Archive for 2011

And Then Stuff Happened – Why Gmail makes me Cry

Monday, December 26th, 2011

I hope everyone had a lovely holiday and that the rest of the year is lovely for you all. I spent my holiday working on Not Proper Enough. Full panic mode, which is why you’re getting a blog post. Because I’m all about engaging in avoidance behavior until there’s enough panic to shut off the critical brain.

Google Mail – You Make Me Cry

Until about 2-3 months ago I loved Gmail. In fact, over the last year, I’ve been moving a lot of my email-related needs to my Gmail account. No longer. Google “Improved” gmail and now it’s not just harder to use, it’s hiding things from me. I have a private, personal email that friends and family have. That account, as you might imagine, gets enough spam to fill the ocean. My writing email, which is plastered all over the web, this website, twitter, facebook, in my books, print and digital, gets less spam than my private email. Go figure. I use Postini (now owned by Google) for spam filtering on the email accounts that run off my web host servers. It’s a great solution. I have a yahoo mail account, too which I use for various and specific purposes. Yahoo and Gmail both do a great job of siphoning off spam, with very few mistakes.

Google allows you to create Alerts so you know if certain phrases are appearing on the web and getting indexed by the GoogleBot. Most writers create Alerts for their book titles which means you find out where you’re being pirated and when someone has reviewed your book or is just talking about you. This is occasionally informative and often hilarious, depending on the title of your books and, even, your name.

Shortly before the physical gmail improvements (about which I am very MEH) they also started tagging emails with labels like “Bulk” “Notifications” etc. The problem is that stuff I did not consider “Bulk” (such as my Google Alerts) were being tagged as bulk and, more or less, hidden from me. It doesn’t seem to matter how many times I unmark these emails and flag them as important, they’re always pre-tagged as bulk and they don’t show up in my in-box. Over the next month or so, I basically lost control of my gmail. Stuff was being tagged in ways I didn’t want it to be, emails I wanted to see were getting hidden from me, and clicking on labels didn’t seem to bring up any of the emails with those lables.

There was a period when I thought I was getting no Alerts at all, and my writer’s heart sank. No one was talking about my books, I thought. No one was pirating my books (ACK!!) If you’re not being pirated, your writing career is in serious trouble.

The gmail interface and the way the app now decides to tag and display or not display stuff is a gosh awful mess. I found that if I veiwed my gmail through the iGoogle gmail widget, I could see a chronological list of my emails which allowed me to see emails that WERE NOT SHOWN when I actually logged into gmail.

I took to clicking on the “Bulk” tag to see if I could find any alerts, but the interface showed an “In-Box” with a bunch of unread emmails I’d never seen with nothing labeled Bulk and hardly any Alerts. Every now and then I’d see an alert. It was like 1 or 2 would bubble up from wherever they were being held. But then then today I found them. I don’t know how or why or anything, but there they were. I’d missed several reviews of my books that I would normally have forwarded to my editor or added to my file of reviews.

More recently, emails that were correctly being identified as important stopped getting tagged as important and important emails were dropping out of my inbox so that I was spending far too much time trying to find them. My life is too overloaded to spend time on things like that.

At least yahoo’s email improvement didn’t break the actual user expectation of email – which is that you can see a chronological list of your received emails with a spam folder you know you can check for things that got flagged as spam that shouldn’t have.

I’ve now re-rerouted my Google Alerts to another email so they don’t go to my Gmail account, never to be seen. How sad. Gmail used to be great. Now it’s just awful. It reminds me of the “improvements” to the Blogger interface which has some useful changes, but has added several confusing steps that make it harder and quite frustrating to do blog posts. I’m very glad to have moved my blog to WordPress because the new blogger is also now less usable than it used to be.

So, I give up on Gmail. It’s now fundamentally broken. I don’t have time to waste trying to re-categorize emails that Google considers Bulk or a Notification that I don’t, because I’ve been doing that for weeks, and gmail is not learning (which I thought it was supposed to do.)

Here’s the thing: Making something look pretty is a skill. A valuable skill. Making a application easy to use is another skill. It’s very, very rare for someone to have both those skills. The holy grail is to combine beauty with usability. Apple mostly succeeds at this. (But not entirely) But Apple succeeds at it better than anyone else. Google is now failing on both points and that is not a good thing.

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Happy Holidays

Saturday, December 24th, 2011

May the rest of 2011 be filled with love, friends and strong coffee.

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Because I NEED this.

Friday, December 23rd, 2011

That coat is just effing hot. You know what coat I mean.

Also, this is the one and only time I have ever desperately wanted to be Lady Gaga. (Even though I love her music.)

From Carolyn’s editor: We don’t know how she got out of her writing cave. It won’t happen again.

From Carolyn: Help! I am trapped in a writing cave. Someone send me words.

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Don’t Worry, Everything’s TOTALLY Cool

Monday, December 19th, 2011

Really.

Not Proper Enough is due end of the month but it’s not like I’m panicking or anything.

Photo via litherland.

Here, Look at These

Here’s some photos I took last weekend. It’s about as wintery as we’ve been lately, which is not very:

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Dear Publishers, Please don’t Say FU to eBook Readers (Rant Alert!)

Saturday, December 17th, 2011

This PW Article titled “The Amazon Workaround” sounded interesting. It has this nugget:

Windowing—offering print books for a period of time before e-books go on sale—while enticing is seen as impractical since it is unlikely that publishers will return to a practice they have already given up. Moreover, there is some thinking that publishers could start charging a premium to customers for e-books before the print book is released, something a sizable portion of consumers said they would like.

WTF?

  • Windowing has been abandoned (really?)
  • Charging a premium for eBooks prior to print release.
  • customers said they would like to pay a premium?

Really??

  1. I don’t think windowing has been abandoned.
  2. Charging a premium prior to print release? Isn’t that just a flavor of windowing, only with a fuck you, eBook consumer thrown in for free?
  3. I’m hard pressed to imagine consumers agreeing to pay a premium for something that should be a normal business process. What the heck kind of question did they ask in order to get people to say yes?

Oh, my god, that article is one big fat hot mess. Extend Agency Pricing when publishers are already under international investigation for the practice? Cheaper books are bad if Amazon becomes the only seller of books?

Here’s my take on this observation from Teleread about different reading pools for print vs. Ebook: I think the conclusion is descriptive and completely misses a pretty obvious cause. Sure, eBook bestsellers include DIY published books — because

  1. Those books aren’t available anywhere else and
  2. eBook readers know that the digital price of traditionally published books is a rip-off and they’re voting on that price with their eReaders.

Here’s my suggestion for publishers:

  • Try actual competition instead of protectionism.
  • Go talk to your legal departments about getting out of whatever contracts prevent you from selling books wherever consumers are.
  • Spend more time thinking about how to sell more books regardless of format, because, actually, your product is not the container. Your product is the content.

What do you think? I am wrong about windowing? What else have I missed?

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Oooh. Pretty.

Tuesday, December 13th, 2011

Here’s a sneak peek at the cover for DX, my Crimson City novella which should be going live by this weekend.

Cover for Crimson City Novella "DX"

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Whoa.

Friday, December 9th, 2011

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Which Regency Hero Should you Marry?

Wednesday, December 7th, 2011

I’m over at the Riskies today with a quiz you NEED to take.

Which Regency Hero should you marry?

10 questions, an infallible answer. Go.

Which Regency Hero Should You Marry?
The Brooding Duke

He’s probably a duke and he has a secret. A deep dark secret. There are rumors he murdered his late wife. He rides a black stallion named Herod’s Harlot and he never loses at the gaming table. In fact, chances are good he’ll win you in a card game, take your virginity later that night then put you to work as his valet. His kisses boil your blood.

You have a secret too, but you have amnesia and can’t recall what it is.

His tendency to moodiness can be cured … by love! And so can your amnesia!

Facebook quizzes, quiz apps & blog quizzes by Quibblo


 

 

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Why Self-Pubbers Should Care About eBook Formatting

Saturday, December 3rd, 2011

Among the many books I’ve been reading, one of them is a self-pubbed Sci-Fi Thriller that’s actually not at all horrible. The writing mechanics, grammar, and sense are more than clear. This is not one of those self-pubbed books where you can barely follow the meaning let alone find a plot. This book has a strong plot. However, the author would greatly benefit from an editor who would work with him on his weak characterization, use of cliches, repetition and the like. Despite these major weaknesses I’ve been sticking with it because the core idea is solid and every now and then I’ve been surprised.

There’s such potential here, and as I read, I continually regret that the writing isn’t better.  So close to really, really good work. This is a book that, for me,  proves the value of gatekeepers. Good writers learn from rejection. They go back and back and back and make the writing better until they don’t get rejected anymore. With this book, I feel like I’ve been cheated out of an amazing story.

However, for this post, my beef is with formatting. OMG. It’s SO ANNOYING!!!  I suspect this book was an upload to Kindle from a Word document that used the (WRONG) default formatting for a novel.  Because of the formatting issues, it’s even harder to stick with the story flow. Reading a page that has only 3-4 sentences on it worsens the problem with shallow characterizations. (Lord, 3-4 more drafts of this book to go in and deepen the emotions, and this story would rock).

Here’s what I mean:

Kindle App on iPhone:

 

Formatting fail

 

 

It’s even worse in the Kindle App on the iPad:

 

An even worse formatting fail

 

Yeah. This formatting problem makes story flow almost impossible to achieve. The white space inserts mental space as well so that, with a story that is already (sadly) shallow in characterization and detail, the shallowness is even more obvious.

If your book looks like this, fix it. Please.

 

 

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Winners!

Sunday, November 27th, 2011

Through the magic of Random.org, the winner of the movie is:

Carolyn Crane

The winners of the ARCs of Not Wicked Enough are:

Margaret Whelehan
Lindsey E
Amy Katherine

Check your email and/or send me your full mailing address!

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