I still quite like this cover on the Taiwan edition of LETTER TO MY DAUGHTER.

The holiday sale for the e-book continues for just a few more days. (English. Not Chinese.) Here are the links again:

Barnes & Noble

Special Holiday Promotion for LETTER TO MY DAUGHTER

From Dec. 20 – Jan. 8, the e-book edition of LETTER TO MY DAUGHTER is just $1.99.

Thanks to Random House/Ballantine Books for this holiday promotion.

Available anywhere e-books are sold. Links below.

Barnes & Noble

He Lives!

Every Halloween he rises from the dead to terrorize Catholic school girls and lonely housewives. Beware!

teen vamp

For the story on how I became Hollywood’s Teen Vamp, here’s a pretty good essay I wrote years ago for the Oxford American, I Was a Teenage Vampire.

Asteroid Freddie Mercury

Asteroid 17473 was renamed Asteroid Freddie Mercury yesterday by the International Astronomical Union’s Minor Planet Center at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory. Freddie Mercury is 2.2 miles across and sails between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter at a speed of 12.5 miles per second. With a good telescope, it’s visible as a faint dot of light.

Asteroid Freddie Mercury

Asteroid Freddie Mercury

And if you listen very, very closely, you might hear this as it passes:

More here from the Guardian newspaper.

Happy Fourth of July

Hanabi (Japanese fireworks), from “Pyrotechnics: The History and Art of Firework Making,” by Alan Brock (1922).
via Stephen Ellcock

Hanabi (Japanese fireworks)

Bloomsday 2016

I’ll be reading from James Joyce’s Ulysses next Thursday here in New Orleans to help celebrate Bloomsday 2016. Not the whole book, of course.

If you can’t join us, then wherever you are, go out and have some Guinness and toast the Irish writer with the funny glasses.


Facebook link to Bloomsday 2016 in New Orleans, with details, here.

Detail of “Ascent of the Blessed” by Hieronymus Bosch, ca. 1500-1504

Hieronymus Bosch, Detail of Ascent of the Blessed, ca. 1500-1504

Baton Rouge Bluestockings

With two members of the brilliant BR Book Club. What a smart, insightful group. It’s readers like these who make me proud to be a writer.

BR Book Club

Baton Rouge Bluestocking Book Club

I’m looking forward to meeting with the Bluestocking Book Club this Wednesday, February 24, 2016, in Baton Rouge to talk about THE NIGHT OF THE COMET.

Here’s a picture of a woman with a blue stocking:


See Five Planets Together. Five!

Hello, old blog. Here’s some interesting astronomy news. Beginning tomorrow, January 20, and continuing until February:

“For the first time in more than 10 years, it will be possible to see all five bright planets together in the sky. Around an hour or so before sunrise, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn, the five planets that have been observed since ancient times, will appear in a line that stretches from high in the north to low in the east.”


Here’s the full article from phys.org

All Five Bright Planets Come Together in the Morning Sky
January 15, 2016 by Tanya Hill, Museum Victoria, The Conversation

For the first time in more than 10 years, it will be possible to see all five bright planets together in the sky. Around an hour or so before sunrise, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn, the five planets that have been observed since ancient times, will appear in a line that stretches from high in the north to low in the east.

The planets are visible from right across Australia in the dawn sky. You can start to look for the lineup from Wednesday, January 20 and it can be seen right through until the end of February.

Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn have been in the morning sky since the beginning of the year. Jupiter is bright in the north, next comes reddish Mars, followed by pale Saturn and lastly brilliant Venus, which shines above the eastern horizon. It is the appearance of Mercury that makes the family complete.

Mercury has just transitioned from an evening object to a morning object. At first it will appear quite low to the eastern horizon and of all the planets it is also the faintest, so it will be hard to see to begin with. However, Mercury will continue to rise higher each morning and by early February it will sit just below bright Venus.

Dates with the moon

If you need something a little more to get you leaping out of bed before sunrise, then here are the dates to mark in your calendar. From the end of January, the moon will travel by each planet and can be used as an easy guide for your planet-spotting.

On January 28, the moon will be right next to Jupiter. Come February 1, the moon (in its Last Quarter phase) will be alongside Mars, then on the following morning it’ll sit just below the red planet. On the morning of February 4, the crescent moon will be near Saturn. Then on February 6, the moon will be alongside Venus and on February 7, a thin sliver of moon will sit below Mercury.

In line with the sun

The line formed by the planets in the sky closely follows the ecliptic, the apparent path of the sun against the background stars. This path marks the plane of our solar system, visual proof that the planets, including Earth, all orbit the sun on roughly the same plane.

The ecliptic is bordered by the constellations of the zodiac and one of the most recognisable zodiac constellations is Scorpius. If you’re awake before the first rays of the sun begin to drown out the stars, then look for the curved outline of the scorpion between Mars and Saturn. In fact, sitting just above Saturn is the red supergiant star Antares, which marks the heart of the scorpion and its reddish colour makes it the perfect rival for Mars.

Rare oddity

It’s been a long time since the orbits of all five planets have brought them together to the same patch of sky. To make the best of the viewing opportunity try and get to a clear open space where you can see from the north all the way across to the eastern horizon.

As early February comes around, I also highly recommend checking out the flight path of the International Space Station via websites such as Heavens Above or NASA’s Spot the Station.

The Station will be flying morning passes over Australia during that time and current predictions for each capital city have it travelling right through or near the line of planets, for example: Darwin (February 3), Brisbane (February 5), Perth (February 6), Sydney (February 7), Canberra (February 7), Adelaide (February 8), Melbourne (February 9) and Hobart (February 11). The predictions can change slightly, so best to check the websites closer to the date and be sure to enter your precise location to obtain the most accurate timing for the pass.

Finally, there’s still more to come. This August the five planets will be together again, visible in the evening sky, so stay tuned for more planet watching in 2016.