‘All That Matters’ Is Now Available On The Kindle!

I am so excited to tell the world today that my first book ‘All That Matters‘, is now available for the Amazon Kindle (US, UK, DE) e-book reader. The book is free of all DRM and only costs $0.99! 

‘All That Matters’ has been the result of ten months of hard, but incredibly fun and creative work. Staring late last September I wrote multiple drafts of the story to get the right flow and timing down. Hired a proofreader to go through the book and make sure all the ‘I’ where dotted and ‘t’ were crossed. Gave out several copies of the book to willing readers to make sure it was an enjoyable story. Formatted the book for various e-book readers. Designed a book cover. And created a website for the book at www.AllThatMattersTheBook.com. There anyone can learn more about the book and download the first three chapters for free! 

I have a little bit more work to do before the book will be available for the Barnes & Noble Nook, or from Apple’s iBooks store and others ebook retailers, but I will make an announcement the moment they are available.

‘All That Matters’ also has a listing on GoodReads.com which is a great website for people who like to read books, track the books they read with their friends, and follow authors. Think of it like Google+, only for books. So please be sure to check it out along with my GoodReads.com author page and Amazon Author page.

‘All That Matters’ Kindle Book Cover

All That Matters Kindle Cover
All That Matters Kindle Cover

This is pretty great! I recently asked my readers to help me pick out a cover for my book ‘All That Matters’. Today I was able to load the winning cover and the entire book up on my kindle and it looks beautiful!

It’s a surreal feeling to be holding my own book like this. All the hard work and time I have put into this project has produced something I am so proud of. I can’t wait for everyone else to be able to get their hands on it.

I plan to launch ‘All That Matters’ publicly in the next few days. At first the book will be available as a download for the Amazon Kindle. Then in the following days I plan to make it available for the Barnes & Noble Nook, and most other ebook readers. There will also be the option to buy a physical copy of the book if you want. I am doing this one step at a time because the whole process is still all new to me.

I want to thank everyone for all your amazing support and encouragement throughout this process. It has ment the world to me.

Molly, The Office Pirate Bird

Youseph with MollyI don’t have a glamorous day job by any means. (I am still waiting for PIXAR, Apple, or ILM to call me back.) What I do have at work are animals. This is the first place I have ever worked that allows you to bring in your own pets. Which is nice at times.

One of the pets we have is an office bird named Molly who usually hangs out in the Physical Therapy (PT) department most of the day. Sometimes when employees leave the department to assist people, Molly is left all alone and starts to squawk. When this happens I normally run to her rescue and let her hang out on my shoulder while I work while I pretend to be a pirate. (I have the beard for it don’t you think?) At least until someone from PT comes to get her.

I thought I would share some photos of Molly hanging out with me and destroying my desk. She is quite fond of my iPhone head phones.

Introducing ‘All That Matters’

I am so excited to introduce a project I have been working on since October of 2010.

‘All That Matters’ is a book I have written, a novella, about Ethan Wright who is just like any other high school kid. But one day he is lucky enough to meet the girl of his dreams. Throughout the course of high school he learns to cope with incredibly difficult odds to discover all that matters.

My desire to write a book came along as a result of having so much fun writing for my own blog and for a role playing game website called ‘Stargazers World‘. I wanted try and put my creative writing energy into a book. The result is novella titled ‘All That Matters’.

Currently ‘All That Matters’ is in the very final stages of editing and should be available on Amazon.com in the next few weeks and available on the Barnes and Noble nook shortly thereafter. I am really looking forward to hearing what people have to say about my first attempt at writing a book.

Wedding Photographers

Hannah and I recently got married. It was a beautiful ceremony that we got to share with our family and friends. Now that it’s over the two of us are taking some time out to write Thank You cards, get copies of our wedding photos printed off and mailing them out to people.

It’s the photos I wanted to spend a little time talking about today because finding a photographer to shoot my wedding the way I wanted it shot was one of the most stressful aspects of our wedding. There was no reason for it to have been that way.

In setting out to find a photographer I had some requirements.

  1. I wanted the photographer for 8 hours on the day of our wedding.
  2. I wanted  photos taken the whole time.
  3. I wanted digital copies of all the processed photos.
  4. I wanted digital copies of all the RAW photos.

That’s all.

I have no need for prints. I have no need for them to be posted on a website for family to view. I just wanted their time, a lot of photos taken, and digital copies of everything.

It was my last request. The one for the digital RAW files that hung me up with most “photographers” (and I am using that term very loosely). The general responce I got from “photographers” regarding my desire to have copies of the RAW image was something like this:

As far as photography, I’m sorry, but I do not give out my RAW files to clients.  I am comfortable providing only a finished product of edited JPG files to my clients. I am sure you have reasons you would like RAW files, but I do not work that way.

That was a copy of an actual e-mail I got from a “photographer”! Can you believe it? It says to me that “I am not comfortable with my talent enough to give you the digital RAW images. Only until I have processed and manipulated the photos will I give a digital copy to my clients.” As a result this “photographer” did not get my business. I don’t feel like I lost anything either. It’s not like the photographs this person displayed on their website where any better or worse than any other wedding photographers website I saw. This person just happened to be the first result on my google search, so I e-mailed them. Maybe they should change careers to SEO consulting than stay in photography. At lest they are good at SEO.

Next we have an e-mail where the “Photographer” treats me as if I don’t understand what I am requesting from them. It’s insulting to me and it makes them look stupid. By the way, belittling your possible clients is a great first impression to make! Because nothing says “I am a great photographer” than  insulting the one you are hoping is going to hire you.

I need a bit of clarification on the RAW files you requested.  By RAW do you mean full resolution?  Because RAW is totally unedited and looks worse than a jpg for a point and shoot as the basic adjustments that many cameras do to jpg files, isn’t done.  They aren’t a pretty image.  And honestly, I don’t release RAW files.

This “Photographer”  has already lost my business just for writing me this way. This e-mail is just an insult that feels like a slap in the face. What on earth happen to ‘the customer is always right’? Good luck finding work in the future with that attitude you camera monkey.

Next, we have an e-mail response where the “photographer” is trying to justify their lack of accommodating my request with pure bullshit.

I’m afraid that I cannot accommodate your request for RAW files.  It is akin to handing over undeveloped rolls of film to a client.  Even in the days of film, which lab one chose to develop and print your film made a difference in the image quality.  I don’t honestly see a benefit to the client having them, so if I’m missing something or maybe we are speaking of two different things, please feel free to clarify what benefit you wish to gain from them.

In this e-mail the “photographer” is trying to justify to me why they will not hand over the RAW images. My favorit line is: “I don’t honestly see a benefit to the client having them”. If this person can’t understand why a client would benefit from having the original RAW files, then it astonishes me that they are even still in business. In fact, this person should be required to give up all of their cameras until they do understand how a client could benefit from RAW images. These excuses, in my opinion, just don’t hold water. Based on this email I can only assume that:

  1. This “photographer” does not believe enough in their own talent to hand over the RAW images. So, why would I even bother hiring them in the first place?
  2. They probably don’t even shoot in RAW to begin with.
  3. Their ego is so big that they can’t accept that the customer might know how to use photo editing software better than they do or the customer has someone else in mind to do the photo editing.

The next e-mail came to me as meaningful advice from a friend when I was ready to pull out my own hair in frustration looking for a photographer.

…a word of warning would be that no good photographer will give you the RAW images. It is their art. They will want to be able to edit and perfect the image and doing so will force it to be converted into a JPEG format (or possible other format) making it no longer RAW…

This is just annoying. My friend has only the best intentions for me. That part is clear to see, but the whole thing comes down to my needs. I am requesting the services of a “photographer” to shoot my wedding. These people are not Ansel Adams nor will they be the next Ansel Adams. They just happen (I presume) to own an expensive camera and they think they can shoot better pictures than other people.

I come from a 15 year background of graphic arts and photo manipulation. I am expertly versed in (but not limited to) Aperture, Photoshop, and Lightroom,  I am also an amateur photographer myself. I have no doubt about my ability to work with RAW images. I just didn’t want to take photos at my own wedding. I have had friends and family offer to shoot my wedding free of charge. I would be just as happy with their photos as I would be with someone who claims to be a pro and wants to charge me a couple of grand. I just don’t want my friends and family taking photos when they are supposed to be at our wedding enjoying themselves.

What I have learned from this is that most “photographers” are control freaks who, if they gave me the RAW digital files, they won’t be able to modify them to cover what a shitty job they did in the first place. This is why 99% of all wedding photos have that blur/haze effect.

The real problem is that there are a LOT of really, really bad photographers out there. In today’s world, people think equipment equals skill, but in actuality, better equipment just creates a false sense of one’s own abilities. It seems like weddings attract the worst of the worst in photography.

I did eventually find a very polite photographer who was more than accommodating of my requirements. He even advertised them on his website. He shot my whole wedding and reception. He gave me digital copies of the processed photos and the RAW images. As a result this person will get my repeat business and I will recommend him to anyone looking for a photographer in the future.

Using Markdown

I recently wrote about keeping a simple wiki with just text files. Text files are fast to open and easy to work with. In fact you can open a text file on any kind of computer running any kind of operating system and it will just work. If you have a modern operating system like me, (I am running Mac OS X) you will be able to do a simple find command to not only locate the text file you want but even search within the content of that text file quickly and easily.

I want to talk a little bit about some ideas on how you should format that text file. There are going to be times where you don’t need to think about formatting your text file. The text file may not contain enough information to bother with formatting. I have text files that just contain the information with in the name of the text file its self, but nothing is actually inside of it. Other times I have so much content in my text file I need to write it in a way that it is organized and easy to read. This is where Markdown comes into play.

Wikipedia discribes Markdown as this:

Markdown is a lightweight markup language, originally created by John Gruber and Aaron Swartz allowing people “to write using an easy-to-read, easy-to-write plain text format, then convert it to structurally valid XHTML (or HTML)”. The language takes many cues from existing conventions for marking up plain text in email.

What does that mean in English? Well, here is how I look at it. Markdown gives you a set of rules for writing a plain text document which gives it structure, which makes it easier to read and at the same time allowing it to be rendered into something you would see in a word processor or in HTML with all the correct tags.

So let me give you an example of what I am talking about. In my post I mentioned earlier about keeping a very simple wiki, I also talked about one of my favorite recipes, Corned beef. With out using any Markdown what-so-ever here is what the text document looks like when you open it up.

Slow Cooker Corned Beef and Vegetables

Prep Time: 15 min
Total Time: 9 hours 15 min
Makes: 10 servings

Ingredients

2 and 1/2 pounds medium new potatoes, (about 8), cut in half
2 cups baby cut carrots
1 cup frozen small whole onions, thawed
1 corned beef brisket (3 to 3 1/2 pounds)
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1/2 cup of water
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon cornstarch
2 tablespoons cold water

Directions

1.) Mix potatoes, carrots and onions in 4 to 6 quart slow cooker
2.) Thoroughly rinse corned beef; discard seasoning packet. Place beef on vegetables; sprinkle with pepper. Mix 1/2 cup water and the Worcestershire sauce; pour over beef.
3.) Cover and cook on low heat setting 8 to 9 hours or until beef and vegetables are tender.
4.) Remove beef and vegetables from slow cooker; cover to keep warm. Pour juices from slow cooker into 1-quart saucepan; heat to boiling. Mix cornstarch and cold water until smooth; stir into juices. Cook, stirring constantly, until sauce has thickened. Serve sauce with beef and vegetables.

Nutrition Information

1 Serving: Calories 340 (Calories from Fat 160 )

From the get go I am clearly not working with the most complex document on the planet, but I do think it works as a springboard for showing you how to write Markdown and why I think it is so beneficial.

So to get started. We are going to jump right to the top of the document. The first line reads:

Slow Cooker Corned Beef and Vegetables

All we are going to do is at a pound sign in front of the title so it looks like this:

#Slow Cooker Corned Beef and Vegetables

In Markdown a pound sign represents a header 1 tag or an H1 tag. The first level header. If we where to put this in a program like Textmate (the greatest text editor ever) that can render Markdown, it would render the font large and bold. I will show you an example of this once we get a few more lines written.

The next three lines of the recipe are:

Prep Time: 15 min
Total Time: 9 hours 15 min
Makes: 10 servings

Now with this I want to make an unordered list. Unordered is just an odd way to say that I don’t want my list number or alphabetized. So to do this in my text editor I and going to add a dash and a space in front of each line like this:

– Prep Time: 15 min
– Total Time: 9 hours 15 min
– Makes: 10 servings

So now my whole plain text document looks like this:

#Slow Cooker Corned Beef and Vegetables

– Prep Time: 15 min
– Total Time: 9 hours 15 min
– Makes: 10 servings

So lets look at what this looks like rendered in Textmate:

Pretty sharp. From Textmate, I could also render out HTML and it would look like this:

<h1 id=”Slow Cooker Corned Beef and Vegetables”>Slow Cooker Corned Beef and Vegetables

<ul>
<li>Prep Time: 15 min </li>
<li>Total Time: 9 hours 15 min </li>
<li>Makes: 10 servings</li>
</ul>

So lets continue on with the rest of the recipe.

#Slow Cooker Corned Beef and Vegetables

– Prep Time: 15 min
– Total Time: 9 hours 15 min
– Makes: 10 servings

##Ingredients

– 2 and 1/2 pounds medium new potatoes, (about 8), cut in half
– 2 cups baby cut carrots
– 1 cup frozen small whole onions, thawed
– 1 corned beef brisket (3 to 3 1/2 pounds)
– 1/8 teaspoon pepper
– 1/2 cup of water
– 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
– 1 tablespoon cornstarch
– 2 tablespoons cold water

##Directions

1. Mix potatoes, carrots and onions in 4 to 6 quart slow cooker
2. Thoroughly rinse corned beef; discard seasoning packet. Place beef on vegetables; sprinkle with pepper. Mix 1/2 cup water and the Worcestershire sauce; pour over beef.
3. Cover and cook on low heat setting 8 to 9 hours or until beef and vegetables are tender.
4. Remove beef and vegetables from slow cooker; cover to keep warm. Pour juices from slow cooker into 1-quart saucepan; heat to boiling. Mix cornstarch and cold water until smooth; stir into juices. Cook, stirring constantly, until sauce has thickened. Serve sauce with beef and vegetables.

##Nutrition Information

1 Serving: Calories 340 (Calories from Fat 160 )

So you will see with the sub headers. The Header 2 or H2 I started the line with two pound signs. You can do this all the way to header 6 or H6 with six pound signs.

Under “Directions” I also used numbers followed by a period and a space rather than dashes. This means if I render out that section it will be a numbered list. So lets render this out in Textmate and see what we got.

Not a bad-looking document. Something that looks great and is easy to read as a text file. Giving it structure and conformity, a cleanliness that was not there before. It looks even better when rendered out. I hope you I have done a good job explaining how great I think Markdown is and how useful it can be. I will be including all basic formatting information for Markdown below as my recipe example above did not use all the possible formatting tags.

Paragraphs

Just write sentences like you would normally do. No tags for paragraphs are needed.

Emphasized text

*Italics* Anything surrounded with “*” Is italicized.

**Bold Text** Anything surrounded with two “*” is turned bold.

Code

Blocking off code inline requires it to be `surrounded` by a backtick.

Indent several lines of code by at least four spaces.

Lists

*  This is an
* unordered list
* This is a sub list item

1. This is an
2.) in an enumerated (ordered) list

Headings

#First level heading

##Second level heading

######Sixth level heading

Blockquotes

> This text will be enclosed in an HTML blockquote element.
> Blockquote elements are reflowable. You may arbitrarily
> wrap the text to your liking, and it will all be parsed
> into a single blockquote element.

Links

This is [an example](http://example.com/ “Title”) inline link.
[This link](http://example.net/) has no title attribute.

This is [an example][id] reference-style link.

hen, anywhere in the document, you define your link label like this, on a line by itself:
[id]: http://example.com/  “Optional Title Here”

Horizontal rules

Horizontal rules are created by placing three or more hyphens, asterisks, or underscores on a line by themselves. You may use spaces between the hyphens or asterisks. Each of the following lines will produce a horizontal rule:
* * *
***
*****
– – –
—————————————

For more information on Markdown and to see a few more tags I did not include here please check out the following links.