Friday, January 19, 2018

HUNKERING DOWN MIDWINTER




Greetings from my cave.

It’s nice and warm in here, if a bit confining. I have all I need, at least for the moment—food, drink, entertainment, husband, cats. I’m good in here until I’m forced to take out the garbage—and forage for cat food.

Outside, the third snow of this winter of our discontent covers the slopes of the mountain. It’s been well below freezing for more than a week (and don’t even ask about the wind chill factor), so the few inches that fell on Tuesday night haven’t yet begun to melt in the thin sunlight. This kind of winter wonderland would be situation normal in Wisconsin or Michigan or Maine. But here in North Carolina, well below the Mason-Dixon line, we just aren’t used to slogging through the snow to get to our ice-encrusted vehicles, or driving over the snowpack to reach the grocery store. 

In the south, as the rest of you probably know from watching the nightly TV news, we have two options when the winter weather turns bad: hunker down in our caves and wait until it warms up (my choice), or take our lives in our hands out on the slippery roads with our fellow citizens who don’t know how to drive in these conditions, resulting in massive pileups in three inches of snow. Even NASCAR great Dale Earnhardt, Jr. wrecked his car in North Carolina this week, in less snow than the residents of Montana see come down in an hour. The story was he was stopping to help someone else who had slid off the highway. No good deed goes unpunished.

But the weather is not the only reason to stay inside until spring. According to the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta, this year’s flu season is already shaping up to be “moderately severe,” though some states, like California and Texas, are suffering an unusually high number of cases. The more virulent H3N2 strain is widespread across the entire United States (except Hawaii), accompanied here and there by pockets of H1N1 and Influenza B. This year’s flu vaccine is said to be no better than a 30 percent match for the predominant strain, though vaccination will reduce the severity of the disease no matter what strain you catch.

As usual, young children, the elderly and those with compromised immune systems are most vulnerable to the deadly complications of flu (pneumonia, meningitis and sepsis). But the highly publicized flu deaths of a ten-year-old boy from New Jersey, a healthy young bodybuilder in Pennsylvania and a middle-aged marathoner/mother of three in California have captured the public’s attention. In all three cases, the victims had sought medical attention early, but succumbed anyway.

Between this very scary flu and a killer cold that has been sweeping through the Marshall community sickening people for weeks at a time, I’m afraid to leave my cave at all. And with the howling wind blowing snow into sparkling drifts outside my (double-glazed) windows, I just don’t see the need to do so. At least until the kibble runs out. Maybe in April.

Cheers, Donna

*Information for this post taken from "Questions and Answers About This Year's Flu Season," by Donald G. McNeil, Jr. The NY Times, January 18, 2018.  https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/18/health/flu-season-facts.html

Thursday, January 18, 2018

A brand new book

It has been a while since I've written a book. In the last six months or so I've done a fair amount of traveling and when I travel, I record the journey in blogs on my own website. They take a fair amount of work, because I research what I write, giving links to the history of places, and links to confirm I'm not making things up. I also incorporate my photographs (and some of Peter's, when he's taken pics of things I never thought worthy of pointing my camera at them).

But the thing about writing is that it's like an addiction. I won't say I find writing easy - I don't. Picking the right words, recomposing a bland sentence, getting the tone right. The hardest part, though, is coming up with the story. That's the thing that makes people continue to read after lights out, using a torch in their blanket fort. I used to do that. You don't do it for blah books that you can pick up tomorrow.

The last book I wrote was For the Greater Good. I've promised to write a sequel, and I will. But I figured it would be nice to have a headstart. I had two unfinished docs where I'd run out of steam, and thought maybe I could refurbish one of them for Puss, Tian, and Brent. I'd gone a long way with making changes before I realized I was enjoying the story (from three years ago) just the way it was. So, I'm sorry Puss, but you'll have to wait. I'm writing a sequel to Kuralon Rescue.

The book will be stand-alone, but I won't deny it will help if readers have read Kuralon Rescue. Three of the four main characters are introduced in that book. It's a kind of 'origin' novel, like the movie Wonder Woman showed how she became a super hero. I'd always intended to write more than one book about Morgan's Misfits (my three main characters) but my ideas have shifted since I wrote that first book. Still, essentially the three main characters are misfits within the strictly structured social system of the Morgan Selwood universe. They're not supposed to get along, but they do. And while they're doing that they actually demonstrate the strength of their rigid social system - because each of them has different skill sets which make up a greater whole. It's only when the rules become cages that the system falls apart.

Anyway, that's what I'm writing. For now, you can catch up with the background - or the origin story, if you like - by reading a bit from Kuralon Rescue.

Kuralon Rescue

Follow your heart. You never know where it might lead you.

Jirra’s on the run, Siena’s rescuing her lover, Toreni wants Master Chef status and Chet wants her reputation back. Four women, four goals, and one very small ship. Add a fleet request to free a rebel, the promise of little to no help and a caste-defined society simmering with discontent on the edge of explosion.

Now, on their own, they’re staging an escape from a backwater prison planet and navigating the murky terrain of dreams forbidden by the rigid caste system underpinning their culture.

Success demands more than team work. They’ll have to jettison their own prejudices and forge relationships free of the rules and caste lines.

There’s more than just lives at stake. There’s dreams and a possible tomorrow more fragile than gossamer.


 Here's a snippet where the four women in the adventure first get together. They've thwarted an attempt to steal their ship, docked at a space port.



"So how did you get involved with us?" Jirra asked. "Was Toreni involved?"
"I met Chet on the way down the spoke," Toreni said from the galley. "I asked her where she was going, and she said she was following our little friends. So I asked why and we worked out we were headed for the same place. Then we had to find a way to get in without warning them, because the bay door locks behind people."
"How did you?" Jirra asked.
Chet cleared her throat. "Shall we say I collected a few souvenirs from my police days? Like an all-purpose key to the bay doors?"
Delectable smells drifted out of the galley. Jirra's stomach rumbled. "So how did you realize Gundar was going to steal our ship?"
"I've come across Rison and his fine friend before. Rison's a dodgy pilot who hires out, no questions asked. They were in a pub last evening, a place I go to now and then." Chet rubbed her mouth. "They seemed to be very pleased with themselves, so I nursed my drink and eavesdropped." She grinned. "I have some little helpers for that sort of thing."
"Like what?" Siena asked.
"Tiny robots. They look like insects. You fly them to land somewhere close to the target. In this case, on the edge of their table." Chet pointed at her ear. "I wear an ear piece."
 "Anyway, Rison mentioned Gundar and a job, and I got interested. I heard enough to know it was an APSS-50, and much gloating over a couple of additional assets. The hit was going down tomorrow some time. I still know a few people. I found out where any APSS-50s were in dock, and where they were. I figured Gundar would be doing engineering on the ship, he always does the work himself when it's a grab for a ship. That way, his regular workers don't know anything about his illegal activities, and he can still run a legitimate business. I waited for him in the food hall, then followed him down the spoke to the bay. Once I knew which ship I went back to the access doors to wait for Rison and his mate. Toreni must have caught the travelator just after me, because she caught up with me."
"Like I said before, I've known Chet for a couple of years," Toreni stood over the stove, stirring. "I'd heard what happened to her, and the talk was she'd been set up. I wondered where she was going, so I caught up with her. I've come across Rison, too. And his buddy, Grelf. Grelf's a real piece of work. Spends a lot of time in the brothels and the girls have told me he's kinky, and he's rough."
Jirra shuddered again. Grelf's words rang in her ears. 'We can have a little taste while we're underway.'
"Well, I have to say I'm delighted you followed the skike." Siena scowled. "But I'm sorry I lost a thousand credits to him."
"We kept his toolkit," Jirra said. "I haven't had time to look in it yet, but from what I saw when he was working on the engines, there's some pretty classy gear there."
Siena looked down her nose. "Is it worth a thousand credits?"
Jirra grinned. "Probably not. But he did do the service as required. My guess is he's a good engineer."
"He is." Chet turned to Toreni. "That smells wonderful. I didn't know you could cook."
Toreni cocked an eyebrow. "How 'bout that? It'll be another half hour."
"Let's celebrate with a glass of wine." Siena jumped out of her seat. "Everyone happy with red?"
"I'll pass," Chet said. "But I'm happy to drink a glass of water."
Siena turned to look at her. "Oh, come on. One glass. We have beer and some brandy if you'd prefer."
Chet shook her head.
Siena shrugged in that 'suit yourself' way, and poured three glasses of deep red wine. She handed one to Jirra, before taking one herself. "Toreni?"
"Can you bring it here? I can't leave this sauce."
Siena pursed her lips.
Jirra picked up the third glass and set it on a bench close enough to Toreni for her to reach. Stirring the steaming pot with one hand, Toreni lifted the glass and sniffed. "Nice." She sipped a mouthful, holding the wine in her mouth, her cheeks ballooning in and out. "Good choice, Siena. You can taste the fruit, and it has a lovely finish."
Jirra concentrated on her glass while she worked hard at containing her amusement. Toreni was full of surprises.

 You can buy Kuralon Rescue at iBooks Amazon Kobo  B&N

 I'll be sure to let you know how I'm getting on with the sequel. I might even share a few bits here and there.

And here's a picture of a flying osprey. Yes, I took it.






Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Stuck in a Rut #amediting #amwriting not at all

I couldn't think of anything to write about this week. Post Christmas is always difficult: all the excitement is over, there's mundane stuff to catch up on, clearing up to do, the weather has got colder and more dismal though at least the days are getting longer again. I don't much like this time of year, as it's just the long, grey crawl toward spring. Even though I only work two six hour shifts a week, which should still leave me plenty of time to work on writing, I seem to spend less and less time at it and the real life jobs just keep piling up. Where does all that time go?!
At the moment I'm in the planning and accumulating materials stage of building a bigger ultimate coop for our chooks, and one that we can walk into rather than have to crawl. The plan is that this will be the last build, allowing us a maximum of 12 chickens, so I'm determined it's got to be absolutely right. The maths has been complicated because half the materials are measured in Imperial, and half in metric. Talk about brain ache!

Anyway, this is just a quick update. I...still haven't finished edits on Reunion at the time of writing this post, but hope to complete it later in the day. I really do need someone standing over me with the threat of a cattleprod these days...

Chook Update
Little Firefly is growing up and has developed what I call that matronly look of a typical Pekin. She's still the smallest of the flock but is no longer a baby, and her black feathers have a glorious metallic green sheen to them which unfortunately doesn't show in the picture.

And no, that bunch of brown feathers isn't part of Firefly but Fizzgig's fluffy behind!
Meanwhile, Kala and Phasma are definitely still right at the bottom of the pecking order, and still spending most of their time running away from all the others, and from me. They did feel brave enough to briefly venture out into the garden at the weekend though.
Kala: whut?!

Kala: are you still pointing that phone at me?!

Kala: look, quit it with the camera already!

While Phasma chooses to give me a truly Imperial glare


Monday, January 15, 2018

In Special Observance

Martin Luther King Jr. Day


For all that he stood for,
 
       For everything he believed in,
 
             For the many powerful words of wisdom
 
                    that have stood the test of time.
 
  
 
                         
"Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that.
Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that."
 
—from Strength to Love, 1963
 
 

Friday, January 12, 2018

A REALITY METER SET ON LOW



As a fan and a writer of science fiction romance, my “reality meter” is set pretty low. In fact, I love all things paranormal, supernatural, weird, out-there, futuristic, not-readily-explainable and mind-expanding in addition to your usual adventure-in-space tales. I tend not to demand that a story fit within the normal boundaries of “real life.” I imagine most of you feel the same, dear readers, or you wouldn’t be reading this blog.

Though I will occasionally pick up a good history or biography, or catch an interesting TV documentary, I read—and watch—primarily for escape. That’s why I so often choose romance novels, which can not only transport me to another place and time, but also assure me of an emotionally satisfying ending. On-screen, too, I look for an experience that offers something very different from my daily life—a trip back into history, a glimpse at the future, an adventure in an exotic setting, or, at the very least, thrills and chills and stuff blowing up while I remain safe in my theater seat.

My mom (gone for many years now) always used to say she had no interest in soap operas because she had enough of that kind of drama in her own life. I react the same way to novels or films about dysfunctional families, young people trying to “find themselves,” romantic comedies, or—the latest trend—quirky old people on some kind of quest. (Apologies if those happen to be your favorite kind of stories or films; exceptional examples can always be found, of course.)

A friend with a much higher “reality meter” setting and I recently disagreed on just such a film: THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI. Now, already, this is not a film I normally would go for, with its premise of a woman (Frances McDormand) who seeks to shame the local police into solving her daughter’s rape/murder by calling them out publicly on said billboards. But the movie was filmed locally, and my friend recommended it. Since I like Frances McDormand, I tried it.

The acting was great, but the film was disappointing. In particular, I thought the ending left the audience (me) with no sense of closure. The film seemed to have no point, I protested to my friend. But, she responded, that’s just like real life. You often don’t get answers in real life.


Ah, but a film is not real life. It’s fiction, an artificial construct that may reflect real life to a greater or lesser degree, depending on the writer’s choices. The writer is in charge of that construct. The writer can give us answers, unlike real life. I can blame the writer (and the filmmaker in this case) for not giving me the answers I want.

This is the reason I rant and rave at the random killing of beloved characters on television series. I understand that sometimes actors need to leave and move on with their careers. But sometimes, writers just decide to kill characters off for the apparent hell of it (Game of Thrones, Blue Bloods, Walking Dead, Person of Interest, any number of others), weakening the story and leaving fans in gaping disbelief. 

In fiction, random acts do not occur. (I would also argue that truly random acts don’t occur in real life, either, but that’s just my personal philosophy.) Things happen in fiction because writers cause them to happen. In the fictional worlds I create, people die when I want them to die, for reasons I lay out carefully in the plot. These deaths cannot be avoided because they trigger other events; they push the hero and/or the heroine to action, or they signal a pivot in the plot. 

In the same way, if a story is left without an ending I find satisfying, it’s not because “real life” seldom has a neat ending, though that may be the writer’s argument. The writer chooses to tell the story a particular way, and chooses to end it a particular way. If that’s the case, then, as the reader (or film-goer), I can object to the writer’s choice.

Unlike in real life, where I can only act with the knowledge I have, then lodge a futile protest—or send out feelings of gratitude—to the Great Author in the Sky for whatever surprising turns my own story might take.

Cheers, Donna



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Hosted by 5 Science Fiction Romance authors with 8 RWA Golden Heart finals and a RITA final between them. We aim to entertain with spirited commentary on the past, present, and future of SFR, hot topics, and our take on Science Fiction and SFR books, television, movies and culture.