Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Guest post - A. E. Williams: Why MANNED Space Exploration? A Treatise on the Necessity for Manned Spaceflight

The inherent danger of the privatization of manned space flight is in the news, again, with the recent destruction of the Virgin Galactic SpaceShip Two class test vehicle, the VSS Enterprise.

The test pilots on this flight were Peter Siebold and Michael Alsbury, and astronaut Alsbury died during the crash. The bravery of these men has allowed humanity to boldly go, again, into the exploration of the unknown.

Three days earlier, a non-manned private mission by Orbital was destroyed six seconds after launch when it went off course.

Less than two weeks after the Virgin incident, the robotic lander Philae, bounced around on the surface of Comet Churyumov–Gerasimenko (67P).

Space exploration is a funny thing for humans to undertake.

As a species, humanity has an innate curiosity about everything we experience, and a need to dissect and understand the intricacies of our world and the larger Universe surrounding it. It applies to all aspects of life. We want to know more, always more, about ourselves, other people, cultures, and the ways in which we interact. We want to know about the WHY, and the HOW. The human race is cursed by infinite curiosity, ever reaching into unknown areas.

This aspect of humanity has caused untold suffering, in that we have inflicted our wills and viewpoints, often violently, in the name of one cause or other. People have been vilified, categorized as worthy of extermination, conquered, and enslaved over the perception (right or wrong) that they were the cause of some misfortune or other.

The expansionist and egoistic leaders of the past have forced us to evolve, to develop civilized societies that provided the foundations for the great achievements to which we bear witness today.

There is a particular selfishness amongst these leaders to be remembered by history, to be thought of as to having added to the posterity of their lineage. Our major technological achievements are the culmination of perhaps thousands of critical minds, yet few are honored by the text books of our schools.

So, when manned space flight comes up as a subject of discussion, it stands alone in the context of being a truly human experience, shared by visionaries and workers alike.

And, in my view, that is an odd arrangement of agreement on a planet so fraught with disagreements over petty and trivial things.

At this time, the United States Space Program counts 18 astronauts as having given their lives in the exploration of space.

Of course, there are far more sacrifices than that, if one includes the scientists, test engineers, technicians and other people who were killed from the inception of rocketry, through the Cold War Space Race, and leading up through today’s corporate adoption of manned space flight.

I personally can name at least fifteen people with whom I worked who have died that were instrumental in making significant advancements in the industry. Some died of heart attacks, some of ‘natural causes’. Some died because of the technology.

Now, I do not want to assume that the value of one person’s life is worth more or less than any other.

I would like you to consider that almost all of these people, I feel, would argue that being a participant in our Space Program was worth all of the cost and effort expended, including the loss of lives.

Let me be clear – people die in warfare, millions of them.

Their lives are certainly every bit as valuable as yours or mine, or your children, or any other human.

But, for the brief time we inhabit it, most of us are bound to this planet.

The vast majority of humanity never goes any higher than their local hilltop.

Many climb mountains, or fly in an airplane.

But an astoundingly paltry few of us have made it into space, the Great Unknown that weighs above all of our heads for the entirety of our lives.

And that’s a damn shame.

And it needs to be corrected, right now.


AN ANNOYING AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL DIGRESSION

Figure 1 shows a photograph of the SR-71 Blackbird, on display outside of the Air and Space Museum in San Diego, California, where I was visiting in October of 2012.

The Blackbird had two J-58 engines, manufactured by Pratt & Whitney, and I was privileged to have been part of the team that provided experimental data on test stand A-1 back in the early and mid-1980’s.


Figure 1 - Science Fiction Author and Jet Engine Guy

You can see me posing with the SR-71, which is a magnificent aircraft, well ahead of its time, whose performance is still unmatched to this day.

A lot of that was because of the unique airframe, and a lot of it had to do with these magnificent beasts of engines.

The SR-71 was a satellite that orbited the Earth within its own atmosphere, providing tactical data and information on the enemy forces that threatened the United States during its tenure. It could be deployed and on-station within only a scant few hours, and, because it was flown by pilots, also had a built-in ability to deal with escalating strategic situations instantly.

The men who flew it were representative of the best of humanity - sharp, keen minds, physically excellent and dedicated to the cause of advancing our knowledge.

Figure 2 – SR-71 Main Engine, the J-58, in Full Afterburner, Non-Assisted
Figure 2 is a picture snapped on the A-1 Stand[1], in the midst of the Florida swamps, from that time.

You can see these diamond shaped “things” in the exhaust.

Those are called “shock-diamonds”, and occur at high speeds, above supersonic. 

The engine is in afterburner mode here, which is NOT anything compared to when it ran in RAMJET mode. The J-58 used a hybrid system that allowed normal aspirated flight during take-off and landing and climb to altitude. It had a mechanism that would move an aerospike inside of the engine, that could manage where the supersonic shock waves would occur, and, at altitude, by-passed the turbine section to operate fully as a ramjet.

BTW, I am in this photo.

Now, if you can’t really see me in this photo, it’s because I am in the blockhouse, behind that engine - with my hand on the throttle.

Let me tell you, it was something else. That raw power, unleashed in front of your eyes, watching those numbers on the Mach gauge climbing to classified levels!

The ground rumbled, the building shook, and it felt as though an earthquake were happening right there!

Only, if I reduced power, it didn’t shake quite as much, and if I gave it MOAR POWER it really started to loosen your fillings.

Now, I am not saying this to brag about the experience.

I want to share the excitement and feeling of awe that I felt to be there, at that moment, which was the culmination of hundreds of people’s efforts, testing, calculations and sweat.

Some additional annoying autobiographic info:

This is the F-14 Tomcat:
Figure 3 – Top Gun
It uses the TF-30 afterburning turbojet engine, and was one of the premier aircraft ever created, with a movable swept-wing for optimal performance across its flight envelope.


This is the F-15 Eagle:

Figure 4 – F-15 Eagle
It has the distinction of being the only aircraft to shoot down a satellite[2].
The F-15 can stand on its tail and accelerate vertically in a climb to over 25,000 feet.

And this is the F-16:

Figure 5 – F-16 Falcon, Affectionately Known as the ‘Lawn Dart’

The F-15 and F-16 both use the F-100 engine.

The F-15 has two of them, the F-16 only one (hence its nickname).


This is the F-22 Raptor:

Figure 6 – F-22 Raptor
The F-22 uses two F-119 engines, which are derivatives of the F-100, and much more powerful. As well, they have interesting vectored nozzles. I was involved in setting up production areas for these.
All of the engines powering these planes were built by P&W. And, I worked on all of them, in one capacity or another.


To bring us full circle into the realm of manned space flight, I would like to introduce the STS, or Space Transportation System:


Figure 7 – The STS Space Shuttle


This is one of the three Space Shuttle Main Engines used on each STS flight:[3]

Figure 8 – Space Shuttle Main Engine


These are the LOX and Fuel turbopumps for that engine:

Figure 9 – SSME Turbopumps.
(Image copyrighted internally by P&W, but widely disseminated as marketing materials.)

All of this technology was developed from decades of hard work. People trained for years to develop the skills needed from math, science, engineering, chemistry, and physics disciplines. There were hundreds of people involved in design, testing, materials science, aerospace engineering and physics. 

Thermodynamics, statics, and physical chemistry all lent a hand in determining how best to create these marvelous machines. There were architects, construction workers, plant safety and industrial security, electronics and electricians, custodians, clerks, accountants, contract specialists, government liaisons, and more than I can list, all involved in just building the facilities where these fantastic creations could be built and tested.

There were shipping and receiving areas, warehouses with forklifts, trucks, aircraft, computers, mainframes, and test areas. At one point, over 8,000 people were involved in manufacturing, testing and getting the engines to where they were needed.

There were plenty of mistakes, and outright failures, such as one of the turbine disks exploding during a test and puncturing a containment vessel, then shooting off into a wall in a bathroom – over a hundred feet and three rooms away.

I put in a pretty decent amount of time, working in many disparate areas. There was a huge amount of secrecy, security and record keeping.

So, when I start off telling you how interesting, exciting, dangerous and absolutely mind-blowing it is to have worked on these programs, I hope you can understand my passion.

I hope to make it very clear why I feel so strongly that manned space flight is maybe the most important thing EVER that humans have undertaken.

And, I also hope you can understand my excitement that manned space flight is entering a new phase with the opportunity of having private corporations engaged in continuing the tradition set forth in the last five decades by governments.

That is trivial adventure compared to what is a routine daily mission to our best.

Many years ago, in the original Star Trek series episode Return to Tomorrow, Captain James T. Kirk outlines to the crew of a mythical starship, (also christened ENTERPRISE), the importance of accepting that risk.

You can view this inspiring speech here.

It was written by John T. Dugan, under the pen-name "John Kingsbridge", and is probably the best and most succinct reason anyone involved in space exploration can give as to "Why?"

That speech has always stayed with me, and is one of the reasons I ended up where I am.

The facts are the same now as they were then -- when you have complicated machines, thousands of people involved in constructing and launching the most advanced mechanisms mankind has ever created, and the inevitable constraints of cost and time, you are going to have to assume some measure of risk.

Humans have accepted that risk over the centuries, which is why we stand at a pinnacle of great achievements today.

Our current world is a fast-paced, interconnected global powerhouse of talent and intellect. Every day, advances are made towards creations that free the majority of us from worries about survival, including clean water, sanitation facilities, and food.

Yes, we still have a very far way to travel before we have alleviated these problems for all of us, but I would illustrate that those problems are ones of political and not technical nature. We have the ability to feed, clothe, house, educate and care for everyone on the planet. We do not seem to have the necessary maturity to rise above prejudice and bias about each other – yet.

A manned space program provides that vision, and the necessary maturity to do the hard things. There is no margin for error. The attention to detail is ferocious, and the consequences permanent.

We learn, we try, we fail, and we integrate the lessons into our future endeavors. People and equipment are lost. Decades of work disintegrate as we all move into the future, and the hard-won secrets are sometimes lost as well.

Above all, we have had the privilege of watching the best of us test the bounds of Earth, touch the Heavens, and leave footprints on other worlds.

It is for this reason alone, the celebration of the hubris of humanity, that we need to continue to reach out, accept the risks and continue on our journey of manned space exploration.

“Ad Astra Per Aspara.”


ABOUT A.E. WILLIAMS

A.E. Williams has a unique background of military experience, aerospace engineering and intelligence analysis. He is the author of the exciting hard science fiction series Terminal Reset.

Portions of this essay are taken from previous forum posts, or are excerpted from Author’s notes from “Terminal Reset – The Coming of The Wave – Episode Eight”.




[1] Source: Kurt Schmidt Writes:
“The picture actually shows test cell A-1 at Pratt and Whitney’s West Palm Beach facility. I had the pleasure of working this test cell in the mid 1980’s. This test cell was actually an altitude simulation cell used for testing purposes. (We had a additional cell used for sea level runs for motors which were overhauled onsite also.) It used a non-afterburning J-79 as a slave motor. The exhaust of the slave was introduced to the inlet of the J-58 through a series of valves thereby simulating the speed, temperature, and density of the air at the inlet normally seen during flight. In this particular picture the motor is running at sea level as indicated by the inlet screen. I spent many hot and humid nights servicing, mounting, and running this particular cell. I was one of a crew of five. Some of the greatest co-workers I have ever had the privilege to of worked with. Sadly, the cell is no more. It didn’t go without a fight though. The contractor had to repeatedly repair his demolition equipment saying it was the hardest concrete he had ever had to remove. Sincerely, Kurt Schmidt”
[3]This is NOT what failed during the Challenger mission. That was the solid rocket booster O-ring failure.

Copyright 2014, A.E. Williams, All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

The Minoan Zero Mind Tool by John Moon Forker

Release Date: November 6, 2014
Subgenre: Psychological Science Fiction, Dystopian

ABOUT The Minoan Zero Mind Tool:

An ancient civilization creates a technology lost long ago that is discovered. A technology dug up by an archeology graduate student who has almost no idea the power of what she’s found. A student who prior to this discovery had a mystical experience in a sacred cave high up on a mountain in Crete that impels her to go on a dangerous quest to heal her troubled mind.

A more than one-hundred-year old woman reaches out in holographic form from another world. She says that Atlantis exists, but it in no way resembles what everyone thinks it is. And she wants to bestow a gift.

A former self-help teacher, turned religious leader, claims to have a way for people to speak directly with God. Yet he lusts for power and would take the technology if he can get his hands on it.

A jaded journalist is offered a way to believe in people again.

A very special dog teaches an extremely valuable lesson.

The environment continues to crumble and the economy continues to sink. People in America have lost hope.

But hope might be making a comeback. In a big way.

EXCERPT:

She communicates with the dead. But they do all the talking. She just listens. They speak through the things they've left behind. The utensils, the art, the weapons, the inscriptions on clay tablets.

When she studies an artifact, an arrowhead, some pottery, anything, she feels a connection to the people who used it, who handled it every day. It's as if she inhabits their lives and becomes them.

She sees connections between an artifact the archeological team might find and a pattern of behavior, a clue as to where they walked, where they hunted, where they spent the night. They tell her of their brief moments of glory, the birth of a child, a battle won, a home defended. They tell her of the daily hunt for food, the injuries, diseases and the deaths they all suffered and they tell her of their fear and wonder at what lies beyond their time in this world.

But that feeling of being connected to them is what matters because she doesn't really feel all that connected to the living in this world. The dead are always there for her and they will never trouble her, bother her, demand of her, or ridicule her. They invite her to become a part of their own distant lives. And this connection diminishes her loneliness, if just for a moment.

Some people say what she has is a gift but that's not how she sees it. For her, it is an escape from the world where she is a prisoner of her own personality, of her own shortcomings, of her own futile quest to change herself and break out of this prison. A prison she made for herself and cannot unmake because there are three dead who do not speak to her, who will never speak, who would be alive today if she hadn't been so foolish twenty-two years ago when she was eleven years old. Her mother, father and younger brother.

Jane Ozzimo——most everyone calls her Oz——rides in the back seat of Mervin's gas-guzzling Chevy. One of the last few thousands of petroleum-powered cars on the streets of Los Angeles. Most every other vehicle these days is electric. Trying to reduce carbon emissions and slow down global warming, but the horse is already out of the barn.

So she is kind of embarrassed riding in this polluting pig of a car. But Mervin stubbornly holds on to this piece of junk——he likes the sound of the engine——and will probably do so right up to the deadline at the end of the year when the city is forcing all gas-using cars off the road. Tough to buy gas anyway.

Mervin Chimney and Melissa Canovoot, her roommates and fellow archeology grad students at the University of Southern California, sit in the front. Roommates being a financial necessity for her.

Many of the students in the department have been called to an excavation site downtown. A city inspector found something on the grounds of an abandoned building about to be demolished and the city called the school to come take a look.

Maybe she'll see something interesting at this site. Not likely, but the city is very jumpy about preserving what they think of as historical artifacts and are halting construction projects every time something pops up out of the ground. So this is probably nothing.

She hopes to graduate with her PhD in December. Less than two months away now. But she's worried that she'll never find the acceptable evidence that will convince Dr. Eisenbarth. Worried that maybe it was a mistake to have changed her thesis topic.

What she had was safe. Very safe. But safe was so boring. Her taking a stab at deciphering the two mysterious Minoan languages, Linear A and the hieroglyphic language seen on the Phaistos disk.

What realistic hope did she have of unraveling these languages? No one else has. But just the attempt would have gotten her the degree.

However, after the experience in the cave on Crete last summer there was no way she could continue with that. A transformative experience that let her escape the prison of herself even if it lasted only for maybe two minutes.

And with the change of topic, she's gotten a lot of resistance from others in the department. Sure, Professor Vasquez, the head of her dissertation committee, believes in her. Go for it, she said. But, Dr. Eisenbarth, the graduate adviser, doesn't like it, doesn't want it, and has warned her to drop it. Threatens to reject it. He has that power.

And if he does that she doesn't graduate. No degree, then no job in archeology. And in this miserable economy, then what? Back in the gutter. Go full-time at the kennel shoveling dog shit? Become homeless again. No hope, no future. No way out. No thanks.

Oz looks out the window. Worries. It's only through archeology that she will ever find anything like what she found in that cave up on Mt. Ida on Crete. That one moment when she was free of all the garbage in her life, when she felt real joy, when she experienced a powerful sense of vitality, when she was free of herself.

What she saw on the floor of that cave, those drawings, and that experience, that powerful experience by the pool of water, showed her that the Minoans of thirty-five hundred years ago were exploring the workings of the mind and had progressed pretty far, so far that their technology——if that's what you want to call it——gave her the best moment of her life ever since the day that her parents and brother died. Deaths that never should have happened. Wouldn't have if she hadn't been so insistent on going down into that canyon. She should have died too.

But once that Minoan cave collapsed in the avalanche the door to freedom and most of her evidence disappeared in the dust.

Before that she had run down the mountain in sheer excitement at what she had discovered and brought Dr. Eisenbarth back up. He was right there in the cave. Saw the drawings. But him stupidly swinging that flashlight beam everywhere somehow turned off the technology happening in the pool of water and he never experienced what she experienced. If only he had then he would have believed.

But she didn't hallucinate anything. She knows what she saw. She knows what she experienced and more evidence has to be out there somewhere. That technology couldn't have all been in just that one sanctuary cave. The Minoans must have had it in other locations. She just has to find it. Must find it.

Just ahead, on the side of the Santa Monica tollway, she sees one of those King Zee Whitehead billboards. This guy seems to be everywhere lately. Here he's standing up, arm upraised, gazing out into the infinite as if he sees a vision, beckoning all to follow him to God. Of course, it's animated and 3D, like they all are, imparting a strong sense of motion which, with that weird 3D sense of depth, gives it a sort of unreal feeling like it's not grounded to anything but just hanging untethered up there in the air.

"He's getting more popular," Oz says.

"Who?" Mervin says.

"This billboard we're about to pass. This King Zee Whitehead."

Melissa says, "Yeah, I have a friend——you remember Nancy." She nudges Mervin. "And she did one of those ceremonies, private one I think, not one of those public extravaganzas that he puts on, and she, well, I think she liked it but thought it was pretty intense. Not that she spoke to God or anything, like he claims you can, but still."

"I wonder what God would say if you could?" Oz says gazing out the window.

"Fucking scam," Mervin says shaking his head.

Melissa uses her thumb and forefinger to pinch his cheek, a big smile on her face. Mervin smiles too and uses his right hand to scoot his fingers up her leg to where the seams on her pants meet in a big Y.

"Oh." Melissa's forehead arcs in surprise beneath the bangs of her hair. These bangs tend to puff out a little like a tent on a windy day. Kind of matches her puffy cheeks.

Mervin is a little squat, a little heavy, long dark-blonde hair dipping across his shoulders, and a face that often looks quizzical even when he's not.

Since they share the same first and last initials in their names, they have taken to calling themselves the M.C.s. They laugh uproariously almost every time they say it. Oz found it funny the first time she heard it.

She feels a brief ache of longing watching Mervin and Melissa. A long ago memory. But she stomps it down. Stupid foolish feeling. Her former boyfriend. Sam Delgatto. She must have been delusional. Must have thought she was in love. But she doubts it was love. That's not really what she was looking for, but maybe she thought it was at the time.

She realized he was just another trap. A substitution for a family she did not have.

And she let this feeling of being trapped grow and grow until the rainy January morning when she whispered to him she had to leave, and he became increasingly furious, as she could not explain to him why she was doing this.

Within minutes she was gone. Out on the street. Out in the rain. Nowhere to go.

She planned that really well, didn't she?



Growing up in a suburb of Chicago, John Moon Forker knew he wanted to be a writer when he was eleven. Reading opened up worlds to him. Worlds he then wanted to create.

His first published book is The Minoan Zero Mind Tool. There are five or six other novels that are hiding on a shelf, too shy to come out. But maybe someday. Some of them are still in shock from when John papered the walls with agent rejection letters. But those days are gone.

Now, living in the Los Angeles area, he frequently hikes in the Santa Monica mountains and will occasionally drink an exquisite microbrewed beer. He is especially fond of reading the works of Neal Stephenson, T.R. Pearson, and Stephen King.

And he does not own a smartphone.


Monday, November 24, 2014

Author Interview - Heather Hamilton-Senter

 

 The Speculative Fiction Showcase interviews Heather Hamilton-Senter, author of Bound in Blue and To Make a Witch.

These days, most writers are glued to their laptops, tablets, and/or e-readers. A few still swear by print books and typewriters, the question is: Do you move at all?
Oh, I’m desperate to get a treadmill desk! I sit far, far too much.

Apple or PC?
The hubby is a tech genius and highly sought after information technologies consultant. This has landed us firmly in the PC world.

Do you use Scrivener or Word?
Word and a huge wipe board. Scrivener seems fantastic, but it just doesn’t match how my brain works. Maybe I’ll give it another try sometime.

Do you have any pets? Do they influence your writing?
No pets. (Unless you count my 7 year old son ;) )

Would you rather see your stories on the big screen or the little screen?
I love genre television and must absolutely say the small screen. The complex and ongoing storytelling in shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Supernatural, The X-files, etc... is what I aspire to in my books. 

Are you hooked on any science fiction or fantasy TV shows? If so, which one(s)?
See the previous answer and add to it The Walking Dead and Gotham.

Do you own copies of Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings DVDs? The extended version? Do you ever watch them?
All the DVDs, all the extended versions, all the time!

Have you seen the first two parts of the The Hobbit? Are you planning to see the final instalment?
Saw them. Didn’t love them, but will be back for the end.

You write YA fantasy, a genre that's currently experiencing something of a boom. So which are your favourite YA fantasy series/novels?
While I disliked the rest of the series, I kind of have to stand by Twilight as a book that really captured something special in YA fantasy. My favorite middle grade/YA series is The Dark Is Rising by Susan Cooper. I love A Wrinkle In Time, Libba Bray’s Gemma Doyle Trilogy, The Hunger Games, The Riddle-Master trilogy by Patricia A. McKillip, the Dragonriders of Pern books by Anne McCaffrey, the Witchworld novels by Andre Norton. I’m kind of old-school.




In addition to being a writer, you're also a cover designer. So do you have a favourite book cover you'd like to share with us? 
Other than my own, my favorite covers are probably the 3 that I did for the Daughters of Darkness series, particular number 3. They’re deceptively simple, but actually required a great deal of digital painting.  

Are you a Luddite? Or do you prefer to be on the bleeding edge of technology?
We’re early adopters in our family when it comes to technology. I wasn’t always this way. I’d never touched a computer until I was married and my husband introduced me to a paint program. Now we each have our own office filled with computers, printers, laptops, and monitors. 

Are you--or have you ever been--a gamer?
Nope.

What kind of foods do you eat? Are you a health-food-nut or is it strictly junk?



 I’m picky, picky. I love salad and chocolate (not together).

Do you cook? What is your best/favourite/most popular recipe?
I can cook, but don’t enjoy it. 

Have you ever heard of or had a green smoothie? If you’ve ever had one, what did you think about it?
I’ve seen, but haven’t tried. I do love carrot juice though – I go orange.

Do you have a garden? Have you ever grown your own food? 
I have a pitch black thumb.

Have you ever been to Starbucks or any other coffee shop?


Rarely. I don’t drink coffee or tea, so I’m only in Starbucks if I can’t resist the allure of a big cookie, or a scone.

Coffee or Tea or Water? Espresso, Drip, Instant, or French Press? Bag or Looseleaf? Bottled, Filtered, Tap or Rainwater?


Water – tap which has been carbonated using a Sodastream machine. 

Do you wear socks?
Only in winter. 

What are you wearing right now? 
Yoga pants and loose top – all black – and socks (we got hit with snow yesterday up here in Southern Ontario, Canada).

How often do you wash your hair? 
Every day. 

Do you do your own laundry?
Unfortunately, yes.

Does life fascinate you?
 I have never, ever been bored. It drives me crazy when my kids complain of being bored. There are too many fascinating things to see, read, and think about to ever be bored! 

What would your animal totem be? 
 House cat.

Do you recycle?
Absolutely. 

Do you do Yoga? Meditation? or Deep Breathing? Does it help you cope?
I pray. And it’s the only way I cope! 

On a scale of 1-10, how eccentric are you?  
I think most people who know me would say 6, but I have a degree in Acting and manage to keep a lid on some of that eccentricity. The truth is probably closer to 8 or 9! 

What’s your astrological sign?
Libra.  

Do you consider yourself a slave to the muse? 
I wish. If I was a slave, I wouldn’t be able to find excuses to procrastinate and put off writing. The muse would whip me into shape and I’d be at work bright and early every day! 



About Heather Hamilton-Senter

Heather Hamilton-Senter grew up in a family where books of myth and legend were used to teach the ABCs and Irish uncles still believed in fairies. Raised with tall tales, she has always told stories too- first as an actor and singer, then as a photographer, and now as a writer.

Heather lives in rural Ontario, Canada raising Summer, Holly, and little Stephen to tell their own stories, cheered on by her biggest fan, her husband Steve.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Speculative Fiction Links of the Week for November 21, 2014


  Here is our weekly round-up of interesting links about speculative fiction from around the web:

Speculative fiction in general:

Writing, publishing and promotion:

Interviews:

Reviews:

Crowdfunding:

Con reports:

Science and technology:

Odds and ends: 

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Celebrate Imagination - A guest post by Deirdre Gould

Today, we welcome Deirdre Gould here at the Speculative Fiction Showcase to talk about the Celebrate Imagination event: 
So what is Celebrate Imagination anyway? It’s a new event including a party and epic book sale for Science Fiction and Fantasy lovers. On November 20th, 26 authors will be hosting a facebook event to kick off the holiday season. We’ll be giving away ebooks, paperbacks, audiobooks and other goodies. One lucky winner will receive a Kindle Paperwhite chock full of science fiction and fantasy novels. We’ll also be doing our favorite thing, talking to readers!
 In addition to giveaways, we will have dozens of books listed at huge discounts and for free. They run the gamut including paranormal, space opera, fantasy, post-apocalyptic, dystopian, cyberpunk, and techno thrillers. For a sneak peek at our entire catalog, the sales we’ll be offering and to grab a few free reads to tide you over until then, visit Celebrate Imagination at www.scullerytales.com .
 Tell your friends, come to the party, win great stuff. Most of all, it’s a celebration of the science fiction and fantasy stories we all love. We’ll have reviewers, bloggers, podcasters, readers, and authors all mingling and getting our geek on.
Our event kicks off on November 20th on Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/events/372340212919168/  and linked free books will be free at least for that day (most will be free for the weekend following) and discounted books will start that day as well.  We've prepared links to our free books on amazon here:
hyperurl.co/fantasyandparanormal 
hyperurl.co/spaceanddystopian
and to all other vendors as well, on our own site here: 
 And discounted books (all 2.99 or below):
hyperurl.co/discountfantasypara
hyperurl.co/discountsciencefic
and on our own site for all vendors: 
About Deirdre Gould:  
Deirdre Gould lives in Central Maine with her three children and husband. She's also resided in northern Idaho, coastal Virginia and central Pennsylvania, but all of them just led her back home.The winters sure are cold, but that just means the zombies run slower. The area is isolated, but that just means the apocalyptic diseases don't spread as quickly. And the storms are bad enough that no one thinks you're crazy for "prepping." It's kind of ideal for a post-apocalypse writer when you think about it.
Visit her website, follow her on Twitter or buy her books at Amazon.
 

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

To Make a Witch by Heather Hamilton-Senter

Subgenre: YA urban fantasy
Release date: November 11, 2014

About To Make a Witch

On December 17th, 2013, a vandal painted the tomb of Marie Laveau—the famed Voodoo Queen of New Orleans—bright pink. It is believed that the vandal’s intent was to cover the X marks that had been scratched into the tomb. This story takes place just after that event.

At her old high school, Lacey found herself on the wrong side of a conflict between Celtic gods. Making a new start in an exclusive boarding school in New Orleans, she hopes to forget that she was once on the verge of becoming a powerful witch—and everything she’s lost both since and before then.

When a gruesome murder occurs in the very heart of Westover Academy, Lacey discovers a connection between it and the desecration of the tomb of Marie Laveau, the famed Voodoo Queen. Haunted by a trauma in her past, Lacey must solve the mystery before she becomes the killer’s next target.

Circumstances beyond her control may once again make Lacey McInnis—cheerleader, scholar, and all-around good girl—a witch. 

To Make A Witch is a novella featuring the enigmatic Lacey McInnis from Bound In Blue: Book One of the Sword of Elements series. While the events of the book takes place after Bound In Blue, To Make A Witch can be enjoyed on its own. 

Excerpt:


Grabbing my wrist, Ethan tugged me around to the right side of the structure. “Come see this.” I glanced at Ava, but she was kneeling and squinting at a small plaque on the front of Marie Laveau’s tomb.
The reflected light of a streetlamp shone directly on the side wall. With his free hand, Ethan pointed to a patch where the plaster was gone and brick showed through. He pushed on the exposed brick with his finger and a piece of it shifted.
When he smiled, he looked nothing at all like Peter. “You see, chère, I wasn’t exactly telling the whole truth. I actually spend a lot of time here. There’s always a tourist who’s wandered off or some kid sneaking in after dark on a dare. Easy pickings. I found the paint in the garage of a house down the street; it must have come from a little girl’s bedroom. The color didn’t matter. I just had to break the binding spells protecting the tomb.”
“Why?” I whispered.
He shrugged. “I don’t know why actually. It’s what the creature asked me to do. I never saw it clearly; it hid in the shadows.” He laughed and his accent deepened. “When I came back the next day, do you know what I found?”
Prolonged contact was proof that Ethan’s hand wasn’t just cold from the night air; it was a band of ice around my wrist. He leaned in close and his breath was sour against my face. “Or to be exact, what I didn’t find.” Placing his other hand flat against the wall, Ethan gave a push and several bricks fell into the tomb, leaving an opening just big enough to put your upper body through. A foul smell emanated from it, but I wouldn’t give Ethan the satisfaction of seeing me gag.
He looked disappointed. “Don’t you get it? All the bones were missing—poor Marie Laveau and how many others of her kin she was mingled with—but their loss was my gain. I’ve now got a nice little hidey-hole for my special friends when I’m done with them.” He smiled and his teeth were white and sharp in the pale light of the crescent moon. “After all, what good is a tomb if it’s empty?”

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About Heather Hamilton-Senter

Heather Hamilton-Senter grew up in a family where books of myth and legend were used to teach the ABCs and Irish uncles still believed in fairies. Raised with tall tales, she has always told stories too- first as an actor and singer, then as a photographer, and now as a writer.

Heather lives in rural Ontario, Canada raising Summer, Holly, and little Stephen to tell their own stories, cheered on by her biggest fan, her husband Steve.