Friday, June 29, 2012

Types of people you meet in graduate school

With the economy the way it is and the job market grim, people are more and more often putting off leaving the ivory tower and turning to higher education-master's and PHd degrees that they may or may not need to get a job in their chosen field. Admission is difficult, but once you're in, you're in for the long haul. And you may see a few people like these...

The "How the hell did you get here?" 

So imagine this. You aced those GREs, got great grades in undergrad, and made it into the graduate program of your choice. You're sitting in a study group for advanced neuroscience, fresh in your first year of grad school. You and your study group members are discussing topics you never would have dreamed of in undergrad, at a level of sophistication unique to those who choose to study the subject at high levels.

Conversation stops. A new question must be posed, so you all can review your material.

The person in your study group who's been quiet up till now speaks up. "Guys? What's a brain?"

Congrats, you've found the person about whom you will wonder for years.

The "how the hell did you get here," person is someone who seems to know nothing about the subject they chose to pursue graduate studies in. They're the ones slowing down the class with questions covered in the 101 class you took back in college. Sometimes they were a person who majored in a different field and switched. Sometimes they got in due to family connections or opted to pay their way through grad school on their own. Maybe they went to a kind of crappy college, but excelled and made it in to grad school. Other times? They're an idiot who lucked out. Either way, they will make you feel like perhaps the program you got into wasn't as selective and prestigious as you had hoped.

There are two trajectories for the how the hell did you get here person-they either drop out after a few years, or they end up finding their niche and sticking around, inexplicably passing test after test despite apparently knowing nothing about the material during the study session the night before. If they do stick around, you will sometimes find yourself discussing your subject with them, establishing rapport, maybe coming up with a few new research ideas.

And then they'll stun you with another display of ignorance, even after all this time. You will never stop wondering about them.

The Slacker 

Grad school is far, far more flexible than a "real" job. There are usually no strict 9-5 hours, and it is very self motivating. You work at your own pace, meeting a few milestones along the way.

The slacker takes advantage of this to the nth degree. He'll be the one sauntering in to lab at 12pm every day, eating lunch, and leaving at 3. He's typically in the 6th or 7th year of an on average 4 year program. He doesn't care, though-you don't get paid much in grad school, so he's just enjoying the flexibility while he can and refusing to work more hours than makes sense for the pay.

This person is also the one who will take personal calls while you're trying to analyze data. They're  usually a nice person, but they have no ambition beyond simply existing. They'll still be there when you graduate, too, showing up just to congratulate you and then disappearing again.

The Brain
This is the type of graduate student who everyone hates. They are the ones who are convinced that by virtue of entering graduate school, they are in the top 1% of human beings on the planet.  They talk down to everyone, other students included, and argue with professors. They are the types to get convinced that they are always right, that their chosen field is the best and most difficult field anyone could ever study. When they don't get grants, they blame the reviewers, not themselves.

This person is usually someone who did extremely well in a very easy school before entering graduate school, and is usually one of those who entered grad school right out of undergrad. Unlike the "how the hell did you get here person" they know some things-but they assume they know a lot more, and will never ask for help.

 They usually quickly learn how naive they are when they start failing classes or when their advisor tells them to do something they don't actually have the training for. Some people take the shock well, and recover-others drop out.

The Star 
This is the opposite of the brain. They talk about knowing their stuff, but that's because they do know their stuff. Rather than talk down to everyone, they helps them out, using years of graduate teaching experience to actually effectively teach the material. The star is either a genius, someone who really, truly loves the field they're in, or both-either way, they are good at what they do.

You typically either hate them or love them. If you hate them, its because they make you look bad, the advisor loves them and ignores you, or because they're in your field and come up with all the good ideas first. Usually its all of the above.

If you love them, its because they are always there to help you out, and because they usually are an extremely nice person. They don't try to shove their perfection in your face-whether you love them or hate them is more a reflection on you.

The Awkward One 

This is the student you never really talk to-the one who enters the lab when you leave for the day, not making eye contact. They're often researching something not quite related to what the rest of the lab does, or writing a paper on something so obscure within your field that you've never heard of it. When asked, they don't give much information. They typically revel in the part of research you find the most boring-so if you prefer writing papers, they're the ones desperate to figure out the most efficient way to program a new data analysis method, or vice versa.

The awkward ones usually don't go out of their way to help others in the lab-so if you're running a human subject or trying to get a rat to run down that last maze, and they're the only other one in the room? They won't offer help. You'll have to ask. Your talents and theirs often don't match, and they don't see a need to be close with you or you with them.

The Rival

This is a person the same year as you, maybe one year ahead if you're challenging yourself. You've watched them as they progressed, and they've watched you. You meet your milestones at the same time, publish papers at the same time, and maybe even work under the same supervisor.

You've found your rival.

This person can be a friend, but is usually an acquaintance. You work on the same project or very similar projects, and every conversation eventually ends up about how much progress they've made, or what they're going to do when they graduate, or, of course, when they think they're going to graduate. If you are running subjects, you compare subject numbers, and might even share the subject pool. You can't let yourself get too far behind, but they won't either.

The rivalry is not heated, and there's no hard feelings. It usually just serves to push you both to work hard, and can even be supportive-but the rivalry is definitely there. If you're in a large program, you might even end up with more than one rival-but if any drop out, you haven't won. You just have to find others.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The Best Snack

I am a fiend for sugar. I always have been. So when my parents took me on a vacation to Vermont when I was a kid, hidden away in the mind numbing boredom of a resort that offered very little in the way of entertainment for kids and definitely none of the usual amounts of candy and cookies I was used too, I got desperate.

There was only one place to go to get candy-a tiny general store about a forty minute walk from the cabin where we were staying. I made that walk every day in the hot sun to get my preferred snack for that vacation, which was peanut butter M&Ms.

I really liked them. I liked them enough to want to get more at the store when we got home, and I opened them up, expecting that same wonderful flavor.

It wasn't the same. They were dry. They were boring. They were cold.

It took my ten year old brain a few minutes to figure out: the long walk in the hot sun is what made them good. More specifically, the heat is what made them good. So I got my most brilliant idea ever-put them in the microwave.

That started an obsession that has lasted to this day.

M&M shells do not melt in the microwave. The chocolate on the inside, however, will, mixing with the peanut butter in swirly creaminess. A few will burn, just slightly, adding a deeper flavor.

Don't believe me? Try it. Microwave a bag of peanut butter M&Ms, just enough. I have yet to find a person who dislikes it.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Important things to keep in mind

More madness with controls.

So, important things to keep in mind as a control for a study. If you're going to do MRI, you can't have metal on your body, and especially not in your body. If you have a metal plate in your head, we need to know.

The MRI is a giant magnet. Metal objects can and do get sucked into the magnet, and will bounce around inside the bore. If there's a person in there? Not good. Part of MRI safety (actually, the most important part of MRI safety) is not to bring any sort of metal into the magnet. Not only is it dangerous, but it can damage the machine.

The best MRI story ever, passed from researcher to researcher:

 A cop comes in to the lab to serve as a control in a study.  The lab techs explain to him again and again the importance of not bringing in metal. He agrees, passes the medical screening, and answers the MRI screening questionairre honestly. He removes all the obvious metal he has and goes in to the room.

As soon as he gets close (the magnetic field gets stronger the closer you get), the gun that's strapped to his ankle flies into the magnet.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Childhood's End

            The two boys ran down the hallway at top speed, the older quickly outdistancing the younger in their race to catch the tiny creature.

            “Slow down, you're gonna squish it!” the younger boy yelled, his mop of dark hair falling into his eyes as he ran. He flicked his head to clear it.

            “I won't,” his brother replied, running awkwardly with a glass jar in one hand. “I'll be very careful.”

            The mouse skittered ahead of them faster, but the chase did not last long. With hallways perfectly molded out of plastic on the space station, there was no chink for the rodent to hide in, and soon enough the older boy clapped the jar over it.

            “Got it,” he said, and the younger boy gave a shout of triumph.

            “Now we have a pet!”

            “No, we should tell Nanny. Mice are pests.” The older boy slipped a piece of paper underneath the lid and flipped it, the mouse landing on it's back inside the jar. “Nanny will want to know.”

            “But she'll just kill it.” The younger boy pouted.

            “Kill what? What do you have there, Aver?” A man in a crew uniform, designating him a ship official, greeted them as he turned the hallway.

            “Don't tell him!” Aver's younger brother whispered.

            “Shut up, Ryx,” the older whispered back.

            “Where did you find that?” The man knelt down and poked the jar. The mouse stayed immobile, beady eyes huge.

            “Nowhere,” Ryx said.

            “Coming out of the kitchen. Our kitchen. It's ours, sir,” Aver answered, but sounded unsure.

            “It's our pet!” Ryx said with more conviction.

            The man sighed. “You both know pets aren't allowed onboard the Niveus. Can you tell me why, Aver?”

            “All animals are a risk. They carry disease,” Aver intoned, staring at the mouse with a look of fleeting disappointment.

            Ryx pouted. Aver was such a know it all, just because he was three years older. “Mice don't!” he shouted, not really knowing if that was true or not.

            “We can't risk it. What would your parents think? You wouldn't want to endanger your Nanny, would you?” the man said.

            Ryx looked down. “No, sir,” Aver answered, his voice wavering.

            Ryx had not seen his parents for four years, since he was six years old, and had trouble remembering them sometimes. Aver always grew quiet and sad when they were mentioned, though, so Ryx figured they must have been very good parents. Now they were at war with the crazy man who called himself King of the Earth, and they served on some ship called the Arterix. The Niveus was full of children like him and Aver, whose parents were off fighting the war. The government took good care of them, assigning them to a kindly woman named Ms. Rippol. Both boys called her Nanny.

            “So, you will give me the mouse?” the man asked, holding out a hand for the jar. Aver handed it over wordlessly.

            “You're not going to kill it, are you?” Ryx asked.     

            “I will send exterminators to your dormitory to make sure there are no others,” the man said, avoiding Ryx's question. He moved off down the hall, the mouse scrabbling in its jar as he walked off.

            “Why did you do that!?” Ryx yelled.

            “What?” Aver turned to his brother, and caught the smaller boy as he tried to ineffectually punch him.

            “He's going to kill it, and all the rest of the little mice! Nanny will be in trouble for having them!”

            Aver shoved Ryx away. “It's safer, remember? We can't keep a disgusting pest anyway.”

            “But you said I could keep it as a pet!” Ryx shouted.

            “No, I said I'd help you catch it. The pet thing was your idea. And who wants a rodent as a pet anyway?”

            “I do!”

            Aver sighed. “C'mon, we'd better go tell Nanny that they're sending exterminators. This is your fault.”

            “Is not!” Ryx yelled, but followed his older brother back to their rooms anyway. He didn't have much else to do now that his plan for a pet had been ruined.


            It was two years later when Ryx learned the real reason why pets were not allowed onboard the Niveus.

            The boy, now 12, sat at his desk in the schooling complex on the ship, staring out the window. He had seen a member of the repair crew float by, tether cable trailing in the darkness of space, and was waiting to see if he would again. He wondered what had broken on the ship, though it never entered his mind that it could be serious. The Niveus and the residential stations like it had been built and stabilized hundreds of years ago, and nothing had ever threatened them, not even the King.

            The King still made no sense to Ryx, even now that they had been at war with him for six years. He had declared himself King, declaring it the will of the Earth, which had only recently become inhabitable again after a thousand years. Ryx wasn't too clear on why they had to leave in the first place-something about nuclear devastation, and a technology called overgrowth to make it recover faster-but he did wonder how someone so obviously crazy could claim to rule the world and just have people believe him. Was that his magic? Was that magic was? Getting people to believe stupid things?

            “Ryx?” His teacher's voice broke into his thoughts, and he looked up. A silver suited ship official was staring at him, his eyes unreadable.

            Aver would have replied with a “Yes, ma'm?” But Ryx did not. He just waited, a strange shiver going up his spine.

            “Come with me, Ryx,” the man said. The class murmured as Ryx got up, apprehension flowing through him. Was he in trouble?

            “Where are we going?” he asked as the man led him out into the hallway.

            “We're going to meet up with your brother in the principal's office.” The man was straightforward. “We have news for both of you.”

            “What is it?” Ryx asked, heart pounding suddenly. “Is it our parents?”

            “Just wait,” the man said, and ushered Ryx into the office.

            Ryx had never had reason to go to the principal's before. Now it seemed foreboding as he walked through the opening, the door shutting behind him with a whoosh. Aver stood there, gaze flicking to Ryx as he stepped in. Nanny was there too, her eyes red. A woman with pale blond hair and a skintight white and red suit sat in a purple chair in the corner. Ryx felt like he should know the uniform design.

            The door hissed again, and the man left.

            “Sit down, both of you,” the woman said gently. Aver did so, but Ryx did not. Something was wrong.

            The woman began. “My name is Clara. I am a doctor with the second division.”

            Ryx heard Aver suck in a breath. That was the division their parents were in. Father was a soldier, and their mother was a doctor, like Clara.

            Nanny gave a hiccuping sob, and Ryx suddenly knew.

            “Our parents are gone, aren't they?” Aver said, voice low. It had changed recently, and now it sounded deep and harsh to Ryx's ears.

            “There was an explosion on the weapons carrier Lyros. Information was leaked, and magic was involved. There was no way to predict or prevent it. I'm sorry, boys.” She lowered her head, and Ryx knew she couldn't be sincere. How many times had she given news like this?

            “Leaked how?” Aver's voice shook.

            “A rodent. A King's magician located it, and thus the ship.”

            “How? That makes no sense.” Aver stepped forward, fists clenched. “That's stupid!”

            “I cannot claim to know how magic works. I am not a sympathizer.” Clara answered calmly, her voice careful as though she were speaking to someone who was potentially dangerous. “I can only give you my condolences.”

            Aver cursed, and Ryx simply stared at a potted plant by the principal's desk. Nanny began hugging him, and he was enveloped in her warmth and softness.

            Had his mother been like that? He found that he could barely remember her, or his father. They had been gone too long.

            Wasn't he supposed to be upset? Aver certainly was. Their parents were dead. Ryx would never see either of them again. The letters and communications would stop.

            How much would it matter to him later? He wished he knew. He wished he knew what to feel.

            “If you need anything, or anyone to talk to, you can contact someone at this number.” The woman was saying something, talking to Aver, who was staring straight ahead at the far wall. “I know this is a hard time. You will be excused from your classes for a week, to get things sorted out.” Her words were meaningless buzzes to Ryx's ears.

            “What will happen to us?” Aver finally spoke, his voice grounding his younger brother back in reality. “Will we be able to stay on the Niveus?”

            “I don't know.” The woman answered. “But arrangements will be made for you if not. Don't worry.”

            Ryx let Nanny sob against him. Why was she so sad?
            The exterminator had come those two years ago, and twice since, but the mice always seemed to keep coming back. Ryx used to like them watching them scurry about, waving their little whiskers as they looked for whatever it was they looked for.

            When he arrived home that day, he watched one for a few minutes before walking over and stomping it to death.


            “You have two choices.”

            Ryx and Aver stood side by side, being addressed by two men-one was the same official who had led them to the principal's a week earlier. The other wore the uniform of a soldier of some rank in the Rule's infantry, something Ryx had not recognized but Aver had told him by whispering into his ear. The soldier kept talking.

            “The war effort must pursue technology that can match the abilities of the King's mages. Work has already been done on enhancement projects for soldiers. We wish to know if you both would elect to participate in this.”

            Ryx looked to Aver, unsure and afraid. He didn't know what any of that meant.

            “We already have the permission from your current caretaker, Mrs. Rippol. We only need your assent.”

            “Aren't we too young to fight?” Aver asked.

            “On the contrary, the younger you are the better it is for the projects. Your training will take place over some years, and by the time you are of age to fight you will be far better soldiers than any of your peers. Considering that you will be recruited anyway once you are 18, it is wiser to begin now, don't you think?” The man's tone was firm and persuasive.

            “Will we be together?” Ryx asked.

            “If you agree, you will undergo a few physical tests. Then we can decide where best you will fit in.”

            That was no answer. Ryx didn't want to leave his brother; he was all he had.

            “What if we refuse?” Aver asked.

            “Then you will be placed onto the Srepentia, a ship for those in similar situations to yours. I'm sorry, but since your parents are no longer serving, you are not entitled to the privileges you once had. Your current caretaker will be changed.”

            So that was why she had cried.

            “What kind of training will we be getting?” Aver pressed.

            “We won't know until you agree and take the physical exam.”

            Ryx and Aver exchanged glances. “I'd like to talk to my brother for a second,” Aver said.

            “Fine. You may speak privately; we will return in a few minutes.” The two men left, and Ryx breathed a little easier.

            He wanted to tell Aver that he didn't want to do it. It was too much, and they didn't know enough about it. What if they separated them? Srepentia was bad, but at least they would be together.

            “I think we should do it,” Aver said. “We'll be stronger, and able to get revenge for our parents!” Aver never yelled, but he came close this time.

            Ryx shut his mouth with a snap, trust for his brother displacing his fears. He was older, bigger. Aver knew better.

            “Ok,” he said. A heaviness, almost a guilt, told him that he should have spoken up. But as Aver informed the soldier of their intention, Ryx did his best to ignore it. 

Friday, June 22, 2012

A bit more about The Perils of Forgotten Pain

So, one of my works is The Perils of Forgotten Pain, a story about a cyborg soldier and how he decides to -well, I won't spoil it. But he falls in love.

The world of that story is one of the most complex I've created. It is a science fiction setting, to be sure, but there is magic-as Blaze explains, magic is anything that technology or science cannot explain-something that is unpredictable and is not the same each time.

On one level, it makes sense. It is not meant to be an injection of fantasy into a science fiction world, but rather an exploration of that little bit of mysteriousness that always exists, even in the future. The "specialties" I gave magicians in that universe work only within the bounds of opportunities-they have to be at the right place at the right time. On some level, they have to be very in touch with the randomness of the universe to even recognize the opportunities for what they are. Once they recognize them, then they can act on them.

I won't say it's my attempt to bring in quantum uncertainty, but it kind of is. :D

Now, one thing that didn't get explored fully in Perils was the Distant Rule. They are the government that oversees the orbiting space stations, where humanity has lived for a thousand years since the world basically ended. That event is something you will read about in Remembrance, which takes place long before Perils.

But what is life like on those space stations? Well, I have a short story that will give some details about that. It's from a surprising point of view, also.

Check the blog tomorrow morning for a short free read. It will explain some things some people were left wondering about at the end of Perils, too.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Summer begins!

It's the summer solstice today! Enjoy the outdoors on the longest day of the year. 

I kind of miss being in school and having the summers to look forward too.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012


I'll take a break from talking about writing to talk about my other interests. I miss animation.

I watch a ton of anime, and I love Disney movies and animated TV shows. But there has been a subtle (or not so subtle considering how good of an eye you have) shift in animation, especially in anime-from hand drawn to digital.

Hand drawn animation is just that-cels hand drawn by animators, one at a time. Digital animation is computer generated animation-most people think of things like Pixar movies, but 2D animation can be computer generated as well. Most animated shows these days are digitally animated-think Power Puff Girls or the new My Little Pony, which are animated in Flash.

I like digital animation, but somehow, especially during action scenes, I feel like digital animation has been somewhat lacking. If you watch old anime, especially older martial arts like Dragon Ball Z, sure there aren't a lot of static, "pretty pictures," but when the characters fight they really move. Animation in most shows nowadays seems to have a lot more shortcuts-even in a martial arts anime, you rarely actually see the characters move while fighting. It's usually a few shots of poses that make up a complex movement, but you don't see the actual movement.

Maybe I'm old fashioned, despite only being 25, but I liked seeing the harsh speed lines of hand drawn animation. You could see the effort. With digital, its pretty, but not quite there. The movements are stereotyped, and much less flowy than in hand drawn animation.

For good examples of hand drawn animation, check out the movies by Hayao Miyazaki. He and his studio persist in hand drawn animation, even today.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012


I think writers-especially fantasy writers-are just a little on the weird side. You'd have to be, to come up with entirely different worlds and characters on your own.

I always wonder about this as I'm perusing the magical thinking scales in my lab. Some amount of magical thinking is necessary in order to come up with fantasy worlds, I would think. And for certain types of magical realism? Sitting at your desk, wondering, "wouldn't it be cool if I just got up and went for a walk, and found an old alley no one else had, and kept going...?"

Obviously, no one is really going to do this. But writers imagine what would happen if a  character did. What's at the end of that alley? What if it doesn't end? Is it a portal to another world, or another time? Who else do they find there? It's questions like these that separate the persistently creative from those who would prefer to sit at their desk and actually get their work done. :P

And of course, dreams. I wonder if writers dream differently. I've had at least three novel ideas from dreams, one of which (The Waterlord) is already published. The other two are in the works. And yes, while the dreams were different from what happens in the novels, the details and the worlds are the same.

Of course, I don't always dream or daydream about the fantastical. Sometimes I dream about walking to class, or daydream about my next experiment. But having that creative escape, that alley that goes on forever, is important to me. My brain never shuts off, so it always has to have somewhere to go.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Fandoms are a ton of fun

I spend a lot of time on the internet, and the internet has its own special brand of celebration. Usually, these are things like memes, some of which make it into the "real world" (like "All your base" or "dancing baby,") and some of which don't (Who's heard of "it's over 9000!" outside of the video game/anime fandom?). Fans of different works make their home on the internet, and because of its anonymity, fandom is taken to extremes.

Wasting time on the internet usually involves you stumbling upon at least some of these. Go straight, and you'll find the Avengers fandom. Take a right, you'll find the bronies, fans of My Little Pony. Another left, you might find the Furries, or Homestuck fans, or the kink memes for Supernatural or Hetalia.

Fandoms are a ton of fun, if you're a part of them. Want a specific fanfic of something you like? Go to the Kink meme on livejournal for it, or check out on Want a drawing of the Avengers sticking their asses out like supermodels?

Actually, this image, drawn by Kevin Bolk, is an illustration of how the movie poster would look if the male avengers posed like the female one. It's amazing.

But yes, point is, you can find anything on the internet related to your fandom if you look hard enough.

I'm not what one would call a huge fan of anything. I don't participate in a lot of online fandom communities, or let myself get drawn into the controversies that accompany many fandoms (such as the aforementioned sexism in movie advertisements), though I do have my opinions of things. I tend to be a lurker-a term for someone who hangs around communities and looks at stuff, but doesn't post anything. An internet consumer, if you will, of the best that various fandoms have to offer.

I often wonder if this is what everyone does on the internet, or if its just me. :P

Now I should get back to writing, shouldn't I?

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Finding time to write

While my dream in life (one of them, anyway) is to make enough money off my writing that I can do it full time, I have not yet reached that point. As I mentioned before, I work in a lab as a graduate student. Most of my time every weekday is spent working on my dissertation and working with research participants, plus whatever else is needed so I can get my PhD. Add on an hour long commute to work and back, and I don't have nearly enough time as I'd like to write. 

So how do I get things done? The first, and most important factor-I don't consider creative writing to be work. 

Sure, it takes effort, and I have to make sure what I'm writing isn't complete garbage (although that's what editing is for, too). But sitting down and banging out 500-1000 words of one of the stories I'm working on per day? Not stressful. It's rarely, if ever, something I have to force myself do. Sure, there are plenty of times I have had to put one story aside and work on a different story until inspiration struck, but something always gets worked on at least once a day. Writing is a reward by itself. 

I also don't have too many other activities. Some people may consider this is a negative, but I've always been an introvert. I like hanging out with people when I have plenty of time for it-on weekends or vacations, for example. But after work? I don't have the energy to hang out with people, or stay out late drinking. I much prefer to sit in my apartment and work or do solo activities. Even before I got heavily into writing, I would be quite content to read, play videogames, or watch anime. I don't require a ton of social interaction to be happy. 

That said, there are occasions where I can't get any writing done. I don't do well without sleep. If I have to get up early too many days in a row for work, my writing suffers. When I get sick and have to go into the lab and work through it, my writing suffers. When I get migraines (which happens every so often) my writing suffers. For whatever reason, despite writing not being work, I have an easier time going to work and doing busywork while feeling ill or exhausted than I do getting writing done when I'm not at my best. Maybe being creative just takes more energy. 

I often wonder what my productivity would be like if I did write full time. While it is my dream, there's always the fear that if it happened, I would lose the structure I've built up by having a 9-5 job. At worst,  my average productivity would stay the same, and I would just do a lot more goofing off. So maybe having the job isn't such a bad thing. 

Besides, if all goes well, I'll be a PhD! 

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Fun Facts: The Waterlord

So, some of you may have read my latest novel, Air, the first book in my new trilogy. I'm going to talk about the trilogy a little bit today.

Air was not originally the first book in the series. The entire series started as one huge, 160k word novel that followed Tom from his childhood, which I then divided into four books. The first 30k word book was about Tom's childhood on Ruthen's residence ship, his rivalry with Nathan, and his friendships with a few other characters. We even met Tom's father, although it was not explicitly revealed that was who the character was.

That book ended with Ruthen's attempted murder of Tom, and then there was a five year timeskip, where Air started from Nathan's POV.

Obviously, now we have Air as the first book in the trilogy. So what made me change it so drastically? Heavy editing, of course. Editing and a sharp eyed beta reader.

I wrote the series a while ago, and I have been editing it heavily on and off ever since to make it as good as I can. Something that long takes time to write and a lot of time to edit, and it went through several versions.

As I worked on each version, it became clearer and clearer that the first book, where Tom was a child, was completely unnecessary. My beta reader told me the same thing-while it was a fun read, the entire premise of the series is that Tom is a water mage who wants to take revenge on Ruthen, who tried to kill him. Taking 30k words to get to a point that is explained on the back of the book just wasn't working. Worse, a lot of the characters we see in that first book weren't seen again until the last book, and they had small roles. The book was fun, but didn't serve much of a purpose.

So, I cut the entire book, along with the extraneous characters. It was a really hard decision, but the final version is shorter, sleeker, and more enjoyable, and the series makes far more sense as a trilogy rather than a quartet. Plus, having a 30k YA book as the first book in an adult fantasy/romance series seemed odd too.

Now the books focus on what's important-Tom's goal, Tom and Nathan's relationship, and their world.

Check out Complete Works if you're interested in reading the first book!

Friday, June 15, 2012


So, I'm not just a writer. I also do research in a lab, working with human subjects.

I see all sorts of people-members of clinical groups (psychopaths, drug addicts, schizophrenics, autistic people, etc) and normal people, aka controls.

A lot of the time, the controls are far stranger than the clinical group members. Sure, the schizophrenics may decide you're trying to steal their brain when you interview them, but that's fairly understandable, if you're schizophrenic.

When you're a control, it raises red flags when you start rubbing your feet on everything during the neuropsychological exam.

When I ask you to do an eye dominance test, don't make your hand into a gun and pretend to aim it at me to figure it out.

When I ask you which hand you use to hold a knife, don't lift your hand in a stabbing motion. I meant a knife and fork.

When you're being interviewed, don't take a phone call and start telling all your friends about the crazy questions you're being asked.

Don't take an hour long break between every interview, or we'll stop paying by the hour.

When you leave a message, leave a number to call back.

Don't leave more than one message.

Don't leave five messages in the span of 24 hours, calling purely between the hours of 10 pm and 6 am.

Don't flirt with the lab techs. They're not interested.

If you're doing an EEG, yes, we will wash your hair for you, because the EEG gel we use in the cap is messy. We will not style your hair for you. This is not a salon.

Don't take random pills in front of the lab tech in the middle of the study, especially if you're not in the drug addicted group. This will get you kicked out of the study (or assigned to the aforementioned drug addicted group).

Don't claim to have a disorder that you don't have. If we can tell, you're wasting our time, and if we can't, then you're basically lying to science.

If you refer your friends, try to make sure they don't actually have some disorder. That's always awkward.

And last and most important, bathe. Bathe bathe bathe.

Monday, June 4, 2012

New Free Read!

So this spring and summer, I signed up to write a story for the Goodreads M/M romance group. Each writer was given the choice of several prompts to choose from, that were in turn associated with a photograph.

If you're interested in sexy knights and a quick 12000 word story, check out Chivalry. 

Friday, June 1, 2012

New Release!

My newest book is released today! Check it out at Extasy Books!

Nathan is a skilled mage with control over the air, powering ships over a world covered in water. However, under the control of the powerful Lord Ruthen, a mage of fire, he is insignificant, and he is cowed by the memory of Ruthen killing his childhood friend Tom.
But his friend is not dead, and has nurtured his power over water, which is feared by Fire mages. Nathan is swept up not only into Tom’s idea of revenge against Ruthen, but into love with the outcast mage.