Good News… of a Literary Nature!

Good News… of a Literary Nature!

First off, let me apologize for not announcing this sooner. But as with all good things, I didn’t want to announce anything prematurely or risk jinxing it. To put it simply, I have been approached by a publisher about my current work in progress – The Cronian Incident. And while nothing has been put in writing just yet, if all goes well, it will be part of Space Dock’s 2017 publishing catalog – which is the sci-fi subsidiary for a UK publisher.

To  start at the beginning, back in October, this publisher sent me a message via Facebook. It seemed that we were part of the same writer’s group, and he had heard me going on about The Cronian Incident and all the ideas I was exploring to create it. Apparently, this is something lots of publishers do these days, which is rely on social media to look for aspiring authors.

Anyhoo, I replied to him that I would be interested, and that the manuscript (though not yet complete) was coming along nicely. Over the course of the next few weeks, we did the usual back and forth. He explained what they were looking for and asked me about my long-term plans, I told him about the overall story and how I hoped to write sequels to it.

Jupiter's larger (Galilean) moons, Callisot, Europa, Io and Ganymede. Credit: NASA
Jupiter’s larger (Galilean) moons, Callisot, Europa, Io and Ganymede. Credit: NASA

 

He then asked me to send the first four chapters to see if it had promise. Here too, I learned something valuable. These days, its the first four chapters (not five, not three) that make-or-break many online sales. You see, people using Amazon are able to download these as a sample and will base their decision to buy the whole book depending on whether or not it’s grabbed their interest.

So the first notes the publisher gave me was that he liked the idea, but also stressed that the beginning needed “a hook”. There was little in the first four chapters of my original draft to introduce the overall plot, they said, and things kind of built slowly. So I revised it, added a prologue that contains the “inciting event” of the story (a kidnapping) and sent it back. This met with his approval, and he sent it on to one of his editors for a second look.

And just a few days ago, they got back to me again. Once again, I got some kudos on the story, but more concerns that things take too long to develop. However, this time around, it was more in the form of a suggestion. I took this to be a good sign, but of course I took the suggestion seriously. These people know what readers are likely to buy, so I’m not about to disregard their recommendations.

Terrafomed Mars by ittiz
Terrafomed Mars, one of the focal points of the story. Credit: ittiz

So I’m doing a second round of edits now, and working to complete the novel so its ready for the 2017 publishing season. At this point, I’m over 70,000 words into the story, and I imagine there’s about ten more chapters to go. At this rate, I can estimate that the final product will be probably be about 100,000 words (though that is likely to come down after all the editing is finished).

And like I said, nothing has been signed yet so nothing is written in stone. But so far, I’m pretty enthused about how things are going. It’s taken me over ten years to actually get to the point where a publisher was interested in my work and contacted me. In the meantime, feel free to join me in being cautiously optimistic!

Back from Europe 2016 – Part II

Back from Europe 2016 – Part II

Hey again, folks! I find myself with some free time again, and wanted to continue telling people about my family and my trip to Europe this past June. Last time, I recounted our trip to Northern France and our lovely time we spent in the small town of Grangues, where we got to pay our respects to those who died during D-Day and the liberation of Normandy – which included my great uncle Wilmot Pettit.

Today, I would like to mention everything else we did while in Normandy during the D-Day celebrations. There was plenty to do, plenty to see, and plenty to experience at the time. Literally, an entire region was on its feet celebrating the 72nd anniversary of their liberation, complete with recreations, guided tours, and countless commemorative ceremonies.

Bayeux:

While in France, we stayed just outside the town of Bayeux, the historic location of the Bayeux Tapestry (which tells the story of William the Conquerors conquest of England) and one of the first towns to be liberated during the Battle of Normandy. Before moving on to Grangues, we stayed in a lovely bed and breakfast called the Ferme de la Gronde, which is a converted country estate.

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Ferme de la Gronde, France

One of the things that we immediately noticed when checking in was the lovely, musty smell of the place. Everything smelled like old stone walls and plaster, like we were staying in a medieval church or castle. But of course, that’s understandable, since the estate itself surely dates back to the Middle Ages and the same construction techniques that went into the Bayeux Cathedral were surely used.

The first day was tough. When we arrived, we were running on very little sleep and had been in transit for almost twelve hours. And then there was the nine hour time different to factor in. And the first night, our sleep was a bit restless. There’s nothing like exhaustion and jet lag to disturb your sleep! But we happened to see some wonderful things on our way into town and our first day reconnoitering.

For instance, the town of Bayeux was already packed with veterans from across the Channel. And the poppies and signs that said “Welcome to our Liberators” were out in full force. So the streets were pretty busy throughout the day, and pretty packed at night. The Bayeux Cathedral was also holding ceremonial services to mark the anniversary of the liberation. Basically, despite our fatigue, an energizing mood was in the air!

And after our first (restless) sleep, we began plotting our tour of the Normandy Beaches! And here’s what we got up to…

Arromanches:

Our first stop was to the town of Arromanches, located on the coast. During D-Day, this town was the site of Gold Beach landings, and also became the locations where the Allies placed one of their Mulberry Harbors (the other being installed at Omaha Beach). These artificial ports

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The town of Arromanches, with a view of the English Channel

In 2014, my folks, my wife, and I visited this lovely town and took a tour of the D-Day museum there. But this time around, the attraction was the bagpipers, crowds, and celebrations marking the 72nd anniversary of the liberation. As soon as we arrived, we got swept up in the festivities. And after walking the beach, ascending the hill in town (at the top is a Sherman tank), and grabbing some lunch, we moved onto our next stop!

Point-du-Hoc:

Any American readers ought to instantly recognize this name. During D-Day, the US Army Ranger Assault Group scaled the cliffs (while under fire) at this point along the Normandy coast to take out a series of German heavy guns. Once they reached the top, they realized that the guns have been relocated, and fought their way inland to find the guns and destroy them.

Today, this site is well preserved. Not only are the craters from where Allied naval artillery hit still evident, but the crews that tend the grounds have done a good job ensuring that most of the fortifications have remained intact.

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Empty gun emplacement at Point-du-Hoc, June, 2016
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And that’s me atop one of the gun emplacements at Point-du-Hoc

I was reminded of Longues-sur-Mer, a coastal battery that we visited in 2014, in many ways. At both sites, the old cement bunkers still sit in the earth, worn and weathered. Even the ones that were hit during D-Day and destroyed are still a testament to what happened there, over 70 years ago.

And like everywhere else in Normandy at the time, the place was flooded with tourists and re-enactors were everywhere, dressed up in US Army Ranger uniforms and conducting tours. And much like the other sites along the Normandy coast where the Allies came ashore, there is a museum there, maintained by the American Battle Monument Commission.

One thing we were a little baffled by was the monument that overlooks the cliffs. One the one hand, it kind of resembles a sword with a cross guard sticking out of the ground. On the other hand, it looks like a menhir, which may be culturally significant as far as the region’s ancient inhabitants are concerned. Any other comparisons are ones I will not make (and I respectfully ask that nobody else do so either!). Needless to say, we all thought it looked a bit weird.

The Ranger Monument at Pointe du Hoc in France. Credit: abmc.gov
The Ranger Monument at Pointe du Hoc in France. Credit: abmc.gov

Juno Beach:

Next, we traveled to the town of Courseulles-sur-Mer, a relatively quiet town that sits on the Normandy Coast. This town is made famous due to the fact that it sits next to the 8 km (5 mi) stretch of beach where the Canadian liberation force – which consisted of 14,000 troops belonging to the Canadian 3rd Infantry Division and the 2nd Canadian Armored Brigade – came ashore on D-Day.

This was the second time my family and I visited this site together, and about the fourth or fifth time my mother and father had. And in addition to walking the beach again to see if we couldn’t put ourselves into the mindset of the soldiers that came ashore under fire, we also visited the Juno Beach Center. As a point of interest, my aunt – who is a high-school principal back in Brantford, Ontario and the the one who introduced my father to the battlefield tours – sits on the museum’s board of directors.

Juno Beach, Normandy Coast, June 2016
My wife, father, and I, approaching my mother on Juno Beach, Normandy Coast, June 2016

As such, my father will drop her name any time we are there to see if they know her. So typical of him, always proud of his sister! However, this year, we didn’t take the tour of the museum (as we had in 2014). This was just our second day of our trip, and we were all still very jetlagged and tired. And after visiting three major D-Day sites, we were more than a little bit tired. As such, after grabbing some lunch from the vendors that line the waterfront, we decided to make one last stop at the Commonwealth cemetery at Beny-sur-Mer before heading back to Bayeux.

It is here that Canadians soldiers who died on D-Day are interred. And after paying our respects and laying Canadian flag pins on the graves of any Williams’ and Wilson’s (my father and mother’s family names) as is our custom, we headed back to Bayeux to enjoy some delicious food at the same place we dined the night before – Le Garde Manger, which sits in the shadow of the Bayeux Cathedral. Some Affligem beers and some tasty entrees, and we were ready to call it a night!

The Juno Beach Center, Courseulles-sur-Mer, France. Credit: junobeach.org
The Juno Beach Center, Courseulles-sur-Mer, France. Credit: junobeach.org

And that was just the first two days! What followed is what I covered in the first installment. This included packing up and leaving Bayeux, traveling to the small town of Grangues, and participating in their commemorative ceremony to remember all those who died to liberate their country (of which my great uncle, Wilmot Pettit, was one), and those who died in both WWI and WWII. You can read about that experience here.

Given that I’ve really been taking my time to write these, I apologize for the fact that they are only covering a few things at a time. I promise to be speedier in giving the next one… and the next one. Hopefully, I can cover the entirety of the trip and the significance it had in just a few more posts. Wish me luck, and a happy belated Remembrance Day/Veteran’s Day/Armistice Day to all!

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!