Now THAT’S how to get to Mars

Mars from PhobosThe Planetary Society has just released its vision of how humans will first arrive at the Red Planet. And I am totally on board with them. As is always true of the Planetary Society, they have adopted both a reality check on what can be accomplished in the face of political opposition, and an informed view of the technical difficulties of the journey.

In a 45-page report, a team of space scientists convened by the Planetary Society has laid out a very sensible and detailed approach to the first manned mission to Mars. You can grab a pdf copy of it here: PlanetarySoc Humans Orbiting Mars.

Watney waitsThe gist of it is that we should plan to orbit Mars for quite some time before we land. There are many reasons why, but the most compelling is that you don’t need anywhere near as much rocket fuel to come and go from the Martian moon, Phobos. A base built there would become a center for studying Mars up-close-and-personal, and a staging area for the final push down into the “gravity well” of Mars. Gravity wells are notoriously hard to get out of–sort of like falling into a well on Earth–so the Society proposes to only do this after an orbiting station on Phobos is already fully functional and capable of helping the Earthlings to get back up from the surface. Such matters are a substantial issue in the movie The Martian, in which getting up from the surface is one of the major problems facing stranded astronaut, Mark Watney. In my view, the way the Society proposes to handle such matters is eminently sensible, different from the movie, and probably much more practical. As anticipated by the Society, Watney would have had a rescue team in orbit four thousand miles above him and ready to respond. That seems much more realistic than waiting for rescue from earth, 40 million miles away.

I am proud to be a Charter Member of the Planetary Society. That is, I was one of those folks who made the initial cash contributions to get the organization started. I am proud to see what they have accomplished in the decades since then.

And I guess you could say my original contribution has paid me an unexpected dividend. Among the science fiction novels I am currently working on is an adventure set on Mars during early colonization times around the year 2090. You can bet I’ll be factoring this new roadmap (orbit map?) into the “how we got there” part of my book. One vision illuminates the next.

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Natural Beauties of the Olympic Mountains

Sol Duc FallsIt isn’t just the coast of the Olympic Peninsula that shelters natural beauties. Other wonders are found in secluded mountain valleys and along the streams that plunge down from the craggy heights. Under deep forest cover, you come across sights like dazzling Sol Duc Falls. Fed by snow melt high above, the falls roar in multi-channeled splendor, plunging into a serpentine gorge crisscrossed by fallen giant forest trees. Its mighty rumbling roar summons spirits from old half-forgotten Quileute Indian legends. Here, it is said, the great dragons Elwha and Sol Duc fought over ownership of the valley. Neither could prevail against the other and so they vanished into the land, becoming these falls, whose name means Magic Waters, and the nearby bubbling, boiling Sol Duc hot springs. If you stand in the swirling mist and close your eyes, you can still hear their mighty struggles and feel the earth tremble beneath your feet.

Marymere FallsOther falls are smaller and more graceful. Frail trickles like Marymere Falls splash onto cliff sides, sharing their waters with thirsty ferns and mosses. Dippers–crazy little brown birds that build their nests right under the falls–fly into and out of the falls’ wet spray, where sheltering crevices foster their nests and babies. You’ll see them hopping around on river rocks or wading into and under the flowing waters below the falls to fetch bugs to feed their broods. All the while, delicate Marymere, daughter of mighty Storm King Mountain high above, patters down her protective shower.

Shelley at the fallsI’m not the only one around here who is charmed by these moving mountain waters. Here’s a snapshot of Shelley in her element. She loves to stand near enough to falling water to catch the spray on her face, to feel the cool joy of the clean wet stuff and breath in soft air that can only be found near the base of a falls. She’s a natural beauty, too.

Whenever we travel to the Olympic Peninsula, there is at least one hike to a waterfall and often two or three. Falls abound among these rain-washed mountains. And a person can never really get too much of such enchanting places. Wet. Magical. Cool. Beautiful!

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The Awesomeness of Spirit Cove

Rocky Spirit CoveThe savage Olympic Coast of Washington State is not a place for the fainthearted. Storm-torn, damp and often dismal, it challenges a visitor to stiffen up your spine or get the hell out. And don’t come back. It is a realm of cold and wet that drives off the casual sightseer. It challenges the willpower of those who would like to stay awhile. But in so doing, it distills humanity down to those few souls who are constitutionally able to forswear comfort for the sake of beauty.

Along this storm-racked coast there are remote places seldom seen–by humans. One of these, and an absolute favorite of mine, is Spirit Cove. Here the coastline seems to bristle against the cold North Pacific’s wave wash, standing in jagged opposition to the huge gray oceanic comers that smash against its bulwarks.

Spirit CoveIt is a fearsome place. But sheltered by jagged headlands is a small inlet of calm water, an almost impossible place of peace in a ravaged coastline. I have come to Spirit Cove a few times now, walking long, mud-choked, all-but-forgotten coastal trails under deep forest gloom, arriving wet-footed and cold, to be charmed and enlightened by what awaited me at the end of my trek.

Rock of RocksEven the stones of the place seem to have life within their hard exteriors. How else can one explain their composition? Here the rocks are made up of rocks in kaleidoscopic earth-tone symphonies of green, tan, purple, and brown. Stupendously huge fallen blocks contain boulders within them, as well as multi-colored pebbles and even the petrified sandbars of a bygone era.

Green poolAnd, sheltered among the rocks, life burgeons. An emerald tide pool teems with eelgrass and myriad tiny fishes. Its waters shout “Green!” to a sky full of muted gray fog.

On wave-washed bedrock, clans of orgiastic snails crowd together amid twining amber festoons of seaweed–kakalaklokadub in the Makah Indian language–that drapes the boulders of the place like intricate natural party decorations. Perhaps those snails gather together to sing potlatch songs, as it was in days long past when humans and animals freely transformed into one another.

Snail crowdSpirit Cove. This is the place where Raven first bit the shore, in the days when he was a giant, to carve out a home for animals and humans too. This is the central locale of my novel The Neah Virus.

Here is where Gordon Steel, the old Makah shaman, built his traditional longhouse without the benefit of saw or nail. Here is where the Lost Souls Disease first came, and where it went, in the old times. Here is a place of mysteries and answers. Here is a place where Raven still rules, where tiny chattering Douglas squirrels sing their songs, where humans come at their peril, and only come if their souls have been purified. Here is a place of dark, and light, and destiny.

Oh. Excuse me for wandering off into story. That’s the kind of effect the awesome beauty of Spirit Cove has on me. How about you?

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Pre-Order Dinosaur Wars 4 and save a buck!

Dinosaur TalesDinosaur Tales, the fourth book in my Dinosaur Wars series, will be released in ebook form for Nook, iTunes, Kobo, Smashwords, and other formats on September 14th. That’s good news.

Better news: you can pre-order the ebook for $2.99 until that day. That’s a savings of $1. Good deal, right?

I’d rush right over to my favorite ebook seller right now. Except, well, I already have a copy. ‘Cause —you know— I wrote it!

And of course, it’s available on Amazon as well. No dollar off deal there because they already had a free giveaway a week or two ago. Sorry if you missed it.

If you have never pre-ordered an ebook before, not to worry. The bookseller takes your order but doesn’t charge you until the date (September 14th in this case) when the book actually becomes available. It’s a good way to be sure your copy is reserved, and that you’ll get a dollar off when it is delivered. Nice.

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Dinosaur Tales free on Amazon today

Look out!Ever had one of those days when playing dodge’em with a charging Pachyrhinosaurus longicornus was your only option for a little excitement? Yeah. Me too.

But now you’ve got an alternative. Let Kit Daniels dodge that pachyrhino while you read a book on the beach or by the pool.

Which book? How about a book in which Kit Daniels dodges a pachyrhinosaurus? That could work.

Today and tomorrow, Amazon–the T rex of booksellers–is running a special on my ebook, Dinosaur Tales, in which Kit carries off her spectacular stunt. You can’t beat the price, $0.00. No need to even own a Kindle reader. You can download it to your computer.

No more fretting that the makers of Jurassic World didn’t bother to publish a print version of their film. Now you can get your quota of dinosaur-stomping fiction at no cost. That’s cheap!

And more good news, this time for those who read my books on Nook, iPad, iPhone and other devices: versions for all of those other readers will be released in just a few weeks, with a targeted release date of September 14.

Once again, here’s the link to get Dinosaur Tales from Amazon. Note: Amazon has all kinds of deals including their Kindle Unlimited for free. But look just below that for the tiny little link that says “$0.00 to buy.” That’s the one.

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The Amazing Persistence of Dinosaur Wars

Fire Lasers!Laser-blasting dinosaurs from outer space! Who could have imagined the appeal they would have to science fiction readers? Especially those science fiction fans who like the sub-genres of Space Opera and Dinosaur Fiction. But it’s safe to say that Dinosaur Wars: Earthfall and its three sequels ought to get some kind of award—for persistence if nothing else.

As of today Dinosaur Wars: Earthfall is ranked as Amazon’s 42nd best selling Space Opera book (actually best downloading, considering it’s free). A few days ago on July 4, it was ranked much higher, although I can’t seem to find the exact number, just this chart, which only shows its rank among all the millions of titles Amazon offers.

DinoStatsAlthough I couldn’t get more detail than that from Amazon, the implications are good for my Dinosaur Wars books. Although they have never hit the absolute bigtime, they just keep on selling and selling (the other titles being not-so-free). Earthfall, being the first, has the longest history. Most books rise and fall on the bestseller charts but this baby just keeps on a slow burn 15 years after it was first published. Talk about quiet persistence!

So, what’s it all signify? My view is that I guessed right when I did the math on how many people would be interested in reading about dinos from outer space. I used the known fact that science fiction books represent about 10% of book sales in all categories. To that basic data point, I added my guesstimate of 10% as the number of science fiction readers who would read about dinos from space.

Now, considering there are about 100 million readers of fiction in English worldwide and multiplying by 10% of 10%, you get the measly little number of 1 million readers for dinos from space.

Wait a minute! Was that one million readers! Whoa!

That was my estimate 15 years ago, and I’m sticking to it. You see, that’s where the Dinosaur Wars series gets its persistence. If I sell or give away a few hundred books here and a few hundred books there, I still haven’t made much of a dent in that total potential audience of 1 million readers.

So I keep at it. And it keeps working pretty well. And there are a lot more people out there yet to discover my stories. So I expect the persistent good performance of these babies to continue for another 15 years at least!

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Dinosaur Tales free today on Amazon

Chase the ToreadorEver have one of those days when bullfighting a triceratops was your only option for relieving summertime boredom? Yeah. Me too.

But now you’ve got an alternative. Let Chase Armstrong bullfight that triceratops while you read a book on the beach or by the pool.

Which book? How about a book in which Chase Armstrong fights a triceratops? That could work.

Today and tomorrow, Amazon–the T rex of booksellers–is running a special on my ebook, Dinosaur Tales, in which Chase carries off his spectacular stunt. You can’t beat the price, $0.00. No need to even own a Kindle reader. You can download it to your computer.

No more need to fret that the makers of the movie Jurassic World didn’t bother to publish a print version of their film. Now you can get your quota of dinosaur-stomping fiction at no cost. That’s cheap!

Once again, here’s the link to get Dinosaur Tales. Note: Amazon has all kinds of deals including their Kindle Unlimited for free. But look just below that for the tiny little link that says “$0.00 to buy.” That’s the one.

Two days only, July 3 and 4. Let the fireworks begin!

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Did Jurassic World ‘borrow’ my ideas?

Leaping LizardAgreed. Jurassic World is a fabulous monster movie. “Where do they get their ideas?” you might ask. And so do I. While I would never deny the originality of the writers who put the script together, I can’t help but wonder if some of their story ideas came from reading my Dinosaur Wars books. Some of the parallels make it seem that way.

For instance, one iconic scene is when the marine reptile, Mosasaurus, leaps out of a Sea-Word style aqua-theater to snap up a great white shark, a pterodactyl carrying human cargo, and… well I won’t spoil things by saying what else. But the original Jurassic Park had no aquarium and no Mosasaur. So where did the writers get their idea?

Could it be they read the scene in my book Dinosaur Wars: Counterattack, published way back in 2002, where a salmon fishing boat is threatened by a mosasaur? Or the scene in my more recent Dinosaur Wars: Blood On The Moon, in which a Mosasaur chomps a big bite out of a surfer’s board?

Let’s review. Two Jurassic Park books and three movies with no Mosasaurs in the 1990s. Then, two Dinosaur Wars books in the 2000s with Mosasaurs. Then, Jurassic World with a Mosasaurus. I get the feeling someone has been reading over my shoulder.

And that’s not all. In the first Jurassic Park books and movies, there were exactly zero dinosaur tamers. You know, like Owen Grady, the raptor trainer in Jurassic World. Somewhere in between the Jurassic Park days of the 1990s and now, the idea of a man who can control predatory dinosaurs came along. Did it originate with Jurassic World? Nope. There is another hero who has power over the beasts, and that’s the hero of the Dinosaur Wars series, Chase Armstrong.

Sit! Stay!Chase and his girl, Kit Daniels have had a series of wild encounters with T rexes and Utahraptors in all four Dinosaur Wars books. And in books three and four, they actually begin to give the mighty T rex some “human avoidance” training. And they catch and radio-collar rexes as well. Chase is clearly a model for the dinosaur-taming Owen in Jurassic World. In fact, I think Owen even looks a lot like tall, dark, and handsome Chase Armstrong.

Now mind you, I’m not accusing anyone of stealing any ideas. But being influenced by my ideas, either by reading them or talking to someone who did? Ah, that is another question.

And finally, isn’t it a shame my books weren’t made into a movie instead of, or in addition to Jurassic World? As I have written before, I had a Hollywood option deal and there was a project in motion to make Dinosaur Wars into a major motion picture when the announcement of Jurassic World brought it to a halt.

Oh well. I keep on writing, smug in the knowledge that I have imagined many more scenes with dinosaurs and humans than Jurassic World even comes close to. You might want to check out my Dinosaur Wars books sometime soon–before another Jurassic World movie comes along to ‘borrow’ a few more of my ideas!

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Dinosaur Tales — Published!

Dinosaur TalesTime to make it official. Dinosaur Tales, the latest book in my Dinosaur Wars series, is available on Amazon! Both the ebook and paperback are ready and waiting for eager readers. Other ebook formats will be coming soon to a bookseller near you.

Like the other books before it, this book portrays the huge creatures of the past in all their glory, while at the same time putting the cast of human characters through some fast-paced action. Time and again, you’ll find the hero and heroine, Chase Armstrong and Kit Daniels, running from dinosaurs, chasing dinosaurs, or occasionally just standing with mouths agape and observing the awesome beauty of the big beasts.

Chasing DinosI suppose Kit and Chase and company have some competition from the massive marketing machine now promoting Jurassic World. The movie is breaking box office records. Toys and kids’ books are selling like crazy. But I think I have one or two advantages in competing with the massive Hollywood machinery behind Jurassic World.

First of all, I’ve looked around and there is no BOOK version of the movie. That’s odd. Hollywood rarely forgets to tie in a book version for each of its major productions.

Cowgirl KitThe only adult-reading-level book out there called Jurassic World turns out to be just a double volume incorporating Michael Crichton’s old Jurassic Park novels one and two. So at least with Dinosaur Tales you’ve got a newly minted fresh-off-the-press story instead of a rehash.

Secondly, it appears I’ve done my homework better than Steven Spielberg and his movie-making colleagues. My dinosaurs have feathers and fur. Somehow, when the Hollywood moguls filmed Jurassic World, they missed the fact that fossils have turned up all around the planet in recent years showing us that dinosaurs were essentially big, feather-covered birds–albeit birds with very nasty claws, huge sharp teeth and, in some cases, four legs.

So, given that there is no Jurassic World novel, why not grab a copy of Dinosaur Tales? It will give you a new perspective on the big beasts and a chance to root for Kit and Chase, who may fall in love yet–if they don’t get eaten first!

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Dinosaur Wars book 4 cover art

King of the dino beastsWhat’s that? A T rex with a lion’s mane? And have those dinosaur wranglers lost their minds? They’re about to get munched by an angry parentalsaurus while roping junior!

But of course, such things are common in THE NEW WILD WEST, where dinosaurs live again and cowboys and cowgirls are nervous.

This is the new cover art for the fourth book in my Dinosaur Wars series, soon to be formally released in ebook and paperback formats. I like the lion mane idea. Both T rex and Leo are considered King Of The Beasts in their times. Rexxy looks even scarier with that dark, bushy, feather-fur headwear. Click the image for a closer look.

And these days, with more fur and feathers being discovered on dino fossils almost daily, we need to keep up-to-date in our book illustrations. Some folks feel my depictions of dinos go too far toward a mammal-like appearance, but I don’t know–the big beasties in my book might just turn out to be wearing what all fashion-conscious dinosaurs will wear in the future.

So, let the movie Jurassic World feature naked, scaly dinos. The evidence is starting to stack against that portrayal.

Time–and fossils–will tell.

Hot news item June 12, 2015: Dinosaur Tales has been published as an ebook and a paperback! Here’s a link to the new Amazon page for it:

Dinosaur Wars 4: Dinosaur Tales

Versions in other ebook formats will be coming soon.

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