Category Archives: Writing

How Service Dogs Help – Guest Post by E.D. Walker

Pets in Space is Back

Once again this year I have the honor to be a part of the science fiction romance anthology Pets in Space.  Part of the first months sales, including preorders, will be donated to Hero Dogs, and in this guest post, fellow Pets in Space 4 author E.D. Walker talks about why that’s important. She also gives us a suspenseful excerpt from her story.


One of the reasons I’m so proud to participate in the Pets in Space anthologies every year is because of the charitable contribution to Hero Dogs that has been a part of the Pets anthology ever since the very first one. Hero Dogs provides service dogs at no cost to veterans of the U.S. military and first responders with disabilities.

My family has some connection to the military: my grandfather and father both served in the armed forces. My grandfather in WWII, and my father as a marine reservist, although he was never deployed. Growing up, I was instilled with a deep sense of pride for their service, and a healthy respect for the sacrifices our armed forces and their families make.

It’s not just a personal connection to the military that makes me appreciate working with this charity, however. I also have several (non-military) friends who have service dogs, and I have seen what a huge difference it has made in their lives to have that kind of assistance available to them. One family friend is dealing with a degenerative illness, and they had lost the ability to walk across the room without their walker. With the help of a service dog they were able to do this and do it much faster and more safely than they could with a walker. Another friend has an emotional support animal that’s made a world of difference in helping them leave their house and interact with other people without suffering from crippling anxiety.

Because of their service animals, my friends have been able to get out of the house more, take public transportation when they never could before, and other things that make what were immense challenges in their lives so much more manageable.

Because I know how amazing the skills of a service dog can be, I am immeasurably proud to contribute in even some small way to helping Hero Dogs continue with their mission to place service dogs with veterans.

E.D. Walker is the author of The Fairy Tales of Lyond Series that begins with Enchanting the King. E.D. lives in sunny Southern California with her family and one of the neediest housecats on the planet.  Website: http://edwalkerauthor.com/

Story snippet:

Her kidnapper, Tatinas’s nostrils flared. “Perhaps it is time I show your father how much worse I can make things for you.”

Fear spiked in Liana’s blood, her heart racing. Her caliba Pym shifted, apparently still asleep although she knew better. She fanned her fingers over Pym’s silky feathers and, immediately, calm filled her chest. “It doesn’t matter what you do to me. My father won’t relent.” She might be signing her own death warrant, but if Tatinas planned to torture her so her father would comply then wasn’t it better if she die now?

Tatinas chortled, the sound making her shiver. “Who knows what might change a man’s mind? If you push him hard enough.” He pivoted toward the door, ready to leave.

“Am I to have my walk today?” The stale air of her room had started an itch under her skin, a worm of anxiety that was beginning to wind through her blood.

He hesitated, his head half turned toward her, then he scoffed and tossed a careless hand. “Why not? There’s nowhere to escape anyway. Is there?” He turned and held her gaze until she was squirming under his cold, reptilian stare. “Is there, princess.”

“No.” She swallowed. “There isn’t.”

Grab your copy of Pets in Space® 4 today! For a limited time, Pets in Space® 4 brings together today’s leading Science Fiction Romance authors to help Hero-Dogs.org, a non-profit charity that helps our service veterans and first responders. https://petsinspaceantho.com

The Shallows and the Stars

This book’s provocative thesis is that our involvement with the Internet undermines the kind of critical, linear, deep thinking that is inculcated by reading, and replaces it with the reactive, scattered, shallow thinking that comes of skimming Web pages and following links in all directions.  Published in 2011, The Shallows is at least as relevant now, in 2019.  Recommended reading!

My new romantic SF series is set thousands of years from now in an an interstellar city-state and on colonized planets across the stars.  Writing SF like that, I’ve had to think hard about what digital technology and artificial intelligence may ultimately look like.  Well, I haven’t finished thinking. But Witherspin (December 2019) and Starmaze (2020) will explore those questions.

If digital technology ever reached an end point that was truly catastrophic for part of humanity, other human societies will have found another way….

BUILT

Here is a recent (2018) and wonderfully interesting book about structural engineering.  Yes, that topic is interesting – HIGHLY interesting when it come to skyscrapers!  The author, a structural engineer involved with notable projects including London’s towering new skyscraper, the Shard, shares her wonder at bricks and concrete, spider webbing and wind loading, bridges, and  the sorts of calculation that are crucial to the structures of civilization.  She takes the reader around the world to see notable buildings from ancient to modern times. And she looks into the American past to salute Emily Warren Roebling, the defacto chief engineer of the Brooklyn Bridge.  Recommended!

Lenten Sacrifice

 

Some of you may know that I am neither Christian nor Jewish nor Buddhist, nor a conventionally religious person of any sort. I am a humanist, which means, in part, that I have tried to behave decently without any expectation of rewards or punishments after I’m dead. … I myself have written, “If it weren’t for the message of mercy and pity in Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, I wouldn’t want to be a human being. I would just as soon be a rattlesnake.”

–Kurt Vonnegut

A quarter century ago Peter Menzel published his remarkable book, Material World.  Subtitled A Global Family Portrait, it portrayed statistically average families representing thirty nations.  The most memorable feature of the book was a series of photographs of each family’s worldly goods:  they’d emptied their homes for the photographers and deposited all of their material possessions in front of the homes so that these fascinating collections, meager or extensive, could be photographed.

Think of all of the objects you have in your home.  Almost  every one of those items arrived with the promise that it would in some way make your life richer, fuller, better.

And almost without exception, every one of these items ended up with you taking care of it:  you have to wash it, wax it, renew its registration, dust it, change its oil or its batteries, update its software, or otherwise service it in some way.  Possessions we acquired to make our lives better now possess us instead.

It is the season of Lent when many liturgical Christians give something up.  I once worked with a woman who faithfully gave up chocolate for Lent every year.  A friend of mine – a Lutheran minister – gives up Facebook  for Lent.  Imagine that – more time to interact with flesh and blood friends and family in person!  (Wasn’t Facebook’s original premise that it would help us stay connected?)

It occurs to me that giving up whatever promised to make our lives better, but doesn’t serves us as intended, is worth doing. For example:  fear’s original purpose was to help us human beings survive in a dangerous world.  But some fears we may own now are, like snowmobiles and salad shooters, far more trouble than they’re worth. What if we gave up some of our fears for Lent?

Suppose we gave up our fear of being found out for who we really are?  The fear of being different,  unlovable, hopelessly inadequate, or too strange for anyone to like us? Jesus emphatically said, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Meaning we are worth being loved by ourselves. And what if we gave up our fear of our neighbor? You know, the one whose skin color, foreign origins, socio-economic class, politics, or sexuality prompts useless, burdensome fear.

We might find that once Lent is over we don’t need to resume these fears. Or at least that they wouldn’t stick to us quite as stubbornly after Easter Sunday.

Today, April 11, is the twelfth anniversary of Kurt Vonnegut’s death.

THE WHOLE STORY OF CLIMATE

 

This is a remarkable book with lucid, approachable geological science. It’s written in a way that shows the author’s passion for geology and for teaching. She also folds in memorable vignettes about the lives of figures whose discoveries paved the way to what we know now about climate science. This is a very, very good read, and equally thought-provoking.   It methodically builds a case that the Earth’s climate is more unstable than we knew:  it can – and has, in historical eras  – drastically changed in less than a lifetime.  

Highly recommended.

SHAPESHIFTERS

Following the example of a professor who always finds really interesting nonfiction books in the Rice University library, and who checked this book back in, I just read Shapeshifters by Gavin Francis, MD. I’m glad I did. This book is an expertly guided tour of how the human body is fundamentally changeable through both natural development and different diseases. Dr. Francis tells these medical tales with fascination, compassion, and strong, clear, evocative writing. This is highly recommended reading for writers of science fiction, fantasy and mystery – there’s so much good material here!

Earthrise

Recently the short documentary Earthrise was posted on Youtube.  It’s an exploration of the emotional impact on the first humans to ever see their—our—lovely world in the rear view mirror.

The crew of Apollo 8 journeyed to the far side of the moon and back.  They became the first in human history to go far enough from the good Earth to see it dwindle into a blue marble.  Curiously, there had been no advance recognition of the emotional impact of seeing what may be the most hospitable place in all of Creation from a distance,.

The Apollo 8 mission is today remembered for the iconic photo of a crescent Earth rising above the lunar horizon.  In photographic terms, however, what was to be one of the most reproduced images in all of humankind’s history was a “grab shot”:  William Anders had been recording lunar craters on black and white film when suddenly  Earth rose above the bleak horizon.  He asked for a roll of color film—tossed to him, in zero gee—and caught the image in the nick of time, because nobody who’d planned the mission had anticipated the wonder of this.

In Anders words, “We came all this way to explore the Moon, and the most important thing is that we discovered the Earth.”

Mission Commander Frank Borman’s take was equally poignant:  rather than astronauts, he said, we “should have sent poets.”   Poets, as well as visual artists and writers can with capture how the wonder of the universe intersects the human spirit.

The wonder of Creation, the incomparable value of our home planet, and what it means to be human:  these are some of the reasons I write science fiction.  Maybe these are some of reasons you read science fiction, too.

 

 

Writing a Caticorn – Guest Post by Pauline Baird Jones

Once again this year I’m delighted to be a part of the science fiction romance anthology Pets in Space.  In this guest post, fellow Embrace the Passion:  Pets in Space 3  author Pauline Baird Jones talks about she invented her pet.

 

One of the hardest (for me) parts when starting a new Pets in Space story is picking a pet. You’d think I was picking a real pet, not a fictional one. For the past two anthologies, I’ve picked the pet and then they drove the story and revealed to me the human they owned and sometimes they told me bits of the story.

They were quite helpful, though there were times I wondered what the pet had been drinking. lol

So this year I decided to be more organized about this pet selection process. I made a list of animals that caught my eye (mostly on my Facebook feed scrolling by) and then I tried to winnow it down. Here’s my “short list” for Pets in Space 3:

Pandas

Harpy Eagle

Turtle

Hedgehog

Flying Squirrel

Blue-footed booby

Boa

Cat

Dog

White mice

Gerbil

Hamster

So which of these animals did I pick for Embrace the Passion: Pets in Space 3?

Well…kind of none of the above. Lol!

I created a caticorn—a combo cat with a small horse body and a single horn in its forehead.

So technically I picked a cat and then did some fictional genetic engineering. (Don’t feel bad for the pets not picked. Somehow most of them managed to force their way into the story in other ways.)

I did have good reasons for going with a caticorn.

I needed a pet that would help, but not be high maintenance for my heroine.

And I needed a pet with secrets. Let’s face it, cats always look like they are keeping secrets—when they aren’t giving you the Puss’n Boots “give me what I want” look.

And I needed a pet that could sneak on board the ship, because the caticorn did not get an invite for this trip.

I did mention some other animals managed to push their way onboard my space ship, didn’t I? Here’s a little snippet from Operation Ark:

***

The Emissary’s capabilities had tipped the scales on the mission from bat crap crazy to this might work. City had volunteered without hesitation. She’d worked with Kraye and Bull. Kraye was good in a fire fight, and Bull, well, he was a robot who had been designed as a super warrior—a super warrior with a flying squirrel for a pet, but still a robot with fighting creds.

She heard a plaintive half whinny, half meow.

“There you are.” She made the mistake of meeting his big, ‘I feel so neglected’ gaze. With a resigned sigh, she knelt down and ran a hand down his back. It arched like a cat’s and he purred when she scratched around his ears and horn. “You know you’re not supposed to be here.”

The purring increased, and she sighed again. A Marine was not supposed to be owned by a cat, even if it was a caticorn.

“Good thing I got your dietary needs programmed into the system.”

Tiger angled his head, his gaze meeting hers. The look was odd enough to make her wonder—but the Puss’n’Boots look came back. She felt its power, but let Tiger see her skepticism. At least she didn’t have to worry about his claws in her back. It didn’t seem like it should be possible for Tiger to increase the soulful, but he managed it. She chuckled, moving her fingers around so she could scratch his chin. “You win.” She said the words, not sure what he’d won, and she’d lost. It all felt a bit paranoid. Though a little paranoia never hurt anyone in a galaxy far, far away.

***

Rocky the flying squirrel is a pretty awesome buddy for Bull but you’ll need to order the book to find out which other animals found their way into my story “Operation Ark.”

And here’s the blurb for “Operation Ark”:

She’s a USMC Sergeant deployed to the Garradian Galaxy.

He was raised by the robots who freed him from slavery.

It’s a match made nowhere anyone can figure out.

They clashed as enemies but joined forces to defeat a common foe. Now they’re tasked with returning some freed prisoners to their home worlds. In the next galaxy. With an alien, a robot, and a caticorn. It was a bar joke without a punch line, though Carolina City has a feeling it is out there—like the truth.

Kraye isn’t eager to return to his galaxy where the dark secret of his past lays in wait, but he’s willing to risk it in hopes that Caro can teach him what the robots couldn’t: how to be human.

Together they must face a dangerous journey, a lethal enemy with a score to settle, their unexpected desire, and an uncertain future if they make it out alive.

Can Caro and Kraye navigate the minefields—both emotional and space based—to land a happy homecoming for the sentient animals in their care? Can the man raised by robots learn how to kiss the girl while the starchy Marine decides if she is willing to bend the rules for a happy ever after? Don’t miss Pauline Baird Jones’ newest Project Enterprise story!

Please join us for the next round of adventures with romance, danger and pets! All of it happening in space!

USA Today Bestselling author Pauline Baird Jones never liked reality, so she writes books. She likes to wander among the genres, rampaging like Godzilla, because she does love peril mixed in her romance.

 

 

 

The Blessing of the Animals

St Francis and animals

Yesterday my church, St. Stephen’s Episcopal in Houston, honored St. Francis of Assisi by blessing the animals.

Whether pets or predators, tame or wild, animals remind us – as St. Francis proclaimed but Western civilization too often denies – that we are not alone in creation. It isn’t us or them, isn’t us not them; it’s us and them in the fate of the Earth. 

So St. Stephen’s had much emphasis on ecology in the hymns and prayers, and many pets in attendance. Twenty or so dogs, two turtles, a lizard, and a cockatiel came to church. Our priest individually blessed each pet right in front of the altar. It was a surprisingly powerful ritual. People love their pets. And everyone needed hope and healing after the news that filled the national media last week.

Pets can be incredibly empathetic when humans are hurt, sick, or sad. One of the dogs was a trained therapy dog. Therapy animals mean so much to students in finals, the elderly in assisted living and nursing homes, and other places. My friend Lila’s PTSD therapy dog, Rinnie, makes all the difference in the world for Lila. 

Rinnie

Ritually and intentionally blessing our pets once a year in church reminds us of how we are blessed by them

As a writer of science fiction with real science in it, it’s a little out of character for me to have stories in the Pets in Space Science Fiction Romance anthology (2016 – 2018). But so far, just about every author’s Pets in Space tale has –  amid adventure and mayhem, with sex ranging from hinted to hot, and without using these exact words – shown pets being blessings to people. One reviewer was bitterly disappointed that there was no sex with pets (!) but that isn’t what we’re about. It’s pets rescuing, finding, helping, defending, matchmaking, and making a happy ending. 

That’s a good thing kind of story to write. I’m happy to have a story in Pets in Space:  Embrace the Passion!

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St. Francis sketch credit <a href=”https://clipartxtras.com/”>clipartxtras.com</a>