The Page 69 Test – Sunborn

I was asked by Marshal Zeringue, the owner of a blog called “The Page 69 Test” to write an entry for Sunborn. The inspiration for the blog comes from the “page 69 test” that you can use when you’re browsing a book in a store: open to page 69, and see if you like what you read. Some people use the “page 11 test.” Some the “first and last page” test.

If you’d like to see what I wrote, check out The Page 69 Test: Sunborn.

Oh, and Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Writer, Like Dragon

Most working writers are like dragons: they know down to the nickel what’s in their hoard. Maybe not their hoard of gold on hand—because usually what they have on hand is a shortage of gold—but for sure they know when the gold is expected. They know who owes them what, and when it’s supposed to come, and (if they’re honest) how many months late it will probably actually come. It’s a survival trait. When food is scarce, you keep a watch on the supply trains.

Except this time.

Our budget has been pretty tight around here of late, and our contingency actions included borrowing some cash. (If you read the papers, you’d think that was impossible. And yet, though GM can’t get a loan, the credit card companies continue to offer no-interest balance transfers, even to people who demonstrably are unlikely to leave the debt in one place long enough for it to kick up to the higher rate.) Well, we determined to keep a trusting attitude about it all, and even decided that we needed to be more conscious about giving away a proper tithe of the money that does come in. Giving back to God, paying forward, call it what you will.

Today I opened an envelope from my agent—and what did I behold? A check. A substantial check. It seemed that, most undragonlike, I had forgotten that there was an on-publication check owed me for Sunborn! I had forgotten! (All of my other contracts have called for payment on signing and on acceptance, but this particular one was structured differently from all the others.) I had forgotten! Whoo-whoooo!

I did three things right away. I thanked God, I called my wife, and I took that sucker right to the bank.

“God only exhibits his thunder and lightning at intervals, and so they always command attention. These are God’s adjectives. You thunder and lightning too much; the reader ceases to get under the bed, by and by.” —Mark Twain

Great Success!

Both book signings were terrific successes, with lots of hardcovers leaving in people’s hands—in many cases, the hands of people I did not know before the signings. (Always a good indicator.) And the folks at Menotomy Beer & Wine were fantastic, made me feel welcome and even sent me home with a bottle of wine! This continues my experience that the best place to do book signings is not necessarily at bookstores (though I’m happy to sign at bookstores, too!), but at places where something else is going on. Indoor water park, church fair, wine tasting—what’ll be next?

Two Signings This Week!

I’ve added a second book signing of Sunborn to the one previously announced:

  • On Friday evening, Nov. 7, from 6:30 to 8:30, I’ll be doing a benefit signing at Park Avenue Congregational Church in Arlington, Mass., at the annual fair.
  • On Saturday, Nov. 8, from 4:00 to 7:00, I’ll be signing as a guest at the regular wine tasting at Menotomy Beer and Wine, also in Arlington.

Click for a full rewrite, with details and locations. Stop by! Have some lasagna and pie (Friday) and some wine (Saturday).


Well, this is kind of depressing. And no, I’m not talking about the election; that’s still a few hours off. No, I’m talking about the stats for downloads of the ebooks—especially Sunborn. Turns out that my web logs analyzer, a program called Analog that I’ve used faithfully for years, has been lying to me about the number of downloads.

Well, not lying exactly, just being stupid.

I think this applies mainly just to the PDF downloads rather than the others, because people can actually open the PDF file right in their browser without downloading the file to their hard drive. And when they do, the file is sent to them in little packets, which you would only notice by the repeated little message at the bottom of the browser indicating activity. As I discovered to my dismay last night, each of those little packets gets its own line in the logs. And Analog has been counting each of those packets as a separate download request! And fooling me like a politician greasing a gullible audience.

To paraphrase one such politician of the past*, let me make one thing perfectly clear. I am not a crook. However, previous reports of the downloads of Sunborn and the other PDF files are exaggerated. A lot. A real lot. As nearly as I can tell, actual complete downloads of Sunborn are in the low-mid hundreds at this point, and the highest, Neptune Crossing, is at maybe a thousand. All told, the cumulative ebook downloads are in the thousands, but I’m not even going to try to guess a more exact number. That’s not cottage cheese, but it’s nowhere near the 20K plus that Analog was selling me.

To say that this discovery was a downer would be no exaggeration.

Anyone know a better free (or cheap) web-logs analyzer? (I’ve tried a few, but none quite fit the bill yet.)

*For the young’ns among you, or those outside the U.S.: Richard M. Nixon, the worst president in U.S. history prior to the current one.

“From my close observation of writers … they fall into two groups: 1) those who bleed copiously and visibly at any bad review, and 2) those who bleed copiously and secretly at any bad review.” —Isaac Asimov

Concord (er, Lowell) SF Panel

Our panel at Umass Lowell, as part of the Concord Festival of Authors, went very well. Panelist and new writer Chris Howard blogged about it, and said everything I would say, except that he gave a nice big plug to Sunborn while he was at it. Thanks, Chris!

Funny thing: I clicked on Chris’s Amazon link to Sunborn, and noted with my usual scowl that Amazon already listed used copies for sale, three days after the book’s release. Then, out of curiosity, I clicked to look at the actual listing—and saw, first of all, that most were actually new, not used, copies from Amazon Marketplace sellers. But here’s the funny part—some sellers listed used copies for over $40, or more than twice Amazon’s price for new books! Do you suppose anybody would actually buy one of those? It’s good work if you can get it.

Nobody’s emailed me yet to request a free ebook, but there have been over 4000 hits on the Sunborn PDF in just three days!

Sunborn Is Born!

Sunborn is a book, available in fine stores everywhere! Yay! I even have copies myself! By a wonderful fluke, the case I ordered for the upcoming book signing at the Menotomy Beer and Wine store (see earlier post) arrived on my doorstep today. So I get to see it, too! (This may sound odd, but usually the writer is the last to get copies. Well, sometimes the editor is last, and the writer is second to last. Indeed, there’s no telling when my regular “author’s comp copies” will arrive.)

Order now from:

If you’d like to read before you buy, here’s the deal on downloads. I’ve put up a regular PDF version for free download. This will look nice on your computer (but probably not so great on your small device). In addition, I’m offering anyone who buys the hardcover a free ebook in other ebook formats, straight from me! Buy the book from me or from any store—and just send me proof of purchase of any kind. Details are on my downloads page.

I don’t quite have the ebook ready at this moment. I’ve been untangling the formatting on Tor’s typesetting file, which required a somewhat messy Quark to Word conversion. That’s just about done, and very soon I’ll be able to start converting it into the formats that ebook readers prefer.

The long wait is over!

Coming Personal Appearances

For those of you in eastern Massachusetts or southern New Hampshire, or…okay, for those of you in the continental U.S., or neighboring countries…

The evening of October 30 will find me moderating a panel at the University of Massachusetts Lowell campus, called “We May Be On to Something Here (Science Fiction in the 21st Century).” Part of the Concord Festival of Authors, the panel will also include Craig Shaw Gardner, new writer Chris Howard, Alexander Jablokov, and Matt Jarpe. We’ll kick off at 7:30 p.m., jawbone interestingly with each other and the audience for a while, then segue into a book signing hosted by the university bookstore. This will be my first opportunity to sign Sunborn—and in all likelihood the first time I will have set eyes on the actual book myself.

If you can’t make that—or even if you can—you’ll have another chance to say hello and pick up a signature on a shiny new hardcover (if that appeals to you, and why wouldn’t it?) on Saturday, November 8, from 4-7 p.m. The venue will be a little different this time; I’ll be signing at Arlington’s Menotomy Beer and Wine store, while a free wine-tasting swirls around me. The wine tastings are a popular event at the store, and it’s a great bunch of people, with some interesting wines. Stop by and say hi!

Another signing is tentatively planned for later in November, but more about that when details firm up.

And don’t forget: you can download the first three novels of the Chaos Chronicles for free in ebook form, so even if you haven’t read them yet, you can grab them now and be all up to speed for Sunborn. Go for it!

Audio on Ice

I’ve taken a hard look at my audiobook project and reluctantly decided to pull the plug on it for now. Oh, it would be great to have Sunborn available in audio format, and no doubt it would bring in new readers. It’s something I enjoy doing, too—when I’m not feeling pressured to get it done, and to do it just so. But it was just taking too much time for too little result, and it was cutting way into my writing on the new book. So I’m putting it on ice for a while, or at least on the back burner.

I don’t consider the time wasted, and I hope some people listened to and enjoyed the sample recording. (Besides those who have posted here, I mean.) I learned a lot in the process. One thing I learned is that it’s not an easy thing to do well, and you need to spend almost as much time editing the recording of a chapter as you did editing the text in the first place. Okay, that’s an exaggeration, but still. Another thing I learned is that I probably need better equipment—microphone, headphones, and so on. That will have to wait.

I do hope to return to it at some point. I may keep fiddling from time to time, to see if I can make the process go more smoothly. But for right now, I’ve put a lot of time into work that one way or another is to promote Sunborn. It’s time I started putting more of my time into The Reefs of Time.

“When I face the desolate impossibility of writing five hundred pages a sick sense of failure falls on me and I know I can never do it. This happens every time. Then gradually I write one page and then another. One day’s work is all I can permit myself to contemplate and I eliminate the possibility of ever finishing.” —John Steinbeck

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