Month: April 2016

Author Interview – Bard Bloom

My Reader's Journey

Bard Bloom headshot

Bard Bloom is a software engineer by day, a parent by night, and a fantasy/sf writer on the train between the two.

How would you describe your story in one sentence?

Nine naïve young dragons venture to an unfamiliar high-tech universe for a relaxing decade of figuring out who marries who, but are distracted and devastated by undead gods, giant ray guns, mind-controlling parasites, friendship and conquest of the natives, and their own nature.

What inspired you to write your story/characters/theme?

One fun inspiration was to reverse the fantasy trope of underdogs on the side of good achieving great power and victory against huge odds.  My dragons are extraordinarily powerful and never lose a fight against non-dragons — and they’re not always the good guys.  So I gave them a heaping plate of problems which couldn’t be challenged to a battle, like communicable diseases and civil disobedience.  And the dragons don’t always…

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Author Interview – Jen Ponce

My Reader's Journey


Jen’s love for reading came from her mom, who valued books above all things (except maybe the Dallas Cowboys and Michael Jordan.) She writes for the same reason some people run marathons, climb mountains, sculpt, paint, or put on suits of Mentos and jump into vats of Coke: because there is a fire burning inside her that doesn’t let her NOT do these things. Writing is necessary, like breathing or double chocolate chip cookies and perfectly salted potato chips.

Reading is not a lost pastime and Jen refuses to believe that something so magical could ever go away. Even during the zombie apocalypse, she will be reading. She will just have to learn how to wield an ax in one hand while holding her book in the other.

Jen Ponce lives in the Panhandle of Nebraska, with her boys, her cats, her goldfish Reggie and a large supply of books…

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The Astrolabe: Ancient Analog Computer with 1K Apps

Marcha's Two-Cents Worth

1280px-Planispherical_astrolabe_mg_7100 Figure 1. Planispherical astrolabe. Marocco, 16th century. Engraved brass. On display at Paris naval Museum.

Whether you’re an astronomer, astrologer or steampunk fan, you’re bound to fall in love with this ancient analog computer.  Even better, you can make one for yourself by downloading the directions from the Resources section below.

The astrolabe is an ingenius device used for nearly two thousands years, from the time of Hipparchus (c. 190 – 120 BCE) until the turn of the 17th century.  It’s typically a disc constructed from wood or brass, about 10 – 20 centimeters in diameter, and a few millimeters thick.  In 1391, medieval writer and poet, Geoffrey Chaucer, wrote a treatise on the subject for his son, describing how to build one as well as its use.  Astrolabes had over a thousand uses, including timekeeping, navigation, surveying, solving equations, and so forth.  Mastering them all required an entire university…

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H is for how to write a killer short story.

H is for how to write a killer short story.

Francis H Powell author

h finished 2

To write a good short story, you need immediate impact, meaning your first sentence has to be a killer. You have to create an opening sentence like no other, that grabs the reader’s attention.   For example my story “Bugeyes” from Flight of Destiny  begins with… Bug-eyes was due a life of toil. Seed begins with Captain Spender’s wife was ovulating.  Cast from Hell begins with There it was: I was to be banished from hell.

Your plot is going to be vital as to whether your short story is a success. Deborah Eisenberg states that “the plot of a good story is likely to be a stranger, more volatile and more evanescent sort of thing than the plot of a novel”. You can’t meander with a short story.  A short story,  can’t  evoke the expanse  and diversity of life, and takes the reader’s attention towards a more limited aspect.  With…

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The Cover Wars

The Cover Wars

The Book Wars

Covers Wars Final

Where we give our opinions on books (usually new or upcoming releases) based purely on their back copy and their covers.

Into the Abyss

Violet has lost her memory, and her sense of self—but can she decide who she wants to be in time to save the world? Find out in this sequel to Falls the Shadow, which Kirkus Reviews called perfect “for fans of Divergent and The Hunger Games.

Violet Benson used to know who she was: a dead girl’s clone, with a dead girl’s memories. But after Huxley’s attempt to take over the government left her memories and personality wiped, all she has left is a mission: help the CCA fight back against the rest of Huxley’s deadly clones that are still at large.

But when a group of clones infiltrate CCA headquarters, Violet is blamed. Already unsure of where her loyalties should lie, Violet finds herself running away…

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Educational Fiction


This is a topic I have pondered recently. How do we learn when we read or consume fiction. Do we learn about the world, skills, ways to think, new possibilities, and how to relate to people from the fictional entertainment that we partake in?

For me the answer is yes. My number one reading genre in fiction is science fiction. I believe those books have given me a feel, confidence, and trust in science which has served me well in my life. I want to read fiction that makes me feel good, and makes me feel like I am learning.

I will write more about my ideas about this topic in the future. For now, I will just list some websites and academic references. Keep reading, and keep learning.

Websites: The a-to-z Challenge

Guest Post: Science Education through Science Fiction

Graphic by Stuart Miles, from: S. A. Gibson author page

Academic Titles:

Marsh, Elizabeth, Andrew Butler, and Sharda Umanath. 2012. “Using Fictional Sources in the Classroom: Applications from Cognitive Psychology.” Educational Psychology Review 24, no. 3: 449-469.

Cook, Kristin Leigh, and Elizabeth G. Dinkins. “Building disciplinary literacy through popular fiction.” Electronic Journal of Science Education 19, no. 3 (2015).

Brake, Mark, and Rosi Thornton. “Science fiction in the classroom.” Physics education 38, no. 1 (2003): 31.

Galda, Lee, and Lauren Aimonette Liang. 2003. “Literature as experience or looking for facts: Stance in the classroom.” Reading Research Quarterly 38, no. 2: 268-275.

Camp, Deanne. “It takes two: Teaching with twin texts of fact and fiction.” The Reading Teacher 53, no. 5 (2000): 400-408.

Dorocak, John R., and S. E. C. Purvis. “Using Fiction in Courses: Why Not Admit It?.” Law & Literature (2013).

Bunch-Lyons, Beverly A. “A novel approach: Using fiction by African American women to teach black women’s history.” The Journal of American History 86, no. 4 (2000): 1700-1708.

Smith, Derrick. “Bringing fantasy and science fiction into the classroom.” (2012).

Rycik, Mary Taylor, and Brenda Rosler. “The return of historical fiction.” The Reading Teacher 63, no. 2 (2009): 163-166.

Bixler, Andrea. 2007. “Teaching Evolution with the Aid of SCIENCE FICTION.” American Biology Teacher (National Association Of Biology Teachers) 69, no. 6: 337-340.

Boyd, Josh. “Scholarship of teaching and learning: A different kind of [text] book: using fiction in the classroom.” Communication Education 53, no. 4 (2004): 340-347.

Lindquist, Tarry. “Why and how I teach with historical fiction.” The Reading Teacher (2002).

Turk, Diana B., Emily Klein, and Shari Dickstein. “Mingling’fact’with’fiction’: Strategies for integrating literature into history and social studies classrooms.” The History Teacher 40, no. 3 (2007): 397-406.


Authoritarian Characters


When we write about epic conflicts we use characters that are wrong, but firm in their devotion to their wrong cause. This makes me wonder about authoritarianism. What makes some people act with authority and others obey them.

Authoritarianism is human behavior that may be characterized by obedience to authority and desiring strongly ordered grouping of people. We can look at authoritarianism in terms of individual actions and in terms of how individuals relate to groups and interact with others. This trait or set of behaviors may represent aspects of personality,  personality syndromes,  social attitudes,  value-belief systems, or other human dimensions. The academic research into the topic has spanned more than one hundred years. Early scholars who touched on aspects of this issue were,  William Reich, Erich Fromm and Abraham Maslow.

Some important considerations in thinking about authoritarian behavior are, triggering mechanisms, external signs, interaction results, and personal results. From an evolutionary perspective it seems important to consider what the benefits of this behavior trait were. I believe we all display traits on the authoritarian continuum. At different points in our lives, and under different circumstances, most humans will render obedience to a group leader.

Current research suggests values and beliefs play crucial roles because of how they  anchor the self and provide defense mechanisms for the individual. So identity theories may give us some handle on this issue. Perhaps when individuals experience threats against the social self, they consider it a threat against their entire self. For those people who are secure in their selves, and can entertain multiple or even conflicting value-belief systems, such threats against the self do not rise to as high a level as those with less security in their sense of self.

Well, the study of authoritarianism is a complicated issue, involving interdisciplinary questions and suggesting paradigm shifts in approaches to human behavior. We cannot answer the questions in one blog post, but perhaps we can rise new questions.

Some Academic References:

Cohrs, J. Christopher and Frank Asbrock. 2009. “Right-wing authoritarianism, social dominance orientation and prejudice against threatening and competitive ethnic groups.” European Journal of Social Psychology 39:270-289.

Cooper, Joel. 2007. Cognitive Dissonance: Fifty Years of a Classic Theory. Thousand Oaks CA: SAGE Publications Inc.

Cote, James E. and Charles G. Levine. 2002. Identity Formation, Agency, and Culture: A Social Psychological Synthesis. Mahwah, N.J.: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Peterson, Bill E., Richard M. Doty, and David G. Winter. 1993. “Authoritarianism and attitudes toward contemporary social issues.” Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin 19:174-184.

Websites: The a-to-z Challenge S. A. Gibson author page

Losing Freedom

Powerful post from Aurorawatcherak who talks about losing our freedoms through police action and political will of governments:

Writers of dystopian literature usually are readers of dystopian literature. I spent some time this winter re-reading 1984 by George Orwell and finally plowed all the way through the Gulag Archipel…

Source: Losing Freedom

D is for death and the afterlife.

D is for death and the afterlife.

Francis H Powell author

D Finished

What happens after we pass over to the other side? It is a question that dogs us as soon as we become conscious of what death  is all about.  Of course points of view on this subject are colored  by  the religion that a person follows.   It is a commonly banded about  idea that some Muslims  believe  they are promised 72 virgins,  upon entry to paradise,  particularly those who fight in the way of Allah.

What do Catholics believe? At the moment of death, the soul is separated from the body and no longer sustains order within the natural body; as a result, the body begins to corrupt and left to its own will decompose. The soul, however, is immortal and never ceases to exist, once created. Immediately upon death, the soul of each person is judged by the Lord, either to eternal life or the damnation of hell.


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