Site Updates

Dayjob experience coming in handy for my sites

So this is kind of a wacky thing–I’m finding myself able to use a couple of things learned from projects at work in the managing of my own sites. Those of you out there who read me, if you’re running your own sites as well, especially if you’re a fellow indie writer, you might want to consider these for your sites.

One: Google and other search engine spiders care if you have a sitemap.xml file. This is not something that users would normally hit–it’s a file that sits there entirely for the benefit of search engines, so that they can better index your site. I have chosen to address this by installing a WordPress plugin that dynamically generates one of these.

If you’re a fellow WordPress user, you might want to investigate this too. And if you’re blogging on a different platform, such as Blogger, and you have useful data on how to set up such a thing, drop me a comment!

Two: Google also cares now if your site is mobile-friendly, i.e., if you have something better than just the desktop view of your site when people come and visit you on their mobile devices. I am choosing to address this on annathepiper.org, which is still up even though I’m not actively posting to it, by installing the new Twenty Fifteen WordPress theme, which is specifically set up to render well on mobile devices as well as on desktop computers.

I am also currently shopping around for options for professionally designed themes to deploy on angelahighland.com. And I recommend anybody running their own site do the same–especially fellow writers. I’m eyeing Solo Pine right now, as I like their design esthetic, and bonus that they’re also headquartered in Seattle.

If you’ve got the technical and design chops to roll your own theme, go for it. But if you don’t, consider shopping around for a modern, mobile-friendly theme for your site. Think about what you like design-wise, and what features you want in a theme as well.

Other things I’m doing right now of note: as mentioned in a previous post, I’m doing some significant housekeeping of old content. I’m going through old posts on angelahighland.com and annathepiper.org, deleting anything on annathepiper.org that I’ve already copied over onto angelahighland.com, and fixing broken content as well. This is to reduce duplication of content, which will hopefully make angelahighland.com tastier to the search engine spiders as they crawl around the web.

Anybody have other tips to share as to how to spruce up your site for the spiders?

Ebooks and Ereaders

For folks who keep hitting my site looking for Kobo Mini battery data

I’ve turned off URL archiving of my tweet history–but I had been getting a lot of hits on one tweet I did about my Kobo Mini and finding a battery for it. This suggests to me that a lot of folks out there are having the same problem I did, which is to say, you have a Kobo Mini with battery problems. So I thought I’d put up a little post talking about what I did. The tweet people kept hitting didn’t exactly have much in the way of useful data, after all.

When I originally got the Mini I saw a lot of weird behavior with it, as described in my Mini vs. Nook SimpleTouch post, and the followup on Mini vs. Nook SimpleTouch post. It had issues with battery life, and would often lose track of where I was with any given book, or whether it had synced stuff back to Kobo’s mothership in case I wanted to pick up reading a book on something else (like the desktop app, or my phone). I eventually realized that a lot of what I was seeing could be traced to a bad battery. A little bit of googling suggested other Mini owners had had the same problem.

The trick is, actually finding a battery to replace the one in my device. I eventually had to have Dara order me one from a seller on eBay. The seller was in Toronto, so it took a while for the battery to actually get to me. But it did arrive and it did work. I’m not using my Kobo Mini much now, but as of the last few times I played with it, it did indeed appear stable. So if you’re having issues with your device, I’d recommend you do a scan through eBay and see if other sellers have batteries available.

Of course, if the only available sellers are in North America and you’re not, I agree that this presents some problems. To wit, the likelihood that you’ll risk postage costs being more than the battery is actually worth–at which point you’ll need to ask yourself whether it’s worth it to try to find a replacement battery, or just get a new device. That, I suppose, will depend on how much you like the Mini as an ereading device.

(You will note that I’m no longer actively using mine; I’m a power reader and I have found that the Mini doesn’t really suit my reading needs anymore. So if anybody wants to buy mine, hey, talk to me!)

All that said… if you do actually find a battery, what then do you do with it? Well, I found it reasonably easy to take my device apart and install the newly acquired battery. So if you’re not afraid to disassemble an ereader and you have the appropriate tools, go for it. I found this tutorial on Kobo surgery helpful.

Let me know if you have any questions!

Other People's Books

Cleaning out my inboxes book roundup

Trying to clean up my tag structure around here, which means I’ll be rearranging a lot of the tags I have on forthcoming posts as well as older ones. Like, say, the book roundup posts! Which I’ll be putting under the “Other People’s Books” category now.

Here though are my last five purchases picked up from Kobo!

Honor Among Thieves

Honor Among Thieves

  • Rolling in the Deep, by Mira Grant. Because Mira Grant goes without saying. And also MUAHAHA EVIL MERMAIDS!
  • A Desperate Fortune, by Susanna Kearsley. Because she also goes without saying, and I need to get caught up on her stuff. This is her latest release, another of those dual-timeline historical-and-contemporary romances she does so well.
  • Honor Among Thieves, by James S.A. Corey. Because while the majority of Star Wars novels have been relegated to non-canon status, screw it, this one’s starring Han. Which makes it highly, highly relevant to my interests!
  • The Diabolical Miss Hyde, by Viola Carr. Grabbed this one because it was available for $1.99, and because it’s been getting some good buzz on the blogs. Steampunky followup to the famous Jekyll and Hyde story–this time starring Jekyll’s daughter.
  • Justice Calling, by Annie Bellet. Urban fantasy. Grabbed this one by way of showing her some support in the Hugo brouhaha.

This puts me at fifteen for the year.

Other People's Books

Book review: The Dark Between the Stars, by Kevin J. Anderson

The Dark Between the StarsThe Dark Between the Stars by Kevin J. Anderson

I tried to give this book a fair shake, I really did. Regardless of what there is to say about the Hugo Awards politics this year, this novel did actually make it onto the ballot, and I wanted to make an effort to try to read it fairly despite those ongoing politics.

But by the time I made it to Chapter 24, about nineteen percent through on the ebook, I’d just run into too many things that unfortunately just did not work for me as a reader.

The two biggest issues I had were extremely short chapter lengths, coupled with a high number of point-of-view characters in plot threads that had no immediate connection to one another. The narrative jumped around between these points of view with scarcely any time to show depth of characterization, and so I was fairly overwhelmed with a barrage of characters that had no time to gain my sympathies.

Sadly, the one plot thread that returned enough times to get me more detail actively put me off. Garrison Reeves of the Roamers has fled the lava mining colony he was working for, stealing a spacecraft and taking his ten-year-old son with him. Much is made over how awful Garrison’s wife Elisa is, and how she’s put her career ahead of her family and considers herself having been delusional to think she could have a relationship with Garrison. When I stopped reading, she’d just inadvertently triggered the explosion of an alien creature that left her with the distinct possibility that Garrison’s ship might have been destroyed–and she shows no feeling for Garrison at all, just some fear that her son might be dead. But then, the narrative doesn’t exactly show her overflowing with maternal love for said son, either.

(And I found the whole one-note “raging bitchqueen who puts her career ahead of her family” archetype for Elisa grating, in general.)

Plus, Anderson has a way of ending sentences in ellipses for no particular apparent reason–often in paragraphs of hastily summarized backstory for whatever new character got introduced in the chapter I’d reached, and often when describing a character’s opinion about whatever issue they were presently dealing with. Once or twice was fine, but every other chapter made it a stylistic quirk way too obvious too ignore.

By the time I bailed some action had finally started ramping up, and I will allow that by then, Anderson’s particular style of writing was suited to those scenes and made them interesting. But it was too little too late, and I had not managed to become invested enough in any of the characters I’d met so far to care when things started exploding.

Since I did not actually finish this book it would not be fair of me to actually rate it, but I’m noting my commentary here and on my blog regardless, and will be moving on to reading the next of the Hugo nominees.

View all my reviews