Posts Categorized: Ramblings

2016 review: Part 3: Writing

January 29, 2017 Current writings, Ramblings, Writing musings 0

I got a lot of writing done in 2016. A lot. I finally found my stride, and increased my speed, as well as making daily writing a more consistent habit, and the result was (tada! roll of drums!):

548,000 words written

Which is a lot! Of that, 167,000 words, or 30%, was fantasy and the rest Regency romance. For the fantasy, I wrote the whole of The Second God and began Findo Gask’s Apprentice. For the Regencies, I finished Amy, and wrote Belle, Connie, Dulcie, Grace and Hope, plus a novella, Mary.

I discovered along the way that I can’t write two books at the same time. I can, however, write one and edit another, so that’s how I work it. At any one time, I’ll have one book being written, another ‘brewing’, or resting before editing, and another being edited or otherwise prepared for publication. At this precise moment, I have Findo Gask’s Apprentice half written, Hope awaiting initial editing and beta reading, and Grace newly released. If it sounds like a production line, sometimes that’s what it feels like! But I love the writing, and don’t mind the editing, so it doesn’t feel like work.

So how did I write so many words?

1) I wrote faster. I followed some of the precepts in Chris Fox’s book 5000 words an hour, like: write in short sprints; know what you’re going to write before you start; ‘eat the frog’, which means do the important stuff (the writing) first. Chris rolls straight out of bed and starts writing. He’ll stop between sprints for coffee or a shower, but essentially he gets the writing done before anything else in his day, and he’s often finished by 9:30 or 10 o’clock.

2) I wrote most days. I’m not fanatical about it, and in 2016 I took a whole month off writing (we went to Australia), but I try to write every day.

3) I bought a small laptop to carry round the house. It’s a dedicated writing computer, with nothing on it apart from Scrivener and the absolute essentials (browser and email), and I only use it for writing the current work in progress. It means I don’t have to go upstairs to the study to write, I don’t have to make the decision that ‘now I’m going to write’, and I don’t get distracted by the overflowing intray and whatnot; when I have a few minutes between chores, I sit down and write.

4) I developed writing habits. Every day after breakfast I sit down for half an hour to write. After lunch I sit down for another half hour. Late afternoon, another half hour. After tea, another half hour. Plus all those snatched moments between chores – ten minutes here, fifteen there. It adds up to 2-3K words in a day.

5) Brain.fm. This is a recent discovery. It’s music that’s specifically designed to enhance your focus while working (or to help you relax or sleep, if you choose those options). I don’t know how it does it, but it really does work, and I definitely write faster when I listen to it.

Plans for 2017? Write! I hope, without a month off to gawp at the amazing sights of Australia, I can write 600K words this year, producing 2 1/2 fantasies and 3 1/2 Regency romances. But honestly, the actual amount of words doesn’t matter, so long as I’m still enjoying it.

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2016 review: Part 2: Reading

January 16, 2017 General, Ramblings 0

There was a time when I read 100+ books a year. In 2012, it was 108, and I also had time to review them all, write series reviews and compose long, detailed essays about my reading-related thoughts. In 2013, I read 91 books. In 2014, the year I published the first of my own books, it was 61, then 57 in 2015. In 2016 it was just 46, and that included a month in Australia with my Kindle, and a whole shedload of long-haul flights. This is the trouble with writing — it eats away at my reading time. And that also means that I have to be more selective with what I read, and I tend to be less experimental. Out come the tried-and-trusted authors, whose work I know I’ll enjoy. And the effect of that is that my average rating on Goodreads has risen from 3.3 stars to 3.8 stars.

So there will be no best-of list, and no self-published gems this year because they would look remarkably like last year’s. Instead a few statistics.

1) Genres:

  • Fantasy: 16 (35%)
  • Regency: 16 (35%)
  • Other: 14 (30%)

The ‘Other’ category includes murder mystery, literary and the stuff my book group makes me read. The Regency is a consequence of writing my own Regency romances. I’ve started a full reread of all Georgette Heyer’s Regency romances, and I’ve also started a list of more modern ‘best-of’ Regencies, compiled by Googling. Lots of the recommended ones were only available in paperback, which sounds as if the publishers are missing a trick, so I was restricted to those available for Kindle. And I picked up the three bestsellers on the day of my list-making, just for comparison.

2) Publishing type:

  • Self-published: 27 (58%)
  • Trade published: 19 (42%)

This is something that shifts a little more towards the self-pubbing end of the spectrum every year. I used to read solely trade pubbed, but now I find them either too expensive or too long or too flashy (by which I mean that they have a stunning one-line hook, but the actual story falls well short of being stunning). Sometimes they’re just unreadably ambitious. A self-pubbed book is more likely, in my experience, to be a good, old-fashioned well-told story.

3) Review rating:

  • 5*: 18 (39%)
  • 4*: 19 (41%)
  • 3*: 7 (15%)
  • 2*: 0
  • 1*: 2 (5%)

The result of my comfort-reading binge is that my average rating for the year is 4.1.

4) Gender balance:

  • Male author: 6 (13%)
  • Female author: 40 (87%)

Yikes! This is what happens when I start rereading Regency romances – all those female authors! I read 16 Regencies in 2016, 7 by Georgette Heyer and 9 others. Even excluding those, male authors were only 25% of the total. Which isn’t intentional by any means, but just part of the switch from longer, trade-pubbed (dominated by male authors) to shorter, self-pubbed.

I’ve never chosen my reading material by the gender of the author, so I don’t suppose this will change much until I move away from romances and back to more varied books. More fantasy! But the real issue is how to find more time to read in the first place. If anyone has an answer to that, please let me know.

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Five self-published gems of 2013

January 15, 2017 Archive, Ramblings, Review 0

Edit: This is my original post, reposted here because it got lost in a cyber-black-hole.

Self-publishing gets a bad rap. Some wit once said: the best thing about self-publishing is that anyone can do it; and the worst thing about self-publishing is that anyone can do it. Occasionally, trawling through the endless heaps of optimistic offerings on Amazon, it seems as if half the world’s population sat down at the computer, rattled off that novel they’ve always wanted to write, and without a single further thought clicked the ‘Publish’ button. Bad spelling, bad grammar, no punctuation at all, wooden characters, trite plots…

But there are authors out there who write as well as any of the big names, and better than many of them. They take the time to edit thoroughly, they add professional cover art, they take endless trouble with formatting. Their work is indistinguishable in quality from anything put out by the traditional publishers. And the great virtue of taking control of your own publishing is freedom. Self-pubbers can write what they want, in the way they want, as long or as short as the story needs to be. They’re not constrained by genre or perceived marketability or what’s hot. They can be as original as they like, and many are astonishingly imaginative.

The very best of my self-pubbed reading this year will be noted in the forthcoming Barney Awards, but here are a few others that gave me terrific reads this year.

The Wandering Tale by Tristan Gregory

This is a collection of four novellas set in a single world, and only loosely connected: a minor character from one story becomes more important in the next one. Each one is published and sold separately. Start with The Swordsman of Carn Nebeth. When a man returns to his village after nineteen years away fighting in the wars, young William is fascinated by his stories of the life of a soldier, and the battles he’s been in. But when other former soldiers start to cause trouble, he realises that bravery isn’t just for kings and soldiers. This is a cracking story of a boy growing to manhood in a small village, and learning the truth about being a hero. Great characterisation, a well judged balance between action and slower passages, a perfect ending and with more emotional resonance than I’ve seen in some well-regarded works many times its length. A beautifully crafted piece which I loved. There’s a lot of subtlety in these stories. People are honourable without being stupid or caricatures, they behave in believable ways and display both intelligence and strength of character. Even the bad guys have reasonable motivations. Below the surface are some thought-provoking themes – of war and honour and duty and bravery, the responsibility of power and the pragmatism of politics. Each episode is a little gem in its own right, but together they add up to something much more interesting.

The Five Elements by Scott Marlowe

A cracking read with elements of steampunk, alchemy, a fairly standard form of elemental magic plus there’s a fair dose of science in the mix as well. The main character, Aaron, is a sorcerer’s apprentice, but unlike the usual such character, he’’s a scientist, using logic and scientific knowledge to investigate effects related to his master’s work. He’s a terrific character, both immature yet intelligent and enterprising, perfectly aligned with his age. I absolutely loved his ability to approach any problem in a logical, scientific way, and find a rational solution. This is so refreshing in fantasy, which all too often turns to magic at such moments. The pace is rapid and there’s a dizzying array of twists and turns, to the point that I had absolutely no idea what was going to happen next, or who was a good guy and who was a villain, almost to the end. The ending is appropriately grandiose and with unexpectedly thoughtful undertones. The author is to be commended for not taking the easy way out at this point. One of those books I tore through at high speed – that just-one-more-chapter syndrome; it’s an unusual, pacy story, with an unexpected plot-twist in almost every chapter, and great fun to read.

The Tattered Banner by Duncan Hamilton

Soren is eighteen, trying to survive on the streets, when a theft gone wrong results in a street fight and a passing swordsman recognises some talent in him. He is taken to the Academy to learn to wield a rapier and be a gentleman. It’s refreshing to read a story where the rapier is the the weapon of choice, and I found it a refreshing change from the more usual broadswords and bows. The book sidesteps all the street-boy-goes-to-posh-school cliches, and quickly gets Soren out and about wielding his rapier and discovering the extent of his extraordinary gift. These early battles are beautifully described, the highpoint of the book for me, and I loved every moment of each one (especially the belek, which was one of those awesome moments that stays with you long after the book is finished). The world behind all the action has great depth, one where magic was once widespread by is now outlawed. A terrific page-turning read, and the follow-on book, ‘The Huntsman’s Amulet’, looks like reaching the same standard.

The Fall of Ventaris by Neil McGarry and Daniel Ravipinto

The first book in this series, ‘The Duchess of the Shallows’, was a breath of fresh air, a fantasy work set in a single city, with compelling characters and a beautifully woven plot, filled with double-dealing and double meanings, where nothing and nobody can be taken quite at face value. This follow-on is more of the same, but with even more depth, showing more of the city itself, its history, and the three main religions. The authors skillfully weave the many different strands together to create a brilliantly nuanced picture of Rodaas and its people. Duchess’s many schemes take her all round the city and below it, and these adventures bring the book to vivid and dramatic life. Some of her encounters are unforgettable: the strange candlelit ceremony at one temple, the meeting with the facet (priestess) in another and the events underground, for instance. The facets are a truly spine-chilling invention, a sort of hive-mind of masked women, all identical, and there’s a moment near the end, when the hive-mind slips slightly, which is awesome. Great characters, a compelling plot and terrific world-building; this is a polished and cleverly thought out book which would repay a second read to understand all the nuances and subtexts.

And All The Stars by Andrea K Höst

A YA post-apocalypse story in the literal sense, beginning the very instant after, as main character Madeleine finds herself amidst rubble from a disintegrated underground station. And dust, vast amounts of dust which coat everything, including Madeleine herself. And as she makes her escape through the ruined station, she encounters the base of the Spire, a black spike, which has instantaneously risen into the Sydney skyline, along with numerous others all around the world. The dust is the key, for those who encounter it are irrevocably changed. Finding out about the dust and the strange Spires, as well as simple survival, creates a pacy adventure which rattles along nicely. The characters aren’t the standard issue beautiful people who leap into perfectly honed action when called upon. These are relatively ordinary people with odd combinations of talent and weakness. Problems are solved by intelligence, common sense and teamwork, rather than brute force. Nor is everyone uniformly heterosexual. And then, just when you think you’ve got the book neatly pigeon-holed, there’s a moment which changes everything, one of those magical OMG moments when your perception simply shifts sideways to open up the story in innumerable different ways. I love it when an author manages to do that to me. An interesting and thought-provoking read.

And a bonus novella: Sunbolt by Intisar Khanani

I discovered the author’s debut novel, ‘Thorn’, quite accidentally, one of those magical reads where you start on the sample and find yourself so swept up in the story you just can’t put it down. This is just as good, the first in a projected series of perhaps six novellas altogether. This has to be one of the most unpredictable stories I’ve ever read, a new twist at every turn, and as the book is incredibly fast-paced, that means a breathtaking ride. Hitomi is a lovely heroine – spirited, enterprising and imaginative, and never, ever prepared to be pushed aside. She always does exactly what she wants to do, regardless of whatever instructions she’s given. I loved the way the author managed to fudge the question of who were the good guys and who were the villains; things just aren’t that simple here. One doesn’’t expect much in the way of world-building from a novella, but there’s surely enough background here to fuel a full-sized trilogy at least. This is a wonderful book, with memorable characters, some great world-building, an action-packed plot that never lets up for a moment and a surprising twist every few pages, and beautifully written.

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Pauline’s self-published gems of 2014

January 15, 2017 Archive, Ramblings, Review 0

Edit: Reposting this which got lost in a cyber-black-hole.

I read a lot of self-published books – about half my reading, both this year and last. I don’t specifically choose that, I follow my nose where books are concerned. If I like the look of a book, from reading the first few pages, I’ll give it a go. It doesn’t always work out, but I’ll try anything that’s well written and isn’t just a zombie-fest. I’ve found I’m just as likely to be happy with a self-published book as with a traditionally published one, although I confess I’m very selective. If there’s the merest hint of a grammatical error in the first chapter, that’s a no go.

But there are some areas where the self-published books outshine the traditionally published ones. Here are a few ways:

1) The ebooks are usually cheaper. Self-pubbing authors have far more control over pricing, and also don’t have those hordes of PAs and editors and fancy New York offices to maintain. I can buy two or three self-published books for the price of one standard trad pubbed book.

2) The book can be as wild as the author wants. So if an author wants to write an all-action steampunkish affair, complete with airships, demon hounds, rats-on-steroids (wearing clothes! And wielding swords!), a pyromancer, dwarves, a geeky hero and some brilliantly weird machinery, he can do that. And Scott Marlowe did! I can’t wait for the movie version of this to see what the Nullification Engine actually looks like.

3) The book can be a retread of a tired idea, with a fresh spin. Trad pubs would likely tell you that YA post-apocalypse is s-o-o last year. Saturated market, ducks. But Fallen Down World by K E Douglas has a brilliant opening, a clever array of breathless car-chases and dramatic escapes, intermingled with more introspective passages, very appropriate for the end-of-the-world scenario. And the author doesn’t shy away from the desperation and loneliness in the situation.

4) The book can blend genres with impunity.

A) What could be better than a good old-fashioned western? A western with magic, that’s what! Gun fights and a spunky rancher’s daughter, plus mages and some intriguingly fantastical non-humans. And a nicely understated romance, to boot. No bookstore or library would have a clue where to shelve Beneath The Canyons by Kyra Halland, but for self-pubbers – no problem.

B) Or how about a fantasy romance? Mostly this comes with compulsory werewolves these days, but Bound by Kate Sparkes is well-written and well-plotted, with a nice balance between the romance and fantasy elements, and isn’t that a gorgeous cover?

C) Or maybe you’d prefer a glorious mash-up of sci-fi and fantasy, which starts in present day Australia and ends up… well, somewhere quite different, with humanoids with tails, and mind-bending stuff, and some steampunkish elements and… well, you just have to read it. Watcher’s Web by Patty Jansen

5) Self-pubbers can step away from fashionable grimdark and gloomy realism, into the almost obsolete literate high fantasy style of Tolkien. Silvana The Greening by Belinda Mellor is set in a world where tree spirits, Silvanii, reside in trees in the wildwood, living in harmony with men. Occasionally, a Silvana will choose to take a human husband, leaving her tree to take human form and live a different life. A charming story.

6) A self-published book can take the time to tell a quiet story about people. The Healers Road by S E Robertson can only be described as literary fantasy, a real treat to read.

7) Finally, self-pubbers can, if they want to, write the epic fantasy trilogy (or pentology or whatever-ology-they-like) to end all epic fantasies, with a completely worked out history of the universe and mythology, any number of weird creatures, hordes of shapeshifters and ogres who count in base 6. Oh, and wraiths. Gotta love the wraiths. I don’t need to say much more about The Splintered Eye by H Anthe Davis, since you all bought it the last time I raved about it, right? Right? Sigh. Just buy it, it’s piking awesome.

PS I’m not trying to persuade anyone to give up traditionally published books, because, you know, some of them are pretty good, too. But if you do come across a self-published book, don’t dismiss it on sight, because it just might be an undiscovered gem.

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A big 99c promotion (5/6 Dec only) and a writing update

December 5, 2015 Publishing/marketing, Ramblings, Regency romances, The Fire Mages' Daughter 2

Winter is upon us!

I love living in Scotland, but there are a few disadvantages. The first snowfall of the winter hit us about a week ago. There’s been snow on the mountains already, but this was the first time it was all the way down to sea level. It wasn’t a big fall here, but enough to give a good covering, and the cold weather meant it stayed for a few days. Happily, it’s all gone now, but I’m sure there’ll be more to come.

I love the snow, but only when I can sit inside a warm house and watch it through the window. I hate to be out driving in it! Lots of Scots escape to the sun in the winter, sometimes for three months, and I can see why: the long nights, gloomy mornings and days when it just never seems to get properly light can get you down. But that’s what whisky was invented for (and vitamin D tablets!). And you can’t have those wonderful endless summer evenings without also getting the winter gloom.

And for those of you lapping up the sun in the southern hemisphere – enjoy!

Lots of cheap fantasy and sci-fi!

Once again, author Patty Jansen is hosting a group 99c promotion at her website.

PattysDecPromo

There are 84 authors taking part, and it’s a great opportunity to try out some new authors at very low cost. These prices are only for 5th and 6th December, so don’t delay. Quite a few of the books are in Kindle Unlimited, too, for those of you who have a subscription.

What do I recommend? I’ve enjoyed Patty’s own book, The Ambassador, a great all-action sci-fi. Angela Holder’s White Blood is an unusual stand-alone fantasy, featuring that unsung heroine of many great families, the wet-nurse. And Kyra Halland’s speculative romance Sarya’s Song is one that I really loved: great fantasy with a great romance, too.

And if you haven’t yet picked up a copy of my own most recent book, The Magic Mines of Asharim, it’s in the promo, too. Just 99c, or equivalent. Click here to see all the deals.

News of The Fire Mages’ Daughter and The Dragon’s Egg

This is on schedule for release on January 15th. The final edits are now complete, and the book is out with my wonderful proofreader, Lin, and several ARC readers. This is a sequel to The Fire Mages, but it can be read without any knowledge of the previous book. You can still pre-order for 99c. And there might well be a third book to complete the story – The Second God. However, that’s unlikely to be out before the end of 2016.

The Dragon’s Egg is progressing, although more slowly than I would like. This book has threads connecting it to several earlier books, so I have to stop now and again to make sure I’ve got all the references correct. And there are multiple points of view, which makes it very different from anything I’ve written before. The Plains of Kallanash had two point of view characters, but since then, every book has had just one main character. Jumping from one to another isn’t as easy as it sounds! But if the writing is challenging, the story is working out well.

Regency romance – oh my!

Work is underway on my latest project – a Regency romance series of 6 books. I say ‘work’, but it’s huge fun, so it doesn’t feel like work at all! It’s very different from my fantasy writing, though – not just in writing style (rather formal, sort-of Jane Austen), but also in the need for historical accuracy. In fantasy, I can just make stuff up. Meals, clothing, local religions and other customs – it can be whatever I want. Not so with the Regency. I was about to write a scene where the characters have afternoon tea when I thought to check – and nope, that didn’t start until 1840, and the Regency era is (very roughly) 1800-1820. Progress is being made, but I don’t expect to have anything ready for release until late in 2016.

 

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On staying connected while travelling

August 23, 2015 Ramblings 0

There are many wonderful perks to living in the twenty-first century, but ease of travelling and a connected lifestyle are two that I love more than (say) ubiquitous coffee shops or fast food. What could be more fun than hopping on a plane and stepping off hours later somewhere jungly hot? Or leaping into the campervan and parking beside an empty beach on Scotland’s west coast? And as for connectivity, I’m one of those people who likes to be permanently online, checking email, reading blogs, catching up on forums and generally chitter-chattering away the days.

It’s when you try to combine the two that things begin to get tricky. Wifi’s not an option on that glorious beach, and unless you’re very careful, streaming a YouTube video from that jungly resort could cost you an arm and a leg. If you’re on holiday, that’s fine. Look for an internet cafe once or twice a week to check email, or simply enjoy being disconnected for a while.

crocodileclips But if you have a business to keep running, it becomes important to find ways to stay connected that: a) work; and b) don’t bankrupt the business. It’s always been technically challenging. When my husband travelled on business in the late 80’s, an essential part of his travel kit was a set of crocodile clips. You had to heave the bed away from the wall in your hotel room, find the phone socket and dismantle it, and then attach the crocodile clips, before you could download your email.

toshibaearlylaptopHe had an early Toshiba laptop, too, which was such a new idea that he once startled a New Zealand government department merely by picking it up and walking across the room with it (presumably they’re more technologically savvy these days).

When I first started my bijou software business in the late 90’s, I only needed to be able to read and send email to keep the business ticking over. If an order came in, I could send an acknowledgement. I could send the software itself on floppy disk when I got home. Once I switched to encrypted keys to unlock the full version of the software, it was even easier – I travelled with a list of keys, and simply emailed one to the customer as needed.

jornada680Things had moved on from crocodile clips by then. In 1999, I had a Jornada, a pocket PC, which had cut-down versions of office software as well as dial-up capability for email. Mind you, it still needed a physical phone socket, and (to my surprise) not all hotels supply phones in the bedroom. I once downloaded my email in the kitchen, while the chefs good-humouredly prepared dinner around me.

 

 

nokia_9300iBy 2001, I had a new gadget – a Nokia Communicator. This was a smartphone before the term had even been invented. Like the Jornada, it had cut-down versions of all the basic office software, and – miracle of miracles! – it fetched and sent email without needing to plug into a socket. It needed a mobile signal, but it made me independent of the physical phone system. Oh, the pleasure of leaving dial-up behind! I had two different models of this, and although it’s long gone now (models were produced until 2007), it saw me through to the closing down of my little business.

Now that I’m an author with books published, I find myself back in the situation of needing to stay connected to keep the business ticking over. There’s less to do, apart from obsessively checking sales numbers and rankings, but there are times when I absolutely have to respond to emails or pay an invoice or log in to my author account at Amazon to make changes. And I wanted to be able to carry on writing, even when away from home. Smart phones are wonderful, but they’re still phones, and typing more than a text message on them is a pain. And lugging a full-sized laptop everywhere is a hassle when travelling. So, something bigger was needed, and preferably with a decent keyboard.

asussliderMy first thought was a tablet. In 2012 I bought an Asus Slider, which can be used as a (rather thick) tablet, or, by sliding the screen upwards to reveal a keyboad, acts like a mini-laptop. This worked really well for basic email, internet browsing and so forth, as long as there’s wifi available, and I could type on it, too, so I could do some writing. As an Android device, it offered a mean set of apps, too. But there was one big problem: it couldn’t run Scrivener, my writing software of choice. That meant that my travel plans involved copying parts of the work in progress to a Word document, exporting it to the Asus, and then importing it back with changes later. And restoring all the curly quotes, which mysteriously disappeared. Very tedious.

asustransformerSo earlier this year, I upgraded to an Asus Transformer. This runs on Windows 8, and while it has some issues, it’s light, it has a keyboard (albeit a terribly clicky one) and it runs Scrivener. This has become my writing ‘sandbox’ – a separate machine for the current work in progress. When I travel, I can get email, access the internet, pay invoices and backup my writing to the cloud.

But only if I can connect. And hence the reason for this post. You wouldn’t think it was difficult in this day and age to get internet access anywhere you happen to be. The days of built-in modems and cables have gone, and the era of crocodile clips is far in the past: nowadays everyone has wifi, don’t they?

Well, yes and no. Big hotels all have it, of course, but you might have to pay extra for it. And every rinky-dink little coffee shop offers free wifi, but how secure is it, if you have to pay bills or access your bank account? And then there’s the dreaded login screen: just 5 pages of personal data to type in and away you go.

vodafonemobilewifiThere has to be a better way. So I got myself a mobile wifi gadget. This connects to the mobile phone network, and creates a personal wifi hub for up to 5 devices. I chose a Vodafone model, because they have good UK coverage and they also have the cheapest top up, only £5 for 250 Mb of data. And when it works, it’s as fast and solid as the broadband connection at home. But…

And now I’m going to rant a bit, so grab something solid and hang on tight. The first requirement is a mobile signal, and you would not believe how unreliable this can be. Generally you can get enough signal strength to make calls and send texts, but for data, no, forget that. And it dips in and out randomly. I got very tired of seeing the signal bars at orange or red on the gadget instead of green. I get that there are black spots, but when the signal comes and goes, without any rhyme or reason, that’s very frustrating.

And then there’s the cost. Mobile wifi works on the same principle as mobile phone bills. For pay-as-you-go, there’s no contract fee, so you buy a top-up lump of data, in this case. And off you go until it runs out, and then you top up again. Simple, right? Except that for emails and basic internet browsing, you don’t use that much at all. So you save it for the next trip… or not. Because the stuff expires in 30 days. Yep, anything you don’t use is gone 30 days later. So I pay £5 for 250Mb, use a tenth of that, and then, for the next trip a month later, I have to pay for another 250Mb. This is a real rip-off for occasional users. I’d be happier to either pay more for the gadget up-front, or pay a minimal amount as a monthly ‘retainer’ and have the data last for a reasonable time – a year, say.

But there are some companies that get things absolutely right. Splashtop makes software that allows you to access other computers on your wifi system remotely. So I can be using the tablet downstairs and connect through Splashtop to the main computer on my desk upstairs. Simple and effective. And for a modest monthly fee of £1.22 (around $2), I can also connect remotely. Yes folks, I can sit in my campervan on the west coast and move files around on the computer at home. It needs a fast wifi connection, but given that, it works amazingly well. There have always been ways to connect remotely, of course, but this is surely one of the simplest and easiest.

We’ve come a long way, it’s true, and it’s possible to stay connected wherever you happen to be in the world, with the right technology. And perhaps one day it will all work seamlessly, without annoying glitches or great expense, and we’ll look back on the days of wifi and laugh, as we do now at those early laptops and crocodile clips. But for now, all I can say is: it works brilliantly, right up to the point where it doesn’t. Which is probably true of life in general, actually.

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