Why You Should Go Stargazing

The other night, I was playing with the apps on my phone when one of them told me the International Space Station was about to fly over my house.  Naturally, I grabbed my coat and ran outside to catch a glimpse.  I’ve seen the ISS a few times before.  Many apps and websites and at least one Twitter feed will tell you when it’s going to pass over your neighborhood.

After the ISS was gone, I wasted a few more minutes just standing outside staring up at the stars.  I have a few favorites in the sky, like the Orion Nebula and the Andromeda Galaxy.  Orion can be seen with the naked eye.  Andromeda’s not so easy.  I’ve only seen it once, on a dark night when I was out in the middle of nowhere with a pair of binoculars, but I know exactly where it is: right between the constellations Cassiopeia and Pegasus.  When I look up at all those distant stars and nebulae and galaxies, I like to imagine there’s some squishy creature with three eyes, a few tentacles, and buckteeth staring back at me.

We humans are so small and all the things we think are big problems–they really don’t matter in this huge universe of ours.  Even the International Space Station, one of our greatest accomplishments, is insignificant compared to everything else that’s out there.

Sometimes the pressures of mortgages, dental appointments, and gas prices can be overwhelming.  Sometimes the troubles of the world can be depressing.  Sometimes it’s just really frustrating when the TV remote stops working and you don’t have any spare batteries.  Those are the times when maybe we should stop, look up at the stars, and put ourselves in perspective with the rest of the universe.  The universe is a beautiful thing.  We’re just lucky we get to be part of it.

P.S.: Want to know when the International Space Station will fly over your house?  Here’s NASA’s webpage.  Just go to the “Sighting Opportunities” section and select your country, state, and then town.

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Sapiosaurus: the Lizard Who Thinks

Among all the planets in the universe, only a tiny fraction can support life.  Even fewer will develop intelligent life.  What a rare and lucky planet Earth must be to have done so twice.

Many of you have no doubt heard of Velociraptor and its great intelligence.  Paleontologists have discovered a species even more intelligent: the Troodon (pronounced TRUE-o-don).  Yet there are still many kinds of dinosaurs modern science doesn’t know.

In “Dinosaurs vs. Astronauts,” we meet one of these undiscovered species, a species smarter than Velociraptor or Troodon or any other creature of its era: the Sapiosaurus.  Sapiosaurs had intelligence equal to humans.  They no longer relied on instinct but cunning.  They no longer hunted in packs but lived as a tribe.  If they’d had the chance, they could have developed art and culture, politics, religion, and science, just as Homo sapiens have done.

When the dinosaurs went extinct, a few Sapiosaurs survived, rescued by mysterious machines in the sky.  And there is one big difference between the Sapiosaurs and the humans of today: after 65 million years, the Sapiosaurs are very hungry.  Click here to start reading “Dinosaurs vs. Astronauts.”

Writing Process: Drawing Characters

An important part of my writing process is getting a sense of what the characters in my stories look like.  So before I get too deep into the story, I draw all the major characters.  Every Tomorrow News Network story features Talie Tappler (you can find pictures of her all over this website), but each month we also meet some new people, the unfortunate people Talie is covering for the news.

This month’s story is called “Dinosaurs vs. Astronauts.”  The story is exactly what the title promises: a life and death struggle between dinosaurs and astronauts.  To get started, I drew some concept art in my little sketchbook.  In the pictures below, you can see all the astronauts and two of the featured dinosaurs.

That’s how I get started.  How about you, my fellow writers and other artistic folks?  What do you do to get your projects started?

P.S.: “Dinosaurs vs. Astronauts” was originally scheduled to come out Monday, July 23rd, but I’ve decided to postpone it a few days.  It will now come out on Wednesday, July 25 Friday, July 27 (I promise the date won’t change again).  With a story this awesome, it deserved a little extra time to make sure I get it right.