Monday, February 06, 2012

Will I like my Xoom?

I do hope so... it cost enough - and will cost more over my two year data plan! It was time to bite the bullet: the only way I could properly explore the mobile/handheld experience would be to try it. Too many options and none of them, by reviews, perfect for all that I wanted one to do.

I want *one* mobile device - not 3 or 4.

New functions desired

  • let me read and annotate digital papers and books in bed
  • capture voice notes
  • easily sync the above and much of the following with my PC for those functions (extended typing) for which a PC is more comfortable.
  • capture and interpret QR codes
  • do all the wonderful things librarians anticipate people will do with mobile devices (which are?)

To replace my phone it would, ideally:

  • ? let me send text to someone else's mobile device
  • ? let me make a call -- I'm told this may be possible through Google Talk or Skype?
  • :-( let me receive text messages (even if to gmail) -- apparently it can't
  • :-( let me receive phone call -- apparently it can't
  • ? provide easy to set, loud remindering

To replace my camera it would, ideally:

  • take good photographs
  • upload easily to the places I use photos: Flickr, Blogger

So now I have a Xoom, although I'm still miffed it doesn't have mobile phone service after all, only mobile data. After worrying about the security-risks of tying it in to my email address; and an excess of legalistic Terms of Service (what are tricks are being pulled in all that legalese?)... I wonder what to try first?

Okay, *after* taking photos with front and back cameras, getting frustrated at how long it took me to discover how to remove a widget from the desktop, wondering what image to place as background, adjusting the time settings, trying the built-in alarm sounds, unsuccessfully looking for my cotton gloves and using my cotton poncho instead to prevent finger prints...

What do I do next?

Update: Have downloaded Dropbox and Evernote apps.

Friday, February 03, 2012

Sharra sells her first book, am I her first interviewer?

Sharra Veltheer, who describes herself as "just your average girl from Australia who likes to write" has been refining her writing skills since she was 10 and now at 19 has sold her first e-book: Sketchbook Girl.

Upon hearing the news in one of my rare visits to Facebook, I began peppering Sharra with questions:

So Sharra, you mentioned on Facebook that you'd sold a copy of one of your e-books, that is very exciting... am I your first interviewer, now that you're a published and selling author?

It is really exciting, and yes, since self publishing and actually selling you are my first interview ^_^

You have two books available (Lucy and Sketchbook Girl) at the moment, which is your favourite - and how do you see the difference between them?

It is hard to pick favourites between things I have written; different moods and different outside sources affect which it is at different times.

Sketchbook Girl was written at a difficult time if my life: In the middle of high school and bullied. Sketchbook Girl somewhat reflected my own life at the time, though to more extremes and Elliot received her happy ending a lot sooner than I. Lucy has a darker theme to it and was inspired by a band called Skillet who's song "Lucy" stirred deep emotions when I first hear it. I'm not ashamed to admit I cried when I heard it, and I cried while writing Lucy several times. Killing a character feels a lot like losing a friend, even if they're imaginary.

As for my favourite, it would have to be Sketchbook Girl, not because it has sold, but because it was my first serious writing project that I took the time and effort to complete and re-write before making available for purchase.

I've enjoyed the tasters for Sketchbook Girl on your Wordpress blog - what proportion of the story is told on your website?

Well it would depend on where you're looking, I have made the first 12 pages available to read on my Smashwords profile, but only the first 3 parts on my blog so far.

On that note, it was later declared by a reader that the preview was irresistable, he *had* to learn how the story would turn out:

Sharra, I have writer friends who are focussed on the traditional routes to publishing - What motivated you to publish your books through Smashwords?

My ultimate goal is to have my work published in book format, but it also occurred to me that it may not be possible for my first endeavors to be realised through traditional means since publishers are swamped by work. There just isn't enough money in the book publishing industry to get everyone's work out there anymore. Smashwords was introduced to me by a friend on Kametsu Forums, she was researching for her own benefits and shared with us the ability to self publish ebooks online.

As yes, I recall you've been with the Kametsu forums for a long time and have become a moderator there... what do you find most enjoyable or valuable about participating in the forums?

I enjoy the sense of community within the forum, the feedback on writing work as well as the rich diversity of people. Through Kametsu I have made friends all over the world, including Serbia, India and Spain. The admin Koby, has been very supportive of creative work, and participates in many of the competitions around the forum as well. I have many members on the forums as friends on Facebook as well, just in case something happens to the forum. Not long ago we were down for
two weeks because we kept crashing the server we were using through overloading and Koby kept us updated through facebook to inform us what was going on and everyone was very understanding about the technicians not getting back to him about what was going on.

You mention feedback on writing: do you get constructive critique there?

Since the people gather for one specific common reason, which is games and anime, a lot of the forum tends to be focused on that however a lot of members have a passion for writing and out Literature section has exploded with wonderful and interesting stories, since everyone has different tastes in stories, it is sometimes difficult to get constructive critique, and for many of the users English is their
second language so their understanding is sometimes a little skewed when using long descriptions and words grabbed from the thesaurus, but the feedback on stories there is always well received.
You also have Lucy available through Amazon - why both distribution points?

Since they are only distributors and I still retain the rights over my work, I found it best to give people options as to where they purchase my works, as well as giving me the ability to reach a wider market since some people don't go to Amazon they have to option to buy through Smashwords, while other will only purchase ebooks through Amazon.

I'm curious about how the selling/paying/receiving funds works, and what kind of information you get about your customers...

Smashwords I believe is paid through paypal, and I am not informed who buys my work, only that the purchase has been made. Amazon sends the Author a check every month if they're profits reach over $10 for that month, I have not sod anything through Amazon yet so I don't know what I am told about the customer there.

In my surfing, I've read the occasional criticism about self-published e-books - that they tend not to be adequately proofread - what are your thoughts on that kind of criticism? ... have you *bought* self-published works?

I have sampled a few of the self published works on Smashwords, and some of them do tend to have spelling errors and other various typos. Criticizing the lack of professional editing however I find is unfair to an author, no authors work is going to be perfect first time round, this is why we have editors. Someone who cannot hire a professional rely on close friends and relatives to proofread their work, which while not always reliable, is often the only means they can afford.

DISCLOSURE: Sharra, the author interviewed, is my son's girlfriend.

Image credits:
Top: Of Sharra and a cat, used with permission of subject and photographer, Sharra's mum Vic Barton.
Middle: My snip of Facebook comment, used with permission of Anthony Hearn, commenter.
Bottom: Of Sharra and Josh, used with permission of subjects and photographer (Josh).


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