Monthly Archives: December 2011

Safari Reader + “Print PDF To Scrivener”

If you’re conducting research on the Internet and use both a Mac and Scrivener, then here’s a tip.
You can view website content in a format that may be more useful for research purposes by using Safari Reader to ignore extraneous (in this context) page content.
Then, you can save the Reader-ified content directly to your currently open Scrivener project:

“…[P]rint the document from the source application, and when the print dialogue appears, use the PDF drop-down menu to select the target application. When you first ran Scrivener, it installed the necessary mechanism for this to work [for non Mac Store installs]. You should see an option in that list to “Save PDF to Scrivener”. The source application will assemble the print, save it as a PDF file, and then transfer that file to your active project.”

See the Scrivener manual (section 11.6 at the time of writing) for more details, including how to make this work for installs via the Mac Store.
This might sound laborious, but it’s just a few steps; click Reader in Safari, Print, PDF, Scrivener, and bingo!
An alternative to this (which I also use) is Safari’s feature for saving an entire web page (as other browsers no doubt have, though this definitely works like you’d expect inside Scrivener), and import that into your project. However, this runs into the problem of content being split between pages, and if the website doesn’t offer a Printable option, you’re slightly stuck. However, Safari Reader can combine pages together (sometimes—it isn’t perfect), making this a neat solution.

Review: “Bad Luck And Trouble” by Lee Child

I bought “Bad Luck And Trouble” by Lee Child quite by accident, at Waterstone’s West End in Edinburgh were offering it as some kind of branded reprint for a few quid. A novel featuring an ex-military protagonist fitted my project plans, so I decided to buy it for research. (Note: support your local bookshop!)
I’d never read any of Lee Child’s books, but the praise for the character and the book was high indeed. So, did the book deliver on its promises?
Kind of.
Plot-wise, at the end of the day it was well-crafted, with some twists and turns that kept me guessing. I did find it a bit slow to get going though, which surprised me. I think it was because for the first chunk our hero, Reacher, was getting his gang back together. Maybe if I’d read more Reacher beforehand, this would have been really cool, but for it wasn’t addressing the plot. I was reading through it to get to a point where things would start happening.
Character-wise, I found Reacher a bit flat. Not in terms of history—I thought his back-story was pretty good, although fir me his post-service history was less plausible. I mean, seriously? The guy has a bank account but he doesn’t even have a rucksack? He isn’t even prepared for inclement weather, despite his army training and mentality? It felt contrived, like the author wanted Reacher to be a drifter but still needed a way for people to contact him without involving something like email.
Actually, I think I found the ex-army characters all a bit too polite. All the ex-servicemen I’ve met (and I admit it’s not many, but it’s more than none) weren’t exactly silver-tongued cavaliers.
Setting-wise, I rather liked some of the touches where Los Angeles and Las Vegas are described. Having never been to either, I still felt that I had a good sense of each place.
Overall, I think this book could have been made punchier by cutting down what I felt was an intro. It had some good elements, and when the plot got going it was rather exciting, but perhaps the author found it difficult to fill a whole novel with it. I can see how on paper the plot would look like a single piece, but I found that once the main threat was identified, I didn’t care about what had come before, like it had just been preamble. I almost feel guilty for being down on the book, because I did enjoy it, but I was promised a roller-coaster ride a tough, uncompromising protagonist, and I’m afraid I didn’t really feel like it got that.
Take-home point: make sure the plot elements at the start of the book still feel relevant at the end, and that it doesn’t fee, like they could have been summarised in a couple of chapters.

Review: “The Allow Of Law” by Brandon Sanderson

I had the pleasure of meeting Brandon Sanderson at a reading in Edinburgh, and I’ll be honest, I’m a fan. This isn’t really an impartial review, therefore, but more a description of what I enjoyed in Brandon’s latest novel in the Mistborn series, “The Allow Of Law“.
I was intrigued by the idea of a fantasy universe which had been allowed to evolve after the (first) trilogy had concluded. The story could be labelled as a western, and it’s interesting to see how the events of the trilogy have become mythology in the “aftermath”, and how the various magic systems have Integrated into a society with firearms and steam engines. I can easily imagine this being done poorly, but in this case the transition is seamless. The theme of metals being important to magic comes through strongly—you feel that it’s part and parcel of everyday life, from slang terms through to someone running an election campaign on the basis of their immunity to emotion-altering magic!

So the message here is: it’s all about the worldbuilding. Irrespective of time period, if you admit magic into your world (and actually this applies to sufficiently advanced technology as well), what are the ramifications? If there aren’t any, then the magic or tech risks being irrelevant. Worse still, the story could veer into deus ex machina territory, and that is rarely (if ever) satisfying. Also, the ramifications can manifest in subtle ways as well as the obvious. Actually, it’s an automatic source of conflict—between the haves and have-nots, and conflict is the life-blood of writing.

The book also has a “surprising yet inevitable” climax. I saw the foreshadowing of what would happen much earlier, but was so swept up the action that I completely forgot about it. That takes skill, and it true was a forehead-slapping moment for me. Satisfying.

If I have a criticism, it’s that I’m not aware of Brandon having plans for a sequel, and the ending had me begging for a sequel. Maybe that’ll happen with the next trilogy, when that happens.