A3Writer: May 2010
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Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Wanderlust

     In retrospect, this was inevitable. Just from the title of the blog I should have known I would approach this subject. I've been bitten, and bitten hard. It happened last year, and the year before, and now it's back.
     I want to travel. It's actually worse than that. I need to travel. I returned a week ago from my foray into Texas, and being on the open road . . . it's a feeling I can't quite describe. Free, I guess comes closest. When I travel, I see new things, gain new experiences, meet new people, and get ideas for writing. And there's nothing like seeing a landscape (eventually) change by driving through it. There's an infinite diversity out there, and I want to see it. I want to see the little things on the road as well as the big. I sat in y car fascinated as I drove around a Wind Farm in West Texas. There, on several mesas, windmills churned away making power. Over a dozen of them! They sat isolated, with no other sign of civilization for a hundred miles (yes, Texas really is that big, and the desert that sparse).
     I'm left wonder what else is in this wide world I need to see, and the unexpected stuff is the best. I attended a book signing of Christopher Moore recently, and he described his ideal job as one in which he would travel, research where he traveled, and then write about it. Now, I've wanted to write stories for as long as I can remember, but I never realized how much I wanted to travel until recently, and hearing him describe the job like that hit home with me that a writing life can make travel dreams possible.
     I'm not going to stop writing, and I'm already planning another trip, probably to Texas again to see my friend. I need to see White Sands, Carlsbad Caverns, and maybe to South Padre Island. Maybe I'll do that one on another trip.



Monday, May 24, 2010

Conference skills

     Who knew? In my not-so-exciting non-writer life, I am a teacher. Certainly I knew that teaching writing would influence my ability to write, create, and accept criticism, but I didn't know that I would find something on the business side of the writing world to help my teaching.
     I recently attended a job fair a local college was holding for adjunct, and in preparation for that job fair, I used all the tricks I learned from going to Desert Dreams. I dressed professionally, made copies of the appropriate letters, resumes, and applications. I created business cards to pass out, and even wore a nametag. I think these little things, in combination, gave me a one up on many of the others, and, more importantly, a confidence boost. I felt as if I represented myself well. One thought kept floating through my mind while there: "Be memorable in a good way." So I made sure to be myself, occasionally throwing out a joke here and there, asking pointed and poignant (I love that word) questions about teaching at this school, the curriculum, and the student body. I even shared some of what I have done while teaching with them to give a sense of what I do as a teacher, and so, in the end, I believe I did make myself memorable in a good way.
     Now the problem is I must wait. I must wait to find out if I will be one of the lucky chosen few to get a job at this school. An experience not wholly unlike waiting to hear from an agent regarding my manuscript, though the job isn't anywhere near as terrifying.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Road (food) Warrior

     Or, how the struggling wannabe author affords to travel. I am a (fairly) devout follower of Alton Brown, whom I think should be named Patron Saint of Travel food for his insights in shows such as Feasting on Asphalt. For me, the difference really has been a couple of his tips, which, unfortunately, I have been unable to find on Youtube. One was from the show Feasting on Asphalt, and the other just a commercial snippet.
     Now, there's two parts to this, and the first is the equipment. I think that this gizmo: http://www.amazon.com/Max-Burton-Stove-To-Go/dp/B000G6S8Z2 makes a big difference. The ability to cook while driving simplifies things immensely. I was able to cook up some beef stew and polish sausages with ease, all while driving. I only had to load it up, plug it in, and drive.
     That's only part of it, though. The second part is mindset. This one is somewhat harder. Okay, a lot harder. Putting my brain into a mode where I plan out what my meals are while on the road is pretty difficult. It's one more thing to think about when it comes to going on a road trip. In the past I had simply driven, and then stopped when hungry to get some food, or, even if in a cook my own mood, would resort to simple sandwiches in a cooler. Now, I can actually cook on the road, and the morale boost alone makes it well worth investments in money and time. More than that, I look forward to road trips even more, now. For me, travel equals a recharge of the brain, and as an excellent source of inspiration to fuel writing. Well, back to my trip. And don't forget some good audiobooks for the drive!


Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Road Trip May 2010

     I love a good road trip. The open road, the sights, the freedom of it all. To me, poetry outside of words is traveling. Anyway, enough with waxing on. I'm heading out for the open road soon to enjoy a good friend's wedding. On the way, I'm going to enjoy myself. I am in sore need of a change of venue, so this is just what the doctor ordered.
     Something I've noticed when I travel is that the mind opens up, shrugging off the staleness, and I can be creative. Things I look at give me inspiration, and I can really cut loose. I'm hoping this trip will do the same. When inspiration strikes, I hope to take a picture of what inspired me, and maybe post it up here.
     Also, the my Twittering will reflect the nature of my happenings on the road., so be sure to check out that (found in the sidebar) for more. Hint: One of them will involve a Round Rock Donut (a Texas-sized one, at that.)

Monday, May 3, 2010

The ebook is not ready

     The ebook is not ready. There's no denying that the ebook is something that everyone wants to work, but it's not there yet. There are a lot of problems with ebooks that people are struggling to figure out how to answer.
     Tops on my list is the format. Ebooks have a variety of formats, and have for years. There's no doubt in my mind that a few more formats will emerge in the near future, too, as more and more people are struggling to get into the ebook market. The leaders of the pack thus far: Kindle and Nook. Amazon and Barnes & Noble have the majority of the market with their excellent devices, but the difficulty with formats remains. Both formats are proprietary. It's necessary to own each device in order to read their books. Even given that software applications emerge for various computers, phones, and tablets, this means that ebook libraries will be kept separate, making for an inconvenience at the last, and a burden at most as people will have to own multiple devices to get the ebook experience they truly want.
     Ebooks need an open, unified format in order to work. Mp3s proved just how great a unifying format can be. There are dozens of mp3 players on the market, and those devices that attempted a more restrictive format quickly found that the mp3 was king of audio formats. After more than ten years the mp3 is still king despite the emergence of "better" formats. Mp3s are small, portable, and have a good quality for what they do. Certainly they don't represent a full orchestra with accuracy, but they convey a music experience that is excellent and portable.
     Ebook formats, well, don't really have an advantage over one another. They display text on a screen, formatting the screen to the text. There's really not much to it, yet all ebook readers have a format they favor over another, and it's difficult for consumers as there's simply too much confusion about what works on what. For the vast majority, reading should be an activity that has no confusion. Grab a book, open, and read. The end. Having to deal with issues of what book format is compatible with which device is a hassle best left skipped.
     The hardware is another issue. While I could go into interface issues, and the process of buying books via the reader, I consider those less important. I'm talking about reading. I played around with a Nook and Sony eReader (a disadvantage of the Kindle is there's no place to actually demonstrate it to the public) and found that the time it took to load a book and turn pages was exceptionally slow. When in the throes of a good book, I don't want to wait 15, 10, or even 5 seconds for a page to load properly. I want to spend that time reading. Nor do I want to wait up a minute for a book to load after I select it from my library. I may not have a minute. If I want to get in a quick reading, I don't want to spend my time waiting for the book to load instead of reading the book.
     Navigation, too, becomes a large issue. It's impossible to search through ebooks with any kind of speed. In a regular book, I can flip through dozens of pages in less than a second. Quickly scan, then keep searching through to find the section I want. Trying to skim just a few pages through an ebook was sheer torture for me. I couldn't even get through the table of contents to the book proper in less than a minute, even after the book itself loaded. Ebook readers need to have an instantaneous refresh to allow something closer to the present experience of reading a book.
     Pricing is another point a little tough to swallow at present. A book is something tangible. It has a shape, presence, and weight. Paying the same for an ebook as a print book is hard to swallow since there's none of those things to the electronic format. Essentially data is being bought. Not even a program, just data. The book can't have the same cost as a print book as, wel, there's no print. The physical substance of a book, a good portion of a book's cost by publishing accounts, is missing, so how can the cost be the same? Personally, I'm one of those that likes to buy the cd then rip the music to my media player. I like to have the physical back up at hand for whatever reason the digital format doesn't work. It's impossible to do that with books (well, not unless someone has a scanner and a lot of free time on their hands). Given the choice of the physical media, or a piece of data for the same cost, I will go for the actual book. Ideally I would like to see a bundle pack where consumers can buy the book, and for a few (2-3) dollars more, they get the ebook as well whether downloadable or on physical media such as a miniature optical disc or flash card.
     These are just a few of the problems that plague the ebook format. There are many otres, but I'm sure that these are the problems that will keep it relegated to a curiosity instead of taking its place as a full-fledge option to replace (or supplement) physical books.