Curious Rat

I Wrote a Novel By Hand →

I wrote a piece today for The Cramped about writing my third novel, LUMINOUS. I wrote the whole first draft with nothing but pen and paper. It was a process. I have the hand cramps to prove it.

The biggest thrill came from watching the back of the notebook get thinner. I use Scrivener‘s word goal tool religiously, but a meter turning from red to green doesn’t have the same effect as holding a stack of pages in my hands and saying, “I did this.”

Hope you enjoy it!

Young Readers Prefer Paper to Ebooks →

ᔥ The Bookseller:

The 16-24 generation is still firmly in favour of print books, new research shows, with 73% saying they prefer print over digital or audio formats.

Exclusive research conducted by Voxburner for The Bookseller showed that while nearly three-quarters of young people said they prefer the print form, only 27% prefer e-books and 31% said they don’t buy e-books at all.

The survey questioned more than 900 young people in the UK about their book habits.

Not sure what the stats are in the U.S., but I wouldn’t be surprised if they were similar. The reason?

“They told us they like to touch books and see the creases in the spine, but for bargain-driven young people the conversion to e-books will most likely be determined by price.”

That first part threw me because I thought kids didn’t care so much for the tactile experience of books. However, based on my limited anecdata from BookCon, it was clear paper books had wide appeal—easier for authors to sign, no up-front cost of a dedicated reader or tablet, and easily lendable to friends. In fact, I see kids reading paper books on the subway every day while the adults read on Kindles and iPads.


When it comes to paperbacks, 37% of young people said they would pay £5.00-£7.00 and 35% said they would pay £3.00-£5.00. However, they are less willing to pay as much for e-books, with 43% saying they should cost less than £3.00 and 27% saying they should cost between £3.00 and £5.00.

Many young readers didn’t agree with spending more than a few dollars on an ebook, so for the money, paper books held more value, and since 81% of respondents paid for their own books, they felt their money was better spent on something tangible. Something they truly owned.

One look at who they named as their favorite novelists and it’s clear they weren’t just going to buy $.99 ebooks by unknown indie novelists. These kids were deep into traditionally published authors, like JK Rowling and Nicholas Sparks.

This isn’t an “ah HA!” or “gotcha!” moment for me just because I’m a personal fan of paper over digital, but it certainly made me go, “huh.”

I’m Good

TRIGGER WARNING: This piece contains the usual masturbatorial self-introspection and ultimate enlightenment found in all personal essays about technology and how it affects the author. Don’t worry—at least I’m not droning on about changing my social media habits.

I watched yesterday’s Apple keynote. I watch almost all of them. As disillusioned as I am with the tech blogosphere, I’m still a huge fan of technology and, in particular, technology coming out of Apple. [INSERT LIST OF APPLE DEVICES I OWN TO SHOW I’M QUALIFIED TO DISCUSS APPLE, EVEN THE NEGATIVE ASPECTS.]

But as my life changes, my needs change even more. I’ve been clamoring for a bigger iPhone ever since my wife got her Lumia 1020. I’m 6’3” and have large, Mansfieldian hands, so the iPhone 6 Plus is exactly what I want from a phone. My MacBook Air is a tool for searching the web and running Scrivener. I no longer need the horespower (or footprint) afforded by the 15” MacBook Pro. I don’t use my iPad as much as I’d like, though I expect that to change with iOS 8 and eventually, Scrivener for iOS.

The Apple Watch on the other hand is not on my radar. Yes, it’s beautiful. Yes, it’s futuristic. Yes, it’s a gleaming achievement in the art of telling people what they want, but it’s not for me. Not to peer too deeply into my navel, I’m trying to be less reachable. I enjoy checking Twitter throughout the day, but on my schedule. I love that I have numerous ways to communicate with people all over the world, but only when I want to. When I come home, I like to leave my phone on my desk and spend time with my wife and son. Let the notifications chime. Let the calls buzz. I can’t hear them and I love it that way.

An Apple Watch, however, is an obligation. If I’m at work and it dings with an @ mention or a new text, I’m going to want to answer it. It’s going to disrupt my concentration. And if I’m with my family, I don’t want to be bothered. It’ll be pretty hard to ignore something vibrating against my wrist. The accusatory alert tone is going to ring in my ears and urge me to respond. It isn’t something I can just turn off or leave on my desk and go about my day. That’s not its intended purpose. It was designed to keep the user in the loop and honestly, I’m done being in it.

I write first drafts of my fiction in analog formats—on typewriters and with pen and paper—so I’m not fed with a glut of notifications or compelled to initiate some of my own while I’m writing. My phone goes into airplane mode and I’m pulled into the words on the page. Being able to shut out the world around me goes a long way for my sanity. I embrace quiet. I prefer solitude. I’m an introvert…and I have a general disdain for other people.

I’ll leave the $350 price tag alone for another day 1. People will spend it, though if the iPhone and iPad are any indication, first generation Apple products don’t exactly have the longest lifespan, so I’d encourage those hell bent on getting one to wait for version two.

I know I’m in the minority when it comes to tech. I want just enough to get my work done without it getting in my way. A standard watch doesn’t get in my way 2. In fact, owning several different watches seems more flexible to me than one smartwatch. I can switch up the styles to go with a particular suit or outfit. There is no “one style fits all” for me. I may be able to change the face and the band on the Apple Watch, but it’ll still be the same device on my wrist, and no matter how much 14k gold Apple crams into it, it still won’t have the cachet of a Rolex or Omega.

But I’m not here to disparage the Apple Watch. It looks great. It’s exciting. It’s pushing a niche product category populated by limited and poorly executed devices from Samsung and Motorola into the mainstream. People will want this device. They’ll line up around the block for it. I’m definitely going to check one out at the Apple Store when it’s finally released, but I’m not going to buy one. At least, not yet. Maybe one day all our communication will occur on the watch and I’ll have no choice but to buy one. Or perhaps its uses will extend beyond the obvious and I’ll actually become more engaged with the world by owning one. We’ll see.

Until then, I don’t need it. I’ll admire it from afar. I’ll probably feel a twinge of jealousy at people who get one, but I’m not sold on it. The phone is more than enough for me. I’m good.

  1. For that money I can buy a very good analog watch that will outlast my next several computers. 

  2. I’m looking forward to everyone who used to say, “I don’t wear a watch. I just pull out my phone to check the time,” to now say unironically, “I don’t have to pull out my phone anymore. I can check the time on my wrist!” 

A Son Helps His Mother Fulfill Her Publishing Dream →

Stryker Thompson’s mother always wanted to be a writer, but had to shelve her manuscript to care for her family when he was very young. Before he graduated high school, he decided to do something special for her to show his appreciation:

He casually asked his mom to send him files of her chapters, one by one. Maybe he’d read them, but he wasn’t promising.

Of course, he read every one, in the evenings and on weekends, in between studying for seven AP classes and serving as captain of the debate team and pondering German philosophers Nietzsche and Heidegger.

He fixed typos, added page breaks and indents, deleted extra spaces between words. “I got into a groove,” he said, “but it was very meticulous work.”

Warning: this story will leave you teary-eyed. You can buy Petrie’s book, At the End of Magic, on Amazon. I started reading the first few pages and she’s quite a talent.

The Clicks and Clacks of The London Times →

NPR’s Robert Siegel interviews The Times Diary editor Patrick Kidd about the paper’s decision to pump the sounds of mechanical typewriters into its newsroom:

SIEGEL: I’m sure it is nostalgic to some of the older folks in the newsroom, but what do the younger journalists who didn’t experience this sound in the past make of it?

KIDD: Well, I’m in my late ’30s. I never worked on mechanical typewriters. I think on day one it was mildly irritating. (Laughter) But, as it went on - it becomes soothing actually; you get used to the rhythm. You start typing in concert with it. I think there were still some colleagues who’d get annoyed but, actually, my desk is the closest to the speakers and I - it’s a bit of fun.

I love this. Free idea for the fine folks at Coffitivity: A “1930’s newsroom” setting.