Friday, July 17, 2015

Watch the Night Skies!

It's been a good year so far for space projects and sky-watching.

For those of us planet-bound, there has been a lunar eclipse in April, the Venus-Jupiter conjunction at the end of June, and even the rare appearance of Northern Lights in my area (I didn't see any, but some in town got some good pictures. All I got were mosquito bites).

In June, the European Space Agency's Philae resumed contact with its orbiter Rosetta.

New Horizons brought interest in space back in a big way earlier this week. Yes, I was one of those watching NASA TV online when New Horizons sent a picture before going dark on its flyby. The new pictures that have been released since contact has resumed have been gorgeous to see. Mountains! Craters! A "mountain in a moat"! Fissures! The detail is fantastic. The above site and NASA's JHU Mission to Pluto are the places to check for updated Pluto and Charon pictures if you want to see them before they're released elsewhere. If you like New Horizons on Facebook, you'll also see the images as they are released. It's also on Twitter.

The Planetary Society also has its blogs on non-planet objects and the first news conference.

For those preferring videos, Nova has aired "Chasing Pluto" and there is a documentary from NASA "The Year of Pluto".

I have been so pleased that women have been recognized as part of the New Horizons team and even reported as such in articles. I'm sure women have been involved in previous space projects, but you seldom saw them on camera. Even more encouraging to young scientists is The Student Dust Counter, a project designed by engineering and physics undergraduate and graduate students.

This isn't the last space project that will be reporting back. Dawn is still exploring Ceres, and Juno is still on course for orbit around Jupiter next year, though both have some changes reported in a Planetary Society blog recently. The Planetary Society maintains a chart of solar system missions with monthly updates on upcoming events.

I feel like a little kid again, looking up at the night sky and realizing that there is so much out there. It's been great to see that the New Horizons team seems to feel the same way. Seriously, how cool was it to hear that the dark area on Charon was informally named "Mordor"? I'm hoping the excitement generated by the success of this project produces more missions and interest in space. I'll be expecting more science fiction television shows and YA and children's books, but I'm hoping for many more actual space missions to come.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015


I'm late, I'm late, for a very important date. Yes, I'm late posting today. I've been without Internet Service for two weeks and am at the library now, reading emails and other good stuff.

It started one creepy Friday evening. I turned on my computer. I clicked on the blue “e” with the golden crown. The screen popped up. Blank, except for these words. You’re not connected to a network. Then it gave instructions how to fix the problem. Gasp. Nooooooooo! That can’t be. It worked earlier in the day. But now those little green lights on the modem in the window were winking at me.

Okay. I took several deep breaths. No big deal. It’s happened before. I’ll just unplug everything, wait a few minutes and plug it all back in. I paced the floor, thinking of all the stuff I needed to do on the Internet. A few minutes later, I connected all the wires and waited for Google to show up. No luck, so I tried again. Three times I tried. Those stupid green lights just danced and laughed (don’t say lights can’t talk. These were evil lights.)

I know when I’m beat, so I turned off the computer and told myself it would be all right tomorrow. The next day, however, I decided a wicked genie evidently cast a spell on my Internet Service. (To protect the innocent, I won’t  tell who it is/was, since I’ve since cancelled with them.) Since I was having no luck with making contact, I called the company and after I pushed the right numbers a few times, I finally talked to a very nice young man. He apologized and apologized, and assured me they were working on the tower and service would be restored in two to twenty-four hours. Well, that was 12 days ago.

I must have Internet now, you think, since I’m posting this, right? Yes, I will tomorrow, but with a different provider. They are supposed to install, or whatever they do my service Thursday afternoon. Yay! At the moment, I’m posting from the local library. They have been angels about letting me use their WIFI any time I want to. I’ve been to the library almost every day. And you know what? I’ve enjoyed the quiet, the no interruptions, and the occasional child that wants to show me his/her toys and reminds me of why I write for children.

I also have discovered that life goes on without the Internet. My house is now much cleaner. You can almost see the flowers in the flowerbed where weeds once choked them out. I’m working on putting pictures in albums. I have a slew of them. And I’ve been writing, though slowly, which is just me.

Maybe I needed a break. Maybe I needed a reminder of the real world. Oh, but I miss the cyber world. Hope to be back tomorrow.
What do you do when your Internet takes a vacation?

Happy Reading!

Monday, July 6, 2015

Top 5 Favorite Horror Novels

I admit it. I’m a huge fan of horror novels, especially ones with a supernatural twist that force me to keep the night light on. To me, a sign of a great novel is when the pages of the novel haunt my dreams.

Crossed Out has subtle horror with Stephanie battling evil while helping murdered girls toward the light. I’ve always wanted to write something edgier and frightening. Maybe in the future?
Here’s a list of my top five horror novels. There’s something for everyone—a haunted house, demons, zombies, and a post-apocalypse tale. Warning: Proceed with caution and make sure you have a night light or two handy!
AMITY#5: AMITY by Micol Ostow
Everyone remembers that Amity house in Long Island where a family was killed and others claimed that paranormal influences were the cause. That was in 1975.
In this novel, another family has moved into the haunted Amity house some ten years later. Once again, horror strikes. Just like the movie, this book delivers with horror and edge of the seat terror.
 A creepy tale of a girl who accidentally unleashed something sinister by reading from a book she found. This puts a whole sinister twist on the Greek mythology of a Pandora box.
**The sequel is equal parts creepy and haunting!
Soltice#4 (tied): SOULSTICE by Simon Holt
It’s been six months since Reggie saved her younger brother Henry from the Vours, those demonic beings that inhabit human bodies and feed on your worst nightmares. Then an unexpected person shows up and sends Reggie’s nightmares into reality. Nothing is what it seems.
I couldn’t put this book down! Edge of the seat suspense with twists and turns throughout. The nightmares are intense and very graphic. Reggie’s battle against the Vours is haunting yet you’ll find you can’t stop reading!
 I really loved the whole twist on the ghost hunter theme. Only here, it’s a ghost slayer. Someone who goes out and slays ghosts. Yes, this person destroys the whole essence of a ghost. The unique twist, atmospheric scenery, and a forbidden love is the stuff of great novels.
Ashes#2: ASHES by Ilsia Bick
What I love about this story is it’s not the usual zombie tale. No, this one doesn’t follow any rules. For one thing Bick isn’t afraid to have her characters go to hell and back. And believe me this new world is hell. There are some very intense scenes that would give Stephen King a run for his money. But the beauty of this story is how the little details strengthened the storyline. And the whole premise of an electromagnet wave tampering with someone’s brain in a horrific way is very plausible which makes this story even more terrifying and wonderful.
And finally, anything by Stephen King. Some of my favorites include: the living haunted hotel in THE SHINING; the bloody Prom scene in CARRIE; and the creepy killer clown in IT. But my all-time favorite….
This post-apocalypse novel is the stuff of nightmares. Don’t watch the mini-series, which didn’t capture the horror and terror of King at his best. Ohmigod, on that rat prison scene. Even now I have nightmares over that scene!
What are some of your favorite horror novels?

Originally posted at

Friday, June 19, 2015


Everyone has emotions! Even Vulcans, though they try to suppress them.

And yet, I remember when growing up that my favorite stories were ones where the main character remained calm no matter how desperate the situation was. My favorite television characters were Mr. Spock in Star Trek and Illya Kuryakin in Man From U.N.C.L.E., both very good at hiding their emotions.

That might have been the writing style of the time. I might have been drawn to those books either because as a middle child I had learned that only the youngest child was taken seriously for over-reacting, or because I had been told that the only way to survive a bully (not referring to my youngest sister there) was not to react to them.

When the style changed so that "teen angst" became a thing, some authors seemed to go a bit overboard. Characters came across all sounding the same, like a spoiled youngest child, even if he or she was the eldest.

MG and YA changed again, and so did what was popular. First person POV could allow a reader to feel the character's emotions while the character could tell themselves to try to hide what they felt, to be cool.

Which style appeals to you?

I'm looking forward to seeing "Inside Out" Friday. I'm writing this blog on Thursday, so my reactions will be added late on Friday after the matinee. (For those looking for a review, Gloria Oliver will probably have a link on the Facebook page for YA Authors You've Never Heard Of to her review at some point).

Just from looking at the first trailer, I liked the idea that the emotions were broken down to five - Anger, Disgust, Fear, Joy, and Sadness - with all others being some variation of degree of those five. What's cute is that each of the emotions for each person has something identifying the person - the mother's hair style and glasses, the father's mustache. Interesting that the mother's emotions are depicted as all female, the father's are all male, yet Riley's are male and female. Maybe that will change as Riley grows older. Sadness seems to be in the lead for the mother, while Anger seems to be in charge for the father's emotions. But perhaps I'm over-analyzing too much from just the first trailer.

Some of the trailers raised other questions. For one, I do wonder how Disgust knows what broccoli is before the infant Riley (or even the other emotions) learns even the name of the vegetable. And, since baby Riley had a positive experience (after Disgust and Anger had their say), why is Anger so upset years later that broccoli is on pizza? I'm not hunting down other trailers or the website, though, until after I see the movie, as I want to see the movie without being spoiled.


I'm still processing my reactions. Gloria Oliver's review is here, for those looking for a review. I didn't get any answers to the questions I had coming in to the movie, and the writer in me has a few more "Why?" questions coming out. But I did like it - the artwork is great and the world inside the characters' heads has been well-built.

What do others think?

Wednesday, June 17, 2015


Whether you love music or not, it may influence your writing.

When I write a story, I don’t always mention a particular song. Often though, I’ve heard or played a song on the piano that floats around in my head, and it seems to speak to me as I’m writing. SEALED WITH A KISS, from long, long ago, is one such song. Yes, I know, it’s outdated, but humor me. I enjoy the “old” songs because I understand them better than the “modern” music.

This song was a hit for several different singers, though not so much for the authors, at first. Later, it became quite popular. And as I wrote my YA contemporary novel, LIFE ON HOLD, in 2012, this song spoke to me. I thought of it often while telling Myra’s story.

Photo from Wikipedia

"Sealed with a Kiss" is a song written by Peter Udell and Gary Geld. It was first recorded by The Four Voices in 1960 and released as a single, but their recording was not a hit.

"Sealed with a Kiss" Single by The Four Voices B-side "You're All There Is" Released May 1960 Genre Pop Length 2:03 Writer(s) Peter Udell, Gary Geld

In 1962, Brian Hyland, who often performed Udell and Geld's material, covered the song. Hyland's single began its run on June 6, 1962 and became a hit, reaching No. 3 on both the Billboard Hot 100 and the UK Singles Chart.[2] When re-released in 1975, Hyland's recording charted in the UK at No. 7.

One of my very first books, SECRETS I HAVE KEPT, the print edition published in 2006, the ebook much earlier, has music in it. Jennifer plays classical music on the piano. Casey writes country ballads for his guitar. This was so much fun to write. And opposites do attract. Sometimes.


Then there’s Elvis Presley. Young people today may not know him, but he insisted I include him in the story I’m now shopping around. How on earth could I mention a singer from so long ago and relate him to today’s readers? Good question. We’ll see if I accomplished the task, meaning if a publisher offers me a contract. Some of Presley’s first songs were MY HAPPINESS, THAT'S WHEN YOUR HEARTACHES BEGIN, I'LL NEVER STAND IN YOUR WAY.

Photo from Wikipedia

This has something to do with my latest story.

How about you? Does music influence your writing? Do you use popular songs or write your own or just mention titles?

Happy Reading

Friday, May 22, 2015

Go to Your Room!

For those authors who write middle grade or YA, how much thought do you put into the character's bedroom? If the story doesn't need to focus on that part of the house, probably very little. But even then, do you, as an exercise, visualize what that room might be like?

A child's or teen's bedroom, as the only room in the house that they can be thought to 'own', usually has indicators of his or her personality. Is it messy? Very organized, with everything in its place? Totally chaotic with only a few clear spots that a parent dare step in?.

Are there bookshelves with actual books? Or are the shelves only places to put toys or trophies? What types of posters or pictures are on the walls? Are they the parents' choices (usual for children's rooms) or the teen's?

Being sent to one's room used to be a punishment, but not if the child's room also contains a tv and dvd player or computer or game system.

My youngest sister and I shared a dormer room. She was the super-neat child, with everything in its place. My bookcase was always spilling over with books, while her bookcase had some books, but more stuffed animals and dolls. The top of my dresser was where the statues of horses and my rock collection were displayed. Hers had her brush and comb, barrettes and rubber bands for her hair. The shared closet floor was tidy on her side, cluttered on mine. The room was so small we had to do our homework downstairs at the kitchen table. Our play area was down in the basement. Until our two older sisters moved out of the house and I was able to move downstairs into what had been my oldest sister's room, I felt that I wasn't able to put any personal touches into my 'space'. And yet I see that we each did.

If the story is set in a boarding school, there's probably very few options for expressions of personal taste. Dorm rooms in college used to be the same, usually containing two beds, two desks and, if you were lucky, two closets and/or chests of drawers (sometimes the chest of drawers was inside the closet). Then students were able to bring mini-fridges, microwaves and tvs. Now, with laptops and smart phones, the tv is no longer taking up space in a college dorm room, but other items are.

There would probably be even less space on a spaceship. Perhaps the bed might fold into the wall when not in use. Ditto a desk or clothespress.

How much do you plan ahead? Or do you just list each item in the room as you need to? As readers, how much do you recall of a character's room? Does it add to your understanding of the character?

Wednesday, May 20, 2015


I'm cross posting this from my other blog because I'm so far behind in everything. We've been having wonderful rains that we desperately needed. (More about that in a minute) Unfortunately, with the rains have come storms, lightning, etc. Evidently lightning struck the tower of my Internet provider and I was without the Internet for 5 days. Yes, I went into withdrawal symptoms. I used the WIFI at the library, but couldn't do everything. I am changing providers Tuesday. Yay. Anyhow, I hope you enjoy the story of my signing and the results of our rainfall.

Saturday, I had fun. A book signing at Hastings, Books, Music and Videos. A few people stopped by and some even bought a book. I bribed the wee ones with finger puppets and small basketballs, baseballs, and soccer balls. My hand puppet, Frankie, is a hit with the kids. My biggest seller was ... are you ready for this? DARK CHOCOLATE CANDY KISSES. Yep. Chocolate is a winner every time. One girl walked by my table, eyed the chocolates and went over to the shelves where candy sold. She came back in a few minutes, a dollar bill in her hand, and asked me if the store had any candy for less than a dollar. I told her I didn't know, but my candy was free. She went running back to her mother, (yes, I only gave candy when the parents approved) then back to me and asked how many she could have. I told her five, and she went away happy. In a couple of minutes, her younger sister came over and I gave her the freebies too. I didn't make any money, but the smiles on their faces was priceless

Even better, one of my former third-grade students was at the store and we had a nice visit. He had his father take pictures of us together so he could show them to his friends. And he bought a book for his daughter and one for himself. When a former student recognizes me, it's so much fun. It happens quite often because I taught a lot of children.

Next,  our area has been in a five year drought, and our use of water has been limited. Like we're fined if we use more than our quota a month. I know many other areas are having the same problem. Our son that lives in Southern California says they need rain desperately. I say, keep praying. We had the wettest April this year that I can ever remember. May is well on it's way to being the same.The lake levels are rising. Our water usage is still restricted, but that may change later.


Our pond has been dry for five years. Take a look at it now.

These milkweed were on dry land. A few days after I took this the flowers are no more. I guess they drowned. Monarch butterflies lay their eggs on the milkweed and the caterpillars use the plant for food.
The dragonflies are back.
My son has stocked the pond with fish.
Happy Reading!