My first post-vaccine outing

Yesterday was two weeks since my second COVID-19 vaccine shot, so I’m protected now (at least as much as anyone can be, in conjunction with continued distancing, masks, etc.). Yesterday was rainy, so I waited until today to make my first foray. I decided to start out small and just dropped into Clifton Natural Foods, in hopes of finding some things I haven’t been able to get at the regular grocery store. I didn’t find the vegetarian Italian sausage I was hoping for, but I got some other stuff, including some cookies to give some variety to my dessert options, and some pumpkin butter (a fruit spread like apple butter). I had a nice little chat with a store staffer about how satisfying it was to be able to go places and feel some peace of mind again. This is the first time in 6 months that I’ve been inside a store, and only the second time in the past 12 months (third if you count the post office).

I thought about going to the library too, but I didn’t want to overdo it my first time out. I have a post office trip planned soon, so I can go then, since the two are just a couple of blocks apart.

Speaking of the library, it just now occurred to me that I can resume borrowing DVDs again. So I’ve just put in holds on the most recent season of Doctor Who, which I haven’t managed to see since I don’t have cable TV anymore. I think this was the first time I’ve used the library’s new online catalog format for requesting items, which was instituted within the past year. However, it seems that at some point I already set it to default to my preferred branch as my pickup location, so I don’t have to set it every time. I guess I did that months ago when the new system went online, but forgot about it since it’s been so long since I needed to use it.

Speaking of things returning to a semblance of normality, this is the first time in months that I’ve gone for a drive without bringing my emergency jump-starter power pack with me. (I keep it in my apartment instead of in the car so that I don’t forget to top up the charge every three months as recommended. Although I don’t think I’ve ever managed to go that long between jumpstarts since I got it.) I didn’t need it, but I should try to stay in the habit of bringing it with me just in case.

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Vac-scene two

Well, this past Thursday was the day of my second COVID vaccination appointment. After the first one three weeks ago, my main side effect was my upper arm being quite sore for about a day. The only other effect was that when I undressed for bed that night, I started to shiver uncontrollably until I got in my nightclothes and under the covers, even though I didn’t actually feel cold. I guess that’s what the information sheet called “chills.” But it was only for the first night.

So anyway, I was expecting another painful injection and a worse reaction afterward, though I wasn’t sure how mild or severe it might be. Still, it would be worth it to feel more or less safe again, and to do my part to keep others safe.

I’d been hoping I might take advantage of the decent weather and walk to the hospital this time, but I’d somewhat strained my hip the day before while cleaning the bathroom, so I wasn’t up to it. I made the same drive as last time, but had a bit of trouble getting into a parking space in the garage, since I’m out of practice at it. I kind of held up one or two cars behind me before giving up on that space. Then I found an open space right at the top of the ramp, so I could drive straight into it, which was nice. (Although it proved tricky when I left. To get out required going down the reverse of the way I came up, and I couldn’t turn 180 degrees from where I was, so I had to go up another level or two to find enough open space to turn around.)

For some reason, the vaccination center at the hospital was far less busy than it was the last time. I would’ve thought that all those people getting their first shot the same day as me would’ve been scheduled for their second shot the same day as me also. I hope that doesn’t mean a lot of them skipped out on their second doses, since it won’t last long that way. But I was able to get my shot pretty much immediately after checking in, and the check-in process was easier because I could hand them my vaccine card. I was expecting the shot to hurt again, but instead I barely felt it; indeed, I wasn’t entirely convinced I’d even gotten it. Maybe the nurse this time had a gentler touch, or maybe it was because I made more of an effort to relax my muscles first. Or maybe it was because I’d taken ibuprofen for my hip pain.

On my way out of the clinic, I overheard a couple of hospital staffers chatting about how the Pfizer vaccine had milder side effects than the Moderna one, which was nice to hear as a Pfizer recipient. And that turned out to be entirely true. Not only did I have much less arm pain this time (though just enough kicked in by that evening to reassure me that I had indeed gotten the shot), but I haven’t had any side effects beyond a mild fatigue and a slight dry-ish cough. I was afraid I might lose a day or two of work on the novel I’m writing, but I’ve managed to keep going after all.

So now I’m starting to think about things to do in two weeks’ time once I’m fully vaccinated and can feel safer going into buildings, as long as I stay masked and distanced for others’ benefit. The library will be one of my first stops. I may also drop into the natural-foods store for some groceries I haven’t had in a while. I’m not sure about going to the supermarket, which would have more people in it, but I might stop in for a quick visit, probably to a more distant store than my usual pickup location, in search of items they don’t have in stock there.

I read a day or two ago that it might be necessary to get annual booster shots, but that’s okay; we do that for flu shots anyway, and it makes sense with new variants likely to keep cropping up. The essential thing, as always, is to educate and encourage more people to get vaccinated. Although, sadly, that’s easier said than done in the current climate of ignorance. But at least there’s hope for things to get better now.

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Now on Patreon: “The Science of Sacrifice”

This month’s Fiction entry on my Patreon page is “The Science of Sacrifice,” a newly revised version of an unsold story set in Thayara, the same fantasy universe as last month’s reprint, “The Melody Lingers.” It’s actually the first of the two Thayara stories I wrote in 2009-10, and takes place about a generation before “Melody,” laying some foundations for its concepts.

Yet while “Melody” focused entirely on the human cultures of Thayara for simplicity, “Science” is set in a more cosmopolitan city where multiple sapient species interact (since it was written as a “pilot” for the universe), so it has a rather different flavor. As a supplement for subscribers to the Behind the Scenes tier, I’ve published edited excerpts from my Thayara worldbuilding notes, including discussion about the various species and a map of the planet (which is an alternate-history Earth whose evolution was shaped differently by the magic-like phenomenon called Wyrd).

The story is here on my $10/month Fiction tier:

Fiction: “The Science of Sacrifice”

The notes are on the $12 Behind the Scenes tier:

Thayara worldbuilding notes and “Science of Sacrifice” discussion

Meanwhile, my Patreon reviews of the Logan’s Run TV series conclude next week, after which I’ll start reviewing season 3 of the 1988 syndicated Superboy TV series, retooled and retitled The Adventures of Superboy, and vastly improved from the first two seasons.

Running pretty smoothly

Well, I’ve now managed to go as many as 10 days between car rides without my battery dying, which is an encouraging sign. I went out for another drive around the neighborhood two days ago to make sure it stayed charged. That may not have been necessary, as I had to go get groceries today anyway, but I didn’t want to take chances.

Anyway, I’m pleased with how much better the car seems to be running since I got maintenance. I haven’t had any problems with the acceleration being sluggish; that’s usually just a problem in cold weather, but the car seems to respond better even than it used to in warm weather, I think. On my drive, I even went up a hill that the car always used to have trouble accelerating on, at least in the first few years after I started driving it (I haven’t needed to go up that hill much in recent years), but the car had no trouble with it. So whatever maintenance and fluid changes the folks at the garage did really seemed to help.

There was a sign on the apartment building’s door the other day warning us not to keep any valuables in our cars due to a rash of break-ins that had the local police overwhelmed. I never keep any valuables in the car anyway, but I was still concerned. When I hit the key fob to unlock the car the other day, the horn beeped three times. I think that means that the alarm had previously been triggered, but the car still seemed to be locked and intact and nothing was missing. I’d guess maybe someone set off the alarm and it scared them off, though I don’t recall hearing it. Or maybe they just realized my car is so decrepit-looking that it’s unlikely to have anything in it worth taking.

As for my COVID vaccination, I’m about halfway between shots now. After my last shot, my upper arm got pretty sore within a few hours and stayed sore for about a day, but then got better. The only other side effect I had was a weird one — when I undressed for bed that night, I started to shiver, even though I didn’t feel cold. It didn’t stop until I was in my nightclothes and under the covers. But I was fine in the morning, and I haven’t had any other symptoms beyond maybe a slight ooginess for a day or two. We’ll see how much worse it is after my second shot.

One side effect I didn’t expect was that I got a bill for the vaccination. Evidently it’s not free if you get it at the hospital. But it’s not an exorbitant fee, and it’s worth it.

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Pfizers on stun!

I’m halfway there! I just got back from the hospital, where I got my first COVID-19 vaccination shot. It’s the Pfizer vaccine, which means I’ll have to go back in 3 weeks for the second dose.

I was naturally nervous about this, not only since I hate getting shots, but since this was the first time in 5 months and only the third time since the first lockdown that I’ve been inside a building other than my residence — and the other two times were brief, a stop in at the post office and a quicker stop at the pharmacy. (Plus I hovered in the doorway of the garage office when I got car repairs last month.) This is the longest time I’ve spent around other people in nearly a year, so I was feeling pretty skittish, even with universal mask-wearing and all the hospital safety precautions. (I’m an introvert with social anxiety anyway. A pandemic requiring social distancing just exacerbates my inherent fears and reflexes.)

The check-in procedure was pretty streamlined. There were signs saying to have my ID ready to confirm my age, but the receptionist didn’t even check it, just asked for my birthdate (although I am in their system from prior visits, so maybe that’s why). I just had to e-sign my name three times and then I was given a ticket and went back to the vaccine clinic, and I only had to wait a couple of minutes for my turn. There was a helpful sign taped up telling me that I’d be getting the Pfizer vaccine, which answered my main question. On the one hand, I would’ve liked to get the Johnson & Johnson single-shot vaccine so I’d be immunized faster, but on the other hand, I’d be neurotically worried that there was a mixup and I got just half of one of the two-shot vaccines instead. But I’m sure they keep careful track of all the doses. My vaccine card had a sticker put on with the lot number of the injection.

Well, anyway, it’s a muscular injection, which means it stung badly for a few seconds, but it passed soon. My main trouble was remembering which pocket I’d stuck the little ticket in, and then finding my jacket sleeve to put it back on afterward. I had to wait around in the waiting area for 15 minutes in case of an adverse reaction, your usual post-vaccination procedure, but I felt fine. The injection site isn’t even sore anymore (at least, not so far), and I’m feeling no symptoms yet. Of course, the flu-like side effects tend to come after the second shot, but they pass after a day or two and they’re just the result of the immune system gearing up its defenses. I guess I’ll see in 3 weeks whether I have that kind of reaction.

The main problem I had is that I still haven’t figured out how to consistently keep my glasses from fogging up when wearing one of the disposable surgical masks I use. I ended up just putting my glasses away and getting by without them (only in the hospital, of course, not in the car), so it’s fortunate I didn’t need to read any signage.

So anyway, after my second shot in 3 weeks, it’ll take about another 2 weeks for full immunity to kick in. So I should be set by the end of April — which is pretty much just in time for the Brood X cicadas to come out of their 17-year slumber and swarm by the gazillions, which means I’m still going to be stuck indoors all summer anyway, because I also have an insect phobia. There’s irony for you. Well… as I recall, they’re only active at certain times of day, so I think going out in the mornings is okay. Still, ugh. Every time the cicadas swarm, I hope that by 17 years later I’ll have moved someplace where they don’t swarm, or at least be able to take a long summer vacation out of town. But here I still am in Cincinnati for the fourth Brood X outbreak of my lifetime, though only the third I will have been old enough to remember.

Speaking of being among other people, my aunt had her 93rd birthday the other day, and various family members and friends thereof got together on a Zoom party to celebrate. It’s a shame Zoom doesn’t have an option for providing cake or pizza, but at least I got to see a few familiar faces. It’s the first time I’ve been on a Zoom call with family instead of fellow writers for a convention panel. Hopefully it won’t be the last.

I’m happy for my aunt and uncle, since they’re fully vaccinated now, so this past weekend they were able to hold their nearly one-year-old great-grandchild for the first time. There is hope of things inching back toward normal, as long as enough people behave intelligently by using masks and social distancing, avoiding large indoor gatherings, and getting vaccinated as soon as feasible. I know that achieving that is going to be an uphill battle against the forces of selfishness and stupidity, which are still ascendant in too much of the country and the world. But I’m doing my part, and I encourage everyone else to do the same. People deserve to be able to hug their great-grandchildren. (Where available.)

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STAR TREK: LIVING MEMORY cover art!

I saw that the cover art for Star Trek: The Original Series — Living Memory started to show up on the Trek news sites the other day, but it wasn’t up on Amazon yet, and I wasn’t sure if the version that was posted was the final draft, so I held off posting it here until I was sure. I forgot to check regularly, but I confirmed today that the final version is out, so here it is:

Star Trek Living Memory cover

I was hoping that Uhura would be featured on the cover, since part of the reason I wrote this book was because I felt I was overdue to give her a focus story. It also makes sense to feature Captain Spock, since this is my first book where he’s in that role throughout. Plus we’ve got Reliant photobombing the cover en passant, as it’s making a return appearance after The Higher Frontier (gotta get Chekov in there somehow, plus I like writing Captain Terrell).

Here’s the description again:

An all-new Star Trek movie-era adventure!

While attempting to settle in as commandant of Starfleet Academy, Admiral James T. Kirk must suddenly contend with the controversial, turbulent integration of an alien warrior caste into the student body—and quickly becomes embroiled in conflict when the Academy controversy escalates to murder. Meanwhile, Captain Spock of the USS Enterprise and Commander Pavel Chekov of the USS Reliant are investigating a series of powerful cosmic storms seemingly targeting Federation worlds—unstoppable outbursts emitting from the very fabric of space. Endeavoring to predict where the lethal storms will strike next, Spock and Chekov make the shocking discovery that the answer lies in Commander Nyota Uhura’s past—one that she no longer remembers….

™, ®, & © 2021 CBS Studios, Inc. STAR TREK and related marks and logos are trademarks of CBS Studios, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Preorder links are here:

Living Memory will be released on June 15, less than three months from now. Getting closer!

Assorted updates on life

Well, the garage may not have been able to identify and fix the parasitic draw on my car battery, but so far, replacing the battery seems to have helped. I’ve now managed to go up to a week between drives without the battery running out, though I’m trying to make sure I go for a drive at least that often, even if it’s just to dump my recyclables or something. I did that yesterday, then to “exercise” the car and recharge the battery, I drove a few miles to Burnet Woods and strolled around the duck pond for a few minutes, to recharge my battery. The weather was only moderately comfortable, the sky was gloomy, and it’s still a bit early in the year for the woods to look all that great, but I didn’t want to be there when it was crowded anyway. Even outdoors, I prefer to keep as far from other people as possible. So I only hung around a few minutes, but it was nice to get a change of scenery, literally.

It turns out I’m now in an eligible age group to get a COVID vaccine under Ohio policy. I haven’t been in a great hurry, since I figure I’m such a hermit that I’m at low risk, both to myself and to others, so I’m willing to wait my turn until people in greater need get theirs. Still, it’s important to get vaccinated, and it would certainly give me peace of mind, so I’ve started to look into how to go about it. I’ll just have to overcome my timidity about getting shots — and about registering for websites. (At least when I get a shot, I don’t have to go through the hassle of coming up with a password first.)

I had an extended COVID anxiety dream night before last — the kind that’s initially just a normal, old-habits dream of being out in the world, until some recent-memory circuit kicks in and you remember that there’s a pandemic on and you’re outside without a mask. But this was a particularly major instance, because in my dream, I’d taken the bus without a mask and didn’t remember the pandemic until just after I got off in the heart of downtown. So that was quite a lot of potential exposure. To make matters worse, I then ended up being stuck at a fair-sized social gathering indoors where nobody was masked, and it went on quite some time while I tried feebly to keep my face covered with a handkerchief. Then I realized that what people were talking about there was boring and pointless and there was no good reason for me to be there at all, certainly not for such a long time. It was like every source of COVID anxiety at once. I was very relieved when I woke up and realized it was just a dream.

Meanwhile, I just got my taxes done. I was hoping I could go back to my usual tax preparer after missing two years with her, because I tried to do my own taxes two years ago (which turned out poorly) and then last year I took advantage of the 3-month extension to file, and my preparer only works during the regular tax season. But it turns out that this year she’s dealing with a health issue and wasn’t available. I hope she’s okay. Anyway, I ended up with the same fellow who did my taxes last year, and according to him, I was given too low a health insurance subsidy last year, and thus I get a substantial tax credit and owe a lot less than I otherwise would have. Which I initially thought was very good news, although in retrospect it’s kind of bad news, because it means I spent too much last year when I was more broke than I am now. I needed the savings then more than I need them now. Still, it is a relief. Though with my income improving this year, it looks like my taxes will be significantly higher next year.

Nothing much to report on the writing front. I’m working on a Star Trek Adventures project prior to getting back to work on the big new thing that I’ve been hinting at for months and still can’t openly talk about. The work is going more slowly than I’d like, but I’ve got plenty of time. Hopefully I can say more soon.

Categories: Uncategorized

Braving the garage

Last time I reported on my car battery situation at the end of January, I was cautiously optimistic that I might have dealt with the drain on my battery by removing the charger from the power socket. No such luck — the last couple of times I went for groceries, I had to jumpstart it again. Luckily, I still had a few weeks left on my battery’s 18-month free replacement warranty. Still, I waited for the weather to improve a bit (both so the car would be easier to start and because I’d have to walk from and to the garage after dropping off my car). Plus I was hesitant to go to the garage because of COVID and all. Finally I noticed that Google now gives health precaution info for businesses, and it confirmed that my garage had sensible precautions. I was still a little concerned about indoor ventilation, though. People are still preoccupied with disinfecting surfaces, but the scientific consensus now is that surface infection is vanishingly unlikely and the real risk is from being indoors with other people for any length of time, particularly in a poorly ventilated space. But when I thought about it, I figured that an automotive garage would pretty much need to have good ventilation by default. Well, maybe not so much in the office, but it’s a small office and it usually has at least one door open.

As it turned out, there have been some procedural changes as well — when I called, I was told to schedule a dropoff time online, and the online form asked me to describe the issues, so I didn’t have to do it face to face. And I didn’t even have to come inside, as it turned out; I just dropped the car off and left the spare key on the front seat. Picking it up today, I was able to call the guy from outside and he brought the credit card scanner out with him. He offered to take my card info over the phone, but I figured just being outside was enough.

As it turns out, while I did get a new battery, new wiper blades, tire rotation, and other servicing, it turns out that the battery problem is what I feared. The electrical issues the car’s been having for well over a year now, which are beyond the local garage’s ability to address, are evidently causing some kind of “parasitic draw” on the battery. And I don’t see how I can get that taken care of anytime soon. The garage they referred me to is too far away to get back from except by bus, which isn’t an option I’m willing to take in a pandemic. And though my money situation has begun to improve, it’s an incremental improvement and I need to keep my spending relatively constrained until the next big paycheck comes in a few months. So as it stands, my options are either to drive the car more regularly to keep the battery charged (even though I have zero other reasons to drive anywhere besides grocery pickup), or just keep using my jumpstarter pack to start it up like I’ve been doing for the past few months. Hopefully at least the new battery will make some difference, or will drain less as the weather warms. But I have no idea what to do about the problem in the long run.

So my walks from the garage yesterday and to it today are the longest walks I’ve taken in quite a while. I’m glad I was still up to it; my fitness hasn’t deteriorated too much from the lockdown. I even managed to keep my glasses from fogging up too badly with the mask on. Still seeing a lot of people going unmasked, though among those who were masked, I didn’t notice anyone with their noses sticking out.

Oh, speaking of electrical problems, we had a power failure here yesterday afternoon, just after 5 PM. I was able to check the power company’s outage map on my phone, and it gave an estimated repair time of 9:30, which I hoped was just a placeholder and that the power would be restored before the 4-hour safe limit for food in the fridge. I passed the time reading a paperback book by the window before the sun set, and to avoid opening the fridge, I had supper consisting of a peanut butter sandwich (no jam) and potato chips, and cracked open a new, room-temperature bottle of apple juice (then forgot myself and accidentally opened the fridge door for a few seconds to put it away).

I’d just settled down to do some writing work on my laptop (which still had a full battery) when the power came back on, about 2 hours or so into the blackout, so my food was safe. So of course I blew off the work and went online again. I didn’t really feel up to doing much anyway. Although moving my laptop to the table did finally let me brush the dust off the cooling-fan platform it sits on, something I recently realized I should try to do periodically.

Still, it’s frustrating how often the power goes out around here. I wish we could really modernize the power grid — build in more redundancies, give buildings backup generators or batteries, stuff like that.

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“The Melody Lingers” on Patreon

I technically missed posting a Patreon story in February, but my previous entry was on January 31, so it’s barely been a month. Anyway, this month(ish)’s entry is a reprint of my first published fantasy story, “The Melody Lingers,” which appeared in Galaxy’s Edge Magazine in July 2019, and was the only story I ever sold to my fellow Cincinnatian, writer-editor Mike Resnick, before he passed away last year. (Interesting how two of the editors I’ve sold to, Stanley Schmidt and Resnick, were from my hometown. Indeed, Stan once lived on my current street!) The story is available to subscribers of the Fiction tier at $10/month:

Fiction: “The Melody Lingers”

I’m afraid I don’t have a Behind the Scenes entry to go along with it this month, since the annotations were already published here on Written Worlds, and the one suitable thing I have is something I’ve decided is better saved for later.

Meanwhile, my current review series on the $5/month Patreon tier is of the 1977 TV series adaptation of the film Logan’s Run.

2021 STAR TREK novel overview on TrekCore

I posted the news recently about Star Trek: The Original Series — Living Memory, my upcoming novel for this June. Now we have descriptions and information for most of the Trek novels being published this year, and TrekCore has done an overview of them, including a bit of entirely plausible speculation about Living Memory.

For some reason, there’s a gap of three months after January’s Picard: The Dark Veil by James Swallow, but we’re going back to monthly releases from May onward, and you can read more about them at the link.

eSPEC EXCERPTS – ARACHNE’S EXILE

Here’s a brief excerpt from ARACHNE’S EXILE, from the eSpec blog! The book is available to NetGalley subscribers for the remainder of February.

eSpec Books

This week’s excerpt is from Christopher L. Bennett’s Arachne’s Exile, the sequel to Arachne’s Crime.


Arachne's Exile 6 x 9

Chapter One

Stephen Jacobs-Wong had spent most of the journey from Shilirrlal on autopilot, putting up the front of leadership and charisma that came effortlessly, but not really letting anything outside his ship and crew engage him even as the wonders of the galaxy passed them by. His thoughts were still preoccupied by the series of tragedies for which he blamed himself—and by the schism between himself and Cecilia LoCarno, Arachne’s captain and his dearest friend, over their responsibility for making amends. With the onset of the migration, Stephen and Sita had finally begun to reconnect and heal each other’s grief at the loss of their baby, easing the burdens on his spirit. Yet that effort had required keeping his focus inward.

But in time, the sky became too beautiful to ignore. The…

View original post 1,157 more words

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Announcing STAR TREK: LIVING MEMORY

February 9, 2021 4 comments

Simon & Schuster has now posted the title and blurb for my new Star Trek novel, and the data has started to go out to the major book vendors, though some of the links only have tentative listings so far. So here it is:

Star Trek: The Original Series — Living Memory

An all-new Star Trek movie-era adventure!

While attempting to settle in as commandant of Starfleet Academy, Admiral James T. Kirk must suddenly contend with the controversial, turbulent integration of an alien warrior caste into the student body—and quickly becomes embroiled in conflict when the Academy controversy escalates to murder. Meanwhile, Captain Spock of the USS Enterprise and Commander Pavel Chekov of the USS Reliant are investigating a series of powerful cosmic storms seemingly targeting Federation worlds—unstoppable outbursts emitting from the very fabric of space. Endeavoring to predict where the lethal storms will strike next, Spock and Chekov make the shocking discovery that the answer lies in Commander Nyota Uhura’s past—one that she no longer remembers….

™, ®, & © 2021 CBS Studios, Inc. STAR TREK and related marks and logos are trademarks of CBS Studios, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Preorder links are here:

As you can tell, this is another installment in my post-Star Trek: The Motion Picture novel continuity, which was revived last year with The Higher Frontier (and which at this point has become more of a pre-Wrath of Khan continuity). Living Memory takes place during the gap between The Higher Frontier and Part Two of Mere Anarchy: The Darkness Drops Again.

Living Memory is scheduled for release on June 15, 2021, just over four months away. I’m surprised it took this long to announce it, but that means you guys don’t have to anticipate it for too long. And it probably means it won’t be too long before there’s a cover reveal. Stay tuned!

I have a new(ish) printer!

February 5, 2021 3 comments

My old printer has been acting up for a while. Something was wrong with the paper feeder that made it feed jerkily so that there were gaps and overlaps in the printout, and that made the printer act as though there were a paper jam when there wasn’t, so that I couldn’t get past the paper jam warning on the printer’s own screen to work the controls. No matter, then; I had software on my computer that let me control the scanner function and keep using it for that purpose, at least. But it turns out that software was dependent on Adobe Flash, so it stopped working at the start of this year. No matter, then; at least I could still control the printer from Word or Acrobat or whatever. Except that when I tried that, it wouldn’t print at all!

If not for the pandemic, I might’ve tried taking the printer in for repairs before replacing it, but I figured it probably wouldn’t cost much more to get a new one. So I went looking online. I hit a snag when I realized that all the modern printers from the makers of my old one require a software app that isn’t compatible with my old refurbished Windows 7 laptop. So I had to look into other brands, and I found an older model that was compatible and not too expensive. I actually thought I’d be able to get it for under 40 bucks from a local store, but then I noticed it didn’t have a “Buy” button, just a “Notify me when it’s available” button. So I ended up getting it through an Amazon vendor for 100-plus. Not great, but at least I’m in a position to afford it now.

So the printer came yesterday, but I didn’t feel like going to the trouble of installing it until today. I almost hit another snag, since I keep my printer up on top of my computer hutch and I wasn’t sure the supplied cords would reach. The power cord turned out to be just long enough, but the USB cord (since it’s not wireless, being old and cheap) was way too short. Luckily, I still have an old USB hub/extension cord thingy that I replaced years ago with a faster one. It seems to work just fine despite the slower data rate. The printer doesn’t seem to work that fast, but I think that’s more of a hardware issue. It’s not like I use my printer much, so it doesn’t need to be great, just functional.

So now I finally have a working printer/scanner again, which is good. The reason I decided I needed to act now was that tax time is coming up and I wanted to be able to scan and upload my tax forms. I should be able to do that now. Although I’ll have to remember that the scanner plate has the reverse orientation from my previous one — the top of the document goes on the left side now. Also the control buttons are on the top instead of the front, which isn’t great for a printer I keep up high.

Also, I think the printer control software slows down my browser after I use it, heaven knows why, but closing and restarting the browser clears it up. Another thing to remember. The software itself is a bit annoying, putting up this whole weird control panel on my screen that it was hard to figure out how to turn off, but at the same time, the controls seem more easily accessible and intuitive than the previous printer’s control software.

Aside from these minor snags, the installation went pretty smoothly. Yet I’m having a weird reaction. Part of the reason I waited a day to install it was because I was worried that it might be difficult and frustrating. I deal poorly with tech going wrong, or just in general with new problems I can’t figure out. I tend to get really flustered by such things. Yet even though the installation went fairly smoothly, with nothing going wrong aside from a couple of setbacks I quickly solved, I find myself feeling emotionally drained and edgy, much as I’d feel if it had been hard and frustrating. I didn’t feel upset or agitated while I was installing the printer, but I’m kind of feeling the aftereffects as if I had. It’s as if my brain and hormones reacted to what I feared would happen instead of what actually happened. Weird.

Meanwhile, as long as I was getting stuff from Amazon, I finally got around to buying a new toilet flapper valve to deal with the “ghost flush” problem I talked about back in August, i.e. the slow leakage through the deteriorating flapper that caused the tank to slowly drain and spontaneously refill every few hours. That problem has come and gone over the past few months, but it’s been fairly steady lately, so I was glad for the chance to fix it at last. I was surprised by how decayed the old flapper had gotten; when I drained the tank and pulled it out, the crumbly rubber stuck to my fingers like I was holding a moist brownie, and there were cloudy wisps of black particulates dislodged into the surrounding water when I moved it. So definitely way, way overdue for replacement. The new one fit perfectly and seems to be working fine now, although it didn’t quite close at one point last night and I realized I’d hooked up the chain a bit too loosely so that it got caught underneath the valve. I realized that was why the previous chain was attached over the top of the lever instead of the bottom, so I adjusted it accordingly.

So bit by bit, things in my household are getting long-overdue fixes. There are still some other fixes needed, like a new desktop keyboard and car repairs. But those can wait until more money comes in over the year ahead.

Categories: Uncategorized Tags:

ARACHNE’S EXILE on NetGalley

February 3, 2021 1 comment

A quick heads-up for reviewers, librarians, and book vendors: Arachne’s Exile is available for review on NetGalley through the month of February 2021.

https://www.netgalley.com/catalog/book/215070

Arachne's Exile cover

I appreciate any efforts to get the word out about this novel and Arachne’s Crime. Professional reviews are welcome, as are reader reviews on Amazon, Goodreads, etc.

The DTI comes to STAR TREK ADVENTURES in “Another Roll of the Dice”!

February 2, 2021 1 comment

I finally have a new Star Trek Adventures standalone RPG campaign to announce, and it’s a fun one.

Star Trek Adventures: Another Roll of the Dice

Experience time travel and engage Tzenkethi raiders!

“Captain’s Log: We have been ordered to suspend our routine patrol of the Tzenkethi border and proceed to the nearby Federation colony Natsumi’s World, where we will take aboard two agents of the Federation Department of Temporal Investigations. As usual, the DTI has provided no details, stating merely that we are to place ourselves at the disposal of the agents and follow their instructions. Thus, I have no idea whether to prepare my crew to face some unimaginable existential threat or, far more likely with the DTI, days of tedious routine and bureaucratic obstruction.”

When the player characters receive an assignment from the DTI to deliver a powerful alien artifact to DTI facilities, they are soon set upon by Tzenkethi raiders. The ensuing skirmish destabilizes the artifact’s energy field, and the characters discover that they have somehow changed into alternate timeline versions of themselves! Can the characters deal with the sudden changes in themselves and the rest of the crew, and also figure out how to get back to their own time, all the while battling the Tzenkethi?

This standalone 20-page PDF adventure by Christopher L. Bennett is for the Star Trek Adventures Roleplaying Game and is set during The Next Generation era. This adventure also contains advice for adaptation for use in campaigns based in other Star Trek eras. Download includes a regular version and a printer-friendly version.

Yes, it’s the triumphant return of Agents Lucsly & Dulmur! And it’s consistent with my DTI novels and novellas, while still standing alone as a game scenario.

Normally I’d talk more about the story and my creative process behind it, but I’ve already done that for the STA blog, in a piece that also went live today. You can read it here:

https://www.modiphius.net/blogs/news/sta-blog-another-roll-of-the-dice

Another Roll of the Dice is available as a downloadable PDF at the following links:

And this won’t be my last STA standalone. Another new one is currently wending its way through approvals, and I’ve just gotten started on writing a third. And I’ve begun talking with my editor Jim about something new and different on the horizon.

Arachne’s Crimes… of the Hub? Only on Patreon!

This month’s Fiction post on Patreon is a little unusual. It’s an excerpt from an early draft of the novel that became Arachne’s Crime and Arachne’s Exile, from a time when I was piling on too many characters and species that led me too deep into the weeds, requiring me to regroup and streamline the latter half of the story. One of those characters was the prototype for Tsshar, the adorably larcenous Mrwadj captain from Crimes of the Hub. She was meant to be comic relief, so after I cut her out of Arachne, she slotted neatly into the comedic Hub universe with minimal changes required. Now you can see my original version of the character, and get a few extra glimpses of Arachne worldbuilding that I ended up not having room for in the duology. Maybe not the best of both the Arachne-Troubleshooter and Hub universes, but a unique convergence of the two.

Fiction: Deleted scene: Arachne Meets the Hub?

Accompanying it on the Behind the Scenes tier is a second excerpt from my “Life in the Galaxy” worldbuilding notes, focusing on ancient galactic history and the evolution of the galactic institutions and social structures that exist by the time of Arachne’s Exile.

Worldbuilding notes: Life in the Galaxy (Part 2)

As always, the Fiction tier is available to Patreon subscribers at $10/month, and Behind the Scenes is $12/month.

Crimes of the Hub cover
It only just occurred to me that both these works ended up with “Crime” in the title.

Battery better-y?

January 26, 2021 2 comments

The latest on my car battery situation: Someone on Facebook suggested that the culprit draining the battery might be a power adapter in the lighter, if it had an LED. I have, in fact, been keeping just such a thing plugged in, so after the last time my battery ran down (this time so completely that I even had to unlock the door manually), I took out the adapter, and after I jump-started the car with my portable power pack, I went for an extra-long drive to recharge the battery as fully as I could, even going a few miles out and back on the freeway. I figured that if driving around recharges the battery, and if my short local drives weren’t enough to give it a lasting charge, maybe a longer, faster drive would do better.

A couple of days later, I was down in the parking lot to take out the trash, so I tried starting the car, and it worked. But the real test was today, when I went to pick up groceries. Luckily, for the first time in a month or more, I was able to start the car on the first try, with no jump needed. I’m not sure if that’s because of the adapter being removed, the long drive I took, or the fact that it’s only been a week since then. But it’s a relief.

Still, I’m going to need some car maintenance before long, since my wiper blades are turning into spaghetti. I suppose I could try buying new blades online and installing them myself, but I’ve never done that and I don’t know how easy it would be.

In other news, I’ve now been paid for that novel manuscript I recently finished and still can’t talk about, and I’ve finally paid off the remainder of that rather large tax debt I’d been paying in installments. The interest on that payment plan was pretty steep, so I’m glad to be free of it at last. I’m still waiting for the go-ahead for the next book, and I’ve just turned in copyedits for my next Star Trek book which also hasn’t been announced yet. So now I’m sort of taking advantage of downtime between projects, while thinking about what to do next.

Last week, due to bad weather and finally having some money to spare, I got my groceries delivered instead of picking them up, which didn’t turn out great. I had them delivered on the same day I ordered, which means I wasn’t given the chance to approve their substitutions for missing items. There was a weird substitution this time — instead of substituting my usual frozen orange juice concentrate with another variety of orange juice, they substituted some single-serve scrambled-egg cups, with ingredients that you’re supposed to mix into the cup with one egg and then microwave. I don’t have eggs; I don’t much like them. So I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with the things. Luckily, it turned out that the distinct ingredients (e.g. diced ham, bacon bits, diced peppers, onions, and potatoes, and grated cheddar) were in individual pouches, so I’ve been using them in various other recipes. I had the ham with peas and grated parmesan atop fettucine, approximating something my father used to make, and it was pretty good. I didn’t expect to like the bacon bits, but I had them in a single-serve bowl of microwave macaroni and cheese along with diced tomato, and it was pretty good. I had the pepper-onion-potato mixture and more diced tomatoes with vegetarian Italian sausage and olive oil on top of rice, which didn’t turn out as well as I’d hoped. And I’ve had the grated cheese as part of my standard “chili” dog recipe with refried beans, cheese, chopped onions, and Dijon mustard on turkey dogs, as well as on top of a bowl of beef ramen soup with veggie crumble and mixed vegetables. So I found a use for all of the ingredients after all. Although I had to go a week without orange juice.

Ah, yes, that beef ramen. A few months back, they substituted a 6-pack of beef ramen packets in place of the chicken ramen I wanted, even though I asked them not to. I finally used up the last of it this week and tried ordering the chicken again — and once again, they substituted a 6-pack of the beef kind. Ugh. Just when I thought I was out. Well, I suppose I could just throw out the beef flavor packet and mix in some diced chicken and my own seasonings, and that would be fairly close. I keep meaning to try that, but I have kind of a mental block against throwing out food unnecessarily, even something as cheap as a ramen flavor packet.

I’ve said this before, but I’ll be glad when I feel safe to go into the grocery store again. Luckily, with the new administration and Congress in place, it finally looks like we’re getting onto the right track to get the pandemic under control. But it will still be months before things can begin getting back to normal.

Categories: My Fiction Tags: , ,

Arachne annotations update

I’ve now got all my author copies of Arachne’s Crime, Arachne’s Exile, and The Arachne Omnibus containing both of them plus the print debut of “Comfort Zones” and reprints of “The Weight of Silence” and “Among the Wild Cybers of Cybele.” Since it was the print debut of “Comfort Zones,” I realized I should add the story’s annotations (previously posted on my Patreon) to my Arachne Saga page here, with page numbers for the omnibus version. While I was at it, I added parenthetical page numbers for the omnibus to my annotations for Crime and Exile. All the annotations can be accessed from the main page here:

https://christopherlbennett.wordpress.com/the-arachne-saga/

Starting anew

Well, here we are at the start of 2021, which will hopefully be the year we climb out of the hole we collectively sank into in 2020. So far the climb is definitely happening for me. I have money in the bank again, and I have more on the way. I turned in that new novel manuscript on schedule, after doing a few revision passes and incorporating some very useful notes from my consultant, and I was notified this morning that the payment is being processed and should be in my bank by next week, which is nicely prompt. And I’m making excellent progress at outlining what comes next. (Still waiting for it to be formally announced so I can say more.) I’m really feeling upbeat this past week or so, happier than I’ve felt in probably the past few years. That’s both from the financial relief I’m getting from this project and the creative satisfaction and fun of writing it.

Oh, and I got a call today from my eSpec Books editor Danielle McPhail, telling me that my author copies of Arachne’s Exile and The Arachne Omnibus are on the way, including a copy of the hardcover edition of the omnibus. That should be cool to have, a nice companion piece for the Only Superhuman hardcover on my shelf. I find it ironic that this duology that I initially wrote as a single book and then decided would work better as two books has ended up being available as a single volume after all. Anyway, Amazon has been showing the omnibus as one of the most popular books on my author page, though its sales rank listings don’t seem to agree. I wonder if popularity is calculated based on views rather than sales. (Also, for some reason Amazon isn’t showing my books on my author page at the moment.)

I got the aforementioned call while I was in the middle of trying once again to jump-start my car to go pick up groceries (which is why I was a little curt on the phone, Danielle, sorry). Yes, even though I drove around for half an hour 12 days ago to charge up the battery, it was drained once again. (The post title has a double meaning, see? See?) I didn’t think it had been that long; I’d been planning to go to the grocery store sooner this time now that I had a bit more money. But between my reluctance to drive in chilly weather (which makes my car sluggish for the first few minutes it’s running) and my preoccupation with finishing the manuscript, I let a whole two weeks go by between grocery trips and the battery ran dry again. At this point, I’m starting to wonder if it’s really just the car’s lack of use, or if there’s some glitch in the electrical system draining the battery.

The portable jump-starter power pack was acting weirdly again too; the power lights wouldn’t go on. Yet nonetheless, it successfully started the car. I don’t know what happened there, but I’m glad it worked after all. Still, I’m getting tired of having to jump the car every time I drive it. Maybe I need to take a longer drive soon, to charge the battery more fully. Or maybe I need a better battery. (What I really need is a better car, but my finances haven’t improved that much.)

One good, minor bit of car news, though, is that for once I remembered to write down my end-of-year mileage for tax purposes. Usually I forget until March and have to reconstruct my travels in the interim to estimate how much to subtract from my current mileage. This time I finally have an exact figure.

Anyway, for a moment it looked like I wasn’t getting the usual text from the grocery store asking me to approve their product substitutions, and I hoped I’d finally get everything I ordered, including the vegetarian Italian sausages I really love and haven’t been able to find since the pandemic started. But it turned out the text just came a bit late, and they did substitute a couple of items, including those. So I do have veggie Italian sausages, but a different brand, and just basic Italian instead of the really good sun-dried tomato and basil flavor. Hopefully they’ll be a reasonable substitute — or at least better than the veggie kielbasa I got as a substitute last time I tried buying those sausages (which was, wow, all the way back in May).

Oh, and I also made a second try at buying a frozen pizza, a Mediterranean veggie variety. Last time I tried ordering it, they put a spinach and mushroom pizza in with my order even though the receipt showed it was the Mediterranean one, and I don’t like mushrooms (though these were tolerable). This time, I finally got the right pizza, so that’s something. But ironically, they made the exact same mistake with my veggie burgers, substituting the wrong flavor even though the receipt shows the right one! (The online page also says that the cheese singles I ordered were out of stock and substituted with… the exact same cheese singles. Huh??)

I’ll close with a reminder — if you read either of the Arachne novels or the duology, please post reviews or at least ratings on Amazon, Goodreads, or wherever. The more reviews the books get, the more awareness there will be for them.

The whole ARACHNE saga now on sale!

January 1, 2021 1 comment

Well, at first I expected Arachne’s Exile to come out at least several months after Arachne’s Crime, and then I thought they’d be out simultaneously. As it worked out, they were released exactly a month apart. Not only did Arachne’s Exile go on sale today, but so did The Arachne Omnibus, a deluxe hardcover volume (also available in trade paperback and e-book) containing both novels, plus the Kickstarter/Patreon prequel story “Comfort Zones” (in print for the first time) and the connected follow-up stories “The Weight of Silence” and “Among the Wild Cybers of Cybele.” It even includes my alien height chart, which you can also see on my Aliens of the Arachne-Troubleshooter Universe page.

Here are the ordering links I have so far:

Arachne’s Crime

Available from:

Arachne’s Exile

Available from:

The Arachne Omnibus

Available from:

I’ve also gone live with the Arachne’s Exile annotations: https://christopherlbennett.wordpress.com/the-arachne-saga/arachnes-exile-annotations/

While I was at it, I also added some cover art notes to the Arachne’s Crime annotations, since I forgot to do that before.

So there we are. The entire Arachne saga is now available for purchase, either in two paperback volumes or in one hefty single volume available in hardcover (though Exile and the omnibus are not back from the printers yet). After all these years, more than 22 years since the original story came out and more than 11 years since I first started expanding it to novel length, the entire thing is finally out.

Although the saga of Arachne‘s crew may not be over yet…