Wednesday, July 09, 2014

From a Changeling Star . . . Is Back!

If for some odd reason you’d been monitoring my author page at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Apple these last couple of weeks, you would have seen nine of my books disappear from the listings. No, it’s not the battle between Amazon and Hachette. It’s that I've recovered the rights to these books (amicably) from the previous publisher, and I’m preparing my own ebook editions. (Probably paper editions, too, for the ones I have those rights to. But that’s further down the road.)


Well, the first one is making its reappearance. From a Changeling Star is live at the Kindle store, in progress at the Nook store, and set for “pre-order” at the Apple and Kobo stores (where it will release on July 22, same day as at Book View Café). The sequel, Down the Stream of Stars, is not far behind. 

 
 Kindle  | Nook | Kobo | iTunes

These other books will be back, in due course: 
Panglor
Star Rigger’s Way
Dragons in the Stars*
Dragon Rigger* 
Seas of Ernathe
The Infinity Link
The Rapture Effect

*These two are still available in the boxed set, Dragon Space. Which is still on sale at the price-buster price of $1.99! Until midnight tonight, July 9, EDT! Go find it! 

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Friday, July 04, 2014

Is the Frenemy of My Enemy My Frenemy?

I don't know why that just popped into my head. But I thought I should share it and ask if it makes sense. I asked my daughter Julia, and she had no clear answer.

Oh well, Happy Birthday, USA!


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Wednesday, July 02, 2014

BookBub Strikes Again: Dragon Space!

I’m doing it again! What a wild and crazy guy! Starting today, I have another BookBub promotion running, this time for Dragon Space: A Star Rigger Omnibus — for the low, low price of $1.99 for two complete novels in one volume! Zounds!

In case you came in late, or have forgotten, Dragon Space is a boxed set of Dragons in the Stars and Dragon Rigger, two of my favorite books of the star rigger universe. If you don’t already have them, why not invest two thin dollar bills, or maybe two gold Sacajawea dollar coins, on the ebook value of the month? (Do you want your penny change?  Sure thing. Or I can just put it in the Have One/Take One cup.)



For the ebook bargain hunter, BookBub is the best thing since unsliced, fresh-baked bread. It’s free to sign up. And you’ll hear about some great deals.


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Saturday, June 28, 2014

Postum, Fauxstum, Faux Fauxstum, and Nearstum

Postum
While we’re on the subject of beverages...

Years ago, I developed a fondness for Postum, a caffeine-free grain beverage that made a pretty good faux coffee for late-night drinking, especially while writing on cold winter nights. I didn't buy huge amounts, maybe a few jars a year. Apparently that wasn't enough to satisfy Kraft Foods, because they discontinued it—to my great discontent.

Fauxstum
Rather grumpily, I set about looking for alternatives. At Whole Foods, you can buy something called Kaffree Roma, which doesn't exactly taste like Postum, and sure doesn't taste like coffee. But Roma isn't bad, and it grew on me. In time I decided it was a pretty good faux Postum, and so I renamed it Fauxstum (foh-stum).

One day I went to Whole Foods to buy another jar of Fauxstum. They didn't have any. All they had was a theoretically similar grain beverage called Cafix. To my taste, it wasn't as good as Fauxstum, but it was good enough to get by with on a cold night. So there I sat, on a cold December night, burning the midnight oil and drinking Faux Fauxstum.
Faux Fauxstum

Well, in due course it turned out that Postum had become available again through a small company that had acquired the rights to the name, the label, and the recipe. Unfortunately, they only sold it through online stores like Vermont Country Store, where it costs an arm and a leg, with shipping. I guess I didn’t want it as badly as I wanted Vernors ginger ale, so I held off on paying $20 for a jar of the stuff. However, in the fullness of time, I received a couple of jars as a gift from my loving wife, who doesn’t wince as I do at paying $20 for a jar of something. I rejoiced. Postum is back!
Nearstum

Except... honestly, it’s not, exactly. The new makers clearly tried really hard, and I give them lots of credit. But it seems to me that they haven’t gotten the recipe quite right (maybe the secret of the original died with its maker?), and the new Postum has a taste highly reminiscent of the old Postum. But although it comes close, it doesn’t quite hit the mark. And thus is born... Nearstum.

Well, I have a cupboard full of the various ‘stums now, and when winter circles round again, I’ll get back to it. But meanwhile? It’s Vernors time, baby!




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Thursday, June 26, 2014

Vernors in Massachusetts!


There is a God, and he loves us. If you doubt that, consider this: It’s now possible to buy Vernors Ginger Ale in the Boston area!

Vernors is my favorite summer beverage, if you don’t count craft beer. Aged in oak, it tastes like no other ginger ale. It’s got a great gingery fizz that smacks you in the nose, with undercurrents of vanilla. I grew up with it in Ohio, and didn’t realize how good I had it until I lived where you couldn’t buy it. For years now, I have either dragged a supply back with me from Ohio if we were out there visiting family, or I have paid an exorbitant amount to buy a summer supply online.*


But thanks to the opening of the first Wegmans supermarket in not-too-far-away Newton, I no longer have to do that. Because Wegmans, bless them, has brought Vernors to Boston. What a great supermarket!

God is good. Truly.

*If you live where Vernors is unavailable, check out the Vernors Store.

It's not five cents a bottle anymore!

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Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Godzilla Saves the World—Again!


Speaking of culturally significant shows, Julia and I went to see Godzilla a few nights ago. I cannot claim to be an unbiased reviewer, because I have a long-standing affection for the beast and his signature GRONNNNNNGGGK-K-K! In fact, I can see a couple of Godzilla toys on the shelf from where I sit at my computer right now. But I’m highly sensitive to bad versions of Godzilla, of which the version starring Matthew Broderick was one. (It wasn’t a bad monster movie; it just wasn’t Godzilla.)

Anyway, the new one is pretty good! 'Zilla comes to the rescue when human attempts to stop some other nasty monsters fail. Although, I have to say, we both felt that Godzilla got shorted a little on screen time in comparison to the MUTOs (the Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Objects), which were ugly, massive buglike things. Also, I have to admit that Godzilla’s motivation in the story was pretty vague. But let’s not get all scientific. Of course you can detonate a large fusion warhead just offshore and not flatten San Francisco! It’s a Godzilla movie!

I must confess to some disappointment in the Godzilla roar, though. This interesting video shows the two sound guys who produced it talk about the three-year job of getting it right. And I have to say... close, but uh-uh. The original, produced by a resin-coated leather glove being dragged down the strings of a bass, and then slowed down, was better, in my opinion.

Here you can see how 'Zilla has evolved over the years, both in body and sound. I thought they got the sound best in the mid '60s and '70s.




http://www.blastr.com/2014-4-28/new-godzilla-featurette-explores-roar

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Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Cirque du Soleil — A Wild Ride

I'd never been to Cirque du Soleil before. Now I have. Wow.

This year they're doing a show called Amaluna, which from the press looked pretty fantastical. Our niece Lauren was visiting from California, and we decided it was time to go. What an amazing amalgam of showmanship, acrobatics, gymnastics, dance and flexibility, music and drum, fantasy and story, balance, strength, and a touch of humor. The cast is 70% female and the band 100%, which marks a major shift for Cirque.


http://www.cirquedusoleil.com/en/shows/amaluna/default.aspx
Eye candy, too. I told Allysen if I were a woman, it would be enough to turn me gay. There’s a sort of story to it, loosely inspired by Shakespeare’s The Tempest. See it if you get a chance!

You can read a couple of good reviews at Huffington Post and The New York Daily News.


Here are Lexi and Julia in front of the big tent, as the crowd was leaving.

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Ebooks on Sale at Open Road Media—While They Last

I almost forgot to mention: a couple of my former E-reads titles are now on sale at their new home at Open Road Media. You can pick up From a Changeling Star and Seas of Ernathe for $1.99 each, until the end of June. In fact, you might want to take a look at Open Road’s sale page, because they have a lot of “first in series” books on sale. I picked up one or two myself. You have to scroll down a ways to get to mine.

After June 30, my nine books at Open Road will become unavailable for a while. That’s because the rights are reverting to me, and I’ll be putting them out under my own imprint, in association with Book View Café. There’s a fair amount of work involved in reformatting the books, getting new covers made, and so on. So it’ll take some time. I’ll be releasing them one by one for months to come.

The first will be, in fact, From a Changeling Star.

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Monday, June 02, 2014

Gene Soccolich, 1946 - 2014

Scattering the ashes of a friend is not my preferred way to spend a sunny afternoon. And yet there was camaraderie and healing in it last Saturday, when Allysen and I joined with my friend's family and another friend in saying good-bye to Gene Soccolich, who died a week ago of heart failure.

I first met Gene in 1973, when I was heading to the University of Rhode Island to attend a one-year graduate program called Master of Marine Affairs. A mutual friend put us in touch, because Gene was doing the same thing. We rented a place together in Jamestown, RI, on an island in the mouth of Narragansett Bay. For nine months, we lived in one of the nicest places I've ever lived in—a glass-fronted summer home overlooking the water, with spectacular sunsets behind the bridge to the mainland. There I introduced him to Star Trek reruns (which did not entirely take), and he introduced me to Pink Floyd's Meddle album (which did). I sometimes kept him awake typing on my portable typewriter—at least at first, and then he started waking up if I wasn't typing. He liked to tell people of the time he lay awake waiting for the typing to resume: After a minute of silence, he heard a single keystroke, and then, "Shit!" (I was a poor typist.)

In the years that followed, I went on to become a struggling writer, and he worked first in state government, and then in the high-tech computer industry. Oddly, he barely knew how to turn on a computer himself, though he facilitated million-dollar deals involving the technology. His expertise was in making such deals, which he did by getting people to talk to each other about what they really needed in a product, service, or business partner. He had a remarkable ability to cut through the B.S. (though he could sling a pretty good line of it himself when he wanted to).

He was married for a time, and had three great kids, all adult now. We used to see them during happier days, and then for a time we didn't. Gene's later health and financial troubles brought me back in touch with his kids, which is one of the things I'm most grateful for, here at the end.

Gene had lousy genes, when it came to cardiovascular issues. His first heart operation in his forties was just the start. By the end, he'd had his aorta replaced with a Dacron tube, after a ballooning aneurism threatened to drop him in his tracks. (His sister Christina, a rising literary star, had her own career cut short by a brain aneurism that robbed her of the ability to write.) Divorce, loss of work, poor health, and depression led to a very difficult life for Gene in the last ten or fifteen years.

But even while drawing inward and becoming ever more isolated, Gene began writing a novel. Initially he titled it American Spit, but later changed it to Waking Up Down East, which I thought was better, more reflective of the book's redemptive ending. He asked me long ago if I would please try to find a way to get it into print, if he was gone before he did it himself. I said I would, so that's something I'll be working on in the future.

In meantime, though, it was uplifting and healing to spend time with his two sons and one daughter, his sister, and his other good friend Bruce. His ashes went to sea from a gorgeous outlook on the coast north of Boston. Gene always loved the sea, and it seemed a fitting place to say good-bye. Godspeed, old friend.


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Monday, May 26, 2014

Champlain College: A Fine Place for a Young Writers Workshop

Last week I wrote about the time I'd just spent at Bread Loaf working with high-school aged writers. Well, now I'm just back from a similarly awesome event, the Champlain College Young Writers Conference, in beautiful Burlington, Vermont, overlooking Lake Champlain. This was my first time there, so I had to discover how things worked as I went. While extremely busy, it was a little more laid-back than Bread Loaf. (Sometimes that meant easygoing and sometimes it meant confusing.) I saw a bunch of familiar faces from Bread Loaf, both faculty and students, and that gave me a feeling of comfort. There were also quite a few of us newcomers among faculty, including Craig Shaw Gardner, who rode up with me from Boston. As far as I could tell, everyone had a great time.

For me, there are three great things that come out of this kind of event: First, the chance to work with incredible kids, whose talents and ambitions both inspire and challenge me. (If any of you guys are reading this, thanks! And that includes the terrific college students who helped us as mentors.) Besides their writing, some of them gave "Moth talks" on real events from their own lives, which were funny, touching, alarming. Their final group presentations were priceless.

Second is the opportunity to mix with writers from all sorts of fields—poetry, mainstream fiction, playwriting, nonfiction—whom I would probably never otherwise meet. They feel like valued new friends, even if I only see them once every year or three.

The third thing is a little less obvious, and that's the chance to learn more about teaching. Most of these guys not only write, but teach for their day jobs. They have quivers full of skills that enable them to keep a classroom full of kids interested and engaged. I try to soak up as much as I can, while I can. For example, Linda Urban at Bread Loaf gave me a great group exercise for learning to write dialogue. (I didn't have time to try it on this round, but next time!) At Champlain, I sat in on a craft session on writing from different points of view. I was in awe of Sarah Braunstein's command of the group, and the way she got them to experiment with different viewpoints. I'm keeping notes for next year!

I also discovered that Phil Baruth is a hell of a pool player, as well as a Vermont state senator. But that was after hours, when I learned that excellent craft beer on draft is a staple in downtown Burlington, and when I for the first time tasted gravy fries. And tasted. And tasted again, just to be sure!

P.S. Many thanks to Lesley Wright and Jim Ellefson for inviting me!






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Wednesday, May 21, 2014

New BookBub promo: "Going Alien"

Time for another price cut! I couldn't afford William Shatner to shill for me on TV, so I went with BookBub again to help me spread the word. My short-story ebook collection Going Alien has been marked down to just $.99, for a limited time only!

Did you read that right? Yes, you did! Just ninety-nine thin, copper-tinted Lincoln disks, or a one dollar bill with a corner snipped off! You can afford that. You can't afford not to! Limited time only! You like short stories, right? Well, the more you buy, the more you save!

COME ON DOWN!



Kindle | Nook
Smashwords | iBooks
Kobobooks
Edit: Also now at Book View Cafe

And if you enjoy it, please thank me for the fantastic savings by posting a review! Thanks in advance!


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Monday, May 19, 2014

Story from Bread Loaf: "Joe Biden Is my Homeboy"

I'm just back from this year's New England Young Writers Conference at the Bread Loaf writing center near Middlebury, Vermont. As usual, it was awesome, challenging, inspiring, and exhausting all at the same time. I made some new friends among the writers in residence, reconnected with some old friends, and spent time with a magnificent group of high school student writers. Their talent, intelligence, and mutually supportive nature just blows me away. They're awesome writers and awesome people.

(Next weekend, I get to do it all over again at the Champlain College Young Writers Conference. Two of my Bread Loaf students are doing that one, too. Talk about dedication!)

This year I particularly enjoyed the readings given by other writers in attendance. One piece I can actually share with you (though not the voice part). This is a story called "Joe Biden Is My Homeboy," written by Rone Shavers, and inspired by Damon Weaver, a kid who as a 5th grade reporter interviewed candidate Joe Biden for internet TV.

Here's how the story begins. Try to imagine a sonorous black man's voice, with cheerful jive intonations, reading the narrative in a voice so fluid it makes you forget that the language is something other than standard English. That would be the voice of the author, who is also by the way a great guy.


Joe Biden Is My Homeboy
by Rone Shavers

Ooh, Ms. Noonan, the reason I was not in your class last week was cause I went to the White House. I was all up in the White House and I was on TV. Okay, you got me, maybe not TV, that is my dream, but I was on TV on the internet, which is called Youtube. I was all up in the Youtubes, but I been there before so you can’t fail me for missing no school. You said if I told you the truth you would let me take them tesses I failt, so I am telling you now the truth.

Ooh, but it is not just the truth, it is also the background, which mean it is the scenario, and that word I learnt in a rap song. No, my whole for real true life story is once, way back when, back in the day, when planet internet generation Kids TV first came to our school, I met Joe Biden. I also met Shawn Marion and Dwayne Wade, star of the Miami Heat, but that is a different story from the one I’m telling you now, so please listen. You got to listen and focus up on my right now story, my story is Joe Biden, he is vice president, and he is my homeboy for real. I sent him a internet email video, and in it I had me on some khaki pants and a smooth polo shirt and I said Joe Biden, I heard you is gone be vice president. That is cool. Will you be my homeboy? If you is my homeboy, I get to interview you, so just say yeah, like Shawn Marion and Dwayne Wade, who is the basketball star of the Miami Heat. Joe Biden, do you like basketball? I love basketball... [read more]
 

Here is a YouTube video of young Damon Weaver interviewing Joe Biden. How much of the rest of the story is true, I do not know.


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Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Proof that God Has a Sense of Humor

If dogs aren't proof that God has a sense of humor, I don't know what is.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/04/07/majestic-dog-photos_n_5093222.html
for a bunch more pictures.



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Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Upcoming Workshops

May is going to be a busy month for me, for teaching. I'm participating as an instructor in two different conferences for high-school-aged writers. The first (coming up this weekend) is the New England Young Writers Conference, at the Bread Loaf campus of Middlebury College in Vermont, which is something I've been doing off and on for a number of years now. It's always a great time, and I hope this year will be even better.

Just one week later, I'll be teaching for the first time at the Champlain College Young Writers Conference, in Burlington, Vermont, which I'm told is rather similar. (And even has some overlapping faculty.) I look forward to working with still more young writers on what I understand is a beautiful campus overlooking Lake Champlain.

I get a break after that, but August 7-10, I'll be teaching one more weekend, this time at the Cape Cod Writers Conference in Hyannis, Massachusetts, which is a workshop conference for adult writers. At this one, I'll be working specifically with aspiring science fiction writers, while a lot of writers in other genres will be teaching the tools of their specific trades. This conference is still open for registration, so if it sounds like something you'd be interested in, take a look and maybe I'll see you there!



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Monday, May 12, 2014

New Covers, Going Free, and Like That

My friend Rich Bowker blogged recently on the reasons for making a book free for a limited time. He doesn't mention what I think is the main reason for giving away books, which is to introduce your work to new readers who you hope will become returning regulars. But he makes a good case for doing it for the reviews you hope the giveaway will generate.

I've had Neptune Crossing free for a long time now, in hopes of introducing new readers to The Chaos Chronicles—and there are three more books already available for said new readers to spend their hard-earned money on (with one more in the writing, and one last book planned). And it seems to be working. But reviews are definitely important, too, and if you've read and enjoyed any of my books, I hope you'll take a few moments to post a review (or several!) at the store where you shopped, or Goodreads, or another social networking site. Careful readers (or maybe I should say, compulsive readers) may note that I've been gradually updating my ebooks with requests at the ends for the appreciative reader to click a link and post such a review. They really make a difference—partly in guiding other potential readers, and partly because they can affect sales algorithms and whether a particular book will be accepted into a promotion such as Bookbub or The Fussy Librarian. Your vote counts!

Another thing I've been doing lately is getting some new covers made, to replace my early and rather crude efforts on the Chaos books. Here's the new one I've just uploaded for Strange Attractors!


I still have The Infinite Sea to do. I'm still searching for the right image.

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Fussy, Fussy Librarians

Okay, I've been absent here for a while, I know. I've been exceptionally busy with life—including but not limited to getting some new book covers done, preparing for some writing workshops, making some minor but important changes to ebook files, and, of course, working on The Reefs of Time. You'll probably get a rash of posts from me with updates on a lot of this. And then I'll probably go silent again for a while, because the outlook for the next couple of months is Crazy Busy, with Intermittent Chance of Madness.

My reason for emerging? I have a little promotion running today through a service called The Fussy Librarian. It's a site that offers you a selection of discounted books, filtered by reviews and by your (the reader's) personal preferences, such as genre and amount of sex and violence. They asked me to post today's list of daily deals, so I am—but there are no links, so if something catches your eye, you'll need to do a quick search. (Visit The Fussy Librarian if you would like to get your own daily email of new deals, which will have links.)

I had to chuckle when I saw the last book in the list.

Mysteries:
The Case of the Not-So-Fair Trader (A Richard Sherlock Whodunit)
Jim Stevens
Price: $0.99

Thrillers:
Death of Secrets
Bowen Greenwood
Price: $2.99

Science fiction:
Neptune Crossing
Jeffrey A. Carver
Price: Free
(Okay, if you read this blog, you probably already know that Neptune Crossing is free. But the purpose of the ad is to draw new members readers into the cult fold.) 

Young adult:
Life's What You Make It
Theresa Troutman
Price: $2.99

Romance-contemporary:
Dangerous
Suzannah Daniels
Price: Free

The Start of Something Good
Renee Vincent
Price: Free

Fantasy-epic:
Two (The Godslayer Cycle)
Ron Glick
Price: $0.99

Romance-suspense:
Savage Secrets
Cristin Harber
Price: $0.99

Romance-historical:
The Marquess (Regency Nobles Series, Book 2)
Patricia Rice
Price: $4.99

Fantasy-urban:
A Witch's Tale
Rue Volley
Price: $0.99

Stormrage
Skye Knizley
Price: $2.99

Mysteries-Female sleuths:
A Dead Red Heart
RP Dahlke
Price: $2.99

Horror:
Unholy Testament - Full Circle
Carole Gill
Price: $0.99

Children's / Middle Grade:
Keeper of Reign (Reign Fantasy, Book 1)
Emma Right
Price: $1.99

Romance-western:
Jaded
Chelle Chelle
Price: $0.99

Gay / Lesbian:
Somebody to Love
Merry Farmer
Price: $4.99

How-to:
Jump Start Your Book Promotions
RP Dahlke
Price: $0.99
(Starting, one presumes, with advertising on The Fussy Librarian?)



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Sunday, April 20, 2014

Happy Easter!

Here's wishing a happy and blessed Easter to all who celebrate Easter! And a happy and blessed fine Spring* evening (or day, if you're far enough west of me to still have daylight) to everyone regardless of what you celebrate!

We had a lovely day of gathering with good friends and good food (maybe a little too much of that last), followed by a good nap. I was intending to go for a bike ride when I got home from our gathering. But the recliner got to me first.

*Make that a fine Autumn evening for my friends south of the equator.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The BookBub Promotion Went Great

If you were reading here last week, you know I marked down my omnibus ebook of The Chaos Chronicles: Books 1-3 for a week, in conjunction with a promotion on Bookbub.com. The sale went amazingly, gratifyingly well. Better than I expected or dreamed. In fact, there are more than 2500 people out there with shiny new copies of my omnibus on their Kindles, Nooks, iPads, whatever. More than 1500 people grabbed it on the first day alone. We broke into the top 100 sellers of all books in the Kindle store, and briefly lingered at #65 among all Kindle ebooks. More importantly, I've already heard from one new reader who discovered my work through the sale and has already ripped through it happily and gone on to download Sunborn.

That's the most gratifying thing about it, is the new readers. The extra income is nice, too, of course.

If you're one of those readers, I hope you enjoy the book! And if you do, I'd be eternally grateful if you'd take a moment to post a review wherever you bought it, or at Goodreads, or anywhere, really. Word of mouth means everything. And thanks!

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An Electric Bill Even a Miser Would Like

It finally happened. Our latest electric bill:

    $-35, due on or before April 28 

Yes! The electric company owes us money! This has been our best month so far, generating electricity from the solar panels on our roof. Here's how it looks so far in April:



Typically I think we use ~22 kWh per day. There were some days this month we generated almost double that amount, and fed the extra to the grid, and only a few days where we fell short. Solar rocks.


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Snow! On April 16!

Yeesh, wasn't it just yesterday I was driving in the truck, a little overly warm what with the Spring weather we've been having? Well, I was up later last night than I should have been, worrying over some stuff that should be simple in this chapter. And when I finally stumbled downstairs at 4 a.m.to take Captain Jack out for his last visit to the tree before bed, what do I find but snow on the ground, and still coming down!

This had got to be the weirdest weather year I can remember.

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Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Bookbub Promotion on The Chaos Chronicles: Books 1–3!

Starting today, and for one week, The Chaos Chronicles: Books 1–3 (an ebook omnibus edition) will be steeply discounted, down to $1.99! That's for three complete books—and would be a great price for just one book! Here's another exclamation mark, for good measure! This is my second promotion through Bookbub, and I'm hoping it does as well as the first.

These three novels are enough to get you well into the Chaos story, starting with Neptune Crossing, and continuing with Strange Attractors and The Infinite Sea. I hate blowing my own horn, so can I let some others do it for me? Here are some honest-to-God quotes from other people:

  • Neptune Crossing – Called one of the best SF novels of the year by Science Fiction Chronicle 
  • Strange Attractors – "An irresistibly readable story line reinforced by fascinating speculative science." —Booklist 
  • The Infinite Sea – "Another splendid adventure, with intriguing puzzles, first-rate problem-solving, and an impressive array of alien characters, motives, and methods." —Kirkus Reviews

The Chaos Chronicles -- click to biggify

It's available at Nook, Amazon, Smashwords, and iTunes. It's now also marked down at Book View Café. And at Kobobooks.

If you haven't already added this set to your ebook collection, what are you waiting for?

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Monday, April 07, 2014

Now Write! Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror

Are you hoping to write, but don't know quite how to get started? Meant to do NaNoWriMo, but the month was gone before you could decide what to write about? Need a little encouragement, or maybe a kick in the butt? Here's a book that might help. It's called Now Write! Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror, and is edited by Laurie Lamson.

The reason I know about it is that a copy landed in my mailbox a week or two ago. And the reason that happened is that I contributed a piece to the book and then more or less forgot about it. Well, I'm glad my contributor's copy came along to jog my memory, because it's a fascinating book. It's a collection of exercises that various writers and teachers have found helpful, along with little essays about the exercises, and pointers that might help you along the way. That might sound boring, but it isn't—not at all. I found myself thumbing through it, and wishing I had a few hours to spend right then and there reading it.

There are about fifty or sixty writers represented, including big names like Harlan Ellison and Piers Anthony, and plenty of seriously notable writers whose names are not as widely known. A few of my fellow Book View Café members are in there (Vonda N. McIntyre, Lois Gresh). One of the alums of my own workshop is in there (Chris Howard). The general topics include Story Development and Plotting; Building Worlds; Heroes, Villains, and Monsters; Communication and Relationships; and much more. I will definitely be using this book as a resource the next time I run a workshop.

If writing is in your bucket list, you might want to check it out. It's available in both paper and electrons:


and doubtless in many of your local bookstores.

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Sunday, April 06, 2014

A New Look for Neptune Crossing—and First in a Series at Itunes!

A lot's been going on since I last wrote. One exciting thing is that I've put a new cover on Neptune Crossing, which will join my list at Book View Café next Tuesday. It's still free everywhere, both as a thank-you to my readers and as a way for new readers to discover my work.

In addition, Neptune Crossing has been selected as part of an iBooks promotion called "Free First in a Series at iTunes." This is via my Smashwords edition which distributes to the Apple store, so a big thanks to Mark Coker of Smashwords for that. To see all the books being promoted as free first books in a series, go to the iTunes store, click on Books, and browse the front-page banner until you come to it.

Here's the new cover, designed for me by Maya Kaathryn Bohnhoff, fellow BVC author. In her spare time, she's now working on a new cover for Strange Attractors.

Neptune Crossing cover
I have to get back to doing my taxes now, but look for another book-related announcement in a few days.

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Thursday, March 20, 2014

Writing as an Act of Faith

As I said in my last two posts, I'm on a writing retreat to work on The Reefs of Time. There's an interesting faith component to this retreat. While the act of writing is almost by definition a leap of faith (Will this book I'm spending years writing actually turn into something good?) there's a little more to it this time. As part of my church's annual Leap of Faith experiment during Lent, I have been praying for a creative breakthrough, and also in particular that my writing wouldn't just sell, but would touch readers in meaningful and uplifting ways. I mean, really, if it doesn't do that, is it worth all the work and mental anguish? (Yes, aspiring writers, sometimes it definitely feels like anguish.)

Well, on my first night I settled into a comfortable chair with my laptop, in front of a crackling fire (I have a really nice room at this B&B), to begin writing new material. Not moving stuff around, not taking notes, but doing the hard thing: new stuff. No sooner was I settled in than an email came in. Really, I should have been ignoring emails at that point, but I caught out of the corner of my eye, in the little notification window, something about The Infinity Link. Now, The Infinity Link was one of my early novels, not much noticed nowadays, but in my writing career it was a breakthrough novel in many ways. (Not the least of the ways was that it started small, grew large, and took me bloody forever to write—not unlike the book I'm writing now.)

So I read the email. It was from a reader new to my work. He'd found The Infinity Link in a used bookstore a while back, and read it. He'd just read it again, this time via the Audible audiobook. And he was writing to tell me how profoundly the story and some of its images had touched him—and he just wanted to let me know, and to thank me for writing the book!

Before answering the email, I sat there for a few moments, dumbfounded. I don't know how you would take it, but that sure felt like an answer to prayer to me.

The writing came easier for the rest of that night.

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Two Views of My Novel

I found this rock on the first beach walk of my retreat, a sea-scoured nugget of quartz. It seemed to me a perfect metaphor for my first draft: a gem (or crystal, anyway) in the rough, all of its facets and inner beauty temporarily concealed. I probably won't polish the crystal, but I will polish the novel. (In fact, I've made good progress on a couple of thorny problems while down here.) So, here are two different views of my work in progress:


And while I ponder the book, here's the Landshark scanning the sea for signs of its marine brethren:


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Wednesday, March 19, 2014

First Writing Retreat of 2014

I'm on Cape Cod for a few days, to clear my head and try to get some traction in the rewrite of The Reefs of Time. I've got the whole book loaded into Scrivener now, with notes all over the place, and Scrivener has already proved its usefulness in letting me move the chapters of different subplots around like chess pieces. I think I've got them lined up the way I want them, though of course I might feel differently as the rewriting proceeds.

Part of what I love about coming to the Cape is a chance to walk along the beach and the dunes, and refresh my brain with ocean air. Whenever I do that, I seem to see patterns in nature that somehow connect with what I'm writing. The tide coming in over the sand, for example, creates little ephemeral rivers that remind me of the starstream, a cosmic structure of my own imaginary design which figures prominently in the new book. (See From a Changeling Star and Down the Stream of Stars for more about the starstream, which was born of a supernova and a long cosmic hyperstring.)


I'm not sure what these vistas of sand dunes remind me of, but I felt strongly that they symbolize something in the story I'm writing. I guess I'll find out what, later.



In case you think I just stole these pictures off the internet, here's one of me standing where the dunes give way to the beach and the water. (Would you trust this guy with your daughter? Hmm.)


How about this guy? (He claimed to be rollerblading. But it was way too cold to be rollerblading. What was he really doing?)


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Saturday, March 15, 2014

E-Reads to Become a Part of Open Road Media

Nine of my backlist books are currently published by E-Reads, founded in 1999 by my agent, Richard Curtis. E-Reads was a pioneering enterprise in the ebooks business, putting books up for sale when hardly anyone knew what an ebook was.

E-Reads is about to become a part of Open Road Media, and in the coming months my E-reads titles will become Open Road titles. Beyond a long-time acquaintance with Open Road editor Betsy Mitchell, who got her start in publishing at Dell at around the same time I was getting my start at Dell, I don't know too much about the company. I guess I'm about to learn, though!

Here's the detailed announcement from Open Road, and a summary by Publishers Weekly.

The times they are a'changing.


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Friday, March 14, 2014

My Application to Amtrak Is In

Well, I did it. I applied for Amtrak's writer residency program, #AMTRAKRESIDENCY. I just read that they've already received 8000 applications in the few days the program has been open.

The program is not without controversy, to say the least. The terms of application give Amtrak wide latitude to use material submitted to them, at their own discretion, more or less forever. The best discussion of this is probably on the always excellent Writers Beware, which offers some simple suggestions to Amtrak on how to take the sour taste out of the program.

I am in total sympathy with those who think Amtrak's terms are over the top, probably due to a lawyer who got carried away. They have indicated that they are listening to feedback from writers, and I hope they amend their terms. For my own application, I included a brief excerpt from the beginning of Neptune Crossing—which has already been published, is widely available for free (by my choice), and which I warmly encourage Amtrak to publicize on my behalf. The size of the excerpt pretty much amounts to Fair Use in copyright terms, anyway. If you're a writer and you're considering applying, think carefully about those conditions and what you put up.

So yes, Amtrak, I was willing to work with those terms for my own application. But for others, who might have shorter works to offer, or unpublished works, I understand the consternation. I urge you to reconsider the terms. See Writer Beware for simple, common sense ways to do that. In the meantime, I hope you consider my application favorably. I'd really like a nice, long train ride to help me work on my book!



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Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Report on the BookBub Promotion

I recently finished a special promotion on Eternity's End, via BookBub. For a little over a week, the book was deep-discounted to $.99. On opening day, when the promotional email went out, it sold over a thousand copies at the Amazon Kindle store! After that, it tapered off pretty quickly, of course. But in all, it sold over 1600 ebooks, some in the Nook store but most in the Kindle store.

Now that the promo is over (the price is now $5.99), things have really fallen off at the Nook store, but at Kindle, although numbers have decreased, it continues to sell better than it did before the promotion. I hope it continues!

My writer friends told me to expect a lot more reviews as a result of the sales. (Reviews are considered by some experts to be one of the most important factors in continuing sales.) Well, at first I didn't get any new ones. But today, two new reviews appeared at Amazon. Let's just say they canceled each other out nicely.

The first one reads:

I had to force myself to read this book . It was a very dull and boring read . Entirely too much fill .
It drones on an on with no real action .
THE ONLY THING I COULD SAY TO PUT IT SIMPLY IS THAT IT , REALLY, REALLY SUCKED.
I WOULD NOT RECOMMEND THIS AUTHOR OR HIS BOOKS TO ANY ONE AT ALL
 Well, what can I say, except: We aim to please! You can't go out and buy that kind of customer satisfaction. Out of curiosity, I looked to see what this reviewer's other reviews were like. He has reviewed three other SF books. He thought they all sucked. (Including one by Andre Norton.)

The next one, fortunately, is more charitable:
Eternity's End is a high-space adventure that hearkens back to the days of sailing ships, complete with space pirates and romance too. This is one of those rare books that has stuck with me long after I finished reading. I enjoyed it from cover to cover and hope to find time to read it again someday.
That's more my style!

Ordinarily I don't pay much attention to reviews, because that way lies madness. You fixate on the bad ones, and try to hold to the good ones to salve your pride, but it doesn't really work. Best just not to read them at all.

Having said that, I would like to encourage you, if you've read Eternity's End, to go post a review at your favorite store or book-related social networking site. (Even if you thought it sucked!) It would help me, and it might even help new readers discover the book!
 

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Saturday, March 08, 2014

The Reefs of Writing — Scrivener?

I've been poring over the first draft of The Reefs of Time and taking copious notes on what I need to change as I rewrite it. To my surprise, I found more places that seem to call for further development than places that need extensive cutting. (There's always a need for cutting and tightening; that goes without saying. But I'm talking about the light-saber approach that's sometimes needed to excise long, rambling detours. I didn't find too many of those.) That's both good news and bad news. The good part is, the first draft is better than I expected. The bad part is—well, remember the picture I showed you of the first draft? The second draft could be longer.

Not what I expected.

To deal with the complexity of the book—I wrote several different subplots as standalone documents, figuring I would figure out how to braid them together later—I have decided to give Scrivener a try. Scrivener is a writing tool designed especially for people like fiction writers, with all sorts of organizational features, including the ability to easily move sections around, as well as keeping notes and research materials at your fingertips. That seems like just what I need. It offers many things that Word does not. Unfortunately, it also lacks a few of Word's features that I use all the time, such as support for paragraph styles and keyboard macros. An uneasy tradeoff.


I've spent much of the last two days with the trial version of Scrivener, loading all my different documents and notes into it, and slicing the book into chapters for easy manipulation. My current plan is do the heavy rewriting in this environment, and then port it back into Word for the final polish. That's what some of my colleagues do, and it seems to work well for them. (Here's one such report, from Charles Stross.)

This is all subject to change, as I test things out. Stay tuned.

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Friday, March 07, 2014

Writing on a Train? Yes, please!

I love trains, and always have. When I was a kid, growing up in Huron, Ohio, I lived maybe half a mile from the New York Central main line (now Amtrak's) between New York and Chicago. Sometimes we would get ice cream cones and go down to the tracks at about 9 p.m. Nighttime trains were always the best. If they were running on time, we'd get to watch two great eastbound passenger trains—the Pacemaker and the Twentieth Century Limited—fly past about ten minutes apart.

The show opened in stages in the darkness. We'd peer to our left, where the double tracks disappeared around a curve bending toward the Lake Erie shoreline. The first sign was a quiet singing of the rails, and the extended glow of the headlight beam, shining into the distant curve. An instant later, the crossing flashers lit up on three grade crossings in a row. Then the headlight and the train itself came around the bend, with the first long blast on the horn in the soulful sequence of Lonnng Lonnng Short Lonnnnnnnnnnng!

Even in the distance, those streamlined E-unit locomotives radiated nothing but power, as if they were born to fly. The track was a little wavy, and the headlights bobbed up and down as the thing bore down on us, threatening to leap off the track, and finally roared through the crossing with the final cry of the horn dopplering down in pitch as it passed at 70 or 80 miles per hour. Right behind came the long string of lit-up passenger cars, full of people bound for mysterious destinations. I always wondered where they were going, and why; and I longed to go, too. The last car was a rounded observation car, and I imagined sitting in comfort, watching the dark landscape reel away behind me. When that trailing car disappeared to the east, we would turn and wait for the next train, close on its heels.


http://cruiselinehistory.com/

I never rode the Twentieth Century, to my regret. I did once ride the Pacemaker with my dad, and it was great. Funny, though, that wondering mystery goes away when you're on the inside of the train, to be replaced with other kinds of excitement and intrigue.

It's been years since I've ridden a long-distance train just for the fun of it. But I hope that will change, when Amtrak accepts me (I hope!) into their just announced writers residency program! Yes, spurred by a wish expressed by a writer on Twitter, Amtrak has decided to offer free or low-cost long-distance train rides to selected writers—so they can get away and pursue their muse while riding the rails! All they want in return is for the writers to tweet or blog about their experiences. They'll be opening to applications soon.

You can bet I'm applying. Wish me luck!

Meanwhile, I'll just pretend I'm Cary Grant for a day...

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Monday, March 03, 2014

"Read an E-Book Week" Specials

It's that time of the year again! Smashwords is sponsoring their annual Read an E-Book Week blowout sale. Tons of books discounted or free, through March 8. I've put up two boxed sets at 50% off. Just use the coupon code REW50, which you can also find on the books' product pages, in case you forget it.





My colleague Doranna Durgin has not only put a slew of her own books for sale, but also invited other authors to list theirs. (I imagine a list will begin growing on Doranna's blog over the next day or two.)

And I say, why not? If you're an author with a book or books on sale, list it here in the comments section! The more, the merrier!

By the way, my Bookbub promotion has been very successful, and Eternity's End is still on sale, through March 7.


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Friday, February 28, 2014

Happy Birthday, Bookbub!

No, wait, I got that wrong. It's Happy Birthday, Allysen! (It's my loving wife's forty-two-plus-somethingth birthday today. Yay!)

It's also the day of my first Bookbub promotion! Eternity's End is on sale for $.99, for one week only. At Kindle! At Nook! At Smashwords! This is the one that was a finalist for the Nebula Award: a big, sprawling star-rigger story, complete with space pirates, amphibious aliens, cyber-enhanced love, and cosmic wonders. Get it for less than a buck, for one week only. Heck, for that price, buy six and give it to your friends!



If you like the book, I sure would appreciate your posting a review to your favorite store or review site. Believe it or not, reviews matter!

After March 7, the price goes up.

And did I remember to say: Happy Birthday, Allysen!


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Sunday, February 23, 2014

Waves Hit Europe!

The weather we're getting here in New England seems pretty tame compared to some of what they got in Europe a few weeks ago. What's a little snow shoveling compared to this?


Click through to the source site to see a slide show of amazing waves that pounded Europe in January.

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Friday, February 21, 2014

Which Is More Interesting: Space Elevators or Kate Upton in Zero Gee?

Too much snow, and other tiring distractions! Let's think about something else for a change. Which is the more compelling of two stories that came across my radar the other day, both from space.com:

The coming reality of space elevators?

http://www.space.com/24739-space-elevator-tether-technology.html

Or the effect on supermodels of being photographed in skimpy swimsuits in zero gravity?

http://space.com/24726-kate-upton-zero-g-sports-illustrated.html*

You decide! (For what it's worth, I like both of them.)

*You can see more photos in the series at http://swimsuit.si.com/swimsuit/models/kate-upton/zero-g-photos/1. Watch Kate get launched through the airplane by the photo crew!

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Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Why Is Craig Shaw Gardner Writing Dinosaur Porn?

Or is he? I didn't even know dinosaur porn—excuse me, erotica—existed, until Craig told his tale. It seems his innocent fantasy ebook, Temporary Monsters, was temporarily removed from the shelves of the Amazon Kindle store because—apparently—someone at Amazon thought it might be dinosaur erotica. Craig says no. To quote from his blog: "I therefore state, for the record, that my book contains ABSOLUTELY NO HUMAN/DINOSAUR EXTRA-MARITAL INTERACTIONS OF ANY KIND!" Can we trust him? I dunno, he seems to leave in the possibility of human/dino relations within marriage. What does that say?

But as Craig says elsewhere in his blog, go to Amazon and do a search on "dinosaur erotica." Then read some of the reviews of the books that come up. I don't know about the books, but the reviews are hilarious.

Then forget that and give Temporary Monsters a try.



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Monday, January 27, 2014

Another Audiobook You Should Listen To

From a Changeling Star, by me. Okay, I guess that sounds like the usual author self-promotion, and on one level, I suppose it is. But I actually just finished listening to it, and I really liked it!

The reason I just listened to it is that I've started going through all my books that come before The Reefs of Time, to refresh my memory of what happened, in hopes of avoiding continuity blunders. Also, in hopes of picking up inspiration from some of the things I cleverly put into the story, but have since forgotten. Fortunately, I can listen to several of them in audio, so I can be working while I walk the dog. Two of them, From a Changeling Star and Down the Stream of Stars, are not formally part of The Chaos Chronicles, but they're about the creation and use of the starstream, which provides the backdrop for Reefs. Plus, the robot Jeaves first appears in those stories.

Listening to someone else read your work can be pretty difficult. Wrong pronunciations, wonky intonations, "character voices" that don't sound right to your inner ear. Things probably only you the author will notice. Sometimes you just flat-out don't like the sound of the narrator's voice for your book. This one isn't entirely free of those problems, but it's way better than some others I've listened to, and on the whole I thought narrator MacLeod Andrews did a fine job. Next for me, Down the Stream of Stars.


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Saturday, January 25, 2014

The Untangling of Plot Threads

In his latest blog post, Richard Bowker describes how a serene evening beside the fire with the writing group leads to unexpected plot complications. It's all true; I was there. In fact, I might have been the person whose little comment led to the problem. (Oops.)

The same thing happens to me all the time. In my previous post, I showed you what the manuscript of my new first draft looks like. Picture about a third of the way into that stack of pages. That's where an important plot event happens. Will have happened, after I rewrite it. The problem is, I was about three quarters of the way through the book before I realized that little detail. (Oops.) That's going to change a few things, isn't it?

Yah. Sorry 'bout that (I say to myself). Sometimes I think it's a wonder these books ever get finished.


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What George R.R. Martin and I Have in Common

We both write long, and we both take a long time to finish. Here I am, pondering the complete first draft of The Reefs of Time. 900-ish pages. Can you see the wheels going in my head, fixing all the things that didn't come out quite right the first time around?




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Friday, January 24, 2014

Audiobooks I Liked Last Year

In keeping with my tradition of never getting this stuff up at the same time everyone else is doing it, here's my belated list of books I enjoyed listening to last year—mostly while walking the dog. Jeez, I must spend a lot of my life walking the dog!

  • The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins
    I refused to see the movies when it first came out, because I didn't want to watch kids killing kids. By the time the second movie arrived, I'd heard so much about how great the story was that I watched the first on Netflix—and to my surprise, really liked it. So I listened to audiobook and really liked that, too. 
  • A Canticle for Leibowitz, by Walter Miller, Jr.
    This is an SF classic that I read decades ago, one of the great post-nuclear-war novels, set mostly in a monastery somewhere in the American Southwest. I gave it a listen on audio, and found it held up very well—perhaps a little long in places, but with more humor than I remembered.  
  • The Gunslinger, by Stephen King
    Years ago, I bought a print of the Michael Whelan painting that was the original book cover (I think) for this book. But I'd never read the book until I decided to give it a try via audiobook. Excellent narration, and a story that did not initially grab me, but had me hooked by the end. 
  • The Winds of War and War and Remembrance, by Herman Wouk
    I don't know what made me decide to try these very long novels about a Navy family in the lead-up to World War II in the first book, and through the war in the second. Maybe it just seemed like a good deal—a whole lot of hours of listening, for the same price as any other book. Anyway, I was thoroughly engrossed. There were places where it got slow, but overall, I was quite satisfied and moved by the story. 
  • Cloud Atlas, by David Mitchell
    This is another book I decided to try after enjoying the movie. In this case, the book is quite different from the film, and much more complex in its plot. I liked both, but in different ways. I want to try more by this author, but haven't decided which to listen to next. 
  • The Mote in God's Eye, by Jerry Pournelle and Larry Niven
    Another SF classic, which I'd read years ago on paper. It was a good listen. What surprised me most was how much of it I misremembered. There were scenes I recalled with great clarity from my first reading. The thing is, they either weren't in the book at all, or were very different. Memory is a tricksy critter. 
  • The Dog Who Knew Too Much, by Spencer Quinn
    This is a private eye novel narrated by the P.I.'s dog Chet. The story is good. The dog viewpoint on it all is great. The author really knows how to get into the dog's way of seeing things. Very funny. There are more Bernie and Chet mysteries, and I've got them in my wishlist for the future. 
  • Failure is Not an Option, by Gene Kranz
    This is for space aficionados only, but if you're a fan of the space program, you'll enjoy the inside look at what the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo days were like for the mission control teams at NASA. It presumes you already know the excitement and doesn't even try to recapture the thrills. But it does make you feel like you were there, trying to work your way through the life-and-death decisions.  
This one I read as an ebook, but I'm listing it because I really liked it:
  • The Red: First Light, by Linda Nagata
    The story of an augmented soldier, this takes us into the world of the near future, where small wars are basically the bread and butter of defense contractors (more so than they are already, I mean). Artificial intelligence has become a necessary adjunct to the working soldier. But exactly where are the AI's leading? Well thought out, and well told, by a Nebula-winning author. The first of a series. 

Some of these I bought, and some I downloaded from the public library. The options for us as readers just keep growing!

Edit: I forgot to mention the Jack Reacher books, by Lee Child, narrated by Dick Hill. I can't remember exactly which ones I listened to last year, but most of them are good. Exceptions: A Wanted Man, which was way below par, and One Shot, the basis for the Jack Reacher movie, which I also found below par. Pick another, any other.



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Grab Dover Beach for Free Today

My friend Richard Bowker's excellent future private eye novel Dover Beach is a Nook free ebook today. If you don't already have it, you owe it to yourself to grab a copy right away and read about Walter Sands, book-lover and P.I. in the post-war shambles of Boston. I recently reread it, and enjoyed it just as much as I did when it first came out. It's well worth paying for, but today you can download it for free.

Rich also took the opportunity of this listing on the Barnes and Noble site to give my own Chaos Chronicles omnibus a shout-out, so I'm sitting here rubbing my hands together, waiting for the gold to spill into my lap. Thanks, pal; I won't forget you when I'm rich and famous.

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Friday, January 17, 2014

Interesting Times? Holy Sh%$.

Bank robbers were shot by police today about 150 feet from where I'm sitting in our dining room.  My daughter Julia and I heard bang bang bang bang, and thought it was construction or firecrackers. I briefly thought gunshots, and then thought nah. Captain Jack knew it was worth barking about, but he settled down quickly. When I went out twenty minutes later to go to an appointment, police were stringing up crime scene tape, and just getting ready to tape off our driveway. I drove away knowing only that there'd been a shooting.

When I got home, I learned that it was not a domestic incident or random murder, but police responding to armed suspects. The whole place is closed off; I had to park a block away and walk home. The news helicopters are still circling around. Here's the story:

On Arlington Patch, and on Channel 5's website.

Here's what the scene looks like now.


While taking my own pictures, I got interviewed by both Channel 4 and Channel 5 news. They must really have been desperate for something to put on the air. (I doubt very much they'll use it, but you never know.)

I guess I can't complain about life being dull. This stuff is only supposed to happen on TV.


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