Filed under: Amazon, Apollo program, Buzz Aldrin, Connections, Feedback, Health, Humor, ISS, Kindle, Man Conquers Space, Marketing, NASA, Neil Armstrong, Promotion, Publishing, Science, Science Fiction, Space, Writing stuff | Tags: Alzheimer's, Amazon, Apollo, Apollo 11, blogging, Buzz Aldrin, Buzzfeed, care-giving, Chris Hadfield, direct publishing, free, health, Her Final Year, hospice, humor, jim downey, John Bourke, Kindle, Michael Collins, Moon, NASA, Neil Armstrong, promotion, science, Science Fiction, space, St. Cybi's Well, writing
And you can pee upside down, which I did, just for fun. Wouldn’t you?
Great little list about the reality of spaceflight at this point in time. Perfect perspective for this weekend, since he manages to capture and convey the wonder and excitement so many of us felt from the Apollo era. It’s so easy to lose your vision, your enthusiasm, in the grim plodding of day-to-day life.
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Thanks to all who helped make the recent anniversary promotion of Her Final Year a success! Worldwide there were about 150 downloads – not a huge number, but it is progress. I hope the book can help those who downloaded it.
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Progress continues on St Cybi’s Well. Hope to wrap up Chapter 9 in the next couple of days.
Filed under: Alzheimer's, Amazon, Health, Kindle, Marketing, Promotion, Publishing, tech | Tags: Alzheimer's, Amazon, blogging, care-giving, dementia, direct publishing, free, health, Her Final Year, hospice, jim downey, John Bourke, Kindle, promotion, technology
Today’s the last day to snag a free copy of the Kindle edition of Her Final Year! Remember, you don’t need an actual Kindle to take advantage of this — Amazon has a free Kindle emulator/app for just about any phone, tablet, laptop, or computer out there, and it will sync up with your Amazon account so you can read the same book across many different platforms without any trouble whatsoever. You can find full information there on the page for Her Final Year.
So, get it. Read it. Share it.
Filed under: Alzheimer's, Amazon, Feedback, Health, Kindle, NPR, Preparedness, Society | Tags: Amazon, blogging, care-giving, caregiving, cerebral palsy, dementia, feedback, free, health, Her Final Year, hospice, jim downey, John Bourke, Kindle, KXJZ, NPR, predictions, promotion, reviews, stroke
NPR recently did a very good series looking at family caregivers — those who are caring for a family member who has dementia or has suffered a sudden serious illness/injury or lives with a challenging birth defect. I thought that it was particularly good in highlighting how the traditional image we have of caregivers has been changing. Installments in the series concerned parents caring for a 16 year-old son with cerebral palsy, a 46 year-old woman caring for her sister who suffered a devastating stroke (as well as their father who has dementia), and a retired man who cares for his wife of 42 years who has dementia.
None of it is easy to listen to. None of it is easy to contemplate. I think all of us shy away from the thought of such a responsibility. I think all of us wonder whether or not we would be adequate to the challenge of caring for someone at this level.
Three years ago we published Her Final Year. In that time the book has been downloaded nearly 10,000 times. And when people read it, they find it a huge help, as seen in reviews and in plenty of comments which people have made to us.
But I know that many of those 10,000 downloads, perhaps even most of them, have never been read. Many people are so daunted by the idea of caregiving that they just can’t bring themselves to read the book. I know a couple of people who are currently *in* a caregiving role who haven’t been able to bring themselves to open the book, because they’re afraid that they can’t face the experience.
I understand this. Contemplating being a caregiver … or being someone who needs a caregiver … is frightening. The experience is incredibly stressful. Exhausting. Financially difficult. That comes through in the NPR series, and in our book. In spades. From the second story cited above:
“The experience for these caregivers is quite burdensome, emotionally and physically,” Hoffman says.
The work these family caregivers are doing would be enormously expensive if their loved ones were instead in nursing homes or other institutions, Hoffman says. But the caregivers also often find they must cut their hours at work or, as in Loretta’s case, give up outside jobs in order to care for their relatives.
“In effect,” Hoffman says, “we are taking care of the most vulnerable in our society — aging adults who have chronic care needs — by placing the burden on the backs of some of the people who can least afford to do … those who are themselves economically fragile and vulnerable.”
Little wonder people don’t want to picture themselves in that role. It’d scare the hell out of anyone with any sense.
But you know what? There are also incredible rewards which come from caregiving. It may be hard to believe, but as hard as the experience is, there are real benefits. We try and convey that in the book. I try to explain to people how I am a much better person now for having gone through that. And that I would not wish to go back and erase those difficult years for anything. But here’s a bit from the third story cited above which illustrates what I mean:
Dementia has transformed her into someone who’s dependent and vulnerable. That’s triggering changes within Rick, too. He’s noticed himself gravitating toward traits Marianne was known for, like empathy.
“The importance of listening and caring for others. Now I can see why that is so important and why you can go through life just giving and feeling totally satisfied. You know, that’s a good thing,” Rick says.
Marianne may no longer be the woman Rick married, but he says she’s still helping him become a better husband.
Three years. The actual anniversary is July 15th. And Her Final Year will be available for free download starting that day and going through the 17th. Please, download it.
But more importantly, read it.
Filed under: Amazon, Connections, Emergency, Feedback, Flu, General Musings, Health, Kindle, Marketing, NPR, Pandemic, Plague, Predictions, Preparedness, Promotion, Science, Science Fiction | Tags: Amazon, anthrax, blogging, CDC, CNN, Communion of Dreams, Ebola, FDA, feedback, free, health, jim downey, Kindle, medicine, NIH, NPR, predictions, promotion, reviews, Sarin, science, Science Fiction, serendipity, Smallpox, St. Cybi's Well, WHO, writing
First, thanks again to one and all for helping to make my recent promotion a success! We did finish the weekend with just under 500 total downloads worldwide. Yay!
In addition, there’s a new review up over on Amazon. Here’s how it starts:
A good story, and an excellent first novel.
This kept me interested until it was finally done.
For a first novel it was very good.
There were a couple of awkward sentences I had to re-read, but most books have that.
The plot was good, and different.
I am a bit amused that some people focus in on the “first novel” thing, and sometimes it seems that they feel like they can’t give a 5-star rating just on that basis. But perhaps they’re just trying to be nice in comments. If you have a chance, and haven’t yet done so, please consider posting your own review on Amazon (or elsewhere). Thanks!
There have been a couple of fairly scary pandemic stories in the news lately. One which has gotten a lot of attention is the Ebola outbreak, and how it has spread more than previous outbreaks. One which is even more frightening (to me) is word of an accidental anthrax exposure which went undetected for upwards of a week at a major supposedly secure research lab, the CDC bioterrorism facility in Atlanta. From one article:
Unfortunately, such scenarios are very real threats to not just lab workers but to the general population should a deadly contagion escape undetected the same way the CDC anthrax exposure remained undetected for possibly an entire week. That much time lapse for a deadly viral infection could prove devastating to the world population.
As it turns out, I am right at the point in St Cybi’s Well when first reports of the fireflu outbreak has hit the news. At first it is thought to be a Sarin gas attack at Hartsfield–Jackson International Airport in Atlanta. From the book:
“Jay, I’m here at the Georgia International Convention Center, just west of the airport. Authorities have turned this into something of a command center for the developing crisis, since they have put the entire airport terminal on lock-down.” She was reporting from a large, open room. In the background there was a stage and podium, where a small knot of government officials were standing and taking turns addressing the crowd of reporters and film crews down on the floor in front of them. “As you can imagine, the situation here is very confused at present, with conflicting reports coming from the airport itself about how many people have been injured in the attack, when it likely happened, how it was detected, and what steps are being taken to protect the public. What is certain is that while this airport – one of the busiest in the world – always has a number of arriving and departing flights, that the attack came sometime late at night has meant that the number of victims is much smaller than it could have been. We’re due to receive an update on the situation at 3:00 AM local time, which is in about an hour and fifteen minutes. Back to you.”
Serendipity. Scary, scary serendipity.
Edited to add this tasty tidbit of news which broke just in the last hour:
Scientists cleaning out an old laboratory on the National Institutes of Health campus in Bethesda, Md., last week came across a startling discovery: Vials labeled “variola” – in other words, smallpox.
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In a statement Tuesday, the agency said scientists did indeed find smallpox DNA in the vials. Scientists are now testing the sample to see whether any of the is still capable of causing disease. That testing will take two weeks.
The laboratory on the NIH campus had been transferred to the Food and Drug Administration in 1972. It was being cleaned out as the FDA was preparing to move that lab to its main campus.
Filed under: Amazon, Augmented Reality, Connections, Kindle, Marketing, Promotion, Religion, Science Fiction, Wales, Writing stuff | Tags: Amazon, augmented reality, blogging, Communion of Dreams, free, Japan, jim downey, Kindle, promotion, religion, Science Fiction, St David's Cathedral, St. Cybi's Well, Wales, writing
And because of those words, he did look down. And he saw a line. A wide line of darker grey stone which ran from the center of the West Front door to the pulpit. But there was something else there, as well. Something … deeper. Almost like water, shimmering. Somehow under the stone. Infusing the stone. Was it one of the absurd ley lines which St. John had talked about? But Darnell didn’t believe in those.
Or did he?
What did he believe, anymore?
“Look at it with new eyes,” Megan had said. “Try and see it as the believers see it.”
The believers? Or we believers? Did the distinction make sense anymore?
Did it matter?
He stepped onto the line.
Of course, it was like stepping onto any other stone. Solid. Hard. Dependable. Real.
He took another step, along the line of grey. And it was still solid. But now he felt something like a tremor run through the floor. He glanced up at the gorgeous wooden ceiling overhead, and remembered that it was there due to an earthquake which struck the area back in the thirteenth century. And he wondered whether the fault was again active.
But none of the others in the cathedral seemed to notice the tremor. No bells chimed in the distance. The carved panel depiction of the crucifixion high above did not sway.
He took another step, paying close attention. Again, he felt something. But it was less a tremor, and more a slight vibration, a springiness, like stepping onto a taut trampoline or a tightrope. There was a … strumming … but only in response to his steps. This wasn’t a ley line, at least not as he had understood it. It was, rather, a living path.
There’s about 12 hours left in this weekend promotion. About 500 people worldwide have downloaded Communion of Dreams so far … including, for the first time (that I can recall, anyway) 3 downloads in Japan. Pretty cool.
Filed under: Amazon, Connections, Feedback, Fireworks, Government, Humor, Kindle, Marketing, Promotion, Science Fiction | Tags: America, blogging, Communion of Dreams, direct publishing, feedback, Fourth of July, free, humor, Independence Day, jim downey, July 4th, Kindle, promotion, Science Fiction
I bought you a book:
Digital List Price: $3.01 What’s this? Print List Price: $11.95 Kindle Price: $0.00 You Save: $11.95 (100%)
See? It’s free! Today through Sunday! Go get a copy! Tell your friends to go get a copy! Tell your dog to go get a copy! But not your cat. Cats prefer to read the wallpaper. You know how they are.
Seriously, Happy Fourth to one and all.
Filed under: Alzheimer's, Amazon, Connections, Depression, Feedback, Health, Hospice, Humor, Kindle, Science Fiction | Tags: Alzheimer's, Amazon, blogging, care-giving, Communion of Dreams, dementia, feedback, free, health, Heidegger, Her Final Year, hospice, jim downey, John Bourke, Kindle, reviews, Science Fiction
The caregiver puts up with that out of love and decency. This book describes these things in the form of daily and weekly accounts as well as diary log pages of personal fear and depression and exasperation and recurring bubbling senses of humor. I loved this because it made me cry and it made me laugh. It’s not all drudgery. It’s hysterically funny at times. But it wouldn’t be funny at all if you didn’t love the patient. This is a book of love…
So often people see the words “Alzheimer’s” or “dementia” or even “care-giving” and just move on, thinking that the book (and the experience) is nothing but darkness and depression. And yeah, there is darkness there, but to borrow a phrase from Communion of Dreams/Heidegger: “That which emerges from darkness gives definition to the light.”
We’re coming up on the three-year publishing anniversary (July 15). If you haven’t yet read Her Final Year go ahead and do so. If you want to wait a month, the Kindle edition will be available for free download around the anniversary.
And if you have read it, please consider posting your own review on Amazon or elsewhere. It helps.
Filed under: Alzheimer's, Amazon, Artificial Intelligence, Brave New World, Connections, Feedback, Genetic Testing, Health, Hospice, Humor, Kindle, Marketing, movies, Promotion, Publishing, Science, Science Fiction, tech, Writing stuff, YouTube | Tags: Aliens, Alzheimer's, Amazon, artificial intelligence, blogging, direct publishing, DNA, feedback, free, health, Her Final Year, hospice, humor, jim downey, John Bourke, Kindle, movies, promotion, science, Science Fiction, Scrivener, St. Cybi's Well, synthetic biology, technology, writing, www youtube
Catch this news this week?
Synthetic biology: New letters for life’s alphabet
The five bases found in nucleic acids define the ‘alphabet’ used to encode life on Earth. The construction of an organism that stably propagates an unnatural DNA base pair redefines this fundamental feature of life.
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Sorry about the sparseness of posting lately. I’ve been … busy. Have had a couple of interesting things happen which could play out in some very good ways. One is still enough in an embryonic stage that I won’t mention anything about it yet, but the other is far enough along that I’ll share: there’s a literary agent who is potentially interested in representing me, something which I have been thinking about for a while.
And it seems like a good enough fit that I took all of last weekend to put together a submission package for formal consideration. That meant going through and doing fairly thorough revisions to the first few chapters of St Cybi’s Well, using the feedback I have gotten from half a dozen ‘beta readers’, as well as composing a formal synopsis of the book. Frankly, both were a lot of work, and somewhat skewed my normal work schedule such that it is just now getting back to what passes for normal in my life.
But it was also helpful, and forced me to clarify some things which I had left unfocused for the rest of the book. Because of the way I am writing this (using Scrivener), it has been fairly easy for me to block out both the overall arc of the book as well as character developments. But doing so has been based on chapter notes more than anything, meaning that it was still somewhat in flux. Creating a full synopsis meant that I had to put the whole thing into one coherent document. And even though it was something of a pain in the butt, the result is helpful.
I’ll keep you posted as to any concrete developments.
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Remember this scene from Aliens?
Considered a classic, and rightly so. But I’ve always thought that a big part of the brilliance of it is how it sets up what happens immediately after:
Back at the groups’ table, Bishop holds up his hand and examines a tiny cut closely.
BURKE: I thought you never missed, Bishop?
To Ripley’s horror, a trickle of white synthetic blood runs down his finger. Ripley spins on Burke, her tone accusing.
RIPLEY: You never said anything about an android being on board! Why not?!
BURKE: It never occurred to me. It’s common practice. We always have a synthetic on board.
BISHOP: I prefer the term ‘artificial person’ myself.
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Oh, one more thing: in observation of Mother’s Day, the Kindle edition of Her Final Year is available for free download through Sunday, May 11th. If you’re new here, just a quick note: this is our care-giving memoir about the challenges and rewards of caring for someone with dementia, as well as the long recovery/reflection period which comes after. It seems to have helped a lot of people. Perhaps it can help you or someone you know.
Filed under: Art, Augmented Reality, BoingBoing, Brave New World, Connections, Cory Doctorow, Music, Predictions, Science Fiction, Synesthesia, tech | Tags: art, augmented reality, blogging, Boing Boing, Communion of Dreams, Imogen Heap, jim downey, Kickstarter, Kindle, music, predictions, Science Fiction, synesthesia, technology, video, Vimeo
One of my favorite characters in Communion of Dreams is the artist Duc Ng. Here’s the description of him when he is introduced in Chapter 2:
Duc Ng was an artist. A holo sculptor, whose specialty was slow-progression transformations. The works were beautiful, inspired, and appreciated by almost anyone who saw them. Ng had jacked-up cyberware to heighten his sensitivity, and used psychotropic drugs tailored to cause neurotransmitter activity to increase dramatically. This created an artificial synesthesia for a short period of time, during which the usual senses became blurredand intermingled, adding layer upon layer of perception.
Note the phrase “jacked-up cyberware”. While it plays a role in the plot, I put this in there because I’ve always admired the way that artists are constantly pushing to adapt new technologies in the creation of their art. Here’s a passage from the beginning of Chapter6 when we first get a look at Ng using his skills:
There was just one other person in the room, standing at the side of the holo platform, hands dancing over a control board only he could see. It was Ng, dressed fittingly in a jumpsuit of the same black material from which the drapes and carpet were made.
“Isn’t that stuff hot?” asked Jon, nodding toward Ng’s clothing.
“Nah, I’ve got a coolpack plugged into it. Not as efficient as a real military stealth suit, but it works. Reduces the problems I have with creating my sculptures.”
Jon looked to the dance Ng’s hands played in the air. “About ready?”
Ng said nothing, but his fingers tapped a command in the air. Instantly, there appeared an image above the holo projector.
“These beautiful gloves help me gesturally interact with my computer,” says Heap, explaining how the wearable technology allows her to perform without having to interact with keyboards or control panels.
Pushing buttons and twiddling dials “is not very exciting for me or the audience,” she says. “[Now] I can make music on the move, in the flow and more humanly, [and] more naturally engage with my computer software and technology.”
There’s a brilliant video which demonstrates the potential of her gloves:
And she has started a Kickstarter to help develop the technology to share with other performance artists:
Wonderful. I’m in to support it. And yeah, I think that’s another prediction from CoD coming true.
Filed under: Amazon, Connections, Feedback, Kindle, Marketing, NPR, Predictions, Promotion, Publishing, Quantum mechanics, Religion, Science, Science Fiction, Writing stuff | Tags: Amazon, blogging, Communion of Dreams, direct publishing, free, Her Final Year, jim downey, Kindle, multiverse, NPR, promotion, religion, science, Science Fiction, St. Cybi's Well, writing
Infinity gets us tangled up in knots. How are we to establish what is normal when, in the realm of the infinite, everything is possible? It is a mind-twisting notion that an infinite multiverse would have infinitely many copies of this and every other possible kind of universe.
A quick note on the two-day promo: there were very few additional downloads of Her Final Year yesterday, for a grand total worldwide of 56 copies. A bit surprising, a little disappointing. Communion of Dreams fared much better, with a total of 1092 downloads around the world. Thanks, everyone!