Category Archives: Guest Post

Emma Pass Guest Post

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What Inspired Me to Write The Fearless
by Emma Pass

I first got the idea for The Fearless when I attended a workshop run by YA author Julie Bertagna back in 2011. She told us she often got ideas for her books from newspaper and magazine articles, and handed out some articles which she asked us to use to come up with story ideas.

The article my group was given was similar to this one, about scientists developing a drug to prevent Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). PTSD is an anxiety disorder caused by traumatic events, and causes serious problems such as flashbacks, aggression and insomnia. It can start many years after the event that triggered it, and is particular problem among military personnel, who witness many terrible things while on active service. According to this article in the Telegraph, one charity expects PTSD rates to rise by up to 12% each year until 2018, so any drug that could help reduce this rate is surely a very good thing indeed. But as our group discussed the article, I started to wonder what might happen if the drug stopped people from feeling any fear at all – or love – or empathy. These questions became the basis for the new novel I started writing shortly afterwards.

The Fearless imagines what happens after a drug given to UK and Allied troops to stop them suffering from PTSD and make them into more effective fighters is discovered to have a terrible side effect – it strips them of any humanity or empathy. By the time people realise what’s going on, the enemy have managed to get hold of the formula and strengthen it so that the side effects start immediately, and then they start forcing it on the civilian population. Country after country falls to these super-soldiers, known as the Fearless, until at last, they invade the UK. Cass, the protagonist, is just ten when this happens, and after her father is taken by the Fearless, she flees with her mother to an island off the south coast of England, where her little brother, Jori, is born. Seven years later, Jori is snatched by a Fearless too, and Cass must return to the mainland for the first time since the Invasion to try and rescue him, helped by a mysterious boy named Myo who seems to know more about the Fearless than he’s letting on…

The Fearless
The Fearless was a lot of fun to work on. I love playing around with ‘what if’ scenarios and I’ve always wanted to write a post-apocalyptic novel, imagining what the UK would be like after a disaster has wiped out most of society. How would people survive? What would places familiar to me look like once they were abandoned? As with my first novel ACID, many of THE FEARLESS’s settings are based on places I know, in particular Sheffield railway station and Meadowhall shopping centre (I considered using London, but as that was such a major setting in ACID, I decided to go somewhere different). I was also hugely inspired by reading blog posts and articles about urban exploration, and places like Hashima Island in Japan, upon which I based Hope Island, the refuge Cass flees to at the start of the book.

But most of all, I wanted to write a book where the monsters might not really be monsters after all – where the good guys could turn out to be the bad guys, and where nothing was quite what it seemed… It took several drafts and lots of hard work on both mine and my editor’s part to get it right, but I’m pretty happy with the results, and I hope people enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it!

The Water and the Wild Blog Tour: Guest Post and Giveaway

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Spaceship in My Basement: How My Trekkie Dad Inspired My Writing
by K.E. Ormsbee

K. E. OrmsbeeThere is a spaceship in the basement of my childhood home. My dad, a civil engineer and hardcore scifi nerd, built the aforementioned ship when I was a toddler. It’s a glorious amalgamation of 2x4s, dental chairs, slide projectors, and dozens of lite-brite pieces. From the pilot’s seat, you can click through various lunar phases, watch the IMAX classic The Dream Is Alive, and command the ship using an MS-DOS shuttle launch program. In this ship, you can pay a visit to the moon, Jupiter, or the farthest reaches of deep space. And believe me, as a kid, I did all of the above.

I can’t remember a house party at my place that didn’t involve a quick trip to the moon. The spaceship was a magical experience, a talking piece, and the obsession of every childhood friend my sister and I brought home. Later, it became my go-to fun fact so often required by summer camp icebreakers. It’s saved me from many a conversational rut and even found its way into my official author biography. But only recently have I begun to contemplate the long-term effect that spaceship and my dad’s general love of scifi had on me and, by extension, my writing.

My personality is a carbon copy of my dad’s. I inherited his melancholic disposition and his obsession with all things theoretical. Growing up, he and I debated everything from Plato to predestination to the legalization of pot. He taught me the fundamentals of calculus, logic, and rhetoric. And he instilled in me an abiding love for Star Wars, Star Trek, Lost In Space, Battlestar Galactica, and The Twilight Zone. Looking back, I realize that those philosophical debates, differential equation lessons, and Friday night family movie dates all shared a common theme. They were all about asking big questions and looking for answers. (It’s just, the questions The Twilight Zone asked were way more fun to answer than the questions found in my Calc 101 textbook.)

My dad and I didn’t watch all those scifi shows and films for the special effects. (I mean, have you seen tribbles?) We watched them because their screenwriters weren’t afraid to explore difficult issues in unique ways. I remember staying awake in bed after our movie nights, brain whirring through questions about mortality, mob mentality, eugenics, treatment of “lesser” sentient beings, addictive behavior, vigilante justice, justice versus revenge, and harmful measures taken in the name of “the greater good.”

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Author CT Adams Guest Post and Giveaway!

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Creating a Unique Fantasy World
by CT Adams

I love world building. It’s fun to me. And while working out the details can be painstaking, a lot of it really just makes sense to me. I have this character. He/She does things. WHY? WHERE? There is always a why. And any action takes place somewhere. And the whys and the wheres tell you a LOT about the person, and the world they live in.

When I’m really lucky, it all comes to me in a huge data dump. That was what happened with the Celia Graves stories. I saw a photograph in the dealer’s room. It was of blonde woman with a black daisy in her vampire fangs. I looked at it and knew instantly: who she was, what she was, how she got those fangs, how she felt about it. I even could hear radio commercials from their world running through my head.

I must’ve looked as if I’d been clubbed upside the head because my co-author at that time, Cathy Clamp, looked at me and said. “Go up to the room. Write it down. All of it. Now!”

“But the picture . . . “ I started to protest.

“I’ve got this. GO! Before you forget it all.”

She knows me so well.

The dual worlds of The Exile are complicated because there are worlds plural. Oh, our side of the veil is as it really is, which makes it a bit easier. But Faerie is a complicated place with as many different kinds of animals and beings as we have over here. Think about that for a second. We have how many species here? I can’t even count them all. And Faerie has just as many. And they’re magical to boot. Which means there are not only laws of physics to contend with (Yay gravity!); but also laws of magic too.

As a writer I have to create the laws; know them; use them; and REMEMBER them all. And I can’t break them—not without breaking faith with the readers and losing their belief in me and the worlds I’ve created. It’s a big job, and can sometimes feel overwhelming. But done right it is so worth it. Because the world building in the background makes the story, and the characters, seem real enough to touch, real enough to care about. And that is the key to everything.

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Courtesy of Tor, I have a copy of The Exile by CT Adams for one (1) lucky winner!

Contest is open to US residents only. No PO Boxes please. To enter, just fill out the form below. Contest ends April 3. I’ll draw a name on April 4, and notify winner via email.

ENTER DAILY TO INCREASE YOUR CHANCE OF WINNING!

Good luck!

Continue reading Author CT Adams Guest Post and Giveaway!

Guest Post: Author Sarah Remy

Guest Post by Author Sarah Remy

Are you watching ABC’s Agent Carter? I am, with great interest. I’m also paying very close attention to the show’s ratings. Not necessarily because I’m attached to the story – although I do love Hayley Atwell as Peggy Carter – but because so many people out there seem to think ABC’s offering is a sort of 21st Century litmus test: is the comic book culture ready for a woman in the lead role of a super hero series?

I’m honestly not a huge comic book geek, but I happen to be married to someone who is, which means I know the comic book industry does not in fact rely on Marvel’s Peggy Carter as an example of a minority main character written right. Have you met Natasha Irons? Kate Bishop? Have you read Strangers in Paradise, a classic and one of my all time favorites? And surely you’ve fallen into the pages of Jeff Smith’s Rose?

I’d like to suggest that the question is not really is the comic book culture ready for a woman in the lead role of a super hero series? but is the MAINSTREAM MEDIA culture ready for a woman in the lead role of a super hero series?

In spite of Hayley Atwell’s fine performance in the lead role, Agent Carter’s ratings are steadily dropping. Do I find this concerning? Yup. But I’m not quite ready to point a finger and blame latent misogyny for the dip in viewership. Could be the writing’s faltering some. Could be Agent Carter’s suffering from new kid on the block syndrome, just as its predecessor, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., did in 2013. Only time will tell.

Yeah, I’m not a huge comic geek but I’m watching Agent Carter very carefully. Why?

Because I write stories about minorities in a genre (like the comic book industry) that has been – in general and up until some years ago – heteronormative white male dominant. I write about princesses that don’t grow up and marry the prince. I write about Latino boys who kill the dragon and save the kingdom. I write about non-binary characters in traditional fantasy and scifi roles. And I write about CIS adults who fall in love and realize that maybe romance won’t secure the throne after all, and hey, let’s put work before family even if that’s not necessarily the ‘best choice’.

I write real people into unlikely worlds because I think that’s what the next generation of scifi and fantasy wants to be.

And I’ve got fingers crossed that Peggy Carter will prove the point.

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About the Author:
Sarah Remy is a proud hybrid author. She writes for herself, for various small presses, and for HarperCollins.
Sarah can be found at www.sarahremy.com
Her latest HarperVoyager release, Stonehill Downs, debuted in December 2015.
Art for The Manhattan Exiles courtesy of Taija Kovalainen.


About Stonehill Downs:
Malachi is the last of his kind—a magus who can communicate with the dead, and who relies on the help of spirits to keep his kingdom safe. When he’s sent to investigate brutal murders in the isolated village of Stonehill Downs, he uncovers dangerous sorceries and unleashes a killer who strikes close to home.

Avani is an outsider living on the Downs, one of the few survivors from the Sunken Islands. She has innate magics of her own, and when she discovers the mutilated bodies of the first victims, she enters into a reluctant alliance with Malachi that takes her far from home.

But Mal is distracted by the suspicious death of his mentor and haunted by secrets from his past. And Avani discovers troubling truths about the magus through her visions. She could free Malachi, but first they must work together to save the kingdom from the lethal horror that has arisen.

Eric Walters Blog Tour: Guest Post

Popularity of dystopic fiction
by Eric Walters

Dystopic fiction has recently become very popular . . . well, recently if you consider 3000 years, give or take a few decades, as recent. Go back to the beginning of recorded time and story – think of Noah’s Ark, Sodom and Gomorrah, and the parting of the Red Sea. This type of writing is the foundation of our civilization, the beginning of who we are and what we think. Some sociologists see it becoming stronger and more pronounced when there are questions about civilization and our survival. I’m just assuming that we’ve always had these doubts.

I’ve been reading about the end of the world since the beginning of my world. From 1984 to War of the Worlds to Brave New World, to so much of Isaac Assimov and Kurt Vonnegut Jr., these incredible stories have always drawn me in. It was not, however, until I’d written over 50 novels that I felt I had the necessary background to try writing one. Imagine the writing necessary in not only creating characters but having to craft the entire world those characters inhabit.

In writing The Rule of Three I wanted to create a world that was our world, but wasn’t really our world. I took what was around me – and it is my actual neighborhood in the story right down to Adam living in my house – and portrayed it as to how I believe it would be if suddenly everything went dark and all the computers became inoperative.

This is one of the things that separates my novel from many others. This isn’t sometime in the future, on another planet or because of some strange phenomenon or set of circumstances. If the power went down today I believe this is how it would all be, what would happen, what would evolve – or devolve, and how we would, as individuals and a society, react.

As with all genres of writing, there is good and bad sci-fi. Bad sci-fi, in my opinion, often spends so much time on the science that it fails to capture the magic of the fiction. It’s that balance, of creating a credible world and credible situations, without losing track of the story that needs to be told. I believe that people are people – regardless of when or where they are. My background is in education, social work and psychology. I worked to have my characters react as they would, given the circumstances that they faced.

The greatest compliment somebody can give me after reading this story is how disturbed they felt by it, that they had an urge to stockpile water, peanut butter or considered getting a gun. It’s rather strange that I’m pleased when my story provokes the need to obtain weapons but that shows how the story seemed real enough to them to want to do something about it.

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About the book:
After sixty-six days of a catastrophic global blackout, life in the suburbs is not what it used to be for Adam and his fortified neighborhood of Eden Mills. Although an explosive clash has minimized one threat from outside the walls, Adam’s battle-hardened mentor, Herb, continues to make decisions in the name of security that are increasingly wrenching and questionable. Like his police chief mom and others, Adam will follow Herb’s lead. But when the next threat comes from an unexpected direction, nobody is ready for it. And someone is going to pay the price—because of Adam’s mistakes and mistaken trust.

Author Kristi Charish Guest Post

Edutainment: Science Literacy Hail Mary or Slippery Slope of No Return?
by Kristi Charish

How do we learn?

It’s one of those questions constantly floated around academic educational circles in an attempt to determine how best to teach students and it’s a particularly charged topic around the subject of science literacy.

Science literacy is loosely defined as the knowledge and understanding of scientific concepts and processes. More specifically, The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) defines scientific literacy as “the ability to engage with science-related issues, and with the ideas of science, as a reflective citizen.”
This requires a scientifically literate person to:
• Explain phenomena scientifically – recognize, offer and evaluate explanations for a range of natural and technological phenomena
• Evaluate and design scientific inquiry – describe and appraise scientific investigations and propose ways of addressing questions scientifically.
• Interpret data and evidence scientifically – analyze and evaluate data, claims and arguments in a variety of representations and draw appropriate scientific conclusions.

So how do we match up against these criteria? Available statistics vary – remember we’re dealing with a qualitative assessment of skill which is trickier to do that determine if someone can read or perform math but in general they suggest North Americans are doing about as well as everyone else. In other words, not great (For more detail on the data start with Science Daily News via John Miller at Michigan State University back in 2007 and in an 2010 article on Science News). One finding from 2007 that stuck out was that although Americans scored marginally better than their European counterparts, 70% of American were still unable to read and understand the science section of the New York Times. On many levels that could pose a serious societal problem on our horizon. Does it matter how many scientific wonders and advances you achieve if 70% of the population in unable to comprehend how we got there and what we’ve actually done?

How did our science literacy end up here? At what point does a society whose very existence depends on the scientific advances of the past 150 years and which is in the throws of unprecedented technological advances get to the point where a majority of the population is no longer literate enough to understand a report in a newspaper?

Theories range from the acceleration of scientific discoveries making it impossible for the general public to keep up to the deterioration of public science education, and the failure of scientists and news to properly communicate and decimate accurate information. Take your pick. I’m not certain it really matters what the cause is at this point, the outcome is the same. We’ve got more wonders of science around us then at any other point in history and some of our reactions mimic those of dark-age townspeople on a witch-hunt (Vaccinations and genetically modified organisms anyone?). Any solutions to the above problems posed would require a major shift in societal behavior- something we as humans aren’t particularly good at.

There is a possible Hail Mary for science literacy that doesn’t necessitate the engineering of massive social change, an area of educational research that has gained some attention in academic education and science literacy circles, and not always for positive reasons. Learning through narrative.

Learning through story narrative (whether it’s novels, TV, or videogames) isn’t anything new; it’s a process that’s been going on for millennia. Ever since we started painting hunting scenes on caves depicting how, where, and when to hunt, we’ve been telling stories through narrative. Humans like stories. We remember things told in a narrative better than something told as a singular fact. Stories give ideals and detail context, and the more entertaining the better. Good stories engage us by resonating on an emotional level, and that in turn brings details to life.

Continue reading Author Kristi Charish Guest Post

The Tree of Water Excerpt and Giveaway

THE TREE OF WATER
by Elizabeth Haydon
Starscape, 2014

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To Go, or Not to Go

The human boys had an expression back in the faraway city of Vaarn where I was born. It went like this:

Curiosity killed the cat

Satisfaction brought him back

I am a curious person. I was just as curious back in my early days in Vaarn as I am now, perhaps even more so, because my curiosity had not yet been given a chance to be satisfied.

The first time I heard this expression, I was very excited. I thought it meant that my curiosity could make me feel like I was dying, but it would let up if I discovered the answer to whatever was making me curious.

I told my mother about the rhyme. She was not impressed. In fact, she looked at me as if I had just set my own hair on fire on purpose. She patted my chin, which was woefully free of any sign of the beard that should have been growing there.

“That’s very nice,” she said, returning to her chores. “But just in case nobody told you, you are not a cat, Ven. Unlike you, cats have whiskers.”

My pride stung for days afterward.

But it didn’t stop my curiosity from growing as fast as my beard should have been.

My name is Charles Magnus Ven Polypheme, Ven for short. Unlike the human boys in Vaarn, I am of the race of the Nain. Nain are somewhat shorter than humans, and grumpier. They live almost four times as long as humans, and tend to be much less curious, and much less adventurous. They hate to travel, don’t swim, and generally do not like other people. Especially those who are not Nain.

I clearly am not a good example of my race.

First, I am very tall for a Nain, sixty-eight Knuckles high when I was last measured on the morning of my fiftieth birthday. I’ve already mentioned my uncontrollable curiosity, which brings along with it a desire for adventure. I have been blessed, or cursed, with quite a lot of that recently.

But as for the curiosity, while I’ve had a lot of satisfaction for the questions it has asked me, it doesn’t seem to matter. As soon as one burning question is answered, another one springs to mind immediately. As a result, I am frequently in trouble.

Continue reading The Tree of Water Excerpt and Giveaway

Author Jamie Metzl Guest Post

Building a Better Baby
Freezing eggs opens the door to a future where every birth could be genetically engineered.

By Jamie MetzlAuthor of GENESIS CODE: A Thriller of the Near Future

Recent reports of Apple and Facebook now offering to cover the costs of their female employees extracting and freezing their eggs has touched off a national debate. Proponents have said this new perk expands options for women and helps them balance career and life goals. Others have argued it gives women the wrong message about work-life balance and binds them even more intimately to companies primarily interested in their unimpeded work product. But while the debate over egg freezing is important, it misses the bigger point. In the not-distant future, all advantaged women will freeze their eggs in their twenties, and an ever increasing number of babies will be born through a process involving both in vitro fertilization and genetic selection. This revolution will have huge implications for our societies and our species, but we are hardly talking about it.

In labs and clinics around the world, doctors are already using the preimplantation genetic diagnosis process to extract a single cell from and genetically screen each of the five day old embryos in IVF prior to implantation in the mother. Currently, the preimplantation genetic diagnosis process is used to screen for single gene abnormalities like cystic fibrosis, Tay-Sachs disease and sickle cell anemia and, in more limited cases, gender. Each one of the cells extracted in that process, however, carries the full genome. As our ability to understand the genome continues its exponential growth, it is inevitable that parents will be able to choose from thousands of genetic predispositions for each embryo, not just for single gene variations like eye color, but, over time, for more polygenic traits including intelligence, athleticism, robustness and more. If they have fifteen embryos to choose from in IVF, for example, they will be able to choose which of their natural offspring to implant based on their particular value system.

After that, it is extremely likely that scientists will be able to generate eggs from stem cells, making human eggs a potentially unlimited resource (as human sperm already is). At this point, instead of choosing from among ten or twenty of their own embryos, parents would be able to choose from among hundreds or thousands, whatever they can afford. Beyond that, genetic engineering to add DNA from sources other than the two parents will be our reality.

The idea of turning the most beautiful part of the human experience over to scientists will be terrifying for many and, no doubt, constituencies will emerge calling for restrictions or an outright ban. These restrictions might even work in some jurisdictions. But governments and insurance providers will certainly have a strong incentive to support genetic screening, if it proves safe, because the cost of screening will almost certainly be less than the cost of treating what will then be seen as avoidable genetic abnormalities.

Whatever people’s reservations, competition within and between societies will drive this technology and its application forward. Within societies, parents will not want their children to be disadvantaged once the science is deemed safe. Between societies, different attitudes and world views will lead to different rates of technology adoption. Even if Christian-majority countries like the United States, for example, might someday join the Vatican and others pushing for restrictions, other countries such as China and Korea (whose worldview is based less on the concept of a divine plan) may well continue to be more comfortable moving forward with human genetic selection and engineering, as some polling data has shown. And even if all countries opt out, which is unlikely based on current behavior, motivated individuals and non-state actors will have full access to this technology.

With whatever mix of catalysts and first movers, it is almost impossible to believe that our species, which has embraced every new technology – from explosives to nuclear energy to anabolic steroids to plastic surgery and beyond – promising to improve our lives but also carrying potential downsides, would forgo chasing advances in a technology that has the potential to eradicate terrible diseases, improve our health and increase our life spans.

Given the emotional charge of these issues, and the fact that heritable genetic manipulations will have the potential to spread across populations through reproduction, some people and countries will likely become hostile if others elsewhere are changing the human genetic code in a manner that will impact them. Would countries banning heritable genetic manipulations screen people for such mutations at their borders or make it a crime for their citizens to procreate with them? What might some countries do to try to stop others from altering the human genome in ways likely to drift into their own populations?

While these scenarios may seem far off to some – and there are still serious scientific hurdles to be overcome – our altered reproductive future is approaching far faster than most people think.

Because the science is moving forward more quickly than our consciousness, it is critical that we begin a national and global conversation on the ethical and national security implications of the genetics revolution and start thinking about what a preliminary global regulatory framework that both supports important research and prevents the worst abuses might look like.

Egg freezing is a first step in a process that will transform our concepts of nature, reproduction and genetic choice. We owe ourselves and our progeny, a much broader and deeper conversation about our species’ reproductive future.

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Jamie Metzl is with a global investment firm and is a nonresident Senior Fellow for Technology and National Security of the Atlantic Council and author of the 2014 novel Genesis Code. He served in the National Security Council and U.S. State Department during the Clinton administration. Follow him on Twitter @jamiemetzl. This editorial is partly derived from his October 2014 Foreign Affairs article, “The Genetic Epidemic.”