Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The BookBub Promotion Went Great

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

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

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

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An Electric Bill Even a Miser Would Like

It finally happened. Our latest electric bill:

    $-35, due on or before April 28 

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



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


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Snow! On April 16!

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

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

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Tuesday, April 08, 2014

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

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

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

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

The Chaos Chronicles -- click to biggify

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

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

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Monday, April 07, 2014

Now Write! Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror

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

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

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

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


and doubtless in many of your local bookstores.

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Sunday, April 06, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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Thursday, March 20, 2014

Writing as an Act of Faith

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

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

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

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

The writing came easier for the rest of that night.

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Two Views of My Novel

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


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


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Wednesday, March 19, 2014

First Writing Retreat of 2014

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

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


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



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


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


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Saturday, March 15, 2014

E-Reads to Become a Part of Open Road Media

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

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

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

The times they are a'changing.


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Friday, March 14, 2014

My Application to Amtrak Is In

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

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

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

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



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Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Report on the BookBub Promotion

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

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

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

The first one reads:

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

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

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

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

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Saturday, March 08, 2014

The Reefs of Writing — Scrivener?

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

Not what I expected.

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


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

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

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Friday, March 07, 2014

Writing on a Train? Yes, please!

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

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

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


http://cruiselinehistory.com/

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

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

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

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

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Monday, March 03, 2014

"Read an E-Book Week" Specials

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





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

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

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


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Friday, February 28, 2014

Happy Birthday, Bookbub!

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

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



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

After March 7, the price goes up.

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


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Sunday, February 23, 2014

Waves Hit Europe!

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


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

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Friday, February 21, 2014

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

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

The coming reality of space elevators?

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

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

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

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

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

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Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Why Is Craig Shaw Gardner Writing Dinosaur Porn?

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

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

Then forget that and give Temporary Monsters a try.



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Monday, January 27, 2014

Another Audiobook You Should Listen To

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

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

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


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Saturday, January 25, 2014

The Untangling of Plot Threads

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

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

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


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

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




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Friday, January 24, 2014

Audiobooks I Liked Last Year

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

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

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

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



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Grab Dover Beach for Free Today

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

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

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Friday, January 17, 2014

Interesting Times? Holy Sh%$.

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

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

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

Here's what the scene looks like now.


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

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


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Friday, January 03, 2014

Not So Much, Where We Are

Even though I heard reports of fifteen inches of snow in nearby places, I don't think we got more than eight, or ten at the most, here in Arlington. By the time I got out to walk Captain Jack, my downstairs neighbor had already thoughtfully shoveled the walk, the back deck, and a bit of the driveway. By the time I got back from walking Jack, my next door neighbor had thoughtfully shoveled out the driveway apron! I still had work to do with the snow blower, but a lot less than I expected. Good thing, because even without much wind chill, the six-degree temperature got my hands pretty cold.

Here's the final result in the late afternoon sun.



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New Year Snowstorm

They're calling it a big storm, but so far it's been pretty mild where we are. (Not the temperature, though. Cold.) Still, it's supposed to snow right through the night, and be done by noon tomorrow. We'll see what we find then. In the meantime, here's what our house looked like (sort of) a little while ago, when I took Captain Jack out. Hard to get a good picture at night, but I love the blue lights we have in the tree. And the flash does fun things with the flying snow.


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Thursday, January 02, 2014

Happy Start to the New Revolution!

By which I mean, of course, around the sun. We made it the whole way 'round again! Happy New Year, everyone!

I never did get around to posting Christmas greetings, but I hope the end of December was a good one for you. I was busy with family, including my brother and his wife visiting from Florida. A fine time had by all.

As I think back on 2013, I'm amazed we had time to experience everything that happened. We moved Allysen's mom Fay to our area from Puerto Rico, which was the longest and hardest logistical (and emotional) undertaking I've ever been involved in. (Including the saga of the seven puppies, three of which came north with us and found great homes.) Fay 's pretty well settled in now at her new place. But not without her dog Diego getting  heartworm, and she herself breaking an arm. Fortunately, as I've probably said before, we eat problems for breakfast here. Then, of course, there was Lexi getting hit by a car on her bike, which laid her up for months. But then she got a new job, and that's been exciting. Allysen tried to outdo her by getting rear-ended in our Ford Fusion, because she emergency-stopped to keep an 18-wheeler from killing her. That led to the car being totaled, so we went car shopping last week. And, of course, I finished the first draft of The Reefs of Time, right before Christmas!

That's the Reduced Shakespeare Company rendition of our 2013. How was yours?

Here is the car we've bought and hope to pick up, after the big winter Nor'easter that's bearing down on us as we speak. It's a 2014 Ford Fusion, in a beautiful ruby red finish. We're thinking of calling it Katniss, after the girl of fire, from The Hunger Games.




Maybe later I'll post my thoughts about books and movies from the last year.


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Thursday, December 26, 2013

Half-Price Ebook Sale at Book View Café

My friends at Book View Café and I are having a big Boxing Day Week sale on a huge number of books. All of my books there are half-price for a limited time, and there are a ton of other great half-price books by my fellow BVC authors. The list includes many familiar names from the science fiction and fantasy world, including Ursula LeGuin, Vonda McIntyre, Pati Nagle, Linda Nagata, Judith Tarr, David Levine, Chris Dolley, and many others in a variety of genres. This is an excellent chance to stock up on some terrific books for half price, and maybe discover some new favorite authors along the way. Here's where to look:




The books are all DRM-free in both Kindle and Epub format, so you can read them on pretty much any reading device you like. It doesn't get much better than that, in the ebookosphere.

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Merry Christmas, All Twelve Days' Worth!

I hope you all had (or are still having) a wonderful Christmas, and for that matter Solstice and impending celebration of our circuit around the Sun! Here at the Starrigger Ranch, we had a terrific Christmas, including a turkey dinner, with my brother Chuck and his wife Youngmee visiting, and our friend Mary and Allysen's mom here, as well. It was a fantastic celebration of family and friends.

My wife grew up largely in Latin America and has a strong sense of the full Christmas period, extending through New Year to Three Kings Day, on January 6. (This is also handy when gifts haven't arrived in time for Christmas Day. They're not really late; they're just part of the whole extended experience.)

I hope all of you had family, or people you care about, near or in touch during these holidays. God bless you all, however you celebrate the season!


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Monday, December 23, 2013

The Reefs of Time—a Complete First Draft!

Great news! I've met my do-or-die goal of having the first draft of The Reefs of Time finished before Christmas Eve! Last night at around 3 a.m., I typed the fateful words:

To be continued in Book Six of The Chaos Chronicles

and heaved an enormous sigh of relief. Because that, of course, is another way of saying, The End! What a feeling. I've been working on this thing for a little over five years, and it's just about caused me to lose all my remaining hair. But I feel really good about what I've got now (as a first draft!), and eagerly look forward to starting the rewrite in the new year. It's a sprawling, complicated story, and I know there are pieces missing, and a lot of other sections that will be mercilessly cut, and a lot to be completely reworked. But that's all stuff I know how to do. It was getting the basic story down that threatened to send me around the bend. For those who are counting, it's just over 900 pages in manuscript, or somewhere around 220,000 words. (I think my writing group had a poll going on the final length, but I don't know if anyone remembers who bet what.)

I hope my agent and publisher will be glad to hear this, as well! They've been incredibly patient, and all I can say is, If I could have done it faster, I would have.

Even a crashed car isn't going to take this good feeling away.

Thank you, God, and thank you, everyone who has been waiting and periodically nudging.I think I'm going to enjoy a really good beer tonight, and focus on getting ready for Christmas.

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It's Dead, Jim

We got word from the insurance company over the weekend that our beloved Ford Fusion is being declared a total loss, following the accident in which Allysen got rear-ended. This breaks our hearts. It also means that our last week of the year has now been repurposed: After Christmas, we have to start looking for a new, or new-to-us, car. (Sigh.)

On the other hand, the car died heroically. It stopped fast when it had to, and saved Allysen from being squashed by the 18-wheeler that idiotically turned right in front of her. Then it saved her from injury when the SUV behind plowed into her because that driver couldn't stop fast enough. It did exactly what it was supposed to do.

It was a good car, and we'll miss it. Its name was Centauri.

Stay tuned for my next entry, though, because that news will be better.

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Tuesday, December 10, 2013

The Avengers meets The Hunger Games!

That's The Reefs of Time, all right! Thrilling action, endearing characters, lively wit, and heart-rending trials. Plus, the whole galaxy at stake. 

Okay, I lied a little. The book will have all those things, but it bears no resemblance whatever to either The Avengers or The Hunger Games. (Both of which I liked, by the way.)

I am so close to finishing the first draft of this sprawling adventure that it is my hope and prayer that I will finish the first draft before Christmas. Actually, before Christmas Eve. The first draft. I have another chapter, maybe two, to write. Pray for me!

Why am I telling you about it now, instead of just doing it? Partly as a warmup. And because I want to put it out there that this is what I'm aiming for—like President Kennedy, calling for a moon landing before the decade (1960s) was out. And because so many of you, from time to time, gently ask me how the book is going, and will you have a chance to read it while you're still alive. Here's my answer: Yes!

Also, I just like to say, "The Avengers meets The Hunger Games."

Stay tuned.

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Monday, December 09, 2013

Owww!

The very good news is, no one was hurt. The bad news is, Allysen got rear-ended last Friday evening, while driving home from her mother's place. She was forced to slam on her brakes when an 18-wheeler made a sudden turn, cutting right in front of her. She stopped in time, but the SUV behind her didn't. The rear of our Ford Fusion is mashed in, and we are very grateful for the aggressively forward-jutting headrests which seem to have prevented any whiplash injury. (No sign of it so far, anyway.) The young adult driving the SUV, and his passengers, were also uninjured. The truck driver? He continued his turn into the parking lot and went on his way without any visible awareness that he had caused an accident.

Here's our beloved 2010 Fusion. It's four years old, but still feels like our new car. Too soon to know whether the insurance company will consider it repairable. I hope so. We love the car, and also we just gave it new tires and battery.

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Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Comet ISON: John Bandicut?

It took a loyal reader to point it out to me: The coming close encounter of Comet ISON with the sun is kind of reminiscent of a fateful ride taken by John Bandicut in my novel Neptune Crossing. (Tip of the space helmet to Kyle Michael Jeynes for noting it on my Facebook page.) Of course, in Bandicut's case, he and the quarx Charlie were chasing the comet.




If you haven't read Neptune Crossing, you should. I need the sales! No, actually it's free, pretty much everywhere fine ebooks are to be found. Or, you could take the plunge and buy it in a high quality omnibus with the next two books in the series. Only $6.99 for three complete novels! A steal, even if you can get the first one by itself for free!



Seriously, though, ebook sales have been down something fierce the last few months. It's been true for me, and I'm hearing it from a lot of other writers, too. Maybe it's the economy, combined with organized governmental dysfunction. Even our local beer and wine store reports a recent sales slump. If people aren’t buying likker, you know there's a problem!

So, support your favorite author and buy a book today. Or, maybe even better, recommend your favorite author to someone who hasn't had the pleasure yet. Your favorite author will thank you.



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Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Another World Milestone!

My wife Allysen texted me this afternoon to alert me to the arrival of:


11/12/13 14:15

Did I marry the right woman, or what? 

Okay, it only works in parts of the world where dates are expressed as Mo/Da/Yr, but still.

It was kind of a strange day, meteorologically. We had snow flurries in the morning, or so I hear (I was asleep). What's strange about that is, just a few days ago I was walking around in a short-sleeve shirt. Then, this afternoon, I noticed that the sky was mostly a thick overcast, with a band of clear sky just above the northwest horizon. The demarcation between the overcast and the blue was a ruler-straight line, with no visible movement. I had a great, big-sky view of it as I drove north out of Boston on the elevated freeway.

Several hours later, it looked exactly the same. I took this picture, using the Panorama app on my phone.


Click image to biggify

The line looks curved from the fisheye effect, but in reality it was straight as an arrow shot by the Arrow. Here's a regular shot.


It was still that way at sunset, when the edge of the overcast was lit with a beautiful pink glow. Wish I'd caught that.

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Saturday, November 09, 2013

Give to Charity, Get a Story!

My colleague Laura Anne Gilman, a fellow member of Book View Café, has made an interesting offer: Give to a local food bank, send her a pic of proof, and she'll write a short story to put up for free on her website! If she gets enough, she'll write a novella. She can do it, too. (I would not make such a bold offer, myself.)

So, go ahead. You're probably going to give to charity anyway, this season. Why not encourage Laura Anne to write a story while you're at it?

Details here: http://www.lauraannegilman.net/this-thing-i-do/

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Go, Buckeye Band!

Back in my high school days in the Buckeye State, I played in my school's marching band—first on clarinet, then bass drum, then snare drum. I vividly remember how difficult it was to keep our marching lines straight, stepping eight to five*, even when the band was just marching down the field. (*Eight to five means eight measured strides to every five yards.) With that in mind, prepare to be impressed when you watch the Ohio State University Marching Band perform a routine they called the Hollywood Blockbuster Show—especially the T-Rex from Jurassic Park!

You can skip the first minute or so, which is the other band getting off the field. Watch in full screen!



  


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Thursday, October 31, 2013

Bird Box Animations

I just came across this series of animations a couple of weeks ago. Any dog person has to love Car Park.



And if you liked that, this is from the same studio, Bird Box:



Check out their home page for a bunch more. Great stuff!


Yay, Sox!

Congratulations, Red Sox, for a great World Series! Even this generally-doesn't-watch-baseball fan got pretty enthused about the series this year. We stumbled into the playoffs by accidentally tuning in about ten minutes before Ortiz hit his grand slam home run a couple of weeks ago. And from there on, we were all in. Way to go, Bosox!

I found myself wondering, though, why the two teams don't come together and shake hands at the end, the way sporting athletes used to do. For all of the excitement, I feel as if we've lost something in our obsession with the win. I think acknowledging each other as worthy opponents makes the sport larger, not smaller--and I wish we could have a movement back in that direction. Imagine a game like tonight's, but with both teams out on the field at the end: the losers congratulating the winners on their win, and the winners sharing just a bit of the spotlight to acknowledge that the other team put up a hell of a fight.

Well, why can't I do my bit right now? Cardinals, you put up a hell of a fight, you played some great baseball, and you managed to grow beards without looking like mountain men! Congratulations to you, too, on a great series.

What the hell, while we're at it--congratulations to the fans! And to the new owner* of the Boston Globe! Beers all around!

Boston Globe photo by Barry Chin

*John Henry, who also owns the Red Sox.

 

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Saturday, October 12, 2013

Surplus Energy!

Yesterday was our first full day of generating power from our solar panels. It was a pleasant, mostly sunny day. I just checked our energy output for the day, and we seem to have generated a cool 30 kilowatt hours of current total. Here's the graph, peaking between noon and 3 p.m.:


According to a recent electric bill, last fall we used on average around 20 kilowatt hours per day. I have no way of checking directly, but if that pattern still holds, we generated half again as much electricity yesterday as we used. We sold power to the grid!

Power too cheap to meter! Power from the people!

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Thursday, October 10, 2013

IT'S ALIVE!!! Bzzzz-t-t-t!

Our solar panels went live today, shooting electricity to to the grid! And to us! Time to celebrate!

Besides saving the Earth, we have a new way to waste time: logging in to see exactly how much power we're generating (12 kwh for the afternoon, the last time I checked). It's a cloudy day, and we were already past peak sun when the switch was thrown. I hope we get a sunny day this weekend, so we can stand around and look at the meter.



The switch is ON!


Fun fact: While the technician was showing me the website, a graphic informed me that we had, in effect, charged 4400 AA batteries since he'd switched it on. Or charged 2500 cell phones. Or burned a gallon of gas, but without the carbon emissions.

Solar rocks.



 
So does this movie.

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Thursday, October 03, 2013

Space Beer!

The indomitable Dogfish Head Brewing Company has done something I'm pretty sure no other brewer has yet attempted: cooked up a special brewsky with real, pulverized moondust in it—Celest-jewel-ale! How's that for rocket juice, Tom Corbett? I'm sure it has special medicinal qualities! Unfortunately, you can only get it at one location, Dogfish Head’s Rehoboth Beach brewpub. Well, blast my rocket wash!


Here’s my very own Dogfish Head keg tap handle, which I won at a raffle at my favorite beer and wine store


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A Bird in the Kitchen...

...is worth how many in the claw? 

I got up this morning to the sound of Captain Jack howling and scrabbling frantically around the living and dining rooms. What I found when I arrived was a terrified bird flying back and forth in the room, arousing great interest from Jack and Moonlight (the cat). Finally it flew into the kitchen, and I managed to get a few pictures.

Who can tell me what kind of bird this is?  Gray, with a spotted underside, and (though you can't really see it in these shots) a longish, narrow beak. You can biggify by clicking on the images.





I opened the kitchen window screen, and after a few minutes the bird found the opening and shot out of the house like a rocket. I'm still not sure how it got in—maybe through a torn screen in my office, up on the third floor. If so, that meant it found its way down the hall, and down the narrow stairs, before meeting up with the local guards.



All's well that ends well.


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Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Solar Panel Installation – Pt. 2

If a picture is worth a thousand words, I've just done my day's writing, and tomorrow's and the next day's, as well...




It's all done, except for the final inspections—first by the town inspector, and then by Nstar. After that, we throw the big red switch, and electricity starts flowing from the rooftop!

Update Oct. 3 -- The inspection is done, and now we're just waiting for Nstar to sign off on the paperwork. I'm told that can take anywhere from ten minutes to two months, but averages a week or two.


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