Special ends Sunday

Sunday is the last day to get Threat Level Black for the Kindle at .99. You can buy it here.
What's with all the drug spam?

Lately, I've been getting tons of spam via email, comments, etc., relating to buying powerful pain medication at bargain prices, with or without a prescription. Mostly without.

Does someone know something I don't?

Career choices . . .

... he can't decide whether to become a rock singer, lawyer, or bartender . . .

My question: Would any of this be covered by a Miranda warning?
Coming soon . . .

. . . to a techno-spy-thriller near you.

General Bradley

Quick shout-out to my friends in Florida, who hosted me yesterday for a talk about Omar Bradley and World War II. Good luck with the library vote.
I want one of these . . .

. . . or its offspring . . .

Andy Fisher's hat

I don't know exactly how or even why that fedora became Andy Fisher's official hat; he doesn't wear one in any of the books. But one of my friends saw the shot above and said, that IS Andy.

And so it has become.

The photograph was taken by Robert Kalman in the Rhinecliff, New York, train station at some point in the past, so distant neither of us can remember when. Or at least we won't admit it.

Bob is a beyond-excellent photographer, so good he can even make me look presentable. To see what he can do with decent-looking subjects, check out his website here.

Andy Fisher "stars" in the Helios Conspiracy, which you can read more about here. And now until April Fool's Day, you can get one of his earlier appearances for only .99 - assuming you have a Kindle. The book is Threat Level Black; in it, Andy finds he has to save New York and the NCAA Final Four basketball playoffs from total annihilation . . .

You can get Threat Level Black for the Kindle here.

The F-22 - a success story

I love reading Wired and its "Danger Room" war-tech blog, but sometimes there are howlers. The recent entry on F-22s gaining sophisticated air-to-ground radar (see article here) is one of them.

The writer takes the Air Force to task for taking so long to install the avionics, which allow the aircraft to perform as an attack plane; the entry makes it sound not only as if the F-22 was conceived for a ground-attack role role, but as if ALL "fighters" have always had the dual role of interceptors and attack, and have always been designed from the ground up - sorry for the pun - as such.

That of course is not true. While the F-22 may (or may not) be the last American fighter to have been conceived strictly for a fighter-versus-fighter role, that was definitely the idea when it was drawn up. Indeed, adding capabilities for ground attack would have diminished its ability to fight other planes, as well as add to the expense.

The installation of the new capabilities are as much a story of the changing nature of the world as the fighter's development and role. Frankly, the installation of the radar could be used as an example of the robust nature of the design and the beast, rather than a blistering critique of the Air Force's development process.

There's been another important change. While the life cycle of practically everything has been shrinking - how old is your phone? - aircraft are now serving for decades, and doing it well. Imagine a 1940 Army Air Force fighter going up against a 1945 plane. Or even something from 1920 serving on the front line until 1935 or beyond.

Planes are more like ships now - expected to fill a variety of roles as they age, to be constantly updated, and still kick serious ass when they're thirty or forty years old.

So should we all.

One of a kind

Bert Sugar, boxing columnist and raconteur with few peers, died over the weekend.

There have been several obits now, but here's one of the best descriptions. (From NYT)

Garrulous, opinionated, an eager conversationalist who was known to talk with just about anybody, he was an accomplished raconteur with a bottomless sack of anecdotes and an incorrigible penchant for wisecracks and bad jokes. You could pick him out in a crowded room by his voice — a distinctively upbeat growl — or by the omnipresent wide-brimmed fedora on his head and the fat cigar in his mouth.
Mr. Sugar, who was elected to the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2005, was not simply a character, however. He wrote about the sport with swagger and panache, a prose style that carried the weight of expertise and that simply assumed the authority to bellow and bleat: 
Somewhere, he's commenting on an angel's left hook, a fine hand-rolled leaning from the corner of his mouth.
The Shroud of Turin

A new book presents proof the famous Shroud of Turin is legitimate:

De Wesselow dismisses those tests as “fatally flawed”. So, although he describes himself as agnostic, he now finds himself in the curious position of being more of a believer in the Shroud than the Pope. His historical detective work has convinced him, he insists, that it is exactly what it purports to be — the sheet that was wrapped round Jesus’s battered body when it was cut down from the cross on Calvary.
But that isn’t the half of it. His new book, The Sign, the latest in a long line of tomes about the Shroud, makes an even more astonishing claim in its 450 pages (including over 100 of footnotes). It was, suggests de Wesselow, seeing the Shroud in the days immediately after the crucifixion, rather than any encounter with a flesh and blood, risen Christ, that convinced the apostles that Jesus had come back from the dead.

Article here.

I know, I know - just in time for Easter. And certainly, there is reason to be skeptical of anything on the subject. Fascinating article anyway.

My book, the movie . . .

I had a little fun with a case of mistaken identity over at My Book, The Movie. Be sure to check out the entire site.

(A signed copy of Helios and a complete set of the series I was actually thinking of to anyone who can figure it out by April Fool's Day. Just don't tell my wife.)
Some other books . . .

Speaking of military memoirs and books on SEALs in general, USNavySEALS.com mentioned a few the other day in this posting:


The NY Times ran a story last week about what it called "a wave of military memoirs." (You can read it here, if you can get past the paywall.)

American Sniper was featured in the story, and we're always grateful for the plug. But "military memoirs" have a long and distinguished history in American literature, starting with what I think is one of the best, Private Yankee Doodle, which tells the story of a soldier in the Revolution. Joseph Plumb Martin's firsthand tale is priceless just for its portrayal of Washington and the other generals. (Probably not what you'd expect; if you think Chris's comments on the "head shed" are hard, just wait until you read Martin's.)

American Sniper does a bunch of things that other books in the current "wave" don't do, which helped set it apart. One of the more obvious is the inclusion of Chris's wife's voice, which adds a great deal of depth, and authenticates the very frank and detailed talk about love and marriage. But irregardless, the book certainly answers the most basic requirement of the genre: a firsthand view of what it was like on the front line.

One of my favorite memoirs is a book on the Vietnam War by Joseph T. Ward called Dear Mom: A Sniper's Vietnam. As you can tell from the title, the book does consider the effects of war on the home front, admittedly tangentially. It's a very powerful book, and I highly recommend it for many reasons. It shows how much war and the role of snipers has changed in forty-some years - and how much they haven't.

Final Four

And then there were none . . . Great game by Ohio State as Syracuse falls.

My final Four is busted.

Cigar speak

For years now, cigar smokers have been treated to reviews in various publications and on websites that read more like rarefied wine-talk. You see torpedoes that supposedly have notes of sherry, coronas that are reminiscent of rosewood, and the like.

Smell like bs to me.

Gary Korb at Cigar Advisor (via Famous Smoke Shop) writes about the phenomenon this week:

"...Thick, creamy smoke oozes effortlessly over the palate revealing a marvelous mixture of wood, leather and toffee flavors with notes of cocoa and coffee bean on the finish. The smoke is bold, balanced and brimming with complexity..."
Sounds like what I call "Aficionado Speak." The question is, Is it true?  Well, to ME it is, and that Coronado I had last week was just as good, and those very flavors were there again. But even I get a little skeptical when reading many cigar reviews.


As Korb notes, a healthy skepticism is in order when reading any review, but especially those on cigars. And rarely if ever do I see any acknowledgement that the most critical ingredient in how a cigar "performs" is actually out of the direct control of its maker: if not stored properly, even the most expensive puro will be a stinker. Many on-line comments (as opposed to the more carefully controlled reviews) are actually critiquing the what happened to the cigar after it left the roller's hands.
That's one way to impress your publisher

. . . three parcels, containing 11 pounds of pot, were intercepted on their way to publishing house St Martin's Press, a subsidiary of Macmillan. 


For the record: none of my editors claim any knowledge, though if there were a list of suspects . . .
Who's protecting who?

I was fiddling around on Wikipedia the other day, and came across the photo above, which had this caption:

Yanks of 60th Infantry Regiment advance into a Belgian town under the protection of a heavy M4 Sherman tank. September 9, 1944

Obviously, the photo was posed, and I certainly don't blame whoever wrote that caption, whether it was 1944 or last week. But the truth is, in real life, in the American Army, the relationship between armor and infantry was considerably more complex than either the photo or caption suggest. The foot soldiers are protecting that tank every bit as much as it's protecting them.

American tactics as the war progressed were actually both fluid and fairly sophisticated when it came to combining different arms or tools of war. That's one of the things that historians have generally not focused on when writing about WW 2 - much to the detriment of generals like Omar Bradley, who actually deserves quite a bit of credit for that flexibility. Bradley was not the plodding, one-dimensional infantryman some historians seem to believe. Nor did Patton, always identified with tanks in news stories and many subsequent histories, fail to appreciate how intricately armor and infantry (and artillery, air power, etc.), had to work together on the battlefield.

Photos may be worth a thousand words, but sometimes the thousand words speak to a greater truth.

(Side note: Sure, "protecting whom" may be the "proper" way of putting it, but are you going talk grammar with an M4?)

Final Four

With Louisville's stunning upset of Michigan State, I'm down to one pick for the Final Four: Syracuse.

The Orange just barely held off a terrific Wisconsin team . . . is that a good or bad omen?

Andy Fisher

My book, Threat Level Black, was originally published in 2005 by Simon & Schuster. I happened to be working with a great editor at the time, Kevin Smith, who helped and encouraged me. Kevin "got" Andy Fisher - something not everyone does.

Not that I blame them. Andy can be an acquired taste. Lovable, yes. But don't get between him and banana creme pie. You'll definitely pay the price.

Andy makes his reappearance in the Helios Conspiracy, which you can read more about here. In the meantime, we're running a "web special" on Amazon for Threat Level Black. Kindle readers can get the book from now until April Fools Day for only .99.

In Threat Level Black, Andy has to save New York and the NCAA Final Four basketball playoffs from total annihilation . . . but will he really risk his life for a town that has outlawed smoking in bars?

As some fans know, Threat Level Black was reissued as an e-book earlier this year. I'm grateful that a number of readers bought while we were still working the bugs out. To show my appreciation, I'll send anyone who bought it at the full price ($6.99) BEFORE March 26 a signed copy of Leopard's Kill. Andy's not in that one, but I think you'll the gritty realism and intense story. And yes, no strings attached. Just send me an email with a copy of the receipt (pdf, whatever) and an address to ship it to. The email address is author@jimdefelice.com

I truly appreciate the feedback on Helios, as well as the sales and support. As I've told a few people who have asked via email, I don't set the price, and only get a small portion of the proceeds - much less, in fact, than Amazon or the publisher. I'm not complaining, just telling you what the story is.

You can get Threat Level Black here.

Truth in parenting

A group of so-called researchers have released a study declaring the women "like" caring for children more than men. (Story about it in the NY Times here.)

Sure, OK, another study that (mildly) suggests that men can't care for kids very well.

Except that when you look at the survey were using, you find it's totally bogus. They asked men and women to rate supposed child care activities from one to five, according to how much they liked them. The activities includes such fun-loving things as getting up in the middle of the night, caring for a sick child, and changing diapers.

The survey found more women supposedly liked all of these things. Maybe men are just more honest.

The survey is focused on kids two years and under. Which made me wonder what a FAIR survey covering all of childhood would look like.

I guarantee fathers in general would do better on one that included categories like this:

* Teaching child to shoot/hunt/fish
* Coaching child’s sports team
* Repairing child’s toys
* Building child vehicle/fort/clubhouse
* Attending child’s band/dance concert
* Stabilizing bleeding from compound fracture and rushing child to hospital
* Playing video games with child
* Attending major sporting events with child
* Eating out w/ child
* Hiking/exploring w/child
* Encouraging child's artistic efforts (any field)
* Instructing child about dating
* Teaching child to drive
* Assisting child on math homework

(Beer drinking, motorcycle riding, etc. not included to keep things close to fair . . .)

Live Free or Die . . .

. . . just as long as you don't plant any flowers along the way.

NH Woman Sued For Planting Flowers In Her Front Yard

Story & video.
Duh . . .

Speculation was the second-largest contributor to oil prices and accounted for about 15 percent of the rise. The effect that speculation had on oil prices over this period coincides closely with the dramatic rise in commodity index trading 


March Madness, Andy Fisher style . . .

Just a reminder - in honor of the Helios Conspiracy - and especially March Madness - we're running a "web special" on Amazon for Andy Fisher's earlier book, Threat Level Black. Kindle readers can get the book from now until April Fools Day for only .99.

In Threat Level Black, Andy has to save New York and the NCAA Final Four basketball playoffs from total annihilation . . . but will he really risk his life for a town that has outlawed smoking in bars?

You can get it here.

The future of books . . .

From the London Review of Books:

Whatever the outcome of the DoJ investigation, it seems unlikely that the agency agreement in ebooks has much of a future. If and when it collapses we’ll see whether the brief period of publisher-determined prices has allowed Amazon’s competitors to gain the momentum to prosper in the ebook market. We’ll probably also see Amazon resume its relentless discounting to retain and expand its market share, demanding higher discounts from publishers so they pay for the privilege of having their books sold at prices that undermine their print sales. And Bezos will no doubt be lauded in the Amazon chat rooms and beyond as the champion of the little guy, the man who stuck it to the voracious cartel of New York publishing. What these customers won’t see is the hollowing out of mid-list books that price-cutting is inflicting on the business that produces what they read. 

Full story here; important reading.

NCAA, Women's bracket

Bummed by Marist loss - but it was a tight game, all the way to the final shot.

The women played extremely well in a tourney where many didn't give them a chance. Tremendous job by all.
Attacking Iran

An Israeli-led airstrike against suspected nuclear weapons sites in Iran would likely pin U.S forces into a protracted regional conflict, resulting in a raft of American casualties and the loss of millions in military hardware.
That was the result of a recently completed wargame exploring the fallout from a preemptive military strike against Iran by Israel, according to reports in The New York Times.
The classified wargame, dubbed Internal Look, played out the Iranian scenario to devastating results.
Story here.
NYT story here.

"Devastating results"? Compared to annihilation?

You can game it yourself with Larry's game*, Persian Excursion, available here.

* That would be Larry Bond, Chris Carlson and Jeff Dougherty, who developed the game.
How your stuff gets there . . .

 . . . or will, if it doesn't already.

(Amazon just bought the warehouse robot company featured in the video.)
Long overdue

The Commerce Department has decided to impose tariffs on solar panels imported from China after concluding that the Chinese government provided illegal export subsidies to manufacturers there.
The tariffs were smaller than many industry executives had expected   —  2.9 to 4.73 percent —  which could blunt their effect on sales. But the decision was nonetheless likely to be seen as a milestone because of its implications for international trade, renewable energy and American manufacturing.  


Whether it will be too little too late is another question.

The Madness continues . . .

We're running a "web special" on Amazon for Threat Level Black. Kindle readers can get the book from now until April Fools Day for only .99.

You can get Threat Level Black here.

Aren't code names supposed to be secret?

Kind of?


Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum
Secret Service code names
revealed by GQ as ‘Javelin,’ ‘Petrus’  

I mean, at this point why not just call them Mitt and Rick?
Your basic Armageddon bomb

When you absolutely, positively, have to destroy the world.... or at least a big chunk of it.

A supersonic . . . biplane?

An MIT researcher thinks a biplane design might represent the next stage in supersonic air travel.

Final Four picks . . .

I'm down to Michigan State and Syracuse - not surprisingly, both number 1 picks.

But don't forget the Marist Fox women. With their tremendous start, they may go all the way . . .

The Times notices . . .

While books about the military and military history have a long track record in both nonfiction and fiction, some publishers said the genre had never been as visible or popular as it is now. 
Story here.

American Sniper does a couple of things that those books didn't, most especially telling the family's story and talking in great and candid about the toll being a warrior took on Chris and Taya's marriage. That's going to be de rigueur going forward.

Threat Level Black - only .99 for Kindle

In honor of the Helios Conspiracy - and especially March Madness - we're running a "web special" on Amazon for Andy Fisher's earlier book, Threat Level Black. Kindle readers can get the book from now until April Fools Day for only .99.

In Threat Level Black, Andy has to save New York and the NCAA Final Four basketball playoffs from total annihilation . . . but will he really risk his life for a town that has outlawed smoking in bars?

As some fans know, Threat Level Black was reissued as an e-book earlier this year as an experiment. I'm grateful that a number of readers bought at the $6.99 price. To show my appreciation, I'll send anyone who bought it at the full price BEFORE March 26 a signed (hard) copy of Leopard's Kill. Andy's not in that one, but I think you'll the gritty realism and intense story. And yes, no strings attached. Just send me an email with a copy of the receipt (pdf, whatever) and an address to ship it to. The email address is author@jimdefelice.com

And just to note, I truly appreciate the feedback on Helios, as well as the sales and support. As I've told a few people who have asked via email, I don't set the price, and only get a small portion of the proceeds - much less, in fact, than Amazon or the publisher. I'm not complaining, just telling you what the story is.

You can get Threat Level Black here.
Career ambitions

After doing yet more plumbing work over the weekend, I've decided that in my next life I'm definitely coming back as a plumber.

The reasons are many:

- honorable, respected profession
- pays decently
- people complain about the prices, but generally end up paying
- cool toys, er tools
- you can go old-school and play with fire
- customers are grateful even for minor jobs. As a matter of fact, their gratitude may be in opposite proportion to the difficulty of the job.

Then there's all the work caused by DIYers, but we won't go into that . . .
From book to movie . . .

If you're going to pick a star for the movie version of your book, you better make sure you know which book you're talking about.

My book, the movie.
E-books and reading

Continuing the some-time, occasional, here-and-there thread on ebooks and their effect on how we read . . .

Tim Parks in The NY Review of Books contends that e-books may be the purest form of reading:

The e-book, by eliminating all variations in the appearance and weight of the material object we hold in our hand and by discouraging anything but our focus on where we are in the sequence of words (the page once read disappears, the page to come has yet to appear) would seem to bring us closer than the paper book to the essence of the literary experience. Certainly it offers a more austere, direct engagement with the words appearing before us and disappearing behind us than the traditional paper book offers, giving no fetishistic gratification as we cover our walls with famous names. It is as if one had been freed from everything extraneous and distracting surrounding the text to focus on the pleasure of the words themselves. In this sense the passage from paper to e-book is not unlike the moment when we passed from illustrated children’s books to the adult version of the page that is only text. This is a medium for grown-ups. 
Blog entry here.

One thing that I have noticed - e-book readers seem to encourage speed reading, at least for me. I find myself almost racing through texts, skipping chunks of description and dialogue. Maybe it's just the kind of books I'm looking at, maybe it's an occupational hazard, but I find it more and more necessary to remind myself to stop and read what I'm reading.

And since we're talking about reading:  Here's an article that says reading fiction is actually good for you; the nuns would have been appalled.

St. Patrick's Day . . .

. . . through the ages.

A massive photo collection.

(It wasn't always tame.)

Carbon Gray

A friend is trying to launch a comic project using Kickstarter, a unique on-line investment/project support website. Artists and others make proposals, then get funding in exchange for the (eventually) finished product.

More details here.

Bradley, Hansen & Liebling

I was surprised recently to hear a friend credit A.J. Liebling with ghost writing Omar Bradley’s A Soldier’s Story. That erroneous credit seems to have nine lives, one of which perhaps has enabled it to gain currency on Wikipedia.

As far as I can tell, Liebling – certainly a fine writer and journalist – had no role in writing the book. He did supply a forward for an edition and also did at least one review that I know of, but if he made any other contribution, it’s at least temporarily lost to history.

The real ghost writer of the book – credited in the acknowledgements – was Bradley’s aide Chet Hansen, who served with the general from Africa through VE Day, and remained with him later in the States. Much of the book is based very closely on Hansen’s voluminous diary, a work which is of huge importance to anyone interested in the American command during the European ground war. (There are copies at West Point, where I used it, and at Carlisle. It has never been published.)

There were other helpers and editors, but much of the prose is Hansen speaking in Bradley’s voice. He deserves our thanks – and should get credit as the “ghost.”

There are some Liebling connections beyond the Forward – Liebling served as a war correspondent in Europe, and greatly admired Bradley, as many did, for his straight-forward and unassuming ways. (He also gave extremely detailed and candid briefings on operations, which would endear him to any journalist’s heart.) I’m reasonably certain that he knew Hansen, and it’s not out of the question that the two men might  have discussed the book in depth. But of course that’s not quite the same as being its author.

 Of course, now that it's in Wikipedia, I suppose it will live on in posterity.

(By the way, if you're looking for a breezy, yet informative bio of Liebling, hunt around for Wayward Reporter by Raymond Sokolov. And as always, A Soldier's Story is highly recommended.

David's new book . . .

Hagberg has McGarvey gearing up for another edge-of-your-seat thriller. Look for it in July.

From the catalog copy:

Cuban Intelligence Service Colonel Maria Leon is called to the bedside of the dying Fidel Castro. She is his illegitimate daughter but has never been acknowledged by her father until now. Castro makes her promise to contact the legendary former Director of the CIA Kirk McGarvey to help her on a mysterious quest to find Cibola, the fabled seven cities of Gold.
As the Cuban government unravels, Leon has to use every means at her disposal just to find the elusive McGarvey, all the while fending off men in her own Operations Division who want her job or her death. In desperation, Leon kidnaps McGarvey’s closest friend, Otto Rencke, to force McGarvey's hand.
Mac's meeting with Leon launches the most bizarre mission of his entire career that takes him from Cuba to Mexico City, to Spain and finally to an ancient site in New Mexico that the Spanish conquistadors called the Jornada del muerto—the Journey of Death.

Page 69

Marshall over at the Campaign for the American Reader has an interesting "test" - inspired by Marshal McLuhan, according to an early post - for books: Readers should turn to page 69 and have a peek. If that page hooks them, presumably, the book is worth checking out. he's devoted an entire website to the proposition.

It's a fun concept. I think Helios passed - though maybe not. (Here's my entry - or perhaps defense - of my page 69.)

I wonder, though: what's the equivalent for e-book versions? Or audio?

Israel, Iran, & Armageddon

One of the most comprehensive articles I've seen on Iran, Israel, and the bomb:

Solutionists who put their faith in deterrence neglect the chilling statement by Iranian Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani suggesting that a nuclear conflict would not be overly troubling, because "the application of an atomic bomb would not leave anything in Israel, but the same thing would just produce damages in the Muslim world." Behind the sinister euphemisms is a grotesque calculation. The "application of an atomic bomb" means dropping one on Israel. "Leaving nothing in Israel" can only be interpreted as leaving no people alive. A second holocaust courtesy of the Holocaust deniers. And an Israeli nuclear retaliation would "just produce damages in the Muslim world." Damages! Israel is said to have some 200 nuclear warheads and an invulnerable retaliatory capacity (stashed in undetectable submarines). Just "damages" in the Muslim world might mean deaths in the tens of millions.
These are, ultimately, the stakes we can expect in a regional nuclear war—and it should never be forgotten that an attack on a facility that contains nuclear fuel turns each target into a nuclear "dirty bomb," however deeply buried, one whose long term consequences are still unknown.

In Slate, here. (And here's a link to his book at Amazon.)

I'd add that there are other forces Israel would likely call on, but overall assessment lays things out pretty well.

Which isn't exactly comforting, I know.
Our grid . . .

One of the themes in Helios is the vulnerability of our national grid, the network of electric power lines, transfer stations, etc., etc., that are critical in delivering electricity from where it's produced to where it's used.

The Helios Conspiracy is a novel, not a polemic or a journalistic exploration, so most of that is addressed tangentially, in the tradition of "show don't tell." I also avoided directly spelling out details of the problems, since honestly the grid is so vulnerable even oblique references could be used as a map by an enemy to cause quite a lot of damage. Still, the problems are shocking and even frightening. Not only would a carefully coordinated attack cause millions of dollars of damage, even a haphazard one could disrupt lives for weeks.

And few people seem to realize it, let alone are alarmed.

But recently there have been a number of stories pointing out the vulnerabilities, increasing public awareness, and noting that finally someone is finally paying attention. Here's one, from this morning's NY Times:

 . . . this week the industry and the government have been carrying out an emergency drill unlike any that electrical engineers can remember, to explore how quickly the country could recover from a crippling blow to the power grid. Twelve trucks drove 800 miles from St. Louis to Houston to deliver three “recovery transformers.” When they arrived on Tuesday afternoon, workers began to install them as quickly as possible — reducing a task that normally takes weeks to several days.
“If you have to order a transformer from someplace, it’s two years to do it,” said Richard J. Lordan, a senior technical expert at the Electric Power Research Institute, a nonprofit consortium based in Palo Alto, Calif.
Transformers were seen as a potential problem to the grid as far back as 1990, said Sarah Mahmood, a program manager at the Department of Homeland Security, which paid for about half of the cost of the $17 million drill, with the rest picked up by the electrical industry. Transformers are about the size of a one-car garage and usually painted some drab industrial color, but without them, intersecting power lines would be like elevated highways with no interchanges.

Actually, it would be more like highways where you could never get gas as well, but the story is excellent. Check it out here.

It's not exactly a sexy problem, but it has to be addressed.

Speaking of reading . . .

Here's a slightly different take on reading, angled around the effects of ebooks:

I received a Kindle for my birthday, and enjoying “light reading,” in addition to the dense science I read for work, I immediately loaded it with mysteries by my favorite authors. But I soon found that I had difficulty recalling the names of characters from chapter to chapter. At first, I attributed the lapses to a scary reality of getting older — but then I discovered that I didn’t have this problem when I read paperbacks.
Full story here. 

But is speed the point?

Staples has a simplest test on its site to track reading speed, located here:


It's a clever idea, but I have to wonder - is speed really the point when you're reading for fun? Maybe I'm just sore because it claimed I read at a barely average pace, but I think that if you read fiction too fast, you lose a lot of the flavor - and the fun.

Encyclopedia Britannica, 1768-2012

After 244 years, the Encyclopaedia Britannica is going out of print. 

The encyclopedia will remain on-line. But surely this is a notable passing.

I wonder - does this mean the edition in the basement will be worth more at the next garage sale?

Final Four picks:

Getting them in before the first tipoff:

South: Gotta go with UConn, even they’re heavy underdogs. Too many UConn friends not to.
West: My safe pick (and probably everyone else’s): Mich State
East: Another sentimental pick, but this one just happens to be Syracuse
MidWest: The longest longshot of my bunch: Alabama. Just because it's Alabama...
You can't die here

My kind of town:

ROME (AP) — Since the start of the month it has been illegal to die in Falciano del Massico, a village of 3,700 people some 50 kilometers (30 miles) from Naples in southern Italy.
Mayor Giulio Cesare Fava issued the tongue-in-cheek decree because the village has no cemetery and it is feuding with a nearby town that has one — creating a logistical problem about what to do with the deceased.
The mayor told newspapers that villagers are content.
"The ordinance has brought happiness," he was quoted Tuesday as saying. "Unfortunately, two elderly citizens disobeyed."

The only problem is that most Italians have a healthy disdain for the law - wonder if they'll suspend that in this case.
What I'm reading . . .

Marshal Zeringue's interesting and eclectic blog, Writers Read, recently dropped me a note and asked what I was reading. They kindly shared my thoughts in their latest entry, here.

The two books I mentioned are, in a way, different takes on the early days of the Internet era: Mafia Boy, about a teen hacker, and The Imprefectionists, which in some ways is an ode to the passing of (one) newspaper.

Marshal also posted the entry, and some generous notes highlighting my own book, The Helios Conspiracy, at Campaign for the American Reader in this post. (You can discover some of what he likes to read here.) One thing the blogs prove - writers are a diverse bunch not only in what they write, but in what they read as well.

Helios for free

Goodreads is giving away a copy of Helios; details here at the Tor/Forge blog.

Entry here.

Good luck!

Before the book became the book . . .

American Sniper, the story of how Chris Kyle became the leading military sniper in the U.S., took shape over a year's time. It began with several months worth of interviews, discussions, and beer drinking.

The beer is long gone, but parts of the raw interviews are here; they give you a feel for how the book was developed.

Another take . . .

. . . funny what thirty years can do . . .
Scott Turow on the Justice Department

 . . . and the Amazon e-book situation:

We have no way of knowing whether publishers colluded in adopting the agency model for e-book pricing. We do know that collusion wasn’t necessary: given the chance, any rational publisher would have leapt at Apple’s offer and clung to it like a life raft. Amazon was using e-book discounting to destroy bookselling, making it uneconomic for physical bookstores to keep their doors open.
Just before Amazon introduced the Kindle, it convinced major publishers to break old practices and release books in digital form at the same time they released them as hardcovers. Then Amazon dropped its bombshell: as it announced the launch of the Kindle, publishers learned that Amazon would be selling countless frontlist e-books at a loss. This was a game-changer, and not in a good way. Amazon’s predatory pricing would shield it from e-book competitors that lacked Amazon’s deep pockets.
Critically, it also undermined the hardcover market that brick-and-mortar stores depend on. It was as if Netflix announced that it would stream new movies the same weekend they opened in theaters. Publishers, though reportedly furious, largely acquiesced. Amazon, after all, already controlled some 75% of the online physical book market.

From the Authors Guild website, here.

The entire article should be mandatory reading for anyone interested in books, no matter their genre or purpose.

The Challenger explosion

Amateur clips of the Challenger explosion was recently posted on Huffington Post. Shot with a Super 8 film camera, the sequences captures the disbelief of the crowd gathered to watch the launch.
E-book pricing

The feds are pressing publishers to end the practice demanding that retailers (Amazon and Apple, in the main) sell their works for a certain price point - or as Amazon puts it "setting the price" for the books.

An investigation by the Justice Department of pricing collusion between Apple and electronic book publishers has been building in recent months as antitrust officials have pressured five major publishers to reach a settlement, threatening to sue them on charges of working together to raise the price of e-books, people with knowledge of the inquiry said Thursday.

The only problem is, that practice has saved the industry from widespread bankruptcy and dissolution.

Meanwhile, the elephant in the room are the monopolistic practices that Amazon itself has followed, driving down prices so it could dominate the market.

The publishers aren't the only ones threatened. Lower prices may encourage more sales, but that will not help the vast majority of writers. Anyone who doesn't manage to many thousands of books year after year will find it increasingly difficult to make a living. And that will mean less high quality books, shorter careers - and ultimately, either higher prices or a lot less selection.

As a reader, I love lower prices. As a writer ...

An oldster still going strong

There's something romantic about these old birds.
There is a solution


MOUNT HOLLY, N.C. — President Barack Obama on Wednesday made his most urgent appeal yet for the nation to wean itself from oil, calling it a "fuel of the past" and demanding that the United States broaden its approach to energy.

Should I send him a copy of Helios?
Meanwhile, in Yemen . . .

The death toll from an al-Qaeda assault on a military base in southern Yemen has risen to 185 government soldiers, military and medical officials said Tuesday. Many soldiers' bodies were found mutilated, and some were headless.
Story here.

Interestingly, nearly all mainstream media reports have left out the mutiliations, despite that being a fairly prominent part of the attack.

And people think al Qaeda and radical Islam is no longer a threat?

Speaking of reviews . . .

This one from the LA Times on American Sniper:

"American Sniper" is about one man's evolution from restless civilian to dedicated killer. For those who like their American military personnel to be diffident and dutifully respectful of their enemies, this book is not for them.

Full review.

And for the record - damn straight that was intentional. Come on.

Fisher does it again . . .

Rob LeFebvre, writing for Shelf-Awareness for Readers, gave Helios a very generous and gracious review:

DeFelice's plot rockets along, keeping reader interest throughout. The real find in The Helios Conspiracy, though, is the character of Andy Fisher: he's foul mouthed, standoffish, sarcastic and damn good at what he does, but without any arrogance to ruin it. Fisher's one-liners and quips fill the pages as readers follow each new wrinkle in the case, as well as playing a welcome counterpoint to the seriousness of the story. 
The whole review:


I predict huge sales

A pair of researchers in Japan have developed "SpeechJammer," a prototype "gun" designed to compel people to stop talking, without physically harming them.

Kirkus very kindly gave me a starred review for "exceptional merit" in their latest edition, and has now posted it on the web here.

How book people think

From an actual conversation with one of my editors yesterday:

Me: Yeah, someone’s porn-spamming the review page of my new book at B&N.com – think we should do something about it?

Editor: Well, they are all five-star reviews. It does kind of help your average . . .

The clock continues to tick

From one of the Israeli pilots who helped prevent Iraq from getting nukes:

Today, Israel sees the prospect of a nuclear Iran that calls for our annihilation as an existential threat. An Israeli strike against Iran would be a last resort, if all else failed to persuade Iran to abandon its nuclear weapons program. That moment of decision will occur when Iran is on the verge of shielding its nuclear facilities from a successful attack — what Israel’s leaders have called the “zone of immunity.”
Some experts oppose an attack because they claim that even a successful strike would, at best, delay Iran’s nuclear program for only a short time. But their analysis is faulty. Today, almost any industrialized country can produce a nuclear weapon in four to five years — hence any successful strike would achieve a delay of only a few years.
 Full commentary here.