Thursday, August 31, 2017

For the Greater Good goes LIVE


At last, a new story from me. You've heard about it a few times of late, but now it's ready to go.



A Human settlement is destroyed and all signs point to an Yrmak raid as Imperial agents Tian Axmar and Brent Walker scour the site for clues. One thing they never expected to find was a survivor, a rare alien feline with unusual talents.

As tensions between Humans and Yrmaks ratchet to the point of no return, Tian and Brent must bring all their cyborg skills to bear as they follow a dangerous trail of deception and misdirection.

 The feline, now dubbed Puss and strongly bonded to Tian, holds the key to many of the questions driving the investigation. Unfortunately, that bond drives a wedge between Brent and Tian’s working relationship, leaving Brent with second thoughts about his decision to become a cyborg.

 As the evidence unfolds, it becomes clear that a devious plot to incite an interspecies war will strike at the very heart of the Empire. With lives at risk, there's no time to waste. Racing against the clock, Brent, Tian, and Puss must stop the planned carnage, and this time for Brent and Tian… it’s personal.
***

Although love is an important element in the story, it's not your traditional romance. Brent and Tian are an item when the story opens - but the road ahead may be rocky. Puss is an important character in the story and although she's not a domestic moggy, most of you will recognize some of her behavior. Tian certainly did, remembering her childhood pet cat, Kira.



I hope you'll enjoy Puss's story as much as I did writing it. Click here to find the links to all the retailers. Oh - and it's available in print, too.

Don't forget to visit everyone else's blog in this month's showcase
Participants:

1. Veronica Scott  7. Pauline Baird Jones  13. Ed Hoornaert  
2. C.E. Kilgore  8. Aurora Springer  14. Hywelalyn  
3. Jayne Fury  9. Jessica E. Subject  15. R. A. Steffan  
4. Dena Garson  10. Cailin Briste  16. Sabine Priestley  
5. Athena Grayson  11. Lea Kirk  17. Greta van der Rol  
6. Siren Allen  12. CJ Cade  18. Misa Buckley  



Monday, August 28, 2017

The Eclipse that Almost Wasn't

Heavy cloud cover last Monday almost spoiled our Big Eclipse Day here in New Mexico, but we were able to snap a few shots of the event. We were in the "Big Bite" region quite a bit south of the Path of Totality, but my overall impression was that it certainly looked like more than 72% of the sun was eaten. David got these shots with his filtered 35mm Pentax camera about two minutes before the largest chunk was taken out of the sun.




One phenomenon that I did manage to capture was the "Hole in the Sky" effect. The blue sky immediately overhead, where we could see it between the clouds, turned a nearly black shade of blue! To the point you could alllllmost see the stars, but not quite. Though these photos don't do it justice, you'll notice how much bluer the sky is on the horizon than it is straight overhead. It was eerie!

This photo probably shows the "Hole in the Sky" effect
the best. Notice how much lighter the sky is in the lower left.

This photo shows the dramatic gradient from Robin's Egg Blue
in the lower left to the midnight blue in the upper center.
Another eerie thing was how very quiet everything got at the moments of the eclipse. No birds sang, no dogs barked, and even the breeze seemed to die down to nothing. It was like the world had been enveloped by one of those Get Smart "Cones of Silence" (for those who might remember the old spoof spy show).

Not everyone was impressed by the 2017 solar eclipse.
Maura takes a snooze.
So although we didn't get to experience the spectacular and once-in-a-lifetime totality, it still made for a very memorable experience here at home on the range.

StarDog is Flying

Off the shelves, that is!

Click here to get it FREE via Instafreebie
I'm offering my original Pets in Space story for #FREE via Instafreebie, since it's a prequel to the new story Courting Disaster: StarDog 2 due out in the Embrace the Romance: Pets in Space 2 collection releasing October 10th.

Before the debut, I wanted to give readers a chance to catch up on the original story as the first installment in the continuing StarDog adventures. (Yes, there are some direct ties to Courting Disaster though StarDog works as a standalone novella.)

I set a goal for the number of copies I'd like to see claimed, and it's already more than a third of the way there with nearly six weeks to go before Embrace the Romance: Pets in Space 2 releases, so I'm one happy author!

Already claim your copy? Well, if you think a friend might enjoy the story, I'd love for you to forward or post the link. https://www.instafreebie.com/free/lTsVO

StarDog now has it's own page on my website, too!

Need a refresher? Here's the blurb:

Navigator Taro Shall has a mission no one wants – find a way to eradicate snakes on a starship. He never expects to find the answer to his problem in a charming street vendor named Adini. His already unusual mission becomes more complicated when he suddenly acquires an adorable StarDog that soon sweeps him and Adini into the maw of a brewing insurrection.

In Case You Missed It...


We posted a fun blog last week featuring songs that inspired nine of the Embrace the Romance: Pets in Space 2 authors. The Music Behind the Words - Nine Authors Talk Inspiration

Can you guess what song Susan Grant chose as inspiration for her space fighter jocks?

If Sabine Priestly could choose another body, what would she do?

What sci-fi themed boy band song gives Veronica Scott inspiration?

After suffering a terrible real life tragedy, what song empowered Pauline Baird Jones to return to writing?

Learn the answers to all of these questions while enjoying a wonderful mix of eclectic song videos chosen by the authors.

And check out these video interviews and responses from four of the authors--Pauline Baird Jones, Susan Grant, Sabine Priestley and Michelle Howard--on the first in a series of Saturday video blog posts: About Pets in Space

Alien Covenant: Movie Review

Let me sum it up in just ten words: I'm SO glad I didn't buy tickets to this movie!

I really, really hate to end my weekly blog on a downer, but OMG, this film was bad!

I'm now completely convinced that Hollywood is not only totally out of touch with reality, they seldom seem to have a clue what sort of entertainment people want or are expecting when they dish out $30-$50 for movie night.

Granted, the original classic, Alien, and it's fabulous successor, Aliens, had a few moments of gore and horrificness, but they didn't do just for shock value ALONE or to see how many stomachs they could turn. They also didn't do it at the expense of story or character. This monstrosity was a gorefest with no redeeming value...and almost zero entertainment value after roughly the first fifteen minutes. There were several scenes so over-the-top stomach-churning that I had to get up and leave the room.

Let me explain a few of the things that went seriously wrong for me. I'm sorry, but there will be spoilers. There is no way to avoid them because they are intricately woven into the fabric of this "what the hell happened" quilt.

Premise: The Covenant is a colony ship. It has a crew of roughly a dozen couples and a colony population (of 2000 or so) in suspended animation. Covenant is heading for a new world when it has a small mishap and gets sidetracked. This is established in the first ten-fifteen minutes of the film. It all goes downhill from there.

Let's start with the example of just one character, a male crewmember with Christian values--which in this future time and place is considered "extremist." This character is thrust into a leadership role and just as the story arc begins to scratch the surface of what could have been a layered and evolving personality--you guessed it, he gets "alienated." (I'm using that as a euphemism for dying a terrible, bloody, gory death, which most of the characters do--whether human or otherwise.)

And then there's the planet where they land, after following a static-y transmission of the John Denver song Take Me Home Country Roads. Yes, you heard that right. There's a reason they put that tune in the previews, though it seemed grossly out of place and weird. It was equally out of place and weird in the movie, trust me. Lord knows what statement Hollywood was trying to make there. What a horrible fate for a perfectly beautiful song.



Back to the "plot." The crew goes to the planet surface to investigate this transmission, ala the original Alien. When they land, they find a very Earth-like wilderness, several members of the crew soon get "alienated" and then later, survivors are led to a city where every single resident has been laid waste and is still decomposing in the streets. Yet, no one seems to question this! They just "follow the leader" through this carnage to a supposed place of safety (let me show you to my lair, said the spider to the fly).

Now, maybe it's just me, but if I landed on an alien world where the residents of an entire city had obviously been obliterated by something, I think I might have a question or two. Especially if those residents were about twelve feet tall. Yes, you guessed it again. The monstrous, human-creating Space Jockeys which were built up to be "a very big deal" in the Prometheus prequel are now all dead. How was this society of supposedly advanced intelligent beings wiped out? It's shown in one very problematic scene. But why did they create the human species and then make plans to annihilate us? We'll never know.

The film will show us, however, that Dr. Elizabeth Shaw, the sole human survivor of Prometheus (does that also sound familiar?) did make it to the planet, only to meet a horrible, alienated end. Apparently, the filmmakers threw to the winds the pressing questions that drove her to seek out this progenitor species. Because that might have made sense or shown some continuity in theme between films in the franchise, which apparently had to be avoided at all costs.

To say the end of this film is grim would be a terrible understatement. It had all the redeeming value *cough* of the previously reviewed clunker, Life. Compared to this disaster, Arrival was an uplifting, feel-good movie.

Hmmm, Hollywood. I'm seeing a disturbing pattern here. Are you out to destroy the science fiction genre entirely? If this is how you reward fans for shelling out a sizable chunk of change for "entertainment" it's no wonder you're in trouble.

Don't ask for whom the bell tolls...

And don't even THINK about destroying the STAR WARS franchise as your next act of self-destruction!

And with that, I've made a decision that going forward, I'm only going to review movies I enjoy. Which means you're probably going to see far fewer reviews from me...if any, at all. If it's a big, highly anticipated Sci-Fi film and I don't make a peep, you'll know that IMHO it's not worth seeing.

And, now that THAT'S behind us, I really hope you have a great week! Everyone in Texas and the Gulf Coast, please stay dry and stay safe. Thinking of you in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.



Saturday, August 26, 2017

About Pets in Space: Pauline Baird Jones, Susan Grant, Sabine Priestley and Michelle Howard

Welcome to the first in a series of weekend videos and video interviews from the twelve authors of Embrace the Romance: Pets in Space 2.

Today, our first three authors weigh in with how and why they got involved with this exciting collection of science fiction romance stories...plus pets!

But first up, the author who brainstormed the idea talks about how Pets in Space came to be and why it supports Hero-Dogs.org.

Our interviewer is Narelle Todd of Get My Book Out There.

Pauline Baird Jones
Home Did Pets in Space Come About?



Pauline doesn’t love reality so she writes books. She tends to wander among the genres, rampaging like Godzilla (they were born the same year) through her characters lives, mixing peril and humor into her romance, but she always delivers a happy ending. Visit her website: Pauline Baird Jones

Next, three of the authors talk about how they got involved with Embrace the Romance: Pets in Space 2.

Susan Grant
On Being Part of Embrace the Romance: Pets in Space 2



When NY Times/USA Today bestselling author and Air Force veteran Susan Grant isn’t driving an 18-wheeler (a 747 jumbo jet) she loves writing romantic, action-packed stories featuring gutsy woman and honorable men. Flying to exotic places and trying every kind of food imaginable helps Susan bring her sci-fi worlds alive for readers. She is a winner of the prestigious RITA award for her book Contact, an alien abduction sci-fi romance. Visit her website here: Susan Grant


Sabine Priestley
Why She's in the Anthology



Multi published author of Sci-Fi Rom and Urban Fantasy.

Sabine grew up consuming Science Fiction, Fantasy and Romance novels (there was a brief bodice ripper period, but we won’t go into that). She wanted to be an astronaut and travel the stars. She ended up an Electrical Engineer and Cultural Anthropologist. She’s a geek with heart.

Seriously disappointed we’ve yet to establish so much as a moon base, she’s encouraged by the recent developments by superstars such as Elon Musk, Sir Richard Branson and Jeff Bezos, among others. She’s a travel addict, beach-loving, stargazing disruptor. Her heroines are kickass and her stories action packed. Visit her website: Sabine Priestley


Michelle Howard
What Attracted Her to the Anthology?



Michelle Howard like many authors dreamed of writing since reading her first romance novel many years ago. She loves paranormal and contemporary romances and is a fan of the classic romances by Judith McNaught and Julie Garwood. I love to hear from fans so please reach out to me. If the mood hits you, leave a review. Website: Michelle Howard

I'll be back next weekend with three new videos and/or interviews from the authors!

And in case you missed it, check out this very popular blog about music that inspires nine of the authors from the Pets in Space collection, including videos of their selected songs.

Preorder Embrace the Romance: Pets in Space 2 here
Preorder a PRINT copy of Embrace the Romance: Pets in Space 2 here
Get a FREE preview copy of the first chapters here
Get a free Pets in Space 2 coloring book here
Join the Pets in Space Facebook Group for fun and chat here
See the Pets in Space Anthology Site Here
 

Friday, August 25, 2017

LOOK! UP IN THE SKY! ASTEROIDS?



Just when you thought you could go back outside . . .

The excitement of a total eclipse of the sun over a wide swath of the United States has only just died down when this announcement comes from NASA: a huge asteroid of more than 2.7 miles in diameter will pass within 4.4 million miles of Earth on September 1, 2017. In astronomical terms, that’s pretty close, though it is 18 times further than the distance to the moon. So, don’t worry, we’re in no danger of going the way of the dinosaurs—this time. The asteroid, named Florence, will be just near enough to give space scientists a thrill as they observe the surface of the rocky object up close and personal.



Far more potentially dangerous are the many smaller asteroids lurking out there in the dark that we can’t see. One of these little chunks of orbiting rock entered the Earth’s atmosphere as a meteor on February 13, 2013 and exploded over Chelyabinsk, Russia. The meteor glowed 30 times brighter than the sun as it screamed toward the ground, and the 500-kiloton blast when it hit was the biggest of its kind in 100 years. The blast and resulting fire injured 1,500 people and damaged thousands of buildings.

According to physicist Mark Boslough of Sandia National Laboratories, “The chances are virtually certain that we are going to be next hit by a little asteroid that is a ‘city buster’ long before we are hit by a bigger one." Scientists have worked hard to identify the potential "end-of-the-world" asteroids that are at least one kilometer (.6 miles) wide and believe they have found nearly 95 percent of them. But there may be over one million near-Earth asteroids at least 30 m (100 feet) wide, and less than one percent of these have been discovered.
 
The U.N. action team on Near Earth Objects has proposed the creation of an International Asteroid Warning Network to scan for these smaller asteroids and give advanced warning of their approach. A Space Mission Planning Advisory Group has taken up the subject.But so far the actual network is just talk.

A nonprofit organization, the B612 Foundation, already exists which is dedicated to protecting Earth from asteroids. The organization’s current focus is the "Sentinel Mission," a space-based infrared (IR) survey mission to discover and catalog asteroids larger than 140 meters in Earth’s neighborhood. Sentinel is set to launch in 2018.

Of course, the question is what could be done to protect Earth if one of these rogue asteroids was detected heading straight for us. Well, in case you missed the movie Armageddon, you could check out CBS Network’s summer-lite version of that scenario, Salvation. The overwrought script’s plot takes its hand-wringing scientists through the options, including trying to knock the big rock off course with a convenient planetary probe, pushing it with the little thrusters from the ISS, intercepting it with a heavy rocket powered by a technology that hasn’t been invented yet, and, their last hope, interception on Earth’s doorstep with nuclear weapons. No one wants that option because, of course, hundreds of tiny radioactive meteors landing all over several continents is not really a good solution. (And, since the asteroid problem is not nearly enough to keep us entertained, someone is trying to sabotage the good guys’ efforts to save us, too!)

Salvation is bad SF writing, but good schlocky fun, and it has the benefit of Ian Anthony Dale (Hawaii Five O’s Adam Noshimuri) in a lead role. You could watch this preposterous enactment of the end of the world and shiver and laugh at the same time.

Or you could just go about your business in the great outdoors believing there’s nothing overhead but blue sky. Your choice.

Cheers, Donna

Information for this post drawn from:
“Now Playing: They Come From Outer Space to Destroy the World,” by Peter Micheli, Labroots.com, August 26, 2014.

“Huge Asteroid to Pass Closely to Earth on September 1st, 2017,” by Anthony Bouchard, Labroots.com, August 18, 2017.


Thursday, August 24, 2017

Encounter with aliens



A rare photo of a whale's eye. Yes, she's looking at us.

I've taken a break from the writing business for now. My latest book, For the Greater Good, is available for pre-order, and the weather is wonderful. As I do every year, at least once a season, I went out to visit the whales in Platypus Bay off Fraser Island. Every year thousands of humpbacks make the journey from Antarctica up the East (and West) coast of Australia, to warmer waters to give birth, mate, and take a break. After being on the brink of extinction, humpbacks have multiplied after whaling stopped and they're off the endangered species list. Now, thousands of visitors flock to Hervey Bay for a chance to see these giants up close and personal. We love that. The more people see them, the more people will wonder why these gentle, intelligent, curious creatures are still hunted for products we don't need or use.

You can see whales up and down Australia's coasts between late July to mid-November, but what makes Hervey Bay different is they come in here for a break. They'll stop and play, chat with the visitors. In other places, they're on the move, going North, or going back South. Here, mums will linger in the bay for maybe days to fatten up junior for the long cold of the Antarctic. Sub-adults will cruise around just like any other bunch of teenagers. Adult males will jostle with each other looking for a chance at a quickie with a lady. Like all baleen whales, humpbacks don't play happy families. After they've mated, the male goes off for more nooky, and the female rears the calf until it is about a year old, and weaned. Then it's on its own.

The day started with a really close encounter. We were hardly 5km out of the harbor when we met our first whale. Usually the first sighting doesn’t occur until the boats reach Platypus Bay 40km away. I suppose that's happening because there are more and more whales arriving, and they are now very comfortable with being visited. Still, it's shallow water, so I hope they don't come in too close.

There are strict rules about people interacting with the whales. Boats are not allowed to approach within 300m of a whale, and even then, they must not approach from the front or behind. If a whale does come close, the boats have to reduce speed, and in fact stop if the whale is very close. For anyone interested you'll find the rules here

Casual spyhopping right beside our boat



Spyhopping - most of the whale's head is out of the water
While the skippers have to follow the rules, the whales don't. If they're curious, they will come very close. This leads to what the whale boat skippers affectionately call 'mugging'. The boats cannot leave until the whales go beyond 150m away. If skippers have a timetable to follow, it can get complicated. That happened to our boat. We had to divert five whales surrounding one boat so it could return to port. This group of whales turned out to be an adult, sexually mature female with a full grown male, and a mother and calf with an escort, who eventually veered off. The female was teasing the male, showing off, rolling around in the water, and letting her suitor drape a fin over her body. Although his main interest was sex, both of them did a bit of spyhopping – where the whale hangs vertically in the water with most of its head above the surface so it can see what's going on. That interest was directed at the boat.

Calf in the background. The female at the front is NOT its mum

She's being a tart, and he's feeling amorous
After they tired of us and went off elsewhere, we encountered a young female who mugged the boat for over an hour. She swam all around the vessel, underneath on her back so she could see the hull, alongside the boat watching the people and generally putting on a show. She must have known about the whale-watching rules for boats, because she headed away from us at just about the time the skipper was looking at his watch and wondering if we'd be late back. We had a fabulous day and I hope you enjoy the pictures.
A little bit of tail-slapping

Waving a pectoral

Rainbows in the spray

She's on her side, looking at us. The eye is just in front of that white patch
But back to SF for a moment. I imagine it would be hard for people to imagine Whales in Space. But it has been done.

The Whale's Tale

In a future where whales and dolphins can communicate with humans, and where the Whale Nation has brought space travel back from the brink of extinction, humpback whales tour the galaxy in massive spaceships called “The Whaling Fleet” performing Whalesong to receptive audiences. 

Uki is a teenage Japanese girl who steals a file from a whale to impress a guy in her gang, but she gets caught, and has to perform restitution to Targe, the humpback whale she’s stolen the file from, by touring the galaxy with Targe and his dolphin sidekick, Charlie. Uki doesn’t like Targe, Targe doesn’t like Uki, and Charlie thinks he’s in for the worst tour of his life until they discover Uki has a special talent.




Whales are very intelligent creatures. We writers of SF probably need to get past the necessity of an opposable thumb to master technology.




About Spacefreighters Lounge

Hosted by 5 Science Fiction Romance authors with 8 RWA Golden Heart finals and a RITA final between them. We aim to entertain with spirited commentary on the past, present, and future of SFR, hot topics, and our take on Science Fiction and SFR books, television, movies and culture.