Friday, December 17, 2010

Year Is Ending. At least it's not the world... but maybe.

With that 'at least it's not the world' comment I guess I'm dealing with a little seasonal depression. The day after Thanksgiving I got sick and I'm still coughing; it looks like bronchitis set in. It's gray and snowy outdoors. I went out to shovel and spent a half-hour trying to scrape the sidewalks, but I'll need to do more later. Oh, winter, how I love it.  I'm having trouble keeping the fire in the fireplace/heater going, don't know why. The snow was too heavy, and I'm more out of shape than I realized. I've started some bread, and stew sounds awfully good for supper.
 
Well, the year is nearing its close, and Christmas is just a hop, skip and a jump away. Once I have my classes' grades posted, I have until January 10th to work on projects. I have them lined up on a list, and I'm slowly crossing them off. This computer swallows way too much of my time, but I have managed to get a few things done.

This weekend is my last Christmas push. My granddaughter is coming over and we will be making (hopefully) six dozen pasties, and just as hopefully, as many dozen Christmas cookies.

Here's my list for completion before 1/10:
Finish the book I've been working on. It stands at 70K words and needs about 2K more.
Paint three pieces of furniture. One is a checkerboard on top of a coffee table, another is a plaid top on a chest and the third is to paint a large china cabinet black.
Prepare new PowerPoint presentations for next term's classes and prepare a list of vague wording examples.

That's probably enough for the next three weeks. I'll be lucky to get them all completed. I owe Patty a mural that is on the list but postponed until spring. There are no New Year's Resolutions. I have my to-do list and that is good enough. Among items on the list is to pick two more of the five partially completed books to work on writing, prepare my classes, plan my garden must-do's, paint a mural downstairs, try more bread recipes, draw more, and do more calligraphy practice. Things are added and deleted from my list as needed, so everything is flexible and in flux at all times.

Special events of 2010 to celebrate are time spent with granddaughters, family, new and old friends, and the birth of a new grandson. 
Henry C.

A partial list of 2010's accomplishments:
  • Stone House Farm published with Champagne Books.
  • 9th book, Crewkin, successfully placed with MuseItUp Publishing.
  • Anthology nearing completion.
  • 2 terms of college classes completed.
  • Successful vegetable garden; canned and froze produce.
  • Flower gardens looked great.
  • House nearer to completion (10 years and counting).
  • 42 books read and reviewed.
  • Outlines for 50 books done.
  • Participated in four calligraphy envelope exchanges.
I'm satisfied.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Welcome Krista Ball

This month MuseItUp Publishing releases Harvest Moon by author Krista Ball.
Here is the blurb:

Dancing Cat angers her Ancestor, whose harsh punishment teaches her that true strength comes from the spirit within.

Cursed, abused, and desperate to know her future, Dancing Cat sneaks a glimpse inside her tribe's Sacred Bundle, a powerful source of spirit magic. Instead of the future, she sees her most powerful ancestor, Small Tree and incurs her wrath. Small Tree strips Dancing Cat of everything - her home, her identity, even her gender - and drops her in the middle of enemy lands.

Author Krista Ball
Injured, and in a strange, new body, she is befriended by Bearclaw who is on a spirit quest. He offers her assistance and asks for nothing in return; a kindness Dancing Cat had forgotten existed. She struggles to weave a path around the obstacles of friendship, identity, and longing in order to survive her eventual return home to face even further punishment.

And she does it while wearing someone else's skin. 


Hmmm... sounds like my kind of story. So, of course, I'm intrigued. Where did Krista get the idea? According to her: "There was a call out for gender-bender stories. I was working at a homeless agency at the time. The two sort'a mixed together. The story ended up too long to work for the anthology and found a home at MuseItUp." Krista has been writing for the sheer love of it since a teen, and I'm sure she is glad to find herself published. That won't stop her, though, as she has a self-published book, and has more work waiting for a publisher.

Here is an excerpt from Harvest Moon:


Cross-legged, Dancing Cat sat pounding the sun-dried Saskatoon berries between two hand-sized rocks.
The stone, her hands, and her buckskin dress all bore the tell-tale signs of berry duty. Streaks of red dye, impossible to clean, striped her clothing and tanned skin. She tried pushing her hair off her cheeks, only to have the sticky residue coating her fingers glue the dark strands in place.

The black flies swarmed and buzzed, ready to feast.

She worked in silence as part of the greater circle of twenty women, who chatted as they worked. Dancing Cat had no reason to join in. They only spoke to her to criticize or belittle, never for companionship. The band no longer even called her by name.

Thieves & Scoundrels
Wicca Dog
Her attention faded away from her work. She stared past the women to catch a glimpse of Eagle Eyes, her brother, mounting his horse. He was only six years older than her and already leading hunting parties, while she sat, docile and obedient, making powdered berries. His gaze caught hers, full of warning. She looked away with the heaviness of her situation pressing against her chest. Dancing Cat pounded her berries harder, trying to crush her own aching loneliness.
Here's a review from Ginger Simpson.

If you like what you've read, then do as I did and download a copy from MuseItUp Publishing, $2.50, 35 pages.

Be sure to visit Krista's blog and her web page! Also, check out these titles by Krista.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Halloween

Do I have to take her again?
Every child I knew in elementary school looked forward to Halloween, the first true holiday of the new school year. I didn't count Columbus Day. That day was just another lesson to learn. Yes, my classmates and I were expected at school, but no one I knew missed Halloween. A sense of anticipation filled the hallowed halls of education as students arrived in costume. No scary masks of course, but for one day everyone could become someone else, someone powerful, or scary, or wonderful. Oh! To be a princess for the class-to-class parade!

How much learning took place is anyone's guess when every student knew the room mother was bringing treats for the afternoon party. I remember a lot of cutting triangles out of construction paper to create eyes, nose, and mouth for lopsided pumpkins, but coloring mimeographed sheets of hissing black cats was my favorite activity. Boys made the scary noises their costumes demanded, and girls squealed in mock fright; add in cupcakes, cookies, corn candy, and oh my, what a fun time! In spite of everything, I waited impatiently--hurry up the clock, and ring your end of day bell!

A brisk autumn breeze usually made traipsing home in outlandish garb an exciting precursor to trick or treating. I had to keep a tight grip on the pumpkin and cat art created in class to give my mom. At home, I answered the summons to the door. "Trick or treat, give me something good to eat." The babies under five usually went trick or treating before dark, and a mom or dad waited on the sidewalk to walk them to the next house, otherwise, they might get lost. Being allowed to go out with my big brother after dark meant I was big enough to face the night's specters--a sure sign I was nearly grown-up. Jim, my big brother, was my guide, at turn stern and superior protector who filled me with warnings of what might happen if I didn't follow his advice to the letter, or prickly trickster telling woeful horrible tales of Halloween happenings to other unwary trick or treaters. Jim didn't do short stints of candy collecting. The more houses we hit, the better. We must have gone to at least a hundred!

Back home we emptied our pillowcases on the living room floor, comparing piles, eating the best offerings and giving mom or dad a few desired pieces. Jim's pile was inevitably larger. How did he do that? Where had he gone that I hadn't?

Later mom made us take baths to get the make-up off, but Jim's lipstick Indian war paint stained his skin the next day. Going to sleep seemed impossible, no matter how tired I was. I never dreamed of Christmas sugar plums, didn't even know what they were. But wow, Halloween candy? It kept me awake at night. Particularly because I knew tricky Jim might trade out his favorites from my candy collection for the yucky butterscotch taffy in his.

All in all, Jim added the spooky and special to my Halloween memories, which made both him and Halloween unforgettable. Thank God for irritating big brothers!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Welcome Sandra Cox


I am pleased to welcome fellow author Sandra Cox to my blog to tell you about her new novel ~ Rhobin


Sandra: I've been enamored of two things all my life: fantasy and heroes. Do the two go hand in hand? Yes and no. Fantasies always have heroes. They can be anything we make them. And in our stories, no matter the challenge, they always succeed. But heroes exist in real life as well. Some are icons. Others are quiet, unsung heroes: soldiers who put their life on the line everyday, parents who would sacrifice anything for a child, the neighbor that lends a helping hand, the kidney or bone-marrow donor, the grumpy old man who takes in a starving, stray kitten or the firefighter who brings a child out of a burning building. The list goes on and on. 
SUNDIAL is a fictional fantasy based on heroes. I have always found the history of Texas fascinating, the men who defended the Alamo larger than life. These men knowingly laid down their lives to buy time for their comrades. True heroes.

In SUNDIAL, Sarah Miles finds an ancient sundial. When she touches it, she is transported back to the battle of San Jacinto.
Excerpt:
Sarah looked around disoriented, her breath coming in ragged gasps. The last thing she remembered was finding the sundial in a clearing, surrounded by thick overgrown bushes. The day had been crisp and clear. Now, a blue haze of gunpowder hung in the air, filling her nose and mouth, making her eyes water.
A sharp burst of gunfire sounded nearby. Cries of, "Remember the Alamo. Remember Goliad," echoed through the air.
"Oh, my God." Still clutching Monet, she stumbled to her feet. It just wasn't possible. But possible or not, the vortex had plucked her up and sat her down in Texas a century earlier.  

Contest:
For a chance to win an autographed copy of SUNDIAL, a 'seeing' pendant and a $10  Starbucks gift card just go to MY BLOG and leave a comment that mentions Rhobin and Sundial. The contest runs from October 15 - November 14 at 5:00 p.m.
Hostess's of the Sundial Blog Tour are invited to enter.

Thank you, Sandra, for visiting my blog. I'm sure readers will want to the very generous prize package and a fascinating concept for a story.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Clare Dargin, Scifi Author

Clare Dargin is an author of science fiction and science fiction romance books. Her newest work Speculative Sky is available from Red Rose Publishing.

What inspired you to write this book?
Well, ever since I was a child I've always wanted to be a writer.  It was my dream to be published and to write stories that everyone could enjoy.  Speculative Sky was created because I've always had a fascination with stories about Extra-Terrestrial Life and S.E.T.I., and I wanted to integrate such a story with a female character as a strong and intelligent lead.  

Do you have a specific writing style? 
Yes I do, but I am not sure what to call it. When people read my work I want them to feel as if they are right there in the midst of it all.  I want them to be able to hear, taste, smell and see the action as if it is happening all around them. I also tend to write tight stories with quick pacing. It's what I like to read, and consequently, how I write. 

What is the name of your latest book?  And how did you come up with the title?
I've always been attracted and fascinated by the abstract and the symbolic.  I wanted the title to symbolize what April Mullen, the main character, has to deal with as an Astronomer, and all that came with her assignment. 

What is Speculative Sky about?
It is about a woman who takes a chance and leaves for an assignment on a science colony far away from Earth. As an astronomer, it is her job to monitor the stars at night and to record her findings, nothing more than that.  But when she arrives, she notices that her new home is a bit odd, and though there is evidence of life out there, they don't want her to either acknowledge or do anything about it. She of course finds this troubling.

What books have most influenced your life most?
In fiction it would have to be the old Star Wars books that came out in the eighties after Return of the Jedi. The Star Wars Expanded Universe books taught me about atmosphere, and development then any book I know!  I read them over and over again, and learned about non-human creature development, planetary science fiction and description of space travel, not to mention how to write a cool leading man! I still read them. 

If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
Douglas Preston and/or Lincoln Child.  They write incredibly compelling books that I generally can't put down.

What book are you reading now? 
I am almost finished with "Book of the Dead," by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child.  I'll be going through their backlist very soon in order to get caught up.

Are there any new authors that have caught your interest?
Last night I was thinking about the Friday House about D. K. Gaston and how it's a compelling story about assassins who have no memory of their being programmed. I think it's cool.  And several books on the military scifi romance front that I have recently heard about. I write in a tiny subgenre, so it's nice to see what other authors are doing in it. That way I don't get lonely! 

What are your current projects?
Presently I am finishing up the final editing for "Ice and Peace," the sequel to Cold Warriors, ss well as having another expanded universe book in the works.  Not to mention, two futuristic romances that are completely different from my military fiction.

Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
The Motown Creative Writers Group--they helped get on the road to being published.  And not to mention the many groups in the Romance community.  They really pointed me in the right direction.  I'm grateful for that.

If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
Yeah; that's why I have to hurry up and get it out of my hands 'cause I keep changing it!

Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
As a child, my father used to encourage me.  I use to write for my family and give the stories to them. They would say, "Maybe one day you could get this published!"  I was like five.... and then when I was in middle school I found out that S. E. Hinton had been published at sixteen-- I became truly determined then.

Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Yeah, getting through the first draft!

Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
Just get the first draft down on paper. Don't be afraid to make stupid mistakes and have dumb lines on paper, 'cause it's the first draft and you are allowing the characters to come alive.  Later on, you can fix and micro manage, but don't try to do it the first time through cause it will stifle your creativity.

Excerpt from Speculative Sky, available from Red Rose Publishing

"I'm sure that's the case but how can I not be excited over this? It's the find of a lifetime," she said reveling in the thought of making contact with extra-terrestrial life.

"You don't have to try to impress us. Just do your work and you'll be fine."

"What does that mean?"

"It means you don't worry about it. There is plenty of research to be done. You could spend your entire lifetime studying the Jugis Star Cluster alone."

"Haven't you ever looked up in the sky and wondered if there was anyone else out there?"

"Of course I have. And if anyone back home asks, tell them it's just us," he said finishing off his drink.

* * *
Thanks, Clare! It has been a pleasure having you visit.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Introducing Mark Konkel, new scifi author

Continuing on with my curiosity on why authors chose their genres, I'm including some information I received from a new author. Wisconsin author Mark Konkel has been writing and teaching for ten years. A full-time teacher and certified public accountant, Mark earned his accounting degree from Lakeland College and his Master of Fine Arts from Vermont College.

His reason for choosing scifi? His primary hope is that readers find his stories meaningful and enjoyable.  He wrote Disaster Park partly in the hopes that scientists and engineers would hurry up and develop holographic technology.

Mark comments about his book:


My sci-fi novel, Disaster Park, is scheduled for release in January 2011 from Blue leaf Publishing.

Imagine if you could have been on the 92nd floor of the North Tower?  Or you had been a passenger on the Titanic? If there was no danger, would choose to experience “Living History,” the new amusement park ride under development at Delaney Corporation?

Arnie Hetzel, a forensic computer programmer, does not even want to consider the question, as he’s struggling with his own personal disaster: the death of his wife and two daughters in a house fire.   But when astronauts start appearing in events from 1903 and tests of the “Battle of Gettysburg” fail miserably, Jase Delaney, founder, and genius behind Delaney Corporation convinces Arnie that his efforts on the project could be therapeutic.

“People want to be a part of something important, even if it’s just in a hologram,” founder Jase Delaney explains. “They want to be able to say that they have ‘been there…’”  Plus, there are only five months until “Living History” opens to the public and Jase can’t have malfunctioning programs.

So Arnie delves deeper into this living museum, this 360-degree holographic environment where riders experience military battles, infamous disasters, and grisly murders, but as he does, will he be saved from his own tragedy? Or will he find it disrespectful to recreate a mass murder in a hologram, then charge admission?

Mark's book sounds exciting, so be sure to look for Disaster Park in January.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Finished a manuscript

Beginning this summer I had plans to finish three manuscripts that have been in various stages of completion. Stories stalled for one reason or another. Between social, family and organization commitments, my gardens and putting up the produce from the vegetable garden, I only managed to finish one manuscript.

Bummer! I had so much planned for this summer when I had 'nothing' to do between spring and fall semesters -- paint a mural, finish a quilt, get my TBR pile whittled down. Classes start next week, so I'll be busy with plans, reading papers and writing lectures. I shouldn't complain. I have a job, and getting even one manuscript done was an accomplishment.

This latest manuscript is different. Legend's Cipher is an anthology of ten stories, set in the Aegis world and characters of Magic Aegis, Acceptance, and Change, all based on the numerology established in the series. I've sent it off to my critique group. I'm not sure I can write a good short story, so I'm somewhat anxious about their comments. I've also had the thought of making this a free book--one that gives readers a feel for my other stories. Decisions, decision.

My next project to work on is another Michigan romance. This one is slow going as I"m not quite sure where to take it. Some writers are pantsers, writing by the seat of their pants as everything comes to mind. I'm a plotter. Things change as I write, and that's all right, but I'm most comfortable when I know where I want to go. This manuscript hasn't a clean-cut plot, which is what is halting me. I sometimes wish I were a pantser; maybe I should give it a try.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Why Write Science Fiction?

Most readers have a strong reaction to science fiction--love it or leave it. Wikipedia has information on the science fiction genre far above and beyond what I could say here. I happen to love science fiction, so I was very interested in what all the contributing authors had to say. I hope you are, too. I've kept my comments short because there are so many authors here.

Julia Barrett
Amazon Page
Julia says:
Science fiction and fantasy are mother's milk to me.  I grew up reading comic books--yes--comic books.  I'm a big fan of Green Lantern, Aquaman, and The Legion of Superheroes--the original Legion with Sun Boy and Bouncing Boy and Shrinking Violet.  Yeah, I admit, I'm a big DC-er as opposed to a Marvel-er.  Of course, I live with a Fantastic Four and Spiderman fanatic, so I'm familiar with both.

Another love of mine is mythology.  Greek, Roman, Norse, Celtic, Native American, the Bhagavad Gita--you name it, I'll read it.  The ancient stories thrill me.  They explain, they teach, they enable the human mind to wrap itself around the numinous--the mystical, spiritual, supernatural, magical, holy.  Myths not only provide us with explanations for things that cannot be easily explained, but they also give us hope for the future.

Science fiction does exactly the same--provides us a glimpse into what might be.  No matter how dark the future may seem, for me, science fiction gives me hope.  It seems there is always a crack in the closed door and a light shines through.  In science fiction stories, characters rise above their circumstances to meet the unexpected challenges they face.  When I think of the quintessential science fiction novel, I think of Ringworld, by Larry Niven.

Science fiction romance is a new genre altogether.  Many works of science fiction involve a romantic relationship, but the relationship is not primary, the science is.  Science fiction romance tries to combine both the science and the romance, and in the case of my new series, Daughters of Persephone, futuristic politics.  Believe me, it's a challenge!
Nancy says:
I love combining science fiction with romance in my stories. Being an avid sci-fi TV/movie fan and genre reader, I'm familiar with genre conventions and expectations. I like to create strong female leads wherein I can imagine myself soaring toward new adventures among the stars.

When I write SFR, my imagination can go wild. For settings, I've created volcanic planets, futuristic worlds with crystal cities, space stations, planets shrouded in mystery, and more. My characters are mostly humanoid with emotions and issues like current times, which is another appeal of this genre. In Starlight Child, I deal with prejudice. In Silver Serenade, my characters address the issue of revenge versus justice. Keeper of the Rings addresses spirituality and belief systems. And at the heart of these stories is the romantic relationship developing between two special people. These characters are larger than life in a setting with no bounds to the imagination and yet with issues grounded in reality. And so I write these tales, partly to share my fantasies on paper, and hopefully, to lure you into my world.

Christine d'Abo
Ellora's Cave
Christine says:

I have been in love with science fiction since I was seven years old and saw Star Wars for the first time. There was something so amazing to me as I sat there are watched all of the crazy aliens running around, acting more human than the humans. Over the years I watched every show I could find--Star Trek, Doctor Who, Space 1999. I couldn't get enough.

As I got a bit older and discovered books, I knew this was something I wanted to do when I got older. I was a closet sci-fi writer for years. I would spend hours figuring out worlds but never was able to write anything close to a novel. I was intimidated by the caliber of the books out there. I wasn't a hard sci-fi fan, enjoying more the space opera variety.

Years later, I started reading futuristic romance novels and fell in love! This was what I'd been looking for as a reader for years. When I sat down to finally take a serious stab at my writing, I wanted so desperately to write a futuristic, but still felt a bit of intimidation. After a few false starts, I took a deep breath and dove in to write my first futuristic romance.

I love the action-adventure aspects of sci-fi. I love how anything is possible with your characters. You can put them into any situation you can imagine, without the limits placed on writers of historical or contemporary stories. I can make the rules, bend existing theories out there, or completely ignore them. Sci-fi is about exploring the question of "what if" and seeing where you can take that. I love the freedom.

Joanne Elder
MuseItUp Publishing
Joanne says:

The lure of Science Fiction: where does it get its momentum?  For decades, Science Fiction movies have been some of the biggest box office hits.  We live in a technologically advancing world; a world where science will continue to drive us into the unknown. Sadly, none of us will live to see the end of this movie.  Centuries and millennia will pass and so will we. All we have is our imagination to take us to where we can never go.

I have a passion for writing Science Fiction because it takes me to that future world.  Whether good or bad, it takes me there.  As an engineer by profession, I've gained a tremendous appreciation for all facets of science.  Everything is science: the universe, our world and every living thing in it.  It is the only thing that is truly real and stands above politics, the economy, culture, and even religion.  Without imagination, scientific development would be at a standstill.  In the heart of every science fiction writer is both a fascination with science and a great imagination.  I'm sure Gene Roddenberry would have agreed.

Ciara Gold
Champagne Books
Blog
Ciara says:

I initially did not start out wanting to write sci-fi. In fact, it was not my choice of genre to read at that time. (I've since changed my tune a bit.) My first book was born out of a challenge. I was in a critique group of serious minded writers whose main goal was getting published. We seemed to all be on about the same skill level and we all tended to make milestones at about the same pace. One of our members found a contest that she thought we should all try and enter. On the Far Side Contest was offered by the Fantasy, Futuristic, and Paranormal Chapter of RWA and only required ten pages. I have no idea where those ten pages came from, but my muse was with me. I entered and won first place. In fact, I entered that same chapter in two other contests and won first in one of them and third in another. I knew then I had something and with my critique group begging for more, I knew I had to finish that story.

I think world-building came naturally for me because I teach art and I'm a very visual person. With that first book, I made a lot of 'cliché' mistakes, but I think I did so in a fresh way. The end result was Celestial Dragon. Sales for this book surprised both me and my publisher. And the book became the best selling book for Champagne Books for two years in a row. This influenced me to write its sequel, and in 2008, A Noble Sacrifice won the Eppie for best in sci-fi futuristic romance. In April 2011, the third in the series will release. Dragon Hunter is an epic story that will be the catalyst for me to connect most of the books I have out so far. Since I write historical western, time-travel and fantasy as well, this will truly by an interesting endeavor.

As for writing hard science fiction, I have yet to decide, but I do have a few stories brewing, and I've had several suggest that I should. I enjoy the possibilities the genre generates, and I love those visions of our future from past sci-fi authors who have actually come to pass. I would love to be creative enough to visualize an item not yet in existence that scientists will eventually create. Now wouldn't that be a hoot?
Go to my website for the first chapters of all my books. (Be sure to check out her art, too!--Rhobin)


James Hartley
MuseItUp Publishing
Blog
You ask why I write Science Fiction? I have been immersed in sci-fi all my life. Once I more or less outgrew the Oz books, there was little Fantasy available. For my birthdays and Christmas, I would get books as presents ... Heinlein, Asimov, E. E. "Doc" Smith, and others. My father was a Sci-fi fan, too, and every month when the new issue of Astounding (now Analog) came out, we had a bit of a squabble about who got to read it first.

Halloween is coming up, and I can tell you without any hesitation what my favorite costume was ... Tom Corbett, Space Cadet.

Remember bubble gum cards? Most kids went for baseball or football players, but not me. I had a huge collection of Outer Space bubble gum cards ... spaceships, colonies on unlikely planets, all that sort of thing. Little six-inch figures (this was before the era of today's action figures) of spacemen with nice removable helmets, and any plastic spaceships that happened to show up on Woolworth's toy counter. With a background like this, what would you expect?

Of course, when I finally got seriously into writing, Fantasy had made a comeback, and I split my efforts between sci-fi and Fantasy. I keep telling myself Fantasy is easier, you don't have to get all the science details correct. And then I find myself writing "Magic is Faster Than Light" about a spaceship full of witches (due out next May from Muse), and I have to spend just as much time hunting for a class G star at the right distance (turned out to be 19 light-years) as if it were straight sci-fi instead of "SF-flavored fantasy." Nope, I just can't get away from sci-fi.

Kevin Hopson
MuseItUp Publishing
Blog
Kevin says:

I have always loved science fiction regardless of whether I am watching it, reading it or writing it. Though it is difficult to attribute my passion for this genre to one thing in particular, I believe it stems from my childhood. I was never a science wiz, especially when it came to subjects like Chemistry or Physics. However, I was--and continue to be--amazed at the possibilities of science and the many unknowns relating to the universe. When writing fiction, I cannot think of any better avenue to pursue. The author can tie the story to real science, making it believable, yet still have the freedom to roam an imaginary world or create a new type of technology. In my opinion, science fiction is the best of both worlds.
Book releases: World of Ash, November 2010; Earthly Forces, April 2011; Early Release for Bad Behavior, June 2011; The Vanishing, September 2011


Pauline Baird Jones 
L & L Dreamspell
Blog
Pauline says:
I didn't set out to write a science fiction anything. In my eyes, I was writing action-adventure romance. I've loved action-adventure type books since I was young and stumbled across Alastair Maclean, but while the action was great, the romance was a bit lacking. I'd been pushing the a/a bounds with each book I wrote (romantic suspense at the time) and then I got the idea for The Key. It was an action-adventure novel set in space because I didn't think I was smart enough to write or read SFR. Imagine my surprise when reviewers called it science fiction, science fiction romance and space opera. I even acquired a reader/fan who worked at NASA, a real physicist. Almost blew my mind.

My NASA friend helped me have the confidence to keep writing my a/a/SFR stories when she pointed out (with some force) that I'm writing fiction. I'm not writing for hard science fiction fans (though I have a few of those who have liked The Key, so we shouldn't underestimate any reader). My target reader is those who love over-the-top, high action, high energy adventure mixed into their romance, for those who love the possibilities inherent in science fiction. And let's face it, "high" doesn't get much higher than outer space. And let me add, science fiction isn't just for geeks or geniuses. It's inventive, imaginative and accessible. I'm living proof of that.

A.J. Maguire
Wings ePress
Blog
A.J. says:

To be honest, the book that is about to be published under my name is a fantasy romance. But I recently completed my very first science fiction so I thought I'd give a quick answer here. My original intention for Deviation was to make another fantasy novel, but someone challenged me to try something new so I decided to trade in my sword-swishing-thrones-and-prophesies style for a spaceship-time-travel-Martian-cyberpunk setting. Which was mind-boggling, and frightening and I sat at my computer with utter trepidation that first day of what I fondly call the Deviation project. There is just so much information. So much science. So many things that have been explored or, conversely, have not been explored, that the entire endeavor of writing a science fiction seemed overwhelming.

And then--after five days of research and listening to wonderful pod-casts like Astronomy Cast and How Stuff Works and Stuff from the Science Lab--I realized... there is so much science, so many possibilities, so many things that have barely been explored or have yet to even be touched that the opportunities are literally boundless. Deviation may be in my completed file, undergoing a third draft, but I can enthusiastically express that I love writing science fiction. It's an excellent excuse to research obscure information and there's just something fascinating about trying to apply what scientists today are dreaming up into fiction writing.

K M Tolan
Champagne Books

K.M. Says

I write Science Fiction, or to further qualify it -- 'space opera.' A space opera simply means that I am more interested in character development rather than explaining each bolt and whatnot that goes into a space ship's design. It doesn't mean I ignore the hardware as much as I consider such things as secondary to the impact of that hardware on people's lives. Fine and dandy, but why science fiction? What makes this different from say, regular fiction or Fantasy? Well, there are both practical and heart-felt reasons for my being with this genre.

The practical side you ask? Fewer folks are writing SF these days as compared to Fantasy or the other main genres. I can stick out just a little bit more as an author with an independent press. There is a commercial side to writing, and I cannot ignore the market. Sure, more people may be reading fantasy or romance, but that only means more authors flocking to those genres. I prefer a smaller pool for now.

Now on to the fun stuff--the things that rest in my heart. The first thing would be the boundless imagination one can exercise with science fiction. Did I say boundless? Actually, fantasy holds that department, but I do want some structure to my writing. Some basis of believability people can relate to a bit more than a wand or unicorn. Spaceships are real, as are other worlds. A good start as any, I say. Three moons rising over a steaming methane lake.  Plants that sing to each other as a means of pollination. A young alien girl staring at her first human through wide multifaceted eyes. Anyone of these scenes screams imagination to me.

I love the idea of first contact, incidentally.  My novels are all about how both humans and aliens blunder through their meetings, and the resulting effect as these two cultures meet. We're a very predatory species, you know. I would think that most alien cultures we meet would fall into the same category--making any contact fraught with the kind of drama I can write novels about.
I can write from an alien perspective and take a hard look at how we treat other societies today.

With SF come the possibility for exciting relationships between characters--even romantic entanglements. Who can resist that? I can also come up with cultural values and customs far removed and yet similar to our own, and play out the characters against these exotic backdrops. No, I don't shirk away from romance--in my opinion, it is telling experience in any person's life regardless of their species. Surely the attitudes and nuances of an alien civilization would, in part, be a direct result of the dance between males and females. Science fiction allows me to add so much color and possibilities to this rhythm of life.

Finally, there is my background to consider. I have a military background in the USAF where I was surrounded by all manner of aerial war machines and got to crawl around their innards. The lethal harmony of men and machines never fails to captivate my interest, and with science fiction, I can step aboard the 'what if' train and see where our technology is leading us based on what I've experienced myself.

http://www.tktoppin.blogspot.com/
Champagne Books
T.K. says:

First off, I love anything sci-fi, and if it involves a bit of adventure, even better. While my book The Lancaster Rule is my first in the trilogy and my first book, I chose this genre because it allows me to incorporate everything I love to read in a book: action, adventure, romance and great characters that help move the book along.

I always knew I'd want to write sci-fi, there is just so much you can do with a story. Mix in a few realistic aspects, throw in a whole bunch of made-up stuff, and there you go. For the book I wrote, I did just that...using the characters as the main focus. Essentially, basic human behavior remains relatively the same. We'll always hate, be jealous, love and be humans (I'm hoping that it would be so) and there's just so much you can write about right there. Throw in a few amazing scientific advancements, a spaceship, some cool weapons, and there you go.

Another aspect that motivated me, was that I wanted people to fall into another world, like how I fell into so many different worlds from all the books I'd read. I've read some books in the genre, but they were filled with so much technical stuff and too much world-building that it seemed to lose track of the story (I fell asleep) and lost complete interest. I didn't want that, but I didn't want my future/alternative world to be uninteresting either. It was very hard to keep it simple, yet interesting. The sequel was much easy to write since I'd already laid the groundwork down.

I have a couple more stories to tell, and they will definitely be set in the sci-fi genre--simply for the fact that I can do so much more with them. For instance, one that has been brewing for the last few months involves a cruise. But shift the cruise onto a spaceship, well now...


Larriane Wills
MuseItUp Publishing
Blog
Larriane says:

Why I like science fiction would be more the question. I love it. When SyFy plays the Star Gates, when my husband asked, what's on tonight, I'd just give him the look and tell him, it's Friday, it's Science Fiction Night. He groans, and I'd remind him of all the football games I sit through. He suffers. ;-)

Long ago and starting with the first ones, I was a Trekkie, I admit it. I never missed an episode if I could help it, even if it meant forfeiting a night out. I read every book of Robert Heinlein's I could find. I didn't care much for the giant bugs, but time travel fascinated me. My favorite of all of his was Door into Summer. I had a cat like that, looking for the door that leads to summer in the middle of winter, but I never ended up in the future arguing with myself. I do enough of that in my head. I think the biggest thing about science fiction that attracts me is it's out of the box.

The only thing that restricts what you can do with sci-fi is the limits of your own imagination and to make those probabilities believable. I know you can find that in other genres as well, but there is just something special about the possibilities of the future and advanced technology.

Even 10 years ago, the idea of a phone small enough to fit into your shirt pocket was science fiction. A computer in your phone that connected you to literally millions-through the air? Home computers you could hold in your lap? So why not space ships and wormholes, and lightsabers, and best of all, aliens? Do any of you know that the cell phone was a direct result of the communicator used in Star Trek as well as other advances? Honest. I watched a documentary on how the series inspired inventions. And look at all the things Jules Vern wrote about before we even had electricity that are commonplace now. Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea and his submarine for example. To quote, "Whatever the mind of man can conceive and believe, it can achieve."

W. Clement Stone. He was a businessman and author, not a scientist, but the same thing applies. Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "Men love to wonder, and that is the seed of science," and "Science does not know its debt to imagination." What does a scientist think? "The process of scientific discovery is, in effect, a continual flight from wonder," Albert Einstein. Did Einstein read something and then wonder? I have no idea, but such wondrous possibilities are out there, and I like wondering, imagining, and writing about it.

When it comes right down to it, the story is the people (or things) and what they might be able to do. In Looking Glass Portal (Swimming Kangaroo Books) I have a little bit of it all filling in the background for the story. I can't think of a situation in the 'here and now' that I could have fit that story into. In The Eternal Search (XOXO Publishing) the story is based on time travel and the possibility of immortality. Again, in the here and now, that story wouldn't be possible, but in the future? That's what makes the difference. Do like minds reached out no matter this distance? Are legends on one world and reality in another? Those are questions I asked in Looking Glass Portal. Is it possible that is where we get some of our ideas as well as technology? Think about it. I have.

This genre is subdividing into new genres and expanding into different territories such as mystery, historical, and yes, even Western. It is also one of the few genre that has affected our lives. As Larrian points out, our cell phones have the look of the Star Trek communicators and the inventor of the first mobile phone jokes about the inspiration. As you may know, inspiration comes before invention, and sci-fi is certainly filled with imagination and inspiration.

A BIG Thank You to all the authors who took the time to contribute!

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Investment of the Heart


I won my choice of one of Linda LaRoque's novels. I must admit I chose Investment of the Heart because of the beautiful woman who is part of the golden warmth the cover exudes. Linda's other covers are just as beguiling.

Investment of the Heart, from Champagne Books, is set on a ranch in Texas and is about family, relationships, and choices as much as romance.

Hallie Barron first meets Simon Cole in a restaurant while waiting to meet the uncle of her daughter's fiance. Simon is the uncle. He has leaped to the judgment that Hallie's daughter, Elise, like her mother, is just a city girl who can't and won't cope with life as a rancher's wife. This marriage is as doomed as the disastrous one his brother made. When his brother died, Simon stepped in to help raise Justin and his much younger sister, Whitney.  Simon won't let a bad marriage happen to Justin, whose ranch is still in financial stress due to his mother's greed. He tells Hallie, "I might as well get right to the point. This is nothing personal, but I don’t want my nephew to marry your daughter.”  Oh dear! What mother is going to let a man with outright wrong opinions ruin her daughter's happiness? The lines are drawn. When Justin, with Simon's okay, invites Hallie and Elise to the ranch for a two-week visit, Simon plans a special welcome. 

Events and engagements are not as straight forward in this contemporary romance as you might expect. Hallie, a competent businesswoman in her own right, and a widow who misses the happiness she found in marriage to an exemplary man is full of other surprises. (The cover captures her essence perfectly.) Simon, of course, once he gets off his high horse and eats some humble pie, turns out to be a great guy who values his family's happiness over his own. Justin and Elise have a lot to learn about themselves and true romance, plus an evil woman causes much havoc. You'll have a hard time guessing which character rides to the rescue. This read is filled with interesting characters with depth, some moments of humor, some of the tear-jerking sadness, distress, and drama, plus a satisfying is-it-going-to-happen romance. So please pick up a copy. You won't be disappointed.


Friday, July 23, 2010

Crewkin Teaser

Lin Holmes of MuseItUp Publishing has spotlighted my new cover on her blog with a brief story teaser. Please go take a look and leave Lin a message! Thanks.
Lin Holme's Own Blog

Monday, July 19, 2010

Welcome Billie Williams!

**Update February 2014: It is with great sadness I report that Billie died this month.  She was a generous spirit who will be missed.**

I've known Billie since I became a Wings author six years ago. She now has thirteen books listed on her author's page! Amazing -- with more coming! Among authors she is a prize--generous, helpful and supportive to her fellow authors, besides being a prolific writer. She lives with her husband in Amberg, a small town in Northern Wisconsin, where Billie claims the winters are cold and long, but the people are warm and friendly. Her Maine Coon cat (love them), Lady Slipper, arrived the day she received her contract for The Pink Lady Slipper (for excerpt), her bed and breakfast mystery from Wings. The Pink Lady Slipper is set in Michigan, as are a few of her other books, which makes her feel like a neighbor to me -- well, if I take the Ludington ferry to Manitowoc and drove north for a couple hours, she is!

And because she feels like a neighbor, in addition to her contest (read offer below) I'm making an offer too! One download copy of any of Billie's books from Wings! Just leave a comment before July 30, and one lucky person's name will be drawn for the prize. So you have a couple chances to win something! Here is the link, again, to her author's page -- go peruse her titles. And mention the book title you'd like in your comment!

Billie is stopping at my rambles as part of her blog book tour to promote her new mystery Money Isn't Everything from Wings Press. (Read an excerpt.) She is a multi-published author with several publishers, plus an award-winning writer of articles, short stories, flash fiction, and poetry as well. Check out her blogs:  Printed Words and One Woman's Garden. (She gardens, too? No wonder I love this lady!) Plus she has another website for writers, Writing Wide, where you can find plenty of writing tips, tricks, and good reads. Okay, as if that weren't enough, she has a current novel in progress, Printed Words, serialized in her newsletter -- which you can sign for on her web page, just click on this blog's title line to go to her home page.

So, with her having written so many cozy mysteries, I asked Billie how she creates fresh characters and murder plots for each story. Does she have a process or keep a list of her characters and their traits? This is Billie's answer:

It really is amazing, at least to me, that my characters appear as flesh and blood humans when I'm writing their stories. When I begin, I usually have an idea of what my character might wish to accomplish, i.e., the plot of the story, so I go to my zodiac chart where I have a simple breakdown of character traits, likes and dislikes, strengths and weaknesses, etc. and choose a sign that would have the characteristics and that would help me develop the character and premise I need to serve this story idea.

The good part of using this method is that I can then find an antagonist  or even a romantic interest that would be a worthy match/opponent. For instance a fire sign and a water sign would be very much antagonistic to each other. Also two of the same sign could be cause for a head on collision. Makes for some interesting scenarios that I may not have thought of otherwise.

I think it also helps me develop well-rounded, believable characters.. The story greatly influences the characters and vice-versa.  My latest book Cauldron is a suspense thriller -- some how I can't picture Mary March from Money Isn't Everything, playing the part needed for the protagonist in Cauldron. Mary March is an Aries/Ram, Tiffany Tarus from Cauldron is a --Taurus/Bull. Mary is assertive, fearless and courageous, likes nothing better than a challenge.  Where Tiffany is Calm and practical taking her time to make decisions, preferring the familiar.

I wrote a book on developing characters Characters In Search of an Author [ISBN 978-1-932794-15-1] specifically to help others develop characters - it  is full of all the things I use to develop my characters. I don't use every one of the charts or interviews etc. provided in this book every time, but if I get stuck it gives me a great boost in moving forward with the character.

The series I've been developing for the last 5 books have all been tied to the Zodiac, Thus the series is dubbed the Zodiac Sleuths. I hope to have a final book, once I've used all the signs of the Zodiac, that will bring all of these sleuths together  to work on a case together - I still have a ways to go before I get to that one. I am currently working on book number six July Heat, the name of the protagonist is Judy July aka Brianna Strong, she, of course, is a Cancer/Crab sign.

Thanks for inviting me to your blog and thanks to all your readers for participating. I hope they all win a prize. Billie

Billie's Contest
Each person who comments on blogs in Billie's Tour will have a chance to win either a 
* $100 note pad, a $100 pen, or a $100 bookmark magnet. (They all incorporate an image of the hundred dollar bill into their design) Pens Bookmarks Note Pads
* Everyone that comments should email Billie at billie@billiewilliams.com for a chance at a bookmark with the cover of Money Isn’t Everything and one lucky winner will get an autographed poster of the cover of Money Isn’t Everything.
* Billie will draw one name from all the blog sites to get an autographed copy of the print version of Fin, Fur and Fatal another Mystery in the Zodiac Sleuths Series. (That is stateside – if the name drawn is overseas or Canada-- it will be a download version.)

There ya go folks! Please leave a comment!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Child abuse, impossible to understand

A 4-year old boy was murdered here in Michigan, close to where I grew up, in a small, pleasant little community surrounded by lakes and farmland. As so often happens, the people caring for Dominick weren't. His mother's boyfriend, who was also a drug dealer, beat and tortured Dominick for four days before the mother's sister reported the abuse to the police. It was too late. The details were gruesome, so awful the nurses and doctors who treated Dominick at the hospital had to speak with counselors about what they saw. The boy set off this man's abusive temper-tantrum by wetting his pants and soiling the couch.

The 24-year abuser's life is over. He'll spend, at the very least, the rest of his life in prison. So will the boy's mother, who is an accomplice in her son's murder. Even without a life sentence in prison, she will serve one in her mind. Worse, the 8-year old brother witnessed everything and has to testify in court. One wonders if the brother will ever recover while wishing and hoping he can. The mother's family and the child's father will be haunted by what happened, as will everyone who knew Dominick, indeed, the entire community.

How do things so incomprehensible happen? What happens, step-by-step, that leads to and creates such a horrific tragedy? This case isn't an isolated event. Children, the aged, and ordinary adults die of abuse every day. Where do we fail as individuals, parents, family, friends, and community that allows these results? More importantly, can we change?

Update 2012: the man who murdered Dominick received 100 to 150 years with no parole. Dominick's mother was convicted of second-degree murder and child abuse and will be in prison between 13 and 30 years.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Cover for Crewkin

Delilah K. Stephans of MuseItUp Publishing designed the cover. I'm working on first edits as I write (they're open on Word on my computer). February seems a long time away, but I know it is right around the corner. It gives me something to look forward to in the middle of winter!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Only Suvivor

Here's an introduction to the lead character in Crewkin.

Renna heard the hatch open, and a woman entered. Never raising her gaze, Renna noticed through quick side glances the woman looked alien, so very different from her crewkin. Yes, she wore Markham Corporation uniform, so they worked for the same company. Only she was shorter, plumper, her face, nose, and neck, even her fingers, too thin, her brown eyes and hair, the wrong color. She wore jewelry and makeup. Renna tightened her handclasp. Her training helped her blank her expression and emotions. She fell back on her kin's mantra: calm, professionalism, duty.

The woman sat in the chair on the opposite side of the table. "Well, Renna, this is a strange situation for you, isn't it?"

"Yes." Duty required simple straight answers, no embellishment. She refused to scream, "My ship and the rest of my kin are dead."

"Your crewkin went through a horrible experience. Most of them died. All those you shoved into escape pods only came here to die far from their ship. You didn't join them."

She sat here, so the answer was obvious, and she understood the words were an accusation. She kept her gaze on the table in proper crewkin submission; answer enough. The anger in her belly writhed like one of the reptiles shown in a learning tape she remembered from her childhood. The image always stuck with her because she felt the same knot-making movement inside.

"Medical gave them suicide drugs." Renna carefully kept her voice calm, concealing her anger. She glanced at the woman. For an instant, she imagined a serpent's tongue flickered from the woman's too red mouth and looked away.
 
"Because we know your type. You cannot live without your kin." The woman paused. When Renna didn't answer, she continued. "What do you plan to do? You cannot join another crew. Unfortunately, there is no other place for you to go."

"There are other ships." She held her breath at her insubordinate, unkin-like response.

The woman laughed a soft, mocking sound. "You want to join one of the ships making runs to and from the few planets in the system? After the long hauls, you and your kin made? You won't fit in. You are too different."

"I'm a speaker."

"Yes, you, of all your kin, were the only one to talk with outsiders. It's probably why you've survived here in the Markham hospital. Shortrun crews, though, aren't crewkin. They all have existing friends and family outside of their ship's crew. Even a speaker will be too strange for the norm crews to accept you. We only want to help you, and the truth is, you belong to your crewkin."

"Will you kill me?" Her defiance at asking a question nearly overwhelmed her. The serpent in her belly moved, her hands shook, and her jaw clamped tight. She wanted to scream, "I was never part of them." The thought startled her.

"No, we don't want to kill you. We want you to choose the correct path and join your crew. If you don't, your only choice is to leave. Markham Company cannot continue to take care of you." She recognized sympathy in the woman's face. The expression looked practiced, fake.

Leave. Alone. Outrageous, frightening words; her breath caught. She felt her body react. The slithering in her belly stopped. "Then I will leave." She nearly laughed at the woman's stunned look, but that would be unprofessional, and unkin. Inside, excitement glittered like stars.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Poisoning Our Environment, Poisoning Our Lives

With the largest environmental catastrophe taking place in the Gulf, many people, including me, sicken with an awareness of what this could mean to both coastal and ocean waters. It will probably take years and many tears for the true scope of this tragedy to be known. BP is the villain in this drama, but make no mistake: We are all guilty. We just do it on a smaller scale.

For several generations we have demanded convenience over safety, guilty of wanting perfect lives, homes, gardens, lawns, travel. We have turned our logic off, listened to convenience providers' claims while ignoring the fact we have been poisoning our bodies and homes, as well as our earth, air, and waters.

Don't believe me?

It wasn't too long ago that we didn't mind spraying insecticides to get rid of mosquitoes and flies that entered our houses, or showed up at our outdoor gatherings and picnics. We sprayed over the heads of our family and guests, over our food and beverages, and ignored the fact that those spray cans contained poisons.

Teflon coated pans made cooking clean up a breeze. Now, most of us have Teflon in our blood. (see UCLA link below).

Those chemical fertilizers and weeding agents may produce perfect weed-free lawns, but they also kill all micro-organisms in the soil, not just broadleaf plants growing in the grass. And God help us, many do not follow label directions. Is it any wonder that in the last fifty years we seen changes in our children's health? Just recently learned 2,4-D the chemical that kills the broadleaf weeds, was first used in chemical warfare as part of Agent Orange in the Vietnam War. Does that make it bad? I don't know, but it does show you its potential power.

So what can we do? First off, we need to get smart and think about what chemicals you want around your family. If you choose to use a product, any product, READ THE LABEL and act responsibly. Follow directions and dispose of any remaining product as recommended.

Do we need all the chemicals we are using in our homes? No.

A few years ago, as I was using a popular cleaner in my bathroom, the smell made me choke and cough and my eyes watered. It made me think. When I was a child we didn't have all these must-have cleaners. Are we sure they are as safe as they claim to be? That's when I started searching for recipes for homemade cleaners, so I knew what was in them. Now I use vinegar, baking soda and limited amounts of ammonia (which can also make you choke and cough and your eyes water if used in too strong a strength) to clean my house. One good source I found was a list from Michigan State University. Not only is my house just as clean (I admit I don't demand a spotless house of myself), but I've saved money, too.

There are other ways we can reduce poisons in our daily lives if we are aware of the danger and seek out alternative methods to accomplish the task at hand. Hope I've started you thinking about the issue and how you can limit the poisons in your life.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Scifi as folklore

One reason I like to write science fiction is that I see the genre as the folklore of the future. Some writers see the future as apocalyptic, and I tend to agree we will probably come close to ending ourselves without the help of space aliens. However, I tend to think that if we learn responsibility as a species, we might become seeds to the universe. The problem is the duality of our natures. We contain both good and bad: generosity tempered with avarice and self-seeking, xenophobia combined with an adventurer's desire for exploration. You can come up with more examples, I'm sure. To make matters more difficult, sometimes our good traits result in disaster, and sometimes our worst characteristics save us.

In my new novel, Crewkin, corporate leaders, though only indirectly mentioned, are just as greedy and ruthless as some few are today. To create ship crews that won't succumb to the rigors of long-distance space travel the corporations develop specialized crews.

The concept is simple. Raise children from birth who exist only within their own society. Provide nurses who care for but never develop relationships with their charges. Develop leaders and make sure everyone else submits to their leader's rule. Control the genome; make sure they have superior genes, select for disease resistance, strength, a certain look to make sure your crewkin look very similar, this will also emphasize their difference from other human beings. Educate them with information reinforcing the 'rightness' of their isolation and their ultimate superiority. Teach duty and dedication as their sole focus. Finally, use punishment to subvert any independent thought or action. However, no one should call these groups slaves, for they are crewkin, and as far as the general public and government know, choose to live together, even die if kept apart. Then, to increase that perception, brainwash your crews to suicide if the crew can no longer function, make sure the general public believes this myth, and there you have your perfect crew.

Perhaps, in the history of crewkin, there might be one who doesn't fit. What happens when she chooses not to die? What happens if she has the courage to seek a life outside the confinement of crewkin indoctrination? Can she survive? And if she does, what type of danger does she pose to the corporations?

Look for Crewkin from MuseItUp Publishing in February.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Cows, Milk and the Changing Farm

Standing her ground, one curious cow stares at me, ready to bolt if necessary.
I've always loved the black and white hides of Holstein cows. A few weeks ago I had the interesting adventure of visiting Brad and Lori Gernaat's dairy farm in Marion, Michigan, with my son and his family. What a surprise!

Somehow I have missed the change from seeing dairy cows in fields to their disappearance from farm pastures. They now remain in large barns where they seem perfectly content to munch on the silage they're provided and wander around the aisles of their domicile. The land they used to graze raises the silage the cows are fed, the liquid refuse from cleaning their barns fertilizes the fields.

The Gernaat's barns are open so their 1500 cows always have fresh air, but they also have curtains that can be pulled down in winter to prevent the worst of the cold entering the barn.

The cows are milked three times a day. I watched them at one milking. One cow gave twenty gallons of milk. If she gave the same amount at every milking, that's sixty gallons of milk a day! Wow.

Off to be milked, the cows follow each other out of one barn and down the track that leads to the milking barn. Of course, being the curious creatures that they are, they had to stop and look at the visitors. Once in the milking barn, they turn their rears to the machine. Two men work cleaning utters and attaching milking tubes. A few minutes later, the machines release and the job is done. The cows have to wait until every cow is finished being milked, then the gates open and they walk back to their barn. Creatures of habit, they seem very content with their lives.

I felt bad for the calves which are pulled from their mamas soon after birth, but it is a safety issue, and soon enough they are growing up with a group of friends.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Volunteering with Children's Chess Club

My son, Chris, and his chess club. I think volunteerism is important to every community, and I'm very proud Chris volunteers to teach elementary students Chess. You can see this group is very happy. They had a very good showing at a tournament in Ludington recently.

He is still a kid at heart. I can tell because I think those are his fingers behind those two boys' heads. Hmm... they never outgrow teasing, do they? But, doggone, I think he's a pretty great kid, even if I do say so myself. I play chess, too. Everyone loves to play me because they always win.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Review of Stone House Farm


Long and Short Reviews Reviewed by Camellia, April 7, 2010

Amanda Blanchard has lost all confidence in her own good judgment. The man she married, who had been so supporting and loving at first, turned out to be a greedy, manipulative user. Not wanting to share her with the child she adopted, he divorced her, taking a big chunk of her inheritance.

Now Wade Preston, her “heart-throb” in high school is back and his development company is threatening to take even more of her inheritance away from her. At least that is the way it seems.

Wade Preston, a well-educated, self-made man, heads up a successful business, but realized he has allowed a partner and his brother too much leeway in running the project at Manistee. They have created serious problems. With business problems to sort out and an ex-fiancĂ© that refuses to accept the “ex” part, Preston sets out to make things right, but ends upshot, unconscious, and covered with snow in Amanda’s orchard.

The events, mystery, and suspense that surround Amanda’s Stone House after she drags the unconscious Wade into her kitchen keep the reader on pins and needles. Her efforts to keep everybody and everything safe during the isolating snowstorm reveals much about Amanda’s true self. The amount of energy she expends is amazing. She is a spunky lady even in the face of some heartbreaking events.

Rhobin L. Courtright creates characters and a setting that pulls the reader into the situation where things look dire for Amanda until her modern knight in shining armor comes to the rescue. Stone House Farm is crammed full of characters to love, to hate, or even to wish for as friends. But, best of all is the love that grows amid all the turmoil. GOOD READING!