The newest novel, inspired by last summer's trip through Canada, has reached that point where I have to turn it over to other eyes. Over the years, I have collected a little list of people who I trust to read my half-finished work and tell me what needs to be better. Ages ago it was just Mac, a guy at work. He put up with reading a box full of loose papers a couple of times, but his suggestions led me to better ways of producing first-reader copies. Several novels were mailed out in those flat-rate post office envelopes over the years in a special format I had devised. This time the format has changed again.
Today, my laser printer has been churning nearly non-stop for hours, consuming reams of paper and a new toner cartridge, as I printed the new novel out in a galley-like format, with the text layout very nearly what it will be on the 6x9 trade paperback, but printed centered on 8.5 x 11 paper. I take the stack of double-sided printouts and comb bind them, and then stuff them with a return envelope into the mailing envelopes. In the morning, I'll drop them off at the post office and try to think about some other project for a while.
Getting the suggestions back is always an experience. I can't take all the advice, but so much of it is dead-on. Some of the readers are new this time, but many of have been with me in this process for years. You can read their names in the acknowledgement section in the beginning of the book. And one of those envelopes is addressed to Mac.
This weekend, we drove up to Dallas for the CityArts show in Fair Park. Mary Ann brought enough photos to line the walls and fill the flip bins. We sit in the blue chairs and smile.
Come by and buy her stuff to make her smile some more.
Now, on a totally unrelated subject, here is my workflow for making a blog entry when just using my iPhone and iPad:
The iPad doesn't have a camera, but I like adding a photo to my blog entries. So I take a photo with the phone and upload it to Flickr using the Flickr App. In this particular case, I created a panorama using the AutoStitch App first and uploaded it from the camera roll.
That done, I pick up the iPad and visit the Flickr website and click the "blog this" icon once I've selected the photo. This takes me to the screen where I can enter a simple text blog entry. No italics, no links. When I'm done I can 'Post Entry' and I have my blog article.
The next, optional, step is to visit my blog and edit it, adding links, tags, additional formatting, etc.
A couple of years ago, I picked up a couple of simple accordion files from the local Office Depot which I've been using to carry my PR materials like novel sell sheets, book catalogs and anything else I'd likely need as I visit various book stores. There was even a larger slot at the back where I could carry a couple of the books. It's worked well with only a little fraying around the edges and some sag in the elastic band around the case.
While thinking about what kind of case I could use to carry my iPad editing station (iPad, dock stand, and bluetooth keyboard) I happened to glance at the blue case. I flipped open the top and was pleased to discover that the keyboard, with had the longest dimension of any of the components, fit easily in that rear slot. The iPad had no problem slipping into one of the other slots and the dock, while not a tidy flat item like the others, still fit under the fold-over lid with no problem.
This "found" case is just about perfect for what I need. Everything fits. I still have lots of room for my PR materials, and if I feel I need more padding for the iPad's safety, I can put it into one of my bubble-sided mailing envelopes and it would still fit in the accordion file.
At the moment, I'm sitting on a picnic table in the park, taking a quick break from my story editing to add this blog entry, and it's working perfectly. One added bonus is that it doesn't look odd. If I don't want to attract attention to my iPad, I don't have to.
One important tip, if you're using a wireless keyboard like this. Turn off the Bluetooth in the iPad's settings when you pack up. The case does nothing to keep the keys from being pressed accidentally. This wakes up the iPad. So even if I've packed it away turned off, just picking up the case is likely to turn it back on and use up battery. Luckily, it's easy to get to the bluetooth controls.
When I posted about using an external keyboard with my iPad, I was questioned about whether I didn't really need a laptop. That brings up the whole question about where the iPad fits into the whole scheme of personal computing.
I can only talk about my computing needs, but after four days, the iPad is definitely finding its place.
I have used a laptop for a long time. I still have a stack of old, cold, and dusty laptops here in my office that I haven't gotten rid of. Most of them are on the small, lightweight side. With the exception of my Newton days, I have carried a laptop around with me for years, taking advantage of small moments to work on my stories.
Everything changed when I got an iPhone. Easily half of the little tasks, and even first draft writing, could be done on the little computer in my pocket. I've written at least a 100,000 words tapping away at my iPhone's keyboard. My laptop usage changed, as it spent more and more of its time on my desk, tethered to external hard drives and specialty printers. My little laptop became a medium sized, high power laptop, better able to handle Photoshop and InDesign, and the e-book making tools. I can and do unplug it, stow it in the utility bag, and carry it off to various events, but I won't take it to read an ebook in bed or watch a video in the living room. It's too much trouble.
The iPad is slipping right into that easy mobility slot. Forget unplugging and packing, I just pick it up. And it's capabilities are mid-range, much more powerful than the iPhone. I can write rough draft text on the iPhone, but editing is a pain. With Pages, I can edit final draft copy, complete with text styles and enough text on the screen to get a comfortable feel for context. Of course, when it comes time to format for publication, I need the full power of the laptop, but my editing time has become so much easier and mobile. And I do carry it to bed to read an e-book before going to sleep.
When I went by the Apple Store to pick up a slipcase for my iPad, I saw the tiny bluetooth keyboard they had and I got that as well. It's really tiny, for a real keyboard. The Apple Wireless Keyboard is less than a couple of inches longer than the iPad and even lighter in weight. It easily connected via the bluetooth setup in the settings.
Having the additional keys over the touchscreen keyboard saves me time in editing, and using the arrow keys to navigate around the Pages text screen saves time over pointing to get to the edit position.
I think I will enjoy having this combination in preference to the keyboard dock being sold as an iPad accessory because this easily works in either orientation. Another advantage is the sound and brightness controls on the function key row. It also controls the music.
What I need now is a case that easily holds the keyboard and iPad in one wrapper.
Even before my iPad arrived, I ordered the Pages app from the App Store. I've used a variety of portable devices in my writing over the years and this one looked promising. Long ago, I had a Tandy Model 100, then various Newtons. I've worked through many laptops and even written quite a bit on my iPhone.
While my main work computer is a 15 inch Macbook Pro, it is just a bit large for portable work. I am in the first days of getting the bugs worked out in my iPad editing work flow.
Pages is a decent word processor that can read and write Word documents. However, the iPad version lacks features the Mac version has. My first hurdle was named styles. I have to create and organize those on the Mac version, but once that is done, the iPad version can use them.
Moving the document back and forth requires a import/export process that could be smoother. And of course there is the learning curve required for the touch screen keyboard and commands.
Still, grabbing the iPad and sitting out on the back deck can be done on a whim, while unplugging the laptop and lugging the carrying case with its external battery system was often too much trouble.
I have high hopes this will be a productivity boost. Cross fingers.