Gratitude 2016

Thanksgiving is a great time to reminisce. I have been blessed with another great year. I am thankful!

This year, we welcomed grandchild #6 into this world, baby Olivia. Thank you Kelly and Jason, for this precious little treasure! 😀

ferd-and-olivia

We have six grandchildren now. That in itself seems incredible to me, surreal. It is the source of my deepest gratitude, an affirmation that I have accomplished my mission in life. I feel like I have passed some sort of test. Like my First Grade self when he did a good job, the Universe has put a star on my forehead – six stars actually!

6-grandkids

Here is a picture of them at their group baptism a few months ago:

baptism

I am thankful for each one of them. It is so fun watching them grow. It is hard to believe Max is already four, and Kenzie two! Thank you, Megan and Mike, for always leading the way!

ferd-and-max

gail-and-kenzie

None of this would have been possible without my children. I am so very proud of the good people they are. Accomplished, hard-working, generous, kind, loving, intelligent, fun. A father could simply not ask for more! – All four are married now, as this year Kevin married Natalie in a spectacular wedding! Welcome to the fam, Natalie!

kevin-and-natalie

Before that, Kevin invited me to his bachelor party. I was honored to be included in a group of such outstanding young men. Of course, a great time was had by all, and… I made friends with a wolf!

ferd-with-wolf

We made several trips this year to our Ohio homeland to visit with family, and we were visited in Winston Salem by my daughter Ginny, husband James, and their Helena, Sylvie and Alexander. We enjoyed some fun, hot-summer days with dinosaurs, the SciWorks Children’s Museum, haircuts with grandma Gail, violin shopping, and what-not. Our doors are always open to visitors from afar!

helena-sylvie-haircuts

gail-and-alexander

Besides our trips to Ohio, Gail and I enjoyed several other trips, starting with our winter birding trip in January with our Forsyth Audubon group. This year we went to the South Carolina coast. Among the countless memorable moments, we logged another life bird, this lovely Roseate Spoonbill:

roseate-spoonbill

In February, we met up with my brother Ed and wife Genie at the Chicago Auto Show for their charity event. What a fun weekend with an incredibly fun couple!

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May was an outstanding month of Spring migration birding. This year we revisited two separate spectacular locations: the New River Birding and Nature Festival in West Virginia, and Magee Marsh in Ohio. Most memorable moments were Kevin and Natalie joining us for a day at Magee Marsh!

In October, we enjoyed a few days on horseback at our annual trip with Eric to Pisgah View Ranch. Great weather, delicious food, and of course beautiful horses. I enjoyed a night of star-gazing. Eric enjoyed the square dancing!

gail-and-eric

pisgah-view-ranch

Earlier this month, we geeked out at the Walker Stalker convention in Atlanta with friends Sally Reed and her daughter Marie. This is THE convention for fans of The Walking Dead. It was awesome to be in the same room with cast members, directors, producers, etc. We took a day to visit several filming locations. What fun! Here’s a pic with Carol! Carol!!fullsizerender

After that, we drove down to New Orleans, a city that had somehow escaped Gail and me. It was our first time in NOLA and we touristed the heck out of it! Some people are probably still reeling from our excessive Facebook pictures and checkins. Ha!

Oh yeah, another thing this year, I quit my job! For the past 8 years I have been working as an Internal Medicine hospitalist in Winston Salem, for a company that has changed hands twice during those eight years. Too many things had changed, and not all for the better. So, 33 years into my career, I quit, again, to start something new, again! I am now working purely as a locum tenens, independent contractor, doing the same Internal Medicine hospitalist work, now in several locations throughout North Carolina. To organize it all, Gail and I started our own company, Broadwings, PLLC.

Oh, and yet another thing, this year I wrote my first novel! I had already self-published a few small books, but they were nothing compared to this project. I’m pretty proud of it, and I have met a world of creative people who have truly enriched my life. Mission 51 is a fun Science Fiction/Historical Fiction that is still in the works but soon-to-be-published. If you have not checked out the project, I invite you to visit the Mission 51 home page on Inkshares and follow! The book will be dedicated to my immigrant parents, with all my love. 👽

None of these things would be special if they weren’t enjoyed and shared with others. As always, I am so very grateful for the countless wonderful people who are present in my life. Thank you Gail, for sharing every moment. You are the perfect partner, and we make a great team! – Thank you, family. You are my very literal blood. I treasure every moment we are able to spend together. – Thank you friends and eFriends, here, there, and all over the world. I value every interaction I have with you. You make me feel like a true citizen of the world. I feel the love! – And thank you, Universe, for the gifts of loving parents, loving family, loving friends, good health, food on the table, roof over my head, education, opportunities, satisfying work, and for my energy and curiosity.

It has been a super-great 2016. I am grateful! 😀

 

 

The Mission 51 Raffle

Janusia in Space for raffle

Announcing the Mission 51 Raffle!

Artist Idan Carré has graciously donated an original sketch for a raffle! This 11” x 12” sketch was a preliminary “concept” study of Mission 51’s spaceship, Janusia. This is basically how she appears in a drawing in the book. Isn’t she beautiful!? The winner of the raffle will receive this original sketch, signed by the artist, with a personal dedication to the winner! How cool is that!?

To qualify for the raffle you must have placed one of the first 150 pre-orders.

The raffle will include the 138 pre-orders that have already been placed, and additional pre-orders up until the number of pre-orders reaches 150. That’s only 12 more pre-orders to go!

At that point, the names of every person placing those pre-orders will be officially randomized via Riffle Raffle to identify the winner! Hooray!! 😀

  • Each Inkshares E-Reader pre-order (ebook only) will count as one entry.
  • Each Inkshares Reader pre-order (book and ebook) will count as two entries.
  • Each Inkshares Super Reader pre-order (multiple books) will merit as many entries as the number of books ordered.

So… I suggest you place your pre-order now to qualify for the raffle! Be among the first 150 pre-orders!

You can place your pre-order here!

And… you can increase your chances of winning the raffle by placing more pre-orders! Maybe you want an extra copy for family or friends. 🙂

A heartfelt Thank You to Idan Carré for her most generous donation. This truly is a special, one-of-a-kind piece!!

Mission 51 artwork by Idan Carré

I have written a science fiction novel entitled Mission 51, currently in funding for publication through Inkshares. It has been extremely fun for me to collaborate on this project with two outstanding artists.

In this post I want to focus on the work of Idan Carré. Idan has created some remarkable water colors for Mission 51 in her unique, playful artistic style. The scenes are well-studied and full of detail found in the story. It gives me great pleasure to see my written work brought to life so vividly in her brilliant colors!

Here are three of her paintings for Mission 51, a feast for your eyeballs! 😀

WIP_Cerulea 2

JanusiaInSpaceFinal

The Crash by Idan Carré

I encourage you to check out her work, and the Mission 51 project on Inkshares, and to participate with a pre-order!

You can find Idan Carré at her DeviantArt site.

Mission 51 artwork by Chris Pyke

I have written a science fiction novel titled Mission 51, currently in funding for publication through Inkshares. It has been extremely fun for me to collaborate on this project with two outstanding artists.

In this post I want to focus on the work of Chris Pyke. He takes great care to meticulously study the written material. Then, his choice of moment, framing, angle of presentation, and especially the integrity with the story, are simply amazing!

Here are two of his renderings for Mission 51. Aren’t they awesome!?

the crash final jpeg

Janusia In Hangar

I encourage you to check out his work, and the Mission 51 project on Inkshares, and to participate with a pre-order!

You can find Chris Pyke at his DeviantArt site, and at his PykesWorld weebly site.

Mission 51- Preface

I continue to promote the book I am writing on Inkshares.com. It is called Mission 51. If you are a Sci-Fi fan, I think you might want to check it out!

Here is another snippet from the book. This is the Preface. I hope you enjoy it!

 

Mission 51: Preface

A Note from the Author:

I met Dr. Linda Deltare during a birding festival at West Virginia’s New River Gorge in the spring of 2010. I was struck by the enthusiasm of this elegant, eldery lady who was following a constellation of plain old Starlings at the time. She looked away from her binoculars and exclaimed to anyone in earshot, and that would be just me, “Did you see how they responded to the leader’s chip call!?”

Since no one else was nearby, and since I was uncertain whether her question was rhetorical or not, I felt obliged to respond. “No, I didn’t. To be honest, I’m not that tuned-in to communication behavior in flight.”

She started an animated ramble about it until she stopped herself short, apologizing. “I’m sorry. I get carried away by that sort of thing. I have been interested in communication theory since my college days, part of my Master’s work and doctoral thesis.”

“Oh, please go on,” I told her. “I may not know much about it, but I’m interested. I love learning new things about bird behavior.” What I said was true. I was interested. I never lied to Dr. Deltare. Or almost never.

So we had a nice conversation about this and other similar avian topics as we worked our way back to our group of fellow birders. We then encountered each other on and off for the next few days, establishing a comfortable acquaintance. At the end of the festival, we exchanged the typical farewells. “I hope we run into each other again some day at another birding event.” I meant it. She impressed me as a smart, pleasant and interesting lady.

Curiously, we did run into each other, time and time again over the next few years, at almost every birding event I ever attended! I saw her at the Cape May Maygration in New Jersey. I saw her at the Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge in the North Carolina Outer Banks. I saw her at Hawk Mountain in Pennsylvania, at Merritt Island in Florida, at Magee Marsh in northwest Ohio, and again at the Rio Grande Valley in Texas. Our little acquaintance gradually grew into a warm friendship. We shared each other’s cell phone numbers and email addresses. So after that, I was not as surprised to see her at other birding events, as we both obviously shared the hobby and passion. But really, looking back, it was a little weird seeing her everywhere I went.

One day, she even showed up in my home town of Winston Salem, at one of our regular Audubon activites at Bethabara Park. I was really taken aback at her presence, surprised at how far she must have come for such an unimportant event. After an enjoyable morning of birding, I asked her to join me for lunch and she readily accepted. It was then that she finally unloaded the burden that she had been carrying, and for whatever reason, she had apparently decided to hand it over to me.

“Ferd,” she said with a coarse cough, while lighting up a new cigarette using the dying ash of the one she had just finished, “I have something very important I need to tell you. I have never told another living soul what you are about to hear, but I am so old now, and I may be dying. I simply have share what I know with someone I can trust. From the first time I met you, I felt you could be that person. Over the years of following you and getting to know you better, I am now convinced you are the one.”

“Well, gee, thank you,” I said, not knowing exactly how to respond to that.

“No. Don’t thank me. This is nothing to be thankful for.”

I looked at her expectantly while she obviously gathered her thoughts.

Eventually she started, “I have been working for the government for a very long time, initially against my will and always under duress.” She proceeded to spin a fantastical tale about an alien from space, about government conspiracy, about technology and large corporations, about danger to herself and her family. She told me how she was the only one who could communicate with the alien. She called him by name. I nodded understandingly, wondering where she was going with all this craziness, and listened patiently to her very interesting story. We sat there for hours while she told her tall tales, a long story spanning decades. At times she became visibly anxious, and she frequently looked over her shoulder in a comedy of suspicion. I was absorbed and fascinated by the energy of her story-telling, and frankly, by the story itself. She spun a good tale! Lunch turned into dinner. When she finally finished, she said, “I know this must be very difficult to believe, and I will find a way to provide you with evidence, but the government has me under regular surveilance, and now I’m afraid they will have you under surveillance as well. They probably already do. I’m sorry.”

Now, I have heard this sort of thing before. I am a doctor for god’s sake. I had made my diagnosis hours previously. This was a classic case of Paranoid Schizophrenia, heavy on the paranoid with a solid persecution complex, and clearly out of touch with reality with a fascinating, complex delusional construct that was consistent with her obvious intelligence. The only part that didn’t fit was her awareness that this would be difficult for me to believe, and that I would need evidence. I find that most Paranoid Schitzes aren’t that aware of and sensitive to the viewpoint of others.

She handed me two sealed letters, which she made me promise to not open until both she and her sister were dead. She made me put them in my pocket immediately. Then, after looking over both shoulders, twice, she placed a funny little pyramidal object in my hands, and closed all my fingers around it. “Guard this with your life!” she said, with a very intense look in her eyes. “And never say a word about it to anyone!”

I promised her I would do as she asked. After that was settled, she seemed visibly relieved and strangely worried at the same time. “Promise me again. Don’t show those letters or the trangula to anyone. To anyone! Hear?” I assured her again it would be our secret, and I meant it. I was only a friend, not her doctor, but I always honor confidences. Or nearly always.

But I now feel I must unload this stuff myself. Linda is dead, and someday I will be dead, too. The story must be told.

She gave me those two letters. I will include the first one as the first Appendix to this book. This is the letter where he/she explained how after her death I would come forth with her “documentation and evidence” to bring the “discoveries, secrets, and lies” “into the light.” The second letter contained very specific directions to a very specific location. I followed those directions. I went to the place where the evidence was supposedly hidden, and I found no such thing. All I found in the safe was a toy spaceship and an old Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle action figure.

Now all I have are the words of a probable Paranoid Schizophrenic, and I did have that interesting little pyramidal object. But it would be crazy of me not to tell her story. I know too much.

So here it is, as it was told to me by one who was there.

~~~~~~~~~~

I hope you enjoyed that bit from Mission 51! Please check it out on Inkshares! 😀

Mission 51- Final Approach

I would like to share with you a sample of a book I am writing on Inkshares. This is the tagline on my Inkshares project page:

“After a tragic, fifty light-year voyage, sole survivor Mat crash lands on a hostile alien world. Beyond tolerance, beyond acceptance, he must learn to embrace the diversity of his new home planet if he is to ever find peace.”

This is a draft of a chapter called Final Approach.  The book is called Mission 51. I hope you enjoy!

 

Final Approach

After releasing Dirk’s body, and repairing Janusia for a second time, he had performed his usual inspection of the navigational stars to determine his position. Janusia had warmed him out of cryo as intended, when the ship had reached the ordered coordinates. He knew he was in Cerulea’s planetary system. By the small appearance of the system’s star, he could tell he still had some distance to go. Close by, he had identified two planets. He had actually seen them before, through the powerful space telescopes back home. The one with the beautiful rings was the sixth planet from the star. The largest one was the fifth from the star. He had found himself to be somewhere between those planets, but had not been able to quite see Cerulea at that point. He made a decision to head directly towards the star, to hopefully intercept Cerulea in orbit around it.

A slow and lonely year went by. For most of this time, he was unable to appreciate any progress by looking at the distant stars. He was traveling as fast as the tiny positional engines allowed, but 3D speed was miserably slow compared to 4D. “I only know I’m moving when I see the planets,” he said out loud. He had grown accustomed to speaking to himself, even with arguments and conversation. Anything to keep from going insane in the solitary confinement inside Janusia.

The fourth planet from the star came into view. He knew this planet was still too cold to easily harbor life, but that would not be the case for the next planet, his destination, Cerulea! Looking out a different window, he could see the star appeared larger now. Cerulea was believed to be in the same warm zone as his own planet. As he approached its supposed position, he became more anxious about that known fact. “After all this, it better be as warm as we think. It better have water. It better have life, or my own life has been for nothing!”

As it circled in its orbit from behind the sun, Cerulea, the thrid planet from the star, finally came into view. “The legendary Cerulea! There you are!” Mat’s face broke into a rare smile of true joy. He spent hours and days looking at the beautiful blue orb, imagining what else he might observe as he drew nearer. His joy mixed with a strong anxiety as he wondered if he could possibly make a landing in such a damaged ship. He eyed the gauges and worried about his dwindling fuel supply. “Damn you,” he said to the cold, dead main engines. “I need you now.” He thought about his three small positional engines. “It’s just you and me now,” he said to the inanimate objects that propelled Janusia, and that could maybe slow her down during descent.

Mat felt sluggish. He was weak and hungry, trying to stretch his dwindling food supply. He shivered in Janusia’s cold cabin, keeping the heaters off most of the time to preserve as much fuel as possible. “This is why I saved you,” he said to the fuel.

He used a minimum of fuel to thrust Janusia into a path to intercept Cerulea in its orbit around the star. He made his calculations by hand, as the ship’s navigational computers were dead. It was easier to do the calculations now, as Cerulea was becoming visibly larger with each passing day. He refigured his calculations time and time again, anxious to get it right. “Let’s do this Janusia. My life depends on it, you know.”

Now he was almost there! This past year had seemed interminably long. Progress had been so difficult to judge. But now Cerulea seemed to be fast approaching, even traveling at a slow, conventional speed. Against all odds he was finally arriving at his planned destination. “Cerulea, here I am,” he announced. “A frakking miracle, and nobody to witness it.” He was too tired to generate the enthusiasm this moment deserved.

On final approach, he ever-so-gently tweaked the positional engines, using as little of the precious remaining fuel as possible to achieve his first stable orbit around this alien world. He sat back in awe and wonder as views of the planet came and went through the window of the spinning ship. He stopped to consider his whirl of emotions, which to his surprise were mostly morose. ”Historic,” he thought, sarcastic and miserable in his loneliness. “Dirk would have loved this.”

Despite the obvious beauty of the planet below him, Mat was overwhelmed with feelings of sadness and loss. “What’s the point if there is no one to share this with?” He cringed at the sudden memory of loosening the ties to release Dirk’s dried-up body into the darkness.

He was haunted by the memory of seeing Dirk disappear silently into space. He remembered saying some ceremonial words that seemed important at the time. Mat realized now that at his own death no one would be left to say any words and to see him off. “Damn Dirk.” He sighed. “Damn cheap-ass cryo bed.”  They hadn’t noticed the micro-crack when they sealed Dirk in that last time. The cryo fluid had leaked out. Dirk had died ages ago. “He should be here with me right now.” Mat wiped the tear streaming down his face.

He broke himself from his depressive reverie because now, at long last, here he was, floating just a few miles over the legendary planet so very far away from his own. The time had come. Mat sent another “final” report to mission control, knowing the light speed message would now take about 50 years to be received, that is if the communications system still worked at all. “Goodbye, Torkiya,” he said, with a final salute to his old home planet, as he turned his attention completely to the job at hand. “Hello, Cerulea.”

He allowed Janusia to make several orbits around the planet, taking careful note of the lay of the land and the blue water. He was specifically looking for a place to land, imagining landing at a much faster speed than he would prefer. Thinking about the small positional engines, he said, “You can’t slow me down enough for a true landing. It will have to be in the water.”

“Large body of land, small body of water. Small body of land, large body of water.” He memorized the pattern with each passing orbit. He targeted a landing in the middle of the largest body of water. Now it was just a matter of executing it. “Yeah, right. Simple,” he said sarcastically, but now his training was starting to kick in. He had a series of maneuvers to perform and his mind started going through the preparatory routines to deorbit, descend and land. “You can do it!” he encouraged himself.

Slowly and weakly he worked the damaged controls. Truly, there was no choice. He was almost out of food. The ship was dark and cold, nearly out of fuel. He and the ship were dying. “If I’m going to die, I want to die down there,” he said, looking down at Cerulea, the beautiful blue alien planet.

He calculated the exact point at which to start the process. He oriented the ship to take maximum advantage of his small positional engines and started a long burn to slow way down. When he could feel the ship starting to descend, he stopped the burn. He now oriented the engines so they could slow down the growing accleration of descent. And shortly after that, he realized he had made a crucial miscalculation. “Janusia, what are you doing!? You’re dropping way too fast!”

With no way of knowing, Mat’s mistake had been made many times before. Cerulea’s mass, and the gravitational pull that went along with it, were much greater than those of his own planet. He was accelerating to the land much faster than expected. “Little engines, do your best!” he implored. He slammed the lever down to burn the engines at full throttle, trying his best to slow his rate of descent.

About half-way down, he felt the effect of the planet’s atmosphere. “Good that there is an atmosphere this high up,” he thought. “Bad that it’s heating things up so soon!” He could see Janusia’s forward hull starting to glow red hot. He briefly thought of his Father, and the family holograms. “Mat to mission control, I’m coming in hot!”

Mat then tried a series of long S-shaped curves in an effort to shed more speed. He was flying by feel. He was re-energized now, with the high stress of an extremely dangerous descent and landing. There was no time for fear. He was at full attention, trying his best to maybe survive. Then, as he looked out the windows to check his position, he was blinded by a sudden bright light. The ship had burst into flames. “Oh nooo!” He screamed.

The inside of the ship got hotter and hotter as his descent speed continued to increase. Between the flames, he could see the rapidly approaching land. He realized with a panic, “I’m not going to reach the water at all!” He was falling to ground at an alarming rate.

Mat tried the best he could to flatten out the steep trajectory. Janusia tried to respond, but it was brief and in vain. He was going to crash. Mat could now see the shapes and countour of the terrain as he flew by at an incredible speed. “This is it,” he thought. “It’s all over.”

In the final moments of Janusia’s flight, he could see a mountain range in the distance ahead. He hoped he could clear the highest peak, or at least fly between the highest ridges, to the flatter land that lay further ahead.

At the very last moment, Mat knew he would not clear the mountain. By instinct, he crossed his arms in front of his face and turned away in a protective gesture, preparing for impact.

The mountaintop and Janusia exploded into a million pieces.

#

Shortly after the final moments of Mat’s historic voyage, someone in Texas reported seeing a flash of light streak across the sky. Several people in New Mexico and Arizona saw a similar flash, or heard a whooshing rumble.

The bleary-eyed people in the Las Vegas casinos were mostly oblivious. At a Blackjack table, a man thought he maybe felt a brief jolt. “What was that?” he asked, though no one cared to respond. He shrugged his shoulders and pointed to his cards, ordering the dealer, “Hit me again.”

~~~~~

 

If you care to read further, this chapter is followed by The Crash.

 

~~~~~

 

I hope you enjoyed this early draft of a chapter in the book! If so, please consider a pre-order to help get Mission 51 off the ground! You can get your pre-order at Inkshares here.

Thank you for reading! 🙂