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Followup on Cleveland ConCoction

Okay, the convention ended days ago, but I’m only now getting around to posting about it. Let’s see… My last panel on Saturday was about “Shaping the Short Story,” and I was hoping to pick up some tips on how to get better at coming up with short stories, but I don’t think I got the answers I was looking for. I think my problem is that my ideas tend to be big worldbuilding stuff that requires a longer format to explore. I think I’m better at coming up with ideas in universes that are already established and defined, like The Hub or Star Trek. Still, I got to hear from other authors on the panel, including another Analog author, Mary A. Turzillo. Afterward, I ran into Mary and Geoffrey A. Landis in the lobby, and we three Analog veterans hung out for a while in the con suite (a nice perk of the con, a dining area providing free food to guests).

On Sunday morning, I got checked out of my room before my 11 AM panel, “Best Worlds in SF.” I’d thought that would be a discussion of our favorite or most optimistic fictional universes, but apparently it was about “worlds” in a more literal sense, our favorite physical settings and the worldbuilding behind them. Geoffrey Landis was on this panel with me as well, and we both talked about our interest in real planetary science and how that could inform our fiction. There was also some discussion of the worldbuilding process, and I got to talk about The Hub and how pleased I am that its central concept is so simple and distinctive yet provides so many story possibilities growing out of its ramifications. Although that might actually have been in the short story panel the night before. They’ve kind of blended together in my memory.

(By the way, I’ve just discovered that the Internet Science Fiction Database lists my Hub stories under the series title “The Hub Gates.” I guess I can see why they’d think “gates” in terms of instantaneous interstellar travel, a la Gateway or Stargate, but I’m puzzled because I’ve never used that term for it myself — and there’s really only a single “gate,” the Hub itself. I’ve always thought of the series as just “The Hub.” Still, it’s neat to find out I have an ISFDb entry for my own original series. Though my main ISFDb page is in need of updating — it’s missing my non-Analog original stories, Hub Space, and my Star Trek Magazine articles.)

After the last panel, I spent an hour at the guest table in the main hall, trying to sell books, but that can be tough on the last day of a con, when people have spent most of their money already. Plus, I was kind of far from the other guests, since for some reason there was a live rabbit in a cage under the table and I had to move off to the side to avoid kicking it. So I was a little lonely. After that, I moved back to Author’s Alley for a last bout of giveaways and signings before the closing ceremony, and Larry Nemecek took that opportunity to interview me for a podcast. I think he said it was for Trekland, but there doesn’t seem to be a video up there yet.

So then I went off to the fairly brief closing ceremonies, and then I reclaimed my remaining books from the con staff — those from my own stock, at least, since we weren’t sure about the disposition of the remaining giveaway books. (That’s being worked out.) Anyway, it turned out that I didn’t need to bring both my boxes of Only Superhuman hardcovers, since I only sold 3/4 of one box worth. Still, I made a pretty decent haul, better than I’ve ever made at a single convention before.

And then the rough stuff began. First, I had trouble getting out of the parking lot. My car has been having problems accelerating after sitting overnight in cold weather; it takes up to a few minutes before I’m able to get the car moving to any useful degree, though it tends to clear up after that. I then had to endure a drive through heavy rain all the way to Detroit, and I wasn’t feeling too great after all the stress of the convention and lack of sleep, so I had to keep stopping to rest. Under other circumstances, I might’ve just found a motel for the night, but I wanted to get to Shirley and Harry’s home in time for the tail end of their “housecooling” party, as they called the gathering to commemorate their impending move out of their home of over 45 years. I got there in time to see cousins Barb, Mark, and Teddy before they left the next morning. It’s been a while since I’ve managed to see them, since I’ve had to miss the past couple of holiday gatherings at their home.

Unfortunately, their presence meant there was no room at the inn for me that night, so the plan was for me to go stay with Uncle Clarence. Which turned out to be a terrible plan, since getting there was a 40-minute drive through unfamiliar territory in the dark and the pouring rain. There were moments when I was driving on the freeway and could barely see the lane dividers, and it would’ve been so easy for me to have an accident. It was the most terrifying driving experience of my life. I should’ve just found the nearest motel to Shirley and Harry’s house, but I was too tired to think of it. I’m grateful to Clarence for letting me stay over, but in retrospect, it wasn’t the ideal choice in those conditions.

And I had car trouble again the next morning, this time with Clarence observing. He later called an automotive-minded friend, who suggested I might need the transmission fluid changed. Anyway, the car finally started moving, as it does, and I went back to Shirley & Harry’s for the rest of Monday. With things finally settled down and the weather improved, it was a good visit. There was good food and conversation, and we went to the local library and I checked out a collection of fun and zany Superman comics from 1958-9, the era when some of the most important elements from the Silver Age debuted, such as Brainiac, Kandor, and Supergirl. And I finally got a good night’s sleep on Monday night, so I was well-rested for my drive home Tuesday. The folks provided me with lunch for my trip, and also let me have a tea ball and a couple of mugs they no longer need.

The drive home was much nicer than my previous two long drives. The weather was great and I was feeling much better. I ran into a long traffic delay due to construction, but it was well-timed to let me eat lunch while traffic was completely stopped or inching forward, and it turned out to be a much shorter delay than the hour and forty-some minutes that Google Maps predicted. When I got home, I found a sticker on my door from UPS saying they’d tried to deliver a package from Simon & Schuster on the day I’d left for the convention — my copies of Live by the Code, of course, in an odd bit of timing. They’d dropped them off at the local bike shop, which I’d used once before to drop off a return to Amazon, so I guess UPS had it in their records as my preferred location. I picked them up the next day, combining it with a grocery trip. My car still seemed to be having some acceleration problems going up hills, so the transmission issue may be getting worse. I was going to take it to the garage then, but I decided I needed groceries first instead, and once I got home from that, I figured I’d wait until today. But today I had to do laundry, and was just generally too tired to do much else. So maybe tomorrow.

And hopefully soon I’ll be recovered enough to get back to that whole writing thing…

Report from Cleveland ConCoction

It’s near the end of day 2 of ConCoction, and I’m taking advantage of some downtime in my hotel room to post this. The drive up yesterday went okay, except for a few minutes’ slowdown due to construction near Columbus. It only took about two hours longer than Google Maps’ theoretical drive time, what with the stops I made for gas, rest, and lunch. So I made it here in time for the opening ceremonies, and in time to see my Uncle Clarence, who drove in from Detroit. That’s two conventions in a row where I’ve had a relative visit. Anyway, his stay was fairly brief, but he’s a man of few words, and I’ll see him again tomorrow when I go to visit Aunt Shirley and Uncle Harry in Detroit for the last time (they’re moving).

The con staff got me all set up in Author’s Alley, and checked the books I brought for sale into their system so they could sell them for me when I’m away, a nice service. But I kept a stock of Only Superhuman hardcovers on hand to sell myself, and I’ve sold a decent number of copies today. I’m benefitting from the use of one of those credit card swiper attachments for smartphones, which I got for this trip, since on past occasions I’ve missed out on a few sales due to not being able to take credit cards.

The giveaway copies of the Rise of the Federation books showed up from Pocket as well, including Live by the Code, which I got to see for the first time in person:

Me with Live by the Code

Sorry, not a great shot. I’m not accustomed to taking “selfies.”

I was also given a gift basket by the con staff, including a box of specialty chocolates like these:

Sci-fi chocolate!

Yes, that is a chocolate Serenity.

(And thanks to my new laptop, I’m able to upload these direct from my phone through the USB cable. Apparently this one has the right connection software built in, whereas I could never get it to work on my old laptop. On the other hand, though, I discovered today that the right arrow key on my laptop keyboard has come loose.)

I’ve also gotten to meet a couple of people with whom I have common professional ties — Larry Nemecek, who’s a big name in Star Trek nonfiction, and scientist/author Geoffrey A. Landis, who got his start as a professional writer in Analog the same as me, though he’s done considerably more since. So that’s been cool.

I’ve had a couple of panels that went pretty well. There was a panel at 11 PM last night on SF/fantasy heroines, and though there were barely more audience members than panelists, we had a good, lively discussion about writing women effectively, and then I and a few other panelists and guests just hung around the room chatting until nearly 1 AM. (It’s not like I was gonna get any sleep on my first night in a hotel anyway.) This morning we had an author showcase, and I had been planning on reading the first scene of Live by the Code, but I hadn’t found time to rehearse and I was afraid it’d be too long, plus the audience seemed more interested in Only Superhuman, so I fell back on performing a scene from that which I’ve done before, and which I had fun doing again, though I got so enthusiastic that I gave myself a headache. Then there was a panel on creating characters that I somehow ended up assigned to moderate without realizing it, and though I didn’t have many character-creation anecdotes to offer, the rest of the group made it a pretty lively discussion.

I’ve got another panel coming up shortly, then one more tomorrow morning. More to follow soon, I hope.

LIVE BY THE CODE to debut at Cleveland ConCoction!

February 27, 2016 1 comment

We’re just under two weeks out from the Cleveland ConCoction convention at the Cleveland Sheraton Airport Hotel, at which I’ll be the author Guest of Honor, a first for me. And on the subject of firsts, I’m pleased to announce that my new Star Trek novel will be making its debut a few weeks early at the convention.

Live by the Code cover

Simon & Schuster has agreed to provide a limited number of copies of Star Trek: Enterprise — Rise of the Federation: Live by the Code (book 4 in the series), which I will sign and give away on a first come, first served basis. The book doesn’t officially go on sale until March 29, but the folks at S&S were kind enough to work with me and the convention staff to make this happen. There will also be a larger number of giveaway copies of books 2 & 3, Tower of Babel and Uncertain Logic, though unfortunately S&S doesn’t currently have book 1 in stock.

Tower of Babel cover ROTF Uncertain Logic cover

The plan is to split the supply into three lots so that there will be giveaway books available on all three days of the convention. But they’ll probably go pretty quickly, so if you plan to attend, I suggest you try to come early. I’ll endeavor (pun intended) to keep folks posted about my schedule.

While these three ROTF volumes will be given away, I also plan to have various books from my own reserves which will be for sale, including some older Trek novels, but mostly featuring hardcover copies of my original novel Only Superhuman. The last time I was at a comics-oriented convention, I was able to move a fair number of copies of OS, so I’m hoping the same will be true this time.

Only Superhuman by Christopher L. Bennett

I’ll also be on several panels over the course of the convention. The schedule can be found here. My own scheduled appearances include:

FRIDAY, MARCH 11

  • 5 PM, Orion Ballroom: Opening Ceremonies
  • 11 PM, Lyra Room: “My Favorite Heroines”: Panel about female protagonists in SF/fantasy.

SATURDAY, MARCH 12

  • 11 AM, Lyra Room: Author Showcase: Includes Q&A and a reading from one of my books (which means I’d better pick out a scene to read!)
  • Noon, Authors’ Alley: Autograph session following up the Showcase.
  • 3 PM, Pegasus Room: “Strange Stories About Coming Up with Characters”: Speaks for itself, I guess.
  • 8 PM, Lyra Room: “Shaping the Short Story”

SUNDAY, MARCH 13

  • 11 AM, Lyra Room: “Best Worlds in Sci-Fi”: Talking about the SF universes we love.
  • 2 PM, Orion Ballroom: Closing Ceremonies

I’ll also be available at my Guest of Honor table (ooh, I like saying that) in Authors’ Alley at various times throughout the weekend. I gather the other Guests of Honor (actors, musicians, gamers, cosplayers, etc.) will be gathered in their own area, but I feel that being with the other author guests will be a better fit, since that’s where the book fans will presumably be.

For more Pocket Books news, you can follow their Facebook fan page, and their Twitter address is @Pocket_Books.

LIVE BY THE CODE cover and blurb released!

November 24, 2015 5 comments

And the news keeps coming. StarTrek.com has just posted the covers and blurbs for my Star Trek: Enterprise — Rise of the Federation: Live by the Code and Dayton Ward’s Star Trek: TOS — Elusive Salvation. You can check out Dayton’s book over at the link, but here’s the LBTC cover and info:

Live by the Code cover

Admiral Jonathan Archer has barely settled in as Starfleet Chief of Staff when new crises demand his attention. The Starfleet task force commanded by Captain Malcolm Reed continues its fight against the deadly Ware technology, but one of the task force ships is captured, its Andorian crew imprisoned by an interstellar Partnership that depends on the Ware for its prosperity. Worse, the Partnership has allied with a renegade Klingon faction, providing it with Ware drone fleets to mount an insurrection against the Klingon Empire. Archer sends Captain T’Pol and Endeavour to assist Reed in his efforts to free the captured officers. But he must also keep his eye on the Klingon border, for factions within the Empire blame Starfleet for provoking the Ware threat and seek to take revenge. Even the skill and dedication of the captains under Archer’s command may not be enough to prevent the outbreak of the Federation’s first war.

Artist Doug Drexler consulted me about the cover some months ago, and we picked out a scene from the novel that would make for a good cover. This is the scene we discussed, although I didn’t expect the image would be this close-up. But I’m glad to have a cover emphasizing one of Starfleet’s Andorian ships, as a companion to the Tower of Babel cover showcasing Endeavour and Pioneer. The emphasis is very appropriate for this novel, for reasons that will become apparent.

I’ll be at Cleveland ConCoction in March

The folks behind the Cleveland ConCoction science fiction/comics/gaming convention have invited me to appear this year as their Guest of Honor on the literary track, as they’ve just announced on Facebook. The convention will be held from Friday, March 11 to Sunday, March 13, 2016 at the Cleveland Sheraton Airport Hotel in Cleveland, Ohio. You can find more information at their website here.

I’ve never been a Guest of Honor before, so I’m not quite sure what that will entail, but in some respects it won’t be too different from my annual Shore Leave appearances. I’ll be on at least a couple of panels (as well as their opening and closing ceremonies, apparently), and I’ll have a table where I can sell and autograph copies of my books for as long as they hold out, and I’ll just generally be around for the weekend. Hopefully the timing will be right for me to have copies of Star Trek: Enterprise — Rise of the Federation: Live by the Code for sale, but we’ll see.

It’ll be nice to attend a convention that’s actually within my own state, although it’s a big state and Cleveland’s pretty much in the opposite corner, so it’ll still be a fair drive. I don’t recall if I’ve ever actually been to Cleveland before. Well, now I will have been.

Things are starting to look up a bit…

The best news this week: Not only did I deposit my final advance check for DTI: Time Lock yesterday, but I was just informed that my outline for Star Trek: The Face of the Unknown has been approved and the check is already being processed. I’m glad not only because I need the money, but because my plan was to devote October to original projects and then begin on TFOTU in November, but we’re not supposed to start writing the manuscripts until the outlines are approved. So now I’ll be able to stick with that plan. At the moment I’m proofreading the galleys for Rise of the Federation: Live by the Code, but I’ll get to TFOTU as soon as that’s done. (Although I didn’t get as much done on original projects as I’d hoped, what with my computer issues and illness and some still-unresolved problems with a story I was trying to salvage.)

I also finally got my replacement watchband the other day. It’s taking some getting used to, but it’s working okay. And because of the mixup, the company sent me a second band as a bonus, so I have a replacement for this one if anything should happen to it. Although it’s a pretty sturdy nylon band, so I doubt I’ll need a replacement anytime soon.

I made my first foray into laptop shopping yesterday, but I basically learned that it might be more challenging than I thought to find a reasonably priced model that has the software I need. The place I got my current laptop installs MS Office and a few other programs for no extra charge, but I don’t trust them anymore, certainly not after their 90-dollar “repair” did nothing to fix the problem and just made the performance worse overall. But apparently Staples laptops just come with Windows and nothing else, although you do get a discount if you buy Office along with them. Still, I need to try other possibilities. There are the obvious big stores like Best Buy to consider, but are those really the best options, especially for someone on a budget? The local place did have some appealing qualities, like the free software installation; it’d be nice to find some similar local shop in the Cincinnati area that’s more reliable.

In the wake of the useless “repair,” my laptop is now even worse at playing streaming video than it was before. Hulu is very jerky on Chrome, and ever since I let the computer upgrade Flash the other day, Firefox won’t play Hulu at all, since the Flash just crashes. I should probably just uninstall Flash and rely on HTML5, which is what people recommend online, but I’m not sure what the right way to do that is. Anyway, for now I’m effectively Hulu-less, which is a problem since there are a few shows this week that I skipped watching live because I expected to be able to watch them via On Demand cable, but the On Demand channel isn’t updating this week for some reason. I’m almost to the point of trying to watch Hulu on my tiny smartphone screen and seeing if that works. (If only I’d accepted the phone store’s limited-time offer to get a tablet along with the phone for an extra 50 bucks.) Or I could just try living with the jerky picture.

I’m still having the occasional freeze-up of my laptop. The last time it happened, I checked and confirmed that the hard-drive light was not on at all. Based on the searches I’ve done, that suggests that the freeze may be related to a hardware problem with the RAM, a bad sector or connection or something. I’ve been thinking of taking it in to the local repair shop (not the same as the place I bought it) and seeing if they can fix the RAM — and maybe install some more to improve my video-streaming performance. But I hesitate to spend money on a repair that may not work or that may just lead to the conclusion that I need to buy a new laptop anyway.

Granted, with my check coming in soon, I don’t need to be so reticent about spending money anymore. But I don’t want to spend too profligately either. I’m still feeling kind of burned after throwing away 90 bucks on a non-solution. That’s why I made sure to approach my Staples visit as a purely factfinding expedition. I’m not very good at making on-the-spot decisions, and a couple of times now (with my watch and the laptop) I’ve let store clerks talk me into choices that turned out to be the wrong ones. So I want to make sure I consider all the possibilities before deciding what to do about laptops. Which means I may be stuck with this one for a while longer. I just hope it holds up.

Books by the Banks report

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.

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