Co-authoring ~ by Manning Wolfe

The initial idea…
About ten years ago, my work required that I frequently go back and forth to L.A. from Austin, four hours of travel on a non-stop flight. I would work on my laptop for about an hour then indulge myself in a guilty pleasure for the rest of the flight. But I could never finish a full length novel before I landed in California.
I remember thinking, why doesn’t somebody write good page turners that can be read in two to three hours? I wanted engaging stories that made me want to stick to the end, not just fast reads. That’s how Bullet Books Speed Reads (Bullet Books) arrived on my list of someday writing.

Bringing in co-authors …
Two years ago, I began the process of writing Bullet Book #1 with my spouse, Bill Rodgers who is also co-owner with me of Starpath Books, LLC, our Austin based publishing company. The experience was so positive, I decided to invite other writers to co-author the Bullet Books

Eighteen months later, the first twelve Bullet Books were launched at the Texas Book Festival and Bouchercon2019. Additional short reads are planned for 2020, for a total of twenty-five Bullet Books.

All books, by prescription, are modern day crime fiction in settings around the world. Audio books have been published or are in various stages of production.

The first twelve authors are all people on my radar, either a part of the Austin writing community, associates from writer’s groups or contacts in Texas, or former artistic clients from my law practice.

The second round of authors are from all over the U.S. and one in the U.K. The first group joined primarily because of our personal relationships, those in the second group have been attracted to the project itself and the benefits to their writing careers.

The writing process…
The actual writing has been organic, and working with each co-author has been a different experience. I ask that the co-author come up with an idea of what they would like to write then we brainstorm the plot together. Some begin with a short story that was expanded to a full concept. One story began as a complete but outdated novel that was shortened, re-worked, and brought into modern time. In all cases, the concept, working title, and basic plot were nailed down before the book was written... although in most cases, there was not a full outline. The plot evolved as we wrote, as it does with all books, but having a path to completion helped keep us on track with the story.

All of the books were written in the style of co-authoring, as opposed to paired writing. We wanted to find a blended voice in an effort to make each Bullet Book unique. 

I read the other writer’s work and then followed their writing style. Some used short staccato sentence structure, some stuttering ellipses, and others hammered home cliffhangers or punctuated the ending of each paragraph. Each co-author had a style and rhythm to their sentence structure, and I adapted my writing as much as possible so as to not change that. 

One co-author is known for his love of noir and I had never written in that style, which presented a challenge. On my turn, it was required that I add words, but not go too far afield of the genre restrictions.

What I did strongly insert into each book was structure. I put in three acts early on and continuously worked the story into them on my turns to write. Once I put in the beginning, middle, and end notations, the missing plot points and areas that dragged began to show themselves and were easily repaired during re-writes. Most co-authors either already had a sense of the design or expressed their appreciation for the methodology and found it useful. 

Publishing goals…
A big asset of co-authoring was the necessity to meet deadlines and be accountable in order to keep the process moving. Although deadlines were not rigid, we were all highly motivated to have the entire first dozen for sale and for signing by the end of October 2019.

What didn’t work so well…
As a dedicated Scrivener user, I briefly experimented with bringing the co-authors into the app for writing. It didn’t take with a single non-Scrivener user. Even those who tried the software abandoned it at the first opportunity and went back to Word.

The books that fell out of development were those where the plot was not firmly agreed upon in advance, proving to me that a “meeting of the minds” to begin a project is probably the most important step. 

The second area that lead to failure was when the idea was made “too precious”. The tight grip didn’t allow for the book to breathe and develop organically. 

These two areas of difficulty are naturally in conflict and require a balancing act. Not having a plan at all didn’t work, and rigidity in the concept might not have been the kiss of death, but it was definitely the kiss of paralysis.

It was fun and everyone learned in the process …
Missteps aside, it became thrilling to send off a draft of the story with new sections written and get back a draft with passages that played off the new scenes or dialogue. It was also fascinating to watch the mind of another author at play. Each of the dozen co-authors had a different approach, mindset and developmental style. All were a joy to experience through the process of co-writing.

Manning Wolfe
Manning Wolfe, an award-winning author and Attorney residing in Austin, Texas, writes cinematic-style, smart, fast-paced thrillers with a salting of Texas bullshit. Her series features Austin Lawyer, Merit Bridges. As a graduate of Rice University and the University of Texas School of Law, Manning’s experience has given her a voyeur’s peak into some shady characters’ lives and a front row seat to watch the good people who stand against them. You can follow Manning at the links below.






   

Fun at the Track ~ by Author Jennifer Daniels


 TRX-4 Sport – Green Truck/Vaterra Ascender – Yellow Truck

Picture this… Me, the only woman sitting in the pits with her
husband and son watching them practice and play with their RC-- remote-control race cars. You would think this is a hobby for just the young, but oh no, most of the people that go there are regulars-- grown men hiding from their wives.

It’s a 2 ½ hour drive to get to the track, so we combined the trips.
TRAAXAS Slash - Pink and Black truck 
We all had appointments in Syracuse, NY and decided to stop at Underground RC in Clay, NY at the Great Northern Mall after our appointments.

Some of you would be tickled to be at the mall, but not me. I hate
to shop. It would have been perfect had there been a bookstore, but nope, nothing. And you can only shop at Bath and Body for so long, so back to the track I go.

My son and husband both have several different varieties of RC
cars. Today they brought their TRAXXAS 4-TEC. The guys always make a day of it. So, for one day I suck it up and deal with it. After waiting five hours, watching everyone practice, the race was cancelled. Did we leave? Oh no, we stuck around for two more hours. Now, remember folks, we still have a drive home and need something to eat.

My husband’s car is the white '71 Camaro and my son's is the black
 4-Tec – Black Trans-AM and White Camaro before
'71 Pontiac Trans-AM. This was our son's Christmas present and my husband painted them both. They often buy the car bodies and paint them together.

There are two tracks at this course. One is a road course track and the other is a short course track with tons of jumps laid out throughout the course. But for as much as I complain, I love watching the short course races. They are lot of fun.

I will show the before and after pictures of just the practice on the
4-Tec – Black Trans-AM and White Camaro  After
road course. This wasn’t even the bashing races.

For anyone who has young or "adult" children, this is a fun sport to spend time with your kids. It can be pricey, but for those of us who live in the country, it’s a fun hobby and something that a father and son can work on together.

If you want to watch any of their shenanigans you can look on my son's YouTube Channel @ Maximum RPM.


Happy Racing!





 

What's on the Menu? ~ by Grace Augustine

I'm in a rut. I need new recipes instead of revisiting all of the tried and true weekly ones I've been cooking. Variety needs to happen. So, in looking through many recipes this week...I've found a few that sound delicious and have tried a couple.  Here is one that I thought would be an easy, filling, comfort food-like meal on a snowy winter day/night.  

photo courtesy of rockrecipes.com


BAKED TERIYAKI CHICKEN    Serves 5      425 degree oven

Mix together in saucepan on low heat, stir frequently, and cook until sauce thickens and bubbles.

1 Tbsp cornstarch
1 Tbsp cold water
1/2 C granulated sugar
1/2 C soy sauce
1/2 tsp ground ginger (can use fresh)
1/4 C cider vinegar
1 clove garlic...minced fine
1/4 tsp black pepper

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees and line a cookie sheet with foil or parchment paper and make sure you spray it with oil.
2. For chicken...you can use 12 thighs or wings/drummies, or 4-5 breast halves, depending on size.
3. Dip chicken breasts in sauce and place on prepared pan.
4. Bake for 45 minutes, basting occasionally with remainder of sauce.
5. Remove from oven and sprinkle with sesame seeds.

I liked serving this with a mixture of red quinoa and wild rice, but you can serve however pleases your tastes. This would pair well with broccoli, too.

*************

In February, I will be exploring decadent desserts for all of those February birthdays and Valentine's day.





Lakeside Living 7: Duck Seasons ~ by Ruth Ross Saucier


When you live on a lake you find yourself telling the seasons and predicting weather in more natural ways.  The house faced the lake (SSE), so when the wind began blowing off the lake toward the house, we knew bad weather was on its way, no matter what the weather station or the meteorologists said. When the wind shifted a change was coming; and when it finally blew from the back yard down the lake, we knew the weather was guaranteed fair. Somehow wind direction is always clearer when you can see it moving on the water.


Recognizing a change in seasons became easy once we learned to read several indicators. Frog song changed across spring into summer. While it began with tiny high-pitched frenetic sound, it eventually deepened to big belching “jug o’ rum” calls by mid-August: a song that was guaranteed to drive away sleep, since bullfrogs have absolutely NO sense of rhythm.  But the best indicator of the advent of winter and spring were ducks.


Normal lake life in Washington state is populated by your basic mallard, the home team duck, who lives here year-round and announces spring by producing  loads of babies.  Baby ducks are fodder for everything else in the animal kingdom; locally common predators include bass, eagles, osprey, and anything hungry enough to think that a two-ounce ball of fluff makes a good snack. When you
Mallard ducklings with good mama.
see ducklings daily, though, you also recognize who is a good mama duck, and who is shell-shocked (pun intended) over having little ones trailing around behind them. The babies whose mama watches their every paddle will have a higher survival rate by far; but the babies who are little alpha wanderers, paddling off to see the world with no regard for where mama is, will be the first to be culled from the flock.


The ducks that migrate through are the ones that tell you when winter has arrived and when it finally leaves.  Washington state is on a flyway for hundreds of bird species that migrate between Alaska and Mexico, but we knew to watch for buffleheads. 

Buffleheads are the clowns of the duck world, the smallest diving duck in North America, and they spend their summers in the Arctic.  When it gets a little chilly there, they migrate south to Washington, where their appearance is the sure sign that winter has arrived.  And as long as they lounge around, winter still haunts the lake. Spring may flirt with you, but it never comes to stay until the last bufflehead wings north for a summer stay in the balmy arctic.


The best time comes when the lake first begins to thaw, because the top water melts first.  Underneath maybe an inch of free water, the ice lingers and the ducks walk…on water.  Or, they land with great confusion careening across the ice with complete lack of control.     Duck on Icy Landing Approach

Meet Our Founding Members ~ Kristine Raymond

Author Kristine Raymond

When Kristine is not writing, she’s learning how to navigate the publishing and promotional side of the business. She enjoys spending time with her husband and furry family, reading, gardening, and binge-watching shows on Netflix.

To learn more about Kristine and read her prior blog posts, please click on her MEMBER PAGE

Finding a Writing Rhythm ~ by Author/Artist/Photographer Mina Beckett

As my bio says, I’ve been reading romance since I was a teenager.
About me link
While my friends were crowding into football games, I was curled up on the couch, listening to my Walkman, switching between my sketchpad and a romance book.  

My mother remarried and moved to Texas when I was sixteen, but I stayed in Kentucky with my grandparents to attend school. I spent my summers in Midland with her and my sister and never made the long trip without at least a dozen books. Back then, I could gobble up three to four romances a day.

Penny Jordan and Sara Craven were some of my favorite authors, but my first summer in Texas, I discovered Elizabeth Lowell and Diana Palmer. There I was, reading Fire and Rain, Granite Man and Calhoun while living in West Texas surrounded by real-life cowboys. It was the perfect catalyst for my young imagination. I began filling notebooks with ideas, character profiles, and short stories. I’d write a few paragraphs and then do a few sketches of different scenes and characters.

Fast forward ten years. I’m married, have two children, a full-time career and no time to write. My notebooks were shoved to the back of a closet and deemed unimportant. But the characters in my head were stubborn and not easily dismissed. They’d show up at the most inconvenient times, like at board meetings and during presentations, so I tried to appease them by jotting down ideas here and there. But they kept talking, loudly. It wasn’t long until those thoughts were filling notebooks again.

After spending almost two decades earning degrees, working full-time and raising children, I decided it was time to revisit my writing, so I cleaned out my utility room and set up a small writing space. There among baskets of dirty clothes and dryer lint, I began drafting my first story.

I was so excited!

But writing to complete a full-length novel for submission wasn’t anything like writing short stories for fun. I’d write a page or two – usually, things I’d scribbled down while I was at work– but then, my mind would stall. I’d spend the rest of my writing time staring at my keyboard. It was so frustrating! Soon, doubt moved in, pulled up a chair, and began whispering in my ear. Maybe writing for submission was just a childish dream. Maybe I wasn’t a writer at all.

I battled with Impostor Syndrome for months, not knowing it was a common problem among writers or how to deal with it. It took me over a year to finish the first draft and I can honestly say, it was horrible. The book didn’t get any better when a small press publisher contracted it in 2014. My second book was published the following year, but I was still struggling with the words.

My husband and I were financially stable enough that I was able to resign from my job and devote more time to my writing and work part-time in the company we owned. I finally had time to write! I moved out of that dark and dusty utility room and into the guest bedroom. Looking back, I know I resembled Andy Farmer (Chevy Chase) in Funny Farm.

In 2016, I outlined a new series called Coldiron Cowboys, wrote blurbs for the three books, and hammered out a rough draft of the first one (still stalling and struggling). But I didn’t submit it to the small press publisher. My gut told me these books were going to be different and they were.

In 2017, I regained the rights to my first two books, shelved them and enrolled in Gwen Hayes’ Romancing the Beat. That class transformed my writing and I was able to finally find my voice. That’s such a wonderful feeling!

I began working on a series proposal for the Coldiron Cowboys and successfully landed an agent. We submitted The Heartbreak Cowboy (book one) to the big five, went through a grueling four-month rewrite for a top ten publisher, and received wonderful feedback from an acquiring editor at Harlequin. But, in the end, I stepped away from her on good terms without contracting the series.

But it was during that rewrite that I made a giant leap forward. We had a conference call with the acquiring editor who requested the rewrite to discuss the changes she wanted. I did bullet points reflecting those changes in the appropriate chapters and had a firm grasp on what needed to be done. I had written the story, knew it and my characters inside and out, but after an hour of writing, I stalled.

I couldn’t understand why it was happening until I found some of those short stories and sketches I’d done in Texas. Suddenly, it hit me. Walkman. Sketchpad. Book. My brain was wired to multitask not to sit in front of a computer for hours trying to churn out chapters. Those first two books had been written while I was on lunch breaks, in class, and at little league games. I needed to find a rhythm so, I began experimenting by incorporating different hobbies and projects into my writing routine.

I set daily word goals, wrote in short spurts of five to eight hundred words, then switched to working on a watercolor painting, took a walk around the farm to snap a few pictures, baked a cake worked in Photoshop.   


Pinterest link

This has worked wonders for me, and I don’t think I would have been able to write so productively if I hadn’t found this rhythm. I wrote my first Christmas romance in 2019 and I did it in only three months.  
Website


I re-branded myself, started CurtissLynn Publishing, and self-published The Heartbreak Cowboy. I’ve since published three more books and started a new series. Breaking the Cowboy, the third and final book in my Coldiron Cowboys series will be released in March and there are at least three books planned for the Rough Creek series. Hollywood Cowboy (Morgan’s story) will be hitting Amazon sometime in the late summer or early fall. I’m crossing my fingers that Montana Cold (Colton and Lauren’s story from The Heartbreak Cowboy) will make it into readers' hands by Thanksgiving.

With each book I write, I learn more about myself, my voice and my writing process.

Thank you for having me as a guest today!



To learn more about Mina, click the links under the photographs or those listed below.

Guilty Pleasures ~ Jacquolyn McMurray


Photo by Christian Wiediger on Unsplash
Last week, one of my longtime friends and I got on the topic of favorite YouTube videos. We giggled when we admitted to one another the music videos of little kids with big voices was at the top of our go-to lists--you know the ones that make Simon Cowell swipe at tears while trying to maintain the persona of the gruff judge. 


We agreed we also love those flash mob videos, and I even confessed my obsession with the wedding dance performances. And how about the flash mob for the marriage proposal? 

So that conversation got me thinking about other guilty pleasures that make me feel like I'm taking time to treat myself. Maybe you enjoy some of the same treats.

How about Half & Half instead of skim milk in your morning coffee, dark chocolate covered macadamia nuts tucked in your lunchbox, or the Crunchy Cheetos that stain your fingers orange?


Photo by Oksana on Unsplash







Lots of my guilty pleasures revolve around food--like when I go to a fancy restaurant at lunchtime and order only dessert and coffee. 






Photo by David Hurley on Unsplash






Or when I go to the movies and ruin my next meal by eating popcorn with Milk Duds mixed in and drinking a jumbo Coke. 






wish I could say that's the end, but there are other guilty pleasures that feel like treats, like scheduling my part-time hours at work so I get a three- or four-day weekend, binge watching reruns of Friends or King of Queens, and scheduling a whole day to do as I please with no expectations, lists, or guilt.

Photo by JESHOOTS.COM on Unsplash
Maybe I've stumbled on a New Year's Resolution. Schedule time for myself free of guilt and treats that don't count as calories. Until next month, gotta' go. I just heard YouTube has a new Simon Cowell video.

What’s New and How-To~by Joanne Jaytanie


If you’re looking for a fun story, interested in hearing some new music, or admire a piece of art, Originality by Design is your next must-read. Stop by and see what’s new. We have a wide variety of guest bloggers with a multitude of subjects. And, we’re introducing a brand new page titled, REGULAR CONTRIBUTORS. 

Are you excited to see what there is inside the pages of Originality by Design (OBD), but a bit bewildered?

No worries. I’m here to give you a quick rundown. You’ll become an expert in no time.

When you enter the OBD site, the newest blog post will be the first thing you see (like this one). To the right of this blog post is a list of PAGES. If you click on the HOME page, you’ll see the description of Originality by Design. And as you scroll down, the next block is once again, the newest post. Under that post is a list of the ten most viewed blog posts. 

The next tab under HOME in PAGES is MEMBERS. There you will find an introduction to each of our members along with a link to their PERSONAL PAGE. Each member’s page can also be reached by clicking on their name in PAGES. Along with the MEMBERS, we have our REGULAR CONTRIBUTORS and the list of GUEST BLOGGERS – by year. You can also CONTACT US if you have suggestions, comments, or are interested in joining us as a guest blogger.

Have you found a person you’d like to read more from but can’t locate their posts?

If they are a MEMBER, when you click on their name in the PAGES, their personal page will come up. There you can read all their posts to your heart’s content. You can also find links to their other sites, such as Facebook, Pinterest, and their website. Each member’s page is tailored to their choices.

If you’re looking for a specific GUEST BLOGGER, REGULAR CONTRIBUTOR, even a MEMBER, and you don’t want to scroll through pages and pages, let me tell you a little trick. Scroll up to the very top of the blog. On the top left side, above the Originality by Design banner, you’ll see a “B” next to that is a white box. Just type in the name you are looking for and hit enter. Everything relating to that person will appear. 

Those are the basics. So feel free to pursue OBD whenever the mood strikes. There’s always something new to read, a thought to ponder, or a laugh to be had.

Enjoy!  
Joanne

Everyone Should Have a Hobby, I Chose Writing ~ by Doug J. Cooper

While I’ve been told that everyone should have a hobby, my belief is that everyone should pick an art or sport that inspires them and strive to improve at it. It can be gardening, baking, golf—it doesn’t matter. But the journey becomes elevated when you set your sights on lofty ambitions.

I chose writing, and specifically science fiction novels, as my art form. After seven years and six books, I can report that I’m having a blast on my journey, and there’s no end in sight.

Science fiction is a natural fit for me. It’s what I read in my youth. And as a professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at the University of Connecticut, science is in my blood. My research at UConn focuses on automating manufacturing plants to make them safer, cleaner, and more profitable. I spent years studying how neural networks and other artificial intelligence technologies might serve in that role. Over time, my research shifted away from AI, but my interest in the technology never died. 



Now I use my imagination to explore the subject. My interest is in how human-AI interaction might impact our society. I did this first in The Crystal Series, four novels of action and suspense that center on two great sci-fi themes—artificial intelligence and adventures in space. The overarching personality in the series is Criss, a “good” AI with the cognitive ability of a thousand humans. He is hard-wired to protect and serve his human leadership team, which includes Dr. Juice Tallette, the crystal scientist who created him; Cheryl Wallace, captain of a Fleet space cruiser; and Sid, a covert operative for the Union of Nations.

I am currently writing the Bump Time Trilogy, where the stories center on AI and time travel. In these books, Ciopova is a “bad” AI who manipulates humans to her own ends. We follow David “Diesel” Lagerford, his wife Lilah, and daughter Rose across time as they confront Ciopova and seek to end her dominance.

To illustrate what I mean by exploring human-AI interaction, I’ve chosen a few examples from different books and present them below.

First up is a scene from Crystal Deception, book 1 of The Crystal Series. Here, Criss is a few weeks old and growing in capability. Juice, his creator, is seeing him for the first time as a projected image—a holographic trick of light that makes him seem real—and has a human reaction.

    “Agents are watching you, Juice,” said Criss. “But they’re seeing what I show them. I suspect they’ll become quite bored with what they believe is your daily routine.”
     She examined the features of his face as he spoke. “You look a lot like my dad when he was younger. You did this to make me like you more?”
     “I want you to feel comfortable with me. Is this okay?”
     “You chose well.” Juice leaned to see him from the side. “I may develop a crush on you, though.”


Over the course of the series, Juice and Criss develop a deeply personal relationship. Here is a scene from Crystal Rebellion, book 3 of The Crystal Series. In this scene, Juice learns that her love-interest, Alex, was seen kissing another woman. We join Juice in her bedroom, confiding in Criss, who is sitting with her as a projected image.

     “I’m so sad,” whispered Juice.
     Criss caught her eye. “While Anya loves Alex, he does not feel the same about her.”
     Juice shook her head, but because it rested on a pillow, it was more of a chin shake. “Sorry, Criss. They were kissing. You’ll never understand human matters of the heart.”
     “Igor Dolovich has loved you for more than a year. You sat on his lap six weeks ago. Should Alex be upset?”
     “There were five of us in a car and I was the smallest person by far. What was I supposed to do?”
     “You danced with him four weeks ago. A slow dance. You kissed at the end.”
     “It was a company party and he asked me. And I know you chose a slow song to get me to spend time with him.” She didn’t believe that last part was true, but when he didn’t object, she wondered if it might be. “And we didn’t kiss. He gave me a peck on the cheek.”
     “You love Igor.”
     She rolled back to face the wall. “That’s dumb and this isn’t helping.”
     “Alex doesn’t love Anya, just the way you don’t love Igor.”
     Beginning to understand his logic, she looked back at him. “Are you sure?”
     Criss nodded. “Ask him yourself.”


Criss has a different relationship with Sid, a highly-trained military operative. When no threats are present, Sid treats Criss like a frat-brother. Here is a scene from Crystal Escape, book 4 of The Crystal Series, where Sid goads Criss into making a wager.


     With the launch test completed, Sid pushed Criss to bet on whether the chicken egg inside survived. “Pick either broken or intact.”
     “Which do you want?” Criss replied.
     “You go first,” Sid insisted. “Broken or intact? You have to choose.”
     “I’ll take broken.”
     “You really think the equipment is that bad?”
     “No. I’d say the chance of failure is small. But I know you want to pick intact, so I’ll take broken.”
     Giving him a sidelong glance, Sid stood and made for the exit.  “You are the opposite of fun.”


But when danger lurks and tensions rise, Sid’s hard edge emerges, creating difficulties for Criss. In this scene from Crystal Escape, the AI must negotiate his path carefully.

     As they raced to intercept the stolen craft and rescue Juice, Sid called to her, “Is it just you and Lazura on the ship?”
     “I think so,” Juice replied. After a brief pause, she continued, her voice rising. “And Sid, don’t even think about making a move on her until I’m back and we talk. Criss, you hear me?”
     Cheryl offered her support. “We’ll wait.”
     “Acknowledged,” replied Criss, who used formal language to convey that he would be following strict protocol during this period of leadership disharmony.
     Outnumbered, Sid, who wanted to destroy Lazura at the first opportunity, grunted and folded his arms.


Not all interactions need be dramatic to be interesting. In this scene

from Bump Time Meridian, book 2 of the Trilogy, Lilah’s first time-travel experience is to jump to the future to visit an older version of her daughter, Rose. While there, Rose has her try out a neural link with Luca, the home AI.

     Rose watched Lilah go quiet and begin to sway, and knew that meant Luca was giving her the grand tour. His valley excursion made you feel like you were flying over the hillsides as he glided you past amazing wildlife and dramatic geographic features. His extended tour included virtual visits to notable homes along the mountain ridges, a sampling of the popular winter and summer sports, an overview of the local history, and more.
     “Luca,” Rose called aloud. “Please keep the tour short. We have work to do.”
     She’d committed a major faux pas by speaking to the AI about a linked human. In polite society, one always addressed the person. But she was anxious to move things along and counted on Lilah’s inexperience to miss her gaffe.


But when the bad AI shows her cards, like Ciopova does in this scene from Bump Time Origin, book 1 of the Trilogy, it becomes the kind of interaction we all fear.

     Tap. Tap. The knock on the workshop door caused Rose to turn. Whispering to Ciopova, she asked, “Who is that?”
     “It’s your father," replied the AI.
     “It’s not my dad.” Her tone was matter-of-fact, almost dismissive. Then she thought about it. “Unless you reactivated the T-discs?”
     She’d always felt safe in this house and comfortable with Ciopova. That history tempered her caution, and, in the moment, she made a critical error. She unlocked the door.
     The instant Rose disengaged the door lock, the house bot forced it open from the outside and lunged for her.


Whew! While this is a tiny sample of the human-AI interactions I explore, I hope you’ve gained a sense of what you’ll find inside the pages of my books.

Thank you so much for hosting me. I am grateful for the opportunity to visit your wonderful blog.


When he is not writing science fiction novels, Doug fills his day
working as a professor of Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering at the University of Connecticut, and as founder and director of Control Station, Inc. His passions include telling inventive tales, mentoring driven individuals, and everything sci-tech. He lives in Connecticut with his darling wife and with pictures of his son, who is off somewhere in the world creating adventures of his own.


TWITTER (Crystal Series)
TWITTER (DougJCooper)

In Anticipation of Spring ~ by Kristine Raymond

 
Though the calendar says it's January, days like today stir in me the hope for an early Spring.  The woods are still; bare branches stretching upwards towards an azure sky, their leaves dormant beneath the bark.  A songbird trills, its song piercing the stillness, its mate responding in kind from a nearby pine.




Wisteria vines, their blooms long since withered away and scattered like dried leaves on the wind, tangle and twist around the wrought iron fence, securing a hold against the fierce winds and bitter cold still to come.




 


And yet, mere feet away, a dandelion peeks out from among the shadows, basking in golden sunlight.



 


 

Though it's early afternoon, shadows fall long across the ground, striping the fallen leaves and dormant turf.  A chill passes through me as the sun slips below the treeline, a reminder that winter's grip is firm.  





The air stirs; a gentle breeze wafting across my cheek.  A kiss from the Universe, thanking me for my appreciation of her abundant beauty and granting Her assurance that Spring's not far away.


*Photos taken by Kristine Raymond on the afternoon of January 8, 2020.  



Copyright © 2020 - Images by Kristine Raymond - All Rights Reserved. 



HELP! Blog Post Ideas Needed ~ by Andi Lawrencovna

Oh boy.
DepositPhotos


I’ve been sitting here for a while now trying to think of something to write about, and I’m drawing a total blank.

Christmas is over. The New Year is here. Resolutions suck. And, you know…Facebook…

Sometimes, I’ve found, it’s okay not to have a plan or any ideas on your plate. Your mind needs to take a break to reboot, because we really are just super high-speed computers, if you think about it.

We rush, rush, rush all through the holiday season, trying to do everything for everyone, and even though a lot of us have time off, it’s not a vacation. Or, you go on vacation, and when you get home you need a vacation from that!

Breathe. Relax. Go look up flowers on the internet and try to smell
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them through the screen. It won’t work, but it’s kinda funny to look at and it’ll make you smile when you think about it later.

As we start this new year needing new ideas and new goals and new MORE…take time to sit back and relax a bit.

Don’t reflect. I think every time I try to sit down and reflect about last year, I depress myself because of all the goals I set and didn’t achieve, forgetting about what I did get accomplished. Reflection is great, but there is a time and place for that, too. Don’t let the new year get bogged down in last year’s…stuff.

For right now, just take a little moment not to worry about the past or the present or the future. Have that blank plate or page or whatever, and let yourself be okay with it – trust me, it will fill up fast.

The key is moderation. I know – really?!?!

Yeah. It’s so stupid and I hate that stupid phrase but “everything in moderation, including moderation.” Life is a balancing act of doing and resting. We tend to have attitudes of: if we’re not doing, we’re wasting, but that’s not true. Seriously, taking a rest is NEEDED. Our bodies and minds are so often forced to action that finding a moment of peace becomes a quest for the Holy Grail.

And a lot of times we need permission or an order to take that moment to ourselves, because those crazy active ideas in our heads keep telling us to move and we don’t want to listen to the “stop button” we’re pressing subconsciously.

So, here is your order to breathe, sit back, and relax for a moment
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this year.

All those ideas you have or don’t have but are looking for will still be there in an hour, a day, or whatever. You’re too active not to go back and pick them up later, so don’t panic putting them down. And heck, if you need me to tell you to get back to work, I can do that, too. Not a problem.

In the meantime, after you’ve taken a minute to rest and recover and get ready to move forward, if you could think of some topics you might want to hear me ramble about, hit me up! Or not. Because you’re resting, and so am I. We’ll get back to the grind soon enough, but until then, this has been your friendly reminder that it’s okay to take a break, and not have a plan because the plans are coming and they’ll add up soon.

I guess I should really re-title this blog post, but…it hopefully got your attention, and you’re hopefully maybe a little giggly about it and breathing a little easier with it.

If not…uhm…blame Facebook. Seriously, everything happens because of Facebook, I take no responsibility after this.

Love you all and I hope that you truly did have a wonderful and blessed holiday season and start to the new year. Next month look for my post on getting back to work…maybe. I might have found a new idea to go with by then so, you’ll just have to breathe and move forward at your own pace.

(P.S.: Here are some links to pretty and fun things that you can look at to help you take that moment break…)

Resolutions vs Truths ~ by Grace Augustine

I've never been one to set resolutions for a new year or any other occasion. However, with that said, I do set new annual truths for myself, including a special word for the new year. Below you will find my 20 Truths for 2020.



My special word for this year is FORWARD. With this being the year 2020, the year of perfect vision, it is only fitting that I choose this word. I will let go of the past, of all things that no longer serve me, and look solely to the future and what it holds. I will move one step at a time and enjoy every second of that step, making new memories and new friends and achieving new things.

My wish for you during this new year and decade is one of prosperity in all areas of your life. It is one of hope in all good things. It is one of peace and love that you share with all who surround you.

Passion ~ by Cynthia Land LMT, RYT


One of the great things about starting a diet or projects/resolutions at the beginning of the year is that there is so much wonderful collective energy around them.  In yoga this determination or passion to persevere is called tapas. The yogic principle of tapas refers to three ideas simultaneously; heat, discipline as well as passion. Tapas comes from the second of the Eight Limbs of Yoga  .  When we discover something we’re passionate about we can say that it lights us on fire. Sometimes fire doesn’t carry us all the way and we have to have discipline to carry us through to achieve our goals. 

When I discovered how wonderful yoga made me feel not just physically but also mentally and emotionally, it lit me on fire. I became passionate about learning how to teach it to others. And 17 years later I am still passionate about passing on its powers to others.  Tapas is why you see professional football players become coaches, it’s why are you see professional dancers become instructors, it’s certainly one of the reasons why you see people like Neil deGrasse Tyson pontificating about astrophysics, it’s a passion so strong it cannot be contained to one medium.

You don’t necessarily have to be great or gifted at the thing you do. I am probably the least flexible yoga teacher I know.  That is why I have the discipline to keep working on my yoga poses to maintain my flexibility. However I have such a passion for the philosophy of yoga and a desire to learn, that I continue to delve into the books and teachings, broadening and deepening my knowledge base. 

As you can see right here on Originality by Design there are many things keeping people passionate and on fire.  What keeps you passionate in life? 

Adventures in Writing ~ by Holly Barbo

Every author brings to their writing elements of their past, their interests and… what makes them tick. They create the magic from the essence of what they are and you; the reader, gets transported into another world. I write in and mix several genres. Not sure if that makes me confused or multi-faceted.

~ grin ~ 

One of my earlier childhood memories is of wanting to learn to read. Starting school meant going to that place where I would learn the key. It was the only purpose for school, in my mind. Well… it turned out it wasn’t quite that simple, and I struggled with the skill. The much younger me persevered. I was determined even then.

Once I caught on, I sampled different genre of books in the school library but, I found the stories that swept me into another place fell into a cluster of categories: adventure-intrigue, suspense, thriller, sci-fi / fantasy and historical fiction. Those were magic. My childhood favorites were: Mara- Daughter of the Nile by McGraw, Mrs. Mike by Freedman, several of James Michener’s books and, of course, all of the Dragon Riders of Pern tales by Anne McCaffrey. If you are familiar with any of these you can see what makes my writing tick. Writers were a marvel! I was content to sit with these books and never write… only read.

In spring 2009 I was working in our furniture store. The market had crashed 6 months before and business was quiet. A story crept into my mind. I pushed the bothersome thing away. I needed to vacuum, dust, fluff pillows and make my store appealing to the invisible hoards of customers who were waiting to stream in and be tempted beyond their restraint. Once the housekeeping duties were done the story pushed again. It wanted out. Finally I gave in and sitting down at my computer I began to write what became The Sage Seed Chronicles. For the most part, I was the conduit. Ten months later, four of the five books in the fantasy series were complete.


We list The Sage Seed Chronicles as fantasy but it also has sci-fi elements. I seem almost incapable of writing a pure genre story. Eventually I sampled writing in several other genres: steampunk, thriller, dystopian, adventure, historical fiction and suspense. Several are combination. But what I was drawn to write is where I loved to read.
One of the online groups I was a part of suggested a multi-author short story anthology. Short story? How do you write a short story? Really. I’m sincere. I hadn’t a clue. I’d just completed five books with the word count around 86,000 each. The pace and development of a novel is measured and developed. Now I’m being asked to write a story in about 5,000 words? 



After the initial disbelief in the concept I read and studied a few short stories. The pace was different, and the skill was to cut out the unnecessary… whatever that was. I took on the challenge. My first short story was also a new genre for me: dystopian. The Tin of Honey was a hit with the readers and eventually made the Semi-finals in the ScreenCraft Cinematic Short Story competition.

Since that time I’ve used short stories to explore genres. I don’t write romances, zombies, horror but seem to be suited to weaving historical with contemporary-suspense/thriller and like world-building.

From the very first of the Sage Seed Chronicles I’ve taken current event worries and woven them into a plot. The books aren’t diatribes on what is happening now. I work hard to take concerns and put them into another setting. It’s therapeutic to “solve” something in a story I have no power to fix in real time. 


If you look at the graphics, you will note the genre spread: steampunk, thriller, dystopian, adventure, historical fiction and suspense. Currently I have nine full length books. Three books have won a single award and Vortexes has four by itself.

~YAY and Happy Dancing~ 

Also on my bookshelf are several short stories. We titled one set Quick Reads (above graphic) and the tales are longer. Perhaps a couple of lunch breaks in reading time per story. All of these are long enough to be singles but are also gathered in a five-story collection. Another set, above, is a trilogy and (LOL) one is waiting to become a trilogy.

~Whew~



Continuing to a smaller scale, I’ve a seven-story collection of mini tales that are too tiny to be out on their own and are only found under the title of Tendrils. Again, whether it be books or short stories, my genres cover the same territory… that which I fell in love with as a child.

I need to make a point here. Many of my short stories have children in them but are NOT children’s books. My readers range from 14-16 to in their 90’s. I write about serious topics which are not intended for young children. The only ones which could be read by kids, as far as subject matter, are The Dragil (from the Quick Reads set), Rockets (found in Tendrils) and the Beyond Time Trilogy.

A bit about me. Earlier I mentioned a furniture store. We closed the
Author Holly Barbo and Misha
store but continue to custom build, restore and repair wood furniture. You can see examples on our biz website: https://www.barbofurniture.com. Yes, I still write between work projects. You must do something while glue is drying, etc. My author website is http://hollybarbo-books.com. Come visit. 
Oh… and I’m currently working on a new thriller. Watch for it this year.

Meet Our Founding Members ~ Cynthia Land

Cynthia Land

Cynthia comes from the fast-paced world of broadcast news. As a reporter and anchor at KOMO radio in Seattle, she’s gone from interviewing CEOs including Starbucks Howard Schultz to breaking news of earthquakes. 

To read more about Cynthia and her prior blog posts, please click this link to her MEMBER PAGE

Co-authoring ~ by Manning Wolfe

The initial idea… About ten years ago, my work required that I frequently go back and forth to L.A. from Austin, four hours of travel on a ...