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Time Travel Stories Never Account for This One Thing

Don’t be surprised to see flashing lights behind you and hear a police siren while you read this blog post. And it’s not because that slightly illegal prank you pulled in your youth has finally caught up with you.

You’re speeding.

Yep. Sitting in your chair, sipping your coffee or munching on your favorite snack, you are moving at a pretty ridiculous clip.

We experience day and night because the Earth rotates. Being an inhabitant of the Earth and subject to its gravity, that means we are spinning along with it. Standing at the equator, you would be moving at the rate of just over 1,000 miles per hour. In the middle latitudes, where most of the human population resides, it’s roughly two-thirds of that, or six-t0-seven hundred miles an hour.

And your mom always complained about you being so slow to get ready for school in the morning!

We can’t stop there, though. We all know the Earth revolves around the sun. How fast does it have to move to do so? Pretty damn fast, as it turns out. In order for the Earth to make a complete trip around the sun in the span of a year, at a distance of ninety-three million miles away from the burning ball of hydrogen, it has to move approximately 66,000 miles per hour.

You’re really booking it! No wonder the cops are after you!

But, back to the headline of this post: time travel. Why is this movement through space important?

Let’s look at one of the most famous examples of time travel from popular culture: Doc Brown’s first experiment with Einstein the dog in Back to the Future.Bf1firetrails In the movie, Doc sends his pooch, strapped into the famous DeLorean, one minute into the future to arrive at the exact same spot. Yet, in order to do that, he would not only have to travel through time, but space as well. Consider how far you move, sitting in your chair, in the span of a minute.

Rotationally, spinning along with the Earth, you travel ten or eleven miles in that single minute. In addition, you’ve moved about 1,100 miles with the Earth following its orbit around the sun!

“All right then,” you say. “Maybe we can travel through time in exact-year increments.”

Interesting thought, but we’re not done calculating your speeding violation.

In addition to the Earth rotating and revolving around the sun, the sun is also moving at a pretty astounding pace, and dragging all of us with it in the general direction of the star Vega, within the constellation Lyra. That motion is calculated at roughly 43,000 miles per hour. Yet, even that isn’t all. The sun and our solar system also orbit within our Milky Way galaxy as it spins. Our speed as we waltz around the mysteries at the center of our galaxy? Merely 483,000 miles per hour.

That’s over 8,000 miles per minute. And we’re still not done.

The Milky Way itself is also moving, hurtling away from a universal central region we associate with the Big Bang. That speed? 1.3 Million miles per hour, or over 21,500 miles per minute.

So, in a single year— one trip around our sun— the Earth is displaced several billion miles through space from its starting point across a number of vectors of direction.

In order to travel through time to visit our own past or future, we must travel vast distances through space as well. I turned 50 years old this past year. If I wished to witness my own birth, I’d have to not only pass through those years of time, but also half a trillion miles of space!

Don’t get me wrong, I adore time travel stories— I’ve written a few! And Back to the Future is one of my all-time favorites, but it’s also fun to think about the bigger picture of time travel and what it entails. Our universe is an incredibly complex mechanism that we’ve only barely begun to understand. Maybe one day we’ll crack the code that will allow us to bounce around willy-nilly through space and time. Until then, we’ll just have to let our imaginations wander the reaches and laugh at the exploits of Doc Brown and Marty McFly.

“I’m sorry, Officer. I had no idea I was going that fast.”

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MonsterCon and The Devil You Know

In honor of the Magic City MonsterCon (which I’m attending all weekend!) I’m doing the cover reveal for my newest writing project: The Devil You Know.

You can read the first four chapters of the book (what will comprise “Episode 1” in the final product) right now at Wattpad! Here’s a link: https://www.wattpad.com/user/TuckerAuthor

Two alien races vie for control of Earth amidst a human population decimated by a merciless plague, famine, and war.

Meanwhile, the denizens of Hell grow restless. The apocalypse they were supposed to instigate and revel in is happening without them…

Doing their best to create new lives in the aftermath of the chaos triggered by the aliens’ arrival, Abraham Black and Neri White come from backgrounds about as different as their last names would indicate. Yet, together, they may hold the key which allows humanity to remain the primary tenants of Earth. The question is: how much are they willing to give up to save the world? Their memories? Their lives? Their souls?

I’m describing this story as a Post-Apocalyptic, Epic, Suburban Fantasy… with Aliens. Yes, I think it’s going to be something unlike anything you’ve read before and I’m very excited about it. The story is more adult in nature than my previous works and it’s in the final stages of editing and rewrites and my goal is to have it available this winter, hopefully in time for the holidays.

So, without further ado, here is the cover:

tdykcover_v8

What do you think? Let me know in the comments below and I hope to see some of you this weekend!

Books Aren’t Worth the Paper They’re Printed On

Got your attention?

I’m a writer. How could I possibly, truthfully express the sentiment in that headline? Well, let me tell you a story…

My mother is an avid reader, mostly of thrillers and mysteries, and she had a number of bookshelves, stocked with her favorites from over the years. Recently, she had the carpet replaced in her home and, rather than going to the trouble of reshelving most of those books when the new carpet was in and she could return her furniture to the rooms, she decided to sell the majority of those books to a used book store.

About three years ago, she made the reluctant plunge to ebooks. I say reluctant because she didn’t think she’d stick with it initially. Now, you’d have to pry her kindle from her cold, dead fingers. She’s discovered dozens of Indie authors (it helped that her son is one of them) and spends far, far less money on reading material than she used to, all the while enjoying the activity just as much as she ever did, perhaps more.

dreamstimefree_122041The paper books from her dusty shelves, which included pristine, hardback copies of Tom Clancy, Clive Cussler, and Jonathan Kellerman best sellers, didn’t hold the nostalgic value they once had. She had no interest in rereading them, so it made sense to take them to a used book store and get a few bucks for them.

Billings, Montana isn’t a huge town by most standards, but we have a number of used book stores. We stopped by one on our way to lunch, thinking to drop the books off, quickly collect a few dollars, and hopefully pay for our meal with the “windfall.” Our visit was indeed quick, but not for the reason we supposed.

“We’re not buying any books,” the clerk explained. “In fact, we’re having a big sale right now to try to pare down our inventory.”

Hm. Okay. No big deal, we thought. We’ll just try another store.

We accumulated strikes two and three faster than Casey from the Mudville Nine.

Resigned to not being able to pay for our lunch, we visited the library after we’d eaten, seeking to donate the books.

“Could you bring them by when we have our big book sale in the winter?” the lady at the front desk asked. “We really wouldn’t have any place to store them until then.”

The library doesn’t want books? It’s not like these were outdated software manuals. Tom freaking Clancy!

We ended up dropping them off at our local GoodWill. The attendant took them with a slight frown on her face.

Being a relatively well informed writer who’s steeped in ebooks, I knew the digital world has been gaining ground on the world of dead trees, but this experience really drove the point home. I remember buying and trading used books as a kid — and as an adult — for many years. Proprietors were always happy to see me come in with a box of books, because they knew I’d be trading them for more reading material and they’d generate some churn in their inventory. Now? Those stores wouldn’t even take books in trade, because their shelves were already packed to overflowing.

And people wonder why the big publishers are doing everything they can to keep ebook prices as high as possible. Their businesses are built on paper. When anyone can publish a book in electronic form and have it appear on the virtual shelves of the largest bookseller on the planet, right next to Tom freaking Clancy, where is the incentive to spend years playing the agent-to-acquisition-to-publication lottery? Especially when the payout for that particular lottery is getting smaller and smaller with each passing day.

Before long, paper books will be a novelty item, only sought out by collectors, much like vinyl records are today. Vinyl aficionados claim digital is too clean. They like to hear the hisses and pops that records produce. I suspect the same sort of folks probably like ink smudges on their fingers from printed pages as well.

Personally, words carry the same impact for me, whether displayed on a screen or paper. A good story carries me off to another world, regardless of the medium in which it’s presented.

Books are worth much more than mere paper and ink.

A Letter to Doug Preston and Authors United

Dear Mr. Preston, et al,

You don’t know me. Still, I feel like we have something in common: we love books.

I’ve been a voracious reader ever since I was a little boy. I read detective stories, science fiction, and fantasy novels by the hundreds. While I haven’t read any of your books, I have read many of the writers listed in the Authors United letter and I’ve greatly enjoyed the vast majority of those. I feel confident in assuming that they, too, love books. I’ve found it’s a largely universal reason why writers write.

Yet, it is here, with that very love of books, where the disconnect begins.

Along with loving books, you, Mr. Preston, also love your publisher — and why not? Your publisher has made your tremendous prosperity possible. In your shoes, I’m sure I would love and admire the entity that gave me such an opportunity just as strongly. If I felt they were being wronged, I would come to their defense, just as you have done. I understand your feelings and the actions that resulted from them.

What I don’t understand is this: equating books with publishers.

Why do I make that leap, you ask? Let me explain. The letter you originally penned claimed you were not taking sides in the debate between your publisher and Amazon, even though you only called on Amazon to take action to stop hurting authors. However, when Amazon made proposals to compensate the injured authors, the first of which MacMillan agreed to after their heated negotiations with Amazon a couple of years earlier, you dismissed them as being unfair to the publisher. You even called the idea “blood money”. Suddenly, the focus shifted from authors being harmed to the publisher. The underlying idea becomes what’s good for the publisher is good for the authors and their books.

Is that really true?

The big publishers have recorded larger profits for the last year or two. Random House even gave bonuses to all their employees because of the success of the Fifty Shades novels. Did authors get better terms in their contracts across the board? Was more money spent in marketing the slower selling titles because of the windfall publishers received from strong ebook sales at high profit margins? Were a larger number of new authors taken on to grow and nurture during this time of prosperity? The answer to those questions is no. You might point out that some authors, like yourself, received bigger advances for upcoming work and that is certainly true. At the same time, however, advances for new authors have shrunk to shockingly low levels. Would you sell your book to a publisher today for $5,000, paid over the course of a year or more? It would take more than twenty such advances to pay for the ad Authors United placed in the New York Times recently. Think about that. Twenty new books that those authors toiled over for months or even years. I submit that the economic gulf between you and the authors in harm’s way you purport to advocate for is much wider than you realize.

Mr. Preston, Amazon is a business. So is Hachette Book Group. This fact does not make either of them good or evil, sinners or saints. It simply means that both are trying to win a deal they feel is best for their company. End of story.

Now, I could ask you and your organization to use your influence and champion better contract terms, royalty rates, and accounting procedures for all authors from big publishing, but I won’t do that because it’s not a cause you believe in, as evidenced by your words and actions to date. What I will ask is for you to be truthful. Quit hiding behind straw men and come out and say what you really mean. The dispute between Hachette and Amazon is hurting your sales and you want it to stop. Accept your, and every other Hachette author’s, role as the child in a messy divorce case where there are no winners, only losers. Authors United has taken a side, despite your protestations of not doing so. Own it. By not asking Hachette to be equally culpable in settling their differences with Amazon, you have sided with your publisher. Your stance is emotionally understandable, as I stated earlier. Stop acting as if you’re championing authors everywhere by wielding your fortune and clout to rail against Amazon.

I love books. Books are created by writers, not agents or publishers. Certainly, editors, illustrators, and proofreaders can make a book better, but the book itself is written by a writer. Who, out of all the people I just listed, should receive the lion’s share of money from that creation? I think anyone who loves books will have a similar answer to that question.

I’ll say again, you don’t know me. I’m nobody. You’ll probably never see this letter, but if you do, I hope you’ll take into serious consideration some of the things I’ve said. Books don’t need publishers to exist, in fact, it’s the other way around. It seems to me publishers have forgotten that fact. Maybe you have too.

Sincerely,
Alan Tucker, Lover of Books
(written in response to the Publisher’s Weekly article “Authors United Preparing New Amazon Initiative”)

Content Is King

Twitch_Logo_thumbnailAmazon just spent nearly a billion dollars — yes, that’s with a Carl Sagan “B” — to acquire Twitch.tv. What is Twitch? It’s a site used mostly by gamers to live stream and record videos of themselves playing video games. Some of the users have hundreds of thousands of subscribers to their channels and sometimes tens of thousands of people watching at any one time. Not only can you watch the action, but there is a chat function as well where the streamer can interact with his/her viewers and the viewers can interact with each other.

Why is this significant? Other than the huge chunk of cash, it shows a glimpse of where Amazon is headed. They recognize that content is king. The more content they have available on their devices (Kindle, Fire TV, Phone, etc.) the more Amazon becomes a destination for their customers. Rather than creating the bulk of that content themselves, Amazon is looking to the grass roots — Indies— to fill their gadgets with fun and interesting things to see and do.

Twitch streamers are almost directly analogous to Indie authors. They are creating content and trying to find an audience. Each has their own personality, talent, and unique ideas on how to present their channel.

Books aren’t special snowflakes as some have bandied about recently. They are entertainment. As such, they compete with every other source of entertainment out there for the attention of the public. Writing a good book is a difficult task. So is writing a song, or creating a video or a game. We’re all vying for eyeballs. The big difference these days is we don’t have to have middlemen (publishers, record labels, distributors, etc.) to make it happen. We have direct, immediate conduits to those eyeballs and I, for one, am immeasurably grateful for those conduits.