Spring Is Here!

Spring has sprung here in Massachusetts! And most welcome it is! I don’t know why, but this last winter felt like the longest I’ve ever known. I’ve been counting the interesting species of wildlife I’ve been seeing right around our house here in the Boston ‘burbs: cardinals, bluejays, black-capped chickadee (I think), mockingbirds, crows (making a comeback after nearly being decimated by the Nile virus), a cute little rabbit, a toad, and—just a few days ago—a wild turkey. (It practically cut me off as I was coming up on my moped; it was flying up the street at an altitude of about six feet, then landed in a neighbor’s driveway.) Oh and, yeah—termites.

Blasted termites ate a piece of wood paneling in our downstairs rental apartment. So now I’ve got to hire a Terminator. Jeez, that’s an expensive proposition! And it’s not just a matter of getting estimates and picking a terminator; I have to decide which approach I want to take—pesticide injection into the ground (the tried and true method), or bait trapping (much less pesticide, but newer, less tested, and more expensive).

Which reminds me that my wife and I have become big fans of the new show, Sarah Connor Chronicles. I just read that it’s been renewed for next season. Yesss! And BSG has started up again. We’ve only watched one episode so far, but clearly they’re going to be messing with our minds for the rest of the series. And I mean that in a good way, of course.

I haven’t had as much time to pursue my Roomba hobby as I’d hoped, but I did bring an ailing Scooba back to life! Turned out have some defective soldering inside. I never would have found it if someone on Roombareview.com hadn’t suggested that I solder a couple of leads for a voltmeter in there, so that I could see what was happening. Lo and behold, the act of doing that solved the problem. And I just got a very nice note from someone in Italy, telling me that my method worked for him, too! (No, he didn’t put leads in, but he did remelt the solder on the crucial connection—and that fixed his Scooba, too.)

In keeping with the theme of BSG and Roombas, I present here a couple of funny videos I stumbled across on youtube. The links will open new windows in your browser.

And I, Roomba, a Roomba love story, of sorts (a little long, but cute):

(I tried embedding the videos, but they played erratically for some reason.)

“Times are bad. Children no longer obey their parents, and everyone is writing a book.” —Cicero

Where Does the Time Go?

The last two weeks sure went fast (at least in blog years). The nasty head cold that I’d been dodging all winter while people fell to my left and to my right finally caught me (and most of my family). With perfect timing, it came just before we were to receive a Japanese student to stay with us for five days. We took a lot of vitamins and Echinacea and green tea, and prayed. She arrived today, and is a total sweetheart. I know we’re going to want to adopt her.

A week ago, the high school wrestling team had its annual end-of-season banquet. To my immense relief, someone else produced a video of season highlights, so I didn’t have to. To my immense pride, my daughter Lexi (a graduating senior) received the Coach’s Award for outstanding contribution to the team. She was taken completely by surprise, because she hadn’t had a winning season. But the coach gave a very moving tribute to her hard work and discipline, and her willingness to compete head-on in a sport completely dominated by boys. It was a great moment.

I wrote a while back about the impressive work that Star Trek fans were doing in creating all-new Star Trek episodes. It seems that the producers of Battlestar Galactica have noticed all the fan activity, also, and have decided to facilitate it. They’ve created a video toolkit of special effects, sounds, etc., that anyone can use to produce their own four-minute BSG spinoffs. They’ve even got a couple of samples up. They’re running a competition, and the winning piece will be shown along with an actual BSG episode. (Speaking of which, I’m a few weeks behind in watching, so don’t anyone post any spoilers about what happened to Starbuck in the next-to-last episode!)

Finally, here’s another interesting link, courtesy of my wife:

How about a dance club that’s built their dance floor on top of piezoelectric elements, so that the bouncing of the dance steps provides the electricity to power the club? Go to http://www.inhabitat.com/, and scroll down a little ways to Sustainable Dance Club for a short video. Gotta dance!

Wikis and Pedias and Obsessions, Oh My!

Somehow or other, I stumbled across the existence of Scifipedia, an SF-oriented wiki developed by SciFi.com. Of course, I looked to see if they had a good section about authors, and specifically about me. The answer: authors, yes; me, no. So I set about to remedy the situation. You wouldn’t believe how long it can take to compose a simple encyclopedia article about yourself, especially when most of the information already exists in various documents readily at hand. Nevertheless, I got it done, and you can read all about me and my stuff at Scifipedia | Literature | Authors.

Well, one thing leads to another, and soon I was checking to make sure that various articles about Battlestar Galactica included information about the novels. (They didn’t; I fixed that.) And that led to the discovery of Battlestarwiki, and a search to see if the books were properly referenced there. At first, the answer seemed to be no. A search for novels didn’t lead to much, but eventually I found an article titled “List of Books,” which probably isn’t the best title for search purposes, but never mind. That led to the discovery of a detailed page about my BSG novel, which is truly mind-boggling in its excruciating attention to detail. Some of their speculations are interesting and fun, and some lead me to scratch my head. I’m torn between awe at the energy and intelligence devoted to this, and wanting to say, “Get a—!” But no, no, that’s the last thing I would say to fans! Amazing, truly amazing what these people have pulled together.

BSG—It’s Everywhere

I finally decided to take a few minutes to switch my Blogger account over to the “new” Blogger, whatever that means. I was amused by their informational page, which explained the upgrade by comparing it to the difference between the old Battlestar Galactica, with Lorne Greene, and the new Battlestar Galactica, with Edward James Olmos. (Their link to the Wikipedia article on BSG then led me to squander an hour figuring out how to add information about the book series to the BSG article. So much for just taking a few minutes.)

I’m amazed at how thoroughly Galactica has permeated popular culture. I mean, it doesn’t even play on a broadcast network. If it weren’t for the recent move to free On Demand rebroadcasts, I wouldn’t be seeing it on my own cable box. And yet, I frequently see references to it in print, it turns up in comic strips like Sheldon, and here it is, being used as a point of reference on Blogger. It’s fun to be associated with it, even if the association is small. Last night we watched episodes 8 and 9 of the current season (boxing episode and food-crisis episode), which weren’t at all bad, if not up to the level of the preceding 7. I’ve been asked not to give spoilers, and I won’t, but I’ll say that while there was great backstory in #8, I was less drawn in by the front story; and #9, about the food crisis, showed once again that they’re better at writing stories about human drama (or melodrama) than they are at anything involving science. (Even so, it had a powerful ending.)

Speaking of Wikipedia, check out the new article on star rigging created by blog reader Kitty. (Kitty is a relative of mine, but I’ll be danged if I can explain how we’re related. Can you, Kitty?)

Holiday Greetings, Everyone!

I hope all of you out there are enjoying your holidays. Hope you had a great Christmas, or Solstice, or Hanukah, or Kwanzaa, or whatever you celebrate. We had a wonderful Christmas here, with family and friends visiting. Which is just one reason I am, typically, offering Christmas greetings a few days after the fact. (I’ve hardly been online at all in the last few days, much less writing blog entries.)

One of my favorite comic strip discoveries of last year was Sheldon, which I started reading on comics.com, then subscribed to after it moved to its own web site. The last couple of days, Sheldon has been doing a riff on Battlestar Galactica, which has been very funny—and accurate. If you’d like to read it, start here and move forward. (Sheldon is the kid; the talking duck is Arthur.)

We’re actually a few episodes behind in watching Galactica, so I don’t know yet exactly what’s happened in the mid-season cliffhanger (though I glimpsed a bit of it while recording from free On Demand on our Comcast cable). But in general the writing on the show this season has been superb—the best yet. I wish I could say that sales of the book have been equally superb, but it would be a lie. There have been various screwups in distribution, including a long delay in getting the mass market paperback listed on Amazon.com and into bookstores. (Borders still doesn’t seem to be carrying it in most stores.) If you don’t see it, by all means ask for it.

I feel a cold coming on (people around me have been dropping left and right with colds and flu), so this might be my last entry before the new year. If I don’t see you before then, have a great one!

Jeff

Writing Media and Other Tie-In Novels

Lately I’ve been getting a spate of emails from people asking questions such as, “How can I write a Battlestar Galactica / Aliens vs. Predator / Universe-of-Your-Choice novel? Do I just write it, or how do I get the rights, or what do I do?” It’s a perfectly natural question, and a natural desire. The answer, though, is one that most people won’t want to hear.

First I should specify that it depends whether you’re talking about writing “fanfic” just for fun, for your own amusement—in which case, the answer is, have at it! (Just don’t try to publish it.)

But I suspect that’s not what most people mean. Most correspondents, I think, hope to write and publish a tie-in novel. I suspect the motivation stems partly from a love of a particular show or universe, and partly from a belief that this may be an easier way to get published. It’s not. What you have to understand is that these projects come about through complex rights arrangements which publishers make with the studios, before so much as a word is set to paper. Once the publisher has an arrangement, then the editor in charge of the line goes looking for writers to write the books (whether novelizations of film/TV productions, like my Battlestar Galactica book, or original spin-off novels, like Craig Shaw Gardner’s Galactica book).

In other words, tie-in projects are generated by the studio and publisher, who then look for writers they think are best for the job. And editors for these books tend to turn to writers whose work they’re already familiar with, maybe even writers they’re already working with. Other writers may apply, but there’s little chance of getting a nod without a publishing track record. They want to know you can do the job. And they usually want the book written yesterday.

So…the short answer is, if you want to write a book in someone else’s universe, get busy and write some stories in your own universe first. (Quit wasting time reading blogs!) Get published, get noticed. Then maybe one day you, too, will get the call.

Oh—and you can learn a lot more about this business than I can tell you at http://www.iamtw.org/articles.html.

Galactica Website

It seems I’m getting a lot of visits here from people who found a mention of my Battlestar Galactica: the Miniseries novel on http://www.gateworld.net/galactica/. Hi everyone! Yes, it’s true that you can read here a lot of my thoughts on writing BSG. But you’ll have to scroll down a ways. There are probably half a dozen entries, if you look far enough. (Or do a search.) Anyway, welcome and feel free to look around the place. It’s small, but we’re all friends here.

Hi Again!

Well, it has been a long gap in my postings. I wish I could say it’s because I’ve had my head deep in the world of Sunborn, but the truth is, it’s because tax return time is upon us and I’d fallen a year behind in my bookkeeping. So I’ve been living in receipts and Quicken, and am about to dive into Turbotax. (For those of you not from the U.S., we have this national ritual in the weeks and months leading up to April 15 every year, when everyone has to file their income tax return with the national government. It’s no fun for anyone, but for self-employed people like writers, artists, and small business owners, it’s an exercise in accounting torture.) However, I’m starting to glimpse a few stray photons, which I hope are the first promises of the light at the end of the tunnel. And praying it’s not a freight train coming the other way.

I-Con was great fun, by the way—for me, but maybe even moreso for my family. We saw a number of friends, made a couple of new ones, and indeed got to say hello to George Takei (Star Trek’s Sulu) and Ron Glass (Firefly). I had a brief but pleasant chat with Richard Hatch (Battlestar Galactica). The con was far more media-oriented than most I go to, and it seemed as if there were hardly any actual books being sold in the dealer’s room—and yet I sold more copies of my own books at the autograph table than I have in most recent cons that were more book oriented. And, I got my first look at the middle and outer end of Long Island, very pretty.

I have a whole bunch of links to quirky things stored up to mention here, but that’ll have to be for next time. Right now, I really do need to get to work on the book!

Back Home, BSG Off to Tor Again, and…

What? Galactica—again? Yes, this time I had the page proofs for the mass market paperback edition to correct. (We won’t mention that the proofs were mailed by mistake to Craig Gardner, who wrote the second book, and who fortunately lives just a few blocks away.) This meant reading through the book again—actually, for the first time since I corrected the proofs for the trade edition. Why should I have to do this? you might ask. Well, partly because the typesetting has been adjusted for the smaller page size, and sometimes errors are introduced when that’s done. But mainly it’s to catch all the stupid mistakes we missed the first time around. Yes, it’s true.

I know this makes it sound like we’re careless when the first edition goes out, but that’s not true. It’s amazing how many errors can sneak by multiple proofreaders (including yours truly), who are all doing their best to catch the little buggers. And then there are the occasional infelicitous phrasings or word choices that any one of said proofreaders (including yours truly) should have caught—but didn’t. Things like the phrase “for a moment” appearing three times in a paragraph. Yeesh.

So it’s done. And you know what? I really liked reading the book. I consider this a positive sign.

Oh—the wrestling. Alexandra placed third in the Ohio state girls tournament in Mt. Vernon, Ohio. It wasn’t a huge field. But lemme tell you, some of those girls who are wrestling in Ohio are tough hombres! (You should forgive the expression.) I’ll try to snag a few stills off the video we shot and get them up soon.

With my sister Nancy as tour guide, we also visited the campus of Kenyon College, which is right down the road from where the tourney was held. We admired their fantastic new athletic Taj Mahal, and sought out advice and info from fellow SF author/biology professor Joan Slonczewski.

We arrived home, well after midnight on Sunday night, exhausted but happy—greeted by wife and other daughter, and dinner laid out on the table! Who could ask for more?

Boskone, and News about Galactica

Well, I had a thoroughly pleasant time at Boskone. This took me a little by surprise, only because I was feeling all grumpy and not really in the mood to go out. I had to, though, because I was scheduled to be on panels. And once I got there and started seeing old friends, and making some new ones, I got into the spirit of it. I also thought this was the liveliest and most interesting Boskone I have seen in a number of years.

One pleasant result was encountering some fans who had already read Battlestar Galactica: the Miniseries. The feedback was all good. Perhaps the nicest was from a young woman who happens to be a Commander in the US Navy, and who is about to become captain of a guided missile destroyer. She said she thought I’d captured the feel of the story very well—and I took that as significant praise, coming from someone who actually knows what it’s like to run a military vessel. (The only ones I have ever been aboard have been museums, rather like what Galactica was scheduled to become before the pesky Cylons interfered.)

An encouraging sidelight was hearing from one of my writing buddies that he’d met with his editor and confirmed the sale of a new trilogy. Earning a living as a writer is not easy for any of us, and he’s no exception. I don’t know if I should mention his name here, so I’ll just say that it rhymes with Craig Shaw Gardner, and his writing style is very similar. I’ll let him announce the details once everything’s been inked.

And finally, I came home to see an email from my editor, telling me that Galactica has sold to a British publisher and has had a book club sale. Given that my biggest rationale for writing the book was to get my name back in front of the public (I didn’t know then that I was going to enjoy Galactica so much), this is very good news indeed. More readers, and—who knows—maybe even a little more money, in the long run.

(Which reminds me of something I want to write about—readers versus money. But later. Remind me if I forget.)

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