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Author: Matt

Matt (MG) Herron writes science fiction thriller novels and nonfiction how-to guides. His first novel, The Auriga Project, was published in 2015. His first nonfiction book for writers, Scrivener Superpowers, was published 2016.

When he’s not bending words to his will, Matt organizes Indie Publishing Austin, a local Meetup for writers and authors. He also likes to climb mountains, throw a frisbee for his Boxer mutt, Elsa, and travel to expand his mind.

The July challenge

I want to start writing Translocator 3 on August 1st, the same day The Alien Element (Translocator 2) is published.

That gives me 42 days — the rest of June and  all of July — to do the following on the publishing side:

  • Format and publish a sci fi short story called Not Alone
  • Format and update The Auriga Project with a new cover and updated blurb
  • Format and publish The Alien Element with the cover I revealed yesterday
  • (And do all the associated marketing for this new stuff!)

But more importantly, that’s 42 days to do all this on the writing side:

  • Finish a cowriting project, a sci-fi novel that is halfway done
  • Write 4 post apocalyptic/sci-fi short stories for the collection whose working title is Boys and Their Monsters.

My 2017 goal to publish something new every month will be met if I can do all this in July.

If I keep some of the short stories on the shorter side (3-5k or even less as opposed to my typical 6-10k), this should be no problem. I typically average 1000 words a day. With 42 days, that’s 30k reserved for the novel and 12k left for four short stories. No problem. If I can hit the targets. ūüėõ

I’m going to focus, too, on cutting all distraction out of my productive writing time. I write every day as naturally as breathing, but I tend to be easily distracted. Breaking that habit won’t easy but I know it will worth doing.

Even if I’m late, I can still meet my one story per month goal. This was by design. Let’s say it takes me until mid August to get all that stuff done. Well, so what? I’ll still be left holding four new stories and a novel, enough for the rest of the year and then some. And enough time to write one more book to round out the Translocator Trilogy before the year is up.

* grins maniacally *

* cackles like a cartoon villain *

So that’s my July challenge. Can I do it? Or is it too much? I’m sharing this in the hopes that maybe you guys can help keep me accountable. Cheer from the sidelines every once in a while. Throw tomatoes. I won’t dance, but I’ll throw them back at you.

The Alien Element, new covers, and my sci-fi summer lineup

Yesterday I turned in The Alien Element, the novel I’ve been writing since March. Yep, that’s the title for the project I’ve been calling Translocator 2 these last few months. It finally has a name!

It also has an incredible cover and now that the book is done (except for editing), I’m stoked to be able to share it with you.

Since book one in the series has been out for a while, I decided to have both of the covers redone. Hat tip to Beaulistic Book Services for the fine work. Here are the new covers for The Auriga Project and the upcoming sequel, The Alien Element:

The Alien Element by M.G. Herron

The new cover for The Auriga Project will be available in July. The Alien Element, if all goes according to plan, should come out in early August.

I will also have a new sci-fi short story for you in July called Not Alone, an incredible ebook giveaway to share next week, and unedited snippets from The Alien Element on the blog soon. A whole bunch of great M.G. Herron fiction comes out this summer!

Writing book three in the Translocator Trilogy once seemed like a distant mirage‚ÄĒsomething I might never reach. Now that I’m 2/3rds of the way through the Trilogy, it looks more like a shade-covered oasis. I’ve got a few smaller projects to wrap up in July, but I cannot WAIT to get back and break ground on book three, hopefully sometime in August.

$0.99 cents on Kindle! The complete Tales of the Republic!

Hey everyone! Big sale this week.

All seven episodes of Tales of the Republic are now available as a complete novel. And until June 22nd, 2017, you can get the ebook for only $0.99 cents!

‚Üí Get your copy here!¬†‚Üź

If you buy the complete novel, you’ll also get all sorts of bonuses:

  • Commissioned character sketches of Ming, Ari, and Po
  • A commissioned sketch of the mech scene in Telerethon Square¬†from Episode 3: Perilous Journey
  • A¬†desktop wallpaper made from the book cover
  • And a¬†deleted scene from the novel that takes place in Episode 4: High Crimes (also related to the mechs, but from a new angle)

I hope you like all the bonuses, and the book. Both the ebook and¬†paperback can be found on Amazon.¬†It’s also in Kindle Unlimited,¬†so you can read free if you’re a subscriber to KU.

Teasers of the bonus art!

Now, let’s talk more about the goodies.

How do you get access to all this awesome art and the deleted scene? Simply purchase the ebook or the print book from Amazon, and find the SECRET LINK in the back of the book. That will take you to a page where you can download all the stuff you see below, but without the blackout bars on them.

Here’s a sneak peak of the loot…

 

 

About Tales of the Republic

What’s Tales of the Republic¬†about? I describe it as a sci-fi action thriller. It takes place in a speculative future somewhere in Asia, in a new country called The Republic of Enshi. Here’s the blurb and the cover if you want to learn¬†more about the story itself…

Tales of the Republic, a sci-fi action thrillerThe fate of the Republic of Enshi hinges on a genetically modified miracle‚ÄĒand three unlikely heroes.

Kai Ming, a troubled politician, is entrusted with the country’s only hope of ending the famine that decimated the population. Po Li, a scrappy farm girl, battles to be reunited with her sister after rebel insurgents tear them apart. And Ari Klokov, a soldier, wakes in an underground prison with strange biotech in his head and no memory of the last twelve years.

Thrown together in the chaos and united by a fierce love for their country, Ming, Ari, and Po have to cross the mad riots, outsmart the hawkish Senator Khan, and overcome Felix Hull and his tenacious rebels who wage war in the streets of the blasted city.

Learning to trust each other is a start, but it won‚Äôt be enough. Their resistance pits them against ruthless leaders on both sides who harbor designs on the halls of power. Ming, Ari, and Po need to stop them to survive, but every opportunity has a cost‚Äďand this one must be paid for in bodies and blood.

***

And some of my favorite reviews on the complete novel that have come in from early readers…

‚ÄúVivid worldbuilding with unexpected twists, great read.‚ÄĚ ‚Äď Amazon Reviewer

‚ÄúAn enjoyable page turner. Character driven sci-fi with a female protagonist and interesting characters.‚ÄĚ ‚Äď Amazon Reviewer

Some history, and a big thanks

If you’ve been¬†following me for a while, you may know that the first two episodes of¬†Tales of the Republic came out in 2014, and 2015‚ÄĒabout six months apart. I was dipping my toes into the indie publishing waters, and they were the first two things I ever published.

Episodes 3 Р7 were finally finished earlier this year, and the serialized publication was completed over the past few months.

Episode 7: Killer Cause completes the story, and concludes the events of the riot.

All together, I’m calling this version¬†the “complete novel” because¬†that’s what it is. I didn’t realize it back in 2014, but Episode 1 was really just the beginning of the journey. Now, I’ve come full circle. Tales is the first book I ever started (without knowing it), and I sense a certain pleasing symmetry in the universe knowing¬†that it’s now, at last, complete.

Thanks to everyone who helped me along the way‚ÄĒI really appreciate everyone who has followed along or bought the episodes as this story came into being.

I hope you like it, and that you grab it while it’s only a buck and enjoy¬†a whole bunch of bonus art while you’re there.

One last time… Get the book on Amazon for 99 cents while the sale lasts. It ends on June 22, 2017.

Words complete on Translocator 2!

Yes, it’s true! Yesterday afternoon I typed THE END on Translocator 2. Only two days past my ideal deadline of June 1st.

I drank an Old Fashioned to celebrate.

Here’s the word count tracker at THE END. Originally I thought the story would come to nearly 100k words! I’m relieved it got shorter the closer I got to the end, because I was running out of steam. Oddly enough, I made the same estimation mistake on The Auriga Project. Both books had 10k words chopped off their estimates during the draft‚ÄĒbasically as soon as I realized the end was too long and changed up the outline. I haven’t quite figured out why, but I’ve got some theories.

t2endcount.jpg

Now, I will give myself about 2 weeks to read through and make revisions. Two weeks, and no more. Then it goes out for editing. Once the edits are in, the book will go to my advanced reader group, and then will be for sale soon after.

So no official date yet. This summer, hopefully.

A few more stats for the word nerds…

First draft by the numbers

88255 total words – my original target was 98k.

90 days total – 14 days outlining and 76 days writing

1,161 average words per writing day Рthis includes several days I skipped (3-5 days?), and several days when I only managed 500 words. Most days I could hit 1k-2k with a couple hours of effort. My best day was over 3,000 words.

This is the fastest novel I’ve ever written by 6-8 months.¬†I give you a range there because I didn’t keep precise track of my previous books.¬†The Auriga Project (Translocator 1)¬†took about 14 months from start to publication and Tales of the Republic took 2.5 years with a long break in the middle (to write TAP and Scrivener Superpowers).

T2¬†is the longest novel¬†I’ve ever written by about 3,000 words. (The Auriga Project is about 50,000 words.¬†Tales of the Republic is about 85,000 words.)

I knock on wood as I type this ( *knock knock* ) but hopefully Translocator 2 will also be the novel that has taken the fewest revisions.

Maybe I’ll write up a post on what I learned writing this book. There are so many good lessons, and I should capture them at least for my own benefit, looking back at some undetermined point in the future. But the one thing I want to say now is that my experience with this book so far proves to me how far I have come since I started publishing my fiction 2.5 years ago, in the fall of 2014. I’m a better, more confident storyteller now than I’ve ever been.

Here’s to many more novels to come!

***

Today is my break. I finished The¬†City and the Stars by Arthur C Clarke and read more from The Atlantis Gene¬†by AG Riddle (I’m about halfway through). I was productive around the house, and hung out with Shelly while sporadic thunderstorms drifted over Austin. A wonderfully slow and relaxing day.

I’ll probably crack into the revisions next. Now that I’ve written this blog, I’m excited about the work again. It’s funny,¬†going back to the beginning is like experiencing the book for the first time. I’ve already forgotten some of what I wrote in the first parts, and I’ll have my editor/reader glasses on now.

How fun. It will be just like reading a new book by another author. Except the author is past Matt. Recent past Matt. What was he thinking? What does he care most about? I guess I’m about to find out.

How Not to Stay in Vegas

I just contributed a snippet to a collaborative fiction project called How Not to Stay in Vegas, a story that started on Facebook,¬†of all places. Well, that’s probably not uncommon. Writers are introverts. They don’t leave their house, do they? I haven’t left my house in two days. Okay, a week. Actually, all my social interaction happens on Facebook. Get off my lawn. Wait, how’d you get inside?¬†Stop messing with the blinds!¬†Oh, god, is that sunlight? It burns¬†my eyes. It burns! It BURNS I TELL YOU

*shoves you out*

*draws blackout curtains*

*withdraws into fortress of solitude*

Okay, you know what, I’ve gotten off track. I just wanted to thank¬†Burt Walker and Jim Goodman for shepherding¬†the experiment, and wish them¬†luck because getting a writers to do anything on time or in an orderly fashion or with other people can be hazardous to your health.lasvegas.jpg

The race with time

I can’t believe it’s the end of May already. It seems as if time¬†itself¬†has¬†raced¬†past me this year.

There’s so much I want to accomplish and do before the year’s end. Books and client projects‚ÄĒand what I guess I’ll lump together and call¬†LIFE STUFF‚ÄĒall competing for my¬†attention. Sometimes different stories even compete for the writing¬†time I have¬†set aside.

But I’m trying to stay focused. Most of my writing time has been¬†devoted to¬†Translocator 2. When I get restless I write these blogs and plan the launch of the Tales of the Republic complete novel‚ÄĒwhich happens on¬†June 13th¬†by the way. *HINT HINT*

Translocator 2 has until June 17th to fully bake, though. And, I actually feel pretty good about it right now! This is weird for me. I’m taking it this confidence as a trust in the process and the work I have yet to do. Also, it helps that since I rejigged the ending‚ÄĒI’m¬†pretty sure‚ÄĒ¬†mostly sure‚ÄĒlike nearly 99% sure it’s going to come in significantly shorter than I had expected. This is great. To be blunt, less¬†words = less work.

And that means less time I have to spend on it. Amen.

I’m at 83,000 words with three chapters of grand finale and three chapters of resolution left to go.

wip.jpg

I lowered the goal to 94k, but I’m actually thinking, maybe 90k? Maybe less? Either way, I’m just winging it from here.

I am less than a week from WORDS COMPLETE. Home stretch, baby!

After that, I have until June 17¬†to¬†read through and tidy up. I’ve got to revise a few scenes because their first drafts missed the mark, but mostly just tighten and smooth out the prose, and fix errors and inconsistencies.

After the Tales complete novel launch in June, I’ve been thinking about lining up some snippets from the unedited version of Translocator 2 to¬†share. That will be fun.

Lunar dome concepts

The other thing I needed to research for my book is what a realistic lunar dome would actually look like and be made out of.

You¬†know that¬†Jetson’s style glass dome, straight out of the sci-fi imagination of 1950s America? That’s where I started when I first began to¬†imagine what a lunar dome might look like, and how it all might work.

But technology has improve immensely since the 1950s, and glass domes are not releastic on a moon with no atmosphere and a danger of meteorites, either to live in or maintain. So I went in search of more modern lunar dome concepts.

The newest and most realistic concept I found was on¬†Gizmodo. They propose running¬†moon stuff (i.e. the soil/crust of the moon) through a 3d printer to turn it into a cement-like material. They’d use that stuff (arranged in a cellular structure), plus interior inflatables to hold atmosphere, to build the domes.

18d7gs0lyvp6zjpg-1.jpg

According to ESA’s human spaceflight team’s Scott Hovland: “3D printing offers a potential means of facilitating lunar settlement with reduced logistics from Earth.”

This is great, because it means that we don’t need to carry building supplies up there. We mostly use what the moon provides.

Additional ideas and questions¬†came from Quora user Robert Walker, who wrote more about the specifics and logistics of establishing such a base¬†on the Moon or Mars. He suggests putting the colony in a large caldera or smaller crater, using the natural structure¬†for stability, and raising a dome above it. He wrote an even longer piece here. I haven’t read all of it yet, but it’s very interesting and asks all sorts of questions I never even thought about.

That’s one of the joys of doing this kind of research‚ÄĒI’m introduced to so many new ideas.

And then there’s this idea of setting up a colony on the moon, but beneath the moon’s surface¬†inside of a lava cave,¬†which scientists have posited could be quite large¬†on the moon. So-called “lava caves” were apparently made during the cooling period while the moon’s surface was forming after the impact with Earth that made it.

Unlike Earth, the Moon lacks a thick atmosphere and magnetic field to protect it against cosmic radiation. The absence of an atmospheric buffer also means that the Moon’s surface receives more frequent meteorite impacts and more extremes of temperature.

For example, the Moon’s surface temperature can vary by several hundred degrees C during the course of a lunar day.

Cave opening
(Image copyright: NASA) Cave entrances like this one in Mare Tranquilitatis may open into lava tubes

But housing bases underground, inside lava tubes, could offer shielding against these risks.

The lunar tunnels are expected to be larger than those already discovered on our planet, because of the Moon’s lower gravity. No-one has yet definitively discovered an example on the Moon, but spacecraft have revealed cave entrances called skylights that may open into lava tubes.

Skylights! Holy crap, that’s amazing. There are so many great story seeds in these articles. Writers who have a hard time coming up with story ideas, take heed.

Clearly,¬†the Jetson-style 1950s vision of the future didn’t hold up over time, especially not glass domes, and definitely not on the moon where there’s¬†no atmosphere.

Those finnicky laws of nature, they’re just so rigid.

I’m going to try for something more modern and realistic¬†for the lunar base in Translocator 2. You can let me know, when the book is done, if I’ve achieved it. Again, I don’t know how “realistic” a book about translocators and ancient aliens will come across, but I always try to make sure the science-inspired parts to hold up under scrutiny‚ÄĒto the best of my ability. This kind of research helps.

Nuclear reactors in space

When I hit that wall the other day and decided to rejig the ending of Translocator 2 (my sci-fi thriller novel WIP), a lunar nuclear reactor became important to the plot. I’d planned this from the beginning, but I was hazy on specifics.

Realizing I needed to backfill some of the details¬†in¬†the book, and wanting to make sure that it’s as realistic and technically accurate as a novel about teleportation, ancient aliens, and Mayan ruins can possibly be, I started searching around on the interwebz…

And MY GOD was I happy with what I found.

I already had an idea that NASA uses portable nuclear reactors to power their missions to the moon and Mars‚ÄĒnot only do I love reading about NASA¬†missions and have all my life, but nuclear power was also used as a plot point in Andy Weir’s The Martian.

Alas, no Mars or Mars missions in this book. But I found all sorts of fascinating stuff to inspire me.

fission_b_x220.jpgLike this Technology Review article on how NASA stress-tested¬†a lunar nuclear reactor made with two Stirling engines¬†circulating liquid metal back in 2009. Apparently they plan to put people back on the moon in 2020? Does anyone know if that’s still happening?

And this one from The Telegraph about how China wants to send people to the moon to mine Helium-3. I had no idea this was even a thing, or that a powerful isotope was present in the moon’s crust.

This extraordinary substance is the isotope helium-3, invaluable in ensuring the safety of nuclear power stations on Earth, and providing an all-powerful rocket fuel.

It is rare on Earth, being blown away by the solar wind. It is found in Troclotite, a metal of magnesium and iron, again rare but plentiful in the Moon’s crust.

My mind is racing by this point. I can’t possibly use all of this¬†in¬†the book I’m writing. I’m already overwhelmed by the number of threads I must tie together. It’s fascinating to me all the same.

A fully-loaded spaceship’s cargo base could power a quarter of the world for a year. This means that helium-3 has a potential economic value in the order of about £1 billion a ton, making it the Moon’s most valuable commodity except perhaps for astronomy and promoting tourism.

Wow. The idea of people mining the moon, which controls our tides, which influences our weather patterns and ocean life and much more, is absolutely terrifying.

But wait! Here’s more about the radioisotope power systems used by NASA “in numerous long-term missions, from Voyagers 1 and 2 to the Mars rovers”:¬†a brief history on energy.gov.

If you want to know more about the many generations of radioisotope thermoelectric generators (RTGs) used by NASA for spacecraft, see their page on RTGs at nasa.gov.

VikingSNAP19RTG1Here’s a cool cutaway diagram of a “SNAP-19 RTG used to power NASA’s two Viking landers.”

 

OK, last thing… from R&D Mag, “Nuclear Reactors to Power Space Exploration”:

Lessons learned from the kiloPower development program are being leveraged to develop a Mega Watt class of reactors termed MegaPower reactors. These concepts all contain intrinsic safety features similar to those in kiloPower, including reactor self-regulation, low reactor core power density and the use of heat pipes for reactor core heat removal. The use of these higher power reactors is for terrestrial applications, such as power in remote locations, or to power larger human planetary colonies. The MegaPower reactor concept produces approximately two megawatts of electric power. The reactor would be attached to an open air Brayton cycle power conversion system. A Brayton power cycle uses air as the working fluid and as the means of ultimate heat removal.

How cool. MegaPower reactors… I like the sound of that.

At a certain point, enough research is enough. I have to finish fixing up the plot, and make a list of stuff to go back and fix. And then I have to get¬†writing the end of this book ūüôā There are about 10 chapters of fast paced action and satisfying resolution left to draft.

I didn’t even get to show you the fun concepts I found for the lunar domes. Another time, perhaps.

Yesterday was interesting…

Yesterday I realized I’m actually farther into¬†Translocator 2 than I thought I was.

My 98k goal was probably wrong? (That’s a question because I am not sure of anything.) But it doesn’t matter anymore?

This is awkward.

I talked it through with some writers I trust and decided to break up with my plot for the ending. It actually won’t change things that much. Just need to rejig the ending, plant a few clues earlier on, and sprinkle them throughout the book. I’ve been working on revising the outline of the last few chapters most of this¬†morning.

It’s super fast-paced now. I finally¬†feel close to the ending, and confident in carrying on even though I know there are some things that need to be fixed in the first half of the book.

That’s the funny thing about writing a novel. It’s too much to hold in my head at once, so I rely on my instincts. Over the past two weeks, my instincts were right to be telling me that something felt wrong up ahead.

Now I can see why.

The rejig necessitated some research, which I’ll share with you soon. It’s about the possibility of a lunar nuclear reactor. For me, fun stuff.

OK, that’s it for now, time to get typing.