Editing Progress

automated sugarcane harvesting

Progress is definitely being made, ever since my editor revealed she would be over-busy in December.  I’m desperately hoping to get the finished ‘final’ version to her by the end of this week.  Nothing like a deadline to focus the mind.

I’ve taken two chapters out of the book, and the progress bar on the right hand side of this page shows you how I’m doing.  It’s pretty good, but what’s hidden is a whole new storyline of events on the planet Corsair.  I need to write it from scratch.  I’ve adapted early parts so that the backstory is tucked into reminiscences or other suitable points, and it’s been useful reading other people’s books: I’ve taken a great interest in how they fit in backstory.

automated sugarcane harvestingSo, the next task for me is to tackle the main change in the action on the planet, which starts with Colin Trescothick peering over a rocky outcrop at the family of harvesters below.  Well, at least I know what’s going on…

Picture is royalty-free from Shutterstock.


Moons of Exoplanets – real science

Could moons of exoplanets harbour life?  That is a question currently engaging scientists involved in exoplanet identification.

Earthsky.org, a wonderful news feed in need of annual funding, featured a post last month on 121 giant planets identified outside our solar system, whose moons might be habitable.  It’s a big ‘might’.

researchers at the University of California, Riverside and the University of Southern Queensland announced they’ve identified 121 giant exoplanets with orbits within the habitable zone – the zone within which liquid water can exist – of their stars. [earthsky.org]

Giant planets of the Solar System – Jupiter and Saturn – have given us the idea that life could exist under the ice of Titan and Europa.  The exoplanets these scientists have identified are themselves within the habitable zone of their star, so the possibility for any (so far unidentified) moons is fascinating.

What would life on these moons be like?

I’ve already started wondering that, since I’ve set Lars’s birthplace on a moon (called Ulric) of a giant planet.  It’s not necessary to the Viridian System series to know more detail about the effect of a giant ball of planet in the sky as well as a sun of unspecified size and luminosity (although I was thinking dimmer/more distant than ours.  It’s hard enough working out the moon configurations for Sunset Strip (it has two moons) without adding in the complication of a huge neighbour.

When I did a back-story for Lars, I assumed the red reflecting planet was pretty much always in the sky and provided most of their light.  As a result I gave Lars excellent night vision, which is something that I use int he story occasionally.  That he needs contacts for Pleasant Valley and Sunset Strip is a minor detail I haven’t bothered with.  Or maybe he has an eyelid adaptation so he can see in the bright sunshine of his native sun when it comes out from behind the red planet.

I did a brief introduction to the planet Ulric for and A to Z challenge one year. One day I’ll do some more work on this, but I’ll need my planetary science text books to hand when I do!

A part of Lars’ backstory set on Ulric is told in The Inspector Calls.

Christmas in Spacedock

I am in the process of rewriting the first half of the Perihelix following my editor’s comments.  So I’m  jumping about a bit for stories for you.  For your Christmas treat this year, I thought I’d go back to something with the girls, give them some backstory for a change.

Christmas in spacedock

Dolores slapped another pile of chips on the table in front of the Arcturan.  He leered at her cleavage and swept them into his pouch.  “Mebbe I spen’ time with ya later,eh?”

She smiled her dealer’s smile at him.  “You passing?”

“Nah.  Deal!”

Dolores dealt, calculating the odds on another 21 coming up in the next four hands.  High.  The odds of her getting through this night without getting detailed for overnight ‘escort’ duties were correspondingly low.  Arcturans were adept at spotting sleight of hand, so no point in fixing the cards.  Maybe she could get the shy Transmutium boy to join in.


So far, so good. The Arcturan bust that hand, and waved to one of her colleagues for a drink.

“Why not get one for your companion?”

“Companion?”  The Arcturan looked around at the assorted spacers and hangers-on who were watching the game.  “Any o’ ya losers gonna join-in?”

Dolores smiled at the Transmutian and a couple of others.  Three sat down, and pushed forward an id for some chips.  “Raises the ante,” she commented, flirting with the Arcturan.

He responded by swaggering his shoulders.  The action always reminded Dolores of bum-waggling in some companion animals she’d had in her childhood, however much she tried to suppress the memory.

Expecting a 21 in this round, she dealt, face impassive. What would be, would be. It wasn’t exactly work, since that implied some element of choice. As slavery went, it was cushier than some assignments although the requirements were more degrading than some of the physical labour options.  Then again, nobody was safe from overseers taking their pleasure.  She was clean, fed, and could wear nice clothes. As long as you could keep your own mind, you could survive.  For a while longer.

The Banksian turned up the 21.

“Hey! Look guys, I’ve won!”  Back-slapping and joshing followed.

The Arcturan scowled.  “You fixed!”

Dolores ignored him.  “Your deal, sir.”  The Banksian had been distracted, and hesitated.

“I’ve never been dealer before.”

“That’s okay, I’ll deal the cards and sort the bets for you if you prefer.”

“Yes, please.”

Manners, that was a change.  These guys were on vacation, and it was probably a novelty for them.  They were in dress clothes, no insignia, but she suspected they were from one of the Imperium ships currently in spacedock.

The Arcturan pushed in, grabbed her shoulder.  “You fixed!”

“No, she didn’t,” one of the Banksian’s friends came to his rescue, since the Arcturan was pushing his face in his pile of chips.  Two of them moved either side of the hulking form and pulled him upright.

“What’s your problem, matey?”

“She fixed ma cards!”  He took a swing of one of them, but they both held firm and he simply lost his footing in his aborted turn.

“Our friend turned up 21, how does that count as a fix?”

“It was mine!”

“It was his!”

Jed and Vic, two of the master’s bodyguards, appeared on either side of the Arcturan and picked him up bodily.  He kicked his feet in frustration, catching one of the Banksian’s friends in the thigh.  Dolores admired their restraint as they let the security personnel deal with the problem.  Professionals.

She exchanged a glance with the barman, and Sophia arrived with nine glasses of synth-ale.  “Compliments of the house,” she said, setting them in front of the card players, and handing the others to the rest of the Banksian’s friends.

That loosened the Banksian’s party up, and they started spending their wages, with small enough bets to win a little, lose a little, until they were the last relatively sober ones left in the joint.

The master came over.

“I hope you’re enjoying yourself, gentlemen.”




They were laughing and chatting, and for them the night was young.

“It may be time to move onto other entertainments.  Perhaps you’d like to take advantage of a private suite for the rest of the evening?”

“You mean..”

“What, gambling suite or — other things?”

“Whatever your choice. The entertainment of your dreams, or simple home comforts, or anything in between.”

The guys went into a huddle.

“Can you do Christmas dinner with all the trimmings?”

The master smiled.  “Of course.  Turkey or macadomia?”

“Turkey!”  The guys chorused, then added other ideas, building their perfect feast.

The master started to usher them away, listing other treats.

“Can she come too?” The first Banksian looked over his shoulder at Dolores, who stifled her yawn and turned it into a sweet smile.

“Of course.  And a few more ladies to entertain you, perhaps?”

“Can we watch them cook?”

“Help with the pudding?”

“Lick the bowl?”

“Of course.  There will be something for everyone.”

For Dolores, Marci, Fenestra and Poppy it was a strenuous assignment, cooking in the nude and attending to the boys’ interest in their private parts while at the same time producing a four course traditional Christmas banquet.  But considering some of the other options, it was probably the best Christmas dinner any of them had had since their planets had been over-run, whether by the Federation or the Imperium.

As for the seven Imperium space cadets, losing all their money, and their virginity, was a small price to pay for the best Christmas dinner any of them had ever had.

© J M Pett 2016