, to 610, when Muhammad first started receiving revelations from the archangel Gabriel?

Tricky.

Let's just go with the reality that we are where we are. So, what's it all about? I have three possible answers:

1. This is just the latest chapter in the clash of cultures between Islam and Judaism/Christianity (remember Yarmouk?).
This is credible, but strange, because all three religions are monotheistic (believing in a single god, as opposed to, say, Hinduism, which believes in many gods) and all their god stories derive from Abraham, an ancient figure from Canaan who was 'ordered by god' to kill his son and was about to do so until 'told by god' to kill a goat instead. Really. So it's all a big, stupid, endless game: Which of these related religions is the most mental? As an atheist I am both horrified and confused by how religious fervour on both sides seems to underline the entire conflict.

2. This is all about the American Empire in decline and IS wanting to fill the vacuum.
WikiLeaks, the diplomatic cables, Edward Snowden, the NSA. Our understanding of American strength has changed in recent years. Duplicity, conspiracy and hypocrisy led to the Arab Spring and the downfall of US puppet dictators across the Middle East. Some of them, anyway. The most powerful US-allied dictators, the Saud dynasty in Saudi Arabia, still reign supreme, still control the flow of oil, upon which the US economy and the US war machine depend. The Saudi brand of Sunni Islam, Wahhabism, birthed al-Qaeda and Saudis piloted the 9/11 jets. Many assume that the Saudis also created IS, as a counter to Iranian (Shia) influence in Iraq. Maybe they saw their American proxy army having its political limitations so they decided to create their own?

3. This is really a war between the Sunni and Shia sects of Islam and the west is being used as a pawn in a bigger struggle.
Saudi Arabia leading the majority Sunni Islamic sect against Iran leading the minority Shia Islamic sect. The Sunnis and Shias have been at each others' throats virtually since the dawn of Islam. Consider the Catholic V Protestant Christian wars that have consumed Europe for centuries, most recently in Northern Ireland, and you get the flavour of what hatred pathetically minor religious differences can generate. Some say that the disastrous Iraq War which began in 2003 was caused by Iranian agents leading the US into an unwinnable conflict so as to remove Iran's greatest regional and religious enemy, Saddam Hussein. The very first caliph (Sunni), who ruled after Muhammad from 632-634, was named Aby Bakr. The leader of the Islamic State caliphate is named Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

In my opinion, the real answer is a bastard mix of all three scenarios and the only way to effectively deal with IS and this never-ending conflict is to address the three main issues from bin Laden's 1998 declaration of war: Get all US troops out of Saudi Arabia, while replacing the horrific Saud monarchy with a secular democracy. Place the religious sites of Mecca and Medina apart from Saudi Arabia, controlled by a coalition representing all Muslims everywhere. Then fix Iraq. A secular, participative democracy must be created. Throw as much money at this problem as was thrown at the war that destroyed the place (about $6 TRILLION, including future veterans' benefits). Fix Palestine, a two-state solution, ideally without Netanyahu, recognising that Orthodox Judaism is as much part of the problem as Fundamentalist Islam.

It is my dream that atheism and secularism can replace the religions that have poisoned the Middle East and spread like a virus into the world. Without religion, can you genuinely see this mutating conflict, from Iraq and Syria to Gaza and Afghanistan, sustaining itself?

In 2014, in 13 countries, all members of the United Nations, and all Muslim nations, being an atheist is punishable by death, typically by beheading - so shocking when carried out by IS. These nations are: Afghanistan, Iran, Malaysia, Maldives, Mauritania, Nigeria, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, United Arab Emirates and Yemen.


Connect with Gary J Byrnes at www.GaryJByrnes.com

Thursday

Scotland Decides


The decline and fall of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland began in 1919, with a guerrilla campaign, devised by Irish terrorist Michael Collins. Collins and his teams murdered British agents in cold blood on the streets of Dublin, organised ambushes of British military columns and dealt with informants ruthlessly. Britain responded with massacres of civilians, the torching of cities and the mobilisation of death squads, the infamous Black and Tans. But Collins' asymmetric warfare campaign could not be countered with the standard British scorched earth tactics that had worked so well in Ireland for centuries. So a peace settlement was reached in 1921.

When the Irish Free State was created, Northern Ireland remained with the Union. Settled by mainly Scottish Protestants during the Plantations of the 16th and 17th centuries, Ulster would keep her Scottish links, treat Catholic/Nationalist residents as officially second class citizens and continue to say "Never!" So the island of Ireland remains a broken place, divided by anger, hatred and the Union.

Scotland today has an opportunity to break with the Union, to break with the idea of a 'united kingdom' dominated by an unelected monarchy, controlled by an elitist, English Establishment and ruled by a ruthless, market-obsessed Tory Government. Importantly, Scotland can break free using a referendum, without a single shot being fired. And, if she does choose independence, the Unionists of Northern Ireland will sleep uneasily as the last vestiges of legitimacy for their union are stripped away, exposing the moral vacuum at the heart of the failure that will be the Kingdom of England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Come on, Scotland!

On Finishing A Novel - Advertisement for Myself

Working cover design for the new novel from Gary J Byrnes

Four years. That's how long it took to finish my latest novel. Looking back at the events of the summer of 2010 - on Wikipedia, you can look at world events for every day in the recent past, every day! - I was struck by how little has changed. Iran, Gaza, recession, this was the 2010 news. If anything, things have gotten worse. Syria. IS. Ukraine. But I have my novel and maybe that can help to make things a little better for some, if only by providing my readers with a distraction, an entertainment, a different perspective.

That's the magic of stories. Stories are what give us the best of humanity. They are educators. They share ideas, spark revolutions - yes, a tweet is a story - and can provide a history and a future all at once. The Internet is a story, a glorious, connected, infinite dazzle of chapters and books and autobiographies. "Here I am! Look at me! Please." And the Internet has changed book publishing over those four years. The terrible beauty of self-published ebooks, with virtually instant distribution to an entire planet, countless trees saved, swathes of middlemen and their margins bypassed, analytics that don't lie and, best of all, readers in the driving seat.

"Read this sad and desperate ghost-written autobiography of a perfectly boring sports person!" shouts the ad on the side of the bus. "Let's talk about the shit book written by the actor who works for the film company that's also owned by the megalomaniac who owns this TV channel and is also the publisher of said shit book," says the talking head on the living room flatscreen. "Christmas is coming, so let's talk to a tedious chef about why you must buy yet another fucking cookbook," says the dying magazine which has been paid peanuts to peddle crap. These are the breathless last gasps of a dead business model.

I will be happy, delighted even, to publish To Eat the World myself. My story is about food and art and Nazi bankers who want to control the world economy but who will also detonate a nuclear bomb under Wall Street, because fiddling with the economy is just so fucking boring and people have had just about enough of that shit reality. So you can smell the food, you can visualise the great art as you glimpse a greater understanding of why we cook and why we make pictures and why the two go together. Why Nazis? Because they have influenced the modern art world more than any other organisation. Perhaps they've had more of an influence on today's world than we would like to acknowledge.

And the understanding that you will reach as you read my story will come from you. I don't join all the dots. I give you the dots to join as you will.

So, yes, I will be happy - delighted even - to publish To Eat the World myself. It can be in the iTunes stores and on Barnes and Noble's virtual shelves in a day. It can be in every Google Play app store and every Amazon marketplace that same day. And it will be very good value and it will sell as my body of self-published work proves. But would I like to work with an agent or publisher who can put it on bus sides and TV and magazines so that it can reach a wider audience? Absolutely. Because I know that my story is worth it.

If you're an agent or publisher and would like to find out more, email Gary at garyjbyrnes@gmail.com or call +353-87-249 3051.


Find Gary's books, including bestselling 9/11 Trilogy, on iTunes.

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

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