I don’t post about it very often, but my wife is a self-published author. She focuses mainly on “speculative fiction”–fantasy mixed with sci-fi (in varying quantities). Here’s a list of her published works.

Full disclaimer: she has expressly forbidden me from posting reviews of her works on sites like Amazon and, since I am (naturally) biased. However, this is my site, so I can say what I want! That said, I’ll try to keep this more or less impartial. I hate sales pitches, and I’m sure you do, too.

Anyhow, about two years ago, she published a novella called Mourning Cloak. Being a novella (shorter than a full novel, but longer than a short story) meant that she had to focus very tightly on the story she wanted to tell; longer works are able to take more time to build up the world, show you all the action, and then wrap everything up nicely at the end. Mourning Cloak had a very rich, detailed world, but the reader only really saw parts of it as the story carried them along–one reviewer complained that, even after reading, they didn’t have a good idea of what a cobble cruncher looked like–and there were some things left hanging at the end, because the story ended before they could be resolved. Most obviously, the main characters were stranded in a desert far from home. The story of Mourning Cloak was complete, but there was clearly more to tell about the world, and Rabia pretty quickly got lots of feedback asking for a sequel.

She’d never written a sequel before. Hadn’t even considered it, really.

But she agreed that there was more to tell, and so she wrote Ironhand, which continues the story and tries to wrap up some of the loose strands from Mourning Cloak. It’s available now in e-book format through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, and Kobo; we’ll be publishing a paperback version (through Amazon) soon.

If you’ve read & enjoyed Mourning Cloak, I highly recommend Ironhand. If you haven’t, feel free to try Ironhand, but I’d suggest that you’ll get the most out of reading both together–that’s kind of the nature of sequels, after all.

APEX 5.0 Hidden Gem: Developer Toolbar

This week, we return to the Hidden Gems series. This gem isn’t very hidden–you’re likely to have seen it a lot already–but it’s easy to overlook the power that it provides. I’m talking about the lowly developer toolbar.

The toolbar in APEX 4.x was fairly straightforward, but I rarely used it. (In all honesty, I just logged into a 4.2.6 environment just to see what options were available, because I couldn’t remember!) The only options I ever used were the Debug/View Debug entries, because the others either weren’t useful or didn’t work well with a two-window setup. When I opened the application in a different tab than the APEX Builder, I wanted to keep the two separate–and the various edit/create options in the developer toolbar stomped all over those desires. In 5.0, that’s been fixed.

The developer toolbar.

The first three options in the 5.0 toolbar remain the same as the old 4.x one, except they now know where your Builder session is and update that window, even switching your active tab for you. Much better than before, and actually useful.

The View Debug and Debug options also function pretty much the same as they always have, but there’s a new Session option as well which functions similarly to the View Debug option–it opens a new window where you can examine the current session state for your application, including any collections that you’ve created. Useful when you’re trying to track down a bug and want to confirm that the APEX session state (not the DOM session state!) matches what you think it should be.

Show Grid is interesting, and can be useful for lining things up properly in the Universal Theme, but I honestly don’t use it much at all.

The final three options are all new, and are where the really cool stuff happens.

Quick Edit is, in my opinion, one of the best productivity enhancements in 5.0. Clicking on it changes your mouse to a crosshair; moving the crosshair over the page will highlight individual regions, buttons, or items. When the one you want to edit is highlighted, click on it and APEX will switch you to your Builder tab and automatically navigate the page designer directly to the component you selected. I use this all the time.

Theme Roller is where you can change the look and feel of your Universal Theme application to match your requirements, and is really, really powerful. I’m looking forward to using it to customize WriteTrack. Of course, it’s not something you’re likely to be using often; once you’ve got your apps styled, you’re only rarely going to be making changes. But it’s right there and you can see what your changes look like as you make them.

The final option looks like a gear; this lets you change how the toolbar is displayed. Don’t want it in your face until you need it? Set it to auto-hide. Feel the text version is too wide (especially for non-modal windows)? Set it to Icons only. Prefer to have it somewhere other than the bottom of the window? Yeah, you can change that now, too. Play around with it and find what works best for you.

APEX 5.0 has taken a part of APEX that I largely ignored and turned it into something I use all the time. Take a look–you may find it doing the same for you!