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“Hubstitute Creatures” notes now up

Analog SF&F Nov/Dec 2018I finally got my author copies of the November/December Analog, so I was able to verify page numbers and post my annotations for “Hubstitute Creatures” at last, as well as belatedly putting up the non-spoiler discussion on the main Hub page. I held off on that because it mentioned a last-minute correction that I’d been assured had been made, but I wanted to make extra-sure it actually had been before I posted. Anyway, that’s all up now, plus I belatedly added the “…And He Built a Crooked Hub” annotations link to the top menu, which I’d neglected to do before (though the link was available from the main Hub page). So now you can find out how I chose Nashira Wing’s Cantonese name, Wing Wai-hing (惠慶), revealed in “Hubstitute Creatures” for the first time.

This issue also includes a review of my Among the Wild Cybers collection in its book review section, The Reference Library, and I’ve added a quote from that to the main page and the AtWC page.

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Radio interview upcoming!

I just got back from Cincinnati Public Radio, in the same studio that used to belong to WGUC-FM during the time my father worked there as an announcer and programmer, to record a brief interview for its sister station WVXU’s Around Cincinnati program. I spoke with one of the show’s presenters, Barbara Gray, about Among the Wild Cybers and Star Trek: The Original Series: The Captain’s Oath, and about my writing in general; plus I got to dust off my radio voice to do a brief reading from the anthology’s title story, “Among the Wild Cybers of Cybele.” The interview will air during the Sunday, November 18 edition of the program, which runs from 7-8 PM Eastern. Afterward, there will be an online edition that I’ll post a link to here.

In other news, I had a physical the day before, and it looks like I’m still basically healthy; indeed, my cholesterol levels, which have been slightly high in the past, have improved significantly since my last physical. Which surprises me, given that I’ve been exercising less and consuming more sugar this past month or so in the rush to get The Captain’s Oath finished. I wish I knew what caused the improvement. As for my new glasses, I’m still getting used to the new prescription. I think I may need to have them adjusted a bit to align right with my eyes. I was planning to do that yesterday after my physical, but the glasses place near my doctor’s office was closed for renovation, and it would’ve required driving well out of my way to get to the next-nearest one.

Meanwhile, I got my editor’s revisions of the Captain’s Oath manuscript on Sunday, and I’ve got until Monday to do whatever further revisions I want to do. After that, I’ve picked up a bit of paid copyediting work with an e-book publisher — not paying much, but it’s nice to have a little something extra. I started doing some work for them a few months back, but I only got a couple of manuscripts edited before I had to devote all my effort to Oath. Beyond that, I’m planning to work on various original-fiction projects I’ve had in mind for a while. It’ll be nice to be free to focus on those at last.

Emerging into the light

October 26, 2018 1 comment

Hey, folks. I’ve been neglecting the blog for a while since I’ve been busy trying to make my tight deadline on my novel. Good news — I just made it. And it was recently revealed what that novel is — Simon & Schuster and the major book-buying sites have posted listings for Star Trek: The Original Series: The Captain’s Oath by yours truly. There’s still an official announcement coming up sometime from StarTrek.com, so I don’t want to give any details until that happens. But at least the word is out — I’m doing Trek again.

As my readers know, I went through a period of severe financial hardship due to the delay in getting the Star Trek license renewed, in combination with delays in several other projects I had going, so that pretty much all my sources of income were postponed at the same time. My fans very generously helped me through the worst of it (and those who did have been thanked in the book’s acknowledgments), but the stress and depression resulting from the career slowdown made it difficult for me to get back to work. Since we were delayed so long and wanted to get back up and running as soon as possible, I was given a tight deadline, but it was still a struggle to get myself back into gear. I talked about my delays and my coping efforts somewhat in my September post. I think my use of coffee and sugar to stimulate my brain helped, or at least the placebo effect did, since I was able to hold my focus better after that and make some real progress. I think I wrote more than half the novel within the last 3-4 weeks. As usual, I managed to gain the most momentum once I got to the climax and denouement of the two main story arcs, and got more done on the last day of writing each arc than on the previous several days. So I got the first draft basically done 5 days before the deadline. However, I then needed to add some peripheral/stylistic stuff that took a fair amount of thinking, and I also realized I needed to add another scene to tie off a major character thread, so all that only gave me time to make one revision pass through the manuscript before turning it in. I’m sure there will be more tweaks to come once my editor sends me her revisions, but at least I made the deadline in spite of everything. This was a rough one, and I’m glad to be through it.

By contrast, it’s taken me only 3 days to write the first draft of my next commissioned story, including one day for preliminary work and two for actual writing. This is the story for the Footprints in the Stars anthology that I mentioned back in August. I’ve got until March to turn it in, but I’ve been eager to write it, so once I was finally done with the Trek novel, I dove right in. It came easily because it’s a story I’ve had in mind for years — actually it was originally going to be a flashback chapter in a novel — and it’s in a milieu that I know well and that comes easily to me. Also, it was only 5000 words. Seriously — that was my maximum target length, and the first draft came out at exactly 5000 words — well, including the bit up top with my contact information and “approx. 5000 words.” Although I’ve already made a tweak that cut it down about 40 words, and I’ve got 5 months to do more revision and refinement. But I’m glad it’s written at last, and so quickly. I guess I’ve still got some of my creative momentum going from the Trek novel. I should try to see how much else I can get written before that wears off.

Meanwhile, the November/December 2018 Analog with my story “Hubstitute Creatures,” the concluding tale of the second Hub trilogy, should be out this week, though Analog‘s home page has not yet been updated to reflect it. I’ve put up subscription and ordering links for it on this site’s home page.

Oh, and one other thing I’ve done now that my novel-writing seclusion is over and now that I’m not quite so broke anymore: I’m finally getting a new pair of glasses. My current pair is so old, with the scratch-resistant coating so worn out on the right lens (my only good eye), that it’s hard to get an entirely clear field of vision. And I’ve gotten a bit more nearsighted in the 4 years since my last pair, so I need a new prescription for distance vision. Yesterday I went to the glasses place with their own eye doctor, got my new prescription, and bought my new pair. It’s the place that used to promise they’d have your glasses done in about an hour, but my appointment lagged late enough that they’d be closing the lab before my glasses would be ready, so I still have to go back sometime today to pick them up. Which actually worked out better in a way, since I didn’t have to hang around at the mall for an hour trying to find something to do. Although it means I have to make that long drive twice in as many days.

Anyway, I’ll try to get back to posting a bit more regularly now that I’m not desperately striving to catch up with a tight novel deadline.

Yesterday was a good day

September 13, 2018 1 comment

I’ve been feeling pretty down for a while now, even though my fortunes have finally started to improve again. I may have some money in the bank at last and be slowly chipping away at my debts, but I’m also laboring under a tight writing deadline and struggling to make progress, and just generally having trouble shaking off the months of anxiety and depression from when things were at their roughest. But yesterday, several good, refreshing, or reassuring things happened — nothing really huge, but some welcome relief from the tension and concerns I’ve been having. By the end of the day, I felt more upbeat and relaxed than I’ve felt in quite a while.

For one thing, I’m finally getting some real momentum back on my current writing project, which I’ve been pretty far behind on (not an unusual occurrence for me, but still stressful). I’ve had several good, productive days in a row, and I’m into a part of the project where I have a clearer idea where I’m going and don’t have to figure it out on the fly, so it’s pretty satisfying to be making such progress. I’m still a little behind where I’d hoped to be, because this section is turning out to be pretty lengthy, but with luck I’ll finish no more than a day behind my desired schedule.

Tuesday night, I’d barely gotten anything done and was feeling very sleepy and useless (I made the mistake of having a peanut butter sandwich for dinner, and that tends to make me lethargic). I wanted to get something done that evening, but I didn’t want a full cup of coffee that late, so I had some hot chocolate with a little instant coffee. And it actually woke me up and got my brain working again, and I got a surprising amount of work done. And it got me thinking. A few years ago, when I first started drinking coffee, I had an amazing burst of productivity, but coffee hasn’t had the same effect later on. I realize now that the first kind of coffee I used was a mix that was half instant coffee and half powdered creamer/sugar — and at the time of that burst of productivity, I was having regular instant coffee mixed with milk and plenty of honey to mask the foul taste (since I hadn’t yet figured out the whole creamer business). So what if it was the sugar, more than the caffeine, that did the trick? Sugar is the energy source for the brain, after all. If so, that’s a dilemma, since upping my sugar intake to make my brain more active wouldn’t exactly help the rest of my body. I guess I’d need to find the right balance — and exercise more, which is something I need to do anyway.

So yesterday, in search of relatively healthy sweets, I went to the local natural foods store and bought some organic cookies. I also found that they finally had one of my favorite foods that I’d run out of too long ago — pumpkin butter, which is like apple butter but made from pumpkin, and is really yummy. It’s seasonal, so they only have it for part of the year, plus I rarely went to that store while I was broke, and thus my stockpile of pumpkin butter ran out quite a while ago. The variety they had in stock wasn’t my preferred one of the two they tend to carry, but still, I’m happy to have pumpkin butter again. Not only is it just plain good, but it helps me feel like my life is starting to get back to normal after the long period when I was flat broke.

Oh, speaking of buying things and economizing — last week after I went to the movie theater, I went to the Kroger superstore across the street from it to get a few things, and I decided on a whim to check out the superstore’s modest-sized clothing section at the far end, since I’ve been in need of some new clothes. Serendipitously, there was a clearance sale on, and I found several pairs of jeans in my size marked down nearly 80 percent, so I bought one. That evening, after I confirmed that the jeans fit, I realized that I should’ve bought more than one, given how cheap they were. So I went back the next morning and got two more pairs of jeans, plus two polo shirts at the same discount. I’m not crazy about the color of one of the shirts, but hey, I got some $200 worth of clothes (by list price, plus tax) for under $45, which is amazing.

Plus, I finally bought a new laptop battery a week or two back, which makes me feel more free to walk over to campus with my laptop and do some writing there. The change of scenery often helps me focus, and it’s something I haven’t done in a while. I think part of the reason I’ve been creatively blocked in recent months is because my lack of funds has kept me from going out much, and the repetitive setting of my apartment has left my mind unstimulated. I did take my laptop over to campus this past Saturday when my apartment building had a power failure — its second in just a few days, what with the storms we’ve been having (though the second outage was on a day of milder rain, so maybe it was a delayed reaction to the first storm) — and got a little writing done then, but it wasn’t a pleasant walk since I wasn’t really feeling up to it, and since the weather wasn’t great. But the walk I went on yesterday afternoon was much more enjoyable, both a partial cause and effect of the generally better mood I’m in now. I managed to figure out the next scene I wanted to write, and I wrote it out promptly after getting home. (Though I realized this morning that I wrote myself into a bit of a corner regarding one plot point, and I haven’t yet figured out how to fix it.)

One other thing — this past week I’ve been having problems on a couple of websites with ads or something that slowed my Firefox browser so severely I had to keep forcing it to shut down with Task Manager and starting over. I’d started using Chrome for those two sites, but yesterday morning, it happened in Chrome too — or rather, it happened when I had the site open in Chrome and tried to open a different site in Firefox while I waited. This time, though, instead of shutting Chrome down, I just waited it out to see if it would clear up, and it did. And somehow, ever since then, I’ve had no slowdown problems with those sites in either browser. It’s like whatever process was paralyzing the browsers just needed to be given the chance to finish once, and then it was all good. I dunno, I probably need to do a disk cleanup to free up some RAM or something, but this unexpected clearing up of a frustrating nuisance was one more windfall in my good day.

Oh, and then there’s the biggest load off my mind — other than my writing progress, though it relates to that. Last week I got a summons to report for jury duty in two weeks’ time — when I’m six weeks to deadline and behind schedule. Now, if things went the same way they did the last time I had jury service back in early 2009 (some months before I began this blog), where I just sat around waiting in the courthouse and never actually got into a courtroom (which is actually pretty normal for jury pool members), then it’d be a great chance to get some writing done without distractions, plus I’d literally get paid a little money just for showing up. (Last time, IIRC, I was doing a rewrite on Only Superhuman at the time, and I made significant progress during my days in the jurors’ quiet study area.) But I was afraid that if I did get called to serve on an actual jury, it might delay my writing at a time when I can’t afford any more delays. Luckily, I saw on the summons form that you get one chance in your lifetime to request a postponement of jury service, as long as it’s within 6 months of the initial date. So I requested it, and when I returned from my walk yesterday, I found a postcard in the mail saying my request was accepted. I don’t have to report until a month or so after my deadline, which should hopefully give me time for revisions and such. So that’s a bullet dodged, and a great relief. Between that and the progress I’ve made this week, I’m feeling much more optimistic about my deadline.

So all this adds up to put me in a fairly good place right now. I hope it lasts for a while.

Categories: My Fiction Tags: , ,

“Crooked Hub” discussion and annotations are up!

You know the drill — the new Analog is on sale now, so I’ve updated my Hub Series page with non-spoiler discussion of “…And He Built a Crooked Hub,” plus a link to the spoiler annotations page, which I trust folks will save until after they’ve read the story. You’ll need to scroll down a bit, since I decided to put it below the “Hubpoint of No Return” discussion, which just seemed logical.

I tried looking for online reviews to quote, but apparently it’s a bit early for those.

For some reason, while it took me ages to get around to finishing the previous issue I was in, I’m already nearly finished with the current issue; I’ve read everything but the novella. Some interesting stuff in this one, including a sci-fi twist on the French Revolution called “The Pendant Lens” by Sean McMullen, a story of AI activism called “Optimizing the Verified Good” by Effie Seiberg, a twisty monster-movie deconstruction called “The Unnecessary Parts of the Story” by Adam-Troy Castro, and a handy science-fact overview of “Alien Biochemistry” and its possible forms by Jay Werkheiser, useful for the SF worldbuilder.

“Crooked Hub” now on sale!

It’s a few days ahead of the nominal release date, but Analog Science Fiction and Fact has updated their homepage to show the September/October issue, featuring “…And He Built a Crooked Hub,” part 2 of my ongoing Hub trilogy. Here’s the issue cover:

I’ve updated my home page with ordering links.

What’s more, the Next Issue page at the Analog site reveals that the concluding story, “Hubstitute Creatures,” will be in the very next issue, November/December 2018, going on sale October 23. That’s sooner than I expected, since the first two installments were four months apart. But then, it makes sense, since there was a delay between my sales of the first story and the other two. Anyway, I’m glad we won’t have to wait much longer for the trilogy to be complete.

But I’ve belatedly realized that “…And He Built a Crooked Hub” is a career milestone in itself (I seem to be achieving a number of those recently). It’s my 10th Analog story! (Yippee!! Cue celebratory sound effects.) Which seems like a lot until you consider that it took me almost exactly 20 years to achieve it, since my first story was in November 1998. Although there was a gap of over 9 years between my second and third Analog stories, so this is also my 8th story in the past 8 1/2 years, which is nearly twice as good. It’s also my 5th story in the past 2 1/2 years, which is yet another doubling of the pace. I doubt I’ll be able to continue accelerating, though, since with this story and the next one, I’m already up to one story per issue. I’d say that’s about as good as it can get.

For what it’s worth, “Crooked Hub” is also my 15th distinct published work of original fiction overall, not counting reprint collections (the non-Analog ones being “No Dominion,” “The Weight of Silence,” Only Superhuman, “The Caress of a Butterfly’s Wing,” and “Aspiring to Be Angels”). I have 3 more coming up with “Hubstitute Creatures,” my fantasy story “The Melody Lingers” in Galaxy’s Edge, and the story I’ll be writing for the Footprints in the Stars anthology. Two more sales and I’ll be up to 20 works of original fiction. For comparison, my tie-in tally currently stands at 27 novels and stories, two Marvel and the rest Star Trek. At this rate, it may only be a few more years before I can say that more than half of my published works are in my own original universes — although since all but one of my original works to date are short fiction while close to 60% of my tie-in works are novels, I’m still a long way from balancing the scales in terms of word count. But that’s another post…

New anthology project: FOOTPRINTS IN THE STARS

August 14, 2018 1 comment

Well, it looks like I’ve achieved one more career milestone, just a month after the last one. Namely, it looks like I’ll finally be getting a story published in a non-Star Trek anthology. Danielle Ackley-McPhail of eSpec Books (publishers of my just-released Among the Wild Cybers collection) has just announced a new anthology project called Footprints in the Stars, Book 2 of eSpec’s Beyond the Cradle hard science fiction anthology series. I’m one of several authors announced as being on board for the project, including my fellow Trek authors Dayton Ward and Robert Greenberger, plus James Chambers, Russ Colchamiro, Bryan J.L. Glass, and others.

This is still in the preliminary stages; I’ve had a proposal accepted, but I haven’t even written the story yet. It’s the first time I’ll have ever worked that way on a non-tie-in project.  So I probably shouldn’t say too much about the specifics, since plans may change. But it will be a relatively short story, and my proposal is set in one of my existing universes and features a couple of established characters. As it happened, I already had an idea that was a natural fit for the theme of the anthology.

I’ll have more info as it develops, but it may be a while, since the anthology is slated for sometime in 2019.