Tag Archives: Twitter

Best book apps: Part 3

To my regular readers, please accept (another) apology about the lag time between posts here. I’ve been helping my wife in her new business venture, working on several writing projects and generally neglecting this blog, sorry.

To honour an earlier promise, I need to point you all to some of my favourite book and reading apps for readers of a YA and up vintage. Previous posts have highlighted fantastic apps for junior fiction and middle fiction readers. Today we’re looking at apps intended for those of us slightly longer in the tooth.

Just in case you’re arriving at this post cold via a Google search, I should probably highlight the difference between interactive book apps and reading apps such as Kindle and iBooks. These latter apps let you purchase books via Amazon and the Apple e-book stores respectively and store a large number of titles, PDF documents and other reading materials. They’re like personal libraries that travel with you in the electronic cloud hovering above us all. One of the advantages of apps like iBooks and Kindle is that you can easily transfer books between devices such as, say, a phone and iPad or a Kindle e-reader and iPad.

Most of the titles you buy and download are simply tap-to-turn-the-page e-books. However, there are items within the iBookstore that have a limited degree of interactivity; there’s more noise and movement than a printed book. For instance, the Beatles’ Yellow Submarine picture book contains embedded animation clips and interactive elements within some illustrations. Non-fiction books such as Cadel Evans: The Long Road to Paris, are enhanced with video clips of interviews and other footage.

You can buy an edition of George RR Martin’s Game of Thrones that contains occasional clips from an audio book of the series and links to (very) brief biographical information on the vast cast of characters. Personally, I think series like Game of Thrones and Lord of the Rings will be where the iPad could really strut its stuff. Imagine if you at any point during reading you could activate a map of Middle Earth or Westeros showing the whereabouts of all the key characters, movement of armies and so on. Imagine how well this could work for non-fiction military history books and the like. Bring it on, developers and publishers.

The iBook app lets you download samples of books in its store, just as you can do with Amazon. You can also find free user guides to most Apple products.

I also regularly use an app called Comixology that has become a personal library of comics and graphic novels. This is a personal favourite because it lets me enlarge panels within comics and study the artwork much more closely than a print publication. You can read or view each work as laid out on the pages in print form or panel-by-panel (by double-tapping once), which has the effect of almost creating your own animation. I’ve downloaded classics like Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns or Joss Whedon’s Astonishing X-Men series and seen them in a whole new light. I’m now working through the Doonesbury back catalogue.

In contrast to these ‘library’ apps, interactive book apps focus on one title only and offer a higher level of interaction between reader, story and device. The illustrations are likely to be lush and contain extras such as sound effects and movement. There may be ‘extras’ that detail the history of the book or the life of the author. A good example is Frankenstein, by Dave Morris, which is adapted from Mary Shelley’s work and enhanced with old anatomical drawings that add to the mood of the novel. (I’m aware of a Diary of Anne Frank app that is attracting great reviews but haven’t checked it out myself yet.)

Other apps worth a look include:

AppStart – This is a brief guide to essential apps, by AppAdvice.com. If you’re new to the iPad, this is for you.

Instapaper – This app lets you store online articles and webpages for reading later. It’s great for research purposes, particularly if you’re surfing newspaper sites that update regularly and offer unreliable search tools. Some web browsers now offer this ‘read later’ functionality, so Instapaper may be on the way out.

Flipboard – This app takes your life and makes it a magazine. You can peruse your Facebook, Twitter or Instagram feeds, or a vast array of curated speciality interests, as if they’re in a magazine published just for you. It looks great but can be slow to download so avoid this if you’re away from wi-fi. Another app, Zite, offers similar functionality, skewed toward filtering websites and topics you’re interested in, sans the white noise of social media.

I’ve also used the Overdrive app to download e-books from public libraries. I hesitate to recommend this though, as it’s not user friendly when getting registered, up and running.

I should probably offer a warning. If you overdo the comics and e-books you might find your device quickly runs out of space. I speak from experience and now prune regularly.

One last thing – if you have any favourite interactive book apps, I’d love to hear about them. Oh, and my second novel, Five Parts Dead, is available via Kindle, iBooks and other e-book stores.

Treasure trove of tips on writing

Buried within all the trash-squawking and self-promotion on Twitter are some absolute gems. One of the best Twitter feeds I’ve found if you have a creative bent, write or simply enjoy the beautiful and unusual, comes from @brainpicker.

Tweets from @brainpicker point to the Brain Pickings website edited/curated by Maria Popova, an “interestingness hunter-gatherer and curious mind at large”. What a brilliant job description. Every creative writer should aspire to something similar. If you’re not curious and actively seeking the interesting, you’re unlikely to be finding tales that people will want to read.

I’m late to the Brain Pickings party so you may have read their treasure trove of tips on writing already. Even if this is the case, they’re worth revisiting.

You can find 8 great tips from Kurt Vonnegut here. I particularly liked #5.

Zadie Smith’s 10 Rules of Writing can be found here. I have #1 covered but need to work on the rest.

Neil Gaiman’s 8 simple (but not easy) tips are here.

Incidentally, while I’m on writing tips, several wordly friends have referred me to Stephen King’s On Writing. I’d already downloaded the sample chapters but must get to the rest.

And if you’re cool with writing tips being as blunt and brutal as a Deadwood script (but funnier), check out Chuck Wendig’s 250 Things You Should Know About Writing.

After a prolonged word drought, I’m back to yarn spinning and telling tall tales. I’m at Neil Gaiman’s rule #2: “Put one word after another. Find the right word, put it down.”

That feels like progress.

Flash Fiction

As noted in my previous post, writing time has been rare for me this year. Perhaps that’s why I’m so attracted to the flash fiction site, Melbourne by Dusk.

That and I’ve always liked looking for the unspoken stories in photographs and images. MbD feels like a place where those stories are whispered for the first time.

It’s also a place where anyone can submit a story or photograph and potentially be published. Those opportunities aren’t as common as they should be.

Here’s another of my submissions.

And here are some of the combinations I’ve particularly enjoyed since the site launched.

He kissed me…

It’s probably just the angle…

The wind fell oddly still.

One of the things I notice from authors I follow on Twitter is how important it is to be ‘writing fit’. Just as you can’t expect to get on a bike for the first time in months and ride at your best, I can’t expect to cut myself off from creative writing and then just fall back into it when the moment arises. I need to keep practising, even if only in short bursts. I need to be trying things. Letting ideas emerge to see how resilient they are. Flash fiction is a great way to flex the creative muscles.

As to other stuff going down,

– As we had to cancel our planned Japan trip, my mob is heading to the Top End soonish instead. Bring on the sun and fun.
– Not many sleeps to the Tour de France. Kind of wish I hadn’t read this book on the eve of my favourite sporting event. For those of you who may consider reading it, the writing/translation/editing is lack lustre. But the contents are mind-boggling.
– I now have a window beside my desk at work. OK, it mostly overlooks air conditioning units and a massive Ikea sign but it’s still a window onto the world. It’s through watching the world that we find the stories we want to tell.
– Speaking of which, if you didn’t catch Go Back To Where You Came From on SBS last week, please check it out online. Many stories. Many tears. Great TV.
– Last but not least, I’m aware that this blog is broken – randomly vanishing and reappearing. Maybe it’s a metaphor for my year. Either way, we’re looking into it.

Spasmodic blogging

Yes, Thunder Road has been beckoning… but being drowned out amid the clamour of other goings on.

Firstly, the floods. As with the February 2009 bushfires, I’ve found it difficult to focus on other tasks with this disaster going on. The vast areas underwater in Queensland, New South Wales and now Victoria are almost impossible to comprehend. Lives and landscapes are being rewritten. The repercussions will be substantial and ongoing, long after the stories fade from front pages and current affairs bulletins.

I followed the flooding on Twitter, where citizen reporting came to the fore. As a journo, I know that covering a flood is exceedingly difficult. Once roads are closed you need air transport – and then it’s not always possible to find a safe landing site. Water takes out power supplies and telephone lines. Mobile phones have limited battery time. Making contact with witnesses (and newsrooms) becomes nigh on impossible. In this instance, Tweeting made everyone with a charged phone or web access a reporter. There were constant updates with the #qldfloods hashtag when media organisations couldn’t tell the whole story. It was compelling to watch.

I follow various authors on Twitter, several of whom are Queensland based. I watched as authors began auctioning their books, services or company for flood-charities and I’ve jumped on board the Queensland Writers’ Centre initiative, Writers on Rafts, to offer any support I can. It’s brilliant to see the writing community pitching in this way and a lesson in how things could have been done after the fires. (I know of several authors who did unpaid book tours after the fires but there was no co-ordinated charity effort like this that I know of.)

Shifting from floods, I’m on the cusp of entering a minimum six-month project at the website where I work as content manager. I’m reviewing job applications and doing other preparatory work and wondering if I’ll get to be an author at all in coming months.

That’s a bit of a bummer as the ideas have been coming thick and fast lately and I have several projects under way in one form or another. Maybe I need a renaissance-style patron to keep the wolves from the door. With a new year under way I do feel the (self-imposed) pressure to finish a new book. Realistically, that’s a long way off. And Five Parts Dead isn’t even six months old yet. Chillax, Tim.

For those of you that follow the saga of Mr Bump on these pages, the good news is that he’s still in one piece – touch wood – with one public holiday on the near horizon. Hmmmm. Better assume a crash-landing position.

Hopefully 2011 will find its rhythm and semi-regular blogging will resume soon.

Reading: The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson, the Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins
Listening to: The Jezabels, Bruce Springsteen’s Darkness on the Edge of Town and The Promise
Watching: Mad Men series 1, Man Vs Wild re-runs, Modern Family re-runs.
Mood: Pensive.