Things That Make Me Smile No.145: Going to Space

I grew up on the promise of space travel, and while we’re far from where we were supposed to be, the dream is still alive. This video gives a good explanation of why what SpaceX is doing is so important, up to and including shipping a car ahead.

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5 Interesting Links for 07-06-2018

Note: Videos may auto start with sound so be prepared.

Body Language (Writing)

An excellent list pairing different expressions and body language with various emotional states.

Innovation (Technology)

If you’ve been following my interesting links, you’ve probably figured out I have a soft spot (every pun intended) for the octopus because of its fascinating structure and capability. Technology has been adapting these abilities for human use in many ways as this article discusses, but the concept of wearable assistance is new to me and intriguing.

Dangers (Volcanoes)

Everyone knows about lava when talking about volcanoes, but here’s one you might not be aware of that’s beautiful and yet has the potential to cause great harm.

DIY (Costuming)

Here are some do-it-yourself (DIY) ideas for making steampunk costumes. They’re creative and adaptable to other purposes if you so choose.

Etiquette (History)

A list of Victorian Era ballroom rules, one of which might as well have inspired my second Regency romance, A Country Masquerade. It’s an interesting glimpse into that period while offering delights for the imaginative, especially if, like warning labels, someone had to do it wrong to make it a rule in the first place.

War Child: A Fantasy Short Story

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Stand & Deliver by Rhenna Morgan

Stand & Deliver by Rhenna MorganI have a new favorite in the series. Maybe it’s the time lapse since the last Men of Haven novel I read, but I don’t think so. Stand & Deliver offers the perfect blend of two people falling in love and a true understanding of family whether connected by blood or choice. Ninette (one of the clan mothers) has a perfect line in the book that defines why I enjoy this series, but the basics are because it’s people supporting those they love without undercutting them. You can be strong and cared for at the same time, but it’s something rarely shown so well in fiction.

As with the others, the book had detailed sex scenes with talk of more risque acts (but no action), swearing, and violence. Some of the last went beyond my lines, specifically in the very end though off-screen, but the reasons were clear and a natural extension of Beckett’s character. This is down-to-earth real, not perfect, people facing real crises. Yes, the Haven men have hard-earned wealth to pad their way, but they don’t use it to make things easy so much as to expedite what’s important… Well, except for when Trevor brings home special Scottish ale for Axel. Which also brings up the element of humor that laces through heavy emotional and sometimes scary story lines.

Each book in the series blends a love thread with some kind of deadly crisis, and how this particular one came together was critical. While all the Haven women are strong in their own ways, Gia is strong in traditionally male ways, or so her father believes. She’s a security professional in her own right, so the muscle Beck has to offer her didn’t come about in the same way even Darya’s story did (Darya being a serious hacker). Sure, Beck makes mistakes in that area, but understandable ones. It’s what the whole crew does at one point that really hammered home their acceptance of Gia as who she really was, though, and I wouldn’t have expected it in a million years.

The “big bad” I figured out in the first third of the book, though I hoped I was wrong. What I didn’t peg was the whole story. When things went south, it was much worse than I’d foreseen by a measure of ten, and worked wonderfully.

Then there was Beck and his sensory processing disorder that gave Gia every opportunity to prove she had what it took to take him on. That’s an odd comment considering it was Beckett who had to convince her and get through her walls, but if you give the book a read, I think you’ll see what I mean.

There are a ton of other aspects I could comment on, but instead, I’ll leave you with this: I started Stand & Deliver because I needed a read I could trust after a few less satisfying ones. Rhenna Morgan repaid my hopes in spades.

P.S. I received this ARC from the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest review.

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Focus on Inspiration: Shafter

This is a mock-up image of Trina looking longingly at the spaceships off screen. The final version graced my first set of book covers.

I hope you’ve been enjoying the Focus on Characters posts as much as I have and now see those people a little differently. I’m not abandoning that series, but I decided to take a break from it to talk about the inspirations behind my stories.

Sometimes I know exactly what prompted a story, and sometimes I can recall the collection of circumstances that led to it. Shafter is in the odd place of filling both types of inspiration. I know the moment that Shafter came into being, with the descriptive title of “Trina,” and yet the story itself draws on a broad collection of experiences and influences.

Trina got her name because I fell in love with the name Katrina in a novel about Scotland. I believe it was Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson, read in a children’s illustrated classics when I was young and impressionable. Why Trina instead of Katrina? I realized every main character I was writing about had a name beginning with “K,” so changed hers. Of course, her sister’s name started as Krista, then went through many permutations over the edits, only to end up with Katie, another “K” name. Sigh.

The story itself was an assignment for a Science Fiction and Fantasy writing course in college. A graduate student ran the class and provided a much-maligned view of writing by focusing on publication.

Her class did not inspire my first submission, which had already happened, but certainly got me into the habit. Sadly, the short story (if 8,174 words could be called that–tip: it can’t) did not fare well in the submission pile, perhaps because I’d crammed not just one world but two into those pages. It contained the full story of the novel, with a good bit less detail, but the same beginning, middle, and end. I’d been tasked with writing a short story, so I sat down and came up with one. I’ve renamed stories of that type as novel synopses masquerading as short stories, because that’s what they are. Still, most can be read as a condensed version, perhaps like the illustrated classic.

Anyway, the original inspiration was my assignment, but this is where the swamp comes in.

I have a swamp in my head.

It’s messy, jumbled, and hard to wade through, but contains everything I’ve read, felt, and experienced. If you’ve seen The Princess Bride (and if you haven’t, you should give it a try), this swamp works much like the one in the movie. Without much of a warning, every once in a while, a bubble grows on the surface then explodes with a loud bang.

Where my swamp deviates from that model is in releasing story elements rather than toxic gas, a fact I very much appreciate.

One such element in Shafter is the feel and style of Ceric. When I was in high school, I did a foreign exchange trip with my Spanish class to Barcelona. We toured the old city as part of the trip, and the feel of that place sank into my bones. I had more pictures of those old buildings than I did of anything, or anyone, else, much to my mother’s disappointment.

First City (and yes, that’s the name for reasons) is not a direct copy of old Barcelona. There are elements of other Moorish cities, a touch of Istanbul, and parts coming purely from my imagination. When I re-read the first section of Shafter, old Barcelona springs to life around me from the architecture to the smell of old stone masonry.

The subway tunnels where Trina grew up stem from New York City, absent any functional cars. I’d spent much more time on the subways in Washington, D.C., but those lacked the aura of neglect and grit I needed.

I’m sure, if I thought long enough, I could come up with other connections, but I think I’ll stop here. I hope you’ve enjoyed this glimpse into how Shafter came to be. The earlier novel drafts spent more time in Ceric than the final, culled for length issues. I’ve revived a few of those in my Treats from the Cutting Room Floor, and most likely will add to the selection when I have the chance.

If you’ve read Shafter, is there an element’s origin you’re curious about? Or is there another of my stories you’d like to see show up on this series?

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5 Interesting Links for 06-29-2018

Note: Videos may auto start with sound so be prepared.

Automation (Life)

My mother told me when I had my first dual-floppy computer if I had to do the same steps more than once, I should automate. I took her words to heart, and in any given day, I have 2-5 different scripts I run. Some do backups, some transfer comments from my Kindle to my documents, and half a dozen others complete little tasks, all of which can be done manually, but require nitpicky simple steps that are easy to automate. This article talks about different ways we can use new tools or scripts to remove the tedious parts of our day and create more time for other things.

Technique (Art)

A philosophical exploration of the difference between photorealism in paintings and actual photographic reproduction.

Farming (Technology)

A university in the U.K. is exploring ways to improve farm production through automation. What I find fascinating is their methods are viable for small farms as well as large, industrial ones. The techniques would allow those who want to farm to do so without needing their children to become a workforce just to have any hope of profitability. This could open the farming life up to more folks and potentially extending the time when they are capable of doing so. Also, tracking back to something I learned in a book about horses, using lighter machines would go a long way to avoiding the damage industrial tractors cause to the soil just as using plow horses can.

Technique (Writing)

A reminder with specific examples of how important it is to show change in your books. This is true for simple transitions in weather and making sure your description matches your calendar period as well as maturing a character’s perspective over the course of a series.

Favicon (Websites)

Technique for creating a favicon for your website that is higher resolution for more advanced devices.

Life and Law Sharable

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