Dayton Science Fair Wrap-up

This weekend was the Dayton Regional Science Festival: Super Science Saturday at the Boonshoft Museum.  I was lucky enough to be an invited guest representing the role of science fiction in stimulating young minds to get excited about science.

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I’ve done a lot of events.  Big book events.  Comic Cons. Each one has something that makes it special, but hands down, the Boonshoft event just shot to the top of my Awesome List.

If you’ve never been to the museum, you’re missing out.  Located in Dayton, Ohio, it’s been there for decades, growing, sprawling, changing with the progression of new science discovery.  There’s so much for kids to do, but it’s also got plenty of sophisticated exhibits to keep adults happy.

science fest pix

I gave a new presentation called, “The Science of Horizon Alpha: Dinosaurs on Different Worlds.  It’s a look at the science part of sci-fi, and we talked about why I don’t have a lightsaber, why I’m not likely to get a cloned dinosaur for a pet, and about all the real-life animal adaptations I stole for the fictional dinosaurs of Tau Ceti e.

Speaking of Tau Ceti, the Boonshoft has a planetarium.  You’ve probably been to planetarium shows before…pre-rendered movies projected on a dome.  They’re cool.  This planetarium is so far beyond cool, there’s not even a word for it.  It’s totally programmable.  The night sky shows they do there are being programmed in real time as the astronomy educator shows you exactly what he wants you to see. He has access to every known star in the galaxy.  So when Joe the astronomer heard I had set my book on Tau Ceti, he asked if I’d like to see it.

Well, yeah.  I’d kind of like that.

He was able to program the planetarium to not just show me where Tau Ceti is (in the middle of the constellation Cetus in the southern sky), but to fly us there, turn around, and LOOK AT OUR OWN SUN AS IT WOULD APPEAR FROM TAU CETI!  We watched the constellations bend as we flew past the other stars…some look pretty much the same, and others are totally distorted from that vantage point.  How many other space travel sci-fi authors can say they’ve seen the stars from their book’s homeworld?  I was so excited I forgot to take any pictures, and that’s saying something.

Oh, and I also got to watch an actual paleontologist removing an actual excavated dinosaur bone from its protective jacket.  He was scraping away rock matrix to expose fossilized bone that hasn’t seen daylight in over 60 million years.  I got to touch actual dinosaur bone.

 

dino bone

Comic Cons are cool, but there aren’t any real dinosaur bones there.

I met a ton of kids who are super-enthusiastic about everything science, and met some truly amazing museum staff who were so excited to show off their amazing collections.

Now all I can do is sit and wait, and hope they’ll invite me back next year.

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My name is Wendy. I’m an author.

One of the first things you learn after graduating veterinary school is not to tell strangers on airplanes, buses, trains, waiting rooms, or non-vet-related Facebook groups that you’re a vet.  It sounds crazy, I know.  All those years. All that work. Finally get to put “Dr.” in front of your name.  So why not tell the world?

Here’s how the conversation goes if you do.

Me: Hi, I’m Wendy.  I’m a vet.

Random Stranger: Oh my god, a vet? I have a (fill in breed of) dog (or cat or ferret or reptile).  He’s got this (fill in random medical issue or behavioral problem).  What do you think it could be? –Cue: half an hour of trying to avoid diagnosing a pet you’ve never seen, never will see, and can’t possibly diagnose from the stranger’s description of its malady.

That’s the most common response. We also get: Oh, I wanted to be a vet when I was a kid.  –Of course you did.  Most kids do. Vets are the kids who never grew out of that phase.

And we get: Oh, my daughter (or rarely, son) wants to be a vet.  She’s six.  Can she ask you seven hundred questions about your job?  –Yes, I’ll just bet she can.

And my personal favorite: Oh, I had a great dog (cat, ferret, reptile) but the stupid vet couldn’t figure out what was wrong with him and he died.  –Cue: accusing stare.

To avoid the awkwardness of being stuck in these situations, most of us have an alternative answer to the “So what do you do?” question.  Mine has historically been, “I sell shoes.”  There really aren’t a lot of follow up questions to that particular answer.  One of my friends always uses, “I sell insurance,” because nobody wants to talk to anybody about insurance, and she’s guaranteed a nice quiet flight.

Things have changed for me.  My husband is Mr. Gregarious, so we always talk to people we meet on vacations, and our recent trip was no different.  But this time after the requisite “Where are you from?” I didn’t feel the familiar dread.

Random Stranger:  What do you do?

Me: I’m an author.

To begin with, that just sounds so nice.  I’m an author. Not: I’m an aspiring writer.  I’m an author.  I write books and people buy them.  While it’s not how I make my living (yet), it’s true enough for Random Strangers on a plane.

But it’s more than that.  I’m proud to be a veterinarian, I just don’t always want to talk about work.  I always want to talk about my books.  Authors love to talk about their books.  It’s partly the marketing mindset…maybe I can reach a new reader.  Maybe they know somebody in Hollywood who wants to make a dinosaur movie.  But it’s mostly the excitement of sharing a story with someone new.

There are probably authors out there who don’t share this view. J.K. Rowling probably travels incognito.  If you sit next to her on a plane and ask her what she does for a living, she probably says, “I’m a vet.”  It’s not because she’s so successful that she’s not trying to find new readers anymore, but I’m sure she has her own list of Random Stranger responses that she’s sick to death of answering.  Maybe someday I’ll go back to selling shoes on airplanes again.

But for now…

I’m Wendy.  And I’m an author.

 

Comic Expo Impressions

This past weekend was Cincinnati Comic Expo.  It’s the city’s biggest con, and I’ve been fortunate to have a booth for the past three years.  This year I got to present a writing panel along with my writing partner Jeri Fay Maynard, and the feedback we got made all the preparation worthwhile.  Here are a few of my favorite moments from the con.

Moment One:  At the end of our presentation, “Writing for the Beginning Creator,” a young girl rushed up to us and said that it was the most helpful and informative writing panel she’d ever seen.  She later stopped by the booth and told us all about her own writing, and bought a copy of our book, Five Minutes to Success.  Enthusiasm like that goes a very long way to keep us going.

Moment Two:  A young boy ran up to the booth pointing at Horizon Alpha: Predators of Eden.  “That’s the one! I got it last year and I love it!”  Of course this year he bought Transport Seventeen.  Repeat customers are the absolute best.

Moment Three:  Similar to Moment Two, but this time the actual kid in question wasn’t there.  His dad and sister came up to the booth and said he loved Predators and kept re-reading it to the point that he didn’t want to read anything else.  Now he’ll have two books to keep re-reading.

Moment Four:  Meeting John Hammond.  He says he’s working on a cool new amusement park that’s right up my alley.  He’s hoping for my endorsement.  Sure can’t wait to see it.  Bet the rides are awesome.

hammond

Moment Five:  Well, this one is a lot of moments.  It’s all the girls who were drawn to the booth by the Flamewalker cover.  They were looking for a book about a badass woman, and I was happy to have one for them.

Moment Six:  This was maybe the best one of all, and it’s not even my moment.  A good friend of mine publishes the popular comic book series The Confectionaries.  It’s an adorable comic about a bunch of living dessert-creatures brought to life by their pastry chef creator.  One of the main characters is Yuck.  Among all his super-sweet friends, he’s a Tofu Puppy.  He gets bullied a lot because he’s, well, tofu in the pastry kitchen.  My friend has a team-mascot-type suit of Yuck that he wears at cons.

Here he is with T-rex:

yuck

Super cute, right?  So a little girl came running up to him and threw her arms around him.  She hugged and hugged him.  Last year she had gotten the first issue of the comic and read about Yuck.  This is what she said to him while she hugged him.

“I get bullied in school too, just like you.  And I want you to know that I love you, Yuck.  No matter what anyone says, don’t be sad. Always remember that you have one friend forever.”

Hang on.  Something in my eye.

Right.

People sometimes wonder why I’m willing to spend so much time on my books.  I’m not getting rich.  Probably never will.  But this weekend I got to meet a kid who waited all year to read the sequel to Horizon Alpha.  And my friend got to hug a little girl who deals with bullies by remembering how a comic book character does it.

That’s why we write, and that’s why we Con.  See you all next year at the Expo.

The end of the AHOW blog tour?

 

 

Today’s AHOW interview is with author William Thatch

Title and synopsis/blurb of your AHOW story:

“A Wacky Fantastical Misadventure in New Haven” is about a man who is being haunted by the mischievous ghost of Adolf Hitler. Wacky hilarity ensues.

What inspired you to write this story?

The general inspiration for an absurdist comedy story came from the Frank Burly series by John Swartzwelder. How precisely I came up with this story I have no idea. There was no particular impetus, I just put fingers to keyboard and let the story take me where it did. I knew the bare bones of the ending and the journey there, but that was it.

How long have you been writing?

Twenty-three years. If my writing were a Hollywood child actor it would have been to rehab twice, house arrest once, had career ruined because of a flippant offhand comment about Jews and found religion by now.

What genres do you most associate with in your writing?

Science fiction, primarily. I like to pair it with other things like noir, western, comedy, etc.

What are you working on right now?

A novella named Renaissance—a sequel about a French hitman with a heart of gold. The Caper Chronicles—a dramedy teleplay about a heist. And my entry for the next ‘Of Words’ anthology, which presently has no name, no characters, no story, no concept—you might say I have nothing prepared for it, and I’d call you technically correct, but a little mean for pointing it out.

What else do you have available/published:

“The Highway” is featured in A Journey of Words. It is about a dog named Connie who gets away from her abusive owner, and goes on an adventure to see and smell all the things she hadn’t seen and smelled before.

What advice do you give to new writers?

Write. Be honest about what you did wrong and what you could do better. Write some more. Don’t repeat the same mistakes.

List links where people can find your work:

Website: http://williamthatch.wix.com/author
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/The0s1s/
Twitter: @The_0s1s

 

 

Why a Mud Run is like Writing

In my world, everything is about writing.  I’m always people-watching, thinking about how the things I experience in real life might translate into fiction.  It’s far too easy to get into my own head and stay there.

But today I did my first mud run.  If you haven’t seen one on TV, it’s an obstacle course run that includes a bunch of mud pits.  They’re designed to get you filthy, and they’re a serious test of whole-body strength.

I was not ready.

I’m a runner.  I’ve done four full marathons, tons of halves, and I run all year long.  I thought that was keeping me pretty fit.

Nope.

Today’s run was only a 5K (3.1 miles for Americans).  I run longer than that every single time I run.  So I didn’t think this was going to be a huge challenge.

Here’s the course map.

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That’s 42 obstacles.  And that long part with no obstacles is a ridiculous hill run.  The yellow dots in the green space are places where we had to use a rope to get up the trail because it was so steep.

uphill2

That’s me at the top of one of them.

The rest of the obstacles included fording a river (which felt great by that point… the skinny chicks were freezing, but if there’s one thing my thighs are good for, it’s standing in an ice cold river), climbing under and over canoe piles,

under

and climbing a couple of these things:

There were mud pits that wanted to suck the shoes right off my feet,

almost done

which is why we duct taped them on, and a horrible rope swing thing that went poorly for everyone in my group.

So what’s this got to do with writing?

First, this was a great break for me.  When you’re horizontal on a slick hill climbing down a rope into a river, there’s no room in your head for anything else.  There’s only here and now, and that’s occasionally a very good thing.

The other thing I realized today is that I couldn’t have done it by myself.  I needed a hand out of some of those mud pits.  I needed a butt-boost up the rope on the huge wooden scaffold.  And I needed my friends to get me to do this in the first place.

That’s like writing.

The image of a solitary writer tapping away at a keyboard with a lap full of cats is pretty accurate, but nobody succeeds at this game alone.  Whether it’s the butt-boost of your writing group pushing you to go deeper into your characters, or another author offering you a hand with a cover blurb or blog hop opportunity, smart authors learn early that we’re not a solitary bunch at all.  It takes support to have the nerve to get started, and it’s sure nice to have some folks there to cheer you on.

I pushed myself today, and I’m sore tonight.  Tomorrow might be worse.  But I’m stronger for having done it, and I’ll be stronger still for having learned that my usual running habit is not enough.  Falling back on what I’ve always done won’t get me to this particular finish line.

Next time I duct tape my shoes on, I’ll be a lot better prepared. And that makes all the mud worth it.

official

AHOW…the hauntings continue

 

Today’s AHOW interview is with author C. H. Knyght

Title and Blurb

The Last is a twisted tale of a monster hunting an innocent. With her whole family taken one-by-one, Marie fears for her very existence as the hunter returns one last time; for her soul.

What was your inspiration to write this story?

I was inspired to write The Last during a weekend challenge set during the Writer’s Games, run by the Writer’s Workout. The Last fell one place shy of a winning entry, so I was free to edit, polish, and make it the best it could be. It was ready for a home and found it in AHOW.

How long have you been writing?

I have been writing since I was a young teenager. I was always a bookwyrm and my dad encouraged me to write.

What genres do you most associate with your writing?

Fantasy is my broad genre of choice, but anything with magic or a supernatural mystique might come from my pen.

What are you working on right now?

I am currently participating in the Writer’s Games for the third year; won a round too. My main project is getting my novel, Nightvision, ready for self-publishing. I hope it will be released by the next end of summer depending on edits and illustrations.

What else do you have published?

This is my first released story. More to come soon though!

What advice do you give to new authors?

Don’t stop. One word after another. Look what you have accomplished, not what you gave left to do.

You can find me at:

Www.facebook.com/chknyght

And

Www.twitter.com/chknyght

 

 

More and more AHOW

 

Today’s AHOW interview is with author Jill Turner

 

Title and synopsis/blurb of your AHOW story:

Joe – is about a day in the life of a mother, her young son and their dog, Rufus. An altercation in the park goes some way to ruin their lovely day out.

What inspired you to write this story?

Without giving any spoilers away, I simply put myself in the place of the mother in this situation and the potential it had for what actually happens as the story unfolds.

How long have you been writing?

A long, long time! I’ve only over the last few years begun to take it seriously and taken the leap into publishing any of my work. It was a tough decision to make – would people laugh at my efforts? Would they tell me I’m no good? Any writer puts a piece of their soul into their work, so I think that taking the plunge is possibly one of the hardest things to do as it leaves you open to the public eye (and I’m actually quite a private person). However, I love writing and I wish I’d taken it seriously much, much sooner than I did!

What genres do you most associate with in your writing?

That’s a tricky question! I made up my own tales on a nightly basis for my own children during their growing years –  so putting a fantasy story that was begging to be written onto paper was quite easy and it wouldn’t let me rest until I’d developed it into a trilogy. I have also written a young adult book about how social media can have an effect on lives (comedy/contemporary fiction) and loved writing it, and more recently, I’ve written a darker, more adult book that is paranormal based, and, of course, the even darker tale of young Joe. I’m quite into these stories at the moment and have various ideas tugging at my subconscious mind!

What are you working on right now?

I have two things on the go at the moment; a spin off from the fantasy trilogy that was triggered by a reader asking me what would happen if… and an adult book that involves someone witnessing the kidnapping of a little boy and the murder of his mother.

What else do you have available/published?

Okay, the books I have out at the moment are: The Seelie Princess; Rise of the Dragons; The Seelie Queen (they make up the fantasy trilogy); Nan Nose Best – about how a teenage girl’s nan posts on her social media page and the change it has on the family when her posts go viral; Sunshine Girl – a paranormal story about a girl who’s not quite dead enough, oh, and The Christmas Turkey – a rhyming story for youngsters that looks at Christmas from the point of view of an enterprising little turkey.

What advice do you give to new writers?

Get stuck in! Find out what works for you – do you need to write an outline of your story? Or are you just going to start writing with a good idea of where you want it to go? There’s no right or wrong way, just your way. If your story gets told, it’s what’s good for you! Join writer groups if you can (Fiction Writing on Facebook is rather fab) but be prepared to sort out the wheat from the chaff when it comes to any advice that’s given out. I always lurk in the background and get a feel for who actually knows what they’re talking about before I’ll interact! Oh, and don’t ask family members to read your work, you won’t get true reactions from them – ask other writers to beta read for you (you’ll find these via the groups you join – and they won’t hold back on telling you where you need to sharpen up so be careful who you ask)!

Links where people can find your work.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Jill-Turner/e/B0142S490M

https://www.amazon.com/Jill-Turner/e/B0142S490M

https://authorjmturner.wordpress.com/