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Michigan trip followup

November 5, 2017 3 comments

Well, I’ve been back from my visit to the Detroit area for a couple of days. I had a pretty uneventful drive both ways, taking about 6 hours each way, what with stops for rest breaks, lunch, and fuel. (I had half a tank when I started, and I realize in retrospect that if I’d waited to fill up until it was low, I could probably have made the round trip with just one refill. But I didn’t.) The only problem is that my GPS shut down on me a couple of times, including while I was in the middle of Detroit rush hour traffic. That’s the second trip I’ve had where that happened — I wonder what the problem is. My smartphone is a few years old now, so maybe planned obsolescence is starting to kick in. Anyway, I don’t really need GPS for most of the trip, since it’s just straight up and down I-75. It was just the last leg getting to Huntington Woods, and getting from there back to 75 South, that I still need a reminder for.

So I had a nice little visit with family, and the book signing at the Huntington Woods Public Library was on Wednesday evening. It was a much smaller group than I’d hoped for. Apparently the World Series was in its seventh game that night or something, although I wouldn’t think there’d be that much overlap between my audience and sports fans. But whatever the reason, there were only about a half-dozen or so people there. So we all sat around one round table and had a nice little chat about writing and Star Trek and stuff for 90 minutes. I gave away most of my giveaway copies of Patterns of Interference, but I only sold one book. I was hoping for more financially, but otherwise I can’t complain. I guess I shouldn’t have expected a huge group (although the library reserved a really big meeting hall for me).

The one other thing of note I did on my trip was to visit the Cranbrook Institute of Science, a natural history museum that’s part of the larger Cranbrook Educational Complex, itself a historic landmark. Alas, I couldn’t afford the extra fee for the chocolate exhibit they’re currently showing, but the rest of the museum was interesting, particularly the geological specimens. I quite liked this iridescent fossil shell in the lobby, which came out really nicely in my photo, with a fiery glow seemingly from within:

Cranbrook fossil shell

And here’s an item from the geology exhibit that’s close to my heart:

Beryl, var. Emerald(I think I once briefly considered using Beryl as Emerald Blair’s middle name. I figured it was too on the nose.)

They had a section on meteorites too, including a really nice Don Davis painting of the Tunguska event, which can also be seen here. There was also a replica T. rex skeleton that you can get really close to — I’m not sure I’ve ever really gotten a sense of just how big they were. That would’ve been scary. There was also a Michigan-centric section about Ice Ages and glaciers carving the landscape, and an anthropology section with items from various world cultures all displayed together. That section had a video presentation using that so-called “hologram” technology that projects what looks like a freestanding, translucent flat image in open space. I ducked down to the side to take a closer look at how it works, and it’s quite simple — there’s a horizontal video screen in the ceiling and a glass plate at a 45-degree angle reflecting it (basically a beam splitter), so that the reflection looks like it’s floating upright in the air behind the glass. They set it up so that the “holographic” characters (of course this has nothing to do with actual holography) appeared to be occupying the 3D physical display behind the glass, with the hostess standing on the carpet and a little towheaded kid right out of ’60s sitcom central casting sitting on a chest and listening to her lecture about human diversity. Since they were both in the same plane, the perspective of the illusion held up well as I moved from side to side, as long as I didn’t move far enough to see how flat their images really were. The bench in front of the display was not so wide as to spoil the illusion for kids sitting on the ends. But this is me we’re talking about — when I see an illusion, I want to see how it’s made. I was always more interested in knowing the magician’s point of view than the spectator’s.

As I mentioned, the drive home on Friday was pretty uneventful, but one weird thing happened: I got 4-5 spam calls on my smartphone within just a few hours, an astonishing number. Most of them I just rejected because I was driving at the time, but there was one that went to voicemail that was an incredibly inept scam, an obviously synthesized voice speaking in hilariously ungrammatical English about how I had to pay my overdue IRS bill or something or I would get arrested “by the cops.” I wonder why there were so many calls on that day alone.

So now I’m back home, caught up on my missed TV shows, and trying to get back to work. I’m doing copyedits for a project I should be able to announce soon, and expecting copyedits for another project I hope I can announce before much longer. Plus I just got a phone call reminding me that Election Day is on Tuesday, so I should remember to research the candidates and issues before then. (I’ve been getting a ton of election fliers in the mail, but I prefer to get my info from independent sources.)

And of course, I’ll be at Erlanger’s LibraryCon this Saturday, November 11, from 11-4. This should be a bigger event, so hopefully there will be more folks around to buy my books.

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Books By the Banks 2017 followup

October 29, 2017 1 comment

This year’s Books By the Banks event went fairly well. There was a reception for the authors Friday night, and though I’m not very good at such large-scale social gatherings, I managed to get something out of it. I noticed that the name of one of the guest, Mark Dawidziak, sounded familiar, so I looked him up on my phone browser and found that he was the author of The Columbo Phile, a behind-the-scenes companion and episode guide to the Peter Falk series, which I’ve had a copy of since about the time it came out in 1989, or at least not long thereafter. So I sought him out and brought that up, and he was quite pleased to hear I had a copy, since it’s apparently fairly hard to find (it’s long out of print and owners don’t like to part with their copies). He said he was actually a bit relieved that he never got a chance to do a revised edition or sequel about the ABC revival of Columbo, because the story of the original series was a tale of success, while the story of the revival… not so much. (It started out pretty good in its first couple of years, but had a long, slow decline after that. It did manage to do one last good one at the end, though not good enough to let them do one more movie and finish the series with an even 70 installments.) Anyway, he suggested I bring it in the next day so he could autograph it, which I did and he did.

So the reception went well enough, but I got a pretty painful foot cramp and had to leave early. I think it was standing on the hardwood floors for so long that did it, and probably the fact that I didn’t stretch my legs before I went out. Walking back to the downtown parking garage helped work out the cramp, but I had frigid weather and heavy rain to contend with, and I was in a light jacket with no umbrella, not having anticipated those conditions. It was most unpleasant, particularly after having an unseasonably warm autumn. And then I found out the garage had raised its rates since I was last there. And then I had to drive home in the dark and the rain, which I hate. I made it home in one piece, though.

At least I got a decent night’s sleep and was reasonably awake for the festival on Saturday. I was seated near one author I know from past events, mystery writer and Sherlock Holmes expert Dan Andriacco, and we talked some about my recent revisit of the Basil Rathbone Holmes films. I was seated between a detective-story writer, Rock Neelly, and a writer of sports-themed political thrillers, Dennis Hetzel — no other sci-fi people there, apparently, and not a lot of adult fiction overall represented this year.

As for me, Joseph-Beth Bookseller had provided a number of copies of Rise of the Federation books 2-5 and The Face of the Unknown, but unfortunately no Only Superhuman, so the only non-Star Trek items I had to offer were my postcard/fliers for Hub Space. (Hopefully I’ll have something else non-Trek to offer next year. Stay tuned.) While I got to listen to the authors on either side of me giving their rehearsed pitches over and over, I had to contend with the usual thing of trying to explain to the mostly non-SF-fan crowd that: no, I don’t write for the show; no, the books are not made into episodes; no, I’m not the person who writes all the books; no, the producers don’t tell us what to write; and, yes, books based on Star Trek are a thing that exist. Plus the occasional person who addressed me only to say that they weren’t into Star Trek, though at least most of them were apologetic about it. But there was one person who said he came to the event just to see me, which was flattering.

The most successful seller among my available Trek books was The Face of the Unknown. It soon became evident that it’s easier to sell a standalone than series books, especially when the first book in the series wasn’t available. I eventually modified my completely unrehearsed pitch to say that the books could stand reasonably well on their own since they filled in any necessary information about what came before. Anyway, the best seller among the ROTF books was Uncertain Logic, which is possibly due to its distinctive cover (or I like to think so, since the cover design was my idea). Eventually I was down to one copy each of those two. When I got up to stretch my legs with about an hour and a half to go, I noticed that behind me was a corralled-off space with boxes holding extra books, so I replenished my supply of those two books — and then I didn’t sell any more. Oh, well. At leat a lot of people took Hub Space fliers, so hopefully I’ll see a spike in sales there. (As in, some sales.)

So that’s one more BBtB down for me, and the first of my three close-packed events. In a couple of days, I’ll be heading up to Huntington Woods, Michigan for the library signing on Wednesday at 7 PM. There should definitely be Only Superhuman copies for sale there. And a new wrinkle: I’ll be giving away copies of Star Trek: Enterprise — Rise of the Federation: Patterns of Interference.

Now I just hope I can get through the next few days without catching a cold from walking in the rain and attending a crowded convention…

Double annotation update! PATTERNS OF INTERFERENCE and “Abductive Reasoning” now have notes

Since both Star Trek: Enterprise — Rise of the Federation: Patterns of Interference and the September/October 2017 Analog containing my story “Abductive Reasoning” came out within the past couple of weeks, I decided I might as well post both their annotations at the same time. I’ve actually been waiting until I got my author copies of Analog, so that I’d know what pages the story was on and what the opening illustration looked like. (That’s right, they don’t let us know these things ahead of time.) That finally happened this afternoon, so I was able to complete those annotations, and here we are.

Both sets of notes can be accessed from the menu at the top of my blog, but here are the direct links (beware spoilers):

Patterns of Interference Annotations

“Abductive Reasoning” Annotations

Researching these was interesting for me, since both “Abductive Reasoning” and portions of PoI draw on elements of stories I originally wrote back in the ’90s, so I had to try to track down my original sources of inspiration, and in the process I reminded myself of some things I’d forgotten. I had a very fulfilling day of research tracking down sources and background materials for “Abductive,” and it’s surprising to me that this fun little comedy story generated such extensive and wide-ranging scientific notes.

Shore Leave 39 schedule

I’m sitting in a motel room in Western Pennsylvania right now, after driving through increasingly heavy rain throughout the day. I stopped about an hour earlier than I planned because I was fed up with the weather — and of course the rain stopped shortly after I checked into the motel. But then, I had a coupon for this motel (which I’ve stayed at before), it cost less than my other option, and my right foot felt like it was about to cramp if I didn’t rest it and get some dinner soon.

So here I am, and I see that a lot of other Shore Leave guests have posted their schedules for the con. I figure I’d better do the same. Here’s the overall, final schedule (as final as these things get, anyway):

https://www.shore-leave.com/programming/schedule.htm

And my schedule specifically (copying the panel descriptions from the pocket program because I’m tired):

FRIDAY 7/7

Star Trek Lit as Science Fiction — 7 PM, Salon A
Star Trek authors discuss how their work—and Star Trek literature in general—fits (or breaks) the mold of the science fiction genre. Do Star Trek stories draw on classic sci-fi? Do they advance the genre?
Derek Attico (M), Christopher L. Bennett, John Coffren, Dave Galanter

Meet the Pros — 10 PM to Midnight, Hunt/Valley Corridor

The usual mass signing event. As with last year, I intend to have copies of Only Superhuman and a few older Trek paperbacks for sale, and I take credit cards.

SATURDAY 7/8

History for Fun and Profit — 11 AM, Derby Lounge
Lots of SF/F stories explicitly use historical models, whether it’s the Victorian Age for steampunk or Age of Sail for original Star Trek. What pieces of the past are best for borrowing? How important is accuracy?
Jenifer Rosenberg (M), Christopher L. Bennett, Melissa Scott, Roberta Rogow, Richard C. White
Defending the Light Side — 1 PM, Chase Ballroom
In fiction, as in real life, upbeat and happy are often equated with silly fluff lacking substantial themes and intelligence. Or dismissed as childish. Those claims are often inaccurate, however.
Rigel Ailur (M), Christopher L. Bennett, Michael Critzer, Roberta Rogow, Andrew Hiller
Upcoming Star Trek Books — 5 PM, Belmont Lounge
A preview of forthcoming Star Trek novels from Simon & Schuster, with some of their authors as well as other Trek-related titles due out this fall and into 2018. (Note: It’s likely to be more a “Recent and Upcoming ST Books” panel, because there aren’t that many upcoming books currently scheduled. But the next upcoming book is my Rise of the Federation: Patterns of Interference, so I’ll have that to talk about.)
Scott Pearson (M), David Mack, Christopher L. Bennett, Dayton Ward
SUNDAY 7/9
Where No Tale Has Gone Before — 11 AM, Chase Ballroom
After over 50 years, how can there still be fresh stories to tell in Star Trek’s shared universe? Our panel of Trekspert storytellers discuss what they think makes for solid new Star Trek tales.
David Mack (M), Dayton Ward, Keith R.A. DeCandido, Christopher L. Bennett, Scott Pearson

DTI: SHIELD OF THE GODS is out today!

Yes, today’s the day that the concluding installment of my Department of Temporal Investigations e-novella trilogy, Shield of the Gods, is released. Here’s the blurb and ordering info:

DTI Shield of the Gods coverStar Trek: Department of Temporal Investigations — Shield of the Gods

The stalwart agents of the Department of Temporal Investigations have tracked down many dangerous artifacts, but now they face a greater, more personal challenge: retrieving a time-travel device stolen from their own vault by a rogue agent of the Aegis, a powerful, secretive group that uses its mastery of time to prevent young civilizations from destroying themselves. Blaming the Aegis itself for a tragedy yet to come, this renegade plans to use the stolen artifact to sabotage its efforts in the past, no matter what the cost to the timeline. Now the DTI’s agents must convince the enigmatic Aegis to work alongside them in order to protect history—but they must also wrestle with the potential consequences of their actions, for preserving the past could doom countless lives in the future!

Available at:

Simon & Schuster

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

Books-A-Million

iBookstore

Kobo

 

I’ve updated my home page to reflect its release, and to add the cover and blurb for Rise of the Federation: Patterns of Interference to the Upcoming Fiction section. Unfortunately I don’t yet have any new projects to add to Upcoming. “Abductive Reasoning” is still there, not yet scheduled by Analog as far as I know, but I’ve been going through kind of a lull lately when it comes to lining up new work. Hopefully I’ll have something to announce before too much longer.

In the meantime, go buy Shield of the Gods!

A pretty good day

Well, at least it was better than it has been for a while. About a week ago, I came down with a dreadful cold and fever. For days, I wasn’t up to doing anything but lying down and watching TV or just napping, and I just felt miserable. I spent more time sitting and lying down than is probably good for me, judging from the twinges I was starting to get in my leg.  Yesterday, I finally felt well enough to go get some much-needed groceries, but it was hard to get up the energy to do it, and my joints were sore afterward. But I also felt more energy that evening. I think what happens to me when I have a bad bout with sickness is that the days of inactivity make my metabolism slow down, and eventually it’s hard to tell whether I’m still sick or just stuck in low-energy mode. I think going grocery-shopping helped get the blood flowing again. So I felt more like myself today, well enough to go for a brief walk in the park and enjoy the sunny day. I felt pretty energetic at first, though it didn’t last long.

But when I got home and checked the mailbox, I was surprised to see my last advance check for Patterns of Interference! I only got notification of the approval 9 days ago, so I hadn’t expected to see this check for another week or two. Needless to say, I was quite pleased. It lets me recharge my bank account just in time to pay my rent and some other bills.  Luckily I still had my shoes and jacket on from my walk, since it let me go right back out and drive to the bank right away.

After that, I went to the library near the bank, and I happened upon some nice finds there — the fourth collection of Ryan North and Erica Henderson’s hilarious The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl from Marvel, the DVD of Star Trek Beyond (which I’ve been wanting to see again but haven’t found at the library until now), and all four Hunger Games movies, which I’ve been meaning to check out and watch back-to-back at some point (to date, I’ve only read the books and seen the first two films). Although I realized I haven’t gotten vol. 3 of Squirrel Girl yet, so I requested it, but I’ll have to wait to read that. And a couple of the Hunger Games discs look a little scratched, so I just hope they play back well enough for my binge to work.

So overall, a reasonably good day. Still, one thing I didn’t manage to do was to refocus on the story I’m writing, which I need to do now that I’m feeling functional again. I did get an idea for how to handle the next scene, but actually getting it done is another matter. Anyway, I need to get a move on with this and other projects. It’s cool that I got my check, but it’s a reminder that I need to get more paying work lined up soon.

General update

I’ve been making a bit more writing progress lately. Last week, I received, proofread, and returned galleys for both my upcoming Analog short story “Abductive Reasoning” and my third Star Trek: Department of Temporal Investigations e-novella Shield of the Gods. I’d been starting to wonder when “Abductive Reasoning” would show some movement toward publication, so this is a good sign, though I don’t know the release date yet. As for Patterns of Interference, I got the word last night that the manuscript has been approved by CBS and my final advance payment is routing for approval even now. I hope it arrives before tax day.

Meanwhile, I’ve been working on a review and polish of my previously published original stories with an eye toward putting them together into a collection. That entailed making sure my manuscripts were updated with all the changes made in the final printed versions, except in cases where I wanted to undo those changes or make additional changes. Mostly I tried to be faithful to the published versions, though. Anyway, I’ve gotten that done and now it’s a matter of getting a publisher interested. We’ll see how that goes.  With that and the galleys out of the way, I’ve refocused on some new original stories I was working on last year but had to postpone in order to write Patterns of Interference. Well, I actually kind of got stuck because I started writing a story too hastily, before I really had the whole plot worked out. But coming back to it after a break has helped give me a new perspective, and I’ve worked out a couple of things I was stuck on before.

The new Kroger superstore nearby is open now, and I’ve been there three times already — once on foot, twice by car. It’s nice to be able to make smaller grocery trips when I need a few things, instead of just making 2-3 big trips a month and going without certain things for much of the interim. The new store isn’t as big as the other superstores I’ve been to, since its location is more constrained; in fact, they’ve actually had to put the “behind-the-scenes” employee areas up on the second floor, an unusual feature. There’s also an upstairs area for customers, but I haven’t visited it yet. And the shelf space is a bit less expansive. I read an article claiming that they’d compensate by restocking more frequently, but I’ve already noticed a couple of things that they didn’t have in stock while I was there — although there was one they did have in stock by the time I needed it. Anyway, it’s definitely a lot bigger than the old store, and has a lot more features like a pharmacy, deli, Starbucks, and pizza counter. The produce section is laid out pretty much exactly like the one in the gigantic Kroger that opened a year or two ago across from the movie theater I usually go to; I guess it makes sense that the two most recently built stores would use the same design. But it was kind of disorienting the first time I was there.

Reading-wise, I got a couple of new DC trade paperbacks from the library the other day, the second volumes of Batman: The Golden Age (reprinting all the original Batman comics in order from the start) and Wonder Woman ’77. The latter is theoretically based on the Lynda Carter TV show, but my problem with the first volume was that it didn’t feel like the show, just like generic Wonder Woman stories with the likenesses of Carter and Lyle Waggoner. Much of the second volume is like that too, but a couple of the later stories felt more like the show, or more ’70s-oriented at least. (One story brings back a major villain from the show, and another is steeped in ’70s nostalgia like funk music and CB radio.) As for the Batman volume, it’s good to get to see how quickly the character’s tropes fell into place within the first 2 years. These days, you’ll see a lot of people online claiming that the ’40s Batman was a dark, violent, gun-toting character until the Comics Code crackdown of the ’50s, but that’s just wrong. Even though the first year or two of stories were in a violent, pulpy vein, Batman only rarely used guns in them, though he did kill by other means like breaking a neck with a kick or flinging people off roofs. But as early as Batman #4 in December 1940, the dialogue and narration were insisting that Batman and Robin never killed or used weapons — although exceptions were still being made for causing recurring villains Hugo Strange and the Joker to fall to their apparent deaths, since of course they’d surely survive anyway. And B&R were portrayed in a pretty upbeat way, trading wisecracks and bad puns as they fought villains. Volume 2 shows other familiar Batman tropes emerging in 1941, like the Batmobile (a sleek red convertible with a small bat-shaped hood ornament) and the term “Dynamic Duo.” No Stately Wayne Manor or Batcave yet, though — Bruce and Dick live in a house in the suburbs, with a secret tunnel leading to the barn where the Batmobile is kept.

Food-wise, I serendipitously discovered a nice new way to make a sandwich last week. I decided to make a sandwich with tomato, sharp cheddar cheese, and Romaine lettuce on whole wheat bread with olive-oil mayonaisse and spicy brown mustard, served with a pickle spear and a small amount of olive oil potato chips. It was surprisingly yummy, and I’ve made that combo two more times since then, but somehow they weren’t as good as the first. I also recently discovered a second new type of sandwich that’s pretty good: cheddar cheese and apple butter.

Aside from that, I’ve mainly just been watching TV, but maybe I’ll talk about that later in another post.