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2015 Ohioana reception

This past Sunday, I was a guest at the annual Ohioana Library Association reception for Ohio authors at the Cincinnati Public Library. Here’s a shot of me from their Flickr stream, accepting my certificate from Ohioana Hamilton County Committee chairman David Siders:

MAIN 2015 Ohioana 064

(And yes, I finally got a haircut. Now I feel it’s too short. I just can’t make up my mind!!)

As you can see, this was one of my rare occasions for putting on my sport jacket and looking almost formal. As it turns out, it was appropriate to get dressed up, because one of the other authors in attendance was none other than Dr. Henry Heimlich! It’s been said that, by inventing the Heimlich Maneuver, Dr. Heimlich has saved more lives than any other individual in history. And I was in the same room with him! I didn’t get to speak to him, but still, wow!

I was officially being acknowledged for last year’s Rise of the Federation: Tower of Babel, but due to the timing of these events, I donated a copy of that to the Ohioana Library last year, so this year I gave them a copy of Uncertain Logic. I’m getting ahead of the curve. After the presentations, there was a brief meet-and-greet event where guests could talk to the authors and we could try to sell our books. I only managed to sell one, but it was one of my few paperback copies of Only Superhuman. I didn’t have any luck moving the hardcovers last year, so I figured I’d have a better chance with an 8-dollar paperback, and I guess I was right.

My thanks to the Ohioana folks for inviting me to their events every year.

More travel

I just got back from a visit to Detroit for my Aunt Shirley’s birthday, and got to see her, Uncle Harry, cousin Cynthia who’s staying with them to help out after their respective hospitalizations, and cousins Barbara and Mark who came in for the birthday too. I spent a nice few days there, had some very nice meals including some baked oatmeal that provided several breakfasts, and a vegetarian chili that ended up being only black-bean chili rather than three-bean (because the other beans took longer to cook than expected) but was still pretty good. I helped make the chili, in fact, which was kind of fun. I also got to go for a couple of nice walks in the sunny (but chilly) weather with Uncle Harry, who’s 90 years old and recovering from a bike-riding accident, but still quite active.

The drive up on Monday was pretty uneventful, except that it was the occasion on which I drank my first ever full cup of coffee. I’ve found that tea wasn’t always adequate to deal with fatigue on the road, so I decided I’d better try the hard stuff. But I’ve never liked the smell or taste of coffee, so I was hesitant. Partly on the advice of my new apartment manager (who used to work at Starbucks), I decided to try a pumpkin spice cappuccino (which I was pleasantly surprised to find in an I-75 rest area vending machine), since I love pumpkin. It was actually pretty good, and it kept me comfortably alert rather than anxiously buzzed. I was concerned I might run into some rain on the way up, but it turned out to be mild flurries instead, which are easy to drive through. I never thought I’d be grateful for sub-freezing temperatures.

Also, this was my first long drive with my new bifocals. At first, I wasn’t sure they were working well at a distance; I was concerned that the variable focus was making it hard for me to home in on the right part of the lens to see something clearly. So I tried switching to my old glasses as a backup. But they didn’t make it any easier to focus at a distance, and I realized that the problem was more with my eyes than with the frames. I guess they just have trouble acclimating to focusing at a distance after being indoors for a while, or something. Also, the old lenses made it harder to see the dashboard or my phone GPS. So I switched back to the bifocals, and they turned out to work just fine in the long run (or, well, long drive) and then afterward. So I’m much more at ease with them now. (Well, mostly — see below.)

My drive home yesterday was more troubled. I had a cup of instant coffee before leaving, but I found the taste unpleasant even with a lot of sugar and milk. Just as I was about to set out, I thought I’d left something behind and went back into the house, only to find it was in my jacket pocket. I was able to get underway okay, and I fortunately timed it so that I managed to stay just behind the storm front that was passing through the area. (It was diagonal, from southwest to northeast, and as it moved eastward, it cleared up progressively from north to south.) But about 15 miles north of the Michigan-Ohio border, I reached up to adjust my glasses with my left hand, and the left side of the frame just popped open and the left lens fell out. Thank goodness that’s my bad eye, which my brain largely ignores anyway, and it didn’t really make much difference to my vision. I kept driving for a while, expecting to find a rest area soon where I could stop and assess the situation, but apparently the rest area on that part of I-75 is only on the northbound side. So eventually I just pulled off the freeway in Toledo and found a parking lot, then looked up the nearest LensCrafters on my phone to get directions. I had to go back north on 75 a couple of miles before diverting to 475 to get to the mall. So they got me fixed up; apparently a screw had just come loose, and they put in a new one and made sure the screws were good and tight. Just the latest of the troubles I’ve been having with this new pair of glasses — and just when I’d finally gotten comfortable with them.

So my glasses didn’t bother me anymore after that, but I realized I was running low on gas. At the next rest stop, I used the app on my phone to find the cheapest gas along 75, but apparently it’s not a perfect app, since when I got there, I found only a deteriorating ruin that may have once been a gas station. Since it would’ve been too much trouble to reprogram my GPS while in motion, I got a little lost trying to get back to the freeway. Fortunately there were a lot of other gas stations in the immediate vicinity, and I found one at the next exit that was only a cent or two higher per gallon than the one I’d aimed for — plus it was next to an Arby’s, so I got a sandwich to have for dinner later. So things seemed to be back on track.

Except the coffee wasn’t working this time — perhaps it wasn’t strong enough, or perhaps I was just more fatigued this time. I stopped at a rest area and looked for some iced tea to have with my sandwich, but the vending machines had none. So I got some hot tea instead, but they were out of lids, so I had to carry it very carefully. Also, I’d put on my heavy coat over the lighter jacket I wore in the car, but I realized the zipper had come undone and the slider was stuck right up at the neck, and I had trouble getting it undone. And it wouldn’t zip up again without coming unfastened. So that coat may have finally given up the ghost. Lucky that it’s starting to warm up now and I hopefully won’t need to replace it immediately.

Anyway, the tea didn’t help — I was still feeling fatigued. But I didn’t want to just load up on more caffeine, since maybe it wasn’t helping as much as I’d hoped. Instead, at the next rest area, I just lay back in my seat and closed my eyes for ten minutes and did some slow, meditative breathing while listening to music on the CD player (Batman: The Animated Series: “Shadow of the Bat, Part 1″ by Shirley Walker). And I kept up the breathing and the music once I resumed driving. It actually helped clear up my fatigue quite well. (Although listening to the car player while parked made me realize how badly the speakers have deteriorated. Maybe I should’ve listened on my phone instead, but I’m not comfortable driving while wearing earbuds, in case I miss an important sound.)

All these delays meant, though, that I wasn’t successful in getting home before sunset. Still, it was only twilight by the time I finally got home. Oh, and I almost left my phone charger cord in the car, but I remembered it before I was halfway to my apartment, and I went back to get it.

So it could’ve been worse. I’ve had worse drives, in fact — much worse. A lot of little things went wrong, but I managed to cope with them all pretty quickly. So I guess I should focus on that.

Oh, yes, and one other thing: The day before I left just happened to be exactly one (February-length) month after I started writing Rise of the Federation Book 4, and exactly three months before my deadline. So my goal was to be a quarter of the way through my target by then, or 25,000 words. I’d gotten 80 percent of the way there two weeks before, but I’d needed to divert to work on Hub Space and then do a lot of planning and foundation-laying for the next part I had to write, so I wasn’t sure I’d get those last 5,000 words in before my trip. But on Sunday night, I decided that I just wanted to get the scene done and out of the way, so I sat down and worked through it and ended up with a word count of 25,003 words. Deadline met! Another instance of a narrowly averted problem. And while I didn’t get much writing done during my trip, I did get the next scene started, at least, and I know what comes next.

Oh, and I took a few copies of Uncertain Logic along and shared them with my family, a day before the official on-sale date. One of the perks of being related to me. (The other main one being having to endure a lot of bad puns.)

UNCERTAIN LOGIC is here!

I grieve with thee

February 27, 2015 4 comments

The New York Times has reported that Leonard Nimoy has died at the age of 83.

I was afraid of this when I heard the news about his hospitalization the other day, but I’d hoped it was a false alarm. Still, it’s not surprising, given his health in recent years. But it is entirely logical to be saddened, and to shed tears for a man who left such a profound mark on the world.

Spock was one of my first childhood role models, and certainly the most influential, for better or worse. When I was seven — about two years after discovering Star Trek — I lost my mother, and in response to that grief, I tried to become like Spock and suppress my emotions. It backfired; without a healthy release valve, my emotions erupted vehemently and often, and I felt more like Dr. Banner from The Incredible Hulk than like Mr. Spock. But in 1979, when Star Trek: The Motion Picture came out and Spock had the epiphany that emotion was valuable and necessary as an integrated part of the psyche, I came to much the same realization — perhaps as a result of Spock’s — and learned to be more at peace with my own emotions.

I also tried to emulate Spock’s intelligence, the way he contributed and was appreciated for being a source of knowledge. (The Professor on Gilligan’s Island also influenced me in this way.) But real life didn’t turn out like fiction; rather than being appreciated for my efforts to inform and contribute, I was seen as a showoff or a know-it-all. Some people appreciated my contributions in the helpful spirit in which I intended them, but to this day, there are others who mistake it for condescension.

So one could argue that modeling myself on Spock hasn’t always worked out so great for me. But that doesn’t matter — his influence is simply part of who I am, and part of his example was learning to accept who you are even when you don’t fit in or are misunderstood. His example of logical, educated thought and scientific curiosity has guided me throughout my life, enriching my understanding of the world and helping me keep learning, questioning, and thinking. The principles of peace and diversity he embodied have shaped my values and helped me feel more empathy and connection to others.

This is the legacy that Leonard Nimoy has left us. He took a character that another actor might have treated as a joke or a caricature and brought immense sincerity, thoughtfulness, and sensitivity to his performance, giving Star Trek a weight and meaning it might not have had without him. He always treated his role and his audience with respect, and we were drawn to him in turn, and this was key to making Star Trek such an enduring phenomenon, a universe that felt real and solid and inspired us to believe in a better, smarter future even when the show was at its silliest. And as Star Trek matured and Spock aged, Nimoy made him evolve. After his (and my) epiphany in TMP, he let Spock grow more balanced, more self-assured, more at peace with his logic and his emotion, showing us that there was no real conflict between the two. He showed us that synthesis between opposing views is a better, more rewarding response than opposition — a lesson that we are in desperate need of today. And when Star Trek was reinvented with a new cast, continuity, and attitude, he stayed true to that principle, coming out of retirement to give the new incarnation his blessing, befriend his successor and protege in the role of Spock, and show once again that it’s better to unite than divide.

And to think there was a time when Nimoy almost gave up playing Spock. Hard to imagine now, when he’s been such an integral thread tying the whole franchise together. He was there from the very beginning, he was there for the animated series and the films, he crossed over to The Next Generation, and he carried his character through to the new incarnation and into a new universe. The story of Spock is the story of Star Trek. And for all that his character prized logic over passion, Nimoy has always been its heart.

I’m sad that Nimoy didn’t make it to see the 50th anniversary next year. But I suppose he’s already had his own 50th, since the anniversary of “The Cage” was last year. Still, it won’t be the same without him.

I’m glad, though, that next month will see the release of my new book Rise of the Federation: Uncertain Logic, a novel that focuses heavily on Vulcan civilization and Spock’s grandparents. Spock himself is decades away from being born in the timeframe of the novel, but no one can write about Vulcans without being heavily influenced by Nimoy’s work. I feel it will be a fitting tribute.

I’m crying now. It’s the only logical thing to do.

A Cracking good DTI shoutout!

This is neat: The comedy website Cracked routinely does “Photoplasty” contests, challenging their readers to concoct photoshopped sight gags on various themes, and today’s contest was on the theme of TV spinoffs that need to happen. And coming in at #19 was this one, by a contributor going by “annorax”:

http://www.cracked.com/photoplasty_1338_35-tv-spinoffs-that-need-to-happen_p35/#19

I couldn’t find any way to embed the image, and I wasn’t sure if I should just copy it, but it’s for a Star Trek: Department of Temporal Investigations series based on my books, using the first names I came up with for Lucsly and Dulmur, and giving me a “Created by” credit (although I think it would probably be more like “Developed for Television by,” since Ronald D. Moore and Rene Echevarria would probably get the creator credit for the two leads). My thanks to “annorax” for the tribute!

(Of the hypothetical spinoffs in the overall piece, though, the ones I’d most like to see are Turanga Leela, Private Eye and September, followed by The War Doctor and The Black Widow Diaries.)

UNCERTAIN LOGIC cover revealed!

January 7, 2015 1 comment

StarTrek.com has just released the cover art for Star Trek: Enterprise — Rise of the Federation: Uncertain Logic, the third volume in my ongoing series about the early years of the United Federation of Planets. I’m thrilled to get to show it off at last:

ROTF Uncertain Logic cover

And here’s the blurb again:

Years ago, Jonathan Archer and T’Pol helped unearth the true writings of Vulcan’s great philosopher Surak, bringing forth a new era of peaceful reform on Vulcan. But when their discov­ery is seemingly proven to be a fraud, the scandal threatens to undo a decade of progress and return power to the old, warlike regime. Admiral Archer, Captain T’Pol, and the crew of the U.S.S. Endeavour investigate with help from their Vulcan allies, but none of them suspect the identity of the real master­mind behind the conspiracy to reconquer Vulcan—or the price they will have to pay to discover the truth.

Meanwhile, when a long-forgotten technological threat reemerges beyond the Federation’s borders, Captain Malcolm Reed of the U.S.S. Pioneer attempts to track down its origins with help from his old friend “Trip” Tucker. But they discover that other civilizations are eager to exploit this dangerous power for their own benefit, even if the Federation must pay the price!

I’m really pleased with how well the cover turned out, because the basic idea was my own. It’s unusual for authors to have a say in cover design, but one day it just occurred to me out of the blue that if you superimposed the Kir’Shara (the ark holding Surak’s writings) onto the planet Vulcan, it would look like an IDIC emblem, which I thought would be a very fitting symbol for the plot and themes of the book. I knew it wasn’t my place to butt into the cover design process, but I was so struck by the idea that I suggested it to my editor anyway, and even did a quick-and-dirty mockup image to get the idea across. I’m pleasantly surprised that they thought my suggestion was worth using, and of course Alan Dingman’s art looks a ton better than my version. A nice touch is that the “IDIC” image is reproduced smaller on the spine of the book, much like the cover image of Emerald Blair on Only Superhuman. That should help make it stand out on shelves, I think.

Follow the link for release date and ordering info!

DTI: THE COLLECTORS is out today!

December 8, 2014 10 comments

The temporal coordinates have arrived! My newest e-novella, Star Trek: Department of Temporal Investigations: The Collectors, is now available for purchase wherever e-books are sold.

DTI The Collectors cover

Here are some ordering links:

And here’s the discussion page on my website, with a link to the story annotations.

The story description:

The dedicated agents of the Federation Department of Temporal Investigations have their work cut out for them protecting the course of history from the dangers of time travel. But the galaxy is littered with artifacts that, in the wrong hands, could threaten reality. One of the DTI’s most crucial jobs is to track down these objects and lock them safely away in the Federation’s most secret and secure facility. When Agents Lucsly and Dulmur bring home an alien obelisk of incredible power, they are challenged by a 31st-century temporal agent who insists they surrender the mysterious artifact to her. But before they know it, the three agents are pulled into a corrupted future torn apart by a violent temporal war. While their DTI colleagues attempt to track them down, Lucsly and Dulmur must restore temporal peace by setting off on an epic journey through the ages, with the future of the galaxy hanging in the balance…

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