Kindle

Well the stars have aligned, Mars has come into cojunction with Venus and I am suddenly and unexpectedly in possession of some money.

I won a quiz about Bioshock Infinite on the Escapist Magazine, the prize was $100 dollar gift voucher for Amazon.com. My internet service provider, for reasons that I’m not going to question, has decided that I only owe them €30, not €100, and i received a long awaited tax refund.

So what to do with this newfound wealth? Pay rent? Buy groceries? God no, nothing so mundane and practical.

I bought an Amazon Kindle. I think I’m in love with it.

First things first, if you’re buying from Ireland you have to buy off amazon.com, NOT amazon.co.uk. A minor thing but I think it could do with being clearer on the website. I’d also recommend buying a cover. This one is ridiculously overpriced but I like that it has a little light in it, it means I can read late at night without annoying my boyfriend. It’s also a little bit bulky but the kindle can easily be removed and even with the cover it’s still lighter and smaller than a lot of paperbacks.

The screen is probably my favourite bit so far. I can read for hours and because of the e-ink my eyes never get tired. I also regularly read it at the beach over the summer, I could read it in direct sunlight and sand and knocks and bumps don’t seem to damage it at all considering how often I’ve dropped it when I’ve fallen asleep reading.

I’ve downloaded the kindle programme for my computer as well, I love whispersync. Whatever page I’ve read to or whatever new books I’ve bought on the kindle automatically link to any other devices you’ve downloaded kindle to. I also love being able to buy a book through the kindle and have it within minutes. No need for a computer or organising programme like iTunes.

Getting the first chapter of books free is a great idea, I’d normally read them in the bookshop before I buy but this is just more convenient. I read the fist chapter of The City and the City by China Mieville, decided I didn’t like it enough to spend money on it and that way I got to try it without actually spending anything (I have shelves of books I’ve started but got bored of).

I like that you can highlight passages and write your own notes in it. I’ve downloaded a few books for college and research as well as plenty of pdfs so this really helps. The feature where you can link passages to facebook and twitter seems good, as do the audiobooks, but I haven’t used either.

Books overall are cheaper on it. A Song of Ice and Fire was selling in my local Easons for €11 a book (which would make €55 considering book three was published in two parts). I got the whole thing on kindle for $20, which is €13. Anything out of copyright is also free so I’ve been working my way through the Sherlock Holmes books without spending a cent. Give me a few more months and the kindle will have virtually paid for itself.

Considering how big e-publishing is now I reckon and e-reader is a must for any author.

However, one of the best bits for me, possibly even better than the screen, is the weight. I have permanent back damage from carrying an insanely heavy school bag in and out to school, by 6th year it averaged at two stone a day. As a result I now have several disks in my back damaged irreparably, one technically has to be removed but the operation is too risky and complicated because my ribcage is in the way. So to be able to carry 1,000’s of books in my bag and still have it weigh only a few ounces is brilliant.

The cons (Because there’s always cons)

Some books I’ve downloaded seem to have formatting errors. In the Game of Thrones series long passages will be justified then it will suddenly switch and be left-aligned for awhile. In Neil Gaiman’s Fragile Things there are large gaps between every paragraph, just blank spaces. And I’ve noticed quite a few spelling errors across different books. Hopefully this will improve as editors take e-books more seriously and they get more popular.

Another problem is not every book is available on kindle. I was looking for the left hand of Darkness by Ursula K. LeGuin and Amazon didn’t have it. This happened with some of my more obscure college books as well. I had to download LeGuin off a different site and reformat it using Calibre. It was only a minor inconvenience though, one or two extra steps and the programme is free. To balance it out a lot of people are only publishing e-books now, so there’s plenty of books on kindle that you can’t get in bookshops.

Overall I thoroughly recommend it, 5 stars.

Chuck Wendig: A Writer’s Prayer

Chuck Wendig’s Writer’s prayer should be compulsory reading for all writers. Go read it, read it now. I’ll wait…

Did you read it? Of course you didn’t. I’ll give you another chance to follow the link…

Hillarious right? But true. Here are the concluding lines:

I am the Commander of these words.

I am the King of this story.

I am the God of this place.

I am a writer, and I will finish the shit that I started.

Go print these words out, laminate them and stick them up over your writing desk/area. Speaking as someone who’s started plenty of novels and only nearly finished one it’s up on my wall. I even put it in bold.

A Response to Kevin Myers Article in Yesterday’s Irish Independent

So I started a new blog and almost immediately forgot the password but inspiration struck and I’m back again.

This is a response to Kevin Myers Article “State Support Only lends Madness to Libraries” in yesterday’s (17th August 2011) Irish Independent. I should start by saying I’m not a fan of Myer’s so this post is necessarily biased and it consists mainly of personal opinion.

Part of me almost hopes the man is trolling rather than describing genuine opinions he holds. His article on the Orange Prize for Women’s fiction had me nearly apoplectic but yesterday he talked about things that I’ve been hearing a lot recently.

Despite his main article being a vilification of public libraries in the modern day the idea that struck me most was that literary novels are inherently pretentious, inferior to genre fiction, they don’t sell and are only ever applauded by out-of-touch academics.

The quote that particularly annoyed me was:

I can give you a guided tour of Booker prize winners whose books are unread beyond page 40 or so: pretentious, indulgent, smug, self-regarding, but gushingly reviewed by their peers, who will in due course be gushingly reviewed by those over whom they have themselves ejaculated so warmly.

Sales. That’s the only true measure of a book’s worth. I have little interest in critically regarded but otherwise unknown masterpieces. […] they are the only true and abiding artistic measure.

Now I realise this quote was specifically calculated to annoy people like me. I started writing with the full intention of writing science-fiction, fantasy and anything that’s just a little bit weird. However, despite my plot relying heavily on magic and folklore I have a sneaking suspicion that it’s become a very literary book. I don’t necessarily mean good when I say literary but there’s a lot of social and gender commentary, a lot of playing about with language and imagery and a few themes running throughout. All of this could disappear in subsequent drafts but I’m really enjoying it for the minute.

I know the literary vs. genre debate probably won’t be solved for a good while yet but here are some other blog and forum posts on the debate:

Authors den

The Literature Network: Forums

The Write Power

The main crux of the debate seems to boil down to the idea that literary fiction has an inherently higher quality of writing whereas genre/commercial popular fiction is just plain better. For Myers it’s enjoyable, unpretentious and it makes lots of money. But can art really be defined purely in materialistic terms? And when the genre boundaries become ever more blurred with new hybrids popping up all the time (New Weird, Speculative Fiction, Paranormal Romance) what actually decides if a book’s literary or not?

I read most genres, I intend to write in several (The current project is magic realism, the next is a horror/speculative book, then a sci-fi series that I’ve been toying with)

I don’t intend to answer these questions but the definitions as they stand make me uneasy as does the hatred that both sides of the camp seem to express for each other.

Please feel free to discuss in the comments but I believe that genre books can have literary elements and vice versa and both can sell really well or really poorly. There are countless genre books that sell less than the average literary book but because more genre books are being written and all the heavyweight earners of the industry are genre authors (Stephen King, J. K. Rowling, Dan Brown). I have yet to read any of this years Booker longlist but neither Irish entry last year made pretensions to literary greatness or overt complexity. Both were easy to read, both have sold numerous copies and both are literary rather than genre. I disagree with many of the standing definitions.

Is it right, as Myers seems to be suggesting, to read only what’s popular? Should literature allow itself to be defined by a consumer culture? Or can art be found in all sorts of places? I believe the latter, the definition of art is a personal thing but I don’t believe that books only ever become popular because they’re good (Anyone who’s heard my opinion of Twilight will understand), yes skill is needed in most cases but so is marketing and luck.

Literary fiction is not some club, read only by academics and those too obsessed with lofty heights to notice that they’re going into liquidation, literary fiction is real, it can be just as off the wall as any genre, just as any genre can be as deep as literary. Rather than being completely separate  (I lay the blame for this separation squarely at the feet of marketing) one can merely be an aspect of the other.

‘Rapeseed’

 

So, Considering I’m only two weeks away from holding a finished draft in my hands, I thought I’d take this opportunity to explain at least a little bit of what I’ve been at.

My work in progress is a novel set in Cold War Ireland form the point of view of a twelve-year-old girl called Eithne.

When she was little her Father burned her face to ward off the Changelings and now she believes they are coming for her again. The changelings were fairies who would kidnap human children and leave fairies in their place. She has a tough enough life, she has scars from the night her Father burned her, her Mother drinks in secret, her Father is cold and distant, favouring her brothers over her, and her Granddad fills her head with stories of myth and magic. Strange things keep happening around her but no-one else believes. Eithne is terrified that the fairies are returning and this time they will succeed in taking her.

This novel was originally called 'Changeling' but Clint Eastwood stole that...

I’ve commissioned/bullied my little sister into doing some artwork for it, cover art, illustrations etc. which I’ll post up whenever she finishes them. I’ll also start posting teasers soon. In about two weeks this draft should be finished, all my editing (hopefully) should be done by Christmas…

New address

So this has moved to a new address because frankly afunnythinginthelibrary.wordpress.org is just too awkward and hard to remember. I made it up on the spot because I was too lazy to really think hard about it. This is also a bit of shameless self-promotion in a bid to help get my name out there and possibly network with agents and publishers and really lend some small help to getting that coveted publishing contract.

For awhile I’ve been thinking of buying my own domain (www.katiemcdermott.com) but the process was a bit awkward. Most sites I encountered, due to some bizarre clause in some obscure act,  will publish all your personal details online as soon as you do this. Also almost every permutation of my name was already taken (for weird sites that don’t really seem to be about anything, not that I’m bitter).

And then I ran out of money.

I recently moved into a new flat in Dublin, still one of the most expensive cities you can live in, just got back from a holiday that was made more expensive by an out of date passport and just received and unnecessarily costly reading list for college.

So I really don’t want to sign up to an annual fee right now for my own domain. I’m sticking with WordPress for better or for worse for the meantime only this way hopefully it will be easier for people to find this site now.

Normal (or more frequent) posting shall resume shortly…