The Things You Do as an Author

Over the weekend, we had some family in town. In the quiet times, when one member was reading, and another was Facebooking, I was trying to squeeze some editing in. I grabbed my 3-ring binder with Launching Justice in it, made sure I had my spiral-bound notebook inside it for making notes for its sequel, grabbed a water bottle, and plopped down in the chair.

Only to burst from my chair a minute later.

You see, I had opened up my binder to where I was editing and thought, “I wonder how Jupiter would look from the surface of Mars.”

Now, for some of you, you may be thinking that that’s a really strange question to ask. But the thing is: my character was looking at Jupiter, not from the surface of Mars, but not from far away from Mars, either. So very relevant.

I’m pretty sure I startled my family who was in the room with me when I jerked to my feet quickly, dropped my binder on my chair, and crossed the room to my trusty laptop, stood over it for about three minutes as I Googled my question, then returned to my chair as though nothing had ever happened.

But I got my answer. And it was exactly what I was looking for.

Sometimes, as an author, you startle people.

For the record, this is what Jupiter–and Earth!–looks like from near Mars: earth_jupiter_i1The round dot at the bottom–that’s Jupiter. Depending on your screen and how good your eyes are, you may be able to pick out three of its moons surrounding it. From left to right, you can see Callisto, Ganymede, Jupiter, and Europa. (Callisto, I think, is where I set some of my action in Launching Justice. It may be Europa–I can’t quite remember.)

At the top are visible Earth and our moon. Makes someone feel very small to realize how truly vast our solar system is, and to think about how small it is compared to the galaxy, and the universe…

Help Me Name a Character Contest!

If you’ve been reading my series, The Darby Shaw Chronicles, you may have noticed something missing in the first three books.

One of my characters doesn’t have a name!

Uh-oh, how’d I do that?

Well, truth be told, it was intentional. Because I wanted YOU to give him a name!

If you haven’t been reading, or if it’s been a while, you may not know to whom I’m referring. Well, it’s Mark and Darby’s boss, the Captain.

It’s more than time to give him a name, wouldn’t you say?

Here’s a brief description and history:

The Captain (Edward James Olmos)
Edward James Olmos (from

The captain is an older man, in his late 60s or early 70s, and worked closely with Mark’s father. He still pays calls on Mark Sr’s widow, and Mark (junior) grew up knowing the man who would become his boss. The captain has known Mark’s family since well before Mark was born!

He’s mostly greyed and typically wears a mustache. He can be kind when necessary, but is still tough as nails.

He was also one of the last people to be with Major Mark Herman Sr when he died.

So there’s some history here. And I don’t have his precise ancestry selected, either.

What I need from you is a first and last name. If you have a fitting middle name, throw it in there as well, but he doesn’t have to have one. (If it ever becomes necessary, I’ll pick one that sounds good to my ear.)

Out of the entries, I’ll pick my top three or five favorites (depending on how many entries I get!) At that point, we’ll hold a contest to pick the winning entry here on the blog.

What are you going to get for participating?

If you win the second round of the competition, you’ll get an e-copy of the Darby Shaw Chronicles box set immediately in whatever format you prefer. When the next book in the series is released, you’ll be acknowledged in the back of the book, and you’ll also receive a signed copy of the book. So how does that sound?

Put your thinking caps on. I’ll leave this open until August 31, and will post my top three or five names in the first week of September. Everyone is welcome to leave as many suggestions as they wish!

Good luck!