Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Computers Down: Sometimes You Do Get It Right

This past weekend, my desktop computer became unresponsive. Well, I figured, OK. While I get it straightened out, I've got my laptop, with all the data on the desktop backed up to it. I could use that.
Except I couldn't. The laptop became unresponsive.
Bottom line: It was the desktop's motherboard and the laptop's hard drive. Both are at the computer hospital.
The good news: I've been writing my articles and books on computers since 1988, and when the Internet came along, I insisted on having a dedicated computer in my detached writing room, permanently off-line, its only purpose to be for writing. So while my promotional work and correspondence languish, I've been able to keep making progress on my current book.
And oh, yes. Besides the 2 non compos computers, I've regularly backed up my projects on a flash drive, an external hard drive, and an off-site storage facility. This week, I've added a second flash drive. One can't be too careful.
How am I posting this? Via my wife's computer, which also permits me to kinda keep up with email. Of course, the same day my 2 computers fell dead, I could not access the Internet on my wife's machine. Fortunately, that turned out to be the router, and was promptly set right.
Would I like to go back to manual, or even electric typewriters? Perish the thought. I've got vivid memories of when cutting and pasting was literal, and when it took me three months to type a perfect 200-page manuscript. Bad behavior and all, I'll stick with the computers. But with all due precautions.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

My Ragtime Historical-Mystery Trilogy Is Honored

      As am I.
      The Friends of the Crowell Library in San Marino, CA host a yearly One Book/One City Festival, where a particular book is selected, every reader in the city is encouraged to read it, events are planned around the major theme(s) of the book, and the author visits the city and gives a talk. This year's honoree was T. Jefferson Parker, for IRON RIVER.
      Next year, the committee has renamed the Festival OB/OCx3, to select the three books (THE RAGTIME KID, THE KING OF RAGTIME, and THE RAGTIME FOOL) of my trilogy for their community read. During March and April 2011, the library will sponsor programs on music (especially ragtime) and concerts, and I'll talk to the readers on April 28, at 7pm, then sign books. Pretty cool.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Speaking Of E-Book Readers

      My last-week's blog post got me thinking. I've heard all kinds of arguments pro and con the various e-book readers, but one I've not heard seems important. How does reading comprehension from an electronic device compare with that from hard copy?
      I wonder about this because I've gotten the same answer from every writer to whom I've posed the question, "Can you do revisions/rewrites off your computer screen?" The answer is invariably, "Not only no, but hell, no." Everyone - myself included - says they can work over a manuscript endlessly on a computer screen, but then when they print out a copy, it's filled with horrible word choices, dreadfully-structured sentences, grammatical errors, inconsistencies of plot and character, and typos.
      To be specific: last Friday, I did a careful on-screen rewrite of the first two chapters of my current book-in-progress; then, this morning, I printed out the chapters and went to work on them. Three hours later, the pages were dense with squiggly cross-outs, replacements, and insertion arrows.
      Admittedly, writers may read more critically than non-writers. (My daughter tells me I don't read for pleasure, and I can't quite get her to understand that I am, in fact, reading for pleasure, just a little differently from the way she goes about it). But wouldn't it be interesting to do an experiment? Take a bunch of readers, some of whom are also writers, select a pair of books by the same author, and have the readers read one of the books on an E-reader, the other on hard copy. After each book, calculate the reading time per page, and subject the readers to a test of comprehension regarding plot, characters, and setting. I'd bet just a little money that they'll remember more of the books they'd read from hard copy.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

What's In A Name, Indeed?

     Who comes up with these names for Barnes and Noble? B&N has just made available a self-publishing platform called Pubit. Considering what they call their electronic reading device, they've got a ready-made slogan: "Get it up on Pubit, and watch millions of readers get it off on their  Nook-E readers."