Debunking myths on genetics and DNA

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Sunday Snippet: Happy Holidays!




From AKAELA (the Mayake Chronicles Book 1), Prologue:
I scan the horizon: Kael’s shadow draws black circles over the fields. The winds are blowing the smoke west, toward the Tower. The forest brims with tension, naked trees retracing the snaking path of the river. I raise a hand and feel the ridge lift blowing up.
“On the count of three,” I say, stepping away from the brim. “One…”
“You’re crazy,” Athel mutters, yet I know from the stomping I hear that he’s mounted his horse Maha. He’s ready, too.
“Two…”
Five more steps backwards, then I spread my arms and run.
The above is my Sunday snippet submission for the Weekend writer Warriors (you can find the Snippet Sunday group on Facebook, too). Make sure you check out all Weekend writer Warriors participants, it's a fun way to find forthcoming books -- all genres welcome, there's something for everyone's tastes.

This is from my new YA project, you can read the beginning of the chapter up to this point here.

Thanks for stopping by! I just wanted to wish everyone in the Sunday Snippet group Happy Holidays and a healthy and peaceful new year! Thanks for making me always look forward to Sundays. :-)

Friday, December 19, 2014

Apocalypse Weird: Jennifer Ellis talks about her book Reversal and how her research inspires her writing


It's Friday, time for a new Apocalypse Weird author interview! Today my guest is Jennifer Ellis, author of A Pair of Docks and A Quill Ladder. Jennifer has a PhD in Geography and has spent many years researching climate change, global food security and alternative energy. Sound like the perfect background to not only envision apocalyptic scenarios, but also how to survive them. Jennifer is here today to tell us about her story set in the Apocalypse Weird world, a one of a kind project started by a guild of independent authors who got together and decided to make their own brand world (more info on AW at the end of the post).

Welcome, Jennifer!

EEG: How did you get involved in the AW project?

JE: Michael Bunker approached me and asked me if I wanted to contribute. I met Michael and Nick Cole through the Synchronic: 13 Tales of Time Travel and Tales From Pennsylvania anthologies and have been the beneficiary of their witty repartee and ongoing publishing advice ever since. Once I heard how exciting Apocalypse Weird was going to be, of course I said yes!

EEG: Tell us a little bit about your AW story and its premise

JE: Reversal is set on Ellesmere Island in the Arctic. It is a story of mysterious polar bears, changes in magnetic north, wild polar storms and secrets—lots of secrets.

Sasha Wood arrives at the international research station on Ellesmere Island to investigate the recent resurgence of Arctic pack ice. The polar bears have grown increasingly aggressive and crafty in the past few years, but the station caretaker, Soren Anderson seems more than attractive enough to make up for the dangers. An inexplicable and temporary blindness leaves three researchers lost in a blizzard, and leads to the escape of all the sled dogs. When everyone can see again, all of the station compasses and GPS units say north is south, the station has been cut off from the outside world, and giant craters filled with methane are starting to appear all over the island.

Sasha and Soren endeavor to rescue the dogs and find the other researchers and are pursued by demons, polar bears, and rogue researchers along the way. When Vincent Robinson, the caretaker for the Antarctic research station, inexplicably arrives on their doorstep, they know the world has been turned upside down—literally and figuratively.

EEG: Your book In the Shadows of the Mosquito Constellation is also a dystopian -- will there be any intersection between the two worlds?

JE: In the Shadows of the Mosquito Constellation is very much set in the real world, so no, probably not. Mosquito is a true-life adventure of what might happen if we were faced with economic collapse, peak oil and climate change here in rural British Columbia. There are no demons or magical elements, although it is exciting in a different way. It is about how people who have set up a reasonably successful and only slightly dysfunctional communal farm survive a real apocalypse in which they are beset from all sides by raiders, refugees, and illness. They also have internal divisions with regard to how to deal with these things. The novel revolves around the fundamental question of what our moral obligations are to others in a world torn apart. There is also a love triangle thrown in for good measure.

EEG: How did you get the idea for In the Shadows of the Mosquito Constellation?

JE: In my day job, I do a lot of work in the area of climate change adaptation and back when I wrote In the Shadows of the Mosquito Constellation, I was also doing a lot of energy-related research into world oil reserves and alternative energy viability. I also had just finished reading The Long Emergency by James Howard Kunstler, which is about peak oil and the “converging catastrophes of the twenty-first century”—a riveting read for those of us writing in the dystopian fiction genre. If The Long Emergency doesn’t make you want to go find a bunker or remote farm somewhere, I don’t know what will. In any event, I became fascinated with the notion of how people could live, and even potentially thrive, in a post-apocalyptic world. In the Shadows of the Mosquito Constellation is a kinder dystopia if you will, in which people with our modern sensibilities are trying to rebuild community. They face a lot of serious challenges of course, which is what makes the book dramatic and hopefully exciting.

EEG: Sounds really intriguing. What are you currently working on, besides the AW project?

JE: Too much! I have a short that is part of The Complicated Weight of Air, a serial I am developing about a gold heist in a smelter town that I have to write over Christmas. I also have another conspiracy theory short to write about Elvis and the Bermuda Triangle in January, and a full-length novel about a mine development in a small town gone amok to finish in March (it is about 70 percent done). It’s a bit more of a satire and is entitled Confessions of a Failed Environmentalist. Then I have to turn my attention to a second AW novel potentially, and the third novel in my middle-grade Derivatives of Displacement series.


EEG: That's certainly a lot on your plate, but it all sounds very exciting. I personally can't wait to read your complete serial, The Complicated Weight of Air. Thanks so much for chatting with us today, Jennifer.

To find out more about Jennifer's books, visit her website and follow her on Twitter.

Intrigued by Apocalypse Weird? Then read the first book, The Red King, by Nick Cole, which is completely free and sets the world of Apocalypse Weird. You can also sign up for our mailing list to make sure you don't miss the big launch on february 23rd. And you can join us on Facebook, too.

Michael Bunker also has a great post about Apocalypse Weird on his blog.

author Hank Garner is also doing a series of podcasts on Apocalypse Weird: last week he interviewed Nick Cole, and this week Hank just posted a new podcast in which Michael Bunker talks about his AW book, Digger, the first in his Texocalypse world.

And if you are a writer and you would like to take part in the Apocalypse Weird project, Nick has a wonderful post where he explains how to apply.


Apocalypse Weird Authors:

Nick Cole
Michael Bunker
Matthew Mather
Lesley Smith
Jennifer Ellis
Chris Pourteau
Kim Wells
Forbes West
Eric Tozzi
Weston Ochse
Steven Savile
Kevin Summers
Tim Grahl
Ellen Campbell (editor)
Stefan Bolz
Hank Garner
Lyndon Perry

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Sunday Snippet: the Mayake Chronicles




From AKAELA (the Mayake Chronicles Book 1), Prologue:
I reach the top of the ridge and climb over the edge.

My knees are scraped, my hands are cut and bleeding, and yet as soon as I stand over the verge—the gorge below opening into the valley ahead—I get giddy with excitement.

The mesa looms hundreds of feet above the Yatelan plane, the land our father the Kawa River has given us to inhabit. The river travels across the mesa and then drops into our land, dissipating into the majestic beauty of the Bridal Veil Waterfalls. If I rise on my toes I can see them in the distance, the mist created by the water as it plunges down refracting into a million rainbows.

I smell the waterfall, the forest, the river. I smell the freedom of the wind in my hair and the sweat of the horses, waiting at the bottom of the gorge. Taeh whinnies, her hooves thumping against dry sand. Impatiently.
The above is my Sunday snippet submission for the Weekend writer Warriors (you can find the Snippet Sunday group on Facebook, too). Make sure you check out all Weekend writer Warriors participants, it's a fun way to find forthcoming books -- all genres welcome, there's something for everyone's tastes.

This is from my new YA project, you can read the beginning of the chapter up to this point here.

Thanks for stopping by! In case you missed my holiday giveaway last Sunday: 10 winners (yes, 10!) will get 1 Chimeras audiobook and 1 audiobook of their choice! With that many winners, your odds are pretty high!!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, December 12, 2014

Apocalypse Weird: Michael Bunker talks about his book, Digger


Last week I interviewed Nick Cole in a new series of interviews I'm doing to introduce the Apocalypse Weird authors. Apocalypse Weird is a one of a kind project started by a guild of independent authors who got together and decided to make their own brand world. And I'm talking bestselling indie authors: Matthew Mather of Cyberstorm and The Atopia Series, Nick Cole of The Wasteland Saga and Soda Pop Soldier, Steven Savile of the Ogmios Team novels and Battlefield Three, Weston Oches of Seal Team 666, Jennifer Ellis of A Pair of Docks, Michael Bunker, of Pennsylvania and Wick, Chris Pourteau of Shadows Burned In, and many more (including me!).

This week I have a few more updates: first off, if you are a writer and you want to be part of Apocalypse Weird, Nick has a wonderful post where he explains how to apply.

Second, author Hank Garner is also doing a series of podcasts on Apocalypse Weird: last week he interviewed Nick Cole, and this week Hank just posted a new podcast in which Michael Bunker talks about his AW book, Digger, the first in his Texocalypse world.

Michael also has a great post about Apocalypse Weird on his blog.

How can readers get involved? Start by reading the first book, The Red King, by Nick Cole, which is completely free and sets the world of Apocalypse Weird. You can also sign up for our mailing list to make sure you don't miss the big launch on february 23rd. And you can join us on Facebook, too.

Apocalypse Weird Authors:

Nick Cole
Michael Bunker
MatthewMather
Lesley Smith
Jennifer Ellis
Chris Pourteau
Kim Wells
Forbes West
Eric Tozzi
Weston Ochse
Steven Savile
Kevin Summers
Tim Grahl
Ellen Campbell
Stefan Bolz

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

An Ocean Between: stories from a first generation Ukranian immigrant




Last Saturday we had a little book signing event here at the local library. My assigned table was sort of in a corner and not very visible, but I had the best treat ever: the lady signing books right next to me was a real gem to meet. The daughter of Ukrainian immigrants, Stephanie Sydoriak has been living in our historic town for over 60 years, and was awarded the title of Los Alamos Living Treasure in 2011. Stephanie is a poet, an author, a certified piano teacher, a mother of six, and a Life Member of the New Mexico Music Teacher Association. But her true treasure are her stories, and in fact, she published in 2012 her memoir, An Ocean Between: 100% American - 100% Ukrainian.

I had such a great time getting to know Stephanie, that I knew I had to invite her over to the blog. Welcome to Chimeras, Stephanie!

EEG: Quoting from your bio: "Throughout her life in Los Alamos, Stephanie followed her father's exhortation to remember her Ukrainian background." I imagine that was both an enrichment and a burden. When did you decide to put it all in a book?

SS: I ruminated about my family's stories from very early on. I got involved with teaching Ukrainian Easter Eggs around Los Alamos: schools, clubs, in my home. My husband and I did some demonstration dances in the schools, where I was also invited a few times to give talks on Ukraine. I found myself telling bits and pieces of their stories during these times, which led to writing a few poems about them. In the seventies, I began a novel in a local writing class, then took it to a six week class at UNM taught by Rudolfo Anaya. He took me aside at the end of the class and told me my writing was very interesting and I should keep writing, but he thought my story would be best put in the form of a biography or memoir, rather than fiction. This I eventually did.

EEG: What did you find most challenging about writing the story of your parents? And what did you find challenging about writing your own story?

SS: The stories about them, my sister and myself, poured out easily in great volume. The challenge was to ruthlessly carve out the less interesting material and put in meaningful connective tissue so it was a book, rather than a collection of unrelated stories.

EEG: Your first published book, Inside Passage, is actually a collection of poems. Did you always write poetry or was there something in particular that inspired you at some point in your life?

SS: I started writing poetry, fiction and non-fiction in high school, just for the fun of it. As my complicated, adult life took over, I found less time for extensive prose writing and turned to writing a few lines of poetry at a time. If I happened on these lines later, I'd work on them, then still later go at them again. Gradually, they solidified into poetry. Those I'd save in a file drawer, where I could easily find them. I wrote a poem about this process. (Bones: I store poems/the way dogs/ store bones in loam or mold...)

EEG: You moved to Los Alamos in 1948: what was it like to live in Los Alamos in the '40s and '50s?

SS: Heavenly, except for the super-security at every exit point, roads and trails alike. Downtown was a welter of wooden lab buildings, quadriplexes, log cabins, army huts, and an emerging complex of stores around a grassy center behind the post office and lodge. We found all the trails that were not closed off,though, and were thrilled to begin hiking with our little kids five minutes from our back door, either up the mountainside, or deep in Los Alamos Canyon. We skated on the barely developed skating rink down there and worked on the emerging Pajarito ski area. Until that was finished, we skied at Sawyer's Hill. Unlike in Boston and New Haven, we now looked at mountain ranges, incredible, never-before-seen mesas, fluourescent blue skies and ever-changing cloud shapes in the monsoon seasons.

EEG: What are you currently working on?

SS: I am currently writing down random stories that I may or may not later use. I don't think I could even give them a category designation. I've written a couple of poems that will probably never see the light of day, so I think that all might be better left to one side. My project at the moment is to live happily.

EEG: And having met you in person I can say that you are surely fulfilling your project! Thanks so much for chatting with us today Stephanie!

To find out more about Stephanie and her book, please visit her website. Her memoir, An Ocean Between: 100% American - 100% Ukrainian is also available on Amazon

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Synthetic gene circuits with a memory!


Imagine having a USB port in the body that we could use to insert a "flash drive" and transfer genetic data, therapies, or monitoring devices. The flash drive would have to be some kind of removable biological entity that has no problem getting in and out of the body. If you think about it, bacteria are the perfect candidates to be such devices. So, what if bacteria could be used as storage for genetic memory?

This is not so far-fetched if you think that recent studies have shown for example that genes expressed by bacteria in our guts can affect our propensity to be lean or fat. Bacteria have genes that "record" and "affect" what's going on in our body. The question is: can we control them?

Bacteria have a way of turning "on" or "off" their genes based on stimuli from the environment. Synthetic biology studies ways of using these "switches" to make "gene circuits". Genetic regulatory circuits are the biological analog of electric circuits, where genes, instead of light bulbs, are being turned on or off (by activating other genes).

Genetic circuits have numerous applications in medicine. For example, Auslaender et al. [1] used synthetic biology to create a pH sensor for cells. The researchers then implanted these cells into mice and used it as a device to detect diabetes. Lack of insulin causes an excess of acidity in the blood, and the pH drops below 7.35. Changes in pH induced by diabetes were quickly detected by the pH-sensor cells in the implanted mice. The pH information was processed and triggered a transgene expression response that resulted in the secretion of alkaline phosphatase to counteract the acidity. Basically, what the cells were able to do in the mice is: (1) detect the drop in pH; (2) trigger a response to restore the pH to normal levels.

In an electrical circuit you assemble elements like resistance and capacity. In a genetic circuit you assemble genes and "operators" able to edit the DNA in order to activate or deactivate the genes. One of such "editors" is a class of enzymes called recombinases. Apparently, there aren't many of these enzymes available, which limits the number of gene circuits one can make.

A recent study published in Science [2], however, presented a new class of such enzymes, derived from the bacteriophage Lambda, which is a virus that infects Escherichia coli. The novelty of the method doesn't stop here. You see, the goal is not just to have a working circuit, but to also make it autonomous. In other words, ideally, one wants a system able to detect responses and readjust the output based on the input it receives. The researchers devised genetic regulatory circuits able to "write", "input" and "read" genetic information.

Farzadfard and Lu [2] "converted genomic DNA into a 'tape recorder' for memorizing information in living cell populations." Their circuit, named SCRIBE (Synthetic Cellular Recorders Integrating Biological Events), responds to gene regulatory signals by generating single-stranded (ssDNA). The ssDNA is then coexpressed with a recombinase and introduces specific mutations in targeted positions of the cell DNA. The fraction of cells in the bacterial culture that carry the introduced mutations represents the biological memory at the population level.

For example, when the researchers exposed the cultures to an exposure input for 12 days (the equivalent of 120 generations in the bacterial population), they found that the
"frequency of mutants in these populations was linearly related to the total exposure time. Furthermore, we demonstrate that SCRIBE-induced mutations can be written and erased and can be used to record multiple inputs across the distributed genomic DNA of bacterial populations [2]."
It's a 'collective memory' embedded in the observed frequency of the mutation in the bacterial population. And the applications are almost infinite. I truly can't wait to see where this kind of research will take us in the future.

[1] Ausländer D, Ausländer S, Charpin-El Hamri G, Sedlmayer F, Müller M, Frey O, Hierlemann A, Stelling J, & Fussenegger M (2014). A synthetic multifunctional mammalian pH sensor and CO2 transgene-control device. Molecular cell, 55 (3), 397-408 PMID: 25018017

[2] Farzadfard, F., & Lu, T. (2014). Genomically encoded analog memory with precise in vivo DNA writing in living cell populations Science, 346 (6211), 1256272-1256272 DOI: 10.1126/science.1256272

ResearchBlogging.org

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Sunday Snippet: the Mayake Chronicles




From AKAELA (the Mayake Chronicles Book 1), Prologue:
“It's a stupid idea, Akaela,” Athel says, and even though he’s not yelling, his voice booms across the gorge.
“You wait and see,” I reply.
You wait and see.

Today’s the day, I feel it. The wind is right, the air currents are perfect. They blow against the cliff side of the mesa, producing a lift upward at the ridge. I raise my eyes and spot our trained falcon, Kael, circling the sky, showing me the thermals, columns of hot air I need to ride in order to make my flight last longer.

Today’s the day I will rise so high I’ll see the other side of the mesa.
The above is my Sunday snippet submission for the Weekend writer Warriors (you can find the Snippet Sunday group on Facebook, too). Make sure you check out all Weekend writer Warriors participants, it's a fun way to find forthcoming books -- all genres welcome, there's something for everyone's tastes.

This is from my new YA project, you can read the beginning of the chapter up to this point here.

Thanks for stopping by! Before you leave, enter my holiday giveaway: 10 winners (yes, 10!) will get 1 Chimeras audiobook and 1 audiobook of their choice! With that many winners, your odds are pretty high!!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, December 5, 2014

Nick Cole introduces Apocalypse Weird and the Red King


Today's interview is the first in a new series of interviews I'm doing to introduce the Apocalypse Weird authors. Apocalypse Weird is a one of a kind project started by a guild of independent authors who got together and decided to make their own brand world. And I'm talking bestselling indie authors: to put it in Michael Bunker's own words, "Matthew Mather of Cyberstorm and The Atopia Series, Nick Cole of The Wasteland Saga and Soda Pop Soldier, E.E Giorgi of Chimeras, Steven Savile of the Ogmios Team novels and Battlefield Three, Weston Oches of Seal Team 666, Jennifer Ellis of A Pair of Docks, and even me. . . Michael Bunker, of Pennsylvania and Wick, (and a bunch of other top flight authors) are teaming up to create an earth spanning, time bending, apocalyptic smorgasbord of epic proportions." (Read Michael's full post here.)

Yes, my name's up there too, I'm so proud to be part of this. :-)

Author Hank Garner is also doing a series of podcasts on Apocalypse Weird: you can listen to Nick Cole talk about the project here.

How can readers get involved? Start by reading the first book, The Red King, by Nick Cole, which is completely free and sets the world of Apocalypse Weird. You can also sign up for our mailing list to make sure you don't miss the big launch on february 23rd. And you can join us on Facebook, too.

The Red King launched on Black Friday and it's already got 50 reviews with a 4.5 average rating! Nick is a superb writer and he's in in fact my first guest of the Apocalypse Weird authors, so he can tell you in his own words what this is all about.

Welcome, Nick!

EEG: How did you get the idea for the Apocalypse Project?

NC: The Apocalypse Weird idea is two things at once. First off it's a Brand World (Star Wars, Star Trek, Conan) developed for Wonderment Media. Basically we want to tell a bunch of stories inside the same world and get some big arcs and great drama going forward. We want to do some literary events like nothing the publishing industry has ever seen. Meaning: we've got a five year plan for how the world develops from initial Apocalypse to Endgame and there will be some pretty gripping arcs that bring a lot of writers, their characters and the sandbox they've developed, together. Secondly the Apocalypse Weird is an idea that a series of Post Apocalyptic events might happen all at once. I think the world we're developing will end up very much like Stephen King's EndWorld of The Dark Tower series. So what we're seeing with Apocalypse Weird is the inception of just such a fractured place and the heroes that will becomes its legends and the villains its bogey men, conversely.

EEG: Can you tell us about the "easter eggs" that will be "hidden" in the various books?

NC: We want to give the readers more than they get with the average book. Because we're doing this digitally that allows us to drop in secret websites and clues that readers can access to get extra content. We feel this adds value to our product and we want to show readers that they mean a lot to us. So, some of the Easter a Eggs I can talk about are things like comic panels that show referred events, or things the characters might have talked about but weren't actually in the novel. In The Red King we have a few chapters dealing with a Special Operator and his harrowing adventure in a zombie-overrun downtown LA. One of his previous missions is a failed rescue attempt. We decided to hide a website inside the Digital Version of Red King and we hired a comic book artist to show what happens on that mission in comic panels on that secret website. We've got things like that and also hidden clues that lead to interactive websites which reveal more of what's going on in the Apocalypse Weird world.

EEG: What are the long-term plans for this project?

NC: The long term plans start of Feb 23rd with a five book launch starting multiple story arcs within the Apocalypse Weird. Then we'll be dropping two books a month. We're asking our writers to settle down and take their time telling the big epic they've always wanted to tell. But we've put it out there that they can tell that twisted little tale that ends badly. The twilight zone jaw dropper. We have three phases for our world and right now we're in The Sandbox phase. The Endgame is the final phase and there's a secret one in between. We're also opening the door for what we call our TIER THREE writers. This is basically fanfic we're partnering with ThirdScribe to publish. There will be a voting system and the top stories will be offered a contract to publish a TIER ONE Apocalypse Weird canon novel. We're really excited about this as we are already getting writers who want in on this project.

EEG: How can readers get involved?

NC: I think the neat thing about Apocalypse Weird is that there are multiple levels to interact with. You can enjoy it (a completely ground floor-underground thing that's going to drop a game changer nuclear weapon on the publishing world) as much as you want to. You can pick a favorite arc and enjoy just that. Other story arcs might inform and develop the picture but you don't have to read everything to follow along. We're looking at a podcast and we've got all these hidden Easter eggs. So there's that. But then we're inviting everyone to build and play in this world if they so choose by writing novels, pitching ideas, voting on arcs and characters and a few other interactive story development participation elements that are quite well hidden. I'd definitely like to get a cool card game developed and we have a very easy to use platform for people to share their stories with the community. The best of those are going to get a contract and some special projects we'd like to sneak in.

That said, it's just a Post Apocalyptic Drama that's simple in its good versus evil conflict and rich in the tapestry of characters participating on an adventure that's far more lethal than Game of Thrones and as epic as Star Wars. If people want to check it out, we're offering the entire APOCALYPSE WEIRD: The Red King for free.

Thank you and I hope to see you around the Apocalypse Weird!

EEG: Thanks so much, Nick!

And writers can get involved too. Read this post by Nick where he explains how you can pitch your story to Apocalypse Weird.

To find out more about Nick's books, visit his webpage. And don't forget to sign up for the Apocalypse Weird newsletter!

Apocalypse Weird Authors:

Nick Cole
Michael Bunker
MatthewMather
Lesley Smith
Jennifer Ellis
Chris Pourteau
Kim Wells
Forbes West
Eric Tozzi
Weston Ochse
Steven Savile
Kevin Summers
Tim Grahl
Ellen Campbell
Stefan Bolz

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Canned heroes and heroines: is it insane to portray unpopular characters?



This is a monthly event started by the awesome Alex J. Cavanaugh and organized by the Insecure Writer's Support Group. Click here to find out more about the group and sign up for the next event.

First a couple of announcements:

1) Before you leave, don't forget to enter the giveaway at the bottom of the post, I'm offering 20 AUDIOBOOKS, so your odds to win are really high!!!

2) The Insecure Writer’s Support Group Guide to Publishing and Beyond is finally here and it's free! <- click

"Tapping into the expertise of over a hundred talented authors from around the globe, The IWSG Guide to Publishing and Beyond contains something for every writer. Whether you are starting out and need tips on the craft of writing, looking for encouragement as an already established author, taking the plunge into self-publishing, or seeking innovative ways to market and promote your work, this guide is a useful tool."

And now back to our regular programs.

This past month marked a nice achievement for me: my debut novel, Chimeras, passed the 2,000 sale mark. That's not stellar, but it's not too shabby either for a previously unpublished indie author. So I wrote to my agent and asked her if, between those sales and the awards I won, she could pitch the novel to the Amazon's mystery/thriller imprint. She did, and the answer came back very fast: turns out, they had already considered my book, given that it was going reasonably well and receiving positive reviews, but, alas, my main character doesn't fit what they are currently looking for. The editor added that, among the things they are currently interested in, are female sleuths and serial killers.

My first thought: How many books with female sleuths and serial killers can you think of in the next three minutes? I can think of one for every fingers and toes I have.

Sassy girls seem to be the hot thing right now. Could it be because this country has an issue with feminism? Hmm, let's see... you can't be a sassy woman at work, in fact, you'll always be paid less than men, but let's make it up with lots of fake, sassy heroines who, by the way, only exist in fiction. Mind you, I love strong female characters. I just happen to believe that we need to promote and support more strong women in REAL life rather than resort to having them in fiction only. But that's another story.

Detective Track Presius (the main character in Chimeras) is a lovable asshole who makes mistakes, like we all do, and then regrets making those mistakes. He's flawed and, personally, I like flawed characters who grow throughout books. And Chimeras readers -- mostly women, I must say -- love Track.

On the other hand, I did write a book where the main character is a woman, and she, instead, turned out to be a bit more difficult to like. In fact, my friend Mike, who's read every single book I've written so far, wrote to me the other day and said, "I'm not sure I like Skyler." I felt a pang. What is it with me and my characters? I don't know. I like complex, multi-dimensional characters. Not everybody's likable in real life. If we want to read about flawless women because today's society doesn't give them enough room in real life, then this society has some issues.

Anyways, I wrote back to Mike and asked him, "How can I fix it?"

His response (he gave me permission to quote him): "Hey, liking is one thing, finding them really interesting is another. Not liking the main character is kind of refreshing. [...] I prefer an interesting character to the expected hero or heroine. No, I was thinking last night that I'm not so much reading this book as savoring it."

And that made me happy.

But boy, if you've ever gotten a review or some feedback on your main character, then you know how hard it is to accept that kind of criticism. And not only that, to make it a choice rather than just a "mistake"...  And so here I am, on this IWSG Weds, telling you guys about my woes on my main characters. Because as much as I love them, not everybody does.

Thoughts?

Don't forget to enter the giveaway below: 10 lucky winners will get 1 copy of the Chimeras audiobook and a second audiobook of their choice. 


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Monday, December 1, 2014

Love audiobooks? Here's how you can win your favorite one!


As many of you know, the audio edition of Chimeras just launched two weeks ago. Produced by Nick and Gabriel Grant at Rook Productions, and narrated by D. Joseph Fenaughty, the book is free for Audible members, and it's only $3.47 if you buy the Kindle edition, too.

But wait, you can now win a copy AND a copy of an audiobook of your choice!


How? Just enter the giveaway below, and the more you share, the better chances you have to win!

TEN WINNERS will get one copy of the Chimeras audiobook AND one audiobook of your choice! Just pick one and I will send it to you as a gift.


So enter the giveaway and please tell your friends to increase your chances of winning and support my work at the same time. :-)


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Saturday, November 29, 2014

Sunday Snippet: the Mayake Chronicles




From AKAELA (the Mayake Chronicles Book 1), Prologue:
“You ok?” Athel shouts, his voice amplified by the narrow space etched between the walls of rock.
I search for a new crevice, stick my right foot in it and lift myself up.
My bare fingers brush against the gravel. A harsh sun peeks down, the sky a pale blue hazed by the smoke of distant fires. I stretch one hand up and grope for a new handhold. After a while I stop thinking about the void below me and climbing becomes automatic: firm grasp in the hands, right foot in crevice, lift. I no longer pay attention to my split nails or my bleeding fingers. All I want is up, up to the top of the cliff.
The above is my Sunday snippet submission for the Weekend writer Warriors (you can find the Snippet Sunday group on Facebook, too). Make sure you check out all Weekend writer Warriors participants, it's a fun way to find forthcoming books -- all genres welcome, there's something for everyone's tastes.

Still working my new YA project, this is exactly the continuation from last time. Please let me know what you think. Also, what do you think of the word "Chronicles"? Shall I go with it or is it overused in fantasy books?

Thanks for stopping by!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

"Science is a modest hero, transforming our world for the better": author Peter Cawdron talks about his love for Darwin and hard science fiction



If you've read the Telepath Chronicles, the second volume of the Future Chronicle anthologies produced by Samuel Peralta, then you've certainly enjoyed Peter Cawdron's story #DontTell. I confess that I wasn't familiar with Peter's work, but after reading his story now my Kindle is stuffed with his books, starting from his latest release, My Sweet Satan, whose premise is mind blowing: a remote Saturn moon; an unmanned probe; one message: "I want to live and die for you, Satan."

How can you resist a premise like that?

Welcome to Chimeras, Peter!

EEG: What spurs your love for science and how does it inspire your work?

PC: For most of my adult life, I was tragically antiscience, not in an overt way, but with a bias toward creationism. Science was inexplicable, something to be tolerated, but not trusted. I was sincere and well meaning, but wrong. I would often hear preachers talking disparagingly about Charles Darwin, often in the same breath as comments about Adolf Hitler. I knew Hitler had waged war on the world, brought untold suffering to Europe and killed millions of soldiers and civilians alike. Charles Darwin, though, was a scientist, a naturalist and from the depictions I'd seen, seemed somewhat soft spoken and gentle. There was a disconnect there that never really sat right with me and left me wondering.

To someone on the outside, creationism probably seems pretty silly and somewhat simplistic. For me, it was contradictory. I could see a variety of different Christian groups offering what seemed to be equally plausible explanations for cryptic sections of scripture. They all had the same approach. The Bible is right, everything else must be shoehorned to fit. Only they couldn't agree between themselves on which shoehorn to use.

I found myself feeling somewhat like a hypocrite badmouthing Charles Darwin while never actually having read a single word he wrote. One day I stumbled across an old, ragged copy of On the Origin of Species in a garage sale and picked it up for two dollars. I started reading and found myself highlighting section after section as Darwin methodically explained the course of reasoning that led him to the theory of Natural Selection. Far from being on par with the Nazis, I found Darwin's writing to be remarkably honest and refreshing.

As much as I loved On the Origin of Species, The Descent of Man was even more remarkable, and I came to appreciate science as the only viable means of explaining the world around us. But science doesn't stop with explanations, once we understand the science we can apply it to improve our quality of life.

Science is not a sideline, background curiosity in our lives, it is the bedrock foundation of modern life. In the 1850s, Ignaz Semmelweis was ridiculed for introducing the washing of hands for medical students visiting his wards, even though mortality rates dropped from 20-30% down to less than 5%. But the lessons weren't learned. Semmelweis was ridiculed and driven insane. Barely a decade later almost two hundred thousand Americans died of preventable infections during the Civil War. When the polio vaccination was introduced in 1957, the number of reported cases dropped from 58,000 to 5,600 in twelve months. The smallpox vaccine is credited with saving over half a billion lives, and yet we face an increasing backlash from antivaxers. I cannot imagine growing up in a world without refrigeration, antibiotics, vaccines or basic hygiene, and yet in some parts of the world these appalling conditions still remain. It seems to me that science is a modest hero, transforming our world for the better, but the job is barely half done.

Having been so ignorant for so long, I'm keen to do all I can to encourage scientific awareness, and so a common theme in all of my books is that of science and knowledge being the hero.

EEG: Your personal discovery of science is simply fascinating! So, if I may say so, you are a Darwin convert, something to be proud indeed! Speaking of Darwin and evolution: many of your books explore the future of the human species. What do you see realistically happening to humans in, say 1000 years from now (supposing we survive all the mess we're making now!)?

PC: The most remarkable thing about the time we live in is how rapidly we are embracing change. In terms of evolutionary time, the scientific revolution we've undergone over the past five hundred years is the bat of an eyelid. Mammal species form and diverge over tens of millions of years. We are changing nature and, indeed, domesticating Homo sapiens and dozens of other species at a rate that is absurdly quick given the 3.8 billion years life has existed on Earth. I don't mean to sound pessimistic, but we need to be realistic about the change we are forcing on our planet. We're driving species extinct at an alarming rate.

A thousand years from now, races will probably not exist in anything like the form they do at the moment. They'll be more culturally based than based on physical characteristics, simply because of how globalization is forming a homogenous genetic mix, probably resulting in a racial type closer to our current asian form than european. But the pity will be the lack of biodiversity among other species on the planet.

Climate change is a contentious issue, but humans have been changing their environment for tens of thousands of years—cutting down forests and growing farms. When the Americas were first settled, bison numbered sixty million, now there's less than a hundred thousand, but we've got lots and lots of cows, pigs and chickens (even if their lives are short lived). It sounds silly, but this is a serious problem. Indigenous animals are displaced by those that taste great when deep fried. The UN estimates there are currently 19 billion chickens in the world, at the expense of numerous other species that have been driven to extinction or to dangerously low numbers. And a lack of biodiversity isn't just an academic concern, there are very real consequences if we get to the point of runaway extinction because the biosphere collapses. It's happened before. It's up to us to stop it from happening again.

The point is, we're changing our world at an alarming rate. Climate change is just one more injury we've inadvertently inflicted on what may be one of the most astonishing planets in the universe.

To those that deny climate change, I say, hey, so did I. Don't be close minded. The same scientific method that brought you the computer you're looking at right now has led us to understand the very real impact carbon emissions are having on the atmosphere and the detrimental impact a rise in temperature has for life on this planet. It's time for us to grow up and take responsibility for our actions.

EEG: How are your stories typically born?

PC: Coming up with some crazy idea is generally the easy part. It's the execution that is tough, building a quasi-credible plot with realistic characters.

I love hard science fiction, which essentially means there's no magic hand-waving to get characters out of trouble. In the movie Star Trek: Into Darkness, there's a scene where Kirk is on the Klingon home world and has desperate need of some engineering advice. He flips open his handheld communicator and talks with Scotty in real-time back in a bar on Earth, even though the two worlds are separated by dozens of light years! As much as I loved that movie, that scene was lazy writing. I'd use a situation like that to force Kirk into thinking laterally. Sure, he'd bemoan the absence of Scotty, but that would make him dig deeper for answers, and THAT makes for a better story.

EEG: You just published My Sweet Satan: can you tell us a bit about this book?

PC: My Sweet Satan is not satanic. It's not a horror. It's a thriller set around the idea that First Contact is not going to be intuitive or easy.

We struggle communicating with people from different countries and cultures. We can't hope to hold a conversation with a dolphin, an octopus or a cuttlefish, and yet all of which display remarkable problem solving skills. That makes me think that First Contact is going to be fraught with difficulty and the potential for misunderstandings. My Sweet Satan is about how a First Contact mission could go horribly wrong, but as with all my writing, it ends on a high. I think it's pretty good, but I'm probably a bit biased :)

EEG: What are you currently working on and what's next on your publishing agenda?

PC: My two girls (12 & 14) asked me to write stories for them, so I'm venturing into some young adult fiction with my next two novellas: Things We Left Behind & Mister Fluffy Bunny.

Things We Left Behind explores the world of a teenaged girl struggling to cope with the zombie apocalypse. It's a story of hope against insurmountable odds.

Mister Fluffy Bunny might sound like a children's story book, but it's about a young girl in a Mexican orphanage caught in the middle of a drug war.

I think teens and adults alike will enjoy these stories. They're a departure from my normal hard science fiction, but are thoroughly enjoyable nonetheless.

EEG: Aw, that's so nice that they asked you. My kids are the same age as yours and after telling them that no, they can't read my adult thrillers, I, too, decided to write something appropriate for their age. Except so far it looks like they are still more interested in my adult thrillers than the YA I'm writing. Go figure.

If you were to travel on a spaceship, what's the first place you'd go see?

PC: Earth.

Seriously, we have such an astonishing planet with an incredible array of diversity, from the Himalayas to the Sahara, from the arctic circle to the rainforests of South America. We live in the jewel of the crown. I'd love to see the rings of Saturn, the great spot on Jupiter, the ice volcanoes of Enceladus, but as breathtaking as they would be, I don't know that you can top Earth. Without exception, the Apollo astronauts that walked on the Moon all marveled at the view of Earth, and that's quite profound when you think about it. These men had the opportunity to walk on another celestial body, but they marveled at the small blue sphere we call home. I think our wanderlust will take us to the far flung corners of our solar system and beyond, but Earth is without a doubt the #1 destination and we're already here!

EEG: Best answer ever. :-)

Thanks so much Peter for chatting with us today!

PC: Thank you for inviting me to be a part of your blog.

You can find Peter on Twitter and Facebook and a full list of his novels is on Amazon.



Saturday, November 22, 2014

Sunday Snippet: a new project




From AKAELA (the Mayake Chronicles Book 1), opening lines:
My right foot slips and for a moment I lose my grip. I dangle from my right arm, peek down at the void below and swallow. Crap, I think. Pebbles skid down from where my foot has scraped the rock. They tumble and patter along the boulder and it seems like a small eternity has passed before they finally thud at the bottom of the gorge.
The horses thump their hooves and whinny. I can smell their impatience.

“You ok?” Athel shouts, his voice amplified by the narrow space etched between the walls of rock.
I search for a new crevice, stick my right foot in it and lift myself up.

My bare fingers brush against the gravel. A harsh sun peeks down, the sky a pale blue hazed by the smoke of distant fires. I stretch one hand up and grope for a new handhold. After a while I stop thinking about the void below me and climbing becomes automatic: firm grasp in the hands, right foot in crevice, lift. I no longer pay attention to my split nails or my bleeding fingers. All I want is up, up to the top of the cliff.

“It's a stupid idea, Akaela,” Athel says, and even though he’s not yelling, his voice booms across the gorge.
“You wait and see,” I reply.
You wait and see.

Today’s the day, I feel it. The wind is right, the air currents are perfect. They blow against the cliff side of the mesa, producing a lift upward at the ridge. I raise my eyes and spot our trained falcon, Kael, circling the sky, showing me the thermals, columns of hot air I need to ride in order to make my flight last longer.

Today’s the day I will rise so high I’ll see the other side of the mesa.

I reach the top of the ridge and climb over the edge.

My knees are scraped, my hands are cut and bleeding, and yet as soon as I stand over the verge—the gorge below opening into the valley ahead—I get giddy with excitement.

The mesa looms hundreds of feet above the Yatelan plane, the land our father the Kawa River has given us to inhabit. The river travels across the mesa and then drops into our land, dissipating into the majestic beauty of the Bridal Veil Waterfalls. If rise on my toes I can see them in the distance, the mist created by the water as it plunges down refracting into a million rainbows.

I smell the waterfall, the forest, the river. I smell the freedom of the wind in my hair and the sweat of the horses, waiting at the bottom of the gorge. Taeh whinnies, her hooves thumping against dry sand. Impatiently.

I scan the horizon: Kael’s shadow draws black circles over the fields. The winds are blowing the smoke west, toward the Tower. The forest brims with tension, naked trees retracing the snaking path of the river. I raise a hand and feel the ridge lift blowing up.
“On the count of three,” I say, stepping away from the brim. “One…”
“You’re crazy,” Athel mutters, yet I know from the stomping I hear that he’s mounted his horse Maha. He’s ready, too.
“Two…”

Five more steps backwards, then I spread my arms and run.

“Threeee!” I yell and dive off the cliff, wind whipping into my face.
That moment when time stops, suspended in the breeze, that brief moment when I could crush down and die and yet I know I won’t.
That moment when I’m as alive as any creature could ever be. Because I feel.
And yet I’m not human. And I’m not robot.
I’m both.
The above is my Sunday snippet submission for the Weekend writer Warriors (you can find the Snippet Sunday group on Facebook, too). Make sure you check out all Weekend writer Warriors participants, it's a fun way to find forthcoming books -- all genres welcome, there's something for everyone's tastes.

Thanks for stopping by!

Friday, November 21, 2014

Influences from Michael Ende, German painters, and invisible dragons: Stefan Bolz reveals the inspiration behind his children's books



Today's guest author is quite special, as he was born and raised in Germany, and it wasn't until he came to the US that somebody told him he should really be writing. And I'm glad he followed the advice! Stefan Bolz is the author of The Fourth Sage and The Three Feathers, and yes, he writes in English, which is a huge relief, isn't it? ;-)

Please join me in welcoming Stefan to the blog!

EEG: You were born and raised in Germany: what brought you to the US and where you already reading books in English as a child or did you start when you moved to the US? And in particular, when did you start writing in English?

SB: I came to the States for the first time in 1996 for a three-month retreat in the Catskill Mountains in upstate New York. Most of what I knew about the U.S. was through movies and TV shows like Knight Rider (haha, I know) and The Cosby Show. I remember watching Twin Peaks in English with German subtitles a few years before I got here. The first time I set foot into a diner - it was the famous Roscoe Diner on route 17 about two hours north west of New York City - I thought, wow, this is just like on Twin Peaks. And the apple pie was just as delicious as Special Agent Dale Cooper in Twin Peaks had promised. I met my now ex-wife during this retreat and moved here permanently in January of 1997. As you might now, there is something utterly liberating in condensing your life to two suitcases and a bicycle, even if you do it only once.

I never read anything in English besides textbooks for English class in school. Not sure when you started taking English in Italy but we have English as a main subject beginning with fifth grade. Also, about 98 percent of our music is exactly the same as in the U.S., so we all grew up on Blondie, AC/DC, and Rapper's Delight. That makes it a bit easier to learn the language as you basically listen to it all day. I knew every word of the lyrics to Meat Loaf's Bat out of Hell when I was fifteen. And then, of course, you have those instances when you hear something in a song that is so completely different from what it actually says. Journey's "walking down the boulevard" becomes "hold on to the boulevard" which changes the whole thing into a very different experience, like being drunk in Vegas.

I started writing in English when I went to college here in the U.S. in 1998. One of my early writing teachers encouraged me to write. I was very surprised, as nobody had ever told me that in Germany. I love to read German literature and we went through all the classics in school - Schiller, Goethe, Hesse, and so on. I remember my dad reading to me at night from those tiny books that were available back then. I think Reader's Digest had published them. They weren't larger than two by three inches and the font was miniscule. But it had all the major classic poems in them. I think even though you can't take the language with you to another country, you can take the sense of rhythm, the imagery, and the feel for what sounds good and what doesn't, and that stays with you. At least it stayed with me.

I began to write more frequently around 1999. My first project started as a novel but turned very quickly into a screenplay because all I saw where camera angles. I love to read and have read a lot during my teens and twenties but my true passion is movies. I wrote four screenplays (one of them almost got optioned), then a good amount of poetry, essays, and shorts before I began and finished my first novel.

EEG: You have several books out now. Tell us a little bit about them.

SB: The Three Feathers, my first one, is a fable for adults and children. In it, Joshua, a young rooster, wakes up one morning with the realization that there must be more to life than the coop and, more importantly, that there must be more to himself than what he thinks he is. One day, he musters all his courage and flies out of the pen - and into an adventure that will change his life and the lives of everyone he meets. One reviewer said it was "Lord of the Rings with critters." I'm very honored! :-) I loved every minute of the writing process and very often felt like a kid in a candy store as I discovered where the story was going. I realized at one point that all of my subsequent books - the ones that are out already and the ones I have yet to write - all have but one goal: to bring the reader to The Three Feathers.

In the midst of writing that one, I began to think that this was not only an adventure story but also a spiritual journey. As I have been on a spiritual path for at least half my life, I thought it might be helpful for some readers to find out about the symbolism in the story and how they translate to our own quest for meaning in this world. I called the book The Dawning of the True Self, just because I believe that every spiritual journey, independent of its specific language and path, has as its goal to help us find who and what we are in truth. To give you an example, in The Three Feathers, Joshua and his companions enter a world called Hollow's Gate in which the laws of nature as they know them, are suspended. Time flows differently there, your friends become your foes, and danger lurks at every turn. I always felt that Hollow's Gate in The Three Feathers was not unlike our unconscious mind which we inadvertently come in contact with, once we are on a spiritual quest of some sorts. The Dawning of the True Self is a very personal book and I don't really push it very much because of that. Read at your own risk :-).

When I had finished writing The Three Feathers, I had a few more lines in my head but didn't know what to do with them. Eventually I wrote them down. That was basically what you can now find in the first paragraph of The Fourth Sage, a YA sci/fi fantasy thriller where a fifteen-year-old girl fights a ruthless corporation in a dystopian world. I loved writing this book even though there was not a single writing day where I wasn't overcome with doubt about my ability to go through with it. I'm sure you don't know at all what I'm talking about ;-)

The other book that is out already is a paranormal / dark fantasy novella called Dark World. This one is about an angel, hell bent (pardon the pun) on revenge after humans kill her daughter. It's about the notion that love can be covered over by all kinds of dark emotions and that if we give into hatred and rage, we forget the love that is underneath. The angel forgets her daughter's name in the process of taking revenge and because of that, she can't remember where she came from and who she is. I adapted Dark World from a screenplay I had written about ten years ago. It's dark and bloody and beautiful because it describes what happens if an otherwise pure being slips toward the darkness and how she can possibly be brought back before the world as we know it, ends with her.

In stark contrast to that one is Georgia and the Dragon, a children's book that is about to be published (December 2014). I had a real estate client who has a daughter named Georgia. My client posted a quote from her daughter on Facebook and I thought this might be the beginning of a really sweet story. The quote goes something like this: "Whenever I'm supposed to be napping, what I'm really doing is listening to my Dragon tell me about the time he learned how to fly." Georgia, in the story, is six years old and she and her invisible friend, Dragon (a dragon the size of a Labrador retriever), have many adventures together.

EEG: Oh, that is sweet indeed! Can't wait to read it! Since you are from Germany and you write YA, I have to ask you about one of my all time favorite children author: Michael Ende. Having read The Fourth Sage, I confess that I did find some of Ende's influences in the story, whether it was intentional or not on your part. Have you read Ende's books as a child?

SB: Guilty as charged. I LOVED Never Ending Story as a child. I remember the feeling of wanting to stay in the book rather than coming back out to reality. I think it would be a really cool exercise for us writers to go back into the stories we have written and see what the influences had been and where it all came from. I know that several items from Michael Ende's books made it into my stories. Most of it was unconscious though. For example, in The Three Feathers, there is a huge turtle. I'm pretty sure this came out of Never Ending Story. But then there is a scene in The Three Feathers where the companions are attacked by Hyenas. I had no clue how they had gotten into the story until this summer on a trip to Germany, when my sister handed me a book we had read as children. There was a drawing of a rooster attacking a hyena. That was amazing. I didn't even remember that book. But my subconscious evidently did. Ende wrote another very influential book, called Momo. In Momo, there are those gray men who live on borrowed time from regular people and Momo, a young child, has to get the time back from them.

Speaking about influences, you might know Hans-Werner Sahm. He is a German painter of surrealism. In most of his paintings, the natural laws as we know them, are suspended. They have always touched that part of me that longed to not be bound by the laws of nature. I remember as a child dreaming about swimming under water while being able to breathe, or fly. When I took writing classes, I had learned that story can be driven either by character or by plot. I think we should add location to that list. Sahm's paintings inspired me to let my mind go further and break the barriers of the plot/character principle. If you look at some of his scenes, you can get a sense of limitlessness and that, beyond what we think is real, there is another place we might want to explore. The Three Feathers is very heavily driven by those locations and the magic in the story comes, in part, from that.

EEG: Momo is my favorite of Ende's books! As a child, I wanted to be Momo. :-)

What are you currently working on?

SB: I'm working on a few secret projects right now. They are very exciting but I can't talk about them quite yet. Besides those, I have two projects going on. One is the sequel to The Fourth Sage, called The Fourth Sage - Revelations. After that, there is another one planned, called The Fourth Sage - Battle for Earth. You can guess what this one is about :-). Behind that in the line-up is a story called The Second Searcher which is actually the prequel to The Three Feathers. When it's all said and done (and written), I will hopefully have five books that are all part of the Circularity Saga, an interconnected series of books that span over a few thousands of years.

The other story I'm working on is called A Path Across Time. That one is based on the first screenplay I had written way back when. It's a love story. This, together with The Fourth Sage - Revelations - will come out next year. As you have read Fourth Sage, I should probably tell you one or two things from the book, right? When I was in my teens and early twenties and up until this day, I loved movies and stories where the main character had to learn his or her special skill. Luke Skywalker went through Jedi Training, Spiderman learned how to shoot spider webs and climb up buildings, the Karate Kid learned Kung Fu, and G.I. Jane became a Navy Seal. The Fourth Sage - Revelations is basically just that. Before the backdrop of an impending and massive Alien invasion on earth, Aries, Max, C.J.k and the others have to develop their latent skills to get ready for the battle for earth. I am SO excited about that book, especially because of all the locations, like Mongolia, the Arctic Circle, Malmoe in Sweden, a small island outside of Japan, the Max Planck Institute for Advance Physics in Germany, and so on. It'll be AWESOME! At least for me :-)

I'm very honored to also have given the opportunity to write the foreword to The Alien Chronicles, the next Anthology in The Future Chronicles. Produced by Samuel Peralta, it will come out in December. Last but not least, Georgia and the Dragon, the children's book I mentioned above, is coming out December 1st as paperback and for the kindle. I look forward to that one. It's a chapter book of bed-time stories about a six-year-old girl and her invisible friend, a dragon. I had lots of fun writing it.


EEG: I often joke that being bilingual, in my case, doesn't mean that I'm fluent in two languages, rather, that I can no longer speak either language perfectly. On the other hand, there's an enrichment that comes from not only being bilingual but being bicultural. In your case, how has this bilingual/bicultural growth enriched your stories?

SB: Basically, me being bilingual gives my editor a good time. I'm here to entertain, so why not him? Whether I go out on a limp instead of limb, drop the whale vs the veil, or write other hysterical nonsense that just basically sounds right to me and nobody else, I like to inundate my editor with challenging material. I really don't know why he agreed to work with me. David Antrobus, you're the best, my man!

I remember my sister-in-law who helped me with The Three Feathers, wrote numerous small notes trying to make me understand, for example, that water, not air, gushes and many other small errors that would have been really funny if left in the book. But I think I can draw a lot from my life in Germany and include that in my stories. I never went to college over there but learned my trade in a printing press manufacturing company. A kind of foreboding, perhaps? :-) I learned everything from electrical stuff to welding, pneumatic, any kind of metal work like forging, etc, wood working, and turnery. Not only is that such a helpful education to have for real life, it also helped me quite a bit with my writing. In The Fourth Sage, for example, Aries works in Electrical in the high rise she lives in. I know how her feet feel in her steel reinforced boots, how the weight of the tool belt is distributed, what metal dust or a solder iron smells like, etc. That makes for a rich writing - and hopefully reading - experience. On the other hand, I'm missing a lot of vocabulary that others have. I am in awe, by the way, of your writing, Elena. I have started Gene Card and I love how you use words. I could never do that, I think. Really cool. So, my one regret is that I wish I'd have a few thousand more words at my disposal without looking them up in the thesaurus each time.

EEG: Hahaha, how funny, I do stuff like that with idioms all the time! Though my favorite stories are about my kids translating literally from English to Italian. I'm saving the best ones to embarrass them on their wedding day. :-)

Anything else you would like to add?

SB: Please check out my YouTube channel. I am in the process of putting ALL my books on YouTube, read by yours truly. So, if you can stand my voice, The Three Feathers is already there in its entirety. Fourth Sage is getting there and Georgia and the Dragon will be part of a 'read aloud' series so kids can just listen to me rather than their parents while playing, etc.

EEG: I've heard your voice on Hank's podcast and it's a beautiful voice! Your German accent is really slight and unless one knows you're German, it is easily missed. Unlike, er, yours sincerely ... 

Thanks so much for chatting with us, Stefan!

To learn more about Stefan and his books, check out his author page on Amazon, or visit him on his blog/website and on his Facebook page.



Thursday, November 20, 2014

Celebrate Imagination: win free books and take advantage of a unique promotion

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What is Celebrate Imagination? It's a new event including a party and epic book sale for Science Fiction and Fantasy lovers. On November 20th, 26 authors will be hosting a facebook event to kick off the holiday season. We'll be giving away ebooks, paperbacks, audiobooks and other goodies. One lucky winner will receive a Kindle Paperwhite chock full of science fiction and fantasy novels. We'll also be doing our favorite thing, talking to readers!

In addition to giveaways, we will have dozens of books listed at huge discounts and for free. They run the gamut including paranormal, space opera, fantasy, post-apocalyptic, dystopian, cyberpunk, and techno thrillers. For a sneak peek at our entire catalog, the sales we'll be offering and to grab a few free reads to tide you over until then, visit Celebrate Imagination.

Tell your friends, come to the party, win great stuff. Most of all, it’s a celebration of the science fiction and fantasy stories we all love. We’ll have reviewers, bloggers, podcasters, readers, and authors all mingling and getting our geek on.


Join us on facebook here to get all the latest goodies, find out when your favorite authors will be hanging out, and meet other Science Fiction and Fantasy fans! Don't forget to enter to win the Kindle Paperwhite stocked with great novels, the entry form is below and will be active November 20-22!


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Monday, November 17, 2014

"I love stories of redemption": author Hank Garner talks about his path to writing and publishing


I met today's guest author, Hank Garner, through his Author Stories Podcasts: every week Hank interviews a new author in a very casual, yet informative way. Through the podcasts I've gotten to know the many different approaches to writing and publishing, and I've discovered new books I otherwise wouldn't have known of. Including Hank's own Bloom, a story where "Love, loss, friendship, and betrayal play out against the backdrop of the deep South." Hank is a great guy to talk to, and I had the pleasure and honor to be one of his guests: you can find the podcasts here. We chatted about plotting, characters, and the many joys and woes of publishing.

Welcome to Chimeras, Hank!

EEG: You've always been writing but it isn't until a few years ago that you started "to write down the stories that I have carried around in my head for years" (quoting from your bio). What was the spark that started this?

HG: My dream was always to be a writer. Since I was a small boy I would make up stories, and growing up in the rural South, I learned quickly to entertain myself.

As an adult, I have pursued writing, but in different ways. I wrote a column for my local newspaper, blogged, and published in various other short forms, so I have been writing for years, just not fiction writing. Writing fiction was always something that seemed far off in the distance, but I always knew that one day I would sit down and start writing down my stories.

In the summer of 2013 my wife and I started talking about this story that I had an idea for. For a lot of different reasons, I felt like I was ready to tell this story. The time just seemed right. I wrote out the first couple of pages of what would become Bloom. I got a feeling for the main characters and walked around with them in my head for a while and last November I signed up for NaNoWriMo and wrote over 50000 words of that book. Over the next few months I revised, cut and added to it and then published it in March of this year.

EEG: If you were to find a common thread across your books and stories, what would it be?

HG: I love stories of redemption. I believe in the innate goodness of people. Sometimes we don't live up to our potential as humans, but I think there is always hope. If I were to nail down a common thread in my writing, it would have to be hope and redemption. I don't want to become so cynical that I don't believe that people can be better than they are.

EEG: You have a large family (congratulations!): how does this inspire your stories?

HG: My family are my alpha and beta readers. I run everything past them. My wife Dawn is my first line. She is the one I bounce ideas off of, and one of her best traits is that she is brutally honest. Always. She is not afraid to tell me if an idea is terrible, or if the idea is good, but needs something more.

I also read everything I write out loud to my children. They range in age from 19 to 10, so they provide feedback from their varied perspectives. I get many ideas from them. If you pay attention around children you can learn a lot. Children have the ability to see the wonder and magic in the world that most of us adults have lost.

EEG: They certainly do! In fact I finally decided to start a YA story and I'm trying to get my kids involved. And I know they can be brutally honest (that's the best part about getting the family involved), too, so it'll be interesting to see how that goes. ;-)

Can you tell us a bit about your job as an IT tech: has this inspired any of your stories?

HG: I have worked in the IT industry my entire adult life. I have also worked in radio and television production, which I think has helped my story telling. As far as it inspiring my stories, I am not sure. My stories are surprisingly low tech for a person that has been programming computers since I was ten years old. My stories are all based in a small fictional Mississippi town called Weston. Weston is a typical small southern town, but for reasons that will become clearer in later books, strange things happen. Fantasy meets small town life is how I would describe it.

EEG: Tell us about you current writing project.

HG: My current project is called Mulligan. Mulligan is nearly finished and will be out in the next few weeks. It is the story of a man that finds himself in a time that is not his own, and with no memory of his former life. The book combines time travel, psychic powers with very real human struggles like pride and arrogance, racism, greed and selfishness. Mulligan is a tale of time travel and second chances.

EEG: Sounds intriguing, can't wait to read it! Thanks so much Hank for talking with us today!

Don't forget to check out Hank's Author Stories Podcasts, you'll find many authors you already know and new ones you'll want to go check out their books and discover their work. To find out more about Hank's books visit his website and Amazon author page.



Saturday, November 15, 2014

The Chimeras audio book is almost here! And here's how I'm celebrating....



Thanks to the awesome team of Nick and Gabriel Grant at Rook Productions, and the talented D. Joseph Fenaughty who did a fantastic job narrating Track's first adventure, the audio book of Chimeras is about to hit the virtual book shelves. I am SO excited!

You can preview the book here:



Unfortunately I don't have a link to share yet because we just uploaded it and now we are waiting for the ACX to do what they call their "pre-flight quality controls." We were told it takes 2-3 weeks. I'll definitely post as soon as the link goes live.

In the meantime, let's kick off this launch with some celebrations.

Sign up to my newsletter for a chance to win a signed paperback copy of Chimeras: that's right, anyone subscribed to my newsletter is automatically entered in this giveaway. So, if you haven't signed up yet, click here. :-)  I will draw one winner on November 30.  The winner will be contacted via email and will agree to provide a mailing address for the paper copy. 


You haven't read the Kindle edition of Chimeras? You've read Chimeras but still need to download your copy of the sequel Mosaics? Are you looking for a gift for the Kindle addict in your family? For this coming week only, Chimeras is on sale at $0.99 (regular $2.99) and Mosaics is at $1.99 (regular $4.99).




A Readers Favorite Book Award Winner and a New Mexico-Arizona Book Award Finalist, Chimeras is the first in the Track Presius mystery series, a detective thriller where crimes revolve around medical research.


Get Chimeras at the sale price of $0.99 only.
Get Mosaics at the sale price of $1.99 only.
Buy the audio book.

CHIMERAS (a Track Presius Mystery)
Haunted by the girl he couldn't save in his youth, and the murder he committed to avenge her, Detective Track Presius has a unique gift: the vision and sense of smell of a predator. When a series of apparently unrelated murders reel him into the depths of genetic research, Track feels more than a call to duty. Children are dying -- children who, like himself, could have been healthy, and yet something, at some point, went terribly wrong. For Track, saving the innocent becomes a quest for redemption. The only way he can come to terms with his dark past is to understand his true nature.