Friday, November 5, 2010

Writing Daze – Friday Five – Five Fun Things and Novel Excerpt

About the Author

In true nomadic spirit, Valmore Daniels has lived on the coasts of the Atlantic, Pacific, and Arctic Oceans, and dozens of points in between.

An insatiable thirst for new experiences has led him to work in several fields, including legal research, elderly care, oil & gas administration, web design, government service, human resources, and retail business management.

His enthusiasm for travel is only surpassed by his passion for telling tall tales.
Valmore’s latest book is Forbidden the Stars, a sci-fi novel set at the end of the 21st century.

Visit his website at

Visit his tour page at Pump Up Your Book

Five Fun Facts about Forbidden The Stars

1. Forbidden The Stars was originally a short story encompassing the last thirty pages of the existing novel. When I presented the story to my writer’s circle for critique, they encouraged me to expand it into a novel.

2. I kept the publication of Forbidden The Stars secret from my family, and sprung it on them only when I received my author’s copies. They were surprised and overjoyed for me.

3. After finishing the first draft of Forbidden The Stars, I printed out one full copy, and it was lucky I did: the next day my computer hard drive crashed and I lost everything on it. I had to OCR the entire novel back into the computer through a scanner, but had to go through it line by line to fix formatting, spelling and punctuation issues caused by the process. (Since that time, I do multiple backups every day on different media.)

4. By the time I finished the first draft of Forbidden The Stars, the International Astronomical Union declassified Pluto as a planet—although many astronomers continue to consider it a planet—and two additional Plutonian moons were discovered. Instead of re-editing portions of the novel to take this into account, I instead decided to assume that, in the future, Pluto would once again be classified as a planet. I will account for the classification and the additional moons in the sequel.

5. Within two months of the release of Forbidden The Stars, astronomers discovered a planet within the possible habitable zone of the Gliese solar system. Forbidden The Stars deals with first contact of an alien species in a nearby solar system. This was a very happy coincidence for me.

You can visit Valmore Daniels at his Website,

Forbidden The Stars is available at the following retailers:
Paperback: Amazon US / Amazon UK / Amazon CA / Barnes & Noble
eBook: Amazon US / Amazon UK / Barnes & Noble / Kobo

Order Here:

About Forbidden: The Stars

At the end of the 21st century, a catastrophic accident in the asteroid belt has left two surveyors dead, but the asteroid itself is completely missing, along with their young son, Alex Manez, who was accompanying them.

On the outer edge of the solar system, the first manned mission to Pluto, led by the youngest female astronaut in NASA history, has led to an historic discovery: there is a marker left there by an alien race for humankind to find. We are not alone!

While studying the alien marker, it begins to react and, four hours later, the missing asteroid appears in a Plutonian orbit, along with young Alex Manez, who has developed some alarming side-effects from his exposure to the kinetic element they call Kinemet.
From the depths of a criminal empire based on Luna, an expatriate seizes the opportunity to wrest control of outer space, and takes swift action.

The secret to faster-than-light speed is up for grabs, and the race for interstellar space is on!

Read the Excerpt!

Dark, cold, silent, inhospitable.


Captain Justine Turner stood on the edge of the solar system. As captain of the Orcus 1, the historic honor fell to her.

It was another in a series of firsts for her; youngest female astronaut in NASA history; youngest person to get a captaincy of a space vessel; first human to set foot on the icy surface of Pluto.
She tried to think of something notable to say for the benefit of those on Earth who tracked their progress. Overcome with the tide of emotion, Justine could not think properly. The stale recycled air in her suit did not help clear her mind.

“Pluto,” she finally declared into her microphone. Swiveling her head to face the sun, a tiny glowing pinprick in the low horizon, she imagined she was speaking for the benefit of posterity.
“It’s been a two-hundred year journey to get here, since the dark planet’s existence was first theorized. Now, that dream is a reality. This occasion is a milestone in human history. From here, all that’s left is to conquer the stars.”

She took a breath before continuing her speech, but a digitized voice filled her helmet.
“Captain!” called Helen Buchanan over the comlink. On loan from the Canadian Space Exploration Department, Helen had more than proven her competence in administration in her position as second-in-command. Still, she had a tendency for dramatics.

Irritated by the interruption, Justine growled, “What is it, Helen?”

“The science team reports all spectroanalyses are normal. Ekwan again requests permission to venture out on the surface.” The first mate lowered her voice to match the captain’s tone. “Justine, if he doesn’t get his way soon, he’s going to drive us all off the end of the planet, you know.”

There was always one bad apple in every bushel. Unfortunately, NASA had had no say for whom the Japanese included in the mission. They had to accept Ekwan along with the fifteen billion in research money the Japanese Space Administration had invested.

Six months in space with that overblown, opinionated jackass, however, was enough to test the patience of a saint.

I should deny his request, just out of spite. That would be petty, and a blatant misuse of her authority. Besides, it was not a generous attitude to take with any member of the civilian science team.

Looking around, she could barely see twenty meters beyond the landing lights of the Orcus 1. Willing to ignore the petty politics of Earth’s corporate countries, she had accepted this mission—ecstatic and full of passion—for the chance to touch the heart of Pluto for herself.
Now I am here! She reveled in the fact.

The surface of Pluto was barren and unforgiving. The achievement of reaching it would spur Earth to invest more resources in space exploration. The mantle of that responsibility rested squarely on her slight shoulders, and she dare not let anything untoward happen on this mission. She knew she should make the other members of the eight-person crew wait an hour after her exposure to the surface of the planet, in the event there were microbes eating into her suit, or some other fantastical possibility thought up by the NASA scientists. But if letting Ekwan go would shut the seismologist’s loud mouth up for just five minutes…

“Permission granted, Helen. But make sure he follows regulations. I’m coming back in. Seen all I need to see for now. I’ve got enough pics to keep NASA’s publicity department busy for a year.”
“Very good, Captain.” She could hear the relief in the First Mate’s voice.

Justine made her way up the lander’s ceramic ladder and entered the belly of the Orcus 1. It took a minute to cycle through the airlock.

Inside, she faced an unorganized mob. In an orchestra of confusion, seven figures circled about their unbidden conductor, all shouting through their intercoms in a cacophony of anger.
“Ekwan! Slow down,” Justine commanded. “We’re here for seven months. You’ll get all the surface time you need.” She stared into his vesuvian face. So much anxiety in such a little man.
“It’s these stupid belts, Captain! There are too many, and they’re getting in the way. And she—” He jerked his head at First Mate Helen Buchanan. “—won’t let me go out until she has me trussed up like a prisoner.”

“Ekwan. Just do it. Would you rather waste time arguing, or get your suit on properly and get out on the surface that much sooner?”

Clearly unhappy, the seismologist allowed Helen to finish strapping his suit together. With comic exaggeration, he stomped into the airlock.

“And wait for the rest of us!” Helen shouted through the intercom. “We’ll be ready in a few minutes.”

Ekwan’s reply was unintelligible, but there was no misunderstanding the frustration on his face.
In a way, Justine could understand him. Even in modern Japan, the need to excel and surpass everyone else drove their economic and social order. In a small country with such a high population density, it was no wonder people were frantic and short-tempered in their race to get ahead of the pack.

The others in the locker room slowly fumbled their way into their suits.
Justine nodded at Johan Belcher, the European Space Agency’s geologist. The handsome Austrian was there to run detailed tests on the makeup of Pluto’s icy surface, including depths, densities, and percentages.

If not for her captaincy, she would have encouraged his smooth-tongued advances. She had to keep herself set apart from the others, however; to do otherwise would undermine her authority. It was imperative she keep her command and authority for the duration of the twenty-month mission.

Johan returned the nod with a calculated smile as he helped Dale Powers, the NASA astrogator, into his suit.

Two other NASA members struggled to get ready. Henrietta Maria and George Eastmain. Justine suspected the two had become lovers on the long voyage. They giggled at each other like schoolchildren when they thought no one was looking, and whispered in each other’s ears frequently.

“Where’s Sakami?” she asked the group. The single representative from the People’s Republic of China, Sakami Chin was clearly an outsider. He refused to dine with the others, and made no effort at casual conversation. Surly and abrupt, Sakami made no qualms about his aversion to space travel.

Justine turned her head at the sound of boots striking the metal plate that divided the locker room from the rest of the ship.

Sakami pushed his way through the crowd to his suit, and paid no attention to the cries of outrage from the others.

Justine glanced at her First Mate. “I’m heading to the bridge, if you’ve got everything under control here.”

“Sure do, Captain. Take a nap. I’ll alert you if Ekwan falls down a crater,” she joked.
“Belay that. Alert me if he kills himself.”

She forced a smile, and made her way through the spacecraft.
With the Orcus 1 empty, Justine made a detour to the galley and helped herself to a squeeze tube of cold tea. She congratulated herself on achieving the most important goal of her life.

Stories of Planet X had filled Justine’s young mind and fed her imagination, and as a teenager, she studied every book she could download on the subject.
She made it her lifelong passion, reading everything she could find about the planet, scouring two centuries worth of data. With every probe that went past the dark world, she made certain to download all relevant data.

After she graduated from her Arizona State’s Astronomy Department with honors, the Lowell Observatory took a shine to her, and sponsored her into the NASA training program. Justine had worked hard over her twenty-year career. She clawed her way up through the ranks, just for the opportunity of fulfilling her dream. Her ultimate goal: the Orcus 1 mission. It was hers, though it had cost her a marriage along the way.

Brian had decided he did not want to play second runner up to Justine’s career. Her single regret was that she never made room in her schedule to have a child. The sense of loss and regret over her decision to put career ahead of family might have sent her into a deep depression that might have gotten the best of her, had not the Orcus Mission become a strong possibility.

Duty beckoned. Someone had to staff the bridge. With squeeze tube in hand, she picked her way through the ship.

She reached her command chair just as a klaxon sounded.
Scanning the monitors to no avail, Justine pitched her voice to get the computer to acknowledge her command. “Com: on.” The ship’s computer beeped, and Justine asked, “Captain, here. What is it?”

The replying voice came across filled with a high-pitched whistle of static.
“Captain! We’ve got something strange out here, you know! Something you just have to see!” There was no mistaking Helen’s Canadian accent when she was excited, and the woman tended to get overexcited about even the little things. Justine sighed.
“If it’s a patch of ice with pink and purple streaks through it, I’m not going to be impressed.”

“You want impressed?” Helen’s digitized voice asked. “Well, I guarantee you won’t be disappointed. Get out here and see for yourself!”
“What is—”

The computer beeped, indicating that Helen had cut off communications.
With a grudging effort, Justine lifted herself out of the chair and made her way to the lockers to suit up and go outside.

She grumbled all the while. “Crazy Canucks. Always with those cliffhangers. She probably loves the weather up here, while I freeze my nethers.”
Justine, who weighed 59.8 kilograms on earth, was finding it difficult to maneuver with her Plutonian weight of 2.4 kilograms once outside the Orcus 1’s artificial gravity simulator. She weighed about as much as a large bag of salt. A strong leap could send her dozens of meters in any direction. That kind of activity, she admonished herself, was against regulations, and unsafe.

With its surface a slick sheet of methane ice and dunes of frost, any small misstep on Pluto could send her sliding hundreds of meters away. There would be little time to use the ice hooks built into the sleeves of her suit-shields to slow her down. Her boots were equipped with vacuum-suckers to keep them stable on the ice. Even so, a fall into one of the kilometers-deep craters that pocked the surface could mean a chilly death.

NASA publicity department wanted lots of commentary on the trip, and Justine decided to get it out of the way while she could. She spoke into her microphone, and pointed a small mini-cam toward the largest object in Pluto’s sky.
“The moon, Charon, whose surface is more water-based without traces of methane, is a dark blue orb filling the sky.”

Shifting to get out of the glare from the Orcus 1’s landing lights, she skittered across an expanse of ice, and caught herself. With a deep breath of relief, she faced upward again.

“Although it is 1,270 kilometers in diameter, a third the diameter of Luna, Charon is more than five times the size of Luna from the Earth because of its proximity to Pluto, 12,640 km away.”

Justine got into an ATV and set it to follow Helen’s homing beacon.
She babbled while the vehicle rolled over the icy glacier that made up most of the surface of the planet.

“The primary mission of the Orcus 1 is to examine the possibilities of methane-based life forms existing on Pluto. Nitrogen is a necessity of life, making up about 78 per cent of Earth’s air by volume. It makes up a vital part of protein molecules. As with the Mars microbes a century ago, NASA is hoping to find some evidence of life on Pluto.”

The beacon indicated she was within a kilometer of the group.

She struggled to think of something to say that might interest an Earth audience.
“Pluto is named after the Roman god of the dead and the underworld. To continue the allusion to Greek Mythology, they named Pluto’s smaller twin ‘Charon’ for the old boatman who ferries souls across the River Styx. In following this tradition, NASA decided to name the first manned mission to Pluto as Orcus 1 after the—”
As she came over a rise, she shut her mouth tight with a clack that echoed insider her helmet. Below her, the science team and Helen gathered like acolytes around a divine statue.

Her eyes beheld a sight beyond anything she had ever imagined possible.
In a place where no human had ever before set foot, against the cold darkness of Pluto’s skyline, there was a monument the size of an aircraft hangar. The bulk of the structure resembled the nucleus of a complex atom.

Orbiting that nucleus, a number of spherical objects formed what looked like an electron cloud, hovering in the space around the monument without any visible tethers or supports.

An alien chill walked icy fingers up Justine’s spine.
Humankind was not alone in the universe…


  1. Pluto never stopped being a planet in spite of the controversial vote by four percent of the IAU, most of whom are not planetary scientists. Their decision was immediately opposed by hundreds of professional astronomers in a formal petition led by Dr. Alan Stern, Principal Investigator of NASA's New Horizons mission to Pluto. Many astronomers have never stopped classifying Pluto as a planet, and your prediction is likely to come true sooner rather than later.

  2. 3 days ago, astronomers concluded that Pluto is larger than Eris, and that may allow Pluto to regain its official status as a ninth planet.

    A poll on is leaning in Pluto's favor. :)


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