Friday, October 29, 2010
If you want to see a big part of the future of book publishing, go to www.jodymeacham.com.
It's the Web site for Through the Heart of the South, a new self-published coming-of-age novel about a white high school lad buffeted by the civil rights movement, with a background of Dixie railroading.
The author is Jody Meacham, a North Carolina native, onetime Seaboard Coast Line brakeman and recovering California sportswriter. He has a commercially published book -- Skating for Dummies, with Kristi Yamaguchi -- under his belt as well as the skills and smarts to make a private venture work.
The first two chapters of the novel are free on the web site for the downloading, in .pdf format, and their vivid prose impelled me to order a $8 e-book (there is a link to Amazon.com) to read on my Kindle. The novel also comes in ePub format at the same price for the Nook (with a link to barnesandnoble.com) and a $16 print-on-demand trade paperback.
The Web site is attractively designed, with sections offering a Q-and-A with the author and the historical background of the novel.
I learned about this book on railforum.com, a Web site devoted to one of my pastimes, railroads and train travel. There, using the nom de web "Doodlebug," Meacham posted a message about the book. Targeting niche interests on the Internet is potentially an effective way for a self-published novelist to promote his wares, and you will be seeing more of this kind of thing in years to come.
In a week I'm taking Amtrak's Capitol Limited to Washington. Guess what I'll be reading aboard the train?
Wednesday, October 27, 2010
Today the National Weather Service issued the following bulletin for western Lake Superior (bolding mine):
LAKE SUPERIOR FROM SAXON HARBOR WI TO UPPER ENTRANCE TO PORTAGE
CANAL MI 5NM OFF SHORE TO THE US/CANADIAN BORDER INCLUDING ISLE
ROYALE NATIONAL PARK-
LAKE SUPERIOR FROM UPPER ENTRANCE TO PORTAGE CANAL TO MANITOU
ISLAND MI 5NM OFF SHORE TO THE US/CANADIAN BORDER-
416 AM EDT WED OCT 27 2010
...STORM WARNING IN EFFECT THROUGH LATE TONIGHT...
.EARLY THIS MORNING...SOUTHWEST STORM FORCE WINDS TO 60 KNOTS.
RAIN SHOWERS. WAVES 20 TO 25 FEET.
.TODAY...SOUTHWEST STORM FORCE WINDS TO 55 KNOTS DIMINISHING TO 50
KNOTS IN THE AFTERNOON. RAIN SHOWERS. WAVES SUBSIDING TO 15 TO 20
.TONIGHT...WEST STORM FORCE WINDS TO 50 KNOTS VEERING TO NORTHWEST
GALES TO 45 KNOTS AFTER MIDNIGHT. A CHANCE OF RAIN SHOWERS THROUGH
MIDNIGHT...THEN RAIN SHOWERS LIKELY. WAVES SUBSIDING TO 10 TO 14
.THURSDAY...NORTHWEST GALES TO 40 KNOTS. A CHANCE OF RAIN
SHOWERS. WAVES BUILDING TO 12 TO 17 FEET...THEN SUBSIDING TO
10 TO 14 FEET.
.THURSDAY NIGHT...NORTHWEST WINDS 20 TO 30 KNOTS BECOMING WEST
15 TO 25 KNOTS AFTER MIDNIGHT. A SLIGHT CHANCE OF RAIN SHOWERS.
WAVES SUBSIDING TO 6 TO 9 FEET.
.FRIDAY...WEST WINDS 15 TO 25 KNOTS. WAVES SUBSIDING TO 3 TO
.FRIDAY NIGHT...WEST WINDS 10 TO 20 KNOTS BECOMING NORTHWEST 5 TO
15 KNOTS AFTER MIDNIGHT. WAVES SUBSIDING TO 2 TO 4 FEET.
.SATURDAY...NORTH WINDS 5 TO 15 KNOTS BECOMING NORTHEAST 10 TO
20 KNOTS. WAVES SUBSIDING TO 1 TO 3 FEET.
.SUNDAY...NORTHEAST WINDS 5 TO 15 KNOTS. WAVES SUBSIDING TO CALM
TO 2 FEET...THEN BUILDING TO 1 TO 3 FEET.
Of course the highest waves will be five nautical miles offshore, but the ones inshore will be humdingers, too. Inasmuch as the Writer's Lair, pictured below, lies only 20 feet from the lake, we'll be holding our breaths that it -- and the new rock riprap we had installed between the cabin and the edge of the water last summer -- make it through the storm unscathed.
OCT. 28: Friends who live a little way west of the cabin paid a visit after the storm and reported all was fine except for a red squirrel looking for (and, I hope, failing to find) a way into the cabin. Since the 60-knot wind was out of the southwest, the southern shore of the lake saw only 4- to 6-foot waves while the Slate Islands on the Canadian side were buffeted by 28-foot monsters.
Posted by HENRY KISOR at 7:26 AM
Tuesday, October 26, 2010
Even with the first November blow fixing to hit this last week of October, I'd rather be up in our beloved log cabin on the shore of Lake Superior in Upper Michigan rather than down here in Evanston. The Lady Friend calls the place "Far Shore" (her father built it in 1947) and I know it as "The Writer's Lair." This lovely drawing, now hanging on the dining room wall, was her birthday gift from our sons and their spouses.
Friday, October 22, 2010
Next Thursday I'll be putting my life on the line again, lecturing to a class of college students.
Exactly why this is a sensible idea I can't say. Preparing a 45-minute talk takes about three eight-hour days of work. Otherwise I would just be peddling banalities to the credulous.
Intolerant cranks might think college students nothing more than ignorant simpletons vulnerable to subversive notions, but I've always found them tough audiences with acutely tuned bullshit detectors. (Of course they are ignorant. That's why they're in college. Why else would they be?)
The class in question is "Explore Chicago: Chicago's Disabled Community," a course taught by an old friend, Karen Meyer. She's a WLS-TV (ABC) reporter specializing in news about disabilities, and she's also director of DePaul University's Office on Disabilities as well as a professor.
It's a survey course for freshmen. My book What's That Pig Outdoors: A Memoir of Deafness is required reading, so they'll know all about me. I won't have to explain who I am and why I'm standing in front of them. That's half the battle.
Karen herself is deaf -- we both went through Evanston Township High School -- and so the students will already be accustomed to the way oral deaf people speak. There won't be an awkward period in which the students struggle to get used to my rusty bathtub pipes.
Funny thing, though: I'll be talking to them the way I speak to unfamiliar hearing audiences: with the help of a computer, a digital projector and Keynote (the Mac version of PowerPoint). The hardware will illustrate how I make myself understood to hearing audiences: small pages of text and photographs projected on a screen, with readings from the books by the Lady Friend.
It'll be a demonstration of how a deaf author pitches his books to the general public. Overcoming an obstacle, in short.
There won't, however, be a pop quiz. I'm not that tough.
I'm looking forward to it. Speaking to Karen's students is always gratifying.
OCT. 29: And so it was.
Friday, October 15, 2010
One of my frequent stops on the Internet circuit is at PoliceLink, a Web site popular with cops that is highly useful for writers of police procedural mysteries.
On it I've learned all about the latest Ford Police Interceptor replacement for the classic Crown Victoria cruiser (it's not getting a very enthusiastic reception), about police careers, about weapons and tactical gear, and half a hundred other items often on a cop's mind.
There are forums on which cops unload their deepest feelings about issues of the day -- for example, whether the Westboro Baptist Church protesters are protected by the U.S. constitution. As with us civilians, cops' opinions on this matter range all over the map.
No concern is too trivial for officers to chew over. Cops are taught never to put their hands in their pockets when on duty, lest a bad guy catch them unguarded at an inopportune moment. But where do they put their hands when off duty? Some of the responses are snarkily hilarious: "Most of the time I carry my daughter on my support side when out in public so my boom stick hand is free to kill zombies."
Each day there's news about incidents involving police officers. Sometimes the headlines can sound right out of the Onion ("Topless Woman, 61, Attacks Officers with Meat Cleaver") but the stories are deadly serious.
Yesterday's home page led with "Bathroom Issues for Law Enforcement." I never knew that a visit to a strange public rest room could be fraught with so many problems for a police officer. Can't turn your back on the door for fear some lunatic will make a grab for your gun. Those stalls don't leave much room for maneuvering with a heavy equipment belt, and the problem is worse for female cops.
For them the article (by a female Naperville, Ill., cop) recommends Quickpants, an extended zipper system for uniform trousers that operates on the same principle as flap-bottom pajamas.
I'll have to write this stuff into my next novel somehow.
Thursday, October 14, 2010
|The Brother HL-2140 is an incredible writer's bargain for as little as $49.95.|
I loved the thing -- it was built like an Abrams tank, weighed about as much as one, and soldiered on for years and years without breaking. I don't remember exactly when it finally died in the early 2000s, but none of its various replacements (H-Ps and Brothers) lasted half as long.
Last week my latest Brother, a big and heavy HL-1850 bought for about $250 in 2004, finally went belly up. It would have cost about the same to fix, so I junked it.
And now I have a Brother HL-2140 "personal laser printer." It came from a New York online merchant for $65, free shipping, no sales tax. Sixty-five bucks! I could hardly believe it.
It gets better. Last week Staples, the office supply house, was discounting the little Brother for $49.95. (The standard price from most sources is $119.)
Good thing that the tools of a mystery novelist are becoming cheaper, because that profession doesn't pay as well as it used to. Not that it ever paid much.
Saturday, October 9, 2010
. . . and was sent off to my agent yesterday for relay to my publisher.
"It" is Hang Fire, the Steve Martinez mystery I had been neglecting since the fall of 2007, working on only sporadically. Last August I suffered an unaccustomed burst of energy and wrote the last third of the manuscript, and all during September rewrote and recast and polished it until it cried for mercy.
I had the good fortune to count among my early critical readers a lawyer, another writer, an artist, the Lady Friend, a retired psychologist, a retired state park ranger and a good friend highly knowledgeable about the milieu of Porcupine County in upper Michigan. I thank them all, while of course acknowledging that any mistakes that do get into print are the fault of the author and the author alone.
Now we will see if the horribly beleaguered publishing world has resources enough to publish the thing.
What's it about? I can tell you that it involves dressing up in frontier duds and serial murder by muzzle-loader. There is sex (and the absence thereof) and there are lies. There is temptation. Alex, Chad, Ginny, Tommy, Sue, Joe Koski and Hogan are all present. There is a shootout in the woods with hunters and a SWAT team. Do Steve and Ginny get back together?
We shall see, if all goes well.
Monday, October 4, 2010
Two days ago a Kindle arrived at my house from Amazon.com. It's the $139 one -- wi-fi is fine for me. Don't need 3G ($189) to get new e-books.
So far so good, with a few niggles.
This new third-generation Kindle is billed as having a contrastier screen than earlier models, and I suppose it does, but it could be a little better. Its "e-ink" text doesn't stand out quite as well from the light gray background as print does from white paper. This means you (or, rather, I; I'm a geezer who don't see so good no more) must use the Kindle in a well-lighted place. It's not good for dim rooms.
But the Kindle's 6-inch screen is much better for reading in sunlight (such as on the beach) than an iPad or iPod Touch's 3-inch screen, on which I've read 34 books since buying it 18 months ago. The backlit screens of the Apples wash out in bright light.
A very nice item is Amazon's "Whispersync" feature, which allows the Kindle and the Kindle app on the iPod Touch to synchronize, putting you on the same page of an e-book in both machines. I'll be able to use the Touch to read in the dark or keep it on my belt for reading where carrying the Kindle might be inconvenient.
Learning the Kindle's ins and outs has not been difficult, but I did have to to unlearn the Apple touch-screen style and pick up the trick of "mousing" the Kindle's cursor around with its tiny four-way rocker switch, and page through the books with pressure switches on the side of the reader. The Apple touch-screen interface is much more elegant and intuitive than the Kindle's.
But that doesn't make me wish I had bought a $499 iPod instead. The Kindle is a superb value.