Astrid Maxxim and the Antarctic Expedition – Chapter 13 Excerpt

Astrid Maxxim and the Antarctic Expedition“So how was Australia?” Toby asked Astrid. “I always wanted to visit there.”

“I was only there for a couple of days total, coming and going, but I really liked it. Christopher and I had a great time at Phillip Island. We saw koalas and everything.”

“There is nice shopping,” said Océane.

“Yes, there are great shops and restaurants in Melbourne,” added Astrid. “Our hotel was really nice too.”

“All right, get to the exciting parts,” said Mr. Bundersmith. “I want to hear all about your adventures in Antarctica.”

Astrid recounted her experiences in Dumont du’Urville and then on Amphitrite. She described all of the dives but didn’t go into much detail about the encounter with her leopard seal. Océane apparently felt compelled to offer color commentary however.

“When the seal grab Astrid, I never so scared,” she said.

“That must have been terrifying,” said Aunt Gerta.

“It was kind of scary,” agreed Astrid. “I was afraid for a moment that my dry suit might not live up to its name.”

“It drag her right down and I think we lose her,” continued Océane.

“It probably seemed more dramatic at the time than it really was,” said Astrid.

“You see how exciting when it is on television.”

“What’s that now?” wondered Astrid.

“They film for my father’s Antarctic television special,” said Océane. “They don’t have pictures of when the seal grab you, but I see the pictures of when she bring you the penguin.”

“Well I for one, can’t wait to see that program,” said Mr. Bundersmith. “This is certainly more than I expected. I was just waiting for you to tell us about how you gave away millions of dollars worth of gold.”

Astrid paused while she took a drink of water. “You heard about that, did you?”

“It’s all over the news,” said Toby.

“Well it was probably more like billions of dollars,” she said, glancing at her father. “But it’s not like we could get at it anyway.”

“I think you did exactly the right thing, honey,” said Dr. Maxxim. “I don’t see a need to rip every resource right out of the earth as soon as it’s found. Leave something for the future, I say.”

The Best Astrid Maxxim Book Ever

Astrid Maxxim and her Hypersonic Space PlaneI’ve really had fun writing Astrid Maxxim and her Hypersonic Space Plane– more fun than on just about anything I’ve written lately.  I guess that’s why I jumped into writing it.  I’m really happy with what I’ve written too.  I go back and re-read chapter one again and again.  It really tickles me.

Others could disagree with me, but I think the best of the series up until now was book 1, followed by book 2 and book 3.  When you look at it, you could say I’ve been going downhill.  This book changes that.  I think it is the best of the series by far.  Part of that is because this book is more self-aware than the others.  Also Astrid is a little older (15) and is experiencing some growing.

The official release date is October 24th.  I can reveal right now that it will be available wherever fine ebooks are sold for 99 cents.  Just like the others.

Astrid Maxxim and the Antarctic Expedition – Chapter 11 Excerpt

Astrid Maxxim and the Antarctic Expedition“This is too good an opportunity to pass up. We’re diving to shoot some film. Would the three of you like to come along?”

“Absolutely,” said Astrid. “Are we using the mini-subs?”

“No. We won’t be able to get the shots we need unless we’re swimming among them.”

“Isn’t it too cold?” asked Christopher.

“We’ll be alright for a short time in our drysuits,” said the French oceanographer. “I know that Astrid and Océane are experienced divers. What about you?”

“I don’t have as much experience as Astrid, but I do have my certification,” explained Christopher. “I’ve never used a dry suit before though.”

“We’ll take care of you,” said Dr. Feuillée. “Come on. We have to hurry.”

They quickly climbed down to lowest deck above the waterline where a dive room was located. Though they hurried and had crewmen to help them, it was still quite an ordeal to put on the drysuits. They were several times as thick as normal wetsuits, which were themselves no picnic to get into. Unlike those more common diving outfits, which let water between the neoprene rubber and the skin, these would keep the water out entirely. Instead of a traditional face mask and a regulator with a mouthpiece, they donned full-face masks, which not only kept water off of most of their face, but also allowed them to talk over radio.

Finally the outer hatch was opened and eight divers helped each other step out onto a floating platform just outside. In addition to Dr. Feuillée, Océane, Astrid, and Christopher, there were four Amphitrite crewmen. Lucas and Enzo were camera operators, while Hugo and Emma had been instructed to keep an eye on the three fourteen-year-olds.

Even with the drysuit on, when Astrid jumped into the water, the cold was like a kick in the chest. She couldn’t ever remember being that cold; even standing in the Antarctic night while Remie repaired the ice sensor. A minute later though she forgot the temperature as what seemed like a hundred penguins shot past her. They looked more like they were flying than swimming and soared along at incredible speed. Her eyes followed them and she saw more in the distance, along with a large dark patch in the water.

“That’s a bait ball,” said Dr. Feuillée’s voice over the radio. “It’s a huge cloud of krill. We’re going to swim over toward it. I want to remind you to be on your toes. There could be other creatures arriving to feed on the krill or the penguins and some of them can be dangerous. If you see something, report it, and then swim back toward the ship.”

They swam about a hundred meters until they could make out the enormous cloud of life, though it was only possible to identify it as krill by the few stragglers that swam closer to the humans. They proved to be the luckier members of their species, since the penguins left them alone, either because of their proximity to people, or the bird’s desire to scoop up more than one at a time.

“Keep a sharp lookout for orcas,” said one of the crewmen, Astrid couldn’t tell which one.

“I thought killer whales didn’t come in close to the ice,” said Christopher.

“That’s true in the arctic,” said Dr. Feuillée, “but down here we have a different and much larger population and they have taught each other to hunt far into the ice flows.”

“They aren’t dangerous to humans are they?” wondered Astrid.

“There’s no recorded case of an orca attacking a human in the wild. Still, they are powerful wild creatures and it is good not to take that for granted.”

Only a few seconds later, Astrid caught her first glimpse of an Antarctic mammal swimming underwater. It wasn’t a killer whale though, but a seal. It was about seven feet long, with fur that was almost white.

“Crabeater seals,” said Dr. Feuillée. “They don’t eat crabs though. They eat almost exclusively krill.

Astrid Maxxim and her Hypersonic Space Plane – Coming Soon.

Astrid Maxxim and her Hypersonic Space PlaneI swear I didn’t mean to do it.  After spending the last part of my summer vacation finishing Astrid Maxxim and the Antarctic Expedition, I had no intention of jumping into another.  I had planned to get right back to 82 Eridani: Journey, which is sitting right here half done.  In fact, I had thought that I wouldn’t do another Astrid Maxxim book for a year or two.  I just couldn’t stop writing about Astrid.  I just continued on into a new book, and now I’m done.

I’ve actually done more writing since school started than I did during the summer.  This isn’t because I don’t have plenty to do.  It’s because my wife started back to work too, and I have a lot of time alone at home.  I think this may be the quickest first draft I’ve ever written– 20 days.

When I hit the halfway point in the new book, I contacted Matthew Riggenbach at Shaed Studios, who has done all the Astrid Maxxim covers, and had him get started.  He does fantastic work as you can see and is a joy to work with.  I have no idea if I’m easier or harder to work with than his other clients, but I gave him some pretty specific requirements on what I wanted and he really pulled it off.

Anyway, it’s done.  And now it has an official release date: 10-24-14!

And if you know any 8-14 year-olds who read ebooks, please buy them a copy of Astrid Maxxim and her Amazing Hoverbike.  It’s just 99 cents, and they’ll like it.

P.S. I had Matthew go ahead and create the next Astrid Maxxim Cover, even though I haven’t actually outlined my idea for the book.  So I don’t know when I’ll write book 5, but I will.

Astrid Maxxim and the Antarctic Expedition – Chapter 9 Excerpt

Astrid Maxxim and the Antarctic ExpeditionAstrid and Christopher, bundled up to the fullest, climbed into the cab of the same large tractor in which they had been driven to the base the day before. They took their places behind the driver’s seat, now occupied by Remie. Nathan, down on the hanger floor, pushed the lever to open the great door and the tractor rolled out into the icy darkness.

It wasn’t snowing, but it seemed to be as the wind whipped tiny flakes of ice into the air in the beams of the ten great spotlights that led them through darkness. For the most part, the ice was smooth and the great tractor ground straight into the night.

“We’ll be there in just a few minutes,” said Remie. “This sensor is only four miles from the base.”

“It seems like a long way,” said Astrid, “especially if you were by yourself.”

“We’ve got the radio. If something happens to the tractor, we can call for help. Don’t worry.”

They had barely finished talking when they saw a blinking red light in the distance. Turning just a bit to the right, the Frenchman brought the vehicle to a stop right beside it. The light was atop a large blue box-shaped piece of equipment roughly the size of Astrid’s walk-in closet at home.

“It looks like the Tardis,” said Christopher.

“Yeah, it does,” agreed Astrid.

“This is just the control box. The sensors reach down through about 40 meters of ice and into the rock below.”

“Won’t the movement of the ice break them?” asked Astrid.

“Eventually, though the ice doesn’t move as much here as it does closer to the Ross Shelf.”

They left the tractor’s engine running and climbed out into the freezing air. Remie led them to the control box and opened a panel. He flipped several switches and then opened an interior door to check a row of circuit breakers. After flipping several of them, he pulled one out and replaced it from a small stack of them just inside the compartment. Once he did so, a bank of lights came on and he began closing the device back up.

“I can’t believe how cold it is,” said Christopher. “We’ve been out here seven minutes and I’m frozen through, even with all these layers of clothes. Look at this.” He pointed to the ice on the fur around his hood where the moisture from his breath had frozen.

“Makes you rethink global warming, eh?” asked Remie.

“Of course not,” he replied. “Humans add almost 30 gigatons of carbon to the atmosphere each year.”

“Good man. You’re right of course. Measurements of the ice here show that it is almost an inch thinner than last year. That may not sound like much, but it is year after year, and the change is increasing.”

“How can you put 30 billion tons of anything anywhere and not expect it to make an impact?” wondered Christopher. “Don’t you agree, Astrid?”

The girl inventor didn’t answer. Christopher turned to see her looking out into the frozen darkness.

“What’s up?”

“I was just thinking,” she said. “I wish I hadn’t watched The Thing.”

Writing Fundamentals: Tense

The biggest problem that I’ve seen with some of the Indy books I’ve read lately has been with tense, and nothing takes me out of the story quicker than a sudden switch from past tense to present, or vise-versa.  No one should write a novel in the present tense, unless you’re James Joyce… no, not even then.

Stories should be told in the past tense.  The easiest way to remember how to stay in the proper tense?  Imagine the story you are telling is real and that it already happened.  Tell it like you would tell a friend how your last year was.  That way, you’ll never fall into the trap of using words like today, now, etc.  Also, watch out for your verb use.  If accidentally use a present tense verb, it can mess up the rest of your sentence, and you are suddenly off track.

Why not use present tense?  For the very reason stated above.  The reader wants to believe in your world and your story.  If you’ve written what happened in the past, it’s that much easier to suspend disbelief.  Who is going to believe that events are somehow happening as you read the story.

I’m sure that most writers will read what I’m saying and think, “well, duh.”  Well, good for you.  Keep up the good work.  Those who have trouble with tense?  Go back through your manuscript and make sure it reads like a something that has actually already happened.  Good luck.

Astrid Maxxim and the Antarctic Expedition – Chapter 3 Excerpt

Astrid Maxxim and the Antarctic ExpeditionWhen they finished eating, they walked to a large building draped with canvas tenting, next to the roller coaster. A security guard was standing by a slit in the canvas and pulled it aside, revealing a door, which he then opened. Inside they followed the marked path through the entryway and found themselves standing in the middle of a desert scene.

“We start with the triassic?” asked Christopher.

“I would have liked to have gone through the whole prehistory of the earth,” said Astrid. “Since I couldn’t, I decided to stick with the three geological periods of the dinosaurs.”

They walked around a large rock to find themselves threatened by a group of four coelophysis, hissing and snapping their teeth-filled jaws. At the top of a hill, they could see a ferocious ticinosuchus, while closer by an elephant-sized moschops tugged at the shaggy fern.

“That’s the ugliest dinosaur I’ve ever seen,” said Denise.

“It’s technically not a dinosaur,” said Christopher. “It’s a therapsid.”

They rounded a corner, went through an arched doorway, and stood at the border between a grassy plain and a conifer forest. The painted mural on either wall made it seem as if both went on forever. Right in the middle was a massive brachiosaurus, reaching up to pluck pine needles from a tree. Nearby a pair of allosaurus harassed a stegosaurus, and beyond that a Quetzalcoatlus, the size of a jet fighter, soared overhead. Other, smaller dinosaurs hunted through the trees.

“Now these are what I call a dinosaurs!” said Austin, looking up at the Brachiosaurus. “They’re so realistic. It’s like we went back in a time machine. Say, why don’t you invent a time machine, Astrid?”

“That’s not really possible,” said Astrid.

“Well, sure it is.”

“Don’t get her started on time travel,” said Denise. “We’ll never get to ride the roller coaster.”

Astrid and her friends passed on through the Jurassic period and through another arched doorway to find themselves at the foot of a volcano, steam rolling down from the artificial lava. Running along the hillside were psittacosaurus, caudipteryx, and ornithomimus. Snapping and squawking below were several velociraptors. A large beipiaosaurus browsed through low-hanging trees.

“What’s with all these chickens?” asked Denise. “I thought this was a dinosaur exhibit.”

“These are all anatomically correct,” said Christopher. “Most cretaceous dinosaurs had feathers.”

“No wonder Maxxim Industries is in trouble,” said Denise. “You’re spending all its money building robot dinosaurs.”

“Who says Maxxim Industries is in trouble?” wondered Astrid. “Did your dad say that?”

“Yes. Not my dad that works for you. He thinks you’re the greatest thing ever. My other dad— he said it.”

“Maxxim Industries is just fine,” said Astrid.

Walking around a lava flow took the group to a triceratops nursery, where two of the huge three-horned creatures were caring for some tiny tykes just emerging from their shells. But looking over this tranquil scene from beyond the bushes was an enormous tyrannosaurus rex.

“That’s odd,” said Astrid.

“What?” asked Toby.

“The t-rex should be roaring and chomping and generally being scary. It’s the only dinosaur not working. I think I’ll take a look at it. Maybe it’s something minor.”

“Trust Astrid to turn riding a roller coaster into an electronics experiment,” said Denise.

“You guys go on ahead,” said Toby. “I’ll stay with Astrid and fix the dinosaur, and then we’ll follow you.”

“You sure you don’t mind?” asked Valerie.

“Go ahead,” assured Astrid. “I’m sure we won’t be more than a minute.”

While Christopher, Austin, Denise, and the two Valeries continued through the last arched doorway to the ride entrance, Astrid led Toby to the base of the monstrous creature. Pulling out her pocket toolkit, she unfastened four screws on the tyrannosaurus’s hip and opened a large panel.

“Uh-oh.”

“Is that what I think it is?” asked Toby, pointing to a cylindrical metallic object behind the panel.

“Do you think it’s a pressure cooker connected to digital clock?”

“No, I think it’s a bomb.”

“Well, either way, you’re right.”