Books

Don't be guilty at the library

Library Cards

People pirating books piss me off, but I love the library (in fact I was just at the Free Library of Philadelphia yesterday (proof) where I checked out three books). Sometimes I do wonder, though, if I should buy a book to support an author I like instead of making use of the library. The problem is, if no one goes to the library then in these days of budget cuts the library closes (heck, even though library usage is up some libraries are closed!).

Luckily N.K. Jemisin, author of the wonderful Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, which was discussed on an episode of The Incomparable, assuages my guilt thusly:

It really, really, really helps me to be in libraries. Not all traditionally-published books get that privilege; most self-published books certainly don’t. So if you’re feeling at all guilty over checking my stuff out from your local library — don’t. Consider: you’re helping to keep me on their “buy” lists, especially in these days of rampant budget cuts, which means several hundred (if not thousand) additional sales for me.

Hugo Awards 2012

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Ever since the Hugo Award nominees for 2012 were announced I can't tell you how many people have asked my opinion about them. Ok, I can tell you: zero. However, I won't let a silly number like that stop me from sharing with you, my Internet friends.

This is one of the first years I've read a majority of the Hugo nominated novels before they were announced (3 out of the 5 beforehand) mostly because of my participation in the Incomparable book club (listen to the episode where we discuss 2011's nominated novels). Since the nominations have been announced I've managed to read the other two novels (I owned one and the library provided the other).

Now, last year I read almost all of the nominated novels, with the exception of Connie Willis' Blackout/All Clear (two novels that were considered as one for some reason). I bet my hat that The Dervish House was destined to win since it was the best novel I had read in a long time (I was also fairly certain that Feed's inclusion was some sort of clerical error).

I tell you all of this so you can get a feel for my track record. Last year not only did Connie Willis walk away with the award (she's a great writer, and since I haven't read her novels as of yet I can't say with certainty that The Dervish House was a better book, but I'm pretty sure it was) but Feed, which I hated, managed to garner more votes than The Dervish House.

That ain't right folks.

With all of that in mind, here are my thoughts about the nominated novels this year (here's the full list of Hugo nominees this year):


  • Among Others, Jo Walton (Tor): This year's The Dervish House. A great book that is basically about a young girl who loves reading and happens to see fairies. Jo Walton is an amazingly talented writer and if she doesn't win the Hugo this year I'll think the thing has been fixed. The only problem I see with Among Others' chances is that while the book is about science fiction (check out this Pinterest board that lists all the novels mentioned) it's really a fantasy book. Sure, some fantasy novels have won but the Hugo is, at the core, a science fiction award. Plus, I want it to win and that is the kiss of death for any nominated novel.

  • A Dance with Dragons, George R. R. Martin (Bantam Spectra): Here's the deal, this book is fine. It isn't the best installment of the series, but it is satisfying for those who keep plugging along with the books. If you were to start reading The Song of Ice and Fire (a.k.a The Game of Thrones) series with this book you'd have no idea what the hell was going on, and I doubt you would care. That being said Mr. Martin has two things going for him this year: The Game of Thrones is a legitimate cultural phenomenon. It has emerged from the ghetto of genre and has been embraced by the mainstream (I was at a birthday party for twin toddlers the other and one of the parents of an attending child told me her mother has read the whole series). That's some powerful stuff. Second: Martin has been nominated 4 times before in this category (3 out of those 4 times for previous installments in the Song of Ice and Fire) and he hasn't won once. The voters might decide it is time for George to get the award based not on this novel, but on the series as a whole thus far. I won't be too upset if George wins, but it'll be a shame since Jo Walton deserves the little rocket ship.

  • Deadline, Mira Grant (Orbit): This was the last novel on the list I read (I just finished it a few hours ago) because I hated (really hated) the previous book in this series, Feed. Deadline is slightly better than Feed, but it is still a bad book. I honestly have no idea how Deadline ended up on the ballot, but clearly lots of people are into it. I found the first 100 pages to be awful, the rest of the book is just meh, and the "surprise" ending is both incredibly predictable and really undercuts a very powerful part of the first book.

  • Embassytown, China Miéville (Macmillan / Del Rey): Oh, China Miéville. He's an inventive writer, and Embassytown is a fantastic novel (in that it is full of flights of fancy). I thought it a very interesting rumination on the nature of truth and language, but as a novel it was a little thin. The writing is spectacular, but the plot is pretty run of the mill. I enjoyed reading it, and I would recommend it to other fans of China Miéville, but I don't think it should take the prize this year.

  • Leviathan Wakes, James S. A. Corey (Orbit): Funny thing about this book, which I read after it was nominated: I bought it many months ago and attempted to start reading it over the summer but stopped after the first 10 or so pages. Oddly, the big twist that makes you want to keep reading happens about 15 pages in, so I really should have stuck it out on the first go-a-round. This is the most traditional science fiction novel of the bunch, and it is a fun read. I'm a little puzzled as to why it was nominated since I don't think it does much to expand the genre but sometimes a novel just needs to be a good read and Leviathan Wakes certainly has that in spades (and I love the minor plot point involving Mormons).


Generally, I'm a novel kind of guy but John Scalzi rounded up links to all the nominated short stories this year so I decided to read them. They are all worth your time to read, especially since you can read them for free, but there was one that really stood out to me.

Here are my thoughts, and my pick:


  • “The Cartographer Wasps and the Anarchist Bees”, E. Lily Yu (Clarkesworld): This lovely, and beautifully written, story about some warmongering wasps expanding their empire gets my vote. Great writing which feels like it belongs in a literary fiction magazine which might turn some people off but worked for me. I choose not to linger on the fact that Yu is a recent college graduate (damned talented young people) and won't let that make me spiral into a depression about my own (nonexistent) fiction output.

  • “The Homecoming”, Mike Resnick (Asimov’s): A great story about a young man visiting his ailing mother and estranged father and experiencing that wonderful tension that you get when visiting parents. Oh, and the son has voluntarily had his consciousness transplanted into an alien body which complicates things just a bit.

  • “Movement”, Nancy Fulda (Asimov’s): This one didn't do too much for me, though I can see how other folks would really like it. The main character is a autistic girl who only becomes truly functional when she is dancing.

  • “The Paper Menagerie”, Ken Liu (The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction): This story came in a close second for me, just edged out by those darned cartographer wasps! A story about cultural assimilation, a parent's unconditional love, and how awful kids can be without even knowing it. Add in some animated paper animals and a wonderful story is born. How can you go wrong?

  • “Shadow War of the Night Dragons: Book One: The Dead City: Prologue”, John Scalzi (Tor.com): This is a parody of fantasy novels, and it is funny though I have a hard time believing there wasn't another non-jokey short story out there that could have been nominated. That said, it is fun.


eBook covers

3 Kindles walk into a bar...

This article on The Atlantic and Chip Kidd's TED Talk about the importance of book covers got me to thinking about, of all things, eReaders.

Specifically the fact that every eReader I've used (and I've used many) displays some sort of image when it is "sleeping." Amazon even sells Kindles that show ads when the device isn't being used.

Why not display the cover of the book currently being read on the device when it is sleeping? I love book covers, and I miss seeing them when I'm reading something, so why display them?

This would have to be an optional setting, though, because one of the great things about eReaders is that you can read super trashy novels in public and no one ever knows (not that I would do such a thing).


Write about books

Hey there Blankbaby readers (reader?), I have a question for you. I've been doing lots of reading the last couple years (20 books so far this year) and not so much blogging (obviously).

To rectify this situation (and attempt to make some sweet, sweet Amazon affiliate money) I'm going to write about the books I'm reading. The question is: should I do that here on Blankbaby or on the reading blog I started long ago called Scott's Reading List (which you probably didn't even know about)?

Sound off in the comments!

Also, how do you like the snazzy new design? Pretty sweet, huh?


10 Cool Things You Can Do with Your Kindle Fire

My dear, dear publisher, Peachpit, asked me if I would be interested in writing an article for their website about the Kindle Fire. I, of course, was interested and wrote 10 Cool Things You Can Do with Your Kindle Fire:

Did you know that you can email documents, load your own content, and sideload apps with the Kindle Fire? Scott McNulty, author of The Kindle Fire Pocket Guide, offers a list of ten cool things he loves about the Kindle Fire.

Go ahead and read it, dude!


The Kindle Fire Pocket Guide is now available

Hey cats and kittens, the day you've been waiting for is upon us (well, it actually happened yesterday but I was busy taking the day off): my latest book, The Kindle Fire Pocket Guide, is officially available for sale in hardcopy!

To celebrate I thought I would give away some copies of the book to Blankbaby readers/followers. I have 15 copies of the book to give away, so leave a comment on this post by January 24th to enter. If more than 15 people comment then I will randomly select the winner, and if less than 15 people comment everyone wins (if exactly 15 people comment the universe will implode).

The book covers the basics from using the web browser, buying media from Amazon, and more advanced topics like side loading apps and filling your Kindle Fire up with non-Amazon purchased content (you can do it!).

All that I ask from the handsome/lovely people who win a copy is that you leave a review on Amazon after you've read the book. Just share how you felt about the book: good or bad (though I think this book will be a boon to any Fire owner).


The Kindle Fire Pocket Guide

Kindlefirepocket 1Have you been wondering what I've been up to these last few months? Shockingly, I've been writing a book. Actually, most of the book was written during a 3 week span in November with editing and tweaking done the following weeks. All that work by myself, and the fine folks at PeachPit, translates into The Kindle Fire Pocket Guide (available in paperback
[out January 22nd, but you can pre-order now] or Kindle
[You can buy it now! Heck, you can even buy it before you get your Kindle Fire from Amazon and it'll be waiting for you when you turn on your Fire]. If Barnes and Noble is your thang you can pre-order it there too.).

I think this book turned out very well, and I hope folks who purchase it find it useful.


Buying books from old jews

Building book sale haul

You may not know this about me, but I live in a building where a lot of older Jewish people live. I don't have a problem with this. They are very quiet, the elevators are easy to get late at night, and they can be quite entertaining.

My building has a little library in the community room, which I have never been to. However, the library had a book sale last week to raise some money.

Given the key demographic in my building, I didn't think there would be many books of interest to me but at a buck a book I figured I could take 15 minutes to check out the wares.

I'm glad I did because I ended up spending $5 on the following:

  • Mr. Vertigo: I like Auster a lot, so this was an easy choice.
  • Third Class Superhero : I enjoyed Yu's second novel How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe so why not give his first work a go?
  • Bonk's Bar : This one is the wild card. I picked it up mostly because it is set in Philadelphia.
  • The Law of Nines : Oh Terry Goodkind. I expect this book to be pretty bad, but I went through a Goodkind phase in high school and I thought I would give him a chance now.
  • Jpod : I was an English major in college, which means most of my classes were discussions. As any of you who have met me in real life (or have listened to any of The Incomparable podcasts in which I appear) know I am a man of few words. I remained generally quiet in class except for two notable occasions: in a creative writing class discussion on Hemingway and the "Iceberg theory" (90% of an iceberg is underwater as a metaphor for how much is concealed in Hemingway's spare prose) I suggested that he wrote so simply because he wasn't a very good writer (the TA of the class didn't agree with me). The other time, in a postmodern literature class, I argued reading Generation X, Coupland's most well known work, was a waste of time because all the characters did was whine about nothing (the Prof. didn't agree with me). Given that background it might seem odd to pick this up, but I did enjoy Microserfs.

When I went to pay for my five books the little old lady looked at them and said, "Great! We don't get many people with such esoteric taste."

Not sure what she meant by that, but I'll take it as a compliment.


Win a copy of The Mac OS X Lion Project Book

You all know that I'm a big fancy pants author, right?

Did you know that big fancy pants authors get author copies of their books? It is true! It is also true that I have no use for 25 copies of my latest opus: The Mac OS X Lion Project Book
(though I do recommend you purchase at least 3 copies, in case of disaster).

However, two lucky people will win a copy of my book just by commenting on this post by end of day Saturday, September 3rd.

That's right, just leave a comment and you'll be entered to win! I'll pick two lucky people, autograph the book (if requested to) and mail it off to them.

All I ask of the winners is this: read the book and leave a review of it on Amazon/BN.com/iBookstore… wherever you do your shopping. The review should be honest (good, bad, or indifferent) of course.

Alright, why are you still reading this? Leave a comment already!


My Lion ebooks are now available

When Cliff, my editor at Peachpit, asked me to write The Mac OS X Lion Project Book, I jumped at the chance. I wrote, and wrote, and wrote… well, I wrote too damn much!

I only had 240 pages, which seems like a lot when you’re staring at the blank page in Scrivener, but they fill up fast.

I wrote so much additional information that we had enough stuff to six (6!) additional ebooks, which are now available on the iBook Store and the Kindle store (I say buy both formats… cross platform!):

SecureSecure Your Mac with Mac OS X Lion (iBooks | Kindle): Out of the box, Lion is pretty darned secure… but it could be even more secure (people are out to get you). This ebook covers how to use Lion’s Firewall, FileVault, and change some default settings to thwart the criminal element (just like a superhero!).

ChildproofChildproof your Mac with Mac OS X Lion (iBooks | Kindle): Kids have sticky fingers and they want to prod and poke your Mac, launch apps they shouldn’t, and spend all your money on the Mac App Store. This ebook will show you how to enable Parental Controls on your Mac and put those ankle-biters in their place (you will even learn how to limit their computer usage using a Lion feature).

ManagepasswordManage passwords with 1Password (iBooks | Kindle) Ok, this book isn’t Lion specific but 1Password is a great app worthy of an ebook unto itself. Thanks to 1Password I am of the opinion that the best password is a password that even you don’t know. 1Password creates, manages, and fills in passwords for you. Brilliant! I have no idea what any of my password are anymore, and I love it!

ItunesSpruce up iTunes (iBooks | Kindle): iTunes is kind of a beast, and this ebook shows you how to keep it in line. Learn how to add album art, edit meta-data, dedup your iTunes Library (and even more your Library to another disk). Rock on, you crazy diamond.

VidconfVideo conferencing with Mac OS X Lion (iBooks | Kindle): There are lots of ways to video conference with Lion, but this ebook covers one you might not think of first: Skype. I know, I know: what about iChat or FaceTime? Well, I thought it made the most sense to go with the app that people have heard of, and that non-Mac users can actually use (madness!).

HometheaterPowering your home theater from your Mac (iBooks | Kindle): You’re made your iTunes library all pretty, but no iTunes library is an island! How do you get all that sweet, sweet media from your Mac onto the screen of your giant HDTV or stream Jefferson Starship to your kickin’ audio system? This ebook tells you how (and you just have to buy a couple things).


The Mac OS X Lion Project Book

Lion250When I first thought about writing a tech book the subject seemed obvious: something Mac related.

That didn't work out, but I managed to write a few books about WordPress, TypePad, and even the Kindle (thanks to the four people who bought this one!).

I really enjoyed writing those books, but in the back of my mind I still wanted to write a book about something Mac related.

Enter Lion.

Lion is Apple's latest and greatest operating system, and The Mac OS X Lion Project Book is my book about it!

Now, this book is in Peach Pit's Project Book series, so it won't tell you how to use Lion. It tries to answer the question, "I have this super cool Mac running Lion, now what the hell can I do with it?"

Lots! I had so many ideas, in fact, that I wrote way more than 240 pages (the book's length was capped at 240) so we'll be releasing 6 additional ebooks (which I'll blog about when they are available).

What's covered in the book? Why, I'm glad I asked myself! You'll find out how to:

  • Encode your DVDs for playback on your iPad, iPhone, Mac, or Apple TV
  • Bend iChat to your will
  • Create a wonderful Web site
  • And more!

Now, if you're looking for a book that'll teach you Lion, I have a few suggestions:


Books of 2010

I'm a reading person, which makes me better than you (look in your heart, you know it to be true).

Anyway, I thought it might be fun to list all the books that I read in 2010 as a fond look back at the stories that were. I started this post a couple of months ago and I'm just finishing it up now.

I was too busy reading.

See what I did there?

Last year's reading list was greatly impacted by my participation in the fabulous geeky podcast The Incomparable (I even listen to the episodes that I am not in.. that's high praise from a self proclaimed egomaniac).

Here's the list:


The Frontier is everywhere

Palebluedot The above video is making the rounds of the Internet. It was produced by a fan of NASA who thinks that agency could use some help with their communications (and I tend to agree). It features Carl Sagan reading from his book "Pale Blue Dot " (which is a fantastic book).

This video is a little unfair to NASA if only because Carl Sagan was probably the best science educator there has ever been. Just listen to the man, and his words, in this video and tell you don't want to give 95% of the Federal budget to NASA. And the idea that it isn't us who will be colonizing the solar system, but a species very much like us.. that's pretty powerful stuff.

If fan made NASA propaganda isn't your thing, but you still want to hear Carl Sagan's words, check out this short film that uses the same voiceover (and music), set to some beautiful time-lapse photography:


My books, available on the iBook store

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As you can see from the above image, Peachpit books are now available on the iBook store. If you're into eBooks from Apple, and a fan of Scott McNulty this is your lucky day. That's right, Peachpit is my publisher which means:

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You can buy my books on your iPhone/iPad. Neat, huh? And here's my author's page (which is kind of lame... I can't change anything about it unlike Amazon's author pages):

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Just search for Scott McNulty on iBooks and you're all set.

Get to buying, people! I need to pay for all the stuff I bought this month somehow!


Holy crap, I wrote a second edition

bwpb2ed.jpegTwo years ago (almost exactly!) I blogged about having written by first book. Over the course of those two years I've written two more books (which you can check out here), changed jobs (and then back), and gotten married. I've been busy.

Today, I'm happy to announce that I've revisited my first book, and on December 1st the second edition of Building a WordPress Blog People Want to Read will be available for purchase. This edition has been completely revised, and expanded, to cover WordPress 3.

I'm proud of the book, and very thankful to the wonderful people at PeachPit for taking another chance on little old me!

Now, what will my next book be about?


Pricing: physical vs. digital

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I'm a big fan of digital goods. I buy eBooks all the time, and I can't remember the last time I bought an actual CD. Today, however, I was tempted to break my CD free streak.

As you can see above, Neil Diamond has a new album
out. Since I enjoy Mr. Diamond's work, I wanted to nab a copy for myself. I checked iTunes first, and the MP3 album cost $10.99. I figured Amazon MP3 would have it for a buck cheaper, or so, which they usually do so I headed over there. Amazon had it for $10.99 as well, however, the CD cost $9.99.

I've written before about this phenomenon, though in that case I was talking about physical books vs. eBooks, and I still don't understand it.

As an author I totally get that lots of folks are involved in creating stuff like this, and they aren't volunteers and they need to get paid. That being said, I'm always amazed when a physical product costs less than the digital version.

Oh, and yes, I did buy the digital version even though it cost me a buck more.


Oregon Book Purchases

Some of you may know that I'm crazy about Kindles. I like them not because they are cool pieces of technology but because they make it so easy to read, and store, a large number of books.

I must admit, however, that I often feel a twinge of guilt concerning the amount of money I spend at Amazon. No where is this twinge more evident than when I find myself in one of those rare bastions of the book world: a quality independent bookstore.

Whilst vacationing in Oregon I found myself in not one but three such fine establishments. The obvious one is Powell's in Portland, but we also visited two smaller bookstores: Cannon Beach Book Company and Beach Books (which was the home of this very nice kitty named Oz. Check out Oz's recommended books for some kitty reading).

I couldn't leave any of these stores without a book or three. I had to show my support for these small business people (I often dream of opening my very own bookstore, but then I realize that I enjoy making money).

Here's my book haul from the trip (in no particular order):

I've already read Transition, which I enjoyed, and have plans to read the rest... eventually.


Atlantic/Travels in Siberia

Tonight Marisa and I sallied forth to the Free Library of Philadelphia to get our culture on. We saw two authors speak about their new books: Simon Winchester and Ian Frazier.

Both gentlemen were erudite and succeeded in making me want to read their new books (Atlantic
and Travels in Siberia
respectively) though I must admit I'm a little peeved that the Kindle version of Atlantic is only 12 cents cheaper than the hardcover (sometimes I think publishers don't get eBooks... but that can't be possible, can it?).

Now, I know what you non-Philadelphians and library haters are thinking, "How can I get all the benefits of these author events without all the hassle of living in Philadelphia or going to a commie library?" Simple! Check out the Author Events podcast page which contains many free records of library hosted author events.


OED Online only? OMG.

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Recently Nigel Portwood, the chief executive of the Oxford University Press, caused something of a kerfuffle when he suggested that in 10 years time (when the 3rd edition of the OED might be ready for publishing) that they might not actually print a third edition.

Lots of people (many of whom, I am sure, have never actually seen let alone used the OED) decided they should pipe up and use this offhand comment as a jumping off point to pontificate about the future of publishing (which is now a hot topic amongst tech writers who know very little about the subject, but feel compelled to write about it because Apple introduced the iPad a few months ago and it is going to CHANGE EVERYTHING, i.e. they can get some cheap traffic by mentioning Apple and some other industry in the same article).

First, a little about me and the OED. I've long been a fan of the OED, mostly because I admire any dictionary that says, those other dictionaries define words, we define the language. The OED is less about trying to figure out what a word means and more about researching how it came to mean what it does. The OED does this through etymology (they don't do it through entomology as I first said, though I imagine someone at the OED enjoys insects). and by quoting the first known time a word has been used to mean a particular thing in writing.

I always had it in the back of my head that I wanted to own the second Edition of the OED (which is the one that is currently in print and consists of 20 volumes plus 3 additional update volumes). I told Marisa that I wanted to buy it, and she said yes thinking it was just a plain old dictionary. When the 5 boxes from Amazon showed up she was a little taken aback, but as you can see above in the very crappy picture I took for this post they've found quite a nice home in our den.

Now, the OED is a fantastic set of books to leaf through... but honestly OED.com is much more useful on a day to day basis. It is more up to date, easier to search, and more convenient. Now, unless I miss my guess I think that in ten years time, when the 3rd edition of the OED is complete it will be available in print. It will just be a very expensive, limited edition print version. Something for collectors and reference sections of libraries. Most people will just subscribe to the OED's service and have the OED app on their tablet or whatever the heck we'll be using in ten years time.

One final note to cement the fact that most people writing about this issue, at least on the tech Web sites, don't have a clue about the OED. Mathew Ingram writing for the usually excellent GigaOm has a piece called Oxford Dictionary Goes Online. Do You Really Care? Right off the bat the headline has two problems: the title of the tomes in question is the Oxford English Dictionary. Oxford University Press does publish a number of dictionaries, but only one is worthy of the OED monicker. The headline also creates the impression that the OED hasn't been online up until this very point. OED.com has been online for a decade, and available on CD long before that.

Of course the headline isn't the worst part of Ingram's post. He ends it with this thought:

But should a major reference work like the OED go online only? It seems inevitable, but just because the dictionary publishes online doesn’t mean it has to submit completely to the real-time frenzy of the web, and try to emulate Wikipedia. The OUP could continue to update the dictionary only at certain intervals, but this job would be a whole lot easier — not to mention substantially less expensive — without the need to print dozens of books for just a single copy of the finished product.

First off, it makes no sense what-so-ever to update the online version of the OED only at certain times... why adapt the worst aspect of the print version to the online version? Good thing the OUP doesn't do this.

Secondly, it would appear that Mr. Ingram isn't all that familiar with the OED otherwise he would be aware that Wikipedia itself has its roots in the way the Oxford English Dictionary is created. The fine lexicographers at Oxford are very talented but they can't research every word in the English language alone. The dictionary wouldn't exist if there wasn't a legion of 'readers' that submit quotations they believe to be the first use of a particular word in the English language. If you're gotten this far in the post you'll recall earlier I mentioned what set the OED apart from other dictionaries, in part, were the quotations. The OED is the great-grandfather of Wikipedia, and the Internet has only made the process more efficient (check out how you can help them find words here).

By the way, I busted out my OED to see where the word 'kerfuffle' comes from. Turns out kerfuffle is a colloquial version of curfuffle, which has its first known use in 1813 by George Bruce in the following sentence, "An' Jeannie's kirtle, aye sae neat, Gat there a sad carfuffle"