Tuesday, 28 June 2011

The Kindle experience

A lot of things have been happening in the world of e-publishing. John Locke made his millionth sale,
Joe Konrath is now making a living e-publishing his own books, oh, and my wife now owns a kindle.

I don't use or own a Kindle but I did buy my wife one for Christmas. She is now converted to eReaders and loves her Kindle.

She had the opportunity to see a friend's last year and have him explain how it worked and why he liked it. He recommended the plush leather bound cover with the built in LCD light... It was almost half the price of the Kindle on its own but does protect the investment.

Having been assured that my wife really did want one, we ordered it and on arrival the Kindle experience began. Amazon really went to town on this, everything, even down to the packaging was perfect. I could write a blog post simply on the packaging: the lack of waste, the efficiency, the economy of fully recyclable packing material...

The Kindle itself appeared to be on. An image displayed on the screen - of course - e-ink! None of this blank screen on arrival and charge for 24 hours or even worse: a peel off plastic image that adds to the ever increasing mountains of waste. Yes, it did have to be charged but my wife was able to begin reading one of the pre-loaded free books almost immediately.

Having used a Kindle for six months now, she said last week that she now prefers reading books on the Kindle. It is lighter than a paper book, cheaper - especially as she avoids the over-priced mainstream market - and it is actually easier to read! She can 'turn' the pages one handed as the controls are perfectly placed.

I've downloaded a Kindle app to allow me to download books but an LCD screen has too much glare. The Kindle screen is just like paper and can easily be read inside or outside without straining my eyes.

A month ago my wife got me to send her one of my Open University assignments so she could read it on her Kindle. I asked, 'how do I do that?'

'Just send it to my Kindle email account as a word doc.'

So I did and less than five minutes later I was looking at a my OU assignment (a draft of the first chapter of my novel) on the Kindle, now that was cool!

She has frequently downloaded a chapter for free and if she liked the chapter, bought and downloaded the book in a couple of minutes and carried on reading.

If you don't have a Kindle or other eReader then find a friend who does and get them to show you how it works. Kindles are still very expensive but the price keeps dropping and they are clever, highly usable and enjoyable enhancements to reading.

Monday, 27 June 2011

Validation and the insecure writer

Goal 100: To publish Fallen Warriors

I submitted a short story to a magazine on Saturday, first in over ten years and only the second submission I've made ever. I'm still way off completing, let alone publishing my novel but I need to start putting my writing out there again, and not just on this blog.

I keep telling people about Joe Konrath's blog at the moment and I guess I will while what he writes makes an impact on me: "The need for validation is often rooted in insecurity--something writers have truckloads of."

I deliberately included lots of specific goals related to publishing my novel in my 100 goals and all of them have some root in my own personal desire to be validated. I'm not sure whether I need validation as a writer but I certainly want it. I seek validation primarily in being paid to write. If someone, anyone (please...) pays me for my writing then they must think I've written something worthwhile.

I have been paid for a few articles I wrote and that was a great experience. But, since I've mainly wanted to write fiction - that is what I really want to be paid for.

This blog is partially an attempt to get validation. I can post my thoughts, musings or even - as I have this last week - my freewriting, and can get feedback. Sure, I'm hoping to get positive feedback which will feed my desire for validation, but I am beginning to appreciate more and more - feedback which helps me improve my writing. Stephen King touches on this in On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft.

King's advice to me and every other wanna be author is to keep writing, keep submitting and learn from everything.

I don't know if the magazine I submitted to will like my story but if they don't, that is okay. This morning in the shower - a place where my subconscious seems to be especially active as I often solve work related problems while attempting to wake up - I realised how I could have improved my story. So, if they reject it, I will rewrite part of it and send it somewhere else.

To paraphrase many others: I cannot control whether I am published by someone else, but I can control how many submissions I make and how I improve my craft.

I think I am a better writer than I was ten years ago and part of that is recognising that when my writing is rejected, I don't need to feel insecure about that - I can learn from it and write a better story next time.

Friday, 24 June 2011

Be happy

Had 'Don't Worry Be Happy' going round my head this morning.

The sun is shining, looks like it is going to be a warm day, hard not to be happy - unlike the last month or so when mostly it has rained. When we have had a month of terrible weather, have you found yourself saying 'we aren't going to get a summer?' If today, where you are, it is sunny - will you say 'it isn't going to last?'

I know a lot of people who have been saying both of these statements. I got into a heated discussion last week with someone where I explained that I used to say things like these but eventually chose to stop and try and look for the positive, the good. I ain't fully there yet but the more I work at it, the happier I am.

It was raining last week and I hoped it would be sunny later. It is sunny now and I am glad. I think that is all there is to it.

If that note of optimism make you queasy, here's a modified freewrite to cheer you up...

Black line, slicing through infinite grey.
Another universe disecting ours,
a scalpel carving a narrow slit.
Air rushes out.
I open my eyes again.
Sunlight imprints a false negative,
time to get up.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Andy Warhol was wrong

My wife went to Cherish this year - a women's conference run by Abundant Life Ministries. When she returned, she told me about a video they showed during the conference which is now available through YouTube.

'It's quite long though, about 15 minutes.' She warned...

What has happened to our generation? If it is longer than 30 seconds then we click on a new link; change the channel.

'In the future everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes', but no-one will be watching...

If you still have the ability and mental fortitude to sit still for 15 minutes I highly recommend this video:

The first half is amazing but it is well worth hanging on to watch what happens after the video has been shown to the conference...

If you do or ever have sponsored a child then thank you!

If you would like to sponsor a child contact Compassion UK.

My goal 59: To give £200,000 to charitable causes - I have a long way to go but am starting here. 

Plotting world domination

In my spare time, of which I still seem to have very little, I often muse about what could be. Alright, I daydream. Always have and hope I always will. 'If I ruled the world' is a theme that occasionally crops up and I store some of these thoughts away and write some down because one day... I could just possibly turn that musing into a novel.

I saw a quote last week which is one of those blindingly obvious and yet profound statements on life:

"If I write everyday, I will get better at writing every day"

The quote is from a poster used on our OU Survivors group Facebook page. I love the simplicity of this statement, no real pressure, just a promise that I can do something to improve my writing - even if it is only getting better at writing consistently!

Another quote I saw recently:

'A goal without a plan is a wish'

I may have seen this on another blog site, let's say I did - here's the site: http://jakonrath.blogspot.com/

Mr Konrath is a self published ewriting evangelist. His blogs are worth reading if you are interested in e-publishing.

My plan for the next few days is to - at the very least - write one freewrite each day. A freewrite being the result of writing whatever comes into ones head while writing fairly quickly for a short period of time. It is not publishable writing, not edited, not considered, just written. It can be garbage, it can be wonderful. I was surprised to touch on poetry today. My theme - world domination:

Tapping away, tippy tapping, keyboards clacking - why don't they hear us, where will they find us? Can we explode? Time to move out, time to be bold. A215 - how many of us are there? Two hundred and fifteen divided by zero, multiplied by infinity to the power of writing - where will we go, where will we run to? Will they read us in Delhi, buy us in Darby, swap us in Brazil, download us in Israel?
Who are we kidding? Us rule the world? Why not? The US did for a time but now it is ours - seize the day, well, the couple of minutes scratching out prose on an iPad or real pad between coffee and bagel or hot water take out. One word, one world at a time, maybe the Universe beckons, astronauts flying out there is the asteroid belt, buckling in for an ice cold novel written by one of us destined to chill. Keep on writing, who knows where we'll be this time next year...

A215 is the course/module number for the Open University's Creative Writing module

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Bees V's Mobile Phones

Question for the day:
If mobile phone signals were killing bees, would we give up mobile phones?

Monday, 13 June 2011

Goal 96: To stand on top of Ben Nevis

Bagged my first Munro yesterday - Beinn Bhuidhe - as part of preparation for Ben Nevis.

Things that went well:
  • I took plenty of food and snacks
  • I took sufficient warm clothes, waterproofs, hats and gloves
Things that didn't go so well:
  • Did not allow sufficient time for packing and other preparation
  • Forgot/ran out of time to make a thermos of tea/coffee
  • Forgot sunglasses and inhaler (I didn't need either in the end but that's beside the point)
  • Did not fully understand the route before setting off
This last one was demoralising. I had been told to expect an hour and a half cycle to the start of the climb and then an hour and a half climb. It ended up taking us just under an hour to cycle but three hours to climb to the top. Will have to be better prepared for Ben Nevis!

It was an incredible climb. Steep initially but alongside a fast flowing burn that was broken up with many waterfalls and clear pools. There is a high waterfall at the end of the initial valley and then we reached a gentler slope. After this there is a steep ridge. Don't look down... Having climbed this, we were able to see the peak rising up - yet again. Walking along the ridge I found it easier to look up than down even though the path is winding and uneven - looking down I kept feeling dizzy as the ground sloped sharply away and seemed to move at a different speed. Something to do with being able to see ground below the ridge and not being able to reconcile that sight with ground next to the path I guess.

But, we made it!

The walk down was hard and I ached in places I haven't ached for years. I really must buy a set of walking poles as my knees are still stiff one day on and I could hardly move them yesterday evening.

We had a perfect day for the climb, no rain and the wind was only a problem at the summit and the walk back along the ridge. 

I'm not really looking forward to Ben Nevis. I believe it is half as high again than Beinn Bhuidhe - 948 meters - but I've been told it is not as steep. Will have to do some proper research before I go!