Laurie Breton – Coming Home

Title: Coming Home

Author: Laurie Breton

ISBN:   ASIN (Kindle Edition):  B008KJAIDC

Page count:  436

Genre:  Romance/Women’s Fiction

Price:   $2.99

 

Author Bio:

I’ve been writing since I was eight years old, but I was a late bloomer when it came to being published.  I spent my young adulthood waltzing with an approach-avoidance conflict that had me spending twenty-hour days writing furiously for six weeks or two months at a time.  Then I’d set aside the work and not touch it for six months or a year.  This went on for two decades before I finally realized that I wasn’t going to get anywhere as a writer if I didn’t:  a) finish something, and b) show it to other people.  Suddenly, the lightbulb went on over my head, and I finished that first book, the one I’d been dawdling over for nearly twenty years, in record time.  The second book took seven weeks; the third took 36 days.  This was the early days of e-books and online publishing, and those first three books were published by teeny-tiny online publishers and read by about twelve people before they disappeared into obscurity.  Book number four caught the eye of an agent, who got me a multi-book deal with a big publisher.  I published six mass market paperbacks before my publisher declined to renew my contract.  At this point, I was tired and burned out from the effort of writing a book a year on deadline while working forty hours a week.  I had chronic health problems, and I stopped writing for a while, focusing my creative energies on painting and photography instead.

Fast forward several years, and I emerged from my hibernation, ready to start writing again.  When I looked around, I realized the literary landscape had changed drastically during the time I’d been away.  Suddenly, self-publishing was readily available to everyone, and the stigma that accompanied it was quickly eroding.  I started writing again, and when I put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard), what came out, to my surprise, was a sequel to those first two books I’d written so many years ago.  I was 50k words into the story before it hit me between the eyes:  indie publishing was the way to go.  So I re-released those first two books, for Kindle and in trade paperback, as Book 1 and Book 2 of an ongoing series.  Suddenly, I’m excited about writing again, excited to be taking control of my own life and career.

No more rejections.  No more sending out manuscripts and waiting months (or even years!) to be told, “Sorry.  It doesn’t fit our needs.”  No more trying to conform to the ever-changing and impossible-to-decipher whims of the literary marketplace!  I’m writing for myself, and for my readers, and that’s all that matters.  Life is good.

 

Tell us about your book:

COMING HOME is a love story, but it’s also the story of Casey’s evolution from girl to woman.  Just eighteen when the story opens, Casey Bradley is a budding songwriter.  When Danny Fiore, her brother’s friend and bandmate, storms into her life, he turns it upside down.  Danny is a singer with huge ambitions and a voice to match.  He’s looking for new material, and he believes Casey can provide it.  Neither of them plans on falling in love, but sometimes the heart has a mind of its own.

When Casey begins writing music with talented guitarist Rob MacKenzie, the result is an unstoppable hit-making machine that catapults Danny Fiore to a success beyond their wildest dreams.  But life with Danny isn’t everything she thought it would be; rivers of darkness run through her troubled marriage, and Casey spends so many years focused on Danny’s career that she loses sight of her own dreams, her own desire for a family and some kind of normalcy.  Danny loves her, but he has trouble getting the whole husband thing right, and every time he breaks her heart, it’s Rob who picks her up, dusts her off, and glues the pieces back together.

It isn’t until tragedy strikes, just when she thinks her dreams are finally coming true, that Casey begins to question who she is and what she really wants from life.  In the process, she discovers the bittersweet truth that the choices a woman makes at eighteen may differ vastly from those she makes at thirty.

COMING HOME is a poignant story about the seasons of a woman’s heart, and the roundabout route we sometimes have to take to get to where we’re meant to be.

COMING HOME is the first book in my ongoing Jackson Falls series.

 

How long did it take to write the book?

Twenty years, give or take, although most of that time was spent not writing.  Yes, this is the twenty-year book I mentioned in my author bio above.  I’m happy to report that nowadays, I write much more quickly!

 

What inspired you to write the book?

These characters have lived inside my head since I was in my twenties.  They were probably originally inspired by my teenage obsession with rock music, but that was simply a jumping-off point.  I find that little pieces of real life, my own experiences and emotions, always find their way into my fiction.  It all lands in a huge melting pot, which I then stir and stir until it forms something solid and coherent.

 

Talk about the writing process. Did you have a writing routine? Did you do any research, and if so, what did that involve?

When I’m actively working on a book, I usually get up at 4 a.m. and write for two hours before work.  If the words are coming quickly, I write again after work, sometimes late into the night.  I try to attain a specific word count each day.  1500 words is my usual, although when it’s coming fast and furious, I can easily double that.  I write until my brain is fried and then I fall into bed in total exhaustion.  When I get stuck, I get in my car and drive around the back roads of Maine.  I do my best “writing in my head” when I’m behind the wheel.  If I get really stuck, a day trip to Boston will usually get the juices flowing again.

 

What do you hope your readers come away with after reading your book?

This is not only the Book of my Heart, but it’s also a book with heart.  My hope is that it touches the hearts of readers, makes them cry, makes them laugh, makes them believe that it’s worth everything we have to go through to get to that place we’re meant to be.

 

Where can we go to buy your book?

Amazon.com (kindle edition or in trade paperback)

 

Any other links or info you’d like to share?
My web page:  www.lauriebreton.com

 

Excerpt from book:

Hands tucked in the pockets of his Levi’s, Danny Fiore stood at the window, watching the first light of dawn touch the eastern sky and wondering when he’d stopped wanting to run away.

He’d tried to run.  When running hadn’t worked, he’d decided there was no reason they couldn’t discuss the situation like two rational adults.  But he’d been wrong again; he’d forgotten that the moment she walked into the room, one of them regressed to a fifteen-year-old, all knees and elbows and quavering uncertainty.  So he’d done the only thing left to do:  he’d given in to the tumult inside him.

And when he touched her, he knew he was lost.

He had nothing to offer her.  Eighty-seven bucks and change, a rusted ten-year-old Chevy, and three years’ back issues of Rolling Stone.  It was no life for a woman, at least not for the kind of woman Casey was.  But if he did nothing, she would go home, back to Jesse, and half his insides would go with her.

Danny rested his forehead against the window pane and closed his eyes.  What he knew about love you could put in a thimble.  He was no good at intimacy.  Christ, that was a lie; he didn’t know if he was any good at it.  He’d never had a chance to find out.  All he understood was singing, and the way the music made him feel.  Until now, it had been enough.

She was sleeping in a tangle of dark hair and slender limbs and rumpled sheets.  Danny sat on the edge of the bed and tried to think of the right words to say.  She deserved champagne and roses, candlelight and soft music.  Not a marriage proposal from some crazy wop bastard at five in the morning on sheets that hadn’t been changed in a week.

He touched her cheek to awaken her.  She stretched like a cat before opening sleep-studded eyes to his.  When she smiled, his heart rolled over in his chest.  “Look,” he said, the words suddenly tumbling out of him so fast he was tripping over them.  “I’m not in a position to offer you anything even faintly resembling an orthodox life.  My life’s chaotic, and I don’t see it getting any better in the foreseeable future.  Right now, I don’t have the proverbial pot to piss in or the window to throw it out of.  But it won’t always be that way.”  He paused for breath.  “By God,” he said, “I mean to have it all.  But there may be hard times along the way.  And you have to know up front that I won’t change, not even for you—”  He stopped, suddenly aware that he was rambling.  “I’m not making any sense, am I?”

Softly, she said, “You’re doing just fine.”

He ran a hand through his hair.  “I had all these flowery things I wanted to say, and I’m saying this all wrong—”

“Yes,” she said.

He blinked.  “Yes, what?”

“Yes, I’ll marry you.”

He was grinning, grinning like a fool, and he couldn’t help it.  “I haven’t asked you yet.”

“If I waited for you to get to the point,” she said, “ we’d have to spend our honeymoon at the Sleepytime Old Age Home.”

He took her hand in his and somberly studied her slender fingers.  “There’s something you have to know,” he said.  “Up front.  I want to make sure you understand what you’re getting into.”

She closed her fingers around his.  “Yes?” she said.

He cleared his throat.  “The kind of life I lead,” he said, “is not conducive to rearing children.”

Her steady gaze didn’t waver, nor did her grip loosen.  But he could hear it in her voice, the faint hint of a tremor.  “Ever?” she said.

He felt himself weakening.  God help him if she ever figured out that he was incapable of saying no to her.  “It’s not an easy life,” he said.  “I’d have to be damn settled before I’d ever consider bringing a kid into it.”

“But later,” she said, “someday—”

He brought her hand to his mouth, kissed those pale, trembling fingers.  “Someday,” he said, “when things are more settled, we’ll talk about it again.”

Her eyes never left his as she removed the diamond engagement ring from the third finger of her left hand and placed it on the table beside the bed.  “Are you sure?” he said hoarsely.

She smiled.  “I’ve never been more sure of anything in my life.”

***

At 4:47 on a Tuesday afternoon, in the clerk’s office at the city hall in Hayesville, Maryland, while static crackled from the police radio in the lobby and pigeons cooed from their roost along the eaves above the open window, Danny held her trembling hand in his and promised to cherish her until death.  With the mayor’s secretary and an off-duty cop as witnesses, they exchanged the rings they’d bought a half-hour earlier at K-mart, and the city clerk, doubling as a notary public, pronounced them man and wife.

She signed the marriage certificate with a flourish.  Casey Lynn Bradley Fiore.  Danny’s handwriting was small and neat as he signed his name next to hers.  The secretary returned to her typewriter and the cop went home to dinner, and Danny slipped the clerk a twenty before taking Casey’s arm and walking her out into late afternoon sunshine.  There, on the sidewalk in front of God and half the homebound population of Hayesville, he swept her into his arms and kissed her until her insides turned to butter.  The secretary came out the door and gave them a benevolent smile, and Casey returned the smile just from the sheer joy of it.

Danny cupped her face in his hands and kissed her again.  “So, Mrs. Fiore,” he said, “where would you like to eat dinner?”

She straightened his collar.  She couldn’t seem to keep herself from touching him.  “Some place wonderfully elegant, Mr. Fiore.  Like the Ritz.”

“I’m afraid you’ll have to settle for something a little less elegant,” he said wryly.  “Like McDonald’s.”

She kissed his chin.  “I can’t think of a more elegant place.”

They spent their wedding night in a motel off the Jersey Pike, somewhere outside of Philly.  In a paneled room that smelled of mildew, they drank supermarket champagne from disposable plastic goblets and explored together the mysteries of love.  He shared with her his fire, she shared with him her tenderness, and they drew strength from the knowledge that nobody could tear them apart now.

And in the morning, they went home to face the lions.

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Samuel Medina – Katarina the Dragonslayer and the Foebreaker’s Curse

Title: Katarina the Dragonslayer and the Foebreaker’s Curse

Author: Samuel Medina

ISBN: 978-1478297017, ebook available now, print version coming on September 15

Genre: Science Fiction/Fantasy

 

Price: $14.95 print, $3.99 eBook

 

Author Bio:

I’ve been writing and creating art for most of my life, but didn’t try to publish anything until 2009, when I launched an award-winning webcomic, Jake the Evil Hare . Shortly after, I started a fantasy/sci-fi webcomic,Darkfell: The Fetters of Wizardry , based on characters from stories I wrote in college… when I tried to write a short story to create a background for a new character, it turned into the first book of the series.

I’m an avid reader on a wide range of subjects from fantasy/sci-fi fiction to permaculture, archaeology, paleontology, and more. As for the more personal details, I’ll just be mysterious for now 😉

 

Tell us about your book:

A half-elven slave girl finds a pair of ancient swords in a cave and embarks upon an adventure that will change the course of history. To avoid spoilers, I’ll just say the book features elves base on American Indians, a unique system of magic, technology, aliens, and saucy, meddling dragons.

 

How long did it take to write the book?

7 months

 

What inspired you to write the book?

I had a friend on a MUD called Ancient Anguish who called herself Katarina the Dragonslayer, and I wanted to create a character based on her for my fantasy webcomic, Darkfell: The Fetters of Wizardry. She liked the idea quite a bit, and in an effort to create a background for the character, I decided to write a short story about Katarina’s ‘origin,’ and it just kept growing and became what will be the first of a series of 8 books.

 

Talk about the writing process. Did you have a writing routine? Did you do any research, and if so, what did that involve?

I’m an artist, so a lot of times my process starts with a sort of thumbnail storyboarding. I tend to write in the wee hours of the morning, when everyone is asleep, and I often try to talk out the story a good bit, as well as reading passages aloud as I write them. Oddly enough, it was after I’d written a good deal about the Stone Prophets (the aliens who interfered with history for their own dark ends) that I came across a great deal of material on the Annunaki/Nephilim, and found some striking similarities between what happened in those accounts and some of the themes Darkfell explores. I’ve been reading up on magnet-related technologies for years, as well as about the Mayans, Incas, and other ancient cultures, so a lot of research went into this project, particularly in the world-building stages.

 

What do you hope your readers come away with after reading your book?

Aside from the ope that they’ll enjoy the story for its own sake, I am hoping they’ll come away with a renewed sense of wonder, and maybe some introspection as to the real nature of being a hero, and a new vision of how the weight of history can bear down on people and events.

 

Where can we go to buy your book?

It’s on Amazon. The link to the eBook is http://www.amazon.com/dp/B008SSIKVW

More venues are forthcoming.

 

Any other links or info you’d like to share?

I produce 2 webcomics, the second of which is also my personal blog:

http://www.jaketheevilhare.com

http://www.darkfell.com

 

Excerpt from book:

“There has been no sign of pursuit, and dawn approaches.” Oren climbed onto the seat and took the reins. With another look over his shoulder, he turned aside to the east and onto a worn forest path.

“Now that it’s day, won’t the trolls seek shelter so they don’t turn to stone?” Katarina asked.

Oren laughed. “That only happens in children’s fables.” He let the reins go slack. “The trolls of the South are creatures of the night. The light of the sun is blinding to them, and painful to bear. If they remain in the light for long, it pierces them to the bone and causes a stiffness to take hold of their bodies. They call it ‘dayfrost,’ and it renders them rigid, unable to move until the dark of night

thaws them out. This makes a troll easy prey, and so they rarely go abroad during the daytime.”

Oren slowed the cart and pointed ahead. “We will stop there. It is time this poor beast had a proper rest.” Not far off the path an old farmhouse stood amid tall weeds.

“Do people still live in this valley?” Katarina looked around. The trees here are young, and the paths between them are not badly overgrown.

“I would have thought so, for the Valley of Achor was for a long time a refuge for the half-elven. Behold the fields!” Beyond the stone walls of the yard spring wheat stood uncut and rotting. “This farm looks to have been abandoned during the summer.”

“Why would someone abandon it?” They would have had a good harvest. The cart came to a stop behind the house.

“We’ll have a better idea once we’ve taken a look,” Oren whispered. He shouldered his satchel and drew one of his daggers. “Unhitch the mule, and bring him. Keep close.”

They circled the house warily. The sun was rising over the valley when Oren pushed open the broad door of the house and stepped in. From the entrance broad steps descended into a large main room with a massive fireplace and plain, heavy furniture. Kat secured the mule to a heavy post. The house was empty of inhabitants save for a few mice and a number of large spiders. A survey of the larder revealed a small supply of dried fruit and meat in heavy jars. Broken pottery littered the floor.

“Those who lived here left in a hurry,” Oren said as they entered the main sleeping chamber. Clothes still hung from hooks, and the bed was in disarray. There aren’t any windows, except that tiny one at the entrance, Katarina thought. Light, however, streamed in through heavy translucent stones set into the wall. Oren ran up the steps to the entrance and barred the door. He stood at the small window for some time before he spoke again.

“See if there’s a clean pot to be had and boil a handful of this.” He tossed a small pouch onto the table, and then knelt to inspect the mule’s legs.

“There’s no water.”

“Use your eyes, child! Next to the hearth.”

There’s nothing there but a bent iron tube sticking out of the floor. Katarina looked more closely at it. It’s got some kind of handle.

Oren looked over his shoulder. “Have you never seen a hand-pump, girl?” He took a pot, set it under the bend in the pipe, and lifted the handle several times. To Kat’s surprise, clear water poured from the pipe and into the pot. “It would seem that the knowledge of the Elves was not entirely lost here.”

Kat hung the pot over the fire and sat on the hearth to warm herself. There were no tubes like that in Moonshadow. Oren added wood to the small fire, and Katarina raised her eyebrows. “Won’t the smoke be seen?”

Oren sat down across from her and stretched until a series of cracks could be heard. “This fireplace is of an Elvish design, and the wood is very dry. Unless I miss my guess, the smoke is directed through flues which pass under the house before exiting some distance from here, and the vent is likely concealed by shrubs or rocks. A troll might easily pick up the scent at a distance, but it is likely that they are no longer in pursuit, or at least hiding from the sun at present.” They could still be afoot if they made it to the heavier patches of forest here.

Oren took the pot off the fire and poured some of its contents into a cup. “Drink that, and try to get some sleep.” Katarina finished the sweet, creamy liquid as Oren took some of it from the pot and made poultices for the mule’s legs. She set her cup down, leaned back against the warm stone of the fireplace and fell asleep.

* * *

Katarina opened her eyes. Oren sat facing the door, eyes shut. His breathing is so quiet, and he’s so still he looks dead. Kat looked into the fireplace, and saw that just a few coals remained. I’ll have to add some wood soon. She rose carefully and crossed the room. The mule is asleep, too. Kat stole her way to the steps, and looked back when she reached the top. He hasn’t moved. She grasped the edge of the small window, and finding toe-holds in the rough stones of the wall, she pulled herself up to take a look outside. Behind her, Oren opened a single eye.

Katarina frowned. It’s past noon and there’s nothing out there but weeds and a wasted harvest. A wide shadow fell across the window, and then a dark shape leaped into view before her. Kat fell back with a shriek, and then looked up to see a fat crow crowded onto the windowsill. Oren’s laughter brought color to her cheeks but she did not turn around.

“I hope old Kalanhu did not give you too much of a scare,” Oren said. “When avoiding pursuit, windows do less to inform you than they do to expose you.”

Katarina spun around, fists clenched. “Then why didn’t you say anything if I was endangering us?”

“I knew Kalanhu was on the roof before you woke, and I thought the lesson in discretion would be better remembered this way.” His tone was jovial, but the sternness of his gaze made Kat look away. He rose to his feet. “Kalanhu would have given warning if any mischief were afoot, and in any case trolls have never been had in reputation for stealth.” He threw a few small logs onto the fire. “Let the bird in, but be quick about it.”

Kat grumbled as she slid the bar back into place. It feels like wood, but it’s as heavy as iron. And yet Oren lifted it with ease. She started back down the stairs, and saw that the crow was perched on the mantel, and Oren leaned close, listening intently as the bird twittered urgently. I wish I could understand what he’s saying, Katarina thought.

Oren sat by the fire. “I suppose it can’t be helped. It could be worse.” Katarina climbed up onto the mantel next to the crow. The bird looked at her, then tucked its head under a wing.

“What is it, Oren?”

“Kalanhu tells me that the war party is scattered. At least half of them are dead, quite burnt to a crisp and partly eaten.”

“A dragon?” Kat jumped down from the mantel. Who would want to eat a troll?

“Not just a dragon, but one big enough to send a party of trolls fleeing for their lives.” Oren’s face darkened, and to Kat he seemed worried. “Kalanhu did not see the dragon himself, but a young magpie told him that it was golden in color, with bronze talons. But we cannot be certain.”

“Why? And why is the color so important?”

“Because there are many colors of dragons, and to a great degree much of their strength can be known by their hue. Green, gray, and brown are fairly common, and rarely possess much fire, unless they have reached a great size, which they seldom do. Bronze and blue are less common, while gold is quite rare. A gold dragon can be as much as a hundred feet in length, and when mature their flame can melt lesser steel.”

“And what about black?” Katarina leaned forward.

“Only four black dragons have hatched in the last fifteen thousand years. As for your other question, we cannot be certain because magpies are, for the most part, liars.” He untied the mule and moved toward the door. “Come, we have about an hour for grazing and a lesson in tactics.”

“We’re leaving, then?”

“No. Kalanhu says that a few of the surviving trolls hid themselves in a ravine nearby, and he heard them talking about coming this way after dark.”

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Sylvia Engdahl – The Planet-Girded Suns

Title:  The Planet-Girded Suns: The History of Human Thought About Extrasolar Worlds

Author:  Sylvia Engdahl

ISBN:  9780615645179 (paperback)

Page count:  268

Genre:  Nonfiction

Price:  Paperback $10.95, Ebook $3.99

 

Author Bio:

Sylvia Engdahl is the author of eight science fiction novels, some of which are Young Adult books that are also enjoyed by adults; one of these was a Newbery Honor book and a finalist for the 2002 Book Sense Book of the Year in the Rediscovery category. The two most recent are adult SF. She is a strong advocate of space colonization and has maintained a widely-read space section of her website for many years. She presently works as a freelance copyeditor and editor of nonfiction anthologies for high schools.

 

Tell us about your book:

Interest in extrasolar worlds is not new. From the late 17th century until the end of the 19th, almost all educated people believed that the stars are suns surrounded by inhabited planets–a belief that was expressed not in science fiction, but in serious speculation, both scientific and religious, as well as in poetry. Only during the first half of the 20th century was it thought that life-bearing extrasolar planets are rare.

This book, first published by Atheneum in 1974 and reissued by the author in 2012, tells the story of the rise, fall, and eventual renewal of widespread conviction that we are not alone in the universe. Its chapters dealing with modern views have been revised to reflect the progress science has made during the past 40 years, including the actual detection of planets orbiting other stars.

In addition it has a new Appendix containing passages from early poetry mentioning extrasolar worlds, and a long Afterword, “Confronting the Universe in the Twenty-First Century,” discussing the relevance of past upheavals in human thought to an understanding of the hiatus in space exploration that has followed the Apollo moon landing

 

How long did it take to write the book?

I spent about a year and a half writing the original edition.  It was originally issued as a Young Adult book, as that was the field in which I was then established as a novelist; but it was always too difficult reading for any but the most mature teens and the additional material added to the 2012 edition wouldn’t be of interest to them, so I have now published it as adult nonfiction.  The updating took me about a month, including the addition of formal source citations I wasn’t allow to include in the YA edition. In addition to that, I produced the cover and the paperback edition’s layout personally.

 

What inspired you to write the book?

I was dismayed by the fact that the general public thought the idea of inhabited worlds of other stars was invented by science fiction–although in fact it was widespread long before science fiction existed–or that its history was related to belief in UFOs, which it is not.  Also, I wanted to correct the common misconception that belief in such worlds was opposed by religion later than the 17th century, as it was actually accepted largely on religious grounds in the era before science had any relevant data.

 

Talk about the writing process. Did you have a writing routine? Did you do any research, and if so, what did that involve?

Most of my research was done in primary sources of the 18th and 19th centuries, which involved many hours in libraries hunting for references to the subject in magazines and in books by well-known people who mentioned it in passing, as well as the obscure books devoted to it. At that time, almost no information about past views of extrasolar worlds was available in secondary sources, though several scholarly books on the subject have appeared since then.

 

What do you hope your readers come away with after reading your book?

I hope they will realize that belief in extrasolar worlds has a long history entirely separate from science fiction, and especially that this has nothing whatsoever to do with speculation about UFOs or the recent notion of ancient visitors to our own planet. And I hope that young people who fear that their belief in such worlds would be considered contrary to religion will be encouraged by knowing that religious writers have defended it for centuries.

 

Where can we go to buy your book?

Amazon (Paperback and Kindle); Barnesandnoble.com, iBooks, Sony (ebook in epub format); Smashwords (ebook in epub, mobi and pdf formats); Google Play (ebook in pdf format); www.adstellaebooks.com (all formats—20% off paperback to individuals, 50% off to libraries).

 

Any other links or info you’d like to share?
There’s a page for the book at my website, www.sylviaengdahl.com/pgs.htm.

This can also be reached from www.adstellaebooks.com.  Ad Stellae Books, which is listed as the publisher, is my personal imprint; it is not a publishing company. I use it not only on indie books but on the indie editions of my backlist novels and those of a friend for whom I produce backlist ebooks.

 

Excerpt from book:

[Pages 62-65]

By far the most frequent mention of extrasolar worlds, at least in eighteenth-century writings that have survived, came in poetry. The poets of the era, both famous ones and those who are not so famous, were enraptured by the idea. At that time poems were frequently many pages long; in fact they sometimes filled whole volumes. The passages of verse at the beginnings of the chapters in this book and in the Appendix are merely short excerpts. They represent only a fraction of the pertinent things poets said about other planets and the beings that might inhabit them.

Most of this verse is not considered great poetry today. Yet when it was new, it was popular and much admired. Of Edward Young’s Night Thoughts, one nineteenth-century writer said: “Editions have been multiplied from every press in the country. It is to be seen of the shelf of the cottager, with the Family Bible and Pilgrim’s Progress; and it ranks among the first and favourite materials of the poetical library.” This writer also remarked that Napoleon was said to be particularly fond of it.

Night Thoughts was a long book with the entire last section devoted to astronomy. Edward Young found the thought of an immense universe full of worlds exhilarating. He titled the astronomical section “The Consolation” because in the rest of the poem he had dwelt on the gloomier aspects of life, and he really believed that contemplation of the stars was the best consolation for the evils of Earth. “Nothing can satisfy but what confounds,” he wrote. The awe and wonder inspired by countless suns supported his faith.

About the inhabitants of those suns’ worlds Edward Young wrote a great deal; he alternated between viewing them as angels, and wondering whether they had problems similar to ours. He even phrased sections of the poem as if he were speaking to them. “You never heard of man,” he said ruefully. “Or earth, the bedlam of the universe! . . . Has the least rumour of our race arrived?” This emotion was much like that shared by many people today. So was this:

 

The soul of man was made to walk the skies;

Delightful outlet of her prison here!

There, disincumbered from her chains, the ties

Of toys terrestrial, she can rove at large. . . .

 

By the time Edward Young wrote Night Thoughts, in 1745, there had already been a great many poems dealing with extrasolar worlds. Even Alexander Pope’s well-known Essay on Man devoted a few lines to the subject:

 

Thro’ worlds unnumber’d tho’ the God be known,

’Tis ours to trace him only in our own.

He who thro’ vast immensity can pierce,

See worlds on worlds compose one universe,

Observe how system into system runs,

What other planets circle other suns,

What varied being peoples every star,

May tell why Heav’n has made us as we are.

 

Those lines have sometimes been quoted as if they were an exceptional case of early interest in other solar systems. Not many people realize that Alexander Pope was criticizing the common practice of his contemporaries. That poetry should concentrate on our own world was a novel suggestion; dozens of minor poets described the “worlds unnumber’d” and their inhabitants at tedious length. They also described imaginary cosmic voyages—not voyages in spaceships, but dream trips and journeys of the soul after death.

Poems of this last type were particularly popular following the death of Sir Isaac Newton. Many people could not believe that so great a man as Newton would not have a chance to view suns and their planets at close range before entering heaven. One woman wrote:

 

With faculties enlarg’d, he’s gone to prove

The laws and motions of yon worlds above;

And the vast circuits of th’expanse survey,

View solar systems in the Milky Way.

 

This example is typical of feelings widespread in that age, when people were beginning to discover the limitations of science. In the old days, they had been content with the closed Aristotelian universe and had not aspired to see beyond its bounds. That was no longer true. Some were satisfied to merely read about distant worlds, but others had become a bit wistful; imaginary accounts were not enough for them. The idea of space travel as a potential reality had not yet occurred to anybody, for the brief comments of Kepler and Bishop Wilkins had not been taken seriously (and the former had appeared only in a private letter). More in keeping with the hopes of the era were words like these—from Robert Gambol’s Beauties of the Universe—that told of a time when the soul

 

Unbounded in its ken, from prison free

Will clearly view what here we darkly see:

Those planetary worlds, and thousands more,

Now veil’d from human sight, it shall explore.

 

The spiritual concept of heaven was still blended with the physical one. The two had been separated by scientists, but not yet by poets or the general public. Today, people who believe in a life after death do not usually envision it as a means of seeing faraway planets. The hope of seeing them has found other channels of expression; it has become a hope for humankind’s future instead of for one’s personal future. Yet the longing to know more of those worlds has remained the same.

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