An update on Martian Born and other projects

yuleI was dismayed to see that my last blog post was pretty much exactly one year ago. This gives the impression that I’ve stopped writing, which is false. Martian Born is still moving along, though more slowly than I’d like. I’ve talked it over with someone who was involved in a simulation of living on Mars for NASA, which was a great experience, and I hope to get more information from her as the book progresses. Otherwise, it’s now at about 80,000 words, which is 25,000 more than the last time I updated it.

But it’s slow going. Every new bit of information I uncover in my research forces me to go back and revise what I’ve written. After that conversation I mentioned above, I “moved” the colonies to lava tubes. They’re now at the bases of Uranius Tholus and Ceraunius Tholus, and their spacesuits have been redesigned. You might not think the latter would be a big deal, but it affects the way they enter and leave the colonies, and a number of subtle details. The first month after I got back from the 25th anniversary of Viable Paradise this past October was all about rewriting. My big concern is that there just won’t be a market for it, once it’s done. There have been a ton of YA books about Mars since The Martian came out. The biggest selling point of Martian Born is probably its realism, but any day now another book could come out that would challenge that.

The other reason things have been going slowly is that I lead a double life — I publish adult MM Romance under the name Jamie Fessenden, and that’s been taking up the bulk of my writing time lately. (These books generally fit into the MM Romance genre.) That doesn’t mean I don’t want to write YA anymore. But I’m a bit ADHD when it comes to jumping back and forth between projects. Whatever’s shiniest.

One of the projects I’ve been planning is a new trilogy in the world of Dreams of Fire and Gods, which takes place centuries before the events in those novels, and details the assassination of the emperor and the formation of the samöt.

In the meantime, I’ve been trying to finish up a novella called Rosem, and it follows the exploits of Sael, Koreh, Donegh, and Gonim in the months following Gods. A new character has also been introduced: Ven, one of the two soldiers Gonim dragged along to the confrontation with Imen at the barrier. When we first meet him, he is in bad shape….

———————————————————————–

moonlit-cloisterThen Gonim heard a faint sound in the darkness. It was the bell near the gate to the courtyard, which announced visitors to the Temple. Father Kosün had ordered the gate locked after dark, since there weren’t enough men to keep watch, but after the bell rang a second time, Gonim’s curiosity got the better of him. He didn’t have the key, but he could talk to the visitor through the bars. It would do no harm to see what he or she wanted.

Gonim slipped the necklace back over his neck. There was no time to bother with the loincloth, but he pulled his robe over his head. Then he hurried to the gate.

The man standing on the other side was older than Gonim, though not by much, and he was dressed in a tunic with the seal of Dekan Seffni emblazoned upon it. A soldier, then. He gasped when Gonim approached and clutched the iron bars. “It’s you!”

Gonim hesitated. This close, the soldier looked vaguely familiar, but Gonim couldn’t remember anything about him. “Have we met?”

“I saw you…. You were torn open—burned! You had no heart! But somehow… you were saved… and Imen….” He stopped talking, perhaps afraid he was making no sense.

But Gonim felt a rush of joy at his words. “You were there?”

“I was a soldier at the barrier. The day King Caednu burned the emperor’s camp. The old emperor, that is—Savön. Queen Imen ordered me away, but I saw! I saw!”

The man seemed on the edge of hysterics. Was he insane? Had what he’d witnessed driven him mad?

Instinctively, Gonim placed a hand over one of his. The soldier’s fingers were ice cold, but Gonim felt them relax their grip on the bar as his hand warmed them. “Why have you come here?”

“To find someone—anyone—who might believe me. You don’t know what it’s been like. Nobody saw… what I saw. No man can see the gods—that’s what they keep telling me.”

Gonim did know what that was like. “Surely, other soldiers witnessed King Caednu battling with the king of the Taaweh.”

“Only one,” the soldier said. He moved his other hand to cover Gonim’s. “But he refused to ever speak of it, and he has gone to gü-Khemed. If any others saw, they will not admit it. ‘Keep your mouth shut, Ven, if you don’t want the gods to strike you down where you stand!’ That’s what they tell me. But you were there! You saw everything! Please….”

“Aye,” Gonim said. “I saw everything. And more than you know. Queen Imen, King Caednu, the Taaweh king and queen….”

The man sighed and leaned forward as if to kiss Gonim’s hand, but he merely rested his forehead against the metal bar they held. Gonim could feel the warmth of the soldier’s breath on his fingers. “Thank you.”

“Your name is Ven?”

“Aye.”

“I cannot open the gate, Ven,” Gonim told him gently. “Can you come back in the morning?”

“Aye. I’m on a few days furlough.”

A thought occurred to Gonim. “Do you live in the city?”

“I have a room in the outer circle, near the smiths.”

“Do you live alone?”

“Aye.”

It was, perhaps, a bit foolhardy to meet a stranger alone in the city, far away from the monastery—especially one as disturbed as Ven seemed to be—but Gonim didn’t like the idea of having a conversation about that day where the other tadu or caedan might overhear. Perhaps when Ven had calmed down, but at the moment he sounded like a madman. His corroboration of Gonim’s claims would do nothing to persuade the other residents of the monastery.

“Then don’t come here,” Gonim told him. “Wait for me at your home, and I will come see you tomorrow.”

“When?”

“As early as I can. After the bells of Penent.”

Dreams of Fire and Gods now available in one cheap bundle!

Dreams of Fire and Gods BundleDreams of Fire and Gods is a trilogy of high fantasy novels set in the kingdom of Dasak, which is on the brink of civil war. At the same time the emperor and his regent in the east prepare for battle, another war is brewing—a war between the gods that threatens to completely destroy the kingdom and leave no survivors.

When these novels were first published, there was a long gap between books two and three, leaving readers hanging. But now Harmony Ink has now released the entire trilogy as one low-cost bundle! Get the entire saga for just $9.99!

A thousand years ago, two factions of gods, the Stronni and the Taaweh, nearly destroyed the Kingdom of Dasak by warring for the land and the frightened humans who lived there. Then suddenly the Taaweh vanished and the Stronni declared victory.

In the present day, tensions escalate between the emperor and his regent to the point of war, which will be nothing compared to the war that comes with the Taaweh’s return. Join the regent’s son and apprentice mage Sael and his vagabond lover Koreh as they dodge assassins, rescue the Taaweh queen, and take journeys through the underworld in their quest to save their world from being destroyed in another confrontation between the gods.

Buy Links: 

Harmony Ink/Dreamspinnerhttp://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=7517

Amazonhttp://www.amazon.com/Dreams-Fire-Bundle-James-Erich-ebook/dp/B01BLKYT9A/

Excerpt:

“I SAID I was sorry,” Koreh repeated, exasperated.

“And I said I don’t care.”

Sael stood facing the fire with his undertunic held out to catch the heat. It wasn’t very modest, but he didn’t think Koreh could see anything from where he was standing. Geilin had grown tired of the argument and lay down to sleep after drinking his tea. The old man lay wrapped up in his cloak, facing away from the fire.

“I don’t really think you’re slow.”

“Now that Master Geilin’s told you I’m not.”

Koreh groaned in frustration. “Look. I don’t know how much training it takes to become a vönan—”

“A lot!”

“All right,” Koreh continued, “fine. But it just seemed to me that, after ten years of training, you’d be a little further along.”

Sael glared at him. Was this Koreh’s idea of an apology?

“As Master Geilin already told you,” he responded coolly, “I’m doing as well in my studies as any other tenth-year student. Better than most. I just can’t cast when I’m rushed. I have to concentrate.”

“So, you’re not rushed now. Let’s see you throw a fireball. Just a little one.”

“We’re supposed to be hiding, remember?” Sael snapped. “It’s bad enough we had to light a fire to dry off. If I start throwing fireballs around, they’ll be seen for leagues in all directions.”

Koreh’s derisive snort was the last straw. Sael turned and stalked over to the edge of the clearing. After searching the underbrush for a moment, he found what he was looking for—a sturdy branch about the length of a walking staff.

Koreh was watching him with a smirk on his face when he returned to the fire.

Trying to ignore him, Sael lifted the branch up over his head so it lay horizontally. Then with both hands gripping it firmly, he said, “Grab hold.”

“Huh?”

“I’ll show you something not even your Taaweh could do. Now grab on!”

Koreh hesitated only a moment before accepting whatever challenge Sael was offering him. He approached the boy, looking him dead in the eye before reaching up with one hand to grab the staff.

“Both hands,” Sael insisted, “and hold on tight.”

“Yes, little lord.” Koreh’s voice was mocking.

Sael frowned. “Hold on tight, or you’ll die. I mean it.”

“Fine. I’m holding on.”

The apprentice vönan closed his eyes and began chanting under his breath. It wasn’t easy, because in order for Koreh to grasp the staff, he had to press his body against Sael’s. And he was still naked. That was incredibly distracting, even with the linen undertunic separating their bodies. But the thought of further humiliation if he failed forced Sael to focus.

In the dark, with Druma obscured by clouds, Sael knew his power would be very limited. He could feel the magical energy he’d stored up during the day like a fire burning in his chest and head, but not nearly as hot as he often felt it—the pervasive fog had prevented him from drawing much power, even at midday. Still, it should be enough.

Sael chanted under his breath, ancient words given to men by the gods that simultaneously unlocked channels in the body for the energy to flow through and protected the body from the energy it channeled. This was one of the reasons the training of a vönan was such a slow, painstaking process—it took years to learn how to channel the energy safely before a master would dare allow his pupil to experiment with powerful spells. Every apprentice at the academy had heard horror stories of overzealous pupils bursting into flames. The stories may not all have been true, but the masters never bothered to contradict them.

When the chant ended, Sael opened his eyes to find Koreh watching him with apprehension. Clearly the magic of the Stronni still made him very uncomfortable. He looked as though he were about to say something when the staff suddenly jerked upward, lifting both young men off the ground.

Sael had been prepared for it, but Koreh panicked for a second, scrambling for a tighter grip.

Sael couldn’t help laughing as the staff came to a stop about ten feet above where they’d been standing. “Don’t fall.”

“I’m fine.” Koreh’s startled expression turned to one of defiance. “Is this all you had to show me? We’re barely off the ground.”
Suddenly he gasped as the staff flew upward again, this time coming to a stop just a short distance above the treetops. Koreh hooted in delight.

“Quiet!” Sael said under his breath, though he was secretly pleased. “You’ll wake Master Geilin.”

Koreh ignored him, laughing and twisting his head this way and that to take in the unusual vantage point. “Take us higher!”

“Hang on, then—tight!”

Now that the spell had been cast, it took little effort for Sael to control it, like turning the wick up on a lantern. He felt the energy flowing from his core increase and the two of them began to soar upwards. Higher and higher they climbed, until the light from the campfire seemed far, far below. Despite the night being overcast, the Eye cast a soft blue-gray light over everything, diffused through the clouds, and the gently waving treetops stretching off into the distance all around them seemed ethereal and beautiful.

He feared for a moment he’d overdone it. If Koreh lost his grip, Sael wasn’t sure he’d be able to save him from falling. But Koreh was laughing now like a young child being spun around in his father’s arms.

He was loving this and had dropped all pretense of superiority. When his eyes met Sael’s, Sael saw admiration in them for the first time. And he knew that he would do anything for that look.

But then he glanced past Koreh, and what he saw made his blood run cold. A vast number of tiny spots of light dotted the ground in the distance, hazy in the mist but still visible. They weren’t the lights of Mat’zovya—he could see those on the far side of the lake. These were just beyond, in the fields between the old city and the new. They had to be campfires.

Hundreds of them.

“We’re being followed!” he exclaimed.

Martian Born is going to Martha’s Vineyard!

I was very excited to learn this weekend that I’d been accepted into the 2015 Viable Paradise workshop! This is an annual workshop for science fiction writers taught by published authors in the genre. This year’s instructors include Elizabeth Bear, Steven Brust, Morgan J. Locke, and several others.

I was accepted into the workshop on the strength of the first few chapters of Martian Born, and it’s those chapters I’ll mostly be working on while I’m there. We’ll be staying in Martha’s Vineyard in mid-October, so I hope the weather is beautiful!

This is a very important step for me, as I try to branch out into the mainstream science fiction genre, and I can barely contain myself right now!

Frugal Friday Sale on all Dreams of Fire and Gods eBooks!

FrugalFridayThis Friday, Harmony Ink is having a sale on all three of the Dreams of Fire and Gods eBooks!  That’s including the first novel, Dreams, which won Best LGBT YA Novel at the Rainbow Awards last year.

Each one is just $1.99, so the entire trilogy is just about six dollars!

Here are the blurbs and buy links for each one:

  1. Dreams of Fire and Gods: Book One

    A thousand years ago, two factions of gods, the Stronni and the Taaweh, nearly destroyed the Kingdom of Dasak by warring for the land and the frightened humans who lived there. Then suddenly the Taaweh vanished and the Stronni declared victory.

    Now, as tensions escalate between the emperor and his regent, Vek Worlen, the vek’s son, apprentice mage Sael dönz Menaük, finds himself allied with a homeless vagabond named Koreh. Together they flee the capital city and make their way across a hostile wilderness to the vek’s keep, mere steps ahead of the emperor’s assassins.
    But Koreh has dreams—dreams of the ancient Taaweh—and he knows the looming war between the emperor and the vek will be nothing compared to the war that is about to begin. The Taaweh are returning, and the war between the gods may destroy the kingdom once and for all.
  2. Dreams of Fire and Gods: Book Two
    A thousand years ago, two rival factions of gods, the Stronni and Taaweh, nearly destroyed the Kingdom of Dasak in their war for power. Then the Taaweh vanished and the Stronni declared victory.Now, tensions between the human emperor and his regent are at an all-time high. The regent’s son, apprentice mage Sael dönz Menaük, has fled the capital with his master and united with a vagabond named Koreh, but assassins dog their footsteps. The future is more uncertain than ever.Since the Taaweh city of Gyishya reappeared, the mages of Harleh have weakened, cut off from the source of their power. Sael and his father struggle to keep their respective cities from crumbling under the strain or being destroyed by the gods. Then Koreh learns of a dangerous Taaweh plan to rescue their queen from the Stronni—a plan only Koreh and Sael can execute.But they may not get a chance. In Harleh Valley, a young man named Donegh pieces together what happened. Intent, he makes his way through an increasingly alien landscape to carry out his mission: assassinate the Dekan of Harleh, Sael dönz Menaük.
  3. Dreams of Fire and Gods: Book Three
    Long ago, two factions of gods, the Stronni and the Taaweh, nearly destroyed the Kingdom of Dasak in a great war. The Taaweh vanished when their queen was imprisoned, and the Stronni declared victory. A thousand years later, a young nobleman named Sael and his lover Koreh have rescued the Taaweh queen. In the process Koreh was killed, and now an injured Sael struggles to heal from both injuries and grief. Unknown to him, Koreh embarks on a journey across the land of the dead, trying to make his way back to Sael—and to life. But time moves differently in the underworld, and decades pass while Koreh travels.In the living world, tensions between the emperor and Sael’s father, Vek Worlen, who is regent of the eastern kingdom, have soured beyond repair. Worlen conspires with the assassin Donegh to break into the imperial palace and challenge the emperor to a duel to the death. But the goddess Imen has chosen a young priest named Gonim as her champion. Through him she discovers the Taaweh have returned, and her enraged king threatens to destroy Dasak and all its human inhabitants. Sael must save his world, must confront the gods and persuade them not to destroy humankind. But it seems hopeless. If only Koreh were at his side…

Viruses on Mars

virus1So it occurred to me that, when two colonies separated for about fifteen years meet again, one or both might have viruses the other hasn’t encountered.  After all, something as simple as the common cold virus supposedly mutates frequently.  We already know of about 200 different viruses associated with the “common cold.”

Well, now I’m not so sure.  I’ve done some digging and it appears that these types of viruses don’t survive for more than a few weeks in the body—our immune system does a fair job of wiping them out.  And they don’t live outside the body for more than a couple weeks, either.  As far as I can surmise, the common cold viruses stay alive by hopping from person to person, so that there are always people out there harboring the viruses, keeping them alive.

So how would a population of about 20 people keep the cold incubating?  After a matter of months, any cold virus going around would effectively be obliterated.  Fifteen years later, it seems very unlikely there would be any kicking around at all.

Well, it’s a question I haven’t been able to answer with any certainty.  Maybe I’m wrong and there’s a way for the common cold to stay active in a small population.  But in the meantime, a Facebook friend supplied me with a better possibility:  the Epstein-barr virus.

This is the virus we commonly associate with “Mono” in high school or college.  It’s characterized by fatigue, possibly a sore throat, a fever, swollen lymph nodes, etc.  The fatigue can drag on for several weeks, even after the other symptoms have subsided.  It turns out, nearly 90% of humans have had the virus by the time they reach adulthood.  We don’t all notice it, however, because it doesn’t always manifest symptoms.  If you catch it as a child, it’s likely you won’t ever have symptoms, or the symptoms will be mild enough your parents might think you just have a cold.

Unfortunately, as we get older, the symptoms can be more severe.  This is why some teenagers or college students who get the virus experience “Mono,” that fatigue that goes on for weeks and weeks.  In a small percentage of cases, the symptoms can be far worse.  Epstein-barr has been linked to encephalitis and several types of lymphoma.  It would therefore be a serious concern for the colonists.

And the best part (from the perspective of my story) is that it never leaves the body, once you have it.  The virus can remain dormant for decades, until some stress on the body causes it to reactivate.  At which point, it can be passed through contact with the infected person’s saliva—something as simple as a mother kissing her child, someone taking a bite of something and sharing the rest, or a parent picking up toys that have been drooled on.

(In reality, I don’t think this is “cool.”  The person who brought all of this to my attention learned about the virus when it struck her family in a particularly tragic way.)

So after researching this, I’ve had to go back and rewrite a couple chapters.  When it was just the common cold I was dealing with, I could play it for humor.  Now it’s not going to be a horrible tragedy for the colonies—that would derail the story too much—but they’ll have to take it a bit more seriously.

Sometimes you just need to wing it

marsI just spent three days trying to figure out whether a Martian pressure suit would have difficulties with a Martian night at the equator under normal circumstances, or whether I would have to contrive a malfunction in order for someone to be suffering from hypothermia after spending a couple hours lying on the ground.  I was also trying to figure out how bad off he could be without actually dying, and how he could be saved, if his rescuers couldn’t get inside his suit for a while.  Plus, I needed to know how long they would have to remain in the airlock before they could get inside his suit.

I could, of course, fake all of this.  I can make my Martian pressure suits behave any way I like, since they don’t actually exist  I can make the airlock take as long as I like, and I can fudge the details about how my character is injured and how he’s treated.

But I really hate that.

I want accuracy.  I don’t want to just make it all up.  I want to know what’s medically and scientifically possible, and I want to use that detail to make my novel feel real to the reader.

But after three days—with a lot of help from friends on Facebook, mind you, who sent me links and gave me information from the perspective of medics and EMTs—I realized I’d hardly written more than a paragraph.  That’s no way to write a novel.  They tend to be longer than a paragraph by a considerable amount.  I don’t need to be writing this thing twenty years from now.  By that time, there may very well be people walking around on Mars, at least for a visit.

So I’m using the information I collected to put together a scene that at least seems reasonable, and then I’m plowing ahead.  I’ll come back to it later, and hopefully I won’t have to do much restructuring of the chapter.  As of about an hour ago, I made it past that chapter and now I’m starting a chapter that won’t have so many nit-picky details.  I hope.

Anyway, I thought I’d post an excerpt from the chapter.  This is when the main character, Dylan, convinces his friend, Alex, to go out on the Martian surface with him before sunrise, because Timur—the guy he’s befriended at the rival colony—told him to meet him by the satellite antenna.

I’d been too fidgety to sleep and I’d called Alex a couple hours before it grew light. That had given us time to sit around in the airlock for an hour, adjusting to the lower pressure outside, while Alex complained bitterly about how tired we were going to be during our work shift at the farm. We were out at the antenna a bit before the sun was visible. Technically, it was just past sunrise for our latitude, but the crater walls still cast long shadows over us. The temperature was well below zero and we were jiggling up and down to keep ourselves warm.

“This is his idea of a joke,” Alex grumbled. “He’s probably in bed, warm and toasty right now.”

“No. He’ll be here.”

“If there was a crawler coming, we’d see the headlights by now,” Alex said.

He had a point. It was too dark out on the canyon floor to see much, apart from the slightly darker peaks of some prominent rock structures. But we sometimes caught sight of lights at Huozhing, when someone was working outside at night, just as they could probably see the lights from my headlamp and Alex’s, at this very moment. Crawler headlights should be visible for several kilometers.

There was nothing.

“Maybe we should have brought some blankets,” I said. There were blankets packed in lockers just outside the airlocks. They had outer layers of Mylar and inner layers with battery-powered heating elements built into the material. They couldn’t protect people for long in the middle of a Martian night, but they certainly helped.

“Maybe we shouldn’t have been suckered into this,” Alex replied.

“He’ll be here.”

“If you say so. But I’m going back to grab a couple blankets.”

“Okay,” I said. I didn’t like the idea of being out here on my own, but I was really starting to feel the cold. Blankets would be a good thing. “I’ll wait here for you.”

Alex took off at a trot. We were within sight of the airlocks, so it shouldn’t take him long. In the meantime, I scanned the floor of the canyon anxiously, searching for any flash or moving spot of light. Nothing. The sun gradually peeked above the east wall of the crater, illuminating a sliver of stone wall just above our colony. Supposedly, our parents had chosen to build the colony in this location in part because the sunlight reached it first thing in the morning. By building on the other side of the canyon, Huozhing had deprived itself of that benefit. But their governments insisted they be on the opposite side.

As I waited for Alex to return, the light crept silently down the canyon wall behind me. I kept turning around to check for Alex, and eventually saw him running toward me through a pool of sunlight that now stretched to the solar array. He crossed into the shadow I still stood in and pulled up in front of me.

“Here,” he gasped, holding out one of the folded blankets.

I took it from him and unfolded it. The battery pack was a long, flexible strip along one side about a centimeter thick and a few centimeters wide. It was activated by squeezing a circular spot on one end. I did so and wrapped the blanked around me, hoping the damned thing would warm up soon.

“Thanks,” I said.

Alex and I stood together, wrapped in our blankets for a while longer, until the shadow of the canyon wall had receded enough that we were finally in the light.

I could now see into Alex’s helmet, so I saw him frown and shake his head. “This is ridiculous, Dylan. He’s not coming.”

I wasn’t far from admitting he was right. But I was stubbornly clinging to the belief that Timur wouldn’t have made me stand out there just to be mean. I was sure he’d intended to meet me, which meant that something had to have prevented him from coming. Had he been caught trying to sneak out? Or was it more serious than that? “What if he crashed the crawler?” I asked.

“I’ll bet he never left Huozhing.”

This argument was going in circles, so I let it drop. For a few more minutes, we stood in silence, watching the line of sunlight slowly inch across the crater floor. Then, about fifty meters away from us, it illuminated something that made my hair prickle on my scalp in horror. What had looked like no more than a pile of rubble on the crater floor when it was in shadow now revealed itself to be a pile of heavy-duty containers like those used to transport water or other liquids. And lying still and motionless in the midst of them was a man in a pressure suit.

Timur had been lying there the entire time we stood at the antenna arguing.

Yes, I’m still here, and still writing

This blog has been quiet for a very long time, which I didn’t intend.  There’s actually been quite a lot going on.  Unfortunately, most of it has been under the pseudonym I use for adult novels—one novel wrapped up, and two short stories.  I’ve also been doing a little plotting for another novel idea, but I won’t go into that just yet.

I attended the first Rainbow Con this April, which was terrific.  Next year looks to be even larger and more fun.  Unfortunately, I came into contact with a family of sick, coughing children on the plane and came down with something like strep throat immediately after the con. That laid me up for weeks, even with heavy antibiotics, and unfortunately prevented me from attending the Harmony Ink  workshop this year.  But they mailed me my “swag” and several authors wrote nice notes to me inside a notebook, which reminded me what a wonderful bunch of authors we have.

eau-douce-marsIn the meantime, as a favor to a mutual friend, a mainstream agent agreed to look at the first three chapters and synopsis of Martian Born—not to represent it, but simply to give me some feedback about whether it would be marketable as a mainstream YA novel.  Unfortunately, though I was told it was nicely written and absorbing, it wasn’t very fresh.  Since I began working on the novel, several YA novels about Martian colonies have come out, such as the best-selling Red Rising.

That sort of thing is always depressing to a writer.  We come up with what we think must be an original idea, because we haven’t seen it anywhere or been able to find similar novels with searches.  Then, while we’re working on our masterpiece, a bunch of books hit the shelves with the same theme.

In most cases, this has nothing to do with people copying from one another.  But we all see the same news articles going by, we’re all observers of popular culture, so we tend to come up with similar ideas at the same time.  Mars has been in the news a lot in recent years, and there has been a lot of talk about establishing a Martian colony, so of course a number of authors start thinking about that as a good basis for a story.  From that point, certain things click into place for all of us—dust storms, two moons, sub-zero temperatures, water frozen into the soil.  Some of us will go in one direction, some in another.  My story is, as far as I can tell, more scientifically accurate than a number of the stories on the market now, but that’s not an enormous selling point.  Neither is a gay protagonist, from a mainstream perspective.

However, from my perspective, a gay protagonist is an enormous difference that sets my story apart from others.  So I intend to finish it.  Even if it the most original novel to come out this year or next, I’m still convinced it’s a good novel.  It’s worth finishing, and I think it will be worth reading.