Saturday, January 31, 2009

Oh, Such a Wonderful Resource...

If I could put little musical notes around that title I would.  Remember the song from Oklahoma! Oh, What a Beautiful Morning?  Well, that's how I felt when I stumbled upon this site of links.

What a plethora of knowledge, advice, boot-strap picker-uppers and how to's from a wide assortment of writers.  It definitely falls in the MUST SEE category.  My hat's off to Gabrielle Luthy for putting together such a gold mine of inspiration.

Just a small sampling of the fare:

Need help with word alternates when the Thesaurus has let you down? 
There's 1000 Verbs to Write By by Deanna Carlyle

Scratching your head over a critiquer's complaint your prose is inflicted with Dangling Modifiers
Read Lee Masterson's article.

Battling the dragon called Passive Voice? 
Get ideas how to slay the beast from Cecil (Cec) Murphy's Keep Them Active.

There are dozens of article links organized into main subject areas: 

General Prose
Show Don't Tell
Active vs. Passive
Other Resources 

(Note: It's obvious this site took a number of years to build, and unfortunately, not all the links are valid because some sites have since closed or ceased to exist, but it's only a few among these scores of great links.) 

This is a wonderful garden of information for any writer.  I'm also adding it to the sidebar as a resource.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Do Your Ears Pop in Space?

Well…do they?

In my ongoing series of articles gleaned from the non-fiction book of the same name by shuttle astronaut R. Mike Mullane, I thought I should address the pressing question posed by the title. The answer? It depends.

Your ears pop when there’s a change in pressure, so generally the only time your ears would pop is if the mission includes a spacewalk or EVA (Extra Vehicular Activity). If there’s no EVA, the cabin pressure is kept at a constant 14.7 psi…so no pop. If there is an EVA, the cabin pressure is decreased a day before the exercise to 10.2 psi to reduce the possibility of the space-walker getting the bends—just like divers do if they ascend too quickly from the ocean depths—when exposed to the spacesuit’s lower psi of 4.3. The bends is caused when the nitrogen in the body comes out of solution due to pressure change.

But then, what about launch? People’s ears pop in an airliner on takeoff, so why wouldn’t they aboard a space shuttle that’s rocketing skyward? The answer again has to do with pressure. Airliners release air as they ascend. This is done so the pressure on the inside of the vessel does not continue to exert a lot of pressure as the plane climbs into thinner air, otherwise the fuselage would have to be much thicker, heavier, and more expensive to build. Because the air is released, the pressure changes inside the cabin, and this causes your ears to pop. Spacecraft are made to withstand the tremendous differences in pressure between the cabin and the vacuum of space, so air is not released as the craft climbs higher.

When passenger jets ascend, they reverse the process and let air back into the cabin. This is why your ears pop on the way down.

So how do you apply these facts to science fiction writing? My muse had a field day with this, because it seems a SFR pilot might become quite alarmed if their ears popped. To heck with sensors and indicators, if your ears pop and you’re in a space-tight craft, you have a definite problem! It would mean the cabin pressure had changed, possibly as the result of a hull breach or a bad airlock seal (although, granted, it would have to be a very tiny leak or they wouldn’t have time to worry about it.) Popping ears on a spacecraft is akin to a dead canary in a coal mine. Time for quick action and damage control.

So there you have it.

(Articles to be continued…)

Monday, January 19, 2009


One of my co-bloggers over on Toasted Scimitar, Ardyth DeBruyn, has just had her debut novel, CHOSEN SISTER released by Wild Child Publishing. Her novel is a YA Fantasy. Here's the discription:


When the Gold Wizard comes looking for the Child Warrior in Reina's village, it's no surprise he's only looking at the boys. However, when the wizard magically selects her younger brother as the warrior prophesied to defeat the Red Wizard, Reina has mixed feelings—jealousy and concern. Austyn is only six.

Allowed to accompany her brother, Reina soon finds they're in deeper trouble than she thought. The Gold Wizard's fake beard is ripped off by attacking harpies, revealing he's only seventeen, not to mention his magical demonstrations tend to go awry. Unfortunately, with the Red Wizard's harpies and snakewolves on their trail, finding a new (and better) wizard mentor is hardly an option. If anyone's going to find a way to track down the elusive Sword of Chivalry for Austyn and get him into the Red Wizard's castle to fulfill whatever the obscure prophecy insists must be done, it's got to be Reina.


Be sure to check it out. And look for a book party on Toasted Scimitar sometime in the near future.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

An Acceptance

No, not for a novel yet. But I'm still working on that. ;)

I wrote an article about the christening ceremony for the USS New Mexico (click here for previous post) and it was accepted for publication by a state newspaper.

This site "adopted" the USS New Mexico for a research project some time ago, because submarines have a lot in common with spacecraft.

Monday, January 12, 2009

We Lost the Moon

Just after the eve of the biggest and brightest full Moon of 2009 seemed like a fitting place to post this topic, one of a series inspired by the book DO YOUR EARS POP IN SPACE? by astronaut R. Michael Mullane.

There was a prophetic line from Apollo 13 when Jim Lovell (Tom Hanks) realized the mission was in jeopardy and they wouldn’t be landing on the Moon. It hit the crew hard to know they'd never know the high of walking on the lunar surface. But that phrase later rang true for all of mankind. Why didn’t we go back to the Moon after the last Apollo landing? Seems like a simple question. We’ve put men there, repeatedly, and brought them safely back again. Why not go back?

The sad truth is, we lost the capability to reach the Moon. The powerful Titan rockets required to propel a manned vessel into an orbit that can reach the Moon went out of production. The space shuttle was designed to be an orbiting craft and can’t reach the Moon. We lost the Moon.

Does it mean we’ll never go back again? If we’re going to establish a colony, we’ll have to regain abilities we’ve lost. With the impending retirement of the space shuttle and as the International Space Station nears completion, NASA is building the next generation of vehicles to take us back to the Moon--and possibly even Mars—with a goal of staying on a longer term basis.

As a step in this process, the new Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, or LRO, has now begun testing. Once testing is complete, it is expected to be shipped to Kennedy Space Center for an April 24 launch aboard an Atlas V rocket. The plans are to have the LRO in sustained low polar orbit about 30 miles above the lunar surface to provide crucial data for future missions. But a manned mission is still many years, maybe even decades, in the future.

Interested in future plans? You can read more at NASA: Destination Moon.

My Muse’s Final Word – The last man walked on the Moon less than forty years ago. Few people could even tell you the name of that man now. As a species, once we’ve achieved something we’ve strived for, we lose interest. Maybe that’s what fuels the cycles of rise and decline of civilization in our history. I wonder where we stand right now in this peaks and valleys trend? Maybe the 1970s was our moment on the mountain top, and we’ve already begun our slow slide down the opposite face. Oh, to gain such a treasure as the Moon, only to lose it again. Or...could we be headed for the next pinnacle, a higher peak, on the road to the stars? Carl Sagan said, "All civilizations become either spacefaring or extinct." If we hang around on this beautiful blue planet long enough, we're bound to run into some kind of catastrophe that will end our species. Isn't it time to reach for the Moon, and for the stars beyond, once again?

Saturday, January 10, 2009

The Biggest and Best Moon of 2009

The largest, brightest full moon of 2009 will rise tonight at sunset. Because of the Moon's imperfect orbit, it will be approximately 14% larger and 30% brighter than any other full moon this year. This is because it will be at perigee (or nearest to Earth) Saturday night, bringing it about 31,000 miles closer to Earth than at apogree. This effect will also raise tides higher than normal because of its proximity.

Named the Wolf Moon by Native Americans (because hungry wolves howled at the edge of their camps in winter), tonight's show may give us something to howl about, too.

Be sure to check out this amazing astronomical sight. The Moon should be visible right at sunset wherever you are located (unless, of course, clouds get in the way).

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Do Your Ears Pop in Space?

Interesting question? For the answer to this and many other topics involving space travel, I have a terrific resource to recommend.

DO YOUR EARS POP IN SPACE? (AND 500 OTHER SURPRISING QUESTIONS ABOUT SPACE TRAVEL) was written by former astronaut R. Michael Mullane in response to questions he’s been asked about life as an astronaut. Mullane, a veteran of three shuttle missions, published the book in 1997 and though some information was dated--for instance the Columbia disaster had not happened at that point--I didn't find this to be a problem. In fact, I learned some things about Columbia that I never knew. I found most of the content fresh and relevant. After all, the laws of physics, the principles behind rocket propulsion and space flight, and the nature of space don’t change.

Mullane’s straightforward answers regarding some complex issues and his wit throughout were thoroughly engaging. Speaking as a science fiction writer, I found this book a wealth of knowledge, highly entertaining, and a superb muse motivator. I would give it a five star recommendation for anyone interested in space flight or the space program in general.

The layout of the book was especially useful. It’s arranged in Q and A format, with questions grouped by subject area (the chapters):

Space Physics
Space Shuttle Pre-Mission and Launch Operations
Space Shuttle Orbit Operations
Life in Space
Space Physiology
Space Shuttle Reentry and Landing
Astronaut Facts
The Future

For the next few weeks, I'll do a series of articles focusing on a few of the topics in the book and explain how and why these ideas tickled my muse, or how I might incorporate these details into my future science fiction romance novels.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

USS New Mexico Christened

On December 13, 2008, the USS New Mexico (the latest Virginia class fast attack nuclear submarine) was christened at the Northrop Grumman shipyard in Virginia Beach.

New Mexico SSN-779 was adopted by Spacefreighters Lounge as a research subject earlier this year.

A slide show of the event can be seen here. The entire submarine was brought indoors for the December christening--a rare occurrence.

The next event for the sub will be the commissioning ceremony to be held in 2009 after which she will enter service.