Posted in Books, Other Stuff, Reading

Kindle Heaven

Santa brought me a Kindle Fire for Christmas. He got one for my husband, too, so I don’t even have to share it. Amazon automatically christened it for me: “Diane’s 3rd Kindle.” Which is a little embarrassing. I mean, really, how many Kindles does one pair of eyes need?

What’s even more embarrassing is, I am lusting after yet another Kindle — one I don’t have. The Kindle Touch.

Oooh. Aaah. I got one for my sister-in-law so I can live vicariously.

I have SUCH a crush on Amazon.

The Kindle Fire, if you happen to be wondering, is a different animal from your garden-variety Kindle. It’s Kindle-like, but it’s also iPad-like, and sort of phone-like as well. There’s a bit of a learning curve while you figure out how to navigate to where you want to go and how hard to touch the screen. Too vigorous, and your book jackets go flying by in a blur. Too dainty, and your commands are ignored. You feel like Goldilocks at first, struggling to find the place that’s juuuuust right. But, oh my, the things it can do!

I sat up in bed beside my sleeping husband with headphones on and watched three hours of Downton Abbey — the most exciting bout of insomnia I’ve ever suffered. I subscribed to Newsweek and the New York Times, which are now downloaded to the palm of my hand, essentially, in full-color glory. I updated my Facebook status while waiting for a plane at the Los Angeles airport. I played Angry Birds while in line at the cafeteria at work. There is, basically, no earthly reason why I should ever be bored again.

Aren’t you glad you lived long enough to experience 2012? I am.

Posted in Other Stuff

Happy New Year

Okay, I may be the worst, most inconsistent blogger of all time, but the very least I can do is wish you all a Happy New Year.

There. That didn’t take long. And it was sincere!

Posted in Other Stuff, Publishing

Life on the Pioneer Trail

I am not the first to travel this road, but all of us crowding the self-pub trail today are certainly among the first. It’s exciting – and confusing – because none of us really knows what to expect. Some of us will reach Oregon, and others will die of cholera while crossing the plains. Metaphorically speaking, of course. And some who reach Oregon will hate it and wish they’d never left Ohio — but I imagine those folks will be few.

Being a pioneer involves, as it always has, a certain amount of risk. And, at least initially, ridicule. There are always people who will warn you not to make the attempt, and promise that you’ll be sorry if you do this crazy thing. I hung back for years, thinking I was better off where I was, hoping that a miracle would happen and Signet would reissue, say, The Fortune Hunter. Because wasn’t I better off hoping for that, however unlikely it was, rather than asking for my rights back and eliminating that delicious possibility forever?

Well. I may have hung back for a while, but I finally made the leap. Early this month, I received the rights back to my entire backlist — with the exception of my first book, The Nobody, which Signet plans to re-release as an e-book in July of 2012. This development derailed my progress on the Wicked Cool sequel (temporarily, I trust!) while I feverishly cleaned and formatted and spruced up my old manuscripts. Now they’re out, for better or worse … my self-published darlings, the books of my heart.

And now is when I wish somebody had built a paved road and put up a few signs. Instead, there’s a dusty, faintly-marked trail with an awful lot of fellow travelers crowding around on it, arguing about which route is best. Alas, not enough writers have gone before us to show us a sure-fire way to get where we want to go. It’s a safe bet that some of us are going to miss our timing and get snowed in at Donner Pass, and some of us are going to wander into Death Valley while seeking a shortcut. At this point, you honestly can’t tell which of us at Point A is among the group that will reach Point B.

Do this, do that, do some other thing … no matter what you hear advocated, there is always someone out there warning you that it’s the exact wrong way to go. “Get out on social media and hype your books.” “No, no, that just irritates people!” “Offer some of your books for free.” “No, no, that completely backfires — people don’t value what they can get for free!” And so on.

I hope the dust settles soon, because it’s awfully hard to see.

Posted in Other Stuff

2010 in review (guest blogger: WordPress!)

The stats helper monkeys at WordPress.com mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads Wow.

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

A helper monkey made this abstract painting, inspired by your stats.

A Boeing 747-400 passenger jet can hold 416 passengers. This blog was viewed about 1,400 times in 2010. That’s about 3 full 747s.

 

In 2010, there were 26 new posts, not bad for the first year! There were 17 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 10mb. That’s about a picture per month.

The busiest day of the year was April 2nd with 45 views. The most popular post that day was April Fool’s Day ….

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were facebook.com, the-stuff-in-between.com, twitter.com, healthfitnesstherapy.com, and amazon.com.

Some visitors came searching, mostly for best by farr, bestbyfarr.com, the best by farr, i wish i could invent, and socketless electricity.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.

1

April Fool’s Day … April 2010
8 comments

2

The Truth About E-books October 2010
15 comments

3

The Books We Come Back To June 2010
18 comments and 1 Like on WordPress.com,

4

The Dangerous Pleasures of Reading July 2010
11 comments

5

What’s the deal with WICKED COOL? November 2010
9 comments

Posted in Other Stuff

In a Temper

Whose idea was this “blogging” thing, anyway? And where can I lodge a complaint? Because I have one. Oh, strike that; I have several.

Complaint No. 1: Who has time for this? I don’t have time for this. Some people blog daily, which makes me really, really cross. Because I know perfectly well that they don’t have time for it either, yet they get it done. So the implication is that there’s something wrong with me, and frankly, I resent it.

Complaint No. 2: Where can I learn to draw? Most of the blogs I really like to read have clever drawings, like Hyperbole And a Half. Mine has no clever drawings because I cannot draw, so the implication yet again is that there is something wrong with me, and frankly, I resent it.

Complaint No. 3: Some people’s blogs are screamingly funny. Some are so beautifully written that I read them over and over again for the pure pleasure of experiencing their gorgeousness. Some blogs are inspiring — they make you smile, or make you cry, or make you think. Some score excellent political points using words I wish I’d thought of. My blog does none of these things, which implies that there is something wrong with me. And frankly, I resent it.

I Googled “trackback.” According to Wikipedia it is akin to a “pingback.” Since I also don’t know what a “pingback” is, this sent me into an irrational fit of the sulks, which I am now taking out on YOU. Because Wikipedia seems to think there is something wrong with me, and frankly, I resent it.

I think I need a trip to Apple Hill.

Posted in Other Stuff

Book Blogging for Amateurs

I’m beginning to think that a blog about nothing is just exactly as interesting as it sounds. And what I have here is, basically, a blog about nothing. You are reading it anyway, which I really, really appreciate. But it’s high time I settled on a theme. Or a unifying element of some kind. The entries need to have something in common other than “written in English.”

So what do you think? Books? I could blog about books. There are an awful lot of book-bloggers out there, but then, there are an awful lot of books. As a writer of books (upon occasion) and a reader of books (frequently), and a person with opinions (always), I could probably find a few things to say. And let’s face it, that’s the hard part: finding the thing to say.

That, and figuring out what a “trackback” is. (If any of you know, please enlighten me.)

My other area of expertise, cat wrangling, doesn’t lend itself well to blogging. If I could draw, now … gee, I’d love to do an illustrated blog about cat wrangling. But I fear that may have to wait for another life.

Posted in Other Stuff

Three Things I Wish I Could Invent

Yes, folks, it’s hairball season again. Your feline friends are coughing up their dinners on a regular basis. Don’t you wish somebody would invent CARPET-COLORED CAT FOOD?  Some clever person needs to come up with kibble in a prettier palette. Chicken is white meat, for heaven’s sake. Why can’t chicken cat food be a nice, creamy beige or ivory?  Maybe even pinks and blues could be coaxed out by some clever person, to match the homes that were last carpeted in 1990. I would totally do this if I had the know-how. Dear Mr. Purina: Get on it.

So far, “wireless” is not reaching its potential. We want wireless lamps, TVs, clocks, electric blankets. Seriously, how stupid is it that we still have to plug things into the wall to get them to work? Aren’t you sick of all those ugly, tangled cords? Isn’t it annoying that you have to arrange your furniture to obey the placement rules imposed by electricity sockets? Come on, people. Find a way to give us SOCKETLESS ELECTRICITY. Our appliances and whatever should have little receptors or something, a thingamajig that picks up electricity from the wall remotely. Freedom from phone jacks was a nice start, but we’re Americans, gol’ darn it. We want it all.

But what we really need in this country is a decent fat substitute. We have some fairly convincing sugar substitutes. Where is the nonfat fat? We need butter that won’t add to our butts. Shortening that won’t shorten our lives. “Fat free half and half” is a mysterious, but intriguing, product. If they can give you half milk and half cream with no fat (huh??), I’m hopeful that FAT-FREE BUTTER is on the horizon.

Posted in Other Stuff

Too Tired to Write, Too Wired to Sleep

We seem to be in the midst of a titanic economic upheaval — and I do mean “titanic” in several senses of the word, if you’re picturing a certain maritime disaster — running oddly parallel with rapid technological advances. It’s like we’re going backward and forward at the same time. Jobs are vanishing, perhaps forever. But hey, is there an app for that?

I envision a world where work, as we know it today, is obsolete. It will start with companies reaching the point where, to stay competitive, they make everybody work from home — you know, so they don’t have to go to the expense of renting, furnishing, supplying and insuring offices. Employees will be thrilled with this. Commute traffic will thin and, eventually, disappear. Everyone will work in sweats (winter) and shorts (summer). New etiquette rules will be adopted — silence, please, in the parks and on the beach, to accommodate those who are working! I imagine we will soon be so interconnected that anyone can reach anyone at any time, so regular work hours will be meaningless. No more eight-to-five routine. No more separating “work” from “life.”

There are some pretty obvious down sides to all this. It’s already increasingly difficult for people to protect their leisure time. Cell phones are simultaneously freeing and caging us. It’s great to be reachable wherever you are — until the moment when it sucks to be reachable wherever you are.

I like to think of future generations looking back at us in pity and wonder. “How could they stand it?” — The way we look back at the drudgery of bygone eras. ‘Work clothes’ — what a concept! And why did they call it ‘rush’ hour when nothing was moving? How quaint it will seem.

Meanwhile, I have a job. And with every day that goes by, I become more appreciative of Virginia Woolf’s insistence that every writer needs “a room of one’s own.” When I wrote full-time, I had that. Now? Not so much. I’m never alone, except when I’m driving. At ‘rush’ hour.

I don’t hate my job, but it’s exhausting. At night I sit numbly beside my equally-exhausted husband. He watches TV. I play games on Facebook. Both of us are recharging our batteries before heading back into the fray the next morning.

I stay up way too late, then go to bed and lie there, mind racing, unable to sleep, berating myself for not writing. How do women with children write?? It’s the most I can do to play Scrabble at night, and I only have cats.

They tell me Georgette Heyer relied on dexadrine. I’d settle for a day in my sunroom now and then.

Posted in Other Stuff

Unplanned Obsolescence

I am something of a gadget queen. There’s one person in every family who is the “go-to” guy or gal when a new phone is purchased, or when somebody hits the wrong button on the TV remote, or a printer needs to be hooked up. In my immediate family, I am the designated techie — the one who is willing and able to crawl under the desk with a flashlight, a screwdriver and a bent paper clip, solving whatever mysteries lurk among the dusty cords and metal boxes. I am the person who can download a new ringtone for you, or program your speed dial keys. I am the person who can take one look at the remote and instantly divine which key you inadvertently pressed, and which sequence of keys will restore your glorious HD experience.

I was annoyed, therefore, when a recent cell phone purchase led to my seeking help from the sales staff at my local Radio Shack. The darn thing came without a manual — and none was available online — but that had never thwarted me before. Good heavens, it’s just a phone. Any idiot can program a phone. (Except, I suppose you will note, the idiots in my immediate family — who normally rely on me to do it. But that’s neither here nor there.)

Me: “I need to return this phone.”

20-something sales clerk: “Why?”

Me: “I can’t tell when it’s on or off. Also I can’t get it to display the time, which is basically the same thing. I want a phone that displays the time when the power is on.”

20-something sales clerk: “Lemme see it.”

Me: “There’s no manual. Not even online.”

20-something sales clerk: “Lemme see it.”

Me: “I’ve already played with the display settings.”

20-something sales clerk: “Lemme see it.”

I handed him the phone, since there was clearly no way to convince this child, short of handing him the phone, that I knew what I was doing and had already tried anything and everything he could possibly try. He slid the phone open (something no one in my family circle would have been able to do without first asking me how). His thumbs danced across the keys in a pattern I could not decipher, and at a blinding rate of speed. By “blinding” I mean that they moved so quickly that they blurred.

20-something sales clerk: “Here ya go.”

I reclaimed my phone in a fog of amazement. And/or chagrin.  It hit me like the proverbial ton of bricks that my techie status was bestowed on me by default, since there are no kids in my inner circle. I am younger than my husband and my in-laws, so I get to be the techie. How pathetic is that? The expertise that dazzles my husband’s 93 year-old stepfather is, in the real world, laughable.

But.

That sales clerk’s day is coming. In ten years’ time, his flying thumbs will be obsolete. Maybe sooner than that, but let’s be charitable. Ten years. In ten years, texting (for example) will be replaced by voice-to-text technology — or something else — and mad thumb skills will be relegated to history’s overflowing recycle bin.

Here’s a tip for my young readers: You will know you are obsolete when some new piece of whiz-bang technology is ushered in, and you roll your eyes and exclaim, “But the old way is easier!” I’m guessing that for some of you, that day will come when the first, semi-creaky version of whatever-eventually-replaces-texting is debuted. Because whatever it is, your flying thumbs will (at first) outpace it. And feel more natural to you. And be — you got it — easier. Because you’re so darn good at texting.

You poor dears.