Saturday, June 28, 2008

Speaking of Free Books

I've been considering the possibility of making Sunborn available for free download, perhaps in installments leading up to the actual pub date (end of October). A number of writers, including Cory Doctorow and John Scalzi, have offered their books for free download and discovered that it seemed to increase their audience and interest in the novels, and thus sales of their books. While there are no doubt some readers who will read only the free version and skip the hardcopy, it seems that many more decide they'd like to own the actual book once they've read the electronic version. At least, that's what these writers have reported. Past experience is no guarantee of future performance, though, as the mutual funds tell us.

I'd be interested in knowing what you folks think. This is new territory for all of us in the fiction world, and I'm feeling my way in the dark just like everyone else.

(I've already used this quote, but it just seems to fit, so here's an encore...)

"Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can see only as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way." —E.L. Doctorow

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BSG Novel—Free at!

The e-book version, that is. This week only, you can download my novelization of Battlestar Galactica (the miniseries that began the new BSG) for free from Tor Books. And by the way, if you like e-books, Tor offers a weekly free book. If you sign up for their email newsletter, you'll get a reminder notice each week when a new title becomes available. You have to act fast, though, because when a new one comes, the old one goes away. (Sort of like, but without the price and the funny descriptions.)

Speaking of e-books, here's a reminder that many of my novels are available as e-books in various formats. Go to for a complete listing. And, of course, you can also order new, bound-paper codices (books) directly from me.

"The profession of book-writing makes horse racing seem like a solid, stable business." —John Steinbeck

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Monday, June 02, 2008

Sunborn Galleys Done, and Other Updates

It's been a busy month. I got my name landed on Mars, and I've put my characters deep into the Orion Nebula. In other words, I just finished correcting the galleys (page proofs to check the typesetting) for the hardcover edition of Sunborn. That's pretty much the end of my work on the book. I'd promised my editor, Jim Frenkel, that I'd have them in the mail by end of day on Friday—and I got to the post office literally about thirty seconds before they were going to close the windows. Package sent, I heaved a huge sigh of relief. I like this book, but I may have read it as many times as I need to, for a while.

To help decompress, last night I wrote a letter to the editor of The Atlantic Monthly, both praising and protesting this month's cover story, The Sky Is Falling, by Gregg Easterbrook, about the hazard to Earth from wayward asteroids and comets. Seriously, it would take just one good-sized rock from space to kack most of human civilization. So NASA's gearing up to protect us, right? Ding. Nope. NASA's head's in the sand. So far, I'm with the author.

Where we part company is where he dismisses our planned return to the moon as a waste of money detracting from our ability to do other things in space, like defend ourselves from big rocks. In fact, I believe returning to the moon is the next step toward building a permanent infrastructure in space, which among other things will give us the ongoing capability to do such things as capture or divert asteroids before they can divert us (from our future).

If they don't publish the letter (and the odds certainly are long), I'll post it in its entirety later.

"Every morning between 9 and 12 I go to my room and sit before a piece of paper. Many times, I just sit for three hours with no ideas coming to me. But I know one thing. If an idea does come between 9 and 12 I am there ready for it." —Flannery O'Connor

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Phoenix and Me

The successful landing of Phoenix on the northern polar region of Mars was a sensational event (which live coverage by the Science Channel managed to make dull; how could they do that?), being the first rocket-powered soft landing on Mars since 1976, when the Vikings landed. You've all seen pictures from the Mars surface, no doubt--but you might not have seen this picture, the first time any craft has ever been photographed landing on another world:

If you go to the full image at Astronomy Picture of the Day, you'll see the magnificent crater near which Phoenix landed.

Phoenix is not just a national and international triumph; it's a personal one, as well. I was reminded by the Planetary Society that my family and I are personally represented on Mars by this craft: it carries a DVD that bears our names, along with those of 250,000 other people who signed up for the mission. It also bears a library of science and science fiction works about Mars, to be recovered and enjoyed by future explorers. Here's a picture, taken by Phoenix itself, of the DVD on Mars.

Now that's a good feeling, knowing that a part of me is up there on Mars right now.

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