We Interrupt Our Program…

The thundering, runaway train of Operation Launch got shunted onto a siding last week, when my brother wound up back in the hospital, with pneumonitis and respiratory distress—probably connected to his long-term cancer treatment. I flew to Miami once more to help out. He’s okay-ish. But with liquid in his lungs, he’s tied to continuous high-dose oxygen supplementation for now. Someone has to be there all the time, to make sure nothing goes wrong.

So I’m going to be here for… I don’t know how long, yet. I’ll try to keep working, when I’m not on duty at the hospital. (Beep, beep, beep, boop, beep…)

Brief progress report: I now have print proofs of both books (or will, when the box of Crucible proofs arrives in a day or two), which puts the paper editions of both books that much closer.

Meanwhile, please send thoughts and prayers for my brother Chuck’s recovery.

 

Returning Home

That 7 a.m. flight out of Burbank was definitely out of my comfort zone time-wise, but it was a very smooth flight nevertheless, and we arrived early in Boston. Here’s what it looked like, coming in low over the harbor.

The temperature in the L.A. area was in the 50’s and 60’s most of the time I was there. I had been chilly, not having packed enough long-sleeve shirts. I knew it would be cooler in Boston, so I wore one of those for a second day, plus a jacket—to find it in the 80’s in Boston!

I was apparently at peak-time pricing for Lyft, so I opted to take the T home. That’s when it started. The Silver Line bus took a big-ass detour, and then broke down at the combustion-to-electric changeover point, and all the passengers dragged their luggage to another bus. The Red Line was fine, except that the elevator at the endpoint was closed for “vertical transportation” improvements. I made it home, though, and thought I was done for the day. But no.

We went out for dinner with friends—and on the way home, I hit a pothole, and BAM!, front tire blowout. Brand-new tire. We were on a downhill access road to a highway, which wasn’t great for changing a tire, but should have been easy for a tow truck to find. But no, the service driver sent by the auto club couldn’t follow even step-by-step instructions, and finally abandoned me without troubling to tell me. By the time my local shop sent a tow truck, it was after 11 p.m., and I’d been waiting for almost two hours. He, bless him, dropped me off at my house on his way to the shop with my car.

Welcome home!

At the 2019 Nebula Conference

I’ve been enjoying this year’s Nebula Conference (in Los Angeles) hugely. It’s been years since my last one, and the number of new faces is astounding. I’ve seen old friends, made new ones, had dinner with some of my Book View Café buddies, and attended a couple of business meetings, which were actually quite interesting. I’m part of the rules committee that wrestles with issues pertaining to the Nebula, Norton, and Bradbury Awards, and for once, we were all in the same room, talking face to face instead of through endless emails. Much more satisfying.

One thing SFWA (that is, the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America) has instituted at the Nebula Conference—besides expanding the programming into a real conference, full of interesting information—is a Mentor program. The idea is that experienced members volunteer to meet with new members and newcomers to the conferences, and present a welcoming and friendly face and answer questions, whether it’s about con-going or getting published. I met with two “mentees” and had great conversations.

Here’s a pic of me with Roman Godzich, one of the mentees, a great guy and new writer. Now, how is it that he was giving me the useful tips about book promotion, especially how to successfully advertise on Facebook and Amazon? I’m not sure he learned much from me, but we had a fun conversation.

Here’s another pic of me with Joe and Gay Haldeman, two of my favorite people in the science fiction world.

Sudden Left Turn at the Reefs (or, The Great Divorce)

Grab a partner and hold tight!The Reefs of Time have taken a sharp left turn. My long-time publisher, Tor Books, has declined to publish it, sight unseen.* This came as something of a shock. The reason given is that it’s been too long since the last book—which is certainly true.

Fear not—the project is not grounded! But it has changed direction abruptly. I will publish it through my own imprint, Starstream Publications, in cooperation with Book View Café. While at first glance this seems like a setback, I choose to regard it as a blessing and an opportunity. I’ll get the rights back to the earlier material, and can now control the entire series, top to bottom. And I can publish the new work the way I want.

It does mean I have a lot of work cut out for me, and I don’t just mean publishing Reefs. Before the new book can come out, I need to have all the first four books available in new print editions, so that new readers can start at the beginning and read the whole story. These books are already available in ebook, but many people still prefer print. And then, of course, I need to do all the production of ebook and print book on the new novel—including cover design.

I have hired an assistant for the promotional efforts. I have called on artist and writer Chris Howard, who has already done two covers for me, to outdo himself. Various of my colleagues, both in and out of Book View Café, have stepped forward with offers of help. It’s been amazing, really. Still others have offered strong encouragement, including some terrific authors who have been dropped by traditional publishing and gone on to do exactly what I’m doing, and done quite well at it.

This all happened suddenly, and it’s too soon to have a realistic time frame sketched out. But my goal is to have the new work out in time for the World Science Fiction Convention in Dublin, in August.

Damn the torpedoes! Full speed ahead!

*This might seem odd, since I’ve been working on the book with my editor for about eight months. But he’s working on a consulting basis for Tor, and it was only when the books were ready to go into production in-house that the editorial oversight team at Tor said no. I’m not taking it personally; in fact, they’re settling graciously, and unlike many authors I’ve known in similar positions, I’m getting all my rights back without a fight. It’s an amicable divorce. There are no hard feelings on my part.

 

Hanging with the Bro

I’ve been pretty quiet the last couple of weeks. That’s because I’ve been in Miami helping out my brother Chuck and his wife, following his recent surgery for cancer. It’s been a rocky recovery; he was in the hospital for a week longer than expected. Now he’s home, recuperating, with the additional help of Tntn (pictured) and Tntn’s brother Jahnghan. I hope he’ll be well enough for me to go home in a few days.

I‘ve been getting a lot of work done, anyway—working on the final editing of Reefs, with feedback from my editor. (More on that in a forthcoming post.)

Here’s a picture of Chuck, a month ago, receiving the American Psychological Association’s Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award.

 

Drumming with Jeff

It all started with the pair of timpani we rescued from a middle-school dumpster a year ago. I’ve been playing those, off and on, down in our basement, not letting my lack of knowledge about kettle drums stop me. But long, long ago, in my high school band in a galaxy somewhere, I put aside the clarinet one year to play snare drum in the marching band. I’ve long hankered to pick up the sticks again.

Well, it’s happened. The need for a respite after finishing work on the monster book, combined with the local drum store having a closing sale, led me to a practice pad. And in the way of all gateway drugs, that led to… a full drum kit—a Pyle PTED06 electronic tabletop kit, to be precise. I’ve been having a ball.

Let’s let the video speak for me. I present… The Star Rigger Drum Lab!

Yuh, all the drum sounds are by me.

Our Mortgage Is History!

This actually happened in the midst of all the other recent excitement, and I neglected to mention it. We’ve paid off our mortgage! Done! Paid! Kaput! Finished! The house is ours!

What a feeling!

Of course, we have to be careful. Half of our monthly payment was escrow for property tax and insurance, and now we have to pay those directly.

But never mind that. The house is ours!

Take that, moneylenders!

B-52s! Culture Club! Live and LOUD!

We saw the B52s, Culture Club, and the Thompson Twins live in concert at the Wang Center in Boston last Friday night. (It was an early birthday gift from Lexi and Connor, who went with us.) It was great! Especially if you didn’t need to make out any of the song lyrics, or use your ears for anything for the rest of the night! Here, reproduced with surprising fidelity by my LG phone, is a brief (fair-use for review purposes only!) clip of the B52s climaxing their set with the song I introduced Lexi to, back when she was little…

Crank that up way past 11 on the biggest speakers you’ve got, and you’ll have a pretty accurate reproduction of the sound.

Between sets, I caught a candid of a couple of hardly-aging boomers checking out the action.

The final set was by headliner Boy George and Culture Club, and they were good, too—except their set featured laser-bright spotlights at the back of the stage, aimed straight into the retinas of the audience. So it was best if you weren’t planning to use your night vision for the rest of the weekend. Culture Club withheld the song we most wanted to hear until the third and final encore. Here, then, is a brief clip of Karma Chameleon, in High Fidelity…

I’m a little surprised to hear that the sound is actually clearer in these videos than it was going into my ears in the theater, past the foam earplugs that Lexi ran out and got us all. I think my ears just went into total overload from the jetwash blast of sound. Seriously, I wonder why the sound engineers think we’ll enjoy the music more if it’s too loud to hear. I think there’s a market out there for noise-reduction headgear that lets the sound through undistorted, but at a lower volume. My Bose ANR earbuds (which I didn’t think to bring) probably would have melted.

All that said, we had a great time reliving our youth with some actual youths!

 

Father-Daughter Dance!

Veteran videographer Allysen took this video on short notice. (I shoved my cellphone into her hand as the music started and said, “Shoot this video!”)


For a guy with two left feet, I thought I did pretty okay. Lexi was radiant and beautiful, so no one was watching me, anyway! (Big thanks to our friend Johanna, who gave me emergency dance lessons.)

 

Lexi and Connor Are Married!

I just got to be Father of the Bride as our daughter Lexi married Connor! Allysen and I could not be happier. I walked Alexandra down the aisle to the lush strains of “Princess Leia’s Theme” from Star Wars, by John Williams—played on the piano by Lexi’s friend Jon. At the end of the beautiful Anglican service, they strode out to the main Star Wars anthem*, with Jon on piano and her lifelong friend Brian on trumpet. In the middle, we had some excellent hymns, coincidentally including my personal favorite, All Creatures of Our God and King, by a composer who I feel would have understood science fiction if it had been around in his time.

These pix came from various friends; we still look forward to the official ones. More to come soon. This is Lexi and Connor at the altar, Lexi’s sister Jayce looking on as Maid of Honor.

A snapshot of the father-daughter dance:

And the weary but happy parents catch a dance for themselves, at the very end of the celebration:

*Those familiar with Allysen and my wedding, not quite thirty-two years ago, might remember that our recessional music was the Star Wars theme, from the soundtrack recording. It’s great to see my daughter carrying the banner.

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