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Yesterday was a good day

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.

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“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

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.

A couple more minor site updates

Two site fixes today. One: A poster alerted me that my Uncertain Logic Annotations page was displaying the table too wide in Chrome and cutting off part of the text, which I think was due to that page having a second table inside one of the table cells. I tried some formatting changes to fix it, and something I tried caused the table formatting to disappear altogether, so I just went with that and converted it to the non-table format I use for most of my short-fiction annotations.

Two: I updated my Bibliography with my past couple of Hub stories and Among the Wild Cybers. It was about a year out of date, but now it’s current again. I wasn’t sure how to enter both AtWC and “Aspiring to Be Angels,” the new story appearing only in AtWC, so I just went with the redundancy.

Meanwhile, updating my own bibliography reminded me to check my Internet Speculative Fiction Database page, and as I hoped, they’ve finally added my three online original stories now that they’ve finally appeared in print in AtWC. Although they list AtWC as their only catalogued publication with just a note that they were previously published elsewhere. It also lists Hub Space now, but lists it by its trade paperback publication date of 2018 rather than its original e-book release date of 2015. Odd that an online resource would fail to count online publications. Although the bibliography isn’t entirely complete, since it doesn’t include the Russian translations of my first two Hub stories in ESLI Magazine. Still, it’s finally complete as far as my English-language professional fiction goes, so that’s good.

The Hub at my door

I just got a nice surprise — I heard the mail carrier drop something outside my door and ring my doorbell, and I found that my copies of the September/October Analog, containing my next Hub story “…And He Built a Crooked Hub,” had been delivered. The issue doesn’t go on sale at newsstands until August 21, but I guess this means subscribers should be getting their copies soon.

This is my second Hub story in a row to have an illustration by Josh Meehan, but this one was unexpected: Instead of portraying any of the characters in the story, the opening image on pp. 78-9 offers the first-ever depiction of the exterior of Nashira Wing’s Hubdiver ship, the Starship Entropy:

Crooked Hub Starship Entropy

Illustration by Josh Meehan

(The Entropy‘s interior was previously depicted by Vladimir Bondar in the 2011 Russian reprint of “The Hub of the Matter.”)

EDITED TO ADD: I double-checked, and it turns out the Russian reprint of “Home is Where the Hub Is” does depict a ship in its accompanying illustration, but I think it may be meant to represent the Ziovris battleship, since it’s a bit large for the Entropy. It’s hard to say for sure:

HomeHubViktorBazanov

Illustration by Viktor Bazanov

It’s interesting to see how artists can bring interpretations to your ideas that you never considered. I’d been imagining a Hubdiver as something more compact and cylindrical-ish, insofar as I had any image in mind at all. This is a more interesting design, suggesting something that’s mostly engines, fuel tanks, and shielding but with the sort of habitat section I envisioned in the center. It’s plausible that the engines would be fairly large, since they need to be fairly powerful, and in that case it makes sense to offset them from the crew compartment because of heat and/or radiation. (That was Matt Jefferies’s original rationale in Star Trek for putting the U.S.S. Enterprise‘s engine nacelles out on long pylons, though that was forgotten by later productions that put the matter-antimatter reactor right in the middle of the engine room and occasionally had people walking around inside the nacelles.) I’m not sure about that portion that resembles a fighter canopy, though, since the crew compartment would need to be large enough to include a cockpit that can hold 3-4 people and a rear section with a quantelope tank, plus maybe a small galley, a head, and so on. I dunno, maybe the glossy portion contains all of that and can eject as a lifeboat in an emergency. Or it can detach and be plugged into a different engine assembly for upgrades.

And yes, I am aware that someone or something is firing missiles at the Entropy. You don’t expect me to spoil the suspense, do you?

Today’s book news: AMONG THE WILD CYBERS is out… and STAR TREK novels are back!

(Robot and Cover Design by Mike McPhail, McP Digital Graphics)Well, today’s the day that Among the Wild Cybers: Tales Beyond the Superhuman is officially released in trade paperback! It’s been out in e-book form for a week already, but I missed that date, so I decided to wait until today to do the big site update I’ve been planning. I’ve added a new page for the collection here:

Among the Wild Cybers: Tales Beyond the Superhuman

This page contains the basic information, discussions, and annotation links that used to be on my Original Short Fiction page, which is now much shorter because it only has one story left, “Abductive Reasoning,” at least until my recently sold “The Melody Lingers” comes out in Galaxy’s Edge. But I’ve added links to my story collections on that page so it isn’t too empty.

Meanwhile, I’ve put up four new annotation pages linked from the AtWC page, for “Aggravated Vehicular Genocide,” “Among the Wild Cybers of Cybele,” “The Weight of Silence,” and the brand-new Emerald Blair story “Aspiring to Be Angels.” The notes from “Weight” were previously published on my old website. I never did full annotations to AVG and AWCC until now, but their annotation pages reprint the in-universe worldbuilding notes I did have on my old site. I’ve also updated the annotation pages for “No Dominion,” “The Caress of a Butterfly’s Wing,” “Murder on the Cislunar Railroad,” and “Twilight’s Captives” with the page numbers for the new book, along with a few minor updates to reflect changes in the new editions.

There may be a few other site tweaks coming, like a link of some sort to “Aspiring to Be Angels” on the Only Superhuman page, and maybe some kind of combined timeline page. But I think I’ve done enough for today.

Now, of course, it’s up to you guys, since now you can buy my book! (Well, you could pre-order it before, but now you don’t have to wait to get it!) And if you buy it from an online bookstore, please post a review of it. The more reviews a book gets on Amazon or a similar site, the more attention it gets. Reviews and ratings on Goodreads will help get the word out too!

The other big news today was announced at the Star Trek Las Vegas convention and reported on StarTrek.com:

STLV Reveal: Tilly Tale Heralds 2019 Trek Novels

Yes, after a long and frustrating delay in the license renewal, Pocket Books is finally resuming the publication of Star Trek novels. Three have been announced so far: a Discovery novel in January 2019 by Una McCormack, an Original Series novel in March by Greg Cox, and a Next Generation novel in April by Dayton Ward (picking up story threads from previous 24th-century novels). But there are more books that will be announced later when the time is right. And that’s about all I can say on the subject for now. Except that I’m glad to see that the novel line is finally back in business.