Learning a new OS

Okay, so in yesterday’s post I explained about losing my iPhone 5s and needing a replacement for the weeks before the new iPhones come out. I began with the iPhone 3s, then got the 4s, and—until Wednesday of this week—the 5s. (insert sad face here). I could have gotten a cheap basic phone, but decided to go with AT&T’s Avail 2 Android Smartphone. Here’s a good review link.

AT&T Avail 2 Android Smartphone

AT&T Avail 2 Android Smartphone

I immediately used the Google Play Store (similar to Apple’s App Store) to download anything that wasn’t already installed on the phone. I can’t remember which items were already there, but I configured: Kindle reader, Facebook, Evernote, Audible, and Chrome browser. I set up the email app with my email accounts.

Then I began reading posts on Apple’s forum about syncing Calendar events and Contacts. It’s too bad there is such technical polarization between the Apple and Google worlds. They could make this a whole lot easier if they wanted to. Some forum posters said syncing couldn’t be done, but another person said he’d been using Smoothsync successfully. I purchased the two Smoothsync for iCloud apps developed by Marten Gajda (one for Calendar, one for Contacts – about $5 total), and also downloaded two free “JB Workaroud” apps—by the same developer—which evidently solve some problems with the Android Jelly Bean OS.

Once installed, I launched Smoothsync for iCloud Calendar and gave it my Apple/iCloud login and password. Then the same for Smoothsync for iCloud Contacts. The apps sync directly with iCloud, not the Mac, so there is no cable-to-Mac connection required. All my Calendar events soon showed up, including a new invitation for a dinner. The only thing I have to remember is when creating an event on the phone, the calendar defaults to my Google Calendar, which I don’t use, and which doesn’t show up on my Mac and iPad. I have to change the calendar before saving the new event (it can’t be changed after).

While Calendar seems to be working, Contacts are a little weird. I have 637 contacts in my Mac’s Address Book, but 874 on the phone. Some of the extra contacts appear to be coming from my Gmail contacts, and others seem to be from my email history on Gmail—people I’ve mailed to, but not added to my Contacts. Not sure, but so far not a big deal. I have what I need—and more!

I haven’t yet figured out how to transfer music from iTunes onto my Android phone. iTunes is at least partially proprietary, and it doesn’t play well with Android. Still, if I wanted to badly enough, I could get most of my music transferred. Since my main goal is to survive until the next iPhone release, I’m not sure I’ll bother. After all, that’s why Marten Gajda named two of his apps “…workaround.” Syncing an Android (developed by Google) phone to the Apple universe is a series of kluges. They work…sort of. It would be far better to use only Google for contacts, calendar, photos, music, etc., and be out of the Apple world entirely.

Another thought: If I change my Apple ID/Account password, I’ll have to re-login with these syncing apps. No need to do that on an iPhone. A little thing, but something that allows me to keep working instead of fiddling.

As for the phone hardware part of this, the review touches on a lot of things, and it comes down pretty heavy on the inadequacies. However, I’m not planning to live with this phone for months or years; if I was, I’d have bought a more expensive and powerful model. Personally, I find the phone slow. Apps take up to 15-20 seconds to launch sometimes, and any background process such as an app update slows everything to a crawl for a bit. Email downloads of the latest messages take the longest, and Facebook sometimes never opens at all.

The camera is a barely adequate 2 megapixel model (the salesman told me it was a 5 megapixel) with video. A practice shot in my garage under good overhead lighting showed a lot of graininess and lack of detail on closeup. See below. I’ll have to think twice whether I’ll use this. Probably will dig out my point-and-shoot Canon instead to document the progress on my old Ford. Also, connecting the phone to the Mac with the USB cable produces an disk error message, and doesn’t give you the option to treat the phone as a camera so you can just transfer the photos. I’m sure there is a way to do this—perhaps with additional software—but I simply emailed the photos to myself and opened them on the Mac.

Bottom line: If you need an emergency fill-in for your lost iPhone, this inexpensive smartphone might meet your temporary need; it certainly will do for me. But I wouldn’t want to live with this long term. The box included a pretty good manual, wall charger with separate cable (USB to micro USB), and the SIM card if the phone is used for the no-contract, pay-as-you-go plans. It would help if you’re at all familiar with Android phones, but I had never used one and, with the manual and a quick search on Google’s android central.com, I did fine. If you run into trouble, just ask any twelve year old for help.

32 Ford Photo

 

PS: Yes, this is a photo of my 1932 Ford Roadster Pickup in my garage. It’s been in our family since about 1939, and is in the final stages of restoration.

iPhone Dependence

I admit, I’m one of those Apple iPhone diehards. But there’s a reason: we have Macs and iPads at home, and we sync our Contacts, Calendars, Bookmarks, Photos, etc., through iCloud. For years I struggled with Palm Treos, trying to get basic sync to work. It DID work at times for a few months, then I’d have a 6-8 hour day trying to get it to work again. I switched to an iPhone and never looked back.

But this past Wednesday brought disaster. Okay, nothing like hurricane Sandy, mudslides, floods, or earthquakes, but certainly a wrinkle in the smooth fabric of life: my year-old iPhone 5s sank to the bottom of Whiskeytown Lake. Kayak accident—”I swear it wasn’t my fault, officer.” The lake has a max depth of 145 feet and we were crossing the middle, so Find My iPhone couldn’t help me on this one.

I depend on my iPhone for many things: writing ideas, medical history, email, website accounts, audio and e-books, my music library, calendar, contacts, reminders, shopping lists, and a host of less important but still useful things, such as my Starbuck’s account, Fandango, Facebook, weather, maps, and Wikipedia. Oh, yeah, almost forgot phone calls and texting.

So, what to do. The new iPhone 6 model(s) are rumored to be announced around September 9th and released a couple weeks later, about 6 weeks from now. I didn’t want to get a replacement for the 5s model when I could wait for the new, shiny, faster one, but I really didn’t want to be off the grid that long. So, off to the AT&T store to explore my options.

Found out I qualify for the AT&T Next program. I can use that to get one of the new phones when they are available. I’m not a big fan of that program (it’s a little more expensive than the standard upgrade plan), but it will work for me in this case. Then the helpful store rep suggested I purchase a no-contract, Go Phone at Target, Best Buy, or Walmart, and use that during the gap. Off to Target.

At Target, I could choose a plain phone, but I could also get an AT&T Avail 2 basic smartphone running the Android OS for only $55 (plus a micro SD card for more storage). There were more expensive options as well.

AT&T Avail 2 Android Smartphone

AT&T Avail 2 Android Smartphone

 

I zipped back to the AT&T store with my new smartphone and, in only a few minutes, I had a new SIM card installed (for an existing account, you can’t use the one that comes with the no-contract phones), tested voicemail, and was on my way home.

My next task was figuring out the phone and Android. Could I get my Macintosh Contacts and Calendar to sync or at least download? Solutions for that and phone review in tomorrow’s post.

 

A Nostalgic Epiphany – Missing Books

Posted: March 20, 2014 in Books

Nostalgia 101

I miss buying books.

 

Buying Books

Oh, I still buy books. These days, I prefer reading e-books, so about 99% are digital. In fact, I have a very difficult time finishing a printed book. It gets left beside my bed or someplace else where I don’t think about it. The best books are those I have with me all the time on my e-reader of choice: my iPhone.

However, I went into a Barnes & Noble last week and stopped right inside where the tables of new releases are set up. Stacks of new mysteries, suspense, and thrillers beckoned. A table of young adult reads screamed Buy me! And I experienced a sudden nostalgia for my youth when I would enter a bookstore every couple of months searching for any new releases by my favorite authors. I devoured books, and the wait for the next story was interminable, building a deep longing until I found a new Ray Bradbury, Harlan Ellison, Robert A. Heinlein, or Edgar Rice Burroughs. Or in my middle-grade days, a new Tom Swift Jr. or Mr. Bass book.

What I miss is that anticipation. The wait. The hunt. The success!

And the anticipation didn’t end with the buy. It built all the way home, until I could finally find a quiet place, open my newest possession, and fall into a new and utterly fascinating world. Television couldn’t compete with the images these authors painted with words.

It’s just not the same with online buying, whether print or digital. Getting a new book in 60 seconds is great, but it comes with a price—a loss.

I stood in front of that table at Barnes & Noble, thumbing the gleaming covers, taking in the stimulating smell of ink, paper, and imagination, and felt the loss that it isn’t like it used to be.

Chiquitita

Love to hear your thoughts on the changing world of buying books and reading.

Photo Credits: Cindi via CompfightHistorias Visuales via Compfight

Free on Kindle – Perilous Cove

Posted: February 7, 2014 in Marketing

Perilous Cove Free on Kindle, Feb 8, 9, 10!

Perilous Cove will be available as a free download for Kindle reading devices and apps Saturday through Monday on Amazon. Please tell your friends! The goal is to have as many downloads as possible so the book’s ranking increases in the Amazon search pages.

Perilous Cove Novel ebook cover

3rd book of Perilous Safety Series now available!

Find it at Smashwords (for all reader hardware), and Amazon so far. More retailers coming soon.

I’m finishing up the print layout, and that edition will be shipping in February.

All she wants is some place safe.

All she wants is some place safe.

Cover for Desperation Falls

Posted: January 22, 2014 in Desperation Falls
Here is the final cover for Desperation Falls, Book 3 of the Perilous Safety Series.

The ebook will release on January 31st for Kindle. A print version will be available in February.

I wish I’d had this cover done when I was writing the book. Very inspiring! Great job by graphic artist, Rob Henslin.

Desperation Falls

Desperation Falls

Accurate Reviews

One reader said they couldn’t get into my book, Perilous Cove, because there was too much killing and violence. The person gave it a 1-star rating. So, they didn’t read the book, but felt qualified to review it.

Photo Credit - Rich Bullock

I’ve done a lot of writing since Perilous Cove, so my memory might be faulty but, if I remember right, no one is actually killed in the book (although a couple of people should be if there was justice in the world).

I can understand a person not liking a story because of too much violence, and Perilous Cove does start with a bang. However, I do wonder why the person bought it or got it as a free download in the first place. After all, it is a suspense novel!

Good thing they didn’t read and review Storm Song.

And I have to wonder, if Perilous Cove had “too much killing and violence,” what would the appropriate amount be? Half as much? Thirty percent?

Hmmm. Questions to ponder as I work on Desperation Falls, Book 3 of the Perilous Safety Series.

Progressing on Desperation Falls

Posted: September 9, 2013 in Uncategorized

Falls

 

After a few months break editing a terrific inspirational memoir, I’m back at work on Desperation Falls, Book 3 of the Perilous Safety Series. Teal Kinshaw is stealing food from Lena’s cabin at Storm Lake, California, and Lena has just been introduced to Alex Storm:

Then she stopped breathing altogether as a man stepped forward from where he’d been hidden from view on the other side of the refrigerator. He had close-cut brown hair, hard eyes that took her in with a head-to-foot sweep, and a face that looked like someone had taken the flat of a shovel to it—more than once. This was a man who’d lived a hard life. Or still did. 

Still, there was something compelling about his dark eyes, the way they scanned her features from hair to chin, then lingered on her mouth. If there had been a sketch artist handy, Lena had no doubt Alex Stone could have given a perfect description of her. She reminded herself to breathe.

Lena knew before she accepted his outstretched hand it was a bad idea. She should have backed two steps out of the kitchen and fled to her Jeep. However, doing that and maintaining any semblance of decorum seemed remote, and she didn’t want to hurt Mrs. H’s feelings. Still, it might have been the safer choice.

Stone’s hand wrapped around hers, surprising her. It felt like a bricklayer’s might, toughened by years of working with … well, stone. Hands told a lot about a person. They could be soft, hard, sweaty, sullied by white-collar crime, trembling, or rough. 

Stone’s were strong enough to kill.

    Ahh, it’s good to be back at Storm Lake. I can’t wait to see what happens next!!

Worst Opening Lines

Posted: August 15, 2013 in Craft

The Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest 2013 – Winners!

The winners of the Bulwer-Lytton worst opening line contest for 2013 were announced awhile back. Bulwer-Lytton wrote the famous first line: “It was a dark and stormy night…” which went straight downhill from there.

Now the contest draws some of the most creative writers who work to construct the very worst of book beginnings. The overall winner this year is Chris Wieloch, from Brookfield, Wisconsin, and he deserves all the credit he can get for:

She strutted into my office wearing a dress that clung to her like Saran Wrap to a sloppily butchered pork knuckle, bone and sinew jutting and lurching asymmetrically beneath its folds, the tightness exaggerating the granularity of the suet and causing what little palatable meat there was to sweat, its transparency the thief of imagination.

If you dare, read the top entries and winners for all the categories by following this link.

They even reward the best Purple Prose:

He had a way with women that was at first endearing, then gradually engendered caution and finally outright rejection, like potato salad at a summer picnic. 

Penned by Paul Sutcliffe, Pittsburgh, PA

I marvel at the skill—nay the wily wretchedness—of these individuals. Congratulations to all!

New Smashwords Survey

Posted: May 9, 2013 in Publishing
Tags: ,

There is no better source for information in the indie publishing word than Smashwords’ Mark Coker. In his latest blog post, Mark provides data and analysis on trends in self-publishing. He covers everything from title length to price points to download stats.

Check out the Smashwords Annual Survey here.

And, as part of my ongoing marketing efforts, I’ll be offering the ebook version of my book, Perilous Cove, as a free download on Kindle, only at Amazon, on Sunday and Monday, May 12 & 13. My goal is to have as many downloads as possible, so tell all your friends! The more downloads, the more it helps my sales ranking, so please download it even if you’ve read it.