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.