Weekend Writing Warriors No Need For Concern Says the Captain

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I’m still doing excerpts from my SF novel WRECK OF THE NEBULA DREAM until April 14th, the 101st anniversary of the Titanic’s sinking but after that I’m switching off to something else. I appreciate all the comments and feedback! I solemnly promise only 8 sentences this week and thanks for letting me cheat by 2 sentences last week!

Last week our hero Nick woke up in the middle of the night to find the spaceliner’s engines off.  After some conversation with the Ship’s AI and also an officer Nick had met previously, he goes back to sleep. Now it’s the next morning and the engines are running again when Nick awakens.

 “There’s a message,” the ship announced, detecting his wakeful state. “It is a priority message on all my internal com queues,” the AI offered, raising the volume slightly.

            Giving up, Nick threw the pillow aside, and said, “Play the damn thing.”

            The smiling visage of the bearded and somewhat portly Cap­tain Bonlors appeared in holographic form across the cabin. “To all my passengers,” he began, voice deep and warm, “let me extend my sincere apologies and those of  SMT President Gordis Yankuri, on behalf of the SMT Line, for any inconvenience you may have experienced during the night while we performed routine engine maintenance procedures. I know there’s been concern ex­pressed regarding our arrival time at Sector Hub, and I want to assure you we still anticipate an early docking.”

            Running one hand over the stubble on his chin, Nick nodded. The man is smooth, not surprising SMT put him in charge of their newest, most luxurious ship.

Of course Nick doesn’t believe all these smooth assurances (and neither should we LOL).


 I  love and appreciate your comments and feedback! Go here  to find all the other Weekend Writing Warriors and read  an amazing variety of  terrific excerpts…

WRECK OF THE NEBULA DREAM, a 2013 SFR Galaxy Award winner,  is available for kindle, as an audio book or a paperback at Amazon. The audio sample is here.

Wreck of the Nebula Dream – How to Survive a Cruise Ship Disaster

TitanicWith all the cruise ship problems in the news lately, I’ve been seeing advice articles for what to do if the ship you’re vacationing on suffers a disaster. I collected some of the common questions and decided to see how my characters on the Nebula Dream didcompared to what experts suggest. It may be a bit of a challenge to do without providing spoilers….

Can you make preparations in advance for a cruise ship disaster, just in case? On the Titanic, most passengers and crew totally bought into the unsinkable advertising. There were a few, however, who had misgivings for whatever reason. Perhaps the most famous was Esther Hart, a Second Class passenger who was so concerned, she stayed awake all night every night of the cruise, fully dressed. When the ship ran into the iceberg, she and her daughter Eva got into Lifeboat 14 but her husband remained on Titanic and was lost.  On my ship Nebula Dream, I have one passenger who has such a terrible premonition that she demands to be taken back to the planet. In modern times, the experts recommend having some cash, a working flashlight and a fully charged cellphone.

Should you worry about pirates? Titanic didn’t have this problem. We know in the modern world, there are very active pirates in certain areas of the world and while they might not tackle a huge cruise ship, you should be wary if you’re sailing in dangerous waters in anything smaller and/or slower.  Speed is the best weapon for evading capture by the modern pirate. And on my Nebula Dream? Let’s just say absolutely, pirates become a VERY big problem.

Can you trust the crew? The officers and crew of Titanic are generally credited with heroism and selflessness above and beyond. In many of the recent incidents involving cruise ships with engine problems, the crew’s efforts in staggeringly bad conditions have been spoken of  positively by the passengers. My novel was written years before the infamous Costa Concordia episode, where the captain abandoned ship well before all his passengers were safe. On the Nebula Dream, my hero Nick becomes highly critical of Captain Bonlors fairly early on, shall we say.

1148243_97586918If your ship suffers a disaster, should you be worried about food and water?  From the research I did, it seems a person can probably last 2-3 weeks without food, depending on their condition at the start of the fast. Not that it’s recommended! But water is a much more serious issue. Humans can only go 3-5 days without water. No one really had time to worry about either issue before the Titanic sank, although some bread was tossed into at least one lifeboat by the crew. On Nebula Dream they took some nourishment at one point but for the most part were too busy trying to get off the ship and dealing with other issues to worry about food or water.

Some final thoughts: Several of the advice posts mention that with thousands of people stuck together on a cruise ship having problems, things could get unpleasant, and therefore you might want to stick to your cabin as much as possible. On Titanic there were tales of people getting drunk toward the end and possibly some looting. On Nebula Dream there was definitely some of that happening and Nick found a way to keep his own small band of survivors moving around the ship without running into too many other people.

Perhaps the best advice I read, in more than one place, is trust your own instincts about what to do. Ultimately the person who is most invested in your survival is you. Speaking only of my fictional Nebula Dream, the captain at first tries to minimize the trouble the ship is in and Nick, the hero, is not buying it. He takes action in the ways that seem best to him, trying to save as many of the civilian passengers as he can. (Nick is an active duty special forces operator, traveling aboard the Dream through a fluke.)

Since the Titanic sinking is a legend in my family, as one Second Class passenger who survived  was allegedly a distant relation, I grew up always asking myself the question, now what will I do if (name the situation – fire, earthquake, plane crash, workplace violence) happens. I know where the exits are, I know I’m not stopping to turn off my computer, I have a cache of bottled water and emergency rations at the office and in the car…Nine times out of ten there won’t be a disaster, your cruise will be pleasurable and trouble-free, the Great Quake won’t hit…but just keep that little inner ear attuned to your surroundings and the situation and be prepared!

Titanic lifeboat

Weekend Writing Warriors Why Are The Engines Off?

better wewriwaI’m still doing excerpts from my SF novel WRECK OF THE NEBULA DREAM until April 14th, the 101st anniversary of the Titanic’s sinking but after that I’m switching off to something else. I appreciate all the comments and feedback! This scene occurs in the middle of the second night out, when Nick awakens suddenly, realizing the Nebula Dream’s engines have shut down. He’s just asked the Ship’s AI what’s going on. (Um, it’s really 10 sentences but they’re short and you don’t mind too much – do you? I’ll go back to being good next week, I promise!)

“There’s nothing to be concerned about, Passenger Jameson – we apologize for disturbing your sleep. Please resume your slumbers now, with no further care.” The AI’s voice was smooth, glib as always. “Do you require a sleep inject?”

            “No, I do not,” Nick said, allowing his considerable annoyance to creep into his tone. “Why are the engines off?”

            “Merely some required maintenance, sir.”

            Nick glared at the glowing interface. “No one does engine maintenance in the middle of the shipping lanes.”

            Silence from the AI.



 I  love and appreciate your comments and feedback! Go here  to find all the other Weekend Writing Warriors and read  an amazing variety of  terrific excerpts…


WRECK OF THE NEBULA DREAM, a 2013 SFR Galaxy Award winner,  is available for kindle, as an audio book or a paperback at Amazon. The audio sample is here.



It’s All About the Characters

Wreck-of-the-Nebula-DreamFinalMedI’m writing over at Michael J. Martinez’s blog today about WRECK OF THE NEBULA DREAM. He poses a tough question to his visitors – “What makes your  book so gosh darn special anyway?”

Since there are only variations on 5 to 8 basic stories in the world, or so they say, I decided my answer to Mike was going to be about the characters – the people  who are trapped on board the wrecked, drifting ship behind enemy lines…

Nick Jameson, Sectors Special Forces, just off a bad mission and fighting his own inner demons as he works to help others survive the catastrophe…

Mara Lyrae, high powered businesswoman with a top notch intergalactic company…there not to be rescued by Nick, but to struggle side by side with him to save others…

Khevan of the D’nvannae Brotherhood, who for one night will put aside the rules of his Order to back Nick up…

Paolo and Gianna, the two children who are my tribute to all the Third Class children aboard Titanic who didn’t survive – Nick, Mara and the others will do whatever it takes to make sure the kids survive and make it off the ship…

If I’ve intrigued you a bit, please hop on over to Mike’s and read the entire post!

Wednesday Whimsy Queen Cleopatra



What with talking so much about my science fiction romance lately, I’ve been missing the Ancient Egyptian paranormal world! so I decided to show you my latest acquisition of what I call “Egyptiana”. I saw this bust of the queen at the Cleopatra Exhibit last year, in the gift shop, but it wasn’t for sale. I’ve since tracked it down, from Toscano Designs, and now it’s MINE!

Cleopatra is nearly 2000 years after the Egyptian era I write about ( I specialize in 1550BC with a very paranormal twist). She’s way too modern for me, but I’m still fascinated by her. Of course we don’t know what she actually looked like but here’s one statue from her time that was featured in the Museum exhibit.IMG_4382 cleo statue full face ver2

Here’s what Shakespeare said about her:

Age cannot wither her, nor custom stale
Her infinite variety.

But for me, and probably many people, the face of Elizabeth Taylor is the one we visualize when we think of Cleopatra.

One quote from the movie that I always enjoy:

“There are never enough hours in the days of a queen, and her nights have too many.” Really? Even with Julius Caesar and Marc Antony around?


Tales of Thrift Store Treasures

IMG_2130If you enjoy a leisurely cruise through the aisles of the local Goodwill or Salvation Army store, you probably don’t want to go thrifting with me. I walk into a thrift store and immediately revert to serious “picker” mode. Years ago, as a widowed young mother of two, there were months when I literally paid the bills by “picking” and reselling on eBay. (Yes there was a day job but the paycheck didn’t stretch far enough, you know?) I can “pick” an entire thrift store in twenty minutes, less if we’re not finding anything of value, and I’m out the door.

The eBay biz was somewhat different in those days and I started selling before everyone in the world caught eBay fever, which made things easier. I quickly determined going to garage sales was a waste of my time. Far better to go to the local charity thrift stores, where rivers of donated items come together in one place. And the thrift stores, more so then, priced things in a way that enabled a picker to make a profit, whereas at a garage sale, people tended to overprice (in terms of me reselling the item).

We were also lucky where we live – in the general Hollywood area. Lots of industry folks who donate things so there are some fabulous IMG_1588finds to be had….

You can tell the pickers – we’re serious, man. We flip through the items on the racks steely eyed, rarely hesitating. If an item looks promising to me I immediately scan it for the killer flaws – collar, arm pits, missing buttons, stains…you learn what stains you can and can’t get rid of, or cover over with a pretty appliqué…tears, ripped hems…does it have a label? On eBay it’s nearly impossible to sell a garment with no brand name and conversely it’s hard to sell a “gently worn” garment with too fabulous a brand name, because you can’t personally guarantee it’s not a fake. There were sizes and brands we could sell and others we couldn’t sell, no matter what we did.

And sometimes a garment was just too “tired” to resell – a useful term my daughter came up with when there were none of those fatal flaws I mentioned, but it was just too worn to bother with.

???????????????????????????????We (my older daughter became my helper) mostly dealt in clothing, with occasional collectibles, dishes, earrings, vintage toys, Hallmark ornaments. I stayed out of areas where I had no expertise and wouldn’t know a valuable item from a fake, like glassware, furniture, baskets, purses…I did study up on certain types of china that I ran across locally. Some brands were always good to buy, other times there would be only one pattern or even one piece in a certain pattern, worth snapping up. Certain sizes of bowls, for example, might be desirable. Or the sugar bowl lid…

I enjoy the thrill of the hunt, I won’t deny that. Being a picker was hard work though. I had a regular route on Saturdays, three different thrift stores, sometimes a fourth depending on the finds and my budget. A couple of others I’d check on once a month. I got to know the staff in each place, their patterns of when things went on sale, when the most new stuff came out (down to the time of day – one place liked to put new stuff on the racks and shelves at noon on Tuesdays and 2:00 PM on Thursdays). Certain shops had regular donors who provided stuff I could really do well with. One charity had someone who would regularly donate unworn, mint condition T shirts promoting the hottest new computer games either just before or right when the games became available. Buy for $1-2 and resell for $20-30. Another store got a lot of vintage 1950’s dishes…

???????????????????????????????Once I had my treasures unpacked at home there was the cleaning, the photographing (eventually we had two mannequins), the listing, the packing and shipping, dealing with unhappy customers…I was very glad when we could give the whole thing up. eBay Platinum Seller Status is a LOT of work to maintain…

We also had loyal customers on eBay, some of whom became friends over the years. Sometimes I’d do my picking with a certain customer or two in mind (“she’ll like this”)…only to have that person silently disappear forever.

Maybe once or twice a year now I still go to my favorite thrift store, just to play. I pick up a few things for myself and I “catch and release” everything else. I do NOT miss eBay selling. There are only one or two things I’d unhesitatingly grab to resell today – more on that in a moment.

This past Saturday morning for example, I bought a vintage mug for fifty cents that’s worth $30; a signed numbered print by one of my favorite artists for $30 that worth $150; and a suede skirt and vest set for $12 that goes for $100. I also picked up a bunch of fashion jewelry earrings – you know me and earrings! I overpaid for those (in terms of reselling) but they’re for me and I like them. The best earrings find I ever made? My signed $300 Chanel cultured pearl earrings that I got for 25 cents. That was years ago. Trust me, nowadays the thrift store staff would have priced those close to the real value and they’d be at the boutique store. Or listed on eBay by the thrift organization! And good for them, they raise money for very important causes!

Most heart breaking story? A $2 vase that the clerk dropped and broke as she was ringing it up. She was nonchalant about it. I knew it was worth easily $200 but what could I say? I’ll never forget the one that “got away” LOL.

At times I bought an item, positive I was going to make a killing, only to get home and do the research and discover it was a dime a dozen. Or not “the” hot color. Or a reproduction. Nowadays there are apps for resellers and pickers although I have to say it helps to know the obscure but valuable name brands on sight.

???????????????????????????????Sometimes I felt like Fate was nudging me. In the entire time I was reselling, I only saw one vintage Grateful Dead T shirt and that was the day before I was going to help my best friend with a garage sale – her husband is a HUGE Grateful Dead fan. The T shirt was $1, going for $85 on eBay but I kept it. Her husband got a kick out of me wearing it, but since it was all rainbows, tie dye and teddy bears, not his thing.

So what item is it, you ask, that I would buy in a heartbeat and go back on eBay to sell? OK, our best find EVER was a sweater I bought for $1.50 (which was half off that day)….and sold for $1500.00. Yes, folks, if you ever see a vintage Ralph Lauren P Wing sweater in excellent condition on your visit to a thrift store, snatch that garment UP. Unless I see it pwingfirst!

What was your most outstanding thrift store or garage sale find? Or one that got away?

Weekend Writing Warriors WRECK OF THE NEBULA DREAM Assassin or Bodyguard?

better wewriwaSince we’re a month away from the 101st anniversary of the Titanic’s sinking, on April 14th, I’m still doing excerpts from WRECK until then but after that I’m switching off to something else. I appreciate all the comments and feedback! Sadly there isn’t anything Irish in WRECK I could post for today, although there are characters named Rafferty and Casey but it would cause too many spoilers to excerpt them.

So….instead I went for a bit of the description of the D’vannae Brother, a character who has intrigued many of the book’s readers… As the excerpt begins, we’re in Nick’s POV:

He assessed the only other man on the shuttle who was as deadly as Nick himself could be when the occasion demanded –  a D’nvannae Brother, dressed all in close fitting, soft black leather, as they usually were when traveling outside their world. The swirling red tattoo all D’nvannae wore proudly inscribed on the right side of the face, as a sign of fealty to their Deity, was particularly well defined on this man. He must be senior in the hierarchy, given the number of details in the tattoo. Gotta earn those the hard way in the Lady’s service. Halfway paying attention to a broadcast of an inter Sector sports semifinal, the Brother was unbraiding his long, jet black hair, signifying his contract had been successfully complet­ed and he was now at liberty to accept another.

Who on backwater Glideon might have needed such a high-priced, exotic bodyguard? Or been the target of such a re­lentless assassin? The D’nvannae could be hired for either pur­pose, conflicting offers resolved by the whim of the goddess.

If you’d like more about the D’vannae and their Red Lady, I did a post about them on Paranormal Romantics last week.


OK, so at least the picture above is thematic for St. Patrick’s Day LOL!

I love and appreciate your comments and feedback! Go here  to find all the other Weekend Writing Warriors and read  a variety of  terrific excerpts…

WRECK OF THE NEBULA DREAM, a 2013 SFR Galaxy Award winner,  is available for kindle, as an audio book or a paperback at Amazon. The audio sample is here.

If You Want to Meet A Leprechaun

???????????????????????????????If you want to meet a leprechaun, forget chasing rainbows – you’ll have to be in Huntsville, AL tomorrow for the annual St. Patrick’s Day parade. While I’ve never seen the parade myself, even though it’s been staged for many years, I happen to know there’s always a gentleman participating who just….might…be…the real deal Leprechaun.

Well, yes, okay, I’m related to him! But judge for yourself from the photo. I hope you wear the Green on Sunday the 17th because everyone is Irish that day, right? Wishing you many rainbows and pots of gold…from the Brian31711Leprechaun’s sister LOL.

“Leprechauns, castles, good luck and laughter. Lullabies, dreams and love ever after. Poems and songs with pipes and drums. A thousand welcomes when anyone comes!”

“It is better to spend money like there’s no tomorrow than to spend tonight like there’s no money!” –Irish toast

“May misfortune follow you the rest of your life, but never catch up.” –Irish saying

???????????????????????????????“…a sunbeam to warm you, a moonbeam to charm you…a sheltering Angel so nothing can harm you!” Irish blessing

WRECK OF THE NEBULA DREAM Making the Audio Book Part 3

hubble wavyThis is third and final post in my mini series on making the audio book for WRECK OF THE NEBULA DREAM.

So after I fell in love with Michael’s audition for the book (see last week’s post), I sent him an offer through ACX, again using all their standard contracts and forms. He accepted and we were off. I e mailed him the entire book, which as he said in my interview with him, he then read through, as part of his preparation. He had a few questions and we e mailed back and forth a bit. Since the book is a published work, we couldn’t collaborate the way a playwright and an actor might, and change actual lines of dialog BUT listening to the book as he worked his way through recording it was an amazing experience. Some scenes were hard to listen to for me because of the gritty reality he brought to the action I’d written. Others were “aww” moments, hearing my characters interact, especially Nick and Mara.

He completed the first fifteen minutes, which I then had to approve as a gate required by ACX before he could proceed, kind of a quality control. Once we passed that moment, he’d notify me if a chapter was finished and up on ACX for me to listen to. I would rush home from work on those days, believe me. It is SUCH a treat hearing the world of your novel brought to life by a trained, skillful actor. If I could afford it (and he had any interest in doing it), I’d have him read all my novels for me from here on out, before I sent them on submission! I picked up things I’d missed when the book was in edits, I had flashes of totally new ideas, things I thought I knew about the characters changed a bit as a real person embodied them…it was magic! Looking back over our e mail traffic, I see that while listening to Chapter 6, I solved a big plot problem for the eventual sequel – nothing to do with the events IN chapter 6 itself, but hearing my characters talking and interacting sent me down other trains of creative thought.

MichaelRiffle_0125I listened to Chapter 7 three times – it’s got some very emotional moments in it. As Michael said in his interview, even he was affected by the death of one character, and had to stop recording and do that part over, which was the highest praise I think I’ve ever had.

The ACX contract does provide for the author to request do overs and rerecording in a strictly limited amount, or even to cancel the entire contract if they’re unhappy with the end product. (Although there are protections written in for the artist to receive fair compensation.) Obviously that wasn’t an issue with Michael and me.

When the book was fully recorded, which took approximately two months, I officially approved it and zap, ACX sucked it into their system. They perform a quality validation activity of their own and would have notified Michael as the Producer if they’d wanted anything changed about the sound. About ten days later ACX notified us the book was now available through Amazon and Audible.com. We’re still waiting for it to arrive on iTunes (no idea why that part is taking so long).

As the rights holder, when the audio book went live I had a few wrinkles with the meta data, no idea if that was my mistake up front when I entered the book into the ACX system, but their Customer Service is trying to fix it for me. Nothing earth shattering but it affects those famous Amazon sales algorithms LOL.

I would do this again in a heartbeat. ACX made it extremely easy and straightforward and, as I mentioned last week, once they offered to pay a stipend, I received a large number of auditions, although at the risk of sounding like a totally broken record, Michael simply was Nick. Having the opportunity to collaborate with a fellow artist was an incredible experience and I am so hoping we can do another audio book together in the future. I’d love his input on the characters up front, before the final draft of the sequel, since he’d be revisiting them with me!

So, are there any questions I didn’t cover in this series of posts that you’d like me – or Michael – to address? Thanks for your patience with the topic!

ant nebula

Weekend Writing Warriors WRECK OF THE NEBULA DREAM Nick is not psychic…

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Since we’re about a month away from the 101st anniversary of the Titanic’s sinking, on April 14th, I decided to keep going with excerpts from WRECK until then but after that I’m switching off to something else, ok? I’m REALLY appreciating all the comments and feedback! I’ve played with the punctuation a bit to make this eight sentences. This excerpt comes after the part where they’ve returned to the planet, allowed the pregnant woman and her entire party to debark and are now hurtling through the atmosphere, trying to make the rendezvous with the Nebula Dream before she leaves orbit:

There was a tug at his sleeve as he attempted to raise the now warm and watery drink to his lips. 

“Sir, she forgot her pretty knife,” the boy said respectfully, offering the weapon to him, holding it by the lavishly gemmed hilt, stained blade pointed at the deck.

In vain Nick checked the aisle for a cabin attendant. They’d all gone into their private cubicle for a moment – probably gos­siping about the events which just transpired. He reached for the dagger, wrapping it in a napkin. “Thank you – extremely observant – I’ll see it gets back to her, okay?”

Sinking further into his lush chair, he closed his eyes for a long minute. Well, okay, Jameson, now the trip will be boring. Hope you enjoyed the only excitement there’s going to be for the next ten days.

So our Nick is clearly not psychic, LOL.

The story:

Traveling unexpectedly aboard the luxury liner Nebula Dream on its maiden voyage across the galaxy, Sectors Special Forces Captain Nick Jameson is ready for ten relaxing days, and hoping to forget his last disastrous mission behind enemy lines. He figures he’ll gamble at the casino, take in the shows, maybe even have a shipboard fling with Mara Lyrae, the beautiful but reserved businesswoman he meets.

All his plans vaporize when the ship suffers a wreck of Titanic proportions. Captain and crew abandon ship, leaving the 8000 passengers stranded without enough lifeboats and drifting unarmed in enemy territory. Aided by Mara, Nick must find a way off the doomed ship for himself and several other innocent people before deadly enemy forces reach them or the ship’s malfunctioning engines finish ticking down to self destruction.

But can Nick conquer the demons from his past that tell him he’ll fail these innocent people just as he failed to save his Special Forces team? Will he outpace his own doubts to win this vital race against time?

hubble imagenew

I love and appreciate your comments and feedback! Go here  to find all the other Weekend Writing Warriors and read  a variety of  terrific excerpts…

WRECK OF THE NEBULA DREAM, a 2013 SFR Galaxy Award winner,  is available for kindle, as an audio book or a paperback at Amazon. The audio sample is here.