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 1 comment

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…

COVER REVEAL – THE ARACHNE SERIES

January 1, 2021 1 comment

An auspicious start to the new year — cover reveals for both ARACHNE’S EXILE and THE ARACHNE OMNIBUS, a deluxe volume collecting both novels along with the stories “Comfort Zones” (for the first time in print), “The Weight of Silence,” and “Among the Wild Cybers of Cybele.”

eSpec Books

This is exciting. Two books in as many days, and they are both related, so we are featuring both of them in this post. We hope you enjoy the forthcoming releases by Christopher L. Bennett, Arachne’s Exile, and The Arachne Omnibus, which includes not only both books in The Arachne duology, but also the three existing short stories in that timeline and a special rendition of the author’s height chart for the aliens featured in the books.


Arachne's Exile 6 x 9

What a Tangled Web…

When the colony starship Arachne unwittingly destroyed a deep-space habitat of the Chirrn, her crew committed themselves to a lifetime of penance to repay their debt. But a brutal act of vengeance has now forced them into exile in a distant part of the galaxy.

Drawn into a cosmic conspiracy spanning millennia, the colonists learn that the Chirrn’s ancient choices have exacted a terrible toll on human…

View original post 469 more words

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“Safe Hex” on Patreon

Since I’ve been extra-busy this month writing my new novel, my Patreon Fiction entry this month is a very short story — no annotations, sorry. If my memory is reliable, then “Safe Hex” is technically the first story I ever had published, in a newsletter of the University of Cincinnati Honors Society, of which I was sort of an honorary member back in the late ’80s and early ’90s (i.e. I had friends there and they let me hang out in their lounge). Although that was an earlier draft of the story, less imaginatively entitled “Be Careful What You Wish For.” This version was written in 1996-7 and never sold; apparently I gave up after the first rejection, not having a lot of faith in the story. But I’ve always somewhat liked the idea, and it sort of works as a companion piece to last month’s “Vein Glory,” for reasons that will become clear. I did a bit of revision and updating for this edition.

As always, the story is available to subscribers of the Fiction tier at $10/month:

Fiction: “Safe Hex”

An automotive addendum

December 23, 2020 1 comment

Since it was fairly warm this afternoon (which meant I didn’t have to worry about my car being sluggish to start due to cold lubricants or whatever), I took that drive I mentioned above, to recharge my car battery and test the GPS on my new phone. Turns out the battery ran dry again even in just the two days since my grocery trip, so said trip was nowhere near long enough to charge the battery. And for a few moments, I was worried that my jump-starter battery pack wasn’t working. The cable bit that plugs into it is supposed to go from flashing red and green to solid green to let you know it’s working, and it wouldn’t go green. It eventually did, though, when I happened to tilt it 90 degrees from the way it naturally rests, though I don’t know if that was cause and effect or coincidence, since it stayed engaged when I tilted it back. Anyway, I started the car and moved on to the next thing.

The USB adapter worked fine, letting me plug in my 6-foot charging cable, and the GPS worked smoothly too. But I’m out of practice at looking down at the screen as the phone rests in the cup holder, or else the angle was less amenable with the new phone somehow, even though it’s a bigger and brighter screen. I’ve never felt particularly safe doing that anyway. What I really need now is some kind of phone mount for my dashboard or dashtop or whatever you call that flattish surface under the windshield. The cable is easily long enough to reach even from the outlet in the back seat (the lighter in the front doesn’t work as a power outlet, I guess because the designers figured only passengers would need one, since the car predates smartphones).

Not that I expect to need it anytime soon, as I said above. I thought about maybe going to some store or other, maybe pick up some food at a drive-thru, but I decided I’d rather not deal with exchanging cash with anyone, and I only have a few bucks in my wallet anyway. I ended up just driving around the neighborhood, including some areas I haven’t been to in years if at all, just so I could experience the change of scenery. I was willing to risk getting a little lost since I had a working GPS again. But I didn’t need it. I still have a fairly good sense of the layout of the area and knew which way I needed to go.

Although the same can’t be said for everyone. As I was coming up along the one-way street leading to my home street, another car was approaching me the wrong way in the same lane! But they were on the other side of an intersection and they turned off before they and I got too close — also going the wrong way into a one-way turn lane. I hope they got back on the right side of the 2-way street they turned onto after that. At least, I didn’t hear any evidence to the contrary.

Given how effective my little pocket-sized jump-starter pack is, I wonder why car batteries need to be so big and heavy anyway. I guess a car battery is meant to hold a greater amount of charge, though, since it’s used for more than just starting the ignition. Isn’t it? Also, the pack always needs at least two tries to start the car. I guess you want a larger charge in the battery to make it more reliable — providing you use the car often enough for the darn thing to hold onto its charge.

I didn’t really think I was using the car that much less frequently than I did before the pandemic. Maybe about half as often, at a guess. But I suppose the distance I drive is much less, just to the neighborhood grocery store and back, which is only about a mile every couple of weeks. That was still my most common destination before, but it wasn’t the only place I drove to.

Categories: Uncategorized Tags: , ,

Taking stock as life settles down a bit

I think I’m in a pretty good place right now, relative to how things have been for the past few years and especially this year. I just finished that novel manuscript I’ve been working on, more than a week ahead of schedule, so I have time to tweak it and send it to a friend for consultation on his area of expertise. The writing on this one went really smoothly. I really struggled with the Star Trek novel I was working on before then, since I was dealing with depression and anxiety from being broke and isolated, and I had a really hard time overcoming writer’s block. But I guess I was feeling better with this new project, more optimistic, plus I was able to keep up the momentum I finally gained in the last week or so of the Trek novel, and maintained good writing habits so I didn’t lose it, managing to write at least something every single day.

Although I suspect maybe coffee was a factor. During my long period of depression this year, I started to suspect that coffee was giving me anxiety attacks, so I mostly avoided it unless I was really sleepy, and just had tea. But I eventually figured out that coffee was, at worst, amplifying the anxiety I was feeling for other reasons. I resumed having a cup every morning toward the end of my Trek novel to give me an extra boost, and I kept it up throughout this new novel, and I wonder if that made the difference. I remember that I had a similar amazing burst of productivity about five and a half years ago, not long after I first started drinking coffee (see Coming up for air). But it didn’t persist later on, so I started to question if there was any correlation with coffee. Maybe it’s a function of starting to drink coffee regularly after being off it for a while. I gather the body become desensitized to caffeine over time.

Anyway, it also helped that I was really enthusiastic about this new project, which was enormous fun to write. And it helped that it had a big, long, busy climactic sequence; things like that really give me a lot of momentum, as opposed to a more fragmented plot structure with lots of different threads of action happening separately. (Something to keep in mind in the future.) So I wrote a really huge amount, nearly 15,500 words (more than 20% of the total) in the final four days. When I managed to produce more than 4500 words on Thursday, I felt exuberant. But by Sunday, I was more like, “Help! How do I stop myself? My arms are so tired!”

But now I’m done with my first revision pass and have a week left to deadline, plus I’m waiting for my consultant’s comments, so I have time to relax a little and take stock before moving onto the next thing. It’s not easy to get back into that mode, though, after these past few months of having to write as fast as I could to finish two consecutive novels in time to avoid going broke. To paraphrase Doctor Who: “Robot,” I’ve been cultivating a sense of urgency for quite a while now, and it’s weird to think that I can finally relax, at least for a little while.

But it helps that some aspects of my life are starting to stabilize a bit. I have money in the bank again from the Trek manuscript, and once I get the payment for the just-finished novel (which I think will be announced quite soon so I can finally be more specific), I’ll be even better off. I was finally able to buy some stuff that I’ve needed for a while. For one thing, I bought some adaptors so that my Micro-USB charging cables will be compatible with my new phone’s USB-C connector. Which means I can finally use GPS in my car again (not that I’ve needed to anytime this year), and I expect Google Maps to work much more smoothly on the new phone than on the old one, which evidently didn’t have enough RAM for it or wasn’t up-to-date enough and kept crashing on Maps these past couple of years. Indeed, since the new phone came with its own charging cable, that means I can keep my 6-foot cable in the car permanently for keeping the phone charged on long drives — although I still don’t expect to be taking any until at least late next year, given how long it will probably take to get the pandemic under control.

Still, I’m thinking I should try it out with a test drive soon, probably today. I’ve needed to use my battery pack to jumpstart the car the past two times I’ve gone for groceries, which tells me I need to take it for a longer drive to build up a fuller charge. I gather it’s best to drive for at least half an hour every month or so to keep it charged — though I’m starting to suspect the problems with my car’s electrical system might be draining the battery, or maybe it’s just not a great battery, though at least it’s just draining and not dead.

My recent purchase also included a replacement for my old 2-quart water bottle that I kept in the fridge and also used for travel. I’ve been using an empty apple juice bottle as a substitute, but the narrower spout was less than ideal and I wasn’t confident about how safe or durable that plastic was for long-term reuse. It’s a relief to have a new bottle of exactly the same kind as the old, a nice feeling of restored normality.

I was also using an empty juice bottle to store iced tea in. I’d worked out a system where I’d fill the bottle with 3 pints of cold water, then steep two iced-tea bags (making 1 qt each) in a measuring cup with 1 1/2 cups of water, then add sweetener and lemon juice to the concentrated tea, fill the measuring cup with a further 1/2 cup of ice and cold water, let it cool a bit, and then use a funnel to pour it into the juice bottle. But again, I wasn’t confident about using those bottles long-term. So I bought a new pitcher that I thought I’d use for iced tea. But it was too small, with 2 quarts filling it nearly to the brim. But I quickly realized: my orange juice pitcher is larger, and one can of juice concentrate only makes around 1 1/2 quarts. So I’m now using the new pitcher for orange juice and the old pitcher for iced tea. Which is fine except that the new pitcher’s lid is much harder to turn in place or pull out. Still, it’s an improvement over the juice bottles.

So things feel a bit more normal now. I do still have some writing work I need to get to soon, but no firm deadlines on anything yet, so I should take advantage of the respite and give myself a chance to slow down and relax. I’ve been enjoying this burst of productivity and I’m afraid I’ll have trouble getting it back again once I let it lapse, but I can’t keep driving myself this hard indefinitely. Hopefully I can remember the good writing habits I’ve cultivated lately and have an easier time getting back into the groove later on. Being more financially stable and less desperate should help. But for now, I think I’ve earned a rest.

Arachne notes are now up!

I just did that major website update I promised yesterday. Here’s the main Arachne page:

The Arachne Saga

There, you’ll find ordering links, discussion, links to old blog posts about the writing process, as well as links to the annotations and worldbuilding notes for the novel. These include a new gallery page:

Aliens of the Arachne-Troubleshooter Universe

This page contains concept sketches and notes for all the alien species that appear in Arachne’s Crime and Arachne’s Exile, as well as the two species featured in my ATU story “Twilight’s Captives.” I figured I should have a central ATU-aliens page that I could expand on in the future. I initially planned to hold off on revealing the Exile species until the book came out (though I already previewed them for my Patreon subscribers several months ago), but I figured it might be out in a few weeks anyway, and revealing the aliens’ appearance doesn’t really give away any major plot spoilers. If anything, hopefully it will spark curiosity about these species and their roles in the novel.

As a teaser, here’s the height comparison chart I whipped up from my pencil sketches and a free downloadable height-chart template I found online, doing some quick-and-dirty coloring or tinting on the black-and-white sketches:

Arachne Saga alien height chart
Height chart for species from ARACHNE’S CRIME (top) and ARACHNE’S EXILE (bottom). Green Blaze (1.67 m) included for scale.

As you can see, it’s a diverse galaxy out there, and humans are fairly small in the grand scheme of things, in more ways than one. Also, aliens usually face left for some reason.

I also did an update to my main Original Fiction index page, streamlining its layout so that it’s mainly just links to the more detailed book and series pages, and organizing it into distinct sections for the ATU, the Hub Universe, and miscellaneous short fiction. I’ve been meaning to do that for quite some time, but I needed to wait until I had at least one Arachne novel cover.

This is a good day

December 14, 2020 5 comments

Look what the UPS guy just dropped off!

(That’s my phone screen reflected in the cover, so technically this is one of those infinity images…)

Yes, I finally have my author copies of Arachne’s Crime! Now I can confirm the page numbers on my annotations, so expect a major website update very soon.

Also today, I finally got my manuscript delivery advance for my next Star Trek novel, which hopefully will be announced before much longer. Once again, I managed to get an advance just in the nick of time before I ran out of money to pay my bills. And this really should be the last time I get that close to the brink, because I’m already working on that other big project I’ve been hinting at, which should be announced later this month. That project, along with my other various, increasingly diverse sources of writing income, should bring me enough over the next year to pay off my debts at last. Beyond that, my long-term goal will be to keep earning enough to accumulate some real savings for the future, and I hope I can continue to gain Patreon subscribers and novel buyers to help me out with that. But I can finally be confident that I’ve broken the cycle of climbing a little way up from the brink and then sliding back again.

Also today, I got a book sent to me as a gift from my cousin, a Harley Quinn graphic novel by Mariko Tamaki, who’s new to me but whom I’ve heard good things about. I’m glad my cousin texted me to remind me, since I was distracted by the whole Arachne thing, and by trying to get my selfie to work. (My new phone is very hard to keep a grip on when it’s out of its makeshift case. Why do they make these things so slippery? Probably to make more money selling phone cases.)

And of course, today is the day the Electoral College makes it official, and the day people start receiving the first COVID vaccines. So it feels like today — Monday, December 14, 2020 — is the official beginning of the end of the bad times, although climbing back up will still take time and work, both for me and for the country.

Arachne-Troubleshooter Universe chronology

Inspired by a similar thread my friend Keith R.A. DeCandido did recently, I figured that with Arachne’s Crime now on sale and Arachne’s Exile about to be released, this would be a good time to make a list of all the stories in what I’m now calling the Arachne-Troubleshooter Universe (since pretty much every story in it connects at least peripherally to either the Troubleshooter series or the Arachne duology) in their narrative chronological order. So here we go, using the era designations from the Historical Overview in Among the Wild Cybers:

Strider Era

November 2083: “The Stuff that Dreams Are Made Of” (Footprints in the Stars): Origin of the Troubleshooter Corps

March 2085 – October 2091: Only Superhuman Ch. 3, scenes 1-5: Early childhood of Emerald Blair

February 2092: “Murder on the Cislunar Railroad” (Among the Wild Cybers): Key incident in cyber rights

August 2098: Only Superhuman Ch. 3, final scene: Formative tragedy of Emerald Blair

April 2100 – January 2106: Only Superhuman Ch. 6, 10 & 14: Maturation of Emerald Blair

November 2106: “Aspiring to Be Angels” (AtWC): Emerald becomes the Green Blaze

May 2107: “They Also Serve” (Patreon exclusive): Vignette adjacent to Only Superhuman Ch. 1

May – December 2107: Only Superhuman main body: Green Blaze faces the Vanguard crisis

June 2108: “Conventional Powers” (Analog): Green Blaze at Ceres Mod-Con

c. 2112-15: Arachne’s Crime Ch. 1, scene 1 flashbacks: Childhood of Stephen Jacobs-Wong

Early Interstellar Era

2142: “Comfort Zones” (Kickstarter/Patreon exclusive): First meeting of Stephen Jacobs-Wong and Cecilia LoCarno

mid-2140s: Arachne’s Crime subsequent Ch. 1 & 5 flashbacks: Development of Arachne expedition

April – May 2176: Arachne’s Crime Part 1 [replacing “Aggravated Vehicular Genocide” (AtWC)]: Arachne destroys Chirrn habitat Lesshchi en route to colonize Cybele; crew put on trial by Chirrn

September – November 2176: Arachne’s Crime Part 2: Arachne crew deals with aftermath of trial

November 2176: Arachne’s Exile: Arachne crew introduced to larger galactic society

2202: “The Weight of Silence” (AtWC): Early FTL research in Sol system

November 2250: “Among the Wild Cybers of Cybele” (AtWC): Cybele colonists face long-term consequences of Arachne‘s disappearance

Warp Era

2315: “Twilight’s Captives” (AtWC): Madeleine Kamakau negotiates conflict between Planetary Commonwealth and Nocturne League

c. 2480: “The Caress of a Butterfly’s Wing” (AtWC): Love story between two long-lost human refugees in a remote star system

For information on the books and stories, see my Original Fiction page.

eSPEC EXCERPTS – ARACHNE’S CRIME

ARACHNE’S CRIME is on NetGalley in December for reviewers, librarians, and book vendors: https://www.netgalley.com/catalog/book/210157

For a sample, here’s an excerpt of the opening scenes from the eSpec Books blog.

eSpec Books

I may have already posted this one…or one similar to this, when we were funding the book, but I am giving myself a do-over now that we have a cover for the book!

I give you an excerpt from Christopher L. Bennett’s Arachne’s Crime!


FB-McP-ArachnesCrimeOne

Stephen kept his eyes on the lights in the sky, even as he lay in the mud. The more they tried to beat him down, the more he took comfort in the heights humanity could reach.

“Look up there,” he told them once he’d grown strong enough to defend himself and win the chance to be heard. “Look at what we have the potential to achieve if we use our energies together instead of wasting them against each other.”

At first, Benjamin was his only audience, gazing up with him at the points of light that swept across the heavens. Stephen spoke to inspire…

View original post 1,751 more words

More book news: My X-Men novel is getting an audiobook!

While checking the online bookstores for their Arachne’s Crime listings, I stumbled upon another discovery. Dreamscape Media, which now holds the Marvel Comics audiobook license and reprinted GraphicAudio’s full-cast adaptation of Spider-Man: Drowned in Thunder a while back, will soon release a more conventional audiobook version of my 2006 novel X-Men: Watchers on the Walls, read by Frankie Corzo. It’s due January 26, 2021, and can be preordered here:

Order from Amazon

Order from Barnes & Noble

X-Men Watchers on the Walls

The audiobook cover isn’t out yet, so here’s the original cover art for now. Here’s the original book description, though I don’t know if Dreamscape will use the same text.

For years, many have believed that the rise of superpowered mutants represents a threat to the survival of ordinary humans. The uncanny X-Men have dedicated their lives to proving that peaceful coexistence is possible. When a refugee spacecraft crashes on Earth, hounded by a warship bent on its destruction, the X-Men race to the rescue — only to learn that it carries beings of an entirely different order whose very existence may jeopardize life as we know it.

Now, facing a direct threat to all life on Earth, the X-Men grapple with an impossible moral dilemma — to defend the aliens whose only crime is being born different . . . or to embrace the methods of those who have long condemned mutantkind, joining forces with their own greatest persecutors to go hunt down their common enemy and end the evolutionary menace, once and for all.

Anyway, the audiobook version has apparently had the title tweaked a little; if the listings are correct, it’s now The X-Men: Watchers on the Walls. So it’s more definite now, I guess. Whatever the title, I’m glad it’s finally getting an audio adaptation and a new lease on life. It only took 15 years!