Category: Tails

Snowbird 8/3 Update

Looks like I’m not going to make my deadline of finishing the first draft of Snowbird in July, but it’s still going well.  Almost there!  I just keep getting busy with the most random stuff, lost my motivation for a little while, and my grandmother has been ill.  Her illness, though, has given me new inspiration.  Since I fear she may not have the opportunity to meet her first great grandbaby next year, perhaps she will have the opportunity at least to enjoy my other “first born.”  I think it would be fun to sit and read it to her when I am finished.  I know what you’re thinking, “You’re at the end, you can start reading to her now!”  Well, I haven’t applied all of my edits and final touches yet, and the further I get, the more I know that the beginning will change, so I’m not comfortable sharing it yet.  I have a new deadline goal though: finish draft 1 by August 28th.  Why?  Because that’s when my last semester of school starts and I know between work, school, aikido, family, friends, and trying to stay sane I definitely won’t have more time for writing than I do now.  Wish me luck!


Time Dilation

Many of us are familiar with the concept of time dilation, though we may not know it by that name.  Through the worlds of science fiction, we often read about the relativistic effects of traveling at or near the “cosmic speed limit” known as speed of light.  Many of you may not know, however, that time dilation actually occurs with respect to gravitational pull as well.  You may also not know that the effects of time dilation have been observed in experimental settings using atomic clocks.  In fact, the astronauts living and working onboard the International Space Station (ISS) get to experience both types of time dilation.

So what is time dilation?  Essentially, it is an effect predicted by the theory of relativity in which two objects moving relative to each other, or situated differently with respect to the pull of gravitational masses, experience an observable difference of time between them.  An atomic clock can actually be measured to tick at a different rate when compared to a second observer’s own atomic clock.  You may think that perhaps this is related to a mechanical difference between the clocks, or from the fact that signals take time to transfer back and forth, or even the fact that light itself takes time to reflect back and show the observers what they see.  This is not the case.  It is a natural phenomenon in our universe, explained by mathematics and tested through experimentation.

In relative velocity time dilation, a person approaching the speed of light would experience time at a slower rate than those observing the traveler.   In other words, the faster the relative velocity, the greater the magnitude of time dilation.  One could hop onboard a starship, travel for a few weeks, and arrive back at Earth to find that thirty years had passed by.  In a way it is like time travel, except you are limited to a one way trip.

In gravitational time dilation, observable time actually speeds up the further you get from the source of gravity.  A person at sea level would experience slower time than someone at the peak of Mount Everest.  Gravitational time dilation is also the direct cause of gravitational redshift.  Redshift is the process by which electromagnetic radiation (light, radio waves, microwaves, gamma waves, etc) originating from, or passing through, a high gravitational field is reduced in frequency when observed in a region of a weaker gravitational field.  There also exists a corresponding blueshift when moving in the other direction.

Since time slows down with increased gravity and increased velocity, this means that astronauts on the ISS experience two opposing effects of time dilation.  They are further away from the Earth, so their time speeds up.  They are also traveling at high velocity (17,000 mph (~27 500 km/h)), so their relative time is slowing down.  The effects of the relative velocity time dilation is actually stronger than the effects of the gravitational time dilation, so when the astronauts return to Earth after their 6 month stay, they have aged less than the folks in mission control that stayed on Earth.  The difference is about 0.007 seconds.

As you can see, this phenomenon can present a bit of a challenge for the science fiction author.  One must either choose to accept this as fact and apply them to the story, or come up with a way around them.  For sufficiently high speeds the effect is dramatic, and space travellers could leave on a light-speed mission, and return to Earth billions of years in the future.  In the Planet of the Apes and the Ender’s Game series, the authors chose to accept this limit as fact and apply it.  In other works of science fiction, such as Dune, Star Trek and Star Wars, they found ways around it.

In Star Trek, warp drive is a concept that uses a bubble of “normal time” to surround the spacecraft and allow them to get around the relativistic impacts of their faster than light travel, and continue to be able to interact with objects in “normal space”.  Star Wars uses “hyperspace,”  which is an alternative region of space coexisting with our own.  Entering hyperspace requires some sort of shield to protect the craft, and traveling through it allows the people to move from point to point faster than the speed of light, but they cannot interact with objects in “normal space.”.  Dune uses a concept that folds space at the quantum level and enables travelers to move from point to point instantaneously.

In my own writing I plan to take an approach closer to that of Star Wars, since multiple dimensional layers will be somewhat important to the plot. The idea of 11 dimensional space in M-Theory caught my attention, and so I began to wonder if travel through one of these different dimensions might make it possible to travel through time or space without the impacts of relativistic time dilation.  Travelers in my universe will shift into one of these dimensions assuming an effect similar to that of Hyperspace, where one slips put of Normal space into this alternate dimension in which they cannot communicate with, or interact with, normal space.  The exception of course would be gravity, since this seems to be one of the only constants throughout the multi-dimensional universe.  Gravity can also permeate the multi-verse, and has an effect on time travel, the idea being that the graviton particle is the most fundamental piece of life, the universe, and everything.  (And you thought it was 42 😉 )

Of course there are many holes and mathematical improbabilities associated with faster than light travel, but I find a universe where I can travel from place to place without having to worry about when I leave and arrive relative to my speed to be a lot more fun to write about.  I don’t want to believe that it is impossible for me to explore faster than the speed of light.  Of course there are also holes and issues with existing theories of relativistic time dilation, and the interactions of the microverse with the macroverse, and no matter how many times I hear people say something is impossible, I would rather think of it as improbable.  To say that we as humans have learned all that there is to know, and that we truly understand the universe we live in is a farce.  There is always something more to do and something more to learn.  If it can be imagined, it can in all probability be achieved.

Snowbird 7/3 update

I just finished up Chapter 20 and my characters surprised me again.  It’s interesting to put them in situations and places and see how the plot unfolds.  This time a character I had not expected to show up again until later in the book managed to get a cameo appearance.  I think it was worth it, though.  It allowed me to introduce a concept that I think will be better accepted later on if it’s used first here.  Otherwise it would seem a bit convenient.

All of my bad guys are converging at once here too.  I can’t wait to see what the next chapter will look like!  Perhaps I can finish writing the last chapters in July, do my final revamp in August, and submit it to my Writer’s group as a complete work in September so that I can start submitting it to publishers this year.  At least, that’s the hope.  Once my last semester of school starts up again writing will have to fall to the wayside in my priority list once more.  BUT, I will be done with my Masters in December.  No more interruptions 🙂 (at least not of the school variety)

Writer’s Group

It never ceases to amaze me how blind I can be to my own typos, even when I am expecting at least some to be there.  I wrote it to sound and be a certain way, so that little voice inside of my head reads it for me that way regardless of what I attempted to write on the paper.  This is one of many reasons that, as a writer, I’ve come to learn the value of peer reviews.  Not only do other people catch mistakes and logic loop holes that I might never see, but they help contribute ideas and ask questions that I might have overlooked or taken for granted.  This is a big part of why I have been workshopping my book in a writer’s group.So what’s in a good writer’s group?  Well, for starters, serious writers who are at about the same stage in their book writing process as you are.  It would be hard for someone just starting fresh to join a professional group, or for someone who only writes for fun to try and join a group that was all about getting down to business.  You will need consistent membership, and probably want at least one person to be from your own genre.  While there are lots of good ideas and great feedback a romance author could get from a horror writer and vice versa, they’re not going to be as interested and knowledgeable about the subject matter as someone in the same genre.  Variety, however, is still of key importance since those other POVs (points of view) will make you think on a deeper level and add depth and complexity to your story that you may not have expected or planned for.

Small membership is also ideal, at least in my case, because time is fleeting and precious.  You want to make sure that you can balance your group with your life, and that you will have time to dedicate equal attention to all members of your group.  Our group has four members that are active all the time, and one or two that pop in on occasion. Consistent scheduling will help with the time factor, too.  We aim to meet once a month on a day we’ve agreed on as a group works out for us.  We chose Sunday so that the procrastinators can have time to scramble together last minute words, and the busy people will get Saturday to read everyone’s submissions.  We also limit ourselves to 25 page submissions, and schedule “special” sessions months in advance for completed novels to give people plenty of time to review.

There are a few key things to keep in mind while participating in a group.   First and foremost, if you’re not having fun, or you feel like everyone else is benefiting from your insight, but you are not benefiting from theirs, start looking for a new group.  You also need to remember to keep writing beyond group or you’ll never get done.  Professional writers do a chapter a week, sometimes even in a day when they get in a roll.  If you do a chapter a month it will take you two years to get those 24 chapters you were aiming for, or perhaps even longer if you decide to resubmit something.  Work life and family balance should never be second place, so don’t go to extremes to get done, but keep up the pace and always strive to be a chapter or two a head of the group. That way even if you miss a month of writing, you won’t miss a month of reviewing.

Remember to keep your criticism constructive.  Sometimes people get stuck or end up on paths that they had not planned on, and it is more helpful for you to provide ideas and guidance than for you to just tell them you don’t like something without explanation or examples of ways you think their writing can improve.  There are many plot twists and direction changes that my own book has taken since participating in writer’s group that have caused me to scrap summaries and skew off on cool tangents that I had not thought of before.  And, the further I get in my novel, the more ideas I have come up with for the master plot that I can weave back through.  Almost all of this came from group members pointing out things they did not like, people being OOC (out of character), or members providing me with alternative solutions to problems and asking questions that make you think.

Remember that the first novel is the hardest, and planning doesn’t always work out.  You’ll get there, it just takes time, and you have to be willing to make the time.  Go ahead and just get through it.  I promise you it is a lot easier to pick that title, find that opening line, and look for that missing plot scenario when you’re done than it is to obsess over the same chapter for months.  Most of all, have fun and be yourself.  Writing is an extension of yourself, and people will judge you for it, but try not to let that rule everything you do.

The Technology Problem

Anyone who’s ever written or read scifi knows about this problem.  Predicting the future is not a simple skill set, simply because humanity is often difficult to predict.  For example, at the birth of the automobile, the electric car was actually the superior model to the steam and gasoline cars.  Electric vehicles had many advantages over their competitors: they were quiet, you didn’t have the scent of gasoline blowing back on you as you drove, you didn’t have to crank them to get them started, and you didn’t have to change gears.  Steam cars didn’t need to change gears either but if you had that car in a cold climate you often had a long time to wait to get it started.  Anyone looking at the vehicle market in the early 1900’s could have easily envisioned a logical progression of electric cars into the future, but they would have been wrong.

As the roaring 20’s approached, roadways improved, gasoline became cheaper, and our good friend Henry Ford invented the assembly line.  This meant that the gasoline vehicles not only became the affordable choice, but since the electric vehicles did not have the superior range needed to travel those fancy new roads between cities, the demand for shorter range electric vehicles declined.  Plus, if you ran out of gas on the way to your neighboring city, no problem: pull out that spare gas can, fill ‘er up and go on your merry way.  But what happens when you run out of charge on your battery?  You can bring a spare battery, sure, but it’s not as easy as the gas can method.  Plus, gas was CHEAP, and to top it all off, the electric starter had come along eliminating that annoying need to crank.

The moral of the story?  If you ever want to persuade someone, you can often do so just by hitting their wallets and appealing to their laziness. 😉 Little cynical I suppose, but people are people and thinking along these lines can help you make reasonable, believable choices as well as inaccurate ones.

So what does this mean to a science fiction writer?  Consider science fact before you write your science fiction and put your world through a logical, fun progression. Would a telepathic race need to learn how to use speech? How would a blind race learn about the stars? Consider your fiction society’s values and goals, and project them on the world you’ve created. Do your end items make sense?  Are you prepared to be right or wrong?  Are you prepared to have a really cool idea and have it get published or manufactured before YOU get published, or have that idea manifest AFTER and be the one who inspired its creation?

In my own writing, I’ve also put together technologies based on other science fiction novels. Many authors do. The Odin panel, which looks remarkably like an iPad, I actually dreamed up about 14 years before the iPad came out because I loved the idea of the computer “desks” from Ender’s Game.  I wonder if the folks from Apple did, too.  And why not?  After all, the cell phone’s birth was inspired by science fiction – star trek to be precise. Star Trek also inspired NASA and social morality in its own way. What will my novel be the precursor for? Who knows. Probably nothing so fantastic. I am no Jules Verne, but I like to think sometimes that if I had actually gotten my novel out there a little sooner when the idea was still young, perhaps I could have inspired something like the iPad myself.

The Kiwi Dragoness

So what is a Kiwi Dragoness anyway?

The term “Kiwi Dragoness” is something I coined many years ago as a user ID. It combined two of my favorite things: kiwis (both the fruit and the birds), and dragons.   It also conveniently never seemed to be used.  Over time, the term started to collect a life and personality of its own.  I began to dream up this adorable little bright green dragon with a color trait that was almost entirely exclusive to female dragons, sort of like Calico cats.  They were small and intelligent like the fire lizards from the Pern series, and made good house pets. Like the other dragons in my universe, they are omnivores, though this one has a particular affinity for kiwi fruit.  The Kiwi Dragoness is slated to make a debut appearance in my scifi series writing as a part of Snowbird’s novel, and is a planned icon to make a cameo appearance in the rest of the series.

But how can they like kiwis if there aren’t really any dragons on Earth? What kind of scifi is this?

Well, friends, I also put aliens on Jupiter.  My universe, my rules, what fun is an alternate reality if it’s just like my own?


I’ve had this idea in my head since I was about 13 years old about worlds of magic and science and people that are a lot like us, and yet vastly different.  An entire universe filled with gods and mortals just waiting to be spilled onto paper.  I am 30 years old now.  I’ve spent more than half my life dreaming of this other world, and I think it’s time to share it with other people.  I have finished the other major goals in my life: finishing college, getting a job in the manned space flight industry, marrying the love of my life… Now it’s time for one more check box: published author.

So what is this book about?  Well, I have to tell you it’s been pretty dynamic.  The characters have sort of taken up the story with a mind of their own, so even I am not fully certain where it will lead to.  This particular book is the start of what is currently supposed to be a trilogy, but I think there will be a short story “chronicles” book with spin-off character stories afterwards.  It also gets a few crossover cameos from a story not yet published by childhood friend and fellow author E. Ardell.

Snowbird gets to tell the first book, a girl nicknamed “Louie” gets to tell the sequel, and a man named Julian will get to wrap up the series.  Right now I’m in Chapter 19 of what I’m guessing will be about 30 chapters +/- two of Snowbird.  I’ve decided since I don’t have classes this summer it’s high time I get my ass into gear and write write write since Fall semester will be another very time consuming class in my Masters program.  It will be the last, though, and I plan to keep up my 3.8 GPA so there won’t be much time for Snowbird and her friends again ’till December.  The goal is to finish Book 1 in August before my friend finishes Book 2 of the Shadow Weaver trilogy she’s working on.  Wish me luck!

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