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Press Release Q&A

Less than a week to go till launch day!

First, my thanks to all the readers who posted reviews of the Regarding Ducks and Universes ARCs on Amazon, Goodreads, LibraryThing and other places. Every review helps spread the word and is much appreciated!

Second, this week we have the signed copies of Regarding Ducks and Universes going out to the Goodreads giveaway winners. One to Canada, two to Great Britain, and seven to various corners of the U.S. Winners, be on the lookout for the book in about 7 to 10 days, depending on where you are.

Finally, below is the Q&A going out with the press release, with the “Q” part courtesy of the great Sarah Burningham of Little Bird Publicity.

Q: Most science fiction writers don’t have a background in real science, but you graduated with your Ph.D. from Stanford’s renowned STAR Lab. How did your scientific work influence your fictional writing? Did working in science inspire you to write?

Neve Maslakovic: When I first tried my hand at writing fiction, I found that the process is a close cousin of scientific research—you come up with an idea, sit down at your desk (or in your lab), work at it, spend time thinking, backtrack, try a different approach…neither one happens neatly and both are very creative endeavors. Science is guided by observation and deduction, of course, while in writing REGARDING DUCKS AND UNIVERSES my aim was to make the novel a fun read and a bit thought-provoking at the same time. Ultimately, though, you’re just tinkering with ideas until you hit upon something that works and feels right. I don’t feel I’ve moved wholly away from science; on the contrary—scientists and academic settings inhabit my stories.

Q: You were born in communist Yugoslavia and have lived all over the world. How did your travels impact the creation of Universe A and Universe B in REGARDING DUCKS AND UNIVERSES?

NM: I love to travel, both in person and virtually, by reading about real places or by writing about imagined ones. Sometimes a place that’s only a little different than what we’re used to can be more disconcerting than a place that’s hugely different. To that end, I wanted Universe A and Universe B to be ‘next-door’ kind of universes to ours and to each other; the laws of physics are the same and people don’t have five arms, but in Universe B ordinary things like paper books and Ferris wheels seem out of place to A-dweller Felix Sayers, who’s come from a more technologically and environmentally oriented society. So he’s a little baffled by San Francisco B, especially as it seems that someone is trying to kill him.

Q: What made you decide to set REGARDING DUCKS AND UNIVERSES in San Francisco?

NM: I think writers, even ones of speculative fiction, always end up writing about their lives and the places they’ve been, even if only in some extended sense. I was in California for twelve years, and, like all the places I’ve lived, it’s become a part of me. And San Francisco, in particular, is such a unique and interesting city, a city of innovation, a literary city. A perfect setting for basement-lab experiments with universes and for an encounter with a paper book for the first time.

Q: What can we expect to see next from you? More science fiction? Or maybe something travel-related?

NM: As a matter of fact, the novel I’m currently working on is going to be both science fiction and travel-related. I don’t want to say too much at this early stage, but let’s just say that this time there are no ducks, but there is an Australian didgeridoo. And Fibonacci numbers. And cheese, lots of cheese. And time travel.

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Whence Yabput…???

Every blog needs a name and this one’s is Yabput

A bit of an explanation is in order.

To the right of this post, under the little blurb about Regarding Ducks and Universes, is a concise definition:

Yabput (n.) yaab-poot
Yet another branching point in the universal timeline.


So far so good. It kinda, sorta makes sense. Especially since at the top of the page it says: Yabput: Neve’s News and Updates. What it means is that every time I write a post about a book giveaway or an event or even just jot down a thought for the day, I feel like a universe (as per the many-worlds interpretation) just might be branching off… That is to say, there are other universes in which I’m too lazy or too busy to post or am in bed with the flu, but in ours here I am.

In Regarding Ducks and Universesuniverses branch off whenever a significant event occurs. But what’s a significant event? In the book the explanation goes something like this:

As Pak packed up his laptop, I asked, “What constitutes a significant chain of events, anyway?”
Arni sent a quick glance in the direction of Tulip, who was securing an attachment to the vacuum in a dilatory manner, and repeated, “What constitutes a significant event chain? Anything that creates a universe.”
“And what creates a universe?”
“Anything that constitutes a significant event chain.”
“Anything that—oh, for heaven’s sake,” I said, and stomped up to my room.

 I suspect something similar holds for blogs:

What constitutes good blog-post material?
Anything that makes for a good blog post.

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Neve’s Doing a Reading at the Loft!

So this is exciting news — we’ve gone ahead and scheduled the very first “official” book reading for Regarding Ducks and Universes. It’s going to be held on Thursday, March 17, at 7:00 p.m. at the Loft Literary Center. That’s in the Open Book building here in downtown Minneapolis. (Map below). The event will be free and open to the public.

I’ll do a talk and a reading, followed by a Q&A session and book signing. I’m looking forward to it, it should be fun. Come on by! Bring lots of questions!

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ABNA 2011

For those of you who don’t know it, the story of how Regarding Ducks and Universes came to be published goes something like this: I entered the manuscript in the 2009 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest. The novel made the semifinals. It didn’t win. About a year later, in late May of 2010, as I was revising and sending queries to agents (with very limited success), I got the offer from AmazonEncore, the new imprint of Amazon. The book will be published both in print and on Kindle on February 22.

This year’s contest opens on Monday, with submissions accepted until February 6th. (Enough time for anyone interested in entering to get in one last edit of their manuscript before the deadline!)
The year I did it, there was only one grand prize, but this year, like in 2010, there will be two grand prizes, one for General Fiction and one for Young Adult Fiction. Below is some basic information from the Amazon site about ABNA 2011. More details can be found here.


Amazon.com, along with Penguin Group (USA) and CreateSpace, is pleased to announce the fourth annual Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Contest, the international competition seeking the next popular novel. The competition will once again award two grand prizes: one for General Fiction and one for Young Adult Fiction. Each winner will receive a publishing contract with Penguin, which includes a $15,000 advance.

The Breakthrough Novel Award Contest brings together talented writers, reviewers, and publishing experts to find and develop new voices in fiction. If you’re an author with an unpublished or previously self-published novel waiting to be discovered, visit CreateSpace to sign up for regular contest updates. Open submissions for manuscripts will begin on January 24, 2011 and run through February 6, 2011.


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Out with the Old, in with the New… Cover?

When buying your first house/apartment you often hear this bit of advice: Don’t get emotionally attached to any single house, even after you’ve put in an offer. Too many variables, too many things that can change suddenly. It turns out a similar warning holds for a book: Don’t get attached to the ARC cover.

I had gotten quite fond of the big, perky, yellow duck that squats on the cover of the Advance Reader’s Copy of Regarding Ducks and Universes. However, the book’s publisher, the good folks over at AmazonEncore, after some consideration, suggested that that cover felt “unfinished” and “didn’t reflect the depth of the book.” So they sent me a pdf file of a new one. What did I think?

It took me about a day to come to this conclusion: By golly, they’re right. The new cover is better. More intriguing, more indicative of the book as a parallel-universe mystery. “Fun, mysterious, dramatic,” my friend Mary Alterman said. “It pulls you in,” Jo, another friend from my writing group, commented.

In a previous post, I’d merrily informed the giveaway winners that there’d only be minor changes between the ARC, the warts-on version of the book, and the final product. A handful of typos to be fixed, I wrote, a small goof with a date, a runaway case of italics, some small edits in the text, that was all. No major changes, I said. Wrong I was.

So in with the new:

And out with the old:

I’ll probably always feel a bit of nostalgia for the old cover. But, on the plus side, procrastinating on ordering cover-based bookmarks (in lieu of business cards) turned out to be not such a bad idea after all.

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Myriad Myriads

Writing a novel is making a thousand little decisions, some requiring a day of thought or more, but most of them made right on the spot, with no lifting of fingers from the keyboard: Will your protagonist have long hair or short? Do his sleuthing on a foggy day or a sunny day? Pilfer sourdough bread starter, as instructed by his boss, or not?… Many, many daily decisions — a myriad of them, you might say. Which brings me to the topic of today’s post. Myriad. Is it a noun, an adjective, what?

It was more than a point of grammar for me as I wrapped up the final edit of Regarding Ducks and Universes. In Universe B, as it happens, they use Ancient Roman units of measurement: stadium (just over 200 yards) and libra (about 0.7 pounds and where, incidentally, the modern pound gets its abbreviation of lb). But what of myriad?

In our own universe the original Greek word started out with essentially the same meaning it has now (abundant, numerous, countless) according to Gullberg’s Mathematics: From the Birth of Numbers. The word later acquired a more specific meaning — it denoted the number ten thousand. (Tens, hundreds, thousands, myriads…) As it made its way into English via Latin, myriad lost its mathematical meaning, much like decimate no longer means reduce by (exactly) a tenth.

Numbers do come up in Regarding Ducks and Universes a lot: house numbers, cups of tea drank, the number of people in the world, that kind of thing. I had small numbers, I had big numbers, but none of them* happened to be exactly 10,000. I briefly though about using myriad myriads (as Archimedes did when estimating the number of grains of sand), but that seemed kind of awkward. So I took the easy route: myriads of Bygone Times Sourdough Bread Makers in Universe B implies what it usually does, an unspecified large number.

Oh, and the word can be either an adjective or a noun. So it’s perfectly fine to say I hope my next novel doesn’t require a myriad of edits.  It’s also fine to say And that it sells myriad copies.

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*Curiously, I ended up having the number in the book after all: ten thousand libras, for the mass of a typical Universe B car. When writing a novel this kind of thing happens all the time.

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Stats for a Giveaway

The first giveaway of copies of Regarding Ducks and Universes has officially wound down — we had over a thousand people enter (1144 to be exact), a number that is not unusual for Goodreads, but which still staggered me! I’ve never done a giveaway before and it’s nice when people think your book sounds like something they might want to read. So I’ll have the pleasure of mailing four copies to various corners of the United States and one to the north of Great Britain.

A reminder that these are the ARCs (the Advance Reader Copies) going out. There won’t be any major changes in text between the ARC and the finished product. Minor changes, yes. Between the publisher’s proofreading and mine, we’ve found a handful of typos (titled instead of tilted, wondered instead of wandered), one small goof with a date, an ampersand that mysteriously changes shape throughout the book*, and a runaway case of italics. I’m also sneaking in a minor tweak here and there ’cause that’s what I like to do, edit, and this is my very last chance to do so after five years of work on RD&U.

So, winners, be on the lookout for the books (after I figure out how best to package them). Everyone else, be on the lookout for the next giveaway — signed copies of RD&U — which I’ll do as the book launch date nears.

My thanks to everyone who entered and to Goodreads!

Update:  *The mysterious changing of the ampersand shape didn’t turn out to be mysterious at all, but merely the result of a font change from normal type to italics, i.e., not an error at all. My bad.

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AmazonEncore Press Release

The AmazonEncore press release went out about a month ago and I’m just getting around to posting it (having been working on the second novel while editing the first). Below is an excerpt; the whole thing can be found here.

SEATTLE, Sep 28, 2010 (BUSINESS WIRE) — Amazon.com, Inc. (NASDAQ: AMZN) today announced that AmazonEncore will introduce eight exceptional new books this spring. The list features compelling works of fiction including “Catcher, Caught” by Sarah Collins Honenberger; “Stalina” by Emily Rubin; “The Summer Son” by Craig Lancaster; “Regarding Ducks and Universes” by Neve Maslakovic; “Faking It” and “Ordinary World” by Elisa Lorello; and “Nickel Plated” by Aric Davis, as well as the physical edition debut of J.A. Konrath’s “Shaken” (available first on Kindle in October 2010). The spring 2011 list also marks the imprint’s first diet book, “Get Real and Stop Dieting!” by Brett Blumenthal. AmazonEncore books are available in print format at www.amazon.com and as wireless digital downloads in less than 60 seconds from the Kindle Store (www.amazon.com/kindlestore) to Kindle devices and Kindle apps. For more information on AmazonEncore and upcoming titles, visit www.amazon.com/encore.


“We’ve been happily overwhelmed with great books to share with readers this spring,” said Jeff Belle, Vice President, Amazon.com Books. “With four great additions to our fall publishing list–including AmazonEncore’s first picture book–and spring books ranging from our first diet book to a science-fiction twinged tale from a Yugoslavian immigrant, we hope every reader finds something to enjoy.”


Neve Maslakovic’s “Regarding Ducks and Universes” is a novel about a culinary writer who learns that he has an alter ego in an alternate universe and who sets out to snoop around his alter ego’s life, with dangerous consequences. A native of Belgrade, Maslakovic earned her Ph.D. in electrical engineering from Stanford University and is a member of the Loft Literary Center. She currently lives in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area. “Regarding Ducks and Universes” is her first novel and will be published on Feb. 22.


Announced in May 2009, AmazonEncore is a program which identifies exceptional books and emerging authors using information on Amazon.com, such as customer reviews and sales data. Amazon then works with the authors to introduce or re-introduce their books to readers through marketing and distribution into multiple channels and formats, such as the Amazon Books Store, Amazon Kindle Store, and national and independent bookstores via third-party wholesalers. AmazonEncore is a brand for titles published by Amazon Content Services LLC.

Galleys of these titles are available for the media and can be obtained by e-mailing encore-pr@amazon.com.

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The ARCs of RD&U have arrived!

There they were, a whole boxful, sitting on my doorstep. Because the box was addressed to my pen name, I knew what it contained immediately. The ARCs were here. The Advance Reader Copies of Regarding Ducks and Universes, my debut novel. My six-year-old son ran to the box, opened it with some trouble, and exclaimed, “Mommy, did you write all of these?” In a sense I had. He soon figured out that they were all copies of the same book, chose one for himself, and carried it off to his room. I took one out for myself. The duck on the cover was perky and eye-catching. The text size and font inside were pleasing and easy on the eyes. And, best of all, the book had little ducks as section breaks! 

Once the initial excitement in the household had died down and I had taken pictures of the books with my iPhone and emailed them to family members, we moved the rest into my study. I noticed that on the front the copies had the words, “ADVANCE READER’S COPY – UNCORRECTED PROOF,” alerting anyone who ventured further that the occasional typo was to be expected. I had already (virtually) put aside five of them for my Goodreads Giveaway. It’s open till November 10 — enter if you’re interested in reading RD&U. ‘Tis the tale of a cookware writer, his alter ego, and a wayward rubber duck. 

Starting tomorrow I’ll be at the local Caribou Coffeehouse embarking on the final round of edits. Exciting stuff. 



UPDATE: I’ve been getting questions about whether you have to be a member of Goodreads to enter the giveaway – you do need to join, but it’s free. One caveat: when you join up, you probably want to skip the step where you provide access to your email address book (otherwise you might find yourself accidentally spamming friends, or anyone you’ve ever sent email to in the past.)