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Showing posts from July, 2013

Dream Publicity Propels Book to Number One on Amazon

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A book about Jesus, "Zealot", hit number one on Amazon.com on Sunday and drew 5,000 new Twitter followers to the author, Mr. Reza Aslan after a provocative interview on Fox News. Sales were increased by 35 percent.

Why all the hullabaloo? Lauren Gren, the host of "Spirited Debate" a weekly Fox News webcast, asked the author how come he, a Muslim, had written about Jesus, the founder of Christianity. 

A loaded question that made the video clip with, as the NYT put it in an article about this, "the irresistibly clickable headline, 'Is This the Most Embarrassing Interview Fox News Has Ever Done?'" an instant success in spite of its length (10 minutes). But here's a shorter version put together by the Huff Post ( under 3 minutes) and you get the idea:



Yes, definitely the dream publicity any author would wish to have! But Mr. Aslan got several other things right on his book as well: 

(a) the research  - as he defines himself, he's a "scholar o…

An Amazing Female 'Superman' in Pakistan: Burqa Avenger. The Rise of Islamic Women Heroes?

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By day she's a schoolteacher, by night, clad in a burqa, a traditional Islamic cloak, she beats up the Taliban. She's an Islamic Wonder Woman and her weapons are school supplies. 

This is a new cartoon series like no other, based on a totally original concept: a female teacher fighting on behalf of girls education. 

Makes sense considering that only 25% of the women in Pakistan can read and write. 

Here's the trailer:



Okay, this doesn't look like a Pixar movie. But it's an awsome Indie job, produced with a team of only 22 people. Compare that with the hundreds of people involved in producing any cartoon series in the West...I would say congrats to the show's maker Aaron Haroon Rashid.

The show has been an immediate success in Pakistan but it has raised some criticisms too, mostly centered on the question whether the heroine's use of the all-covering burqa is, as the NYT puts it, "subverting a traditional symbol of segregation and oppression or reinforcing i…

Abenomics is In, Merkel's Austerity is Out!

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About time too! We are all fed up with German austerity over here in Europe and hopeful that Abenomics will work for Japan (it already looks like it is, Japan is perking up)...

You want additional proof that the world of finance has finally understood that austerity is NOT a cure for debt? Look at Standard & Poor's latest downgrading of Italy to BBB, just two grades above junk status. S&P's reasoning? Italy suffers from a growth problem - over the last decade, real growth has been...negative, -0,04% ! So it's not the debt that's the problem, it's lack of growth!

Good-bye austerity!  Ms. Merkel is poised to win re-election on 22 September. But will she have learned her lesson?

What do you think?




How Close are We to Controlling "Biological Age"?

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Chronological age is not the same as biological age and white hair and wrinkles are not reliable biological age markers even if  intuitively we associate wrinkles with codgers. Scientists are still hunting for them but the good news is that they are finally getting close (see NYT article here

For example, we now have strong evidence based on studies of the "molecular clock" that men age 4 percent faster than women, which probably explains why women's life expectancy exceeds men's, and that tumor cells age, on average, 40 percent faster than normal cells, thus shedding light on cancer.

Such news reinforce me in my view that the basic premise on which my FOREVER YOUNG novel is based is not, after all, that far off. On the contrary, it is very possible that 200 years from now, we will indeed be able to genetically control the process of aging so that you'll look young every day of your life till you drop dead, i.e. at the end of your "natural" life span - …

Violence in Egypt: Christians are Taking the Brunt

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Three weeks after the military forcefully removed President Morsi, Egypt is sinking into violence as the Muslim Brotherhood tries to regain power. We all know that. What is less visible is that Christians are taking the brunt: when they are attacked, the police (or military) do not seem to hurry to come to their help, on the contrary. Within a longer New York Times article on the situation in Egypt, there is a small telling paragraph, and I quote:

On July 5, the authorities stood by as an angry crowd set upon Christian families near Luxor, killing four, after the body of a Muslim was found near Christian homes. Amnesty International said in a report issued Tuesday 'Security forces on the scene made only halfhearted attemtps to end violence' (highlighting added)

To read the whole NYT article, click here.  The article is in the right-hand column.

Of course, there have been terrible episodes of violence between Sunni and Shiite Muslims leaving four dead last month in a village near …

Is 'Blue Jasmine', Woody Allen's latest, a Boomer Movie?

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I haven't seen the movie (it's not yet out in Europe - it's supposed to come to Italy in December) so I can't tell whether it's a movie that will particularly appeal to baby boomers or not, but it's definitely NOT Young Adult - we're far away from 'Hunger Games'!

The trailer suggests we are witnessing the breakdown of a mature woman (Cate Blanchett), a "fallen New York socialite" who's lost  all her money along with her husband who's "a philanderer and a financial huckster", as Dave Itzkoff of the New York Times  put it (see his interesting article here and it's graced by a great cartoon from Thomas Fluharty). She flees New York and stays with her married sister in San Francisco whose husband doesn't look like he appreciates the unexpected house guest...

What do you think? Is this another Boomer movie destined for great success even though it features a woman who's clearly no longer under 30, the kind Hollywood …

A New Form of Blogging: Flash Blogging! Today's Subject: Blog Traffic

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I've decided to experiment something new: flash blogging! I don't mean just short blog posts. You can have a picture with a short caption and off you go - I might do that on occasion but I have a different plan. I want to take you along with me every day on a discovery trip...

That's what flash blogging is for me: establishing a close link to reality, walking with the world step-by-step... Not a blog hop, not a way to show off my virtuosity at inventing things from a prompt (see article below): that's fine but it's not what I'm interested in. On a blog, I don't want to invent (that's for my fiction books). Here I want to talk about the reality as I see it...

So I'll share with you what I think is interestingeach day.

And today, I'm worried about my blog traffic. It seems I'm not alone, many people are suffering from a huge drop in traffic. In my case, it's paradoxical: my Alexa world ranking (and US ranking) is UP and my traffic is DOWN. G…

What Sells Books: Word of Mouth or Something Else?

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Are you worried that your books don't sell? "Discoverability", an awful newly-coined word, has become the name of the game in the publishing industry. Conventional wisdom has it that "word of mouth" sells books. And that as a writer, your only option is to write, write, write. Don't despair, "the cream will rise to the top",  that's another oft-quoted piece of wisdom.

Really? Consider the tsunami of new books. Last year, according to Bowker 3 million new titles were added to the pile (and Bowker only counts books with ISBN numbers, so the real amount of new books is probably much larger).

In spite of this, publishing gurus are optimistic, chief among them author Kristine Kathryn Rusch who is rarely given to flights of baseless fantasy: her latest blog post on the subject is a must read for any writer feeling the blues. But if you don't have time (her blog posts tend to be long, I love that but not everyone does), here's the gist of it.

Sh…

Living Forever: Fantasy or Reality?

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Science is getting us ever closer to defeating mortality. But how long exactly is "forever"?

Some scientists argue there is a "natural arc" to our lives, something like 125 years. Others argue we can be genetically engineered to live 1,000 years or more.

To achieve this, conflicting theories abound, among them:

diet to keep your caloric intake down by some 30 percent: mice can do it but it's hard to do for humans!take a pill that contains resveratrolwhich is found in red wine to counter the damaging effect of free radicalsuse telomerase, an enzyme that mends protective coverings on cells inject human growth hormones to counter the process of aging (in spite of the cancer risk)replace our fragile body components (blood, cells) with stronger ones like metal or computer backup, i.e. "android bodies". This the dream of at least one Russian billionnaire who plans to become immortal by 2045!  Of course, so far none of this has proved feasible and it might take…

Blog Traffic Slowdown? 5 Ways to Overcome it

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Has your blog traffic shown worrying signs of slowing down?

Are you wondering whether we are suffering from a surfeit of people, a tsunami of news? I am. When was the last time you had a real conversation on Twitter, exchanging news, expressing your opinion, making a new friend? If you're an author, when was the last time you saw a sales bump after a Twitter campaign?

When was the last time someone reacted to one of your posts on Facebook with an interesting comment showing they really cared? Ditto with Google+.

What about the other sites, more niche-like, say StumbleUpon, Pinterest, RedditDigg or Tumblr, or maybe the video sites like YouTube? You tell me, because I don't know, I haven't got time for it all. I simply don't go there more than once in a blue moon. But if you do, please share your experience in the comments below, we'd all love to hear from you.

It looks like nobody is listening anymore out there on the Internet. The  major websites like Twitter, Fac…

The Secret to Writing a Best Seller: How to Satisfy Your Readers

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Ever wondered what makes for a best seller? Readers of course! But what keeps the eyes of your readers glued to your book? To figure that out, let's take a step back rather than dig into writing techniques. Let's assume you as an author have mastered the necessary writing techniques. They're not an issue, what we want to do is look at the bigger picture.

Let's start with the reader.

Storytelling is as old as humanity.We all have this vision of cavemen sitting around a fire after the hunt, munching on their grilled meat and telling stories to each other. The Lascaux frescoes comfort us in this vision. But we've moved on in storytelling sophistication since these early times, we want more than stories of preying on wild animals and killing. Though we still love suspense.

Suspense is the key.

Release from suspense is what we as readers yearn for, in the form of laughter or tears. And herein, you find the very essence of comedy and drama, the two major forms of literature.…