Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Virtual Crime - What's the Big Deal?

In my short story, Scrying the Plane, Lillian Reynolds dives into a virtual reality plane where everything seems like tons of fun: Twitter bluebirds flit about delivering messages, and the band U2 is performing "live".

Then things take a scary turn and she ends up in the virtual hands of a lecherous old man. Before escaping the police, this villain declares: "I never touched her." Technically, he's right.

Scrying the Plane was published in May of 2016 in the Parallels: Felix Was Here anthology. By October, a story came out of a VR game player, Jordan Belamire*, who was virtually assaulted by another player while blasting away zombies with a bow and arrow in QuiVr. (Read the details in this post from Belamire.)

Reactions to this story were mixed. Some commented that since nothing actually happened, it wasn't a big deal. Others felt a comparison of virtual groping in a game to sexual assault was insulting to victims of "real" sexual assault. But the developer of QuiVr, Aaron Stanton, was horrified and designed a gesture their customers can execute to make other players disappear, creating a virtual safe space during play. (Source:

Image: Mikael T

So is virtual assault a crime? Not yet, according to lawyer Mark Methenitis. As of now, sexual assault and rape statues in the US require physical contact. Players might see their avatar attacked, but they can't feel it. But physical sensation with VR isn't impossible. (Source:

Haptic technology is used to provide a sense of touch. Haptic suits or vests are being developed so gamers can feel explosions or bullet impacts. (Wikipedia)

Image: KOR-FX Immersive Gaming Vest (sale price $99)

What do you think? Should Stanton's safety gesture be an industry standard for all VR games? Would you be interested in feeling the violent effects of these war games with a haptic suit or vest? (Personally, I'd rather have a virtual massage than get shot, but that's just me.)

*This may be a pseudonym.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Do We Interact with Parallel Worlds? | Goodreads #Giveaway

Have you heard of the "Many Worlds" hypothesis? This theory tended to keep the parallel universes separate yet within the same time frame as our own, but now there's a new theory called "the many interacting worlds" hypothesis. This theory states at a quantum level our world interacts with parallel worlds. If this theory proves true, we could one day interact with other parallel universes and maybe even time travel.

What do you think of "the many interacting worlds" hypothesis?

I hope everyone is having a good holiday. To celebrate the end of 2016 and the beginning of 2017, I'm giving away a paperback copy of Parallels: Felix Was Here on Goodreads. There will be two winners. You can enter here.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Parallels by L.G. Keltner


by L.G. Keltner

Giveaway ends January 07, 2017.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter Giveaway

Wednesday, November 23, 2016


A question recently asked by N. R. Williams' in a recent blog post. I thought I would answer it here, and not just because I won a place in the Parallels: Felix Was Here Anthology, but because I co-host a writing challenge called Write…Edit…Publish Blog Post, with Denise Covey. 

The WEP is a flash fiction challenge open to all writers, and we work hard to come up with a schedule of contests that offer just that, an opportunity for participants to try something new.

When most of us start out, we choose a genre and concentrate our efforts in that arena. My first choice was mystery. I thought mysteries would be my main calling, but then I found the need to branch out and found writing contests the solution.

Each writing challenge is an opportunity, not only for expression but it's a chance to learn and open yourself to other possibilities. You'll not only stretch your imagination but you'll meet a new network of people. Writers helping other writers is the key to success and, yes, even that necessary evil of marketing becomes easier as you introduce yourself to new readers via a new genre.

Have you tested the waters - tried a new genre?

Did you submit to the IWSG Anthlogoy?

Or do you limit yourself, convinced you can only 'write what you know'?

Jump in and open yourself to creativity.

Challenge yourself!

You will never, ever regret it!

To help you consider a different genre
here's a list of the tips or essentials for writing

Science Fiction, Romance, Horror or Scary,
Mysteries and Fantasy.

 1.   Science fiction is often based on scientific principles and technology.

2.   Science fiction may make predictions about life in the future.

3.   Science fiction often deals with aliens or with life on other worlds.

4.   Science fiction can comment on important issues in society.

  1.   A hero and a heroine to fall in love

  2.   A problem that creates conflict and tension between them and threatens to keep them apart

  3.   A developing love that is so special it comes about only once in a lifetime

  4.   A resolution in which the problem is solved and the couple is united.


(last month's Parallels post by Crystal Collier)

1.  The setting: your word choices and imagery should depict an ambiance that sets our nerves on end.
2.  A protagonist you like: a likable character builds the tension. 
3.  Foreshadowing: give hints, snippets that tell us something sinister is coming
4.  Building tension: up the stakes with things that really matter (like people's lives). 
5.  Surprise: that twist that changes the entire story.


1.   Characters that are engaging entertaining, and possibly, seem as though they could be the villain. 

    2.   An Intriguing Plot: a ‘hook’ that gains the reader’s interest and pulls them along with the story.

    3.  Clues and red herrings to keep the reader guessing.

    4.   Action and adventure to keep the story moving.

    5.   A healthy dose of suspense that allows the reader to connect more with the characters.


1.   Plot: almost always a natural serial sequence i.e. a hero’s journey of separation, quest, and reconciliation/salvation.

2.   Action: often based on traditional roles and archetypes rather than on personal.

3.   Setting: often medieval or magical, but can be urban or modern and often emblematic and symbolic rather than literal.

4.   Characters: wizards, witches, elves, fairies, gnomes, dwarves, goblins, trolls, sprites, angels, and devils, etc. or humans with their traits.


Also, Christine Rains recently posted a blog on the 5 Reasons to Write Paranormal. Check it out HERE!

If one of these is your genre - what characteristic  do you feel is most important to make it work?

Tell us your genre, and if you haven't yet attempted a new one - if and when you do, what would it be?

For more information on each subject, just click the title.

In my story for Parallels, Ever-Ton, 
global warming was a real thing.

IT IS a real thing.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

What is Scary? 5 Tips for Creating Scary Stories

I was recently asked a funny question: do you write scary stuff?

Well, I don't think so, but some people do. A reader recently told me that she had to put my debut novel (MOONLESS) down because of a scene 5 chapters in. I had to take another look. Maybe I do write tense, if not terrifying things.

I really didn't intend to make my entry for the Parallels anthology scary, but when I typed that first line: "Every day I look into the eyes of a stone cold killer", I knew I had to go with it. What kind of bizarre story was spilling onto the page? And yes, it's intense, but like all emotions, you can't experience one extreme without experiencing the other.

An extreme scare=an extreme relief.

The same is true with my Maiden of Time series. There are creatures one might call a cross between a dementor, vampire, and werewolf. Just perfect for Halloween. They're coming out to play in the final book, TIMELESS, releasing November 1. (Shameless plug there.)

So what is it that makes a story "scary?" And how do we implement the scare?

1. The setting:

The word choices and imagery depict an ambiance that sets our nerves on end. One scene in Moonless takes place in a 17th century cellar at midnight. A "dead girl" is found hanging from the rafters on chains. (She's not really dead, but that's another discussion for another day.) The setting builds on the shadows, the lack of light, the chill in the air, the flicker of a nearly-dead candle, the dead silence, and the bleeding red skirts of the hanging girl. Did you get all those details there? Full sensory experience based on what we perceive as terrifying--and that's the scene that robbed me of a reader. *sigh*

2. A protagonist you like:

If you sincerely care about a character, you don't want to see them step into the attic and get hacked to pieces by an ax murderer. A likable character builds the tension. That was the case with Jak from The Mirror People. I had to tell his story because I had to know that this sincerely good guy would somehow overcome the monster on the other side of the glass.

3. Foreshadowing:

We get hints, snippets that tell us something sinister is coming. A shadow on the wall. A scuttling and closing door. A bizarre taste on the wind... These prepare the mind and build anticipation for a future payout. This is one of my favorite tools--especially when it comes to planting red herrings so the reader is caught unawares.

4. Building tension: 

The stakes are upped. Things that really matter (like people's lives) are jeopardized. We take it to the next level by throwing something new into the fire. In Timeless, Alexia is already battling the Knights Templar to keep her people alive, and then mysterious murders start happening in her camp. Suddenly there is no safe haven.

5. Surprise:

This is the best part of a scary story in my opinion--that thing jumping out that you didn't expect. That twist that changed the entire story for you. Surprises are a must.

If you can pull off the tension and bring your readers to that place of relief, you've got them for life. Go forth and scare!

What's your favorite scary story or movie?

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

At the Heart of What If?

by Alex J. Cavanaugh 

Parallel universes explore the what if – what if one or more elements was different that our own world. But if you think about it, all speculative fiction is about the what if. It’s exploring a place unlike our own, transporting the reader to a world of possibilities.

This type of writing appeals to both writer and reader on many levels.

For the writer:

Fun to brainstorm. We can just start listing all sorts of crazy what ifs.

No limits. This is about things that aren’t real. Not yet and maybe never. We can go as far as we envision.

We become Creator. All writers do, but we can take it a step farther with a whole new world.

For the reader:

The chance to escape reality. When the news and troubles of the world overwhelm, nothing is more satisfying than retreating away from reality.

Struggles easier to handle. The troubles of this world can overwhelm us. But present those same struggles in a speculative fiction setting, and they are easier to handle and understand. We can process them better.

Encourages imagination. The same imagination that created the story flows into the reader and he envisions the world beyond the book. He’ll create his own stories.

What if takes us to a place beyond this world. And that’s a good thing. After all, all of the advancements and inventions of this world came from that simple question – what if?

Alex J. Cavanaugh
- Alex J. Cavanaugh has a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree and works in web design, graphics, and technical editing. A fan of all things science fiction, his interests range from books and movies to music and games. Online he is the Ninja Captain and founder of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group. He’s the author of Amazon Best-Sellers CassaStar, CassaFire, CassaStorm, and Dragon of the Stars. The author lives in the Carolinas with his wife.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Science Fiction, Science Future

- by Sylvia Ney

One of my favorite stops this summer was at the Reuben H. Fleet museum in San Diego, California. I took my daughters to the traveling exhibit "Science Fiction, Science Future".

We spent the day learning about what has led to our current understanding of science, what humans are currently working to develop, and being teased with challenges for the future. Gallery stops included:

- understanding what we know of sound and light
- move this object with your mind challenge
- become invisible
- design your own cyborg
- interact with robots
- and more than I can write about in one post!

Here are just a few of our explorations:

A section honoring the history of science fiction development - its authors, artists, and innovators. Rare books from the Department of Special Collections & University Archives (SCUA), artwork from comic book publisher IDW, and even displays from the Star Trek franchise were available for perusal - including a very special challenge (see pics below).

Created by the renowned Scitech Discovery Centre in Perth, Australia this exhibit is a visually compelling way to share a deeper understanding of how science fiction concepts of today are becoming a reality: including holograms.

Visitors are completely immersed in possibilities for medical technology, communication, and even transportation. This exhibit includes many innovations, inventions, and challenges -  a taste of anything a science lover could be looking for, especially when sharing the concepts with family and friends.

Thanks to this trip, my daughters truly enjoyed a glimpse at the possibilities for themselves and their future. I can't wait to see how they will contribute.

How will you contribute to our science fiction, science future? Will you or someone you know want to compete in the tricorder challenge listed in the above picture?

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

What would YOU build in your alternate universe?

What Would YOU Build in Your Alternate Universe?

I love alternate universes.  There are so many things we have no control over in our own lives: life, death, taxes, illness, family, nature.  There are of course things we can control, but somewhere along the line, unforeseen circumstances set in and remind us of just how small we are in the scheme of things.  That is what is so great about creating an alternator universe.  Your world can be exactly as you choose it to be.
One of the things that really bother me—and probably you—is the politics and violence that are tearing our country apart.  I firmly believe that it is the inability of our representatives to reach across the table and say, “I don’t agree with you, but I’m willing to meet you halfway,” that keeps our country in total turmoil.  Today’s mentality in congress seems to be my way or the highway.
Why am I mentioning this in a post about alternate universes? Because it was important enough to me to build it into my new world.  In RAINERS, when Harper Reese tumbles into a world different, but similar to her own, she discovers that like the United States there is a President and Vice-President, but unlike her own, one is a liberal and the other a conservative.  It had no specific bearing on my storyline, but something that I wanted in my universe.
What about you?  If you are building an alternate universe, what would you put into it? Unaltered rain forests? Purple dogs? A society that has eliminated hunger and disease?  This world is your oyster, you can build it anyway you want. I’d love to hear what would be important enough to place in yours.


Tagline: Save his world or save her own.
Blurb: Out hiking, Harper Reese tumbles into a parallel universe where a nightmarish virus has infected the sphere’s pubescent children. While there she encounters bad boy Noah Tanner who’s got problems of his own. Now, they must work together to track down and destroy the source of the disease before it travels to her world and infects her twelve-year-old sister.

Bio: Multi-published author Sandra Cox writes YA Fantasy, Romance, and Metaphysical Nonfiction. She lives in sunny North Carolina with her husband, a brood of critters and an occasional foster cat. Although shopping is high on the list, her greatest pleasure is sitting on her screened in porch, listening to the birds, sipping coffee and enjoying a good book. She's a vegetarian and a Muay Thai enthusiast.

Enter the realm of parallel universes!

What if the government tried to create the perfect utopia? Could a society linked to a supercomputer survive on its own? Do our reflections control secret lives on the other side of the mirror? Can one moment split a person’s world forever?

Exploring the fantastic, ten authors offer incredible visions and captivating tales of diverse reality. Featuring the talents of L. G. Keltner, Crystal Collier, Hart Johnson, Cherie Reich, Sandra Cox, Yolanda Renee, Melanie Schulz, Sylvia Ney, Michael Abayomi, and Tamara Narayan.

Hand-picked by a panel of agents and authors, these ten tales will expand your imagination and twist the tropes of science fiction. Step through the portal and enter another dimension!

Release date: May 3, 2016
$14.95 USA, 6x9 Trade paperback, 218 pages, Freedom Fox Press
Science Fiction/General ( FIC028000) and Fiction/Alternative History (FIC040000 )
Print ISBN 978-1-939844-19-4 eBook ISBN 978-1-939844-20-0
Order through Ingram, Follett Library Resources, or from the publisher
$4.99 EBook available in all formats