Boosting the Signal: Save Novel Books!

Eight years ago, Patrick Darby opened Novel Books, a small independent book shop located in Clarksburg, Maryland. Every summer during these past eight years, Patrick along with his family and staff have brought their small-town bookseller charm an hour east to the Shore Leave convention, which convenes every July in Hunt Valley.

As part of their preparation, Patrick and his team see to it that each of the convention’s author guests is represented by stock from their respective backlists, which he makes available for sale to con attendees looking to get a book signed. This is especially helpful on Friday night when the annual “Meet the Pros” mass autograph signing takes place with all of the author guests. Most years, Patrick and company are able to “debut” at least one new title at the convention, including releases which aren’t due in bookstores for a week or more. I’ve benefited from this little bit of publicity myself, with both my Vulcan and Klingon travel guides along with Summon the Thunder, the Star Trek Vanguard novel I wrote with Kevin, premiering at the con. The Novel Books gang is just as much a part of Shore Leave as any long-time attendee. For them not to be there would be disappointing, to say the least.

But, that’s exactly what’s in danger of happening, and that’s just a small part of a much larger concern.

Most people know running an indie book shop in this day and age is a hard road to travel. The hours are long, the profit margins are slim, and the behemoth that shall not be named here looms over your shoulder every minute of every day. It doesn’t take much to send things off track, and in the case of Novel Books several things happened which now threaten to take the train right off the tracks. They’re in something of a financial bind and could use some help. From the GoFundMe page they’ve established:


Novel Books opened 8 years ago in Clarksburg, MD. The store was growing each year, until last year, when very large, unexpected costs put the business in jeopardy. The losses are hard to recover, and the store is on the verge of closing.

Patrick, the owner, is a dedicated bookseller, who wants to provide a space, and selection, for the families of the Clarksburg area to enjoy books, events, and classes. Novel Books currently offers Story Time for toddlers, space for local books clubs, and gaming tables for chess clubs and Magic: the Gathering card tournaments. New programs include multi-week courses on music for toddlers and using Legos to teach science and engineering.  A goal is to bring authors to the store for signings and new release events.

Patrick has been a successful advocate for infrastructure in the historic district. He hosted a nine-month-long candidate forum for the recent midterm elections. Novel Books has been a champion for small businesses in the shop local movement.

Patrick uses an RV for multi-day off-site events. The vehicle left him stranded in Tennessee last year for over a month, with a major engine overhaul. It is also intended to be used for pop up sales at local events, and communities. 

The other, more personal, problem from last year is medical expenses for an undiagnosed problem with Patrick’s right arm.  It’s progressively harder for him to use his hand to carry things, and do daily activities. He has no insurance.

The requested funds would go to catching up with debt for rent, and vendors. It would be applied to medical expenses and further tests. And finally, to make additional repairs to the RV. If the goal is exceeded, Patrick would like to hire someone to help plan more events and programs at the store, especially if his condition worsens.

Novel Books can grow again, just like the book industry has been doing over the last five years, but is asking for your help to be strong again.

Thank you for your support. 

NovelBooks-Shop

 


It’s an uphill climb, to say the least, but the farther their signal can be boosted, maybe the more help they’ll receive. So, I’m hoping my fellow Shore Leave peeps of every stripe will help attract attention to the cause so Patrick and the Novel Books family can get the help they need, and the store can stay open and continue to play a valuable role in its community…and return to the con each year. So, if you’re a lover of indie booksellers, authors, and conventions like Shore Leave where such folks tend to gather, please check out the Novel Books GoFundMe page, consider supporting their effort, and sharing their info:

Save Novel Books
https://www.gofundme.com/f/do-you-want-your-community-bookstore-to-fail

Thanks for reading!

Full cover reveal: Footprints in the Stars!

Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaat?

If you’ve been reading my (admittedly infrequent) updates the past couple of months or so, you know I was invited by editor Danielle Ackley-McPhail of eSpec Books to contribute a story to a brand-spankin’ new anthology she was editing, Footprints in the Stars.

According to Danielle, the book is “put to bed” and is now at the printers, which means we get to share stuff like the book’s full front and back cover. Behold, yo:

FootprintsInTheStars_fullcover

As the back cover copy states:

To follow in the footsteps of those who have gone before, first we must find them.

Dreaded hope settles over mankind as we stare into the heavens, looking for a sign we are not alone. Fearing we will find it, puzzled when we don’t.

Among the stars or in our own backyard, lose yourself in the wonder of these tales as we humbly posit mankind’s reaction to the awesome certainty that ‘they’ are out there…or at least, they were…

Footprints in the Stars


Sounds pretty cool, amirite? The book will contain all-new stories by the likes of Gordon Linzner, Ian Randal Strock, Robert Greenberger, Aaron Rosenberg, Danielle Ackley-McPhail, Jody Lynn Nye, Christopher L. Bennett, James Chambers, Keith R.A. DeCandido, Russ Colchamiro, Judi Fleming, and Bryan J.L. Glass.

Oh, and me.

When Danielle invited me to submit a story, she described in her original pitch, “all of the stories will revolve around the central theme of humanity discovering evidence that we are not alone in the universe.” She stressed that she wasn’t looking for “first contact stories,” so we had to dig a little deeper and come up with something else.

When I started, I had what I thought was an interesting idea for a story. Then, as time passed and I started playing around with writing it, an idea for a completely different story began to take shape. Before I knew it, I realized this newer idea was something I wanted to dig in on, not just for this story but perhaps setting things up for a novel at some point. To her credit, Danielle did not, in point of fact, beat me with a tire iron when I changed lanes on her, and instead welcomed not just my idea but also the possibility of me exploring this notion further with eSpec.

I guess we’ll see.

You can check out the full deetz about the anthology over at the eSpec Books blog. As for the book itself? It’s due to premiere at the upcoming Shore Leave convention the weekend of July 12-14, which is when I’ll be able to get my grubby paws on my very own copies. Awwwwwww, yeah.

Many thanks to Danielle and Mike McPhail and eSpec Books for inviting me along for the ride!

Talking about Available Light with the Trek Geeks!

Having failed to learn their lesson the last couple of times I was on their show, hosts Dan Davidson and Bill Smith of the Trek Geeks Podcast invited me back for another sitdown chit-chat.

Suckers.TrekGeeks-Banner

Of course I kid. I’ve known Dan and Bill for a couple of years now thanks to the wonder that is social media along with a few chance encounters at the annual big-assed Star Trek convention in Las Vegas. They do a stellar job representing Trek fandom in the best possible way by bringing people together to celebrate that which we all love so dearly. They do this through their “Camp KhitomerStar Trek fan group on Facebook as well the array of podcasts they host or support through the Trek Geeks website.

They’re good eggs, that Dan and Bill.

This time, they invite me back to talk about Available Light, my recently released Star Trek: The Next Generation novel. We dig in a bit about how the book came to be, not just as its own thing but also how it picks up and runs with story threads that have been weaving in and out of the “expanded universe” continuity Star Trek novels have been building for well over 15 years at this point.

This is particularly relevant here, as Available Light not only takes the baton from David Mack’s Star Trek: Section 31 novel Control from 2017, but like that book also reaches all the way back to events Dave chronicled in A Time to Kill and A Time to Heal from the 2004 Star Trek: A Time to… mini-series. Plus, I get to set the stage for Dave and his upcoming novel Collateral Damage, which will be out in October. So, yeah, we talk some about how it works when collaborating with other writers to keep things consistent, how to keep readers new to the novels from feeling overwhelmed, and all sorts of other neato things.

Yes, we even delve a bit into my favorite ever Star Trek word, “canon.”

(Spoilers: Grr. Argh.)

Have a listen, whydontcha?

Trek Geeks #179: Available Light

TG179

Many thanks to Dan and Bill for having me on again. It’s always a blast hanging out with you two. Maybe we can do it again soon!

Do you have your towel?

May 25th: Happy Towel Day! Did you remember yours?

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“A towel, it says, is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have. Partly it has great practical value. You can wrap it around you for warmth as you bound across the cold moons of Jaglan Beta; you can lie on it on the brilliant marble-sanded beaches of Santraginus V, inhaling the heady sea vapors; you can sleep under it beneath the stars which shine so redly on the desert world of Kakrafoon; use it to sail a miniraft down the slow heavy River Moth; wet it for use in hand-to-hand-combat; wrap it round your head to ward off noxious fumes or avoid the gaze of the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal (such a mind-bogglingly stupid animal, it assumes that if you can’t see it, it can’t see you); you can wave your towel in emergencies as a distress signal, and of course dry yourself off with it if it still seems to be clean enough.

More importantly, a towel has immense psychological value. For some reason, if a strag (strag: non-hitch hiker) discovers that a hitch hiker has his towel with him, he will automatically assume that he is also in possession of a toothbrush, face flannel, soap, tin of biscuits, flask, compass, map, ball of string, gnat spray, wet weather gear, space suit etc., etc. Furthermore, the strag will then happily lend the hitch hiker any of these or a dozen other items that the hitch hiker might accidentally have “lost”. What the strag will think is that any man who can hitch the length and breadth of the galaxy, rough it, slum it, struggle against terrible odds, win through, and still knows where his towel is is clearly a man to be reckoned with.”

— Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

Towel Day: Celebrating the Life and Work of Douglas Adams

don't panic

Footprints In the Stars and other awesome eSpec Books…FUNDED!

Huzzah!

InHarmsWay-coverRemember back a few weeks, when I posted about friends Danielle Ackley-McPhail and Mike McPhail of eSpec Books and the epic crowdfunding campaign they launched to fund not one and not two but three – count ’em…THREE – brand new books? Well, I’m happy to say that thanks to the generosity of 109 awesome humans, $3,077 dollars was raised. That’s more than enough to back the publishing of all three books as well as unlock seven stretch goals Danielle and Mike laid down for the taking. Go check out what they did!

eSpec Books: In Harm’s Way (and two more books!) on Kickstarter

This means that in addition to the anthology In Harm’s Way edited by Mike, the campaign also will provide for backers Footprints In the Stars as edited by Danielle, and Devil Dancers, a collection of short fiction from author Robert E. Waters.

FootprintsInTheStarsWhile I’m happy for the entire campaign and the other two books, I’m particularly tickled with the backing of Footprints, as that’s the one to which Danielle invited me to submit a story. As I’ve mentioned before, the story idea I had way back when she first approached me ended up getting set aside as I was struck by another notion I wanted to pursue. The resulting story prompted me to jot down a bunch of notes for where I might next take things, to include going to town with an original science fiction novel concept. We shall see.

One thing at a time, though, right? For now, we celebrate the campaign’s success, and those of us with stories in any of the three books now turn to doing whatever Mike and Danielle need to help them get these titles put to bed and ready to publish. With luck, Footprints will make its debut at the Shore Leave convention in July.

Congrats, Danielle and Mike, and thanks for having me along for the ride!

IncrediBuilds: Buzz Lightyear

IB_Buzz_Book_Env_111318.inddToy Story

Build and color your own 3D Buzz Lightyear!

From space ranger to toy ranger, Buzz joins sheriff pal Woody as one of Andy’s best toy friends. Now fans can recreate Toy Story for themselves by building their own 3D wood model of the Star Command captain. In addition to a do-it-yourself, freestanding wood model, each set features a fun and informative hardcover book of facts, character images, and craft ideas that will help you reach to infinity, and beyond!

TS-IB-Buzz-RegularIncludes:

–Laser-cut, FSC®-certified wood sheet with easy-to-assemble pieces
–Step-by-step instructions
–Coloring and crafting ideas
–A Buzz Lightyear guidebook

Order the Deluxe hardcover edition!
Order the Regular edition (softcover)


This project, along with Buzz’s partner, Sheriff Woody, was another adventure with the IncrediBuilds team over at Insight Editions. For me, these were follow-ups to last year’s Star Trek original series U.S.S. Enterprise and its successor from Star Trek: The Next Generation. The book I wrote to accompany the model helps you revisit the events of the first three Toy Story movies from Buzz’s point of view, and even offers a few tantalizing bits about what you’ll see when Toy Story 4 makes its way to theaters in June.

And hey! The model that the book accompanies is pretty cool, you know.

Both the Buzz and Woody models are aimed at the 8+ age bracket. They’re really easy to put together and you can custom paint and/or decorate them any way you like. Cool, right?

IncrediBuilds: Sheriff Woody

TS-IB-Woody-DeluxeToy Story

Build and color your own 3D Woody model!

Brave, loyal, and kind to everyone, Woody is one of Andy’s favorite toys. He fearlessly leads the toys through many adventures and fun-filled hijinks—along with his best friend Buzz Lightyear, of course! Now fans can re-create their favorite Woody moments from the Toy Story films by building their own 3D wood model of the beloved character. In addition to a do-it-yourself, freestanding wood model, each set comes with a fun and TS-IB-Woody-Regularinformative booklet of character images and facts—including an early look at Toy Story 4as well as craft ideas to help bring your vision to life!

Includes:

–Laser-cut, FSC®-certified wood sheet with easy-to-assemble pieces
–Step-by-step instructions
–Coloring and crafting ideas
–A Woody guidebook

Order the Deluxe hardcover edition!
Order the Regular edition (softcover)


This project, along with its Buzz Lightyear companion, was a return to the IncrediBuilds side of the Insight Editions house after last year’s Star Trek original series U.S.S. Enterprise and its successor from Star Trek: The Next Generation. The book I wrote to accompany the model helps you revisit the events of the first three Toy Story movies from Woody’s point of view, and even offers a few tantalizing bits about what you’ll see when Toy Story 4 hits movie screens in June.

And hey! The model that the book accompanies is pretty cool, you know.

Both the Sheriff Woody and Buzz Lightyear models are aimed at the 8+ age bracket. They’re really easy to put together and you can custom paint and/or decorate them any way you like. Cool, right?

Tales of the Strange and Unusual: A very special anthology with a super cool origin story.

A few years ago during the annual StarFest Convention in Denver, Kevin and I found ourselves “neighbors” in the Author’s Alley area with Shelly Goodman Wright, a writer local to that area. Over the course of the weekend, the three of us got to chatting and sharing “war stories” as our writing backgrounds were rather dissimilar. After the con was over we stayed in touch thanks to the wonder that is social media and in the years since our first meeting, we always make sure to get neighboring tables at each successive StarFest and even participate in con programming when such opportunities present themselves.

TalesStrangeUnusual-CoverOne of the things we learned along the way was that Shelly is a creative writing teacher for the Writers of High Country, a group of high school-age kids who are working to learn the craft of writing fiction and poetry. With Shelly and other volunteers guiding the way, the students have just recently published their first collection of short stories and poetry, Tales of the Strange & Unusual.

Indeed, last weekend while the con was still in full swing, Shelly was preparing for the students’ first over book signing. To hear her describe it, it went down in much the same fashion as I’ve come to expect from such venues as the Shore Leave convention, where fans wielding copies of a favorite anthology are able to run a gauntlet of authors who have a story in that particular book and are therefore able to get multiple autographs in rapid succession.

It was very cool to listen to her stories of how hard the students worked, writing and polishing their stories and poetry in preparation for publication. All were excited at the prospect of taking this bold step, knowing it could be the first of many if they continued to bring the same drive and determination which had seen them travel this far.

As part of our conversation last weekend, I learned something I didn’t know before: As part of her writing instruction, Shelly had occasionally shared with her students various anecdotes, writing exercises, and other bits of so-called wisdom that she had taken from other writers, including me and Kevin. According to her, some of these tips, nuggets of advice and encouragement, and other insights into the craft (and business!) of writing for publication proved informative and even inspiring to the kids. That was nice to hear, though I admit I often have a rough time accepting such comments or similar praise.

Then Shelly presented me and Kevin with copies of the finished book, fresh off the presses and autographed by all of the students, who requested we receive them as gifts.

Right in the feels, y’all.

Although I managed to keep my game face in place while we were on the floor, I have to admit to being more than bit choked up. In my mind, I didn’t think I’d done anything unique or special while talking to Shelly, but to hear that a young writer found value in something I said and that it helped with their own writing is flattering, and even a little humbling as the first thing I think is, “What did I say?” followed by variations of “Was it stupid?” “Did I cuss?” and/or “Did it violate an NDA?” along with assorted other panicked responses. Only one chance to make a first impression, and all that, amirite?

Many thanks to Shelly and the Writers of High Country for including me and Kevin in their celebration of this wonderful achievement. Tales of the Strange & Unusual is published by Many Hands Publishing. Go and give it a look-see, whydontcha?

Support these upcoming titles from eSpec Books!

Okay, I know. I’m a bit behind on my bloggery.

Work, the holiday weekend, work, and…let’s see….yeah, work, have seen to it that I’ve neglected this place for a while. I’ve never been one of those people who sees the need to blog every day, and only do so when something’s got me jazzed enough to tap out some words and add some cute pics and whatnot. However, then something like this comes along and I’m like, “Hey! Cool stuff to talk about!”

Hey! We’ve got cool stuff to talk about.

FootprintsInTheStarsFriends Danielle Ackley-McPhail and Mike McPhail are the brain trust behind eSpec Books, an independent publisher that’s behind a whole bunch of cool novels and short story collections. It seems like most of the writers I know have worked with them at some point, and Danielle was kind enough to invite me to submit a story for a collection she’s putting together called Footprints In the Stars.

But wait! Before we talk about whatever it is I’m laboring to create for her, we need to talk about the crowdsourcing effort to fund this anthology along with one Mike himself is shepherding, In Harm’s Way, the eighth edition of eSpec’s anthology series Defending the Future, as well as a single-author short story collection, Devil Dancers by Robert E. Waters.

A three-book crowdfunding campaign? If that sounds pretty ambitious to you, you’re not wrong. The basic idea is to fund In Harm’s Way first, and any monies pledged beyond that needed to realize the first book will go toward Footprints In the Stars and Devil Dancers. As of today, the fundraising effort is more than halfway to the initial goal, and the campaign is active until May 19th on Kickstarter. Check it out:

eSpec Books: Defending the Future – In Harm’s Way

InHarmsWay

As for how I’m mixed up in this, as I said Danielle invited me to write a story for the second of the three books, Footprints In the Stars. Here’s the funny thing: the story I’m working to finish is not at all the one I started when I first took up the challenge of submitting to this anthology. Somewhere along the line, I got an idea for a new story that I ended up liking way, waaaaaaaaaaay better than the one I was writing. So, I tabled the first story and turned toward the new, shiny thing. If I do it right, this has the potential to serve as a springboard for something bigger I’ve got in mind. You know…for down the road during another gap of my supposed free time.

(I’ll wait here until everyone stops laughing.)

Anyway, that’s the plan…assuming I don’t screw it up, of course. We’ll see how it goes.

For now? Run and check out the newest eSpec Books Kickstarter and if anything there tickles your fancy, I hope you’ll consider becoming a backer. A lot of my friends and fellow word pushers are contributing to these projects, but none of them can happen without the support of people like you!

Available Light

AvailableLight-coverStar Trek: The Next Generation

Section 31, the covert organization which has operated without accountability in the shadows for more than two centuries, has been exposed. Throughout the Federation, the rogue group’s agents and leaders are being taken into custody as the sheer scope of its misdeeds comes to light. Now Starfleet Command must decide the consequences for numerous officers caught up in the scandal—including Admirals William Ross, Edward Jellico, Alynna Nechayev, and Captain Jean-Luc Picard who, along with many others, are implicated in the forced removal of a Federation president.

Meanwhile, deep in the distant, unexplored region of space known as the Odyssean Pass, Picard and the crew of the Starship Enterprise must put aside personal feelings and political concerns as they investigate a massive mysterious spacecraft. Adrift for centuries in the void, the ship is vital to the survival of an endangered civilization which has spent generations searching for a world to sustain what remains of its people. Complicating matters is a band of marauders who have their own designs on the ancient ship, with only the Enterprise standing in their way…


Welcome back to the 24th century! It’s been a long road, getting from there–

“SHUT UP, DAYTON!”

:: ahem ::

Sorry.

After an extended hiatus thanks to forces beyond the control of mere mortals, Simon & Schuster is ramping up its publication of Star Trek novels, continuing an effort they’ve shepherded since 1979 and the release of their novelization of Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Since then and even with the occasional bump in the road, S&S through imprints such as Pocket Books, Wallaby Books, and now Gallery Books has continued to publish Star Trek novels, short story collections, and a broad spectrum of reference books and other cool things.

I’ve been privileged to contribute to that effort for what is fast approaching 20 years, either working solo or in partnership with my bud and frequent co-writer, Kevin Dilmore, and often collaborating with other writers and editors to varying degrees depending on the needs of a particular project. Available Light is my 21st Star Trek novel and 26th novel overall, with about half of those written with Kevin. Then there are the novellas, short stories, magazine articles, and funky things like the Vulcan and Klingon Empire travel guides. Yes, Star Trek has been pretty good to me these past two decades and in some ways, I feel in some ways like I’m really just getting warmed up. I think I may be able to keep doing this for a while longer.

Anyway…..

So, for those wondering, Available Light picks up the ongoing Star Trek: The Next Generation post-film/novel-focused narrative a bunch of us have been spinning for a good number of years now. More specifically, it picks up the action after we left you hanging back in the summer of 2017 with David Mack‘s Section 31: Control and my own Hearts and Minds. Dave dropped a big bomb right into the middle of our breakfast table with Control, and the effects will quickly start to become apparent first with this book, and then Collateral Damage, Dave’s own ST:TNG novel coming later this year.

And, we’ve had conversations about what happens after that. Mwuah-ah-ah.

Available Light is now available at bookstores everywhere, in trade paperback, e-Book, and both digital and CD audiobook editions. If you’re still one of those folks who loves going to an actual store for your reading material, I humbly suggest patronizing your local independent bookseller. If that sort of thing isn’t feasible for whatever reason, then of course we have other options:

Simon & Schuster
Amazon.com
Barnes & Noble
Books-A-Million
IndieBound

In addition to providing a permanent home for links to find and order the book, this blog entry also will serve as our book’s “official” Q&A thread. Those of you who want to chat about the book, feel free to post your questions/etc. to the comments section. For those of you who’ve found this page and perhaps not yet read the book, BEWARE SPOILERS ARE POSSIBLE FROM THIS POINT FORWARD.