Comet Lovejoy and the Pleiades

Comet Lovejoy and the Pleiades


Comet Lovejoy – Change in Position in One Day



Sunday and Monday evening it was clear, so it was time to find Comet Lovejoy again. This time it was near the beautiful Pleiades. Of course, that is worth a picture.

I thought it would also be fun to see how much the comet had moved over one day – the change is quite visible. I was hoping to go for a three-day comparison, but now it’s cloudy again.

Camera geek info:

  •            Canon EOS 60D in manual mode set at f/4.0, 3.2 second exposure, ISO 6400
  •            Canon EF 70 – 200 mm f/4L lens, set at 94 mm for Pleiades and comet and 200 mm for comet, manual focus at infinity
  •            Tripod
  •            Cable release

In choosing which picture is the best, I find that I am using the following criteria: good focus (automatic toss for out of focus picture unless happen upon cool “artistic” effect), no visible star trails (stars should look like a point, not a line), visibility of comet, color of objects, color of sky, and noise of sky. While I have pictures with darker, less noisy sky, they don’t show the comet as well.

I am also finding that the image quality is far better when I zoom to my desired field of view instead of cropping in post-processing to get there.

Astrophotography – Planets

Conjunction of Moon and Saturn

Saturn (“One of the These Things is Not Like the Others”)

Jupiter and four Galilean Moons

You know you enjoy a hobby when you get up early and go out into the dark cold for it. This morning there was a conjunction of the Moon and Saturn, so I got up and went out. And while I was at it, I took some pictures of Jupiter and its moons, too. I checked – yes all four moons were on the same side of Jupiter this morning. I think it would be fun to make a time lapse of their motion. Might have to try it.

I learned a new astrophotography trick last night. I knew I needed to manually focus for star pictures, but it’s hard to do with dim sources and a camera designed for autofocus. But my camera has a nifty real-time view on the LCD screen with a 10x view … so I could zoom in on the moon or a planet and use the real-time view to help me manually focus. Neat! And *much* sharper pictures.

The real-time view also showed me that, in spite of the solid tripod, the 200 mm is actually quite shaky if I want to crop further in. So I get out my cable release so I could watch the image settle down on the 10x screen and then trigger the camera without actually touching it.

I also already knew that although I could easily see both the Moon and Saturn, Saturn would disappear or the Moon would wash out without some filtering. Graduated neutral density filters to the rescue! I used two (wish I had more and stronger ones) to dim down the Moon so you can see both bodies in the same photo.

Camera geek info:

  •            Canon EOS 60D in manual mode set at f/4.0, 1/60 second exposure for Moon and Saturn, 1/13 second exposure for Jupiter, ISO 2000
  •             Canon EF 70 – 200 mm f/4L lens, set at 200 mm, manual focus at infinity
  •             Singh-Ray Galen Rowell Filter ND-1G-SS + ND-2G-SS for Moon
  •             Tripod
  •             Cable release

Comet Lovejoy – Take 2


Zooming out this time:


After over a week of dreary gray weather, we finally got (partly) clear skies. Comet Lovejoy was still not naked eye visible from the suburbs (the patchy clouds did not help), but I could find it with the camera! I’m hoping to get pictures two nights in a row so I can get pictures of it moving across the sky. It was certainly in a much different place this week than last week, and I had to re-learn how to find it.

Camera geek info:

  •            Canon EOS 60D in manual mode set at f/4.0, 2 second exposure, ISO 5000
  •            Canon EF 70 – 200 mm f/4L lens, set at 200 mm, manual focus at infinity
  •            Tripod

Athena’s Daughters 2 – Guest Post from Janine K. Spendlove


As part of the Athena’s Daughters 2 Kickstarter campaign, the authors and editors are doing a blog tour. Today I am delighted to be hosting Janine K. Spendlove here at acubedsf.

Janine K. Spendlove is a KC-130 pilot in the United States Marine Corps. In the Science Fiction and Fantasy World she is primarily known for her best-selling trilogy, War of the Seasons. She has several short stories published in various speculative fiction anthologies, to include Time Traveled TalesAthena’s Daughters, and War Stories. Janine is also a member of Women in Aerospace (WIA), BroadUniverse, and is a co-founder of GeekGirlsRun, a community for geek girls (and guys) who just want to run, share, have fun, and encourage each other. A graduate of Brigham Young University, Janine loves pugs, enjoys knitting, making costumes, playing Beatles tunes on her guitar, and spending time with her family. She resides with her husband and daughter in North Carolina. She is currently at work on her next novel.

Here she is to talk about writing science fiction and fantasy:

First off, I’m pleased as punch to have this opportunity to guest post on this blog, and even more so to get to co-edit Athena’s Daughters 2 with the very talented Maggie Allen. This is a project that we are both very passionate about and are thrilled by how strong this anthology is—every single story in it is fantastic, and Athena’s Daughters 2 runs the gamut of emotions and story lines. Most of the authors in this anthology have not been published before and I’m so happy that their voices will be heard. Please be sure to check out the Kickstarter for Athena’s Daughters 2 and pre-order your copy today!

And now, my blog post:

How I Write What I Write

What am I working on?

I’m currently working on various projects, to include putting together and editing Athena’s Daughters vol 2 with Maggie Allen, writing a graphic novel (a first for me, and I’m super nervous and excited), a military sci-fi retelling of Pride and Prejudice, and a somewhat secret project that will come to light this winter.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

Weeeeell… I write in many different genres (aside from my fantasy novels, my last two accepted submissions were horror stories, and before that, military sci-fi). But, based on what reviews of my YA novels have said though, it seems that people are surprised/happy to see that my War of the Seasons trilogy deals with the reality of losing loved ones/the grieving process, and a romance that is gradual and “realistic” (not “love at first sight”), and not central to the plot of the story. Ultimately it seems the reoccurring theme in comments is that readers care less about the actual story I’ve written, and more about the characters and their relationships/entanglements (which, obviously, need a story). Guess I should work on making my actual stories better.

Why do I write what I do?

For War of the Seasons I had some grief and loss that I needed to work through. For most of my short fiction it’s either because a “what if” popped in my head or, again, I have some strong feelings about something I need to address (ie, my last mil sci-fi story was about PTSD, and the after effects of returning home from war – something I feel is infrequently seen in speculative fiction). And honestly, sometimes I write a story simply because someone asked me to.

How does your writing process work?

Ehhhh… I guess it depends on the story? But very loosely, it goes along the lines of:

  1. Idea or very generic subject pops in my head.
  2. I discuss said idea or subject with my husband and/or a few choice friends.
  3. Idea (subject is now an idea) bounces around my brain housing group for a while. This could be days or years.
  4. Research idea. Get more ideas.
  5. Idea bounces around brain housing group some more.
  6. Outline the story.
  7. Do more research.
  8. Start writing.
  9. Research.
  10. Writing.
  11. Research.
  12. Writing.
  13. Finish story & send it to choice friends for feedback.
  14. Receive feedback and do nothing for a while.
  15. Do not touch story for many months so that when I return to it I have fresh eyes. Work on other stories.
  16. Return to story armed with feedback and edit/revise.
  17. Edit/revise.
  18. Edit/revise.
  19. Finish, send back out for feedback, then edit/revise again.

So basically, that. Or some permutation thereof.

Thanks so much for stopping by! Please be sure to check out the Kickstarter for Athena’s Daughters 2 and pre-order your copy today!

Athena’s Daughters 2 – Guest Post from Megan O’Russell


As part of the Athena’s Daughters 2 Kickstarter campaign, the authors and editors are doing a blog tour. Today I am delighted to be hosting Megan O’Russell here at acubedsf.

Megan O’Russell is thrilled to be publishing At the Corner of the Garden Wall with Silence in the Library. At the Corner of the Garden Wall is a part of The Tethering series, book one of which is currently available from SitL. And if you read The Tethering closely, you’ll find the night on which the adventure in the garden happens. Originally from New York, Megan is a professional actress who spends her time traveling the country for different shows. When not on stage or writing, Megan spends time with her beloved ukulele and her wonderful husband. To follow Megan’s writing adventures, you can visit her website at

Here she is to talk about writing about magical creatures:

How did you design the magical creatures in your story? 

I am thrilled to have my short story At the Corner of the Garden Wall included in Athena’s Daughters 2. At the Corner of the Garden Wall is actually built within the world of my young adult fantasy novel The Tethering. The Tethering is about magic, power, and love. A magical society that is intertwined with our own is on the brink of collapse, threatening to destroy our world as well as theirs. The Tethering has myriad creatures and rules about magic, and it was really difficult for me to decide what to include in At the Corner of the Garden Wall. To really get into the nitty gritty of how The Tethering’s magic works would have taken so long there would have been no words left for the rest of story!

I really had to focus on what elements of the fantasy world were absolutely necessary to the plot of At the Corner of the Garden Wall. I also had a cast of female characters to choose from and had a horrible time deciding exactly which one should get her own chance in the spotlight. Finally, after much grumbling, lip biting, and an entire other story being written, I settled on Claire, the spunky, sarcastic, pink obsessed, and intelligent-to-the-point-of-trouble-making twelve-year-old witch from The Tethering. As soon as I knew I needed to write about Claire, I knew the story had to have fairies. Ever since Claire found out she was a witch five years ago, all she has wanted was to meet a shining, sparkling, magical fairy. And it was high time I gave her what she wanted.

Then it came down to deciding what exactly I needed the fairies to be. Did they have wings? Were they kind or wicked? Were they beautiful and majestic, or rustic and bug-like? Were they powerful or helpless? And what would Claire’s experience in meeting them bring to the reader and add to the world of The Tethering?

After all the decisions were made, Claire’s adventure was ready to begin. What sort of fairies did I end up with? I’ll let you read the story to find out.

I don’t know about you, but I’m really looking forward to reading this story! If you want to preorder the book, please visit our Kickstarter campaign. If you’re interested in helping us promote the book to others, please join in our Thunderclap. We appreciate your support!

Comet Lovejoy

Can you spot the comet?  (Hint: it’s green!)CometLovejoy20150107-1

Zooming in … how about now?


It’s been a long time since there’s been a comet that I could successfully see and photograph! Comet Lovejoy is a star hop from Rigel (Orion’s foot) into Eridanus, where it can easily be seen (at least in the suburbs in the northern hemisphere) with binoculars, a telephoto lens, or a telescope.  It looked gray through the binoculars, but in the pictures it is a beautiful green.

I am glad that our winter clouds cleared away and I got a clear night last night to spot it. I was hoping for a second clear night in a row so I could show that the comet is moving relative to the stars. Alas, the weather did not cooperate, and it looks like it’s going to be cloudy for a while. But I’ll keep looking up!

December 2014 Stats

I lost my momentum in December. I had a long conversation with a friend that made me rethink my WIP. I think the end result was worth it (I figured out a lot of science for the book and improved my POV character), but it stalled me. Then I got sick. Then there was Christmas. Momentum, gone.

But ultimately, writers … write. I get annoyed when I’m not writing. So I got back to it, figured out what I needed to, and got back to work. What do you do when you stall? Got any tricks to get yourself back in the groove?




Athena’s Daughters 2 – Guest Post on Emily Lavin Leverett’s blog

As part of the Athena’s Daughters 2 Kickstarter campaign, the authors and editors are doing a blog tour. Today I am delighted to be a guest on Emily Lavin Leverett’s blog, writing about why I read what I read.

The Kickstarter for this anthology is coming to a close, and we’re organizing a Thunderclap to remind people it’s the last day. If you’re interested in buying the book, check out the Kickstarter. If you’re interested in helping promote the book, please join the Thunderclap! And thanks for your support!

I Want a Particle Accelerator for Christmas

It is the tradition in my family to buy my husband a Lego set to put together on Christmas morning. I saw this Lego particle accelerator by JK Brickworks, and thought it was perfect! (The very fun video for it on the Lego site is worth the click.)

I ordered all the parts for it, but I had to order the track from Germany, and it did not arrive by Christmas day (actually, it still hasn’t arrived). I gave my husband the rest of the set, so he could at least be entertained by it.

My husband has a 3D printer (that he built!), so he decided to design and build his own track. The cat was fascinated, and I think it ended up working really well!

Track20141229 TrackAbove20141229 CatTrack20141229