Monday, June 29, 2015

How stuff happens, lol

Sometimes people ask where my ideas come from, and how my life tends to take such abrupt turns. Like, how did I end up in Florida? Well, this is a typical example of life according to Maria. 

It started as so many other things do - curled up on the sofa in the evening, surrounded by dogs.

Hubs said, "I want a milkshake."

He doesn't ask for food-type things often, and since he has dropped weight to around 100 pounds, if he wants something and it's within my ability to make it appear, I'll get it.

He generally wants milk-shake from McDonalds. A good thing in his case since the the large contains as much calories as a nice dinner. I used to have them too until I read a medium vanilla milkshake from McDonalds has 670 calories. Those all sit around my waist and under my chin now, lol! Kind of makes me wonder what's really in them.

Anyway, on the way out of Mickey-Dees a police car zipped by faster than I've ever seen anyone drive on that road before. I saw a streak of blue light and didn't understand it had to be a police car until it was out of sight. Of course, this made my mind wonder where they might be going in such a hurry. My imagination painted out scenarios involving everything from bank robbers to invading aliens from a solar system far away.

My brain could probably have let go of this, but on the way home I also saw a Sheriff's car make a traffic stop, and two in a span of five minutes became too much for it. "Hmm, what if the guy in the car they stopped was really... and then... and then this happened..."

I entered zombie-writer mode as soon as I reached the house. It goes like this: "I need something to write on and with. Pen? Too slow. Laptop. Need my laptop. Type, type, type, type, type, type..."

After typing away happily for about 15,000 words my writing pleasure came to a screeching halt. I realized how little I really know about the American police system, and what police officers in the US really do. Zombie-writer turned into zombie-researcher. Google had some interesting information, not to mention the city's police department, and the county's sheriff's office, and the next county's sheriff's office website with their virtual ride-along, and trust me, it's really easy to spend days on a thing like this.

By now I was into my research with heart and soul, wanting to know more. This is how I once ended up taking a college class in Astrobiology. At this point, whatever I'm writing on has become secondary to craving knowledge.

I met a deputy in the grocery store, and told myself all the way to the car, "I will not approach him and ask what he has in his belt, how his radio works, and if he likes his job. I will leave him alone, because he has better things to do than answer stupid questions from writers. Leave him alone, leave him alone, leave him alone..."

Back to the computer. While spending time on all these websites, a big and friendly button said, "Careers." One of the ads said, "Creative Communications Specialist."

There are many things I'm not qualified for and not interested in doing, but Creative Communications Specialist is right up my alley. I need a real job - I'm pretty tired of chasing people who don't pay their bills on time, meaning I can't pay my bills on time.

The seventeen page application looked intimidating, not to mention all required attachments and three pages to be notarized, but what better way to learn everything than to at least try? I'm a writer, I can fill out forms.

One page to sign said, "I consent to a polygraph examination."

That's probably meant to discourage people. My brain said, "Oh cool! I've never done that. Wonder if they look like they do on TV."

Hubs said, "Why would you want to do that?"

"Because I've never done it. Wonder if they'd let me take one even if I'm not chosen."

Of course I messed something up on the application; I wrote dates in European format as yyyy-mm-dd instead of American format, and needed to go over to the Sheriff's office to make corrections. The nice woman at HR sounded apologetic about calling me over, but I was ecstatic. Suddenly I had a reason to enter the building and see what it looks like on the inside!

Most people who come there probably don't bounce through the metal detector with wide eyes and a million questions and try to peek on the monitor when the officer X-rays their purse.

So far so good. They called me for an interview. Joy!

There's one question that will appear in every job interview in some form along the lines of, "Why do think you would be a good fit for this job," "Why do you want to work here," or "What about this work environment attracts you." I practiced all week, telling myself I would not say, "Because I'm a writer and this would be super helpful."

When the question came, all rehearsed answers disappeared from my brain and my mouth said, with enthusiasm, "Because I don't know anything about law enforcement in America, and working here would be a great way to learn." Yeah, that sounds reliable and professional. Nailed it...

Lucky for me, I had at least fairly relevant answers to all the other questions. They're interviewing several more people, so now I'm waiting and keeping my fingers crossed. Even if I don't get it, the process thus far has been super-interesting. (Pick me, pick me!)

The moral of the story? Well, this is what happens when I go out to by milkshake. Imagine if I'd try to do something complicated... ;-)

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Excerpt from Arrival - an Embarkment 2577 prequel

Alexandra squinted up at the bright sky. Taking a day off from work to go to the beach had seemed an extravagant luxury, especially since it was March and the beach was a two-hour drive from her house, but it was the best idea she’d had for a while.

“So totally worth it.”

The weather gods favored her. The water was probably freezing, but the sand under her feet was hot and soft, and the sun made a splendid imitation of July. At times like this, living in the south was good.

An added bonus of going on a weekday in early spring: the place was deserted. It wouldn’t be once spring break started. She had lucked out.

Imma go around the bend over there, and come back this way. It’s about time to go on a quest for coffee.

Normal people might go look for a Starbucks, but going on a quest no matter how small had a much better ring to it. Knights and wizards went on quests while the mundane stayed at home. The search for coffee might not be as grand and romantic as Frodo bringing the ring to Mordor, but it would do.

A thundering noise from above forced its way into her thoughts. She had probably heard it all along and written it off as a plane, but it couldn’t be a plane. If it were, it was about to crash.

Hopefully, it would crash somewhere else.

She scolded herself for the thought. Disasters should not be taken lightly.

Looking up at the sky, she still couldn’t see anything but fluffy clouds and seagulls.

Unless… What was that bright dot? A noisy shooting star in the middle of the day? Was today the day when the Earth would collide with a giant asteroid, ending life as she knew it?

She grabbed her cell phone and attempted to use the camera as binoculars. The object was too far away. It went from a tiny bright dot to a somewhat larger and blurry bright dot.

At least there’s only one.

Should she move away from the water?

The asteroid, or whatever it was, probably wouldn’t come down anywhere near her, but if it did, it might cause a giant wave or something.

The idea of drowning on the beach seemed absurd, but it could happen. It wouldn’t take a wave the size of a tsunami to best her.

She turned and backtracked her own steps towards the car.

Should I call someone?

No, air traffic control must be on top of whatever it was. Or NASA. Or the airforce. Some authority would deal with the situation with force and send fighter jets and stuff.

Right?

By the time she crossed about half the distance to her car, the sound had grown loud enough to make her slap her hands over her ears. She had kept her eyes away from the sky, not wanting to send herself into panic, but now she stopped and looked up.

The object was close.

Too close.

It looked like a large metal box, red hot and licked by flames. It certainly wasn’t an asteroid, but it wasn’t a plane either. This thing wasn’t flying; it was falling.

That whatever-it-is will come down just a few hundred yards from here. What do I do?

She had no time to react or make a decision. The thing hit the ground with a sound near a thunderclap and skidded over the sand. It came to rest at the edge of the water, sending up pillars of steam as the scorching metal hit the cool liquid.

Thank God it fell down here and not on someone’s house.

She was too far away to make out any details, but the thing was definitely not a natural occurrence.

Could it have fallen from a plane? Not likely, unless the plane was a space shuttle.

Maybe it was a satellite? Didn’t they come down from time to time? And the news reported that no one could predict where?

Or, it could be a piece of the international space station. There were probably all sorts of debris in orbit, and everything that went up must come down at some point in time.

Could there be someone in it? Like in that movie with Sandra Bullock where she destroyed everything in space?

Alex’s feet re-found the ability to move and she jogged towards it. A hatch in the side of the craft opened, and a person jumped out. He ran too, but towards her, waving his arms.

“Explosion… antimatter…”

She only heard a few words, but it was enough to make her stop and stare. He must be joking. Wasn’t antimatter theoretical? Or something people worked on in Switzerland, in that long tunnel thingy?

Maybe she had stumbled onto a movie set. That would make sense.

The man was fast. She didn’t have time to sort through her thoughts before he grabbed her arm and pulled her along, away from the burning box on the beach.

He tugged her along over a large dune, pushed her down, and threw himself over her, shielding her with his body.

She didn’t have time to protest. The ground shook under them, there was a noise so loud she wanted to scream to make it stop, and heat so intense it must be a matter of seconds before her skin would catch fire.

Then, the world fell quiet.

The man got to his feet in one fluid motion. He was sooty, but handsome, with hazel eyes and dark brown hair. He offered a hand, and pulled her up when she took it.

“Sorry about that. The antimatter pod was damaged during my descent.”

“Antimatter.”

“I’m Adam. It’s a pleasure to meet you.”

“Alex.” She looked at her hand, still engulfed in his. What a peculiar day. Was life outside the office always this interesting and she missed out?

“Antimatter?”

“Yes. The containment field failed. Luckily the shuttle only had a speck, or this side of the continent would be gone.”

“Okay…”

He didn’t seem dangerous and he had protected her from the blast, but it was still probably safest to assume he was crazy and play along.

In this day and age, it was safest to assume everyone were crazy, until they proved not to be.

She pulled her hand back. “I was going to my car, to go get some coffee. If you just stay here I’m sure the authorities will…”

Up until now he had seemed void of emotion, almost in shock, but her words made him frown. “Oh no, encountering them would be bad. I am happy to have met you, Alex, but I think I need to leave.”

He winked at her and jogged off towards the road.

What the hell just happened?

Friday, June 19, 2015

Coming soon: Deadly Betrayal

The next book in the Embarkment 2577 series will be ready in not too long. All the other books are novellas, but this one turned out to be much longer. It will be called Deadly Betrayal and should be released some time during fall. The story is done, but it still needs editing and proof reading.

If you've followed our heroine Alex, you know the last few years have been rough on her. This book doesn't make her life easier. It will start something like this:

The large ship ahead looked festive.
Space was so dark, and the Bell glittered like a diamond with her lit up windows.
I still didn’t want to go. Too much happened to us there, and the past few weeks of shore leave with my husband had been the best in my life.
Adam lifted his hands from the control and let our shuttle coast. He had an eerie ability to read my moods.
“Are you okay?”
I sighed. “Do we have to go?”
“I do. You don’t. Or, well, we can run away if you want. Find some planet out of the way where they won’t think to look for me.”
Good points. Leaving the space-navy or boy scouts or whatever they were would be frowned upon. Not returning when called for would probably get him court marshaled.
I wasn’t sure what such a thing would entail, but nothing good would come of it.
He smiled, clearly trying to cheer me up. “Don’t you want to get back to work?”
“What work?”
Adam’s voice was the epitome of patience. “If my memory serves me right, which it does since I’m an android, my wife is the utmost expert on the history of the late 20th century to early 21st century.”
“Oh, that.”
Hardly an impressive accomplishment since I was born in the late 20th century. Recognizing gadgets, describing languages, politics, and other aspects of society was easy since I lived there for most of my life. Adam helped. He had been in 2014 for six months, and as he just pointed out, his memory was perfect.
He looked amused. “You might not consider it a big deal, but imagine if you were to run into a person from ancient Egypt. Wouldn’t you be curious?”
Valid point. I was a walking and talking artifact to the people of the 26th century. Without Adam’s protection I’d be their favorite toy to poke and prod. They gave it a good shot, and he had to marry me to keep them from taking me.
Work aside, the Bell held our friends.
“So, what do you want me to do?” Adam’s voice shook me out of my thoughts. If I told him to turn the shuttle around he would, no matter the long-term consequences to himself. 
I couldn’t let him do that. “Full speed ahead, Commander. Take us home.”

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Crashing spaceships, androids, and explosions, oh my!

This spring I read my Embarkment 2577 novellas and made some tweaks. It's funny how much they have changed through the years - I seem to revise them every second years or so. When working on them, I remembered how much I like the hero, Adam, and before I knew it, I was typing away.

That's not entirely true. I like to write my first drafts longhand. I write on the iPad with a stylus, because that makes me feel a little modern, but it's still scribbles in my handwriting few other people could decipher. Once I have the bits and pieces, the text gets an automatic first edit when I type it in.

Anyway, the result became a novella about how Alex and Adam first met. It's a little silly, because all the Embarkment novellas are, but I kind of like it. I'm biased, of course. lol!

It's called Arrival, and it is available right now for 99 cents.

I'm also working on a sequel to the Embarkment books, and that one is growing into a proper novel. It'll be another couple of months before it's done, but it's getting there. I think it will be called Deadly Betrayal. For now, I'll let the name speak for itself.

Blurb:


Taking a day to decompress and watch the ocean seems like the best idea Alexandra ever had. That is, until a bright dot in the sky turns out to be a crashing spaceship. Before she understands what’s happening a man in uniform approaches over the dunes, urging her to run. After surviving an explosion, seeing her new friend lift a car, and being interrogated by the FBI, it’s clear her vacation will not lead to a reduction in stress.

Adam is lost in time and space, separated from the world he knows by more than five hundred years. Luckily he meets Alexandra and she is willing to help him, but staying puts her in danger. He still finds himself unwilling to leave. Being an android, emotions never posed a problem for him before, but this woman and everything associated with her overwhelms his programming and clouds his judgment. Knowing he should go isn’t the same as doing it.

Prequel to the Embarkment 2577 novellas.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Chains of association and the most complicated form ever, lol

A while ago I went to McDonalds to pick up milkshake for hubs. Along the way I saw something that triggered my imagination, and my mind ran away with me to the point where I missed our street on the way home and had to turn back. That has never happened before.

While diving into the storyline, I realized how little I know about many jobs in the USA. That wouldn't normally be a problem, no one needs to know everything, but by now I was curious and wanted to do research. After a few hours spent enjoying Google's wisdom, I had also found two interesting jobs I wanted to apply for.

I've had many different types of employers in the past, and I know all administration is much more complicated in the USA than in Sweden, but I still wasn't prepared for the complexity of formal job applications.  The first one wasn't too bad - it took place online and while it was extensive, it was doable.

The second one was seventeen pages needed appendices. Several pages had to be witnessed and I kept bugging hubs to do it for me. It also required three pages to be notarized.

Hubs said, "Are you sure applying is worth this much effort?"

I can see his point. The initial application process took hours to complete and then I still had to make a trip to Amscot to get documents notarized, and I still might not be considered for the job. On the other hand, if you don't try you'll never get anywhere. He and the dogs like me being home. I like being home too, but I would like being able to pay my bills without having to chase other people to pay me even more.

By now my stubborn had kicked in. I trudged on and eventually got the pile mailed.

Today, they called me to say I have missed to fill something out on page nine. Or rather, I had given the information, but in an appendix and not on the form, and it had to be on the form. Furthermore, the notarized pages need to be redone, because either the notary or I have written the wrong date.

I don't think I wrote the wrong date, and the friendly HR person said she'd gotten more applications with the same problem, so it might not be my booboo. Either way, it has to be corrected. What are the odds?

Right now I feel like the universe is testing just how hard I'm willing to work to apply. Well, I might not get the job. I'd be good at it but there are probably applicants who are even more qualified. Doesn't matter. I will at least get the application right.

And, I'm hoping that the application being so complicated means a lot of the competition give up. Or don't pass initial screening. We'll see what happens. =)

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

A pickup truck is a car, lol

The Internet is funny, because you encounter so many people you'd never meet in real life - and so many situations you'd never encounter in real life. 

Yesterday a post appeared in my Facebook news feed discussing a rescue operation that involved someone trying to tow a boat and ended up getting his truck in the water. People had posted a number of snarky remarks along the lines of "How stupid can you be" and "Wannabe boater."

I thought, "That's so cruel." Seriously, even the most experienced person can end up in a bad situation, because things happen. And, if someone is a beginner at something and ends up in trouble you don't tell them they're stupid even if you think they are - you encourage them and give tips on how to do it better.

I posted something along the lines of, "Ooops. Imagine the feeling when the car started to slip. Can't have been fun" and hoped it would awaken some empathy in people. We've all been there at some time or another. You know, when you feel things are starting to go wrong and you can't stop it, and all you can do is go along for the ride and hope for the best. Being helpless isn't a fun feeling.

Of course, people commented on my comment pointing out that it wasn't a car, it was a truck. Because that's the important part in all this...

It made me think, "What do you think a truck is if it's not a car? A spaceship? A submarine?" I didn't write that, but I thought it. lol!

And this leads me to today's topic.

An umbrella term is something that covers a group of things. Some distinguish between umbrella term and blanket term, but it's the same concept. A blanket term covers a group of things that can be very different, but it's easier to use the blanket term than to specify. For example, talking about "Swedes," "Americans," or "pop music" are huge generalizations, but still give an idea of the concept.

I digress. Back on topic...

Airplane is a good example, because most people are less emotionally involved in the different types of planes than they are in different types of cars. Most people who see something flying in the air with wings won't specify "It's a Cessna 172" - we say it's a plane.

Building is another good example. A single-family home is a building. A garage, shed, factory, or hangar are all buildings.

The funny thing is that few people would debate this when it comes to buildings and planes. When it comes to cars they go crazy. But seriously, a sedan is a car. A cabriolet is also a car. Pickup trucks, SUVs, vans and even Ferraris are cars.

And, while I'm ranting about people ranting about language and having no idea what they're talking about (LOL) "penultimate" means second to last. A lot of people use the word as if it meant "most important" but it really doesn't. When someone tells me "It's of penultimate importance" I tend to think it's not important at all. =D

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Let's keep Thor in Thursday!

I drove around town this morning doing errands, and kept ending up behind cars with stickers saying, "Keep Christ in Christmas." I'm not going to discuss that, because it's June and we can get back to talking about the winter holidays in December, but it did send me on a chain of association.

The slumbering Viking in my heart claims that if we're taking things literally, we should keep the Norse Gods in the days of the week.

I bet those who want to keep Christ in Christmas don't think about what it really means when they say things like "Happy Friday."

Check this out:

Sunday is the sun's day

Monday is the moon's day

Tuesday is Tyr's day. His English/Germanic name is Tiu or Twia.

Wednesday is Oden's day. This spelling comes from the Anglo-Saxon spelling Woden.

Thursday is Thor's day.

Friday is Freya's Day. She is the goddess of love and beauty. Many confuse her with Frigga, but they are different Goddesses.

Saturday is Saturn's day. This is actually a Roman deity. I'm unsure how he originally got into the mix of weekday names, but he is the Roman God of agriculture.

Fascinating, isn't it?