Tuesday, 16 December 2014

The Hemmingwrite E-paper Word Processor & Review of Hugh Howey's The Shell Collector

If you've followed my blog for a while, you'll know I suffer from migraines. One of my main triggers is computer screens, which is not good news when you're a writer. I have to severely limit the amount of time I spend writing, blogging, and so on.

Over the years I searched for an e-ink word processor; a screen that doesn't flicker, meaning I'd be able to use it for as long as I wanted. Just when I'd given up hope of it ever happening, I stumbled across the Hemmingwrite.

To be clear, the Hemmingwrite is being promoted by co-founders Adam Leeb and Patrick Paul as 'A distraction free writing tool with modern technology like a mechanical keyboard, e-paper screen and cloud backups.' It's a portable word processor with a wifi connection to upload your work to a variety of cloud storages, such as Dropbox, Google Docs, and Evernote.

It will be distraction free. No Internet to suck away your time. The thought of being able to just sit down and write is appealing. Of course there are drawbacks. If you like to have your notes, visual cues, and ready access to the Internet for research while you're writing, it won't work for you. However, if you're looking for a way to just sit down anywhere you choose and write, the Hemmingwrite could be a winner. But for me none of that matters. The only thing I'm interested in is the screen. If it means I can cut out hours of first-draft writing time via my laptop, it's a must-have. Less migraines. More time to write. I can't lose.

The Hemmingwrite is currently available to pre-order at $349 via a Kickstarter project, and has already achieved its funding goal. The downside is it won't start shipping until Autumn 2015. So, it's a year away.

What do you think? Is the Hemmingwrite something you'd be interested in? Do you have a problem using traditional computer screens? Did anyone else have a Bother word processor like I did, which basically did the same job, albeit with floppy discs to save your writing?

Hugh Howey's The Shell Collector

At the end of November, Hugh Howey put out a call for a street team for his upcoming release, The Shell Collector. I didn't hesitate in signing up - part of volunteering was reading The Shell Collector in advance of publication in exchange for writing an honest review. I wasn't turning that opportunity down.

My Review

I've been a massive Hugh Howey fan since a friend insisted I read the best-selling dystopian series, Wool. I asked the same question so many people ask me, 'Why is it called Wool?' I received the same answer I always give, 'Read the book!'. To answer that question would be to give away one of the greatest openings to a book I've ever read. So, The Shell Collector was always a book I was going to read. What I didn't expect was to feel such a strong affinity for it.

Unlike his other darker works of fiction, where the remains of humanity live in underground silos (Wool, Dust, and Shift) or sand-dive for the ancient relics of long-buried cities (Sand), The Shell Collector is a much lighter read. There's still the ecological disaster - the story takes place in the near future, where the oceans have warmed and seashells are virtually non-existent - but there's also mystery and romance. Howey manages to skilfully blend all three genres.

It would be easy to say the relationship between the principle characters - Ness Wilde, CEO of Ocean Oil, and Maya Walsh, avid shell collector and environmentalist - is what this book is about. In a way that is of course true, but The Shell Collector is so much more than a romantic mystery. It's an environmental warning and call for action. Not unlike the other dystopian futures he has created before, the future he envisions here is not totally beyond the realms of possibility. The warnings of the climate change scientists have come true, with dire consequences for the world's oceans.

It's also Howey's homage to the oceans and his own experiences with both the sea and shell collecting, and it's for that reason that I felt such a strong affinity for the story he weaved. Having lived next to the sea for most of my life, I felt connected to this book in a much deeper way than his others. He took me back to what it felt like to search for and collect seashells, and left me feeling incredibly lucky to live within a five-minute walk of the Atlantic ocean. It felt like the book I was waiting for him to write.

Rating: 5 stars

Have you read any of Hugh Howey's books? Are you considering reading any?

Friday, 12 December 2014

Watch Me Burn Blog Tour: Summer Wizards

Today the fabulous and talented Sharon Bayliss is back with her Watch Me Burn Blog Tour. Please say a warm hello. Over to you, Sharon.

In book 1 of The December People Series, we don't learn much about summer wizards...except for that they're self-righteous jerks. And, in some cases that's true, but there is so much more to the summer wizard. And in book 2, Watch Me Burn, summer wizards get their chance to shine (pun intended).

Quote from Watch Me Burn:
Then with a flash, Luke thrust the burning outward. Patrick felt an intense thirst. And his skin felt so dry that it might flake right off. The heat came with a sense of impending doom. As if it would never rain again. It meant drought. Famine. Death. Apocalypse. A sense of burning so deep it could cover the whole world.

Luke released this feeling from inside himself. As much as Patrick despised Luke, he would never think of summer wizards the same way again. Winter might be dark and cold, but man, summer was a nasty bitch too.
A summer wizard's magic is all about light, heat, and fire--both literally and figuratively. They also have powerful charisma, which means they are generally liked and trusted by all. In more extreme cases, a summer wizard's influence can be closer to hypnosis or mind control. Unlike winter wizards--who often hide their true nature--summer wizards have an incredible amount of pride and will almost always teach their children to practice magic. While winter wizards isolate themselves, summer wizards have a sense of community. The summer wizard population is still quite small, more like a large extended family than anything, but they do have their own schools, camps, organizations, leaders, and rules. They are quick to come to each others' aid when needed. The summer wizards' pack mentality is one of the things that makes them so powerful and dangerous to winter wizards.

But...are they the good guys? Well, they think they are. Summer wizards strongly believe in their own moral superiority. This can be a good and bad thing. On the bad side, their perceived moral superiority causes some summer wizards to persecute, exclude, or even hunt other types of wizards.

On the good side, summer wizards strongly value doing the right thing. They often choose helping professions and/or do volunteer work.  They hardly ever commit common misdeeds like lying, cheating, or stealing. Even those who do commit evil acts feel like they're doing so for "the greater good." Or they may commit smaller evils on the behalf of a larger virtue, such as love or loyalty.

Due to their belief in doing what's right and their strong family and community bonds, summer wizards generally lead happier lives than other types of wizards. They have more wealth, stronger marriages, and longer lives.

In Watch Me Burn, I look forward to introducing you to the Prescotts, a summer wizard family that has the best and worst types of summer wizards.

About the author:

Sharon Bayliss is the author of the dark wizard family drama, The December People Series. When she’s not writing, she enjoys living happily-ever-after with her husband and two young sons. She can be found eating Tex-Mex on patios, wearing flip-flops, and playing in the mud (which she calls gardening). She only practices magic in emergencies.

Semi-finalist in the Kindle Book Review Awards and #1 category bestseller in coming of age fantasy.

About Destruction:

David Vandergraff wants to be a good man. He goes to church every Sunday, keeps his lawn trim and green, and loves his wife and kids more than anything.

Unfortunately, being a dark wizard isn't a choice.

Eleven years ago, David's secret second family went missing. When his two lost children are finally found, he learns they suffered years of unthinkable abuse. Ready to make things right, David brings the kids home even though it could mean losing the wife he can’t imagine living without.

Keeping his life together becomes harder when the new children claim to be dark wizards. David believes they use this fantasy to cope with their trauma. Until, David's wife admits a secret of her own—she is a dark wizard too, as is David, and all of their children.

Now, David must parent two hurting children from a dark world he doesn’t understand and keep his family from falling apart. All while dealing with the realization that everyone he loves, including himself, may be evil.

About Watch Me Burn:

David Vandergraff lost his home, his job, and contact with his oldest son, but remains determined to be a good husband and father despite being a dark winter wizard.

His resolve is tested when a flyer for a missing girl--who happens to be a summer witch--begins to haunt him. David believes a spell needs to use him to save her, so he follows the magic's command and looks into her disappearance. His teenage daughter Emmy resents him for caring so much about a random stranger. But when she uncovers some disturbing evidence close to home, she begins an investigation of her own.

David and Emmy quickly learn that the mystery is not only about a missing girl they barely know, but a deeply personal story that impacts everyone they care about. As their world crumbles, they fear the warning may be true—never mess with summer wizards, because the good guys always win.

Enter to win!! Get a paperback of your choice of Destruction OR Watch Me Burn. International entries welcome. Also join The December People Winter Celebration for more giveaways!!

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Thank you, Sharon. I'm looking forward to learning more about the summer wizards!

That's it for this week. I'll be back Monday. Have a great weekend.