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