Thomas Steinbeck, son of the Nobel-winning novelist, is carrying on the family tradition, and in his father's centennial year has just signed a two-book, six-figure world rights deal with executive editor Dan Smetanka at Ballantine, for a first novel and a book of interconnected stories. The agent was Elizabeth Winick of the McIntosh & Otis agency, which also represents the John Steinbeck estate. The story collection is called Down to a Soundless Sea and centers on people in California's Monterey Peninsula; the collection will be published in October, with the untitled novel to appear later.