I was starting to get comments on the Bio and About pages. While I appreciate each and every comment, I want to keep those pages around, alive, and active – probably for a very long time! And having a collection of really old comments down the road would not look as tidy as I’d like.
So I’ve shut off commenting on those pages – which I should have done in the first place. And removed those comments. Sorry about that, for folks who had comments there – I enjoy reading folks’ thoughts here. But I couldn’t see any way to move them elsewhere, so I just unpublished them instead.
Thanks for understanding.
So a bit over a week ago, I sold my desktop computer. Still have the old Linux one, but the Windows one is gone. I did some research, and like I mentioned in an earlier post, I ended up buying an ASUS laptop. It’s a U30JC-B1, how’s that for a mouthful?
I’ve never owned an ASUS pc before. Never used a laptop with the funny “chiclet” style keyboard, either – the one where the keys are more like an old calculator than they are like a typewriter?
I’ve been using the laptop for about a week now as my main computer, so I figured it’s time to post a review.
The Asus is a classy looking machine. The brushed aluminum case is attractive. The four point something pound weight is nice – heavy enough so you know you have it, but light enough to be very portable.
The screen is far smaller than the 23″ I used to use. In fact, I’ve considered at some point buying a new flatscreen and hooking it up to the laptop on my desk. Use the laptop as a desktop when I am there, but still have incredible portability when I need it. Could hook up a full keyboard at that point, too. The other screen downside is that the viewing angle is pretty narrow. Works *great* for typing/writing. But if I kick back in my chair for web surfing/reading blogs, I risk moving out of the viewing angle pretty quickly. Not too critical, but it’s worth mentioning.
The keyboard is not that bad. The keys each have just enough click to them to give them a good reactive feel. It’s a little smaller than I am used to, so I am still having more typing errors than I did on a ‘normal’ keyboard. But it’s very functional. And honestly, far, far better than I would have found using one of the micro-sized 9-10″ computers.
In terms of oomph, I didn’t actually give up all that much. The Core i3 is weaker than my old desktop’s quad core AMD, but it still quite powerful. I’ve got 4GB of RAM, same as the old PC. And the Nvidea 310 graphics unit is again weaker than my old, INCREDIBLY loud GPU. I can live with that – it’s strong enough to play some games when I want (already tested), and it’s just about dead silent. Plus the PC has the Optima tech from Nvidea, which means it uses the Intel graphics when it can, and only turns on the dedicated graphics when it needs to. The result – plus the extra large battery – is long battery life. Not sure how long yet, but I gather I can pull 7-8 hours out of it with the power settings all down low.
Windows 7 is a nice experience, after seeing (and disliking) Vista. Really feels like a smooth operating system. I’m fond of being able to plunk my most used programs in the bottom bar as icons. I’m not so fond of the idea that the “App Data” folder is invisible, but I’ll correct that problem when I get around to figuring out how. Found out because I was uninstalling a 7GB beta for the RIFT MMORPG the other day (it was a good test of the GPU!) which had installed itself there, and I couldn’t find the folder to delete, right away.
I added some other software changes as well. I’m using Chrome now instead of Firefox, and pleased with the change. I’d used Firefox for years, but Chrome is very friendly, seems to run faster, and just works well for me. I figure it’s a good idea to get used to using Chrome – I am still interested in one of Google’s CR-48s, if I can get one, or in whatever the final computers are called once Google gets done with their tests of the operating system. I offered to write a novel on their little cloud laptop, but Scalzi had already offered, and gotten one. I can’t feel badly somehow that they picked the president of SFWA over me. ;)
The computer came with the new “starter” edition of MS Office as well. Despite being a long, long standing user of Open Office, I’ve been trying out their starter MS Word alongside LibreOffice (the new Open Office). I’m actually impressed. Not fond of the distracting flashy ad in the lower right hand corner of the screen, mind you. But I like the overall look and feel of the new Word. I’m not sure I like it enough to drop $150 on it, mind you… Shame they charge so much when there are good free alternatives. We’ll see.
Overall, I have to say I’m really pleased with the computer. It’s been a good week, and I’ve started getting into some serious writing again, both shorts and long work. If you’re looking for a laptop that combines light weight, long battery life, and desktop-level power, this is a good machine to pick.
And perhaps best of all, it’s quiet. No more having eight loud fans screaming at me while I try to work. Really loving that aspect!
I’ve had a rough January.
I set out with goals to write a short story a week, and thousands of words a day of other material. Get my novel done and up for sale. Really get cracking. I finished a first short story, and it was one of five accepted for a slot in the “Taste of Viable Paradise” workshop at Arisia. Cool stuff (fun workshop).
But then I got derailed, badly.
I had a death in the family that hit pretty hard, and the next thing you know, I am doing *anything* I can except writing. Reading books, revamping my workspace, cleaning around the house, running errands. I tried a bunch of times to sit down and write, and it just wasn’t happening. I’d sit down, open a word processor and just…have nothing there.
I sold my great huge desktop PC, and bought the little Asus laptop I am writing this on now. Hoping, I guess, that the change might kick me over. And maybe that plus the huge revamp of my workspace did help, some.
Yesterday I read Dean Wesley Smith talking about his January, and how he was doing on his two short story per week challenge. It was a good read. Some of the replies – from him and others – were even better. You can read it here. Good stuff.
Anyway, yesterday after reading that, I realized a month had gone by. It had been a full month since I’d written any new fiction. It’s been a long time since I’d had a dry spell that long, and I realized it was past time to get back to the keyboard, even if I wasn’t really in top form emotionally yet.
So I sat down to write. And got nothing.
I went on errands, came back, tried to write. Nothing.
Played with the kids, tried to write. Nothing.
Kids went to bed, tried to write. Nothing. Went out to buy some sleds, for after this storm passes by. Came back to write after, and still nothing.
But then, I finally got a first sentence down. And a bit more. And a little more. Before I was done, I had seven hundred and four words down, and the story was rolling forward.
Seven hundred and four words is less than an hour’s work for me, most days. But it felt wonderful to have broken through and gotten writing again.
And now, at the end of day two, I’ve written 2,940 more. It’s still not a ton. But it’s getting there. I’ve got words flowing again, and for now, that’s enough.
I haven’t talked too much here about Author Solutions, although I’ve written extensively on the topic elsewhere. Here’s the skinny:
They take your book. For the low cost a a thousand, maybe two thousand dollars, they (their sub companies, anyway) slap a software-generated cover on the book, spend a couple of hours formatting it to print, and jet it out to Lightning Source. From there, it gets placed on Amazon, B&N.com, and most other online bookstores.
Leave aside for a moment that you can hire someone to do a real cover and formatting, including ebook, for a little more than half the cheapest “package” these folks offer for just print (ebook is generally about $300 extra – pretty good pay for an hour of work). The worst is that after they place your book, they are keeping somewhere between 50% and 90% of the profit from each sale. For doing absolutely nothing, they get at least half of the writer’s earnings for as long as the writer keeps the book with them.
If the book is badly written, they lose nothing, because they’re charging 2-10 times industry standards for their packages. If the book sells well, though, they stand to earn hundreds of thousands of dollars, while the poor writer is left scratching his head about why SOME authors are making a good living from selling 2000 copies of ebooks per month, and he is making next to nothing.
Author Solutions and their sub companies have been panned by Writer Beware, have been revealed all over the internet as the scams they are. And now – now, Writer’s Digest, probably the best known writing magazine and writing book publisher, has partnered with this bunch of con artists to produce a new company: Abbott Press.
Abbott has one thing going for it, at least. They’re only taking 50% of the profit per book. That’s better than some. But it’s still 50% more than the author should have to pay.
The author is taking all risk: paying an up front fee for everything (and, as I mentioned earlier, paying far too much for those services as well). Abbott takes zero risk. And puts out zero effort after the few hours to get a cover and layout done, attach an ISBN (which costs them $1), and upload the book where it needs to go. But in return, they are getting half of everything your book will earn.
No. Absolutely not. These companies are predators which exist to target writers who are desperate to see their work in print, and will agree to just about anything just to have that happen. They exist to take advantage of people who don’t know any better.
And now Writer’s Digest has joined the club as the newest con artist in the house. I am appalled. They are taking a position of responsibility and abusing the trust of their readers to make money at their expense. A magazine whose supposed role is to educate and inform writers should be warning people about the threat these companies represent, not pairing up with them to rake in the cash.
Bad Writer’s Digest. Bad.
I sold my desktop a couple of days ago. The one year old shiny one, not the linux machine I use for writing. It was a great gaming platform – superb quad core cpu, great graphics card, 23″ monitor. Great computer.
Also made more noise than some jet engines.
Sitting at my computer in the living room, I literally could not hear the TV set unless it was turned up painfully loud for those closer by. It’s not a big room, folks. The computer was just too loud.
And I’m not really gaming anymore. Oh, I might pop back into a game once in a while. In fact, I’m sure I will. I played MMORPGs for too many years to think I won’t *ever* play them again. But it’s not my main focus, not even close, so having an obnoxious machine whose primary redeeming quality was being great for gaming just didn’t make sense anymore.
Bought a new laptop. It’s on order, should be arriving Saturday. It’s an Asus U30JC-B1, which string of ridiculous numbers means this:
Got the email from Amazon offering this $899 computer for $649 while I was in the middle of researching what machine to buy… I kept looking, but it was a great deal for a very nice computer. CPU almost as good as my desktop, 4-7 hours of battery depending upon what you’re doing, an Nvidea card – not as good as my desktop’s, not even close, but enough to handle most things well, and even the occasional game OK. And the thing is under five pounds, with a 13.3 inch screen. I’d been looking at netbooks, but the keyboards are a tad too small. So something like this is just big enough, and not too big.
Really looking forward to seeing the new toy!
So far I have written two new short stories, one per week. The process is going rather well, and I’m certainly not ‘short’ on ideas right now!
What I’d like to begin doing as I move forward on this is to work on some serial fiction. Batches of shorts, in other words, all using the same world and characters. I haven’t worked with that much yet, but I think it has promise. Readers could be much more inclined to buy “more adventures about” something they already enjoyed reading. And after all, hasn’t TV already set us up to favor this sort of story? Most of the more popular TV shows are serialized fiction; a sort of soap-opera theme, where bits of story are self-contained within an episode, but where other bits are carried from episode to episode, so that the viewer wants to see what happens next. Or reader, in the case of shorts.
I’ll begin exploring that this week. I have two potential character groups right now, one for a short I have in mind to write but so far have no prose about at all – and the other, for the urban fantasy character I’ve written one and a half novellas and one short story about. I think adding more shorts to that line would help boost the sales of the novellas as well, once they’re out (soon).
In other news, that first story I wrote was a resounding success! Written on the first, and revised briefly, I sent it off to the “Taste of Viable Paradise” being held at Arisia. I was informed a couple of days ago that the story had won me a spot, so I spent Friday evening driving down to Boston, and Saturday at the con – most of that in the workshop. Well worth the trip. If I can ever get to the actual, week-long Viable Paradise workshop, I think it’ll be a great experience. In the meantime, knowing that I can write a short story in a couple of hours, revise it briefly once, submit it someplace and have it stand well against all the other fiction present? Priceless.
Oh, and better believe that story will be going out to a pro-zine this week. Got to get it started on the circuit, now!
Just finished the first short story for 2011. About 3000 words, short fantasy. There’s a Viable Paradise mini-workshop at Arisia (a Boston area con) later this month, and the deadline to submit (they are only taking five people) was tonight. So I sent them the story. I’ll be shopping it around after I hear back from them (accepted or not) to build up points for Dan’s “submit your work!” challenge. Feels good to have such a solid, productive start to the year, though!
Driving home to Vermont from Boston tomorrow, so I doubt I’ll get as much done. I will get some writing in, though. Every day.
Next up for this week: retyping an old short that I polished up a bit last month to get ready for the push. And getting back to finishing the last bits of Accord of Honor.
As I begin to write this, I have 39 minutes until the new year. In a short while, I am going to plunk myself down in front of a TV and watch a silly ball drop. And cheer. And think about the exciting things ahead.
This is the year I resolve to make my time matter. This is the year I resolve to progress with my writing, get material out there for sale, and make the time to do this. For real. To take writing seriously.
My goals for this year?
1) I will continue my education; I’m submitting to get into the Viable paradise mini-workshop at Arisia. I’ll be going to Arisia if I get into that, and also Boskone, Readercon, and if possible at least one other workshop-focused event where I can continue to learn more.
2) I have a novel almost revised. It will go up in ebook and print on demand. I will then shop it around a bit to various publishers, as per Dean’s idea on the subject. It’s worth trying out, at least.
3) I have a novella I just finished in November. I’ll be getting that edited and up as well.
4) I have a novella just started (sequel to the November one). I want the writing finished on that.
5) And I want to start writing the sequel to the novel in #1, too (will probably do that for 2011 NaNoWriMo).
6) I have another novel done, a historical fantasy. Not sure if it’s good enough for prime time or not. I want to at least explore the possibility.
7) I signed up for a challenge to write one short story a week through 2011. That’ll keep me busy. Since I’m also signed up for a challenge that involves cranking out as many submissions as possible, I’ll be sending those stories out as fast as I can finish them, and getting them in ebook formats for sale as soon as right revert, or in a big mass after the submission challenge ends. So shorts should actually represent a pretty big chunk of my 2011 writing, which will help me build some titles for sale. Dean did a little math a bit ago, showing that even with absolutely horrible sales levels, a short a week equals about $3000 a year of residual income that goes on and on for years. This is a good thing when one is working to build a lasting career. Having all those titles out there helps get your name out, to sell more books, too.
So by the end of the year, I should have dozens of short stories out there, a novel, two novellas, and some more stuff on the way. The “E-Game” folks have been talking about awards one point per epublished short, and five points per novella/novel. I want to have a minimum of fifty points by the end of the year.
I think these are good goals. They should get me a great kickoff, and help build patterns of work that will serve me well in the future.
More than anything else, I want to make 2011 matter.
I want to reach out and grab something – to make an effort, to not waste time or dabble.
I want to step up. And this is the year to do it.
Happy new year, everyone – may your year be exciting, and your goals be ones worth striving for!
According to a Huffington Post article, Barnes & Nobles has just announced that they are now selling more ebooks than print books from their website. B&N apparently sold over one million ebooks on Christmas day alone. Also, both B&N.com and Amazon have announced that the Nook and Kindle (respectively) are now their best-selling items ever, outselling even the last Harry Potter novel.
I said earlier in the year that holiday sales of ereaders was going to cause massive acceleration in ebook sales early this year, and it looks like that’s already proving true. Really, we’re seeing this happen faster than anyone had predicted. It’s simply amazing. I look at my little Kindle there, and I know that I have access to just about any book I want, whenever I want it. Just crazy. But fun. Looking forward to seeing some of my stuff up there too, this year!
So Derek Canyon was talking in his blog about his marketing efforts, and folks were brainstorming about marketing in the comments. I mentioned “why not have indie authors exchange chapters of their books, put them in the end of each others’ ebook releases?” It seemed a sound idea. Still does, really. Suddenly their book is a marketing vessel for yours, and yours is for theirs. It costs the writer nothing – and it adds bonus content to the book which might attract other readers.
Next thing I know, Derek is posting about that idea, and an expansion on that idea. Sure, he says, we can trade chapters (I really like the idea, Derek, and I’m game – let me get this thing ready to roll out, and you’re on). It’d be a great way to get the word out about other good books. Hey, big publishers do this all the time, in print where it costs them money. They wouldn’t do it if it didn’t make them money.
But then he adds more ideas. What about an anthology of short stories written by a bunch of people who have books up via self-pub? Maybe it could be offered for free, as a loss leader (with blurbs about their other books, of course!). Or perhaps it could be offered at a low price like $2.99, as a charity book for some cause everyone agreed on. Marketing and philanthropy at the same time. Love the idea. I’m all for using writing as a tool to help others – one of my personal motives in writing near-future science fiction is to hopefully help rekindle a sense of wonder about space, and to encourage folks to dream about getting there – not someday in the far future, but soon. Tomorrow. So I think opportunities to use writing talent to help humanity in some way are great things.
I’m also really encouraged by what I’m starting to see coalesce “out there” in the cloud of writers starting this journey. We’ve got a lot of bright people with some good books, talented writers with lots of ideas – not just for stories, but for how to get them out there, how to use them in new ways, how to do exciting things. I see a future in that. I’m not sure just what it is yet, or what it will be. But there’s something powerful involved when a bunch of bright people start working together on the future. What a great time to be writing!