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December 16 – 3200 Phaethon, Geminids and Beethoven   Leave a comment

Sky & Telescope diagram from 11/29/17, Bob King S&T blog

December’s not just about the holidays. There’s also a lot of nifty stuff happening in the nighttime skies now. For starters, did you know that there’s a ginormous asteroid headed our way? It’s name is 3200 Phaethon and it’s coming pretty darn close to the Earth – only 6,407,618 miles (or, to put it in perspective, 27 times the distance between the Earth and Moon). And here’s the cool thing about 3200 Phaethon: it’ll be moving so fast you’ll be able to track it! It’s going to be its closest on December 16 and if you have a 3″ telescope, you’ll able to make it out, as it will reach magnitude 10.7. It’ll pass through Perseus on December 12-14, then grow closest on the 16 as it whizzes through Andromeda, then on the 17-19 pass through the Great Square/Pegasus, and eventually heading out of view through Aquarius and Capricorn.

For an excellent article regarding 3200 Phaethon, please read Sky & Telescope’s article by Bob King.

If you do glimpse through a telescope, you might notice that it’s kind of dim as it nears closest to the Earth. That’s because it’s reflecting the sun and its full phase will be on December 12, when it’s not quite as close, and a waning gibbous as it grows nearer.

BUT WAIT! THERE’S MORE!

Go outside after 21:00 UTC/9:00 pm EST and glance toward Gemini for a real treat…the Geminids!

From “The Stars,” H.A. Rey, pp. 44, 97

 

Okay, I admit the above two pictures aren’t that great (I used my iPhone to take a picture of the above pages), but they’ll give you an idea of what and where to look around 9:00 pm. Gemini is a pretty easy constellation to find. If you know what Orion looks like, you can see he’s using his club to point right at them, as if he’s showing you where they are. They’ll be rising almost in the center of the sky, a bit to the south.

3200 Phaethon happens to be the father of the Geminids. As it passes closer to the sun, it kicks off detritus that enables the Geminids to occur (again, please read S&T article for more information – you won’t regret it).

So here’s what you do in order to get the best viewing experience for the Geminids. Try to find an open space that’s relatively dark, away from too much light. Pick out Gemini and you will see two bright stars for their heads – Pollux is the brightest and Castor is dimmer. Near Casto is the radiant, or point of origin for the meteor shower. From there, all the meteors will travel outward. Think of the radiant as the center of a daisy and the petals as the outward-flying meteors.

For your reference, here’s an image from Sky & Telescope:

What also makes this the ideal year for viewing the Geminids is the Moon will be a waning crescent, so its light will not interfere with anyone’s enjoyment. Even when it rises in the early morning hours, it’ll remain more of a passive bystander than a pest, leaving everyone with immense satisfaction instead of disappointment.

So what’s all this got to do with Beethoven?

Besides being one of the greatest composers ever to have lived, he was born on December 16, 1770 (or so it’s believed; another story for another time). His music was included on the Voyager golden disk that was sent out into space in 1977. In case you’re wondering what those works are: “Symphony No. 5 in C Minor, Opus 67: I. Allegro Con Brio,” played by the Philharmonia Orchestra/Otto Klemperer and “String Quartet No. 13 in B-flat Major, Opus 130: V. Cavatina,” played by the Budapest String Quartet.

As you venture out to gaze at the nighttime sky to catch a glimpse of one of nature’s amazements, why not take along a recording of these works and listen as streaks of light flash past, and marvel at the wonder of it all.

Now that’s what I call a celebration!

 

 

When the Writer Can’t Write   1 comment

Once again, I find myself at a loss for words.

I sit in front of the computer, unable to move forward with any discernible thoughts. It’s not as if I have writer’s block. It’s worse. I can’t explain why I’ve lost my ability to create.

My brain begs to differ. All inside of my head there’s a rambling of ideas and plot lines. As I work, I resolve my characters head-hopping ways and force them to tell a story from only one side’s perspective. I’ve figured out how to end that book of mine so that any reader will gasp and say, “OMG! WTF!!” But when I actually open the files and attempt to take on the edits I need to do so I can once and for all submit the book to my agent…no words come calling.

My spirit isn’t up to the task. I can’t even manage to keep up this blog, which I used to write twice a week. Now if I manage two entries a month, it’s an achievement.

You see, I’ve had some significant life changes. The loss of both my parents, my marriage and my career in an 18-month span all added up. Writing lessened the sting. This blog, plus my book, kept me going during the darkest hours. I have a friend who lost his father in a tragic accident and his balm for dealing with his unbearable pain was writing. He encouraged me to keep at it. I did, and it helped. Some of my best stuff happened after pushing back tears and willing myself to concentrate. Use that emotion somewhere, I thought, and as I dug down, I felt the sharp sting my characters faced during a conflict. And as my sister will tell you, that’s where and when my best writing occurred.

Then something odd happened when I moved out of my former home to a new town and began a solo life once more: much as I wanted to, I couldn’t write. Anything.

For fifteen years I lived in a house with my husband and son. Our lives revolved around each other, no matter how awful things turned, and while things grew odd and often painful, that house still was my home. Then I moved out and lived alone. That didn’t bother or frighten me, it’s just how my life panned out and I accepted it. As mentioned in my last blog, I pulled out my computer and resolved to write again. As much as I’d will myself to, those damn words refused to cooperate. There’s only so long one can stare at a screen and not get bug-eyed, especially if there’s no reward for the effort. So I’d give up and feel worse than before.

One afternoon, having the day off from the retail job I took to survive, I regarded a chair from my mother’s former bedroom. She’d had it reupholstered in ecru, with a delicate floral pattern tangled in the weave. Mom set it in the corner next to her dresser. She never sat in it. As she approached the end of her run, that chair provided an excellent substitute for her closet. The same shirts and pants she wore day in and out rested on its back and seat. Now it sits in my living room next to the fireplace. I ran my hand across the top, smiled and thought of her. I sat down in it, leaned back and stared out at nothing in particular. My mind emptied.

And there I remained, for over an hour, paralyzed.

When I finally snapped out of it, I grew frightened. What’s happening to me? I thought.  A tsunami overwhelmed my brain. All that I’d been through, all the loss, the pain, the hurt, betrayal, all of it, consumed me. I gasped for air, sobbing, still in that chair. Is Mom in this chair with me? Is she making me feel this way? Am I cracking up? How did I get like this? What’s wrong with me?

See, I’d been muddling through for so long I’ve never had much opportunity for grieving over all I’ve lost. But in that moment in a chair that never had much use, it handed me a big dose of pain. The tears dried up, as they will, only to be replaced by numbness I’d never felt before. My eyes closed. Sank my head in my hands. Felt my heart race and ring in my ears.

And again, yet another hour drifted passed, without notice.

Finally, I pulled myself up and out of the chair. This is no way to be. The sun shone through the venetian blinds.  A thick carpet of leaves swirled in the breeze on my lawn. A noisy truck roared down the main street. Dogs barked. Life continued in my new hometown, unafraid, normal, as it should be. I glanced out the window and noticed the ruddy shade of the mountains that ring the town. It’d grown late in the day and sunset approached. I could have written this afternoon…why didn’t I?

I’ve beaten myself up too much as of late. That book of mine will be completed. Soon. But I’ve got to reclaim my ability first. And rather than overwhelm myself with what I need to do, I convinced myself I’ll start small, a little bit each day, and write anything, even if it’s once sentence. I can tweet, I can comment on Facebook, I can keep a blog.

It’s writing. It’s a start.

 

 

Posted December 5, 2017 by seleneymoon in Writing

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Moving + Writing = AAAAAAUUGHH!   Leave a comment

Moving Day ~ 1955 North American Van Lines ad, Roger Wilkerson, artist

Here we see a happy, cheerful event, perhaps a turning point in this 1950s perfect version of setting up home in a nice, shiny suburb. The movers, meticulously dressed in sharp, crisp uniforms, shift this family’s worldly goods from the immaculate truck into, one presumes, an immaculate house. A perky puppy leaps near the cute kid’s trike as Mom beams her approval. Smart move! she’s thinking, Now, what box did I pack the scotch in…

In the real world, moving is no such thing as presented above. I should know – I’ve just moved. On top of that I downsized. Who needs all that space when you can streamline life down a few more boxes than a college dorm graduate?

My belongings originated from several destinations: a storage space miles from my new home, plus the stuff I was dragging my former house. I selected some pieces from my parents’ house (would you leave behind the Danish modern meets American Southwest bedroom set? Or the glass lamp with the faded lemons on the inside? I think not) brought more from my last house and wedded the two in domestic bliss.

Since I always need to write, my desk and computer get first dibs on placement and setup. Trouble was, I pulled out all of the wires and neglected to individually wrap/identify each. A spaghetti pile of cables defied my will as I labored to separate them and identify their purpose. My brain scrambled. Now what does this go to again? After a while, I sorted and connected, but not without a gourmet selection of unprintable words.

And even though staring at my computer allows me to feel somewhat normal, a partial turn of my chair reminds me of how much I have yet to do. Sure, I took the worse of my boxes and shoved them in the basement. It’s easy. There they’ll stay, until that next spurt of boundless energy springs forth, oh, let’s say, in 2025. Do I really need that stuff anyway?

What I need is to write. I have a whole host of line editing to do for my book, plus this blog, as well as other pieces and bits I’ve promised to do. While I might be frustrated, I’d be worse if I didn’t have my instrument of creativity available. So please excuse me while I return to my most important task at hand: ignoring the boxes while I figure out how I’m going to make my unpublished work a  runaway bestseller.

Now, where was I again? Ah yes, Chapter three…

 

Posted October 29, 2017 by seleneymoon in Sci-Fi, Sci-Fi Books, Writing

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NY Comic Con 2017 – Star Wars/The Last Jedi Edition   Leave a comment

Why We Go To Comic Cons…

So yeah, I braced the crowds and the stifling heat of the Jacob Javitz Center in NYC to witness one of the greatest events of our lifetime, the Star Wars/The Last Jedi exhibition. I did lots of other things too, but I’ll get to those in a later post.

And sure, I can tell you all about the neat stuff I saw in there, but why bother? I’ll just show you. Here’s what I stood in a very long but moving well line on Saturday.  This is a selection from the exhibit. All pictures and copy are from the Star Wars/The Last Jedi exhibition, sponsored by Verizon.

Here’s a preview of one of the movie posters for The Last Jedi. I felt it especially poignant since the woman depicted has departed our plane for other galaxies far, far away.

It says, “First Order Tie Fighter Pilot Uniform” Exhibit 1 – Tie fighter pilots were one of the key pieces of the first order’s overwhelmingly powerful military apparatus. Potential pilots were selected from the ranks as children and vigorously trained for years to shape their reflexes, visual acuity, and tactical instincts to extraordinary levels. Successful Tie Fighter pilots would go on to hunt enemy craft, protect bases, patrol sensitive territory and escort larger craft throughout the galaxy.”

There is glare on the photo but what I can make out says, “First Order Stormtrooper Blaster Rifle -Exhibit C – This…blaster rifle is the standard-issue weapon for…order stormtroopers. Here shown with attached butt stock a potent…weapon. The…is…durable and reliable, enabling stormtroopers to act as relentless enforcers of the First Order’s will.” (sorry if there are errors in my copy – difficult to read).

These are Kylo’s Tie Fighter (left) and Resistance Bomber (middle).

“Kylo’s Tie Fighter – Exhibit A-1- Kylo Res has inherited amazing piloting skills from his father, though he uses these abilities to pursue the First Order’s enemies.”

“Resistance Bomber – Exhibit A-2- Now reinforced with new combat craft, the resistance fleet dispatches hardy bombers into battle with the First Order fleet, escorted by swift star fighters, the munitions-laden carrier ships drop powerful proton bombs onto their capital ship targets.”

(As read from the copy)

“First Order Flame Trooper Helmet – Exhibit D-1 – Resistance fighters coined the terms “roasters,” “Hotheads” or “Burnouts” to describe this specialized class of stormtrooper. Flametroopers, equipped with flamethrowers and fireproof armor, are feared for their ability to lay waste to the battlefield and flush out resistance entrenchments.”

“First Order Stormtrooper Helmet – Exhibit D-2 – The most dangerous fighting force in the galaxy, First Order stormtroopers are trained from birth to ruthlessly enforce the will of the First Order. ‘A real stormtrooper has no room for sympathy. A real stormtrooper is the extension of the First Order, of Supreme Leader Snsoke’s will, nothing less.’ – Captain Phasma”

“Elite Praetorian Guard Helmet – Exhibit D-3 – The mysterious and fearsome figures known as the Praetorian Guard serve as Supreme Leader Snoke’s personal protectors. Eight in total, their features are completely hidden behind striking red armor meant to evoke memories of the Emperor’s Royal Guard.”

“Kylo Ren’s Lightsaber Hilt – Exhibit D-4 – This lightsaber hilt belonged to Master of the Knights of Ren, Kylo Ren. The distinctive cross guard design, which results in two additional red plasma blades emerging from either side of the hilt, was engineered by Kylo Ren himself.”

“Kylo Ren’s Helmet – Exhibit d-5 – Kylo Ren is the son of Han Solo and Leia Organa, protege of Luke Skywalker, and eventual master of the Knights of Ren. He is known as the “Jedi Killer” among the rank and file of the First Order. His helmet was crafted to mask his visage and voice, concealing his identity as he delves further into the power of the Dark Side of the Force

“Poe Dameron’s Resistance X-Wing Pilot Uniform – Exhibit H – Hailed as the very best pilot in the Resistance, the brash but resolute Poe Dameron quickly rose through the Resistance ranks and became one of Leia Organa’s most trusted operatives. Dameron commands both Red and Blue Starfighter squadrons and flies under the call sign Black Leader, based on his customized, dark-hulled X-wing, Black One. ‘I can fly anything.’ – Poe Dameron.”

Coming next post: more New York Comic Con 2017!

Line Editing A-Go-Go   Leave a comment

How odd the screen looks when you take a picture of it with an iPhone…

It’s come down to this: either I buck up and face the monumental editing task that awaits me, or give up being a writer.

I’ve been shopping around this novel series a bit when, not surprisingly, I’ve been turned down. Yeah, yeah, rejection is inevitable. I ain’t crying about that. It’s part of it. Busting your cherry in the publishing world. One can’t call themselves a writer if they’ve never been rejected at least a hundred times, right?

But after I’ve been subjected to line editing…well, I’m a bit awed that my grasp of the English language seems tenuous at best.

See, for years I’ve been a copywriter. I’ve created pamphlets with the best of them. Wrote web content. Magazine articles. Radio scripts. Flyers. Really, anything that needed describing for a demographic, I did it. Always kept strict adherence to my grammar. Rarely use an Oxford comma or dangling participle. It was this ability to write, coupled with my vivid imagination, that goaded me into writing. And yeah, the story I came up with’s brilliant.

The way I tell it…let’s say it’s a work in progress.

Everyone needs a good editor to make work shine. Hey, diamonds aren’t anything to brag about when you yank them from the earth. Takes a lot of refinement before someone at the local chain store decides it’s the one for the hon. And sometimes a writer gets too close to his or her work. Can’t see errors. I bet if you pressed your face right up to the Mona Lisa, all you’d see is a glob (or the hand of the armed security guards ready to haul you off). You’ve read your work so many times even your characters are sick of invading their turf.

I asked a seasoned, published writer (in this case, my sister Gwen) if she wouldn’t mind reading my book. Since she has an MFA in creative writing and is a college professor, I figured why not. 2,454 comments later, she provided me with all of the details of what makes my book not exactly the novel it can be. While she agreed the story was compelling, the massive instances of head-hopping, substituting internal dialogue for first person singular, thin descriptions of locations or purpose of plot, amongst other things, she pretty much said I needed to go back to the drawing board, but this time with guidelines.

That’s a lot to absorb. Many writers would find all those comments intimidating or insulting. Not me. If I ever want my book to see the light of day, I’m getting to work.

Right after I come home from New York Comic Con this Saturday. I promise!

 

 

 

Fall Back   Leave a comment

Feel the chill in the air?

How can one tell it’s the changing of the season? Just look at all the Christmas decorations filling the shelves at your favorite department store. Yes, it’s that time of year when we start picking out what’s going to twinkle twinkle on our boughs of poly. After all, who wouldn’t want to squeeze out the waning days of summer any other way?

Wait…what’s that you say? We have several other intervening holidays? Like Three Day Weekend in October, Overpriced Candy & Costume Day and the Day Before Black Friday? Oh, them.

As for me, well, it’s autumn when the sun crosses the celestial equator, known as the ecliptic, and enters the constellation Virgo on or about September 21-22 each year. As I labor at my job tomorrow, oh, let’s say around 20:02 UTC, the season will officially change. Day and night won’t exactly be equal, but they’ll be close enough.

Looking for some interesting ways to celebrate the season? Here’s a random list of suggestions:

  • Hold your own MST3K party and dig out the film “Barb Wire.”  Shot in 1995 and set in 2017, it stars Pamela Anderson in the lead role (she tacked on her married last name “Lee” in this film), it’s an utterly unwatchable film wherein our leading lady won a Golden Raspberry award for the worst new actress of 1995. Crack open something cold, chow down on Chinese and let those comments rip!
  • For a much better nightmare, why not check out John Carpenter’s “Halloween.”  Filmed on a minuscule budget and panned by critics, it marked the debut of a vastly talented actress, Jamie Lee Curtis and went on to launch a highly successful franchise. It’s considered a classic these days.
  • If you’re passing through the Hudson Valley of New York, check out Sleepy Hollow, formerly known until 1996 as North Tarrytown. It’s the legendary home of Washington Irving and his headless horseman. Visit his grave and say hi to his fellow cemetery mates Andrew Carnegie, Brooke Astor, Walter P. Chrysler, Elizabeth Arden and more. Fun facts: Adam Savage of “Mythbusters” is a native son. Caityn (“Bruce”) Jenner went to high school here. It’s also the setting for many a film and TV series, notably “House ofDark Shadows,” “Curse of the Cat People” and an episode of “Property Brothers.”
  • Can’t make the drive? Go gaming! Sleepy Hollow is also the location of 2014 game Assassin’s Creed Rogue.  Why not explore its dystopian milieu?
  • How about looking upward on a dark clear night? Spectacular meteor showers await. On October 21, the Orionids peak after midnight. And if the weather cooperates, this’ll be a grand night for viewing – it’s a new moon and unless you’re near a city or other bright lights, it doesn’t get better than this. For other meteor shower activity, visit Sky and Telescope’s web article.
  • Dress up on Halloween, no matter how old you are, just for fun. Throw on your taco costume with a unicorn head and freak out kids coming to your door for treats and trick them, instead. Then give them a pile of processed packaged sugar products.
  • Instead of cheating Thanksgiving out of the respect it deserves, gather your friends and family together, cook up your best free grocery-store bonus turkey and pig out. If holding dinner parties isn’t your thing, go volunteer. Share some kindness. Be a pal and visit an old friend or family member you haven’t seen in ages, or better still, invite them to share a plate at your dinner table. Don’t worry about catching bargains at War-Mart and standing out in the cold to be the first to get a 55″ LED screen for $199. Memories aren’t made of that. Sharing your time and opening your heart will do the trick much better.

So, what are you waiting for? Go out and celebrate! After all, nature’s tossing all of its leafy confetti just for you. Run under its shower with flailing arms and live!

Rough Passages   Leave a comment

I’ve lost track the amount of times I’ve rewritten passages in my manuscript. I slave, I toil, I backspace…only to create something that’s not quite there, yet. It’s as if I’m skipping through daisies, only to fall in a wet, steaming pile of cow plop.

Ugh. I know.

Beta readers all love my story. An actual librarian thought it was terrific. So did an editor. Even someone working in a related industry praised my work. Talk about confidence building. Surely my words are all that…

…or not.

For a great perspective, compare sending out your manuscript to dating. There’s this terrific person, filled with depth and action, with a healthy splattering of romance tucked inside, seeking to meet that perfect partner. After meticulous grooming, advice from friends and lively rehearsals in front of the bathroom mirror, it’s time to face the scene. Step out and seek. Shake a few hands, make introductions, even sip cocktails. Hearts beat faster, breath quickens, a few beads of sweat pearl up around the hairline. A card is passed along, hopeful wishes and tempered optimism dare blossom in one’s heart.

Days pass.

Nothing occurs, not even a text.

Your worst fears are realized, in the form of rejection. It might be that your hopes drowned in a vast pit of slush piles, or forgotten email attachments, or ignored – ghosted – and forgotten. It’s as if that spiffy new dress or snappy hairstyle did nothing to convince Mr./Ms./Mx. Prospect you’re perfect. Great, even.

So what was it you did? What did I say? Or not say? Or do? In the dark of the night, as you ponder for the billionth time, nerves fray and frustration builds. Your abilities feel as if they’ve drifted out to space.

Some might even give up altogether.

Well, look. No one’s perfect. Not even geniuses get it right on the first try.

Sometimes a writer gets too close to the manuscript and perspective skews. Or too many people have said too many contrasting things and you, the writer, can’t figure out what to do any more. The story’s muddled, the characters are unlikable, the plot’s unrealistic, the dialogue’s way too formal.

So here’s a suggestion: seek professional advice.

I’m not saying go out and find a book doctor. Sure, they might help put your story back on track, but they’re expensive and offer no guarantees.

Instead, seek out an honest-to-goodness writer’s group. There are many, but not all have professional writers with published works at major houses (and before you say anything, self-publishing doesn’t always count). Attend workshops they hold. There, you’ll be shown how to strengthen your skills on a variety of topics, from developing compelling characters, shoring up a sagging middle or crafting a dynamic opening line. See if they have a critiquing group where your work can get an honest evaluation. Maybe even a member might be willing to give your manuscript a thorough review. Tell you all about the rough passages and plot lines.

Writer’s groups often meet at libraries, book stores or other public places. Next time you venture into one of these places, don’t hesitate to ask.

Search the web for writers’ conferences. There are many, but legitimate writer’s conferences don’t charge thousands of dollars and promise that your book will be published. A typical writer’s conference will be held in a hotel, with representatives from industry leaders, such as literary agencies and publishers. There’s a roster of known authors attending who’ll give workshops on skill development.

Here’s a great place to start: Publishing and Other Forms of Insanity.  It’s a terrific blog filled with all sorts of links, contacts, industry news and conferences. Bookmark it. Check it often.

And most important of all, have faith. After slogging through all those rough passages, you might just discover how to sail through smooth seas. Besides, you never know…you might meet a great date!

 

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