Ubiquitous Pets

While revising my story for the upcoming anthology Pets in Space, I’m thinking about pets of all kinds.

Pets are everywhere in this country and probably other Western countries too.  (From what I’ve read, even in China, where people have long been more likely to eat dogs than befriend them, a culture of dog-owning is showing up in the cities; and some folks in Muslim countries are going against the cultural grain to have pet dogs too.)

Dogs seem to have the most elaborate culture of any.  Their care, feeding and other aspects of ownership occupy rather a lot of bandwidth in our society.  Cats are probably close behind and horses – a lot fewer of them, but much more infrastructure per animal – a close third and then maybe birds.  But there are accommodations for pet rodents, reptiles, fish, crustaceans, arachnids, and insects. (Yes, insects. A young friend of mine had a pet Madagascar Hissing Cockroach – a rather magnificent creature.  When I was a kid I had a pet praying mantis named Monty in a terrarium.  I fed Monty cabbage butterflies from the back yard: I’d offer Monty dinner by holding the butterfly by the wings.  Monty would sway back and forth and then snatch the butterfly with his forelegs.  I don’t remember sticking around to watch Monty devour one.  The ones who got away fluttered and perched around the terrarium and Monty got to hunt them.

The U.S. post office has just issued Forever stamps celebrating pets, with quite nice renditions of creatures ranging from horses to hermit crabs.

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Pets in Space!

This is an upcoming anthology project I’m delighted to be involved in.  Nine science fiction romance authors are concocting stories about pets in space.

Pets have a way of involving themselves in anyone’s romantic relationships – we all know that.  But in this anthology, it can happen that aliens need pets;  pets have pets;  or alien pets humanize alienated people. Being science fiction, there are pets changed into something genetically or cybernetically way beyond just a pet. Science Fiction + Romance + Pets is one recipe that has a very different but delicious result for every one of us who is concocting it.  The sexual content varies from innocently sweet to considerable heat.

Pets in Space will be out on October 11th.  10% of the first month’s profits goes to Hero-Dogs. This organization raises and trains service dogs and places them free of charge with US Veterans to improve quality of life and restore independence.

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Best Black Box Ever

This item doesn’t look like much but it is a miracle of technology that makes all the difference in a climate like Houston’s!

Returning from a month-long trip across the West, I got a very warm welcome when the A/C in my condo proved to be dead. That equipment was forty years old and bound to fail sooner or later. Of course it did so in an August heat wave (heat index as high as 110 degrees)!   Just in time for me to be back from a long trip with a pressing need to spend quality time in my home office!

The management company got it replaced in a few days – both the part up on the roof and the unit in my closet. In the meantime I sweltered for a night and day and then got by much better with a couple of portable A/C’s that the Condo Association has on hand for this kind of emergency.

Now my home – including my home office – is cool, dry, quiet, and imminently livable.

 

 

Mountain Wave

Soaring in mountain wave is magic.  A sailplane flies forward while ascending rapidly, smoothly, silently and possibly to very high altitudes.  (For the technically inclined more info is here.)

I wrote mountain wave into my novel Downfall Tide without having experienced it until very recently.  That was at SoaringNV in Minden, Nevada. Because of wave and strong soaring conditions generally Minden is one of the premier soaring sites in the world.  Still I was lucky to be there when there was wave.

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21,200′ high in a Duo Discus sailplane – with instructor Elizabeth Tattersall.

 

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Lake Tahoe off the left wing

 

The atmospheric conditions that produce wave often produce lenticular clouds, which are peculiarly lens- or pancake-shaped:

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Lennies in Carson City the night before.

Star Crossing

It took longer than I expected to make more edits than I’d hoped to have to do before this book was ready to release, but as of June 2016 it’s available as an e-book from Amazon here.  I have proof copies of the print edition in my hands now.

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Cover compare

Here are the covers of the original print edition of Hurricane Moon (art by Brian W. Dow) from Pyr and the e-book edition from Avendis Press.  Both imply qualities central to the book:  romance and exotic worlds in the first case and astronomical science fiction in the second.

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Sugar House, Salt Lake City

 

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Beautiful place, Sugar House Park in Salt Lake City: a really nice urban park with magnificent views.  The early Mormons tried to raise and process sugar beets here, which didn’t work too well, and the sugar factory became a prison.  It had to have had as much sorrow and anger as any other prison, and on at least one occasion it was the site of a gross miscarriage of justice – when Joe Hill was executed for murder as likely retaliation for his labor organizing activities.  Now the former prison ground has trees and ducklings and kids on bikes and couples picnicking on the grass. A stream runs through it that’s cold on the hottest days, because it’s snowmelt. Places can be redeemed.

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Owl It

There’s a method highly recommended for writers who are stuck and finding it hard to write, especially those re-booting their writing or starting a really hard project. It is the Pomodoro Technique:  setting  a simple kitchen timer and writing full tilt until the timer goes off after fifteen or thirty minutes.  You’ve seen these timers – they take the form of a tomato i.e. pomodoro, or chicken, or whatever. I myself have a little yellow owl.  I’ve never had to use it for writing per se; but the day came when I was having cold feet about promotion activities and at my wits’ end. I twisted the owl as far around as it went, and got to work.  And it did the trick.  🙂  This is doable – anybody can write for just 15 minutes at least once a day.  It gets you unstuck and you’ll likely go over the time limit;  if not it still gets something actually done.  And it trains your brain to concentrate and not get derailed by email  and social media.  Recommended!

 

Word to the wise:  Get with it!

Epiphany

In the liturgical year, January 6 is the day of the Epiphany, and the days from now until Ash Wednesday, when the penitential season of Lent begins, are the Epiphany season.  The imagery of Epiphany includes a new and portentous star and the arrival of foreign wise men.  The meaning of Epiphany is a showing forth of something heretofore hidden but momentously significant.

This reminds me of my just-published novel Downfall Tide.  But oppositely, like a photographic negative.  The story opens with a new star in the night sky.  It isn’t the kind of astronomical new star the colonists on Planet Green first  guess it may be.  It’s something else entirely.  And soon the not-really-a-star brings the arrival of foreigners who are not only not wise men, but anti-wise men.  What follows for my main characters is a time that could be considered a penitential season.  And after that, the story parallels Holy Week from Palm Sunday to Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and Easter Sunday.

The aspect of Downfall Tide that is a parallel to Good Friday is what made it the hardest book I’ve ever written.  Some readers will find that  part distressing to read.

But the end of the book mirrors Easter, the day that dawns with resurrected hope.

 

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Avendis Press

Now that  I’m resuming the series that begins with Hurricane Moon, I’ve decided to independently publish these books.  Science fiction with theological themes is not what major publishers want – and besides, I already have most of these books written and I want to get them published before forever.

I should say I’m completing the series, now that I have at long last written the one that immediately follows Hurricane MoonDownfall Tide may be the hardest book I’ll ever write. The one after that, Star Crossing, has long since been written and edited – although books tend to end up needing MORE editing.

It’s from Star Crossing that the name of my very own press comes from.  In Star Crossing, Avendis is an extraordinary place, a treasury of civilization in a far future history, and a dangerous journey’s end.  That’s more than significant enough to name my publishing endeavor after.  🙂

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