Tag Archives: software

Jan 28

Scientist-Turned-Novelist Paul Guthrie Joins Mike Angley Today

MA: My guest-blogger today is Paul Guthrie. Paul – or Dr. Guthrie – is a scientist by training and vocation. He received a BA in Physics from Cornell University, followed by a Ph.D. in Astronomy from the University of Massachusetts. After graduation, Paul went to work for NASA at Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt MD. His work was primarily in the development of computer models to simulate the chemistry of the Earth’s atmosphere in order to understand ozone depletion and climate change. After thirteen years he left NASA and joined a consulting firm in San Rafael CA, working mainly on air pollution issues for the EPA. By then he was irrevocably committed to the use of computers and the development of software. In 1999 he left the environmental field entirely and became involved in developing software for biotechnology and medical applications, which he continues to do part time. Starting in 2002, however, Paul decided to pursue another interest, that of writing fiction. He lives in the San Francisco Bay area, still married to the same person after thirty-seven years. We have two grown children.

Now that’s a fascinating biography you have, Paul. I am curious about how you found an interest in fiction with so much science in your life.

PG: I’m a scientist, with degrees in physics and astronomy. Working on issues like climate change, I was part of the collision of science, where truth (even approximate truth) is an ultimate goal, with politics, where truth is irrelevant. And I like to read. I‘ve read lots of fantasy and SF over the years, from classic “hard” SF to Tolkien, Eddings, Jordan, Martin, Stephenson, Gibson…the list goes on and on. I also like technology thrillers, like early Tom Clancy and early Michael Crichton.

MA: It’s good to have a wide breadth of interests, but how did you end up writing fiction, and why novels?

PG: My teachers always said I was a good writer, back before I chose a career in science and technology. In 2002 the medical imaging startup where I was working ran out of money and went belly up. Writing seemed like a good way to keep my mind occupied until something else turned up. Something else never did. Why novels…the form is long enough to really explore characters and story. You can say a lot of things in a novel.

MA: Tell us about your novel.

PG: “The Wrong God” crosses genres a bit. It involves something that looks like magic, elements of science fiction, some real science, politics and religion. Here’s the pitch:
Since the beginnings of history people have believed in magic, but California science writer Andy Taggart is not one of them. Until the day that John Chalk, his old friend from grad school, makes a ballpoint pen rise to stand on end – untouched. From that moment Andy is caught up in John’s mystery. Is this an illusion or is it new physics? Why can John do things that other people can’t – things that will mark him in some eyes as a worker of miracles? And why does John think someone is watching him?

Someone is watching. Wendell Murchison is possibly the most powerful man in America. He controls wealth, his own cable news network, an army of evangelical political operatives, and the President of the United States, but he wants more. From the new America of terrorist sleeper cells, detention camps and legalized torture he sees a path to levels of power not seen since the Inquisition. He would make a new all-out war of religion; all he needs is a leader – the New Prophet, John Chalk. Whether John believes or not.

When John refuses and disappears, Andy is left to face an adversary who will offer bribes, publish lies, send goon squads to beat him, whatever it takes to force him to betray John. Under constant surveillance and unsure who he can trust, Andy can’t stand alone; he has to find John. But even together, what can they do against Murchison? Levitating pens won’t stop him and there’s no point in hoping for miracles if you don’t believe in anybody’s gods.

Actually, it all grew out of a single observation. Traditional epic fantasy often involves ancient magic, with a venerable sage or a sacred book to explain the magic. My question was, how did the book get written? Who were the poor bastards who first discovered magic and had to figure out how it worked without killing themselves? Since I assumed (naturally) that they would approach it like scientists, the story became contemporary.

MA: That sounds intriguing, and it contains many of the same elements I enjoy reading about and writing with my own work. Tell us how you developed Andy’s character.

PG: Andy is kind of an almost-scientist. He has the training, but he isn’t entirely part of that world, the way John is. Andy can see the ambiguities in John’s discovery. I tend to like stories of ordinary people facing extraordinary challenges, so he had to be somewhat unheroic.

MA: Andy’s strengths? Weaknesses?

PG: Strengths…determination, loyalty, intelligence, humility, his love for his girlfriend, Rachel.
Weaknesses…fear, self-doubt, a little envy.

MA: It sounds like this Murchison guy is pretty devious…your antagonist, I assume?

PG: Oh yeah. I spent a lot of time on Wendell Murchison. My wife kept asking for more backstory. I kind of saw him as an amalgam of the kinds of people who have been involved at the intersection of great wealth, political propaganda, and the religious right.

MA: I almost hesitate to ask if any real-life experiences made their way into your story, especially given you hard science background.

PG: I guess the main influences were knowing how physicists think and approach problems, and experience watching scientists collide with politics. One other thing isn’t really central to the plot, but I’m a student and player of Taiko, the big Japanese drums. I gave that to Andy so I could try to describe it.

MA: I spent many years in Japan and always enjoyed Taiko drum performances, so I can relate to that character aspect (and a good thing you gave that to your hero!). So what’s next?
PG: I’m working on another novel that is still an untitled work in progress. It’s unrelated, more of a straight-ahead technology/political thriller. Beyond that I have notes for two more books to continue the story of “The Wrong God.”

MA: Thanks, Paul! You have a great blend of real science colliding with fiction in your work. I like the confluence of the two. For my readers, please check out Paul’s website: http://www.thewronggod.com Read More

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Oct 15

Western Romance, Chick Lit, Feminist…all Descriptions of Mike Angley’s Guest Author, Lotus Landry and her Novel, “Skookum Man”

MA: I’m joined today by Lotus Landry, author of the Western Romance, Skookum Man. Lotus had a prior career as a software applications developer for aerospace projects – among these were line-of-sight helicopter sight stabilization code. She resides in the Los Angeles vicinity and has two adult sons. (One of her sons is able to combine software and storytelling as a video games developer). She is a native of Seattle and grew up not far from the setting of the book.

Lotus told me she chose to write a novel because she loves to work on very large and intricate projects – especially those which fall outside the boundaries of traditional genres. I can understand that with her background in the aerospace industry, something that warms my heart!

Please tell us about Skookum Man.

LL: In Skookum Man a chick lit feminist confronts a greenhorn ladies man in 1830s rainforest. It’s been tagged as: Western Romance; Feminist; Chick Lit; Pacific Northwest; Kindle Romance. The book is set in a Hudson’s Bay Company outpost, the Pacific Northwest, circa 1810. Men and women from divergent worlds meet in an Arden-like forest. In those strange woods the reader is introduced to: wood-wise ingénues, confused men, matronly women, clever animals, and assorted asses and fools. The introductions are lovingly conducted by a benign narrative presence.

That’s a happy beginning- but as the story progresses….the benign presence becomes somewhat sinister. The wood-wise ingénues lose their wisdom; the confused men become calculating; and the outpost seems to contract into itself. As in many fairy tales, the story’s conclusion is uncertain and … disturbing(?). It is a fairy tale with a modern edge – a romantic speculation – a speculative history. The book’s airy structure and modern references contribute to its bouncy, tale-like mood.

It features Jane, who is sometimes called ‘Matooskie’, and her accidental boyfriend, Robert. Jane, who knows how to take care of herself in the remote rain forest of the Pacific Northwest, has been brought up as a free range child. She is multicultural and disciplined enough to master Latin.

Robert is a newly arrived officer at the fort, a remote place with several peculiar luxuries but very few romantic options. He has a history of being a slick player of sophisticated women of the London social scene. He is honored as ‘skookum’ by the local Indian clan even though he demonstrates that he has no wilderness skill sets.

MA: Tell us more about Jane, or Matooskie.

LL: The main character, Matooskie, has trouble integrating her two natures. She has a Chinook Indian heritage from which she derives her expertise for surviving in the forests, but she is also eager to please her father by adopting the trappings of a proper British lady.

Matooskie is extremely tenacious and goal directed and loves keeping secrets. She is sharp enough to master Latin with the assistance of the private tutors who pass through the fortress as guests.

MA: Yours is such a unique story…how did you come up with the idea?

LL: I was influenced by contemporaries from the Pacific Northwest. When I wrote the heroine as a person with a passion for botany and a compulsion to classify plants, I gave her the habits of my best friend’s mother, a horticultural writer, who deposited her children on trailheads in remote mountain forests where the children were instructed to seek rare plant species.

When I invented another woman, the woefully displaced British matron of the story, I gave her the confusion of a 20th century transplant to Oregon from Maryland, who mistakenly thought that she could not leave the house – for months—until the rain stopped. I included native people as some of the first people I myself saw when I moved into Oregon were Indians spearing and smoking fish along the old Columbia River highway.

MA: Any person, childhood experiences that you drew from?

LL: When I consider the inspiration for writing Skookum Man, it becomes apparent that whatever happened to me in the fourth grade did not stay in the fourth grade. Of course, this is the year that kids become immersed in the history of their respective states and the folklore sticks to them like pieces of campfire marsh mellows on a stick – even when they settle elsewhere. In my case, we studied sea explorers and the forts and covered wagons and it wasn’t unusual for one chum to blurt out that she was a descendant of the famous trapper, Joe Meek. Regrettably, when one moves away and settles in another state, one ends up clueless (for decades) about the arcane of the new state because fourth grade can only happen in one place. The brain accumulates only one set of lore that is reinforced by the field trips of childhood.

MA: Okay, so what’s in your writing future?

LL: I’m currently working on my next novel, a cozy mystery set in contemporary Orange County, California. It features two career women with unusual occupations who belong to a Homeowners Association.

MA: Lotus – thanks for stopping by and telling us all about Skookum Man. If my readers want to learn more, please visit: www.matooskie.com.
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Oct 01

Science Fiction Thriller Writer Graham Storrs Lands on Mike Angley’s Blog

MA: My guest today is Graham Storrs, a writer who lives in quiet seclusion on a bush property in Australia. He trained as a psychologist in the UK and, after a career in artificial intelligence and human-computer interaction research and software design, now shares his time between his family, writing, and the beautiful forested hills of his adopted home.
Graham, welcome aboard! Tell us how you became a storyteller.
GS: There never was a prequel really, just parallel lines. I’ve always told stories from as early as I can remember. When I got older, I started writing them down. Meanwhile, I went to school, then university, got jobs, did research, had a career. And all the time, I was writing. Strangely enough, I only took seriously the idea of publishing my fiction about two years ago. Before then, I hadn’t published anything (except non-fiction). Since then, I’ve published ten short stories and my first novel.
MA: Why did you choose to write novels?
GS: I didn’t really choose to at all. For most of my life I was happy writing short stories, but the stories kept getting longer and longer. In the end, I stopped trying to keep them short and started writing book-length stories. I still write shorts now and then (I bundled up a few related stories and put them out as an ebook on Smashwords recently) but I feel very cramped in anything smaller than a novel these days.
MA: Tell us about your début novel, TimeSplash.
GS: TimeSplash is a science fiction thriller – a fast-paced, near-future story about a couple of people – Jay and Sandra – who get caught up in a time travel party scene that wrecks their lives. After that, they each devote themselves to bringing down the guy responsible – a supercool villain named Sniper. Sniper quickly graduates from murderer to big-shot terrorist and is planning to use a temporal anomaly to destroy a capital city. When his two pursuers join forces to track him down, they find themselves and each other along the way.
MA: Who’s the main hero or heroine?
GS: My main protagonist is Sandra. I wanted to create a heroine with huge problems, so bad they sometimes incapacitate her, and a task so hard that anyone would regard it as impossible. And I gave her the curse of being breathtakingly beautiful – something which, perhaps more than anything else, blights her life, On the very first page of the book she is in desperate trouble – and then things get worse and worse. All that she has going for her is an unstoppable will to succeed and an ordinary goodness that is often hard to find.
MA: What about your antagonist, Sniper?
GS: Outwardly, he is handsome and suave, a confident, powerful man, but Sniper also has problems that have left serious psychological scars. Throughout the book he teeters on the brink of a self-destructive downward spiral. The world, to him, is on the verge of chaos and the only way he knows to avoid being consumed by it, is to become its master, smashing and destroying on a massive scale to lead chaos by the nose and make it do his bidding.
MA: Your background in AI and human computer interaction is intriguing, and I’m sure (tongue-in-cheek) that you’ve no real experience with time and space travel, but did any other real life experiences factor into the plot at all?
GS: Most of the places in the book are places I know – London, Brussels, Berlin, Paris. The characters are mostly composites of people I have known – even Sniper is not as uncommon a type as you might suppose – but I have exaggerated or magnified them somewhat, to amplify the drama.
MA: Will there be a sequel to TimeSplash?
GS: Since I finished TimeSplash, I have written another near-future sci-fi thriller – a space-based adventure based on how the religious right will deal with the first transhumans. I’m looking for an agent for that one at the moment. Right now I’m writing the first book of a three-book space opera set thousands of years in the future, finishing a sci-fi comedy based in the present day, and planning a spooky sci-fi noir story about a rather unconventional alien invasion.
TimeSplash was really a stand-alone story. However, I left at least one hook in there for another book, in case I ever feel the urge. I have written two short stories set in the same world. In one of them my two protagonists meet again after fifty years. I haven’t tried to publish it because it’s a sad encounter and I don’t know if I really want that to be their destiny.
MA: How can people find you online?
I use Twitter just about every day and I’m always pleased to meet new people. Anyone can reach me at http://twitter.com/graywave (@graywave)
I also have a blog in which I write about my life as a struggling new writer http://grahamstorrs.cantalibre.com
And TimeSplash itself has its own website and blog http://www.timesplash.co.uk
Thanks for having me over, Mike. It’s been great. I hope you’ll do me the favour of letting me have you as a guest on my blog one day soon.
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Aug 27

Science Fiction Writer Tony Thorne Beams Down for a Visit with Mike Angley

MA: I am delighted to have as my guest-blogger today, Tony Thorne. Tony is an Englishman, born and technically educated in London, England, and now living in Austria; but in the winter, he lives in the warmer Canary Island of Tenerife. He originally qualified as a Chartered Design Engineer and subsequently created a well-known British company specializing in Applied Physics products. For developments in the field of low temperature (cryo)surgery instruments, and very high temperature (carbon fibre) processing furnaces, the Queen awarded Mr. Thorne an MBE.

Well, that’s quite a scientific and technical background. I would have guessed you’d write technical books, textbooks, or articles for scientific journals. Why fiction?

TT: Much earlier in life I wrote and sold some science-fiction and humorous stories, was an active SF Fan, and a spare time lecturer for the British Interplanetary Society. After many business adventures, including the development of AI computer software for business applications, and animated computer graphics set to music, I now write quirky speculative yarns; mostly Science Fiction and Macabre tales, with a novel and over 100 short stories on file. Most of the latter are available in different collections.

I’m really a short story writer but Harry Harrison said I should write a novel if I want to be really successful … so I’ve recently completed one. Incidentally, Harry wrote the introduction to my Tenerife Tall Tales SF collections.

Most of my quirky SF and Macabre Tales are set in, on and even under, that magical Canary Island of Tenerife, where I spend every winter. Apart from those, I like to scan the science news for the latest developments and then write a tall tale about the possible consequences.

MA: So, tell us how you blend your science and technical background into your novel.

TT: In my novel, POINTS OF VIEW, the hero is a young blind boy, named Horace Mayberry, who gets fitted out with some nanotronic eyes. They are intelligent and can develop various functions to suit whatever scrapes the lad gets into. He is recruited into a secret government agency as an assistant to an experienced agent and embarks on a series of adventures, including being abducted twice by an international gang of crooks. Each situation causes his eyes to develop something new, and enables his introvert personality to evolve, too.

The finale covers an attack on the crooks hideout in Tenerife … where else! I had a lot of fun writing it.

MA: I love fiction that embraces technology like this. Tell us about your hero and villain.

TT: Horace is a cautious lad, very introvert initially. Then as his abilities develop he becomes impulsive and somewhat headstrong. The main crook, Rudolph Beckman, is an international billionaire financier who is after the secret of the company that developed the nanotronic eyes. He uses a trio of henchmen to do his bidding.

MA: Now, I’m sure your real-world exposure to emerging technologies influenced the plot in Point of View, but was that all? Did any other life experiences factor into the story?

TT: That’s a very interesting question. Yes, part of Horace’s training mirror’s some of my experiences when I joined the army, so many years ago.

MA: So what’s next in your fiction future?

TT: I’m currently working on a couple of new short stories and also finalizing a collection of quirky short tales and some poems which are to be published in the USA next year, entitled INSIDE INFORMATION. They’re items I’ve performed in costume, at SF Conventions and various other events.

I am also thinking about a sequel to the novel … there’s plenty of scope in the idea. Other than that, some of my short Tenerife tales feature common characters, and will continue to do so.

MA: I know your love of science drives you, but what else?

TT: It can’t be for the money, but more of that would be nice … I guess it’s really an insatiable craving to be recognized.

MA: (Chuckling). Thanks, Tony, for being my guest today. I encourage my readers to visit Tony’s website for more information about this intriguing author: www.tonythorne.com. Read More

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