Monthly Archives: July 2009

I haven’t posted about ebooks in, like, *days*…

Quality Control: It Matters | Booksquare:

I asked this question in the narrow context of ebook prices, addressing, specifically, the issue of lousy final layout in digital books. So much effort goes into the acquisition, editing, and marketing of a book. So much is destroyed when the final product is near-unreadable. It’s hard to argue for the value of a book when the publisher of that book throws a sloppy edition at the market.

Interestingly, I had never thought about the gaming industry in the context of ebook before this article. The gaming industry went semi-electronic years ago. They use PDF format and produce some slick graphic-and-tables heavy documents. As far as I know, most of them are DRM free, and most are a decently reduced price over their physical copies. How is this working out? Is piracy taking too big of a chuck out of them? Or have electronic versions been seen as cheap to produce and distribute; gravy atop regular sale mash potatoes?

YorkWriters: Trading in Wooden Blocks: Readers and the Ownership of eBooks:

Let us be clear. … You have NEVER owned the books you “bought.” You owned the blocks of wood on which they were printed, the ink, the glue, but not the words themselves. Those were offered to your on a limited license.

The problem is, publishing houses still want to charge a price that is not much lower than buying the content *and* the block of wood. I suppose this can be seen as the cost of convenience, but the simple fact remains: when I buy an ebook, I am getting a different product and perhaps less of a product.

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Tonight is my last game as a peach-y Desert Diva. We’re playing in finals: 5-1 Miss Read versus 4-1-1 Divas. Despite not playing very well, it’s been fun, as I knew it would be. As most disc is. Hopefully, my body is willing to participate. The monsoon weather patterns have left me on the achy side and ulti yesterday wore me out. We had low numbers in the morning and then Chris and AJ showed up wanting to play 2 on 2 at about 7pm. As is tradition it was Eric and I (combined age 73) versus them (combined age 42). Luck for us, neither had played in a while, neither was wearing cleats, and AJ is out of shape.  I think the scoring ratio was 3:1 in our favor.

Brought to you by the letter M…

Advertising – Got Milk? Nestlé’s Lawsuit Says Muscle Milk Doesn’t – NYTimes.com:

The brand claims to resemble mother’s milk because it contains “fast burning fats” called medium chain diglycerides, while also implying that it tastes as good as dairy, with flavors like “vanilla crème” and “cookies ’n crème.”

Not that I’m in the market for protein shakes, but the “milk” association of this product has always made me a little queasy. Interesting that it’s Nestles, without a “milk” named brand, that is filing the petition.

Unilever gets all the trans fat out of its margarines – USATODAY.com:

Food and Drug Administration rules let foods with less than 0.5 grams of trans fat per serving be labeled “0 grams of trans fat.” But consumer demand and pointed marketing by Smart Balance, Unilever’s closest rival in soft spreads, nudged Unilever to go lower. It will no longer mix in even tiny amounts, which added texture and shelf life. The new label, for the first time, will boast: No hydrogenated oils.

Competition results in better products, picking up on the FDA “fail.” Yay capitalism.

From the land of shameless self-promotion:
Obscure Media Monday: Music: A3 (or Alabama 3)
Also, as if anyone would be interested in reading what I read:
Google Reader – Katherine N’s shared items
Google Reader has gone all social media on me.

Fall league is revving up. Or leagues, I should say. There will be two: a regular T/Th league and a super-spiffy Friday night league. I need to get on the ball putting a few things together for both. I did minimal work on it yesterday because I really needed to get some writing done. I haven’t done much of anything *this* morning due to an alcohol-filled gaming session with Eric and Chris last night. I went to bed at around 4am and am a little teeny bit hungover today. I probably need more coffee. And pasta salad.

What’s that they told you about a book & a cover?

Often at conventions themes start to reoccur across panels. It’s a product of common participants and topics that are closely related. At FiestaCon I’d say one of those themes was the pitfalls of being desperate to publish. And sometimes it’s hard not to be desperate.

I’m not a gambler. If you give me $5 and tell me you’ll give me double or nothing if five blue cars pass by my window in the next five minutes, I’ll take the fiver and have a nice lunch at Taco Bell. I’m low risk all the way. Except when it comes to my chosen career. Writing is a somewhere between roulette and a long con. You can jimmy your odds, but you have to be very patient to make it pay off. I’ve been working with varying degrees of intensity for over ten years now. While my first novel is being published in September, the last five years have been dedicated to a multi-book project. It’s a great project, a beautiful project, but I have no *guarantee* that I’ll get paid for the last five years of work. How many people would work for five years on the belief that one day they’ll get paid? Of course, money’s not the only thing. Let’s say you’re a lawyer. You have a degree in law, but you only sit at home and argue cases hypothetically. In the eyes of others, how much respect would you be given as a professional? While most writers contend that they write for themselves, publication is the next step to being considered a professional.

Again and again at FiestaCon, authors were warned against being desperate to publish. Don’t pay to have you book published, or “marketed,” or edited. If you’ve managed to catch an editor’s eye, be prepared to walk if the editorial changes are not within your view of your book. Because, it’s your name on the cover. And despite the old adage, the cover matters. The cover is the first communication that the author has with the reader. Ironically, the cover is possibly the thing the author has the least influence in choosing.

Which brings me, round about, to two articles that went around my corner of the internet this past week:

Ain’t That a Shame | Justine Larbalestier
What happens when you love your publisher, but they’ve saddled you with a cover that is totally misleading? We’re not just talking details being wrong, we’re talking a cover that could produce a complete misreading of your book. How do you take your novel and “walk” then?

And then there’s this:
Adventures in Book Marketing with Simon Kernick’s DEADLINE
Having someone else’s name on novels for marketing purposes isn’t new. There’s the blurb. There’s the “Presents”. There’s writing within another author’s universe. But this takes it to a whole new level. This is someone else’s name on half your cover. Regardless of whether it’s misleading or how much better sales are going to be, I’m not sure I’d feel right about that. Kernick isn’t a new author. Would it be different if he were?

How One Thinks of Good Things

Been thinking about this article from Scientific American: What If I’d Never Met My Husband.

The researchers show that people prompted to write about how a positive event may not have happened experience a greater uptick in mood than those prompted to describe the positive event.

It occurred to me while discussing it with Eric that I’m not very good at this sort of game. When discussing the possibility of, for example, not meeting him, I don’t see the resulting future as necessarily worse than my present. Or better than my present. It would be very different, but with it’s own good and bad. I suppose I do experience an uptake in mood when considering the possibilities because the exercise does highlight the things I do like about my life. But is there a chicken/egg relationship between my general dysphoria and the way I see such hypotheticals?

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In the land of recounting good things:

We went to Four Peaks last night for dinner. I wanted chicken salad, and battered french fries sounded good in the way that high potassium foods do after sweaty exercise.

(Had a pretty good morning of disc. My compatriots might not agree since the numbers were a little thin, but I had fun. The timing of my cuts seemed better than it has been. It would be nice if that continues tonight. I’m still having problems with my short backhand. I had an easy put to Reif, who had worked to get open on Nabity, and totally biffed it. I need to improve that without getting neurotic about it.)

Since the weather was less than scalding, we walked. By the time we reached the restaurant, I had decided to have a beer. Usually, that’s an easy choice, but I’m trying to be slightly fiscally responsible and figured it was an expense to cut. Until beer sounded good in the way that beer can after sweaty exercise. As is habit at Four Peaks, I asked if there was any seasonal brew available. There was, and it’s possibly the best beer I’ve had. It is a bourbon-barrel-aged Kiltlifter. In general, Kiltlifter is one of my favorites. It’s a flavorful amber with a decent alcohol percentage and little bite. The waitress described the barrel-aged version as having a noticeable whiskey taste. Not a whiskey drinker, I can’t tell if it did or didn’t. What the bourbon-barrel Kiltlifter did have was a tiny bit more sweetness and a smoothness that I’m not sure I’ve previously experience in beer. Eric tasted it and agreed that if he were forced to drink a beer, that one might be it. High praise indeed from Eric.

Dissecting a Pet Peeve

I am a science fan. ‘Round about 40 years ago, it was easier to be a groupee. How many scientists were born from the dream-become-reality of walking on the moon? Our world is becoming what science fiction used to be, yet it’s harder to be a fan of science.

Eighty percent of my science related pet peeve is summed up with this cartoon:


Science News Cycle

The news industry does a grave injustice to science. It over-hypes the results of small preliminary studies. Headlines often use the most hysterical language to report things. A recent Salon article (Why America is flunking science) touches on Hollywood misrepresenting science, but more damage is done by reporters who don’t understand the scientific method writing to an audience that doesn’t understand the scientific method. When the results of some minor early study are over-exposed and demonized, the public loses confidence in science when a further study shows a reverse trend. It sometimes seems that even scientists forget that the most important part of science is retesting, refining, and reassessing when more data is available. Science is the search for how the world works and how to make the world work for us; not the search for a definitive answer based on a half-understood model of how the world works.

Hollywood is not free of fault. I understand Crichton’s argument in the Salon article. Science and scientists are good drama devices, though I’m not a fan of negative science fiction (which is fairly prominent in literature as well). But to some degree, science can still be a "villain" without sacrificing sense of wonder. While "Doctor Who" is pretty far from scientific rigor, it is optimistic science fiction despite the occasional killer robots. The Doctor and his companions see I’ve also been watching the BBC’s "Eleventh Hour" which has a big science villain every episode but also a protagonist that marvels at how far science can and will take us. (I haven’t seen the American version.)

Still, it’s extremely annoying when TV shows and movies (and books) ignore the basics of how the world works (which is the basis of science, after all). Octagonal paper is used, and all you need to interface with the alien spacecraft is a trusty Mac. Blood is often red and gooey weeks after a murder. Pistols are incredibly accurate at long range. Technologies aren’t developed through thousands of man-hours by a team of men and women, but by one rich super-genius. It all adds up to a very distorted view of how the world works and how science works. And sadly, in many cases, what movies and TV get wrong could easily be put right. I deal with this often in the fictional world that Eric and I are creating. The easy short-cut or the stylish detail is sometimes off the mark as far as reality is concerned. These things are a hassle to correct, but the fictional world I’m creating is much richer when the flaws are fixed and there is continuity in the way the universe works. Why wouldn’t I expect as much from depictions of our own reality?

…still doesn’t quite explain the dream of playing ulti with the Brontës…

Been in a blah, non-communicative, summer mood. I’ve been reading some and sleeping a bunch with occasional bouts of EQ2 and ultimate frisbee.

Desert Divas, the women’s league team I’m on, has been playing some great games. A few weeks back we beat the top team, Miss Red, by one in hard cap. This was a rematch game; Miss Red has given us our only loss of the season in our first meeting. Considering our win this week, we’ll be seeing them again in the final game. And considering this week’s game: we played savage against a team with a basically full roster and won by two. We started out with 6 and Chick Flick, our opponent, agreed to 6-on-6. Jamie arrived about 4-5 points in. It was a very back and forth game. I expected Chick Flick to pull ahead around 5-5, but it never seemed to happen.

On a personally level, my play still hasn’t been great. I had a nice yoink-like grab around Marnie (which was followed by a throw to Haydon for a score), but I also turfed a backhand dump in that special 90-degree-angle style of mine. Sheesh. I won’t enumerate the rest of my faults.

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What have I been reading?

Book #13 – No Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthy

The first time I encountered Cormac McCarthy was online, in an excerpt from one of his books. WTF, I thought. Not only does this guy not use dialogue tags, he doesn’t use dialogue punctuation. As a writer it’s the kind of thing that makes me scowl a bit. How come this guy gets away with playing fast and loose with his punctuation while I’d probably get dismissed out of hand by sending in a writing submission that way? The lack of punctuation seems to bother no one but me, so maybe I’m labeling myself as an unsophisticated n00b by complaining about it. *shrug* What have you. Nonetheless, it took me while to decide to read McCarthy’s stuff.

I was very impressed by the movie No Country for Old Men and I got curious about how McCarthy wrote it. And how the lack of dialogue punctuation affects how the reader experiences the text. McCarthy’s writing is very clean. His sentences are structured simply and his details are only in evidence when they’re needed. When he spends a few paragraphs on Moss’s guns, it’s to convey the expertise of the character. Clean writing is something I envy. Most of the time, McCarthy proves that dialogue tags are the safety nets of authors that…well…need safety nets. Myself included. I’ve tried to cut back on the number of tags I use. Really, I have! There are times though when a nice “he said” would come in handy. The punctuation… As a fairly aural reader, it removed any special emphasis I might give to what was being said by characters. Whether that’s the intent and whether it’s a similar experience for other readers, I don’t know. I was occasionally confused by the lack and that bugged me. I’m from the transparent writing school of thought. I don’t believe the text itself should get in the way of the storytelling. There are exception and there are techniques of using the text to make the reader slow down and contemplate what’s going on, but I’d say the times when I had to reread a passage it was for clarity’s sake. It wasn’t to have McCarthy reiterate something important.

On the whole, begrudgingly I admit, this is a very good book. It’s certainly the best I’ve read this year, thus far. I’ll be reading The Road sometime in the near future.

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Still working on a post about my #1 pet peeve (which actually encompasses several pet peeves).

Working on bringing my web presence under the Entangled Continua umbrella, including my Live Journal here. In addition to that, I’ve been dealing with a couple days worth of migraines, caused by a combination of weather, hormones, and over-caffeination. On the subject of migraine auras I found the Migraine Aura Foundation. While I haven’t read enough to decide if any science on the site is valid, they have some interesting aura art and animations. This one is particularly familiar to me, except mine is slower (this is probably sped up for effect) and eventually bursts open and sort of slides to the edge of my vision.

Via Victoria Strauss:
The truth about writers – Los Angeles Times:

Recently, I timed myself during a typical four-hour “writing” session, in order to determine how many minutes I spend writing. The answer: 33. That’s how long it took to type four pages of narrative and dialogue for my novel-in-progress, much of which will eventually end up discarded.

Cringe-worthy truth.

Other links:
Is Unconscious Plagiarism a Real Phenomenon? | Newsweek Health | Newsweek.com
It Ain’t Easy Being a Pit Bull Owner: Scientific American
Book Review – ‘Free – The Future of a Radical Price,’ by Chris Anderson – Review – NYTimes.com