Tuesday, May 24th, 2011

Two Cool Sites: Kindle Nation Daily and BookLending.Com

I found two very cool sites recently and I wanted to share.

Kindle Nation Daily features free books, tips, news and commentaries all related to Kindle. The site is jam-packed with info.

Kindle Nation Daily hosted Blood Soup yesterday, and I’m just tickled with the way it appeared. I just love the look and feel of that Web site.

But don’t visit just to check out the Blood Soup page, there’s A TON of things to look at and download.

In conjunction with the KND “spread,” Blood Soup was hosted over at BookLending.com. This site connects readers who want to read books with book owners who want to lend them. It allows folks to share kindle books.

Neat concept!

Wednesday, March 9th, 2011

It’s Read an Ebook Week!

According to the sponsors of “Read an Ebook Week, the ebook is celebrating its 40th birthday.

In 1971 Michael Hart was handed a real boon – $100,000.00 worth of computer time with a Xerox Sigma V mainframe computer. He decided that the greatest value created by computers would not be computing, but would be the storage, retrieval, and searching of what was stored in our libraries. The first “e-book” was born—a copy of the Declaration of Independence.

Hard to believe that ebooks have been around for 40 years! It seems like they’ve only just come into vogue.

Although I believe they won’t take the place of a paper book anytime soon, I find that I like ebooks for a lot of reasons: I can carry a lot more books around on my device than I can tote manually, I can buy them anytime of day — in my jammies, no less, and I can search for text within the book (which is only one really kewl features of digitized text, there are hundreds more…).

If you haven’t tested the waters, it might be time to dip your toe in. You don’t have to have a dedicated ebook reader to read ebooks. Kindle, Nook and others have a free desktop software so you can read on your computer.

Don’t be worried about cost. Many ebooks can be purchased for less the the cost of a cup of coffee, and thousands more are available for free.

For starters, you might try Smashwords.com where many authors have made their books free, or put them on sale, for the duration of this week. (You can sort by cost, and the site includes a quick-click button to sort by free items.)

If you want totally free access to books, try Project Gutenberg at Gutenberg.org.

(I personally like Project Gutenberg’s Fantasy bookshelf. It includes the Oz books by Frank L. Baum, Lord Dunsany’s writings and Howard Pyle. The Science Fiction bookshelf includes many copies of Astounding magazine, and books by Poul Anderson, James Blish, Marion Zimmer Bradley, Edgar Rice Burroughs and more.)

If you know the book you’re interested in, you might try searching the publisher’s Web site. Publisher’s often have discounts that aren’t advertised on the large commercial bookseller sites.

If you have a favorite site for ebooks, please list it in the comments.

Thursday, February 10th, 2011

Bits of News and Stuff

I had planned for 2011 to be a quiet year as far as being involved was concerned. I want to write more, finish more and submit more than I was able to do last year due to the blog tour, and teaching, and conventions.

And so far, so good. I’ve gotten much more writing done this year (so far) than I had in the same time frame last year.

But, suddenly, there’s a lot going on. Which is good, I realize, so I’ve decided to roll with it.

Here’s the news:

I’ve been interviewed for the Fascinating Authors web site…. link to interview here… and there’s an accompanying radio interview, too. That hasn’t been posted yet, but I’ll mention a link when I have it. (The radio interview was A LOT of fun!)
Hellebore and Rue Anthology Cover
And I’ve gotten an invitation to Syndcon – a gaming convention in Rockville, MD, (in April) and I’ve accepted. I’m tentatively scheduled to teach a writing workshop with some other writers in the area, as well as appear on some panels.

Any gamers lurking out there who want to learn a bit about writing?

We’re brainstorming some gaming/writing ideas right now. If you’re interested in seeing something in particular, send me a note. I’ll suggest it to the programming staff.

(I hope I’ll get some gaming in, too, during the con. It’s been a while since I’ve taken my bag of dice and characters out for a spin.)

I’ve also been invited back to Darkover. I had a total blast last year, so you can bet I’ll be back. (Darkover happens over Thanksgiving weekend.)

And saving the best for last: Hellebore and Rue is officially out! (I’ll post some buy links as soon as I track them down.)

I’m still in love with that cover. Isn’t it gorgeous?

If you enjoy stories of women wielding magic, you may want to check it out. I’ve written a tale about a swordsmistress who fights a wyvern — with the help of a sorceress.

(You’ll have to let me know what you think if you read it.)

Saturday, November 13th, 2010

Great Review for ‘Selk-Skin Deep’

Tangent posted an in-depth review of Bad Ass Fairies 3: In all Their Glory, and had some really nice things to say about my story, Selk-Skin Deep:

“Selk-Skin Deep” by Kelly A. Harmon is a very well-written, harrowing story of an accident that didn’t have to happen aboard an aircraft carrier during the Vietnam war. The selkie uses his advantage to try and save the ship and its crew. Ms. Harmon has written an action packed, suspenseful account of a naval battle with a poignant ending.

Bad Ass Fairies 3: In All Their Glory - CoverI’m pleased to hear it. There have been a few other reviews, and they’ve been good, but no one’s singled out my story. Of course, the Tangent reviewer mentioned all the stories, but I can’t help feeling a happy glow from what she said.

If you’re interested, I’ve got permission to post the first five pages of the story. You can read it here. Warning: it ends abruptly in the middle of the scene!

Epic Award WinnerYou can read the entire story in the anthology, which just happens to be an EPIC Finalist. (Winners will be announced in March. With a little luck, I’ll be changing this “finalist” icon to a “winner” icon some time in the next few months.)

If you’re at all curious about the Bad Ass Faeries™ series, you need to check out the new Bad Ass Fairies Web site. There’s an associated blog as well.

Sunday, October 10th, 2010

Bed Bugs at the Local Library


A (becoming more) common bed bug.

I’m not a traveler, although I’ve done my share of traveling for book gigs.

The first thing I do when I get to my room is check the mattress near the headboard: a prime location for bedbugs to hide. If I spot them, my plan is to cancel my reservation on the spot. A new room wouldn’t cut it for me.

The problem with bedbugs is that they’re so insidious: you can fumigate, but they hide in fabric and behind walls. And the worst-case scenario for me would be staying in an infested room and then taking hitchhikers home with me in my luggage.

I nearly missed my vacation to the Carolinas this summer when the rental agency called to let us know that our beach house had been infested. They’d fumigated, but I (and thank goodness everyone else involved) refused to set foot in the rental. The agency found us a new home.

But now the threat hits even closer to home: someone returned infested books to the Urbana Public Library in Frederick about a week ago. (Old news, I know – but I just heard about this from a student – I don’t normally patronize the Urbana location.)

The book drop has been closed, and the library has suspended inter-library loans until they’re certain the problem has been arrested.

The library has called the patron who returned the books to let them know about the problem…but I’m left wondering if it’s possible that they didn’t know they had a bedbug problem. Bedbugs bite–and leave nasty sores behind! How could they not know?

So, I’ve got to ask: why would a patron dump the books in the drop and make Library staff discover the bugs? Did they think they wouldn’t get caught?

If the patron had done the responsible thing, the problem could have been isolated to a single location.

I guess I’ll be adding, “Check books for bugs,” to my “to do” list when I go to the library. (Stuff like this makes electronic books a better proposition, eh?)

Wednesday, June 2nd, 2010

No More Text Books: Enter Kindle

It was only a matter of time, right?

Students at Clearwater High School in Tampa, Florida are getting Kindles instead of text books in the fall.

From the story:

Though the school hasn’t settled on a vendor, school officials are negotiating with Amazon Kindle to try to equip all 2,100 students with the 10-ounce devices this fall.

Already, the school issued e-readers to all 100 of its teachers.

Principal Keith Mastorides said he was inspired to make the switch earlier this school year after campus surveys revealed a desire to integrate more technology with classroom instruction.

“When you think about students today, three-quarters of their day is spent on some kind of electronic device,” Mastorides said. “We’re just looking at textbooks a little differently.”

It makes sense to me. Teens are so connected these days that I can see them embracing electronic texts with more passion than they do hard-copy ones. And no more leaving text books in the locker overnight because they’re too heavy to carry home.

There’s also the cost factor: electronic texts are less expensive than their hard-copy counterparts. And losing a Kindle doesn’t mean losing all the texts stored on it. Those files can be transferred to a new device.

Read the full story here from the St. Petersburg Times.

Monday, March 29th, 2010

Enhanced Edition Ebooks: I’m on the Fence

I stole this clip from Enhanced Editions.com where they rave about enhanced editions ebooks, particularly those that they’ve created.

They list a host of “enhancements” available in their editions which are supposed to make the e-version more desirable than traditional paper…and for which you’re supposed to be willing to pay an additional amount, say $15 instead of $10.

Direct from the web site, here are their enhancements…along with my take in red.

“Enhancement” My Thoughts
Easily switch between type sizes and serif and sans-serif fonts. My eReader of choice already allows this…so, I’m not sure how this qualifies as an enhancement.
Store bookmarks and notes on the text. My eReader of choice already allows this, too…so, again, I’m not sure how this qualifies as an enhancement.
Navigate via pages, chapters and the table of contents. Are they really calling this an enhancement? Because I don’t see how this qualifies either. I admit I’ve purchased a few PDF ebooks which don’t have chapter navigation…but PDF always allows a page view…I can navigate (admittedly a bit awkwardly) but navigate I can, nonetheless.
Keep up to date with your favourite books and authors via the in-app news feed. Okay: They got me here.  The books I’ve bought so far don’t offer this. But I’m wondering: do I need their dedicated reader to use this option?
Read reviews and articles about the book. I read my reviews and articles BEFORE I purchase the book.  Why would I be interested in them after I made the sale?  And, I can already get that stuff free on the ‘net. Now…critical essays about the book, that’s another story…
Quickly and clearly search the full text of the book. Sorry, I can do this now.
Turn on tilt scrolling to move the page with a flick of your wrist. This might be useful if you’re trying to read one-handedly…but I can read one-handedly on my device with no problem, using just a finger tap to turn the page.  A wrist-flick seems so…inefficient, and painful, after a while.
Watch exclusive videos shot with the authors. (Selected Title Only) This would be cool….as long as it’s new footage, and not a re-hash of something I can get on YouTube.
Change the type orientation and reading options, and remember your personal settings. I can do this now with my current eReader, so how is it an enhancement?
Listen to exclusive soundtracks and extracts, or switch to the complete audiobook edition. I like the audiobook option.  In fact, I love it….with a two-plus hour commute daily, I’ve been listening to more audio books.

Perhaps I’m being overly critical, particularly with the navigation thing, but even if you count that, I see only four real “enhancements” out of the ten they’re touting:

  • Enhanced Navigation (Still, imo, a gimme.)
  • Keep Up to Date with Authors via Newsfeed
  • Author Interviews
  • Audio built in

If I want author news, I can always check the Web myself. And, depending on how Enhanced Editions sets up their newsfeed, I might actually get more news if I do the search myself.

The included author interviews will be stale after a few months. Again, I can probably find these on the web.

Now the built in audio…that’s a plus. That’s the one I really, really like. And it might make me spend the extra $5. Maybe.

You’ve heard from me. What’s your two cents?

Thursday, November 5th, 2009

Are you Blind? Let’s Talk e-books…

Depending on your point of view, my title might have been a little inflammatory. I only meant to grab your attention. On the other hand, if you really are blind, I do want to hear from you. I want to know how you feel about e-books.

This is a tad long, so please bear with me…

In my day job, one of the hats I wear is “Section 508 Coordinator.” Very briefly, Section 508 is a part of the Rehabilitation Act which requires making the Web accessible to people with handicaps. (Right now, it only applies to federal agencies…but I can see it being expanded in the future.) The law’s been around for quite a while, but lacked enforcement.

When President Clinton was in office; however, he gave the law teeth. The legislation he signed allowed anyone to sue a government agency for not making accessible products.

For the last several days, I’ve been attending a Section 508 Conference where there’s been lots of discussion about new technologies, and ways and means to make existing technology accessible. Today was the vendor dog and pony show.

What’s exciting is that many of these technologies can be useful for non-disabled folk, too. For instance, there is software (and I’m not going to name names, because I don’t want to make an advertisement) which will read aloud all the words on the computer screen. It’s meant for use by the blind (or folks with “low vision”). But couldn’t the elderly benefit from it, too? Or anyone, for that matter, who finds reading the written word difficult.

Another company makes similar software, but it highlights the word on the screen as it’s being read. Couldn’t it be used to teach children to read? Or persons for whom English is a second language? In fact, I could see myself using it, say, if I wanted to tidy up my desk and “read” at the same time.

Interestingly, I learned today from a vendor that Web sites, software, hardware, etc. which conform to 508 standards usually garner a market share of use 20 – 40% higher than those who don’t–mostly because they’re reaching a segment of the market that is largely ignored by others.

Wow: 20 – 40%.

With that thought on my mind, I got to wondering about e-book sales to the blind. With assistive technology (AT), e-books are very accessible. (And believe me, the voices of the AT readers are a jillion times better than the craptastic voices included in some bundled or freebie software, making the narrations pleasant to listen to.)

I had the opportunity to chat with several blind and low-vision folks today at the conference. What I wanted to know was: have they found a much larger selection of e-books lately? And, have they been purchasing more?

Overwhelmingly, the few folk I chatted with usually purchased audio books. I expected that. But, many of those I spoke with said that they *are* purchasing more e-books than they used to. And why not? Rarely is an audio book available at the same time the print version comes out, but an electronic version is often available simultaneously. Not only that, there’s a much larger –as well as current–selection available.

I’m a big fan of e-books for a lot of reasons. Until today, I never considered their marketability to the blind. (You might say, my eyes have been opened…)

So: are you blind or have low vision? I’d love to know how you feel about e-books. The debate is heating up over all kinds of issues, but this isn’t one I’ve seen explored yet. Please drop me a comment below.

Monday, November 2nd, 2009

Good Review for Blood Soup!

Cover of Blood Soup

Blood Soup went out to several reviewers in September and October and I’ve been anxiously awaiting a response.

I’m thrilled to see the first is a good one.

Kari at Kari’s Korner Reviews apparently enjoyed it very much. I’m doubly honored since Kari reviews mostly romance.

To wit:

With the scary title BLOOD SOUP (Eternal Press, ISBN: 978-1-926704-53-1) by Kelly A. Harmon, it even has a cover that immediately catches your eye and makes you shiver. This is a medieval tale about a kingdom destined for certain dire ruin if the King’s heir isn’t a girl.

The characters in the story work together AND against each other as they secretly manipulate, scheme, hope, and react to the surprising birth of the King’s heir.

Filled with murder, mystery, and very dire consequences, this is a fast paced Novella with vivid portrayal of events and characters, pulling you into this harsh world the author has created and no doubt leaving her with new fans eagerly awaiting her next book.


If you’re interested, Blood Soup  can be purchased:

Wednesday, October 14th, 2009

Blood Soup Available on Your Smart Phone!

Blood Soup by Kelly A. Harmon - Cover Flat

All Romance.com has partnered with Aldiko (an eBook reading application) to make their entire 10,000+ book-catalog available to Android Smart Phone users. (Here’s the entire Press Release at PR Web.)

The bottom line is: Smart Phone users can obtain stories via their phones without a computer, cables or subscription!

Which means, if you’re interested, you can purchase Blood Soup from pretty much anywhere you have a cell phone connection. (Blood Soup can be purchased here. )

I also recommend these titles from Eternal Press:

The Sea Wagon of Yan Tai by Steve Southard
Frenzy by Carole Johnstone
10:15 by Trent Kinsey.

If you like to “try before you buy,” Aldiko can hook you up. Download and install Aldiko and choose from thousands of books.

From the Gadgeteer Website: “Aldiko comes with Sun Tzu’s Art of War and H. G. Well’s The Invisible Man pre-loaded. However, you can browse and load any of the books available on Feedbooks right from the application. The site contains thousands of public domain and creative commons works.”