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        If you have a burning desire to contact me, use the discussion form below. Anything you say remains private between you and me.
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        The Cookie policy is straightforward. This site only uses cookies that are required to make your experience of using this site better, and only uses session cookies (see exceptions below). Session cookies are deleted when you close your browser.
      • Daily Mars Weather Reportsplugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigDaily Mars Weather Reports

        These reports are provided by NASA's InSight lander in the south-west corner of Elysium Planitia.

        This page updates when it is refreshed. Daily readings are usually a couple of days behind reality (it takes time for the lander to transmit its data back to Earth).
      • Downloadsplugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigDownloads

        Orbital Calculator Current Version This is a portable application, meaning there is no installer. Just unzip into a folder and run the executable. Since it is portable, it can be run from a USB stick.

        A full description and a list of the features are available
      • Rules on Reviewingplugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigRules on Reviewing

        First off, you should know I only have a limited amount of time, so I can't review a hundred novels at once. Sorry, but that's basic physics for you. If I agree to review your novel, you may have to wait a while for me to get around to it, and then I'll need time to read it. I only review hard copies.
        • A Keen Interest In Marsplugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigA Keen Interest In Mars

          [MOLA globe of Mars]You may have noticed from pages such as the Mars Weather Report page, that I have a keen interest in Mars, Martian weather, and the InSight lander.

          Mars itself, and the incredible science we are doing there is of course a fascination in and of itself. However, my interest goes deeper than that. My latest novel (at the time this article was written - March 2019) is about the exploration of Mars. NASA have provided a wealth of data and information for …
        • A New Siteplugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigA New Site

          Yup, the old site was as ugly as sin and to find a blog entry you had to scroll through the feed or take your chances with the search option.

          This new site is just as easy to maintain, has extensive search capabilities, and both orders and structures the entries. Not only does this make it easier for you to find stuff, it encourages you to browse around. It's not as ugly either.
        • How do I Calculate Distance from Period?plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigHow do I Calculate Distance from Period?

          I've been asked how Orbital Calculator can calculate the distance an object is from a gravitational mass, using just its period (the time it takes to complete an orbit). The technique is relatively simple, so I'll explain it.
        • Martian Spring Weirdnessplugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigMartian Spring Weirdness

          [Mars (northern hemisphere)]Spring in the northern hemisphere of Mars is odd to say the least. The further the season moves away from winter, the warmer we should expect things to get, but this is not the case. It gets colder. By examining why, we can see why Earth is pretty much a special case, and begin to be able to predict weather patterns on other planets.
        • NASA Boarding Passplugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigNASA Boarding Pass

          I took the plunge and got my NASA boarding pass for the Mars 2020 Rover mission.

          [NASA Boarding pass for Mars 2020 Mission]

          Get yours here: NASA Website SEND YOUR NAME TO MARS
        • NASA Receives 2 Emmy Awardsplugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigNASA Receives 2 Emmy Awards

          NASA recently won (14th-15th Sept 2019) two Emmy's for interactive content. Aside from the obvious achievements of winning the awards, there is something else going on here that should be recognised and encouraged. Awards, of course, are intended to recognise, encourage and promote excellence, but I'm talking about NASA not only reaching out to the public, but interactively engaging them.
        • Orbital Calculator v1.0.0.5 Updateplugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigOrbital Calculator v1.0.0.5 Update

          You can now calculate distance from a gravitational mass using the orbital period. The image above shows a calculation for Mars which has a 687 day year.

          I've allowed the use of tokens to identify time components to make it easy to use. The examples shown in the image should explain how it works.
        • Orbital Shenanigansplugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigOrbital Shenanigans

          [MOLA map of Mars coloured by elevation]

          Edited: 2019-03-14

          Sometimes when you do some research – actually, quite often – you find out some really interesting stuff and end up changing your mind. In my story, I had some people on the ground on Mars, and wanted a spacecraft in a geostationary orbit above them to give them communications between them at all times. Just for info, when talking about geostationary orbits, the accepted term for Mars is aerostationary. I’ll use g…
        • Mars Solar Conjunctionplugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigMars Solar Conjunction

          This page is currently inactive for 2019 conjunction (until next conjunction in 2021)

          Mars is heading for a solar conjunction, which in layman's terms means it's on the opposite side of the sun from the Earth. For a short period, no commands will be sent to the Mars spacecraft (which includes landers and rovers) since the sun's corona could corrupt those commands and result in unintended actions, disablement of the spacecraft or worse.
        • Orbital Calculator 2.0.3 Releaseplugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigOrbital Calculator 2.0.3 Release

          This is a minor enhancement to improve the efficiency and accuracy of the Two-Body calculations.

          The “Two-Body” calculations try to take into consideration the effects of other bodies in the system, with a fallback to simple Newtonian/Keplerian mechanics. Deciding when to use the fallback algorithms and when not to is difficult, but the new code reflects statistical probability, which in turn increases accuracy.
        • Orbital Calculator for Linuxplugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigOrbital Calculator for Linux

          The portable version for Linux has been released and is now available on the Downloads page. There are also instructions and sample files to setup a desktop icon/launcher in case you want that too.

          The application comes in both 32-bit and 64-bit variations.
        • Orbital Calculator v2.0.2.2634 Releasedplugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigOrbital Calculator v2.0.2.2634 Released

          [Mars] A bugfix and a new function has been added. Details are on the Release Notes page.

          In addition, an import file is also available on the Downloads page that contains 669 exoplanets with confirmed size and mass, culled from a NASA archive.
        • Real-time Martian Clockplugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigReal-time Martian Clock

          I had a momentary lapse last night - or was it inspiration? Anyway, I've added a real-time clock that shows the current time on Mars using the Martian clock (the seconds are a bit longer) for the location of the InSight lander.
        • This Article Has Movedplugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigThis Article Has Moved

          This article has moved to Self-Publishing Traps
          • SmartSuitplugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigSmartSuit

            SmartSuit: A Hybrid, Intelligent, and Highly Mobile EVA Spacesuit for Next Generation Exploration Missions

            Developer: Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station

            I think the title says it all, but just in case it wasn't crystal clear, this is what they have to say about it:
          • THE MOST Space Telescopeplugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTHE MOST Space Telescope

            Few telescopes can honestly say they've reinvented the concept, yet THE MOST certainly has. It works on a surprisingly old principle, by passing light through two prisms. As Isaac Newton demonstrated, this first splits light into its constituent components, then recombines it back again.
        • Dragonfly to Explore Titanplugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigDragonfly to Explore Titan

          Credits: NASA/JHU-APL Few worlds excite exoplanetary chemists like Titan, Saturn's enigmatic and largest moon. It is the second-largest moon in the solar system, and the only one known to have a dense atmosphere. As such, it is seen as an analogue to the early Earth, and therefore important in understanding how life might have evolved on our homeworld.
        • How Big Is The Universe?plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigHow Big Is The Universe?

          [Hubble deep Field Image]

          I recently came across a youtube video explaining a method for multiplication that was quite different from long multiplication. To explain why this was so interesting, let’s first talk about long multiplication and what’s wrong with it, and then we'll calculate the size of the visible universe in centimeters.
        • Landing the Mars 2020 Rover Safelyplugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigLanding the Mars 2020 Rover Safely

          Autonomous landings are always fraught with danger. One of the most dangerous terrains any landing might occur on is a boulder field. Not only would the impact of the landing on these hard objects be a threat, but the boulders are likely to be jagged too. Another threat are the steep cliffs of the crater - not falling off them (although that's a possibility), but crashing into them.
        • Magnetic Field Lines on a Galactic Scaleplugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigMagnetic Field Lines on a Galactic Scale

          [Powerful magnetic fields are visible]

          The Cigar galaxy (M82) is already famous for the speed at which it creates new stars. The composite image shows the powerful magnetic field lines on a truly epic scale, wrapping around the entire galaxy. NASA's SOFIA observatory (Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy - a converted Boeing 747) has shed light on what is happening.
        • Mysterious Starplugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigMysterious Star

          Back in 2016, Tabetha Boyajian gave a TED talk about a star with nifty little name KIC 8462852. The Kepler space telescope had studied it and lots of other stars over the course of four years, but this one stood out.

          Also known as Tabby's Star, it is a main-sequence F-type star located in the constellation Cygnus, about 1,480 light-years from Earth. Its claim to fame of course, is that it was suggested that alien megastructures would explain the weird data that Kepler had recor…
        • NASA Got it Wrong - Oops!plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigNASA Got it Wrong - Oops!

          It's not every day you get the chance to tell NASA they screwed up.

          I was reviewing the data I'd collected from NASA's Mars Weather page, and I noticed that the graphs they generated didn't match the summary data.

          For example, the summary data for Sol 169 shows the maximum temperature peaking at -17.6°C, while the graph for the same day showed the temperature never rising above -25°C.
        • To the Moon and Marsplugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigTo the Moon and Mars

          [The Moon - watch out, here we come (again)!]NASA has outlined an aggressive timetable for an equally aggressive return to the Moon, with a view to making the Moon a waystation for trips to Mars. This requires the development of a whole slew of new technologies, as well as ramping up existing technologies and capabilities to whole new levels.
        • Calculate your Age and Weight on the Planetsplugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigCalculate your Age and Weight on the Planets

          This little calculator allows you to calculate how old you would be on each of the planets in the solar system, and what your weight would be. If you have weight issues, don't look at the result for Jupiter!
        • DLCounter Pluginplugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigDLCounter Plugin

          [screenshot]

          This download-counter plugin for DokuWiki enables you to keep track of the number of downloads of media files such as zip, gzip, tarballs and pdf's (your choice of media formats). This plugin has been developed and tested on “Greebo
        • DLCounter Plugin Bugtrackerplugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigDLCounter Plugin Bugtracker

          If you have any issues with the plugin, leave a comment here.
        • Orbital Calculatorplugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigOrbital Calculator

          Orbital Calculator is the result of satisfying a need. There are online calculators for working out the orbital characteristics for satellites and spacecraft orbiting Earth, and they’re pretty cool gadgets as far as that goes, but quite limiting.
        • Orbital Calculator 2.0 Releasedplugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigOrbital Calculator 2.0 Released

          It's been a while in coming but it's finally here, with a packed feature list. It has increased precision and is generally a lot easier to use.

          You can now perform two-body orbital calculations, so the masses of both a star and planet (or planet and moon) are taken into consideration. Time dilation can now be calculated either as a function of the speed of light or (in a much more mundane and realistic way) from an orbit. Orbital time-dilation takes into conside…
        • Orbital Calculator v2.x Release Notesplugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigOrbital Calculator v2.x Release Notes

          This lists the important notes on each new release, explaining what has changed and what's new.

          See the Downloads page to download Orbital Calculator for various platforms. A full description of the product is available on the
        • Surface Gravity Calculatorplugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigSurface Gravity Calculator

          Want to know what the surface gravity is on any celestial object? You just need to know it's mass in terms of Earth masses (e.g. Earth = 1, Venus = 0.815, Mars = 0.107 etc.) and it's radius. This calculator will do the rest.
      • Description or Teaser?plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigDescription or Teaser?

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      • Self-Publishing Trapsplugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigSelf-Publishing Traps

        Sometimes it's a while before I post a new book review. Usually this is because I've read some self-published novels that I don't want to review. When I post a review, I'm telling readers about a book I'd recommend. This is good for readers, and it's good for the authors who get the recommendation. I'm not out to harm someone's writing career - which can always be turned around in the future - and I'm certainly not the sort of pompous umm, donkey, that simply lets my mouth…
      • Smart but Dumb Aliensplugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigSmart but Dumb Aliens

        We all know the problem, especially from video games and movies, where the super-smart aliens turn out to be really dumb. This is usually because the creator hasn't put much thought into it.

        So, you're creating a super-intelligent alien or species or civilisation for your short story or novel or whatever. How do you avoid the pitfalls of dumbing them down?
      • Story Structure (Hero's Journey)plugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigStory Structure (Hero's Journey)

        The Hero's Journey is an overlay for the 4-part story structure. See how they work in conjunction with the character arc.

        ----------

        Click on this image to review it, then click it again to see it full size

        You might also want to investigate these structures:
      • Voices in the Darkplugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigVoices in the Dark

        A scene that is all dialogue and no action creates the dreaded “voices in the dark”. Perhaps they're at a conference table, or standing around talking things through before making a decision that will propel the story into its next phase.
          • Silvertongueplugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigSilvertongue

            [Silvertongue]

            Silvertongue is the first in a series named “Remnants of Magic”, and both the title of the novel and the series become readily apparent in the first scene. Speaking of the first scene, it's a big one at 100 pages spanning eleven chapters, but don't let that put you off - it's one hell of a scene. The story kicks you straight into the action and that first scene is a long and continuous battle - and the poor protagonist (Jon) hasn't got a clue what's going on or why…
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            Beyond Falcon's Reach by Jay Northearn, is a mish-mash of high fantasy, gothic-horror, steampunk and electropunk, with a dash of semi-intelligent machine-learning AI's thrown-in to boot. Yet for all of this, the world Northearn has created is homogenous and holistic - two watchwords I'll bang on about until the cows come home, to anyone who'll listen. Giving everything in your world a place and a reason for being there is something that every writer should always keep i…
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            Andrew Bannister’s “Creation Machine” is the best novel I’ve read this year – and that’s saying something, I’ve read some of the best sci-fi novels from the last five years in the last ten months.

            The breadth and depth of his imagination is incredible. He’s created an entire artificial galaxy, given it character and taken us on a tour that is as exciting as it is varied.
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            His usual mélange of lucid and slightly demented imagination is in full force, and the array of modes of humour are all present and permeate the pages as if they’d been dipped in the stuff.
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            It tells the story of a man (Maggie Flycatcher) who has almost certainly the most boring job in history: he's a lemon tree supervisor. The creative talent that can come up with such a pointless job is one that deserves some recognition, so it instantly grabbed my attention. Flycatcher's …
blog:articles:software:orbital_calculator

Orbital Calculator

Orbital Calculator v2.0 displays results in many different equivalences

Orbital Calculator is the result of satisfying a need. There are online calculators for working out the orbital characteristics for satellites and spacecraft orbiting Earth, and they’re pretty cool gadgets as far as that goes, but quite limiting.

As a sci-fi writer, I want more. What if I wanted to calculate orbits around Mars, or Jupiter, or Io? What if I wanted to do the same for one of the thousands of exoplanets we’ve discovered? What about purely imaginary planets, moons and asteroids?

I wrote Orbital Calculator to handle just about any proposition. You can add new gravitational masses (the things you want to orbit) for easy and consistent recall. You can add satellites too, so you can recall their orbital data at any time. You can create temporary calculations (not stored for later recall), and you can edit orbital parameters without changing the stored data, so you can play “what if…”.

Even better yet, you can export any data for satellites or gravitational masses – choosing exactly which ones to export – and share the files with other users, who can import them into their own databases.

Note: you can click on any of the images to display them full size

Two Types of Orbital Calculation

Two-body calculationUsers of the first versions of this program will be aware that the basic computation the program makes is for a satellite with an insignificant mass (vs the host gravitational mass). Simply select a mass and enter an orbital distance by typing in apogee and perigee (or just one for a circular orbit), then hit the calculate button. This is great for satellites and other types of spacecraft.

You can now also perform two-body calculations by selecting two gravitational masses and the distance between them. By taking into consideration the masses of both bodies, the results have increased precision. In addition, the algorithm uses two separate equations to calculate the orbit and selects whichever it deems to be the most appropriate.

Additional Enhancements

Version 2 of the software makes many minor adjustments 'under the hood' to eliminate or reduce rounding errors and increase precision. This convenience is carried forward into the user-interface. Wherever it makes sense, for example, the Calculate button has been removed allowing the program to calculate (and recalculate) as you type. A Copy to Clipboard button has been added on most result screens for improved convenience.

There is now an embedded context-sensitive help system, with many of its pages filled with additional information. For example, there is an explanation of gravitic time-dilation - did you realise you are not experiencing time at 'full speed'? Gravity dilates time, and not just around super-massive black holes.

Gravitation and Motion has been enhanced

Speaking of gravitic time-dilation, the program can now calculate time-dilation for objects in orbit, taking into consideration both the gravitic and acceleration dilations (one is positive, the other negative). Using the ISS as an example, you can now calculate the dilation crew members are subject to, to within 0.0037 seconds per year accuracy.

The Gravitation and Motion screen now calculates gravity, gravitational acceleration and escape velocity at the elevation you specify, as well as at the surface.

Wherever it is appropriate, you can now select AU (astronomical units) and meters as the unit of measure for both input and results.

The layout of all the screens have been redesigned to be easier to read and consistent. This makes using the program a much more pleasant experience.

Lagrange Points

Lagrange Points can now be copied to the clipboard

Calculating Lagrange points epitomises one of the simple yet effective enhancements littered throughout the program - the Copy to Clipboard button.

The clipboard data has been tidied too, so it now uses spaces instead of tabs to align the data, making it much more compatible with writing programs and note-keeping software.

The Lagrange points are usually calculated as the distance from the center of each of the two gravitational masses. In the real world though, you often want the distance from the surfaces of these bodies. For example, if you want to place a satellite at the Earth-Moon L4 Lagrange point, it is much more useful to know the location is 395,958 km from Earth and 400,597 km from the Moon. This also allows you to calculate the communications delay from the surface of one of these bodies and the satellite.

Database Maintenance

Enhanced, easier to use database maintenance

The database maintenance screens have been enhanced for much easier use. You no longer have to select which objects to display before entering the maintenance screen. Simply enter the screen and use the real-time filters to select which objects to display. Hovering over data in the 'Mass' and 'Surface Gravity' columns will reveal values in greater precision.

Wherever a value is less than (but not equal to) 0.00, youll see a ~ beside it to indicate this. Hovering over the value will, as stated above, reveal greater precision. For example, you can see the surface gravity of Betelgeuse is ~0.00. Hovering over it will display 0.0003.

New Features

An additional 11 new features have been added to the program, almost doubling its previous list of functions. Some of them are subtly embedded in pre-existing functions, so don't expect them all to have menu options of their own, but they all add up to make the software much more useful and easier to use.

One of these functions is the ability to enlarge the window contents by zooming in or out (without resizing the window). This is handy if you have issues reading the text at its natural resolution.

You are now able to control how frequently the program checks for updates - from every time the program is launched to no more than once per month. You can even disable update checking if you wish. This can be controlled on the new Preferences Screen, where you can also instruct the program to restore window sizes and positions and the zoom level.

New Database Format

Version 2 includes a new database format which brings several advantages. For example, 'repeat last calculation' now works even if you have deleted both the host mass and the satellite from the database.

This makes the version 1 database files incompatible with the new format. Never fear though, Version 2 can recognise and import from version 1 databases (so all your lovely data isn't lost), and you can even import from version 1 export files. Unfortunately you can't do it the other way around, but honestly, why would you want to?

Feature List

  • New Objects added to database - six stars and one more asteroid
  • Automatic Calculation wherever it makes sense, so you don't have to hit a 'calculate' button
  • Copy to Clipboard on most result screens
  • Database Stats now provides totals
  • Repeat Last Calculation now works even if you've removed both the host mass and satellite mass from the database
  • Import Data recognises v1.x import files and databases (so you can import directly from an old database)
  • Export Data to prune a database, separate project data or to share with friends
  • Preferences to control update checking, restoring window sizes and positions
  • Gravitation and Motion to calculate gravity, escape velocity and gravitational acceleration at the surface and at an elevation
  • Lagrange Points calculated as distance from the surfaces of the host and satellite mass
  • Two-Body Orbits taking into consideration the masses of both host and satellite
  • Distance from Period when all you know is the host mass and and the orbital period
  • Satellite Footprint from Altitude
    • Visible Surface of host mass as %
    • Latitude spread of the footprint across the surface
    • Diameter of footprint
    • Radius of footprint
    • Surface Area of footprint in square kilometres
    • Maximum Period of Visibility of satellite from the ground
  • Age from Orbit calculate someone's apparent age from local years
  • Age and Weight on Solar System Planets
  • Calculate Habitable Zone (a.k.a. Goldilocks Zone) around a star
  • Time Dilation from Velocity where velocity is a factor of the speed of light
  • Time Dilation from Orbit factoring both gravitational time dilation and acceleration time dilation
  • Visibility Over Horizon to determine the maximum distance an object can be seen
  • Context-sensitive Help
  • Zoom-in, Zoom-out if things are a little hard to read
  • Password Generator to generate very strong passwords for those pesky internet logins
  • Multi-Platform it runs on Windows, Mac and Linux
  • 64-bit versions available for all platforms
  • 32-bit versions available for Windows and Linux
  • Portable means it doesn't have to be installed - just unzip and run. Can be run from a USB stick.

Download

You can download the latest versions from the Downloadsplugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigDownloads

Orbital Calculator Current Version This is a portable application, meaning there is no installer. Just unzip into a folder and run the executable. Since it is portable, it can be run from a USB stick.

A full description and a list of the features are available
page (there's also a link to the page in the top-bar menu).

N.B. Windows and Linux versions are now available in both 32-bit and 64-bit flavours. I'll add a Mac version as soon as I can find someone to test it for me (feel free to volunteer!).


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blog/articles/software/orbital_calculator.txt · Last modified: 2019/09/08 02:44 by Phil Ide

  • Mars Weatherplugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigDaily Mars Weather Reports

    These reports are provided by NASA's InSight lander in the south-west corner of Elysium Planitia.

    This page updates when it is refreshed. Daily readings are usually a couple of days behind reality (it takes time for the lander to transmit its data back to Earth).
  • Downloadsplugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigDownloads

    Orbital Calculator Current Version This is a portable application, meaning there is no installer. Just unzip into a folder and run the executable. Since it is portable, it can be run from a USB stick.

    A full description and a list of the features are available
  • Orbital Calculatorplugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigOrbital Calculator

    Orbital Calculator is the result of satisfying a need. There are online calculators for working out the orbital characteristics for satellites and spacecraft orbiting Earth, and they’re pretty cool gadgets as far as that goes, but quite limiting.
  • Cookie Policy & GDPRplugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigCookie Policy & GDPR

    There are NO tracking cookies on this site!

    The Cookie policy is straightforward. This site only uses cookies that are required to make your experience of using this site better, and only uses session cookies (see exceptions below). Session cookies are deleted when you close your browser.
  • Book Reviewsplugin-autotooltip__default plugin-autotooltip_bigBook Reviews

    Here you can find all the book reviews, broken down by genre, and further subdivided by author. If you want me to review your novel, please read my Rules on Reviewing.

    * Science-Fiction * Fantasy
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    If you have a burning desire to contact me, use the discussion form below. Anything you say remains private between you and me.