Wednesday, May 8, 2013

The Kindle and I

Wednesdays are my day lately.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Boys and Girls, readers of all ages, I have exciting news.

Well, it’s exciting for me, and if you’re blind, legally blind, or a person who likes listening to books, it’s exciting news for you too.

By listening, I don’t mean audio books. It’s not actors reading. I mean accessible tech. I mean a computerized voice reading.

Think I’m crazy for liking that sort of thing. I am not. Growing up legally blind, reading options were slim. When I was a kid, it was Braille (which I’ve only ever been mediocre at) or talking books, which were fun when I was little. As I got older, though, and reading became both a pastime and a route toward academic success, Braille was definitely too slow, and audio books were, likewise, not fast enough.

Halfway through college, I discovered Bookshare. I’ve mentioned this site before. It’s a great resource for visually impaired readers. Its only drawback is that, though its staff and volunteers work very hard (and I commend them for it), there are so many books in the world. Getting all of them onto the website is a daunting task. I love Bookshare. I’ll always keep my membership, but in the academic-heavy life I’ve chosen, access to books is a necessity, and up until now, if Bookshare didn’t have it, it was check the local library to scan it. If they didn’t have it, it was order it from Amazon in paperback to scan it. If Amazon didn’t have it—which was rare—it was scrounge. In other words, if Bookshare didn’t have it, it was a ton of work on my part, and with deadlines, a ton of time was not something I always had.

On a more personal note, it’s always been a bone of contention for me that sighted readers have access to books the day they came out. I always had to wait, even with Bookshare most of the time, anywhere from a few days to a few years to read a “new release.” Think of how easy it is to go to a bookstore or go online and get a book. Now think of how inconvenient it would be if you couldn’t. Some would say “Well, then I just won’t read.” As a life-long book lover and a writer, that’s not an option for me. I love to read.

And now, kids, I’m on the same page. Amazon Kindle finally went accessible.

Didn’t they have audio books before?
Some kindle books had text-to-speech capability, yes. But the way they did it, they needed audio permissions from the author. The new method puts the books out there as assistive technology. Thus, audio permission isn’t needed, and all books can, with the right software, be listened to.

I downloaded said software last week. I’ve only read a few books with it so far (end of the semester no time and such), but man, it’s like a dream come true. The world’s library is at my fingertips. For someone who’s never had that option, it’s amazing. I can finally read all the books my author buddies have published. Depressingly few are on Bookshare at this moment in time.

Interested in this?

PC users—download: kindle for PC with accessibility plugin

It works. There’s two voices to choose from—one male and one female. Are they the best, no, but they’re understandable, and they allow the visually impaired to read kindle books.

I’m told there is also a Mac version. I don’t own a Mac, however. If someone with a Mac would like to do some market research and report in the comments if it exists and/or works, how cool would you be? You might even get 5 bonus points. 

Stay tuned for my day’s creative inspiration.

Oh my, Amazon,

Many years I have waited
For a gift like this to appear
Why, do you know over getting books?
I’ve so many times shed a tear

Oh my, oh my
I’ll write you customer reviews
Tell you of your good deed in detail
With this great option now, dear, there is no way I can fail.
If you work as you should.
It will be all good.

Did it finally happen?
Is it actually here for good?
No more scrounging for books in a format that works
But a method that could
let me get what I need
If I buy books
So I’ll buy books.

I could use a kindle.
It’s at last proved its worth.
To read books on kindle
What I’ve waited for since…since birth.

And with all the books to download
By my tech I won’t be mired.
As long as I get what I need
I don’t mind the price being highered.

It’s like a fairytale come true
Book source on which I can rely
And that’s how we’ll begin,
The kindle and I.

Once I have a kindle
My whole life will change
Cuz once I have a kindle
From books I won’t be estranged.

No frantic searching for class reading
No scanning page by page
All the books at my fingertips
Think of what I’ll save on rage.

And this gift of the word right at my side
Finally at last it’ll be mine
When we are hand in hand
The kindle and I.

You’ll hear the computerized voice
And say “I have a question for you.
Isn’t a voice that’s so impassive? A b*tch to listen to?”

And I’ll smile and hit the pause key
And I’ll sit you down next to me
“It might sound that way to you,
But if you knew what before this I’d gone through.

Of course the voice doesn’t matter to me.”
”All right then,” you’ll reply.
Oh what a pair we’ll be,
The kindle and I.
Yes, what a pair we’ll be,
The kindle and—

My future is unlimited.
And I’ve just had a vision almost like a prophesy.
I know. It sounds truly crazy.
And true, the vision’s hazy.
But I swear someday there’ll be
Knowledge of this, through the world
That all started…with me.

And I’ll sit there with my kindle
Feeling things I’ve never felt.
And though I’d never show it
I’d be so happy I could melt.

And so it will be for the rest of my life
I won’t want nothing else till I die

The ability to read
The books that I need
By my tech not stymied.

The kindle and I.

-Parody of “The Wizard and I” from WICKED the Musical

Monday, May 6, 2013


Goddess Fish Book Tour

Dark Matters Book 1 – A steampunk paranormal romance

A Victorian Steampunk/Paranormal adventure with strong elements of romance…

Lady Lily d'Bulier is prim, proper, and prefers to think of herself as pragmatic rather than timid. And avoiding life-threatening situations at all costs is just plain practical. But everything changes when Lord Adair tracks her down in London; searching for answers he seems to think she has.

Greyston Adair is a blackguard and a smuggler, although British Customs will have to catch him red-handed to prove the latter. Fortunately, the dirigibles they float around in have never been able to get near his air dust.

Hell is rising, One Demon at a Time…

With Lady Ostrich hunting them, and the mystery of how their lives tie back to Cragloden Castle and the powerful McAllister clan, Lily has no option but to throw propriety to the wind and run off with Greyston to Scotland, away from the immediate danger and toward possible answers.

Evelyn was even more intrigued when she entered the drawing room. Not only was Lily’s mysterious gentleman the scrumptious Lord Adair from the previous night, but the two of them looked as if they’d been caught in flagrante. Lord Adair’s neck cloth looked as if it had been tied in unseemly haste—by a blind man. Lily’s skirts were scuffed and wrinkled and her bodice wasn’t sitting quite straight.

Lily left his side to meet Evelyn halfway across the room.

“If I’d known you were being ravished by Lord Dashing down here,” Evelyn declared in a whisper, “I would have stayed up there—” she raised her eyes to the ceiling “—another twenty minutes.”

“Don’t be absurd.” Lily’s hands flew to her hair.

“It’s your skirts that need patting down.” She linked her arm in Lily’s and strolled in the direction of Lord Adair, keeping her voice low. “What did he do? Drag you into the woods and toss you over a log?”

Lily went white in the face.

“By God.” Evelyn surged forward. “I’ll deal with the bloody Scotsman.”

“Evie, no, wait.” Lily dug her heels in. “Nothing happened. Must you always latch onto the most preposterous conclusions?”

Evelyn’s brows drew tight. Something felt wrong, but her friend made a valid point. She was rash and brash, a fact she’d never denied. She kept her sharp tongue on a leash and turned a smile on the man instead as they drew close. “How charming, Lord Adair, I was hoping we’d see more of you.”

“Lady Harchings.” He inclined his head in greeting.

Clearly not trusting her to keep the peace, Lily inserted breathlessly, “I was just telling Lady Harchings that we were riding in the park—“

“And your horses tossed both of you?” Evelyn couldn’t resist.

Lily rewarded her with a glare. “We were in Lord Adair’s carriage, but, um, yes, a rabbit or fox must have run across the path because one of the horses took fright—“

“You really should train them better,” Evelyn told him.

“The rabbits or the horses?” Lord Adair riposted dryly, his eyes never leaving Lily and a grin tugging at his mouth.

Claire Robyns lives in Berkshire, England, with her husband and twin boys. For so long as she has memories, she was either reading, dreaming about reading, or planning what she'd be reading next. Then one day she started dreaming about writing and that was the beginning of an amazing journey.

When Claire isn't thigh-deep in laundry, shopping, cooking and general crowd control, you'll find her head-and-heart-deep in the tangled lives of her characters.

Visit Clair at her website or on Twitter @clairerobyns or on Facebook.


Hey, readers,

I’d train the horses, though rabbits could be fun too.

Follow the rest of this tour here.

And don’t forget to comment for a chance at a prize.

Claire will be awarding a $50 Amazon gift card to two randomly drawn commenters during the tour.