‘Bet’ now at Seattle Public Library; Poll: Change Joe’s name

Bet: Stowaway Daughter cover

Bet: Stowaway Daughter, my self-published novel, is now available for checkout from the Seattle Public Library.

Getting into the local library is one of the biggest challenges for the self-published author. I’ve leapt that hurdle with my one self-published novel, Bet: Stowaway Daughter, which I released as an e-book in 2009. It’s now available for checkout at the Seattle Public Library and the King County Public Library. Download it to your Kindle! (Oh, yeah, you can buy it on Amazon.) To find it at the libary, simply search the catalog on my last name, Follansbee. Here’s the blurb:

During the Great Depression, Lisbet “Bet” Lindstrom is the 13-year-old daughter of a sea captain convicted of theft and sent to prison. Bet is convinced her father is innocent, but she has no way to prove it. Desperate to free her father, she visits his old fishing boat, and spots a horribly scarred sailor who might know the truth about the crime. Ignoring the warnings of her friends, she secretly jumps aboard the ship, and sails to Alaska. She braves huge storms, performs daring rescues and faces the man who threatens everything she loves.

I’m still hoping an agent will pick up Carbon Run, my first science fiction novel. In case no one bites, the manuscript is ready to be self-published. Lately, I’ve been thinking my author name, “Joe Follansbee,” is a bit weak, and there’s evidence that author names without a gender get more traction for certain subjects or content. (Would you buy a Regency romance novel from someone named “Joe?”) I’m conducting a poll, asking what name you prefer. Help me change my name (or not) by picking one of the options below.

Any other thoughts? Let me know.

Is Seattle the ‘New Space’ Capital of the USA?

Space Needle image

Could Seattle’s Space Needle become the symbol for the ‘New Space’ capital of the US?

When Americans think of a place for outer space on Earth, Cape Canaveral and Kennedy Space Center come immediately to mind. That’s where the United States has launched most of the manned and unmanned space missions of the past half-century. Things are changing, however. While launches will always happen close to the equator because of the physics of rocketry, the intellectual center of gravity may be shifting catty-corner to the other end of the country. Seattle may soon vie for Florida’s “Space Coast” as the principal place where the country explores the possibilities of space.

A group of enthusiasts, engineers, and business leaders argued the point at a recent meeting of the Space Entrepreneurs, a Seattle-area meetup that’s a little more than a year old. The two-dozen or so attendees, some of whom have seen everything since Sputnik, and a few were born born years after the Moon landings, debated the meaning of “old space” and “new space” as they surveyed the history of space exploration and utilization from the speculations of H.G. Wells to the investments of Elon Musk. Though the details are arguable, “old space” refers to the government and defense contractor-dominated space projects from the end of World War II through the present day. Kickstarted by the Commercial Space Launch Act of 1984, the Commercial Space Act of 1998, and later laws, “new space” took form as Congress decided NASA should not carry the entire burden of developing the country’s space capabilities. Continue reading

Why is it so hard to save our maritime heritage?


1935 ferry Kalakala in Tacoma. Photo by Joe Follansbee.

The news I dreaded for years arrived this week. The 1935 Kalakala, the only art-deco ferry ever built, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is headed for the breakers. Its death was slow, painful, and probably inevitable. It’s passing should not be a surprise. I listed it as endangered in 2011 and 2012 on my old Fyddeye website. The ferry is one of a handful of decaying large historic vessels, which include USS Olympia and SS United States, both in Philadelphia. Our national patrimony is rusting away.

For a generation in Seattle, Kalakala’s sleek design and quirky behavior stood for a city of chance-takers and idea-evangelists long before the Space Needle was built in 1963. I got to know her after the sculptor Peter Bevis rescued her from oblivion on tide flats in Kodiak, Alaska in 1998. That was the beginning of her end. I was at the auction when the 276-foot “silver slug” was taken away from Bevis in 2003. The new owner, Steve Rodrigues, had big dreams, but no money and even less political savvy. He blames her final disposal on a “conspiracy” among the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Coast Guard, the State of Washington, and the cities of Tacoma, Seattle and Kodiak. The facts are simpler: He neglected to pay her bills, and ownership fell to Karl Anderson, a Tacoma businessman. He’s had enough of her; she’ll be shards of metal by the end of this month. Continue reading

Has Game of Thrones reached its sell-by date?

George RR Martin meme

George RR Martin finishes the Game of Thrones series. Yeah, in your wildest fantasy.

Ok, so I’m late to the party, but I just spent the last six or eight weeks (I’ve lost count) reading the 1,123-page paperback edition of George R.R. Martin’s A Dance With Dragons, book five of the A Song of Ice and Fire series, mostly because my obsessive-compulsive tendencies prevented me from abandoning the door-stopper. I wasted about half that time.

You know there’s a problem when the author has to explain himself on the first page of the book. After the dedication, itself a tome (31 names!), in what he titles a “cavil,” an obscure word meaning “trivial objection,” he nearly apologizes for what he’s about to do: give you virtual whiplash by taking you backward then forward in time and into parallel universes. Off you go, don’t get lost! Continue reading

New heritage area is like Cool Whip: A tasty froth

Fireworks over Lake Union

Fireworks over Seattle’s Lake Union, which is part of a new King County maritime heritage area. Image courtesy Northwest Seaport.

Politicians love symbolic actions, especially when they’re sending a message to Congress without any cost at home. That’s the most realistic way to interpret a move by the King County Council (which governs Seattle’s home county) this week to create a county maritime heritage area. The action covers all of the county’s saltwater shore on Puget Sound and the freshwater shoreline on Lake Union and the Lake Washington Ship Canal. All the freshwater shore is within Seattle’s city limits. The county action a good thing, but only as far as it goes.

The new ordinance takes particular pains to head off any cries of “takings” or other property-rights nonsense by Tea Party fanatics or otherwise ignorant property owners. An email by King County Councilmember Larry Phillips, whose entire district is inside liberal Seattle’s city limits, says the ordinance “carries no regulatory, procedural, or property management constraints. It is intended solely to support heritage and tourism potential.” In other words, it does nothing concrete; it’s symbolic only, and even then, it only touches “potential,” a philosophical construct for something that doesn’t exist, but might. Wrap your head around that logic. Continue reading

Why arts events are like torture

trombone plus lawnmower

Yes, this person is playing a trombone accompanied by a lawnmower. Photo courtesy Society of Composers.

I attended an arts event the other day that reminded me why I don’t go to arts events. The event was one of a series of readings sponsored by a Seattle-area literary non-profit which I won’t name, but I respect it for its work with aspiring writers and young people. The event’s theme of climate change caught my eye, because global warming is a ripe, almost unexploited area for fiction. I went with notebook in hand hoping to jot down some thoughts for an article that could make me a few dollars.

No soap. The event featured three writers and a musician. The first writer, a young lawyer who had won the non-profit’s literary prize, read his story, which was a kind of satire on the environmental correctness of Seattle. I was happy that someone was willing to take on the city’s culture of “Let’s do something for the environment, no matter how stupid it is.” But he said nothing substantive or satirical about climate change. Continue reading

Remembering the last man of a ship’s final crew

Dave Wright photo

Dave Wright, left, and his brother Frank Wright, on Wawona. The photo was probably taken in 1947.

The Pacific Northwest lost a piece of its irreplaceable history last week, and I lost a friend. Dave Wright, the last surviving fisherman who sailed on the schooner Wawona, died on February 11 in Anacortes at the age of 94. Dave was the single most important source for my book, Shipbuilders, Sea Captains and Fishermen: The Story of the Schooner Wawona. The book told the story of the 1897 lumber and fishing schooner Wawona, which was preserved at South Lake Union in Seattle until 2009, when it was broken up. I dedicated my book to Dave, who sailed on Wawona three times.

Dave Wright

Dave Wright

While I was researching the book, I visited him exactly 10 years ago at his home in Anacortes. He was cheerful and energetic, even though he had just lost his wife, Dolly “Ruth” Wright. He visited with me for nearly two hours, regaling me with stories of his time on Wawona. Born in 1919, he wanted to live a life at sea, and his first trip as a young man was on Wawona in 1940. He sailed on her twice more, in 1941, just before the outbreak of World War II, and in 1947, the last time Wawona sailed.

I dug into my old Wawona notes and found an anecdote. Although the year of the incident is unclear, Dave remembered Capt. Thorsten “Tom” Haugen, a Norwegian immigrant whom Dave described as a “a very kind gentleman.” Dave and the other fishermen caught fish from a power dory, a modified Gloucester dory with an outboard engine.

One time, it was so foggy, I couldn’t see my hand in front of my face. All I had was a compass and a watch. I couldn’t hear anything. I’d go a little ways and time it against the tide and stop the motor and listen. I heard a loud boom that bounced off the dory. I didn’t know what it was. Well, in the early morning, the fog would lift a bit off the water. I looked around and saw the ship 50 or 60 feet behind me. Someone was firing a gun, and the noise I heard was the sound bouncing off my dory. And Capt. Haugen says to me, “Vat’s da madder? Wouldn’t you rather sleep in your dory all night long?”

When Dave died last week, a chapter in Northwest history closed forever. He was likely the last surviving fisherman who sailed with the last working fleet of sailing vessels flying the U.S. flag. The final trip by one of these vessels took place in 1950, and that boat, C.A. Thayer, is now preserved in San Francisco. I wrote my Wawona book in part to preserve her stories, because I knew the ship itself was in grave danger. My fears were borne out, and I owe Dave a debt of gratitude for sharing his story.

Photos from Seattle Indie Book Fair

I visited the first annual Seattle Indie Book Fair today at the A/NT Gallery on Westlake in Seattle. At least two dozen independent authors and small press proprietors packed the gallery with science fiction, fantasy, non-fiction, and poetry. The gallery is a great space for showcasing some fabulous work by people taking DIY publishing to a new level. I purchased a Christmas comic and a fantasy novel. I can’t wait for next year’s fair!

1st Seattle Indie Book Fair Dec. 20-21

Indie Book Fair logo

The first-ever Seattle Indie Book Fair is scheduled for Dec. 20-21, 2013 at the A/NT Gallery.

More than 30 independent Seattle authors will gather for the first time at a downtown Seattle art gallery in December to discuss and sell copies of their work to the public. The inaugural Seattle Indie Book Fair is scheduled for 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday, December 20-21, 2013 at the A/NT Gallery, 2045 Westlake Avenue, Seattle. Several genres will be represented, including science fiction, fantasy, romance, and literary fiction.

Independent authors are writers who have published novels, poetry, and other works outside of the traditional book publishing industry. Instead of submitting manuscripts to publishers, who then produce the work, independent authors contract directly with editors, cover artists, and printers to publish. Many independent authors sell copies to the public in person or online. Bookstores may also carry their works.

At the Indie Book Fair, authors will present readings and sign books. The fair is an opportunity for readers to meet independent authors and learn about their writing and publishing. Author readings are scheduled 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., Saturday, December 21, at the A/NT Gallery. More information can be found at www.indiebookfair.com.

Seattle-based Fuzzy Hedgehog Press is welcoming more authors to the fair. Tables are $20 each and may be shared. Ten percent of sales proceeds will support the gallery. Small presses are also invited to the fair. To register, send email to contact@indiebookfair.com. Fuzzy Hedgehog Press is presenting the Seattle Indie Book Fair in collaboration with the A/NT Gallery, a non-profit, all-volunteer business whose mission is to provide an open venue for Seattle’s arts community.

Get Poetry With Your Pill Refill

Espresso Book Machine, Bartell Drugs

The Espresso Book Machine at Bartell Drugs in Seattle’s University Village shopping mall.

Aspiring authors in Seattle can now print copies of their novel while waiting for a refill of their prescriptions. The Bartell Drugs store near the University of Washington has installed an Espresso Book Machine as part of a pilot project with Kodak Alaris. The machine can print single or multiple copies of a book uploaded to the machine, in much the same way consumers can walk up to a Kodak photo kiosk and get on-demand prints of digital photos. The print-on-demand service is integrated into the kiosk’s menu of services. The EBM at Bartell’s is one of only three in Washington State.

The Digital Reader and online trade publications reported the venture earlier this week. A clerk at the Seattle store said the machine was installed about two weeks ago, and that Bartell’s was working on a web interface for the project. If the web interface is similar to other printing and copying services, writers will be able to upload PDF files from home and pick up the printed books at Bartell’s when they’re ready. Based on the marketing material at the store, Bartell’s and Kodak appear to be targeting writers, poets, students, and genealogists  who want to see their work in print, but don’t want to go through the arduous process of traditional publishing or independent publishing through author services companies, such as CreateSpace or Lulu.

According to a price sheet at the store, authors can purchase a basic cover design for $150 and formatting services based on word count, ranging from $299 for a manuscript with 25,000 words or less, to $449 for books up to 150,000 words. Authors can buy one or more copies; pricing starts at $7 per copy plus $.03 per page. A 100-page book, for example, would cost the author $10. The price sheet has no information on ISBN purchasing or marketing services.

As you might expect, Kodak and Bartell’s is pitching print-on-demand as an easy and cheap way to get published. The reality is very different. The vast majority of writers know little about cover design and layout, meaning most will want to purchase these features. A 100,000-word novel plus cover will run $599. Assuming the novel runs the standard 300 pages (give or take), each copy will cost $16 ($7 plus 300 times $.03). 100 copies will run $1,600, bringing the total price for a typical project to $2,199. EBM services may be more appropriate for small books of poetry and family histories, which have fewer pages and simpler design needs, and thus lower costs.

What do you think? Will you use Bartell’s POD service?