Tuesday, November 16, 2010

In Memory Yet Green

A short story I wrote titled "In Memory Yet Green" (named after Isaac Asimov's autobiography) appears in the anthology My First Time by SoftCopy Publishing.

It's only available electronically. You can download it from Amazon right now.

All the pieces in the anthology open with the phrase "The first time I" and then go from there. Mine is a piece about memory, about writing, about Isaac Asimov. Of course.

Please go buy a copy - it's only $2.99 - and read my story, plus the stuff from the other 49 contributors.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Star Trek 365

So I got myself a present. 
Star Trek: The Original Series 365
It's a big, fat book full of Star Trek.

And I quite enjoyed it.

It bills itself as the "definitive" guide to Star Trek, but, as the owner of many Star Trek reference books, I beg to differ.

It's got a lot of interesting stuff, a lot of stuff I already knew, and a lot of photos. Sadly, most of the photos were really just frames from the episodes themselves, but they were well selected and well reproduced.

I found it very odd that third season producer Fred Freiberger, a figure universally shat upon by Trek fans as the one who killed the show (and similarly scorned by fans of Space: 1999, for which he served as producer for the hated second season) is not once mentioned by name in the entire book. That, to me, is simply spiteful and certainly not definitive. So bottom line is, if you're looking for a book that gives you a list of all the cast and crew, you need to look elsewhere.

But it does work as an overview of the production and life of the original series, with all its ups and downs.  It's handsomely put together and does contain a lot that was new and interesting to me, despite all the Trek non-fiction I've read over the years. Discussion of the disposition of the original Enterprise model, particularly, and photos of same, fascinated me. And it actually discussed the music, which is, unsurprisingly, a favorite topic of mine.

One of the most striking features of the book, though, is a completely unintentional reveal of the immense cultural divide that separates us from the 1960s. And I'm not talking about go go boots and short skirts and such.

There's a backstage photo from Amok Time featuring several actors getting Vulcan make up applied. And here's the thing. The make up artists are all men. And they're all wearing ties. You can even see fancy cuff links on the sleeves of chief make up artist Fred Phillips. What a shock! Can you imagine seeing anyone on a movie or tv set today actually wearing a tie? And, really, aren't almost all film/tv make up artists women these days? People in the sixties still dressed up to go to work at the movie studio. Being professionals meant dressing like a professional. And that meant a suit and tie. Sure, you can take off your jacket while actually gluing on ear tips, but by gum you're going to keep your tie on.

This all put me in mind of Jesse Thorn's web series about "dressing like an adult" and how unusual it is that director Paul Feig wears a suit and tie to the set every day.

Maybe I'll star wearing a tie whenever I write a blog post. There are worse ways to dress.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


I looked behind me. Just what I thought.
More flowers.
I pumped the handle seven more times and slammed the lever backward again. Backward, dammit, go backward!
The vibration shook the whole tub. I closed my eyes this time until the shaking stopped.
I took a deep breath.
I looked behind me.
More flowers.
I leapt out of the tub, kicked it over, then let myself topple, crushing my outline into the peonies.
I stared up at the sky. Empty. Empty as it will always be.
I was alone. Truly, utterly, inexcusably alone. No sign that humans had ever touched this planet. I’d wiped it out. Everything. Everyone. Even Laila.
I did it for her. I swear, I just wanted to make it better for her. Better air. Less crowding. I didn’t want to empty the whole planet.
I’m sorry.
I’ll write a note. Stick it in this tub. And maybe, just maybe, millions of years from now, some hyperintelligent peony will see that once upon a time there was one single idiot, alone and adrift, regretting the day he left the instruction book on his desk.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Man From Atlantis - the Music

It's no secret that getting a release of Fred Karlin's music from forgotten 70's TV series Man From Atlantis is my original holy grail.

While it's wonderful that, thanks to the power of the internets, I can regularly listen to the section of music that I've been humming in my head since 1977, it's still not the same as having a proper CD release of it, in clear sound and without dialogue and sound effects. But here it is.

I don't know why this wistful, harpsichord-y tune cemented itself in my memory bank, but it did. I still retain such strong affection for the show and wouldn't mind seeing the series released on DVD, since I haven't seen it since its original run.

But it's the music that really haunts me.

Here's the main title sequence.

And here's a cover version of the theme that's suitably trippy.

I also love Austin Wintory's cover version, available as a single download.Theme from Man From Atlantis

And now here's a rockin' version of that wistful theme, accompanying Patrick Duffy's race with the dolphin.

The closest I've gotten to a CD release of this music is Fred Karlin's Futureworld, which is similar in tone.

And so concludes this random post of nostalgia.

Friday, October 8, 2010


I glanced down into the blue light. I could make out an image, maybe a person, but I was too scared to really focus. I looked back at Tommy.
“Are you sure it’s real?”
“Hell, yeah,” he said, grabbing the rock from my hands. “If you’re too chicken shit to look in it, I’ll give someone else a turn. You can have your five bucks back.”
“But where did you get it?”
“I told you, I found it, that’s all you need to know.” He hopped back onto his bike, the rock under his arm. “You want to find out or not?”
“Okay,” I said.
Tommy smiled that devilish little grin of his and hopped back onto the grass.
“All right. Now just look in it until you see the picture. It will be there and it will tell you your destiny. Your best moment. The highlight of your life.”
“How do I know it’ll come true?”
“You’re such a chicken shit. Walt Greaney saw a bank vault and you know he’s a genius with money. And Sara Tomlinson saw herself at a beauty pageant – Miss damned America! It’s totally psychic, man. Just look!”
He stuck the rock out at me. I took it, sat down, cross-legged, and looked at the surface.
The blue light slowly grew and I could see an image. It was a person, definitely a person. It was me. I could tell it was me, but I looked so old, so bald and pudgy. I was holding a bowling trophy.
I threw the rock as hard as I could.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Contest! Win a copy of Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published

Workman Publishing kindly provided me with an advance copy of The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published, and I'll be reading through it and commenting about it later this month.

In other news, Workman also offered to let me host a book giveaway contest here on my blog. Woo hoo!

So here it is, The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published.
The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published: How to Write It, Sell It, and Market It . . . Successfully (Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published: How to Write)
And here's some blurbage about the book:

The best, most comprehensive book for writers is now completely revised and updated to address ongoing changes in publishing. Published in 2005 as Putting Your Passion Into Print, this is the book that’s been praised by both industry professionals (“Refreshingly honest, knowledgeable and detailed. . . . An invaluable resource”—Jamie Raab, publisher, Grand Central Publishing) and bestselling authors (“A must-have for every aspiring writer.”—Khaled Hosseini, author of The Kite Runner). With its extensive coverage of e-books, self-publishing, and online marketing, The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published is more vital than ever for anyone who wants to mine that great idea and turn it into a successfully published book.

Written by experts with thirteen books between them as well as many years’ experience as a literary agent (Eckstut) and a book doctor (Sterry), this nuts-and-bolts guide demystifies every step of the publishing process: how to come up with a blockbuster title, create a selling proposal, find the right agent, understand a book contract, develop marketing and publicity savvy, and, if necessary, self-publish. There’s new information on how to build up a following (and even publish a book) online; the importance of a search-engine-friendly title; producing a video book trailer; and e-book pricing and royalties. Includes interviews with hundreds of publishing insiders and authors, including Seth Godin, Neil Gaiman, Amy Bloom, Margaret Atwood, Larry Kirshbaum, Leonard Lopate, plus agents, editors, and booksellers; sidebars featuring real-life publishing success stories; sample proposals, query letters, and a feature-rich website and community for authors.

About the Authors

Arielle Eckstut, cofounder of Little MissMatched, the innovative clothing company, is a writer, entrepreneur, and agent-at-large for the Levine Greenberg Literary Agency. She is the author of Pride and Promiscuity: The Lost Sex Scenes of Jane Austen.

David Henry Sterry is the coeditor of 
Hos, Hookers, Call Girls, and Rent Boys (front page review, The New York Times Book Review) and author of Master of Ceremonies,ChickenSatchel Sez, and the forthcoming The Glorious World Cup. He is also an actor, media coach, book doctor, and activist for at-risk youth. The authors are married and live in Montclair, New Jersey, with their daughter.
By the way, the authors can be located on the Twitters at http://twitter.com/TheBookDoctors. And you can find me on the Twitters, too: http://www.twitter.com/thatneilguy.

So how can you win? Easy!


Just drop a comment into the comment field below. Make sure you've got an email address or twitter handle in there so I can contact you.

I'll draw a random winner on October 20. So you have until midnight eastern time on October 19, 2010, to enter. And you know what? If I get enough entries, I may just give away two copies. Because I'm a giver! And so is Workman Publishing!

The book doesn't actually get released into the wild until November 11. So this is your chance to SCORE EARLY! Woo hoo!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010


I wrote this yesterday for Leah Petersen's five minute fiction challenge.

I did not win, I was not even a finalist. But I liked what I came up with...

I first spotted her at the blood pressure machine, left arm cuffed. She wore sweatpants and a tank top. Her hair was unkempt at best. I shouldn’t have given her a second glance.

But there was something about her. Though I couldn’t even see her eyes, I couldn’t peel mine away. Maybe it was her skin, so smooth, pale, just the suggestion of freckles on the shoulders. I guess I’ll never know.
I stood, frozen, the cart still empty in front of me. I’d been heading for the pharmacy aisle with the intention of also making a quick trip through produce, but I couldn’t move. I listened, entranced, as the machine click click clicked, the cuff slowly releasing its grasp on her arm.
Finally, it relaxed, the reading done, and she withdrew her arm, satisfied, I think, with the result. She spotted me immediately and gave a sort of hesitant half-smile. Her face was extraordinary. Porcelain, the disheveled red hair serving to highlight her delicate features.
“It’s all yours,” she said.
Puzzled, I simply blinked a couple of times, then, broken from my reverie, realized what she meant.
“Oh, right,” I said. “Thanks.”
I had no desire to take my blood pressure – I’d fought hypertension for years and frankly feared the results – but my guilt at being caught staring got the best of me, and I took my seat in the machine.
She didn’t give me a second glance as she walked toward the front of the store. The cuff was already squeezing my arm, sending tingles into my forearm.
I cursed, disturbed with my utter inability to initiate even the most rudimentary conversation with her.
I pushed the button to interrupt the reading, pulled out my arm and, heart racing, rushed to the front door.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


First I read Lisa Adams' version. Then Jennifer Mendelsohn's. And so I decided to join in. Because, you know, why not.

So here are ten favorite things, things that just make me happy, in no particular order. May include nerdity.

1. My wife's hair. Thick, deceptively curly and gifted with a mysterious, hard to name combination of blond, brown and red tones, depending on the light.

2. Sinatra. His voice, his style, his essence. It's still Frank's world. We just live in it.

3. My books. I have way too many of them, but I love them all. And I had the chilling thought yesterday that I may not actually get to read all of them. There are so many, and so many more come out every year, and there's only so much time in a day...

4. Autumn. I like the crispness in the air, the leaves, the sweaters, the time falling back, the hot beverages and Brach's autumn mix.

5. My glasses. Okay, I both love them and hate them. I hate them because I hate the fact that I need them. My eyesight is deteriorating, so I can't read small print anymore. And it's not just small print. It's small-ish print that gives me trouble now. Still great with regular vision and long distance. But reading is becoming a glasses-madatory event. Which brings me to the glasses themselves. I specifically chose them because they were as close as I could find to the pair worn by David Tennant as Doctor Who. At last, a sort of costume piece I can wear in the real world without anyone giving me a second glance. And not as uncomfortable as wearing my home made Spider-man costume under my regular clothes way back in fourth grade. Yes, I am a nerd.

6. Donuts. I talk about them a lot more than I actually eat them, but I love them. Torus of love. Frosting of light. Sprinkles of peace.

7. Jerry Goldsmith. His music continues to challenge and inspire me. Much more than any of the individual films he scored, I love his music. It's complex, rhythmic and filled with moments that make me smile, or pause, or simply shake my head in awe. Star Trek: The Motion Picture remains his masterpiece, and some thirty years later, I still find myself listening to it all-too-often.

8. My house. It's not the greatest place in the world, it's not my dreamhouse, there are plenty of things I'd change if I could. But I love to be at home. I love to be with my family and my stuff. I love being at home.

9. Pie. Cherry pie, especially, but I also like a nice sweet/tart blueberry pie. I love baking apple pies. Some of my fondest memories involve gathering with friends once a week to bake pie and watch Twin Peaks. My dad recently passed away, and his favorite was always cherry pie. He didn't really care for anything else. I inherited this love of cherry pie and I'm thinking I need to bake and consume one soon in his honor.

10. My kids. I know, a sentimental choice, but I love the way they make me smile, the way they already seem smarter than I am, the way they make me challenge myself to become a better person. And they're both cute as buttons.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Marian Call - My New Favorite Singer

I don't really know, anymore, how I found out about her.

I could swear she began following me on the twitters. And then I began following her. It could have been the other way around, but it's hard to recall now.

Got to FlyShe is Marian Call, an Alaskan singer/songwriter/nerd. I got interested in her twitters because of the nerdliness factor. It was only incidental, to me, that she was an Alaskan folk musician. 

Over the past few months, however, I occasionally dropped by her website and listened to music samples and followed with interest her announcement of a self-funded, self-motivated, fan-driven 50 state tour. I figured she'd have to get to South Carolina at some point and I should do my best to make sure she showed up at a venue near me. I mean, how many times do you get to meet in person someone from Alaska that you only know via twitter?

I don't know how much I actually contributed to her choice of venue (although I was able to convince a local publication to run an interview with her), but last weekend she performed at Coffee Underground, a great space in our great downtown. And she was, well, great.

Marian Call's signature instrument is a typewriter. It serves as percussion during a couple of songs, including the delightful Nerd Anthem. It's a clever device and entirely fits in with the spirit of the song. And although she sings about spaceships and Firefly and Battlestar Galactica, you wouldn't necessarily know it by listening to the lyrics. Her songs are always smart, melodic and a delight to hear. She's also a performer who really shines on stage, bringing with her a lot of natural if unpolished style and wry charisma that make her a lot of fun to watch.

If she's coming to your area, she's absolutely worth checking out. Failing that, check out her debut CD, Vanilla, which contains the Volvo Song - a favorite of mine as it includes a reference to donuts.

But I don't want to leave you with the impression that she's some sort of geek novelty act. She's a smart songwriter and lovely performer and her songs are about much more than just geekery.  I can't wait for her to embark on another round-the-country tour and swing back through this area. She's just a delight. And so photogenic!
So one day, I'd like to write a song for her. Not that she needs my help, she's an excellent songwriter. But I'd love to write something in the vein of my two science-y songs (Love Theme from This Week in Science aka TWIS Theme and World Robot Domination, both of which can be heard here) and have her perform. Ah well. A boy can dream...