Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Audio on Ice

I've taken a hard look at my audiobook project and reluctantly decided to pull the plug on it for now. Oh, it would be great to have Sunborn available in audio format, and no doubt it would bring in new readers. It's something I enjoy doing, too—when I'm not feeling pressured to get it done, and to do it just so. But it was just taking too much time for too little result, and it was cutting way into my writing on the new book. So I'm putting it on ice for a while, or at least on the back burner.

I don't consider the time wasted, and I hope some people listened to and enjoyed the sample recording. (Besides those who have posted here, I mean.) I learned a lot in the process. One thing I learned is that it's not an easy thing to do well, and you need to spend almost as much time editing the recording of a chapter as you did editing the text in the first place. Okay, that's an exaggeration, but still. Another thing I learned is that I probably need better equipment—microphone, headphones, and so on. That will have to wait.

I do hope to return to it at some point. I may keep fiddling from time to time, to see if I can make the process go more smoothly. But for right now, I've put a lot of time into work that one way or another is to promote Sunborn. It's time I started putting more of my time into The Reefs of Time.

"When I face the desolate impossibility of writing five hundred pages a sick sense of failure falls on me and I know I can never do it. This happens every time. Then gradually I write one page and then another. One day's work is all I can permit myself to contemplate and I eliminate the possibility of ever finishing." —John Steinbeck

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Saturday, September 27, 2008

The Financial Meltdown and You (and Me)

It's hard to open the paper these days without dreading what you're going to read about the financial situation. Yesterday I heard Congressman Barney Frank tell us on NPR that an agreement was near; today I opened the paper to read that it had all fallen apart. Meanwhile, the taxpayers are left wondering why the government can think of coming up with $700,000,000,000 (yeah, it looks like more when you put in all the zeroes, doesn't it?) to bail out greedy and moronic financial institutions and their CEOs, but it can't help individuals who are losing their homes. If you want to read a serious and sober analysis, you could do worse than this summary from Common Cause: Ask Yourself Why...They Didn’t See This Coming.

That'll get you bristling about the way Congress gets bought off by special interests. But a perhaps more entertaining look at the matter is found in a Powerpoint presentation called The Subprime Primer. (This came to me in an email, but when I did a search, I found it on a bunch of sites. This is just one.) If you click the link, it'll ask to open a file in Powerpoint. My Avast! virus-scanner said it was okay.

It's hilarious. And it's also the most concise explanation you could ask for, of how this all happened.

For another funny take, go over to Woot! and read their description, ostensibly, of an iRobot Scooba that was up for sale yesterday. (You'll have to scroll down. I didn't write this in time to clue you in to the sale on the Scooba, but they keep their descriptions for a while in their blog. So zoom down the blog until you come to a Scooba.) It's great fun.

These days, we need all the fun we can get. Right?


Monday, September 22, 2008

Free Ebooks Round Three! The Infinite Sea!

They're all up, now—all three volumes to date of The Chaos Chronicles. They're all free all the time, on my downloads page. (The Infinite Sea still has a few formats unfinished, but the most popular formats are up now.) Thanks, as always, to my friends on the Mobilread forum for their help with conversions.

And do come try the audio podcast of Sunborn. Word on that doesn't seem to be getting out as fast, or maybe the audiobook people are a different demographic. But if you know people who listen to books while they drive, or on their mp3 players while they jog, send 'em my way. Right now I have a starter file of the prologue and chapter one. It's an exacting and sometimes frustrating business getting a good reading down, and chapter two has been giving me fits. But we'll get there. If you record it, they will come—right? Let's hope so.

"Half of my life is an act of revision." —John Irving

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Friday, September 19, 2008

Free Sunborn Audiobook Sample

I've been submerged in the recording studio (my office) for the last few days, and have emerged with the first taste of what my audiobook of Sunborn will be like, if the good Lord's willing and the creek don't rise. I've put the prologue and first chapter up for free download, pretty much in finished form.

Sunborn cover art by Stephen Martiniere
Check it out and let me know what you think!


"Good writing is about telling the truth. We are a species that needs and wants to understand who we are. Sheep lice do not seem to share this longing, which is one reason they write so very little. But we do."
—Anne Lamott

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Saturday, September 13, 2008

Auction Time — Be a Character in My Next Novel!

This comes under the "better late (I hope) than never" heading. Tonight—yes, tonight, Saturday Sept. 13—there will be a fund-raising auction for our church, Park Avenue Congregational (UCC) in Arlington, Mass. If you're in the area, come by and bid on good stuff. One of the good stuff is a chance to be a character in the novel I'm writing right now! That would be The Reefs of Time, which I just spent the week hammering on while on retreat on Cape Cod. I'm back now, and I'll be there. (All the details are under that link.)

Last time there was such an auction, a few years ago, the bidding for character-rights was energetic. We finally awarded rights to two bidders, and those characters will be appearing at long last in Sunborn.

*Our other church is the Vineyard Christian Fellowship of Cambridge. Yeah, we're part of two congregations. Weird, huh? But we have great friends and community in both. If any of our Vineyard friends are reading this, I hope you stop by!

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Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Back on the Cape

Thanks to the generosity of our friends, I am once more ensconced alone in a house on Cape Cod. Time to forget, just for a little while, about making ebooks and fixing the cars and fixing the washer and all the other things that siphon my attention. Time to get a little restored, and get some writing done.

On my way here, I stopped off at the Cape Cod Canal, where a beautiful bike path runs along the water (on both sides, I believe). I'd thrown my rollerblades in the trunk, so I took an hour to skate along the canal and mellow out. It is simply beautiful, and should be added to anyone's list of places to go in New England. I took some pictures with my cell phone camera—but wouldn't you know it, I left the connector cable at home, so I have no way to get the pictures onto my computer to post here. (No, my phone doesn't support emailing the pictures. How dumb is that?)

Okay, I have some serious relaxing and writing to do. Bye, now!

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Friday, September 05, 2008

Publishers Weekly Thumbs Up on Sunborn

Actually, I haven't seen the full review myself. Didn't even know there was a Publishers Weekly review until I stumbled across a post about it on Mobileread.com. Here's the excerpt someone put there:

"The long-anticipated fourth entry in Carver's Chaos Chronicles (after 1996's The Infinite Sea) is space opera at its most agreeably and classically science fictional. . . .With such a large cast and a parallel plot involving a threat to Earth itself, character development is necessarily sketched broadly. Some may find the narrative overly stage-managed, but Carver skillfully rotates viewpoints and weaves the choreography directly into the plot. This installment is a cut above the earlier books and will be entirely accessible to any reader who appreciates high-powered stellar and n-dimensional physics blended with old-school space-faring."

Or maybe that is the full review. I don't get PW, so I guess I'll find out when someone tells me. I tried to scope it out online, but couldn't get to it.

But I can live with what we've got right here!

P.S. Over a thousand downloads of Strange Attractors in one day! I think I only posted here and on the above forum, but word virused out with amazing speed. Rob Sawyer posted a very nice notice on his blog. Don't know where he first saw it, but thanks, Rob!

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Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Ebooks Round Two! Ding! Strange Attractors!

I've just released Book Two of The Chaos Chronicles for free download. That'll be Strange Attractors, now on your cyber newsstand in html, Mobi, PDF, RTF, yadda, yadda, and yadda. With yadda formats soon to come. Seriously, with the help of the good ebook lovers of Mobileread.com, it'll be in about eight different formats within a few days, more than likely. Most of them are up now.

This, if you're just joining us, is part of the great windup to Sunborn coming out as a Tor hardcover at the end of October. I can also report here that all signs are Go for Sunborn to also appear as a Tor ebook at around the same time, or soon thereafter. (This represents a change in my arrangement with Tor, a change I agreed to with the understanding that it would appear in a timely fashion, and in a DRM-free form.)

So, I'm psyched.

"One glance at a book and you hear the voice of another person, perhaps someone dead for 1,000 years. To read is to voyage through time." —Carl Sagan

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Killer Asteroids? Moonbase? Hmm...

I wrote earlier about an article in The Atlantic Monthly by Gregg Easterbrook, called The Sky Is Falling. In it, Easterbrook laid out some reasons why we should perhaps be more attentive to the possibility of disaster raining down on us from space, in the form of Earth-impacting asteroids. The probability is small that we'll be smacked by a planet-killer, but the cost if it happens could be civilization itself. Go ahead and read the article; it'll open in another window. Done? Unfortunately, it suggested arming ourselves for asteroid by abandoning our plans to return to the Moon. Here's my response. (The Atlantic didn't publish it, so I'm publishing it here.)

Gregg Easterbrook gets it half right in "The Sky is Falling" (The Atlantic, June 2008). He argues incisively for the need for those in the space community to take seriously the planetary threat of wayward asteroids and comets. NASA isn't interested, as Easterbrook says, and the Air Force is hardly seizing on it with gusto, either. I spoke recently with a USAF officer whose job is strategic planning, and his unofficial comment was that the Defense Department could be considered criminally negligent in its failure to recognize planetary defense as a crucial part of its job description. If an asteroid-strike occurs (or threatens), are NASA and the Air Force just going to shrug and say "Not my job"? As Easterbrook says, that needs to change.

Where he gets it wrong is his dismissal of the return-to-the-moon program as a waste of money, detracting from other efforts. While balancing funding is always difficult (and the space budget is vastly smaller than most people think, accounting for only about half of one percent of the U.S. budget), a return to the moon could be a promising next step indeed. Learning to homestead other worlds is the next step toward what Captain Kirk famously called "the final frontier." The point is not that a lunar base will be a launch point for a Mars mission--no one suggests that. It is that living on the moon will give us necessary experience for future exploration (to Mars and elsewhere), in a place where help is three days' travel time away, not six to twelve months' travel time. Further, a moon base could be the first place for serious mining of extraterrestrial resources, signaling the beginning of the end of humanity's sole reliance on Earth-based metal and energy resources. Why mine minerals on the moon? Well, if you want to get metals into space--for example, to build satellite-based solar energy systems to beam nonpolluting energy to Earth--it's potentially a lot cheaper and easier to lift tonnage from the low-gravity moon than from Earth, especially if you build solar-powered electric launchers for the purpose. This is a good argument for mining asteroids, as well.

This brings us back to the wayward asteroid and comet problem. While Easterbrook mentions several promising technologies, the best long-term solution may be to build an infrastructure for living and working productively in space--not just one low-Earth space station, but a community of space habitations, complete with multiple, varied, and redundant transportation systems. Instead of hoping someone can get off a nuke to deflect one of those wayward asteroids, let's build a permanent capability to move large objects in orbit. If a deadly ball of rubble comes along, we could nudge it away. If a metal-bearing asteroid comes along, we could move it to a parking orbit. Then, instead of watching it destroy our civilization, we could turn it into a mineral-lode, and put it to work building our new future in space.
That's what I told The Atlantic, and I still think it's true. Sometimes you just have to bring your own soapbox.

"The two most powerful warriors are patience and time." —Leo Tolstoy

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