Thursday, December 29, 2011

Self-publishing: Changing the channel

eBooks make self-publishing much easier. Both print and ebooks offer formatting challenges, but in the print world, the truly hard part is getting the books where readers will see them. You can use a print-on-demand (POD) service, of course, like Amazon's CreateSpace, but the problem is the books are sold only online (or by you, if you are willing to buy them and resell them) and you can't price them any cheaper than traditionally published books (often sold at a discount!) without losing money. Some day there will be POD machines in every bookstore and it might be worth it to self-publish in print, but right now it's an iffy thing.

eBooks are still iffy, of course, in that you're never guaranteed success. But the distribution channels are easier to manage with ebooks partly because all ebooks are sold online, not just self-published ebooks. Also, Amazon and Barnes & Noble both offer easy-to-use self-publishing platforms (KDP and PubIt, respectively), as does Smashwords,

Smashwords is unique (to the best of my knowledge) because it is a retailer that sells only self-published books and because it offers three major advantages over the other DIY publishing platforms,

The first is that aside from Smashwords itself, once your book is loaded there, it offers the opportunity to push it out to other retail platforms, specifically (as of now) Sony, Kobo, Barnes & Noble Nook, Amazon Kindle (although this does not seem to be fully implemented), Diesel, and Apple iBooks. It's true that Amazon is still the gorilla of ebook sales, but all the other platforms added together can make it worthwhile to pursue this option.

The second advantage of Smashwords is that, unlike KDP and PubIt, Smashwords lets you make your book free, either by offering a code for downloading or just by making the price zero. Further, once you have done that, some (but not all) of the other retailers will also make the book free.

Making a book free might not seem much of an advantage. You could post a book on your own website and make it free to download, after all. But readers troll the online stores for free ebooks, and if you have more than one book, giving one away for free can get you sales on your other books (especially if the free book is the first in a series).

The third advantage of Smashwords is they make your book available in multiple formats, without DRM. Surprisingly, that's related to the one disadvantage of Smashwords. They require a Word file be loaded that corresponds to their guidelines and then they convert that file to the other formats they offer, and this gave the writer less control over how the book looks in the downstream retail outlets. However, Smashwords recently announced they plan to start supporting ePub uploads, so that might help because the other retailers will want ePub.

Perhaps because they only sell self-published works, Smashwords actually reviews each book that is uploaded, not for editorial quality (now there's a loaded term!), but for formatting. They make the distinction of having a premium catalog, and only well-formatted books are assigned to it. Your book cannot be pushed to major retailers like iBooks unless it is in the premium catalog (some retailers also require an ISBN).

In many ways, Smashwords acts more like a publisher than the other platforms; when they push books to other retailers, their name appears as the publisher of those books.

In the eight months since I started publishing, the one platform that has been a total disappointment has been PubIt; unlike Amazon, I don't think Barnes & Noble treats self-published books the same as traditionally published books. Ergo, I recently decided to pull my books from PubIt and use Smashwords to sell on Barnes & Noble. This will provide me considerably less swift feedback on any sales, but I would rather have slower feedback and more sales. I'll post about the results of this experiment after a while, but I'm not taking the books down from PubIt until Smashwords has shipped them to Barnes & Nobles, so that might be a few weeks.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

A Merry Christmas to all!

I recently read an interesting article that said by coincidence, when Charles Dickens was a boy, England had a string of really cold winters and more snow than usual. Ergo, when writing his nostalgic novella A Christmas Carol, he gave Scrooge and the Cratchits a white Christmas.  In actuality, London doesn't get that much snow and has only had snow on the ground for Christmas seven times since 1900.

Well, the story has ghosts, too, so I think we can safely call it a fantasy in more ways than one. Maybe that's why I love Dickens' story of Scrooge and his redemption? In fact, I aced this quiz on it. I got 10 out of 10!  See how you do!

And have yourself a Merry little Christmas!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Death Comes to Pemberley: a review

Death Comes to Pemberley, by P.D. James
Hardcover: 291 pages; also available as an ebook
Publisher: Knopf

It takes a certain amount of chutzpah to write a sequel to one of the most well known and well-loved novels of the English language. Pride and Prejudice probably has more TV and movie adaptions than any novel except perhaps Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley (I'm talking through my hat here. I haven't actually counted). In written form, P&P also has numerous sequels, prequels, alternate tellings, and mash-ups.

As you might infer from the title, Death Comes to Pemberley is a murder mystery. From reading the blurb on Amazon, I thought it was Mr. Wickham who was murdered, but in fact he is more suspect than victim. I was disappointed, as I had thought he would get his just deserts. Well, he does suffer, but not nearly enough for me. And when it comes to murder mysteries, P.D. James knows her stuff.  I thought I had caught on to the true motive, but I was a bit off.

It turns out Baroness James also does a pretty good job with early 19th century English. That, of course, is the true test for the writer. Austen wrote P&P as a contemporary novel, but since she died in 1817, that gives you a sense of how far back in time James had to look. On the whole, DCtP does very well at keeping the reader in the early 19th century, with narrative like this:
The entertainment and seasonal diversions of country living are neither as numerous nor enticing as to make the social obligations of a great house a matter of indifference to those neighbours qualified to benefit from them . . .

A couple of times, I thought she slipped just a tad, as when Darcy says he needs to "make sure Bingley is fully in the picture. . ." and when a magistrate says, "The constables will need blankets, and some food and drink to see them through—cold meats, bread, the usual.” The phrases make sure, fully in the picture and the usual struck me as too modern for the time. Mind you, I don't know that they are, but they sound wrong to me.

On the other hand, this passage, where Elizabeth Darcy (nee Bennett) is recalling that phase of her husband's courtship where she abruptly changes her mind about him impressed me as being on target and rather clever:
If this were fiction, could even the most brilliant novelist contrive to make credible so short a period in which pride had been subdued and prejudice overcome?
She even worked in the title of the original novel! There were several places where it was almost as if she were channeling Austen, as when she describes Mr. Collins' letter to Elizabeth:
He began by stating that he could find no words to express his shock and abhorrence, and then proceeded to find a great number, few of them appropriate and none of them helpful.
It's apparent, too, that James has done her research about the times. At one point, in order not to disturb Darcy's sleep, the servants wrapped chunks of coal in paper before putting them in the fire, so that they would burn with less noise. I have read a fair amount of historical fiction, but I had never heard that,

When the story begins, it's about six years after the Darcys' and the Bingleys' marriages, and both Elizabeth and Jane have children. I was pleased that James didn't feel compelled to tinker with circumstances too much. She did marry off Mary Bennett, who is little seen in this novel, but appears to be happy as a clergyman's wife.  The only unmarried Bennett sister still at home (and happy to be there, in full possession of her parents' time and attention) is Kitty.

If I have a complaint about the book, it's that I knew the original novel well enough not to need the retelling of the P&P backstory that James felt compelled to include. I thought it slowed things down too much, and considering the book was written in the style of the 19th century, that made it darned slow in places. On the other hand, I can see why James didn't want to exclude from her audience people who either never read the book, or haven't read it recently.  I also agree with a few commenters I saw on Amazon who complained the ending felt a little rushed. It did seem to me James might have spent a bit more "ink" in the ending.

If I were giving out stars, I would say 4 out of 5. An excellent job on copying a master, and an enjoyable mystery, too.

Addendum for Kindle owners: I read (naturally) the Kindle version. The formatting was excellent.

Friday, December 16, 2011

One thing Amazon needs to do . . .

My family is a multi-Kindle family. My husband and I each have a "real" (e-ink) Kindle and we each use a Kindle app. He has an iPad and I occasionally use the app on my Android phone. My dad has one of our old Kindles, so we're bumping up against the six-device limit that Amazon allows on one account.

That's not really the problem. The problem is that Amazon makes your latest (most recently purchased) Kindle into the default for your account, the one new purchases will go to unless you change the setting before you click the buy button. There doesn't seem to be any way to change the default Kindle! I really think they need to let you click the buy button and then make you select a Kindle to send the book to.

I keep sending books to the wrong place! It doesn't cost me any money, but at different points in time, my husband and my dad have both gotten books I know they don't want. I have two good friends who write romance, and I can tell you neither guy is interested in their books.

So Amazon, listen up! Change the buy button so if you have more than one device registered, it makes you pick a Kindle after you buy!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Never wish an author many happy returns

It's going out of style, but it used to be that on your birthday, your friends would wish you "many happy returns of the day." I assume that means many more birthdays, but I confess I'm not sure, as I've never heard that phrase used for anything else but birthday greetings.

Returns in the print book world are a bad thing. If a bookstore doesn't sell all the copies it has of a given book after a specific amount of time, the bookstore can return those copies to the publisher for full credit. Supposedly, this practice started during the Great Depression, when bookstores were reluctant to buy stock if they were stuck with it for good because almost no one had any money. The practice of allowing returns is still with us, and it's one reason why it's hard to make money publishing books. But in general, the concept of returns doesn't apply where ebooks are concerned. The beauty of "digital stock" is that it's delivered when it's ordered by replicating a single copy.

However, in a click-to-order world, it is possible to buy something by mistake. And most vendors will accept the customer's word and refund their money if they report a mistake. The Kindle Direct Platform lets authors see right away when then sell a book, but it also shows when a book is returned. It just happened to me! Usually the "Units Refunded" column is zero, but this month someone returned a copy of No Safe Haven.  I can't imagine why! -)

Actually, this is a pretty rare event because ebook vendors allow downloading a free sample before you buy the book, so generally, people who buy a book want that book.  But now I can tell that return is going to eat at me.

Look before you click, people!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Why an ereader is a great tool for a book reveiwer

I've started reading Death Comes to Pemberley, and I'm enjoying it so far, but one thing I had decided before I started reading was that I would most likely post a review of it. With that in mind, I have been using the Kindle's annotation and highlight features, two very handy things if you plan to review a book, and with the Kindle Touch, very easy to use.

To create an annotation, you simply press your finger to the screen where you want to annotate and hold it there for a second or two. You will get a menu showing the definition of the word you touched and menu buttons to create a highlight or a note. Once you press "Note," the on-screen keyboard appears and you can type whatever text you like and then save it.  In the book it appears rather like a footnote, but with the number in a box

For a highlight, unless you want to highlight a single word, you press the screen on the first word and after half a second, you move your finger to the right and then down. When you reach the end of the area you want to highlight, remove your finger from the screen, it will ask if you wanted to create a note or a highlight (or to share via social networking).

Notes and highlights can be read and reviewed from within the book itself using the Kindle's menu, but for writing a review, one reason they are a real boon is that they are also available on the web as part of your Amazon account.  You go to the special Kindle area of Amazon, login to your account,  and click "Your Highlights" to see them, in chronological order, most recent book first.  From there you can copy and paste directly into the review. It's a wonderful function!

I know a lot of other ereaders and ereader apps offer annotation and highlighting (iBooks even does different colors), but I am not clear on whether they offer web access to just the highlights and annotations. If anyone out there knows, feel free to chime !

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Did you know Kindles can be rebooted?

I had to do a house call for some Kindle support yesterday. All my friends know I go way back with the Kindle (the Kindle Touch is my fourth Kindle; I have had every model except the DX and the new bare-bones Kindle, which some folks are calling the Kindle 4) and they often ask me for advice on what to buy and how to do things on the Kindle.

Anyway, my friend had had her Kindle 3 for almost two years and had had no problems, but she said suddenly it wasn't charging. She was about to go on a bus trip, so she had plugged it in to be sure it was fully charged, and the little yellow charging light did not come on. When I went over there, I discovered the Kindle was in sleep mode, and would not come out of sleep mode. I plugged my own charger in to be sure my friend's charger wasn't the problem, and still no yellow light.

I suggested rebooting it, and discovered she didn't know Kindles could be rebooted. eInk ereaders are very easy to use, and pretty much single purpose-built— reading— but they are basically very simple computers with operating systems. Kindles run under a Linux operating system, and truly geeky types have even hacked them to do other computing tasks not sanctioned by Amazon.

The Kindle 1 was rebooted by sticking the end of paper clip (or something similar) into a small hole on the back, but ever since the Kindle 2, this function has been accomplished via the power switch. On the K2 and the K3, you slide the power switch to one side, but on the K4 and the KT, you press it. To reboot, you simply slide or press and hold the power switch in place for about 15 seconds, and then release it. It can take a few seconds to see a response, but the screen will go blank and then you'll see the entire screen become the Kindle logo (someone reading under a tree) with a progress bar that advances as the reboot progresses.

In my friend's case, once her Kindle 3 was rebooted successively, the yellow light came on, and a minute later it turned green, which told me that the device had in fact, been recharging all along, but because it was hung, the light had not come on.

My friend was good to go and all set for her bus trip.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Thoughts on Hugo (the movie)

Okay, there's this kid who lives in the walls of a big train station in Paris in the 1920's (or it night be 1930's). And there's this old guy who keeps a toy shop in the train station.  That's how the movies Hugo starts, but really, it's not what the movie is about. I knew this movie was made from a heavily-illustrated kid's book called The Invention of Hugo Cabret, by Brian Selznick, but what I didn't understand until I saw it, was why Martin Scorsese would want to direct a movie made from that book.

The reason (I think) is because this is a movie about movies, about why people make them and why people go to them. What director wouldn't want to make that movie?

But it's a lovely story, beautifully told, and it would be especially nice to see with kids, because it's also about families and why we all need them.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Cyber Monday/Holiday special!

Just in time for Cyber Monday, a free ebook sale! The Sixth Discipline is now free in iBooks and free in Sony ebookstore.  No Safe Haven, the sequel to the first book, is now on sale for only 99¢ in iBooks and Sony ebookstore.  This sale will last through the end of the year, so get them now!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Kindle connectivity: 3G or not 3G, that is the question!

Wireless delivery is one of the two features that made the Kindle take off. The Sony Reader was first to the marketplace with some very nice e-ink hardware, but you had to a) download the books to the PC, b) connect the Reader to the computer with a cable, and then c) copy the books to the Reader. With a Kindle, you didn't even have to own a computer, let alone do a, b, and c. Add in Amazon's ebook selection and you have the secret of the Kindle's early success.

As a long time Kindle owner, I often get asked by folks looking to buy a Kindle or a Nook, "Do I really need the 3G option or can I get by with just wifi?" I got my brand new Kindle Touch with 3G because once you have had it, there's no going back. I compare it to an ice maker; once you have one, you're not filling those little trays yourself. But wifi actually offers superior speed. "Book in 60 seconds?" With wifi, it's more like 6 seconds. Wifi use also drains the battery less than 3G.

The problem with wifi is, it's not everywhere. Or in some cases, it's there but it won't work. My Kindle can connect to the wide open network maintained by the retail establishments near where I work, but it won't connect to the secure network provided by the company I work for. I've also had problems with not being able to connect to some hotel networks, even after trying every setting on the security-type options. Fortunately, I had 3G to fall back on.

Questions for potential ereader buyers:

  1. Do you have wifi at home? If not, I would go with the 3G right there. What's the use of having an ereader if you can't download the next book in the series while sitting in bed at midnight?
  2. How geeky are you?  If you know enough to recognize that WEP and WPA are types of wifi security, you will probably be okay with tinkering with the Kindle's wifi settings and can get by without 3G.
  3. How much do you travel?  If you're buying a Kindle to save packing books, the 3G is a safer bet.  If you don't travel often, and plan to read mostly at home with your own wifi available, you will probably be okay without 3G.

An important note: With the Kindle Keyboard, you can use 3G to browse the web. It is clunky as all get out, but you can do it.  With the Kindle Touch, using 3G to connect to the web allows only limited access; you can shop at Amazon, including downloading books you buy from them, and read Wikipedia, but you can't browse the wide-open web. That's because Amazon doesn't charge for 3G access, except when you use it to email documents (including non-Amazon ebooks) to your Kindle.  In those instances, you pay a per megabyte fee (I believe its 15¢/MB). Otherwise, the only charge for 3G is the initial increased cost for the device itself. I'm sure that since the touch screen makes browsing the web so much easier, Amazon doesn't want to rack up a huge bill for 3G use that doesn't get them anything.  If you want an ereader that's also a 3G web browser, you will have to settle for a Kindle Keyboard.

Also note that the new Kindle Fire does not come with 3G at all, so if you opt for the Fire, you forgo the 3G as well as the e-ink.

It may seem confusing, but really it's great to have options. eReaders are like pantyhose; one size does not fit all!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Remembering Anne McCaffrey

It's being widely reported that Anne McCaffrey has passed away at the age of 85. She was a wonderful writer and storyteller.  Her Pern books fired a lot of young people's imaginations. They could be read as fantasy or as science fiction, while The Ship Who Sang was pure science fiction and made a wonderful comment about the kind of connections two humans can make. Speculative fiction is not a huge genre. Even the big name writers usually go to a convention or two every year, which is one reason cons are a lot like family reunions. In our little family, she will be missed.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Using Collections on the Kindle Touch

The Kindle has had the "Collections" feature for a while, but frankly it was much more cumbersome to use on the Kindle Keyboard (K3) than on the new Kindle Touch (KT).  Collections are a very useful feature when you have hundreds of ebooks on your device.  Some people call them folders, but they're more like Labels in GMail. With a folder, you pick one place to put the book, whereas with a label, you can apply as many labels as you like to a book. This is great because you can a) label multi-genre books with as many genres as needed, and b) apply additional sorting schemes, like "To be read" or "Favorites."

I had already set up a bunch of collections on my K3. Collections are device-specific, but Amazon lets you import them from one device to another.  As their directions specify, it's important that you first put the already-labeled books onto the device before you import the collections.  Otherwise the books won't have labels when you bring them over later,

My collections had gotten very out of date because it was a more work to add books to a collection on the K3, using the 5-way controller to move the cursor.  Most of my newer books had no labels. Ergo, after I had imported all the books I wanted onto the KT, I imported my K3 collections and then went through and edited them to add books.  This is so easy on the KT! You simply:

  1. Sort the home screen by collections (I am not positive, but I think you need at least one collection on the device for this to be an option).
  2. Press the collection you want for about two seconds; this gives you a menu that lets you select "Add books."
  3. This will then list all your books; you can change the sort order by tapping the current sort order ("by title" or "most recent" or "by author"), just like you do on a normal home screen.  I recommend By Author when labeling by genre, as authors tend to write in one genre and it makes selecting all their books easier.
  4. There will be a small box on the right side of the screen which will have a check mark for all books labelled with that collection (The collection name appears at the top, in case you get confused). 
  5. Tap the box to add or delete a label for that collection.
  6. Navigation is just like the home screen; finger swipe up and down to advance or tap the page number at the top right to specify a page to jump to. 
  7. Use the "Done" button  to store changes to that collection.

A nice sort of safety net is to sort the home screen by collections and scroll to the end.  Any unlabeled items (i.e., items not in at least one collection) appear by title after the last collection.  Tapping a collection name opens that collection and displays a list of only those books.

I know some folks who only keep the books they're reading on their device. I know Amazon keeps everything in an archive, but for me, half the appeal of an ereader is having my library in my purse. The collections are now a very easy way to impose order on that library.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Kindle Touch: A Quick Review

So far I love the Kindle Touch! The on-screen keyboard is very easy to use, much better than the Kindle physical keyboard, especially the one on the K3, which has no number row (that's why my old one in the picture above has stickers above the letters). Typing on the KT is very like using the iPad keyboard where you have a letters-only keyboard and a numbers and punctuation keyboard, and tapping the same key toggles from one to the other. You tap the shift key before pressing a letter to upper case, and that makes the display of the letters change to upper case, which is really nice.

One-handed reading is very easy! Paging forward and back works from a single tap on the left or right side of the screen, or you can finger swipe across the page. I had to ask on the Kindle forums to find out how to jump forward and backward a chapter at time, but it's very easy; you just swipe up and down instead of horizontally.

Text-to-speech sounds exactly the same, but once you turn it on, a menu for it stays on the screen so it is dead easy to pause, change the gender of the voice or the reading speed, or exit.

The book menu has a font key, but you can also use pinch and zoom gestures while you're reading a book to make text larger or smaller. This works in the browser, too, although the browser itself only works in WiFi mode (except for reading Wikipedia).

And really, the thing is just so pretty! As you can see in the photo, the KT is not really that much smaller than the K3, but it seems so much more compact and easier to hold.  The screen savers are lovely! I did not get the ad-laden version and now I am especially glad. The screen savers are images that could be photographs or line drawings but most of them picture either writing or instruments for writing— pens, pencils, calligraphy brush strokes, and cold type.

I told my husband that he's now the proud owner of a Kindle Keyboard, because I'm keeping this one!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Holiday sale for two science fiction novels!

It's not quite Thanksgiving but already there are Christmas decorations and geegaws in the stores, so I am starting my holiday sale. From now until the end of the year, I am making The Sixth Discipline a free ebook on Smashwords, and I am pricing No Safe Haven at only 99¢. The newest book Tribes will stay at $2.99 for now, although it will go on sale some time in the new year.

I believe this price change will be pushed through to other platforms such as iBooks and Sony sometime soon, but I am not sure how long it takes.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Death Comes to Pemberley is coming to my Kindle!

I am a big Jane Austen fan, and also a fan of the mysteries by P.D.  James, so I was really happy to see that this book, Death Comes to Pemberleywas coming out on December 6, 2011.

There have been countless sequels, prequels, alternate tellings and mash-ups of the work of Jane Austen in general, and Pride and Prejudice in particular, but I am looking forward to this one for a couple of reasons. For one thing, the murder victim is Lizzie's nefarious brother-in-law, Mr. Wickham. Talk about just deserts!  For another, I think James' style should adapt well to the formality of Austen's period. And frankly, I think Austen's work better suited to mystery adaptions than to horror. I confess I never read Pride and Prejudice and Zombiesit has zero appeal to me.  Mary Robinette Kowal's Shades of Milk and Honey worked well as a regency-era fantasy, but then it wasn't a mash-up because the entire plot was original (and it was fantasy, not horror).

Thanks to the pre-order button, I can sit back and relax and know DCtP will arrive as soon it is available. Although come to think of it, I will need to remind myself to be sure I turn the wireless on. I kind of wish there was a way to turn on wifi access separate from 3G so I could leave it on without killing the battery, but right now if a 3G-enabled Kindle doesn't find a network it knows, it will connect with 3G.  And since this date is well after my new Kindle Touch will ship, I will be reading Death Comes to Pemberley on that!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Review: Speculation

Speculation by Edmund Jorgensen

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is mystery of sorts-- no murder, but a disappearance-- and of course the big mystery of "what's in the envelope?" It's also got some of the "why are we here?" sort of questions in it. The protagonist is a professor of philosophy, so it's no surprise that a lot of the dialog focuses on philosophical questions like "Is there a God and can you prove he exists?"

The characters are very well drawn, each with backstory and motivations of his/her own. I especially loved the old lady who lived alone and narrated everything she did. She wasn't a major character but she illustrated how well the author did at creating three dimensional characters.

I really liked the cover, too. But I won't reveal the ending. That would ruin everything!

View all my reviews

Saturday, October 29, 2011

World Fantasy Convention 2011, San Diego, CA

Speaking of conventions, the World Fantasy Convention is happening right now in San Diego, CA. WFC is a fun but low key convention with an emphasis on books and short fiction, no movies or TV.  In a way, it's a secret; although the name includes the word fantasy, tons of science fiction writers come to it, too. In fact, the attendance (in terms of percentage) of writers, editors, and agents is higher than any other con except maybe ReaderCon.

WFC is almost the only convention that caps membership. This year the combination of the headliners (including Neil Gaiman and Connie Willis) and the location made the con sell out months ago. Next year it's in Toronto; if you're interested, be sure to buy the membership early. You can sell it if you change your mind or can't make it.

If you're interested in what's going on in WFC now, check Twitter and use the hash tag #wfc2011. Some folks are also using #wfc by itself, so you can check that out, too.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Another nice review for No Safe Haven

Over on the SFBooks review blog, reviewer Anthony gave No Safe Haven 3 stars.  He noted the multi-threaded plot, and the emphasis on family, and he liked the ending.

Be sure to check out SFBooks! Anthony does a wonderful job presenting information.  His indexes by genre are really nice and they even show the book covers.  He reviews traditionally published books along with self published books, and indexes not only by genre and title but by author and publisher.

Addendum: The Ides of October sale has come and gone, and No Safe Haven is now back up to $2.99. The price change should kick in momentarily on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords.

Friday, October 14, 2011


Science fiction has a long history of fan involvement in the genre. Every weekend in the year there is at least one convetion of science ficiton and fanasy fans somewhere in the US. I live in the Washington, DC area and we have our own local convention called Capclave (from Capital Conclave) that happens every October somewhere in the DC suburbs. This year it starts today, in Gaithersburg, at the Hilton Washington DC North/Gaithersburg.

We also have Balticon, which, not surprisingly, is in Baltimore, although really it's north of Baltimore at the Marriott Hunt Valley Inn, and it's always on Memorial Day Weekend.  Further north, if you feel like driving, is Philcon (now in Cherry Hill, NJ) which happens in November, and this year they're celebrating their 75th anniversary.  Further south and much newer is RavenCon, in Richmond, VA (or its suburbs), which happens in April. 

Cons are fun. Usually one or more writers are invited to be Guests of Honor (GoH); sometimes there are also editor, artist, and fan GoH's. Local writers (and some not so local) and fans attend, with some of them serving on panels in which topics are discussed (e.g., Why do so many adults read YA fiction?  What is the appeal of steampunk and will it last as a subgenre?  What is the "new weird" and is it still new?).  Folks who buy a membership can attend panels, shop in the dealers room (which always has books and often has jewelry, craft items, costumes, clothes, etc.), see the art show (if the con is big enough to have one), and hang out in the con suite where free sodas and nibbles are provided. 

There are cons with a wider scope, too, like Worldcon, Dragoncon, and World Fantasy Con (not that big attendance-wise, but that's on purpose). Dragoncon is always in Atlanta but the others move around and can even be out of the US. There's also ComicCon, which started as being just for comic book fans and morphed into a huge media extravaganza with TV and movie stars and crowds so enormous sometimes you can barely move. There are now ComicCons in different cities, but I don't really consider them science fiction cons. 

There are movie and TV-based cons as well as literary cons. If you've never been to a con, and you think you might be interested, visit this list to find a con  near you!

Breaking news! Between when I started this post and when I finished, it was announced that Sir Terry Pratchett will make a surprise appearance tomorrow at Capclave! Quite a coup for a small local con!  If you're in the DC area, be there!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Amazon to the digital reading marketplace: Bring it!

I've had a few days to take in the new line of Kindles, including the Fire, and I have to say I am impressed at how well Amazon has covered the market.

First, an explanation of "special offers," Amazon-speak for ads. All e-ink Kindles can be bought for $40 or $50 cheaper if you get them with ads in place of the usual screen savers of author portraits and line drawings. If you buy a KSO (Kindle with Special Offers), you are also sent emails offering other deals at special prices.  These are most often merchandise unrelated to books, like vacuum cleaners or small appliances. On new Kindles, the home screen (i.e., the list of books on the Kindle) also has the same ad as a small banner at the bottom of the screen.

First in the new Kindle line-up is the bare-bones entry-level Kindle, which sells for $79 with special offers and $109 without. It has wifi but no 3G option, and it has no keyboard and no touch screen. To type anything, you press a "keyboard" key that displays the alphabet on the screen and then lets you move the cursor  to the letter you want. Cumbersome, to say the least!  But if you buy mostly from the web store  and not the Kindle itself, you don't need to annotate or search books, or have them read aloud, it's a great deal. You can still get library books, and the screen is exactly the same size as the other e-ink Kindles.  Plus, it's very light weight. Unlike the Touch models, this one has already shipped, and I found an in-depth review of it here.

Next up is Kindle Touch, which is available in multiple configurations: as a KSO and not, and also as wifi-only or wifi and 3G.  It starts at an incredible $99 for the KSO wifi-only model and goes up to $189 for the no-ads wifi and 3G model. the touch-screen is infrared (IR) not capacitive (like the iPad), but it is said to be very responsive. This has everything the previous Kindle 3 had (now called the Kindle Keyboard) except for the clunky keyboard and the side buttons for turning "pages." It also offers something new called X-Ray, which appears to be a way to easily search inside books for references to characters or events. I'm not entirely certain how that will work.

And last up in the new line-up is the Kindle Fire, which is really a 7" Android tablet running the Kindle app, but Amazon wants to call it a Kindle (which is the same thing Barnes & Noble did with their Nook and Nook Color). It has wifi but no 3G and sells for $199. I find it interesting that there is no KSO version, and also no 3G version. I'm sure one reason there is no 3G yet is that Amazon could not offer it for free; tablet users would use a lot more bandwidth than any e-ink Kindle user, and Amazon could not absorb that cost and make money. In fact, rumor is they're losing money with the $199 price point as it is. But I think that price was set as the one they could make money at if they sell enough of them.

So, here we are. All these models have come out in the same month Amazon announced Kindle library book borrowing. In addition, Amazon is still selling the keyboard models. In having so many model, and pricing the new Kindles so aggressively (even selling the AC adapter plug separately, so they could cut the price of the Kindles) Amazon has said, basically, that they intend to dominate the digital reading market. They're saying to Apple, and Sony, and Barnes and Noble, "Bring it on!"

It worked on me. I have ordered a Kindle Touch 3G with no ads (If I am going to sell my soul to Amazon, I want more than $60 for it).  My one worry is that it won't be as easy to read one-handed as it is with my K3, but if that proves problematic, I will give it to my husband and take back the K3 he is about to inherit.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

New Kindles!

I don't usually post twice in one day, but then Amazon doesn't usually launch so many new products on one day! If you check out Amazon's main page,  you will see they now offer not only the promised Android color tablet/ereader, but a new bare-bones (no way to type easily) $79 e-ink Kindle, an e-ink Kindle Touch (touchscreen, naturally, with wfi connectivity) and aTouch 3G (wifi and 3G).  The tablet is named the Kindle Fire which doesn't strike me as a good name (competitors will try to put the Fire out) and it looks very nice but I am an e-ink fan, and I just pre-ordered the Kindle Touch 3G because once you have 3G it's hard to give it up.

It should come at the end of November.  I'll post about it when it comes. My one concern is will I be able to read one-handed as I do with my K3 (now named Kindle Keyboard!).

A lovely review for The Sixth Discipline

Canadian reviewer and blogger Ren has posted a delightful review of The Sixth Discipline.  She gave it 4.5 stars (out of 5) and mentioned the world-building in particular.  Ren blogs about movies and life in general if you want to check her out. She has three different blogs and she writes fiction, too, so she is a busy person up there in Canada.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Manning the barricades of the digital revolution

The thing about the book industry is, it was always a little behind the times. It was years after writers started using word processing software before publishers would accept electronic manuscripts, because their systems were not adaptable for anything except keyed input. As this post by industry expert Mike Shatzkin makes clear, the ebook revolution gained traction four years ago, with the introduction of the Kindle, the first device that made it easy to buy an ebook because it a) offered wireless delivery and b) was linked to Amazon's sizable online ebookstore.  

Previously, ebooks suffered from the chicken-and-the-egg syndrome: publishers would not invest in digital transformation of books because there was not a sizable base of people with ereaders to buy them; at the same time, there was not a huge market for ereaders because there weren't that many ebooks available to read on them. Amazon provided for both sides of that equation and ebooks started to explode as a market.  Four years ago they were less than 1% of book sales. Now, Amazon sells more Kindle books than hardback or paperback books. Some publishers have already passed the 20% mark in revenue coming from digital books. 

The speed that this has happened has been phenomenal, especially for an industry that was used to change coming at a glacial pace. The nature of ebooks as cheap, easy, and quick to produce (from a technical standpoint) means that almost anyone can be a publisher.  The lines are blurring as self-published authors hire their own editors, agents publish books, and retailers set up publishing imprints. It's enough to make anyone's head spin. 

When it comes to book publishing, the times they are a-changing, and change means opportunity for good as well as bad. Unless you happen to own a bricks-and-mortar bookstore, it's an exciting time.  If you do own a bricks-and-mortar store, I suggest you have a website, hook up with Google ebooks, and concentrate on providing a book-lovers experience that online retailers can't provide, like signings, book club meetings, and even a coffee shop. 


Friday, September 23, 2011

Baltimore Book Festival

Mother Nature sure showed Baltimore who is in charge! When she wants to rain in torrents, she does, without regard to the size or the outdoor nature of the Book Festival.

I was amazed the “Which eReader is Right for You?” panel got as good a turnout as it did; I certainly had fun, and I met some nice people.  If you are coming to this page from what I said there, looking for ereader info, be sure to click the eBooks & eReaders tab at the top of the page.  Interestingly, our panel of five writers had two Nook owners (both original Nooks), two Kindle owners (a Kindle 2 and a Kindle 3), and one Sony owner who mostly reads on her iPad/phone. From what I have read, those are not typical statistics, but then again, the sample was pretty small.

I was also surprised by how much of the book festival wasn't about books. Ikea had a booth, as did several banks and telecommunications companies. But the Maryland Romance Writers tent was centrally placed, well organized, and equipped with microphones and speakers. The tent itself had a few small holes and gaps in the roof, so the organizers had to spread tarps over the electronic stuff. We still heard some popping noises that didn't sound good at all, and one mic stopped working.  MRW members deserve some credit for sticking with it in the face of daunting weather.

The festival continues throughout the weekend. It's in a neat part of Baltimore, right around the tall column that is Baltimore's version of the Washington Monument.  There's a public parking garage nearby, but do bring an umbrella, just in case.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Cover art

A recent Facebook post by Pyr Books editor and art director Lou Anders reminds authors that when they post their cover art, they should credit the artist. He's exactly right, so I made a point to change the images on my main page to include the artist's name beneath the covers.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Kindle library books are in beta!

According to the Digital Reader blog, Amazon is beta testing library book on the Kindle! This is exciting news.  Amazon had promised they would support library ebook lending on the Kindle by the end of the year, and this suggests they will make it.

Update: Kindle library lending is here!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Great site for Kindle owners/readers!

If you use a Kindle or a Kindle app to read ebooks, you might be interested to know about a very useful free resource on the web.  It's called, and it's main purpose is to alert you when a book either becomes available on the Kindle, or when it's price drops to a point that you specify. It's a great idea, because price is more dynamic for ebooks than for print books. If publishers are smart, they drop the price of an ebook when a cheaper version of the print book comes out. Publishers will also run sales as promotions, and this is one way to get alerted if you're interested in specific books but don't want to pay the current price.

You need to set your region/country but then you can sign up for your own custom notices for the books you're interested in. You'l get email if the book drops enough in price.

They also have a link for Kindle books that publishers offer free as a promotion, and links to browse books recently added to the Kindle store or newly reduced in price.   It's a great site for Kindle readers.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

No Safe Haven is on sale for 99¢!

In honor of the launch of Tribes, I made The Sixth Discipline free on Smashwords for the past month.  Now that I am making that book 99¢ again, I decided to also make No Safe Haven cost only 99¢ on all three platforms,on KindleNook, and Smashwords. I don't have a way to directly change the price on iBooks, so it still costs $2.99 there.

This sale only lasts until the Ides of October, a.k.a., October 15.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Tribes has an Amazon review already!

The reviewer gave it 5 out of 5 stars!  Even better, she said she stayed up until 3:30 am reading the book because she had to know how it came out. There is nothing a writer likes to hear more than that!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Sixth Discipline is free on Smashwords!

To celebrate the launch of Tribes, I have made The Sixth Discipline free on Smashwords. I set the price at $0.0 and it will stay that was for the next two weeks.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Sixth Discipline is on YouTube!

Writer/book reviewer/blogger Coral Russell whose blog is called The Alchemy of Scrawl posted a very brief YouTube video where she read aloud her review of The Sixth Discipline! How cool is that?

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Making edits now

I am making my final corrections in the ePub file for Tribes.  As soon as I get those to the conversion house, if should be just a few days until I can upload a file to Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Now you can “Look Inside” Kindle books!

Amazon has implemented its Look Inside functionality for Kindle books. That means when you look at the product page for, say, The Sixth Discipline, you can read the beginning of the book without needing to download the sample. The same is true for No Safe Haven, of course.

I'm sure it's no accident that this feature was added just as Amazon launched its Cloud Reader function. It helps considerably in overcoming the lack of a buy button in the Kindle for iPad app. If you're using an iPad, you can get to Amazon with a browser, use Look Inside to see if you want the book, buy it, and then start reading it.  In fact, since the Look Inside chunk appears to match the free sample chunk exactly (except that it has no cover), you could say Look Inside for Kindle books is really just Cloud Reader for the Free Sample.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Blog update

In case you hadn't noticed, I added a tab for eBooks & eReaders. There is some very basic info there, aimed mostly at folks who aren't familiar with ebooks at all. Of course, from time to time, I will also post about developments in digital publishing and digital reading (especially when one of my ebooks comes out).

But check out the ebooks tab if you want some links to other good sources on the web.

Friday, August 12, 2011

I'm now on Shelfari!

One of the social networking sites dedicated to readers and book-lovers is called Shelfari. I recently joined it, and added myself as a Shelfari author.  You can see my profile here.

I am already on Goodreads and LibraryThing, but one reason I bothered to join Shelfari is that it is owned by Amazon; when authors add info to their books (i.e., books they wrote)— like characters' names, story setting, and such— on Shelfari, Amazon creates a link to the Shelfari info on the book description page on Amazon.  This gives authors a chance to get more info about their books to potential readers. Plus, Shelfari is one more group of people who love to read, and I am all about readers.

Check out the Book Extras section on the Amazon page for The Sixth Discipline and you'll see the link to Shelfari.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

eReader Panel at the Baltimore Book Festival

If you are in the Baltimore area, and you have any interest in ereaders, I will be at the Baltimore Book Festival on Friday, September 23, participating in a panel, sponsored by the Maryland Romance Writers, on "Which E-Reader is Right For You?"  The panel starts at 1:00. Details are here.

I'll post a reminder when it's closer to that date.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Tribes is on its way!

The edited manuscript for Tribes is at the conversion house and should be back the last week in August.  Depending on how long the final proof takes, it should be on all ebook platforms by the first week in September.

See the top right corner of this page for the cover of Tribes.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

The Sixth Discipline got its first review on Smashwords!

A Smashwords customer gave The Sixth Discipline four stars and said some nice things about it in this brief but still quite nice review!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

A nice review for No Safe Haven

So far all my reviews have been for The Sixth Discipline, but since the Books and Things reviewer showed an interest  I sent him the sequel, and he has posted this lovely review of No Safe Haven.

Here's a quote I copied to the Amazon page for the book:

“The suspense, political intrigue and excitement around this plotline had me unable to put the book down for very long. The other plotlines were enjoyable as well and I was specifically happy to see that the major open plotline from the first book was closed down to a rather satisfactory ending.”
I'm so happy he liked it!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

A reminder about the Hugos

Attention! The deadline for voting in the Hugos using the online ballot is July 31. If you are either an attending or a supporting a member of Renovation, you get a vote to say which short story, novelette, novella, novel, editor, movie, etc. should win a Hugo. In fact, you get a Voter Reading Packet that lets you read virtually all the nominated prose for free (well, free in the sense that it doesn't cost extra; you do have to buy a membership/.

I downloaded my packet a while ago and I'm frantically trying to finish reading everything. Well, not really every novel. If I didn't like it, I just stopped reading. Otherwise I wouldn't have time for the shorter works.  But I plan to have at least assessed everything before I cast my ballot.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Kindle tips: putting non-Amazon ebooks on your Kindle

I was showing a friend how to put non-Amazon books on her Kindle, and she said to me, “You should teach a class!” Well, I don't think I need to do that; but just in case other folks out there don't know about it, I wanted to pass on this tip. Some people think if you buy a Kindle, you can only buy books from Amazon. That's not actually true, or perhaps I should say, it's only partly true.

Books from iBooks, Sony, or Nook ebookstores generally have proprietary DRM (digital rights management software) that allows the book to be read only on a specific device or app that is linked to that bookstore. Books from those vendors are also in ePub format (a standard format, but not supported by Kindles), as are many of the free books on the web. A great source for free, non-DRM, out-of-copyright books is Project Gutenburg, which offers ebooks in different formats. If an epub book doesn't have DRM, you can easily convert it to the Kindle format using Calibre, free ebook conversion and management software (they do rely on donations, so consider making one if you use it and like it). Calibre can convert ebooks to and from Mobi (Kindle), epub, RTF, PDF and other formats.

There are a few ebookstores that sell ebooks in Kindle format but without DRM, and these books are perfectly compatible with any Kindle. Two excellent examples are Smashwords and O'Reilly. Smashwords is an enormous ebookstore that sells nonfiction and fiction ebooks in pretty much every format, even PDF and plain text. O'Reilly sells technical books, and they also offer multiple formats, and a daily ebook deal. These vendors generally offer books in Kindle format, so you don't have to convert them. With Smashwords, you will need to download the file to your computer and then move it to your Kindle. O'Reilly offers an email option for Method 2, described below.

Moving files to a Kindle: Method 1
One way to do this it to download the book, and then connect the Kindle to the PC/Mac with the USB cable, and then drag the file into the Documents folder on the Kindle. The file extension should be either azw, mobi., or prc for the file to appear as a Kindle book when you open it on the Kindle. This method does not require wireless access and doesn't incur any charge from Amazon.

Moving files to a Kindle: Method 2
The second method is simpler but does require a one-time set-up step; you can email documents to your Kindle. The first thing to do is to go to the Manage My Kindle page, accessible from your Amazon My Account page, and whitelist your email address, and any other email address that you want to be ale to send books to your Kindle.  Every Kindle has its own email address, and to prevent it from getting spam, only email from addresses you have authorized will be accepted by your Kindle. So, first find your Kindle address by clicking Manage Your Devices on your Kindle page, left column, and make a note of it.

Next, whitelist the email address(es) you will use to send documents to your Kindle by clicking  Personal Document Settings and using the link for add a new approved email address.  If you buy books from O'Reilly or  any other vendor that offers non-DRMed Kindle format ebooks and email delivery, you can add their email addresses and send books you buy from those vendors directly from their website without downloading first.

Once you have done that set-up step, you can send any file with a mobi or prc extension to your Kindle by creating an email, addressing it to your Kindle, and then attaching the file. You can also send personal documents (plain text or MS Word files) and PDFs using the same email method. If you have a PDF you want Amazon to convert to a Kindle book (don't expect it to be perfect), you must put the word ‘convert’ (and only that word) in the subject line of the message; if you don't, Amazon will load the book to your Kindle as a PDF and you won't be able to change the font size.

Once caveat to the email delivery is that if you use a 3G connection to deliver the book, Amazon will charge you 15¢ per MB for each file. There is no charge if you use wifi to send the books or other documents, regardless of file size.

Free Books!
One reason I want to be sure Kindle owners know about this feature is that it is much easier to make a book free in Smashwords than on Kindle. Even when Amazon price-matches (which they usually do only if they notice the book is free on Barnes & Noble), they only make the book free in the US Kindle store (as they did with The Sixth Discipline). Folks who are not in the US who want to take advantage of a book promotion can get it in Kindle format from Smashwords and send it to their Kindles. Just be aware that Amazon's tools, like the home screen display and the Manage Your Kindle settings, will treat any book you didn't buy from Amazon as a ‘personal document’ rather than as a book. If you filter your home page to show "Books only," ebooks you got from non-Amazon sources will not show up.

Note: Here's a more recent post on the same topic. And the most recent post on emailing to your Kindle! (Amazon changed some screens)

Friday, July 15, 2011

SF Books reviews The Sixth Discipline

The SFBook Reviews blog has posted a review of The Sixth Discipline.  Reviewer Anthony's post reveals the story and characterization didn't resonate that much with him, but it's not a cruel or dismissive review. Even if the book didn't work that well for him overall, he did like the mix of fantasy and technology, and he thought the ending was satisfying.

This is a very well organized review blog, by the way. The books are indexed by author, title, and genre, which is a very nice feature if you like to browse older reviews. There's also a link for free ebooks.  Always a good thing!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Ouch! JA Gill did NOT like The Sixth Discipline

The Sixth Discipline launched at the end of March and since then I have been sending out review copies to lots and lots of review sites. It takes a while for reviewers to get to it, because they all have back logs, but reviews have started to come in. Some have been better than others, of course. There was one that liked the story but not my writing and one that liked my writing but not the story. Today I got a review that didn't like either, and in a big way, too. JA Gill posted a review on Big Al's Books and Pals that was completely dismissive of the story, the characters, and my style (the kindest phrase in the review called my prose “competent, clear, and bland”). Of course, JK Rowling also got dissed, so I shouldn't feel too bad. Also, the review confuses the Fifth Discipline with the Sixth, so it's not perfect either.

Big Al himself is much less inclined to snark; in fact he's famous for having kept his cool when an author went off the rails about a very balanced review (read the 309 comments and you'll see what I mean). I urge you to check out his site if you're at all interested in book reviews of self-published books. He doesn't confine the blog to any one genre so there is something for everyone.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Going mental in ebooks

I have been struggling with a problem unique to digital publishing. In print publishing, you have more control over the appearance of the page. In ebooks, there is no page, and the same book can appear differently on different ebook platforms. All ereaders let the reader change the text size, and some let him change the font (typeface). On some ereaders, particularly the Kindle, italic and bold text are not as noticeable as they appear in print.

This isn't that much of a problem in the average novel. Italic isn't used that often, and usually it's only one or two words. Bold is rarely used. But in spec fic, you sometimes have situations not found in non-genre fiction. My next novel Tribes, for example, has a plot point that involves technology creating a way to communicate telepathically. This results in “dialog” that's not really dialog. This is text that needs to look different on the screen.

I tried sending draft files to my Kindle with this text in bold and in italic and neither was distinct enough. Eventually, I concluded the only thing to do was to set that text off with a character not usually found in fiction, perhaps [square brackets] or {curly brackets}. I lean toward square brackets because I think the curly brackets look too geeky, but I'm wavering.

Once I decide, I'll be almost ready to send the files off to the conversion house. The cover is taking shape, but I asked for once last tweak, so I'm waiting on that. I'm excited!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

A very nice review for The Sixth Disicpline

The Books and Things blog has posted a lovely review of The Sixth Discipline. This reviewer noted the romantic elements but said he considered it more of a science fiction adventure with romantic overtones (more of what I was going for, certainly!). He called the story "interesting and imaginative" and said that he enjoyed the writing style.

He also wants to read the sequel, which is the best thing any reader or reviewer can say.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Another review for The Sixth Discipline

The Android Dreamer blog posted an interesting review of The Sixth Discipline. Writer/blogger/editor Matt Heckler rated it as B- because it was too much of a romance for him, but he thought it was very well done. In fact, he said he was “thoroughly impressed with the quality of writing.” Hard to complain about that!

The Android Dreamer blog focuses on reviews of science fiction books, both traditional and self-published, and a few interviews, and it's very nicely organized. Check it out!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Another guest blog post

Today I am guest blogging over at the Kindle Obsessed site, which features reviews, interviews, and articles about all things Kindle, including (naturally) ebooks!  My post is about why there are so many errors in ebooks, and you should check it out if you are interested.

While you are there, you can check out some of the other posts and even read some book reviews if you're interested in finding something new to read.

Monday, June 27, 2011

A very mixed review

Well, The Sixth Discipline got a new review, but it wasn't quite the rave an author hopes for. The Sift Reviews site gave it three out of five stars, which doesn't bother me—much—as they're pretty tough graders, but I do wish I knew what things the reviewer saw as grammatical errors. Still, they liked the characters and the story line. Check out Sift Reviews  if you're interested in self-published spec fic.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Totally unrelated but too cute not to pass on

We humans tend to think we're unique in the animal kingdom, and in some ways we are.  But this video of an otter juggling a rock shows that we're not the only animal that gets bored and looks for ways to amuse ourselves. Aside from that, it is cute as all get out. Who doesn't love otters?

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Tribes is taking shape

I got Tribes back from the copyeditor and I'm making my revisions now.  I hate that part of the process!  The thing is, the copyeditor points out things that aren't clear or plot points that seem inconsistent.  It's a lot like having a physical; just because it's good for you doesn't make it fun.

The cover is by a different artist, and that's taking longer than expected, so it's not a problem that it's taking me so long to get through the manuscript. But in a few weeks, I hope to post a link for a new book.  This one is not in any way connected to the Haven stories except that it's in the same universe.  But unlike Haven, the colony on Mariposa has been rediscovered by the outside universe.  And since Mariposa was founded by violent criminals, the world has some interesting customs.

For Hob, the protagonist, the problem is that when your tribe is everything, having no tribe means you have nothing.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

No Safe Haven was listed in Locus Online!

I don't know why they didn't list The Sixth Discipline— possibly it was published too early in the year— but Locus, the trade magazine for speculative fiction, did list No Safe Haven as part of their new feature that lists novels published as ebooks. The listing very nicely does include the fact that the book is a sequel to The Sixth Discipline, and it has the Amazon link for that book, too, which is great.

If you have recently published a novel that is either science ficiton, fantasy, or horror, you can let Locus Online know by sending email to Please note that they want books that are only available in ebook form rather than those that are also printed.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Snark Down Under

The Sydney Morning Herald has a blog post that irked me. The author of the post "A Tale of Two Books" is John Birmingham, an Australian writer who has published a variety of books, including techno-thrillers and science fiction.  He appears to be the Herald's resident geek, but he writes this post as the expert on book publishing. He begins by lauding his editors, who spend months getting his books into a fit state to be published; he then states that this process is why books cannot be expected to cost only 99¢. His explanation for why there are so many self-published ebooks that cost 99¢?

"The reason? They were unpublishable. Their books were so bad that even the best editors could make nothing of them."
This strikes me as more than a tad judgmental. He is assuming a) that all self-published ebooks priced at 99¢ are self-published only after having been rejected by every editor in the book biz, and b) that they are all rejected for the same reason. 

This is simply not so. I am not saying that there are not thousands of self-published ebooks that are terrible, I'm saying this guy can't know what he's talking about because he assumes uniformity where none exists. Self-published books may have a higher rate of bad writing than traditionally published books, but they are not all at the same level, anymore than traditionally published books are. 

Nor do editors always reject books only because they think they are badly written. Book editors buy what they think will sell.  Award winning writer Ursula K LeGuin has kindly published the rejection letter she got when her agent submitted The Left Hand of Darkness. Clearly, that editor did not think the book would sell (it won the Hugo and the Nebula and it's still in print after 40 years!). 

Birmingham also pays no attention to the postings of Joe Konrath and other writers about how they have experimented with the prices of their books and found they often make more money with lower priced books than with higher priced books.

So, color me snarky. This guy ticked me off!

Friday, June 3, 2011

I published a very, very short story!

Author S. J. Rozan, who writes the wonderful Lydia Chin/Bill Smith mysteries has a feature on her website called Six Word Stories, based on the Hemingway premise that it only takes six words to tell a story.  His famous example is “For sale: Baby shoes. Never worn.”  

Check out this entry and note the author's name!  Okay, now that you've read mine, you can check out some of the other ones. They vary as to focus/genre, but they all highlight that brevity does work well in delivering a punch.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

In case you haven't noticed. . .

I have revamped this website! I added some tabs so the information you might need to find, like how to contact me, or the links for my books. I am still learning what the software can do, so I may tweak the design even more, especially after I publish more books.

Meanwhile, have a look around. Make yourself at home!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

A whole crop of new eReaders!

Barnes & Noble just announced a new touch-screen e-ink Nook ereader with a Pearl screen for only $139. In an amazing coincidence, that's the same price as a wi-fi-only Kindle, unless you get the cheaper one with ads.  Ooops! I mean the one with special offers. -)

The new Nook looks pretty cool! And now they are claiming superior battery life over the Kindle. No mention of how it competes with Sony Reader Touch, who now has the dubious distinction of being almost $100 more expensive than the new Nook for what looks like the same features.

And then there's the Kobo touch screen  which Border will sell in the US for $129. It's like ereaders are coming out of the woodwork.

Personally, I'm not that enamored of touch screens in an ereader.  One of things I like about the Kindle is the one-handed reading, which, with the cat in my lap (see his photo in the right-hand column) is all I can manage.  I can hold the Kindle in my right hand and press the Next Page button with my thumb with no problem. That works while standing on the subway, too. I have used my husband's iPad to read, and while the color screen is fabulous for short term reading, I get tired of needing two hands to read.

But the best thing about new ereaders is it shows companies like Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Kobo are invested in digital reading.  Remember it's not printing that makes a book; it's the story that counts. And ereaders mean that reading is now more convenient, which will (hopefully) mean that people do it more often. 

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

I am now a GoodReads author

You can find my GoodReads page here. I have 162 books listed as read so far. Feel free to check them out and compare them to your own.

Monday, May 23, 2011


Over on the Mental Geysers blog, blogger/editor Kae Cheatham posted a great review of The Sixth Discipline. Here's a quote:

"All the characters are sharply drawn and believable, from the dock-side workers who become Ran-Del's friends, to Ran-Del's grandmother who is unsure of the very modern Francesca. The final resolutions include Sansoussy rituals and political maneuvering in Shangri-la. Tension is high and the outcome satisfactory. A good read (great cover, too)"

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Some Kindle tips

If anyone out there has a Kindle (the actual device, as opposed to using the Kindle app on something like a PC or an iPad), the Dear Author blog is mostly about romance books, but because romance readers were ebook and ereader pioneers, it's also a good source of info on those topics. Today's post is a list of useful Kindle tips. There are more tips in the comments, too.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Another guest blog post

This week I am featured on fantasy/chick lit author Mindy Klasky's blog. Her recurring feature (an illustration of how kind writers can be to each other) is called Inside Track, and this week it covers how I came to write The Sixth Discipline.

Mindy has featured a lot of interesting authors, and besides that, she always has something interesting to say!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

I am guest blogging!

Go here to my friend Stephanie Draven's blog to see the post. It's mostly about my favorite topic, ebooks!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

I am on LibraryThing

In case you aren't familiar with it, LibraryThing is a social networking site for book lovers. I have recently joined as a member and also added myself as an author.

Social networking for book lovers is a good way to find new books by seeing what people who own the same books are reading. Two other sites in addition to LibraryThing are GoodReads and Shelfari. Check them out to see if one would be right for you!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Library ebooks come to the Kindle!

In the past, when people asked my advice about what ereader to get, I always asked them where did they plan/want to get the books? If they said they wanted to borrow library books, I told them, “Don't buy a Kindle.” Unlike other ereaders, such as the Sony, Nook, and Kobo, the Kindle didn't support borrowing library books. Quite frankly, I thought Jeff Bezos had no interest in helping people borrow books; he wants to sell them books.

Well, I'm pretty sure he still wants to sell books, but Amazon has recently announced that by the end of this year they will support borrowing library ebooks on the Kindle through OverDrive, the primary US provider or ebooks for libraries. This move pretty much shoots down the main argument for not buying a Kindle, as least in the US.

After I got over the shock, I started thinking about how it would work. Some folks who perused the notice on the Overdrive site noted that they were advising librarians that they would not have to re-buy the ebooks; their existing collections could be loaned to Kindle owners. Now, since Kindle's format (and pretty much only the Kindle's) for ebooks is based on Mobi, and not ePub, that suggested that Amazon planned to make the Kindle support ePub.

I don't think so. I think Amazon plans to clone the workflow they used to put user-to-user Kindle borrowing in place. Here's how that works:

If I have a friend named Sue, and she loans me a Kindle book (assuming she can find one that the publisher hasn't turned off borrowing on), she initiates the loan from her Amazon web page. She provides my email address, and once I accept the loan, I have to provide an email address that is linked to a Kindle or Kindle app. At that point in time, Amazon sends the book to my Kindle, and they send Sue's Kindle a message that basically deletes that book from her Kindle (it looks like it's still there because the title still appears on the home screen, with an “on loan” notation, but it's not really there). Amazon doesn't somehow send me Sue's copy of the file, they send me a copy from their servers, just like they do when I buy a book. Once the two-week loan period is up, my Kindle gets a seek-and-destroy file that deletes the borrowed book. To get it back on her Kindle again, Sue has to reload the book from her archive. She doesn't have to delete the entry that says “on loan,” but it won't go away until she does.

Once they have everything set up with Overdrive, I think Amazon will actually initiate the loan, and send the book to the user's Kindle. If they can do that, then they will actually have wireless delivery of library books, which no one else has; right now a library borrower has to download to PC and copy the file over via a USB cable. It's possible that Amazon will require that, too, especially since only the Kindle 3 has wifi, and Amazon would have to pay for the wireless charges. But who knows? Maybe they could allow for wifi delviery of library books to the Kindle 3's out there. They are already offering to let you highlight and annotate the library book, and they say they will keep those annotations and if you later buy the book, voila! They will be part of the book again. In order to do that, I think the book on the Kindle has to be standard Mobi/prc format.

What I'm not sure of is how Amazon will make money from this. It's possible they have a deal with Overdrive— who has now expanded their potential client list exponentially— to get a small cut when a book is loaned. But I can be pretty sure that Jeff Bezos didn't cut this deal from the goodness of his heart. He may be more reader-friendly than say, Steve “Nobody Reads Anymore” Jobs, but he is still a businessman and he is out to make money.

But I think it's a good thing for libraries and for readers and, in the long run, for authors. I already bought one book because I didn't finish it before the loan period was up. I'm sure I'm not the only one who has done that.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Sixth Discipline Got Its First Review!

The Sixth Discipline got a review on Amazon! The reviewer gave it four stars and wrote a very lengthy and in-depth write-up! You can read it here if you're interested!