It’s Reading Season!

Mea Culpa! I’ve been nose to the grindstone and completely forgot to double-check that Thursday’s post went out as scheduled. And I was caught! It wasn’t scheduled. Totally my fault, but I did meet my deadline for completing my final revision. Yay! And I’ve been preparing for Reading Season. 

It's the reading season. Jan S Gephardt, Holly Messinger & Lynette M Burrows will read from their novels or works-in-progress.
Jan S Gephardt reading, by Judith Bemis

It’s time to start practicing. A new season of readings approaches rapidly. That means I need to find scenes or chapters from my work that are relatively self-contained and appropriate lengths (usually 20-30 minutes), then start practicing, so I can read smoothly and clearly, and also build up my voice so it will last 20-30 minutes.

In addition to the conventions I’ll attend (I already know I’ll be scheduled for a full hour of reading at DemiCon 29, and I’ve requested to do readings at other conventions through the summer), I’ll also be participating in a panel discussion about writers’ groups, and doing a short reading at a meeting of the Kansas City Science Fiction and Fantasy Society (KaCSFFS), April 21.

That’s Saturday, April 21, 7:00 p.m., at The Writers Place, 3607 Pennsylvania Ave., Kansas City, MO 64111.

At the KaCSFFS meeting, I’ll share the “reading chair” in the Library at The Writers Place with two friends who also are writers.

Holly Messinger

It's the reading season. Jan S Gephardt, Holly Messinger & Lynette M Burrows will read from their novels or works-in-progress.
Holly Messinger

One is Holly Messinger, author of The Curse of Jacob Tracy (2015 from Thomas Dunne Books) and the upcoming sequel, Curious Weather (due in 2019 from St. Martin’s Press). Holly plans to read from Curious Weather:

“When Jacob Tracy—Civil War veteran, ex-seminarian, and reluctant psychic—agrees to move into Miss Fairweather’s St. Louis mansion and study magic with her, he has one purpose in mind: to hunt down and destroy the necromancer Mereck, a predatory madman who has twice tried to make a meal of Trace and trapped Trace’s partner Boz in a monstrous half-life.

It's the reading season. Jan S Gephardt, Holly Messinger & Lynette M Burrows will read from their novels or works-in-progress.“Sabine Fairweather has her own grievance with Mereck, though Trace doesn’t know the details and doesn’t particularly want to. The woman may be a brilliant scientist and a powerful witch in her own right, but there is darkness in her and bitter secrets that threaten the tenuous faith Trace has in her.“With Mereck’s minions circling ever closer, and old allies posing unexpected threats, Trace knows he and Sabine have no choice but to trust each other. But for that to happen, he will have to lay bare all the deepest secrets of her soul…and quite possibly her heart.”

Lynette M. Burrows

It's the reading season. Jan S Gephardt, Holly Messinger & Lynette M Burrows will read from their novels or works-in-progress.
Lynette M. Burrows

The other is Lynette M. Burrows, author of My Soul to Keep, an alternate-world thriller set for release from Rocket Dog Publishing this summer (stay tuned to her website for details). She will choose a reading from My Soul to Keep:

“Miranda Clarke lives a charmed life . . . until she breaks the rules.

“It is 1961 but the world isn’t the one you know. The Prophet Josiah Shepherd, backed by billionaire J. D. Wagner and the Isolationist movement, kept the United States of America from entering World War II. The Nazis control Great Britain, Europe, and Northern Africa. Unopposed, Japan rules the east. America is a theocracy, a land of righteous repression led by the Fellowship and its council of greedy white men.

It's the reading season. Jan S Gephardt, Holly Messinger & Lynette M Burrows will read from their novels or works-in-progress.
A concept drawing of one of the deadly Azrael, by Lynette’s husband, artist Robert Burrows.

“Miranda’s parents are part of the Fellowship’s elite, the inner circle. Her father, the nation’s premier preacher-politician, is on his way to the presidency. And Miranda’s hope of living a quiet, private life vanishes. But when Miranda makes a break for freedom, she learns everything she thought she knew is a lie:

“Her vengeance-seeking aunt isn’t dead.

“Her parents and the supposedly benevolent Fellowship Council aren’t benevolent.

“And the terrifying tales of the angel-assassins called Azrael aren’t just stories.

“Miranda must escape a religious re-education prison, discover the truth behind her horrifying nightmares, outwit her mother’s deadly ambitions, and destroy the ruthless, cloned angel-assassins who pursue her—or die.”

I promise–having seen advance peeks of both books–they will be delightful reads.

Jan S. Gephardt

It's the reading season. Jan S Gephardt, Holly Messinger & Lynette M Burrows will read from their novels or works-in-progress.
Jan S. Gephardt, by Colette Waters

But wait. What about that third woman on the program? What’s her book about? Yeah, well, that would be me. My book is called What’s Bred in the BoneIt’s a space opera/mystery set in a future when Humans have found or created other habitats in the reaches of space. If all goes well, it’ll be available in summer or early fall 2018:

“XK9 Rex is a dog who thinks too much.

“When a spaceship blows up among the docks at the Hub of Rana Habitat Space Station, the implications reach to the highest levels of the tiny sovereignty. But Rex is sidelined by a rookie mistake that puts his Human partner Charlie in the ICU.

“Now he’s on the outside looking in: worried, lonely, desperate to get back to his Pack and his life’s-work. He and his Packmates have been engineered and cyber-enhanced to be the most advanced forensic tools available to law enforcement, by a famous genetics lab—underwritten by the military intelligence of Transmondia, the Chayko System’s dominant power.

It's the reading season. Jan S Gephardt, Holly Messinger & Lynette M Burrows will read from their novels or works-in-progress.
Rex in a happier moment: giving Charlie’s niece Sophie a doggie-back ride, as envisioned by Lucy A. Synk.

“But the XK9s are more than forensic tools, and more than their owners, the Ranan Orangeboro Police Department, ever bargained for. When Rex strives to prove just how capable he and his Packmates truly are, he unmasks a secret that could destabilize the entire System—and places all XK9s everywhere in mortal peril.”

I hope you’ll join us–we’ll also conduct a short panel discussion about writers’ groups, possibly with Dora Furlong and Rob Chilson joining the panel. Remember, that’s April 21, 7:00 p.m., at The Writers Place in Kansas City.

IMAGES: Many thanks to Judith Bemis for the photo of me at the NASFiC last year (reading an announcement of Chesley Award winner–but it’s the best “reading” photo I have!); to Holly Messinger for the photo of her; to Macmillans for the Curious Weather cover image; to Lynette M. Burrows for the photo of her, as well as the photo of the Azrael by her artist husband Robert Burrows; to Colette Waters Photography for my head shot; and to Lucy A. Synk for the whimsical vision of XK9 doggie-back riding.

Inspiration on Location

I’m working on the finishing touches for my alternate world, science fiction novel, My Soul To Keep. Recently, I looked back to see what had been my inspiration for this story. There are many inspirations that fed my imagination as I wrote, this particular one was an inspiration on location.

I had a number of ideas that weren’t quite coming together into a story. Book research was endless and unhelpful. I was fortunate enough to be able to extend a business trip and travel through the area where much of the story takes place. There, I came across the marker entirely by happenstance. Well, sort of.

The story I had in mind took place in an America that never was, but could have been—with a little help from the imagination. For the story, I needed to find a place with a history strongly influenced by conservative to fundamentalist Christians. I chose Lynchburg, Virginia because of its history and its notable citizen, Jerry Falwell. Now, this is not to say I disapprove of, or approve of, Mr. Falwell (who is a whole ‘nuter subject) but I approved of Lynchburg.

Lynchburg, Virginia

Lynchburg sits on the western edge of Virginia, in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains and along the banks of the James River. It’s both a quaint and a modern town with a rich history. Known as the “City of Seven Hills,” the town offered picturesque sites for interactions between my characters. I walked all over town. I dictated tons of notes and took pictures but this was in the day before digital and alas, those are gone.

I’ve used a fictionalized version of the city’s beautiful and moving Monument Terrace in the novel. I did not have the time, nor many opportunities, to meet more than a handful of the citizens of Lynchburg. None of my characters are fashioned after any of that city’s living or dead residents. But I digress.

The historical marker is not in Lynchburg, but a neighboring town called Madison Heights. I was leaving Lynchburg on my way to my business obligation when I spotted the marker. Its header reads “Central Virginia Training Center.”

Central Virginia Training Center

“Established in 1910 as the Virginia State Epileptic Colony, the center admitted its first patients in May 1911.” You can see the marker here. The historical marker on Central Virginia Training Center grounds that inspired parts of My Soul to Keep by Lynette M Burrows.

The buildings and grounds were very close to an image that had been floating in my imagination. I was distraught that I hadn’t discovered the location earlier in my stay. But I was in luck. The Central Virginia Training Center has worked hard to overcome its dark history but it doesn’t deny its history. I admire the administrators for making that decision.


I wasn’t able to do much more research on the remainder of that trip, but since then I’ve delved deeply into how America once treated its “misfits.” I learned of heartbreaking institutionalization of persons who were different, of forced sterilizations, of Better Baby Contests, and an American program of eugenics.

I am grateful that our society, our country, recognized the wrongness of those programs. Changes were made, some programs continue but in a better way. Some programs, thankfully, died.

These were things my high school history books had barely touched on and glossed over. These were stories that struck a chord with me. These are stories that I believe need to be remembered by every American. Not to shame us, but to inspire us to be better. Not like Better Babies Contests aspired for humans to be better, but to be better human beings, to make better decisions for the future.

Have I tickled your curious bone? Stay tuned! Over the next few more, I’ll discuss the American program of eugenics, the Better Baby Contests, and more inspiration on location—sort of.

9 Things Rarely Seen Today

I thought it might be fun to share some of the past technologies and images that inspired or were described in my soon-to-be-published novel. My Soul To Keep is the story of a young woman who escapes her sheltered life and discovers personal, social, and political wrongs that must be righted. It takes place in the United States but in an alternate history. I had fun combing historical vehicles, communications, manufactured goods, and fashion. I had fun finding things rarely seen today. This is a small sample from My Soul to Keep.

Autogiro (or Autogyro)

Autogiro, 9 things rarely seen today, Lynette M Burrows
The autogiro is an aircraft with an unpowered horizontally rotating propeller that provides lift. It uses a powered, conventional propeller for forward propulsion. Created in the 1920s by Juan de la Cierva, a Spanish engineer, as a safe, low speeds aircraft. The Cierva Autogiro Company trademarked the term autogiro. Forcing other companies to use terms like Gyrocopter, gyroplane, and rotaplane.
An autogiro was the first aircraft to take off and land on a ship. It requires a runway to take off but has a very short or zero landing roll.
Costing less than a helicopter, Autogiros are not common, but in use all over the world. Used in the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, they also are used by police and military across the globe.
Photo by Agustin Ruzafa (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Hudson Hornet

green Hudson Hornet, 9 things rarely seen today, Lynette M Burrows

The Hudson Motor Car Company, founded in 1909, became the eleventh-largest American car company. The Hudson’s peak was in 1929. Unfortunately, the Hudson could not recover from the Great Depression. Learn More. 

Photo by duggar11 (Duncan, OK Car Show, 1951 Hudson Hornet) [CC BY 2.0(], via Wikimedia Commons

Burma Shave Signs

Burma Shave signs, 9 things rarely seen today, Lynette M Burrows

Burma Shave was an American brand of shaving cream first introduced in 1925. The Burma-Shave sign series first appeared on U.S. Highway 65 near Lakeville, Minnesota, in 1926. It remained a major advertising component along highways in the continental U.S. until 1963.  Learn More.

Photo courtesy of Carol M. Highsmith [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Public Phone Booths

public phone booths, 9 things rarely seen today, Lynette M Burrows

According to Time the first “telephone cabinet” was patented in 1883. The place of installation is unknown but thought to have been in high-dollar hotels.

The first patent for a coin-operated public phone was in 1889. This device was improved upon and adopted by phone companies across the world. Outdoor public phone booths first appeared in the 1900s. They weren’t common until the 1950s when glass and aluminum construction replaced wood.
Sadly, with the advent of the cellular phone, most U.S. public phones booths have been removed and destroyed or re-purposed.
Photo by DanTD (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Mimeograph Machine 

The Mimeograph was a low-cost duplicator. You typed or used a specialized stencil to write information on the stencil paper. The typewriter keys removed a portion of the paper, making that section of the paper permeable. Paper was fed between the roller and an impression drum to force ink through the stencil. The ink had a distinct odor and often stained your hands. We called the paper copies “Dittos.” Learn More.

SLR Cameras

SLR Camera, film, 9 things from the past, Lynette M Burrows
The single-lens reflex camera is not entirely gone from view in America today, though most are digital now. You put a roll of unexposed film into the back of the camera in a darkened room. Exposing the film to light obliterated any photographs on the film and rendered the film useless. Learn More.
Photo by Kotivalo (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

Elvis Presley, Gospel Singer

Elvis received his first guitar, a gift from his mother, on his eleventh birthday. Gospel music was an important early musical influence. He won three Grammys for his Gospel albums and was posthumously inducted into the Gospel Music Association’s Gospel Music Hall of Fame. Learn More.

Dotted Swiss Party Dress

Yellow dotted Swiss dress, 9 things rarely seen today, Lynette M Burrows

Dotted Swiss is a sheer cotton fabric embellished with small dots. It’s often used in baby clothes, wedding dresses (currently), and curtains. My character’s dress is similar to the vintage dress pictured here, though with a more modest neckline.

Photo courtesy of kimvintage on Etsy.

Pillbox Hats

Pill box hat, 9 things rarely seen today, Lynette M Burrows

The pillbox hat, invented in the 1930s, is a small woman’s hat with a flat crown, straight sides, and no brim. Pillboxes were made out of animal furs, wool, and organdy among many other fabrics. According to Wikipedia, its precursor was military headgear and is named after small cylindrical or hexagonal boxes that pills were sold in. Learn More.

Photo by Universal Pictures ( [Public domain or CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

Do you have any experiences with any of these things?

Please share your memories or any recent encounters you may have had in the comments below.

Nearing The End

I am nearing THE END of this eternal re-write. This novel was first attempted years ago, that’s many, many years ago. Earlier drafts got me two different agents and almost sold twice. Yet, it didn’t sell. And it’s a heart novel, meaning it’s near and dear to my heart. Someone once called it my therapy novel. Truth? Some of it has been therapy. Not in the way implied by my critic, but it has had therapeutic moments. It’s been a slow, difficult re-write with lots of angst, tons of learning, and more than a few tears shed. But, The End is in sight. And yet—

The words come slowly to me on a good day. On bad days—words come slower than a slow snail’s slowest slog. Whew! Which situation do you think I’m in now? Yup. S-L-O-W. You’d think the words would be coming faster, wouldn’t you? And yet—

I sit at the computer and type a few words then come to a section that must be a blend of the old draft and the new one. The words drip out of my fingers and nearly dry up then, something comes along to spur me forward. This blog post, for one. I’m using it to spur me onward to the end.

I’m going to share a snippet of my dystopian story with the working title: My Soul to Keep. It’s the story of two mothers and two daughters, though primarily it’s Miranda’s story. First, a short description:

Miranda Clarke, daughter of America’s premier preacher-politician, leads a charmed life—until she breaks the rules. Haunted by family secrets and hunted by cloned assassins, Miranda must destroy the government controlled by her own family before the Angels of Death destroy her and all of democracy.


~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

My Soul To Keep

A work-in-progress


Lynette M Burrows

Chapter One

The giant bronze statue of the angel of death loomed over Miranda Clarke’s shoulder. Was it the statue or was it the tiny flare of rebellion that made her not want to enter the Fellowship Center’s crowded foyer? The statue, Shield of Mercy, Hand of Justice, stood at the grand entrance as it had for all Miranda’s life. With Uncle Sam sheltered in her great black wings, the angel hovered over the fallen body of president-elect Franklin Delano Roosevelt and pointed to the pile of ash where the assassin had stood.

“Is something wrong?” Tom, her bodyguard, came to stand too close.

What could be wrong with becoming a Guardian? She hid her fears behind her angelic-daughter-of-the-councilor smile. “I need to powder my nose.”

“They’ll be seating your family in five minutes. Tell me what you need, I’ll have someone fetch it.”

I need to not be the councilor’s daughter. “There are some things a girl must do on her own.” She dove into a sea of elbows and padded shoulders, big purses, and bigger hats. Her bodyguard followed. He always did.

Hundreds of men in sharkskin suits and women in taffeta dresses filled the foyer waiting for the auditorium doors to open. Clusters of them here and there held onto their hats, an assortment of felt, feathers, netting and ruffles, and peered up at the mural-painted dome five stories above. They reeked of aftershave lotions, cheap colognes, and forbidden cigarette smoke.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Thanks to and for the images. These images are part of my inspirations board on Pinterest. If you’re curious, take a look here.

I’ll be posting stories about my mentors, my process, and some of the history that inspired different scenes and themes of this book over the next few months. And of course, you’re all invited to the party when I finally type THE END!

I hope you enjoyed this taste of things to come. As always, I deeply appreciate the time you give to read and comment on this blog. Thank You!

When is a Clone Not a Clone

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. And it’s sort of when a clone isn’t a clone.

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. And it's sort of when a clone isn't a clone.
Twin #2 by Jim Moran, Flickr Creative Commons

Parthenogenesis a form of asexual reproduction in which growth of the embryo occurs without fertilization. The 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 is 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.

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. And it's sort of when a clone isn't a clone.
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 diseases?

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 ooh 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: