30 May 2007

Research Resources, Ebooks, and Other Stuff

Hi everyone,

I missed my day last month since blogger wouldn't recognize any of my accounts, what fun. But I'm back and everything is fixed now.

First I'd like to let everyone know about a great resource I've discovered for researching, Questia. It's a subscription site but well worth it. I got the subscription for one year myself. So far I've searched everything from aliens to templars and Venice and found several hundred books on each. And it's not just excerpts, it's the whole book or article or even the actual transcripts of medieval court cases. Definitely saves money since a lot of these books would be in the $100 range if you could even find them. (BTW, if you sign up tell them shell91 sent you, she gets credit for it.) It's kind of like having your own library.

Another great resource I've found are news groups for your topic or topics of interest. I belong to several on templars, archaeology, and alternate history, even some on strange phenomena. Talking to people who are doing research, belong to organisations, or are experiencing events you might be wanting to write about can give your work just that little bit of extra color for the readers. A lot of these groups have link lists, files, and other resources available to their members as well.

In my other life I also do reviews for two book review sites, mainly e-books but some print as well, and you would not believe the books I see that are poorly researched or not researched at all. Another trend I've noticed is political correctness in historicals, characters behaving in ways that people of the era the book is set in just would not have acted like, all in the interest of showing how PC the author is. So how do you feel about political correctness in your historical romances? And how do you feel about ebooks?

And in some late breaking stuff, what does everyone think of the new contract clause from Simon & Schuster where they consider a book in print as long as it remains in their database and therefor theirs to do with what they please? Meaning that once they contract your book you can never get your publishing rights back so long as they have it stored on a disc somewhere whether they've been printing and selling it or not. Doesn't sound good to me at all. What do you all think?


Tess said...

I remember Questia when it started. My problem still is finding room on my computer for all the stuff I'd download if I joined *g*.

As for e-books - I don't read them. Not because I think they're second class books or something, just cause I still like books I can hold in my hands. Even an ereader wouldn't do - I LOVE the feel of paper and binding.

Research (or the lack thereof) is a huge issue with a lot of books, print and electronic, these days.

Political correctness bothers me to an extent, especially when it's blatant. But I understand why some authors do it - they're too afraid to alienate their readership and would rather sacrifice verisimilitude than offend those who don't have the same sense of historical perspective we here at Unusual Historicals do.

PennyAsh said...

When I started Questia I got lost for three days lol.

I love print books but I love ebooks even more, they done get destroyed in floods and I can carry my whole library with me on my pda. I lost my entire book collection in a flood in 2001.

Yeah I just got a review that complained that my heroine wasn't strong enough. Never mind she was a slave in ancient Rome. Sassy and spunky didn't exactly go with a long life then if you were a slave.

Jacquie said...

Questia sounds downright addicting. My problem is that I write stories in so many periods and settings, that I'd have half of Questia downloaded within a month. LOL. Still, it's too alluring not to check into, so thanks for the resource.

ebooks. I would love to buy ebooks if I could find an ereader that works for me. I'm partially sighted and the displays on every one of them is too small. I don't like reading on my computer at all because I work here--my entertainment spot is on the couch, not at the computer.

The new Sony ereader is almost there. I'm thinking one more model up and I might dive into the e- world. Faery Special Romances will be released in a e-serial format, one story per month. Many of my friends have sold to Cerridwen, EC, and Samhain so I'd love to read their books.

As it is, I print ebooks, and yes, I read them while sitting on the couch. :)

Video: Faery Special Romances

Michelle Styles said...

One very good arguement for letting a major publishing house keep the publishing rights is the whole e-snips problem.

The piracy of ebooks is getting to be a major problem. For example Harlequin now has dedicated person to deal with the problem.

If an individual author has her rights, she will have to go after the pirates on her own.

With Harlequin, they publish in so many different countries, that was becoming more and moredifficult to getrights back in any case, but right now I am grateful t=for their clout.

Oh and Harlequin Historicals have gone on to ebooks. The Roman'sVirgin Mistress will be available as a download starting tomorrow.
But personally I like printed books

Sandy Schwab said...

PennyAsh!!!! Imagine yourself hugged and kissed! Questia looks fantastic! I've just found dozens of entries on some really obscure parts of my PhD thesis! Oh my gosh! I'm so excited! (Given the number of exclamation marks that's probably pretty obvious.) I'm going to join. Of course I'm going to join! And you can download the texts, too?

PennyAsh said...

I don't know if you can download the books at Questia, I was too busy reading lol

One thing I love about most ebooks is I can get my computer to read them to me. There are some that are read disabled but the majority aren't. That way I can listen to a good story while I do my art work. (yeah I do covers too, as well as archaeological illustration, and graphic design.)

As far as piracy goes, there's no such thing as a safe book. I've seen some of the places where they post books and the print books far outweigh the ebooks. In fact as I recall when Bill Clinton's book came out it was on one of the groups before it had even hit the stores. If they want your book they will get it. Personally I don't like the idea that a publishing house would own the rights to anything I wrote forever, it's a contract grab, just like the clauses some publishers put in that lets them have all rights, including secondary, and even the rights to your name. It pays to pay attention to the fine print.

LOL Sandy, I was reading actual trial transcripts from the Renaissance era in Venice the other day, fascinating stuff. If I'm not careful I get totally lost in the Questia site and don't get anything at all done. Not a good thing when you're revising and your editor is asking where the book is.

And another great resource is the Gutenberg project. You can download anything you want there it's all copyright free public domian stuff. http://www.gutenberg.org/wiki/Main_Page

Liz Clare said...

Good thoughts about political correctness in novels.

When my co-author and I wrote our book, which takes place in 1809, one of the challenges was writing the relationship between one of our main characters, age 38, and his new bride, who is only 16. Nowadays that kind of thing gets a man arrested, but back then it was commonplace and accepted.

We were really pleased in the long run with how this part of the book
turned out. Julia is a little Virginia belle with no life experience. She just **couldn't** be a feminist know-it-all -- but she could be an intelligent and curious young woman whose devotion to Will drives her to suprise herself (and Will!) with her capabilities. By the end of the book she is no longer a little girl. Likewise, Will realizes
that Julia is someone who has become a real friend to him, not just another responsibility.

In the end, it was all about getting at the emotional heart of their relationship. As we became more familiar with Will and Julia and what they might be thinking and feeling, the "creepy" feelings about the age difference and power differences went away, and they just seemed like real people to us.

Liz Clare
co-author of "To the Ends of the Earth: The Last Journey of Lewis &
Silver Medalist, 2007 Independent Publisher Book Awards

PennyAsh said...

Liz your book sounds really interesting. I personally would rather see the characters in a historical be historically accurate and not clones of modern people.