Abominations Magazine #1 Published

The debut issue of Abomination Magazine

My writing doesn’t seem to be going all that badly of late, which besides being nice for me makes a nice break from politics-themed blogs.

Anyway, I announced last month that Abomination Magazine had accepted one of my stories for their debut issue, and today I can tell you that said issue has been published. It is currently available for Kindle at the frankly bargain price of £1.30. And for that you get a selection of other delectable stories.

My own offering is entitled “Whispers in the Skin Gardens“, and without giving too much away it’s a dark SF story, about biotech gone slightly mad.

If you buy and read it (which, of course, you should) I would love it if you’d let me know what you think. And if you want to put a review on Amazon, that’d be great too.

But above all, please enjoy. And don’t have nightmares.

Night Terrors II Available on Kindle

Night Terrors II edited by Theresa Dillo and Marc Ciccarone, and featuring my short story "Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep"

The last couple of weeks have been rather politics-heavy on my blog, and with the May elections edging ever closer, that’s only going to get worse, honestly. So it’s nice, occasionally, to be able to break from the theme tune every once in a while with something a little different.

I’ve already announced Blood Bound Books’ Night Terrors II anthology being released, but now it is finally available on Amazon (sort of…) and on Kindle. Which is awesome, because there are some brilliant authors in this collection- and no, I’m not refering to myself. Though my short story “Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep” does feature amongst the offerings.

At £4.57 for the digital format, I reckon it’s a bargain (well I would, wouldn’t I?). So since it’s Sunday, why not treat yourself, and settle down in a comfortable spot with some good old-fashioned horror stories?

And if you do, please let me know what you think. I’m always happy to hear feedback.

Idiots on the Internet

I think I must be getting old...

I don’t usually do this. In fact, I usually shy away from exactly this. But yes, I’m actually going to do a blog post about someone being stupid on the internet. Actually, several people. Specifically, in the customer reviews section of the new keyboard-less Kindle on the Amazon UK website.

The newest addition to the Kindle family has caught my interest because it’s a cheaper, stripped down version of the e-reader I have been in love with since last Christmas, when I got mine (a keyboard-ed 3G version, currently retailing at £149). My thinking is that the £89 version, lacking the keyboard, would be perfect for a number of loved ones come the festive period.

So, naturally, I’ve been doing research. I started out with the reviews posted on the Amazon site itself, though I’d point out that they alone would by no means sway my opinion. I went for the 1-star reviews first, thinking I’d see what the drawbacks were. Except, all I learnt from reading them was that there are an awful lot of particularly stupid people with internet connections and too much free time on their hands.

The majority of the complaints were all along the same lines; it’s too expensive. Now, since I strongly suspect few, if any, of them had actually bought (and thus used) the damn thing, they seemed to largely be basing their shrill, harpy-like objections on one thing: the price on the US site.

See, in the US (as the denizens of the 1-star reviews section will gladly tell you), customers can buy the basic level Kindle for $79. At current exchange rates, this would be £50. Which, as the reviewers correctly point out, is less than £89.

However, what they appear to have missed is that the $79 version on the US site has an extra feature: adverts. Yes, when you turn the $79 Kindle off, instead of the pictures of assorted authors which you see on any other Kindle, you see paid-for advertisements. From what I can see, the UK £89 version doesn’t have this feature, so it would be more comparable to the $109 advert-free version.

Now, converted directly this would be equivalent to £69, which is still about £20 in difference, but seems fairly acceptable given that a) Amazon needs to make a profit, and b) prices are never directly equivalent on anything. Ever.

But the review that takes the biscuit comes from a certain D. Bentley. Mr Bentley manages to construct a more detailed argument than the wallet-clutching “too expensive” brigade, and trip himself up on said detail. His first complaint is the lack of a physical manual. For an e-reader. I’m not precisely sure what he bought the Kindle for, but I guess we can assume it wasn’t reading. My own, more expensive Kindle, didn’t come with a paper manual either, and you didn’t see me climbing the walls. Why? Because the manual is preloaded onto the bloody thing!

His second complaint is that he couldn’t get it to connect to his wireless router. He says:

…when I tried to connect it to my router – nothing! A vicious circle of connect – try again – connection failed. Finally, I don’t know how, another screen came up telling me to enter my password for the router. What password!! I don’t have one and never had that I remember.

Can you see what the problem here was? His wireless network was quite obviously secured with a password, which his computer had saved to more conveniently connect him to the internet. Hence he had forgotten the password, which rather than being his fault for not writing it down somewhere, was Amazon’s fault. Of course.

Perhaps I’m being a little harsh, but I’m genuinely astounded at just how incapable some people are. Quite how he expected that his Kindle would come out of the box ready connected to his wireless network is mystifying.

The result of all of this is that I’ve learnt pretty much nothing about the new Kindle, other than the fact that it will confound anyone without the slightest idea of how technology works. I’ve also learnt that a healthy section of the people who post reviews on Amazon are idiots, and should not be listened to at all. Which is a worthwhile, if stroke-inducing, lesson I suppose.

Rekindling My Kindle Customer Services rose admirably to the challenge of a small, barely perceptible crack in my Kindle.

I got my Kindle for Christmas last year, and was almost instantly transformed from a sceptic into a devotee. It will, my girlfriend and my family will testify, goes with me everywhere, and I’ve spent countless journeys reading novels, novellas, magazines, newspapers on it. And, of course, keeping plugged into the internet through it’s unlimited free 3G access.

So, imagine my distress when I discovered recently a crack in the plastic casing, approximately 1.5cm in length, running diagonally downwards from the bottom right-hand corner of the screen. And it’s not, before you say it, down to mistreatment. It lives in it’s protective case, either in my hand, on my desk, or in a bag.

At this stage, it’s purely a cosmetic fault, but it’s still worrying. It could develop further, and lead to a problem which actually prevents me from using the Kindle. Which would leave me somewhat marooned.

But have no fear, readers! Yesterday morning, I called Amazon customer services, expecting a fight. Each Kindle comes with a year warranty, but I was expecting to hear a thousand reasons why it wasn’t covered, why I’d have to pay if I wanted it fixed.

Not so. I was on the phone for roughly three minutes, and didn’t even have to make the call (I put my number into the website, and they called me). At the end of the call, Amazon had dispatched a replacement to me, and sent me an email about how to return the broken one. The replacement arrived this morning, in the post. So I have a new Kindle, less than 24 hours after calling customer services.

That is fantastic customer service, in my book. Too often I use this blog to criticise and complain, but here I take my hat off to Amazon. I’m sure other people have plenty of bugbears and horror stories about Amazon, but I’ve had a great experience of them.

And now, my Kindle has been rekindled!

Brave New Worlds…

Rather a sleek bit of kit, if I do say so myself.

Some of you may remember, earlier this year, I posted a blog entry decrying the rise of the e-format of fiction. Well, brace yourself for a hypocritical U-turn worthy of the Tory/Lib Dem coalition…

I got a Kindle for Christmas. Before you start breaking out the effigies, let me explain. My principle reason for this was academic. As a law student, I have to read a frankly stupid number of academic articles per week, and since reading from a computer screen gives me a headache I end up printing them out. Which costs a fair bit. Thankfully, I can instead download them for free and read them on my shiny new Kindle, without headaches. Primarily because it isn’t shiny.

But I’d been lying if I tried to claim that as the only reason I wanted one. After all, it’s not “Treason in the Age of Terrorism” I’ve been reading for the last few days, but Gary McMahon’s “Rough Cut”. Which I highly recommend, by the way.

No, I’m also very much interested in the fiction on offer. To be completely honest, I’m a little disappointed with the price of some e-books. Unless you’re after fairly underground stuff, or standard e-reader fodder by Dan Brown or Stieg Larsson, then you’re unlikely to pay any less than you would for the print version. Which seems a little odd. I mean, less needs to be spent on the physical production. So does more money go to the author? Doubtful, although if it does I withdraw all criticism.

But anyway, the actual Kindle itself is a pleasure to read. Light enough to hold for long periods of time without tiring, a screen clear enough to read in sunshine, and a tantalising selection of books at my fingertips. Not to mention that, as the more expensive 3G version, it also serves as mobile internet access. And all without the Apple-ness of an iPad.

So yes, I’m converted. I’m not swearing off paper books, and for my favourites I still want physical copies. Digital will always lack the enticing smell, feel and general experience of reading a paper- or hard-back book, but if digital is the future, then there are much worse places it could be headed than the Kindle.

Plus, I can get the Guardian on it!