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Shore Leave 2015 report

August 13, 2015 1 comment

Um, okay, I guess I’m nearly recovered enough from Shore Leave to finally get around to posting about it… if I can remember enough.

Let’s see, I set off relatively early on Thursday morning, since it was raining in southwest Ohio and I hoped to get past the weather as soon as I could, before the really harsh stuff caught up with me. Once more, the weather radar app on my smartphone was very helpful in tracking the storm. I did get caught in one pretty heavy downpour, but it was brief.

Oh yes, but before I did anything else, I went to the nearest Kroger gas station to use my fuel discount, and then I went to the Starbucks in the same mall to get coffee for the road. It took me a moment to spot the store, because it didn’t have its name on the sign, only its logo. I suppose that reflects how ubiquitous Starbucks has become, but it’s also a worrying sign that we’re becoming a non-literate society. (Even the New York Times crossword page has redesigned its format to be mostly pictures rather than words. I mean, a crossword page. Think about that.) Anyway, I asked the clerk (barista? I don’t know this arcane terminology yet) for some advice on picking a beverage, something mild and sweet and not bitter, and ended up going for a white mocha thingummy with whipped cream, which wasn’t bad. Still, I found I needed more of a caffeine boost on the road, so over the course of the day I had both of the iced-coffee drinks I’d bought the day before just in case. I’m starting to think that caffeine doesn’t have that much of an effect on me. But the other part of the problem was that I’m out of shape. I’ve been too busy writing lately, too sedentary, so my general endurance and energy levels are down. Driving may be a sedentary activity, but it’s a draining one. I’ll have to remember that in the future, and try to get in better shape before my next long drive. As usual, I had an essentially sleepless night in the motel where I stayed, but the coffee I had the next morning did help me stay reasonably alert for the rest of the drive. I got in to the hotel at just about 3 PM on Friday, and my room was ready promptly.

So anyway, my phone rang while I was on the road Thursday afternoon, but I couldn’t answer it while driving. When I stopped for dinner a bit later and checked my messages, I learned from my cousin Cynthia that our mutual cousin Scott, whom I’d never met, would be attending Shore Leave with his son and hoped we could get together. I was expecting him to show up at Meet the Pros on Friday if he didn’t find me sooner, but he never appeared that night. I contacted him later and found he wouldn’t be in until Sunday.

My first panel on Friday was at 5 PM, so I didn’t have time to rest much in my room, though I did shower and change and transfer stuff into my trusty but worn Shore Leave tote bag that I’ve had since my first visit over a decade ago. The panel was “Keeping it Real: Using Facts in Fiction,” and I and the other panelists, including my friend David Mack, had a pretty good discussion about incorporating real scientific and historical research into our work. After that, I tagged along with Dave and his wife Kara as they checked out the vending area, and then later we got together with a bunch of the other writers and went over to a sports bar in the mall across the way for dinner. We had an interesting conversation, and I had a pretty good chicken wrap with cheese sauce, but I had to step out early because I had an 8 PM panel. I took the second half of my wrap with me to have later, and I hurried back to the hotel on foot, expecting to be late for the panel. I managed to get there just one minute late — only to find that I was the first panelist to arrive, and that the auction scheduled for the previous hour was still going on. The panel I’d rushed to reach started over 15 minutes late, and I had enough time to wolf down the rest of my wrap. Fittingly, it was a panel on SF humor. I used it as a chance to plug Hub Space, but I didn’t have much to contribute beyond that. Fortunately, Peter David was on the panel, so I didn’t have to say much.

I stuck around briefly for the start of Marco Palmieri’s annual 9 PM panel announcing upcoming Tor books, but then I decided I needed to go back to my room and rest up a bit before Meet the Pros at 10. At MtP, I was seated between Dave Mack and a relative newcomer to the Trek line, John Jackson Miller, who’s already known for his Star Wars stuff. Of the three of us, I was the one who got the least attention, because I had the least to promote. Uncertain Logic came out months ago, and I don’t have anything new coming up for a while. I did print up a sort of flyer to promote Hub Space, just a single sheet that I had on display, but nobody took much interest. Maybe I should’ve printed up multiple cards and handed them out, but it was too much of a last-minute decision. Which is not to say that Meet the Pros was a disappointment for me. In addition to meeting my fans (and putting a face to the name of one of the regular commenters over on Tor.com), I got to catch up with some of my friends and colleagues, and talked a bit of business with one of them, which hopefully will turn out well, though I shouldn’t get my hopes up yet.

The new hotel management doesn’t continue the practice of putting preorder menus for Saturday breakfast in our rooms, so instead I just went down to the former Hunt Cafe, which is now yet another Starbucks, and got breakfast there, including another white mocha thingummy (I’m a veteran now!). I don’t remember doing much before my Sherlock Holmes panel at noon. I’m not sure I contributed much there, since the moderator, Kathleen David, wanted to focus on literary Holmes continuations and pastiches, while I was expecting something more screen-oriented. But there was some talk of screen adaptations, so I was able to contribute somewhat. Still, I made a point of seeing Ian McKellen’s Mr. Holmes beforehand, and I don’t think it would’ve made much difference if I hadn’t.

I lucked into a free lunch on Saturday, since I ran into Keith R.A. DeCandido, who brought cold cuts from New York City to provide his friends and colleagues with a less expensive alternative to the hotel restaurant and cafe. I had roast beef with mustard, and it was pretty good. Thanks, Keith!

At 2 PM was the sole Star Trek literature panel, where all of us Trek authors with books coming out in the rest of 2015-16 got together and announced our stuff, as well as the upcoming titles by the authors who weren’t in attendance. You can see the list of titles at Memory Alpha’s Upcoming productions page, including a TOS 5oth-anniversary trilogy by Greg Cox, Dave Mack, and Dayton Ward & Kevin Dilmore, and a TNG trilogy by John Jackson Miller. My own announcements were of two upcoming projects: a 5-year-mission-era TOS novel called The Face of the Unknown, scheduled for January 2017 (released in late December, so just barely squeezing in as part of the 50th anniversary), and a second Department of Temporal Investigations novella, Time Lock, which is not yet scheduled.

After sitting in on the last half of Keith’s Stargate fiction panel from 3-4, I went to the book vendor’s table and did my hour signing autographs in the Author Chimney, the enclosed space between brick pillars where authors sit to do signings. Actually there were one or two non-Chimney spaces for writers at the table this year, but Dave Mack was already there, so I ended up in the Chimney. I actually found the enclosed space kind of comforting. After that, I participated in the annual authors’ ritual of the Saturday night mass visit to Andy Nelson’s Barbecue. I had the same thing I had last year — a pulled turkey barbecue sandwich with cole slaw and cornbread, because Nelson’s makes the only good cole slaw and cornbread I can ever remember having — but I’m thinking that maybe next year I should try something different.

While I was in the Chimney, Kara came up and told me where I could get a new Shore Leave tote bag, since my trusty old one isn’t as trusty anymore, getting kind of worn out and frayed. The vendor was closing up by the time I got there after my signing session, but I went back the next morning and got a new bag, which is fancier than the old one, with more pockets. Hopefully it’ll be useful for years to come.

Sunday morning was the usual authors’ breakfast at the hotel restaurant, but I’m starting to wonder if maybe I should’ve reconsidered that tradition and taken Kevin Dilmore’s suggestion to go out someplace less expensive for breakfast with him and his group. It used to be, back when Pocket Books had an official presence at Shore Leave, that the editor (Marco) picked up the tab for the authors, but these days we’re paying for it ourselves. Still, I’d already told the convention organizers that I’d be at the author breakfast, so I felt obligated to follow through. I had a double-sized breakfast to tide me over and to justify the expense. And I got to chat with some authors I hadn’t already talked to much, including a talk about Gilligan’s Island with Peter David. (Wherein I got to share my theory that Gilligan’s island is the last surviving piece of Captain Nemo’s Mysterious Island. That’s where the 6-foot spider in “The Pigeon” came from!)

I also touched base with cousin Scott and his son before breakfast, and then Scott showed up to watch me at the Orphan Black panel, even though he’s never seen the show. Afterward I showed Scott around the con a bit, and then we joined his son for the back half of John Barrowman’s talk, which was certainly lively — and meaningful, since Barrowman talked a lot about fighting for LGBT inclusion and acceptance, and said a lot of encouraging and affirming things to people from the audience. Afterward, at my suggestion, the three Bennetts went over to the Wegman’s in the mall for lunch — they had pizza, but I was still full from my big breakfast, so I just had a cucumber-blueberry-feta salad (yes, really!) and an iced tea — and then we went back to hang around in the corridor where the actor guests were signing autographs. I’m glad Scott was there, since I usually never get up the nerve to go talk to the actor guests, but I just tagged along with him and thereby got to have conversations with folks like Roger Cross and Jaime Murray. (It was weird getting home the next day and seeing Cross in Dark Matter on the DVR when I’d been talking to him in person just the day before.)

Once Scott and his son went on their way to see other convention stuff and said their farewells, I just hung around and talked more with whatever writer acquaintances were still around — which was serendipitous, since one colleague sounded me out on a very interesting business opportunity that I really hope will prove feasible. That was a good way to end my Shore Leave experience this year, and my mind was racing with the possibilities on the first leg of the drive home. Which is getting ahead of myself, since there are a couple of things I need to find out before I even know whether this is possible; but I always get ahead of myself with these things. Maybe that’s an occupational hazard of a science fiction writer.

I left the hotel at 4:10 PM, which I know because I’ve discovered that my phone’s Google Maps stores a record of my movements — kind of creepy but useful for reference. One reason I’d stuck around was that I’d been hoping for a chance to visit my DC-area cousins Barb and Mark, and I’d texted them to find their plans; but it turned out they wouldn’t be home until late that evening, too late to make it feasible. So I just texted my regrets and headed for home. Given my late start, I was only able to make it midway through Pennsylvania by nightfall — but I had the idea that I should try to make it back to the same motel I’d stayed at on the way out, since I’d been fairly satisfied with it and I didn’t want to take chances with an unknown commodity. Plus, fortunately, I’d picked up two different motel-coupon booklets at a rest stop on Thursday, and thus I had two coupons for the same motel. It belatedly occurred to me that driving west around sunset was a bad idea, but fortunately the sky was overcast most of the time, so I never had to contend with glare in my eyes. I made it to the motel just shortly before sunset and parked in the same space I’d parked in on Thursday night. I even ended up in a room right across the hall from my previous one, and a single digit higher in number. I’m a little disappointed that it wasn’t the same room, but missing it by one is almost as good.

At the motel’s complementary breakfast, I had two cups of coffee, and toward the end of the second cup, I noticed some grains that I thought were undissolved bits of sugar. It turned out they were actually coffee grounds. The coffee pot had only just been put in place when I filled my cup, so I guess maybe the grounds hadn’t settled. I just looked into whether there’s anything bad about eating coffee grounds, and it seems the only potential problem is the acidity. I didn’t swallow many before figuring out what they were, though.

I set out fairly early, hoping to get home by mid-afternoon, but as always, it took longer than I hoped, since I needed to take a number of rest breaks. I managed to cross into Ohio just before noon, though. I stopped for lunch at a Subway in a convenience store/truck stop in Cambridge, one that had a small dining area where the TV was playing a basketball game. It slowly dawned on me that it must’ve been a replay of a classic game, since I recognized the Chicago Bulls lineup from back when my father was a fan of them — names like Dennis Rodman, Scottie Pippen, and even Michael Jordan. Checking Wikipedia, it looks like that narrows it down to 1995-98. It was against the New York Knicks, but I can’t narrow it down any more than that. I generally couldn’t care less about basketball, but it was interesting to realize that it was a game my late father might well have watched and enjoyed when it was new.

My phone told me there was some rain coming in between Columbus and Cincinnati again, so I decided to wait it out at a rest stop east of Columbus — where I had yet another cup of coffee to stave off fatigue. I thought I’d stayed there for a significant amount of time, but my Maps timeline tells me it was only 22 minutes. Which it claims to be my last stop before reaching home, but I think I stopped briefly at another rest area on I-71, so I guess it doesn’t catch everything. (And maybe it was longer than 22 minutes at that.) Anyway, my timing was pretty bad, since it was rush hour when I got into Cincinnati. I’d just about decided to get off a few exits early and make it the rest of the way home by the surface roads (why do they call them that?? It’s not like freeways are underground or hovering in midair, usually), but the traffic started to clear off and I figured, hey, it’s not likely to crowd up again within the next three miles, right? So I stayed on the freeway. Only to spot another traffic jam — just five seconds too late to make it off onto the last exit before mine. Arrgghhh! I was stuck crawling forward for most of the last mile and a half before my exit. Really, really frustrating.

And then I got home to find a note under my door from the building manager. Turns out the downstairs storage lockers had been broken into while I was out. Fortunately I don’t keep anything valuable in there, so nothing was taken. But the combination lock I’ve had since high school was destroyed. I still have two others, from my gym locker and my shop locker, but that was my main lock! Waaaah!

I’ve spent the past couple of days recuperating and catching up on recorded shows, as well as getting groceries. At the hotel, they had “coffee pods” that were basically tea bag-like filter packets that went into the coffee maker’s funnel, but it occurred to me one could just use them like tea bags, so I took a few of them home with me for later use. I also checked the grocery store shelf yesterday and found actual coffee bags. I just tried my first one of those this morning, and it’s not very good, but at least it’s convenient. The quest for a good coffee option continues. Maybe I should just buy a small coffee maker and filters and get some good grounds from the natural foods store. They have some beans that are infused with sweet flavor and thus don’t need anything added.

So anyway, that’s my combined travel/Shore Leave/family visit post, only three days late. I had a good time this year. Although the long drive is still wearying, the weekend didn’t feel as rushed as it did when I flew last year. And I got to catch up with my friends, I got to meet another cousin, I got to talk to some actors, I got a new tote bag and some interesting meals, and I got a couple of iffy but hopefully promising work opportunities, both from conversations in the same hotel corridor (though at opposite ends of it). With luck, I’ll be able to say more about one or both of those in times to come.

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.)

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…

Trek writing update

I’ve been so preoccupied with browser issues and other stuff that I neglected to update my writing progress. Over the past few weeks, I’ve completed my outline for Rise of the Federation Book 4 (which I have a title for now, though I don’t know if I should mention it yet), done copyedits for RotF: Uncertain Logic, and dealt with the proofreading galleys for Department of Temporal Investigations: The Collectors.

I wanted to get ROTF4 outlined before I did copyedits for Uncertain Logic, since I wanted to know where I was taking the story next so that I could refine any story or character threads in UL as needed or insert foreshadowing. But it turned out that the two already mesh pretty well, and I didn’t need to do any major alterations to either the Book 3 manuscript or the Book 4 outline. (Or at least, any changes I made to UL were about improving the book itself rather than foreshadowing its sequel.) And I think I managed to make the Book 4 outline tighter than the previous one. Instead of having two distinct, major parallel storylines, it has one main storyline (albeit with two or three interwoven threads) and a smaller independent subplot. Margaret, my editor, was quite happy with it and has sent it in to CBS for approval. The best part is, because of my desire to get it done in time for Book 3 copyedits, I turned it in exactly a month before deadline, which means I should get paid earlier and have more time to work on the manuscript, assuming approval comes in a timely fashion.

I didn’t need to do too much work on the galleys to The Collectors, but I was able to correct a couple of scientific details. I recently learned something about… a thing I don’t want to spoil… that I’d depicted incorrectly in the story, so I was glad for the opportunity to fix those descriptions. Oh, and I also took the opportunity to put together the annotations for the novella, since the galleys include the final page numbering and it’s convenient to proofread and annotate them at the same time. Indeed, I find that doing the annotations gets me thinking about aspects of a story that I didn’t examine closely before, and sometimes that helps me catch mistakes and make improvements in the galleys.

Oh, and I’ve also seen the cover and blurb for The Collectors, so hopefully it won’t be much longer before they show up online. The e-novella will be released on December 8.

Now that I’m done with those projects for the moment, I’m starting to think about a new Trek pitch or two set in the Original Series era. I’m hoping I can get something approved in time for the 50th anniversary in 2016. In which case I’d better get cracking.

No, I’m not at New York Comic-Con

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.

Cincy Library Comic Con report

Here I am at the Cincinnati Library Comic Con 2014 this afternoon:

Me at Cinti Library Comic Con

(Thanks to library volunteer Lori for taking the photo for me.)

As you can see, I brought a variety of my books with me, but I still had most of them by the end of the event. Still, I sold a bit over a quarter of my stock and earned a decent chunk of change, with 20% donated to the library. Not shown in the photo: the one copy I had left of Spider-Man: Drowned in Thunder. Since this was mainly a comics event, my Spidey novel and Only Superhuman sold significantly better than the Trek titles, a change of pace from what I’m used to. It makes me think I should’ve tried harder to market OS at comics events back when it first came out.

The library had snacks available for the guests, including mini-quiches from Panera. I’m not usually a quiche eater, but I was hungry and I saw that they had a spinach-artichoke variety, so I decided to give it a try, and it was quite good, as one would expect from Panera.

Another thing that really impressed me was the material covering the table, that gold sheeting you see there. The texture had a good firm grip to it and it nicely held my books in that upright position. I usually have trouble keeping them from falling over when they’re like that, but they were all very well-behaved today, so I can only conclude it’s because of the tablecloth material. If I knew what it were called, I’d recommend it to all my conventions.

New interview on TrekCore

TrekCore.com recently interviewed me for their blog, and the article is now up. It covers Rise of the Federation: Tower of Babel and a bit about my future plans for the series, as well as the upcoming DTI: The Collectors eBook and my work in general.

You can read the interview here.

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