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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Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas! And Have a Great Day!

Here’s wishing you all a wonderful Christmas, and a totally blessed day whether you celebrate Christmas or not! 

On our tree, the dragon and angel ornaments have each other’s backs. This is as it should be.

Enjoy your holidays, everyone!


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Sunday, December 14, 2014

KJ Kabza’s Under Stars

From time to time, I like to brag about some of the great work my former students are doing. (I may be taking too much credit in calling them “my students.” They participated in my writing workshops, but they came loaded for bear with talent.) One of them, Chris Howard, created the cover art for The Infinite Sea, and is working on art for Seas of Ernathe. Another, LJ Cohen, has come out with several books, both SF and fantasy, leaning toward young adult.

I don’t think I’ve mentioned KJ Kabza before, but the time is long past due. KJ is a short story writer more than a novelist, and as such he is one of the brightest and most original new talents I’ve seen in a long time. He’s been selling to magazines such as Fantasy and Science Fiction, Daily Science Fiction, and Nature (yes, that Nature, the one with all the science). He’s come out with not one but two collections of his stories, available right now in ebook format.








If you like quirky, eclectic SF and fantasy in the short form, do give him a try! And look for more about his work at kjkabza.com/.




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Saturday, December 13, 2014

Colbert Interviews Smaug

No sooner do I get that last post up than I see this, from last night on the Colbert Report. Stephen interviews Smaug the dragon:






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Jesus Is a Liberal Democrat

That’s the assertion of Stephen Colbert in this classic bit from 2010. I’m going to miss the Colbert Report when it goes off the air next week.




The Boston Globe has compiled some of Colbert’s best moments.

And you don’t want to miss President Obama, taking Colbert’s seat and lampooning himself. Great stuff.  And good to see that he’s kept his sense of humor.

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Friday, December 12, 2014

Well, It’s Happened Again

You’ve squandered another perfectly good hour listening to... no wait, that’s Car Talk.

This is Bookbub. That’s right, starting today, I’m practically giving away another book: Star Rigger’s Way, which only recently came back into e-print via my Starstream imprint. Ninety-nine big ones for this novel, for one week only. That’s 99 Lincoln pennies, neatly lined up with all the dates right-side up, please. That’s less than a dollar, and much less than half of a Starbuck’s coffee! What’s not to like about that?

Fun facts about Star Rigger’s Way:

1. A minor character in this book, Legroeder, became the main character of a later book, Eternity’s End.
2. Characters only mentioned in passing in this book—i.e., space-faring dragons—became the central element of two other novels, currently available in one omnibus, called Dragon Space.
3. The original Dell paperback cover for this far-future saga appeared to feature a guy in a NASA-issue spacesuit, taking a space walk from Skylab. (Remember Skylab?) It was a very pretty cover. But a tad anachronistic.

You can get this deal in any of the following book pubs:

Kindle | Nook | Smashwords | Kobo | iBooks | Google

That’s $.99, for a limited time only!


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Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Funnier Star Wars Trailer

From the sublime (previous post) to the silly. Disney recently released the first trailer for the forthcoming Star Wars movie: Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens.

Saturday Night Live released their own version of the trailer (thanks to the Boston Globe for the link). See Chewie in the cone of shame:


You can also see it here: http://www.hulu.com/watch/723366

 

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Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Wanderers (of a Strange and Distant Time)

Want to be mesmerized for three and a half minutes? Open this on a good monitor, click the “full screen” icon in the lower right of this video, turn up the sound, and sit back and journey the solar system. See if you recognize the voice.



Thanks to Astronomy Picture of the Day for showing it to me. For more information about the film and scenes depicted, visit the website of Erik Wernquist, who assembled the film. A remarkable piece of inspiration.

And yes, my title line is a near-quote from the Moody Blues. Extra point if you can name the album, without looking it up.



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Monday, December 08, 2014

The “Carver” Papers at BGSU’s “Browne Center for Popular Culture” Get an Infusion

Any scholars of writing out there? If you want to study my manuscripts down through the ages years, I know where you can go. I just shipped off nine (9) heavy boxes of manuscripts, plus some hardcover books, covers, BSG script and story bible, etc., to Bowling Green State University’s Browne Popular Culture Library. That’s Bowling Green, Ohio, by the way, not Kentucky. They will join an already fairly extensive holding of my stuff, which I first seeded in the 1990s. Since then, I’ve been letting boxes of various drafts, etc., pile up in my office (by procrastination, not design). Now, in a paroxysm of trying to make enough room to turn around in my office, I have laboriously wrapped them all in multiple layers of shipping tape and sent them to their new home.

Four of the nine boxes
You can view the inventory of the “Jeffrey A. Carver” papers online, but to actually see the materials, you must travel to the Jerome Library at BGSU. I was told by a librarian from another university that they have done an excellent job of cataloging the materials. Anyhow, that’s where to go if you want to look at the multiple rough drafts of Sunborn, before I got to the final version, for instance. Or the heavy line editing I did on an enlarged photocopy of the Dell version of Panglor to produce the revised version for the later Tor (and my ebook) editions. You can even look at some of the editorial correspondence related to some of the books.

They have a pretty good collection of stuff by various authors, by the way. Take a look at their overall listing of manuscripts.

Fun fact about BGSU: Although I have no affiliation with the university beyond the fact that they’ve provided a home for my literary papers, my father, Robert D. Carver, went there to finish his uncompleted undergraduate education and got his diploma from BGSU at the age of 70-something.

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Sunday, December 07, 2014

What I want on My Gravestone


THE TYPOS ARE YOUR PROBLEM NOW!

Oh, how I want that to be true!

I’ve just finished spending a lot of time over several days fixing typos that a reader found in the three-book omnibus of The Chaos Chronicles. The irony is that I had just put up a new version of The Infinite Sea, with a new cover—and with several typos (or formattos) fixed that I had found myself while rereading the book. (I’ve been reading through all the Chaos series, to refresh my memory on the story details as I write the fifth book.) The very next morning, I received an email from Kindle support, listing four typos that “readers” had reported in the Chaos omnibus. I checked, and sure enough, they were real typos. They were also spread across all three books—so I had to correct, not only the omnibus volume, but all of the individual novels as well. (The two in The Infinite Sea were different from the ones that I had found in my own reading.)

I have no idea how many times these books have been gone through, by me and by others, trying to catch any lingering mistakes. It just goes to prove how blasted hard it is to catch everything.

I’ve written before about how time-consuming it can be to fix typos in ebooks, especially when you have several slightly different versions distributed across a bunch of different outlets, in two different ebook formats. I took the opportunity this time to fix something that was already on my to-do list, and that was to change all the quotation marks from straight quotes to curly quotes. When I first created these books, ebook reading devices could not be counted upon to display curly quotes correctly, and I avoided them like the plague. Now, though, it’s normal to have curly quotes in ebooks, and the lack of them in these books made them look a little less professional than I would have liked. So, that’s done now. (Changing them is quick—a simple Find and Replace in Word. Checking for all the insidious ways in which Word can screw it up is not nearly so quick.)

If you own any of the first three Chaos Chronicles ebooks, you should be able to go back to the store where you got them and download updated versions.

And if you’re one of the readers who reported the typos to Kindle support . . . (sigh) . . . thanks. I really do want the books to be as error-free as humanly possible.

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Saturday, December 06, 2014

Launch of Orion

Yesterday’s unmanned test flight of NASA’s Orion deep-space craft is a great boost for those of us who want to see us back in the game of venturing beyond the Earth. We’ve had sensational successes in robotic missions; but not since the 1970s, with the end of the Apollo Moon program, has a human being flown beyond low-Earth orbit. It’s high time we got back out there, and got on with the challenge of making us a spacefaring, multi-world species. Here’s what the launch looked like:



Also of note is that the launch rode the fires of a Delta IV Heavy rocket, which actually uses advanced, American-made rocket engines. (Many of our crucial space launches nowadays ride on Russian-made engines—including military launches, which is really weird and unsettling, when you think about it. Nothing against the very smart Russian rocket designers, but given the political direction of Russia these days, I’m not happy being so dependent on them for access to space.)

I only wish we were giving this program the proper funding, so that the development of deep-space capability weren’t being stretched out over decades. The next launch of Orion isn’t scheduled until 2017.

Anyway, Go NASA!
 

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Friday, December 05, 2014

In the Game at Google Play

Many of you have asked me, “Jeff, why can’t I buy your books in the Google Play Store?” Well, okay, no one has ever asked me that. But now you don’t have to. Because all my books, or almost all of them, are now up in the Google Play Store.

Why the delay? Well, to be honest, when the Google store (which everyone thought would be an Amazon-threatening game-changer) opened, it was kind of a train wreck. The listings were scrambled and inaccurate, the interface for an individual author wanting to list books was incomprehensible, and in general it was a place you really didn’t want to hang around in. But that was then, and this is now. They’ve cleaned things up pretty good, and the interface for both those putting their books up and those wanting to buy books is generally up to the standards of all the other stores.

Do people actually buy books there? Well, so far my own listings are off to a slow start. But when I had books with E-reads, and later Open Road, I did see some sales there but not a lot. It used to be I didn’t sell much of anything at Kobo, either, but their regular promotions have turned that around, and now Kobo is a significant player in the big picture (my personal big picture, that is). One can hope that something like that will happen with Google.

Anyhow, if you’re an Android user (as I am), you probably stop into the Play Store from time to time. Now, when you do that, you can buy books, too. Even mine. Here’s my author page there: https://play.google.com/store/books/author?id=Jeffrey+A.+Carver


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Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Ursula LeGuin Gives Moving National Book Awards Speech

"Truth is a matter of the imagination." That's a quote from the Left Hand of Darkness, a classic of science fiction, that I've had up on my website for years.

In receiving a Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters at the recent National Book Awards ceremony (Neil Gaiman presented the award to her), science fiction and literary titan Ursula K. LeGuin gave a moving and heartfelt speech that began by celebrating SF and fantasy and all of its writers, and went on to criticize the trend among publishers and mega-sellers of treating books as commodity, instead of art with an intrinsic value to society that goes beyond dollars. She lit pretty well into Amazon for their recent battle with Hachette, with authors caught in the middle. (For the record, I don’t altogether agree with her assessment of that situation, in which I think the publisher was at least as much at fault. But then, who am I to argue with Ursula LeGuin?)

I certainly appreciated, and was touched by, her saying that she shares this award with all writers of speculative fiction. Ms. LeGuin, by the way, is a founding member of Book View Café.




Link via Blastr

 

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Tuesday, December 02, 2014

The Infinite Sea Goes Live at BVC, and Gets a New Look, Besides

My third Chaos book, The Infinite Sea, has been out as an ebook for quite a while, but I’ve been waiting to put it up at Book View Café until I could get a new cover designed for it. I’ve been wanting a new cover for a long time, but I couldn’t find the right art. (On my budget, the art on my books usually comes from stock art web sites, sometimes with significant massaging, or combining of images, by whoever does the design work for me. On my more recent books, that design work has been expertly done by my fellow BVC writer, Maya Kaathryn Bohnhoff. Sometimes I can use the original art from the print edition, with permission of the artist, and that’s cool, when it happens.) But in this case, I just couldn’t find what I wanted: an undersea tableau on an alien world.

Enter Chris Howard, writer and artist, whom I first met when he enrolled in the Ultimate Science Fiction Writing Workshop that I’ve run from time to time with my friend Craig Shaw Gardner. Chris is a gifted writer. It turns out he’s also a terrifically talented artist. Take a look at his website, saltwaterwitch.com, and tell me he’s not. I commissioned a piece of original art from Chris, and I couldn’t be more thrilled with the results.  

The Infinite Sea goes on sale today at Book View Café in its new clothes:

Original artwork (c) by Chris Howard


For those who like history, here’s what the future looked like in print from Tor Books, and also its previous ebook cover, which I created myself, using Chaoscope, a chaos image generator. I liked the Tor cover a lot, and I liked the chaos image, though my hand-made cover had a, well, hand-made look to it. I’m really psyched to be moving on to the new image, from Chris Howard (type design by Maya). It will replace the versions currently in all the other stores, as well.

 And these last two covers will retire, with honor.

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