Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The Dead Ship

Ever have a dream where you're walking through some place and everyone is dead?

Neither have I, but there is a scene of just such a think in my fourth Chapter.  The Yascurra, a small shuttle carrier, is close to a nuclear weapon that detonates.  The radiation is brutal, killing much of the crew where they stand, the rest suffer terrible radiation sickness before death....

Are there any survivors?  You'll have to read my book to find out.  Here is the first part of the chapter.


          Seto informed the captains of the fleet the jump neared termination. “All fleet ships, acknowledge receipt.”

Schein, jump termination in less than ten.”

Hinden copies.”

Palino copies.”

EF2358 acknowledges receipt.”

Amalli, drop before ten.”

Seto waited a moment. “Yascurra, acknowledge drop to realspace.”


Yascurra, Stennis, over.”

Hinden is standing by with two shuttles if you need boarding parties for the Yascurra, Stennis.”

“Captain Dayson has a shuttle ready to go here, Hinden, but I’ll pass along your offer to the Captain.” Seto looked questioningly at Sarah.

Sarah “Have them stand by, Lieutenant. We will send our men in first, then get help if it’s needed. We don’t know the conditions over there.”

Hinden, Stennis. Have your shuttle standing by, but first boarding will be one shuttle only, from the Stennis.”

Hinden acknowledges. Marines standing by.”

Seto turned to Sarah in frustration. “The fleet is ready for drop to realspace, Captain, except, of course, the Yascurra.”

“It’s OK, Lieutenant, you’ve done what you can. Check to make sure you’re secure in your station.”

 “It’s frustrating.”

“For us all, Hanali.”

“Maybe the nuke destroyed their communication equipment.” 

“Let’s hope, Lieutenant. But they were close to the bomb. We will do what we can. Speaking of which, Mr. Gilbert, we do have a shuttle ready to go? I want men on board that ship right away.”

“I have four marines on board our command shuttle, Captain. The pilot will dock toward the rear of the hangar deck. The marines will let us know as soon as they can.”


Sarah listened to Corriea fend off an incoming call from medical. The main view screen displayed the face of Commander Thea Jennis, the Chief Medical Officer of Seventh Fleet.

“…I just want you to be aware that we have much better shielding than some of the escorts. They almost certainly suffered horrible radiation exposure when the bomb detonated. Extensive burns, sickness, incapacitation... it’s even possible the Yascurra crew is dead.”

Maybe she’s just trying to prepare me. Either way, debate is pointless. It’s time for facts. “Doctor, we’ll know soon enough. Get to your acceleration couch for the drop to realspace. Quickly. That’s an order.”

Monday, July 29, 2013

Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers

I'll be at the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers Conference on Sept 20-22.  I'll get to pitch my book to an agent, see if I can pick one up.  I believe that will probably be the impetus to polish On the Shores of a Dark Sea off. 

The funny thing is it's all written in my head, but getting it on paper in an orderly fashion is a huge deal.  Organizing half a million characters into something that not only makes sense, but is appealing is quite the task.  Especially for someone like me who is far more visionary than functional. ;) 

I will also get my work critiqued by a couple of editors/agents as well.  I'm not going to say I'm excited about that, because it will probably be painful.  But it will be educational.

I'm going to have the same work critiqued at both sessions, I think, just to see if they come up with the same result.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

The Oasis System

In Chapter 4 Ensign Eris Dantora reports to Captain Dayson what she finds in the Oasis system as the Seventh Fleet drops out of FTL and approaches the newly discovered star.

Oasis is a K4 orange dwarf, with two inner terrestrials, two large gas giants, a thin asteroid belt, and three more smaller gas giants.  Two "snowballs" (large Kuiper belt objects) orbit farthest out.

So it looks like this:

(_)  Oasis
.    Oasis I
.    Oasis II
O    Oasis III (named Ember by the crew)
O    Oasis IV
:::::::  Asteroid Field
o    Oasis V
o    Oasis VI
o    Oasis VII
.     Oasis VIII  (dwarf planet)
.     Oasis IX  (dwarf planet)

The gas giant Ember winds up having four moons larger than Earth, as Ember itself is 11 times the mass of Jupiter.  My reasoning for this is simple.  The sun, when it ignites, blows the volatile gasses out into the outer solar system.  Since a K4 has a weaker solar wind than a G2 (like our sun), I think the first gas giant will form closer in toward the star.  Not only that, I think since the volatiles will have less outward pressure, that first gas giant will be a doozy.  The second might really be large as well.  The next planet I don't think could form because of the two massive gas giants constantly disturbing that orbit, preventing real accretion.

The next three planets are basically Uranus and Neptune types, cold, distant, made of the leftovers from III and IV.  VIII and IX are just Kuiper Belt objects, just as Pluto, Charon, Xena, Sedna, etc.

Planet IV will have a massive ring system, although that really doesn't come to play in my first book.  It might in later books. 

V, VI, and VII are really not of much interest.  I'll plan on them having moons, maybe some use will come of those at some point.  Gas giants tend to like their moons if our solar system is any example. 

So that is my thinking on the Oasis System.  Any thoughts?

Thursday, July 25, 2013

What I've loosely based my FTL drive on

This article is a good one, it covers the fact that NASA is working on a theory by Mexican physicist, Miguel Alcubierre.

NYT FTL article

I believe, one way or another, the universe is ours to move into, make our home, and expand what it means to be human, sentient, and alive.

I just wish I would have been part of that galactic society.  I guess that's why I'm writing sci-fi, because my vision is bigger than my reality.

Wheels... wooden

I write a section in one chapter where one of the prime characters meets a local wagon train.  When I wrote it, the thought occurred to me that there is no metal in my society on Refuge.  The wooden wheels of a wagon, without a rim, would be hammered to splinters in short order.  So what to do?

I started researching the information, of course, and you'd be surprised exactly how little there is on that type of thing on the internet.  I was surprised.  But I did find some pictures of an old Egyptian chariot, and they didn't look like they had metal rims.  They rode those things into war at speed, so the wheels had to stand up to abuse.  But I couldn't tell from the photographs exactly how.

I came up with three solutions, one of which is improbable due to the time consuming nature of it.
  1. Wrap the wheels in stone.  This would involve tedious hand shaping of small stone pieces to be attached to the wheels with pegs.  This seemed ludicrous.
  2. Wrap the wheels in bricks.  Easier to shape, but bricks can be brittle and would likely shatter often on rocks or cobble.
  3. Wrap the wheel in rawhide.  It absorbs impact, it could be quickly cut to fit and attached with wooden pegs.  The ends of the pegs would splay out, holding the hide in place.  Easy, quick, and cheap since animals are common.
I assumed #3 would be used.  Humans are very good at finding the quickest and easiest solutions for most things.  And innovative. For more protection for the wheel, I suppose a combination of #2 and #3 could be used.  The actual wooden wheel would have two protection layers, and the brick would be more durable if layers of thick rawhide were used. 
Is this actually in my book?  No, but I wanted to be ready for that person who said, "You can't have wheels on your moon, there isn't any metal for the rim!"

Oh, yes I can, Mr. Smartypants I haven't met yet.  Oh yes I can.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Real life

My family was asked by friends to go the local Renaissance Fair this weekend.  My wife originally wanted to go, I think, but I did not.  I suppose it's sad that I thought, "That's an entire day of writing down the drain!"

But there are other reasons.  I don't like crowds.  That's being kind, I abhor crowds.  Known people are fine, but a crowd of strangers is like taking a Hypertension 101 class.  It will be different if my writing takes off and they're there for a book signing, or something similar.  That's orderly, and people are usually very civilized at book signings.  Festivals?  Not so much.

Money is always an issue in our house, my wife and I are both impulsive individuals, and we have in the past spent money foolishly when we had a surplus of it.  Now that I'm staying at home in an effort to become a writer, money is a lot tighter than it used to be.

I suspect the cash aspect has hammered more than one writer, and we live in a very expensive town.  I wonder what percentage give up their dream to be an author simply to afford groceries?  That will not happen in my case, it's not like we're not making it.  But it's tight, unlike previous years.  I'm constantly reminded (by me) that even if I wanted to attend the Renaissance Fair, it would be a tremendous waste of our limited resources.

I'm spending $400 + hotel costs to attend the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers conference in September.  $400.  I know people who were published and didn't see that much of a return on their first book!  But to get noticed, you have to meet the right people and it should be an eye opening experience.  

Well, this really was sort of stream of consciousness.  But I am feeling a bit guilty for not attending with friends of the family.  Such things, however, must take a seat at the back of the bus.  I have no time for failure, and this book must be published.  Onward.

Nukes, oh my!

In the book a nuke is used.  I needed to nuke a small 3 kilometer wide valley. 

The method is a deuterium-tritium capsule collapsed by a lithium ring with magnetism.  The amount of fuel could be variable, allowing the nuker to set the size of the detonation, I'm thinking.  I'm not sure about this, so I didn't specify that in my writing. 

What I did do was research nuclear bursts, and the areas of effect.

I used a 2 kiloton yield to achieve my goal. 


You too can nuke the place of your choice, with the yield that you like the most.

Let's hope this never happens.  But it does in my story.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Researching fire

I am researching fire for my warward moon, alone in it's inhabitibility so far above the galactic plane.

Refuge has 1.5 times the pressure of Earth, but only 16% O2 compared to 21% on Earth.  It turns out that with reduced oxygen as a percentage, the reaction (fire) is just as active if you have higher pressure.  So I'm moving forward with the presumption that fire is going to operate on Refuge much like it does on Earth.  There might be some difference to the shape of the flame due to increased gravity and atmospheric pressure affecting the heat column, but I suspect that a fire on Refuge will look remarkably like one here on Earth.

Here is the link to the site I am getting data from.  Yes, it's dummies.com.  Not everything has to be smarties, does it?


This site also speaks briefly about fire and pressure.


BTW, first draft of Chapter 25 just rolled off the assembly line.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Blockage over

Writer's block is history.  I wrote Chapter 21 today, reaching 35,000 words.  The book is probably halfway done as far as story goes, and then there is the editing.... oh, the editing...

It's 3:07am.  I'm going to bed, where I will lay for an hour thinking about Chapter 22.  Then I will doze off for 8 hours, rise to another day, and likely put Chapter 22 down on electronic paper. 

Writing is a bit like I remember running as being.  Yes, I used to run.  A lot.  No more.  But writing is like that.  The more you do it, the more you want to do it.  But if you stop, getting started again can be a pain in the rear.

It's too bad about the editing thing.  If I could actually write a chapter on the first pass that didn't have passive voice, POV shifts, grammatical errors, and the occasional blurb of nonsense, I'd be able to churn out six books a year I think. 

It's not the story telling that is hard.  This book has been completed to some degree in my head for a while now.  It's the getting it on paper in a way that makes sense, a way that is compelling... that's is what's hard. 

My future as a writer depends on me doing what is hard.

Maybe, like running, that will get easier with time as well.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013


When I made my art for the surface of Refuge, I added in birds without thinking.  Would birds be practical on a world with 1.16g?  Or would they become, in essence, all just chickens flapping nearly useless wings for a few dozen meters of pretend flying?

I think the saving grace for birds on Refuge would be the denser atmosphere.  1.5 times Earth pressure at sea level.  Why do I think that would be a saving grace?

When a bird flaps its wings, it is pushing against the air to lift a solid object (the bird) into the air.  The effects the bird is trying to overcome include the fluidity of the air, which simply wants to flow around the wing.  Feathers are the way they are so that they create "roughness", or drag, which causes air to stay under the wing long enough to be pushed against.  The force needed to lift a few pounds into the air must be held by the air long enough for the bird to get into the air and climb higher.  That force would be even greater on Refuge. 

A huge amount of the effort the bird expends would be to move the wings fast enough that the lift is created before the air sloshes out from under the wings.  In an atmosphere that is 1.5 times as dense, that force would be significantly less because even as air sloshes out, there is still more air left to push against than there is at the pressure of our atmosphere.  There are a few minuses, such as the bird pushing harder to move the air above out of the way as well.  But the bonus of a thicker atmosphere would, in my amateur opinion, be more than enough to make up for 16% increased weight. 

I'm not going to do the phsyics, oh no.  I'm not about to spend days on all of those variables just so I can have birds in my book.  Instead, I'll just put them in and believe I'm right. ;)  But it's my very strong hunch that birds exist on Refuge as they do on Earth and the physics of it would be perfectly viable.  In fact, birds might have an easier time on Refuge than they do on Earth.  Lift might be far easier to generate.  If anyone cares to prove me wrong, I'd love to see that math. 

Sometimes you want to create....

but writing isn't the answer. 

Today is one of those days, so I amused myself by creating a preliminary book cover and taking the advice of a person who should know and jazzing up the gas giant in the sky.

So, unless some criticism arises that reaches into my heart and it grows many sizes bigger like the Grinch, I think my cover art is done.  Of course if I get a big publisher to accept the contract, this cover art probably all goes out the window anyway.  But it's been fun to make, and seeing that gas giant hovering in the sky... the green sky... has made this feel very real to me.  So it's certainly served a purpose. 

Then cropping the painting and creating a book cover, well, that's just tickling my vanity.  But what a sweet thought it is!  I'm not sure how many authors illustrate their own cover, but if that works out that would be the thrill of a lifetime as well. 

So here is the final painting.  I added in the gulls to let people know that Refuge is a living world, although it's in a strange place.  Interestingly, every gull you see on the painting is the same gull!  I had a hard time finding birds to use from the internet, so I found one gull I liked and I modified him several times.  So I suppose you could call him a clone. 

A perfect day on Refuge!

Here is my self indulgence of a book cover. 

Is that vanity?  I don't know.  But what I can say is that it feels good to see what a book I have written from my own imagination, research, and time spent typing away might look like.  

Hopefully tomorrow the temporary block that is keeping me from typing words instead of painting images will pass.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Chapter 20

I'm starting Chapter 20 today, in first draft.  I'm not sure why that seems like a landmark, probably that nice round number.  But a landmark is what I've decided it is. 

Chapter 20:  Tentative Title:  Gilbert's rampage

Friday, July 12, 2013

Sound on Refuge

When I created Refuge in my mind, I created a world much larger than Earth.  A world that while much greater in ocean coverage percentage wise, still has three times the land area of Earth.  That's a lot of breathing room!

I'm writing what is currently Chapter 19, and there is an explosion.  I'm telling the chapter from the point of view of someone who is about as far away form the city as you would ride in a shortnight, so no longer than 99 minutes (see earlier blog about the day/night cycle).  At 6kph, that's about 9 kilometers.  So I need to calculate how long the sound from the explosion would take to reach the viewer.

It's not as simply as it sounds.  On Earth the speed of sound is 343mps, roughly, but it will be different on Refuge because the atmosphere is, I've decided arbitrarily, about 1.5 times as dense as Earth.  Why did I decide this?  Mainly because of two reasons.  The first is that Refuge has 1.16x the gravity of Earth, so it is likely to retain more.  But Refuge is also inside of a gas giant moon system.  Not just inside, but one of the inner moons.  The density of stray matter near that planet (it's 11 times Jupiter's mass) is going to be higher and Refuge would have picked up more gasses in the first place.

While searching for my answer to see how much faster/slower sound would travel on Refuge, I came to this page:


I mention this often, but I'm not a physicist.  My eyes, however, are drawn to this formula:

For sound propagating through a gas, the speed is given by

v = sqrt (B/u) where B is the bulk modulus B = - dp/(dV/V).

For air, B = 1E5 N/m^2 (for a gas, B = the pressure) and u = 1.3 kg./m^3 giving v=277 m/s.

I'm fairly sure, since U=density, that I can simply multiply 343mps by 1.5 and roughly arrive at my conclusion.  I don't need precise numbers, since the person I'm writing the POV from is pre-high tech and not wearing a watch.  It's not like she's going to say, "The sound took 18.2 seconds to reach me."

But I do need to know if it's slower, or faster, and give a general idea of the delay.  The reason the result above doesn't reach the correct result is that because sound traveling in air doesn't transfer heat, which increases the bulk modulus (B) in the formula above.  

I am not going to learn about that in detail, but consider that sound on Refuge travels roughly 1.5 x 343mps, or roughly half a kilometer per second.

9 kilometers outside the city, for purposes of my book, Merik hears an explosion 18 seconds (or in her estimation, four breaths) after she sees it.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Working on cover art

I've written several chapters over the last few days, although none of them are refined enough to give a sample.

What I've also been working on, and what has kept me up until 4am, is this image of how I think the sky might look on Refuge about 2/3 of the way through second day.  If the concept of second day is confusing, remember that Refuge has a 26+ hour night, followed by roughly a 12 hour first day, then it passes behind the shadow of Ember (seen in the picture in the sky) and has a shortnight as it passes through the shadow.  Then it emerges for second day, approximately 12 hours long before entering longnight once again for 26+ hours.

I give you Refuge, with it's green skies due to an orange dwarf star as a primary light source instead of a yellow dwarf star like ours.  I may still not have the color right, it might be a more blue green.  The nitrogen still would scatter blue most strongly, after all.  But the light would be dimmer, as Oasis (the K4 orange dwarf) would be dimmer than the sun at the distance Refuge is from the star.  So the days would be darker.

Overhead is Ember with its raging internal heat blasting through clouds of sodium and potassium.

It's 4:11am here in Colorado.  I should probably go to bed now.


Ok, here is what I think is the final rendition of this photo.  I'm a bit burnt on writing right now, so next I'll be designing the look of the Michael Stennis.


Friday, July 5, 2013

Just a joke for the weekend...

An electron is driving down a motorway, and a policeman pulls him over.

The policeman says: “Sir, do you realise you were travelling at 130km per hour?”

The electron replies: “Oh great, now I’m lost.”

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

The day/night cycle of Refuge

Ok, the day/night cycle on a moon that circles a gas giant is going to be complex.

You live on Refuge.  You get up in the morning, the sun, Oasis, is rising in the Eastern sky.  The day is going to be a beautiful green!  The sun rises higher and higher in the sky toward Ember, who is in the exact same spot as it is every day.   The Sun nears Ember, and 11 hours and 51 minutes after the sun rose it disappears behind Ember for 99 minutes.  Just over an hour and a half later it reappears, only to set 11 hours and 51 minutes later.  As the sun sets, however, Refuge is moving between the sun and Ember which is making Ember brighter in the sky, so night is lit up with a gas giant blazing away overhead.  Not that it's MUCH light, because as a class IV gas giant Ember only reflects 3% of the light that reaches it.  An interesting day night cycle that would change seasonally as the plane that Refuge orbits Ember in tilts relative to the Sun.  Sometimes there might not be a shortnight at all, other times it might only be a few minutes.

Refuge is tidally locked to Ember.  I've decided on Ember as the name for the gas giant, Hades is just a bit to cliche.  So Ember it is.

The mass of Ember is:  2.12576E+1028  (figured as 11.2 Jupiter Masses)
The mass of Refuge is:  1.84342E+1025  

I calculated the mass of Refuge by deciding I wanted it to be a large world.

20,800 kilometers in diameter.  

I wanted it to have a livable surface gravity.


So with 1.16g and a 20,800 mile diameter I came up with


F=ma, the little m's cancel out.  GM/r²=a


a=11.368 (1.16x9.8)  Which is the increased gravity of Refuge over Earths 9.8m/sec²
G is the gravitational constant, or 6.67x 10E-11)

11.368 x 10400000²/(6.67 x 10E-11)

M= 1.84342E+1025   (how annoying it is that there is no code for superscripted numbers over 3?)

Earth's mass, by comparison, is  5.972E+1024   
This gives Refuge a density of......

D = mass/volume

We have the mass above.  Volume is determined by 4/3πr³

So the volume of Refuge is 4/3π(1040000000)³ or 4.71181E+1027 cubic centimeters  (the radius is listed in centimeters)

Earth has a density of 5.52g/cm³
Refuge has a density of 3.91g/cm³

So Refuge is significantly less dense than Earth, mainly because it's very metal poor.  Silica rocks tend to have a density of around 3 times water, metals tend to be much more dense.  Refuge has a nice iron core, however, kept fluid by the huge planet wrapped around it like a blanket.  This creates the magnetic field that keeps the surface safe from radiation.  Along with the dense atmosphere.

But we're here to discuss the day night cycle, and make any changes necessary to the location of Refuge's orbit around Ember to give it a reasonable day/night cycle.

Ok, I'm going to cheat a bit.  I'm using an online calculator for this, but here is the link.


I give Refuge a semimajor axis around Ember of 1,100,000 kilometers.  In the place of mass of sun I input 3561.5 using the measurement of Earths, because that's how massive Ember is relative to Earth.  I did the same thing with mass of planet using 3.11, because that's how much more massive Refuge is than Earth.

I come up with an orbital period of 2.22551 days.  I had roughly done the math in my head for about 2.5 days, so this works for me.  Refuge orbits Ember in roughly 53.4 hours.

Why is this important?  Because Refuge is tidally locked to Ember, its day relative to Oasis (the sun) is also 53.4 hours.  That means 26.7 hours of daylight, followed by 26.7 of night.  That would take some getting used too!  But in the 10-12,000 years humans have been on the planet, they adapted.

So what's a shortnight?  That's the time that Refuge is technically in its 26.7 hours of day, but passes behind Ember.  This would be the darkest time of all for the locals, as the sun would be hidden behind Ember, and Ember would not show any sunlit surface at all to those on the ground of Refuge.  The only light would be the glowing red of iron rain clouds on Ember, the other moons in the sky that orbit Ember, and the tapestry of the Milky Way 19,000 light years away.  Talk about an interesting night sky!

So Ember is 180,000 kilometers in diameter.  How long does shortnight last?

We'll treat Refuge's orbit as a circle.  The circumference of the orbit is π * diameter, the diameter is 2,200,000 kilometers.  So π * 2,200,000 is  6,911,503 kilometers.  It covers this in 53.4 hours, so 6.911.503/54.3 = 127,283 kilometers per hour, or /3600 =  a stately 35.356 kilometers per second.

Let's say that Ember is oblate like Jupiter, with a polar diameter of 180,000 but an equatorial diameter of 210,000 kilometers.  That means Refuge passes behind ember in 5,939 seconds.  99 minutes.

So shortnight is 99 minutes!

This is a lot of math (which I hope I got right, I'm not a physicist) to determine that a shortnight on Refuge is just over an hour and a half. But it's important to the story, it's important to consider if the moon would experience any significant cooling during the time it was in Ember's shadow... it all pertains to making the story more real.  I would feel like I was ripping off my reader if I didn't try to get the details as accurate as possible.

How big is the burning rage of Ember in the night sky during shortnight?

Using this calculator, the data says that Ember will be 9.3448 degrees of sky pole to pole, and 10.905 degrees of sky at the equator.  By comparison, the moon is about .5 degrees in our night sky on Earth.  So Ember would rage 20x larger than the moon in our sky.



I can now update the blog on the road via BlogPress. That's a good thing, if the Internet is good where I am. Currently, in my living room, it's excellent.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:The living room