A List of Three with Nothing in Common

Foreclose on your bank: if more of us took this kind of action against “too big” banks and corporations, maybe customer service would be better.  But why the heck are these people keeping their accounts there?

Anthony Weiner: Honestly. Do we need people like this in public office? It’s an adult job. Seems like only adults should apply.

In the “it’s not rocket science” category: More reasons behind obesity. Yes, it’s true that lack of exercise can lead to weight gain, so if we spend nine hours a day at a desk, and another one or two hours in a car commuting to and from the desk – yeah. We aren’t using our bodies enough. Did we need a study done to tell us that?

My current writing task: a line-by-line review of TTJ: Shipbuilder. I’m restricting myself to one chapter a day so my eyes don’t start skimming over it. Changes are minor, but every bit makes the finished product better.

I hope.

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The Monkey Chased the Weasel

There’s real rain going on over here. This is… unusual… for this time of year. Creeks that by this time are normally dusty troughs are, instead, raging rivers. Small ones. But raging.

Good thing we bought new patio cushions in plenty of time for the warm weather.

We bought our patio set ten years ago, in the bliss of our first summer as a couple. We sat on the swing while we planned our backyard wedding. It wasn’t a fancy set, but we tried to take care of it. But in spite of  our winter habit of storing the cushions in plastic bags and tucking them safely into a waterproof shed, the cushions were faded, ratty, and moldy. I put up with the increasing ugliness for a few years, but after last summer, I could not make myself put them away for the winter. They had to go. I was unhappy with that choice, as I hate to just throw things away. I’d rather reuse, recycle… you know the drill. But nothing I did could make those cushions look better, and the mold issue was not healthy.

So after careful measuring and a few months of research, I made ready to order new cushions. We found some at Home Depot that fit our chairs pretty closely. The swing would need a special order for the swing cushion and for the canopy over it. I measured ten times and placed the order. I’m pleased with the results – it’s a gorgeous color and it fits the swing, and it looks great. Yay!

Then there’s the umbrella for the table. There was no way to find replacement fabric for that. I’d have to throw the whole assembly away and buy a new umbrella. But – the umbrella was actually in good shape. It’s possible to take the fabric off the skeleton and wash it. I’d done that every year, so while it was horribly faded, it was clean. I can live with faded, and who cares if it doesn’t match the new cushions?

Well, I do a little, but not enough to throw it away. So during a lovely early spring, we put our new cushions outside and enjoyed our yard.

Then the weather changed. We brought the cushions inside, but left the umbrella out there. A little rain wouldn’t hurt it.

No, but the wind… That was some wind. While we were eating dinner, we saw the umbrella get pulled right out of the table (all the way UP – it’s a long pole), and then topple onto the patio. Fortunately, the skeleton survived.

The fabric didn’t fare so well. It’s ripped in several places, especially on the ends where the spokes are held. Two of the fabric loops were ripped off entirely, and the fabric surrounding them shredded.

It’s either sew it up or replace it.

Will it surprise you to hear that I don’t sew? I can sew on a button, and I’ve done the odd hem now and then, but any more complicated than that is a joke. Even my hems are sad – long, weak, crooked stitches, that’s my style. Sewing takes patience, you see. That should sum it up.

But I’m not throwing that dumb umbrella away. No sir. I’m repairing it. I’m sewing. I dug up a ratty washrag and cut it up for patches over the shredded parts. I’m sewing the loops back on. A machine would be better, but I don’t have one and wouldn’t know how to use it, if I did. So I’m making many, many stitches as I sew, trying to keep them small. They have to withstand the pressure of the spokes, you see.

My stitches are not straight. Nor are they hidden. But you know? I’m not going to worry about it. When the umbrella’s hooked to the table and open, who’s going to see my lousy sewing job? Who will care? And as I work on it, I feel a silly sense of pride. I’m fixing something instead of throwing it away. Maybe I’ll get several more years of use out of it.

Assuming those stitches hold.

“And a nice chianti…”

Happy Day – friends coming for dinner. I’m going to serve a shrimp ceviche with tortilla chips for starters, along with a fruity white wine. Dinner will be Margarita Chicken, with Cilantro Brown Rice and green beans. Sangria or ice tea for beverages. Dessert is cherry pie and vanilla ice cream. And coffee. Decaf.

I love to cook. It’s all homemade and it’s all organic. Gluten-free, too, since one of the guests is in that category. Actually, the only concession I had to make was to find gluten-free flour for the pie crust. Easily done.

What’s not easily done is that I must clean my house. Hate doing it, but love it when it’s done. I’m off…

 

 

In the Days When Titanic Meant Hope…

Today is the 100th anniversary of the launching of Titanic. A “launching” is not when a ship first sails as a finished product. It’s the day the builders move the ship’s completed hull to a dry dock for fitting out – the interior, in other words.

The ship would be “launched” into the water from its original construction slip. It was always a Big Deal at Harland & Wolf Shipyards, a day of celebration by the entire town, with city officials and reporters in attendance. For Titanic, and many other big ships, it was an international event, with reporters coming in from All Over.

The link above is to the centenary celebration held today in Belfast, at their newly built Titanic Quarter.

On May 31, 1911, Harland & Wolff had more going on than Titanic’s launch. It was also the day that Titanic’s older sister,Olympic, returned from her sea trials and was turned over to her owners at White Star Line. Thomas Andrews presided over Titanic’s launch, then sailed with Olympic on her maiden voyage. As he would be later on Titanic, he head the Guarantee Group from Harland & Wolff. Their job was to make sure the ship worked perfectly, to fix anything that came up during voyage, and help the crew acclimate to the new vessel. Now, that’s customer support!

I’ll lift a glass to Titanic and her builders – those thousands of men who shared in the glory and hope of this day. To add to the festivities, here’s an excerpt from my book, The Time Travel Journals: Shipbuilder, showing the scene at Harland & Wolff when they launched Titanic.

Excerpt from TTJ: Shipbuilder (remember, this is Alternate History, not a factual recounting of Thomas Andrews’ life):

On the thirty-first, Tom was at the shipyard by five in the morning, having gone to bed close to midnight. Before leaving, he held each of his sleeping children for a minute. He would be gone six weeks, and every moment he would miss was pushing down on him.

The day dawned bright, with a sky of deep blue. The air was already warm at eight o’clock, when Lord and Lady Pirrie arrived with J.P. Morgan and Bruce Ismay. Tom continued to supervise the final steps taking place on the dock and in the water, including the removal of any buoys, and the placement of tugs and flagboats to move the ship after her launch. He made sure the flagpole was secure in the stern, and with George helping him, unfurled the flags and hooked them to the pole: the flag for the White Star Line, and a series of white flags spelling out the word “SUCCESS.” The flags would be raised moments before the ship was launched.

At eleven, they opened the gate for spectators to take their places. Jack Andrews reported to his uncle on the dock, ready for duty. Tom inspected him sternly: shirt tucked in, hair combed underneath the cap, shoes clean. Jack bore the inspection well, standing tall and straight, torn between gawking with wonder at the huge ship just a few feet in front of him, and watching his uncle for any sign of displeasure, which could result in his being packed off to the stands with his Aunt Casey and Dr. Altair. Tom made him bear it for only a moment. Then he smiled and clapped the lad’s shoulder, turning to the foreman who stood nearby. “Ho, Albright. Here’s your final worker to help with the blocks.”

“Aye, Mr. Andrews.” Albright motioned for Jack to follow him, and Tom sent him on before continuing his inspection of the boilers. He looked up in time to see Jack join the crew, take a hammer, nod seriously at the instruction given him, and with an authoritative whack!, send the block falling onto the dock away from the ship. The men cheered, and Tom flushed in delight at the look on Jack’s face. Such a simple thing, but the boy would remember it his entire life.

They were ready. Lord Pirrie began his final inspection of the ship, walking up and down the dock on both sides before turning to an examination of the hydraulic launching equipment. He and Tom then walked back to the owner’s gallery, and Lord Pirrie gave the signal.

A rocket was fired and the flags were raised. In the stands, Casey held onto Sam’s hand with a fierce grip and stared in near horror as the ship, which in another time had claimed her husband’s life, slowly moved back and settled into the water. In just over a minute, Titanic was floating, and the anchors and ropes easily brought her to a halt. The excited crowd roared its approval. Jack, next to Sam, jumped up and down, yelling with delight. Standing still amid the tumult, Casey had eyes only for her husband, as he stood in the owner’s gallery and accepted congratulations from those around him.


Baycon Day 1

Checked in and hit the panels:

1. What makes an unforgettable book?

2. How to get published these days.

3. Five new classics of SF&F.

Rick went to Computers – next fifty years.

The best panel was SF classics – we actually got 20, since all four panel members listed five books. More than 20 by the time they were finished.

Some interesting choices and lots to add to our list. Some of them we already have, like Anathem, or Dark Mirrors.

Dinner was sushi. Tonight is Meet the Guests. If it’s like last year, it will start about an hour late.

Day 1 – continued

Meet the Guests started only about half an hour late, but they let us all in the room and help ourselves to cookies while we waited. Way to keep the masses settled.

We sat at a table with a man named Philip Carroll. Philip runs an e-zine called Flagship. Go look at them at www.flyingislandpress.com/flagship.

And if you’ve of a mind to, submit a story! They pay $25, for stories up to 7,000 words. Philip says they prefer the gentler side of SF, with offerings appropriate for middle-grade and up. So you YA folks take note!

We also chatted with Dave, a long-time Baycon attendee. Then the Guests were introduced and we were set free to find our own trouble.

Which we found on our way back to our room. Croquet! In the hallway!

 

This was croquet as Alice played it, complete with flamingoes and playing cards. There was even a Red Queen, who had the red ball, of course, and was not shy about ordering heads off if anyone dared hit it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The creator of this madness was none other than Alice herself,

with her accomplice, the Mad Hatter.

 

 

 

 

 

There was a Trickster in the form of the Cheshire Cat, and Tribbles played the part of hedgehogs, as no real animals could be harmed in our pursuit of fun.

We were a rowdy group of about thirty, with two to a ball, taking turns. The most important rule was Play Gentle, as the hotel was adamant that we not break any of their windows. We did our best to behave and I’m happy to report the hotel is still standing.

With so many people playing, the game took a long time, as you can imagine. It degenerated into simple fun, and the wickets developed the magical ability to jump in front of a wayward shot, ensuring the game moved at a steady pace.

 

 

Note the flamingo on my mallet:

 

My partner in this was Clare Bell, author of The Books of the Named: Ratha’s Creature, Clan Ground, and Ratha and Thistle-Chaser. These YA books are back in print, so go look for them! Hopefully, I’ll have more on Clare later.

Body identified as missing soldier: police – Edmonton – CBC News

Body identified as missing soldier: police – Edmonton – CBC News.

This is the hardest news a mother has to hear. My heart hurts for Sue Curnow and her family, but I take some comfort in the notion that someday, there can be closure. There was so much pain in not knowing where Richard was. As bad as this is, it’s better than Richard being dead and no one ever knowing.

Closure won’t happen today. This day, this week, this year, and many times in the future, will be given to grieving. But Richard has left a young daughter who has her whole life in front of her, and I know her family will always be there for her.

Life continues. It just always does.

Shipbuilder Progress

There are many steps to self-publishing and the learning curve is steep. I’m taking my time, making sure that I understand everything before I do it. I want to be picky about this – when someone holds a copy of my book in their hands, I don’t want it to look obviously different from any other book on their shelves.

But one step has been accomplished. Shipbuilder has a cover!

This will be for both the ebook and the print book. The artist is Laura Shinn, who has a soul of patience. She changed out the pictures more times than I can count! This book was a little more difficult than others, because we had to find pictures of the Titanic (or a similar ship) that are not copyrighted. And we wanted to use pictures of the real Thomas Andrews, but those are all privately owned. He was such a good-looking guy, that all other male models failed to measure up, so we decided to not use any faces at all.

We also struggled to convey the book’s cross-genre aspects. I see it mostly as a science fiction novel, but one with strong romantic elements. Yet it’s not conventional SF romance – it’s more like historical romance. It’s alternate history,but it’s not steampunk. This cover is heavy on the romance aspect, but I think it works. The title, “The Time Travel Journals,” will have to provide the nod to science fiction.

I think it’s gorgeous.

Annoucement

I write about time travel, but as far as I know, we can only access time in one direction. Which is why I’ve been giving lots of thought to the status of SHIPBUILDER. Whatever decision I make, there’s no going back to fix things.

From the beginning, my dream for this book was to have it available in time for the 100th anniversary of Titanic’s sinking, which is April 15, 2012. I wrote the book as my own, admittedly quirky, homage to Thomas Andrews, her chief designer. He was on board for the maiden voyage, responsible for the shipyard’s Guarantee Group. Their job was to make sure the ship worked perfectly, and to fix whatever wasn’t perfect, whether it was a misplaced mirror in a stateroom, or catastrophic engine failure.

The engines worked fine, of course. But they did have to move a mirror.

Every one of those men died. Thomas Andrews was only 39 years old, with a much-loved wife, a 2-year old daughter, and parents and siblings and cousins who all loved him.  I know he wanted to live. And I know he died devastated, heartbroken that his beautiful ship could not save those 1500 people who depended on her for their lives. He would have done anything to fix that.

So I wrote a time travel novel. To give him another chance.

I know it’s fantasy. The ship is still at the bottom of the ocean, and Thomas Andrews long ago became part of that deep sea.  But in the spirit of honor for his legacy, I announce that my book, THE TIME TRAVEL JOURNALS: SHIPBUILDER, will be available in print and e-book formats in September 2011.

I’ll chronicle the adventure as I navigate through the sometimes murky waters of self-publishing. I have a lot to learn. And there’s no going back to fix things.

Science Fiction and Fantasy Author

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