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How the Kindle Won Me Over

I bought my first Kindle earlier this year, up until that point I was pretty sure that I didn’t want one. And I still prefer paper books to digital ones, all things being equal. Yet despite my stated preferences, I buy more ebooks than I do paper books. Here are the reasons why:

  • I travel a lot (when we’re not in a pandemic), and paper books are bulky.
  • Ebooks are often more affordable than physical books.
  • Library holds usually arrive faster when I order the digital version.
  • I live in a small space, and once my bookcase is full, it’s full.

But even as my ebook reading surged in recent years, I resisted the idea of buying a dedicated e-reader device. Why shell out money for one when I could read an ebook on my computer or my phone? Also, I was reluctant to lock myself into the Amazon Kindle ecosystem. Amazon sells ebooks as MOBI files, a proprietary format that can’t be read on non-Amazon devices. My preferred book format of choice is EPUB. When I buy an EPUB without DRM (digital rights management) locks on it, I can read my ebook on any device, forever. So I worried: Would buying a Kindle mean I had to always shop at Amazon?

Oh, and I had one other quibble. When I looked at e-readers, years ago, I noticed the screen flashed on nearly every page turn. It felt like being slapped in the eyeballs, and I didn’t like it one bit.

Still, I’d grown tired of reading ebooks on devices poorly sized for book reading. My phone was too small and my computer was too big and heavy. So I bought a Kindle Paperwhite, resolving to return it promptly if I hated it. Even as I brought it home and plugged it in, I was still skeptical that it would work well for me.

A Series of Pleasant Surprises

Happily, my concerns were quickly negated. The Kindle Paperwhite let me turn off “page refresh.” Instead of flashing the screen with every page turn, it will refresh only as necessary. And I hardly notice when it happens. I suspect the technology has gotten better over the years.

Even better, I have not been locked into the Amazon ecosystem. It’s been super easy to transfer my non-Amazon EPUBs to my Kindle. I use the free Calibre library software on my computer, and after I chose the Kindle as my e-reader, it painlessly synced my existing ebook library with my device.

I can continue to buy DRM-free EPUBs and store them on my computer. They transfer onto my Kindle in a blink. Easy peasy! Granted, I often buy books on Amazon too, for the convenience and good prices, but EPUBs are still my preference.

Most importantly, I love reading on my Kindle. The reading experience is way better than reading on my phone. The Kindle is small and light, but it’s big enough to get plenty of words on the page. The illumination is even, adjustable, and not too bright. If it’s late and my eyes are feeling tired after a long day of computer work, I can bump up the font in two taps.

And unlike the Kindle app on iOS, which refused to let me buy books directly (because Apple takes a cut), I can buy books directly from the Kindle Paperwhite if I want to. There are no distractions, notifications, or pop-ups. My phone is put away when I’m reading! It creates a better, distraction-free reading experience, very similar to reading on paper. I don’t even mind the ads on the Kindle. The “cover screen” images are no more annoying than seeing a print ad on the back of a magazine while it rests on your coffee table. And it’s not like I’m staring at the Kindle when I’m not using it.

A Tip for Mystery Readers

By the way, if you read mysteries, I suggest that you turn off the “show popular highlights” feature because there’s nothing more annoying than seeing underlined clues when you’re enjoying a mystery for the first time!

Digital vs Physical: Does it Matter?

Paper books have special qualities that ebooks can’t replicate. The last time I went to Emerald City Comicon one of my favorite fantasy authors was there, and she signed my books for me, turning them into precious keepsakes. I keep a small clothbound edition of Jane Eyre on my nightstand, my literary version of a security blanket, always at hand to provide some comfort. Pixels can’t quite do that for me.

Still, ebooks are inexpensive, convenient, and durable. And books are happiness devices, no matter what form they come in. And since I’m going to partake in pixelated flights of fancy, for all the reasons I listed above, I may as well do so in comfort, no?

All of this is to say, if you’re e-reader skeptical, I get it! Personally, the convenience and comfort of a Kindle eventually won me over. And if you like ebooks, and if you buy them from multiple stores, it’s worth checking out the Calibre ebook software . It takes a bit of effort to configure, but once you’ve got it set up, it’s handy for keeping your digital bookshelves tidy and accessible.

I have to admit, there’s something magical about buying a new mystery novel and seeing it pop up on your kindle just a few moments later. Instant gratification!

I see a fair number of argumentative posts about what is better, physical books or ebooks. And I suppose we humans love to argue, don’t we? In the end, whatever format works for you is what’s best for you. At least that’s how I see it.

And speaking of instant gratification, I just picked up a new mystery by an author I haven’t read yet… So I’ve got a date with a book!

Until next time,

  • C

Summer Writing Update

Wow! It’s the last day of August already. Summer is slipping through my fingers, and it’s time for my quarterly writing update. These posts help keep me focused, and for anyone who’s curious, they offer a sneak peek at what I’m working on and what’s coming next.

What I’m Writing

I’m currently hard at work on three writing projects, and I expect them to keep me busy well into fall.

  • Hostile Takeover (Emerald City Spies Part III)

  • A View to Die For (Butterfly Island Mysteries #1)

  • The Queen of Crows (A Bonus Story)

Keeping things Fresh and Interesting

I’m trying out a few new things! As always, experiments come with a bit of risk, but I really enjoy mixing things up.

Writing a Mystery Series with stories from more than one Sleuth : My upcoming cozy mystery series is set in a bustling island town in the Caribbean Sea. Butterfly Island is populated by all manner of interesting people: police officers and city council people, retirees and families and small business owners, organic farmers and tour boat operators, along with an endless stream of tourists. The first novel will be told from Paul Gumbs’s viewpoint, but instead of writing every book with Paul as the main character, I want to mix things up. I’ll write a mystery with Paul as the central figure, and then a second mystery featuring another character (with Paul still involved), and so on.

I’ll be curious to see what you all think!

Writing about a Character’s Past: Over the course of six Ellie Tappet mysteries we’ve heard rumors about Roberta Crowley’s past. Unanswered questions remain! How did Roberta come to own a cruise line? Did she really operate an underground casino in Las Vegas? Who was her first husband, and what happened to him?

Just for fun, I’m writing a short story (novella?) that answers these questions. It’s set in the nineteen sixties, and I’m calling it The Queen of Crows. Newsletter subscribers: you’ll get this one for free when it’s done. ☺️

What I’m Learning

On the word-nerd side, I’ve been spending quality time with Virginia Tufte’s book Artful Sentences: Syntax as Style as well as Brooks Landon’s Building Great Sentences. I’m learning about sentence structure, linguistic rhythm, and the beauty of concrete nouns.

Non-Writing Stuff

It’s been a mellow summer so far! Patrick and I take long walks almost every day, exploring the city on foot and enjoying all the beauty Seattle has to offer. Post-vaccine it’s been great to reconnect with people in the face-to-face sense, including visiting with family and friends, drinking coffee at our favorite cafes, and visiting bookstores.

Hobby wise, I’ve been tinkering with technology. I caught the electronics bug last fall when I bought myself an electronics kit for my birthday. Over the summer I assembled an e-Ink watch from a kit and used the Arduino programming language to customize watch faces for it. The watch screen is the same type of material as a Kindle!

An e-ink watch showing the time and a field of stars. The watch is a blocky plastic square, too big!

Speaking of technology, I was disappointed to learn that Apple will soon be mass-scanning photos on our iPhones in an attempt to catch criminals . Yikes! This kind of overreach really burns my cheese, so I shook my fist at the sky and resolved not to use my iPhone as a camera or store my data on Apple’s servers any longer.

But… life is full of silver linings and while I’m still irked with Apple I’ve found an upside to this mess. I dug my old DLSR out of storage, and it’s been a pleasure to use a real camera again.

Apple schmapple!

Just after sunrise, the Seattle waterfront is a dusky blue. A tall white ferris wheel is shown from the front edge. It rises up from the pier like a tall white stripe. Glass gondolas hang down, empty at the early hour.
The Great Wheel just after Sunrise. Seattle, WA

Fall is Coming

I can’t wait for fall to arrive and for our seasonal rains to return. Summer has been lovely, but I miss the way the rain feels tingly on my skin. I’m ready to feel the sudden rush of wind barreling through the city streets like an invisible wyrm. I miss the blue-tinted gloom that invites me to curl up beneath a blanket and read story after story until my heart and imagination overflow.

Our local Starbucks busted out the Pumpkin Spice lattes yesterday, and I found a single perfect autumn leaf on the ground. Signs of what’s to come? I suppose I should be enjoying the final weeks of summer instead of pining wistfully for fall.

I do enjoy a good pine though… 😂

Be well, friends and readers!

Until next time,

C

My New Release: The Case of the Fond Farewell

Good morning, blog buddies.

I have a new book out today! The Case of the Fond Farewell is sixth Ellie Tappet mystery.

When I started writing Ellie’s story I had a notion of where it started and where would end. Fond Farewell was intended to be the final installment. But as I wrote, I felt hesitant. Was I ready to say goodbye?

Admittedly, I have a chip on my shoulder about long series. As a reader, I get cranky when a character arcs are dragged out for no good reason. Good stories deserve good endings! Or else the story isn’t a story at all. At least that’s my opinion.

The sixth book is an ending of sorts, in the same way a season of television can be a complete story. But as I was “wrapping up” the Ellie Tappet series, I came up with a great idea for a seventh book and I knew I had to write it! Holy cow. Is this a season two, or is it a one-off mystery? It’s too early to tell, but I had to laugh!

So much for my carefully laid plans. 😂

I’m looking forward to writing that book! In the meantime, please enjoy Ellie’s newest adventure.

The Case of the Fond Farewell Cover

Ellie Tappet Cruise Ship Mysteries

Book 6

The Case of the Fond Farewell

When a retirement party turns deadly, Ellie’s investigation hits too close to home.

When crew from the Adventurous Soul come aboard the Spirit for their captain’s retirement party Ellie and her friends are determined to show them a good time. But after a senior officer dies in the night, Ellie’s hunt for the truth will put her at odds with the man she loves.

Get Your Copy:

Available now for Kindle and Kindle Unlimited

Kindle UK Store

Kindle AU Store

Kindle CA Store

Kindle DE Store

Paperbacks are available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble .

Happy Reading!

Roadtripping to the Stanley Hotel

Sometimes a setting can grip our imagination so strongly a story grows out of it like a plant from the soil. Perhaps that’s what happened when Stephen King visited the historic Stanley Hotel back in the seventies. He stayed there one night, had nightmares (rumor has it), and wrote The Shining based on a single night within those walls.

I love travel because I love setting. I collect details like I used to collect rocks as a child; my pockets bulge at the end of the day. Edinburgh’s slick black paving stones take up real estate in my mind, and so does the sensory explosion of the Athenian flea markets, those blue and white evil-eye charms staring, the tall too-perfect pyramids of strawberries at the corner stall.

Is setting story? Not directly. But just as illustrators work from reference art writers draw from real-life places. It happens to me all the time. Just last week, P and I were walking through the city and I pointed at a bus stop. “That’s where Hostile Takeover starts,” I said. And I saw both realities, the one in front of my eyes and the rain-drenched night Jessica hurried through that same corner on her way to a meeting. Nor can I step onto a cruise imagining that Ellie Tappet is behind me, bustling forward with her shopping tote.

Place and story intertwine. That’s what I’m thinking about after visiting the Stanley Hotel. P and I were on our road trip when I remembered that the hotel that had inspired The Shining was hidden in the mountains of Colorado. We looked it up and it wasn’t far. Why not go? I wanted to see how the Overlook Hotel of my imagination compared with the place that story was born.

I wasn’t disappointed.

A stately white hotel with a brown roof. An old-fashioned black cab sits out front with the words The Stanley painted on the side in gold. Dozens of golden keys are arrayed on a black velvet backing behind the sign-in desk. An opulent wooden wall is topped with crumbling old wallpaper. A sweeping view of a hedge maze and forested mountains beyond. Clouds are roiling and dark. There's a hint of a masculine statue at the front of the maze.

The hotel has been updated over the years. They added a hedge maze and some props from the made-for-TV movie. But even stripping those things away I could see the connection between that place and The Shining. We saw the tall, eerie staircases flooded with light from old windows. Those long carpeted hallways. Brass elevators from a bygone age. A lonely ballroom with the piano. And beautiful bar with a long wooden counter. I didn’t mind that the owners of the hotel had added a hedge maze and some old props. Those things might be cheesy, but they were fun too.

Cheri smiles like a dork inside a maze of hedges.

We saw other tourists walking around, delighted, enjoying comparisons with the haunted hotel of their imaginations. I loved it! The magic of fiction is that it has the power to bring us all to the same location in our minds, to sync up our emotions and memories in a powerful way. In that sense, setting becomes a real place, durable and permanent. I’m thinking about the books I love most. How many of us have walked through the Gothic splendor of Mr. Rochester’s house in Jane Eyre? Millions, I expect. Those images and feelings are accessible, a shared experience that transcends time and all other differences.

If you’re a fan of The Shining and you find yourself in Colorado I recommend a quick stop at The Stanley Hotel. They give tours, but the slots were all booked up by the time we arrived. So we walked around the hotel, admired the grounds, and picked up some amusingly Stephen King themed lattes before heading out for our next destination.

Two lattes sit on a bronze colored tabletop. They are labeled 217 and RedRum.

PS: I did not look for the ghost of room 217. 😂

On Being an Author Without Social Media

Good afternoon, internet travelers.

Today’s post is a quick note to acknowledge that I’ve left Twitter and I don’t plan to return. If you’ve been following me on Twitter, thanks! It’s been a pleasure to be connected to so many great people. As an alternative way of staying in touch, I encourage you to sign up for my newsletter or add my blog to your RSS reader of choice.

I hope I can disengage from social media without giving the wrong impression. Readers: you’re important to me, and I want to brighten your days by giving you something great to read. But I’d rather serve you by writing the next book than by spending time on social media. Being online like that distracts me and stresses me out, so I’m going to focus on other things moving forward.

That’s my news of the day. Don’t @ me because I won’t be there to see it! But you can email me if you have questions. I’ll be around. 😎

With that out of the way, it’s time for me to get back to work!

Until next time,

C

Back to Life

Greetings from wild and windy Seattle! We’re back from our road trip and in our familiar digs. When we left town I was so dang sick of staring at the same walls, and out the same window, waiting for the pandemic to end. But my time away has given me fresh eyes and a new perspective. My tiny condo no longer feels like a prison cell. Our couch fits to my back like a comfy catcher’s mitt, worn in all the right places. I’m appreciating all that I have at home, from my ergonomic desk chair and clicky clacky keyboard to the electric tea kettle resting on the counter nearby.

When the sun goes down, the city sparkles. When the sun comes up, my neighborhood stretches and yawns. Shopkeepers flick on their lights, unlock their doors, and carry chairs outside to the shaded sidewalk. Buses roll down the street. Late last night – or was it early this morning? – in the darkness, I half awoke to the sound of a delivery truck idling on the street below, familiar urban music that lulled me right back to sleep.

The city is coming back to life.

Our weather is moody and beautiful today. Clouds roll over us like a thick, dark comforter; it rains and rains. Gaps open in the sky and spread wide, revealing blue sky. Sunlight bursts out and illuminates the steel and glass towers. The wet streets shine. We rushed out to pick up a sandwich during one sun break (do other cities have sun breaks?) and when we left the shop we were hit by a gust of wind so strong it nearly toppled me over. Someone had lost their flowers; a fresh bouquet of pink peonies rolled down the wet sidewalk. Rain blew sideways, like darts, and there wasn’t an umbrella in sight.

Seattle felt like Seattle today. And I feel… normal? Yes. I think this is what normal feels like! I’m not fearful. Not anxious. Not grieving. Not angry. Not impatient. Not stuck!

Seattle is coming back to life.

And (what a relief!) so am I. ❤️

Pagination