Friday, December 23, 2011

How I Write-- What books would you put in a time capsule?

If you could put the books you've read this year in a time capsule, what would you put? The accountabililty group decided to tackle this question this week. I've been pretty good at updating my Goodreads this year, which has helped me immensely. I read about a book a week so it helps to keep me in the loop of what I read. In no particular order, I'd put in the time capsule:

1. The Legend Hunters by Robyn DeHart (Seduce Me, Desire Me and Treasure Me). I love this trilogy and am sad it's over. What I loved the most about it was that it combined two of my loves: historical romances and paranormal mythology. If you are interested in Pandora's Box, Atlantis and whatnot, then check out this series. I heart it so bad. --Historical

2. When the Duke Returns, The Duchess of Mine and A Duke of Her Own by Eloisa James. I really enjoyed all three and couldn't get enough of the stories. Simeon (the explorer who returns, a virgin hero!), Jemma and Villiers really captured my attention. --Historical

3. New to me was Courtney Milan. I read Unveiled and Unclaimed (another virgin hero!) and was sucked in to the stories of both of these. --Historical

4. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. I loved the premise and the characters. I can't wait for the movie to come out. --YA, post-apocalyptic

5. Dragon Bound by Thea Harrison. One of the few paranormals I've read this year. I loved how the hero was portrayed. He was a dragon in every sense of the word. --Paranormal

6. The Care and Taming of a Rogue by Suzanne Enoch. Hero is an explorer who was thought dead and returns. I believe, but don't quote me, he's another virgin hero (notice a trend going on?) -- Historical

7. Nine Rules to Break when Romancing a Rake by Sarah Maclean. Another new to me author. I'll definitely read others from her. I thoroughly enjoyed this one. --Historical

8. A Little Bit Wild by Victoria Dahl. It was the first time I read a book by her and since then, I've bought a few more.-- Historical

9. Seducing the Duchess by Ashley March. I really liked the heroine and how strong she was...and how the hero changed.-- Historical

10. What a Gentleman Wants by Caroline Linden. I think I've enjoyed pretty much every Caroline book so far. -- Historical

11. The Perfect Mistress by Victoria Alexander. I loved the main conflict between the heroine and hero.-- Historical

12. The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie by Jennifer Ashley. I LOVED Ian so much. I agonized over getting this book. I tried to buy through Amazon and Barnes and Noble and both had no copies. I can't recall where I got this used copy but it was well worth it. Am definitely going to read the others.-- Historical

What would you put in a time capsule? What have you read that you'd recommend to anyone? Check out my friends' sites to see what books they'd put in a time capsule: Danie Ford Emma G. Delaney Kimberly Farris Kristen Koster

Friday, December 16, 2011

How I Write-- What's in your toolbox?

While last week was a bit of fun, this week's How I Write has to do with writing tools and resources. What do you use? What are your favourites?

- Flip Dictionary- I could not live without this. It's, yes, technically just a thesaurus but it has so much in there that isn't in a normal thesaurus that I'm in love. It's designed to help you find a word if you have an idea what you want. Like a certain type a'd look up tree and it'll list all the different kinds. This is my one book that is so ratty because I use it constantly.
- Websites- I don't frequent a lot anymore, but some that I can't live without are Savvy Authors (great workshops hosted there) and Kiss of Death (again, awesome workshops that aren't found elsewhere really)
- Books- Let's face it, to be a writer you need to read as well. I try to read at least one romance (historical or paranormal lately) a week. I also have tons of research books on the paranormal and science that I consult with.

Tools (this one I had a bit of trouble because I don't use any programs to write):
- my computer- I need my computer. There's no doubt about that. While I can write pen and paper or a type writer (started out like this), I prefer not to. That and the fact I'm too OCD. I can't stand a marked up page (like if I'm doing edits). If the page has been ruined with a mark, I get twitchy wanting to print out a new one.
- I'm going to put sprints here. They may be considered more a resource, not sure, but for me, sprints are the tools I use to get my words done.
- This will sound odd but my tv. I need background noise. I can't concentrate when it's quiet. Usually I put on the food network or shows I've already watched before. Something that doesn't distract me too much so that I'm paying more attention to it. If I don't have the tv on, then I need music on. Sometimes both on at the same time.

Check out my friends' sites to see what tools and resources they use: Danie Ford Emma G. Delaney Kimberly Farris Kristen Koster

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

What would you like to see in 2012?

2012 is approaching so I thought I'd open up the floor to you guys. I'm going to be re-arranging a few things next year, but want to keep this spot open for paranormal and science things. I thought though that I would give you guys a say. What would you like to see in this paranormal/science spot in the coming new year? Anything in particular you'd like to see explained?

I'm going to leave you guys with a cool vampire hunting kit that was used in the approx 1890s. The kit includes: crucifix, stake, mallet, hatchet, German stamped letter to the mother of deceased victim, signed new testament bible by hunter Andrew Kauffman along with picture of victim, pliers, Remington derringer pistol, rosary, syringe, garlic extract, sulphur, hair from destroyed vampire, pulled fangs of destroyed vampire & holy oil.

Friday, December 9, 2011

How I Write-- An Open Letter to Santa

Dear Santa,

I've been a very good writer this year (at least I think I was). I know you're busy preparing all the toys for the good boys and girls but I thought I'd send in my requests:
  1. a clone-- what better way to be more productive? The real me will stay at home and just concentrate on writing while my clone goes out and works or does the housework.

  2. a vitural reality system or holodeck-- because it's expensive to travel to do my research and the internet only goes so far to help me. Some things you just need to experience for yourself in order to evoke the right feeling and emotion in the writing.

  3. a time turner pocket watch like the one Hermione has in Harry Potter (note, this isn't the same one but it's a steampunk version and cool!)-- because those deadlines can creep up fast and I want to put out the best product possible. I promise I wouldn't abuse this ability too much.

  4. a replicator from Star Trek-- so that I don't have to worry about cooking. All I'd have to do is punch in what I want and the food item is synthesized. No matter what I'm craving, it's there at the press of a button. Yes, I could pick up the phone and call for delivery, but this is cooler and faster and gives you more options.

  5. an endless supply of Coca Cola and chocolate (although other candy may be substituted)-- I need my energy fix. How else am I going to tempt the muse out and bribe it for its secrets?

  6. a cat wrangler-- seriously, how many times do I need to get up off the couch a day to get the cats off the counter or to stop knocking my books from the bookshelves, or jumping up and knocking boxes down? I can assure you, that's precious time spent away from my book.
As you can see, my list isn't all that demanding. Just a few little items that would make this writer immensely happy.

Alexia Reed

Check out my friends' sites to see what they want for Christmas: Danie Ford Emma G. Delaney Kimberly Farris Kristen Koster

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Star Trek's Holodeck May Indeed Be in our Future

If you've watched Star Trek, you're probably aware of the holodeck. It's like one big simulated reality room where you can interact with "programmed world". It'd be like living in your tv and interacting with your favourite characters. You become part of that story. That world.

I'm not sure about you, but I've been waiting for the day when a holodeck-like virtual reality system was created. Just think what you could could travel the world without ever having to leave your livingroom! Ok, I'd still want to go, but it'd still be pretty cool. It could be a very cool way for authors to learn about a new subject they're writing about.

Well a a holodeck may not be too far off. A couple of companies in Britain have started to work on something similar using a bunch of projectors, Sony Move controllers, and some creative visual tricks. What they do is project the images on the walls in a way to adjust to the geometry of the objects in the room (such as the couch in the video or the box), creating the illusion that the surface itself has changed. The controllers are attached to the camera and the position is fed back to the projectors in real time, allowing the projectors to adjust for the distortion of the image. This lets the camera move around, adding to the three-dimensional effect.

Sony Europe, Studio Output and Marshmallow Laser Feast shot three web videos to highlight the immersiveness of movies rented or purchased from the PlayStation Store. In the videos, all were made with just one take and no postproduction work. The effects look apparently nearly as good (and cheaper) and could even be used to replace the CGI technology used in the film industry that created Avatar.

Friday, December 2, 2011

How I Write-- the hybrid plantster

Plotting...that dreaded "p" word. I decided to ask my AC group how they plot if they do and how they know whether a story is finished or not. I decided to ask this question because everyone writes differently. Some are pantsers who work to an outline, some plot with spreadsheets, etc.

Stage 1: First Draft

For me, I'm a mixture somewhere in the middle. My first drafts are always a crapshoot in the dark as I try to form some kind of a plot. I may not even write scenes in order. I tend to let myself do whatever I want with this first draft. I'll then sew the scenes together. It's really not pretty when I do the first draft. It's a mess and the plot is thin and weak. But, it gives me an idea of the direction I want the story to go in.

Stage 2: Second Draft

This is when I plot. I get out my cue cards (I love neon ones so that you can code the different plots, character growth, or relationship threads and keep track of the balance) and jot down every scene from the first draft. I'll then get on the floor and re-arrange them. This helps me see where plot holes may be that need to be filled. I'll then create the new scenes on new cue cards and insert where needed. Once I have a map, I'll jot down the points on my white board as a list to check off as I go along.

I now start a new document and write from scratch. Oh I'll use the scenes previously written but I'll edit it to make it work in what I plotted. This is where the meat is added to those bones of the story. Now, it starts to feel fleshed out and not quite so sickly.

Stage 3: Crit partners

I've jumped the gun in the past and have had readers go through various drafts before it was ready. To me, I thought, the story had been ready however, but I've learned this year that anytime before the second stage and it isn't. I can do as many "drafts" as I want in the first stage but it won't feel ready. Not until the second stage.

But it's at this point my story will go out to my fabulous crit partners whose insights have helped me so much.

Stage 4: Third Draft

This final stage is the last edits based on the feedback I've received.

How do you know the story is ready?

If there's one thing I've learned this year, it's how to judge my WIP by this feel. I thought, Hunting the Shadows was ready to be published, but it wasn't until I got the awesome feedback of my editor and actually got into the first round of developmental edits that I learned (for me) when my writing was ready.

Check out my friends' sites to see how they create their stories: Danie Ford Emma G. Delaney Kimberly Farris Kristen Koster

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Are you a chimera?

Thousands of years ago, the Greek poet ­Homer wrote about a specific monster with the chest of a lion, the tail of a snake, the midsection of a goat and heads of all three animals. While this is only mythology, and an exaggerated version at that, there are many natural-borne chimeras around today that we may not even know about.

What is a chimera?

From wiki: a chimera is a single organism (usually an animal) that is composed of two or more different populations of genetically distinct cells that originated from different zygotes. Chimeras are formed from four parent cells (two fertilized eggs or early embry
os fused together). Each population of cells keeps its own character, resulting in an organism of mixed tissues. Usually, the condition is inherited, but may also be acquired through the infusion of allogeneic hematopoeitic cells (this happens through transplantation or transfusion). The likelihood of offspring being a chimera is increased if it is created via in vitro fertilization.

There is also a form of congenital chimerism (tetragmetic chimerism). In this way, chimerism occurs through the fertilization of two separate ova by two sperm. The two usually then fuse together at the blastocyst or zygote stage. What results is an organism with intermingled DNA. As the organism develops, it can come to possess organs that have different sets of DNA (i.e. it may have the liver composed of one DNA and a kidney of another. It may even have two different blood types). In CSI (the original), this was a particular key plot in "Bloodlines".

The difference in phenotypes may be subtle (e.g., having one eye a different colour from the other, etc.) or completely undetectable. Chimeras may also show, under a certain spectrum of UV light, distinctive marks on the back resembling that of arrow points pointing downwards from the shoulders down to the lower back in what is called Blaschko's lines.

Blaschko lines form from the fact that chimeras start out with two different cells, each with different DNA (and therefore different instructions). The skin of the person is therefore made up of two different sets of instructions on how to colour the skin. The Blaschko's lines result from the fact that some of a chimera's skin cells say to make darker skin and some say to make lighter.

When there is a big difference between the two DNA's instructions on how dark to make the skin, then you get obvious Blaschko's lines. If the differences are subtle, then you may not be able to see the pattern without the aid of an UV light.

While not as rare as once believed, chimeras may be identified by finding two different populations of red cells, or if the zygotes were of opposite sex, either ambiguous genitalia or hermaphroditism (alone or in combination).

In 2003, scientists had begun to blur the lines of chimerism-producing animal-human hybrids-when Chinese scientists at Shanghai Second Medical University successfully fused human cells with rabbit eggs. While the embryos were successful, after several days of being allowed to develop in a laboratory dish, they were destroyed so that the stem cells could be harvested. And in 2004, pigs were created with human blood.


Because scientists believe that the more human-like the animal, the better research model it makes for testing drugs or possibly growing "spare parts," such as livers, to transplant into humans.

What do you think about chimeras?

Friday, November 25, 2011

How I Write-- A day with a character

If you could spend the day with any of your chars, who would you choose? What would you do?

For me, this is tough. There are so many characters of mine that I'd want to hang out with that I find interesting. However, I think the char I'd choose would be one that hasn't had his story written yet (complicated, eh?). While I love all my chars, Athan and I have a particular bond through the love of science and ancient mythology. Yes, I know, J.C. (Hunting the Shadows) is big into science as well and he'd be my second choice, tied with Stefan (tentatively Tempting the Shadows), but I love Athan's interests.

Athan (and I'm being very careful not to give spoilers) is an inventor. With use of science, he creates these devices that helps him deal with life easier (we won't talk about the weapons). He has his oddities. He likes writing on glass walls with marker...and he has a huge DNA artwork that he hangs on the wall in his bedroom (because it's cool). But even more cool, he's a Chimera. His DNA has been muddled so much that he isn't of any real descent. Oh he's human, but with so much other DNA thrown into the mix that he's a hybrid (for instance, he has more than one blood type).

One eye blue, one eye green...a mop of touseled black hair, Athan has gone through some particularly character strengthening events. It's made him a bit bitter (at himself because he feels like he can't control his own body), but he adapts through the best means he knows how: science.
When he's not inventing something, he's a treasure seeker/adventurer--taking trips to Greece and Egypt or wherever else he wants. If I could spend a day with him, I'd go on a dig with him (I'd love to go visit the Great Pyramids and the Sphinx!). To me, this would be the ultimate day. Not only would I get to talk about science, I'd get to play in the dirt. ;) I'd have to brush up on my hieroglyphics, however.
Who would you spend a day with?

Check out my friends' sites to see what character they would spend the day with: Danie Ford Emma G. Delaney Kimberly Farris Kristen Koster

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Why invisibility cloaks may be in our future

At one point, even just the idea of having the ability of invisibility was a fictional concept. But what if you really could? Would you use the ability for good or evil? This is something Cian, one of my characters, has to deal with. After an experiment goes wrong and he finds himself invisible to the world, at first, he finds it fun...until time passes and loneliness kicks in.

But what if you didn't have to be 'changed' to be invisible? What if you just had to put on a cloak to be hidden from the world? If you've watched Harry Potter, Harry receives one as a gift that he uses to sneak around Hogwarts.

While the first invisibility cloaks worked at microwave frequencies, physicists have found a way to create a cloak that works by hiding events in time. It's made possible because of a duality between space and time in electromagnetic theory (or rather-- the diffraction of a beam of light in space in mathematically equivalent to the temporal propagation of light through a dispersive medium). Like a lens focusing light in space using diffraction, it's also possible to use dispersion to make a lens that focuses in time.

Such a time-lens can be made using an electro-optic modulator, for example, and has a variety of familiar properties. "This time-lens can, for example, magnify or compress in time," say Fridman and co.

The trick, the physicists realized to creating a temporal cloak, was to place two time-lenses in series and then send a beam of light through them, compressing the light in time while the second decompresses it again. For a short period of time, they found that there's a hole in time where to the observer, because of the light coming out of the second time-lens, it appears undistorted as if nothing occurred. However, this method has some limitations, such as lasting only for 110 nanoseconds.

A second method was found more recently in which, researchers From the University of Texas created a cloak, using the technique of a mirage effect to hide objects from view, even creating an on and off switch to make it work.

A mirage effect is naturally occurring in which light rays are bent to produce a displaced image of distant objects. It can happen, for instance, when there's a big change in temperature over a small distance, bending the rays so that they are sent toward the eye rather than bouncing off the surface.

So if you see a pool of blue water in the middle of the desert it’s just the blue sky being redirected from the warm ground and sent directly into your eye. Your brain swaps this mad image out for something more sensible: a pool of water.

The scientists decided to find a material that would have an ability to conduct heat and quickly transfer it to surrounding areas to mimic the light-distorting temperature gradients of the desert. What they found was that sheets of carbon nanotubes that are one molecule thick, wrapped into cylindrical tubes, have a density of air but the strength of steel. Because they are also excellent conductors, the scientists believed that they would make the ideal material to create this mirage effect. Through electrical stimulation, the transparent sheet of nanotubes were quickly heated to high temperatures, transferring the heat to its surrounding areas. This caused the light rays to bend away from the object that was concealed behind the device, making it appear invisible.

"We really can hide objects. ... We can switch for a short moment and make it disappear," said Ali Aliev, a physicist at UTD.

While the technology is limited to the lab at the moment, researchers hope that in time the material could be used to hide large objects, such as military tanks. This still doesn't mean, however, that a human could wear such a device. At this time. But if something was created for a human to actually wear, what would you do with it?

Friday, November 18, 2011

How I Write-- Handling the Holidays

With the holidays' coming up, we're focusing this week on our holiday plans such as-- what are you cooking? Or planning to/looking forward to eating the most if you're not cooking? And how are you planning on balancing your writing with your real life obligations? Or are you not writing?

While my accountability group is probably going to focus on Thanksgiving, since US turkey day is coming up, I'm going to look into the future to Christmas since I've already celebrated Thanksgiving.

Christmas time is a blur of activity. On the 23rd I hope to be on the train, headed for home. It's a 8- 10 hour ride I'll most likely spend reading , listening to music and snacking on my own version of trail mix (sour patch kids, chocolate and caramel popcorn). I may do some writing. It all depends on how much room I have. By the time I get home, it'll be late at night. As what happens every year, we'll finish off our shopping on the 24th. It's not like I can bring a lot back with me. I'm hoping this year to order things online and have them shipped to my parents (and pray they don't decide to peek).

I probably won't be doing much in the ways of baking. My mom will have done most of it before I got there. The tree will probably already be up as well. It usually is when I get there. I may write, if I have the time, but I'll also be focusing on the gifts and finishing them off for the family.

Christmas day, it depends. We wake and then open the gifts around 9-10. Sometimes breakfast is before. Sometimes not. We'll all sit on the floor or on chairs around the tree, take a few pics of the family then someone hands out a gift per person and work the way through. After clean up, calls are made to the rest of the family and that can take some time. Christmas is a writing day wash for me. Especially if we're doing dinner at my aunt and uncle's place. I'm not going to lug my computer with there.

Sometimes we don't go out for Boxing Day. I really hope we do this year though, because I'm looking to get a new camera and the sale would be nice. Again, no writing is done this day. By the 27th things start to slow down enough that I could consider getting out the laptop, however, by the 1st, I'll be back on a train.

I'll try to write what I can, but it's a very difficult week. Considering I have a writing pact with a friend, I really do need to. The pact is to finish the story we're currently working on by Jan 1st or we have to pay the other person $100 for books.

For more on what everyone else is doing on the holidays, check out their sites: Danie Ford Emma G. Delaney Kimberly Farris Kristen Koster

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Beam me up Scotty!... or why everyone on Star Trek is a clone

While I'm still holding out for a car that drives itself (I don't just mean to park by itself but to also navigate the roads) to come on the market, I daydream constantly about having the ability of teleportation. Just imagine--you blink and you're at your destination a second later. Awesome right? No waiting in traffic. No having to pay for gas or insurance. But best of all, you'd be able to sleep and still be at work in time.

I was watching Jumper on Saturday night and if you haven't watched it before, the main character can teleport himself anywhere. Cool right? That is, when he's not being hunted. The idea of teleportation isn't a new one. While in Jumper it was an innate psychic ability that has existed for centuries, in Star Trek, the characters use a machine, a transporter that gets them to one place to another by dispersing the molecules in their bodies to another location.

But is it possible? Can a person successfully disappear and then reappear intact and alive?

Historically, the earliest mention of teleportation can be found in religious texts. Teleportation then found mention in a 1877 in a science fiction story by Edward Page Mitchell and even Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote a novel on it called The Disintegration Machine. The word teleportation, however, wasn't coined until 1931 by author Charles Fort in his book, Lo! Since then, it has not only been used in Star Trek, but Stargate Atlantis and even Heroes and movies like the Fly and Jumper. While the ability varies depending on what you're watching (psychic ability vs some kind of technology that allows it), the same physics would apply.

While Newton's theory states that teleportation is impossible (objects don't move until they are pushed and cannot suddenly disappear and then reappear somewhere else), in 1925 Erwin Schrodinger and colleagues developed the quantum theory, overthrowing Newton's laws after 250 years. After analyzing the properties of atoms, they discovered that electrons acted like waves and could make quantum leaps in their seemingly chaotic motion within the atom.

In order for this to make sense, I need to explain what is called an EPR (Einstein, Podolsky and Rosen) experiment. In 1935 they proposed that if two electrons are vibrating in unison they remain in wavelike synchronization even if separated by distance because of an invisible Schrodinger wave connecting both of them. If something happens to one electron, some of the information is immediately transmitted to the other in what is called quantum entanglement that was thought to happen faster than the speed of light. Because Einstein didn't think anything could move faster than the speed of light, he thought he'd proven that quantum theory was wrong. But in 1980 Alan Aspect and colleagues performed an experiment that measured the spin of photons and agreed with the quantum theory.

Everything changed in 1993, when scientists had their first success, proving that it was physically possible to teleport objects, at least on an atomic level using the EPR experiment. A research team at IBM, led by Charles Bennett, confirmed that quantum teleportation (the transmission of characteristics--that is, the quantum state of a particular photon, or particle of light--from one place to another) was possible, but only if the original object was destroyed. While the original was destroyed, every distinguishing feature is re-created at the new location. Even now physicists have only been able to teleport particles of light and atoms over a distance.

In 2002, researchers in Australia successfully teleported a laser beam, but the most recent successful teleportation experiment happened in 2006 at the Niels Bohr Institute where Dr. Eugene Polzik and his team teleported information stored in a laser beam into a cloud of atoms.

While we have had some successes, w
e are far away from creating anything that could transport a human from one spot to another. From HowStuffWorks, "For a person to be transported, a machine would have to be built that could analyze all the atoms that make up the human body. The machine would then have to send this information to another location, where the person's body would be reconstructed with exact precision. Molecules couldn't be even a millimeter out of place, lest the person arrive with some severe neurological or physiological defect." If we go with what happened above where information was copied in the attached, electron, we would have to assume that the machine would act like a fax machine and duplicate the person on the receiving end, possibly destroying the original, thereby "killing" the person.

While teleportation isn't possible today, it would make an interesting sci-fi novel. If the original person was destroyed and a clone made, would that clone be EXACTLY like the original. Sure, it would have the same memories and emotions and whatnot, but what if things go wrong? Is the the person really dead since he/she has been cloned? What do you think?

Friday, November 11, 2011

Writing journey through the POV of my book

You'll have to ignore my silliness in this next How I Write addition. The question asked was all about our writing journey (where we were ten years ago, five years ago, a year ago, six months ago). While my goals stayed pretty constant (the learning curve for me was a long one), the process for me, was the biggest thing. I always knew I wanted to be published, even when I was tracing the goo from Goosebump books on a made up cover and pretending I was going to write one just like that. If I could have done anything differently, I wouldn't have wasted a bunch of years. Yes, there was school and yes, I learned a lot from writing RP, BUT, I could have used those years better.

In the POV... of my book:

My journey of conception was not an easy one. While some books were created simply by a spark of an idea and then went on to maybe one or two…sometimes a few more drafts before being finished, I was not so lucky. While my creator started to jot down ideas and scenes twelve years ago, my journey was a slow one at first with her school work. Luckily (or maybe un-luckily), she had no life. She would go home, sit at the computer and write (in between homework of course). And when she wasn’t doing either, she became addicted to Playstation war and fantasy games. Oh and we won’t mention the horrendous music she played on repeat. So many boybands…*sigh*…we also won’t talk about how she named the hero after one particular lead member.

Ten years ago, I had already been through the ringer three times. Three draft that she tore viciously into, abusing me as she deleted scenes and re-wrote, all in the name of ‘working on characterization’ or ‘learning how to pace the plot’. It didn’t end there. A story can only claim amnesia so many times, you see. Scenes were amputated from me and tortured so viciously that when they were re-inputted, they were completely different. I became Frankenstein incarnate. In order to keep some kind of sanity, I had to regress into myself, because I could barely recognize myself over the new following years.

I got some rest while she was away at university studying. Well no, that's not true…she abandoned me. I was suddenly not good enough anymore, and that does a number on a book’s ego as well, let me tell you. (Although, now that I think of it, it was probably more Stockholm’s Syndrome.) I may sound bitter, but she was the one who cheated on me a bunch with a bunch of role playing stories she co-wrote with a friend. Cheated on ME.

About five years ago, she did a re-vamp of her life. She’d ditched the RP stories and had crawled her way back to me. I thought NOW I could be finished. NOW I would go out and make my query rounds, but oh no. She was not done with me. She’d decided I wasn’t good enough. It wasn’t enough that she’d already taken so much away from me before. It wasn’t just the characters who suddenly became strangers or the plot that mutated until it got out of control.

Now was when the fun would start, she told me. Lies. Her definition of fun and mine are completely different. She cut me down to the first few pages and started over. Again. For the hundredth time. Re-write after total re-write. Edit after edit. She even handed me over to her friends. I won’t even speak about what they did with their red ink as they inserted “comments”. Fun? I don’t know if I’d ever qualify it as “fun”.

Between that point and a year ago, I lived in a fog. All I remember were the rejections and how ego crushing it had been for them to turn away from me. Until I was entered into a pitch contest and the very awesome Mallory Braus took me in. Oh I won’t lie, the edits these last six months have been life changing. I thought I knew all the secrets that went on within me but somehow, she was able to work with the creator to get more out of me. More than I knew was possible…but now, I have a home or will have one, at Carina Press.

Check out the rest of the writing journeys of my friends: Danie Ford Emma G. Delaney Kimberly Farris Kristen Koster

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Why Sliders may be possible--the science of multi-universes

When I was younger, I was hooked on a television show called Sliders--a concept based on a group of travelers who end up by accident going through a "gateway" to an alternate universe. Throughout the series, they have to go through world after world as they try to find their way back home to their reality. Not sure about you but as a teen, I had a crush on Jerry O'Connell. Anyway, through their travels, the each new world is completely different than the last. Sometimes, they barely make it out into another (they have a device that helps them "slide" to the next location and that device runs on a timer. If it runs out, they're stuck in that world forever).

But what if multi-universes are real? The potential for a multiverse comes from a theory called eternal inflation--postulating that shortly after the Big Bang that formed the universe, space-time expanded at different rates in different places, giving rise to bubble universes that may function with their own separate laws of physics.

In a recent study, a team of researchers have revealed that they have discovered four statistically unlikely circular patterns in what they call the cosmic microwave background (or CMB-- essentially, it is the thermal radiation filling the observable universe). Bubble universes are thought to be not only irregular-shaped, but that they can move about. The researchers believe that these marks could be "bruises" that our universe received when it bumped into other universes.

On researcher said:

If you imagine two ordinary soap bubbles colliding, then the surface where they intersect is going to be a circle, so that's the key signature we're looking for in the CMB. It's not any old perturbation, it's circular and it's got a particular type of profile. There's no obvious sort of other thing that could cause this.

Based on this thought, the researchers developed a computer algorithm to analyze CMB observations for patterns that would fit.
But this wasn't the only strange discovery. Before the bubbles were discovered, quantum physicists in 2010 at the University of California found that an object you can see in front of you may exist simultaneously in a parallel universe (causing some scientists to believe that time travel may be plausible-- if you're interested in reading more on time travel, I wrote two posts on it: Pt 1 and Pt 2). What the physicists found, was a way to move a tiny metal paddle, and yet keep it still at the same time.

This paddle, about a width of a human hair was cooled in the fridge. After dimming the lights and being placed under a special bell jar with all the air sucked out to eliminate vibrations, the paddle was plucked-- and was noted to move and stand still at same time (kind of hard to picture that, I'll admit). As it's explained, electrons, which circle the nucleus of an atom, are swirling around in multiple states at the same time.

What does it mean? One physicist says:

"When you observe something in one state, one theory is it that it splits the universe into two parts."
So because of this, only one universe would be seen and therefore would "freeze" while all the
others remain in motion, out of sight.

While both of the findings (the bubbles and the paddle being in two states at once) could just be coincidental, it could also be a step in the direction of learning more and perhaps proving that our world may not be the only one. What do you think? Do you believe we live in a multiverse?

For fun, there's a site out there that allows you to input your picture and to find your doppelganger. Who do you look like?

Friday, November 4, 2011

How I Write-- Getting into the writing zone

For How I Write, the next installment is all about shutting the world out to write. I posed the question to my accountability group because I felt like it was timely with NaNoWriMo starting. How do you get your words in?

First I want to talk a bit about myself because it's relevant to the topic. Unlike many writers, I don't have a family around me. I'm single and I live by myself. I don't have many priorities that aren't my own. I have two cats and while they are like toddlers at times with their mischief, I can pretty much do whatever I want. I control my own schedule. It's not dictated by kids' activities or family. I live 8 hours from my family. There is no chance of them dropping by unannounced. Therefore, I don't really have many excuses for not getting my wordcount or edits in.

That said, the net is my biggest distraction that keeps me from my wordcount. Twitter and Pinterest being one of the biggest offenders. I can get lost in Pinterest for hours, just scrolling through recipes and geek pages and whatever else. TV is the other offender, but usually it's not that big of one. I always have the tv on. I'm one of those people that need background noise at all times.

But what helps me concentrate is exactly that: background noise. Especially shows or movies that I've seen before that I won't pay attention to. On certain days, I need music that I listen to. Unlike some, I need music with words. I find if there's no words, I get distracted. I start to pay attention because I'm annoyed and WAITING for the words. It's one of the reasons I'm not a fan of the jazz music the coffee shop I frequent plays.

Sometimes when this doesn't work and I'm distracted by every. little. thing. I have to either go for a walk to clear my head or do dishes or shower. I'm not sure what it is about water, but it helps me to focus, especially to plot scenes.

If these don't work...well then, there's nothing I can do and I might as well take a day off. ;)

Check out how my other friends shut out the world: Danie Ford Emma G. Delaney Kimberly Farris Kristen Koster

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Deconstructing Gremlins

With Halloween approaching, I've been watching a lot of movies. On Saturday, I had a movieathon and one of the movies I watched was Gremlins, a movie I had always been curious about, but had never watched before. I would have been about 1 when it came out and we grew up in quite the isolated bubble.

In the movie, the furry creature found in an old antique store in Chinatown is called a Mogwai. Given as a Christmas present, the boy was told 3 very specific rules:

1. keep out of sunlight (will kill it)
2. stay away from water
3. do not feed after midnight

Of course, the three rules are broken. The creature, named Gizmo is a cute little brown and white puff ball with large ears and eyes. Almost immediately you learn that light hurts the Mogwai. It burns them. By accident rule number 2 is broken when water spills on top of Gizmo. In what looks like agony, Gizmo screeches and writhes as little balls of fur pop off. These balls grow and within minutes, there are at least 5 more Mogwai. It's clear that these new ones are different. They have gathered and named a leader, a creature with a white mohawk. They are devious and seek out ways to break the third rule and when they eat after midnight, go into a cocoon stage where they transform--coming out hairless and evil. Although, I suppose they were always evil, but the transformation was the peak of it. They go around terrorizing the town and killing the people.

While the movie was fairly entertaining, I had a hard time ignoring how implausible the movie was. Now, I've argued this movie before but I thought maybe there'd be something in the movie that would put aside my sense of disbelief. No.

Rule number 1: Stay out of the light

I was fine with this rule. There are reasons to stay out of direct sun. Albinism being one of them. Not that Gizmo had any signs of it. If he would, he would have been all white and his eyes would have been redish due to lack of pigmentation. Direct sun would have burned and made life difficult. That doesn't mean that he couldn't have been affected by the UV radiation. Maybe Mogwais are highly sensitive to it. Who knows.

Like most things paranormal, the fight between evil vs good is often portrayed with the evil creature being unable to go out into light. The only thing is that Gizmo is not evil and he can't go out in sunlight.

Rule number 2: Do not get wet

This is where things started to get murky. The moment water was poured on Gizmo he began to reproduce. (He's like a tribble from Star Trek.) Yes he. The move refers to Gizmo by the male pronoun. It's not completely unbelievable. There are some creatures where males reproduce-- i.e. Syngnathid fishes such as sea horses. However, the difference here is that there was no female Mogwai to place the eggs in pouches on him. Not that we know of at least. You assume he was the only one in that antique store but reality is that there could have been more. How many people have come back from the pet store only to find out that their guinea pig or hamster was pregnant?

Anyway, little balls of fur popped off and grew. What this tells me, without there being a female (let's assume for the time being since we don't know), we have to assume reproduction is done asexually (in gremlin form, they look almost reptilian and some are known to reproduce asexually so it's not a far leap) in a form of parthenogenesis. If Gizmo had been a female, things could have been explained easier, but he isn't. Unless he's a hermaphrodite and we just don't know about it, then...maybe...

But in the rule, it said very clearly not to get the mogwai wet because it'll cause this reproduction. I fought this rule and argued until my face turned red. I question how the mogwai supposed to stay hydrated? Obviously they wouldn't have a long life expectancy if they can't drink anything).

But, aside from staying alive there's the whole issue with the 'Add Water, Will Reproduce'. However, there have been studies that have shown that chemical or electrical stimuli have been used to cause parthenogenesis in scientific studies. If the mogwai have a natural allergy to water, maybe it created a negative external stimuli, causing this asexual reproduction to occur.

I found a site that suggested that if a mogwai was subjected to water to reproduce, the resulting trauma would affect the offspring. The offspring would be evil. However if a mogwai was prepared and underwent normal reproductive means, then the offspring (Gizmo) would be good. This assumes that they have other means of reproduction. Maybe it's explained in more detail later on in the sequels, but in the first movie, there was no implication whatsoever that they could reproduce any other way other than asexually. I'm also not entirely convinced that the trauma of the 'birth' would affect the resulting offspring that dramatically.

I still think it's crazy, but I'm willing to bend a bit.

Rule number 3: Do not feed after midnight

We know what happens. Feed after midnight and the mogwai goes into a cocoon state where it goes through a metamorphosis into the evil little gremlins. Now there's some debate here on the time. Why? Because technically the day starts at midnight, so when is the proper time to feed it (and what do they eat?)? Are mogwai supposed to never eat? All creatures need to eat and drink to survive. And what about time zones? How does this affect the no eating situation?

But that's not the point. We're not debating whether they eat or not. If you go by the 'trauma caused the evil in the offspring' theory, they would have been evil no matter what, even after they went through the change. I'm not so sure. In the first movie, it implied that eating= evil gremlins. Yes they were devious as furballs, but they weren't trying to kill anyone.

Eating (after midnight), is the catalyst to their transformation into the gremlins. While you don't usually see it in reptiles or mammals, butterflies start off as caterpillars and after a period of eating and whatnot, spins a cocoon and then changes. It could be the same type of transformation.

My only question is what does the transformation offer them that they can't do without fur and looking like Yoda? What do you think?

Friday, October 28, 2011

How I Write-- Research

While last week we talked about how we develop our characters, this week the question asked was how we do our research.

I don’t know if you know, but I write weird stuff. I don’t write normal, humans living ordinary lives. My book is all about spies and assassins and psychic powers. And through the vein of it all, I love science and adding a scientific spin on the paranormal.

My research involves science textbooks and Googling about psychic abilities and various uses of equipment. But mostly, I make it up. That’s the thing when you write paranormal, you can use your imagination to create things. Like copying memories from one person and transferring them into another.

What I write, there isn’t tons of research out there for (sometimes, none). I have been known to look up fighting techniques, however, and watch youtube videos of it, studying the way the fighter moves. I don’t tend to mention real places either. Why? Because I fear those details that need to go into the story to make it real for readers. If it’s a real place, especially one I’ve never gone to, which less face it, is everywhere, then I know I’ll mess something up. So what did I do? My characters live on the mountains. Granted, in book2 they do go to town, but it’s not a real place. I can make up whatever I want and no one can say ‘hey, you wrote that wrong’.

I’m always in awe at those who write historicals. I think that it’s the hardest genre to write just because there’s so much you need to know. All those accuracies, you need to keep in the back of your mind or else you know someone is going to find it and point it out.

All in all, there are layers to researching. I Google (my main source to the wacky information you can’t ask someone out loud), but I also watch movies (fight scenes) and read other books. In the end, it all helps those puzzle pieces fall in place.

Check out how my other friends do research: Danie Ford Emma G. Delaney Kimberly Farris Kristen Koster

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Zombies Pt 3: the zombie brain

In this part of the zombie series, I decided I wanted to have some fun with the zombie brain (the brain eating kind). Check out Pt 1 about Zombies in Nature and Pt 2 on Zombies in History.

Beyond the "living dead" theory, zombies are characterized primarily by their abnormal but sterotyped behaviours. We can see this particularly in many popular Hollywood movies, where zombies aren't portrayed as reanimated dead, but as living humans infected by a biological pathogen such as a virus. They are alive, but different. However the method of transmission, the person is usually transformed into a single-minded hunting machine with all changes to bodily function serving to locate the prey, capture them and then to feed.

Neuroscience has shown that all thoughts and behaviors are associated with neural activity within the brain. Therefore, the zombie brain would also be similar. It makes no sense for it to be different. Because of the behavioural symptoms shown in movies, we're given clues and can piece some of the them together.

Let's break it down by symptoms:

1. Rage: When you look at zombies, they are always trying to eat people (generally angry I guess if they are to feel something). It's an anger that is directed toward everyone simply because they're human or, the next meal course. According to Oscillatory Thoughts, this behaviour has roots in the primitive parts of the brain that center around flight or fight. In humans not infected, these impulses are suppressed by signals in the lower part of the frontal lobe: the orbitofrontal cortex. It sends inhibitory signals to the amygdala.

Like crocodiles (who is driven by the amygdala--studies show that by damaging it, the flight or fight responses is significantly reduced) zombies would be driven by this. Working with the amygdala, the anterior cingulate cortex dampens the excitability, giving the frontal lobe time to process and think what to do. A zombie would potentially have a damaged anterior cingulate cortex. With it affected, the zombie would be unable to regulate the anger, creating hyper-aggression.

2. Appetite: In the brain, there is an important part that controls feeding. This is the ventromedial hypothalamus. Zombies have an insatiable appetite it seems. They're always hunting for prey to chew on. If zombies were to have damage in this area, they wouldn't know when to stop eating. There have been studies in primates that have shown that damage to this area of the brain causes monkeys to eat anything and uncontrollably.

3. Stumbling/staggering gait:

A zombie isn't the best athlete. They stumble and stagger as they move. The area in the brain responsible for balance and fluid motion is the cerebellum and the basal ganglia. Zombies would probably suffer from some sort of dysfunction, much like cerebellar degeneration such as ataxia.

It's possible that all combined, this could explain the behaviour of zombies. Or at least the ones we know from popular fiction. What other symptoms can you think of?