I'm James Maxey, the author of the Dragon Age fantasy series of Bitterwood, Dragonforge, and Dragonseed, the Dragon Apocalypse series of Greatshadow, Hush, and Witchbreaker, as well as the superhero novels Nobody Gets the Girl and Burn Baby Burn. I use this site to discuss a wide range of topics, with a heavy emphasis on cranky, uninformed rants about politics and religion and other topics that polite people attempt to avoid. For anyone just wanting to read about my books, I maintain a second blog, The Prophet and the Dragon, where I keep the focus solely on my fiction.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

New Weight Loss Competition: Weigh In: 244

We're starting a new weight loss competition at work. I won the last three month cycle by losing 37 pounds. Since then, my weight has been mostly stable, fluctuating in a range between 250 and 245. (My final weigh in weight last time was 247.) I weighed in yesterday at 244.

My goal is to wind up with my weight in the 220s. The upper end of that range is only 15 pounds away. Some weight calculators I use tell me that my ideal weight should be 195, which still seems like an improbable goal for me. I suspect I'll lose a lot of my motivation once I hit the 220s. But, who knows? Cheryl and I have maintained better diet and excercise habits since September, and together we've lost over 70 pounds. There are some bad habits I feel confident I won't go back to, like drinking sugary sodas, or eating fast food a half dozen times a week. Perhaps a year from now, 195 won't look like such an absurd number.

But, for now, my real goal is stay a step ahead of everyone at work. Last time, my exercize goal was 4 hours of walking each week, about 5 miles a week. This time, I'm doubling that to 8 hours and 10 miles a week. Unlike the last weight loss competition, there are no big food holidays on the calendar, and no big personal milestones that require me to eat cake, the way my one year anniversary did. 15 pounds should be the minimum I can achieve.

Now... off to hiking!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Bitterwood is now even freer!

Last week, I announced that I had made Bitterwood free on Smashwords. Now, I'm pleased to announce that Amazon has price matched and the novel is now a free download for Kindle! You can get your copy here! Anything you can do to help spread the word will be greatly appreciated. Blog, facebook, twitter, or just tell a friend. I want to really build some buzz about this series before releasing the fourth novel of the series, "Empire of Angels," as part of "The Complete Bitterwood" next month. That should lay the groundwork nicely for the Bitterwood audiobook, coming in March!

Nook readers, don't despair! I'm confident B&N will price match before long. And, don't forget, the Nook compatible epub is already available for free at Smashwords. Since I don't have an Ipad or Iphone, I can't check the Apple store, but if anyone reading this has one of these devices, I'd love it if you'd check to see if it's been price matched there and let me know. Thanks!

Monday, January 14, 2013

Are E-Books Environmentally Friendly?

At Illogicon over the weekend I was on a panel discussing the likely date when books printed on paper would shift from the most common way to distribute long narrative prose to just another object of interest to collectors. I have no doubts books will be printed a century from now. Vinyl records are still being made, and there are still people who manufacture saddles a century after the automobile pushed horses from the roads. But, the lower cost, ease of purchase, and vast possibilities of choice all but guarantee that e-books are going to be what people mean when they say “book” a few decades from now.

One benefit mentioned on the panel was the notion that e-books are better for the environment. One of the panelists, Tony Daniels, scoffed at this notion and said that all the energy needed to store and distribute e-books had an environmental cost. I was incredulous that he believed that that cost was greater than the cost of manufacturing and distributing books. But, the more I’ve thought about the matter, the more I suspect he might be right.

First, the costs of paper books: It takes energy to produce and distribute them. Shipping cases of books around the country (and even internationally) uses up a lot of fuel. Storing the books in climate controlled warehouses also burns up energy. Since I work in the printing industry, I can assure you that printing them requires equipment that sucks down electricity, and the main component of books, paper, is also rough on the environment, as anyone who has ever lived near a paper mill will attest.

Compare this to the tiny bits of electricity need to send an e-book across a network to your Nook, and it’s hard to think that an e-book isn’t better for the environment.

And, for the short term, it might be. But, what about the cost over decades, or even centuries? One nice thing about books is that, with care, they can last a very long time. A book printed today can sit on your library shelf for twenty years and then be read without adding anything to that book’s environmental cost. Lots of books do just this… sit around on shelves. They aren’t often simply thrown away. As a commodity, they are heavily recycled, passing from user to user, and when they do finally hit the end of their useful lives, they can be pulped to make more paper.

Your e-books, on the other hand, are read on electronic devices that are designed to be obsolete after two years. Suppose you have a book you read all the time—let’s just use the Bible as an example. A printed Bible can last a person many years. Let’s say that one has a useful life of twenty years of frequent use before it falls completely apart. An e-book version of the Bible over that same twenty years is going to probably live on a dozen different electronic devices. Every time you want to read it, it will drain a bit of power from your battery, power that will have to be replaced from the electrical grid. All the dead and obsolete electronic devices discarded over that twenty year span are going to have batteries made of toxic metals that are terrible things to put into landfills. The environmental cost of the total waste generated by obsolete electronic devices over the course of a decade is almost certainly greater than the environmental cost of obsolete books.

Finally, if you are worried about CO2 in the atmosphere, most paper is made from trees grown especially for pulp. This means that these trees suck CO2 out of the air, where it gets locked into paper and removed from the atmosphere for many, many years.

Someone a bit more dedicated to doing the actual data gathering on the environmental costs might come to a different conclusion, but, I think Tony Daniels was right. E-books aren’t better for the environment, especially over a long span of time. If you want to save the world run out and buy all the physical books you can get your hands on. I don’t have the hard evidence to prove it, but I think that books with dragons on the cover are especially good to purchase if you care about the planet.

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Weight loss update

The second half of December was a challenge, given all the holiday meals and events we attended, not to mention that everywhere we turned we were being offered candies and cookies. Still, Cheryl and I at least stayed stable during the month.My final weigh in at work on 12-31 was 246, though all the snacking I did at my New Year's Eve party probably ensures I went into 2013 a bit heavier than that.

There's talk of doing another weight loss competition at work. I'm all for it, since the competition helps keep me motivated. But, even if not, I still plan to keep on track. I have a few modest targets that I can aim for to build momentum. I just need to hit 244 to have lost 40 pounds since I started, then 240 is another nice milestone right behind that. After that, it will probably be a long slog through the 230s. Hopefully we'll have at least a few nice days this month where I can get out and do a major hike. Eating right is useful for keeping the weight off, but to really lose weight, nothing beats a hike that lasts for several hours.