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And Now There Are Only Six

The news came through this afternoon that Gene Cernan, last man to stand on the surface of the Moon, has died earlier today. That leaves us only six living moonwalkers, all over eighty, and at least one of whom has been in failing health for some years.

I'm pretty bummed today. Maybe not as bummed as when the news of Neil Armstrong's demise came back in 2012, but still sad.

And I'm realizing that it's going to affect how I write a number of stories in the Gus on the Moon timeline. Gene Cernan became an astronaut in that timeline, and had a fairly active career, if somewhat different in a world where Gemini VIII turned deadly and Apollo I was a close call. So I may handle a few stories differently in so far as they touch on that period and his role in various missions that never happened here in the Armstrong timeline.

And it's going to mean a major change in the Phoenix Project novel (similar to The Crime and Glory of Antonia DeVilbiss and Phoenix Dreams, but instead of a rogue programmer resurrecting one of the Apollo I astronauts, all three of them are resurrected by a large team that includes people to make sure the legal bases are covered). I'd originally planned to have Gene Cernan with Martha Chaffee during the flight, much as Roger had stayed with Gene's first wife during Gemini IX, but that would now push it into another timeline, and IMO diminish its impact. It really needs to feel like a story in the near future of this timeline, not somebody else's future.
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Getting Back to Books

It's been several weeks now since I last did a promo post. First there was Christmas, when I did a special on my books. Then there was New Year's Day, when I did my annual reflection on the state of the author. And last Sunday I was at a convention, and didn't get back until late that evening. But I do want to get back into the habit of running promo posts at least semi-regularly.



The Bandit and Her Gang by Joseph T. Major

The problems of governing, seeing to children, relationships, and keeping from being burned at the stake as witches continue to plague our Lady who was a Bandit, and her loved ones. More of a tale of ordinary life in an extraordinary world.

WARNING: Contains violence, sex, and family.

(The newest installment in the Lady Was a Bandit humorous fantasy series. Reading while eating or drinking strongly discouraged. Neither author nor reviewer can take responsibility for screens, keyboards or other electronics damaged as a result of ignoring this warning).



Cobweb Bride: The Complete Boxed Set by Vera Nazarian

ontains the following complete novels:

- Cobweb Bride (Book One)
- Cobweb Empire (Book Two)
- Cobweb Forest (Book Three)

". . . Nazarian writes clean and true prose . . ."
--Publishers Weekly

"Set in an alternate Renaissance Europe, this series opener by Russian-born Nazarian combines the stylistic manner of a folktale with the trappings of an epic fantasy, one driven by compassion rather than heroics.... Fans of period fantasy and those who like stories that feel like fairy tales should appreciate this skillful novel by the twice Nebula Award-nominated author of Dreams of the Compass Rose and The Duke in His Castle."
--Library Journal

"I really enjoyed the rich, complex and highly unusual storytelling in the Cobweb Bride. Nazarian does an excellent job of painting the Renaissance world of her alternate reality and bringing in interesting twists of fantasy to the story.... Everything about this story that was fresh and new. I loved the premise it was built on and I loved the story itself. The characters are rich, multi-dimensional, and so easy to get to know and identify with. I am really looking forward to reading the next book in the trilogy when it comes out and in finding out more about what happens to the characters that still have a mission to carry out and how the story eventually resolves by the end of the trilogy. I recommend this book to readers of YA, lovers of fantasy, alternate-history, and alternate-reality. It was a terrific read."
--Tracy M. Riva, Midwest Book Review

"Cobweb Bride is astonishing and captivating; a lush fantasy of imagery and magical realism. The visuals are illustrated by the author's lyrical and metaphoric writing. Every chapter and scene revels in this mortal coil, surrounded by an expansive collage of characters immersed in a plot as rich and decadent as a Verdi opera.... The vibrancy of Ms. Nazarian's writing is sheer kaleidoscopic visualization. The folkloric-fable twists and turns recount shavings from the mythos of Hades and Persephone without boring you with a full-blown serving of predictability. The romance is as subtle as it is grim, with glimmers of hope taking us further to our doom--perhaps.... The overall tone is introspective, hauntingly quiet with elements of horror-fantasy that are as provocative as the works of Tanith Lee and Storm Constantine."
--Patrice, Romantic Historical Reviews, a 5-Star Top Pick

Many are called... She alone can save the world and become Death's bride.

COBWEB BRIDE is a history-flavored fantasy novel with romantic elements of the Persephone myth, about Death's ultimatum to the world.

What if you killed someone and then fell in love with them?

In an alternate Renaissance world, somewhere in an imaginary "pocket" of Europe called the Kingdom of Lethe, Death comes, in the form of a grim Spaniard, to claim his Bride. Until she is found, in a single time-stopping moment all dying stops. There is no relief for the mortally wounded and the terminally ill...

Covered in white cobwebs of a thousand snow spiders she lies in the darkness... Her skin is cold as snow... Her eyes, frozen... Her gaze, fiercely alive...

While kings and emperors send expeditions to search for a suitable Bride for Death, armies of the undead wage an endless war... A black knight roams the forest at the command of his undead father... Spies and political treacheries abound at the imperial Silver Court... Murdered lovers find themselves locked in the realm of the living...

Look closer--through the cobweb filaments of her hair and along each strand shine stars...

And one small village girl, Percy--an unwanted, ungainly middle daughter--is faced with the responsibility of granting her dying grandmother the desperate release she needs.

As a result, Percy joins the crowds of other young women of the land in a desperate quest to Death's own mysterious holding in the deepest forests of the North...

And everyone is trying to stop her.



Zapped by Sherwood Smith

There are secret powers that might get you locked up or spirited away. And then there are the secrets that get you shunned. The first kind are surprisingly un-useful at helping with the second.

At the Publisher's request, this title is being sold without Digital Rights Management Software (DRM) applied.

(I really liked it because it avoided all the obvious pitfalls, including the simplistic Poor Oppressed Minority and the glorification of vigilante justice that so often becomes a part of the superhero trope).



Past Future Present: An Anthology of Speculative Fiction

Sixteen speculative fiction writers have chosen works to represent themselves. The book has links to their websites, blogs, and to other work. "This is a map to fiction you will love." Contains: FOREWORD by Helen E Davis,THE BLESSED DAYS by Mike Allen, SOLDIERS HOME by William Barton, SEGUE by Keith Brooke, DEAD MAN STALKING by Alfred D. Byrd, NEEDLE AND SWORD by Marian Crane, THE HUMAN EQUATIONS by Dave Creek, GUARDIAN GARGOYLES OF THE GORGE by Helen E Davis, CROCODILE ROCK by Linda J. Dunn, THE GIRL WHO WAS UGLY by John Grant, THE NEW CORINTH by Roby James, BUT LOYAL TO HER OWN by Leigh Kimmel, EARTH, ASHES, DUST by Catherine Mintz, THE WITCH WHO MADE ADJUSTMENTS by Vera Nazarian, CREDO by Jonathan Shipley, SHADOW CHASING by Justin Stanchfield, A RHUMBA OF RATTLESNAKES by Elisabeth Waters.



The Moon Mirror by Leigh Kimmel

Chelsea Ayles dreamed of going to the Moon since she was a child. Now her dream job at NASA has turned into a nightmare, thanks to those many blood-sucking arachnids. Yeah, politics, as in a Senator accusing her of destroying America's priceless heritage because she chose the moonrocks that were used to make a proof-of-concept mirror segment for a lunar telescope project. Now the mirror sits in her office like a bitter mockery of what might have been -- until the day her reflection turns into a handsome stranger who calls himself the Man in the Moon and offers her visions of a world that might have been. Visions that ignite a longing of an intensity she hasn't known since she was in grade school and watched videos of the Apollo lunar missions in science class.

(A good entry point into the Gus on the Moon timeline).

If you'd like your book included in upcoming promo posts, let me know at leighkimmel@yahoo.com.

And if you've enjoyed any of these books, please take the time to write a review on Amazon.com and Goodreads. It doesn't need to be anything long or fancy, just a note on why you liked it.
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Oh Be Careful Little Eyes

or not so little eyes, as the case may be.

As I continue to deal with the fallout of some very shocking allegations and revelations, I'm struck by just how easy it is to wander into some very dark places. In the old days, a person had to make a conscious effort to get certain kinds of media. Even legal hardcore porn required a trip to the shady part of town, and often an awareness of which stores had what one sought.

With the Internet, it's just a few keystrokes away. Sometimes even a typo away -- at one time there was a hardcore porn site at whitehouse.com, and there were cases of people who were trying to get to the US Federal Executive Branch website whitehouse.gov unthinkingly typed in .com and ended up getting an eyeful. Not exactly what you want your kid to discover while doing some social studies homework on the Presidency.

Or an artist, looking for better images to use as models, pulls up some sites that are better left unseen. Pictures that, for most people, would elicit revulsion may arouse a susceptible person's curiosity, and lead deeper and deeper down that path.

Laws are at best a partial solution. Making something illegal doesn't make it impossible to do -- it just makes it a criminal offense. And watchful as law enforcement and online content moderators may be, they can't be everywhere and catch everything (and many of them have paid a heavy price for having to see things that can't be unseen).
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Wolves in Sheep's Clothing

When I was young, we were warned about the danger of the creepy-looking stranger who roams around the neighborhood, maybe asking for directions or wanting help finding a lost puppy. The underlying message was pretty clear -- dangerous people look out of place. They act like they don't belong. They're creepy.

But more and more, the danger isn't the stereotypical creepy guy wandering the neighborhood approaching kids for "help" or trying to lure them into range with treats. Instead, it's a person who worms his (or occasionally her) way into a position of trust that involves access to children. People often remark on how well this person gets along with children, how he really seems to be on their wavelength, etc. How he goes out of his way to do special things for the kids of the community, especially the ones who wouldn't have much otherwise. Special tutoring, mentoring, all sorts of charitable activities.

And all with one common denominator -- they take the child away from the larger circle of peers and adults and create a special relationship with that person. And that is where the betrayal of trust and the abuse takes place -- after the abuser has made the child feel special, has blurred the boundaries of what is normal and appropriate conduct for adult and child.

Jerry Sandusky's Second Mile foundation is an obvious example of this. He created it for underpriveleged youth, a vulnerable population who would have a hard time speaking up against someone to whom they had so much to be grateful for. So the athletic community of Penn State didn't realize anything was amiss, to the point that people who did see something didn't feel comfortable about saying anything lest they be turned upon, accused of maligning a man who'd done so much good.

In addition to gaining the goodwill of the very adults who should be protecting the child from the abuser, there's also a pattern of abusers infiltrating whole communities that are marginalized and vulnerable. Because they've been criticized and stigmatized by the larger society for being different, they are more accepting of difference within their own community, and thus have a difficult time setting limits and enforcing the boundaries between appropriate and inappropriate conduct for fear of appearing bigoted. I really noticed it a few years ago when the allegations against Marion Zimmer Bradley came out, and I read up on her late husband Walter Breen: the fear among Bay Area fans that if they banned Breen, they were somehow transgressing against fandom as a community of people who accepted one another in spite of their quirks. Some of it can be explained by the times: the bohemian rebellion against social strictures that had come to be seen as ossified and obstructive, the notion (promoted by Shulamith Firestone, among others) that denying sexual experience to children was a form of bourgeois oppression, and a general lack of understanding of the psychology of child sexual abuse, so one after another red flag was not recognized, or was waved away as harmless. But the real and obvious paralysis in the face of the need to set boundaries is disturbing.

And it all circles back to that problem of trust, how to extend it to those who are worthy of it but guard against those who would abuse it. In order to create welcoming communities for those of us who've been mocked and stigmatized for being interested in things that are odd but harmless, we have to be able to trust one another, yet if we don't want to have that trust abused by those who would prey upon the vulnerable, we have to be able to set boundaries when someone's oddity isn't harmless.
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Trust

A situation has arisen in our community that has left me reflecting on just how much we depend upon trust in our interactions, and just how fragile it can be. We think we know the people we trust with our children, with our other vulnerable family members -- until that trust is betrayed, and we wonder how we could have missed all the signs that become so clear in retrospect. How the person was just a little too eager to be helpful, or the odd little lacunae in their stories about where they'd been and why they'd done things -- or failed to do things they'd promised.

So we withdraw our trust, withhold it until we see evidence that the other person is indeed worthy of it. But maintaining that level of vigilance is difficult, so we soon slide back into the comfortable ways of assuming that people are trustworthy when in fact our acquaintance with them is superficial. Because our society is built upon the assumption that people are generally trustworthy, and they will be what they seem to be.

Until they aren't. And we wonder how we could've missed the signs, and shudder and feel a little unclean from having been friends with someone who did that.
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Say What?

Every now and then you come across a news story that makes you shake your head and wonder what was that person thinking?

Like this little bit in the Guardian about a writer who "fattened" the Borges story "The Aleph" with about 4000 words of extra verbiage. He calls it an "experiment," Borges' widow calls it plagiarism, and it's heading to court.
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When It Rains, It Pours

Things seemed to be getting better. We had good sales at AnimeZap! this past weekend, which led me to think we'd start climbing out of the hole we slipped into last year.

And then our furnace goes out. At least it waited until after the super-cold weather moved out of the area, and the furnace guy did find a replacement part, so we're not looking at replacing the whole furnace. But it's still money that has to come from somewhere. Not to mention the killer electric bill we're going to have from running the baseboard heat in the addition day and night to keep this house up to a temperature that at least resembles livable.

So now we hope that this weekend's sales are good. At least it's a local show, but it's a "garage sale" at the state fairgrounds. We're using it mostly to get rid of some merchandise that no longer sells at our regular shows, to make room for more of the stuff that actually sells (or just plain make room in our storage unit, so that we're not climbing on top of stuff to get to other stuff).

In the meantime, I'd better get back to work.

UPDATE: The furnace guy got it to work, at least for now, by kludging a new control board onto it. However, the microcontroller has gotten wedged twice now, and I've had to cycle the power on the whole furnace. I'm just hoping this doesn't become a pattern, because it's going to get old fast. But if it'll buy us some time before we have to come up with several grand to replace the furnace, I'll put up with it.
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Some Thoughts on Multi-Level Marketing

When I first started reading about Roger Chaffee and learned he was born in Grand Rapids, Michigan, the place seemed strangely familiar to me, but I couldn't place why. And then I started doing Grand Rapids Comic Con, which is now at the DeVos Place in downtown Grand Rapids. When researching the location, I realized why Grand Rapids should have seemed familiar to me.

Back in the 1990's, as I started thinking about going into business for myself, I briefly looked into multi-level marketing as a possible way to quick-start an enterprise. And the grand-daddy of all multi-level marketing systems, Amway, was founded by the DeVos and Van Andel families from Grand Rapids, Michigan.

In the end I decided not to pursue any of the various multi-level marketing systems I studied, and for many of the same reasons listed in this article on the perils of multi-level marketing. By creating my own business and developing my own product lines, I have greater control and greater flexibility than I would experience while tied into someone else's system. Yes, it can be a pain sometimes to cultivate wholesale sources, especially when dealing with Chinese wholesalers, but I have the freedom to change my business model in response to changes in the market. And I'm not being pressured to pull other people into the business until the market is flooded -- instead, I have the freedom to pull out of a market that's being flooded and find other products that are still scarce and desirable.
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Working My Way Back to Normalcy

I have the G4 pretty well set up, assuming it doesn't develop further problems. I even was able to do a scan on it, although Photoshop Essentials was being difficult on me. But I was able to work around that by copying to my laptop, then using Preview to convert it into JPG.

OTOH, the G5 is continuing to be difficult. I have 10.3 installed on one drive, but getting a stable install of 10.5 is proving easier said than done. In spite of a firmware upgrade, it's still wanting to hang in the middle of the process. I'm thinking there may be deeper incompatibilities, and it may make more sense to just install 10.4 on the terabyte drive.

But I did get some actual writing done. Not as much as I might've liked, but it's still progress. And that's better than I've done for several days now.
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Looking Back, Looking Forward

As the new year begins, it seems appropriate to take a look at the past year and consider the upcoming one.

2016 was a year of unpleasant financial reverses. Vehicle expenses were a big hit on our wallet, and the growing saturation of the t-shirt market led to disappointing sales at a number of conventions. It didn't help that several of our poorest-performing conventions involved substantial travel distances, which raise the point we have to meet before we can turn a profit. (I'm just glad we didn't do the December con by the same promoter who runs the cons we did in January and July, because a lot of vendors had it flop, hard, for them). But it was small consolation when the local event we did sell at flopped just as hard, and instead of getting us the money that would carry us through the holidays, left us in even worse shape financially. And as the year was closing out on me, three of my computers went completely haywire on me. Although my brother was able to swap one of them for a working one, getting the other two back into operational condition has been left to me, and so far has been a very frustrating time sink.

I got a number of short stories up, mostly things that had never quite been able to find a home through the traditional submission channels. The sort of stories that are always getting the "we enjoyed reading it, but it's not quite right for us" kind of rejections that are so exasperating. However, although I did have some very productive periods on my novel, I had a number of times when it stalled and I was just sort of spinning my wheels, writing page after page of notes just to say I had written that day, but not really sorting anything out. If anything, it seemed like sometimes all the notes I was writing only created an overwhelming number of possibilities, and made it harder to actually produce text.

I did a little updating on my websites, but not nearly as much as I would've liked to. I'd like to say a lack of time, but so much of the past year's busy seems to be endless hamster-wheeling, waste motion that goes nowhere, time and energy frittered away to no net gain. So much of the time I feel like I'm stuck in a hurry up and wait mode, reluctant to start anything major. Some of it may go back over a decade, to our abortive attempt to sell our house, when we packed up a whole bunch of stuff "for the duration" and never quite went back to normal living, even after we formally cut ties with the realtor and gave up. But there's also the lack of visible result for my past efforts which makes it difficult to summon up the enthusiasm and effort to press forward on current projects. When income is measured in pennies and nickles dribbling in every few weeks, when promotion efforts seem to be talking to an empty room, and especially when there's no visible evidence that anyone is actually taking any interest in my writing (no reviews, etc), it becomes easier to fiddle endlessly with the parts that are of personal interest but never undertake the effortsome labor of putting the pieces together into a completed product.

Which means that, while there are a lot of projects I'd like to undertake in the new year, I'm at something of a quandary as to which ones to tackle or what ones would be likely to be the most productive. My current novel work in progress has been the novel-length sequel to "Phoenix Dreams" in the Lazarus Risen anthology and The Crime and Glory of Antonia DeVilbiss. It's moving toward the end, albeit not nearly as rapidly as I'd hoped thanks to the past week's computer issues.

Then there's the novel-length sequel to The Moon Mirror, which takes Chelsea Ayles to her lunar exile and her struggles to build a new life for herself. I got it about half written in 2013 when it stalled during a very time and energy-consuming period of three conventions in three weeks, and although I have written some bits here and there on it, I've never been able to recover the momentum.

There's also the sequel to Khuldhar's War. Given that writing it would involve reimmersing myself in Okeanos after so much time with my headspace occupied by the Gus on the Moon universe, I've been reluctant to get it back out. But after I looked at the stats from my Christmas giveaway and found I got more downloads on it than all my other KDP ebooks put together, I'm really wondering if there would be enough people out there interested in a sequel to it. After all, it ends with a major character's warning that they'd just won a very small skirmish in a very large, very long war, which pretty much does promise sequels.

And then there's the rewrite of The Steel Breeds True, the latest incarnation of a storyline that goes back thirty years. I'd thought that rewriting it would be quick and easy, but when I sat down to do it, I discovered that harmonizing it with stuff I've since established about the Gus on the Moon universe was more difficult than anticipated, mostly because so much is tied together and changes in one part of the novel have unexpected repercussions elsewhere.

And no matter what writing projects I do concentrate on, they have to coexist with my retail business, which all too often means marking time when I'm at a con, or on the road. And given the marked deterioration of the health of some members of my extended family this year, the very real possibility of being disrupted altogether while I deal with family emergencies.

So that's the state of the author at the beginning of 2017.
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