New Year

You know, I have yet to make the error of entering 2015 instead of 2016 when writing a check but then it’s only January 4th so I have plenty of time.

As long as we’re on the subject of 2016 (great segue, eh?), I’ve been getting some emails from websites I subscribe to about goals for 2016 so I thought I should give it a try. That way I can give you an idea of what writing projects I’m working on so you’ll hang around to watch me struggle.

Goal one is to write more blog posts, at least once a month. But I’m told by experts that to have a successful blog and/or author following I should be posting once a week. Screw them. I don’t want to be successful, I just want to write. To self: “I would classify blog posts as writing, wouldn’t you?” Answer to self: “Yeah, and elves have strange powers, so screw you.”

And speaking of writing, I’ve got several writing goals for 2016 that I’m very serious about. Here they are:

Write more blog posts.

The first draft of my novella, App-Jacker Chronicles, Episode 2 (my comedy SciFi series about a malcontent who wanders the Galaxy hunting for Bio-Apps to fatten his wallet) titled ‘Rusty Zipper’ is finished and I’m a little over half way through editing. Get it done and out the door the first quarter of 2016.

Finish the first draft of App-Jacker Episode 3, working title, ‘Sparkle’ by end of year. I never said I was fast.

Do final edits on my SciFi dramatic short story ‘Ascension’ and publish by second quarter. In this one, humanity is prevented from traveling outside the solar system by a godlike species but help comes from a completely unexpected source.

A big project I want to push myself to complete by the end of the year is my SciFi-Fantasy novel called ‘Box In The House’. This one is hard to describe but let’s just say it’s like Stephen King’s ‘The Dome’ meets the Coen brothers ‘Fargo’. No, it’s not a comedy, but like Fargo, has some dark comedy elements.

Finally I want to gather my courage and fortitude to write a nonfiction essay titled ‘Oneness’. It’s a theory I’ve developed over the past several years that borders on the spiritual but from a completely scientific point of view.


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The Happy Prince (App-Jacker Chronicles Episode 1)

The teaser episode of my App-Jacker Chronicles Series, The Happy Prince, is available on Amazon for free over the weekend.

This is a humorous, bawdy romp through the Milky Way galaxy on a adventure that is chock full of weird characters and some unique science. I wrote it initially from a contest that an online writers group put on where you are given a starter sentence and write your story from there. I got some complements on it and decided to expand on the concept and the App-Jacker Chronicles is the result.

This includes a preview of the second episode, Rusty Zipper.

LatestCoverWithROCKETGirl Happy Prince 4-18-15

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The Happy Prince (App-Jacker Chronicles Episode 1)

Latest Book Cover 4-13-15

I just got a new cover which I think is much better than what I managed to come up with using the Amazon cover creator software. Let me know what you think.

The Happy Prince is a SciFi short story which is the first episode in my App-Jacker Chronicles series available on here:  The Happy Prince.

If you want to be notified when future episodes are released, just follow this website by entering your email address at the top right.

In the distant future humans discovered that they aren’t alone. In fact, species in the Milky Way Galaxy bump into each other too doggone often and each species thinks the other was made while Nature was having a disturbing nightmare. They get along better than expected, but at the same time manage to tick each other off with surprising regularity.
That’s where I come in. I’m an App-Jacker. I heist the best Bio-Apps in the galaxy and sell them on the open market which makes one side very happy and the other really ticked off.
So join me on board my ship, The Salvanator and I’ll show you how Bio-Apps can make you a galactic superhero or supervillain. And maybe we’ll encounter some forbidden pleasures along the way, if you get my space-drift.

“This is a fun, quick read, almost Micky Spillane-ish in its quick wit and first person narrative. Well done, Rann.” — Reviewer, Lon H. Grover

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IC1805 Heart Nebula in Narrowband

Second version with less stars.

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©2008 Richard Murray
Click on image for 80% size.

Zoomed in to image center.

©2008 Richard Murray

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©2008 Richard Murray
Full Size Image

Notes: This was an imaging run that took three nights to complete with 6 hours per filter and 30 minute subs for a total of 18 hours imaging. I’ve never imaged that long on one object before but I think the effort was worth it. I used the Hubble Palatte with SII as Red, Ha as Green and OIII as blue.

Be sure to click on the image for a full size view.

Date(s): 9-21, 9-22 and 9-25-08
Object: IC1805 Heart Nebula in Cassiopeia
Telescope: Megrez 80mm APO, WO 0.8 FR/FF
Mount: LX90
Camera: Atik 16hr
Guiding: Lx90 8″ SCT, DSI Pro, Phd Guiding
Filters: Ha, OIII, SII
Exposure: 18 Hours Ha 12×30 mins, OIII 12×30 mins, SII 12×30 mins, All Bin 1×1
Processing: CCDStack, Photoshop CS2
Location: Burke Ave. Observatory, Three Rivers, Michigan

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The Martian by Andy Weir

I just finished listening to the audible version of The Martian by Andy Weir narrated by R.C Bray. I don’t know how this would read but I have to say this is the best audio hard SF book I have ever listened to. On Amazon, the written version has 5124 reviews with a rating of 4 1/2 stars. On Audible the count is even higher with 8203 ratings at 4 1/2 stars. This was so good I couldn’t stop listening. I listened everywhere — exercising, in the bathroom, in bed, bike riding, having sex (ok, now I’m exaggerating) etc. In fact, I plan on listening to it again. The Martian by Andy Weir 10-11-14

The book is about an astronaut who is left for dead on Mars by his fellow astronauts. He tries to survive with no way of contacting Earth, a limited amount of food, and his own abundant proclivity to screw up. And the fun part is he does it all with serious attitude, grousing and grumbling his way through one innovative survival tactic after another. This book is so firmly grounded in science that the methods he uses to survive are completely plausible.

A few quotes from The Martian: “Yes, of course duct tape works in a near-vacuum. Duct tape works anywhere. Duct tape is magic and should be worshiped.”

“It’s true, you know. In space, no one can hear you scream like a little girl.”

“Me: “This is obviously a clog. How about I take it apart and check the internal tubing?” NASA: (after five hours of deliberation) “No. You’ll fuck it up and die.” So I took it apart.”

The book took six years to write. It was originally published for free on the authors website after he couldn’t find a publisher. His fans pressured him into putting it on the Kindle so he self published it in 2012 selling it for .99¢. After selling 35,000 copies, it was picked up by a publisher and re-published in 2014. R.C. Ray who narrated the book has been nominated for a 2014 Voice Arts™ Award for The Martian.  A film version directed by Ridley Scott and starring Matt Damon is schedule for release in November 2015. This is the authors first novel.

Here’s a list of the nominees for the 2014 Voice Arts Awards for Science Fiction:

Best Audio Book Narration – Science Fiction

● Matthew Frow, Jayne Entwistle, Ione Butler, Robert Hook, Heather Wilds, Nicholas Guy Smith, Hannah Curtis, Bruce Mann, Dark Eden by Chris Beckett, Penguin Random House Audio
● Scott Aiello, Eve Bianco and Jay Snyder, Deadlocked 5: Aftermath, Audible, Inc.
● Daniel Davis, Jonathan Davis, Ian Doescher, January LaVoy and Marc Thompson, William Shakespeare’s Star Wars by Ian Doescher, Penguin Random House Audio
● R.C. Bray, Ray Chase, Maxwell Glick, Brian Holsopple, Tamara Marston and Chris Patton, Yesterday’s Gone, Season One, by Sean Platt and David Wright, Podium Publishing

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The A List

Part of Stephen King’s instructions for fledgling writers is to read and read voraciously because “reading is the creative center of a writer’s life.” He instructs you to read some books outside of your chosen genre as well. But if you’re going to read, you might as well read the best and to that end I decided to compile a list of the books I found to be the most exceptional and entertaining over the last 15 years.

The reason I have this list is that for some reason I can’t fathom I decided to start keeping  track of all the books I read along with the date I finished them and a rating from A to F. While I agree with King’s statement, there sure are a lot of mediocre books to get through before you can come up with an A list. On the other hand, the difference between an A and an A- rating is purely subjective but I had to cut things off somewhere.

Since the list is so long I decided to first list the books ranked in the A+s with the full list below that for those who don’t want to wade through the entire thing.

It’s interesting to see how your reading tastes change over the years. In the year 2000 I was reading strictly SF but then quite a bit later I decided to get a taste of some literary works, mystery thrillers, a few miscellaneous non fiction categories and once I decided to pursue writing myself, you’ll notice some non fiction books on the craft of writing start to appear. Also keep in mind that since I prefer SF for the most part my ratings on literary works may be somewhat askew but I can say I thoroughly enjoyed reading them.

thesparrowI have several books that have haunted me for several years after reading them that my thoughts keep coming back to. One which I gave only a C+ rating to because I found it difficult to read about the horrendous things that happen to the main character is The Sparrow by Mary Dora Russell. If you read it you probably won’t forget it and not necessarily in a bad way considering the exceptional writing. See a summary of it in my post Science Fiction and Religion.

Ender’s Game (A+++) by Orson Scott Card.  I don’t think about it often but once in awhile when I read or hear the title mentioned I grin and remember one of the most genius endings to a novel I’ve ever read. The sequel, Speaker For The Dead, was excellent as well.

The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter (A+) by Carsen McCullers has an unforgettable ending that hits you like a hammer and made me break down crying.

Eifelheim by Michael Flynn is brilliant for the way it effortlessly unites several of the characters’s story lines that elegantly merge for a satisfying ending.


The greatest series of books I’ve ever read: Well, there is Isaac Asimov’s Foundation Series and the seemingly endless Dune novels, but more recently I would have to say The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (A++)  trilogy by Stieg Larsson because of this uniquely fascinating mystery and the formidable power of the character Lisbeth Salander. And, for you fans it looks like the series may continue with a fourth book to be published in 2015. Second would be the Manifold Time series by Stephen Baxter with the character Reid Malenfant who every nerd should aspire to be. At a time when the world was turning inward to try to resolve man’s misuse of the planet, Malenfant bootstrapped some mothballed shuttle engines and decided to blast off into space with the idea of mining and colonization and, despite all of the naysayers, gets the job done.

Around 2011 I started purchasing audio books to listen to while I exercised. Audio books are quite a different experience from a visual read and the narrator can make or break a book. The best non fiction audio book on writing I’ve listened to hands down is Stein On Writing by Sol Stein narrated by Christopher Lane. Best audio fiction is by a wide margin The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz narrated by Jonathan Davis and Staci Snell.

And speaking of exercising, I have to include the best book on exercising I’ve ever read: Ready, Set, Go! by Phil Campbell (A++). Not only are the exercises practical for all age ranges (as long as you’re healthy) but full research documentation for every routine or supplement he suggests is provided in the right hand margin of the book. Coming in a strong second is The 4-Hour Body by Timothy Ferriss.

Favorite authors? Stephen King has recently moved to the top with such books as The Dome and 11/22/63, Robert Sawyer with his The Neanderthal Parallax series and many others, and Stephen Baxter’s Manifold series .

This list wouldn’t be complete without pointing out at least a few of the worst books I’ve ever read or attempted to read. I’m sure I’ll be taken to task by some of you for this but you’ll find it at the end of this post.

Here’s the A+ list (book title, author, year read and rating):

  • Timeships Stephen Baxter 2000 A+
  •  Mr. China’s Son Liyi He (nonfiction) 2000 A++
  • Doomsday Book Connie Willis 2001 A+++
  • Ender’s Game Orson Scott Card 2001 A+++
  • The Time Machine H.G. Wells 2011 A++
  • Speaker For The Dead Orson Scott Card 2002 A+
  • Dracula Bram Stoker 2002 A+
  • Timeline Michael Crichton 2003 A++
  • Darwin’s Radio Greg Bear 2003 A+
  • Peyton Place Grace Metalious 2004 A+
  • Da Vinci Code Dan Brown 2005 A++
  • To Kill A Mockingbird Harper Lee 2006 A+
  • East Of Eden John Steinbeck 2006 A+
  • The Forge Of God Greg Bear 2006 A+
  • The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter Carson McCullers 2007 A+
  • Blood Music Greg Bear 2007 A+
  • Time Traveler Dr. Ronald L. Mallett (nonfiction) 2008 A+
  • Rollback Robert Sawyer 2008 A+
  • Infinity Beach Jack McDevitt 2008 A+
  • Eifelheim Michael Flynn 2009 A++
  • The Time Traveler’s Wife Audrey Niffenegger 2009 A+
  • The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo Stieg Larsson 2010 A++
  • Moonfall Jack McDevitt 2011 A+
  • Immediate Fiction Jerry Cleaver (nonfiction) 2011 A+
  • The Dome Stephen King 2011 A+
  • Stephen King On Writing (nonfiction) 2011 A+
  • The Girl Who Played With Fire Stieg Larsson 2011 A++
  • Stein On Writing Sol Stein (nonfiction audio) 2011 A++
  • Alas Babylon Pat Frank (audio) 2011 A+
  • No Plot No Problem Chris Baty (nonfiction) 2011 A+
  • The Last Symbol Dan Brown 2011 A+
  • The 4-Hour Body Timothy Ferriss (nonfiction) 2012 A+
  • 11/22/63 Stephen King 2012 A+
  • Ready, Set, Go! Phil Campbell (nonfiction) 2012 A++
  • The Girl Who Kicked The Hornets Nest Stieg Larsson A++
  • Pillars Of The Earth Ken Follett 2013 A+
  • The Brief Wondrous Life Of Oscar Wao Juno Diaz (audio) 2013 A+
  • 2k To 10k Writing Faster, Writing Better Rachael Aaron (nonfiction) 2013 A+
  • The Dog Stars Peter Heller 2013 A+
  • WWW: Wonder Robert Sawyer 2013 A++
  • No Wonder You Feel Like Crap (nonfiction) Richard Weinstein (nonfiction) 2013 A+
  • Write, Publish, Repeat Johnny B. Truant (nonfiction) 2013 A+
  • The Goldfinch Donna Tartt 2014 A+

The A List:

  • Einstein’s Bridge John Camer 2001 A
  • First Men In The Moon H.G. Wells 2001 A
  • Robinson Crusoe Danial Defoe 2002 A
  • Ghost Story Peter Straub 2002 A
  • Angels & Demons Dan Brown 2004 A
  • Hominids Robert Sawyer 2004 A
  • Hyperion Dan Simmons 2004 A
  • The Fall Of Hyperion Dan Simmons 2004 A
  • Human Robert Sawyer 2005 A
  • Manifold Time Stephen Baxter 2005 A
  • Invasion Of The Body Snatchers Jack Finney 2005 A
  • Mars Crossing Geoffrey Landis 2005 A
  • Calculating God Robert Sawyer 2005 A
  • Manifold Space Stephen Baxter 2005 A
  • Planet Of The Apes Pierre Boulle 2006 A
  • Household Gods Judith Tarr & Harry Turtledove 2006 A
  • Factoring Humanity Robert Sawyer 2006 A
  • Time Machines: The Best Time Travel Stories Ever Written Bill Adler (nonfiction) 2008 A
  • Sunstorm Arthur C. Clark & Stephen Baxter 2008 A
  • First Time Legend Of Garrison Fitch 2008 A
  • Breaking The Time Barrier: The Race To Build A Time Machine Jenny Randles (nonfiction) 2009 A
  • Life Is So Good George Dawson (nonfiction) 2009 A
  • Blind Lake Robert Charles Wilson 2009 A
  • Vacuum Diagrams Stephen Baxter 2009 A
  • Deep Six Jack McDEvitt 2009 A
  • Blasphemy Douglas Preston 2010 A
  • Chindi Jack McDevitt 2010 A
  • Replay Ken Grimwood 2010 A
  • WWW: Watch Robert Sawyer 2010 A
  • Multireal David Louis Edelman 2010 A
  • Water For Elephants Sara Gruen (audio) 2011 A
  • Day By Day Armageddon J.L. Bourne (audio) 2012 A
  • The Hunger Games Suzanne Collins 2012 A
  • Inside Story Dara Marks (nonfiction) 2012 A
  • The Art Of War For Writers James Scott Bell (nonfiction) 2012 A
  • The Hidden Reality Brian Green (nonfiction audio) 2012 A
  • How To Write A Novel In 30 Days Nicholas Black (nonfiction) 2012 A
  • The Modern Scholar: From Here To Infinity Michael Drout (nonfiction audio) 2012 A
  • UR Stephen King 2013 A
  • Doctor Yourself Andrew W. Saul (non fiction) 2013 A
  • Rich Dad Poor Dad Robert T. Kiyosaki (nonfiction) 2013 A
  • Leviathan Wakes James Cory (audio) 2013 A
  • Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore Robin Sloan (audio) 2013 A
  • Shiva Descending Gregory Benford 2014 A

The worst of the worst:

  • Flatland  Edwin Abbot So boring I couldn’t finish it.
  • Neuromancer William Gibson Too jargony and confusing.
  • Rainbow Mars Larry Niven Never liked SF comedy.
  • Dianetics  L. Ron Hubbard Not only dull but it didn’t make any sense (I hope Tom Cruise isn’t reading this).
  • The Sirens Of Titan Kurt Vonnegut  Hey, don’t hate me because I slammed Kurt. I read all of  God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater and loved it — even the very lengthy narrative about the world’s longest pubic hair.
  • Einstein’s Dreams Alan Lightman No reason. Just hated it.
  • Flood Stephen Baxter He goes into lengthy travel log descriptions of streets and settings in England which would only be of interest to those who live there.
  • Death With Interruptions Jose Saramago Had to stop. No characters, no plot.
  • The Power Of Full Engagement Jim Loehr Too long winded with little substance.
  • The Gift Lewis Hyde Ponderous, boring, wordy.
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