Debunking myths on genetics and DNA

Saturday, June 20, 2015

The "commodity of individual experiences": Michael Patrick Hicks talks about the inspiration behind his DRMD series

A while ago a friend recommended Convergence, a sci-fi thriller by an author I didn't know at the time, Michael Patrick Hicks. I was instantly pulled intrigued by the ideas behind the story: the main character is a killer and a "memory thief," and the crimes that Michael imagines rotate around a substance called "DRMR," a "a powerful narcotic made from the memories of the dead."

Even though it's not my field, I'm always fascinated by new breakthroughs in neuroscience, and what Michael imagines in his book is not so far fetched: scientists have been able to create memory chips and induce artificial memories in mouse experiments. Could there be a future where memories could become so important, they'd be worth killing for?

Of course I had to pose the question to Michael directly, who graciously agreed to be a guest here on Chimeras today. Welcome, Michael!

EEG:  Tell us a bit about yourself and how you started writing.

MPH: I started writing way back in high school, thanks to a creative writing course during my senior year. So, that was almost twenty year ago now, and in the meantime I’ve written several novels that will never, never, ever see the light, and spent a number of years working as a probation officer before leaving that behind to pursue opportunities as freelance journalist for several local newspapers.

The more involved I got on the newspaper end of things though, the more I realized how badly I wanted and needed to be telling stories of my own, rather than the stories of others. On a lark, I went back to an idea I’d had lurking in my brainpan for about a decade and ended up writing Convergence.

At around the time I finished that book, Amazon was taking entries for their 2013 Breakthrough Novel Award contest, which was free to enter, so I thought, ‘Why not?’ It was open to ten thousand writers, and I figured I’d get bounced out pretty quickly. Instead, Convergence kind of became the little sci-fi book that could and hung around through the semi-finals where it got a glowing review from Publishers Weekly and terrific feedback from the ABNA reviewers. That was really the final push I needed to decide on pursuing publication and, eventually, going the indie route and getting it professionally edited and up to snuff for release to a wider audience.

EEG: In your book Convergence you introduce Jonah Everitt, a "memory thief". I was hooked and bought your book on that one idea alone as I found it extremely intriguing. Where did you get the idea that memories could have one day a "market value" as powerful drugs and be worth stealing and killing?

MPH: The idea for Convergence goes all the way back to 1999 and a story about a research team at University of California at Berkeley figuring out a way to wire into a cat’s brain and record some very rough video of what the cat was seeing. That idea always stuck with me, and as I started looking into some of the research that DARPA is doing, particularly with their REMIND program, and a few stories that I had read about the chemical releases that occur during death, like DMT, which is a powerful psychedelic. I did a lot of research on memory formation, and recent experiments that have been conducted with labs and actually creating false memories that were implanted in mice, and all kinds of potentially scary stuff like that. I was also getting caught up in the burgeoning growth of social media, and it all just sort of came together and converged, if you will.

When you look back and realize just how much of yourself you’re putting out to the world in status updates, and then seeing tailored ads on social media based on things you’ve liked or talked about and what not, you have to realize there’s a certain aspect of commodity to individual experiences. Now imagine how marketable memories themselves could be, all fully encoded with the emotional resonance and chemical reactions that formed them. I think it would be incredibly sellable, and that certain memories, like those of death, murder, suicide that we would be morally opposed to being used as escapist entertainment, would become all the more valuable and desirable to certain segments through their sheer illegality. And there’s certainly already a huge market for secrets and information in the world today. Memories and brain interfaces just seem like the natural progression to me.

EEG: You are absolutely right, and the whole thing is fascinating and scary at the same time. Well done on catching up on the idea! You published Emergence, the second book in the DRMR series, last month. What can you tell us about it?

MPH: Well, the second book, Emergence, released in early May. I don’t want to say too much about it, though and risk giving away stuff to people who haven’t read the first book yet, but it’s a direct sequel to Convergence and deals with some of the fallout of the prior book’s finale. In Convergence, the central character was Jonah, but in the second book we see the world more through his daughter’s eyes. I would definitely recommend people read these in order, though.

EEG: Besides the DRMR series, what are you working on?

MPH: I’m putting the finishing touches on a couple of short stories for two anthologies that I will be a part of this year, and which are releasing toward the back-half of 2015.

I was lucky enough to get invited into the No Way Home anthology, which sci-fi author Lucas Bale curated and released earlier this year. All of us writers involved had such an awesome time with it that we decided to team up again for a second anthology. So, this one will be all about crime and punishment through the prism of science fiction and should be out at the very end of August.

The second story is a bit of fantasy noir for an anthology called Undaunted, which will be released by a small publisher, LARRIKINbooks, with a foreword by Delilah S. Dawson. I don’t think a release date has been finalized for that anthology just yet, but keep an eye out for news on it pretty soon. There’s some really exciting stuff coming up for this project!

EEG: Who are the writers (either past or present) that inspire you?

MPH: Off the top of my head: Stephen King, Tom Clancy, Barry Eisler, Chuck Wendig, Jonathan Maberry, Lauren Beukes – those are authors I admire and love, and their approach to the craft, each in their own unique and different ways, have really helped shape and inform the way I write.

I discovered King and Clancy back in high school, and those are the two that really drew me in to reading and made me a book lover. Wendig, I follow his blog daily and try to read all of his stuff, and the guy is just so diverse and prolific. I think he has the most spot-on advice in terms of craft and publishing and he writes it all in such an easily digestible, and usually odd!, way that it’s a terrific bit of infotainment. Hugh Howey and Susan Kaye Quinn, too – I think anyone interested in writing and publishing would do well to read their blogs, too.

On a more personal level, I’m just a huge fan of Lucas Bale and I’m lucky to be able to call him a friend and a colleague. He’s become a real source of inspiration for me (and if he’s reading this, this is probably the first he’s hearing of it!), but the dude is just so tenacious and hard-working. We both stuck our necks out there with our first releases last year and, I guess, have sort of come up together and supported one another, but I’m constantly impressed with his drive and work ethic. He’s always writing, always coming up with new projects. He’s able to write full-time, which I don’t have the luxury of, so he’s kind of become the high-water mark by which I measure myself and think, jeez, I wish I could do what he does. Practically every time I talk to him, he’s got a grand new idea! So when I start to get complacent or lazy, I imagine that Lucas has probably written five thousand words, outlined a new series, and started in on a brand new short story, while I’ve been dicking around on Facebook instead. He’s just a total work horse, so getting to talk with him regularly and seeing updates on his upcoming stuff and new releases, it just puts me to shame and that inspires me to nudge out a little bit more on the word count whenever possible.

EEG: Lucas is indeed an amazing writer, I'm hoping to interview him next! :-)
Thanks so much Michael for chatting with us today and best of luck with all your future projects.

To find out more about Michael's books, visit his website at

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

New book releases that you won't want to miss, all 99 cents each!

Body of a killer, mind of a child, heart of a hero... 
BookSized_Frank_SmallWhen a troubled scientist – trying to save a young boy, and maybe himself – steals the dying child of a simple Amish couple and transplants the brain and cardiovascular system of their 11-year-old autistic son into an incredibly lethal DARPA robot, the dark forces of government come looking for their investment. Dr. Alexander and the monster escape into an Amish community to hide among the plain folk while Frank, the boy trapped inside the body of the world’s deadliest robot, learns how to leave the world of autism and understand what it means to be human and Amish.

Tensions arise as the Amish begin to suspect just what kind of technological monstrosity is hiding among them, and before long hard men who do the government’s most dirty deeds will arrive looking for a killing machine… only to find a boy named Frank who has the power to defend a closed society from the worst of the world.

“Hugo Material!” ~ Nick Cole

Get It Now!

AmazonLink KindleLink BarnesLink NookLink iBooksLink KoboLink

Also set in the Michael Bunker's world of Pennsylvania:

Kim Well's story Sisters of Solomon: A young Amish bride settled in the AZ comes to terms with very personal tragedy after the Transport Authority destroys the City, along with everything she thought she would be. Her grief consumes her, until she finds a more powerful reason for living.

This short story, which author David Bruns called "lyrical" and Amazon reviewers praised for the feminine side of the Pennsylvania story, is written as a diary and will be interesting to fans of Bunker's Pennsylvania as well as anyone interested in a woman's perspective of history.

Buy it here:

Chris Purteau's collection Tales of B-Company: The Complete Collection: In Michael Bunker’s Pennsylvania Omnibus, Jedidiah Troyer becomes the hero of TRACE’s fight against the Transport Authority. But even before Jed’s adventure begins, the Second War for Pennsylvanian Independence has raged for a generation.

Originally published as separate stories, this collection captures the struggle, tragedy, and heroism of a company of TRACE commandos as they wage war for the freedom of New Pennsylvania. IFans of Bunker’s novel will discover cameos by some of his most-beloved characters, as well as a new appreciation for the struggle of TRACE against Transport.

Buy it here:

David Bruns' novella Yesterday Adjustment: All inflection events that fundamentally altered the trajectory of mankind’s future.

After more than a half-century at war, Transport is desperate for a way to defeat the rebels once and for all. Enter Damien Strickland, Time Operative agent. His mission: posing as an Amish man, go back in time and make sure the rebel attack on the Columbia portal fails.

The mission takes an unexpected turn when he meets Amos Troyer, the man who will grow up to become the feared leader of the rebel forces.But Amos in this timeline is only a harmless sixteen year old Amish boy.

Buy it here:

D.K. Cassidy's story Donovan: In Michael Bunker's “Pennsylvania”, we briefly met Donavan Yoder--a young man divided. Born in the Amish Zone, he was raised to embrace a plain, peaceful life. After he grows up, Donavan becomes an officer with the Transport Authority, the tyrannical government grinding New Pennsylvania under its iron boot. Eventually, his conscience leads him to side with TRACE, the resistance group fighting Transport for the freedom of the entire planet. Donavan has made some tough choices in his life. What ultimately drove him to sympathize with the very rebels he'd fought to subdue?

Buy it here:

Monday, June 8, 2015

Guest post by Alex J. Cavanaugh: where can story ideas take you?

Today my guest is Alex J. Cavanaugh, author of the bestselling space opera CassaStorm and founder of the Insecure Writer Support Group, a community of writers that "meets" in the blogosphere every first Wednesday of the month.

It’s amazing where one book can take you.

The idea for my first book, CassaStar, came to me when I was a teen. Inspired by Battlestar Galactica, Star Wars, Buck Rogers, and the like, I started thinking of adventures for my main character. I even wrote a short but full manuscript. It was awful and sat in a drawer for almost thirty years.

When I rewrote it and eventually landed a publisher, I intended it to be the only one. Fans wanted more and my publisher asked if I could continue the series. The second, CassaFire, came from a short story, but I had to plot CassaStorm from scratch. The main character and the Cassa universe were both established though, which made writing the sequels a little easier.

After CassaStorm’s release, I knew the series was complete. I also wasn’t sure if I wanted to continue writing. Music is my passion and I wanted to explore that further.

Not long after the third book’s release, a song reminded me of an idea I’d had years ago. Ayreon’s Dragon on the Sea is about Sir Francis Drake, but from the first time I heard the song, I’d always pictured a dragon space ship in battle.

Now, unlike most writers, I don’t have tons of ideas in my head. I’m lucky to have one good one hit me at a time. So when this one resurfaced, I took it as a sign that I had to write it.

I decided this story needed to take place outside of the Cassa universe. That meant world-building from scratch. Joy!

Once I had a basic outline, I started researching and creating the planet of Hyrath – geography, commerce, politics, etc. A little investigation revealed that sea kelp could fulfill the role of food, drug, and power source, and that filled several slots and kept things simple. I also needed to make the Kargrandes (see the site What Are the Kargrandes? for clues) very tough creatures, and discovered the real life Tardigrade provided many of the answers. There were other details, such as distances and space travel speeds, that required a bit of math work. (And I’m not great with math.)

While it was difficult to set up a new universe and design new characters, exploring the story through fresh eyes was fun. Once I had the initial rough draft finished, the characters really came to life. I’m as proud of Dragon of the Stars as I am my Cassa trilogy.

Where has one book or story idea taken you?

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.

Alex's latest book, Dragon of the Stars, published by Dancing Lemur Press, is available on Amazon, Barns and Nobles, Kobo and iTunes. For more information visit

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?

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

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.

For today's IWSG, I want to share a FB post I published a couple of weeks ago on my page hoping that it is inspirational to all of us. This is my original text:
Today is a good day. Back in 2011 my agent submitted Chimeras to a bunch of BIG 6 acquiring editors. One editor said my science wasn't solid. Another said my main character should've been a woman. Another said, "Why should I care?" 
Well, dear editors, this is why you should care: one year after I published CHIMERAS, over 8,000 people have downloaded the book. It has 98 reviews with a 4.6 ranking. At the same time, the books you acquired back when you rejected mine are ranking quite poorly and only have 20-something reviews. So think about that. 
And to all my readers and supporters I say: THANK YOU. Together, we accomplished something and proved a point.
It's true that most of those 8,000+ copies I've sold through promotions, while big publishers rarely put their books on promotion. But what this tells me is that even though I've been rejected by the BIG 6 editors, I feel like fate or the stars or whatever it is you believe in gave me the best option, the option where I was in control and I could reach out to readers. Instead, it seems like the authors that said editors picked at the time when I was following them have been forgotten. And I feel for them, because once the book is in the hands of a publishers, you have no control over it. You have no control over the price, over the cover, over when and for how long to run a promotion.

There's a good chance that if those editors had picked up Chimeras, then my book would have tanked just like those others books. Instead, I'm still here, still publishing and still making the best out of it. I take one step at the time, yet my readers and fan base have been growing. It took me 3 months to get 40 reviews for Chimeras. In May I published my 5th book (one year and one month after I published Chimeras) and I had 45 reviews within 3 days from launch.

The road to publishing is full of obstacles, setbacks and frustrations. That's why it is so important that we focus on the good things and always stop to listen to the forest growing rather than the one tree falling.