I know it’s been a hell of a long time since I’ve last posted. I really, really meant to put something thoughtful and important up here on a regular basis. I really did.
Since my last post, my life has taken a spin that I could have never anticipated.
I’m not looking to air laundry in public, nor am I seeking sympathy. The only reason I am posting this after near a month of silence is that I feel some obligation to my very small group of readers/followers/online friends, and I am deathly afriad of being written off as permanently offline:
After 13 years, my wife and I are parting ways. I haven’t the heart or stomach to provide details at present. Perhaps later. If you need to know, you know where to find me.
Reading has been scant (pushing through Hunger Games, which I love), writing has not happened for close to three weeks.
I have, however, had a great time with a local group of screenwriters in a crit group that meets on a soundstage dressed to be a teenage girls bedroom. That has been a great experience, and I will share much, much more soon.
For now, I just wanted to say Hi. I’ll be back. There WILL be a sequel to Amity, and Presidius and the story of Sonny Bull will be told, in due time. I just need some time to put my life back on track and, most importantly, make sure my kids are OK (which they are…their mother and I both care a great deal about them, and they are doing just fine…no worries there).
Thanks to all of you..
The Hint Fiction anthology is out, and you can get it here…
It features ultra-discrete stories layered with subtlety and baiting by over a hundred authors, including Pulitzer winner Joyce Carol Oates, horror icon Peter Straub, and award-winning novelist Ha Jin; solid mid-listers like Joe Konrath and Jack Ketchum; and scores of emerging writers, such as Mercedes Yardley, Barry Napier, and me. It was edited by Robert Swartwood.
It’s pocket-sized, thought-provoking, inexpensive, and unlike anything you’ve ever read. You have no reason not to get a copy.
But first, lock your eyes on this swinging coin…watch as it moves side to side…side…to…side. You’re getting sleepy…sleepy…eyes heavy…eyes dry…
Also: when you hear the word “cat”, you will ask the nearest person to switch socks with you.
God, how chilling.
I’ve never read Wuthering Heights, but for some reason I remembered this song from the 80s (I had never heard Kate Bushes original but my sister drilled Pat Benatar’s version deep into my head when she was in middle school). I made the mistake of looking it up on YouTube today, and I’ve probably listened to it thirty times since noon. The lyrics are the very definition of haunting.
Now I find myself drilling through The Shipping News as fast as I can so I can read Wuthering Heights this weekend. Yeah, I’m obsessive. Good thing, too, otherwise I’d never finish writing a book.
As of tonight, I have gone through Amity a tenth time stem-to-stern, and it is officially locked for edits. There is nothing I can do at this point to improve it (for better or worse), and I think I’ve caught all of the little spelling and grammatical issues.
During my last copyedit, I put some effort into formatting as well—preparing it for ebook release. That’s been an interesting process, as there are so many different requirements for different ebook formats.
If you have an ebook reader (or plan on releasing an ebook), do yourself a favor and download Calibre. It has been very valuable. It takes your input file (HTML works best) and converts it into epub, mobi, RTF, or whatever format you need. Keep in mind that most sites like Smashwords and Amazon DTP won’t accept pre-formatted ebooks and you’ll end up uploading a .doc or .html file. And, it isn’t good for advanced editing for tables, graphics, or tables of contents. However, Calibre has served two great uses for me in marching toward self-publishing:
- You can save your book as an ebook to get an idea of what will happen to the formatting when it gets spit out of the other end of a meatgrinder. I re-formatted and saved five times before I was happy with the output.
- Reading your book all the way through as an ebook gives you a totally different dimension than reading it on paper or on-screen. I caught some editorial things that I may have missed—the look and feel is so different that it’s like reading someone else’s book, and that can help you assess it with a bit more objectivity. Of course, that requires an ereader in addition to Calibre. Something to consider.
I’ll go into some detail on the benefits on the various formats soon. I also want to spend some time dissecting the benefits and best ways to get out to the various resellers. Soon. Next week, probably.
Also: I have cover art!
**updated 10/12/10 with landscape pic at bottom**
I got my Kindle 3 on Friday. I like it.
As you may know, it doesn’t use backlighting like a computer screen or TV. The benefit is that it looks like a physical media like a book (because it basically is) and can be read in bright light. The downside is that you need good light to read, just like a physical print.
Considering that, even, the backplane (the “paper” underneath the “ink”) is darker than I expected, although the text is still pretty crisp and easy to read.
Navigation is a bit clunky, but that’s mostly a result of the fact that you’re not dealing with a PC-style display with a quick refresh and complex, aesthetic interface. Remember surfing the web around 1992, where everything was text and navigation was very cut and dry and basic? It’s like that. Here’s a better analogy: It reminds me of the navigation on a late 90s Palm Pilot: no frills, just text and click-click scrolling through options and delayed reactions to commands.
But, again, that’s because of the limitations of e-ink. If you don’t want an LCD, you pay in speed and aesthetics. And it’s really not that bad.
Page turns are slow, but still much faster than the Nook I played with last winter. Again, it’s e-ink.
It’s very small, somewhere between the size of a paperback study guide for Coriolanus my daughter got at Shakespeare camp last year, and a pamphlet called Ethical Guidelines for Nevada Politicians (although the latter contains only formatting guidelines for a shakedown letter and a yummy recipe for a gin fizz).
I tried it out with a few different formats, and learned something valuable: it doesn’t do well with static-sized documents. Which, if you’re considering your future as an ebook author, is critical.
It looks great for the native Amazon azw format (an implementation of .mobi, I believe). The text is clean, graphics, although grayscale, look fine and much sharper than older Kindles. The text–here is the important part–is interpreted, not just displayed. What that means is that the Kindle works like a web browser: it reads the text in an ebook and displays it based on the environmental variables set by the user: what size font, which font (standard, sans serif, etc), landscape/portrait, etc. The page is drawn dynamically according to those settings–which means that if on page seven you refer to “the diagram on page twenty five”, there is a good chance that said diagram does not, in fact, appear on page twenty five. It appears wherever it gets pushed based on the number of characters per page and the layout you’ve chosen.
Good part of that schema: no scrolling to read, adjustable font sizes for different readers. Bad part: you can’t refer to specific pages; also, if you use a generic mobi creator like Smashwords, you can’t create a table of contents with page numbers (mobi does support it, but it takes some work that Smashwords’ parsing engine does not support).
The K3 doesn’t fare so well with PDFs, which sucks because I have a ton of them and intended to finally get some of them read on my new toy. The problem is that the text is not parsable like a .mobi file–the Kindle treats the PDF essentially like an image, and in order to get a full PDF page on one Kindle page, the font is very small for a standard magazine/journal format. Very small. You can zoom in, but that means scrolling side to side and up and down to read which, because of the delay in drawing pages with e-ink, is not a good option. It’s distracting and basically unusable.
Even worse: I have a couple of PDFs where the publisher chose to lay it out with two pages side by side on one PDF screen. These magazines are not just hard to read, but pretty much unusable on a Kindle. They’ll probably get deleted from my hard drive before I ever read them.
The lessons here: the Kindle seems to be a pretty good device for text, but, if you’re a publisher or author, you really need to consider a parsable ebook format like .mobi or epub to make it friendly for your readers. That blows your layout and graphics out (especially for magazines), but the alternative is bypassing e-ink readers and focusing on the smaller-but-growing iPad market. Or ignoring your ebook readers entirely and missing out on that market. Or limiting yourself to people who are willing to read PDFs on their PC–a small and shrinking market, I would argue.
(Note: click through the images for larger views)
I admit it: I am a total Kindle hypocrite.
I have been tearing Kindles for months. I like the device itself, but I strongly disagree with Amazon’s implementation of DRM and their clandestine information “sharing” system, wherein they can snoop and report on your reading activities: not only what you’re reading, but how often you read, what time of day, for how long, what you highlight, and the content of notes you leave. They also, apparently, have the ability (and, buried somewhere in the EULA, the right) to remove content from your Kindle.
I think we can all agree that ebooks aren’t going away–at least not until the Palahniukian apocalypse hits and we’re hunting bison in the Walmart parking lot with clubs and pointy sticks and 17 inch CRT monitors on makeshift trebuchets. I, as I announced last week, am ready to take the ebook leap in some form or fashion (most likely in self-pub form); it would be pretty dumb, I think, to jump into those waters without having a direct, first-hand sense of what kind of critter I’m trying to work with.
So, once AMZ announced the new Kindle units and the subsequent price drop, I ordered one. It only hurt for a second.
Why not a Sony or Nook or one of the low-end Borders units? Simple: Amazon owns the publishing distribution world. Enough said. I’d love to have one of each device, and I really feel strongly about having an epub-compatible unit some time in the future, but for now, Kindle 3 and its MOBI/PDF capability is it.
And I can’t wait. It isn’t slated to ship until the end of August (I ordered the same day as the announcement and got in on the first batch), but I’m really anxious to get my sweaty mits on it. I even have some magazines picked out to convert from paper subs to auto-push electronic.
Review forthcoming. If you come to Vegas, I’ll even let you touch it.
What a lazy-ass week it’s been…the kids were visiting grandparents for a week, and I pinched a nerve in my back—the perfect storm of not-doing-shitness. And, I didn’t. Well, OK. I did stuff, but I didn’t go to the gym.
We went out to dinner several times, saw a few movies (found Girl with the Dragon Tattoo in a little theater for a buck fifty!), ogled some of the weirder things in town like the new Aria Resort and the First Friday art festival (only took us six years to get there).
Probably the most unique thing we did was saw my Twitter-friend (a strange new classification of relationship in which almost all of my human interactions now reside) Marian Call perform at a tiny hair salon cum art gallery downtown. Marian is a self-funded, unsigned (on purpose, I think) nerd-folk-jazz musician from Alaska who is touring all fifty states this year with a PA, a rain stick, an eighty year old typewriter, and her car.
To be honest, jazz/folk isn’t really my bag, daddy-o…but, I can honestly report that I loved it…really. She has an amazing voice, a tight, professional sound, and is a great songwriter. Her guitar player Scott was equally amazing, and I was a bit sad when they played their last song.
She has an entire album dedicated to Joss Whedon’s Firefly. ’nuff said.
I highly recommend you take a minute and check her schedule and see when she’s in your burg…buy her music, and give her the love that independent artists with tons of heart and grit deserve.
The WIP is still ticking along…I hit 1200 a few days, and zip other days. Zen. Enjoying it very much. But, as I write it, I keep seeing things that I should have done in Amity, which makes me question how good Amity could possibly be. I hate losing confidence in my own work, but I don’t want to release something that reeks of shite. I don’t know. I still have about fifty agent queries out, so time will tell. I may re-read it, and decide I still love it.
And speaking of geeks, I snuck in Craig Ferguson‘s auto-biography on July 4, in between a hike and watching fireworks. A quick, inspirational read…very timely read for Independence Day, as it turned out. Ferguson is, it appears, as much one of us writer-folk as he is a comedian (he has another published book, I guess). That makes him family. So, go get him a bowl of soup, for Chriminy’s sake!