How I plan to lose NaNoWriMo this year

NaNoWriMo, short for National Novel Writing Month, is a program run out of Berkeley, California that supports writers, especially first time writers, in completing a novel in one month, November.

The numerical goal is to write 50,000 words. Don’t research, don’t edit, just get your story down on paper, and worry about fixing things later.  50,000 words is a shortish novel, but you’re only working on the first draft anyways, so there’s plenty of time for editing later. Continue reading


Isaac Newton–Alchemist


Isaac Newton, at age 46, portrait by Godfre Kneller, 1689.

Isaac Newton is one of the towering intellects in the history of Science.  He formulated the laws of motion, investigated the nature of light, and invented calculus, among many other accomplishments.  Less well known, however, are his experiments in chymistry. Continue reading

Happy Birthday Michael Faraday!

September 22, 1791 is the birthday of my favorite scientist, Michael Faraday.

Here is a portrait painted of him at age 51, looking much younger than he does in most of his later photographic portraits.


Portrait of Michael Faraday in 1841, painted by Thomas Phillips.

If you’re interested in reading more about this fascinating man, see this blog post.  A slightly more fictional Michael Faraday also features prominently in my latest steampunk adventure novel, “The Secret Notebook of Michael Faraday.”

The Secret Notebook of Michael Faraday — Now Available!

I am happy to announce that my second book, The Secret Notebook of Michael Faraday, is now available!

170409 Cover

This novel is the second I’ve written in the Airship Flamel Adventures series, but is actually a prequel of my first novel, To Rule the SkiesWhen I wrote that book, I came to the realization that I was starting in the middle of Professor Nicodemus Boffin’s story.  This new book tells some of his history.  Here’s the synopsis:

Nicodemus Boffin rose from a boyhood in the ash heaps of East London to reach the pinnacles of British science when he is mentored by the great scientist, Michael Faraday. When Boffin finds a secret laboratory notebook in which Faraday has described incomprehensible experiments, Nicodemus wonders if Professor Faraday has discovered a new science, or has lost his faculties. Nicodemus’s rival, Viscount Whitehall-Barnes, seeks to gain the notebook by any means necessary to study the descriptions of a strange orange mineral with unusual properties which he believes is the alchemists’ Philosopher’s Stone. Realizing that the Viscount must never learn the secrets of the orange stone, Nicodemus takes action to keep the knowledge hidden, protect his family, and preserve the legacy of his mentor.

Besides telling the story of how Nicodemus Boffin grows from a poor but uncommonly clever boy in the slums of London to the forefront of Victorian British science, the novel features pompous aristocracy, a surprisingly capable laboratory assistant, and snarky air pirates.  Several Illustrious Personages may wander through the story as well.

The Secret Notebook of Michael Faraday is available in paperback and Kindle format at Amazon, and in many other ebook formats at Smashwords.

Thirty Days Later is here!


Thirty Days Later, the steampunk short story anthology that I mentioned here launched a couple of weeks ago at Clockwork Alchemy, San Jose, California’s steampunk con.  I am honored to be amongst the talented writers that have come together to create this collection.  The concept is a bit different:  each writer pens two short stories–separated from each other by Thirty Days.

Proceeds from the book will be donated to literacy charities.  You can order Thirty Days Later from Amazon as paperback and for Kindle, and from Smashwords for many other ebook formats.


The Anteprologue to “To Rule the Skies”–Redux

Anteprologue cover

Back in September 2014, when I was preparing to launch my first book To Rule the Skies, I posted on this blog, an Anteprologue to the novel, that is, a prologue that comes before the actual prologue that begins the book.  At the time, I likened it to the short between-seasons webisodes that Doctor Who was presenting, or the Marvel One-Shots that served to connect the various Marvel Cinema movies.

I’ve continued to putter on this piece and have now re-written it a bit and fixed what I thought were some inconsistencies.  So, in celebration of 2016 Clockwork Alchemy, San Jose’s steampunk con that’s taking place this weekend, I’ve now published it as a free download on Smashwords. Take a look at it and let me know what you think.  If you like it, you might be interested in the novel that it’s an anteprologue of, also available on Smashwords as an ebook for everything but Kindle, and on Amazon for Kindle and in paperback.

And if you’re at Clockwork Alchemy this weekend, stop by Author’s Alley and say Hi to me and all the other talented authors that will be there.

NaNoWriMo Update

As I wrote way back at the end of October, I participated in NaNoWriMo in 2012 and 2013 and completed the 50,000 words to be deemed a Winner.  This year I was going into it with a different goal in mind–to finally finish the novel I started during last year’s NaNoWriMo, or to at least write 20,000 words towards that goal.  As luck would have it, I heaved myself over both my goal lines yesterday evening, reaching what I envisioned as the end of my novel and topping off at 20,059 words.  I was much less diligent than I had been in previous years, but it worked out.

And when I say “finish the novel”, I mean, of course, “finish the first draft of the novel”.  While I quite like some parts, there are others that definitely need work, including the ending which needs major wordsmithing.  And I am sure that when I read it through again (sometime after the Christmas holidays), I will find plot holes and inconsistencies, characters who change names, and many, many typos.  I know this because I’ve gone through the process with my first NaNoWriMo creation. It’s the flip side of racing through writing a novel in 30 days–it can need more editing than it would have otherwise. And I’m ready for it.

Somehow though, the slower, lazier pace I set this year did not create the “magic” that I had found in previous years:  the magic of spending so much time in the world you’ve created with the characters you know so well that sometimes the story writes itself.  Put the characters in a scene, with the aim of doing something which advances the plot, and sit back and take dictation as fast as you can.

Is NaNoWriMo for everyone?  No, and I read a very good blog post lately that went through the pros and cons, advantages and disadvantages of NaNoWriMo.  Not everyone can sit down and write for a month straight, even if you’ve outlined the plot beforehand.  I’ve done NaNoWriMo because I need the discipline, even if it’s somewhat self-imposed, of sitting down and writing something every day.  Still I find myself wandering off and researching some arcane fact to ensure I get it correct, which is definitely frowned upon in NaNoWriMo.

What NaNoWriMo does provide is an insight into the life of a professional writer.  While I’m not sure if many writers manage to crank out 50,000 words month after month, it’s a reasonable facsimile, and valuable as such.

Will I participate again?  I’m not sure, and December 1 is probably the wrong time to ask that question.  Let’s wait and let the writing settle a bit.  There’s plenty of time–and plenty of words–between now and next November.