Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Traveling in Audio Space # 7 -- Finally! The "Traveling in Space" audiobook wraps recording

Giving "voice" to Traveling in Space
Me, Peter Lonsdale, and Jeff Cannata

After a long two years of intermittent yet lovely days of gathering with Peter Lonsdale and Jeff Cannata to “expand” my author’s voice by producing, indeed, “handcrafting,” an audiobook of my novel Traveling in Space, we wrapped recording the book on April 2nd. They were days of a certain like-mindedness in bringing the book into this medium -- modern yet ancient; literary yet dramatic; one entering the mind via a different route -- with as much craft, art, and skill possible.

Peter was determined that every 0 and every 1 in this digital landscape would be perfectly placed. Jeff was determined to make the performance of the book layered and nuanced, as he made his performance of each character the same. And I was determined to enjoy the process, to be not only the director, but the first member of the audience.

And afterwards?  We allowed ourselves to be a little silly

And now it's packaging the whole thing, adding the front and end credits -- voiced by my lovely wife, Amanda -- some music and sound design, and have it ready to launch at BayCon 2014 


over the Memorial Day weekend,

And just in time for my birthday, which just happens to fall on Memorial Day.

It’s nice of all you good people to have a BBQ in my honor.


Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Traveling in Audio Space # 6 -- Almost Done. No Fooling!

When we started this task to record an audiobook of my novel Traveling in Space,
I thought it would take us a year. After all, Peter Lonsdale, my co-producer and recording engineer, 

was only available on the weekends as he was spending his weekdays as a film editor for Disney and Dreamworks and places like that. And Jeff Cannata

who would perform the novel, is a very busy actor and host of several internet shows on the wonderful world of all things fun in science fiction, video games, fantasy, TV and movies. And I was busy doing something -- I think. I’m not sure because that was almost TWO years ago.

But, no one had given us a deadline, and we were like kids putting on a show, so we wanted to have fun doing it, and we wanted to get it right.  And the more senior members of our little crew had to take some time off to aid some starving surgeons who needed the extra work.

But be all that as it may -- here we are, about ready to finish up the audiobook, send the digital 0s and 1s off to Dave Doody, my publisher at Bl├╝roof Press, 

who will then send those 0s and 1s off to Amazon’s

We will officially launch the audiobook at BayCon 2014, being held in Santa Clara, California over the Memorial Day weekend. 

Jeff Cannata and I 

will be doing a presentation ay BayCon 2014 about our collaboration, which I think has been rather unique.

The audiobook of Traveling in Space is not a corporate product, handled by well seasoned work-for-hire pros with maybe input from the author, maybe not. And it’s not a new indie, freelance work-for-hire product many self-publishers and indie-publishers are producing these days for a market that is growing in size and listenership. We like to think our audiobook has been handcrafted by people who were all invested in it, not just as a product and as an adjunct to the print publication of the book -- but as an artistic endeavor that we believe can stand alone.

Of course, it will be up to listeners to tell us if we are correct or not. And we eagerly await their response.


Please visit my other blogs on the making of the audiobook edition of Traveling in Space:

Traveling in Audio Space # 1

Sunday, March 16, 2014

The BY THE SEA Chronicles # 1: My Ego Gets Inflated

I don’t really remember what the weather was on early Sunday morning March 10th, but whatever it was, for me it was fine. For upon opening my email after my first sip of hot Earl Grey tea, I found this from Jo Graham, my editor at Crossroad Press.

Dear Steven,
Attached is my edit of By the Sea.  I'm sorry this has taken so long, as what a pleasure it was to read!  You have written an engaging, thoughtful, and kind book that is both a crystal-clear character study and a thoughtful meditation on what art is.  Even the characters who at first appeared unlikable are drawn with sympathy and skill.  There were surprises -- I found myself changing my mind about characters over and over as I read, each new facet of them revealed skillfully and gently.  I suppose that is what strikes me the most -- in this era of unlikable characters and the idea that a "good" book is one in which horrible things happen to horrible people, you have turned that entirely on its head.  Even when people act badly, you have told their story with sympathy and grace, with a complete kindness for even the most outwardly difficult characters like Trudy, Ben, and the Major.  (It is hard to think of him as Phillip!)  By the Sea was a true privilege to edit.

If Crossroad was a traditional publisher, I would be forced to say that at better than 140,000 words it is too long.  Fortunately, Crossroad is not a traditional publisher, and I don't have to suggest that you cut a thing!  I can't imagine where you would remove 20,000 words without doing the manuscript serious harm.  So yes, it's long.  But it's not fat.  It's all muscle, and I don't think cuts are in order.

I do think, however, that structurally some things read too long.  There is, for example, one chapter that is 75 pages.  I think the reader needs a visual break, a chance to put it down, look up from the page, and reflect at suitable points.  Profitably you could cut these very long chapters into several pieces with an eye to where you'd like that impact to fall.  There are also some very long paragraphs, one that runs nearly six pages, for example.  They really needs to be broken into smaller chunks for the understanding of the reader.  Again, the visual break is important, as is the emphasis that a paragraph break makes.  Also, some of them included things like a change of location within the same paragraph, and I think that could be broken at the location change to make it clearer that a character has come indoors or gone out.  I've also flagged some typos and spelling things, but those are not major.

My main thought upon finishing is what a satisfying book it is!  You have built this small world perfectly, and each character is so complete and well thought out that what at first seem disparate pieces fit together perfectly by the end.  It's a hat trick in perfect proportions!  Half way through I was wondering -- how in the world can he make this plot work out?  And then you did.  You made it look simple, which of course is the essence of real art as you say -- the authentic voice that makes the complex seem as if it could have happened no other way.
I enjoyed By the Sea so much, and I hope it has the success it richly deserves.


It wasn’t so much that Jo liked my novel, that I already knew from previous communications, but that she took the time to tell how much she liked it, and in enough detail to demonstrate that she “Got it.”  Her praise of certain aspects of By the Sea, ones that I had endeavored with purpose to achieve, was deeply satisfying. And thrilling. What it was not, of course, was humbling. I have never trusted those people who say they have been “humbled” by praise or recognition. Praise or recognition does not humble the ego, it inflates it. Declarations of humility or of being humbled after praise or recognition -- a staple of glitzy award shows 
-- have always seemed to me to be disingenuous at best, and Uriah Heepish at worse.

Or maybe it is just my age.

Writing was my first young man’s passion. Novels and plays, that’s what I wanted to write. That passion got diverted and energies were redirected away from it, when I developed another passion for a particular art within the world of cinema. I don’t completely regret that diversion, as there were some good experiences (along with some bad, of course), some good people to collaborate with (along with some bad, of course), some international travel and living, and some fine dining. But the diversion did not allow me to be completely true to myself. Or, more importantly, to my self. Writing though, does. And I am now too old, and too cognizant of finite time, not to be true to my self.

Jo’s words doubly satisfied my self and thrilled my ego because not only has she taken on the role of Submissions Editor and Book Editor at Crossroad Press, she is an accomplished writer herself.  

Jo Graham

And one of Jo's novels

Acknowledgment from your peers, from fellow soldiers in the trenches (also talked about so much on glitzy award shows) has a precious quality beyond almost any other kind of praise. Why? Well, I recently I appeared on a panel with the great Harlan Ellison

and he put it best that day:

"Everybody in the world thinks they can do three things well. Everybody thinks they can write -- ‘Just give me the time and I’ll write’ --; everybody thinks they can drive a car, perfectly; everybody thinks they know how to fuck. When in fact all three of these arts are skills that take a great deal of practice and knowledge and expertise"

It is usually only your fellow writers who understand this, and truly appreciate the skill and knowledge and expertise you have put into your work. For the general reader, your work is just a story they either like or they don’t like -- and why should it be anything more than that? If they like your story, you are pleased, indeed. But for a fellow writer to understand and appreciate how you made that story likable, that’s where deep satisfaction can be found.

Outside of the praise, Jo said something else that I began to muse on: “If Crossroad was a traditional publisher….” That will be the subject of The BY THE SEA Chronicles # 2: To Genre or not to Genre.  

But for now, I need to get back into the manuscript and address Jo’s editorial concerns and comments, 

format a table of contents page, add a dedication page, and, in general, prepare the manuscript for final delivery to Crossroad Press. 

I don’t yet know the publication date, but I certainly won’t be shy about letting everyone know once I know.

You can read about all my books on my blog’s MY BOOKS page, where you will find handy links for ordering said books on

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Monday, January 27, 2014

Harlan Ellison, George Clayton Johnson, and Steven Paul Leiva talk about their friend, Ray Bradbury

Photo by Robert Kerr

On September 23, 2013 the Palms-Rancho Park Branch 

Library in Los Angeles was dedicated to Ray Bradbury. This had been Ray's local 

library, and he had spent many hours here with his four daughters, and 

often spoke here. I helped bring this about, although it really was the 

combined efforts of Councilmember Paul Koretz, the Los Angeles 

Public Library, the Friends of the Palms-Rancho Park Library, and 

leaders in the local community that made it happen. After the 

dedication I joined fellow authors Harlan Ellison and George Clayton 

Johnson upstairs in the Ray Bradbury Room to talk about our mutual 

friend, Ray Bradbury. This video was shot by another friend of 

Ray's, John Sasser.

Me and Harlan Ellison
Photo by Robert Kerr

Friday, November 22, 2013

12 Random Things About Me That Others May or May Not Know

The other day an old friend from high school posted one of those Facebook challenges on my page. Usually I do not rise to such challenges due to lack of inclination or time. But this one I just had to. So here are my --

12 Random Things About Me That Others May or May Not Know

1. I’m actually 6 foot 2. I just always wear my elevator shoes and push the down button.

2. While living in Japan I learned the ancient art of brewing a tea 

from the wings of the cherry tree beetle.

It has many medicinal properties.

3. I once tunneled from my backyard to my friend John’s backyard.

4. I married my wife in Hawaii after saving her from being sacrificed in a volcano.

illustration from Uncle Charlie’s Blog

5. I once spent a lovely afternoon talking with Jodie Foster on the day that she bought her first car -- it was a Jeep.

6. I have a castle in Spain.

7. I march to a different drummer -- but the son-of-a-bitch can’t keep a beat.

8. I once lived in an alternate reality 

Alternate Reality Digital Art by Sandra Bauser

-- or was that just Orange County?

9. A dog once bit off my right ear. I had the doctors graft it onto the sole of my right foot so I could keep an ear to the ground.

Self-portrait with cut ear' by Vincent Van Gogh. Photograph- Roger-Viollet/Rex Features

10. I have a younger brother, Stan, who is nothing but a figment of the imagination of a pastry chef in Bangor, Maine. 

-- Nevertheless he sends me a box of sugar cookies every year for my birthday.

11. I wear long johns in the Summer 

and nothing next to my skin in the Winter. 

That’s how much of a contrarian I am.

12.  The first time I fell in love I mistook it for a fever, so I went to bed. Unfortunately not with international supermodel

who kept asking me to come to her suite.

Although there may be some truth in each one of these -- only one of these is 100% true. Can you guess which one?