Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Back, Live on the Web!

Verizon has finally fixed the problem (fingers crossed!), and my websites are back on the air! Yay!

That's the good news. The bad news is, Google is changing their search algorithms for searches made from smartphones, and web sites that are not optimized for mobile viewing are going to be severely demoted in the search rankings. Mobilegeddon.

Yeah, that would be me. This blog, apparently, is okay. But my author page and my writing course are both in plain html, and I don't know how to optimize them without rebuilding them from the ground up. Yes, I have been meaning for years now to make a transition to Wordpress, because that seems to be the way to go. But who has the time? I have a book to finish! Augh. 

I know this is something I need to do, anyway--probably by hiring someone to do it for me. But when? I just don't know.



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Monday, April 20, 2015

Websites Still Down, No thanks to Verizon

Both of my websites have been down since last week, thanks to Verizon botching an upgrade to the connection between them and my hosting service, SFF Net. This affects both my author website at www.starrigger.net and my online writing course at www.writeSF.com. If you click either of those links right now, you'll get nada.

I am just one of a large number of authors affected by this, and other Verizon corporate customers as well. The fact that this has been going on for almost a week now gives you a pretty good indication of how well Verizon takes care of its customers. (But I'm sure our business is important to them!)

This means if you happen to be reading one of my ebooks, and you get to the end, and find a link to see "more ebooks by Jeffrey A. Carver," you can click the link all night, but you won't see bupkis except for error messages.

Repair updates continue to stream at https://twitter.com/sffnet, offering alternately hope and despair. 

Hosting sites like mine is SF Net's business. They must be about ready to fall on their swords. Don't, guys! We'll get through this.

Verizon technical support



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Sunday, April 19, 2015

The Infinity Link for the Price of a Buck!

It’s been over a month since I’ve had a big book sale, and let me tell you, it shows in the sales numbers. Jeez, people, don’t you ever buy anything that’s not on sale? I don’t mean you people, of course. Of course you’ve been buying my books, and bless you! No, I mean all those other people who have been choosing to spend their money on—I don’t know what, shoes for their kids, or cocaine, or other people’s books. Enough of that, I say.

Starting today, and for a limited time only, you can snag yourself a copy of the first book of mine that really got “serious” attention, and my first monster epic that took years to write. Yes, The Infinity Link. (No, not The Infinite Sea. That’s my other “infinite” book, intended to keep you on your toes.)

Anyway, here’s what it looks like, with a lovely cover by David B. Mattingly. And right below are the places where—for a limited time only!—you can get your ebook for just $.99. As I never tire of telling the world, that’s way less than a cup of coffee, for reading pleasure that will last long after those gritty coffee dregs grow cold. Act now!


(Is this a Bookbub special? Of course it is!)  

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Friday, April 17, 2015

My Five-Minute Essay on Hello Horatio

Hello Horatio is a brand-new website featuring a lot of short essays on this or that, with the common thread being an interest in saying something personal about the deeper meanings of life, and generally sharing our stories. The name Horatio comes from the line in Hamlet: “There is more in heaven and earth, Horatio, than is dreamt of in your philosophy.”

The unstated (at least so far) goal of the site is to encourage open conversations among people of faith, of different faiths, of secular faith, or of no faith at all—in short, to quit worrying about how we label ourselves or each other, and to share what we think about things that matter. I chose to share why I find science fiction to be such an important way of thinking about life and my place in it. It’s called “A Fine View of the Universe,” and here’s how it starts...

“A few years ago, a new remake of an old TV show hit the airwaves and created quite a stir. The show was Battlestar Galactica, and its arrival in the form of a four-hour miniseries signaled a creative breakthrough...” [read more]

I was a little startled to see that my daughter also has a piece just up, called “A Car Accident Rescued Me from My Wrong Life.” It starts...

“I'm so glad I got hit by a car...” [read more]

Surely that should get your attention. Take a look at some of the other essays while you’re there. They're all short, and pretty interesting.

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Websites Down, with a Little Help from Verizon

On the off-chance you've tried to look at either of my websites* in the last day or so, you were no doubt disappointed. They've been down, thanks to something Verizon did somewhere near Dallas, Texas. And they're still down.
 *My author website at starrigger.net, or my free online writing course at writeSF.com.

My websites are hosted by SFF.Net, which for many years has provided reliable email and web-hosting at a reasonable price to a sizable chunk of the SF community. One thing I've always liked about SFF Net is that if you have a question or problem, you can shoot them an email and often have a friendly and helpful reply back within the hour. For many years, they've hosted my writing site for free or for a discounted price, simply because the course (nonprofit) is written primarily for kids, and they like to help kids.

SFF Net in turn is linked to the internet through its connection to Verizon. And when Verizon made some change without warning, all of SFF Net's websites went down, too. Apparently it was a pretty drastic (and destructive) change, because almost two days later, they're still down--while SFF Net waits for Verizon to provide needed technical assistance, allegedly sometime today. (They're keeping us updated via their twitter feed.)

So thanks, Verizon, for being right there to help when you're needed! Uh-huh. But seriously, thanks, SFF Net, for being such a great hosting service. Even when lumbering giants trample over all your good work.

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Thursday, April 16, 2015

Nomorobo Beats “Rachel at Cardholder Services”

Rachel has such a bright, charming voice, and I’m sure she’s only trying to sell me something good. But I don’t know, because I’ve only ever hung up on her before she could finish her pitch. Like, about a thousand times. You may know her, too. Especially if you have a landline in the U.S.

Do you know about NOMOROBO? If you’re driven crazy by robot spam callers as I once was, go at once to nomorobo.com and sign up for the free call-blocking service. Nomorobo was the winner of a competition sponsored by the Federal Trade Commission to find a way to stop infuriating marketing calls—and it really works! It’s like an anti-virus program for your computer. It screens incoming calls, and if the numbers match profiles of known spammers, it rejects the calls after one ring.

Here’s the only catch: It works only on landlines that use Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP). But that’s most of the majors. I have Comcast, and I had no idea our phone calls went by VOIP. But they do. The sign-up is not quite as simple as they make it out to be, but neither is it as complicated as their instructions make it seem. It took me fifteen or twenty minutes to work through it. And once you’re registered, that’s it. You’re protected against most nuisance calls.

I had gotten to the point that when our landline rang, I often didn’t even bother to get up to see who it was; I just knew it was probably a spammer. Now, I listen—and if it rings once, then stops, I high-five the air. Because Nomorobo has just kicked a robot call back to the netherhells from whence it came.

Let’s hear it for the invention of the year!

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I’ve Cast Off the Yokes of Sickness and Taxes!

For much of my last week I have been occupied by twin plagues: getting through my first miserable cold of the season (Spring is here!), and finishing my tax returns. On one return, I owe money, and on another I get money back, and so on. Life is good!

Did you know that if you live in Massachusetts, but you get paid to teach at a weekend workshop in Vermont, you wind up having to file a tax return to the Green Mountain State as well as the Bay State? As well as the United States? Probably you didn’t know, and I’m betting you didn’t care. But you do.

But wait. Did you know that if you put solar panels on your roof to generate electricity and help the planet, no one can tell you—not the IRS, not the online tax advisors, not Turbotax—whether the solar energy credits you eventually get from the utilities are taxable income? Or if they are, how you balance them against the money you spent putting up the panels. You’d think the IRS would have a position on the question. But apparently they don’t. You’re on your own with that one, buddy.

Well, who cares now, because it’s all signed and done, and I went out rollerblading to celebrate! And then I came home and made a nice, fresh batch of frozen margaritas!

I do love frozen margaritas.

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Sunday, April 05, 2015

Happy Easter, 2015!

Whether you celebrate the day as a holiday of faith, or a holiday of chocolate bunnies and jelly beans, or both—have a beautiful day!

This picture from Muir National Monument seems to fit the occasion.


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Saturday, April 04, 2015

Our Sojourn in San Francisco Bay

Well, not in the bay, but in the bay area. We’ve just returned from a trip west, visiting my brother and his wife, who are visiting scholars this year at Stanford’s Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences. We got to see lovely Palo Alto and Stanford itself, which besides advanced study boasts two fantastic art museums, and the Herbert Hoover Tower, which houses the former president’s library as well as a great observation deck. Here’s a picture from Wikipedia (I forgot to take my own).



I’m not entirely without snapshots, though. One day we drove to and through San Francisco, and over the Golden Gate Bridge to the Muir National Monument, which is an island in the middle of beautiful state parkland, and the home to a gorgeous redwood forest. It took us a while to get there, but the walk through the redwoods was well worth it. So was the view from the low mountain slopes back across San Francisco Bay toward the city. These pix don’t really do them justice.

If you zoom way in, you can see the San Francisco skyline.

Treebeard would approve. Maybe these are the Entwives?

Another day we drove south to see elephant seals lounging on the beach, gathering their strength for a nine-month swim that would take them thousands of miles across the ocean, eating and swimming, until their return for mating season on this beach next year. Did you know elephant seals can dive to 1500 feet and stay down for an hour, while holding their breaths? On the beach, they look like enormous stuffed dog toys, idly flicking sand onto their bodies with their flippers.



On the final day, we visited the Cantor and Anderson art museums. Here's Rodin's "Thinker," one of seven castings made by Rodin.


The driving game of choice in Palo Alto, by the way, is seeing how many Teslas you can spot per trip. It didn’t take long to develop Tesla envy.


It was a short visit, but memorable. Remind me to get an appointment to Stanford the next time I’m on sabbatical!

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Saturday, March 14, 2015

Happy Pi Day, Extreme!

(GOING LIVE ON 3.14.15 AT 9:26.  Five... four... three... two... [finger points])


Happy Pi Day! No, I don’t mean pie day. I mean Ratio of a Circle’s Circumference to Its Diameter Day! Or approximately 3.1415926, followed by a lot more digits, going on forever. It’s the universal number signifying the presence of an intelligent, sentient species. If we ever detect that number being beamed to us from space, it’s either from one of us, or there are Intelligent Beings out there, with both math and transmitters. My dog Captain Jack is pretty smart, but I don’t think he knows about pi. My cat Moonlight... well, she might.

Anyway, Pi Day comes around in a minor way every March 14. (3-14)  But today is Pi Day Extreme: 3.14.15. That won’t happen again for a century!

Pi Day is also when the MIT Admissions Department sends out its notices of acceptance. In fact, according to the Boston Globe, this year’s admission notices will be released on Saturday, March 14, at 9:26 a.m. That works out to 3.1415926, which is pi to seven decimal places. I love MIT.

Here’s a video MIT prepared, depicting the admission notices going out en masse by quadcopter drones, set to Wagner's Ride of the Valkyries:




https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zjw9-E3_GbM&feature=youtu.be

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Friday, March 13, 2015

GNU Terry Pratchett!



Good day readers. This is Jeff's daughter Julia, and I hope you don't mind my taking some of your time.

We lost Terry Pratchett yesterday. It seems like a particularly unfair kind of cruelty to lose him barely a week after we lost Leonard Nimoy. My dad has never found the right Pratchett book to suck him into the series, or maybe he just hasn't found the time, which is why I'm here talking to you about him instead.

To be entirely honest, I kind of expected to one day get to meet Sir Terry. I imagined that I would quietly say that I was a big fan, ask him to sign a book (Going Postal, probably -- it was my first) and then escape before embarrassing myself or discovering too much about my hero.

I'm a little bit of a cynic sometimes, though not nearly as much of one as I pretend to be in public. (Look, the lure of "coolness" is strong, powerful. Don't talk to me about honesty.) Terry Pratchett was a little bit of a cynic as well, and by 'a little bit of a cynic' I mean 'incredibly unbelievably cynical'. He was also an incredible idealist. I don't quite know how he managed to be those two things at once, without having Terry Pratchett to show him the way.

As I said, Going Postal was my first Terry Pratchett book. I vaguely recall receiving it as a Christmas or birthday present when I was somewhere around twelve years old, and nothing about it seemed deep or meaningful to me except for how very clever it was. It seemed like delightful, fluffy, brain candy that I devoured like, well, candy, and giggled at nonstop. The first of his books that made me think thoughts about morality and philosophy and the nature of the world was Hogfather, and it did so by hitting me over the head with a sledgehammer that was somehow full of nuance. And then I think it stole my wallet, but what can you do. It also made me think a lot of thoughts about how much I wanted to be Susan Sto Helit. And then came I Shall Wear Midnight, which is the last Tiffany Aching book but the first one I read, and it was the first of his books to reach out and take me by the hand and help me become a stronger person. I never wanted to be Tiffany Aching, I just needed her example to follow.

The best way I can describe the world as it is shown to me by Terry Pratchett is that it is incredibly possible. It's a world where you can look true things in the eye and yet somehow not despair. It's a world in which you can do the task in front of you, because it is there needing doing and you are there in front of it, and so it is yours to do. It's a world in which you can become a real witch in five easy steps, by which I mean that everything important is very very difficult and requires care and thoughtfulness but maybe you can manage not to screw up too badly if you try your very best.

Terry Pratchett helped me in much the same way that going to my church helps me -- in that I don't do it very often, I'm always promising to apply its lessons more consistently, and when I do make use of it, the world looks a little different and my efforts in the world work a little better. My mother is going to be very upset with the syntax of that sentence. Sorry mother. Some forces are too powerful for good syntax.

Terry Pratchett helped me do things. He helped me think things. I understand that he was an atheist, but I hope he won't mind too terribly when I say that Terry Pratchett was one of my favorite pastors.

GNU Terry Pratchett.


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Sunday, March 01, 2015

I Defy You, Winter!

Yes, it's snowing again.


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Saturday, February 28, 2015

Losing Leonard Nimoy Is Hard. Losing Spock Is Even Harder.

The passing of Leonard Nimoy at age 83 saddens me in much the same way that losing Neil Armstrong did, back in August of 2012. (Has it really been two and a half years?) Armstrong was a space pioneer. Nimoy created the role of a space-fiction pioneer. And both carved lasting places in my heart, and in my view of the world and the century I’ve lived in.


I never knew Nimoy personally, but I do feel that I know, and love, Spock. As a science fictionally literate teenager, my initial reaction to Star Trek in its original 1960s run was that the pointy ears and walled-off emotions were pretty cheesy and unoriginal. But Spock grew on me with time, as did all of the Trek characters. It wasn’t until years later, after countless viewings of the reruns, that I came to appreciate Nimoy’s acting, and to realize that it was Enterprise family I loved, more than any of the much-touted forward-thinking virtues of the show (though those were good, too). And at the heart of the family were Spock and Kirk, with Spock possibly at the heart of the heart. Later came the movies, and the death and rebirth of Spock, and that’s when he really came into his own as a character, and as a friend in my own mind.

We’ll always have Spock with us, of course. And in his own way, Leonard Nimoy will always be with us, even as he journeys now in the beyond. But we’ll never again get to see him play Spock in something new. And that, in a way, is what hurts the most.

Godspeed, Leonard Nimoy. Live long and prosper. And thanks for all that you’ve given us.



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Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Beneath the Seas of Ernathe

In the latest bold stroke of my continuing campaign to take over the world, I have just released an all-new edition of my very first novel of the Star Rigger Universe, Seas of Ernathe. Eat your hearts out, Lee Child and George R.R. Martin!

Okay, I guess it’s not all new, in the sense that the words are the same, give or take a few corrections, as the book I wrote quite a few years ago. But the formatting is all new, far more attractive than the previous editions, and it boasts a gorgeous new cover by Chris Howard, whose other work you can sample here.

Seas of Ernathe was in fact my first venture into the novel form, though it tells a story set the farthest into the future of all of my Star Rigger stories. Whether that reflects my innate upside-down genius vision of the universe, or my essential backassward way of doing things, I leave to the reader to decide.

Here’s the short blurb:

"Starship rigging is a long-lost art. But the ocean world Ernathe may hold the key to its rediscovery, if a young star pilot can learn the ways of the mysterious sea people, the Nale’nid. A touching story of love and personal discovery, Seas of Ernathe takes us on a journey back toward the mode of star travel that once knit the galaxy together."

Kindle | Nook | iBooks


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Monday, February 23, 2015

Where All the Ladders Start

If you like private eye novels, and if you like near-future civilization-grinding-down novels, and if you like great characters and witty dialogue and sharp writing, why don’t you check out my friend Richard Bowker’s new book, Where All the Ladders Start. Because it has all that, and more.

I got to read this one in manuscript—actually, in several different drafts—and it’s really good. I understand it’s available now in both ebook and paper. Check it out!






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Sunday, February 22, 2015

Yesterday...and Today

Yesterday I looked down from my third-floor office window and realized that the back side of our garage was just as heavily laden with snow as the side I’d laboriously cleared the other day. My camera arm wasn't long enough to show it, but here I am literally standing in snow up to my waist, in the backyard neighbor's yard, raking at the roof. The word roof-rake wasn't even in my vocabulary a year ago!


And let me tell you, that snow had hardened! I wish I had gone at it when it was fresh powder. But after I'd cleared it and stood inside the garage looking up at the old rafters, I thanked God that the structure was still standing.




Today the temperature is 37 degrees, and things are finally melting!



It’s gonna get cold again real soon. Subzero low predicted for Monday night. Some days I feel as if I’m living on one of those alien worlds I write about.

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Wednesday, February 18, 2015

A Glacier on the Garage Roof

What with all the warnings (and news reports) about roofs collapsing under the weight of all the snow we’ve received this month, I finally decided it was time to do something about this huge snow cap on our garage roof. It has compressed down and hardened over the last week or two—and they are predicting wet snow or “wintry mix” this weekend. That’s a lot of weight on aging timbers.



Armed with our new roof rake from Ace Is the Place, we set to work. First, I had to carve something resembling a path to a point in the back yard from which we could work. This meant using the snow blower to tunnel into the mountain ridge that walls the Valley of the Snowba. Good news! My new carburetor arrived from China yesterday, and the old Snowba  runs like a new machine now! Let’s hear it for Chinese manufacturing! (Actually, I spent about an hour trying to MacGyver a choke control, because the choke assembly on the new carb does not even remotely match the one on the old carb. Finally I gave up and tried starting it with no choke at all. It blasted off on the first pull!)



Anyway, here’s what it all looked like. I spent 2-3 hours out there, and let me tell you, I was ready for some brandy in my coffee when I got back inside.





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Cheap Books! Cheap Books!

It’s that time of the month again. If you’ve subscribed to Bookbub.com (as I have so often exhorted you to do), you already know this: The Rapture Effect is on sale for a buck minus a penny, for a week and a day minus a day. Get it while you can!

The Rapture Effect was my first book after The Infinity Link, which I recently blabbed about. It’s about artificial intelligence and alien contact, two of my favorite themes, with overtones of music and dance. Oh, and an interstellar war. It has some great aliens, with names like Moramaharta and Dououraym. I think you’ll like it.


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Sunday, February 15, 2015

’Nother Day, ’Nother Foot o’ Snow

I’ll just let the pictures speak, instead of lifting all those heavy words.
Click any picture to biggify.

The sand worm passes

Dive! Dive!

Surface!

A neighbor's collection of shovels

The Valley of the Snowba

To the left, there, you can see the top of the railing on our elevated deck. At this point, to clear a pathway on the deck, we have to heave the snow down into the valley, and then use the Snowba to hurl it further out. That's getting to be quite a throw.


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Tuesday, February 10, 2015

What Do You Mean There’s More Snow Coming?


I know I’m a good digger, but really.

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The Long and Winding Road of The Infinity Link

The Infinity Link, my fourth novel and my first biiig novel, is now available in an all-new ebook edition. The cover art is still the gorgeous David Mattingly painting that has been on every previous edition, from the Bluejay hardcover to the Tor paperback to the earlier E-reads ebook edition. But inside the cover, the ebook has gone through a complete reformatting and beautification, and I think it looks great. In the years since E-reads put out their edition, the tools for ebook formatting have improved dramatically, as have the reading devices themselves.

This 180,000 word novel started as a short story in my head, with just the main character and her plight (an impossible love, at the other end of a tachyon beam). It grew quickly into a longer story, and then a full novel. And then a big novel.

Funny thing about big (thick) novels: They seem to go in and out of style with remarkable speed. When the first paperback edition came out, the publisher lamented to me about the length. (I love your book. I just wish it weren’t so long. It’s hard to fit thick novels into book racks in drugstores and supermarkets, and even in bookstores you can’t get as many on the shelf.) To his credit, he didn’t ask me to change it; he just told me the facts of life as he saw them. Historical note: Back then, they actually sold SF books in drugstores and supermarkets, and those were very important parts of the marketplace.

A few years later, the same publisher reissued the paperback, with a different cover treatment (same art, but used differently), and they printed it on thicker paper, making the whole package thicker—yes, bigger and fatter. I never was given a reason for this, but could only conclude that that year, fat books were in.

Here’s the sales blurb:

Ancient alien travelers. Hopeless love. Astonishing encounter. Mozelle Moi’s life turns into a flight of fear and astounding discovery, as she becomes enmeshed in a secret government project to make first contact with visitors from the stars. Caught in a telepathic link with the Talenki voyagers, Mozy's personal odyssey will soon be entwined with the fate of all of Humanity.

Combining visionary scientific speculation with passionate human characters, The Infinity Link is an epic work of transcendent science fiction and an exploration into the very nature of humanity. From the Nebula-nominated author of Eternity’s End.

REVIEWS:

“A long, ambitious work, painted on a canvas as big as the solar system. The concept itself is even larger—the eventual linkup of various intelligent life forms of our galaxy, including humans, whales and several alien races.  Carver carefully sets up his story and develops it in a meticulous fashion...it works very well.” —Publishers Weekly

“A complex, rich, and satisfying novel.” —Fantasy Review

There are more review quotes that you can read on the actual sale pages, if you want.

The Infinity Link debuts today at Book View Café, and is also available (or will  be shortly) wherever fine SF ebooks are sold!

 



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Monday, February 09, 2015

Buried By Snow on a Snowy Evening

My friend Rich Bowker has been posting a series of snow poems by actual poets. I thought I would add my own stanza to the ouvre.

Whose woods these are I think I know
His house is in the snowdrift though
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods swall’w’d up by snow.


—Robert Frosty


The ground is down there somewhere. Way down.

Another foot or so predicted tonight and tomorrow, after the foot or so we’ve had over the last couple of days. It’s getting really hard to pile it any higher.

Captain Jack's enjoying it.

Something interesting

My snow blower continues to work, off and on, coughing and sputtering. I believe it’s running way too rich on the bad carburetor (new one still en route from China), and after few hours it quits and I have to feed it a new spark plug because the old one is fouled with carbon. I only have so many new spark plugs on hand to feed it. (Like, that was my last.)

The bike path transformed

We will remember this winter, I think.

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Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Did We Think We Were Done With Snow?

It is to laugh. Today’s storm was, in some ways, more challenging than Blizzard Juno. We got about a foot and a half of snow, which was a good workout. The hard part was finding a place to put the stuff. It was pretty, though! And with the town-wide parking ban, we were happily free of all the commuters who usually park up and down our street and walk to the T.

I tried a Hail Mary pass on the snow blower, tweaking a couple of things in hopes of getting it running—and it started! And ran! It didn’t run well, exactly, but it ran well enough to do what I needed it to do. There was rejoicing all around. (My new carburetor is somewhere en route from China. Probably sunning itself on Guam.)

I took these pix after dark, and the flash flare against the still-falling snow was pretty intense. (Just like J.J. Abrams with lens flare in Star Trek: Into Darkness.) The first one came out pretty well as abstract art, I thought. But what I was really trying to get was the rising walls of snow, turning the walkways into deepening canyons.I like the blue light from the tree glowing off the snow ridge in the second one.



 

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Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Farewell, Winter Storm Juno!

It all worked out just fine here, with lots of shoveling and the whole neighborhood out talking and clearing snow together. There’s still a travel ban until midnight tonight, and I understand there are some areas, especially down around Cape Cod, that lost power. But here we’re not going to have much to complain about besides sore muscles tomorrow.

About that snow blower that needs a new carb? I went online last night and found carburetors galore—where else?—on Amazon. Including a replacement for my 35-year-old machine. The only problem: it’s coming from Hong Kong, or maybe China (wait—Hong Kong is China now, isn’t it?), and I can only hope it will arrive before Spring.

And the coffee? A friendly neighbor gave me some beans to get me through the hard times.

Here are some pix:

Past the hump, but still coming down


Shovelers preparing for work


Captain Jack at the ready

Do I have the con, or do you have the con?

Settling into evening. Yes, the Christmas lights are still up. 



All's well that ends well.


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Hunkered Down for a Nor’easter!

Here in Massachusetts, we’re in the early stages of what I guess they’re calling Winter Storm Juno. So far, it’s just been a windy snowstorm. But it’s supposed to go all through Monday night (that’s tonight), and all day Tuesday, and well into the wee hours of Tuesday night. A statewide nonessential travel ban just went into effect, until further notice, and everything’s closing. I’ve heard forecasts for our area ranging from one and a half feet of snow to three feet, and high winds. On the coast, that could be bad news. We’re far enough in that the biggest worry is downed lines and loss of power. (If we lose power, we lose heat.) All day I’ve been pondering the backup generator I didn’t buy when I was looking into them a couple of years ago.


The other thing I’ve been pondering is, why did my snow blower, which ran perfectly when I tested it a few weeks ago, pick this week to kack? I discovered this just yesterday, when it started stalling and I saw gasoline leaking from the carburetor. The local repair place seems to have gone out of business, and all the stores I called were 86 on snow blowers—all except the expensive motorcycle place, which had only expensive models, well out of my price range. I tried to repair the carburetor, but no dice. Anyone know where I can get a carb for a 1970s-era Toro?

On the plus side, I’m well stocked with books, batteries, beer, margarita ingredients, and necessary food stuffs, so I can go to my happy place when I need to. Except... except...

How in the world could I have only just discovered that there’s no coffee in the house??? NO COFFEE!!! Aiieeee!!!

A writer in a blizzard with no coffee?

Words fail.

 

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Monday, January 19, 2015

You Guys Are Really the Best!

Over 4230 copies of Eternity’s End in the last week! A new Bookbub record? I dunno, but we just squeaked past the number they listed at the top of the range of sales for science fiction books! And as far as my own personal record is concerned? We knocked it out of the galaxy! KABOOM!

Truly amazing.

So, thanks, all of you bought Eternity’s End. And a double thanks to all of you who post reviews, which will encourage even more people to try it in the future!

I’m taking my writing group out to dinner, because they helped me make the book worthy of your time in the first place!

Here, have some extra exclamation marks. You've earned them. !!!!

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Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Back By Popular Demand: The Rapture Effect!

Even if the popular demand is just from me the marketing department at Starstream Publications, we prove once again that we listen to our customers. My standalone novel, The Rapture Effect, is once more available in ebook format, this time from my own imprint and Book View Café!

Here’s the blurb:

War between the stars. It was started by an AI, and few humans even knew there was a war at all. But now people are dying, not just robots and aliens—and the AI wants it to stop. But a war is easier to start than to stop, and the computer can't alter its course without outside help. When the Gnostic Control System searches for conspirators, it chooses its friends carefully...

  • Pali: a public relations director, who broods far too much on her unfulfilled ambitions.
  • Ramo: a flamboyant senso-dancer and sculptor, who prefers a musical jamdam to serious conversation.
  • Sage: an awkward systems designer, for whom the AI rapture-field is realer than life.
  • And three of the alien Ell: Harybdartt, who would rather die with dignity than betray his people; Lingrhetta, who tries to unravel the meaning of human dance and music, pain and love; and Moramaharta, the binder, who must persuade his fellow decision-makers to risk everything for the sake of a fragile bridge of understanding across the stars.
A thought-provoking novel of the not-too-distant future, from the Nebula-nominated author of Eternity’s End and The Chaos Chronicles.

The Rapture Effect is a lively dance of ideas—first contact, interstellar war, artificial intelligence, alien culture—and it moves at a rapid pace, from Earth through cyberspace to the Horsehead Nebula, and various points between. It’s well-worth the trip ticket.” —Roger Zelazny

Art by David B. Mattingly, cover design by Maya Kaathryn Bohnhoff



Here’s a little glimpse inside:

Q. Then the . . . war . . . is being fought by . . . AI-units?
A. Yes.
Q. And who is the enemy?
A. Unknown. An alien race.
Q. You mean our first contact with an alien race is a war? A secret war?
A. Yes.
Q. Who manufactures the AI-units?
A. The Company.
Q. Who is conducting the war?
A. The Company.
Q. Who knows about this?
A. The Company, the government, and you.

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Monday, January 12, 2015

You Guys Are the Best!

The first day of this sale shattered all of my previous specials: More than 2500 copies of Eternity’s End sold in the first twelve hours after the Bookbub email went out! I have spent the whole day grinning and dancing around the house:  !!!! \\\\ !!!! \\\\

In a manly, virile sort way, of course.

So, I just want to say, Thank you, and I hope you enjoy your reading!

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Special of the Week: Eternity’s End!

I’ll be your server this week, Mesdames and Sirs. We only have one Special this week, but it’s one I’m certain you will enjoy—and an amazing value for your entertainment dollar. That’s right—this week we’re offering Eternity’s End for less than that dollar, in fact a mere $0.99. That’s less than you tipped the parking valet to get into this joint. And it’s way less than the regular price of $5.99! Can you believe it?

I’ll be honest—at first I thought it was a misprint. But I checked with my manager. And yes, it’s $0.99, with no limit on the number of copies you can buy! One for the bathroom, one for the bedroom, one for the living room, six to give to friends! Oh wait, it’s an ebook, so I guess you don’t need to buy one for each room. But you could, if you wanted to. For one week only.

Eternity’s End is a big-scope science fiction novel. I mean, BIG scope. In one place you can peer all the way from one end of eternity to the other! (Except that eternity has no end, unless, um... well, never mind that.) Eternity’s End is set in my Star Rigger universe, and it was a finalist for the Nebula Award the year it was first published. It’s also a book that I feel very good about having written, a book that I would have wanted to read, if someone else had written it. Plus, it has a dog in a minor role, and cool amphibious aliens, and space pirates who might not be all they seem. Oh, and a Flying Dutchman of the stars.

I did some further upgrading of the interior formatting of the book for the occasion. If you’ve already bought the ebook, you should be able to download the newest version of the book from the store where you bought it. I can’t swear that every store allows this, but if they don’t, they should.

Yes, I’m working with Bookbub again—conspiring, I hope, to sell a lot of copies and become rich beyond my dreams of avarice. Or at least, you know, to sell a lot of copies. Some of which, I hope, will generate favorable reviews. Which will help, down the road, in drawing in even more unwary readers.

If you’ve held off before, why not give it a try? What have you got to lose? The supersize option on your next Starbucks coffee? You shouldn’t be drinking that much coffee anyway!


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Sunday, January 11, 2015

2014 in Review, Personally Speaking, Part 2

I got a little sidetracked, but I want to finish my wrap of our last revolution around the sun, so I can move confidently into the future. Here are some of my thoughts on the arts for last year.

Some great films came out in 2014, and I even saw some of them. Here are some highlights for me:

Interstellar — A visual spectacular, with great acting, great emotional punch, and a storyline that’s interesting if not entirely successful. A thoughtful movie that trips here and there, but is well worth the ride. If you haven’t seen it, try to get to it on a big screen.

Mockingjay, Pt. 1 — Thoroughly engrossing, with great characters and excellent fidelity to the book. I was prepared for a disappointing “transitional” movie, laying the groundwork for the final installment, but it really delivered. Shortly before seeing the movie, I saw Jennifer Lawrence interviewed by Stephen Colbert, and she looked exactly like a young woman of her age—giggly, nervous, a little unsure of herself. Onscreen and in character, she is a dynamo, absolutely remarkable.

Maleficent — I didn’t see this in the theater, but caught it on Netflix. Surprisingly powerful and entertaining.

Big Hero Six — Another surprise. I expected to enjoy it, but in fact was quite taken by its charm, sweetness, and emotion.

Snowpiercer — Strange and powerful, and more than a little surrealistic. Does not stand up to logical scrutiny in the least, but I don’t think it was intended to. I was glad I saw it, but I’m not sure if I’ll want to see it again.

Guardians of the Galaxy — I already wrote about this, extolling its wit and humor. Suffice it to say that I loved Rocket and Groot, and rate this my favorite movie of the year.

What about books? That’s a little harder for me to write about, because so much of my reading (on the page or virtual page) was for critique, or for awards voting, or nonfiction that I dipped into but didn’t necessarily read from beginning to end (such as a history of World War II, an account of atomic disasters since the nuclear age began, and profiles of important players in the space program). I started a lot of pieces of fiction that I didn’t finish, sometimes because it didn’t grab me, and sometimes because something else would come along that I needed to read for one reason or another, and then something else, and so I never got back to the first piece. It’s a lousy way to run a railroad, and I want to do better this year. Like read more of the 1001 books I’ve added to my ebook library!

Audiobooks, now—those I’ve been enjoying, because I can read while I’m out walking Captain Jack. I don’t think any of my favorites are new titles, but they’re new to me, and that’s all that matters, right?

Stephen King’s Gunslinger series — Riveting, well told, and with terrific narration. I’ve listened to the first few volumes, and have the next one queued up in Audible for the near future. 

Greg Bear’s Darwin’s Radio — An award winner some years back. I’d never gotten to it, until last summer, when I listened to the audio version. Terrific, thoughtful storytelling, with an unnerving and scarily believable premise. Get ready for the next stage in our evolution, and the ensuing social chaos.

Spencer Quinn’s Chet and Bernie mysteries — Private eye stories told from the viewpoint of the PI’s dog Chet. Charming and funny, with great narration.

Larry Bond’s Cold Choices — A submarine thriller, told with realism and tension, as the crew of a U.S. nuclear sub risks everything to save the lives of the crew of a crippled Russian sub. This may be for submarine fans only, because of the amount of detail about life on a sub, but I enjoyed it.

A word about the Jack Reacher novels, by Lee Child, which I’ve been enjoying for a few years now in audio. The last few have been disappointing, including this year’s entry, Personal. If you’re thinking of trying a Reacher novel for the first time, I strongly recommend earlier novels, such as Die Trying, Without Fail, or Bad Luck and Trouble. And I can only recommend the audiobooks versions, because that’s the only way I’ve ever read them. 

Doh! How could I forget? (Sometimes when you read friends’ books in draft form, you forget to note when they’re out in the wild.) I don’t actually remember when these hit pixels, but I think of them as having arrived in the last year or so. Writer/artist Chris Howard issued a graphic novel version of his SF novel Salvage. Former Ultimate SF workshopper Lisa Cohen published a YA novel, Derelict. And for some completely silly, completely fun fantasy, it's hard to beat Craig Shaw Gardner’s Temporary Magic novels, complete with Bob the horse!

And in case you didn't catch it from my last post, yes, I'm still working on The Reefs of Time, and making progress!

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Saturday, January 10, 2015

Captain Jack: Lost and Found

Today was going to be a big work day for me, because I’ve got some big ebook launch and promotion coming up in the next few days. Things worked out differently, however.

Our neighbor Marc borrowed our border-collie mix Captain Jack for a hike in a reservation a couple of towns over. Marc is one of Jack’s favorite people, and usually Jack obeys Marc better than he does us (kind of the way a child might listen to a favorite uncle while ignoring a parent). This time, though, he ignored Marc and went tearing off after another dog. And got lost. Lost, lost, lost. Eventually Marc called me, and I went up to help search for him. We were getting nowhere, and a ranger who had been alerted searched without success. It was getting on toward dark, and it was already cold out. I was remembering my first border collie mix, Sam, who had once gotten lost in the same reservation and who had stayed lost for a couple of days, before turning up at our home miles away in Cambridge. I didn’t want to relive those couple of days. Or worse, never see our buddy again.

And then Marc got a call. (Aren’t cell phones great?) An acquaintance he’d run into (who was walking her own dog and learned from him about the missing Jack) had just snagged Jack on the border road, where she’d seen a driver trying gently to herd him off the pavement! We were soon reunited, Jack unharmed but shaken, and Marc and me and all the family heaving deep sighs of relief.

During the course of all this, we were on the phone to the Dept. of Conservation and Recreation, the state police, and the police of a couple of neighboring towns. Without exception, the dispatchers were helpful and sympathetic—and happy for us when we called back to say that Jack was found. They’ll probably never read this, but if they do, thank you! Thanks also to all the other dog owners in the area who helped us look!

We even capped it off by watching the second half of the Patriots/Ravens game, which was really exciting even for us non-football-fans. Go Pats. Go Jack!

No, make that “Come here, Jack!”

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Sunday, January 04, 2015

2014 in Review, Personally Speaking, Part 1

Happy New Year, everyone! Here at the Starrigger Ranch, we celebrated New Year’s Eve by watching Guardians of the Galaxy, this time on Blu-ray—and by completely forgetting to note the actual time of transition into the new year.

Space selfie, from my vacation home on the Moon

I thought I’d give a few highlights of the last year, from my own perspective. By and large, I’m going to ignore the big, public events, which you already know about anyway. (Okay, let’s get it out of the way. Politically it was a depressing year in the U.S., where everything that was already broken got even more broken. Overseas, the words ISIS, Ukraine, and Russia pretty well set the tone. But, the landing of the European probe on a comet was a breath of fresh, minty air, and so was the first test flight of NASA's new Orion spacecraft.)

It was a pretty good year for the family. Our older daughter made two trips to the Middle East, pursuing her interest in building bridges between the Muslim world and the Christian world. Our younger daughter accompanied us to London for the SF Worldcon, which was an adventure for all of us. (For me it was mostly an adventure in trying to enjoy a trip while gradually being brought down by bronchitis or pneumonia, depending on which doctor you believe. But my wife and daughter had a great time.) Our two furballs, Moonlight the cat and Captain Jack the dog, remain in good health.

Julia with furballs Moonlight and Captain Jack

Writing-wise, I continued to make slow progress on the rewrite of The Reefs of Time. It continues to be a hard book for me to write, and I don’t know exactly why, but I’m getting there, and God willing, I will finish it this year. After all, I still have The Masters of Shipworld to write when that one is done. And none of us is getting any younger, at least not that I’m aware of. People say that writing is a lonely business, and it is. But I get lots of support, for which I’m eternally grateful: from my family and friends, including my long-standing SF/F writing critique group, and also my writing and spiritual support group through my church, and also my fellow writers at Book View Cafe. I write alone, but I don't feel that lonely in it.

In 2014, a lot of my work time was devoted to issuing new ebook editions of my backlist, and I’ll still be working on that into 2015. It’s way more time-consuming than you might think (a subject I’ll explore another time), even with the ton of help I'm getting with the formatting. But it’s also a lot more rewarding—gratifyingly so. 2014 was a year in which many of my colleagues reported declining sales—battered by rising competition, changing sales algorithms at the retailers, new subscription models (especially at Amazon) that cut into sales, and who knows what all. I was more fortunate, thank you. My own ebook sales took a quantum leap upward, primarily owing to a steady series of successful promotions. This means not just more income, but new readers.

To give you a handle on what I'm talking about, let me throw out a few rough numbers. Here are some approximate totals of ebooks I sold in the last few years through my own imprint (there were additional, modest sales through various publishers):

2011 — 4000 ebooks
2012 — 8100 (including a big jump in the UK, for unknown reasons)
2013 — 7800 (the UK jumps even higher, while the US declines) 
2014 — 22,000 (the UK craters, while the US vaults)

Let's put that into perspective. For guys like George Martin and Hugh Howey, that last annual total would probably be a disappointing month. For many equally talented writers, it's an impossible dream. Me, I feel blessed and thankful to have gotten here. I have no idea what caused the UK surge in 2012 and 2013, or what made it stop in 2014. But I do know what caused the big total upswing in 2014: my almost monthly promotions in concert with ads through places like Bookbub. Also, bringing more of my books under my own imprint, where I can design my own covers, set my own prices, do my own promo. Publishing direct at Kobobooks also helped, in concert with promotions Kobo sponsors. Many of those new sales were at steeply discounted prices. But the specials brought along waves of readers to other books selling at the regular prices. Bottom line: I reached more paying readers with more different books this year than in any year I can remember. And that’s good for the family budget. It's also good for connecting with whole new populations of readers. And that may be the biggest reward of all.

What about the arts in 2014? That'll be Part 2.
 

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