Saffron's Space

Today in When Science Fiction Becomes Reality I’m talking about something a little scary…

Do you remember the movie Total Recall? Or the book it was based on: We Can Remember It for You Wholesale? … The premise was that artificial memories were inserted into people’s brains. And now, ladies and gentlemen, we can do it for real.

That’s right, scientists have implanted false memories into the brains of mice so that they have a negative, fearful response to an environment which is completely harmless.

 

The Experiment: On day 1 the mice were put into harmless Box A where they were free to run around and explore. On day 2 the mice were put into Box B where they were exposed to mild electric shocks. Using various chemicals and stimulation the scientists activated memory cells in the hippocampus. On day 3 the mice were placed back into Box A where they experienced extreme fear, including freezing and hiding in corners. When these same mice were put into a third, new environment: Box C, they were relaxed and unafraid.

While it may sound complicated what this experiment shows is that the mice have now formed a false association between the pain experienced in Box B and the environment of Box A. In reality they should have no reason to act fearful in Box A, but the false memories tell them there is.

You can read the article here: http://dx.doi.org/10.1126/science.1239073

 

Limitations: Obviously this research is relatively new and it’s a long way off creating full life memories but it’s certainly a start. At this point the study is limited to eliciting only a fear response and the memory recall is based solely on our interpretation of the mice’s actions. This means there are many aspects that we can’t possible know; like what is the mouse actually recalling?

Human BrainMedical Implications: The medical implications of this technology has already been cited and primary amongst them is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). By ‘editing’ a person’s memory it might be possible to remove these kinds of debilitating memories and allow people to live ‘normal’ lives. Similarly phobias could be addressed using this technology by falsely creating a positive association with the focus of the phobia.

 

Science Fiction: The concept of memory implantation has been covered by multiple science fiction novels and movies, the two I mentioned earlier are the obvious examples. This technology has many applications outside the medical arena:

Idea–       Brain washing: How better to control a population then to control people’s memories and thoughts? You could eradicate entire rebellions by ‘inserting’ positive memories of yourself into the upriser’s heads. On the other hand you could make people hate your enemy by inserting false negative memories as well.

–       Manipulation: Similar to brain-washing but how to make that special someone fall for you? Simply insert some romantic memories. Perhaps you even saved their life once?

–       Torture: By controlling the very thoughts a person has a potential abuser could torture a victim not just physically but mentally as well.

–       Training: Rehabilitating repeat offenders could involve ‘editing’ a person’s memories and therefore their behaviour. Associate an unwanted behaviour with a bad memory and the person is unlikely to perform the behaviour again.

 

This research definitely sits on the very edge of scientific boundaries well as ethical boundaries. How far is too far? When does medication become manipulation? I’d love to hear your thoughts on the ethical implications as well as how this technology could be used in today’s science fiction, let me know in the comments section below.

 

Just write! Basically that’s the advice I have for you because that’s all you need. The three steps I describe below will cure your writer’s block real quick but it will probably also help your productivity in other areas of your life.

What gives me the right to give advice on this topic? Well I have a full-time job, I’ve graduated from a bachelors and an honours degree in biomedical science (and am about to start my PhD), I’ve written and published two fantasy novels in the last 2 years as well as survived massive brain surgery which put my life on hold for a year. Not to mention I also paint, have a very successful, loving relationship and exercise for half an hour every day. So in summary, I know a thing or two about time management.

So without further delay, the three steps to beat writers block:

1. Set yourself a daily goal.

This should be a number of words or pages that you will write per day (NOT a time span). The goal should be achievable but should also allow you to finish your book within a reasonable time frame. Let’s say you want to write a 300 page book in 1 year… well then you would want to write 1 page a day and that would still give you 65 days for editing. Personally I write 2 pages everyday.

2. Stick to that goal no matter what

So you’ve had a long day at work, you’ve still got to make dinner, the kids are crying out for attention and you just don’t feel like sitting in that chair and writing. Well… TOO BAD! If you want to be a professional writer you have to treat it like a job, writing is not optional. If you just want to occasionally write for the fun of it, then OK but don’t expect to turn it into a profession if you don’t take it just as seriously as your ‘real job’.

3. Eliminate distractions

Until you’ve finished that book your writing time should be wholly dedicated to getting words onto paper. Your writing time is not for editing, it’s not for reading, it’s not for facebook. Your daily writing goal must be for your book and if it takes you 5 hours to finish your goal then so be it. You will quickly train yourself to complete your goal in no time at all because it’s a quantity rather than a time based achievement.

So yes, it does take some discipline, but so does anything else if you want to be any good at it. So go now, set yourself a daily goal and stick to it- you’ll be incredibly proud of the progress you make.

 

Get hold of my first book: The Fallen Star, by clicking on the cover image on the right side of the page >>>

This week in When Science Fiction Becomes Reality we talk about the almost impossible.

Scientists have achieved something spectacular: an injected fluid which allows you to survive without breathing for up to 15 minutes!

So far it’s only been used in animal trials but think of the possibilities, not just medically but recreationally as well. What would you do if you didn’t have to breath for 30 minutes? Altitude? Not a problem. Diving? Not a problem. Space? Not a problem (aside from your body exploding…).

The Science: So the science behind this technology is that a lipid (fat) particle is infused with oxygen at a much higher concentration than our own red blood cells. These particles are called lipidic oxygen-containing microparticles (LOMs). This solution is injected and mixes with the patient’s blood, providing oxygen to deprived haemoglobin. The animal trials have shown that asphyxiated animals given LOMs maintain normal blood pressure and heart rate compared to control animals given simple saline solution. The animals given LOMs also lived longer and did not suffer from organ damage.

 
Lung - Miliary tuberculosis

What does it mean: Medically this technology could mean the difference between life and death or prevent brain damage. These LOMs could provide the vital extra minutes a patient needs when they are suffering from a breathing restriction. So many people could benefit; water inhalation, severe pneumonia, lung collapse, the list goes on.

The ability to go without breathing also has military implications; underwater missions, toxic gas and lung damage are much less serious when you don’t need to breath!

What about Sci-fi? Well if you ask me this is pretty much the limits of science fiction as we see it now. The need to breath is so intrinsic to us as humans that picturing a world where it’s not necessary is almost impossible. But, that’s just what we’re facing with this new technology. Sure, right now it’s only been tested on animals and only lasts for a short while, but where will the future take us?

What if you could ‘swim’ through space? Sure, we still have to deal with the negative air-pressure, but that will come. Aqueous planets aren’t as far-fetched as we once thought, a city of humans living and surviving underwater is completely plausible with this technology. What if we do manage to fill our entire atmosphere with noxious gases? With LOMs humans could hypothetically survive, almost as normal, on a planet with a toxic atmosphere.

How would not having to breath influence your life? What would you do if you had this ability? What do LOMs mean for science fiction?

 
Read the scientific article here: http://dx.doi.org/10.1126/scitranslmed.3003679

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What a fantastic take on a very old legend! At first I didn’t know what to expect from this book but after the first chapter I was completely sucked in as Greek gods and demi-gods started their power plays. I found the way in which old legends and characters are brought back to life, in a such a modern way, truly fascinating.

I’ll admit to staying up WAY later than I should have trying to finish this book and I’m looking forward to getting my hands on the next one.Oracle of Delphi

This story follows a girl as she goes from being a ridiculed high-schooler to being one of the most sort-after and powerful people of her time. She is surrounded on all sides by characters which have come to life from age-old legends (but then every story comes from some kind of reality right?).

Her heart and mind are conflicted as she fights through the pages of double-meanings and best-intentions.

The story could have benefited from slightly better dialogue, I found it slightly stilted while on the other hand the internal thoughts flowed beautifully. I also don’t think the start does the book justice, so if you pick it up and find yourself not quite liking it, wait until chapter 2 before making up your mind.

4 stars for this great read, Prophecy of the Most Beautiful, I can’t wait to see book two and find out what those pesky gods are up to this time!

Levitation. Isn’t that one of the coolest superpowers? Right up there with fire-thrower? …. X-men aside, in today’s When Science Fiction Becomes Reality I’m looking at a very real case of levitation.

The premise is that sound waves (and their vibrations), when controlled in just the right way, are capable of levitating and even controlling the motion of objects. The intricacies of the study are described here: http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1301860110

Japan LevitationIf you want the short version here it is:

The scientists were able to levitate multiple objects and it did NOT rely on them being magnetic. They elevated items such as water, sodium metal and coffee granules.

But why you say?

This technology provides two MAJOR benefits to the world of science: 1) no more handling dangerous chemicals- you can control them via levitation from a distance. 2) No contamination, the experimental reagents will come into contact with nothing but air; no contamination means better experiments.

Let’s put aside practicality for a moment, how does this relate to science fiction? Well, if you increase the scale there’s not really any difference between this and flight… suppose we could increase the scale (and protect ourselves), what’s to stop us riding this vibrational wave through the air? Aside from just the pure awesomeness of flying it could be used to cross dangerous or difficult terrain- you just levitate across, like a bridge.

Could this form of levitation be weaponised? Probably- although I’ll let you work out how.

Read more here.

Do you know any other methods of levitation? How does levitation feature in your science fiction novels? Tell us about it in the comments section below.

Photo from gordonator on flickr

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“All things are composed of patterns…”

And within the pattern of the realm of Alorin,
three strands must cross.

What a story! I thoroughly enjoyed this novel by Melissa McPhail, it had everything you would want or expect from an epic fantasy novel. Be warned though, it’s long- massive in fact (which of course you don’t notice when you’re getting it on kindle). So make sure you’re ready to commit to the long haul if you’re planning to get this book. Cephrael's Hand

There are a huge variety of characters and I felt connected to all of them. I also have to congratulate Melissa on her ability to weave mystery into a fantasy novel. I’m still not quite sure which characters to trust and am looking forward to book two.

The editing was thorough and the book well written so big ticks on all fronts for Cephrael’s Hand.

I’ll admit it took me a little while to really get into this book and I probably feel more connected with the darker characters than the main heroes (although perhaps that says more about me than the book!). The book maybe could have been split into two smaller novels, but that’s just my own personal preference.

If you’re looking for a book to really sink your teeth into, Cephrael’s Hand is just what you need.

I’m very excited about this week’s When Science Fiction Becomes Reality, it’s all about artificial intelligence. Let’s face it, we all knew that it was only a matter of time before Terminator came true. Firstly, some interesting facts:

  • It is estimated that humans will get rid of their bodies and become entirely machine (consciousness uploaded to software) by 2050
  • There are already several computers that are in the process of being ‘taught’, starting at the age of a toddler and moving up from there
  • Robots can develop the ability to lie and deceive (the topic of this post).

So, a neat team in Switzerland created a ‘swarm’ of robots which they released into a contrived environment containing both ‘food’ and ‘poison’. The ‘survivors’ of this group of robots were taken and their make-up subjected to genetic-like processes; sexual reproduction, mutation, etc. This continued for 500 generations and the behaviour of the robots was analysed. "Swarm-bots" near a laboratory in Brussels, Belgium. Photo courtesy of National Geographic.

There is a great article and video here which tells you a bit more about the process.

In the end the researcher’s found some amazing things:

  • The robots learned to signal when there was food and to recognise this signal from other robots
  • Robots whose evolution was based on whole-colony selection would help each other
  • Robots who were in competition with each other learned to signal deceptively i.e. drawing other robots away from the food source

Just think about the implications of these three things!! Completely naive robots learned to co-operate (when it suited them) and to lie and deceive! Ladies and Gentlemen- if these robots had been more than lights on wheels how much further could this experiment have gone? What if, for example, they were made with weapons? How many generations before they turned on their human creators?

The implications for these facts in science fiction is obvious. If your robots haven’t advanced much past the intelligence of an iPhone then you may want to consider re-writing. Clearly artificial intelligence is undergoing exponential advancement, even if we threw our imagination as far out as it would go we probably still wouldn’t be close to what will actually happen.

Just think, current predictions have us becoming robots within 37 years… that’s within my lifetime! How can you possible write a story based on that eventuality?

Post below, I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Come one, come all to celebrate the launch of the 2nd book in The Lost Child Saga: The Herald of Darkness.Herald of Darkness

Details are below and all are welcome. Copies of The Herald of Darkness will be available for purchase. Be prepared for nibbles, a sneak preview and celebration.

 

When: 3.30pm  28th August

Where: Eddie Koiki Mabo Library,  James Cook University,  Townsville

 

Learn more about The Herald of Darkness.

Here for your enjoyment are the five newest and top-rated books in fantasy and sci-fi. Have you read them? What did you think? They all sound fantastic, but I haven’t ready any of them! Does anyone have any suggestions?

View these books now by clicking on the cover images.

 

A Lost Witch – Debora Geary                                4.9 stars

A Lost WitchHannah Kendrick has spent the last twelve years fighting for her sanity.  And the doctor who has stood by her side has run out of options.

A small computer tracking spell will find Hannah – but can Witch Central save her?

This is the seventh and final book in the bestselling A Modern Witch series, but have no fear – your favorite characters will be back in September with the launch of the Witch Central series. Lots of witchy love, laughter, and tears yet to come :).

 

The Atlantis Gene – A.G. Riddle            4.4 Stars

The Atlantis GeneTHE GREATEST MYSTERY OF ALL TIME…

THE HISTORY OF HUMAN ORIGINS…

WILL BE REVEALED.

70,000 years ago, the human race almost went extinct.

We survived, but no one knows how.

Until now.

The countdown to the next stage of human evolution is about to begin, and humanity might not survive this time.

 The Immari are good at keeping secrets. For 2,000 years, they’ve hidden the truth about human evolution. They’ve also searched for an ancient enemy – a threat that could wipe out the human race. Now the search is over.

Off the coast of Antarctica, a research vessel discovers a mysterious structure buried deep in an iceberg. It has been there for thousands of years, and something is guarding it. As the Immari rush to execute their plan, a brilliant geneticist makes a discovery that could change everything.

Dr. Kate Warner moved to Jakarta, Indonesia to escape her past. She hasn’t recovered from what happened to her, but she has made an incredible breakthrough: a cure for autism. Or so she thinks. What she has found is far more dangerous – for her and the entire human race. In the hands of the Immari, it would mean the end of humanity as we know it.

Agent David Vale has spent ten years trying to stop the Immari. Now he’s out of time. His informant is dead. His organization has been infiltrated. His enemy is hunting him. But when David receives a coded message related to the Immari attack, he risks everything to save the one person that can help him solve it: Dr. Kate Warner.

Together, Kate and David must race to unravel a global conspiracy and learn the truth about the Atlantis Gene… and human origins. Their journey takes them to the far corners of the globe and into the secrets of their pasts. The Immari are close on their heels and will stop at nothing to obtain Kate’s research and force the next stage of human evolution – even if it means killing 99.9% of the world’s population. David and Kate can stop them… if they can trust each other. And stay alive.

 

A Charge of Valor – Morgan Rice                            4.5 Stars

ChargeofValourIn A CHARGE OF VALOR (Book #6 in the Sorcerer’s Ring), Thor continues on his quest, deeper into the Empire, to retrieve the stolen Destiny Sword and save the Ring. As he and his friends meet unexpected tragedy and lose a member of their close-knit group, Thor and his remaining friends become closer than they ever were, learning that they must face and overcome adversity together. Their journey takes them to new and exotic terrains, including the desolate Salt Fields, the Great Tunnel, and the Mountains of Fire, as they face a host of unexpected monsters at every turn.

Thor’s skills deepen as he undergoes his most advanced training yet, and he will need to draw on powers greater than he has ever used if he is to survive. They finally discover where the Sword has been taken, and they learn that, to retrieve it, they will have to venture to the most dreaded place in the Empire: the Land of the Dragons.

Back in the Ring, Gwendolyn recovers slowly and grapples with deep depression after her attack. Kendrick and the others vow to fight for her honor, despite the impossible odds. There follows one of the great battles in the history of the Ring, as they struggle to free Silesia and conquer Andronicus.

 Meanwhile, Godfrey finds himself in disguise behind enemy lines and begins to come into his own, learning what it means to become a warrior, in his own, unique way. Gareth manages to stay alive, using all his cunning to avert capture by Andronicus, while Erec fights for his life to save Savaria from the oncoming invasion by Andronicus—and to save his love, Alistair. Argon pays a precious price for doing the forbidden: meddling in human affairs. And Gwendolyn must decide if she will give up on life, or take up the secluded life of a nun in the ancient Tower of Refuge.

But not before, in a shocking twist, Thor finally learns who his real father is.

Will Thor and the others survive the quest? Will they retrieve the Destiny Sword? Will the Ring survive Andronicus’ invasion? What will become of Gwendolyn, Kendrick and Erec? And who is Thor’s real father?

 

Ep.#7 – “The Expanse” –  Ryk Brown                         4.7 Stars

ExpanseA newly repaired ship…
A willing and eager crew…
A host of new technologies…
A long anticipated return home…

The crew of the UES Aurora finally has the chance to fulfill their mission, but first they must complete a long and dangerous journey across a thousand light years of unexplored space.

 

 

CyberStorm – Matthew Mather                             4.4 Stars

CyberStormSometimes the worst storms aren’t from Mother Nature, and sometimes the worst nightmares aren’t the ones in our heads. Mike Mitchell, an average New Yorker already struggling to keep his family together, suddenly finds himself fighting just to keep them alive when an increasingly bizarre string of disasters start appearing on the world’s news networks. As the world and cyberworld come crashing down, bending perception and reality, a monster snowstorm cuts New York off from the world, turning it into a wintry tomb where nothing is what it seems…and no one can be trusted…

 

In this week’s When Science Fiction Becomes Reality, we’re discussing a topic which has become quite controversial over the last few years. Vaccines. There has been a massive push in recent years against vaccines and this has led to an abominable increase in the rates of infectious diseases, including whooping cough. In-fact in the last year the USA has experienced higher rates of whooping cough than it has seen for the last 5 decades.

Of course there are multiple reasons for this but a large part is the massive anti-vaccine campaign which has been gaining large media attention. As a biomedical scientist myself, let me assure you that I am not trying to kill you, I am not trying to give your child autism and I am not privy to some giant conspiracy… I (and my fellow scientists) are people just like you, we carry out evidence-based research (and trust me, we’re not in it for the pay) with the ultimate aim of helping society. End Rant.

So, let’s celebrate some incredible progress that’s been made on the vaccine front:

1) The flu shot is likely to have prevented 13 million illnesses

2) A vaccine against autism is under development

3) A rotavirus vaccine given to African children is at least 60% effective

Some other things to celebrate… Have you ever had smallpox? Of course not!!

So aside from my own personal loudspeaker this article does have some link to the genre we all know and love- science fiction. So while it’s great to imagine a world where all diseases have been eradicated, with our current technology I don’t think that’s possible. Who knows, maybe we’ll develop a new method of disease control and we’ll all live in utopia forever… but I think not.

As hard as we try to stay ahead of the bacteria and viruses that cause disease, so too are they evolving to survive… perhaps utopia will always be just out of our reach…

What do you think? Could we ever be completely infection free? How has the anti-vaccine debate affected you?

 

 

 

Firstly, forgive me for the dry nature of this post but hey, I wrote a thesis and I’m proud of it!

In the name of open-access research I have posted my thesis here for your enjoyment. However, if you don’t feel like wading through pages of scientific writing, here’s the quick version (and a cool picture).

 

Rheumatic heart disease is associated with repeated group A streptococcal infections however there is substantial epidemiological evidence to support the role of group G streptococci in this condition. Prevalence studies have shown significantly higher levels of group G streptococcal infection in areas endemic for rheumatic fever and rheumatic heart disease. This study investigated this relationship through the use of the rat autoimmune valvulitis model. It was found that exposure to whole killed group G streptococci caused heart valve infiltration by mononuclear cells and increased production of acidic mucopolysacharides, a major contributor to valve remodelling in rheumatic heart disease. This response is similar to the valve infiltration and remodelling characteristic of exposure to group A streptococcal M‑protein, the protein thought responsible for rheumatic heart disease. It was also found that antibodies produced against group G streptococci are also responsive to group A streptococci and the group A streptococcal M‑protein.

Rat heart valve

Rat heart tissue at 40X magnification with H&E staining

So what did I learn from my 1 year honours and 4 years volunteer work? That group G streptococci could have a role in rheumatic heart disease… and that if you want to do ELISAs on whole-killed bacterial cells you have to bake the plates…

So, I’m sorry this post doesn’t break the boundaries of current knowledge but if you do want to learn more about my research you can read the full thesis here.

Please note that the research and the thesis are copyright to me and must be cited as follows:

Bryant, S 2012, ‘The role of group G streptococci in rheumatic heart disease’, Honours thesis, James Cook University, Townsville.

Today I am lucky to have David Allen Kimmel, author of Rockin’ Across the Galaxy, for an Indie Interview. Earlier this year I reviewed David’s book Rockin’ Across the Galaxy (which I thoroughly enjoyed) and now I’m excited to hear his thoughts on writing. He has some great advice for authors and a fantastic sense of humour.

 

So David, how long have you been writing and how did you get started?

I’ve been writing in one way or another since I can remember. My current “day-job” is Director of Communications for an energy company which involves considerable amounts of PR and journalism types of writing. My real passion, however, is fiction and within that category, science fiction. I grew up on Asimov and Bradbury (and Douglas Adams for the humorous side).

The desire to write really comes from the love of reading. From the time I learned to form letters into words and words into sentences, I read everything that came across my line of sight (including EVERY road sign on family trips, which rapidly became annoying to everyone else in the car). It didn’t take long to realize that I had stories of my own to tell. Characters who introduced themselves to me and wanted me to tell their stories.

 Rockin' across the galaxy

Rockin Across the Galaxy is doing well,

Tell us a little bit about it…

I’m very pleased with the reception Rockin’ has received so far, because this story really makes me smile. I love the characters – I know that sounds cliché, but that’s actually why I love them so much. Rockin’ was my first complete beginning-to-end story and as you might imagine, the characters started out a bit flat and, well, cliché. But then, as I kept at it, the real magic of writing happened, the characters reached out from the pages, grabbed me by the throat and forced to recognize them for who they really are. And that becomes even more apparent in the sequel, which is currently underway now. This is especially true for one character, who still hasn’t forgiven me for what he feels is a bum rap in the first book. (Smiles).

But, back to your question, the basic premise is relatively simple, Gsefx, (pronounced “Zef”), is a non-terrestrial in what we all might recognize as a very terrestrial situation. He’s stuck in traffic and is about to be dreadfully late for work…again. Meanwhile, his human counterpart, Henry, is an artist whose creative inflexibilities prohibit him from getting along in the world. He’s just lost his job and his wife and is, essentially at the end of her rope. They are two different beings from opposite sides of the galaxy. But they do have at least one thing in common, and that one thing that connects them in a way nothing else could.

 

How does it differ from other sci-fi novels?

 It’s much lighter in tone than most sci-fi. I really loved Douglas Adams tongue-in-cheek humour and commentary on the human condition through his Hitchhiker’s series. I’m not nearly as funny as Mr. Adams, nor do I wish to even make that attempt – that’s not my goal. But, I do appreciate his ability to provide light-hearted entertainment, and that’s what I hope to do with the Gsefx & Henry books.

 

Do you have any special tips that you’d like to share with other authors, regarding writing, marketing or publishing?

Finding an audience is really, really difficult for an unknown and marketing is both necessary and seemingly impossible. I believe that’s true for writers, singers, artists or anyone looking for that big break. The one piece of advice that I’ve received that seems to ring the most true is to keep writing. Of course you must continue developing and executing your marketing plan, whether it’s social media, blogging, print or whatever, but you must continue to write. That is the only way to have a real chance of finding an audience. Having a full catalogue of offerings that your target audience can connect with provides a larger opportunity for them to find you. Now, keep in mind that I say this with the full knowledge that I have only one novella and one short story currently published – both of differing genres. But, I’m working on it!

 

Is there anything you’d like to say to your readers?

While I certainly hoped you enjoyed Rockin’ and that it offered you a pleasant escape from your daily routine, I also heard – quite loudly – your concerns over the abruptness of the ending! I understand its, abruptness, was, shall we say, unexpected. That said, however, I stand by my ending for the one reason that it was appropriate for the characters and I think that will become more clear when the next book is finished.

 

Why did you choose to write in the sci-fi genre?

In truth I write in both sci-fi and general fiction categories. For short stories, general fiction seems to come easier, but my love has always been sci-fi – that’s where my daydreams tend to play and so that is where I would like to make my mark.

 

Do you also read? What sort of books?

Yes – reading and writing go hand-in-hand. I believe, as Steven King has advised, that to be a good writer you must read constantly and write constantly. I love both Fantasy and Sci-Fi. (Contrary to popular opinion, they are two separate genres!) Obviously, Tolkien, CS Lewis, Terry Brooks and Stephen Donaldson for the Fantasy genre (as well as a terrific new up-and-comer by the name of Saffron Bryant!) and Bradbury and Asimov on the Sci-Fi side of things. (Asimov’s Robot and Foundation series will always be the pinnacle for me!)

 David Allen Kimmel

How did you learn to write?

Certainly not in school! Haha! Actually I’m only kinda kidding. I actually flunked out of English Comp (College English 101) TWICE – before I finally just tested out of it. I was always so bored by the professors I never went to class. In truth, I think I learned to write mostly by reading a lot. For the most part, I follow the rules of writing without really knowing the rules – but I know what works and what doesn’t. And…for all of that, I’m a writing snob. I will rewrite someone else’s words without hesitation if I believe I can make them sound better. It has gotten me into trouble more than once! Ha!

 

What are your thoughts on self-publishing vs. traditional publishing?

Self-publishing is both much easier and much harder. Publishing something on Amazon or Barnes & Noble takes a matter of minutes. Getting someone other than your friends or family to actually buy your publication is a totally different matter. As I said earlier, you have to get out there and do the marketing work – social media, etc., but the bigger matter is to keep writing. Traditional publishing, on the other hand is much more difficult to break into – query letters, reject letters, query letters, reject letters, etc. etc. But, once you break into that realm, you do know one thing – not that you’ll be successful, necessarily, but that your work is good enough to have attracted the eye of an editor who reads an endless succession of stuff not good enough to be published. That alone should be enough of a confidence boost to help you keep going. Ultimately, I believe it’s going to be a combination of both self and traditional publishing.

 

Do you have any more books being released soon?

I’m working on the sequel to Rockin’ but since I just started it, I can’t promise when that will be released. I do have a couple of other works in review – one is a part one of a post-apocalyptic tale that spans the lives of several characters. The other is a general fiction short story entered into a contest – hoping to hear about that one in the next few weeks. I also have several other books in my head – I just need to find the time to get them out of my head and down onto paper.

 

Is there anything else you’d like to tell us about yourself or your books?

As much as I want people to buy and read my works – I’ve found that the real joy for me is in the writing itself. The experience of not only telling the story, but telling it in a way that is surprising even to me at times. I really think that’s why I want people to buy and read my books – not as much for the money (although that’s nice!) – but so they can, hopefully, experience the same pleasure reading it as I had writing it.

 

Click here if you’d like to read Rockin’ Across the Galaxy. Or learn more about David on Goodreads

 

This week in When Science Fiction Becomes Reality I want to highlight a very cool piece of technology which is just starting to come into its own… echolocation.

This incredible science uses echoes and sounds to measure the dimensions of a room (kind of like sonar). More of the science is described here, but I wanted to talk more about the future of this technology.Echolocation

So at the moment we need several microphones which will will map out the dimensions of a room (or a cathedral!). In just a few years I’m sure this will advance to mapping out entire buildings, perhaps complete with furniture and lifeforms. And maybe this technology could come from something as simple as a phone? Smart phones can already do so much, with this new algorithm and a bit of tweaking they could become personalised sonar devices.

What does this mean for the future (and for our beloved science fiction genre)? Well, soldiers could instantaneously get a floor plan for a building complete with enemy locations- that kind of technology could definitely come in handy! Of course at the moment this technology is aimed at optimising amphitheaters etc. but there is so much more potential! Aside from soldiers, this technology could help sight impaired people, if you combine it with a pin-point accurate GPS- it could walk a person through their house using audio, stopping any collisions! Architects, builders, interior designers; all could benefit from this kind of technology, from the ability to instantly measure a room.

Explorers would also get a kick out of these advancements. Have you ever been stuck in a dark cave and you don’t know how far it goes or which way is out? No problem! Just send out your sonar and up comes a map of the cave system.

How can you see this technology being used? Tell us about it in the comments section below.

Don’t forget to check out my new Pinterest board which illustrates some of the great When Science Fiction Becomes Reality moments.

Here it is ladies and gentlemen, the moment you’ve all been waiting for…

The Herald of Darkness- Revealed!

I’m afraid you’re going to have to wait a few more weeks for the release, but in the meantime here’s the cover and the blurb to wet your appetite:Herald of Darkness

I am the one who walks the night,

I am the heart that sees no light,

I am the crow upon the carcass,

I am the bringer, the herald of darkness.

Like the calm before the storm the Draconum are thrust from their peaceful oasis into a vicious war. Refugees flood the shores in a desperate attempt to escape the coming darkness and the death it carries.

Allies become enemies and trust becomes a thing of the past. Laila and Sarin must wrestle to maintain control as racial tension and disputes threaten to tear apart their command.

The dragons struggle in a strange new land and no place is safe as they very shadows reach for their throats. What is it about their past that comes back to haunt them?

Astrocytes tries to contain an army which is bent on its own destruction. But how can you find the light in a world consumed by darkness??

The clouds are gathering and no-one can outrun them…

All fantasy and sci-fi fans have dreamt of being invisible. I know when I was young and asked what super power I want, it had to be invisibility. Well, in this week’s When Science Fiction Becomes Reality I’m discussing the many ways in which invisibility has become a reality.

There are now so many avenues being explored for invisibility that there’s almost too much choice!

Firstly there is the camera/screen option, whereby cameras on one side of the object record and project the received images onto the other side. As in the following image:

 

Or, there are mirrors and tricks of the light (which magicians have been using for years), as shown in this image:

 

Then there is the new field of metamaterials which also cause light to bend around objects:

http://science.howstuffworks.com/40116-sci-fi-science-invisibility-cloak-video.htm

Invisible Suit

And don’t forget this clever set of prisms which is taking the world by storm as it makes first a fish and then a cat disappear (personally I think they could have done a better job at showing off the ability of this technology, but it’s still pretty cool)

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=invisibility-cloak-hides-cats-and-fish

Invisible Fish

So where do all these inventions leave us? With a world of possibility! With all of these inventions being explored it’s only really a matter of time until the fully-functioning invisibility cloak comes along. Sure it may be a bit rough now, but look how far we’ve come in just a decade? Imagine what 100 years will bring?!

So where does that leave science fiction? In my opinion the rapid advancement of this field means it’s hard to imagine a future without invisibility…

Here for your enjoyment are the five newest and top-rated books in fantasy and sci-fi. Have you read them? What did you think? Personally I can’t wait to get back into the Riftwar Saga!

Deeply Odd- Dean Koonts          4.5 Stars

Deeply OddThe sixth Odd Thomas thriller from the master storyteller. Our reluctant hero is drawn once more into a strange encounter with the lingering dead.

Later that morning, when I walked downtown to buy blue jeans and a few pairs of socks, I met a guy who offered to neuter me with a .45 pistol.

In a sinister encounter with a rogue truck driver, Odd – who has the gift of seeing the dead and the soon-to-be dead – has a disturbing vision of the slaughter of three innocent children.

Across California, into Nevada and back again, Odd embarks on a road chase to prevent the tragedy. But he is to discover that he is not up against a single twisted sociopath but a mysterious network of evil men and women whose resources appear supernatural.

Luckily, in this world that Odd finds so beautiful and full of wonders, and deeply odd as well, he meets a collection of like-minded eccentrics who will help him to take the next giant step towards his destiny.

Buy Now

 

The Fall of Arthur- J.R.R. Tolkien     3.5 Stars

Fall of ArthurThe Fall of Arthur, the only venture by J.R.R. Tolkien into the legends of Arthur King of Britain, may well be regarded as his finest and most skilful achievement in the use of the Old English alliterative metre, in which he brought to his transforming perceptions of the old narratives a pervasive sense of the grave and fateful nature of all that is told: of Arthur’s expedition overseas into distant heathen lands, of Guinevere’s flight from Camelot, of the great sea-battle on Arthur’s return to Britain, in the portrait of the traitor Mordred, in the tormented doubts of Lancelot in his French castle.

Unhappily, The Fall of Arthur was one of several long narrative poems that he abandoned in that period. In this case he evidently began it in the earlier nineteen-thirties, and it was sufficiently advanced for him to send it to a very perceptive friend who read it with great enthusiasm at the end of 1934 and urgently pressed him ‘You simply must finish it!’ But in vain: he abandoned it, at some date unknown, though there is some evidence that it may have been in 1937, the year of the publication of The Hobbit and the first stirrings of The Lord of the Rings. Years later, in a letter of 1955, he said that ‘he hoped to finish a long poem on The Fall of Arthur’; but that day never came.

Associated with the text of the poem, however, are many manuscript pages: a great quantity of drafting and experimentation in verse, in which the strange evolution of the poem’s structure is revealed, together with narrative synopses and very significant if tantalising notes. In these latter can be discerned clear if mysterious associations of the Arthurian conclusion with The Silmarillion, and the bitter ending of the love of Lancelot and Guinevere, which was never written.

Buy Now

Magician’s End- Raymond E. Feist    4.5 Stars

Magician's EndTHE FINAL VOLUME IN THE EPIC RIFTWAR CYCLE.

The dragons are calling…

Civil war is tearing apart the Kingdom of the Isles, for the throne lies empty and rivals are converging. Having spirited his beloved Princess Stephané safely out of Roldem, Hal – now Duke of Crydee – must turn his attention to the defence of the ancient realm so that a king can be anointed by the Congress of Lords, rather than by right of might.

But the greatest threat may well lie out of the hands of men. Somewhere in the Grey Towers Mountains something not of this world is emerging. It will require that alliances be made between mortal enemies if disaster is to be averted.

Elves and men must stand together, ancient heroes must rise again, dragons must fly and Pug, Magnus and the other magic-users of Midkemia must be prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice if the whole world is to be saved.

Buy Now

The Shining Girls- Lauren Beukes     4 Stars

Shining GirlsHe′s the perfect killer. Unstoppable. Untraceable. He thinks.

CHICAGO, 1931.

Harper Curtis, a violent drifter, stumbles on a house with a secret as shocking as his own twisted nature – it opens onto other times. He uses it to stalk his carefully chosen ′shining girls′ through the decades – and cut the spark out of them.

′It′s not my fault. It′s yours. You shouldn′t shine. You shouldn′t make me do this.′

CHICAGO, 1992.

They say what doesn′t kill you makes you stronger. Tell that to Kirby Mazrachi, whose life was shattered after a brutal attempt to murder her. Still struggling to find the attacker, Kirby′s only ally is Dan, an ex-homicide reporter who covered the case and now might be falling in love with her.

As Kirby investigates, she finds the other girls – the ones who didn′t make it. The evidence is … impossible. But for a girl who should be dead, impossible doesn′t mean it didn′t happen …

Buy Now

Abaddon’s Gate- James S.A. Corey    5 Stars

Abaddon's GateFor generations, the solar system – Mars, the Moon, the Asteroid Belt – was humanity’s great frontier. Until now. The alien artifact working through its program under the clouds of Venus has now appeared in Uranus’s orbit, where it has built a massive gate that leads to a starless space beyond.

Jim Holden and the crew of the Rocinante are part of a vast flotilla of scientific and military ships charged with studying the artifact. But behind the scenes, a complex plot is unfolding, with Holden’s destruction at its core. As the emissaries of the human race try to decide whether the gate is an opportunity or a threat, the greatest danger is the one they brought with them.

ABADDON’S GATE is the explosive third novel in the acclaimed Expanse series, following the Hugo-nominated Leviathan Wakes and Caliban’s War.

Buy Now

List, description and ratings came from Amazon and were true as of 8/6/13

 

So, a few weeks ago I spoke about an incredible, mind-controlled robotic arm. This week in When Science Fiction Becomes Reality, I’m taking it a step further with MindWalker. This incredible invention consists of a frame and robotic parts which move in response to brain impulses.

The frame is designed to be used by people with paralysis who are unable to walk. It is strong enough to support the body’s weight and is also capable of moving in such a way that it allows the patient to ‘walk’.

Robot Walking

Unfortunately at this stage the ‘mind-reading’ component gets interference from the mechanical movement but the research team is well on its way to solving that problem. In the meantime the frame has been fitted with pressure sensors which respond to the patient leaning left or right, resulting in the opposite leg stepping forward.

The team plans to perfect the brain interpretation mechanism and create a commercial product.

This invention has many similar implications to that of the Robotic Arm. While the brain-control aspect isn’t as streamlined it does have incredible potential. With technology such as this people who have been permanently paralysed will be able to walk. Take it a step further and quadriplegic’s could have a full-body frame which allows both arm and leg movement.

In similar fashion externally controlled robots are easy to perceive: instead of the frame being around your body, you sit comfortable in your chair while the robot does your mind-controlled bidding. These kinds of ‘brain-reading’ advances are fantastic for the medical field but think of the other potential consequences. If we stretch it out into the realm of science fiction it’s easy to see a mind-controlled spaceship. What about mind-controlled cyber-soldiers? How long until implants in our brains can do almost anything for us, from controlling the lights, television, our car, doors and so on?

If you think about it, our brains are just organs which generate electrical impulses. We have technology which can detect and interpret these impulses so really it’s only a matter of time before every thought we have can be read and translated by a machine (for good or evil). The idea of your thoughts appearing on a TV screen isn’t so far fetched if you ask me…

What do you think of this up-and-coming thought-controlled technology? Where do you see these advances leading us in the future?

 

Hello everyone, today I would like to reveal to you the map for The Herald of Darkness, Book Two of The Lost Child Saga, which will be released later this year.

This map is an expansion of that shown in The Fallen Star, and encompasses the new lands described in the second novel.

Have a look and tell me what you think!

 

Herald of Darkness Map

If you thought Superman was tough, wait till you hear about this mould!

In this week’s When Science Fiction Becomes Reality, I’m looking at an amazing mould which has been collected from Sverdrup Pass, Canada. This mould has been trapped under a glacier for over 400 years and yet plant it in some fertilizer and give it some water and BANG healthy new mould starts to grow.Mould

At least, that’s what these researchers have found. This particular mould (or bryophyte), was lying dormant for all of those years until it was given the right conditions and essentially came out of hibernation.

Bryophytes are extremely good at surviving, in fact, any one of their cells can act as a ‘stem cell’ and grow into a complete organism. Bryophytes are also capable of controlling water content and therefore can go into hibernation when conditions are unfavourable (such as when they are crushed by a glacier), and then come back to life when conditions become more favourable (fertilizer + water).

Now you may not think re-born mould is very exciting but think about the implications. It has been assumed that after the ice-age, when the glaciers retreated that all of the land left behind was essentially barren. But wait! There was more than likely mould, living on, which sprang back to life once the glaciers retreated. What could this mean for plant evolution? Or re-population of the ‘barren’ landscape?

Now looking to the future, what could these moulds mean for the future of the Earth (whether real or science fiction). Let’s say disaster strikes (for whatever reason) and all life as we know it is wiped out. You may think that the Earth will remain as a barren wasteland, but, I propose that little bryophytes will live on, protected by the glaciers. As temperatures change the glaciers will move and some of these moulds will be freed. From there it is a simple process for them to spread and re-populate the earth; essentially starting evolution all over again (albeit a few million years ahead of schedule- no need to gather those self-replicating molecules again).

What other ancient organisms (or dare I say creatures), might be hidden in the ice waiting to come out? Could the future of Earth contain nothing more than a mould take-over?

Tell me your thoughts below, and don’t forget to tune in next Wednesday for another exciting episode of When Science Fiction Becomes Reality.

 Read the study here:  http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1304199110

Photo courtesy of   C. La Farge

So a calculator made out of E. coli cells might not be the most classiest thing you’ve ever heard of but that’s what we’re disucussing in this weeks When Science Fiction Becomes Reality.

So what is this bacterial calculator? Well some clever scientists over at MIT have decided to scrap the idea of converting bacterial signalling into digital and instead have embraced the analogue.

In simple terms they have put pieces of DNA into these E. coli cells which causes them to emit a signal in the presence of different substances. Depending on how much of the substance is present the cells will release a corresponding amount of signal.

Now imagine, if you have two cells, each detecting a different substance but emitting the same signal. If you were to measure the amount of signal being outputted that would tell you the combined amount of each of the original substances- there you have addition.

Cells as living calculators

A similar principle is used for subtraction, division, multiplication and power functions. Incredible!

But what’s the point? I hear you ask. You already have a very nice calculator that can do all that. Well the scientists are hoping that in the future cells such as these will be able to measure and detect abnormal cells, such as cancer cells, and then eliminate them from the body.

It’s a simple system using feedback responses but an ingenious invention and has many future applications. Let’s take it one step further. Everyone’s seen Dr. Who (if you haven’t go and watch it, then come back), where the nanobots can enter someone, diagnose the problem, fix it and then leave all in the blink of an eye. Well couldn’t this technology be used for just that? You inject the cells, they move around the body and when they come into contact with a cell which is producing chemicals associated with cancer these little angels start producing their own chemicals which ultimately results in the offending cell dying. Cancer cured; just as good as any nanobot.

Aside from detecting and destroying abnormal cells, these kinds of ‘computerised cells’ could achieve all kinds of other things. What about detecting radiation levels? Or poisonous gases?

What if these clever little cells could tell us how a person feels based on the hormones and chemicals they’re producing?

Of course detector cells such as this have other uses too, let’s say you are a lonely wanderer on another planet. Roaming the belly of a dark tunnel. What do you use for light? Simple! You pull out your bacteria, expose them to the right substance and they become luminescent, lighting your way back to the planet’s surface.

How do you think these computerised bacteria could be used? Where will this new advance take your sci-fi dreams?

Read the full paper here.

(Image from MIT website)

 

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Fry by Lorna Dounaeva gave me goose-bumps. I’ll admit, I don’t often read thrillers but I am so glad I picked this one up. At first I had no idea what the story was about but then the book sucked me right in. The twists in the story had me glued to the pages and I read the whole thing in just a couple of days. You will find yourself questioning your own choices and perceptions, even as the main character questions her own sanity.Fry

Obviously it does have violence and some thriller themes so I wouldn’t recommend it for children. But if you enjoy thrillers, or are interested in giving the genre a go- try Fry.

This psychological thriller will have you yelling at the pages and looking over your own shoulder…

The basic premise is a young woman nearly runs over someone in her car. From there her life is filled with strange coincidences and she finds herself drawn deeper and deeper down the rabbit hole.

There’s not much to criticize about this book, it was well-written and the thriller elements were really well incorporated. Perhaps some of the character developments weren’t perfect and were a bit glossed over but I don’t think that took away from the story.

4.5 stars for this one (as you all know 5 stars from me is almost a physical impossibility), if you’re looking for a thrilling read which will have you daydreaming at work, grab Fry.

This week in ‘When Science Fiction Becomes Reality‘ I’m looking at a field of research which is constantly developing and creating new miracles: bioengineering.

Specifically, the bioengineering of replacement body parts. At the current point in time it’s tragic how many people are unable to get transplants and die as a result, bioengineering could be the solution.

As described in this article.

Scientists around the world are working on building new organs for transplant patients. These organs range from bladders to noses! With the major goal being a complete heart.

Nose in a Jar

The premise of bioengineering is that a mold of the desired organ is used to create a scaffold. This scaffold must be composed of a substance which will not elicit a reaction in the body but is sturdy and will cause cell attachment. Once the scaffold is complete stem cells are added to it. These stem cells are taken from the patient and are capable of growing into any cell type. With the scaffold and the relevant growth factors they begin to form into cartilage or muscle, or whatever is required for that organ.

Because these stem cells have been taken from the patient when the new organ is implanted the patient’s immune system will not reject it. For all intents and purposes the new organ ‘belongs’ to the patient and will be accepted. This has incredible benefits in terms of no longer needing the debilitating drugs which are currently used to prevent transplant rejection.

In one of the examples discussed the researchers have created a new nose for a skin cancer patient. They had some difficulty developing skin for the nose, the solution? Implant the nose under the patient’s forearm for a time and let his body put skin on it for you! (The patient declined having the nose implanted into his forehead).

If this is the stage we’re at right now, what does the future hold??? Surely it won’t be long until any organ can be made to designer specifications; new hearts, new livers, dare I say; new brains?

Plastic surgery is obviously an area which will see boom from this industry, as too will the medical industry. Cardiac disease, kidney failure, severe burns; with technology such as this these will become problems of the past.

But how will this technology impact on science fiction? Well I see this kind of technology as being a natural stepping stone to cloning: if you can use your own stem-cells to regrow a nose or an organ, why not an entire body? (obviously this is different to the current form of cloning which involves inserting DNA into an embryo and then growing the fetus through to birth, childhood etc). What about super-humans? Athletes with hearts that can pump twice as fast or soldiers with replaceable limbs?

Whilst bioengineering does have interesting implications for Science Fiction I think its current applications to medical advancement are even more amazing.

What do you think of this incredible new technology? Would you have a nose implanted into your forehead?

 

This week in When Science Fiction Becomes Reality I want to talk about a very exciting, but also fun, project which IBM recently completed. They have made a movie by moving single atoms around to create a stop-motion animation: “A Boy and his Atom”.

Atom Movie

This research team is investigating digital storage technologies and have already made some pretty amazing advances, which they talk about here. Including reducing the stable storage size from 1,000,000 atoms, to just 12!!

The movie itself is a cute animation which is primarily aimed at getting people interested in science and research. It is also holds the Guinness World Records™ record for the World’s Smallest Stop-Motion Film.

What does this little piece of whimsy mean for the future? Well in my opinion technology is always evolving. We once thought that atoms were the smallest indivisible particle, then we found protons and thought they were the smallest indivisible particle, then of course we found quarks. I’m sure that we will continue to delve down deeper and deeper and what we find will continue to amaze us. Perhaps in a few years times it will be quarks dancing around for the animation?

These discoveries and this incredible control over atomic particles do of course have incredible implications for data storage and technology advances. Already computers are being developed that are made out of nanotubes and every year storage capacity gets bigger while the size of the storage device gets smaller.

Where does all of this leave science fiction? As with last week I think it leaves us asking, what next? What amazing things can we come up with in our imaginations when there are already such incredible advances happening in reality? In my opinion this kind of technology leads to ideas about infinite storage capacity and computers which take up no more room than a five cent coin and yet are more powerful than anything we have today.

Perhaps our sci-fi heroes should be using nano-sized technology which has been crafted, one atom at a time?

The possibilities seem endless and I would love to hear your ideas, tell me what you think this movie means in the comments section below.

With just one simple step I improved my painting ability over 10 times, and the best thing about it is anyone can do it!

What is this magical thing I speak of? YouTube of course!

YouTube took me from very amateur paintings, to this:Oil Painting

In-fact, I have now sold several paintings thanks to the lessons I learned watching YouTube.

There are now so many videos being loaded to YouTube every second that you could learn just about anything you wanted. As well as music videos and makeup tutorials there are now hundreds of videos dedicated to helping you improve your painting/drawing/design/sketching skills. I have learned so much just by watching a few of the videos and I’m sure you will too.

One of my personal favourites is Wilson Bickford who posts guides and lessons on landscape painting. I have taken on a lot of what he has to say (and you’re bound to recognise his work in my paintings).

Here is one example of his great lessons which are available right now, free of charge.

Once I’m more confident I plan to post tutorial videos of my own so that I can also help others learn.

What great tips do you have for artists? What have you learned from YouTube?

In this first installment of ‘When Science Fiction Becomes Reality’, I decided to discuss something which is not only incredible but also offers significant improvements to quality of life for many people.

This amazing innovation is mind-controlled robots. That’s right, a chip inserted into the brain reads neural signals and translates them into movements which are sent to the robotic device, in this particular case; an arm. The scientific paper can be read here: http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v485/n7398/full/nature11076.html

But if you’d like a more layperson-friendly version io9 gives a pretty good breakdown: http://io9.com/5910859/watch-this-paralyzed-woman-control-a-robotic-arm-using-only-her-mind

Mind Controlled Robot

Think of the implications of this kind of technology! Sure it’s a little bit cumbersome right now but with the speed at which technology is advancing it won’t be long at all before tetraplegic individuals will be using robotic limbs with as much ease as we use our own. Imagine what this could mean for amputees! A long lost limb could be replaced as easily as inserting a microchip.

The amazing thing about this technology is that very little training is required, the chip reads brain activity that would occur normally and translates that for the robot- no assemblage required.

Take the time to watch the video- it’s truly remarkable: http://youtu.be/ogBX18maUiM

But aside from the medical benefits, what does this technology mean for our beloved science fiction? In my opinion it means we have to set our imaginations, and our expectations even further afield. I’ve found that some science-fiction writers who don’t keep abreast of current scientific advances will often write about futuristic technology which has already been invented!! So in this particular case, we already have mind-control robots, what’s the next step? Perhaps a futuristic step would be not requiring the brain chip? Or perhaps controlling more complex systems, such as a gaming character in a first person shooter? Or maybe even a spaceship run entirely by thought control?

The possibilities are endless, but I think the most amazing thing is that it’s already here and happening right before our eyes!

Tune in next Wednesday for another dose of ‘When Science Fiction Becomes Reality’.

What great scientific advances have you heard about? What do you think this kind of technology will lead to?

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Looking over my shoulder I can’t help but wonder if I’d notice if someone was watching me. Would I take note of the car parked across the street, or the man sitting in the diner? Probably not.

These are the thoughts that have been going through my head since I finished reading Murder Takes Time by Giacomo Giammatteo. It is a fantastic book which pulls you through the pages with intrigue, revenge and mystery. Murder Takes Time is a murder mystery which flicks back and forth between the modern day murders and the past trials which have led to current events. You get to know the lives of the characters; from rowdy youths to jaded men.

Murder Takes Time

The book is a bit gory, so if you have a soft stomach it might not be the book for you, but for others who enjoy the darker side, you’ll love it. You’ll be captivated with a mystery which isn’t revealed until near the very end. You’ll empathise with all of the characters, from the struggling detective to the troubled mob boss.

There’s not much I can criticize this book for, it’s a great read and well worth your time. I’m not too squeamish so the gory details didn’t bother me but I do feel the book would have been just as good with less horror elements. Therefore my only suggestion is that if it did have less gore it might be more accessible to a wider audience, but hey, if gore’s your thing- dive right in!

So 4.5 stars for this one- go grab yourself a copy and be immersed in murder and mystery.

Have you read Murder Takes Time? What did you think? Have you read any other good murder mysteries? Tell us about it below!

Today I’m proud to host Mark Knight on his blog tour for Blood Family. This novel is fresh off the printer and ready to take the vampire world by storm.

——-Blood Family

Blurb:

Until the age of seventeen, Daniel Dark had no idea of his true origins. Something was ulcerating deep inside him, waiting to claw its way free. Pastor Nathan Dark and his wife, Annie, had adopted him and brought him up as their own. But Daniel always felt that there was a secret they feared tell him…

Everything changes the day a mysterious package arrives at his home. It contains blood – human blood. Daniel’s vampire half awakens and takes its first step out of the shadows. The once lazy, goalless youth transforms into sharp-sensed killer. Now, there is no turning back.

Many horrors await Daniel, for he not only can detect but also attract the living dead…

Daniel Dark will unlock the sinister netherworld where helpless humans are kept and bred for bloodletting, and where he will have to face the unutterable evil.

——–

So.. if you’ve had enough of sparkly vampires and would like to give an indie author a go, head over and buy Mark’s book, and don’t forget to tell us what you thought of it in the comments section below!

 

Mark KnightAbout the Author:
Mark Knight grew up in Massachusetts, USA. Settling in the UK, Mark continued to write novels of differing genres, including horror and television scripts. Mark has scripted two horror scripts for Hollywood’s Little Slices of Death production company and one for Illusion Studios. He also won several short story competitions, and has had his work featured in published anthologies. Mark concentrates now on Young Adult urban fantasy novels.

 

www.markknightbooks.com
www.bloodfamily.co.uk
@markknightbooks (Twitter)
www.amazon.com/author/markknight

 

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America has been crippled by the Second Great Depression, Obamaville in Central Park is full to bursting and the Iranian Empire has eyes set on Europe, this is Collapse by Richard Stephenson.

It is an apocalyptic fiction novel which is just a little too non-fiction for comfort. You watch the world crumble through the eyes of a cast of characters and it all seems too real. Through the novel you learn of America’s decent from power to anarchy and the little steps and mistakes that lead it there. Thanks to the manner in which the story is told you can see it happening before your very eyes.

The novel is especially relevant today with the world only recently recovering from the GFC and the fear of terror rampant in American hearts. It is only a few small steps from the state of fear elicited by recent terror attacks to the rioting and panic which features so prominently in Collapse.

The characters are life-like and I found myself cheering them on, despite their obvious flaws (murderers etc.). The story switches from character to character in such a way that I just had to keep turning the pages.

I have very little criticism for this book, it’s well written and if you enjoy apocalyptic fiction, go and buy it. Your only regret will be that you don’t have the sequel in front of you.

The only nit-picks I can find is that another round of editing wouldn’t go astray, there were a few errors (enough for me to notice and I’m flat out spelling my own name right!), but I doubt there’s enough to really worry anyone. The story does jump a bit, it’s easy to follow from character to character but sometimes it goes back in time with no warning. I found these segments a little difficult, it took me a while to realize it was the same character only at a younger age. I think they are great in terms of story development but more of a warning would be nice; e.g. 10 years ago… but now I’ve told you the time jumps are there they shouldn’t be a problem!

So 4.5 stars for this one (because there always has to be room for improvement). If you like apocalyptic fiction, go out and buy it. If you don’t, go out and buy it anyway, you might discover a new genre!

So today I have a question for all of you lovely readers- how does ‘classic’ Doctor Who compare to ‘new’ Doctor Who?

I’ll admit I only jumped on the Whovian band wagon for the new Who, when Christopher Eccleston took on the role. But I fell in love with it! Who wouldn’t love an alien flying around in a blue box saving planets? Doctor Who

I must admit, I’m a bit age-ist when it comes to film and TV, if it’s too old I probably won’t watch it- for two main reasons:

A) The picture/sound quality (I know, I know- terrible of me)

B) The blatant sexism that seems to abound in every movie ever written before 1990 (please tell me I’m not alone here, does anyone else get tired of the woman standing there screaming and doing absolutely nothing to protect herself, so the man has to rush in to save her?- this is a pet peeve of mine and seems to appear in such a large percentage of older TV shows and movies that I just gave up watching them)

So, the big question is: How does the old Dr. Who compare to the new? Should I dig into my pockets and pull out the cash to buy the old seasons? Or just be content at joining the story at Dr. 9?

Please let me know your thoughts, it’s a decision I’ve been tossing up since I watched the first season of the ‘new’ Who. Tell me all about it below.

The Herald of Darkness is the second book of The Lost Child Saga which kicked off last year with The Fallen Star. The Herald of Darkness is growing into an epic story where a whole cast of new characters are introduced. I know there are already lots of people eager to get their hands on this book and as part of the pre-publication fun I’m starting up a little competition.

Simply like us on facebook or tweet about us and you could win one of 3 fantastic prizes.

How would you like to star as a character in this up-and-coming novel?- First prize will get a semi-main character based on them traipsing through the pages! Runners up will receive copies of The Fallen Star or The Herald of Darkness, or both!

It’s easy to enter, just follow the instructions.

Click here to enter.

So, as a fantasy lover and enjoyer of online RPGs I have for quite some time been keen to get into tabletop/pen and paper role playing games, such as Dungeons and Dragons. Unfortunately I never found the time or the playing companions to give it a go, and then I saw this:

 http://youtu.be/Y-61i3R5y9Y

Half an hour of hilarity with a couple of the stars from The Big Bang Theory. They do a great introduction to the game and got me ready and raring to give it a go. So I did, and I loved it!TableTop

It was filled with all the adventure I had expected and was a lot of fun. One thing I’ve learned after playing (and DMing) a couple of times is that it can be hard to come up with adventures, especially if you don’t have much time. Sure designing your own adventures is great, but sometimes you just want to be able to sit down and play an impromptu game without hours of preparation.

So with that thought in mind I hereby give you a copy of one of the adventures I have made:

The Isle of Solitude

It’s adaptable to almost any level range and is composed of equal parts role-playing, problem-solving and combat. I definitely recommend it for new GMs who need somewhere to start. Although be aware, I have assumed you know the rules (e.g. how advanced tests and combat scenarios work).

If you enjoy this adventure be sure to sign up for my newsletter, I will be sending out new adventures just as quickly as I can make them. Sign up here to get new adventures as soon as they’re released: http://eepurl.com/wQKBv

Did you enjoy this adventure? What did your players get up to? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below!

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Every so often a book comes along that sucks you in so much that it becomes a part of your life. You start putting reading that book ahead of other, normal things- like sleeping. You start to see the characters in your everyday life and wonder what they would do in your place.

The Dark Tower series by Stephen King is definitely one of those books. I’m up to the second last book and I am torn- I can’t wait to read the next one but I’m dreading finishing the series. The heroes of the tale have enamoured themselves to me, despite their flaws and I really don’t want to see them go.

To me these books are different to the other Stephen King books I’ve read. The phenomenal writing is still there but somehow the story is different. If you’ve enjoyed Stephen King’s other books- go an buy this one, if you haven’t enjoyed his other books, buy this one anyway- you may find yourself pleasantly surprised.

The main character is a grizzled gunslinger like that starring in any beloved Western, and as the story progresses he gathers a band that anyone could relate to. The story progression is so smooth that you won’t even notice yourself being pulled into the world of The Dark Tower. Soon the strange coincidences that play such a big part in the story and the characters’ lives will begin to pop up in yours.

Those that have read it will understand these that I have picked up from my own life: Have you noticed that the wizard of Oz has just come out in cinemas? What about that the Merlin series has just come to an end? The biggest of them all, as I write this it is the 16th of March (3) = 19. A person could go mad if they thought about it too long (I could name many others but I don’t want to spoil it for those that haven’t read it yet!)

Without a doubt this book is 5 stars, it appeals in such an intrinsic way, could be enjoyed by readers of almost any genre and is written with phenomenal skill. Trust me, go right now and buy this book (even if it’s just the first one)- you’re bound to get hooked.

For those that have read it, how has The Dark Tower entered your life? Have 19, Oz, trains or wolves affected you? Tell me about it below- surely I can’t be the only one?

Well ladies and gents, it’s been almost a year since the release of The Fallen Star and I have been busy! I’m sure some of you just can’t wait to get your hands on the sequel; The Herald of Darkness. This next installment will take you into the heart of an army as it prepares for war (if you haven’t read The Fallen Star– go and buy it, read it, and then come back or there will be spoilers!).The Fallen Star Cover

The dark power in the west is rising and so an uneasy truce is drawn between ancient enemies and an army gathers. But how can such a varied army work together when there is so much racial tension? How can they fight a man with so much to loose? How will they overcome such impossible odds?

The first draft of the Herald of Darkness is complete and the second draft is well on its way but there will still be a little while before you can hold it in your hot little hands. In the mean-time I’m planning to have exciting giveaways and competitions so keep your eyes out. The most exciting opportunity in my opinion is to have yourself written into the book as a character!

More information on that coming soon….

Would you like to star in The Herald of Darkness? What did you think of The Fallen Star? Tell us all about it below.

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In this children’s book Alan S. Blood tells the story of two young children in the time of war. They are taken from their home to live with an aunt in the country. From there they experience the excitement of farm life and some mysterious encounters.

I have to say, this book has a lot of potential. The story itself is interesting and I like the underlying concepts but it lacks ‘meat’. I feel there is insufficient back story and depth to the characters, there’s something missing. A lot of parts are glossed over and I feel many characters act inconsistently or are never really fleshed out.Once Upon A Castle
On top of that I don’t think the author has written to the intended audience, it’s a children’s book and yet some of the words would not be part of a child’s vocabulary. Words such as ‘chauvinist’, ‘flamboyant’, ‘inglenook’, and ‘soporific’ appear throughout the story, it would have been best, I think, to get several (average) children to read it first.

 
My biggest gripe of all is the ending. The story was traveling along quite nicely and suddenly it ends. I’m not sure if this book was intended to have a sequel (although I think it would be better to just add a few more chapters) but the ending needs to be expanded. I was left with a lot of questions about the story and the characters, and the main event at the end was glossed over, barely mentioned in fact. It was almost like it was added as an afterthought to make the book fit more into the ‘World War’ category. Perhaps the author got to the end and said ‘wait, this is supposed to be set in wartime!’, but it didn’t do the setting justice I feel.

 
While the story was good and children with a better than average vocabulary/reading ability will enjoy it, the author would do well to sit down and re-write this story, with more depth but also in a format more appropriate to the audience. I think this version should have been more like a ‘work-in-progress’, handed out to reviewers (such as myself), as well as child readers, for feedback and then rewritten with these suggestions in mind.

Alan S. Blood writes a good story but in future I hope he focuses more on the audience and on the depth of his tale so that the story can get the support it deserves.

 
I have given this book three stars although I feel that it could be two- based just on the writing, or four if just based on the story itself.

Have you read Once Upon A Castle? What did you think? Do you know any children that have read it? What did they think? Tell us about it in the comments section below.

A little while ago scientists achieved a pretty amazing fete: they managed to encode pictures, PDFs, even a book into something so small you can’t see it-DNA.

I think it helps to write and enjoy science fiction when you have at least a small grasp of scientific concepts. I took that a step further and did a biomedical degree, and one of the greatest things about the whole field is that it’s always evolving.

At first glance it seems like an impossible task and the implications make the mind run wild. DNA can last for millennia given the right conditions (and for centuries even under the wrong conditions!). It will always be relevant and readable (unlike VHS, DVDs and USBs), and think of the storage capacity! With just a small stretch of the imagination I can picture walking into a ‘DNA rental’ shop to hire out the latest movie- just pour the DNA into your reader and up it comes on the screen… OK, OK, that might be a little farfetched but it’s closer than you’d think.

DNA

This new advancement is based on the fact that both computer programs, and DNA are in essence quite simple. All computer storage, programs etc. are based on a binary code, that is, a series of ones and zeros. The sequence of these ones and zeroes tells the computer what to do (mind-blowing isn’t it?). Similarly, DNA is made up of 4 proteins (for simplicity we’ll call them A,C,G and T). These proteins are lined up in a sequence and the order in which they appear determines what your body produces (and looks like!).

So, these clever scientists have basically said ‘well A and C =0 and G and T=1’. They have then taken the binary code of the book (or image etc.) and created a DNA chain that matches that sequence (based on the translation of A/C=0 and G/T=1). For those of you not in the know, yes we can make DNA chains now, in whatever sequence is needed really (the future is nigh!).

Anyway, once the DNA chain is created it can be decoded (“DNA sequencing”), to get the DNA sequence which can then be converted back to the binary code of computers.

So you can see how the data can easily be moved from one form to the other and back again. The possibilities are endless although at this time the cost of creating and sequencing the DNA is limiting. But in the not so far-off future I think that DNA-movie store will be a reality.

Read more about it here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2012/aug/16/book-written-dna-code

One related scientific paper can be found here: http://dx.doi.org/10.1126/science.1226355

What do you think of these new breakthroughs? What can you envisage in the future?

DNA image curtsey of mstroeck at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:DNA_Overview2.png

Last night I passed the first language course in the ‘Universal Language’- Esperanto. Many of you have probably never heard of Esperanto, I certainly hadn’t, but now I can’t get enough.

Esperanto is one of the only ‘designed’ languages. That is, some guy sat down and made up this language (it even has a flag, pictured). Mind you, Esperanto goes far beyond anything you created with your best friend as a child. This language has been adopted by people around the world, and best of all, because it is a designed language it is much easier to learn than any native languages. There are consistent rules that govern the grammar and syntax which overall makes this language easy to pick up.

La Esperanta flago

The idea behind Esperanto is that a universal language would help to break down barriers between race and culture. It provides an easy to learn

and most importantly neutral language. There is a linguistic neutrality when people speak Esperanto because it belongs to no-one.

Personally I think it’s sad that Esperanto hasn’t been more widely accepted. Wouldn’t it be better if the United Nations used Esperanto? So that all countries would feel equally included? Wouldn’t it be better if all countries taught Esperanto as a second language in schools (instead of each country teaching a different, or multiple second languages)?

Think of what could be achieved if all people had the capacity to speak a common language? Personally, I think just being able to communicate with neutrality would put an end to many of the world’s conflicts. Sure, it wouldn’t solve all of our problems, but it’s definitely a good place to start!

This post is a little off topic from my usual fantasy/sci-fi content but I wanted to share with you this possibility for global understanding.

Earth

From the name and some of the words you may think that the language is bias and favours European languages but in actual fact much of the grammar comes from non-European languages, reminiscent of Turkish, Swahili or even Chinese.

So, if you have some free time and want to learn a second language, why not make it Esperanto? There are dedicated websites with free tutoring, and there are even people in a variety of countries that are willing to host you so that you can learn and grow as an Esperanto speaker.

To check out more about Esperanto, go here: http://en.lernu.net/index.php

It’s a great site, with free courses and information. If you are interested in learning Esperanto, why not connect with me on twitter and we can learn together!

Let me know what you think of this International language in the comments section, could it solve some of the World’s problems? How many languages can you speak? Do you know Esperanto? Are there other universal languages?

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Over the weekend I had the pleasure of reading Rockin’ Across The Galaxy: A Gsefx and Henry Novella by David Allen Kimmel. This sci-fi novel had me hooked from page 1. We meet Gsefx in the first chapter and despite being alien his character is all-too familiar. I related to him instantly, as I did with the human character, Henry.

The story follows these two as they face the struggles of everyday life. Each character has been thoroughly rounded and I could see the sense in their every action. The story follows these two characters to their inevitable encounter, accompanied by a mutual love of rock and roll.

Rockin' across the galaxy

I was disappointed to turn the final page and find the story had ended and am definitely looking forward to reading more of their adventures.

There’s very little to criticize about this book, except that I did get a little lost in the alien names for minutes/hours/days which were never quite explained. Aside from that minor confusion I thoroughly enjoyed Rockin’ Across the Galaxy.

I highly recommend it to anyone who is looking for a short (but very fun) read. The story line is simple enough that you can just sit back and read whilst also so entertaining that you completely loose track of time. 4 stars!

Have you read Rockin’ Across the Galaxy? What did you think? What great sci-fi book are you reading at the moment? -Tell us about it in the comments section!

Check out Rockin’ Across the Galaxy for yourself here.

Since Tomorrow

February 23, 2013 | Uncategorized  |  Leave a Comment

Since Tomorrow

by Morgan Nyberg

Follow @MorganNyberg

Blog Tour Hosted by
The Masquerade Crew

 


Synopsis: An old man rides a workhorse through the night, across mudslides, past stores abandoned for decades, past the rotted corpses of automobiles invisible under mounds of blackberry. Rain courses from his rabbit skin poncho. He carries a sword and a spear. He knows where to find the murderer. He will face him alone.

Since Tomorrow” is a novel of a world in the remaking. The old man, Frost, remembers the “good times”. Those who live on his “farm” among collapsed warehouses and the foundations of vanished houses struggle to maintain human values. But when others in this makeshift world are driven only by greed and the need for power, all values must ultimately be replaced by the simple instinct for survival.

In this full length novel Morgan Nyberg takes the reader to the West Coast of Canada, where the city of Vancouver has been transformed by climate change, pandemic, economic collapse and earthquake into “Town”, a squalid, lawless place inhabited the desperate, the diseased and the dying. Taking advantage of this state of affairs is the formidable Langley, who grows poppies to produce “skag”, a crude form of opium. Langley has amassed enough power to control a small private army. Now he is determined to acquire Frost’s farm for himself. Recklessly opposing Langley is Frost’s fearless but impulsive granddaughter, Noor.

Like Russell Hoban’s “Riddley Walker” or Cormac McCarthy’s “The Road”, “Since Tomorrow” demonstrates that there is room in the post-apocalyptic genre for exceptional writing. Morgan Nyberg tells nothing – he shows everything. In clear, sensuous prose free of commentary or explanation – prose as addictive as Langley’s skag – he leads the reader toward that climactic night with Frost on his horse, and farther, to the threshold of a new, perhaps happier, era.

Check out the book on Amazon

(click the cover)

Have you read Since Tomorrow? What did you think? Tell us about it below.

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Yesterday I had a guest post from Raphyel M Jordan, author of Prossia. Today I wanted to let you know just what I thought of this new sci-fi novel.

Prossia

Firstly, let me say the story itself was fantastic and I connected with the main characters almost instantly. The concepts and setting were so well described and plunged the imagination straight in. The way Raphyel tells the story makes you feel as if you are right beside the main character, fighting her fights and feeling her pains.

 

I like the new spin Prossia takes on sci-fi, I think it adds a fresh perspective to the genre while still retaining all that we love about science fiction. I would definitely recommend this book for any lover of sci-fi (or fantasy), and it’s suitable for anyone from young adults and up.

 

My only criticism of the book is the spelling and misuse of some words. If those kinds of things don’t bother you, then you definitely have to buy and read this book. If you are bothered by these errors, you should be aware that they are definitely there. While these mistakes do take away from the story there is still a gem of a novel in these pages. Hopefully later editions will include corrections so that the story gets the full flow and energy it deserves.

 

Overall I do recommend this book, giving it 3.5 stars (out of 5). You can buy Prossia in paperback or kindle format from Amazon.

 

Have you read Prossia? What did you think? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below.

Raphyel M Jordan is author of the Sci-fi hit Prossia. Today we’re lucky enough to have Raphyel talking to us about youth finding their ‘it’, finding their calling and ‘growing up’:

In “Prossia,” we follow the journey of a girl named Aly, who was simply trying to make it out of her equivalent to high school (she’s an alien) one day, and killing in order to survive the next. She learns what I was learning when I started writing the story , just how fast the world can become a madhouse. I’ve had some readers say the opening parts of my novel feel like a Disney movie that gets ripped with reality without warning, and I intently wrote it in that fashion. Transitioning into a grownup isn’t always graceful, casual, or determiProssianed for one’s convenience or age. So, when the book was published, and I was in need of a marketing campaign, it asked the one question with my ads: “Where were you when you had to grow up?”

The process of growing up is one that must be made alone. Even if people know about the hardship you’re enduring, you’re the one left with the burden of not knowing how you’re going to get through the obstacle. And who’s to say you’ll only face grownup decisions at the designated age of 18? Many individuals have lost that sense of innocence years before society dubbed them “grown” due to drugs, rape, child abuse, death, and I’d even put excessive bullying in there as well (“kids will be kids” isn’t an acceptable excuse).

But alas! There’s always the possibility for greatness after the storm. Even though my book’s protagonist suffers hardships from every level, we see her face the challenges as best as possible. Sure, she may gripe about it, she’ll wish her burden was someone else’s, her faith in herself and others will get shaken without mercy, and her entire perception of how wonderful the real world is will come to a devastating end. Even so, Aly presses on because she has a stubborn inner will that refuses to let life defeat her, even when she so desperately needs to just let go and give in.

And that’s what inspired me to write “Prossia,” seeing that awesome stubbornness and determination in young people firsthand. It seems society has already designated my generation and the one before me for failure. They say we complain too much, and only want what was inherited by the generation that came before us without putting any effort into anything. And while there does seem to be an obnoxiously loud minority of individuals in our age group that have those traits, I know there’s more to the leaders of tomorrow. Trust me. I’ve seen it firsthand.

I saw it when young single mothers were top of the class, knowing what they doing now would lay out a better future for their child. I saw it when I went straight to work after being at school all day, came  back to campus around 12:00 am to finish a ceramics project, and other people were in there as well because they had no other time to work on their assignments. I saw it when friends flipped buggers, only making minimum wage, barely able to pay bills, but still finding what little ounce of time to study for their finals. I saw it when all of these young people, when they were all scraping bread crumbs to keep their nostrils over water, have enough strength to tell me that I could do it because they could.

More so, I’ve seen the strength in youth even before the “college years.” A 14-year-old boy had to be the man of the house by taking care of his blind mother and two younger siblings. A little girl inspires an entire community to rally around her family so her father can get money for his cancer treatment. A young Muslim girl inspires an entire nation filled with underprivileged women to stand up for their rights to an education when an extremist group tries to silence her with a bullet to the head. If these aren’t signs of power, I don’t know what is. These people found their “it” factor, and in spite having people look down on them because of their youths, they stood up because they saw no other choice but to do so. If someone didn’t do “it,” who would?

However, sometimes we need to be reminded that we have that potential for strength and determination, especially when our personal worlds are coming to ruin the way Aly’s was in “Prossia.” We need to be reminded that it’s okay to doubt. It’s okay to be unsure. Hey, it’s even okay to cry and break when life is at its worst.

Regardless, BE SURE TO HOLD ON TO YOUR “IT.”

And no, your “it” may not be the rallying call that will end world hunger or change governments, but it very well may be the thing that makes a stranger’s day a little better. So, find it in knowing that there are other people in similar trenches of life with you, even if they’re a continent away. Find it in the faith you have, that has taught you to take life one step at a time with each passing day. Find it in yourself, that amazing stubbornness telling you to press forward even though the facts are telling you it’s a waste of time and effort. Trust me. “It” is there. You only need to know where to look. 😉

 

What do you think about youth finding their ‘it’? Have you read Prossia? What did you think of Aly’s adventures? Tell us about it below.

 

BIOGRAPHY

Raphyel Montez Jordan grew up in a household sensitive to the creative arts. As a child, his hobbies were drawing favorite cartoon and video game characters while making illustrated stories. This passion for art never left and followed him all the way up to his high school and college years.

RMJordan Photo.jpg
It wasn’t until college when he underwent a personal “renaissance” of sorts that Jordan took his interest in writing to another level. When he was 19, he started writing a novel for fun, taking inspiration from the constant exposure of different ideas and cultures that college showed him while staying true to the values he grew up to embrace. However, when the “signs of the times” influenced the story and the characters to spawn into universes of their own, he figured he might possibly be on to something.

As he studied graphic design at Armstrong Atlantic State University in Savannah, Georgia, Jordan also used his electives to study sciences like Astronomy, Psychology, and Biology in order enhance the reading experience in his story. He eventually made it a goal to have the story published after he graduated, and dubbed the goal “Operation Prosia,” the very same project that would develop into his first published book, “Prossia.”

Even though his novel is not necessarily a religious book, Jordan utilizes his Christian faith by urging people to encourage, not condemn, in his story. Best known for ending his PSFC newsletters with “Unity Within Diversity,” he hopes “Prossia’s” success will inspire people to consider and support the positive outlook in the difference human kind can share, whether it be race, religion, or any other cultural difference.

 

Today I’m pleased to announce a very special guest who has agreed to be interviewed as our newest author. Jodie Pierce lives in Ohio and is lucky enough to be a full-time author. Jodie has taken the vampire world by storm with her widely acclaimed novels and I was lucky enough to ask her a few questions about herself and her work:

TheVampireChroniclesVampireQueencover

So Jodie, which genre do you prefer to write in and what have you written?

Paranormal romance and Erotica. I’ve written:

The Vampire Queen

The Vampire Chronicles

Demise of the Vampire Queen

Condemned By A Vampire

Midnight Thirsts 2 (various author anthology)

The Reluctant Vampire

Once Sanguist, Twice Bi

Tales of the Vampire: From A-Z

 

Who are these books aimed at?

The Reluctant Vampire can be considered YA but the rest are adult books.

 

Do you also prefer to read this genre and do you read often?

Yes! I do book reviews for Bitten By Books so I read a lot!

 

What is your favourite book? Why?

Blackwood Farms, The Blood Canticle and The Vampire Lestat all by Anne Rice. She just has a way when writing to draw the reader in. It’s amazing!

 

How do you write? E.g. pen/computer, do you plan everything out first or just write on the fly?

I just write as things come to me. Often times I dream scenes in my stories. Sometimes my hubby gives me a general idea for the plot and I run with it. I do not plan things out. I find that the book becomes boring to read and boring for me to write it. I just write on the fly.

 

How do you create your characters?

I pick names from a baby book/website with meanings that describe a characteristic of my person. I just make them up as I go along and need other people for the scenes.

Demise of the Vampire Queen

 

Who is your favourite character (that you created)? Describe them….

My Vampire Queen, Paulina de Lourdes is my favourite as she was my first and I wrote three books about her. She is strong willed, maybe even a spoiled brat but she loves deeply, likes to rule others with an iron fist and likes to be worshipped.

 

How do you market your books?

I have various websites that I meet people on. I often exchange blog posts with them so I can reach their audience and vice versa. I also have my books on Amazon, Smashwords and B&N.

 

Are you happy with how well they sell?

No. I don’t think unless you are a Best-Selling Author that you are ever happy and could always want more books to sell.

 

Are you happy with how they’ve been received?

Yes. All of the people that have spoken with me after reading them have really liked them so I guess I’m doing something right…LOL!

 

Are you self-published?

I’m both traditionally and self-published. I spent many years trying to get traditionally published and when I finally did, though it was a medium sized publisher, it wasn’t all it’s cracked up to be and I could have made more money being self-published so I started going that route.

 

What has been the hardest part about writing?

Finding the time and overcoming writers block.

 

Where do you see the future of your writing going?

I plan to write for a long time. Vampires are hot right now but I believe they will always have their fans even when the Twilight movies are long gone.

 

If you could say anything to your readers, what would it be?

I hope you enjoy my books!

 

I’d like to thank Jodie very much for stopping by to talk to me. If you would like to know more about Jodie or her books check her out:

http://www.jodiepierceauthor.blogspot.com.au/

http://www.amazon.com/Jodie-Pierce/e/B00BAXVQOK

http://www.facebook.com/jodie.pierce.779

http://www.goodreads.com/user/show/5216941-jodie-pierce

http://www.linkedin.com/pub/jodie-pierce/25/357/b22

https://twitter.com/vampiregds

 

Have you read any good vampire books lately? Have you read any of Jodie Pierce’s? Why not tell us what you think in the comments section below!

 

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“Never judge a book by its cover” says the old adage. But any book lover will know that the cover can be the difference between buying the book or putting it back on the shelves.

Hush Hush Cover

As a reader I was trying to decide what makes a great cover, what makes me reach out for the book (followed by my wallet)?

According to goodreads, the best fantasy cover at this exact second is from Becca Fitzpatrick’s Hush, Hush.

I’ve got to say, when I first saw it I didn’t think much of it and was surprised that 101 people had voted it the best cover. But as I continued to look at it (and save it to use in this post) I began to like it more and more. It definitely has a sense of action and made me wonder what the story inside was about, even though it is in essence a simple design.

However based on its high selling rank in Amazon perhaps simple is the way to go. This is further supported by the outrageously popular Game of Thrones by G.R.R. Martin which took off with unprecedented success last year. The covers of this series are the very definition of simple and yet still these books are at the top of the best-sellers lists.

a Game of thrones

But we should remember that some of the most loved books of all time started out with the simplest of covers. Look at the first edition Lord of the Rings, who would have thought those pages contained enough wonder to entertain multiple generations? If nothing else this should tell us that books shouldn’t be judged just by their covers, a great story could be hidden inside!

 

 

As I consider what to use for the cover of my second book I’m beginning to believe that maybe simple is better. I’d love to know what other fantasy readers think? Do you like these simple covers or do you prefer something more involved? What do you think is the best fantasy book cover?

Lord of the Rings

Something different for today’s post. At the link below you’ll find a crossword based on fantasy legends, books and movies. The first three people to email/comment me a list (or screenshot) of the correct answers will win a free copy of The Fallen Star… So get puzzling!

https://crosswordlabs.com/view/fantasy-challenge

Crossword

 

**Also, don’t forget to sign up for your ‘Free Author’s Guide to Marketing’, you’ll also get updates and special offers on books and all things fantasy!

7 Story Ideas to Kick-Start Your Imagination

Sometimes one of the hardest things about writing is coming up with the first idea. Or finding the next plot point that will set your imagination on fire. I’ve found that one of the best ways to overcome this problem is to think about possible stories, even if they have nothing to do with your own, because somewhere there will a kernel that leads your mind down all kinds of interesting paths. That little piece of inspiration could set your imagination on fire and your pen to writing.

So to help you all in your writing (and maybe myself too), I’ve come up with 7 story ideas to kick start your imagination. You can take these ideas and create a whole story from them, or use them as a starting point and create your own. Either way, I’m happy to help my fellow writers. Why not leave a comment with your own story ideas? Or tell me where you think these plots will end?

Idea1) There is a big storm coming and you don’t know whether to stay or go when a homeless man comes to your door begging for shelter.

2) Your character’s friend is afraid of heights but is found dead after jumping from the 40th floor, there’s something not right about this but the investigator is set on a suicide case, a little too set.

3) Your character has magical powers but every time they use their gift somebody dies, when is the cost too great?

4) Earth is about to be destroyed. Your character is in command of the only space shuttle. Who stays and who goes? Where do they go?

5) A terrible disease has broken out and is spreading fast. How do we survive? Did someone release it intentionally?

6) In an alternate history women were given the ability to vote at the same time as men. How would the world be different today?

7) An asteroid has hit Earth and caused it to tilt, the change has made the northern hemisphere uninhabitable whilst Antarctica is heating up fast and the oceans are rising.

I hope these ideas give you something to write about and get your pen moving. What great story ideas do you have? How do you get inspiration?

Click on the cover at the top left of this page for your FREE copy of the first chapter of The Fallen Star.

The Homicide Chronical

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Synopsis: A chilling murder. A sensational courtroom drama.

The naked body of a young single mother is found in the bedroom of her own home. She’s been sexually assaulted and stabbed 36 times. There is blood splatter, candle wax, a mysterious drinking glass, and other compelling evidence found at the scene.

Bill Castro, a working man, a thoughtful and loving husband, the father of a young child, is charged with the horrifying crime. Lawyer Bruce Sanah is retained to represent Bill Castro and finds himself having to confront disturbing evidence and unsettling surprise. Is Bill Castro innocent or is he a brutal murderer?

The Homicide Chronicle, written by a man who has years of experience in the courtroom, delivers a true insider’s look into a fascinating murder investigation and jury trial. Ultimately, the absorbing conclusion will confirm that the pursuit of truth and justice is often complicated and unpredictable.

 

Prologue

I am a lawyer. For more than 35 years, my job has been to defend people accused of committing all manner of wrongful acts. I love what I do, and I never look back on my decision to become a lawyer. In fact, that decision was made when I was a middle-school student, just 13 years old, as I listened to a local lawyer who had come to speak to our civics class. He was passionate in expressing the irreplaceable value of good lawyers in our free society and was forceful in demonstrating with his charismatic presence that a lawyer can command a huge image in the eyes of others. Duly impressed, and convinced that I wanted to be just such a man, I went home that day to announce my intentions. I did so at the dinner table that evening. My parents, both occupied with their daily stresses, nodded slightly, implying only some tacit approval. Still, I was absolutely determined, and in actual fact, I never changed my mind.

Even before I entered law school I discovered that all lawyers sadly must acknowledge that not everyone sees the profession as honorable. Then, beginning in the early years of my law practice, I started hearing the question, usually asked by some new acquaintance at a social function: “How can you represent a guilty man?” I still get that question on occasion and suppose I will always will. People are programmed, it seems, to bring that question to mind when the topic of lawyers is brought up. Admit it, you are probably asking that same question right now. Well enough. My response, for now, is simply this: You surely will have at least some understanding of what I believe to be the most compelling and appropriate answer once you have finished reading this book.

Over the course of my legal career, I have represented hundreds of clients, had hundreds of trials, and became familiar with scores of other cases. One murder case stands out as the most intriguing and enigmatic of them all. This book focuses on and fictionalizes that single case: the case of a sexual murder, the despicable acts of a twisted mind. With this said, you may be ready to assume that I was the defense lawyer. I will not confirm that for you. In fact, the main fictional character in this book is named R. Bruce Sanah, and with him as your companion, you will pass through and experience the course of a trial like no other you have ever heard or read about. Who committed the awful, heinous crime? Well, all I will tell you now is that it is just not that easy to say. Did Lawyer Sanah represent a guilty man? You be the judge, if you can.

The events have been set, for purposes of this story, in Douglas, Arizona, a border town separated by a tall barbed-wire fence from Agua Prieta, Mexico. The Douglas population has been approximately 15,000 to 20,000, give or take a few thousand, for decades. It is the county seat of Cochise County and a much-overlooked port of entry with Mexico. You will read that Bruce Sanah was born there and grew up attending the Douglas public schools. He loved the people in Douglas; it was his home. And just as I personally persisted in my desire to become a practicing lawyer, Bruce Sanah never wavered from his intent to study law and to return to Douglas following his law school graduation.

This extraordinary murder trial took place in 1983, at a time when Bruce Sanah was a relatively young lawyer. It was an age that preceded modern-day computers and smartphones. Consequently, you should refrain from asking yourself why he did not, at critical moments, go online for an answer or for relevant background information. Lawyers did what they could with what was available at the time. There were no laptops in the courtroom, only copious handwritten notes made with pens on legal pads.

The case this book focuses upon and fictionalizes was in many ways on my mind (or at least at the back of my mind) for a good many years. Justifiably, you may wonder why I waited so long to write the story. Well, there is no truly good answer I can give you, except to say that after you have finished this book, you may better understand my feeling that some things are just so compelling that words do not come easily to describe them. However, aside from the fact that it was decades before I sat down to write the tale you are going to read, it simply had to be told and it had to be told by someone like me—a lawyer who has been there, in court with a client accused of murder.

One final thing: Please keep in mind that names and places have been changed, and many of the facts have been fictionalized. If a name or situation I have used is the same or resembles another name or situation, or is the same or resembles someone else’s name or circumstance, that is simply coincidence. That being said, I assure you that there was a “Castro” murder trial, and you are about to become a part of an unforgettable few months through the eyes of my fictional character, Bruce Sanah.

So, let us begin.

Get that Pesky Plot Back in Line – yWriter

I’m an author that has always loved big sheets of paper and colored pens; where you can draw the path of a character as she makes her way along the peril-lined path. The visualization appealed to my creative side and I found it easier to see where my story was going. Well now this process has gone digital.

yWriter is a simple, FREE, program that is perfect for all story boarders, whether for movies or novels. The interface is easy to understand and can be picked up in just a few short hours. yWriter has a range of features which makes story-boarding easy and will help you mold that plot back into something that makes sense.yWriter5

 

Don’t get me wrong though, yWriter does not provide the same word-processing features as Word or OpenOffice but it’s got pretty much everything you need. I know many people use yWriter almost solely in the production of their novels, taking it into other programs only at the very end for formatting. Personally I use yWriter as a notebook, it keeps track of all of my ideas as well as characters and places and those magical items which always seem to go missing!
yWriter has many subcategories and organizational layouts so that you can pick and choose what you want to use as well as a big-picture display. You can create character bio’s and even add pictures to the description should you desire. These bio’s have room for alternate names, a description, a history and personal goals.
As with characters the program allows you to add places, along with descriptions and images. This may not mean much if your story is set in the one location but for those novels that cover extensive vistas where the hero treks across the entire country it can definitely come in handy.
Similarly, the program allows you to add descriptions and images of ‘special objects’ which is great for those fantasy authors… my precious…
As well as these great features to keep your characters and locations in order yWriter allows you to split your story up into chapters and then further divide these into scenes. In this regard the program allows you to take control. Perhaps you’d rather not plan out your chapters but just write from your head- that’s fine although story-boarding software won’t be much help to you! For others, who like to plan each scene down to its finest detail, yWriter is the program for you. Ywriter allows you to allocate a ‘point of view’ character for each scene, a location and a scene description. You can also add broad chapter descriptions and give values to each scene in terms of its role in story/character progression.
The story board display shows you the scenes, laid out according to point of view and from here you can rearrange scenes with ease. yWriter can also provide stats on how much of your book is taken up with a particular character’s point of view and how many words you’ve achieved for that day.
yWriter is a simple program (as you’d expect for free) but it has everything you could want from a story boarding application. I would recommend this program to any author looking for a little help with organization, what have you got to lose?

Check it out for yourself here.

Get a FREE copy of the prologue of The Fallen Star from best selling author Saffron Bryant by clicking on the cover image in the top left hand side of this page.

Has anyone else used this software? What did you think?

Bring fantasy into the 21st century with a breath of new life: Originality in Fantasy

This topic has come up a lot recently, especially with the release of The Hobbit and the rekindled interest in the fantasy genre that has sprung up in recent years. Fantastic tales have been around for centuries, myths and legends abounded in every culture and humans have always been fascinated with the impossible. It seems however that since The Lord of the Rings was published fantasy has fallen into a kind of slump.

Don’t get me wrong, the Lord of the Rings is one of my most favourite books and maybe that’s why most fantasy works tend to follow its basic blue print. There is no doubt that Tolkien was and is the founding father of current fantasy as it stands today but I think it’s time for a change.

Sure, who doesn’t love a long tale about the weak farm boy who rises to god-like power and saves the world?Writing a book But it’s been done. I can honestly say as a fantasy writer myself; it’s hard to break out of that constraint. It’s almost like an invisible hand is forcing you to type out that same old story that’s been told a thousand times. Why is that?

Why do all dragons have to be big Western/European breeds? Many cultures have dragons… Why does the hero always succeed? (Although in that respect I think George R. R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire does a spectacular job of breaking away from the norm).

I read a fantastic article recently about ‘How to write fantasy’ it was written with the upmost satire and yet in every word there was truth. The story that was described was a blueprint for almost every fantasy novel I’ve ever read. But what can we do about it?

Personally I’m going to more consciously take control of my writing. I will try to challenge and break away from the stereotypes of the fantasy genre and I think others should do the same. It’s hard, it’s definitely hard but ultimately I think to avoid stagnation the genre must evolve. After all, if you’re not growing, you’re dying.

So let’s do away with the fair maidens and the orphan farm boys. Let’s get rid of the wizened magicians and magical objects. Let’s get rid of ‘good’ and ‘evil’ and fill our fantasy worlds with characters that are human, that have flaws and goals and dreams, characters that do stupid things for the right reasons and the right things for the wrong reasons. As authors let’s make a change to the genre we love so much and bring fantasy into the 21st century with a breath of new life!

Picture courtesy of Cea at Flickr

Diantha Jones is offering three free books to help promote her new book


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Omar

October 23, 2012 | Author Interview, Blog Tour  |  Leave a Comment

An interview with author Craig Thompson about his book; Omar


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The Fiction Foray

October 23, 2012 | Uncategorized  |  Leave a Comment

This blog contains information for readers and writers of fiction. From tutorials on writing your novel, to book reviews, you will find what you need at Fiction Foray.

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