When I was in college, I was a member of the Rutgers Oratorio Choir.  I'd been in a choir for as long as I could remember, though I think the formal concerts/choirs started in about 3rd grade.  Bergenfield had an excellent music program and they got you signing and playing instruments on the early side.  When I went off to college, choir was the only formal music I kept up with. (I'd let clarinet and percussion fall by the wayside)   For the final concert I ever performed in a choir, I had the distinct joy and pleasure to perform music not only written by, but to be conducted by, Dave Brubeck.  Yes, that Dave Brubeck.  I only got to meet him personally for the dress rehersal, and the performances.  He was, to say the least, most gracious.  When he was there conducting us, and talking to us, you got the distinct feeling like he felt we were doing him a favor by performing his music.  Can you imagine? 

When that semster started, and we got the sheet music, I didn't even know who Dave Brubeck was.  Or rather, I'd heard his music before, but I didn't put two and two together between the person who had written the choral music we were performing and the jazz musician I'd heard on the radio.  I did learn enough by the time of the concert to have a respect for him.  Though I'd probably have had that no matter what since I don't think I'd ever really performed an entire concert of music by a single composer before, with that person conducting.  That alone was daunting.  How would he feel about how we performed his work?   But I was young and niave enough to not have been awestruck, no moment of: OHMYGODIMONSTAGEWITHDAVEBRUBECK.  If I'd been in that choir today (which I could be, if it were still around, because it was open to students, faculty and alumni, but is sadly to the best of my knowledge no more once the founder/conductor of the Choir retired) I would have been at least initially in a bit of shell shock.  And I would have been much more aware of how rare and spectacular that opportunity was.

Out of many experiences I had in college, this was a singular and cherished one.  I wish I still had a copy of the music or program from it.  Alas, all I've been able to find of the concert was a single flyer that I kept with a box of mementos.  But yes, I had the distinct pleasure and honor of having met and performed with a truly singular talent in music. 

He shall be missed.
temporus: (house)
( Nov. 1st, 2012 12:11 pm)
Happy New Years to all you of the paganic persuasion.  (That might not actually be a word.  Um.  Yeah.)

I managed to make it to work today, and am able to get caught up on a few things.   But it's been a long power out at home since the storm.   There's no major direct damage to the home that I've been able to find, but it's been cold and no power, so hard to crawl around every nook and cranny to be certain.   A large (50+ foot) pine came down in the back, but did not appear to hit anything or anyone.  And we had to take out the tree next to the house, because it was leaning on the power/cable/phone lines enough to make me nervous they might snap.

But despite the lack of power, we persevered on.   The kids, well, they have the big challenge because they don't really know life without electricity too well.   Going to have to fix that.  They adjusted, if a bit begrudgingly.   Otherwise, we don't have heat either, and it's been getting a bit colder each day.   So, scary, but there's hope that soon we'll have some power.   We had some for a bout 10 minutes yesterday, and a test call just reached my answering machine.   Now if the power just keeps up, we'll be in good shape.

Time to try and get the house and life back into shape.   Still need gas in the car, and the lines for gas remind me of the gar crisis in the 70s.  Not so many fist fights, but there seem to be cops at most of the working gas stations.

Otherwise, that's my status.   Hope to have enough left in me soon to get back to writing.  Worrying about things like power and heat and food, boy they take a lot out of you don't they?
A long time ago, in a university not so far away, I wrote a paper on the works of one Mr. George Lucas.  That paper has since vanished into, well, wherever it is that college essays go to die.  The essay graveyard or some such.  In any case, I had discussed some of the particulars of this essay I had written some time ago with some folks at VP, and I thought, why not bring up a point or two on the blog.  I'll note that at the time I wrote the paper, and come up with some of my original theories, the only versions of the story that existed were the original tales.  (If you haven't watched the original trilogy by now, you may want to skip the post, as I will reveal a few spoilers.)

To anyone over a certain age, one of the great storytelling tragedies of our time is how one creator, Mr. Lucas, decided he just had to go back and fiddle with his movies.  His movies had become classics; giants in the SF movie field.  Loved by, it seemed, nearly everyone.  When it was announced that he was re-releasing the movies into the theater, with some special effects enhancements, digital touch-ups, and perhaps tweaking back in a deleted scene or two, well, the audiences got excited and flocked to the theaters to get another taste of something that they loved. 

And it left a bad taste in many mouths.

You've probably seen the T-shirt.  Or read the clever meme photo, or seen a parody that amused you.  But almost universally, when asked about the one thing Lucas did when he tweaked the original trilogy into the Special Edition, the thing he did that upset the most people was to change the fact that Han Solo shoots Greedo first.  Oh, there's plenty of reasons why this is bad.  The effects look clumsy.  It doesn't scan cleanly in the scene.  Han doesn't look like someone that had just missed death by pure luck.  Simply put, the scene doesn't work.  I think, however, there's a deeper reason that this particular scene bothers people, and it has to do with dual arcs.

In the original Star Wars, we're introduced to a character who is a small time character with what most people would call questionable morals.  He's a smuggler.  He's worried primarily about himself.  He's a mercenary, in it for the money.  And yes, he's a cold blooded killer.  Oh sure, Greedo probably would have killed him without too much worry.  But Han didn't wait to get shot.  He took calm, cool, pre-emptive action and kills Greedo without even blinking about it.  At best, as we know Han upon introduction in the movie he's a grey character, more dark grey than light.  And yet, we see him change over the course of that first movie.  His character arc is to go from someone on the edge of darkness, a known criminal with a price on his head, to coming to the rescue just in time.  From darkness, into the light.

Why is that important?  Because it is the small character arc of Han Solo, that enables the audience to buy into the larger character arc of Darth Vader.  We watch Solo's interaction with the other characters, see how they influence him, and turn him around to being a hero, and in the back of our minds, it sets us up to believe it when by the end of the third movie Vader does the same.   If Solo can change from a cold hearted criminal to a hero, why not Vader from Sith Lord back to a Jedi?   And that's the crux of it.  It's subtle, and for a very long time, I thought it completely intentional.  Until the Special Edition came out.

Herein lies the danger of spending too much time fiddling with any particular story.  How much time is too much?  I can't say for sure.  But the more you play and tweak and change, you need to be aware that you could be destroying some beautiful serendipity in your tale.  It may be that you'll be too close to the story to even know it when that happens.  About the only thing I could say, is this: once the work is out and part of the public sphere, be really damn sure you have to change something, before you do.  Because whether you mean for them to or not, people will attach themselves to your story in ways you can't possibly anticipate.  And what might seem like a minor tweak, might break the suspension of disbelief of your audience.

What do you think?
So I am home from the wonderous experience that is Viable Paradise.  As they say: to those that have not experienced it, no words will convey, and to those that have, no words are necessary.  For any such intense experiences, that is a true encapsulation of how we, as people, process them.  How then can I convey, dear readers, what it is like?

A good friend asked me what I thought was the best pece of advice I learned at VP.  I don't recall exactly what I responded with, but  I thought about that for some time after, as you do.  Contemplating as I washed the dishes and cleared the table from dinner, etc.  Now I think the best piece of advice will change for me over time.  What I walked away from the conference firmly in my head, has already shifted over the course of the long journey home, and the brief respite of a few days before diving headlong back into the work-a-day treadmill that is ordinary life.  I expect that to change over the weeks and months, probably years to come.   Sometimes, we're just not ready for the lesson that life and opporutunity present to us now.  But if we are careful, if we are lucky, and hoard a piece of that away, perhaps when we are ready, we will stand in the middle of a store somewhere and say: Aha!  I know what that means now.  Then go on to put that into practice.

We twenty-four students all came to the workshop at somewhat different points in our carreers.  Some younger, some older.  Some more accomplished, some with few or no successes yet under our belts.  I would be surprised if you asked all of us that same question you didn't find twenty-four different responses.  That's human nature.  What surprised me, though perhaps shouldn't have, was the hints I saw of the instructors also going through their own Aha! moments.  I guess there is truth that a part of teaching, is learning things anew.  Learning, it seems, like many other aspects of the world, is a cyclical thing.

I find it very hard to sum up a week of intinsity in any small way, but if I had to, I think I would say: be true. 

It seems, perhaps, strange to say that.  Since we, as writers of fiction, are inherently liars.  We tell made up crazy stories to entertain.  But so many of the lessons at the core, about the writing voice, about what we have to say, what we care about, what moves us, that's as close as I can get to summing it up.   It reminds me of a scene in Walk the Line

There's a scene when Johnny Cash is trying out for Sam Phillips.  He and his band are singing something, and it's sort of mediocre.  It's not bad, but it's not special.  Sam stops them, and is ready to dismiss them.  Johnny, incredulous, asks why.  Is it the song?  Or how I sing it.  Sam comes back with a great line, that I'm about to flub.  He tells Johnny that he's just going through the motions, one of dozens of decent sounding gospel singers, but that he doesn't believe it.  He doesn't believe how Johnny feels as he sings that song.  Then he says, "if you have one song to sing, if you lay dying in the gutter, and had time to sing one last song, what would it be?"  And of course, being a movie, Johnny comes back with Folsom Prison Blues. 

I don't know if I can answer every single time that if I only had time enough to tell one more story, the one I'm writing is it.  But I aim to work as if it were.
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I'm up, the boys are fed, and I'm mustering what I've got to get my car loaded, and head on out to Viable Paradise.  I've really been trying not to freak out about it, and a very busy day job has helped on that front tremendously.   But now, today, I head up to Martha's Vineyard.  Even though it doesn't offiially start until tomorrow....oy.  The butterflies have woken up with a vengence.

In any case, I will muster whatever I've got, get on the road, enjoy an audiobook, and meet up with a friend for lunch before hitting the ferry and crossing over.

Hmm...crossing over.  Isn't that some sort of Fantasy Trope?  Uh-oh.  Will the hero find the elixir?  Will he bring it back to save his kingdom? 

Will he not run around with his arms flailing like a muppet?

I don't know.  But I expect it will be an adventure.

See some of you there. 
First things first:  It's BACK IT UP WEDNESDAY!!!!  Did YOU backup your work today yet?  If not, go do it now.

Great.

Look, I certainly hope you aren't waiting for me to tell you to back up your data.   Bad stuff happens.  It happens all the time.  I've had Blue Screens of Death.   I've had hard disk failures.   I've had servers at work go belly up, with no warning.  What has saved the day in each case?   Backups.   Things happen to good authors.   Just this year, John Scalzi lost his laptop during his big round of travel for conventions/promotional tour for his latest novel: Redshirts.  But John makes backups.  So John was able to keep working.  (Actually, John lost his laptop twice.)  Just this week, Mary Robinette Kowal ([livejournal.com profile] maryrobinettehad water accidentally spilled on her laptop.  She was able to keep working--because she performs backups.  

Okay, strictly speaking, both of those authors could have kept working even if they hadn't had backups of their work.  It just would have made a crappy situation all that much worse if they'd each lost even more work.  As it is, even just a few hours work would be pretty annoying for most of us to lose.  And I've done that by forgetting to save something routinely when a program crashed.  So, yeah, that's a stinker.   A good lesson you might pick up from both these fine authors, is that each has spare computing equipment ready to go.  That's a sign of professionalism right there: not just making backups, but being prepared for BUSINESS CONTINUITY.

See, these examples highlight the difference between Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity.  In a DR situation, you're covered.  But you'd have to wait until you could purchase a new laptop, get it setup, configured, all necessary software installed, etc, and then restore your data and you're good to go.  With Business Continuity, the idea is, something bad happens, you pick up your redundant hardware already set up to work (probably of lesser quality than your primary) grab your current files from the backup, and you're off and working again in almost no time.  Both John and Mary show near perfect Business Continuity solutions in action.  Sure, glitches happened along the way.  BUT, the thing is, they were able to get back to work promptly.  Business Continuity is about having what's absolutely necessary to keep going.  Extras are nice, but shouldn't be a focus.  The focus should be on the minimum to get working again as quickly as possible.   The goal is to have everything you'll need for at least three times the estimated time it will take to execute your DR Plan.  (Because things almost always end up taking longer than you expect.)

Disaster Recovery, in contrast, should be about everything you need to get back to square one.  Top line equipment.  All software and accouterments as previously configured.    What counts as top of the line?  Well, that's your call.  It's your business after all.  But you should have an estimate of how long it will take to replace your equipment (down to the last detail) including how long it will take you to obtain the necessary funds (if such aren't set aside).   It's your call if you want to include estimates of things like insurance in the replacement time, which in my own experiences has been not an inconsequential length of time.  

Now in your backup plan, and your BC and DR plans, you might choose to avail yourself of some Cloud services.  That's a pretty sound strategy.   From what I've read of both John and Mary's incidents, having stuff backed up online in such places as Dropbox, helped save the day, and countless hours of toil for each.  But that advice comes with a big caveat.  Things outside your control are outside your control!   Really.  Just recently, there's been news that Dropbox was hacked, and people were warned to go out and change their passwords.

And then there's THIS HACK.

No really, go read that.  You should.  It's kind of scary, and kind of important.

The lesson I take away from that is be careful of your assumptions.   This poor guy may have lost all the photos of his baby daughter because he trusted them all to the cloud for backup.  When the hacker managed to wipe out his backup account online, and his iPhone, iPad and Mac all remotely...well, that's just scary.  When you trust everything to the cloud, you put yourself at a higher risk.  Now I'm not saying trust solely in local hardware.  That's not exactly practical either.  There's plenty of good reasons to use and place a measure of trust in online environments as good forms of storage.  I'm just cautioning, don't let guard down.  Even if you avoid the "mistakes" Mat Hogan made, the biggest mistake he made was in trusting too much that the vendors he chose would be cautious, alert, and protect him.  These weren't small start ups.  These weren't tiny, fly-by night companies.  These were among the big names in the industry these days.  Amazon.  Apple.  If you can't be safe with them....you have to assume that no one makes you safe.   Don't abrogate your responsibility.  At the end of the day, it's your livelihood, not theirs.

Back up your data.  Twice.  Do it routinely.  Do it to discrete systems.  One online, one offline.  One virtual copy, one physical, something you can touch and hold in your hand.  Get the best of both worlds.  Be prepared.  Hopefully, you'll never need it.

So, how prepared are you to keep writing if you lost your PC, whether to damage, lost, stolen, or OS corruption?
Ok, so legitimately, they have a right to do it.   But legitimately, I have a right to be cranky that they did it.  So I'm going to kvetch.

Amazon sent an email where they explained to me that they are altering the terms of their free Cloud Player.  Up until now, the Cloud Player and Cloud driver were kind of linked as one thing.  Going forward....well I'll get to that in a moment.

Now, on the positive, it appears as if with the new improvements that Amazon will automagically check your purchased and imported files and will automatically register a high quality version of the song on your account for you.  How they do this magic in the background?  No damn idea.  But it's supposed to be super cool that it does this, and the improved quality will blow you away.  Or not.  Frankly, I haven't noticed one iota of difference so far.  

Now for the bad.  In the previous incarnation, my Cloud Player/Drive combo granted me 5 GB of free space to use in whichever way I fancied.  Doesn't sound like much, but I think I've used up less than 10% of that so far.  Oh, and by purchasing at least one album through Amazon MP3s, they bumped that space up to 20 GB.  Which I'm using decidedly less of.   Sounds good.  Reasonable limits all, since disk space is pretty cheap these days.   So I spent some time, took out my relatively meager CD collection and started to covert to MP3.   This seemed smart to me in any case, so that if I lose or scratch my CDs, I'll still have a copy.  I haven't yet managed to get everything "burned" and uploaded yet.  But I've got enough to have almost 1200 songs.   It takes up less than 1 GB of space.  Not a lot right?   Should be no big deal for me to maintain that.  Pretty much all new music I'm getting these days are from Amazon MP3.  So, that makes life easy for me, since you don't have to worry about storage costs on the music you buy through them.   The catch?  Starting September 1st, free accounts can only upload a max of 250 total songs.   Wow.

So my choices are: re-buy stuff I own from Amazon MP3, and those songs don't count against my limit.  Or pay the annual fee and then I can upload up to 250,000 songs?!?!   Now look, the annual fee is not much.  And if bumps up my Cloud Storage to I think 50 GB of space for the same annual fee.   Which is cool.  But ouch.  And this is a separate charge from Prime membership.  So, if you want that too, you're paying out a lot.  Meh.   If they had a level in between that was incorporated into Prime, that would be one more benefit that would get me to pay for Prime.

Of course Amazon has a right to modify their agreement.  And I can be cranky about that, but in the end, I never paid anything to make use of it.   From my perspective, I like it because I can listen to my music anywhere I have internet access, and I don't have to lug around a dedicated device for it.  Alternatively, as long as I have my Android phone, I have access to all my music without having to use up a ton of the (somewhat) limited space for music.  Which is nice.  And since I tend to prefer to have music playing while I write....it's good to have it stored in the cloud so I can access what I'm in the mood for whenever and wherever I choose to set down words.  Especially if I go through the trouble to set up some theme play lists.  Will I cave and pay up?  I don't know yet.  Still pondering.  

But it just goes to show, that when you use or rely on any Cloud type service, you leave yourself at least in part to the mercy of the vendor.   All these vendors hide into their terms things like: "We may amend the Agreement at our sole discretion by posting the revised terms in the Service..."  And by hiding I mean including such clauses somewhere in the text past the first four lines of the service agreement.   Some number approaching 0% of us ever actually bother to read through line by line the entire service agreement on most of these services we sign up for.   Which is why from time to time, you get big internet hooplas about some service provider or other having a horrible bit of text in the code of their licensing agreement that makes everyone panic and think that said vendors are trying to steal all their Intellectual Property.   But invariably, they all include such a phrase, and invariably they do change the terms.  When that happens some of us get upset.  Some of us choose to take our business elsewhere, and the rest just go along as if nothing big had ever happened.  Which, excepting this little rant, is probably where I'll be in another week.   Life's too short to get up in arms over the fact that corporations are trying to figure out new and better ways to fleece us of our money.

So what about you?  Do you use an online music service of any kind?  Which one?  Why do you prefer them?


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This is my weekly* reminder folks, especially you writers out there, BACK UP YOUR DATA.

Yeah, you should be doing it regularly.  You should be doing it automatically.  But maybe you got out of habit.  Or your thumb drive is full.  Or the software went FUBAR, and you meant to get around to fixing that.

Back it up.

Don't wait for tomorrow.   Don't wait to do it later.   Do it now.  Make sure you've got your important files somewhere other than on that one single computer.   Make sure you know where the INSTALL files for your software are too.  Where is your MS Office install DVD? Where do you have your download for Scrivener?   What other apps are critical for you to work?   Where's the install media? 

What's that?  Your DVD is four years out of date, and you've just been using the "update" feature online?   That's fine as it goes, but maybe it's time to download the latest install so you have a copy that can save you a lot of time later.  What about license keys?  Does the software require it?   Do you have them somewhere available at a moment's notice?   How about putting them all in an email to yourself, tagged and placed in a folder of your online email account.   Does it mean if your email gets hacked, your license key could be compromised?   Sure.   If whomever hacks your email wants it for anything more than to snag a copy of your address book and forward off more viruses and spam to everyone therein.

Things happen.  Computers crash.  Hard drives go belly up.  Software corrupts the file you've been slaving over for two months.   Backups prevent heartache.  Backups save hours of toil.  Backups bring peace of mind.

So, when did you last backup your data?
temporus: (ebook)
( Jul. 20th, 2012 04:31 pm)
It's been quite some time since I've talked Kindle and ebook stuff, so let me correct that.

I'll start off with my impressions of both the iPad (which I've been testing for a project at the Day Job) and the Kindle Fire.

Meh.

Ok, that's not terribly fair. Let me expand.

Back in the fall, I got my wife a Kindle Fire, thinking it would solve her need to have an external light.  She's the type that likes to read herself to sleep at night.  But then aren't we all?  What do you mean no?  Humpf!  I also hoped it would be a decent on hand web browser, email client etc.  As her phone is not a "Smart" phone type, though it at least now can text and browse WAP sytle internet, it seemed an inexpensive and convenient compromise.  I have an android phone, and bought almost all my apps through Amazon instead of through Google, so...should be easy to add those games, etc, to the Fire.  Well, we could.  And it was not bad.  Especially considering the price.   But my wife didn't find the reading relaxing on it the way she does with the regular Kindle. (strike one)  And the screen seemed a bit small to her. (strike two) And transferring TiVO videos was a lot more complicated and tricky than we'd thought.  (strike three.)  So it went back.   I still think for it's price point it's a good machine.  It just didn't wow us the way I'd kind of hoped it would.

As I mentioned, I'm testing out an iPad for work, so I'm finally getting to see what all the "hoopla" is about with it.  I can see why people like them.  Smooth and easy to use.  I'm testing out the wifi only device, and I downloaded the Kindle app to check out some of my books.  Both the technical ones for work, but also just some random others to see how they look.  It's fine.  The app isn't as good as I'd like.  Feels just about the same as the Cloud reader.  And I suspect it pretty much is the same.  Or at least based very much off the same code.  And that's one of the weaker versions of the app.  I much prefer the PC app or the real app to the cloud reader.   There's just more options in the others.  I could tangent into talking about the cloud app, but I won't.  Suffice it to say, the kindle app on iPad is sufficient if not superlative.  I wish they would implement a better way to organize.  (Though that's still one of my peeves.)  My over all impression in regards to the iPad?  Get a wifi only one, and put your monthly money into a good 4G wifi hotspot instead.  Why?  Well, the technology for the hot spots/cellular connectivity will change.  It will change at a rate probably faster than wifi itself.  So, why lock yourself into a technology that will become obsolete or severerly changed when you don't need to?   Wifi will likely remain the way it is, with backward compatibility support for years to come.  IE, your iPad won't be a dinosaur in the near future.  Well, okay, not because the cellular system gets overhauled, again.  Plus, you can support many PCs/devices from one hotspot.  If you're cellular is built into your iPad, it's more of a pain to share it out to friends, at conventions, on vacation with the kids, etc, etc.

One last thing, the iOS version of the Kindle app was supposed to have better support for Kids books.  So I went ahead and bought one in a series that I thought my sons would enjoy.  Bleh.  Not impressed.  If by better they mean because the screen is bigger you can read the text at all, instead of the almost impossibility of it elsewhere...I say, there's still a lot of room for improvement.   I get it, kids books particular the ones with lots of text/graphics interactions, can't be trivially handled by the system.  But if this is the best they can do....

Overall, Kindle continues to need to work on better ways to store and organize books.  I've got hundreds on my account.  Between the ones I picked up for me, the ones I picked up for the Mrs. and the ones I snagged because they were free (like all those classics from bygone eras) it takes a long time to sort through the list.  Even allowing that some of the versions of the app (and only SOME) support Collections, just getting the books sorted into collectiosn is a long and time consuming process.  Better than when you are reduced to just sorting everything by author, title or Recent.  But lacking just the same.  And I don't get it.  At the least, can't they do like Amazon Music and include genre?  Or allow tagging?  There should be more ways for generic sorting even before we decide to personally set them up into collections.

Now a new feature they rolled out, and I just learned about is the ability for you to "reset" a book to start.  This is a godsend.  My wife and I have more than enough overlapping reading habits that the cool feature of Sync is almost essential.  But heretofore, it was a first come first served feature.  If my wife read a book before me, she got the use of it.  If I read something before her, I got the use of it.  For a single book, it's no big deal.  But I've been fortunate enough to snag an omnibus edition here or there.  (Like the first four books of Song of Ice and Fire)  Imagine being somewhere in the middle of book three and having your device battery die.  Then I hand you my freshly charged Kindle but you have to guesstimate and find your way through to the "location".  Being able to reset a book means you get the ability to read anywhere and pck up where you left off, no matter which device you use.

Last observation: kids and lock down.  Yet again, Amazon implemented a good feature, but it only applies to the latest devices.  Well, OK.  That's awfullly disappointing in itself, but at least I get it.  Even if I don't like it.  But, from what I can tell, it's kind of a pain, and not nearly as useful as I would hope.  My understanding is, you can lock down access to all books.  Or none.  Well....um...that's useful?  I guess it was designed with the Fire in mind.  But really, shouldn't there be some way you can set up a variation of your books for your kids?   What I'd love it to be able to put a selection of books on his device (computer, whatever) that are just fine for him to read, without having to go through the effort of setting up seperate accounts through amazon, etc.  For DRM free books, that would probably work.  But I don't want to give him free reign.  He's not quite old enough for that just yet.

So what about you?   What features do you think are missing from your favorite e-reader?
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My older son manages to surprise me on a rather regular basis.  I'm almost certain that I forget he's actually younger than he gives the impression.  He's only five and a half at the moment.  But he's tall for his age, and linguistically, he's far more adept than your average five year old.  Today he just finished his last day of Pre-Kindergarten.  Next year he'll be in school "full time".

So to back things up, about three years ago, a marvelous writer, Catherynne Valente ([livejournal.com profile] yuki_onna) started up a project to write a YA book.  Out of necessity and urgency, it was a crowdsource funded book.  At the time, I recall I donated a bit, and I think I read the  at most first two chapters as she posted them up on the web one new chapter every week.  My wife was in her ninth month carrying our younger son at the time, who was born, maybe two weeks after the postings started, and then I promptly forgot all about the novel.   That's not to say that the novel was forgettable, just, well, two kids somehow end up feeling like twenty in short order, and you think you've got everything down after the first one, and you totally find out that you do not.  So, out of touch, out of sight, and off it goes.

Fast forward a couple of years, she makes this wonderful post giving us readers a promise that she won't talk down to our kids with her writing.  Now, this is not too long after I've "met" her at Boskone, and got to hear her read a section of her fantastic story Silently and Very Fast. I bought a copy of that before I left the reading (thank you Kindle) and I knew I had to get my wife, Celine, to read it.  (Which I did, and she loved it.)   So, I decide that, you know what?  No time like the present to read her YA book to my older son.  Why not see if I can't manage to rope in another fan.

Now, caveats.  I'd only glimpsed the opening of the story.  I don't really know what's an "appropriate" age to read the novel.  But one thing I do with my older son is nudge him a little further along the path whenever I can.  Because, all fatherly love put aside, he's a pretty smart kid.  He was reading on his own by three.  We've read together Odd and the Frost Giant, and The Hobbit, and all of The Spiderwick Chronicles just as an example.   Most nights, he reads his own stories to himself, books that are much more typical for a five year old to have.  But when he's good, and we have time, he gets a little extra reading time with Dad (or Mom).  And when I do that, I go for the bigger books, so I can judge if we're okay, or if we're beyond him or not.  And if he's sitting there, asking questions and mostly paying attention, we're fine.  But if he's all over, then, okay, I've probably shot past him.

So, we're reading along tonight finishing up chapter four, and it occurs to me that I never actually told my son the title of the novel we're reading.  He just called it September's story, and well, that's a whole lot shorter than the actual title.  And, as someone who grew up with a name shorted to two letters, there's one thing I tend to do more than anything else is shorten names.  But we're at the point where the main character, September is talking to a new character, the Wyverary, (read the story, that will make more sense) and mys on perks up asking what's the name of the story we're reading.  Now it's written on the top every screen(page? What do you call it in an ebook?) but it's much fainter, almost grey text instead of the nice crisp black of the main text.  So I pause and read it to him:  The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making.

That's a mouthful.  I said to him, you know almost all the words, but this one big one here, might be a bit hard.  And I pointed to Circumnavigated.  I repeat it, and ask him what do you think it means.  Without hesitation, he responds: to go around in a big circle until you get back home.*  

Now, I read him chapter one and two, but I switched off with my wife, so she could read him chapter three.  So I think to myself, ah. Celine must have gone over with him what circumnavigated means.   So after we finish chapter four, and I kiss him good night, I go and check with my wife.  Nope.  Never came up.  Now, he's just finished pre-K.  It's not impossible that somehow the word circumnavigate came up during school.  I'm sort of doubtful on that one however.  I remember learning the word only in context with the great explorers, Magellan and Drake, and if I recall, that was in like fourth or fifth grade?   So here's my five and half year old, and figured it out through....logic?  Context?  I can't even imagine.  Yeah, I'm pretty impressed.

So to bring this back around to yuki_onna.  Thank you for not dumbing things down.  Because I have a kid who needs the challenge.  And even if he won't get everything on the first read through of the book, that's okay.  I mean, isn't one of the joys of reading, re-reading a book again when you're just a bit older and seeing deeper into it?   And to the rest of you out there, if you write for kids at all, I challenge you to follow suit.  Don't hold yourself back thinking to make it easy on the kids.  Our kids deserve our best.  Every time I begin to wonder if I'm pushing him too far, he shows me he can handle it.  

Oh, and I think I succeeded, and now have three fans in the house.  :)

*I don't think I got his wording 100% right, because I didn't jot it down word for word, and I'm writing it from memory almost two hours later.  But that's as close as I'll be able to scribe it now.


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I've been accepted to Viable Paradise 16.   

When I got the email it was early in the morning and I was so bleary that I couldn't quite focus on the words on my phone.  I had to sit down and read it twice.  Then I had to shove the phone into my poor, mostly asleep, wife's face, while trying not to shout and dance and wake up the whole house, because people are mostly pretty sick at the Chez Greaves and need as much sleep as their bodies will give them.

But....*snoopydance*

Thanks to everyone for the encouragement to push on and apply.  I had a few moments where I really doubted myself there, and some of you (not the least of whom my dear wife, who almost had to slap me the way they do in the movies, you know?) kept me moving forward.

Now, there's a lot of work ahead, and I'm certainly going to end up finding something else to be nervous/anxious about.  But in the meantime: *snoopydance*
The package is in.  The check is in the mail.  My application for Viable Paradise is out the door.  Now I have the task of waiting.  Which won't be too hard, because everything in life, work, home, etc, is busy.  I can't say I won't notice the time, but I'm sure to be kept occupied.

Plus now I can read a book or two as reward for taking the leap.

Thanks for all the encouragement, and for the help.  If nothing else, I can say this: just the process of applying forced me to work on a new writing skill: the synopsis.  I can already see that I've a ton more to work on in that regards, but you have to start somewhere.  And I think, as with programming, nothing quite motivates me to pick up a skill like having an actual project to work towards.   

So, I'm tired, and still a bit buzzed from getting it all in.  This weekend, a family trip to Longwood Gardens.  And, I have no idea what I'll be doing come Sunday.  Hopefully, more resting and reading.   But probably I'll get back in the writing.  Because something needs working on.
temporus: (codex)
( Jan. 13th, 2012 12:37 pm)
So, I've been a bit more than lax in keeping up with the blog.  I think both facebook and twitter have proven easier for the small thoughts I've had here and there along the year, whereas in the past I might have taken more time to write up a dream or a funny story from the boys.   Going to have to decide how and if I want to change that approach.

I don't go in for New Year's Resolutions as a general thing.  That's not to say I don't see a value in taking stock in the previous year, seeing what you've accomplished, and setting new goals for the year ahead.  I do, but the idea that everyone has to do all that on this one day, just kind of irks me.  I guess it springs out of the part of me that tends to resist things that everyone else does on principle.  What principle, I haven't a clue, I've been trying to figure that out for over forty years now.

However, recently, just before the new year, I made a major push on finishing up the revision on my Not Quite A Super Hero novel.   I'd been making slow progress, and kept setting myself goal dates, and then blowing right past them.  Not a good thing.  In some instances, I understand why it happened.  In others, I can only conclude that sufficient motivation to keep the project moving wasn't there.  For that, I have only one person to look at in regards to keeping things moving: the one see in the mirror every day.

So I embarked on a system to get myself moving again.  And just about at the tail end of last year going on into New Years, I made a good push.  And on New Year's day I remembered that I used to track how many words I wrote on a special writing Google Calendar I'd setup just for that purpose.  I eventually stopped using that, because the obsession with a number, and what was or wasn't enough, etc, got me just as tangled up as anything else.  Besides, I didn't understand how to use that on projects like this one where I'm not writing new text, but revising a first draft into something I can put in the hands of beta readers.

So I scraped all that.  I liked the idea of a visual reminder, did I get to my writing that day.   I often remember the idea of what I was originally told was attributed to Jerry Seinfeld.  That he would have a calendar on the wall, and every day when he wrote new jokes, he would put an X through the day.  After a while, he pushed himself to write new jokes because he had to keep his streak going.  Self motivation at it's core.  I wanted to have that, because it was simple.  That's essentially what I'd been going for before, except that I got tangled up in numbers and specifics, and everything else.  So this time around I wanted to make it simple.   So I made this as straightforward and binary as I could: Did I write.

Below is the result.

Snapshot of Calendar

Everyday, before I go to bed (or most often after I get up the next morning it seems, but the effect is close enough) I ask myself the question.  Did I write today?  And if the answer is Yes, I get to mark that down on my calendar.  I use the phrase YES I WROTE as a way of reinforcing to myself what it is I'm doing.  I'm writing.

Now, what am I counting as writing?   I'm counting new material.  Editing.  Crafting a Query or Synopsis.  Outlining and plotting.  Free writing exercises, or character development work.  Some of those are pre and post writing tasks, but they are necessary tasks, and they all involve the "writing muscles" to some degree or other.  I'm not worrying about how much of each of this things, or how long I do it.  It's a simple question:  Did I do any of these?  Yes or no.  Yes gets the box filled in.  No leaves it blank.  Blank spots should become obvious.  

There are many other tasks that a writer needs to do, and I might track those as well on the calendar as separate items.  But this is my plan for this coming year, to see if I can keep this up.  So far so good.  

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Like many, I only recently found out that the legendary author Anne McCaffrey passed away yesterday.  I am saddened beyond words.  If you were to take a gander at my LibraryThing account, you might notice that I possess more novels by her than by any single other author, and I'm quite certain I've missed a few that are hiding in my collection.  I even have several of her books in French. To say that the stories she wrote had an impact on my life is like saying air had an impact on my life.  I didn't read the Pern novels.  I inhabited them.  As I flailed, and often failed to find a place for myself in the world, I found Rukbat, a G-type star, and a world that revolved around it called Pern.  Those books gave me hope.  They gave me heart.  They made me laugh out loud.  Want to be a Harper.  Want to ride dragons.  Have my own fire-lizard brigade not unlike Menolly.  They made me cry.  Oh yes indeed.  Fans might well know which death made me cry the most.

In all honesty, I don't know if I'd have survived junior high without her books.  They were a refuge that never failed me.  I read them in class, holding them open on my lap under the edge of the desk out of sight of teachers.  I read them again and again.  Characters like Jaxom and Menolly were fast friends, fellow outcasts among their own whose challenges and eventual successes in life gave me very real hope that I might too weather the challenges that beset me.  There were times I would have traded Earth for Pern in a heartbeat.  I'm not talking in the kind of fan-fiction way where I might have been one to impress a bronze dragon.  Sure enough, I had those kinds of daydreams too.  But at the time, I would have gladly just existed as one of the ordinary folk, living an ordinary kind of life.  Just to be there, instead of here.

And now, with her passing, I find myself with tears.  The Masterharper is no more.  I never got to meet her.  Nor to thank her.  To tell her that those words meant much to me.  That she is one of my writing heroes.  
Children have a wonderful playfulness with language.  They poke it, twist it, pull it, and try all sorts of things with it, to try and understand how it works.  My sons will often repeat phrases and words they heard in other contexts at strange times.  It's experimentation.  A way of learning that I suspect we as adults no longer do, except perhaps the wordsmiths among us.  I know I'd get embarrassed if I played around with words the way they do when I study a foreign language.  I suspect the fear of sounding like a fool kept me from expressing myself at all to the point where I have forgotten much of my language skills.  Even my French--which I should have improved over the past decade, marrying into a francophone family as I have--has languished.  

But kids are fearless.  And playful.  And acknowledge the fact that they are playing around, and don't really care.

Example:

My older son, while taking the evening bath, started to repeat a sentence he must have heard somewhere else.

"It's a mess, a real kerfuffle."

At this point, I'm racking my brain to try and figure out what story or context he might have heard that phrase, and am in my parental way impressed with his ever growing vocabulary.  I was not, however, prepared for the next sentence:

"The kerfuffle.  It's REAL!  THE KERFUFFLE IS REAL!"  

At this point I'm lucky that there's a wall behind me, because I almost tumbled over backwards.  Both in reaction to his sudden shouting, as well as from laughing so hard.   He shouted it with that indignant vehemence that only a not quite five year old can muster.  If you'd been walking by, you might have thought I was arguing with him the way he carried on.  Then the two year old joined in, alternating just shrieking with excitement, and doing his best to wrap his tongue around the new word.

And by the end, with splashing, and shouting, and laughing and shrieking, it was quite a kerfuffle indeed.
temporus: (ebook)
( Sep. 29th, 2011 01:32 pm)
 With yesterday's announcement, there are now three Kindle versions you can purchase for under $100.  Two are brand new, the third is the same model of Kindle 3 that I own, the wifi, but to get the Kindle for under $100 you have to take the Special Offers package, which appears to drop the price by about $40.  So your three models are:  The Kindle, which is now the line that comes without a keyboard, and just a few navigation keys, this is available now, and is $79.  The Kindle Touch, which uses a touch screen for the navigation, and the Kindle Keyboard, which was formerly known as the Kindle 3.  Both the Touch and Keyboard are $99.

So, now we have a major brand that has hit the "magic" under $100 price point.  Do I think this means that e-readers and e-books will explode?  Hmm... that's hard to say.  I think it's kind of obvious to anyone paying attention that e-books are already exploding.  So how much impact will these price points really have?   Hard to say.  We're getting to a generic commodity price range.  I think that's going to continue to a degree, though how much lower?  Hard to say.  Certainly this new price point, along with the fact that I can now borrow Kindle books from my local library, and all those free classics you can download, there's enough reading available for those who don't want to spend the money on e-books to read for a long, long time.  Frankly, I'm of the opinion that reading is on the rise.

And last, but not least, is the big announcement of the Kindle Fire.  The new Android based color Kindle.  Yay.  I know a lot of folks are writing about this device as if it's taking on the iPad.  And to any degree in which you can say a smaller, cheaper, wifi only tablet could take on the iPad, sure.  And while I don't think Amazon intends to shy away from that particular fight...I suspect this was aimed less at taking on Apple, and more at rival B&N's color Nook, which has been out on the market for a while, and is both a similar sized Android tablet AND in the same price point.  So, yeah, I don't view this as a iPad killer attempt so much as I do a 'keeping up with the joneses' attempt to stay parallel to B&N.   Which if you think about this for a bit, tells you a few things.  B&N is still a major factor.  Amazon is reacting now quite frequently to B&N and the ideas and technology they put out.   Amazon may have had an early lead, but B&N is not yet out of the picture, and I think for anyone to discount them would be a major, major mistake.   Even though all reporting thus far indicates that in the e-book sales marketplace that Amazon still sells more units than probably all other vendors combined (and I'm talking e-BOOKs, not readers here) they aren't so far out in the lead that they can't be challenged.

This is all to our benefit as consumers, as technologically, you can really see the effect.  The competition is pushing Amazon to keep pace.   Color, touch screen, library lending.   All these are technologies that earlier were cast aside by Amazon as not the direction they wanted to go.  And the presence of B&N pulling those off....has forced them to reconsider and address those concerns.  It's hard to say if I would be happy to give up my keyboard, and yet...I know I use it far less than my wife does.  Not never, but only on rare occasion.  

Progress.  It's taking us forward into the digital future, and that future promises to be interesting.

Of course, e-readers being cheaper, and even with free books available, cheap books, and library lending features, this doesn't mitigate the digital divide as discussed by [livejournal.com profile] seanan_mcguire.  

I said the future would be interesting, didn't say it would be good or fair.

 I received a notice in my inbox that Amazon was giving away Free subscriptions to the venerable genre magazine: Fantasy and Science Fiction.  Intrigued, I clicked on over to the subscription page here, and it looked completely legit.  However, you might notice a fair number of low rated reviews.  Which I found odd, since it's brand new.   Apparently, there is some confusion about this.  Because what is offered for free is a limited portion of the magazine.  It's the non-fiction content, and one of the stories from the issue.   To get the full subscription, you pay 99 cents a month.  

There's two things, however, that make this initial page a touch confusing.  The first, is that when you click the link, you get the standard disclaimer that the first 14 days of a subscription are free, and you won't be charged until after that.   Which is true.  It's just that in the case of the free Digest edition of F&SF, you'll pay $0.  Okay, that could have been implemented a touch better, because clearly enough people missed that to give negative reviews.   The other touch of confusion is calling the abridged version of the magazine a Digest.  F&SF is printed in Digest format, as opposed to full sized magazine format, and that could cause a bit of confusion.   Not that it excuses one from reading the text there, but it's something they could have avoided by using a different word like :Sampler or Abridged edition.  Frankly as such things go, it's a pretty small nit to pick.   More troubling is the fact that I can't get my magazine content on my PC.  This isn't unique to F&SF.  This is a general magazine subscription issue.  It's one of the things that frustrates me in regards to say, my subscription to Clarkesworld.  It's not that I mind the subscription.  But I can't read it on my PC.  Of course for CW, I can just go to the website and read it on my PC anyway, so it's not the same frustration as my Asimov's subscription.   But, it would be nice, if they could resolve this, because it's kind of a hole in the content system of buy it and read it on whichever device suits you.

All in all, it's a good thing to see more genre magazines showing up on the Kindle shores.  I hope it's helping to keep these magazines going.  
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Last night I had a dream that I received my first pro story acceptance. (I think I know why, more at the end)  I can't place for certain which market this supposedly was, but I recall being very pleased that it was with the market in question.  I have a suspicion that, in the dream logic of things, this "market" was probably a brain-merged version of Clarkesworld, ROF and Fantasy Magazine.  Because that's the way things happen in your dreams, they seldom bear true relation to reality.  Truth is, if I sold a story to any one of those three, I'd be bouncing off the walls right about now.  Of course, if I sold a story at all right now, I'd be bouncing around the walls.  Seeing as I have no short stories currently making the rounds, and I'm hip deep in revising a novel to give the first readers something to face-palm about, this is one of those dreams that might take a while to become reality.

But you know, maybe it's sign that I need to make some time for the short stories again.  Not stop working on the novel, but to assign some time each week to keep the short story ideas flowing.

As to why I might have had this particular dream last night, I think it was in response to something going through my head as I was driving home from my in-laws with some shelving units in the back of the van while trapped in "shore traffic."   I came to the realization that I have this part of my brain that simply doesn't accept anything short of a pro level sale as proof that I'm worthy of calling myself a writer.  Which is dismissive of the work I've done so far, as well as the successes I've had.  And I think that's crap (intellectually speaking) , but at the same time, it's hard to deny my feeling about it.  Like calling myself a writer is somehow fake, because I don't have that.  And when I put emotion temporarily aside, I have to wonder will I still feel a fake even after that pro sale comes some day?  Will I just assume it's a fluke or a one hit wonder?  Will I set a new bar or standard for myself so that I don't feel accomplished yet with what I'm doing?  Quite likely.  Is that inherently a bad thing?  I don't know.  If I don't let that feeling get in my way, probably not.  As long as I can use it to motivate myself to keep driving forward, I think it's one of those things I can live with.  

I find myself in the interesting position of having a small test audience for the new HBO series A Game of Thrones.  The test audience involved is interesting precisely because none of the three of us have read the books by George R. R. Martin, and yet, each of us represents a different segment of the general viewing population that HBO hopes will be checking out and following along with this series in the devoted way that fans have flocked to some of the previous offerings.

To start, let me tell you a tad about our test group.  It consists of me, my wife, and her sister.  We break down in the following fashion: me, a hardcore fan of the fantasy genre.  Though I haven't read this particular work by Martin, I'm familiar with other stories he's written, and would generally put myself into the broad category of fan.  (I'm sure the die-hard fans of this particular series might take umbrage with me considering myself a fan having never read the books, but tough nuts pals.  You don't have to read everything an author writes to consider yourself a fan of the author. Besides, my blog, my rules.)  I have a passing knowledge of the books in the sense that I've heard many people talk about them, and have some inkling what to expect, and have heard some of the names prior to watching the series.  I actively anticipated seeing the show.  My wife is not a hardcore fantasy fan.  She is more than a casual reader, but she has a much broader reading palate, and has far less patience for the more generic genre works.  She was intrigued enough by seeing some of the hype material, and watched a few of the pre-launch "making of" type shows that HBO put out about the series.  Getting her buy-in to check out the series wasn't all that hard.  My sister-in-law is not a genre fan.  For point of reference, she got bored enough during The Two Towers movie, that she walked out and I don't think she ever finished watching it.  She's involved in the film and TV industry, however, so she was open minded enough to give it a try, if nothing else than on the general reputation of HBO series. 

So you can see, three quite different types of potential audience members.  Each with more or less of a predisposition to like and enjoy this series.

So we watched the first episode all together.   I had little difficulty following along with who was who, and where everyone was.  However, my wife and her sister often had to stop the show and double check.  I have the two pronged advantage of some prior familiarity with some character names, and long experience of slogging through huge check-lists of characters that can be common in some of the larger epic/high fantasy novels.  In other words, I've got those "muscles" well exercised where someone less familiar, or unfamiliar altogether would have a bit of a struggle.  (This is where TiVO or some other DVR is probably a good thing to have for this series.)  After the episode, I asked what everyone thought.  I wasn't quite as wowed as I'd hoped to be.  But being the first episode, and having to introduce so much, I felt it had earned a B+.  My wife thought it was decent, if somewhat confusing and slow in a few parts.  She rated it a B.  My SIL thought it was okay, but ponderous and she was surprised how underwhelmed she was with the production values, based upon how much they'd spent on the show. In her opinion it was about a C.  However, everyone agreed it was worth giving it another episode to see.

So we gave it two more weeks.  For the most part, I don't think any of our opinions much changed.  We all noticed a bit of a pattern where the start of each episode was noticably slower, and that by the end of the episode it had picked up the pace a bit, drawing you more into the story.  If anything, I'd bet we each slid down the scale a tad, since there didn't seem to be any noticeable improvement of the show.  Each episode was good, but not great.  We didn't feel the need to watch the new episode RIGHT AWAY in that coveted 9pm Sunday slot HBO likes to promote.  Some weeks my wife and I didn't get around to watching the episode until Friday or Saturday.  To me, that's a bit of a problem.  Other HBO shows that I've liked, say Rome, or Carnivale, or Tru-Blood, we're ready to go.  Sitting there waiting to pounce on the new episodes as they come out.  So far, while I want to find out what happens next, I don't feel compelled.  To paraphrase how my SIL described her feelings on it: it's good enough that she'll watch it when it's around, but it hasn't sucked her in like many of the other HBO series have.

So I got to wondering why that might be, and I have a few thoughts on the matter.  The first thing thing I had to wonder about was the problem that the story was a fantasy.  I dismiss that as the cause, because both my wife and SIL quite enjoy Tru-Blood, and that's most definitely a fantasy story as well.  Further, she liked both Carnivale (also a fantasy) and Rome, which while not a fantasy is at least a "costume" drama that shares a lot in common with the plot threads showing up in A Game of Thrones.  (IE, lots of political intrigue, lots of war talk, plenty of lewdness, etc.)   So from a genre POV, I see no reason for the lukewarm reception.  So what's left?

Acting? The acting seems good, though Peter Dinklage steals virtually every scene he's involved in, it is not as if the rest are bad hacks.  Story?   From the fans I know, it seems they are being fairly faithful to the book.  Perhaps that is hurting the story some.  At least, that's my SIL's working theory.  I'm not the kind of fan that feels absolute fidelity is necessary when changing medium for storytelling.  A book is not a TV show, is not a Comic, is not a Movie, is not a Play.  Yes, there are some similarities in all these, but they aren't the same.  Stories do need to be adapted to each format.  Things need to change.  So it is, in my opinion, possible that in trying to be too accurate to the books, the producers are making the series less effective.  That's of course hard for me to say for certain, having never read the books.  However, in at least one aspect, I have a suspicion this might be the case--the constant scene/setting changes.

So far at least it seems to me as if in every episode we're flung from scene to scene, changing settings from one major location to the next constantly.  This can be quite an effective tool, naturally, to keep us abreast of goings on throughout the far flung lands, giving us a sense of all things that are happening at about the same chronological time.  I assume that the novel is written in such a fashion.  But even so, it's a bit too much.  In a book, reading takes you longer, you get more face time with each character before the setting changes, and therefore you develop more empathy to the characters.  I think they might do well to trim back on the story lines somewhat, giving us longer time with each setting and plot thread instead of jolting around so.  I think I might develop more interest and attachment and most importantly empathy for some of the characters in that fashion. 

All in all, a good show, but not the exceptional show I'd been hoping it would be.   I'll keep watching it, to see if they find their feet with it, and hopefully they will.  But it would be nice to see that sooner rather than later, because if our reactions are typical, then I fear they may only hold onto the fan audience from the books, and to really be successful in TV, you need a much much larger viewer base than that, week after week.


temporus: (ebook)
( Apr. 28th, 2011 03:34 pm)
A week or so ago I was having a conversation with my friend Erin ([livejournal.com profile] abennettstrong ) about a book my son enjoyed about robots.  When I went on Amazon to try and look up the book, I ran across quite a lot of books about robots in the children's section.  While trying to narrow down the list to find the one I wanted to share, I came across the fact that there were Kindle editions for books at very young age ranges.  I was shocked to see that there were six books listed in the Baby-3 years age category.  (Actually when you go in and look however, four of them are in my opinion mislabeled.  A book about educational toys for you kids is not a book for ages 0-3.  And why a US Military manual is listed in the Baby-3 year old section is beyond me.)  I clicked over to the 4-8 year old category, which is the appropriate age level for my older son, and lo and behold they have 11 books.  All of which appear to be in the target range. 

So that got me thinking, just how many Kindle books are there for infants.  A quick check and there's ~1400.  Wow.  I was a bit surprised by that, granted, there might well be a fair number of mislabels, such as I noted above when searching for the robot stories, but a quick glance through the first few pages reveal them to be reasonably accurate, such as the classic Pokey Little Puppy.  Sure, I expect the Maximum Ride series is not appropriate for an infant, and nor likely is Artemis Fowl, but on the whole, there seems to be quite a lot of books there that are appropriate for the infant through toddler age.  I was impressed.

I also checked out how many are there for the 4-8 year old crowd.  About 4100 was the answer, which is a nice amount, and seems to have a pretty broad selection of books.  I was, once again, impressed.

All of this got me thinking, however, what would be a reasonable age to give a child their own ereader?  I considered the possibility of getting my old K1 repaired, as far as I can tell it's just a bad screen, but the cost was too high to justify it, sadly.  If I did, I'd consider giving it to the Little Man.  He simply devours books, and I'm thinking I can get him to master the kindle reader basics if I can just convince him that it's not a touch screen.  Of course, he's not too used to books yet that don't have a picture on every single page, but my wife and I were discussing recently if it might not be time to start easing him into chapter books in any case.  I have to admit, it would be nice to take some advantage of ebooks and let him discover books at his own pace.  Of course, I'd want to be able to control what books go into his library.  Hmm...that might be a feature Amazon could implement, a child saftey lock much like my TiVO has, so that I could let him have a device but prevent him from just downloading anything on the account.  Frankly that wouldn't be too hard if I had a wifi only device, and just didn't configure it for the home network.  By the time he was old enough to figure that out on his own, I probably wouldn't be too worried about what he's reading.

But that's just it, I'm not likely to drop $100 or so on a device for a child who might just stand on the thing....because.  It's one of the reasons I really want to see the e-ink screens continue to come out, and to continue to fall in price.  Get me something below $50, and I just might buy one for him.  In the short term, I've been toying with the plan to reburn a PC for him, give him his own system to start using.  And if I do, I'll probably put the Kindle App on that PC, and pre-load it with some age appropriate books.  I'll have to see if there's a way to lock down the app so he can't just pull in any book from our account he wants.  I'd rather have a bit more control until he's old enough.

So what about you, would you give your child an ebook reader? (and by child I mean someone younger than a teen).  Do you have kids that read ebooks already?
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Edward Greaves

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