The Baron and the Firebird

“I hate vampire stories!” One of my co-workers made that statement at the dinner table this week. It’s a sentiment I sometimes hear at conventions when people glance at my vampire novels without learning more about them. Of course, what they mean is that they hate the proliferation of vampire romances and it’s actually a sentiment I can appreciate, especially when the protagonist vampire is creepily stalking a girl centuries younger than himself. I read a book this week that definitely doesn’t fit that mold.

firebirdebook J. A. Campbell’s novelette The Baron and the Firebird is a vampire romance, but most definitely not one involving a vampire pretending to be a high school student. The story opens with a Russian vampire named Peter in a New York diner looking for his lost love—a woman with a beautiful voice named Zoya. A waitress at the diner suggests he try a musical that recently opened. Having nothing to lose, Peter takes her advice.

The story then flashes back to Russia in 1725. Peter, known back then as Pyotr, is a Baron managing lands. Even though he’s a vampire, he’s learned to subsist on goat’s blood so he doesn’t have to drink the blood of his subjects. Pyotr is able to walk in sunlight through the aid of magical cherries that grow in his garden. Only a small number grow in the harsh Russian winter and he parcels them out carefully because they help him to be a good and effective ruler of his land. Unfortunately, a bird has entered the orchard and has started eating the magical cherries.

This is not just any bird, but a magical firebird. Pyotr traps her. Entranced by her beauty, he builds her a bigger cage. One day, he’s surprised to find not the firebird in his cage, but a beautiful woman. He lets her out and they talk. She makes a bargain to stay a year for each cherry she ate from his garden.

As you might infer, events happen which cause them to become separated, since Pyotr is searching for her years later. I was delighted by the fairy-tale like quality of this particular vampire story. I also appreciated that this story explored the love of two immortal creatures, one of light and one of darkness. The vampire elevates himself to become better than most would expect while the firebird comes down to Earth. Campbell effectively builds tension, making us wonder whether or not the vampire and the firebird will be able to build a love that can last forever.

The Scarlet Order vampires would be pleased to make the acquaintance of Pyotr and Zoya. If you like tales of timeless romance, classic fairy tales, or just want to read a good, non-formulaic vampire tale, then The Baron and the Firebird is the book your looking for. You can pick up a copy in print or ebook format at Amazon.

The Brazen Shark Available in Print

My third Clockwork Legion novel, The Brazen Shark is now available in print from Amazon.com. Here’s what Drake and McTrowell have to say about the novel: “Pack your goggles and your telescope and your atlas because the Clockwork Legion is taking us on another whirlwind adventure. And this one covers the globe in the air, on the sea, on terra firma, undersea … and even into space!”

Drake and McTrowell

Drake and McTrowell know their globe-spanning adventure. In the photo above, I crossed their path aboard the Queen Mary as they were bound for another exciting destination. You can read about their adventures at drakeandmctrowell.com. There, you’ll find five books of their adventures available to read on-line absolutely free. However, if you’re willing to send them some money, and I strongly recommend you do, you can pick up the hardcover edition of their first book featuring illustrations by Brian Kessinger and an introduction by Professor Elemental, or you can buy the audio version of their first adventure, which is fabulous.

Brazen Shark-300x450 The Brazen Shark is the third novel of my Clockwork Legion series. However, if you haven’t read the first two books, feel free to dive in right here. If you like what you read, you can always go back and read the first two! Set in 1877, this novel tells the story of a one-time sheriff named Ramon Morales who gave up his career in law enforcement to save an outspoken Persian healer named Fatemeh Karimi from a witchcraft trial. We’ve watched their romance develop over the last two books and this is the story of their honeymoon. However, it’s a honeymoon unlike any other when they find themselves embroiled in a plot by samurai warriors who have stolen a Russian airship to overthrow the Japanese emperor. The cover art is by the ever-talented Laura Givens.

The Brazen Shark is available in paperback and ebook. The paperback is ready to ship now. The ebook will be sent to your Kindle on February 1, 2016.

While I’m discussing steampunk writing, I’ll remind you there’s still time to support the Kickstarter for Gaslight and Grimm. This awesome anthology project is already funded, so there’s no risk in supporting it at any level. The book features my story “The Steam-Powered Dragon and His Grandmother.” It also features steampunked retellings of “The Three Little Pigs,” “The Nightingale”, “Red Riding Hood” and more by such authors as James Chambers, Jean Marie Ward, and Christine Norris. Lots of great stretch goal bonuses have been added already and if we receive enough funding, we’ll also have stories by Jody Lynn Nye and Gail Z. Martin in the anthology as well. So drop by and reserve your copy of Gaslight and Grimm today!

Night of the Meteors

As many know, my “day” job is at Kitt Peak National Observatory outside Tucson, Arizona. I operate telescopes and assist visiting astronomers with observing projects. My current shift started yesterday on February 15. My task was to help an MIT astronomer use the Kitt Peak 2.1-meter telescope to watch a hunk of rock called 2012 DA14 as it passed near the Earth. The photo below shows the Kitt Peak 2.1-meter enclosure.

KPNO 2.1-Meter

The importance of this event is that to date, this is the closest approach witnessed by an asteroid of its size. The object is about 50 meters across and it passed about 17,000 miles above the surface of the Earth, closer than many geosynchronous satellites orbit. Kitt Peak is on the wrong side of the world to have seen the object at closest approach, but the hope was to catch it as it sped away from the Earth.

By what seems to be completely random coincidence, a meteor struck Russia earlier in the day. The best estimate I’ve seen for the size of this object was 17 meters before it started disintegrating in the atmosphere, so a little bigger than a third the size of 2012 DA14. The meteor came in from a completely different trajectory than 2012 DA14, so this seems to be completely unrelated.

As it turned out, I saw neither of these objects. The Russian Meteor is probably obvious, since I’m not in Russia! The reason I didn’t get to see 2012 DA14 had to do with the tricky nature of observing asteroids and the nature of my job. My job was to get the observer going at the 2.1-meter telescope—show him how to make the telescope track asteroids (which move at a different rate and direction than stars). When the time was assigned, it looked as though the asteroid would be visible early in the evening. However, as the orbital calculations were refined, astronomers discovered it wouldn’t be visible from Arizona until 4 in the morning. My duties pulled me to another telescope before the near-Earth asteroid would rise.

Even though I didn’t get to see 2012 DA13, I did get to see some other near-Earth asteroids. The observer at the 2.1-meter had several different targets to look at and I helped him get to know the telescope and the camera with those targets. These asteroids basically look like little dots even in fairly big telescopes, little different than the background stars. The only way you know they’re an asteroid is that they move against the background of the stars.

For those who are wondering, the only real difference between a meteor and an asteroid has to do with where the object is. If the object is in space, it’s an asteroid (sometimes called a meteoroid, usually if it’s relatively small). If the object is hurtling through the atmosphere, it’s a meteor. Once it hits the ground, it’s a meteorite.

For those interested in my literary pursuits, I’ve written two short stories about meteor strikes. The first is called “An Asteroid By Any Other Name” which tells the story about an asteroid blown up on approach to Earth. The pieces land in South America and start moving through the jungle. The story is available in Wondrous Web Worlds 7 and was nominated for the James Award. The anthology is available at: http://www.sdpbookstore.com/anthologies.htm#www7

Wondrous Web Worlds 7

The other story is called “A Garden Resurrected” and imagines a village that decides to resurrect the local vampire to help them survive in the aftermath of a meteor strike. The story is available in the anthology Apocalypse 13 which is available at: http://www.amazon.com/Apocalypse-13-Padwolf-ebook/dp/B00AIEYJMI/

Apocalypse 13