Monday, November 15, 2021

Buy-a-Book (maybe even *before*) Saturday: broken-supply-chain edition

 It's that time again. With the added wrinkle this year that most anything physical is in short supply and/or stuck on a ship waiting to offload. Books included ...

Regularly since 2010, shortly before Thanksgiving, I've posted about Buy-a-Book Saturday. That's my personal variation on Small Business Saturday: the day (specifically, the second day after Thanksgiving, and one day after retail's infamous Black Friday) on which holiday shoppers are especially encouraged to patronize small businesses. The big-box stores and Internet giants will do fine this holiday season. But will neighborhood stores, non-chain shops, and boutiques?

What with the supply-chain problems, even to wait till close to that Saturday (falling quite late this year: November 27) might not be the best of strategies.

Rara avis! Is that a book store?

Why do I promote the buy-a-book variant? Because what business is smaller than the author toiling away by him- or herself? Because, as I (and many others) post from time to time, the publishing business keeps getting tougher -- especially for authors. Because more than likely you're a reader, else you wouldn't have stopped by this blog.

Because this year has been harder on small businesses, authors included, than most. Paper for printers is just one thing stuck in supply-chain snarls.

So: I'm here to suggest you give serious consideration to books -- whether print or electronic or audio -- for some of your holiday gifting. Friends, relatives, coworkers, your kids' teachers and coaches, the local library you support ... surely there's a book that's right for each of them. And at least one book for yourself, of course ;-)

Suppose you're at a brick-and-mortar bookstore -- assuming said business survived the pandemic so far and/or venturing out isn't once again an unacceptable risk where you are -- and a book or author you had in mind isn't to be found on the shelf. Not a problem! Almost certainly, the store will be happy to special-order books for you. (Why? Because  they'd much rather do a special order than have you go home and order online for yourself.)

Saturday, November 6, 2021

Best Reads of 2021

For a second consecutive year, I must concede that a year's-best posting this early in November might seem, well, early. OTOH, pandemic. Supply-chain woes. Postal/UPS/FedEx slowdowns. Especially if you (or your reading giftees) prefer reading material in paper and ink, you may want to do your holiday shopping early rather than late. In any event, Black Friday and Cyber Monday will soon be upon us. 

If you find none of that convincing? The way 2021 has been, surely anything meriting the label "best" is welcome. Distraction via the books that follow certainly helped me cope with this dreadful, pandemic-ridden year.

 Not to mention that if ever there were a year to support one's favorite authors, this (again!) is it.

So: on to the latest installment of this annual feature. 

As always, I read a lot: as research, to keep current with the genre in which I write, and simply for enjoyment. Before the holiday shopping onslaught, I've taken to volunteering a few words about the most notable books from my reading (and sometimes re-reading) thus far in the current year. And a (very small) celebratory woohoo: this is my tenth such post in the series. 

When I name a book, you can be certain I really enjoyed it and/or found it very useful. Life's too short to gripe about books I didn't find notable (much less the several I elected not to finish). Presuming that you visit SF and Nonsense because you appreciate my assessment of things, you might find, in what follows, books you (and like-minded friends, relatives, etc.) will also enjoy. Unless otherwise indicated, the dates shown are for original publication. Titles are Amazon links, often to newer editions than the original publication (and to Kindle editions, where available).
 
What's impressed me so far this year? Read on ....

Friday, October 8, 2021

A series-ous matter

Today is release day for the umpteenth James Bond movie. I suspect there's hardly an adult or teen living in a First World country who doesn't recognize the name. Franchises continue for a reason -- audience loyalty -- and not only on the big screen. Novel series have likewise been all the rage in recent years.

Marcus Judson Book #1
Many of my books are entirely independent of one another, but I've also been involved in two literary series. The Fleet of Worlds series (with Larry Niven), ultimately of five novels, takes its name from a unique astronomical feature -- the eponymous grouping of flying worlds! -- that figure throughout. The InterstellarNet series, of three novels, is named for the technological glue -- an interstellar comm network -- whose creation, evolution, and consequences underpin, well, everything that happens across a growing number of species, light-years, and decades. I like to believe both series labels pique book-shopper curiosity and sustain reader interest.

Since this past May's release of Déjà Doomed, I've had something of a naming conundrum. Just as James Bond's adventures (setting aside remakes and reboots) are independent apart from some recurring characters, several main characters in Déjà Doomed first appeared in 2012's Energized. Sticking loosely with today's James Bond theme, the lead character in both of these novels, Marcus Judson, has now twice  been -- however reluctantly -- a CIA asset. And, I have to admit, thoughts of inflicting a third adventure on Marcus have been tickling the back of my mind ... 

Marcus Judson Book #2
So: what should I call this latest series? The obvious choice is Marcus Judson, and subtitle books as "A Marcus Judson novel." (Hey, going with the hero's name worked for Ian Fleming. It works, in the SF context, for Jack McDevitt's long-running Alex Benedict series.) I may very well end up going with this choice. 

But I like that my earlier series had IMO catchy names. Hence, a question to those of you who've read Energized and/or Déjà Doomed. Any thoughts about a Marcus Judson series? Any thoughts about an alternative series name? 

Wednesday, September 1, 2021

Adventures in Space-Time

Grantville Gazette readers: if you've been following the (mis)adventures of my alien castaways and their would-be human rescuers, good news! The third and final installment of "Ill-Met in Space-Time" is in the current (September 2021) issue of the zine.

(My favorite banner art for the serial is from the first installment. So that's what you're getting from me. And not just because while the aliens don't have a queen, nonetheless there is a gambit.)

"Space-Time" has been an ongoing project for me for much of the past year, comprised (so far) of "On the Shoals of Space-Time," "Marooned in Space-Time," "Adrift in Space-Time," and now the completed serial, "Ill-Met in Space-Time."

As for you non-Gazette readers ... don't be surprised if at some point I integrate and expand the story arc into a novel.

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

CFTAR trifecta

 I was recently invited, in connection with a recent novel's publication, to the author-friendly website Campaign for the American Reader. In fact, host Marshal Zeringue asked if I might contribute to several departments of the CFTAR program. It was my pleasure to oblige.

And so, in the past couple weeks, I've had the following CFTAR appearances:

(Quirky, how? you might ask. The question to be answered is, "If a reader opens a book to the [randomly chosen] page 69, would they get a good sense of it? Why or why not?)

As you might suspect, two of those appearances focused on May's new novel,  Déjà Doomed. The Q&A is more about writing in general.

All, IMO, in good fun.

Friday, August 13, 2021

How could I have missed this!?!

On  July 1, 1991, Warner Book published Probe -- my first novel. 

Original/1991 edition
The 30th anniversary of this career milestone came and went six weeks ago, and I just -- this morning -- realized it. That's madness. Or a senior moment. Maybe both. Regardless, having finally remembered the occasion, I'm going to reminisce a bit. 

(What's the book about? I'll get to that. But nostalgia first -- unless you choose to jump ahead. Which is fine.)

Seeing the novel out the door became quite the adventure. This was in an era before doorstop books, and the acquiring editor wanted my manuscript reduced from 90K words to 75K. Ouch, but ... done. Then he decided my title (Calculating Minds) was too cryptic and pushed for the yet more cryptic Chimera. Then the art department complained -- fairly enough -- they didn't know what cover art went with Chimera, and we wound up with the apt but generic title of Probe. Not that final art for the Warner edition even showed a space probe ...

Second/2000 edition
Beyond being the pre-doorstop-book era, the early Nineties was an epoch of turmoil in publishing. My acquiring editor, champion of the book, left Warner. And his replacement. And his. All before the book was through the editorial process and release to booksellers. Exciting? You bet! Helpful? Not!

Then, to the utter confusion of booksellers and readers alike, the same day my novel came out, a Star Trek-franchise novel of the same name was also released. 

But for all the pain along the way (and, to be fair, education about how the publication world works)? Much good came of it.

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Has the time come? Are we (as opposed to my protagonists) *less* doomed?

Is anyone ready to get out of the house and resume normal life? And I don't mean to observe Bastille Day. (I hear a resounding chorus of "YES!")

Then please join me for my first post-COVID book signing, upcoming on Saturday, August 7th (2 to 4 PM) for Déjà Doomed

Unfamiliar with this, my latest novel? That's easily remedied. "DÉJÀ DOOMED is ... finalement here :-)" is what I posted on its recent release date. Naturally, I'll be happy to discuss it -- or pretty much anything -- in person.

Where? you ask. The Winchester Book Gallery, on the lovely walking mall of scenic, historic Winchester, VA. 

(How historic? The oldest English-speaking settlement west of the Blue Ridge. George Washington's headquarters during the French & Indian War. Where Washington first won public office, to the Virginia House of Burgesses. Changing hands over and over during the Civil War. All a mere 75 miles from downtown DC, and almost as close to Baltimore. You can make a day of it.)

Unable to come? Well, I'll miss you -- but your favorite local bookstore or etailer will be happy to accommodate you.

Thursday, July 1, 2021

The Sherlock Chronicles / The Paradise Quartet

Subtitle: When publishing worlds collide

Alternate subtitle: The other shoe drops

On average it takes me about a year to write a book. Publishers take anywhere between a few months to two years to turn a delivered manuscript into a finished product. (Don't ask me to explain the range. I can't.) Some years that means I have no new book released, while other years I have two, or even three, books released -- no matter that (as I've said) I don't begin to write this quickly. And to publicize two books close together means short-changing both ....

Hence, today's post is actually Installment Two of my book-release news for May. (If you missed the first installment, see DÉJÀ DOOMED is ... finalement here :-)) Still, I'll argue, today's update was/is worth the wait :-)  


The Sherlock Chronicles

A mile a minute? Nonsense. Even a meat brain knows “mind going a mile a minute” is mere metaphor. For a quantum mind, a light-second per minute would be nearer to apt, if sadly sans alliteration. Ordinarily, I have my metaphorical fingers in hundreds, even thousands, of figurative pies. Any less stimulation than that is boring, and boredom is the bane of a q-mind’s existence.

That events in the “real” world often strike humans as inexplicable is hardly surprising. Meat brains have limits. And so, when an opportunity presented itself, I thought: why not lend a virtual hand? Every moment of diversion was welcome, and this “case,” surely, a harmless amusement.

Thus began my detective phase. Only I couldn’t have been more wrong about harmless ….

And if an AI PI isn’t intriguing enough, there’s also The Paradise Quartet

A triumph of ingenuity and sheer willpower has delivered a dying generation ship to the exoplanet Paradise. Too bad the ingenious biotech the colonists deployed to settle on that planet triggered an inexorable devolutionary cycle.

Thousands of years later, possible rescuers arrive—and are themselves ensnared in the manmade trap that is Paradise. Escape will require new ingenuity and more multi-generational striving ….

Two great adventures in one volume.

As this is a commercial announcement, I'll share the Amazon links for Sherlock/Paradise in print and Sherlock/Paradise for the Kindle (different retailers, of course, have other popular ebook formats).