Launch Day! Story of an Audiobook—Part One

Today marks launch day for the audiobook of Neptune Crossing! Narrated by the Grammy-winning Stefan Rudnicki! I feel as if I’ve just discovered a planet. Or maybe traveled to one. It’s been a long journey—and I often thought there would be no audiobook at all.

Neptune Crossing is one of my best known works, and the beginning of my most ambitious series, The Chaos Chronicles. But a thousand years or so ago, when I first sold the Chaos series to Tor Books, audiobooks were the furthest thing from my mind. They had not reached anything like the popularity they enjoy today, and Audible, iTunes, and library downloads were just a futurist’s dream. Only top-selling books got the audio treatment, and while I had my appreciative and loyal audience, I simply did not fit that profile.

Time passed, and publishing changed. Indie-publishing happened. I started creating ebooks of my older titles, breathing new life into books long out of print. And I discovered audiobooks myself. What’s this? You can download audiobooks from the library? I loaded up my trusty Zune and started listening to books while I walked the dog. What a discovery! But why weren’t my books available?

I cast about for ideas. Some of my colleagues—Jim Kelly, for example—were building their audiences through podcast readings of their own work. I could do that, couldn’t I? I thought I was a pretty good reader. Okay, I had no studio, limited experience, and only a cheap computer mic. But I gave it a shot. I recorded the prologue to the forthcoming Sunborn.

This is going to be great!

And that’s when I discovered just how frigging hard and time consuming it was to get an audio recording right. I’d thought to release the whole of Sunborn chapter by chapter, podcast style. But halfway through the first chapter, I realized it wasn’t going to work—not if I wanted to do anything else in life, such as finish the next book. So, with deep regret, I pulled the plug on that idea. (However, my reading of the Sunborn prologue eventually got turned into a video for an arts festival, and you can view it on my videos page. I think it’s pretty cool.)

Once again, I was left in the wilderness, with no clear road to audio for the Chaos books. Or, to pursue the planetary metaphor, I was adrift in the asteroid belt, thrusters sputtering. My agent eventually sold some of my other titles to Audible. But I didn’t have the rights to The Chaos Chronicles.

None of this went unnoticed by my wife Allysen, who had worked in TV production. In 2011, she decided it was time to step up. We found inspiration in Bruce Coville’s Full Cast Audio, whose productions we had been enjoying as family entertainment. We would start at the beginning and create a full-cast amateur podcast of Neptune Crossing, to put online for free, using local talent! In our suburb of Boston, you can’t throw a rock without hitting a writer, artist, or actor. We put out the call. And people came forth—people with talent and enthusiasm, and willingness to help. One of them, Bob Kuhn, even had book narration experience.

This is going to be great!

We bought a decent recorder, borrowed a bunch of sound curtains, and turned our living room into a Saturday afternoon recording studio. Allysen directed, and I took the part of Bandicut. Sam played the quarx, Peter and John each took several characters, as did Judy, Lisa, and Allysen. Bob laid down the narration track. Others came in for shorter parts. We got most of the book in the can, as raw recording. We began logging takes.

And then… Allysen got a new job, a demanding one. Someone else’s work schedule changed, making Saturdays a problem. We were running ourselves ragged. It was taking a toll on my writing. I undertook the sound editing… and rediscovered just how time consuming that job was. Finally we called a hiatus. I had a book to write! Allysen needed to focus on her new job. The hiatus stretched. It was maybe a year before we realized that this project, too, was something we could not finish, not now, not without killing ourselves. We’d gotten out of the asteroid belt, only to be trapped, adrift and blind, in the clouds of Jupiter.

[continued…]

(Spoiler! In the next chapter, you’ll read how we made it to Planet Neptune Crossing Audiobook. If you want, though, you can run right out and buy the audiobook right now!)

NeptuneCrossing-audiobook

Science Proves Dogs Understand Words the Way Humans Do

MRI scans of dogs brains show them responding not just to a speaker’s tone of voice (right brain function), but to the meanings of spoken words (left brain function). Now, this is cool—if perhaps unsurprising to dog owners. Nice to see it confirmed by a brain scanner, though! And those are some adorable-looking dogs. Read more about it in Science News. (Update: This Washington Post article has more information, including some video of how they did the research.)

Picture by ENIKŐ KUBINYI

 

 

New Book from Richard Bowker!

My friend Richard Bowker has a new novel out in the Kindle store (coming soon in other stores). If you’ve read any of his books, you know he’s a terrific writer. This one’s called Terra, and is a direct sequel to his earlier book, The Portal, which tells the story of two boys who stumble into, and through, a dimensional portal into an alternate Earth. I’ve read it in manuscript, and it’s excellent. (The new one, I mean. But they’re both excellent.) Richard is hard at work on a third volume.

You can read more about Terra on Rich’s blog. Or go ahead and buy it in the Kindle store. I think you’ll be glad you did!

Terra by Richard Bowker

 

Video Trailer for Neptune Crossing Audiobook!

How’s that for a mingling of formats? Skyboat Media, producers of the soon-to-be-released audiobook of Neptune Crossing, has put together a short video trailer, showing Stefan Rudnicki at work reading the prologue, from the quarx’s point of view. It’s short, and it’s nifty. And it came out just in time to be my second big birthday present, after the discovery of Proxima b, the potentially Earthlike planet circling Proxima Centauri. Here it is:

Speaking of video, I did a Skype video interview with Stefan today, which was great fun—actually our first “face to face” meeting, if you count videophone as face to face. I hope we get a chance to meet in person one of these days. I’ll let you know when that interview goes up.

Planet of Proxima Centauri

Huge news from the world of astronomy! A planet has been discovered circling the closest star to ours, just 4.25 light-years away! And it may be in the Goldilocks zone—neither too close to its star nor too far away to have liquid water. Proxima is a red dwarf, much smaller than our sun, and Proxima b (the planet) is orbiting much closer to its star than Earth, with an orbit around its sun every 11.2 days. The net effect of this is that, depending on what kind of atmosphere it has, the surface temperature could be moderate enough for water to exist in liquid form: ideal for our kind of life. This is big news, even bigger than the apparent discovery a few years ago of a planet circling Alpha Centauri (part of the same star group, but a little further away). Read the details on Phil Plait’s Bad Astronomy blog. And here’s a video from the European Southern Observatory:

Regarding that previous discovery around Alpha Centauri, it was (according to Phil Plait’s article) later found to be an error. But he thinks the evidence for this one is a lot more solid. So here’s hoping, and let’s start tuning up that stardrive!

Another Sale! (Yawn)

Wait, wait, wait! We’re not getting jaded about these sales, are we? No, we are not. Not at the prices I’m paying to advertise these socko, out of the park sales! My ebook Seas of Ernathe just went on special for $.99, for one week only! Get ‘em while they’re… well, you know. Hot.

I wish I could think of a way to tie this to Hillary’s terrific speech last night—wasn’t she great?—but the truth is, when I booked the ad, I had no idea I was going to have that act to follow. Go Hillary! Balloons, people—think balloons, and buy some books!

Seas of Ernathe was my first novel, and the first novel in the Star Rigger Universe. Or, to put it another way, it’s the last novel in the Star Rigger Universe! It’s—let me try to explain.

This was the book that broke me into the book business. My first, and a book I still like a lot. Plus, it has this dynamite cover art by Chris Howard, who is a man of many talents, including both writing and painting! At the time I wrote Seas, I had published exactly one short story in the rigger world, “Alien Persuasion,” which was soon to become the starting point for my second novel, Star Rigger’s Way. For reasons I don’t remember, I set Seas in what you might call the post-rigger world, far in the future, when the secrets of starship rigging have been lost. The events of this story provide the clues that lead to the rediscovery of the art of rigging. So, it’s set at the end of the long story arc of rigging, but it’s the first written. And Ernathe has a silent e on the end.

Try it; I think you’ll like it! Did I mention it’s only $.99, for a limited time?

carver-seasofernathe600x900

Great Way to Celebrate the Fourth of July

juno-jupiter-artist-conceptWhat better way to crown the Fourth of July, a celebration of the birth of the U.S.A., than to plunk a billion-dollar spacecraft—Juno, the fastest-moving probe ever launched by humanity—into a perfect orbit around Jupiter? This isn’t just any orbit. NASA had to thread Juno into a precise path taking the craft between the planet’s upper atmosphere and its hellish radiation belt. Too close to that belt, and the instruments would have been instant toast. Fortunately, NASA eats challenges like that for lunch. Juno will be flying a highly elliptical path over the huge planet’s poles, zooming repeatedly to within a few thousand miles of the atmosphere and then whipping way out for a long-distance view.

Jupiter's magnetic field-artist's conceptLike so many space stories, there’s a lot in this that echoes my current work in progress. Readers of The Chaos Chronicles might remember that Li-Jared comes from Karellia, a planet with a fiery radiation belt surrounding it. In The Reefs of Time, Li-Jared (and we) get a chance to visit that world, which features things even weirder than the “beautiful, perilous sky” that its inhabitants know so well.

Take a moment to enjoy this view of Jupiter’s moons circling the great planet, shot by Juno on its flight inbound.

Everything You Need to Know about My Dragon Rigger Sale

Really? Everything? Honestly, the answer is nothing. Nada. You don’t need to know that Dragon Rigger, one of my favorite books, which took me a couple of years to write, is just $.99 for a limited time only. You don’t need to know that it’s a sequel to Dragons in the Stars, and one of the most layered novels in my Star Rigger Universe. You don’t need to know that one reviewer on Amazon called it “The Best Book I’ve Ever Read!” and another reviewer called it “A masterfully written book,” and still another said, “I couldn’t put it down!” and indicated a desire to give it 7 stars on a 5-star scale.

But even if you don’t need to know that stuff, isn’t it kind of cool that you do? I admit it feels cool to me.

Speaking for my own feelings about the book, I really enjoyed delving into the dragons’ culture and their journeys through the “underrealm,” which is a layer of reality that underlies the already alternate reality of the Flux. I was emotionally exhausted by the time I finished writing it, which is good, because it meant I was emotionally invested in the dragons, Jael, and others. The ending was hard for me to write, because it hurt even though it was uplifting and redemptive at the same time. It’s a book I felt good about having written, like I’d done the universe a solid, creatively speaking. And it has a gorgeous map.

For the price of a candy bar, this tale of mythic adventure in a science fiction world can be yours. How far can you go wrong? But don’t wait too long!

Cover art by Magdalena Almero Nocea. Cover design by Maya Kaathryn Bohnhoff.

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Plot Problem Solved!

Here used to be a picture of me after licking a thorny plot problem in the chapter tentatively titled “Chapter 29” in The Reefs of Time. This would be the chapter that, in the first draft, caused me to type, “I HAVE NO FRICKIN’ IDEA WHERE THIS IS GOING! FIX IT IN REWRITE!” and then move on. When the rewrite came around, the situation was not much improved. But this time, I didn’t think I could do the same thing, so I just kept pounding my head on it until it relented and gave up its secrets. So, this time I’ve solved it and moved on. Having solved it. I think. You never know about these things until you circle back on the next pass and see it all in the context of the whole story arc.

Have I mentioned that this is a long and complex book, with many threads, and it’s taking me a long time to (re)write it? Think Game of Thrones… but without the thrones, the kingdoms, the backstabbing murders, the dragons, the dark magic, etc. Actually, it’s nothing like The Game of Thrones, except for the length, complexity, and the time it’s taking me to finish it. But that’s not nothing.

 

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