Wednesday, November 27, 2013

A Love Affair with Space and Time

What kind of Whovian would I be if I don't mention the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who that took place on Saturday 23rd November? Probably the most iconic British Science Fiction show, now watched and even worshipped around the world, I grew up watching the series. I can remember my very first story - The Planet of the Spiders (which I've long since blamed for my arachnophobia) - where Jon Pertwee regenerated into the eccentric Tom Baker. My parents were scifi fans, so Doctor Who and the original Star Trek were regular programs to watch. Then later there was Blake's Seven, The Tomorrow People, and The Tripods. Space 1999, Thunderbirds and Captain Scarlet. More Star Trek spin offs, Red Dwarf, Torchwood, Babylon 5, Farscape, Stargate. We lost Doctor Who for 16 years, only for the next generation to explode back onto our screens to a new generation of fandom. And while Star Wars might have triggered the switch for me from writing fantasy to scifi, it was Doctor Who that shaped my debut novel.
Me, age 18, with the then 7th Doctor Sylvester McCoy, just before the show was cut.

One aspect of The Day of the Doctor that really struck a chord with me was the fact the story revolved around a regeneration of himself that he had deliberately chosen to forget. The regeneration (beautifully portrayed by John Hurt) was responsible for destroying the Doctor's homeworld Gallifrey, along with the whole of the Time Lord race - his own people - in order to utterly destroy the Daleks (something we know ultimately failed as the Doctor has met further incarnations of the Daleks since). But now regenerations ten and eleven (or so we thought) are faced with the regeneration they tried to forget, and forced to relive making the same terrible decision. This time they elect to do it together, because they can't see an alternative. But then they don't. Together with their other selves, they hide Gallifrey instead of destroying it. And the terrible act that has haunted the Doctor for three generations is averted.

Now, I have one issue with this. The Doctor had to make a horrible decision, and while he's always regretted it, that decision has shaped every decision he's made since. In my novels Keir and Gethyon, I also have a time traveller - Quin. When her son Gethyon, and later Keir question why they can't go back and change things, she tells them it's impossible. They travel through time by feel rather than science, and how can you go back to save someone you saw die? It's psychologically impossible. You know they're dead. She makes the point that if they could go back and change such things, they woudn't be the people they are. Here's a snippet of their conversation:

Gethyon: “But you said we can travel in time as well as space. Didn’t you ever try to go back and…?”
“We can’t go back,” Quin snapped, a sudden harshness in her expression that softened at his responding scowl. “And even if we could, if we could put every little mistake right, what would that do to us? We wouldn’t be the people we are now. Would we care so much if we hadn’t already lost things precious to us? Would we have pity for others if we hadn’t suffered ourselves? Everything that we are, everything that we try to do, believing it to be for the best—all of it is born from the life we’ve had, the decisions we’ve made, good or bad. There are so many things I want to put right, but knowing that I can’t means I try all the harder to make the right choices and be the best person I can.”

And that's my issue. For three generations since that forgotten Doctor, he has been shaped by that terrible decision. And now that he's changed what he did, won't that reshape everything he does? Perhaps it won't change the events already passed, the adventures we've seen, but it will inevitably change what he does in the future.We know that Matt Smith is shortly due to regenerate into Peter Capaldi, so the Doctor is going to change anyway, But I'm curious to see what impact the saving of Gallifrey will have on the new Doctor, and whether we'll now see a darker, perhaps more over-confident regeneration who no longer has the death of his own race on his conscience...

In the meantime, I raise a glass to the creators, writers, producers and actors responsible for 50 years of Doctor Who, and who helped to spark my own stories. Here's to another 50 years! *salutes*

Pippa's Journal

Although I haven't hit 50K with my NaNoWriMo story (again!), I've finished the story. It's all there, and waiting for a damn good polish. At 35K, it's certainly exceeded my original 10K expectation, and to date (being my 4th attempt), it's the longest I've managed at NaNoWriMo. So I'm very pleased and proud with that. Even more amazingly, I put five pages and the synopsis into a critique event by Breathless Press...and got a request for the full on completion! Woo hoo! Of course, that's no guarantee of a contract, but since I wasn't even sure this story would even see the light of day as a self published short, it's flattering to know it caught a publisher's eye. Here's my badge of honor!

Ping Pong

Donna and Laurie, I think too many of us take all the Moon missions for granted, and all the politics behind them. When the shuttles were decommissioned, I felt that humanity was somehow giving up the idea of space exploration, and after all we'd achieved, that seemed so tragic. I'm still hoping I might live long enough to see someone set foot on Mars. I wasn't born until eight years after the assassination, but I can imagine that it hit home in the same way news of 9/11 hit the schools and TV - something that makes the world stop.

Laurie, great post on promotion and it certainly sparked a lot of discussion. I think different things work for different people, and there's still no one magical thing to it. I agree we need something more. The question is still - what?

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

We'd like to thank our readers and followers 
for helping Spacefreighters Lounge 
reach another major blog milestone.

Thank you!

Monday, November 25, 2013

The Man and the Moon: Tribute to JFK

I wanted to continue on the theme of President John F. Kennedy's inspiration of our space program, which Donna started with her excellent blog on Friday, Look Up To See Kennedy's True Legacy.

I remember the day John F. Kennedy died. I remember the grim expression on my teacher's face as she explained to her young charges that the president of our country had been shot and killed earlier that day in Dallas. I remember our teacher and principle running a length of black ribbon around the edges of the American flag that hung on the wall in our classroom. I remember seeing a very solemn Walter Cronkite on the evening news, remove his glasses to announce the death of President John F. Kennedy. But mostly I remember the deep grief and sadness and fear in the eyes of adults, and not grasping the weight that this moment would play in my life, or in our Nation's history.

Photo credit: NASA
Before his assassination, President John F. Kennedy had set a goal to reach the Moon before the end of the decade. In just eight short years, and in spite of his death (and maybe even to some degree because of it), our country strived forward and did the impossible...we put footprints on the Moon!

In fact, it was more than just a set of human footprints. It was twelve unique sets. And it happened over the course of three-and-one-half years and seven missions.

For me, President John F. Kennedy's Eternal Flame is not the one that burns by his grave, but the fire of achievement he ignited in the heart of America.

Reaching the Moon was not an easy task, it was a monumental struggle and despite what appears to be a lightning fast timeline in hindsight--the way was fraught with setbacks and tragedies. This is a brief summary of the amazing strides we accomplished in those very few, very short years.

The Mercury Program: All the Right Stuff

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

His words were earthshaking. It was the equivalent of creating a toy boat to float in a nearby creek and then declare we could build a modern battleship...and do it in less than a decade!

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 breathe or swallow and perform basic tasks in orbit. No one was certain of the answer until he proved it could be done.

To boldy go, indeed!

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 disasters, with the rockets exploding shortly after takeoff or while on the launch pad. Despite the setbacks, the space program forged ahead.

On April 8, 1964 we launched the first Gemini mission, and for the first time, American astronauts didn't venture into space alone. 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 were ready to take center stage. After the fire disaster that killed the three astronauts in the Apollo 1 capsule on January 27, 1967, there were several unmanned Apollo launches before the first manned launch of Apollo 7, which orbited the Earth but did not reach lunar orbit, was launched on October 11, 1968, just a little over a year before the end of the decade goal to reach the Moon.

Apollo 8, 9 and 10 missions, beginning on December 21, 1968 and ending with the launch of Apollo 10--the so-called Moon Landing Dress Rehearsal--from May 18-26, 1969, included two mission to achieve lunar orbit, and even a LM 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 decade to achieve the goal set by the late President Kennedy...

Missions to the Moon: Footprints in Time

Photo credit NASA
The first Mission to the Moon was Apollo 11, the journey which gave us Neil Armstrong's historic words, "That's one small step for man..." Like the death of President Kennedy, it was a "Where were you when..." moment in history--a memory which those of us who were alive to experience it, will never forget.

Once again, Walter Cronkite removed his glasses, but this time with an expression not of shock or grief, but unmasked enthusiasm for the event he witnessed. We'd put a man on the Moon! And we'd done it in the timeframe that JFK has proposed, before the decade ended. It was July 1969.

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

Twelve men walked on the Moon, all inspired by one man's vision and foresight.

We have not returned to the Moon in almost 41 years. We don't even have the capability to return to the Moon now, and haven't had the ability for decades. We, as a nation, have made a monumental backslide from that summit of achievement, now to an almost non-existant manned space program.

Though there may be brighter days ahead for space exploration, I don't think we will ever again see the pinnacle of achievement we reached over 40 years ago...

Because of the words of one great man.

Friday, November 22, 2013


JFK challenges Congress to send a man to the moon.

Today is the 50th anniversary of the day the music died.  

No matter how you may have felt about John F. Kennedy as a leader during his short span as the president of this country, no matter how you might feel about him as a man in recent times as we dissect his personal life with the scalpels of modern “journalism”, if you were alive and old enough to be aware on November 22, 1963, your life was forever changed by his murder at Dealey Plaza in Dallas, Texas.

The nation was in shock for days, weeks, even months after that horrific event, waiting, perhaps, for the other shoe to drop.  I was only ten, but I distinctly remember worrying that the Russians would take the opportunity to kick us while we were down.  We were only a year past the Cuban Missile Crisis, after all, a time when the world came closer to nuclear war than we ever had.  Without Kennedy to steer us out of that danger, we might not have survived.  I wasn’t the only one thinking, “What’s coming next?”

It is a tribute to the foresight of the founders of the Constitutional government we so often malign nowadays and the not inconsequential leadership skills of Vice-President/President Lyndon Johnson that things did not fall apart after Kennedy’s death.  Many of Kennedy’s dreams were brought to fruition, largely in his honor, and thrive today. The Peace Corps, for example, which Kennedy established as a way for young people to answer his call for service to their country, boasts more Volunteers serving in more countries around the globe than ever before.  (Volunteers even serve in many former republics of the U.S.S.R.!)

Johnson expanded Kennedy’s reluctant support of civil rights into the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964 outlawing discrimination in jobs, education, housing and other areas of public life, and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, actively protecting the right to vote throughout the nation.  It can be argued, too, that Johnson’s eagerness to follow through on Kennedy’s vow to “pay any price, bear any burden” to defend democracy around the globe led to a doomed expansion of the war in Vietnam, a war there is evidence Kennedy planned to end.

The most unqualified successes of the Kennedy years, however, have to be the expansion and achievements of the U.S. space program.  When Kennedy took office, the U.S. was woefully behind in the “space race” with our avowed enemy, the U.S.S.R.  Four years after the Soviets successfully launched the first orbiting satellite, Sputnik, Russian Yuri Gagarin became the first human to orbit the Earth on April 12, 1961.  When Alan Shepherd became the first American in space a month later, he only managed to arc out of the stratosphere briefly and back in, rather than making a complete orbit.  We were losing on a very important front, and the young president, smarting from the Bay of Pigs fiasco, needed to light a fire of inspiration under his “troops”.

On a speech before a special Joint Session of Congress on May 25, 1961, Kennedy laid out his plan: “I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man to the moon and returning him safely to the earth.”

In what seems a miracle in this day of childish Congressional bickering, funding was appropriated for this ambitious goal and disbursed across the remainder of NASA’s Mercury program and through the Gemini and Apollo programs.  Facilities were established.  Factories were built.  Thousands of scientists worked feverishly with their sliderules (yes, sliderules!)  And despite the death of a president (and his brother, Robert, and Martin Luther King, Jr.), the descent of a nation into despair and riot over civil rights and opposition to the Vietnam War, and even the discrediting of Johnson, the space program persevered.  Until on July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong walked on the moon and, days later, returned safely home.

It had taken a little over eight years to accomplish Kennedy’s goal.

This one example can be held up as the reason why we mourn Kennedy’s loss.  Where could you find a leader today who would be able to inspire with a few words an endeavor so daunting, so potentially overreaching, yet so fundamental to the human spirit?  Yes, there were other needs here on Earth.  Kennedy did not ignore them.  In fact, his might well have been the last generation of rich Americans raised to believe “to whom much is given, much shall be required.”
Like so many of his generation, he gave the last full measure of his devotion to his country on this day, fifty years ago.  But those of us who long for the stars can still look up at the moon, imagine the flag proudly planted there, and acknowledge John F. Kennedy’s living legacy.

Cheers, Donna

Monday, November 18, 2013

When Ads Annoy, Not Inspire

My blog theme this week is about imaginative thinking and successful promotion...and how it might apply to book promotion, in particular.

Ads have become a constant, in-your-face part of our society. Open AOL, get pummeled with ads. BUY ME! SALE! HURRY, WHILE SUPPLY LASTS! You see an interesting news link, click it, and are taken to a video that starts with--you guessed it--an ad! You find a really cool YouTube video you want to view, but have to sit through a boring advertisement. Ads are on Twitter, Facebook, web sites, blogs, reader sites, book sales sites and in your personal email by the hundreds! It's a promotional warp core meltdown!

Recently I made a trip to Disneyland in California. I did the math and realized I hadn't visited the theme park in a couple of decades! While it was still a great experience, I was also a little bit dismayed by the in-your-face giant Disney advertisement the theme park has become.

The Haunted Mansion ride that I experienced just after it had first opened with its amazing holographic images and spooky themes, was now one massive advertisement for The Nightmare Before Christmas. Big thumbs down from me. The whole spooky, spine-tingling feeling of the original attraction was sadly missing. And instead of ending the ride by facing a dark mirror to find a ghost sitting between me and my ride partner, it was now a day-glo Christmas stocking. A Christmas stocking? Seriously? Not a leering, hulking evil spirit to haunt us? It was a major letdown.

More disappointment followed.

The once uber cool submarine ride that originally took passengers on an underwater adventure past marine marvels including a giant sea monster--is now one monster promo for Finding Nemo, with clips of the movie shown on underwater screens set among boulders and corral. It even has a flock of seagulls perched on a buoy bursting into their choruses of "Mine! Mine! Minemine!" every few minutes. Somewhat cute, but just didn't pack the punch of the original non-Nemo sea adventure. Instead I felt manipulated and even a little resentful.

The end result of these two "experiences" was no more effective than being pelted with ads in my email.

Now here's the tie-in to the world of publishing. Sadly, authors are contributing to this advertising blight. If I open any of the social media sites on any particular day, I am bombarded with bald-faced promotion. 

Wait! There has to be a better way to introduce and promote a fantastic product like SFR? Right?

I think just about anyone will agree that "BUY MY BOOK!" is not effective promotion. We need to convince the customer why they will enjoy reading the book. In other words, using an age-old basis of good storytelling: SHOW the entertainment value contained in the read, don't just TELL the readers to buy it.

Let's go back to Disneyland, because it didn't totally fail in its promotional ploys. In some ways it succeeded brilliantly.

I found my epitome of great promotion in Tomorrowland. Here's where I experienced a whole different type of advertising--promotion that really worked by pulling the customers into the world that was being promoted instead of putting them on a ride and bombarding them with blatant advertisement.

I had a blast on the Star Tours ride, a simulated trip through the Star Wars universe aboard an interactive space shuttle piloted by a protesting and "unqualified" C3PO, complete with jumps to hyperspace (where you could feel the Gs of acceleration as the starfield streaked by), confrontations with Darth Vader and the imperial fleet, and eye-popping space battles.

Star Tours opened the air lock and immersed me in an epic space adventure, letting me experience what it's really like to be part of this world. It built expectation and excitement about the upcoming Star Wars installments coming from Disney. In a word...stupendous! (I rode three times and discovered there are at least two completely different adventures to enjoy.)

Next I was charmed by a very different sort of promotion watching the younger participants of the Jedi Training Academy suit up in their brown paduwan robes and have an honest-to-goodness live action lightsabre battle with a towering Darth Vader under the tutelage of a Jedi master.

Each round included unique, authentic lines spoken by Vader right that perfectly suited the live action. Parents went wild snapping photos and shooting videos, and a whole new generation of future Star Wars fans was inducted into the world of "far, far away..."


But Tomorrowland didn't have the monopoly on fun.

The Indiana Jones adventure was an absolute rush--a wild ride aboard a bumpy, careening old War World II era truck, including the thrill of almost being flattened by a huge boulder and cameo appearances by the man himself, dangling from ropes and shouting warnings or words of advice. It included no movie clips, just let riders experience the thrill of being involved. Fun and effective!

Another fantastic multiple-return ride was the Cars adventure next door in Disney's California Adventure set in a massive, life-size canyon that gave an authentic feel of the remote area of the Southwest US where the animated movie is set.

Here you board a Cars style conveyance and get a crazy tour of Radiator Springs and its many colorful characters, and as a grand finale you get to race fellow riders in another Car over steep hills and around tight turns.

Again, no movie clips. You meet the Cars characters face-to-face, including a warning from the looming Sheriff to watch your speed and a grumbling confrontation between the Hippy van and the military Scout jeep. After this experience, anyone who hadn't yet viewed the movie Cars would be compelled to run out and rent or buy it!

My contrasting experiences got me brainstorming about book promotion and how we might do it better. True, we don't have a mega-blockbuster movie to tap into, but heck...we write SFR! We're imaginative, innovative and far-thinking authors. We know how to color outside the box--way outside the box. So maybe it's time to apply some of that imaginative "force" to our promotion efforts. How do we draw readers in--both into our books and the SFR genre in general?

Here are my questions to the SFR authors and readers community:
  • How might we better promote our wares--romantic adventures in time and space? 
  • What can we do to excite readers and build expectations about our books? 
  • In what ways can we make our promotion fun and exciting? 
  • How do we give readers a taste of what we have to offer in terms of entertainment? 
  • How can we do things better and more effectively than we're doing them now? 
  • Could we possibly team up with fellow SFR community members to find new, innovative, mind-blowing ways to enthuse the reading public about our work? 

Let's brainstorm. Please comment with your thoughts, ideas, experiences or efforts. For readers and fans, explain what works (or has worked) for you in terms of book promotion. And what doesn't.

Friday, November 15, 2013


Our sister blogger Heather Massey at The Galaxy Express touched on a subject dear to my heart with two recent posts on diversity in SFR.  Heather herself identifies a list of wildly divergent SFR titles both by and about people of color and/or LGBT orientation in "Revisiting People of Color in Science Fiction Romance."

And Suleika Snyder, author of Bollywood and the Beast, challenges the assumptions of both readers and writers in her post, “Mind the Queue: Privilege,Diversity and Romance”. 

Suleika’s main point is that diversity—as in characters of color or sexual orientation and romance between them—is really nothing new in science fiction romance.  Authors of color and LGBT authors have been creating wonderful SFR for some time with these characters.  They just haven’t gotten the attention they deserve.  And it has been difficult for them to break into the “mainstream”.  (As, I might add, it has been difficult, if not impossible for SFR itself to break into the mainstream.)

Now that mega-authors like Suzanne Brockmann and J.R. Ward have sold blockbusters featuring gay lovers (Ward’s Lover at Last, for example), you would think the microphone would be open for more voices to be heard.  Suleika argues the danger is even greater that authentic contributions from talented, lesser-known writers will be drowned out by the clamor of acclamation for “trailblazers” who are actually trodding a well-worn path.

Suleika also takes the romance industry to task for an overall lack of diversity, citing the reams of stories set in all-white, all hetero contemporary small towns, in pale and proper Regency England or even in WASPish witches’ covens or werewolf dens.  She’s got a point.  The books we read do not reflect the society around us, or historical reality or the scope of our imaginations.  They are shaped more by the perception of the market that determines the “rules” of the publishing world.

Which leads me to take one small exception to Suleika’s argument.  It is undoubtedly true that many authors have bravely blazed the trail that Brockmann and Ward are now following.  But it is also true that these two mega-authors took a risk in making gay or lesbian lovers the main characters of their novels.  They have built careers (and readerships and fortunes) on alpha male/nurturing female tropes and, even more, on male-bonding-in-groups-tropes (Brockmann with Navy SEALS heroes; Ward with the Black Dagger Brotherhood of vampires).  To depart so dramatically from what they are known for could have meant disaster for them.  What if their readers refused to follow them? What if new readers failed to find them? Do you think their agents and editors and publishers were behind them 100 percent?

Still, I do agree with Suleika and Heather that it would be nice if the big dogs acknowledged those who went before, or who share the world with them.  That seldom happens, however.  We can only hope that their readers will now be open to exploring that wider world a little more, both in regard to LGBT characters and, in Brockmann’s case, in regard to SFR.

Diversity is of special interest to me as a lifelong supporter of the cause of civil rights. I make a point of including characters of color and differing orientation in my books, as a reflection not only of our society as it exists today, but as a projection of how I envision it will look in the future.  (Rayna “Dozen” Carver, a secondary character of African-American descent in books one and two of my Interstellar Rescue series, is the heroine in book three of the series, Fools Rush In.)   And yet, as a heterosexual, white woman of Appalachian descent, I recognize the challenges of accurately depicting characters of another culture.  I rely on my friends and my reading and any source I can tap to get it right.  I try not to make assumptions, and if I don’t know, I ask.

We have the advantage in science fiction romance of writing without the strictures of history and immediate environment.  We have only the laws of science and our imaginations to rein us in.  Why would we imagine a future full of only one kind of people, one kind of culture, of limited ability, of limited talent or even of limited sexuality?  The future is open to us, as long as our minds are free.

Ping Pong
Best of luck with all the submissions, Pippa!  And keep on writing to conquer NaNoWriMo!

Cheers,  Donna

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Frozen Frogs, Cryoprotectants and Holy Days in Space

I've always struggled to think up holiday themed stories. Maybe because I have a hard time picturing Christmas or Easter in space, or that by the time we develop interstellar travel, that we may no longer celebrate such things. After all, Christmas as we know it is a relatively new invention compared to the pagan holidays that existed long before.

But last month I finally came up with a story based on Halloween, or rather the older holiday of All Hallows Eve. And as I debated whether to try and push the story through for publication for THIS Halloween or hold onto it for a whole nother year, several people suggested writing a collection. My poor muse stared at me with a 'look, it's taken me two years to manage one holiday story, don't get your hopes up' kind of glare. Yeah, we're back to that weird brick wall of just not feeling the whole Christmas in Spaaaaaaace thing, despite the fact that it's a huge festival even marked by non-Christian societies.(I'm not saying no one should write Christmas in Space. Just that I have some issue with doing one myself. I'm weird like that).

So I had a think. Several of the traditional Christian holidays we celebrate now are set on dates originally owned by pagan holidays. It has been suggested that Easter is from the Anglo-Saxon goddess of the dawn, Ä’ostre. In the UK we still mark the passing of Midsummer, celebrated by modern day pagans, and a popular festival in other European countries. Christmas is tied to the winter solstice. And the idea about the solstices being important stuck in my mind. They're a major astronomical event celebrated by several cultures, when the sun appears to stop in its path before reversing. Working on the principle that most planets we might first attempt to inhabit will be similar to our Earth, the chances are they will also have a summer and winter solstice (of course, with a Universal calendar, all holidays celebrated at this stage could easily still be observed, but it's that whole Christmas in space thing again). It wouldn't matter where in the universe you were, you could probably still observe a solstice holiday set to the individual rotation of the world you were on.

And then I came across this premade cover by the talented Gayle Ramage, and muse perked up. Although I think the man in the image is meant to be stone, the snowy background had me thinking ice planet to tie in with the winter theme, and I already had an idea for a holiday. Now I needed to figure out the rest of the story. (BTW, the title and name on the cover will be changed - Gayle just puts random examples on the premade covers to give buyers an idea of how it might look. You should check out her site--there are some fab scifi ones! I've grabbed three of them so far, and two are for stories I haven't even written yet!).

Which leads me to the frozen frogs. I know what you're thinking! You get the frozen part, but what the heck is the deal with the frogs?! Well, I was trying to think of a way a species could survive living exposed on a planet that is essentially in permanent winter. I remembered a documentary about a frog that could freeze and defrost without any permanent damage to itself. Let me introduce you to the wood frog (Lithobates sylvatica) the most widely distributed frog in Alaska

Now, taking the fact that Alaska is a strangely chilly place to find a little amphibian like a frog, you might be wondering how it could survive somewhere so cold, where the temperature can drop as low as -60 degrees F. *shivers* This amazing little frog survives the winter by hibernating, but it can actually tolerate its blood and tissues freezing, something that would kill any other animal. How does it do this? What magical properties does it have that allow it to not only freeze, but to defrost without any harmful side effects? Urea and liver glycogen. Both natural organic chemicals that we can find in all living things. But in the wood frog, these act as cryoprotectants, which limits the amount of ice that forms and helps prevent cell shrinkage. They can survive up to 65% of their body becoming frozen. Amazing, huh?

So from holiday themes to cryogenic frogs in one blog post. :P

 Pippa's Journal

This week I finally sent off a submission (wish me luck!), managed to stay on track with NaNoWriMo(still surprised), and I'm about to send out my second newsletter! Have you signed up yet? Go here. This month's has the latest giveaways and freebies, so if you miss it be sure to sign up for the next one. There'll be more fun stuff coming in December.


November is anti-bullying month, so I'm donating this month's royalties from my YA scifi novel Gethyon to the UK charity Childline which supports and offers advice to children being bullied and abused. I hope you'll help me support this cause. Go here to find out more. 

I'm also taking part in a huge giveaway for the next two weeks - a $100 Amazon gift card is up for grabs, along with a ton of books, swag, and other goodies. Go here for your chance to win. 

The very lovely Liana Brooks is at my blog today with an excerpt and blurb for Even Villains go to the Movies, Book Two of the Heroes and Villains series. Stop by here to find out why I love this series so much, with a mini review of the book. Plus Liana is giving away a movie bucket or $25 Amazon gift card. Yummy! 

And swing by the SFR Brigade blog here to find out how aspiring SFR author Rachel Leigh Smith came up with the naming system for her aliens. 

Finally, I'll be over at Romancing the Genres blog on Friday, talking about how I got around to writing a holiday story at last, and with a recommendation of another holiday themed threesome for you to enjoy! 

Ping Pong

Laurie - Congrats on your final in the Launching a Star contest! Awesome! Loved the turn of phrase segment too.

Donna - great review of Ender's Game. I do like stories that turn the idea of who the real villains are in a story upsidedown. Reminds me of Liana Brooks' Even Villains fall in Love, and also the film Enemy Mine. Also Neal Asher's Owner trilogy, where the main villain thinks she's the good guy, and the hero could go either way.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Passing the Spaaaaace

Mission: Success
Laurie's Journal

A final!

It's been a while since I've done an update to my Mission: Success Journal, but I'm happy to report my second Science Fiction Romance novel has finaled in the Launching A Star contest sponsored by Spacecoast RWA in Florida. (Fitting, yes?)

I haven't been on the contest circuit for almost a year and a half, so it was a great feeling to get the good news. *clicks heels*

And in other random space or writerly related news:

Passing the Spaaaaaace!

It's never been done before.

The tradition of carrying the Olympic torch is long and colored. It's passed through many countries, many famous hands, and been in many scenarios, but never before has the torch been spaaaaace!

On November 8th, a new crew to arrive at the International Space Station brought the red and silver olympic torch along, and just a few months before the 2014 Winter Olympic Games set for Sochi, Russia.

Mikhail Tyurin brought the torch aboard, and the nine occupants of the ISS floated weightless while they passed the torch from one to another, each having a little time to hold it and fly through the various station modules.

This is not the first time an olympic torch has been taken into space, with a previous torch carried by the space shuttle Atlantis in 1996 for the Atlanta summer games. But the torch being carried while in spacewalk is a first.

On Saturday, Ryazanskiy and and Kotov took the torch outside for the spacewalk and posed with Earth as a backdrop for the proud moment.

Now how are they going to top this in the future? Maybe an olympic torch passed on the Moon? Or on Mars? I'd sure love to see that!

The olympic torch was scheduled to return to Earth with a returning crew last night (Sunday).

8,800,000,000 Earths

That's the latest estimate of the number of planets in our own galaxy that might support life -- 8.8 billion potential earth-like worlds! According to a new study released in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, this is based on calculations that 20% of the 200 billion stars in this galaxy are similar to our own sun, and 22% of those are similar in size to Earth and are in the habitable zone with an atmosphere that's not too hot or too cold to support life.

That's more Earth-like planets than the total population of Earth.

It means you could write a story every day for the next hundred years set on a different Earth-like planet, and you'd only have covered 36,500 planets.

But that's not all. If you also consider red dwarf suns in our galaxy, with potential Earth-like planets, the number may be more in the range of 40 billion Earths.

Yup. That's a whole lot of real estate.

You can read more about the study here: NPR

(Wrong) Turns of Phrase

As writers, we learn that choosing just the right word combinations can convey thoughts, feelings and images more effectively. Here's a collection of headlines that fell a little short, in sometimes hilarious ways, of conveying the meaning intended. Enjoy!


In a Laundromat:

In a London department store:

In an office:

In an office:

Outside a secondhand shop:

Notice in Health Food shop window:

Spotted in a safari park:

Seen during a conference:

Notice in a farmer's field:

Message on a leaflet:

On a repair shop door:

Man Kills Self Before Shooting Wife and Daughter

Something Went Wrong in Jet Crash, Expert Says

Police Begin Campaign to Run Down Jaywalkers

Panda Mating Fails; Veterinarian Takes Over

Miners Refuse to Work after Death

Juvenile Court to Try Shooting Defendant

War Dims Hope for Peace

If Strike Isn't Settled Quickly, It May Last Awhile

Cold Wave Linked to Temperatures

Enfield Couple Slain; Police Suspect Homicide

Red Tape Holds Up New Bridges

Man Struck By Lightning: Faces Battery Charge

New Study of Obesity Looks for Larger Test Group

Astronaut Takes Blame for Gas in Spacecraft

Kids Make Nutritious Snacks

Local High School Dropouts Cut in Half

Hospitals are Sued by 7 Foot Doctors

And finally...

Typhoon Rips Through Cemetery; Hundreds Dead

Have a great week!