Monday, September 24, 2012

What I Want In An E-Reader

Following the launch of the Kindle Fire and the Kindle Paperwhite, the internet is rife with reviews, links and dim photographs of screens. Truly, we live in a golden age.

The line between an e-reader and a tablet is becoming blurred and as a consumer, this concerns me. The Kindle Fire seems to be a direct iPad competitor, while the Kindle Paperwhite is strictly a device for reading books. I'm relieved that I can still buy devices that just display ebooks (and do it well) but the general move towards a single all-singing all-dancing tablet that runs your entire digital life does not grab me as much as it might.

For reading, I want a dedicated ereadert. Beyond that, my needs are simple:

It must be compatible with Amazon's mobi format. An increasingly large number of writers are releasing exclusively on Amazon and I don't want to miss out on that.

It must read my own PDFs. This is a big part of how I edit my novels now.

It must have a screen that's easy on the eye, ideally not backlit. I have terrible eyesight, and am constantly being advised to spend less time looking at backlit screens. My day job and most of my hobbies involve looking at a screen. It's nice to give my eyes a break.

Beyond that, I have a few wants - I'd rather it didn't look too much like an iPad because I don't fancy getting mugged, long battery life is a big plus (because of my forgetting-to-charge problem, as well as the fact I like to travel) and a good, durable screen that can survive some serious handbag-time are all important.

I hope the market continues to provide that - however, I suspect my lovely un-backlit Kindle Keyboard is part of a dying breed.

What about you guys? What do you want in an ereader?

I'm still in mainland Europe, so may not be responding to comments too much. Please feel free to chat amongst yourselves!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Making It Through The Artistic Night

During my blog haitus, I discovered Dear Sugar. Sugar is the online handle of Cheryl Strayed, a novelist wih a delightful turn of phrase and an alarming ability to make me want to meet and hug her late inspirational mother. As Sugar, Cheryl does not mince her words - she talks openly and powerfully (some might say graphically) about her experiences, from grief, unplanned pregnancy, abortion, death, sex, sexual abuse to waitressing and working for minimum wage.

Sugar is a novelist, and she has fielded many questions from artists who are young, poor, struggling, jealous of the success of others, tired, bored, blocked and everything else in between. Some choice quotes for artists are:

“The useless days will add up to something. The shitty waitressing jobs. The hours writing in your journal. The long meandering walks. The hours reading poetry and story collections and novels and dead people’s diaries and wondering about sex and God and whether you should shave under your arms or not. These things are your becoming.”
You don’t have to get a job that makes others feel comfortable about what they perceive as your success. You don’t have to explain what you plan to do with your life. You don’t have to justify your education by demonstrating its financial rewards."
"I had to struggle to be okay with this, to do what I call trusting the heat, to write what must be written in the way only I can write it. "

I wanted to write to her recently. I wanted to ask her how to go on doing this - working, writing when I have the time and energy, churning out terrible first drafts, trying to revise them even though the problems seem too big to fix. I wanted her to tell me how to keep going with this.

And then I realised, that wasn't what I wanted at all.

I wanted her to tell me when it would all suddenly be worthwhile. I wanted to ask 'Sugar, take a look in your crystal ball and tell me when the good stuff happens.'

Of course, Cheryl Strayed can't tell me that. She doesn't know.

I have a lot of artist friends, and sometimes they come to me with the same question. "When the hell does all this get OK?" "When does it get easier?"

And I don't know either.

But I do know that life is all about choices, and the biggest choice we all make every day is what we are willing to open ourselves to. Are we willing to take a risk that might make us happier, or are we content to stay as we are? Are we willing to embrace happiness? Are we willing to risk sadness? Are we willing to face disappointment or satisfaction when we aim for success, or will we sit back and not aim at all?

And trying seems a lot better than not, even when it isn't much fun.

How do you guys keep yourselves going during the difficult bits?

I'm away until early October, so my responses to comments, tweets and other contacts will be slow to nonexistant. Hope you all have a lovely late September!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Away From Keyboard

By the time you read this, I will be wandering around mainland Europe, probably eating ice-cream.

After my long haitus this summer, I don't want the blog to go totally quiet for two weeks, so I have scheduled a few posts to run while I'm away. I'll be back in early October and may be a bit sporadic about responding to comments until then.

In the meantime, if you're bored, I recommend:

My old college classmate, Sarah Rees Brennan, has a new book out! In fact, it's one of my holiday reads, so I may be reading it right now. Unspoken is a modern, quirky take on the Gothic novel, featuring a fiesty girl reporter who discovers the boy she's been talking to in her head all her life is a real person. It also has a crumbling old mansion, a sleepy English village and lots of secrets.  If that doesn't grab you, maybe check out Sarah's blog at the link above - her posts are always entertaining.

If you're craving a hit of Irishness in my absence, you could do worse than check out Denise Deegan's Butterfly Novels, a series of YA novels about teenage girls in a very exclusive South Dublin school. In spite of the fact she writes about a less-than-typical group of people, Denise creates an absolutely spot-on portrait of modern Dublin and very authentic teen voices. I loved the first two books and am dying to get started on the third.

Finally - I just wrecked your September. You can thank me in two weeks :)

Friday, September 7, 2012

The Perils of Find and Replace

When I was working on my last book, Crooked Paths (name change and dramatic, from-the-ground-up rewrite pending), I named one of the characters Paul.

It was a Nanowrimo novel, and I was writing quickly. I threw in the first name that came to mind and it attached itself stubbornly to the character. Very soon, in my head, the character was a Paul to the bone.

Unfortunately, this character was not a very nice man. And I felt bad about this, because of my friend Paul, whom some of you may know.

I asked Paul to rename the character for me. He chose the name Ross, with about as much thought as I had chosen the name Paul.

There was only one Paul in the book. It was set in Dublin, so I didn't need to worry about St. Paul's Cathedral or Rue Saint-Paul or Paulaner beer. I did what any lazy writer would have done. I used Find + Replace to replace every occurance of the word Paul with the word Ross.

But I had forgotten one crucial thing.

My main character, Becky, visits the Phoenix Park in Dublin, a large city park dominated by the Wellington Testimonial and the Papal Cross. The Papal Cross was erected to commemorate Pope John Paul II's visit to Ireland.

Can you guess what happened?

I got a mystified text from a beta-reader asking me who Pope John Ross II was, and were they missing something?


Find+Replace - it's a fantastic thing, but I've learned to use it with care. . .