Coyote Bite

Coyote Couple Comes Calling

So yesterday, just as dusk was falling, it gradually penetrated my consciousness (I was working at this machine) that my two standard poodles were throwing a fit out in the yard. They throw a lot of fits, but there was a frenzied note to this one, so I grabbed the binoculars and went to the kitchen window. And there, strolling bold as brass between the house and the garden fence, was a gigantic coyote, as indifferent to the dogs and their racket as if they'd been a couple of sparrows chirping prettily. (Every coyote I've seen from the house has disdainfully ignored the hysterical dogs.) This one was as big and bulky as a German shepherd, and besides his size there was something about him that said "male." He had a slight limp in his left hind leg, but not enough of one to prevent him from stalking, pouncing on, and consuming what I assumed to be a small rodent, while I watched. Nor was he bothered by being observed; he glanced at the house, where he could certainly see me at the lighted window. Then he kind of stood around for a bit, then wheeled and cut across the driveway and down a slope into the pasture on the other side, and I came out on the deck. Collapse )
At Vicki's

When It Rains . . .

The link below is to Marty Halpern's blog, More Red Ink; and the reason I'm posting it here is that for the second time in three (3) days, someone has devoted an entire blog post to my work. This has never happened before even once, so twice in three days makes you stop and think (or collapse in disbelief). I knew the Literary Road Trip blog--see my previous post--was coming, because I had to write it; but I only found out about this one shortly before it went public today. Marty has done a lot of nice things for me, but this may be the nicest.

Here's a brief excerpt. An editor, explaining his reasons for rejecting my story collection, which features an alien takeover of Earth, writes that "My main complaint is that the stories are a bit mainstream." Marty quotes from the letter, then comments: "When I hear that an editor is complaining because these are 'solid, ecological stories' that are 'well-researched and relevant' yet 'a bit mainstream' I tend to scratch my head and wonder how any story about ALIENS could ever be considered mainstream? When did "mainstream" and "aliens" ever appear in the same sentence. Isn't that like an, umm, oxymoron?"

Read more of Marty's thoughts thoughts on aliens, mainstream, publishing, and me, at
At Vicki's

Penntucky Writer on the Literary Road

I'm a little fuzzy (in-joke, ha ha) about how this came about exactly, and the relevant correspondence is accessible only from a computer in storage 700 miles from here, but it went approximately like this. Marty Halpern learned that his fellow BlogSpot blogger Beth Fish had volunteered to participate in what's being called the Literary Road Trip project, "in which bloggers are volunteering to showcase local authors." (Details at

Beth had chosen Pennsylvania as her region, so Marty suggested me, despite my being an off-again-on-again Pennsylvanian. Beth was fine with that, checked me out, then asked for a guest post. After reading the result she wondered if I had some old pictures; these I scanned as best I could from a crumbling album where they were stuck beyond hope of undamaged removal.

The post went up today, and I think Beth did a really nice job on the layout. All the comments refer to my piece as an "interview," which is pretty strange given that it's not in interview format; but hey, if they like it they can call it whatever they want!

Other full- or part-time Pennsylvania authors are very welcome to suggest themselves to Beth for a featured appearance in the series, or at least to send a courteous query.
Pennterra cover

Good News About Fantastic Books

Less than three weeks after posting my lament about Warren Lapine and Fantastic Books, I see with pleased surprise that SFScope has just announced Warren's strategy for coping with the overwhelming workload he had taken on.

Mostly, this involves delegating much of the work he was doing himself to other people. "Last month, Douglas Cohen was promoted to Editor of Realms, taking over most of Lapine's responsibilities for the day-to-day operation of the magazine, and now he’s handed over the reins of Fantastic Books to SFScope Editor Ian Randal Strock."

For those of us who once had high hopes for Fantastic Book, this is great news. It means that someone--indeed, a very capable someone--will make the fortunes of this line of reprints his immediate business, starting now. Strock says he intends to see "that every title already contracted for is given the attention it deserves, and is published properly as soon as possible." When the backlog has been dealt with, he'll let us know when he's ready to consider new titles. Read the whole story at

This does of course leave Pennterra, published six months ago--and to a lesser extent Paul Di Filippo's Fuzzy Dice, released on October 27--in limbo; but I'm counting on Marty Halpern, who acquired both these titles for FB, to insure that they don't stay lost in the crack they fell into before these editorial changes took effect.

Happy New Year! Now we can finally stop clumsily saying "Two thousand and [number]" and start saying "Twenty-ten"!
Pennterra cover

Fantastic Books: I Take It Back

At the time of my most recent post, almost four months ago now, I had just received a box of authors' copies of my 22-year-old first novel Pennterra, reprinted courtesy of Warren Lapine's POD venture, Fantastic Books. I gave the reprint volume high marks for just about everything. The finished product was all I could have hoped for, if not dreamed of, and I said so here, as I'd promised to do.

Pennterra had been the test case; if I liked the way it turned out, I was prepared to let FB reprint the first two volumes of my Holy Ground trilogy too. And in the event--so pleased and impressed was I at the quality of the Pennterra reprint--that the day after blogging about it, August 29, I mailed signed contracts to Warren for The Ragged World and Time, Like an Ever-Rolling Stream. Implicitly, I also suggested that other authors with a backlist should definitely consider Fantastic Books as a means of getting those titles back into print.

Back in April, when I first started blogging about all this, dqg_neal asked the very sensible question, "What would you consider a goal point to consider the POD venture with your book a success?"

I replied: "If it's a quality product--good enough paper, nice cover design--and if Lapine advertises it enthusiastically in Realms of Fantasy, which he now owns, and if it literally costs me nothing but brings in a little income, I guess that would do it for me. . . What would success amount to for you?"

dqg_neal replied, "I guess I would probably say it was pretty successful if the reprint saw 500 copies sold in the first year." He added that for a book that's been OP for a good while, however, fewer than that might be okay.

You can see the way my mind/psyche works--has, alas, always worked--from this exchange. I defined success without even mentioning sales, other than in the vague phrase "a little income." For dqg_neal, sales were primary. "I don't know if I'd feel too bad if I didn't like the cover, but the book sold a lot."

Turns out that the experiment with Fantastic Books has been a success in the terms I named, but a flop at this point in those of dqg_neal. Well, and a little bit of a flop in my own as well, given that, to the best of my knowledge, one ad has run in Realms of Fantasy to announce the book: not what I'd call enthusiastic advertising. (At one early point, copies of Realms with a big ad for the series were going to be distributed free to everyone at the 2009 Worldcon.) By his own account, Warren has sent out 22 review copies--after numerous polite naggings by email, and about five months after publication, i.e. quite recently. Ergo, no reviews (thus far). Ergo, no sales. (Almost none; four or so copies have sold through the Amazon site, which is essentially identical with the FB site.) Moreover, I've never received confirmation that Warren has even opened the envelope containing the contracts for Holy Ground Volumes I and II that I sent him in late August.

I don't rule out the possibility that copies may have sold via other channels. I should also mention that I've attended no cons since the book appeared, so have not participated actively, myself, in the flogging of the product that has become a larger and larger part of that product's fortunes in the world.

Still, it's disappointing. Apart from L-J readers, and whoever may have seen the ad in Realms of Fantasy (not in fact the likeliest place to advertise it, as mine is a science-fiction novel featuring amphibious aliens and a sentient planet--no sorcerers, no elves, no dragons) nobody even knows the new edition exists.

I have the impression that the magazine has been taking up a tremendous amount of Warren's time and energy, and can guess that he may have found himself totally overextended. Something probably had to give, and what would give, in such a predicament, would be the enterprise lacking monthly deadlines, i.e. Fantastic Books. I imagine he's disappointed himself at not having been able to do more as yet with that side of his business. In this regard, in fact, I shouldn't carp; Pennterra has been published, nearly all the other titles acquired last year with such enthusiasm are still in limbo.

But however all that may be, I'm posting this blog to rescind, with much regret, my endorsement of Fantastic Books as a way to get your backlist titles into circulation. I doubt that any more titles are being acquired in the current climate, but in any case I would look for other ways to get my OP books back into print. That's what I plan to do.

Warren is on L-J, and may read this and reply, or simply post about the situation. I hope he does; I imagine quite a few people besides me would be interested in hearing his side of the story.
Pennterra cover

PENNTERRA is out (once again) from Fantastic Books

My first novel, PENNTERRA, published in hardcover in 1987 by Congdon & Weed, has gone through more editions than any of my eleven books, including my three other novels. There was the 1988 mass-market paperback from Worldwide, and the second mass-market paperback from Ballentine/Del Rey in 1993. There were also foreign sales, to England and Italy. And now there's this new trade paperback edition from Fantastic Books. Check out editorial and customer reviews, if you care to, at

I blogged here in April and May about Warren Lapine's venture into reprinting backlist titles in POD trade editions. Without seeing how the final product was going to turn out, I was reluctant to sign over reprint rights to THE RAGGED WORLD and TIME, LIKE AN EVER-ROLLING STREAM--Volumes I and II of what I'm now calling the Holy Ground Trilogy. (Volume III, THE BIRD SHAMAN, came out a year ago.) I thought of PENNTERRA as a trial balloon; if I liked the looks and quality of that one, I meant to let Fantastic Books reissue RAGGED and TIME as well.

I promised to report back when I had a finished copy in hand, and now I've got one--ten of them, actually--and I'll say right away that I'm more than pleased. The book is unapologetically POD; there are no blank pages and the cover illustration is a doctored photo. That conceded, it's an attractive book. The photo fits the story pretty well and has nice bright colors (see userpic, bearing in mind that it looks less dark at full size), the paper is cream-colored and of a reasonable weight, the font is appealing, and the print, though small, is no smaller than many a commercially printed book. While this edition is not as comfortable to read as the 1987 hardcover edition, which had margins, spacing, paper, and a font size that strike me at this remove as verging upon decadent, it's less heavy; and it fits the hand much more agreeably than the mass market editions do and isn't nearly as taxing to keep open!

Best of all, this edition is the most accurate that's ever been published. Marty Halpern, who acquired and copy-edited the book, is far and away the best copy editor who has ever worked on any manuscript of mine. No backward-facing apostrophe or incorrect em-dash escapes his eagle eye. This was not a particularly easy book to copy-edit; for one thing the electronic version had to be created by scanning, and for another Part Two is full of charts and diagrams that the scanner made mincemeat of. We had a PDF file to work with, not a Word document, so the corrections had to be, not made, but DESCRIBED in such a way that Warren would know how to enter them himself. (That approach won't be tried again!) It was a lot of work for both of us, but especially for Marty, as I've explained before. But we caught, not only the inevitable mistakes from the scanning process, but a surprising number of errors that had crept into the first edition, copy-edited by someone much less eagle-eyed than Marty, whose work had then been corrected by a very inexperienced me.

So that's the report. You can still get a copy of one of the other editions--from Amazon, or David Hartwell's dealer's table, or me--but I'm happy to recommend this one.
Pennterra cover

Fantastic Books and Pennterra: Interim Update

Two and a half weeks ago I got an email from Warren Lapine with a PDF of the scanned Pennterra attached (please refer to my blog entries of April 9 and 23 if this isn't ringing a bell). Marty Halpern, who acquired the novel for Fantastic Books, and whose job it is to copyedit the file, also got the PDF and immediately made a printout he could mark up. I live in Darkest East Central Kentucky, a rural area innocent of copy shops, so I drove to Frankfort and paid $15 to make my own copy. Four eyes are better than two.

The print is pretty small, and the scan is pretty flawed in the usual ways of scanned documents: reversed single and double quote marks, m scanned as rn and a forward slash as 1, hyphens in the middle of words that had been broken at the ends of lines in the original hardcover, paragraphs run together, missing line feeds, italics rendered as Roman and vice versa, and so on. My aliens' names came out in a variety of funny ways. There are several poems in the book, all scrambled entertainingly. The file comes to 283 pages, very few of which were clean and many of which had several copyedits scribbled in the margins. Marty is a professional copyeditor and caught a lot more of the glitches than I did, but I feel the time I put in was justified, since I found maybe a dozen errors he had missed. I also took the opportunity to correct some mistakes that got by us in the earlier editions, and to change the word Amerindian--a PC term of the early and mid-80s, when the book was written--to Native American. Collapse )
At Vicki's

The Star Trek Movie

I am a fully credentialed Trekker from all the way back: Old Trek in syndication, Next Gen, DS9, Voyager, everything but Enterprise, which I thought started strong but lost momentum and then got tedious. Unlike many, I really loved DS9. I once pitched two Next Gen stories to Ron Moore over the phone, and was told that were the series not in its final season he would have passed one of them the line--the most painful near-miss of my life in SF! I've seen all the movies, and agree with those who think the even-numbered ones outclass the odd-numbered ones by a mile (favorites: The Wrath of Khan and The Voyage Home). There's no way a Trek movie could be made and I wouldn't drive 45 miles to see it if necessary (which it was).

So I did that last Friday, and I came away feeling disturbed. I'll put the cut here, so if you haven't seen it yet you needn't have your first impressions interfered with by mine. Collapse )

The Tale of Wile E. Coyote and Feste the Hero

The vet clinic is closed on Saturday afternoons and the vet on call is sick in bed himself (sinus infection), but I had to haul him out anyway. My nine-year-old standard poodle, Fleece, was attacked by a coyote this afternoon. She was bleeding impressively from two deep punctures where the coyote's jaws had closed on her left hind leg, and I didn't know how to evaluate that kind of injury well enough to wait till Monday.

I live on a hundred acres of recovering farmland in Anderson County, Kentucky. The place is teeming with wildlife, including coyotes. I'm happy to have them here. They're the only large predators around, and the ecosystem needs them. The farmers shoot them as vermin, but I'm not a farmer. I do, however, have two dogs (see userpic), and I've been aware since we moved here that the dogs could not be allowed to run loose without supervision because of the coyote presence. Even a fairly large domestic dog is no match for one of these big eastern coyotes; they're the size of German shepherds and grimly serious hunters, especially this time of year, when there are pups to be fed. Pets get taken all the time.

I'm still happy to have them here, but we've all had a scare. What happened was this. The dogs and I walk every day to the end of a ridge path about three-fifths of a mile long, that I keep mowed with my trusty DR Field and Brush Mower, one pass up and one pass back. Collapse )
At Vicki's

Amazon Marketplace

A couple of postings back, I wrote that when Mill City Press was no long fulfilling orders for me, I was going to supply Amazon with copies of The Bird Shaman through their Amazon Advantage program. This is the program my friend the jazz violinist belongs to, and it's worked out fine for him. But after running the numbers, I discovered that it wasn't going to work out fine for me, owing to the steep cost of manufacturing each copy of the book ($7.80) and the 55% discount Amazon takes off the cover price, which is $21.95. Add in Amazon's commission and I'm losing a couple of bucks per sale through the Advantage program.

Okay, been there, done that. I was losing money on sales through Mill City too before they restickered the books, which put me into positive territory, just barely. Not understanding how all this worked, and hence not cramming more type onto each page, to reduce the number of pages and consequently the cost to make each book, is the single biggest mistake I made in the entire error-fraught self-publishing process; but what's done is done.

Long story short, I've gone instead with Amazon Marketplace. I've become one of those people offering new or used copies of books that you can link to on every book page on the site. By setting the price at $15 (lower than some, higher than others), and fulfilling orders myself (Amazon gives you a credit for doing that, which lets you break even on S&H or just about), I make on the order of $2 per sale. It ain't much, but you gotta admit it's better than losing $2 per sale.

My gimmick, if you want to call it that, is to identify myself as the author and offer inscriptions. You can check it out at

I have between now and July to decide whether to spend another forty bucks and buy the page Mill City owns at present, so everything still looks like it looks now, except that The Bird Shaman will never be In Stock.