Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Guess what? J. K. Rowling actually wrote Distant Cousin!

OK, she didn't, actually.

But we were amused, along with probably thousands of other indie authors, to hear that The Cuckoo's Calling received some excellent reviews but sold only about 500 copies in the United States.

But then, of course, once it was revealed that the book was really written by J. K. Rowling, whose other books threaten to throw Earth out of its orbit, then it sold out immediately, and can't be printed fast enough. (The Kindle edition could not possibly have sold out--not possibly!)

So we are tickled to note that (1) The Cuckoo's Calling has earned an average of four stars at Amazon over 126 reviews...and that's with a big-league publisher, editors, marketers, and designers, and (2) tickled to note that the Distant Cousin books have a higher rating (100 reviews, even including a few "trolls"), and (3), tickled to note that Distant Cousin costs less than a third as much!

What a funny business book publishing is. But there are still some wonderfully entertaining books out there waiting to be found for those willing to experiment a little!

From a reader at the KindleBoards: "'I'm another one of the ravers. These are 3 soon to be 4 books that I can't imagine anybody not liking. There is something for everybody in them."

Monday, July 8, 2013

Google salutes the Roswell alien but misses the real alien: Ana Darcy!

Today only (July 8, 2013) the Google Doodle commemorates the alien crash incident at Roswell New Mexico of 66 years ago (and the continuing festival which celebrates it).

Unfortunately, Google has missed a more interesting (and more verifiable) alien. Her  arrival and landing (in Texas, only a day's drive from Roswell), which bears some outward similarities to the cute little animated figure above, is told in Distant Cousin. On the other hand, readers have agreed, her experiences are vastly more entertaining, cute as the Doodle may be.

This is the perfect occasion to invite you to meet Ana Darcy, the first alien to return to Earth!

Reader comment: "What makes a book outstanding to me is that I am sad when I come to the ending and the characters stay with me for a long time after reading. This series is one of the few that is on my "Must Read" list when others ask me for book recommendations."  

In case the Google Doodle above is not cataloged somewhere, clicking on it on July 8, 2013 produced this search.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Ana notes the Roswell UFO Festival: amusing but not impossible!

The 66th anniversary of whatever it was that happened near Roswell, New Mexico in 1947 is being observed now at the Roswell UFO Festival. Something crashed on a ranch near the town, and what with one thing and another it got blown up into a huge alien "first contact" controversy.
We won't review the history. Most people are familiar with it. If not, you can look it up at Wikipedia, and check out the festival here.

Ana Darcy, our Distant Cousin, neither believes the "crashed and hidden alien" story nor thinks it ridiculous. For one thing she is, after all, an alien who came to Earth, and before 1947, in fact. She was born and grew up on a planet 25 light years away, and in fact came here in a manner not unlike the putative alien or aliens who crashed.

For another thing, her people still tell the story of their transposition from Earth to Thomo millennia ago. They KNOW there are aliens out there, or were: they've long since lost track.

So Ana doesn't find this legend nearly as silly as some of us do.


If you'd like to see what Ana first saw on Earth, it's here.

If you'd like to learn a bit about OUR winsome alien, it's here.

If you'd like to know why two readers have told Ana's chronicler "You suck!" that's here.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Why doesn't Ana know how old she is?

Ana Darcy, our Distant Cousin, has never been able to say exactly how old she is. There are, as she has been known to state in several of her chronicles, just too many variables. 

 First, her home planet, Thomo, has days (and years) slightly different from ours. More importantly, Ana traveled twenty-five light years to return to her people's planet of origin, Earth, and she did so mostly at the speed of light.

As we know, Albert Einstein was the first to point out that time slows down as speed increases. Ana's interstellar vessel took approximately a year to accelerate to roughly 96% the speed of light, which it maintained until it began slowing down, taking approximately another year to do so.

A physicist friend tried to answer the question of how that might affect Ana's age by imagining twins, one traveling between Thomo and Earth, and one staying behind, and comparing the relative difference the traveler experiences. His answer is below. (He thanks Wikipedia for its help. let us note.)

If you are math-challenged, as Ana's chronicler is, this will seem like Greek to you, and you are excused. If you are adept at mathematics, then this might answer the question that even Ana cannot figure out, as good at math as she is.

Difference in elapsed time as a result of differences in spacetime paths

The following paragraph shows several things:
Let clock K be associated with the "stay at home twin". Let clock K' be associated with the rocket that makes the trip. At the departure event both clocks are set to 0.
Phase 1: Rocket (with clock K') embarks with constant proper accelerationa during a time Ta as measured by clock K until it reaches some velocity V.
Phase 2: Rocket keeps coasting at velocity V during some time Tcaccording to clock K.
Phase 3: Rocket fires its engines in the opposite direction of K during a time Ta according to clock K until it is at rest with respect to clock K. The constant proper acceleration has the value −a, in other words the rocket isdecelerating.
Phase 4: Rocket keeps firing its engines in the opposite direction of K, during the same time Ta according to clock K, until K' regains the same speed V with respect to K, but now towards K (with velocity −V).
Phase 5: Rocket keeps coasting towards K at speed V during the same time Tc according to clock K.
Phase 6: Rocket again fires its engines in the direction of K, so it decelerates with a constant proper acceleration a during a time Ta, still according to clock K, until both clocks reunite.
Knowing that the clock K remains inertial (stationary), the total accumulated proper time Δτ of clock K' will be given by the integral function of coordinate timeΔt
\Delta \tau = \int \sqrt{ 1 - (v(t)/c)^2 } \ dt \
where v(t) is the coordinate velocity of clock K' as a function of t according to clock K, and, e.g. during phase 1, given by
v(t) = \frac{a t}{ \sqrt{1+  \left( \frac{a t}{c} \right)^2}}.
This integral can be calculated for the 6 phases:[15]
Phase 1 :\quad c / a \ \text{arsinh}( a \ T_a/c )\,
Phase 2 :\quad T_c \ \sqrt{ 1 - V^2/c^2 }
Phase 3 :\quad c / a \ \text{arsinh}( a \ T_a/c )\,
Phase 4 :\quad c / a \ \text{arsinh}( a \ T_a/c )\,
Phase 5 :\quad T_c \ \sqrt{ 1 - V^2/c^2 }
Phase 6 :\quad c / a \ \text{arsinh}( a \ T_a/c )\,
where a is the proper acceleration, felt by clock K' during the acceleration phase(s) and where the following relations hold between Va and Ta:
V = a \ T_a / \sqrt{ 1 + (a \ T_a/c)^2 }
a \ T_a = V / \sqrt{ 1 - V^2/c^2 }
So the traveling clock K' will show an elapsed time of
\Delta \tau = 2 T_c \sqrt{ 1 - V^2/c^2 } + 4 c / a \ \text{arsinh}( a \ T_a/c )
which can be expressed as
\Delta \tau = 2 T_c / \sqrt{ 1 + (a \ T_a/c)^2 } + 4 c / a \ \text{arsinh}( a \ T_a/c )
whereas the stationary clock K shows an elapsed time of
\Delta t = 2 T_c + 4 T_a\,
which is, for every possible value of aTaTc and V, larger than the reading of clock K':
\Delta t > \Delta \tau\,

What's unusual about Ana's notion of language and math education?

A reader writes:
Very well written and includes interesting tidbits about foods, scenery, events, etc which add to the story. I found it hard to put down and then thinking about the story while doing other things. Loved his writing style and imagination.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Ana finds a poem about perspective: distance and light make anything artistic!

Ana's husband Matt has no problem agreeing that his wife, who traveled here from another planet, after all, knows a great deal more about perspective than he does. He readily understood Ana's instant liking for the poem "Distance and a Certain Light," by May Swenson.*

Consider: in the news these days (June 2013) is that one of our interplanetary probes is going to take a photo of Earth from Saturn this coming November. People who follow such things cannot wait to see how Earth, the "blue marble," might look from the rings of Saturn--it's a matter of perspective, isn't it? It will be a perspective we've never had before, like the famous photo the astronauts took of the Earth from the moon.

Ms. Swenson's poem goes beyond the obvious, however: junkyards, garbage barges, rubbish dumps, can all look lovely from the right altitude. In fact, the poem points out, many an ugly, decomposing thing can be charming, as under a microscope, for example. The poet does not mention it, but Ana well knows that even the planets and stars are not permanent: our bodies, in fact, are made from elements produced in stars, and very likely will end up going around again in some form or other. The people of Ana's planet celebrate this cycle. We can too!

See many more in the column on the right, under the LOVE sculpture-->

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Ana's Extraterrestrial Take on the Russian Meteorite Crash

Millions, possibly billions, of people on Earth were astounded by the unexpected meteorite that blew up over Chelyabinsk, Russia, on February 15, 2013. Ever since that astonishing event there has been much speculation about other possible "city killer" meteorites which might surprise us in the future. One expert estimated there might be as many as 10,000, and stressed, in a Congressional hearing, that if one were to be discovered three weeks from impact, our only recourse would be "to pray."

Ana Darcy Méndez, the extraterrestrial heroine of the Distant Cousin stories, has a slightly different take on the matter.

For one thing, she traveled 25 light years from her home planet to reach our moon, and has first-hand knowledge of what is "out there," in the universe. The reason she came to Earth from the moon was to bring an alert of just such a possible disaster--not of a specific meteorite, to be sure, since astronomers on Earth are generally aware of the larger ones before they reach us. Instead, her moon station manager realized two asteroids were going to collide with each other and break into fragments which would form a debris field the Earth would have to pass through. Rather than three weeks' notice, she provided over three years' notice. The outcome, as readers of her story know, was a happy one (even while it was not the major point of the book). 

Ana sees no point in worrying about meteorites colliding with Earth. There are experts who do that, and they either will or will not devise ways to intercept them. The chances of any meteorite strike are remote, and the chance of one "killing" a city are even more remote. She has (and we have) more important and more immediate things to worry about.

Still, Ana found the meteorite brings a reminder. Professional astronomers, amateur astronomers, and ordinary people everywhere who observe the  heavens often realize how they suggest the unfathomable size of the universe and of our near insignificance in it. 

Ana's people celebrate that and are humbled by it. An incident like the Chelyabinsk meteorite serves to remind all of us of the inconceivably powerful forces that are out there, that make our little blue marble (and Ana's native blue marble not that far away) all the more miraculous. 

So with renewed appreciation, she rejoices in that miracle. So let us all.

An extraterrestrial lives in New Mexico?? She loves our poetry? Our art? She has ideas about our education system? Yes to all of that, and more. In the column to the right, see what Ana first saw, where she lives now, some of her recipes, favorite poems, music, and art, and more, much more---->

A Reader writes: "...there are only a few books that I tend to think about or miss the characters after reading so that says a lot about your book!"
And in e-formats (Kindle, Nook, etc.) they are a steal: the whole set, weeks of fun, for less than the cost of one hardback!

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Art cars that Ana did NOT see, but that her son loved!

The next volume in the chronicles of the woman from outer space who returned to Earth, Ana Darcy Méndez (and her family) is not yet out, but there's no reason not to share with visitors an art exhibition that Ana's son was fascinated by. His mother was far away at the time, but her husband and son happened to be in the Beeville, Texas area when a remarkable exhibition of art cars and other work by Mark Scrapdaddy Bradford of Houston, was featured at the Beeville Art Museum.

Most of the photos below are of Mr. Bradford's art cars, special constructions which actually can be driven, and have been driven, in art car parades. The silver colored cars are covered, or plated, with spoons, believe it or not, thousands of spoons, discarded by an airline and rescued and put to new use by Mr. Bradford! Ana's son has declared Mr. Bradford to be a genius.

If Ana had been able to attend, she most likely would have loved some of Mr. Bradford's smaller works, several of which are also shown below.

Click any photo to begin a slide show!

Share some of the art, poetry, and music of Earth that the gentle extraterrestrial Ana Darcy loves, in the right column under the photo of the LOVE sculpture.

Also you may read about Ana's wacky kitchen experiments with the cuisines of Earth, under the photo of cranberry/apple pie

In fact, there's no one like Ana. Learn a bit more about her here!

Monday, January 21, 2013

Ana loves a poem about a wife's secret, quiet moment with her husband

How often do you suppose someone from another planet ends up happily married to someone from this planet? 

We're not talking about a Star Wars romance. No, these two people could be your neighbors...if, that is, you lived on a country road in southern New Mexico.

Ana, the person from the planet Thomo, found a poem that reminded her so strongly of her loving relationship with her husband that she just had to add The Golden Hour, the book in which it appears, to her collection. 

There's a moment like the one in the poem in one of her stories, Distant Cousin: Reincarnation, as she watched her husband help their children on a wild bicycle ride. She pushed her fingers inside the waistband of his jeans and gave his belt several sharp tugs, saying, "You're a great father, Mr. Méndez," and kissed him on the cheek.

There's a similar private moment in the poem "Leaning In," by Sue Ellen Thompson. (See note below.*)

Ana's tastes in poetry and all things are heartfelt, eclectic, and straightforward. See more of her poems in the column at right, under the photo of the LOVE sculpture, including

*NOTE: The source website for some of Ana's favorite poems has been shut down (2017). There is a workaround that will take you to most of them, however. Please see this post. Thanks!

Ana's favorite poem, School Prayer

A recipe poem: Cranberry-Orange Relish

A love poem to a cat (Ana loves cats), one of at least three in the column

A poem about carpentry (which reminded her again of her husband)

And many, many more!