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.