Congratulations! Prizes Are Going Out Today

Last week we held a drawing for several copies of Walking On The Sea of Clouds — we organized a fun little “Facebook Live” event where three friends drew names out of an actual hat — and I announced the winners in my newsletter.* The prize packages will be on their way very soon, and here’s a look at everything in the Grand Prize:

If you didn’t win, you can of course pick up the novel on Amazon as an e-book or as a trade paperback. In addition to Amazon, it’s also available on the Barnes & Noble website, on Kobo, on Smashwords, and a few other places as well.

You may prefer to support your local bookseller, and you can certainly get them to order a copy for you. Fair warning, though, whether ordering online or at a bookstore: the paperback is a bit pricey — turns out it’s a pretty thick book!

If you like realistic science fiction, Walking On The Sea of Clouds might fit the bill for you — but don’t just take my word for it! Among other testimonials I’ve posted now and then, these get the point across quite succinctly:

Everything about Walking on the Sea of Clouds feels amazingly authentic.
— Edmund R. Schubert

This is meat and potatoes for the hard science fiction fan.
— Martin L. Shoemaker

I hope you’ll give it a try, and that something in it resonates with you! Let me know what you think — and if you like it, tell your friends!

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*I try to share different things in my newsletter than I do here on the blog or over social media, so if you’re not already getting it, I’d be pleased if you would sign up on my mailing list. At the very least, I think you’ll find it to be more personal, and more conversational, than the blog. Plus, you get a free nonfiction e-book for signing up!

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First Sighting in the Wilds of the Internet: Smashwords

If you want an electronic copy of Walking On The Sea of Clouds, you can now buy it on this Smashwords page.

Amazon and other links for print versions are still pending, but you can get it for your e-reader now!


That really is a fine-looking cover, don’t you think? (Click for larger image.)

Hope you like it!

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How Did We Get to This Point?

We’re one week out from releasing Walking On The Sea of Clouds into the world! In case you’re still wondering whether the novel is your kind of read, here are some comments made about it:

Much like The Martian, Walking on the Sea of Clouds puts you on a lifeless rock and makes you think about why we explore new frontiers even as it explains how it can be done.
— Booklist Online

This book will be treasured by anyone who has ever dreamt of visiting the Moon, walking on another world, or bathing beneath the light of a distant star.
— David Farland

Annoyed you haven’t been to the Moon yet? Then pick up Walking on the Sea of Clouds; you’ll feel like you’re there.
— Charles E. Gannon

If you’ve ever wanted to be a colonist on the moon, this is as close as you will ever get without going there yourself.
— Wendy S. Delmater, Abyss & Apex

In other words, if you’re not a science fiction fan, and space exploration holds no fascination for you, then my novel is not for you — and that’s okay. Maybe you know someone who likes such things; I’d be honored if you told your friends about it!

Since we’re down to just a few days before the book will be available, it seemed like a good time to review how this all came about, for folks who might wonder just how long the road to publication can be. Unfortunately, that in itself is a long story — since the road to publication was over a decade long — but because I value your time I cut down my original retrospective by more than half. (You’re welcome.)

So, briefly:

  • In 2000-01, when I was stationed in Greenland, I wrote my first novel about an environmental engineer working to keep a lunar colony alive. (Sound familiar?) I was offered a contract on it by a small press, but backed out because I could not accept the terms.
  • In 2003, I had the good fortune to attend Orson Scott Card’s writing workshop, where I learned why every other publishing house had rejected or ignored that first novel. The next year I attended his “Literary Boot Camp,” where the lesson was reinforced: that first novel was not up to par.
  • I turned my attention to short fiction, but the general idea of that first novel still appealed to me. In 2006, I wrote a novelette starring one of the main characters but that story never sold.
  • In 2007, I began writing the new novel under the title Mare Nubium, which is the lunar formation — the “Sea of Clouds” — where I located the colony.
  • In 2008, I set a goal for myself to finish the novel that year, and even cataloged my progress on my blog. I also had the good fortune to attend Dave Wolverton’s novel writing workshop, which challenged me in terms of structuring the story and presenting it in the best way I could.
  • In January 2009, I finished the novel. (Not only do I write slowly, but I was working two jobs during that time.) Shortly thereafter I sent it out to a number of readers for their feedback. I received a great deal of helpful comments, and in the process of making changes I re-titled the novel Walking On The Sea of Clouds.
  • In mid-2009, I started sending it to agents and publishers. Over the next few years I sent inquiries to over 60 agents, of whom about 40 actually wrote back to reject the novel. A grand total of four agents asked to see the whole manuscript, but they also passed on the project. (I never did get an agent.) At the same time I sent submissions to a variety of publishers — sometimes including a personal referral, sometimes referencing having met them at a convention. All told, I sent the novel to ten different publishers, most of which were at least kind enough to respond even if their answer was “no.”
  • In early 2016, WordFire Press said “yes.” There’s an interesting side story about that, involving interest from a newer small press that eventually led to WordFire speeding up their decision, but I’ll save that for another day. (Ask me at a convention sometime.) In May 2016, I believe, we signed the contract and the novel went into the publication pipeline.
  • Through the fall of 2016, the novel went through a “developmental edit” with Bryan Thomas Schmidt. I had worked with Bryan on two anthologies, and I was a bit surprised (but pleased) that he didn’t suggest any major structural changes to the story itself. I found his editorial suggestions to be very helpful.
  • In late 2016, the novel went into production: cover art (which is tremendous), interior design (also top-notch, with touch-up work being done even now), and so forth. By way of confession, some of the changes I asked for during this part of the process contributed to delaying the novel from the Spring to the Summer. I apologize for that.

That’s the story, in a pretty small nutshell. It seems like a case study in Danish poet and mathematician Piet Hein’s “cryptic admonishment”: TTT — things take time. Like many other pursuits, this is a marathon rather than a sprint, and sticking with it requires either dogged determination or an irrational stubbornness. (In my case it may have been both.) But thankfully we should be able to enjoy the fruits of all these labors in just a few days!


(Click for larger image.)

When the time comes, I will send out links for ordering the book from Amazon or wherever. Ordering from Amazon has certain advantages, but WordFire Press is making the book available in other venues as well. The novel will be available electronically or as a trade paperback, and if you prefer you will even be able to get your local bookstore to order a copy for you.

Meanwhile, you can still register for my giveaway: I’m going to hold a drawing to give away several copies of the novel, and the Grand Prize will consist of the novel, both my CDs, and other goodies totaling over $50! All it takes to get your name in the hat is to sign up for my newsletter. Go ahead, do it now — somebody’s going to win, it may as well be you!

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Book Giveaway! Register Now

I’m going to give away several copies of my debut novel, Walking On The Sea of Clouds, which is to be released on Wednesday, July 26th.

As I tell anyone who will listen, two reviewers so far have compared Walking On The Sea of Clouds favorably to The Martian, so if you liked that story you might like mine as well. (In all humility, that comparison is probably unfair to The Martian, since it was amazing and I don’t consider mine to be in the same league … though that clearly doesn’t stop me from referencing those reviews, now does it?)

For the giveaway, we’ll conduct a drawing for multiple prizes and the Grand Prize is a package of books and CDs worth over $50. So be sure to sign up!

You can register to win by signing up on my mailing list at this link or using the form in the sidebar to the right. Good luck!

And, I hope you enjoy Walking On The Sea of Clouds!

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Book Your Trip to the Moon, Two Weeks from Today

Bad puns aside, Walking On The Sea of Clouds is scheduled for release on Wednesday, 26 July!

Next week I’ll have more information about the best way to order a copy if you want one, and then as the actual date gets closer you may get tired of hearing from me about it. But, as I wrote to some friends last night, I’m only ever going to have one debut novel — and this is it! So I’m going to make the most of it.

Many thanks to the WordFire Press team for their hard work — and for putting up with my trouble-making!

Lunar Landscape
(Image: “Lunar Landscape,” by RDPixelShop, on Flickr under Creative Commons.)

It’s going to be a real thing, real soon!

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‘Fans of THE MARTIAN will appreciate …’

… some aspects of my novel, according to another pre-publication review.

Before we get to that, some news: I’m in the midst of examining the galley proof of Walking On The Sea of Clouds and owe all my comments to the good folks at WordFire Press by the end of the week. I have more news — as in, an actual release date — but I’m going to share it first with everyone on my mailing list, which you can sign up for here (and even get a free [nonfiction] e-book).

Now, back to the latest review of Walking On The Sea of Clouds. Wendy S. Delmater, editor of the electronic magazine Abyss & Apex, reviewed the novel for their 3rd quarter 2017 issue. Here’s an excerpt:

If you’ve ever wanted to be a colonist on the moon, this is as close as you will ever get without going there yourself.

Fans of THE MARTIAN will appreciate the technical struggles of Frank and Stormie, Van and Barbara, and the other couples sent up to a moon colony started as a private venture. What’s especially interesting is not just the bang-on accuracy of the engineering challenges involved, it’s the behind-the-scenes wrangling of the company sending them, the independent contractors, and the very human situations these forces create for the colonists….

You can read the whole review, and make a donation to support the magazine, at http://www.abyssapexzine.com/2017/06/walking-on-the-sea-of-clouds/.

Librazione 16 03 14 BETTER 23-03
I love this image of the moon with the maria — the “seas” — appearing to be covered with water. (Image: “Librazione 16 03 14,” by Giuseppe Donatiello, on Flickr under Creative Commons.)

I hope you think as highly of the novel, should you decide to read it!

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It’s Summertime, But is the Living Easy?

Happy Summer Solstice!

It’s officially Summer, astronomically speaking, and as I said last week it turns out my novel was not a “Spring release” after all. C’est la vie. I wish I could tell you when it will be available, but alas I cannot. The good folks at WordFire Press last told me “end of June,” but that’s not looking too good from this vantage point — so I expect it to be a few more weeks yet.

By way of apology for not being able to give you more definite information, I present to you another excerpt from Walking On The Sea of Clouds. This excerpt introduces Van Richards, an irreverent but passionate “grunt” on the Asteroid Consortium team, during his mission to set up part of the infrastructure to support the lunar colony.

Bright sunlight bathed the lunar highlands: along rills and near rocks, it cast short but ever-lengthening abyss-dark shadows.

It was a lot better to get this job done in the daylight than the darkness, as far as Van was concerned. As sunset approached, there would be precious few sunlit swathes left. And the big lights on the front of the rig would barely penetrate the darkness.

A chime sounded from the control panel in front of him; if Oskar had taken off on time, he should be in the area soon. Van checked the frequency and keyed his microphone. “Oskar, this is Van,” he said, dispensing with all radio protocol. “You out there, Oskar?”

The radio crackled a little. In keeping with the Consortium’s low-ball approach, its electronics were nothing fancy but easy to repair. Van waited a few more minutes, then repeated the call. He was about to transmit a third time when Oskar’s voice blared from the speaker.

“Lima Victor November, this is Lima Sierra Oscar Victor, over.”

“Hey, Oskar! Been waitin’ for you to call. Where are you?”

Oskar sounded annoyed. “Roger, LVN. We’re coming up on your left, Van, about a thousand meters high. I can see you clearly. Looks like you’re right on time, over.”

“Sure we are, Oskar. Where else would we be?” Van snuck looks out the left-hand window for the suborbital vehicle. “Hey, why don’t you drop down and scout out ahead for us?”

“Negative, LVN. That’s not in the flight plan. That route hasn’t changed since the last time anyone drove it, over.”

Van chuckled. Oskar loved flying almost as much as Henry, but he was so by-the-book that he wouldn’t take a risk unless it really needed taking. If even then.

“You never know,” Van said. “Some transie could’ve burst out, right on our path. You’ll regret it if we drive right into a sinkhole.”

“Negative, LVN,” Oskar said.

Van chuckled again. No, I don’t suppose you would, Herr Hintener.

“I see you now, LSOV,” Van said, slurring the acronym into “ellessovee.” The suborbital vehicle was about sixty degrees up and not quite abeam—call it about 8:30, moving to 9:00, on an analog clock. He was surprised he could see the vehicle at all: the bright sunlight and the lights in the cab washed out just about every outside light source. The flyer was visible only because it caught a good bounce from the Sun. The hydrogen-oxygen flame propelling the flyer burned clear, and even if he was at the right angle the glowing hot exhaust bell would be practically invisible to him. As it was, the reflected light would change and he’d probably lose sight of it before long.

Van noted the suborbital vehicle’s forward progress, and frowned a little. Oskar wasn’t trying very hard at all. He had enough fuel to fly nap-of-the-moon, but he’d programmed a semi-ballistic trajectory that let him coast after the initial boost. Knowing him, he’d probably programmed it close enough that he’d barely have to light the engines to touch down right at the rendezvous point. You’re sharp, Oskar, but you’re not much fun.

“Looking good, Oskar. See you at the implant point.”

“Affirmative, LVN. Watch out for the transies, over.”

Van switched off the microphone. “Good one, Oskar.” Even if a transient lunar phenomenon had lit off recently right in the middle of their path—which he supposed they would know, since so many people back on Earth were watching the Moon these days—it wouldn’t affect them that much. Whether it was outgassing or a minor impact, all it might do is raise a brief spray of dust; the big truck would just roll along pretty as it pleased.

Van switched to intercom. “Grace, you up? We’re coming up on the setup site.”

She answered right away, but she sounded sleepy. “Yeah, I’m up. Oskar’s nearby?”

Van looked back into the sky, but as expected the LSOV was out of sight. “I had eyes-on a second ago, but not anymore. He’ll be down and cooling when we get there.”

“Roger. Do I have time to grab something to eat?”

“Oh, yeah, plenty. We’re still about twenty-five klicks out, so it’ll be over an hour.”

“Okay. I’ll start running the arrival checklist in about thirty minutes.”

“Suit yourself, Telly.”

“I will,” Grace said.

“Ha-ha. Hey, leave me a little something, okay?”

“Why? You never leave me anything.”

Van smiled. “I’m still a growing boy, don’t you know?”

Grace didn’t answer, but that was okay. And Van didn’t care too much if she left him anything or not; Grace Teliopolous lived up to her Georgia Tech reputation as a “helluvan engineer,” but she was not a cook.

An hour later, the LVN-1 crested a rise and Van looked down into a wide valley. In the distance a few large rock formations cast reaching fingers of shadow, but most of the low valley seemed almost to glow.

And in the middle of the glowing field stood a manmade rock that cast its own shadow in Van’s direction.

Van had already set the vehicle’s radio to broadcast. “I see you, Oskar.”

“Roger, LVN, we have a visual on you also. Come on down and join us.” Oskar sounded as if he was sitting in the cab next to Van. “Henry and I are getting ready to exit the LSOV, over.”

An “X” appeared in the box on the checklist screen to Van’s left, in front of the “Establish close proximity line-of-sight communications” step.

Van smiled at his reflection in the head-up display. He puffed his chest and said, “Roger that, Lima Sierra Oscar Victor. We read your last transmission five by five, and copy your checklist telemetry. Copy your intention to commence Echo Victor Alpha and begin stabilizing Lima Papa Papa November Three and the Romeo Oscar Papa Sierra.”

Van wasn’t sure if it was Oskar or Henry Crafts who laughed over the radio, but it was certainly Oskar who spoke. “Alright, Van, just get your ass down here and get to work.”

Thanks for reading along! I’ll post more details about the book’s release as I have them.

Moon Waxing Gibbous January 2012
(Image: ” Moon Waxing Gibbous,” by John Spade, on Flickr under Creative Commons.)

 

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P.S. If you’re not already getting it, I’d be pleased if you would sign up for my newsletter. I try to make it more personal, and more conversational, than the blog — and it’s usually more timely, too. Plus, you get a free nonfiction e-book for signing up!

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Join the Asteroid Consortium?

Or stay independent?

That’s one of the dilemmas facing the characters in my novel, Walking On The Sea of Clouds, forthcoming from WordFire Press.

If not for the Asteroid Consortium, there wouldn’t be a lunar colony for them to set up. But their dream is to be independent, and the AC causes them a lot of grief as they pursue it.


Asteroid Consortium logo courtesy of Christopher Rinehart Art & Design.

I still don’t know when the novel will be released — it won’t be a “Spring” release after all, unfortunately (since Spring ends next week). But I noted a couple of weeks ago that it’s being fairly well received, as seen in what Booklist Online had to say:

Much like The Martian, Walking on the Sea of Clouds puts you on a lifeless rock and makes you think about why we explore new frontiers even as it explains how it can be done.

I hope you agree, once you can read it.

Stay tuned, and I’ll let you know the release plans when I know them!

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P.S. If you want faster access to more details about the book release — and, really, more in-depth information and commentary — then sign up for my newsletter. You’ll get a free nonfiction e-book for signing up.

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Quite a Favorable Comparison

The American Library Association’s Booklist Online recently included a brief review of Walking On The Sea of Clouds, and the last line of the review compared my novel to another recent science fiction novel you might have heard of. The comparison was so nice that the good folks at WordFire Press added it to the back cover:


(Click to enlarge.)

If the image isn’t clear (e.g., if you’re reading this on a phone and it’s too small to see), the new back-cover quote is:

Much like The Martian, Walking on the Sea of Clouds puts you on a lifeless rock and makes you think about why we explore new frontiers even as it explains how it can be done.

Not too shabby. Here’s looking forward to celebrating the book’s release in a few weeks!

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P.S. I told my newsletter subscribers about this a couple of weeks ago (I usually try to tell them things first). If you’re not getting my newsletter, why not sign up here? You’ll even get a free nonfiction e-book just for signing up.

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It’s a Slow Process, So Here’s a Brief Tidbit

It’s beginning to look as if Walking On The Sea of Clouds may not be a “Spring” release after all. Hopefully the actual date won’t drift too far into Summer, but I’ll keep you posted as I learn more!

Meanwhile, would you like to read an excerpt from the novel?

If so, here’s the start of the scene in which one of the main characters, Stormie Pastorelli, is about to undergo an experimental nanotechnology medical treatment — called a “picophage” treatment in the text — that’s required because she was exposed to pathogens while saving an accident victim’s life.

Hope you enjoy it …

The only warm color in the room was the red-brown ribbon of blood that flowed through translucent plastic tubing from Stormie’s right arm to the scanner and back again.

The rest of the antiseptic room blazed cold under the fluorescent lights: the row of cabinets labeled with machine-like precision, the stainless steel table with its orderly array of implements, the ubiquitous anatomy poster. The IV drip into her left arm was clear as ice water. Even the scanning and filtration unit itself, squat and boxy in its cream-colored housing with sky blue faceplate, seemed unwarmed though her blood flowed through it.

Over-conditioned air bit through the hospital gown, and Stormie wished she had taken the thin blanket the nurse offered. At least the gown was a tri-fold—a wrap-around with three arm holes—even if it had to be the standard putrid green.

Nothing to be afraid of, she told herself. Nothing but a million microscopic hunter-killers coursing through your blood.

Stormie squirmed a little on the padded table, and the paper covering crackled loud as thunder. The tubing pulled against the tape that secured it to her arm. In places where the light hit the tubing just right, her blood looked as dark as her skin.

Dr. Nguyen’s smiling face appeared in the wire-crossed glass set in the door. He waved, then came in carrying the brushed aluminum clipboard with all the release forms she’d signed. She hadn’t read them, of course; she supposed no one did. Written in the most obscure dialect of legalese, their clauses and codicils were inaccessible to those uninitiated in the lawyerly arts, even people who were otherwise smart; if system administrators could erect electronic barriers as formidable as lawyers’ linguistic barriers, no computer firewall would ever be breached. The papers all boiled down to I-understand-the-risks-associated-with-this-procedure-and-accept-the-improbable-but-very-real-possibility-that-it-may-result-in-my-death-or-permanent-disability. She had signed them with barely a first thought.

Dr. Nguyen’s black, greasy hair stuck out above one ear, as if he’d just gotten up from a nap at his desk. “How are you doing?” he asked. He reached out his slender hand and Stormie shook it for the third time this morning. “Everything still okay? No irritation?” He bent toward her arm and examined the needle site.

“Seems okay,” Stormie said. “I’m cold, though.”

The door opened again and the same stout, blonde nurse who had witnessed the paperwork—Nurse Myracek—carried in a plastic transit case about the size of a six-pack cooler. The dark, almost hunter-green case contrasted with the room’s stark brightness. She set the case next to the equipment on the steel table as Dr. Nguyen asked her to bring Stormie a blanket. She gave Stormie an “I told you so” look, but smiled and nodded to make it a friendly comeuppance.

“You’ll want to lie back now,” Dr. Nguyen said.

Stormie complied, and the clean paper sheet scrunched against her back. Her empty stomach complained about the preparatory fast. In a moment, Nurse Myracek had her expertly swaddled under a soft, robin’s-egg-blue blanket and put a small pillow under her head.

Stormie remembered something in a poem about the night, lying on the table … something about anesthesia … she tried and failed to recall the line. It might be appropriate, somehow.

Dr. Nguyen snapped opened the clasps on the transit case. They clattered down one by one, then he took off the lid and lifted out a syringe about the size of a cigar. He started making notes on his clipboard.

“Just think,” Nurse Myracek said. “That came from outer space.”

Stormie smiled a little. The nurse made it sound as if the picophages in the syringe were alien creatures brought back to Earth by some survey team. They didn’t come from outer space per se, they were grown and processed in the high-vacuum, medium-orbit foundry that the Low-Gee Corporation developed from the space station nanocrystalline laboratory. “Pico-” was marketing hype: they were smaller than almost any other nanomachines, but not three orders of magnitude smaller. So far they were one of only two commercial products that seemed to require low-gravity manufacture, but on that shallow foundation Low-Gee had built a small technical empire. A greater hurdle than making the things in the first place had been figuring out how to prepare them for descent into the Earth’s gravity well; the shock-and-vibration-damping packaging was expensive, but still cheaper than sending people into orbit for treatment.

Stormie nodded. They came from outer space. And you’re going to put them in me.

Clear Night Sky
(Image: “Clear Night Sky,” by Alex Leier, on Flickr under Creative Commons.)

Hope that gave you a feel for what to expect. Thanks for reading along, and stay tuned for more info!

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