Oct 122010

His Majesty's Dragon, by Naomi Novik

I recently finished the Kindle edition of His Majesty’s Dragon, by Naomi Novik. The book is the first in the Temeraire Series, named after the dragon introduced in the first book. While the series was originally supposed to be a trilogy, I believe it has grown to at least 7 books so far.

The novel takes place in an alternate history universe, in the 19th Century, and centers on the battle between England and Napoleon’s French army. As in our own history, the English navy reigns supreme, but the twist in Novik’s universe is the existence of dragons: intelligent, powerful, flying creatures that pair up with human riders and form a powerful air force that turns the tides of battles and the course of history.

The book starts out with a naval battle and an English ship captain, and after the battle is concluded, the English captain captures a rare dragon egg headed for France; before they can return to port (where the dragon hatchling could be paired with an appropriate “aviator”), the egg hatches and the dragon chooses Captain Laurence as its human companion. At first, Laurence is despondent (the sailors each had drawn lots for who would be forced to give up their entire lives to live in isolation as a dragon rider), but he quickly comes to realize what an intelligent and extraordinary companion the dragon, which he names Temeraire, is.

The story continues through the growth of Temeraire into a large, powerful, agile, and extraordinarily intelligent dragon. The bond between Laurence and Temeraire quickly becomes unbreakable, and Laurence joins the cadre of aviators and brings Temeraire into battle against Napoleon and the forces of France.

I enjoyed the book very much. Temeraire becomes a fascinating character, and the human-dragon interaction that permeates the book makes for a fascinating “what if?” scenario. The intricacies of dragon combat (including the dragon’s chosen captain and a crew of aviators who attach themselves to the dragon’s harness and help out in battle) are interesting and well-done. There are numerous types of dragons detailed, each of different size and speed, and some of which have powerful abilities like being able to spit acid or breathe fire. As you can imagine, the dragons are powerful military weapons, and shape the course of the war.

While I enjoyed the book and the main characters (Temeraire and Laurence), I didn’t find the story particularly groundbreaking or original. The dragons were as you would expect: intelligent, noble, awe-inspiring creatures, who bond with humans and are capable of human speech (from birth!). Captain Laurence is bold, honorable, and likable, almost to a fault. While he is originally conflicted over leaving his fiancee and naval career, experiencing life with Temeraire quickly (as you would expect) converts Laurence into Temeraire’s closest friend and soulmate. I found that aspect of the book a bit predictable — of course he’s going to fall in love with being a dragon rider! Who wouldn’t? In fact, that premise (that most of us secretly wish for the splendor and adventure of befriending and riding a dragon) is the whole reason the book is so likable. It’s an enjoyable escape and a scenario that’s quite a bit of fun to imagine.

The book was well-written, with few or no typos, grammatical issues, or formatting quirks on the Kindle version I read. There was a good combination of action, human drama, and a touch of historical military strategy. The pace of the book was good, as even the “slower” parts (without action or battles) kept my attention as Temeraire grew and matured and the bond between dragon and human grew. Ultimately, the book served as a good escape, a fun diversion, and a peek into the possibility of living among dragons in all their incredible majesty.

Overall, I’d rate the book 8 / 10, and look forward to reading more in the series. For anyone looking for a solid dragon adventure with a bit of an alternate history / military twist, you will probably enjoy this one quite a bit.

His Majesty’s Dragon is currently $6.39 on the Kindle Store, although I nabbed it when it was free a couple of months ago (presumably, Random House / Del Rey planned to get readers hooked on book 1 so they’d buy the remainder of the series). It currently averages 4.5 stars (out of 5) over 340 Amazon reviews, which is excellent. One note: the publisher blocks the text-to-speech feature, although they do not currently support the agency pricing model.

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Sep 202010

I recently read Empire From The Ashes, an omnibus edition of the three novels of the so-called “Dahak Trilogy” by David Weber: Mutineer’s Moon, The Armageddon Inheritance, and Heirs of Empire. I had read several other of Weber’s works, including most of his Honor Harrington novels and 1633. A reader had suggested these books to me, as an example of science fiction that “got the science right.”

The story begins 50,000 years in our own past, with the human captain of the Imperium starship Dahak in the midst of a mutiny. Realizing he can’t fend off the mutineers, he orders the advanced computer running the ship to give a countdown, then release deadly radiation into the ship, forcing all the mutineers off the ship — and killing himself in the process. He also orders the computer to destroy any mutineers trying to return to the ship before his loyal crew members restore control.

His plan removes everyone from the ship, but the mutineers have sabotaged Dahak and left it too helpless to retrieve the loyal crew members’ lifeboats, but with automated systems that will destroy the mutineers’ warships if they come close. So the mutineers and other crew members descend to a nearby planet named Earth where they populate the planet. With the aid of “stasis fields” and bio-enhanced longevity, they mostly sleep through a 50,000-year stalemate. Dahak rebuilds itself, but is stuck between its captain’s last command to suppress the mutiny and the prerogative not to destroy half the Earth while doing so.

Fast-forward 50,000 years, and humanity’s recent forays to the moon — did we mention that Dahak is a “planetoid,” a stupendously colossal starship somehow posing as Earth’s moon for all these millennia? — enable Dahak to capture Colin MacIntyre, an astronaut and descendant of Dahak’s loyalists from so many years ago. Thus begins the battle between Dahak (commanded now by Colin) and the mutineers.

The first book chronicles the fight against the mutineers; the second follows humanity’s attempts to contact the remainder of the Imperium and fight off the advances of a hostile alien race; the third book details a madman trying to take over the new government.

I really enjoyed the first two books. While I found the premise a little implausible (our moon is actually a giant, camouflaged, unimaginably powerful, semi-sentient starship waiting 50,000 years to suppress a long-dead mutiny?), there was plenty of action and I enjoyed some of the philosophical questions a semi-sentient computer posed. In fact, as the book went on, Dahak quickly progressed to full sentience, to the point where it could think on its own, make decisions, philosophize, and tell the difference between right and wrong (even if it did lack a bit in human intuition). It even learns to feel emotions, and becomes one of the main characters in the story.

The second book was probably my favorite — it focuses much more on space combat and the threat of a destructive alien race. The characters from the first book grow and take on positions of power in the new unified Earth government that must race to catch up to the “Imperial” technology of Dahak before the aliens arrive in a couple of years. It’s a story of combat and strategy and individual bravery, with the survival of Earth at stake. There is plenty of tension and a surprise twist at the end.

The third book, unfortunately, fell apart a bit for me. First of all, the conflict is wholly internal, and the thought of so much mayhem and death being sown by one crazy human just doesn’t appeal to me as much as the idea of a threat from a warlike alien species. Also, I knew with 100% certainty the identity of “Mister X” (yes, that’s what he’s referred to) literally the first time he was introduced. (Big hint: he’s the only new guy in a position of power that wasn’t a proven veteran from the first two books.) Therefore, the book lost most of its punch, and I found it hard to believe this guy could orchestrate so many things that obviously required the highest levels of clearance (like destroying an entire planetoid starship by sabotage and killing 80,000 people) — and all the smartest people on the planet and this super-smart sentient Dahak never even ONCE considered him as a suspect … to the point where they put him in charge of the operation to find himself. Ugh.

The other glaring problem with the third book was that Weber stuck a whole extra book in the middle of it. Weber is clearly a military history buff (like his book 1633, which detailed pre-industrial battles of pikes and cavalry and cannons — but with the twist of modern technology thrown in to tip the scales). However, this book suffers from a bad case of Weber exulting in his hobby: the book is twice the length of the previous two, and at least half is taken up by a side adventure of the main characters’ young adult children marooned on a primitive planet … and details how they use modern ideas and technology to raise an army and tip the scales in fights against pikes and cavalry and cannons. (Sound familiar?) A one-chapter diversion may have been OK … but this is a whole BOOK with detailed accounts of multiple battles — an entire campaign, actually — and I just found myself wanting to get back to the “real” action and finding out what was happening in the main storyline. The whole thing just felt like a huge pointless diversion, and out of place in the book I thought I was reading.

I think Weber is at his best when he’s describing epic space battles and tactics — I’m personally less interested in the pre-industrial footmen and artillery battles he likes so much, which is part of why I didn’t finish 1633. But his space battles are done very well, and I enjoy the epic scope of his stories, the heroism of his characters, and the moral issues he often grapples with … which isn’t surprising, since those are elements I use in my own books.

I’ve heard Weber’s works described as “hard sci-fi” with a focus on detailed science and technology, but that’s not really the case (I’d call most of his books “military sci-fi”). In this series, Weber mentions “gravitonics,” “Enchanch drives,” “warp grenades,” “hyperspace,” and other science-fiction hand-waving … and it doesn’t bother me a bit. Weber simply gives something a cool name, tells us what it does, and doesn’t bother with pages of pseudo-scientific “explanation” for technologies that humanity’s best minds don’t know how to create and that might even be impossible. The important thing to me is how he USES his technological framework to advance the story, play out large space fleet battles, and place his characters in dramatic situations, and Weber does that very well (there are a couple of minor problems, like heroes dodging laser beams). I do have to admit that I found the idea of a monstrous “planetoid” starship orbiting Earth and passing, undetected, as our moon for millennia hard to swallow.

All in all, I’d recommend the series, with the huge caveat that half of the third book seemed extraneous (if you feel the same, I’d recommend you skip all the side-story chapters, as I wish I had — there’s not even a satisfying payoff at the end to make it worthwhile). I’d give Mutineer’s Moon 7 out of 10, The Armageddon Inheritance 8 / 10, and Heirs of Empire only 4 / 10.

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Kindle 3 Reviews Roundup

 Posted by at 8:18 PM  Tagged with: , ,
Aug 232010

The New Kindle 3 (in charcoal gray): Lighter, Smaller, Faster, and Less Expensive Than The Kindle 2 (white).

Amazon’s new Kindle 3 debuts in a few days, and reviews are starting to roll in. Below are links to some early reviews. The consensus? Most reviewers agree it’s the best e-reading device out there. The average ranking is 8 or 9 points out of 10 (or 4 to 4.5 out of 5). Most agree that it combines a number of evolutionary improvements (as opposed to one or two huge new features) to make it much more refined, and a significant improvement over its predecessor, the Kindle 2 (which was already the most popular and best e-book reader available). Many of the reviewers also expressed the opinion that the Kindle 3 was “ready for prime time” or “the first e-reader they’d recommend to the general public” — not just the most avid readers (who probably already have an e-reader and are yearning to trade up).

The basics: the new Kindle is less expensive, smaller & lighter, faster, has increased contrast on its 6″ e-Ink screen, has longer battery life, more memory, more font choices, better PDF support, and several other improvements. It weighs only 8.5 ounces (Wi-Fi model) or 8.7 ounces (3G + Wi-Fi model). It has 4 MB of internal storage, good for 3,500 books. And the battery lasts a month. Both models come with free 2-day shipping from Amazon and a no-questions-asked 30-day return policy (they’re pretty confident you’ll like it). Your two options are:

One other quote that jumped out at me:

These days, when anyone who enjoys reading tells me he doesn’t want a Kindle, my answer is simple: “That’s only because you haven’t tried one.”

Enjoy the links to the reviews below!

  1. Kindle Nation Daily says “This Kindle 3 is a Triple Wow. Five Stars. Two Thumbs Up.”
  2. Len Edgerly has a 12-minute YouTube video explaining “What’s So Great About The Kindle 3.”
  3. PC World’s Melissa Perenson says the K3 “feels ready to meet the mainstream masses.” (4.5 / 5)
  4. PC Mag’s Dan Costa calls the K3 an “Editor’s Choice” and “the best dedicated ebook reader you can buy.” (4 / 5)
  5. CNET says the K3’s lower price makes it “a solid value for readers looking to make the jump to e-books.” (4 / 5)
  6. Wired calls it “something readers will want to carry around with them, even in the emerging age of tablet computers.” (9 / 10)
  7. Telegraph UK calls it an “excellent device” that “is the first ebook reader that has a credible chance of cracking the mass market.”
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My Favorite Things

 Posted by at 10:48 PM  Tagged with: , ,
Jul 242010

I’ve been meaning to start reviewing some books and movies that I enjoy on this blog, which has so far mostly concentrated on e-book news, e-book readers, and changes in the publishing industry. While I’m still passionate about those things, I’d also like to help spread the word and review other books I’ve been reading and particularly good movies I’ve seen. Sadly, in finishing my latest book (and editing, formatting, promoting, blah blah), I haven’t had much time for reading, but I plan to get back to it soon.

Until then, I just felt like highlighting some of my all-time favorite books and movies (and a TV show thrown in for good measure). Perhaps these will give you a feel for my tastes and inspiration as a writer, or maybe they’ll just help you pick your next book or movie to rent. So, here are some of my favorite things:


  1. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series, by Douglas Adams: I’ve read this series of books cover-to-cover at least 5 times. Hilarious, witty, irreverent, poignant, and sometimes just plain silly, this book always manages to make me laugh. Aside from writing about funny situations and ideas, Adams was the greatest at using language itself to make me laugh; he wrote about funny things in a funny way. Some of his dialogue was pure genius. I’m saddened that he left us far too soon.
  2. Lamb, by Christopher Moore: Another example of great humor writing, Lamb was so sacrilegious, it probably would have started a new round of Crusades, except it had all the zealots doubled over and howling in laughter. It chronicles “the missing years” of Jesus Christ’s young adult life, and tells the story of his childhood companion, Biff. A taste: as Moore re-tells the famous story of the adulteress (inviting “he who is without sin to cast the first stone”), Biff gallantly volunteers to see the nice lady home safely. Jesus gives Biff a disapproving look that probably only the Son of God can really pull off. As Biff sulks away from the departing woman, he laments that “it just seems like such a waste of a perfectly good adulteress.” Comedy gold.
  3. The Conqueror’s Trilogy, by Timothy Zahn: This series hooked me in with a stunning scene of first contact with an alien species — which served as inspiration for the start of Right Ascension — and continued to explore fascinating ideas regarding assumptions we’d make about a new species and how changes in ability or technology could radically reshape an entire civilization and their viewpoint. The first book is from the humans’ point of view, the second from the aliens’, and the third goes back and forth. Zahn’s characterization and the depth of the alien society he created made it seem as if he had visited this alien place and come back to report on it, instead of inventing it in his mind. I could just as easily recommend his Thrawn series (set in the Star Wars universe) or many of his other excellent novels.

Honorable Mentions: The Incarnations of Immortality series by Piers Anthony, Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden, and anything by Dave Barry.


  1. Forrest Gump: This is the movie I’ve watched more than any other. I probably saw it about 100 times in college, to the point where I could recite every line, and knew obscure trivia like dollar amounts or all the different ways you could prepare shrimp. Partially from overload, I haven’t seen it in years now, but I was still moved by the story and how the title character overcame obstacles and made his place in the world.
  2. The Shawshank Redemption: I was surprised to learn that this movie was based on a novella by Stephen King, Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption. I found this movie to be powerful, moving, and it contained the perfect combination of outstanding acting (Morgan Freeman and Tim Robbins), phenomenal directing, and a superb musical score. This may be the only movie I enjoyed more than in book form — which I’m sure was only possible because they fit all the essential stuff from the novella into the movie, which is impossible with longer novels.
  3. Gattaca: An underrated but intelligent and thought-provoking science fiction story about genetics and genetic testing gone awry. It explored questions regarding how much of our lives is determined by genetic factors, the morality of using genetics to screen for jobs or social status, and how the indomitable human spirit can overcome all obstacles (notice the parallels to Forrest Gump). Particularly relevant now as our understanding of science and genetics rapidly advances, this movie wasn’t so much sci-fi as “here’s a taste of some issues you’ll be dealing with in 5 or 10 years.”
  4. Serenity: Oh man, just don’t get me started on Firefly, the foundation for Serenity and the best TV show of my generation, which was cancelled in less than a season so they could squeeze in another version of Surviving the Amazing Apprentice Race with Real Kardashian Housewives. The TV series and movie were witty, well-written, and starred a great cast with phenomenal chemistry, led by Nathan Fillion, who I’m happy to see doing well on one of my favorite recent shows, Castle.

Honorable Mentions: Several of the Star Trek: The Next Generation movies (and TV series), Top Gun (hey, all males my age liked that movie when it came out!), and Rain Man.

So, there you have it, some of my all-time favorite books and movies. Please don’t read too much into the exact order, the point is just that I very much enjoyed and highly recommend everything on this list.

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Jun 262010

I was very fortunate to receive a nice review of The Twiller from the I Love My Kindle Blog, a very popular and well-respected blog about all things Kindle. Be sure to check it out to find Kindle tips and tricks, free / inexpensive book finds, reviews, and other news and information about the Kindle in particular and e-books in general.

The blog’s author, Bufo Calvin, starts by noting what type of book The Twiller is:

Science fiction can be profound, using a speculative framework to show us the deepest secrets in our collective psyche, and to perhaps serve as a warning of what our worst natures may bring, and an inspiration as to how the human imagination can bring about a better existence.

Or, you know, it can be silly and full of puns.  ;)

The Twiller, by David Derrico, is very solidly in the second camp.

His “first camp,” by the way, is what I was going for with my first two books, Right Ascension and Declination. I wanted to try something different for The Twiller, and “silly” and “whimsy” and funny were definitely what I was going for.

The review also notes that:

The Twiller is as error-free as any novel from a traditional publisher that I’ve read. The author also understands formatting for e-books: the clickable Table of Contents is in the back (and reachable through the menus), which is also where you’ll find the author bio. Why is that better? So you can get a better sample. You can also flick right (on any Kindle except a Kindle 1) to move forward through the parts of the book…a convenience many large publishers seem to ignore.

Since advanced Kindle formatting (like a clickable table of contents in the back, “flickable” waypoints, etc.) takes a fair amount of research and time and work, it’s especially rewarding to see someone appreciate it. Bufo Calvin is, of course, a Kindle connoisseur, but I do hope that readers like those extra touches. I think it’s worth spending the time and effort to put them in.

The review concludes with a pithy description I have to be pleased with:

So, if you are looking for a light and airy entertainment, a popcorn book with an intergalactic setting, The Twiller is a button-pusher that will keep you smiling.

Thanks, Bufo, for the review — I’m glad you enjoyed it!

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Apr 132010

Now that we’ve had the iPad for 10 days, I can give a more thorough review than my first one. Probably the best thing I can say about it is that it has kept us up even later than usual on more than one night … and that we’ve started calling it the “CrackPad.” Downloading apps, playing games, watching videos, and surfing the ‘Net becomes more addictive on the touchscreen, hand-held device. Aside from games, some of the apps are really useful, like the excellent WeatherBug app (that auto-detects your location and gives hour-by-hour forecasts, moving radar images, and pictures from nearby cameras), talking to someone on Skype is more fun than on a computer (too bad there’s no webcam), Shazam listens to songs playing on the radio and identifies them, and NetNewsWire lets me read my blogs and RSS feeds on-the-go. And my wife will no doubt be well entertained on her next flight.

On the down side, the iPad’s 24-ounce (1.5-pound) weight becomes quickly apparent when holding it–it really needs to be rested on a knee or lap, which can necessitate a hunching posture. It gets even heavier when you add a sturdy case, a necessity for something so expensive, slick, and fragile.

Of special interest to me is the question: How good is the iPad as an e-reader? And the answer is a pretty good one, but with some important caveats. First of all, I find it better for shorter reading (under an hour), as the backlit LCD screen is simply not as easy on the eyes as e-Ink displays or actual paper. And the weight is quite noticeable when reading, especially compared to my Kindle 2. However, color covers look gorgeous, and the iBook reading app is very well done. The iBook app mimics the look and feel of a book, especially when turned sideways to display 2 pages at once. It is simple to purchase books, arrange them on your bookshelf, open them, change font sizes, look words up in the dictionary, and turn pages. One note: while the cool-looking page turns (you swipe your finger and the slightly see-through page will follow the movement of your finger) are fun to play with at first, I very quickly desired the Kindle’s one-handed button press for page turns, which I’m glad to say you can do by tapping your thumb in the iBook app. It’s funny: people talk about e-readers mimicking books, but I already find turning pages too “cumbersome” now that I’m used to one-handed operation!

As for where to buy books: while the iBook Store is not as well-organized as Amazon’s, and doesn’t have as many titles (30,000 to almost 500,000), this ironically becomes an iPad advantage because you can use the iBook store and/or read Amazon books through Amazon’s Kindle for iPad app, which is also excellent.

As for the inevitable comparison to the Kindle 2, I’ll go point-by-point, roughly in order of importance to me (iPad advantages in bold, K2 advantages in italics):

  1. The iPad’s backlit LCD is like a computer monitor, not as easy on the eyes for long reading as the K2’s e-Ink or paper.
  2. Reading is very simple and intuitive–I’d rate this one as a tie with the K2, both are excellent.
  3. Weight (24 ounces) makes the Kindle (only 10 ounces) feel like a feather.
  4. The iPad’s $499 starting price is almost double the K2 ($259).
  5. The K2’s 2-week battery life is in another league than the iPad’s 10-12 hours.
  6. The iPad’s color screen makes covers and your “bookshelf” look great.
  7. Although I’ve become used to the Kindle’s “locations,” the iPad’s page count (and # of pages left in a chapter) is more intuitive.
  8. The current Wi-Fi iPads lack the K2’s free 3G wireless coverage. The forthcoming 3G iPad will cost at least $629 + $30 per month.
  9. The iPad starts with 16 GB of storage, while the K2 only has 2 GB. But both are plenty for thousands of books (the iPad will undoubtedly get filled with other stuff).
  10. You can attach the K2 to your computer via USB and drag-and-drop e-books into it. The iPad requires fussing with iTunes, which is a huge hassle when trying to connect to computers other than your own.
  11. Being able to purchase books from Amazon or the iBook Store may give you more options; however, most books should be the same price in either place.

In summary, it all comes down to what you’re looking for, and how serious a “reader” you are. It’s clear to me that the Kindle 2 is a superior e-reader. It’s much lighter, the e-Ink display is better for long reading sessions, it costs a fraction of the price, and the battery lasts forever. But the iPad makes a fine device to do a little light reading with from time to time. And, of course, the iPad plays games and movies and all sorts of legitimately cool stuff. But those cool things actually become a distraction as your “book” starts beeping and pinging at you when you get an email or Facebook update–the Kindle doesn’t do that. And, if you’re settled on the couch trying to escape into a good book, the lack of distraction can actually be a good thing.

UPDATE: No wonder we had been staying up later — according to researchers, using the iPad late at night disrupts your ability to fall asleep. (Luckily, e-Ink displays like the Kindle’s are safe.)

Reviewing Reviews

 Posted by at 4:24 PM  Tagged with: ,
Apr 112010
"Can I leave zero stars?"

"Can I leave a zero-star review?"

For several years after I wrote my novels, I received mostly positive feedback about them. Even discounting encouragement from family and friends, the few reviews or emails I got were uniformly positive.

Now that I’ve sold a few thousand copies to complete strangers, I’ve been forcefully reminded that not everyone will like my novels. It makes me feel only marginally better to remind myself that not everyone will like any novel–just take a look at some classics and bestsellers on Amazon and all their 1-star reviews. But getting bad reviews still stings.

Now, when I say bad reviews, I don’t mean balanced or somewhat critical 3- or even 2-star reviews. I’m talking about 1-star reviews filled with pure vitriol, slamming every aspect of the book and not mentioning a single redeeming quality. Reviews that question my regard for literature, hate the main character like he killed their dog, call it cliche, boring, predictable, terribly written, the whole thing. Reviews that say “DO NOT BUY” in all caps. Or a review, from a reviewer who only leaves 1- and 2-star reviews, saying he liked the first novel (but couldn’t be bothered to write a positive review), but then found the time to come and slam the sequel with a 1-star review.

First of all, I wonder what kind of a person has that much hatred, who wakes up in the morning and says, “Let’s try to hurt the sales and smash the dreams of an aspiring indie author.” Do they realize there’s an actual person on the other end of the computer screen? One who takes his writing very seriously? Or is that the point? Is it simply “trolling” at its worst, designed just to elicit a response for the poster’s own amusement?

The problem is that, to maintain a respectable 4-star average (on a scale of 1 to 5), a single 1-star review counteracts three 5-star reviews. Even worse, a single 1-star review would require twelve honest, solid, 4-star reviews just to inch back above 3.75 (which gets rounded up to display 4 stars).

Now, I can understand that some people may not like my book. Some people don’t enjoy sci-fi, or romance, or thrillers, or certain writing styles or types of characters. I thought Harry Potter kinda sucked (although I didn’t go leave a nasty review), but lots of people apparently loved it. And I realize my novels are not perfect or the greatest books ever written; truly, I do. But I’ve read enough books to know that they’re not 1-star novels. That the writing isn’t “terrible.” And that they can’t be all bad. So it makes me wonder about the motivation behind these 100% negative, strongly-worded, personally-attacking, 1-star reviews.

So, what can be done? Well, I can’t do much about it. I’m not going to review my own novel, or give a troll just what he wants with an angry response. So, that leaves it up to my readers.

Reviews are important. Average star ranking is important. I do notice a bump in sales when I get a positive review, and I thank all of you who have taken the time to leave one. Especially since it seems that most people who dislike the books feel strongly enough to go post a bad review, and most people who like it (and kindly email me to let me know that) don’t really think about posting reviews–until I go beg them to do it. 🙂

So, anyway, if you did enjoy the novel, it would mean a lot to me if you could help out by posting reviews for one or both of them–and it doesn’t cost you a cent. The main place to post is Amazon, but please consider also posting it (you can even copy & paste) at Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, Kobo, and the Apple iBook store.

I do very much appreciate it, and it helps me ignore the trolls and the haters, and get back to concentrating on writing.

Apr 052010

Kindle on the iPad

I was pleasantly surprised to find a couple of nice mentions of my novels around the web today:

• Mark Coker, founder of the wonderful author service Smashwords, posted about Right Ascension as one of the first Smashwords books available on the iPad.

• Over at True/Slant, Roger Theriault gave his thoughts about the new iPad, and reading on it compared to his Kindle. He also expressed chagrin at some of the high prices traditional publishers are demanding for e-books. He said:

Publishers want readers to pay more – but the alternative is the library or a used bookstore. Or independent authors…

David Derrico’s sci-fi novels Right Ascension and Declination are both $0.99 in e-book format from Amazon or Apple. I’ve read the first and I’m working on the second novel. Both are excellent alternatives to expensive e-books. There are many self-published authors in various genres, both fiction and non-fiction, with affordable and highly readable e-books. I think established publishers are sinking their own ships (and their authors as well) with their pricing strategies.

Thanks for the mention, Roger, I’m glad you’re enjoying them!

Apr 042010

You need something to read on your new toy, right?Yesterday was my wife’s birthday, and we somewhat spontaneously decided on her birthday present the night before: an iPad. We hadn’t pre-ordered, so we stayed up all night and went to stand in line at the Apple Store at 6:30 AM. All went well, and we came home with a new iPad (Wi-Fi model) yesterday.

Many have touted the iPad as a “Kindle-killer” and the next big thing in e-book reading. Others say it’s just a big, overpriced Apple iPhone / iPod Touch. Others consider it aimed at a totally different market than the Kindle. So, my early thoughts (after only using it for a day):

So far, I like it more than I thought I would. It’s a good size for web browsing, pics, and stuff. And gaming on it is really fun (we did not have an iPhone or iPod Touch before). Now, we didn’t leave the house yesterday, so the size and weight and lack of 3G connectivity has not been an issue. And it’s still new and “cool” … will we still use it as much in a few months?

One big reason I like it is because the battery is impressive. Reviews said it gets 11-12 hours of movie watching, and with heavy use yesterday it lasted all day, probably 12 hours or so before we recharged it. That’s very good — although not Kindle territory.

As for reading books, I poked around on the Apple iBook Store (and was pleased to see Right Ascension and Declination show up on there, for just 99 cents each, on the day of launch!). I haven’t tried reading on it for any length of time (I’ve mostly been setting it up, downloading apps, and playing games). The bigger screen is nice, and a good battery is a plus, and the navigation seems simple (like the Kindle). Things like page turns, going to your library and picking a book, dictionary lookups, and changing font sizes are all easy and intuitive. On the minus side, it’s heavier than a Kindle and 12 hour battery life is a far cry from 2-week battery life. Also, there is no text-to-speech, as there is on the Kindle. And I still think it will be much easier to read on the Kindle’s e-Ink display.

Also, to compare apples to Apples (as it were, capitalization intentional), you’d have to compare the Kindle 2 (at $259) with an iPad 3G with wireless built in ($629 + $720 for 2 years of service = $1,349). So it’s really not in the same ballpark as a reader. Yes, you may be able to find other uses to justify the price differential, but I don’t really see them as direct competitors, even though the media is obsessed with the comparison.

Now, will people read on the iPad? That remains to be seen. I don’t really think so, although even a small percentage if there are tons of iPads out there could add up to something. I still think real readers will get a K2. I will say one downside for independent authors: Amazon is great at helping people find stuff with their “people who bought this also bought,” their genre best-seller lists, etc. But on the iPad, unless you’re one of their 5 or 10 “featured” big-name books, you gotta search for what you want. So, I wouldn’t expect nearly as many sales through the iPad as Amazon, since no one can “stumble upon” me … they need to be looking specifically.

Anyway, those are my early thoughts. I’m gonna take it down to my family’s place for Easter dinner tonight and see how it works on-the-go. I’ll use it for a while longer and try reading a whole book on it and give you my further thoughts in a week or so.

What do you think? Is the iPad a “Kindle-killer”? An overpriced, but fun, diversion? A laptop replacement? The future of all things? Leave a comment below and let me know your thoughts….

Jan 152010

As a new Kindle 2 owner, the first thing I did was research and pick out a case to protect it. About a week ago, I decided to try out the M-Edge Platform case and have used it since then. This case flips open from the top, and can be opened to serve as a platform to prop up your Kindle on a table for hands-free reading. I decided on it because (a) I wanted something that was rigid (as opposed to padded) to protect the screen, (b) I wanted something small and light, (c) I wanted enough room for a pen and small notepad, and (d) I like the hands-free reading idea. Oh, and I didn’t want to pay too much. I have to say the M-Edge Platform ($29.99) delivered what I was looking for.

First, a couple of pics from Amazon:

The case is essentially two rigid flaps hinged together at the top. When closed, a tab is slid into a hole to secure it. The tab takes a few seconds to insert or extract, but it closes the case securely and doesn’t seem like it would wear out like an elastic closure might. When you open the case, the top flap can be hinged backward and the tab can be inserted “in reverse” to create an A-shaped stand. This will hold your Kindle upright for hands-free reading (well, you still need to hit the next page button!). When opened and pressed flat, it doesn’t add too much thickness to the Kindle, so you can still hold it and read easily in the case, and you can reach the next page buttons on either side. I also appreciate that it doesn’t weigh too much, and I leave my Kindle in the case for reading.

The Kindle attaches with two leather (I elected the cheaper imitation leather model, but I am pleased with the feel of it) corner attachments at the bottom corners and two elastic attachments at the top. From pictures, I feared it wouldn’t hold the K2 securely, but it does, I have no worry of it slipping out. I don’t know if the elastic enclosures become less secure over time, however.

I also liked that there is a small pen loop at the top, and a business card pouch plus a thin pocket on the inside of the front cover. I like the idea of keeping a pen and small note pad to jot down writing ideas, but they add almost no bulk or thickness to the case. The inside covers are lined with a soft felt material.

There is also room along the left side of the K2 (and a pouch to slide the base into) designed to hold an M-Edge reading light (which I do not have). Some may not like that this causes the Kindle to be off-centered in the case, and it may be difficult for people with smaller hands to reach the left-side buttons, although I had no problems with it.

All in all, I have to say that the case exceeded my expectations, and I am actually a picky reviewer. The quality of the materials feels good (of course, it’s fake leather, but I’m fine with that… they do make a more expensive real leather version). It is about as thin and light as possible while still affording good protection, and it feels supple on the outside but there is a rigid core in the front and back covers that appears to protect the K2 well. The A-frame reading platform may come in handy, I’ve used it while eating lunch a couple of times, although I normally read with the case folded all the way back.

Essentially, the case did everything I hoped for it to do. Those of you who like to carry more than a pen, business card, note pad, and light with your Kindle (like if you want to bring the USB cord/power adapter or keys) may not like this device. And it does not fully enclose the Kindle, so it would not protect as well from dust or spills as the zippered cases. But, if your needs are like mine, I can heartily recommend this case and give it an A.

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