Happy Birthday, Mom!

At five years old, I fell off a see-saw and I landed on my head. I fractured my skull that day. You sat with me night and day to ensure I was healing, shocked when half my face turned black and blue. At nine, I had my tonsils removed, and you nursed me back with ice cream and vats of raspberry Jell-O. Only months later, with a tumor taken from my arm, you checked and cleaned my bandages. When I returned to school for fifth grade, you stormed the building to ensure I was in the proper classes and not held back by my previous absences. When I was knocked down in ninth grade and could barely get around for months, you took me to every specialist you could in order to fix me.

It wasn’t all tragedy, either. You supported me in every endeavor.

When I followed Lisa around the house mimicking her moves, you enrolled me in dance and gymnastics for a year. When I “borrowed” your yarn and tried to make wild Rube Goldberg contraptions in my room, you always cheered my endeavors, though you did encourage me to ask next time. We set up obstacle courses inside the house and in the yard, and you asked us to do two things: to clean up when we were done and to be careful. You encouraged our creativity.

For the middle school science fair, you stood by my side mere hours after major periodontal surgery. (I still can’t fathom how!) When I was home in ninth grade and started to write, you devoured every word I typed, and you encouraged me to grow and deepen my stories. You inspired me further with pewter castles and dragons, and I brought them to life in my tales.

As I grew up, I needed support in other ways, whether balancing college courses, dealing with relationships, or learning to cope with coworkers. I didn’t always make good choices in the people I kept around, but even then you were always there for me. You didn’t coddle me, but you advised me well. You accepted that I needed to make my own decisions and you cried with me or cheered with me, depending on how things went.

When we go to lunch now, we talk about heavy topics and light ones too. We both joke with the wait staff that the food was “terrible” even when we’ve licked our plates clean. We support each other in the things that we need. And we relish in each other’s joys.

This is just a smattering of the times you’ve been there for me; a mere sample of the ways you’ve supported me and fought for me and cared for me. 

I couldn’t have been born to a better woman. Truly, you were the one I needed. I’m grateful and proud to have you as my mom. I love you and cherish you always.

Happy Birthday, Mom! 

Love, Steve


Pluto, the Dwarf Planet

Photo Credit: NASA July 13, 2015

Photo Credit: NASA July 13, 2015

Growing up, we had nine planets in our solar system. Information received through various means led scientists to vote in 2006 and reclassify the small, outer orb as a Dwarf Planet. (http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2006/08/060824-pluto-planet.html)

With all the information coming in from the New Horizons probe, Pluto still isn’t a fully-sized planet. We won’t be adding it back in to the “nine” planets of our solar system. (http://space.io9.com/pluto-is-something-way-more-awesome-than-a-mere-planet-1719807379)

NASA has a growing collection of photos of Pluto and of the team whose work sent New Horizons on its mission and has been receiving back telemetry from the probe. (http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/newhorizons/images/index.html)

To get a grasp on how large the dwarf is, IFLScience found a tweet from Nathan Lee whose friend David Murray makes the comparison visually for us all to enjoy. Pluto’s diameter is a bit shorter across than Australia.

Our moon’s diameter is about 27.3% the size of Earth’s. Pluto’s diameter is about 18.5% that of Earth’s. It seems pretty clear that the icy dwarf planet will keeps its classification. (http://www.nasa.gov/image-feature/recent-measurements-of-pluto-and-charon-obtained-by-new-horizons)

Of course, Pluto memes are taking over the Internet, and it’s mostly in good fun. (http://uproxx.com/gammasquad/2015/07/best-pluto-memes/2/)

Fellow writer and SFFA member, Martin Palazzotto created his own cartoon in honor of Pluto.

The writer side of me can’t help but wonder, though. What if we, living here on Earth, were suddenly declassified by some larger entity that decided we were too small? It wouldn’t affect us in our daily lives. So let’s go and translate that to Pluto. What if a civilization of ice creatures lived there? What would their lives be like? Would they consider themselves to be the coolest beings in the solar system?

Red Jade: Book 1: Cover (Part 3)

Let me start off by saying that I did not expect there to be a Part 3 in the cover design discussion. (Click if you want to read Part 1 or Part 2 first.)

I recently joined a number of discussion groups. Some have been overloaded with book promotions, to the point that discussions are few and far between. However, the Science Fiction and Fantasy Authors Facebook group has been a delightful exception. I have already met a host of fantastic (no pun intended) people, all with different views and styles. It has been amazing to watch and participate in the various interactions. And for the vast majority, the input has been intended to be constructive. It’s a great group and you may want to check it out.

People post all sorts of requests and topics for debate. From writing stories through various viewpoints, to critiquing an opening chapter, to editing single lines of text, the group pitches in and offers honest feedback. So I decided to plunge in and share my upcoming book cover for Red Jade: Book 1: Journeys in Kallisor. I asked, in particular, if anything needed to be done with the back cover. For starters, let me remind you of where the cover was when I posted it to the group:

love so much of this cover, it was hard to put it out there and await commentary. And the comments did roll in. First, I will say that there was a lot of positive support for Fyodor Ananiev‘s artwork. The appreciation was echoed repeatedly and that really made my day.

The main criticism came from the readability of the text on the back. And I definitely agreed. To be honest, I had printed the image out on photo paper to the correct size. I knew, under those conditions, the back was legible. But there was a coloration issue with the white text in the lighter sky especially viewed onscreen with the lower-quality image that is enforced by Facebook. I wanted the cover “just right” so I aimed to correct it.

Another poster suggested edits to the placement of the title because it covers the great big eaglon. I also agreed with that and decided to take a few of the title ideas and put them together into a new configuration.

Then there was the radical suggestion: Go with a black cover. I gasped in shock on that one. I could not abandon the scene! But I was in the mood to play around with the idea, so I did. And for fun, I shared that version with the group. (The version shown here is tweaked further.) I was actually surprised at the positive reaction, I’ll admit. I do see and undertand the power and drama where all you get is the title and description, the fiery letters, and the image of the Red Jade. It’s daring. It’s bold. Yet if I saw it on the bookshelf, I wouldn’t immediately gravitate toward it myself. It is a stylistic element, obviously, and perhaps some special edition version could have this cover down the road. For me, I want the artwork, but I’m glad I gave this version a try too. That’s a huge part of all of this — trying new things and seeing what works.

So the 200,000th (give or take) iteration of the cover leaves me much happier and feeling an even deeper sense of accomplishment. I took the advice of the group and applied several aspects to make the various elements more visible. And I added Fyodor to the cover, because I strongly believe that credit must be given where it is due. I ran the updates by him this morning and we agree that the cover is even better still. Many thanks to my new friends in the Science Fiction and Fantasy Authors group!

Without further ado, here is the updated cover: