Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Messages from space?

For more than fifty years, SETI, the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence project has listened and watched for signals sent to earth from deep space.

Maybe Deep Space is responding to us! In the last few weeks, meteors and asteroids have come to visit.

Our recent visitors have no connection with SETI, of course. Meteors have bombarded the earth since the beginning, but it does seem the more we learn about the cosmos, the more peril we find.

Asteroids are one of the biggest threats. A lot of people are wrestling with ways to deflect these pieces of rock that are large enough to cause severe damage. It’s probable the dinosaurs went extinct because a large piece of space debris hit North American and formed a crater that we vacation at—the Yucatan Peninsula—65 million years ago.

The worst extinction event discovered so far was the Permian-Triassic about 250 million years ago. It’s estimated that more than 90 percent of all species vanished, so who knows what strange and different species used to live here. In cosmic terms, we’re only renters, Johnnies-come-lately.

Do we have what it takes to handle these visitors, which are really our neighbors? These aren’t even from deep space. Several ideas have surfaced, including shooting them out of their orbits with everything from nuclear bombs to lasers, but these solutions may only result in bunches of smaller meteors hitting us, rather than one large one.

SETI recently ran a contest to name a newly discovered moon of Pluto, and the winner? William Shatner who submitted Vulcan. That’s right, Captain James Kirk of the USS Enterprise won naming rights.

Maybe we can talk to him about a tractor beam to move those looming asteroids away.

In fact, NASA is working to develop these as a way of sample collection for their rovers. And now scientists at the University of St. Andrews and the Institute of Scientific Instruments have developed a miniature tractor beam themselves.

Is the future now?

Michele Drier is the author of the paranormal romance series, The Kandesky Vampire Chronicles. The five books are available at Amazon and a boxed set of the first four novels is also available at B&N and Kobo. She also writes the Amy Hobbes Newspaper Mystries and is working on the second in the series, Labeled for Death. 

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Have you heard about the President’s wife?

Hope you've had a happy President’s Day. We also hope that, while reflecting back on our presidents, you didn't forget their First Ladies.
            For years we’ve glimpsed the presidents’ wives on television, in movies and on magazine covers, but how much do we actually know about these women?
            Actually, quite a lot, I suspect.  
            To test your knowledge, here's a mini-quiz for you. Your challenge, should you choose to accept it, is to guess, in  each question, which of the three listed names is correct.  I'll post the answers in a day or two.

Header by Samulli

  1. This First Lady wrote the best-selling "Millie’s Book," a story about the family’s dog. Was she Hillary Rodham Clinton, Barbara Bush or Pat Nixon?
  2. Another First Lady graduated from Princeton University, then went on to Harvard’s Law School. We're talking about Martha Washington, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis or Michelle Obama?
  3. Her parents died during her high school years. She went on to graduate from the University of Southern California.  Was she Pat Nixon, Eleanor Roosevelt or Laura Bush?
  4. This First Lady later served as Secretary of State. Her name is Abigail Adams, Hillary Rodham Clinton, Michelle Obama?
  5. This president’s wife had twin daughters. She’s Rosalynn Carter, Laura Bush, Nancy Reagan?
  6. After she kicked a pain-killer addiction, she founded a Center for Drug and Alcohol Rehabilitation. Her name:  Lady Bird Johnson, Laura Bush, Betty Ford?
  7. Among other things, her husband was a peanut farmer. Mamie Eisenhower, Rosalynn Carter or Sarah Polk?
  8. This first lady was an associate at a law firm. Her husband was a summer intern she took under her wing. Was she Eleanor Roosevelt, Mary Todd Lincoln, Michelle Obama?
  9. This president’s wife was an actress who appeared in several movies. Her name at birth was Anne Francis Robbins, but as First Lady we called her Rosalynn Carter, Nancy Reagan, Lady Bird Johnson?
  10. Her husband served an unprecedented four terms. She was Nancy Reagan, Eleanor Roosevelt, Hillary Rodham Clinton?
  11. When her husband took the office of president, this First Lady was only 31 years old. Was it Abigail Adams, Jackie Kennedy or Rosalynn Carter?
  12. Her birth name is Claudia Alta Taylor, but we knew her as Michelle Obama, Laura Bush or Lady Bird Johnson?
  13. People criticized for her extravagant shopping sprees and, after her husband’s death, grief overwhelmed her. She was Mary Todd Lincoln, Rosalynn Carter or Dolley Madison?

            How did you do? Did you get more than you thought? If a few ladies stumped you, come back tomorrow for the answers. Thanks for playing.



Sunday, February 17, 2013

Love After V-Day

Here we are, three days after Valentine’s Day. What do I talk about? March winds, April rains, May flowers? How about romance. After all, though we just passed the Day O’ Romance, who’s to say we have to only think of romance one day a year? Personally, the coolest thing about being a romance writer  is that I get to think of romance 365 days a year, usually without people looking at me as if I were totally nuts. I said usually, okay?

Romance writers are frequently seen as hacks or people whose talents don’t allow them to write “real” novels. Truth is, it’s HARD to write a romance novel. You have to simultaneously bring together and keep apart a man and a woman. Think about real life for a moment.

In the 21st Century, two people who are attracted to each other tend to just jump right in. Not only do they sleep together, they are willing to move in together. Folks are even quick to get married—and just as quick to divorce.

Romance writers play matchmaker for fictional heroes, heroines, weres, vamps, aliens, other creatures, or any combination thereof. But then, we have to pull them apart and put up a wall. BUT, the wall has to have enough holes in it that the two victims characters don’t lose interest. And we like doing this.

And why are we considered nuts?

Maybe we’re looked down on by some literary types, but those who read romance want more. And writers are happy to supply the books. In fact, I need to get back to my latest couple.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Love is in the air! Or is that decay?

I'm back! Just like a bad penny or well preserved zombie, I keep turning up!

Like so many others, I saw the new romantic zombie comedy (rom-zom-com) Warm Bodies this past weekend. Though not for everyone, it was exactly what I wanted it to be. Funny. Sarcastic. Irreverent. Meaningful. And yes, romantic. My husband called it schmaltzy, thinking the feel good, all-you-need-is-love message was a little heavy handed. I can see where he's coming from, but I have to disagree. I think the schmaltzyishness is the point. It's supposed to be heavy handed. It's supposed to be over the top. When you're bringing the dead to life and creating a romantic hero out of a rotting corpse, I think you have to take the message over the top. At a certain point, there's no reason to play it safe. When you're reenacting Romeo and Juliet using militant, gun-toting teenagers and zombies? Yeah, the time for playing it safe and subtle has passed.

If you haven't seen Warm Bodies, I recommend it. If you have seen Warm Bodies and have a hankering for some more movies that blend zombie horror and comedy with just a touch of romance, here's a list of my top 6 (why 6? why not?) for your viewing pleasure.

6) Serenity (2005). Fine, fine, it may be a bit of a stretch. Okay, it is a stretch. BUT look at the Reavers and tell me they don't have some zombie characteristics? They aren't technically undead, they aren't technically dead, but the cannibalism and total death of their humanity counts. Add in the lovely blend of action, snark, and sexual tension Joss has built his career around, and I say Serenity has a place on this list. And, given that it's my list, I can do what I want.

5) Fido (2006). It's like Lassie, if instead of a collie, Timmy's faithful pet was a lumbering male zombie named Fido. And even though Fido is a good boy, you know sooner or later he was bound to slip his leash and bite that nosey old neighbor. How will Timmy get out of this one?

4) Dance of the Dead (2008). Who hasn't wondered what would happen if zombies were to invade the high school prom? Dance of the Dead actually explores the question.

3) Planet Terror (2007). One half of the Rodriguez/Tarantino Grindhouse double-feature, Planet Terror has bio-weapon zombies and Rose McGowan with a machine-gun leg. Really, I think I've said enough.

2) Zombieland (2009). Forget Columbus and Wichita, the main romance here is between Woody Harrelson's Tallahassee and a much sought after box of Twinkies. It's a thing of beauty. As is Bill Murray's cameo. This movie just makes me happy.

1) My number one choice, and all-time favorite movie, is Shaun of the Dead (2004). The romance is sweet, but it has NOTHING on the bromance between Shaun and Ed. Watch it. Love it. Join us. JOIN US!

One of us, one of us.

Rub a Dub Dub Read in the Tub

Want to know a secret? I love to read in the tub. One of my favorite things to do is to climb into a warm, bubbly bath with a paperback. Add a finger food snack like carrots or tangerine slices and some chamomile tea and I’m in heaven.

Although I have a Nook, I read paperbacks when I settle in for my soaks. I’ve been waiting for e-reader manufacturers to come out with a waterproof reader, but recently, a friend told me she puts her Kindle into a Ziploc freezer bag when she baths. I might follow her example. Have you tried it? How did it turn out?

Apparently, my friend and I aren’t alone in this bath time reading addiction. I just found out there’s a National Read in the Tub day. It’s this Saturday, February 9th I’m already day dreaming about my afternoon and the story I’ll plunge into.

Consider joining the celebration this Saturday, splash in your tub with a book from your to-read pile. Or if you’re looking for something new to try, here are 13 suggestions I’ve recently enjoyed.

Header by Samulli

  1. MetalMark~Ella Drake
  2. The Selection ~Kiera Cass
  3. The Secret Things of God~Dr. Henry Cloud
  4. Wither~Lauren DeStefano
  5. Creating Character Emotions~Ann Hood
  6. Hill Country Holdup~Angi Morgan
  7. Three Stations:An ArkardyRenko Novel~Martin Cruz Smith
  8. Last Apprentice Slither~Joseph Delaney
  9. The Replacement~Brennda Yovanoff
  10. Madman’s Daughter~Megan Shephard
  11. Touch of a Thief~Mia Marlowe
  12. Proof of Heaven~Eben Alexander
  13. Flash and Bones~Kathy Reichs

Happy National Read in the Tub Day!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Hate Resolutions? Don't Blame You

By Eilis Flynn

Okay, I don’t really hate New Year’s resolutions. They have their purpose. But I’ve always maintained that if you’re going to resolve something, it could be done at any time of year, not necessarily at the beginning of the year. There’s so much going on at the start of January that there’s no point in putting that kind of pressure on yourself, I figure. Right?

Right. Anyway, for many, many years my New Year’s resolution was not to have a New Year’s resolution. Original, I know. But then one year I decided to broke through my reluctance about this resolution business and resolved to make one.

And that was it for the year. I resolved to make one. That was my resolution. Baby steps. Baby steps! Also a copout, but baby steps. (But note the date. January's just too busy for that kind of thing!)

I think I made a real resolution last year. What it was, I can’t tell you, mainly because I don’t remember. That was the other problem with this resolution business: you have to remember what the resolution was. Write it down and tack it up somewhere so you see it on a regular basis and feel guilty if you’re doing your best to ignore it. I tend to lose things in the vast pit of my home office, so it’s all too easy to ignore your best-laid resolutions if you can’t FIND them.

But that’s my problem, not yours. This is another case of “Don’t be like me! CLEAN your office!” And of course, that’s another resolution in the making: “I resolve to clean my office.” Which I’ve been doing, actually, little by little. Didn’t start last January, though, so that wasn’t the resolution I can’t remember. The mess in my office finally got to the point that even I, who became expert in ignoring it, had to address it. Also, we’re expecting a houseguest in the next year or so, so I have to be able to see the floor, not to mention the top of the daybed. (Yes, hope springs eternal and all that.)

But that’s my home office. My desk at work, at the day job (Evil Day Job [EDJ]), is relatively neat. I think it’s the fact that I have regular visitors there, whereas my home office virtually never does. (There’s no room. Seriously. It’s a small room to start with, but it’s still got more room than my cubicle does.) We keep things as neat or organized as we need them to be, so I tell myself that I’m organized enough on my desk. (And as the old saying goes, if you tell yourself something enough, you’ll eventually believe it.)

Anyway, back to the original topic, about resolutions. I think I’m going to make one this New Year’s, mainly because it seems like an exotic thing to do. Something worth resolving to do. Never mind cleaning my office; I have to do that anyway. Finish writing a book I started ages ago and couldn’t finish because my hands weren’t working? That’s a good one. Now to choose a book.

Eilis Flynn can be found to argue with at Facebook, Twitter, or at her website at www.eilisflynn.com.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

It's Who We Are - Personality

You might be an extrovert if you'd rather attend a party than sit at home watching tv. If you get a charge from being around crowds, small or large. If you sit down by a stranger at a conference, party or on a plane and within ten minutes they know what you do, that you're in love, your astrological sign and whether you liked War Horse.

If you prefer solitary work, avoid crowds, and plan what you're going to say on every phone call, you might be the opposite, an introvert. Granted most of us aren't entirely reclusive or totally hedonistic partiers but the fact remains that we humans differ in some obvious and not so obvious ways.

One of the presenters in a workshop I'm taking this month gave us a link to an easier online Myers Briggs type personality test. http://41q.com In less than 5 mins it will tell you your personality and at http://typelogic.com you can view a more complete description of your profile, or that of one of your family members or perhaps the heroine in your novel, as well as some celebrities with your type. The results indicate whether you are an (I)Introvert or (E) Extrovert, (N) Intuitive or (S) Sensing, (T) Thinking or (F) Feeling, (J)Judging or (P) Perceiving with many different values for each.

It's important to realize there are no bad answers. It takes all types to make this world go round, :) The more we know about ourselves, our family and friends, the better we're able to connect, build bridges and bond for lasting relationships.

My uncle brought the book "Please Understand Me" and the personality test to my mother's when the women of the family were gathered after one of Mom's cancer surgeries. Taking this test was quite an eye opener for all of us and in our family at least - the word bossy became synonymous with a certain personality profile ;) All kidding aside, it did open up new understanding between my mother and her identical twin who were the same personality type, except one was the extrovert, my mother, and my aunt an introvert.

For the first time, I saw why my mom had such a hard time understanding my father and me. We were both introverts and she just couldn't figure out why we weren't like her. Too many times to count I heard, "Oh, you're just like your father!" We were a constant frustration. As for me, I've taken this test at different stages of my life under various circumstances. My result hasn't varied much: I'm an INFP, my goal in recent years to understand myself better and learn to be happy with who I am.

These tools are fascinating whether you use them for fun, in a work setting, at a family reunion, or to design characters in your stories.  If you'd like more information you can pick up  Please Understand Me or one of the more recent takes on personality, Quiet or (I like the sound of this one) Self Promotion for Introverts I know, I'm slighting the extroverts out there like D.T. But I guess extroverts don't need therapy because when you look up extroversion on Amazon you get mostly books about introverts, :))

So, did you take the 41questions quiz? Care to share your profile and any insights or surprises? Are you an introvert or extrovert? Do you make decisions based on gut feelings or are you a 'by the numbers" planner?
For writers, there's an excellent program called Write It Now that has a character generator built in. You can choose enneagrams, archetypes or Myers Briggs style profiles to create characters.(As an added bonus it also has a name generator and history timeline.)

Do you think someone's personality can be changed?