Sunday, September 28, 2014

Survive and Thrive Bloghop, Tiny Satllites, and Space Junk

Hi everyone, and thanks for stopping by. Lots going on this week, but the most important is the 2014 Survive and Thrive Bloghop set for Monday, October 20th. This is the follow up to last year’s Get Healthy Blog Hop and sponsored by the same group of bloggers: Alex Cavanaugh, Diane Wolfe, Michael Di Gesu, and myself.
The Survive and Thrive Bloghop is meant to bring awareness of disease prevention and early detection regarding medical conditions that may be averted or treated if caught in the early stages.
Our desire is to motivate people to go in for early screening, and if a condition is caught early and treated, then our world just became a little better place to live.
The topics are wide open. You can post about a particular cause you support. Or you can share a personal or family experience that is near to your heart.
Last Year's Get Healthy Badge
For Example: I had pre-cancerous polyps removed (twice) that were caught during a routine colonoscopy. Thanks to early detection, I had them removed. And I had no polyps during my recent colonoscopy earlier this month. So if I can inspire people to go in for a colonoscopy and they catch and remove cancerous polyps, then I’m happy I could help someone.
So sign up on the Linky list below. This promises to be one of the most practical Blog Hops of 2014 as we can all share something with the world that can help make it a better place.
Did You Know: NASA’s newest generation of satellites depart radically from current models. The clunky machines we’re used to are being replaced by increasingly smaller devices, some of which could comfortably fit in your hands. One of these new nanosatellites is the CubeSat. As its name implies, it’s simply a small cube, 10 centimeters (4 in) long and weighing a measly 1.3 kilograms (3 lb).
These satellites are highly customizable and easy to transport, which is why NASA is currently allowing students and schools to submit their own designs. The chosen sats will then be launched into space. They’re so small that they can easily be carried as payloads on previously scheduled missions.
But they get even smaller. A series of stamp-sized satellites was launched into space in 2011 onboard the shuttle Endeavour to be affixed to the ISS. These are completely inconspicuous and barely larger than your thumbnail. And if testing goes well, NASA plans to launch these tiny stamps en masse. Once in space, the lightweight chips would drift about like specks of dust, replacing today’s much more expensive and labor-intensive satellite production. Reference
Fun Facts: Speaking about manmade stuff orbiting Earth, there are tens of millions of pieces and fragments of human-made debris in orbit. 500,000 are large enough that NASA feels its necessary to track them.
In 2005 there were 13 nuclear reactor cores, eight thermoelectric generators, and thirty two nuclear reactors orbiting at less than 1,700 kms above us.
China's 2007 anti-satellite test, which used a missile to destroy an old weather satellite, added more than 3,000 pieces to the debris problem. Particles such as paint flakes (under 1 mm) can cause small craters in walls and windows. Almost 100 Space Shuttle windscreens have had to be replaced (as of 2008) due to pits caused by such impacts. I
It does seem slightly incredible that a paint flake can cause a crater in a windscreen. However, the reason is the velocity of space debris impacts. A typical impact occurs at a closing velocity of 10 km/sec or 36,000 kilometres per hour! Reference
Finally: My Detroit Tigers are in the playoffs again, wining their division for the fourth straight year. Go Tigers!
Question: Do you have a team in the playoffs that you are following?
Well, that space stuff sure was fun. And don’t forget to sign up for the 2014 Survive and Thrive Blog Hop!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Comets, Mars, and Neil Gaiman, and the Underrated Treasures Blogfest

Hi everyone, and as always thanks for stopping by! Thought I would get back to the science roots of this blog and talk about a very exciting event that’s happening right inside our very own solar system.

And don't forget to scroll down for the Underrated Treasures Blogfest!!!
Mind-Blowing First Close-Up Look At A Comet: Ten years ago the European Space Agency launched Rosetta, a first-of-its-kind spacecraft on a mission to meet a comet. That comet? 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Rosetta finally accomplished that goal earlier this month — getting into the comet's orbit (how cool is that!!!).

What a Comet looks like from Earth
It’s as close as twenty miles from the comet This November, Rosetta will deploy a small probe that, if successful, will land on the comet — the first time we've ever made contact with a comet (intentionally). (Reference)

What a Comet Looks Like from Space
Did You Know: NASA plans to launch a deep-space rocket, SLS, in 2018. The SLS has been in development for three years already, and when finished it should propel spacecraft beyond Earth's orbit and eventually launch crew vehicles to Mars by the 2030s.

To Infinity (Well, at least Mars), and Beyond!
Fun Fact: There are also plans to send men and women deeper into space on missions that could very well last a life time. Translation, they’re not coming back. (Reference)
What I’m Reading: My first Neil Gaiman book American Gods. I’m half way into it and enjoying the story very much. A quirky fantasy tale of gods that imigrants brought to the United States whose power has diminished over time as people's beliefs wane. New gods have arisen, reflecting America's obsessions with the Internet, highways, media, celebrities, technology, and drugs, among others.
There is a storm a brewin’ as the these former gods set to do battle with the new Gods of America. A great premise for a book and I’m glad I picked this one to read.
Question: Would you consider a life long deep space mission where you would live out your life and die in outer space? Like Neil Gaiman's book? Ever heard of Dread Zeppelin?
Underrated Treasures Blogfest: Love Love Love this Underrated Treasure Blogfest hosted by Alex Cavanaugh. Everyone has a favorite movie or band that no one else has ever heard about. For whatever reason, they remain undiscovered and underrated. Now is your chance to tell the world about this obscure treasure!

What immediately came to mind was a blast from the past: Dread Zeppelin. A wild and crazy group of dreadlock guys led by Elvis himself (Okay, it's an Elvis impersonator) performing Led Zeppelin songs live for all to dare to see or so drunk they actually pay the cover to see these guys. Talent or gimmick? You decide.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Guest Julie Musil and the The Power of Showing

Author Julie Musil
I recently binge-watched The Tudors. Netflix describes the series like this: “All the splendor and scandal of England’s 16th-century royal court comes to life in this series that follows notorious Tudor monarch Henry VIII.” 

In The Tudors, a situation arose where the king’s chancellor disagreed with the religious teachings of a Mr. Fish. As Miranda Lambert would say, “Somethin’ bad about to happen.” Mr. Fish’s punishment? He’d be burned at the stake. But the storytellers wouldn’t show it, right? Wrong. 

The scene opens with Mr. Fish bound to the stake. Kindling is stacked against him. He’s given the chance to recant his statements about the church. Instead of recanting, he begins reciting The Lord’s Prayer. Tension builds. A torch sets fire to the kindling. Wood crackles. Smoke rises. Mr. Fish’s voice also rises with fear. But he continues shouting The Lord’s Prayer until he succumbs to the fire. 

It was a powerful, disturbing scene. 

When the king later asks his chancellor how many people had been burned at the stake so far, the chancellor calmly says, “Six.” Like it’s no big deal. After witnessing the scene, I felt those six deaths stronger than I would’ve had they just said “Six” without showing it. This scene was a great reminder to slow down and show pivotal details of important scenes. 

In my recent release, The Summer of Crossing Lines, there’s a scene that was especially difficult to write. It involved a dog fight. I’m a huge dog lover. I have two rescue doggies at home (both of them are snuggled against my feet right now). At first I was tempted to gloss over the dog fight after it had happened, but I knew I had to show it. The reader would better understand the people my character Melody was dealing with if they went through this turmoil with her. 

So I showed the scene in all its ugly details. The stench of blood. The cheering. The cry of a mortally wounded animal. The muffled gunshot. It makes me sad just thinking about it. 

As writers, it’s sometimes easier to skip the ugly parts because they’re hard to write. But too often we’d create a barrier between the reader and the character. If we want readers to feel for our characters and root for them, it’s important that we put on our big boy pants and write the hard stuff. 

I still think about Mr. Fish burning at the stake. And while not every scene can carry that kind of weight, the important scenes can...and should. 

Do you have a hard time writing challenging “show” scenes? Have you ever “told” about a difficult subject because it was too traumatizing to “show”? Which scenes in books or movies were the most difficult for you to read or watch? 

Julie Musil writes from her rural home in Southern California, where she lives with her husband and three sons. She’s an obsessive reader who loves stories that grab the heart and won’t let go. Her YA novels The Summer of Crossing Lines and The Boy Who Loved Fire are available now. For more information, or to stop by and say Hi, please visit Julie on her blog, on Twitter, and on Facebook. 


The Summer of Crossing Lines 

Author: Julie Musil 

Release date: August 19, 2014 

Category: Young Adult (YA) 

Genre: Contemporary Mystery 

Short Summary: When her protective older brother disappears, sixteen-year-old Melody infiltrates a theft ring, gathers clues about his secret life, and falls for a handsome pickpocket. At what point does truth justify the crime? 

Long Summary: When her protective older brother disappears, sixteen-year-old Melody loses control of her orderly life. Her stuttering flares up, her parents are shrouded in a grief-induced fog, and she clings to the last shreds of her confidence. 

The only lead to her brother’s disappearance is a 30-second call from his cell phone to Rex, the leader of a crime ring. Frustrated by a slow investigation with too many obstacles, and desperate to mend her broken family, Melody crosses the line from wallflower to amateur spy. She infiltrates Rex’s group and is partnered with Drew, a handsome pickpocket whose kindness doesn’t fit her perception of a criminal. He doesn’t need to steal her heart—she hands it to him. 

With each law Melody breaks, details of her brother’s secret life emerge until she’s on the cusp of finding him. But at what point does truth justify the crime? 

Author Bio:  Julie Musil writes from her rural home in Southern California, where she lives with her husband and three sons. She’s an obsessive reader who loves stories that grab the heart and won’t let go. Her YA novels The Summer of Crossing Lines and The Boy Who Loved Fire are available now. For more information, or to stop by and say Hi, please visit Julie on her blog, on Twitter, and on Facebook. 

Social Media Links: 

Buy Links for The Summer of Crossing Lines: 

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Sunflowers For Tina, Selfie Blog Hop, and Bouchercon 2014

Sunflowers for Tina: As most if not all know, Tina Downey recently passed. She was an amazing blogger, writer, and a co-host of the Blogging A to Z Team. It’s always difficult to lose someone from our blogging community. 

Tina’s Motto is (I’ll leave it in the present tense) Life Is Good. This is part of the legacy she left behind. Simple yet powerful and effective. 

If Tina had a visual to be remembered by, it is the sunflower. And for those so inspired, we are planting a sunflower in her honor. If you want to contribute donations to the Downey Education Fund, simply click the icon on the left column. 

Selfie Blog Hop: Sponsored by Tara Tyler and a host of co-conspirators (click the Selfie Blog Hop Badge on the left column). The objective: Take a picture of you and your book(s) - your favorites or your own novels. Or you can just arrange the books in a special way and take the picture - but you do get extra points for being in the photo. 

Well. I’m not in the photo as a good friend of mine Bill Buzzo put this awesome image together of my books surrounded by some of Michigan’s (where I was born and raised) finest sports venues. And if you’ve read any of Tim LaHaye’s Left Behind books, he’s also from Michigan. Thanks Bill! 

Writer Conferences: Have you gone to or will be going to any conferences this year? I’m going to the Bouchercon Conference (Murder At The Beach) in Long Beach, CA November 13-16. I may even participate, depending on the cost of a booth. I wonder if authors can share a booth and split the costs? 

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Weekend Follies

Weekend Follies:  Hi all, it’s time to welcome back the Weekend Follies. This is a chance to shrug off the stresses and burdens of the week and laugh yourself into the weekend. 

Murcat Manor Cat Invade Wormholes at CERN

Yes, I Have a Nerdy Cat in Murcat Manor

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

ISWG, Tina Downey, Murcat Manor Synopsis

IWSG: It’s the first Wednesday of the month and time for the Insecure Writers Support Group. Like the rest of the blogging world I’m mourning the passing of an amazing and most supportive blogger and writer Tina Downey. 

Tina's motto was always “Life Is Good.” I’d like to add, if I could, life is also short. We never know how many days we have numbered on this Earth. Every day is a gift to be treasured. 

In Memory of Tina Downey: the A to Z Team is hosting a sunflower tribute on September 8, 2014 – Remembering Tina Downey. If you can knew Tina, or would simply like to participate, then CLICK HERE.

What Can We Take Away? Be good to each other. Kind. Tenderhearted. Forgiving. Longsuffering. People are our greatest treasured and resources. 

If there is someone in your life that you had a relationship with, and something came between you, reconcile that relationship. You’ll be glad you did, and the world will become a little better place to live. 

Murcat Manor Update: I didn’t finish the MS and get it off to my editor my Labor Day. But I’m really close. And that’s good enough for me. Wrapping up the ending now. 

A Cat from Murcat Manor
There’s no hurry as I’m going to begin querying and looking for a publisher. If I find one, we’re looking at Spring 2015 anyway. But I will be looking for reviewers and critique partners. So if the synopsis below sounds like something you like, I’ll make it available in a month or so. I have to say, it’s so much fun nd refreshing to write in a genre so different that what I’m used to. 

Murcat Manor Long Synopsis: Following the loss of their promising careers, Bob and Debbie Stevens embark upon opening a bed and breakfast. Their savings depleted and desperate for cash, Bob reluctantly allows his meddling in-laws to co-sign a three million dollar loan. He purchases a burned down property on twenty five acres in scenic rural southern Michigan and builds Murcat Manor. 

Rumors of curses and ghosts haunt the property’s reputation. But the history of two previous houses burning to the ground and killing nineteen people do not deter Bob and Debbie from their dream; raising a family while earning a living with one of the only bed and breakfasts in the region. 

During construction, the Stevens adopt thirteen kittens found in the rubble of the property. The cats are possessed by disembodied souls from the daughters of the witches hung from the Salem Witch Trials. Each cat possesses a unique ability, and together they bring terror and death to the guests of Murcat Manor. 

Each killing brings more cancellations, and Bob has to think of creative ways to bring in new guests to pay the massive debt. But the malevolent felines have five previous lives spanning four centuries of mischief and murder. They devise clever ways to keep killing, including leaving evidence at the scene for detectives to believe Bob and Debbie are responsible. 

Murcat Manor is a dark suspense thriller set against events that spiral out of Bob’s control until he has no defense against a seen nemesis with an unseen power. 

One Liners: Murcat Manor is dark suspense thriller about an average young couple who build a bed and breakfast that is victimized by thirteen seemingly harmless cats possessed by disembodied witches who instigate a cycle of terror and murder. 

A centuries old evil is unleashed when the souls of the daughters of those killed during the Salem Witch Trials find a new generation of people to murder at a popular bed and breakfast owned by a young unsuspecting couple. 

Spend a summer at a present day bed and breakfast called Murcat Manor, and you too could become a victim of thirteen gifted and malicious killers from early eighteenth century New England. 

Weekend Follies: Yes, the Weekend Follies return. It's a great way to forget the stresses of the week and laugh yourself into the weekend. Friday we will spotlight what else? Cats. Evil cats. Ninja cats. And cats of Murcat Manor.

Finally: It’s great to be back from a summer hiatus of blogging. I've missed you all. How was your summer?

Finally Part Deux: Oh sure, they look so cute and cuddly now. But this is exactly how the cats from Murcat Manor started out.