Wednesday, September 20, 2017

A Natural History of Unicorns

Do you like your fantastic creatures mysterious, or are you more interested in figuring out where they came from? If you favor the latter approach, then you'll like Chris Laver's The Natural History of Unicorns. Obviously, this is nonfiction.

The unicorn myth is over two thousand years old, and Lavers traces the origin of the story back to Greece, particularly to a writer named Ctesais. Lavers speculates what animal (or animals) could have inspired Ctesais's description, then describes how the myth grew over time. Unicorns snuck into the Bible during translation and had a symbolic link with Christ. (If you've read Diana Peterfreund's Killer Unicorn stories, you'll encounter some of the names she used for various types of unicorns as you read this book.) Although today we realize the traditional shape of a unicorn's horn resembles a narwhal's, other bones, such as mammoth or mastodon, were also claimed to be unicorn horn. Lavers explains where these artifacts came from. Unicorns also influenced European exploration of Africa in the 19th and early 20th century, ultimately introducing the okapi to the rest of the world. The book concludes with examples of tribes that perform surgery on infant animals to produce real one-horned creatures--with surprising results.

The Kindle version of this book unfortunately lacks illustrations, but it was still an interesting read.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Great Courses: How Great Science Fiction Works

Although listening to audiobooks feels much slower than reading, I like listening to lectures through my Audible account. I just started listening to How Great Science Fiction Works, narrated by Gary K. Wolfe. It's about 12.5 hours long, broken up into roughly-30-minute lectures. The first two lectures discussed Mary Shelley's Frankenstein and Amazing Stories, with particular attention given to early contributors such as Welles, Verne, and Poe.) I'm about halfway through Lecture 3 (comparing science fiction with historical fiction, along with the topic of time travel) as I write this. According to one reviewer, this series is more of a history of the science fiction genre, not a how-to course on writing great science fiction. Nevertheless, it should be a interesting listen, though it'll probably take me a few months to complete the course.

Have you ever listened to one of the Great Courses? If so, which one (or ones)? Feel free to share in the comments.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

The Alien Mind by V.L Jennings

One of my former blogging buddies had her YA science fiction book re-released recently. Here's some information about it:
When a group of aliens called the Aruk abduct Young Rivinaig and several other children, they are thrown into the adventure of a lifetime

The Aunantet, a benevolent race of aliens, rescue the children and adopt them into their culture and raised them as if they belong. The children's new families teach them how to harness the full capacity of their minds, enabling them to defy the laws of physics and develop special mental abilities

The past returns to haunt them as the Aruk plot revenge and regain control of their former captives. The fate of the entire galaxy depends on whether the children can maintain their freedom.

Goodreads Link:

Buy Links:

Will be priced at .99 on Amazon till January 1! Normal retail price is 2.99
Audio Book: (coming soon)

When V.L. Jennings isn't traveling to other worlds through her imagination, she calls Dillon, South Carolina her home. She is the author of science fiction novels "The Alien Mind" (recipient of the Readers Favorite Five Star Review Award), and "Visionary From The Stars".

But what motivates Virginia to create, to illustrate, to prognosticate? Virginia is a speculator, the kind of person who always debates the "what if?" of where stories both true and fantastical are leading themselves to, which explains her love of post-apocalyptic fare such as "The Walking Dead." Through her writing, she enjoys trying to figure out what our human potential is, and where our innate desire for a better world could lead us.

Overall, Virginia is just about as real as a person can get. Yes, even authors love to sing along with their favorite local radio station while driving, and Virginia is no exception to this rule. She enjoys watching Doctor Who or Star Trek with her family over dinner, and also watching the latest sci-fi and action movies with her husband. On the weekends, you may even find Virginia and her family at the local comic book store, hunting down more comics to add to their collections.

V.L. Jennings spends her free time writing flash fiction on her blog and working towards her degree in Electronics Engineering. You can find out more about V.L. Jennings as well as join her newsletter at:

Monday, September 11, 2017

Signups for Summon the Seasons Blog Tour

With Summon the Seasons going live in less than a month, I'd love some help in promoting it. If you're willing to host me on a blog tour next month, please fill out this Google form. Thanks, and remember I'm always willing to promote other SF/fantasy books and authors in return.

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

IWSG: Writing Surprises

This month’s Insecure Writers’ Support Group post is hosted by Tyrean Martinson,
Tara Tyler, RaimeyGallant,  and  BeverlyStowe McClure. Our question is Have you ever surprised yourself with your writing? (For example, by trying a new genre you didn't think you'd be comfortable in?)

If you’re under eighteen, you’d better stop reading, since the first example that comes to mind involves a sex scene. Specifically, the first one I ever wrote was between two women. It hasn’t been published, but I don’t want to give out details about the characters for fear of spoilers. For me, the point of the scene was tracing the characters’ emotions, not body parts. 

Another way I’ve surprised myself with writing is with cursing. The main characters of Lyon’s Legacy and Twinned Universes swear a lot. I personally seldom swear. However, when I wrote those stories, I dropped a ton of f-bombs without batting an eye. I guess that proves authors and characters don’t always think alike. 

How has your writing surprised you? Feel free to share in the comments.

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

Exciting Escapade in Elgin

I wasn't able to get this post uploaded for Monday since we were traveling. Hopefully no one minds I'm posting a day later than I normally do.

My husband has been interested in escape rooms since they first became popular. For his birthday this year, I not only gave him a Kickstarter tabletop escape room game but also booked an experience at Escapade 360 in Elgin, IL. We played it last week. 

When I reserved the room, there was only one scenario available—a Sherlock Holmes-themed one. When we arrived, the couple who run Escapade 360 told us there were so many puzzles in that room it would be difficult for a couple to complete them all in the hour. Luckily, they had a second room available that might be a better match for us. It’s set in Leonardo da Vinci’s studio, and you have to find his hidden masterpiece before thieves come to steal it. We had the opportunity to switch, so we did.

I’m not going to give out spoilers for the room. I will say it was smaller than I expected, so it would feel crowded with a full group of eight people. The doors aren’t locked due to regulations, but there’s no time to leave either. There’s a monitor in the room where you can track your remaining time and get occasional hints. We probably got more hints than you normally would, but given it was our first time and it was late in the evening, I didn’t mind. It was still an intellectually stimulating experience. There were a variety of different puzzles to solve, and some of the ways to interact with the items were surprising. Ultimately, we managed to escape with eight minutes left. The owners were super-friendly and helpful. After we finished, we discussed specific aspects of the room before getting our picture taken.

As a writer, I find the escape room concept fascinating. You start anew with the same goal, setting, and obstacles each time, but the outcome depends on the teamwork of the characters. Eugene and I have known each other for 27 years. We have respect for each other’s abilities and are used to working together as a team. There was one point in the hour where we had different ideas on what to do with a particular object in the room. Thanks to a hint, we resolved that quickly and without fuss. If we’d been with other people, I’m sure the dynamic would have been different--and not in a helpful way. With bigger groups who don’t know each other well, I can imagine much more time is wasted on arguments or persuasion. Still, I’d like to go back with a few more friends and tackle the Sherlock room. The game’s afoot!

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