Tuesday, January 15, 2019

The Tor (free) Book Of the Month club selection: The Only Harmless Great Thing

This month's Tor Book of the month club selection is THE ONLY HARMLESS GREAT THING by Brooke Bolander.  Not the kind of book I usually read, but I think I will anyway. You can grab it at ebookclub.tor.com for free until Jan 19th.

 From the back:
The Only Harmless Great Thing is a heart-wrenching alternative history by Brooke Bolander that imagines an intersection between the Radium Girls and noble, sentient elephants.
In the early years of the 20th century, a group of female factory workers in Newark, New Jersey slowly died of radiation poisoning. Around the same time, an Indian elephant was deliberately put to death by electricity in Coney Island.
These are the facts.
Now these two tragedies are intertwined in a dark alternate history of rage, radioactivity, and injustice crying out to be righted. Prepare yourself for a wrenching journey that crosses eras, chronicling histories of cruelty both grand and petty in search of meaning and justice.



Some bookstores call it a novelette and I agree as it is only 96 pages.  But certainly long enough to have some serious meat in it.  I know of both events in history quite well.  The Radium Girls were factory workers that painted dials on wrist watches with Radium (a radioactive material), to them glow in the dark.  Heck, they were TOLD to use their mouth to get the fine tip needed to paint the numbers on the dials.  At the time this was the only way to get the numbers to glow in the dark.  Why no one thought this was dangerous is beyond me.  I guess they figured it was not enough to be toxic.  Although the owners and scientists wore lead protection and tongs when working with the stuff.  Perhaps the exposure wearing one of these wrist watches would have been very low (not low enough for me that is for sure), making hundreds a day and pointing the brush with your mouth to do the job increases the exposure a million times.

As for the elephant, I know of another odd execution which was done by a crane and hung the elephant in question.  People for many miles showed up to see this execution.  It also boggles my mind why so many people would want to come to see such a gruesome display.  Of course we have horror movies that pale by comparison, but they are fake.  This was going to see an actual elephant killed.  Granted, she killed her trainer and she couldn't be trusted again (although he was unqualified to be a trainer in the first place making his death questionable and may not have been all her fault).  However, they hung her to "put on a show".  Putting her down is one thing and I agree it was probably necessary, but the method is inhuman.  It caused her great suffering as it didn't work well and the crane even had difficulty lifting the elephant.  Why they thought this was a good idea boggles the mind.

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Aqua Notes: A Writer's Best Friend

A Writer's Best Friend!
Writers get ideas at oddest times.  We will stare at a sentence wondering where to take our characters and not sure of the next step.  Sometimes we will work on this for days, when all suddenly lightning strikes and we know what to do.

That moment is often when we least expect it.  For me, it happens most often in the shower.  And I am not the only one.  J. Michael Straczynski talks about having the same situation when he was creating Babylon 5.  In that interview he mentions having two ideas: one of a epic space story and a smaller one consisting of a few people on a space station.  He had the moment of epiphany in the shower when he realized they were one and the same.  He got out of the shower, wrote everything down, and didn't use his computer because he was dripping wet.

I've had more instances like this than I can count.  But I discovered one big help a few years ago: Aqua notes.  For years I had a pad of paper near the shower which always became a mess when I used it.  To the point I rarely bothered.  I tried to keep the ideas in my head until I got out and dressed.  As you can imagine, a lot of great ideas went down the drain with that method!

Aqua notes is a waterproof pad of paper and a pencil.  Both have suction cups to mount in your shower.  I prefer a space pen (which can even write underwater) to the pencil, but they include one and works well (provided the tip doesn't break).

It is such a simple idea but really works for those writers with epiphany moments while under a warm cascade of water.  While I had thought of getting a waterproof case for my Android tablet, this is a safer alternative and is always hanging in the shower ready for my next great idea.

If you are tired of letting great ideas go down the drain, get Aqua Notes and put a stop to that today!  It also makes a great Christmas gift for the writer in your family.  Or just someone who gets great ideas at the oddest times!

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Heart Of The Machine Print Edition Releases October 26th, E-book Edition Raffle, And More!

Well I have more news, a raffle, and another free Tor book to talk about.

First, Heart Of The Machine is coming out on paperback on October 26th (although the pre-order doesn't appear yet, they assure me it will soon!).  In honor of this I am raffling off 4 copies of the ebook edition.  Click here to enter.



Did you know there is a great free service to get autographs from your favorite authors? It is called Authorgraph! It is pretty slick, you simply find the book you want on their site and request an Authorgraph. The request is forwarded to the author of the book and they do the autograph and you get links to download it as a PDF which works with most e-readers. You can find my books here.

Also, Tor has another free book on their book of the month club. This time it is Victor Lavalle's The Ballad Of Black Tom. This title is a mix of sorcery in the jazz age with the feeling of Lovecraft. It is FREE until October 12th. Click here to grab your copy.




And finally, starting on the 15th Heart Of The Machine goes on sale for just .99!  If you haven't got your copy then you don't want to miss this!  Just be sure to grab it before the 28th when it goes back up to full price.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

News, Italian Fever Paperback Release, and FREE Tor e-book

I know it is has been so quiet around here that I bet even the crickets are wondering if they went deaf.  Well life decided to whack me around like a tennis ball.  Part of that included being challenged on my copyright and locking off my account.  After a LOT of hair pulling, teeth grating, time, and emails they listened, apologized for their mistake and all is well.  But it was stressful to say the least.

But now for the good news: my book Italian Fever is finally coming out on paperback on September 28th and is available for pre-order at B&N, Amazon, and other retailers.  In honor of this, all e-book editions are now on SALE for 99 cents!  If you have been wanting to grab a copy now is the time!  But be sure to grab them before the 28th when they go back to full price!

In other news, Tor has another free book on their book of the month club.  This time it is Charlie Jane Anders' All The Birds In The Sky.  It a magical/fantasy about An ancient society of witches and a hipster technological start up go to war in order to prevent the world from tearing itself apart.  It is FREE until September 21st.  Click here to grab your copy.

I am working on getting back on track with new releases.  I have another book almost done, and several short stories.  Stay tuned. :) 

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Heart Of The Machine now available on Nook, Kobo, Google Play, iBooks, and more!




If you didn't catch my previous post, Heart Of The Machine has left Kindle Unlimited making it available on retailers other than Kindle.  As I write this it is available on Nook, Kobo, Google Play, iBooks with others being added over the next few days.  
 
I have other announcements coming up, be sure to watch this space for details.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Robotic repair satellites, Self -Driving Cars, And Facebook Wants More

Satellites that repair other satellites?  
Believe it or not, it something that NASA is working on called Restore L.  Quite the idea, but I couldn't help but think of the old Enterprise episode where an autonomous repair station seems to good to be true.  Of course while I think it would be a good idea, I don't see it holding up.  Just look at the occasional glitch while trying to get computer components to work well together that are designed to do so.  To have a repair satellite repair others that weren't designed for such service?  I don't see it.  They could launch satellites that would be compatible but it would take a lot of them for it to be worth launching the 'satellite garage'.  And I would love to see such a device try to fix the Hubble!  I watched all the troubles the astronauts went though on the repair missions, I don't see a 'satellite garage' being able to do that.  But I wouldn't mind being proven wrong.

Self-Driving cars are almost here, but would you want them on the road?
In the recent trial with Uber and Waymo I don't think I do.  The idea of self-driving cars have been with us for a long time, and if done right, might be safer.  However, with the current industry doing all it can to beat out the other at any cost, is worrisome.  I don't know about you, but hearing a CEO talk about "cheat sheets" or "shortcuts" displaying that winning is all that matters to them confirms how scary this is.  The problem is, the hazards are not only with the person in the automated car, it is also with others on the road.  So, even if you wouldn't dare get into a self-driving car, one could be driving past you.

In a perfect world, a person would be behind the wheel ready to take over should a problem arise.  But I doubt that would be the case.  Many would be working on their phones or doing something else while leaving the driving to the car.  If there was a problem, they would realize it too late.  And if it was a taxi, forget it.  You are in the backseat far way from the controls should anything happen.

I like the idea of self-driving cars, if it is done right.  But at this moment, I don't see that happening.  Do I think we need more regulation?  No, I think we need to tell the companies that if they want the cars on the road, everything has to be transparent and no cutting corners.  Otherwise no one will use the vehicles they have spent so much on.  Safety has to be their top priority, not winning the autonomous vehicle contest. 

Facebook wants more.
Facebook is trying to coax more private data out of us by giving everyone a 'lists' feature.  Now I know the idea of keeping a list is a good idea, heck there are many list apps out there, but to share them with everyone?  Yes, you can restrict them to only your friends like everything else on Facebook, but how many of us really know all the people on our friends list?  And if one 'friend' shares that with a few others it could lead to a bad situation.

For example, say you have a list of what you are doing over the next week which includes being away for several days.  With that information given to the wrong person your house could end up empty when you get home (or worse).  While this could happen with any post with location information attached, lists may seem benign enough that no one would think about it.  And really, why do you have to share your daily to-do's with everyone?

I also don't like what all of this data collected could be used for.  We have already seen what 'big data' can do, and such 'features' is only giving Facebook even more power.  I haven't liked Facebook for quite a while, and this has only strengthened that feeling.

Heart Of The Machine is leaving Kindle Unlimited Feb 21st!

Are you in Kindle Unlimited?  Do you have Heart Of The Machine on your to read pile?  If so, you might want to move it to the top as Heart Of the Machine is leaving Kindle Unlimited February
21st!



The Nexus is BACK!

The artificial intelligence created to serve mankind, yet turned to fulfill a darker purpose has returned against all odds. But is the return a blessing or the curse everyone suspects?





Excerpt:
A gleaming form flew over the water en route to Bermuda.  The Nexus continued her flight over the calm waters, careful not to attract attention.  She approached the islands from the most uninhabited area and landed.  In the few minutes of the public network access she managed to find the exact location of Deven's rental.  Lacking Auto Nav, she reverted to the most basic navigation by the earths magnetic field.  It took some time to reach her destination and avoid being seen.

She had landed on one of the most obscure islands to the north.  The large cliff face blocked her arrival from anyone further down the beach.  Her limited scanners didn't pick up anyone in the area and she activated her normal hover system and glided towards the rental house.

The door had a good security lock, and would have blocked any normal person.  But the Nexus smiled, she is not any normal hacker.  She lifted her right arm with her left and the finger tip connector extended into its jack at a hidden location under the keypad.  After about three minutes it flashed an "access granted" on the display and a strong deadbolt lock could be heard clinking as it retracted.  She broke the connection, opened the door with her left hand, and hovered in.

The sheets on the bed were pulled back, but the rest of the place appeared unused.  A few sets of clothes still hung in the closet.  "Where could they be?" she muttered.  "They still have this rented for two more days, humans may be illogical but wasting such a valuable resource is not one of them."  She recalled what she had read about Deven and Aleshia, they were cautious and considerate.  Not the type that would rent a location and fail to use it.  Unless something had drawn them away.  But she couldn't imagine at the moment what could do that.

The Nexus ran several simulations and decided to wait here.  She hated to waste the time, but she didn't have a choice.  Nothing else would get her closer to what she needed.  Examining the small rental revealed few hiding spaces.  She finally decided on the generous old-fashioned bathtub that would accommodate her Mechand body.  She hovered into it, pulled the shower curtain closed, and shut down her systems to wait.