Well, as I hoped, Books by the Banks did cheer me up after my recent computer woes. The reception on Friday night was at the Mercantile Library downtown, a pretty classy place. It was heavily attended, making it an unusually noisy gathering for a library, but they had a free buffet which constituted my dinner and included some nice strawberries and cheese among other things. My nametag got me recognized by author Jeff Suess, who had a story in one of the Star Trek: Strange New Worlds volumes, and we talked Trek for a while. I later chatted with a few other authors I met for the first time. And I briefly touched base with noted children’s book author Sharon Draper, who won one of the awards given out at the reception, and who was my 8th-grade English teacher back at Walnut Hills High School decades ago. I was rather surprised that she remembered me, and she had some nice things to say about me. Honestly I don’t remember 8th grade all that well myself. It was a pretty rough time in my life, and I was kind of an emotional wreck and an underachiever. It’s reassuring that one of my teachers from that time came away with positive memories of me.
Anyway, I couldn’t resist staying up until midnight on Friday to watch the series finale of Continuum on Syfy (a bit rushed, but effective), and I woke up too early the next morning. Generally when I do that, I get up for a bit to let the sheets cool down, go back to bed, then eventually drift off and sleep fairly late. But this time, I had to force myself to get up early enough to get to the convention center by 10, and my morning coffee barely left me functional enough to drive. I practically sleepwalked into the convention center, or so it felt to me, but I bought another cup of coffee and it did the trick — or at least helped me kick into my convention/interview mode where I’m more outgoing and talkative than I usually am with strangers.
The energy of the crowd may have helped too. It was unusually lively and well-attended this year, and people weren’t afraid to spend money on books. The main book I was there to sell this year was Rise of the Federation: Uncertain Logic, but they had a few copies of ROTF: Tower of Babel as well, plus about five print-on-demand trade-paperback editions each of Only Superhuman and TNG: Greater Than the Sum, neither of which I’ve seen in TPB before. It wasn’t a very Trek-oriented crowd overall, and I didn’t make much of a dent in the big pile of Uncertain Logic copies, but I sold out of both Only Superhuman and Tower of Babel and was down to two copies of GTTS by the end of the day (even though the TPB edition of it was the most expensive item on my table). And since I earned out my advance on Only Superhuman earlier this year, that means I made myself a few more bucks in royalties yesterday, although I won’t see them for another 6 or 7 months.
I also got to see a couple more acquaintances, including Mark Perzel of Cincinnati Public Radio (who interviewed me about Only Superhuman a few years back), local author Dan Andriacco (whom I’ve met at the library’s Ohioana reception and last year’s BbtB), and R. S. Belcher, another Strange New Worlds author whom I’ve met at Shore Leave, as well as a fellow Tor author whose novels include The Six-Gun Tarot and The Shotgun Arcana. So I got to have some nice conversations with them and with other authors and readers over the course of the day. All in all, it was a successful event and I had a good time. Though I was really worn out once I got home. Hopefully I finally caught up on my sleep last night, though I think maybe I’m still a little out of it.
But I’m definitely glad I bought a new winter coat the week before last, after my old one’s zipper broke. The weather was still warm when I bought it, but temperatures have plunged over the past few days, so my timing was pretty good.
I posted last month about my computer problems. Since then, I’ve been living with the laptop’s shortcomings as best I could, but this week, I finally decided to take it in to the shop where I’d bought it four years ago, since I had the impression I could maybe get free maintenance there. Otherwise I wouldn’t have gone back there, since they haven’t given me a lot of reason to trust in their knowledge or resources in the past. But I was desperate enough to give it a try, and the guy convinced me that I might still be having problems from the malware that infected the laptop a couple of years ago and that I went to another place to clean up. He said the only solution was to wipe the whole thing and reinstall Windows from scratch. I had recently bought a large enough thumb drive to back up my documents and application data, just in case, so I agreed to let him do that, even though it would cost 89 dollars. I asked them not to install Avast as the antivirus, because I had a suspicion it was causing a lot of my problems.
When I got it back, it turned out that they’d upgraded my Windows XP to Vista without asking, since the laptop could run either and nobody supports XP anymore. According to my cousin on Facebook, Vista’s a lousy version of Windows, but I’m kinda stuck with it now. They also didn’t have any antivirus available other than Avast, which they assured me was safe in the stripped-down free version they install, so I reluctantly agreed to let them install that and see what happened. It actually does seem to lack the particular avastSvc.exe application that was demanding so many resources from my CPU before. Still, they waited until just before closing time to tell me their credit-card machine was broken and I’d have to pay cash. If they’d told me when they started to install the antivirus, I could’ve gone to the ATM and back before they closed. Instead, I had to come back the next morning to pay.
And I needed to, because the computer worrisomely rebooted itself spontaneously a few hours after I got it back. I hoped the guy could diagnose the problem, but all he could tell me was that he’d done a hardware check and found no problems. I also later discovered that the scroll bar on the side of my laptop’s touchpad no longer works, although the one on my main keyboard that I plug into the laptop when working at home is still working. At least it hasn’t spontaneously rebooted again.
But last night, Firefox froze my computer again, just like it was doing before. The 89-dollar reinstallation did not fix the main problem I needed it to fix. Even though it’s a completely new installation of Windows and Firefox and everything, the same problem is happening. And apparently their warranty only covers hardware, not software or labor, so I don’t think getting my money back is an option. Which sucks, since my latest novel advance check is overdue and money’s a bit tight for me at the moment. Which is why I’m not just buying a new laptop — though I’m starting to seriously think about it anyway.
Although the freeze didn’t seem to happen until I upgraded to the latest edition of Flash. I’ve heard that Flash is a bad program and should be removed, but I’m not sure how to do that, and several sites were giving me error messages about disabling the outdated Flash that came with the install, so I figured it would work as a stopgap, at least. Now I’m wondering if it caused the freeze, given the timing. But it could be coincidence. Anyway, I need to figure out how to uninstall Flash. I gather that Firefox is supposed to natively support HTML5 to play videos and that I don’t need Flash anyway. But some pages seem to say that there are sites that still use Flash by default and you have to do something or other to force them to use HTML5 and it’s all just so confusing!
Indeed, the whole reason I took it to the shop was because all this computer stuff is confusing to me and I hoped they would have the knowledge to fix my software problems for me. Instead, they just fell back on a few basic, broad-strokes moves, and I’m now slightly worse off than I was before. I don’t think I’d gain anything by going back there to ask for more help. I gave up on that place a long time ago and it was only in desperation that I tried going back there again, and it turned out poorly.
Granted, there was also the problem with the Thunderbird mail client erasing my outgoing mails, which may or may not have been fixed (I haven’t gotten around to testing it) — but I’ve decided I need to get a different client anyway, or just rely on webmail. Thunderbird has never gotten along with Gmail, and I can’t even remember the trick I used to get it to accept my Gmail account the first time. I’ve frequently been getting “invalid certificate” error boxes when Thunderbird tries to access my Gmail account (which I hardly use anyway, except as my logon for Google sites and cloud memory) and it’s very frustrating, because they keep cropping up despite every attempt to get the program to “permanently store this exception.” Plus Thunderbird seems to be demanding a lot of CPU usage. I’ve tried looking into alternative mail client programs, ones I can get for free, but I haven’t quite settled on a good one. (I wish Eudora were still around. That was my preferred client for a long time.)
So in short, my computer problems have not been fixed. I still don’t trust Firefox, and Netflix and Hulu videos play even worse on Chrome than they did before the reinstall. Ideally I need a new laptop, but in the meantime I’d appreciate any advice my readers could offer.
As if the computer woes weren’t bad enough, I’ve been dealing with other frustrations lately too. I finally found out that the watch manufacturer hadn’t repaired my watch band yet because they couldn’t find a replacement. I knew that type of band was no longer being sold separately, but I saw that new watches with that band were still being sold, so I expected the manufacturer would be able to supply a band or maybe just substitute a new watch. But they’d gotten nowhere, so I just asked them to send my watch back as it was. I got it back a week later, with the band even more broken than before (in transit, I guess). And I shopped online for a replacement band. The ones the company still offers for that model are the same kind of resin band that I disliked on my old watch (which I’ve been wearing as a stopgap for the past month or so) because they’re so fragile and prone to breakage — which makes no sense, because it’s supposed to be a super-durable, shock-resistant watch. The one I had before was a nylon band, but with resin attachments to the watch body, and it was the resin part that split. So I went shopping for nylon bands of the right size from different manufacturers, and I’ve ordered one that looks pretty good, though it won’t merge as smoothly with the “lugs” of the watch (the sticky-out metal bits that the band attaches to). I’m still waiting for that to arrive.
Also, I’ve been trying to rework an old, unsold original story for the umpteenth time. I’d given up on it years ago, but since I was able to salvage and sell a couple of other old unsold stories in the past couple of years (“The Caress of a Butterfly’s Wing” and the upcoming “Murder on the Cislunar Railroad”), I figured maybe I could save this one too. But so far, it’s still frustrating me. I was trying to tighten it up, both to make it flow better and to make it short enough for markets with a 10,000-word cutoff, but my attempts to combine scenes somehow ended up adding length, so I didn’t trim as much as I’d hoped. I tried cutting out the first scene and starting deeper in the story, but the new first scene has too much telling and not enough showing, and it needs a lot of work to function as an opening. Last night, I decided to abandon it and move on to another project. But maybe that was just my depression about the computer talking, because this morning, I thought of some fixes that might work. Still, it’s an iffy proposition, and I’m not in a great mood to tackle it right now.
Well, tonight is a reception for the author guests of Books by the Banks, and the public event is tomorrow. Hopefully getting to meet some of my fellow authors and readers will cheer me up.
Sorry for the late notice… After missing out on it last year, I’ll be a guest at the Books by the Banks festival again this year. The event will be on Saturday, Oct. 17 from 10 AM to 4 PM at the Duke Energy Convention Center in downtown Cincinnati, on 525 Elm Street. Here’s the directions page with parking information. My featured book at the festival will be Star Trek: Enterprise — Rise of the Federation: Uncertain Logic, but hopefully there will be copies of my older books available as well.
Going on right now is the 9th annual New York Comic-Con… and the first one ever that I haven’t attended. I just didn’t have any good business reason to attend this year, and it was happening on the same weekend as the local Books by the Banks festival here in Cincinnati, which I had to miss last year because of the conflict (after attending it back in 2012 and once a few years before that). And NYCC has just gotten so crowded and noisy and strenuous that after last year, and exhibitor tickets have become so much costlier and harder to get, that I felt it was time to take a break. And I didn’t feel like another long road trip so soon after my visit to Detroit a few months back, or another plane flight so soon after Shore Leave. So I decided that this year I’d prioritize BbtB over NYCC and just stay in town.
But then I was late to apply to BbtB, and though the organizers were willing to let me apply anyway, somehow it never quite came together and I wasn’t accepted as a guest this year. So I debated with myself whether to try to get into NYCC after all, maybe see if Pocket could get me a guest speaker’s pass and see if I could make last-minute arrangements to stay with a friend. But I realized: I’m still recovering from that minor gum surgery I had a few weeks back, so I have to avoid biting into foods, keep the healing area very clean with a special mouthwash, etc., and it would be hard to ensure that if I were on the road or at the convention, trying to scrounge food where I could. So that pretty much left me without anyplace to be, at least professionally.
Still, I decided I’d drop in to Books by the Banks this afternoon just as a visitor (it was free, though I had to pay for parking — and if I hadn’t been misled online about the parking prices, I would’ve taken the bus instead). I figured it might be a chance to meet some fellow authors, maybe even see somebody I knew. And I did. I finally got to meet John Scalzi, one of the most successful science fiction writers from the Tri-State area, and heck, one of the biggest around, period. I sat in on his panel, where he offered some interesting and hopefully useful advice, and got to chat with him for a bit afterward. I was flattered to hear he was aware of Only Superhuman, though in retrospect I figure it’s probably because of that business over the cover art a while back. I had a talk with Brad Ricca, who’s written an interesting-looking biography of Superman creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. And I did run into a couple of people I’ve met before, including Dan Andriacco, a mystery writer and Sherlock Holmes authority whom I met at the Ohioana reception a few months back and who told me some things that were useful in my Locus essay on Sherlock and Elementary, as well as Mark Perzel of WVXU radio, who interviewed me early last year about Only Superhuman and who knew my father back in his radio days. So it was nice to run into them again.
At least staying at home gives me more time to work on my writing. I’ve been trying to get a rough draft of my outline for Rise of the Federation Book 4 done before diving into the copyedits for Uncertain Logic, so that I’ll know of any continuity tweaks or foreshadowings I need to work in, and I finished that to my satisfaction (at least, for an initial rough draft) this morning, with over six weeks’ leeway to polish it before the due date (yes, astonishingly, for once I’m massively ahead of schedule!). And meanwhile I’ve got the final set of galley pages for DTI: The Collectors to proofread. So that’s all keeping me busy enough without the distractions and fatigue of a trip to slow me down.
Still, as tired as I am of the frenzy and crowds of NYCC, I do miss being there and getting to hang around with my friends (and their cats). I saw them all (well, not the cats) at Shore Leave just a couple of months ago, but now I have to wait until next Shore Leave to see them again, unless I can contrive a reason to make a business trip to New York City before then. As for NYCC, hopefully next year I’ll have something new to shill there, but who knows? I might go anyway, just because I missed being there this year. Although I hope next year it doesn’t conflict with Books by the Banks.
Today was the Books by the Banks festival for authors from the Cincinnati region, and I spent six hours at the convention center downtown hawking my wares. In addition to a big pile of Only Superhuman, the bookstore providing merchandise for the event also had a bunch of copies of Forgotten History, a small supply of Watching the Clock, three copies of the Mere Anarchy trade paperback, and one lonely copy of Spider-Man: Drowned in Thunder — which wasn’t lonely for long, since it was the first book I sold. By the end of the event, I’d sold out of Mere Anarchy as well and was down to one WtC, and I’d moved seven copies of OS and at least a few of FH. Plus a few people who didn’t buy OS then and there nonetheless indicated they intended to buy it online or as an e-book. All in all, while I could’ve wished for better, it was a pretty decent performance considering that this was a general book festival, not specifically SF-oriented. I seem to recall that at my first BbtB, where they only had Titan: Over a Torrent Sea for sale, I didn’t sell that many copies. So I’m satisfied with how this event turned out. Plus I made a couple of new contacts and set things in motion for a book signing event that will hopefully materialize fairly soon.
Next month is shaping up to be busy for me, as we close in on the release date for Only Superhuman. On October 20, the weekend after New York Comic-Con, I’ll be a guest at the Books by the Banks festival back here in Cincinnati, at the Duke Energy Convention Center downtown. It runs from 10 AM to 4 PM. I’ll be there to promote and sell Only Superhuman, of course, but I’m hoping I’ll have some of my Star Trek books available for sale too. Click the link above for details on the festival.