Archive for February, 2013



Happy Valentine’s Day!

Quotes from Andre Norton

Here are the contexts of the quotes tweeted from @sueannbowling February 7 through 13.

Cover, Zarsthor's Bane“Hatred does not last forever, no matter how hot or how deep it has run.” Andre Norton, Zarsthor’s Bane. Brixia, taken over by some spirit she does not recognize, speaks to Marbon who, it seems, has been taken over by an ancient hatred.

“Hate dies—but while it lives it can twist and torment the unwary who summon its aid.” Andre Norton, Zarsthor’s Bane.  More of Brixia’s possession.

“A hasty speech cannot be recalled for even one word.” Andre Norton, Zarsthor’s Bane.  The lady of the white gems, when the fight is brought to a feast where she is a guest.

Lore WW“You sought no power, so it was freely given to you in your need.” Andre Norton, Zarsthor’s Bane. Marbon to Brixia, admitting that he sought power for power’s sake and was denied.

“How power comes to one does not matter—how one uses it does.” Andre Norton, Zarsthor’s Bane. Marbon, wondering at what Brixia has accomplished.

“I have come to hate any act which makes man or woman unwillingly serve another.” Andre Norton, “Spider Silk” from Lore of the Witch World. Rothar, a survivor of the war of Alizon against the Dales, is speaking as he ferries Dairene to the island of the spiders.

“Kinetic energy shouldn’t be a problem if I’m just changing direction, not speed.” Sue Ann Bowling, Homecoming. Roi is leaning to teleport, and trying to think of all the conservation laws he needs to remember. But he’s forgotten Coriolis acceleration.

Review of Pride and Prejudice (DVD)

Pride and Prejudice blogfestThe first time I watched this, the version with Kiera Knightly, I thought it came off rather poorly compared to the BBC version with Colin Firth. The second time, I liked it better, but while it generally stays close to the original book, there still seemed something a little off. Then I watched the movie with the commentary by the director (Joe Wright), and had an “aha!” moment.

DVD cover, Pride and PrejudiceI had always read the book – and I think Jane Austin wrote it – with Elizabeth totally hostile to Darcy at the time of his initial proposal. It seemed to me that the change in her attitude did not even start until the second time she read his letter – and then it took a long time to really sink in.

In this version, the director assumed that Elizabeth was actually attracted to Darcy at the time he first proposed to her, and refused him from pride and a bit of temper. I was watching from my understanding of the book, and when that clashed with the way the actors were playing their parts, l had a hard time following. I need to set it aside for a while and perhaps watch it again.

I was a little bothered by Lady Catherine showing up at the Bennett home late at night and the family all meeting her in their sleeping attire. Would this really have happened at this time of history? Would not a servant have opened the door, rather than Mr. Bennett?

All in all, this was an excellent movie, even if it did depart somewhat from the book.

Snowstake 2/8/13The sun will rise at 9:02 this morning, and set 8 hours 8 minutes later at 5:10 this evening. Sunset is now after 5; I’ll soon be able to attend afternoon lectures! It’s warmed up a little, but thankfully not so much that the roads were too slippery to attend the critique session yesterday afternoon.

We’ve had a little snow over the last week – enough that I’m thinking of getting the driveway plowed again. The all-wheel drive could handle keeping it rolled down if I were going in and out every day, but I’ve been making it out only about twice a week lately, and I’ve killed the engine backing out a time or two. The snow stake says the depth is approaching two feet, so at least we’ve about made up for the settling. I tried to crop the photo so the bottom of the photo is the base of the stake. I have not tried to walk out to the stake!

Bartlett Arboretum, Belle Paliane KSI got back the digitizations of the rest of the 35mm slides last week. Some I know I took are still missing; some I’d totally forgotten about were there. I took one group in 1978 when I visited a botanical garden in Wichita with my father and his second wife, 8 years after my mother died. I couldn’t remember the name of the place so I googled “public gardens Wichita” and finally found it: Bartlett Arboretum, in Belle Plaine, KS. Really a beautiful place, and we visited in tulip time. Now I need to get the 2 ¼ x 2 ¼ slides, the Super 8 movies and the videotapes done, but at least I have managed to look at the movies and see that some are worth saving.

Year of the Snake

Snake blog hop logo

In honor of the Chinese New Year, Wendy Russo has organized the Year of the Snake Blog Hop, posting something connected to snakes from our writing. I took Wendy’s prompt for “something to do with snakes” a bit more liberally than I suspect she intended, but I do have a snake-like predator native to Rakal in War’s End, the WIP I’ve been blogging excerpts from. (There’s another excerpt just below this.) To start with Coralie, stranded with her month-old baby and a few others on the planet Rakal, is wondering what the local predators are like.

Trifid NebulaNothing looked edible, and if there wasn’t anything to eat near the ground, there wouldn’t be any animals there. Except for water — but would local animals have to come down from the trees for water? Could they lick enough off the leaves to keep going? How about the predators? “Audi,” Coralie added, “would you show me how to use the reader to access the information on Rakal once we find the cave? And what kinds of predators are there? I don’t see anything for the prey animals to eat, down here.”

Audi groaned. “The reader’s packed in the kit, and I don’t feel up to getting it right now, but I think the top predators are snakelike. Uh—you do have snakes on Horizon, don’t you?”

“Snakes?” She’d seen the word before, in texts on off-planet biology, but it meant no more than “felines” had before Zhaim had imported the pumas. “I don’t think so. They’re some kind of legless animals, aren’t they? How do they get around?”

“They get around,” Ginger broke in. “Quite well. I think we’d better check how those here attack.

But before they can find the cave, they find out a bit more about those snakelike predators. The hard way.

Coralie moved forward, and looked more closely at the overhang now clearly visible. She hadn’t been this far before, and even Bounce had turned back before reaching this point. From here it was apparent even in the limited light that the area under the overhang was darker than it should have been. “That’s Bounce’s cave,” she turned to call back. “Don’t know how deep, or if it’s occupied.” She started to turn back toward the cave when something slammed into her shoulder and upper chest.

It burned like fire, and when she looked down she saw a sort of tentacle, apparently coming from a tree clinging to the bank of the stream. She screamed. Ginger echoed her, shrugged out of the harness, and sprinted forward. The baby! Whatever it was hadn’t touched Michelle yet, but it surely would. “Ginger!” she managed to scream, “Catch!” When Ginger paused and lifted her arms, Coralie flung the infant toward those arms. She followed with her eyes just long enough to be sure that the baby was safe in Ginger’s grasp before turning her attention back to the tentacle dragging her toward the tree.

She tried to grab it and pull it away, but it seemed welded to her flesh. The burning sensation was getting worse, and her vision seemed blurred. Were the trees here predatory? She tried to claw at the section of tentacle between her and the tree, only to discover that one side was covered with needle-like projections that left her hand as agonized as her shoulder. She was getting dizzy, and staggered as she tried to brace herself against the relentless pull. The tentacle jerked, and she realized that the Maung was atop the tentacle, between her and the tree—but she felt as if she were spinning farther and farther from a body that would no longer obey her commands. As her vision faded she clung last to the knowledge that Ginger had Michelle safe.

To find the other participants on this blog hop, click on the links:

 WWW logo rect

Welcome to Weekend Writing Warriors! To find other participants, click on the logo. There is also a facebook group for Sunday snippets.

I’m still quoting from War’s End, which is in the editing stage. Coralie’s dog Bounce is bringing the Maung back to the group, and they are wondering how to feed it – and themselves, as they have only a limited supply of the emergency food bars.

Orion Nebla“They do need different trace elements,” Ginger replied shortly after she took back the reader. “Mmm …. They can handle our amino acids — not a chirality problem — but they need a different balance than we do. Could be allergy problems, but probably not on the bars. This is not a complete reference, but I seem to remember that their bone structure is not based on calcium phosphate, or at least it’s got something else to make it stronger — they’re adapted to higher gravity than we are. I think they need more chlorine — there’s enough in their atmosphere to make Humans pretty sick. And several complex chemical compounds, like our vitamins, but there’s nothing we can do about that. At least they’re carbon-based and get their energy from oxidizing carbohydrates and hydrocarbons!”

If you’d like more information on the Maungs, check the second day of my world building week.

White Horses

A few horses are all white, with dark eyes and pink skin. These are not to be confused with aged greys, which may have a pure white coat but retain dark or at least mottled skin, or few-spot leopards, which generally have mottled skin. This type of white can occur from the spotting genes we have discussed as producing pintos, especially if more than one type of spotting gene is present. There is also a type of dominant white which is lethal if two copies of the allele are present but which if one white and one wild-type allele are present produces a healthy white horse.

Remember also that many of the dilution genes we have discussed can produce a very pale cream color often mistaken for white, though most of these horses have light eyes.

All white marking genes on horses, from a conservative white star to a white horse with colored ears, seem to work by preventing the pigment-producing cells from getting to parts of the horse’s body. They do not affect or replace other genes for color. Thus no matter how extensive the white markings on a horse, it will still carry alleles at all of the color loci we have discussed. Further, it will pass those alleles on to its foals.

The white spotting genes grouped as “pinto,” “paint” or “parti-color” may occur in any combination consistent with the survival of the foal. (Two copies of the frame allele at the frame locus, for instance, results in white foal syndrome and early death regardless of what else is present.) A horse could easily have one frame allele, together with two each for sabino-1, tobiano and splash. Because the white areas from these alleles tend to affect different parts of the horse, the result could be a white horse. When bred to plain mates, the offspring would probably be spotted.

Horses with spotting due to a single locus can also be white or nearly white if they are close to the extreme version of that pattern. Several of the spotting patterns converge to a “medicine hat” or “war bonnet” pattern with maximal white. This is probably most common in so-called tovero horses—those that combine tobiano spotting alleles with any of the non-tobiano alleles at other spotting loci. In general the ears are the last areas to lose pigment.

There is one type of pink-skinned white with dark eyes that does not appear to produce spotting in the offspring. White to white breedings of this type, however, always produce some colored foals. Examination of the numbers of white and colored foals suggest that two white alleles at this locus are a prenatal lethal—the foal never develops or is aborted so early that the breeder assumes the mare has missed. This type of white is believed to be due to a dominant gene.

Lone Ranger andSilver

Publicity shot of the Lone Ranger with Silver. Note the dark eyes and pink skin.

The white allele seems to have a surprisingly high mutation rate. Thus whites have been produced from colored parents in several breeds, and then reproduced as if they were dominant whites. I do not know whether DNA proof of parentage was available in these cases, however.

I do not believe a gene test has been developed for this type of white. Gene tests at other loci could be very useful, however, in determining what other color alleles the horse carries and could pass on to its foals.

White is a spectacular color and for that reason was popular in the age of horse power for flashy coach or cavalry horses. At least two western heroes — the Lone Ranger and Hopalong Cassidy — rode dominant whites, Silver and Topper. The downside? Keeping a white horse clean may be a problem, and the pink skin may be subject to sunburn.

White hoses are not albinos, although the initial name of the “breed” registry was the American Albino Horse registry. More online information can be found at The American White and Cream Horse and the Camarillo White Horse Association, though there is some question as to whether the two are genetically the same.

Year 5, Day 45

I think I missed a few things last year.

Malachite, MorguefileIt seems that the shaman has more of a part in the recognition of a new baby by the group than I realized. The shaman of the group the mother is from presents the baby, and plays a part in the ceremonial naming. All very reasonable—the shaman is the one who would know who the mother is.

The problem is that Songbird was not in a group with a shaman when little WildDog was born.

And they want me to stand as shaman at his recognition.

They’re very deferential about it, but it seems that neither Meerkat nor Giraffe is acceptable.  I’d be willing, but I can’t help worrying what effect this is going to have on WildDog’s status with the group. Hard as I’ve tried to dissuade them, they still look on me as a god.

I had a private talk with Rain Cloud to find out just what is expected of a shaman sponsoring a child. “Just hold the child up so everyone can see him, give his name and say that he is the child of Songbird,” he assured me. “A child is given a token, strung on a cord around his neck – you must have seen Songbird’s – to show he is one of us. Shall I find something?” But he felt a little doubtful.

Suddenly I remembered seeing a green outcrop of rock far west of my first landing site. I’d been interested enough to smooth a face, and remembered how the markings reminded me of storm clouds. I could smooth a bit into a disk with a hole to hang around the baby’s neck. “I’ll find something appropriate,” I assured Rain Cloud.

Quotes from Mercedes Lackey

Cover,, One Good KnightThe first six quotes tweeted from January 31 through February 6 were from One Good Knight, by Mercedes Lackey.

“It takes as long as it takes.” Gina is being asked how long the fighting training will take. She compares it to learning to be a dancer or a musician.

“Why dress something you’re going to eat?” Amaranth’s reason for finally believing the dragons – food could be to fatten her up, but clothing does not make sense if that were their goal.

”Clever and cunning, not intelligent. Not the same thing at all.” The fox, when Gina says that foxes are supposed to be intelligent.

“People who are not mad always have reasons for what they do.” Peri and Andi are trying to figure out why the dragons are being forced to lay waste to the countryside.

“Sacrificing one virgin girl a week does not ruin an economy.” Peri, pointing out that the dragons “ravaging” the countryside has not hurt the basic economy at all.

“A question or a train of thought must be pursued to its likeliest conclusion, no matter how unpleasant.” Andi’s teacher of logic has taught her this, and she does not at all like the likeliest conclusion.

“Don’t look under the bed. I forgot to check there.” Bowling, Horse Power.

New Pricing on E-Books

I am pleased to announce that the e-book prices on my first two books are finally down where I think they should be for a relatively unknown author. iUniverse has both Homecoming and Tourist Trap at my preferred price of $4.99.

Amazon is selling Homecoming on Kindle at $4.39 but seems a bit slow on Tourist Trap, as they are still listing it at $7.69. I’ve pointed out to them that iUniverse is cheaper, but customer complaints might work faster.

Barnes and Noble offers both Homecoming and Tourist Trap in Nook format at $4.39 each.

Even people who don’t normally like science fiction have enjoyed these books. They include many of the things I’ve blogged about: horses, dogs, genetics, conservation laws, and hypoglycemia, for some.

A sample excerpt, from Homecoming:

The spring equinox found Marna moving back to the north, keeping ahead of the rains as she recrossed the savanna and moved into true desert. Furnace winds parched her mouth and throat, and blowing dust caked her eyes. She paused near the crest of a dune, shading her eyes against the glare of the morning sun.

The blue line to the north had become more than a line. She nodded in satisfaction as she turned back to the floater and picked up her canteen for a drink. The map had been telling her for more than a day that the Wind Hills were ahead of her, but this was the first time she had been sure that what she saw was more than a mirage. She sealed the canteen and returned it to the floater, making a quick check of her remaining water containers. A good three days’ worth, she thought, and she should reach the foothills and at least one spring tonight. She licked her dusty lips and began climbing down the slip face of the dune.

By late afternoon she had sighted three cabins, all well away from the line to the hills. The fourth, however, was directly in her path, and she paused to study it. It was built of the pale limestone that made up the backbone of the Wind Hills, roofed with red slate, and seemed almost untouched by time. In fact, it didn’t look as if it could possibly have been abandoned for as long as the cabins on Windhome, or even for a fraction of that time. Marna’s heartbeat quickened as she stepped closer. Could this place possibly be isolated enough to house a survivor of the plague?

She circled the cabin, looking for any sign of life. On the fourth side was a door, propped part way open by a chunk of rock. She ran up to it, her heart pounding and her breath tight in her throat, and looked inside.

The small windows had been sandblasted over the years, and her eyes, adjusted to the glare of the desert sun, at first saw only darkness broken by paler rectangles. Marna closed her eyes and covered them with her hands, willing her sight to adjust but already aware that there was no smell or sound of life. When she looked again, she saw that the room was half filled with drifted sand.

Something dark protruded from the sand to her left, and she thought at first it was a tree branch, oddly shriveled and distorted. She scuffed her way across the room to try and pull it free, and only then realized that what she held was a hand.

Her knees buckled and she collapsed into the sand, still holding that poor, withered travesty of a R’il’nian hand. She stroked it gently while tears ran down her face and the trained Healer in her mind noted the spread, backward-stretched fingers and bent-back wrist. A plague victim, no doubt hidden from scavengers by the drifting sand and mummified in the heat and dryness of the desert.

Gently she dug the sand away, revealing a contorted body that seemed little more than a skeleton covered with stretched, dried leather. Someone tired of the press of crowds had come here for rest and renewal, perhaps, but had brought the plague along and died in agony, far from any help. Elsewhere, the last to die had been reclaimed by the life of the planet, not even their bones remaining. Here, there had not even been a scavenger to accept the poor body.

Logic said she should get away, that the person was long gone and the body might still harbor the plague.

She could not abandon the remnant.

The body refused to be composed into any semblance of rest, but she brushed away the last of the sand and carried it into the sun, now high in the sky. Deaths among the R’il’nai had been rare, and she finally had to ask the computer for the proper words.

“I do not know who you are,” she told the body finally, “so I cannot speak of your life and the joy you brought those who knew you. I can only say the final farewell. Take the goodness and joy of your life with you as you go before, and let all sorrow and evil be consumed with your body in the furnace from which it came.”

She reached out to cup her hands around the skull-like face, locking her mind on the body. She gathered herself mentally, reached for the sun, and thrust the body into its nuclear heart.

For a long time after the funeral Marna sat unmoving beside the cabin, tears running down her face and making brief marks in the sand. Finally she struggled to her feet and began pulling the floater on toward the hills, but her pleasure in seeing the beauty of Riya was gone. She might as well go back to the island, she thought. At least there she had the tinerals for company.


            The tinerals were bearing their young when she returned. Most of the animals chose to give birth on their own, but Ruby preferred Marna’s bed. Her lavender mate, still suspicious of Marna, watched nervously from outside the window as Marna patted the garnet-downed infant dry.

“She’s going to be a beauty, Ruby, and a color I’ve never seen before,” Marna told the tineral. But there’ll never be a child for me, she thought as she handed the newborn back to its mother.

You’ll raise a child and bear one too, love. Mine in spirit, if not by blood. She jumped to her feet. Surely that message hadn’t come from her subconscious, nor could it have any precognitive content. She left the island again the next day. But if Win’s voice on the island tempted her to death, the unheard voices on the rest of the planet drove her in the same direction.