Wednesday, December 31, 2014


Sometimes, a marriage is something of a love/hate relationship, even the good ones. Each half of the couple is bound to have habits and quirks that irritate the other.
For us, December has been somewhat rough this year, health-wise. Hubby had a knee problem that kept him home for a week. One of those days was so bad, he really needed crutches to hobble around the house, but we only had a cane. He needed help getting in and out of a chair, dressed and undressed, in and out of bed... Well, that’s part of being married; you take care of each other when things like this happen.
I’ve been fighting a sinus infection since sometime in November, and when the doc finally prescribed an antibiotic that tried, I had a day of fluctuating pressure in my ears that did awful things to my balance, made me think I was hearing somebody hammering (at 10 PM!) and really made me nervous and confused. But Hubby was an orderly, once upon a time, and isn’t fazed by things like that. I had a sturdy rock to cling to.
There are times when a couple shares a little too much. If you belong to any kind of family, families do this, too. It isn’t just couples.
The day after Christmas, Hubby came down with a cold. Now, if he can get around the house, he’s fairly self-sufficient, even sick. He heated his own soup, got his own drinks, and vegged in front of the tv. If he needed anything, he could holler, but he seldom did.
So what happened? You’ve probably guessed. Five days after he came down sick, I got a sore throat and dry cough. (He says he caught my sinus infection, but I don’t buy it. If he has my sinus infection, then what have I got now?)
Yes, Hubby, I know you think a good marriage means we share everything, but believe me, you really did NOT have to share your cold with me. I would have forgiven you.

What are your hopes and dreams for 2015? I’ve got lots of them! Including health, for both of us.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Christmas Eve!

Today is Christmas Eve. Or, rather, the day I post this will be Christmas Eve day. You’d think I’d write about Christmas, wouldn’t you? But I’ve already discussed holidays, several times during the life of this blog, and I don’t want to get too repetitive.
Besides, as I write this, I am nowhere near ready for that holiday; I still have gifts to purchase (not to mention wrap, NONE of them are wrapped yet), a grocery list to make, groceries to buy, and an entire house to clean. These things have been weighing on my mind since Thanksgiving, and I need a break from thinking about Christmas.
So, I’ve been reviewing some science stories I down-loaded during 2014 but never got around to incorporating into a blog, trying to figure out what to say in my next several blogs. (It’s called advanced planning, something I probably don’t do enough of.) There’s some good stuff here.
1.              The Willy Wonka elevator is not necessarily pure fiction.
2.              The Keppler telescope isn’t dead yet. In fact, they’ve fixed it... sort of.
3.              Everybody is talking about a trip to Mars, but Venus is much closer, so... Yeah, there’s plans for that!
4.              There’s a big geothermal project in western US.
5.              Lab-grown burgers.
6.              Rocks that mysteriously move by themselves when no one is looking.
7.              Roads made of solar panels.
8.              Wyoming cave has a treasure of Ice Age fossils.
9.              Cloning woolly mammoths. (Or have I already done that one?)
10.                    Robot farmers.
11.                    Blood test for suicide.
12.                    2-million-year-old pre-man, what was he like?
13.                    Ancient Caribou hunting.
14.                    Ancient lizard fish graveyard.
15.                    Ancient Chinese flying reptile.
16.                    Ancient squirrel.
17.                    Chatting with a Stone Age person.
18.                    Ancient Tsunamis.
19.                    Ichthyosaur fossil.
20.                    The first bird.
21.                    Pinocchio Rex.
22.                    The Scourge of Jurassic Europe.
23.                    Ancient footprints in UK.
24.                    6,000-year-old parasite egg.
25.                    Ancient men and their dog buddies.
26.                    Stonehenge skeleton.
27.                    Fossil eggs.
28.                    Do failed stars have planets?
29.                    Super Earth.
30.                    Orphan planets.
31.                    Twin planets.
Jeepers. That’s enough for half of next year, even if I don’t have enough info on some of them. Maybe I should keep this list and cross them off as I write that blog. After all, I wouldn’t want to repeat myself.
And that doesn’t count any subjects I come across in Archeology, Discovery and the other magazines that I read. Or any new stories I come across on the internet.

Well, my cup runneth over, I guess. The problem will be deciding which of these to write about when. Any suggestions what you’d like me to start with?

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

2014 Successes

Okay, here it is; that dreaded ‘Buy my book’ issue I warned you would happen.
Hubby hates when all the authors make a wall of books between them and the audience at science fiction convention panels. He sees it as a crass commercial. But these days, almost all marketing is left for the author to do; very little is done by the publisher, and that includes the ‘Big Boys’. Most authors - especially new ones - do not have lots of money for marketing, so they take every chance they can to let people know about their book. If you don’t know it exists, how can you buy it?
I made 3 sales in 2014. (So this won’t be that long.)
The Secret in Morris Valley - A paranormal gothic romance novella published by Alban Lake ( It is a trade paperback selling for $6.00. If you are in Omaha and want to see a copy, the Book Worm, currently on 90th Street just north of W Center Rd, has a few copies through the holidays. They only took 3, so I can’t guarantee they still have any. [Note: Since this a romance, I used my pen name, Linda Joy.]
Ondrea is sent by her favorite professor to gather information on the wolves in Morris Valley. But Barry Morris, her host, won’t allow her to do field work on the wolves, saying it’s too dangerous to go out without a well-armed pack of men and vicious dogs. Barry has plans for Ondrea. So do the wolves.
“Truck Driving Women” - This the first published story of Vamps and Cheyenne. It is in the middle of an anthology published by Sky Warrior Books ( called These Vampires Don’t Sparkle. You can get a paper copy from Amazon for $13.33, an e-book is $4.99. If you really like vampire stories, there is a second volume of this anthology called These Vampires Still Don’t Sparkle that is available as an e-book. No, I don’t have a story in Vol. 2, just letting you know about it.
When terrorists hijack Vamps and Cheyenne, they bite off more than they anticipated.
Cali: A Journey of Discovery - This is a lightly romantic fantasy novel that Alban Lake ( accepted and originally planned to publish in 2014, but its publication has been pushed to February 2015. It will be a trade paperback and e-book. I don’t have any more details, but if you’re interested, keep an eye on the left side bar of this blog; that’s where I’ll post more information when I have it.
Witches don’t drown when they have a thirst for revenge. Sidek had seen a lot of strange cultures, but when he rescued Cali from a flooding river, he made contact with the strangest one yet. Cali was an Atlan, hunting men who had tortured & killed 2 children. She didn’t need a man’s help. But she wasn’t well enough to keep Sidek from tagging along.
Okay, it’s done now, you can breathe again. We now return you to your regularly-scheduled blog. Eh. Not exactly, because this turned out to take up all of this week’s space. Soooooo... Tune in again next week!

PS. If you want to keep up to date on my sales and appearances, consider subscribing to the free monthly MoonPhaze Publishing e-newsletter. Just send a request to be enrolled at, and we’ll send you a sample copy. You can always unsubscribe at any time.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

What Does That Mean?

I’ve been doing research on marketing and promotion. The only thing I know about marketing and promotion is that I don’t know anything. So I picked up a book on how to do internet marketing by a so-called expert.
Have you ever read a book that became so ridiculous, you wanted to throw it against the wall? Yeah, I know, but what did the wall ever do to you?
I was almost making sense out of what the author was saying, it was kind of starting to gel:
* Think of my website as a billboard, rather than a tome. Okay, that means keep the copy short and to the point; use the KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid) Principal. Ok.
* Get on several social media sites and participate, long before you mention your book is for sale. Yeah, just what every introvert author wants to do; get on several social sites every date and relate to people. Have you seen my newest t-shirt? Probably not. I got it after I came home to hibernate hide write for the winter. All it says is, “You’ve read my t-shirt. That’s enough social interaction for one day.” Still, I do belong to 3 social sites, and I participate fairly regularly. So, okay.
* The next step is to have a blog. Hey, I’m ahead of the game; I’ve had a blog for... 4 years? But the book says I should use the blog to talk about what I’ve written, to show my blog readers that I’m an expert in my field, and to tease them into finding out more by buying my book.
Expert? I write fiction! I’ve made up characters, setting, circumstances... If I am not an expert on the culture, the biology, the geology, the religion, and everything else, then there isn’t an expert. Period.
And wouldn’t that get boring awfully fast? Can you imagine reading my blog every week to get one more tidbit of information about my Atlans, Mac and Bugalu, my vampire/werewolf team, or my paranormal debunker who has a ghost for a partner? I mean, I have touched on my writing from time to time in this blog, but week after week after week? Puhlease! I suspect you readers would be looking for fresher subjects within a month.
I also am of the opinion that the book’s blurb is supposed to whet your appetite to read the book. That’s why it’s there. That’s why I (frequently) labor over the blurb far more intensely than I did over the entire book, trying to get the essence boiled down to grab your attention. If it does, then you’ll read the book.
Anyway, if the book doesn’t make sense without me spelling everything out to potential readers, then I didn’t write it well enough.
So, I’ll be sticking to my type of blog, I think. But I do need to find a new source of science-type news articles. The source I had been using seems to have gone totally technology, which is fine, but not what I’m interested in. Maybe an occasional random subject, like this one. And also occasionally, something about what I’m writing, because some days, my characters just WILL NOT shut up!
Okay, where’s that book? Maybe I can skip the part about blogs and see what it says on other methods of marketing.

[WARNING Unless I forget, sometime between now and the end of the year, I will have a blog about my Successes in 2014. But only one.]

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Black and White

This last week, I’ve been reading about Black Holes. If you’ve seen the movie ‘Interstellar’, that involved a Black Hole that they were trying to avoid while skirting around the edges. Neil deGrasse Tyson applauded the science in that movie, so it’s educational as well as entertaining, right?
I’ve been reading science fiction for several decades, so I’m pretty well acquainted with what little is known about Black Holes. But theories grow and change, so I periodically read up on the subject, just to tweak my ‘knowledge’.
Most of what I read I already knew: Black Holes have so much gravity that nothing can escape once it’s entrapped, not even light, so they appear black. The gravity field of a Black Hole is so massive, that it even warps time, making it go slower. Black Holes are created when a star dies and collapses in on itself. And current theory is that there’s a super-Black Hole in the center of each galaxy.
But there were a couple things that made me pause and think. Such as the current theory that each Black Hole has a universe inside it. Therefore, this universe we live in must be inside a Black Hole. It makes me wonder what a Black Hole looks like from the other side. Where is the opening into our universe, and why haven’t we found it yet? How does that fit in with the theory of parallel universes? Are all the universes inside other Black Holes parallel universes to ours? Or am I trying to smash too much into one theory?
There was also the idea that since Black Holes exist, then there must be an opposite counterpart, a White Hole, where stuff would be spewing into our universe. Wow! And would a White Hole have negative gravity, the opposite of a Black Hole’s massive gravity? And would a White Hole spew lots of light and radiation, just like a Black Hole swallows up that stuff? Sounds like they’d be easy to spot. In fact, in my mind, a White Hole sounds like the other side of a Black Hole. So how come we haven’t found any? Well, just be patient. In 2006, an unusual burst of gamma radiation was detected, and currently being studied as a potential White Hole event.
And most of these facts and theories have been used in science fiction during the time I’ve been reading it. I can’t remember the name of the book(s), nor the author(s), but I can remember a scene or two that used each fact/theory. Except one. I don’t remember any books about Black Holes containing universes, but maybe I just didn’t get my hands on that one.

What about you? Read any good Black Hole books lately?

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Harvest Feast

Thanksgiving Day in the US is traditionally a day of over-eating. Each family develops their own quirky traditions in what they eat and do on that day, but over-eating is generally common ground.
In the US, legend says early colonists did not bring enough supplies, so half of them (50) died in that first winter. But friendly natives helped the rest survive after that, teaching them to catch eels and grow corn. Before their second winter, they harvested plentiful crops, and hunted wild birds and deer, so they had full larders. And for 3 days, they over-ate in joyous thanksgiving.
Basically, they were celebrating a good harvest. And harvest feasts go back a long, long time, at least as far back as Ancient Egypt, possibly as far back as when man changed from hunter/gatherers to farmers.
It makes sense; after a good harvest of the main crop, food was abundant. There wasn’t as much work to do in the fields, so the workers had more leisure time. In some cases, the coming months would be cold and dreary. Keeping all that food in good condition might not be easy. So it was natural to celebrate in having plenty of food.
Over-eating in the fall could also give them extra fat, which could help protect them from the cold, and give them extra calories to burn, should things get lean before anything became available in the spring.
But what if future colonists landed on a planet with different seasons than Earth? For instance, the winters are so mild, this is when the crops grow. Harvest is held during increasingly hot days, as the climate turns into a blistering summer where Earth plants struggle to survive, and the colonists stay indoors to avoid heat stroke - or worse.
When would they celebrate? I am assuming storage of crops would not be a problem. Would they feast at the end of harvest? Gain a few pounds of fat to lug around through the sauna-like summer? I don’t think fat is a good insulator to keep a person cool.
Or would they wait until the temperature starts to dip, and they will soon need to prepare the fields and plant the crops? To do that, maybe they could use some extra calories to get all that hard work done. Plus, they would have an idea just how much food they could use for a feast.
That assumes the colonists are doing hard, menial labor themselves, not sending machines out to do it. Perhaps they are. Maybe there wasn’t room for farming machines, or the machines are broken.
Would they think things through and have a delayed feast? Would everybody agree to that, or would the question breed dissent, even anger?
Or would they just follow tradition and feast right after the harvest? Would they eventually learn to delay that feast?
I see story possibilities here.

Have a great Thanksgiving. Only our youngest son will be joining us this year, coming over early enough to help with the cooking. We won’t be watching football, so we’ll be debating which sf movie disc to put in the machine. That’s one of our traditions. A quiet Thanksgiving is still Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Mammals Living with Dinosaurs?

Quick, how long ago did mammals evolve?
Okay, not a fair question, because scientists have only recently discovered it was a lot further in the past than they had thought. How did they find out? Well, they found a ground hog in a 154-pound hunk of sandstone that had been hauled from Madagascar to New York in order to study the fish fossils it contained. Actually, they didn’t find the entire ground hog, only the fossilized skull. And even that didn’t have the lower jaw.
Okay, how much can they really figure out about a creature when all they have is a skull? Quite a lot, it turns out. Dubbed Vintana sertichi, the 5-inch skull indicated the live animal weighed about 20 pounds, which is about twice the size of a modern ground hog. To us humans, that doesn’t sound very big, but it’s heavier than our medium-small dog, and heavier than any house cat I’ve ever owned. In the world of the Mesozoic era mammals, that size makes it a super heavyweight. All the other mammals of the time were about the size of mice.
What else did this skull tell the scientists? Vintana had rodent-like incisors as well as molars that indicated a diet of roots, seeds and fruit. Large eyes meant it could see in low light, while the inner ear configuration indicated it could probably hear higher frequencies than humans can. Its large nasal cavity implied a keen sense of smell.
Keep in mind that in the Mesozoic era of 66 million years ago, the non-mammal neighborhood held dinosaurs (both meat- and plant-eaters), crocodiles, snakes, giant frogs, lizards, fish and a few bird species. It’s a wonder the big guys didn’t just step on the tiny mammals, probably without even realizing they’d done it. If they noticed mammals - even Vintana, at its ‘great’ size - they probably figured that tiny bite wasn’t worth the trouble of chomping on it.

But eventually, like the dinosaurs, all the Vintana sertichi died out and were gone. So it’s a good thing we aren’t descended from them, because we never would have come into being.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

BIG Snake

I freely admit I am afraid of snakes. So, having recently read an article about a prehistoric snake, I am sooooo glad I did not live in Greece 4 million years ago.
In today’s world, the longest venomous snake is the King Cobra, which can reach 18 feet in length and weigh 15 to 20 pounds. But 4 million years ago, the Laophis crotaloides weighed as much as 57 pounds, with a length of 13 to 14 feet. Not quite as long as a King Cobra, but a lot bigger around. I keep trying to imagine what they must have looked like, and keep coming up with a slender Jabba the Hutt (Star Wars). But remember, these snakes could not only eat you, they were also venomous.
Scientists have found pieces of a Laophis fossil skeleton, so they can figure out its size, but it is that size that confuses them. Laophis did not live in the tropics, where one would expect to find a giant creature; it lived in the grasslands of what is now Greece, where winters were definitely cool.
This snake was not the only resident in this area at the time. Neighbors included giant Tortoises that could get as big as a modern car, deer, horses and rodent-sized mammals. I’m not sure why the scientists believe this ancient snake dined on the rodent-sized mammals. At its size, I’d think it would be more inclined to lunch on the deer, horses and even some of the smaller tortoises.
In any case, I would not want to meet one, in the grasslands or anywhere else.
It does raise possibilities for stories, though.
Can you imagine someone taking shelter from a raging winter storm in a cave, only to find one of these Hutts snakes already there, hibernating?
If one was stranded on an unknown planet, and came across one of these snakes that was injured and possibly dying, could they make friends with it by treating its wound? Or would it turn and eat them as soon as it started to feel better?
Or what if colonists are trying their best to eradicate these snakes, who keep approaching their camp in an attempt to make contact, since these snakes are the most intelligent creatures on this ‘uninhabited’ world?

There’s got to be other possibilities. If you think of any, let me know. Unless you want to keep the idea for your own stories. I’m cool with that.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Monopoly Money

Once upon a time, there was a young man who wanted to sell books. He created a website and negotiated deals with the big publishers to put their books in his warehouse. It took him a few years, but he built up his business to the point where he was the first place people thought of going when they wanted a book.
Meanwhile, more than one national chain of book stores went out of business.
At some point, this young man realized changes had occurred in the book market. People also bought electronic books. The big publishers were resisting going electronic, considering it a fad, but lots of small publishing companies had sprung up. Some authors were their own publishers. These small companies and individuals not only embraced e-publishing, they were also able to create paper books by using POD printing.
The young man thought, “People are spending money on e-books and POD books. If individual authors can set these things up, then I can, too.” So he became not only a book seller, but a not-so-small publisher of e-books and POD books. His company grew even bigger.
The big publishers finally, reluctantly produced e-books, but they charged virtually the same amount for the ebook version as they did for the paper version, despite the much lower cost of production. When the young man saw that, he demanded that they lower their e-book prices. Or else! Some did, but one did not, and he punished them terribly, by not selling pre-orders for them, and by letting their orders languish for weeks before they were sent out to the customers.
Some authors and small presses thought, “I’m all for lower prices on e-books, but this guy is throwing his weight around.”
One day, the young man thought; Since he had the capabilities to POD print, a warehouse, and people to mail books to customers, it only made sense that he do all the POD printing. He ‘negotiated’ with the various POD companies, making arrangements for them to ship their printing jobs to him (and pay him) to print.
Upon hearing of this, some who had been ready to use his POD/e-book services thought, “Whoa! Now he’s trying to put POD companies out of business? He wants exclusive rights to sell your e-book for at least 3 months? This guy is not only a bully, he wants a monopoly!”
In a round-about way, I’m trying to explain the reason why I (and MoonPhaze Publishing) will not be working with Amazon. Even though not being listed on their site is likely to make it harder to sell our own books, we cannot condone their practices.
Since we don’t know which POD publishers are still independent, or how long they can hold out, we’ll have to have a number of books printed and store those we haven’t yet sold. And we need to get a move on, because we have a book due out in January.
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Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Have a Heart

Heart transfers have been part of the medical scene for a good chunk of my life.
Donated hearts, along with other organs, used to be (and still are) ‘harvested’ from a donor, packed in ice and rushed to the recipient. But the waiting list is loooong, and many people die while waiting for a new heart.
Australian doctors have harvested a heart from the recently deceased - 20 minutes or less - placed the heart in a special fluid, resuscitated it, and kept it beating until it was placed in the recipient patient.
They have done this 3 times. The first 2 recipients were doing well, the most recent patient was still in intensive care after the surgery. The doctors stated that with this process, with the heart actively beating right up until placed in the new body, they know the heart is good, that it hasn’t deteriorated past the point of use.
When I mentioned this article to my husband, he made some comment about, ‘Dr Frankenstein must be living in Australia these days.’ Always ready to see the funny side.
I found this report a bit creepy, when I first read it. But after further reflection, it dawned on me that all donated hearts come from dead people. Nobody has a spare one they can donate while still alive. If anything, the brain dead person who is still breathing and heart is still pumping through artificial stimulation is slightly closer to being alive than the gruesomely decapitated person from the car accident that just happened on Interstate 2 (for example). So the idea lost its creepiness.
In the old method, the heart dies as soon as it is removed, and it remains dead until it is sewn into the new person and jolted back to life. In the new method, the heart still dies, but it is resuscitated and nourished until time to sew it in the new person. The patient still gets a formerly-dead heart, but it hasn’t been ‘dead’ for as long.
Okay, I was wrong. Thinking about it like that makes both ways creepy. But it works, and if it saves more lives without costing any extra lives, then I’m all for it.
I still think the ideal thing to do would be to take some cells from the patient who needs a new organ, put those cells in a nutrient bath and coax them into growing a new heart/liver/whatever for that patient. I would think that would avoid rejection, too. Maybe they’ll get to that, some day.

While I’m waiting, I’m making a list of the parts I’d like grown for me. Let’s see, both knees, right shoulder, pancreas, gall bladder... Since I’m making a list, is there anything you’d like to order?

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Tractor Beams!

Hey, remember the tractor beam used in every Star Trek version, in Star Wars, in - heck - probably hundreds of science fiction movies? Well, they are here!
I read about it a couple days ago. Scientists have figured out how to move things either towards them or away from them using a circular laser. They called it as a doughnut laser, because the middle was empty (of laser light).
With less than 400 words in the article, there wasn’t a lot of information for me to gather, but it also involves putting tiny (microscopic) hollow glass beads coated in gold in the ‘hole’ of the doughnut. Heat from the laser light transfers to the gold of the beads and creates hot spots. When air molecules hit the hot spot, they bounce and speed off, and the bead recoils in the opposite direction. By careful manipulation of the laser’s polarization, the tractor beam operator can decide if the item they’ve grabbed is pulled closer or pushed away.
Okay, Scotty, push that missile away from us and make it fast!
I kinna doo it, Cap’t! There isna enough molecules in space to make that kind o’ tractor beam work!
Yes, I was excited about this announcement until that bit of reality crashed the party. Then I reread the article.
It turns out that what they’ve managed to beam around their lab is an item 2 mm in diameter, which is pretty small. And they moved it not quite 8 inches. Well, it’s a start.

Not sure how they’re going to overcome that ‘not enough molecules in space’ problem, though.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Old Dog

You know that ancient saying, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks?” I am here to tell you that either a) it isn’t true, or b) I’m not old yet. I have been painting walls since I was 10, or thereabouts, but painting my office has managed to teach me a few things I hadn’t thought about. It’s also kept me too occupied and distracted to do any research into science things to talk about, so that will be next week, I hope.
1. Since my family was poor, I was instructed to “make that paint go as far as you can!” That means there are always streaks in my first coat to show where the paint brush went back and forth. Try as I might, I could not stop doing that, probably because I was trying to paint the entire room with 2 pints of different colors of paint, not a gallon of 1 color. A 2nd coat was absolutely necessary. And when I looked at my finished 1st wall, the streaks were not horribly noticeable, but in the proper light, I could still see some. The 2nd coat needs to be applied with the paint brush going at an angle to the strokes of the 1st coat. Those streaks disappear so much easier! Lesson learned: If your first attempt at a project doesn’t produce the result you want, try approaching it from a different angle.
2. I was taught to always tape around the wood trim, etc., that you don’t want painted. It doesn’t do me much good to carefully tape up the woodwork when the last person who painted this room didn’t bother. (Now, how am I supposed to get those bits of 25+ year-old splotches of white paint off the dark, dark wood?) Lesson learned: Always do your best, so as not to be ‘That Guy’ that makes more work for someone else.
3. The door of this room sits in a corner, in a small ‘alcove’ that’s barely larger than the door. The section of ‘wall’ to either side of the doorway is narrower than the paint brush I was using. In this case, an artist’s brush reached that area much easier than the brush I used on the rest of the room. Lesson learned: Get the proper tool.
So, even doing mundane things like painting a room can provide you with a few ‘learning’ moments. I love to learn, so I try to make the most of those moments.

How about you? Any tidbits you’ve learned recently while doing something mundane?

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Let Me Check My Schedule

Do you have a schedule? I think most people have a schedule they more or less follow. I had one for the greater part of my working life. It got tweaked if I changed jobs or got a promotion, but it mostly looked something like:
Get up at a certain time in order to arrive at work on time
Have a lunch break
Go home and prepare/eat supper
Spend the evening on family activities, housework, hobbies and/or writing
Go to bed in order to get up in the morning.
Weekends - or whatever days off I had - did not follow this schedule, and often felt scattered, unfocused or even wasted. That did not mean I was ready to give up my time off, of course.
Now that I’m ‘retired’ from my day job, I am looking for the perfect schedule to follow. In the meantime, I have a rough schedule for when I’m at home: get up, breakfast & pills, write, lunch, housework, business, prepare & eat supper/take pills, tv & hobbies, take my last pill, extra time on the computer, go to bed.
Okay, it’s not that different from when I was working, but this schedule includes those pills, which are far more than a multi-vitamin, these days. It works most days, unless I can’t wake up, every joint aches and my brain doesn’t work. Weekends take more effort to remember those pills, because we usually have errands to run, extra chores, or go out for a movie.
Then we have vacations, when I might be away from home as much as a month, and mini-vacations where we go to a convention. Somehow, it becomes a major undertaking to remember those pills, see that I eat somewhat regularly and get some ‘me’ time to keep the stress level down. The less I can follow a schedule, the worse things get. I start sleeping more. I have trouble waking. I forget my pills or to watch my blood sugar.
And then I have a hard time recovering once I get home. It might take me several days to get myself organized and ‘on schedule’ again. Con-i-tis.
People are creatures of habit. I certainly am. Doesn’t mean I want to give up conventions or vacations.

What happens when you ‘fall off’ your schedule?

Wednesday, October 1, 2014


A few weeks back, I read an article on how stress makes us sick. I spotted the article right after I'd made yet another trip to my doc to complain of aches, pains, stiffness and low-grade nausea. And he gave me what I thought was his automatic response - "It's stress." But then I read this article, which gave me something to think about.
Stress triggers the immune system. The immune system starts its repairs by causing inflammation around the injury. When there is no particular injury, only stress, that inflammation can occur anywhere and everywhere. So that explains why I need extra sleep and have more aches and pains after a convention or a tight deadline or when I don't seem to get anything on my to-do list done.
As an introvert, spending 3 days surrounded by other people at a convention is a big stressor. I sometimes retreat to a solitary place to recharge my batteries, but maybe what I'm really doing is trying to tamp down my stress. A looming deadline can be a whole heap of stress. A missed deadline effects my professional reputation, and could effect my earnings. Yikes!
The article said that people who have an active 'emotion center' have more issues with stress-itis than those who don't. No, I don't cry over every little thing that doesn't go my way, but I do have active emotions. I have worked hard to develop resiliency when receiving rejections of my work. But if my husband says something that I perceive as negative, my mood goes into a tailspin. Stress. Inflammation. Aches, pain, stiffness.
Happily, simply changing my reaction can help me release the stress and avoid the related illnesses. Keeping my mind on things not related to my situation, recognizing and labeling my negative emotions, even venting will help. I've been trying to do that, these past few weeks, and all in all, I think I've been feeling better. Yes, I've had some bad days, but not as many as before.

What stresses you out? How do you react to it?

Wednesday, September 24, 2014


I've heard NASA has awarded contracts to SpaceX and Boeing to provide rides for astronauts to the space station, starting in 2016/2017. I figured something like this was coming, because I knew that
1) they discontinued the shuttles because Congress won't let them do more than one project at a time. I guess that's one 'transportation' project, because there's been loads of science projects done at the same time.
2) they were paying Russia a b**tload to carry astronauts to the station, but recent events in Ukraine have made that arrangement tenuous.
3) private companies have already been given contracts to take supplies and equipment to the space station, including mice and other lab animals, so why not people?
I've also been thinking about the history of exploration, of people moving into new and unknown territories. Most of it happened before any notes were kept, before the only government was tribal hierarchy. But from what I can remember of world history, there was a pattern to exploration and settling a new 'unknown' territory.
The pattern seems to be that a government would send people out to explore. Sometimes the ruler would accompany his army, such as Alexander the Great, but in other instances, the government merely provided the means, such as for Christopher Columbus.
Alexander may have been 'seeing what was there' for himself, but his great venture was more about conquest than exploration, and the lands he went were already well occupied and settled, so there was not much in the way of resettling.
But in the case of the Americas and Australia, there was still plenty of land available. And people set out to claim their own little piece. (Yes, this was not voluntary in the case of Australia, I know that.)
The point is that governments may have 'found' and 'explored' unknown territory, but businesses and individuals then did the actual moving in. Yes, it's more dangerous to leave Earth for a space station, the moon or another planet than to sail across an ocean of water. But as a government agency, NASA has done its job in producing a space station, exploring the moon and is now moving on to more distant territories.

It's time for (some of) us to move out there to start homes and businesses.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Happy Birthday, Mac!

It dawned on me that book characters have birthdays, too. In Mac on Fireball, the soap opera I'm putting out as a blog, Lt Bugalu's birthday is August 2. He was born on Earth, so he knows that.
People born on a colony - whether planet, space station or even space-faring ship - don't necessarily have the same calendar to work with. Gaelund, which is where Mac was born, not only has slightly more gravity, but a slightly longer year. She reached legal age (of 18 Earth years) to sign up to join the Fleet when she was 16.5 Gaelund years old.
On Gaelund, she knew when her birthday was. But when she reached the Academy, which works on the Earth calendar, she was informed that Sept 17 was her Earth birth date. So at the Academy, and on any Fleet ship she works on, her birthday is on that date.
But she is a Gaelunder, and sometimes she feels affronted to be 'aging' faster than everybody else from her home world. When she first reached the Fireball, she was 27.75 Earth years old, but only 25.6 Gaelund years. Maybe it is this too-speedy aging that makes her somewhat reluctant to celebrate her 'birthday' by this time.
Or possibly - since she won't talk about her earlier assignments, this is pure speculation on Bugalu's part - her birthday offered an obligation to accept gifts from crew members - and officers - that she didn't want to accept.
Whatever her feelings about her birthday, while she is in the Fleet, Mac celebrates on a date that has no noticeable correspondence to the date she was born on the Gaelund calendar. At the Academy, the early fall date didn't feel anything like the early spring date she knew as her 'real' birthdate. It may be easier on a ship, where there are no seasons. Or maybe not, since the calendar is not the one she grew up with.

What about you? If you were suddenly told your birthdate was now Korbalco 33rd, and you were a few years older than you thought you were, would you be inclined to celebrate that date or not?

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Shamrokon Report

After visiting the doctor, we rode the train to Holyhead (Wales), where we caught a ferry to Dublin (Ireland). We pulled into Dublin port around midnight on Thursday, and were lucky to catch a taxi going in our direction. The driver asked if we were in town for the convention, we specified which convention, and he knew exactly what hotel it was in. He almost delivered us to there, instead of the one we had requested, which was 3-4 blocks away. We checked in, and this was an actual hotel room, instead of a closet.
Shamrokon was the European science fiction convention. Although held in Dublin this year, it travels from city to city, like the World Con does. Since we were traveling to London for the World Con, and Dublin was just a wee bit away, we decided to check it out.
John thought the con started early on Friday, at 9 or 10, so we had breakfast and walked over, only to find signs that registration would open at noon. So we walked back and I made the mistake of laying down. When it came time to go, I could not get up, and my throat was sore. John went by himself and I slept. I did get up for supper, but I was probably asleep again before the sun went down. It was disappointing to miss the first day.
Saturday, we walked over and kind of went our separate ways, choosing different panels to attend. In looking over the list of panels, I got the impression that European conventions take their science fiction somewhat more seriously than Americans. But it’s possible I didn’t understand any inside jokes they may have.
They also had far more panels devoted to one guest than I’m used to seeing. Unfortunately, I’m not familiar with that guest’s work, so I didn’t feel a need to attend those panels. Actually, I seldom attend panels that are based on one of the guests; it’s the subject matter of a panel that gets my attention.
One panel I attended on Saturday was about how their plan to have WorldCon in Dublin in 2019. I wouldn’t have a chance to site-see before we left, so the idea of coming back appealed for me. They were taking a bus load of people to the Convention Center on Sunday morning, but I had a panel to be on. Happily, John opted to join that bus load for the look-see.
Another panel I attended gave the answer to, “Why have a pen name?”, a question I’ve wrestled with for some time. Let’s say somebody reads books by Trudy Myers and they are fantasy and science fiction. Then they see a new title and grab it (I’m dreaming a little, but this is just an example). If it turns out to be a romance or a western, that reader will be disappointed and confused. But if I write fantasy and science fiction as Trudy Myers, romance as Linda Joy and westerns as Mel O Myers, and they know that, then they know what to expect based on the name I’m using. It’s all about branding. I don’t know if I ever heard anybody explain it so well before.
Saturday night, we got to see the new Doctor Who in his first episode on a big screen (Well, bigger than we have). What fun!
My panel was about mapping and world-building. The moderator spoke about star-maps, and I stated that I had not mentioned stars in my novel, but I did mention the planet’s 4 moons, which the natives call ‘Mother & daughters’. I design worlds by deciding where the plates are located and which direction they move, which gives me mountains, rift valleys and some volcano locations. Then I consider the prevailing winds, which would determine which areas get lots of rain, and which ones get very little. Later, I was surprised when all the questions that came my way were about the moons! Did I know their orbits? Did they have strange tides because there were 4 moons? I tried to give answers that would satisfy their curiosity.

Dublin’s Shamrokon was an interesting experiment for us to try. It was not nearly as big as a World Con, and hadn’t expected to be. It had 5 (maybe 6) panel rooms, ranging from large (seating 350) to medium. If I had to guess, I’d say it was about the size of a decent regional convention in the US. Maybe that’s why I could enjoy it; the size did not overwhelm me. Also, the trees in the yards, the houses and businesses along the route we walked to get there and back were... homey.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Dr Who? Experience

After the World SF Convention in London, we took a train to Cardiff in Wales.
The map showed our hotel as a straight shot east of the closest rail station, about 2 or 3 blocks. In real life, the road made an S-curve, and the distance was 4-5 blocks. But we got checked in, and it was still early afternoon. This room had a desk and chair, drawers and a closet!
My husband does not sit quietly well. He decided we should walk ‘into town’ and visit the museum. It was pretty much a straight shot to get there, but distance was a little vague. Well, if I reached the utter end of my endurance, we would have to figure something out.
The center of Cardiff is one big shopping area, no cars allowed, and a wonderful mixture of new buildings among the really old ones. We went through that, and turned a block too soon, but it was simple to correct our aim and get to the museum... 45 minutes before it was scheduled to close!
They had a wonderful section on history of Earth that I had to race through, and I had almost reached the point where people began to evolve when I was told they would close in 5 minutes. Bummer! Now for the walk back.
When I’m getting tired, I count my steps. It simply distracts my mind and keeps a rhythm. When we finally reached the hotel, I pretty much collapsed into a chair in the restaurant for supper. I had made it!
We had tickets for the Dr Who Experience the next morning. Again, the distance was kind of vague (I thought it was about half a mile), and this time, the directions were vague, too. (It wasn’t shown on the map.) “Go into that shopping mall across the parking lot, and just before you get to the theater, turn left, exit the building, follow the path, and you can’t miss it. Happily, the ‘path’ was marked by signs with a Dalek to show us which way to go.
I won’t spoil the experience by telling you much about it. On the other hand, they will probably change it soon, for what we experienced was the Matt Smith doctor. But it did have Daleks, and the Doctor tried to convince them that we were not worth ‘extermination’ because we were obviously an inferior type of human known as ‘shoppers’.
After this entertainment, we were in the museum, where John took lots of pictures. We weren’t allowed to touch anything, but I had John taking close ups of buttons and lace bits, lapel styles... And then it dawned on us - there are no Dr Who costume police! As long as your costume is recognizabe, you are enthusiastically accepted!
Even so, we still analyzed the costumes on display, especially those not made of cloth, like the rubber suit that looked like it had octopus suckers all over it. We could see a small slit (maybe 9 inches) in the lower back, but was that the only opening? Further study revealed the feet were separate, as were the hands, and probably the head as well. I am not eager to wear an entire rubber suit - think sauna - but I am trying to learn to make such prosthetics, so I was happy to study these items.
We could not take a tour of the studio, as the sets were being revamped, getting ready for filming. So that left the souvenir store.
John had a particular shirt he wanted, but he couldn’t find it. Bummer. I found a shirt and a poster for me, and he settled for the sweater vest of Sylvester McCoy’s Doctor. We went to the snack bar for something to drink, then walked back to the hotel, where we had a quiet afternoon as he surfed the net, trying to find the shirt he’d wanted.
We also did not find any jelly babies in the Dr Who shop, although we had found them at Stonehenge and in London. Not finding them in the DW shop was a real bummer!

To me, Cardiff was better than London! Not as crowded, in other words. I enjoyed our brief stay there. At one time, I would have hated the idea of walking that far to see a museum, but this time, I saw it as a challenge, one I managed to survive. And I got the reward of seeing a fantastic display about the History of Earth that I could have spent at least half a day in, if given the chance. The Dr Who Experience was icing on the cake.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

2014 World Con Report

This year’s World Science Fiction Convention was held in London, England. We don’t normally go it is overseas, but we decided if we were going to do any traveling, it was time to get started. I won’t go into details about our trip to get there, except that a storm in Atlanta (Georgia) made our trip an endurance battle.
The convention was held in a huge convention center located in the dock area on the Thames River. There were several hotels in the immediate area, but they were expensive, and by the time I had figured out our plan early this spring, I couldn’t find one in the area that had a room available for our entire stay. We wanted to do some site-seeing, too, so I found a cheaper hotel closer to London Central... and only 4 or 5 blocks from a major underground station.
London doesn’t have street signs like America. The names of some streets are on the side of the corner building, if you are lucky. Some streets are no wider than an American alley. It made reading my map difficult, especially after our marathon of non-sleeping to get there. When we finally paused and asked for directions at a cafe, we had turned a block too early.
I had been told that European hotel rooms are smaller than American, but when we finally got to ours, we were stunned. The room was the size of the bed with about a foot of ‘walking space’ on 3 sides and an attached bathroom that’s smaller than ours at home (which is definitely ‘dinky’). There were no chairs, no table, no drawers or shelves to put your clothes. Very claustrophobic! The first thing I did was fall on the bed and sleep for 15 hours.
We figured out the underground system and crammed 4 days of site seeing into 3. We didn’t have time to do the Jack the Ripper Walking Tour, but eventually I realized our hotel was IN his ‘hunting area’. (How exciting!) We weren’t afraid to ask questions, so it wasn’t difficult to add a ‘Docks Light Rail’ route to our pattern to get to and from the convention center, but it did mean we were riding the underground during the morning rush hour. Crammed like sardines.
The convention itself was good. There were a couple of space organizations giving lots of science panels, which always seemed to be over-crowded. Many times, people got turned away because all the chairs were full, and sometimes that wasn’t a science panel, either. There were times when I had to go to my 3rd choice of a panel, because both of the first 2 choices were full.
The convention had registered over 10,000 people, but on any given day, there were about 5 or 6,000 people in attendance.
Food and drink was probably over-priced, since it was all brought in by businesses within the convention center, but we were dealing in Pounds, so it was hard to say. I can’t say any of it was good.
Registration had a looooooong line every morning, but seemed efficient when my turn came. The freebie table, however, was way too small. This one table had fliers, books, business cards, book marks, pens and who knows what else, all jumbled together because there wasn’t room to lay things out nicely. As soon as somebody tried to organize an area so their items could half-way be seen, somebody else came along and slapped down a stack of... something right in the middle of it.
To sum up London: metropolitan, crowded, fast paced, efficient mass transportation, confusing; but if you can get a local to slow down, they will answer questions. As an introvert, I was stressed because it was so cramped, which I couldn’t escape, but I lived through our 10 9 days there.
LonCon3, the 2014 World Science Fiction Convention, was also crowded, but fun. Some things could have been better, like more freebie tables, or more room for photographers of the costumes in the costume contest, or a better method of presenting art workshops. (In the art show area was too noisy, especially without a microphone, and only those in the front of the crowd got to see what the artist was doing.) But they did have tables and chairs in the hallways, as well as water coolers.

Make a note; there are no water fountains in London. You are expected to buy your drinking water.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Giant Extinction

For a long time, some people have blamed man for the extinction of such ice age wonders as the woolly mammoth and the woolly rhinoceros. To them, I guess ‘man’ was ‘the great killer’, killing animals right and left, indiscriminately, and with no thought to the consequences.
That never seemed quite fair to me. Yes, I know that white men came to the Americas and slaughtered whole herds of buffalo just because they could. There are stupid people in the world, after all. But those men had guns. And although large, American buffalo are not giants.
True, the American buffalo is only slightly smaller in size than the woolly rhinoceros, but the rhinoceros weighed quite a bit more - as much as 3.5 tons compared to the 1 ton for the largest and heaviest American buffalo. And a woolly mammoth could easily stand twice as tall as a human and weigh 6 tons.
There were no guns during the last ice age. Man had spears, arrows, knives and possibly a couple other men to help him kill these giants. Would you like to pit your skills with such ancient types of weapons against a modern elephant or rhinoceros?
I doubt if ice age men saw such hunts as sport. Hunting was a necessity to feed the tribe, and if they could find some rabbits, fish, fowl or other animals smaller than a woolly giant, I’m sure they would have been happy to carry those home. Don’t get me wrong; humans probably did kill some of the giants, but I personally think they would have rather avoided such a dangerous practice.
Scientists have been studying the flora that could be found during the last ice age, as well as the stomach and feces contents of frozen woolly animals. It seems the ground where these creatures roamed was covered in wildflowers that were high in protein. But when the weather warmed up, the flowers died off, leaving only grasses that could not satisfy the giants’ nutritional needs.

And so the woolly giants followed the lead of those wildflowers and died off.