Read an Ebook Week

This week, Smashwords is hosting its annual Read an Ebook Week promotion. Two of my books are available for fifty percent off as part of the event.

Revolution of Air and Rust

Revolution of Air and Rust is set during an alternate 1915, where Teddy Roosevelt is building an empire and only Pancho Villa stands in his way. The American Expeditionary Force under the command of General “Black Jack” Pershing has invaded Northern Mexico. Pancho Villa leads his revolutionary army in a desperate raid against the American force only to be outflanked. Just as Pershing’s airships prepare to deliver the death blow, Pancho Villa is transported to a parallel Earth where he finds an unexpected ally and the technology that might just turn defeat into victory.

Revolution of Air and Rust is a stand-alone novella set in the Empires of Steam and Rust world created by Robert E. Vardeman and Stephen D. Sullivan. A story filled with military action, espionage and gadgetry that’s sure to satisfy fans of steampunk and alternate history. The book is available for half off until March 8 at http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/254622. Remember to use the code REW50 on checkout.

A Kepler's Dozen

A Kepler’s Dozen is an anthology of action-packed, mysterious, and humorous stories all based on real planets discovered by the NASA Kepler mission. Steve B. Howell, project scientist for the Kepler mission, and I both co-edited the anthology and contributed stories. Whether on a prison colony, in a fast escape from the authorities, or encircling a binary star, thirteen exoplanet stories written by authors such as Mike Brotherton, Laura Givens, and J Alan Erwine will amuse, frighten, and intrigue you while you share fantasy adventures among Kepler’s real-life planets. The book is available for half off until March 8 at: http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/325583. Again, remember to use the discount code REW50 to take advantage of the sale!

Solar Sails in Science Fiction

From_the_Earth_to_the_Moon_Jules_Verne

As promising—and romantic—a technology as solar sails are, it’s perhaps not surprising that they have found their way into fiction numerous times. Perhaps the first mention of the idea of using light to propel a spacecraft is in Jules Verne’s 1865 novel From the Earth to the Moon. In Verne’s novel, a giant cannon is used to send a spacecraft to the moon. However, Verne writes that such a projectile has limited velocity. “Is it not evident, then, I ask you, that there will some day appear velocities far greater than these, of which light or electricity will probably be the mechanical agent?” asks Verne. The thing is, Jules Verne was right on top of the scientific achievements of his day. He knew that James Clerk Maxwell had recently discovered that light exerts a pressure on objects.

Lady Who Sailed

Compelling as this idea is, it seems that no one pursued it further until an engineer named Carl Wiley wrote an article for Astounding Science Fiction in 1951 about how solar sails could be built in orbit and used for space travel. The article was called “Clipper Ships in Space” and was written under the pseudonym Russell Saunders. This article influenced more than one science fiction writer. The first was Cordwainer Smith who published the story “The Lady Who Sailed The Soul” in Galaxy Magazine in 1960. The story was mostly about the romance of two characters, but it also does a fairly good job of describing a solar sail spaceship.

The next appearance of a solar sail in science fiction was in Pierre Boulle’s novel Planet of the Apes in 1963. To quote from the novel: “In those times, interplanetary travel was commonplace, though interstellar ventures were still an exception. Rocket ships would take the tourists to fabulous locations on Sirius or the finance people to the stock markets of Arcturus and Aldebaran. But Jinn and Phyllis, a wealthy and free couple, were known through the Cosmos to be young originals, with a bit of craziness, and they would cruise through the Universe just for the fun of it—with their sailcraft.” Boulle then goes on to describe the craft: “Their ship was a kind of sphere with a shell—the sail—made of amazingly thin material, and it would move through space, just pushed by the pressure of light beams.”

Boys Life Sunjammer

A year later, Arthur C. Clarke published the story “The Sunjammer” in Boy’s Life Magazine that told the story of seven solar sails racing from the Earth to the Moon. This story in particular captured many scientists’ imaginations and caused them to seriously ask the question of whether or not these kinds of craft could be developed. In fact, NASA’s first solar sail mission to deep space has been dubbed “Sunjammer” in Clarke’s honor. You can visit the project’s homepage at: sunjammermission.com

Light sails have continued to appear in science fiction since then. Notable appearances include the episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine called “Explorers” and Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones. No doubt solar sails will continue to appear in science fiction. My own novel, The Solar Sea, about a solar sail spacecraft that’s used to explore the outer planets was published in 2009. You can read more about it at thesolarsea.com

Science and science fiction are closely intertwined with solar sails. In the middle of the nineteenth century, James Clerk Maxwell discovered that light exerted a pressure on objects. Soon after, Jules Verne posited that such a force could be used to move a spacecraft. In the 1950s an engineer published an article about light sails in a science fiction magazine and a few years later, science fiction writers were publishing stories about such craft. Now, scientists and engineers are working to turn the idea of solar sails into reality while science fiction writers continue to dream of sailing to distant planets and star systems.

The Solar Sea

Is there something about solar sails you’d like to know and I didn’t cover? Let me know in comments and I’ll see if I can find out for you and post next week. I’ve already been asked how to steer a solar sail. I’ll do my best to explain!

My novel The Solar Sea is available at:

Interview with Steve B. Howell

Anthony Cardno not only interviewed me on his blog, but he interviewed Steve B. Howell, NASA’s Kepler Project Scientist and my co-editor on the anthology A Kepler’s Dozen. You can read Anthony’s interview at Interview with Steve B. Howell and learn what a project scientist actually does, get some updates on the Kepler mission, and learn what it was like for a scientist to work on a science fiction anthology.

Yesterday, I finished the first complete draft of my novel Lightning Wolves. I’m the kind of writer who tends to edit as I go, so the first three-quarters are somewhat beyond the “rough draft” stage and I feel pretty good about them. Today, I’m working to catch up with a number of projects that have been on the back burner while I let the novel sit a little bit. Then I’ll give it another read through and turn it in to the publisher.

Bringing my Writing and Astronomy Careers Together – #SFWApro

Keplers Dozen

This week, Hadrosaur Productions released the ebook edition of A Kepler’s Dozen: Thirteen Stories About Distant Worlds That Really Exist. I co-edited the anthology with Steve B. Howell, project scientist of NASA’s Kepler Mission. Both of us also contributed stories to the anthology. I’m especially excited about this anthology because it allowed me to bring my passions for astronomy and science fiction together in one place.

Steve and I have been colleagues since I returned to Kitt Peak National Observatory in 2008. At the time, he was serving as the scientist for the WIYN 3.5-meter telescope. I was hired to be an observing assistant for the 3.5-meter, along with other telescopes on the mountain. Observing assistants operate the telescopes and help visiting observers get the best use out of the telescope time they’re granted. Soon after I returned to Kitt Peak, Steve learned about my interest in science fiction and fantasy and even bought a copy of the anthology Human Tales, which features my story “The Griffin’s Tail.” Here we see Steve enjoying his copy at the console of the WIYN telescope:

Human-Tales-Steve-1

A couple years later, after Steve took the job at NASA, he suggested assembling a collection of short stories set in the planetary systems discovered by the Kepler probe. I thought it was a great idea and took it to my colleagues at Hadrosaur Productions. They agreed and we decided to move forward with the project.

Hadrosaur’s primary publishing venture for the last decade has been Tales of the Talisman Magazine. Naturally, I approached a number of writers whose work has appeared in the magazine over the years to write stories for the anthology. We handled this as an invitation-only anthology simply because we wanted to make sure each story featured a different planet. We also approached other astronomy professionals with a strong interest in science fiction, including the University of Wyoming’s Mike Brotherton and my Kitt Peak colleague Doug Williams.

Our goal for this anthology was simple. The Kepler mission has been discovering hundreds of planets around other stars. We wanted to envision these systems as the real places they are and imagine what they might be like, just like H.G. Wells and Edgar Rice Burroughs once imagined the planet Mars. Much as our understanding of Mars has evolved over time, we expect our understanding of the Kepler planets will as well. We may be wrong in some of our assumptions about what these planets are like, but we hope to challenge the young and young-at-heart to dream about these places and take a closer look for themselves.

Katy Garmany of the National Optical Astronomy Observatory wrote a very nice press release about the book that even shows you where the book’s planets are in the sky. You can read that here: http://www.noao.edu/news/2013/pr1305.php

The ebook edition of A Kepler’s Dozen is available at Amazon and Smashwords. The print edition is available at many online retailers including Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and direct from the publisher at Hadrosaur Productions.

Shortly after the book was released, it was announced that the Kepler spacecraft had lost one of the reaction wheels that keep it pointed accurately at one place in the sky. Despite that, Kepler has already produced more data than scientists have been able to keep up with. Steve and I are already talking about a possible second anthology that imagines even more of Kepler’s worlds.

A Kepler’s Dozen and Phoenix Comicon

Keplers Dozen

My anthology A Kepler’s Dozen: Thirteen Stories About Distant Worlds That Really Exist has just been released from Hadrosaur Productions. I co-edited the anthology with Steve B. Howell, the project scientist of NASA’s Kepler mission. Our goal was to have a set of astronomers and science fiction writers imagine what future explorers might find on the worlds discovered by the Kepler space probe. The tone of the stories range from light to serious, but the planets are always presented as realistically as possible. Fans of The Pirates of Sufiro will be pleased to know the book features an all new adventure with Captain Firebrandt and the crew of the Legacy. The National Optical Observatory wrote up a nice press release about the anthology which is available at http://www.noao.edu/news/2013/pr1305.php. The anthology is available at Amazon.com, BN.com, and Hadrosaur.com.

Unfortunately, the book is released just as news comes out that the Kepler spacecraft has lost the second of four reaction wheels that allow it to point accurately. There’s a good chance this marks the end of the spacecraft’s ability to collect data. It’s important to remember, though, even if the probe stopped working immediately, there are still two years’ worth of data to sort through and many, many planets likely still to be discovered. The Kepler probe has been a phenomenal success and Steve Howell and I are already thinking about a second book that will explore even more of the Kepler planets!


Phoenix-Comicon-13

In the meantime, I’m gearing up for Phoenix Comicon which will be held over Memorial Day Weekend at the Phoenix Convention Center. This event is so big, it’s hard to know how to even begin describing it. All of the surviving cast of Babylon 5 will be there to celebrate the show’s 25th anniversary. There will be many other actors, comic artists, and writers on hand as well. I’m honored to be on several panels over the course of the weekend. Here’s my schedule.

Friday, May 24

  • Noon-1pm – So You Wanna Be a Writer – Room West104A. Learn from the pros about how to get started as an author, how to handle rejection, where to look for guidance, education, and support, and what to do when you’ve started to “make it” but aren’t all the way there yet. On the panel with me are Sharon Skinner, Tom Leveen, Gini Koch, C.J. Hill, and Marcy Rockwell.
  • 9-10pm – Create Your Own Steampunk Poem Workshop – Room 227AB. Poetry lives at the heart of Steampunk music and was a vital part of 19th century literary life. Express yourself in poetry. Free!

Saturday, May 25

  • Noon-1pm – Arizona’s Astronomical Observatories – Room 127C. Arizona features a number of world-class astronomical observatories thanks to our clear skies and high mountaintops. Learn from a panel of experts about our state’s telescope facilities, including research being done there and visitor information. On the panel with me are Karen Knierman and Gerard van Belle.
  • 6-7pm – Strange New Worlds: Extrasolar Planets and the Kepler Mission – Room 126C. Have you ever wondered if there are solar systems other than our own? We now know there are, and with the help of NASA’s Kepler spacecraft, we’ve found hundreds of them. Join us to learn about the surprising diversity of solar systems in our galaxy. On the panel with me are Lisa Will, Gerard van Belle, David Lee Summers, Kevin Healy and Steve Desch.

Sunday, May 26

  • 10:30-11:30am – Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror Poetry – Room West104B. Yes, Virginia, SF poetry does exist. Join some of these poets for a look at the field. On the panel with me are Sharon Skinner, Marcy Rockwell, and Larry Hammer.
  • 1:30-2:30pm – Ask the Astronomers – Room 127C. Do you have any astronomy questions? Now is the time to ask! Join a panel of professional astronomers/astrophysicists for a free-flowing Q&A session about the universe. Kids and adults alike are encouraged to attend and ask questions. On the panel with me are David Williams, Patrick Young, Karen Knierman, Kevin Healy, Kenneth Wong, Lisa Will, and Stefan O’Dougherty.

When I’m not on one of these exciting panels, look for me at Booth 2532. I look forward to seeing you there!

New and Forthcoming Books from Hadrosaur Productions

Hadrosaur Productions is the publishing company I founded with Kumie Wise and William Grother back in 1994. If you’re familiar with my work, you probably know Hadrosaur Productions best as the publishing company behind Tales of the Talisman Magazine. However, that’s not all that Hadrosaur does. Over the years, we have published story collections such as Wayne James’s When Only the Moon Rages and audio books such as Joy Smith’s Sugar Time.

Over the years, Hadrosaur has also worked in cooperation with other organizations and publishers to produce books. For many years, we worked with El Paso Community College to lay out their literary magazine Chrysalis. We also collaborated with LBF Books to publish such works as Shawn Oetzel’s Dying Moon and B.T. Robertson’s Alliances.

In this post, I want to introduce you to three books Hadrosaur has published or will soon be publishing.


The 2012 Rhysling Anthology

This year, we worked with the Science Fiction Poetry Association to bring out the 2012 Rhysling Anthology. Each year, the Science Fiction Poetry Association presents the Rhysling Award for the best speculative poems published in the previous year. Poems are nominated by the organization’s members and collected into the Rhysling Anthology which is sent to members so they may vote. The result is a collection of the year’s best science fiction, fantasy, and horror poems. The 2012 anthology features works by Megan Arkenberg, Albert Goldbarth, Shira Lipkin, Tim Pratt, Ann K. Schwader, Mary Turzillo and many more. The wonderful cover image was taken at the Kitt Peak 4-meter Telescope by Heidi Schweiker and Travis Rector. You can read more about it at the NOAO Image Gallery.

All profits from the sale of the 2012 Rhysling Anthology go to the Science Fiction Poetry Association to aid their mission of spreading the word about speculative poetry. Copies of the anthology may be ordered here: http://www.hadrosaur.com/collections.html#2012rhysling


Revolution of Air and Rust

When I was at Bubonicon in August, Robert E. Vardeman asked me if I’d be interested in writing a novella for a shared world steampunk series called Empires of Steam and Rust. In this world, it’s 1915. Queen Victoria is still on the throne…and getting younger. Teddy Roosevelt is still president of the United States. The Russian Revolution failed. Around the world holes have opened up that look into another world. In some cases, material oozes forth. In other cases, people travel through the portals. What really appealed to me about this series was it’s globe-spanning nature.

I decided I wanted to take a look at the Mexican Revolution of this world and find out what Pancho Villa was up to. The result is my entry in the series, a novella called Revolution of Air and Rust.

Authors of Empires of Steam and Rust Books are responsible for distributing the books themselves. So, mine will be coming out through Hadrosaur Productions. The plan is that Revolution of Air and Rust will be released as an ebook this coming week! I will also be creating a print chapbook that should be available soon afterward. Of course, I’ll let you know when the ebook and print book are available, but you can also check the catalog page for updates at: http://www.hadrosaur.com/bookstore.html#revolution.


A Kepler’s Dozen

Since its launch in March 2009, the Kepler Spacecraft has discovered over 100 confirmed planets around other stars. Hadrosaur Productions will be publishing an anthology of science fiction stories set around planets discovered by the Kepler Spacecraft entitled A Kepler’s Dozen. I have teamed up with Kepler’s Project Scientist, Dr. Steve Howell, to assemble this exciting anthology. We have a team of writers including some well known science fiction authors, Tales of the Talisman veterans, and astronomy professionals working on stories for the book. The first stories have already come in and this is shaping up to be an exciting collection. I’ll be sure to keep you posted as this project nears completion.

In the meantime, please drop in and visit the Hadrosaur Productions website at http://www.hadrosaur.com and see all the fine books we have to offer. If you like science fiction, fantasy or horror, I’ll bet you’ll find your next must-have book.