Thursday, February 28, 2013

Among the Bullets

Among all the bullet points that are listed in this article about the Kindle Touch, I must say the one I'm most looking forward to experiencing is the fourth one:

  • A new user interface
  • Whispersync for Voice
  • Enhanced Parental Controls
  • Book Covers
  • Time-to-Read
  • Recommended Content
  • Enhanced book samples
  • Navigate graphic novels, and comics

As I have written in this blog many times, I don't like the screen saver and book cover capability of the Kindle. If I was more confident of my abilities I would have "jail breaked" it a long time ago and uploaded my own screen saver images. Again, why not tailor the screen saver to show the book jackets of the books I am reading? Why not have images of my favorite authors. Nothing against Emily Post, but why must she show up on my Kindle?

I'm sure something else, maybe something that isn't even listed will pique my interest once the new Touch arrives, but for now, I choose book covers.

Second reason why I'm excited? This site, Top Ten Reviews, suggested that the Touch was a solid 9.73 out of 10 in terms of e-readers on the market.

If you enjoy reading and are always looking for your next good read, we recommend purchasing the Kindle Touch 3G. The portable eBook reader is second to none in the features and tools that count: readability, size, ease of use, free internet, battery life, library selection, speakers and fast page turns. Hands down, the Kindle Touch 3G is our clear winner and choice for the best eBook reader.

As I said a year or so ago, I like my Kindle if only because it forces me to read. It focuses my mind on reading and helps me filter out everything else. Based on this review, it sounds like the Touch will provide that same level of focus.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Kindle Dies So Touch Me Please

No, the title of this post is not referencing some article I found, rather it is referencing the death of my original Kindle, the one my wife gave me for Valentine's day so many years ago.

It's had a good run. I got it in 2010, so it lasted about 3 years. It's gone through multiple hard knocks and bumps and thumps and take offs and landings. I have almost 100 books on that sucker (minuscule compared to what it could hold) and it still holds a respectable charge. Lastly, my wife became the owner of it when it became evident that working crosswords was easier via Kindle 2nd Gen than 3rd.

I troubleshooted that sucker before contacting customer support, in the end I got a credit toward a new Kindle Touch. I guess I didn't have to use the credit, but it was there, I've never tried a Touch, why not.

Expect reviews of the Touch in the near future.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Just Finished Night Over Water

I like Ken Follett's works. I like em. I don't love em. My favorite so far has to have been Eye of the Needle. I've read six or seven of his novels, and still that's the best of the bunch. I keep picking up his novels hoping that this will be the one that leaves them all in the dust, and I am continually dismayed. I enjoy the book, but I'm dismayed in the quest for something of his better than Eye of the Needle.

Night Over Water was good. The characters were fun, the plot was mildly engaging and the historical nature of the book, the Pan American Transatlantic flights, was fun to read about. That being said when I finished it I thought, "Ho-hum, what next."

It's never good to think "Ho-hum" after a book. By that same token, I'm pretty sure anyone who reads my books thinks "Ho-hum" afterward. I need to find a way to go from "Ho-hum" to Humdinger (if that's not a lead in to another post I don't know what is).

Liked it. I look forward to the next Ken Follett book and I hope that the next one will finally be "the one."

As a final post script, the Book Review I posted on Eye of the Needle is still, by far, the most viewed item on this blog . . . still not sure why! And although I wondered if the review of Jackdaws would outstrip it, it has not. Funny old world.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Latest Last Line

I finished Night Over Water by Ken Follett and I sorry to say it wasn't as good as some of his others. Good, but not great. The final few lines tends to underscore how less than deep it was.

He put his arm around her waist. “This is a hell of a thing, sailing along in the sunshine with a girl like you. My old mum always said I was lucky, and she was right, wasn’t she?” 

“What will we do when we get to St. John?” she said. 

“We’ll beach the launch, walk into town, get a room for the night and take the first train out in the morning.” 

“I don’t know what we’re going to do for money,” she said with a little frown of worry. 

“Yes, that is a problem. I’ve only got a few pounds, and we’ll have to pay for hotels, rail tickets, new clothes....” 

“I wish I’d brought my overnight case, like you.” 

He looked mischievous. “That’s not my case,” he said. “It’s Mr. Luther’s.” 

She was mystified. “Why did you bring Mr. Luther’s case?” 

“Because it’s got a hundred thousand dollars in it,” he said, and he started to laugh.

Follett, Ken - Night over Water

A good book? Sure. A two timer? Probably not.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Is This My Writer's Block?

I don't know if I'd call it writer's block, but right now I'm having a hell of a time writing. It's not for lack of ideas. According to Merriam-Webster writer's block is: a psychological inhibition preventing a writer from proceeding with a piece. That's a tad closer to what I'm dealing with as I just can't seem to get motivated to write.

In some ways I think it's the kiddos and the changing nature of our daily lives. Each major life change brings with it less writing time. As a single guy, no television, crumby apartment, I was at my most prolific. Then I got married. A bit less time, but still there were times when I could sneak away. First child arrives and I found my writing time was in the morning, super early in the morning when it was quiet in the house. Two boys and there's even less time, most of my writing came when I traveled. Now, no travel equals no writing.

I need to find that next evolution of my "writing time." I have got one novel ready to go, another that needs several more revisions, another that is rough, and three more in my brain ready to come out. Maybe I need to try late at night?

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Not Wanting to Get Political

I don't want to get policital but I saw a blog post that juxtaposed this article on what a reader President Obama is, A Readers War by Teju Cole in the New Yorker with this one Obama Keeping Up with Bush's Reading Pace, that was listed on by Alexander Mooney.

Mr. Cole states in his essay:

There was a feeling during the years of George W. Bush’s Presidency that his gracelessness as well as his appetite for war were linked to his impatience with complexity. He acted “from the gut,” and was economical with the truth until it disappeared. Under his command, the United States launched a needless and unjust war in Iraq that resulted in terrible loss of life; at the same time, an unknown number of people were confined in secret prisons and tortured. That Bush was anti-intellectual, and often guilty of malapropisms and mispronunciations (“nucular”), formed part of the liberal aversion to him: he didn’t know much about the wider world, and did not much care to learn.

His successor couldn’t have been more different. Barack Obama is an elegant and literate man with a cosmopolitan sense of the world. He is widely read in philosophy, literature, and history—as befits a former law professor—and he has shown time and again a surprising interest in contemporary fiction. 

I understand the prism through which he sees former President Bush, but it may not be accurate based on what Mooney writes:

In 2006, Bush read 95 books to Roves 110: a Herculean pace of nearly two books a week - in an election year to boot - for the ex-president. But, according to Rove, Bush's reading slowed a bit in the final years of his presidency, finishing a not-too-shabby 51 books in 2007 and at least 40 in 2008.

And if that's not impressive enough, Rove also said Bush found time to read the Bible "from cover to cover" every year.

Irrespective of the political differences, I consider myself a pretty avid reader, yet I'm not hitting even 50% of the pace that these two set. Last year I was in the 40's for the number of books read. My question, how the heck does the president of the United States find time for 95 books in a year?

Monday, February 18, 2013

Didn't Want To . . . But I Had To

I didn't want to post another blog post from The Kill Zone, but this article by James Scott Bell called Write Your Truth hit a chord. Ostensibly it is about Lee Marvin, but underneath that is a layer of what I would have ordinarily called saccharine candy coating, but not this time. Like I said, this time it spoke to me.

As a "sometime" trainer I realize that different people learn through different means. I am constantly trying to figure out new avenues to use to get people to understand what I'm trying to say. Mr. Bell found my avenue for Writing Your Truth with this article about Lee Marvin.

Ordinarily I would "pshaw" at lines like:

We writers need to ask ourselves the same thing. Are we just trying to push a product, or do we have somewhere we want to go as a writer? Are we playing it safe? Or is there a truth we have that is burning to get out?


There’s a point in the film when Walsh is offered a part in a Wild West show, but he’d have to dress up in gaudy duds and put on a false front. Despite the money, despite the comfort, despite the security this would offer him, he refuses, saying, “I ain’t spittin’ on my whole life.”

When you can get that into your art—acting, fiction, painting, song, dance—you are leaving behind something more than product-pushing. You have a chance to carve out a unique and, perhaps, unforgettable place in your chosen field.

Apparently if a writer can wrap those lines into a package that include Lee Marvin he'll have me reading them and thinking "Yeah!"

I remember the first time I saw Lee Marvin in a memorable role. I was up late watching Cat Ballou in Edinburgh Scotland. I thought he was great. I've since seen him in many of his other works, I've even read about his life before, but this time it hit home.

It's well worth reading, this article. Take the time and follow that link up there.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Another Morning, This Time with Tea

This is yet another quick description of the morning. It comes with another venerable English favorite; tea.

The familiar blue lamp of a police station appeared in the morning twilight. The policeman said: You have a nice cup of tea and you'll feel better."

Follett, Ken - Night Over Water

I wonder if there is at least one reference to "morning" in every novel I read.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

First Line from Night Over Water

One of the things I don't like about reading books on Kindle is that there are times when I wonder if the conversion from text to electronic messed up. Here's a perfect example in Ken Follet's Night Over Water.

I was the most romantic plan ever built. 

I'm wondering if "it" was supposed to be that first word. Despite it all, I was hardly moved to read on with that first line, however Follet has substantial capital with me based on his other works. 

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Finally . . . the Last Line

The title makes it sound like I was looking forward to the end. Not so! The fact is I liked Dead or Alive by Tom Clancy et al more than I expected, it was just a long sucker.

That being said, I really enjoyed the scene at the end where the torture the bad guy. I guess that sounds odd, but it's an intriguing and really well written passage. Still, the end was a bit of a let down.

“It’s politics. Nothing more. It’s going to get uglier, but Kealty’s days are numbered. The only question is how long it’ll take him to realize it. Hell, I’ll tell you what I’m really worried about.” 

“What’s that?”

“Telling your mom you’ve gone into the family business.”

“Ah, shit.”

“If The Campus comes out and she reads about it in the paper or gets shanghaied by a reporter, you and I are in the doghouse.” 

“So how do we do it?” 

“Keep it vague. I’ll handle the part about The Campus. You tell her what you do there.” 

“Not all of it, right? Not the field stuff.” 


“Better that you don’t know, either, huh?” 

Ryan nodded. 

“And if she asks?” Jack said. 

“She won’t. She’s too smart for that.” 

“I gotta tell you, Dad, I’m not looking forward to this. She isn’t gonna be happy.” 

“That’s an understatement. Better now than later. Trust me.” 

Jack Ryan, Jr., considered this, then shrugged. “Okay.” 

Ryan stood up, then clapped his son on the shoulder. “Come on, we’ll face the fire together.”

Clancy, Tom; Blackwood, Grant - Dead or Alive

Still it does set the scene for the follow on books.

Monday, February 11, 2013

An Analogy That Says Alot

It's an analogy that says alot without saying much. At first blush this might not mean much. It might even seem inadequate or not descriptive enough, but for anyone, like me, who has been in the military and felt this feeling, it's perfectly adequate and descriptive enough.

Losan’s captain, a forty-sevenyear-old German named Hans Groder, had been the box ship’s master for eight years, having spent ten months out of every one of those years at sea. A tougher schedule than his previous job— captain of a German Navy Type 702 Berlin-class replenishment oiler— but the pay was much better and the stresses much fewer. Better still, Losan was a blue-water ship, a nice change for Groder after twenty-two years of navigating the labyrinthian waters around Eckendorf and Kiel Naval Bases. Such a pleasure to simply point one’s bow into the Atlantic and steam away with hundreds and thousands of feet beneath your keel and not a speck of land on your radar. Of course, on his more introspective days Groder indulged that sense of melancholy all sailors and soldiers feel once they’ve left military life behind, but on balance he enjoyed his life and the autonomy it allowed.

Clancy, Tom; Blackwood, Grant - Dead or Alive

The key statement is this one:

Of course, on his more introspective days Groder indulged that sense of melancholy all sailors and soldiers feel once they’ve left military life behind

Perfectly descriptive enough for anyone who has felt that melancholy.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Zinsser Again?

I ran across yet another article in the WSJ about William Zinsser this one by Edwin Yoder Jr. entitled On Writing Well and Other Joys. Before this week I'd never heard of Mr. Zinsser. Now, he seems to be omnipresent.

The article is fun to read, I don't know if I'd like the book though. Mr. Zinsser seems to be manufacturing is own chactacter, a trait I don't care for, so I doubt if I'd enjoy his writing. I might try it though.

The author calls himself "a child of the Eastern establishment," and certainly some of the standard indicia are there. He went to Princeton and taught for a time at Yale. He never goes out without a hat, and it isn't a baseball cap; it is a Panama in summer and a wide-brimmed Borsalino in winter. His jacket is from J. Press and no doubt displays the patina of loving wear and patched elbows. He is a lifelong New Yorker who walks to his office from an apartment. 

Nope, I don't think we'd get along swimmingly. Despite that there was this one snippet that started my grey cells to churning.

As for our hypnotic love affair with electronic toys, he deplores what it has done to manners. He doesn't use email and is offended by the term "snail mail," patronizing as it is to the dedicated workers of the U.S. Postal Service who get our checks and bills to us on time.

I don't have much love for the USPS, but I think it would be fun to try and go a year without using a computer, a cell phone, a blog, an email account or anything. That would be a fun book to write. Would my job be willing to provide me funds for it? Doubtful. And what about all the readers of this blog? Where would you go for insight on arcane WSJ articles?

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

The Kill Zone Again

I'm re-posting another blog post from one of my favorite blogs, The Kill Zone. This one is Essential Characteristics of a Thriller Hero by Jodie Renner in which she interviews Lynn Sholes. It was a good article to read, but I have some slight disagreements with this statement.

The hero or heroine of a suspense-thriller, like the protagonist of any popular bestseller, has to be impassioned, unique, and likeable enough for the reader to want to latch on and follow them through their journey, worrying about them and cheering them on through their challenges. So it’s important to take the time to create a charismatic, passionate, complex, sympathetic main character, so readers connect with him or her immediately.

Following this she provides a bulleted list of all the characteristics necessary for a hero in a thriller. I don't know. Although I can't immediately think of any (I'm sure once I give it more thought they will come to mind) but some of my favorite heroes and the most fun to read about are anti-heroes. The bad guy who has to do the right thing and the conflict that goes on regarding that.

I do think that in terms of writing and connecting with the reader she hits the nail on the head when she says:

"it’s important to take the time to create a charismatic, passionate, complex, sympathetic main character, so readers connect with him or her immediately."

Monday, February 4, 2013

On Writing Good

There was a decent little article yesterday in the Word Craft section of the WSJ called In Writing, First Do No Harm by Ben Yagoda. It's not earth shaking by any means. Nor did it have any fundamental messages that could be cut and pasted into this forum. It was just a good all around article about the demise of simple, effective writing.

He does mention a book by William Zinsser entitled On Writing Well, which I think I will add to my to be read list. If it has an many little, prescient, defuse nuggets as this article it will be well worth reading.

Friday, February 1, 2013

That's the Reason!

I knew there had to be a reason that the eagles rescuing the company in The Hobbit was such a strong memory. I gave it some thought and realized that the image below was what was on my old 6th grade book. With that on the cover, how could I not remember that episode well. 

I'm sure there is some deeper discussion that could be had about images being more influential than words or "a picture speaks a 1000 words" but I'm just glad I solved the mystery.