Monday, July 27, 2020

Preface to Angels Tread

Angels Tread is the final volume in the Black Angel series which was published this month.  The preface was necessary for readers who have not read the previous volumes to help explain the series and understand this story.

Lieutenant Jezlynn Chambers was an engineering officer aboard the United Planets Alliance’s Space Service Corps Embassy Ship the Constant when it was destroyed. She woke in the mines of Ezredin as a slave, but she didn’t know who she was and had no memory of her previous life. Another slave, Khajarian T’Carta Kar, owned her, his guards having given him his royal due as a prince of Khajari.
Jezlynn had changed. She was no longer one person but became six different individual personalities. May emerged first. She is deaf, mute, and filled with fear. Any event could trigger a terrifying memory. The emotional personality Lynn emerged next. She relieved May’s fear and her own grief through song.
T'Carta escaped the mines, taking Jezlynn with him, but he released her once they reached safety. During their trip to freedom, Jesse, the social communicator and perfectionist persona emerged. She could control body time for the others.
Others emerged. Alyss is blind, but that does not hamper her logic, perception or insightful planning and predictions. She prefers no one know about her. Nael is a masculine persona who was an inventor and expert investigator. He also avoided recognition—being a man in a woman’s body was hard. Jet emerged last. She was a hyperactive, fun-loving and reckless military persona, a soldier and pilot who always protects Jezlynn as a whole.
Once free of the mines, May’s unexpected memory of Jezlynn’s military status made Jesse return to the Service Corps. She learned she had been deemed a deserter and was transferred to the Rangers to complete her service obligation, a demotion from her former Corps ‘elite’ status to a common soldier, or Ranger ‘meat.’ She served during the Alliance-Khajari war, earning distinguished service medals. Once released from the Rangers, she served on several trade ships before joining the crew of Sanker Tricome’s pirate ship. On a stopover at a non-allied space station, she found Commander Thomas Langston, another of the Constant’s supposed deserters.
When Tom’s father disowned him, his aunt gave him her last name of Thorson. Together Jesse and Tom decided to find the other Constant crewmembers deemed ‘deserters’ but were sold into slavery, a dangerous and expensive endeavor. They financed their searches by raids on Space Service Corps drone ships, finding Rafe Dakota and Henry Wakeman, among others. Eventually, Jesse’s ability with finances allowed her and Tom to proceed legally with the Pilgrim Shipping Lines.
The head of the Alliance’s intelligence department became aware Chambers was the supposedly mythical pirate, the Black Angel. He demanded she use her investigative and discovery talents for his purposes. This brought her to the attention of Undersecretary Corrao, who forced her back into the Space Service Corps with the mission to prevent another conflict with the Khajari. Onboard the Sentinel, she was under the command of Captain Lucien Krayne, the same captain with whom she had fallen in love two years previously while he investigated the Black Angel’s supposed misdeeds on the Xanthean inhabited planet าชiro. He is Lu to Jesse, but Krayne to Jet, and Lucien to Alyss.
Jezlynn successfully completed her Service Corps mission, but now finds herself assigned as an ambassador to negotiate a peace treaty with the Khajari.

Saturday, July 25, 2020

Different Characters

How do you develop a character who is different in personality from all the other characters you have developed or from yourself? 

This is a difficult topic for separating one of my characters from me and from my author's viewpoint can be very difficult. All characters have something of me in them. They are part of my mind. Another aspect of a character is how they develop or change through a story, which is again based on my perceptions but which I think are often shared by the reader. I have also found in re-reading my stories there are repeated snippets of character behaviors, thoughts, and similar dialogue. Bothersome, but a fact.

We are all individuals and all have different personality types. What makes that happen? Certainly, genetics plays a part. How we are raised, where we live, our work, and our personal history, and our interactions, all differ. What interests us and how we behave despite social behavior dictums differs. I think readers also realize we all share human qualities, but we are all different.

However, to balance out my perceptions, I use the character's purpose in the story and try to determine their personality type. I do this through questions like what is their perception of the world? This means I have to know what type of personality a character has and what mix of traits go with each character. Are they adventurous or more leisurely? Does their anger translate into in-your-face threats or do they internalize their rage? To help me I long ago found a book that has proven invaluable, Personality Self-Portrait by John M. Holdham, M.D., and Lois B. Morris. It was meant to tell their reader what type of personality traits they had. However, for an author, it divides personalities into types such as adventurous, aggressive, conscientious, or vigilant, and more. It gives traits of each type of personality, their work styles, their emotions, along with how they handle relationships and self-control. This gives me the opportunity to develop very different characters, yet those characters are still distilled through my viewpoint.

Please visit the following blogs to see these authors' opinions on this topic.

Diane Bator 
Anne Stenhouse 
Skye Taylor 
Connie Vines  
Dr. Bob Rich 
Helena Fairfax 
Beverley Bateman 
Fiona McGier  

Saturday, July 11, 2020

5th Excerpt from Constantine's Legacy

The Franks received little welcome in Rome.
“Vicarius Christi Killer!”

With the bellow in the local Vulgar Latin, vigilance tightened Leonard’s frame, but something hit his forehead before he could react. He fell back against the stone structure behind him, partially stunned. Fear, self-preservation, and training gave him enough presence to pull his sax. With the handle of the short sword’s pointed blade in hand, his fear eased. He took deep breaths, trying to loosen the pain above his left eye.

More of the same shouting with variations continued. “Murderous barbarian! Are you here to steal from us like your kind have before? We will not let you.”

As the shouting continued, he realized someone had thrown a rock and it had hit his face. The fist-sized stone lay on the ground at his feet smeared with his blood. More rocks struck his body in painful pelts, falling to the ground in loud thunks on the stone paving surrounding him. He shook his head once to toss off the pain and clear his thoughts. He turned his head, feeling blood spill down his nose off his left temple, searching for his attackers. He blinked to clear his eye and quickly swiped his left hand across the soreness. Blood covered the back of his fist.

A woman behind him screamed, briefly drawing his attention. A stray rock had hit her. One hand grasped her other arm, and a loaf of bread lay shattered on the roadway. She and others near him backed away, some running and shouting to leave the area. Three young men, older than himself but not as tall, stood near the eastern support walls but outside Constantine the Great’s Arch. Two wore scabbards as he did.

With all his exploration walks, other than trips to the palazzo, this was the first time he had ventured so far southwest of his lodgings. Really, he had only wanted to fulfill his desire to walk the perimeter of the Coliseum. His discovery of the arch had delighted him. He also remembered having seen those three men on other jaunts and had seen them along his way today. They had targeted him.

Radulf had warned him to be careful. His father would be disappointed in his laxness.

He stood on the western side of the arch just inside the tunnel the structure created. The three assailants wore common Roman dress, but in their garments, he recognized quality far beyond most citizens’ garb. They stood on the edge of the rubble running along the crumbling via’s edges as it approached the arch. While the area around him cleared, a curious crowd also gathered. He guessed to watch whatever violence took place. Some in the crowd shouted to spur on his opponents.

The one he thought the leader of the three threw another sizable rock. Leonard easily ducked the missile. When the young man pulled his sword and took steps toward him, Leonard switched the sax to his left hand and pulled Gabrielus. Without a shield, the single blade sax, his forearm in length, was better for fending off other blades and for close up fighting. The young man laughed, but his friends did not. They spread apart. He knew they attempted to circle him, not an easy task in his location. The second man possessing a scabbard also pulled his sword, and Leonard snorted in disgust at seeing the old-fashion gladius-style sword. Each of his opponents held his weapon in one hand. Leonard knew his opponents’ swords lighter than his and the wielders less well trained.

The leader bellowed and charged him with his sword gripped with both hands as he swung his weapon above his head. With his opponent’s fast forward movement, Leonard swung the sax, breaking the other blade’s direction with a wicked screech of metal on metal, bringing them face to face. Using Gabrielus, he sliced the man’s leg. His opponent’s expression changed to shock and doubt, stopping the man’s action for an instant. He back stepped as he looked down at his bloody leg. He sneered at Leonard and raised his blade again. Leonard’s attack never faltered. As the man slammed his blade forward, he crashed Gabrielus down on it with the clang of steel. Leonard’s greater strength deflected the blade’s direction.

His opponent pulled back, preparing for another swing, but Leonard swiveled on one foot and kicked him in the knee of his unwounded leg. The man shouted in pain as he fell to the stones paving the road. Another rock hit Leonard on the shoulder, but he heard footsteps rushing toward his back. He swiveled again, swinging Gabrielus. His blade hit the other weapon coming behind him in a squealing sound all the way down to his opponent’s hilt guard. At the same time, he swung his left arm.

The sax entered the flesh of the man’s shoulder with the ease of a needle. Blood spurted in pulses from the wound. The man looked shocked and backed two steps, his fingers losing their hold on his weapon. It fell with a weak clang against the stones at his feet. He grabbed his shoulder screaming as blood seeped between his fingers. Leonard turned to the third man, the rock-thrower.

He watched the man swallow hard, drop the rocks in his hand, turn and run. Silence fell among those watching the fray, which made the groans of the two men on the ground seem louder. Then he heard running steps approaching. The crowd quickly scattered. He turned. Uniformed Roman guardsmen came to a halt in front of him. They demanded Gabrielus. Two grabbed his arms. He did not resist.

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Our World on Plastics

Our Earth has a human-induced plastic problem. Plastic fills our dumps, our land, and oceans, and our air. Plastics not only make containers and equipment but are in cars, clothes, food packages, candy wrappers, papers, cigarettes, and our media devices. Just about everything has plastics in it, including our drinking water, food, and our bodies. The problem is we don’t know the ultimate effect of microplastics on our environment or within our bodies or how to remove them.

Earth's land, water, and air are not ours, but part of the Earth where we live. Yes, you intuitively know that, but we act like we own the Earth. Some say God gave us this world to do with as we please. If so, he never promised a second world.

Plastics are necessary, and many people remain ignorant or uncaring about the problems that come from the unplanned disposal of all the plastic products we use. Our ever-increasing need for plastics and the resulting pollution expands as our populations' demand for products surpass the limits of the Earth’s natural products to provide them.

We do not know all the dangers of the plastics to the Earth, but we can see what is happening in our waters. Many of us have seen the images of fish, seals, turtles, and other creatures caught up in plastics. We have islands of plastic floating in our oceans. Helen Briggs points out in a BBC article what might be happening to our water wildlife. She states "A study found bits of plastic outnumber baby fish by seven to one in the nursery waters off Hawaii," AND, “There is growing evidence that plastic is being ingested by marine life, but the health implications are unclear.”

"Not only does it contaminate our oceans, but 22 million pounds of plastic are dumped into the Great Lakes every year" (Tony Briscoe, Chicago Tribune). Now, how they measured this I'm unsure, but I think its safe to say, we throw huge amounts of plastic into our waterways.

Plus, in Michigan, where every square inch is watershed for the Great Lakes, the state has tons of plastics dumped into landfills that have grown into mountains. Plastic in landfills may take 1000 years to decompose, and scientists are not sure how microparticles, those very tiny plastic particles that remain plastic and are now found in Earth's air, water, and soil, will affect our ecosystems (UN Environment Program). Humans also freely dispose of any unwanted trash, much of it plastic, on roadsides, sidewalks, nature trails, and in our local, state, and national parks. I know because I help pick it up. We've all seen images of marine life caught in plastic, but it goes further, affecting microorganisms.

So, if you don't care about what effect plastics are having on the chain of life, do you care that you now have microplastics in your body? They are in your water, even your beer and other liquid products, and in the food you consume. Microplastics are in the air you breathe. So what? The Ecology Center explains more and gives problem information related to each type of plastic. Microplastics can toxify your body with lead, cadmium, or mercury. It can damage fatty acids, which are important in brain function. It can affect other important body chemistry which can cause indigestion or depression problems. Further, it can lead to cancer, heart disease, diabetes, or pancreas or thyroid damage as well as have effects on testosterone.

What makes plastics? Plastics are objects made from malleable synthetic or organic polymers, of repeating, often very long molecular threads of carbon and other elemental atoms. Biopolymers are natural and found in every living organism, but synthetic polymers differ. While biopolymers are the foundation of some of our natural products like cotton, linen, paper, and silk, synthetic polymers are man-made plastics. They play an important role in our way of life. Yes, they are made of natural elements but differ.

When was plastic invented? Alexander Parkes, a British scientist, invented the first plastic Parkesine in 1856 and through several variations became registered as celluloid in 1872. It is based on the natural compound cellulose. Celluloid became important in the photography and film industries. Movies were made from it.

Bakelite was patented by Leo Baekeland in 1907 and it was the first plastic made from synthetic materials. It soon formed the body components or containers of radios, telephones, and other household products. The invention of Bakelite led to the development of many other plastics.

This means that in 1000 years all known plastics used in the last 148 years will have degenerated into the elements that made them. If we control our disposal and find safe disposable systems now.

What makes up plastics today? Based on the materials used to create plastic, we have seven basics types of plastic which create products now vital to our way of life. They compose many of our appliances, containers, clothes, and even vehicles. The problem is too many people carelessly dispose of them both consciously and unconsciously.

Each type of plastic differs from others. Some are reusable, but others can become hazardous material after usage. Some plastics are easily recyclable, others are more difficult.

Take your nearest plastic product, maybe the lunch box you brought from home, your water bottle, your instant noodle cup. Study it closely, and you might find a number at its back or bottom. You probably already know what the number represents. It indicates the product's type of plastic.

Seven types of plastic exist, Types 1, 2 and 5 are considered the safest for food and 1 and 2 are the most recyclable.
Type 1: PET or PETE, or Polyester (Polyethylene Terephthalate) is primarily used for food and beverage packaging as it helps prevent oxygen from entering a package’s contents. It also produces a wrinkle-free fabric. It does contain antimony which is a carcinogen and can contaminate any food or liquid stored in it for long or if the plastic is heated. This type of plastic is recyclable.
Type 2: HDPE (High-Density Polyethylene) is a dense and strong plastic used in plastic bags and bottles for products from milk to shampoo to medicines, and is also recyclable.
Type 3: PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride) plastics make toys, medical bags and tubing, and loose-leaf binders among many uses. It is considered a hazardous plastic and is usually not recyclable. The chemicals used to make it can be hazardous to health.
Type 4, LDPE (Low-Density Polyethylene) “has the simplest plastic polymer chemical structure, making it very easy and very cheap to process.” Plastic bags, plastic wraps, milk cartons, beverage cups, and covering for wire are common products using this plastic, but It is difficult to recycle.
Type 5, PP (Polypropylene) makes up hot food containers and diapers. It isn’t recyclable.
Type 6: PS (Polystyrene) or Styrofoam is used for certain food containers, helmet lines, and packing materials. Hot oily food can leach styrene, a component that could damage the brain and nervous system. Polystyrene is also hard to recycle.
Type 7: Is all other plastics, which can be layers of several types of plastics, but also PC or Polycarbonate which is used for many infant products and food containers. It can cause many health problems and should be avoided as harmful and toxic in certain amounts
More sources for explanations of plastic types: Quality Logo Product, or at Non-Toxic Revolution or at How Stuff Works.

The public's ignorance of plastic types has led to many of our problems. Disposable to most humans means throwing the product away-- anywhere, but that is not always the best answer.

The biggest question is what needs to be done and can it be done? What can you do?

Note: Published in both my gardening and writing blogs.