Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Falling Off the Face of the Earth

Have you ever fallen into obscurity?
What I mean by that is, have you ever disappeared so completely from other people's lives that the only place you exist is inside the walls of your own home?
If so, you're not alone.

Sometimes this is a really good thing--slowing down life and sorting through emotional baggage while trying to get your stuff together. Recovering from surgery (or having a baby *points to self*), moving to a new city and finding your footing, avoiding the flesh eating zombies outside your door...

Okay, maybe not so much that last one.

The point is, sometimes life hits us over the head and we need some time to recuperate. That's perfectly acceptable. The danger is when we stay in our shells. What kind of view do you have in the dark? What kind of perspective does it lend to life? Can we grow while hiding? (And I don't mean around the middle, because that totally is reality.)

People are social creatures. (For the most part.) We're meant to interact (and not only via text messages). We need the validation, kindness, and growth that comes from at least TALKING to other human beings.

If you'll join me, I'm going to attempt stepping outside of my warm cocoon. I plan to speak to people, face to face *gasp* and cut back on texting/social media. Lets experiment and see if life is better when lived with other people rather than along side them.

Speaking of gathering and socializing, we're launching a NEW BLOG for all IWSG anthology contributors. Check it out!


And before we go, *blows off the dust* speaking of bringing things out of obscurity, I write books! And they're awesome. So go buy them. And read them. (But only when you need some down time to all this "human interaction" stuff.)
(Find any of these titles on AMAZON)

Have you fallen off the face of the earth? Are you up for the challenge? What personal goal are you currently working on? Have you checked out the new blog?

Monday, June 18, 2018

Game Masters and Mythbusters

In August 2016, I wrote about one of our favorite museums to visit in San Diego. Every year, the Reuben H. Fleet museum offers some of the coolest science related exhibits we’ve enjoyed. My 2016 article, Science Fiction, Science Future can be found here.  

In 2017, we returned  for the “Game Masters” exhibit which highlighted the scientific development of gaming systems since Atari and the original arcade all the way through what gaming has in store for the future.

The work of more than 30 video game designers who have made a significant impact in the field was explored through rare concept artwork, newly commissioned interviews, and interactive digital displays. This large-scale exhibition took visitors behind the scenes of how video games are made as well as spotlighting the people who actually make them. From Minecraft to Starcraft toWorld of Warcraft, this was a landmark collection of the most popular video games on the planet, as well as independent games with a cult-like following.

The 9,000 square-foot exhibition took visitors through the evolution of gaming from arcade classics such as Missile Command and Pac-Man, to iconic console-based games featuring Sonic the Hedgehog and Rock Band, through to today's indie hits like Real Racing 2, Fruit Ninja, Angry Birds and more. Other famous titles included Dance Central and The Sims.

In addition to allowing guests to experience all of these games firsthand, the exhibit offered an in-depth look at the designers behind some of the most popular games of all time through rare original game artwork, 2D objects, and revealing interviews with game designers. The key role played by smaller independent designers in game design and development was also explored.

Some of these exhibits included books and comics that inspired, or were inspired by, these games and their designers. So very interesting, and a wonderfully nostalgic remembrance for those of us who grew up with these games. It was also interesting to see their influence from and upon science fiction in general.

This year, the museum is hosting “Mythbusters: The Explosive Exhibition” based on the popular Mythbusters series produced by Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman.  I've enjoyed watching old episodes of this show with my kids, and as a result we've enjoyed some of our own experiments. 

This years exhibit offers:

1) Use scientific observations and your own curiosity to search for the truth behind some commonly held beliefs.

2) Explore the Blueprint Room and relive some of the show's most exciting moments.

3) Test your hypothesis in The Workshop and decide whether the myth is plausible, busted, or confirmed.

4) Catch a live demonstration on the Demo Stage. There are multiple shows throughout the day, and the variables (people) are always changing, so results can change hour to hour!

5) Submit your own myths, and you could see them being tested on future episodes of MythBusters!

On display in the expanded upstairs galleries, the exhibition will overflow with hands-on props and gadgets from the show. The Fleet invites you to try your hand at busting some new myths, as well as some old favorites.

I'm so glad my girls enjoy science, creating their own stories, and experiments. I can't wait to see what this years visit inspires them to create.

This is definitely my favorite science museum. I’m not saying it’s impossible to find a better one, but it would be pretty difficult. This one always hosts some of the most unique, innovative, and certainly popular concepts that influence our fascination with scientific concepts and dreams. To learn more about this museum or this years display: https://www.rhfleet.org/exhibitions/mythbusters-explosive-exhibition 

WHAT HAVE BEEN SOME OF YOUR FAVORITE SCIENTIFIC INSPIRATIONS? HAVE YOU VISITED THIS MUSEUM OR THESE EXHIBITS? ARE THERE ANY PLACES YOU WOULD RECOMMEND?

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

A Little Creative Fun

Sometimes I feel less inspired than I would like.  For the last few days, I've had plenty of ideas that I'd love to put on paper, but nothing seems to be coming out right.  Perhaps I'm being too hard on myself.  Isn't that a common problem with writers?  We stress out about the words to the point where they flow like treacle.  It isn't always easy to snap ourselves out of it, either.

When I sat down to write this post, I wasn't feeling any more confident.  I wanted to say something profound about life and writing and the stories that we use to examine our shared humanity.  That sounds like a lot of pressure, so it shouldn't be surprising that doing this to myself did not help my creative output in the slightest.

Then I gave myself permission to have a little bit of fun with this.  Why not?  We all need a little fun and laughter from time to time, and when you're a writer, getting playful with words can also help unblock the pathways responsible for creative output.  Sounds like a win-win scenario, right?

That's why I wrote a little Mad Lib style story to share with you.  It was so much fun to write something silly, and all of you can have a good time filling in the blanks to create something uniquely amusing.  I've always enjoyed writing stories like this, and I'll highly recommend it to anyone who's feeling the creative strain.

Before going on to the story, write a list of these 12 things.  Feel free to be as zany with your responses as you want!

Texture
Beverage
Symptom of illness
Annoying song title
City
Country
Verb
Noun
Emotion
Job title
Color
Shape

Do you have your list ready?  Okay.  Going in order, insert each response into the blanks to create your very own story.  Have fun!



Launch Day

The day of the launch was not going _______.  In fact, an accurate description of events would include a few crude words.  One of the astronauts had too much ______ and was experiencing the fallout from that.  Dealing with ______ on launch day wasn’t exactly ideal.

Then there was the issue with the lead engineer Stan.  Some wires got mixed up, and now the spacecraft’s navigation system played _______ on repeat.  Without a proper navigation system in place, the ship could easily end up in _______ rather than in orbit.

No one had been able to reach Stan, either.  His answering machine said that he’d gone to _______ to _______.  It wouldn’t have been a problem if they had more time.  Delaying a mission was commonplace enough.  Except they had to launch today to save Earth from destruction via _______.

Sarah was determined, however, not to feel ______ about it.  She had a job to do.  She hadn’t been appointed ______ for nothing!  It was only a few wires, right?  How complicated could that be?

She looked up at the enormous _______ ________ of a spacecraft and steeled her nerves.  She had a job to do.  Today she could end up being a hero.  Or she could doom humanity to extinction.  No pressure.

*     *     *

How did your version of the story turn out?  How do you think it ends for our hero, and for humanity as whole?

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

My Top Five Faves of Speculative Fiction on Netflix





It's addicting. It steals your sleep. It makes you stay up at least an hour past your bedtime even though you swore up and down you'd stop. What am I talking about? Netflix. And its lure is growing stronger all the time with new, original programming. Here are my top five shows that fall into the category of speculative fiction:




#5 The 100

Based on the books by Kass Morgan, there are currently 4 seasons available and a 5th to come. This mash-up of sci-fi meets fantasy follows a group of older teens as they are kicked out of the orbiting space station they were born on to go back down to earth. Their mission? To see if the old green and blue ball is habitable after humanity let loose with nuclear weapons about a hundred years previously.

The first season grabbed me with constant nail-biting tension and some curve balls. Unlike a lot of YA stories, the parents of these kids aren't dead (yet), but stuck up in the space station while the kids try to adjust to earth. The influence these separated groups have (or don't) on each other is fascinating. Plus, if you think the scariest thing the kids deal with is growing their own food or finding mutated animals, think again. I don't want to get into spoilers, but they aren't alone...

___________




Watch the first episode of Black Mirror, if you dare.


#4 Black Mirror

The Twilight Zone meets the technological age in this series, which includes 19 separate episodes spread over 4 seasons. The first one, The National Anthem, had me hooked, jaw on floor in complete disbelief. It was probably the most psychologically disturbing thing I've seen on television, period (closely followed by renting Deliverance).

On the other end of the spectrum, San Junipero is one of the most beautiful love stories I've seen. Other episodes, like The Entire History of You and Black Museum, are fiendishly clever stories.

______________



Image: The New Croton Dam, By Acroterion (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

A (digital) bus crash off this bridge is featured in The OA


#3 The OA

This eight episode series follows the extremely odd life of Prairie Johnson. She reemerges into her adopted parents' lives seven years after disappearing. Previously blind, she can now see, but she won't talk about where she's been. Instead, she becomes the leader of a band of misfits who get together to learn a routine that might be described as Garth Fagan dance combined with high speed tai chi. It all has a higher purpose though.

I loved this show's stunning visuals and creepy mood.

_____________





After watching Stranger Things, this is what my daughter wants for her birthday.


#2 Stranger Things

The strangest thing about this series is that after watching the first half of the first episode, I got so bored, I quit watching. Then all the hype finally convinced me to give it another go and what a ride! If I hadn't, I would have missed the upside-down, Joyce's Christmas lights, Dustin's lisp, and Eggo waffles.

Not only does Stranger Things serve up a heaping dose of 80s nostalgia, but it borrows from all the movies I loved as a kid. Does telekinetic Eleven's bleeding nose remind you of someone? Of course! While the girl in Stephen King's Firestarter had the power of telekinesis and pyrokinesis, it was her dad who got a bloody nose whenever he used his mind to control someone. You can also find the influence of Poltergeist, Alien, and a host of other popular movies from that era.

This show is completely bonkers and so, so fun. There's two seasons (17 episodes) to relish and if your pining for season three, you're not alone.

____________




#1 Dark

Because Dark and Stranger Things feature a missing boy in their opening episode, it's natural to compare them. But missing child aside, these are quite different shows. While Stranger Things has its scary moments, there is a campy vibe that lets you know your favorite characters may be put through the wringer (or become invaded by soul-sucking worms from another dimension), but chances are, they will emerge victorious.

So why would I put this show above Stranger Things? The title says it all. Dark is, well, very dark. You don't know what's going to happen. There is no feeling that things are going to turn out all right in the end. The cinematography is so gorgeous. There are long overhead shots of a lush, green forest in every show and this deep cave nestled in a hillside that just begs you to enter, but promises you'll be terrified with every step. The characters are extremely realistic in their flaws, but even as they do terrible things, part of you sympathizes with their plight.

Luckily for me, there is a season two in the works.

__________

Have you watched any of these shows? Do you have recommendations for my next Netflix addiction? How much sleep have you lost binge-watching?


Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Expanding the World Through Short Stories #alternatehistory #scifi #fantasy

These anthologies, Parallels: Felix Was Here, Mayhem in the Air, and Spirits in the Water, have one thing in common, besides having great stories written by talented authors: They each feature a story set in my paper magics' world.

I wrote "Paper Lanterns" for Mayhem in the Air first. As an avid fan of origami, I was always intrigued by the idea of magic in conjunction with the art of paper folding. Yet the character that stood out to me the most in this story was Mayor Alfred Merry, a man married to a Paperist yet who has no magic abilities himself. His turbulent marriage and his reaction to such betrayal became the catalyst for a world banning paper magics. This story created the terms Paperist (person with paper magic), Futurist (person against paper magics), and Ritualist (a Paperist who believes paper magics should be used to rule the world and is against Futurists). Mayor Merry is a staunch Futurist. "Paper Lanterns" is set in 2020s America.

When the announcement came for Parallels: Felix Was Here, I tried to think of an alternate/parallel world, and my world of paper magics instantly came to mind. I combined that with the Curse of Tippecanoe. What if President Reagan died during his assassination attempt in the 1980s? What would that mean for the President elected in 2000. Thus, "Folds in Life and Death" was conceived. Allyson Moore is a simple Paperist, who completely believed in the Curse of Tippecanoe, and watched in horror as it struck her brother. She must come to terms with his death and all that is left behind. "Folds in Life and Death" is set in 2001 America.

The newest story connected to my paper magics' world came out this October in Spirits in the Water. "The Folding Point" follows sixteen-year-old Aimee Washington, a person with paper magic abilities. Like her brother Xavier, Aimee falls in with a group of Ritualists, considered a terrorist organization to Futurists. The Ritualists are trying to free some fellow paper magicians from prison. One of those prisoners includes Aimee's mother, who was captured releasing a soul to the sky (via a paper lantern), which is a Paperist's sacred duty. Not all goes as planned for Aimee and the Ritualists. "The Folding Point" is set about five months after "Paper Lanterns," so 2020s America.

In the future, I hope to expand upon my paper magics' world with a series titled Folding the Future. Each novel will be told by a different main character: a Paperist, a Futurist, and a Ritualist. These three will have connections to the short stories that created a vast new world for me to play in.

As a writer, have you used short stories to expand your world? As a reader, do you enjoy reading stories that branch off from a series' world?



Wednesday, September 27, 2017

GLOBAL WARMING - FACT OR FACT?





The world seems a bit topsy-turvy. Fires, floods, hurricanes, earthquakes, and political posturing that sounds more like kindergarten bullies except that nuclear weapons are in the mix.

  My life too is filled with chaos, even though I've not suffered any of the catastrophic natural disasters mentioned. In the midst of it I'm struggling to write, even the basic. This blog is no exception.
  I wanted to discuss the topic of global warming, to keep in line with my story, Ever-Ton, in the IWSG anthology, Parallels: Felix Was Here. Instead, my listing of blog sites that touch on the topic are all I've got to offer. A copout? Maybe. If so, my apology.

The catastrophic storms and incessant heat that hit this year, has made the impact of global warming all too real. Unless, you prefer to think it's all part of earth's aging. A normal change, as changes go.
Or maybe you're of a mind that what we humans have done with our time on earth has sped up the process. Whichever camp you're in. Current events do make one stop and wonder.
If you are suffering due to excessive water, heat, or smoke? Or your life has upended in other ways? Please know you aren't alone. My wish is for a speedy solution to all our problems and less chaos now and in the future.
In the meantime, if you've a mind to ponder the situation. Consider these articles. And please offer your own argument, article, or words of wisdom or advice.
Take care my friends!















“It is not the strongest species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the ones most responsive to change.”
Charles Darwin



Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Are You a Psychopath?


That was the question that grabbed me while perusing social media.

You know those silly quizzes that are so addicting, yet typically so lame? I just couldn't resist. Having written THE MIRROR PEOPLE, which required significant research into the phenomena, I decided why not? How psychopathic am I?

What followed was a vocabulary test where you were asked to match a word to one of two synonyms. Being a word nerd, I found it highly entertaining...until the quiz concluded that I was a full-blown, mad-in-the brain, clown-loving psychopath.

(For the record, I hate clowns.)

The clincher was, if you were intelligent enough to actually match these words to their closest synonym, you were definitely a psychopath, because who else would invest that amount of time into obscure language?

Um, only every writer on the planet.

So then, what are the TRUE symptoms of psychopaths?


1. A lack of empathy. True psychopaths have a hard time processing other people's emotions. Logically, it might make sense, but they don't get it naturally. This makes them ideal for management positions because they have no issues with firing someone.

2. They are charming. "Life of the party" may be a common description, but it's all on the surface. This is one reason they make excellent salesmen or businessmen. For the few minutes you spend in their presence, you feel like a star, but deep down, they're manipulating you to get exactly what they want.

3. Criminal behavior. Because they don't connect with the moral reasons behind laws, they adhere to the idea that if they can get away with it, it's okay. They also act impulsively.

4. A poor sense of smell. It's true! I know that sounds strange, but the part of the brain that processes smells is also the part that controls impulses. True psychopaths tend to have low activity in that corner of the brain.

5. No fear. Not only can't they experience/understand fear, they find it easy to flip that inner switch and cut off all emotion.

So basically, don't be a psychopath.

And now the moral of the story: Before you claim something as fact (even for a silly quiz), do your research. Then do more. It's easy to make yourself look like a clown-loving fool.


For your enjoyment, here's a TRUE test for psychopathy (click on the image):


Do you like stories about psychopaths? Ever taken a psychopath quiz? Know any psychopaths?