Hold me to this


I’m joining Jeff Goins’ challenge to write 500 words per day during January. I’d like to develop more consistent daily writing habits and this looks to be a good start.

I’ll post updates during the month. If all goes according to plan (and it always does, right?), I should have at least 15,000 words down on paper -well, on my hard drive – by the end of January and several blog posts in the queue.

Hold me to it!

Dark Biology – Bonnie Doran

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old…or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today’s Wild Card author is:
and the book:
Harbourlight Books (October 25, 2013)

I enjoyed reading Bonnie’s debut novel. If you’d like a science fiction thriller with a nice dose of romance and family values, this novel is definitely worth your time.
***Special thanks to Jennifer Taylor for sending me a review copy.***
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Bonnie Doran’s debut novel, Dark Biology, released October 25th as a science fiction thriller from Harbourlight of Pelican Book Group. Prior to delving into fiction, she wrote and sold over 60 devotionals. She is represented by Steve Hutson of WordWise Media. When she isn’t writing, she enjoys reading (mostly science fiction), cooking, Sudoku puzzles, and hanging out with other writers, sci-fi fans, and Mad Scientists. She has a reputation of telling groan-producing puns and volunteers at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. She’s been married 29 years to an electrical engineer and Mad Scientist who owns a 2,300-pound electromagnet and plays with lasers for a living.

Visit the author’s website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

Renowned vaccinologist “Hildi” Hildebrandt has set her sights on beating her brother to a Nobel Prize, and the opportunity to conduct experiments on the International Space Station might just provide the means to obtain that goal.

Chet Hildebrandt should have had that opportunity. But now he’ll teach a lesson to them all: his hot-shot astronaut sister, his philandering hypocritical father, and the CDC for not properly appreciating his work. One vial of a virus purloined from the CDC labs and released at his father’s marriage seminar should do the trick, without hurting anybody. After all, it’s only a mild influenza strain…Or is it?

Product Details:

List Price: $15.99

Paperback: 342 pages

Publisher: Harbourlight Books (October 25, 2013)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 1611162777

ISBN-13: 978-1611162776

AND NOW…THE FIRST CHAPTER:

Infection Minus Ten MonthsHildi’s nose itched.

She ignored it. While she waited for her lab partner to emerge from the airlock, she checked the seals of her blue biocontainment suit again. Good habits could save her life.

Hildi pulled a coiled yellow air hose suspended from the ceiling and plugged it into a socket near her waist. The deflated suit expanded as air roared past her face. The familiar ballooning sensation saddened her for a moment. She’d miss her work here.

Then she grinned. She’d be wearing a pressure suit in her new job and performing similar cutting-edge work in an even stranger environment.

Her practiced eyes appraised Biosafety Level 4, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s most dangerous lab. Everything “down and cold.” But an adjoining room held liquid-nitrogen freezers filled with hot agents, the deadliest diseases known to man. Francine stepped from the airlock. Hildi’s college friend had never worked in Level 4, but she moved with confidence. Hildi stared into Francine’s faceplate and noted her calm expression. She’d do fine.

Hildi maneuvered past the stainless-steel tables dominating the room. She pulled two-inch test tubes, a push-button micropipette, and other tools from drawers and placed them in the biosafety cabinet, a glorified box with a fume hood and clear front that rested on the work counter. She detached her hose, inhaling the reserved air in her suit.

Humming to herself, she walked into the adjoining room and attached her suit to another hose. Every time Hildi moved in the lab, she repeated the procedure, a necessary inconvenience if she wanted to continue breathing.

She punched a code into the lock of one of the stainless-steel freezers and extracted a vial of the latest X virus that may or may not have killed John Doe.

Returning to the biosafety hood, she slipped her yellow-gloved hands under the clear protective shield, a sneeze guard at a toxic salad bar. She withdrew a tiny sample of the unknown and released it into one of the tubes. After Hildi repeated the protocol many times, she keyed the information into the computer.

Hildi glanced at Francine just as she straightened from a hunched position over a microscope. Francine turned, her movements jerky like a marionette’s. Her suit’s chest zipper gaped, exposing her blue scrubs underneath. She seemed to shrink as her biosuit deflated.

Hildi froze.

“I’ve got a problem here!” Francine yelled, her voice quavering. The rush of air in their ears turned conversations in Level 4 into a shouting match. Francine fumbled for the zipper with trembling fingers.

Hildi’s heart skipped several beats then she zipped the suit shut in one smooth motion. “Zippers get worn. They can pop open.”

Francine’s white-rimmed, dark-chocolate eyes returned to normal. “How bad was that?”  Her voice still quavered.

“Your suit had positive pressure the whole time. A hot agent couldn’t get in. You OK?”

Francine gave a nervous chuckle. “Sure gave me the jumpy jitters.” She turned back to the scope.

Hildi released the breath she’d been holding. Risk was part of the job. Zippers failed. Gloves failed. Usually it wasn’t life threatening.

She placed the rack of tubes in the incubator cabinet, maintainedat the ominous temperature of warm blood, and then returned the original sample of hot agent to the freezer. Her mood descended into a gray chasm. She already missed the challenge of Level 4. But she had a job offer that would take her research to a whole new level. She could smell that Nobel Prize. Her brother Chet would never catch up to her now.

Hildi exhaled a heavy sigh that fogged her faceplate. “Done,” she yelled. “Finally I can get out of here and scratch my nose.”

“Thought you’d be used to it after three years.”

“Never. Right now it’s driving me nuts.”

Francine chuckled and headed for the airlock.

Hildi followed. She inhaled the chemical smell as the decontamination shower sprayed disinfectant over her suit. The two of them scrambled out of their blue suits as soon as they reached the changing room. Hildi scratched her tingling nose with ferocity.

Francine grinned at her and walked to the regular showers which contained detergent for washing and a bath of ultraviolet light.

Hildi hung her short suit next to Francine’s long one. She reached up to caress a sleeve of the guardian that protected her against infection. “Thanks for keeping me safe. I’ll be back.”

Hildi stripped and marched naked to the shower. No modesty in this job. Afterward, she tugged on jeans and a mauve T-shirt.

Her lab partner’s perfect complexion glistened as she toweled off. Hildi’s pale skin and red curls contrasted with Francine’s coffee coloring and corn-rowed black hair. Not exactly twins separated at birth.

“When do you get in to Houston?” Francine pulled on black leggings and a flowered tunic then grabbed her tiny purse.

“Around four.”  Hildi grimaced. “Rush hour. My favorite time.” She longed for the feel of the afternoon sun on her face, but she wouldn’t enjoy it today.

“I’m surprised Director Hunt gave you such a long leave of absence.”

“It’s a fantastic opportunity.” Her spirits bounced like an acrobat on a trampoline. “But it’s not like I won’t be working.” She grunted as she wrenched her holds-anything-and-hides-everything handbag from her locker.

Francine smiled. “You know, I might just lock you in one of the labs until after your flight leaves.”

Hildi laughed. “You wouldn’t dare.”

“Don’t try me. I’m missing you already.” Francine hugged her. “I can’t believe you’ll be gone for a whole year.”

Hildi swallowed to keep her voice from cracking. “I will be back for visits, you know.”

“You’d better be.”

They walked through another airlock into a corridor and less-lethal safety levels. The burning, moist smell of giant autoclaves bid a pungent farewell.

“You just don’t want to work with Chet.” Hildi baited her friend.

“Don’t rub it in.” Francine lowered her voice. “Did you hear? Your brother’s in big trouble.” Francine sounded like she relished the thought.

Hildi groaned. “What did he do this time?”

“Chet worked on that new anthrax sample from England without authorization. Director Hunt turned three shades of purple.”

“Hunt’s a bit paranoid about the paperwork, that’s all.”

Francine shook her head. “Your brother has an attitude.”

“I know.” Hildi frowned. “It’s hard to work in the same building with him when he avoids me like—well—the plague.”

“He’s done a good job at alienating everyone around here, so don’t feel special.”

They drove directly to the airport in Francine’s tired green Altima. The Atlanta traffic, abysmal at any time of the day, choked Hildi with exhaust fumes. She turned up the AC. “Sure you don’t mind caring for my cat?”

“Whiskers will be just fine.”

Francine pulled up to departures, opened the trunk, and hefted the bulky suitcases. “What do you have in here, moon rocks?”

Hildi grabbed her carry-on. They chatted until a security officer ordered, “Clear the lane, please.”

Hildi fished in her purse for a tissue and gave Francine one more tight hug. “Thanks for everything.”

“Vaya con Dios.”

Hildi wheeled her suitcases to the nearest door, her stomach fluttering as if she’d just won the lottery. Maybe she had.

****

Hildi deplaned in Houston after an unremarkable flight. She heaved her suitcases onto their wheels and stepped outside. A tanned man in a polo shirt and jeans held a sign. Dr. Hildebra. Someone hadn’t quite fit her name on the cardboard. Situation normal.

“Evangeline?” He smiled.

“Please call me Hildi.”

“Larry Gomez.”

Hildi stifled a gasp and flung her star-struck feelings aside as she wiped sweaty palms on her jeans. Larry’s exploits in space were the stuff of legend. She shook his hand.

He loaded her luggage into the trunk of his silver Jaguar convertible. More diesel exhaust assaulted Hildi as they headed south on I-45. She’d expected oil fields and cowboy hats when she first came here but instead found apartments, shopping centers, and malls. Same humidity as Atlanta, same traffic. He chatterednonstop.

Hildi interrupted. “So tell me about the rest of the team.”

“You’ll like them. Jasper Reingold and Frank Schotenheimer.”

Hildi nearly jolted out of her seat. “Frank?” If she’d known, would she have volunteered for this assignment?

In a heartbeat.

Larry’s face held a puzzled frown. “You know him?”

She hesitated. How had Larry missed knowing about her relationship with Frank? Would it jeopardize her chance to work in space? No way to hide it now. “We were engaged.”

“Well, things are about to get interesting.” Larry’s mouth quirked. “The director moved him up from a later mission when our pilot shattered his leg yesterday.”

She stared at the scenery. Frank? On her team? Scenes flashed in her mind. Their first kiss that had warmed her to her toes. Her growing suspicions. The night she confronted him about his gotta-work-late excuses, and he confessed his affairs. Trampled dreams.

Lord, I could use a little help here.

Larry must have sensed her mood. He didn’t say a word for the rest of the trip.

An hour later, they pulled up to the employee entrance of a sprawling facility, the salty tang of the Gulf of Mexico perceptible even this far from the ocean. Shimmers of heat rose from the pavement. After the security guard examined their badges, he beamed. “Dr. Hildebrandt? Welcome. Let me page Dan Stockton for you. He asked me to notify him when you arrived.”

Hildi’s mind whirled. First Frank and now Dan? Last time they’d talked, Dan had been training in Alabama. Probably his idea of a romantic surprise. She tried to submerge a surfacing smile. She wanted to jump into his arms when Dan arrived. Instead, she forced herself into neutral pose. He wore a periwinkle silk shirt with coordinating tie. Always a tie, as if he could never relax.Larry whispered in Hildi’s ear. “Now you know why he’s earned the nickname Dandy Dan.”

“Hildi.” Dan stepped toward her with an eager grin, glanced at Larry, and stopped in mid-stride.

“You know him, too?” Larry’s glance bounced back and forth between them like a hyperactive tennis ball.

Dan hesitated. “Uh, yes. We’ve met.” An uncomfortable silence descended. Hildi stared at the polished floor, counting the squares. She didn’t want to tell the mission commander about another relationship, especially when she couldn’t explain it herself. An on-again, off-again, long-distance relationship that was going nowhere.Larry cleared his throat and turned to Hildi. “Another fiancé? Have we ever been engaged?”

Hildi laughed, relieved he didn’t ask any more questions.

Dan smiled. “Would you rather go to your quarters first or eat?”

Her stomach rumbled in response.

“Perry’s Steakhouse?” Larry still eyed them with suspicion.

“Yes, sir.” Dan spread his arms and planted his feet on the emblem emblazoned on the floor, like a barker at the circus. “Welcome to the Johnson Space Center and phase two of astronaut training.”

Online translators: “what?”

Today you can copy text, plug into an online translator, and have yourself a nifty set of words that might or might not make the slightest sense.

Clockwise Trail Access

Clockwise Trail Access (Photo credit: MTSOfan)

For example, I heard one of a translation of the common idiom: “Out of sight, out of mind” translated to : “Invisible, insane.”

Maybe…

I recently purchased a personal PA system for speaking engagements. It’s one of those gadgets with a wired microphone attached to a small amplifier that you can hang from your belt. I used it last week for a group activity and it worked pretty slick.

But the one-sheet instruction guide must have come from Jupiter because of some of these statements:

  • “Features: Lithium battery, long battery life. Loud-speaker works pretty good.” (Since that’s what a PA system is for, I was glad to know that.)
  • “To extend the battery life, please charge after the battery is use out.” (I assume “use out” should be “used up” but what’s a preposition among friends?)
  • “You can adjust the length of waistband, as shown below.” (Below is the bottom of the page. Flipping the page reveals how to adjust the microphone.)
  • “Attentions before wearing the ear-hanging microphone: Before wearing, please don’t turn on the power and volume.” (The ear-hanging microphone might be better called a single-ear microphone but I can adjust. I’m still trying to understand the why of the second instruction.)
  • “Don’t change the battery by yourself under warranty. Be sure that the pole is right when the change the battery.” (To change, not to change… well, it’s only a $35 gadget so I probably won’t worry about the pole.)
  • “Turn the volume button clockwise or anticlockwise can increase or decrease the volume.” (Anticlockwise?)
  • “Decrease the volume to avoid noises.” (But I want volume. That’s why I bought the unit. Maybe my voice is a noise….)
  • “Cut in and pull out the plug often may cause the disbad connection between microphone and amplifier.” (And we don’t want a disbad connection.)

I’m a reader and I’m a writer so I read these instructions once, curbed the urge to re-write them, and saved them long enough for this post.

However, I think these instructions fall under the “invisible, insane” category.

Google Plus not dead yet

Google Plus is not dead, although I thought so for months. Maybe you gave up on Google Plus as well.

Then I read an article by Dave Llorens about the future of Google Plus and decided to stir the waters of my account again.

I know, one more social connection to try to maintain.

But the Google Authorship aspect caught my attention. When my name is googled, I want people to find my blog and other connections. Google Authorship ties my photo to my writings and I like that.

The core of the ability to do that is Google Plus.

So I’m giving it a run. I wish WordPress  could automatically post blogs to Google Plus like it can to Facebook and Twitter but I suspect that’ll come soon. In the meantime, I have to remember to copy the url from my blogs and paste them in my Google Plus account.

Unlike Facebook, Google Plus members are more focused on business, art, technology and ideas rather than complaints about the boss and the stale coffee. I like that. There are less photos of grandkids but I go to Facebook for those connections.

I scored an information find that I’ll share with you. The chart below came from a Google Plus community, Christian Authors, which is packed with intelligent interaction about writing. As you can see, there’s a lot of help with technology in that community.

If you’re a Google Plus member already, consider adding me to your circle. I’m listed as Kathy Brasby. And if you’re a Christian writer, check out the Christian Writer community.

Now, take a look at the chart about website design and see some content available on Google Plus. Thanks to Tim Young on Christian Authors at Google Plus:

webdesigntrends

 

Technology and dinosaurs

Technology and writing may seem odd companions, especially for  someone my age. In my defense, I do have a teenage son.  I admit that he claims I rode dinosaurs to school and took notes using a chisel, hammer and piece of slate.

Which I think is a pretty lame description considering I sent out emails holding him in my arms (well, arm while I typed with the other) and taught him how to operate a mouse before he could read.

applevintagelogoAnd the coolest thing I did in the last year was uncover an old advertising sign I painted while selling Apple computers. I’m talking Apple IIe computers with the painted logo in vintage colors, not the new silveresque look. “You sold Apples?” He wasn’t quick enough to hide his surprise.

Well, a mother doesn’t reveal everything to her teenagers.

OK, after that digression, I’m here today to tell you about this cool blog that I enjoy reading. Author Media is devoted to melding technology with writers, including a few who didn’t sell Apple computers way back when dinosaurs marched through the streets.

A recent post made me laugh: “Why you need a hashtag for your next book.” If you don’t know what a hashtag is, check out their site. If you do know what a hashtag is, you may not have considered one for your next book. So it’s still relevant.

Their motto is to “help authors timid about media.”

And I might add, to help authors who can’t read enough about media and technology and all that. It is impossible to keep up with the expansion of technology and the internet. Author Media helps some.

I’m not sure they target writers with chisel and hammer but, on the other hand, maybe they do. If you’re not familiar with their site, check them out.