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


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?

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Universal Connectivity

In my 2015 short story "WIN" I explore the perks and downfalls of universal connecting. While it’s easy to view my story as a far reaching and imaginative interpretation of theoretical science, the ideas I mentioned may be closer to reality than many realize.

Recently, SpaceX and Tesla CEO Elon Musk announced he is backing a brain-computer interface venture called Neuralink, according to The Wall Street Journal. The company appears centered on creating devices that can be implanted in the human brain, with the eventual purpose of helping human beings merge with software and keep pace with advancements in artificial intelligence. These enhancements could improve memory or allow for more direct interfacing with computing devices.

Musk recently said, "Over time I think we will probably see a closer merger of biological intelligence and digital intelligence." He added that "it's mostly about the bandwidth, the speed of the connection between your brain and the digital version of yourself, particularly output." On Twitter, Musk has responded to inquiring fans about his progress on a so-called "neural lace" which is sci-fi shorthand for a brain-computer interface humans could use to improve themselves.

He's not the first to try. In 2016, self-made millionaire Bryan Johnson launched a company that seeks to connect the brain with computer intelligence. Johnson's company, Kernel, is working to make "chips" to insert in the human brain. They claim these chips, which are actually neurotechnological hardware designed to read and write neural code, will be used at first for individuals with disease or deficiencies to restore normal brain function. Johnson says in the future he expects the technology to progress so that even healthy humans can get chips implanted in their brains - and become, in effect, superhuman.

They are not the first to hope to connect human minds. However, not everyone feels we need technology for this. Many believe a universal collective consciousness exists between species.

Collective unconscious is a term coined by Carl Jung, referring to structures of the unconscious mind which are shared among beings of the same species. According to Jung, the human collective unconscious is populated by instincts (think about nature vs. nurture. It's instinctual to eat when hungry, care for those hurt, seek out companionship, etc.) and by archetypes (writers adhere to this thought as well - such as Joseph Campbell and Christopher Vogler.)

The psychotherapeutic practice of "analytical psychology" revolves around examining the patient's relationship to the collective unconscious.

Psychiatrist and Jungian analyst Lionel Corbett argues that the contemporary terms "autonomous psyche" or "objective psyche" are more commonly used today in the practice of depth psychology rater than the traditional term of the "collective unconscious."

Critics of the collective unconscious concept have called in unscientific and fatalistic, or otherwise very difficult to test scientifically (due to the mythical aspect of the collective unconscious) for those faith-based scientists.

Regardless of how you feel about these issues, you can certainly see how the topics might spur writers to create new stories, and how those stories in turn can spur on technological, psychological, and scientific experimentation.

How do you feel about Universal Connectivity? Do you feel humans should be working towards neural implants? Do you believe in the possibility of a non technological  collective unconscious?

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

No Matter What Universe We All Need It

Make Your Own Meme
No matter what universe we inhabit--with the exception of a few strong, healthy-minded souls--most of us, at different points in time face insecurity and self-doubts, especially writers.  When uncertainties hit we need something positive to concentrate on.  My recommendation: make yourself a meme, designed especially for you, to pull out whenever you need it. Got a great review?Words of encouragement?A favorite quote?That, and a picture you are fond of, is all you need.
I currently use Corel’s PaintShop but you don't have to have a special software package to design your own memes.  All you need is a picture. From there you can use free software off the internet.  Picture Quotes at  is easy to work with.  I used a picture from a past vacation that I felt was peaceful and serene, words from a friend/fellow writer/editor that meant a lot to me and created this:

I stuck a frame on it, but it’s completely unnecessary. 

What about you? Got an idea for a meme?

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Asking Questions and Generating Ideas

Writers want to tell an interesting and engaging story.  This isn’t an easy task, either.  We’re each one out of thousands of story-tellers, and it seems every possible idea has been done in some form or another.  This can make writing our own stories seem daunting.  Even futile.  I should know, because I’ve struggled with this insecurity before.

Speculative fiction gives us the advantage of opening up the possibilities.  The universe is vast.  There are so many things to see and do that humans have yet to discover, and this is an exciting fact.  This doesn’t mean, however, that the story ideas always come easily.  They frequently don’t.  There are, however, plenty of ways to defeat writers block.  I’ve used these methods myself.

Next time you’re watching a film, ask yourself questions. 
How could things have happened differently?  What if a character missed their flight and couldn’t make it to the important meeting?  What if the protagonist saw through the antagonist’s lies and decided to try to beat them at their own game.  Asking these kinds of questions regarding stories you love help get you thinking like a writer.  Plus, the urge you may occasionally feel to yell at the screen when a character does something stupid can be harnessed for good use.  That’s a great thing, if you ask me.

You can also ask friends to give you tidbits of plot.  Ask one friend for a character or two.  Ask another for a setting.  Ask a third to give you an inciting incident to kick the story into motion.  Ask someone else for another incident to send events into a new and interesting direction.  Use these things to create a story idea.

Here’s an example of what I’m talking about.

Character #1: Female, age 35, doctor
Character #2: Male, age 20, mechanic
Setting: spaceship, passenger liner, carrying 20,000 people, currently in orbit around Earth
Inciting Incident: A bizarre space anomaly is spotted, and it’s heading straight for Earth.

From this setup, questions naturally arise.  How should they respond to seeing the anomaly?  What is it?  What will happen if it reaches Earth?  Will the world be destroyed, or will it be changed in some strange way?  Should the spaceship stay and try to help if things go awry?  Should they flee to protect the 20,000 people onboard?  The story could go in so many different directions.  What role will our main characters play in all this?  They won’t be the ones making the final decision about whether the ship stays or goes, but they’ll certainly have plenty to do when trouble strikes.

The idea may ultimately be terrible.  It might also be brilliant.  In either case, it’ll get your brain thinking creatively, and that’s the most important part of all this.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Blogging: A to Z Challenge

It's Coming!
Hey everyone, Mel here. Today I wanted to focus on blogging, and for me nothing was bigger in the blogging world than A to Z. For those of you who don't know about April's A to Z challenge, it's a blog hop created by Arlee Bird. During this challenge, you post daily (except on Sunday) and your daily post corresponds with a letter of the alphabet. April first is A, second is B, etc. I've participated in the challenge for years. I'd usually start preparing mid-February, because I learned early on that the last thing you want to be doing in April is writing posts. No April is for visiting. And I plan to do that again this year, although I'm not participating myself. For those of you who are, there have been a few changes, the biggest being that there is no list. Instead, you're going to link your daily post to a comment on the A to Z Blog. There are some things I like about this and some things I don't. As a former co-host, I get it. There were a lot of people who signed up and didn't post. The bummer is that I loved that list. I used it all the time, long after the challenge was over. It gave me an easy way to find blogs I normally wouldn't know anything about. It helped me branch out, which is what blogging is all about.
Are you participating in A to Z this year? And if so, do you have a theme?
Do you like the changes?

Until next time-

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.