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Friday, June 28, 2013

Freaky Friday - Our Moon

Last Sunday was known as Supermoon Sunday, because the moon traveled closer to Planet Earth than at any other time this year. It actually aligned with the sun on Sunday morning; coupled with the fact that it was a full moon made it particularly striking.

The next time we will experience a Supermoon will be in August 2014.

The most common scientific theory for how our moon was formed was when an object about the size of Mars slammed into Planet Earth. The impact knocked a chunk of the planet into our orbit, and that chunk became our moon. We now know that the moon is a vital part of Life on our planet, as it helps to maintain our gravitational force. The impact also explains why the moon is around 100 million years younger than Planet Earth.

During the Cold War, the United States considered blowing up the moon with an atomic weapon. The goal was to show our enemies how powerful we were; supposedly if we could blow the moon apart, we had the power to wipe whole countries off the face of the Earth.

What would have happened if we had really blown up the moon?

Scientists tell us we might have also destroyed our own planet. Molten rock would have rained down on our planet, destroying entire cities, creating tsunamis, and even entire countries could have disappeared in fiery balls. It's possible some of the fragments would form into a ring similar to Saturn's and for the rest of the Earth's lifespan, pieces would break out of the orbit and slam into Earth with asteroid-like violence.

Without the moon stopping meteorites from hitting the Earth, we'd also be under constant bombardment from meteor showers.

But perhaps one of the worst effects would be the oceans. They would become completely calm because without the moon's pull, we would have no waves, no low tide and no high tide. And with the ocean water completely still, ocean Life would die out and the water would become stagnant.

And without the moon's pull, the Earth would spin out of control, wobbling around the solar system so erratically that we would no longer have 24-hour daily cycles or seasons of the year. Some areas could remain in summer year-round while others remained in winter; or they could switch erratically as the Earth wobbled.

All of this would have ended our existence on Planet Earth.

So it's a good thing that the idiots who dreamed up the plan to blow up the moon didn't follow through.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Thursday Thoughts - Life Imitating Art

Today my other blog, Vicki's Angelfish, has been awarded a blog award. If you haven't visited this blog, you might find it interesting.

You see, while I was writing Vicki's Key, I had several angelfish. Vicki Boyd, one of the main characters in the series, uses a front as an angelfish breeder to cover her real job as a CIA psychic spy. And each time I wrote that she was tending angelfish eggs or angelfish babies (known as fry) some of my own angelfish laid eggs.

Flash forward nearly two years, and I have nine aquariums, two of which are honeymoon suites and infant wards. Angelfish, it turns out, mate for life, live to be around 10 years old, and make terrific parents. Some of the babies have grown to create families of their own.

Vicki's Angelfish chronicles my experiences raising angelfish. It includes videos of the angelfish as they hatch and hang on by their heads until they're strong enough to swim... All the way to adulthood.

Shown at right is a male angelfish ten inches tall named Lindsay Buckingfish. He and Stevie Fishnick, a hot platinum angel, have had several clutches of angels. A video of their latest is shown below.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

WIP Wednesday

I will know by the first of September whether my book, The Tempest Murders, will be published this year. If so, it will be released in time for the Christmas season.

It is a stand-alone book and not part of the Black Swamp Mysteries series. However, for all my fans who love Irishmen, you'll be happy to know it features an Irishman named Ryan O'Clery. Here is the plot:

Detective Ryan O'Clery has experienced vivid dreams throughout his life of a woman he loved and lost. When he stumbles upon his ancestor Constable Rian Kelly's journal, he discovers that what he thought were dreams were really Rian Kelly's memories. Nearly two hundred years before, Rian lost the great love of his life during the worst storm in Ireland's history--and during the height of the storm, his soul mate was murdered by a serial killer.

Now Ryan O'Clery is working a series of murders eerily similar to Rian Kelly's cases--but half a world away in North Carolina. Every victim matches the description of his soul mate. And when a reporter, Cathleen Reilly, appears on the scene to cover the cases, she looks identical to Rian Kelly's love -- and the woman in all of Ryan O'Clery's dreams.

Ryan becomes convinced he is the reincarnation of Rian Kelly and Cathleen Reilly is his lost soul mate. As Hurricane Irene barrels toward the North Carolina shore, Ryan must stop the killer before history repeats itself... but time is running out.

The book confronts the question, Is history destined to repeat itself? Or can Ryan stop a killer and be reunited with his eternal soul mate?

Do you believe in soul mates?

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Tuesday Teaser

The excerpt below is from Dylan's Song. While Vicki and Dylan are in Ireland, his grandmother--the woman he called "Mam"--passed away. The following is an Irish tradition to allow the spirit of the deceased to leave the casket through the nearest window or door.

They walked the two miles to Bonnie O'Sullivan's home. Once there, it seemed the entire village had gathered in the parlor. They were crushed shoulder to shoulder in every available inch--except from the body of his grandmother to the nearest window.

There was a two-foot path cleared from the casket to the window and all who stood nearest the empty floor were hushed, their eyes wide. In a brief but poignant ceremony, Mrs. Rowan raised the shade and opened the window, immediately stepping to the side so as not to block it.

All stood back. Vicki's eyes roamed the gathering as the bodies pressed away from the makeshift path. Their eyes were wide as they stared at the casket, as though they expected to see Bonnie's soul rise from her body and glide through the window.

It was totally silent for several moments. Vicki thought she was going to swoon from the clustered bodies and stale air as her eyes moved from one to another: the stooped old man with his cap held tightly in his hands, the women fighting back tears, the overweight man with the bulbous nose and pockmarked cheeks...

Her eyes landed on a tiny woman whose smile reached from one side of her frail but beaming face to the other. Her hair was long and white and though the air was perfectly still, her locks seemed to rise up around her as though caught by the wind. She wore a white gown with lace at the neck and delicate wrists. And as Vicki stared at her, she winked one sharp blue eye.

And then she vanished.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Monday Morning - Reviews

Last week five reviewers reviewed the second book in the Black Swamp Mysteries series, Vicki's Key. I knew where the reviews were supposed to appear but I didn't know the content.

I don't usually pay attention to reviews. If they are all glowing, it's too easy to believe your press and end up with an inflated ego and sense of self. If they are critical, it can be too easy to feel depressed over it. So I simply write the best book I can write at the time and hope that I am always improving... And then let others read the reviews.

But this time, it was a review tour. Not only did the reviewers post their critique of Vicki's Key but then I had to visit the website and leave a comment and answer any questions readers might have for me.

Fortunately, four of the reviews were glowing. Only one reviewer said she didn't understand it. I mentioned this to an acquaintance who makes her living editing and critiquing manuscripts. She said my books were "sophisticated" and for "the thinking reader".

I count myself as very lucky indeed to have such sophisticated fans who keep reading book after book. It's you who keep me writing.

And if you're interested in reading the reviews, the list is found on my website at Just click on the "Media Watch" link in the left menu and you can click through to each review.

Do reviews influence you?

Friday, June 14, 2013

Freaky Friday - Seeking a Friend

I don't get to watch much television these days but I'm very glad I caught a movie recently entitled Seeking a Friend for the End of the World. It stars Steve Carell in a serious role, unusual for him. The premise is that an asteroid is headed toward Earth and there is nothing we can do to stop it.

It will be 21 days until the end of the world.

The movie made me wonder: if you were told you had 21 days left to live, what would you do with it?

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

WIP Wednesday

I will know this September if The Tempest Murders will be released this year, just in time for Christmas. I have to admit, if I had to choose my favorite book, it would be a tie between Dylan's Song and The Tempest Murders.

It's entitled The Tempest Murders because it takes place against the backdrop of two storms. The first occurred in 1839 in Ireland in what is known as The Night of the Big Wind. Today, we would call it a hurricane but in 1839, technology had not advanced to the point where they even knew the storm was coming. It was one of the worst, if not the worst, storm that has ever occurred in Ireland.

The second storm is Hurricane Irene, which slammed into the Outer Banks of North Carolina in August 2011 before making its way up the East Coast, leaving damage and destruction of historic proportion.

It is hurricane season again - having officially started on June 1 - and the forecasters are predicting this year's storms will be frequent and intense.

Do you live in a hurricane-prone area? Are you in one of the northeastern states that never used to be impacted by hurricanes but now is?

What are you doing to prepare for hurricane season?

Monday, June 10, 2013

Monday Musings - Book Returns

If I had a widgit that I wanted to sell to a store, it wouldn't make any difference to me whether the store was able to sell it to one of their customers. Once they bought it from me, I could record the sale as final.

But books are different.

It all started during the Depression of the 1930's. No one was buying books because nobody could afford them. They were too busy trying to find jobs, hold onto their home, and put food on the table. Books became a luxury item.

So the publishing industry instituted the idea of selling books on consignment.

Every book in every book store in America is there on consignment. It means that if the book store doesn't sell it to the consumer, they can send it back.

I once knew an author who won a very prestigious, international book award for his self-published book and promptly received an order for 100,000 copies. Not understanding the industry, he mortgaged his house to pay for the copies and sat back to watch the money roll in.

Six months later, he received 99,950 copies back. AND he was charged for the return postage.

Selling on consignment was supposed to be a temporary measure, one that should have gone away when the Depression ended. And yet, here we are, eighty years later, still doing the same thing.

Is it time for books to be sold the way everything else in American stores are sold?

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Thursday Thoughts - Reviews

I recently spoke to an author who is published by one of The Big Guys. She was under pressure to get a minimum of 60 reviews for her latest book within 30 days of its release. Because it was her first book, she was understandably stressed.

In today's market, it isn't enough to be published - after all, with today's technology, it's easy for anyone to publish their own work.

The difference in whether a book will be successful depends largely on visibility. Reviews are one of the ingredients in the mix. The more reviews that appear for an item on amazon, for example, will often affect where it appears in a search and whether it's a recommended read.

Negative reviews can tank a book, especially when there aren't a sufficient number of good reviews to offset the bad. For that reason, I won't review a book I didn't like. I wouldn't want to be a participant in harming an author's career.

Many print reviewers (magazines and newspapers) have told me they also have stopped negative reviews. Their reason: they only have "x" amount of space and why waste it telling their readers what not to buy? They prefer to focus on recommending those books they particularly liked.

What was the last book you reviewed online?

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

WIP Wednesday - Soul Mates

I will know within the next couple of months whether The Tempest Murders could be released by the end of this calendar year, just in time for Christmas. This is a book I wrote in 2012. It's a stand-alone book, not part of a series, with all new characters.

It involves a detective working a series of murders. Each victim looks eerily similar - same hair coloring, eyes, age range - all females. When a reporter appears on the scene to cover the murders, she fits the profile of the other victims - and also looks identical to a woman he's seen in his dreams throughout his entire life.

Convinced she is his soul mate, he discovers that she is the killer's intended target.

Do you believe in soul mates?

Monday, June 3, 2013

Monday Musings - Quality

I have been reading more lately than I have in years. I attribute that to my iPad because I love reading books on it and I can also quench my thirst for instant gratification by downloading books instead of going to a brick-and-mortar store or waiting for it to arrive in the mail.

But what I've discovered, especially with the proliferation of self-published authors and small, indie presses, is there is an increasing gap between the high quality books and those that perhaps should not have been published at all.

I am reading a book now; I won't mention the name or the author because I don't believe in spreading bad reviews that could harm another author's career. It has a great premise - a time travel book into ancient Scotland, an historical backdrop and era that fascinates me.

I've noticed two on-going problems. One involves punctuation: missing periods at the end of sentences, missing or inappropriate quotation marks, commas hanging in the middle of nowhere. All of these could easily have been fixed with a good editor.

The second is a beginner's set of mistakes - repeating one word or one theme very often, as if the writer is afraid the reader is going to forget from one paragraph to the next. It isn't unusual for a writer to spend weeks, months or sometimes years writing a book. But they should remember that a reader might read the entire book in a matter of hours, so it isn't necessary to constantly remind them of what they read one or two paragraphs back. This problem could easily have been identified through a good critique service or content editor.

In today's competitive market, it is increasingly more important for an author to get independent sources (family doesn't count) to help them hone their craft before submitting it to a publisher. Though the largest publishers still provide editorial support (though that is even dwindling) the small to mid-size publishers often do not, and self-published authors are entirely responsible for their book's presentation.