Monthly Archives: July 2011

Free Sample – FTL

 Hello again, thanks for stopping by.

Today I have a 1200 word sample of latest novelette coming soon to the Kindle, Nook, and anything else you can probably think of.  My working title is FTL, but that is likely to change.  Of course, I will post any updates and changes right here.  Presently, I expect to have this story available in two weeks.  As always, any feedback you have about this sample is encouraged.

FTL is about the first person to travel faster than light (hence, the working title), and the very unexpected experience he has during that first flight. 

FTL

Copyright 2011 by Jack Foehammer 

The lady from the network news was pretty nice, Bobby thought.  One of the small monitors in the capsule that carried a television feed was tuned to the news channel that was running the interview they had done with him the day before.  Or the way that skirt was wearing her was nice, anyway.

The camera shot cut to a closer view of Bobby as the interviewer asked, “Did you ever imagine yourself doing anything that would be remembered in the history books?”

Bobby smiled for the camera trying to reach ‘humble’, but only got as far as ‘conceded’.  “Well, it’ll be a real honor to see a history book list great pioneers of aerospace:  The Wright Brothers, Alan Shepard, and Bobby Lee Jenkins.” 

He turned the volume down as he got lost in the thought of what he believed to be the greatness and notoriety that he had deserved all of his life.  Bobby looked around the cramped interior of the capsule until his eyes caught the countdown timer on a second monitor.  Yep, in thirty-seven minutes and fifteen seconds, September 22, 2172, will be the day I made history and then I’ll have it made for life!

That had always been Bobby’s be all, end all, goal in life: have it made with as little effort as possible.  And that was how Bobby had always lived his life.

Bobby was one of those people who did only what was required of him, and nothing more.  He was thirty-six years old, had average marks in school, still lived with his parents, and had worked only one job since graduating high school.  That job monitoring the bean package count at Hyperbole foods was neither ambitious nor fruitful, but it was stable and consistent.

But when that thick, brown envelope from Apex Aerospace Corp. arrived in the mail eight months ago with a cover letter that said his school records indicated his profile pre-qualified him as a suitable test subject for a faster than light travel program, Bobby knew his ship had come in.

Sure, there was an exhaustive testing process with psych evaluations to find just the right test subject.  Then there was the physical preparation for going into space.  That was more work than Bobby was accustomed to.  But outside of that, there were no real job qualifications.  No experience necessary. 

Bobby shifted in his seat to find some comfort, in spite of five-point restraint’s efforts to keep him still.  The straps securing his shoulders and thighs felt like they were cutting off blood circulation.  Even though he was weightless in high geosynchronous orbit over the Atlantic Ocean, Bobby didn’t think it was necessary to strap him in so tightly.  He half thought that the techs did it on purpose.  How could they do that to him? Bobby Lee Jenkins!  Wasn’t he the man who was about to usher in a new era of space exploration for mankind?  Wasn’t he to be the first human to travel faster than light?  They’re jealous, he thought.  They know I’m where they want to be and can’t handle it, is all.  I’ll get the good doctor to fire them.  That’ll show’em.

Bobby adjusted the volume in his headset.  The comm chatter had been constant and irritating – mostly because no one was talking to him.  It seemed like far too much time was wasted with the redundant systems checks and rechecks.  He figured if everything checked out the first couple of times, they should be good to go and get this party started.

There was a chirp in his headset.  Someone had just opened the channel to talk to him—-finally.

“Endeavor, Lunar Base, copy?”  The voice was even-toned, friendly and familiar.

“Doctor Benson, I presume,” Bobby said with the sarcasm that he was known for among the entire project crew.  “Can we drop the comm jargon?  It gives me a headache.”

On the other end, Dr. William Benson chuckled.  “Alright Bobby, whatever you want.  How do you feel?”

“Just great, for someone whose been locked up in a billion dollar, over-sized basketball for three hours.”

“Two billion.”

“Whatever.  I look good on TV, don’t you think?”

“Sorry, I didn’t see you on any of the morning shows.  I’ve been a little busy today.”  Benson’s sarcasm was almost on par with Bobby’s.

“So what’s with all the chatter?  I think I’ve heard you guys go over the same stuff a dozen times already,” Bobby said with an audible measure of impatience. 

The channel was silent for a moment.  “Well it’s not like we can just push a button and send you on your way, can we?  Getting you to travel four light years and back in one piece is a very exact process. Didn’t you pay attention the twenty times I explained this to you?”

“Well…”  Bobby hadn’t.  He didn’t think there really was a need for him to know how the Gravity String Propulsion Generator worked.  He didn’t even seem to be really be concerned about the fact that he’d be making what would be an eighty year round trip out to Proxima Centauri, using the best in current fusion propulsion, in about two hours. 

Bobby wouldn’t even be awake for the test.  It was decided that having him unconscious would negate any risk to parts of his brain that dealt with the perception of time.  Early experiments with lab animals demonstrated an inability of the brain to process and cope with the displacement of time in the wormhole when conscious, leading to insanity. 

The capsule, itself, was controlled from the Lunar Base Operations Center by Dr. Benson and his team.  The return system that would bring the capsule back was fully automated with the only manually controlled components being override functions that would be used in the event that any of the system timers, or their redundant backups, failed.  But Dr. Benson, the inventor and lead developer of the generator, tried to take the time explain it to Bobby in the simplest terms he could…just so he would know. 

Bobby didn’t care about the science behind it.  It was probably better that way.  If he fully understood that he was going to be shot through a man-made wormhole in space, and the inherent dangers that went with it, he would surely have second thoughts. 

But as it was, Bobby liked Dr. Benson.  He seemed to be the only one that appreciated Bobby’s easy-going candor on the whole thing. 

Bobby snorted a laugh.  “Well, when this is over, just be sure to get me that ridiculous amount of money that I signed on for.”  The thought of the seven-figure balance that would be on his bank statement after the test, brought a smile to Bobby’s face.  “The first round of drinks’ll be on me.”

“Okay.  But have some patience with the process, will ya?  So I can make sure you get back in one piece.”

“Will do, sir.”  Bobby snapped a salute to the cockpit camera that was monitoring him.

“Don’t forget to take that pill at T-minus 30 and I’ll check back with you at T-minus 10, if you’re still awake.  Lunar base, out.”

 

#

 

Benson pulled off his headset, set it on the console, and ran a frustrated hand through his hair. 

A console operator sitting next to him said, “I’ll never understand how he got past screening?”

Benson sighed deeply.  “He was the best fit for our profile.  If we’ve done our job right, he shouldn’t come out of this insane.”

 

***To be continued in the full story coming soon to the Kindle, Nook, and all other formats.

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Taking off the Water Wings

I’ve posted here, at great length, about some of the trailblazers in this new digital age of self-publishing and about my own attempt to engage the digital market.  I read and posted about what the detractors have said, how they are content with a system that was outdated 20 years ago, and yields a disproportionate amount of frustration versus reward.

For three months I’ve tried to make my way the best I can drawing on the opinions of self-published professionals such as Dean Wesley Smith, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, and Micheal Stackpole.  Some of their methods vary, slightly, but the message is the same:  Take control of your own career.  You will not regret it.

These last three months have shown me that they are absolutely correct.

That’s not to say I’m swimming in epub revenue…far, far, from it.  But there are a few people out there that are buying my work.  It’s being purchased even though I haven’t been following the strict regimen of audience engagement through this blog, and social media that the professionals say is essential.  It is essential, and I have to do a much better job of it.  I’m making sales with only one release per month.  This, too, is something that I need to improve on.  Nothing but better time management between family, work, and writing will correct this.  And casting aside remaining doubt that I have lurking in the back of my mind about my writing is the only thing that will help my writing productivity.

Now it probably sounds like I’m beating myself up because I haven’t been stuck to the program, and maybe I do need a good, swift, kick in the pants to get things back on track.   But, as the pros have said, I would not regret it.  This has been more rewarding than anything I’ve ever tried.

So why have I taken the time for another post about how great I think self-publishing is?

Because my Kindle sales are up 50% so far in the month of July.  My June sales were up 25% over May.  Now I still can’t buy myself lunch on my monthly revenue and I hate to beat a dead metaphor, but this truly is a marathon instead of a sprint.  Numbers like this can serve to motivate any new writer that’s standing on the edge of the pool deciding whether or not they can swim.

I’m not calling myself a ‘success’ yet, but I might be able to take off my water wings in the forseeable future.

<Stayed tuned for a sample of my latest story coming soon.>

Amazon saving students $$$ (like I thought they would)

On the heals of my last post, I found an article talking about Amazon offering to rent textbooks to students for 80% off the print list price.  Very cool.

Check it out here:  http://tinyurl.com/3p49wjt

Why buy rotten cabbage?

If you tuned in last time, you know that my lovely and gracious wife bought me a kindle for my birthday.  So far, I’m pleased to report the device has far exceeded my expectations.

Converting the .pdf files of training books for the two Microsoft certifications I’m working on to kindle files has saved me from having to lug around 1800+ pages of learning material.  This experience, alone, is enough to convince me that school systems could go to issuing textbooks to students on some sort of e-reader in the foreseeable future.  Florida has taken the lead on this by requiring all public schools to convert to e-textbooks by the 2015-2016 school year. This is a good alternative to handing out ipads or tablets.  I’d keep such things in the classroom, where they’re less likely to be damaged or lost.

Think about it.  Haven’t we been bombarded with reports from the medical field complaining about the weight of student’s book bags?  My own daughter has complained about not having sufficient time to get to her locker between classes to get her textbooks for the next couple of classes.  Personally, I think that’s a load of hooey but that may just be the suspicious parent in me talking.

Setting that aside, the cost savings to cash-strapped school systems could be enormous.  Textbook publishers, like Macmillan, can still produce the same books, just make them electronically and sell them at a lower price.  Rather than a specific number of “copies”, the school could purchase an appropriate number of licenses for a book like software.

I’ve seen a few articles suggesting that the best value for college students is still to buy used textbooks.  Again, I think this is hooey.  A digital textbook could be almost perpetual, receiving updates to correct factual errors or even  new information.  And I may be a bit insensitive here, but I personally find some of the used textbook vendors to be pretty damn annoying.  They set up they’re stands on the side of the road outside of colleges peddling their used wares like rotting cabbages.   College students flock to these stands clambering to save $5 or $10 over the used books in the college bookstore, and get the bonus of acquiring about as much bacteria as you may find in an average room at the no-tell motel.

Don’t misunderstand.  You have to get by however you can, but my advice to these roadside used book dealers is to start looking for another line of work.  I see the used textbook market drying up faster than most realize.

Some of the naysayers are probably pointing to the upfront cost of the devices themselves.

HOOEY, I say.

The Kindle starts are $114.  That’s not much more than the price of the average college textbook, I think.  Probably less, in some cases.  So that cost argument doesn’t hold any water.  How about the cost of the e-textbooks?  The publishers may claim exorbitant costs to create their textbooks and e-books.  This is the same claim other publishers make when it comes to releasing backlist content as ebooks.

And as we’ve discussed before, this is a load of crap.

To be fair, I’ll accept that there are additional challenges with textbooks over novels.  But the costs associated with them probably aren’t as extreme as they suggest.

I’ve gone off on that textbook tangent long enough.  Does anyone agree?  Disagree?  Have a different thought entirely?

That comment button is below.