Saturday, December 29, 2012

My Christmas present to myself

I love my new Paperwhite Kindle! The screen is so fantastic, it's a joy to read on it in any light. When I bought it a few months ago, instead of buying the fancy leather cover, I got a simple slipcase, that was much cheaper, because I figured now that the device itself had its own light, it didn't need the fancy cover. Previous Kindle models solved the problem of the need for light by offering a cover with a light in the top, that the Kindle fit into snugly; this allowed the light to run off the Kindle's battery. It was convenient, but getting the Kindle in and out of the case was a pain, so mostly I read with the Kindle in its case even when I didn't need the built-in light.

One reason I got the slipcase cover was so I could read with just the device in my hand; that lets me take advantage of how incredibly light the Paperwhite is, compared to my old Kindle Touch in its case with the built-in light. And then Amazon sent me a coupon offering 40% off on selected Kindle accessories, and one of them was the Paperwhite magnetic case (sadly, only in black). It was such a good deal, I figured it was time to see if the case was worth the added weight,

It so is! When you open the magnetic case, the Kindle comes awake instantly! It feels more like reading an actual electronic book when the Kindle lights up as soon as you open the cover. Ditto when you finish reading, all you have to do is close the case.  The only downside is, that if you want to take the Paperwhite out of the magnetic case, it is almost as difficult as it was to get the Touch out of the lighted case.

Now if they could just make a dual screen version, it would look a lot the the readers in some of my novels.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas from me to you! (another free ebook!)

Assuming Amazon doesn't goof (again), as of Wednesday, December 26, The Nostalgia Gambit should be free in the US Kindle store and also in the UK Kindle store, the Canadian Kindle store, and the German, French, Spanish, Italian, Japanese, and Brazilian Kindle stores.  This is a KDP Select promotion, which means it can be international in scale (there are now a lot of Kindle stores) but will be of limited duration. At present, I don't anticipate making this book free after Thursday, December 27.

Hope you had a good holiday, and if you got a Kindle or a tablet for Christmas, have a book on me!

Monday, December 17, 2012

King of Trees coming next year!

I'm still proofing my converted file for the Kindle version of King of Trees.  I don't expect to have it for sale in the Kindle store until some time in January.  Even writers have to take holidays!

This book is a departure for me, an alternate history where England is called Albion and Druids still hold sway.  In this world, the New World was never conquered by Europeans—although the Roman tried their best. The hero is a man named Bardolph Patrickson, a blacksmith who supports his mother and younger sister. Bardolph also happens to be King of Albion, and when his country is attacked, he has stoke his forge and answer duty's call.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

The Nostalgia Gambit is live on Amazon!

My newest book The Nostalgia Gambit is now for sale (or for borrow if you have Amazon Prime and a Kindle or a Kindle Fire) in the Kindle store!

I don't have time for a long post but here's the (updated) blurb:

Tychon Damiano was minding his own business when disaster struck. Of course, since his business was buying and selling stolen goods, disaster was not entirely unexpected. What was unexpected was a wanted felon waking up in a palace full of servants and high tech gadgets, including a virtual girlfriend. It's all very pleasant except for one little problem:  Ty can't leave. 

Just about the time he discovers that a real woman is vastly superior to the virtual kind, some truly alarming nightmares start to haunt his sleep. Ty learns to play chess from a master, but one thing he's never sure of is, exactly what game is he in? 

Monday, December 3, 2012

One and a half down!

I turned in the m.s. for King of Trees to the conversion house, and I got back the finished files for The Nostalgia Gambit. With so much going on, I could say that now I'm cooking with gas, which would be especially apt because our kitchen reno is done and we are, in fact, quite literally cooking with gas!

TNG should be in the Kindle store before the week is out; KoT will take a few weeks, because there is always a correction step to check for last minute errors and conversion problems.  Meanwhile, here is the cover for King of Trees.

Monday, November 26, 2012

One down, one to go

Okay, the corrections have been made to the converted file for The Nostalgia Gambit. Now I need to finish evaluating the copyeditor's comments and make her suggested edits to King of Trees.

Once I get a final pass version of TNG, I will load it into Amazon's Kindle Direct Platform. That usually takes a matter of minutes, once I have a corrected file.

Oops, just realized I also need to write the "back cover" blurb.  Even though ebooks don't have a cover, they still need a description.

It will probably be January before King of Trees comes out.  Once we get into the holiday season, everything slows down.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

That's strange . . .

According to my Blogger stats, someone found my blog by searching for the phrase "The Nostalgia Gambit." The weird thing is, my book by that title isn't out yet, and I don't think there is another book by that name. Which makes me wonder how someone knew about the book if they didn't already know about my blog?

Or maybe another author out there is thinking of using that name for his or her new book?  Hmm.

Monday, November 19, 2012

The Nostalgia Gambit is on my Kindle!

Of course, it's only the proof copy. I loaded the version that 52Novels sent me onto my Kindle so I could  do one last final proof, especially to check for conversion errors, which fortunately, are usually very rare. Once I send them my corrections, it should not take long before I will get back a file I can load into KDP.

I will be launching this on KDP Select, so it won't be on other platforms for a few months.

Almost there!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Going a little crazy here

I feel like a juggler who has launched one ball too many into the air. The main level of my house is being renovated, so we're camping out in the basement for several weeks. We're using a picnic cooler as a desk/coffee table, and I'm making the copyeditor's revisions to King of Trees while crouched over my laptop.

At the same time, I'm waiting for the converted file for the The Nostalgia Gambit and the final cover for King of Trees. As soon as I get TNG back, I need to load it onto my Kindle for final proofing; the conversion is generally very smooth, but sometimes quote marks don't convert correctly or it turns out there was weird stuff in the Word file that came through in the epub/Kindle versions.

And, of course, with home renovation, things never go as smoothly as you had hoped. Do the words "termite damage" and "rotten floor joist" sound as scary to you as they did to me?

At least tomorrow the floors should be done, and we will be able to bring the cat home from kitty jail. Now if I can just keep him from walking on my keyboard . . .

Friday, November 9, 2012

The Nostalgia Gambit is out for conversion!

Final edits are done, the ISBN has been assigned, the cover is complete, and I have sent it off for conversion. Now to get going on King of Trees, which is right behind TNG. KoT is back from the copyeditor and I need to start going over her comments/suggestions/corrections.  I will post the cover for that one soon, too,

All this in spite of suffering through a major home renovation and Hurricane Sandy, too! Luckily, Sandy didn't affect my area too badly. I feel so bad for the folks in New York and New Jersey.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Status on The Nostalgia Gambit

The manuscript is still at the proof reader's but it's due at the conversion house next week. It usually takes them anywhere from four to 10 days to give me the file back. Then I have to load it onto my Kindle and do one last proof. Their conversion is usually excellent except for occasional problems with quotation marks or places in the text where there's special formatting.

After I give them the corrected HTML files, it usually takes only a few days to get the corrected Kindle and epub format files back. I plan to launch the book as a KDP Select book, which means that it will be only on Amazon for three months. Amazon only takes a day or so to load a book via KDP, which means the book could be in the Kindle store before December 1.

I'll post a link and add it to the Books page as soon as it's for sale.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

My review of the Kindle Paperwhite

I've had the Paperwhite for several days now. I got the 3G model, but of course the first thing I did was connect to my home network. It was pretty easy to set it up, and the bunch of books I had already sent to the Paperwhite downloaded quickly.  I've read on it for a fair bit now, and I'm ready to say what I like and what I don't.

The Good

  • The screen: It's fantastic! It really is a noticeably better level of contrast, blacker letters on a whiter page. Black and white photos and drawings look especially crisp and nice. The Paperwhite screen is also more responsive, because it's capacitive instead of infrared, I find that the number of times I advance a page without meaning to is much less than with the Touch. 
  • The built-in light: It provides excellent, easy to control, pretty even lighting, and it doesn't seem to drain the battery, either.
  • The feel: The Paperwhite is so small and light! I am happy I got a slip case so I can easily take the Kindle out of it and read with just the device in my hand. It makes one-handed reading easier.
  • The screen savers: The screen savers (unless you have a KSO* version) are the same as for the Touch, and I was happy not to lose them.
  • The Home screen:  The Paperwhite has the option of displaying book covers instead of just titles and authors. As long as it's an option, I'm OK with that. It's nice to have when you want it, but I won't always want to waste that much screen real estate on book covers.  

The Bad 

  • No text-to-speech (TTS) or speakers or a headphone jack. Frowny face over that one.
  • Ads on the home screen! I did not get a KSO version, but when I have the home screen set to display book covers, it will list a row of books on my Kindle, and then a row of "Editor's Picks," a.k.a. books or Kindle Singles that Amazon wants me to buy. In other words, I'm seeing freakin' ads! Cut it out, Amazon! They might be great books, but they're still books I don't own and you want to sell me. When I want to shop, I'll shop. Luckily, the ads don't show after page 1, or if you're using List mode. Addendum: Amazon now allows you to turn this off! Yay!
  • No Home button. The Touch had one physical button (beside the off switch) and that was the button on the bottom of the bezel that you could press from anywhere and it would take you to your Home screen. Now I have to get the menu, and then press the Home icon.  It's not terrible, but it's not as easy.
  • No page swipe up and down for next chapter/last chapter. Why the hell did they take this feature away? It was a wonderful way to browse an ebook. I don't care that all the chapter headings are now on the Go To menu, why can't I browse without getting a menu every time? 

The Undecided

  • Collections: I haven't imported my collections to this Kindle yet, because I don't have all the books I want copied over yet. Kindle collections are device-specific; if I import my Kindle Touch collections now, it will apply those labels to the books currently on the Paperwhite, but if I send over more books from my Archive (now called The Cloud), then they won't keep the labels they had on the Touch on them when they arrive on the Paperwhite.  Once I get everything set up, I will import my collections and see how it goes. If collections are raddically differnt on the Paperwhite than they are on the Touch, I might do a post on just collections. 
  • The timer: The Paperwhite alerts you to how much longer it will take you to finish reading a chapter and even how long for he book as a whole. I haven't decided yet it that's annoying or useful. 
  • Airplane mode: Having the wireless off is now referred to as Airplane mode. You even get a little icon of an airplane on the status bar to show you airplane mode is on (and ergo, wireless is off). Maybe it's to encourage the FAA to let people keep their Kindles on during take-off; otherwise, I don't get why they changed the wording of a feature the Kindle has had since Day 1. they also moved the function to the settings menu, so that's an extra step as well as a weird name.

All in all, I love my new Paperwhite. I have had the original Kindle, the Kindle 2, the Kindle 3 (now known as the Kindle Keyboard), and the Kindle Touch. Each new device has offered improvements, but this is the first time when it has felt like there really is not that much to improve, at least in the hardware (except for TTS).

If I were posting this on Amazon, I would have to give it five out of five stars.

* KSO is Kindle with special offers, a cheaper version that shows ads as screen savers and on the home screen.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

I finished the copy edits on The Nostalgia Gambit!

I finished editing The Nostalgia Gambit, based on the marked-up copy provided by my copyeditor. I'm pretty happy with the way it came out. I have the cover, and I have the ISBNs. Now, as soon as the proof reader is done, the book can go off to the conversion house.

And then, of course, I'll have to proof again on the Kindle (my new Paperwhite arrived!) and make any last minute fixes. Once I have a corrected mobi/prc file, I will load it to KDP Select. I don't plan to leave the book in KDP more than one 90-day cycle, but I will use the free days promo feature of KDP Select to get a head start on selling.

In three months when the KDP Select period is over, it will be the middle of February or so, and I am hoping by then Smashwords will finally be able to accept epub files! That will make offering the book in other stores not only simpler, but also mean the version pushed out from Smashwords to other retailers will look much better.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Why I don't write time travel stories

This article in The Guardian about the last episode of Dr. Who is a good example of why I don't write time travel stories. If you have not seen this episode and plan to watch it, stop reading now, because major spoilers are involved! Ditto for reading the article, by the way.

Okay, for those not worried about spoilers, companions Rory and Amy Pond end up in the recent past, in New York City where the Weeping Angels are causing havoc in the space time continuum to such as extent that the Doctor declares he can never go back there to that time again. When Rory and Amy get sucked back to NYC's past at the end, they become stranded. The Doctor flies off in the Tardis without them. What the Guardian article shows is an alternate ending where Brian, Rory's wonderful father, meets his grandson, who shows up on his doorstep (actually Rory and Amy's doorstep) as a grown man and hands Brian a letter explaining that Rory and Amy were trapped in the past and could never get back, but they wanted him to know they had a good life and by the way, shake hands with your grandson.

The article wonders why the ending wasn't filmed, as it would have provided some wonderful moments for the actor who plays Brian, and also some closure on the Ponds as companions. I think that's one reason why it wasn't filmed!  Time travel stories don't have closure because the writers always want to leave a loophole to change things. Suppose Rory and Amy move to London and wait a few years.  Could the Doctor come back for them then? What if more angels were to show up and suck them farther back in time?  Could the Doctor rescue them then? Without closure, the dramatic present is still wide open, and I think the writers prefer it that way.

But not me. That kind of plot loophole just makes my brain hurt.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Did Smashwords update all the big retailers at once?

I haven't been checking sales reports on Smashwords lately, so I don't know if they did them all on one day or three days in a row, but there are now new sales reported for Sony, Apple iBooks, and Barnes & Noble. I did best on iBooks as usual, with Barnes & Noble next and Sony last.

As on Amazon. No Safe Haven is selling the best, but Shades of Empire isn't that far behind it. Also, I have more sales in the US than anywhere else. I wish I knew how The Sixth Discipline (free book!) was doing on all those platforms but B&N is the only one that lists numbers for free books (except maybe Sony, and I haven't got a free book with them yet).

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Amazon to me: We've got good news and bad news

Last week Amazon sent me an email that my Kindle Paperwhite would be a week late. Today they sent me an email that they would issue me a $10 credit on my Amazon account to make up for the inconvenience. Considering they're selling the thing on a very slender (or possibly even nonexistent) profit margin, I call that pretty nice.

I don't say I wouldn't rather have the Paperwhite on time, but if I can't have that then I'll take it late with a consolation prize.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Shades of Empire is finally in the Sony Reader store!

At last! The Sixth Discipline still might not be free, but at least Shades of Empire is finally for sale in the Sony Reader store!

Sony is the last holdout. Every other retailer (or e-tailer as some like to say) has The Sixth Discipline free except for Sony. The interesting thing is that it's not consistent. Sony had Where Magic Rules up ages ago, but Shades took much longer.

Oh, well! At least there is hope.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Just for fun

Today's Goodle doodle is a clever  fun tribute to Little Nemo in Slumberland, a comic strip by Winsor McKay. The doodle is very clever and starts with a frame that includes a sort of bell pull in the lower right corner, that the viewer can click to start the next sequence of events in the story.

Check it out!

Friday, October 12, 2012

I'm guest blogging today!

I have a post on The Serious Reader blog today! It's all about what causes the many errors we (sadly) still find in ebooks. The site also has lots of reviews as well as my post. Check it out!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The Nostalgia Gambit is back from the copyeditor's!

I just got the marked up manuscript for The Nostalgia Gambit back from my copyeditor. Now I have to go through the pages and either make the changes or (in some cases) argue about them.

After that. it will be one final proofing on my Kindle, and then off to the conversion house!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Book cover test

Below is the cover* of one of my two upcoming novels. One of the nice things about self-publishing is, the writer gets to pick the cover artist, and also to approve the cover. Of course, the writer also gets to pay the cover artist, but at least I was really happy with the way this cover came out.

If anyone out there feels like leaving a comment, tell me what you think this book is about, based on this cover. Feel free to be as vague or as specific as you like!  I'd be really curious to see if this cover conveys the concept of the story as well as I think it does.  In fact, if there's more than one guess, I'll give the person who is closest a free copy of the ebook when it's ready.

* cover artist is Monica Jorgensen

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Get your free short story here!

I added a page to the blog called Free Story! And if you click on that page, it will (no surprise ) tell you how to get a free story.  This particular story is a fantasy I wrote, a sort of riff on Sleeping Beauty but instead of sleeping, my beauty is weaving— on a loom, not weaving through traffic or falling down drunk or anything like that.

This is an actual short story, not a novella like Where Magic Rules, so instead of selling it, I'm offering to send the story for free to anyone who asks for it.

Click the Free Story tab for the details.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

The Sixth Discipline is free on Kobo!

I didn't think Kobo price-matched for books that are free, but apparently they do because The Sixth Discipline is now FREE on Kobo!  I updated the Free eBook page (see tab above right) to include it. That means the book is now free almost everywhere!

Kindle (US only)
Nook (Barnes & Noble)

The only exception is the Sony ebookstore, which seems to take forever to change anything (and they still don't have my fifth book Shades of Empire, either!).

Friday, September 28, 2012

Welcome to the future!

One thing you come to understand over time is, you're basically turning into your parents. I used to get “letters” from my mother that were just envelopes full of newspaper clippings. Whenever she saw a story that she thought someone would be interested in, Mom would clip it from the paper and put it aside. When she had several stories, she would shove them into an envelope, add a stamp and an address, and off it would go to inform its intended audience of whatever my mom thought was so interesting.

I do the same thing, but faster. If I see a blog post or online article I think my husband, kids, or even friends would be interested in, I send an email with just the link and the article title (Shareholic makes it really easy).  Instead of envelopes full of newspaper, they get emails full of links. At least my efforts are tidier.

Disk storage is something else that has changed radically in form and appearance. I remember our first 40 BM hard drive; it weighed as much as a dictionary, and it was about the same size. The other day we upgraded my daughter's phone, and the Verizon guy took the SIM card out of her “old” phone to move it to the new one. I had not seen a SIM card in a while; I recall thinking they were quite small back when I got my first cell phone—maybe half as big as a credit card—but now they are teensy. I swear this thing was the size of a fake fingernail—a pinky finger fake fingernail—only much thinner. One good sneeze and you could lose it forever. And yet the damn thing held dozens and dozens of photos and a few videos, too.

Some science fiction tries to predict the future, but it's difficult to know which direction things will go and how fast. We're not at all likely to have colonies on the moon any time soon, let alone on other planets, but in the developed world, most people carry their own personal communicators that also do countless other things. And while flying cars seem (thankfully) a long ways off, driverless cars are much more imminent.

And of course, there are always ebooks and ereaders. I can't wait for my new Kindle to get here! Rest assured that I'll post a review of it once it does.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Tribes got a fantastic review!

The book blog An Eclectic Bookshelf gave Tribes a stellar review, the kind of review authors dream about! Here's some of what the reviewer had to say:

“I found this book to be a fun and easy read with a brilliant narrative that feels so natural and draws the reader in. I was hooked from the beginning and the plot moved at a comfortable pace that kept you wanting more but didn't leave you behind. In addition, I loved the world and society that has been created, the various tribal structures, roles and regulations were quite simply fascinating to follow.  

The real power though behind this novel are the characters, each one has a distinct and individual personality that fits in perfectly with the story.”
 You see why I'm so tickled? It's always wonderful when a reader likes a book, but when they like pretty much every part of it, it's a real rush!

Go me!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Call me a squeaky wheel!

The old saying goes that it's the squeaky wheel that gets the oil. My last post was about how only a few people take the trouble to post reviews online, and sure enough, I got a few more reviews in the last few days.  This made me notice something Amazon is doing when a book has five or more reviews. They generate snippets of a single sentence from three different people's reviews and mention when other reviewers have expressed the same sentiment. Below is an example from The Sixth Discipline, my free book, which now has nine reviews.  Note the middle entry,  from a review by someone who goes by the name Pink Dolphin, which says “Simply put I could not wait to find out what was on the next page and the next and the next.” Below the snippet it says two other reviewers made a similar statement.

I'm pretty sure Amazon is generating these in an automated way, using some sort of algorithm to identify positive language about the book (I have never seen a negative snippet) and even equating similar sentences. There are millions of books on Amazon, so I can't believe someone actually reads all the reviews. Somehow this kind of natural language parsing seems a lot cooler to me when it's being used to sell my books to you than when Google advertisers are trying to sell their products to me!

And I know five reviews is the requirement for snippets, because Tribes has four very nice reviews, but the column next to the stars rankings is empty.

On the other hand, Where Magic Rules, my fantasy novella, has five reviews and sure enough, it has snippets!

Note the yellow highlighting in that screen shot. That's to point out that WMR got a celebrity review from folk singer Janis Ian!

You couldn't expect me to talk about reviews and not mention that!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Would it kill you to post a review?

There has a been a huge kerfuffle on the web lately about online book reviews. The New York Times had a story about a man who created a pay-for-reviews service that was blatantly not providing honest reviews.  That article mentioned mostly self-published authors, but there has also been some fuss about traditionally published authors creating fake online personas, not only to praise their own works but to trash other writers' books!

Let me just say that if I were going to pay for reviews or create my own, I would have many more! Getting bloggers to write reviews is not easy, and apparently not that many readers think to go online and write reviews when they finish a book. Supposedly, reviews are what sells books. Certainly, best sellers have lots of reviews (usually hundreds). But when you look at my books' Amazon rankings, what stands out is that my best seller (not counting the free book) is No Safe Haven, which has one and only one review.

Of course, that's disingenuous. NSH is selling better than my others because it's a direct sequel to The Sixth Discipline, which is free. I'm basically a book pusher. "Sure, kid, have some! It'll make you feel good, and it's free."  Of course, the next hit costs $2.99.  People are buying the second one, but they're not reviewing it!

Interestingly, I have the most reviews (nine!) for The Sixth Discipline. Perhaps people who get it for free feel somehow obligated to post a review? Although, actually, not all nine reviewers got the book for free, but more did than didn't because I gave away some review copies even before Amazon made it free.

I wonder if the fuss about bogus reviews will devalue them on Amazon? And I wonder why some people post reviews and some don't? If anyone out there feels like answering, let me know what makes you post reviews, or why you don't post them. You can leave a comment or send me an email at my address on the Contact tab.

Or don't you want to do that either?

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Hi, my name is Carmen, and I am a Kindle addict

I admit it! When it comes to Kindles, I pretty much always want the latest and greatest, so I broke down and ordered a Kindle Paperwhite. Since I currently have a Kindle Touch (which will do text-to-speech, but it's not great for proofing, as the menu hides some of the text) and my husband has a Kindle Keyboard (much better for proofing as the screen is not covered at all while in read-aloud mode), I figured we can do a swap. I will give my husband my Kindle Touch with the lighted cover, and I will get the new Paperwhite for reading. I will keep what used to be my husband's Kindle Keyboard only for proofing and as a backup in case we have overnight company.

There you go! Problem solved!  And this means I will have owned a Kindle 1, a Kindle 2, a Kindle 3 (aka Kindle Keyboard), a Kindle Touch, and a Kindle Paperwhite.

Fortunately, the Kindle Fire holds no appeal for me. But I do love me some e-ink!

Good news, bad news

First the bad news. I am no longer lusting after the new Kindle Paperwhite as I discovered that for some reason Amazon left out the text-to-speech function. Some folks speculate this is to try to make Kindle owners buy from Audible, but I suspect it's more likely the combination of no e-ink competitors offering that feature, and not that many Kindle owners using it. But I like to use the read-aloud function for proofing manuscripts, so I'm annoyed! I have to decide if I can really justify having a Kindle for reading and another Kindle just for proofing. Sigh.

The good news is The Sixth Discipline is now free on Blio! They still don't have either Where Magic Rules or Shades of Empire for sale, but at least this one is now free on that site, too.  That just leaves Sony and Kobo who have not made it free.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Amazon came through!

Wow, Amazon announced a new front-lit e-ink reader with a Paperwhite screen (that's actually the model name), and two new Kindle Fires! The press conference got some pretty good coverage, but if you want to see the video/commercials and product info, the Books on the Knob blog has some good entries. Also, The Digital Reader blog's live feed has some good details on features and pricing.

When I consider what my husband paid for my very first Kindle 1 in 2008, the prices on these new models are amazing! I wonder if Amazon will eventually come up with an ad-supported Paperwhite.  They don't seem to have one, and I don't know if it's because they want this to be a premium Kindle or because that model didn't pay as well as they thought it would. Correction: There are "Special Offers" versions on the order pages. An earlier report said there were not, but I can see that there is $20 between the 3G model with and without ads.

photo of new Kindle with font selection screen
There are some cool new features in addition to the light! For the first time, a Kindle user can select a specific font by name, not just "serif" and "sans serif." This is great! There's also a "how much time left to finish the chapter" display in the lower left corner. According to the commercial, it actually learns how fast you read.

I'm really happy Amazon hasn't abandoned e-ink, because I do think it provides a superior reading experience. And I am so drooling over this new Kindle!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Countdown to New Kindles?

Amazon has announced they will hold a press conference on September 6. They have not said they will announce new Kindle and Kindle Fire models, but speculation is rife throughout the web! For one thing, both the Kindle Touch and the Kindle Fire are sold out. Everyone assumes this must mean that new models will be coming out to replace those entries in the Kindle lineup. It's also interesting that the bare bones (non-touch screen) Kindle is still in stock, as are the Kindle Keyboard wifi and 3G version, and the Kindle DX.

This suggests Amazon is planning one or more replacement Kindle Fires. What could be different in the new Fire? Perhaps a larger screen, but I think a 3G or 4G connection is more likely.  For the Touch, I would expect Amazon would have to come up with a front-lit model to compete with the Nook with Glowlight.  The question is, would there still be a non-front-lit option? Another possibility is a dual screen, e-ink and LCD tablet, sort of a Kindle Touch/Fire hybrid. That would be totally cool!

We'll all know come September 6. The event will get a lot of coverage, including live blogging by The Digital Reader blog. Unfortunately, the press conference is in California, so us East Coast types have to cool our jets on Thursday, until California wakes up and gets on with it!

Monday, September 3, 2012

Hugo Winners for 2012 (Hugo did NOT win a Hugo)

The Hugos were awarded Sunday night at the World Science Fiction Convention in Chicago (aka Chicon 7).   The winners are listed below.  SFWA has a list of all the nominees for each category as well as the winners.

Best Novel: Among Others, Jo Walton (Tor)
Best Novella: “The Man Who Bridged the Mist,” Kij Johnson (Asimov’s)
Best Novelette: “Six Months, Three Days,” Charlie Jane Anders (
Best Short Story: “The Paper Menagerie,” Ken Liu (The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction)
Best Related Work: The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, Third Edition, edited by John Clute, David Langford, Peter Nicholls, and Graham Sleight (Gollancz)
Best Graphic Story: Digger, by Ursula Vernon (Sofawolf Press)
Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form: Game of Thrones (Season 1), created by David Benioff and D. B. Weiss; written by David Benioff, D. B. Weiss, Bryan Cogman, Jane Espenson, and George R. R. Martin; directed by Brian Kirk, Daniel Minahan, Tim van Patten, and Alan Taylor (HBO)
Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form: Doctor Who, ”The Doctor’s Wife,” written by Neil Gaiman; directed by Richard Clark (BBC Wales)
Best Semiprozine: Locus, edited by Liza Groen Trombi, Kirsten Gong-Wong, et al.
Best Fanzine: SF Signal, edited by John DeNardo
Best Fancast: SF Squeecast, Lynne M. Thomas, Seanan McGuire, Paul Cornell, Elizabeth Bear, and Catherynne M. Valente
Best Editor, Long Form: Betsy Wollheim
Best Editor, Short Form: Sheila Williams
Best Professional Artist: John Picacio
Best Fan Artist: Maurine Starkey
Best Fan Writer: Jim C. Hines
The John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer (not techincally a Hugo): E. Lily Yu
Even though Neil Gaiman has won nearly every award out there. I'm glad his Dr. Who episode won because I loved it! Hugo was a sweet movie, but it wasn't really science fiction or even fantasy. I did not make it through the novels, but "The Paper Menagerie" was my favorite of the short stories.  Also, John Picacio was overdue, so go John!  I will be looking at the voting once it's announced to see how close everything was. I always like to know if my vote put my favorite over the top.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Not again! Smashwords problems

Smashwords is a small company compared to Amazon or Barnes & Noble, and sometimes it shows. Right now they appear to be having some server issues. I was trying to look at my sales numbers and I got a Server Overloaded error. After several minutes I tried and got in okay, but when I tried to see my dashboard (where free and sample downloads are reported), I got a weird, badly formatted version of that page.

Well, with any luck it just means they're updating their retailer info.  Here's hoping!

Monday, August 27, 2012

The bits and bytes of books

Today while I was waiting in my doctor's office for an appointment, I was reading a book on my Kindle. You'll notice I didn't say I was reading my Kindle. You read on a Kindle because there are books and other works on it. The receptionist mentioned that she had been thinking of asking for one for Christmas.

When I first got a 1st gen Kindle back in 2008, people would constantly ask me what it was. Now, even if someone doesn't own an ereader, they recognize one when they see it.

Mike Shatzkin is a publishing industry consultant who literally grew up in the book business, as his father was a book seller. His blog is called The Shatzkin Files, and today's post looks at the global ebook picture. He makes a lot of good points and one thing he points out is that the poorest countries may be quicker to go totally digital because they can't afford the costs of print books. He also thinks e-ink readers like the Kindle and the Nook might have a very limited lifespan if tablets can ever reduce glare and eyestrain enough.

Coincidentally, today I saw a post about Levar Burton on the MediaBistro blog. Burton was the host of the Reading Rainbow series on PBS, and in passing during an interview he mentioned that he doesn't see cutting down trees to make books as being sustainable.

I think it's going to be a long time before print goes away or even becomes rare. I do think bookstores and online booksellers will start to rely on print-on-demand (PoD) technology, especially because it will get better and cheaper and the number of titles will grow.

Once the digital revolution starts, it's really hard to stop it. Just ask the music industry.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

I am on Facebook at last!

Finally gave in/got around to it and created a Facebook page.  Stop by and see me, and friend me if you've already gone over to the FB side.  I promise to friend you back, unless of course you have a creepy profile where you list stalking and mass murder as favorite activities!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Hello, Columbus!

A very confusing aspect of American English is that the indigenous tribes of North America are known collectively as Indians because in 1492 Christopher Columbus arrived in Cuba thinking that he had sailed to India. seems to have a similar confusion. They have opened a new Kindle store in India, but unlike sales from the Kindle stores in the UK, Germany, France, Spain, and Italy, Indian sales are reported with US sales!

This is totally different from how sales reports look for other countries, each of which have their own entry in the pull down menu for KDP sales reports.

Which means that a KDP author can never tell if he has sold any books in India! In fact, if he happens to have written a book about football in Dallas, you could say that he can't tell the Cowboys from the Indians.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Sixth Discipline got an interesting review

The blog A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions gave The Sixth Discipline an interesting review. The blogger/reviewer is a librarian who seems very well read. She does something interesting in that in addition to a plot synopsis and what she liked and didn't like (some of both, in this case), she lists what she calls "Read-alikes," books that are similar in plot or in overall feel.

One of the read-alikes for my book was Nation, by Terry Pratchett, a book I very much enjoyed. It's YA, but it does have a clash-of-cultures theme vaguely similar to that found in T6thD.  I didn't recognize the other books. I have a feeling Library Girl has a leg up on me, at least as far as recent fiction, but I was pleased to have a book of mine be compared to one by Terry Pratchett, an author I admire.

I also found it interesting that Library Girl was almost angry at Ran-Del, the male protagonist of The Sixth Discipline, as most people who get annoyed with any of the characters in that books take issue more with Francesca than with Ran-Del.  Certainly the members of my writing group were much more on his side than on hers.

Library Girl also did a pretty good job of explaining her reasons for what she liked and what she didn't without giving away the actual plot ending, too. All in all, it's a well done review.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Shades of Empire got a lovely review!

Sunday was my birthday, and I got a wonderful present when the SFBook Review site (a very helpful, well-organized site if you like fantasy and science fiction) posted a four-star review of Shades of Empire. Reviewer Ant (short for Antony) said some very nice things:
“While there are a number of romantic elements to the plot there are some much more serious aspects at play too, including rape, the dangers of a brutal monarchy and that of the corruption inherent in those who have absolute power, not to mention the subjugation of women. Some pretty serious subjects I think you'll agree and in the wrong hands ones that could prove a story-breaker, luckily we are in good hands and the author manages everything in an intelligent and effective manner without once coming across as gratuitous or over the top. Some of the scenes are nevertheless a little graphic and as such this isn't suited to the younger reader, or indeed those who don't like to read about that sort of thing.

So it's not a book for everyone; however it is a very well crafted tale that blends some really creative characters into a multi-threaded plot without losing the reader anywhere and the way these are all brought together is excellent . . . .
Shades of Empire is a well crafted, engaging story and one which is very enjoyable despite the occasionally graphic scene and serious subject matter. Perfect for anyone who likes a bit of romance in their reading.”

SFBook Reviews is unusual in that it reviews traditionally published as well as self-published books. It covers both science fiction and fantasy and is worth checking out if you read in those genres. As a former librarian, the organization of the site, offering indexing by title, author, and genre is very attractive to me.  And of course, it's always nice when someone who reads widely in your genre likes your work. 

Friday, August 17, 2012

Writing a book is a lot like giving birth

I'm not the first writer to compare producing a book with producing a baby. I once heard Dan Simmons say that publishing a book was like putting your baby into a carriage and parking it on the sidewalk for passersby (in this case, book reviewers) to revile it and call it names.

A big difference is that babies generally take nine months to produce while books can take anywhere from several weeks to many long years. When you are an aspiring author with a finished manuscript, your “baby” is not only unborn, it is still highly mutable. If you change your mind about a character or a plot point, or you think of something you want (or even need) to add, you can do it. Thanks to the wonders of word processing, the only difficulty in making changes is keeping track of versions.

But once you publish, either traditionally publish or self-publish, the baby is out there for all to see. The other day I had a sudden insight into a situation in Shades of Empire that would be helped by adding a mention of something about the protagonist's motivation. Immediately, it occurred to me that I could not easily add that in as I have already published the book!

Now of course, with ebooks, I could edit and reload the book, but for anything less than mortifying mistakes, that way lies madness. What if you fix or add one thing and then think of something else? When would it stop? Besides, if you're like me and you rely on a conversion house to produce the Kindle and epub versions, you might need to pay for every edit. There are also folks who make the argument that editing a story post-publication is unfair to reviewers whose comments may no longer apply. Really, you shouldn't be publishing a book unless it's “done.”

That said, there are times when the ease of digital changes come in handy. A major part of today's ebookstore “stock” consists of yesterday's books, the backlists of published authors. In some cases, the publisher has (or negotiates) ebook rights, and in others the author self-publishes his or her backlist. But in either instance, some of these books are decades old. YA fantasy author Diane Duane recently decided to republish her 1980's fantasy So You want to Be a Wizard as an ebook, but first she updated it in a bunch of ways. She has named the new version the New Millenium Edition to make it clear there is a difference.

Again, there are trade-offs. As this post on Teleread points out, people get miffed at the idea that they have to pay for the book again to get the “director's cut.” On the other hand, the new edition might offer a better chance of reaching new readers. As always, new technology makes work easier and faster to do, but that doesn't mean it's always a good idea to use it.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Shades of Empire now in more outlets!

Apple has won the race again. My newest title Shades of Empire is now available in iBooks as well as  Kindle and Smashwords. No sign of it on the Nook yet, or Sony or Kobo, but that's not a surprise as they don't even have Where Magic Rules yet, and it has been out for a few weeks more than Shades.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Mars or bust!

I find it interesting that this newest Mars rover is getting so much more press than the previous ones did.  I suppose Curiosity is inherently more interesting because it can do more. It's bigger, too, car-sized rather than being compared to a glorified Roomba or an automated lawn mower.

Its also funny that Curiosity has come down in the Gale Crater. I know it was named after an astronomer but when I hear the name Gale, I think Dorothy Gale of Kansas, who had her own kind of curiosity. But whatever the reason, this latest rover has made us all talk about space travel again, and I think that's good!

Maybe NASA should have named it Kirk, because it's going “where no man has gone before. . . ”

Friday, August 10, 2012

The Survivors

A friend of mine is a science fiction fan from way back. She has read most of my novels, and she gives me grief whenever I kill off a character. And yet, she once recommended the Tom Godwin sci-fi classic (1958!) novel The Survivors to me.  In spite of the name, the kill rate in that book is worthy of Stephen King.

The story didn't work for me mostly because from the vantage point of a few extra decades I could see the Cold War polemic nature of the story— no matter how hard you try, you can't kill us off! But it did provide an illustration of the point that when you are threatened by a radical shift in your environment, you have to act fast to survive; whining does no good at all.

Smashwords is a good illustration of the fact that forward-thinking actions work better than backward-looking wailing about change. Smashwords is a self-publishing platform for ebooks that started as something of a shoestring operation in 2008 with 140 titles. In fact, it started because Mark Coker, the founder and CEO, had had no luck getting a nonfiction book (written by him and his wife) published, and that made him assess the state of publishing. Smashwords managed to make a profit after only two years in operation because Coker realized that he (and his authors) could make more money selling ebooks through more established retail outlets like iBooks, Sony, and Barnes and Noble than by expecting readers to find his site. According to an article in Forbes, Smashwords expects to pull in $12 million in revenue this year and make a pretax profit of near $1 million. That's rapid growth!

And Smashwords is so not standing still! They're up to 127,000 titles, and they keep adding retail outlets. Recently they added a channel to sell ebooks to libraries. They do all this and still manage to review every book that is loaded to their platform to make sure the formatting isn't garbage; a book can't go into the premium catalog (and thus to retail outlets) if it looks bad. As I posted about earlier, they can get a book that has passed review onto iBooks in just over a week, and my latest title took only three days to make the premium catalog! The only problem they have (aside from slow sales reports back from retailers) is they need to redesign their distribution channel screen.  It's getting crowded!

Amazon is one of their outlets, but that company has not yet developed a bulk load process for Smashwords so the only Smashwords books on Amazon are the big sellers. Most authors are better off using KDP to publish in the Kindle store and using Smashwords for the other retailers.

In short, a tiny start-up has become a success by looking around, realizing publishing had changed, and taking advantage of the changes. Smashwords is a survivor!

Monday, August 6, 2012

On giving away ebooks: How much is “free” worth?

One question I get asked frequently, mostly by other writers, is “Is it worth it to give an ebook away for free?” It sounds so counter-intuitive to say that the way to sell books is to give them away to as many people as you can, and yet I have to say, the answer is, for an unknown author, yes, it's definitely worth it.

There are several factors that influence the success of a giveaway as a tool to sell books. The first is what platform are you giving your book away on? If you post a book on your blog and allow folks to download it for free, that will help you get readers only if your blog already has a ton of followers; and if you post it in Mobi or epub format, you will only get readers who also know how to side-load a book to their ereader. Putting the book somewhere that people go to find books is a much better plan. Smashwords makes it really easy to make a book free, and Apple iBooks and Barnes & Noble Nook will price match that, so you get more bang for your non-buck than you would just from Smashwords. Sony used to price-match, but it doesn't look they they're still doing that. Generally speaking, the Kindle store will usually yield the best numbers, in terms of a giveaway, but even with a book being free in the Kindle store, you need to advertise it, especially because unlike Smashwords, Amazon doesn't make it easy. You can only make a Kindle book free if it's in the KDP Select program (which means it only be sold as an ebook through the Kindle store), and it can be free only five days out of 90.

So many people have taken this route that it is actually difficult to give away a book in huge numbers. You should advertise the book being free on your blog, on Twitter and Facebook, and anywhere else you can find. There are lots of site to do this on, but be aware that many of them either charge up front or ask for donations.

I have made three books free in the last year or so, at different times. I launched my two most recent books on KDP Select and made them both free on different days. I gave away several hundred copies of each book, and after it was free, I did find I got more reviews and more sales after the books came off being free. I didn't try to make my first three books free on Kindle via KDP Select because there were already out there on many platforms and it is often difficult to get smaller vendors to pull books back when you “unpublish” from Smashwords. I did make my first book free on Smashwords, and after iBooks and Nook stores showed it as free, Amazon price-matched it to zero (although only in the US Kindle store)*, and I have now given away well over 2,000 copies of it! The big advantage to me is that my first book The Sixth Discipline has a direct sequel called No Safe Haven. NSH has only one review on Amazon, and yet it is now my best selling book! The increase in sales to NSH from making TSD free is much greater than the increase to the other two books that were free for a time.

Even if you only have one book out there, making it free in the Kindle store helps by getting your book into many readers' buying history (“People who bought this item also bought . . .”). It can also increase your chance of getting reviews.

Things to keep in mind when doing a promotion:
  • Not everyone who gets your book for free will read it.
  • Not everyone who reads it will like it; it's always possible you could get a negative review from a free copy, especially if the book doesn't live up to (or match) the blurb.
  • There are tons and tons of free books out there, so you need to get the word out!
  • The market size of your book still applies, even when it's free; check out the top 100 free Kindle books to see the genres and authors that are doing best.
* Important note! You cannot count on Amazon price matching Barnes & Noble for free books.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Where Magic Rules is now in iBooks and on Nook

It looks like Apple is the fastest of the Smashwords retailers, as the fantasy novella Where Magic Rules is now for sale in the iBooks store for 99¢. That means it took just over a week for the book to get to Apple and be put up for sale (counting from when it made the premium catalog, a requirement for shipping to other retailers).  The novella has also "shipped" to Barnes & Noble, but I don't yet see it for sale in the Nook store.

Added Saturday:  And now the novella is in the Nook store! Looks like Barnes & Noble was behind Apple only by a day.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

How do you “ship” a digital file?

Smashwords is both a retailer and a distributor. They will sell your book when you upload it, but they will also allow you to distribute it to many other retailers who will then sell it on their sites, too. Smashwords' authors can opt out of this distribution on an individual retailer basis, so if an author already has his book published via Amazon's KDP platform, he can opt out of shipping it to Amazon.

From everything I have heard, the Smashwords feed to Amazon isn't actually implemented yet. I recommend loading a book directly to KDP. For other retailers, though, Smashwords is a good bet, so long as you can live with really slow feedback on sales. KDP shows new stats within hours of a sale (usually); Smashwords is the same for sales from their own store, but they can take more than a month to update sales data for a specific retailer.

When you opt in to distribution, Smashwords will deliver an epub file (except for Amazon!) to that retailer, but they will refer to it as shipping the book. I find that weird!It's not like you pack a digital file into a padded envelope or a cardboard box! So far, Where Magic Rules has shipped to Barnes & Noble and to iBooks, but it's not showing up in either store yet.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Where Magic Rules made the Premium Catalog!

That was pretty quick! Maybe it was because it was only a novella, but Where Magic Rules is already in the Premium Catalog on Smashwords, which means now it can be “shipped” to retailers like Barnes & Noble, Sony, and Apple iBooks. Smashwords is very good about maintaining quality formatting in their ebooks; they review every book that is loaded and they won't ship it (it sounds odd to talk about shipping a digital file) unless the formatting is clean.

The book was loaded to Smashwords only 8 days ago. I'll be curious to see how long the next step takes.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

The Sixth Discipline got a mention on Dear Author!

The Dear Author blog is a wonderful site for romance readers and anyone interested in ebooks and digital publishing.  They feature reviews with some of the toughest graders you will find! They give letter grades instead of stars, and it very rare that a book earns more than a B+. The site is well organized and provides lots of info on ereaders in general, news on publishing/reading technology, and even lawsuits, such as their recent in-depth outline of the DoJ case against Apple and the Big 5.

Today their post on good deals in self-published and small press books leads off with a post about The Sixth Discipline being free in many venues.  Color me tickled pink!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The dragon in Where Magic Rules has taken flight!

My fantasy novella Where Magic Rules is now available in the Smashwords ebookstore as well as in the Kindle store. It will take a while to load to all the affiliated retailers.  I'll post when it shows up. And because it's a novella, it's only 99¢.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Price-matching is a wonderful thing!

The Sixth Discipline is still free in the Kindle store! This is the seventh day it has been free, so clearly Amazon doesn't impose the 5-day limit that it applies to Kindle Select books.

"The Sixth Discipline is a Science Fiction story set in the far-future upon a planet called Haven that has been colonised by several different human factions. The main character Ran-Del Jahanpur is part of the Sansoussy faction, who live a basic existence in the forests that reminded me of native Americans who have developed a variety of psychic abilities. Whilst out hunting Ran-Del is kidnapped by people from the city of Shangri-la who are technologically advanced. The story then follows his captivity and subsequent introduction to the wonders of the city as well as the political intrigue of the ruling families that has led to his captivity in the first place."

"... there is a fundamental romantic element to the plot but I felt the book was more a sci-fi adventure novel that explores some of the politics and interactions between various different factions on Haven."

"The story itself is very interesting and imaginative..."
                          --The Eclectic Bookshelf book review blog

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Retailer Update

Looks like Smashwords updated their Apple iBooks numbers last night. That's just over a month since the last time, which is pretty much what Smashwords advertises as their retailer update schedule.

iBooks does not show a count for free books, though, so I can't see how many copies of The Sixth Discipline I have given away in iBooks. It's over 1,000 now in the Kindle store, and a few hundred on the Nook, but the Barnes & Noble numbers are out of date by a month or so. Smashwords lists free downloads in with the sample downloads, so it's hard to get a total count, but the book is free there, too!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Book review: Indian Maidens Bust Loose

Indian Maidens Bust LooseIndian Maidens Bust Loose by Vidya Samson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Vidya Samsom pulls off quite a coup with this book. She managed to write a very funny book (at times it was laugh out loud funny) that touches on some very serious subjects. The entire book is told in first person by a young woman named Nisha Desai, who lives in a house that is comfortably middle class by Indian standards, but it looks very strange and inhospitable to her two American born and bred cousins.

The house belongs to Nisha's mother's mother, which makes for an interesting dynamic, as Nisha's father is a petty tyrant who wants to rule the roost, even though he doesn't own the hen house. Nisha's mother is suffering from a bad case of sibling rivalry as her disgraced sister (she ran off with a white American boy when she was quite young) has been allowed to return home with her two young daughters. Nisha and her sister Vinita give up their own rooms so the aunt and cousins can be more comfortable but this isn't what disrupts Nisha's life: the cousins have not been taught that their father's word is law; they don't believe in tradition and blind respect for elders. Pretty soon Nisha waffles between envy, fear, and wistfulness as she realizes how different her life is from theirs. For one thing, their father isn't trying to marry them off to any man who will take them off his hands without asking too much dowry.

Other themes touched on include the caste system, the plight of the poor, the corrupt nature of politicians, the difference between acting from a sense of duty and acting out of love, and how easily many people are fooled by false hopes. There's a dash of romance thrown in, mostly at the end, but this isn't really about falling in love as much as it is about learning to know yourself.

Nisha's tone is very funny and personable. The author has some of the characters speak English with a kind of consistently incorrect grammar that borders on dialect, which wore on me after a while. It might be accurate but repetition made it annoying. There were just a few rough spots on this gem, but on the whole it was a very enjoyable book that was also rather an education. It reminded me of the kind of comedy of manners kind of book that authors like Nancy Mitford used to write; the author could even have called this one LOVE IN A HOT CLIMATE.

View all my Goodreads reviews

Saturday, July 7, 2012

The Sixth Discipline is still free on Kindle!

I don't now how long it will last, but The Sixth Discipline is still free in the Kindle store as of now. It's actually doing pretty well, and in the two days it has been free, Amazon has given away over 500 copies. That's only in the US Kindle store, of course, as Amazon doesn't seem to be price-matching internationally. TSD made it into the top 20 free science fiction books, which is really nice! The rankings change every hour or so, so it's hard to know for sure, but I think the best it did was this afternoon when it hit 14th in the science fiction list, but I only got a snap of it as 15th on the list,

Friday, July 6, 2012

Surprise freebie in the Kindle store!

I was expecting Shades of Empire to be free in the Kindle store today (see post below), but I was very surprised to find that in the US Kindle store only, my first book The Sixth Discipline is also now free on Kindle. TSD is not a Kindle Select book, since it is on other platforms; Amazon must be price-matching, as  TSD is now free on many of those platforms. In fact I suspect its appearance as a freebie on the Nook Lovers site precipitated this action.  Amazon has lowered the price of my books before but it never made one of them free except through a Kindle Select promotion.

Nook Lovers is a handy site if you have a Nook or use the Nook app; they list free and cheap Nook books.

We have lift-off! Okay, really we have a free Kindle book

Shades of Empire's last hurrah as a free Kindle book is today. It is now free in the Kindle store in the US, the UK, Germany, France, Spain, and Italy.

If you're interested, this book is kind of an old-fashioned space opera, if that's not an oxymoron. It's got a princess, an evil emperor, a damsel in distress, a couple of heroes and some courageous women, too. Parts of this story are rather like the story of Caligula, which will tell you it's more R-rated than G-rated. Go to your Kindle store and grab it!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Cross your fingers!

I have scheduled Shades of Empire to be free in the Kindle store tomorrow.  Assuming Amazon's programming doesn't go belly up on me (again), it should be free at about midnight tonight, US Pacific Daylight Time and stay free for approximately 24 hours. This is most likely the last time this book will be free on Kindle.

I will confirm tomorrow and post links for all the Kindle stores: US, UK, Germany, Spain, Italy, and France (not that anyone in France will care!).

Saturday, June 30, 2012

No news is not good news

I just checked Sony, Kobo, and Blio ebookstores, and The Sixth Discipline is still not free on any of them. I can find plenty of free Smashwords book in the Sony store, so I think they are just slow to make the change. The Kobo store doesn't seem to have any Smashwords books below 99¢, so I think they simply don't support price matching to $0.00. Blio doesn't have a good way to search or sort for free Smashwords books, and they are very new, so I have no clue what their policy is.

I guess time will tell.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

There is no grass growing under Mark Coker's feet!

Mark Coker is the founder and head of Smashwords. He recently cut a deal with Baker & Taylor to provide Smashwords content to them for distribution to libraries and for the Blio platform, and now I see that another vendor has appear in the Distribution Channel Manager screen:  Page Foundry. It doesn't look like my books have shipped yet, but unless I opt out, they will.

I never heard of Page Foundry, but more places to sell books has to be a good thing!

Addendeum: Smashwords has posted more info about this new (Android) platform on their blog.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Book Review: The Hare with Amber Eyes

The Hare with Amber Eyes: A Hidden InheritanceThe Hare with Amber Eyes: A Hidden Inheritance by Edmund de Waal
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I don’t read much nonfiction. I like books that are stories, with a plot and a climax, and characters I can empathize with. Nonfiction often drags for me, with its insistence on sticking with real events and real people. I do read historical fiction because I like to read stories in distant places and long ago times. The Hare with Amber Eyes is the rare nonfiction book that worked for me.

Edmund de Waal is an English potter with a Dutch last name, but his grandmother was born into a fabulously wealthy family of Jewish bankers and grain merchants. The Ephrussi were contemporaries and equals of the Rothschilds, related by marriage. Originally from Odessa, they moved to Vienna and then some of the younger sons moved to Paris. Through this family, de Waal inherited a collection of 264 netsuke, small carved figures that Japanese gentlemen used to wear on their obis, rather in the manner of a watch fob. The collection included the eponymous hare with amber eyes. De Waal decided to tell the history of the various Ephrussi who had owned the netsuke, starting with his great-great-uncle Charles Ephrussi, who was, among other things, a patron of the arts and a critic in late 19th Century Paris. If you are familiar with the famous painting The Luncheon of the Boating Party, Charles is the man in the background, looking slightly overdressed in a top hat and black frock coat. He was a friend and patron of Renoir and other Impressionists, right at the peak of that movement in art.

In fact, as it turns out, the history of de Waal's netsuke is largely the history of the 20th Century. Charles eventually gave them as a wedding gift to a nephew who lived in Vienna, and they made the journey across Europe to take up residence in the incredibly grand Palais Ephrussi where eventually they became the playthings of de Waal’s grandmother and her siblings. From post-war Vienna they eventually made their way to England and then, amazingly, back to Japan.

Obviously, netsuke cannot speak, but de Waal has researched his well-documented family, and he describes their lives and times beautifully. When a visual and tactile artist tells a story, you would expect a level of detail that makes you feel like you are there, and de Waal does not disappoint. He clearly sees more than many of us; he never says “tree” but always linden, or elm, or oak, or whatever kind of tree it was. His history immersed me into first Paris, and then Vienna, and then Tokyo. I even forgave him his extensive use of present tense, a thing I do not forgive easily.

I should mention that I read the Kindle version, which was very clean and had only two tiny formatting errors (an excess hyphen and a space in the middle of a word). The photographs of people and places came through very well; I suspect they were all (or almost all) taken in black and white. The only thing missing from the Kindle version was the book cover! Oh, and the netsuke themselves, which do not appear in the book (not even the printed version; I know because Michael Dirda mentioned it in his review). Luckily, you can see some of them online, as well as Mr. de Waal’s pots. One thing he never mentions is that he is not just any potter, but a world-class potter with gallery showings. [Edmund de Waal page on Artsy]

All that and he wrote this fabulous book, too! I am so happy he did.

View all my Goodreads reviews

Friday, June 22, 2012

Borrowing books from the Kindle Owners Lending Library

Amazon has some interesting benefits for Amazon Prime members.  Amazon Prime is a membership program that costs $79 a year. The most-often used benefit is that you get free 2-day shipping on physical items you order from Amazon—print books, DVDs, whatever—so long as it's sent to you by Amazon and not a retail partner.   There are also movies and TV shows you can watch online for free, and there is the Kindle Owners Lending Library (KLL or KOLL).

The KOLL is more limited because it can only be used by Prime members who also own Kindles (either e-ink Kindles or a Kindle Fire). I think one reason a lot of Kindle owners don't know about KOLL is that not that many of them have Prime; when your books are digital, you don't care about 2-day shipping. Also, borrowing books is one of the few functions that can't be done from the web; you must initiate borrowing from the Kindle itself.

If you are browsing or searching the Kindle store and you see a prime symbol  like the one above, that tells you that the book can be borrowed for free by Kindle-owning Prime members. To borrow the book, you will have to find it in the Kindle store from the Kindle itself.

To browse the KOLL (assuming you qualify)  do the following steps:
  1. Turn on the wireless on your Kindle
  2. Go to the Kindle storefront
  3. Select the Browse — All Categories option
  4. That brings up a pick-list; select the last item, Kindle Lending Library
  5. Once you are in the Kindle Lending Library, you can browse by genre and then sort by what's new or what's popular; be prepared for a huge amount of porn if you don't pick a specific genre
  6. You can also search as usual using the search bar and specifying an author or title.
Once you find the book you want, if it's in the KOLL there should be a Borrow for Free option next to the Buy button. Select that, and the book will then be downloaded to your Kindle.  The limitations are that you can only borrow one book per month and you can only borrow books that are permitted to be in the KOLL by the publishers; however, you can take as long as you need the read the book. All the Happy Potter books are included, as well as any book that participates in the Kindle Select program.  Also, Amazon will keep any notes and highlighting, so if you buy a book after borrowing it, you won't lose your notes.

Of my books, only Shades of Empire and Where Magic Rules are in the KOLL. If you're eligible, check them out (literally!).  Did I mention Amazon pays the author a fee every time the book is borrowed?

Note:  As of March, 2013, only my latest book King of Trees is in the KOLL. I don't leave books in the KDP Select program forever because to do that, I would have to not sell them anywhere else.