July is a saucy Minx

July is a flirt.  She flipped her skirt up at me, promised a wild ride, and then snuck out the back door when I wasn’t looking.  Now it’s August and I’m feeling dazed and not a little exhausted.

Two big things happened in July, both of which were great and neither of which helped my writing a jot.  First, I traveled to Honduras to help get my archaeological field project set up and running.  Second, my husband and I bought and moved into a new apartment – the first home we can truly call our own.  In between, I took a trip to Boston for Readercon.

Amidst all this travel, I did manage to squeeze in a little work, though not as much as I would have liked.

1. I made only wee bits of progress on ABSENT, my archaeological time travel novel.  I’m pretty close to finishing the rough draft, but most of what I accomplished in July was editing.  I took a hard copy of the manuscript to Honduras and marked it up in my spare time.

2. BLOOD RED SUN is still out to market, though I did recently get a partial request from an agent I’d be beyond thrilled to work with.  Even if she passes, I’m happy the query excited her interest.  All of my short stories are waiting on decisions at various magazines.

3. I Beta read a novel for a writing buddy (a real door-stopper at over 120K, but a fun read).

4. I did quite a lot of reading (much of it on my lovely new Nook).  This included “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children” by Ranson Riggs, “A Discovery of Witches” by Deborah Harkness, “Hammered” by Kevin Hearne, “Magic Slays” by Ilona Andrews, “The Forever War” by John Haldeman, and “Grave Dance” and “Grave Witch” by Kalayna Price.

All in all, a good month.  August looks to be a little less hectic, but that’s probably just when viewed from afar.  I’ve got a trip to Seattle coming up, in which I plan to do a little research for the dark Urban Fantasy novel I’m working on (I’m tentatively thinking to set it in Port Townsend and Seattle).  I also intend (no, VOW) to finish the rough draft of ABSENT before I leave for Seattle.  That means it will be done by Thursday.  No Matter What.  I’m also facing down quite a bit of course prep, as the new semester begins at the end of the month.

What were your big accomplishments and adventures in July?  What have you got on tap for August?  Do share, dear Reader!

E-reader impressions: hey, who put this library in my pocket?

So, I’ve had my Nook Simple Touch Reader for about a month.  In that time, I’ve read ten books on it and now feel qualified to put my thoughts and impressions about owning an e-reader out into the world.

Overall, the Nook is a pretty big win in my book (no pun intended).  It’s small and easy to use.  It wasn’t too pricey.  The battery lasts forever (a month!).  It holds thousands of books without cluttering my apartment.

Is it exactly the same as reading a real book?  No.  Is it pretty damn close?  Yes.

My biggest fear was that reading from the Nook screen would not be like reading from a page in a print book.  This fear was unfounded.  The e-ink technology is truly amazing.  It looks just like printed ink.  Doesn’t matter what angle or distance you hold the Nook at, it’s still just like reading from a printed book and nothing like reading from a computer screen.  The device itself is also very lightweight, easy to hold in one hand, and has no keypad (there’s a pop-up touchscreen instead).

Downloading e-books takes less than a minute, so it’s great for impatient little me – no waiting to read what I want.  There are plenty of classics you can get for free (either from B & N or from online sources like Project Guttenburg) and transferring files from your computer to the Nook is pretty easy.  Prices on e-books bought directly from B & N are usually a buck or two cheaper than a print version would be and there is an ample selection.  This Nook has no 3G connectivity, which is only a problem if you don’t plan ahead (e.g. I only downloaded one new book for my trip to Boston…big mistake!  I couldn’t get on the wireless at the hotel and thus wasn’t able to download any new books for the journey home).

The Nook is really great for doing Beta reading projects, too.  You just transfer the .pdf over (caveat: I did have to fiddle with formatting those .pdfs to make reading them easier) and you can read through your crit partner’s novels.  It’s vastly preferable to reading on the computer screen or printing them out.  In addition, there are several nifty features, such as the ability to loan books to other Nook readers and to check e-books out from the library on your Nook.

It isn’t all wine and roses, though.  There are a few aspects of using the Nook that I don’t much like.

First, you really lose out on the cover.  The Nook Simple Touch is black and white and the cover art is hard to see and more like a thumbnail image than a real picture.  For me, that does detract from the reading experience.

Second, when reading a novel, I always enjoy that anticipated build towards the final page.  You’re clutching the book in your sweaty mitts, turning pages, and watching the fraction of the remaining pages grow smaller and smaller…until, voila!, you’ve turned the final page.  With the Nook, I never have any idea when the last page is coming.  Yes, yes.  There’s a little page counter at the bottom of the screen.  But, seriously, when you’re in the grip of a good story you don’t look down at the page counter.  Every single time I’ve read a book on the Nook I’ve gotten to the last page and been utterly shocked that there’s nothing more to read.  It feels like a bit of a let-down.

Also, I will admit that something about the instant gratification of being able to download and begin a novel within minutes diminishes a little bit of the anticipation and pleasure (though there’s two sides to this…and sometimes this feature is the best thing about the Nook, as in the case of sequels and series).  As soon as you finish one, you can download another and just keep going.  The specialness of each individual novel fades a bit and they tend to blur together more than if I was reading hard copies.

Finally, there is no meaningful shelf of trophies on which to display your beloved books.  I know.  This is one of the reasons I got a Nook in the first place, but still…I miss the tactile and visual pleasure of reading and shelving, of adding to a collection of books that reflect my tastes for all to see.

Despite these criticisms, I’m happy I’ve purchased the Nook.  It’s a clever, useful device.  I’ll probably still buy the print versions of books I know I want on my bookshelf, but using the Nook should help keep my avaricious book buying to a reasonable level while still letting me tear through five to ten books a month.  Not a shabby compromise, really.

Taking the e-reader plunge

Well, I’ve decided to buy an e-reader.  Shelf-space is what finally pushed me over the edge, to be honest.  As I begin to think about packing (the hubby and I have bought an apartment and will be moving next month!), all I can think of is how horrible it will be to deal with the mountain of books I’ve accumulated.  There’s so many of them, and they’re so heavy.  Have they been breeding and snacking when I wasn’t looking? And where will we put them all in our lovely new place?

Maybe a tiny electronic device that holds thousands of books ain’t such a bad idea after all.

So, which e-reader do you think I should get?  I don’t want to break the bank (I already spend enough money on books as it is) and want something simple and straightforward that provides the best reading experience.  I’m currently leaning towards the new Nook Simple Touch Reader.  But I humbly request your advice in the comments.  What factors are most important to consider and what have your own e-reading experiences been?


A New Year, a new stack of books

My first glimpse of 2011:  a bleary-eyed grab at the alarm clock.  It’s 4:45am and I remember, with faint horror, that I must get up.  There’s a flight to catch; we’re off to New Orleans for a visit to the in-laws.

Staggering out of bed, cramming the last few things into the suitcase, and gulping rather desperately at a too-hot mug of tea, I grab the the book off the top of the pile on my nightstand, “Sandman Slim” by Richard Kadrey, and shove it in my purse.  Rather optimistic to think I’ll do much other than drowse and drool on the plane ride, don’t you think?.

This morning’s blind and random literary snatch, however, was momentous nonetheless, as it anointed the first book I’ll read in 2011.  After the delicious gift-giving frenzy of the holidays I’ve got a nice fat stack of books to plow through, including the aforementioned Kadrey book, as well as:

  • Ysabel, by Guy Gavriel Kay
  • Dervish House, by Ian McDonald
  • Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, by Philip K Dick
  • Sixty-One Nails, by Mike Shevdon
  • A Fire Upon the Deep, by Vernor Vinge

So, my New Year’s promise to all of you is the following:  I will read each one and report back with a review.  So, enjoy the start of another waltz round the calendar, and stay tuned for bookwormy goodness in the month to come!

ps. if you’ve already read some or all of these delights…no spoilers, please!

pps. Happy New Year!