I’m pleased to say that I got my outline advance for Star Trek: The Face of the Unknown yesterday, just four days after getting my second royalty check for Only Superhuman (which was much smaller, but decent). So I’m now in a relatively more comfortable place financially than I’ve been in for several months.
Which is good, since I’m still probably going to need a new laptop. I thought I’d gotten to a point where the laptop worked fine so long as I didn’t open Firefox, since the freezes only seemed to happen in sessions (i.e. intervals between reboots) during which I’d earlier used Firefox to watch something on Netflix. But this week I’ve had a couple of freezes in Chrome, even though I haven’t used Firefox in some time. In one case, it was when I tried closing a tab, which was what tended to set it off in the earlier freezes; in the other, it was when I hit stop and reload on a page that was hanging. If there’s a common thread, it may have something to do with trying to interrupt unfinished processes. Then again, in both cases I had several programs running at once — and in both cases it was after having hibernated the laptop overnight instead of shutting it down, if that matters. If this is a memory problem, as I suspect, it may be that I was using too much memory and forced the computer to access a bad part of the RAM, or use too many resources, or something.
Anyway, now that I have the money, I guess buying a new laptop isn’t as onerous an option as it seemed before — though I’m still not sure where the best place to shop would be (and I’m open to suggestions from anyone in the Cincinnati area). Still, I think that just for due diligence, I should go to the repair place I’ve been to before (not the same as the place I bought the laptop) and at least get their opinion about the problem and whether it’s worth trying to fix. I do need some way to watch Netflix reliably soon, what with Marvel’s Jessica Jones about to arrive.
If anything, these latest freezes simplify my decision a bit. Before, it seemed that the laptop was functional for everything but streaming video, and I’d been planning to look into whether adding a tablet to my phone plan or buying an Internet-capable TV would cost less than getting a new laptop. Now at least I know that I’m going to need my laptop either repaired or replaced, period. (Although I’d still like to get a new TV sometime.)
On the plus side, I finally found a solution for a minor domestic annoyance I’ve had for a long time. Since my apartment is at ground level and overlooking a row of shrubs, and since the groundskeepers are profligate in their use of (very noisy) leafblowers, my windows and balcony doors tend to accumulate a coat of fine dirt, and when I have my bedroom window open in the summer, some of it gets onto the sills and the Venetian blinds. And keeping Venetian blinds clean is not easy, especially since I’m not all that diligent about dusting. But a while ago, it idly occurred to me to wish I could just take them down and dump them in the detergent-filled bathtub. I had no idea if there was a way to take them down without tools of some sort, though, so it remained an idle thought — until yesterday, when I got sufficiently sick of the problem to look into just how the blinds were attached to the windows. I finally discovered that the brackets holding them had front panels that could slide out, and once that was done, the blinds came out easily. It wasn’t exactly easy to wash them thoroughly, but it was easier than it would’ve been if I’d left them in place. So now, finally, I have clean blinds again.
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’ve been so busy writing lately that I forgot to post any updates about this weekend’s Shore Leave convention in Baltimore, which I’ll be attending as usual. This year, I’m going back to driving there, since my trip by plane last year made the whole thing feel like it raced by too fast. I like having a bit more flexibility with my comings and goings. The prospect of the long drive each way is a bit forbidding, but now that I’ve started drinking coffee, hopefully that will shore me up (no pun intended) for the effort. I’ve also spent rather a lot on car repairs, including all-new tires, brake pads, drive belt, and transmission seals, to make sure I don’t break down along the way. Well, to make sure the car doesn’t break down. The coffee is to make sure I don’t break down.
Anyway, the schedule is now up at the Shore Leave site:
The writers’ track is surprisingly light on Trek Lit-related panels this year, perhaps because Shore Leave has a more diversified list of author guests these days. Still, I managed to find five panels to be on, and here are my scheduled appearances:
Keeping it Real: Using Facts in Fiction — 5 PM, Salon A
A panel about working real science and information into science fiction is right up my alley, so I’m glad they were apparently able to find room for me at the last minute (although I’m not listed on the published pocket program, which apparently is not completely up to date on panel membership). Also slated to feature Danielle Ackley-McPhail, Kathleen David, Mary Louise Davie, Charles E. Gannon, Amy Griswold, and David Mack.
Humor in Sci-Fi — 8 PM, Hunt Ballroom
A chance for me to talk about Hub Space: Tales from the Greater Galaxy and maybe my use of humor in Only Superhuman and Star Trek. Lorraine Anderson, Russ Colchamiro, Peter David, and Daniel Morris will probably have more to talk about than I do, though. Be sure to stick around Hunt afterward for Marco Palmieri’s annual “What’s New in Tor Books” panel, followed by:
Meet the Pros — 10 PM, Hunt/Valley Corridor
The annual 2-hour mass signing event where all the author guests will be available to autograph whatever you bring or buy.
All Roads Lead to Holmes — Noon, Salon A
Writers being fannish, as we talk about all the various incarnations of Sherlock Holmes out there today. My only writerish qualification for a Holmes panel is that one essay I wrote, but I am a longtime fan. The other Irregulars include Kathleen David, Keith R.A. DeCandido, Robert Greenberger, and Melissa Scott.
What’s Coming from Star Trek — 2 PM, Chase Ballroom
That is, what’s coming in Star Trek literature from Pocket. This (or Meet the Pros) is the place to come if you want to hear about Rise of the Federation, since it’s pretty much the only panel this year that’s specifically about Trek Lit, including all the guests with upcoming Trek books: myself, Kirsten Beyer, Peter David, Kevin Dilmore, Dave Galanter, David Mack, John Jackson Miller, and Dayton Ward.
Orphan Black Season 3 — 11 AM, Salon F
My only morning panel this year — nice. I have no connection to Orphan Black except as a fan, but I’ll be there, along with Kirsten Beyer, Marco Palmieri, Susanna Reilly, and Jennifer Rosenberg.
Beyond that, I’ll be wandering around and will try to do my stint in the Author Chimney at the book table, which is traditionally located on the lower level between the escalators and the Hunt/Valley corridor.
I’m pleased to announce that I recently sold another novelette to Analog Science Fiction and Fact. It’s called “Murder on the Cislunar Railroad,” and though the Agatha Christie nod is intentional, the primary reference is to a different kind of railroad… well, you’ll see. But yes, this is a murder mystery, my second after “No Dominion” — although that was more a police procedural, while this is a proper whodunit with clues hidden in plain sight. But not everything is as it seems, and there are a couple of pretty major surprises.
“Murder on the Cislunar Railroad” is also my first Analog story in 15 years that isn’t set in the Hub universe. In fact, it’s going back to my main original universe, the one my first two Analog stories occupied. It takes place in the same colonized Solar System setting as Only Superhuman but about 15 years earlier, and it connects indirectly to the backstory of one of that novel’s major characters. (That’s because I wrote an earlier version of this story years ago and cannibalized it for ideas when fleshing out that character’s past.) A hint: The story involves the nature of artificial intelligence and the ethics of AI rights.
No word yet on the publication date, but I’ll let you all know once I find out.
The Cincinnati Library Comic Con was today. I don’t have a picture of myself from there this time, and maybe that’s just as well, because I was kind of frazzled. The day didn’t start out well. First, I lost track of time and had to rush through lunch and hurry out to my car. Then I found that my car wouldn’t start — the battery must’ve died. The one other person in the lot didn’t know anything about jumpstarting cars, and in retrospect, that was just as well, since even if I’d made it downtown, I would’ve probably needed another jumpstart to get back home again. Anyway, I hurried down to the bus stop, lugging my bag of books to sell, and just barely made it in time to catch the bus. I made it in time — early, in fact — but it wasn’t an auspicious beginning.
For a while, too, it seemed like I wasn’t going to sell many books. As I said in my earlier post, I decided to focus on my superhero stuff this year based on what sold last year, bringing mainly copies of Only Superhuman and my last few leftover copies of my two Marvel novels, and as an afterthought I brought a few Trek novels: a couple of copies each of Ex Machina, The Buried Age, and Greater Than the Sum. But somehow, for the first hour or so, it was only the Trek novels that people were interested in buying. Perhaps it’s because I brought TOS and TNG books this time instead of the more unfamiliar stuff like DTI and Rise of the Federation. Anyway, after a while, I was afraid I wouldn’t move any of the OS hardcovers and would end up making substantially less money than I did last year. Fortunately, things picked up right near the end and I finally sold a couple of the OS hardcovers, as well as four of the five Marvel books. I made nearly as much as I did last year — though that new car battery is probably going to eat up all of it and then some.
Still, I wonder why I had more trouble getting people interested in OS this year. I suspect it’s because I wasn’t pitching it as well. The problems with my car and racing for the bus threw me off and tired me out, and I didn’t do that great a job talking it up. So even though I managed to come out of the day okay, I feel I could’ve done better.
Also, when one person asked me to write down my website address for them, I wasn’t thinking clearly and I put an “@” before “wordpress.com” instead of a period. I hope they figure out what it’s supposed to be.
The weirdest question I got from a convention guest today was when someone asked me if The Hunger Games had anything to do with Star Trek. I have no idea what led to that question. (The only connection I’ve been able to find is that Robert Knepper is in Mockingjay and was also in TNG: “Haven” and VGR: “Dragon’s Teeth.” Although you could get a degrees-of-separation thing with Jennifer Lawrence and Sir Patrick Stewart both being in X-Men: Days of Future Past, or Philip Seymour Hoffman and Simon Pegg both being in Mission: Impossible III.) I did have a couple of more constructive conversations with people interested in writing and wanting to learn about the process. Hopefully I was coherent enough to be helpful.
Thanks to LeeAnn and the library staff for their invitation to the event and their support while I was there!
I got my latest royalty statement for Only Superhuman today, and since the last few have been less than satisfying, I didn’t have much hope that this one would be any different. I’d been edging slowly closer toward the point where the royalties would exceed my advance, but I was starting to doubt if I’d ever actually get there. So imagine my thrilled surprise when I opened the envelope and discovered there was a check enclosed! Not a huge check, but a check! I made it! For the first time in my life, one of my novels has earned out its advance. It’s not as big a success as I was hoping for — I still think I would’ve reached this point sooner if there had been more copies of the mass-market paperback published and put on shelves in the first place, so that readers could find it — and it’s not an achievement that’s going to put me on the map any more than I was before, but it is a goal reached and surpassed, however modestly. And it’s a career first. That’s something to be proud of. Plus, it means that any further sales of the book will earn me more money, at least in small amounts. It’s still available in every edition except MMPB.
(The check was well-timed, too. Not only is it a bit of extra money at a time when I could use some, but it came within 24 hours of two other unrelated checks, so I only needed to take one trip to the bank to deposit all three.)
Emerald Blair herself is head over heels about the news:
Okay, it’s the same pose she’s been in since 2012, but she really means it this time!
Once again, I’ll be signing books at the Cincinnati Library Comic Con on Saturday, May 16. Here’s my post on last year’s event. I did much better selling Only Superhuman and Spider-Man: Drowned in Thunder there than any of my Star Trek stuff, so this year I think I’m going to focus mainly on my superhero stuff. I still have a good supply of Only Superhuman hardcovers (which moved pretty well last year), and I’ve got a very few copies remaining of Drowned in Thunder and X-Men: Watchers on the Walls that I’ve been holding on to “just in case” for long enough that it’s probably time I did something with them. (And I’ll probably bring a few Trek books too.) So anyone who’s in the Cincinnati area and wants signed copies of those books — with a portion of the sale price to be donated to the library, so it’s for a good cause — should be at the Main Library on 800 Vine Street in downtown Cincinnati between noon and 5 PM on May 16. Here are directions and parking info.