Thursday, August 28, 2008

Barack, Tor, and Me

I mention Barack because I'm watching his acceptance speech as I write this. I can't tell you how much I hope this guy will be our next president. I really do. I haven't caught that much of the Democratic convention, but I did hear Bill Clinton and John Kerry, and all I could say was, right on, dudes! Time for a change, indeed. Obama is giving a great speech, as I write.

But this isn't primarily a political entry, because I've actually been thinking about and working on other things. I just came from reading a touching post on—my editor Jim Frenkel reminiscing in an entry called Still Waters Run Deep about the many years we've worked together, from Dell to Bluejay Books to Tor. It was a treat to see those years through his eyes.

I continue to be amazed by the support and generosity of the ereading community on By the time I was done with Neptune Crossing, four different people (none of whom I knew a week ago) were working on format conversions for me, or helpfully tweaking my own files. At the same time, people have been saying thanks with Paypal donations, and/or letting me know they've gone to buy my other ebooks. The dollar amount maybe won't buy us a new washing machine (the damn Calypso died again today) but the feeling of support, encouragement, and community doesn't have a dollar sign on it. It's just been great.

Meanwhile, I'm happy to report that Strange Attractors draws ever closer to being an ebook available for download. Expect word soon.

"People the world over have always been more impressed by the power of our example than by the example of our power." —William Jefferson Clinton

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Tuesday, August 26, 2008

More, More!

My Neptune Crossing free downloads are up over two thousand now, and over on, there's been lively discussion and lots of encouragement and support from the people who truly love ebooks. In fact, on the first day, someone came forward and offered to do a conversion to the Sony reader format. In the process, he caught some errors for me, and he just sent me the file. As soon as I can find the software to view it and vet it, I'll be putting that up, too.

Meanwhile, I've just uploaded a PDF(2) file, which will work on a handheld screen—meaning that the text will reflow to fit the smaller screen. That was a project of many hours, using an old version of Framemaker I have on my computer. (Framemaker has to be about the least intuitive program I have ever used in my life.) So if you really want a PDF on your PDA, go for it! (I still recommend Mobipocket or eReader, though.)

I added a Paypal tip jar to my download page, and yesterday my first donation came in, from Bob of Bloomington. That was interesting also because he learned of my downloads on the Amazon Kindle forum, which I didn't even know existed. And my work was completely new to him. That was followed by my first international donation, from Joerg of Germany. Many thanks! (Another came in, as I was typing this.) I am extremely gratified that people are responding so generously. Go readers! You rock!

So does my family, who as a special birthday present sat as a tag team and typed in boring copy edits for Strange Attractors. Family, you rock!

So do you blog readers, as a matter of fact.

"Love the writing, love the writing, love the writing ... the rest will follow." —my wise friend Jane Yolen

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Saturday, August 23, 2008

The Virus Turns, and I Get a Surprise

I couldn't resist checking the web logs for the last two days to see if people were downloading Neptune Crossing. Sure'n, they are. Seems word's spreading faster than I'd hoped: I got an email from a reader telling me he'd seen a notice about it at Teleread—a very nice write-up by Chris Meadows. And he'd learned about it on Baen's Bar, where someone had posted a note. I tried to post a note about it on, but couldn't get past some stupid Fatal Error every time I tried to submit. Despite that, the viral distribution seems to be off to a good start! Keep it up, please!

Oh—and this summary of a kerfuffle on is pretty interesting, mainly because of what it says about human nature. Seems some people are pretty peeved with Tor for giving them free ebooks when they didn't have the sequels ready yet for ebook distribution. (I'd better watch it.)

Meanwhile, I was pretty surprised to see the breakdown of downloads by format. I have fallen in deep like with the MobiPocket format, and the eReader format seems very good, too. On the other hand, I've never much liked PDF, which is slower and less clear on a handheld device, and I'm still working on the problem of getting a clean file that also allows the text to reflow to a smaller screen. (Making progress. I have a file that looks good, but is huge.)

So as of midnight tonight, here's what the comparative stats looked like for the last couple of days, the inaugural days of the download page:

Palm/eReader - 19 downloads
RTF - 26
Mobi - 40
HTML - 62
PDF - 381

What?! Hey, I'm happy for people to take it in any form they want. But if you haven't tried downloading a free Mobi Reader or eReader, give it a try. They're good.

"Dude! Writing's hard, dude!" —Anonymous

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Friday, August 22, 2008

Neptune Crossing PDF Added

After much sweat today, I beat the Mobipocket Creator software into making some final tweaks to the MobiPocket version of Neptune Crossing. Then I lit into the PDF version, which seems to be a popular format, although in my opinion it has little to recommend it for viewing on a PDA or other handheld. That's especially true here. I have a nice, pretty PDF display for viewing on a computer or for printing. And I hope that's how most people who choose PDF would do it.

What I didn't master was getting a file that'll reflow the text onto a small screen. First my wife was doing the conversions for me on her Mac, and they looked good but were pretty fat files. Then I tried Adobe's free online conversion, and that gave a much smaller file, same appearance. But neither did the tagging needed for text reflow on a PDA, and I don't know how to do it. (And if this is all so much gibberish to you, more power to you!)

I think that's it for Neptune Crossing! On to Strange Attractors!

"I have not yet spoken of the esthetic appeal of strange attractors. These systems of curves, these clouds of points, suggest sometimes fireworks or galaxies... A realm lies here to be explored and harmonies to be discovered." —David Ruel

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Thursday, August 21, 2008

Neptune Crossing — Free Download!

I finished it today! You can now go to my web site and download a free ebook of Neptune Crossing, in any of several digital formats! I've got html, MobiPocket (Kindle and Pocket PC and others), and eReader (Palm and Pocket PC) formats up now, and expect to add PDF in a day or so. I may add Microsoft Reader and Sony ebook formats, but I don't know how much demand there is for them. Maybe I'll come back to that after I get the next books up.

It's been a real bear. First getting all the copy-edits typed in (my daughter helped with that). Then fixing the formatting; the original files were in WordStar for DOS, and the conversion to Word left some problems. Oy—the formatting. A nightmare. But I finally managed it. I have the Mobi and eReader versions on my own PDA right now, and they look good.

I'm finding that I enjoy reading on my PDA, more and more. I have about 50 books on there right now, and I can read it in bed in the dark without waking my wife. (With the font set at largest, I can just read without my glasses!) I'm rereading some old favorites from when I was a kid—some Tom Corbett and Andre Norton. But I've also got a bunch of classics, ranging from The Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire to The Call of the Wild to the Bible, for when I want something different. I'm a convert to ebooks!

Anyway, come and download Neptune Crossing, and tell your friends! Free books!! Help me out and pass the word!

"You'll never make much money writing books like that. But the very best people will come to your funeral." —said to Edgar Pangborn, as told by D.G. Compton

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Back to Real Life

Coming back from the retreat brought me a fun afternoon fixing the washer (which I actually sort of enjoyed—you know the retreat did me good!). Of course, that was followed promptly by the exhaust system on one of the cars falling to pieces—and when did exhaust repairs become so expensive? Ai caramba!

Still, life is good, and our older daughter is coming home soon from her West Coast summer job, so we'll actually see her for a week before she heads back to college. Yay!

"Time, what is time? Time is our beginning and our end, time is the cradle of our search for God, time is the elastic that cuts circulation on the leg of life." —Allysen Palmer


Thursday, August 14, 2008

Writing Retreat

Or, if you will, a sanity retreat. A recharging of the depleted solar batteries retreat. A restoring of the humor and soul retreat. When I last posted, I'd just begun the cleaning of our downstairs apartment for the arrival of our new neighbor, Jill. That turned into a week-long enterprise, which was crowned at its conclusion by the sudden failure of our wondrous [hah!] Whirlpool Calypso washing machine. (&@^*$^!!) Plus, I'd been writing very little, and all of it sludge.

That pretty much brought me to the end of my rope. Fortunately, salvation was at hand, thanks to my wonderful wife Allysen, who had secretly arranged for me to have three days on Cape Cod, all to myself, in the vacation home of some friends of ours from church. (Thanks, Frank and Deb!) My instructions were simple: Do nothing that I did not want to do. Except rest, and relax by the ocean. That I was required to do, or the deal was off. (I didn't fight too hard.) If I found energy and inspiration to write, fine. If I did nothing but rest and empty my mind, fine.

Well, who could argue with that? And that's where I've been for the last three days. Yes, I've spent a little too much time doing fiddly stuff on my laptop—things that needed doing eventually, but not just now. (Stop that! Breath! Go to the beach!) Well, a couple of afternoons spent floating on my back in the ocean, and watching charming little sandpipers scurry in and out of the waves, has done wonders for my soul. I began to feel the first feather-touches of creativity creep back into my mind. I even began to think of answers to some of the questions I've had about book-in-progress! Today, I began to write some new material that has actual promise.

Tomorrow, I head home. But I'm told I have a few more days booked in September. What a gift!

"I write for the same reason I breathe -- because if I didn't, I would die." —Isaac Asimov

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Friday, August 01, 2008

Robots at Work

Quick note: I've spent much of this week getting our downstairs apartment ready for a new tenant. We own a two-family, and we just lost one set of neighbors and have someone new ready to move in. That's the good part. The bad part is, it's amazing how much grime accumulates in just a few years, even when people are taking good care of a place. So...I put the robots to work. Two iRobot Roombas (Snarf and Red Leader) did the sweeping—and man, did they pick up a lot of dirt. Then the Scooba (Nemo) set to work washing the floors—freeing me up for such fun work as cleaning the stove and refrigerator. (Ugh.) Those little mechanical guys earned their keep this week, for sure. Let's hear it for robots!

I know, I know—I should have taken some pictures. Thing is, I was busy cleaning the stove, you know?

Soon I hope to get back to more inspiring endeavors, such as getting the first three Chaos books into shape for free e-book release.

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