News and Commentary on Space
I bought a Kindle back in September as a means of test-driving the e-book version of In the Shadow of Ares, mainly because I hadn’t thought much beyond Amazon when we decided to go the electronic route. I was aware that Barnes & Noble and Borders each had their own e-readers, but Kindle seemed to be the one with the broadest reach and biggest potential market.
We ended up publishing on Barnes & Noble as well as Amazon, but even so, I hadn’t even looked at a Kindle up-close until yesterday. Turns out the Nook Color is a much more impressive platform overall than the 3G Kindle:
In short, the Nook is a little more like a tablet device than a no-frills e-reader.
On the other hand:
You might expect that differences like this would drive Amazon to bring a color version of the Kindle, with color e-ink, to market in the near future. Mmm…maybe not:
[Bezos] noted that developing color electronic ink remains a challenge, and while he’s seen things “in the laboratory,” the prototypes are simply “not ready for prime-time production.” He also stated that these lust-worthy, mythical displays were “a long way out,” but that the Kindle would remain focused as a dedicated e-reader moving forward.
And yet, as the links at the Engadget post illustrate, there are in fact color e-ink options out there which may be further along that Bezos suggests.
With the introduction of the iPad last year, though, there may be market pressure to rapidly evolve e-readers beyond simple, dedicated e-book devices by including features like the photo galleries and MP3 player functions the Nook already offers and better, full-featured web browsers to take additional advantage of the built-in wireless internet capabilities (wi-fi and 3G). At some point, then, there may be no real distinction between e-readers and tablet computers besides the owner’s primary habit of use.
“In the Shadow of Ares” (formerly known around here as “Labyrinth of Night”) is now available for download at Amazon.com:
In 2029, the third exploration mission to Mars vanishes without a trace. Two decades later, the success of human settlement of Mars and the life of a young girl hinge on the secret of what happened to the Ares III mission.
Twenty years later, Mars is a growing outpost of humanity, and 14-year-old settler Amber Jacobsen is a minor interplanetary celebrity – ‘the First Kid on Mars’. Pioneering Mars is hard, unglamorous work, though, and Amber secretly wishes she were just an ordinary girl living on Earth.
When her family’s homestead is destroyed in an apparent accident, the Jacobsens relocate to an independent settlement located on the northern fringes of Noctis Labyrinthus, a vast and largely unexplored canyonland. Their new home promises new opportunities, and Amber looks forward to being just another member of the community. Instead, the other settlers dismiss her as a burdensome child and refuse to accept her as the responsible young adult she has become.
In order to prove the value of her unique knowledge and perspective, Amber vows to uncover the fate of the Ares III mission, whose loss had largely been forgotten in the rush of the Martian settlement boom. But this seemingly harmless challenge thrusts her into a deadly conflict: those who know the truth will kill to keep it hidden, while those who destroyed her family’s homestead would use the secret to secure their dominance over all of Mars.
In solving the mystery, Amber could destroy everything the Martian settlers have worked to create.
It’s priced at an affordable $6.99, and would make a wonderful Christmas present for the science fiction reader or young adult on your shopping list. Especially if you’re buying them a Kindle or they already own one (remember, you can also download the free Kindle app for various electronic platforms if you/they don’t have a Kindle reader).
While I’m going to be occupied for much of the weekend with writing a business plan and attending Christmas parties, I do expect to get the blog at AresProject.com up and running again in the next few days. We will use that forum to discuss the book, the backstory, etc.
Small change in plans: in order to avoid confusion with the twenty-odd other science fiction books set on Mars which use the same name, the book previously known as Labyrinth of Night will now be titled In the Shadow of Ares.
And yes, I’m still struggling to get it ready for Kindle. Almost there…
UPDATE: formatted and uploaded now. Turned out to be a pretty painless process, much to my surprise. Just haggling over what price to set, and then we can publish it.
And before anyone asks, no, the title does not have anything to do with Constellation. Sad to say, we actually had the book half-written and most of the backstory laid out well before NASA applied the name Ares to Mike Griffin’s misbegotten launch vehicles. After I catch up on a few things, I intend this weekend to revamp the book’s website so that we can start giving out tidbits of the backstory and how we came to write the book.
Here’s the cover art:
Bonus points to anyone who guesses where the image is from…
One of the other things on my plate right now is putting the novel through one final edit, prior to publishing it on Kindle. We’ve tried (oh have we tried) to find an agent, but none seem interested in the genre right now…which is to say, every inquiry gets rejected out of hand, unread, with the explanation that the agent isn’t taking on new clients right now or is looking for other types of stories.
So, a few weeks back, I bought a Kindle 3G to test out the platform.
So far, I like it. It takes a little while to get used to it, but it grows on you fairly quickly. I had seen previous versions owned by friends, so I had an idea of what to expect, but I was still pretty impressed with it. The first thing that wowed me when I took it out of the box was the thinness of the thing — I was almost afraid to handle it, for fear of slicing my fingers off. The second thing was my mistaking the default display image for a printed shipping overlay — I had to look very closely at it, from several different angles, to convince myself that what I was seeing was really on the screen, such is the visual novelty of “electric paper” displays.
Turned it on, set it up in short order (added my home wifi info, which is actually optional with the 3G version), and it was ready to go. The only other setup I had to perform had to do with uploading of documents, and involved simply adding my personal email address to a list on my Amazon account so that the conversion server would accept documents sent to it from that address. With only one false try (using PDF format, which produced unsurprisingly dodgy results in formatting) I was able to upload the manuscript to my Kindle flawlessly. I had expected it to require a lot of online fussing and fixing to make it look right, but it digested the native .docx file with nary a burp.
One thing I have not yet done is paid to download any new books (for lack of time). I did download a few freebie classics I was familiar with (Machiavelli’s The Prince and Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations…not kidding about the “classics” part), and have been poking around in them as time permits since their short, self-contained chapters make them more amenable than novels to reading in small increments. The feature whereby passages highlighted by other readers are highlighted on your own screen is a nice touch — it’s like a social-media version of buying a used book at the college bookstore, with the importance of a passage indicated not merely by the electronic equivalent of underlining or a highlight pen, but also by the number of other people who thought it significant>
One thing I didn’t like about it is the way the screen flickers when you “turn the page”, but this is where that “getting used to it” thing comes in — after a few minutes, you don’t notice it.
Time permitting tomorrow, I may be able to start posting sample chapters as an appetizer for the full novel, which we expect to have available via Kindle in the next two weeks or so.
Master Thespian John Morse, Colorado Senate Majority Leader, goes off on a rant over Amazon.com’s small act of defiance against his tax increase and privacy invasion. This is so laughable it has to be seen to be believed/appreciated:
For those who don’t know, the Democrat-controlled Colorado legislature two weeks ago passed what have come to be called the “Dirty Dozen” tax increases – blatantly ignoring the Taxpayer Bill of Rights amendment to the state constitution by raising taxes without a vote of the citizens. Among the items subjected to new or increased taxes, including soda and (some, weirdly-defined) candy, doggie bags, software downloads, and bull semen (!), are all online sales.
In the case of the latter, the tax increase mandated onerous and privacy-invading reporting requirements onto online retailers. Amazon announced early on that they would suspend all affiliate accounts for Colorado residents if the measure passed, and over the weekend made good on that promise, sending cancellation letters to all of its Amazon Affiliates in the state.
In other words, a company had the guts to stand up in a small, symbolic way to the anti-constitutional taxation policy and invasive reporting requirements of the state of Colorado – and Senator Morse won’t stand for it. How dare Amazon not meekly accept the dictates of Senator Morse and his pals in the Colorado legislature? Who does Amazon think it is?
What amuses me is that he is now going to ditch his Kindle, boycott Amazon, and take his custom to more statism-friendly Apple. While I applaud Amazon’s actions, I firmly believe that they will lose far more business from people like me, who will no longer purchase anything online, from any retailer, so long as this taxation and reporting law is in effect. Indeed, even though I am a shareholder and the move would cost the company money, I would have preferred to see Amazon go all the way, and refuse to accept any orders for delivery to or with a billing address in Colorado (or at the very least the addresses of the governor and every legislator who voted for the bill).
What’s not funny about Senator Morse’s dramatic soliloquy, though, is the unquestioned assumptions that lie behind it. The notion that Amazon being a $900 million “corporate customer [sic]” is something shameful, a sin that requires the redistribution of their profits to assuage. Or the assumption that the targets of an objectionable piece of legislation ought to know their place, and accept the imposition humbly without uttering a word of protest. Or the apallingly ignorant assumption that he and his equally-economically-ignorant colleagues can blithely pass tax increases without altering economic behavior in the private sector whatsoever.
What’s even worse is Morse’s astonishing and hypocritical attack on Amazon as being a “bully” and engaging in “egregiousness” and ”tyranny”. Senator John Morse, Democrat of Colorado Springs, may want to look in the mirror – after all, it isn’t Amazon who is pitching an over-the-top emotional fit, it isn’t Amazon who is throwing its weight around to take something it shouldn’t have or forcing people to do business with it, and it isn’t Amazon who is acting in blatant violation of the state constitution and against the loudly expressed wishes of the citizens of Colorado.
ADDED: Senator Morse is getting called out on his BS in the comments at YouTube, and is (not at all surprisingly) responding with snippy and condescending remarks. How dare we proles question him! He’s a senator!
A young girl sets out to prove herself by resolving a long-forgotten mystery. But when she gets close to the truth, what she thought was a harmless adventure becomes a threat to the future of the independent commercial settlements on Mars.