Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Turkeys Afoot!

It was about six weeks ago that I first encountered the family of wild turkeys on the bikepath near our house. I was walking Captain Jack when I came upon them: two adults and four youths, taking their own stroll. They didn’t seem very concerned about us, and Jack didn’t seem terribly interested in them, which struck me as odd.  Here they are on August 6.


We’ve run into them probably about once a week, since then. Here they are today, September 17. The young’uns are quite a bit bigger now. I took this picture about ten seconds  before Captain Jack pulled the leash out of my hand (I was trying to email the picture) and bolted after them, chasing them into the trees. No one was hurt. No harm, no fowl. Heh.




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Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Panglor Is Alive! (Again)


Panglor was my third novel, one I really enjoyed writing, and one that people seem to like a lot now, although in its original paperback publication from Dell it sank like a stone. Maybe tastes change, or maybe the original release was hampered by a pretty awful cover and the fact that Dell was already thinking about getting out of the SF business at the time. Or maybe it just took people a while to recognize my genius. Yeah, that must be it. And it got even geniuser, I’m sure, when I gave it a good, solid edit for its 1996 reissue from Tor.

In any case, it has a bunch of 5-star reviews from readers on Amazon. I like this one: “Truly GREAT!!” posted by “A Customer.” And this: “I hate Sci-Fi, but I love Carver's novels!” When it was out in its E-reads edition, it was consistently my best-selling book among the E-reads Nine.

All of this is to say that it’s available once again, this time from Starstream Publications, which is to say, from me. As of today, it’s live at Kindle, Kobo, and Smashwords, and should turn up alive again soon at Nook and iTunes. It’ll launch at Book View Café on October 7. [Edit: It's up in Nook and iTunes now!]

Here’s the new cover, designed for me by Maya Kaathryn Bohnhoff:


And here’s what the book’s all about:
Wrongly discredited as a space pilot, Panglor Balef is doomed to die in space, if sheer luck doesn’t bring him through. But luck has never been in Panglor’s cards. Bad enough to be coerced into a mission of murder and suicide, he must also contend with Alo—a young woman, stowaway, and impossible companion. Neither of them, nor his empathic ou-ralot, could possibly anticipate the journey through space-time they are about to embark on, through a door to an insane reality from which there is almost certainly no return. It could be the discovery of the millennium, but the only way home is to journey even further into the heart of madness.

The stunning prequel to the famed Star Rigger Universe of Jeffrey A. Carver, Nebula-nominated author of Eternity’s End and The Chaos Chronicles, yada-yada.

At a low, low, introductory price of $3.99 for this unparalled assemblage of shiny new binary digits!


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Friday, September 12, 2014

BookBub Results

Since I'm always after you to notice my BookBub specials, and to go out and buy books, I thought maybe I should report on the results of the last promo. The results were good! There are now more than 1700 people boasting newly minted copies of From a Changeling Star on their ebook readers! In addition, some of them are going ahead and buying the sequel, Down the Stream of Stars, and more people than before are buying my other books, as well. 

Typically, the effects last a couple of weeks, and then things settle back down to normal. But in the meantime, there are that many new readers out there, some of whom have never heard of me before, who will be—I hope—enjoying one of my books. And then—I hope—looking for more.

Just for fun, here's what the sales graph looks like on Amazon when a book goes on a BookBub special. You can see that the first day is the exciting one.


Watch the bouncing sales ball in the Kindle store!

The red line represents books sold. (The green line is free downloads of Neptune Crossing, my loss leader. There's a spike in that line, too, because I advertised it one day on Ereader News Today. That's the book I give away, hoping people will like it enough to buy the sequels. That seems to work, too.)

Thanks, everyone who went for the sale! Please post a review!


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Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Good News! Young People Read!

Some of us in the book biz worry too much. For a while now, there's been gnashing of teeth and rending of garments over the supposed graying of our audience—in particular, the perception that fewer young people are picking up science fiction books, and leaving it to the aging generation to appreciate the mind-blowing concepts spun out in our novels.

Actually, that could still be true. While SF is extremely popular in the media, and youths flock like bats to Comicon and the like, SF in book form doesn't seem to hold the market that it once did. (Always excepting outliers like The Hunger Games.) But—much as I hate to admit it—science fiction isn't the only kind of book that matters. So, with that in mind, take heart from this story in the Washington Post, regarding a recent study by the Pew Research people: "Millennials were more likely to have read a book last year than older Americans."

Let's repeat that, in case you missed it the first time: "Millennials were more likely to have read a book last year than older Americans."

Not only that, "62 percent of the under-30 set believes there's a lot of useful, important information that is not on the Internet." Which is 9% more than the number of older Americans who said that.

Go, Millennials!


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Older Daughter Heads to Lebanon!

Lexi took off from Boston last night, and I got a text around noon today saying she'd landed in Beruit. She'll be staying with friends and seeing what I have heard described as one of the most beautiful countries in the world. Why was I never that adventurous?

I hope we get to see some pictures soon! (And, of course, that she will arrive home safe and sound at the appointed time.)


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Friday, August 29, 2014

From a Changeling Star: On Sale Thru September 3!

Today marks the start of my latest BookBub sale, this time on my first Starstream novel, From a Changeling Star. For the next week, it costs just $.99 in ebook, 80% off the regular $4.99! (Okay, get ready for the pitch...) Get it while it's hot! Stock up! It has something for everyone: supernovas, cosmic hyperstring, romance, nanotech, aliens! What else can you want?

Why do I keep doing this? Because it works. The BookBub specials have all brought in extra income, and more importantly, gotten my books into the hands of lots of new readers.

This is a novel that nearly drove me mad when I was writing it, but by the time I was finished, it turned into one of my favorites. Though I had no idea at the time, it connects to The Chaos Chronicles, via the character Jeaves the robot, who first appears in the Chaos books in Sunborn. And the starstream itself is a crucial element in my work in progress, The Reefs of Time, a.k.a. Chaos number 5.

Here's the blurb, saving you the trouble of reading it when you click through to your favorite store:

Into a dying star…

Deep in the fires of Betelgeuse, scientists anxiously await the one man essential to the greatest engineering project in history. But on Kantano’s World, Willard Ruskin battles invisible agents for control of his life, and even his memories. Drawn into a conflict from which not even death will free him, Ruskin must reach Betelgeuse before his enemies sabotage humanity’s future among the stars.

A stunning blend of hard science fiction with moving characterization, both human and otherwise. From the Nebula-nominated author of Eternity’s End.

Original print publication by Bantam Spectra. A Locus bestseller.

REVIEWS:

“Starts with a bang and keeps getting better. Carver handles not one, but two hot topics, and presents both vividly.” —David Brin, author of Existence and Startide Rising

“Running from the micro to the macro and back again, redefining sentience, space-time, and perhaps humanity along the way, From a Changeling Star is a fast-paced puzzler, rich in invention, and Jeffrey A. Carver’s most ambitious book to date.” —Roger Zelazny

And so on...

You can get it from all the usual suspects.





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Thursday, August 28, 2014

Wardrobe Malfunctions at Worldcon

In my first post on Loncon, I mentioned a couple of wardrobe malfunctions that threatened to derail me at the con. No, I didn't burst out of my bustier. But both stood to be just about as embarrassing.

Scheduled for a signing on Friday afternoon, I went a little early to the green room to have a cup of coffee. Sitting by myself at a table, I was sorting through some of the con literature when I moved my hand in the wrong direction. Oops. Oh frak! I had just spilled the entire cup of coffee across the table, toward me, and into my lap. Yeah, right into the crotch of my pants. Oh shit, what do I do now? I can't walk around the con like this. And my nearest set of alternative pants is forty-five minutes away by tube. Oh damn, oh damn, oh damn. Fortunately, I was saved by the sun and the wind. The green room, by a miracle, had an open-air balcony! I sidled out quickly, and stood facing the sun and open air. And stood. And stood. Thank God, by the time I needed to go to the signing, I was all (mostly) dried out. With no visible stain. Go solar!

The next day, I was all set to walk through the art show, when I felt something snap against my waist. Looking down, I found my belt loose, and my pants sagging. My belt buckle had chosen that moment to snap clean off, leaving me without any means of holding up my pants except to clutch the waistband in my fists. (My pants were a little loose that day, something I usually feel good about.) My nearest other belt was... well, you know.

I checked the dealers room for anyone selling belts, but the only thing I found was a costume belt for fifty pounds, with crossed, full-sized derringers mounted on the buckle. Uh, no.

Then along came my friend Tom Easton, who apprised the situation and led me off to the art desk. "Let's see what they've got," he said. What they had was some jumbo binder clips. Could they be used to clip the two ends of my belt together? Not really. "Let's see what we can fashion," Tom said. He pried the wire handles out of one of the clips. While I was trying to figure out what to do with them, he had already noticed that they could interlock, if there was a way to attach them to the belt leather. And there was. It wasn't easy, but together we managed to squeeze the flared, open ends of the wire pieces through holes in the leather and have the handles come together just so:


The fix worked perfectly (though it took me about two hours of fiddling to get the right tightness), and it lasted the rest of the day! I have officially named it the Tom Easton Belt Buckle Mod. And someday I'm going to find a way to use it in a story. Thanks, Tom!
 

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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Staying on a Boat in London for Worldcon

It seemed like the perfect solution when Allysen found it on Air B&B: Houseboat on the Thames! What could be more charming? Besides, time was growing seriously short, and we really needed a place to stay at worldcon. And it was cheaper than the hotels, which were mostly full, anyway. Besides, it had a double-sized bunk, plus several singles, which was more than enough. Plus, it had a kitchen and a working toilet. What more do you need?  Well...



What we got was a charming little sailboat called the Catch-E, which really was a nice boat if you didn't think of it in terms of B&B, or even houseboat. It did have the requisite number of bunks, but the smell of mildew and strong cleaners in the cabin caused Julia to immediately decide that she was sleeping on the cushioned bench seat in the upper wheelhouse/dining area. And the tiny kitchenette would have been just a tad more useful if it had had refrigeration. And the working toilet? Technically, it did work. But it also pumped straight out into the marina waters, so it wasn't what you would actually call usable except in extremis. The fact was, we had to hike out to the external bathhouses for toilets and showers. For that purpose, we could choose between the one inside the marina's gated fence (where the toilets worked but the lights and electricity didn't), or the fully functional one that required going through two gates with pass-codes in each direction.

Still, it was cozy enough. And camping can be fun. It was pleasant to fall asleep to the rocking of the boat. And it was a very nice hike around the extensive marina area to the nearest supermarket and tube station. It was only a forty-five minute commute to the con, via foot, tube, and automated (driverless) light rail, which wasn't bad. I had brought several outlet adapters and a power strip to charge our phones and tablets, which would have been great, except that while I had made certain all of our chargers were dual voltage, I forgot to do the same with the power strip. Which fried soundlessly, the instant I plugged it in, popping all the boat's circuit breakers. Still, we were doing okay, in spite of its being... other... than what we'd expected.

Until the night came when—sometime after midnight—I ducked out in shorts and t-shirt to the bathroom and came back to the fence gate to find that the pass-code no longer worked to let me in.

WTF?!

No, it really didn't work anymore. I hollered to Julia, who was reading in her bench-seat bed. She came to help, and she couldn't make it work, either. Finally we were reduced to me walking along the outer fence while she walked the long dock, looking for a boat with a light on inside. (Most of the boats in the marina really were houseboats.) Finally she knocked on a boat window and found a kind soul who lent her his entry fob long enough to blip me in. On returning it, I thanked him and said we hadn’t been told about a change in the pass-code. "The swine," he said. "They never do."

The next morning, I got the new code (it changes fortnightly) from the marina manager, who was surprised to learn that we were paying to stay on the boat a few days. "Really," he said. "Because that's not allowed here." He was perfectly genial to me, but it was clear that the owner of the Catch-E was going to have some 'splainin' to do.

We were able to laugh about it, most of the time. It certainly was different from your cookie-cutter con hotel room. But when we checked out of it after the con, and into a hotel near Greenwich (thank you, booking.com), we fell with joy upon the spacious beds and gaped with positive wonderment at the included bathroom, complete with shower!


Back from the showers


Laundry day on Catch-E


Tea time!
 

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Back from London, But a Bit Under the Weather

We returned from England a couple of days ago, after going to Loncon 3 at the Excel Center and then spending another five days seeing London, Greenwich, and Nottingham (where lives an old friend of Allysen's). It was quite an adventure, starting with staying on a sailboat (more on that in another post), and ending with a very nice train ride into Robin Hood country, where we ate at what is reportedly the oldest pub in England. The worldcon was a bit of a wash for me in professional terms, but Allysen and Julia had a fantastic time and I did enjoy myself despite a couple of wardrobe malfunctions that I'll also save for another post.

Overall, it was a memorable trip, with one major downside. I picked up a nagging cough at the con, and by the time I got home I was pretty nonfunctional with a great, hacking cough and pneumonia. A bit of a setback there. Also, it was kind of a lousy way to celebrate my 65th birthday, which was the 25th. On the other hand, the wonder of still-functional antibiotics was a great way to celebrate my birthday. I'm doing much better now, though I'm still a little sub-par in terms of mental focus and concentration. Not up to writing much yet, but I'm turning into a mean movie-watcher.

There may be a lesson in there, though I can't be certain. Prior to the trip, I had a bunch of really nasty poison ivy (or something) rashes, which were taking forever to clear up. The dermatologist put me on a short dose of prednisone, which did a remarkable job of clearing up the rashes. But it also may have suppressed my immune system just enough to lay me open to the pneumonia. My take-away from this is, try to avoid travel while taking prednisone.

Also, when in London, have the fish and chips!


London parks are beautiful.

 Did you know they have 500 miles of canals in London?
I didn't, either.


 The Tower of London, complete with lions. 



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Thursday, August 14, 2014

Yes, I Am Doing a Signing at Worldcon

If you're at Loncon, stop by and say hello. Friday at 3 pm.

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Sunday, August 10, 2014

Cape Cod Writers Conference

I'm nearing the wrap-up of my long weekend here in Hyannis, Mass., teaching sessions on speculative fiction at a conference that is very much about all kinds of writing. I've met some really nice poets, for example, and reconnected with a thriller writer, Gary Braver, who lives in the same town I do. For some reason, I never see him except at writers events. I met another writer who's getting ready to move to my town, and several students who already do. This is largely, but not entirely, a middle-aged crowd, and quite dedicated to what they're doing. My SF class is small, but focused and quite talented.

Here's proof that I showed up at the conference center:



And here's how I demonstrated by example how one can seek out necessary rest and inspiration. I needed it, since they scheduled me for 8:30 in the morning sessions. Anyone who knows me knows that is a profoundly risky idea! (Still, it worked out okay.)


The ocean is always good for a few ideas for me, and sure enough, after about a half hour of floating and swimming in the Atlantic, a couple of ideas came to me for the rewrite of Reefs, things that happen down the road a ways.

Day two, after a class and a private mentoring session, I hopped in my trusty Landshark and drove to my favorite place in Sandwich, the beginning of the bike path along the Cape Cod Canal. I got in a solid hour of roller blading, and returned just in time to shower for the banquet. (We won't mention that I forgot that the keynote speech was before the banquet, not after, and I sort of missed—no, I said I wasn't going to mention that.) Anyway, as usual, I'm drawn to the water when I have the opportunity. Best way to clear the head, reward myself for doing some good work, and gather thoughts and impressions for later.


And maybe dream a little.


Tomorrow we wrap, and I head home. (With a stop, I hope, for a bit of biking. I brought both skates and my bike.)

As usual with these events, the best part was the people I met. I hope to cross paths with some of them again. Maybe even at my local Trader Joe's.

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Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Reality Runs Free!

Actually, I don't know if reality, per se, is running free, but my book Reality and Other Fictions, is free in ebook for the month of August! Really!

Why would I do such a crazy thing? Because I want more people to give a try and see if they like it. And if they like it, maybe they'll give it a good review somewhere.* And they might even try some of my other books, while they're at it.

*Please do! It hardly has any reviews in the stores. And as I've said before, reviews matter.

Here's what it's about, according to the blurb writer (me again):

Five science fiction stories to ignite the imagination.

Explore an Earth being devoured by entropy, in the ultimate runaway environmental crisis. Dive the depths of the sea to prevent the mother of all oil spills. Rocket into space as a tourist. Mine the asteroids with your enhanced border collie, in the can-do spirit of classic science fiction. These stories appeared in publications as varied as Science Fiction Age, F&SF, and the Boston Sunday Herald. They include Carver’s first published short fiction, and his most recent. With new introductions, all from the author of The Chaos Chronicles and Eternity’s End.

Contents:
Reality School: In the Entropy Zone
Of No Return
Seastate Zero
Rocket Ride!
Dog Star

There's a pretty big range of types of story in this one, and I hope you'll find something to your liking. It's free to try! And for that matter, to keep.

Right now it's free at Book View Café, Kobobooks, and Smashwords. Soon it should show up free at Nook and Apple. If you see it free there, you could do me a big favor by going to Amazon and reporting a "lower price elsewhere" (scroll down to Product Details)—in hopes of getting them to make it free, too. (You can't do that directly at Amazon, unless you go into one of their exclusive programs, which I prefer not to do.) Thanks a million. Oh, and grab a free copy while you're at it.

Book View Cafe | Smashwords | Kobo — free now!
Amazon | Nook | Apple — free soon!

(Okay it's free at Kobo again. Still waiting for Nook and Apple, though, and I can't make it free at Amazon until it's free at one or both of those places. Amazing how hard it can be to give something away.) 
 

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Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Rocket Raccoon Rocks in Guardians! Groot, Too!

I saw Guardians of the Galaxy with family and friends on Sunday (in 3D), and then again on Monday (in 2D). If you're guessing that I liked it, you win! What a great movie! And quite honestly, what made it great were the wise-cracking, machine-gun-toting raccoon and the walking, talking tree. (If you count "I am Groot" as talking.) The other people were excellent, too, and so was the music. And even the reason for the music.



Science fictional ground it does not break. But who cares? You'll love the characters, and you'll laugh a lot. And that pretty well covers the price of admission, in my book.

I'm buyin' this one on Bue-ray.

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Upcoming Appearances!

I haven't posted about this in a while. I'll be showing my face in public in two very different events in the next couple of weeks.

This coming weekend, August 7-10, I'll be conducting several workshop sessions in science fiction writing at the Cape Cod Writers Conference, in Hyannis, MA. It's not too late to sign up! (At least, I don't think so.) This one is for the general public, and last I heard, there was still room in my workshop, which is just part of a much larger conference. So if you're in the area, and you're interested, check into it right away!

After that, I'll be in London for Loncon, the annual World Science Fiction Convention! This will be the first worldcon I've attended in a number of years, and I'm looking forward to it. Cool fact: My wife Allysen went through Air BnB and got us a place to stay on a boat on the Thames! How can you beat that? I was late in registering, and apparently too late in asking to be put on the program—because they didn't schedule me for anything, not even an autograph session. Ah well, that may make it a more relaxing trip, after all. 

If you're at Loncon, keep an eye out and say hello if you see me!

EDIT: I'm signing at 3 pm Friday. Please stop by!


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Friday, July 25, 2014

Dog Days Sale at Book View Café!



There are a slew of books on sale for half price at BookView Café, in our Dog Days of July sale! Fantasy, science fiction, romance, and more by a bunch of different BVC authors. Includes a couple of mine. From now until July 28!

Check it out.  BVC has really well formatted ebooks, most of them previously published by the big houses, all of them DRM-free, and just generally good stuff. If you have any problems, just contact Customer Support. (You'll probably get me.)

Dog Day Sale ad


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(Re)Introducing...Down the Stream of Stars!

The second book of the Starstream, Down the Stream of Stars, is back! (Updated) Live at Kindle, Kobo, Nook, iTunes, and Smashwords as I write this. Soon to be at Book View Café.

Here's what the blurb writer (that would be me) had to say about it:

A great interstellar migration has begun, down the grand, ethereal highway known as the starstream—from the remnant of the Betelgeuse supernova to the center of the Milky Way. Who could have predicted the wonders of the starstream, or the perils it would unleash—including the Throgs, shadowy beings of n-space that seem to understand only death and destruction? But life goes on, dangers or no, and colonists pour down the starstream seeking new worlds. Aboard starship Charity are many such colonists, including one Claudi Melnik, a child of uncommon talents—and an AI named Jeaves, with purposes of his own. When the unthinkable occurs, Claudi must face alone the challenge of the Throgs. And no one, not even Jeaves, could have predicted the final confrontation—or imagined where unexpected allies would be found.

Triumphant sequel to the bestselling From a Changeling Star, Down the Stream of Stars is a daring journey across the gulf between human and alien, to the heart of consciousness itself.

Named one of the best science fiction novels of the year by Science Fiction Chronicle. DRM-free ebook edition. Original print publication by Bantam Spectra.

“Carver's ingenuity is everywhere apparent.” —Locus

“I enjoyed it immensely. Carver provides another wild ride through a deranged cosmos. His imagination is matched only by his compassion. Marvelous effort!” —Jack McDevitt, author of Seeker and Chindi.

Kindle | Nook | Kobo | Smashwords | iTunes | Book View Cafe


By the way, you can read this as a standalone novel, but my recommendation is to read From a Changeling Star first, and then start this one the second you finish. You know, so as not to lose momentum. Low introductory price will not last!

And also by way, it provides some interesting background for The Reefs of Time, which I am still writing!

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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.

Edit: It's now also available at Nook, iTunes, Kobo, and Book View Cafe!

Beneath the roiling surface of Betelgeuse, scientists anxiously await the one man essential to the success of Starmuse, the greatest engineering project in human history. But on Kantano's World, Willard Ruskin battles invisible agents for control of his life, his physical form, and even his memories. Drawn into a conflict from which not even death will free him, Ruskin must find a way to reach Betelgeuse before his enemies sabotage Starmuse—and humanity's future among the stars. A harrowing journey from inside the human cell... to the mind of a dying star.

A stunning blend of hard science fiction with moving characterization, both human and otherwise. Introduces the robot Jeaves, familiar to readers of The Chaos Chronicles. From the Nebula-nominated author of Eternity’s End.

Original print publication by Bantam Spectra. A Locus bestseller.

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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