Whatever’s an e-Reader For?

I came into publishing at probably the most misleading time of the last hundred years. Yeah, that sounds like a good excuse.

When I started chronicling in 2008, I was following the pure desire to make something of these tales I had lands-of-hope1bound up inside me. I identified with not just paper pub, but the traditional route to it– getting an agent, breezing through one of the Big 5, the book tour, the fame, the groupies. Forty rejections later I woke up, admitted fantasy was the genre, not the life-path. But I kept chronicling, that’s the thing. If I thought about my future as anything I had control over, it was of course going to be in all media, analog and digital, video and audio. The movie, particularly, I really grooved on that.

By the time I started publishing it was summer of 2011. What we tentatively called Year 4 AK (After Kindle). Remember? People were going to convert completely to e-readers, just a matter of months. Print was DEAD, I tell you, everyone knew that. And I had tablet envy bad. I self-published my first four tales in digital format, and figured I was done. What loser would chase paper? Paper books were supposed to be the new Betamax (yeah, I know) or like 8-tracks, vinyl records. As in, you only saw them in movies. Black and white movies. I read all kinds of stuff on my PC, even on my tiny smartphone. As old as I am, I can say with honesty I’ve gotten used to screen reading, it’s pretty normal for me now. More on that below.print-is-dead

Wha’ Hoppen?

But the revolution I expected, that lack of e-reader I was still so jealous about? Didn’t really happen, did it. Hey, not the first time I’ve been a fool. I did what many of you did, only in my case it involved less time and talent. Flogged my platform, made announcements, kept chronicling, tried new things like a trailer, blog tour, writing about cool stuff. Hoping to catch fire somewhere. But still thinking entirely in digital.

You can probably see where this is going. My publisher gets me under contract (best piece of paper I’ve signed since my marriage license), and right away she starts talking crazy. How the next book, the big one, the once-trunk novel Judgement’s Tale should come out not only as novellas, but after the e-books, also in paper.

 

And I thought– paper? That dead organic stuff? It was this moment that I woke up (again) and really understood what others were shouting, that the Big 5 weren’t going to fold, and that paper books served a purpose for many people. Um, in fact, the vast majority. The rest is fast becoming history. People responded to JT in print quite viscerally, and my sales are starting to count with people I regard now the way an ERB hero would discovering a lost race. Paper book reader, I presume?

Circling Back to the Future (of Reading)

Definition of irony: I have a tablet now.

JT_at_BetBks_Jul_15

A store shelf. And my book. In the same place!

That e-reader I was always chasing is now in my grasp, every day, and I still do much more reading on it than in any paper form. But I realize it’s not the predestined winner in any near future on this planet. Most of my energy these days, outside of writing the next one, is focused on what’s going to happen to my tales in paper. My publisher is taking good care of that, and this opens up a world of possibilities at libraries, book fairs, maybe signings. Meeting real folks, shaking hands and giving out business cards, letting them thumb through the pages and hearing them ask the Dread Question (“So, what’s this one about?”). Because I have books in paper, no thanks to me.

What’s an e-reader for then? As an author, how to use it to improve your reach or your art?

I have several answers for you, things that have worked for me and which I recommend:

Come to it for the Cheap

Tablets and e-readers are becoming very affordable, and if you play your cards right you can basically steal one. I got my current tablet when we took Genna into the carrier store to get her a smartphone (at long last! she’s 18). We knew that college required her to stay in touch via email, Twitter, etc. so we put her together with an iPhone5. Genna mentions to the clerk the old household joke about how her Dad has tablet envy, and he says “you know, you can get a tablet for ninety-nine cents”. Yeah, it requires a data plan, but Genna and I share 1 Gb apiece and I lock the account so it just stops when we get close. Wi-Fi, we love you. And if you take a Kindle with a year of Amazon Prime, Jeff Bezos will personally fly to your house via drone and buff your toenails, or something pretty close.

Stay for the Stuff

There’s hardly any such thing as an e-reader anymore, everything is multifunctional, including Kindles and even Nooks (though admittedly, not as much). I gauge what to bring when leaving the house, based on how cool-tablet-cartoonmuch idle time I’ll have. Laptop for writing, tablet for reading: the former weighs a couple pounds and goes in a padded case (belongs to my employer), the latter fits in my jacket pocket and I forget I’m carrying it. So what? So check your email, catch up on blog posts and reading related to your work as an improving author. Think of the cyber-things you can’t do because you’re not at your desk; even research for your next book. I have a couple of games too, of course. Because games! No worries– I know my mind is continuing to integrate thoughts on the WiP in the background.

Round Up the Usual Advantages

Just because paper books refused to do the decent thing doesn’t mean you can’t benefit from having a library in your pocket. I have free online e-book copies of everything I’ve done for my “Classics You’ve Never Read” series. A few touches to reach any book, any chapter; I know reading it in a spine is more fun but what if you just want to find that place where Jonathan Harker said goodbye in his last letter to Mina? You seriously going to argue you can do that more easily? A book on tablet has choice of fonts, and you can alter the SIZE (oh boy, that’s key for a guy who forgot to bring his reading glasses) as well as the background light (eye damage? what idiot reads in bed with the setting on daytime brightness? Two taps). You can read seven other books and come right back to where you were (bookmarks), you can tap to define a word (online dictionary), you can Copy and make notes (easier on your PC, but it’s all the same to the Kindle app). You invested a boatload of hours getting used to reading on a PC. It’s like riding a bike, you just have to spend a little time to get used to it. And watch out for trees.

The Occasional Surprise

The tablet has also proved useful to me in one other, rather sneaky way. As I became accustomed to reading on screen, I also realized it was sometimes tough for me to proof, or scan my drafts for polishing purposes. I re-read my stuff repeatedly when I’m drafting, it’s like the bobsled guys rocking back and forth in the track before the next run. But between the time when I THINK it’s ready and when it actually is… I’ve realized I can “self-pre-publish”! Just take the draft in document form and send it to your screenname @ kindle.com, and it shows up in your library!

Honestly, you won’t believe how much more seriously you take your own works when they LOOK like “the real thing”. The Kindle has become so much second-nature to me that I find myself automatically treating the draft like published work. It gives me confidence in what I’ve done well, and exposes what still needs redress even more clearly. And the PC can stay at home until I actually-factually decide to rewrite it.

Print is Dead-Egon

 

So long live paper. And get a tablet anyway.

New Release: Will Hahn’s “The Ring and the Flag” in Paperback

Ring&Flag-big-hi-resI could not be happier at this happy season, than to announce the first novella in the Shards of Light series is now available in paperback via Amazon. Captain Justin is one of three amazing heroes who start in very different places and are set against the same dread conspiracy. He’s already tried his best but failed, and is headed now to disgrace with a heavy heart. Little does he know what his commander has in mind for him. Little does anyone know the threat that faces the Argensian Empire, too soon after a costly civil war.

If you’re new to the Lands of Hope this is a great place to get started, and if you are wondering what to send the reader on your shopping list, here’s the perfect answer– The Ring and the Flag is a standalone adventure you can give to please a friend, and leaves them free to investigate the rest of the series if they like.

The Ring and the Flag

Newly-graduated imperial officer Justin is convinced he has no future, and hearing the details of the secret mission he’s assigned for the Emperor won’t change his mind. Civil War threatens the North Mark. Justin must race against time to form a company, and lead his men into the center of the web; but what happens when his loyalty to the Empire means the death of those who follow him?
In 2002 ADR, the Empire of Argens is still reeling from the usurpation of its centuries-old throne by a landless adventurer. A ferocious dwarven warrior named Yula and his sorcerous human allies not only defeated the flower of elvish knighthood, but exposed the former dynasty as nothing less than demons in disguise. Now a young captain, ruined by his loyalty to the old regime, has one last chance to redeem his family name in the officer training corps being established by the hated new emperor.
Captain Justin gets much more than he bargained for, however, as he is sent on a secret mission to the North Mark, hotbed of disloyalty even in the old days and now on a trip-wire for revolt. Given only days to assemble a company, march north and defuse the conspiracy, the new captain will be tested too often, too hard and far too soon.
“The Ring and the Flag” is the first story in the Shards of Light saga set in the Lands of Hope, the creation of Wm. L. Hahn. More than twenty years in the making, the Lands hold tremendous adventure, a sense of history, and a strong theme of the difficult choices heroes must make when faced by the power of Despair.

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Will Hahn serves as Chronicler of The Lands of Hope, you can find all of his current tales online here, or sample his thoughts about the Lands, Life and Everything on his website.

New Releases for Debbie Mumford!

FR16 Hidden in Crime ebook cover
I’m thrilled to announce that I have a short story in this anthology!

Edited by the incomparable Kristine Kathryn Rusch, this volume focuses on historical crime fiction–specifically, stories about crimes that are no longer against the law.

Writing “Sisters in Suffrage” was a departure for me since I don’t write mysteries or crime fiction. My usual genres are all speculative in nature, so I was stymied about how to approach this story. When I realized that the crime didn’t have to be solved, that I could simply tell a story about something that horrified me, I was on my way.

I had written a blog post several years ago encouraging women voters to exercise the rights that our foremothers suffered to earn for us. I knew when I began my research that my right to vote hadn’t come freely, but I hadn’t realized the extent to which “suffrage” and “suffering” had been related. When the memory of my research surfaced, “Sisters in Suffrage” was born.

I hope readers will enjoy this anthology, but even more I hope the stories will make people think about what’s legal, what isn’t…and why.

And in other news…

Astromancer-Cover-2x3

My short story “Astromancer” is now live on Amazon and will be coming soon to Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and all the Smashwords affiliates!

Apprentice Alchemist Wyot is an astrologer of the third rank. He dreams of becoming an astromancer, one of the elite few who move starships between the known planets, but knows he lacks the innate magical talent required to fulfill his lofty ambition. When the Thrice Great commands his presence, Wyot has no idea what to expect from the leader of the legendary Emerald Enclave.

It’s been a very good week!

Juma’s Rain – new release

Yes, I know I’m late again. That happens often with authors since we all have ur head in the clouds (actually in stories to tell the truth). I’m participating in NaNoWriMo (= writing a novel of 50K words minimum in a month) again this year (for the 8th time) and have been writing like mad. I managed to get more words down already than in any NaNo I did before. So, please forgive my tardiness in all things aside from that.

Today, I present to you my next book, a YA love story set in Stone Age Africa, Juma’s Rain.

Juma's Rain cover

Yes, I do know that Juma’s buttocks are visible, but people in Africa didn’t wear all that much in the Stone Ages. I assure you though that there is no graphical sex in the book (although a little smooching occurs). The story is about a girl who wants to become the next clan leader but is apprenticed to the village witch instead because she can see the gods. Her talent is urgently needed to wake the rain-goddess and stop the fire dæmon from destroying the earth. Falling in love with the current clan leaders’ son wasn’t part of the plan…

You can pre-order the book on Amazon so that it will be delivered to your Kindle on Sunday 15th of November. Or you can buy the print book if you prefer. And if you like the story, please let me know.

On Further Review…

With a nod to what the refs say during football season… I want to tap the collective wisdom of our readership on a topic we’ve been hearing about recently. Amazon appears to be cracking down on paid reviews and I think most of us would cheer that idea. But what’s the real problem here? And what’s the best solution? Take the poll below and comment.

Briefly- Amazon moved against several paid review sites recently, to shut down people posting five-star reviews that were bought and paid for (and presumably inauthentic). You figure Amazon can do what they like, and you figure they’re ticked off their own star-rating system is being gamed, sure. But here’s a twist, as pointed out in this online article I saw via a colleague today: Amazon is now going after individual reviewers, and evidently is suing for a “remedy” that includes the information to find out who those reviewers got paid by. Everybody still cool with that?

Layer on this, which many of us are familiar with: the Zon also removes reviews if they judge that you “know the author personally“. The criteria they use to determine this is something they refuse to share, and the take-down they apply is irreversible. You can complain when it happens to you. I did, and got bupkus back. For an honest review of a book I had read, penned by a fellow author who is indeed my friend (as a result of our online collaboration, not because I am her kid’s godfather or we go bowling on Tuesdays). I can tell you, I took THAT personally.

And through it all, the part that I really love to hate- ignorant, hateful, racist/sexist/ageist trolls can come crashing through an author page and wreck the place with no penalty whatsoever. Just scratch up $3 of sourdough money to buy the first title: download, write a one-star/one-line review, then return the book. Get all your money back, while your review stays up naming you as a “Qualified Reviewer” forever! Use the same money to lather-rinse-repeat through every title, just because the author’s a woman, or dared to praise Reagan, or said something nice on Facebook about the football team you hate.

Hahn_critic_1So, what’s the right and just thing to do, will Amazon ever get around to doing that, and what would be best for all of us anyway? Take a shot at the poll to get your juices flowing, and then by all means leave a comment (use pen-names so the Zon doesn’t figure out how well we know each other!).

Vote for the statement you think is most true ! Then comment.

Wishes coming true…

I love my family.

I love to read.

I love to write.

So, why can’t I manage to get all these under one hat? I know there are a lot of people (especially marries woman in the area where I live) who do their best to kill time. I wish they could give it to me.

Imagine what it would be like if I could use those discarded time snippets of other people to… read just one more chapter or write just one more blog post or another scene on my novel.

Sigh…

Truth be told, I though something like that would never happen. But then, I discovered NaNoWriMo. And all of a sudden, my very supportive husband helped me to make room for a miracle that takes an incredible amount of work but gives back to me a) a partly finished novel and b) a boost of creative energy that lasts for months.

Have you ever had the feeling that you can accomplish anything? That’s what I get out of NaNo. This is my 8th year, and I’m excited like a little child. Tell me about you. Do you have something lined up that excites you? Share it in the comments.

The Power of Fairy Tales

Fairy tales have been around for centuries, yet somehow they’ve never lost their power to enchant us. What is it about these stories that continues to capture our imaginations?
Some scholars have made attempts to dissect fairy tales down to their basic elements, labeling characters and situations as particular archetypes and distilling the whole thing down to a single plot called The Hero’s Journey. While these discussions may be interesting or even useful for some people, I find them dry. Examining a fairy tale this way takes most of the magic out of it for me.
But there is something to be said that these stories, if not perfectly universal, do have elements that many people can relate to. The longing to find someone to love, the fear of monsters in the woods, the darker emotions of greed and jealousy and hatred. In versions rewritten for children, fairy tales are molded to teach moral lessons and always end with good rewarded and evil punished. But many of the original versions of fairy tales are much darker, and sometimes even the good heroes are killed or scarred by their ordeals. It’s not surprising that fairy tales inspire not only modern children’s movies but also terrifying horror stories.
I think the thing that draws me the most to fairy tales is the otherworldly atmosphere that they create. From the moment we hear the words “once upon a time”, we know that we’re in another time and place where the normal rules don’t apply. It’s not unusual for animals to start talking or a girl to learn how to fly. We get the sense that anything could happen, and it opens the realms of imagination.
The fun thing about fairy tales is that it seems I will never run out of new stories to discover. There are always new modern retellings and imaginings of the favorites, while there are also thousands of old fairy tales and folk stories from virtually every culture in the world. There’s everything from light-hearted children’s versions to dark originals and adult-oriented new versions, and even humorous parodies. It seems they’re not going out of style any time soon, and that suits me just fine.
It’s my hope that as a writer, I can capture some of what I love about fairy tales in my own stories to inspire others. It’s hard to pick a favorite, but I’ve always liked “The Princess and the Glass Hill”, “Beauty and the Beast”, and “The Little Mermaid”. Do you have a favorite fairy tale?

Author Spotlight: Meredith Pritchard and Authtoberfest

October is upon us and you know what that means; fall leaves, steaming cups of coffee, tea, cocoa, sweatpants, blankets and fires, and… dead things. Ghosts and Zombies and the Apocalypse align. Droves of the undead, aka real live humans, line up to devour it all with a ferocious appetite. I’m no exception. All of my favorite books, TV shows, and movies tend to release in October. I’ve long been a fan of The Walking Dead and my love of that series has impacted my book blog Secret Life of a Townie. What began as a zombie apocalypse discussion blog has turned into a book review and author interview blog, infused with apocalyptic and zombie themes. I’ve used this platform to discuss the books I love and gather interviews from authors of all paths of publishing; debut and tenured, indie and traditional and hybrid. I usually post one interview a week, but after a surge of reaching out and getting encouraging responses from the gods of publishing, I suddenly had a handful of interviews from some of my favorite authors. I really wanted to get these interviews out into the world and I knew that during the fall my blog gets the most traffic. So what began as a scheduling conundrum turned into “Authtoberfest.”

October Author party-4

“Authtoberfest” is a month of author interviews from horror, sci-fi & fantasy authors. The questions are Halloween and Zombie themed. The authors discuss their favorite books, the ability of their fellow authors to survive the zombie apocalypse, and advice for aspiring writers. With 31 authors there are a lot of great book suggestions and some awesome tips to keep writers motivated.

The event started on October 1st with Peter Heller. Peter wrote an amazing novel, The Dog Stars, and has an impressive CV that makes me feel like I’ve done absolutely nothing with my life. He’s a super nice guy who took time out of his busy schedule to answer my emails and impart his words of wisdom upon the world.

Peter_Heller

Isaac Marion’s interview is schedule for October 9th. Isaac wrote the hilarious yet profound novel Warm Bodies, it was a major motion picture and my favorite read of 2013. My Goodreads review went a little like this: “This started off really fun, really funny, and then turned super deep. So here I sit, book finished, a bottle of wine gone, and I’m still trying to figure out what the f–k I just read…” Isaac had a ton of great tips, book suggestions, and a playlist that gave me nightmares. If you loved Warm Bodies, check out his latest release The New Hunger. Isaac Marion never disappoints.

IsaacMarion

Peter Cawdron, The Behrg, Ernie Lindsey, R. E. Carr, Nick Cole, and Josh Malerman will also be featured. Josh’s interview brought back all the scary crap from my childhood that I’ve spent the past 30 years forcing myself to forget. I had to sleep with the light on a few times after reading that interview but his thoughts are quite amazing so it was worth it. Josh’s interview posts Oct 31st. Bird Box was an amazing read, if you haven’t read it yet make sure you pick it up.

JoshMalerman

I had a wicked ton of fun preparing these interviews for everyone. Check out the author interview schedule or stop by daily. Like, comment, Tweet and share. And have a Happy Authtoberfest!

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MRPritchardM.R. Pritchard is a lifelong inhabitant of upstate NY. She lives near the shores of Lake Ontario where she spends her days reading and writing and watching the snow fall. When she is not writing she is a NICU Nurse, wife, mother, gardener, aquarist, book hoarder and science geek. M.R. Pritchard holds degrees in Biochemistry and Nursing. She likes books, coffee, and rum.

To receive updates on new releases sign up for her newsletter at http://eepurl.com/TXnkL.

Visit her website MRPritchard.com or her blog http://secretlifeofatownie.blogspot.com/where she writes about all things books.

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Be sure to stop by Authtoberfest on October 15 when fantasy author Debbie Mumford (aka Deb Logan) will be the featured author!

DebbieMumford Authtoberfest-2

You’re late …

… seems to be my theme these days. I keep forgetting appointments, fall asleep on the sofa, stare at my manuscript unseeing, forget blogposts :D . All in all, I’m not happy with this. So, I decided to challenge myself.

From now on, I shall increase the amount of sports I do. Beside going Nordic Walking once or twice a week, I shall use our rowing trainer. Way back, when I met my now-husband, I was quite good at rowing. Yesterday, I barely managed 5 minutes. Therefore, I aim to get 20 minutes of rowing done by Christmas, and I’ll report here every once in a while to let you know how it goes and how much it interferes with my writing.

Anyone out there joining this challenge?

The End of Summer

maple leavesLabor Day has come and gone, signaling the end of summer. Granted, the season doesn’t officially end for another couple of weeks, but functionally, summer is over. Kids are heading back to school and adults are settling into their work-a-day worlds, thoughts of vacations and get-away weekends having been wrapped in gossamer and stored for next year’s use.

Autumn is upon us, and far from feeling nostalgic for the loss of summer’s heat and sense of possibility, I’m looking forward to crisp, cool weather, tart red apples, and a kaleidoscope of fall colors as Mother Nature changes her garb. bigleaf maple

Fresh pressed apple cider. A drive in the hills to admire the red, gold, and bronze foliage. Soft blue skies with scudding white clouds and just a breathe of chill. The honking of a chevron of geese overhead.

These are the delights of autumn and I’m looking forward to experiencing each and every one!

Farewell, Summer. You’ve been awesome. Welcome, Autumn. I’ve missed you, my favorite season, and I’m looking forward to getting reacquainted!

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