Author Archives: jmdattilo

Science Fiction is Good for Science

Lately, there has been a trend criticizing science fiction books and movies for not being “scientific”. Headlines proclaim “what the new Star Wars movie got wrong” and articles, tweets, and blogs all rush to point out the errors in science fiction books and movies. Some have gone so far as to label speculative fiction as bad for science. Our opinion: Lighten up, guys!

Naturally, fiction makes things up and creates beings, worlds, and technologies that simply cannot exist in our universe. That’s why it’s called fiction. That’s why it’s fun. But beyond the fun, science fiction, in both books and movies, serves science in a unique way. It makes people wonder, what if? It tickles imaginations. It stimulates questions and creativity. It incites an interest in science and discovery. Why is imagination important to science? Let’s hear from a scientist on the subject.

In his book Cosmic Religion and Other Opinions and Aphorisms, Albert Einstein wrote:

At times I feel certain I am right while not knowing the reason. When the eclipse of 1919 confirmed my intuition, I was not in the least surprised. In fact, I would have been astonished had it turned out otherwise. Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited, whereas imagination embraces the entire world, stimulating progress, giving birth to evolution. It is, strictly speaking, a real factor in scientific research.

You never know where the seeds of an idea will come from. You never know whose words will spark someone’s passion.

So lighten up on science fiction. Don’t try to stifle it’s scope and vision. It doesn’t harm science. Quite the contrary.

Oh, and one final message from Einstein:







An Ode for Retail Employees Who Work on Thanksgiving

In response to many requests, we are rerunning our popular Thanksgiving post, Twas the Night Before Thanksgiving.


bossTwas the night before Thanksgiving and all through the store,
Not an employee was stirring. They could give no more

Their stockings were torn but they did not care.
They just hoped that closing time soon would be there.

The children’s department was completely a wreck
While the staff glared at shoppers and wished them to heck.

The managers were tired, the employees were pooped
And all wished with fervor they could go and get looped.

When out in the aisles there arose such a clatter
They all started swearing. Now what was the matter?

Away to the noises they wearily trooped
With heads that were bent and shoulders all stooped.

The overhead lights did glaringly glow
Like the rage of a fire from someplace below.

When what to their overworked eyes did appear
But a nut in a sleigh full of holiday gear.

And the little old driver was so peppy and sleek
They knew in a moment they were all up shit’s creek.

A man from corporate to the staff came
And he whistled and shouted and called them all names.

“Now, Dumbass! now, Birdbrain! Now, Stooper and Bonehead!
On, Cranky! on, Stupid! on, Leadass and Meathead!

“I want top profit stores, I want top profit malls!
Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!”

As dry leaves that before a wild hurricane fly
The staff looked at each other and let out a sigh.

So up to the man, the staff they did drag
To see what new horrors he had in his bag.

And then, in a twinkling, he loudly did yell
“I want you all to sell, sell, sell, sell!”

The staff bowed their heads and were turning around
When out of the sleigh he came in a bound.

He was dressed all in Gucci from his head to his feet
His tie cost more than they all made in a week.

A bundle of sale signs he had flung on the floor
But then he said, “Wait! I have even more!”

His eyes, how they twinkled! his smile, how scary!
His cheeks were like roses, (from drinking some sherry).

His cruel little mouth was drawn up in a grin
He had the air of man who knew he would win.

The plan from corporate, he held tight in his fist.
And when he unrolled it, the staff got quite pissed.

He had a girl on each arm and a group of kiss-asses
(Who were really accountants with bow-ties and glasses.)

He was greedy and dumb, a corporate kook
And the staff when they saw him, all wanted to puke.

A wink of his eye, and a twist of his head
Soon gave them to know they had something to dread.

He spoke no more words but went straight to his work
He changed the whole store plan (because he’s a jerk).

And giving the finger to all of the staff
He then strode away with a soft evil laugh.

He sprang to his sleigh, and his suck-ups he hailed
“Let’s get out of here, boys, before we are flailed.”

But they heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight
“You had better make plan before Christmas night!”

Why, Zoe, Why?

Intro PicWe have two cats. One is Katie, a gray-striped, furry ball of affection. Nothing bothers hers. She rolls with schedule changes, house repairs, and guests with equal aplomb. She spends her days sleeping beneath our writing desk or lounging on top of the sofa in the sun.

The other cat is Zoe.

There is only one way to describe Zoe. She’s a maniac. Amazingly, she and Katie are sisters, found by construction workers in an abandoned restaurant four and a half years ago. As you can see, they look nothing alike, and, you can take it from us, their personalities are completely different. Zoe is the yin to Katie’s yang, a cat seduced by the dark side of the Force.

mystery ZoeZoe is the cat who leaps six feet in the air and turns  somersaults trying to catch bugs. She climbs drapes, fights with her sister, and zooms around the house at something close to light speed. She is a member of the Society for Knocking Things Off Tables and The Cats Who Hide in Impossible Places Association. Trying to find Zoe in our basement is a true adventure. When she was still a kitten, we began referring to her as our wild and elusive Zoe. (See our posts about the time Zoe dislocated her jaw: When Greed Overshadows Compassion and The Kindness of Cats.)

This is a cat with an inquiring mind. She tests gravity everyday (a requirement, it seems, of the Society for Knocking Things Off Tables). She is trying to learn to fly. She has a fascination with electric light bulbs, dripping faucets, and anything that resembles string. This includes electrical cords, long hair, and the sashes of expensive dresses.

And what a talker! Every evening after supper, she gives a discourse. Sometimes she is explaining the scientific experiments she performed that day. Other times she is merely demanding playtime. She treats her leisure activities as seriously as her work.

There is no stopping her. When she has pulled off a particularly naughty caper (like the time she pulled the lace curtains down, rod and all, and then made a nest for herself and took a nap), we imagine how much worse it would be if she were a human child instead of a cat. And then we sigh and ask what has become a common question in our home.

Why, Zoe, why?

lace curtains

Writing Instead of Blogging

futureWe know it’s been awhile since our last post. Where have we been? Writing. Books, that is, not blog posts.

We were originally committed to writing one blog per week, and we did for a few years. Then we noticed how much time it took to prepare a blog post. Time to think of a topic. Time to write it and rewrite it. We began to ask if blogging was worth all the time we were spending on it.

We occasionally cheated and posted memes or book covers. Then we stopped posting every week. The time between posts grew longer. Soon, the habit of writing a post was gone. Yes, blogging is a habit, as is writing. If you don’t commit to doing it on a regular schedule it simply will not get done.

As the work on our current novel wound down, we thought of our languishing blog. We talked of our preciously rationed time and had discussions about whether time spent writing was better than time spent blogging. After all, the point is to write a few novels, which, ironically, are about time. Was our time better spent thinking of plots or engaging blog topics? Were we novelists or bloggers? Could we be both and still have time to make dinner, feed the cats, and clean the house?

The final decision was tenuous compromise between writing and blogging. We probably won’t be posting weekly, but we will be posting more often. Our hiatus from blogging has given us a small but renewed flame for writing new posts. The weary cries of  “what will we write about this week?” and “but we’ve already written about that!” will, we hope, be stifled.

On the plus side, our seventh book in the Time’s Edge series is being published this December. We may not have been blogging but we’ve been writing books like crazy. So apologies to those who wondered where we were and raised eyebrows to those who didn’t notice.   😉

Time’s Phantoms Sneak Peek

“Strength is having the guts to be who you are,” Jafrey said. “Strength is allowing yourself the right to have doubts and make mistakes. Strength is knowing that having weaknesses doesn’t actually prevent you from being strong.” He gave a small smile. “Strength is not soldiering on no matter what. That’s just training.”

Time's Phantoms Cover

Time’s Phantoms will be available in December 2015. Cover art by Ali Ries.

Ten Quotes about Time from Time’s Edge

A few readers have asked what our favorite quotes about time are — from our own books! We debated and argued and wrangled over some of them but managed to come up with a list of ten. So, for posterity, here are our favorite quotes about time from the Time’s Edge series:

Time's Edge Cover1. Time exists in cosmic strings that run parallel to each other, each with a slightly different frequency and, hence, a slightly different reality. (Time’s Edge)

2. We create the illusion of time, but time, as most beings define it, doesn’t really exist. (Time’s Secret)

3. Time is infinite. If you’re a molecule. (Time’s Secret)

4. Most answers are revealed by Time. (Time’s Secret)

5. Play your part in time but do not try to alter time. (Time’s Illusion) Time's Illusion Cover

6. Time takes no prisoners. (Time’s Warriors)

7.  It is better to be warned and act at the proper time then to try and change the order of time. (Time’s Warriors)

8. Time heals most errors. (Time’s Guardians)

9. Time has a way of righting itself. (Time’s Guardians)

10. Time is ours. (Time’s Illusion)

Your Brain on Fiction

Turns out reading fiction is great for your brain! It’s the cognitive equivalent of taking your brain for a jog. So exercise daily with a good book.

Why We Love NASA’s Astronomy Picture of the Day

For those who are not familiar with NASA’s Astronomy Picture of the Day (APOD) site, it is a collection of amazing pictures of the universe. Their tagline explains it best: “Discover the Cosmos! Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.”

And why do we love it? It’s simple. Inspiration and knowledge. We always learn something from the information provided with each photo and the images themselves are simply stunning.


Supernova 1994D and the Unexpected Universe Image Credit: High-Z Supernova Search Team, HST, NASA


Check out today’s (June 1, 2015) post, a video of a pulsating aurora over Iceland set to music.


NASA’s APOD contains the largest collection of annotated astronomical images on the internet. When we look at the images, we imagine all the stories that must be out there. And then we get writing.

The Agony and the Ecstasy of Releasing a Book for Publication

nervous faceAh, that wonderful day when it is time to approve that final proof for publication. You’ve slaved over the manuscript, rewritten it, edited it, submitted it, edited it some more, resubmitted it, and then… final approval for publication. Sounds easy, right?

Well, giving the okay for your novel to emerge into the realm of published books is both wonderful and terrifying. You stare at that final proof. It’s done. Of course it’s done. There’s nothing more to change. But… What about that ending in chapter six? Does it give too much away? Does it not go far enough? Is it, really, really just right? And that passage in chapter fifteen. Perhaps, just one more rewrite….

And, of course, there are the mechanics of book publishing. Does the eBook look good on all devices? Is the format a little funky on certain types of phones? I know I checked all the links, but perhaps, I should check them again, just to be sure… The paperback looks good. Yes, but that index in the back… Is that format really the best one? And that comma on page 47. Will anyone care about it except for me?

An author can drive herself crazy when its time to give that final approval. It’s akin to walking down the aisle on your wedding day. The reality hits you: It’s time to commit. Gulp.

But, ah, the freedom and excitement that you feel once the book is released for publication! It’s done. It’s out there. There are readers eagerly waiting for your book. You sigh with relief. It’s finished. Pour me a glass of champagne!

Time’s Guardians, the 6th book in the Time’s Edge sci-fi series, was released for publication on January 19th, 2015. Does having five previously published novels make a difference when it comes to that final moment?

Nope. It’s like getting married all over again. Same agony, same ecstasy. Perhaps that’s why, after we take those vows or give that final approval for publication, we reach for champagne.

A Note to Santa

We purchased this handmade card many years ago. It always has a prominent spot on our Christmas tree where Santa can easily spot it.


Happy Holidays from Joe and Mary

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