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My Soul To Keep

After FDR’s assassination, righteous repression swept through the United States. Born into this insular world, Miranda Clarke, the daughter of America’s premier preacher-politician, lives a charmed life—until she breaks the rules. Haunted by nightmares and hunted by assassins Miranda must destroy the government run by her own family before the Angels of Death take everyone and everything from her.

Coming from Rocket Dog Publishing in 2018.

 

 

Rocket Dog Publishing is the imprint of Lynette M Burrows.

My mission is to create, publish, distribute, and promote stories that impart a sense of wonder, admiration for the human spirit, and inspiration that all things are possible.

Rocket Dog Publishing is not open for submissions.

 

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On the Wings of a Story

The best stories take you on a journey.

Won’t you take fifteen minutes to view this short story in video form? There’s not a word of dialog, yet I’m betting you’ll find a story that takes you on a wonderful trip. This is the kind of story that can be interpreted in different ways.

The video was filmed in 2011. It won more than a dozen awards including an Oscar for Best Animated Short Film. If you want to learn more about the video go to the official website, morrislessmore.com or to  Wikipedia. You’ll learn about the inspirations, the production process, and a lot more.

If you’re like me, you might just want to enjoy the story.

 

Did you watch it?

What did you think this story was about?

 

 

Going to Mars Word-by-Word: the Landis Way

Lynette M. Burrows, Science Fiction Author; Lynette M. Burrows, action-suspense science fiction

The next stop in our Going to Mars Word-by-Word tour is Mars Crossing by Geoffrey Landis. Published by Tor Books in 2000, this is a first novel by an experienced and award-winning short story author. It was nominated for a Nebula and won the Locus Award for best first novel in 2001.  Hop aboard for a gritty, near future science fiction tale of what the exploration of Mars just might be like.

WHAT IT’S ABOUT

By 2028, two missions have been sent to Mars. Both the Brazilian and the American expeditions met with catastrophe and death on the Red Planet. A NASA-private venture hopes the third mission to Mars will be the first to return. Their plan relies on a return vessel sent to Mars years earlier, capable of manufacturing fuel for the return trip from the Martian atmosphere.

The mixed-gender, multi-national crew of six lands on Mars successfully but their celebrations are short-lived. A catastrophic failure kills one of the crew and causes irreparable damage to the return ship. And there is no hope of a rescue mission coming from Earth.

As a last ditch effort to survive, they set out to cross 4,000 miles of Mars to the north pole in the hopes that the abandoned Brazilian vehicle will be operational. Limited supplies and equipment, alien terrain, the ever present dust are only a portion of the hazards they face. The Brazilian vehicle can only carry two.

Using alternating viewpoints and flashbacks, Landis slowly reveals each surviving astronaut has a painful secret from the past. The isolation and desperation of their trek, combined with their secrets, creates tension and intrigue on every step of their journey. And one of the crew is willing to commit murder to ensure a place on the return trip to Earth.

HOW THE RED PLANET IS PORTRAYED

Mars Crossing conveys an authentic, fully-realized Martian landscape. The terrain crossed in the story includes familiar landmarks and a few surprises. Landis describes a place of beautiful desolation and isolation, a harsh and unforgiving land. It feels accurate. It feels real. And it’s no wonder, the author is in the know about real Mars exploration.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Geoffrey Landis wears many hats: He has published more than 80 short stories, nearly 50 poems, one one science fiction novel, and more than 400 scientific papers. His short fiction has numerous awards including a Nebula and two Hugos. See his bibliography here.

Landis can write authentically about Mars because he is a physicist at the NASA John Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio. He is a member of the science team of the Mars Exploration Rovers mission that landed rovers Spirit and Opportunity on Mars. Opportunity is still working after nine years! Landis also worked on the Mars Pathfinder project. You can read more about the projects he has and is working on here.

CONCLUSION

For me Mars Crossing has a nice balance of characterization, science, and drama. The novel has been compared to the greats of the field. The most fascinating part of it were the intriguing questions it posed about sending humans on  interplanetary journeys:

Would you take a trip to Mars knowing that the two previous missions failed?

How would you decided who could go home and who would face certain death on the Red Planet?

What would you be willing to do to secure a seat on the trip home?

I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below. Have you read Mars Crossing? Won’t you share what you thought of it? If you haven’t read it, will you?

This is the final novel I had planned for this blog series. Yet there are many more novels I could explore. Tell me, would you like this series to continue?  If so, what novels or stories about Mars would you like for me to cover over the next few months?

Fools Risk Magic

Happy April Fools’ or, if you prefer the older name, Happy All Fools’ Day!  This is one of my favorite holidays of the year. Not because of the silly tricks and deceptions people pull on each other, but because it reminds me to take risks. I’m not talking of risking money or life and limb but about risking your heart and soul. The kind of risk that might mean pain and rejection. You might end up feeling foolish or stupid. But if you don’t take the risk you will miss the opportunity to make magic happen in your writing and in your life.

TAKE THE RISK

Years ago, after an acrimonious divorce, I was a single parent struggling to balance a job, parenting, and a life.  I decided that meant I had to protect myself from risks. But centering everything around my middle-grade son meant I was holding him too close and denying myself adult-level conversations. So I took my first risk and joined a brick and mortar dating service.

I chose a service where I could keep the risk low. All members of this service underwent background checks and no one got my last name or phone number unless I first approved it. First dates were arrange via snail-mail notes sent through the service. And I had a lot of dates. No commitments, just dinner and a movie. That was the way I wanted it. Low risk.

Then, I received a note illustrated by an artist. His invitation to meet also included a suggestion that we could tell stories together. I was intrigued.

I met him at a local Tex-Mex restaurant. His name was Bob. The awkward ‘tell-me-a-little-about-yourself’ exchange segued into a discussion of the creative process. I was amazed that he ‘got it.’  We talked until we were the last remaining customers and the restaurant was locking the doors.

I knew our next conversation would be equally fascinating. But days passed into a week and he didn’t call. I bemoaned this fact to my girlfriend who suggested that I ask him for a date. Oh, no. I couldn’t risk it. I wasn’t that progressive, nor that confident. But when she suggested I write him a thank you note for the lovely dinner, that was a risk I could take. And I did.

He called the day he got the note. He’d also enjoyed the conversation and had thought we’d had a lovely time, until the evening ended. We had left the table and gone to the front desk, where he had paused to pay the bill. When he turned around, I was gone.  Vanished.

When he told me that I realized I could not remember saying goodnight. Yup. My risk-aversion had raised its fearful head and ‘we’ skedaddled out of there!

Fortunately, Bob risked a second chance. More dates followed. We risked showing each other our true hearts, our fears, and our dreams. And by taking that risk, the magic began to happen.

RISK YOUR HEART & SOUL

Having been foolish enough to think that I could live a life without risk, it seemed only natural to marry on April Fools’ day. And, of course, it was only natural to share our story with our friends.

Lynette M. Burrows science fiction author; Lynette M. Burrows action-suspense science fiction author.

Written by Lynette M. and Robert W. Burrows. Illustrated by R. W. Burrows. We partied after the honeymoon.

That was the beginning of our story. We’re still writing and illustrating. And it’s still magic. But we couldn’t live this story until we each took a few risks.

Writing is a lot like that. Your scribbles (or pixelated words) can fill volumes, but until you risk your heart and soul your story won’t come alive.

EMBRACE THE RISK

Be willing to be a fool.  Don’t let your fear of showing too much censor your words.  Unfetter your emotions, your memories, your pain, and your joy. Let it spill onto the page. Put your heart and soul on the line. Embrace the risk. It will change your life. And, if you’re lucky, you’ll make . . . magic.

 ~oOo~

Share the magic!

What risks have you taken in your life?  In your writing?

P.S. Because this post was date related, the next “Going to Mars: Word by Word” post featuring Greg Bear’s _Forge of God_ will be presented Monday, April 8th.

Oh, and  I won’t respond to your comments until April 2nd.  I’ve got an anniversary to celebrate!

Subtitles Please

When I first saw this youtube video I knew I had to share it, but I haven’t spoken cat for nearly twenty years so it’s up to you. To boldly go where no cat has gone before . . . please provide subtitles in the comments below.

I can’t wait to see your purr-fect translations!

Going to Mars Word by Word

Going to Mars Word-by-Word: the Landis Way

Lynette M. Burrows, Science Fiction Author; Lynette M. Burrows, action-suspense science fiction

The next stop in our Going to Mars Word-by-Word tour is Mars Crossing by Geoffrey Landis. Published by Tor Books in 2000, this is a first novel by an experienced and award-winning short story author. It was nominated for a Nebula and won the Locus Award for best first novel in 2001.  Hop aboard for a gritty, near future science fiction tale of what the exploration of Mars just might be like.

WHAT IT’S ABOUT

By 2028, two missions have been sent to Mars. Both the Brazilian and the American expeditions met with catastrophe and death on the Red Planet. A NASA-private venture hopes the third mission to Mars will be the first to return. Their plan relies on a return vessel sent to Mars years earlier, capable of manufacturing fuel for the return trip from the Martian atmosphere.

The mixed-gender, multi-national crew of six lands on Mars successfully but their celebrations are short-lived. A catastrophic failure kills one of the crew and causes irreparable damage to the return ship. And there is no hope of a rescue mission coming from Earth.

As a last ditch effort to survive, they set out to cross 4,000 miles of Mars to the north pole in the hopes that the abandoned Brazilian vehicle will be operational. Limited supplies and equipment, alien terrain, the ever present dust are only a portion of the hazards they face. The Brazilian vehicle can only carry two.

Using alternating viewpoints and flashbacks, Landis slowly reveals each surviving astronaut has a painful secret from the past. The isolation and desperation of their trek, combined with their secrets, creates tension and intrigue on every step of their journey. And one of the crew is willing to commit murder to ensure a place on the return trip to Earth.

HOW THE RED PLANET IS PORTRAYED

Mars Crossing conveys an authentic, fully-realized Martian landscape. The terrain crossed in the story includes familiar landmarks and a few surprises. Landis describes a place of beautiful desolation and isolation, a harsh and unforgiving land. It feels accurate. It feels real. And it’s no wonder, the author is in the know about real Mars exploration.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Geoffrey Landis wears many hats: He has published more than 80 short stories, nearly 50 poems, one one science fiction novel, and more than 400 scientific papers. His short fiction has numerous awards including a Nebula and two Hugos. See his bibliography here.

Landis can write authentically about Mars because he is a physicist at the NASA John Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio. He is a member of the science team of the Mars Exploration Rovers mission that landed rovers Spirit and Opportunity on Mars. Opportunity is still working after nine years! Landis also worked on the Mars Pathfinder project. You can read more about the projects he has and is working on here.

CONCLUSION

For me Mars Crossing has a nice balance of characterization, science, and drama. The novel has been compared to the greats of the field. The most fascinating part of it were the intriguing questions it posed about sending humans on  interplanetary journeys:

Would you take a trip to Mars knowing that the two previous missions failed?

How would you decided who could go home and who would face certain death on the Red Planet?

What would you be willing to do to secure a seat on the trip home?

I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below. Have you read Mars Crossing? Won’t you share what you thought of it? If you haven’t read it, will you?

This is the final novel I had planned for this blog series. Yet there are many more novels I could explore. Tell me, would you like this series to continue?  If so, what novels or stories about Mars would you like for me to cover over the next few months?

Going to Mars Word by Word With Kim Stanley Robinson

Lynette M. Burrows, science fiction author; Lynette M. Burrows, action-suspense science fiction author; Lynette M. Burrows, author

The next stop in my blog series, Going to Mars Word by Word, is the Nebula Award winning novel Red Mars written by Kim Stanley Robinson, published by Bantam House Science Fiction in 1993. It is the first of a trilogy(Red Mars, Green Mars, Blue Mars) about the red planet that explores technological, scientific, political and social changes that might occur in the process of colonizing and terraforming the Mars.

WHAT IT’S ABOUT

To say that Red Mars is the story of the colonization of Mars is to oversimplify. It is a multi-character saga about the first fifty or so years of the colonization and transformation of the planet.

We follow several major characters in the first one hundred persons (mostly scientists) sent on the long journey to Mars. Once they land and begin to study and understand Mars, conflicts arise between various characters and their visions of their future on the red planet.

As the overcrowded Earth sends more and more colonists, the struggle intensifies and ultimately ruptures into a violent revolution. The irony is that the damage the revolution does will probably speed the process of terraforming Mars and the Mars they loved will be no more.

HOW THE RED PLANET IS PORTRAYED

Kim Stanley Robinson paints the marvel that is Mars in loving detail. There are multiple viewpoints, travelogues and scientific expeditions from the trenches to the incomprehensibly high mountain tops. He portrays a Mars that is dead, at least on the surface. The aquifers in the story are unlikely to be found on the real planet. All-in-all Mr. Robinson builds an accurate, if fictionalized, Mars.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kim Stanley Robinson (1952- ) is a multiple award winning novelist. Born in Illinois, his family moved to California when he was two. He grew up playing in orange orchards that soon gave way to suburban development.

During college he began writing science fiction. He earned a Ph.D. in literature with a dissertation since published as The Novels of Phillip K. Dick.

Orbit 18 was the first to publish his short stories in 1976. His novels have garnered eleven major science fiction awards (Nebulas, Hugos, the John Campbell Award, World Fantasy Award, and Locus Magazine Awards). Please see a fan generate bibliography here.

Robinson is married to a working environmental chemist, is a stay-at-home dad caring for his two sons, a backpacker who loves the mountains, and has traveled extensively. The Mars trilogy is the result of a lifelong passionate interest in Mars and multiple years of research.

CONCLUSION

Red Mars is an ambitious novel that is recognized as a seminal work of science fiction. And I will not dispute that. It is a book that every serious science fiction reader or writer should read.

I read this book when it was first published and re-read it this past month. For me the characters are neither likeable nor believable and the pace is very slow. However, Mars is portrayed with a loving sense of wonder that I admire and enjoyed.

Resources:

Kim Stanley Robinson.Info

Wikipedia on Kim Stanley Robinson

I love to hear from you.

Have you read Red Mars? What did you think of it?

If you haven’t read this book, what ‘classic’ works of your favorite genre have you read?

Going to Mars: Word-by-Word Bear Style

Lynette M. Burrows, science fiction author; Lynette M Burrows author of action-suspense science fiction

Nominated for the Nebula in 1986 and the Hugo and Locus in 1988, The Forge of God by Greg Bear is our next stop in this series “Going to Mars: Word by Word.” It is a grim, relentless examination of what might happen if an alien society of machines wanted to destroy the earth without regard or consideration for any of her inhabitants or history.

WHAT IT’S ABOUT

Astrologists are stunned when Europa explodes. Chunks of the former moon hit Mars and Venus. Geologists are stumped when mountains suddenly appear in locations as diverse as the Australian Outback and the United States’ Death Valley. Oceanographers observe and track large meteor-like objects that enter the earth through the ocean’s trenches.

As the story unfolds scientists, politicians, and everyday people struggle to come to grips with the fact that the Earth is doomed to be destroyed by an unfathomable planet eater. Some of those people are tapped by a second race of robots to gather and load what they can onto space going arks.

Among the saved are those who stood witness to the earth’s destruction. “It is the Law.”

Awakened from nearly four hundred years of cryosleep, the survivors create a colony on New Mars. A select few of the survivors accompanied the robots to search the stars seeking to destroy the planet eaters. For this is how balance is kept.

HOW THE RED PLANET IS PORTRAYED

Only the last chapter of The Forge of God takes place on Mars. Despite the brief appearance, Bear does a good job of presenting the reader with a credible Mars, early in its terraforming. The colonists live in habitats with some functions occuring underground. Wearing cold suits, they can leave the habitat via air locks and breathe the cold, thin Martian atmosphere unaided as long as they don’t exert themselves. Lichen and mosses, seeded by the aliens, thrive on the planet’s surface. And the reader knows that while the colonists have a long way to go, they will survive.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Science fiction and mainstream author, Greg Bear (b 1951 – ) completed his first story when he was ten years old. He sold his first story at the age of fifteen and by age twenty-three he was selling regularly. His stories and novels have been translated into nineteen languages and have won numerous awards including Hugos, Nebulas and the French Prix Apollo.

The Forge of God is the first book in one of several series written by Bear and is in development by a film studio.

For more information and a complete list of works by Greg Bear please visit his website.

CONCLUSION

The Forge of God by Greg Bear could be excruciating in its merciless flight toward the destruction of earth, yet it isn’t. He isn’t heavy handed in his treatment of characters who greet the news of their fate with religious fervor, or stoicism, or panic. The appearance of the robotic saviors and characters who work to save art and history, who pursue life regardless, create a sense of hope. And Bear’s description of the earth’s destruction is wrenchingly beautiful and mesmerizing. It makes one wonder:

What would you do if you knew the earth would end in a few months?

If you survived, would you be on a needle-shaped ship seeking to destroy the destroyers?

 

RESOURCES

Greg Bear’s official website

Wikipedia entry on Greg Bear

 

 

Going to Mars, Word by Word with Man Plus

Lynette M. Burrows science fiction author, Lynette M Burrows action-suspense science fiction

The next stop on our Going to Mars, Word-by-Word tour is the Nebula award winning novel, Man Plus by Fredrik Pohl, published in 1976. By the mid seventies Pohl had been writing and publishing stories for almost 40 years. The writing reflects that. It’s smoothly written; a quick and entertaining read.

 

THE SET-UP

In reality the early 1970’s were a time of disco dances like the hustle, world wide unrest and fear of terrorist bombings, hijackings, kidnappings, and assassinations. There were economic worries and hardships and a huge energy crisis. The United States, USSR, and France were doing nuclear tests on their own soil. Space Mountain opened at Disneyland and Jaws by Steven Spielberg had its premier. The television show The Bionic Man was popular. Apollo 18 and Soyuz 19 rendezvoused in space. And the Viking 2 Mars probe was launched.

Man Plus takes place in the not-too-distant future when the overpopulated earth is on the brink a world war battling over the few remaining natural resources on the planet. The fate of humanity rests on the people and the project inside a building in Tonka, Oklahoma.

 

WHAT IT’S ABOUT

When former astronaut Col. Roger Torraway volunteered to be the understudy for astronaut Willy Hartnett, Roger never thought he’d actually be called upon. After Willy’s death, the President of the United States urged the team at the project to meet their deadline because computer projections predicted the world would soon be at war. Roger was mankind’s last hope. He was to become Man Plus, a cyborg engineered to survive and thrive in the harsh conditions on Mars.

Heavily sedated, Roger did not know when his nervous system, his eyes, lungs, heart, ears, nose, and skin were replaced or supplemented. To solve the power problem, they gave him wings of solar panels. When the surgeries were finally over, Roger had to learn to use his new senses. His large, multifaceted eyes could distinguish everything from infrared to UV light. With his bat-like ears he could hear all of life’s most minute sounds and easily heard conversations in the corridors outside his pressurized room. Roger also had to come to terms with who he was, was he still human? Would his wife still love him? Was his wife having an affair with his best friend, Brad, who was also the scientist responsible for much of Roger’s new body?

The remaining two thirds of the book are about Roger adapting to his new, alien self, to the planet Mars, and finding a way to be human despite everything. The computers now predict humanity will survive on Mars and are pleased they have been successful in their mission to save the humans as well as themselves.

The story is told from a kind of limited omniscient viewpoint with sentient computers as the ‘surprise’ narrator. The reader of today is not surprised. And on reflection, there are plot holes, inconsistencies, and questionable motivations throughout the story. So yes, the story has some flaws. But it was a story that captured many readers imaginations at the time it was first published. And, it may not be as far-fetched as it seems on first glance. Do you remember these stories that made the news?

Oscar Pistorius makes Olympic history 
Boy Gets Robotic Hand Made with 3D Printer 
Multiple-Organ Transplant Survivor Celebrates New Year 

HOW THE RED PLANET IS PORTRAYED

The descriptions of Mars in Man Plus are minimal, but not inaccurate visually. There are mentions of various metals and elements that I’m not versed well enough in the composition of Mars to recognize as correct or incorrect. The human characters erect tents for shelter and begin performing scientific studies and tests one would expect the first persons on Mars to do.

Roger’s reaction to being on Mars is delightful. “To Roger, looking out on the bright, jewel-like colors of the planet he was meant to live on, it was a fairyland, beautiful and inviting.” And a little later. “First he walked, then trotted, then he began to run. If he had sped through the streets of Tonka, here he was a blur. He laughed out loud.” He is so eager to explore Mars that he gets himself into trouble with his power supply. This is what I read books about Mars for, that sense of wonder and excitement.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Born in 1919, Frederik George Pohl, Jr. has been a high school drop-out, an American soldier (during WWII), and has had nearly every possible role in science fiction. He has been a fan, poet, critic, literary agent, teacher, book and magazine editor, and a writer. “Elegy to a Dead Planet” was his first published story and appeared in Amazing Stories in 1937. His volume of writing is phenomenal and he has won every major science fiction award and then some.

When asked about his process, Pohl has had this to say, “People ask me how I do research for my science fiction. The answer is, I never do any research. I just enjoy reading the stuff, and some of it sticks in my mind and fits into the stories. Maybe that’s the best way to do it.” from Locus Online

Between the duration of his career and the breadth of his career, there is no way to do him justice in this post. Please visit the resources listed below.  Be sure to visit his blog, The Way The Future Blogs, in which he discusses his travels (all over the world), sf writers he has known (there’s a lot of those!), and things that interest him (the list is endless).

 

CONCLUSION

I believe that Man Plus deserves it’s place in science fiction history. It deserved a Nebula at the time and it deserves being read today. It challenges you to think about what it is to be human, how we humans are going to deal with our burgeoning population and consumption of natural resources, and it questions our reliance on computers. Finally, it’s one more way that Man might go to Mars.

Resources:

Official website of Frederik Pohl 
The Way The Future Blogs
wikipedia on Frederik Pohl
A bibliography 

What books have filled you with that sense of wonder?

Do you think colonizing Mars, the moon, or another planet will help us deal with problems of overpopulation or disappearing natural resources?

If you liked this post, you may like the others in the Going to Mars, Word by Word series.

Heroes

Remembering: Veterans History Project

Veterans Tribute picture by DVIDSHUB

by DVIDSHUB, Flickr Creative Commons, www.flickr.com/photos/dvids/6309549518/

It’s Veteran’s Day in the United States. Other countries also honor their veterans. Whether it’s called Veteran’s Day, Armistice Day, or Remembrance Day, it’s a day dedicated to thank and remember the men and women who have served in one of their country’s armed services.

In the U.S., we have national and regional observances. There are banquets, parades, free meal offers, special discounts, and hundreds of charities through which we try to say thank you to our veterans. As a country we have become more aware and more grateful to the soldiers who have served in the military since September 11, 2001. But we have other veterans, some of them feel forgotten and under appreciated. We can thank them and make certain they are not forgotten. We need to remember all of our veterans.

In October 2000, the U.S. Congress passed legislation to create the Veterans History Project (VHP) of the Library of Congress American Folklife Center. It is program that collects and preserves the first-hand stories of America’s wartime veterans, primarily oral histories. VHP collects personal narratives, letters, and visual materials from veterans of: World War I (1914-1920); World War II (1939-1946); the Korean War (1950-1955); the Vietnam War (1961-1975); the Persian Gulf War (1990-1995), and the Afghanistan and Iraq conflicts (2001-present). It will also accept the first-hand stories of citizens who were actively involved in supporting the war (USO workers, flight instructors, medical volunteers, etc.). (Please be aware that there are other websites that use the name Veterans History Project, but are not part of the Library of Congress.)

The VHP collection is available to the public at the Library of Congress. There is no charge. Of the 60,000 collections available more than 5,000 are fully digitized and may be accessed through the website. If you need a specific collection or specific subject researched, there is an Ask the Librarian feature you can use.

About now you’re asking yourself, how does this help me thank veterans? You can help make certain veterans stories are collected. Record an interview an American veteran one you know, or one you get to know for the purpose of participating in this project. Their experiences are an important part of American history. Recording their stories assures that they won’t be forgotten, that they are honored, remembered, and respected. Go, print off the VHP Field Kit to get the specifics on how to record the interview and submit it to VHP.

Not an American? I was able to find oral history collections available for my Canadian friends, at the Military Oral History collections of the University of Victoria Libraries and for my Australian friends there is the Through My Eyes collection at the Australians At War website.

US Army soldier on duty

by Mateus_27:24&25
creative commons license
www.flickr.com/photos/mateus27_24-25/3118326650/

Have you thanked a veteran today? Have you asked to hear his or her story? If you have his or her permission, I’d love for you to share with us in the comments below.

Are you a veteran? Thank you so much for your service. Your service, and your story, is important, to me and to my readers. Will you share a bit of your story here?

How Bad Do You Want It?

On October 14th Felix Baumgartner, Austrian skydiver, daredevil, and BASE jumper achieved his goal.

Did You Watch Him Fall Down From the Sky?


John Anealio: Vocals & Acoustic Guitar

 

If you missed the spectacular jump, watch this video:

Did you catch who his sponsor was? Red Bull! Apropos, don’t you think? See more information at the official Red Bull Stratos team website.

For more technical information about the jump, go to extremetech.com.

Baumgartner wasn’t the first to try to achieve this record. Joseph Kittinger tried it in 1960. In fact, Kittinger still holds the record for the longest time in free fall (five minutes and 35 seconds).

Lesson Learned

I don’t know about you, but I am terrified of heights.  Put me on a three foot ladder and I start to shake, make the ladder a five foot ladder and I’m hyperventilating. I could never do what Felix Baumgartner or Joseph Kittinger did.  But I admire them.  Is that admiration due to jumping out of the balloon capsule higher than anyone else? No. Is it because they fell further and faster than anyone, ever? Uh-uh. Is it because Baumgartner broke the sound barrier with his body?  Nope.

Kittinger was a fighter pilot in Viet Nam and later made extreme altitude parachute jumps for Aerospace Medical Research Laboratories.

Baumgartner did more than 2,500 skydives, seven years of preparation with the Red Bull sponsored team, two test jumps, and a three-hour ascent in a tiny, pressurized capsule lifted by an ultra-thin helium balloon. All of that for a terrifying nine minute descent, for speeds up to 833.9 miles per hour, a world record, and tons of scientific data. Data that NASA hopes will lead to improvements in spacesuits and escape plans for future astronauts.

Don’t forget that neither Kittinger nor Baumgartner could have accomplished what they did without the drive and determination of past skydivers, researchers, and scientists who developed the base knowledge and equipment necessary.

For me, reading about these men (and women) puts things into perspective. It takes a lot of hard work to reach for your dreams, to be successful.

“When you want to succeed as bad as you want to breathe, then you’ll be successful”

Do you have a goal that you feel may be impossible?

How bad do you want it?

Fascination Friday: A Virtual Memorial Tour

It’s Friday Fascinations and Veteran’s Day. So the links I’ll post today will be those that I found fascinating about the wars our country has fought. A small tribute to the Courage, Honor, Patriotism and Sacrifice of our men and women of who have served our country.

The Great War

The National World War I Museum at Liberty Memorial is in Kansas City, MO. It is the only American museum dedicated solely to preserving objects from The Great War which lasted from 28 July 1914 to 11 November 1918 (does that date sound familiar?). Visitors enter the museum by crossing the a glass bridge suspended over a field of 9000 red poppies. Each poppy represents a combatant fatality. The museum’s displays, memorabilia and interactive exhibits tell the comprehensive story of the war through the eyewitness testimony of people who experienced the war. There are letters, diaries, videos, and newspaper reports. Some of these will bring a tear to your eye. They did mine. It’s an impressive collection and far more material than you can possibly cover in a day. The museum also houses a 20,000 square foot research area that is open to the public.

World War II

Depending upon which source you go to, somewhere between 70 – 100 million military personnel were mobilized during the second World War II. This conflict was fought from 1939 to 1945. (Isn’t conflict a nice, clean, distant word to use when talking about a war that had the distinction of the only use of nuclear weapons in warfare and the deadliest in human history with 50-70 million fatalities.) Go here for Digital history’s guided reading list about WWII. And you’ll find 10 things you may not know about World War II.

The Korean War

The Korean War (25 June 1950 – 27 July 1953) belonged to my father’s generation. Korea had been ruled by Japan until the end of World War II when the country became part of the spoils of war. It was divided at the 38th Parallel. American Troops occupied the southern half of the peninsula and Soviet troops occupied the northern part. That set up was a formula for war. For more information about this war go to Korean War.org. For one man who would do it again if he had to go here.

The Vietnam War

The Vietnam War was my generations’ war. It was the first time war was shown on the television screen. The consequences were enormous. I hope that American’s will never be so naive about war nor so disrespectful of her soldiers ever again. Please go here for more information. And if you are ever in Washington DC visit the wall, one of the most visually stunning memorials I’ve ever seen.

POWs and MIAs

This tribute must include our prisoners of war (POWs) and our missing in action (MIAs). For biographies and information about POWs go toAmerican Ex-POWs. A site specifically about women prisoners of war is here. And please, in your virtual memorial tour, be sure to visit Never Forgotten.

A Tribute to Heroes

This has been an emotional tour for me. My husband calls me a sap, a marshmallow. I can’t help it. My heart breaks for all of the lost, the wounded (physical and emotional), and the friends and families of all those men and women.

But my heart also busts with pride because Americans choose to fight, to serve, because they believe in the ideals of this country and they hold our flag proudly. I say thank you for your service every time I meet or see person in military uniform. Today I get the great honor of saying to all those who have served or are currently in service, to the ones I haven’t met and to their families: THANK YOU for your service to our great country. And now I close with one of my all-time favorite music videos honoring and celebrating veterans: “Here’s to the Heroes: a Military Tribute.”

Believe

The other day when I revealed the work I’d done on my husband’s website, my husband called me his hero. It took me by surprise. Me? A hero? We talked for a while about what he meant and it got me to thinking about my definition of a hero.

As a little girl I loved stories about heroes and heroines. I believed in the everyman characters who became heroes through their grand, selfless acts. I believed with my whole heart.

I still believe in heroes today. Yes, I am a romantic optimist: I believe in the classic hero, the kind that I write about in my action-suspense science fiction novels. But I also believe in ‘everyday’ heroes.

Classic Heroes
Our men and women on the battlefields are heroes, the ones whose acts we learn about and many we, the public, will never know. So too, men and women in the newspaper whose bold acts catch the public eye, like the cafeteria worker walking to work who stopped to pull a family to safety from their burning home, are heroes. These are heroes in the classic sense of the word: men and women who perform feats of great courage or nobility of purpose often at great risk to themselves. I do not want to denigrate these acts. These people are heroes. I thank them from the bottom of my heart for their service, their selflessness.

But there are other heroes The heroes whose acts of great courage and nobility of purpose are not bold and do not require public acts of strength or self-sacrifice. These are the heroes who typically do not even think of themselves as heroes, but they are. They are people we can look up to and hope to emulate.

’Everyday’ Heroes
As a pediatric nurse, I see ‘everyday’ heroes and heroines on a daily basis. They are family members, parents, foster parents, and patients who face what seem to be insurmountable odds. They have suffered personal tragedies, traumas, or setbacks. I look at their lives from the outside and think it must take a tremendous amounts of courage in order to get through their day. And I am certain there are days when they feel beat down, as if they can’t take another step. Yet, they move forward with a smile, with profound love and kindness. They go to work every single day, help their family, do the things that need to be done. It wasn’t how they envisioned their life. They adapt, modify, incorporate the things they must do into their everyday life. Many of them don’t just follow the path they were given. They manage to step outside the box and follow their dream.

How do they do that?
I think the ones that manage to do this are a little like bulldogs themselves. They have a tenacious belief in their goal. It is that belief that keeps them moving forward, a belief that sometimes is so ingrained in who they are that they don’t even know they are doing something ‘against all odds.’

Sometimes, life beats you down. Maybe medical issues, economic issues, security, or any of the thousands of other possibilities have have overcome you. Next time you think you’ve lost that optimism, that belief in your own courage, that belief in yourself. Remember heroes do exist, in stories and in real life. Remember that you may be someone’s hero without even knowing it. And remember to believe . . .

Believe in your dreams.
Believe in today.
Believe that you are loved.
Believe that you make a difference.
Believe we can build a better world.
Believe when others might not.
Believe there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.
Believe that you might be that light for someone else.
Believe that the best is yet to be.
Believe in each other.
Believe in yourself. — Kobi Yamada

I believe in heroes. Do you?

I’d love to hear from you. Who are some of your heroes?

Holidays

Fools Risk Magic

Happy April Fools’ or, if you prefer the older name, Happy All Fools’ Day!  This is one of my favorite holidays of the year. Not because of the silly tricks and deceptions people pull on each other, but because it reminds me to take risks. I’m not talking of risking money or life and limb but about risking your heart and soul. The kind of risk that might mean pain and rejection. You might end up feeling foolish or stupid. But if you don’t take the risk you will miss the opportunity to make magic happen in your writing and in your life.

TAKE THE RISK

Years ago, after an acrimonious divorce, I was a single parent struggling to balance a job, parenting, and a life.  I decided that meant I had to protect myself from risks. But centering everything around my middle-grade son meant I was holding him too close and denying myself adult-level conversations. So I took my first risk and joined a brick and mortar dating service.

I chose a service where I could keep the risk low. All members of this service underwent background checks and no one got my last name or phone number unless I first approved it. First dates were arrange via snail-mail notes sent through the service. And I had a lot of dates. No commitments, just dinner and a movie. That was the way I wanted it. Low risk.

Then, I received a note illustrated by an artist. His invitation to meet also included a suggestion that we could tell stories together. I was intrigued.

I met him at a local Tex-Mex restaurant. His name was Bob. The awkward ‘tell-me-a-little-about-yourself’ exchange segued into a discussion of the creative process. I was amazed that he ‘got it.’  We talked until we were the last remaining customers and the restaurant was locking the doors.

I knew our next conversation would be equally fascinating. But days passed into a week and he didn’t call. I bemoaned this fact to my girlfriend who suggested that I ask him for a date. Oh, no. I couldn’t risk it. I wasn’t that progressive, nor that confident. But when she suggested I write him a thank you note for the lovely dinner, that was a risk I could take. And I did.

He called the day he got the note. He’d also enjoyed the conversation and had thought we’d had a lovely time, until the evening ended. We had left the table and gone to the front desk, where he had paused to pay the bill. When he turned around, I was gone.  Vanished.

When he told me that I realized I could not remember saying goodnight. Yup. My risk-aversion had raised its fearful head and ‘we’ skedaddled out of there!

Fortunately, Bob risked a second chance. More dates followed. We risked showing each other our true hearts, our fears, and our dreams. And by taking that risk, the magic began to happen.

RISK YOUR HEART & SOUL

Having been foolish enough to think that I could live a life without risk, it seemed only natural to marry on April Fools’ day. And, of course, it was only natural to share our story with our friends.

Lynette M. Burrows science fiction author; Lynette M. Burrows action-suspense science fiction author.

Written by Lynette M. and Robert W. Burrows. Illustrated by R. W. Burrows. We partied after the honeymoon.

That was the beginning of our story. We’re still writing and illustrating. And it’s still magic. But we couldn’t live this story until we each took a few risks.

Writing is a lot like that. Your scribbles (or pixelated words) can fill volumes, but until you risk your heart and soul your story won’t come alive.

EMBRACE THE RISK

Be willing to be a fool.  Don’t let your fear of showing too much censor your words.  Unfetter your emotions, your memories, your pain, and your joy. Let it spill onto the page. Put your heart and soul on the line. Embrace the risk. It will change your life. And, if you’re lucky, you’ll make . . . magic.

 ~oOo~

Share the magic!

What risks have you taken in your life?  In your writing?

P.S. Because this post was date related, the next “Going to Mars: Word by Word” post featuring Greg Bear’s _Forge of God_ will be presented Monday, April 8th.

Oh, and  I won’t respond to your comments until April 2nd.  I’ve got an anniversary to celebrate!

I Can Not Tell a Lie: It’s Not Presidents Day

Really. While the U.S. holiday celebrated on the third Monday in February is often called Presidents Day it is officially, legally, a day to celebrate George Washington’s birthday. Learn more about how the misnomer came to be at snopes.com. 

Happy George Washington Day!

Lynette M Burrows, action-suspense science fiction author,

February 22, 1732 to December 14, 1799

George Washington was more than a hero of the Revolutionary War and the first President of the United States of America. He was first an orphan then a farmer, followed by Surveyor General for Virginia, land owner, a major in the Virginia militia, and a hero of the French and Indian War. He was a man who followed his principles and refused to be king.

Learn more about the man who became the first U.S.President at biography.com

Common Sense and Common Honesty

In reading about Washington, I found a timeless comment he made to the citizens of Baltimore in 1789.

“It appears to me that little more than common sense and common honesty in the transactions of the community at large would be necessary to make us a great and happy nation.”

His comment made me think. Whether Republican, Democrat or other political flavor it seems that many of the world’s leaders have forgotten their common sense and honesty. Perhaps whole nations have.

But in this, the information age, can we believe the information put before us? Reality tv shows are staged. Advertising has little relationship to the truth. Misinformation ripples across the internet.  

In the frenzy to get attention, to be special, are we getting a distorted view?

What do you think? Does the world need more common sense and honesty? Do you think that media attention on those who have demonstrated a lack of common sense and dishonesty has caused a distorted perception of the morals of politicians?

 

 

Valentine’s Day: Procrastinator’s Delight

valentine_hearts_clip_art
Did you know that 141 million Valentine’s Day cards are exchanged each year, not including the boxes of cards school age children exchange?  And more than 50% of those cards are bought in the six days immediately preceding Valentine’s Day?  Whew, and I thought it was just me!

Are you a Valentine’s Day procrastinator desperately needing a gift idea for your sweetie? Have no fear, there are links below to suit anyone’s budget.

Want to know dazzle your sweetheart with more facts about Valentine’s Day?  Go to History.com.

Try making your own card with one of the sweet love quote Huffington Post found.

Looking for something different?  Here are some ‘non-cheesy’ date ideas on Your Tango. A burlesque show?  If any of you try that one, let me know how it works out.

Cosmopolitan has some great gift ideas for guys. It even tells you how much you should spend on a gift based on how long you’ve been dating.  (What?  Married folk don’t count?!)

Spare no expense, you say?  Well then, CNN has a slide show of wildly expensive gifts.  Honey, if you’re reading this, I could really go for the 24-karate gold purse.  (Just kidding!)

Someone out there, will most likely get romanced with a diamond.  I already have gotten my diamond ring from my darling husband, but I do love sparkly rings.  Maybe this Valentine’s Day I could have a . . . .

Lynette M Burrows science fiction author, Lynette M Burrows, action-suspense science fiction author Lynette M Burrows

Power Ring!

Tell me, do you and your sweetie exchange Valentine’s Day gifts? 

Are you a planner (purchase your gifts or cards more than 6 days beforehand) or are you a procrastinator (purchase gifts and cards 6, or fewer, days ahead)?

What’s the best gift or card you’ve ever given or gotten?

Top Ten Posts of 2012

Happy New Year’s Eve!

As we say goodbye to 2013, I’m saying a big thank you to all of you who’ve followed my blog, commented, tweeted, shared and linked to my posts.

You made these my top ten blog posts for 2012:
1. Breaking Out of Numb
2. And the Answer is: Happy Rodents and a Lucky Snippet
3. Warning! 10 Signs You’ve Pushed Too Hard
4. A Void in My Heart
5. The Road To Success
6. Be A Child
7. Speak Up Readers, What Do You Think?
8. Are You Saying No to Success?
9. Glorious Mistakes or Wave of the Future?
10. Monday Mash-up: From Sopa to Nuts

If you were expecting the next Going to Mars Word by Word blog post, I apologize. Due to the holidays, the next post in the Going to Mars Word by Word series has been postponed. Check out our next stop: The Sands of Mars by Sir Arthur C. Clarke next Monday, January 7th.

I know that your time is precious and I deeply appreciate that you’ve spent time with me during this past year. Thank you.

Best wishes to you and yours for a safe and Happy 2013!

Inspiration

Don’t Wait for the Storm to Pass

We all have challenges in life whether it is just getting through a bad day or getting through months of illness or a lifetime of grief. Our mission is to learn to dance in the rain. But dance in the rain doesn’t necessarily mean to literally dance.

In KM Huber’s blog, Aim for Even, she talks about how we humans try to stay in one moment even though that is impossible to do. Her dance in the rain is to be present.

Marie Forleo gives advice on how to Find the Courage to Keep Going When You Feel Like Giving Up in this short video.

How can you learn to dance in the rain? Find that one thing you love and give yourself a few minutes just connecting to that thing you love. For me, if I spend a few minutes writing each day I’ve just danced in the rain. Another way I dance is to listen to beautiful music from one of my favorite groups, like Pentatonix.

So if your life is a storm that takes your breath away, take a moment for yourself. If you’ve used that moment reading this blog I can only say I am honored. If you share something of how you dance in the rain in the comments below, I am blessed. Thank you.

Image courtesy of Heather on Flickr Creative Commons

 

 

Do You Need a Break?

Photo of man & boy planning grocery listIs your summer as busy as your fall and winter? Are you scurrying around running the kids to one event or another? Or maybe you’re frantically preparing for visiting family members, or going to visit family, or going on vacation. Do you need a vacation from your vacation?

I’m here to remind you to take some restorative time. A break. It doesn’t have to last a long time. What it must be is something that gives you a lift.

Music does it for me. Doesn’t matter what my mood was before the music starts, music well-played, will carry me away. It speaks to the me tucked away inside. It lifts me up, stirs my feet, brings a tear, and fills my heart.

Treble cleft and notes

Apparently the expressiveness of music is nearly universal. Why does music make us feel emotional? According to this article in the Scientific American it isn’t really music that makes us feel. It’s other humans. Yup. You, me, him, her. The expressiveness of a human being, something you’ve felt yourself or seen expressed by someone else. Wait. Music isn’t human, you say. No, but music is something that can be manipulated to be expressive, humanly expressive, and that tickles a memory, a feeling.

Music doesn’t do it for everyone. For some it’s the sound of a well-tuned engine racing down the track. Others are swept away by the beauty of Monet or van Go gh or Picasso. A passage in a book can stir one’s emotions or evoke an image that moves us. No matter if it’s the notes of a bullfrog, the trill of a nightingale, the sweeping vistas of a prairie, or the majesty of mountains, it’s reaching the most human place inside you.

As I said, music does it for me. I’d like to share all my favorites with you, but that would take hours and hours and hours. Instead, let me share just one today. Take a listen.

<iframe width=”560″ height=”315″ src=”https://www.youtube.com/embed/Edwsf-8F3sI?rel=0&amp;controls=0&amp;showinfo=0″ frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen></iframe>

If the link to the video doesn’t work, try this link.

There’s a place, a sound, where you find joy and solace and restoration.Where do you find a moment for yourself? Won’t you share? Please only post one link per comment so the bot doesn’t put your comment in the spam box. And thank you for taking time to read and comment.

 

 

SuMan and son planning grocery list image via configmanager on Flickr
Musical Notes Image via Clipart Panda

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More than a Game

Lynette M Burrows, spooky apple orchard,When I was a child, about eight- or nine-years-old, my mother went to the hospital to have her third child. My brother and I were packed off to an aunt and uncle’s house. Now, this aunt and uncle had five children. The two oldest were off to college. The two youngest were about the same age as my brother and I. The middle child was a teenager, uninterested and uninvolved in the lives of children.

My aunt and uncle lived in an old farmhouse that had been updated. There was an attic with two bedroom spaces, each holding a pair of bunk beds. The second-floor held four more bedrooms. A living room, kitchen, dining room, and den made up the first floor. And there was a basement, the realm of the children. The basement had several rooms of bookcases and cabinets and a door to the outside.

Outside was a wonder. A  grape arbor and an orchard gave us plenty of room to be rowdy kids running around.

The three boys and I invented an adventure game. Being the only girl, I was the heroine or the damsel in distress, depending upon the turn of the play. The boys were the heroes and occasional victims. The evil villain was invisible, an unknown who left threatening notes. We dashed in and out of the basement, zig-zagged through the spooky fruit trees and grabby grape vines, uncovered clues and threatening notes, did heroic deeds, and wore ourselves out with fun.

Lynette M Burrows, grabby grape vines, Heather Hopkins

I’m certain we had quieter activities after a filling evening meal, but I don’t remember those. I do remember climbing upstairs to the attic bedroom, into the lower bunk, and falling fast asleep.

I woke gasping for air. Ice cold hands were around my throat, choking me! I couldn’t see who the cloaked villain was but screamed for help. The three boys rushed to the room and pounded the villain with their fists. Lights came on, the villain disappeared. I sobbed my tale of fear to my aunt and uncle.

The boy heroes identified the dastardly villain as my teen-aged cousin. He was punished. I was soothed. The visit was short (probably not to my aunt and uncle). My brother and I went home and welcomed our new baby sister.

Today, I feel bad for my teenaged cousin. He took the game a little too far, perhaps, yet, the choking was minimal and momentary, or I wouldn’t have been able to scream.  Looking back, I was frightened, but the fright was temporary.  I have a fun-to-tell memory, my brother and cousins got to be real heroes, and I got a story, two blog posts, and a novel out of the adventure!

What do you recall fondly? Childhood memories? Adventures as a Teen? Trials and Tribulations of being an adult? Any lessons you learned from these? Please share your story below in the comments below.

 

Images: “Vines at Dusk” via  Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Heather Hopkins.

“Spooky Apple Orchard” via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of R. L. Rose

Listen & Learn: Podcasts on Writing

 

Wikimedia Creative CommonsBusy lives mean we must be creative in the ways we use our time. For me, that means when I’m doing housework or driving or tallying columns of numbers I listen to podcasts.

LISTEN OR READ

Last week I shared three of the science themed podcasts that I listen to. One reader lamented that her lifestyle didn’t lend itself to listening to podcasts and I realized I’d forgotten to mention that many of the podcasts make transcripts of the show. These transcripts are available on their websites. Want to take a look at the science podcasts I recommended? Go here.

There are many, many more podcasts on nearly every topic under the sun. They are available on your favorite podcast carrier (Apple iTunes oStitcher or Android). Download your system appropriate app and discover a whole new world of spoken shows and radio.

Learn from Writers on Writing

Looking for a podcast on writing? Well, I have a few I can recommend.

The Creative Penn is an hour long show that is broadcast every Monday by Joanna Penn, a New York Times bestselling thriller writer and nonfiction writer. She is a self-publishing guru who interviews other authors and creators both from her native Great Britain and around the world. Her interviews are always worth a listen. You can visit her nonfiction site here. Her podcast transcripts are here. She also puts the interview portion of her podcasts on YouTube.

Writing Excuses is a fifteen minute (approximately) podcast hosted by Mary Robinette Kowal, Brandon Sanderson, Dan Wells, and Howard Taylor. I love their tag line, “Fifteen minutes long because you’re in a hurry, and we’re not that smart.” They may not think of themselves as smart, but they put on a smart show. Often with guests, they discuss various aspects of the craft of writing. Every broadcast they recommend a book, not just science fiction and fantasy. The book always has a link in their liner notes. Go here to see their podcasts on their website. And they host a cruise! Once a year, a cruise with writing workshops for science fiction and fantasy writers. A cruise I plan to attend someday. Peruse their previous seasons or subscribe to their current season, you’ll find gold.

And, for my third choice . . . The Story Grid with editor, story grid creator, Shawn Coyne, and new writer, Tim Grahl. Tim bravely submits a portion of his work-in-progress for Shawn to critique on air. It’s fascinating to hear both the professional editor and the struggling writer discuss how to build a story. I recommend starting with the Story Grid website to learn the terms Shawn Coyne uses or read his book, The Story Grid: What Editors Know. Then start with the first podcast and follow along as Shawn guides Tim in the completion of his first novel.

There are so many more podcasts that are worth mentioning, but your needs and interests probably differ from mine. Look around the web, I know you’ll find one that you find worthwhile.

Your Turn

If you find one, or you already listen to one, won’t you share the title and a little about it in the comments below?

 

Image courtesy of Raster via Wikimedia Creative Commons.

Life, Liberty & the Pursuit

Don’t Wait for the Storm to Pass

We all have challenges in life whether it is just getting through a bad day or getting through months of illness or a lifetime of grief. Our mission is to learn to dance in the rain. But dance in the rain doesn’t necessarily mean to literally dance.

In KM Huber’s blog, Aim for Even, she talks about how we humans try to stay in one moment even though that is impossible to do. Her dance in the rain is to be present.

Marie Forleo gives advice on how to Find the Courage to Keep Going When You Feel Like Giving Up in this short video.

How can you learn to dance in the rain? Find that one thing you love and give yourself a few minutes just connecting to that thing you love. For me, if I spend a few minutes writing each day I’ve just danced in the rain. Another way I dance is to listen to beautiful music from one of my favorite groups, like Pentatonix.

So if your life is a storm that takes your breath away, take a moment for yourself. If you’ve used that moment reading this blog I can only say I am honored. If you share something of how you dance in the rain in the comments below, I am blessed. Thank you.

Image courtesy of Heather on Flickr Creative Commons

 

 

Do You Need a Break?

Photo of man & boy planning grocery listIs your summer as busy as your fall and winter? Are you scurrying around running the kids to one event or another? Or maybe you’re frantically preparing for visiting family members, or going to visit family, or going on vacation. Do you need a vacation from your vacation?

I’m here to remind you to take some restorative time. A break. It doesn’t have to last a long time. What it must be is something that gives you a lift.

Music does it for me. Doesn’t matter what my mood was before the music starts, music well-played, will carry me away. It speaks to the me tucked away inside. It lifts me up, stirs my feet, brings a tear, and fills my heart.

Treble cleft and notes

Apparently the expressiveness of music is nearly universal. Why does music make us feel emotional? According to this article in the Scientific American it isn’t really music that makes us feel. It’s other humans. Yup. You, me, him, her. The expressiveness of a human being, something you’ve felt yourself or seen expressed by someone else. Wait. Music isn’t human, you say. No, but music is something that can be manipulated to be expressive, humanly expressive, and that tickles a memory, a feeling.

Music doesn’t do it for everyone. For some it’s the sound of a well-tuned engine racing down the track. Others are swept away by the beauty of Monet or van Go gh or Picasso. A passage in a book can stir one’s emotions or evoke an image that moves us. No matter if it’s the notes of a bullfrog, the trill of a nightingale, the sweeping vistas of a prairie, or the majesty of mountains, it’s reaching the most human place inside you.

As I said, music does it for me. I’d like to share all my favorites with you, but that would take hours and hours and hours. Instead, let me share just one today. Take a listen.

<iframe width=”560″ height=”315″ src=”https://www.youtube.com/embed/Edwsf-8F3sI?rel=0&amp;controls=0&amp;showinfo=0″ frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen></iframe>

If the link to the video doesn’t work, try this link.

There’s a place, a sound, where you find joy and solace and restoration.Where do you find a moment for yourself? Won’t you share? Please only post one link per comment so the bot doesn’t put your comment in the spam box. And thank you for taking time to read and comment.

 

 

SuMan and son planning grocery list image via configmanager on Flickr
Musical Notes Image via Clipart Panda

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

More than a Game

Lynette M Burrows, spooky apple orchard,When I was a child, about eight- or nine-years-old, my mother went to the hospital to have her third child. My brother and I were packed off to an aunt and uncle’s house. Now, this aunt and uncle had five children. The two oldest were off to college. The two youngest were about the same age as my brother and I. The middle child was a teenager, uninterested and uninvolved in the lives of children.

My aunt and uncle lived in an old farmhouse that had been updated. There was an attic with two bedroom spaces, each holding a pair of bunk beds. The second-floor held four more bedrooms. A living room, kitchen, dining room, and den made up the first floor. And there was a basement, the realm of the children. The basement had several rooms of bookcases and cabinets and a door to the outside.

Outside was a wonder. A  grape arbor and an orchard gave us plenty of room to be rowdy kids running around.

The three boys and I invented an adventure game. Being the only girl, I was the heroine or the damsel in distress, depending upon the turn of the play. The boys were the heroes and occasional victims. The evil villain was invisible, an unknown who left threatening notes. We dashed in and out of the basement, zig-zagged through the spooky fruit trees and grabby grape vines, uncovered clues and threatening notes, did heroic deeds, and wore ourselves out with fun.

Lynette M Burrows, grabby grape vines, Heather Hopkins

I’m certain we had quieter activities after a filling evening meal, but I don’t remember those. I do remember climbing upstairs to the attic bedroom, into the lower bunk, and falling fast asleep.

I woke gasping for air. Ice cold hands were around my throat, choking me! I couldn’t see who the cloaked villain was but screamed for help. The three boys rushed to the room and pounded the villain with their fists. Lights came on, the villain disappeared. I sobbed my tale of fear to my aunt and uncle.

The boy heroes identified the dastardly villain as my teen-aged cousin. He was punished. I was soothed. The visit was short (probably not to my aunt and uncle). My brother and I went home and welcomed our new baby sister.

Today, I feel bad for my teenaged cousin. He took the game a little too far, perhaps, yet, the choking was minimal and momentary, or I wouldn’t have been able to scream.  Looking back, I was frightened, but the fright was temporary.  I have a fun-to-tell memory, my brother and cousins got to be real heroes, and I got a story, two blog posts, and a novel out of the adventure!

What do you recall fondly? Childhood memories? Adventures as a Teen? Trials and Tribulations of being an adult? Any lessons you learned from these? Please share your story below in the comments below.

 

Images: “Vines at Dusk” via  Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Heather Hopkins.

“Spooky Apple Orchard” via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of R. L. Rose

Mash-Up

Science Fiction Mashup

Here are some fun science fiction magazine sites. If you haven’t visited them, click on the links below. Among these I’m sure you’ll find something that speaks to your SF bug.

Asimovs Science Fiction

offers samples of their print and e-format magazine, links to author, magazine and other SF related sites, and they feature a couple of new author blogs each month.

Amazing Stories Magazine

calls their site a Social Magazine. Scroll down the page to see some of the fascinating posts and join the forum to participate in the conversation.

Analog Science Fiction and Fact Magazine 

is up in space! (in the library of the International Space Station). This site offers the usual plus a reference library and an events calendar.

The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction 

features a blog with interviews, reviews, and articles as well as a forum for discussions among fans.

Sfsignal

is considered a fanzine(a nonprofessional, nonofficial publication by fans). You’ll find book and movie reviews, free fiction, convention information, and more at this site.

 

Hi! I’m popping up out of my writing cave for a few minutes to say hi and share some links you might want to know about. I’ll be heading back into the cave in a minute. I’m determined to finish this re-write before I take off for an intense immersion class. In the meantime, I will try to post a short piece every couple of weeks. I’ll return to a regular blogging scheduled in late October.

I hope you found something of interest in this mashup of Science Fiction Online.

Are there science fiction sites you visit regularly?

Does Summer Mean Sleep Deprivation?

Lynette M Burrows, author; Lynette M Burrows science fiction author; Lynette M Burrows action-suspense science fiction author

photo courtesy of lifebeginsat50mm via Flickr

It’s summer time in the U.S.A. and that means fun, right? There’s all kinds of things to do: swimming, sun bathing, gardening, lawn care, picnics, vacations, games, sitting on the porch until the sun goes down, and more. Unfortunately the usual list of things to do continues as well: housework, the wage-earning-job, errands, meals, and all manner of mundane daily duties. So how do we accomplish all of these things? Can we say sleep deprivation?

It’s a cruel season that makes you get ready for bed while it’s light out. ~Bill Watterson

We all know that sleep is important. There’s information all over the web, televisions and magazines telling us that chronic sleep deprivation can lead to decreased alertness, memory loss, and numerous medical issues ranging from obesity to heart disease. (For more information go to WebMD.) So why do we do we shave off sleep time? Perhaps we believe in some of the common myths about sleep.

If you lose two hours of sleep, you can impair your performance equal to a .05 blood-alcohol level. (from 10 facts about.com)

Do you believe that missing just one hour of sleep won’t hurt? Or that your body adjusts quickly to different sleep schedules? What about the one that you can make up for lack of sleep by sleeping more on the weekends? Sorry, none of those are correct. Even just one hour less sleep at night will affect how alert you are, your cardiovascular health, your energy levels, and your ability to fight off infection. For more information on myths about sleep go to helpguide.org and go to sleepfoundation.org for healthy sleep tips.

“I’m not asleep… but that doesn’t mean I’m awake.”-Unknown Author

It’s summer and my wish for you (and me) is to make getting enough sleep a priority so we remain healthy and have a terrific summer. And I don’t want to be too serious so, how about a few fun facts about sleep?

Here’s 10 Fun Facts about sleep.

You know those sheep we count in order to go to sleep? They only need 3.8 hours of sleep a day! Check out how many hours of sleep a giraffe needs per day here.

I don’t know about you, but I want to be a dolphin. Scientists studying sleep believe that dolphins may sleep with one hemisphere of their brain at a time. How cool is that?  Yes, some report that ducks can do the same thing, but I’d much rather be a dolphin. Just think how much I summer I could enjoy if half my brain would sleep while I enjoyed summer fun!

“A good laugh and a long sleep are the best cures in the doctor’s book.”-Irish Proverb

Sleep by Sean MacEntee via Flickr

What about you? Do you get the recommended amount of sleep? If not, what has you sleep deprived this summer?

Perfection, Failure and Inspiration

I had another post in mind for today, but Monday morning I read a friend’s blog post and I knew it was something I had to share. Colin Falconer suggested that every writer should watch the video called The Benefits of Failure. I say everyone should watch this video. For everyone has something, someplace in which they have felt the pain of failure. That pain has given failure a black mark. It’s something most of us avoid, but perhaps we shouldn’t.

Take a short break right now and visit Colin’s website, Looking for Mr Goodstory, read his post and watch the commencement speech called The Benefits of Failure . Go on, I’ll wait.

Interesting speech, yes? Now, no one is encouraging you to go out and deliberately fail. What Ms. Rollins suggests is that we shouldn’t be so afraid of failure that we don’t take risks.

If that Ms. Rollins’ speech hasn’t convinced you that failure can be a good thing, that failure is part of life, read KM Huber’s blog, The Way to Fall Apart. It’s a lovely post and reminds us all that falling apart is necessary for things to come together.

But failing and falling apart are scary. So we look for some way to make it come together. Aren’t we all guilty of sometimes avoiding the possibility of failure by trying to make everything perfect? And wouldn’t you know it, Seth Godin had something to say about Polishing Perfect.

Has this post made you uncomfortable? Talking about, thinking about, much less experiencing failure is uncomfortable. But remind yourself, failure is just one way that didn’t work. Dare to risk failure. You never know what you might discover.

Lynette M. Burrows author,Lynette M. Burrows science fiction author, Lynette M. Burrows author action-suspense science fiction

image courtesy of pixabay.com

I’m risking failure with an epic rewrite of an imperfect novel that I can’t let go.

Do you avoid failure at all costs?
Or do you embrace the risk of failure?

Top Ten Posts of 2012

Happy New Year’s Eve!

As we say goodbye to 2013, I’m saying a big thank you to all of you who’ve followed my blog, commented, tweeted, shared and linked to my posts.

You made these my top ten blog posts for 2012:
1. Breaking Out of Numb
2. And the Answer is: Happy Rodents and a Lucky Snippet
3. Warning! 10 Signs You’ve Pushed Too Hard
4. A Void in My Heart
5. The Road To Success
6. Be A Child
7. Speak Up Readers, What Do You Think?
8. Are You Saying No to Success?
9. Glorious Mistakes or Wave of the Future?
10. Monday Mash-up: From Sopa to Nuts

If you were expecting the next Going to Mars Word by Word blog post, I apologize. Due to the holidays, the next post in the Going to Mars Word by Word series has been postponed. Check out our next stop: The Sands of Mars by Sir Arthur C. Clarke next Monday, January 7th.

I know that your time is precious and I deeply appreciate that you’ve spent time with me during this past year. Thank you.

Best wishes to you and yours for a safe and Happy 2013!

Music

Don’t Wait for the Storm to Pass

We all have challenges in life whether it is just getting through a bad day or getting through months of illness or a lifetime of grief. Our mission is to learn to dance in the rain. But dance in the rain doesn’t necessarily mean to literally dance.

In KM Huber’s blog, Aim for Even, she talks about how we humans try to stay in one moment even though that is impossible to do. Her dance in the rain is to be present.

Marie Forleo gives advice on how to Find the Courage to Keep Going When You Feel Like Giving Up in this short video.

How can you learn to dance in the rain? Find that one thing you love and give yourself a few minutes just connecting to that thing you love. For me, if I spend a few minutes writing each day I’ve just danced in the rain. Another way I dance is to listen to beautiful music from one of my favorite groups, like Pentatonix.

So if your life is a storm that takes your breath away, take a moment for yourself. If you’ve used that moment reading this blog I can only say I am honored. If you share something of how you dance in the rain in the comments below, I am blessed. Thank you.

Image courtesy of Heather on Flickr Creative Commons

 

 

Do You Need a Break?

Photo of man & boy planning grocery listIs your summer as busy as your fall and winter? Are you scurrying around running the kids to one event or another? Or maybe you’re frantically preparing for visiting family members, or going to visit family, or going on vacation. Do you need a vacation from your vacation?

I’m here to remind you to take some restorative time. A break. It doesn’t have to last a long time. What it must be is something that gives you a lift.

Music does it for me. Doesn’t matter what my mood was before the music starts, music well-played, will carry me away. It speaks to the me tucked away inside. It lifts me up, stirs my feet, brings a tear, and fills my heart.

Treble cleft and notes

Apparently the expressiveness of music is nearly universal. Why does music make us feel emotional? According to this article in the Scientific American it isn’t really music that makes us feel. It’s other humans. Yup. You, me, him, her. The expressiveness of a human being, something you’ve felt yourself or seen expressed by someone else. Wait. Music isn’t human, you say. No, but music is something that can be manipulated to be expressive, humanly expressive, and that tickles a memory, a feeling.

Music doesn’t do it for everyone. For some it’s the sound of a well-tuned engine racing down the track. Others are swept away by the beauty of Monet or van Go gh or Picasso. A passage in a book can stir one’s emotions or evoke an image that moves us. No matter if it’s the notes of a bullfrog, the trill of a nightingale, the sweeping vistas of a prairie, or the majesty of mountains, it’s reaching the most human place inside you.

As I said, music does it for me. I’d like to share all my favorites with you, but that would take hours and hours and hours. Instead, let me share just one today. Take a listen.

<iframe width=”560″ height=”315″ src=”https://www.youtube.com/embed/Edwsf-8F3sI?rel=0&amp;controls=0&amp;showinfo=0″ frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen></iframe>

If the link to the video doesn’t work, try this link.

There’s a place, a sound, where you find joy and solace and restoration.Where do you find a moment for yourself? Won’t you share? Please only post one link per comment so the bot doesn’t put your comment in the spam box. And thank you for taking time to read and comment.

 

 

SuMan and son planning grocery list image via configmanager on Flickr
Musical Notes Image via Clipart Panda

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Greatest Hits of Science Fiction

If you’ve attended a science fiction convention, you’ve heard of Filk Songs.  For those of you who haven’t heard of them,  Filk songs are kind of hard to define.  Even wikipedia has difficulty!  For now, we’ll say that a filk song is lyrics and music that is sung at a science fiction and fantasy convention.

Here’s a quick sample of a Filk Song:

I Hate Little Firelizards by Julia Ecklar

The guys on the television show Whose Line Is It Anyway?  (the U.S. version), took science fiction and music to a whole different level. I hope you enjoy the zaniness of  improv stars: Ryan Stiles, Colin Mochrie, and Wayne Brady.

Greatest Hits of Science Fiction

For those of you who are wondering what happened to the Going to Mars Word by Word post this month — thank you so very much for your responses last month.  You voiced your preference and I am every so grateful for that.  Worry not.  I’m taking a couple of months break while I finish a re-write.  Going to Mars Word by Word will resume during the fall.

Fun with Words

Weekends are often devilishly devine. We have wickedly good fun, clean dirt from our homes, watch friendly competitors, and otherwise turn ourselves inside out trying to do more, be more, have more. Then comes Monday. Monday is the antithesis of the weekend. So today, let’s talk about phrases that pair two words that are the antithesis of each other. That’s right. We’re talking oxymorons. Rather, Dave and Randy are singing oxymorons. Have a listen.

The Oxymoron Song

There are countless numbers of oxymorons. How many did you identify in the song? How many in this post?

Surely Dave and Randy didn’t include all the oxymorons out there.

What’s your favorite oxymoron?

Pets

A Void in My Heart

Miniature Schnauzer puppy we named Nemo

Sometimes there is  a loss that leaves a void in your life.  It isn’t the worst kind of loss: the loss of a parent, a sibling, or child.  Rather, it’s the loss of a four-legged companion with whom you shared a lifetime.

We suffered that kind of loss in my home this past weekend.  If you are a pet lover, you understand.  If you are not, you have my permission to skip over this post

I’ve had pets most of my life.  And since pets lives are short, I have outlived many pets.  There are some pets, though, whose presence comes to mean far more than just companionship.  My miniature schnauzer, Nemo, was one such pet.  I’m including a snippet of one of my morning pages that explains a little of why Nemo’s presence was so very special in my life.

Morning Pages 3/17/12:  As I write this, Nemo’s labored breathing fills my ears. Tears well up and my heart aches. I’m losing him. I feel guilt for pain I think he must be suffering. Yet, he still eats, he still plays with his toys, and he still guards the yard from silly squirrels and crazy cats, although all of those things are accomplished much more slowly than in the past. I know he doesn’t know he’s dying. I know that I’m projecting my feelings onto him, my faithful companion, my buddy. His liver and his heart are failing him. Am I failing him?

Eleven years ago DH was recovering from open heart surgery complicated by a stroke. I’d been fortunate enough to have sick time to stay with him for nearly six weeks. But time was running out. DH was hurting and depressed. I could barely motivate him to get up and move about the house. I would have to return to work soon and I was certain he would get worse alone in the house. Then, two weeks before I had to return to work, I brought a tiny miniature schnauzer puppy home. I named him Nemo.

DH couldn’t believe I had been so mean. He argued that he would never be able to care for the puppy while I was at work. I put a gate on the front porch. Now DH could let the puppy out on the porch to do his business. In the evening I would hose off the offending output. DH argued that he couldn’t bend over to pick the puppy up. I taught Nemo to jump onto the couch on command. And too soon, I had to return to work.

DH spent the days on the recliner sofa. When he couldn’t bend over, he played ‘footsie’ games with the puppy. When he napped, little Nemo curled up in his lap and napped, too. And every few hours, DH would shuffle out onto the porch and sit while the puppy sniffed and circled until he found just the right spot to relieve himself.

Over time, the puppy grew into a handsome, sweet-natured dog. DH regained strength playing fetch and taking Nemo on walks. While DH’s physicians, physical therapists, nor I could penetrate his pain, fear, and depression, the pup snuck into his heart. I firmly believe that Nemo saved DH’s life.

Over the next few years we bought two more pups: a mutt and a yorkie. Nemo adjusted fantastically. He tolerated the pup who tugged out the hairs of his beard and the pup who hid all the toys. He groomed the babies and woofed at them to come in with him. They are inseparable.

The three amigos, my three dogs

left to right: Cosmo, Astro & Nemo, the Three Amigos

I worry how the two younger dogs will react once Nemo’s gone.

A bad liver is causing his heart to fail. His failing heart can’t pump enough blood so he breathes fast and heavy. He’s having syncopal episodes, fainting, because he’s not getting enough oxygen carrying blood to his brain. Sometimes these episodes look like seizures. Medications can only help for so long.

I’m trying to enjoy the time we have left. He still greets me at the door, begs for treats, and he brings me his favorite toy which he holds in his mouth until I command him to ‘leave it.’ It’s a game he plays for an extra ‘good boy.’ I pet him and tell him what a good boy he is. And I pray that God takes him gently when it’s time, but not just yet, please, because my heart is breaking.

4/7/2012: I wrote the above paragraphs when I was feeling very selfish. I couldn’t imagine my life without Nemo in it. I couldn’t say goodbye.  I wasn’t ready. Unfortunately, Nemo’s quality of life declined dramatically. His chest heaved in an effort to get more oxygen. Sick as he was, his sweet temperament never changed.

As I watched his health decline, my selfishness vanished. He would pick up his toy in preparation to go outside, but had to drop it so he could breathe.  He would stand beside DH or myself, his head against our legs because he couldn’t rise up on his hind legs to beg for a petting.  He tried so hard to continue to be the loving companion he had always been but his physical heart simply could not perform the way his spiritual heart wanted to.

We said our final goodbyes this weekend.  He laid his head in my hand and I stroked him as he left this world.  It was beyond hard.  My heart is full. Words fail me.

And can it be that in a world so full and busy the loss of one creature makes a void so wide and deep that nothing but the width and depth of eternity can fill it up!– Charles Dickens (1812-1870)

In loving memory: Nemo (2001-2012)

Nemo, miniature schnauzer

Science Fact

Listen & Learn: Podcasts

We’re all busy, right? We have lives, children (two-legged or / and four-legged), spouses, and chores to do. Some of us have more than one career we juggle, too. So how does one make time for everything?

NO TIME TO READ?

In my busy lifestyle I find it difficult to find time to read. But I have a lot of tasks that I do that keep my hands busy like dishes, yard work, and data collection. During those times I sometimes listen to audio books but more and more lately, I’ve been listening to podcasts.

DISCOVER PODCASTS

According to Wikipedia, “A podcast is an episodic series of audio files which a user can subscribe to so that new episodes are automatically downloaded via web syndication to the user’s local computer, mobile application, or media player. The term podcast was invented by BBC  journalist Ben Hammersly in 2004.

Podcasts are usually free of charge. Some charge a small fee, others use sponsors and ads, still others use Patron to cover the cost of production.

The user can listen to current podcast episodes or archived ones. Podcasts are produced by a wide range of people from professionals working for well-known corporations to a beginner working out of her own home. This means that quality can be all over the place. But don’t avoid a podcast done by a beginner. Sometimes their enthusiasm for their subject more than makes up for the poorer sound quality and production values.

WHERE, OH, WHERE?

Where do you find podcasts? Primarily on Apple iTunes or Stitcher, which was initially designed for android phones. Some podcasters have links to the podcasts on their websites.

A word of caution: I’ve never used Stitcher but have seen reviews that suggest it may not be working well.

WHERE TO START?

There are thousands of podcasts, maybe millions, covering nearly every topic in existence. It’s hard to sort through the titles to find the ones that speak to you. Here are a few that I enjoy.

You Are Not So Smart (YANSS)—hosted by David McRaney this podcast takes a look at flawed perception and reasoning. McRaney interviews experts that are always fascinating. He also taste-tests cookies on air, that are made from recipes sent to him by listeners. The YANSS website with more information and a link to the podcast is here.

Science Friday (SciFri)—hosted and produced by Ira Flatow, SciFri is a podcast that started as a public radio show in 1991.  It “is the source for entertaining and educational stories about science, technology, and other cool stuff.”  One of the topics in a recent episode was about advances in the field of prosthetics for amputees that sound like something out of the Bionic Man. The Science Friday website with a link to the radio show and the podcast is here.

Flash Forward—hosted and produced by Rose Eveleth. This podcast explores the future with a ‘what if’ sensibility. Eveleth begins each podcast with a short audio play that reflects a future where this month’s ‘what if’ is reality. The bulk of the podcast is interviews with experts about the advantages, disadvantages, and probabilities of the ’what if’ becoming reality. The Flash Forward website with a link to the podcast is here.

Entertaining and informative, these three podcasts are my current top picks for the sciences. In the future, I’ll share the writing podcasts that I enjoy.

Do you listen to podcasts? If you don’t, will you try one now?

If you are a podcast listener, which ones do you enjoy?

Audio-Tehnica headphones via Flickr Creative Commons

Does Summer Mean Sleep Deprivation?

Lynette M Burrows, author; Lynette M Burrows science fiction author; Lynette M Burrows action-suspense science fiction author

photo courtesy of lifebeginsat50mm via Flickr

It’s summer time in the U.S.A. and that means fun, right? There’s all kinds of things to do: swimming, sun bathing, gardening, lawn care, picnics, vacations, games, sitting on the porch until the sun goes down, and more. Unfortunately the usual list of things to do continues as well: housework, the wage-earning-job, errands, meals, and all manner of mundane daily duties. So how do we accomplish all of these things? Can we say sleep deprivation?

It’s a cruel season that makes you get ready for bed while it’s light out. ~Bill Watterson

We all know that sleep is important. There’s information all over the web, televisions and magazines telling us that chronic sleep deprivation can lead to decreased alertness, memory loss, and numerous medical issues ranging from obesity to heart disease. (For more information go to WebMD.) So why do we do we shave off sleep time? Perhaps we believe in some of the common myths about sleep.

If you lose two hours of sleep, you can impair your performance equal to a .05 blood-alcohol level. (from 10 facts about.com)

Do you believe that missing just one hour of sleep won’t hurt? Or that your body adjusts quickly to different sleep schedules? What about the one that you can make up for lack of sleep by sleeping more on the weekends? Sorry, none of those are correct. Even just one hour less sleep at night will affect how alert you are, your cardiovascular health, your energy levels, and your ability to fight off infection. For more information on myths about sleep go to helpguide.org and go to sleepfoundation.org for healthy sleep tips.

“I’m not asleep… but that doesn’t mean I’m awake.”-Unknown Author

It’s summer and my wish for you (and me) is to make getting enough sleep a priority so we remain healthy and have a terrific summer. And I don’t want to be too serious so, how about a few fun facts about sleep?

Here’s 10 Fun Facts about sleep.

You know those sheep we count in order to go to sleep? They only need 3.8 hours of sleep a day! Check out how many hours of sleep a giraffe needs per day here.

I don’t know about you, but I want to be a dolphin. Scientists studying sleep believe that dolphins may sleep with one hemisphere of their brain at a time. How cool is that?  Yes, some report that ducks can do the same thing, but I’d much rather be a dolphin. Just think how much I summer I could enjoy if half my brain would sleep while I enjoyed summer fun!

“A good laugh and a long sleep are the best cures in the doctor’s book.”-Irish Proverb

Sleep by Sean MacEntee via Flickr

What about you? Do you get the recommended amount of sleep? If not, what has you sleep deprived this summer?

When is a Clone Not a Clone

sonogram image of twin in utero

Twin #2 by Jim Moran, Flickr Creative Commons

Bees do it. Lizards and snakes do it. Turkeys and Komodo Dragons can do it. Have babies without daddies, that is. It’s called Parthenogenesis. Parthenogenesis a form of asexual reproduction in which growth of the embryo occurs without fertilization. Growth of the embryo begins due to a change in temperature, a mechanical action, or a chemical action. The term applies only to animals. (Botanical asexual reproduction is called something else.) And since the offspring are clones of the mother, they are usually female.

This phenomenon was first observed in aphids and recorded by Charles Bonnet in the 18th century.

In 1899, Jacques Loeb reported artificial parthenogenesis in sea urchins. Gregory Pincus used temperature and chemicals to induce embryonic development in rabbit eggs in 1936. Today, some sources say about 70 vertebrates can reproduce this way and, if you include all organisms that number will top 2000 species.

Some species are obligatory parthenogenic, in other words, they cannot reproduce sexually at all. Other species are facultatively parthenogenic, meaning they have the ability to switch between sexual and parthenogenic reproduction.

There have been no known natural parthenogenic offspring in mammals. There are a number of different theories as to why that is, but it was reported in 2004 that one laboratory created parthenogenic mice. It was a lengthy, complicated, and inefficient process.

Not a Clone?

Cloning is different from parthenogenesis. According to The American Heritage Medical Dictionary cloning is “the transplantation of a nucleus from a somatic cell (a body cell, not a gamete) into an ovum, which then develops into an embryo.” Mosby’s Medical Dictionary goes a little farther in its definition, “a procedure for producing multiple copies of genetically identical organisms or of cells or of individual genes. . . .”

The offspring in cloning can be not identical to the parent organism if either somatic cell or the ovum are not from the parent organism.

In parthenogenesis the process of fertilization does not happen. Thus the offspring is identical since no new DNA is required.

Then there are the different types of cloning: recombinant DNA, Reproductive Cloning, and Therapeutic Cloning. Each could be topics of their own, so I won’t get into the details here. If you’re curious, I’ve listed my online resources below.

Do You Know a Clone?

Since there has been no confirmed, recorded human clones born, many of you will answer this question in the negative. Or perhaps you will remember Dolly the Sheep (1996-2003), the first cloned mammal. Yet, I’ll bet you know at least one set of identical twins. Identical twins have identical DNA, they come from a single cell. And it appears that nearly every species on Earth can bear twins.

Twin Parade

Twin Parade @Just for laughs festival, 2008, Montreal flickr creative commons

Will the True Clone Please Stand?

So which process creates a true clone? Is it okay to take the parthenogenic or cloning process just so far as to make stem cells and not allow the cells to develop into an organism? Why do we need this research, you ask?

Stem cell research has already shown us that it has terrific potential to cure deadly diseases such as cancer and diabetes. It’s just a tantalizing glimpse of what may be possible. Think of the many millions of people who may be helped by this process.

And what about invitro fertilization? Most of us accept that this is one way for couples unable to conceive naturally to be able to have children. Is this cloning? What if, only one partner was able to contribute the cells to create the offspring due to genetic or other disease? 

If we could repopulate endangered species through cloning, would that be an acceptable use of the process?

If we outlaw cloning, do we outlaw the cloning and the parthenogenesis that nature affords us? Would you get rid of those cute identical twins everyone likes to oooh and ahh at?

What’s in a Word?

Does the difference in semantics affect the ethics of this situation? For many people the answer is no. And I respect their concerns. There are reasons to be concerned. As with most scientific discoveries there is the potential for both an immense amount of good and terrible wrongs.

Not to make light of anyone’s particular beliefs, there is no easy answer.

As a science fiction author and a nurse, I find this topic is a gold mine of information and emotional reactions. I’m having fun using parthenogenesis as a springboard to explore a little of the controversies involved.

 Do you read fiction that takes on controversial issues? Has a book or article about such a controversial issue ever changed your mind?

Your responses to this topic are important to me. In fact, some of your answers may fuel development in my novel. I only ask that you respect others who may reply with differing opinions. Thank you so much.

 

If you’d like to learn more, here are some of my online resources:

Going to Mars, Word by Word

an image of Mars from space

The Power of Words

Do you remember when you first started to read?

Children know that books hold secrets long before they can read. Their curiosity and fascination drives them to turn pages of a book looking for the key to understanding. They beg to be read to. Finally they are old enough to learn to read. But first they must know their alphabet by sight and sound. There are only 26 letters but there are at least 44 sounds those letters, or combinations of letters, make. Finally, they learn to string the sounds together. Faces scrunch up with effort as they laboriously sound out letters on the page.

“rrrrr – ah–”
“No, that is a u. It’s sound here is ‘uh.’”
“rrrr – uhhhh – ennn. rrr—uhhhh—nnnn.”

Suddenly their face light up and they shout, “Run!” After the first word, the second, third, and fourth come more quickly. They turn the pages eagerly, finding new words and ideas on every page. They read nonfiction and fiction. Some progress to reading science fiction.

The Power of Ideas

The field of speculative fiction, or science fiction and fantasy if you prefer, has been referred to as the fiction of ideas. But science fiction is more than ideas. It’s words strung across a page that evoke images of worlds not-yet-seen, people who are the same-yet-different, people who are vastly different, and words that inspire ideas. Ideas that spur some us to take action, to become an inventor, an explorer, an astronaut, or an astronomer. And some of those inventors, explorers, astronauts and astronomers turn their attention to Mars.

Melding Words and Ideas into Hope

We’ll never know what inspired the first man to look up at the night sky and notice a pinkish-red star. It’s color and cycle of appearing and disappearing from our skies, filled viewers with curiosity.

The first recorded observations of Mars we know of were written by ancient Egyptians. In 400 BC the Babylonians called the planet Mars, “Nergal,” the Star of Death. The Greeks named it Ares after their god of war. Its moons are Phobos (fear) and Deimos (terror). Perhaps it was the color that inspired men to associate the planet with such things.

In the 16th century Copernicus proposed a heliocentric model for the solar system where the planets circled the sun. Kepler revised that, giving Mars an elliptical orbit. The telescope, invented in the early 1600s allowed men to take a closer look at this pinkish-red celestial mystery. Men like Galileo, Cassini, and Hershell peered at the red planet, each adding his observations to those of others. When Giovanni Schiaparelli made a map of Mars and called the lines ‘grooves’ (canali in Italian), the grooves became known as canals and lit the rockets of man’s imagination.

Although not the first book published using Mars, The Two Planets by German Kurd Lasswitz (1888) is thought by some to be the first significant work on Mars. In 1898, a mere ten years later, came H. G. Wells’s War of the Worlds. Edgar Rice Burroughs’ A Princess of Mars came out in 1912. The Northwest Smith series of stories, were written by C.L. Moore in the mid-1930s. By 1938 C.S. Lewis contributed Out of the Silent Planet to the growing number of books about Mars.

In 1941 Isaac Asimov wrote Heredity about twins separated at birth, raised on different planets, and having to work together on Mars. Robert A. Heinlein repeatedly used Mars from the late 1940s onward. The Fifties saw stories and novels about Mars published by Arthur Clark, Ray Bradbury, Lester del Ray, and John Wyndham among others. Larry Niven, Roger Zelazny, and Phillip K. Dick joined the field during the Sixties.

Then Mariner 4, a US spacecraft, became the first to arrive at Mars in July 1965. It snapped about 20 pictures on its flyby. According to some, those pictures spelled the death of the mystique and mythology of Mars. Yet nothing could be further from the truth.

Among many others, Jerry Pournelle and Gordon Dickson published stories about Mars in the Seventies. The 1980’s saw works by Stanislaw Lem, Greg Bear, and S.M. Stirling. Kim Stanley Robinson’s Mars series was published in the Nineties along with books by Ben Bova, Stephen Baxter, and scores of others. In 2000 Geoffrey A. Landis’ award winning Mars Crossing was published.

In addition to all these printed words are films and television shows about Mars. There is no way this blog can cover all of the Mars fiction written. Literally millions of words have been written about the red planet. And now that Curiosity has landed and Mars is being studied and written about again, one might expect another upsurge in novels set on Mars will be coming. Yet there are some who bemoan the fact that Science Fiction has lost it’s way.

In his August 17th post on Cracked.com, Robert Brockway says there are 4 Things Science Fiction Needs To Bring Back: the optimism, the sense of exploring for the future of mankind, some good old fashioned mind f***ery, and the sense of fun.

So in the spirit of exploration (pun intended) and in celebration of the landing of Curiosity, I am beginning a new series of posts. I’m collecting fiction, old and new, written about Mars. I’ll read the stories and report on them here. I’ll be looking for the sense of wonder, the sense of fun, the optimism for the future of mankind, and the good old fashioned – storytelling (fooled ya, didn’t I?).

I have a copy of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Mars trilogy collected in one book. Interestingly enough it has an introduction written by Bruce Coville that fits as if he wrote it for this post. In his introduction Bruce says,

“How can I tell you how much I loved these books?
Would it be enough to say that there was a period in my life when the thing I wanted more than anything else in the world was to be John Carter? I used to go to bed at night hoping to wake up on Mars. . . .”

Could you wish your words had any more impact on a young person than that? Words have power. Spoken words. Written words. Your words. My words.

What better use than to write stories, collections of words, meant to power the imagination and optimism, to inspire men to send rockets and rovers millions of miles through space, to power hope for the future?

Won’t you join me in my exploration of the fascinating red planet in fiction? First: Edgar Rice Burroughs’ A Princess of Mars, I hope you’re ready.

Next stop – Barsoom!

If you’ve read a Mars book, please leave a comment with the title of the book and what your thoughts are about it. I love it when you share your thoughts with me!

The image above is a public domain image from http://www.public-domain-image.com/full-image/space-public-domain-images-pictures/mars-planet-of-the-solar-system.jpg-royalty-free-stock-photograph.html

Science Fiction

Science Fiction Mashup

Here are some fun science fiction magazine sites. If you haven’t visited them, click on the links below. Among these I’m sure you’ll find something that speaks to your SF bug.

Asimovs Science Fiction

offers samples of their print and e-format magazine, links to author, magazine and other SF related sites, and they feature a couple of new author blogs each month.

Amazing Stories Magazine

calls their site a Social Magazine. Scroll down the page to see some of the fascinating posts and join the forum to participate in the conversation.

Analog Science Fiction and Fact Magazine 

is up in space! (in the library of the International Space Station). This site offers the usual plus a reference library and an events calendar.

The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction 

features a blog with interviews, reviews, and articles as well as a forum for discussions among fans.

Sfsignal

is considered a fanzine(a nonprofessional, nonofficial publication by fans). You’ll find book and movie reviews, free fiction, convention information, and more at this site.

 

Hi! I’m popping up out of my writing cave for a few minutes to say hi and share some links you might want to know about. I’ll be heading back into the cave in a minute. I’m determined to finish this re-write before I take off for an intense immersion class. In the meantime, I will try to post a short piece every couple of weeks. I’ll return to a regular blogging scheduled in late October.

I hope you found something of interest in this mashup of Science Fiction Online.

Are there science fiction sites you visit regularly?

Greatest Hits of Science Fiction

If you’ve attended a science fiction convention, you’ve heard of Filk Songs.  For those of you who haven’t heard of them,  Filk songs are kind of hard to define.  Even wikipedia has difficulty!  For now, we’ll say that a filk song is lyrics and music that is sung at a science fiction and fantasy convention.

Here’s a quick sample of a Filk Song:

I Hate Little Firelizards by Julia Ecklar

The guys on the television show Whose Line Is It Anyway?  (the U.S. version), took science fiction and music to a whole different level. I hope you enjoy the zaniness of  improv stars: Ryan Stiles, Colin Mochrie, and Wayne Brady.

Greatest Hits of Science Fiction

For those of you who are wondering what happened to the Going to Mars Word by Word post this month — thank you so very much for your responses last month.  You voiced your preference and I am every so grateful for that.  Worry not.  I’m taking a couple of months break while I finish a re-write.  Going to Mars Word by Word will resume during the fall.

Going to Mars Word-by-Word: the Landis Way

Lynette M. Burrows, Science Fiction Author; Lynette M. Burrows, action-suspense science fiction

The next stop in our Going to Mars Word-by-Word tour is Mars Crossing by Geoffrey Landis. Published by Tor Books in 2000, this is a first novel by an experienced and award-winning short story author. It was nominated for a Nebula and won the Locus Award for best first novel in 2001.  Hop aboard for a gritty, near future science fiction tale of what the exploration of Mars just might be like.

WHAT IT’S ABOUT

By 2028, two missions have been sent to Mars. Both the Brazilian and the American expeditions met with catastrophe and death on the Red Planet. A NASA-private venture hopes the third mission to Mars will be the first to return. Their plan relies on a return vessel sent to Mars years earlier, capable of manufacturing fuel for the return trip from the Martian atmosphere.

The mixed-gender, multi-national crew of six lands on Mars successfully but their celebrations are short-lived. A catastrophic failure kills one of the crew and causes irreparable damage to the return ship. And there is no hope of a rescue mission coming from Earth.

As a last ditch effort to survive, they set out to cross 4,000 miles of Mars to the north pole in the hopes that the abandoned Brazilian vehicle will be operational. Limited supplies and equipment, alien terrain, the ever present dust are only a portion of the hazards they face. The Brazilian vehicle can only carry two.

Using alternating viewpoints and flashbacks, Landis slowly reveals each surviving astronaut has a painful secret from the past. The isolation and desperation of their trek, combined with their secrets, creates tension and intrigue on every step of their journey. And one of the crew is willing to commit murder to ensure a place on the return trip to Earth.

HOW THE RED PLANET IS PORTRAYED

Mars Crossing conveys an authentic, fully-realized Martian landscape. The terrain crossed in the story includes familiar landmarks and a few surprises. Landis describes a place of beautiful desolation and isolation, a harsh and unforgiving land. It feels accurate. It feels real. And it’s no wonder, the author is in the know about real Mars exploration.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Geoffrey Landis wears many hats: He has published more than 80 short stories, nearly 50 poems, one one science fiction novel, and more than 400 scientific papers. His short fiction has numerous awards including a Nebula and two Hugos. See his bibliography here.

Landis can write authentically about Mars because he is a physicist at the NASA John Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio. He is a member of the science team of the Mars Exploration Rovers mission that landed rovers Spirit and Opportunity on Mars. Opportunity is still working after nine years! Landis also worked on the Mars Pathfinder project. You can read more about the projects he has and is working on here.

CONCLUSION

For me Mars Crossing has a nice balance of characterization, science, and drama. The novel has been compared to the greats of the field. The most fascinating part of it were the intriguing questions it posed about sending humans on  interplanetary journeys:

Would you take a trip to Mars knowing that the two previous missions failed?

How would you decided who could go home and who would face certain death on the Red Planet?

What would you be willing to do to secure a seat on the trip home?

I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below. Have you read Mars Crossing? Won’t you share what you thought of it? If you haven’t read it, will you?

This is the final novel I had planned for this blog series. Yet there are many more novels I could explore. Tell me, would you like this series to continue?  If so, what novels or stories about Mars would you like for me to cover over the next few months?

After Weekend Fun

After a weekend of fun, have you ever felt like this?

Lynette M Burrows, author; Lynette M. Burrows, science fiction author; Lynette M Burrows action-suspense science fiction author

Let Sleeping Children Lie by Stewickie via Flickr Commons

I slept through yesterday, so the post I’d only sort of planned, will have another opportunity next year.

I had a lovely weekend at ConQuesT 44, an annual science fiction and fantasy convention sponsored by the Kansas City Science Fiction and Fantasy Society (KaCSFFS), held on Memorial Day Weekend in Kansas City, MO.

I had the honor of being on a couple of panels with some distinguished guests and as part of the writers workshop met two writers and hopefully inspired them to continue writing and improving.

And of course there were panels I attended, people I met, and parties late into the night. A grand time was had.

As a writer our time is finite but the number of things we are expected to do seems to grow exponentially.

WHY ATTEND A FAN RUN CONVENTION?

There are a fair number of professional writers, editors and publishers that attend smaller, fan run conventions. In these situations you might get time to get to know a fellow professional more personally and come to understand the business better. You might meet a fellow writer who later becomes a mentor or a collaborator. More importantly, you’ll meet a bunch of people who are as excited about the genre you write, as you are. And that may be the best payoff of all. Readers, at least science fiction and fantasy readers, are a fascinating collection of folk who have all kinds of knowledge. Conversing with them I am inspired, I find resources, and wonderfully interesting friends.

WHEN THE CONVENTION IS OVER

The fans who put on science fiction and fantasy conventions hold a party for the volunteers, guests, and fans when the convention has ended. It’s traditionally called the “dead dog party.” And there’s a reason for that. This . . .

Lynette M Burrows, author; Lynette  M Burrows, science fiction author; Lynette M Burrows, action-suspense science fiction

photo courtesy of CyberMacs and Flickr Commons

Yup. I had a wonderful time, but I am a dead tired dog. I’m catching up on my beauty sleep and will post more after I wake up.

What conventions have you attended? Was the convention fan run or professional? Why did you choose to attend?

I hope you had a safe and wonderful Memorial Day weekend. If you haven’t been to a convention before, please share how you spent the weekend.

I love to hear from you and I will respond to every comment (in between naps 🙂 )

Writing

Listen & Learn: Podcasts on Writing

 

Wikimedia Creative CommonsBusy lives mean we must be creative in the ways we use our time. For me, that means when I’m doing housework or driving or tallying columns of numbers I listen to podcasts.

LISTEN OR READ

Last week I shared three of the science themed podcasts that I listen to. One reader lamented that her lifestyle didn’t lend itself to listening to podcasts and I realized I’d forgotten to mention that many of the podcasts make transcripts of the show. These transcripts are available on their websites. Want to take a look at the science podcasts I recommended? Go here.

There are many, many more podcasts on nearly every topic under the sun. They are available on your favorite podcast carrier (Apple iTunes oStitcher or Android). Download your system appropriate app and discover a whole new world of spoken shows and radio.

Learn from Writers on Writing

Looking for a podcast on writing? Well, I have a few I can recommend.

The Creative Penn is an hour long show that is broadcast every Monday by Joanna Penn, a New York Times bestselling thriller writer and nonfiction writer. She is a self-publishing guru who interviews other authors and creators both from her native Great Britain and around the world. Her interviews are always worth a listen. You can visit her nonfiction site here. Her podcast transcripts are here. She also puts the interview portion of her podcasts on YouTube.

Writing Excuses is a fifteen minute (approximately) podcast hosted by Mary Robinette Kowal, Brandon Sanderson, Dan Wells, and Howard Taylor. I love their tag line, “Fifteen minutes long because you’re in a hurry, and we’re not that smart.” They may not think of themselves as smart, but they put on a smart show. Often with guests, they discuss various aspects of the craft of writing. Every broadcast they recommend a book, not just science fiction and fantasy. The book always has a link in their liner notes. Go here to see their podcasts on their website. And they host a cruise! Once a year, a cruise with writing workshops for science fiction and fantasy writers. A cruise I plan to attend someday. Peruse their previous seasons or subscribe to their current season, you’ll find gold.

And, for my third choice . . . The Story Grid with editor, story grid creator, Shawn Coyne, and new writer, Tim Grahl. Tim bravely submits a portion of his work-in-progress for Shawn to critique on air. It’s fascinating to hear both the professional editor and the struggling writer discuss how to build a story. I recommend starting with the Story Grid website to learn the terms Shawn Coyne uses or read his book, The Story Grid: What Editors Know. Then start with the first podcast and follow along as Shawn guides Tim in the completion of his first novel.

There are so many more podcasts that are worth mentioning, but your needs and interests probably differ from mine. Look around the web, I know you’ll find one that you find worthwhile.

Your Turn

If you find one, or you already listen to one, won’t you share the title and a little about it in the comments below?

 

Image courtesy of Raster via Wikimedia Creative Commons.

Writing the Hard Stuff

Writing the Hard Stuff

Time for a glass of wine.

When I say hard stuff, I don’t mean porn or description or character or plot. The most difficult things to write are those things that come from our deepest, darkest places. The places we hide from most of the time.

I recently wrote a scene meant to tap into that place in myself. An hour and a half later, a mere 550 words had me trembling with fatigue and sick to my stomach. Yup. It was that dark of a place. Inside me!

We all have those places. That side of us that we like to pretend doesn’t exist. It’s dangerous to touch those places of fear, loathing, hate, or even fierce love. Most of us like to think we are genuinely nice people. I know I do. Yet, I have dark corners in my psyche.

So what do you do? First, do you like to read about characters who have to face a piece of their own darkness, their own demons? Is that the kind of story you aspire to write? To write that kind of scene, to make the scene come alive, you have to be willing to write the hard stuff. You have to be willing to expose yourself to your readers.

You may want to journal about that dark corner of your psyche first. That allows you to be very personal. Give yourself a break–chocolate and buying something sparkly can help. (I don’t know where I got that idea!) After some time passes, re-read your journal entry and re-imagine it in terms of how it applies to your character. Then write.

I’ve put off writing my scene FOREVER. It was a scary place to go. Having written the scene I can say that it is dark and awful and . . . not 100% me. How can that be? Because while I drew from my experiences to create my characters, I gave them traits I do not have. Those traits subtly change my dark thoughts and memories into something different. It will work that way for you, too.

What about the feeling vulnerable and exposed? Will someone ask if you actually lived that scene? Maybe. What should you do or say? I can’t really tell you how to protect yourself. As for me . . . I plan to smile and say “Only in my nightmares.” And, “If you thought that one was bad, wait ’till you read the next one!”

Do you visit dark places in your reading? Do you reach into the dark corners of your psyche when you write? How do you get through it? Or do you shy away from the dark side entirely?

Image:”Life is Hard” via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Anne Helmond

Walking on Sunshine

I am “Walking on Sunshine” thanks to Pat O’Dea Rosen. Pat honored me with the Sunshine Blog Award. The Sunshine Blog Award is passed from bloggers to bloggers who ‘positively and creatively’ inspire others. Thank you so much Pat!

Let me tell you about Pat.  Pat writes women’s fiction and a wonderful blog called Writing, Reading, and Rambling on which she discusses, yup, you guessed it Writing and Reading and food and travel and other interesting things she ‘rambles’ about in the most fascinating way. Gateway Purse is one of my recent favorites from her. I can’t list all my favorites here, there are far too many. If you haven’t visited Pat’s site, I encourage you to do so. (And not just ’cause she honors me with this award – I am certain you will find delightful posts all over her blog.)

Here’s the award:Lynette M Burrows, science fiction author; Lynette M. Burrows action-suspense science fiction; Lynette M. Burrows, author

Here are the rules:

  • Include the award’s logo (and rules) in a post on your blog. Simply cut and paste the photo at the top left into your own blog post. (*check*)
  • Link to the person who nominated you. (*check*)
  • Answer the ten questions below with your answers instead of mine. (*check*)
  • Pass the award on to a bunch of “Sunshine Inspiring” bloggers. (*check*)

Here are the questions:

Favorite Color:  Purple – I wear it, clothing and eye shadow, even my house is painted a shade of purple

Favorite Animal: depends, are we talking two-legged or four-legged? Hmm, I think I’ll stick to the four-legged variety: yorkshire terriers, miniature schnauzers, and horses are the top three.

Favorite Number: 2 (2 is better than 1, you know)

Favorite Non Alcoholic Drink: coffee

Favorite Alcoholic Drink: Tumbleweed (vanilla ice cream, Kahlua, Vodka, crème de Cacao and half & half) yummy!

Facebook or Twitter: Facebook

Passions: Writing, Reading, Dogs, Family, friends, music, stained glass, art, puzzles (crossword, soduku, jigsaw, etc), and whatever else new and different I can learn.

Prefer Getting or Giving Gifts: Giving

Favorite City: the next city I visit in my travels – really, I don’t think I’ve visited a city that I don’t like to visit.  

Favorite TV Show: This was harder than I expected. I watch a fair number of TV shows but very few are on the I-can’t-miss list. When I asked hubby which ones he thought was my favorite he listed these two, and he’s not wrong: Charmed (I know, I know) and Sherlock.

And now, for the best part of getting this award: I get to pass it on!  Here are my nominations for the Sunshine Award:

Karen Huber Karen swears a beagle taught her zen. She is a poet who writes beautiful inspirations teaching us to appreciate each moment. One of my many favorites was titled “Like Water Through Rock.”

Pauline Baird  In her bio, Pauline says she has had a hard time with reality from the get go. I’d say today, Pauline has one foot solidly placed in reality and the other in the fascinating science fiction, romantic suspense, and steampunk worlds of her stories. Not a bad place to be. Her blog, Taking the Scenic Route, is entertaining, thought provoking, and fun. She talks about everything from strange trees to the moon. Stop by and say hello to Pauline.

Children’s fiction author Lynn Kelley calls herself a goofball. I don’t know about that, but I do know she has a blog that is always fun. Her parenting plights and delights are oh so familiar to every parent. She’s warm, funny, fun, and a little unpredictable. You’ll like Lynn.

Coleen Patrick  writes teen fiction and has a blog that inspires me with nearly every post. She’s into crafts, what she calls doodling that’s more like art, and she’s an amazing photographer. Her photo essays are beautiful and touching. You won’t regret visiting her site.

You need to read Diana Beebe’s blog just because of its title: Mermaids Don’t Do Windows.  Diana’s blog relates her adventures with technology from a misbehaving dishwasher, to her love of a certain vehicle, to vacations, blogging and writing. There’a always something interesting to read.

Happy Sunshine Awards, to all of you. Thank you for all the wonderful posts you’ve written.

There’s one more thing I’d like to leave with you today. A bit of inspirational video shared with me by Larry Brooks at storyfix.com. Now, this video was written for athelets, but Larry shared it because he thought it was apropos for writers. I LOVED it.

What about you? Do you think the video relates to writing or creativity? Or do you think it’s sports and only sports?

Your comments make me walk on sunshine. Thank you!

Perfection, Failure and Inspiration

I had another post in mind for today, but Monday morning I read a friend’s blog post and I knew it was something I had to share. Colin Falconer suggested that every writer should watch the video called The Benefits of Failure. I say everyone should watch this video. For everyone has something, someplace in which they have felt the pain of failure. That pain has given failure a black mark. It’s something most of us avoid, but perhaps we shouldn’t.

Take a short break right now and visit Colin’s website, Looking for Mr Goodstory, read his post and watch the commencement speech called The Benefits of Failure . Go on, I’ll wait.

Interesting speech, yes? Now, no one is encouraging you to go out and deliberately fail. What Ms. Rollins suggests is that we shouldn’t be so afraid of failure that we don’t take risks.

If that Ms. Rollins’ speech hasn’t convinced you that failure can be a good thing, that failure is part of life, read KM Huber’s blog, The Way to Fall Apart. It’s a lovely post and reminds us all that falling apart is necessary for things to come together.

But failing and falling apart are scary. So we look for some way to make it come together. Aren’t we all guilty of sometimes avoiding the possibility of failure by trying to make everything perfect? And wouldn’t you know it, Seth Godin had something to say about Polishing Perfect.

Has this post made you uncomfortable? Talking about, thinking about, much less experiencing failure is uncomfortable. But remind yourself, failure is just one way that didn’t work. Dare to risk failure. You never know what you might discover.

Lynette M. Burrows author,Lynette M. Burrows science fiction author, Lynette M. Burrows author action-suspense science fiction

image courtesy of pixabay.com

I’m risking failure with an epic rewrite of an imperfect novel that I can’t let go.

Do you avoid failure at all costs?
Or do you embrace the risk of failure?

Reviews

Going to Mars Word-by-Word: the Landis Way

Lynette M. Burrows, Science Fiction Author; Lynette M. Burrows, action-suspense science fiction

The next stop in our Going to Mars Word-by-Word tour is Mars Crossing by Geoffrey Landis. Published by Tor Books in 2000, this is a first novel by an experienced and award-winning short story author. It was nominated for a Nebula and won the Locus Award for best first novel in 2001.  Hop aboard for a gritty, near future science fiction tale of what the exploration of Mars just might be like.

WHAT IT’S ABOUT

By 2028, two missions have been sent to Mars. Both the Brazilian and the American expeditions met with catastrophe and death on the Red Planet. A NASA-private venture hopes the third mission to Mars will be the first to return. Their plan relies on a return vessel sent to Mars years earlier, capable of manufacturing fuel for the return trip from the Martian atmosphere.

The mixed-gender, multi-national crew of six lands on Mars successfully but their celebrations are short-lived. A catastrophic failure kills one of the crew and causes irreparable damage to the return ship. And there is no hope of a rescue mission coming from Earth.

As a last ditch effort to survive, they set out to cross 4,000 miles of Mars to the north pole in the hopes that the abandoned Brazilian vehicle will be operational. Limited supplies and equipment, alien terrain, the ever present dust are only a portion of the hazards they face. The Brazilian vehicle can only carry two.

Using alternating viewpoints and flashbacks, Landis slowly reveals each surviving astronaut has a painful secret from the past. The isolation and desperation of their trek, combined with their secrets, creates tension and intrigue on every step of their journey. And one of the crew is willing to commit murder to ensure a place on the return trip to Earth.

HOW THE RED PLANET IS PORTRAYED

Mars Crossing conveys an authentic, fully-realized Martian landscape. The terrain crossed in the story includes familiar landmarks and a few surprises. Landis describes a place of beautiful desolation and isolation, a harsh and unforgiving land. It feels accurate. It feels real. And it’s no wonder, the author is in the know about real Mars exploration.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Geoffrey Landis wears many hats: He has published more than 80 short stories, nearly 50 poems, one one science fiction novel, and more than 400 scientific papers. His short fiction has numerous awards including a Nebula and two Hugos. See his bibliography here.

Landis can write authentically about Mars because he is a physicist at the NASA John Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio. He is a member of the science team of the Mars Exploration Rovers mission that landed rovers Spirit and Opportunity on Mars. Opportunity is still working after nine years! Landis also worked on the Mars Pathfinder project. You can read more about the projects he has and is working on here.

CONCLUSION

For me Mars Crossing has a nice balance of characterization, science, and drama. The novel has been compared to the greats of the field. The most fascinating part of it were the intriguing questions it posed about sending humans on  interplanetary journeys:

Would you take a trip to Mars knowing that the two previous missions failed?

How would you decided who could go home and who would face certain death on the Red Planet?

What would you be willing to do to secure a seat on the trip home?

I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below. Have you read Mars Crossing? Won’t you share what you thought of it? If you haven’t read it, will you?

This is the final novel I had planned for this blog series. Yet there are many more novels I could explore. Tell me, would you like this series to continue?  If so, what novels or stories about Mars would you like for me to cover over the next few months?

Going to Mars Word by Word With Kim Stanley Robinson

Lynette M. Burrows, science fiction author; Lynette M. Burrows, action-suspense science fiction author; Lynette M. Burrows, author

The next stop in my blog series, Going to Mars Word by Word, is the Nebula Award winning novel Red Mars written by Kim Stanley Robinson, published by Bantam House Science Fiction in 1993. It is the first of a trilogy(Red Mars, Green Mars, Blue Mars) about the red planet that explores technological, scientific, political and social changes that might occur in the process of colonizing and terraforming the Mars.

WHAT IT’S ABOUT

To say that Red Mars is the story of the colonization of Mars is to oversimplify. It is a multi-character saga about the first fifty or so years of the colonization and transformation of the planet.

We follow several major characters in the first one hundred persons (mostly scientists) sent on the long journey to Mars. Once they land and begin to study and understand Mars, conflicts arise between various characters and their visions of their future on the red planet.

As the overcrowded Earth sends more and more colonists, the struggle intensifies and ultimately ruptures into a violent revolution. The irony is that the damage the revolution does will probably speed the process of terraforming Mars and the Mars they loved will be no more.

HOW THE RED PLANET IS PORTRAYED

Kim Stanley Robinson paints the marvel that is Mars in loving detail. There are multiple viewpoints, travelogues and scientific expeditions from the trenches to the incomprehensibly high mountain tops. He portrays a Mars that is dead, at least on the surface. The aquifers in the story are unlikely to be found on the real planet. All-in-all Mr. Robinson builds an accurate, if fictionalized, Mars.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kim Stanley Robinson (1952- ) is a multiple award winning novelist. Born in Illinois, his family moved to California when he was two. He grew up playing in orange orchards that soon gave way to suburban development.

During college he began writing science fiction. He earned a Ph.D. in literature with a dissertation since published as The Novels of Phillip K. Dick.

Orbit 18 was the first to publish his short stories in 1976. His novels have garnered eleven major science fiction awards (Nebulas, Hugos, the John Campbell Award, World Fantasy Award, and Locus Magazine Awards). Please see a fan generate bibliography here.

Robinson is married to a working environmental chemist, is a stay-at-home dad caring for his two sons, a backpacker who loves the mountains, and has traveled extensively. The Mars trilogy is the result of a lifelong passionate interest in Mars and multiple years of research.

CONCLUSION

Red Mars is an ambitious novel that is recognized as a seminal work of science fiction. And I will not dispute that. It is a book that every serious science fiction reader or writer should read.

I read this book when it was first published and re-read it this past month. For me the characters are neither likeable nor believable and the pace is very slow. However, Mars is portrayed with a loving sense of wonder that I admire and enjoyed.

Resources:

Kim Stanley Robinson.Info

Wikipedia on Kim Stanley Robinson

I love to hear from you.

Have you read Red Mars? What did you think of it?

If you haven’t read this book, what ‘classic’ works of your favorite genre have you read?

Going to Mars: Word-by-Word Bear Style

Lynette M. Burrows, science fiction author; Lynette M Burrows author of action-suspense science fiction

Nominated for the Nebula in 1986 and the Hugo and Locus in 1988, The Forge of God by Greg Bear is our next stop in this series “Going to Mars: Word by Word.” It is a grim, relentless examination of what might happen if an alien society of machines wanted to destroy the earth without regard or consideration for any of her inhabitants or history.

WHAT IT’S ABOUT

Astrologists are stunned when Europa explodes. Chunks of the former moon hit Mars and Venus. Geologists are stumped when mountains suddenly appear in locations as diverse as the Australian Outback and the United States’ Death Valley. Oceanographers observe and track large meteor-like objects that enter the earth through the ocean’s trenches.

As the story unfolds scientists, politicians, and everyday people struggle to come to grips with the fact that the Earth is doomed to be destroyed by an unfathomable planet eater. Some of those people are tapped by a second race of robots to gather and load what they can onto space going arks.

Among the saved are those who stood witness to the earth’s destruction. “It is the Law.”

Awakened from nearly four hundred years of cryosleep, the survivors create a colony on New Mars. A select few of the survivors accompanied the robots to search the stars seeking to destroy the planet eaters. For this is how balance is kept.

HOW THE RED PLANET IS PORTRAYED

Only the last chapter of The Forge of God takes place on Mars. Despite the brief appearance, Bear does a good job of presenting the reader with a credible Mars, early in its terraforming. The colonists live in habitats with some functions occuring underground. Wearing cold suits, they can leave the habitat via air locks and breathe the cold, thin Martian atmosphere unaided as long as they don’t exert themselves. Lichen and mosses, seeded by the aliens, thrive on the planet’s surface. And the reader knows that while the colonists have a long way to go, they will survive.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Science fiction and mainstream author, Greg Bear (b 1951 – ) completed his first story when he was ten years old. He sold his first story at the age of fifteen and by age twenty-three he was selling regularly. His stories and novels have been translated into nineteen languages and have won numerous awards including Hugos, Nebulas and the French Prix Apollo.

The Forge of God is the first book in one of several series written by Bear and is in development by a film studio.

For more information and a complete list of works by Greg Bear please visit his website.

CONCLUSION

The Forge of God by Greg Bear could be excruciating in its merciless flight toward the destruction of earth, yet it isn’t. He isn’t heavy handed in his treatment of characters who greet the news of their fate with religious fervor, or stoicism, or panic. The appearance of the robotic saviors and characters who work to save art and history, who pursue life regardless, create a sense of hope. And Bear’s description of the earth’s destruction is wrenchingly beautiful and mesmerizing. It makes one wonder:

What would you do if you knew the earth would end in a few months?

If you survived, would you be on a needle-shaped ship seeking to destroy the destroyers?

 

RESOURCES

Greg Bear’s official website

Wikipedia entry on Greg Bear

 

 

Going to Mars, Word by Word with Man Plus

Lynette M. Burrows science fiction author, Lynette M Burrows action-suspense science fiction

The next stop on our Going to Mars, Word-by-Word tour is the Nebula award winning novel, Man Plus by Fredrik Pohl, published in 1976. By the mid seventies Pohl had been writing and publishing stories for almost 40 years. The writing reflects that. It’s smoothly written; a quick and entertaining read.

 

THE SET-UP

In reality the early 1970’s were a time of disco dances like the hustle, world wide unrest and fear of terrorist bombings, hijackings, kidnappings, and assassinations. There were economic worries and hardships and a huge energy crisis. The United States, USSR, and France were doing nuclear tests on their own soil. Space Mountain opened at Disneyland and Jaws by Steven Spielberg had its premier. The television show The Bionic Man was popular. Apollo 18 and Soyuz 19 rendezvoused in space. And the Viking 2 Mars probe was launched.

Man Plus takes place in the not-too-distant future when the overpopulated earth is on the brink a world war battling over the few remaining natural resources on the planet. The fate of humanity rests on the people and the project inside a building in Tonka, Oklahoma.

 

WHAT IT’S ABOUT

When former astronaut Col. Roger Torraway volunteered to be the understudy for astronaut Willy Hartnett, Roger never thought he’d actually be called upon. After Willy’s death, the President of the United States urged the team at the project to meet their deadline because computer projections predicted the world would soon be at war. Roger was mankind’s last hope. He was to become Man Plus, a cyborg engineered to survive and thrive in the harsh conditions on Mars.

Heavily sedated, Roger did not know when his nervous system, his eyes, lungs, heart, ears, nose, and skin were replaced or supplemented. To solve the power problem, they gave him wings of solar panels. When the surgeries were finally over, Roger had to learn to use his new senses. His large, multifaceted eyes could distinguish everything from infrared to UV light. With his bat-like ears he could hear all of life’s most minute sounds and easily heard conversations in the corridors outside his pressurized room. Roger also had to come to terms with who he was, was he still human? Would his wife still love him? Was his wife having an affair with his best friend, Brad, who was also the scientist responsible for much of Roger’s new body?

The remaining two thirds of the book are about Roger adapting to his new, alien self, to the planet Mars, and finding a way to be human despite everything. The computers now predict humanity will survive on Mars and are pleased they have been successful in their mission to save the humans as well as themselves.

The story is told from a kind of limited omniscient viewpoint with sentient computers as the ‘surprise’ narrator. The reader of today is not surprised. And on reflection, there are plot holes, inconsistencies, and questionable motivations throughout the story. So yes, the story has some flaws. But it was a story that captured many readers imaginations at the time it was first published. And, it may not be as far-fetched as it seems on first glance. Do you remember these stories that made the news?

Oscar Pistorius makes Olympic history 
Boy Gets Robotic Hand Made with 3D Printer 
Multiple-Organ Transplant Survivor Celebrates New Year 

HOW THE RED PLANET IS PORTRAYED

The descriptions of Mars in Man Plus are minimal, but not inaccurate visually. There are mentions of various metals and elements that I’m not versed well enough in the composition of Mars to recognize as correct or incorrect. The human characters erect tents for shelter and begin performing scientific studies and tests one would expect the first persons on Mars to do.

Roger’s reaction to being on Mars is delightful. “To Roger, looking out on the bright, jewel-like colors of the planet he was meant to live on, it was a fairyland, beautiful and inviting.” And a little later. “First he walked, then trotted, then he began to run. If he had sped through the streets of Tonka, here he was a blur. He laughed out loud.” He is so eager to explore Mars that he gets himself into trouble with his power supply. This is what I read books about Mars for, that sense of wonder and excitement.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Born in 1919, Frederik George Pohl, Jr. has been a high school drop-out, an American soldier (during WWII), and has had nearly every possible role in science fiction. He has been a fan, poet, critic, literary agent, teacher, book and magazine editor, and a writer. “Elegy to a Dead Planet” was his first published story and appeared in Amazing Stories in 1937. His volume of writing is phenomenal and he has won every major science fiction award and then some.

When asked about his process, Pohl has had this to say, “People ask me how I do research for my science fiction. The answer is, I never do any research. I just enjoy reading the stuff, and some of it sticks in my mind and fits into the stories. Maybe that’s the best way to do it.” from Locus Online

Between the duration of his career and the breadth of his career, there is no way to do him justice in this post. Please visit the resources listed below.  Be sure to visit his blog, The Way The Future Blogs, in which he discusses his travels (all over the world), sf writers he has known (there’s a lot of those!), and things that interest him (the list is endless).

 

CONCLUSION

I believe that Man Plus deserves it’s place in science fiction history. It deserved a Nebula at the time and it deserves being read today. It challenges you to think about what it is to be human, how we humans are going to deal with our burgeoning population and consumption of natural resources, and it questions our reliance on computers. Finally, it’s one more way that Man might go to Mars.

Resources:

Official website of Frederik Pohl 
The Way The Future Blogs
wikipedia on Frederik Pohl
A bibliography 

What books have filled you with that sense of wonder?

Do you think colonizing Mars, the moon, or another planet will help us deal with problems of overpopulation or disappearing natural resources?

If you liked this post, you may like the others in the Going to Mars, Word by Word series.

Art

Art Glass Lessons for Writing

The earliest known manmade glass is in the form of Egyptian beads from between 2750 and 2625 BC. My interest in art glass (more commonly known as stained glass) doesn’t go back that far, but it goes back more than a few years. I have always loved the way sunlight brings stained glass to life. About a decade ago, I decided I would take a couple of classes on how to create with stained glass. I found, to my amazement, that I could do it and do it well.

I can’t teach you how to do stained glass in this blog post, but I’ll show you part of my process and at the end of this blog you’ll find links to places where you can learn a lot more.

Tools

Working with stained glass you need a few tools and a flat surface.  (It helps if you don’t mind glass splinters littering the area you’re working in!)

This is my wonderful glass studio built for me by my DH. (I know he’s a keeper!)
art glass cutting table in my glass studio

Subject Matter

One of fun parts of doing a stained glass window, is picking the pattern. (If you’re really talented, you can design your own pattern – my talent covers construction, sadly, not design.)

pattern titled Wild Rose Pattern

Style

Once you have the pattern, then you must choose which style of construction you’ll do: leading, foiling, mosaic.  Then you must decide which glass to use. This is not as easy as it sounds. Do you want Full Antique Glass (made using antique methods), Semi-Antique, Machine-made Antique, Cathedral, Opalescent, or Glue-Chip. The machine-made glass comes in different textures. And don’t even get me started on the colors that are available.

This is the glass storage area in my studio.
glass storage shelves in my studio

With the patten and glass chosen, then you choose how large you want this project to be. You have a couple of copies of your pattern made to size.

Crafting the Pieces

There are several ways to transfer the pattern to the glass. If you are using Cathedral (transparent) glass you can put the pattern under the glass and cut to the pattern. You can cut the pattern out and trace it. Or you can cut the pattern out and glue it to the window. Each of the methods of transfering the pattern require that you cut the the glass a little differently to ensure that you keep everything to the correct size. Additionally, the type of construction (type of cane, copper foil, or grout) requires that the glass is cut to leave a specific amount of space between each piece.

pattern pieces glued onto blue glass, ready to cut

I learned to cut the border pieces of the window first, so that you maintain the size and shape you desire. Note that I have a second copy of the pattern beneath the glass so I can continually check size and be certain of placement.
image of the pieces of cut glass on the pattern

Putting the Pieces Together

Once you’ve cut out all the pieces then you must use either lead cane (relatively soft extruded lengths of lead with channels that hold the glass) or adhesive-backed copper foil so you can solder the pieces together. I prefer the more fluid look of foiling for a pattern with lots of detail like this one.
piece of glass, cut and edges wrapped with copper foil

Once each piece of glass is wrapped with foil, you use flux and solder to solder the pieces together. (Sorry, I don’t have a picture of me soldering). To give the piece a finished edge you can use lead cane or a metal cane.

Final Preparations

After soldering comes cleaning and polishing. Then it’s ready to frame or place in the window.
finished stained glass project on tablestained glass project being mounted in the window, viewed from the outside

Finished!

Then, just step back and admire it.  This picture is from inside the kitchen with full sunlight hitting the window. (between the sun and my cheap camera, the green hill she’s sitting on looks orange :p)

From inside, the stained glass window glows with sunlight

There are a number of reasons that I love constructing with stained glass. Putting together a stained glass window is very similar to working a jigsaw puzzle, a favorite passtime of mine. And for a long while, I thought that was all there was to it. Of course, it wasn’t. Because while creating suncatchers and nightlights are quick and fun, what I love doing is constructing windows. Why? Because windows tell a story.

Do you see other parallels to writing or storytelling?

Links to learn more:

Your visit is much appreciated. If you have a moment, I’d love to hear what you think!

A Meeting of Minds: the Alchemy of Science, Art, and Poetry

I have belonged to a local writer’s group for many years now. In this group we have a colorful mosaic of like-, yet different-, minded folk. There are young and mature members, males and females. Some members write with a literary style, some have a dense, elaborate style, some are more minimalist. Yet, we have a meeting of the minds in that we are all striving to improve our work. More than that, we take disparate ideas from science and fiction, and like alchemists, blend them into something different, something called science fiction.

It is my great pleasure to share with you the works of two of my writer’s group members: Karin L. Frank and Jan S. Gephardt. Not only have they had a meeting of minds that yielded science fiction, they added poetry and art to the alchemist bowl resulting in a rare gem, a chapbook called A Meeting of Minds: Poems from the Two Cultures.

Karin’s bio on her blog WolfWeyr sets the tone:

Karin L Frank

Karin L. Frank (KL Frank) wrote her first story at the age of four and submitted it to her kindergarten teacher. No literary review accepted it but it was published on the family refrigerator.

Karin has since gone on to many adventures. She blogs at WolfWeyr which she describes as a den of wolves, a place where writers and other outlaws gather, a place where rules are questioned. Karin writes insightful, literary poetry and science fiction. Recently she has published a chapbook of science fiction poetry, A Meeting of Minds: Poems from the Two Cultures. When she went looking for an illustrator to provide the art for her book, she had to look no farther than our writer’s group and Jan S. Gephardt.

Photo of Jan S Gephardt, Artdog ObservationsJan is an artist, writer, and educator. She has been involved in fine arts, education, marketing, and many other adventures during the time that I’ve known her. Jan participates in multiple blogs, but her blog home is Artdog Observations and Artdog Educator. As an artist, I believe her finest work to be her paper sculptures. You can see one (imperfectly, photos don’t do it justice) here and at her shop on DeviantArt. Her pen and ink drawings are wonderfully detailed (I have one hanging in my office!) and reflect Karin’s words with a different kind of poetry.

Jan was quicker than I to post a blog review of Karin’s delightful chapbook. So here is a portion of Jan’s blog and a little peak into the the blending of poetry, art, science, and  fiction:

Thursday, July 5, 2012

A Meeting of Minds . . . and Media

Image of cover of Meeting of the Minds by Karin L Frank
Karin L. Frank’s chapbook, A Meeting of Minds, is full of beautiful, intellectual poetry . . . and
also my artwork!

Last winter I had a pleasant opportunity to create a series of ink drawings to illustrate a poetry chapbook by a friend of mine, Karin L. Frank.

My first thought, when my friend approached me, was, “a poetry chapbook? Seriously?”

Ah, but then I read the poems.

Several had already been published in other—as in, “mainstream”—print media, such as the Kansas City Star or Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction.

I’d already known that my friend wrote interesting science fiction (prose), but the marriage of sophisticated science concepts with the poetry art form produced something rich and extraordinary indeed.

Karin titled her chapbook A Meeting of Minds: Poems from the Two Cultures, a reference to C. P. Snow’s concept of the sciences and the humanities as being two different “cultures” in “the intellectual life of the whole of Western Society.”

My holistic view of the world sees the two as integrally linked as the sides of a coin—not a strange thought to science fiction readers and writers. But the rest of Western society appears to see more of a chasm between the two . . . .    READ MORE

Jan S Gephardt's Echological NicheThe strokes of the pen, of ink into words, of dots and lines into images is a transmutation that results in more than a bar of gold, it’s a fascinating Meeting of Minds.

What meeting of minds, or mix of cultures,

have fascinated you?

Thank you, Jan and Karin, for allowing me the privilege of sharing your work.  And thank you, readers, for following this blog, for commenting when you have time.  I cherish your words and the opportunity for us to have . . . a meeting of minds.

Photos and illustrations are the property of Jan S. Gephardt and Karin L. Frank. You may not use or reproduce the images in this post without permission from the owners of the copyrights.

Fiction

Listen & Learn: Podcasts on Writing

 

Wikimedia Creative CommonsBusy lives mean we must be creative in the ways we use our time. For me, that means when I’m doing housework or driving or tallying columns of numbers I listen to podcasts.

LISTEN OR READ

Last week I shared three of the science themed podcasts that I listen to. One reader lamented that her lifestyle didn’t lend itself to listening to podcasts and I realized I’d forgotten to mention that many of the podcasts make transcripts of the show. These transcripts are available on their websites. Want to take a look at the science podcasts I recommended? Go here.

There are many, many more podcasts on nearly every topic under the sun. They are available on your favorite podcast carrier (Apple iTunes oStitcher or Android). Download your system appropriate app and discover a whole new world of spoken shows and radio.

Learn from Writers on Writing

Looking for a podcast on writing? Well, I have a few I can recommend.

The Creative Penn is an hour long show that is broadcast every Monday by Joanna Penn, a New York Times bestselling thriller writer and nonfiction writer. She is a self-publishing guru who interviews other authors and creators both from her native Great Britain and around the world. Her interviews are always worth a listen. You can visit her nonfiction site here. Her podcast transcripts are here. She also puts the interview portion of her podcasts on YouTube.

Writing Excuses is a fifteen minute (approximately) podcast hosted by Mary Robinette Kowal, Brandon Sanderson, Dan Wells, and Howard Taylor. I love their tag line, “Fifteen minutes long because you’re in a hurry, and we’re not that smart.” They may not think of themselves as smart, but they put on a smart show. Often with guests, they discuss various aspects of the craft of writing. Every broadcast they recommend a book, not just science fiction and fantasy. The book always has a link in their liner notes. Go here to see their podcasts on their website. And they host a cruise! Once a year, a cruise with writing workshops for science fiction and fantasy writers. A cruise I plan to attend someday. Peruse their previous seasons or subscribe to their current season, you’ll find gold.

And, for my third choice . . . The Story Grid with editor, story grid creator, Shawn Coyne, and new writer, Tim Grahl. Tim bravely submits a portion of his work-in-progress for Shawn to critique on air. It’s fascinating to hear both the professional editor and the struggling writer discuss how to build a story. I recommend starting with the Story Grid website to learn the terms Shawn Coyne uses or read his book, The Story Grid: What Editors Know. Then start with the first podcast and follow along as Shawn guides Tim in the completion of his first novel.

There are so many more podcasts that are worth mentioning, but your needs and interests probably differ from mine. Look around the web, I know you’ll find one that you find worthwhile.

Your Turn

If you find one, or you already listen to one, won’t you share the title and a little about it in the comments below?

 

Image courtesy of Raster via Wikimedia Creative Commons.

Writing the Hard Stuff

Writing the Hard Stuff

Time for a glass of wine.

When I say hard stuff, I don’t mean porn or description or character or plot. The most difficult things to write are those things that come from our deepest, darkest places. The places we hide from most of the time.

I recently wrote a scene meant to tap into that place in myself. An hour and a half later, a mere 550 words had me trembling with fatigue and sick to my stomach. Yup. It was that dark of a place. Inside me!

We all have those places. That side of us that we like to pretend doesn’t exist. It’s dangerous to touch those places of fear, loathing, hate, or even fierce love. Most of us like to think we are genuinely nice people. I know I do. Yet, I have dark corners in my psyche.

So what do you do? First, do you like to read about characters who have to face a piece of their own darkness, their own demons? Is that the kind of story you aspire to write? To write that kind of scene, to make the scene come alive, you have to be willing to write the hard stuff. You have to be willing to expose yourself to your readers.

You may want to journal about that dark corner of your psyche first. That allows you to be very personal. Give yourself a break–chocolate and buying something sparkly can help. (I don’t know where I got that idea!) After some time passes, re-read your journal entry and re-imagine it in terms of how it applies to your character. Then write.

I’ve put off writing my scene FOREVER. It was a scary place to go. Having written the scene I can say that it is dark and awful and . . . not 100% me. How can that be? Because while I drew from my experiences to create my characters, I gave them traits I do not have. Those traits subtly change my dark thoughts and memories into something different. It will work that way for you, too.

What about the feeling vulnerable and exposed? Will someone ask if you actually lived that scene? Maybe. What should you do or say? I can’t really tell you how to protect yourself. As for me . . . I plan to smile and say “Only in my nightmares.” And, “If you thought that one was bad, wait ’till you read the next one!”

Do you visit dark places in your reading? Do you reach into the dark corners of your psyche when you write? How do you get through it? Or do you shy away from the dark side entirely?

Image:”Life is Hard” via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Anne Helmond

Science Fiction Mashup

Here are some fun science fiction magazine sites. If you haven’t visited them, click on the links below. Among these I’m sure you’ll find something that speaks to your SF bug.

Asimovs Science Fiction

offers samples of their print and e-format magazine, links to author, magazine and other SF related sites, and they feature a couple of new author blogs each month.

Amazing Stories Magazine

calls their site a Social Magazine. Scroll down the page to see some of the fascinating posts and join the forum to participate in the conversation.

Analog Science Fiction and Fact Magazine 

is up in space! (in the library of the International Space Station). This site offers the usual plus a reference library and an events calendar.

The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction 

features a blog with interviews, reviews, and articles as well as a forum for discussions among fans.

Sfsignal

is considered a fanzine(a nonprofessional, nonofficial publication by fans). You’ll find book and movie reviews, free fiction, convention information, and more at this site.

 

Hi! I’m popping up out of my writing cave for a few minutes to say hi and share some links you might want to know about. I’ll be heading back into the cave in a minute. I’m determined to finish this re-write before I take off for an intense immersion class. In the meantime, I will try to post a short piece every couple of weeks. I’ll return to a regular blogging scheduled in late October.

I hope you found something of interest in this mashup of Science Fiction Online.

Are there science fiction sites you visit regularly?

Greek for a Day

What do you do when you want to travel abroad but can’t afford the time or expense?

If you want to go to Greece or learn about Greece for a work-in-progress (I wouldn’t know who was doing that). You go to a Greek Food Festival and become Greek for the day.

Lynette M Burrows, author; Lynette M. Burrows, science fiction author; Lynette M. Burrows, action-suspense science fiction

 

Waiting in line while mouthwatering aromas waft through the air. . . . then the tasting begins!

Lynette M. Burrows, author

Flaming Saganaki Chees via Arnold Inuyaki on Flickr Commons

Flaming Cheese Saganaki (pronounced sah-ghah-NAH-kee). The term saganaki refers to the two-handled vessel in which appetizers are served. The cheese is pan-fried and at the last minute (often at the table) a Greek brandy or Ourzo is poured over the cheese and set aflame with a shout of “Opa!.” You can find the recipe here.

Want to know more about Greek food? You can find all you want to know about Greek food at Matt Barrett’s travel guides.

The boutique complete with souvenirs from Greece. Notice the ladies behind the counter in their festive attire.

Greek-Fest-shop2_web

Greek-Festival-shop_web

No Greek food festival is complete without dancing.

Greek festival dancing_web

Did You Know?

Greeks are notorious for late arrivals to events. In fact, when they observe someone arriving to an event on time they say “he is English.”

When something is incomprehensible to a an American we say, “It’s Greek to me.” But to the Greeks, “It’s Chinese to me.”

When a Greek exaggerates or hides the truth, he’s “pouring on the sauce.”

Shaping thumb and forefinger to a ring as in the American gesture meaning okay, is an obscene gesture to Greeks.

Many Greeks have a cactus plant near the entrance to their home. The spines or prickles of the cactus are thought to ward off the evil eye from the property.

You can find more information about Greek traditions and superstitions at the Faliraki Directory.

And the best information comes from conversations you have with the folks who remember these traditions and superstitions and a few stories about a yaya (grandmother).

While travel to the country is the best option when learning about another culture. And the internet can be a treasure trove of information.  There’s nothing quite like being almost there, at a local festival, tasting the food, listening to the music, and enjoying the stories.

Have you been Greek for a day? 

If not Greece, what country have you visited without leaving your national borders?

 

Wordsmithing

Writing the Hard Stuff

Writing the Hard Stuff

Time for a glass of wine.

When I say hard stuff, I don’t mean porn or description or character or plot. The most difficult things to write are those things that come from our deepest, darkest places. The places we hide from most of the time.

I recently wrote a scene meant to tap into that place in myself. An hour and a half later, a mere 550 words had me trembling with fatigue and sick to my stomach. Yup. It was that dark of a place. Inside me!

We all have those places. That side of us that we like to pretend doesn’t exist. It’s dangerous to touch those places of fear, loathing, hate, or even fierce love. Most of us like to think we are genuinely nice people. I know I do. Yet, I have dark corners in my psyche.

So what do you do? First, do you like to read about characters who have to face a piece of their own darkness, their own demons? Is that the kind of story you aspire to write? To write that kind of scene, to make the scene come alive, you have to be willing to write the hard stuff. You have to be willing to expose yourself to your readers.

You may want to journal about that dark corner of your psyche first. That allows you to be very personal. Give yourself a break–chocolate and buying something sparkly can help. (I don’t know where I got that idea!) After some time passes, re-read your journal entry and re-imagine it in terms of how it applies to your character. Then write.

I’ve put off writing my scene FOREVER. It was a scary place to go. Having written the scene I can say that it is dark and awful and . . . not 100% me. How can that be? Because while I drew from my experiences to create my characters, I gave them traits I do not have. Those traits subtly change my dark thoughts and memories into something different. It will work that way for you, too.

What about the feeling vulnerable and exposed? Will someone ask if you actually lived that scene? Maybe. What should you do or say? I can’t really tell you how to protect yourself. As for me . . . I plan to smile and say “Only in my nightmares.” And, “If you thought that one was bad, wait ’till you read the next one!”

Do you visit dark places in your reading? Do you reach into the dark corners of your psyche when you write? How do you get through it? Or do you shy away from the dark side entirely?

Image:”Life is Hard” via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Anne Helmond

Health

Don’t Wait for the Storm to Pass

We all have challenges in life whether it is just getting through a bad day or getting through months of illness or a lifetime of grief. Our mission is to learn to dance in the rain. But dance in the rain doesn’t necessarily mean to literally dance.

In KM Huber’s blog, Aim for Even, she talks about how we humans try to stay in one moment even though that is impossible to do. Her dance in the rain is to be present.

Marie Forleo gives advice on how to Find the Courage to Keep Going When You Feel Like Giving Up in this short video.

How can you learn to dance in the rain? Find that one thing you love and give yourself a few minutes just connecting to that thing you love. For me, if I spend a few minutes writing each day I’ve just danced in the rain. Another way I dance is to listen to beautiful music from one of my favorite groups, like Pentatonix.

So if your life is a storm that takes your breath away, take a moment for yourself. If you’ve used that moment reading this blog I can only say I am honored. If you share something of how you dance in the rain in the comments below, I am blessed. Thank you.

Image courtesy of Heather on Flickr Creative Commons

 

 

Do You Need a Break?

Photo of man & boy planning grocery listIs your summer as busy as your fall and winter? Are you scurrying around running the kids to one event or another? Or maybe you’re frantically preparing for visiting family members, or going to visit family, or going on vacation. Do you need a vacation from your vacation?

I’m here to remind you to take some restorative time. A break. It doesn’t have to last a long time. What it must be is something that gives you a lift.

Music does it for me. Doesn’t matter what my mood was before the music starts, music well-played, will carry me away. It speaks to the me tucked away inside. It lifts me up, stirs my feet, brings a tear, and fills my heart.

Treble cleft and notes

Apparently the expressiveness of music is nearly universal. Why does music make us feel emotional? According to this article in the Scientific American it isn’t really music that makes us feel. It’s other humans. Yup. You, me, him, her. The expressiveness of a human being, something you’ve felt yourself or seen expressed by someone else. Wait. Music isn’t human, you say. No, but music is something that can be manipulated to be expressive, humanly expressive, and that tickles a memory, a feeling.

Music doesn’t do it for everyone. For some it’s the sound of a well-tuned engine racing down the track. Others are swept away by the beauty of Monet or van Go gh or Picasso. A passage in a book can stir one’s emotions or evoke an image that moves us. No matter if it’s the notes of a bullfrog, the trill of a nightingale, the sweeping vistas of a prairie, or the majesty of mountains, it’s reaching the most human place inside you.

As I said, music does it for me. I’d like to share all my favorites with you, but that would take hours and hours and hours. Instead, let me share just one today. Take a listen.

<iframe width=”560″ height=”315″ src=”https://www.youtube.com/embed/Edwsf-8F3sI?rel=0&amp;controls=0&amp;showinfo=0″ frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen></iframe>

If the link to the video doesn’t work, try this link.

There’s a place, a sound, where you find joy and solace and restoration.Where do you find a moment for yourself? Won’t you share? Please only post one link per comment so the bot doesn’t put your comment in the spam box. And thank you for taking time to read and comment.

 

 

SuMan and son planning grocery list image via configmanager on Flickr
Musical Notes Image via Clipart Panda

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10 Warning Signs You’re Doing Too Much

Are you like me and burning the candle at both ends over-committed yourself to classes, a day job, writing, blogging, and other activities? Perhaps you or a loved one has had a sudden, unexpected health problem. Or you’ve simply gotten worn down by the day-to-day things that get under your skin.

Now you barely have the energy to get through the day. Or you’ve caught the current flu bug or cold and you can’t seem to get over it.  Your body and mind are screaming ENOUGH!

Don’t let get to the point that you feel like a pile of burnt matches.  Know the signs that the stress is getting too much.

Ten Warning Signs That You’re Working Too Hard:

  1. Your Productivity Declines – you put in more hours, yet get less and less done.
  2. You Don’t Have Time – for a favor, a commitment, a date with your friend or sweetheart, or even for your cherished indulgences.
  3. You Forget – to eat, an appointment, where you put that report or your keys.
  4. Things Are Out of Control – you’re always late; your normally neat desk is a mess; the dirty dishes are mutating in the sink; the stacks of bills or laundry (or both) are quickly becoming a mountain you can’t climb.
  5. Lack of Focus or Creativity – you flit from one task to the next, never finishing and never find a solution; you struggle to come up with new ideas, solutions to problems, or how to express an idea.
  6. Loss of Joy – you are beginning to dread tasks that normally you find enjoyable.
  7. Sleep Issues – you can’t sleep; can’t stay asleep; or you want to do nothing but sleep.
  8. Irritability – you snap at loved ones unjustly; you find yourself ‘just one more stupid driver’ short of total road rage.
  9. Health Issues – you have migraines or stomach problems on a daily basis; your acne, arthritis or asthma flares more frequently.
  10. Warnings from Friends and Family – you haven’t talked in weeks; your significant other tiptoes around the house afraid to disturb you; friends and family tell you you’re always busy, or they sit you down for an ‘intervention.’

You don’t want to know how up-close and personal I know all those warning signs. Really, you don’t. 🙂 But you do want to know what you can do when you recognize the warning signs in yourself.

Five Things to Do to Beat Stress:

1. Check Your Body

  • Are you fatigued despite getting 7 or 8 hours of sleep? Is your urine dark? The first sign of dehydration is fatigue. Be certain to drink plenty of water every day.
  • Is your resting heart rate up? Is your blood pressure up? If yes, be certain you get more sleep and more exercise. It’s not a matter of ‘when I can fit it in,’ it’s a matter of get it done or pay a price.

2. Re-prioritize – take a day to look at what you want to accomplish.

  • Look hard at your list. Are there some things that really don’t need to be done right now? Put them aside.
  • Is there some pieces of what you do that you can outsource? Hire a laundry lady or a housekeeper; have the secretary type up those letters; or you can ask family to help with tasks for a while.

3. Make a new plan. Break the task into smaller chunks that are more manageable. Make goals that allow you time to do the next four items on this list.

4. Schedule Fun – do something you love. Even just one hour a week can help. Take a walk, a swim, a jog. Meditate. Listen to music. Watch a movie. Read a book.

5, Take time off – An hour, a day, a week or more. Do something entirely different, at a different pace. Give yourself permission to breathe, to laugh, to do absolutely nothing.

Slowing down is not something I do willingly. I tend to be a bit (hubby chimes in with “majorly!) obsessive. I throw everything I’ve got into a project. I forget to sleep, to eat, to call friends and family. This is true not just of my writing or blogging, but of attention to my day job, household chores, whatever I want to ‘get done.’ I don’t seem to know how to pace myself. But, I’m learning.

If you push yourself too hard, something has got to give. Don’t be like me and let exhaustion make it impossible to work. Yes, there are times when an extra work load is needed. Just remember to listen: Listen to your body, your mind, your friends, and your family.

It’s nearing the end of summer and I’m hearing and reading that many people are feeling a bit overwhelmed. How about you?

Are you nearing Burn Out? Which of the steps above do you think you’ll find useful?

Have you pushed yourself too hard in the past? How did you recover?

Or have you learned to slow down?

Your readership means more to me than you can know. And when you take the time to leave a comment or two, I am thrilled and honored you’ve chosen to spend your valuable time with me.

All You Need Is The Air That You Breathe

If you are the average person, in moderate to good health, I’ll bet you don’t think much about the act of breathing. Unless you have a cold or illness, breathing happens naturally.

The average person takes

28,880 breaths per day

365 days per year

for a total of

10,541,200

breaths per year.

I’ve had asthma most of my life, so for me, breathing hasn’t been entirely taken for granted. But my asthma is very mild so that I don’t think about it a whole lot. My husband, who is my soul mate in oh-so-many ways, also has asthma. We avoid triggers (irritants like second hand smoke and illness). We strive to stay healthy. For the most part, that’s worked for us and neither of us have spent a lot of time thinking about our breathing or our lungs. But over the past three years breathing comfortably has become something we do not take for granted. Especially not since he was diagnosed with COPD.

WHAT IS COPD?

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, COPD, affects more than 32 million people in the United States alone. It is the third leading cause of death. And 80 – 90% of those cases are caused by smoking.

To understand COPD, it helps to understand how your lungs work.

Lynette M. Burrows, author; Lynette M. Burrows, science fiction author; Lynette M. Burrows, author of action-suspense science fiction

image courtesy wikimedia commons

When you breathe in, air travels through your mouth and nose, down a tube in your throat called your trachea. The trachea divides into two main bronchi, one leading to each lung. Inside the lung the bronchi branch off as in the illustration above. Each of the bronchi branch into smaller tubes called bronchioles. These tubes end in bunches of little tiny ballon-like structures called alveoli. The tiny blood vessels pass through the alveoli. When air fills the little sacs, the blood vessels pick up oxygen to carry to the rest of your body. In COPD the air sacs are damaged or blocked which means your brain and body cannot get as much oxygen.

There are two forms of COPD: chronic bronchitis which involves a chronic cough and excess mucous production and emphysema which involves damage to the air sacs (alveoli) of the lungs. Many people diagnosed with COPD have both, though one may be more severe than the other.

People with COPD have difficult expelling air from their lungs, they feel breathless. Wheezing, coughing, a feeling of tightness in their chest and chronic fatigue are also symptoms of COPD.

These symptoms develop slowly over time and usually are not diagnosed as COPD until middle-age or later. Because the disease is so slow to develop, many people may have it and not know it.

It is diagnosed by a combination of the symptoms you report to your physician, your medical history, blood tests, chest x-rays, pulmonary function tests, CT scans, and/ or procedures such as bronchoscopy, bronchi alveolar lavage, and/or lung biopsy.

There is no cure for COPD. There is no way to repair the damage to your lungs, to regrow your alveoli. The disease progresses with time making it more and more difficult to engage in normal activities. However early diagnosis, treatments and lifestyle changes can help you stay active and slow the progress of the disease.

Staggering information, isn’t it?

My husband stopped smoking years more than thirty years ago. Yet, the damage to his lungs was there, getting worse in tiny increments of time until his symptoms began to interfere with his activities. It took time for us to realize there was a problem and more time for the doctors to decide upon a diagnosis.

There are good things about this diagnosis. Knowledge is power. We know what the problem is and what we can do to make it better. New, improved medications are being developed as we speak.

We have made, and are working on, life style changes. He’s receiving good medical care and responding to treatment. He does not need extra oxygen.

He has good days and bad. On bad days even tying his shoes can leave him short of breath and exhausted. Bad days are debilitating for him, painful for me to watch, and they frighten us both. I don’t share this with you to get your sympathy or your pity. I share this for two reasons.

#1. KNOWLEDGE IS POWER

If you think you or a loved one may have COPD, don’t wait, see a medical profession for diagnosis and treatment. The sooner you’re diagnosed and begin treatment, the more you can slow the progress of this disease.

If you are still smoking and think this won’t happen to you. Think again. There is no way to tell what damage has been done to your lungs until the damage causes symptoms. Stop smoking. Now. Your alveoli are precious. Don’t waste them.

For additional information about COPD, check out:

The American Lung Association

WebMD

The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute

#2. Carpe Diem

Always remember Carpe Diem. Seize the day. You never know how many days are on your life calendar. So make sure to

Do something you love every day.

Be present with someone you love every day.

Seize an opportunity to laugh, every day.

Appreciate the time and place you are at, every day.

Lynette M. Burrows, author; Lynette M. Burrows, science fiction author; Lynette M. Burrows, author of action-suspense science fiction

image courtesy of Gurumustuk Singh via flickr commons

Title of this post adapted from the hit ballad, The Air That I Breathe, written by Albert Hammond and Mike Hazlewood, and recorded by The Hollies in 1974.

I appreciate your support and your comments so very much.
Please, no pity or sympathy.
Please do share how you seized the day today or how you will tomorrow.  I love to hear from you.