Why I’ve Been Off the Blogmobile

terradebaclefronttI’ve been off the blogmobile for a while, as you may have noticed. Why? Because I’ve been doing what authors do, which is, in case you’re not aware, write. I’m in the process of finishing up my latest novel, “The Terra Debacle: Prisoners at Area 51” which chronicles what happened to Thyron and Aggie while they were at Area 51, which occurred in Star Trails Volume II, “A Dark of Endless Days.” I thought it would be another short story like “The Sapphiran Agenda” but, as it turned out, it became a novel, though only about half the length of the books in the series. It’s in the final phases at this point with my planned release date December 1. I’ll let you know when it’ll be available for pre-order on Amazon.

Meanwhile, here’s a peek at the cover as it currently stands and a short excerpt. If you haven’t read the series, then you need to know that Thyron is a flora peda telepathis, or telepathic walking plant. You can learn more about him in “The Sapphiran Agenda” which is free on Smashwords. You can pickup a copy in the ebook format of your choice here:

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/575910

Onboard Impounded UFO

Hill AFB

Ogden, Utah

May 28, 1978

1445 MDT/2045 GMT

Thoughts cloaked, Thyron sat perfectly still on the bench occupying the Cerulean Nimrod’s lower deck where Creena had witnessed him tromp the ‘troid in a tysa game during their journey, one of his most cherished moments of botanical victory. Before him, a bearded man with dark hair teased with grey straddled the bench, scrutinizing him with curious, green eyes while a small group of uniformed humans clustered around.

“Clearly it’s a botanical lifeform,” the man stated, removing a small light source from one of many pockets in his tan jacket.

Invisible within his carefully arranged, multi-faceted leaves, Thyron rolled his eyes. Classifying these people as morons was far too generous.

“Strange,” he went on.. “It looks like an oxalis palmifrons – gigantea hybrid. A type of wood sorrel. Quite common in Brazil. South Africa and Mexico, too, as I recall. I wonder if it was brought here or harvested?”

“What do you suggest we do with it, Doctor Greenley?” asked an older soldier of considerable rank, judging by the plethora of decorative patches and dangling metallic ornaments on his chest. His uniform, unlike the others, was a shade of blue similar in color to coagulated Sapphiran blood.

“We need to secure it in a sealed environmental chamber to assure its safe arrival at the Nellis lab, Colonel. It looks rather hardy, but we don’t know what its heat tolerance level is, which could be exceeded during the trip across the desert, and it shouldn’t be exposed to contaminants like molds, fungi, bacteria and such, that could prove lethal. Fortunately, I brought along an environmental control chamber on loan from NASA’s Life Sciences Exobiology Branch.”

“Great. Let’s do it. We need to get this vehicle off the tarmac. The crane’s ready to load it up on a flatbed and secure it in a hangar until departure tonight at oh-three-hundred.”

Greenley removed a small, notched strip of metal from one of his pockets and handed it to the nearest soldier who had hair the color of iron-rich dirt, which Thryon found rather pleasing. “Here’s the key to my rental car, airman. It’s in the trunk. Two of you should be able to handle it.”

Airman? Thyron thought. Odd. He didn’t look as if he could fly.

“While you retrieve the ECC, I’m going to take a sample to study in the astrobionics lab when I get back to Houston,” the botanist continued, reaching into another pocket. “Then I’ll be able to determine conclusively whether it’s a native species or extraterrestrial.”

Take a sample?

Instantaneously, an ancestral defense mechanism lurking in his DNA activated that Thyron had never experienced before. His cytoplasm tingled as it gathered sulfur dioxide stored deep within his primary bulb and started to combine it with water stored in his lush, divided leaves. Fortunately, the burning sensation tipped him off to what was happening just in time, preventing a toxic cloud of sulfuric acid fumes from injuring and possibly killing everyone within ten meters.

The mental concentration required to perform this humane action precluded cloaking his concurrent mental response, however. As soon as the thought escaped, all he could do was hope that no one within range was psi-sensitive.

He was wrong.

The botanist’s eyes widened and jaw dropped, hand gripping the cutting device frozen in midair.

“What’s wrong, Dr. Greenley?” the officer asked, stepping closer. “Are you all right?”

The scientist closed his mouth, blinked a few times, then turned his head in the speaker’s direction. “Holy guacamole! It just refused. Rather adamantly. I swear. To be exact, I had the distinct impression it said, and I quote, ‘Like hell you will.‘”

Several more mouths fell open amid a few chuckles of disbelief.

“What’s that smell?” one of the airmen asked.

“Well, it wasn’t me,” Greenley stated, somewhat defensively. “Whatever this species is, Colonel Jenkins, I suspect it’s intelligent, perhaps even dangerous.” He straightened and stepped back, returning the cutting tool to his jacket’s hip pocket and securing the flap. “I’ve seen thousands of botanical species, from the tropics to Antarctica, from mountain tops in the Andes to the depths of the Mariana Trench. But this specimen’s entirely different from anything I’ve ever encountered anywhere on Planet Earth.”

The colonel took a deep breath and blew out his cheeks. “Yeah. I’d say that’s intuitively obvious, doc,” he said. “Intuitively obvious.”

* * *

The Star Trails Tetralogy Box Set is available at most online retailers through the links below.

For more information about individual books and reviews visit the series’ website at http://www.StarTrailsSaga.com.

Start the Star Trails adventure with “Beyond the Hidden Sky” for FREE!  http://startrailssaga.com/a-family-saga-at-warp-speed-2/get-beyond-the-hidden-sky-for-free/

Amazon: http://amzn.to/1kAJxRn

Smashwords:  https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/550675

Kobo: https://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/star-trails-tetralogy-box-set

iTunes:  https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/star-trails-tetralogy-box-set/id1007498996

Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/star-trails-tetralogy-box-set-marcha-fox/1122157702

Last Day! Star Trails Tetralogy Box Set 99c!

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Today is your last chance to get your ecopy of the entire Star Trails Tetralogy for only 99c! The box set includes “Beyond the Hidden Sky,” “A Dark of Endless Days,” “A Psilent Place Below,” and “Refractions of Frozen Time” as well as “The Star Trails Compendium.” Descriptions of the individual books can be found below as well as at the series’ website, www.StarTrailsSaga.com.

STAR TRAILS TETRALOGY DESCRIPTION

Close families share everything.  Including consequences.  When one of the HIO’s premier terralogists refuses a job offer from a wannabe despot the chain of suspicious circumstances which quickly follow scatter his family across the galaxy.  Torn apart by space and time, will each survive long enough to be united ever again? 

VIDEO

Volume I: BEYOND THE HIDDEN SKY

A move to another planet that goes horribly wrong.  A power hungry man’s obsession with another’s abilities.  Suspicious circumstances that scatter a family across the galaxy.  Will rescue efforts succeed or make the situation even worse?

VIDEO

When the Brightstar family leaves fog-shrouded and predictable Mira III for Cyraria they have no idea their comfortable lifestyle is about to end forever.  Even before the starcruiser arrives, shocking events transpire that comprise a parent’s worst nightmare.  Not only is their fourteen year old daughter, Creena, missing but it’s clear her father’s ruthless and power-hungry nemesis plans to exploit the situation to promote his own selfish ambitions. Formidable and lethal challenges await as increasingly suspicious circumstances scatter them across the galaxy.  Will they survive long enough to be together again?

“Sneek Peeks” on Bublish:

REVIEW SAMPLES

“The story begins at warp speed as space travel and its theory weaves throughout the tale of a family separated by mishap and kept apart by intent.” – Editorial Review

“The author’s colorful and animated word sketches give the reader the feel of actually watching or being right in the mix of the story. She brings personality and quirks to the characters as they develop through expressive descriptions and dialogue.” – Amazon Reviewer

“I am an author as well as having taught junior high science for a number of years and think this read would be a fabulous addition to classroom libraries as well as “the hungry for sci-fi lovers” personal bookshelf.” – Amazon Reviewer

“Although geared for the YA market, it is suited for sci-fi audiences for all ages who will thoroughly enjoy the talented professional writing of Marcha Fox’s wonderful expeditions.” – Amazon Reviewer

“All her characters, even creatures on the planets, are outstanding examples of a writer totally in touch with the depths of the subconscious mind, all interacting with their roles of good and evil with hidden spiritual messages as one experiences their own individual growth of consciousness.” – Amazon Reviewer

 ALL AMAZON REVIEWS OF BEYOND THE HIDDEN SKY

BEYOND THE HIDDEN SKY on GOODREADS

Volume II: A DARK OF ENDLESS DAYS

Opposition’s lethal temperatures are more than a simple ballome can’t withstand.  Designing and building a heat-exchanger is the only way they’ll survive.  Obtaining the needed components, however, is another story.

VIDEO

On a hostile planet like Cyraria terralogists are in high demand and Laren Brightstar is one of the best.  Regional governors compete for positions at the territorial level based on their economic achievements, allowing those with terraforming skills to demand a high price.  Refusing to work for those with devious intent, however, has an even higher price.  Thus the Brightstar family discovers when they’re plunged into a web of political intrigue on a planet cursed with lethal weather where survival can never be taken for granted.  Will their missing daughter return with help or will she remain trapped forever on an alien world?

“Sneek Peeks” on Bublish:

 

REVIEW SAMPLES

“Young people can identify with the children in the family, but this series is for people of all ages. Marcha does transport you to outer space, way into the future, and you will believe you are there with the Brightstar family.” – Amazon Reviewer

“In the vein of old science fiction literature this story could end up as another classic. Its original, with all the components, technology, other world and races, and a contact with Earth.” – Amazon Reviewer

“Written in a technically proficient yet engaging style this book is sure to captivate science fiction lovers of all ages!” – Amazon Reviewer

“Fox once again does an exceptional job building character and making her created universe a reality. I can’t turn a page without picturing the story in my mind and visualizing each character.” – Amazon Reviewer

 ALL AMAZON REVIEWS OF A DARK OF ENDLESS DAYS

A DARK OF ENDLESS DAYS on GOODREADS

Volume III: A PSILENT PLACE BELOW

Taking refuge in the Caverns is like a dream come true.  But the dreams generated by their mysterious depths promise death or worse.  Is forewarned really forearmed?  Or another lure into the Integrator’s grasp?

VIDEO

Going underground to escape Cyraria’s harsh climate brings more than a few surprises besides the hospitality of an indigenous race known as the bnolar.  The caverns feel strangely like home, but shortly after their arrival prophetic visions in the form of veridical dreams alert them to upcoming danger.  Incarcerated in a territorial prison, Laren Brightstar is about to receive and refuse Augustus Troy’s final offer, after which he’ll be exiled permanently to a place from which there is no return.  Will Dirck and Win’s rescue succeed?

“Sneek Peeks” on Bublish:

 

REVIEW SAMPLES

“The specific and very detailed description of the places and of the characters say so much about the author’s capacity to depict all of it with words, making your imagination start running freely in the process.” – Amazon Reviewer

“[The author] has created an entire world and its inhabitants along with various languages and races that each have unique abilities and qualities. Her extensive knowledge in science is evident in the explanations that are utterly believable.” – Amazon Reviewer

“A highly intelligent and prolific read, you really get a feel for the authors experience given she had a career at NASA. Speaks to the insight and depth of the book, well thought out and concise.” – Amazon Reviewer

ALL AMAZON REVIEWS OF A PSILENT PLACE BELOW

A PSILENT PLACE BELOW on GOODREADS

Volume IV: REFRACTIONS OF FROZEN TIME

A discovery that links two dimensions of time.  A prison ship’s dirty little secret.  Esheron has answers but can they access them before it’s too late? 

VIDEO

The discovery of a mineral that manipulates space and time provides the potential to reunite the Brightstar family at last.  Controlling it, however, is another matter.  With the Integrator closing in on the ability to destroy anyone for whom they have a mindprint, finding the secret of manipulating the two dimensions of time becomes a matter of life and death.  But is time their ally or another enemy?

“Sneak Peeks” on Bublish

REVIEW SAMPLES

“Author Marcha Fox has a gift for explaining the science. The detailed world she creates in the Star Trails Tetralogy is genius, so well thought out and crafted. As the Brightstar youngsters observe and understand their surroundings, their conclusions can be coloured by their Miran schooling, but when they break old habits and open their minds in order to survive this hostile planet they now call home, these children achieve the incredible. Quite Beautiful.” – Amazon Reviewer

“What sets this apart from run-of-the-mill ” space operas is Fox’s experience during her tenure at NASA. She draws upon her technical expertise and enhances it with fact-based theory that gives this as much of a ‘what-if’ perspective as you can expect within the genre. The moral and philosophical questions also give us much to reflect upon.” – Amazon Reviewer

“[The author’s] creativity and imagination never fall short but always leave me wanting more. Each character has been carefully crafted and developed. I enjoyed watching the children develop and grow from bickering teens to collaborative young adults. The final climax had me shivering as the forces of dark and light came hurtling together into an unexpected and shocking end.” – Amazon Reviewer

ALL AMAZON REVIEWS of REFRACTIONS OF FROZEN TIME

REFRACTIONS OF FROZEN TIME on GOODREADS

BOX SET BUY LINKS

Amazon: http://amzn.to/1kAJxRn

Smashwords:  https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/550675

Kobo: https://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/star-trails-tetralogy-box-set

iTunes:  https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/star-trails-tetralogy-box-set/id1007498996

Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/star-trails-tetralogy-box-set-marcha-fox/1122157702

Stock Photo Copyright: kjpargeter / 123RF Stock Photo

Over 1500 pages of Hard Sci-Fi for 99c

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Don’t you just hate serials?  Doesn’t it drive you crazy when you’re deeply entrenched in a story then abruptly thrust to the edge of an annoying cliffhanger? Worse yet, when it means waiting months or even longer before the next book comes out!

With a box set those frustrations no longer exist. No waiting, no additional purchases, everything is right there, in this case 1500 pages of a hard sci-fi family saga ready to transport you to another realm.  If you’re unfamiliar with this tetralogy, you can learn more at the series’ website or explore the individual stories in the excerpts included with the “Book Bubbles” at the author’s site on Bublish.  If you’re already a fan, now’s your chance to get them all for a bargain price.

Each book has been released separately to 5-star reviews.  In addition, this set includes the Star Trails Compendium with terms, definitions, and detailed background information on the stories’ planetary setting.  As a physicist I’ve made science an inherent part of this series which the Compendium exploits in a special section for parents and educators with ready-made discussion ideas and lessons plans designed to stimulate interest in science and engineering.

Whether you’re simply a hard science fiction fan or a science teacher looking for a ready-made extra credit package, this series is for you!  So what are you waiting for?  Blast off now with the Brightstar family for a gripping interstellar ride across the galaxy!

Grab The Star Trails Tetralogy ebook Box Set while it’s only $0.99 and save $5.00!

Amazon: http://amzn.to/1kAJxRn

Smashwords:  https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/550675

Kobo: https://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/star-trails-tetralogy-box-set

iTunes:  https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/star-trails-tetralogy-box-set/id1007498996

Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/star-trails-tetralogy-box-set-marcha-fox/1122157702

Stock Photo Copyright: kjpargeter / 123RF Stock Photo

Spend the Summer on Another Planet

STTboxsetsale2 copy

In case you missed it earlier, here’s another reminder that the entire Star Trails Tetralogy, over 1500 pages of classic hard science fiction, is still on sale as a box set for only 99c from July 1 – 4. The price has NEVER been this low and won’t be again for a long time, so grab a copy now. Why? I’m celebrating the first anniversary of when the box set was released on July 3, 2015.

Each of the four novels are included as well as the Star Trails Compendium, which includes background information on Cyraria, a glossary of terms, and a section for parents and educators who want to use the series to stimulate discussions and learning of the various scientific principles. Remember, I’m a physicist and take great pains to assure the science is accurate, sci-fi excursions notwithstanding. You can learn more about the individual books at the series’ website.

Examples of what reviewers are saying:

“A magnificent space opera of epic proportions.”

“Master storyteller of the highest caliber.”

“In the vein of old #scifi literature this story could end up as another classic.”

“Drops us off in an imaginative world similar to Star Wars or Star Trek.”

Anyone who loves hard science will lap this book up.”

“Sci-fi at its best. This space opera is fast paced and action packed and will leave you breathless.”

“Imaginative hard scifi with real-life characters.”

“Everything a good sci-fi book needs including an author who knows her stuff.”

If you love hard sci-fi, what do you have to lose for 99c?

Amazon: http://amzn.to/1kAJxRn

Smashwords:  https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/550675

Kobo: https://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/star-trails-tetralogy-box-set

iTunes:  https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/star-trails-tetralogy-box-set/id1007498996

Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/star-trails-tetralogy-box-set-marcha-fox/1122157702

Stock Photo Copyright: kjpargeter / 123RF Stock Photo

Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana.

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I’ve always loved that quote, which illustrates one of the many absurdities in the English language. And speaking of time flying, I can’t believe that on July 3 it’ll be a year since the Star Trails Tetralogy Box Set was released! Seeing the series as a box set was my goal as soon as I realized the Brightstar’s story wasn’t finished with the first volume, but had only begun. Considering it ultimately took four books that comprised 1500 pages, there was definitely a lot more to tell! So, I’m celebrating the first anniversary of this life milestone by selling the entire tetralogy this weekend for only $0.99 USD.

I started working on “Beyond the Hidden Sky” so long ago I hate to admit it. There were definitely a few life obstacles in the way between the late 70s and now. During that time I finished having my children, got a physics degree, moved from Utah to Texas, became a grandmother (and now a great-grandmother) and fulfilled my dream of working for NASA. Believe it or not, the degree and NASA gig were specifically to prepare me to be a better science fiction writer. I kid you not. I took “write what you know” to heart and I hope it shows!

typewriter

The first book was revised more times than I can begin to count. It was initially written on an archaic device known as a typewriter and then went through at least three different word processors, (Word Star, Word Perfect and Microsoft Word). In fact, artifacts from those earlier electronic versions brought some pretty mysterious characters into the first few electronic and even print versions, until I figured out how to get them out.

Much of what was science fiction at the time, such as my rendition of the internet, Craig’s List and a Bitcoin lookalike, became science fact during this lull between writing and publishing. Needless to say, this required upgrading the technology numerous times. Now, at the rate things are advancing, it won’t be long before the entire series is in the realm of science fact, except, perhaps, for cristobalite or devenite crystals. But you never know, given they’re busily creating new elements these days as well as making new discoveries in quantum physics.

Thus, to celebrate the box set’s birthday on July 3, I’m marking it down to $0.99 USD for the USA’s Independence Day weekend ONLY (July 2 – 4 for those outside the USA). So, if you’ve been waiting for a super-giant sale to get your copy, this is it! If you’re unfamiliar with the series, you can learn more about it and see the reviews at the series website, www.StarTrailsSaga.com.

Pick yours up at any of the sales outlets below.

Amazon: http://amzn.to/1kAJxRn

Smashwords:  https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/550675

Kobo: https://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/star-trails-tetralogy-box-set

iTunes:  https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/star-trails-tetralogy-box-set/id1007498996

Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/star-trails-tetralogy-box-set-marcha-fox/1122157702

Stock Photo Copyright: kjpargeter / 123RF Stock Photo

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Keeping up with Technology — Barely

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It blew me away today when I discovered this article on Futurism.com about brainprints. The reason is that in my last science fiction novel, “Refractions of Frozen Time,” I had the bad guys collecting what I called mindprints, which were a unique identifier. So here we go again, science fiction has become science fact.

What’s a sci-fi author to do?

It gets harder and harder to come up with futuristic technology. Since I started my novels several years ago I had to do various “upgrades” for them to keep up. I had internet, the equivalent of Craig’s List, and electronic currency in my novels long before they were reality.

About the only thing I have in my novels, short of faster-than-light (FTL) space travel, that I 15442253_sTHOUGHT was still science fiction is the c-com device my hero uses for any number of functions. C-com stands for “cerebral companion” and was like a smart phone on steroids driven by psi-waves, a.k.a. telepathy.  But EVEN AS I WAS WRITING THIS BLOG, an email came in from Futurism that stated you can now send text messages via your brainwaves! You can find the article here.

Holy cow…

What’s a sci-fi author to do????

Please, buy my books quick, before they jump genres into historical novels!  The box set of the entire series is currently on sale for only $3.99.

STTlpostcardVP2 copy

 

Comma, give me a break!

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I think we all realize that whether or not a person likes a book is highly subjective. I’ve read (or tried to read) books with numerous five-star reviews that I didn’t like and couldn’t get through. Some were well-written, just boring or populated with unappealing characters, while others were poorly written and/or edited. I’m a bit of a grammar/typo Nazi myself so I hide my head in shame that someone put one of my books in that category.

I’ve heard that no literary agent or publisher takes an indie book seriously until it has a few three-star reviews. Thus, when I got my first one as an untimely present for my Christmas birthday, I had mixed feelings. I now had the obligatory mediocre review and, to be perfectly honest, the reason had been noted by a previous reviewer, i.e. the lack of commas. I acknowledge this as a valid complaint and have it on my to-do list to rectify. Sadly, at one point I’d actually taken several of them out because they seemed to slow the story down! How ironic is that?

Okay, you may have already guessed that I have a couple confessions to make. First of all, I edited my own books, which I realize is a major no-no, but let me explain. First of all, there were various times when this particular book, which was admittedly my first novel, was set aside for years. When I would get back to it, I could read it like it wasn’t my own and, for the most part, edit effectively. Like I said, I’ve been accused of being a grammar Nazi with other people’s work, and I definitely fixed a lot over time.

Another factor was finding an editor I could trust to do the job. I mean, really do the job. I’ve seen too many acknowledgements in various novels where authors extol and thank their editor while I, nonetheless, find a plethora of things they missed when I read the work in question. Call it pride, if you must, but it was hard not to feel I could do as good or better of a job than some of the supposed pros out there.

And the coup de grace was that I was on a budget. While I don’t mind paying for services that are done correctly, cost combined with not being sure I could find a competent editor resulted in doing it myself. Oh, well, my bad.

The second one is that, even though I have a minor in English, I am not that well-versed in grammar. Seriously. Most of what I know has been learned through my mother correcting me as a child, reading, and, heaven forbid, intuition. I’ve been an avid reader all my life and been writing since I could hold a pencil, yet never liked English classes or understood some of the rules. Diagramming sentences to me was worse than algebra, which made more sense. I really don’t like to point fingers, but in this case I’m going to point one at a prof I had in college who taught the obligatory grammar class for those majoring or minoring in English. That class was, like we say here in Texas, as useless as teats on a boar hog.

The prof, who is probably now dead and gone, couldn’t find a textbook that he liked so we had none. He would lecture, but with no logical order or continuity that I could recognize. All we did the entire term was–you guessed it–diagram sentences. Punctuation was rarely mentioned. One thing I remember him (or perhaps someone else) saying was that English, unlike Latin, was a living language that evolved, that such things as punctuation styles changed over time, and things like comma usage was becoming somewhat optional. You can bet I jumped on that like a duck on a June bug!

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But for purists who were more astute at learning the rules than I was, it was a major faux pas. And apparently the person who left this three-star lambasting was one of them.  I must say that the reviewer was generous in giving it three-stars since s/he didn’t even finish reading it.

Back to the subjectivity of what we like, science fiction is certainly one of those genres that everyone doesn’t care for. (Oops, ended that sentence with a preposition! OMG! Let’s correct that to “one of those genres for which everyone does not care.” Right? Right.) Even with proper punctuation it’s likely s/he wouldn’t have liked it. That I understand. And I do admit s/he has a point and I will fix the problem because, believe it or not, I really am a bit of a perfectionist, but that doesn’t mean that I know everything by a long shot. I’m teachable but, as noted earlier, I never had a decent English teacher or at least one I could follow. Math is much simpler to me with its concrete, easy to follow rules and black and white answers. Equations make a lot more sense.

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So what have I learned that I can pass on to other writers? If I had this to do over, it would be to do a beta reader exchange with someone who has equal editing skills to my own. Fortunately, for subsequent books I was able to find such individuals. And that is what saddens me the most, the other books in the series are in much better shape. I’ve actually received compliments on the editing of at least one of the others. This was my first book and I’ve heard it said that everyone’s first novel should go in the trash bin labeled “tuition.” My problem was that it was the start of a series with so much more to tell! The characters evolved and so did the plot to the point that it took four full-length novels to complete the story. I’m a much better writer now, as all of us become, the more we write.

So, bottom line, I’ll go back eventually and correct the comma situation. I don’t know all the rules, but at this point I’m reasonably confident that I’ll be able to do so in a competent manner. The worst part, as most indie authors know, is that there are so many different formats to deal with, i.e., both print and electronic versions, which complicates the process considerably. Nonetheless, I’ll have the satisfaction of debunking that uncomplimentary review when it’s corrected, unless, of course, those who would appreciate a properly copy edited work are turned off by that seething diatribe, which is actually so excessive that it’s downright amusing. Fortunately, most geeks and nerds, who are my primary audience, anyway, aren’t quite so concerned, though there are exceptions, of course, many of whom I met at NASA.

<Sigh.>

Rant over.

Thanks for listening.

P.S. If you’d like an ecopy of the book in question, “Beyond the Hidden Sky,” for free, join my mailing list, which qualifies you for a free download. You can do so here.

Challenges of Space Exploration: Weightlessness

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In my recent interview with Book Nerd Paradise I read an excerpt from Beyond the Hidden Sky which illustrated what Creena experienced when the escape pod finally landed on Verdaris. While she’d been instructed by the onboard v-troid, DORAI, to exercise as a regular part of her zones, Creena got frustrated with the equipment malfunctioning and stopped doing so as part of her general rebellion. Exercising was a bore, especially when the marching machine kept jamming or not keeping an accurate record of how much she’d done. Moving about the pod in a weightless environment was effortless and fun! Yet she was initially informed that life in zero-g meant exercise zones. The conversation went like this:

“If I don’t I’ll get what?” Creena asked.

“Orthostatic intolerance,” DORAI replied.

“What’s that?”

“Side effects of zero gravity. It affects your heart, skeletal muscles, bones and balance. Without countermeasures you’ll be dizzy, have trouble standing up, and won’t be strong enough to walk when you return to a gravity field.”

So she’d been warned but conveniently forgot. The results were not pretty.

Why were these exercise routines known as countermeasures necessary? This excerpt from p. 62 of The Star Trails Compendium briefly explains it:

Gravity forces your body to continually compensate for it by building additional strength. Without it muscles weaken, including the heart, also a muscle, which needs to pump blood against it. Orthostatic intolerance is the technical term for not being able to stand up without holding onto something. Astronauts in space exercise to maintain their strength so that when they return to Earth they are not too weak to walk. Some astronauts who have returned from long-duration space flight have not been able to walk without assistance.

Gravity is something we take for granted. For example, pouring a glass of water requires gravity to deliver the liquid to the container. In space the liquid would spill out into the air and float around in a glob. Think about things you do that you can’t do upside down and you will discover various “gravity assisted functions.” Astronauts often suffer from space sickness, similar to motion sickness, because gravity is not helping keep food and liquids in their stomach.

My first job at NASA was in their Life Sciences Division at Johnson Space Center in Houston Texas. Among other things, they studied the effects of zero gravity on the human body. They conducted various experiments and developed exercise equipment for the astronauts to maintain their fitness level. One of the physical problems related to losing calcium from their bones, which obviously would weaken them. They found that resistance exercises were most effective, even though aerobic exercises such as running on a treadmill were still important as well.

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To prepare for long-term space flight such as that required to go to Mars, NASA is currently conducting a year-long study about the effects of micro-gravity in an interesting way. It just so happens that two astronauts, Mark and Scott Kelly, are identical twins. Mark is retired but on March 27, 2015 Scott and Russian cosmonaut, Mikhail Kornienko, blasted off for the International Space Station where Mark will spend a year participating in the study. Mark, who will remain on Earth, will serve as a control during which they will study molecular changes between the two. The study, which comprises numerous separate experiments, will also address how an astronaut’s mental state is affected by these changes.

You can learn more about the study here.

Space travel is not a simple matter. While we have the technology to build an interplanetary spacecraft we still don’t fully understand how it will affect humans at the physical level. This study will provide a few answers.

[NOTE: You can download a free copy of The Star Trails Compendium which contains lesson and discussion ideas of the science in The Star Trails Tetralogy from Smashwords here.]

Image licenses and copyrights via 123rf.com

Another One Bites the Dust

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Year, that is.

I suppose that title gives some clue to my age, at least to those who remember its context. They go by faster and faster. I’ve always liked the analogy comparing life to a roll of toilet paper, i.e. it goes faster toward the end. Scary but true.

Every December I always look back at the list of goals I made the previous year to see how I did. I usually achieve most of them, which is a testimony for writing them down so you don’t forget what they are. Of course that works both ways. If you don’t record it then you may forget to pursue it in the first place but on the other hand, if you finished something without listing it then it could slip into the past unnoticed, meaning you don’t take credit for it. I don’t know about you, but sometimes I need all the credit I can get.

Fortunately, I have tangible proof of at least some of the things I accomplished. Some have been hanging over my head for years. For example, finishing up my science fiction series, the Star Trails Tetralogy. I think I originally said the final volume would be coming out back in 2013. Hahahaha! That sure didn’t happen. But this year it finally did. Refractions of Frozen Time came out in March, about the same time my contractor, Tracy, finished up remodeling my sunroom into a guest room. I could have quit right there and taken pride in my achievements, with due credit to Tracy, of course. Both those goals had been on my list for years so those were biggies.

But once all four books were complete, then I set to work putting together the box set I’d envisioned ever since I realized my story would require more than one book to complete. I had some extra incentive to get that one accomplished when I agreed to share a book fair booth with three other authors. It took a lot more work than expected, but somehow I finished that one, too. Yay!

Then I had a couple nonfiction ebooks I wanted to get in print. Particularly Whobeda’s Guide to Basic Astrology and The Family History Fun Factor. Done! I still have one more to go but plan to get that out by the first of 2016.

So I’m celebrating and invite you to join me.

GIVEAWAYS!

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I’m giving away 3 copies of the Star Trails Tetralogy Deluxe Box Set here.  All books are autographed by yours truly and it includes a fun swag pack of goodies, too.

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If you’re interested in astrology, sign up to win one of three autographed copies of Whobeda’s Guide to Basic Astrology here.

Both giveaways end December 13 which will hopefully allow enough time for the winners to receive them by Christmas. (Sorry, USA only)

 

 

Here are some other deals you might like. If you have any sci-fi fans on your holiday gift list, remember you can always “gift” them a copy.

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THE SAPPHIRAN AGENDA

The Sapphiran Agenda, backstory of Thyron, the telepathic walking plant everyone loves in Star Trails, is now FREE on Smashwords here.

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BEYOND THE HIDDEN SKY

Star Trails Volume 1, Beyond the Hidden Sky, is free if you join my Preferred Readers here.

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STAR TRAILS TETRALOGY EBOOK BOX SET

Get the entire Star Trails Tetralogy box set electronically for half-price on Smashwords here.

Promotional price: $2.99
Use Coupon Code: VP22Z
Expires: January 5, 2016

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WHOBEDA’S GUIDE TO BASIC ASTROLOGY

Get Whobeda’s Guide ebook for 75% off here.

Promotional price: $0.99
Use Coupon Code: QD49E
Expires: January 5, 2016

If you’d like a paperback copy you can get one for 20% off at Create Space here.   Use Discount Code 4KCHSKEW

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and may you have a prosperous New Year!  Meanwhile, I’m going to go back and work on that list for 2016.  After I take a nap.  I’m pretty tired after realizing how much I actually got done this year…

 

Guilty as Charged: I Had an Ulterior Motive

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Okay, I admit it. I had an ulterior motive when I wrote the Star Trails Tetralogy. I don’t think it was a bad one, but it was there nonetheless. As I’ve mentioned before, perhaps ad nauseam, I was inspired to pursue a career in a technical field by the science fiction I read as a kid. And that is what I wanted to do with my stories, make science intriguing and interesting enough that my readers would love it as much as I do and want to know more. I mean, seriously. Why else would an otherwise normal person get a degree in physics? At least I thought I was normal. Then again, maybe not.

At any rate, my books have apparently succeeded to some degree. But don’t listen to me, I’m clearly biased and perhaps not to be trusted. Here’s what some of my reviewers have to say:

Marcha Fox has a gift for explaining the science in an interesting and original way. Sci-fi fans who love properly developed cultures backed up by hard and well understood science will devour these stories.

Science theory is a large part of this story and the writer uses many scenes and situations to explore warp drive, time bumps, worm holes, and warp gullies to name a few. When explanation is needed in a book, it usually slows progression of the plot, but the author uses the science as a “key” to unlock the puzzle of the many developing situations in which Creena finds herself. It’s a great book for anyone that wants to learn more about scientific concepts while being thoroughly entertained.

Anyone who loves hard science will lap this book up.

Having taught junior high science for a number of years I think this read would be a fabulous addition to classroom libraries as well as “the hungry for sci-fi lovers” personal bookshelf.

A great book for anyone that wants to learn more about scientific concepts while being thoroughly entertained.

The scientific details added greatly to the story without sounding like something out of a textbook.

I am in awe of the world author Marcha Fox has created. She has populated our galaxy with human colonies and aliens, enriching the story with intricate detail covering solar systems, seasons, geology, politics, anthropological, fauna, eco-commerce, technological, and spiritual beliefs that are unveiled layer upon layer as the story progresses.

[The author] integrates actual science into science fiction, creating worlds, customs, and life forms outside the world we live.

Needless to say I was deeply gratified and appreciative that these wonderful readers picked up on my ulterior motive and didn’t give me a one or two star review because it was too technical and therefore boring. Of course, nerds like myself LOVE the technical side, but that’s besides the point.

So what is the point? The point is that I didn’t stop there. I also put together “The Star Trails Compendium” which includes a glossary of terms, both fictitious and otherwise, as a companion volume to the stories. I include more details about the star system, Cyraria’s weird, lemniscate (figure-8 shaped) orbit, its effects on their horrific, extreme weather, political structure, and a bit more about the bnolar, the planet’s indigenous species. I hope no one is too disappointed that I refrained from including all the calculations I did while developing the star system, mostly because math is so tedious to express via the keyboard.

And here’s the best part: The ebook versions of the Compendium are FREE!  (At least everywhere but Amazon, who’s a bit uncooperative, but might come around eventually given enough complaints. Hint, hint..)

If you’re an educator or perhaps a homeschooler, there’s an even better bonus especially for you. I’ve included suggestions for lesson plans and discussion topics based on the chapters of each book. Thus, any science teachers who have students who need a little bit more could assign my books as extra credit backed up by assignments which are all but laid out for you in the Compendium. Science clubs could likewise utilize them. Knowing how overloaded today’s teachers are, this could provide the needed stimulation for the Advanced Placement students without a lot of extra work on their part.

If you’re wondering how this works, here’s an example using an excerpt from Chapter 3 of “Beyond the Hidden Sky.”

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The Escape Pod

Shortly after jettison the acceleration shell loosened its grip and shrunk back into the side of the seat but Creena remained in place, gripping the armrests with white-knuckled hands. She’d always been frustrated with the rapid heartbeat and breathing provoked by anger but that was nothing compared to what she was feeling now. She’d experienced a variety of emotions on Mira III, more than most that went through their ordered lives in a state of unquestioning, unreactive calm.

What she felt now, however, was stronger still, a deep, primal reaction from the core of her being. Seared by adrenaline every cell cried out with an unspeakable fear far deeper than any provoked merely by thought, terror firing her blood like a burning fuse.

Never in her entire life had she been so scared.

Her breathing rasped in her ears, mouth dry with her hands shaking and clammy against the armrests. Gradually her racing mind slowed and her heart stopped pounding though her breathing remained heavier than normal as she concentrated on her surroundings.

Funny, it didn’t even feel like she was moving anymore. But it hadn’t felt like the Aquarius was moving, either. She thought back to her Academy physics class and remembered that was the case when something was moving in a straight line at constant speed. The starfield on the holoscreen likewise seemed still but instinct told her that was simply a matter of scale.

She released the straps, their recoil sloppy and slow. The breathless, airy feeling swelled upward, the sensation similar to a soaring dive in an air cruiser. She gasped clutching her chest and the next thing she knew she was floating haplessly above the shell, like a sphere under electro-magnetic levitation.

She gasped in renewed horror.

Was she dead?

She pinched herself, hard, relieved only slightly when it hurt.

Across the pod lights blinked and flashed while the metal floor offered a dizzying design of concentric rings that still seemed to spring upward in pulsating waves. The illusion aggravated the growing nausea even as the facts fell into place.

The Aquarius hadn’t felt that much different from being confined in an ugly building. Certain areas like the galarium where wall-embedded holoscreens gave every impression that a real world lay beyond epoxy shields even added to the deception. But the pod was designed for survival and lacked the power hungry comforts of a starship.

And a mass generator’s gravity simulation was one of them.

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And here are two of the Compendium Discussion and Lesson Plan Suggestions for Chapter 3:

  1. It doesn’t feel as if the pod is moving. Why?

When something is moving in a straight line at constant speed you can’t tell it’s moving. This relates to Newton’s 1st Law of Motion or the principle of inertia which states than an object will remain in a state of rest or constant velocity unless acted upon by unbalanced forces. Newton’s 2nd Law is best described by the equation Force = mass x acceleration or F=ma.

In other words, the force exerted on an object depends on its mass and how fast it is changing speed or accelerating. Newton’s 3rd Law relates to opposing forces, that whenever a force is applied to something, an equal and opposite force is generated, such as the kickback on a rifle or pushing off the side of a swimming pool.

  1. Why is Creena weightless in the pod?

It doesn’t have a “gravity simulator.” Mass such as that of a planet creates gravity which is proportional to how big it is. Scientists will don’t understand exactly how or why gravity works, but they can predict its strength based on the mass of an object or planet.

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So this should give you some idea of the possibilities. Did I have an ulterior motive for this blog? Of course I did. I want my books to reach the audience for which they were intended! But here’s the good news. You can get “Beyond the Hidden Sky” as an ebook for only $0.99 and the Compendium for FREE! Why don’t you check it out? If you’re a teacher or parent trying to encourage your child to not only enjoy science but perhaps actually pursue it, what do you have to lose? Oh, yeah, there’s one more thing. If your library has ebook lending capability, it can obtain all four volumes of the Star Trails Tetralogy for free through Smashwords.

“Beyond the Hidden Sky” Buy Links

Amazon US: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0615658865/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=0615658865&linkCode=as2&tag=valkyrastrol-20&linkId=DKGQSU3GYWZM6WH7

Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/509500

Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/beyond-the-hidden-sky-marcha-a-fox/1112260474

Kobo Link: http://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/beyond-the-hidden-sky

Apple: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/beyond-the-hidden-sky/id957915250

Create Space (Print copy): https://www.createspace.com/3911767

“Star Trails Compendium” Links

Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/537630

Kobo: https://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/star-trails-compendium

Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/star-trails-compendium-marcha-fox/1121807004

iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/star-trails-compendium/id989027687