Saturday, October 29, 2011

SF Festival at Brown Bookstore

If you happen to be near the Brown University campus today, specifically the Brown Bookstore, stop in and check out the SF Festival they're having this weekend. I'll be there in the afternoon, participating in a panel discussion at 3 p.m. Come say hello, and hear what we have to say! Other writers participating include Laird Barron, John Langan, Paul Trembley, Paul DiFilippo, and Daniel Pearlman. (I'm not sure who will be where, when, though. The bookstore website says the panel is at 4, but I was told it was at 3. Who knows?)

I'll be driving down to Providence in the early afternoon. Here's hoping the snowstorm doesn't whack the I-95 corridor too badly, or too early. Nor'easter snowstorm—in October! Aiee!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Facebook Doublespeak

You just gotta love those guys who run Facebook. They had a really nice feature where you could have your blog posts (like this one) automatically import into your Facebook page. It was especially good for people like me, who aren't about to write entries for the blog, and then go write another for Facebook. It was buggy—I had to keep goosing the thing to make it do the imports—but it was way better than the alternative.

No more. I was checking last night on why my latest posts hadn't appeared on my Facebook page, and I couldn't even find the place on Facebook where you set that. So I searched Help. Lo and behold, I discovered this little buried nugget:

"Importing a blog or RSS feed to your personal Facebook account is no longer available."
A little more digging yielded this (boldface mine):
"We want you to connect with your fans in the most effective ways possible. That's why as of September 30th you'll no longer be able to automatically import posts from your website to your Page notes. The best way to get people to interact with your content is to give them insight into the links you share on your Wall by adding personal comments and responding to feedback from fans. We're focused on creating even better tools for Pages. Look for announcements soon."
The service is free, so I suppose I shouldn't complain too much. But honestly, what a load of crap. Have I mentioned my suspicion that Facebook is the spawn of the devil? I think the realspeak translation is: "We never could get it to work right, and our software guys begged us to let them do something else."

I'll be trying one of those network share thingies.  But they ask for everything but the combination to your hall locker. If I disappear suddenly, you'll know why.


Thursday, October 27, 2011

Floating Quantum Puck

Do you have a puck-sized disk of sapphire (coated, obviously, with yttrium barium copper oxide) gathering dust in the back of your junk drawer? If so, you're halfway to your own personal "quantum locked" maglev train. All you need is some liquid nitrogen and a magnetic track. Here's what your project will look like when you're done:

You can read about it at Discover Magazine, which also has links to some explanation of the physics.

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Goodnight iPad!

If you know and love the book Goodnight Moon (and who doesn't?), you should enjoy this!

(Or view it on Youtube here.)

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Friday, October 21, 2011

Neptune Crossing Makes the Top 100 Free Books at Kindle!

It's amazing what you have to go through to give a book away for free. I've been working at doing that on Neptune Crossing (first of the Chaos Chronicles), and I've now mostly succeeded. The thing is, you can't just do it—not in the Kindle store, or the Nook store. What you can do is make it free at Smashwords, then wait for the free price to migrate out to Sony, Apple, and so on—and then get your friends to visit the Kindle store and report a lower price elsewhere. If you're lucky, Amazon will pick up on it, and your book goes to free in the Kindle store, the most popular by far of all the ebook stores. (So far, the Nook store hasn't picked up on it; still $.99 there.)

Why go through this? Well, it's no secret. I'm offering it free in hopes people will like it, and will want to go on to read the rest of the series, and then perhaps some of my other books, for which they'll pay me. (Though they're all pretty inexpensive.) Neptune Crossing: gateway drug.

The other thing is, if a lot of people take your free book, it improves your ranking at, for example, Amazon. The reason that matters is that Amazon gives better exposure to books that have higher rankings—and by association, more exposure for all your others, too. So it can be really good for business to give away a lot of books. A few hours ago, I checked and Neptune Crossing was in the top 100 free books in the Kindle store! It was also #2 in free science fiction!

So if you haven't already downloaded Neptune Crossing from the Kindle store (or the Sony store, or Apple, or Smashwords), now's the time! You'll be helping me out by taking my free book! And send your friends!

Because, you know, I really don't want to have to carry all these ebooks home after the sale!

Monday, October 10, 2011

More International Ebook News

E-reads, publisher of  nine of my backlist novels, recently announced a huge joint venture with Gollancz of England to add many of their SF titles to the Gollancz ebook list—something like 400 titles. Gollancz has long been one of the premier publishers of SF in the British market, and this will further enrich their list even while it offers a new look and imprint to the E-reads books. The hope, of course, is that this will also boost UK sales for the books being added to the Gollancz list. 

Because my own E-reads books (From a Changeling Star [nice plug at E-reads], Down the Stream of Stars, The Rapture Effect, and six others) are a part of this deal, I'm also hoping that this will help those books find a new audience among the British readers. 

On another front, my own Starstream Publications edition of Sunborn finally has its finished cover, which you will see on the World Edition on sale in Kindle UK/DE/FR, in the iTunes store outside the U.S., and at Smashwords, where it's offered to non-U.S. readers. (Inside the U.S., the Tor edition is the one to look for, available pretty much everywhere else.)

Here's the cover Pat Ryan created for me:

And here are some links to help my friends outside the U.S. find it:

iTunes: Canada | UK | Germany | France | Australia

(For some stupid reason it's not on my author pages in the international
iTunes stores. But those links will get you to it.)

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Thursday, October 06, 2011

If a Tree Falls on the Bike Path

Something happened today that made me think of the old question: If a tree falls in the forest...

I wasn't in a forest, exactly, but Captain Jack and I were walking on a wooded section of the Minuteman Bikeway, and we'd paused while Jack sniffed something. I heard a sudden, very loud CRACK-K-K-K! and turned to see a large, full-grown tree crash down across the path, about fifty feet from where we were standing. I just stood there with my mouth open, wondering, What the—? and feeling extremely grateful that I'd been standing here and not there. A woman on the other side of the tree no doubt felt the same way. From what I could see of the base of the trunk, it appeared that the roots had rotted or broken away or something, and the tree had just been waiting for the right moment to fall.

A minute later, a group of bicyclists rode up, saying to each other, "That wasn't there an hour ago!" I told them it wasn't there five minutes ago. I called the police to ask them to notify the town tree people, and then I took these pictures.

For the rest of the day, I mulled the event over, wondering what dreamlike or theological significance I should give to it. The only thing I'm sure of is, there was definitely a sound when this tree fell.

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Sunday, October 02, 2011

My New Galaxy Tab!

My birthday was over a month ago, but I'm reveling in a belated gift that's cool as hell: my new Android tablet, a Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1. I was offered a choice, and I spent a while looking at the iPad and various other Android devices, and this one rose to the top. Why this over the iPad, especially since I have quite a few friends who own and love their iPads? It was mostly the more open operating system. Apple designs great devices, no question; I just don't like their closed, control-freak approach to everything. The Android system is a little more like the Wild West of outer space—room to move, and plenty of expansion going on. Also, Angry Birds is free in the Android store.

It took me a while to figure out the ropes, but now that I've settled on some good apps and learned some of the quirks, I can say that it's great for all these things:
  • Ebook reader, with a variety of ebook apps (so far I like Aldiko best, ahead of FBReader and Kindle app)
  • Portable way to read the Boston Globe (which recently introduced a new online edition)
  • Web browsing, especially in the Dolphin browser, which is speedier and easier than either Firefox or the included "Browser"
  • Movie player (I look forward to enjoying this little reward on my next writing retreat. I've been converting a bunch of my DVDs for future watching.)
It's okay for checking email and syncing contacts and calendar with my laptop. I haven't messed with that enough yet to give it a proper evaluation.

I suspect I'll like it for typing quick notes to myself, etc. I haven't really tried writing on it. Hard to see how that would work too well without a separate keyboard. But I could see using it to review and proof and do light editing.

Sadly, I can't watch Netflix movies—not because the device can't do it, but because my Netflix plan (2/mo.) is too cheapo to allow it. That's all about to be history anyway, I guess; I'm sure not going to subscribe separately for DVD service and streaming movies at 3-4 times what I'm paying now. The one place where the Android, sadly, is behind iPad is Hulu streaming. That hasn't arrived yet. I'm sure it will.

This whole field is really taking off, with all the Androids and especially the new Kindle Fire. (Too small for much of what I described above, but I'll bet it's going to be a really fine reading device.)

Now, if only ebook sales would take off with all the new hardware to view them on!

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