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
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.

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.

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
Blood of the Muse
The Book Smugglers
The Book Swede
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
Graeme’s Fantasy Book Review
Grasping for the Wind
The Green Man Review
Highlander’s Book Reviews
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
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
SF Diplomat
Sci-Fi Songs [Musical Reviews]
Severian’s Fantastic Worlds
SF Gospel
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 [also a publisher]
The Road Not Taken
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
Foreign Language (other than English)
Cititor SF [Romanian, but with English Translation] [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,


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,


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,


Writing Science Fiction Romance
Real Love in a Real Future