Need a new e-reader

I just updated the OS on my iPod Touch (what I use as my primary e-reader as well as for other things).  Unfortunately the OS upgrade broke the e-reader app.

I had been using Stanza a free e-reader that worked great for my needs.  Now, it crashes whenever I try to open it.  As I understand it, Stanza is no longer supported so unless some further upgrade of the Apple OS revives it, I’m out of luck with continuing to use Stanza.

That means I need a new e-reader app.  The things I liked about Stanza:

– The ease with which I could scroll through my rather large library to find a particular book.
– The easy navigation through the e-books.
– The “two tap” (center of the screen to open the controls then the yin-yang symbol) switching between “day” mode (black text on a white background) and “night” mode (white text on a black background).
– Convenient note-taking/annotation
– Oh, and it was free. 😉

One of the things I used the e-reader for is proofreading/editing stories.  Once I finished a story I’d convert it to epub and put it on my iPod.  A lot of errors and problems that I missed when writing on the computer jumped out at me when I read them on the iPod.  I could use the annotation feature to write notes about changes/fixes and then refer to them when I worked on the master story file on the computer.

Another use to which I put it is keeping a fairly large library of reference information:  things like historical and mythological writings (the Norse eddas and sagas, Apollodorus’ writings, the Baghavad Gita, the Book of Arda Viraf, many other things).  This allows me to do background research for stories and worlds conveniently wherever I happen to be.

So now I need a new e-reader to replace the one that’s broken.

Decisions, decisions

Readers might recall the short “God of Thunder” I finished a while back. I got the responses from beta readers, decided that those who haven’t responded, aren’t going to, made final edits, and am now putting it out into that cold, cold marketplace. I still have a decision to make yet, though. Tor.com seems to be just about the best paying market for short SF&F out there but it’s got a really long response time. If I send “God of Thunder” to them it can be a year or more before I hear back (most likely, in all reality, with a rejection). Other markets respond a lot more quickly and the likelihood isn’t too bad (given my recent track record) that one of them will buy it.

So the question is whether it’s worth trying tor.com and waiting a year or more for a reply and before I can try someone else, or if I’d be better off sending it to shorter turnaround markets where I’m reasonably likely to sell it, get some money, and another credit on my list (building name recognition and “cred”) before tor.com would even respond.

Deal not with this publisher

Fitzhenry & Whiteside

Fantasy author Doranna Durgan reports that they have not made her book “Dun Lady’s Jess” available through “regular trade channels” for some time and have refused to revert the rights to the book to her as the contract calls for.

Reversion is one of the more important rights an author retains. It means that if the current publisher of a work cannot, or will not, sell the book the author can recover the rights and find someone who can and will (including, nowadays, the ability to self-publish). By refusing to revert the publisher is denying the author the ability to make money they otherwise would have.

Bad publisher. No cookie.

Musings on changing values

I’ve been home sick the last few days and haven’t been able to do much writing.  When awake, I found myself watching the old Addams Family TV series from the sixties.

That is probably one of the most “functional” families in all of TV.

No, I am not joking.

When I was a kid watching it in syndication (I was a bit young to have much memory of its original run) I remember laughing at the “kookiness” of the Addams. Today, I find myself just as amused, if not more so, but now I laugh at the reaction of the “‘danes” to the Addams. After all, they like what they like and if what they like isn’t “acceptable” to contemporary society, well so much the worse for contemporary society.

That’s why I prefer the old TV show to the movies, particularly the way they made Wednesday actively evil, a far cry from the girl who got upset at the poor dragon being killed in the story who happened to like things like spiders, things that “conventional” people found gloomy, frightening, or disturbing.

Looking back, I wonder how much influence the Addams Family and the other show from the same period, the Munsters, laid the groundwork for my own tendency to accept what’s “different” both about myself and about others.  They may have been intended to hold the Addams and the Munsters up as objects of ridicule, and many people apparently saw them that way, but you had here a loving family that cared deeply about each other but that was just . . . different.

And that’s one of the powers of fiction, the ability to put a deeper message behind the obvious.  Not everyone will get it–certainly the folk who changed the kind-hearted if a bit creepy girl from the TV show to the murderous sociopath of the first movie didn’t–but those who have ears to hear, will hear.

Words of truth

“Nobody tells this to people who are beginners.  I wish someone had told me.  All of us who do createive work, we get into it because we have good taste.  But there is this gap.  For the first couple of years you make stuff, it’s just not that good.  It’s trying to be good, it has potential, bu it’s not.  But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer.  And your taste is why your work disappoints you.  A lot of people never get past this phase; they quit.  Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through yearsof this.  We know our work doesn’t have this special thing we want it to have.  We all go through this.  And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know that it’s normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work.  Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you finish one piece.  It’s only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met.  It’s gonna take a while.  It’s normal to take a while.  You jut gotta fight your way through.” Ira Glass

As one who is still facing that “gap” (and it’s a big one) I can say that there is much truth there.

Getting it right

As I have mentioned a time or two, I have been reading paranormal romances in an effort to get a feel for the field since I’m developing a story concept for one.  In particular, I’ve been reading the finalists for the most recent “Rita” awards.

One thing I’ve noticed is a decided lack of concern for “fact checking.”  In one, we have a person doing a “practice form” with a Western style sword that is apparently a long sequence of moves against notional (imaginary) opponents.  There’s just one problem with that.  The use of long, stylized forms like that are an Asian approach, not one used in Western swordplay.

Another writer had an extremely experienced diver apparently confused between air embolism and the bends (two different problems that can occur from among other things, ascending too fast) and got durations and the like wrong.  A more subtle error was someone suddenly appearing having been “swept” there from a just sunken boat when no such boat was within sight beforehand.  But how far could the person have been swept while still being not only alive but conscious?

The same thing happens in the “traditional” SF and Fantasy genre too.  One writer recently had a ship leaving a station apparently in Earth orbit and taking weeks to return to Earth (the journey was interrupted before completion but the expected duration was weeks).  Even if the ship was as far as the moon it would take less than 5 days on a minimum energy orbit.  Anything longer than that would take more energy.  There are reasons why the outbound leg might take that long (high efficiency, low thrust engines) but they won’t apply for a vehicle that returns from high orbit and reenters the atmosphere.

These things dropped me right out of the story for at least a moment.  I managed to get back into it but I should never have been dropped out in the first place.

A lot of people will say “but it’s fantasy” or it “uses future tech” or something like that.  And that can be the case if a fantastic element is involved.  If, for instance, the story is in an alternate world where Western martial arts took a different turn becoming more Asian in approach, that’s fine.  But that needs to be explicitly part of the world and not “it’s a world identical to our own except some short time in the past people became aware of the existence of ‘supernatural’ creatures.”  But the existence of the supernatural or “future tech” just increases the need to get the parts that aren’t part of that invention right.  By showing the reader that you get the “mundane” aspects right you give them confidence to accept the fantastic.

Perhaps you, as the writer, think you can just get away with it. “Nobody will notice.” And there’s some justice to that.  After all, these writers did get away with it.  They were all finalists for a major award. (The non-romance in the above, was not only a finalist for a different award but actually won it.)

But somebody did notice.  I noticed.  And if I were not particularly motivated I might well have not taken the effort to get back into the story after those glaring (to me) errors.  How many other people did stop after seeing those errors?  How many people put down the book and wrote that author off?  How many sales did the author lose?  We’ll never know.

Now, on the other hand, whatever you do, you’re going to make mistakes.  That’s part of being human.  And maybe, someday, when you’re famous (or not so famous) you’ll get a letter from a reader saying “you got xxx wrong in your story.” It happened to me in my story “EMT” (Analog Science Fiction & Fact, December, 1993).  It involved an ambulance service on the moon.  For that story I spent a lot of time researching how ambulances operate, the effects of severe blood loss on the body, how CPR is performed and, especially, under what circumstances professionals performing CPR say “we’re done.” Despite all that effort, Analog forwarded a letter from a reader to me from a physician who, basically, said “you got that wrong.”

Does that mean one shouldn’t try?  Of course not.  You’re probably not a professional in every field you might have a character engage in.  You do the best you can and realize that it won’t always be perfect.  But you can hope to get things close enough that when a professional in the field calls you on it he qualifies things with “although it’s unlikely, I suppose it could happen” and “or course, protocols might change in the future.”

And the fewer and smaller mistakes you make, the fewer readers will lose that Willing Suspension of Disbelief that allows them to enjoy your work.

And that’s what it’s all about.