Monday, May 14, 2012

The best way to read an ebook

Text block in homemade clamp, ready for spine to be gluedI've never been able to get into the idea of reading "books" on a computer screen, or a phone, tablet, or e-reader. This is partly because I don't like reading on a screen, and partly because I like the look and feel of a well-made hardcover book.
Completed text block with partly finished coverOn the other hand, there are a number of sites out there from which one can download older, public-domain texts for free, and some of those texts are out of print and impossible to find as actual books, so the ebooks are the best option if you want to read them at all.

Now, for a quick reference, a downloaded PDF or text file is just fine, and occasionally even preferable if you want to be able to do keyword searches.  But for reading a book straight through, I much prefer a physical copy, so when it's a book I plan to read cover-to-cover, and I'm pretty sure I'll want to keep it in my collection, I'll sometimes print it out and bind it myself.

Four handmade hardcover books, printed from public-domain ebooks

Monday, March 5, 2012

Winter comes round at last

Yesterday I was thinking about the winter we've had around here, and how it hasn't been much of a winter at all, really.  I knew that there was the possibility that it would snow later that day, but the forecast says that a lot more than it actually happens, and it had been seeming very much like spring had arrived early this year and was here to stay.

And then the snow showers actually happened, after dark when it wasn't so noticeable, and by about one in the morning the tree branches were heaped with snow, and it was falling not as powder or as simple flakes but as great glops of snow that stuck to everything, and suddenly it was really winter after all.  So I wandered outside with my camera and tripod and spent about an hour trying to capture the look of a snowy wood at night.  Between the city lights reflecting off the clouds and the streetlight glare and power lines and houses and cars, most of the photos ended up looking like a snowy suburb in late afternoon, but a few came out all right.

This morning I drove out to a local nature preserve (the same one I mentioned in December 2010), this time with functional batteries, and got lots of pictures of trees with snow on them.  With any luck some will be helpful as references for the drawing I mentioned in that earlier post, which I never did get around to doing, having continually put it off in favor of other projects.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

New artwork

I've just got 'round to putting up a portfolio page of some of my artwork; currently you can reach it by clicking on "Paintings and Drawings" just under the header at the top of the page.

I've been meaning to do so for ages, and was finally prompted to by this painting for the ArtOrder's Art Evolution Challenge. The challenge was to depict a character described simply as "a young female human wizard with black hair who always wears white trimmed in gold."

It's definitely worth checking out the full line-up; there are a lot of entries, and a number of them are really amazing.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Halfway point

I hadn’t figured on doing National Novel Writing Month again, but I happened to be re-starting my current novel (having scrapped yet another beginning) right around the end of October, and decided that at this point fifty thousand words (which ought to be the halfway point since I'm shooting for a total of 100K) would seem enough of an accomplishment to be worth the trouble even if the result was unsalvageably bad (as my previous two NaNo novels were).  I hit the 50K goal, and while it’s certainly not great writing, at least it’s finally telling the story I wanted to tell.

This time I decided to try something new (for me), and have been writing with a pen in a notebook rather than typing.  Some writers say that using pen and paper improves their thought process, makes the words flow better, produces better-crafted prose, etc., but I’m finding the only noticeable effect has been to slow me down.  I’m still planning to finish this draft on paper, and save the typing for the second draft, but I doubt I’ll be doing this again on any future novels. 

Monday, September 12, 2011

The variable weight of stars

I’ve written before about wanting to reduce my personal library to something rather more manageable in size, with a higher concentration of books I really like.  As much as I love the idea of having a house full of books, it's an idea that loses much of its appeal if they're books I'm probably never going to read again.  And I must admit I’d rather read a favorite book ten times than read five books of marginal interest twice each.

Of course the problem with this is deciding which books to get rid of.  The past few days I’ve been tempted to begin a massive reorganization (and culling) of my books, but most of the ones I’ve already read I’ve sufficiently forgotten that I would need to read them again in order to decide if they were worth keeping.

I’ve started rating the books I read on LibraryThing (with the nominal goal of getting rid of books that I don't rate highly enough), but I’ve already noticed that I tend to second-guess myself if I happen to notice the ratings later.  “Why did I give that book two stars?  It wasn’t that bad,” I’ll say to myself, or, “How could I have given both these books four and a half stars?  This one is much better than that one.”  Apparently I’m still working on my idea of just how much these stars are worth.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Emperor of North America

This is my cover painting for John McNichol's The Emperor of North America, book two of the Young Chesterton Chronicles.  It'll be hitting the shelves this fall, published by Bezalel Books.  For those of you not familiar with the series, it's steampunk alternate-history with authors G.K. Chesterton and H.G. Wells as the main characters.  In book one, The Tripods Attack! (published by Sophia Institute Press), Gil and Herb fought off a Martian invasion, assisted by Father Brown (from Chesterton's mystery stories); the second book has got flying assassins, steam-powered cyborg cowboys, zeppelins, and a flying city (home of Emperor Norton I).

The painting is acrylic on mat board, 13 1/4" x 17 3/8".

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The chapter it took twelve years to write

Way back in January  I said I probably wouldn't post about my novel till I'd finished the first draft.  In a way, it was finished a couple of months ago--at least, in the sense that I won't be working on it anymore.  Though it had its moments, overall the story wasn't working, and rather than soldier on and finish a completely unusable draft, I decided to shelve the story and come back to it someday.

So, after taking some time away from writing to do other stuff (web design, a couple of paintings, that sort of thing), I dragged out my old notes on a story idea that I first started working on at least twelve years ago.  It's always been my favorite among my various plot ideas, but I've been putting it off in the hope that I'd do a better job on it if I waited till I was a better writer.  I've decided, though, that I had this backwards, and that the best way to improve your writing ability is to work on the story you care about the most, and do the best you can.

So I hammered out some problems with the plot, such as what's going on at the very beginning of the story (a point that had always eluded me before), and finished a short, rough first chapter.  There's plenty of stuff to be fixed, but at least it seems to work, and it feels like the right story to be writing.

I just hope the next chapter doesn't take another twelve years....