Archive for March, 2012

This pile of white ice chunks was scraped off the OLLI parking lot. As you can see, the lot is still white.

I’ve talked about snow that is undisturbed without a temperature gradient, and about disturbed snow without pressure. Today we’re going to take that a step farther and look at snow that is disturbed by pressure—specifically, by car or foot traffic—when temperatures are below freezing. Here in Alaska we call it white ice, and the less-traveled roads and almost all the parking lots are solid white ice this time of year.

Wind or an avalanche will break snow crystals, but it doesn’t in itself press the broken grains together. Walking or driving over dry snow, however, not only breaks the crystals, it also presses them together. If it is near freezing, the pressure may even cause slight melting. In any event the crystals are very firmly welded together. The result is a mass that has some air trapped—that’s why it looks white. But it may be only a little less dense than ice, and is only slightly softer. An icebreaker or a sharp-edged shovel will generally break it much more easily than it will break true ice, but white ice is definitely solid.

Some of the chunks of white ice removed from the road I live on.

As a driving surface, white ice is something most Alaskan drivers learn to deal with. It is not impossibly slippery if it is not polished or near freezing temperature, though most of us drive on it with caution and learn to feather our brakes. Mine are anti-skid, but I’ve learned to brake softly enough that the anti-lock feature almost never engages—except at intersections.  Those are often polished to the point that they are extremely slick, even though graveled.

Yes, graveled. We don’t use salt much because our temperatures are generally so low that even salt water freezes and salt simply will not melt ice. Salt’s used on sidewalks sometimes, but in cold weather each salt pellet simply melts its way down to the pavement without having much effect on the main ice mass—except to make it slicker.

Notice the step left when one lane of my road was plowed a couple of days ago.

The road I live on is gravel, and a coating of white ice actually improves it. But it does do some things you might not think about to paved roads.

First, it covers any marking painted on the road or parking lot—lane markings, turn arrows, lines that mark parking spaces.

Second, it can at times be thick enough that when part of a road is cleared in the spring, a considerable drop-off may result.

Third, and especially a problem when it is overcast and the light is flat, is whiteout conditions. It’s not as bad as in an airplane north of tree line when the pilot may not even be able to see which way is up, but telling what is road and what is not can be very difficult when the road is white ice and the verge is snow and both are exactly the same color. It’s hard to see even with directional light and shadows, but in flat light everything looks the same.

I managed to high-center my car a few weeks ago taking an exit between a four-lane highway and a major side road. The exit was pure white ice, and I couldn’t quite see what was road and what was the curbed triangle between the side road and the exit. I wound up on the triangle and had to be pulled off by a tow truck. Neither the trooper who stopped to see if I needed help nor the tow truck driver seemed to have the slightest problem understanding how I’d gotten there, or even consider my situation unusual. “Whiteout”  was all the explanation I needed.

 Year 2 Day 320

I don’t think the rains are going to come.

Oh, there have been a couple of showers, but barely enough to lay down the dust. Everything around me seems to be burning, except what is already burned. I am in no danger—the well is providing all of the water I need, and the shelter, built from the remains of the escape capsule, is fireproof. I hunt, fish and gather far to the north, where the rains have fallen and the world is green. But how are the nomads faring? Can they find enough food? Where are they?

I no longer think, or even hope, that they will return this year. What could they find to eat here? The herds have not come, and with the stream dry, there are no fish to be caught. But I cannot stand to be alone much longer, and the only other R’il’nian-like species I have found is hostile.

I have decided to try to find those I know. It won’t be easy. This is a big continent, and all I know is that they should be somewhere to the north where it is green enough they can find game. Probably somewhere north of the rains. They are a rare species—I know that, for I have been watching for them, casually, for fivedays now. It is time to intensify the search. Perhaps with the aid of Patches I can find them, or if not the group I know, some other group of the same people.

I wish I knew where their gather site was.

Kathy Collier-Miehl tagged me for the Fourth Writer’s Campaign Lucky 7 meme. The Rules are:

1. Go to page 77 of your current MS/WIP
2. Go to line 7
3. Copy down the next 7 lines – sentences or paragraphs – and post them as they’re written. No cheating
4. Tag 7 authors
5. Let them know

I’m not going to do numbers 4 and 5, because I understand how exponentials work and I’m not sure there’s anyone left who hasn’t been tagged. If you haven’t been and want to do this, consider yourself tagged. And I have a little problem with 1, because my files are by chapters, with no consecutive multi-chapter page numbering. So I went to line 7 of page 7 of chapter 7 instead. (Which leads me to wonder what one does if one’s WIP is less than 77 pages long.)

I interpreted the start as the paragraph in which the 7th line fell, and then copied that and the following 6 paragraphs. The WIP in question is science fiction, with a working title of Rescue Operation.

Well, the horses hadn’t been that dirty to start with.  Each had free access to a generous grassy paddock, and a daily session with the autogroomer.  Their stalls and paddocks were likewise kept clean by robot extensions of the Big’Un.  The dirt Rabbit had managed to accumulate, however, was mostly now on Crys, who was continuing to brush as high as she could reach on the mare’s hindquarters.

“Is she clean enough?” the child asked, turning as she heard Dusk’s hoofbeats.  “I couldn’t quite reach the middle of her back.”

“Clean enough to ride,” Roi chuckled, and gave Dusk a firm mental order to stand still.  “Here, hold Dusk for me a minute, will you, while I get a saddle on Rabbit?  Dusk needs to be cooler before I put him up, and you might as well ride along while I’m getting him walked dry.”

The sheer bliss on Crys’s dirt-smudged face told him that he was finally getting to understand her.  I think, he thought at Emeraude, that you’ve just lost your horse.


“You really don’t mind?” Roi asked that evening, watching Emeraude brush her hair before bed.

“Of course not.  I like being with you, and you like company when you ride.  I’m not all that fond of horses and riding, but I know you are.  If Crystal is, wonderful.  With a little practice, and you contacting Rabbit’s mind, she’ll probably keep up with you better than I do.  You need children, Roi.  She’s already done a lot to relax you.  I don’t know why the Genetics Board doesn’t want you to foster R’il’noids that need parenting any more.”

“They figure I’m too busy trying to run the Confederation.  Young R’il’noids take a lot of attention.”  Roi lay back on Emeraude’s bed, letting his eyes roam over the rather spare room.  Like his other two wives, Audi had her own building, opening off the series of jump-gated rooms loosely called the corridor system.  As a general rule she preferred Roi’s oversized bedroom to her own, and she’d put most of her energies here into facilities for her sociological research.  The bedroom was adequate for sleeping and had a bed large enough for two, but that was about all.

Quote Contexts

All of last week’s Twitter quotes but the last were from Owlflight, by Mercedes Lackey and Larry Dixon.

“Nobody ever asked me what I wanted, not once.” Darian’s thoughts on being apprenticed to Mage Justyn.

“How could anyone let fear blind him to so much of wonder and beauty?” Darian, scorning the villagers for being afraid to venture into the forest.

“Half of being clever is being certain you are not being stupid.” Shin’a’in proverb, a favorite of Snowfire’s.

“There is no arguing with a feeling.” Snowfire is trying to convince Darian that he should not feel guilt over Justyn’s death.

“Put the guilt where it rightly belongs.” Snowfire is arguing that the real guilt should be laid on the leader of the barbarians who attacked Errol’s Grove.

“I wish people would think before they do things like this to children!” Nightwind is furious with the elders of Errol’s Grove because, in her words, “Before he has lived a single day with these people, he has been given the message that they disapprove of him, it is wrong to care deeply about the parents he loved because they don’t deserve it, and he is to be grateful to people whose ways are utterly at odds with his!”

“The worst of slavery, for her, had been the lack of choice.” Sue Ann Bowling, Tourist Trap. Flame’s thoughts on her past slavery, quite different from Timi’s and Amber’s.

Three years ago, I was diagnosed with breast cancer.

There is nothing like cancer to make you realize that your time on Earth is limited, especially if you’re in your late 60’s to start with. If I wanted anyone to read the five novels I’d written, I had to do something. I went to a round table discussion on publishing shortly after I finished radiation therapy, and for the first time heard of assisted self-publishing. This sounded do-able, and I wrote down two names: Lulu and iUniverse.

I checked their web sites and decided to try the first book with iUniverse, which offered an editorial evaluation as part of the package. I had it edited by Carla Helfferich, who’d edited much of my popular science, and sent it off. The result, with Editor’s Choice right from the start, was my first published book, Homecoming. I submitted it to several contests, of which only Reader Views offered an online book review as the first step in judging. The review was published, and the book won 2nd place in science fiction. Further, it was evident from the review that the reviewer had really read and fully evaluated the book.

Tourist Trap, which Carla thought was the better book of the two, did not fare as well with the editorial review at iUniverse. I think the problem was that I did not use a standard science fiction plot arc. My protagonist leaned a few things about himself, rather than getting himself out of an impossible situation without help. The iUniverse editor wanted me to drop the last two chapters and have the protagonist get himself out of trouble, which would have completely ruined what I saw as the main point of the book.

With Carla’s backing, I went ahead without Editor’s Choice. This has meant among other things that bookstores did not get discounts or returnability, which has certainly hurt sales. (I think that, at least, has been fixed.) Partly because of this I entered Tourist Trap in only one contest, Reader Views, as that way I would at least get another unbiased review.

I hoped to get another placing in science fiction.

I know I had that March 1, when they announced the finalists.

On March 7 the winners were announced, and I was pleased to find Tourist Trap took 1st place in science fiction. Then I found a later e-mail, and discovered that Tourist Trap had won the Garcia Award for the Best Fiction Book of the Year. What? Science fiction books don’t do that! But when I checked the winners list again, there at the end of the post were the special awards, and Tourist Trap had won a $1000 value publicity package from Maryglenn McCombs Book Publicity.

Tourist Trap is a book about a young man’s coming of age as well as a science fiction adventure, and that young man already knows he will face an awesome responsibility as an adult. He must learn the difference between justice and revenge, and recognize that he himself may be destroyed by his own choices. But it’s also a book about a group of teenagers traveling through a world populated by the animals we lost at the end of the ice age—mammoths and sabertooth cats, to name a couple. The travelers don’t even realize—until it’s almost too late—that they are the intended victims of a murder plot. To quote from the review: “Tourist Trap” is a great read for anyone that wants motivation and feeling to accompany the action in their sci-fi adventure. Alien beings and super powers are an integral part of Roi’s story but what makes this novel really shine is the heart. Nobody is good or evil just because that’s their assigned role. Just like in real life, everyone has their own motivations and desires, and Bowling does a great job of letting the reader see what it would be like to walk in the shoes of Roi, Xazhar, and even madman Zhaim.

Sometimes it pays to stay with your own feeling about what’s right with a book.

The sun rose at 7:27 am and will set at 8:27 for 13 hours of daylight. What’s more, the air flow has shifted from northerly, off the frozen Arctic Ocean, to southwest, off the Pacific and Bering, and it’s warmed up almost to freezing. The noon sun is high—almost 28° above the horizon—and sunglasses are a necessity outdoors. Highs next week are predicted to be near or actually above freezing, so I hope we can forget 40 below for the rest of this winter.

The clean snow still shows no sign of melting, but where it is dirty, the sun is eating a honeycomb structure into any south-facing slopes. Luckily the main roads are bare, and the plows have scraped back the berms along the sides enough that what little meltwater there is does not run across the road. There is still white ice at intersections, and the roads were really slick yesterday wherever the pavement had residual ice and snow.

The engineering students at the university build an ice arch every year. After over 40 years up here, I have to say I’m not too impressed with this year’s effort.  But it’s another sign of spring.

(P.S. March 27–all but the anchored corner of the snow festoon collapsed yesterday afternoon.)

#WriteMotivation. My goals for March were:

1. Learn to use at least one legal method of getting images other than photos I’ve taken on my blog. (I’d love to have some shots of Africa on Jarn’s Journal, for instance.) I’ve found 2, not counting using photos from a friend.

2. Continue to blog at least 5 days a week. (I’m doing 7 now, but I’ve signed up for a number of adult classes in March.) March 30 and 31 are the only two days I don’t have a blog either published or scheduled, and I know what I’ll be writing for those.

3. Edit Chs 2 and 9 of my WIP to give more showing, less telling. Done! I finally got to Chapter 9 yesterday morning.

4. Participate in at least one Platform-building challenge–hesitate to commit for more without knowing what they are. The first one’s supposed to be out today.

I did both.

Now if I can just get my taxes done…

Today’s snippet is from near the end of the first chapter of Rescue Operation, my current WIP. Zhaim has been arguing that he’s done the right thing in imposing slaving on Horizon, a recently colonized planet, as they refuse to pay their dues and are breeding people faster than their economy is growing.

Right if he wanted to make the Confederation into a military dictatorship rather than something that allowed over a hundred human-occupied planets to live in peace, if not harmony, Roi thought as he returned home. Not that there weren’t times he would have liked more power over individual planets, especially those that abused their own people. For that matter, he’d like more power over Central, to eliminate slavery there, but not at the cost of turning the Confederation into something people feared, instead of a protection.

Mark and Ginger, the latest of the slaves he’d rescued, adopted and educated for freedom, found him sitting in his office with his face in his hands. “Audi told me,” the young man said awkwardly. “Were you able to do anything?”

Be sure to visit the other Six Sentence Sunday authors.

Ever notice that the berm across the end of your driveway, or the one formed when you shovel the sidewalk, is harder than the undisturbed snow? That’s because when snow is disturbed crystals are broken, and the broken surfaces positively grab onto other ice surfaces. Two examples of this are common in nature, and I’ve used both in my fiction writing.

The first is called a wind slab or wind crust. When a turbulent wind picks up snow crystals and redeposits them, a good deal of crystal breakage takes place. When the broken crystals settle down they weld themselves to other crystals and the result can be a hard crust—even though the temperature is below freezing. Roi has to cope with this in Tourist Trap:

The trees had broken the force of the wind up to now, but once he entered the open swath the wind almost knocked him off his feet. The snow was crusted here, not quite enough to hold his weight, but enough that his thighs were bruised repeatedly by the chunks of wind-slabbed snow he was dragging Timi through. He paused twice to increase the circulation to his feet. Were they cold, hurting like hell, or just numb? he wondered absently, and then realized that Timi’s shields had dropped to the point that he was feeling Timi’s body as well as his own. The wind cut through the frozen scarf and the cold glued his eyelashes shut, and with a start of horror he realized that he had drifted away from the line back to the shelter. He could teleport himself back, maybe—but he wasn’t sure he had the energy left to do even that, and there was no way he could take Timi with him.

He struggled on: lift a leg and break the crust with his knee, then drag the leg through the slightly softer snow underneath until he could balance on that leg to break out the next step with the other leg. Timi staggered behind him, almost falling several times, and his mind ached from the effort of keeping the other boy upright. Snow had sifted into his clothing, somehow, and he knew he was cold but no longer felt it. With an abruptness that caught him by surprise, the wind died down, and he went to his knees as he tried to break through a crust that was no longer there. Back in the trees, he finally realized, and reached out for the faint impression of the shelter.

The second is probably less familiar to most, and I hope it remains so, but here in Alaska it is constantly being drummed into us. This is what happens in an avalanche. The churning snow sets up like concrete as soon as it comes to a halt. Well, not quite like concrete — it can be dug through with shovels – but far too hard to shift by moving your body. Marna is caught in an avalanche in Homecoming:

Even as she crouched and aimed herself for a belt of trees that might provide some protection, the leading edge of the avalanche overran her, tumbling her helplessly down the slope. The churning snow caught and twisted one forceweb until she thought her leg would break, but the torsion activated the safety cutoffs and the forcewebs went abruptly inert. She clawed her way upward through the fast-moving snow, and tried to remember what lay downhill. Only her perceptive sense kept her from total disorientation.

The buffeting and spinning as she was carried along reminded her of the time she had been caught in the breaking wave—but then Win had been there to rescue her. Win. She had repudiated whatever was left of Win, but as the slowing mass suddenly set rigidly about her body, she wondered at her own insanity in wanting to be alone. She struggled to move, but felt only the slight snapping of a switch, followed by the growing cold of the snow that held her prisoner. Her struggles must have turned off the thermal suit, she realized with a growing sense of despair. Exhausted and chilled, she could not even visualize a place of safety. Win, she sobbed mentally. Forgive me, my love.

This is a situation where time is absolutely essential, and buried but living victims are likely to die of suffocation or cold – often in less time than it takes to get help. Dogs are better than people at finding victims, but if search and rescue dogs have to be flown in, it is often too late to find anything but a body.

Year 2, Day 280

The rains are late. Either that, or they have been early the last two years.

Is it possible that they will not reach this far south, that the nomads will not return? Certainly they follow the herds, and the herds will not come south until the vegetation greens, after the rains have fallen. In the two years I have been here, the rains have come before the summer solstice. But my crude calendar says the solstice is today, and there is no sign of rain. Only of dust and smoke, which forced me to levitate to see the direction in which the sun set. I did not even see cloud tops, or dry lightning.

The stream has gone dry, and I am seeing more and more dead animals on my exploratory flights. To the west are sand dunes – I don’t explore much that way. A day’s flight north, though, it is raining in places. How much longer will the rains move southward? If they reach me, will they last long enough to turn the vegetation green? Should I go farther north, and try to find the nomads?

I have burned off most of the dry vegetation around my shelter. Not that the starving animals left much. Predators were glutted at first, but now they, too, are gaunt and starving. The warnoff has become a necessity if I leave the shelter on foot.

Luckily I can teleport myself and Patches to greener areas where I can fish and she can hunt the small mammals we both prefer as food. The large mammals would be tastier, but without the nomads I am not very good at preparing them.

I hope they come back.

Perhaps I should teleport north of the rains, and try to find them?

This is an excerpt from Jarn’s Journal, the journal kept by a fictional human-like alien, Jarn, who was stranded on Earth roughly 125,000 years ago. He has made friends with one tribe of early humans, but they have followed the grazing herds northward. Jarn’s Journal to date, from the time of his crash landing, is on my author website.

Writing and Marketing Index

The Science Behind Homecoming 4/2/10
The Horses of Homecoming 4/17/10
Writing Homecoming 4/30/10
The Editing Process 5/15/10
Wars With Word 5/28/10

Summer Arts Festival (2010)
General Description 7/18/10
Summer Festival 1 7/20/10
Summer Festival 2 7/21/10
Summer Festival 3 7/22/10
Summer Festival 4 7/23/10
Summer Festival 5 7/24/10
Summer Festival 2nd Week 7/25/10
Summer Festival 7/26 7/27 10
Summer Festival 7/27 7/28/10
Summer Festival 7/28 7/29/10
Summer Festival 7/29 7/30/10
Summer Festival 7/30 7/31/10

Radio Marketing 10/30/10
First Book Signing 11/21/10
The Book Video is here! 12/15/10
Homecoming’s A Finalist! 2/11/11
Reading in the Dark 2/20/11
Homecoming Award 3/1/11
Suggestions Wanted 4/19/11
In Memoriam: Bill Kloefkorn 5/26/11
Proofreading 6/10/11
Trying to Sell Books 6/23/11

Summer Arts Festival 2011
Summer Arts Festival 7/12/11
Fairbanks Summer Arts Festival Day 1 7/18/11
Summer Arts Festival Day 2 7/19/11
POCHOIR 7/19/11
Summer Arts Festival Day 3 7/20/11
Summer Arts Festival Day 4 7/21/11
Summer Arts Festival Day 5 7/22/11
Summer Arts Festival Day 6 7/25/11
Fairbanks Summer Arts Festival Day 7 7/26/11
Summer Arts Festival Day 8 7/27/11
Fairbanks Summer Arts Festival Day 9 7/28/11
Summer Arts Festival Day 10 7/29/11
Writing Craft and Practice: Some Suggested Books 7/30/11
Summer Arts Festival: Three Concerts in One Day 8/2/11

You’re It? Ten Random Facts about Myself. 9/15/11
Blogger Ball #7 9/17/11
I have Awards! 9/29/11
Writing Prompt: Games 10/6/11
7×7 Link Award 10/11/11
Indexing Blog Posts 1/3/12
11 Question Tag 2/25/12
Tourist Trap: Best Fiction Book Award 3/27/12
Teeth 4/19/12
Kharfun Syndrome 4/26/12
Jarnian Confederation: Purpose 5/3/12
Jarnian Confederation: Structure 5/10/12
Act 2: Retirement? 5/16/12
It’s Award Time Again 5/24/12

Summer Arts Festival 2012
Summer Arts Festival is coming up 7/14/12
Summer Arts Festival 7/16/12
Summer Arts Festival continued 7/17/12
Summer Arts Festival 7/17/12
Summer Arts Festival 7/18/12
Summer Arts Festival 7/19/12
Summer Arts Festival 7/20/12
Summer Arts Festival 7/23/12
Summer Arts Festival 7/24/12
Summer Arts Festival 7/25/12
Summer Arts Festival Reading List 7/26/12

GUTGAA Small Press Pitch 10/2/12

World Building Blogfest
Geography and Climate of some Planets in the Confederation 1/28/13
History and Government of the Jarnian Confederation 1/29/13
Religions and Cultures of the Jarnian Confederation 1/30/13
Food and Drink in the Jarnian Confederation 1/31/13
Excerpt from War’s End 2/1/13

A to Z Challenge 2013
Amber 4/1/13
Bounceabout 4/2/13
Coryn 4/3/13
Derik 4/4/13
Elyra 4/5/13
Flame 4/6/13
Galactica 4/8/13
Human 4/9/13
Inherited Language 4/10/13
Jarn 4/11/13
Kyrie Talganian 4/12/13
Lai 4/13/13
Marna 4/15/13
Nik  4/16/13
Outer Council 4/17/13
Penny 4/18/13
Query Letter 4/19/13
Roi 4/20/13
Saroi 4/22/13
Timi 4/23/13
Uncontacted planets 4/24/13
Vara 4/25/13
Wif 4/26/13
Xazhar 4/27/13
Yearday 4/29/13
Zhaim 4/30/13
A to Z Reflections 5/2/13