Friday, March 27, 2015

Science of the Week, 3/27/15

This will be the last Science of the Week post until May, as the A-Z Blogging Challenge starts next week and I need to spend extra time visiting other blogs. I have to admit that when I don't prepare this feature, I miss reading the articles. Hopefully you enjoy reading them too.

Here are some of the most interesting science news articles I read this week:

Brain tumor cells decimated by mitochondrial "smart bomb"

Quantum experiment verifies Einstein's "spooky action at a distance"

Our solar system may have once harbored super-Earths

Landmark study proves that magnets can control heat and sound

Real "skinny water"? Special microbes make anti-obesity molecule in the gut

Large Hadron Collider scientists hope to make contact with parallel universe

Scientists recover T. rex soft tissue
(This is an older article, but it's still pretty incredible.)

Thousands of atoms entangled with a single photon

Have a good weekend, and I'll see you Monday.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Scattered Seasons Cover Reveal and Pre-Order Available!

Yesterday, I received the final front cover of Scattered Seasons from Maria Zannini of Book Cover Diva. Ready to feast your eyes on it?

 Here's the description:

Lady Gwendolyn lo Havil is an Ava Spring, born to heal others and lead the Season Avatars of her generation. Season Avatars with divine magic must work in groups of four to save the country of Challen from Chaos Season, times when all of the seasons appear at once. When the current Ava Spring dies in a riding accident, Gwen must find the other three Season Avatars she will link with.  But two of them are missing, and with Gwen's own magic crippled by a cursed pottery shard, she will have to use all of her skills to find the Avatars scattered across the country of Challen. During her journey, she meets a stranger who claims to know the shard's origin. Is he truly an ally of the Season Avatars, or is he trying to stop them from uniting?

I have officially made this available as a pre-order on Amazon and on other channels through Draft2Digital. (Links will be posted here and on my website as soon as they are available.) Scattered Seasons will go live on April 28, 2015. (I figure it will be my birthday gift to the world.) From now through May 6, 2015, you can buy it for $0.99. After that, the price goes up to $2.99.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

eBook Prices

Last week, a book from one of the authors I follow on Goodreads came out. The announcement said the eBook was available for a “special introductory price,” so I checked it out on Amazon. Do you think the price was 99 cents? $4.99? No, it was $9.99. I closed the tab without even downloading the sample and headed over to my library’s website to put the book on hold.

Everyone has different price ranges they’re comfortable with. For me, I have no problem with prices of $4.99 and below for fiction and nonfiction, though I generally read the sample first before deciding to buy. (I may buy the book outright if it’s a nonfiction book on sale or if I’m familiar with the author’s work.) If I’d read the author before and consider myself a fan, I’m willing to go a little higher, maybe up to $7.99. 

Any price that’s higher than a paperback for a novel, however, is more than I’m willing to pay. At the speed I read (more than 200 books a year), I can’t afford to read $9.99 eBooks. They’re not a good value for me, especially if I’m going to read the book once and remove it from my Kindle to conserve space. Even $7.99 may be daunting if the book is part of a long series and I would have to pay over $100 to read the entire series. At that point, I will borrow the book from the library if possible, look for cheap secondhand paperbacks if the book has been out for a while, or simply skip the book and quietly rejoice at being able to shrink my immense TBR list.

I’m willing to spend over $10 on non-fiction eBooks, particularly if I think it will be useful for writing. Since non-fiction is only about 20-25% of my reading, and not all my non-fiction costs that much, I can manage the occasional splurge. 

If you read eBooks, what price ranges are you comfortable with? Does the subject matter or familiarity matter?

Friday, March 20, 2015

Science of the Week, 3/20/15

Happy Spring Equinox! In the world of my fantasy Season Avatars series, each Season Avatar is born on the equinox or solstice of his/her season. Today, therefore, would be the birthday of my character Gwendolyn lo Havil, the Spring Avatar and protagonist of my forthcoming Scattered Seasons. I wish I could time each book to come out in the appropriate season, but that might mean holding them back for longer.

Anyway, here are some of the most interesting science news articles I read this week:

Almost 150 of our genes may come from microbes
(bacteria, viruses, and other organisms can transfer genes directly to humans--and the process is still ongoing)

Oncologists reveal reasons for high cost of cancer drugs in the US

Scientists discover gecko's cleanliness secret (They have special small, hair-like spines that cause water drops to collect and roll off the gecko's body. This technique could be applied by humans to protect electronics.)

Nearly 70 percent of evangelicals do not view religion, science as being in conflict

Cyborg beetle research allows free-flight study of insects

Moral decisions can be manipulated by tracking eye gaze

Scientists discover how to change cancer cells into harmless immune cells

Iron rain fell on early Earth

Have a good weekend, everyone, and see you on Monday!

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Facts for Fiction: The Copernicus Complex

Yesterday I finished reading The Copernicus Complex: Our Cosmic Significance in a Universe of Planets and Probabilities. Long ago, people used to think the Earth was the center of the universe until Copernicus showed the Earth revolved around the sun. These days, it seems obvious that we're just a Johnny-come-lately species stuck on an infinitesimal rock going around an average star in an average solar system...or are we?

This book attempts to help humanity figure out its place in the universe by looking at everything from the formation of solar systems to the beginning of life.  Among other things I learned from this book is that our solar system is unusual compared to others that have been found around other stars, the inner planets of our solar system may not have stable orbits (Mercury could crash into the sun, or Venus into us), and megaviruses may have devolved from other life forms. Altogether, the evidence suggests that we do occupy a special niche in the universe, but our ultimate significance to the universe depends on how much we explore the universe, even if we have to do it by machine instead of in person.

Although this was an interesting book to read, it's not a research book full of information I can use in my own stories. It is useful to step back every now and then to look at the big picture--and you can't get a much bigger picture than this.

Do we dare disturb the universe? Feel free to comment below.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Project Updates

I'm back from my much-needed blogging break. I did miss blogging, especially reading science articles for my Science of the Week posts, but I did need the time to catch up on various things. Here's a quick update:

A-Z: My posts are done, and I've created tinyURLs for all of them. Now I just have to prepare the daily tweets and brace myself for visiting a lot of blogs in April.

Scattered Seasons: I've heard back from four of my beta readers and revised according to three of their comments. The final one hasn't gotten back to me yet, so I should follow up with her soon. In the meantime, the cover is in progress, and I'll reveal it when it's ready. In the meantime, you can add it on Goodreads if you so choose.

Chaos Season: I've written about 26,000 words so far and estimate I'm about a third of the way through. Hopefully I haven't just jinxed myself to bog down in the middle. I'd like to get the first draft done by June, though April and May will be busy for me.

How are your projects going? Feel free to share in the comments.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Science of the Week: 2/27/15

And here we are at the end of another month already.

Here are some of the most interesting science news articles I read this week:

Reducing energy efficiency boosts calorie burning in muscle

Vision loss reversed in people with diabetic eye disease

Climate change driving brutal winter?

Higgs boson could explain matter's dominance over antimatter
(From what I understand, if the Higgs field was much stronger in the early universe and decreased over time, then it could have made the masses of matter and antimatter unequal [since today they are equal] and made the production of matter more likely)

Just like modern cities, ancient settlements became more productive as they grew

Can "three hots and a cot" stave off mental illness?
(Our inner clocks that govern when we eat and sleep are governed by neurotransmitters that also play a role in mental illness. A structured life may keep the neurotransmitters in balance.)

Ocean acidification threatens coastal communities across the U.S.

Long-acting HIV medicine in the works
(It can act as both a preventative and a treatment)

Two-father babies could soon be possible with no egg donor
(Gene manipulation could transform a man's germ cells into oocytes, which could then be fertilized by his partner's sperm. However, what's not discussed in the article is epigenetics, the different tagging of the genes in men and women. Scientists might have to alter the molecular tagging of the genes so they're regulated properly.)

U.S. Defense Dept: Come get wierd with us

Worldwide, the nitrogen cycle is off (and it's affecting the ability of legumes to fix nitrogen in the soil)

Antifreeze protein from ticks fights frostbite in mice (Warm-blooded animals don't make antifreeze proteins, but the proteins still do their job when introduced to mammalian tissue. I think we're all going to need antifreeze protein to make it through the rest of this winter!)

That's all for now. I'm going to take a blogging break for the next couple of weeks. I have a lot of things to catch up on for Broad Universe (I'm the Readings/Events Coordinator for BU), I need to preschedule more A-Z posts, I need to finish editing Scattered Seasons and get it ready for publication, and I'm still trying to draft the next book in the series, Chaos Season. Something's got to give before I do. Don't worry; I'll be back before A-Z kicks off. Take care, and talk to you later!

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