Saturday, November 27, 2010

Free Downloads Ending. Wait—What?

It's true. Driven by my insatiable desire to keep a roof over my head, I'm cutting back on my free-download offerings. Starting this week, I'm shifting my website to samples and purchase links for the Chaos books, and the same with Eternity's End. I've already got my own Starstream Publications editions of the first three Chaos books—with new afterwords—for sale in all of the major stores for a very low price (Eternity's End coming soon). But even a very low price isn't competing well with free.

I've been running the free-downloads experiment for more than two years now. Here's my conclusion: The free downloads have significantly expanded my audience, and enabled me to meet some very nice people electronically. But they haven't done much in terms of pay. Yes, some people have been generous with Paypal donations, and some who liked the books have gone out and bought my other ebooks—and I thank you all from the bottom of my heart. But the theory that free downloads drive sales of books, which apparently works for some writers, does not seem to have clicked for me. I don't regret offering the downloads—not a bit—but now it's time to try something new.

I'm asking all other sites that host my free downloads to remove all except Neptune Crossing. (I'll still let them offer that first hit for free, heh-heh.) I'll provide big enough samples of all the books for new readers to give them a good, fair try—not like those weenie samples you get at a lot of stores, where most of the sample is ^%$@ front-matter, not the actual book.

And I'll keep the prices low.

With the holidays coming, I'll be offering some specials. But one thing at a time. I'm posting this right now as last call for alcoh—errr, free books!

(Note: Short stories and Battlestar Galactica will remain free in some ebook formats.)

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Friday, November 26, 2010

Time Travel My Way

The SF novel I'm currently writing, The Reefs of Time (Book Five of The Chaos Chronicles), involves time travel as an important story element. Specifically, a couple of my characters need to go back in time a few hundred million years, to see what they can learn about a malignant entity believed to have originated that long ago, near the center of the galaxy.

This is a pretty demanding jaunt for anyone, even those who travel with the help of far-future alien technologies. The time-travel theory involved, which I devised after a long period of mulling possibilities (and for which the prime criteria were: Does it make sense to me? and, Does it work in the story?), posits that travel back into deep time can be accomplished through an extreme version of exploiting quantum entanglement: essentially the possibility that we live in a vast web of entangled particles spanning deep space and deep time. (If you don't know what quantum entanglement means, stay with me for a moment. I'll get to it.)

According to theory (of alien origin, in my story), there are a couple of limitations on this form of time travel. One is that you don't really travel physically or materialize in the past. It's more like projecting yourself, ghostlike, in a way that lets you observe the past without actually (in theory!) interacting with anything in a way that could change the present or future. It's so ghostly that it's called ghoststream transmission. The theory (being tested right now by my characters Julie and Ik, under dangerous conditions) further says that any change that might be made in the past will create only limited local ripples. Nature has its own self-correcting mechanism that prevents, for example, the grandfather paradox (where you go back and shoot your grandfather before he meets your grandmother).

All fiction, folks.

Except, maybe not. This week's New Scientist has an article about a couple of researchers who believe they may have shown that quantum time travel is theoretically possible (registration required to read article), not by the usually-cited method of flying through a wormhole or other means requiring black holes, but by performing just the right trickery with quantum-entangled particles. (Quantum-entangled particles are particles joined in a spooky way such that an action on one—change in polarization or spin, for example—is instantaneously reflected in the state of the other, even if they are separated in distance, theoretically limitless distance.) It's one of those weird things that makes quantum physics so mind-bendy.

The New Scientist article goes on to explain that this model for time travel has a built-in mechanism that prevents time-travel paradoxes. Effectively, an entangled photon cannot go back and kill its grandfather photon, because if conditions are such that it can actually pull the trigger on its little quantum gun and pull off the photonicide, then the time travel fails to work in the first place. How's that for prevention of terrorism?

I started to develop a peculiar sense of déjà vu as I read this article. Didn't I just write this stuff a few months ago, weaving a bit of world-building that would make my story make sense to me? What are they doing, talking about it now in a serious scientific magazine?

You don't suppose the researchers took a little trip forward in time and read my finished book, do you? Hey guys—if you did, please tell me, how the heck does the story turn out?

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Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone in the U.S.!  And I hope all of you elsewhere in the world have a really nice day, too.  :)

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Our Thieving Sun

According to NASA Science News, the sun has been stealing comets from other stars. Or rather, it did in its scofflaw youth, when it was part of a disintegrating star-forming nebula. This assertion is based on computer modeling of the Oort Cloud, the enormous cloud of comets that encircles the solar system at a distance of about a light-year. Mind you, the evidence of theft is based on measurements of a cloud that has never directly been observed, though there's plenty of evidence for its existence. Apparently the cloud (which has never been seen directly) has way more comets than can be accounted for by honest procurement. And so, the evidence for the misappropriation.

Therefore, it's possible that this weird-looking Comet Hartley 2, photographed last week by NASA's robotic EPOXI spacecraft (no, it's not made of glue), is actually not from our own system originally, but rather from an alien sun. Is that cool or what?

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Neptune Crossing Featured on The Frugal eReader!

Neptune Crossing is featured on today's edition of The Frugal eReader on Facebook! (Wait—didn't I just say that?)

Anyway, take a look at Frugal. It looks like a great resource for finding low-cost ebooks!

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Hyperbole and a Half

I came across this blog called Hyperbole and a Half yesterday, and had to share it. No one who has ever owned or lived with a dog could fail to appreciate this: Dogs Don't Understand Basic Concepts Like Moving

If you like that one, try: This Is Why I'll Never Be an Adult

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Monday, November 22, 2010

Carver Gothic

While going through some old photos recently, I came across this snapshot dated twelve years ago.

That's me and my family, standing proudly behind our wheat field. Yes, that's wheat you see, and that's the whole field. We still have the harvest in a jar, because we never got around to grinding the kernels to make the muffin we planned. Best laid plans, etc. When my Uncle John (a farmer) was still with us, we gave him a good laugh and a brain teaser by asking him to calculate how much wheat we needed to plant for a loaf of bread. I don't remember what the answer was, but I'm pretty sure this wasn't enough.

Those two poor waifs are now a senior in high school and a senior in college. And that's Allysen, my sturdy farmer wife.

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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

White House Adviser Calls for Asteroid Defense

In a rare outbreak of forward-thinking in the federal government, John Holdren, director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, has called for defensive planning against the possibility of an asteroid hitting the Earth. In letters to both the House and the Senate, the White House adviser has called for the development of plans for emergency response, and for coordination with other nations, in the event the need arises to deflect an incoming asteroid.

While hardly a new idea—science fiction, astronomy, and space technology types have been calling for this for years—what is new, I suspect, is the idea reaching the point of being taken seriously at the White House level.

(A tip of the hat to Mike Flynn, fellow member of Sigma SF, for pointing out this story.)

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New Amazon Store for Backlist Ebooks Authors

I was away a little longer than I expected. But I'm back.

More news on the growing effort by writers like me to adapt to the changing world of books and publishing. The fledgling group I joined not too long ago, Backlist Ebooks, has taken another step toward making it easier for you to buy low-cost ebook editions of its members' out-of-print books. The group is a loose collection of authors who have taken matters into their own hands regarding their previously published, out of print books—and are reissuing them through avenues such as Amazon Kindle's self-publishing shop and Smashwords. Those of you who buy ebooks for the Kindle platform might want to check out the Backlist Ebooks store, for links to authors in a variety of genres and their low-cost ebooks (mostly around $2.99 a book).

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Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Phil Palmer, We'll Miss You

My father-in-law Phillip Palmer died Sunday evening, in Ponce, Puerto Rico. He was 87. Allysen was down there at the time, and had visited him in the nursing-care home just hours before he died. She's there with her mom now, and with her brother Andrew, who's just flown in.

Phil was a wonderful guy, a lover of travel and good food and wine, who in his working life was an electrical engineer in international sales. It was thanks to that work that he and his wife Fay settled in Puerto Rico, a place they loved in their bones. Phil had a hard last few years—especially this final one, with several heart-attack trips to the hospital, and a rapidly declining ability to get around or to do the things he loved to do (home renovation projects, mostly). It's not that many years ago that he masterminded the lovely deck that's now on the back of our house here in Boston. He loved building things, and especially loved changing things.

Phil in 2007

I'll write more later. For now I need to focus on helping Allysen from a distance, and on getting the rest of us ready to go down there to join her for the memorial.

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