Lost and Found

We read books to find out who we are. -Ursula K. Le Guin, author (21 Oct 1929-2018)

So true!

It’s not just the self-help books that work that way, either.  It can be cookbooks. ( Will I enjoy preparing Korean food?) It can be science fiction, for a kid who feels like an alien wherever they’re growing up and going to school. It can be nonfiction about science, history, race relations, archaeology or anything else, when we want to understand who we are as a species or race or nation – or civilization.

In researching Four Lost Cities, science journalist and SF writer Annalee Newitz visited the archaeological sites of Çatalhöyük in Turkey, Pompeii in modern Italy, Angkor in Cambodia, and Cahokia near the Mississippi River to find out who what happens when a city ends.  Pompeii is the one that was obliterated by nature. Rome promptly resettled many evacuees elsewhere.  In the case of the other cities, people seem to have dispersed but continued to use the place as a graveyard for a long time (Çatalhöyük); lost interest in city life as climate changed and rulers made bad decisions, leaving contingents of monks to stick around tending the temples (Angkor) ; or upped and moved on (Cahokia.)  This is a fascinating exploration of the life and death of cities – and the tenacity of human cultures – with more than a little relevance for our own day.



We’ve heard Einstein’s famous quote about imagination being more important than knowledge.  But there’s more:

“Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.

“Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere.” – Albert Einstein

Much, much less known is something else he said:

“The world is a dangerous place to live, not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don’t do anything about it.”

He was a wise man.

The Hoarder in You


Someone in my writer’s group recommended this book as very helpful given the situation he found himself in. Someone else bought a copy and reports that thanks to this book, his home has become more livable, with less clutter and more grace notes of beauty.

My condo, home office and all, happens to be extremely neat. But out of general interest, I got the book through Interlibrary Loan and. … oh yes, this is proving helpful to me too.

For one thing, most of us have stuff that we don’t need and we’d be well served by turning loose of.  Even if it’s highly organized, a home too full of stuff is a spiritual downer. The Hoarder in You‘s author Robin Zasio explains how shopping opportunities fuel cluttering. She describes the cognitive distortions that result in clutter or worse. (She addresses pathological hoarding, too, so this book is HIGHLY recommended if a family member or friend has this problem.) She has good hints like if you don’t know where you’ll put it, don’t bring it home.

For another thing, I now recognize how cluttering has happened right here in my home office. It’s in my to-do listing. I have a hard time not sticking something sparkly new onto my to-do list.  I already have lists of lists. Some of my to-do lists are so long they’re unwieldy, in their way not unlike a listing pile of physical clutter.   🙁

It’s time to work on this.

The Library Book

Front cover of THE LIBRARY BOOK by Susan Orlean

The Library Book by Susan Orlean came out in 2018 to rave reviews in library circles. I’m glad I got around to reading it! As a lifelong book lover who writes books and works in a library,  this book resonated with me. I read it in small sections (at lunch at work!) to make it last longer.  🙂

Central to the book is a devastating fire at the Los Angeles Central Library in 1986. The cause of the fire was never established, despite the existence of a suspicious character who might have been there that morning.  The backbone of the book is the fire, the fruitless investigation into its cause, and the hard but finally successful recovery from the fire.  On that backbone, Ms Orleans arranges all kinds of good information.  She tells the turbulent history of that library from its founding on. Along the way, she reflects on her own lifelong love of libraries.  She even describes experimentally burning  a book – a paperback copy of Fahrenheit 451 (!)

Here’s one of many wonderful passages in this book that’s all about libraries, librarians, books, and being human.

The silence was more soothing than solemn. A library is a good place to soften solitude;  place where you feel part of a conversation that has gone on for hundreds and hundreds of years even when you’re all alone. The library is a whispering post.  You don’t need to take a book off a shelf to know there is a voice inside that is waiting to speak to you, and behind that was someone who truly believed that if he or she spoke, someone would listen. . . . I was struck by how precious and foolish and brave that belief is, and how necessary; and how full of hope it is to collect these books and manuscripts and preserve them.

The inside back cover has a picture of a traditional library book pocket and card.  And that’s charming.

Inside the back cover of The Library Book is a picture of an old-fashioned checkout slip pocket.




Prologue to the Future

With a new novella in the Science Fiction Romance anthology Pets in Space 5, a question was posed to all of the authors – what sparked your story?

Here’s my answer and then some.

I wanted to write a PISA story with a trauma service animal.  But some elements of the story have existed in my imagination for a long time. My heroine Mercury’s psychic gift to change the laws of probability around her and so change her luck, and that of her friends and enemies—her psychalchemy—was in my idea notes from twenty years ago.  Even then, she was one of a team of xenarchaeologists studying alien ruins. Her love interest was supposed to be somebody else. He’ll be a good hero when his time comes but he’ll have to find another heroine.  Mercury is taken!

My hero Haze is original to Pastfinders. He had to have a reason to be at the ancient archaeological site, so it became an official visit in his capacity as a biologist with the planetary government. He also had to have PTSD that crashes down on him.  Haze evolved from there. And Rusty, the alien trauma service creature, evolved to be what Haze needed.

What put everyone together was the title. “Pastfinders” is what the xenarchaeologists call themselves after their starship, Pastfinder.  On the barren planet Tellus, under ancient alien ruins, there is a buried, eroded past to be discovered. Haze has his own buried past—the trauma that left him with PTSD and in dire need of a sympathetic service animal. The planet itself has a lost geological history that the colonists want to recreate, by making a long-dry river flow anew. In writing the story I made these lost and found pasts intersect.

Speaking of intersections. . . .

The project next up for me is the final revision of the second book in my Starways series.  In the first book, Witherspin, the Pastfinders’ leader Svetlana Tai surprised me by horning in to demand some stage time.  Witherspin’s heroine is actually mentioned by Tai in Pastfinders:

“The Crate is sanctioned by an elaborate legal agreement engineered by an interstellar lawyer at Avend University in Wendis. She’s old Azurean, just as you’re old Tellan.”

“From one of the early astronaut families on Azure.” Haze nodded.

“And you’ll never meet a more precious, sanctimonious rule-head than Nia Az-Courant.”

Evidently Tai disliked the lawyer in question.

In the second book, Starmaze, Tai and her merry crew of archaeologist-adventurers turn out to play a major role. They are not just harmless scientists. And some significant action in which they involve themselves takes place where my PISA3 story Starway was set – the Starway interstellar hotel.

Further ahead in the Starways series, Haze and Rusty joining the team is going to change the Pastfinders’ future. And that starship of theirs will turn out to have a secret past of its own. It was salvaged after a fierce little interstellar war by a group which stayed out of the war but salvaged some of the war’s wrack and ruin. So the starship Pastfinder was in its past life a storied warship named Gallant.  It still has its original identification plate. Aircraft restorations are famous for this:  almost all that’s left of a rare old aircraft may be the original manufacturer’s data plate, but with great enthusiasm and expense, the aircraft is remade around it.

In the case of Gallant/Pastfinder, more than the nameplate was salvaged.  Its engine was intact.  It so happened that its role in battle was a fast—very, very fast—attack cruiser. In the possession of the Pastfinders, this souped-up starship may turn the tide on future battles too.

Time will tell!

Guest Post by Laurie A. Green: And Then There Were Four

 Again this year I’m delighted to have a story in the best-selling Science Fiction Romance anthology Pets in Space 5.  Here my fellow PiSA 5 author Laurie Green shows us the charming pet in her story. (I want one!)

The StarDog

This is the fourth story I’ve written for an annual Pets in Space® release with each of the previous ones including a StarDog as a pet and/or working partner. Not one to give up on a theme, for Pets in Space® 5 I decided to write another StarDog adventure, but go back in time and center the action around one of the very first bio-engineered dog-cat-weasel-mongoose DNA blends named CaSandra—or Cassie, for short.

Being creatures created in a lab, the StarDog names are all drawn from their particular production series. The three StarDogs in previous stories were a K-series (Katrina from StarDog), L-series (Luna from Courting Disaster), and M-series (Maura from SpyDog), so their stories take place in later timelines. CaSandra is, of course, from the C-series and so one of the earliest StarDogs. Her story is set five calendars (years) before any of the others. She’s literally a protype and still in the testing phase.

Like the StarDogs and SpyDogs who will come after her, Cassie is extremely perceptive and intelligent. She was created to serve as an intelligence asset and is highly inquisitive and attentive. Very few details escape her attention!

In my story Juggernaut, Dekessa “Dek” Garr is the acting commander of a security team and she meets CaSandra and her handler, Telon, for the first time in this scene: (Edited for length.)

He reached down beside his chair and lifted an object onto the table by a handle set into the top. The rectangular box appeared to be made of punched polymer with wire mesh on the side facing her.

“Say hello to the commander, CaSandra,” Telon said.

Two little golden paws pressed against the mesh from the inside. The creature attached to them gave a high-pitched bark, followed by quiet chattering.

Startled, Dek backed off a step. The animal’s soft amber eyes studied her from behind the mesh with its shiny nose molded tight to the thin bars.

“What in Empora’s Hades is this?” she demanded.

“There isn’t a name for what she is,” Telon answered quietly. “She’s a bio-construct, a first-generation prototype with canine, feline, weasel, and mongoose DNA.”

Dek raised her gaze to the stranger. “Bio-constructed for what purpose?”

His eyes went dark and deep, like the ocean just before a storm. “I’m not at liberty to discuss that, Acting Commander.”

This guy was going to be nothing but trouble. Good thing she’d been trained to handle trouble in all its masculine forms.

He reached for the wire mesh screen—

“What are you—”

—and flipped it open.

Dek backed off another step and gripped the stunpulse secreted in a pocket of her field uniform. The golden creature exited its crate, eyeing her cautiously, and sniffed the air. Its pointed ears twitched before it bolted up Telon’s sleeve and perched on his shoulder, chattering quietly in his ear.

The man nodded and met Dek’s eyes. “Cassie says she’s on your side. And she’d like you to release the weapon you have hidden in your uniform.”

The little beastie squeaked again.

“Please,” he added.

Dek dropped her chin, squinting. “Is this creature telepathic?”

“Not exactly,” he replied.

The bio-construct leaned toward Telon, nuzzling the side of his face…and purred. Huh. Just like the kitten she’d had as a kid. The man reached up to stroke the animal’s head. Cassie craned her neck and closed her eyes, emitting a happy gruff-gruff.

Dek’s heart warmed a degree or two.

Gigadam thing’s adorable.

She displayed her empty hand. “Tell her if she behaves, she has nothing to fear from me.”

Telon grinned. “You just told her yourself, Acting Commander. She understands you perfectly.”


The Inherited Stars Series

By Laurie A. Green

A security commander must decide if she can trust a mysterious stranger and his bioengineered StarDog when the secret underground site she protects is threatened.

I hope you’ll join Cassie and company for their high-stakes adventure in Pets in Space® 5.

Author Laurie A. Green Website

illustration by Adrian

The Blessing of the Animals

Today is the Feast Day of St. Francis.  Even in this COVID year, a lot of mainstream churches held the Blessing of the Animals – possibly by drive through! And why not?  Pets have comforted so many people during shutdowns and quarantines.  Even those without pets have been made happy by seeing pictures of pets on Facebook.

Again this year I’m delighted to be in the Pets in Space 5 Science Fiction Romance anthology.  A dozen stories NYT and USA Today bestselling authors have concocted wonderful stories about space and starships, romance and adventure, and helpful, companionable, mysterious or surprising pets. I know Pets in Space 5 will entertain our readers. And I hope it helps some of them through a bad night or bad day. That’s what a good story with heart can do.

My PISA 5 story is Pastfinders, and here’s an excerpt from it:

The scratching came again, the unmistakable sound of blunt claws on tent fabric. Haze eased away from Mercury. He got his feet under him in a tense crouch and touched the flap of the tent. His heart pounded as he anticipated what he’d see, or not.

The flap opened to reveal a creature looking up at him. It was compactly dog-sized but unlike anything Haze had ever seen. Except it had the eyes he’d dreamed about, large golden eyes with diamond-shaped pupils.

He stared at the creature in wary wonder. Its wide, feathered head had long flexible ears and a hooked beak. It had wide shoulders and a thick ruff of feathers lighter in color than the rust-brown fur on the rest of its body. It stood on front paws with blunt, tent-scratching claws. It had taloned back feet. And a long tail with a feathery tuft at the end.

The strange compassionate eyes didn’t leave Haze. The creature put a paw on his knee.

His wariness melted. The reflexes of a lifelong biologist remained. Breaking off eye contact—animals consider direct eye contact potential threat—Haze slowly extended his hand, palm up, below the creature’s shoulder—animals take a hand reaching for their head as a threat.

It sniffed his hand.

He slowly raised his hand to its ruff. The feathers felt much colder than the air. This was an unexpectedly detailed encounter to be just a dream. Haze was puzzled. “Where did you come from?”

It wagged its feather-tufted tail in such a doglike, Dusty-like movement that his heart warmed.

Behind him, Mercury rolled up with a puzzled little sound. She looked over his shoulder and gasped.

“Do you see it too?” Haze asked. “Or am I dreaming?”

“What is that?!”

“I dreamed about my old dog. I had a nightmare and it led me to safety.” He looked into those strange, compassionate eyes again and some of the tension that had his nerves stretched taut eased.

She put her hands on his shoulders. “That is not a dog!”

“The eyes were the same. My old dog was named Dusty because his fur always picked up the dust in the street.”

The long, flexible ears pointed toward him. The early sun picked out reddish notes in its fur and its feathers. He heard himself ask, “Can I call you Rusty?”

The creature cocked its head as though trying to understand him.

Get Pets in Space® 5!  A portion of the first few weeks’ profits go to Hero-Dogs.org, a non-profit charity that helps our service veterans and first responders. 




Photo by Mark Montague

I spent the summer in Reno, Nevada, leaving – fortunately – just before the wildfires in California got bad enough to drop the visibility and air quality for weeks.  Nonetheless while I was still there my fiancé took this photo from his driveway.  A fire just across the state line in California created this pyroculumlus cloud above  the updraft from the fire. The fire even generated a firenado – a fire tornado – the first that ever made it into a National Weather Service forecast. On top of the terrible COVID summer, there was no way to see this cloud at sunset other than as a sign of crises to come.


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