Monday, April 30, 2012

Z is for Zoey a post dedicated to my daughter

Zoey came to be on Nov 5, 2010 and my sleep schedule has never recovered!  She is worth every second though.  Here are a few of my favorite pictures from the past couple of months.
 Here is Zoey with Diggles, our pet chinchilla.  She loves the little guy and often waves hello to him while laughing at his crazy antics.
 Zoey loves to play catch with the Buzz Lightyear ball she got for Easter.  Also she has some of the best bedhead ever.
 We went to Colorado to visit Kristin's family and Zoey hung out with Daddy a bit in the top bunk of the train's sleeper car.
 This is the first Easter that Zoey has been mobile enough to hunt for her own Easter eggs.  She didn't understand at first, but she picked it up pretty quickly and got quite a haul at her Aunt's house.
 Here is a picture of Zoey sharing her Daddy's favorite past time.  She was a good girl so we took her to Half Price Books and she got to pick out whatever book she wanted.  As you can see she is very proud carrying it up to the checkout.
 This is Zoey, Mommy, and her evil cousin while we were out in Colorado.
At 11 months old we took Zoey to pick out her first pumpkin for Halloween.  It also helped her stand up a bit as she was still a little wobbly.  
 On the train to Colorado she fell asleep watching her favorite TV show Phineas and Ferb.
This is Zoey's first time sitting at a bar in my favorite sushi place in Westerville (it's Sapporo for anyone local).


Saturday, April 28, 2012

Y is for Y Chromosome a guest post by Carmen Webster Buxton

Y is for the Y Chromosome

In humans, the Y chromosome is unique to men, as they do have a single X chromosome, while women have two X’s but no Y. Since a normal human has 46 chromosomes, you might be surprised that one little chromosome could cause such a big difference, but somehow it does.

I happen to have two X chromosomes and no Y, which means when I write science fiction, I am outnumbered by male writers. But every good writer is an observer of humanity, and I have had two grandfathers, one father, one husband, two brothers, a son, three nephews, and lots of male friends in my life, so I have had lots of male behavior to observe from close hand, and at different ages.

When I write a story, I often find myself writing from the point of view of a male character because he has something interesting happening to him. I enjoy writing from the male point of view, and I don’t subscribe to the view than writers can only write convincingly in their own gender, but it is a challenge to write a male protagonist. Because I write fantasy and science fiction, I can control the circumstances completely, and create cultures with different gender norms than we currently have on earth. I find this liberating and exciting because I can address the issue of how much of the difference is inherent in biology and how much is learned behavior.

One part of the opposite-gender writing challenge is the most obvious. If the story gets down to body parts I don’t actually have myself, how do I write about them? To some extent, I follow the same rule I do for women characters; I tend not to write specifics about the more intimate body parts of either gender because I don’t especially want to read about intimate body parts. Also, I think that sex is only part of who we are. People don’t have sexual feelings in a vacuum; those feelings mix in with what we feel from our senses, from our memories, and from our hearts. When I create a character, I do my best to make him or her a whole person, with a backstory and a reason for the way they feel and act the way they do.

In my third novel Tribes, I set myself the task of reversing gender stereotypes, to some extent, by creating a male and a female character with circumstances opposite to what might be considered normal in our world. To do that, I created a world called Mariposa, where the culture evolved from prison gangs into gender-specific tribes. Everyone is in an all-male or all-female tribe, with the rare exception of men whose fathers can’t or won’t claim them, and so they become slaves. The protagonist is a man named Hob, who was raised as a slave and forced to work in a brothel. Jahnsi Han-Lin, who rescues him, has been raised in a tribe of women mercenaries. She has had security all her life and is used to a certain level of respect. Hob is used to having nothing and getting nothing. The challenge lay in making Hob convincing as a man who has grown up with no rights at all without making him wimpy. I think that I succeeded, but Hob is still a very different character from the other men in the story.

Tribes was a fun book to write because creating all-male and all-female tribes allowed me to make the culture more gender-neutral than any I had ever created. On Mariposa, a tribe provides a person with everything he or she needs, but their obligation is to their tribe rather than to their family. There is no such thing as marriage. Mothers have to surrender boy babies to the father’s tribe, so even parenthood is more uniformly applied.

In my latest release, a fantasy novella called Where Magic Rules, I deal with gender by having a modern-day man get trapped in an alternate world where magic is real. Joe is the only POV character in the story, and it is his perceptions of the world around him that inform the reader of what is happening. Joe rescues a young boy named Phillip only to discover Phillip is actually a woman (no Y chromosome at all!) posing as a man. In this case, it’s magic (and the lack of it) that provides the difference in background, because Phillip’s pretense of maleness is founded in enchantment. Joe was interesting to write because he was the classic fish-out-of-water character, but he was the one whose background was closer to the reader’s, regardless of the reader’s gender.

In the real world, half of humanity is female and half male, but every writer is usually one or the other (excepting transgendered folks who might have experienced both). Ergo, one thing every writer needs to learn is how to write about the other half of humanity. It’s all part of the challenge of telling a story.

Another challenge for writers, especially self-published writers,
is finding a way to let readers know your story is out there, and I’d like to thank Scott for providing a place to do that in this blog. Go Indie Book Blog!

Friday, April 27, 2012

X is for Xendauni a guest post by Edward Larel

Xendauni
Edward Larel


The xendauni are a race of shape changers from the world of Pnumadesi. Each xendauni has the natural ability, called face-blending, to become a human, dwarf, elf, or any other humanoid. Through training and experience, some xendauni can also become animals with which they are familiar. Xendauni do not have to leave their altered form, but when knocked unconscious or in the presence of a special breed of canine they call xendaugs, members of the race will revert to a natural state.

The native xendauni form is like a blank canvas, undefined and indistinct. Everything about a xendauni’s features blends in with the rest of their appearance. Skin tones range from anthraquinone (the darkest shade of blue) to deepest purple to black. Male xendauni have no natural hair on their body, while females’ hair always match their eyes.

Because of their lack of distinct features, xendauni express their emotions with their eyes. No matter the form a xendauni takes, her eyes will begin to shine and trail monochrome shades of blue, green, purple, or red when under stress or duress. This trait, called a xendauni’s glare, can make it difficult for inexperienced xendauni to appear as another race when in danger.

Xendauni have a tribal society based largely in a region of Pnumadesi called the Black Forest. A ruling council of one or more elders oversees each village, and each elder meets regularly at the xendauni capital to make important decisions regarding the leadership of their race.

The people of the Black Forest often dress in simple white, gray, or brown clothing, but the rich and theeccentric have also been known to dress in dyes to match or contrast their glare. During celebrations, xendauni wear jewelry made of the duskwood trees that grow throughout the forest.

The dangerous nature of the xendauni’s home necessitates the training of specialized soldiers, or sentinels, in how to fight with the savagery and ferocity of the lycanthropes with whom they share the forest. Masters of armed combat, sentinels channel primal magic into their weapons to battle their enemies. Over time, the use of this magic alters the sentinel’s form to resemble that warrior’s particular spirit guide or totem animal.

In addition to protecting their people, xendauni also train to battle the elementals from the southern reaches of Pnumadesi. There has been a long-standing hatred between the two races that many times in the world’s history turned to violence. The most well-known battle was shortly after the second war of elements when the xendauni used a powerful artifact, the Gauntlets of Brister, to bring the fight to the Elemental Plateau itself. They had almost defeated the elementals’ fire general Ragnar when the cunning overlord somehow stole the gauntlets and used them to turn the tide. The elemental ruler then chased the xendauni back to the Black Forest where he used the artifact to banish the entire region to its own demiplane.

Five hundred years later, the fire general’s daughter, Araelia, has retrieved the gauntlets and brought them back to the xendauni. Unfortunately, the gauntlets have no lasting magic without the Gems of Power to charge them, so the xendauni appointed their prince, who also happens to be a sentinel of considerable talent, to leave the forest with the last of the gauntlets’ power. That warrior, Arawn Segomo, begins his search for the gems in Arawn’s Quest.

X is for Xannu - The Prophecy by Paul Dorset review

Xannu - The Prophecy (The Southern Lands)
For fans of Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter and The Narnia Chronicles, the first installment in a thrilling epic fantasy series…

Would you wake up in a hot sweat if you lived your night’s dreams as a soldier battling un-earthly creatures, witnessing powerful magic and fighting to save your own life on a daily basis?


English schoolboy Terry West does. Frequently. After digging up some rune coins near a roman road, he has been living in another world inhabited by warlocks, seductresses, priests and prophecy. There Terry is a soldier, Teern Truthbringer, who has been tasked with finding the Xannu - 'he who will lead the people into deliverance.'

If only it wasn’t real; but it is. Very real. When it all began it was even enjoyable, but now Terry’s life is getting very complicated. Somehow he involved his best friend Joe and although it had seemed a good idea at the time, the consequences had been dire. Then there is Susan, the leggy sister of klutzy school-friend Brian. Why does she keep sending him messages?

Terry is struggling to balance the two lives he leads and every day he is losing his grip on reality just a little bit more. He’s been forced to kill enemies; his companion, the magical woman Maria, is scaring him half to death with her abilities; and his parents are on his back about his school work.

How will he balance the two lives he leads, solve two sets of problems, and understand the lessons he receives from both? Only time will tell. But time is something Terry doesn't have too much of, as everything is unfolding in ways he could never have imagined!

Book 1 of 'The Southern Lands' saga
“Listen to the teachings of a wise man. You may not understand all he says but you will surely have nourishment for the future. Be positive and plan for success. Failure to plan is to plan for failure. Worry not at what came before but only prepare yourselves for that which is ahead.” (Pika’Al 10:1-5, The Scriptures of Al’Zaneed)

5 stars

Xannu - The Prophecy (The Southern Lands) follows the young boy Terry (aka Teern) through both his lives.  In one he is a normal kid just trying to get through school and hanging out with his friend Joe.  In the other he is a soldier blessed with immortality by the Almighty until he finds and announces the Xannu.  As Terry he remembers all his adventures as Teern, but as Teern he has no memories of Terry.  At first everything is just a fun adventure, but when the two lives start to collide it becomes way more serious for Terry.  He starts to struggle through school and things take a nasty turn with his best friend Joe.  


This is a fairly complex story with a lot of characters and bridging two mostly separate realities.  However it was told in very understandable way with no confusion at all.  The characters are introduced at a good pace so you get to know all of them a little bit before moving on to the next.  I really prefer that style as opposed to a story where all the characters are introduced in a lump and then you have to sort them out yourself.  Paul Dorset also makes Terry and Joe very easy to relate to for young adults reading this book.  I could easily remember myself at that age and understood them very well.  The book also had a wonderful pace, it never got bogged down with extraneous details or dialogue.  I was kept entertained and did not want anything to interrupt my reading.  


This is a book that will make family reading time in my house for certain.  Wonderful job Mr Dorset. 


Other works by this author:
Xannu - The Prophecy (paperback)
Xannu - The Healing (The Southern Lands)
Fergus Fedderfeeny's Food Factory (Gwillville)
The 10 Hour Project Manager

I have also reviewed book 2 in The Souther Lands series Xannu - The Healing click here to see the review.  This is a repost of a review I did last year, but since the book has been redone and rereleased I thought a reminder would be a good idea, also it is hard to find things that start with "X" lol.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

W is for Wait a guest post by Margaret Yang

Wait!
by Margaret Yang

Speed is a way of life for modern humans. I’ve had people call me an hour after sending me email asking why I haven’t responded yet. I’ve wondered why the line moved so slowly at Starbucks, only to realize it took less than three minutes to get coffee. I’ve grumbled and sighed when a webpage took thirty seconds to load.

I have screamed at my microwave to hurry up.

Writing is different. You can’t hurry a book. The first draft takes forever and the second one takes even longer. It should. I’ve seen too many rushed novels—books that were under deadline from big publishers with tight schedules. NaNoWriMo books that were thrown onto Kindle by impatient writers. Books that never got to be the fullest expression of themselves because somebody couldn’t wait.

No book is done in a single draft. All of us need at least one rewrite, and most of us need many more. We need to give our beta readers plenty of time for comments, and then we need to fix the book again. It takes time for thoughtful edits, careful proofreading, and professional-level cover art. None of it goes as fast as we want it to.

A wise martial arts instructor once told me, “slow is smooth, smooth is fast.” Ironically, when we slow down, we achieve more in less time.

Patience pays off no matter how you decide to publish. Traditional publishing moves at a glacial pace, so if you’re querying big publishers, you’ll already be used to the slowness of it all. But due to your patient and careful self-editing, the publishing process will go more easily than you expect. If you’re self-publishing, the more time you give yourself at every stage of the process, the better your book will be. You will make mistakes when you’re doing it yourself. But if you build in time to fix them, no one will ever know. All the readers will see is an extremely professional product, one they’ll happily recommend to their friends. To paraphrase the martial arts teacher: slow is smooth, smooth equals sales.

It’s so tempting to rush our books into print or to query too early, especially when we’re excited about our ideas. Nothing goes as fast as we want it to. But the more we slow down the process, the smoother the entire experience will be—for the writer and the reader.

Now, if only my microwave would hurry up!

-----
Margaret Yang is a writer and parent from Ann Arbor, Michigan. She loves everything about the modern world, and will one day own a flying car. Margaret blogs at http://writingslices.wordpress.com where every Friday, she reviews a new how-to book for writers.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

V is for Vampires a guest post by Mia Darien

How do you like your vampires?

Today, they come in so many shapes and sizes that you might as well be ordering off the menu at a drive-thru restaurant. "Would you like some sparkles with that?" They are now heroes, villains and everything in between. They've come a long way from the black and white creatures of Stoker's immortal tale.

Vampire lore has existed forever and in nearly every corner of the world. Even countries without specific, or "standard," vampire mythos have something like it. Historical figures such as Vlad Tepes (inspiration/title character for "Dracula") and Elizabeth Bathory have been notably called "real life" vampires. Whether accurately accused of their bloody crimes or not, the legends persist.

The popularity of vampires today is not really anything new, but the popularity of the vampire hero is from books to movies to television shows. It gives paranormal writers a far broader range of options.

So, what's a writer to do?

Far be it from me to say that every paranormal writer is writing a cultural treatise. For most of us, it's just fun. But there is a lot of lore to choose from and even more freedom to just make things up. (After all, no one has ever had a vampire knock on their door to tell them they got it wrong. At least, not that we know of.)

Do you want your vampires to sleep through the day, or can they survive in the sun? How about that silver allergy? Can they eat human food, or just humans? Can they shapeshift to wolf or bat or mist? Can they fly? How about if their faces change when they 'go vamp,' and what about religious items?

There are a lot of choices!

When I began writing my Adelheid series, I had read my share of old and new vampire fiction (cut my teeth on Anne Rice and P. N. Elrod, still adore "Dracula"), had seen movies and shows (from the popular "Angel" and "Underworld" to the less known "Demon Under Glass") as well as literature on different views of vampires through history and around the world. I picked through it to choose what lore to combine into "my" vampires, and what would work with my stories the best.

I've gone further to create a setting where a law exists that makes vampires, and all the other supernatural creatures, legal citizens. I look at what might happen when a vampire has to be just like "everyone else," obey human laws, and blend in with a society that until recently believed vampires were a myth and now meet with acceptance from some and hatred from others, even anti-preternatural groups like LOHAV: the League of Humans against Vampires.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

U is for Unlocking Writer's Block a guest post by Sandy Nathan

Unlock Writer’s Block: What You Need to Know When the Words Won’t Flow 
Sandy Nathan 

I'm going to illustrate this blog post with a simple tale springing from ranch life. This is a true story, obviously, since the illustrations are photos. This is The Day Corcovado Learned to Load and Unload from a Horse Trailer. Note that the horse is not freaking out, pitching a fit, or tramping his handlers. No, Corco is doing something more effective. He's adopted The Mule Technique. My mind utilizes Corco's technique as I contemplate rewriting my novel’s sequel.

A few years back, I blogged about the rewrite, the re-vision, of the sequel to my multi-award-winning book, Numenon.
Shortly after that blog, we put a Kindle version of Numenon out for 99 cents. Sales went crazy, Numo hit # 1 in Mysticism, and then cruised near the top of the Religious Fiction category. It ended up being #1 in three categories of Mysticism and floating near the top of Kindle sales for a year.
This was a problem.
Why? Because Numenon is the introduction to the series. It bristles with hooks to make people want the sequel. It can create desire verging on lust in fans. Numenon's readers were asking for the sequel; some were getting downright grouchy about it. How long would they wait before dumping me entirely?
The rewrite should have been simple: The draft was completely written. All I had to do was open my computer files and toil for a really long time to get the manuscript cleaned up. Then I would hand it to my editor and other literary professionals, necessitating months and months of hard work before a publishable book existed.
As the owner of an Indie press, after I had done all the above, I would get to manage the design and publication process, and then marketing and sales. This is fine. It’s what indie authors and press owners do.
But I couldn’t open the manuscript's files. I would have sooner dismembered my firstborn child than whack away at that overwhelming, 240,000 word draft.  (That’s right. It was the size of three books.) I couldn’t begin the job, much less finish it.
DO YOU THINK I HAD WRITERS' BLOCK? 

An undisclosed amount of time later and the guys have the task in hand. All they have to do is get Corco from where he is into the trailer. All I had to do is get the sequel, Mogollon, into print.

WHAT IS WRITERS' BLOCK?
Essentially, it’s psychological resistance. Usually it’s about the writer's ego: "My work is so important . . . The world needs my masterpiece. But I’m blocked. I can't write. If I can't write, I'll die, and the world will be left without my brilliant words . . ."
I realize that sounds judgmental and mindless of the pain of the condition, but remember that the blocked-up person I'm talking about is me. I exhibited almost every causal attitude I'll discuss below.
The desire to write the Great American (Latvian, Lithuanian, or Other) Novel can shut a writer down faster than that. (I snap my fingers.) "I have this HUGE idea. Can I possibly express it? Am I big enough? Good enough?" Hand wringing. Angst. Pain. “I have to write this masterpiece. Only I can do it. Nothing less than a masterpiece will do.” This sort of blockage is based on an inflated image of one's importance in the Grand Scheme of Things.
If you regarded finishing your novel the way ranch people regard mucking out the stalls, would it be so hard? So wrenching? Would you stay awake nights because you couldn't finish the job? No. When writing becomes a job of work, histrionics leave and you can get the thing done.
Writer's block also can be associated with positive things. Sherman Alexie, the bestselling Native American author, reminds us that success can block you up good. How can you write when your last book was a national bestseller and your publisher is leaning on you for the new one? And grumbling about your contract and the advance you got for the three-book deal?
Heart breaking, isn't it?
Just plain fear is behind a lot of this. It's the terror that arises when one faces in front of a blank screen or empty page. (My eyes widen and I suppress a scream  . . .)
 
Real progress: both front hooves are on the ramp. Corco continues to exhibit the Mule Technique. These photos were taken over several hours of intense human-equine negotiation. Notice the carrot in Barry's hand. Sometimes positive reinforcement doesn't work.
Laziness sometimes lurks behind the inability to finish a tale. Writing a novel is pretty much the hardest kind of authoring imaginable. (Though I think a surgeon friend's rewrite of his textbook on arthroscopic ankle surgery ranks up there)
You may begin your manuscript and discover that completing it requires the discipline to sit down and bang it out––to sit for days, months, and years. Despite your earth-shaking, sure to be a bestseller idea, your book won't exist unless you write it.
"It's just too hard . . . I can't do it." Another tragedy.
So you go to a writing group or writers’ confidence  for support and encouragement.  The group’s feedback about your cherished production can block what remnants of creativity that remain in your soul.
And, the rest of humanity, household pets, inanimate objects, and lousy viruses and bacteria can rise up and stop a writer's progress. Life intrudes.
"Marge, there's a truck in the living room. It just came through the wall."
Call it resistance or an errant Mack truck, writer's block is writer's block. A cure exists. I have written about it: The Ultimate Cure for Writer's Block. If you get what I say in this article, block will not trouble you, unless it wants to. (It hinges around my doctor telling me that I had cancer. There’s a motivator.)
* * *
On the other hand, you may not be able to finish your manuscript because the time isn't right. You and your book idea might not be cooked enough.

In a revolutionary move, Tony has picked up Corco's hoof and placed it further onto the ramp. Notice that nothing else has changed in the horse's stance. True resistance, perfectly executed. Well done, Corco!


The process of teaching Corcovado to load and unload illustrates the lesson in this article:
                   You cannot make a 1,200-pound animal do anything. It has to want to do it.
                   You can't make a writer spit out words, either.
                   Writer's block is like the Berlin wall:  you can't go around it, over it, or under it as long as it's standing and the gates are closed.
                   Recall that the Berlin wall (which some of you may not remember) came down when the time was right.
Resistance is like that: it seems like a solid wall, but it's got invisible cracks. As time passes, doors open, and close. Keep your eye on the wall, and go through when an opening appears. (that means write like crazy when you can.)
While you're waiting, do something else.
Things to do while waiting for an opening in your resistance:
READ. You can read all sorts of stuff. You can read my blog, Your Shelf Life.  You can read my books, which are linked below.  I’ve got an ancient on-line magazine devoted to changing the world, Spurs Magazine. The most interesting articles are on my website, except for a few, comprising the Spurs' Writers' Corner. The Writers' Corner is there with many, though dated, articles. My favorite is "Do You Have to Suffer to Write Well? Yes, and It Helps If You're a Manic-depressive." This contains everything from Zen wisdom to shrinks's analyses of the incidence of bipolar disorder among writers.

Advanced training technique: Tony waves his hat while Barry pulls on the lead rope. Corco remains unmoved. Some people resort to offering buckets of carrots and grain at this point. When that doesn't work, they escalate this to use of nasty motivators like whips. We don't do that. The inter-species negotiation process intensifies as and the sun drops on the horizon …


SPURS' WRITERS' CORNER contains a bunch of articles relevant to writer's block. These articles walk through the process of writing as experienced by me and many others. (Lots of references & links.)
                   THE WRITER'S CORNER: INTRODUCTION
                       HOW TO START WRITING: SIMPLE. HANDLE THE MESS IN FRONT OF YOU
                       DO YOU HAVE TO SUFFER TO WRITE WELL? One of my favorites. Uses Kay Redfield Jamison MD's writing on bipolar disorder and creativity.
                       THE ULTIMATE CURE FOR WRITER'S BLOCK If this article doesn't get through your Block, take up golf.

Tony and Barry attempt to force Corco into the trailer. Barry is inside the trailer, pulling hard, while Tony applies muscle at the other end. Does it work? What do you think? You can no more force a horse into a trailer than your brain to kick out the right words. (Note: Do not do what you see above at home. What's shown in the above photo is extremely dangerous and very bad horsemanship. Corco could kill either man if he lunged forward or bolted backwards.)


More things to do to distract yourself when you can't write:
                   clean the house
                   roller skate
                   go to your shrink and talk about your writer’s block
                   blog about your block
                   entertain your fellow writers
                   take a nap.
Mostly, contemplate the situation until you realize the real reason for your blockage/stoppage.
Writing this article made me realize that:
                       I'm tired.
                       I need a break.
                       A real break where I do NOTHING, NADA, ZILCH.
                       NO book marketing, planning the next move, scheduling book signings, reading blogs on marketing, sales, the latest Net techniques.
                       Take the box of books out of the trunk of the car "just in case."
                       I need to stop doing what I'm doing and allow my personal process––my soul, if you will––to call the shots.
                       When The Universe wants me to finish Mogollon, I will.
MY REAL PROBLEM IS: I'M POOPED.
I'm taking that break, goin' to Santa Fe for three weeks. Santa Fe, New Mexico, is like catnip to me. Where we stay, there's no Internet, no phone, no TV, no roads. Just wind and sky and a few snakes.
WHAT DOES CORCOVADO  SAY ABOUT THIS?
About a minute after the photo, above Corcovado walked into the trailer with no fuss. He'd decided that he wanted to.
When your soul/brain/heart/body/hands decide it's time to write, you will. You'll write good stuff that deserves to see the light of day.
 
Tony leads Corcovado out of the trailer. Note how relaxed the horse is. He never had a problem going into or out of a trainer from this day forward.



Hasta luego, amigos! I have a date with a dirt road and cactus.
Sandy Nathan

Sandy Nathan is the winner of twenty-one national awards, in categories from memoir, to visionary fiction, to children’s nonfiction. And more.
Two sequels to The Angel & the Brown-eyed Boy are in production with early 2012 publication dates. If you liked  The Angel you’ll love Lady Grace and Sam & Emily.

Copyright Sandy Nathan 2012 All Rights reserved. (c)

Monday, April 23, 2012

T is for Topper McMullen a guest post by Jeff Dvorak

Topper McMullen

First I would like to thank Scott for the opportunity to take part in the A to Z challenge and talk a little about my writing and my character Topper McMullen. I’ve been writing for over 20 years and I’ve always had dreams of being a novelist. As is usually the case, life always got in the way. 3 months after graduating from college, I became the 15th employee at eBay and writing took a backseat until I finally looked up and couldn’t believe how far we were already into the 21st century.

Anyway, with all my procrastination I was worried about the prospects of spending years querying agents and publishers until a friend showed me an article about Amanda Hocking and a new world opened to me. I put aside what I was currently working on and started on an idea I had come up with about a year earlier. That idea was about a FBI profiler who takes a leave of absence from his team after a mistake in judgment caused catastrophic results in his current case. As he leaves his team to find answers in his own life, he gets drawn into helping clear a serial murder case but without the help of his team. It was an idea I thought could be turned into a series and thought it was perfect for self-publishing. I have planned a total of 5 books. As I write this, I am sitting on a completed second novel and just need to get it edited and have a cover professionally created. As you read this, hopefully that book has been released.

Topper McMullen is a character whose life has been defined by the relationship with his father. They bonded over a chess board when Topper was a child and everything he needed to know in life was learned during those games. Those life lessons took on a greater meaning when his father passed from cancer while Topper was away at school. Topper is guided by those memories and his desire to speak up for those who can’t speak for themselves. He learned at an early age that people found comfort, simply by his presence and he decided law enforcement was the best place to utilize those talents.

He also learned early on that whatever he set his mind to do, he would be successful. Whether it be playing chess, catching a wave or profiling a serial killer, success would come easy to him. It was this understanding that so thoroughly rocked his world when his decision caused the death of two girls. Now he questions everything he’s ever known and whether he can effectively continue as a profiler. His desire to help people overrides his lack of confidence and when a detective from Dallas calls about a case, Topper has no choice but to help.


Topper McMullen is a flawed character marred by the demons of his past. He doesn’t want to let down those around him but he’s afraid to repeat the same mistakes that landed him in his current state. He plows forward hoping to will himself through his funk and it is a plan of action which could cost him his life. The first book in this series is The Trinity Murders and if you decide to give it a chance, I hope you’ll let me know what you think.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

S is for Space Hotels a guest post by Marilyn Peake


Space hotels figure prominently in my science fiction novel, GODS IN THE MACHINE. I did quite a bit of research on this topic in writing the novel, and am delighted to have the opportunity to share some of it here on Scott’s blog.

In GODS IN THE MACHINE, the U.S. military houses black ops headquarters far above Earth in space hotels on top of space elevators.

In the real world, people are actually working to create space hotels, and the first one is planned for launch this year. There are two main types of space hotel designs: those that travel through space like rocket ships and a stationary type that can be reached via space elevator. Because the physics of space elevators are so complicated, it looks like the rocket-ship type will be built first. “Galactic
Suite” is the name of the hotel planned for launch this year. It cost $3 billion to build, and the cost to vacation in it will be around $4 million for a three-day stay. It will consist of three boutique-style bedrooms in a joined-up pod style resembling the model of a molecule, with each pod fitted inside a rocket that will take the structure into space. The hotel will travel around the world every 80 minutes, and guests will be able to see the sun rise 15 times a day. Here’s more information about “Galactic Suite”: http://www.cnn.com/2007/TECH/08/14/space.hotel.reut/index.html

The type of space hotels in GODS IN THE MACHINE are stationary hotels on top of “beanstalk” space elevators. The physics for building them is complicated, but the advantage of building these types of elevators is that they would pay for themselves if utilized to deliver materials up into space. In 2004, Glen Hiemstra wrote for Futurist.com:

“When the elevator is complete, climber vehicles can carry payloads of up to 13 tons at a speed of 125 miles an hour, at a cost of $100 a pound, or less, compared to $10,000 a pound when launching material into space via the shuttle. A trip to geosynchronous orbit at 22,000 miles, would take seven days. Along the elevator route, way stations drop payloads into low earth orbit, or higher orbits.  And, using the centrifugal force which exists at the end of the tether, payloads can be launched to the planets and beyond relatively inexpensively.

“What is more, once the first elevator is in place, it becomes vastly cheaper and easier to build the second, the third, and so on, until access to space becomes nearly routine, with costs as little as $10 a pound. Space hotels, commercial ventures, and the like spring up, and we become a space faring people.”  The physics of building space elevators and space hotels is fascinating. The space elevators need to be built on or within 20 degrees of the Earth’s equator.

The primary reason for this is that the centripetal force of the Earth’s rotation along the equator will keep the cables taut enough for the counterweight object at the other end (e.g. a space hotel) to keep swinging around the Earth. You can picture this like the string of a yo-yo being kept taut by swinging the yo-yo around in a circle. Another reason for building space elevators on or near the equator is
the lack of wind or lightning storms there which could disrupt the stability of the elevators.

The necessary height of space elevators is also fascinating. These structures would be huge. They’ve recently become more of a possibility due to the invention of carbon nanotubes, which are both extremely strong and extremely thin and could be used to create the long space elevator cables. In order to avoid being pulled back down to Earth, space elevators must extend beyond the point
of geostationary orbit (GSO) which occurs at 35,786 km or 22,236 miles above Earth’s equator. The center of mass would occur at GSO, so the counterweight (e.g. the space hotel) would need to be positioned far above that. It has been estimated that space elevators constructed with carbon nanotubes could rise as high as 100,000 km or 62,000 miles into space. These would be impressive
structures.

It has been said that any country that builds the first space elevator will control space exploration. In GODS IN THE MACHINE, a U.S.-based company, Space Construction Inc., receives permission from both the United States government and the United Nations to build a series of space hotels connected to beanstalk elevators around the world. In exchange, Space Construction Inc. agrees to
construct black ops headquarters inside every hotel. From there, the U.S. government believes that it can keep a watchful eye on green-skinned alien creatures discovered on Earth while controlling its own citizens through the use of realistic holograms that appear as religious visions.

Friday, April 20, 2012

R is for REM Behavoir Disorder

REM Behavior Disorder (Rapid Eye Movement Behavior Disorder)

The topic is REM Behavior Disorder (Rapid Eye Movement Behavior Disorder).

Your host for today is Matt Micheli, author of MEMOIRS OF A VIOLENT SLEEPER: A BEDTIME STORY.

The book is about Steven Birkman, a guy in his upper twenties that struggles with a rare, embarrassing and sometimes violent sleep disorder known as RBD (REM Behavior Disorder). Symptoms of RBD include (but aren’t limited to): punching, kicking, viciously thrashing about, running into walls, windows, and furniture headfirst, urinating and defecating on oneself and/or others… all occurring while the person is asleep.

Here’s a piece taken from the book.

You’re dreaming that you are in an old, worn down truck stop bathroom. Everything is that ugly dark brown color your parents thought was so hip in the late seventies. The smell of rotten piss sickens you. There’s sh** still resting in the toilet with mounds of toilet paper torn and piled on top. The bathroom is dirty enough to where you don’t want to touch the light switch or anything else without layers of protective sanitized hospital gloves The fluorescent lighting flickers and buzzes—only one of the two bulbs has electricity flowing through it—putting out only a minimal, unpleasant amount of flashing light. It’s barely enough to aim your business into the urinal.


# # # #


You wake up to the fierce alarm sounding, and you notice a yellow stain on the wall to the left of you. The bulk of the mess is about waist high and stretches down to the floor in dripping paths. It’s warm to the touch. Concerned, you think there must be a busted pipe leaking from inside the wall. The carpet below the mess is soaked full of the yellow liquid. It stinks like . . . ammonia. Or is that urine? You think to yourself, I don’t have to piss this morning which is odd. Coincidence?


And this is why you don’t have many friends and can’t have a girlfriend. I mean, how could you? You might have mistaken her as the urinal in your pissing parody of a dream.

This is Steven’s life.

The book is fiction and there are some exaggerations to increase the level of embarrassment, but folks that suffer with RBD will attest to the uncontrollable outbursts.

Imagine having to sand off any sharp corners on dressers/furniture in your bedroom in case you decide to go at them head first. Or having to cover any windows with heavy blankets to avoid shattering glass into yourself if you try and crash through them. Or your wife waking up with a bruised neck after you strangled her, trying to break the neck of a ten-point buck in your dream-wrestling.

These are real things that this disorder brings with it.

IN THE NEWS: Watch this clip titled Husband beats wife in his sleep?

http://video.foxnews.com/v/4162431/husband-beats-wife-in-his-sleep/

RBD to further explain: (Grab a drink and stay with me here. You can do it.)

A normal sleep cycle has 2 states: NREM (Non Rapid Eye Movement) and REM (Rapid Eye Movement). There are four stages of sleep that occur in your NREM sleep: the first when you are falling asleep, the second when you are asleep, and the third and fourth being the deepest stages of sleep. The third and fourth stages are responsible for that refreshed, rejuvenated feeling you have when you wake up the next morning. The fifth and final stage of sleep is considered your REM sleep.
In this stage, your brain is highly active and brain waves and spindles are going crazy, shooting all over the charts. This is when you dream. In a normal person’s sleep cycle, this is also when your brain releases Atonia. Atonia is a chemical that calms your nervous system, putting your body under paralysis, a natural protection to what your brain is telling you to do. In a not-so-normal person’s sleep cycle, (someone suffering from RBD), this is when your brain SHOULD release Atonia, but doesn’t. This is when you dream, and this is when you physically respond to what you are dreaming—be it running, jumping, fighting, engaging in sexual deviance. And that’s where the problems come in. If you are within an arm’s reach of another person, pet, object…they can easily be the victim of your uncontrollable outburst. The good news is: REM sleep only lasts about twenty minutes. The bad
news is: you reach REM sleep every hour and a half, around four-or-so times per night. Taking prescription medications have a remotely small success rate.

Now that you know the disorder, let’s talk book.

MEMOIRS OF A VIOLENT SLEEPER: A BEDTIME STORY is a story about Steven, a guy in his upper twenties that has dealt with RBD since the age of seven. The book takes you back to his first bizarre occurrence and then bounces back and forth from present day to other embarrassing moments from his past. From disappointed parents, to emasculating siblings, to a total fear of sleeping next
to someone (which kills any shot at a girlfriend), he feels . . . different. Nobody likes him. How could they? He breaks and pisses on things in his sleep. Fueled by this embarrassment, Steven soon ventures into a dangerously dark world full of strippers, pornography, drugs and alcohol. That is until Gina walks into his life.

With help from his trustworthy (and might I add sexy?) new therapist, Dr. Ashlea with an A, his one true friend, Kyle, and Gina (the punky barista girl that works the we’re-not-a-Starbucks coffee counter at the Barnes and Noble where he works), Steven starts to see that maybe he can lead a normal life; he is deserving of it.

Memoirs of a Violent Sleeper: A bedtime story takes you through one man’s journey to find out what it truly means to be normal. Will Steven find what he is looking for? Or will he continue to let his disorder dictate his life?

The book is available electronically and printed copies will be available worldwide in July. Please visit my website if you are interested in reading more on the book.

www.violentsleeper.com

To the readers: Thank you for your time today, and I sincerely hope you got at least some sort of enjoyment from the piece. If I offended anyone, I’m sorry. (I tend to do that more than not)

To Scott: Thank you for opening up this spectacular forum for readers and writers in the Indie world and giving us an opportunity to share our projects and stories.

TO EVERYONE: Maybe you should think twice before falling asleep tonight . . .

Please contact me with any questions/concerns/comments or if you just want to berate me for fun @ mattmicheliworld@gmail.com

Follow me on Twitter: @micheliworld

Author Bio:

Matt Micheli is a transgressive fiction writer out of Austin, TX. His analytical, sometimes satirical, and often times blunt views of love, loss, life, and beyond are expressed through his writing. For him, writing is an escape from the everyday confines of what the rest of us call normal.