Get ready for NASA’s shooting star

This post by Mike Staton.
This post by Mike Staton.

In four days, if all goes well – if the weather stays acceptable and there’s no mechanical glitches – Orion, America’s new manned spacecraft, will launch into orbit.

It won’t have crew aboard. In fact, the cabin lacks a life support system. Like Apollo, Orion requires a service module with a large engine and maneuvering thrusters to be fully functional. On this unmanned flight, though, the module is a mockup. The real thing is being built by the Europeans and won’t be ready until 2018.

By the time astronauts fly aboard Orion sometime in the early ‘20s, commercial spacecraft built by SpaceX and Boeing should have been ferrying astronauts to and from the space station for several years. NASA wants to see SpaceX’s Dragon 2 and Boeing’s CST-100 flying beginning in 2017, so American astronauts will have been getting routine rides into orbit aboard American spacecraft long before Orion flies manned.

The heat shield for the first Orion will have to handle a re-entry speed of 20,000 mph. For moon flights, 24,000 mph.
The heat shield for the first Orion will have to handle a re-entry speed of 20,000 mph. For moon flights, 24,000 mph.

So why continue to build Orion when the Dragon 2 and CST-100 will be America’s workhorses when Orion will have only flown twice and both times unmanned? Because Orion will take astronauts where they haven’t been since the days of Apollo – out to the Moon and beyond. Along with Orion, NASA is building a rocket more powerful than America’s moon rocket, the legendary Saturn V. It’s called SLS, or the Space Launch System, an admittedly boring name for a booster that will have a thrust of 8.4 million pounds at liftoff. The Saturn V’s F-1 engines provided 7.5 million pounds of thrust. The SLS at 321 feet in height isn’t as tall as the Saturn V’s height of 365 feet.

In this photo, the heat shield is attached to the Orion crew cabin.
In this photo, the heat shield is attached to the Orion crew cabin.

Five F-1 engines powered the Saturn V’s first stage. Four space shuttle main engines (SSMEs) along with two updated solid rocket boosters will launch Orion. That’s right… the reusable liquid fuel engines of the space shuttle system will power the first several SLS rockets, and when they lay at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean, NASA should be producing disposable liquid fuel SSMEs, known as Rocketdyne RS-25s, for the SLS’s huge fuel tanks.

Right now SLS and Orion lack a mission. President Obama has announced a mission for the early 2020s that calls for Orion to journey out beyond the Moon and rendezvous with an unmanned probe bearing a small asteroid or part of an asteroid. That mission has generated plenty of criticism and may not survive past the Obama administration. If a Democrat wins the White house, be it Hilary Clinton or someone else, the asteroid mission could survive or the new administration could choose a new mission, perhaps a return to the Moon, or no mission at all. If a Republican sits behind the desk in the Oval Office, he or she will definitely end the asteroid capture mission and probably direct NASA to resuscitate George W. Bush’s program calling for a return to the Moon.

Heat tiles like the ones on the shuttle's orbiters are attached to Orion.
Heat tiles like the ones on the shuttle’s orbiters are attached to Orion.

As long as SLS and Orion don’t have a mission, calls to cancel the massive rocket and the Apollo-like Orion will grow. After all, we’ll have the Dragon 2 and the CST-100 launching to the International Space Station courtesy of the Falcon 9 and the Atlas V. That’s big enough of a space program for 21st century America struggling with an anemic economy. That’s the argument I predict we’ll hear. Already critics on Internet space forums say the SLS with its handful of test flight is just expensive to continue to develop and fly. These detractors are predominantly new-space proponents who don’t want the federal government building rockets and spacecraft; they want NASA to buy the rockets and spacecraft from nuspace companies like SpaceX. Some would prefer to see NASA dissolved – and they hate the old-space companies like Boeing and Lockheed Martin. It’s kind of like the argument we hear from the Tea Partiers… we want the federal government out of our lives. In this case, we want NASA out of our lives.

Orion's Launch Abort System, or LAS, is attached to the top of the spacecraft.
Orion’s Launch Abort System, or LAS, is attached to the top of the spacecraft.

So just what will SLS and Orion cost the American taxpayer? In 2011, the cost was estimated at $18 billion through 2017, with $10 billion for SLS, $6 billion for Orion and $2 billion for upgrades to the launch pad. The latest figures show SLS will cost $7 billion through November 2018. For its first test, SLS in November 2018 will fly out of low-earth orbit with an unmanned Orion – and that flight will see a fully functional service module.

The Obama administration as well as Democrats and Republicans say there’s an ultimate goal – Mars sometime in the 2030s. But it’s all cheap talk… no money has been allocated to build the habitation module and other modules and propulsion stages that will be needed for a Mars mission that’s more than pie-in-the-sky dreams. Remember, these are the guys in archetypal knife fights over the Affordable Care Act, immigration reform and Benghazi. Firebrands on the right want to impeach Obama or put him on trial for treason while the hotheads on the left call for former president George W. Bush to face a war-crime trial before the International Criminal Court at The Hague. Humans become a space-faring species? Sorry, hard not to laugh.

Ogive panels are installed around the Orion in order to ensure smooth air flow during the Delta IV launch
Ogive panels are installed around the Orion in order to ensure smooth air flow during the Delta IV launch

Still, space supporters keep trying to lead the rest of the human race into the future. It begins in four days when a Delta IV rocket will lift off at 7:05 a.m. EST from Launch Complex 37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, propelling Orion into orbit. In the four-hour test, Orion will circle the Earth at a distance of up to 3,600 miles before re-entering the atmosphere at around 20,000 mph. The craft will land by parachute in the Pacific Ocean. The flight has been modeled to test launch operations and high-speed re-entry systems such as attitude control, avionics, the heat shield and parachutes. The flight will cost $375 million.

Americans generally like NASA. According to a 2013 Pew Research survey, about 75 percent of Americans view NASA favorably – second only to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention among federal agencies. But look how fast support can evaporate. If you asked Americans what they think of the CDC today after the Ebola scare, their opinion would be far different.

The Delta IV minus the Orion is lifted into position at the launch pad.
The Delta IV minus the Orion is lifted into position at the launch pad.

Since the Apollo days many Americans have bought into the Star Trek vision of space exploration. But when it comes to reaching for their billfolds, they have second thoughts. Even in the early ‘70s – when the Moon landings were headline news – 56 percent of Americans polled by a Harris survey just one year after Apollo 11 thought Neil Armstrong’s first step from Eagle onto the lunar surface “was not worth the money spent,” according to an April Pew Research Center news release. But another Harris poll just a year later – in 1971 – found that 81 percent of Americans agreed with the statement that “nothing can equal seeing the astronauts walk on the Moon as it happened live on TV.” Yet reality can’t be denied – the federal government shut down the Moon program, and two efforts to return to the lunar surface were abandoned. That doesn’t sound good for SLS and Orion, does it? Yet both the massive rocket and Orion are surviving vestiges of one of those return-to-the-moon programs, so in a roundabout way Bush Two’s Moon legacy lives in truncated form. If they’re not canceled, they will be there for a future President and Congress with the will to use them for manned exploration of the Moon, Mars and the asteroids.

Orion's launch vehicle, the Delta IV, stands on the pad, ready to receive Orion.
Orion’s launch vehicle, the Delta IV, stands on the pad, ready to receive Orion.

Nowadays if a SLS critic wants to badmouth the rocket, he calls it a jobs program or the Senate Launch System. It’s a job program because its construction contracts are spread among companies located in big states with lots of political power in the Senate and the House. It’s the Senate Launch System because powerful senators from states like Texas, Florida and Alabama resurrected the heavy-lift rocket after Obama tried to kill it. Spreading the NASA wealth among the states of the Union is a legacy from NASA’s early days when President Kennedy selected James E. Webb to succeed Glennan as the administrator of the federal space agency. Just three months after Webb’s appointment, Kennedy said, “I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth.” An experienced manager, attorney and businessman (he’d served as director of the Bureau of the Budget), Webb made sure NASA dollars flowed into communities all across the nation, making many Americans direct participants in Apollo, the nation’s greatest jobs program. At the peak of Apollo, NASA employed 35,000 workers and watched over 400,000 contractors in thousands of companies and universities.

On a Florida autumn night Orion is transported to the Delta IV launch pad to be mated to the rocket.
On a Florida autumn night Orion is transported to the Delta IV launch pad to be mated to the rocket.

Let’s talk budget numbers. In Obama’s 2015 budget request, he asked for $17.46 billion for NASA, a 1 percent cut from the $17.6 billion Congress gave the agency for fiscal year 2014. The Congress doesn’t think that’s enough. The Senate recommends $17.9 billion; the House, $17.89 billion. But the Congress hasn’t been able to actually pass a 2015 budget, so federal agencies including NASA are running on a stopgap spending measure that extends 2014 funding levels through December 11.

Enclosed by Ogive panels, the Orion is lifted up and mated to its launch vehicle, the Delta IV rocket.
Enclosed by Ogive panels, the Orion is lifted up and mated to its launch vehicle, the Delta IV rocket.

Essentially, though, the Congress since the end of Apollo has funded NASA at about a 0.5 percent slice of the federal government’s budget pie. Congress could hike that percentage to 0.7 or 0.8 percent and fund NASA at around $19 billion – and the space agency could actually start work on some of the space systems like the hab module, advanced propulsion systems, remedial solutions for weightlessness-induced bone and muscle degeneration, and shielding solutions for space radiation exposure. But with survey results showing that only 20 percent of Americans actually want to see a hike in NASA spending, the agency’s budget wobbles along at a level that keeps Mars/asteroid mission planning alive but nothing more ambitious.

Sometime in the 2020s, an Orion manned by astronauts will fly out to beyond the moon and rendezvous with an unmanned probe bearing a small asteroid. The astronauts will conduct spacewalks to investigate the asteroid.
Sometime in the 2020s, an Orion manned by astronauts will fly out to beyond the moon and rendezvous with an unmanned probe bearing a small asteroid. The astronauts will conduct spacewalks to investigate the asteroid.

In other words, we keep getting paper studies that show us how to get to Mars in the 2030s, but no actual startup money gets allocated to build the interplanetary modules and crafts. We can keep calling Orion our transportation to Mars, but saying so doesn’t make it so. Orion is way too small to support astronauts on a multi-month mission to and from Mars or an asteroid.

The photo shows NASA's SLS rocket, more powerful than a Saturn V. It's now being designed and built. NASA hopes to use it for flights to Mars in the 2030s.
The photo shows NASA’s SLS rocket, more powerful than a Saturn V. It’s now being designed and built. NASA hopes to use it for flights to Mars in the 2030s.

Nonetheless, I will be rooting for a successful mission when the Delta IV lifts off in a few days and Orion gets its first test drive in orbit. Right now the gantry enfolds the Delta IV, concealing it and Orion. Soon, though, the gantry will be moved back and we still see the rocket and its Orion cargo in all their rumble-and-fire glory. I’d dearly love to be on hand in 2018 when the SLS bolts away from Launch Complex 39B. Might just fly to Florida to watch the launch. Just think… 8.4 million pounds of thrust. The shaking will sing my body electric.

Birth Seasons Affect your Personality by Cher’ley

This Blog by Cher’ley Grogg


The season is changing back and forth, does that affect your mood? Grrr-I’m laughing.English: Angry catI’m not a Grrr person, but it seems that I should be grumpier since my birth month is in the winter.



Here are a few examples of how your birth seasons affect your mood:

  • Cyclothymictemperament (characterized by rapid, frequent swings between sad and cheerful moods), was significantly higher in those born in the summer, in comparison with those born in the winter.
  •   Hyperthymic temperament—a tendency to be excessively positive—was significantly higher in those born in spring and summer.
  •   Those born in the winter were significantly less prone to irritable temperament than those born at other times of the year.
  •   Those born in autumn show a significantly lower tendency to depressive temperament than those born in winter.

According to an article on Yahoo These mood personalities could be because of what’s available to your mother during certain seasons — such as nutrients, your mother’s level of physical activity, outdoor temperature, types of pathogens, and light exposure. All of these factors play a role in nervous-system development.

Writers will enjoy the Wheel of Emotions when you are thinking of what kind of mood your character is in.


English: Robert Plutchik's Wheel of Emotions
English: Robert Plutchik’s Wheel of Emotions (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Here’s a few more ways birth seasons affect your personality:

  •   Summer lovers (17 percent) – “Happier, less fearful, and less angry on days with more sunshine and higher temperatures. More hours of precipitation was associated with less happiness and more anxiety and anger.”
  • Summer haters (27 percent) – “Less happy and more fearful and angry when the temperature and the percentage of sunshine were higher. With more hours of precipitation, they tended to be happier and less fearful and angry.”
  • Rain haters (9 percent) – “Angrier and less happy on days with more precipitation. By comparison, they were more happy and fearful, but less angry, on days with more sunshine and higher temperatures.”
  • Unaffected by weather (48 percent) – Largely unimpacted by changes in the weather.

Weather Doesn’t Have to Impact Your Mood

Connolly (2008) in Psychcentral found that men responded to unexpected weather by simply changing their plans. Raining? Let’s stay in instead of going for a hike. Unexpectedly warm day? Let’s take advantage of it by going to the water park or beach. Women, on the other hand, didn’t seem as likely to modify their activities, thereby more often taking the brunt of the unexpected weather on their mood.

English: Animated global map of monthly long t...
English: Animated global map of monthly long term mean surface air temperature (Mollweide projection). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 ***What affects your mood? Is it the weather or something else?***


Cher’ley’s Books are listed below and on sale at Amazon and local bookstores. And she has a new one that is freshly published with 11 other authors. 


Stamp Out Murder”.


The Secret in Grandma’s Trunk” This is an especially good book for your Tween Children and Grandchildren.

The Journey Back-One Joy at a Time and the B&W Edition of The Journey BackThe JourneyBack 3

Boys Will Be Boys   The Joys and Terrors of Raising Boys-An Anthology

 Cowboys, Creatures, and Calico 

Fans of Cher'ley Grogg,AuthorAnd please join me on my Facebook Fanpage, that’s managed by one of my most faithful fans: Cindy Ferrell

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Lazy Dog

Jennifer FlatenThis blog post by Jennifer Flaten

I don’t care how old you are, it will always feel wonderful, and a little naughty to turn the alarm off, rollover and go back to sleep.

Since, today is the start of the kids’ thanksgiving break, I got do just that, the alarm went off, but I turned it off and went back to sleep since the kids are finally old enough to enjoy the joys of sleeping in too.

The cats, on the other hand, were not amused. They believe breakfast is late if it hits their dish at 3 minutes past 6a, so breakfast at 7 is completely unacceptable.

To make this point, Noodles, our youngest cat, positioned himself on the pillow next to me and stared at me. Pfff, that’s easy enough to ignore, I just rolled over.

Our senior cat, Pimento, really knows how to get stuff done. He plopped himself right on my chest and meowed pathetically until I got up.

I got up to feed the cats, but Ginger the dog did not. Ginger simply slithered from her spot on the bed to mine.

Ginger is a lazy, lazy dog. If two people are in bed and one gets up, she will stay in bed until the other person gets up. This is nice when my husband leaves early for work, not so nice when I get up to feed the cats, get the kids up and fed, and discover the lazy dog is still in bed.

On most days, Ginger staggers from the warm cozy bed into the living room then hops up on the couch with one of the kids and promptly falls back asleep.007

I am not used to such a lazy dog. Pepper, our first dog, was a charming mix of black lab and Brittany spaniel. He took his job as timekeeper very seriously. He made sure we got up at exactly 6a every day. If we tried to sleep in, he would stand at the foot of bed shifting his weight from paw to paw. Such a subtle sound but one guaranteed to drive you up and out of your bed.

When the girls were babies, if I got up in the middle of the night to tend to the babies, Pepper would get up with me and keep me company. He would also follow me out to the couch on the nights I battled insomnia.

The only thing guaranteed to drive Ginger from the bed is the sound of a cat bowl falling to the floor, especially in the morning when Ginger knows it is filled with canned cat food. She can be sound asleep, snoring even, but if a bowl hit’s the floor she snaps awake and zips into the kitchen to do clean up duty.

Still lazy or not I love that silly dog.

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Giving Thanks for Turkeys–and Other Things

Steph_2 copy (2)This post by Stephanie Stamm.

What do you think of when you think of Thanksgiving? Family, friends, food, the history of the holiday? I’d guess that two of the first things that come to mind for most of us are the purpose of the holiday—that is, giving thanks— and the center of the traditional Thanksgiving meal—the turkey. So, I give you 10 Facts About Turkeys, along with 10 Things To Be Thankful For.

  1. From near extinction in the 1930s, the wild turkey population has grown to over 7 million, and they range throughout North America.
    I don’t know about you, but I’m thankful for those more than 7 million turkeys, and for the power of life to regenerate and to come back from the brink of extinction.
  2. Turkeys eat many different foods, including grass, grain, berries, insects, and even small reptiles.
    Like turkeys, we humans are omnivores (though some of us choose not to eat meat). And we can give thanks for all the many things we have to eat—including the turkey that may grace our table—and for the ability to share what we have with others.
  3. Turkeys like to sleep perched on tree branches to be safe from predators like coyotes and foxes.
    “Meleagris ocellata1”

    Let us be thankful for safe places to sleep—and for those who provide shelter and beds for those in need.

  4. Wild turkeys can run at up to 25 miles per hour and fly for short bursts at up to 55 miles per hour.
    I can’t fly—at least on my own power—but I’m grateful for the ability to walk and run and dance and move. These bodies we have are amazing, and mostly we take them for granted. They deserve some gratitude.
  5. To make babies, turkey hens lay 10 to 12 eggs, one per day, and then incubate the eggs for about 28 days.
    New little turkeys in 28 days—how cool is that! Thanks for reproduction in all its forms.
  6. Wild turkeys see in color and, though they have poor night vision, their daytime vision is three times better than a human’s.
    Senses vary not just from species to species, but from one person to another. Some of us don’t have the use of some senses. But we, like all of nature, have a remarkable ability to accommodate—for one sense to strengthen to compensate for the weakness or absence of another. That adaptability is something else to be thankful for.
  7. The skin on a turkey’s neck, face, and snood (the flap of skin that hangs over the beak) change color with the turkey’s emotions.
    Ah, yes, emotions. Sometimes they hurt us, and make us wish we didn’t feel them so deeply. But life wouldn’t be life without them. We can give thanks for the ability to feel and for the depth of emotion that brings us together and shows us how much we share.
  8. Male adult wild turkeys have 18 feathers in their tail fans. Adult turkeys have about 5,500 feathers total.
    Thanks be to nature for the feathers and the consistency of their numbers. And thanks be to the people who counted them! (Five thousand and one, five thousand and two, five thousand and…)
  9. A group of turkeys is called a rafter.
    As someone who likes words, I’m grateful to know that a group of turkeys is a rafter. An exultation of larks, a murder of crows, and a rafter of turkeys…hmmm, doesn’t quite have the same ring, but still…
  10. Turkeys recognize each other by their unique voices.
    Be grateful for your own uniqueness, your voice, your gift. Only you can sing your song, tell your story, live your life. Speak up, so the other turkeys can recognize you!
“2006-ca-turkey” by Yathin S Krishnappa

And one extra fact about turkeys that I just have to share, though I decided it was probably best not to include a gratitude reflection for this one:

  1. Snood length is associated with male turkey health, and it seems female turkeys prefer males with long snoods.
    I guess size does matter. 🙂

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!



You can find these and more turkey facts at the following links:

Turkey photos from


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I am the author of the New Adult/Young Adult urban fantasy A Gift of Wings(The sequel, A Gift of Shadows, will be released Dec. 10, 2014.)





I have also contributed stories (one fictional and one true) to the following volumes:

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Holiday Hardship by Abbie


Abbie J. Taylor 010This post by Abbie Johnson Taylor

Thanksgiving is almost here. In past years, I’ve lost my mother, two grandmothers, my husband, and my father. Although I try to keep a joyful attitude during this time, the following poem from That’s Life illustrates how difficult the holidays can be for those who have lost loved ones.

English: "The First Thanksgiving at Plymo...
English: “The First Thanksgiving at Plymouth” (1914) By Jennie A. Brownscombe (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Thanksgiving is coming.

Already, a friend far away

asks if I have plans.

I’ll spend Christmas

in the tropics with my brother,

but Thanksgiving’s up in the air

with no husband, father, mother.

Other relatives have plans.


At least I don’t have to clean the house,

shop, prepare food for twelve people,

pick up after everyone,

deal with leftovers

while men watch football,

women fail to be helpful,

children run around,

scream, argue, cry.

It’s not the same.

English: Saying grace before carving the turke...


If you’ve lost loved ones, how do you celebrate the holidays?


Abbie Johnson Taylor, Author of:

Front Book Cover - We Shall OvercomeWe Shall Overcome



Cover: How to Build a Better Mousetrap by Abbie Johnson TaylorHow to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver


Visit my blog.

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

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Bouchercon 2014 by Travis

Travis Richardson_5x7_300dpi (1)this post by Travis Richardson


Two weeks ago I had a fun and exhausting time at Bouchercon, “the world mystery conference.” This is my fourth year to attend and it was held in Long Beach, CA.  From Thursday through Sunday, it seemed I was on the go trying to see writers I admire and say hello to friends I’ve made over the years.  Along with 2000+ attendees we went from panels to author focus rooms to signing rooms to the bar to special events and then back to panels again. Starting out on Thursday morning at 8:30, I went to an Author Speed Dating event where writers paired up and table hopped to groups of readers, pitching their books for 5 minutes (2.5 minutes per author). I was fortunate get there early and pair up with hardboiled fiction writer and memoirist, Josh Stallings. Amazingly, with as much chaos as could be imagined, the event started out smoothly. After a couple of tables, we developed a rhythm. We were both LA writers nominated for awards at the conference (Josh’s memoir All The Wild Children and my short story “Incident on the 405” were both up for Anthony and Macavity Awards). I would start off with elevator pitches about my two novellas and a line about my short story while handing out promotional buttons my wife made. Josh batted cleanup and talked about how he came to write such a personal, heart wrenching story. (You can read the first few pages on the Amazon link above to see how nakedly open and honest he is.) Only when additional writers and fans began to arrive late (think Los Angeles traffic) did the gears of the machinery begin to gum up the dating process. By the time the event ended at 11am, my voice was already hoarse.

My wife, who was up in our room, made me promise to get up there by 11:30, a deadline I barely made as I kept running into friends along the way. This trend happened throughout the conference. Occasionally I stop and talk to somebody I knew through social media, but had never met in person and would miss a panel as a conversation ensued. And for everybody I saw, I felt like I missed several more people I wanted to talk to. At 4 pm, I moderated a panel of amazing short story writers. They were Craig Faustus Buck, Barb Goffman, Robert Lopresti, Paul D. Marks, and Art Taylor. Craig, Art and I were up for short story awards, I got to tease Art about a “Vote for Art” campaign that a museum in my neighborhood had this summer. The panel was terrific and time flew by. I could have asked many more questions when I opened it up the audience.

An hour later, we were at the opening ceremonies for Bouchercon. As a nominee, I was given a certificate for the Anthony, which I will frame. The award would be announced on Saturday, but I didn’t expect to win as international bestselling author John Connolly was competing against the rest of us.  They also gave out other awards including the Macavity which I didn’t think I’d win because Connolly was nominated as well (although I stood closer to the stage than earlier with nominee Matt Coyle). But then something strange happened, when the winner was announced, it wasn’t the best selling Irishman. It was Art Taylor who I had publicly teased a couple of hours earlier. It was wonderful. I had a “one of us” type moment.

The night capped off by walking back from dinner with Scott Adlerberg (a friend I’ve known through Facebook, but never met in person), Stephen Buehler and John Sheppird in the rain. Something that hadn’t happened for Los Angeles several parched months. And that was just Thursday (with a lot left out).

I’ve run out of time, but I’ll try to add pictures and more content to this post later. If you write crime and have an opportunity to go to Bouchercon, I highly recommend it. It is overwhelming and intimidating, but the attendees are open, wonderful people. More soon!

Are there any conferences you’ve been to and recommend?


Travis Richardson is fortunate to be nominated for both the Anthony and Macavity short story awards for “Incident on the 405,” featured in MALFEASANCE OCCASIONAL: GIRL TROUBLE. His novella LOST IN CLOVER was listed in Spinetingler Magazine’s Best Crime Fiction of 2012. He has published stories in several online zines and anthologies. He edits the Sisters-In-Crime LA newsletter, reviews Chekhov shorts at and sometimes shoots a short movie. His latest novella is KEEPING THE RECORD.




smaller Lost in Clover for webKeeping The Record-final-24x36Girl-Trouble-225x300



Imagination Universe, Bipolar Bears, and Mind Gremlins by Craig


This post by Craig Snider

Have you ever heard an artist saying any of the following?

1. I only create when I feel the muse.

2. I wait for inspiration.

3. Write drunk, edit sober.

4. I have to be high to create.

5. I stopped taking my medication because it inhibited my creativity.

6. Monkeys made me do it.

Do as I say hairless monkey human!!

Okay, that last one is just me. But, I’m sure you’ve heard the gamut of these things before. There is a great lack of knowledge about where creativity comes from, and how to harness it. We’ve often heard that many of our favorite authors were troubled in some way, and that those troubles fueled their creativity somehow. Many writers feel they have to be drunk or high in order to reach some higher plane of creative ability. And, I’m sure that to some degree that may be true, but only because they don’t know any other way, or, just spit-ballin here, they’re an addict. Take your pick.

Many writers, such as Edgar Allen Poe and Earnest Hemingway, are suspected to have suffered from Bipolar Disorder, a condition characterized by chaotic mood swings, diminished inhibitions, hyper-sexuality, irrationality, depression, compulsions, attention deficit, memory problems, apathy, and many more wonderful things. Sounds amazing right?

There is scientific evidence to support the theory that many creative people may suffer from this, or some similar disorder, or that many people with bipolar tend to find themselves in creative fields.

“That’s so unfair,” you may be saying. “I don’t have bipolar, and I want to be a writer/painter/whatever.” Does this mean that some people are just genetically predisposed to being more creative than others? That’s ridiculous, right? I mean, it isn’t like there are people who have genetics that make them better at other stuff like sports or anything, right? Hmmm….

No, my point is not that Bipolar Bears rise up against the oppression of the sane and rational majority, taking over Hollywood as their twisted base of operations where they will put out a dizzying array of strange and somewhat intriguing movies that feature animals as the main characters. I’m not. Seriously. I’ve tried already. It just doesn’t work…

Here’s my point. I am a Bipolar Bear. I suffer from this disorder, and I wasn’t diagnosed until about five years ago. So, for the majority of my life, I’ve unknowingly dealt with the ups and downs (see what I did there??) of the mood swings and creative cycle. And, once diagnosed, and medicated, I could really tell the difference in my writing.

Uh, yeah, I’d totally love to rule all of humanity, if only I weren’t so sad…”

So, when I started my medication, it really dulled that edge. Though I felt more like a normal person, instead of a slightly less muscular Incredible Hulk, I had a hard time tapping into that universe again. In fact, it became really difficult to daydream. I know that sounds ridiculous, but it is true. I don’t know the science, and if you guys do, feel free to let me know. But, something in the brain chemistry before my meds allowed me to actively tap into the creative side of my mind, and with that dulled, it was hard to engage the imagination.

Now, I had the challenge of how to find that universe again, unaided by my little mind gremlin. What I discovered was this. The imagination is like a muscle. It has to be flexed in order for it to grow stronger. Whatever the chemistry is in the minds of those with certain mental disorders, it allows them to do this intuitively, just like someone born with more muscle fibers, and longer tendon attachment sites will be naturally stronger than those who don’t. But, it is still possible to systematically increase that imaginative ability.

There are a lot of ways to do it. Meditation is a great way to control your mental state, allowing your mind to be open to random mental associations which can lead to imaginative breakthroughs. Another may be music. Studies have proven that listening to melodic music puts your brain into a more conducive state, and listening to jarring music will do the opposite. Another way is to do writing exercises that force you to think outside the box will help stretch those mind muscles a bit too.

Ohhhhmmm….ohhhmmmm…crap. My butt’s wet again.

Tapping into that creative vein is not always easy, but it can be done. The key is learning to allow your mind to free-associate. This is how our minds come up with innovations, by combining typically unassociated concepts together and seeing what arises from it. A good way to do this is to keep a dream journal, and an idea journal, and also a traditional journal. Idea journals are great for me. Any time you have an idea, no matter how ridiculous, write it down. That single idea may never germinate into a full-blown story, but that idea, combined with the one you write in a couple of weeks may be the perfect concoction for your sci-fi, mystery, alien abduction/bigfoot love story. Who knew?

Free writing is similar in this respect. You just begin writing without any thought of character, story, or theme. This is how Stephen King writes all the time, and it works for him (most of the time anyway. We won’t talk about Under the Dome…). There is a rule in improv comedy that says, “silence your inner critic.” We all try to edit what we write as we write it, but sometimes, you just have to let it pour out of you. And, the more you do it, the more you’ll realize your mind begins to free up those disparate associations. Sure, you’ll still have to go back and edit that mess eventually, but you should keep a free-writing journal as well, where all your mental gobbledegook can just get dumped onto the page/screen.

Speaking of improv. I’ve written before about this, and want to reiterate it again. Improv has helped me in all aspects of my life. And, thanks to my coach’s “Improve Your Writing” workshops, it has helped my writing as well. Opening your mind to the possibilities, and learning how to cultivate that process has more benefits than I can name.

So, the next time you are envying that madman in the corner of the coffee shop, the one with the drool coming out of his mouth, smelling a bit like mouthwash, and dishing out page after page of wonderfully imaginative prose, remember that he probably just needs a hug, a smile, and a good dose of anti-psyhcotics. He’s no better a writer than you. He just has a mind gremlin.

Getting ready for…

For CCThis post is by Nancy Jardine

I will…in a minute!

No NaNoWriMo for me this November, though I did make myself a simple target FINISH THE WIP. The one that’s been going on for months now. I’ve added around twenty thousand words, and completely changed the whole ending, which has also meant revisions to lots of other bits in the plot. I’ve now made so many versions of the story I might change the title to ‘The Umpteenth Version of My Time – Travel Adventure’. I could have been around the universe and back – it’s taken me that long. I’m desperate to type ‘the End’ and have it as my next year’s novel, but what’s stopping me from completing it?Nov promotional poster Nancy Jardine

I’m a well- practised procrastinator. I spend lots of time doing marketing tasks that should take me only a little while, but I really like dipping out from my writing to do things like make a new advertising poster.

Of course, says I, I’ll hold the baby or play with the toddler (my irresistible grandchildren) and that’s concentration zapped again. I won’t go into our serious daily domestics but an 8 month old and 3 year old seem to create such a huge amount of laundry, and other sundry mess, not to mention that it’s feeding time at the zoo all day long. (**insert two big smiley faces here **) – Concentration out of the window!

And it’s so easy to get sidetracked by something simple like a new item dug up from my back garden, which is now the building site for the new house for my daughter and her family – hence them living with us 24/7 since February 2014.

First rip out of plants
First rip out of plants

The immense building delays now mean the house won’t be ready till summer of next year since foundations can’t be done till after the winter- and you can imagine a very flexible schedule on that one.

However, building warrants demand that the plot has exploratory holes dug for drainage inspections. This week’s exploration was an interesting one – the site engineer had to be sure that the Early Nineteenth Century Aberdeenshire Canal hadn’t run right through my garden.

Really? I knew only a little bit about the canal, knew it had been near my house…but not in my garden! My house was built in 1820; the cellar can be a wee bit damp at times…but surely not because of a canal?

Naturally, I had to know a bit more about the ill-fated canal that was only used as a transport waterway for a relatively short time, given the excavation that was done to create it. Opened in 1805, it was a spectacular failure when many engineering projects of the era were fantastic successes. There’s some information in this article


but my local library has some original documents that are incredible primary sources. Sadly, by 1845, the Aberdeenshire Canal was deemed an unnecessary item. A lot of the canal bed was filled in or re-used for the first railway line track that ran through my village. I’ve only dipped the surface regarding the research, but do want to find out a lot more about it for another time-travel adventure that’s ‘sort of forming’ in my scattershot mind.

Another result of the exploration this week is that even more research popped up and waved itself in my face.

Veno's Cough Bottle - Nancy Jardine
Veno’s Cough Bottle – Nancy Jardine

This bottle came to the surface completely intact from that little soil turn over on Wednesday morning. It’s not the first bottle in my collection of ‘dug up items’  but this one is in excellent condition.

Veno’s Lightning Cough Cure.

Well, I just had to go and investigate how old it might be and find out more about the mixture. As a child, I was fed a similar mixture, but I needed to try to find out if this bottle was a lot older than me.  I blogged about my research findings on Thursday. If anyone is interested, I found the story of MR. VENO an enjoyable one. Read a little about his American and UK exploits  at NANCY’S NOVELS

Eight days left now to finish that WIP. The clock is ticking.

Today is accounted for. It’s ‘Christmas Craft Fair’ number 4 where I’m selling my novels (done 3 already in November, and have another Fair on the 28thNov)

Monday 24th  also marks the start of BOOK WEEK SCOTLAND’ (click to find out more). This is an annual event set up to encourage more reading by everyone. There are lots of events planned across Scotland – in schools, libraries and other public venues. Individuals, like me, are also involved. This year, I’m doing author presentations at  nearby Inverurie Library (not my local) where I’ll be outlining the highs and lows of getting published; doing book readings and hopefully selling some more books.

SALTIREThe 30th November is St. Andrew’s Day in Scotland. Although it’s not a national holiday (ie no day off work or school),  some people do celebrate it. My family and I always have a ‘haggis, neeps and tatties’ dinner, sometimes followed by cranachan ( a decadent raspberries, oatmeal and cream dessert) and shortbread. We might even have a wee nip of whisky– except I have to admit I’m not fond of it. The sweeter version of Glayva whisky liqueur is more to my taste.

St. Andrew legends can vary but here are some St. Andrew’s Day links:

This ONE has a funny little animation.



Will I get my WIP finished? (*insert smiley winks here *) What do you think?

Have a lovely weekend!

new blog header 2

Nancy Jardine writes Historical Romantic Adventures, Contemporary Romantic Mysteries

(and hopefully in 2015  a Time-travel Adventure for early teens)

You can find her novels on:

Amazon US Author page,

B &N, Smashwords, www.crookedcatbooks, and other major ebook retailers.

Pop in to her:

WebsiteBlog,  and Facebook sites

ps- Haggis, turnips, mashed potatoes.

Haggis, neeps n' tatties
Haggis, neeps n’ tatties

Book Tour with No Big Publisher Backing by Cher’ley

This Blog by Cher’ley Grogg

If you have no backing from a big publisher,  it’s harder to set up a book tour.

What do you want? Define your goals. Are you trying to sell X number of books? Or do you want to build a platform and make contacts? Will you read from your books or have you written something else to read? Or will you just interact with the folks?How far will you want to go. Less than a hundred miles from your home or more?

The famous Shah Mohammed Bookstore, the one fr...
The famous Shah Mohammed Bookstore, the one from the „Bookseller of Kabul“ by Asne Seierstad. Strange selection of very expensive books. I bought second hand „Nachtzug nach Lissabon“ for 9 USD. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
  1. Set up potential contacts. Perhaps Facebook friends or writing group contacts can help you out.
  2. See where other authors have read on their tours. How have they set it up?
  3. Call bookstores, libraries, universities, bars, restaurants, cafés, and community centers. Also try to think of at least one unusual place to include in your tour. Don’t overlook book clubs or a reading in a private home with at least six people there. Consider including another author or two on your tour. It would be a good idea to take someone with you when going to a private home, unless you know the host.
  4. Always have your distributor and ISBN number handy. It’s The picture is copied from wikipedia:cy. The o...especially essential when talking to a bookstore or library.


Use your personal mailing list and other contacts to publicize your readings as widely as possible. Contact your local news station. Drop off a press release to your newspaper. People are interested in meeting you.

Books in the Douglasville, Georgia Borders store.

Converse with the bookseller about the best location. Treat them with the utter most respect. They can help your sales and make you feel welcome. Make your display pleasing to the customers. Have on hand breath mints, bookmarks, business cards, and extra pens. Have a give-a-way contest to get people to give you their email addresses. A pretty basket with a few non-expensive items and maybe an autographed book will usually do the trick. Entertain your audience. Don’t sit behind your table. Get up, move around, enteract with others. If there is no one there, interact with your host when they are not busy.

If you are going to several cities there are other steps you need to research, but other than motels and travel arrangements, at home or away are about the same.

Enjoy yourself, and remember you are an author, people want to get to know you.

***Have you had a book tour?” If you have had, can you add to this blog?”***

Cher’ley’s Books are listed below and on sale at Amazon and local bookstores. And she has a new one that is freshly published with 11 other authors. 

Stamp Out Murder”.

The Secret in Grandma’s Trunk” This is an especially good book for your Tween Children and Grandchildren.

The Journey Back-One Joy at a Time and the B&W Edition of The Journey BackThe JourneyBack 3

Boys Will Be Boys   

The Joys and Terrors of Raising Boys-An Anthology

 Cowboys, Creatures, and Calico 

Fans of Cher'ley Grogg,AuthorAnd please join me on my Facebook Fanpage, that’s managed by one of my most faithful fans: Cindy Ferrell

Here’s a link to Cher’ley’s WEBSITE


Getting Social

Jennifer FlatenThis post by Jennifer Flaten
We bought the girls smartphones, albeit the cheapest ones possible, for their thirteenth birthday. This was not a gift I took lightly. In order to get the smartphones the girls had to demonstrate their responability by keeping their previous phones, simple cheap flip phones, charged and undamaged for a year.IMG_2322

They also had to agree to use limits (always turned into us at bedtime), and to “friend” us on their social networks.

So, far it’s gone very well. They, of course, have turned into text monkeys who can spend 3 hours exchange 250 one word texts with their friends, but they also text us at random times during the day to tell us funny jokes, share their day or just say I love you.

When the girls started, chatting with me about funny cat pictures and showing my husband Star Wars memes they found on Instagram he suddenly felt left out. This is a man who until now had no electronic footprint; he didn’t Facebook, never joined Linkedin and had no hits on Google.

Sure, he used his smartphone to get directions, order Chinese food, read car mags, and download Star Wars wallpaper, but that’s it. Then the girls started showing him funny Star Wars memes on instagram and cool projects on pintrest.

All of a sudden, he wanted in. One night he sat down had the girls explain to him how the networks worked and off he went pinning and graming.

I love, love, love hearing the three of them discussing a funny meme they shared or seeing the pictures of them raking leaves. I also get a huge kick out of my husband telling me someone repinned his Star Wars pin or so, and so is now following him.

Now if only I could get him to accept my friend request on Facebook.

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