Back from Europe – Eurotrip 2016!

Back from Europe – Eurotrip 2016!

Hi folks. My apologies for not talking about this sooner, but it’s been pretty hectic these past few weeks. The good news is, the wife and I returned from Europe about two weeks ago. And we had a wonderful trip. Much like our Eurotrip 2014 edition, this trip was all about visiting the battlefield tours and monuments in Northern France and Belgium, but with some slight modifications.

For one, we got in a few different battlefields and monuments this time around. Second, we cast our net a bit further, getting as far as Utretch in Holland. And third, and most importantly, the main reason for this year’s trip was to take part in the remembrance ceremony put on every year in the small town of Grangues in Normandy.It was here (we learned two years ago) that my mother’s first cousin, once removed, Wilmot Pettit died on D-Day after being shot down over the French countryside.

But it’s a long story, so bear with me…

Grangues, France:

Back in 2014, while we were planning our trip to Europe, my mother learned from her mother that a cousin of hers had died on D-Day and that we might be able to find where he was buried. Doing her research, my mother learned that he had been shot down over the small hamlet of Grangues.

For people familiar with D-Day, this story should sound familiar. Pettit was a pilot with the Royal Canadian Air Force and on D-Day, he was flying in the Eastern Sector of the Normandy landing zone. Flying a Sterling aircraft, he was responsible for towing a glider filled with members of the British 7th Airborne to their landing zone in the countryside.

Us meeting with the mayor of Grangue in 2014.
My mother and the rest of us, meeting with the mayor of Grangues in 2014.

Unfortunately, the German air defenses in this sector proved more tenacious than expected. Much like in the Western sector, where the 101st Airborne was scattered all over the countryside due to German anti-aircraft fire, the British 7th Airborne suffered a lot of losses due to all the flak they experience. After flying near Grangues, my cousin and his crew were hit by German flak and the plane went down. During the crash, he and several of the Airborne soldiers were killed on impact. The rest were taken prisoner by the local SS garrison, and then shot on the next day.

And while we were in France, she looked up the small hamlet and visited the mayor’s office, which is right next door to the town’s church. When we arrived, we were buffaloed. In the mayor’s office, a painting hung of the plane my cousin piloted being shot down. He had a glass case filled with artifacts of the plane crash. The mayor then took the time to share old photos with us of the crash, showed us the site, and even told us where Wilmot was now buried (in the nearby town of Ranville).

We also learned that every year on June 7th (the day the captured soldiers were executed) that the townspeople, veterans from the UK, and people from all over the region, turn up to pay their respects and honor the memory of those who died liberating their country. They also pay their respects to those French soldiers from the region that died during World War I in defense of their country.

Wilmot Pettit's headstone, Ranville War Cemetery
Wilmot Pettit’s headstone, Ranville War Cemetery

While we could not stay for the ceremony back in 2014, we decided to go this year after the mayor emailed us an invite. The rest of our trip, which we’d been planning ever since the last one, was to be scheduled around this ceremony.

When we arrived, a few days after landing in Paris, we got to the town and settled in at the local B and B. On the following day, we went to the small town’s church, where we were greeted by a large crowd of veterans, some men carrying flags, babgpipers, and a whole lot of people turned out in their Sunday best. The mayor came over to greet us, at which point, we began to practice our French.

At first, he heard us speaking English and asked for his translator. But my mother and I jumped in by telling him, in French, that we were the family of Wilmot Pettit. At one point, one of us must have said pilot, because that jogged his memory.

“Le pilote?” The mayor asked. We all said yes. And instantly, he remembered us. From that point onward, we were treated like honored guests. We attended the ceremony in the town’s cemetery, we stood in the front row amongst veterans who were 90 years old, and my mother was invited up to say a few words. She thanked the townspeople, the mayor, and honored her cousin in impeccable French (though she denied it!)

My mother and the mayor of Grangues speaking at the after-ceremony, July 7th, 2016
My mother and the mayor of Grangues speaking at the after-ceremony, July 7th, 2016

The national anthems of France, Britain and Canada all played. They flew the flags of all three countries. And of course, the mayor gave a speech which was translated into English. Afterwards, we talked to the people and shared drinks in the town hall! It was really quite amazing.

One of the most profound things about it was the sense of inclusion. Here we were, foreigners and strangers to so many people – many of whom witnessed D-Day and participated in it – and they treated us like honored guests. We all remarked afterwards how surreal and moving it was. And even now, months later, I find its still hard to wrap my head around.

More to follow, as that was just the first few days. Stay tuned!

The Cronian Incident – Trailer!

The Cronian Incident – Trailer!

Hey folks! With every passing week, I am making (meager) progress towards the conclusion of The Cronian Incident. And in addition to designing a cover, formatting the interior, I’ve decided to create a trailer for its upcoming release. Here is the rough-cut, which features images of the planets involved, and a basic description.

I’m thinking of sexing it up with some colored script, some additional images or animations, and any other features I can think of before the book’s release. Let me know what you think in the comments.

 

Cover Selection for The Cronian Incident!

Cover Selection for The Cronian Incident!

Okay, so I finally finished work on a few possible covers for The Cronian Incident. I recently got my CreateSpace account reactivated and used the lovely cover creator feature to get some visuals going. The problem is, I’ve been having trouble deciding which one I want t use. On the one hand, I can’t choose to between two themes  – one that put text boxes over a full cover image, and another that uses a solid background on the front page, a shadow on the back, and puts the main image and title in boxes.

Then, I found that I couldn’t decide which image I wanted to use after all. Initially, I was all set on the green image of Titan that you can see in the first two options. But there’s also the Cassini image of Titan that shows its hazy atmosphere being illuminated from behind, giving it an eerie, yellow glow. I thought this one worked pretty well too in the mockups. So in the end, I made four covers, using both themes and both images, and figured I’d entertain some outside opinions.

Which one do you think works best? Be sure to vote below…

Green Titan – Whole Cover:

Cronian
Green Titan – Box Cover:

Cronian_1
Yellow Titan – Whole Cover:

Cronian_3
Yellow Titan – Box Cover:

Cronian_2

Vote here and thanks for the input:

Time to Design The Cronian Incident’s Cover!

Time to Design The Cronian Incident’s Cover!

Good day, all! I have some more good news on the whole “novel development” front. First, I must acknowledge that I started this book many many moons ago, and it has been of a slow and tedious process lately. In the past few months, I’ve experienced several mental and inspirational log jams and been hounded by the tyranny of the uncompleted manuscript. But I’ve managed to persevere and keep going.

And a few days ago, I decided to tackle a task which I’ve been putting off until now – which is designing the cover. This is unusual for me, since cover-creation is one of my favorite aspects of story-writing. In fact, sometimes I’ve been known to create a cover even before I’ve written any of the story itself! It’s kind of an inspirational tool, being able to see what the book would look like completed. It doesn’t always pan out, but I do enjoy it!

Anyway, here is the image I thought would adorn the cover. This false-color mosaic was created by NASA using images from the Cassini space probe. It’s colorful, relevant to the story, and should fit onto a dust jacket nicely. And best of all, it’s public domain!

Saturn's moon Titan, which figures prominently in the story. Credit: NASA
Saturn’s moon Titan, which figures prominently in the story. Credit: NASA/JPL – Caltech/University of Arizona/University of Idaho

Next, there’s the matter of the blurb for the back of the dust-jacket. These are where I usually have trouble. It is pretty demanding, trying to create a clear, concise and gripping description for your story. Getting just the right combination of words without being too wordy – it’s hard! But I eventually came up with the following description, which I think does a pretty good of painting a picture:

Jeremiah Ward was just another convict. A disgraced investigator who once worked the Martian beat, but is now serving out his sentence in a mining colony on Mercury. But when a member of a powerful faction goes missing on Saturn’s moon Titan, Ward is given an opportunity he cannot pass up. In exchange for investigating the disappearance of this man, he will be given a shot at a new life. But the deeper Ward digs, the more he sees that this is not just a missing person’s case. What he finds is a conspiracy that was centuries in the making, and a shot a redemption that could end up costing him his life.

And of course, there’s the bio information that will need accompany the blurb at the bottom of the rear of the dust jacket. That is something that I’ve had at the ready for awhile now, and this is how it will read:

Matt Williams is a professional writer and the curator of the Guide to Space at Universe Today. He is also a regular contributor to HeroX, a science fiction author, and a Taekwon-Do instructor. He lives with his wife on Vancouver Island in British Columbia.

I’ve only tested it a bit so far, but from what I’ve been told, the description made the book seem interesting. One person told me that he’d buy the book based on the blurb alone. However, he’s a friend so his opinion is a bit suspect🙂. Any thoughts or criticisms are welcome, since this is going to be the first thing people see once it is available.

Speaking Engagement: Nanaimo Astronomy Society, September 22nd

Speaking Engagement: Nanaimo Astronomy Society, September 22nd

An interesting development happened once I got back from Europe. Apparently, there are people on the island that are very interested in astronomy, people who were surprised to learn that I also lived here. They are the Nanaimo Astronomy Society, a group of amateur astronomers and stargazers located in the town of Nanaimo – which is in the central Vancouver Island area, about a two hours drive from where I live.

As they explained to me, they have been following my writing at Universe Today for awhile, but didn’t realize I lived locally. Once they realized that, they asked if I would be willing to speak at their upcoming meeting.  Needless to say I was flattered, especially when you consider that most of the UT team lives on Vancouver Island. I could only assume they didn’t know about the others. I mean, when you’re a chapter of the Beatles Fan Club, and the band lives in the same region, you don’t exactly invite Ringo to come talk, right?

Anyway, the topic will be “Colonizing Mars”, which will address all the current plans by federal space agencies, private corporations, and crowdfunded organizations to explore, settle and transform the Red Planet. Naturally, I want to throw in a bit about terraforming, since that’s kind of my thing these days!

Interview with Voices From L5!

Interview with Voices From L5!

Good news! Not long ago, I took part in a podcast with Liam Ginty – the man who created Voices From L5. This program deals with the subject of space exploration and colonization, and he decided to do a podcast all about terraforming. After coming across my series on the subject over at Universe Today, he contacted me, and we got to talking. By the time we were done, we had created an episode dedicated to the subject.

The episode is about 45 minutes long, and covers such issues as terraforming vs. space habitats, the ethics of terraforming, the challenges and benefits, and whether or not such a thing is likely to happen. If you’ve got some time, and don’t mind hearing my voice (I am still not comfortable hearing it), then check it out.

Voices From L5 – Terraforming Mars

And be sure to check out other podcasts at Voices From L5. Liam covers some pretty interesting topics!