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!

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:

Green Titan – Box Cover:

Yellow Titan – Whole Cover:

Yellow Titan – Box Cover:


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.

Cronian Incident – Part III Complete!

Cronian Incident – Part III Complete!

Hello, everyone. As usual, I feel obliged to share some good news of the milestone-hitting variety. As the title makes abundantly clear, I’ve completed the third part in my upcoming novel, The Cronian Incident. Yes, thanks to my somewhat less than tireless efforts over the course of the past few months, this story is now three-fourths complete, and officially stands at thirty chapters and 60,000 words in length. And it’s been quite the ride so far.

Since I stopped daydreaming about (and bothering people with) this idea and began putting words to paper, I have managed to bang out the better part of a story that involves our Solar System in the late 23rd century, colonization, terraforming, and the future of humanity. And in the course of this, I’ve had to create and detail settings for Mercury, Mars, and the Jovian moon Callisto, and fill in bits of pieces on culture, history and other assorted aspects of background to boot.

Much of this has to do with setting the tone of the late 23rd century. The way I see it, humanity has passed through two major cataclysms at this point, both of which took place in the 21st century. The first was the Climate Crisis, where all over the world, economies began to collapse as drought, crop failure, and warfare led to the displacement of millions of people.

Color-enhanced map of Mercury. Credit: NASA/JPL
Color-enhanced map of Mercury. Credit: NASA/JPL

The second occurred shortly thereafter, when all around the world, the technological progress that has been building up since the Paleolithic exploded in a quantum leap of learning and accelerated change. Within decades, the Climate Crises began to abate, and a new world characterized by runaway change began to take over. And at about the same time, a renewed Space Age set in as humans began to migrate to the Moon, to Mars, and beyond.

And after about a century and a half of all that, the human race has now colonized the majority of the Solar System. Between Mercury, Venus, the Moon, Mars, the Asteroid Belt, Jupiter’s moons, Saturn’s moons, and of course, Earth and its millions of orbital habitats, the human race now stands at a hefty 15 billion. And across this vast interplanetary dominion, a massive economy has taken root that is beyond scarcity and want.

But there are no shortages of intrigue thanks to the forces that have shaped this new age. While the inner Solar System is populated by people who have embraced the Singularity, transhumanism, posthumanism, and runaway progress, the outer Solar System has become a new home for people looking to escape this pace of life and maintain a simpler existence. And in time, the disappearance of one person will force everyone – be they in the inner or outer worlds – to sit up and take notice.

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

I tell you, it’s been tiring process, getting this far. And at one point, I did declare that I had OD’d on writing about setting and world building. I mean, how can you dedicate 20,000 words to detailing a place, making it as vivid as possible for the reader, and then just switch to another? Screw plot necessity, it’s like abandoning an idea half-way! And I still have the all important one – the Cronian moon Titan – to cover.

But I’d be lying if I said that it hasn’t also been fun and that it wouldn’t be so tiring if I weren’t’ completely emotionally invested in it. And (spoiler alert!) that is where things should be the most interesting. As is usually the case, Part I through III of this four-part story have been all about establishing character, background, a sense of space and place, and introducing the various elements that drive the plot.

But in Part IV, I will not only get to write about a particularly intriguing place – Titan; capital city Huygens; dense nitrogen-methane atmosphere; principle industries, methane and ammonia harvesting; principle activities, sailing on methane lakes and gliding in low-g, cruising for action in its Yellow Light District and political dissent – but I’ll also be getting into the real heart of the plot, the mystery of the disappearing Dr. Lee!

A possible base on the surface of Callisto. Credit: NASA

In the coming months, I hope to have part IV, fully edited, and in a position to be published. While it remains unclear just what form that will take – the old submission to a publishing house route, or via an independent publisher – I know that some really amazing friends and colleagues will be there to cheer it on. Hell, some of them actually read this blog, for some reason. So if you’re reading this now, then I thank you for sticking with me thus far! 🙂

Good News… Of A Promotional Nature!

Good News… Of A Promotional Nature!

As I’ve been talking about non-stop for the past few months, I got a novel in the works. As of the writing of this post, I’ve written 25 chapters and almost 50,000 words (that terrible middle part!) But what I haven’t shared yet is that some lovely websites have promised to promote it as soon as its done. This is a first for me, and something that I’m really looking forward to!

Truth is, this wouldn’t be possible were it not for the professional writing I’ve been doing for the past year and a half. And it all started a few months ago when I was busy updating an article (How Long Does It Take To Get To The Nearest Star). The article was a few years out of date at this point, and my boss wanted it expanded to include all the cool theoretical methods that have been proposed over the past few decades.

Artist’s concept of the Project Daedalus spacecraft, with a Saturn V rocket standing next to it for scale. Credit: Adrian Mann

While researching the topic to find out how long it would take a nuclear-powered spaceship to make the journey, I stumbled across and saw that they had reposted the old version of the article. I also noticed that they had reposted a few articles done by little ol’ me, which include the very first article I wrote back in Oct of 2014 (about hibernation technologies for a trip to Mars).

While telling them that a newer version would be coming out, the manager and I got to talking. I asked them if they would appreciate some articles on terraforming, and happened to mentioned that I was writing a book where that was a major theme. To my surprise, they expressed interest in both things, and asked if they could interview me when the book was done.

Naturally, I was worried they thought I was someone who was… you know, a big deal! I was sure to point out that this book was fiction and not some professional treatise. I’m not exactly Mike Brown or Neil DeGrasse Tyson here. But they said it was cool! Then I pointed out that I didn’t have a publisher lined up, and it might very well be indie published in the end. They said that this was cool too!

Color-enhanced map of Mercury. Credit: NASA/JPL

Suffice it to say, I was surprised and flattered. And after talking this over with my boss (I wanted his permission to write content that would be put on another site, he said that was cool!), he told me that Universe Today would be promoting the hell out of it too. I was honored. At no point did I ask or expect that the people I work for would be promoting something I wrote on my own time. But of course, I was sure to let them know that the work I was doing for them is what inspired it.

Were it not for all the research I had been doing about the Solar System and articles I was writing about its various planets, the story would not exist. It actually all started with the article I wrote on Mercury, in fact. Learning about its extremes in temperature, its richness in minerals, its very slow rotation, and its icy poles all made me think that a mining colony would be possible there someday. Especially if it were a penal colony!

Bottom line, when the book is finished, two prominent websites are going to be making a big deal out of it. How cool is that?

And just in case anyone is interested, those terraforming article are now finished and up at Universe Today. There are three in the series now, starting with a rundown of the topic, and ones on how it could be done on Venus and Mars. Next up, the Moon, followed by Mercury and the Outer Solar System. Feel free to leave comments too, especially constructive ones. 🙂

The Definitive Guide To Terraforming

How Do We Terraform Venus?

How Do We Terraform Mars?


The Cronian Incident – Setting The Scene

The Cronian Incident – Setting The Scene

In my last post, I explained how I was struggling with my latest story. Particularly, it has been the task of setting the scene over and over again that’s been tiring me out. Luckily, I’m beginning to get to work again, thanks to getting a second (or third) wind. But the challenge is still a big one, so I thought I might share some of what I’ve working on and see if it helps break the logjam.

As I also mentioned last time, there are four major settings in The Cronian Incident. These consist of the planet’s Mercury, a space elevator above Mars, Jupiter’s moon of Callisto, and Saturn’s moon of Titan. Establishing these places as backdrops for the story presented many opportunities. You have to think about how people would go about colonizing and living on these worlds.

But there’s also the fun that comes from figuring out what a culture that evolved to live on these planets and moons would look like. What languages do they speak? What religions do they practice? What does their clothing look like, what kind of music do they listen to? And what kinds of technology do they rely on?

The story opens on the planet Mercury, where mining crews diligently travel out onto the dark side of the planet, extract ore, and then return to the northern polar region. This area, which is permanently shaded, is the only part of the planet which is inhabited – after a fashion. In truth, no one really calls the planet home. But there are facilities located in the large craters, where convicts and temporary laborers harvest minerals, energy, and ice.

For the miners, their facility is located in the Prokofiev crater, which one of the larger craters in the northern polar region. It is here where miners return with their hauls of ore, which is then processed and fired into space by the Sling – a magnetic accelerator that shoots it into orbit. Some food is grown on site, most of it is shipped in, and water is sourced locally from the ice deposits. And all waste products are recycled to provide the bare necessities of life.

It is a dark place, where convicts and laborers are housed four to a room and are administered regular doses of antidepressants (to address their natural feelings of isolation and lack of natural sunlight). Convicts also have the added bonus of being equipped with “Spikes”, a neural implant that monitors their aggression levels and incapacitates them if they ever attempt to do anything violent.

And just in case they attempt anything illegal, the convict population can be confined to solitary cells, where the room’s are entirely nondescript, tiny, especially dark, and they have no company at all except for their demons.


Along with Earth, the Moon, and Venus, Mars is part of the Triumvirate – a loose alliance that embraces the most advanced worlds in the Solar System. Over 50 million people live on its surface, whereas a few million more live in orbital habitats and the Ares Installation, which sits atop The Drift (the planet’s space elevator). This installation is essentially an O’Neil Cylinder (though its more like an O’Neil can) that consists of two “hemispheres” that rotate in opposite directions- simulating gravity up to the standard Martian 0.376 g.

This self-contained world is divided into Sadak, the Hindi word for road (which is one of the official languages on Mars). Each Sadak has its share of domiciles, parks, recreation facilities, and aerodromes, where people go to test out their personal fliers. At the “southern” end of the facility is Sadak Lovelock, which is the home of the Chandrasekhar clan. Within the Formist faction, the people dedicated to terraforming Venus and Mars, they are kind of a big deal. In tall towers that face towards the planet below (which is visible through massive panels) they plot the transformation of the Red Planet into a green planet.

Lovelock is named in honor of James Lovelock, the British scientist who co-authored The Greening of Mars (one of the seminal works about terraforming). It is here that the elder Chandrasekhar (Piter Chandrasekhar) lives in what is known as a Heilig Room. Also known as a Lattice Quantum Chromodynamics environment, this room allows Piter – who is basically an upload at this point in time – to assume physical form and interact with simulated environments.

Terrafomed Mars by ittiz
Terrafomed Mars. Credit: ittiz/

When Ward (the MC) meets him in this environment, he gets treated to familiar places from Piter’s life. This includes Mombasa, where Piter lived and worked during the mid-21st century, helping to create the coastal Lillypad city of Kimbilio. He then gives him a vision of Mars, of how it will look once the Formists are finished transforming it into a world with oceans, vegetation, and a breathable atmosphere.

In part III, Ward reaches the Jovian system – aka. the system of Moons that orbit Jupiter. His first stop is the moon of Callisto, which is the outermost of the Jovians. It is a cold, frozen world with virtually no atmosphere. All major settlements consist of sealed domes that were built into the moon’s massive craters. The largest of these is the moon’s capitol of Valhalla, which was built Callisto’s massive multi-ring impact crater of the same name.

The city consists of several rings, each of which is named after a different world of the Norse mythology. Working from the outermost ring, there is Vanaheim (where the spaceport is located), Alfheim, Midgard, Jotunheim, Svartalfheim, Nidavellir, Niflheim and Muspelheim. When travelling through the city to find an old friend, Ward stops in Niflheim. It just so happens to be one of the city’s poorer districts, where the moon’s radical elements (known as the Aquiline Front) live.

Credit: Kees Veenenbox/
View above a methane lake on Titan. Credit: Kees Veenenbox/

Last, there is the Cronian moon (Saturn’s moon) of Titan, where Ward inevitably goes to determine what happened to the man he’s trying to find. Much like the other moons of the outer Solar System, Titan is a world who’s surface consists mainly of ice. But unlike the other moon’s, Titan has a dense atmosphere of nitrogen, methane and other hydrocarbons. It’s surface is also covered in lakes of liquid methane, which is one of the planet’s chief exports.

The capitol of this world Huygens, a domed city named in honor of the moon’s discoverer (Christiaan Huygens). Located near the moon’s equator, this city is home to the moon\s main spaceport and is also the economic and administrative center of the entire Cronian system. As such, both the offices of the Cronian Union and the system’s more radical element – the Centimanes – are located here.

The city is also home to the infamous “Yellow Light District”, a pleasure dome that caters to every appetite imaginable. Naturally, I make sure that Ward visits here at some point, hoping to learn what he can from the moon’s many “pleasure technicians”. And of course, what he learns will both shock and intrigue him.

That’s what I got so far. And as I said, it’s been quite exhausting creating it all. I can only hope that the interest people derive from reading it will be proportional to the amount of energy it takes to write it all down!