Random Thoughts

about reading, writing, and anything else that interests me

Tor.com’s ebook for May

It’s that time, again! This month’s free ebook from Tor.com is A Fire Upon the Deep  by Verner Vinge. It sounds like it will be more to my liking than the books of the last couple months. Now’s your chance to get it, so why not give it a try?

Net Neutrality

If you are based in the US, this is a vitally important issue!

What is it? According to The Guardian

Net neutrality is the idea that internet service providers (ISPs) treat everyone’s data equally, whether that’s an email from your mom, a bank transfer, or a streamed episode of The Handmaid’s Tale. It means that ISPs don’t get to choose which data is sent more quickly and which sites get blocked or throttled (for example slowing the delivery of a TV show because it’s streamed by a video company that competes with a subsidiary of the ISP) and who has to pay extra. For this reason some have described net neutrality as the “first amendment of the internet”.

Why does it matter? According to Mozilla,

Net neutrality is fundamental to free speech. Without net neutrality, big companies could censor your voice and make it harder to speak up online. Net neutrality has been called the “First Amendment of the Internet.”

Net neutrality is fundamental to competition. Without net neutrality, big Internet service providers can choose which services and content load quickly, and which move at a glacial pace. That means the big guys can afford to buy their way in, while the little guys are muscled out.

Net neutrality is fundamental to innovation. Without net neutrality, creators and entrepreneurs could struggle to reach new users. Investment in new ideas would dry up, and the Internet would start to look more and more like cable TV: so many channels, but with nothing on.

Net neutrality is fundamental to user choice. Without net neutrality, ISPs could decide you’ve watched too many cat videos in one day, and throttle your Internet speeds — leaving you behind on the latest Maru memes.

What can you do? Visit one or more of these sites to get ideas:

https://www.battleforthenet.com

https://blog.mozilla.org/blog/2017/05/08/next-10-days-critical-internets-future/

Or watch this segment by John Oliver on YouTube.

We don’t have a lot of time to make our voices heard. Please take a minute to let the FCC and Congress know how you feel about this issue.

 

 

 

April reading, part 2

Well, it has taken a little while for me to get back to this, but here goes.

I read two pieces of speculative fiction:

  • Ambassador 1: Seeing Red by Patty Jansen is a book I have owned for a while but never got around to reading. I finally decided to change that, and I am glad I did. The book is billed as a Space Opera Thriller, and it was! I really enjoyed this book.  Cory Wilson is a diplomat, headed out on his first mission when the whole universe seems to fall apart, taking his mission with it. He continues to fight for what he feels is right until he gets to the truth. It is a good book, and I will read more in the series.
  • Deathless by Catherynne M. Valente was another Tor.com ebook club selection. It was easier to read than the March book was, but I didn’t enjoy it any more than I enjoyed that one. As I have said, though, the experience of reading these books has made me realize that I need more realism in my books. Which is interesting in that I am thinking about reading One Hundred Years of Solitude  again since it is the Guardian’s reading group selection for May. But back to Deathless… I cannot really recommend it. I am sure it is wonderful, but it didn’t work for me at all.

For Historical Fiction, I read The Sudbury School Murders by Ashley Gardner. I really like these books. They are mysteries set in the early 1800s. As is always the case, the mystery was good, and the glimpse into England at that time was quite enjoyable. Captain Lacey has taken a job at a boys school, apparently to solve the problem of serious pranks being played on people at the school. It ends up being much more complicated than that, as the title would imply. I thoroughly enjoyed this book!

I read two pieces of shorter fiction:

  • The Signal and the Boys (a prequel to the Earth’s Last Gambit Trilogy) by Felix R. Savage was a good story. You can get it for free on Savage’s website.
  • A Cry for Help by Adam Croft was another Kempston Hardwick mystery. And, as usual, I loved it. Actually, I may have enjoyed this one more than some of the others. I can’t find this one on Amazon to provide you with a link. I guess it is one I got for signing up for Croft’s newsletter.

I also got back in to listening to books, Looking Backward by Edward Bellamy this month. It was an interesting story of how the world might have been in the year 2000. Bellamy had much higher hopes for us than we deserve, I’m afraid. I got the audio version from Librivox.org.

So April wasn’t a bad month for reading, but it wasn’t great, either. Let’s see how May goes!

April reading, part 1

I didn’t do a lot of reading in April. My classes took a lot of time, getting the students all settled and comfortable with the courses. But I did some, and I’ll tell you about it here.

I read one non-fictoin book, Hagakure: the Book of the Samurai by Yamamoto Tsunetomo.  It was read a research for the books. The edition I read was a poorly done one, but it was free, so I guess I can’t complain! It was an interesting read, but by now it seems familiar. If I were going to read this again, I would opt for a different edition.

I read 4 mysteries:

 

  • An Affair to Dismember by Elise Sax was a fun read. It is the first in the “Matchmaker Mysteries”. I had some difficulty with the matchmaker part of it, but the rest of the story was good. The bad guys were really bad and crazy. This wasn’t a book that made me want to rush out and read the rest of the series, but it was fun.
  • Chimera by Celina Grace is the fifth volume in her Kate Redman series. It’s only the second one I’ve read, I think. It was a good story. I had some trouble with some of Kate’s personal issues this time, but that could be because I haven’t read these books in order. I will be back to read more of these.
  • Big Game by Robin Barefield was a surprise. I honestly didn’t expect a whole lot from it, but I was very pleasantly surprised. It starts with the protagonist driving down the road, watching a car speed past her and not make the curve. She stops to help the driver of the car, of course, and ends up hearing his dying words — which were to give a message to no one but Andy. Problem is, none of the cast of characters seems to be named Andy. Come to find out, the guy was an FBI agent, but no one seems to know what he was working on.  It is a little convoluted, but it definitely kept me reading. I think you might enjoy it.
  • Zia Summer by Rudolfo Anaya was by far the best book I read last month. The mystery was a good one, but the books was so much more than that. Knowing many of the places Anaya write about and knowing about some of the incidents he mentioned made this even more interesting. And, of course, on top of all that you have Anaya’s beautiful writing. I cannot recommend this book enough.

OK, that’s all I have time for today. More tomorrow?

 

eBooks vs. paper

I read an article on the Guardian today that has me thinking. The title is “How eBooks lost their shine: ‘Kindles now look clunky and unhip’. Unfortunately, I am not sure what I think about it.

The author talks about the resurgence of physical books, stating

figures published today by the Publishing Association show that sales of consumer ebooks have dropped by 17%, while sales of physical books are up 8%.

Overall sales of books in Britain have risen, she goes on to state, which is the good news in all of this as far as I am concerned. The format of the books isn’t as important as the reading of books.

What irritated me was this:

Once upon a time, people bought books because they liked reading. Now they buy books because they like books. “All these people are really thinking about how the books are – not just what’s in them, but what they’re like as objects,” says Jennifer Cownie, who runs the beautiful Bookifer website and the Cownifer Instagram, which match books to decorative papers, and who bought a Kindle but hated it.

In general, this seems like a throwback to the days of people having libraries or bookshelves filled with books that were there to impress, not to be read. That doesn’t seem like progress to me. Books are for reading, not as a kind of art. It shouldn’t matter what the cover looks like; the story is what matters.

And I have to wonder why she didn’t like her Kindle. Was it because it was unhip or because reading on it was not pleasurable? Did she give the Kindle a chance or just abandon it right away?

Buried way down in the article was a very important statement:

The figures from the Publishing Association should be treated with some caution. They exclude self-published books, a sizable market for ebooks. And, according to Dan Franklin, a digital publishing specialist, more than 50% of genre sales are on ebook. Digital book sales overall are up 6%.

Most of the authors I read are self-published. Part of that is because there are some awesome self-published authors out there, and part is because traditional publishers often price their ebooks at or higher than the paperback editions.

There is another side to this discussion, too, and that is privacy. My husband sent me a link to a First Monday article by Clifford Lynch on reader privacy in the age of reader analytics. I will admit to not having read the whole article, but his closing thoughts include these:

At some point it’s worth asking what readers of various kinds will actually tolerate before the creepiness factor becomes overwhelming and repulsive. Suppose, as a thought experiment, that Amazon said it would share every purchaser’s e-mail address with the author of books they purchased? (Pick your own opt-in or opt-out boundary conditions). How about sharing this information with the book’s publisher? Would a discount on the purchase price or some other reward make most readers more comfortable? What conditions (enforceable or not) might be imposed on the author or the publisher regarding reuse of this purchaser information, and would this make any difference to readers’ comfort levels? What choices would customers make in such situations?

I probably don’t worry as much about privacy as I should. Do I need to worry about Amazon or Kobo selling my data? Would I be better off switching to paper books? Amazon could still sell my data if I buy my books from them.  I don’t see much way around it: we have very limited privacy anymore.

My husband loves to buy and read physical books. He only reads used books that he buys or gets from lending libraries without any paper trail. He is very concerned about privacy and, although he has had two ereaders, never got into ebooks. His approach is a fine one, I think. But it doesn’t work for me.

I love my ereaders. I love my ebooks. I buy mostly genre fiction by independent authors, so ebooks are right for me. What about you?

 

Thinking about blogging…

I was looking for some inspiration this morning and came across a post entitled On Book Blogging Expectations vs Reality.  The post was on a site called Drizzle & Hurricane Books.

One of her expectations and the reality she discovered is:

I thought I couldn’t “make it” as a book blogger.

“Making it” has so many different meanings, depending on how you see it. Can you really “make it” in the sense of being rich and famous, having books every day in your mailbox, billions of followers and talk-shows and such? No. Making money as a book blogger is hard, controversial at times, and not the question I want to tackle here.

Truth is, without talking about money here, you can totally make it. You can be the best book blogger you want to be without money or fame involved, just with you. By setting and meeting your own expectations, whether they are statistical (getting more visits, trying to get more followers) or bookish (reading more books, getting out of your comfort zone). You can make it by loving it every single day, despite the struggles. You can make it as a book blogger by being proud because it takes a whole lot of time and work and you are doing it anyway.

That has definitely been my experience with this blog. My expectations have changed over the 12 years or so I have been blogging.Originally, this had been a space to comment on blog posts I read and to interact with other educators. I was successful in that I enjoyed blogging about these topics and people on occasion responded to my posts. I learned a lot from the exchanges. I read a lot of blogs on a regular basis, and I felt like I was part of something much bigger than myself. That was all I needed to feel successful.

Then I went to work teaching in a prison. I couldn’t really blog about the work I did there, and I kind of lost my momentum.At the same time, there was a lot going on in my life, and I couldn’t focus much on blogging. So I didn’t post often, and I didn’t feel the least bit successful.

Once I quit working, I found I wasn’t as interested in the education/technology bent that had dominated this blog for 10 years. Reading and writing became more important to me in my life and in my blog. I have never recaptured the almost daily blogging I did in 2005, for example, but I have increased my posting again.

Marie’s last two sentences in the quote above describe where I am at. I don’t post every day, obviously, but I love it when I do. I love putting my thoughts out there for people to read. I know that there are not many people who follow this blog or stumble across it and read it from time to time, but the numbers aren’t really very important to me. It is the writing that matters. And it is difficult to be a blogger, to find something to say and then to strive to say it as well as possible. But it is worth the time and effort.

I plan to be blogging for a long time still.  More and more it will be about the books I read, I suppose. So I am thinking about what, if any, changes I want to make to this blog. Should I do a review of everything I read as I read it? More, shorter posts would be the result. I don’t know.  For the time being, though, just expect 2 or 3 posts about my reading each month and a few other posts as things come up.  I’m not ready to rush into anything new. Not yet, at least.

It had to happen!

Yesterday I did not write.  I had three online classes with my students, my husband left to help our granddaughter, and my son and I went out to eat. And I did not write.  As I went to bed about 11:30, I thought about getting up to post something here — just so I could say I had written — but I decided not to. Eventually, there had to be a day I did not write, so why not yesterday!

I know that the main reason for not writing is that I am completely at a standstill on the book.  When I am on a roll, I have no trouble finding time to write no matter what. But I am not currently on a roll. In my efforts to write every day, I have kind of wandered around to the extent that now I don’t know where I am headed.  I think I need to take a few days, maybe print it out and take a hard look at what I have and what I need to do now.  But I don’t know that I ma in the right place to do that at the moment.

So I guess I need a new writing project.  We’ll see what I can come up with. In the meantime, though, I am going to try to at least do some journaling every day. I like the fact that I am writing regularly again, and I don’t want to abandoned that because I missed one day.  We’ll have to see what happens!

Maybe I was wrong!

I had thought that Deathless, this month’s free tor.com ebook club selection would be easier to read than Shadow and Claw was last month, but I think I spoke too soon. I am over half way done with it — just over halfway done with it. It is going very slowly for some reason.

I think it is because the fantasy isn’t realistic — as silly as that sounds. It is too fantastic for me. The book is based on Russian folklore, and it just isn’t working for me. Maybe if I knew the stories behind the book, it would be easier to follow. But I don’t know the stories, so…

I am going to finish this book just like I finished last month’s. And I will get next month;s book and read it, too.  But I will begin to lose interest in them if they keep being too strange for me. Even a free book isn’t worth struggling through if it isn’t enjoyable.

I hope, if you happen to have read this book, that you will leave a comment and tell me what you thought. I am completely open to believing that the fault is mine, not the book’s. I just need for someone to help me see it through different eyes!

Another month of writing

It seems odd to me to be writing about my writing closer to the middle of the month than to the end of it, but that’s when I set the goal, so it’s when I have to report on progress.

Last month I set what I thought were lame but more realistic goals for myself. They were:

  • write 1000 words every day
  • get third book up from it’s current 8900 words to 35,000

Yes, they were lame, but lame as they were, they were still not realistic!

The good news is that I wrote every day again. That is the main goal, as far as I am concerned. There were a couple days it was a struggle and I ended up writing a couple hundred words at 11 pm, but I did it.

Most days, I did not write 1000 words. Some days I did. In so doing, I took the book from 8,900 words to 22,028 words. Not 35,000 to be sure, but I added more than 13,000 words to it in a month.

So what do I want to work toward in this next month? I think 1000 words a day is still kind of a low bar and one that I will keep aiming for until most days I surpass it. And since I wrote 13,000 words on the book, I want to aim for more than that this month. I think I should strive to reach 40,000 words. That’s only about 5000 more than I wrote this month, so it should be doable.

But like I said, the real goal is to keep writing every day. I am now teaching 2 online classes, so I am a lot busier, but there is really no excuse for not doing it. Let’s see if I can.

 

Give it a try!

If you were considering reading Deathless while it is available from Tor.com’s ebook club, I encourage you to do so. I am more than a quarter of the way through it, and I have been pleasantly surprised. In some ways it reminds me of Shadow and Claw, but it is much, much easier to read. I can’t say that I really love it so far, but I am enjoying it. So if you were wavering, I encourage you to give it a try. After all, it isn’t going to cost you anything! Remember, it’s only available through April 16. Get it here.

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