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Sunday, August 31, 2014

BetaReading for Dummies

For the first time in my life, quite recently, I was addressed as a BetaReader.

It felt rather cute. I was sent a manuscript to read and assess, and at the end I was asked, as the draft's BetaReader, a number of very sensible questions.

Did the narrative style work? Was there anything about the story that seemed forced? What, if anything, dragged on too long? What, if anything, was treated too quickly, or too lightly, and needed extending? Any suggestions for a better title?  And, probably most important of all, did I think the novel was ready for publication?

A BetaReader, according to Wikipedia, that great encyclopedia in the sky, is a non-professional reader who reads a written work, generally fiction, with the intent of looking over the material to find and improve elements such as grammar and spelling, as well as suggestions to improve the story, its characters, or its setting. 

BetaReaders are not professionals. They may have been proofreaders, copyeditors, or editors in their Other Lives; they may even be book reviewers, and it is very likely that they are writers, too. But in this case they are looking at the manuscript as an unpaid favor.

If they are doing the job properly, they will point out holes in the plot, inconsistencies, confusions, and anything else that makes your book not quite as good as it should be. If you are lucky, they are knowledgeable enough about your setting or subject to be willing to do a little fact-checking on the side.

There's a lot on the internet about finding BetaReaders, how to treat them, what to expect of them, and how to be a BetaReader yourself.  One is Belinda Pollard's "What Makes a Good BetaReader" on her SmallBlueDog publishing blog.

What should you look for in a BetaReader?

Someone who is representative of your target audience, that's what. That is partly why our Old Salt Press cooperative works so well: all Old Salt Press writers are maritime writers who really know their stuff, and we are all each others' BetaReaders.  Our books are aimed at discriminating readers who love stories about the sea, and so what better BetaReaders could we have?

Secondly, you need a BetaReader who is willing to be open and honest, but who is able to state forthright opinions without destroying the faith you have in your book.  This means that you don't want a personal friend who is too fond of you to be critical; you want someone who is not afraid to tell the truth, but not in an unkind way.

And how do you work with a BetaReader?

A good summary of this is "5 Things you Should Know About Working with Beta Readers" by Corina Koch MacLeod and Carla Douglas on Joel Friedlander's The Book Designer website.

Their first recommendation is to give your BetaReader a clean, polished manuscript.  I have slightly mixed feelings about this, as I find it harder, somehow, to be open, honest and critical about a clean, polished manuscript.  For some reason it is easier to make suggestions when it still looks like a draft, particularly when suggesting major changes.  

Secondly, give it to them in the form they like best -- which means asking what form they prefer.  Or, alternatively, you can send it in several forms, such as .doc, .pdf, and .mobi.  Personally, I am happy with .doc. I save it, send it to myself at Kindle, and then read it on my Kindle or iPad. 

Third, let them know what you want from them.  An excellent way of doing this is to have a checklist of questions, like the list I gave at the head of this post. Do you want the manuscript copyedited, with track changes?  Or do you shudder at the thought of getting a copyedited ms back? Tell them, if so, and save yourself (and your BetaReader) a lot of grief.

Four is really, really important.  Be professional.  Don't take the criticisms personally. Understand that your BetaReader is well-intentioned, and honestly wants the book to be ten times better.  If you just want a pat on the back and to be told what a magnificent beast your manuscript is, don't bother with a BetaReader.

The fifth suggestion in this list is to be willing to return the favor.  

Saturday, August 30, 2014

An author's view of Kindle Unlimited

Thoughts from the author of the Olive Quintrell series.

A guest post from M. C. Muir

While Kindle Unlimited (a promotional venture for e-book sales to avid readers) may not be popular with authors whose books command a good price, I can only commend this latest project from the early results I am getting.

Firstly, though only in it's infancy of several weeks, I am already showing 50% more sales on the US market. 

However, the Kindle Unlimited offer does not appear to apply to the UK market.

These sales, which register as KU/KOLL units on your kindle monthly report, are only available if you are registered with the Kindle SELECT program (this means Amazon has exclusive sales rights to sell your e-books). 

Secondly, my July return shows that these sales were worth $2.24 per book. This is an across-the-board return irrespective of the book's retail price.

For me, as an Indie author, living in Australia, of my books that I retail at US$2.99, I receive 70% or $2.06 each, therefore the KU return of $2.24 is most acceptable. This amount will vary according to the amount of money which flows into the Kindle Unlimited pool - but I can only see it increasing, albeit only slightly.

Worth looking into it you are not already a Kindle Select author.


Friday, August 29, 2014

How much should you charge for your eBook?

The problem of what you should charge for an eBook has become even more intriguing of late, what with the Amazon-Hachette stoush, where Amazon is trying to force the prices of digital books down.

Is this right?  Is it catering to an unfortunate traditional publisher view that eBooks are the cheap end of the market?  Looking back in history, that's what happened when paperbacks first came out.  They were cheap and nasty -- "pulp fiction."  But then they took off, until there were the levels of paperback quality that we find today. Classic reprints, mass market romances, perfect bound books, and that replacement for heavy hardbacks, the clothbound book have all sprung from the first paperbacks, which were meant to be carried in pockets, and read on railroad trains.

And they are all differently priced, which doesn't help when trying to decide what to charge for your baby. Rosen Trevithick, author of How NOT to ePublish, discusses it in a blog column called...

You Want to Charge £14.99 for Your eBook
Well, you put countless hours into writing, composing, checking, and polishing (says I), so why not?

Because it won't sell, that's why.

"When deciding how to price your book," says Rosen, "you must forget completely how long it took you to write, how much it cost to edit, and how truly brilliant it really is. Instead focus only on the value of similar-length eBooks by unknown self-published authors."

In a word, have a look at what is out there already.

BookBaby has a column about it. As they say, lots of authors are enjoying good sales at the currently popular prices of $4.99 to $9.99.  Not only is this within the area where KDP pays a 70% royalty, but it reflects the quality of the book. 

On the other hand, many writers believe that it is worth pricing cheaply to build up a fan base.  Sadly, KDP pays only 35% for books priced under $2.99, which makes the income ridiculously small, but some authors, definitely, are doing well by going that way. 

There is also the option of writing a series and charging nothing at all for the first book.  Amazon doesn't like authors who do this, as it costs them money to keep a book listed, but there are outlets like Smashwords that do allow it.  And, for some writers, it works like a charm. 

So, in the end, no one can tell you how much to charge for your book (despite Amazon's heavy-handedness with Hachette).  It is entirely up to you, the publisher.  However, a young woman by the name of Nicci Leigh has a very interesting comment in response to the BookBaby blog, in which she lays out a choice of three strategies. 

  • Route 1: Price high and hold firm. If your book has high commercial appeal, believe it will eventually generate sales momentum. Price your book $4.99-$7.99 and hold firm. Offer promotions, such as free days, but do NOT drop the price due to lack of confidence. Readers will see this as a sign of failure. The higher price does imply value to many readers. They will pay for it, if you ask for it.

  • Route 2: Price low and work your way up. If you have a book that you are using for promotional means or to get comfortable as an Indie author. Start at $.99 and work your way up, slowly and casually as you grow sales. Creep your way up...

  • Route 3: Price low and stay low. Price your book at $.99 and KEEP it there. You will generate sales, and readers will repeatedly see your book listed all over Amazon, they will remember the low price point and eventually give yours a try. 

    Whatever you decide, good luck!

    Thursday, August 28, 2014

    The prize-winner that didn't win

    It's an irresistible headline.  Eleanor Catton's The Luminaries is good enough to win the International Man Booker Prize (and sell heaps of copies -- 560,000 print and digital worldwide, at last count), but it is not the best book in New Zealand.

     Instead, it was trumped by the story of a Wellington art dealer. Peter McLeavey: The Life and Times of a New Zealand Art Dealer by Wellington author Jill Trevelyan won the top prize at the ceremony last night.

    Published by the press of our national museum, Te Papa (which must be very chuffed at the success, having had a run of bad news lately, what with two loss-making major exhibits), the biography also won the Best General Non-Fiction category.

    The judges called it, "Not just a compelling read, it is a supreme achievement that delivers on every front."

    New Zealand's iconic poet, Vincent O'Sullivan, took the Best Poetry prize with Us, Then, which, like The Luminaries, was published by Fergus Barrowman at Victoria University Press.

    And the Best Illustrated Non-Fiction prize went to Coast: A New Zealand Journey, by Bruce Ansley, and one of my favorite photographers, Jane Ussher.  and it was published by one of my favorite publishers, Random House NZ.

    The Nielson Booksellers' Choice Award went to Molesworth: Stories from New Zealand's Highest High-country Station, by Harry Broad and Rob Suisted.  It was published by a house that often (like Random House and Victoria University Press) appears in this list, Craig Potton Publishing.

    And Eleanor Catton did not go away empty-handed, after all.  The Luminaries won both the Best Fiction and the People's Choice awards.

    Wednesday, August 27, 2014


    Margaret Muir has responded gallantly to my implied challenge, and has produced a drabble -- which, as you remember, is supposed to tell a story in exactly 100 words.  And here it is!

    TODAY by Margaret Muir

    Fronds of frost edged the capeweed like lace around a doily.
    Split jarrah crackled in the wood-stove.
    Fed the cat, milked Molly, collected the eggs. Anything else?
    She dried her cup and wiped the sink again.
    A pink envelope marked John leaned against a vase of fresh lavender.
    Sunlight streamed across the blue pattered lino.
    She checked her hair in the gilt-framed mirror.
    That’ll do.
    Taking the 1898 Winchester from the empty pantry and resting its well-worn
    wooden stock between her sheepskin slippers, she bowed her forehead to the
    barrel, touched her right thumb onto the cold metal and squeezed.

    Margaret tells me she included drabbles in her little book Words on a Crumpled Page.

    Any more entries????

    The gun at the top is an 1898 Winchester breech loading cannon.  Amazing what a google image search turns up ...

    How long is your book?

    Is 50,000 words long enough?

    Is 250,000 words too long?

    With traditional publishing, word length is a fraught issue, simply because of the economics.  All books cost a certain amount to bring out in print, and the cover price has to include this, plus author royalties, the bookseller's cut, and - of course - the publisher's profit.  If the book is only 40 pages, it has to have lots of lovely illustrations or something like that, because the price is going to seem an awful lot for such a little volume.  Generally, you can only get away with it if it is a children's book, or really gripping poetry.

    There are exceptions.  Think Jonathan Livingston Seagull.  Even then, though, the author had to wait a few years for the inspiration that made it long enough to tempt a publisher to take a punt.

    And if you are really famous, or the book looks like a sure seller, then the publisher will think seriously about your massive opus. Think Capital in the Twenty-first Century, 695 pages and still bestselling.

    Most traditional publishers like a book that is 80,000 words, give or take twenty thousand.  If the number of pages fits exactly into a press sheet (a big piece of paper that is cut up evenly into pages, after printing), then you have a very happy publisher.

    Indie publishers don't have that problem.  Writers who are going straight to KDP, CreateSpace or Lightning Source can make their stories as long or as short as they like.  But, as Rosen Trevithick points out in her funny but pertinent posts on how NOT to self-publish, it is not a good idea to publicize your 20,000-word effort as a novel.

    So, what do you call it?

    Here is her list, with a couple of additions (in italics) by me:

    1-10 words ..... graffiti
    1-99 words – micro fiction.
    100 words exactly – drabble.
    101-999 words – flash fiction. A "short short."
    1,000-7,499 – short story.
    7,500-17,499 – novelette.
    17,500-49,999 – novella.
    50,000-109,999 – novel.
    Over 110,000 – epic. A "doorstop."

    If you have never heard of drabbles before, go to Indie Book Bargains, a UK site that publishes a drabble every day.  You can submit a drabble if you like, as it is a good way of getting your name noticed, but be warned, writing a drabble is a lot harder than it looks.

    Tuesday, August 26, 2014

    Superman SELLS

    The original Superman comic sells on eBay for THREE-POINT-TWO MILLION!

    From NPR

    A copy of 1938's Action Comics No. 1, which features the first appearance of Superman, sold for a record-breaking $3,207,852 to an unnamed buyer on Sunday. Darren Adams, the owner of Pristine Comics, posted it on eBay on Aug. 14. 

    The only other comic to sell for anything close to as much was a copy of Action Comics No. 1 that had been owned by Nicolas Cage, which sold for $2.16 million in 2011. 

    The Washington Post explains, "Adams's Superman book is graded at '9.0,' an almost unheard-of condition for this issue, which hit newsstands in the summer of 1938." Adams told the Post, "I actually held it for a few years — I was so excited about this book. And equally exciting to having a book of this condition is the fact that nobody knew it existed. Most books have a history ... but this book was totally off the grid, and nobody knew about it till I made it known."

    Adams had 48 bids before he sold it to an unnamed buyer.

    GalleyCat quotes a fragment from his listing:  "This is THE comic book that started it all. This comic features not only the first appearance of Superman, Clark Kent and Lois Lane, but this comic began the entire superhero genre that has followed during the 76 years since. It is referred to as the Holy Grail of comics and this is the finest graded copy to exist with perfect white pages."

    Let's hope the buyer's kids don't get hold of it.

    Monday, August 25, 2014

    The Great Barrier Reef, a book

    Or, to be exact, the review.

    "Australia’s Great Barrier Reef stretches for around 1,430 miles along the continent’s northeast coast, encompassing an area roughly half the size of Texas. Those who have dived into its pristine reaches know firsthand that it is one of Earth’s natural wonders—a coral world of exceptional beauty and diversity. Yet as Iain McCalman’s “passionate history” of the reef makes clear, it is also a stage on which dreams, ambitions, and great human tragedies have been played out. He tells his story by chronicling lives that, either inadvertently or intentionally, have shaped our perception of the coralline labyrinth..."
    So begins Tim Flannery's review of McCalman's The Reef in The New York Review of Books.

    It's the kind of review that every writer dreads -- it goes on and on in the same vein, picking out all the sensational bits and relating all the best anecdotes.  Worse still, instead of giving compelling reasons to go out and buy the book, it summarizes the story so you don't have to read it.

    Pretty picture, though. 

    Saturday, August 23, 2014

    Floating library coming to NYC

    Devoted to the history of steamboats in New York, the Lilac museum steamship is usually heaven for maritime buffs.

    But for a little while the octogenarian lighthouse tender that once carried supplies to lighthouses and maintained buoys for the U.S. Lighthouse Service and the U.S. Coast Guard will be a pop-up library.

    Conceived by artist Beatrice Glow, the Floating Library will offer a reading deck with fantastic views of the city as well as a steady schedule of special programming, roundtable talks, performances and workshops.

    Under Glow’s vision, the historic boat will get a new life as a unique public space for New Yorkers to enjoy. The vessel will be stocked with reading materials donated from over 70 individuals, and after the library is disbanded, the books will be donated to local high school students. The main deck will become an outdoor reading lounge complete with chairs and beautiful Hudson River views. Ongoing art installations will also set the stage for learning, with a Listening Room featuring new work from six sound artists, as well as pieces by Amanda Thackray and Katarina Jerinic.

    Visitors should note that the Lilac is a steamship undergoing restoration, so comfy shoes should be worn – and expect to climb ladders from one part of the ship to another. Also, the Floating Library is a place of dialogue and relaxation, so leave your mobile devices in your bag.

    The reading vessel will be docked in Lower Manhattan at Pier 25, just West of North Moore Street. Visitors will be able to enjoy the Lilac free-of-charge on a first- come, first-served basis.

    Reading vessel?  I love it!  A terrific idea altogether.

    Thursday, August 21, 2014

    Indie bestsellers and what you should be reading

    The indefatigable folks at GalleyCat @ have produced another two lists of Indie bestsellers, one from Amazon and the other from smashwords (Nook et al aren't worth pursuing any more, and smashwords is getting so stodgy that really only Amazon counts).

    Here is the listing ...

    Amazon Self-Published Bestsellers for the Week of August 20, 2014
    1. LOL Romantic Comedy Anthology Collection: “Love! Laughter! Pillow Fights! Here’s the very first issue of LOL, a NEW romantic comedy series! Enjoy 13 brand-new stories from your favorite NYT Bestseller and USA Today Bestseller romantic comedy and romance authors.”
    2. Filthy Beautiful Lies by Kendall Ryan: “Meet Colton Drake…I have no idea why she auctioned off her virginity for a cool mill. Regardless, I’m now the proud new owner of a perfectly intact hymen. A lot of good that will do me. I have certain tastes, certain sexual proclivities. My cock is a bit more discriminatory than most. And training a virgin takes finesse and patience – both of which I lack.”
    3. Mindfulness Made Simple by Calistoga Press: “A modern practice with ancient roots, mindfulness is widely recognized for its calming, healing, and restorative effects. Mindfulness and meditation can help you relieve stress, regulate your emotions, achieve focus and clarity, strengthen your communication skills, and cultivate an appreciation for what is most important to you. Based on centuries of experience and new techniques in the field of psychology, Mindfulness Made Simple shows how to bring mindfulness and meditation into your daily life.”
    4. Debt Inheritance by Pepper Winters: “Nila Weaver’s family is indebted. Being the first born daughter, her life is forfeit to the first born son of the Hawks to pay for sins of ancestors past. The dark ages might have come and gone, but debts never leave. She has no choice in the matter. She is no longer free.”
    5. Vain- Part Two by Deborah Bladon: “Posing nude for the illustrious Noah Foster seemed like an exciting escape from Alexa’s life. No one was supposed to find out, but when the one man who owned her heart, discovers her secret, everything changes. Alexa is not only caught in a compromising position but in a situation in which her past and present collide.”
    6. Sweet Addiction by J. Daniels: “Wedding hookups never amount to anything. Those who partake in this wicked little activity know the rules. Get in. Get laid. Get out. There’s no expectation of a relationship. It is what it is. Dylan Sparks knows the rules. She’s familiar with the protocol. And she engages in the best sex of her life with a complete stranger at her ex-boyfriend’s wedding.”
    7. Alpha Billionaire by Helen Cooper: “Alpha Billionaire is a sexy, thrilling and jaw-dropping three part novella serial. It was only meant to be one night. Evie Johnson was doing her best friend a favor when she agreed to work a bachelor party as a dancer. She hadn’t expected to meet a man like Grant Slate. A man so handsome and cocky that she couldn’t help but be attracted to him when he asked for a dance.”
    8. The Fixed Trilogy by Laurelin Paige: “All three books of the NY Times Bestselling Fixed Trilogy are included in this bundle.”
    9. Twisted by Callie Hart: “Sloane. How many times can a person fall down and still get back up? How many times can things go wrong before you just give up? I’ve lost everything. My home, my job, my purpose in life—everything has been turned upside down. But while life hasn’t exactly turned out the way I would have liked it to, I wouldn’t change a thing. If things were different, I wouldn’t have Lacey. I wouldn’t have Michael.”
    10. A Whole New Crowd by Tijan: “Taryn grew up in a different world. Her boyfriend was a criminal. His older brother was part of a gang. They weren’t great people, but they were her family. Then everything changes when she’s adopted by a family in the neighboring town. New family. New friends. A new world. She’s elated. This is her chance for a new beginning, but secrets start being revealed and Taryn learns her new life has ties to her old one, ties that she’s not happy about. Her new family might not have been the lucky break she thought she had. Now she’s not only fighting to live that new future, but she’s fighting to survive as well.”
    Smashwords Self-Published Bestsellers for the Week of August 20, 2014

    And here is what you should be reading -- a book I picked up by accident for my Kindle, courtesy of a free promotion.

    It's called My Granny Writes Erotica, and it's by Rosen Trevithick, who has also produced a children's series, and a book about how NOT to self-publish.

    I had every intention of reviewing it on this blog ages ago, but somehow it got lost in the clutter on my desk. But then I was reminded by the title of the Amazon #1 in the list, LOL Romantic Comedy Anthology Collection.  (Is that title a joke? Anthology and collection mean pretty much the same thing, when stories are assembled into a book. Maybe redundancy is funny?)

    But to return to Granny and her erotica, which is definitely LOL.  Betty Berry is a 65-year-old suburban housewife who has never had a dirty thought in her life -- until her husband quits, leaving her with his debts (along with a grisly coffin-shaped debt collector), his ghastly old mother, and a house that is about to be sold over her head.  To make matters even worse, Betty's bossy daughter arrives, having abandoned her own marriage.  So what is Betty to do?

    All her life, she has dreamed of being a bestselling novelist, but her (serious, literary) novel has never seen the light.  Can she write her way out of her dilemma?  Can she make enough out of publishing with KDP to get out of this financial mess?  Inspiration strikes when her eyes land on the copy of Fifty Shades of Grey that her daughter has carried along.  It made a helluva lot of money, didn't it?  So why not try a new genre?

    Forthwith, Betty embarks on the authorship of erotica. She might be woefully ignorant of the grubby details, but the dominatrix who has been tendering to her errant husband's base desires is keen to provide the needed info.  Still more hilarity is added when she gets unexpected backing from a manufacturer of sex toys, which adds a few zeroes to all that lovely moola from Mr Amazon.

    It is surprisingly clean, and outrageously funny.  As a reviewer on Amazon commented, it is laugh-out-loud-on-the-bus reading.  I got through it in one evening, because I just couldn't put it down.

    Give it a go.  You will thank me.

    Tuesday, August 19, 2014

    Boats at the ANMM

    The Australian National Maritime Museum is looking very swish at the moment.  A favorite has always been the full-sized model of an American whaleboat, along with whalemen's scrimshaw, of which this swift is a fine example:

    In case you are wondering, a swift holds a hank of woolen yarn so it can be wound into a ball.

    There is also a very good exhibit devoted to HMS Sirius, which foundered off Norfolk Island in March 1790, including an anchor that was salvaged from the reef.

    Perhaps what I liked best, this time, was a dramatic display of canoes on a wall.

    Definitely worth a lengthy visit, if you happen to be in Sydney.

    Monday, August 18, 2014

    Advice for travellers

    A very old listicle

    with advice that is still often strangely relevant...

    • CAUTIONS against Frauds, &c.
      • 1. Don't take too much cash, when you travel.
      • 2. Fasten trunks, &c. behind carriages with chains.
      • 3. Have a witness of the contents of packages sent by waggons, &c.
      • 4. Deliver parcels to book-keepers only, and see them booked.
      • 5. Suffer no stranger to carry any thing for you, nor be seduced into a public-house.
      • 6. Make persons carrying things for you walk before you 
      • 7. Never stop in a croud.
      • 8. Enter the number, &c. of bank-bills, &c. in a book.
      • 9. Ditto, the description of your watch, &c.
      • 10. Never give your watch, &c. into the hands of a stranger.
      • 11. Avoid crouds, and looking at picture-shops.
      • 12. If you drop any thing of value in the street, don't say what it is.
      • 13. Never let your servants deliver things from your house to strangers, without orders
      • 14. Nor take in a parcel that is to be paid for.
      • 15. Take the number of a hackney-coach on entering it, and examine it, when quitting it.
      • 16. Guard against those who bring letters at night.
      • 17. Keep your front parlour windows shut at dusk.
      • 18. Be cautious, when the next house to you is empty, not to leave back-doors or garret-windows open.
      • 19. Take care of your watch and pockets in crouds
      • 20. Suffer no beggars at your door.
      • 21. Don't be imposed on by fictitious distresses.
      • 22. Beware of petty auctions in thoroughfares.
      • 23. Never buy things at a pawn-brokers.
      • 24. Lay out your money with reputable people
      • 25. Be not taken in by money-lenders, borrowers, or customers.
      • 26. Have nothing to do with bills of exchange drawn by strangers.
      • 27. Let no stranger leave a parcel in your shop.
      • 28. Never interfere with people quarelling in the streets.
      • 29. Any one may arrest a felon.
      • 30. Penalties on gambling.
      • 31. Shop-keepers should be on their guard against those who tumble over their goods and don't buy.
      • 32. Buyers should take care shop-keepers do not impose on them.
      • 33. Distrust shop-keepers who profess to sell cheap.
      • 34. Beware of porters at inns.
      • 35. Take care of your hat, &c. in promiscuous companies

    From THE London Adviser and Guide: CONTAINING Every INSTRUCTION and INFORMATION useful and necessary to Persons LIVING IN LONDON, AND COMING TO RESIDE THERE; In order to enable them to enjoy Security and Tranquillity, and conduct their Domestic Affairs with Prudence and Economy.TOGETHER WITH AN ABSTRACT Of all those LAWS which regard their Protection against the Frauds, Impositions, Insults and Acci|dents to which they are there liable.
    Useful also to Foreigners.Note, This Work treats fully of every Thing on the above Subjects that can be thought of.

    Saturday, August 16, 2014

    Mrs. Alexander's maiden voyage

    Floating proudly at the Australian National Maritime Museum is the wonderfully restored James Craig, sister ship of the Louisa Craig, painted by Ron, and pictured above.

    An iron-hulled bark, the James Craig was launched as the Clan Macleod in Sunderland, England, in 1874, and over the next 26 years she carried cargo around the world, doubling Cape Horn 23 times.  Then, in 1900, she was bought by an Auckland shipowner, renamed James Craig, and plied the Tasman Sea between Australia and New Zealand.  As the competition from steamships began to bite, she was converted from a collier to a coal hulk, an ignominious fate that came to an end when she was abandoned at Recherche Bay in Tasmania.  In 1972, forty years after she was sunk by fishermen who blasted a hole in her hull, a team of dedicated volunteers commenced a salvage and restoration project. In 1981 she was towed to Sydney, where she was finally, over many years, converted to the splendid state she is in today.

    It was her maiden voyage that really interested me, and was what I had in mind when I re-explored her last week.  Then, she was under the command of Captain James Alexander, who was accompanied by his wife.   

    And these were Mrs. Alexander's accommodations:

    The cabin table, where she ate in the company of the two ship's officers, and any supernumeraries who might be on board.  At the forward end of this after cabin is the surprisingly elaborate fireplace:

    Naturally, the ornaments would be taken down and carefully stored before the ship left port.

    The settee, unusually, was in the captain's stateroom, which (of course) was on the starboard quarter:

    This did give Mrs. Alexander some privacy during the day.  One can only imagine what she did while sitting there -- not much light to read or sew, but undoubtedly she managed.  When her husband was writing up his journal or posting his books, he would keep her company, because the chart table was also in the captain's stateroom.

    And this is where she slept -- with her husband, in a narrow double berth with a thin mattress, on top of a bank of lockers and drawers.  As you can see, she had a ladder to mount to get into bed.  

    So what was her voyage like?

    Eventful.  First they ran out of fresh water on the long passage down the Atlantic, and Captain Alexander had to make an unscheduled stop at Rio de Janeiro.  Then came the rough leg about Cape Horn.  The coal she was carrying was discharged in Callao, Peru, and then he steered for Portland, Oregon, to load wheat and flour for the United Kingdom. On 29 November, 1874, Mrs. Alexander gave birth to a son, who was named William Macleod Alexander, in the time-honored tradition of naming the baby after the ship.  One hopes he was a good, quiet baby, as the homeward journey through the Atlantic took 171 days. The vessel finally came to anchor in the Humber on 10 July 1875, but before berthing she parted her anchor cable and grounded on a sandbank. Fortunately she came off without assistance and was later towed into dock.

    It was a presage of the many times the grand old merchant ship was rescued from oblivion.

    Friday, August 15, 2014


    Britain's Oxford University Press has announced a number of new entries to its mammoth dictionary.  Including "listicle," which is an internet article in the form of a numbered or bulleted list.

    And here is the LISTICLE of the new terms and words, courtesy of The Telegraph:

    • acquihire, n.: buying out a company primarily for the skills and expertise of its staff...
    • adorbs, adj.: (informal) arousing great delight; cute or adorable
    • air punch, n.: thrusting one’s clenched fist up into the air, typically as a gesture of triumph…
    • amazeballs, adj.: (informal) very impressive, enjoyable, or attractive
    • anti-vax, adj.: (US informal) opposed to vaccination
    • Bank of Mum and Dad, phr.: (Brit. informal) a person’s parents regarded as source of financial assistance
    • bare, adv.: (Brit. informal) very; really (used as an intensifier)
    • bedroom tax, n.: (in the UK) informal name for a measure introduced in the Welfare Reform Act 2012…
    • binge-watch, v.: (informal) watch multiple episodes of (a television programme) in rapid succession…
    • bro hug, n.: (US informal) friendly embrace between two men
    • clickbait, n.: (informal) (on the Internet) content…whose main purpose is to attract attention and draw visitors to a particular web page
    • cord cutting, n.: (informal) practice of cancelling a pay television subscription or landline phone connection in favour of an alternative Internet-based or wireless service
    • cotch, v.: (Brit. informal) spend time relaxing; stay or sleep somewhere on a temporary basis
    • cray, adj. (also cray cray): (US informal) crazy
    • Deep Web, n.: the part of the World Wide Web that is not discoverable by means of standard search engines.
    • doncha, contraction: (informal) don’t you
    • douchebaggery, n.: (N. Amer. informal) obnoxious or contemptible behaviour
     dox, v.: (informal) search for and publish private data about (an individual) on the Internet, typically with malicious intent
     e-cig, n.: (informal) another term for electronic cigarette
    • false widow, n.: a spider resembling the black widow, some species of which are moderately poisonous to humans
    • fandom, n.: the fans of a particular person, team, series, etc. regarded collectively as a community or subculture
    • fast follower, n.: a company that quickly imitates the innovations of its competitors
    • 5:2 diet, n.: a diet that involves eating normally for five days out of a seven-day period and greatly restricting the amount of food eaten on the other two days
    • FML, abbrev.: (vulgar slang) f— my life! (used to express dismay at a frustrating personal situation)
    • geocache, n.: an item…that has been hidden at a location whose coordinates have been posted on the Internet…
    • hate-watch, v.: (informal) watch (a television programme) for the sake of the enjoyment derived from mocking or criticizing it
    • hench, adj.: (Brit. informal) (of a man) strong, fit, and having well-developed muscles
    • hippotherapy, n.: horse riding as a therapeutic or rehabilitative treatment…
    • hot mess, n.: (US informal) a person or thing that is spectacularly unsuccessful or disordered
    • hot mic, n.: (informal) a microphone that is turned on, in particular one that broadcasts a spoken remark that was intended to be private
    • humblebrag, n. & v.: (informal) (make) an ostensibly modest or self-deprecating statement whose actual purpose is to draw attention to something of which one is proud
    • hyperconnected, adj.: characterized by the widespread or habitual use of devices that have Internet connectivity
    • ICYMI, abbrev.: (informal) in case you missed it
    • in silico, adj. & adv.: (of scientific experiments) conducted or produced by means of computer modelling or simulation
    • listicle, n.: an Internet article presented in the form of a numbered or bullet-pointed list
    • live-tweet, v.: post comments about (an event) on Twitter while the event is taking place
    • mansplain, v.: (informal) (of a man) explain something to someone, typically a woman, in a manner regarded as condescending or patronizing
    • mud run, n.: an event in which participants negotiate a course consisting of obstacles filled or covered with mud
    • neckbeard, n.: (informal) growth of hair on a man’s neck, especially when regarded as indicative of poor grooming…
    • octocopter, n.: an unmanned helicopter having eight rotors
    • olinguito, n.: a small nocturnal tree-dwelling mammal living in cloud forests of Colombia and Ecuador…
    • Paleo diet, n: a diet based on the type of foods presumed to have been eaten by early humans…
    • pharmacovigilance, n.: the practice of monitoring effects of medical drugs after they have been licensed for use
    • responsive, adj.: denoting a website whose page design changes automatically according to the size of screen on which it is viewed
    • second screen, n.: a mobile device used while watching television, especially to access supplementary content or applications
    • sentiment analysis, n.: the process of computationally identifying and categorizing opinions expressed in a piece of text
    • side boob, n.: (informal) the side part of a woman’s breast, as exposed by a revealing item of clothing
    • side-eye, n.: (informal , chiefly US): a sidelong glance expressing disapproval or contempt
    • smartwatch, n.: a mobile device with a touchscreen display, worn on the wrist
    • SMH, abbrev.: (informal) shaking (or shake) my head (used to express disapproval, exasperation, etc.)…
    • spit take, n.: (informal) (especially as a comic technique) an act of suddenly spitting out liquid one is drinking in response to something funny or surprising
    • subtweet, n.: (informal) (on Twitter) a post that refers to a particular user without directly mentioning them, typically as a form of furtive mockery or criticism
    • tech-savvy, n.: (informal) well informed about or proficient in the use of modern technology
    • time-poor, adj.: spending much of one’s time working or occupied…
    • throw shade, phr.: (US informal) publicly criticize or express contempt for someone
    • vape, v.: inhale and exhale the vapour produced by an electronic cigarette or similar device
    • WDYT, abbrev.: (informal) what do you think?
    • YOLO, abbrev.: (informal) you only live once (expressing the view that one should make the most of the present moment)…