Books in the Year of Covid-19

You probably didn’t think of books as a sector that would be hammered by Covid-19. Writers can write anywhere, right? Maybe, but that’s not the whole story, by far. Traditional publishing and bookselling are in deep trouble due to the shutdown of the economy. Even audiobooks are apparently being hit hard. If you’re at all interested in books, publishing, and reading, please read this summary by Beth Meacham, Executive Editor at Tor Books. She knows what she’s talking about, and it’s sobering.


Read the whole piece…

Go ahead, I’ll wait….

Looks like I picked the wrong year to put my money on audiobooks, right? Possibly. But seriously, this is hitting a lot of people in the creative arts hard. I will just add as a ray of hope: Ebooks do not seem to be suffering in the same way as print. Ebooks are all handled online, and you can download them (and publish them) while shut up in your home. So they remain a (generally) inexpensive and readily available way to keep information, stories, and entertainment flowing.

Still, what hurts books in any sector hurts everyone. So please keep supporting audiobooks and print books if you can. (Mail-order from your local bookstore, perhaps?) And keep reading!



Crescent Moon and Venus Over the Bike Path

Moon and Venus over bikepath

Captain Jack and I went for a little bike ride yesterday, to enjoy the pleasant evening. I found us riding straight into a breathtaking view of a slender, crescent moon, and bright Venus just above it. This picture gives just a hint. (What is it about stunning views of the sky in real life, and what you get on your phone camera—even a good camera?) Let’s zoom in…

Moon and Venus over bikepath_zoomed in

Here’s the captain, wondering why we’ve stopped.

Jack harnessed to bike

Great Writers Share (Alleged Wisdom) in a Podcast

posted in: interviews, podcasts 0

Writers Share banner

I keep seeing this guy’s face. Who does he think he is? And I wish he’d get a new photo.

Anyway, it seems I have turned up in another part of the pod-o-sphere, this time in a discussion with the smart and friendly, not to mention bestselling and famous, UK-based, dark-fiction author Daniel Willcocks! This one took two tries on two days, because either my audio setup wasn’t cooperating, or his wasn’t. (We never did figure that out.) In any case, everything worked the second time. Listen in, as two writers discuss writing!

If you prefer the channel of a favored podcast app, you can find links to a bunch of different options =here=.

Or, assuming I get it embedded correctly, listen to this interview in your browser here:

Listen to Great Writers Share | with Daniel Willcocks


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New Way to Buy Print Books AND Support Local Stores!

Bookshop logo

Stuck at home, and you want to buy a book on paper (hey, it happens!)—and buying online seems the only option but you’d rather support local indie bookstores? There’s a new way to do that, and it doesn’t require an app! It’s called Bookshop, and it’s an online store dedicated to supporting authors, book communities, and bookstores! Whaaat?

The way it works is, you order online just like at any of the big stores. The print books are sourced from Ingram, just like at your local store, and you get it in the mail. If you go in through a link like one of the ones I have below, the author or community that created the link gets a referral fee. In addition, a significant portion of the profit from the sale goes into a fund that gets distributed regularly among participating independent bookstores. It’s sort of like Indiebound, if you’ve used that, but even better. Right now, they only ship to the U.S., but they may expand in the future.

Authors can set up their own pages at the store, featuring their own books (just print right now, and some audio). They, or anyone else, can also set up pages where they feature books they’d like to recommend to you. Buy one of those books, and the author gets the regular royalty, and the recommender gets a referral fee, and money flows toward independent stores. It’s a great way to support authors and bookstores, all while buying online—particularly useful right now, when the storefront economy has slammed to halt, due to the coronavirus.

Here are some links! These folks are my friends and colleagues. They write all kinds of stuff. Try any of them, and you’ll support the author whose link you picked, even if you browse around and buy other books by other authors. I’ll add more as they come in. Folks are just getting ramped up on this.

Give it a try! It’s fun!

Jeffrey A. Carver | Laura Anne Gilman | Deborah J. Ross
Pati Nagle | Gillian Polack | Madeleine E. Robins
Doranna Durgin | Nancy Jane Moore

What’chu Lookin’ At?

What are you watching while you’re cooped up inside, practicing social distancing? Here at the Star Rigger Ranch, we decided to binge on movies about infectious disease outbreaks. What fun!

We started with Outbreak, which was entertaining if totally unconvincing. With Dustin Hoffman, Rene Russo, and Morgan Freeman, it at least had actors you like to watch. Plus, it had the Star Trek medical-miracle feature: the ability to synthesize a vaccine/cure within about an hour of discovering the secret. You go, Bones! (And I see The Atlantic just published an article about it. Great minds…)

Segue to The Andromeda Strain, which really had that 1960s SF movie vibe going, talky and lecturing. It was mildly entertaining, but reminded me why I’d never bothered to keep a recording of it. In the end, the people do nothing useful; the bug mutates and becomes benign. (Oops—sorry—spoiler alert!)

Next up was The Cassandra Crossing, which had this going for it: It’s a train movie, and I like train movies. Otherwise it’s ludicrous, being based on the idea that if you’ve got a train filled with people infected by a plague, the obvious thing to do is to send it over a failing trestle so that it will plunge with a spectacular crash into an uninhabited ravine. That’ll show those germs! (Dusts off hands.) Next problem?

Finally we come to Contagion, by far the most realistic of the lot. Also educational, terrifying, and depressing. Good if you want to learn how this coronavirus thing could go. Bad if you’re looking for diversion.

For diversionary purposes, Outbreak is the not-very-satisfying winner. But what movies have we forgotten?

What have you been watching?

Meet My New Laptop, Eridani

posted in: computers 2

Laptop Eridani

My old faithful laptop, Antares, went neutron star on me a month ago. I hated that, partly because I really liked her red glowing keyboard, and liked her in general. But nothing lasts forever, or so they say. I almost jumped in about four different directions on the replacement, but this is the one I settled on. I named it Eridani.

The dictionary will tell you that this name (a constellation, the River, though this is the genitive form), is pronounced:


This is balderdash, as any spacer will tell you. Out there in the Up and Out, we pronounce this name:


Get it right, please. Eridani is a Dell XPS with a 15-inch OLED screen of amazing brilliance and resolution. I had a difficult choice, because the Dell Latitude has a better keyboard, but a worse display. Way worse. Keyboard and display are the two things I look hardest at, but in the end I chose easy on the eyes, and accurate rendering of colors (especially when creating book covers), over keyboard. I have had occasional regrets about that, as I work to get used to this slighty-smaller-than-standard keyboard.

So far, it’s a fine machine, and fast. Just for the fun of it, I thought I’d show you the list of programs I had to install to get back up to speed, even with the old Antares hard drive plugged in at its side. Herewith, my guide to:

Software to Install on New Computer

FIRST: Do not set up Windows by signing into your Microsoft account! That way lies only pain and regret! Set up a local account, which won’t impose a brain-dead user-profile path that will break all of your libraries, playlists, etc. You can sign in afterward. Now, as soon as you’ve uninstalled McAfee, start installing:

  • KeyTweak – swap Caps Lock and Left Ctrl keys
  • OpenShell or ClassicShell replacements for Windows Start button
  • Dropbox (select which folders are online-only with SmartSync)
  • Reassign Pictures library in File Explorer to Dropbox>Pictures
  • Microsoft Office, esp. Outlook and Word
  • Firefox (and LastPass)
  • Chrome
  • Sync2 to sync Outlook contacts and calendar with other machines
  • Scrivener
  • Malwarebytes
  • iTunes
  • VLC media player
  • Calibre (copy plugins from other drive)
  • Paint Shop Pro or maybe a newer graphics program
  • Printer drivers and utilities
  • Scanning utility for printer (Canon or Epson)
  • Kindle for PC
  • Send to Kindle
  • Kindle Previewer
  • Nook reader
  • Adobe Digital Editions
  • Overdrive console
  • iDrive Backup
  • Aomei Backupper
  • Adobe Acrobat Reader
  • 7-Zip utility
  • WinPatrol
  • Safe PST Backup
  • Filezilla
  • Quicken
  • Audacity
  • WhatsApp
  • Sigil epub editor
  • Handbrake
  • Audible Manager
  • Zune
  • CD/DVD burning utility
  • Customizations to Word:
    • Change location of templates: Options>Advanced>General (scroll down)>File Locations
      Use: C:\Users\myusername\Dropbox\Microsoft\Templates
    • Custom dictionary: Copy your own custom.dic to:

Done? Now back the whole damn thing up before anything goes wrong!

Now you can relax and enjoy your new machine.


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Authors Give Back – Special at Smashwords!

posted in: Coronavirus, specials 0

In recognition of the hardships imposed upon many by the Covid-19 pandemic, Smashwords put together a big sale to help folks get through this time of social distancing (in some cases, isolation). Ebooks are a great source of entertainment, and one you can enjoy without leaving home—or even getting out of bed! This sale is a chance for authors to make their books available at a discount, from March 20-April 20. And to, well, give back to their readers.

I’ve put several of my books into the sale. Help yourself! And pass the word.

The Chaos Chronicles: Books 1-3 (box set) — 60% off
Dragon Space: A Star Rigger Omnibus (box set) — 60% off
Going Alien (short story collection) — free
Reality and other Fictions (short story collection) — free

Chaos Chronicles Books 1-3 cover  Dragon Space cover Going Alien cover Reality and Other Fictions cover


Word Play Podcast!

Word Play podcast banner

A few weeks ago, I had a really good phone conversation with Kristine Raymond for her podcast Word Play. We had fun talking and laughing, especially when we were trying to redo the open after searching for a better cell signal in my house. We talked about some of the ins and outs of writing, and compared notes on our methods. She’s put it up in a bunch of podcast channels, and you can listen to it on any of the platforms she provides links for. (And a lot of other podcast channels, she assures me.)

Check out her page =here= and maybe see who else she has interviewed, as well.


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Ready for Virageddon!

Freezer ready for VirageddonWith the world basically in lock-down against Covid-19, and the possibility looming of a two-week self-quarantine at a moment’s notice, I’ve been doing a lot of cooking. We now have a freezer stocked with my signature Fantasy Beef Stew*, Space-Time Chicken Stew**, chicken chili, Grillers Crumblies chili, chicken chili, and rat stew***. Not to mention lots of Trader Joe’s frozen foods. And cans of soup and tuna and makings of more chili, should we need it.

And—for this we are eternally grateful—water heated by the sun!

I hope you are all faring well in this time of trial.


*Inspired by Diana Wynne Jones’s The Tough Guide to Fantasyland
**Inspired by Fantasy stew
***My own version of ratatouille, with chicken or tofu, and no eggplant (p’tui).

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