Sunday, November 30, 2008

New at The Fantasy Tavern: Free short story Challenging Lessons

If you were the protege of evil, at what point do you think you would realize it?

In my short fantasy story Challenging Lessons I explore the concept of such a turning point. This short story portrays an episode of back story from The Rys Chronicles epic fantasy series. In those novels, the rys are a long-lived magical race, and two of the main characters, Shan and Onja, are shown in Challenging Lessons during a crucial time four hundred years prior to the events in my novels. The short story provides an in depth glimpse into these characters and shows how Shan chose between the paths of evil or good and the consequences of that choice.

I wrote this story after completing the novels, so the Shan and Onja in the short story were coming through me as fully developed characters that I knew well and had written about for years. Challenging Lessons came about in 2005 a year after the birth of my first child as I was getting my brain back in shape for fiction writing. I used to offer this story as a free download at Brave Luck Books (TM) but I'm on the verge of overhauling that whole website, and I decided to relocate Challenging Lessons to the Fantasy Tavern where it can be read online in its entirety. No downloading necessary. Just go read at your leisure. Please visit and bookmark my free fantasy short story.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Fun with stereotypical fantasy characters

Fantasy and most genres have stereotypical characters associated with them. Almost all stories, for better or for worse, tend to include these character types. Just for fun, I've tried to label a few character types associated with fantasy. Please comment and let me know which one you like or dislike the most or describe your own stereotypical fantasy fiction denizen.

1. Wizard/Wise old guy serving as mentor - Traits: prone to impatient outbursts, refuses to properly explain anything, insensitive to the needs of youth, cryptic deathbed confessions, can really kick some ass sometimes.

2. Grumpy warrior/fighter - Traits: Usually a supporting character who serves as a battle tank and can really hold his own against the bad guys. Never seems to get a girlfriend, relishes battle, good hearted but often harbors racial prejudices.

3. Teenage Princess - Traits: Hates her corset, depends on her trusted handmaiden, struggles for respect and authority, might have magic power and profound destiny, lives in a world controlled by men who are absent, insane, or working very hard to make her marry someone gross. Almost always has to sacrifice love because of duties to the State. Loves to ride horses.

4. Teenage boy of apparently humble birth - Traits: Dead parents (if living, they must die soon), rural life, mysterious past, suddenly hunted by monsters or other evil forces, inherits magic weapon and/or learns to use magic, awkward around women, develops impressive martial arts skills almost spontaneously, destined to be great hero and save kingdom from doom.

5. Capable Captain or Mercenary - Traits: Usually a supporting character but sometimes the hero, has practical experience, wordly outlook, tends to be ladies' man, good fighter, good heart with a twist of corruption when necessary, sarcastic, strategic, and not as idealistic as the teenage hero type.

6. Nerdy Cleric or Religious Devotee - Traits: Might have magic, can translate obscure languages, clever, can talk his way out of tough situation, tendency to lapse into trances at bad time, knows how to open tombs, good or evil? He can go either way.

7. Amazon - Traits: She is armed and will hurt you. Intensely defensive, sexually desirable but unapproachable, usually trying to avenge a sister that was raped and murdered.

8. Other?

As a fantasy writer myself, I enjoy some of these stereotypes, but I'm not in love with the teenage boy turned hero. Maybe he's just been way overused or doesn't get laid enough. Anyway, I strive to create characters for my novels that have some original lifeblood in them. In my opinion, most fantasy authors manage to create at least one or two really solid and compelling characters (Some make them all good). Fantasy characters just tend to get turned into cookie cutters in the made for TV versions.

If you like warriors, real women, spies, and magic, please check out my epic fantasy novels and visit Brave Luck Books.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

12 Tips for Editing Your Fiction

Good writing includes editing. Just look back at an email you dashed off in haste, and you will likely wince at something. Editing encompasses many levels of intensity from basic proofreading to substantial reworking and rewriting. To produce professional and effective fiction, the manuscript editing will go far beyond merely proofreading.

Whether a short story or novel is being submitted to a publisher or headed for self publishing, it needs to be thoroughly edited and assessed from many angles. Editing strives to create flow with smooth transitions, maintain clarity, cut out unnecessary repetition, and includes a variety of tiny to huge adjustments that make the difference between a block of stone and (hopefully) Michelangelo’s David.

Editing is commonly believed to best be done by a competent person other than the writer. Although the critical eye of another is great, any writer should also assess his or her work by switching gears and looking at the work from the editing perspective instead of the writing perspective. However, a writer is often emotionally attached to a work and reluctant to approach the creation with the attitude of an over demanding, never-satisfied father. Overcoming the protective impulse to cling to an original draft as divinely-driven art will serve any writer well.

Editing also takes much effort. A writer might thankfully turn over a manuscript to an editor like after laboring to plant a garden and then assigning someone else to weed and harvest it. However, many writers do not have the luxury of an available competent person who can polish work for an audience.

All writers want to be considered a good writer, and this requires editing. You may be trying to break into fiction markets with short stories and you need to submit your very best to get noticed. To do this you should approach editing as another and enjoyable part of writing. You will enjoy making your work better, sometimes much better. While editing, you will learn about how you write and you will see what you are good at and what you need to fix.

For example, I often find when editing my initial drafts that I flopped through three sentences to say one thing. Usually I can harvest the good bits from each sentence and then combine them into one strong sentence. To do this, I weigh the nuances of each sentence and judge whether I am actually giving out good details or repeating myself needlessly.

Having spent many years writing fiction, which includes editing and rewriting, I have developed a checklist that keeps me on track when editing fiction. I apply most or all of the questions on this checklist to every chapter during the editing process. Remember, the goal is for you to be your toughest critic and for all other critics to love you.

Fiction Editing Checklist

  1. Is it bad? Be honest. Do you like what you wrote? Can you imagine others liking it? You really must be able to say yes to this fundamental question before being satisfied.

  2. What is the lead like? Good, bad, indifferent? By lead, I mean how does the chapter or short story start? Is it compelling? Does it arouse interest or excitement? Don't let an otherwise great story start like assembly instructions for an entertainment center.

  3. What is the action like? With this question, I analyze what is happening in the story. First of all, is anything happening? Do not let the narrative feel like being stuck in a traffic jam (unless the action is being stuck in a traffic jam). This is a very subjective question for the writer/editor. Basically, you need to decide if events are moving the story and thereby maintaining the interest of the reader.

  4. Are you having a good mix of dialogue, narrative, and action? I use this question to avoid stringing together 80 lines of dialogue. Too much he said and she said in a row does not suit narrative fiction. Non-dialogue elements about the characters, setting, and action need to be mixed with dialogue in order to build the word pictures necessary for fiction.

  5. Are you moving the plot along or are you fooling around? It's easy as a writer to start enjoying your characters and exploring tangents or minute details of their lives. Some of this might be essential to story and character development, but let it go too far, and the reader could become bored. Do not let narrative wanderings dilute a story until it is about as interesting as waiting for your number at the DMV.

  6. Do the actions of the characters make sense? Readers need to understand or at least have some clues as to why a character does or says something. If a character does something completely out of character, does the story explain why? Characters are often like chess pieces. They can only move in certain ways. Essentially, I am cautioning against making a character do something just because the writer needs that thing done. It must come down to would the character do that and, if so, under what circumstances?

  7. Do you think the plot twists and turns are acceptable? Do they appear contrived? You want a natural flow.

  8. Are you appealing to the senses? Does imagery occur often enough to build a setting? Are you doing it too much?

  9. Are you watching for places in the story that drag? Can you think of a way to pick it up? Does the dragging portion need to be cut? Or is a pause from the action necessary?

  10. Is the dialogue necessary or should it be replaced with narrative? Sometimes you don’t need to write out mundane conversation with quoted character dialogue. Sometimes it’s much better and efficient to simply writing narrative such as: Becky asked her dad when her mom would be home. He said he didn’t know.

  11. Does the dialogue match the character for language skills, vocabulary, intelligence, emotion and knowledge?

  12. Can the reader identify with the characters in any way? Does anything ring true?

After analyzing and editing your work with the above questions, you have surely improved your writing. The last thing on my checklist is to tell yourself that you did a good job.

Tracy Falbe is the author of the fantasy fiction series "The Rys Chronicles" that has received good reviews since its publication in January 2006. To learn more about her fiction writing style, visit where a free ebook download of her first novel is available.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Beware the dark corners of the soul warns Dr. Jekyll of Mr. Hyde

This morning I added The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson to my Ebook Classics collection. The story was quite engaging and kept me turning pages. I can only imagine how startling the book was when it first came out and readers were not aware of Jekyll and Hyde as people are today. The endurance of this story comes from its examination of the truth that all people have good and bad elements within their personalities.

The story begins with the lawyer of Dr. Jekyll, one Mr. Utterson, pressing his concern with the doctor over the terms of his final will and testament that declares Mr. Hyde to be Jekyll's heir in the case of his death or disappearance. Having become aware of Mr. Hyde's wholly vile character, the lawyer urges his client to restate his will before Mr. Hyde is motivated to hurt him. But, mysteriously, the doctor cannot be prevailed upon.

Mr. Utterson continues to monitor the situation as the mystery and horror unfolds. He is concerned for his friend, Dr. Jekyll, who clearly begins to display mad behavior.

Unknown to Mr. Utterson, Dr. Jekyll has been experimenting with cleansing himself of the unappealing and dark aspects of his character, hoping to make the good in himself shine all the better, but in so doing, he has let the proverbial Genie out of the bottle.

In this quote from the novel, Dr. Jekyll attempts to explain himself:

For two good reasons, I will not enter deeply into this scientific branch of my confession. First, because I have been made to learn that the doom and burthen of our life is bound for ever on man’s shoulders, and when the attempt is made to cast it off, it but returns upon us with more unfamiliar and more awful pressure. Second, because, as my narrative will make, alas! too evident, my discoveries were incomplete. Enough then, that I not only recognised my natural body from the mere aura and effulgence of certain of the powers that made up my spirit, but managed to compound a drug by which these powers should be dethroned from their supremacy, and a second form and countenance substituted, none the less natural to me because they were the expression, and bore the stamp of lower elements in my soul.

For an engaging read set in foggy 19th century London where science and the supernatural collide, I recommend Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Why do people hate digital rights management (DRM) on their ebooks?

As a seller of books and ebooks, I spend time measuring the pulse of the growing ebook market. With so many formats and devices out there for reading ebooks, there is a lot to keep track of as I try to create viable product offerings. Most major retail sellers of ebooks employ DRM systems to restrict copying and distribution of ebook content. This is done because the material is copyrighted and the publishers and authors have legitimate fears about online pirates stealing their works.

Although DRM at first sounds reasonable, in practice it is very inconvenient for the actual paying customers of ebooks. Here are some of the problems that arise when people buy ebooks restricted by digital rights management systems:

* DRM can add extra steps to purchase process because the customer's device needs to be registered and authorized in order to open the file.

* Difficulty in placing the ebook on another device. Because the DRM is meant to keep the ebook on the reading device of a single user, a person who uses two devices (say a Sony and a PDA) for ebook reading can run into problems.

* Loss of purchased ebooks when a person decides to get a new ebook reader. If DRM makes an ebook only accessible by a specific authorized device, then getting another new reader means the person cannot transfer his or her ebooks that have already been purchased.

I believe some retailers offer workarounds for these problems, but DRM remains an inconvenience. People just want to buy a product and have it without having to jump through hoops or run into barriers.

As a writer and publisher who is trying to establish a readership, I have chosen to make my ebooks free of DRM. I want my products to be reader friendly, and implementing DRM would be an inconvenience and an expense for me as well. Most certainly I don't want my ebooks to be pirated, but with so many DRM-cracking software programs out there, my research indicates that DRM only delays piracy by a few minutes anyway.

Because lack of DRM seems to be a marketing point that might interest ebook readers, I've decided to be more open about mentioning it. Last night I placed a short video on YouTube promoting my DRM-free ebooks located at and

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Jimi Hendrix tribute website resulted from my admiration of rock legend

Although most of my teenage music obsessiveness is well behind me. I don't even have an iPod. But my awe of the talent of Jimi Hendrix has not faded over the years. His profound talent had too little time upon this planet, but as I'm sure Jimi Hendrix imagined, his spirit illuminates distant worlds.

A quote from one of his songs I find especially meaningful, prescient even. In the song "Up From the Skies" on the album Axis Bold As Love (my personal favorite), Jimi Hendrix sang:

I have lived here before
In days of ice.
And I came back to find
The stars displaced,
And the smell of a world
That is burned.
Yeah, well, maybe it's just a change of climate.

For power, passion, and vision, I find the high art of Jimi Hendrix unsurpassed. At my website Amplified Genius - A Tribute to Rock Legend Jimi Hendrix I published my 5-page biography of the short-lived son of all the muses. When I wrote this small biography I was especially saddened to learn that he had just completed the set up of a million-dollar recording studio called Electric Lady. It's sad to imagine what his unfortunate death robbed from his legion of fans.

Monday, November 17, 2008

4 New tattoo designs added to Destination Tattoo

My online publication Destination Tattoo includes a gallery of free tattoo designs along with its articles about tattoo health considerations, tattoo removal, explanation of the tattoo procedure, and reasons why people get tattoos.

I just added four more designs to the gallery. For people trying to figure out what their first or next tattoo will be, browsing free tattoo designs on the internet is a good way to get ideas. Although many tattoo artists are very talented, it is always a challenge for an artist and subject to communicate imagery. Printing out some images that illustrate the desired concepts and discussing these with a tattoo artist are part of a good process for achieving body art results that are pleasing.

The newest free tattoo designs this November are:

Spider tattoo
Owl tattoo
Pan tattoo
Genie lamp tattoo

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Watch video product review of Sony 505 ebook reader

Because I know that people thinking of buying an ebook reader often have no way to phystically touch and hold one before ordering an ebook reader, I am providing this video where I discuss my Sony 505 ebook reader. I suppose a video review is the next best thing to seeing one in person.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Why Fantasy Readers are Fantasy Writers

Genre fiction inspires its fans to write stories. This is probably the truest of readers of fantasy fiction. The fantasy genre tends to inspire great loyalty among its readers, who are always on the lookout for their next epic reading experience. Many of these same fans create their own work as well whether it is short stories, role-playing adventures, or novels.

Readers of fantasy are prompted to start writing fantasy because they like being drawn into the alternative worlds of fantasy. It is fun to escape the boredom of regular existence and go struggle alongside heroes who are trying to save the world from evil. After reading a good fantasy novel, one will continue daydreaming about other realms and new adventures. This triggers the imagination to go so far as to compose a new story.

Writing in the fantasy genre allows the writer to explore his or her own desires for how a story should be told, how the monsters should look, and what powers the characters will be allowed to have. It also allows the writer to imagine a slightly new ideal of a hero or villain. Of course, most writers are trying to create the next great thing in fantasy fiction, but at the very least, each writer is experiencing his or her imagination at deeper levels when writing. And this is what the reader-turned-writer wants: an even fuller and more engaging experience in a fantasy world.

Evidence of how much fantasy fans like to continue acting through the adventures can be found in the multitude of role-playing games that are fantasy based. There are other games with other themes, but the overwhelming majority of them are about questing against trolls and dragons and trying to add to your character’s magical powers and obtaining better weapons.

There seems to simply be a portion of humanity that is captivated by the thought of carrying a sword, battling monsters, and of finding an extraordinary destiny. These elements have always had appeal to many people. Fantasy is arguably the original genre. Stories through the ages and from many cultures have been about battling gods and magical creatures from the very ancient Epic of Gilgamesh to the Iliad and the Odyssey to King Arthur to the Lord of the Rings.

Fantasy literature also explores issues that most people can relate to from their real lives. Characters in fantasy are often tormented by the deaths of loved ones, and characters are driven by such mundane failings as greed and lust for power. All these things people will eventually encounter in daily life, but it is much more stimulating to examine the difficulties of human existence in a fantasy setting because interesting adventures are also happening in the story.

Readers of fantasy find in their genre a perfect blend of trials to which they can relate and things that are never going to happen to them but are exciting to imagine. Such a captivating combination also makes a great place for people to explore their own thoughts and creativity and write new stories. The fantasy fiction genre will likely always be here.

I am the author of the well-reviewed fantasy fiction series The Rys Chronicles that I spent many years writing and developing. Readers looking for the next great epic fantasy series can download the first book Union of Renegades for free at Brave Luck Books (TM).

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Dragons present a powerful icon of the power of Nature

The image of the dragon has an almost archetypal power to attract people. Dragon beasts are found throughout the myths and legends of cultures around the world. I believe that our human fascination with dragons stems from our prehistoric existence alongside mega fauna. Our oppressive harvesting of Nature was not always the case, and animals held a much larger sway upon the Earth than we did. Mammoths, saber tooth tigers, giant rhinos, super-sized crocodiles, and an endless host of fearsome beasts once populated the Earth, and our early ancestors struggled to survive amid large and predatory neighbors. Even the California valley where I live was once crawling with grizzly bears only 200 years ago.

Dragons emerged into art, legend, and mythology as an expression of the potent forces of Nature that could trick, consume, or bless us, depending on the situation. The image of the dragon hoarding treasure can represent the base emotion of greed. This is illustrated in the story of Siegfried and the dragon Fafnir. Once a dwarf, Fafnir became a dragon or beast after murdering his father and taking his treasure. Long years of guarding the treasure transformed him into a dragon.

Dragons do not always have such malicious meanings. In Chinese traditions, dragons are associated with water and weather, two great natural forces that are embodied by the dragon. The Chinese dragon is also a composite of many animals, such as the snake, carp, stag, tiger, eagle and so forth. In this way the dragon represents animal power in general.

I've studied several dragon legends, and many records indicate that strange dragon-like creatures actually inspired our modern concept of dragons. The winged dragon on the flag of Wales is representative of the persistent folklore about small winged dragons in that land. Actual sightings of small flying serpents with iridescent colors were reported as late as the 19th century. Another amazing account of a Roman army battling a giant snake to cross a river comes from actual history. The snake was reportedly 120 feet long. Exaggeration likely tampered with this story, but even so, it must have been a big snake.

Read more about dragons at my website Dragon Ride: Dragon slayers, legends & serpent dragons. They are a fascinating subject that tug at our deep human consciousness.

Monday, November 10, 2008

How I became a publisher

I’ve always had an interest in business. My parents were successful small business owners, so I had that example to follow. But as a young person, I could not think of what my business would be.

As the years went by, I pursued my desire to write because for essentially inexplicable reasons I am a person able to write books and compelled to write books. I enjoy fantasy the most of all genres, and my contribution to this timeless form of storytelling was The Rys Chronicles epic fantasy series. In addition to fiction writing, I wrote Get Dicey, a nonfiction how to play craps book, based on my years working in Las Vegas as a craps dealer. This writing was all happening during the late 1990s and early 2000s.

As most aspiring writings can confirm, writing books rarely results in gaining a publishing contract. From about 2000 to 2004, I did the usual things: querying agents and publishers. Marketing my fantasy series was problematic because trying to get one book published is hard enough but trying to get a publisher interested in a four-part series from an unknown author is basically not going to happen. My nonfiction work Get Dicey aroused some interest from agents, but ultimately I found that process too frustrating. I totally understand people are busy and I was an unknown author, but I could see no reason to let my aspirations rot on other people’s geologic timescales. Therefore, I reasoned that self publishing was the course I wanted. Self publishing at least allowed me to put my hat in the ring instead of being indefinitely shut out.

Because I was looking for a business to start, I chose publishing, got my business license, invested in my block of ISBNs for my publishing company, typeset and designed my books, and paid to have small print runs made. Despite these achievements, I really had no idea what I was doing. I learned that little publishers, especially self publishers, are almost always locked out of the bookselling business model. I was too small and unknown for distributors to pick up and bookstores stock mostly popular titles that customers will recognize and buy. Thankfully I was able to participate at Amazon and eBay, where I sold books and continue to do so.

At the same time I published my print books, I also made them into ebooks to sell from my website. This turned out to be a fortuitous decision because the ebooks actually started selling. Ebooks have distinct advantages as a way of producing my work. I do not have to invest in costly manufacturing (which accounts for the lower prices I place on them) and I am able to market to readers worldwide because no prohibitive shipping costs are necessary. Going forward, I plan to focus on the ebook business and continue expanding my selection of websites where I make money from advertising. After my inventory of print books is gone, I will switch to offering books in a print on demand model.

Am I making money at any of this? Yes, I have income, but it is only a part time income at this point. I remain very hopeful for my future as I expand my operation and learn to market myself better.

I’m in the middle of writing another epic fantasy series, and when I’m ready to bring this one out to the public, I will benefit from the many things I’ve learned since starting Falbe Publishing in 2004.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Swords - The must have accessory for fantasy fans

I own a sword. My husband and I bought it at a Renaissance faire and displayed it on our wall for a few years. Sadly we've had to lock it away in a gun cabinet (how weird is that?) because we now have two young boys. Having a real sword available to boys while they grew up seemed to be a bad idea. I imagined coming home to a reenactment of Spartacus, and had to put my plans of sword collecting on hold.

I look forward to the day when my boys have moved out and I can pursue again my desire to establish a sword collection. This fascination started when I was kid and my parents took me to the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago. Among a multitude of other amazing collections, I found a hall of Medieval and Renaissance armor and weapons. I remember staring at huge double-handled broadswords and wondering if they had actually been used to kill people. Gruesome, I know, but antique objects always inspire me to imagine their stories.

At about the same time in my life, I became enamored of fantasy fiction. I'm guessing that swords have strong appeal to fantasy readers. I know I find it delightful to have one or more hanging on the wall. Along with being attractive (to my taste) I can fantasize about being someone of a noble lineage whose home is adorned with the weapon heirlooms of her great family.

For people desiring to start a sword collection, I recommend a visit to my website Sword Buying Guides & Symbolism. I'm hoping someday to use the advice at that website myself.

Friday, November 7, 2008

How to keep Christmas from being overwhelming

The holiday season demands a lot from people. You're supposed to be having fun, but usually you are just stuck in traffic as you rush to buy last minute gifts and get to a party on time.

To avoid holiday stress I recommend planning instead of procrastination. Deciding how much you can spend on gifts, or if you can even buy gifts, and then sticking to a budget are the best ways to stay focused when shopping and prevent frustration and wasted time. I do the bulk of my shopping online, often with the aid of print catalogs. I try to decide what I'm buying for people by Thanksgiving and then place my orders by the end of November. This saves me having to fight the crowds and traffic, which form a black hole from which holiday cheer cannot escape. I just published all my top tips for easy Christmas shopping at the website Gifts of the Season.

If you do not want to do any gift shopping, but can handle a trip or two to a grocery store, I recommend baking Christmas cookies to give to friends, relatives, and neighbors. The cost is modest, and people love cookies.

At my Christmas website you can find these easy Christmas cookie recipes:

Basic Christmas cookie dough
Lemon snowflake cookies
Peanut butter thumbprint kiss cookies

Don't dread the holidays or let the season's many pressures get you down. Eat some cookies and worry about your diet with the New Year.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Organic dog flea collar made with essential oils

Your pets might want to go green too. What environmentally minded dog or cat wants a flea collar laden with toxic chemicals? Fortunately an organic and nice smelling solution for flea control exists. I discovered it today while flipping through A Slice of Organic Life edited by Sheherazade Goldsmith.

On page 70, you'll find a recipe for an herbal flea collar.

You will need:

One soft felt or fabric collar

Soak the flea collar in a mixture of:

2 teaspoons pure alcohol
1 tablespoon rosemary essential oil
1 tablespoon lemon verbena essential oil
1 tablespoon lavender essential oil
Oil from 4 garlic capsules

Once the collar is thoroughly saturated, dry it and put it on your pet. It's supposed to last for one month.

As a dog owner, I found this recipe exciting because I've always been troubled by the chemical flea treatments for pets. I publish more dog health information at my website Dogs - Easy to Spoil where the articles can help you spot symptoms of pain and illness in dogs, identify and solve dog allergies, and learn about foods that dogs should avoid. You might be surprised by a couple of them.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

I own a Sony 505 ebook reader and like it very much

When people say that they have no interest in reading an ebook, what they actually mean is that they do not want to sit and read a long work on a computer screen. But with a dedicated ebook reading device, such as the PRS-505 from Sony, reading an ebook becomes an excellent experience. The main difference from a computer screen provided by the Sony ebook reader is the e-ink technology that supports the reading screen. The e-ink system allows for low power usage and (here's the big one) comfortable reading. The text is crisp and clear and can be read without eye strain for long periods in both artificial and natural light. Unlike the screen of a laptop computer, the screen of the Sony ebook reader has no glare in sunlight. Essentially the reading experience will feel exactly like looking at the pages of a book. Indeed, upon becoming absorbed in a novel, I have found my thumb seeking to physically turn a paper page because my brain assumed I was holding a book.

The user interface for the Sony PRS-505 is also easy to learn and use. I was able to quickly figure out the bulk of the system's navigation without consulting the instructions. Figuring out how to move between ebook titles and navigate within ebooks took only moments. The menu choices are obvious and make sense - very refreshing in a gadget! No baffling cell phone weirdness here.
The navigation within an ebook is well laid out. You can access the table of contents and go directly to specific chapters within the ebook. You can also simply "begin" the ebook and page through from the beginning. The nicest feature is the "continue reading" choice, which automatically takes you to the last place you were reading in the ebook. This is exceedingly handy for someone like me who is chronically plagued by gremlins (both real and imagined) that take bookmarks from my paper books.

Additionally, the ebook reader has a bookmark button that allows you to mark any page in the ebook. Bookmarks that you make for any particular title are stored within that title's menu where you can easily access the pages you marked for later review.

The system to interface your ebook reader with your desktop or laptop computer is also easy to use. This ebook library management software allows you to load files from your computer or access the Sony ebook store online. Because you can easily load files from your computer, you are also free to obtain ebook files in compatible formats from any source.

The Sony ebook reader connects to the computer with a USB cord. When connected, the ebook library interface will add the reader to its display and you can easily add ebooks from the computer library to the reader by dragging and dropping the files. In the same way you can remove ebook files from the portable reader by dragging the files back into the library.

About my only criticism of the Sony ebook reader is that the little buttons for advancing the pages lack perfection. I find them a little stiff and the positioning of both of them is not an optimal fit for my hands. This may not be the case for all users because I am admittedly an ergonomically difficult personality. The Sony ebook reader does have two ways to advance pages, so one or both of the options may work well for other users.

As with most specialized gadgets, you will need to know where to get content for your Sony ebook reader. Certainly, Sony has its own ebook store integrated with the system, but other sellers such as and serve the Sony ebook reader market as well. Ebook titles from small publishers and individual artists are also plentiful.

For example, my free fantasy ebook Union of Renegades from Brave Luck Books (TM) is available to download in the Sony compatible ebook format and many other popular formats.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Global Warming - The expensive reality

I try to behave as an environmentalist. It's not easy considering I live in a civilization based on oil and coal, but I work to cut back on my energy use. I bought a bike in the spring and started using it for quick errands. I actually live close to most of the stores I frequent, so eliminating numerous short trips with a gas-burning, toxic-exhaust-spewing vehicle was a step in the right direction. I am attentive to energy efficiency within my home, and I my utility bills tend to be much lower than my peers. My electricity and gas bill for a 3 bedroom house and family of 4 in October was $59.

It's not just the financial savings I enjoy that motivate me to reduce my use of pollution-based energy sources. The severe environmental abuses of the Earth that are resulting in global warming are so serious that it is illogical not to take action to correct the situation. One of the websites I produce is Global Warming Facts and What To Do where I present my research about global warming, its causes, how people and businesses can reduce carbon dioxide output, and I include some well-produced YouTube videos of the appalling damage created by the coal and oil industries. When you look upon mountain top removal coal mining, you'll understand that clean coal is a myth. It does not matter if a coal power plant can supposedly sequester carbon dioxide because the actual mining of coal is turning Appalachia into Mordor and destroying forests in the process. Then, the world's filthy addiction to oil is illustrated in ghastly detail if you take a look at what extracting tar sands oil actually entails. In Alberta, a whole region is being turned into a toxic smouldering ruin for the sake of oil.

These are issues that cannot be ignored. The air we breathe depends on fixing our lifestyles that are out of whack with anything approaching sanity. I'm saving for solar panels. My choice will not be enough to save civilization, but I'm sure I won't be able to afford fossil fuel energy much longer anyway. The economy is just a subset of the environment.