Saturday, March 3, 2012

I've moved

I've moved! You can find me from now on at :) See you there!

Friday, February 24, 2012

What (NOT) to Do When You Meet Your Hero by Tamara Morgan

When I first started writing Love is a Battlefield, I had only a vague idea of what my hero, Julian Wallace, looked like. I knew who he was in terms of backstory and motivation, and I knew what his challenges would be as he got to know the heroine. But because he’s such an interesting cultural mix (a native of Guam), I didn’t have a good visual representation and it was driving me crazy. For a few weeks there, I spent a lot of time in the clouds trying to figure him out.

And then one day I came crashing down. Because my vision of Julian—only now a real, living human being—walked right in front me. (And he was naked from the waist up!)

A little scene setting, if I may.

My family lives pretty close to an amusement park—not one most people would recognize by name, but a big one for our region. The theme of said amusement park is Old Time Hokey Fun. The whole idea is that you walk through the gates and travel back in time. There’s a Main Street of Victorian-inspired shops, a saloon where you can eat overpriced chicken strips to the lively tune of an on-stage pianist, a train ride that results in a hold-up, and Deliverance-style banjo songs on constant repeat from speakers designed to look like rocks. Oh, and a water park and modern neon-colored roller coasters, but you can’t have it all, now can you?

Anyway…we were at said amusement park, and I was admiring the Victorian buildings and wondering if I could move into the second story of Ye Olde Coffeeshop without anyone noticing. All of a sudden, a man walked by. He was tall, shirtless, tattooed, and built to support it all.

He was Julian.

So of course I immediately started stalking tailing him. What follows is a (slightly modified) transcription of actual events:
Husband: Um…why are you following that man and his family to the water park?

Me: Ohmygod! That man is my hero.

Husband: …

Me: Don’t look at me like that—it’s for my book. He’s exactly how I imagine my male lead. Do you think it would be weird if I went to talk to him?

Husband: Yes. It would be very weird.

Me: I’m going to do it anyway. I know! I’ll tell him he looks just like the hero in my romance novel. Men love hearing that, right? Won’t he be flattered?

Husband: You are not telling him that. It’s creepy. You’re creepy.

Me: I wonder if he can throw a caber.

Husband: I have an idea. Why don’t you go stop in the gift shop first and buy a big red fanny pack to wear while you talk to him? If you’re going to be insane, you might as well go all out.

Me: You have no artistic vision. What if that woman over there (I pointed) came up to you and said you look exactly like how she always pictured Edward Cullen, all pale and wild-haired and grouchy? There’s no way you could resist that kind of compliment.

Husband: …maybe we should get you three or four fanny packs. You could layer them.
At that point, my husband corralled me in the direction of Ye Olde Magic Show, where he intended to force feed me pizza and make me forget all about attacking a complete stranger and his family on their day out.

It worked, of course. (Pizza always does.) But I walked away from the amusement park that day triumphant. I had seen my hero in real life. He lived and breathed and had an adorable family who (thankfully) was not forced to take out a restraining order against me. I’d seen him set against an incongruous historical backdrop perfect for my incongruous contemporary setting.

Thus Love is a Battlefield as we know it was born.

To this day, every time I hear a Deliverance-style banjo, I think of that man and thank him for walking around the amusement park shirtless that day.

But not in a creepy, red fanny pack sort of way. I swear.

* * *

About Love is a Battlefield (Out now!)

It takes a real man to wear a kilt. And a real woman to charm him out of it.

It might be modern times, but Kate Simmons isn’t willing to live a life without at least the illusion of the perfect English romance. A proud member of the Jane Austen Regency Re-Enactment Society, Kate fulfills her passion for courtliness and high-waisted gowns in the company of a few women who share her love of all things heaving.

Then she encounters Julian Wallace, a professional Highland Games athlete who could have stepped right off the covers of her favorite novels. He’s everything brooding, masculine, and, well, heaving. The perfect example of a man who knows just how to wear his high sense of honor—and his kilt.

Confronted with a beautiful woman with a tongue as sharp as his sgian dubh, Julian and his band of merry men aren’t about to simply step aside and let Kate and her gaggle of tea-sippers use his land for their annual convention. Never mind that “his land” is a state park—Julian was here first, and he never backs down from a challenge.

Unless that challenge is a woman unafraid to fight for what she wants...and whose wants are suddenly the only thing he can think about.

Warning: The historical re-enactments in this story contain very little actual history. Battle chess and ninja stars may apply.

Tamara Morgan is a romance writer and unabashed lover of historical reenactments—the more elaborate and geeky the costume requirements, the better. In her quest for modern-day history and intrigue, she has taken fencing classes, forced her child into Highland dancing, and, of course, journeyed annually to the local Renaissance Fair. These feats are matched by a universal love of men in tights, of both the superhero and codpiece variety.

You can find her on Twitter, Facebook, and Goodreads.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Zombie Apocalyptic Safe House (are you prepared?)

Have you seen this? How cool is it? This is apparently the Vagabond, a mobile shelter designed by Austen Fleming, winner of Bustler's annual Zombie Apocalypse Safe House competition. Based on the shell of an armadillo, it has reflective camouflage on the outside which is designed to allow it to blend in with the environment, and photovoltaic cells that can provide heat, boil water, and charge electronic devices. It's said to also have a wind-powered ventilator, a water filtration system, and an iPhone compatible tracking device. It can fold up, slinky style so that you can carry it like a backpack!

I'd have to wonder how thick of a shell it is. Surely a zombie could break through it? Either way, it's a very cool concept.

Monday, February 20, 2012

A Sandbox I Wish I had as a Kid

When I think about the XBox Kinect, I think about gaming and hours lost in another world. However these days, it is being used as a tool in medical imaging, robotics, and even aids for the visually impaired. When I saw this image on Pinterest, I wasn't quite sure what this was all about, but the more I read on it, the more impressed I became. And can you imagine the muse crack? All of these uses are no longer a thing of sci-fi. They're becoming reality.

So what is this picture all about? Well, it's a sandbox, or what is being called the SandyStation. this realistic ecosystem was created by two students (Peter Altman and Robert Eckstein) in the Czech Republic. Using a Kinect, a data projector, a program of their own design and an ordinary box of sand, they can create stunning geographical models. Prepping the Kinect above the sandbox, it monitors the varying heights and depths of the area and then relays the information through a program to the projector. The projector then displays the topographical information on top of the sandbox in different colours that represent different heights or depths (i.e. dark blues for water, greens for hills, etc). Not only that but it can respond to any immediate changes as well! So if you decide you want a river and start to dig in the sand, you can water the "water" flow into the new channel.

Check out the lava when he digs a hole in the hill! Apparently if it mixes with the water it looks like it "extinguishes". Very cool.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Who You Gonna Call? (not the Ghostbusters)

A little known fact about me: I love ghost hunting shows. There's something about the unknown and maybe finding proof that there is life beyond death that appeals. I'm someone who need answers. I want to know what makes something tick, to dissect the working. So when I watch these ghost hunting shows, I'm always a bit intrigued by the various pieces of "evidence". I'll admit, most of the time, watching those shows, I'm left feeling disappointed because I expect MORE to come from it. Silly of course, but I want a more clear defined...yes there is or no there isn't.

However, sometimes there ARE scientific explanations for what's going on. It's pretty easy to conclude first off that a place that is 'haunted' is going to have more witnesses, more people who say something's going on. It's the lemming effect. If something happens that you can't explain and you've heard stories that something's not quite right, well then you're going to start to believe it and you're going to follow suite and say that what you experienced was paranormal.

Ever wake up unable to move? You might want to say that a ghost is holding you down or whatever, but there are other explanations for this paralysis that doesn't have to be paranormal such as sleep paralysis or hynagogic trance. It's said that most people experience a hypnagogic trance once or twice in their lives, although it is far more common in people with epilepsy or suffer from certain sleep disorders.

Most of the time, however, those who claim to have a ghostly encounter were awake. So then we have to look to other explanations. Some paranormal investigators think that the presence of stronger than normal electronic magnetic fields (EM fields) may be an indication of something supernatural. These fields may come from electronic equipment or geological formations. You'll often see investigators carrying around an EM reader. The first step when finding stronger than normal readings would be to make sure that what you're reading isn't coming from something electronic. Researchers believe that these EM fields can interact with the brain, causing hallucinations, dizziness or other neurological symptoms. They theorize that this is one of the reasons people report more ghostly activity at night, because of the way solar wind interacts with the Earth's magnetosphere. Electrical stimulation, for instance, to the angular gyrus of the brain can cause the sensation of someone behind you mimicking your movements. In other parts of the brain, it can cause people to hallucinate or have near death experiences.

All right but if it's just an effect on the brain, what about the cold spots? Those are physical symptoms. Cold spots are a common phenomenon in buildings believed to be haunted. Usually it's described as sudden drops in temperature or localized cold areas in an otherwise warm room, thought to be from the ghost drawing the energy out of the room. Often, however, these can be traced back to specific sources such as a drafty window or a chimney.

There may be one other thing playing tricks on you. Infrasound (an extremely low frequency between .1 -20Hz). At these levels, humans can't hear it, but we can FEEL it. It's believed that a good portion of the population is thought to be hypersensitive to these low frequencies-- causing nausea, extreme fear or awe, anxiety and chills. Researchers also believe it can affect vision by causing vibrations of the eye, making you 'see' things. Infrasound can be produced by storms, strong seasonal winds, weather patterns and some earthquakes.

In 1998, the Journal of the Society for Psychical Research published a paper called ‘The Ghost in the Machine’ by Vic Tandy. It described Tandy’s experiences with infrasound in his lab. While doing some experiments, his coworkers complained of various unknown 'spooky' feelings and chills in his lab. One woman even was said to have seen something. While working late at night, Tandy claimed to have had the feeling of being watched and catching the figure of something at the edge of his vision, but when he turned, there was nothing. When he brought in a fencing foil to repair, it started to vibrate. As he moved the blade around the room, it began to vibrate more strongly in the centre of the lab and at the edge of the room, stopped. He discovered that there was a 19Hz standing wave in his lab and that the walls had caused the sound waves to double back on itself, producing an area with enough energy to vibrate the blade. The source of this wave was a newly installed fan. When turned off, all phenomena associated with it stopped.

There are many natural reasons for paranormal activity if you know about it and where to look. What others can you think of?

Monday, February 13, 2012

If the Dead Could Speak

Photo by: AP
 This article isn't new, but I found it recently and the musecrack just sparkles in it. It's about an archaeological site in the walled port of Acre, where the alleys of an Ottoman-era town is being rediscovered after it was found uniquely intact underground.

"Etched in plaster on one wall was a coat of arms — graffiti left by a medieval traveler. Nearby was a main street of cobblestones and a row of shops that once sold clay figurines and ampules for holy water, popular souvenirs for pilgrims."

Used by residents in 1291, (the year a Muslim army from Egypt defeated Acre's Christian garrison) these items and more were preserved in this town, under an existing city built by the Ottoman Turks around 1750.

Under Christian rule, the city became an unruly trading hub to combative orders of soldier-monks, European factions that distrusted each other, and competing merchants, all sharing an enclosed area that was barely the size of two football fields. In 1216, a french bishop went to the town and wrote about the murders that took place constantly, the prostitutes and all the residents he believed to be outlaws who'd fled their own lands.

He described Acre “like a monster or a beast having nine heads, each fighting the other.”

In the 1990s, Israeli excavations got under way. They found the Hospitaller knights, with its pillared dining hall and storerooms, an orderly latrine and a dungeon with stone walls that still had holes for shackles. Also found was a passage constructed by the knights of the rival Templar order, leading from their own fortress to the port. Underwater digs in Acre's harbor revealed sunken fortifications and more than 20 lost ships, some armed with cannons and special weapons to shred enemy sails that dated to Napoleon Bonaparte's failed siege of the city in 1799. 

It’s like Pompeii of Roman times — it’s a complete city,” said Eliezer Stern, the Israeli archaeologist in charge of Acre.
Can you just imagine the stories that must have come out of a place like this? What was life like to be there? We have some idea from the french bishop, but what about when the city fell?

Friday, February 10, 2012

How I Write-- Genre Love

Why do you write in a particular genre? What attracted you to it? Do you like to read a genre you don’t or can’t write? Why? Would you like to try a different genre than you current write?

I write paranormal romance/romantic suspense. While I would love to write historical para, I couldn't. I'm not good with those little details that are needed for historicals. I won't say I'd never write one (I do have a time travel story in my hat of musecrack ideas), but for the moment, no. What I love about writing paranormal is that anything can happen. It doesn't have to follow the rules reality sets. My compromise is to find scientific explanations for those paranormal events. It can be a bit of a stretch at times, I'll admit, but it keeps me rooted.

Growing up, I was hooked on True Crime books. In highschool, I might have scared a classmate or two... I think back on it now and I read some gruesome stuff. I'm of the mindset that I don't care if the whole world knows what I'm reading. I'll read whatever I want in public, if I enjoy it. I'm not embarrassed by it at all. Why should I? But yeah, in highschool, I was into books that talked about serial killers and their M.O.s and everything forensic. Funny enough, I didn't watch CSI. I filled notebooks about the info I read. Research. I can only think, though, what people in my school used to think. In digress though, I think this interest got me interested in romantic suspense. The first romance books I read were romantic suspense. I didn't read paranormal until university when I happened upon a vampire book.

That brings me to what I read. From the moment I read that one paranormal book, I devoured them. I think that was the only thing (and urban fantasy) that I read for a very long time. So much that I got burnt out on them. I'll still read the occasional paranormal, but for the most part, I've fallen in love with the historical romance. I've been devouring those books like crazy. Pretty much all of my Goodreads from 2011 were historical.

Check out my friends' sites to see what they write/read: Danie Ford Emma G. Delaney Kimberly Farris Kristen Koster

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Next Stage in Human Evolution?

Remember the shapeshifter on Supernatural? Shapeshifters are individuals who their form so that they appear as something else--whether it's a living or dead person, or animal form. In the entertainment world, most are shown able to shift within their own skin, without losing their clothes, while in lore shapeshifting can speak of the individual having to shed their skin, nails, teeth...everything before transforming. If you watch Supernatural, they've had quite a few episodes featuring these paranormal beings, including a shapeshifter that took on the form of Dean. One way to distinguish who is one and who isn't (according to Supernatural) is a retinal flare that shows up when they are filmed.

Made up, right?

Meet Nong Yongsui. Okay granted, probably not a shapeshifter, but this young boy is unique. What's different about him isn't his blue eyes but the fact that:
“In the dark Nong’s eyes would emit a kind of blue-green light when shone upon by a flash light — his eyes were just like cat eyes.”
It's said that he has been born with night vision. It's said that his vision can be blurred during daylight when the sun is bright, but at night, he can do anything without needing a flashlight, even answer questions handed to him in the dark or catch crickets. Night vision happens in nocturnal animals by a thin layer of cells called the tapetum lucidum. This layer creates a retroreflector, meaning that when light hits the tapetum, it's reflected back.

No matter what you think, it's pretty cool if it's real. What do you think is going on with this boy? Do you believe something's changing our evolutionary path?

Monday, February 6, 2012

If Atlantis was a Resort

Underwater hotel in Dubai.
When I think about Atlantis, I think of these following images and how cool it'd be if it was found today. If it was turned into a resort/or even just a hotel, I think it'd look similar to those in these pictures. And how cool would that be?
Atlantis was a legendary island mentioned in Plato's dialogues Timaeus and Critias, written about 360 BC. He wrote about the naval power, located in front of the Pillars of Hercules, conquering many parts of Western Europe and Africa. Then in a single day and night, the island sank into the ocean.

Scholars have disputed Plato's story and how much of it may have been inspired by older traditions. In Critias, Plato claims that his accounts of Atlantis come from a visit to Egypt by an Athenian named Solon in the 6th century BC. There in Egypt Solon supposedly met a priest of Sais, who translated the history of Atlantis, recorded on papyri. There's some debate however that Plato could have drawn upon the Thera eruption and the Trojan War, or the destruction of Helike in 373 BC.
Nautilus Undersea Suite at The Poseidon Resort, Fiji

Many treasure hunters have sought the legendary civilization but to this day, it's location is still a mystery. There are some theories out there (not only of Santorini, Sardinia, Cyprus, the Azores, Thera & Crete, but also the Sahara, Malta, Bimini, South America, Antarctica, the Canarys, North Sea and the Middle East), but as of yet, no evidence has truly been found.

One of the latest theories is that a US-led research team believe they have found Atlantis off Spain, swamped by a tsunami. The team analyzed satellite imagery of a submerged city north of Cadiz, Spain and found what they believe is the ancient civilization. They found a series of "memorial cities", built in Atlantis' image, possibly built by refugees after the city's destruction.

Using Plato's accounts of Atlantis being in front of the straits of the Pillar of Hercules, the researchers focused on the Mediterranean and Atlantic as possible sites.

Whether they did find it or not, more investigations need to be done. Do you think Atlantis will ever be found? Or do you think it was just a made up story? What are some of your favourite aspects of the tale of the ancient Atlanteans and their mysterious world?

Friday, February 3, 2012

How I Write-- 3 Things I Love about my WIP

What do you love about your current story? What keeps you motivated? Kimberly Farris asked this question to our accountability group this week. Here are 3 things I love about Seducing the Shadows.

1. When you've had characters in your head for over ten years, there's a bond there. These two characters in particular are some of my favourites. They've gone through a lot and I know all of their secrets. They are the force that drives the story. Without them, it would be a very boring book.

2. There's something about songs that can just 'fit' a story and evoke emotion. When something fits, I'll listen to it, over and over again until the song is branded by the story and it can be no other. When I'm feeling even a bit frustrated or needing motivation, I turn to my playlist.

For example, this song by Skillet. It's my series song.

3. Sometimes, when I'm blocked and need an extra boost of motivation I play games. Now, it can't be one of those thinking games. It has to be mindless shooting or something like that where I can just think. It's a great plotting device.

Check out my friends' sites: Danie Ford Emma G. Delaney Kimberly Farris Kristen Koster

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

First step at Star Trek's Replicator

I would be the first to admit that having a replicator like that on Star Trek would be awesome. Can you just imagine? You wouldn't have to cook or bake (yes, there's freezer already made meals and delivery, but that still takes time). All you'd have to do is press on the button for what you want and voila, instant meal delivered straight to you. Granted, right now, it'd probably taste like cardboard but still.

One of the coolest things in development right now (there are some already out there and have been for the last decade), is 3D printing. So you'd take a 3D image on the computer and send it to this device and it'd 'print' it in 3D before your eyes like magic. The ones that are available right now apparently cost over $15,000, mostly used by companies (automotive, aerospace, footwear, jewelery), that need to develop a 3D version of their product out of plastics and other material.

It's even foreseen that in the future, 3D printing will reproduce replacement organs. Currently, tissues such as skin, muscles and short stretches of blood vessels can be made. Even bones have been printed. With more research, however, it should be possible to create bigger and more complex body parts. These printers work by depositing droplets of polymer which fuse together to form a structure. Voids in the structure and complex shapes are supported by printing a scaffold of water-soluble material and then once the product is complete, the scaffold is washed away. Researchers found that when small clusters of cells are placed next to each other, they fuse together and organize themselves. Various techniques are also being explored to condition the cells to mature into functioning body parts (for example, exercising muscles using small machines).

Though printing organs is new, growing them from scratch on scaffolds has already been done in 2006 in which new bladders were created for some patients and are still working. Some researchers think machines like this may one day be capable of printing tissues and organs directly into the body.

This, as far as I'm concerned, is the tip of the iceberg. If they can already accomplish some of these things, anything can be done in the future with one of these printers. As an author, I see the musecrack there, but also, the marketing potential. What would you do with one?

Monday, January 30, 2012

What You Don't Know...the Over-Active Imagination

Have you ever gone out on the water and looked down to see only but black? Ever wonder what could be under there that you just don't see?

My imagination has always run away with me. We have a lake on my parents' property and because it's clay bottom, you can't see anything. I've been out in a canoe and whatnot and yeah, it's scary to wonder what could be there. Realistically, you know there's no lake monster or whatever else your mind may conjure but that doesn't always matter. It's also why I will never swim in that lake. Blood suckers... I can deal with. It's the unknown that gets to me every time.

Or what about late at night...when the room is pitch black and you're all alone. You KNOW you're safe. That there are no monsters under the bed and yet, you make sure your feet aren't dangling off the edge and that all the corners of the blankets are tucked in beneath you. Or making sure the closet door is completely closed.

What inspires your nightmares? Where does your imagination run away with you?

Friday, January 27, 2012

How I Write-- Top 5 Ways to Get Writing Done

This week, we were asked what are our 5 top ways to be successful with our goals. Here are some of mine:

1. Oh a shiny!- Yeah, new story ideas are bad. The new characters like to chatter and complain. And oh the muse crack they dangle...I'm completely susceptible to those ideas for new stories. The crack, it's everywhere, I tell ya and just when I think I've evaded one, another comes along.
Many people hear voices when no-one is there. Some of them are called mad and are shut up in rooms where they stare at the walls all day. Others are called writers and they do pretty much the same thing. -Margaret Chittenden
There's no cure-all. Only a focus of steel. Writing all these ideas down in a WIP ideas file sometimes helps. But for the stubborn ideas...there are times when the only way it'll leave me alone is to actually write out the scene in my head. Let me be clear on what sticks with me. Sometimes it's the character or the plot, but most of the time, it's a line. One measly sentence that stalks me and repeats over and over again. Usually, it's the first line of a book, but not always. In those cases, I need to write out the scene. If I don't, I can't evade.

2. I want kick-ass fighting and awesome psychic moves and...oh what if I add a... (aka the grass is always greener on the other side)- This is the worse, to always want to do more. Sometimes the simplest scenes are the best. I write paranormal where your imagination is the limit and that can frustrate me because the laws of reality doesn't always apply. I can waste time going back and re-writing because oh I can always add (insert awesomely cool thing). By doing this, I go in circles and it can take more time to complete. This can be one of the hardest procrastination devices for me. Sometimes, I can talk myself out of adding the new awesomely cool thing, other times, I can't and I just have to write it and hope it doesn't change the plot too badly.

3. I'll write 120k in two weeks- Um yeah, not happening. Not that I even write past 80k, but still. The term here is keep your goals SMART. Who knows what will happen in two weeks. There's so many variables you're not in control of. Burn out is real and it can kill your motivation to write for awhile if you're not careful. I won't even get into carpal tunnel or the need for sleep and food. Know your limitiations. It'll help you decide on a more reasonable goal.

4. I have to do the dishes and take (insert pet name) out for a walk and my show is on so I definitely want to watch that and...- Reality sucks. We have things to do. We get sick. When you have kids, it's especially hard to put time aside for you when you have so many roles to play. Not to mention there's those with a job outside of the home. Everyone's situation is different. I get home and I have the intelligence of a slug. I don't feel like writing. I just want to lie there. But then I wouldn't get anything done. So I force myself. Even if it's just for an hour. At least I'm making SOME kind of progress. Actually, first I nap. soon as I get home and eat I zonk out for 30 mins- 1 hr. It re-energizes me enough to get through the rest of the evening. Otherwise, I'm a zombie. Writing is one of those things where you need to make time for it...scheduling it in if you need to. Harder to do if you have a life (I don't), but sometimes it's needed.

5. Twitter! Facebook!- The world will not stop if you don't go on for an hour...or even a day. I'm bad at this. I love Twitter (not so much FB). I'm always on Twitter, BUT, I am a lurker. Especially when I'm writing or something. I have my chatty moments, but for the most part, I'm fairly quiet on there. A friend is trying out this internet nanny to block Twitter after a certain amount of time used... but still. Social media is great and all, but balance is important as well.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Hic Sunt Dracones (aka Here be Dragons)

We find dragons in various religions and cultures around the world, often revered as representatives of the primal forces of nature, religion and the universe. Usually, dragons are associated with wisdom and longevity, sometimes possessing some form of magic or other supernatural power. We all know movie and television's version of dragons--typically reptilian or serpentine in trait with large wings and sometimes horns. They may even breathe fire. With the discovery of how pterosaurs walked on ground, some dragons have been portrayed without front legs and using the wings instead as front legs.

The word dragon entered the english language in early 13th century. Derived from the Latin word draconem meaning "huge serpent, dragon," and from the Greek word δράκων, drakon meaning "serpent, giant seafish". The Greek and Latin term referred to any great serpents, not necessarily mythological. This usage was also used in English up to the 18th century.

While those may have been ancient depictions, populated by Hollywood and the imagination, there are a few real live "dragons" alive today. They don't breathe fire or are larger than a house, but they are very cool nevertheless and look like little dragons.

image credit:

The first is what's called a glaucus atlanticus or the blue sea slug often found in the temperate and tropical waters. It is a member of a new species called nudibranch which is a marine snail that lost is shell back in early evolutionary history. There are more than 3,000 species and are known for their elaborate patterns and vibrant colours. It floats on the surface of the water with the aid of a gas filled sac in its stomach. Because of the location of the sac, this little slug floats upside down. They feed on the venomous Portuguese Man o' War Physalia physalis; the by-the-wind-sailor Velella velella; the blue button Porpita porpita; and the violet snail, Janthina janthina. They survive by collecting the animal's toxins and storing them in littel sacs on the ends of their feather-like "fingers", producing a much more powerful and deadly sting.

The second is the gliding lizard, belonging to the genus Draco. This little guy looks more like the mythological creature. There are more than 45 species, ranging in size from 7-15 cm in length and are native to Southeast Asia.

The wings of the lizards are actually a rearranged rib cage in which one of the primary functions is to allow them to glide. By elongating their extended movable ribs, spanning the large flap of skin between their limbs, these arboreal reptiles can glide distances of over 60 meters. They also have a small set of flaps on their neck that serve as a horizontal stabilizer and a rudder-like tail to steer.

Not exactly creatures of legend, but still. What about the mythology of dragons do you like? What intrigues you?

Monday, January 23, 2012

The Allure of Ancient Egypt

I love ancient Egypt. I don't write it (yet!), but I've always had a fascination in it. In grade ten I wanted to become an Egyptologist. I even tried to learn hieroglyphics. For example, did you know that you can either read left to right or right to left depending on which way the symbols point? The ancient Egyptians believed that writing was invented by the god Thoth, the earliest known examples dating back to 3,400 BC. What made their writing difficult (for me!) to read was that the glyphs take on both semantic and phonetic values.

But it's more than just the hieroglyphs that drew me. It was their whole culture. Their belief in the various gods and goddesses and all of their practices to prepare for the afterlife. This polytheistic system was complex because some of the deities were believed to exist in different manifestations. The Egyptians believed that the phenomena of nature were divine forces. They deified these forces--including elements, animal characteristics and abstract forces. These gods and goddesses were  involved in all aspects of nature and human society. By doing this, they thought they could sustain and placate these phenomena and turn them to human advantage.

What ancient Egyptian-based stories do you love? What authors do you think about?

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Vampire Burials vs the Science of Decomposition

Vampires or zombies? What were our ancestors trying to keep from reviving? In my post about Zombie: Historical Accounts, I talked about how 8th century medieval skeletons were unearthed with large rocks wedged in their mouth (one where, to a point, the jaw was dislocated to fit the rock). Initially, archaeologists thought that it was a vampire-slaying ritual. During the Black Death, it was believed that vampires spread the plague. A rock in the mouth was thought to be a disease-blocking method to ensure the vampires didn't wake to continue spreading the plague. However, because the belief of vampires didn't emerge until the 1500s, the theory was disregarded and it was thought that maybe the stones was simply a barrier to stop the dead from coming back.

I'd wondered why people back then thought it was vampires. Well, in 2006, a 16th-century woman was unearthed in a mass grave near Venice among some graves of plague victims. The woman also had a stone in her mouth, a "vampire".

But why did the people during the Middles believe in vampires? Well, apparently the "first recorded use of the term vampire was to refer to a Russian prince that scientists now believe may have been suffering from rabies. At some point the Bohemians switched to driving a stake through the hearts of vampires, but in the early period burials with a stone in the mouth were the accepted 'cure' to prevent them coming back to life."

During early burials, vampires were "recognized" probably because of decomposition, a phenomenon not understood back then. When the body decays, the stomach releases a dark "purge of fluid". Bloodlike, this liquid can flow from the corpse's nose and mouth. Often the burial grounds were reopened during the plague to add new bodies, a way to recycle graves. Gravediggers would have seen the decomposing remains and may have been confused the purge of fluid for the blood of the vampire's "victim".

Not only was there this "purge" that they thought was evidence, but sometimes the shroud near the corpse's mouth was torn, giving the impression that the dead was chewing through the cloth. In reality, the fluid expelled from the body sometimes moistened the shroud, causing it to sag into the jaw.
Vampires were thought by some to be the causes of plagues, and the superstition took root that shroud-chewing was the "magical way" that vampires infected people, Borrini said.
Inserting objects, then, such as the stones, into the mouths of alleged vampires was thought to halt the spread of disease.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Unlocking the Human Genome for the Creation of Psychics

Did you know that we have, on average, 3,000,000,000 DNA bases in our genome? How about if you unwrapped the DNA in all your cells it would reach to the moon 6000 times? Or that 99.9% of our DNA is the same as that of every other human?

I love genetics. In fact, I almost continued my biology and anthropology schooling to take Ancient DNA Studies. While I didn't keep up with my studies in it, simply leaving with a Bachelors of Honors in Biology and Anthropology, my writing often takes a scientific turn. 
In 2000 a rough draft of of a map of the entire human genome was completed; and then in 2003 the final draft was complete. While there are things we still don't know about what genes do what, this map has made it possible to better understand the causes and functions of disease, as well as create better preventative medicines. 
In Hunting the Shadows, my writing is heavily influenced by genetic manipulation. Using a virus as a vector, the scientists in my book create mutations (with the help of radiation) to reawaken locked up psychic abilities.

From Wikipedia: A viral vector is a tool commonly used by molecular biologists to deliver genetic material into cells. This process can be performed inside a living organism (in vivo) or in cell culture (in vitro). Viruses have evolved specialized molecular mechanisms to efficiently transport their genomes inside the cells they infect. Delivery of genes by a virus is termed transduction and the infected cells are described as transduced.
I love that anything can be possible. Yes, there are restraints, but writing paranormal means that I can stretch those limits a bit more. In the case of my characters, well, these abilities are a part of their daily lives and I try to explain as much as possible how that affects them. Their strengths as well as their problems. It's not something they can learn over night how to control. It takes years of hard training...and sometimes, that's not enough.
What do you think about psychic abilities? If you could have any ability, what would you want?

Friday, January 13, 2012

How I Write-- The best and worst advice I've received

Last week, we discussed our 2011 in review. What we accomplished. What we would change. What our goals for 2012 are. Today, we're discussing writing advice we've received or heard over the years.

Best writing advice

1. Every artist was first an amateur.

I like this saying because it reminds me that mistakes will be made. Mistakes that even the professionals have done at one point in time. What matters is that they stuck with it. Everyone starts as a beginner at some point.

2. The minute you think of giving up, think of the reason you held on for so long.

Something made you start that story. Whether it's your characters or plot, the muse crack bit you hard enough to write that first word and then the next. If you give up, you're going to sit on plenty of manuscripts that won't go anywhere. Yes, they'll be learning experiences, but there's something about being stubborn enough to see it all through to the end.

3. Discipline is doing what you know needs to be done, even though you don't want to.

Let's face it, there are things we don't want to do. Like plotting. Or some days we just don't feel like writing. While it's fine once and awhile to say that "today I'm not writing" it's what writers do. We write. Yes, sometimes life gets away with us with kids and work and chores...etc, but you also have to find time to get your words.

4. There are no original ideas. What makes a story new is how you write it.

This is something I've always worried about. I've re-written my book so many times because another I've read had a similar idea. I had to get over this because otherwise I would have never finished. Your "voice" and how your characters interact, etc, makes your story different from the others.

5. Everyone has their own process of writing and plotting. There is no right or wrong way.

There are so many different methods of plotting out there. I don't need to list all the various ways some people write. I have my own method. Find what works for you. People will always say that their way is best, but in reality, there is no right or wrong way. What matters is that you figure out how to get from point A to point B and then C.

Worst writing advice

1. Leave out all the parts readers skip.

Every reader is different. How do you know what they'll skip? The only thing you can do is base it off what interests you. If you don't like what you're writing, most likely your readers are going to feel the same way.

2. Writer's block is a sign that you did something wrong.

I've heard people say that if you're stuck, it's because you're going in the wrong direction or something just isn't right and once you figure out what that is you'll be fine again. Yes, knowing your direction helps but blocks happen for a bunch of reasons. Even if something is wrong, will you necessarily know what that is? Or how to fix it?

3. Write to the market.

By the time you write to the market, it's already moved on. There are some overarching themes that are more popular but for the most part, you should focus on genres rather than specific ideas.

4. If you aren't traditionally published then you aren't an author.

I've heard this quite a bit. I've even heard a published author say something similar on Twitter. These days there are many options. You don't need to just have to go the traditional route. You can be epublished through a digital first. You can even self-publish. What matters is what works for you because everyone has different needs. What matters is that you know the pros and cons of each option.

5. You have to follow the rules in order to get published.

Yes, there are some general grammatical and spelling rules you should write by, but there are no rigid rules that you have to write by. There are usually exceptions to most anyway. It all depends on the execution of how you get it on paper.

What advice have you received? Check out my friends' sites: Danie Ford Emma G. Delaney Kimberly Farris Kristen Koster

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

How to pull of an art heist...or how scientists have created a time-masking cloak

In a popular comparison: an art heist takes place in a crowded museum--before your eyes and surveillance cameras. you don't see the thief, not even the actual taking of the painting. The opportunities would be staggering...and scary, but this is exactly what scientists at Cornell U are claiming to have done. Not the actual heist, but creating a time cloak that hid an event for 40 trillionths of a second.

While other invisibility cloaks created move light beams away from an object (like making an armored tank disappear or nanotubes creating a mirage), the Cornell team (backed by the Pentagon) found a way to alter how fast the light moves, changing the dimension in time, not space. By doing this, it makes it appear to the human eye or surveillance cameras (or even laser security beams) that an event isn't happening.
"You kind of create a hole in time where an event takes place," said study co-author Alexander Gaeta, director of Cornell's School of Applied and Engineering Physics. "You just don't know that anything ever happened."
This 'hole in time' is created using fiber optics as light moves inside a fiber thinner than a human hair. The scientists shoot the beam of light out. With other beams, they create a time lens that splits the light into two different speed beams that create the effect of invisibility by being too fast or too slow.

In the diagram a laser beam passes through a "split-time lens" - a specially designed waveguide that bumps up the wavelength for a while then suddenly bumps it down. The signal then passes through a filter that slows down the higher-wavelength part of the signal, creating a gap in which the cloaked event takes place. A second filter works in the opposite way from the first, letting the lower wavelength catch up, and a final split-time lens brings the beam back to the original wavelength, leaving no trace of what happened during the gap. (Image and Caption via Cornell University)
"It is significant because it opens up a whole new realm to ideas involving invisibility," McCall said
Click to watch a time cloaking simulation:

If you had such technology, what would you do with it?

Monday, January 9, 2012

Step into a new world

Welcome to Muse Crack Mondays! This feature is similar and will be taking over last year's Thursday Thirteen. While last year I posted links to articles in the news I thought was interesting this year, I'm going to focus on particular things that inspire my story ideas aka muse crack. These will also include links from time to time. It'll just be a bit more focused on what inspires my own stories and ideas.

I LOVE this picture. It has more than one purpose for me.

a: the writer in me sees stone portals that go off to other worlds. Or maybe they are time portals that enter into different time periods. I love time travel stories!

b: in general it's the epitome of 'ideas'. Of all the muse crack that is out there. A simple picture or a song...or a saying can spark ideas.

and c: for me it means taking a risk. For thinking outside the box. They say that most plots are overused, that there's nothing original out there anymore. What makes YOUR story different from the others and stand out is how you write it. How you develop your world and characters.

What's your muse crack?

Friday, January 6, 2012

How I Write-- 2011 in review

2011 Accomplishments

2011 brought interesting developments in my life. It was the year I got a book contract, a dream I'd secretly wished for so many years. Granted, I wasn't prepared all those other years, I see that now. I learned a lot about editing--how to tighten, how to strengthen character goals, etc.

It was also the year I went to New York for the first time for the RWA Nationals. I saw many friends and met a bunch of people. We braved the taxis and street cart "dirty dogs"; and visited the very scenic Central Park. And brought way too many books back.

I also bought my first ereader in 2011, a Kobo Touch I fell in love with and then later on, also bought a Kobo Vox. Since then, I have bought over 60 books on them. I had held off for awhile for purchasing an ereader. Like many people, I still love the feel of a physical book in my hands and didn't really want to read on screen. That all changed and while I have some favourite authors I still purchase the physical books from, the majority of future purchases will be ebooks.

What would I do differently?

To be honest, I'm not sure there is much I would do differently. Everything I did was a learning experience. The only thing I would change would be to not let myself "hide". I'm a very introverted person and for a good part of the year I was off work. That meant staying at home for long periods of time and I got used to being by myself. I become a hermit, dreading leaving the apartment, even just to get groceries. I'm back at work now, but it's an effort to get out of these ways. Looking back, I should have gone out more. I should have taken myself out to coffee shops more than once a week to socialize. I should have made more of a conscious effort.

What about 2012? Or what goals do I want to achieve?

Every year, for the accountability group I'm in, we each have to create our long term goal plan. While I won't bore you with all of mine, I'll list off some of the top goals:

1. Finish at least two books (this does not count Seducing the Shadows which has a deadline of Jan 31st to get to critique partners)
2. Re-vamp the Alexia Reed site. This means updating.
3. Read 100 books. This year I'm doing a challenge where 50 of those books (if possible) will be of main characters who don't fall under the "perfect" category. Characters who deepen their story by being different in some way. I think this is important because I tend to trap myself in reading only a certain kind of book. This year, I want to push that envelope because perfect characters aren't real.

What are your 2012 goals? What would you change of 2011 if you could? Check out my friends' sites: Danie Ford Emma G. Delaney Kimberly Farris Kristen Koster