Beginning My Return Voyage After Eight Months

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I revisited my Mars novel. The process involved the novel on a pdf on our e-reader, a composition notebook, and a pen. I read what I wrote and jotted notes on what needed to be fixed. I got to chapter 8 before I simply had to fix the mistakes and started editing. I am glad for the self-imposed time off from writing and editing. I’m glad I left Mars in its own orbit while I entertained other flights of fancy. I needed the brain break.

If you recall my post from a few months ago, I imagine you may be wondering, “Did you fix your plot problem?!?”

Yes, but my husband gets all the credit.

Caleb is deeply invested in me finishing this story because a) he is tired of me complaining that I’m not done writing it, and b) he really wants to know my finalized ending. He knows the plot about as well as I do. He’s seen my notes and knows the back stories of the characters and the history of the world I’m creating. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that he suggested the solution to my thorny plot problem. It was obvious and simple. Brilliant, really. It saved my favorite character from extinction and kept his back story 99.99% intact.

It took me several weeks to warm up to the solution because I didn’t want to make that return flight to Mars. I acknowledged it was a lovely idea, but I just did not want to write. I was content to make notes about anoxic zones and species of fish in the Gulf of Mexico. I hadn’t written a word since October last year, and I was fine with continuing that trend. It wasn’t until Caleb pushed me to read through my novel “just to remember where you were” that I wanted to fix the book. I wanted to start writing again.

Life is very busy right now and will only get busier. I don’t expect to finish it soon. It might be another five years. It might be six months. But I know I can finish it. I want to finish it. That is huge.

Prayers for discipline and inspiration would be appreciated.

Writing what you are afraid of

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I’m not afraid of much. Insects, arachnids, vermin, and snakes only get a flight response if they get the jump on me or happen to be poisonous. (Hmm. I wonder if there is such a thing as a poisonous mouse.) Death has never bothered me because I know where I’m going. Public speaking is fun. I’ve always loved to climb trees, so heights are no big deal.

I will admit I am not a fan of snowmen. Frosty has no muscles, but he can move. He shares this disturbing quality with reanimated skeletons. My conclusion is there is something downright ghoulish about top hats. Frosty and his frozen compatriots is not allowed in our home. I am considering a similar ban on top hats. You probably think I’m kidding. I’m not.

I digress. Frosty is creepy, but he doesn’t actually scare me. There is pretty much only one thing I’m terrified of.

The vacuum of space.

When someone goes on a space walk on Star Trek or Battle Star Galactica, I cover my eyes. It doesn’t matter if they are in peril or not. The whole idea is my worst nightmare. You’re surrounded by nothing. No air. Nothing to breathe, nothing to feel, and absolute silence because sound can’t travel in a vacuum. It’s three degrees above absolute zero, so the spit on your tongue will start to boil. This is your experience for the last fifteen to thirty seconds of your life before oxygen deprivation renders you unconscious.

Tell me that doesn’t freak you out.

The atmosphere on Mars might as well be a vacuum, so every time a character in my book goes outside, I have a minor panic attack. I’ve avoided working on those scenes because they make me feel sick. I start writing and find myself contemplating what could happen if there’s a tiny tear in the fabric of the main character’s space suit. There is also an accident that involves depressurization. I haven’t even started on that scene because it makes me nauseated.

Why am I writing this book!?! I must be a masochist.

On the one hand, if you think something is scary, you might be able to write it in such a way that everyone is terrified by it. I often wonder if horror writers are just crazy-scared of everything and turn that into fiction. On the other hand, maybe the scenes that make me ill will make readers wonder why I’m such a ‘fraidy cat.

Novel Research: AeroGarden

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Remember my soy milk adventure? I have now embarked on a new research adventure.

NASA has already been working on ways to grow food in zero-G for the long trip to Mars. One of their projects involves an inflatable frame for growing food aeroponically. I have have been using aeroponics extensively in my novel. Growing a plant aeroponically means there is no dirt involved. The plant roots are misted with water and nutrients instead. I’ve read enough on the subject to think I could try it myself.

Well, it just happens that my fabulous mother bought me a white 3-pod AeroGarden for Christmas, specifically for my Mars research. Ta-da!

AeroGarden uses technology closely related to aeroponics (it’s more hydroponic. Ask Google about the difference if you’re curious). You fill the base with water, add a nutrient tab, and then “plant” pods in the holes. As they grow, the plants put down roots directly into the water instead of dirt. The garden actually reminds you to refill the water or add nutrients, and the light comes on automatically. Sounds idiot-proof which is good: I have a notorious black thumb. I just set up my first pods on Wednesday, and I’ll be tracking their progress with photos. Here’s what I’m starting with:

I’ve “planted” Twinkle Flox, Mini Pink Petunias, and Stock. I haven’t a clue what those are, but the pictures on the pods are pretty.

As you can sort of see, it’s all pink and purple flowers. The garden also came with herb pods, but flowers are easier. I doubt a black thumb disappears overnight, so I’m not pushing my luck. In any case, this should prove useful for my novel. Hands on experiments motivate me to write more, especially when the results make my kitchen pretty. Wish my little seedlings luck!

Novel Research: Google Earth

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I have done a lot of research for the novel I’m writing, and it is especially difficult since I care about scientific details. That means I’m doing a lot of research about Mars. At the moment I am sorting through a collection of factoids about atmospheric pressure, soil toxicity, static electricity, and calendar systems for a 685-day year.

On top of all that, I’m trying to map the cities and research installations I’ve created.  Designing cities a world away could have been really complicated, but I found a handy tool to make it easy.

In case you didn’t know, Google Earth allows you to look at maps and satellite pictures all over the world. It’s very cool and definitely worth the download. You can even use a flight simulator to fly around the earth if you please.What does this have to do with my novel? Well, Google Earth decided to be even more awesome and added Mars to their maps. That means you can click on an icon and change your screen to a globe of Mars. It’s marked with the main important landmarks, touchdown points for the rovers, and cool pictures taken by the satellite orbiting the planet.

Currently I use it to mark locations for cities and research installations on my fictionalized Mars. It allows me to calculate distance with reasonable accuracy and determine how long it would take to get from say, the capital city to a geological research station in the desert (approximately 3 hours.) I’m also noting locations within the main cities, airports, shuttle points, and favorite hangouts.

You can do this with Earth maps just as easily. I know I’ve only scratched the surface of the program. There are so many things Google Earth is capable of. For now I am content to enjoy tagging places where my heroine likes to hang out, her favorite restaurant, and the research installation where she interns. Has anyone else messed around with Google Earth? Let me know what I’m missing!

Novel Research: The Results of the Soymilk Adventure

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I promised photos of the results of my homemade soymilk attempt, so here they are.

1st Step: Puree the soybeans

1st Step: Puree the soybeans

A better view of step one. I wont lie: it smelled horrible.

A better view of step one from above. Lovely texture, isn't it?

It smelled pretty bad raw, but then I had to cook it.

Step 2: Cook the soybeans to draw out the milk.

Step 2: Cook the soybeans to draw out the "milk."

It was on step two that I decided soymilk should be called “Soy juice.” It did not look like milk.

Step 3: Strain the mixture through cloth to filter out the okara from the milk.

Step 3: Strain the mixture through cloth to filter out the okara from the milk.

Sorry, folks. Forgot to take a picture of the actual straining process, but this is what resulted from it. Ugh. I stuck it in the refrigerator to chill for awhile.

My chilled mug of soymilk.

My chilled mug of soymilk.

By the way, I chickened out on actually trying it. The stuff smelled so horrible that I couldn’t bring myself to taste it. Perhaps that defeats the purpose of the experiment, but I just couldn’t. I consider it very valuable research anyway. Why? I could never live on Mars because I’d have to drink that stuff, and I can’t. So now I know what kind of people couldn’t tolerate immigrating to Mars: people like me.

How ironic.