About Me


Tom the Cat manuscript cover

My first book-length manuscript was rejected by two major publishers when I was 11 years old, the first of many rejections (never mind how many! Enough about that). Over the years, I’ve refined my craft through workshops, conventions, a writers’ group, reading, and, of course, writing. There’s more about my writing on the About My Writing page and in my Smashwords author interview.


Fluid flow in compressor

I retired early from the R&D department of a major turbomachinery manufacturer, where I engaged in aerodynamic design, computational fluid dynamics (CFD) analyses, and battle with temperamental computers. This let me make great pictures like this and, better yet, figure out what they meant, but it didn’t allow me to do much writing. I always looked forward to opportunities to write especially clear reports and give engaging presentations (I’m an unusual engineer).

I did design and troubleshooting rather than straight-up analysis, always trying to solve problems and make products better. This attitude affects my writing. I like to show characters struggling and improving matters when they can.

I hold two patents and have written or co-authored several technical papers (as well as a few Navy technical manuals, but they wouldn’t let me sign those). But unless you happen to be interested in the particular subject matter, you’re probably better off to stick with my fiction. In case you’re curious, here’s a list of my technical publications.

Although I don’t write truly hard science fiction, my engineering background keeps me from going too far off base with normal technical matters in my stories. (I can’t vouch for the accuracy of currently impossible things like faster-than-light travel or uploading human consciousness into a computer.)


James R Hardin at desk

I live in western Pennsylvania with my wife, a couple of dogs, and a varying number of sons depending on who’s home.

I consider myself a reasonable and practical person. Maybe I could afford to loosen up a little, but I’m proud of my practicality—it enables me to actually get things done instead of just dreaming about wonderful things. Socially, well, I’m generally friendly, but definitely not outgoing. I try to act “normal,” but still display considerable social ineptitude. Looking back on my behavior growing up, I suspect I had Asperger’s, but no one knew what that was back then, so I was just weird. Maybe I still am—I leave that for others to judge. This tendency holds me back on social media and at conferences, and makes advertising and networking challenging.

Another thing that holds me back at conferences and signings is my nasty essential tremor. So far, my primary care doctor, the neurologists, the drugs I tried (the legal kind), and the MRI machines have all agreed I’m just going to have to live with it. Yes, I appreciate the irony—I’m a writer who can’t write. If you have a signed copy of my book, hang onto it; it will be rare!

I read somewhere that toy animals and cartoon characters with especially large eyes are perceived as more cute and cuddly. My powerful glasses shrink my face behind them, making my eyes appear much smaller than they really are. (If you look closely at some of my portraits, you can even see one or both ears repeated in my glasses. I assure you I don’t really have four ears.) I guess I’ll never look cute and cuddly.

I generally don’t talk politics; there’s too much of that going on already. Short answer: I consider myself a moderate, which seems to mean the liberals and conservatives both hate me. But it also means I can often see value in both sides’ points (as long as they’re not extremists) and look for common ground. This tendency influences my writing.


I also play, arrange, and compose music as a hobby, mostly on piano and synthesizer, and occasionally on a hammered dulcimer. (I’m still trying to get the hang of the theremin.) A little of my music is available for free on the Music page of this website.