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ROTF 4 title revealed: LIVE BY THE CODE

As usual, 8of5 at The Trek Collective has been alert to the latest updates on Star Trek news, and that includes the news that the title and pre-order information for Star Trek: Enterprise — Rise of the Federation Book 4 has now gone public. So I can now freely say (heck, I probably could’ve said months ago, but I wasn’t sure) that the book is called Live by the Code. It’s a title that has several meanings, but one of them is a play on computer code, since this novel continues the Ware narrative begun in Uncertain Logic.

Here’s the pre-order link on Amazon:

Order Live by the Code on Amazon

Nobody else seems to have it up for pre-order as of this writing.

The Collective‘s item includes a preliminary blurb for the novel, but it’s just an excerpt from one scene in my outline, and one that isn’t representative of the overall plot, so I won’t reprint it here. It does reveal, though, that the Klingons play a major role in Live by the Code — and readers of Keith R.A. DeCandido’s The Klingon Art of War may recognize a plot point or two. This is my first published book to deal heavily with the Klingons (though they figured in my unsold TNG spec script back in 1992 as well as my cancelled novel Seek a Newer World), and I drew heavily on TKAoW for inspiration, as well as getting invaluable input from Keith himself. As you can guess, the title also alludes to Klingon codes of honor (plural used deliberately). Among other things.

No cover yet, but the cover artist was nice enough to contact me and discuss possibilities, and I think the result should be quite interesting.

And yes, I’m aware that the acronym for the novel is ROTFLBTC. At least it’s better than the last one, which was ROTFUL.

Coming up for air

Sorry I haven’t posted for a while. The reason is that I’ve been deeply immersed in writing Rise of the Federation Book 4. I started out a bit over three months ago with a plan to write 25,000 words per month, and I only just managed to meet that goal for the first month; but then my website disappeared and I had to reconstruct it here, so that distracted me for a while and I fell behind. I ended my second month 9,000 words behind my target, then managed to get a fair amount done in the following week, but then got stuck and fell even further behind. At six weeks to deadline, I had the novel only half-written.

But then something changed. I think it has to do with the fact that I recently started drinking coffee. I actually had my first cup back in March to help me with my drive to Detroit, and it was only after that point that I started to fall behind; but I only gradually started experimenting with drinking more coffee, investigating and sampling possibilities. Note that this was specifically because I hoped it would help improve my focus and alertness for my writing. I can’t say I actually like the taste of coffee. I need it really, really sweetened. I found an instant mix at the store that had sugar and creamer pre-mixed into it, and that was okay, but a bit too sweet, and hardly good for me. It actually has more sugar and corn syrup by weight than actual coffee. So I tried getting regular instant coffee — I know the brewed stuff is better, but I don’t intend to drink it regularly enough, just when I need it, so instant works better. The kind I got was pretty foul at first, but I’ve gotten a bit acclimated to it, and I’ve found that it’s not bad if I mix the coffee crystals into a cup of hot milk and honey. I wish I could find a sweeter, milder variety, though, so I don’t need quite as much honey and can cut a few calories. Though honey is better for me than processed sugar.

Anyway, I’ve been having coffee and tea pretty regularly for the past three-odd weeks, and though I can’t be sure there’s a causal correlation beyond the placebo effect, in that time, I’ve had the most amazing burst of productivity I can ever remember having. The coffee didn’t seem to help immediately, i.e. when I got stuck in early May, but I was still trying to feel my way through a subplot, do some complicated worldbuilding. Once I started to get some momentum three weeks ago, I just kept going and going and couldn’t stop. I’ve had creative surges like that before, but it’s been years at least since I had one last so long, and without the pressure of a looming deadline.

And my word counts per day have been impressively high as well. In just over three weeks, I’ve written more than 50,000 words, more than half the novel. Yesterday, three weeks before my deadline, I wrote the climactic scenes and part of the denouement, and I was up to 6,900 words written by the end of the day (or actually early the next morning), which is at least close to a career record. And today, I wrote the last few scenes and completed the first draft. I now have a comfortable 20-day window for revisions. And it feels wonderful to be so unrushed.

Still, I do feel I overdid it. Even though I haven’t had that much coffee — usually just one cup a day, plus a cup or two of tea — I think the combination of the caffeine and my own creative adrenaline surge made me a bit too wired toward the end there. A couple of nights ago, I lay awake almost all night, even though I’d tried going to bed early to catch up on lost sleep. Hopefully in the future I can find a happy medium between falling horribly behind and having a surge like this. Honestly, I’m not even sure I needed the coffee that much; when I get into an up period like this, I tend to work pretty fast and stay pretty wired anyway. The problem is the down periods where I have to force myself to write anything. Maybe I should save my coffee consumption for those times, in the hopes that it’ll level me out more.

Anyway, I should get going now. I have a couple of library books due today, and I don’t want to forget. And tomorrow I need to deal with my dead car battery. Yes, it’s still dead (see previous post). I’ve just been making so much progress on the novel the past few weeks that I didn’t want to deal with the distraction of car repairs (since I need to ask about some other repair issues besides the battery) and risk losing focus. So I’ve been getting my groceries on foot every few days for the past two weeks, although I made one trip with my bicycle last week and used its hook-on pannier bags to carry groceries for the first time in years. Which is not an experience I’m eager to repeat, since I got a bit carried away and got a heavier load than I should have.

But yeah, I really need to stop writing stuff now. Really, Christopher. You can stop. Anytime. Just…

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.

My website is gone

I’m sorry to report that my former website at home.fuse.net/ChristopherLBennett has ceased to exist. I recently learned that Google’s crawler has been unable to access the site since March 19th, and I’ve had no more luck getting through. I contacted the ISP about it, and I got a boilerplate message saying that they’d decided to stop hosting webpages as of last December 1st and that they notified their subscribers of the change — which is weird, since not only did I never receive any such notification, but my site was working fine as recently as March 16th, when I last updated it. I asked them a followup question about this three days ago, but I haven’t yet received a reply.

Whatever the case, though, my site is apparently gone now. I’d actually been thinking about moving it already, since I’ve been having intermittent problems with it for months now, ranging from temporary downtime to malware infection. Also I recently got a notification that Google wasn’t prioritizing it in searches anymore because it wasn’t mobile-friendly. But I’d hesitated to move it, because my About the Author notes in my various published works over the years have been directing people to that site from the beginning, and I didn’t want them to find a dead link.

But now the decision’s been made for me. I no longer have a site, and I need to find a new host, ideally one with more up-to-date site creation software than I’ve been using. I’m open to suggestions. I’m considering the possibility of adapting my site content and reposting most of it here on Written Worlds, but I’m not yet sure if that’s the best option. (As a test, I’ve already done so with my bibliography, which you can find as a popup menu item under “About Christopher L. Bennett” at the top of the page.) I may post my annotations for Rise of the Federation: Uncertain Logic here as a stopgap, and perhaps do the same for Hub Space, whose annotations were up for all of three days before the end.

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.

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