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.
I’ve been so busy writing lately that I forgot to post any updates about this weekend’s Shore Leave convention in Baltimore, which I’ll be attending as usual. This year, I’m going back to driving there, since my trip by plane last year made the whole thing feel like it raced by too fast. I like having a bit more flexibility with my comings and goings. The prospect of the long drive each way is a bit forbidding, but now that I’ve started drinking coffee, hopefully that will shore me up (no pun intended) for the effort. I’ve also spent rather a lot on car repairs, including all-new tires, brake pads, drive belt, and transmission seals, to make sure I don’t break down along the way. Well, to make sure the car doesn’t break down. The coffee is to make sure I don’t break down.
Anyway, the schedule is now up at the Shore Leave site:
The writers’ track is surprisingly light on Trek Lit-related panels this year, perhaps because Shore Leave has a more diversified list of author guests these days. Still, I managed to find five panels to be on, and here are my scheduled appearances:
Keeping it Real: Using Facts in Fiction — 5 PM, Salon A
A panel about working real science and information into science fiction is right up my alley, so I’m glad they were apparently able to find room for me at the last minute (although I’m not listed on the published pocket program, which apparently is not completely up to date on panel membership). Also slated to feature Danielle Ackley-McPhail, Kathleen David, Mary Louise Davie, Charles E. Gannon, Amy Griswold, and David Mack.
Humor in Sci-Fi — 8 PM, Hunt Ballroom
A chance for me to talk about Hub Space: Tales from the Greater Galaxy and maybe my use of humor in Only Superhuman and Star Trek. Lorraine Anderson, Russ Colchamiro, Peter David, and Daniel Morris will probably have more to talk about than I do, though. Be sure to stick around Hunt afterward for Marco Palmieri’s annual “What’s New in Tor Books” panel, followed by:
Meet the Pros — 10 PM, Hunt/Valley Corridor
The annual 2-hour mass signing event where all the author guests will be available to autograph whatever you bring or buy.
All Roads Lead to Holmes — Noon, Salon A
Writers being fannish, as we talk about all the various incarnations of Sherlock Holmes out there today. My only writerish qualification for a Holmes panel is that one essay I wrote, but I am a longtime fan. The other Irregulars include Kathleen David, Keith R.A. DeCandido, Robert Greenberger, and Melissa Scott.
What’s Coming from Star Trek — 2 PM, Chase Ballroom
That is, what’s coming in Star Trek literature from Pocket. This (or Meet the Pros) is the place to come if you want to hear about Rise of the Federation, since it’s pretty much the only panel this year that’s specifically about Trek Lit, including all the guests with upcoming Trek books: myself, Kirsten Beyer, Peter David, Kevin Dilmore, Dave Galanter, David Mack, John Jackson Miller, and Dayton Ward.
Orphan Black Season 3 — 11 AM, Salon F
My only morning panel this year — nice. I have no connection to Orphan Black except as a fan, but I’ll be there, along with Kirsten Beyer, Marco Palmieri, Susanna Reilly, and Jennifer Rosenberg.
Beyond that, I’ll be wandering around and will try to do my stint in the Author Chimney at the book table, which is traditionally located on the lower level between the escalators and the Hunt/Valley corridor.
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:
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.
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…
The Cincinnati Library Comic Con was today. I don’t have a picture of myself from there this time, and maybe that’s just as well, because I was kind of frazzled. The day didn’t start out well. First, I lost track of time and had to rush through lunch and hurry out to my car. Then I found that my car wouldn’t start — the battery must’ve died. The one other person in the lot didn’t know anything about jumpstarting cars, and in retrospect, that was just as well, since even if I’d made it downtown, I would’ve probably needed another jumpstart to get back home again. Anyway, I hurried down to the bus stop, lugging my bag of books to sell, and just barely made it in time to catch the bus. I made it in time — early, in fact — but it wasn’t an auspicious beginning.
For a while, too, it seemed like I wasn’t going to sell many books. As I said in my earlier post, I decided to focus on my superhero stuff this year based on what sold last year, bringing mainly copies of Only Superhuman and my last few leftover copies of my two Marvel novels, and as an afterthought I brought a few Trek novels: a couple of copies each of Ex Machina, The Buried Age, and Greater Than the Sum. But somehow, for the first hour or so, it was only the Trek novels that people were interested in buying. Perhaps it’s because I brought TOS and TNG books this time instead of the more unfamiliar stuff like DTI and Rise of the Federation. Anyway, after a while, I was afraid I wouldn’t move any of the OS hardcovers and would end up making substantially less money than I did last year. Fortunately, things picked up right near the end and I finally sold a couple of the OS hardcovers, as well as four of the five Marvel books. I made nearly as much as I did last year — though that new car battery is probably going to eat up all of it and then some.
Still, I wonder why I had more trouble getting people interested in OS this year. I suspect it’s because I wasn’t pitching it as well. The problems with my car and racing for the bus threw me off and tired me out, and I didn’t do that great a job talking it up. So even though I managed to come out of the day okay, I feel I could’ve done better.
Also, when one person asked me to write down my website address for them, I wasn’t thinking clearly and I put an “@” before “wordpress.com” instead of a period. I hope they figure out what it’s supposed to be.
The weirdest question I got from a convention guest today was when someone asked me if The Hunger Games had anything to do with Star Trek. I have no idea what led to that question. (The only connection I’ve been able to find is that Robert Knepper is in Mockingjay and was also in TNG: “Haven” and VGR: “Dragon’s Teeth.” Although you could get a degrees-of-separation thing with Jennifer Lawrence and Sir Patrick Stewart both being in X-Men: Days of Future Past, or Philip Seymour Hoffman and Simon Pegg both being in Mission: Impossible III.) I did have a couple of more constructive conversations with people interested in writing and wanting to learn about the process. Hopefully I was coherent enough to be helpful.
Thanks to LeeAnn and the library staff for their invitation to the event and their support while I was there!
Once again, I’ll be signing books at the Cincinnati Library Comic Con on Saturday, May 16. Here’s my post on last year’s event. I did much better selling Only Superhuman and Spider-Man: Drowned in Thunder there than any of my Star Trek stuff, so this year I think I’m going to focus mainly on my superhero stuff. I still have a good supply of Only Superhuman hardcovers (which moved pretty well last year), and I’ve got a very few copies remaining of Drowned in Thunder and X-Men: Watchers on the Walls that I’ve been holding on to “just in case” for long enough that it’s probably time I did something with them. (And I’ll probably bring a few Trek books too.) So anyone who’s in the Cincinnati area and wants signed copies of those books — with a portion of the sale price to be donated to the library, so it’s for a good cause — should be at the Main Library on 800 Vine Street in downtown Cincinnati between noon and 5 PM on May 16. Here are directions and parking info.
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.)