Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas...and BTW


Help! Help! I'm being held captive by the Supreme Poodle Pasha Zackery and the harem kitty, MaxieCat. They won't let me go.
This morning, MaxieCat asked to come into the house. Pasha Zackery jumped on me to let her in. What she wants, he is going to see that she gets. I was trying to write! I got up and let his girl friend into the house. I went back to trying to write.
Then MaxieCat decided that she wanted my lap. The computer was in my lap. Pasha Zack was on my shoulders. Pandamonium ensued. Pasha Zack said (in extremely loud and ungentlemanly terms, and also next to my ear - I wonder why I have this ringing in my ears?) that my person belonged to him alone. Evidently, what he is willing to sacrifice for true love has some limitations. MaxieCat ignored him, and shoved.
The upshot is that Pasha Zackery has retained his shoulder rights, and now MaxieCat is sharing my lap with the computer as she gives herself and my hands a bath... while I continue to try to write...with ringing in my ears. The computer is doing very strange things with human fingers and kitty fingers all mixed together. Communal effort was not what I had in mind as I began writing this morning. I write Science Fiction Romance... while I try to deal with inter-species romance.
May you have Peace and Joy in your house... even if I am beginning to wonder if such a thing exists.
Happy writing
Frances
Writing Science Fiction Romance
Real Love in a Real Future

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Christmas Astronomy

The Reflection Nebula, NGC 1435, just because I think it's pretty for this time of year.
In my last Astronomy post, I said that I was going to write about the Christmas Star. This post is about Astronomy, not about religion. Nor does it espouse astrology. Modern Astronomy and astrology no longer have anything to do with one another; but, they did two thousand years ago. What I’m talking about here is archaeoastronomy, the science of astronomy studied in a historical, cultural context. This post is meant only to give you a few facts to think about. When all is said and done, each of us will decide what we wish to believe, regardless of anyone else’s logic. So come along with me as we dig up a few facts.

As a disclaimer, please be aware that, I am simply an amateur astronomer. Yet, although my degrees are not in Astronomy, I do check, and cross check my facts before giving them to you. What I have is an enquiring mind, equipped with a few patches of Velcro for making connections, and a really neat astronomy program called Starry Night. I highly recommend it if you should have a desire to feel totally superior, or even better yet... simply have some fun. It’s economical, easy to use, educational, and extremely entertaining. How can you lose?

Now, let’s get serious about Christmas Astronomy. The years 7 to 2 BC contained the some of the most spectacular astronomical displays ever. So let’s look at a few of them.

To get a proper appreciation for the “Astronomical Event” which has come to be known as the Christmas Star, we have to go back at least 2,500 years. We have to put ourselves into the minds of the people of the times. All ancient people studied the stars, and had been doing so for thousands of years. The one “possible” exception was the Jews, who were forbidden to use divination (Deuteronomy 18:10). Ancient people, everywhere, believed that destinies were foretold, and messages from the gods were announced by the stars in the heavens. Everyone, who was anyone, had their special constellation, star, and advisor.

At that time, there was no difference between an astrologer and an astronomer. Almost no decision was made without first consulting the handy-dandy court astrologer/astronomer - who also just happened to be the most highly educated guy around. With your future on the line, you wanted your best man on the job. This is very important, so put it in your trivia bag. We'll get back to it. The caveat was in the interpretation; and, of course, who was paying. Sometimes the astrologer/astronomer hit the jackpot, and sometimes he crapped out. Under the latter circumstances, as you can imagine, life expectancies were... dubious, at best.

In Astronomy, there is something called Precession. It is rather like a super calendar. The Earth wobbles on its axis like a top, and one wobble lasts about 27,000 years. Divide that by twelve and name each section after the sign of the zodiac in which the Sun rises on the vernal (spring) equinox, and you have the Age du jour. Two thousand years ago the Age of Aries was coming to an end, and the Age of Pisces was just beginning. However, because of the slow motion of the Earth in its wobble, and because of the lack of known boundaries of zodiacal constellations, it’s somewhat difficult (read: impossible) to establish the precise date of the beginning of the Piscean Age. But... everybody was looking for CHANGE!

In astrology, there are four Royal Stars, fixed roughly equally along the general course of the ecliptic, or path of the Sun. They are: Antares in Scorpio; Fomalhaut in the Southern Fish; Aldebaran in Taurus; and Regulus, the king of all the Royal Stars, in Leo, and incidentally the only one of the Royal Stars to be directly on the ecliptic. Perhaps that is why he got to be king! Your guess is as good as mine.

The planets were considered to be wandering gods, and Jupiter was the king of these wanderers, and carried the Hebrew name of Sedeq or “Righteousness.” Saturn was the next mightiest, and according to some sources, was known as the “protector of the Jews”. The thing is that Jupiter and Saturn were the astrological “big men on campus.” Where a planet hung out and with whom, had great portent for lowly mortals. Consider for a moment the international attention paid to the conjunction of Venus, Jupiter, and the Moon earlier this month, or the millennium... or even better yet, the daily astrology column of the local newspaper, and you get the idea. People were expecting...

In 12 BC, Halley’s Comet was visible. Ooooo, ominous! Still, it stirred people up. Lots of things were happening in the heavens, and people like the excitement.

In 7 BC, Jupiter and Saturn had triple conjunctions in Chez Pisces. This is a very rare event. For the two greatest planets to have, not just one, but three conjunctions (within one year) in the house of the new age was indicative of GREAT CHANGE. From time to time, Venus and Mercury also dropped in. By the spring of 6 BC, Mars had joined the party, adding more weight to the degree of changes to come. Astrologers all over the known world were looking for something BIG to happen.

THEN:
8/01/3 BC: Jupiter rose in the east, en te anatole, “in the first rays of the dawn.”
9/12/3 BC: First Jupiter and Regulus occulting conjunction: rising in the east and visible from 0230 until just before sunrise.
2/18/2 BC: Second Jupiter and Regulus conjunction: visible with full Moon from 1900 until 0530
5/7/2 BC: Third Jupiter and Regulus conjunction: visible after sunset, until 2400.
6/17/2 BC: Jupiter and Venus spectacular conjunction in Leo.
8/27/2 BC: Jupiter, Venus, Mars and Mercury conjunction in the east, just before dawn in Virgo. This places the Sun also in Virgo. Two days later the Moon joined the party.
10/13/2 BC: Jupiter and Venus have a close conjunction in Virgo and Jupiter moves westward in relation to the Sun and other planets.
12/15/2 BC: Jupiter reaches its furthest point westward, no longer moving against the background stars, and appears to stand still for almost a month. Just before dawn, is on the meridian due south of Jerusalem, in line with Bethlehem.
12/25/2 BC: Winter Solstice and Hanukkah.

Now, this is where is the significance of that “most highly educated” comment, which I told you to put into your trivia bag, comes in. Any ancient, who was a serious astrologer/astronomer, would have been familiar with the prophetic writings of a multitude of countries. For centuries, the Ancient Jews had prophecies, recorded in their sacred writings, of the coming of a chosen King. The most well known of these, Daniel 9:26-27, indicated that 3 to 2 BC was the time for the appearance of their Messiah. However, the Jews were not the only ones who had similar predictions recorded in their sacred scriptures. The Zoroastrians of Persia also had predictions of a coming Savior King in their bible, the Avesta. And the Avesta prophesied that there would be born to the Jews a King Messiah, and that His coming would be announced by a sign in the constellation Virgo. The world was certainly looking for CHANGE. They had the SIGNS!

All stellar and planetary positions were verified with Starry Night Bundle Edition 2.1 and Starry Night CSAP. For more on the Christmas Star, you might enjoy The Christmas Star by Barry Setterfield.

I hope that you have enjoyed this, and will want to do further research. May the Spirit of the Star of Bethlehem shine upon you and your home all year long.

Frances
Writing Science Fiction Romance
Real Love in a Real Future

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Book Reviewers Link-up Meme

Grasping for the Wind’s John Ottinger is updating his blogroll of fantasy and science fiction book reviewers and needs our help. If you would like your site to be included, take this list and post it on your website, then add yourself to the list, preferably in alphabetical order. John will then track the links across the web from back links, and can add each new blog to his roll as it pops up.

Here’s the list:
The Accidental Bard
A Dribble Of Ink
Adventures in Reading
The Agony Column
The Antick Musings of G.B.H. Hornswoggler, Gent.
Barbara Martin
Bibliophile Stalker
Bibliosnark
BillWardWriter.com
Blood of the Muse
Bookgeeks
Bookslut
The Book Smugglers
Bookspotcentral
The Book Swede
Bookrastination
Breeni Books
Cheaper Ironies [pro columnist]
Cheryl’s Musings
Critical Mass
Dark Wolf Fantasy Reviews
Darque Reviews
Dave Brendon’s Fantasy and Sci-Fi Weblog
The Deckled Edge
Dragons, Heroes and Wizards
Dusk Before the Dawn
Enter the Octopus
Eve’s Alexandria
Fantasy Book Critic
Fantasy Cafe
Fantasy Debut
Fantasy Book Reviews and News
Fantasy and Sci-fi Lovin’ Blog
The Fix
The Foghorn Review
Frances Writes
From a Sci-Fi Standpoint
The Galaxy Express
Galleycat
Graeme’s Fantasy Book Review
Grasping for the Wind
The Green Man Review
Hasenpfeffer
Highlander’s Book Reviews
io9
Jumpdrives and Cantrips
Lisa Paitz Spindler’s Danger Gal Reviews
Literary Escapism
Michele Lee’s Book Love
Monster Librarian
Mostly Harmless Books
My Favourite Books
Neth Space
NextRead
OF Blog of the Fallen
The Old Bat’s Belfry
Outside of a Dog
Pat’s Fantasy Hotlist
Piaw’s Blog
Post-Weird Thoughts
Publisher’s Weekly
Reading the Leaves
Realms of Speculative Fiction
Rob’s Blog o’ Stuff
Robots and Vamps
ScifiChick
SF Diplomat
SciFiGuy
Sci-Fi Songs [Musical Reviews]
Severian’s Fantastic Worlds
SF Gospel
SF Reviews.net
SF Revu
SF Signal
SF Site
SFF World’s Book Reviews
Silver Reviews
Speculative Fiction Junkie
Speculative Horizons
Spontaneous Derivation
Sporadic Book Reviews
Stella Matutina
The Sword Review
Tangent Online
Temple Library Reviews
Tor.com [also a publisher]
The Road Not Taken
Un:Bound
Urban Fantasy Land
Vast and Cool and Unsympathetic
Variety SF
Walker of Worlds
Wands and Worlds
The Wertzone
WJ Fantasy Reviews
The World in a Satin Bag
WriteBlack
Foreign Language (other than English)
Cititor SF [Romanian, but with English Translation]
Elbakin.net [French]

For those of you who are not reviewers, but who are looking to find good reviews of Science Fiction and Fantasy books so that you don't waste your valuable time, perhaps you would like to check out some of the Reviewers on this list.

Happy Reading,

Frances

Writing Science Fiction Romance
Real Love in a Real Future

Friday, December 12, 2008

How Big Daddy Atlas Protected His Baby Girls

(Note: For your convenience, and apologies to Starry Night, in the picture above, I have exaggerated the main stellar objects mentioned in this post.)

All right! I lied. Mea culpa! In my The Pleiades Have Risen Post, I said that in my very next astronomy post I would tell you how Big Daddy Atlas protected the virtue of his precious, baby girls, the Pleiades, from the (presumably unwanted) attentions of Orion, the hunter. I simply had forgotten about the conjunction of Venus, Jupiter, and the Moon. I hope that you enjoyed the show.

As frequently happens after winter storm fronts pass, tonight, or rather, this morning the viewing was incredible, in spite of the full Moon. Most of the leaves are gone after the storm, and the moonlight and incredibly clear air made everything appear as if they were painted in blue and silver. I wouldn’t have seen all of this beauty except that MaxieCat chose 3 AM to demand to be let into the house. The Supreme Poodle Pasha Zackery exploded from under the covers barking his fool head off. As far as he is concerned, what his harem kitty wants, his harem kitty gets... except of course, for my lap, which she takes anyway. So out into the cold night we went to protect MaxieCat from who only knows what. If it weren’t for these wee beasties, I wonder how many stars I would ever see. There overhead, already receding into the West, was Orion. I immediately came back in from the cold to tell you all about it. :-)

Early on clear December evenings, you can see Orion rising in the East. For the rest of the winter, it dominates the sky with more bright stars, close together, than can be seen anywhere else, at any other time of the year. Orion is, by far, my favorite constellation. He’s also the randy guy Big Daddy Atlas was so worried about protecting his daughters from.

The Pleiades are now high in the sky. From the Pleiades, look straight down toward the eastern horizon. On the way, you’ll see a bright reddish star. That’s Aldebaran. It’s the angry eye of the constellation, Taurus. Taurus was the pet bull of Atlas, who held up the sky. The bull was very fierce, very big, and Big Daddy Atlas set him to guard his baby girls from the lusty Orion.
Orion is the next bright grouping of stars below Aldebaran, and is easily recognizable by the three bright stars in a row. Those three stars are Orion’s belt, recently of MEN IN BLACK fame. Orion is always trying to get to the Pleiades, however is blocked by the great bull, Taurus. For all of eternity, Orion backs Taurus across the sky; yet, guarded by their daddy’s pet bull, the Pleiades’ virtue remains everlastingly, ad nauseam, intact. The poor dears!

You have to wonder about a man who is so reluctant to have grandchildren that he would resort to such extremes. You have to wonder about a man that would even want seven wives, or more likely, just a fun night on the town. You also have to wonder about seven women who would put up with two such men. I think that those ancient Greeks could have benefited from a little therapy.

My next Astronomy Post will be about the Christmas Star.

Happy viewing,
Frances Drake

Writing Science Fiction Romance
Real Love in a Real Future

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Tis the Season...

For Tornadoes! Hurricane season ends with the last of November in the Deep South of the US...Hopefully! However, with the end of hurricane season comes the beginning of tornado season. With extreme differences in temperatures on each side of incoming cold fronts, the weather here can get pretty drastic. Fifty-five years ago, my home town was destroyed by a tornado on December 5, 1953. This is exactly what it looked like the next morning when I saw it.

Even though I was only seven years old, I still remember the green/orange sky of that evening... green from the tornedo, and orange from the fires. I have an older brother today, only because of a last minute decision by his group of rowdy friends to see a Roy Rogers movie (more manly, I guess) rather than that yucky "Botony Bay" showing at the other movie theater. The terror for me was that I didn't know if I still had a brother after the "little storm" downtown. My home town has never completely recovered. What had been a remarkably attractive and vibrant downtown was turned into a pile of rubble. Today, although once again attractive, as you can see, it still struggles to regain its former life spirit. I am very proud of those who have worked so hard to achieve the progress that has been made.

Last night, our annular tornadoes once again began their passes over us. Thank goodness, for as far as I know, there were no injuries. I will admit to being a little tense, though. After all, I am stormophobic. This morning when the great Pasha Zackery and I went outside, I found that all of my work creating proper drainage over the Summer had paid off. Although we had torrential rains, the drains held, I still have a garden, and I didn't lose any more of my hill. Yeah!

Pasha Zackery was so excited (he likes chilly weather) that he jerked his leash out of my hand and flew off to the woods to do the business that little black Poodles do early each morning. I had just finished cleaning the last drain when he ran back past me, leash flying in the wind behind him. He has been known to gleefully... and quite rapidly, travel for great distances with no regard to demands for his return. When I shouted "Zack, wait!" and he actually turned around and came back, you can only imagine my amazement. Is it possible? Could it be... that he is actually growing up into... heaven forbid... a responsible adult Poodle? I haven't throttled him yet, so perhaps there is still hope.

Nah. Not possible. Forget it. He just snarled at MaxieCat when she tried to crawl into my lap. She simply doesn't understand. She, a civilized lady cat, is willing to share my lap with the computer, and she's willing that he have my shoulders, so what is his problem? Oh, well! They'll work out their territories over the next few hours. I have a manuscript to work on.
Happy reading and writing, and give thanks for your blessings,

Frances

Writing Science Fiction Romance
Real Love in a Real Future

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

A Favor Please


I hope that all of you were able to see the Astronomical conjunction of Jupiter, Venus and the Moon last night. It was partially cloudy where I live, so I was only able to catch a glimpse through the clouds and trees. Tonight it will be very clear and I will be watching as they retreat from one another over the next few days. They will continue to be the show to watch for several more days, so have fun.

Now, lets get down to business. This is the season of giving around the world. Many of us have our budgets severely restricted and are not able to do as much as we would like. Therefore, I am just asking you to take a few seconds of your time and simply click on the buttons of your choice under my GOOD CAUSES in the sidebar. These clicks are absolutely free to you, and 100% of the sponsor donations go to the charities of your choice. Why not click on them each day? It's only a minute to help those who can't help themselves.

May your holidays be blessed,

Frances

Writing Science Fiction Romance
Real Love in a Real Future

Friday, November 28, 2008

Astronomy Alert! Ménage á trois...



Get your mind out of the gutter! We’re talking Astronomy here. We are about to have a super cool celestial event that almost everyone can enjoy. It’s already in progress. On the evening of December 1, 2008, we’re going to have a close encounter, or, in astronomy terms, a “conjunction” of Jupiter, Venus, and the Moon. On the Monday night, these three will be so close together that you’ll be able to see them all together, even in a single binocular field. And they are already BRIGHT! So bright, that even with terrible light pollution you can see them.

If you’re in North or South America, right after sunset, look close to the southwestern horizon, just as it is beginning to get dark. The Moon will be in what is known as a “waxing crescent.” That means that the portion of the Moon, which is reflecting the light from the Sun, is a thin crescent which will be growing over the coming nights. Venus and Jupiter are the two bright objects just below, or the West of the Moon. Venus is the brighter of the two objects.

Regretfully, if you’re in Europe - you have a problem. The Moon will have occulted, or will have moved in front of Venus. So the single bright object which you see next to the Moon is Jupiter. Still pretty cool! Sorry, but for you, Venus doesn’t move from behind the Moon until after they have all set.

If you’re in the Far East, Venus and Jupiter will be just above, or East of, the crescent Moon before it sinks toward the western horizon.

If you’re in Madagascar, or southeastern Africa, you get to see the coolest of all. Depending upon where you are, you get to see the Moon occult both Venus and Jupiter. It is possible that you may even see Venus and Jupiter skim the edges of the Moon as they pass behind it.

Now for an appearing non sequitur: When I was in college, in that tender age when dinosaurs ruled the world, my History Professor’s maiden name was that of one of the great European royal houses. She opened my eyes to aspects of history that had never occurred to this naïve little Southern girl. It had never occurred to me that “that” treaty, which put and end to “that” war, was signed because: Oh My! Great Aunt Sophie went to bed with King Biggy the night before! Goodness only knows who else Great Aunt Sophie went to bed with. But, goodness only knows how many lives Great Aunt Sophie may have saved.

Bringing this bit of nonsense into focus, and just as a bit of fun speculation, let’s consider what the Ancients would have thought of this event. To the Ancients, the Planets (or Wanderers), the Moon, and the Sun were gods, and their godlike movements influenced our humanlike lives on Earth. Jupiter, in the Western Mythological Tradition, was always associated with the king of the gods (King Biggy). Venus (Great Aunt Sophie) was generally associated with erotic love; and the Moon with Diana/Artemis (your guess is as good as mine), and the hunt and childbirth. What would possibly be going on when these three got together? Which room of the house were they in? What were they talking about? How was it going to affect my insignificant, uncertain world? Food for some interesting stories, huh?

Start watching tonight and follow the developments as Venus, Jupiter and the Moon grow closer together each night. May your skies be clear.

Happy Viewing,

Frances Drake

Writing Science Fiction Romance
Real Love in a Real Future

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving


I hope that you will all have a very Happy Thanksgiving. I realize that days of thanksgiving are celebrated at various times of the year around the globe, but in the US, tomorrow is our national day for giving thanks for all of our blessings. In keeping with the feasting aspect of this holiday, I thought that I would pass on a family recipe for making cornbread. The ingredients definitely aren't according to strict dietary guidelines, but can easily be changed to meet your health or cultural preferences.

Mama's Southern Cornbread

Combine and mix dry ingredients in large bowl:
1 C yellow cornmeal
1 C flour (I use whole wheat)
1 Tbs sugar (I use honey, some people don't use any)
1 heaping Tbs baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

Combine and mix together wet ingredients in separate bowl:
1 C milk (or 1/3 C powdered milk with dry, and water here)
[if you use buttermilk, cut the baking powder to 2 tsp, and add 1/2 tsp of soda]
1 egg

Heat oven to 350
Heat generous 1/3 C bacon drippings in iron skillet or pan of choice until hot and melted. (I used a combo of bacon drippings and olive oil, but any oil or butter will do)

Quickly combine wet ingredients with the dry, but don't overmix.

Swirl drippings/oil around the skillet or pan to coat and quickly pour most, but not all directly into the batter. Stir and immediately pour batter back into HOT skillet, and put into the oven. Take it out when the top is golden and the curled edges start to pull away from the sides of the skillet/pan, or center taps solid.

Variations and additions:
cheese, cut corn, peppers, crumbled bacon, sausage, or anything else that tickles your taste buds.

Now, what are you going to do with the leftover cornbread?

Cornbread Dressing:
Basic: Do this to your own preference.
crumbled, plain cornbread
green onion tops
regular sauted onions and celery
parsley
sage (go lightly on this one)
itty-bitty bit of garlic
beaten eggs
chicken or turkey stock until very moist
Instead of using salt - if necessary, I give it a few drops of Tobasco to sparke it, and a little dash of bouillion, which is mostly salt, but more flavor.
Cook all of this in a cassarole, not in the bird! 350 is a good temperature.

Variations and additions:
chopped gibblets
oysters
bacon
boiled eggs
pecans
mushrooms
chopped apples
or anything else that tickles your taste buds.

Count all your blessings, and Happy Thanksgiving

Frances

Writing Science Fiction Romance
And loving good food :-)

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Pleiades Have Risen!


Wow! We have now officially (that is, according to me) entered the best star viewing season of the Astronomy year. Speaking of Astronomy Years, 2009 really has been officially designated as the International Year of Astronomy by the International Astronomical Union. Doesn’t that just get you all excited?

If your skies are clear, and your light pollution isn’t too overwhelming - boy, can you have some fun! Eight of the thirteen most brilliant stars visible from Earth and some of the most easily discernable constellations are now all coming into view. For me, the rise of the Pleiades star cluster is the herald of the viewing season to come, and the first star cluster which I found as an amateur astronomer.

For the last few nights, since a cold front cleared my part of North America, I have had extraordinarily clear viewing during my nightly constitutionals with the Supreme Poodle Pasha Zackery. I continue to try to interest him in the stars on our nightly outings; and although he is extremely intelligent, the glories of the sky pale in comparison to the fun of games of tag with his harem girl, MaxiCat. Children are so shallow. But, I digress, a crime which I am often guilty of.
Rising above the eastern horizon, just at sunset, are the Pleiades, my favorite of all the star clusters. I suppose that is because: 1) I can see it; 2) it was my first; and 3) it is so very beautiful. The glow that you see in the picture is a dust cloud, or reflection nebula, which surrounds the cluster. The cluster is 400 light years distant, about 13 light years across, and contains over 3000 stars. Crowded neighborhood! Astronomers, using infrared detectors have recently found a dusty disk that belongs to one young Pleiades star -- HD 23514. Can we say “planets” anyone? By the time that it is fully dark, the stars of the Pleiades are easily visible with the naked eye, and positively glorious through binoculars or a telescope. You can find them lying at the feet of Perseus. Considering the morals of the Greek gods, it’s a good thing that Perseus was an honorable man and so in love with Andromeda!

According to the Ancient Greeks, the Pleiades were the seven daughters of Atlas, who held up the skies. Seven was the number of stars which the ancients could see, hence the name “Seven Sisters.” These girls were, as are all daddies’ daughters, excessively beautiful. And being beautiful, they had a suitor, the lusty hunter Orion. The problem was that the greedy man wanted them all. Daddy Atlas was not amused. My next astronomy post will be about how Daddy Atlas protected his little girls’ virtue from Orion.
Tune in next week for the ongoing, Ancient Greek, soap opera of the stars.

Happy viewing,
Frances
Writing Science Fiction Romance
Real Love in a Real Future

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Review: CORDELIA’S HONOR, Part I I – BARRAYAR

“I am afraid.” These are the first words of Lois McMaster Bujold’s 1992 HUGO Award winning classic, BARRAYAR, the second book of CORDELIA’S HONOR.

Capt. Cordelia Nesbit, former hero of the Betan Expeditionary Forces, and only one step ahead of the Betan psychiatrists, has retired (read as “got the he!! out of Dodge”) to the planet Barrayar and married Admiral Lord Aral Vorkosigan, also retired. She had expected a life of obscure peace in their retirement. What she gets is anything but!

Cordelia is a fish out of water, trapped along with Aral in a world of Byzantine politics, where failure means death and the descent of a planet into chaos, and even more likely, galactic war. Aral has been coerced into being Regent to Gregor, the five year old heir to the Empire, by the dying Emperor, Ezar Vorbarra. This is a man so ruthless, that in order to preserve a future for his planet, he has engineered the loss of a war to assassinate his own son, a real monster. In doing so, he also eliminates corrupt elements within his government... quite efficiently! Cordelia has a right to be afraid. After the first assassination attempt on Aral, she knows that they really are out to get him, and her. But, who are ‘THEY?’

Lois McMaster Bujold has said that her rule for finding plots for character-centered novels is to ask, “So what’s the worst possible thing that I can do to this guy? And then do it.” Aral is forced into a merciless position which he knows will probably destroy his honor, his marriage, and Cordelia. Cordelia has “had it” with the military. Her greatest desire and her greatest fear is motherhood. In the midst of all of this assassination driven intrigue, she discovers that she is pregnant. Not only do she an Aral have bull’s-eyes painted on their backs, but now their son, Miles, even before his birth, is targeted for death.

Life is full of ‘if onlys’ and ‘might have beens.’ Because of a foolish prank, Aral is forced, by law, to condemn a young nobleman to death. The young man’s brother, in revenge, strikes back at Aral, and Miles is the one injured. Cordelia, too, almost dies during the transfer of Miles’s fetus to a uterine replicator, which is their only hope for saving his life. Added to that, Aral’s father, Count Piotr, fearing that Miles will be a mutant, tries to kill him, which, understandably, causes a schism with Aral. Cordelia’s worst fears are realized. Barrayar does eat its children. But, for the time being, Miles is safe in his uterine replicator, being treated in the Imperial Military Hospital at the Capital.

Then there is Sgt. Bothari, who saved Cordelia’s life in SHARDS OF HONOR. Where Aral is Cordelia’s heart, in some ways, Bothari is the reflection of her darker side. It is their interaction which provides some of the most poignant, and also humorous, moments of BARRAYAR. I said in my review of SHARDS OF HONOR that he was “one of the most ugly, schizophrenic, psychopaths that I have ever loved.” Where the Betans wanted to rearrange Cordelia’s mind, “for her own good,” the Barrayarians have done just that to Sgt. Bothari. He remembers almost nothing of the war, only that he and Cordelia are somehow connected, and that he is a “monster.” Cordelia has to reassure him, that even though he has done terrible things, he has also made good choices. But, he can’t remember how he made those choices. He asks her to be his conscience, so that he knows that he is doing the right thing. I cried for a man so broken.

When treason does strike, and Emperor Gregor is brought to Aral by the dying Chief of Security, Aral and his father, Piotr, reunite to save everyone. Piotr is a wily old bastard, even if pigheaded. He takes Cordelia, Gregor, and Bothari deep into the mountains as Aral and his men scatter, laying false trails. For the men, it’s all a game of strategy. For Cordelia, it’s agony. Three weeks out of a cesarean section, she has her first horseback ride, lasting days. The torturous ride ends at an old guerilla cave system in the distant mountains. She and Bothari lay a trap for the pursuing traitors, who lose several hundred of them inside the mountain. This provides one of the unforgettable lines of the book, and proves how sick my sense of humor is, when Sgt. Bothari thinks about the cave and sighs, “If only I’d had a grenade to drop down that vent. Their search parties would still be shooting at each other this time next week.”

After Gregor is successfully hidden, Cordelia and Bothari reunite with Aral at Tanery Space Port. However, Miles is still behind enemy lines, and has been taken hostage by the false Emperor. When Aral, out of terror of losing her, refuses permission for a covert raid to rescue Miles, Cordelia takes maters into her own hands. It isn’t the first time that she has done so, and Aral should have remembered. She fears that Aral will never forgive her, but her son is in mortal danger. With the help of Bothari, her body guard, and Aral’s kidnapped chief of staff, Cordelia sets out to rescue her son. In the process, they save Aral’s cousin’s wife and baby, but are not able to save the cousin or Gregor’s mother. When Cordelia returns after a successful, albeit destructive mission, and presents Aral with a “Winterfair gift” in addition to his son, she informs her shocked audience, “I’m tired of your stupid war. End it.” Then she turns to Count Piotr with the punch line to beat all punch lines, “Don’t you ever... cross me again. And stay away from my son.” Cordelia has completed the transition from an essentially nonviolent person to a mother who will do whatever it takes to protect her family.

Stories are about change and how people deal with it. Barrayar is in conflict, the old line warrior class, the Vor, set against the new technoculture. Lois McMaster Bujold has said, “All great human deeds both consume and transform their doers.” That is true of Aral, Cordelia, and also Bothari. Aral dedicates everything that he is, including Cordelia and Miles, to the future wellbeing of his planet; yet, one never doubts his love for his family. The paradoxical thing about Cordelia is that even though she hates Barrayar and its warrior culture, she is Vor to the core when it comes to doing what she knows to be right. Bothari has been, and still is a psychopath; but, he's also a hero. And, even he gets his HEA in his daughter’s safety, and subsequent assignment as Miles’ bodyguard... a misfit guarding a misfit.

In CORDELIA’S HONOR there are moments of supreme poignancy interspersed with side splittingly gallows humor. The sincerest compliment that I can offer to Ms. Bujold is that I wish that I could write as well as she does.

Happy reading,

Frances
Writing Science Fiction Romance
Real Love in a Real Future
Frances Writes

P.S. Thanks to KimberAn of Enduring Romance for highlighting my reviews on her blog. She has an enormous readership, and I thank her for the exposure.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Attention Aspiring Writers

In keeping with trying to pass along good advice whenever I run across it, this morning I found some. Laura at Science Fiction Romance Fan has some excellent advice on reading contracts. This information is extremely important for the first time selling author to understand.

Good luck aspiring writers, and may your work reward you.

Frances
Writing Science Fiction Romance
Real Love in a Real Future


Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Veteran's Day and Remembrance Day...



Around the World, today is a day of Remembrance for all of those who have given their lives in the service of their countries. The following countries are the ones that I know are observing this day: Australia, Bermuda, Canada, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, South Africa, United Kingdom, France, Germany, Republic of Ireland, and United States. There may be others observing this day. If I have neglected your country, please accept my apologies.

When I stopped in at KimberAn's blogs today, she had posts about Veteran's day. At her Enduring Romance blog, she talks about her family and its military history. She also highlights my review of CORDELIA'S HONOR. At her Star Captain's Daughter blog, she spotlights the amazing group of American military women in the Lioness Program. These women are working to help the military be culturally sensitive to Iraqi women. I think that it would be very difficult to say how many lives they have saved.

Another group that I would like to recoginze are The RomVets. They are former members of armed services who now are Romance authors, and who continue to give of themselves to brighten others lives with their writing.

Thank you men and women who guard the peace of the world,

Frances

Writing Science Fiction Romance

Real Love in a Real Future

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Review: CORDELIA’S HONOR, Part I – SHARDS OF HONOR


Recently, I reread Lois McMaster Bujold’s CORDELIA’S HONOR. It’s actually two books in one, SHARDS OF HONOR, and the 1992 HUGO Award Winner, BARRAYAR. It’s been some years since I first read it. I liked it then; and I like it now, more than ever.

Aside to the reader: In addition to the cover illustration of CORDELIA'S HONOR, above, which I do like, but which I don't feel fully reflects the characters, I have included, one of the original cover illustrations of SHARDS OF HONOR. I think that it clearly reflects the characters, and one of the episodes in the book. Neither hero nor heroine are young, gorgeous, or perfect; but they are wonderful.

If there were one word that I would use to describe CORDELIA’S HONOR, it would be complex. Don't mistake that for confusing. It's simply that the more you think about this book, the more you see. Ms. Bujold has created three diverse ecological systems, two distinct socio-political organizations, and a study of evil that is magnificent, and all too real. All of the events in the exceedingly strong plot lines serve to reveal aspects of the characters and their conflicts. Layers upon layers lead to lots of, ‘Oh ho! So that’s what is going on!’ These are subtle moments of discovery that delight the reader.

Commander Cordelia Naismith and Captain Aral Vorkosigan come from planets with antithetical cultures: his, reminiscent of a violent cross between Victorian England and Imperial Russia; and hers, a supposedly peaceful, advanced, constitutional, free, and politically correct society. They are first thrown together in SHARDS OF HONOR, on a hostile alien world, which quickly reveals their true natures. They are complex, flawed, and, above all, honorable. Each brings a starship load of life experiences with them, which, strangely enough, mirror one another. They have both had painful failures in their pasts; and I found their shy efforts at sharing their pasts to be particularly endearing. When Aral asks Cordelia to marry him by listing all of the terrible consequences to doing so, I lost my heart. Quick, woman, marry the man! Ah, but what can they do, when they are on opposite sides of a coming war, and they are both bound by duty and honor?

Nothing is as it first seems. As enemy combatants, Cordelia and Aral are both constrained to keep secrets from the other, in spite of their attraction. Everything rests upon their judgments of the other’s character; and contrary to all appearances, ultimately their survival depends upon character judgments. (As a special note, it is here that Ms Bujold introduces Sgt. Bothari, one of the most ugly, schizophrenic, psychopaths that I have ever loved.) I wanted to cheer for Cordelia as she reasoned out the terrible trap to his honor in which Aral is caught. And I wanted to cry for him. For Aral, there are no good choices. There are only bad and worse choices, each tearing his honor from him, bit by bit.

After the war is over, Cordelia returns home. She finds that her world, which she, has idealized as free and advanced, has its own dark side; and it almost destroys her. She possesses information which could devastate the political fabric of Aral’s planet, Barrayar; and the authorities of her planet, Beta, want to take her brain apart and reassemble it... for her own good, of course. I found this sham altruism to be terrifying! If she is not to suffer the Betan equivalent of a lobotomy, Cordelia must flee to Aral on Barrayar, a world which she fears as ‘eating its own children.’

When Cordelia arrives on Barrayar, she finds a world that is both better and worse than what she had expected. Compared to Beta, Barrayar is beautiful beyond belief, with natural resources that boggle her mind. Family, marriage, loyalty, and honor are deadly serious matters on Barrayar. However, because of her honor, Cordelia, now Lady Vorkosigan, cannot avoid becoming enmeshed in the Machiavellian intrigues of Barrayar’s dying Emperor, Ezar Vorbarra. For the future of Barrayar, she and Aral must take their place in Ezar’s plans. Ezar is only seen in the next to the last chapter of SHARDS OF HONOR; however it is his machinations which have set all events in motion... and dominate BARRAYAR. He is brilliant, honorable in his own way, and utterly ruthless, especially with himself. He is one of the most fascinating and terrifying characters of whom I have ever read. I would like to have known more of him.

The last chapter of SHARDS OF HONOR is very disturbing. Ms Bujold leaves Cordelia and Aral to their new life and uses this chapter, a seeming non-sequitur, to show the cost of the war started by Ezar Vorbarra, to the people of Beta, Escobar, and Barrayar. She does this through the device of one mother’s grief and awe-inspiring love. Every time that I think about it, it brings tears to my eyes. It was an immense gamble to end SHARDS OF HONOR on this note. It is both brilliant and devastating. I was left with both a question and a conclusion. Question: Is barbarism which is hidden by political correctness any less barbaric than that which is open for all to see? Conclusion: Only love offers any redemption in a broken universe.

Since CORDELIA’S HONOR covers so much, I will review BARRAYAR in a future post. Thanks for your patience.

Happy reading,

Frances
Writing Science Fiction Romance
Real Love in a Real Future

Friday, November 7, 2008

Computers are out to get us!


My computer has been giving me fits for the last month. First, my old computer had the effrontery to go die on me. How dare it! Then my laptop decides to give me "Generic Host Process for Win32 Services" error messages, and promptly freeze on me - again and again, ad nauseam . I tried going to Mr. Gates - no luck! I tried Googling - again, no luck. Lots of other people have had similar problems - but I didn't find any answers that I could understand. I went to a tech site - you got it... I went to my security program people - they shuffled me off onto another security program which didn't help. Then I had a bright idea...

I knew that my security program has a method of disabling specific portions of programs either on start up, or permanently. I brought it up - and lo and behold - there were all sorts of programs which were connected to Win32 services! I went down the list and made sure that all which were not absolutely required by Windows were disabled, and that all which were disabled really should be. I will never know how some got switched around, but they had. Now they are history, and, so far, my laptop is running smoother, faster, and I haven't had an error message this afternoon. I hope that I haven't put the kiss of death on my poor laptop by saying this. *G*

On that topic, Heather, over at The Galaxy Express has a great post on VILLAINS. She thinks that we need to do more for our Villains. She lists some great ones too. But, you know, as I was writing this post, I thought of another Villain whom she didn't list. She didn't have anything to say about HAL in 2001, A SPACE ODYSSEY. I have long felt that there is a conspiracy of inanimate objects against human beings. They're out to get us! Really!

A pair of noids is better than one noid. Groan,

Frances

Writing Science Fiction Romance
Real Love in a Real Future

P.S. This month I will be reviewing CORDELIA'S HONOR by Lois McMaster Bujold. If you haven't read this classic in Science Fiction/Science Fiction Romance. I hope that you will want to. There is a lot to think about in in this great adventure saga including great heroes and great villains... and maybe the two sometimes meet. *EG* Happy reading. FD

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Voting, the Rule of Law, and Election Post-mortem

The purposes of this blog are primarily entertainment and literary; however, on this occasion I would like to comment. It applies to all political persuasions. I hope that it offends none.

America is a country under law. I'm proud of that. It has just gone through one of the unique processes in the history of world politics. It has decided to have a complete change in its government, without a single shot being fired. We do this every four years. There has been a hard fought election campaign and record voter turnout. People have exercised their right... and their duty to vote. We can all only hope that we've voted wisely, for ultimately we are responsible for the government which we choose.

The American government was designed with multiple layers of checks and balances. The three different branches of the government, the Executive, the Legislative, and the Judicial, are designed to serve as restraints upon each other... in an ideal situation. The two main political parties, along with the minor parties, prevent any one group from gaining total control over the rest of the populace... in an ideal situation.

We are not now going to have an ideal situation. This would be the case no mater the winning party. The caution that we face is that one political party can now control almost all legislation and appointments with little restraint. Regardless of anyone’s political belief, this is not good for the future of our country, or the world. Other countries have had similar situations, and none have been happy for long.

Voters, of America and the entire World, it is imperative that we understand the issues of our governments, and inform our representatives of how we think that they should vote and conduct themselves. Then we must hold them accountable.

Best Wishes,

Frances

Writing Science Fiction Romance
Real Love in a Real Future

Thursday, October 30, 2008

All In the Family & The Siderial Year Marches On


In my last astronomy post, I told you how to find the Great Square of Pegasus, the winged horse upon which the ancient Greeks said Perseus rode to the rescue of the Princess Andromeda. Well, the Earth has moved along its yearly path and Pegasus is no longer in the eastern sky during the early evening. It’s now directly overhead, or as astronomers say, at zenith. About 9 PM, or 2100, for those of you on 24 hr time, step outside on a clear evening and look straight up. There Pegasus is, right over your head. This is the perfect time to pull out those old binoculars and take a look at the Andromeda Galaxy, two million light years distant. (Note: For your convenience, in the picture above, I have exaggerated the main stellar objects mentioned in this post.)

There are numerous other constellations which you can find by referencing Pegasus. As I told you, I think of the Andromeda constellation as the hind legs of Pegasus. Pegasus is immediately south of the Milky Way. Look just to the north of Andromeda, past the Andromeda Galaxy, and the next prominent grouping of stars which you will see is the Cassiopeia constellation. It’s obvious because it’s shaped like a “W”. She is usually depicted as sitting back on her throne admiring herself in a mirror. For some reason in the illustration below, she is holding a palm branch. Go figure. In any case, lovely lady she was to get her daughter into such trouble because of her vanity!

Cassiopeia sits right in the middle of the path of the Milky Way. This time of the year, the Milky Way stretches across the sky from the East to the West. If you look directly west from the “W” of Cassiopeia, the next bright star that you will see is Deneb, the tail feather of (Cygnus). Cygnus, the Swan, is flying down the Milky Way to meet Aquila, the Eagle, soon to set in the West. That bright star to the north of Cygnus and Aquila is Vega of the Lyra constellation. Remember the
Summer Triangle? It too is soon to set, and won’t be visible for many of us for the next six months.

Let’s get back to Cassiopeia and Andromeda. Cassiopeia mouthed off about how beautiful she was, and the gods took it out on Andromeda, declaring that she must be sacrificed to the sea monster. Now we can’t leave the fair maiden to a sea monster. He wouldn’t know what to do with a fair maiden anyway, would he? This is where Perseus comes into the picture... quite literally. Look to the northeast of Pegasus’s hind legs, or, if you will, Andromeda’s feet (the proper place for any man), and you will see a bright, crooked, curving “V” of stars. This is the mighty hero Perseus. Perseus was the son of the head guy of the Greek gods, Zeus, and of Danaë, a human princess. Perseus killed the snake haired monster, Medusa, and rode Pegasus to the rescue of Andromeda. They married and lived happily ever after.

An interesting little bit of trivia about Perseus: The tale of Perseus is the only story in all Greek mythology in which nothing negative is said about the hero. He is brave. He is handsome. And he is honorable. It is also the only Greek myth which gives its hero and heroine a happy ending... except, I’m still wondering about that mother-in-law.

If you have access to old movies, I think that you’ll find 1981’s CLASH OF THE TITANS, which covers this myth, to be lots of fun.

Happy viewing,

Frances
Writing Science Fiction Romance
Real Love in a Real Future

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Blogs That I Love...

I was given this award by Jace of Jace Scribbles.. Jace you surprised the dickens out of me! *G* Thank you. You’ve been a terrific help and encouragement to me. I am thrilled to award this honor to you in return, making it official.

Jace is a Science Fiction Romance fan, disgustingly multi-talented (she helped me with this blog), and has a brother who is a true artist with a camera. Go to her blog for excellent posts on books, and while you are there, click on her brother’s link for some breathtakingly beautiful pictures.

The rules for this Award are that you need to:
1) Add the logo of the award to your blog
2) Add a link to the person who awarded it to you
3) Nominate at least 7 other blogs
4) Add links to those blogs on your blog
5) Leave a message for your nominees on their blogs!

Because I write Science Fiction Romance, these are the other bloggers I wish to honor for their consistent promotion of the genre and relevant posts for aspiring SFR writers:

Heather at The Galaxy Express . Heather has the latest news of what is going on within the Science Fiction Romance community, and is always looking for new talent to help them. Heather, I know that you have already won this award, but twice won’t hurt you. :-)

Laurie at Spacefreighter's Lounge.. Laurie always has interesting scientific information and a helpful word for an aspiring writer.

Dawn, Laurie, Arlene, & Flick at Take it to the Stars.. These girls have a sharp site and you never know what they’ll be discussing.

Kimber An at Enduring Romance.
Young Adult Science Fiction..
And, she still takes care of a family. She’s a SuperWoman!

Last of all, I would like to honor the Ladies of Alien Romances.. These wonderful writers of Science Fiction Romance give generously of their time and knowledge to those of us who would like to write as well as they do.
There’s no obligation for the proprietors to respond in kind. Enjoy visiting these fine sites and add them to your list of destinations.

Happy Reading and Writing

Frances
Writing Science Fiction Romance
Real Love in a Real Future

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Review: SHADES OF DARK by Linnea Sinclair


Publisher: Bantam (July 29, 2008)
ISBN-10: 0553589652
ISBN-13: 978-0553589658

Shades of Dark is the sequel to Gabriel’s Ghost, the winner of the 2006 RITA Award for best Paranormal Romance. If you haven’t read GG first, please read it before proceeding. It will greatly increase your enjoyment of SD. Linnea feels very strongly about this. Need I say more? Since SD is a recent release, I’ll try to stay out of spoiler territory. I know, it’s hard, but I’ll try. I’ll just say that it is Sully’s BIG secret from GG which determines the course of SD. It’s all one story.

Shades of Dark picks up Chasidah (Chaz) Bergren’s and Gabriel (Sully) Sullivan’s story three months after they destroy the first jukor lab on Marker Shipyards, only to find that there is yet another jukor lab. They’re hunting this lab as their relationship deepens and Sully’s abilities increase... much to the horror of his uber-ethical self. Another problem is that the bad guys know they exist; and Chaz and Sully are now being hunted as terrorists. Added to that, someone is betraying them. When the betrayers are revealed, the reader will be furious. Personally, I thought that Sully was ‘way’ too nice to them. But then, I never claimed to be nice.
Meanwhile, back in the galaxy, politics has gotten a lot nastier. The Empire is unraveling, and vultures are gathering. Chaz’s brother Thad has been arrested, and is being used as bait to catch Chaz and Sully. Throw in Chaz’s ex-husband, who only wants what’s best for her, and a Stolorth Prince, who... only God knows what he wants!

Jukors are still being born; and women are still dying, and lions, and tigers, and... oh my! Loyalties are being tested, and spies are everywhere. Chaz and Sully have no one to trust but each other. However, when Sully is involved in something beyond his control, he shuts Chaz out. When a final betrayal and a tragic misunderstanding of natures and cultures lead to death, Chaz and Sully’s trust is tested to the limit, a limit which only love and forgiveness are able overcome.

Shades of Dark is a much darker story than Gabriel’s Ghost. This is entirely appropriate, considering the circumstances. There is a lot of ambiguity here. It has non-stop action and seamless Science Fiction world building. Above all it is an emotional story of profound love and respect growing through, and overcoming terrible trials. The tension level is not for the faint of heart, but the rewards are worth it. The ending leaves plenty of room for more to come for Phillip Guthrie, in Hope’s Folly, coming in spring 2009. Yippee! And if Bantam is smart, much, much more for Chaz and Sully in another book. My fertile imagination sees all sorts of possibilities for more adventures for Chaz and Sully. Oh wow! After all, there is still a galactic Alliance to save, and Sully’s inheritance, and Sully’s abilities, and... Write to Bantam, and tell them we want the rest of Chaz and Sully’s story! The URL is http://www.bantamdell.com/.

Happy reading,

Frances

Writing Science Fiction Romance
Real Love in a Real Future

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Review: GABRIEL'S GHOST by Linnea Sinclair

Publisher: Bantam (October 25, 2005)
ISBN-10: 0553587978
ISBN-13: 978-0553587975


I make no secret that Linnea Sinclair is one of my favorite authors, both as a Science Fiction Romance writer and as a person. I think that she is an excellent writer; and she is unfailingly generous with her time in mentoring of aspiring authors. Therefore, since she expressed her strong preference that Shades of Dark, the sequel to Gabriel’s Ghost, not be reviewed without the reviewer having first read GG, I went back and reread GG. It has been almost four years since I first read it, and I have to say that the 2006 RITA Award winning book was even better the second time around. I am reviewing GG first, and will soon review SD.

GG takes place at a time in the future when the galaxy is heavily populated by at least three sentient species: Humans, Takas, and Stolorths. And, the Humans... even if they do control the Galactic Empire, are the newcomers to the neighborhood! Commerce and greed are alive throughout the galaxy. Religion, both tolerant and bigoted, thrives. Family squabbles are the same as it ever - nasty. And politics is - down and dirty!

Captain Chasidah (Chaz) Bergren, has just been court-martialed and sentenced to an ‘inescapable’ prison planet for life... and she has no idea why. She kills a guard who’s trying to rape her, meets an old flame who is supposed to be dead (Sully), helps Sully eliminate a jukor (read - hideous, evil, vicious, killing monster), and initiates her escape. And, that’s all before page twenty! To say that this book’s action is fast-moving is an understatement. It is out of the frying pan into the fire, all the way.

As much as I like the action, it is the characters who really win my heart. Chasidah is smart, principled, and her mother wore combat boots. There’s not a single time that I thought TSTL. She’s utterly professional, yet also all woman. Gabriel (Sully) Sullivan, is charming, smart, ethical to a fault, and loves Chaz with ‘all that he is.’ But, boy, does he have a BIG secret! And the rest of Sully’s crew? You’d want to take most of them home to Mamma, even if they are blue, gilled and ripped... or, tall and a little fuzzy.

Chaz, Sully, and the crew set off to rid the Empire of the lab breeding said ‘hideous, evil, vicious, killing monsters,’ and to find out who is behind it all. In the process, Chaz finds true love, and also why she has been a pawn of galactic politics. Also Sully begins to find the acceptance and love for which he has searched his whole life... because of said BIG secret. This book engages from page one, on multiple levels, and never lets the reader go.

Trust is a major theme in GG, and Chaz and Sully learn a lot about love and trust through the course of their trials. GG is the first in a series; therefore, the ending, although extremely satisfying as a courtship Romance, is left open ended, as is all real life. They find and destroy the jukor breeding lab, only to discover that there is another. Uh-oh!

Also, Chaz and Sully have more to discover about themselves and their relationship. Linnea has left room for more battles against evil, and more room to explore a maturing love in SD. I am so glad to see this, because I think that a maturing relationship is much more interesting than a courtship, and is too often neglected. Thank you, Linnea.

Happy reading,

Frances

Writing Science Fiction Romance
Real Love in a Real Future

Saturday, October 11, 2008

I'm looking for suggestions...

Well, I finally heard back from the computer shop about my dinosaur computer. It is officially DEAD! The hard drive gave up the ghost and nothing was able to be saved. Eight years worth of e-mails from family, friends, and class lectures.!

I had backed up everything except the stuff in Outlook (I don't know how to back it up), until a few months ago. I'm still trying to figure out what to do about my e-mail for the future. I'm afraid to download from my ISP to Outlook without knowing how to back them up on my external hard drive.

After having the old hard drive turn into slag, and losing all of my e-mail and addys, I need to figure out an alternative to Outlook if I can't learn how to back it up. I like it because I can have sub-files within files. I can't do that at Yahoo. G-Mail is a little better. If anyone has any smart ideas, I am open to suggestions for online storage of e-mail. HELP!

The moral to this tale of woe... learn how to back EVERYTHING up!

Happy computing,

Frances

Writing Science Fiction Romance
Real Love in a Real Future

Monday, October 6, 2008

Has Frances Been Writing?

When one has access to the Net, one is online blogging, researching, or answering e-mails etc. Before you know it, the day is gone and you have not written a single thing in your WIP. Bummer!

Ah, but having been forcibly Netless for the last three weeks, how did use my time? Well, I read, and I wrote, and I judged a contest. I'm leaving out those pesky little items like laundry, and cleaning house, that you're really not interested in.

First: I reread Linnea Sinclair's Gabriel's Ghost, and then read Shades of Dark. I also reread Lois McMaster Bujold's Cordelia's Honor. All of these were worthy reads and I will be posting my reviews of them over the next several weeks. Just in case you wonder, I will only be reviewing books that I like. Books don't have to be perfect, but I refuse to open a can of worms by saying what I really think about something that I DON'T like! I may be crazy, but I don't think that I am a total fool. Those of you who know differently... just be quiet!

Second: I worked on my Science Fiction Romance WIP, The Husband. I have been spending entirely too little time on this. The forced time away from the Net made me realize this, and it will be corrected. I also began writing an Adult/Children's book about the Supreme Poodle Pasha Zackery. I did receive his permission (this is authorized after all), but only so long as I also included his harem girl, MaxieCat in it. He also insists upon royalties... but, Mygosh! I haven't even finished it, much less gotten an agent yet. Ah, the perils of educating children!

Third: As I told you in my I have jumped into the pool. post, I volunteered to judge a writing contest for the RWA Futuristic Fantasy and Paranormal Chapter. It was a fabulous (if somewhat difficult) learning experience, and worth of its own post. Just give me time and I'll get them all out there.

Happy writing,

Frances

Writing Science Fiction Romance
Real Love in a Real Future

Friday, October 3, 2008

Science Fiction Romance Week...

I sometimes feel like the odd man out in the regular Romance community because; besides the fact that I enjoy historicals, paranormals, and contemporaries, I also like Science Fiction Romance. It's what I write it after all.

I am particularly fond of: Linnea Sinclair, Lois McMaster Bujold, Susan Grant, C.J. Barry, Elizabeth Lowell, Jayne Ann Krentz, and Linda Howard, all of whom have written great SFR. I truly admire the imagination and intellect of all of these authors. There are others such as Catherine Asaro, whom I am only now getting to know. They just write such great plots and characters!

If there are any of you who also like this up-and-coming genre, the Spacefreighter's Lounge is having a Science Fiction Romance Week. I am a little late to the party because of the blasted computer, but it's still going on. Go join the fun, and find out what is happening in the future of Science Fiction Romance. :-)

The Spacefreighters’ Lounge.

Happy reading,

Frances

Writing Science Fiction Romance
Real Love in a Real Future

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Catch up...

I am still playing catch-up from my dino-computer being down, and having difficulties getting the laptop connected to the web. The screw-driver shop told me two weeks, and it has now been over three. Ah, keeping up with business.

When I finally got online with my laptop, I had over 900 e-mails to respond to. This was just from three weeks! Admittedly, 70% were spam, but I still had to check through them because... well, you know how accurate spam filters are. Anyway, I've finished with one account, have 60 more legit e-mails to cover in another, and 180 in another. This says nothing to the online communities that I wish to support!

Well, the day is breathtakingly beautiful outside, and I am trapped inside. The Supreme Poodle Pasha Zackery has either burrowed into the front of my robe (does that tell you my current haute couture condition?), or stretched out across my shoulders to hold me down. He knows that I must not be allowed to escape until I have done my assigned work. A Pasha Pet can be such a slave driver to his poor slave Mommy!

May you all have lovely weather to enjoy,

Frances

Writing Science Fiction Romance
Real Love in a Real World

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

A Flying Horse... Oh My!


One of the really spectacular sights of the fall night sky is now visible in the early evening eastern sky. The constellations of Pegesus and Andromeda are rising above the northeastern horizon immediately after dark. They'll be visible all through the Fall and into Winter, so enjoy.

The body of Pegasus is also one of the more easily recognized asterisms, and is known as the Great Square. You can see why in the picture. After locating the Great Square, look to the southernmost star of the square and you are at the beginning of Pegasus's neck. Just picture a horse's neck and head, and you will see stars on the curve of the neck, the top of the head, and the nose. The northernmost star of the square is shared with the Constellation of Andromeda. I can't help but think that Andromeda looks more like the hind legs of the horse, but I've always had horses on the brain.

Pegasus was the winged horse ridden by Perseus to rescue the Princess Andromeda from the sea monster after her mother, Cassiopea, mouthed off about being the most beautiful woman in the world. It just goes to show that one should never brag in front of a god or goddess. They just might be paying attention and take offense. Why the Greek gods picked on poor Andromeda, I've never been able to figure out; but, even the ancient Greeks never claimed that their gods were fair.

If you happen to have a good set of binoculars, now is the time to get them out. Look in the pictures above. Follow the stars of Andromeda (the hind legs of Pegasus) and half way to the heels (girl or horse), look just a little upwards toward the zenith. There you will see a blurry spot. That is the Andromeda Galaxy. It is the fartherest object that we can see with the naked human eye. It's two million light years away, and it's coming to get us. *EG* No, it really is coming this way... in several billing years, so you don't have to worry tonight. It's breathtakingly beautiful, and about twice the size of your Milky Way. Just go out and enjoy the view.

Pegasus and Andromeda are two of five constellations related by the same Greek myth. I will be writing in other posts about them, so come back for another visit. You're always welcome.

Happy viewing,

Frances

Writing Science Fiction Romance
Real Love in a Real Future

Monday, September 29, 2008

It's a Conspiracy...

...Of inanimate objects against human beings. They're out to drive us crazy. I'm not paranoid. They really are out to get us.

My dinosaur of a computer was working fine on the afternoon of September 17th. I was working happily. Then I had to run to the grocery. You know how it is... life intruded. I needed to eat. When I returned, one hour later, there was a black screen of death staring at me, saying, "Disk unable to boot." What tha...?

Nothing that I did could induce that cantankerous antique to get back to work. Therefore, it was off with its carcass to the repair shop the next morning. "It will be two weeks before we can work on your computer." No worries! I have a laptop that I can use as backup. Not !

The laptop was out to get me too. All told, it took me over five hours in as many days and two weeks to get online once again. In addition, I am sure that I have been black listed in New Delhi for shouting at the hapless child on the other end of the line, "I can't understand a word that you are saying. Please get someone that I can understand."

God bless that young man in the Philippines. I could understand him, and he could actually understand my Southern Belle English. It turned out that there was a little box in the Properties for my Network Connections that was supposed to have been checked at the factory. It hadn't! It is now... and... oh, there are men in white coats are at the door... I really must see what they want.

Isn't a global economy wonderful.

Frances

Writing Science Fiction Romance
Real Love in a Real Future

Thursday, September 11, 2008

September 11, 2001


Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from a religious conviction. ~ Blaise Pascal (1623 - 1662)
All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing. ~ Edmund Burke (1729 - 1797)

Saturday, August 30, 2008

I have jumped into the pool...

And I don't know how deep the water is!

Last week, Amber Wentworth, the President of the RWA Futuristic Fantasy and Paranormal Chapter put out a distress call. FF&P had such an overwhelmingly positive response to their On the Far Side Contest for unpublished authors that they didn't have enough judges. And I volunteered. God help me.

I wanted to help, generous soul that I am, and Amber has gone out of her way to help me in the past, so it was time to pony up... but I had absolutely no idea what I was getting into. God help the poor unpubbs!

The first thing that I did was to go to the FF&P website (it's listed here in the VERY USEFUL; VERY IMPORTANT sidebar) and copy and read the rules. Then I did the same thing with the judge's score sheet. Amber then followed up with detailed instructions. Ohhh, this is going to take a lot of thinking. I might even learn more from this than if I had entered the contest itself. Cool!

That's all well and fine, but the thing that really excites me is that there were so many unplanned for entries. This tells me that there is a growing interest in my writing genre of choice, Science Fiction Romance. What better way for me to help promote the genre in which I hope to succeed than to encourage other unpublished writers. Those aspiring writers are presently readers. Publishers take note: the market is growing.

Happy writing, happy reading,

Frances

Writing Science Fiction Romance
Real Love in a Real Future

Bracing for the Storm

We just got through with Fay and here comes Gustav.

I hate storms. Fay wasn't really so bad. At least we didn't have any violent rain or winds with her. Just steady soaking rain, which was good. I don't trust Gustav, though... too Teutonic sounding to me. I hope he doesn't plan a blitzkrieg like Katrina.

July was a drought, and August a flood. I didn't have to cut the grass once in July, and most of my flowers turned to dried brown husks. Since the first of August we have had rain after rain, some of it pretty violent. I lost several trees in the first storm and struggle to prevent erosion all the time. On the good side, the Phlox and Jessamine are blooming again, and perfuming my evening games of tag between the Supreme Pasha Zachery and his harem-girl Maxie Cat. On the bad side, the grass is up to my knees, and I can't see either of them when they go after each other.

This morning was a rush to continue working on the new drain, and lay in supplies before Gustav. At the local Farmer's Market, I ran into an old friend at the Master Gardeners' tent. We began discussing "thug" plants and erosion control. She is using the same technique as I. If you have any problems with erosion, try planting the area with Lirope or Mondo Grass. They are garden "thugs", and their roots will hold almost anything against Hell itself.

There is an area in my yard that wants to wash into the Gulf of Mexico and take half my hill with it. I put in the new drain at the head of the ravine; but, it can easily clog, and when that happens - bye bye hill and 200+ year old drive! This is where the Lirope and Mondo Grass come in. Therefore, when the storm arrives in the wee hours tomorrow night, or soon thereafter; I will probably be out keeping the drain open. Remember me after Gustav makes landfall. Are we having fun yet?

Wishing I were writing,

Frances
Writing Science Fiction Romance,
When when life isn't happening.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Attitude for Life

A few days ago, I read a blog post that I considered to be outstanding. It was about attitudes. As I read, it occurred to me that there is only one thing in life over which each one of us has absolute control... that is the attitude with which we face life each day. It is ultimately our individual choice, and no other's.

Today I received permission to link to the post. The author, Lise, describes the transformation of her attitude for living. I thought that she had some wonderful advice for mental health and am passing it along. I hope that you will enjoy it as much as I have.

Lise Speaks: Epiphanies.

Thank you Lise, for sharing with us.

Frances

Writing Science Fiction Romance
Real Love in a Real Future

Monday, August 18, 2008

I Have Been Tagged!

I think that Heather over at Galaxy Express thinks that I have been AWOL from posting for too long. She tagged me today. She is so evil! So this is the way the game is played:

Copy the list below. Mark in bold the movie titles for which you read the book. Italicize the that you’ve watched. Tag 5 people to perpetuate the meme. (You may of course play along anyway.)

1. Jurassic Park
2. War of the Worlds
3. The Lost World: Jurassic Park
4. I, Robot
5. Contact
6. Congo
7. Cocoon
8. The Stepford Wives
9. The Time Machine
10. Starship Troopers
11. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
12. K-PAX
13. 2010
14. The Running Man
15. Sphere
16. The Mothman Prophecies
17. Dreamcatcher
18. Blade Runner(Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?)
19. Dune
20. The Island of Dr. Moreau
21. Invasion of the Body Snatchers
22. The Iron Giant(The Iron Man)
23. Battlefield Earth
24. The Incredible Shrinking Woman
25. Fire in the Sky
26. Altered States
27. Timeline
28. The Postman
29. Freejack(Immortality, Inc.)
30. Solaris
31. Memoirs of an Invisible Man
32. The Thing(Who Goes There?)
33. The Thirteenth Floor
34. Lifeforce(Space Vampires)
35. Deadly Friend
36. The Puppet Masters
37. 1984
38. A Scanner Darkly
39. Creator
40. Monkey Shines
41. Solo(Weapon)
42. The Handmaid’s Tale
43. Communion
44. Carnosaur
45. From Beyond
46. Nightflyers
47. Watchers
48. Body Snatchers

I tag... (and please don't come after me for revenge! :-)
Jace: Jace Scribbles
Cheryl: Butterfly Books
Clare: The Haven
Dawn: Take it to the Stars
Jordan: Jordan Summers

Now I have confirmed my geekiness to all true Sci-Fi aficionados. I have to hang my head in shame.

Sorry that I have been out of sight, but with classes, rain storms and erosion, and trying to write, I have been so tied up. I have two other posts written and ready to go. All it will take is a little time to get the photos ready to go with them.

See you all soon,

Frances

Writing Science Fiction Romance
Real Love in a Real Future

Monday, August 4, 2008

I Am So HTML Challenged

HTML - Hypertext Markup Language.

Does that scare you as much as it does me? I thought so. Well again my marketing loop came through with a goody that I thought that I would pass along. Lisabet Sarai has a wonderful page explaining HTML on her website:

http://www.lisabetsarai.com/html101.html

I confess that I am HTML illiterate. However, I am working on it. If you, like I, are deficient in this area, here is an excellent place to begin learning. My ambition is to create mine own website before I start shopping my manuscript. In any case I will definitely need to know how to handle the website when I do have it. Lisabet's article made some things clear that I had no idea of before. Thank you Lisabet.

Happy writing,

Frances

Writing Science Fiction Romance
Real Love in a Real Future

Friday, August 1, 2008

Happy Swiss National Day

Thank you to you, friends from Switzerland, who have taken the time to stop by my blog. I wish you all happiness on your National Day. Since 1291, you have never lost sight of freedom for your country. May you always treasure it.


You have shown the rest of the world that people of different languages and backgrounds can live and work together happily. All the best for the future.

Have a wonderful day in your beautiful country with your children's parades, your bonfires, and your fireworks.

Frances

Writing Science Fiction Romance
Real Love in a Real Future

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Review: MOONSTRUCK by Susan Grant


Last week, I got a good-goodie in the mail. :-D I won a copy of Susan Grant’s MOONSTRUCK from the Galaxy Express Blog. Not only that, but Heather, the GE Mistress, listed me as one of the future Science Fiction Romance writers to watch. MOONSTRUCK and dumbstruck all in one day. LOL Thank you Susan and Heather. And you, inquiring reader, may find their links in my sidebar. Enjoy.

Well, I have finally finished reading MOONSTRUCK (not easy to do when one is trying to blog and write a book at the same time). Although I think that CONTACT may still be my favorite Grant, MOONSTRUCK is a close second. Time and rereads will eventually make all clear. In any case, I highly recommend MOONSTRUCK as fun Space Opera and Science Fiction Romance, with some serious underlying themes. Susan did a really good job of exploring a wide range of emotions in this book. Being a former military officer, and presently an airline pilot, she created a fully believable military world in which her characters could live.

For me, the characterization in MOONSTRUCK was its strongest point. Susan took a gutsy gamble in introducing her heroine as a cold blooded user. It was a gamble which pays off. This was the trick for me: as an author, she made me immediately wonder why the heroine, Admiral Brit Bandar, was behaving in this manner. Brit fascinated me the same way that she fascinated the hero, Finn Rorkken. She is the victim of a terrible grief, and is coping to the best of her abilities. The moment that she truly won my heart was when I realized that she was trying to be fair in spite of all prior prejudices. I admired her for that.

MOONSTRUCK is a good study of the recovery from grief. Brit is hard, but events have shaped her. She changes and grows throughout the book. Finn also has to confront his prejudices, which come from an unexpected source. I liked that these two adults acted professionally. I liked that Finn was always trying to do what was best for his crew and for Brit. I liked that Finn didn’t play the tortured hero. It was refreshing to see a practical man.

Happy reading,

Frances
Writing Science Fiction Romance
Real Love in a Real Future