Monday, July 22, 2019

Moon Landing 50th Anniversary Celebration: 10 Things You Didn't Know

As a follow-up to the landmark date we observed on Saturday and my blog last week about the Apollo 11 50th Anniversary: What Was So Great About it Anyway?, I'm going to close out my blog observances with some surprising Moon Landing trivia.

Photo credit NASA
Looking Back on History
10 Things You Might Not Know About the First Moon Landing

Number 10.

The astronauts discovered the Moon has an odor -- and it doesn't smell like green cheese. The smell of Moon dust was described "burnt gunpowder." Oddly enough, once sample were back on Earth and its oxygen rich environmental, the Moon dust had no odor!

Number 9.
Photo Credit NASA

The American Flag didn't cooperative. The lunar surface was harder than expected and the astronauts fought to embed the pole's base deep enough that the flag wouldn't fall over--a scene they wanted to avoid broadcasting on global television! After many long minutes they got the telescoping pole buried enough for the flag to stand upright, and snapped that historic photo of the astronaut's salute. But when the Lunar Module's ascent stage blasted off to carry the astronauts back to the Command Module, Buzz Aldrin observed the blast knocking the flag over.

Number 8.

Why was Neil Armstrong the first to step on the Moon? Both Aldrin and Armstrong enthusiastically lobbied NASA officials for the honor, but the deciding factor was quite simple. The design of the Lunar Module determined the order. Neil Armstrong, as mission commander, was closest to the hatch and had to exit first.

Number 7.

Buzz Aldrin got his nickname because his little sister couldn't properly pronounce "brother," instead calling him "buzzer." The nickname took and the entire family soon was calling him "Buzz." His real name was Edwin Aldrin, Jr., but he legally changed his name to Buzz in 1988.

Number 6.

The maiden name of the mother of Buzz Aldrin was Marion Moon.

Photo Credit NASA
Number 5.

Astronaut Jim Lovell, of Apollo 13 fame, was Neil Armstrong's backup.

Number 4.

The official Apollo 11 patch which was designed by astronaut Michael Collins doesn't bear the astronauts' names, as does every other mission patch. The reason is that NASA wanted the patch to represent everyone who had worked so hard to make the landing a reality and the mission a success.

Number 3.

NASA turned down Buzz Aldrin's initial application to become an astronaut. Not one to give up, he reapplied and was later included among the third group of astronauts to be accepted in 1963. (If at first you don't succeed...)

Photo credit NASA
Number 2.

Astronaut Michael Collins, who remained behind in the Command Module orbiting the Moon, was the first human in history to be totally cut off from Earth and human civilization. During his 22 hours of solitude, he wrote, "I am alone, now, truly alone, and absolutely isolated from any known life. I am it." His experience inspired a song written by Ian Anderson of the band Jethro Tull for the Benefit album. The title is "For Michael Collins, Jeffrey and Me."

...and the Number 1 thing you may not have known about the Moon landing...

The mission and the lives of the two pioneering astronauts was saved by a...pen? As Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin prepared to return home, they discovered a crucial circuit breaker was broken, leaving them without a way to ignite the engines to launch the ascent vehicle! NASA's mission control tried to work out a solution, but Buzz Aldrin eventually decided to try his own fix. He forced a felt tip pen into the breaker. It worked! And that's why there are not two long-dead astronauts stranded on the surface of the Moon today. 

I hope you've enjoyed this Apollo 11 50th Anniversary series.

Have a wonderful week!


Friday, July 19, 2019


Bet you thought I'd forgotten all about Charlie, Rafe and Happy, huh? But, no, I just had to take a break to attend last week's Shore Leave SF Con before I could share all the deliciousness of the new Not Fade Away, Interstellar Rescue Series Book 4 cover!

What I love about this cover is Charlie's obvious "country girl" appeal, matched with Rafe's military looks. And, don't worry, Happy, the therapy dog, still has his place of honor on the back cover. You can see that full cover on my Interstellar Rescue Squad page. (Not a member? Just message me on Facebook and I'll add you!)

And just to remind you what the book is all about, here's the blurb:

Earth shielded his secrets--
Until her love unlocked his heart.

Rescue agent Rafe Gordon is human, though Earth has never been his home. But when his legendary father Del becomes the target of alien assassins, Rafe must hide the dementia-debilitated hero in the small mountain town where the old man was born—Masey, North Carolina, USA, Earth.

Home care nurse Charlie McIntyre and her therapy dog, Happy, have never had such challenging clients before. Del’s otherworldly “episodes” are not explained by his diagnosis, making Charlie question everything about her mysterious charge and his dangerously attractive son. Rafe has the answers she needs, but Charlie will have to break through his wall of secrets to get them.

As the heat rises between Charlie and Rafe, the deadly alien hunters circle closer. The light they seek to extinguish flickers in the gloom of Del’s fading mind—the memory of a planet-killer that threatens to enslave the galaxy.

And, of course, I'm doing a Kindle Countdown on this book, too! Starting at midnight Pacific Daylight Time tonight you can buy the ebook version of Not Fade Away, Interstellar Rescue Series Book 4 for the great price of only $0.99! The price goes up after 48 hours, though, so get yours right away on Amazon!

Cheers, Donna

Monday, July 15, 2019

Apollo 11 50th Anniversary: What Was So Great About It Anyway?

The 50th Anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon Landing is on July 20, 2019 -- this coming Saturday.

This entire month has been earmarked to observe and celebrate this amazing achievement. If the major event pre-dates you, you may not appreciate why it was such an amazing fete or how it all came about. Here's a quick recap of the events that inspired it.

I was alive on the day President John F. Kennedy died. Although I don't remember the event clearly, I remember the aftermath.. I remember the grim expression on my teacher's face as she explained to her young students that the president of our country had been shot in Dallas. I remember a length of black ribbon being run around the edges of the American flag in our classroom. I remember a very solemn Walter Cronkite  announcing the death of President John F. Kennedy on the evening news. But my biggest impressions of that day was the deep grief, sadness and fear in the eyes of all the adults I saw. I was too young to grasp the repercussion this moment would have in our Nation's history, but I knew our world would never be the same.

Photo credit: NASA
Before his assassination, President John F. Kennedy had set a goal. He vowed we would reach the Moon before the end of the decade, and not only reach the Moon with a crewed mission, but also return that crew safely to Earth. He set these goals in a speech.

He made that speech on September 12, 1962.

Because of his words, our country strived to make them happen, bent on doing the impossible...

Putting footprints on the Moon!

By the time the Apollo program had ended, it wasn't just one or two sets of human footprints in the dust of another world--there were twelve unique sets. And it happened over the course of three-and-one-half years and seven missions.

Looking back, some might think it wasn't that great of an achievement because, for the most part, it all came off so flawlessly.

But reaching the Moon was not easy or simple or without sacrifices. It was a monumental struggle and despite what now appears to be a lightning fast timeline--the way was filled with setbacks and tragedies and unknowns.

Here's a quick summary of the huge leaps forward that happened in those few, short years.

The Mercury Program: All the Right Stuff

When John F. Kennedy made his historic proclamation in a speech, the Mercury program was just underway and our nation had managed all of 20 minutes of spaceflight experience.

Think about that. Twenty minutes!

The Mercury Program involved six missions and lasted about two years, from May 1961 to May 1963, sending six members of the original Mercury Seven astronauts into space. Each mission was successful, but not without hazards, malfunctions and close calls. Alan Shepard's first flight answered critical questions about if humans would be able to survive--if they could breathe or swallow or perform basic tasks in orbit. No one was certain of the answer until he proved it could be done.

To boldy go, indeed!

These brave men climbed into a tiny capsule on top of a huge controlled explosion--rockets that they had, in fact, seen explode on the launch pad or shortly after takeoff again and again leading up to their missions, and they agreed to go anyway.

If you saw the movie Hidden Figures, you know that the math needed to calculate the flights trajectories hadn't even been invented yet! And the kind of technology that's at our fingertips today wouldn't be invented for decades to come. They had to figure it all out via slide rulers and chalkboards. They weren't even sure how to go about it.

They succeeded anyway.

The Gemini Missions: Partnerships in Space

The development of a newer, bigger rocket for the Gemini missions was not something that breathed confidence into the next band of pioneers into space. The truth is many of the initial tests were complete disasters, with those rockets also exploding. Despite the setbacks, the space program forged ahead.

On April 8, 1964 we launched the first Gemini mission, where American astronauts ventured into space in pairs. Twelve missions, which lasted until the final Gemini launch on November 11, 1966 (with Jim Lovell and Buzz Aldrin aboard), greatly expanded our capabilities in space.

Gemini saw the first space walk by astronaut Ed White on June 3, 1965 during the Gemini 4 mission. Astronaut White would later perish along with Mercury Seven astronaut Gus Grissom and astronaut Roger Chaffee in a launchpad test of the Apollo 1 capsule. It wouldn't be the last tragedy of our space program, but it would be the last in our bold quest to reach the Moon.

The Dawn of Apollo

As the Gemini program came to a close, the Apollo missions now took center stage. After the disaster that killed the three Apollo 1 astronauts on January 27, 1967, there were several unmanned Apollo launches before the first manned launch. That was Apollo 7. This mission called for orbiting the Earth but did not reach lunar orbit. Apollo 7 was launched on October 11, 1968, with just a little over a year left to reach the Moon before 1970, the goal set by the late JFK.

There were three missions -- Apollo 8, 9 and 10 -- beginning on December 21, 1968 and ending with the launch of Apollo 10--dubbed the "Moon Landing Dress Rehearsal"--that occurred from May 18th to the 26th, 1969. included achieving lunar orbit, and an uncrewed LEM deployment to a height of 50,000 feet over the lunar surface. But no landing.

At the successful close of the Apollo 10 mission, the clock was ticking down to a little less than six months remaining in the late President Kennedy's timeline...

Missions to the Moon: Footprints in Time

Photo credit NASA
Apollo 11 was the first Mission to the Moon, the journey which gave us Neil Armstrong's historic words, "That's one small step for giant leap for mankind."

Like the death of President Kennedy, it was a "Where were you when..." moment in history. It's a moment that those of us who were alive to experience will never forget.

News anchor Walter Cronkite removed his glasses with an expression of unmasked awe about the events he was witnessing. We'd put a person on the Moon! And we'd done it in the time frame that JFK has proposed a scant seven years earlier...before the decade ended.

It was July 20, 1969. And yes, we'd all just witnessed a miracle.

The Moon Missions Spanned Only 3-1/2 Years!

An overview of the seven Moon missions and those who left footprints in time:

Apollo 11 - Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landing July 21, 1969 at Tranquility Base

Apollo 12 - Pete Conrad and Alan Bean beginning November 19, 1969 landing near Surveyor 3 craft

Apollo 13 - Jim Lovell and his crew's Moon landing was scrubbed due to an oxygen tank explosion

Apollo 14 - Alan Shephard and Edgar Mitchell landed Februrary 5, 1971, Frau Mauro region

Apollo 15 - David Scott and James Irwin landed July 15, 1971 in Hadley Rille area

Apollo 16 - John Young and Charles Duke, April 21-23, 1972 on the lunar highlands

Apollo 17 - Gene Cernan and Jack Schmidt landed December 11, 1972, returning December 19th

In all, twelve men walked on the Moon, all inspired by one person's vision.

We have not returned a crewed mission to the Moon in 47 years.

Though the future of space exploration is now looking brighter, we, as a species, will probably never again see the pinnacle of achievement we reached 50 years ago...

Because of the words of one great man.

The next time you look up at that great silver orb in the sky, think of the people who met the impossible challenge of getting us there.

Have a wonderful week!

Friday, July 12, 2019


Yes, TREKkers, Whoverians, STAR WARs fans and SF geeks of all stripes, it's that time again. Time for the biggest fan-run science fiction convention in the country--Shore Leave! I'm setting up shop as we speak in the Dealers' Room to sell and sign my newly covered Interstellar Rescue series novels, and I'll be sitting on two authors' panels this year, too. The topics couldn't be more my style: Writing Great Women Characters and Great Genres that Go Together--or Not.

This will be the 41st year of SF shenanigans in Towson, Maryland, with a long list of authors, scientists, and, of course, actors from a number of popular TV shows, both old and new. Nichelle Nichols (Classic TREK's Uhura, naturally) is making a stop on her farewell tour, for pictures and autographs. But I'm personally psyched to see Anson Mount (currently in Star Trek: Discovery as Captain Pike; formerly in Hell on Wheels as Cullen Bohannon), though it's difficult to slip away from the sales table to hear my favorite actor make a presentation.

Still, the best part of Shore Leave is watching the constant parade of cosplayers circling the Dealers' Room. Such creativity! And, of course, meeting readers and other fans just to talk SF/SFR!

Can't wait for the fun to start! (Follow the action with me on my Facebook author page!)

Cheers, Donna

Monday, July 8, 2019

Writing Rogue

Happy Monday!

Hope you all had a fantastic 4th of July weekend. We certainly did--with equal parts excitement and leisure time. Can't believe the Fourth has come and gone already.

Today I'm in the midst of wrapping up my latest story, another Inherited Stars Series tale that will be part of Pets in Space® 4 coming in October. Like the two stories I've written for previous Pets in Space volumes, this one is also a StarDog story, but with a major twist.

My first story, StarDog, took place six months (moons) before the anchor novel, Inherit the Stars, and my second story -- Courting Disaster -- took place about three years after the novel. This story, though, put a whole different spin on things.

I titled my blog today Writing Rogue, because SpyDog is to Inherit the Stars what Rogue One was to Star Wars: A New Hope. The story takes place simultaneously with the novel, but it's an all new, original story introducing new leading characters and a separate plot that dovetails (and sometimes collides) with the events in the novel.

Was it a challenge to write? Unbelievably so.

SpyDog is actually sparked by a situation that happens in the novel. Though it's only touched on briefly in Inherit the Stars, the chain of events it sets in motion becomes a matter of life and death in SpyDog. 

(You can get a sneak peek by clicking the Pets in Space® 4 Sampler link below.)

When I started writing, I kept a print copy of the novel handy to reference everything from the time line to language used to characters involved to the escalation of events, in an attempt to keep the story consistent with the original work. (I must have done a dozen checks after the initial read-throughs, but even so, one misspell of a minor character's name almost got by me.) I did some time comparisons to ensure my story "clicked into place" with the original novel, all while managing to avoid--or at least tap dance around--any major spoilers.

Though the MCs in this book are new characters, they have ties to established characters, and there are a few appearances by some of the major players in the novel. I also had to take care to craft the story so it wouldn't reveal suspenseful events and revelations in the novel, which resulted in having to rewrite (and rethink) one entire chapter. (I ended up liking the new version even better.)

A fun aspect in penning the tale was to show a little more of what my bio-engineered SpyDog--Maura--could do, and how she's different from the other StarDogs -- Luna and Katrina -- in the previous stories. Both of those stories alluded to StarDogs that were used as spies by the Network, but this is the first chance readers will have to see a SpyDog in action.

Am I happy with the end result? Oh, yes! In spite of realizing at about 20K mark that this was a much "bigger" story than I'd anticipated, I had 30K to work with this time around which turned out to be entirely doable.

That said, I do plan to expand and re-release the story as a novel after the exciting Pets in Space® 4 run is over and my rights revert.

For those familiar with my series, this story springs some fun surprises, including tying Farewell Andromeda a bit closer to the series. (FA is one of several stories that take place in different timelines, but within the same universe.)

Readers familiar with the novel may learn a few fun secrets in SpyDog, and those not familiar with the story may be intrigued to pick up Inherit the Stars to discover the epic adventure that unfolds off screen in SpyDog.

If you'd like a glimpse of the opening of SpyDog and the scene in Inherit the Stars that triggered it, you can read it in the FREE SAMPLER available here.

This sampler also includes original stories and artwork from the authors of Pets in Space® 4 and has been quite a hit with readers.

Have a wonderful week!

Friday, July 5, 2019


In this 50th anniversary week of the moon landing, it's only fitting that my new cover reveal should be of my space opera noir novel Fools Rush In, Interstellar Rescue Series Book 3

An author is not supposed to have favorites among her books, but I have to admit, I'm a little partial to this cover. My heroine, Rayna, is as kickass as she should be. And my hero, Sam, is as rugged and lovable as he is in the pages of the novel. Check it out.

And, yes, I'm running another Kindle Countdown deal on this one! Why not? Starting tonight at midnight PDT (July 6), you can buy Fools Rush In, Interstellar Rescue Series Book 3 for only $0.99 for 48 hours, counting down to the regular price of $2.99 at midnight PDT on Wednesday, July 10. Remember, this new edition includes the bonus short story "Saturday Night in Devils Holler," previously only available in the Baby, It's Cold in Space anthology.

Forgot the plot to Fools Rush In? Here's the blurb: 

She thought she had the toughest job in Rescue—

until the day she had to convert a pirate into a hero.

Interstellar Rescue “conductor” Rayna Carver is deep undercover on a slave ship bound for an isolated region of space when the ship is attacked by pirates. Her liberator is Captain Sam Murphy, a man known in the spacer bars to love only profit, adventure and women.

But Murphy hates a few things, too, chief among them slavers. Will it be enough to gain his help for Rayna’s mission—ferreting out two spies bent on sabotaging an arms factory to turn the tide in an alien civil war?

Get your copy of Fools Rush In, Interstellar Rescue Series Book 3 on Amazon NOW!


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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.