Monthly Archives: March 2012

The Original Series James T. Kirk was brilliant.

I’ve been writing a lot about my new book, so I’m going to take a time out and talk about a piece of brilliance that often gets ignored, the awesome things Captain Kirk said on Star Trek, the original series.

My favorite quote was written by D.C. Fontana, one of the first women writers in Hollywood, in the episode “This Side of Paradise.” While it is criticized for its weak science, the story is excellent.

Maybe we weren’t meant for paradise. Maybe we were meant to fight our way through, struggle, claw our way up, scratch for every inch of the way. Maybe we can’t stroll to the music of the lute. We must march to the sound of drums.

The second quote is from Return to Tomorrow.

Risk… Risk is our business! That’s what this starship is all about. That’s why we’re aboard her!

This last quote is from the odd epsidoe “Mudd’s women.”

There’s only one kind of woman…or man, for that matter. You either believe in yourself or you don’t.

A lesson in customer service

Treat others as you yourself would like to be treated is a piece of wisdom nearly as old as humanity itself. It’s also the key to doing business in the 21st century. And yes, authors, writing is a business just like any other. So, I’m going to tell you a story about my relationship with a company called Timbuk2.

Oh, and sorry, but this is going to sound like a commercial.

This is a Shagg Bag, a small pouch made for cameras and phones with velcro that can attach it to a strap or belt. My friend Joe bought a Shagg Bag from Timbuk2, but he ordered the wrong size. When he called explaining his mistake, they sent him one of the proper size and told him to keep the other one and pass it on to someone who could use it. He passed it on to men. And I took it, because, hey, free bag.

I’d had my Shagg Bag for a couple years when I decided to to all-in with Amazon, and buy my wife and I matching kindles. I had noticed how well the Shagg bag had worn, so I decided to buy Timbuk2 bags for our kindles. Again, I was impressed with the quality.

The other day, I borrowed a book from Catherine and I almost didn’t want to put it in my laptop bag, because my laptop bag likes to tear up the corners of paperbacks. Thinking about this, I wondered if Timbuk2 made anything that I could put paperbacks in, so I picked up one of these.

It’s an iPad sleeve, but I figured it would fit most of my paperbacks. However, when I received the sleeve, I was so impressed by how good it looked and how well it was constructed, that I decided to replace it. So, I started to look at, you guessed it, Timbuk2 laptop bags.

So finally, I end up here, with a new messenger bag on the way. Because of excellant customer service towards someone else, Timbuk2 has earned themselves a loyal customer.

Books as a Service

An interesting thing has happened as I have started buying ebooks instead of paper books. I no longer think of a book as a product, but as a service. When I compare two companies selling the same ebook, the level of service is more important to me. The content is, of course, the same.

Owning a book gives me a feeling of ownership, and I am old enough to appreciate the value of a physical object. However, when I look around my house at the number of books I own, and I think about how many I get around to reading in a year, I have to admit that I am using my paper books more for insulation than reading material. And I have enough insulation.

“Buying” an e-book is a different experience. In many ways it is more primitive. I don’t buy a piece of pulped wood to put on a shelf, I’m buying the story and the way it makes me feel, like emotion is being transmitted to my electronically. However, I find I get really picky about how that feeling is transmitted.

Plus, I like the ability to take my entire library wherever I go.

On the other hand, I’ve had to give up the illusion of permanency that paper books provide. Sure, any ebook provider might go away in 5 years, have the servers seized by the FBI, get shut down by PayPal, or just decide to close down their ebook division. But then again, I could have a pipe burst and destroy all my paper books as well.

There are many pluses and minuses to the services provided by different book providers, but at the end of the day, they are all every similar. Personally, I chose a Kindle, because I like Amazon’s online store better than Barnes and Noble’s, and I like the ability to wirelessly send books to my device. However, now that the bulk of my ebooks are Kindle books, I’d just as soon keep buying them there and keeping my book in the Kindle cloud.

Oh, that’s the other thing. Every Kindle book I “own” is stored on Amazon’s servers. I could buy an ebook from Google, Apple, Smashwords, or Barnes and Noble, and that book would be put in my cloud for those services, but as my technology is very Amazon-centric, I’d just as soon just use Amazon’s cloud.

An anecdotal statement:
I bought a book from Smashwords once with the intention of “side-loading” it on my Kindle. To this day, I haven’t loaded it. It’s like an electronic orphan. When I’m looking for a new book, I look at what I have on the Kindle. It’s about workflow as much as anything else.

In many ways, I think buying a Kindle is a lot like supporting for the New York Giants*. Even if they do some things you don’t like, you already have so much merchandise. You have Giants hats and Giants jerseys. You just bought that leather sofa with the Giants logo on the back. Sure, lately you’ve been thinking of supporting Green Bay–you like the romance of the underdog, and they’ve been having a good season. But at the end of the day, you just have too much money tied up in the Giants.

* I know nothing about sports, but that will become evident in a moment.

Aimless fun

A while ago, I plugged a few of my pieces into the “I Write Like” analyzer.

One of the pieces I put in was Panic No More a story of goat gods and computer programmers. At the time, the analyzer compared my writing to Dan Brown, which made me sad. Since then, I’ve been working on a new revision.

I’ll more than happily accept this rating:

I write like
Cory Doctorow

I Write Like by Mémoires, journal software. Analyze your writing!


Running off the cliff

Every once in a while, I actually finish a project. It’s always an odd feeling for me, running full tilt, working hard every day, carving out little bits of time to inch forward, and then nothing. I’m running through open air. I’ve built up the momentum, but there’s no longer earth under my feet. I always feel disoriented until I remember all the other things I need to work on.

Not sure if just did something smart or something very stupid

I just sent a strongly-worded note to my editor about my dissatisfaction with the back-cover blurb of my novel.

I always said that when I got a book deal, I would not be a prima donna, and so far, my experience has been smooth sailing. However, I honestly didn’t think the blurb was representative of the contents of the book. It was inaccurate, which would have been forgivable, but I had to use Google twice just to understand it.

Part of me is painfully aware that I am working with a small company, and that author of the blurb is probably my editor or a close colleague. Ouch.

I know it’s not my place to complain. I sold them the rights to publish my book however they see fit. Then again, I’ve never been good at keeping my mouth shut.

I figure this complaint with either usher in a new era of trust and understanding from my editor, or guarantee that he will never want to publish anything of mine again. Either way, I guess I will get what I want.

Then again, maybe he’s already sent it to the printers.

Good News

It turns out that he is open to my suggestions and there is time to change!