It’s the weekend and that means it’s the last couple of days to enter the Bookbanter ebook giveaway for a copy of Pirates of Pensacola by Keith Thomson. The giveaway will end at 11:59PM Sunday night. To enter, all you need to do is leave a comment on THIS POST, plus you can learn more about the book and the author.
Half the reason I chose to finally get myself an ereader was for the digital review copy aspect. I’ve been reviewing books for over a decade and with the development and growth over the last few years of not just ebooks, but also the world of digital review copies and ebook reviewing, I couldn’t help but feel I was missing out on a facet of reviewing.
I rarely don’t have my next book picked out and waiting to be read and reviewed on my shelf, but I knew there were virtual shelves of books out there that I could be e-partaking of.
But first I had to get myself an ereader, which is an interesting story in itself.
If you’re any sort of book fan who enjoys frequenting used bookstores, then you’ve probably heard of Powell’s in Oregon. They have a couple of stores, and their mighty, multi-storied one is in Portland has its own special map to help you find your way around its labyrinthine stacks.
Going there for a book lover must be like going to Disneyland; one day I’ll go.
Brick and Mortar
CNN presents the country’s best indie bookstores.
Mother’s Day Special
Barnes & Noble has put the Nook HD line on sale just in time for Mother’s Day.
The Author Exploitation Business
David Gaughran on vanity publishers and the risk authors take.
How Graphic Novels Became the Hottest Section in the Library
Five years ago, graphic novels weren’t the rage they are now, especially in libraries. Here’s how.
To enter for a chance to win an ebook copy of Pirates of Pensacola by Keith Thomson, simply leave a comment on THIS POST and you will be entered into the random drawing. The giveaway contest will last through this week until Sunday, May 19th at 11:59PM Pacific time. On Monday morning, a 9AM Pacific time I will announce the winner on this blog.
About Pirates of Pensacola:
Pirates of Pensacola tells the tale of Morgan Cooke, a landlubbing accountant whose idea of adventure is throwing darts at the local pub. He has no idea about his piratical heritage until his estranged father Isaac shows up, after spending twenty years in jail, seeking crewmen to help find lost treasure. Morgan is at first reluctant but soon gets into the true adventurous pirate spirit in his genes.
Unlike in Thomson’s later books there are no spies. But there is plenty of his signature energy, pacing and humor. Pirates of Pensacola is a fun modern-day pirate yarn, a tale of fathers and sons looking for hidden treasure, and a vividly portrayed adventure salted with lots of pirate and maritime history and, of course, battles.
About the Author:
Keith Thomson has played semi-professional baseball in France and drawn editorial cartoons for Newsday. Now a resident of Alabama, he writes about intelligence and other matters for The Huffington Post. His novels include the New York Times Best-selling Once a Spy, as well as Twice a Spy and Pirates of Pensacola. For more information visit KeithThomsonBooks.com.
Q & A with Keith Thomson:
Q: You’ve got quite a resume that includes playing semi-professional baseball in France, working as an editorial cartoonist, and writing movie scripts. Why did you decide to write a book?
A: I’d been working as a screenwriter for six years, having sold several scripts, but with just one of them making into production: a horror film—unfortunately, I’d intended it to be a cop comedy. One day I went to LA to get notes on the latest draft of a rewrite I was doing for Paramount. This entailed conference room full of executives telling me what to change, for hours on end. Not the greatest experience, but don’t get me wrong: for what they were paying me, I would have happily cleaned the bathrooms too. After the meeting, while walking to our cars, my agent said to me, “You know, if you wrote a book, no one would change anything.” That night, in my hotel room, I checked out the Stanford Continuing Education website—I was living in Palo Alto at the time—and I saw that there was a novel-writing 101-type class beginning in a week, and signed up. My thesis became Pirates of Pensacola.
Q: What was the inspiration behind Pirates of Pensacola?
A: I grew up in a coastal Connecticut town. As a kid, I used to stare out to see in hope of meeting the notorious real-life pirate William Thompson—an ancestor of mine, I thought. He spelled Thomson the wrong way (with a p) but pirates weren’t known for their literacy. Also he died in 1825. Regardless, if you’re eight, you can stare out to sea and believe there’s a pretty good chance your pirate ancestor’s masts might appear on the horizon, and that he might row ashore and say to you, “Kid, I need you to go on an adventure to get gold.”
Twenty-some years later, this was essentially the premise of my first novel, Pirates of Pensacola: A landlubbing accountant’s life is anything but exciting until his estranged pirate father shows up after twenty-some years in jail and says, “Let’s hit the sea, lad, there’s treasure to be got.” And the adventure is under weigh.
Q: Are there any autobiographical elements in the story?
A: Never. Writing for me is first and foremost a means of escapism.
Q: In Pirates of Pensacola, readers follow Morgan and Isaac Cooke on their search for hidden treasure and discover the fascinating lives and lore of pirates and are transported to Florida and Caribbean islands. What kind of research did you do in order to write a story with so much accurate and vivid history?
A: Not much research, initially. Then, as a result of eating the wrong burrito, I contracted the hepatitis A virus, necessitating six to eight weeks in bed, that I could keep only toast down, and I suffered haunting, recurring dreams of cheeseburgers. But, all in all, I am thankful to have had the disease because it nudged me into doing research. Ships are complicated, and I didn’t know my bow from my poop deck. My story involved an extensive duel between a super-yacht and a clipper sailed by a bunch of actual pirates hiding in plain sight as a troupe of pirate re-enactors. To write the clipper scenes, I needed to know how the craft was rigged and sailed, and I needed to know about most every part of it, because about most every part gets blown sky-high. While in bed, I read about forty maritime books, mostly non-fiction, from Stanford’s singularly extensive maritime library—in several instances, I was the first person to check out the book in half a decade. If I hadn’t had hep A, I don’t know when I could possibly have done all the research. Or that I would have ever done it. Or that the book would have sold.
Q: The story started out as your thesis project at Stanford University and against all odds found its way to bookstores. Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
A: Get Hepatitis A (see above).
Q: Why are you self-publishing a digital edition of Pirates of Pensacola?
A: This came about by accident. After I signed with Doubleday, St. Martin’s Press reverted the rights to Pirates of Pensacola to me, and I donated the book to Worldreader.org, a charity that gives Kindles and e-books to impoverished children in sub-Saharan Africa. This necessitated the production of a digital version of Pirates of Pensacola, which had been released only as a hardcover. Meanwhile Pirates became a Jimmy Buffett’s Book Club pick, resulting in a surge of demand. Releasing the e-book is a means of providing the supply.
Q: Since Pirates of Pensacola’s original publication you’ve also written two books about spies. One of them, Once A Spy hit the New York Times bestseller list. Do you prefer writing about spies or pirates?
A: Pirates. Pure escapism. As Richard Zacks, my favorite write of pirate nonfiction pirate, puts it, “Who wouldn’t crave the pirate lifestyle? You get to rob, cheat, carouse, brawl, drink, chase wenches, then rob some more, carouse some more…what a life!”
Q: Are there any authors that you would name as influences?
A: Carl Hiaasen, Lee Child, Philip Roth, and Richard Zacks
Q: Is there a prequel, sequel or any new pirate adventure for Morgan and Isaac Cooke on the horizon?
A: That would be fun.
Q: What are you currently working on?
A: Spies, in a novel called 7 Grams of Lead that will be published in early 2014. Seven grams of lead to the head was Stalin’s favorite solution to problems.
Imagine The Lord of the Rings in which the geography of Middle Earth didn’t influence the story. Frodo and friends leave the Shire and bang! They’re at Rivendell. The Fellowship leaves Rivendell and bang! They’re at Moria, then bang! They’re at Rohan and bang! They’re at Minas Tirith. Instead of the long marches through Middle Earth, across the mountains and plains and through the forests and the mines, there would just be a series of events at separate locations.
It doesn’t sound nearly as good, does it?
Yet, that is how most “space” opera handles space. Trips between stars and planets usually take only a short time, sometimes just the blink of eye. Even when long trips are involved, they are shown as a series of destinations. When starships decide to fight, even though they are capable of covering light years of distance in a short time, those starships battle by zipping up to each other in a few moments, then slugging away toe-to-toe like boxers in a ring.
A lot of stories don’t want to deal with space. It’s too big and too empty, unimaginably huge, limitless in all directions, no up or down, and practically nothing in the way of obstacles or barriers compared to the surface of a planet. How huge? It’s about twenty five trillion miles to the nearest star (that’s about forty two trillion kilometers). How do humans get their heads around such a number? Even within a single solar system, the distances are enormous. From Earth to Mars is anywhere from thirty six million miles to two hundred fifty million miles. Why do the numbers vary so much? Because both Earth and Mars orbit the sun. Everything in space is moving, nothing just sits still, so travel is a matter of intercepting a moving target, not going to a fixed location. And if you move fast enough, stuff gets weird thanks to Relativity. Your view of the universe gets distorted. Space is not only big, it’s complicated.
As a result, it’s common to adopt shortcuts that allow a story to ignore space. Means to zip almost instantly across those distances, means to see instantly and communicate instantly across space.
I think that’s a mistake, because all of that empty space matters as much as the mountains and rivers of Middle Earth. Just as the ocean matters on Earth. Space and the sea are different characters, of course. The sea is an active character, aiding you or trying to kill you. Ask any sailor. But space is passive. It sits and waits for a mistake, an accident, an equipment failure, and then it is there, cold and unforgiving. To someone voyaging in space, all of that Nothing is Something. Watch the brilliant movie Apollo 13 and you’ll see what I mean. Space is there, the monster lurking just outside the capsule.
But, if putting space into space opera is a good idea, how can we do it?
As it turns out, the universe has given us a tool to show its huge distances in ways humans can understand. Light. One billion kilometers means…what in terms of distance? It’s considerably easier to grasp the idea that light itself takes one hour to travel that distance. One light hour. Describe the distances as light seconds, light minutes, and light hours, and suddenly we have a meaningful means of measurement. Light itself takes that long to get from here to there? That’s big. Dealing with three light hours is a lot easier to handle than describing the distance as three billion kilometers. Using light as the means of description both simplifies showing how big space is, and makes it clear just how big space is.
It also shows the real obstacles in space. Where hobbits might have to ford rivers and climb over mountains, people in space have to deal with the fact that it will take hours for a message sent from their ship to reach another ship. And though they can see that ship, see it crystal clear across those billions of kilometers, they are seeing where it was and what it was doing hours ago. That distance matters. They need to cross it.
Yes, adding space into a space opera complicates it, just as putting the landscape of Middle Earth into that story complicates travel and plans and action there. But I discovered while writing the Lost Fleet series that those complications add a lot to the story. They make the characters confront more problems, more difficulties, more challenges. They make the setting come alive and feel real. They force me, the writer, to figure out how things would actually work in such a place rather than skipping over it. If I can’t take shortcuts, neither can my characters. I have to write better.
Because space is just waiting for you to make a mistake.
~ ~ ~
Jack Campbell (retired US Navy officer John G. Hemry) writes modern space opera, science fiction, military science fiction and fantasy.
His Lost Fleet series follows “Black Jack” Geary, a reluctant hero who fought a desperate last stand against overwhelming odds. In The Lost Stars series, former leaders of the Syndicate Worlds defeated by Black Jack try to rebuild something better from the ruins of that interstellar empire.
In the Stark’s War series, micro-management and politics have grown to rule the US military with disastrous results during a war on the Moon, while in the Sinclair/ JAG in Space series, a young Naval space warfare officer has to learn leadership as he confronts attacks, terrorist acts, spies and other threats that lead to court-martials in the best tradition of legal thrillers.
Jack has also written numerous short stories about time travel, alternate universes, space and the future.
For more information, check out his website.
Authors Draw Up “Manifesto” to Save Bookshops
Some local Venice authors have drawn up a “manifesto” to save their book stores.
Guantanamo Library Tumblr
A Tumblr of the library books at Guantanamo prison.
F. Scott Fizgerald’s Accounts
BBC reports that Great Gatsby author, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s accounts are now available online.
Macmillan Finalizes E-Book Settlement
Publishing giant Macmillan has finalized an ebook settlement with the Department of Justice, agreeing to pay $26 million.
Mary Roach, bestselling author of Stiff and Bonk, brings her host of avid non-fiction readers to a whole new arena with Gulp. Welcome to the alimentary canal, a politely titled journey from a single bite passing through our bodies into the toilet bowl. Just as with her other books, Roach employs her patented humor and obsession for the detailed and at times gross.
Unsurprisingly, Roach begins with the mouth and taste and the importance of the sense of smell with taste. She recounts her meeting with a person whose job is to taste wines and beers that are “off” in some way. This person has such a developed and trained palate, she knows what has been done wrong in the fermenting of the beer, or the preparation of the wine. Roach then continues on down the gullet with succinct chapters on each part, providing lots of details of how it all works, what the process is, and plenty of facts you might have never wanted to know about your throat, or stomach, or intestine. But the book is also bursting with lots of information to increase one’s general knowledge, such as why stomach acid doesn’t burn through your stomach lining. The shocking answer is that it actually does, but the stomach lining is constantly being replaced with fresh, new stomach lining cells. And this is why a dead person’s stomach acid will burn through their stomach.
Perhaps Gulp’s only failing is that the reader is left wanting to know and learn more, but the book has to end somewhere. In addition to biological and science details, Roach also provides lots of stories and histories of past experiments of what was done in learning about these body parts and how they worked. And for those really curious, yes, there are multiple chapters on flatulence. Readers will not be disappointed, but they never are with Mary Roach.
Originally written on April 27, 2013 ©Alex C. Telander.
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