Book Launch Day!

It’s finally here! The day the world has been waiting for! After many eons in development, Mathematics Of Eternity, the first in an explosive SF thriller series is available! Be the first kid on your block to get your hands on a copy! 🙂 It’s got everything: flying cars, mysterious women,spaceships, genetic engineering, sinister space villains, and a conspiracy that’ll make your hair curl! (Did I get in enough exclamation points? 🙂 )

Ebook and paperback now available on Amazon.

Meet former space engineer, Joe Ballen. These days, he’s scraping a living flying cabs in flooded-out Baltimore, trying to avoid the clutches of his boss and the well-meaning advice of an old friend. When one of his passengers suffers a grisly death, Joe is dragged into a dangerous web of ruthless academic rivalry centered on a prototype spaceship.

As the bodies pile up, Joe becomes suspect number one, and his enemies will stop at nothing to hide the truth. With the help of an enigmatic scientist, a senile survivalist, and the glamorous Ms Buntin, can Joe untangle the conspiracy and prove his innocence before it’s too late?

Mathematics Of Eternity: The future’s about to get a lot more action-packed!

Watch the book trailer

Chapter One

“Negotiations between the assembled Earth nations and Atoll negotiators broke down today, with no relaxation of the restrictions on Earth-based extra-orbital operations. General Chadwick, from the combined Atoll security forces, stated there would be a vigorous response to any attempt by Earth to increase operations outside Low Earth Orbit, other than the Mars mining operation. He also said that this boycott included the starship—”

I stabbed the off-button hard enough to make the plastic click sound like a gun had gone off inside the car. The news shouldn’t have bothered me, but it did. The fact that I used to work in space was part of it—the fact that I couldn’t any longer was another. But mostly it was because the Atolls were right—we didn’t deserve another chance.

I pulled up outside The Kase waiting for the traffic lights to change. The rain on the windshield distorted the garish neon and holo-projections from the bar into painful tracks that burned ghostly afterimages on my retina. I rubbed my face to ease the ache in my eyes, a two-day growth of beard rasping against my palms. Time to polish yourself up a bit, Ballen, otherwise someone’s going to think you stole this cab. It had been that kind of night. The only thing keeping me going was the thought that my tour was over for another twelve hours.

The cab bucked and I grabbed the shuddering controls, wrestling the car into a level attitude. The door hissed open as someone slid in the back. The turbines whined as the stability systems fought to compensate for the shift in weight distribution and for a second I thought we were going to plummet to the ground. […] Read More

My God, It’s Full Of Stars!

Recently I’ve been researching and world building for an upcoming novel and came up against an interesting problem. If you’re writing science fiction that’s set in a galaxy “far, far away” then you can just make up any setup you want, but my novels are intended to be more realistic than that and so I need to reference real star data.

If it was just a case of setting the story on another planet around another star, this also wouldn’t be too much of an issue. There are numerous very good star charts and Continue reading “My God, It’s Full Of Stars!”

Kepler K2-72 simulation

The recent news that Kepler K2-72 may be home to two earth-sized planets in the star’s habitable zone make it an exciting time for astronomers and fans of exo-planets. Whenever I see these stories I always wonder what the star systems might look like if we could travel there.

With that in mind I decided to have a go at something I’ve had in mind for a while–simulating a star-system!

I made use of publicly available data regarding the star itself and newly discovered planets. The data we have is a little sketchy, but enough to get a reasonable approximation. Throw in a little computer simulation wizardry and we have:

As part of my open-source challenge I made use of Blender to do the video editing, with a little help in the titles department from Gimp. The music is a royalty free piece I found on Incompetech. This was assembled (roughly!) in the Blender video editor and I’m pretty pleased with the results.

I’m not sure if this is 100% accurate, but I think it’s reasonably close given the software and data limitations I worked with. It makes me tingle thinking that this is an actual idea of what the real system might look like!

Somewhat insane greetings

I recently had the opportunity to share my work at the Spangdalem Air base Comic con (special thanks to Keith Houin for helping with this). As I couldn’t make the event in person Keith suggested I make a greeting video that could be shown on the large screens at the conference.

Something many people don’t know about me is that I like to make a splash. I’m a curious mix of massive egomaniac mixed with an equally large river of self-doubt(Perhaps that’s something that affects all writers!). So when I decided to do the video, I wanted to do something a little different.
I’ve had a subscription to Adobe’s Creative Cloud for sometime and used After Effects to make the video trailers for the Dead Reckoning collection. So it seemed a natural idea to make use of that software to create my conference video. As a long time fan of special effects of all kinds this was an opportunity I couldn’t resist and my cunning writer’s brain soon came up with a plan. I’d send my greetings to the conference “from space”!

This might sound crazy, but in the dim and distant past I worked for a couple of games companies and also an indie film production group. The projects themselves are long lost in the mists of time, but I picked up some 3D and video skills that I occasionally still exercise for fun. I hadn’t taken on anything like this before though and had limited time, so I knew I had to keep it fairly simple. Here’s what I did.

First I built a planet in 3D. This sounds complicated, but really isn’t that hard. This article walks you through the process. It’s written for 3DS MAX, but the concepts are easily transferable to Blender and other 3D systems.

My planet didn’t come out exactly like the one in the article, but I was pleased with the result and animated a loop of video with the planet and its rings revolving. Planet1
Then I hunted down a spaceship 3D model on the web. I could have built my own, but given the time scales I felt it was better to find a free model. After playing with the lighting and so on I rendered an animation of the ship moving “past” the camera and flying into the distance. I also built a simple “bulkhead” with windows as a backdrop to sit behind me.

Ship  Windows01
Next the real “fun” part — videoing myself speaking the greeting. I hate my own voice like many of us and am not a natural “public” speaker, so I found this very awkward. As Winston Churchill said, “Never, in the field of video production, has one short video resulted in so many bloopers.”

The trick here is to use a “green screen” effect. This is what film and TV studios use to mask people out and insert them into other environments. I found a great youtube video showing how to make a very cheap screen and set mine up for a few dollars.

I brought all the clips in to After Effects, which makes combining them very easy. The green is removed from the layers using a process called “chroma-keying”. After setting up the timing of the individual tracks I added a “sci-fi” background noise and spaceship roar (both again downloaded from free internet sources). I added a brief intro title and a sprinkling of movie magic and that was it! One greeting video that’s a little bit out of the ordinary. 🙂 You can see the final version here.

Once again, a big thank you to Spangdalem for hosting the event, the organizers Jarrod and Caitlan and especially Keith and the guys at Vorpal for making it possible. (Vorpal have just released their very first comic edition – so check it out!)