Tag Archives: Books

Writing wherever you are

I’ve had some form of writing app installed on my mac or iPad pretty much forever (which isn’t as long for the iPad of course). Whether that was Word, Scrivener, Ulysses, copywrite, Storyist, Pages, or any other app that someone released to ‘revolutionize writing.’ Back when I was first working at Spire Digital I had an old white MacBook that I used for an online writing class I was taking, and worked on various short stories.

I’ve Always had an eye out for the latest and greatest but also the most useful. Finding something that fits isn’t easy.

For me, the big things are these; ease of use, portability, reliability.

Easy of Use

It’s all too common for app developers to start throwing feature after feature into an app. “Hey what if it also had a todo list?” Those are great, I have an app for that, and don’t want it in my writing app. You get my point here, more isn’t better and so many apps get bogged down in features, just sitting down to write is a chore. Scrivener teeters on the edge of this. It’s feature packed but only takes 2 clicks to start a writing project.

Portability

This is a big one for me. When I travel I have some combination of Mac and iPad. Rarely do I not travel without my iPad, but sometimes I do travel without my laptop. My most recent trip to Munich was laptop free. Not to mention short trips around town when I just grab my iPad and go. That being the case, being able to use whichever device is closest to me to write, is a big deal. I intentionally left my iPhone out of the mix because I’m not a sadist.

Being able to open my iPad and have my writing projects update from the cloud is awesome. I can open Scrivener and get to work right away. I can load Dabble in my browser (or the app on mac) and see what I need to know for my next chapter or scene.

Space Rogues‘ during NaNoWriMo was written at home on the couch on my Mac and in coffee shops on my iPad.

Reliability

This one is a bit vague, but for me, it’s two things; app updates and general not-crashyness. Has your app been updated in the last 6 months? Have you released a new major version? While I’d love super-frequent updates, I understand that’s not really feasible for most developers. But if you haven’t updated your app in a year? Two years? That doesn’t make me want to give your app my time, or you my money. In looking back to make the list of apps at the top, one of them likely hasn’t been updated in 10-15 years. It’s minimum required OS is Mac OS 10.3, released in 2003. It’s still available for download and sale.

Not crashing is kind of a big deal. Whether that’s full-on App crash or (to me even worse) backend stuff going bonkers like sync, it’s no bueno. If I can’t trust your app one hundred percent with my work, I can’t trust it at all. It comes down to “fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me” I’ve lost writing before to crashes that happen before an auto-save, or to sync conflicts, and that’s too maddening to deal with.

 

 

Are you a writer? What do you use? Love? What app can you not live with?

My First Month with Grammarly

So after publishing ‘Space Rogues‘ I decided to pay for Grammarly and run it through the service. Several early readers remarked about the grammar offenses, so I decided to take a look at what I could do (can’t afford an editor yet) to fix it up.

Talk about tedious. Lesson learned, now I put each scene through Grammarly after I finish it! Two days of monotonous copy-pasting and I had what I consider a whole new (or at least dramatically improved) book!

ApparenGrammarlywords uploadedtly, you get an email each month with your Grammarly use, and I thought it was interesting.

I started with Grammarly as a Safari plugin so have been using it for roughly two weeks, before committing to installing it, and passing ‘Space Rogues‘ through it. So, about 52,000 words of this 97,809 are my book, the rest, sort of shockingly, are just things I’ve typed in Safari. Holy cow! I mean there are a few conference emails and blog posts, but really, 40,000 odd words… wow. YOu can clearly see the day I spent pasting each scene of ‘Space Rogues‘ into Grammarly. I hope Scrivener 3 integrates Grammarly.

I did think this little bit was kinda neat, I don’t know what this says about me, or the other 99% of Grammarly’s users, but I’ll take it as a compliment.

 

 

 

This, however, was not at all surprising. Honestly, I am a bit surprised it was this high.

 

 

 

 

So the funniest part of the email I got, basically captured what I’ve known for some time, and has been driven home since reawakening my writer self. It’s something I’m actively thinking about now as I write.

My top 3 issues that Grammarly fixed

This renewed journey into writing (and publishing) is an exciting adventure! Thanks for following me on it! Remember you can also get non-blog post stuff from my newsletter. It’s 100% dedicated to writing, so sample chapters, character insights, etc.

 

 

 

Amazon and the Kindle

I sort of love/hate Amazon. Mostly love, but still.

I have a Kindle Paperwhite, I’ve had a Kindle since the 2nd version was released. I’ve liked them all, loved really. They’re my go to reading devices, but most of the time it feels like Amazon is just pushing them out the door ( a new one just dropped last week!), without actually caring what anyone wants. Sure they add a new font here, and finally integrated goodreads a few firmware versions ago, now there’s a really expensive ‘luxury’ one, but look around the internet at an eReader or even Kindle specific forum, you’ll find lots and lots of discussion around the minor things that would vastly improve the kindle for many owners.

IMG_0982Content Management. When you end up with a library of hundreds or thousands of books, managing them on device is a bag of hurt. Especially if that device has an Epaper screen! Managing them on the amazon site isn’t even an option. So what works? Surely there’s something, oh no there’s nothing. The Kindle for mac (or PC I assume) seems like it’d be the right place, plenty of screen space, etc. to allow for easy sorting of books and managing of collections, generally managing your Kindle library. Nope, Collections are a mix of device and cloud, essentially making them useless on both, because what changes you make on your desktop, won’t reflect on the device, and vice versa. Side loaded books aren’t synced so the desktop and mobile app versions, don’t even know about them.

There used to be a nice view on the kindle that showed books and collections together so you could see books that weren’t assigned a place to live, making it easy to manage. Once your kindle screen was just collections, done. You’d sorted all your books. That view went away a few firmwares ago. You can see above that now there’s no telling. The three books at the bottom, are in the collection above, yet there’s no way to see just one. You can see only collections, but then books not in collections are gone. You can see everything but then collections are pretty pointless.

Screen savers. I admit this is a huge one for me (and anecdotally a huge group of owners). I don’t know why, but Amazon thinks we want to see some random ass images (previously it was dead authors) instead of the cover of the book we’re reading, or our own images. Why? beats me. Sure if you have the “special offers” version it makes sense you only see the offers. But if i’m not running that version, why wouldn’t I want to see what I’m reading? instead of one of like 6 rotating images. Why wouldn’t I want to customize that experience?

IMG_0981I know some folks don’t care one way or the other, I’d argue even not caring, none would object to seeing the book cover. It seems like such a low hanging fruit that Amazon could please a vocal subset of customers, please others who don’t care but wouldn’t oppose seeing the cover of their book, and in no way harm anything at all. In fact it’s not even like it’s not possible since one of the biggest reasons people jailbreak their kindles (myself included) is to gain access to book covers as screen saver.

Even if a book doesn’t have a cover, the system that renders it could make a generic one. I know this because the creators of the Screensaver hack have done it. The Side loading app Calibre, has also done it.

To my knowledge Amazon has never said why they don’t offer this, the jailbreak works so well, doing it officially seems like it’d be easier/cleaner.

Unlike Apple who seems to at least pay attention to the jailbreak community to see what’s popular, Amazon seems to ignore it completely, focusing on other things. Other things that no one is asking for (at least based on the last few firmwares, and subsequent roll backs).

None of this keeps me from owning a Kindle, or enjoying mine, but I’ve never understood when businesses seem to ignore their user base so completely as to be seen as hostile towards what are the most active and vocal of their supporters.

¯\_(?)_/¯

The problem with eBook pricing

I saw this NYT blog post and retweeted it (props to @datingdad) with “Good for amazon”

My friend Dave (@courier_new) asked some questions clarifying my position, so I thought I’d write my thoughts up (not new here, check the eBooks category) in a bit more than 140 chars.

Publishers are fighting companies like Amazon on eBook pricing. Many have won with agency pricing. Agency pricing lets the publisher set the price and more often than not you see this.

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If Your Customer Wants to Pay You. Figure out a Way to Take Their Money

This will be a short one as it just popped in to my head as I emailed my friend Tim. He sent me a reading list for some Green Lantern comics because i mentioned I was reading some. The Comic reader i use on my Kindle Fire (awesome comic reader, BTW) posts to Facebook when I finish an issue.

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Startups, who’s in to be Apple?

Like most of Nerd America I started Reading the Steve Jobs Biography last night. I got in some good reading at the gym this morning and started thinking. I haven’t made it to the Apple years yet, but as I was reading it, thinking about Apple, about Jobs, startups and about death, a notion started forming.

Who’s going to step up and be Apple? Heck, where are our Hewlett and Packard? Our Michael Dell?  Bill Gates?

I work in a space with a fair amount of startups, and being so close to Boulder I hear about a lot more of them, and of course I’m in the Silicon Valley for events a fair bit too, and of course I follow my friend Eric Norlin. So I’m not uninformed when it comes to startups.

I know there’s awesome startups out there doing cool things (like Bloom). I work in the same building as one. But in looking at them and at most other startups, I wonder, who’s solving tomorrow’s problems? Who’s working on making the next big thing? NOT the next thing for AOL or Google to acquire. It seems that most startups are starting to be bought by someone, existing more than 5 years isn’t in the plans. That certainly is the exit that makes the most financial sense for their backers, and the founders even. I wonder sometimes if our VC and Angel worlds are so wrapped up in ‘quick bucks’ and early exits, that they’re encouraging young founders to not focus on building companies that can or will be around 20 or 30 years. Let alone build companies that are focused on tomorrow’s problems. Sure messy contacts, old school comic readers, and lack of robot balls are problems worth solving, that’s not my point. My point is there should be a balance, and I don’t see it.

Looking at Techstars and Ycombinator I see awesome companies making cool things like gMail plugins and robot balls with LEDs in them, and new takes on training sites, sites about treating musicians like stock, and such. But I wonder will any of them exist in 5-10 years? I suspect not. They’ll either have folded up and moved on, or been absorbed into some other larger thing. And that’s ok in it’s own right, but where does that leave us? The Country of Dell and HP and Apple and Microsoft? I feel like it leaves us with a sad lack of innovative long term tech companies. VCs are bitching about immigration policy not letting tech founders into the country in high enough numbers. I’d argue the gov’t should be looking at these VCs and asking where the companies that will lead innovation are and why they aren’t helping build them? I’d be thrilled to let the next Bill Gates in on a Startup Visa, but not if he plans to simply build something he can sell to Microsoft for a quick buck.

I know in startup circles and no doubt in VC circles getting acquired is a win. In my book it isn’t. I remember sitting around beers with some friends talking about a company in Boulder that was bought before it even left private beta. To me that was a fail. Sure they made out like bandits, everyone got paid. But they were barely a business, they had maybe a few customers, maybe a few hundred, but they were beta testers not paying customers. I suspect that’s why I’m drawn towards brick and mortar style businesses. Conferences, coworking, etc. Because those businesses are immune or less politely often excluded from the hub bub of tech investing. Therefore for the most part they require bootstrapping which it seems so many startups can’t or won’t do. I’ve seen ideas live and die based on acceptance to Techstars. While I have no doubt Brad Feld and co. know a winner or at least a good horse when they see it, I’m sure they’d agree they can’t see all the winners (or losers) all the time.

That kinda brings this all back around for me. I’ve never asked for money or (at least yet) taken out a bank loan for 360|Conferences or Uncubed. I live and die by what I can do on my own (or with partners as the case may be). In both cases i think to myself often, are these businesses that will be around in 10 years? Can they be a legacy, can I actually do something good with them? I think both can. I don’t know if either will, but I think both can, and I’m happy to try and find out. I think both started for the right reasons. Trying to change systems that exist, for the better of the communities they exist in,  which to me is the right reason to start a business. Will I get rich? be acquired by someone? Probably not on both counts, but that’s ok because that wasn’t and isn’t my motivator. I like money don’t get me wrong :) I want to live a comfortable life, but that’s the extent of it. I don’t need to make something someone else wants to buy so I can pay back investors and retire at 35.

I wonder if startup founders go to bed at night thinking about the future. Not the future where they get bought, where tech crunch writes them up and they secure yet another round of funding. A future where they employ thousands. A future where they and their product/service are shaping lives. A future where they make a difference for more than a year. Sure payroll next month is important, press is important I’m not discounting that, but if they’re not thinking about 10 years from now, I’d say they’re doing it at least a little wrong.

 

Thinking About Death

So obviously with Steve Job’s passing Death has been talked about a lot lately. Of course having such a visionary pass away is a huge loss. But closer to home our downstairs neighbor at Uncubed, Jim recently passed away.

I got back from my trip to LA and found out. I didn’t know Jim all that much, he ran the motorcycle museum below us, mostly opened on the weekends. He’d come up and chat once in a while, lend us a tool during the construction before we opened. He was a good guy, who loved motorcycles.

His kids came by shortly after his passing and held a wake in the museum, and since then it’s been closed up.

Last night I left the office and was taking the trash out and walk passed the dark windows of the museum. Now the lights would never be on at night anyway, but walking past I knew that they’d never be on again, at least not for Jims’ museum.

Death is a funny thing. I’ve been fairly blessed  in that my family hasn’t suffered many deaths. At least deaths of people I knew or had met. Great grand parents passed when I was a child. That’s changing of course as grand parents are getting older, but they’re still kicking.

But now other people in my life are passing, and it really does (as Steve said at Stanford) make you think and evaluate.

This is kind of a navel gazing post, but i just wanted to share that it’s weird as life goes on, that deaths start to occur and you really do start thinking about life, goals, that kind of shit.

 

I almost wrote this up and deleted it, but meh, I figured I’d post it just to put it out there, so that next year I can come look at it.