I finally did it. After seven and a half years of iPhones, I took the leap today and bought myself a new Samsung Galaxy S7 Android phone. For the last 3+ years, I’ve been using an iPhone 5, and I liked it, but I absolutely hated iTunes, and I just didn’t want to have another device tied to that horrible piece of software. When the battery on my iPhone started flaking out (lasting less than 2 hours, and would go from 50% charge to dead battery in 30 seconds), I knew I had to have something new.
I narrowed down my choices to the Galaxy S7 running Android, and the Lumia 950 running Windows 10. I really, really wanted to like the Lumia 950. The specs on the phone itself are pretty amazing—especially the image stabilization for the camera. For someone with shaky hands, that seemed like a killer feature. Unfortunately, from everything I’ve heard, the software on the phone just isn’t there yet. I’m not just talking about the apps in the app store. From what I’ve heard from people I’ve talked to, the OS itself is glitchy, will suddenly kill apps or restart, and has BlueTooth issues. I don’t mind being a beta tester on an app or a platform I’m building, but I can’t justify spending $600 on a phone only to be frustrated by it. (Note, yes I do work for Microsoft, but I have no connection to anyone on the Windows Phone or Windows 10 team. I speak for myself here, and not for Microsoft).
The Galaxy S7 is brand new, but it’s a beefed up version of the S6, and solves a few of the problems its predecessor. It’s water resistant, has expandable memory, and very good resolution on the screen. I actually said ‘Wow!’ when I started viewing pictures people have posted in Facebook with my phone. Compared to the iPhone 5, its like night and day. Screens have come a long way in 4 years.
I also like the virtual keyboard a lot better on the Galaxy than the iPhone. Numbers and letters on the same screen! Incredible! Results in much faster typing for me, especially when entering those dreaded complicated passwords.
The only downside I’ve seen for the S7 itself is that the battery can’t be replaced. Hopefully it lasts 3-4 years before I have to buy a new phone. I use my phone all the time, so if you amortize the cost over time used, it’s probably a better deal than my car.
The S7 did present another problem for me. The case is incredibly slippery, and I could see dropping it a dozen times a day. I bought an Otter Box case to go over it for $45 to solve that issue.
Moving to Android from iOS does have a couple of pitfalls for me and my family. We use iMessage a lot. My daughter has a iTouch she can use to text us when she’s at a friend’s house or after school care (via wifi). My wife and I text each other often as well—who’s picking up the kids, what’s for dinner, etc. With iMessage, that has never cut into our text message quota for our cell phone service. Now, my daughter can’t send me iMessages, and any my wife sends to me will count against our quota. I’m thinking of trying an app like TextPlus or kik to see if that keeps the monthly costs down and all of us in touch. We’ll see how it goes.
I’ve only had the phone for a few hours now, but I’ve already got all the essential apps installed and working, my email accounts set up, and my music ported to Google Play (though I’m not sure I can reach all that music when I’m offline). I was worried that it would take me days to get up and running, but it didn’t. In a couple of days, I’m sure I’ll have everything I ever need. I do have a message on my screen from DirecTv that I can’t get rid of, but hopefully I fix that soon.
I did have the fear that Android would be too difficult to learn to get going. I’m one of the least technical software developers I know. I normally don’t care about hardware. I care about productivity and ease of use. For years, Apple was the gold standard. But getting apps installed on Android was incredibly easy. Maybe even easier than on iPhone.
For those of you into pictures of hardware, here’s a shot of my phones history (minus the old brick phones from the late 90’s). Screens have gotten a lot bigger (and need to be cleaned often as well), and at $600, my phone is now nearly as expensive as my last laptop. Hopefully this new one lasts as long as the previous ones did.
Just a quick reminder to add a note your calendar that I will be at the Renfrew Branch of the Vancouver Public Library this Saturday, March 12 at 2:00 PM. It’s my first book-related event in Canada, and I’m excited to head on up. I’ll be talking about my writing process, doing a reading from Nowhere Wild, taking questions and then selling / signing books.
It looks like the forecast is for lots of rain Saturday, so I can’t think of a better thing to do than to talk books at a library! Hope to see lots of people there!
I made a small proclamation of victory back on the 24th of February on Twitter that I had finished my first draft of the sequel to NOWHERE WILD called NOWHERE HOME.
It was one of those things I couldn’t stop myself from doing, even though I knew I had a lot of work left to do on it. A first draft is just that. It’s just a draft, so I knew that I had a lot of work left to do on it, and it was definitely the first of what I presume to be many drafts before I get to the final version.
But before I could even let anyone else see it, I had to do a pass through edit to find what I call my standard “look-fors”—things I’ve learned to look for and revise or remove. I learned most of these things the hard way by making these mistakes in the past, and having a reader or an editor point them out to me. I keep a list of them in a OneNote document for review. Here’s the list as it stands right now:
- Wrong Em Dash
- And Issues search for “, and [a-z ]@ed *. “
- Weak Verbs (get, got, gotten)
- “There was”
- “It was”
- “There were”
- Third person in internal dialog
- Remove extra em-dashes
- Remove “tried to”, “trying to”
- Ensure “Yes,sir” “No, sir” is lowercased “, Sir.”
- Lowercase “he said”, “she said”
- .” said X (should be ,” said X
- “^13 ” remove extra space at the start of a paragraph
- “^p ” remove extra space after a paragraph
- Toward not towards
- Remove double spaces
- Replace .” ([A-Z][a-z]@) said. With ,” ([A-Z][a-z]@) said.
Along with looking for searchable things like that, I also do a thorough read-through to manually search for passive voice, wasted words (the point has been made, get rid of any subsequent wasted words), word territory issues, formatting issues and general sucky writing.
Anyway, a first draft isn’t done for me until I get all of those steps done.
So today, I finished the real “First Draft” of NOWHERE HOME. I hit it hard this week, wanting to get through it quickly enough to keep the story flow in my head so I could also get a feel for the pacing—something I had a lot of trouble with in the early drafts of NOWHERE WILD. The result? I like this book. A lot. I’m also very tired, and my brain is Jello right now. I need a ten day nap.
I started this book in late August 2015 if I recall correctly, so this one took me about six months to write. I wrote mainly in the mornings for 45-60 minutes before starting work, and then any time I was sitting at one of my kids’ after-school or Saturday practices waiting for them. I wrote in a lounge in my office building. I wrote while sitting on bleachers. I wrote while sitting in the passenger seat of my car in parking lots next to ball fields, and on benches in a Karate Dojo and at a baseball training center. I wrote in the waiting room at the car dealership. And, of course, I wrote late at night in my office. If I had 30 minutes somewhere, I put my headphones in, my glasses on, opened up the laptop, and went to work.
This draft came in right around 94000 words which is about 20000 words longer than NOWHERE WILD, and the last page gave me both goose bumps and tears, so I think that’s pretty awesome for a first draft.
What’s next? Well for this book, it starts the rounds through my beta readers, and will likely sit on my shelf for a couple of months. Then I’ll come back to it with fresh eyes and read it through again, and see what I see.
In the meantime, I may go back to some of my previous, unpublished works, and see if they are worth working on. I may even look at one of the other outlines I had started last year to see if there’s any ‘there’ there. Or maybe there’s another idea that’s been stewing all these months, that will demand to be written. But not tonight.
But I also have a ton of stuff going on in the next two months, and I think my brain could use a little down time. My stack of books to read is still getting taller, so I need to spend some time on that, too. If I could spend a week on a beach in Hawaii, right now would be a really good time for it. I don’t see that happening though, so I’ll use the time wisely to dig out from my backlog of other things that need doing, and figure out what happens next in the Nowhere world.
Hey… that’s not a bad title for a book…. hmmm.
Author Diane Les Becquets was at University Books in Bellevue for a reading tonight and gave those of us in attendance us a wonderful reading from her new book BREAKING WILD, a story of a woman lost in the wilds of Colorado and the female ranger who attempts to find her. When I read the blurb, I thought, this book is right up my alley. She was a delight to listen to and I can’t wait to read her book… which, by the way, is now at the top of the stack I wrote about on Sunday.
She was also nice enough to request a copy of NOWHERE WILD as well… so I guess we’re now the Wild Bunch? Or maybe not. Anyway, here we are:
And oh yes, like I said, I can’t go into a bookstore and buy just one book. I also bought Chris Hadfield’s AN ASTRONAUT”S GUIDE TO LIFE ON EARTH—because Chris and I practically grew up neighbors (well, in the same county), and I‘ve been meaning to get his book for a long time, and it was just sitting there on a shelf, calling out to me…. Bookstores see me coming a mile away.
If I have one vice—an addiction we’ll say—it’s that I can’t walk into a bookstore, or go to a signing, without buying at least one book. A couple of weekends ago, I took my kids down to the local Barnes and Noble to get them a couple of books, and I ended up walking out with four of my own. This wouldn’t be a problem (I can afford book buying binges), except that I don’t really have time to read all the books I buy. Want proof? Here is the current stack of books on my shelf I have purchased/acquired over the years that I have yet to read:
By my count, that’s 22 books on pile. Now I remember a few years ago, on this same blog, doing a similar picture of my to-read shelf, and some of those that were on that shelf, are the same ones as the ones here… the bottom five in particular. I bought Rivers of Fire, and then realized it was the second book in the series, and still haven’t picked up the first. I’ve read part of the Jack London compilation, and I think I was in the middle of it when I got sick, and never returned to it.
Many of the middle of the pack are more recent pickups – the three by Bernard Cornwell and One Year after are the ones I got on my last bookstore trip… and will likely be the ones I read next, because I can’t stop my self from reading Cornwell’s stuff.
The four on the top of the pile are, unfortunately, my problem children. I started reading Catch-22 a while ago, and it just doesn’t make sense to me. I may try it again when I have less going on. And I really want to like Terry Pratchett’s stuff, but it reminds me a lot of Dr. Who, and I (I’ll probably be tarred and feathered for saying this), but I’ve seen 4 episodes of Dr. Who, and I just don’t get it.
So this is the stack of the physical books I have, and that says nothing about the hundreds of books my wife has bought over the last few years on our Kindles that I haven’t started on, or the old boxes of Mercedes Lackey novels and other books my wife has stowed away in closets around the house. I could never buy a book again, and I would never get through the stack of reading I have in queue at my current pace.
So since the former is never going to happen (due to aforementioned addiction), I’m going to have to pick up the latter. I’m not sure how or when… maybe I’ll just have to retire early in order for the weight of unread books on my selves from crushing me in a horrible biblio-accident.
If you want to keep up with what I am reading, check out my Goodreads reading list. I’ve been trying to add books that I’ve read in the past, but that’s been a lot of work, so it’s a little behind. I just finished A Canticle For Leibowitz (another book which had been on my stack for quite a while), so now I’m going to pick up something lighter to absorb the rest of my long weekend.
Not only will I be in Vancouver on March 12, but I will also be coming to Leavenworth, WA, and Wenatchee, WA on March 26th to read from, talk about, and sign copies of NOWHERE WILD.
Where: A Book for All Seasons
703 US-2, Leavenworth, WA 98826
When: Saturday, March 26th: 11 AM – 1 PM
Where: Wenatchee Public Library
310 Douglas St, Wenatchee, WA 98801
Saturday, March 26th: 2 PM – 4 PM
Hope to see lots of people there!
That’s right. I will (finally!) be in Vancouver, BC for a reading / book signing at the Vancouver Public Library – Renfrew Branch on Saturday, March 12 at 2 PM. This may not be my only appearance in Vancouver this year, but it is my first, so come on out and lets have a little shin-dig!
Many thanks to the folks at the VPL and HarperCollins who put this event (and awesome poster!) together for me. I can’t wait!
Today is the fourth anniversary of the day I had my first symptoms of Guillain-Barre Syndrome. It now seems like a very long time ago. A lot has happened.
For many months I blogged frequently about everything I went through in my battle, and to this day, those entries are still among the most popular on my blog. There’s good and bad in that. The bad is that people still need to read about GBS because they, or a family member, are going through their own battle with GBS, or maybe something that presents like GBS, but has yet to be given a name. The good is that those same people can (hopefully) gain some solace from the fact that my story is one of recovery and a resumption of my normal life.
That’s where I am now. Living a normal life. Sometimes a few days goes by without even considering GBS and all the trouble it caused. I don’t have much in the way of numbness or discomfort left that I haven’t grown used to. My eyes aren’t the same as they were pre-GBS, but the last four years has also seen me stumble through my early-forties, where even a healthy person’s eyes go to crap, so it’s hard to tell if it the GBS, or just old age affecting them.
As for my endurance, I think I’m back to being in pretty good shape now. At its worst, I wasn’t able to walk at all. I then spent a few weeks using a walker, and a few months unable to walk farther than the mailbox and back. Now, I routinely do two or three mile walks around the neighborhood on weekends and weeknights, and sometimes do longer hikes in the woods. A few weekends ago, we took the kids to Snoqualmie Pass for some inner tubing on the snow, and my Microsoft Band said I did the equivalent of 74 flights of stairs that day and over 11,000 steps. I barely even felt it the next day. I’m hoping to do some significant hikes and paddles this summer, if my schedule lets me. At the very least, GBS no longer factors into my daily life, nor my weekend plans, or my life goals. That feels pretty amazing.
So, four years on, I’m feeling pretty good. I take fewer things for granted than I used to, and I try to stay strong and healthy as best I can. Hopefully, those of you who are still tightly in its web of pain and numbness, will soon be able to reach the same milestone. I remember saying to myself, and to my family and friends, while I was sick, that I just wanted my life back. I have to tell you, it’s a wonderful thing to get back, and I think only those of us who have come so close to losing it all can really, and truly, appreciate that.
Over on Goodreads, I’m starting the year off with a giveaway for a signed copy of NOWHERE WILD. The contest runs until January 24th. If you been thinking of getting the book, and want a signed one, this might just be your lucky day. Enter soon!
I’ve done resolutions in the past, and I like to look back upon them at the end of the year, and laugh. There’s always something in my plans that was so reasonable to expect, yet so impossible to achieve, that I just have to sit back and chuckle.
So here are some of my plans and resolutions for 2016—if not for your enjoyment, then for mine a year from now. Note to future self, I’ve left these fairly opened ended because I know how much you hate failure.
Resolution #1 – Write!
Notice I didn’t say write more. I’ve actually been writing what I think is about the right amount the last few months—about 800 words a day. I can sit for 45 minutes in the morning before work and reread what I wrote yesterday, and then write 800 new words and feel good that the story is on track. When I put pressure on myself to write longer, or more frequently in the day, the story just doesn’t seem to work as well. I think my top day this fall has been about 1300 words, and I’m pretty sure I deleted about 500 of those the next day, so 800 seems to be working for me. At this rate, I’ll be done the first draft of the sequel to Nowhere Wild by the end of January. I’d hoped to be done a little sooner, but as of yet, I have no official deadline or contract, so I’m just working on making the first draft a lot better than the first draft of Nowhere Wild, so it doesn’t take seven years to get it published. I do have plans for another book in 2016 as well—another YA one—though I haven’t finished the plotting for it. We’ll see how it goes, but I definitely won’t stop writing after this book is done.
Resolution #2 – Exercise
Again, I’ve been doing this pretty regularly throughout the last year. I used my Microsoft Band to set up 3 custom workout routines: one for core muscles, one for cardio and one for back and shoulders. Once I hit the start button on a workout, it’s really hard to stop the workout before its done, or to cheat on the number of reps or sets. It keeps me honest. I’ve also been walking more outside when the weather isn’t god-awful, and as I mentioned in my last post, going for hikes on a regular basis clear my head and gives me time to think about my writing away from the keyboard. Who knew that exercise could be good for the body and the mind? My resolution for 2016 is to turn my exercise into more fun activities for the family like hiking, camping, kayaking, cycling. I’m sure they’ll love it! I can hear the whining already!
Resolution #3 – Attend at least two Writers Conferences besides the PNWA
I’ve “grown up” with the PNWA, and it will always be my home conference. I’ll be doing a lot of volunteer work there this year, and that’s great. But I want to get out and see a few other conferences. I’m thinking Surrey, BC in the fall, and maybe one of the other big conferences out of state. If anyone has any good suggestions when a new author can meet other authors, catch some great presentations, and perhaps sign a few copies, please let me know.
Resolution #4 — Learn to be a better cook
I’m already pretty good with a barbecue, and I cook a mean French toast, but I‘d like to add a few things to my repertoire. I’d like for my kids not to say at the end of year that every time mommy was gone for dinner that we had eggs or something out of the freezer. I want them to know that men can do more in the kitchen than just wash dishes.
Anyway, those are my plans for self improvement in 2016. Of course I’ll be doing all the normal things, like reading and working hard at work, but these are things I want to be more conscious of. If I can add these to my routines, I’d like to think that 2016 will be a great year.
What are your plans?