Friday, May 7, 2021

Just Released: The 2021 IWSG Anthology Dark Matter: Artificial!

The 2021 Insecure Writer's Support Group anthology, Dark Matter:  Artificial
was released on Tuesday, May 4, and I can't wait for my copy to arrive!

I have read and reread the previous five anthologies,
and I had the honor of having my short story "Dare Double Dare"
published in last year's Voyagers:  The Third Ghost.

I am excited for the ten talented authors featured in Dark Matter:  Artificial,
a mix of authors from previous IWSG anthologies and others new to this series.

Being included as an author in an IWSG anthology is a wonderful opportunity.
It's like a boot camp for editing, publishing, and promoting a book,
and you have the support of the IWSG members to cheer you on.
I hope the authors have a fun ride and learn lots
under the guidance of the publisher Dancing Lemur Press, LLC.

I had a chance to ask the authors a question: 
When did you discover science fiction as a genre, 
and what compelled you to write science fiction? 
I hope you enjoy their answers and learn something about them.

If you're a SciFi fan, perhaps you'll discover some new authors and books to read. 

  Olga Godim
  Nano Pursuit 

I started reading science fiction when still at school, but those books were rare and far between. The reason: I grew up in Soviet Russia. The authorities of the state didn’t approve of speculative fiction. They wanted writers to sing hymns to the Communist Party, but science fiction writers tended to set their stories in the far future, with no mentioning of Communism. So, not many were published. And of course, fantasy wasn’t published at all, nor translated from other languages. Magic and Communism didn’t mix together well. I didn’t even know the genre existed until I immigrated to Canada.

Before my emigration, I read what science fiction was available in Russia: a couple of translated authors, like Arthur Clark and Isaac Asimov, and a few home-grown science fiction writers, but frankly, none of them made much of an impression on me. I wasn’t a devotee of the genre.

Only after I came to Canada, I discovered the wide field of speculative fiction existing in the English language, including such sci-fi giants as Lois McMaster Bujold with her Vorkosigan saga. I also loved the recent Murderbot stories by Martha Wells, but aside from that, I rarely found what I wanted in science fiction. Maybe that’s why I started writing it: to launch the stories I felt the lack of into the science fiction realm.

Mark Alpert
Vera’s Last Voyage

I've loved science fiction ever since I read Isaac Asimov's "I, Robot" when I was twelve years old. I studied astrophysics in college and became an editor at Scientific American. So when I sat down to write my first novel, it seemed perfectly natural to invent a story about a hidden Theory of Everything discovered by Albert Einstein. That book, "Final Theory," was published by Simon & Schuster in 2008 and translated into more than twenty languages. Over the next decade I wrote nine more science-fiction novels, focusing on everything from robotics ("The Six," published by Sourcebooks in 2015) to genetic engineering ("The Coming Storm," published by St. Martin's Press in 2019). It's my lifelong passion. My story in the Dark Matter anthology, "Vera's Last Voyage," is based on the life of the late Vera Rubin, the astronomer who discovered the best evidence for dark matter but never got the respect she deserved, partly because of sexism.

Deniz Bevan
One to Another

I first discovered science fiction as a child; one of my favourite books was a gift from my grandmother: The Spaceship Under the Apple Tree by Louis Slobodkin. I also used to order science fiction books at random during the Scholastic book fairs at school. Time Twister by Ged Maybury and Omni:Skyborn by Marci H. Krutchten were particular favourites. My experience of reading science fiction has been sporadic and random -- and always pleasurable!

Elizabeth Mueller

I believe I was in middle school when I first discovered that Science Fiction was a book genre, despite growing up with the original Star Trek series. 

One thing I didn't appreciate about reading SciFi was that it info-dumped with technicalities as though the author had to prove every nuance that made the story tick. I've been mulling over writing in this genre lately, and Dark Matter was my perfect opportunity for my official attempt.

Kim Mannix

My first discovery of it would have come through watching science fiction TV and movies with my parents when I was small. Though it wasn't the first science fiction book that I encountered, I remember reading John Wyndham's The Chrysalids at about age 11, and that certainly had an impact on me. It made me realize that the genre could be both imaginative and important in its impact. As for writing it myself, I tend more towards horror or dark fantasy, but once in awhile the attraction of the strange and wonderful world of science fiction creeps in. 

Stephanie Espinoza Villamor

My dad has always been very big into science fiction--two of his favorite movies are The Day the Earth Stood Still and Forbidden Planet, both of which have artificially intelligent characters in the form of "Gort" and "Robby the Robot." It was only natural that I would grow up to be a sci-fi geek, interested in robots! We've watched episodes of Lost in Space and Star Trek together, attended all kinds of conventions, and then I probably started reading science fiction around middle school. More recently I've enjoyed playing sci-fi video games too! But except for one childhood story attempt I called "Holly and the Hologram," I never felt compelled to write science fiction until now. I thought it would be too hard for me, so I stuck with mostly fantasy instead. But after the IWSG anthology prompt, I've been inspired to play more with the genre and ended up writing another sci-fi short story that will be published in a local anthology! I hope to keep experimenting as I have fun with science fiction writing!

Tara Tyler

I started my journey into sci-fi as a teen. Michael Crichton and Isaac Asimov were my faves! In fact, when I came up with my idea for POP TRAVEL, I wanted to send it to Michael Crichton, but I was sad to discover he had passed away. So I decided to write it myself and he has been a powerful influence in my sci-fi adventures.

C.D. Gallant-King
Space Folds and Broomsticks 

My earliest sci-fi influences were definitely Star Wars and ROBOTECH - a giant-robot anime from the early 1980s that was heavily re-written for North American audiences. It had everything I love about sci-fi and adventure stories in general: serialized storytelling, deep space dogfights between starfighters, romantic drama, unexpected character deaths, a small group of human survivors facing off against a massive alien armada. It's not a coincidence that ROBOTECH shares a lot of similarities with the mid-2000s reboot of Battlestar Galactica, one of my favourite modern sci-fi series. My first sci-fiction stories were me basically doing fan-fiction of Star Wars and ROBOTECH. My current stories are still me basically doing fan-fiction of Star Wars and ROBOTECH.
(I also love Arthur C. Clarke, but I'll never be able to write that well.)

Steph Wolmarans
The Utten Mission 

I have known science fiction since I can remember stories. My childhood movie memories include ET, Flight of the Navigator, Short Circuit, Batteries Not Included, and the list goes on. I fell in love with the original Dune movie because it irritated family members when they came to visit and my dad put the tape in. When I discovered in middle school that it was based on a book, my love of reading was born. That same year, I started coming up with my own story ideas. I always wanted to write about other worlds so people could find themselves lost in stories the way I was.

Charles Kowalski
Resident Alien

Science fiction has always been a part of my life. As a boy, cars, trains, even airplanes were too earthbound for me; I wanted spaceships. I grew up with Star Wars, Star Trek, and Battlestar Galactica. My favorite stories were the ones that took me out of this world, into fantastical realms or distant planets. (My nearest and dearest would probably agree that I'm still a little spacey.)

I always dreamed of writing science fiction, but it was decades before I seriously put my hand to it, partly because it took me that long to discover its real purpose: not just "fiction based on science" but "fiction AS science," a laboratory of the imagination where you can put a slice of the human experience under a microscope, add or change some element, and observe the result. In "Resident Alien," the slice of life I wanted to examine was the experience of immigrants, oppressed minorities, and formerly enslaved people, and the variable I wanted to change was: "What if we were all in the same boat? What if the struggle for freedom and equality were not a conflict of one race against another, but of the entire human race together?"

* * * * *

Dark Matter: Artificial
An Insecure Writer’s Support Group Anthology

Discover dark matter’s secrets…
What is an AI’s true role? Will bumbling siblings find their way home from deep space? Dark matter is judging us—are we worthy of existence? Would you step through a portal into another reality? Can the discoverer of dark matter uncover its secrets?
Ten authors explore dark matter, unraveling its secrets and revealing its mysterious nature. Featuring the talents of Stephanie Espinoza Villamor, C.D. Gallant-King, Tara Tyler, Mark Alpert, Olga Godim, Steph Wolmarans, Charles Kowalski, Kim Mannix, Elizabeth Mueller, and Deniz Bevan.
Hand-picked by a panel of agents, authors, and editors, these ten tales will take readers on a journey across time and space. Prepare for ignition!
Founded by author Alex J. Cavanaugh, the Insecure Writer’s Support Group offers support for writers and authors alike. It provides an online database; articles; monthly blog posting; Facebook, Twitter, & Instagram groups; #IWSGPit, and a newsletter.
Release date: May 4, 2021
Print ISBN 9781939844828 $14.95
EBook ISBN 9781939844835 $4.99
Science Fiction: Collections & Anthologies (FIC028040) / Space Exploration (FIC028130) / Genetic Engineering (FIC028110)


* * * * *

I wish Dark Matter:  Artificial lots of success!
It's so exciting to receive that first royalty check!

Till next time ~
Fundy Blue

On the Bay of Fundy
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved



Tuesday, May 4, 2021

IWSG: Wednesday, May 5, 2021 ~ Running in Circles


It's the first Wednesday of the month,
the day that members of the
Insecure Writer's Support Group
share their writing struggles
and writing successes
and offer their encouragement
and support to fellow writers.

To visit the IWSG website, click here.

To become a member of the IWSG, click here.

Our wonderful co-hosts who are volunteering today,
along with IWSG Founder Alex J. Cavanaugh are Erika BeebePJ ColandoTonja DreckerSadira Stone, and Cathrina Constantine.

I hope you have a chance to visit today's hosts and thank them for co-hosting.
I'm sure they would appreciate a visit and an encouraging comment.

Every month the IWSG announces a question that members can answer
with advice, insight, a personal experience, or a story in their IWSG posts.

Or, the question can inspire members
if they aren't sure what to write about on IWSG Day.

Remember the question is optional.
This month's featured question is: 

Has any of your readers ever responded to your writing in a way that you didn't expect? 
If so, did it surprise you?

Happy May, Everyone!
I hope this spring month brings you big doses of energy and optimism.

Congratulations to all of our IWSG authors included in this year's anthology!

Stephanie Espinoza Villamor, C.D. Gallant-King, Tara Tyler, Mark Alpert, Olga Godim, Steph Wolmarans, Charles Kowalski, Kim Mannix, Elizabeth Mueller, and Deniz Bevan.

Dark Matter:  Artificial was released on May 4, yesterday.
I can't wait for Amazon to deliver my copy.

You can order your copy here:
Print copies of Dark Matter: Artificial are available at AmazonBarnes and Noble, and from the publisher, Dancing Lemur Press! eBooks are also available.

I also can't wait to see the genre and theme for this year's anthology contest
which will be revealed today on the IWSG website.

On the Verge of Spring ~ Terry Walking in the Park
Aurora, Colorado, USA
Friday, April 30, 2021
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue All Rights Reserved

April has been a challenging time for Terry and me.
Terry suffered a serious heart attack on April 10th.
He was very, very lucky to survive, and it's still hard to believe it happened.
Our lives were upended, but we are learning to live with this new reality,
and Terry's prognosis is good.

He's walking most days, as much as two miles at a time, weather permitting.
Hopefully yesterday was winter's last gasp, 
a dank day of snow spitting from a sullen sky
when it wasn't dumping torrents of icy rain.
We are so ready for spring!

Cheerful Harbingers of Spring
Aurora, Colorado, USA
Sunday, April 25, 2021
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue All Rights Reserved

I haven't been writing.
I've barely been blogging.
I haven't managed to stay on top of comment moderation
which I accidentally enabled mid-month.
I've fallen terribly behind in replying to comments.

This is the story of my April:

What the Hell?
Aurora, Colorado, USA
Tuesday, April 13, 2021
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue All Rights Reserved

I found that blob on my phone when I was trying to figure out why
I had been credited with an 11-minute-57-second run on my fitbit
on the second day after Terry was discharged from the hospital.

Understand I am no runner.  
I'm not even allowed to run for medical reasons.
I have never, ever, in all my fitbit-wearing years, been credited with a run for exercise.

It turns out that was how my fitbit tracker recorded my 19,124 steps that day,
and the numbers 1-8 are "laps" I did on my "run."
That's all inside our home; I didn't even make it out to the mailbox.

The next day I hit 26,613 steps and the day after that 19,893,
but I wasn't moving fast enough to hit the threshold of a continuous ten-minute run.
I only was credited with walks.

The Amazing Doctor Who Saved Terry's Life

Things are calming down.
I no longer feel like a frantic bushy tailed woodrat.
I'm no longer running in circles.

I'll get on top of things again.
I'll start writing again shortly.
I will check comment moderation today.
I will answer comments.
I appreciate you all so much!

Happy writing in May!

Till next time ~
Fundy Blue 

Friday, April 23, 2021

One Step at a Time

Terry is recovering well from his heart attack on the 10th.
We are both beyond grateful that he survived and is coming along,
but we still find it hard to believe that it really happened.
Terry has a lot ahead of him with heart rehab sessions, but his prognosis is very good.
We're taking it one step at a time.

These past two weeks have been challenging and exhausting,
but thanks to the love and support of our family and friends,
we've come through the chaos and uncertainty.
Last night, for the first time, I didn't lay awake for hours
listening to make sure Terry was still breathing.

Terry has been amazing.
I've been strong for him, but he's been stronger for me.
He was shaken by the thought that he might have left me alone.

I appreciate all the messages of support from my blogging and writing friends.
They have comforted me and helped me make to here, tonight, as I write.
If I haven't gotten by to visit, I will.

I have just about everybody to visit, because I've hit several walls.
Hitting a wall is when you are so tired you literally can't move.
You sit in a numb haze until you can summon the energy
to crawl to the couch or the bed and crater.
But it's all good!
Things are normalizing, smoothing out, calming down.

I keep looking at this photo of Terry and me:

Less than a week later, Terry almost died.
It's hard to process.  It's unimaginable.

But I know this:  You can't take life or love for granted.  
They are incredible gifts.
Accept them with deep gratitude and make the most of them.

Till next time ~
Fundy Blue

On the Bay of Fundy
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved


Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Do Not Wait! Call 911!

I am posting today while I have a chance, and I will not be posting this Friday 16th.

Terry is alive today, after surviving a major heart attack on Saturday.
He is alive because Terry "listened to his heart talk," as one cardiologist expressed it.

He played pickleball for two hours straight late Saturday morning.
He came home feeling tired.
He quickly realized that he was feeling not-the-usual-pickeball-tired.

Pickleball Players

Terry lay down on the couch, and I brought the pillows he wanted.
He put his head back, and it didn't feel good or right.

I rapidly went through all the heart/stroke symptoms I could think of,
even though Terry is fit and healthy.
The only thing he was experiencing was a different tired,
a very subtle pressure in the center of his chest.

We decided to go to urgent care right away.
He stopped in the bathroom while I grabbed a few necessary things.
As we went through the laundry room next to the bathroom he said,
"This is not right.  Something is wrong."
"Screw urgent care, we're going to the emergency room," we both said.

We jumped into the car, and I floored it for the hospital five miles away.
As we were going down the last, biggest hill on Inspiration,
I was aware Terry was getting worse.
I told him to look at the beautiful snow on the mountains.
Then I said, "Talk to me."
He said, "Do you know where the hospital is, because I don't know how to get there."

"I'm 95% sure."
I focused on making the 90ยบ left curve at the bottom of the steep hill,
and clung to a song pounding in my head.
I made the turn onto Pine Drive, stopped at the flashing stop sign,
and turned right onto East Pine Lane.
"I'm 100 % sure, Babe," I said.  "We turn at the next light."

Curve at Bottom of Inspiration Drive
It's actually much steeper than it appears in this Google street view.

Fortunately every light was green,
and all the other drivers were going about eight miles above the speed limit.
We raced up to the emergency entrance at the hospital,
even flying through a stop sign because no car was driving near us.
So not me! 
"Go! Go!" Terry had urged me.  "Don't stop at the stop sign."

We hurried into emergency.  
We didn't even have masks, so I pulled my sweater across my face.
Someone whisked Terry away, while a security officer checked me for Covid,
ran me through a metal detector, and get this,  
checked my purse to see if I was carrying a gun!

He took me to Terry's room.
The emergency staff was already hooking Terry up to all kinds of things,
and a medic with purple black hair and tattoos was running an EKG.
She said.  "This EKG is concerning."
She paused and said, "I'm calling it."  
Someone said, "Get a chest X-Ray."

A Chinese tech and assistants quickly moved in with an X-Ray machine,
and I dashed off to re-park my car and then raced for Terry.
When I got to his room, the X-Ray machine was on the move out and so was Terry's bed.
"Follow us," someone said.

Zoom ~ We were up an elevator and through curvy halls.
They stopped at the cardio angiogram/cath lab and placed Terry on a table.
I managed to wave at him before a nurse sent me to a waiting room.

Next came a very long hour of mostly pacing.  
I kind of knew what was going on because our mothers had gone through the same thing.
I sat there wobbly for a bit, a song pounding through my head.

Then I realized I should start texting family members.
I couldn't remember how to text more than one person at a time,
so I texted my sister Donnie, the first name I saw. 
Then Terry's sister Noreen, and mid-way through my next text
to my sister Bertie, I remembered how to text a group.  Duh!
Brain on fire and in survival mode.

An hour in, I decided to go to the bathroom,
and of course that was when the nurse came.
If you want someone to show up, go to the bathroom!

We met in the hall, and she told me Terry's heart had stopped,
but he had been revived with paddles and had a stent put in.
She said they would be working on him for a while longer.
She wagged her finger at me and said,
"Next time, call 911!"

Back to the waiting room and updates to the family.
Terry's sister was on her way with about an hour to drive.

Thirty more minutes crawled by, and a nurse came and got me.
They were already moving Terry out of the cath lab and to ICU.
Terry was awake, alert, and his face was flushed with a healthy pink.
I hadn't realized how gray he was on the way to Parker Adventist.

The cardiologist spoke to us briefly at the cath lab doorway.
He said we were very, very lucky.  We were fast and early.  
If Terry's heart had stopped out in the field he would have died.
He meant anywhere outside of the hospital.

Parker Adventist Hospital

Good thing we didn't know that when we were flooring it for the hospital.
I hadn't had time to be scared.
Really, until I sensed Terry was getting worse, I thought we were just being prudent.

Later after Terry was settled and Noreen was visiting him,
I had something to eat at the cafe and chatted briefly with the chaplain.
She had previously spoken with Noreen and me in the main waiting room,
as we were swapping out seeing Terry in his ICU room.
She spotted me in the cafe and was double-checking to be sure that I was okay 
and that I had the support I needed from family and friends.
She was so kind and compassionate.

Hot food tasted so good,
I had only had coffee and a biscotti in the morning.

Noreen left and I watched Terry chow down a big supper ~
Always a good sign from the MacBeath family perspective.
We had the first of many consultations, and I left wiped out.
Back up the three big hills on Inspiration to the rotary,
my eyes darting side to side as I scanned for the damn deer
who love to jump on the road, especially at dusk.

Mule Deer

Home ~ Whew!  
A jigger of rum chata on ice, long phone calls,
and shorter texts to my group of eight.

"Do you know what LAD means?" Terry had asked me
as we  puzzled over notes on the white marker board in his ICU room.
I decided shortly after midnight to see if I could find out.

My brother Roy texted me later,
"Sometimes a lack of knowledge is bliss - don't research too much."
He was so right, but it was already too late.
I had googled "LAD medical" and read Widowmaker.
I didn't sleep much Saturday night.

An LAD heart attack, a widowmaker, is the most serious kind,
and if one occurs outside a hospital, the survival rate is low.
It is "caused by a 100 percent blockage of the left anterior descending (LAD) artery. It's also sometimes referred to as a chronic total obstruction (CTO). The LAD artery carries fresh blood into the heart so that the heart gets the oxygen it needs to pump properly." Google Search

Wordpress ~ Original Source Unknown

I was suddenly thinking of the people I knew
who had heart attacks and were dead before they hit the floor
or died in a location where medical help didn't arrive fast enough.
Not everyone is as lucky as Terry with an LAD heart attack.

So many people had told me, "Next time, call 911!"
At the hospital.  On the phone.  In texts.
It hadn't occurred to us, because we didn't know how bad things were.

"Don't hesitate," said a close friend on the phone,
a retired firefighter who had planned and run
the medical response and triage team for the pope's visit years ago.
"Paramedics can call ahead, and the hospital will be ready.
They can send an EKG and restart a heart.
So what if it turns out to be nothing.  Better that than dead."

"Call!" said his wife, a sister-friend to me.   
"If you're wrong, it's not like you have to spend
every Thanksgiving and Christmas with them for years."

"Well, I know a certain firefighter and his wife
who we've spent many Thanksgivings and Christmases with..."

"Louise, call 911," laughed my dearest friend.

Flickr ~ gintheemt ~ Licence

It's my intention that there won't be a second time.
"I've got this," I've told family and friends.  
"We will do whatever needs to be done
to make sure Terry makes an excellent recovery."

I told Terry, "I'm your rock, your boulder of gneiss, g-n-e-i-s-s
Don't mistake it for nice, n-i-c-e."

Terry is doing very, very well,
and we are immersed in all the things one has to do after a major medical event.

A nice gneiss boulder from a beach near Cromarty, Scotland. 
(Credit: @TheNobleGasbag)

I'm writing this post for two reasons.
First, listen to your heart talk.  It may be speaking very softly.
The cardiologists told us that Terry would have been experiencing
serious symptoms quickly and by then it would have been too late.

Second, do not wait.  If somethings seems off, not right, call 911.
Remember, it's okay if it's nothing.
After all, you won't be spending Thanksgivings and Christmases with them.
You'll likely never see them again.

And that song that kept pounding in my head, that helped me focus on the road?
Carrie Underwood's Jesus Take the Wheel.
I had thought about it for the first time in forever
when Terry was driving on slick snow and ice recently.
Then it blasted into my brain as I raced toward the hospital,
and it has stuck in my head since, unexpectedly comforting.

People have been telling me that it wasn't Terry's time to go,
that the Big Guy Upstairs was looking after him.
I have some issues with that,
starting with why should Terry survive over so many equally-deserving others?
But I'll take it, that Amazing Grace, with profound gratitude.

Terry and I are deeply grateful, relieved, and hopeful.
We received wonderful care and support from the people at Parker Adventist Hospital, 
people who are a blur of kind, helpful, and informative faces scrambled in my mind.

As for Terry, one of his most urgent questions is,
"When can I play pickleball again?"

Soon, Babe!
Someone Wants to Play!
Diamond Head Pickleball Court
Honolulu, Hawaii
March 2, 2016
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved

See you on Friday the 23rd.

Till next time ~
Fundy Blue

On the Bay of Fundy
© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved


That Song Pounding in my head:
"Jesus, take the wheel 
Take it from my hands
'Cause I can't do this on my own
I'm letting go
So give me one more chance
And save me from this road I'm on"
                                        by Brett James, Hillary Lindsey and Gordie Sampson

One of Carrie Underwood's Recordings of  
Jesus Take the Wheel