Debunking myths on genetics and DNA

Friday, April 10, 2015

New Apocalypse Weird release: Medium Talent by Forbes West


April just rolled in with two new Apocalypse Weird releases. Up next is Forbes West's Medium Talent:
Three years after the great storm destroyed the planet, three years after the demonic undead rose up to hunt the survivors, Wendy Wicker scavenges and steals in the deadly ruins of Florida to keep her adopted family alive. In a post-apocalyptic Key West that is plagued by hunger and ruled by an amoral bureaucracy, a life of crime is the only way to live. After Wendy betrays a couple of passengers she was to take north on board her fishing boat, her life takes an strange turn and she must confront some dark secrets as to what really happened the night the world ended, while surviving the monstrous creatures that infest the waters around her hometown and the never ending threat of an evil woman that cannot die...  
An homage to Ernest Hemingway’s To Have or Have Not and George Romero’s Living Dead series of films, let Apocalypse Weird take you on a fast paced voyage through the dead Florida Keys and into an violent noir tale filled with time travel, black magic, suppressed memories and what life is really like after the end of the world. 

 Forbes is here today to tell us more about is AW new release. Welcome, Forbes!

EEG: Tell us about the inspiration behind Medium Talent.

FW: Key West itself was the main inspiration. It's an odd place, really- at the end of the world, so to speak as the last stop on the overseas highway stretching all the way from Miami. There's odd contradictions floating all around- one part of Key West is that it's touristy as hell, a frat boy heaven, full of tourists clogging the main drag. But there's this sort of bohemian flair in the corners, a sort of odd energy in the place from all the history and from the outcasts and the screwballs who couldn't make it in the normal habitats of the U.S.A. that have drifted in over the years. The atmosphere just breeds the imagination and I wanted to do for the longest time a book set in Key West (and a book about the end of the world and the great post-apocalyptic age that would come after) and I just put two and two together. Most of the post-apocalyptic stories you hear always are set in the deserts or the blown out cities with the same rough cast of characters and I wanted to see hell come to a place that would have been just a normal and decadent vacationland and a mysterious young woman stuck in the middle of it all.

Key West was famously the home of many writers and authors, including "Papa" Hemingway himself, and I wanted to use its connection to literary history. Hemingway's story, To Have or Have Not, was a huge inspiration for the book as he played with the town's contradictions long before I did in this story and crafted a realistic adventure story about poverty and crime. I thought it'd be a hell of a ride to read about life in a Key West that's barely survived the end times and what people there would have to do to survive in a life that's full of horrors from the sea and an oppressive bureaucracy running things into the ground.

EEG: Can you introduce each one of the main characters in just a few words?

FW: Wendy Wicker "The lead actress", so to speak. Boat captain. Criminal. Young and not who she thinks she is.
Tony Fire Fifty year old first mate of Wendy's boat, Medium Talent. Good and not smart.
Ernest Hemingway .....
The Brazen Head The main good guy.
Lenguas Largas The poor unfortunate undead with hideously stretched tongues.
Melanie Wicker The woman who cannot be killed.

EEG: Do you have a sequel in mind and if so, can you tell us a bit about it?

FW: Yes, I do. Called "Bad Dream Man", let's just say it's set in the 1930s and sort of like Dracula. Keep it that way.

EEG: Thanks so much, Forbes!

Below is a complete list of the Apocalypse Weird books published so far. Come back next week for a sneak preview of the next AW book, Genesis by Stefan Bolz.

Apocalypse Weird Books:

The Dark Knight by Nick Cole continues the story begun in The Red King as survivors band together to build a modern-day castle against a tide of dark forces overrunning Southern California. While Frank and Holiday struggle for power, Ash ventures into the night to rescue a lost special needs adult who has unknowingly glimpsed a horrifying future: a future where man is on the verge of extinction and a new predator rules the planet. The Apocalypse Weird is beginning, and it might just be something bigger than anyone ever imagined ... or feared.

Scorched by fire and the longest drought in recorded history, survivors flee the Land of Enchantment to escape a mutated flu virus that turns ordinary people into mass-murderers. In E. E. Giorgi’s Immunity, few resilient scientists remain, gathered in one of the last national laboratories still working on a vaccine. Then the disease starts spreading within the soldiers guarding the laboratory, bloody carnage reigns. Immunologist Anu Sharma pairs up with computer geek David Ashberg to find a cure and escape the massacre. Outbreak meets World War Z in the deserts of Apocalypse Weird.

The Thing meets The Core in Jennifer Ellis’s Reversal, where the isolated International Polar Research Station on Ellesmere Island becomes an incredibly dangerous assignment for Sasha Wood. Stalked by killer polar bears, Sasha and her partner, Soren, search for their missing colleagues in the frozen tundra as their compass reveals an incredible truth: a magnetic pole reversal—fabled and feared in the scientific community for years—has occurred. The North Pole is now the South and vice versa. Psychotic scientists and giant methane-venting craters are just the beginning of a terrible and strange new reality.

Chris Pourteau’s The Serenity Strain finds Houston, Texas, at the epicenter of an apocalypse both natural and unnatural. Three hurricanes wreak unprecedented devastation on the Texas Gulf Coast. Amidst the anarchy left in the wake of the storms, six prisoners—the genetically altered test subjects for a viral strain known as Serenity—escape the state prison in Huntsville. Their hunger for murder and destruction gorges itself on society's survivors. One being of immense power and wanton appetites, a member of the demonic 88 named Id, arrives to oversee the destruction of mankind and morality. The Stand meets 28 Days Later in this epic tale of genetic manipulation gone awry.

Lord of the Flies meets Mad Max in Texocalypse Now by Michael Bunker and Nick Cole. It’s a gritty tale of survival set in the post-Apocalyptic West Texas Badlands. Packs of feral, cannibalistic humans called “hordes” and other psychotic groups threaten a band of children led by Ellis, a boy barely a man. Ellis and the children make a home for themselves in a hidden valley atop a mysterious mesa. But when a member of the 88, a Man in Black simply known as Mayhem, arrives in the Badlands, Ellis and his small “family” of orphans are forced underground to survive.

The apocalypse comes to the south with Kim WellsHoodoopocalypse. Kalfu, the ultimate evil-twin and Voodoo Loa of the afterworld and crossroads kicks off his plans for possession of the Southern Mississippi corridor. Dark half of Papa Legba, Kalfu sets off events that cripple New Orleans, tries to take control of the over 9 million visitors to the Big Easy a year, and seeds his Hoodoo mafia, the Guédé, across Louisiana and the world. If the fire, category HUGE hurricane spawned by magical means, and roving mobs of mayhem-inducing zombi astrals don’t get you, the angry goddess and nuclear meltdown might. Laissez the End Times Roulez, y’all.

The aliens have come to end the world with Eric Tozzi's Phoenix Lights. On March 13, 1997, the incident now known as the Phoenix Lights left thousands of witnesses at a loss to explain the sudden appearance of the massive V-shaped craft that hovered in the skies above Phoenix that day. Now, eighteen years later, the Vs have returned. Bargains will be made with an intelligence beyond our grasp deep within a super-secret government blacksite. Can a crew of TV UFO Busters find out the truth about the visitors or are they going to get far more than they ever bargained for? Whereas once they were blind, now they will see. Welcome to the invasion. Welcome to the Apocalypse Weird.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Book Release: Dragon of the Stars by bestselling author Alex Cavanaugh


Today my author friend Alex Cavanaugh, bestselling author of Cassa Storm, has a new book release -- Dragon of the Stars. He's celebrating with a fantastic scavenger hunt. Read below to participate! 

SCAVENGER HUNT! Comment to win an autographed copy of Dragon of the Stars, tons of bookmarks & postcards, and a $20.00 iTunes gift card–where is Mini-Alex? Visit Alex for a list of the participants. (Open through April 11 – winner announced April 13 at Alex’s blog.)

Available today!
Dragon of the Stars
By Alex J. Cavanaugh
Science Fiction – Space Opera/Adventure/Military
Print ISBN 9781939844064 EBook ISBN 9781939844057
What Are the Kargrandes? http://whatarethekargrandes.com/

The ship of legends…

The future is set for Lt. Commander Aden Pendar, son of a Hyrathian Duke. Poised to secure his own command and marriage to the queen’s daughter, he’ll stop at nothing to achieve his goals.

But when the Alliance denies Hyrath’s claim on the planet of Kavil and declares war on their world, Aden finds his plans in disarray. Entrenched in battle and told he won’t make captain, Aden’s world begins to collapse. How will he salvage his career and future during Hyrath’s darkest hour?

One chance remains–the Dragon. Lost many years prior, the legendary ship’s unique weapon is Hyrath’s only hope. Can Aden find the Dragon, save his people, and prove he’s capable of commanding his own ship?

Purchase:
Amazon - http://www.amazon.com/Dragon-Stars-Alex-J-Cavanaugh-ebook/dp/B00S0DPUYU/

Alex J. Cavanaugh has a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree and works in web design, graphics, and technical editing. A fan of all things science fiction, his interests range from books and movies to music and games. Online he is the Ninja Captain and founder of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group. He’s the author of Amazon Best-Sellers CassaStar, CassaFire, and CassaStorm.



Thursday, April 2, 2015

Akaela is finally here and I'm looking for reviewers: do you love YA dystopian fiction?


*** Read below to find out how to get a free copy of Akaela, my new YA dystopian. ***

Last year I started a new project. I wanted to try a new genre that's very popular right now, YA dystopian, and a few months later I'm proud to announce that Akaela is complete and ready to be shipped to reviewers. Here's the blurb:
Fifteen-year-old Akaela doesn't know what fear is. She was built this way. But in a world where survival is no longer of the fittest, being fearless can become a deadly curse.

Proud and steeped in tradition, Akaela's people, the Mayakes, are dying. While they carry implanted nanobots and sophisticated chips to compensate for their crippled and diseased bodies, these enhancements come at a price. Aging technology and a lack of resources make them vulnerable to their enemies and on the brink of extinction. As the elders cling blindly to the past, the only hope Akaela and her 16-year-old brother Athel have to save their own people is to challenge the system or die trying.
You can read the prologue here.

As I always do with every new launch, I'm happy to gift the book to readers willing to post an honest review on Amazon on release day. Are you that reader? Then please sign up for my newsletter and in about a week I'll send an email on how to get your free copy. Oh, and you get a free story right after you sign up. ;-)

Link to sign up: http://eepurl.com/SPCvT


Monday, March 23, 2015

"Writing has always been a life plan, never a second thought": international bestselling author Daniel Arthur Smith talks about books, traveling, and his new novel, Hugh Howey Lives.


Today my guest is a world traveler and the international bestselling author of the Cathari Treasure and the Somali Deception, featuring veteran Légionnaire Cameron Kincaid. I met Daniel Arthur Smith through the Apocalypse Weird project and was instantly impressed by his amazing writing and the breadth of his work. I was so thrilled when he accepted to come over to the blog to talk about his travels, his books, and his latest release in particular, Hugh Howey Lives, where yes, Hugh Howey is the real Hugh, the author of the bestselling series Wool.

Welcome to CHIMERAS, Daniel!

EEG: Tell us a bit about your background and when/how you started writing novels.

DAS: Writing has always been a life plan, never a second thought.  I grew up reading a ton of science fiction and fantasy and then around twelve, philosophy, mostly existential stuff at first, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, stuff like that.  I was raised in a rural area surrounded by books and then moved a round a lot, ever fascinated in what was over the next hill, and even more so in the Human Condition.  My first stories were science fiction with heavy moral undertones, mimics of what I was reading.  My university education in cognitive studies was philosophy and writing intensive, the creative byproduct of which was more stories of similar theme, as well as experimentation in literary fiction, horror, and AI, which eventually coalesced into novels.

EEG: You've traveled a lot: how has this affected your writing and you as a writer?

DAS: A few years ago a friend turned me onto one of those Facebook maps that allowed you to pin the cities you’ve visited.  I stopped pinning after I reached over three hundred cities across twenty-two countries.

EEG: Wow!

DAS: I’ve always traveled.

My mother moved me around a lot as a small child, more passenger than participant, and when she married my stepfather, we followed him around the Midwest in a camping trailer.  By the time I reached my teens I was out of my parent’s home, hitchhiking, and when funding permitted, riding Greyhound.  At eighteen, I hitchhiked across North America, and later, after university, across Western Europe and into the newly opened Wild Eastern Europe.  I’ve read Kundera and Kafka in Prague and Kazantzakis on the ancient city walls of Heraklion, I’ve had the fortune to read Travels with Charley overlooking the ruins of Knossos and in Wisconsin.

All of that travel was immersive.  Whether as a youth, a teacher, or later in business, I observed the continuity the Human Condition across culture, the many paths people take to reach the same place. I’ve been to cities that underwent political upheaval, peacefully and through war.  Met those with aspirations and met those that lost everything.

Traveling has added texture to text by giving me the tools of visceral description, both of personality and geography.  On the lighter side, it also has allowed me to write adventures that jump through ten cities in the course of a novel.

EEG: Where do you find inspiration?

DAS: I am fortunate enough to have a wonderful wife, two young sons, have had the pleasure to know some absolute superhero friends, and on top of that, live in the center of Manhattan.  All of those privileges allow a barrage of material to fly my way.  A question from my son while on a walk in Central Park or a short drive across town can lead to an incredible yarn (This week we discussed the living habits of leprechauns).  The fellow passengers on a city bus can become clandestine operatives in some stealth heist.  Or a blog post, as was the case in my latest release, can open a floodgate.

EEG: Tell us about your latest book, Hugh Howey Lives: is it a novel? Is it the story of the real Hugh or a fictional one? Where did you get the idea?

DAS: Hugh Howey Lives is a work of fiction inspired by Hugh.

In 2174 authors are obsolete.  With the exception of a few human ‘Author’ titles printed in the small basement and back room Libraries, all stories are created by the Artificial Intelligence of the Archive.  Most believe the ‘Authors’ are only brands to lure people into spending their credits on print.  One woman believes that one of them, author Hugh Howey is real, and still alive.  Her Librarian feeds her belief that Hugh Howey is still sailing around the world, uploading his work to the Archive.  Convinced she has found clues in his stories as to where he now resides, she and her girlfriend sail to an island, where she believes Hugh Howey lives.

This story came about after Hugh wrote a blog entry early November titled ‘Humans Need Not Apply’.  In the article, and lengthy comment conversation that followed, Hugh speculated that within 100 years, computers would be writing novels and authors could be obsolete.

I emailed Hugh a pitch with a different speculation, and in a few weeks, you’ll be able to read all about it.

This is an intriguing story and as soon as it is ready to share, I will be sending out ARCS (Advanced Reader Copies) to everyone on my newsletter list.  And that’s not all – I am giving away a kindle, some signed copies, and some posters too.  This is a story that will stimulate the imagination and I can’t wait for you to read it.

EEG: Wow. Computer novelists and no more human authors. That's a scary thought and definitely an intriguing premise. Can't wait to read it! And now that Hugh Howey Lives is completed, what are you working on?

DAS: I started 2015 running out of the gate.  Apart from supporting Hugh Howey Lives I am releasing my first work of fanfic.  Set in Hugh’s Sand World, Sarfer is the story of a sailmaker’s son who has become a courier – anything, anywhere, no questions asked.  Plane Drifters (working title), the first of a series, will follow later this spring.  This speculative fiction adventure novel depicts a future world where planar travel has altered society.  This novel is a full-on blend of cyberpunk and urban fantasy and took two years to research and another year to write.

And this summer I am releasing The Blue Prince, my contribution to the Apocalypse Weird universe, which takes Manhattan by electrical storm.  This comic book noir adventure was a lot of fun to create.  Readers will recognize the Lovecraftian elements and those that follow Apocalypse Weird will particularly enjoy the parts of the novel interacting with points in the Wyrd.

EEG: Can't wait to read The Blue Prince! Thanks so much for chatting with us today, Daniel!

To get an ARC of Daniel's new book release, visit his website and sign up for his newsletter. You can also follow him on Twitter (@authordasmith), Facebook, Tumblr and Pinterest.

Friday, March 20, 2015

The apocalypse continues with the launch of Eric Tozzi's Phoenix Lights.

© EEG

Apocalypse Weird continues to be a great success: check it out, The Guardian (yes! The Guardian!!) talks about us in this article by Damien Walters. After our big launch on February 23rd, the next two books have already landed, and, we are celebrating with a Facebook launch party tonight. Come to chat with the authors, pitch your Apocalypse Weird story, and for a chance to win some awesome books. We are celebrating the launch of the latest two additions to the Apocalypse Weird universe.

Last week we talked about Kim Wells' Hoodpocalypse book, which launched on March 13. The next book slated for release is Phoenix Lights, by Eric Tozzi:
On March 13, 1997, the incident now known as the Phoenix Lights left thousands of witnesses at a loss to explain the sudden appearance of the massive V-shaped craft that hovered in the skies above Phoenix that day. Now, eighteen years later, the Vs have returned. Bargains will be made with an intelligence beyond our grasp deep within a super-secret government blacksite. Can a crew of TV UFO Busters find out the truth about the visitors or are they going to get far more than they ever bargained for? Whereas once they were blind, now they will see. Welcome to the invasion. Welcome to the Apocalypse Weird.
Eric is here today to tell us all about his new book. Welcome, Eric!

EEG: Tell us about the Phoenix Light incident and how this inspired your book.

ET: The Phoenix Lights incident has become one of the most infamous mass UFO sightings of all time. There were thousands of witnesses that saw, as they described it, a massive V-shaped craft with lights attached that drifted through the skies of central Arizona over the course of several hours. By simply Googling “Phoenix Lights,” one can find a plethora of information and photos about the event. When I was asked to join Apocalypse Weird I knew I wanted to write an alien invasion book and for me, the Phoenix Lights incident was a no-brainer. It was organic to the story and to the central Arizona region where the apocalyptic event was to take place. I’m very excited that I was able to anchor my story in a real event that so many people still talk about. Just last week, the local news here in Phoenix did a number of stories on what was the anniversary of the Phoenix Lights incident, March 13th. It’s exciting that the event is still fresh in people’s minds and I hope it will spur interest in the book.

EEG: Can you tell us a bit about each one of the main characters in Phoenix Lights?

ET: My two main characters are estranged siblings: Gage Slater and younger sister Kristina Slater. Gage works in a secret, government underground facility, ostensibly built as a defensive measure against an alien invasion. Kristina is a reality TV star and documentary filmmaker. Her TV show, UFO Busters, sets out to investigate all kinds of UFO related stories. But there’s a larger story behind it all. Kristina was abducted by a UFO as a child and no one believed her. She fights to prove these occurrences are real, but more importantly she wants the answer to the big question: why was she taken? Gage, on the other hand, feels guilty over his sister’s abduction and is trying to atone for it through his top secret work. But in doing so he’s alienated his sister and now there’s only bad blood between them. When the alien apocalypse explodes, they are thrown back together and must help each other survive. And in the midst of the pressure and the unraveling of the world, they discover even darker secrets from their past that will determine their future.

EEG: Do you have a sequel in mind and if so, can you tell us a bit about it?

ET: I have only just begun to mull a sequel. Up to this point I’ve been consumed with getting Lights finished in time for publication. I can tell you that I intentionally left the story open for another one, but I’ve not

EEG Thanks so much Eric! And to all Apocalypse Weird fans: come to the Facebook the launch party on March 20 to celebrate Eric Tozzi's Phonexi Lights and Kim Well's Hoodoopocalypse!




Apocalypse Weird Books:

The Dark Knight by Nick Cole continues the story begun in The Red King as survivors band together to build a modern-day castle against a tide of dark forces overrunning Southern California. While Frank and Holiday struggle for power, Ash ventures into the night to rescue a lost special needs adult who has unknowingly glimpsed a horrifying future: a future where man is on the verge of extinction and a new predator rules the planet. The Apocalypse Weird is beginning, and it might just be something bigger than anyone ever imagined ... or feared.

Scorched by fire and the longest drought in recorded history, survivors flee the Land of Enchantment to escape a mutated flu virus that turns ordinary people into mass-murderers. In E. E. Giorgi’s Immunity, few resilient scientists remain, gathered in one of the last national laboratories still working on a vaccine. Then the disease starts spreading within the soldiers guarding the laboratory, bloody carnage reigns. Immunologist Anu Sharma pairs up with computer geek David Ashberg to find a cure and escape the massacre. Outbreak meets World War Z in the deserts of Apocalypse Weird.

The Thing meets The Core in Jennifer Ellis’s Reversal, where the isolated International Polar Research Station on Ellesmere Island becomes an incredibly dangerous assignment for Sasha Wood. Stalked by killer polar bears, Sasha and her partner, Soren, search for their missing colleagues in the frozen tundra as their compass reveals an incredible truth: a magnetic pole reversal—fabled and feared in the scientific community for years—has occurred. The North Pole is now the South and vice versa. Psychotic scientists and giant methane-venting craters are just the beginning of a terrible and strange new reality.

Chris Pourteau’s The Serenity Strain finds Houston, Texas, at the epicenter of an apocalypse both natural and unnatural. Three hurricanes wreak unprecedented devastation on the Texas Gulf Coast. Amidst the anarchy left in the wake of the storms, six prisoners—the genetically altered test subjects for a viral strain known as Serenity—escape the state prison in Huntsville. Their hunger for murder and destruction gorges itself on society's survivors. One being of immense power and wanton appetites, a member of the demonic 88 named Id, arrives to oversee the destruction of mankind and morality. The Stand meets 28 Days Later in this epic tale of genetic manipulation gone awry.

Lord of the Flies meets Mad Max in Texocalypse Now by Michael Bunker and Nick Cole. It’s a gritty tale of survival set in the post-Apocalyptic West Texas Badlands. Packs of feral, cannibalistic humans called “hordes” and other psychotic groups threaten a band of children led by Ellis, a boy barely a man. Ellis and the children make a home for themselves in a hidden valley atop a mysterious mesa. But when a member of the 88, a Man in Black simply known as Mayhem, arrives in the Badlands, Ellis and his small “family” of orphans are forced underground to survive.

The apocalypse comes to the south with Kim Wells' Hoodoopocalypse. Kalfu, the ultimate evil-twin and Voodoo Loa of the afterworld and crossroads kicks off his plans for possession of the Southern Mississippi corridor. Dark half of Papa Legba, Kalfu sets off events that cripple New Orleans, tries to take control of the over 9 million visitors to the Big Easy a year, and seeds his Hoodoo mafia, the Guédé, across Louisiana and the world. If the fire, category HUGE hurricane spawned by magical means, and roving mobs of mayhem-inducing zombi astrals don’t get you, the angry goddess and nuclear meltdown might. Laissez the End Times Roulez, y’all.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

So you're afraid of vaccines. Why don't we take a look at how they actually work?

March Moonrise, ©EEG
A few days ago a 4-year-old child died in a hospital in Rome, Italy. She had contracted Dawson encephalitis, a rare and chronic form of brain inflammation which is a complication from the measles virus. No, the child had not been vaccinated. Last February, an 18-month-old toddler also died of measles, this time in Germany.

Back when the smallpox was killing and blinding people, parents didn't have to choose whether or not to vaccinate their children. The choice back then was to whether or not expose the children to pus from an infected person's pustules or let them get the disease from natural exposure. People still contracted the disease through this primitive form of inoculation, yet the risk of dying was far less. So that's what parents did back then. Can you imagine purposely exposing your child to a deadly and impairing disease just because the chance of dying from it was so high anyways? Don't you feel privileged that you don't have to make that kind of decision for your own children?

People say vaccines are not natural. Yet when your own child gets sick and his/her fever spikes, you don't think twice about giving them ibuprofen or whatever medication it takes to lower the fever. That's because the consequences could be devastating. Yet ibuprofen is not natural. You don't normally find it in the body, and prolonged consumption has serious consequences on the liver.

Viruses, on the other hand, are natural. They are so natural that bits of viruses are embedded in our own DNA. Back when a smallpox vaccine didn't exist, parents who smeared pus from smallpox pustules on their healthy children were causing the body to make immune memory. That's because once the immune system "recognizes" the virus it can build a response strong enough to destroy the pathogen before it can start the infection. But the immune system has to "see" the virus for the first time in order to recognize it. That's why people who survived the infection never got it again. The principle is simple and completely natural. The risk was very high, though: pustules from infected people contained live virus, and many died in the attempt to avoid the disease.

Today we have a beautiful, safe way to create immune memory without having to go through the actual infection. We take little bits of chopped virus and put it inside the body. The chopped up virus can't cause the infection because it's missing some of its part. At the same time the immune system learns to recognize those extraneous proteins and builds immune memory.

So, you see, you can watch your child get sick and load him/her with drugs and medicine on top of risking serious complications. Or you can take him/her to the doctor and have them take a shot. One shot at the time, you don't have to load up in one sitting if that's what concerns you. At the end of the day, both the child who got sick and the vaccinated child will have built immune memory. But one has gone through days of fever, pain, and medications. The other one just got a shot.

So what's more natural to you?

And no, I have no financial gain from telling you this. I get my salary whether or not you get a shot. In fact, if you think about it, it's the unvaccinated child that's causing more of an economic burden right now. And whenever there's an economic burden, it means somebody is making a financial gain out of it. So, if nothing else, I'd say it's the parents who opt out of vaccinations who are financially manipulated.

But that's just me. What do I know? All I know is that a 4-year-old died. And in the twenty-first century no child should die of a complication from the measles virus.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Hoodoopocalypse, the next Apocalypse Weird book, is here!

© Mike Corley
Apocalypse Weird continues to be a great success: check it out, The Guardian (yes! The Guardian!!) talks about us in this article by Damien Walters. After our big launch on February 23rd, the next book has already landed, and, in the spirit of all Apocalypse Weird books, this too, is a completely new take on the end of the world: in her new book Hoodoopocalypse, Kim Wells takes the apocalypse to New Orleans, in a tale of magic and, in her own words. Hoodoo mafia:

"Kalfu, the ultimate evil-twin and Voodoo Loa of the afterworld and crossroads kicks off his plans for possession of the Southern Mississippi corridor. Dark half of Papa Legba, Kalfu sets off events that cripple New Orleans, tries to take control of the over 9 million visitors to the Big Easy a year, and seeds his Hoodoo mafia, the Guédé, across Louisiana and the world. If the fire, category HUGE hurricane spawned by magical means, and roving mobs of mayhem-inducing zombi astrals don’t get you, the angry goddess and nuclear meltdown might. Laissez the End Times Roulez, y’all. The Apocalypse just came to the South."

Kim is here today to tell us more about her book. Welcome, Kim!

EEG: Tell us about the inspiration behind Hoodoopocalypse and the Hoodoo mafia.

KW: Hoodoo is basically the "Southern US version" of Voodoo, which is actually a pretty legitimate religious practice in Haiti and some other Caribbean islands. Not at all like what you see in movies, usually. It's based on ancient African practices that were brought over to the New World during the slave trade.

With Voodoo (more properly spelled Voudou, actually, but the other spelling is better recognized) you have a lot of ancestor traditions, folklore, and probably spiritual figures who were gods and goddesses in the ancient traditions. They got changed when the slaves had to go somewhat underground with their beliefs, and nowadays, the Loa are kind of like Catholicism's saints-- the Voodoo practitioner will appeal to them for daily favors or help instead of bothering the "Big God" named Bondye. In Haiti, it used to be said that 100% of people are Catholic and 99% are Voodoo. So Hoodoo is more the version that sprang up in the Southern U.S., mixed with magic and folklore from the rural south, the Appalachians, the islands like Gullah in the Carolinas. Hoodoo usually doesn't really reference the Loa as much as the more formal Voudou, and that's why I decided to call the book and the magic in it Hoodoo, to try to avoid any religious disrespect in my own story. However, the Loa and the Voudou still kind of got into the story. I guess they just wanted to be part of the fun.

The Hoodoo mafia, called the Guédé, in mythology are spirits of the death & fertility family of Voudou. There are a whole bunch of them and one of their big bosses is Papa Ghede, who wears a top hat and smokes cheap cigars. They're very chaotic, but they have really important jobs. They eat hot peppers and drink a lot of rum, too.

They do various things like escort the dead to the afterlife, or guard the graves of those who die too soon. I sort of envisioned them as these ultimate trickster figures. They honestly can be both good and bad-- in Voudou, it's all about the balance, and almost all Voudou figures can be either good or bad depending on the circumstances.

So Kalfu is this demon of Possession, and he has taken a tiny piece of the souls of regular people, and he's using them to create this big army of bad guys who will go out and collect others. We don't know exactly what he's going to do with them, yet. But I can't imagine he's up to anything good.

EEG I love the magic in your book: did you have to do some research to get the traditions and myths or is it something that's native to New Orleans and you just absorb it?

KW Well, the general vibe of New Orleans is something that I think you absorb when you're there. This laid back atmosphere of great food and drinks and the heat and jazz and all of that just gets into you the instant you step on the streets. There are these awesome little Voodoo shops there, and honestly, they aren't really tourist traps, and the people there tend to take the religious practice seriously. That vibe of real belief system and the Tarot & palm reading in Jackson square are pretty big parts of my story.

I have done quite a bit of research on Voudou-- I have a whole chapter in my PhD dissertation on it, and its representation in pop culture and literature. I hope that I did a fair job representing it, even while it is all fictional and my imagination, too. The Voudou research was part of my greater study in the dissertation of witches as a form of magical feminism, where the magic is a type of empowerment. So yeah, the novels that I read and analyzed for that meant I learned a lot about the culture and the religion. And I just love it-- that idea of possibility, of balance between good and evil, and the folklore and history that goes with it. When I was asked to pitch a story, and I thought of the region I'd like to do, it just seemed natural to work Voudou into it. And that really shaped the story, too. I really love it-- it's one of my favorite things to have written so far.

I think I'll be writing about witches and magic-users as long as I can come up with something people will want to read because I'm fascinated with magic and folklore, and the stories have so much fun potential as a writer. I mean, if you make magic possible, you can do anything, and you can explore so many ideas with it from social justice to gender to all the fun parts of speculative fiction and sci-fi. It's my favorite kind of story to read, so I had to write it.

EEG Introduce the main characters from your book. Kalfu in particular, I love how he gets things done with his charming smile. :-)

KW Oh yes, Kalfu, in spite of (or maybe because of) being the ultimate bad boy is very sexy. He's young, and brash, and muscled, and that wicked smile and his eyes trick you into thinking he's not going to harm you. But he is totally bad news, and he wants to rule the world (or at least the Southern Mississippi corridor.) I imagine he's everyone's bad boyfriend, the one you knew you should resist but just couldn't help sneaking out at night to meet.

Marie is the white-magic witch, and she doesn't get nearly enough screen time in this story-- all these other characters came in and had all the real fun. Marshall, her boyfriend, came in and found his story in the Superdome. But Marie is a real magician, and she's going to go on this quest in book two and become very powerful. I hope she'll be able to fight off the bad guys in New Orleans and maybe even in the ultimate apocalypse. In spite of what one reviewer called a very dark imagination, I really do want the good guys to win.

Most of the stories in the Apocalypse Weird group have been more science-based, and while my story has some slipstream elements of science in it, it's more magic, obviously. Which I think is important-- if you have this mutli-layered universe, you're going to have a lot of possible worlds out there. Including magic. And boy, can you imagine Kalfu coming across the science military bad guy in your story? They would surely have fun clashes.

EEG Do you have a sequel in mind and if so, what's in store next for Kalfu and Lee Lee?

KW I do have a sequel in mind where Marie goes on a Steamboat up the Mississippi river and eventually ends up in Memphis, Tennessee. They're escaping the chaos that I unleash on New Orleans at the end of book 1, but then they're going to find all kinds of problems in Memphis, too. Some good guys will be there, and some bad, obviously. And Lee Lee is going to be set upon Marie's trail-- eventually I hope they get to square off, magic-user versus evil Soccer Mom.

The thing I'm most excited about for the sequel is that I hope to actually take a trip up the river on this great cruise Steamboat for research purposes and get some great Memphis Bar B Que and visit Graceland and all that.. you know. For business purposes.

Kalfu is going to keep trying to gain control over the Mississippi Gulf Coast, but the trouble is, his cousins, some of the other magical entities, will start getting wise to his plans and start causing him problems. So he's going to be fighting the good humans as well as some of the other Loa. It's just not going to be what he had in mind, and he's going to blame Marie for most of it. Marshall will be stuck in New Orleans for a while, and things are just going to get insane in the Superdome. And wait til you see what the nuclear explosion is going to do when it gets mixed up with all that magic.

EEG Thanks so much Kim! And to all Apocalypse Weird fans: come to the Facebook the launch party on March 20. Eric Tozzi's book Phoenix Lights will be launching too!




Apocalypse Weird Books:

The Dark Knight by Nick Cole continues the story begun in The Red King as survivors band together to build a modern-day castle against a tide of dark forces overrunning Southern California. While Frank and Holiday struggle for power, Ash ventures into the night to rescue a lost special needs adult who has unknowingly glimpsed a horrifying future: a future where man is on the verge of extinction and a new predator rules the planet. The Apocalypse Weird is beginning, and it might just be something bigger than anyone ever imagined ... or feared.

Scorched by fire and the longest drought in recorded history, survivors flee the Land of Enchantment to escape a mutated flu virus that turns ordinary people into mass-murderers. In E. E. Giorgi’s Immunity, few resilient scientists remain, gathered in one of the last national laboratories still working on a vaccine. Then the disease starts spreading within the soldiers guarding the laboratory, bloody carnage reigns. Immunologist Anu Sharma pairs up with computer geek David Ashberg to find a cure and escape the massacre. Outbreak meets World War Z in the deserts of Apocalypse Weird.

The Thing meets The Core in Jennifer Ellis’s Reversal, where the isolated International Polar Research Station on Ellesmere Island becomes an incredibly dangerous assignment for Sasha Wood. Stalked by killer polar bears, Sasha and her partner, Soren, search for their missing colleagues in the frozen tundra as their compass reveals an incredible truth: a magnetic pole reversal—fabled and feared in the scientific community for years—has occurred. The North Pole is now the South and vice versa. Psychotic scientists and giant methane-venting craters are just the beginning of a terrible and strange new reality.

Chris Pourteau’s The Serenity Strain finds Houston, Texas, at the epicenter of an apocalypse both natural and unnatural. Three hurricanes wreak unprecedented devastation on the Texas Gulf Coast. Amidst the anarchy left in the wake of the storms, six prisoners—the genetically altered test subjects for a viral strain known as Serenity—escape the state prison in Huntsville. Their hunger for murder and destruction gorges itself on society's survivors. One being of immense power and wanton appetites, a member of the demonic 88 named Id, arrives to oversee the destruction of mankind and morality. The Stand meets 28 Days Later in this epic tale of genetic manipulation gone awry.

Lord of the Flies meets Mad Max in Texocalypse Now by Michael Bunker and Nick Cole. It’s a gritty tale of survival set in the post-Apocalyptic West Texas Badlands. Packs of feral, cannibalistic humans called “hordes” and other psychotic groups threaten a band of children led by Ellis, a boy barely a man. Ellis and the children make a home for themselves in a hidden valley atop a mysterious mesa. But when a member of the 88, a Man in Black simply known as Mayhem, arrives in the Badlands, Ellis and his small “family” of orphans are forced underground to survive.



Monday, March 9, 2015

Comic writer and artist Heather Holden talks about her webcomic Echo Effect and other upcoming projects

© Heather R. Holden
Today I have a special guest on the blog, a story teller that uses both words and images to tell her stories: Heather R. Holden, a comic writer and artist whose passion for Greek mythology inspired her current project Echo Effect, a sweet, modern remake of the Echo and Narcissus myth. Heather works on commission, too, and has some amazing wallpapers for just $1, so check out her website!

Welcome to CHIMERAS, Heather!

EEG: First off, I'd like you to tell us a bit about your background and, in particular, how and when you started doing webcomics: was it a deliberate choice or did you just try it out for fun and fell in love with it?

HRH: I’ve wanted to create comics my whole life, but ended up quitting as a teen, since I no longer felt good at art. Novel-writing became my main creative outlet then. Despite this, I was inspired to make fan comics for the CW show Reaper back in 2008, which helped get me back into the swing of drawing. I kept up with this webcomic till 2012. That was the same year I quit novel-writing—it just didn’t gel with me as a storyteller—and started developing Echo Effect, which I premiered in 2013.

EEG: Tell us more about Echo Effect. What was the inspiration?

HRH: Echo Effect stars Nicholas, a narcissistic pretty boy, and Coco, an antisocial stutterer. It was inspired by the Narcissus and Echo myth. I wanted to create a modern-day story out of it, but couldn’t have it be a contemporary retelling, since—in all my projects—Greek mythology is real. I decided to make it a sequel of sorts instead. Once I figured out the main characters and how they’re connected to Narcissus and Echo, everything fell into place.

EEG: What other projects are you currently working on?

HRH: I have countless projects I like to toy with, which range from horror to fantasy. I’ve been focused on one featuring vampires lately, but am not sure yet if this will become my main project after Echo Effect.

EEG: Are you planning on releasing Echo Effect on Amazon at some point?

HRH: Yes! Not sure if it’ll end up on Amazon, but I am working on a print collection for volume one right now, which will include strips #1-135, plus bonus content not seen online. (This series will have three volumes total. Volume two is currently being posted on my website.)

EEG: Who are your favorite writers and artists?

HRH: Lynne Ewing has always been my favorite writer. I love how she portrays women, friendship, and mythology in a modern-day world.

As for artists, there are so many I adore, including—but not limited to—Holly Golightly, Gisèle Lagacé, Starline Hodge, Matsuri Hino, Fernando Ruiz, Dan Parent, Samm Schwartz, and Stephen Gammell. If I ever need artistic inspiration, I just turn to their works.

EEG: Do you have a routine when you start a new webstrip? What is your creative process?

HRH: I like to plot a webcomic in its entirety before I ever work on a single strip. (Yes, this means I’ve known how Echo Effect will end since 2012.) This keeps me from writing myself into a corner, and I’m able to sprinkle in foreshadowing years in advance, too.

Once I can work on the actual strips, I’ll draw/ink them by hand, but color/letter them in Photoshop. I tend to let them “rest” a couple days after completing one, since it helps me spot mistakes in need of tweaking. Finished strips are then posted on my website…which I can never look at directly ever again, to prevent my inner perfectionist from wanting to make more tweaks!

EEG: Interesting, I do the same with words, can't keep looking at them once published. :-) Thanks so much for chatting with us today, Heather, and best of luck with Echo Effect and your future projects. I saw some forthcoming characters on your blog and already love them. :-)

You can read Heather's Echo Effect on her website, and follow Heather's latest webstrips on her blog, Twitter and Facebook.



Friday, March 6, 2015

Five star reviews for the Apocalypse Weird and the Editor Speaks: Ellen Campbell talks about the greatest thing about being an editor


It's Friday again and as you know I talk about Apocalypse Weird on Fridays, just because it's huge and it's awesome and it just started! Next week we will be celebrating yet another launch so until then make sure you've read all of these awesome books. Here's what you'd be missing otherwise:
"I loved the Dark Night. The progression of the plot was totally unexpected.[…] Nick Cole really know how to write about people with a lot of heart and emotion." David, 5-star review
"Chris Pourteau does it again. Engaging story telling, believable characters, and the end of the world meet head on in The Serenity Strain." Hank Garner, 5-star review
"Texocalypse Now stands perfectly on its own and is an exciting, powerful book. But, when you look at it as part of the AW series, it works
tremendously well and will be an important book to read for anyone interested in the Apocalypse Weird novels." W. Swardstrom, 5-star review
"Reversal has a story concept that I have never seen before AND I LOVED IT." David W., 5-star review 
"I'm loving Apocalypse Weird. Perhaps most of all because it is introducing me to authors like Giorgi, who I might not ever have read otherwise -- and that would have been my loss." Jason, 5-star review
Today my fabulous guest is another behind-the-scene player, and one of the most important, in fact: please welcome our talented editor Ellen Campbell, whose infallible red pen made all of our books shine. Ellen has edited some of the best indie authors out there, from Peter Cawdron to Michael Bunker, from Nick Cole to the fabulous Future Chronicles produced by Samuel Peralta.

Welcome to CHIMERAS, Ellen!

EEG: What do you enjoy the most about being an editor?

EC: Oh, hands down the greatest thing about being an editor is getting my hands on new books first. It's always a thrill to have a new manuscript in my inbox, and it's also cool to have inside knowledge—to see how the stories evolve, to see endings changed. It's like having a director's cut/alternate ending to stories that you love. And I do love them!

EEG: How did you get involved with the Apocalypse Weird project?

EC: Well, it's kind of funny. Michael Bunker contacted me back in September and said he had something big in the works and he wanted to talk to me about it at a later date. I thought, "Huh. Okay..." and promptly went on vacation and forgot all about it. Michael has a very talented editor already and it never occurred to me that he might need another one. Then he contacted me again in October, briefly outlined the idea to me, and asked if I'd be interested...oh, and by the way, you'll be starting with Nick Cole's book. After I regained consciousness I couldn't agree fast enough! My only question was which limb did I need to cut off to seal the deal? Two weeks later I had The Red King in my possession and I haven't looked back. I can't look back, I'm running for my life!

EEG: Name the most fun project you've worked on and the weirdest.

EC: For me, always and forever, the most fun project will be my very first—Peter Cawdron's Silo novel Shadows. I will admit that editing for Nick is blast, too. I was so intimidated when I started TRK, but I settled down and whipped out the red pencil. I also recently had the opportunity to edit The AI Chronicles, the next anthology in the vaunted Future Chronicles series, and got to edit a lot of very talented people that I otherwise wouldn't have had the opportunity to work on.

Oh, the weirdest? Right. Gay alien caterpillar porn. That's all I have to say about that.

EEG: Who are your favorite authors?

EC: First and forever favorite, the immortal Robert A Heinlein. I reread most of his catalogue on a regular basis. Two of his (The Moon is a Harsh Mistress and Starship Troopers) are in my all time top five favorite books. I also love Jean Slaughter Doty--she's my comfort read, Dick Francis, and a rather obscure writer of children's apocalyptic fiction, John Christopher.

EEG:  What are your pet peeves, i.e. stuff that when you see it in a manuscripts makes you pull your hair?

EC: Far and away the thing that annoys me the MOST is when an author uses the wrong homophone. If I could give one piece of advice to even very good writers it's find a website and review your homophones! If I read about a light poll you've lost me forever! Your (not you're) character is not over their! A distant second to that is misplaced apostrophes. Really, though, just sloppy writing in general is frustrating to me. Anyone can make mistakes (including me) and that's why you need an editor. Fresh eyes and mad skills--haha!

EEG: We certainly do, Ellen! Thank you for all your hard work! And if you're a writer and you are interested in hiring Ellen.... first, you've got to share her with us, hehe, then go check her website on Third Scribe.




Apocalypse Weird Books:

The Dark Knight by Nick Cole continues the story begun in The Red King as survivors band together to build a modern-day castle against a tide of dark forces overrunning Southern California. While Frank and Holiday struggle for power, Ash ventures into the night to rescue a lost special needs adult who has unknowingly glimpsed a horrifying future: a future where man is on the verge of extinction and a new predator rules the planet. The Apocalypse Weird is beginning, and it might just be something bigger than anyone ever imagined ... or feared.

Scorched by fire and the longest drought in recorded history, survivors flee the Land of Enchantment to escape a mutated flu virus that turns ordinary people into mass-murderers. In E. E. Giorgi’s Immunity, few resilient scientists remain, gathered in one of the last national laboratories still working on a vaccine. Then the disease starts spreading within the soldiers guarding the laboratory, bloody carnage reigns. Immunologist Anu Sharma pairs up with computer geek David Ashberg to find a cure and escape the massacre. Outbreak meets World War Z in the deserts of Apocalypse Weird.

The Thing meets The Core in Jennifer Ellis’s Reversal, where the isolated International Polar Research Station on Ellesmere Island becomes an incredibly dangerous assignment for Sasha Wood. Stalked by killer polar bears, Sasha and her partner, Soren, search for their missing colleagues in the frozen tundra as their compass reveals an incredible truth: a magnetic pole reversal—fabled and feared in the scientific community for years—has occurred. The North Pole is now the South and vice versa. Psychotic scientists and giant methane-venting craters are just the beginning of a terrible and strange new reality.

Chris Pourteau’s The Serenity Strain finds Houston, Texas, at the epicenter of an apocalypse both natural and unnatural. Three hurricanes wreak unprecedented devastation on the Texas Gulf Coast. Amidst the anarchy left in the wake of the storms, six prisoners—the genetically altered test subjects for a viral strain known as Serenity—escape the state prison in Huntsville. Their hunger for murder and destruction gorges itself on society's survivors. One being of immense power and wanton appetites, a member of the demonic 88 named Id, arrives to oversee the destruction of mankind and morality. The Stand meets 28 Days Later in this epic tale of genetic manipulation gone awry.

Lord of the Flies meets Mad Max in Texocalypse Now by Michael Bunker and Nick Cole. It’s a gritty tale of survival set in the post-Apocalyptic West Texas Badlands. Packs of feral, cannibalistic humans called “hordes” and other psychotic groups threaten a band of children led by Ellis, a boy barely a man. Ellis and the children make a home for themselves in a hidden valley atop a mysterious mesa. But when a member of the 88, a Man in Black simply known as Mayhem, arrives in the Badlands, Ellis and his small “family” of orphans are forced underground to survive.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

IWSG: do you usually write in first person or third?


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.

Let's talk about writing POV. I have written books both in first and third person. Second person is something I will not consider, though if you are curious, there are books out there. I've only read Halting States, by Charles Stross, and I admire the author for having the guts to write in second person. But it is hard to follow. So let's focus on third and first only for now.

I love first person because it allows me to get deep into the character's head and for me it is often the only way I can get his or her voice out. When you write a book you are not just telling a story, you are presenting a person to your readers. If you think of all the books you've loved they all had one thing in common: you could identify with the characters. You need a strong voice to do that a voice that's real and has personality. You need time to get to know your own characters so that their voice slowly comes out and for me the best way to do that is using first person.

Unfortunately, I've noticed many drawbacks of using first person. The most common one is that you are too immerse in the character's head and you risk saying too much. We don't need to know every thought, every bat of the eyelashes, every heartbeat of the character. So, often, zooming out and looking at things from the outside helps. I do that with third person.

In third person I am able to zoom out and parse better actions and thoughts so not to overwhelm the reader with "inner junk." However, in third person I have a harder time getting the voice out. So my strategy lately has been to start in first person to get the voice for the first draft and then switch to third in the second draft. Not efficient, but I'm liking the result so far.

What about you? Do you have a preference between first and third? Do you have a strategy?

Monday, March 2, 2015

Extinction Edge: a new thriller on how epigenetic changes induced by viruses could kill us all


Today my friend Nicholas Sansbury Smith releases Extinction Edge, the sequel to Extinction Horizon, a sci-fi thriller where humanity is driven to extinction by a lethal virus. I posted an interview with Nick for the release of his first book, but today I wanted to talk about the science behind his premise: can a virus induce epigenetic changes?

In a way, Nick's premise is similar to the premise I used in Chimeras: a large part of our DNA is made of pseudogenes, which are ancient genes that are no longer coding for proteins. They are "fossils" in a way, remnants of our evolutionary history. In very layman terms: new species evolve from old ones not because old genes are replaced, rather, new gene copies arise, then mutations accumulate and differentiate the new genes from the old ones, until the old genes are silenced and the new ones take over.

The part that tickles a writer's imagination is the following: if we still have all these ancient genes that once made our ancestors predators and hunters, could we possibly activate them and have people regress back to those ancient states?

If you've read Chimeras, you know how I made it happen in my detective Track Presius, and if you've read Extinction Horizon you know how Nick answered the question in his book. We both use a virus, though not the same one. A virus that "awakens" non-coding genes... is that completely far-fetched?

Turns out, it's not. Of course, it highly depends on what genes we want to awaken.

Epigenetics studies the mechanisms that turn genes "on" and "off" (i.e. expressed or not), how they are affected by the environment, and how they can be inherited from one generation to the next without being encoded in the DNA itself. One of such mechanisms that alters gene expression is DNA methylation, the addition of a methyl group to one of the A or C nucleotides in the DNA. Several studies have looked at how viruses can alter our epigenome, some in a permanent way.

Viruses insert their genes inside the host cell and hijack the cell's own proteins in order to replicate. The cell, on the other hand, defends itself by trying to silence the viral genes through a series of epigenetic mechanisms. So of course viral infections and epigenetic changes go hand in hand. I'm sure that these virally induced epigenetic changes can affect us in many subtle ways, and the vast majority of these changes leave us unharmed. However, when you search the literature, you find mostly studies that have looked at viruses that are associated with tumorigenesis because clearly that's of great interest to the medical field: viruses are much easier to detect early than tumors, and if we can understand the mechanisms they use to trigger cancer, then we can also prevent them from establishing the disease.

For example, the Epstein-Barr virus causes mononucleosis but it's also associated to some types of cancers, especially in immuno-suppressed individuals such as AIDS patients. As it turns out, the virus alters genome-wide gene expression in infected cells and these alterations can be pre-cancerous [1] (meaning the affected cells have a higher chance to accumulate tumorigenic mutations). Another virus that induces pre-cancerous epigenetic changes in liver cells is hepatitis, both the B and C kind [2, 3], which lead to liver carcinoma in about 10% of the infected individuals.

Epigenetic changes have been studied in HIV infected cells, too. People infected with HIV have to take a cocktail of antiretroviral medications for life and, despite the regimen, they never completely get rid of the virus. This is because the virus inserts its genome inside cells and then some of these cells become latently infected. They do not produce virions for months, sometimes years. However, as soon as the patient stops the antiretroviral therapy, the virus suddenly "awakens" and starts spreading throughout the body. These latently infected cells form a "reservoir" and how to get rid of it has been the focus of many studies lately as it is one of the major obstacles preventing us from finding a cure for AIDS. In this review [4], Mbonye and Karn explain how provirions (the HIV genes inserted inside the host cell genome) become latent through epigenetic mechanisms that silence them.

Studying epigenetic changes induced by viral infections is a relatively new field, but one that is very promising because contrary to genetic changes, epigenetic alterations are reversible. So, if we can find the viral triggers that lead to pathogenesis we have a potential preventive therapy by reversing those mechanisms.

Extinction Edge by Nicholas Sansbury Smith: Survivors call them Variants. Irreversible epigenetic changes have transformed them into predators unlike any the human race has ever seen. And they are evolving. A bioweapon designed to save the world, a scientific discovery that will alter human history, and a new threat that will bring humanity to the edge of extinction.

Chimeras by E.E. Giorgi: 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. 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.



[1] Birdwell CE, Queen KJ, Kilgore PC, Rollyson P, Trutschl M, Cvek U, & Scott RS (2014). Genome-wide DNA methylation as an epigenetic consequence of Epstein-Barr virus infection of immortalized keratinocytes. Journal of virology, 88 (19), 11442-58 PMID: 25056883

[2] Tian Y, Yang W, Song J, Wu Y, & Ni B (2013). Hepatitis B virus X protein-induced aberrant epigenetic modifications contributing to human hepatocellular carcinoma pathogenesis. Molecular and cellular biology, 33 (15), 2810-6 PMID: 23716588


[3] Rongrui L, Na H, Zongfang L, Fanpu J, & Shiwen J (2014). Epigenetic mechanism involved in the HBV/HCV-related hepatocellular carcinoma tumorigenesis. Current pharmaceutical design, 20 (11), 1715-25 PMID: 23888939

[4]Mbonye U, & Karn J (2011). Control of HIV latency by epigenetic and non-epigenetic mechanisms. Current HIV research, 9 (8), 554-67 PMID: 22211660

ResearchBlogging.org

Friday, February 27, 2015

Rob McClellan, the founder of Third Scribe, talks about his work behind the scenes of Apocalypse Weird



Wow, we had our big launch this past Monday and it was EPIC!

So, tell me: have you read all five books yet? Can't wait to find out what happens next? And most importantly: have you left your review to help the authors get the visibility they need?

Today my Apocalypse Weird guest is not one of the authors, but he's an equally important player who's been working tirelessly behind the scenes, especially in preparation of the big launch this past Monday. Rob McClellan is the founder of the author platform ThirdScribe. He is also our publishing guru who, in only a few months, built a platform for all authors to use and share,to keep track of our documents, editing and publishing schedule; he published five books, with two more coming every month, and, if this doesn't impress you enough, I shall add that he still hasn't sent me off my merry way [ <- euphemism ] every time I send him a panicky message screeching, "Help! I found yet another typo!!!"

So please welcome the one and only Rob McClellan to Chimeras.

EEG: Let's start with your involvement in the Apocalypse Weird project: how did it start and what did you think when you first heard about it?

RMC I first heard of it when it was in its earliest stages. I take care of both Michael Bunker and Nick Cole over at ThirdScribe, and after talking a while, Nick sent me an early copy of the “World” document and asked if I wanted to write a story. I told him, “Dude, I am WAY too busy for that right now,” and we tabled it.

A couple of weeks later, Michael Bunker shot me a note and said he really wanted to integrate ThirdScribe into this Apocalypse Weird thing, so we talked about what it was, what they were planning to do, and different ways TS could help them. And, I really liked the idea. A recent topic of discussion at TS had been around mentorship of newer authors, and AW really worked well with that concept. It was also extremely similar in many respects to what Hugh Howie had been preaching in his “New Harper Collins” posts, urging publishers to be more agile, cost effective, and helpful to authors.

Next thing you know, Marissa (my sales and marketing head at TS) and I are on a Skype with Tim Grahl going over capabilities and ideas to help them promote new “Tier 3” authors using our Stories platform. So, we got busy planning that out and one morning, driving in to the office, Nick Cole calls me and says, “We need you to help, can you do it?”

And, all honesty here, I am WAY overbooked as it is. I remember sitting there thinking “I would love to be a part of this, but I think it may very well kill me.” As I said, though, I believe in the concept and I feel this is how things should be run -- mentorship of newer authors, author heavy royalties, aggressive publishing schedule -- so I said “I’m in.”

Then I called my wife so she could tell me how insane I was.

But, it’s been working out. The first week of taking over as COO was extremely difficult - I got about 2-3 hours of sleep a night for the week! - but, at the end of that blitz, Kre8ing was built and we had a platform that was easier to use, kept our documents straight, provided a wiki so we could build this shared universe, task management, messaging, forums. And that system has really enabled us to keep up with all of this craziness.

I mean, seriously, we have authors distributed all over the planet, a production staff spread across the US, and an extremely aggressive 2 books/month schedule with a 5 book launch (including your book, Immunity). Basecamp wasn’t cutting it, and Facebook is nice, but you can’t keep a record of anything for more than a day or so at your all’s pace. Building a production system we could all use was a necessity.

Once that was in place, things calmed down and we really started rolling. We have pretty much hit every production deadline, with a few brief exceptions. We have a plan for each author and book until the end of 2015, and the entire team -- authors, artists, editors, formatters -- are super excited about the whole thing.

I’m gung ho about Apocalypse Weird. And, since I get to see and read all of the books as they come together, I can assure you that readers are in for real treat.

EEG: You are the founder of Third Scribe. When did you realize that a platform like that was needed and how did you go about creating it?

RMC: That is a very complicated question…

I guess I would say it was Spring of 2011. I had been building websites on the side and a few clients were authors. I had some friends who were artists and editors and such, and so I put together a little company to provide author services. But, it was a very hard sell. We had a few clients, but most authors we talked to already had a system for that in place -- an editor they liked and trusted, a cover artist they preferred, formatters, etc. But, almost every single one asked if I could provide marketing help.

I gave that a lot of thought and research. I reached out to successful Indie authors to see what they had done, and eventually I had a framework for how authors should be marketing on the web. And, I’ll be honest, it’s not THAT complicated. It takes work, that’s for sure. And a plan. But the individual steps are not that hard. Get a nice website, grow an email newsletter, have a content strategy to keep your audience engaged between books, and use your newsletter to power each new book launch cycle.

I almost stopped at that point, and said, “I’m not sure where the business is, here. The tools are around the web, just let authors figure it out.”

But, that was the techie in me. I assumed because I had a technical mind and enjoyed the web, I figured everyone did.

But, they don’t. It’s not that easy to set up a website for most people. Many don’t know how to format purchase links and get a book landing page looking good. They don’t know how to pick the right site theme, or what color combinations work. They don’t know how to build landing pages, or find and configure specific plugins to get the tools they need up and running. I’ve seen a lot of authors spend way more money than they should have for websites that didn’t work for them.

Knowing that a website is so essential to the author marketing effort, I figured I would set up a system that would let any author, regardless of technical skill, have a great website that would work for them, built around actual, proven design principles to ensure they were effective.

As I started down that path, I thought it would be quick to put together. Wordpress multisite, a few hand picked plugins, and it could take off.

But, nothing is that easy.

I knew we needed a book management system. I also knew we needed a social component for audience engagement. I wanted authors to have control over their purchase links. We had to have genre and subgenres, forums - it just kept growing. We created Enter Once so authors could put their books anywhere on their site just by using a drop down menu, because I knew -- I knew! -- that getting books out of the “My Books” page and into blog posts would increase click rates (and later split testing proved it did, by a factor of 17x).

It became a huge endeavor, and what I thought would take me a few weeks, ended up taking a team of 4 over a year to build.

While it took longer than we planned, the result is, I think, pretty amazing. And, we’re always improving it. This year we’ll be adding in several more service platforms that will really help authors out.

When we first launched, I figured, “Hey, we’ll provide this awesome platform, put some instructions in place, and let the authors handle it”. But, I soon realized that they weren’t doing that. Nor were they using the Support system to file a help ticket to get things done with their site. This kinda bothered me, because, again, as the tech guy I was like, “Why aren’t they using this beautiful system?”

Michael Bunker had been one of those early authors, and I sent him a message via the system and said, “Do you need some help entering your books and setting up your website?” He said, “Sure” and helping him, seeing the problems he was having, grew into what we now refer to as “collaborative support” where we, as network admins, continually prowl the entire network, both social side and author site side, looking for ways to help our members. And that freewheeling, “dive in and help” technical assistance has become, for many, our defining feature.

When you talk to ThirdScribe site holders, they all comment on the exceptional support we provide.

EEG: What do you like best about Third Scribe?

RMC: Ha, that’s like asking which one of your children you like best!

All joking aside, the thing I like the most about ThirdScribe is that the authors who use it are getting real, tangible benefits. That is a huge feeling of accomplishment for us. Empowering authors is why we made the service.

Nick Cole is no slouch in the writing department, but before he joined ThirdScribe he absolutely hated his website. It didn’t work. Blog posts didn’t show properly. He couldn’t configure sales links or organize his book pages. No newsletter. His menu was dysfunctional. It simply didn’t work, and he didn’t know how to go about fixing it -- so he pretty much abandoned it. He heard about us on Facebook and contacted me, and we got him all set up (as we do for everyone).

Now, he blogs regularly, his traffic is up, sales are up, ihs newsletter sign ups are up, but even more - he’s happy with it. He’s not frustrated. He doesn’t dread logging in to his site. He’s writing, having fun, and enjoying himself. And that, to me, is what we really want to accomplish with ThirdScribe.

That we get to help authors is the best thing about it, in my mind.

EEG: What other projects are you currently working on?

RMC: Aside from running a publishing company and heading the internet’s only comprehensive author platform, you mean? ;)

Well, I’ve taken on a writing mentor and am finally putting together the stories I’ve always wanted to write, which is an expansion on the Arthurian saga, specifically regarding Lancelot. It’s coming together slowly, I don’t have a huge amount of time to devote to it, but it is a serious goal for 2015 to get it out, and I’m working hard to achieve that.

We have several new modules of ThirdScribe in the works -- one is “Service” which will be a place authors can go to get reliable, professional production services (editing, formatting, cover art, videos , etc) without getting gouged. We’re working with several individuals and services now to get everything arranged and I think it will make a big difference for many authors. Authors can request the services they need, a’la carte, and we will connect them with the right talent for their needs, as well as manage the project for them.

We’re also working on “Select”, which connects authors with book reviewers and bloggers. It’s so hard to find good reviewers and many authors don’t have access to a large pool of ARC readers, nor do they know how to go about gathering them. We felt there was something we could do in that regard, so we’ve been taking steps over the last two months to put a service in place that authors can tap in to for beta reading, reviews, and other feedback.

And the last new module for this year is “Success”, which is an education platform for authors to learn how they can grow their audience, create better books, and improve their sales. There is so much mis-information out there, and so much vague advice, that we wanted to put a few courses together -- as well as ask successful authors in their field to as well -- that provide true, in depth, hard won information out there that would truly benefit the authors who use it.

We’re also working on an Enterprise Edition of the ThirdScribe platform, where publishers can set up their own network, tailored to their needs and the needs of their authors. We really see this as a huge service for small and medium publishers who want to grow their business and support their authors, but don’t want to have to invest heavily in IT.

EEG: Wow! You sure are busy! And how wonderful that you are working on your own novel, too. Best of luck with that! What's the weirdest thing you want to see happening in the Apocalypse Weird world?

RMC: Well, so far I’ve seen zombies, earthquakes, hurricanes, aliens, viruses, voodoo, and killer penguins. That’s a lot of ways to end the world!

But… Two Words: Tunguska Event.

EEG: Haha! Thanks so much for sharing a glimpse into your world, Rob.

Authors and readers alike: check out the awesome platform Third Scribe because you can't possibly pass on all the exciting stuff Rob just told you about. You can find Third Scribe also on Twitter and Facebook.

Books in the Apocalypse Weird universe: