• David Frazier's memoir of Vietnam, "Drafted!", is multilayered - from the days of war in the 60s to return visits as a photography - and as complex as the place itself.
From local to national, to around the world. From inside the home to speculative. From fact to fiction - though we do take care about which is which.

Governmental and political activity kicked into high gear last week in Boise and in Washington. The Idaho Legislature started its annual session, and members of Congress got busy on several fronts.

On January 9 the Idaho Legislature convened for its 2017 session and began work on budget and revenue matters and on review of state regulations. The session was started, for the 11th time, by a state of the state address by Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter.

Representative Heather Scott, R-Blanchard, was removed by action of the House from the three committees to which she had been assigned, after word spread of comments she had made to another legislator.

In a joint letter led by Senator Jim Risch, the Idaho congressional delegation thanked the Department of Energy for diligently reopening the Waste Isolation Pilot Project in New Mexico, which was closed for nearly three years following a radiation incident in 2014. The delegation urged Secretary Moniz to prioritize waste coming from Idaho’s Advanced Mixed Waste Treatment Plant as DOE establishes a shipment schedule for waste going to WIPP.

The Bureau of Land Management Pocatello Field Office and U.S. Forest Service Caribou-Targhee National Forest on January 13 issued their separate records of decision for the Rasmussen Valley Mine Project to approve an open pit phosphate mine in Caribou County, Idaho. The selected alternative will preserve 1,700 jobs supported by the project and generate approximately $85 million per year for the local economy in Caribou County.

Representative Raúl Labrador on January 12 moved to relieve Idaho’s overloaded federal courts by introducing a bill authorizing a third U.S. District judge. Since 2015, Idaho has had just one full-time district court judge and the Judicial Conference of the United States has declared a judicial emergency. To fill the gap, 17 judges from other states have presided over Idaho cases in the last four years.

Idaho National Laboratory released the “INL Fiscal Year 2016 Economic Impact Summary,” which evaluates the total economic impact that INL operations have on Idaho’s economy. The report demonstrates that INL contributes a positive value of $1.9 billion to Idaho’s total economic output – an increase of 20.4 percent or nearly $324 million between 2015 and 2016.

PHOTO Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter delivers his 2017 state of the state address. Here, e recognizes Barbara Morgan, Idaho’s first medal of achievement recipient. (photo/Governor Otter)

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Those of us in the small-house publishing world spend so much time trying to disseminate writings in the form of books, to get out to the world material that would (we hope) be useful to the society at large, that we sometimes fail to stop to think about the occasions when not publishing is the right thing to do.

The Milo Yiannopoulos case gives us a good reminder that not everything ought to be published.

The news story is that Yiannopoulos has signed a book deal, for $250,000, with the New York publisher Simon & Schuster. To be more precise: Yiannopoulos (apparently) signed with one of S&S’s imprints, Threshold Editions, which handles conservative books.

This has drawn a great deal of anger, not least from book reviewers around the country and some of S&S’s own authors, at least one of whom is “rethinking” her relationship with the company.

Threshold is not the only right-leaning imprint around, and there are (famously) plenty of authors on the right who have been published without major controversy.

So why is Yiannopoulos different?

It’s a matter of degree. Bloomberg called him the “pretty, monstrous face of the alt-right”, and describes: “Yiannopoulos is the 31-year-old British tech editor and star writer for Breitbart News, where he’s the loudest defender of the new, Trump-led ultraconservatism … Yiannopoulos gained his initial fame as the general in a massive troll war over misogyny in the video game world, known as Gamergate. He was permanently banned from Twitter in July after the social media company said his almost 350,000 followers were responsible for harassing Ghostbusters star Leslie Jones. … They admire the bravado of authoritarians, especially Vladimir Putin. Some are white supremacists. Most enjoy a good conspiracy theory.”

Simply, Yiannopoulos is a conduit for hate and conflict.

Slate posted a mini-debate over the publication, and Ben Mathis-Lilley argued, “his project of mainstreaming white nationalism is one that Simon & Schuster should be embarrassed to lend its reputation to. … Yiannopoulos and his followers aren’t just kicking around Bell Curve–esque ideas as an intellectual exercise—they also fetishize Nazism, i.e., the movement that put those ideas into practice. Yiannopoulos has posted photos of himself wearing an Iron Cross and holding books about Hitler, while his fans are notorious for their use of Holocaust imagery. “Provocative” beliefs about genetics are one thing; affection for the party that used those beliefs to justify the worst genocide in the history of civilization is another.”

In today’s publishing environment, you can’t stop someone from publishing themselves. I wouldn’t deny free speech to anyone, Milo Yiannopoulos included (albeit that he represents an acid test of the idea), and he would be at liberty to sell his wares with the help of S&S or not. In fact, since his audience is relatively inelastic, he’d probably fare as well financially if he went the self-pub route.

But when it comes to provoking race hatred and divisions in our society, is there any good reason – and profits surely are not good enough – that a respected name like Simon & Schuster has to add more fuel to the fire?

We have serious problems in this county, and this particular publication decision is making them worse, not better.

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Transition week is over, as people settle back to work after the holidays – and just before the Idaho Legislature kicks into action. Which it will, on Monday.

The State Board of Education on January 4 announced the process for reviewing teacher evaluations conducted by public school district and public charter school administrators during the 2015-2016 school year.
In 2016, the Idaho legislature directed the State Board to review teacher evaluations.

State Treasurer Ron Crane, who has held that office since 1998, said last week that he would not run for a sixth term in 2018. He had been easily re-elected in recent elections, though he was pressed in his most recent amid changes about spending and fund management.

Senator Jim Risch was named chair of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship. The committee oversees the Small Business Administration, small business trade and exporting, veterans and reservist employees, women and minority entrepreneurship, among others.

Clearwater Paper Corporation has announced it has acquired Manchester Industries of Richmond, Virginia, a leading, independently-owned paperboard sales, sheeting and distribution supplier to the packaging and commercial print industries.

PHOTO The scene at Boise State University after snow fell on Boise last week. (photo/Boise State University)

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Book publishing in 2017? A little tougher, a little more challenging … but still open for opportunity for those who navigate the currents.

That’s the view from Mark Coker, founder and big cheese at Smashwords, the largest independent purveyor of eBooks. And most of it at least intuitively feels about right.

Coker, and his site, work with large masses of independent authors (and I’ve been one of them). His viewpoint does come from a specific angle, and that has to be factored in; and his take focuses (logically enough) on eBooks more than print.

Some of the big-picture points he makes are clear and sound enough. In the decade since the launch of the Kindle (and very nearly that at Smashwords too, for that matter), and the slightly longer time since print on demand has taken off, the book publishing world has changed. The word “glut” – of authors, of books – has become basic, as the sheer volume of books has complicated selling for almost everyone aside from authors with a large established audience. Moreover, because eBooks never really go out of print, the total number of books available to a reader continues to grow massively. Meanwhile, the number of readers and the number of books read has continued to grow, but by nowhere near as much.

Those basic facts lay the groundwork for, and force the response from, everything else. Overall, Coker suggests, traditional publishing continues to have a small advantage on the print side, partly because it can much more easily get books into physical retail outlets. (That’s an advantage but a far smaller one than it was a few years ago.) At the same time, indies have an edge on price and flexibility; many titles from large publishers still are priced well over $10 each, while many indie prices are at a third or less of that.

The point is coming, Coker argues also, that a number of indies will opt out, and the independent side of the trade will start to see some consolidation as bargaining positions and cost efficiencies start to come to the fore.

Coker: “In 2017 we’re likely to see increased merger and acquisition activity as large publishers, retailers, distributors and larger service providers recognize an opportunity to take advantage of the glut to strengthen their indie author portfolio and grow their businesses. If you believe as I believe that indie authors are the future of publishing, then it starts to become clear that some form of consolidation is inevitable because the business opportunity to serve readers by serving authors and readers is so enormous. Last year I predicted WattPad would be acquired. I was wrong! Or I was early.”

He also has a good deal to say about Amazon and its eBook regime, especially Kindle Select and Kindle Unlimited. My gut sense that there will be less development along these fronts in the next year than Coker projects. (And he weights his predictions with the point that he makes them more by way of starting discussions than by way of hard prognosticating.) But who knows; he’s certainly close to the game.

I get the feeling of a field changing a little less rapidly than it was in the last decade.

But then, big changes do have a way of catching you by surprise.

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It sure did fall quiet in the last couple of weeks, and that wasn’t just a result of Idaho becoming heavily snowed-in. The Christmas and New Year holidays falling on the weekend seemed to throw a big quiet on almost everyone in Idaho – at least, almost everyone public.

Idaho has the 10th lowest overall state and local tax burden in the country when compared to all other states and the District of Columbia. Idaho also has the lowest tax burden among western states when measured by the proportion of income that goes to pay for taxes. That’s according to the latest tax burden study published by the Idaho State Tax Commission.

A panel of District Judges for the Fourth Judicial District has issued a decision regarding Meridian and Garden City’s respective proposals to comply with the 1994 Order by providing magistrate facilities.

PHOTO Idaho – almost all of it – got plenty of snowfall during end-of-2016 holiday season. For a time, state police closed the whole stretch of I-84 from the Utah border to the I-86 cutoff. This image comes from Smith’s Ferry on Highway 55, on December 27. (photo/Idaho Transportation Department roadcam)

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And we’ll be back with you in the new annum.

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Anyone wondering how Ridenbaugh Press, which until now has published only nonfiction and mostly reference books, came to publish three novels by an author deceased for a dozen years, can take a look at a piece (“Passion Projects“) out today in the Spokane Inlander.

The author was not just any novelist: Syd Duncombe was a revered political science professor who deeply influenced a generation of Idaho leaders. And his books are about Idaho – and with the passage of time, look like prescient time capsules.

“What most of his friends, colleagues and former students didn’t know about Duncombe, who died in 2004, was the literary heart beating inside the man. That aspect of his life was only recently rediscovered and brought to life through the efforts of his daughter, a curious Idaho historian and a small publishing house,” the paper noted.

Read on in it for more about how all this happened, and the role of another Ridenbaugh author in serving as spark plug. – rs

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What’s the least you have to spend on electronics to produce a book?

Many writers who happen not to own the latest and greatest of personal computers ponder the question. Writers on the CreateSpace board days ago asked, “What is the cheapest laptop I can buy that will run everything I need for publishing on CreateSpace?” and “Will a chromebook do everything I need to publish in CreateSpace?”

There are benefits to spending more than the minimum if you can afford it. Faster computers with more memory will help speed the process, and the best software can be a good investment. You may have special software needs if your book is unusual in design, or relies heavily on artwork or special layout. Many people will find a new midrange Windows laptop computer, at about $300 to $700, a practical price. Bear in mind that some of the software you may need, such as Microsoft Word and anti-virus programs, could double that cost.

If this is your first book or if you’re planning complex or artistic design or layout, you’d probably be better off spending the money working with a good professional designer (thereby making use of their equipment).

Most books, including nearly all adult fiction, have simple design needs, and word processing doesn’t require much computing power.

What are the must-haves for your computer?

Get you online. It should come equipped with a web browser (like Internet Explorer or the newer Microsoft Edge, or Safari or Firefox or Chrome) to allow you to visit and interact with websites, and exchange messages including email. You need this for everything from research to most kinds of marketing, as well as transmitting your book files for production.

Produce a file in the .doc or .docx (Microsoft Word) format. Documents in this format are the preferred way to submit files for many types of e-Books (for Kindle, Apple, Nook and others) and some print books. A text saved in .doc format is the first step toward publication.

Microsoft Word will produce documents in these formats, of course. If it isn’t already there, you don’t necessarily have to shell out for a new license. Several other word processing programs will convert documents from their own format to the familiar .doc (or even .docx). If you don’t have word, you can pay a monthly fee to use Office 365, which is the Office suite (including Word) online. There’s also the simpler, and free, Googledocs, which lets you save your documents in several formats including Word. It will work for writing text, but not well enough for design.

Another free and definitely useful option is LibreOffice, which includes a batch of programs similar to Microsoft Office – and for free. For almost a decade I’ve used LibreOffice more than anything else for my writing and book work. It does most of what Microsoft Word does, and it can read Word (.doc) files and create them as well. LibreOffice works in Windows, Mac and Linux operating systems.

Produce a PDF file. You need to be able to produce PDF files – portable document files which consist of images that can be read on almost any kind of computer. Making PDF files can be a little more costly, especially if you buy the full Adobe Acrobat program (and not just their widely-used reader). Software for reading the files is available for free in all sorts of systems. For Windows, the reader produced by Adobe Acrobat is the standard. The Mac (pple) version of Microsoft Word does include a PDF converter.

There are free alternatives. LibreOffice is one of several applications that lets you create a PDF with a push of a single button. PDF files are the preferred way to submit many kinds of files, such as the interior and cover files for CreateSpace print books. And there are online PDF converters, which allow you to upload a Word file and get a PDF file in return. PDF Converter, Online2PDF and Docupub are among the more popular conversion services.

Manipulate images. If you’re starting out with your first or second book, you may simply hire a designer to help with your art work. But at some point you probably will need help with manipulating images – cropping or re-sizing them, sharpening them, adding text, or doing other things. If your needs are simple, simpler image programs can help. A downloadable free option available for nearly all computers is the Gimp Image Editor, which does much of what expensive programs like Photoshop can do.

For basic image work, you can use free online image tools. My favorite, a regular stop, is called Pixlr Express, which lets you crop, brighten, sharpen and otherwise adjust photos and other images.

Paper printing might be helpful but often not necessary. If you’ll only be needing a very limited number of copies, consider putting your file on a thumb drive and printing them at an office supply store (like Staples or Office Max) or a copy shop.

You can do all this with a small, inexpensive laptop computer. We’re not quite to the point that a smart phone could do the job, and most tablets would would not support all the software you need – standards are changing, however. Good used or refurbished laptops often can be had for little more than $100 on places like Craigslist. Get a demonstration, especially of their wifi capabilities, before buying.

What about Chromebooks? These are small, mostly inexpensive computers which rely heavily on the Chrome browsers (produced by Google), which are intended to be used mainly in connection with online sites. New Chromebooks with smaller screens often are priced below $200.

Chromebooks are unusual among laptop computers: They are designed to be used almost exclusively online.

On the CreateSpace board, one writer suggested, “you might decide that using a Chromebook to support a publishing venture is a bit like using chopsticks to eat soup. However, if you do go down this path, you will probably end up looking at rollapp.com. The people there have a business model in which they provide cloud versions of free open source software like OpenOffice, LibreOffice, Scribus, GIMP, Inkscape and Sumatra (to name a relevant few) for a small monthly charge.”

Suppose you have an empty (but functional) computer, and no software, and a very tight budget? You can – for free – load the operating system called Linux onto your computer, and it comes with word processors, browsers and many other kinds of software already loaded in. (LibreOffice, for example, is included as a standard feature in most versions of Linux.) I’ve been using Linux and its software for most of my work for more than a decade.

Getting what you need on the skimpiest of budgets can require more work, but it can certainly be done.

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And we’ll be back to you in a couple of days.

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Things are quieting down for the arrival of Christmas and New Years, but a good deal of legislation is being developed at the Statehouse.

Idaho Democratic Party Executive Director Sally Boynton Brown announced her candidacy for Democratic National Committee chair on December 16. Party officers approved a two-month leave of absence and have endorsed her candidacy.

The Pocatello City Council has put its stamp of approval on the Portneuf River Vision Study. At Thursday’s Council meeting, the council voted to approve a non-binding resolution to implement the “Vision Study’s goals and recommendations, as funding and other resources allow.” The resolution also directs Mayor Brian Blad “to establish a Portneuf River Vision Study Implementation Ad-Hoc Advisory Committee.”

The Idaho Department of Environmental Quality is seeking public comment on a draft water quality certification of the federal license issued by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for the continued operation of Idaho Power Company’s Hells Canyon Complex.

PHOTO The Australian firm Vie Active opened its down last week in Ketchum, amid some of the first strong snowfalls of the season. Employees celebrate both. (photo/White Cloud Communications)

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