Friday, September 28, 2012

The Daunting Abyss of Marketing and Promotion

I'll be the first to admit, I am horrible at getting my name and books out there. Right now, I'm staring at a promotional to-do list that is fifty-million items long...

Okay, THAT may be an exaggeration, but this is my blog so I can be as melodramatic as I want.

I don't usually compare myself to other writers, because that path leads to depression, insecurity and most likely insanity. But in the area of marketing, promotion, and all around public relations, I can't help but notice that my fellow writers seem so much better at it.

And their sales show it.

They work their asses off balancing the time of writing and creativity with the work of letting people know their book(s) is/are out there. I'm so impressed and fascinated by the seemingly natural flow.

I am not comfortable boasting about my book in the respect as "see here for purchase". Oh, I can chat up all the science and world building in it and the basis for its development and inclusion in the story, but that's just geeking out, isn't it?

Yeah, I thought so. *sigh*

I can do what I hope are interesting articles about science, technology, research, and/or development, but most of the time I get so excited about the topic that I forget to tie it to one of my stories and add a book summary and purchase links.

So, back to the thing that prompted this post. I'm staring at the daunting abyss of promotion items I need to do. There's interview questionnaires, topic items for blog posts (with their link to a published or soon-to-be published story), blog tour requests to send out to my blogging buddies, and excerpt posts to send off to Yahoo Groups and Facebook.

Usually I try and end a post like this with a "here's what I'm going to do about it" paragraph, but truthfully folks, I'm too overwhelmed and, yes, frightened to come up with some solutions.

Yours truly, quivering in the corner,

A. R.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Space Travel - gazing the shore beyond the horizon

Whether it's interplanetary, interstellar, or intergalactic, space travel has some hefty challenges to overcome. The one I want to cover today is distance.

Flippers on? Okay, let's dive in.

The speed of light is equal to 186,000 miles per second. (Here I thought my husband was speedy Gonzales at 80 mph!) Using Termination Shock as the "edge", our Solar System is reported to be about 22 light-hours across, which is about 1/400th a light year.

Doesn't seem like that big, does it? I admit, using light years does kind of soften the true size of things. Dampens the perspective, so to speak. So, let's put it in miles. First visualize a mile in your head. Now let's do this arithmetic style:

          186,000 x 60 = 11,160,000 million miles per minute
          11,160,000 x 60 = 669,600,000 million miles per hour
          669,600,000 x 22 = 14,731,200,000 billion miles wide

I'm impressed (both at my math skills if I'm correct and in the true size of the Solar System). That's almost 15 billion miles across! Earth is 24,906 around miles at its equator. You'd have to go around the Earth's equator 591,472 times to equal the Solar System's distance

All right, at this point, let's be honest. The Milky Way galaxy is about 90,000 light years across. Talk about speck of dust! We are a microbe! For the sake of sanity, let's exclude intergalactic travel in this post for now, shall we?

Good, now considering the first commercial flight using an airplane was only in 1913 or 1914 (couldn't clarify in my research) how can we possibly imagine even getting to the closest habitable planet? Mars ranges from 34 million to 250 million miles away from Earth. I mean, even becoming interplanetary residents is daunting.

But let's put on our positivity hats... no, not the aluminum ones, the positivity ones... Yeah, those there to the left. We've made great strides since those first commercial flights and now airflight is a natural transportation method all over the world.

NASA has taken several rovers to Mars and it's only about 6 months. Yeah, I know that's just robots, but baby steps folks, baby steps. Stay with me here.

Virgin Galactic is well on its way with the commercial space flights. And a Russian company is slated to open the first orbital hotel in 2016 .

The private sector is where our advancement into space will come from. We'll slowly move beyond our earthly society and will pace our technological advancements in modes of space travel to meet the changing needs.

Come on, do we really need faster than light (FTL) travel technology when we're just settling into space colonies, moons and planets?

Truthfully, what's a 6 to 12 month trip for someone moving to colonize off Earth? Pioneers ventured that long to start a new life in a time when they knew they'd never go "back home" again. It'll be those with the same mindset gearing up for multi-planet civilization.

Sure, they could speed up the trip a little, but it's not bad as it stands now if they build gravity treatment into the vessel, such a body centrifuges.

Now, when we get ready to go interstellar baby, that's when we need to bump up our travel game. We'd have to first decide how we're getting there. Most likely, it'll be a mix of things. Those first few will want/need to travel in generational ships that are slower than light. They could also travel in suspended animation with a mix of frozen embryos to colonize a new world in another star system.

That's a long wait and I don't think I could do that.

My interstellar style would be through Faster Than Light (FTL) technology either using warp drive technology or something more realistic such as quantaportation. Of course, a quantaportation grid would need to be laid out first before it would work. That could be done through unmanned technology with robots setting up receiver stations throughout.


Friday, September 7, 2012

Life After Death: What's it all about?

The discussion of if there's life after death is usually prompted and/or ended by talks of near death experiences, so we'll start there.

I want to begin with the actual medical definition of near death experience (NDE):
  1. Person is physically compromised to the extent that they are clinically dead (no pulse, no respiratory movement and no corneal reflex)
  2. At the time of clinical death, they have a generally lucid, highly organized experience
On the surface, it sounds crazy. I mean, the dead can't see, hear, or experience anything. How do the clinically dead make new memories? Because, guess what, they do. There are numerous cases where people put into a clinically dead state for surgical purposes, wakes up knowing intimate and accurate details of the procedure. All the way to conversations between the clinical staff they overheard.

You know science, though. There has to be a non-metaphysical explanation to this. So, let's take a moment to go over one of the dominant scientific theories for NDE. Scientists theorize NDE is actually the sleep disorder rapid eye movement (REM) intrusion. During this REM intrusion, the mind wakes up before the body, triggering hallucinations and the sensation of being detached from the body. (The REM state is where we enter the dreaming part of our sleepy case you didn't know.)

But, if our brain is officially considered dead, how can this be? Well, the area of REM intrusion is located in the brain stem, so can operate independent from the executive organ residing within your skull. Sounds plausible, right? So, based on this, no spirituality or post physical body reason involved.

Whoa, but what about when we factor in the out of body experience (OBE), where people have watched and could describe actions the surgical team did during the surgery? You guessed it, science has a theory for this to: temporal parietal junction (TPJ) misfires.

When the TBJ misfires and becomes crossed it gives the sensation of being outside your physical body. Test subjects have proven this. That's all good and nice, but guess what? The TBJ area is controlled by the higher brain, which in the NDE is clinically dead. Where are those kind of test subjects?

If it sounds like I'm mocking science, please believe me I'm earnestly not. As a science fanatic, I love all the discoveries science makes on a daily basis. My restraint comes when science finds the reason for how something happens and closes the book without exploring why something happens. The REM intrusion and TBJ misfires during NDE explain the how, but doesn't explain the why.

The why can literally be explained in thousands of ways. You have each religion and spiritual movement explaining the why in their own way. Then each human takes their own twist based on their religious or spiritual belief merged with their life experiences.

For me, the movie Flatliner's was an interesting take on the subject. The angle of each med student needing to come to terms with their own life trauma was intriguing. Imagine, you croak and find yourself in an experience/memory maze, having to tie up all the loose ends of your life to get to the beyond point.

I do wonder if REM is truly the door to our spirituality, and not only just our subconscious mind. When you think about it, it is our subconscious that processes our conscious thoughts and actions to turn them into beliefs and our core moral and ethical structures.

Personally, I was both relieved and disappointed that I missed out on the NDE and OBE experience during my craniotomy in early 2011. Relieved because, hello, knocking on death's door. The tad of disappointment surprised me until I drilled into it (of course).

I'm not just a sci-fi geek, I'm a science geek and a bit of a spirituality geek. Having a near death experience would've been the ultimate of ultimates in merging both science and spirituality in a single adventure. Now that I think about it, maybe it was a good thing I didn't. With my curiosity, I would've gone towards the damn light and then where would we be, huh? Definitely not blogging about life after death today, that's for sure.

The argument will continue, there's no doubt about that, but beyond the experiences of a few, no one will ever know until our hearts actually stop, our brain nerves cease sparking and the docs can't bring us back.

I don't know about you all, but I'm not in a hurry to find out. So, what are your thoughts on the whole life after death thing?

"Is There Such a Thing as Life After Death?" by Laura Fitzpatrick,8599,1955636,00.html
"Has science explained life after death?" by Josh Clark

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Talking SF subgenres on The Writer Limits

Hey all! I'm over at The Writer Limits talking SF subgenres. Stop by if you have a chance!

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Pucker Up

I've been all science-y for a bit, so I thought I'd call up the "R" side of SFR and delve into something a bit more mooshy.


I love kissing. The whole ritual of it is alluring and tantalizing. But why do we kiss? On the surface, it seems a weird thing to do. I mean, we press the food entry part of our bodies together and suck face. (More or less...oh, you get the drift.)

Somehow, it's instinctual though, isn't it? But is it instinctual to do because of biological or cultural factors? Or a little bit of both?

Kissing has been documented as far back as 1500 B.C. in Sanskrit texts that are the foundation of the Hindu religion. Granted, they didn't use the word "kiss" but, come on, the references to "licking" and "drinking moisture of the lips"? We don't need a literal map to decipher those terms, do we?

Even the Babylonian tablets and the Old Testament talk about greeting and supplication kissing as a way to show affection and endearment to another.

Yep, kissing is recorded all over the ancient world.

Early "scientists" claimed that people found kissing pleasurable because an electrical current generated when two people pressed their lips together. That was a bit crazy, we now know, but it is true that the body releases hormones when people lock lips, inducing a euphoric feeling.

Quick note: Did you know that many animals also kiss? Pretty trippy huh? Chimpanzees, birds, insects, turtles, mules, cats and even elephants.

Scientifically speaking, kissing allows potential mates to test their pheromones for biological compatibility and quality of kissing is an indicator of mating commitment.

Did you know, though, that kissing is healthy for you? It's true! It boosts your immunity and kicks your body into gear to work harder at staying healthy. The extra saliva that kissing produces washes bacteria off your teeth (eew, by the way). Kissing even works the muscles of your face, which keeps you looking younger by keeping the wrinkles and sagging away. Also, kissing can burn up to 2 calories a minute, which is double your metabolic rate.

But, I think the biggest health benefit is the stress management effect. Kissing -- when with someone we care about -- releases the negative energy and helps reset our mental state and enhance our well-being.

Okay, so I ended up going science-y with something mooshy, but isn't that the nature of us SFR writers? We mix our fiction with a little bit of science and a little bit of romance.

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