Books as Gifts

I love giving books as gifts.  Here are a few I highly recommend!

They are each a great combination of fun, harrowing, and high adventure, with characters you’ll love.  They’re just right for the season.  Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, and Happy Holidays!

J.M. Ney-Grimm’s fantasy Winter Glory is a glittering tale of two people, who once loved each other, traveling over the river and through the woods.  In an icy wonderland they face both danger and the consequences of their own choices.  Ney-Grimm has a fresh and elegant writing style that captures the epic sense one wants in fantasy, but she also tells a story with a strong heart.  I gave my sister this book for Christmas last year I loved it so much.

From the blurb:  In the cold, forested North-lands, redolent with the aroma of pine, shrouded in snow, and prowled by ice tigers and trolls, Ivvar seeks only to meet his newborn great granddaughter.  Traversing the wilderness toward the infant’s home camp, Ivvar must face the woman he once cherished and an ancient scourge of the chilly woodlands in a complicated dance of love and death.

Ivvar’s second chance at happiness – and his life – hang in the balance.


Sarah A. Hoyt’s Prometheus winning science fiction novel, Darkship Thieves, is a rip-roaring, action packed romp through the solar system, from an Earth ruled by bio-lords to a secret colony on a mysterious asteroid.

From the blurb:  Athena Hera Sinistra never wanted to go to space. Never wanted see the eerie glow of the Powerpods. Never wanted to visit Circum Terra. Never had any interest in finding out the truth about the DarkShips. You always get what you don’t ask for. Which must have been why she woke up in the dark of shipnight, within the greater night of space in her father’s space cruiser, knowing that there was a stranger in her room. In a short time, after taking out the stranger—who turned out to be one of her father’s bodyguards up to no good, she was hurtling away from the ship in a lifeboat to get help. But what she got instead would be the adventure of a lifetime—if she managed to survive…


Dave Freer’s fantasy novel Changeling Island, a Dragon award nominee, is a modern version of all those books we loved as kids.  There’s a sense of community and responsibility for one’s actions and a hero we can root for, but now there are cell phones and divorced parents.  I loved it.

From the blurb:  Tim Ryan can’t shake the feeling that he is different from other teens, and not in a good way. For one thing, he seems to have his own personal poltergeist that causes fires and sets him up to be arrested for shoplifting.

As a result Tim has been sent to live on a rundown farm on a remote island off the coast of Australia with his crazy grandmother, a woman who seems to talk to the local spirits, and who refuses to cushion Tim from facing his difficulties.  But he’s been exiled to an island alive with ancient magic—land magic that Tim can feel in his bones, and sea magic that runs in his blood. If Tim can face down the danger from drug runners, sea storms, and the deadly threat of a seal woman who wishes to steal him away for a lingering death in the land of Faery, he may be able to claim the mysterious changeling heritage that is his birthright.

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The Importance of Titles

No, this is not a post about the aristocracy. This is a post about book titles.

As readers, we can all appreciate the strange, poetical allure of Stranger in a Strange Land, or the yearning created by Time for the Stars. I definitely picked up Dies the Fire because of the title.

I called my first book The Sky Suspended. I took it from A.E. Housman’s poem Epitaph to an Army of Mercenaries, one I memorized as a teen with no idea as to its origins or real meaning. (It’s from World War I, and, according to this site, Housman wrote it in response to German sneers that the British Army was an army of mercenaries because the soldiers received pay.). I always thought it was about Italian condotierri. In my defense, I was ignorant because I didn’t have the Internet, and that was because no one had yet invented our collective brain.

Be that as it may, the poem stuck in my head and I mined it for the title. (If you go on Amazon, you’ll see that other writers have as well, applying it to tales of aerial derring-do.)

The benefits of this title for a book about lawyers, crowds, past asteroids and present mania for a newly discovered world, consisted of it resonating—at least for me—on a couple of levels. The government is trying to keep people from going to the new world, thus suspending the human desire to explore, and seek out, strange, new worlds. Also, as a lawyer, it carried connotations of rights, privileges, or licenses suspended, revoked, or otherwise kept in check. For a book about a lawyer who wants to see human settlements on the new planet and perhaps go there himself, it fit nicely. I will mine the same poem for the sequel. In the second book, of which I have a working draft, Calvin Tondini leaves the government for the private practice of law, hence the title Mercenary Calling. There will be corn on the cover.

What got me thinking about all of this was that I have a separate series, the Waking Late books, I’m also working on. (The functional ADHD I acquired in my job at the FAA carries over into my fiction writing, too: I have to work on more than one project at a time.). In the Waking Late series, a lost starship finds an imperfectly hospitable world where the stranded settlers struggle to build a civilization. Gilead Tan, who has been kept in cold sleep for centuries, wakes to find things not to his liking at all, particularly the civilization the original settlers built. A former space marine, he busies himself with addressing his concerns.

His story is one I had worked on a long time ago. I didn’t finish it, and it sat in a drawer with an entirely different main character and languished until a couple of years ago. I was sitting in the garden at the Freer Gallery at lunch, gazing around at the pretty architecture in the courtyard, thinking it looked sort of like a fairy tale, maybe Sleeping Beauty, and the name Sleeping Duty drifted into my head.

Oh dear, thought I. I love that. It would make a great book title. It would make a great title for that thing in the drawer. But that person whose name I can’t remember isn’t the main character. Gilead is the main character. And it’s not a friend trapped in the sleeping cells. It’s Gilead’s wife. So I wrote that one.

The title to the sequel, Out of the Dell, is perfectly fine, seeing as how Gilead and company have left the human biome of First Landing, but it doesn’t have the clever twist on a fairy tale that the first one did. I tried. It’s probably a mash-up of The Farmer in the Dell and Out of the Cradle, and since the team is outside the human-friendly valley of First Landing they are way outside their comfort zone. Literally. It has other cool stuff (thank you, ancient Romans), but no fairy tale title.

I’ve started working on the third Waking Late book. I knew roughly what was going to happen, but the book had no title. I felt strangely desolate. I asked people on a Facebook group whether they knew any nursery rhymes or fairy tales with blasters, soldiers, or sleeping people, that I could twist to my nefarious ends. L. Jagi Lamplighter brought up Do Your Ears Hang Low as a ditty with a soldier in it, and that took care of that: Like a Continental Soldier is the next book. (By the way, if you look that song up—on the Internet—you will find that in the original version something else hung low. Shocking.)

Weirdly, getting the name helped me realize a number of things about the plot. This is a book about a battle. That was something I knew but didn’t want to admit because it’s going to be hard to write. I don’t know anything about battles. But knowing the right title helped focus the actual nature of the story for me. Also, the ending wasn’t the ending. It was the middle. After that middle, which may prove hard on a number of people, Gilead and his crew will be in for some very rough times. As will I, because I have to research small battles with rifles, muskets, and swords. I need to find a museum where I can look at these things. I have to figure out what an advanced civilization might do to make sure its small population of settlers could defend themselves for generations. And there will be soldiering, because you can’t title a book Like a Continental Soldier without some soldiering.



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Building a Garbage Truck for Space

This guy is awesome:

Mitsunobu Okada, aspires to be more than an ordinary garbageman. Schoolroom pictures of the planets decorate the door to the meeting room. Satellite mock-ups occupy a corner. Mr. Okada greets guests in a dark blue T-shirt emblazoned with his company’s slogan: Space Sweepers.

In my novel Manx Prize, Charlotte Fisher creates what she calls the B&B (Brake and Bake), to grab and burn up space debris in her quest to win $50 million in gold.  Mr. Okada goes one better:

He said he has created a two-step plan for making money from debris removal. First, Astroscale plans to launch a 50-pound satellite called IDEA OSG 1 next year aboard a Russian rocket. The craft will carry panels that can measure the number of strikes from debris of even less than a millimeter. Astroscale will use this data to compile the first detailed maps of debris density at various altitudes and locations, which can then be sold to satellite operators and space agencies, Mr. Okada said.

“We need to get revenue at an early stage, even before doing actual debris removal, to prove that we are commercial, as a business,” said Mr. Okada, who added that he had already raised $43 million from investors.

The more ambitious step will come in 2018, when Mr. Okada says Astroscale will launch a craft called the ELSA 1. Larger than its predecessor, the ELSA 1 will be loaded with sensors and maneuvering thrusters that will allow it to track and intercept a piece of debris.

The company settled on a lightweight and simple approach to grabbing space debris: glue.

In Manx Prize, the Consortium of Man, a fictional association of satellite and orbitat operators located on the Isle of Man, offers a prize to clean up the orbital environment.  In real life, the Isle of Man really is a very space friendly environment.

(The link is to a New York Times article if you want to read the whole thing).

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Space Settlement Symposium

I’m looking forward to participating in a New Worlds 2016 Space Settlement Symposium in Austin, Texas.  The panel I will be on, moderated by asteroid miner Sagi Kfir of Deep Space Industries, will address Who Owns Space?

Citizens are going into space. Who has the right to do what and where out there? How do we avoid the mistakes made on Earth, yet encourage the harvest of space resources that might save the planet? How do we make sure no one grabs the solar system yet enable regular people to dream they might own a house on the Moon or homestead Mars?

It looks to be fascinating.

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Institute for Humane Studies

I’m looking forward to participating in The Law and Economics of Space Policy, a seminar conducted this weekend by the Institute for Humane Studies and the Mercatus Center at George Mason University.  I will talk about U.S. government regulation of space transportation and communications, and whether the Outer Space Treaty requires the regulation of all commercial activities in outer space.

Space law appears in my books Manx Prize and The Sky Suspended.

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Just Released–Waking Late Book 2, Out of the Dell

OUT OF THE DELL is now available in Kindle Unlimited on Amazon.

out-of-the-dell-cover-concept-5-1On the planet Nwwwlf, in the lost colony of First Landing, the original settlers carved out one sylvan valley, a lone outpost where humans flourish. But their bright hopes and best intentions devolved over centuries into a rude replica of medieval feudalism.

Gilead Tan, who had been held captive for centuries in his sleeping cell, survived treachery and pain to free a small group of sleepers. But he and his friends now face the perils of life outside First Landing’s sanctuary–without their powered armor, their tools and technology, or anything else they need save for a few chickens.

Gilead must establish a safehold for his crew, but the alien environment does not welcome them and petty bickering threatens their meager resources. He hopes that a trace of smoke – spotted above a distant ridge – beckons them to a better place.

It doesn’t.

Click here to see more or to buy.

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