Category Archives: random rambling

September Catch Up

And here we are in September – and what a strange summer it’s been (also double impeachments on the horizon, maybe, so yay!)

While I’m up to a great many projects (so! many!) that are still bubbling and can’t be announced yet, I still managed to get some things out into the world!

Over on the Fox Spirit Books blog I’ve got a couple of listicle posts as part of their celebration of Tens:

Check out 10 Archaeologists to Dig for cool lady archaeologists and, my favourite thing, 10 Lost City Breaks for the ultimate travel guide to legendary cities.  I also put together the Fox Spirit Summer Sampler (which I can’t now find a download link for, but it was fab, of course!)

In other news, I’m a juror for the BFS Awards Best Magazine/Periodical category this year and we’ve just delivered our verdict to the boss – the awards will be announced in full at the BFS Awards ceremony at Fantasycon in Glasgow 18th – 20th October.  All I’ll say is that it was fun to catch up on old favourites and discover new to me things…

Oh! And! Much excite! My story in the Alchemy Press Book of Horrors – ‘Down Along the Backroads’ – made the Honourable Mentions list in Ellen Datlow’s just released The Best Horror of the Year Volume Eleven.  This is the first time I’ve ever been in such a thing so happy dancing all round.  Ellen! Datlow! Y’all!

 

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Weekly Geekery

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Due to the dual whammo of bank holidays and illness I’ve had the opportunity to catch up with watching things while I wait for my brain to start working again, and happily I picked some good ‘uns that were worth the wait.

First and foremost, a bingewatch of both seasons of Star Trek: Discovery. I’m not the most dedicated of Trek viewers – I’ve never seen Enterprise, I’ve got fond memories of random movies, the odd TOS and most of Next Gen, adore DS9 and quite like Voyager though I’ve not managed to catch all the seasons of that, so watching Discovery hadn’t been high on my priority list. Big mistake.

After seeing trusted online mates enthusing about it (and hearing that there was something to do with mycelium and spores in it… which got my attention as they’re things I’ve been fiddling about with for a mushroom based apocalypse thing I’ve been working on… but, digression…) I finally took the plunge and started watching. And continued watching. And couldn’t focus until I made it through all the episodes in one glorious blur of SF goodness. It is so good. Soooo good. From the set up and mirror universe shenanigans in S1, to the magnificence that is the twisty time-loopy red-angel plot of S2 and the potential it brings for S3, Disco is now firmly my favourite trek ever!

There are cool nods to the wider Trek universe, gorgeous character notes and relationships, Tilly! Stamets! Stamets and Engineer Jett! Georgiou snark! Culber being adorable! Moody young Spock in a beard! Nhan and Georgiou kicking ass! Burnham’s complicated relationships with all her adopted family members! Sentient space mushrooms! And the last two episodes of S2 near broke me with some of the emotional notes, and that’s a thing that doesn’t happen often. Bloody brilliant.

I also caught up with a couple of movies I’ve been meaning to see – Ant-Man and the Wasp, for one. I’m fairly certain I haven’t actually seen the first Ant-Man, save perhaps a few minutes here and there while flipping through movie channels, but that didn’t hinder my appreciation of the sequel. It’s a lot of fun and I’ll freely admit I was mainly there for the superhero lady representation – Wasp and Ghost (Killjoys fan in da house, yo!) were excellent and it’s always a joy to see women kicking ass and being super competent.

Another fun one was Solo. Again, I’m not the most dedicated of Star Wars viewers, but I have been loving the new movies – especially Rogue One and The Force Awakens (Rey and Jyn for the win! Competent leading ladies kicking all the ass and getting stuff done.) Like Disco does with Trek, Solo provides a lot of neat nods to its wider universe and manages to pull off some nice character interactions. I mean, what is not to love about the double act of Lando and L3?! And the Kessel Run! And shiny new Falcon! Admittedly it is a little uneven in places, but definitely worth sitting it out through the draggy bits as the larger whole is quite cool.

Brain Reboot

And did I mention the degree is finally done? (hurrah! Results in mid July! Hoping to pull off a 2:1 overall)  And with that clear from my brain, and the drain that is holiday cover for the family business also done with, I’m finally getting my head around everything that’s been put on hold.

Most notably, the writing of fiction stuff.  It feels like a small age since I last wrote anything fictional (a quick check suggests the last was just before the last degree module started up, which makes sense) and the little writing cells, they be so rusty.  So I went digging through my old writing to get back in the groove and discovered things I’d completely forgotten I’d written.  Most of which are unpublishable, but teenage/early twenties me did have some surprisingly interesting ideas! (Also some truly terrible and slightly problematic ones, but, we evolve…)  And there’s a ton of unfinished shorts from the last couple of years that need sorting out.

And there’s new fiction things I’ve been noodling over the last few months – after sitting down and plotting out things, have discovered that novel-wise I’ve got 3 secondary world/portal fantasies, 2 urban fantasies, a paranormal romance, a horror, 2 historic fantasies, 2 SF and a supernatural crime thing all begging attention. And that’s before we get to the short fiction.  Do not even get me started on the short fiction. It’s a looooooong list.

And then there’s non fiction – there’s a ton of blog posts I need to write so there may be the vague chance of weekly blog posts at some point (don’t faint!), plus I want to get back to the short fiction reviewing again.

Am also plotting future anthologies, o’course, because I do love doing the anthologies and hope at some point to eventually edit one that pays pro rates to our lovely authors.  Though where and with who is going to take a bit of creativity.  Possibly a kickstarter may happen next year.  Watch this space…. 🙂

Adventures in Shopping Around

booksSo here’s the thing… I love books (and really, what sane person doesn’t?) More specifically, I love e-books and will quite cheerfully buy vast quantities whenever funds allow, because, what’s not to love?  They take up no space, can be instantly downloaded, I can cart my entire library around in one e-reader which is a big bonus for travelling, and are also handy when I want to be lazy and not actually muck around with boxes stored under beds to find the book I fancy rereading.  I can read them on my kindle, on my iPad, on my laptop or on my iPhone if I squint a bit, so there’s also the bonus of back up options if one device gets a bit glitchy – which is why I very rarely buy dead tree versions of books these days.  Fiction reading and buying, for me, is always e-book format – oh there’s the odd exception if I’m at a convention and have a mad moment of buying something at a launch, or if there’s no e-book version available and I really-really want to read it (though if I don’t really-really want to read it I’ll not bother, and just make a note to keep an eye out in case it ever does get e-bookified.)

So then the Amazon/Hatchette thing happened.  Marie Brennan does a summary here with handy linkage – so where does this leave the average e-book buyer if they want to keep feeding their habit but would kind of like to not screw over their beloved authors by their shopping choices?

Happily, as far as the indies and smaller presses are concerned, there’s the option of buying direct from the publishers or from the lovely online Indie stores.  This is something I’ve been trying to do for the last couple of years – not so much because of Amazon’s policies (because I’ve not dug deep enough into them to make a fully educated decision and explain exactly why big corporate = bad), but more because I’m not a huge fan of the file format they do.  I want to have my e-books in DRM free epub or mobi formats that I can keep copies of on my own storage devices and easily chuck at whatever reading device I happen to be using.  I don’t want to be locked into Amazon owning my books or fiddling with them or generally losing them if I use a device without the kindle app. I want control of my books.

Previously I’ve bought smaller press books from Smashwords, Weightless Books, Book View Cafe, and Spacewitch, and also the sadly missed Wizards Towers Books when it was up and running.  I also buy direct from the Angry Robot Trading Co.  who do a few indies as well as their own books; and I keep meaning to try out the Rebellion Publishing store for all things Solaris/Abaddon and the Tor Books store for all things Tor!

All of which is great, but if you want something from one of the bigger publishers, Amazon has always been the easiest go-to.  But after the AmaHatch grudge match, I decided to finally get around to checking out some of the other options for e-book buying – Nook and Kobo I’d heard about, and discussions on one of Juliet E. McKenna’s facebook posts brought Waterstones Online and Google Play to my attention, so I’ve been book-buying and downloading reading apps and here’s my not-very-technical-and-has-a-short-attention-span results!

The books: The first four books in The Mysteries of the Greek Detective series by Anne Zouroudi (buying 1 per venue!) – available from Amazon UK for £1.54

Comparison points: Price of book, file formats available, reading apps available, readability on the app-readers

General notes: At minimum I want to be able to read the e-book on either my kindle or iPad, and also my laptop as a back up if possible.  Therefore a downloadable and accessible file format I can convert to mobi is going to be preferable.  I’m not that bothered about the look of the store – so long as it has a basic search widget I can find my way to what I want.  And if there’s too much hassle in downloading reading apps or syncing content between devices I’m done with that venue.

Kobo
Price of Book: £2.63
File Format: Adobe DRM epub
Reading Apps: Kobo app for PC – easy to install and use; Kobo app for iPad – easy to install, a bugger to use and still hasn’t synced up to my account after 3 hours so no book has appeared in my library; iPhone – auto installed when I picked up the iPad app and the purchases sync up! Yay!
App Readability:  PC – short pages but readable.  Bit like a landscape PDF.   iPad – still hasn’t synced with my Kobo library so have no book to test it on!  iPhone – if you don’t mind the titchy screen with not a lot of content per page then definitely readable.
Will I use it again?  Probably not.  No auto sync to the iPad or quick solution to fix that is a big turn off.

Nook
Price of Book: £1.54
File Format: Erm.. Adobe DRM epub?
Reading Apps:  PC – need Windows 8.0/1 – which I don’t have; iPad – app easy to install and instantly syncs to purchases; iPhone – auto installed when I picked up the iPad app and purchases sync up nicely.
App Readability:  iPad – Very readable, like it.  iPhone – again, if you don’t mind the titchy screen with not a lot of content per page then definitely readable.
Will I use it again? Probably.  Easy to shop, easy to read on the iPad but the lack of compatible PC app is annoying, and I’d quite like an open file format.

Waterstones
Price of Book: £2.99
File Format: Adobe DRM epub licensed for 6 devices
Reading Apps: PC – uses the Adobe Digital Edition – easy to install and use; iPad – uses Overdrive Media Console – easy to install, total bugger to actually use as it’s not syncing to my account; iPhone – ditto the iPad comments.
App Readability:  PC – readable, like the Kobo app you get that squashed landscape page feel but it’s clear and easy to use.  iPad – still hasn’t synced to my account and there’s no easy way to work out why and fix that.  iPhone – ditto the iPad comments.
Will I use it again? No.  Twice the price of the other stores and the mobile device sync failure is a pain in the ass and will take too much time and fiddling to sort out.

Google Play Books
Price of Book: £2.48
File Format:  erm? Dunno. Kept in the google cloud.
Reading Apps:  PC – online via Google Play website; iPad – easy to install and use; iPhone – auto installed when I picked up the iPad app
App Readability: iPad – very easy to read with easy navigation and easy typeface alteration options.  iPhone – easy to read, like it.
Will I use it again? Actually, probably.  Though the cloud access only thing will be a problem next time my internet connection goes down so it’s not ideal, but can see it as a good one for phone reading.

In conclusion – it’s likely that given time and further investigation the Kobo/iPad app problems and Waterstones/Overdrive app sync issues can be fixed but for a quick and easy option I’m erring towards Nook apps or Google Play.  Would still prefer a store that lets you download actual DRM free epub/mobi files though, so neither the Nook or Google Play are completely ideal.