Rendezvous with Routine

This week another one of Orbital ATK’s unmanned (self-driving?) International Space Station resupply rockets lifted off from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility, VA. Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of the launch is that it was so unremarked: it received a paucity of media attention that would have astounded anyone from the age of Gemini and Apollo.

The payload includes the Cygnus spacecraft and 7,400 pounds of spare parts, scientific equipment, and food. No word as to whether the menu includes Space Food Sticks, Tang, or Purina Astronaut Chow. (Maybe we’ll know that space travel is finally here to stay when someone publishes the first Orbital Cookbook. )

It seems to be in the nature of humankind’s most impressive achievements to drift down from the lofty perches they first occupy to end up, eventually, floating around in the back of the family station wagon—or space station.

World Fantasy

Early in November  I attended the World Fantasy Convention in San Antonio. WFC is a professional writers’ event to a significant degree, but even I, with no fantasy books out as of yet, had several attendees ask me for autographs at the Signature Event (with every writer in one big room signing autographs.)

The convention venue was adjacent to San Antonio’s Riverwalk.  It’s one of my favorite places, an oasis in that city—though as cities go, San Antonio, with its ancient Hispanic roots, is its own kind of oasis in Texas.

The Riverwalk meanders for miles through downtown San Antonio, though on the river’s level you’d hardly know it.  There are some shops and restaurants reaching all the way down to the water’s edge.  There are also whimsical bridges and sculptures, birds, and even water taxis:  it’s Venice in Texas!

There’s also the aquatic version of street sweepers.

Below the Southwest School of Art & Craft, people who walk or jog by are watched by miniature folk sketched on a wall of rough timbers.  Here’s one of the watchers.

No visit to San Antonio, by someone who writes speculative fiction with spiritual angles, would be complete without paying respects to  San Fernando Cathedral, or, to use the full name, the Church of Nuestra Señora de la Candelaria y Guadalupe.  Portions of this cathedral date to 1738.  It is a major anchor in the Mexican-American life of San Antonio.

And then there’s this:  the towering mosaic on the facade of Santa Rosa Children’s Hospital.  The artist is Jesse Trevino, a native son from the West Side of San Antonio, who when he was young saw a tombstone angel with a broken wing that he never forgot.

The image is fantastic – a kind of sacred fantasy that speaks to the hope of healing in the real world.

On Supporting Hero Dogs for Veterans

Michelle Howard is a fellow author in the USA Today bestselling anthology Embrace the Romance:  Pets in Space 2. Here she tells us something about why she’s happy to have a story in this anthology, with ten percent of the first month’s profit through November 11 going to Hero Dogs, which provides service dogs to military veterans.  Welcome, Michelle!

~~~~~~~

My dad joined the Marines during my toddler years so my memories of him at that time are of a shiny uniform and what I once referred to as his “hat.” I was soon corrected. A few years ago, my cousin followed in my dad’s footsteps and is currently serving as a Marine and I’m so proud of him. Writing a story that gives back to our service members is a huge honor and I’m so grateful for the opportunity. Hero-dogs.org pairs two things that I admire and respect: dogs and our military.

I’m also excited I got to combine those two things in my story for this anthology. My story’s hero served in the military and was discharged due to wounds he suffered during that time. He ends up reluctantly tasked with helping my version of a K9 known as Bogan. From there danger, love and a new partnership soon follow.

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Twelve leading SFR authors with twelve original never released stories appear in Embrace the Romance: Pets in Space 2, available at numerous e-book vendors here!

For descriptions of each story, a book trailer, and some cute Pets in Space merchandise (!) you can go to the anthology’s Website:

http://www.petsinspaceantho.com

After the Storm

For Houstonians, this yard art is a very relatable commentary on how the most unpleasant imaginable Halloween trick came early with Storm Harvey.

 

 

 

 

 

Harvey was really bad, including where I live.  I rode out the storm in comfort on the third floor and never even lost Internet, but with the bayou about two miles wide, my car was a goner. The condos on the first floor got anywhere from a few inches to a few feet of water.

All across town houses got flooded that had NEVER flooded before. In some cases these were 40-year-old homes that had never even come close to flooding.  People had to rip out wet carpet, sheet rock and insulation, baseboards, wood flooring that looked dryable but turned out to have puddles all under it, appliances, furniture, and books.  The result was streets lined with dismal debris piles.

Houston and other municipalities are scraping these up as fast as possible, but there’s so much it taking a long time.  Before the garbage trucks come the scavengers. People in old pickup trucks drive around collecting appliances, furniture, and flooring to clean, rehabilitate and sell to those who lost what they had and lack flood insurance.

Friends in Bellaire, a self-contained little city surrounded by Houston, say it was a great day when the city debris removal trucks finally came to their street. It was like a parade, with elephantine garbage trucks and people standing out in their yards waving and smiling.

Meet An Enchanted Morning Glory

Of all the brave, quirky, heroic and mischievous pets in the USA Today bestselling anthology Embrace the Romance:  Pets in Space 2, mine may have been the most unusual.  Jesse Greenfinger is a  plantimal – a genetically engineered combination of plant and animal genes both from Earth and an ill-fated colony world called Planet Green.  Jesse’s species is called hugworts.  With genetic good reason, hugworts look like nothing so much as enchanted morning glories. They are mobile, affectionate, as curious as cats,  clean, and space-hardy:  perfect pets for space places.  Indeed, Jesse is the mascot for the deep space station which is the setting of my story, Mascot.  At one point Jesse climbs a station ladder; this hugwort has  places to go and things to do (and a few secrets of its own.) This is the scene that our artist, Nyssa Juneau, illustrated for the anthology.

Here’s an excerpt from Mascot:

Jesse Greenfinger, who could tolerate a wider range of temperatures than any human being, but who had a catlike fondness for the warm proximity of its human, joined Daya in her favorite reading chair.  Jesse’s warm, furry root-mass snuggled in her lap.  It purred.

Two knocks, twice, came from her door. “Enter,” she said, and marked her place in her book, expecting Mattiz or possibly Annis Lee.

To her surprise, it was the auditor who entered.  He took one look at her and that mobile face of his showed incredulity, with good enough reason. Jesse’s leaves and tendrils spilled onto the floor all around her chair.  She probably looked like an enchanted woman out of a fairy tale, who had sat reading for a summer while vines grew up around her.  She explained, “It is no ordinary plant.  It’s a plantimal, genetically engineered from plant genes and cat genes.  It doesn’t need soil and it can move around.”

Jesse, wary around strangers, slipped off her lap, carefully bundling its root mass in vines and leaves, retreated to a corner, and froze. There’s nothing to see here but a harmless house plant.

Right.

Mascot and the other Embrace the Romance:  Pets in Space 2 stories are available from various e-book vendors here.  There’s even a print edition – a nicely designed trade paperback that weighs about four lbs (!) and had to be priced accordingly.  But this anthology is a steal in ebook form for $3.99!

 

Meet Ketsia

Laurie Green is a fellow author in the USA Today bestselling anthology Embrace the Romance:  Pets in Space 2. Here she tells us something about the heroine of the story.  Welcome, Laurie!

~~~~~~~

When I created the character of Ketsia Tayah in Inherit the Stars, I knew she was going to have a role in the ongoing saga, and I knew who her hero was going to turn out to be—in spite of himself.

Like Taro Shall, the hero of StarDog in the first Pets in Space last year, Ketsia is Tectolian, a subspecies rumored to have descended primarily from Pacific Islanders on a mythical planet called Earth.

 

Ketsia was introduced in the novel as an innocent—young, wide-eyed, intelligent, compassionate and a consummate charmer. She was a teenager who’d been enslaved by the Ithians after being surrendered by her home planet of Tectol in a tribute. This is where she met Sair, the hero of Inherit the Stars, who appointed himself as her guardian.

Here’s a scene from the novel, Inherit the Stars:

Sair gave her a reassuring smile. “This ship is called the Spirit. It will be your home for a while.”

Ketsia looked up at him. “Will they treat us well here?”

“I’ll see to it.”

“You’ll keep us, won’t you?”

“Admiral Mennelsohn has declared you all free citizens. You’ll be free to live your own lives now, Ket.”

“What does that mean?” Tears formed in her eyes.

Sair traded glances with Lonna then took the young woman’s hands in his. “It means you can make your own choices now, Ket. Lonna and I will be here to help you, but this is how life is meant to be. I promise you.”

“But I’m bonded to you.”

Sair drew a deep breath. “No, Ket, we aren’t bonded. Your sister and I were bondmates. You and I are good friends. Do you understand the difference?”

Tears pooled in her eyes. “No.”

He stroked her hair. “Trust me. When the time comes, you will.”

Later, Ketsia will have another guardian, Ambassador Jaeo Gant. When her transport falls under attack by dangerous renegades, the ambassador arranges for an old comrade to see her safely home.

That friend is Captain Jagger, a man living with past regrets. In Courting Disaster, he again crosses paths with the ever-charming Ketsia, now older, wiser and determined to overcome her heart-breaking history. A history that’s interwoven in painful ways with Jagger’s personal tribulations. When Jagger and Ketsia are thrown together for a perilous mission through a dangerous sector of space…well, it’s a match made in purgatory!

But Jagger and Ketsia aren’t alone. There’s a StarDog along for the ride who might just be the catalyst for a whole ship-load of trouble!

Embrace the Romance: Pets in Space 2

Twelve leading Sci-Fi Romance authors, twelve original never released stories in Embrace the Romance: Pets in Space 2… supporting Hero-Dogs.org and our veterans.

Courting Disaster: StarDog2

A commander of a spaceship faces the toughest decision of his life when he vows to protect the woman and her StarDog that he is escorting through a dangerous section of space.

About the Author

Laurie A. Green is a three-time RWA Golden Heart® finalist, an award-winning author, and a science fiction romance enthusiast who founded the SFR Brigade community of writers, which is now over 1,000 members strong.

She confesses to being an Andromeda Galaxy groupie and would someday love to own a vacation home on Mars or Titan. She’s enthused to be a part of this wonderful anthology mash-up of two of her favorite things–pets and space.

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Find out more about Laurie and her books:

http://www.laurieagreen.com/

https://www.facebook.com/Laurie-A-Green-139849829386292/

https://twitter.com/SFRLaurie

https://www.amazon.com/Laurie-A.-Green/e/B00S456PDE/

The Human Condition

“The total amount of energy from outside the solar system ever received by all the radio telescopes on the planet Earth is less than the energy of a single snowflake striking the ground.”
― Carl SaganCosmos
Isn’t this the human condition:  we all have our antennae out, listening for all we’re worth—literally—for a signal that will reassure us that we’re not alone in the infinite night.

Fun with Starfighter Pilot Call Signs

Susan Grant is a fellow author in Embrace the Romance:  Pets in Space 2, and here she tells us something about writing that story and something about herself.  Welcome, Susan!

~~~~~~~

I had a blast writing about Trysh, Rornn, Puppy, and the crew of Bezos Station, a city in space above the planet of Barésh. (You may recognize these places—and even some of the secondary characters (including Puppy)—from Star Champion (previously titled The Champion of Barésh) or Star Hero (expanded from my short story Stray from Pets in Space 1).) Even though my books are “make believe” in a fantasy/science fiction setting, my background as an Air Force jet pilot helps me add touches of realism to the military characters.

In The Prince, the Pilot, and the Puppy (Star Puppy), I needed to come up with more than just first and last names for the starfighter pilots. Think: “Maverick” and “Goose” from Top Gun, or “Starbuck” from Battlestar Galactica. A call sign is an integral part of my characters, so I really wanted the ones I chose to fit. In the Air Force, call signs are handed out at naming ceremonies. They can be a play on your name (a pilot with a last name of Gordon is likely to be named “Flash”), or you can get a call sign based on an incident that made you infamous. On my flight last week, I flew with a former Navy Tomcat fighter pilot. I noticed he had “Disco” embroidered on his flight bag. He explained it came from the night he got drunk and danced on the bar—on TOP of the bar. Likewise, if you really screw something up, expect a call sign to come out of it. It can also be based off your personality, or on the whim of the drunken mob of fighter pilots at your “naming”.

On Bezos Station, namings are likely to take place in the all-ranks club Nimbus.

Here are a few of the starfighter pilots from the Mighty Titans squadron and their call signs:

Trysh Milton is “Firefly”—Her naming was mostly due to her being a big fan of the TV show, but it’s also fitting because she can appear bright and cheery one minute and dark and serious the next, blinking on and off like a lightning bug, or firefly.

Rornn B’lenne is “Charming” —He’s a Vash royal prince who oozes charisma. Need I say more?

Declan Fisher is “Danger”—He started off as “Fish” but during flight school he was the cause of a series of fender benders, making him the butt of jokes that he was a Danger—to himself

Carlynn Riga is “Mooch”—she loves to cook gourmet meals on small appliances in her quarters, but being on a space station limits her ability to get ingredients. She’s famous for her power to beg, borrow, and barter with the mess hall staff for the items she needs.

Then there’s me—Susan Grant. In the Air Force my call sign was Sue Bob. My name was Sue and I was considered one of the squadron “good ol boys”, and since “good ol boys” always had names like Jim Bob and Billy Bob, I was named Sue Bob. Silly but as with all fighter pilot call signs, it could have been worse.

Please enjoy this excerpt from The Prince, the Pilot, and the Puppy. (Star Puppy):

“Titan Squad, this is Station Control—we have multiple bogeys out of G quadrant!”

The frantic voice filled Lieutenant Trysh Milton’s headset. A distress call. It came from the station, a giant, rotating city in space. It housed thousands of people inside—military personnel like her and their families. Children. She and her squadron had just cleared the area of enemy fighters. Giddy with victory after destroying a wave of alien invaders, they were exhausted, sweaty, pumped with adrenaline. But just when they had thought it was over, it wasn’t.

“Titan Squad—we’ve got multiple bogeys! I repeat—multiple targets. They’re coming from… My God—Encke Gap!”

From an opening in Saturn’s rings? How? Plowing through the rings would get you killed in an instant. Trysh gripped the joystick of her starfighter, craning her neck to see if she could get a visual on the threat. Saturn was a creamy-yellow and orange globe surrounded by an ethereal halo. Those rings were nothing like they looked when viewed from a telescope on Earth. Up close, they were snowstorms of ice particles with eddies and whorls caused by tiny embedded moons, some moons as small as hailstones. Imagine—a moon you could hold in the palm of your hand! It was breathtaking, a scene she never grew tired of admiring…until the sight of enemy alien craft pouring out from a gap in the rings pulled the last of the air from her lungs.

The Dragaar! They had but one goal—destroy the space station and then Earth. In moments, the alien fighters were upon them, firing vivid streams of plasma at the defending starfighters.

Flying at her side, the Vash alien exchange officer, Prince Rornn B’lenne, call sign “Charming”, sounded unfazed as they joined the dogfight. “Firefly,” he said, using her call sign. “Go private.” The starfighter-to-starfighter channel allowed them to speak to only each other. “They must have precision-jumped through the gap.”

“It’s some sort of pop-up wormhole,” she answered. It left her with a sick feeling. If the Dragaar had the technology to punch holes in the fabric of space at will, it was game-over. Burst after bright burst caught her eye as friendlies were destroyed. Friends…squadron-mates, killed. “We’ve got to do something. We’re getting our asses kicked.”

“We must deny them their jump gate. Close it off.”

“Wormholes can’t be opened and closed like that.”

“Do not forget—I can make the impossible possible.”

She almost laughed. He used that same dumb line the last time he tried to get her to go out with him. His propositions were hilarious, and she shot every one of them down. It was a game—their game. They were friends with no benefits. But even she couldn’t deny that Rornn had a brilliant tactical mind. He was scary smart with a fresh way of looking at things that she admired. If he had figured out a way to turn this battle around, she was all ears. “Talk to me, Charming!” She strafed a crippled Dragaar fighter. It blew up, followed by the enemy knocking off two more friendlies.

“I read a research paper on the intentional disruption of small wormholes.” He targeted another Dragaar. The enemy fighter exploded in brilliant fireworks. They barely escaped the debris. “It concluded that it is scientifically possible.”

“On paper. By scientists sitting at nice safe desks stringing together a daisy chain of equations. Even if we lobbed all our R-bombs through the gate, the best we can hope for is transient instability.”

“Yes. The R-bombs. See? Your mind is perfection. One relativistic bomblet salvo coming up. Cover me, Firefly.” He wheeled away from her and accelerated into the invasion.

“Wait—Charming!” She used to think that “Charming” was a fitting call sign for the alien prince. Now she was convinced “lunatic” was a better fit. He was the constant instigator, the devil-may-care hotshot; she was his goal-driven, play-by-the-rules best friend who couldn’t help getting swept off her feet by the riptide of his charisma. But if he had figured out a way to turn the tide of this battle, she wanted in on it.

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Find out what happens next in Embrace the Romance, Pets in Space 2! http://www.petsinspaceantho.com/pets-space-2-embrace-romance-2/

Pets in Space 2!

 

This means a lot to me: the second Pets in Space anthology was released today, and once again it features one of my stories, a novella called Mascot, along with eleven other authors spinning tales of space, romance, and pets.  It’s a *big* e-book for only $3.99!

Science fiction romance is fun to write and read, because if there’s any one thing that powers the universe, it’s either hydrogen fusion, or love—and I’d be hard-pressed to say which of the two carries more cosmic weight.  Throw in pets intrinsic to the storyline, and it’s almost irresistible! On top of that, the anthology raises money for a very good cause.  Ten percent of the first month’s profits go to the service organization called Hero Dogs.

Here is a brief video of me discussing my story and the particularly unusual pet in space featured in it….

The  Kindle edition is here.

For a landing page with all ebook editions of Embrace the Romance:  Pets in Space 2, go here.

Dust to Dust

“The reappearance of the crescent moon after the new moon; the return of the Sun after a total eclipse, the rising of the Sun in the morning after its troublesome absence at night were noted by people around the world; these phenomena spoke to our ancestors of the possibility of surviving death. Up there in the skies was also a metaphor of immortality.”
― Carl Sagan, Cosmos

 

My science fiction and fantasy tends to have theological or spiritual angles, and this post is no different.

But first, meet SOFIA:

photo credit Alexander Golz

This is the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy—a retired jetliner modified to carry an astronomical telescope.  Originally built to service what the airline industry calls “long, thin routes”—ultra-long-range segments that attract relatively few passengers per week, the airplane is a specially shortened version of the ubiquitous Boeing 747.  It was built for Pan Am and christened Clipper Lindbergh by none other than Anne Lindbergh on the 50th anniversary of Charles Lindbergh’s takeoff, destination Paris.

After service with Pan Am and United Airlines, the future airborne observatory was retired to a desert boneyard to await her date with the scrapper’s torch—but fate intervened.  In 2008, after restoration, modification, and the installation of a German-designed and -built infrared telescope, the reborn aircraft was again christened Clipper Lindbergh on the 80th anniversary of Charles Lindbergh’s arrival in Paris, this time by Erik Lindbergh.

SOFIA is jointly funded by NASA and DLR, Germany’s national aeronautical and space research agency.

photo credit NASA/Jim Ross

Here you can see SOFIA in flight with the telescope port fully open.

The reason for lofting the telescope to the base of the stratosphere is that water vapor strongly absorbs the infrared frequencies of greatest interest to astronomers, and by flying at 39,000-45,000 feet above sea level the observatory eliminates 99% of the atmospheric water vapor between the telescope and the celestial objects under study.

At the center of most, perhaps all, galaxies there is a supergiant black hole.  Some are quiescent and some are quite active, and observations recently made by SOFIA enabled astronomers for the first time to calculate the median size of the dust particles being drawn into the active black holes; it turns out that they’re about the size of sand grains.

But where do these dust particles come from?  Most of the universe consists of hydrogen and helium, not the more complex atoms that fill out the periodic table and make life interesting—and possible.  It’s now generally known that the complex atoms are thrown, like grains of rice at a celestial wedding, across the galaxies by novas and supernovas.

photo credit NASA/SOFIA/FLITECAM team/S. Shenoy

Here’s SOFIA’s “before and after” portrait of supernova 2014J, the 10th supernova discovered in 2014, nestled in its galaxy.

At one time supernovas were believed to be simply more dramatic novas, but the more recent understanding is that they result from very different processes; in fact, they’re quite distinct.

Their gifts to the universe are, likewise, quite distinct.  Supernovas provide us with the heavier elements that are the building blocks of the cores of rocky planets—and a single supernova can produce enough dust to form 7,000 Earths.  Novas, by contrast, provide us with the middleweight atoms—the ones that are essential to all life as we know it.

photo credit NASA/CXO/Lau et al

Belief systems the world over are fond of telling us of one deity or another dying that we may live and be redeemed.  We now know they’re almost right about this after all:  let us reflect that stars died that we might live and that we might have a world on which to live . . . and that, in a very real sense, we and our Earth are, indeed, heavenly.

Novels of science fiction with wonder, hope and love