Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Farewell, Winter Storm Juno!

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

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

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

Here are some pix:

Past the hump, but still coming down


Shovelers preparing for work


Captain Jack at the ready

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

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



All's well that ends well.


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Hunkered Down for a Nor’easter!

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


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

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

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

A writer in a blizzard with no coffee?

Words fail.

 

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Monday, January 19, 2015

You Guys Are Really the Best!

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

Truly amazing.

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

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

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

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Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Back By Popular Demand: The Rapture Effect!

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

Here’s the blurb:

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

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

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

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



Here’s a little glimpse inside:

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

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Monday, January 12, 2015

You Guys Are the Best!

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

In a manly, virile sort way, of course.

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

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Special of the Week: Eternity’s End!

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Sunday, January 11, 2015

2014 in Review, Personally Speaking, Part 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Saturday, January 10, 2015

Captain Jack: Lost and Found

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

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

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

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

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

No, make that “Come here, Jack!”

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Sunday, January 04, 2015

2014 in Review, Personally Speaking, Part 1

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

Space selfie, from my vacation home on the Moon

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

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

Julia with furballs Moonlight and Captain Jack

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas! And Have a Great Day!

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

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

Enjoy your holidays, everyone!


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Sunday, December 14, 2014

KJ Kabza’s Under Stars

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

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








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




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Saturday, December 13, 2014

Colbert Interviews Smaug

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






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Jesus Is a Liberal Democrat

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




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

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

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Friday, December 12, 2014

Well, It’s Happened Again

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

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

Fun facts about Star Rigger’s Way:

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

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

Kindle | Nook | Smashwords | Kobo | iBooks | Google

That’s $.99, for a limited time only!


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Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Funnier Star Wars Trailer

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

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


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

 

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Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Wanderers (of a Strange and Distant Time)

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



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

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



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Monday, December 08, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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Sunday, December 07, 2014

What I want on My Gravestone


THE TYPOS ARE YOUR PROBLEM NOW!

Oh, how I want that to be true!

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

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

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

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

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

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Saturday, December 06, 2014

Launch of Orion

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



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

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

Anyway, Go NASA!
 

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Friday, December 05, 2014

In the Game at Google Play

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

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

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

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


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Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Ursula LeGuin Gives Moving National Book Awards Speech

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

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

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




Link via Blastr

 

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Tuesday, December 02, 2014

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

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

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

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

Original artwork (c) by Chris Howard


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

 And these last two covers will retire, with honor.

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Monday, December 01, 2014

Odyssey Online Writing Classes to Begin Soon

Odyssey Writing Workshops is one of the premier SF/F writing workshops in the world, a six-week-long intensive program that takes the best writing candidates and helps them be all that they can be. Or wait—maybe that’s the Army. Anyway, they’re really, really good, led by the energetic and incredibly knowledgeable Jeanne Cavelos. I’ve done a couple of guest spots over the years and have been mightily impressed, both by the program and by the writers.

Well, that workshop occurs in the late Spring. But they’ve begun an online version, with some classes starting in January and February. If you’re an aspiring SF/F writer, you really might want to take a look. Don’t wait! Applications for the first sessions close soon!

Here’s where to go: http://www.sff.net/odyssey/online.html. Tell them I sent you.

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Kobo on Cyber Monday

I can’t believe I just said that. I hate all the Black Friday and Cyber Monday crap, and the whole BUY BUY BUY ramp-up. Nevertheless, Kobobooks has a one-day 35% off sale today on selected ebooks, and it's pretty good. My selection is Dragon Space, an omnibus edition of Dragons in the Stars and Dragon Rigger, a pair of books in my Star Rigger universe. You can find it here, and use the coupon code CYBERMONDAY35 to get your discount. Today only!

To see the whole list of books in the sale, go to this page. You have to keep hitting Show More Results at the bottom to see all the books. My favorite book cover in the sale: Pet Noir, by Pati Nagle.




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Friday, November 14, 2014

Old Promos, New Promos

In case you’ve been sitting on a fence biting your nails, trying to decide whether to plunk down your hard-earned ninety-nine cents on a copy of my ebook Panglor during its Bookbub sale, you’ve got through tonight to make up your mind. Then the price goes back up, and there’ll be nothing I can do to help you, except pat your shoulder as you learn to live with your regret. But you don’t have to live with your regret. Just visit any of the major ebook stores, and be decisive! Join the other 2500 wooters suckers readers who have, er, joined in! (That's a real number, by the way. It's been a great promo!)

This doesn’t mean there are no good deals after tonight, though. In fact, those crazy folks at Kobobooks have another special going, 35% off on selected ebook titles for the next week. Lots of stuff on sale, including my Chaos Chronicles: Books 1-3 omnibus (which they’ve grouped with boxed sets, rather than science fiction). There are some cool looking books by some of my friends at Book View Cafe. For example: Chris Dolley, Chaz Brenchley, Judith Tarr, and Cat Kimbriel. (I apologize to anyone I missed.)

One week only!

Here, in case you've forgotten what it looks like. And because blog posts look better with pictures.



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Riding a Comet!


The successful landing of Philae on Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko by the European Space Agency is a welcome bright spot in this month’s space news. Bright for science, and bright for the spirit of exploration. Well done, ESA!

As I type this, I don’t know if Philae has yet run out of battery power. In case you’ve been living in a mine this week, Philae dropped across space to a landing, but took a few unfortunate bounces and ended up resting on a precarious spot with too much shadow for its solar cells. I wish we could send it a light! I’d even contribute my Stanley car jumpstart battery, if it would help. Well, I’m sure Philae’s clever scientist-parents will make the most of it. And I can’t wait to find out what they learn. [Update: Apparently it has run out of battery power, after drilling into the comet, but before sending data back. Ow, that hurts. But there may be opportunity for it to recharge slowly, in the coming months, and maybe come back to life for a while. Let's hope.]

It’s amazing how little we knew about comets until we started visiting them in robotic person. We used to think they were basically dirty snowballs. Now we see that they’re much more like asteroids, but with some snow and ice to provide outgassing for the halo.

As I looked at the pictures of the comet, I found myself thinking of John Bandicut, fictional space pilot in my novel Neptune Crossing. John had to smack just such a comet really really hard, to keep it from hitting Earth. Looking at those pictures of a real comet, I reflected on how Bandie was one mongo brave dude to do such a thing. Even if he did have alien science working for him, and was half out of his mind with silence fugue. When I wrote the scene, I knew he was brave. But I don’t think I knew just how brave.

Thanks, Bandie, for riding that other comet!  (Even if you are fictional, and in the future.)

I like XKCD's view of the landing:

http://xkcd.com/1446/

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Friday, November 07, 2014

Panglor Goes Off the Deep End

Panglor is kind of a weird guy, and Panglor is kind of a weird book. Much of it takes place on an extremely weird planet. You wouldn’t want to miss that, would you—all the weirdness? The guy feels as if he’s about to go off the deep end at any moment, and for a week the book is going off the deep end, at least with respect to price. (Is this another Bookbub special? Of course it is. Get the ebook for $0.99, for a limited time only.)

I wrote Panglor in my late twenties, immediately following my second novel Star Rigger’s Way, which is a coming-of-age space adventure. Star Rigger’s Way is full of youthful angst. Panglor is full of angst squared, and the thought: What might happen if the frustration, angst, and anger of the young adult of Star Rigger’s Way never got resolved. What might happen if a good space pilot went a little off the deep end emotionally, turning just crazy enough to become a little scary, but still (just) within the bounds of professional competency? And what if he met up with a young woman, smart and a little off balance herself, seemingly born just to become a thorn in his side?

And what if they both wound up on a planet occupying some kind of weird nexus in space-time, a place where reality itself seems broken, concealing a crucial discovery that will change the course of star travel?

You can find out, of course, by reading the book. As I said in an earlier post, this book didn't get much love in its original paperback from Dell, but has been well received as an ebook. I revised the text for a Tor paperback after the Dell edition, and that is the version in this ebook. (And, by the way, any correlation between the mental condition of the characters and the mental state of the author at the time of the writing is, er, purely coincidental.)

Panglor is listed as Book 1 in The Star Rigger Universe. Actually it’s a prequel to the Star Rigger Universe. It’s about the discovery that leads to star rigging. How we got from the discovery to the actual practice of star rigging is a story I haven’t written yet. Maybe I should!

Here's where you can get the $0.99 special: 
 
One week only!

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Wednesday, November 05, 2014

The Haldemans Retire from MIT

Science fiction writer Joe Haldeman and his wonderful wife Gay have retired from part-time teaching at MIT, after thirty years of teaching students the craft of fiction writing (Joe) and the art of writing clear, comprehensible English prose (Gay). Florida residents most of the year—unless you call them Earth residents, because I’ve never known a more well-traveled couple—they’ve been coming to Cambridge every Fall for the last thirty years, and we’ve managed to snag a dinner with them many of those years.

Joe was one of the first professionals I met when I was a new writer entering the science fiction field. At the time, he was all the buzz in the industry because he’d snared a record-setting advance for his novel Mindbridge. He introduced me to Jim Frenkel, who soon became my editor and friend.  Years later, when Joe became seriously ill in the Fall of 2009, I had the privilege of stepping in for him, teaching his SF writing class at MIT for a semester.

Joe and Gay (Jim Kelly referred to them as “Joe-and-Gay, like space-time”) got to watch my kids grow up in time-lapse fashion. My younger daughter Julia once wondered aloud, as a teenager, why her own contemporaries weren’t as much fun as Joe and Gay.

Here are a couple of pix taken at their retirement dinner at MIT, on a balcony overlooking Boston’s beautiful Charles River basin.

Gay and Joe Haldeman, September 2014

Me, Joe, and Jim Kelly

We're going to miss our annual dinners. But if anyone has earned a happy retirement, it's Joe and Gay.

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Friday, October 31, 2014

Spaceship Two Crashes on Test Flight

This has been a wrenching week for space enthusiasts, and especially space entrepreneurs. I just read the heartbreaking news that Virgin Galactic’s Spaceship Two exploded during a powered test flight today, killing one of the two pilots and seriously injuring the other. (This follows the explosion, a few days ago, of Orbital Science’s Antares cargo rocket, on liftoff for the International Space Station.) Both were privately funded space ventures.

Spaceship Two, of course, was slated to carry paying passengers on brief excursions into space (suborbital, not orbital). It is the offspring of Spaceship One, which a few years ago won the Ansari X-Prize for being the first privately funded craft to reach space, and to turn around and do it again a short time later. Spaceship One was funded largely by Microsoft’s Paul Allen, while Spaceship Two is funded by Sir Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Galactic.
 

Spaceship Two after release from White Knight Two. LA Times photo


Spaceship Two explodes soon after. LA Times photo

What this means for the future of Spaceship Two is not yet clear. It was flying with a new fuel today from that used in previous test flights. Perhaps that caused the rocket engine to explode, or perhaps not; it’s too soon to know.

As we’ve heard more than once from those who know a lot more than I do, “Space is hard.” There will be accidents. My heart goes out to those hurt by this one, the pilots and their families and friends, and all of those associated with this venture. But I’m going to echo here a quote that my colleague Geoff Landis echoed from someone else on Facebook:

"It is not the critic who counts; nor the one who points out how the strong person stumbled, or where the doer of a deed could have done better.

The credit belongs to the person who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; who does actually strive to do deeds; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotion, spends oneself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement; and who at worst, if he or she fails, at least fails while daring greatly.

Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those timid spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat."

— Theodore Roosevelt
This is how I will remember Spaceship Two:

Spaceship Two during an earlier, successful test flight. LA Times photo

 

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Happy Halloween Kobo Sale: Oct. 31– Nov. 3

If you like to buy ebooks at Kobo (they’re the ones with the waterproof ereader!), you might like their sale running this weekend: 35% off on selected titles. I’ve got a couple of books in the sale, as do some of my colleagues at Book View Café. What you do is pick your books from the sale page and apply this coupon code at checkout: UNLIMITED35.

That sale page will let you see the whole spectrum of offerings. For my own books, you can go straight to Eternity’s End and Star Rigger’s Way. But don't forget to use the coupon code.

Trivia point: The hero of Eternity’s End, name of Legroeder, first appears as a minor (but important) character in Star Rigger’s Way, when he helps the hero of that book out of a jam. The genesis of Eternity’s End was my editor Jim Frenkel asking me, “Whatever became of that guy Legroeder? Don’t you ever wonder?”

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Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Another Flying Car on the Horizon!

This story made me immediately think of my Slovenian-made moped, a Tomos. Well, the wily Slovakians are giving my neighbors the Terrafugia people a run for their money on the race to develop a practical flying car. (A race that’s been on for, what, sixty or seventy years? About as long as the race to develop practical fusion power.)

Take a look at this beauty, the Aeromobil 3.0.



(Best viewed at full-screen size.)
View on Washington Post

Estimated to cost only a few hundred thousand dollars! (But I’ve already got the pilot’s license, so I’m partway there.) Woo-hoo!



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Antares Explosion

I’ve written from time to time about the encouraging progress being made in privately funded efforts to get us into space. SpaceX has certainly had some great successes lately. And so has Orbital Sciences. But I suppose I should note the bad along with the good. This failure of the Antares cargo rocket bound for the ISS, yesterday, had to be a huge blow to the folks at Orbital Sciences. But thankfully no one was hurt.


It’s yet another reminder that space travel isn’t easy, and won’t be for a long time to come. Let’s hope they can find the cause of this, fix it, and get back onto the Star Road. Because as Tsiolkovsky said, we can’t live in the cradle forever.



Addendum: The Antares rocket was powered with refurbished Soviet-made rocket engines. This in itself isn't unusual, since several of our major launch vehicles, the Atlas and Delta, are now powered by Russian-made rocket engines (though I believe of a later design). Whether this is a good idea or not is an entirely different question.

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Monday, October 27, 2014

Enough With the Auto Accidents!

A little over a year ago, our daughter Lexi got hit by a car while biking, injuring her knees and laying her up for a while. A little less than a year ago, my wife Allysen got rear-ended in our 2010 Fusion, leaving her unharmed but the Fusion totaled. Yesterday, Lexi got hit again, rear-ended in her Subaru on an on-ramp in Providence. She’s got some whiplash to deal with, and the jury is still out on her home-on-wheels Outback. I’m really grateful she’s alive and relatively uninjured, as auto accidents go. But she’s pretty upset, understandably. We were concerned about her safety in Lebanon (the trip went fine), but forgot to be concerned about her safety here on our own roads.

Can’t we all just drive our cars without hitting people? I hereby vow to increase my own vigilance behind the wheel.

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Thursday, October 23, 2014

Excuse Me While I Reboot My Window

No, not my computer. My car window. Our beloved Ford Fusion, Katniss, suddenly developed a very odd problem with the power window: Press Down to make the window go down, lift Up to make the window go up—and then watch it go back down again, all on its own, and very determinedly. Weird. Also—perhaps related, and perhaps not—we found the car the other day with the battery dead, Jim, and no apparent reason why.

I solved the dead battery on Sunday by jumping with my handy Stanley jump-start unit, and the battery gave no further problem. (Though it worried me a little.) But when the window started going down on its own, I took Katniss straight to the Ford dealer and let them work on it.

The upshot? “We had to reinitialize the motor on the window.” Which is either Geordi fixing something in the computer of the Enterprise, or us rebooting our car window. I knew computers were everywhere in cars, but the windows? Apparently so. Got a problem? Reboot.

As for the battery? When I went to pick up the car, they assured me the battery had tested out okay. Except when I got in to drive it away, the battery was dead, dead, dead. An hour later I had a new battery (covered by warranty, of course), and I’m so glad it happened in the dealer’s parking lot, and not a number of other places I can think of!

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Thursday, October 16, 2014

Odyssey Story Slam in New Hampshire!

Are you planning to be in the vicinity of Amherst, New Hampshire on Sunday, November 2? Good! Because there’s going to be a fun event at the LaBelle Winery, which is a Bonfire Story Slam! A group of twenty SF/F writers, including moi, will be reading short-short stories (or, in the case of a few of us, excerpts) around a bonfire. What better setting for stories than a winery?*

This is not only a great event, but also a fund-raiser in support of the terrific Odyssey Writing Workshop, which I have visited on several occasions as a guest lecturer. Come enjoy some stories and s’more stories!

*My best book signing ever was at my favorite local wine store, during a wine tasting.

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Short Story Contest!

Any short-short story writers out there? I’ve just gotten a notice for an interesting-sounding SF writing contest, with a $1000 first prize and no rights grab. That second part is what really struck me. But your story entry has to be 1500 pages (Edit: Oops, that should be 1500 words) or under. Here’s the dope:

THE ROSWELL AWARD FOR SHORT FICTION
Presented by Sci-Fest LA
(FOR ADULT WRITERS OVER THE AGE OF 18)

SCI-FEST LA: The Los Angeles Science Fiction One-Act Play Festival is happy to announce the launch our new short story writing contest for adult writers over the age of 18 called THE ROSWELL AWARD.  All submissions must be short stories (not plays), must be an original work of science fiction (not fan fiction) and must be no longer than 1500 words.  The contest is open to U.S. writers as well as writers outside the U.S.  Five finalists will be chosen and their stories will be read aloud by professional actors associated with iconic Sci-Fi TV shows in a special awards ceremony to be held at the festival on May 23, 2015 at 7:00 PM (Memorial Day Weekend).  The winner of THE ROSWELL AWARD FOR SHORT FICTION will receive a donated cash prize of $1,000.00.  All stories submitted must be typed in English and must have the contestant’s name, email address and phone number clearly typed on the title page.  All entries must be submitted electronically via the website.  Entries longer than 1500 words will be disqualified.  See terms and conditions for submitting at the website.  The deadline for submissions is January 15th, 2015.  Submit stories at www.sci-fest.com  Finalists will be notified by March 15th, 2015.   Sci-Fest LA is produced by Michael Blaha, Lee Costello and David Dean Bottrell (“Boston Legal”).

It looks legit, as far as I can see. Note that they ask for the right to shop your story around to producers. But they don’t ask for any fee or commission, even in the event of a sale.

Do you write short? Go for it!

 

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Friday, October 10, 2014

Star Rigger’s Way Finds Its Way

Dell paperback (first edition)
...back into ebook, for the first time since June!  Yes, the long wait is over. Star Rigger’s Way is now available in all-new clothes, in its long-awaited Starstream edition. Completely reformatted and with a new cover, this is not one to miss! (Wait—have any of my offerings been ones to miss? I hope not.)

Star Rigger’s Way was not my first star rigger novel (that distinction belongs to Seas of Ernathe), but it grew out of my first star rigger story, which was called “Alien Persuasion,” and appeared in Galaxy during the twilight years of that esteemed magazine. (If you want to read the story, you can find it in my collection, Going Alien, along with a cool illustration of the alien, Cephean, by Freff.) In its first edition, Star Rigger’s Way was published by Dell Books, during the twilight years of that publisher’s esteemed science fiction line. (Do you detect a pattern here?) Later, I revised it for a new edition from Tor Books, and that’s the version that’s in this ebook.

Within the Star Rigger Universe chronology, this book falls in the middle. Panglor sets the stage, with the discovery of certain properties of space-time that lead to the development of starship rigging through the Flux. The two dragon books (combined in Dragon Space) come next, well into the era of rigging but before the RiggerGuild, an institution created to protect the well-being of riggers, who are pilots with extreme sensitivity in certain areas of perception and imagination, and often vulnerable personality types. Eternity’s End follows close on the heels of Star Rigger’s Way, picking up the story of Legroeder, a minor character in this book. Seas of Ernathe jumps way into the future, at a time when the rigging techniques have been lost or forgotten.

Here’s the e-jacket copy for the new edition of Star Rigger’s Way:
His shipmates dead, star rigger Gev Carlyle is adrift in the Flux, the subjective hyperspace that carries ships between the stars. His lone companion, and sole hope for survival, is a suicidal catlike alien named Cephean. Only a compatible rigger team, their visions meshed in psychic unity, can safely harness the turbulent currents of the Flux—and Carlyle's ship is sailing inexorably toward the deadly maelstrom of the Hurricane Flume. For even a chance at survival, he needs Cephean's help. But the price for that is a complete merging of minds and memories. And Carlyle, at war with his own past, dreads that union more than death itself.

A grand space adventure, from the Nebula-nominated author of Eternity’s End and The Chaos Chronicles. (Etc.)
Available, of course, wherever fine bits and bytes are sold.


Starstream Publications ebook
 

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Saturday, October 04, 2014

BookBub Rumbles Down the Stream of Stars

Time for another ebook special. This time Down the Stream of Stars is discounted, starting today and continuing for a week. Just $.99—which if you look carefully, you will see is less than a dollar! Such a deal.

Starstream! In a great diaspora, starships ply the ethereal new highway into the galaxy. But none could have guessed the dangers unleashed by the starstream—including the deadly Throgs. When starship Charity flies into peril, a young Claudi Melnik confronts a threat from beyond space and time. Triumphant sequel to From a Changeling Star and a daring journey to the heart of consciousness itself.

Named one of the best SF novels of the year by Science Fiction Chronicle.

And if you haven’t signed up yet for Bookbub's daily/weekly “ebook deals” emails, what are you waiting for? Don’t you like to read?
 

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Wednesday, October 01, 2014

3D Printing Now—and Then

I was reading recently about the delivery of the first 3D printer in space to the International Space Station, by the SpaceX Dragon cargo spaceship. You can read all about it here, and it’s pretty cool.

Not long after, I was reading a piece of fiction I’ve had around for a while that included this paragraph:

Igor’s countrymen, though lacking many earth techniques, were far ahead of earth in manufacturing skill. They used a single general type of machine to manufacture almost anything. They fed into it a plan which Igor called for want of a better term the blueprints—it was in fact, a careful scale model of the device to be manufactured; the machine retooled itself and produced the artifact. One of them was, at that moment, moulding the bodies of fighting planes out of plastic, all in one piece and in one operation.
That’s from Robert Heinlein’s “Elsewhen,” first published in 1941. It’s included in the collection Assignment in Eternity.


That man had some vision. 

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