The Industrious Richard Bowker

posted in: authors, ebooks, publishing 0

My friend Richard Bowker certainly is a busy fellow. He’s released two more of his novels, a thriller called Replica and a murder mystery called Senator, in the Kindle and Nook stores. I’ve read them both, and recommend them unreservedly. In fact, both went through the rigorous vetting and improvement process imposed by our writing group. Both are previously published. You can read some sample passages on Rich’s blog.

(originally published by Bantam)

(originally published by William Morrow)

While you’re looking, you might want to pick up his original-to-ebook novel Pontiff, currently on sale for $.99. I give this the same thumbs-up. Don’t be put off by its lack of a print edition. That was simply a dumb oversight on the part of the publishing industry. It’s good.

Pontiff $.99
Ebook original

Ray Bradbury, SF Master (1920 – 2012)

Ray Bradbury, the last of the Big Four in science fiction, died today. Over the years we’ve lost Robert A. Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, and now Ray Bradbury. We’ve lost many other great writers, of course, but few would argue with placing those four at the top in their influence on the literature, and influence on young writers. It’s like the passing of a Great Age in Middle Earth.

Bradbury was a master of the short form, and probably the first acknowledged science fiction writer to gain the respect of the mainstream literary world. (Probably because he was at heart really a fantasist more than an SF writer. He was also a remarkable stylist.) Did your high school literature book have any science fiction In it at all? If it did, it was probably by Ray Bradbury. “The Pedestrian,” maybe. Or “The Veldt.”

He wrote for the screen, as well. I’d been a fan of his fiction for many years before I discovered that he’d written the screenplay for the 1956 John Huston-directed adaptation of Moby Dick, with Gregory Peck and Richard Basehart.

I was one of probably thousands of young writers who found both encouragement and frustration in reading his work. (My favorites: The Martian Chronicles and Something Wicked This Way Comes.) The encouragement is from the delight in reading his visions. The frustration is from the illusion he cast that it was all so easy. He really made storytelling look simple. And that is a mark of a master. I never knew him personally, though I saw him a few times at Nebula Awards events. The last time, I think, was when I saw him accept his SFWA Grandmaster Award in… you know, I don’t remember the year or the city, but I can see him inching his way up to the stage, with the assistance of his son, as though it were yesterday. Edit: I also remember that he had a sense of humor about his infirmity. When he finally got to the microphone, his words were, “Do you ever have the feeling that everyone’s watching you?”

There’s a fine remembrance at the Washington Post, and all kinds of interesting details on his Wikipedia page

Godspeed, Ray Bradbury!


Great news from my agent —nine of my novels are being signed to become audiobooks! I am excited. I’ve been wishing for this ever since I became hooked on listening to audiobooks myself. This package does not include my Chaos Chronicles book, and won’t affect our homebrew full-cast audio production of Neptune Crossing (still in the “we hope to get started again realsoonnow” stage). It does include most of the Star Rigger books and several of my standalone novels. Nothing’s ever final until the contracts are signed, of course, so I should probably hold off on more specific details until things are official.

My own love affair with audiobooks started when I discovered you can download them for free from the public library and listen to them on your favorite MP3 player (a Zune, in my case). I love listening to books while walking the dog, which I do for at least an hour every day. I’ve been listening to a lot of books outside my own genre, books I’d never find time to sit down and read, even as ebooks carried in my pocket. I started with Robert Parker mysteries, and moved on to some thrillers. I’ve learned that the voice of the narrator makes an enormous difference even with a good book. (With a bad book, it just makes it harder to decide when to give up.) In some cases, I’ve stumbled onto some fine listening simply by looking for other books read by a narrator I like. Here are some of my recent favorites:

  • The Jack Reacher series, featuring a retired MP turned wanderer, by Lee Child (read by Dick Hill)
  • Cold Choice, a well-crafted and realistic submarine thriller by Larry Bond (read by Dick Hill)
  • The Myron Bolitar series, featuring a pro sports agent who sidelines as a detective, by Harlan Coben (read by Jonathan Marosz) [The last couple in the series were narrated by other readers, including the author. Not even in the same universe.]
  • Leviathan, Behemoth, and Goliath—a young adult, alternate history, SF series by Scott Westerfeld (read by Alan Cumming) [This one the library only carried on CD.]
  • Ender’s Game, the SF classic, by Orson Scott Card (read by Stefan Rudnicki, with Gabrielle De Cuir and David Birney, Scott Brick, Jason Cole, Harlan Ellison, Christian Noble, Don Schlossman, M.E. Willis and Orson Scott Card) [Ditto, on CD.]

What are your favorites?

Book View Café Grand Reopening

I’ve just joined Book View Café, which is an authors’ cooperative filled with great authors helping each other to republish their backlists and get excellent books back into print, via ebook. Members include Ursula K. LeGuin, Vonda N. McIntyre, Linda Nagata, Judith Tarr, Pati Nagle, Patricia Rice, and lots more. It’s a little like Backlist eBooks, which I also belong to, but is a lot more hands-on with the actual publishing, with its own bookstore and members actually volunteering cooperative-style, to help build the books, design covers, etc. My own books will start appearing there over the coming months, with my official “launch” on June 19 to feature the first of my forthcoming short story collections.

These hard-working people have just completely redesigned the bookstore, and today marks the official grand opening. Complete with a contest to give away some free books! Here’s the announcement…

Book View Café is celebrating the opening of our new, completely-redesigned bookstore by giving our readers a chance to win the book of their choice free. Just take a look around the store anytime up until midnight, June 8, and choose the book you’d like—all the books that are eligible for the giveaway are marked with a gold star. Then come back here and leave a comment with the name and author of the book and why you want it (we may use that comment for publicity purposes). You can also leave comments on any of the author blogs listed on the promotions page. When the promotion ends, winners will be chosen, and free books passed out! Check out the celebration here!

It’s a great bookstore, so do stop by and browse. All ebooks in the store are DRM-free and available in multiple formats for Kindle, Nook, and pretty much all other ebook devices.

When Mining Asteroids, Don’t Forget Your Trusty Dog

The recent arrival of the privately designed-and-built Dragon space capsule at the International Space Station dovetails nicely with another recent event: the announcement of a privately funded initiative called Planetary Resources, Inc., to seek out and mine near-Earth asteroids.

Both dovetail nicely with my own initiative: the release of my short story “Dog Star” as a standalone ebook. The dovetailing has to do with the fact that “Dog Star” is about a young asteroid miner who finds himself grounded on just such as asteroid, just him and his disabled ship… and his trusty “smartmutt,” an enhanced border collie named Sam. Dogs who can discuss astrophysics with you while thinking about digging on an asteroid aren’t a dime a dozen even in this future. Sam has to prove his mettle while helping his human dig his way out of this life-threatening jam.

This is a reprint of a story that first appeared as part of an online science-oriented anthology of stories called Diamonds in the Sky, which was funded by the National Science Foundation to help further the cause of science education, particularly in astronomy. (This new release has a couple of minor corrections from the text as it was released in the anthology.)

Gretchen, the student who has been working with me, helped get “Dog Star” up for sale on the last day of her interning stint. (Thanks, Gretchen!) It’s now free at Smashwords, and you can also get it in the Kindle and Nook stores.

Kindle | Nook | Smashwords (free!)

“Dog Star” will also appear in my forthcoming short story collection, Reality and Other Fictions, which is rapidly moving toward completion. I hope to make an announcement about that in the next few weeks. It will contain about half my published stories, including a couple not released as standalone ebooks. The other half will follow in Going Alien, soon after.

Guest Post: Gretchen on Interning

I invited Gretchen, who’s been helping me as an intern for the last two weeks, to write up a post about what it’s been like for her. Gretchen is a high school student with an interest in publishing. Working for me, she’s gotten a look at a side of publishing she probably never knew existed. Take it, Gretchen…

When I began my internship with Jeff, I didn’t really know what to expect. Completing a three-week internship is a requirement to graduate at my high school, and I just jumped straight from my exam week to my internship without wondering too much what it would be like. I soon found out. The first thing I learned—of which I was very appreciative—was that I didn’t have to get up at way-too-early-o’clock in the morning every day to begin work; I got to start at a much more reasonable hour in the afternoon, unlike most of my classmates.

The next thing I learned was that publishing eBooks really isn’t at all like I thought it was going to be. There is much more of a focus on little, seemingly insignificant formatting details than I had thought there would be (of course, those “tiny details” end up more like “huge problems” if you ignore them). Conversely, the actual conversion of documents into eBook formats and the process of putting them up for sale online seemed much easier than I thought it would be.

Even though some things haven’t been what I’d imagined, working with Jeff and learning more about publishing in general has been extremely interesting. I have a clearer idea of what publishing is about now—which will be helpful for me if I decide to go into the publishing business—but even beyond that, I’ve just had a lot of fun learning from Jeff and reading his stories.

And with Gretchen’s help, I’ve gotten three stories into ebook form (the third going up today), and several more in the pipeline! 

Tor/Forge Books to Go DRM-free!

posted in: ebooks, publishing 0

This one slipped by me when it was first announced, almost a month ago. Tor Books, my publisher, has announced that all of their ebooks will be going DRM-free. (DRM is the digital right management—or copy protection—that on most books from major publishers locks purchased books to a single type of reading device.) Here’s the announcement in part:

Tom Doherty Associates, publishers of Tor, Forge, Orb, Starscape, and Tor Teen, today announced that by early July 2012, their entire list of e-books will be available DRM-free.

“Our authors and readers have been asking for this for a long time,” said president and publisher Tom Doherty. “They’re a technically sophisticated bunch, and DRM is a constant annoyance to them. It prevents them from using legitimately-purchased e-books in perfectly legal ways, like moving them from one kind of e-reader to another.”

This is great news for ebook readers everywhere, whether they use Kindles, Nooks, iPads, Androids, Sony Readers, or anything else. Baen Books has for years been the only big SF publisher that has eschewed DRM, and it has served them and their readers well. Tor’s move may represent a break from the practice of the parent company, Macmillan U.S.; it may also be the first crack in the wall of the Big Six publishers, whose ebook publishing practices have been fairly anti-consumer for some time now. Instead of treating their customers as criminals who can’t be trusted with the books they’ve paid for, Tor/Forge will now be treating them as, well, valued customers.

No word yet on whether this signals a change in Macmillan’s policy of not selling ebooks to libraries, or whether customers who previously purchased DRM-restricted Tor/Forge books will be able to replace them with DRM-free editions.

My own policy has always been, if you’ve bought one of my books with DRM and it’s causing you any problems in reading it on the device of your choice, just let me know. I’ll personally replace it with a DRM-free copy.

“Of No Return”

My first professional sale came in 1974, a short story called “Of No Return,” about a man who works in a sea-floor power station experiencing difficulty in readapting to life on land. It was published In Fiction, a small magazine published at the time in Boston, and was later reprinted in a very small, limited edition anthology called Wet Visions. Aside from that, it’s been out of print—not even available on my web site. That’s changed, as of today.

Credit Gretchen, the high school student who has been working as an intern for me these last two weeks. She retyped the story, proofed it, created the cover and the ebook, and got it uploaded to all the usual suspect places. Here’s what it looks like. It’s free at Smashwords, for now, and $.99 at Amazon Kindle and Barnes and Noble Nook.

By this time next week, we should be well along in creating a complete short story collection, for eventual ebook (and who knows, maybe paper) publication. 

Available at Smashwords | Kindle | Nook

“Love Rogo” Back in Print, Electronically Speaking

My fourth short story, “Love Rogo,” is about a lovable doglike creature from Betelgeuse who is a little too lovable for his owners’ own good. It came out in 1977 in the anthology, Futurelove: a Science Fiction Triad, edited by Roger Elwood and published in hardcover by Bobbs-Merrill. There was no paperback edition, although the Science Fiction Book Club published their own low-cost hardcover. The other two authors in the book were Anne McCaffrey and Joan Hunter Holly; plus, there was an introduction by Gordon Dickson. It sobers me to note that I’m the only one still walking the Earth of that group of estimable people. Yow. God willing, I’ll keep the fires going here a while longer.

Getting this story back into circulation has been on my “to do” list for some time now, along with a handful of others. The common theme has been no digital file, which meant either retyping or scanning the stories in, something I just never got around to doing. About a year ago, my faithful reader Anne King sent me a digital copy of “Love Rogo,” in a gentle effort to jump-start the process. I still didn’t get around to it.

What changed is that I now have, for a few short weeks, the help of a smart young woman named Gretchen, a high-school student who is working for me as a publishing intern. The first task I gave her was getting “Love Rogo” finished and up as an ebook. She did that last week. She also designed the cover, modeled on the simple design of my other short story covers. (After a few days, I decided the cover wasn’t quite right, and we worked together to change the colors and type.)

“Love Rogo” is now available free at Smashwords for the month of May, and for $.99 in the Kindle and Nook stores.

Smashwords (all formats) | Kindle | Nook

Africa-themed Fantasy

Mary C. Aldridge is a writer you may not know, even though she was a Nebula finalist for one story, a Cauldron Award winner for another, and a winner of a Massachusetts Artists Foundation Fiction Fellowship for still another. The thing is, she hasn’t written nearly enough stories. A while back, I noted that she’d put some of her stories up for sale at Amazon and elsewhere. Now she’s gathered them into a collection that you can buy for a skinny $2.99 — a steal at the price.

If you like fantasy and African folklore, or just want to try something a little different, this could be just what you’re looking for.

Pick it up at Kindle / Nook / Smashwords (all formats)

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 10