02/24/2014 04:17pm Blog Entry
As promised, Looking Glass and Irreconcilable Differences are discontinued. Amazon has a few physical copies left, and I have loads of them, so they're not yet unobtainium.
As time permits, I will re-set both novels for ebook use. Whether they'll be free or not bears further consideration.
It's all kind of sad. My first two novels are probably done now. Over time, looking at them through the lens of my writing now, they're rough in spots - especially the paragraphing - but they hold up pretty well as stories. I don't plan on giving them a heavy edit to clean up the paragraphing and fix the rough spots - I don't really have time and they're not earning me money at this point - but I will be poking through them again in some fashion or other, so anything's possible.
01/31/2014 06:24pm Blog Entry
As of tomorrow, Looking Glass and Irreconcilable Differences are officially going out of print. (How long this will take to percolate out to Amazon, I have no idea.) I will be removing the free downloads some time tonight or tomorrow and modifying them to reflect that they are no longer available through the auspices of Flying Pen Press.
This isn't an acrimonious separation. My contract with FPP allowed me to pull the plug starting in 2010. I didn't do so then, and I didn't do so now. Mostly it's about falling sales, and FPP refocusing on other product lines. Whatever else is said about Flying Pen Press, ultimately they took a chance on a science fiction writer with exactly zero publishing credits, got me professional editing, and made the book available to the public. If you're reading this, there's a good chance it's because of an FPP version of one of my novels. Their timing couldn't have been better, either. 2007, the year Looking Glass was released, was also the year my father passed away, but he did live long enough to see me published, for which I'm grateful, and it's been very valuable to me to have books in print all this time.
That said, what do you, the reader, do if you came here looking for one of my books to buy? Well, as of right now, it's still alive on Amazon. Hit the buy button quick. If it's not there anymore, there are a couple options. First, I own the ebook versions outright - I created them in the first place, and I've been updating the free download version from time to time, so once I've made a few small changes (mostly to the cover and copyright sections) I'll be putting those free downloads back up. Second: I have a fairly abundant supply of the Flying Pen Press edition of both of my first two novels. I will be making arrangements on my website so you can order one via email and paypal direct from me (signed, if you like.) Finally, I own these two novels free and clear again. Moving forward, I'm hoping to find them a new home, perhaps with a third book in the series, even if it's a matter of typesetting them myself (I don't own the FPP typeset version) and putting them on Lulu. You haven't seen the last of my cyberpunk books.
Meantime, I'm making good progress on City of Glass, finally. I added about 10,000 words to it this week, (very) rough drafts of several pivotal scenes that help a lot in fixing the book in my mind. That those four chapters were written in Wordstar won't be obvious in the finished novel, and probably aren't that interesting to you, but it amuses the hell out of me. There are a lot fewer distractions in a 1980s toolset, and it helps with focusing. :) (If you are interested, the computer is one of these, which I built myself, running CP/M 2.2 and Wordstar 4. I have a functional but incomplete Wordstar to rtf translator written that I'm using, and one of my side/hobby projects has been a complete Wordstar to rtf translator, to handle everything Wordstar can do. Turns out that's far more than I thought, so it's taking a lot more time than expected. :)
So yeah. Things are changing around here.
01/06/2014 07:42pm Blog Entry
In the Brass and Steel stories, I've made great use of Herman Hollerith's name as one of the technology greats behind my 19th century computer revolution. (In the real world, he invented Hollerith cards, first used to tabulate the 1890 Census) Today I decided that the precursors of IBM needed to show up as eager young startups (since IBM itself wasn't founded until 1911, and City of Glass is set in 1897). IBM, formerly known as the Computing Tabulating Recording company, was made up of the merger of three smaller companies; the Tabulating Machine Company, International Time Recording Company, and the Computing Scale company. You can see where this is going. The Tabulating Machine Company was Hollerith's company. So one of my usual gags writing Steampunk turns out to be exactly backwards. Heh. :) -JRS
Some things I didn't know about the 19th century: the 20somethings of the time were in the same boat as the Millennials today. Kind of explains the explosive rise of Steampunk.
So Happy December, folks. Glad to see we're all here. What've I been doing, you ask, that I've been silent since October? Well, working on the next novel in the Brass and Steel series, and also polishing up the short fiction I wrote over the summer. So yeah, nothing really new to report there. I've also been building my own computer. No, not like that, with a soldering iron, bare boards, and ICs. It runs CP/M, arguably the very first widespread microcomputer OS. It's different. It's called a Zeta. More info here: http://n8vem-sbc.pbworks.com/w/page/44366173/Zeta%20SBC.
The CP/M world is very different from the PC compatible (clone) and DOS world I lived through. All those machines by and large had a standard set of off-the-shelf hardware, and a compatible BIOS (basic input output system). Not so in CP/M. Every CP/M manufacturer could, potentially, have different hardware for the most basic things, like serial ports (rs232, btw. USB wasn't even a glimmer yet), floppy controllers, and quite a few CP/M machines plugged into 'dumb' terminals like ADM-3as, vt100s, and so forth, so even displaying text could be different. As far as I can tell, CP/M 2.2 (may be different in later versions) is more like a skeleton of an operating system, a place to start and a bunch of useful tools rather than an OS. Given that software of the day mostly ran against the bare metal of the CPU and memory, that got you quite a ways, but not all the way as we're accustomed to today.
So, other than shining a little light on my current hobby machine, why am I telling you this? Because the more I deal with CP/M, the more I realize how much those mass-produced computers, most especially the IBM PC and its infinite clones, provided the level of computing choice we're accustomed to. My junk-box PC is made of a hodgepodge of parts out of other people's junk boxes, and yet it can run windows 7, runs linux, pretty much out of the box. I bring it up, because it seems as though that era is coming to an end.
Any iphone/pad/whatever you buy will run an Apple OS, without exception. Unless you jailbreak it, it will run software which has been approved by Apple, built with Apple tools, and sold through the Apple App store. Likewise the Android platform. While it is of more heterogeneous manufacture, each vendor does their best to lock you in to their vision of the platform, or at least to Google Play. We have also seen how these platforms can be suborned by outside interests, from DRM to the NSA, to advertisers big and small, and just about everyone except the person who owns the machine. The cyberpunk ideal of a network cowboy with systems only he/she controls may turn out to be only a fantasy.
I don't know what the answers are. (Though one should probably expect more cyberpunk out of me down the road as this stuff becomes more real.) What I do know is that there are things from the PC era which we'll lose when our PCs become part of the notebook/phone ecology, and of those the big one is control over what our computers are actually doing. I'm pretty sure I don't like it.
10/14/2013 01:47pm Book Review
The Hundred Secret Senses - Five stars.
It's become a tradition for me to read Amy Tan's books when flying. My recent trip to Las Vegas was no exception, since at the last minute, I pulled down Amy Tan's The Hundred Secret Senses - the Kindle version - and dived into it as soon as I could turn my electronic devices back on.
The book starts, "My sister Kwan believes she has yin eyes. She sees those who have died and now dwell in the World of Yin, ghosts who leave the mists just to visit her kitchen on Balboa Street in San Francisco."
There are ghosts a-plenty in this book. Two or three in particular are fundamental to the story line, and the stories of their lives, deaths, and in some cases reincarnations are woven seamlessly into the narrative, as Kwan shifts from her accented English into Chinese to tell her sister Olivia the stories. Kwan spends time in a mental institution for her troubles.
To Kwan, the ghosts are real. Olivia, born and raised in America, and not part of the culture Kwan is speaking from, is skeptical. And yet, against her will, over decades of listening to her sister, Olivia has learned the stories, internalized them, and become haunted by some of them herself, as well as taking on a few new ones.
The ghosts are the reason Kwan is so desperate to patch Olivia's failed marriage back together. The ghosts and their story are the reason Olivia, Simon (Olivia's ex-husband) and Kwan go to China. But a ghost can't change anything about its life. Ghosts are dead. It's for the living, the dying, and the newly born who ultimately bring the story to resolution.
Tan evokes both these women - Olivia and Kwan - so thoroughly you feel as though you know them, that you have known them since you were a child. Through the longstanding argument and story telling between them, she evokes the ghosts as well, and their stories, and their passions, their very lives that were, to the point that they too are characters in the present story.
If it sounds disjoint - like I'm still wrapping my head around this book, digesting it, trying to figure out how Tan did what she did, and why - that's because I am. There's a lot of story there. Tan's books are thick, dense with plot and rich with characters, and The Hundred Secret Senses is no exception. Totally immersive, and I found myself wishing my flight had lasted longer than the two hours or so it actually did, so I could get through more of it. As it was, I was up until 2:00am reading it in the middle of my vacation. It's that good. Read it. Enjoy it.
10/14/2013 12:41pm Blog Entry
I will be at MileHiCon at the end of this week, and I have my schedule now:
Saturday at 11:00AM in Grand Mesa 8c: Researching Fiction (my favorite thing) How do you do research for fiction? What are good places too look? How much is too much?
Saturday at Noon in Mesa Verde C: Reading with Stant Litore. If I have the right guy, he's writing zombie horror, so it could get pretty ugly. :) (I might not have the right guy. Ask me some time about the exquisite corpse reading I was in once. The dangers of searching the interwebs.) I'm not sure what I'm going to read yet, but I may polish up one of my unpublished short stories from the Brass and Steel universe. Probably not the 7500 word one.
Saturday at 2:00pm in Wind River B: Future of Biology and Medicine. Where are we now, what do we see becoming science fact, limitations of genetic research, new medical tech.
The rest of the time I'll be wandering around like all the other fans. :)
09/27/2013 05:30pm Blog Entry
The first draft of Brass and Steel: The City of Glass is proceeding, and it's developing its own feel, which is good - if time consuming. Here's a quick tidbit. Annabel and her sister Josephine are the main characters of this story.
Annabel gets up to look out the window, down at the streets below, at the elevated train as it slides by silently on tracks stories above the street. A brigade of steam melters slowly advance down the street, melting snow with steam, vacuuming up the water, heating it in their specially designed autoboilers into more steam. She looks down casually with her mystical eye, and realizes they’re strictly machines. No human being guides them. They roll along, low slung black boilers with brass fittings gleaming against the snow and muddy water. As she watches, squads of them divide off from the main brigade to pursue side streets. Hundreds of them. Perhaps thousands, and each one apparently controlled by a Dejstrøm engine the size of a wartime Dope brain, without the bound soul to animate it. Probably rectangular, as most are now, to facilitate bolting them to the regular shapes men seem to favor when they build. She looks out further over the city, past more elevated train tracks and ignores the prickle of her scalp.
08/20/2013 12:23pm Blog Entry
From David Foster Wallace: “When you write fiction,[…] you are telling a lie. It’s a game, but you must get the facts straight. The reader doesn’t want to be reminded that it’s a lie. It must be convincing, or the story will never take off in the reader’s mind.”