Debunking myths on genetics and DNA

Musings on writing, genetics and photography. My debut novel CHIMERAS, a hard-boiled mystery with a genetic twist, is now available on Amazon.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

The appeal of textures (an improvised tutorial)

Memories © EEG
Reaching for the Sky © EEG
Gratitude © EEG
I just got back from a trip to Europe, where I definitely re-bonded with my camera. One thing I discovered in this trip are textures. I'm really grateful for photographers like Karen Waters (I used one of Karen's textures for the image in the middle, Reaching for the Sky), Joel Olives and Brooke Shaden, who are so generous to regularly share their textures (check their websites to see what awesome textures they have!), and I've been thinking for a while now to start making my own library of textures and sharing it. And this trip gave me the opportunity: you wouldn't believe how rich in textures old Europe is! But before we get into that, I wanted to also share a few things I've learned about textures.

What are textures?

A texture is a layer that you overlay to a picture to give it a special mood and/or vintage feel. In my experience, old walls are the best candidates for textures. A texture also helps blending when compositing several pictures together.

Why use textures?

I personally use textures when I want my picture to convey certain emotions. Another super talented photographer I follow is Sairam Sundaresan, who teaches a G+ mentorship titled "Storytelling through Landscape Photography." While I haven't been able to attend his mentorship (shame on me!), the title has always intrigued me. (On a side note Sairam shares lots of tips on landscape photography in his blog). How do you tell stories with just a landscape? Over this last trip I learned that in order to make an image that is not only beautiful, but also tells a story, you have to shoot your subject in a way that it poses a question and/or captures a particularly emotional moment. I also learned that textures can definitely add, and even change, the emotional appeal of the image.

The pictures I posted above are an example. Each image above is trying to convey a sense of suspension in time and, hopefully, raise a question in the viewer and a bit of wonder. I believe the same images, without the overlaying textures, would not achieve that.

And now to the key point: How do you use textures?

I am a self-taught photographer, so I'll share the textures I've shot and my own way of using them. You can download a set of 30 textures I collected from various parts of Italy and Scotland from this public album. Please use the textures for your own work and, like all of my images, keep in mind that these images too are to be used in agreement with a non-commercial creative commons attribution.

These textures are "raw" and minimally edited. This is because I like to edit them after I overlay them on the image I'm working on, not before. Every image is different, and the same texture can be edited in different ways according to the image I'm making. Specifically, here's what I do: I pick a texture that I believe will work with my background image. I make the decision based on color (I choose a palette that enhances the base image; for example a pink/orange for a sunset, green for foliage, etc.) and lighting (I ask myself: where do I want the highlights to be?). Because my textures are quite rough, once I overlay them (in Photoshop Elements, just copy and paste the texture as a new layer, then choose blending mode "Overlay"), I usually add some degree of gaussian blur to smoothen them and make them blend onto the base image better. This is done by clicking on Filter -> Blur -> Gaussian Blur. Next, I look at the overall feel of the image. If the texture is too much, I decrease the opacity a bit. If there are areas that are too patchy or where the texture feels like it's adding noise, I blend it down with the clone stamp. And if the image doesn't feel quite done yet, I add another texture. It's all really about playing around with your image until you get a result that you like.

What about you, do you enjoy using textures? And if you do, how do you use them?

Feel free to download the textures from my album and if you do use them, come back to show me the result! :-)

Monday, July 21, 2014

Summer discount on prints from my gallery

Gratidude © EEG 2014

I just uploaded a bunch of new pictures to my smugmug galleries and to celebrate I'm offering a 25% off discount on all purchases: the coupon code is JULY2014 and it's valid until July 31. You can view the new uploaded images (including the one above) in the following galleries:

Waterscapes (landscapes)
Stories (landscapes with an emotional appeal)
New Beginnings (abstracts)
Flowers (macros)

I also have some posters available here.

Thanks so much for visiting my gallery!

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Writing, science and photography merge in the works of F.C. "Chip" Etier

My last author interview was with scientist, writer and Navy Commander, Ann Christy. Today, I feel equally excited as my guest is a scientist, writer, and an award winning photographer. F.C., a.k.a. "Chip", Etier began writing essays, and music and book reviews as a freelance several years ago. Today, he is a regular blogger at and the author of The Barry-Hixon Conspirecy series.

Welcome to the blog, Chip!

EEG: You are a pharmacist, a published writer, and an award-winning photographer: what came first in your career path?

FCE: In chronological order, I grew up with a camera in my hand. I was the pesky kid at family events taking pictures of everyone.

Professionally, pharmacy came first. It wasn’t until later in life, when I was in my fifties, that I was able to afford some first class digital cameras. I switched to digital just after the turn of the century after using up my previous budget on black and white film. Once I had begun selling my photographs online, I began to blog about them.

Venture Galleries offered me a chance to sell my images on their site and support them with blog articles. They liked my blogs and said, “If you write a book, we’ll publish it.”

EEG: What a great opportunity! Does your photography influence your writing and/or vice versa, do your stories ever influence your photography?

FCE: Yes, and in both directions. Critics and customers have praised various of my images as “poetry” and “he writes poems with a camera.”

Most, if not all, of the scenes in my books are set in real places. Since I blog regularly on my publisher’s website, I take photos of the settings and often decide to include settings I’ve already photographed in one of my books.

EEG: What about science: do you ever get inspiring ideas from science?

FCE: Yes. Any concept or principle must make sense to me. My parents taught me to think using logic and by asking questions. In high school, the scientific method became a natural for me. I tend to think in a linear fashion while making a conscious effort to accept non-linear (more creative) ideas to seep into the process. I write the same qualities into many of my characters.

The main character in two of my books is a baby boomer female professional assassin. She has a degree in group dynamics, so in addition to using the science of trajectory, gravity, and sighting her rifles, she has learned to predict target movement by the study of human behavior.

Science is as important in the life and work of Claudia Barry as it is to everyone. Not everyone realizes it as much as she.

EEG: Tell us more about the Barry-Hixon Conspiracy books: where did you get the idea from? What plans do you have in mind for this series?

FCE: When I decided to write a book, I began by choosing a market. Maybe that’s backwards, but I decided that baby boomers would be a lucrative market in addition to the fact that I’m a boomer, too. Next, the idea of a role-reversal appealed to me. Perhaps readers would identify with a middle-aged woman in a non-traditional role. Claudia Barry became my main character, a professional assassin thinking about retiring after over thirty years of killing.

Future plans for the series are based on a “wait and see” approach. The second and third books evolved from the first. No doubt future books will be spawned from some combination of events and characters in the first three or four.

EEG: Do you have any other stories coming up, besides the Barry-Hixon Conspiracy?

FCE: Characters and groups of characters offer opportunities for spin-offs from the current series of books. Short stories and books that would be either prequels or sequels are no doubt lurking somewhere in the recesses of my keyboard just waiting on my fingers to find them.

EEG: Thanks so much for stopping by the blog today, Chip!

You can find F.C. "Chip" Etier on Venture Galleries, Zenfolio, Amazon, Blogger, and Twitter. More of his photographic work can also be found here.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Hard science and discipline: Ann Christy talks about her new book release, Strikers

You know I always get excited when I interview a fellow scientist who's also a writer. Well, today I feel like I won the jackpot because my guest is not only a scientist and a published author, she's also a Navy Commander who gets to do her science on ships out at sea! Meet Ann Christy, author of the Silo 49 series (based on Hugh Howey's Wool saga). Ann has a brand new book out today, Strikers, and even from the gorgeous cover alone you can't help but fall in love with it.

Congratulations on your new book release, Ann, and welcome to CHIMERAS!

EEG: I don't get to talk to a Navy Commander every day, so I have to ask: how did you choose to get into the Navy and why?

AC: I always wanted to be in the Navy. Always. Even as a little girl I would wear my little sailor dress and march around. The sea, the boats, the whole was just what I was meant to do. Also, I wanted to be Spock on the Enterprise, so being a scientist in the Navy is the closest I can get.

The only hang up was that as a teenager, I realized I was far (and by far, I mean really far) too young, too headstrong and too irresponsible to go to college to become an officer. So, I chose enlisted because I felt like it would teach me the concept of being a follower.

Up to that point, I had just flung myself to the forefront of situations, so I didn't have a good grasp of (or very balanced approach to) leadership. There's more to being a leader than simply bossing people around through force of will or personality.

I learned what it meant to be at the bottom of the stack, to be told what to do when I didn't want to do it and to see the reason behind order. It is, without doubt, the most important lesson I ever learned. I went to college at night (during periods when I wasn't working mass overtime) and then, when I felt I was ready, I applied to be an officer. The rest is history.

And here's a bonus. You know all that stuff you see in the advertisements for the Navy, the cool scenery at sea and big ships and such? It's all true. Big, fast and far away. Good stuff.

EEG: What kind of science do you do? Do you get inspired from science?

AC:  I've got degrees in Marine Science (focusing on estuarine ecosystems, very small plants and bio-chemistry) and my advanced degrees are on the physics side of that house, specifically in Oceanography and Meteorology. I do use all of that, plus more, in my work for the Navy.

And yes, science is a passion, not just a job. You could almost say it is a calling. It inspires me every day in writing, but also in life. It raises questions that demand answers and makes life much more fulfilling for me. I do strive for some sense of reasonable possibility when I write science fiction, never forgetting the science part of it. :)

EEG: Is writing an escape from your every day world or, rather, is it inspired by your every day world?

AC: That's hard to say, really. I purposefully don't include anything remotely like our military in anything I write. For me, that separation must remain very clear and very defined.

But still, there is life outside of the military and there is inspiration there. In finding that inspiration, I'm also escaping into a whole new world, created in my head and being formed by the words I type out. It's a heady feeling to do that, which you've experienced for yourself.

In some ways, my work is very directly a result of things I see or hear or experience. My first four books were actually a different take (using a different silo) on the WOOL series by Hugh Howey. With his permission, of course. I decided to see what might happen if a few crucial people could be made into good people rather than bad ones. I asked the questions, what would people who are intrinsically good do? In that way, my experience reading WOOL inspired me to write at all.

A new series I'm working on, which I'm tentatively calling Good News Gone Bad is inspired by several things in the real world. I'm a news junkie. I feel blind if I don't know what's going on but I purposefully read stories from multiple sites in order to get at some middle truth (if that's even possible).

What I noticed was that more and more news stories were simply filled with comments about how everything (and by that I mean mostly political stuff) was the end of all reason and the universe. Seriously.

So, when I was reading stories about tech breakthroughs or medical advancements or science, I realized those sort of doomish comments were largely absent. I thought... well, how can we make this doomish? Voila, the series was born.

Basically, I take the best news stories in those categories and turn them totally dystopian, post-apocalyptic or what have you. It's good clean fun and in that way, it's is both inspired by life and escaping from it.

EEG: Tell us about your new book, Strikers: what was the inspiration for this story? is it a stand-alone or book 1 in a new series?

AC: Oh, it's a complete novel in and of itself. I hate it when I read a book only to find out I'm not getting any resolution at all so I won't do that to others. That said, it is also wide open for two more books, with each offering a complete resolution to the story at hand. I actually have a totally marked up giant map of North America, the islands and Mexico that maps out the entire saga.

Strikers was born from a question in my mind and a slight dissatisfaction. I'm a huge dystopian and post-apocalyptic world fan. Hugely addicted to that stuff. But I'm repeatedly disappointed by the sheer unlikelihood of the situations. I won't name books here, but some things just won't happen. And often, the science behind them is almost laughable and that irritates me, even when I enjoy the book.

So, with the help of my niece and some awesome appetizers one evening, I set out to create a post-apocalyptic (long past so not so apocalyptic anymore) dystopia that made sense. It had to be born of a reasonable seed planted in the modern world today.

Enter Strikers. It takes place in the Republic of Texas, 112 years after the Fall (of the United States). Texas isn't much on crime and rather than have prisons full of folks, there is simply an immediate death penalty for crimes that are "heinous in nature" such as murder, rape and other offenses.

For those crimes which are petty, the question for Texas is..."Is the criminal an Habitual Offender?" If that answer is yes, then the death penalty. If not, then the offender gets a strike tattooed onto their necks and goes about their business. The catch is, when you get your fifth strike, you're Habitual and you die.

You die unless you go Striker...meaning escape Texas...before your fifth strike. But that's a crime also.

For a lot of us in the world now, watching news of people who've been busted and let go dozens of times, creating victims at every turn, this might even seem reasonable. The problem is how that changes with time. Laws are enforced without equality of justice and a dystopia is then truly born.

Karas Quick is a sixteen year old who has basically gotten the low card in life's deal. She's poor, without many prospects and her mother is a real piece of work. But then she sees her long gone Striker father in a line of prisoners being brought back for justice and everything changes. It's a pretty wild adventure from there.

EEG: That's really intriguing. And being a hard scientist myself, I often get irritated at laughable science too. What other stories do you have on the back burner?

AC: Strikers Two (as yet untitled) is already being drafted up. I've got the previously mentioned news inspired stories teeing up.

I've got a story called PePr, Inc. coming out in a new anthology called The Robot Chronicles. It should be out within days of my Strikers release. I'm super excited about that because of the sheer talent of the other authors involved. Even the amazing Hugh Howey is going to have a story in there!

There's more because really, Elena, you know this as well as I...we've got more stories in our heads than we have years to write them.

EEG: Do you feel that the discipline imposed by your military job has helped you to be a better writer? How?

AC: In some ways, yes. In other ways, it's made it harder. Since my education is primarily in the "hard" sciences, I took the English for Science and Math majors in college rather than the more complete version needed for other fields. And all my professional writing has been mandated to be passive voice (research papers, etc).

Additionally, the military values brevity above all things. Why use 100 words to describe a beautiful day when you can just put up a green flag on the outdoor field and be done with it?

These things are not conducive to good fiction writing! So, I've had to really work on it. At the same time, I've spent more nights on the bridge of a ship creating stories in my head than most people get a chance to, so I had the material inside there. I just had to figure out the key to translating it. Like all other writers, I'll be a work in progress until the day after I stop working for good...which is to say forever.

On the upside, you said the key word yourself: discipline. I'm a very disciplined writer. If I say I'm going to, I do. And I write until I just can't anymore when I sit down and say, "Go". I've actually had to set a schedule for myself so I don't write so much I forget about other things in life.

EEG: I think that discipline is definitely a great quality for a writer. Congratulations, Ann, and best of luck with your new release!

Follow Ann Christy also on Twitter and Facebook to find out about her new book releases.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Sun Worshippers

© Elena E. Giorgi 2014. Prints available here.

Friday, July 4, 2014


Yes, I'm taking another summer hiatus. The science will resume in a few weeks. In the meantime, I leave you with a few postcards I made while visiting my family in Italy.

Hope you enjoy, wishing everyone a great summer!

EDIT: By popular demand, the doors are available for purchase as a poster on my smugmug account

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

A writer's journey

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.

It's July. I released my book, CHIMERAS, three months ago. Book 2 in the series, MOSAICS, will be out in September. I've learned and I'm still learning a lot. I generally dislike do/don't lists, but today I thought I'd share some personal considerations on how to give your best on the page.

1) Stay inspired.
2) Think outside the box.
3) Take chances, lots of them.
4) Read a lot, read different genres.
5) Break at least one rule in every book. Better yet. Follow no rules.
6) Words are your best friends: don't rush them. Love them, make them last.
7) Create your own style. You'll know you've done it right when they'll tell you they didn't like it.
8) Write characters, not stereotypes. Some will love them and some will hate them: it means they feel real.

And finally, have one beta reader shred your work to pieces. Trust me, it'll be painful and totally worth it.

Until next month, write, read and stay inspired.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

New Release: Ernie Lindsey's new book, Super

USA Today bestselling author Ernie Lindsey has a new book release today: Super -- a novel about Superheroes... and a lot more. Here's the blurb:
"A world mourning a fallen superhero.

A president targeted for assassination.

A conspiracy that runs deeper than anyone expects.

Leo Craft is the best at what he does; he assassinates superheroes, but only the ones who deserve it. Life is good, simple, until an ultra-secretive government agency hires Leo to execute two impossible tasks: eliminate the world's foremost superhero, Patriotman, and hunt down a fellow assassin whose target is the President of the United States.

When everyone wears a mask, trust is hard to come by - and even the elusive truth can be caught in a web of lies."
Isn't that intriguing? And Ernie knows "suspense" and "intrigue", as demonstrated by his bestselling thriller series Sara's Game.

To celebrate his new book release, Ernie has kindly agreed to come to CHIMERAS today to talk about his books and writing process. Welcome, Ernie!

EEG: I love the premise of your new book, Super: "Even heroes wear masks." Tell us about the inspiration behind the book and what got you to write it.

EL: I mentioned this to another friend and I feel like a walking cliché, but I actually had a dream about the plot. Or, at least the initial setup. I had very clear images of the South Korean woman in a white pantsuit, a superhero that had been murdered on a private yacht, and it had happened in the Maldives. I woke up before I found out what happened and the idea intrigued me so much, I had to drop the novel I was working on and start this one, just to see how the story played out.

EEG: How did you end up taking Oceanography classes?

EL: That was my original intended major when I first arrived at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, VA. I grew up in the mountains, but had always loved the ocean on family vacations, so I thought it would be a good way to get myself close to, or on, the water. As it turns out, I’m not that scientifically savvy, and making up fictional things in my head is far more interesting than studying things that are real.

EEG: Your books range across different genres, but all your storyline’s are very suspenseful: is suspense something that comes naturally to you?

EL: As most authors know, this isn’t easy. It can be exhausting and really wear you down having to create, create, create (even though I absolutely love it), so writing suspense is what keeps me going back to the keyboard. I love the challenge of developing a storyline where someone absolutely cannot stop turning the pages. Dan Brown did that amazingly well with The Da Vinci Code. Every chapter ended on a cliffhanger, and while I don’t necessarily model my style on his, I tend to replicate that sense of urgency as best I can.

EEG: Do you outline or are do you “go with the flow” when it comes to a new story?

EL: I write like I read, in that I have no idea what’s coming next. I completely go by the seat of my pants. I’ve tried to outline projects before, but it takes all of the fun out of it for me if I know what’s going to happen three hundred pages later. I start with a character in a whoa-what? situation and then try to find out how they got there and why. I surprise myself with plot revelations all the time. That, too, keeps me going back to the keyboard. I need to know.

EEG: Ha, me too. I don't outline ever, finding out the story as I go is the fun part! :-) 
What's your next project about?

EL: I’m nearly finished with the sequel to Warchild: Pawn, the first novel in a planned series about a dystopian future where another Civil War begins in Virginia. I had originally intended for it to be a three-book series, but I can now see that it’s going to be much, much bigger than that! Plus, one cool thing about the first book is that it’s in the Quarter-Finals of Amazon’s Breakthrough Novel Award contest. For one of my works to make it to the Top 500 out of 10,000 is amazing, even if it doesn’t squeeze its way into the next round.

EEG: Congratulations and best of luck on the next round!

Ernie Lindsey's latest book Super is out on Amazon today! And to find out more about Ernie's books and new releases, follow him on his blog, Facebook and Twitter

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Blog Hop: Paying it Forward

Fellow author and photographer F.C. Etier started a blog hop called Paying It Forward, in which tagged authors have to answer four questions and then tag another three fellow authors. I was tagged by Teresa Cypher, fellow sci-fi/fantasy writer and one of the founders of the Weekend Writing Warriors, a blog hop dedicated to sharing 8 sentences of your WIP every Sunday (it's a lot of fun: sign up to share your WIP or simply follow the links if you're looking for some awesome reads).

So, here are the questions:

What am I working on?
I just finished revising MOSAICS, Book 2 in the Track Presius Mystery series. MOSAICS will be released in September but in a few weeks I will be sending out ARCs -- free eBooks for early readers willing to write a review on Amazon. If you'd like to participate, you can read the details and sign up here. I'm also editing GENE CARDS, a mystery set in a near future, while mulling over a possible sequel.

How does my work differ from others of its genre? 
I'm a scientist, in fact, I'm more than that, I'm a science nut, and when I write, I can't keep the science away from my writing. I'll go to a seminar and find the topic so fascinating that next thing I know, a story using those concepts pops in my head. A lot of science fiction borrows concepts from science and genetics in particular, and even though the stories are terrific, most of the time the science is not plausible. I don't mean this as a critique. What I mean to say is that I believe I can offer a different point of view because I know the science in my stories is plausible and that, to me, adds a new layer to the story, as you can always ask yourself: what if this happened for real?

Why do I write what I write? 
That's a great question! I guess I like to imagine things and I ask a lot of 'What If' questions.

How does my writing process work?
Usually characters come first. I let them 'simmer' in my head so I get to know them better. Then comes a scenario, one of those 'What If' questions. And then I start to write...

Thanks again F.C. Etier for starting Paying It Forward, and Teresa Cypher for tagging me. Now I'll go tag three fellow writers to keep the blog hop going. :-)

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

A.G. Riddle, bestselling author of the Origin Trilogy, talks about the greatest mystery of all times

Last week I mentioned a number of self-published authors whose books have been extremely successful. One of such authors is A.G. Riddle, whose Origin Trilogy has now sold over half a million copies. All this in little over a year, since the first book in the series, The Atlantis Gene, was released March last year. All three books in the trilogy, The Atlantis Gene, The Atlantis Plague and The Atlantis World have been steadily in the top 10 Amazon Bestseller since their release. Wow!

I met A.G. through Facebook and I was thrilled when he kindly accepted to come over to the blog for an interview. Welcome, A.G.!

EEG: What was the inspiration for the Origin Trilogy?

AGR: I've always been fascinated by the Atlantis myth and the idea of an advanced society that collapses rapidly. I'm also curious about evolution and the recent discoveries about the human family tree. In fact, the science and anthropology is what really got me started. It was the seed.

70,000 years ago, the human race almost went extinct. A supervolcano at Mount Toba created a volcanic winter that reduced the total human population to as few as 10,000 (with only 1,000 viable mating pairs). In the 70,000 years that followed, we go from the brink of extinction to 7 billion people, conquering the globe as no species has before. To me, that's the greatest mystery of all time. We know that at the time of Toba there were at least three other hominid species (Neanderthals, Denisovans, and homo Floresiensis). There could be a half dozen others we haven't found yet. Genetically, these other humans weren't that different from us. In fact, we were more of a fledgling upstart subspecies. But after Toba, humans (homo sapiens sapiens) developed some incredibly important survival advantage. We march out of Africa and take over the planet. All the other human subspecies die out.

So I started with the core mystery: how we survived the Toba supervolcano and subsequently flourished, and tried to tell a good tale around it.

EEG: What do you find most fascinating about genetics?

AGR: The genetic difference between individual humans today is tiny (about 0.1% on average), yet that small genetic variation causes a stunning variety in our species.

EEG: Yes it is, but that's because we aren't just "genes". In the ten years I've been studying genetics I learned that besides a genome, we have a proteome and an epigenome, and all these things interact together with the environment to make who we are. No two individuals are alike because of many layers of interactions, not just genes. Some diseases don't even have a genetic cause because the cause is in the way proteins fold or in the way some genes are expressed (or not expressed).

What was the greatest challenge you had to overcome while writing the trilogy?

AGR: The early months. I felt like I had a great story, but it was better in my head and notes than it was on the page (or screen). I spent a lot of months writing, throwing out what I had, and starting again.

EEG: I hear you! Happens a lot to me too! Now that you just released the third book in the Origin trilogy, what's next for you? what are you working on?

AGR: A new series. I'm pretty excited about it but still have a lot of work to do.

EEG: What are your goals as a writer? And where would you like to be, say, ten years from now?

AGR: I just want to be producing work I'm proud of. That's how I measure my success. I hope I'm still challenging myself and telling stories I think are important.

EEG: And we certainly wish you all the success you deserve! Thanks for being with us today!

To find out more about A.G. Riddle and his future book releases, follow him on his blog, Facebook, and Twitter.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Insecure Writer's Support Group: What's up with Technothrillers?

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

I see this event, organized by the awesome Alex J. Cavanaugh, as an opportunity to share my writing drive. I'm hoping that what inspires me to overcome my fears and insecurities can help other writers as well. Last month I talked about grit. Today I want to discuss a post written by author Matthew Mather in which he shares his experience in the publishing world .

Read the whole post because it's a mind-opener: Mather tells his story, from when he was rejected by publishers, to becoming an acclaimed author (in just two years) and even selling movie rights for his last book, Cyberstorm. He's now sold foreign rights to one of the Big-5 publishers, but he still self-publishes in the US.

My first reaction after reading Mathew's post: What's up with publishers rejecting technothrillers that later go on and become bestsellers? It's become a pattern. People love technothrillers. The genre is indeed very successful, as Matthew Mather's experience is not unique. JA Konrath is another blatant example. I will be the next example. Um, did I just type that out loud?? Heh, sorry, that was wishful thinking that just overtook the keyboard. ;-) Seriously, though: AG Riddle. BV Larson. The list is LONG! All self-published, all in the top 100 Amazon bestselling lists.

Second reaction: What Matthew Mather is saying makes A LOT of sense. These days authors have to push their own promotion even when they publish traditionally. If the big publishers gave us the opportunity to just do the writing while they take of the rest (promotion in particular), then I'd have different thoughts on the matter. But today even traditionally published authors have to spend a good deal of time promoting and advertising. If this is the case, we might as well publish on our own and get a bigger chunk of the pie. After all, indie publishing is just another aspect of a global movement that's aiming at cutting the middle man: self-pubbed authors are providing their products directly to the consumer. The trend is growing and the message is clear: the consumers are loving it. They get good quality products for less than half the price.

Not convinced yet? Then go read this post, from which two points are worth highlighting:
  • "Very few authors who debut with major publishers make enough money to earn a living—and modern advances don’t cover the difference."
  • "In absolute numbers, more self-published authors are earning a living wage today than Big-5 authors."

Monday, June 2, 2014

Authors today have more bargaining power: Tracy Banghart talks about publishing and her award winning novel Shattered Veil

My guest today is an author whose story touches me because I know the struggles she went through: Tracy E. Banghart had no problem getting offers from agents and yet her books could not find a home in the traditional publishing world. Today Tracy is the award winning author of SHATTERED VEIL, the story of 18-year-old Aris Haan, a talented wingjet flyer who decides to follow her soon-to-be fiancee Calix to war. The book placed second in the IndieReader Discovery Awards and received a starred review from Publishers Weekly:
"What starts as a tale of star-crossed romance quickly evolves into a gripping page-turner, with gender roles and identity explored and questioned at every turn."
Shattered Veil is now on sale at $0.99 through June 7, so you better get your copy fast before the sale ends!

EEG: Congratulations Tracy and welcome to CHIMERAS!

TEB: Hi Elena, Thanks so much for interviewing me! I'm honored to be joining you on your blog today.

EEG: I guess the first question I have for you is to tell us your experience with agents and editors just because it's so similar to mine that it kinda makes me feel better to know that I'm not alone in this "I'm gonna prove them wrong!" battle.

TEB: You're not the first person to tell me our stories are similar. Like most authors at the time (back in 2009), when I first started pursuing publication I went the traditional route. Indie publishing hadn't really taken off yet, and I wanted the validation and expertise of a traditional publisher. I'd heard time and again that the tough part was finding an agent, and after that you're golden. NOT my experience. I received three offers of representation on my first novel within a couple of months of querying. I loved my agent -- we had a great rapport and she was super organized and good at her job. I was convinced we'd sell in no time. And. . . we didn't. Three books later, I realized that as much as I loved my agent, we weren't finding success with one another and it was time to part ways. I also realized around the same time that I'd become SO desperate for that elusive book deal that I'd been selling out my vision. I would have done anything to catch an editor's eye, even if it meant changing the fundamentals of my books. I decided to go indie because I wanted to find readers however and wherever I could. . . and because it gave me control over my career and writing in a very real and tangible way. I took another look at my three books. I reworked and revised them again, focusing on what I wanted the story to be. And I'm thrilled because it seems to be paying off! I have a lot of really exciting things happening behind the scenes right now (if you want to be among the first to know about the awesome, sign up for my newsletter!). I'm so blessed to have readers -- and I will stay committed to producing material for them, whether it's through indie or traditional publishing avenues.

EEG: How long have you been writing and what inspires your stories?

TEB: I've been writing since I was a kid. Honestly, I can't remember not wanting to be a writer. But I didn't start writing seriously (i.e. for publication) until 2009, when my husband and I got married. As for my inspiration, it's definitely varied. A couple examples: one of my books, BY BLOOD, was inspired by my homesickness for Oxford, England, where I'd gone to grad school. Another, SHATTERED VEIL, began from a dream I had when my husband was deployed to Iraq.

EEG: Tell us about your latest release, The Shattered Veil, and your vision for this new series, The Diatous Wars: what inspired it? In particular, your heroine flies wingjets, which play an important role in your story, so I'm curious: do you do any of the flying/gliding sports and if not, where did you get the idea?

TEB: SHATTERED VEIL is a YA/crossover sci-fi adventure about a girl who joins an underground network of women in disguise in her country's male-only military. She does it at first for the wrong reasons, but soon comes to have a wider understanding of the war and finds new reasons to fight. Or, rather, pilot wingjets. As I mentioned before, it was in part inspired by my husband's deployment. He helped me a lot with the military aspects of the story. It was a great way to bond while we were so far apart. As for the flying, I've never done much in the way of flying/gliding sports, but I've spent a lot of time boating, which I think inspired some of the flying scenes a little. But more than that, Aris and her flying skills were born out of my respect for the female fighter pilots of WWII, particularly Russia's "Night Witches”. The Night Witches were a squadron of female pilots that dropped bombs on German troops; they were known as Night Witches by the German army because of the noise their rickety plywood planes made as they swooshed overhead. These women were incredibly brave, and I found their story really inspiring. As soon as I read about them, I knew Aris needed to be a pilot.

EEG: Do you have a release date for the next book? Can you give us a little sneak preview?

TEB: I don't have a release date -- yet -- for book two of the series, but it will release sometime before the end of the year. I'm hard at work writing it! As for sneak peeks, hmm. Well, how about this? My current favorite line:
"He reached for her hands, gently taking them in his own and inspecting them, as if he could see in her palms the invisible scars she still bore."
Where the first book really delves into the war in Atalanta and what it means for the women who give up their identities to fight as men, the second book will explore more of what's going on in the enemy country, Safara, showing how that will come to bear on Aris's understanding and experience as the war progresses.

EEG: You have an MA in publishing -- with that as a background, how do you feel about the changes the publishing world is going through? Do you foresee a future where every successful author is hybrid, or do you see either indie or traditional prevailing over the other?

TEB: Ooh. Tough question! I think what's happening in publishing right now is simultaneously exciting and a little terrifying. Because it IS a brave new world. I don't think anyone really knows how it will all shake out. I am loving the rise of indie publishing, because it empowers authors. It gives us more opportunities to share our work and find ways to make a career as a writer financially viable. I don't think traditional publishers are just going to disappear, but I think their models are going to change, and, maybe more importantly, the cache' of traditional publishing is going to shift. This is already happening. I think the big change we're going to see is in how and by whom books are judged. What will be the new standard of quality? I don't think traditional publishers have a lock on the "best" books anymore, and readers are picking up on that. They're finding indie books of similar or better quality than traditionally published books, and that's changing the way they find and choose what to read. I would love to think READERS will be the taste-makers in future, not publishers. But I'm sure there will always be entities helping readers find their way. I'm just not sure the gatekeepers of quality are traditional publishers anymore. Maybe it will be bloggers. Or professional reviewing bodies like Publishers Weekly or Booklist.

Overall, I think the more choices an author has in connecting their work with readers, the more power he or she has. A publisher offers a crappy contract? Rejecting the contract and self-publishing is now a viable option. That gives an author more bargaining power and more control over his or her content. And that is never, EVER, a bad thing.

EEG: I couldn't agree more, Tracy. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts with us today!

TEB: Thanks so much for having me!

Find out more about Tracy on her blog and follow her on Twitter at @tracythewriter and on Facebook. And remember: Tracy's award-winning novel Shattered Veil is now on sale at $0.99 through June 7!

Friday, May 30, 2014

Viruses, Parasites and Microbiology: Professor Vincent Racaniello talks about the inspiration behind his weekly podcasts

If you've been following the blog for a while, you know I'm a big fan of viruses. No, I don't enjoy viral diseases, rather, what fascinates me is the capability of these little machines to transfer genetic material. Throughout evolution this has provided amazing opportunities: the placenta, which expresses retroviral proteins, is an example. Today, we can exploit viruses' ability to transfer genetic material using them as vectors for vaccines and gene therapy.

So, as a a virus fan girl myself, I'm very excited to be hosting here at the blog today Professor Vincent Racaniello, from Columbia University, who has been studying and teaching about viruses his entire life. His research focuses on picornaviruses and the poliovirus, and his passion is to tell people how cool viruses are. Professor Racaniello is the author of the Virology Blog, which he started in 2004. Joining forces with colleagues Dickson Despommier, Alan Dove, Rich Condit, Kathy Spindler, Michael Schmidt, Elio Schaechter, and Michele Swanson, he is the creator of the podcasts This Week in Virology, This Week in Parasitism, and This Week in Microbiology.

Thanks for being here on CHIMERAS today, Professor Racaniello!

EEG: Thanks to tools like Blogger, Wordpress and social networks, the Internet has given a voice to scientists: now we can be in charge of communicating our work, instead of relying on media that often overlook scientific rigor and go for "sensational" instead. To the best of my knowledge, though, you were the first to exploit this by starting The Virology blog which, if I'm not mistaken, is turning 10 years old this year, correct? Congratulations, that is a mile stone! What prompted you to start a blog about viruses? Did you ever think, "Nobody cares about viruses"?

VR: I doubt I'm the first science blog, but I am proud of going strong for 10 years. I do remember exactly why I started blogging. We had just written the third edition of our virology textbook, Principles of Virology (ASM Press) and I thought, I have all this knowledge in my head, why not share it? My contract allowed me to use images from the book so I thought a blog would be a great way to spread information about viruses. I really wanted to teach people all about what viruses are, how they work, how they cause disease, and I knew our textbook would only reach students. Blogging had by then become very easy so I started Virology Blog. I didn't know if anyone would read it. My first post was 'Are viruses living'? Amazingly, the blog was discovered and people started commenting! To this day the question of whether or not viruses are living is one of the most popular search terms that gets readers to the blog.

I never thought that people would not care about viruses - ten years ago they had firmly implanted in the minds of many people, with AIDS, emerging infections like Lassa and ebola, and of course influenza. I knew I could captivate with stories about viruses. The only question was whether anyone would find the site. I tried to help by linking often to other sites, and of course by using social media to help promote the site.

EEG: Your well-thought and carefully explained virology and microbiology podcasts reach out to students, educators and science fans in a way that's rigorous and yet understandable. You've really revolutionized science communication by setting an example to other scientists and teachers. Back when you started, did you ever imagine that the blog would branch out into This Week in Virology, and then This Week in Microbiology and This Week in Parasitism? How many followers do you currently reach?

VR: When I started blogging I thought that would be as far as I would go. But I started listening to podcasts during my long commute, and one day I heard Leo Laporte of say 'If you are passionate about something, you can podcast about it'. I knew I was passionate about viruses. So I thought it would be cool to do a podcast about viruses - no one was doing it - and in a tip of the hat to Leo, I named it after his flagship podcast, This Week in Tech. Like Virology Blog, I thought no one would listen. But the podcast has grown incredibly for a long, detailed science show. We've had nearly 3 million total downloads since the beginning, anywhere from 40,000 to 90,000 each month, and growing. Best of all, we have incredible audience engagement - I get 3-4 emails a day with questions about viruses, and we try to answer all of them on the show.

I had started TWiV with Dickson Despommier and soon brought on other hosts. After it was clear that there was a real audience for good science podcasts, I started This Week in Parasitism with Dickson, who had been a parasitologist throughout his career. That one also took off, and was followed by This Week in Microbiology. This Week in Parasitism has loyal followers but fewer than This Week in Virology, while This Week in Microbiology is gaining steadily.

Dickson and I also started an unrelated podcast, Urban Agriculture, which follows on his success in promoting vertical farming. I have ideas for more podcasts - I'm planning one on systems biology, and I'd like to find suitable co-hosts for one on fungi, and one on immunology. Anyone out there interested? You'd have to be an expert in these fields and willing to put time into building a great show.

EEG: You've been studying viruses since your PhD thesis: did you get into virology by chance or was it something you always wanted to do? And if the latter, why?

VR: After graduating from college I didn't know what to do. My Dad had wanted me to be a doctor, but I wasn't interested, so I was rudderless in college. I got a job as a lab technician and did a lot of reading. One day I read Fever by John Fuller, an account of the outbreak of Lassa virus in Nigeria. This got me hooked on viruses. I was looking at masters programs in the area when I happened to go to dinner one night at a college friend's house by the name of Ed Kilbourne. His Dad was chair of microbiology at Mt. Sinai School of Medicine in New York. I told him what I wanted to do and he suggested I apply. I got in, and the rest is history: I ended up being Peter Palese's first PhD student, and I worked on influenza viruses in his lab. My career has been mostly unplanned and somewhat accidental, but spontaneity is what has made it a blast.

EEG: What's the most curious thing you've ever encountered about viruses? And what's the greatest satisfaction you've had from these past 10 years dedicated to educating the public on virology and microbiology?

VR: The more I learn about viruses, the curioser and curioser they get (to paraphrase Lewis Carroll). But if I had to pick one curiosity that astounds me to this day, it would be the viruses that parasitoid wasps inject into caterpillars along with wasp eggs. The viruses immunosuppress the caterpillar so that it won't reject the egg, which eventually hatches and devours its first meal. If this isn't amazing enough, the viruses are encoded in the wasp genome!

My greatest satisfaction of the past 10 years of science communication has been to teach so many people whom I would never have been able to reach without the internet. Hearing how they have developed a love for science, and virology in particular; and that some have even decided to go into a career in virology, is simply the without equal. In the early days of my research laboratory, a driving force for me was solve problems that could help human health. Now I feel that the most effective use of my time is to be Earth's virology professor.

EEG: And you certainly set a great example of using the Internet to educate an detach. Thank you for your passion and dedication, Professor Racaniello!

Here's a summary of all the links where to find Prof. Racaniello's blog posts and podcasts:

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Upcoming books and ARC sign-ups: read to find out more!

Last week I announced the upcoming release of MOSAICS, Book 2 in the Track Presius Mystery series. This week I'm excited to announce yet another book that I would like to release this fall: GENE CARDS -- another mystery, set in the future this time:
Book Description: Yulia Szymanski is a murderer and one of the best hackers of the century. Her mission: break her brother out of a high security jail before he dies of a rare genetic condition. On her trail is Biothreat Agent Skyler Donohue, a decorated Muay Thai fighter with a strange fascination for corpses. The obstacle to overcome: an invisible, deadly disease that strikes at random and has the city of Liasis locked in a bioterrorism siege.

When the latest to fall ill is Skyler's best friend's daughter, Skyler wants to drop the Szymanski case to chase the baffling pathogen that nobody is able to isolate. What she doesn't know is that finding Yulia is the only way to stop the epidemic and save the child's life.

In a world where identities are based on gene cards, and privacy no longer exists, survival is only granted to the rich, the healthy, and those who've learned to become invisible to the system.
Download the first chapter here (epub, mobi or pdf available).

Well, then, I've got the answer for you: sign up to get an ARC copy book.

What is an ARC copy?

ARC stands for Advanced Reserved Copy and it's a pre-proofed, electronic copy of the book that, if you sign up, you will be receiving in your inbox in exchange for an honest review to be posted on Amazon on (or shortly after) the book release date.

What happens after I sign up?

Nothing for a few weeks. I'm still getting the books ready, and by that I mean I'm finishing up one last round of edits. In about a month or so I will start sending out the ARC copies to all people who signed up.

What file format will the book be in?

My preference is to send out the book as a .mobi file, which can be read on any Kindle or Kindle App. Kindle Apps for Mac, Windows, Android, iPad, etc. can be downloaded for free from Amazon. I can also send pdf and ePub formats upon request. At this time I can't offer paper copies for ARCs. However, I'm giving away 2 paper copies of GENE CARDS through Goodreads, click here to enter.

What am I supposed to do with the mobi file?

You can open it from your computer or iPad simply using the Kindle App from Amazon. You can also send it to your Kindle device. In order to upload the mobi file to your Kindle or Kindle device, you need to forward the email I sent you with the mobi file attached to your Kindle email. To find your Kindle email, go to your Amazo account: at the top of Amazon's home page, click on "Your Account" and from the pull-down menu select "Manage Your Content and Devices." Click on the third tab (Settings) and look for "Send-to-Kindle E-Mail Settings." Here you can see, set, or change an address in the form "" -- that's the address to which you will need to forward the email I will send you with the ARC book attached. (Note: it usually takes a few minutes for the document to appear in the Kindle after you've sent the email.)

What am I NOT supposed to do with the mobi file?

The mobi file I will be sending you is copyrighted material. As such, I ask you not to distribute, forward, copy or alter in any way. If you know somebody who would be interested in reading the book, please tell them to contact me directly to request their own ARC copy. Also, notice that the copy you will be receiving is only meant as an ARC and not for sale. It is un-proofed, and you may still find typos and other minor editing needs that hopefully will be addressed in time for the release date.

Where do I write the review when I'm done reading?

Please write the review on the Amazon link I will be sending you on the release day.

So, are you ready to sign up?

If you would like to receive an ARC copy of MOSAICS in exchange for an honest review to be posted on Amazon please sign up here <- Track Presius Mystery ARCs

If you would like to receive an ARC copy of GENE CARDS in exchange for an honest review to be posted on Amazon please sign up here <- Skyler Donohue Mystery ARCs

Thank you to all who've signed up already! You guys are now officially part of my team of early reviewers.

Monday, May 26, 2014

"Writing was my first and strongest love": author Jason Gurley talks about books, readers, and the wonder of science

What do Hugh Howey and Matthew Mather have in common? Yes, they are all in the top 10 Amazon authors, but they have something, actually somebody else in common: the uber talented Jason Gurley designed their book covers. But wait, Jason is not just a designer: he's also a successful writer, with four published novels and a fifth about to be released next month. Jason has designed book covers for Amazon Publishing, Subterranean Press, Prime Books and many independent authors, among them bestsellers Hugh Howey, Matthew Mather, Russell Blake, Michael Bunker, Ernie Lindsey and others. And by book covers I mean stunning artwork, just check out Jason's gallery for a sample. I love how with "just" an amazing texture and a beautiful font, Jason can make a stunning cover.

Jason has been publishing his novels for a little over a year now, and his next novel, Eleanor, is due for release on June 27, but you can preorder it now and get the digital copy for free via Kindle MatchBook. Wait, it gets better: you'll get a free ARC copy if you sign up for Jason's newsletter before June 16!

There's a reason why Jason is so generous with his readers -- when asked why he chose to self-publish rather than going through the traditional path, his reply touched my heart:
"Self-publishing‚ or indie publishing, however you want to refer to it, actually leads to publication. For most authors, including me, the traditional route has only led to dead ends and rejection and heartache. Self-publishing, on the other hand, leads to readers, which are all I have ever wanted. And I have fabulous readers. Very few people know who I am, or what I write, and that's okay, because the little group of those who do are wonderful and supportive and just the nicest people. I love them. And I'd never have met them if I hadn't decided to go this on my own."
(You can find the full interview by Lesley Smith here.)
Beautifully said, Jason! The one thing us writers want the most is readers. Indie publishing has allowed us to find readers. Readers make our stories come alive and they give back their wonderful feedback. This is truly the most rewarding thing a writer can ask for.

I'm digressing. What I really should be saying at this point is how honored I am to have Jason as a guest today on CHIMERAS!

EEG: Tell us a bit about yourself: you are a design artist, a writer, a husband, a father ... what's your background? Did you come to visual art and writing from different routes?

JG: As I recall, I stumbled into design by way of writing. Though as a kid I always imagined I'd work for Disney or something, I never really pursued a career in the visual arts. Writing was my first and strongest love. The design career came from that. I took a job copy editing on websites, and one day the designer I worked with called in sick. There was a minor design emergency, so I opened Photoshop, learned enough to fix the problem. . . and I haven't closed Photoshop in 15 years.

EEG: You just released the short story collection Deep Breath Hold Tight, your fifth novel, Eleanor will be released next month, and your first novel, published a little over a year ago, The Greatfall is an Amazon bestseller! What's the secret for being so successful and prolific at the same time?

JG: Well, 'successful' is relative, isn't it? I've given away far more books than I've sold, by a rather large margin. For now I don't worry all that much about sales, though. I don't rely on my books to pay the bills. I have a very fulfilling design career, and I write because I just enjoy telling stories, and having people read them.

As for popular -- I'd debate that one with you! I'm fortunate to have a passionate group of readers who seem to enjoy the work I've published -- though I would never take for granted that I've 'earned' them. Every book is an opportunity to disillusion a reader, or capture the heart of a new one. I take that seriously.

I define success a little differently, I suppose you could say. For me, it's all about knowing people are reading and enjoying the stories I tell, no matter how they come by the books. Eighteen months ago, that number was zero. Now, if you count every person who has bought a book and every person who has gotten one for free, there are probably close to a hundred thousand people who have my books close at hand, whether on a shelf or beside their bed or hanging out on their e-readers, waiting for a spare moment.

Of course, that doesn't mean a hundred thousand people have read my books. Not by a long shot. I download books like a fiend on my iPhone, and sometimes they sit there for a year before I work my way down the list to them. But I like that thought as well. Someone who downloaded The Man Who Ended the World today might not read it until 2015. There's no more shelf-life. Books are rapidly becoming forever.

EEG: You started writing Eleanor 13 years ago, and I know it's been a labor of love: tell us about the book and the inspiration behind it.

JG: A labor of love, most definitely. An exercise in frustration? That, too. It's hard not to both love and despise a book when you've spent that much time on it. You love it for what it means to you; you resent it for taking over your life. I'm both thrilled and enormously relieved to finish it.

I've alluded here and there to the backstory of this book and how it came to be. The book emerged during a time of personal reflection. I was twenty-three years old. I'd written three novels that weren't great -- weren't awful (well, maybe one of them was), but weren't going to light anybody up. I wasn't hopeful about my writing career panning out. Things were different then. Self-publishing was expensive and there was a greater stigma attached to it than there is now, so my option was the traditional publishing path, and that's a thorny gauntlet.

Personal reflection, though: I should mention here that my father is a Pentecostal minister. His brother is, too. I went to a Bible college, where they tried to turn me into a preacher. I lasted a single semester. My family history was thoroughly steeped in the Pentecostal church. A man named A.D. Gurley was involved in the founding of the Pentecostal church and its early doctrines. As I understand it, we're related somewhere in the branches of my family tree. A much more distant relative, Phineas Gurley, was the chaplain of the U.S. Senate in the 1800s, and also Abraham Lincoln's pastor and eulogist.

That's a lot of history to consider when your own belief system seems to have faltered. At twenty-three I started asking questions that I'd always wondered about but never vocalized. I wasn't sure if I believed in a god, and that was a problem. It contributed to the end of my first marriage. It resulted in the loss of friends. But it also birthed Eleanor.

In the beginning Eleanor was a very different book. In retrospect, it was clearly a vehicle for some big questions I was asking, and some challenging decisions I was making in my own life. For several years, it was a story about a girl who met God while she was comatose, and after waking from her coma, spent her life trying to replicate the experience. The book was literally asking whether or not a god existed, and I was going to use it to try to answer that question for myself.

I'm thirty-five now, and this is Eleanor's thirteenth year, and it's long since abandoned those early questions. I've answered a lot of those for myself, and they're not gnawing at me the way they were when I was younger. That's really released the book from the burden of what it was trying to do, and allowed Eleanor to find her own story.

And her own story is really marvelous. Eleanor is about mothers and daughters, not gods or belief. It's about family tragedy, and finding a way to set right the kinds of wrongs that echo for decades. It's about time, and leaps of faith, and worlds that crash into each other in a very real and literal sense. I've been floored by a few readers and other authors who have compared the book to Neil Gaiman's wonderful The Ocean at the End of the Lane, or Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time. Floored. Those books are perfect examples of fantasy and reality blurring the lines of a young person's life, and it's really moving to hear people suggest that my book belongs in the same breath as those masterpieces.

EEG: That's really intriguing, I can't wait to read Eleanor! On a side note, I finished my first novel after I decided the God I'd been raised with wasn't really "my" God. I've often thought about that and I don't think it was a coincidence. But I'm digressing, again. Will Eleanor be part of a series?

JG: Eleanor is that all-time classic — the stand-alone novel. It’s always been that, except for a brief foray into graphic novel-dom (still visible here, though the novel is vastly, vastly different). I toyed with the idea of turning it into a serial novel last fall, and quickly shot that down when beta readers pointed out that there were no logical break-points in the story that wouldn’t infuriate readers. So: It’s a novel, and one that’s grown a little bigger with editing, and it would be nice to write one or two books like this one every year.

EEG: What other books are on your burner, then?

JG: Well, Eleanor is the big one — it’s the culmination of many, many years’ worth of starts and stops, writing vacations, all-night outlining marathons, massive overhauls and redesigns, and now with it on the verge of release… Let’s see. Next up is The Travelers, the final book in a sci-fi trilogy that I began last year. That should be a lot of fun, and a much faster affair than Eleanor, by far. I’m also quite privileged to have been invited to contribute short stories to a few anthologies — Synchronic, a time-travel anthology edited by David Gatewood, has just come out, and in July I’ll be in John Joseph Adams’s Help Fund My Robot Army!!! You’ll know my story because it’s the one not written by someone famous. (Though I did design its cover, and it’s quite nice.)

EEG: Whaddya know, you'll be famous by then! ;-) Your book covers are stunning: when did you start making book covers, and is it something you enjoy just as much as writing, or is it a diversion, rather?

JG: You know, it's both. I really love making book covers — but I also love writing my own stories. And when you're a husband and a father and you have a full-time career that you enjoy, there's only so much you can give your free moments to. So I'm learning how to give all of my limited creative time to the thing I love most -- writing books -- and slowly diminishing my cover work. I'll probably still produce the odd book cover here and there, but if I'm successful you'll hear my name less in reference to design, and hopefully more in reference to good stories.

And to answer your first question, I started making them with my own first book, The Man Who Ended the World. After a few really lovely covers of my own, I started doing them as favors for some author friends. And then Hugh Howey came along, and gave me a chance to design some beautiful wraps for his own terrific stories, and that changed everything!

EEG: Oh no, then I have to hurry up to order my next book cover! ;-)

Do you find science inspiring for your work?

JG: I love science. I really, truly do. But I love the wonder of science more. I love the feeling that I get when my family and I drive to my parents' house -- they live in the Washington woods -- and as everyone goes inside, I stand outside under the stars and just stare. It's so utterly black out there, and the stars are just crisp. I watch them for awhile before I remember to unpack our bags from the Jeep.

That sense of wonder is important to me, and it's more important to me than hard science, at least when it comes to writing. I'm sure many of the things that happen in my books can be refuted or corrected by someone who knows more about science than me. My friend and fellow novelist Peter Cawdron often educates me about this, pointing out how the things I write about would really work. I don't worry so much about those kinds of details, and they don't bubble up to the surface in my work all that often, because I try very hard to tell stories about humans, about emotions. As one of my readers would explain, there's not always a lot of pew-pew in my stories, but there are plenty of feels.

I love movies like this, too. There are some really wonderful character-driven stories that taken place against a backdrop of science fiction, rather than pushing science to the foreground. Her is a good recent example. Another Earth is one of my favorites. You could consider Moon or Upstream Color or even Safety Not Guaranteed to be examples of this, too. There's no real term for this kind of story, unless I've missed it. I call it 'quiet' science fiction, for lack of a better word -- stories in which the technical aspects of the story only occupy the foreground when it's necessary, leaving plenty of room for the emotional weight of the characters and their journey to fill the space.

EEG: "Feels" is what makes a great story. I know I've read a great book when I keep thinking about the emotions the story stirred as I read through.

Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts with us today, Jason! You can find out more about Jason's books and book covers on his website, Facebook, and twitter. Go preorder your copy of Eleanor and don't forget to sign up for Jason's newsletter, you'll get books for free!

Saturday, May 24, 2014

MOSAICS SnippetSunday #8

From MOSAICS, Chapter 1:
Satish started the engine and backed out of the driveway. “Shit happens, Track. Never forget that.”
“Hard to forget on days like this.”
I rolled down the window and let cool air blow in my face. The freeway droned in the distance, as another night descended upon L.A. Another murder, another killer on the loose.
It was June 2009, the beginning of summer.
Killing season had just started.

The above is my Sunday snippet submission for the Weekend writer Warriors (you can find the Snippet Sunday group also on Facebook, too). Check them out, it's a fun way to find upcoming books -- all genres welcome, there's something for everyone's tastes.

And now to some exciting news:

MOSAICS, Book 2 in the Track Presius mystery series is coming September 2014. Many thanks to my awesome beta readers who provided insightful feedback. Of course, before you sink your teeth in MOSAICS, you should first read CHIMERAS, right? ;-)

Book DescriptionDubbed the Byzantine Strangler because of the mysterious mosaic tiles he leaves at the crime scene, a new serial killer is stalking the streets of Los Angeles. Racing to decipher the code encrypted in the tiles before the killer strikes again, Detective Track Presius faces a new challenge: the "awakened" genes that make his vision and olfactory sense so sharp are now taking a toll on his life. When a new set of tiles appears in his own backyard, Track makes a chilling realization: those very same genes that are threatening his life are drawing the Byzantine Strangler closer and closer. The fine line between hunter and hunted has suddenly blurred. Will Track be the next piece of the mosaic puzzle?

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Friday, May 23, 2014

"Ideas are born from the mind": speculative fiction author Cherie Reich talks about her debut novel Reborn

Today's author interview is for an exciting new release from speculative fiction author Cherie Reich. Cherie is a "self-proclaimed bookworm" and library assistant based in Virginia. Her debut novel Reborn follows the story of Yssa, the Phoenix Prophetess at the Temple of Apenth. The book came out on May 9 and already has raving reviews.

Congratulations, and welcome to CHIMERAS, Cherie!

EEG: You are a writer and a librarian: is working in a library a dream come true for a writer?

CR: I can honestly say I would never have become a writer without working the job I do. I work in a small academic library, and I sometimes have a lot of free time at work. Since I needed something to do, I decided to write a novel (i.e. Reborn) that’d been in my head for years. I have never looked back.

EEG: What are your favorite choices when it comes to reading?

CR: Oh, I enjoy many types of books, from fantasy to mysteries to horror to romance. I enjoy Young Adult to Adult. I prefer fast-paced tales that keep you reading to the last page.

EEG: Tell us about your YA epic fantasy Reborn: what was the inspiration for the book and series? And what about the series, The Fate Challenges: how many books will there be?

CR: The premise of a stillborn girl reborn by a god and given the gift of prophecy came to me for a character for a Harry Potter roleplaying game. The idea of such a character clung to me, and thus, Yssa and her world were born from that premise. For The Fate Challenges, there will be four novels and two novella-length works. Reborn, Reforged, and Redestined are the main trilogy revolving around Yssa’s story. Repledged and Reigned are prequel stories set at 800 and 500 years before Reborn, respectively. Remarked is a story set between Reborn and Reforged and will be told from Liam’s point of view.

EEG: As a librarian, do you have any thoughts to share on the future of books and the publishing world?

CR: It’s an exciting yet turbulent time in the book world. Libraries are adapting, and publishers must do so to keep up. I think that’s what is so great about self-publishing. We can afford to change things up and try new things, instead of the same ol’ same ol’. I believe books are here to stay, even though they may look different than they had in the past.

EEG: Where are your stories conceived: in your head, on a blank piece of paper, on the computer ...?

CR: Ideas are born from the mind. Mine often dwell in my head for months and even years until I take them from my mind and type up an outline of what they will become on my computer.

EEG: I "brew" my characters in my head for years too. I think it's a good thing that authors spend quality time with their characters and get to know them better before they jump into the story. Thanks so much for being with us today, Cherie, and best of luck with your writing!

CR: Thanks for having me, Elena!

You can find Reborn on Amazon, Goodreads, Google Play, and Kobo. For a full list of retailers visit Cherie's website and blog.