Debunking myths on genetics and DNA

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

New Release: Ernie Lindsey's new book, Super

USA Today bestselling author Ernie Lindsey has a new book release today: Super -- a novel about Superheroes... and a lot more. Here's the blurb:
"A world mourning a fallen superhero.

A president targeted for assassination.

A conspiracy that runs deeper than anyone expects.

Leo Craft is the best at what he does; he assassinates superheroes, but only the ones who deserve it. Life is good, simple, until an ultra-secretive government agency hires Leo to execute two impossible tasks: eliminate the world's foremost superhero, Patriotman, and hunt down a fellow assassin whose target is the President of the United States.

When everyone wears a mask, trust is hard to come by - and even the elusive truth can be caught in a web of lies."
Isn't that intriguing? And Ernie knows "suspense" and "intrigue", as demonstrated by his bestselling thriller series Sara's Game.

To celebrate his new book release, Ernie has kindly agreed to come to CHIMERAS today to talk about his books and writing process. Welcome, Ernie!

EEG: I love the premise of your new book, Super: "Even heroes wear masks." Tell us about the inspiration behind the book and what got you to write it.

EL: I mentioned this to another friend and I feel like a walking cliché, but I actually had a dream about the plot. Or, at least the initial setup. I had very clear images of the South Korean woman in a white pantsuit, a superhero that had been murdered on a private yacht, and it had happened in the Maldives. I woke up before I found out what happened and the idea intrigued me so much, I had to drop the novel I was working on and start this one, just to see how the story played out.

EEG: How did you end up taking Oceanography classes?

EL: That was my original intended major when I first arrived at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, VA. I grew up in the mountains, but had always loved the ocean on family vacations, so I thought it would be a good way to get myself close to, or on, the water. As it turns out, I’m not that scientifically savvy, and making up fictional things in my head is far more interesting than studying things that are real.

EEG: Your books range across different genres, but all your storyline’s are very suspenseful: is suspense something that comes naturally to you?

EL: As most authors know, this isn’t easy. It can be exhausting and really wear you down having to create, create, create (even though I absolutely love it), so writing suspense is what keeps me going back to the keyboard. I love the challenge of developing a storyline where someone absolutely cannot stop turning the pages. Dan Brown did that amazingly well with The Da Vinci Code. Every chapter ended on a cliffhanger, and while I don’t necessarily model my style on his, I tend to replicate that sense of urgency as best I can.

EEG: Do you outline or are do you “go with the flow” when it comes to a new story?

EL: I write like I read, in that I have no idea what’s coming next. I completely go by the seat of my pants. I’ve tried to outline projects before, but it takes all of the fun out of it for me if I know what’s going to happen three hundred pages later. I start with a character in a whoa-what? situation and then try to find out how they got there and why. I surprise myself with plot revelations all the time. That, too, keeps me going back to the keyboard. I need to know.

EEG: Ha, me too. I don't outline ever, finding out the story as I go is the fun part! :-) 
What's your next project about?

EL: I’m nearly finished with the sequel to Warchild: Pawn, the first novel in a planned series about a dystopian future where another Civil War begins in Virginia. I had originally intended for it to be a three-book series, but I can now see that it’s going to be much, much bigger than that! Plus, one cool thing about the first book is that it’s in the Quarter-Finals of Amazon’s Breakthrough Novel Award contest. For one of my works to make it to the Top 500 out of 10,000 is amazing, even if it doesn’t squeeze its way into the next round.

EEG: Congratulations and best of luck on the next round!

Ernie Lindsey's latest book Super is out on Amazon today! And to find out more about Ernie's books and new releases, follow him on his blog, Facebook and Twitter

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Blog Hop: Paying it Forward

Fellow author and photographer F.C. Etier started a blog hop called Paying It Forward, in which tagged authors have to answer four questions and then tag another three fellow authors. I was tagged by Teresa Cypher, fellow sci-fi/fantasy writer and one of the founders of the Weekend Writing Warriors, a blog hop dedicated to sharing 8 sentences of your WIP every Sunday (it's a lot of fun: sign up to share your WIP or simply follow the links if you're looking for some awesome reads).

So, here are the questions:

What am I working on?
I just finished revising MOSAICS, Book 2 in the Track Presius Mystery series. MOSAICS will be released in September but in a few weeks I will be sending out ARCs -- free eBooks for early readers willing to write a review on Amazon. If you'd like to participate, you can read the details and sign up here. I'm also editing GENE CARDS, a mystery set in a near future, while mulling over a possible sequel.

How does my work differ from others of its genre? 
I'm a scientist, in fact, I'm more than that, I'm a science nut, and when I write, I can't keep the science away from my writing. I'll go to a seminar and find the topic so fascinating that next thing I know, a story using those concepts pops in my head. A lot of science fiction borrows concepts from science and genetics in particular, and even though the stories are terrific, most of the time the science is not plausible. I don't mean this as a critique. What I mean to say is that I believe I can offer a different point of view because I know the science in my stories is plausible and that, to me, adds a new layer to the story, as you can always ask yourself: what if this happened for real?

Why do I write what I write? 
That's a great question! I guess I like to imagine things and I ask a lot of 'What If' questions.

How does my writing process work?
Usually characters come first. I let them 'simmer' in my head so I get to know them better. Then comes a scenario, one of those 'What If' questions. And then I start to write...

Thanks again F.C. Etier for starting Paying It Forward, and Teresa Cypher for tagging me. Now I'll go tag three fellow writers to keep the blog hop going. :-)

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

A.G. Riddle, bestselling author of the Origin Trilogy, talks about the greatest mystery of all times

Last week I mentioned a number of self-published authors whose books have been extremely successful. One of such authors is A.G. Riddle, whose Origin Trilogy has now sold over half a million copies. All this in little over a year, since the first book in the series, The Atlantis Gene, was released March last year. All three books in the trilogy, The Atlantis Gene, The Atlantis Plague and The Atlantis World have been steadily in the top 10 Amazon Bestseller since their release. Wow!

I met A.G. through Facebook and I was thrilled when he kindly accepted to come over to the blog for an interview. Welcome, A.G.!

EEG: What was the inspiration for the Origin Trilogy?

AGR: I've always been fascinated by the Atlantis myth and the idea of an advanced society that collapses rapidly. I'm also curious about evolution and the recent discoveries about the human family tree. In fact, the science and anthropology is what really got me started. It was the seed.

70,000 years ago, the human race almost went extinct. A supervolcano at Mount Toba created a volcanic winter that reduced the total human population to as few as 10,000 (with only 1,000 viable mating pairs). In the 70,000 years that followed, we go from the brink of extinction to 7 billion people, conquering the globe as no species has before. To me, that's the greatest mystery of all time. We know that at the time of Toba there were at least three other hominid species (Neanderthals, Denisovans, and homo Floresiensis). There could be a half dozen others we haven't found yet. Genetically, these other humans weren't that different from us. In fact, we were more of a fledgling upstart subspecies. But after Toba, humans (homo sapiens sapiens) developed some incredibly important survival advantage. We march out of Africa and take over the planet. All the other human subspecies die out.

So I started with the core mystery: how we survived the Toba supervolcano and subsequently flourished, and tried to tell a good tale around it.

EEG: What do you find most fascinating about genetics?

AGR: The genetic difference between individual humans today is tiny (about 0.1% on average), yet that small genetic variation causes a stunning variety in our species.

EEG: Yes it is, but that's because we aren't just "genes". In the ten years I've been studying genetics I learned that besides a genome, we have a proteome and an epigenome, and all these things interact together with the environment to make who we are. No two individuals are alike because of many layers of interactions, not just genes. Some diseases don't even have a genetic cause because the cause is in the way proteins fold or in the way some genes are expressed (or not expressed).

What was the greatest challenge you had to overcome while writing the trilogy?

AGR: The early months. I felt like I had a great story, but it was better in my head and notes than it was on the page (or screen). I spent a lot of months writing, throwing out what I had, and starting again.

EEG: I hear you! Happens a lot to me too! Now that you just released the third book in the Origin trilogy, what's next for you? what are you working on?

AGR: A new series. I'm pretty excited about it but still have a lot of work to do.

EEG: What are your goals as a writer? And where would you like to be, say, ten years from now?

AGR: I just want to be producing work I'm proud of. That's how I measure my success. I hope I'm still challenging myself and telling stories I think are important.

EEG: And we certainly wish you all the success you deserve! Thanks for being with us today!

To find out more about A.G. Riddle and his future book releases, follow him on his blog, Facebook, and Twitter.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Insecure Writer's Support Group: What's up with Technothrillers?

This is a monthly event organized by the Insecure Writer's Support Group. Click here to find out more about the group and sign up for the next event.

I see this event, organized by the awesome Alex J. Cavanaugh, as an opportunity to share my writing drive. I'm hoping that what inspires me to overcome my fears and insecurities can help other writers as well. Last month I talked about grit. Today I want to discuss a post written by author Matthew Mather in which he shares his experience in the publishing world .

Read the whole post because it's a mind-opener: Mather tells his story, from when he was rejected by publishers, to becoming an acclaimed author (in just two years) and even selling movie rights for his last book, Cyberstorm. He's now sold foreign rights to one of the Big-5 publishers, but he still self-publishes in the US.

My first reaction after reading Mathew's post: What's up with publishers rejecting technothrillers that later go on and become bestsellers? It's become a pattern. People love technothrillers. The genre is indeed very successful, as Matthew Mather's experience is not unique. JA Konrath is another blatant example. I will be the next example. Um, did I just type that out loud?? Heh, sorry, that was wishful thinking that just overtook the keyboard. ;-) Seriously, though: AG Riddle. BV Larson. The list is LONG! All self-published, all in the top 100 Amazon bestselling lists.

Second reaction: What Matthew Mather is saying makes A LOT of sense. These days authors have to push their own promotion even when they publish traditionally. If the big publishers gave us the opportunity to just do the writing while they take of the rest (promotion in particular), then I'd have different thoughts on the matter. But today even traditionally published authors have to spend a good deal of time promoting and advertising. If this is the case, we might as well publish on our own and get a bigger chunk of the pie. After all, indie publishing is just another aspect of a global movement that's aiming at cutting the middle man: self-pubbed authors are providing their products directly to the consumer. The trend is growing and the message is clear: the consumers are loving it. They get good quality products for less than half the price.

Not convinced yet? Then go read this post, from which two points are worth highlighting:
  • "Very few authors who debut with major publishers make enough money to earn a living—and modern advances don’t cover the difference."
  • "In absolute numbers, more self-published authors are earning a living wage today than Big-5 authors."

Monday, June 2, 2014

Authors today have more bargaining power: Tracy Banghart talks about publishing and her award winning novel Shattered Veil

My guest today is an author whose story touches me because I know the struggles she went through: Tracy E. Banghart had no problem getting offers from agents and yet her books could not find a home in the traditional publishing world. Today Tracy is the award winning author of SHATTERED VEIL, the story of 18-year-old Aris Haan, a talented wingjet flyer who decides to follow her soon-to-be fiancee Calix to war. The book placed second in the IndieReader Discovery Awards and received a starred review from Publishers Weekly:
"What starts as a tale of star-crossed romance quickly evolves into a gripping page-turner, with gender roles and identity explored and questioned at every turn."
Shattered Veil is now on sale at $0.99 through June 7, so you better get your copy fast before the sale ends!

EEG: Congratulations Tracy and welcome to CHIMERAS!

TEB: Hi Elena, Thanks so much for interviewing me! I'm honored to be joining you on your blog today.

EEG: I guess the first question I have for you is to tell us your experience with agents and editors just because it's so similar to mine that it kinda makes me feel better to know that I'm not alone in this "I'm gonna prove them wrong!" battle.

TEB: You're not the first person to tell me our stories are similar. Like most authors at the time (back in 2009), when I first started pursuing publication I went the traditional route. Indie publishing hadn't really taken off yet, and I wanted the validation and expertise of a traditional publisher. I'd heard time and again that the tough part was finding an agent, and after that you're golden. NOT my experience. I received three offers of representation on my first novel within a couple of months of querying. I loved my agent -- we had a great rapport and she was super organized and good at her job. I was convinced we'd sell in no time. And. . . we didn't. Three books later, I realized that as much as I loved my agent, we weren't finding success with one another and it was time to part ways. I also realized around the same time that I'd become SO desperate for that elusive book deal that I'd been selling out my vision. I would have done anything to catch an editor's eye, even if it meant changing the fundamentals of my books. I decided to go indie because I wanted to find readers however and wherever I could. . . and because it gave me control over my career and writing in a very real and tangible way. I took another look at my three books. I reworked and revised them again, focusing on what I wanted the story to be. And I'm thrilled because it seems to be paying off! I have a lot of really exciting things happening behind the scenes right now (if you want to be among the first to know about the awesome, sign up for my newsletter!). I'm so blessed to have readers -- and I will stay committed to producing material for them, whether it's through indie or traditional publishing avenues.

EEG: How long have you been writing and what inspires your stories?

TEB: I've been writing since I was a kid. Honestly, I can't remember not wanting to be a writer. But I didn't start writing seriously (i.e. for publication) until 2009, when my husband and I got married. As for my inspiration, it's definitely varied. A couple examples: one of my books, BY BLOOD, was inspired by my homesickness for Oxford, England, where I'd gone to grad school. Another, SHATTERED VEIL, began from a dream I had when my husband was deployed to Iraq.

EEG: Tell us about your latest release, The Shattered Veil, and your vision for this new series, The Diatous Wars: what inspired it? In particular, your heroine flies wingjets, which play an important role in your story, so I'm curious: do you do any of the flying/gliding sports and if not, where did you get the idea?

TEB: SHATTERED VEIL is a YA/crossover sci-fi adventure about a girl who joins an underground network of women in disguise in her country's male-only military. She does it at first for the wrong reasons, but soon comes to have a wider understanding of the war and finds new reasons to fight. Or, rather, pilot wingjets. As I mentioned before, it was in part inspired by my husband's deployment. He helped me a lot with the military aspects of the story. It was a great way to bond while we were so far apart. As for the flying, I've never done much in the way of flying/gliding sports, but I've spent a lot of time boating, which I think inspired some of the flying scenes a little. But more than that, Aris and her flying skills were born out of my respect for the female fighter pilots of WWII, particularly Russia's "Night Witches”. The Night Witches were a squadron of female pilots that dropped bombs on German troops; they were known as Night Witches by the German army because of the noise their rickety plywood planes made as they swooshed overhead. These women were incredibly brave, and I found their story really inspiring. As soon as I read about them, I knew Aris needed to be a pilot.

EEG: Do you have a release date for the next book? Can you give us a little sneak preview?

TEB: I don't have a release date -- yet -- for book two of the series, but it will release sometime before the end of the year. I'm hard at work writing it! As for sneak peeks, hmm. Well, how about this? My current favorite line:
"He reached for her hands, gently taking them in his own and inspecting them, as if he could see in her palms the invisible scars she still bore."
Where the first book really delves into the war in Atalanta and what it means for the women who give up their identities to fight as men, the second book will explore more of what's going on in the enemy country, Safara, showing how that will come to bear on Aris's understanding and experience as the war progresses.

EEG: You have an MA in publishing -- with that as a background, how do you feel about the changes the publishing world is going through? Do you foresee a future where every successful author is hybrid, or do you see either indie or traditional prevailing over the other?

TEB: Ooh. Tough question! I think what's happening in publishing right now is simultaneously exciting and a little terrifying. Because it IS a brave new world. I don't think anyone really knows how it will all shake out. I am loving the rise of indie publishing, because it empowers authors. It gives us more opportunities to share our work and find ways to make a career as a writer financially viable. I don't think traditional publishers are just going to disappear, but I think their models are going to change, and, maybe more importantly, the cache' of traditional publishing is going to shift. This is already happening. I think the big change we're going to see is in how and by whom books are judged. What will be the new standard of quality? I don't think traditional publishers have a lock on the "best" books anymore, and readers are picking up on that. They're finding indie books of similar or better quality than traditionally published books, and that's changing the way they find and choose what to read. I would love to think READERS will be the taste-makers in future, not publishers. But I'm sure there will always be entities helping readers find their way. I'm just not sure the gatekeepers of quality are traditional publishers anymore. Maybe it will be bloggers. Or professional reviewing bodies like Publishers Weekly or Booklist.

Overall, I think the more choices an author has in connecting their work with readers, the more power he or she has. A publisher offers a crappy contract? Rejecting the contract and self-publishing is now a viable option. That gives an author more bargaining power and more control over his or her content. And that is never, EVER, a bad thing.

EEG: I couldn't agree more, Tracy. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts with us today!

TEB: Thanks so much for having me!

Find out more about Tracy on her blog and follow her on Twitter at @tracythewriter and on Facebook. And remember: Tracy's award-winning novel Shattered Veil is now on sale at $0.99 through June 7!