Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Guest Post from Author Catherine Stine!

Today, we have YA and middle-grade author Catherine Stine presenting characters from Fireseed One, her YA futuristic thriller set in 2089. Varik and Marisa, archenemies at the onset duke it out in a Streamerazzi Interview!
First, here’s a novel summary:

What if only your very worst enemy could help you save the world?
 Fireseed One, a YA thriller, is set on a near-future earth with soaring heat, toxic waters, tricked-out amphibious vehicles, ice-themed dance clubs and fish that grow up on vines. Varik Teitur inherits a vast sea farm after the mysterious drowning of his marine biologist father. When Marisa Baron, a beautiful and shrewd terrorist, who knows way too much about Varik's father's work, tries to steal seed disks from the world's food bank, Varik is forced to put his dreams of becoming a doctor on hold and venture with her, into a hot zone teeming with treacherous nomads and a Fireseed cult who worships his dead father, in order to search for Fireseed, a seemingly magical hybrid plant that may not even exist. Illustrated by the author. Fans of Divergent and Under the Never Sky will likely enjoy this novel, as well as those who like a dash of romance with their page-turners. What book bloggers are saying: 5 stars from Parafantasy: “Amazing world-building and extremely clever plot! Fireseed One rejuvenated my interest in the sci-fi genre.” Electrifying Reviews: “An emotional thrill ride! There wasn’t a dull moment in this book, and when I wasn’t reading it, I wanted to be.” 5 stars from Writing from the Dark Places: “Marisa and Varik are the pioneers of a new frontier. And you want them to survive and succeed at all costs.” 5 stars from The Magick Pen: “Stine’s illustrations really helped put a picture to all the beautiful descriptions… the romance between Varik and Marisa was sweet.”

Fireseed One is available at Amazon, B&N & iTunes

And now, for the interview!

Nationality? Birthplace?
Eighteen year-old Varik: I live in Ocean Dominion, which used to be called the Arctic Circle, but is now a series of floating islands and farms. Our sea farm is Teitur Farm.
Seventeen year-old Marisa: I grew up in Land Dominion, which used to be Canada and Greenland way back in the dark ages. Now, Land Dominion and Ocean Dominion are rivals. (Sends Varik a wicked grin).

Fave food?
Varik: Flyfish with sautéed sea apples. My friend, Audun cooks this. He’s a gourmet cook.
Marisa: Restavik boar with Landlock peas. All products of Land Dominion!

What are your occupations?
Marisa I was a member of the ZWC, an activist group, helping out the climate refugees in the Hotzone… or (looks over at Varik) a terrorist organization. Depends who you ask.
Varik: I was hoping to go to college to be a doctor. I wanted to specialize in making prosthetic limbs like the flippers I made for my dolphin after his got eaten by toxic waters. But now that my father (swallows hard) drowned, I manage our sea farm.

What makes life worthwhile?
Varik: Living on the ocean, sailing my old Sea Tern, playing ball with my dolphin, Juko; going to nightclubs on SnowAngel with my friend Audun, meeting girls (laughs when Marisa elbows him).
Marisa: Exposing hypocrisy, helping the refugees—
Varik interrupts: Though she goes about it in the worst way!

What are you each most fixated on?
Marisa: Feeding the Refs. Finding Fireseed.
Varik: Finding out if Fireseed exists, if what Marisa told me has any basis in fact. 

Do you have a temper? How does it manifest?
(Both explode into uproarious laughter)
Marisa: Temper, me? Nooo! But Varik… he put a fish tracker in my neck for starters!
Varik: Um, because you broke into my father’s underwater vault, because you shot me with a stun gun. Because… (Exasperated sigh). Me? I’m pretty even-keeled.

Can you keep a secret?
Varik: (Reddening, dead silence. Thinking of all the secrets he’s kept from Marisa).
Marisa: (brushes her long, red hair back defiantly) It depends...

May we ask you each to describe how the other shows affection?
Varik: By breaking into my father’s secret underwater vault!
Marisa: By locking me up in his father’s airless meditation room.
Varik: It has one small porthole.
Marisa: Not even big enough for a water rat to squeeze through.
Varik: That was the point!

Who are your love interests?
Marisa: (Snorts) I have a fatal attraction to tall, blond guys, who own farms and have a horrid sense of politics!
Varik: I confess: I’ve developed a taste for stubborn, impulsive redheads, who join crazed cults simply to rebel against their megalomaniacal dads.

Catherine, where did you get the idea for this novel?
I’ve had versions of this novel on my mind for a long time. I developed it while drawing illustrations of floating ocean farms, an army of dolphins and a psychic scientist. I also read a lot about hybrid plants, and permutations of pharma crops. The story was always percolating, transforming, like the strange hybrids in Fireseed One.

Who is your favorite character in Fireseed One?
I’d choose Marisa, who starts out as a hard-core terrorist, but goes through major changes inspired by a series of shocking revelations. Plus, she gets to go on the trip of all trips with a smart, handsome guy who owns a floating island farm. The only problem is, he hates her guts. How’s that for a challenge? A close second is Shin Kaskade, the digital guru who fixes Varik’s hacked computer. Shin has a trendy hair-nest and a sparkling star embed on his wrist that takes credit card payments.

Will there be a sequel?
I’m at work on it. It takes place 8 years later, and the main character is the girl from the Fireseed cult with the three missing fingers! You’ll have to read Fireseed to know who this is. J

Where can we find you on the web?
 On my Goodreads author page, Fireseed One on Facebook, Amazon author page and my website. I welcome all visitors to my Idea City blog.

Thanks, Amy, and for all who stop by! This was fun,

iTunes: http://itunes.apple.com/us/book/fireseed-one/id489625883?mt=11

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Thank you bloggers!

Please check out this interview with me on author Catherine Stine's awesome blog, Idea City:

Thank you Catherine, for the interesting conversation! In the coming weeks, look for a guest post from Catherine Stine right here! Catherine is, herself, an accomplished author. Fans of dystopia should check out her highly imaginative novel, Fireseed One

I also want to recognize the many bloggers who have been kind enough to review SPARK. Below I'm listing my favorites of the reviews I've run across in the blogosphere. THANK YOU ALL!

Bananas for Books:

Candace's Book Blog:

The Teen Bookworm:

The Book Swarm:

Genre Go Round:

Friday, July 20, 2012

On guns.

Like most everyone who has heard about it, I am broken hearted that yet another mass murder has occurred in Colorado, my home state. A young man, aged 24, walked into a movie theater and opened fire on a group of fun loving people who just wanted to watch a good movie. Naturally the endless gun control debate will resurface, and will likely be tamped down once more by the National Rifle Association and their incredibly effective stable of lobbyists.

Some people think that guns are really cool. I do not really see the appeal, but I'm willing to concede that most people who own guns are decent, responsible citizens who would never engage in such senseless violence. They're not the ones I'm worried about. I'm worried about the nut-jobs.

A dozen people are dead now because some total lunatic got his hands on four guns and decided to externalize his angst in a public place. One of the dead is a little six year old kid.

I am tired of this. I want stricter gun control. If it were up to me, and I wish it were, we as a nation would take every gun we own, melt them down, and use them to make useful things that don't kill people. How many more people have to die before our "leaders" stand up to the NRA and create some legislation that at least tries to keep assault weapons away from the mad men? I for one am tired of our kids dying violent, painful, terrifying deaths, and I'm tired of our politicians doing nothing about it just because some people think that guns are cool.

Other blog entries/Op eds worth reading:

Jason Alexander's brilliant rant:

Roger Ebert:

Hardcore Zen:

NY Times:

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

On redemption.

“Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, then that of blindfolded fear.”
~Thomas Jefferson, letter to Peter Carr, 10 August 1787

Thomas Jefferson, quoted above, was the draftsman and the main author of the Declaration of Independence, which at once declared war on the country that engendered ours, and established the ethos of our nation. "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." 

Beautiful, inspired words, yet in Jefferson's America, owning slaves was the norm. He himself owned slaves, and even carried on a sexual relationship with Sally Hemings, a slave who worked in his house. Can their relationship ever be considered truly consensual on her part, considering Jefferson owned her? He could do anything he wanted to her, and she must have been painfully aware of this. We forgive Jefferson by saying things like, "He set Hemings and her children free when he died." We do not think overmuch about how he kept them in bondage while he lived. Admittedly, it was a different time, and one that is difficult for us to imagine. The complexities of those relationships must have been very fraught indeed. Still, one thing is clear: Jefferson was a brilliant statesman, and a forward thinking president, but he was far from perfect.

Indeed, he was a slave owner declaring the inalienable rights of all men. This is a contradiction of a particularly American flavor. Our country is filled with contradictions. That's what comes of being a culturally pluralistic nation founded, not upon the history of an unbroken line of peoples, but upon an idea: Freedom -- a word that has great resonance in the ears of Americans. In the above quote, Jefferson, the man who set our nation free with his pen, tells us that people should feel free to question even the existence of God, for it was God who gave us reason, so he must delight in our use of it. 

I think this is a lovely idea, but there are those who would disagree. The Texas Republican Party seems to feel that critical thinking is a dangerous skill to teach children. In their words, "We oppose the teaching of Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) (values clarification), critical thinking skills and similar programs that are simply a relabeling of Outcome-Based Education (OBE) (mastery learning) which focus on behavior modification and have the purpose of challenging the student’s fixed beliefs and undermining parental authority." Clearly, the Texas GOP does not believe that the "fixed beliefs" (read religion) of their constituents can stand up to critical thought, and so this skill should be abolished from our nation's public classrooms. I think Mr. Jefferson must be spinning in his grave.

For a democracy to function well, it must have an informed populace. For people to be well informed in this age of a fragmented, commercially motivated media, people absolutely must have the ability to think critically about what is packaged as "news" these days. More and more we hear incomplete statistics and vitriolic sound-bytes that are crafted by experts to obscure, to confuse, to deflect. BOTH sides of the congressional aisle are guilty of this, by the way. I'm not naive. The middle class electorate is being led around by the nose, often talked into voting against our own interest, soothed into accepting unnecessary warfare while we are impoverished by an outdated healthcare system and a lopsided tax code that favors the wealthy, all the while being represented by a congress that has been bought and paid for by corporate America. The only way for this trend to continue is to keep the electorate from really thinking about the spoonfuls of crap being coaxed down our gullets.

I believe that if there is a God, and if he gave us a brain, he must have intended for us to use it and to use it well. What better way to show him our thanks than to use the gifts he bestowed upon us? Much has been made of this gaff by the Texas GOP, and it should be held up to scrutiny. When people in your government want to keep you from thinking, look out. 

There are still good men in government. I believe Barack Obama is one of them. He's made mistakes, but he's trying his hardest under very difficult circumstances. Another man with great integrity who cares about his electorate is John McCain, a republican who I dearly wish had been sworn in as president of our nation in the year 2001 instead of who we got instead. Both these men are wading uphill through piles of excrement trying to do what is right for their country. Neither of them is perfect. Obama was overconfident and naive when he took office, and the nation has paid for it with a sluggish economy and a congress in chaos. McCain made mistakes too. In his presidential campaign, after years of taking a back seat to lesser men, McCain finally decided to try pandering to see what it got him, and chose a disastrous running mate that made him look like a garden variety power seeker. Do these mistakes undo the greatness of these men?

In answer, I give you this to ponder: Here is a letter written in 1787 by Thomas Jefferson to Edward Rutledge, a legislator from South Carolina: "I congratulate you, my dear friend, on the law of your state [South Carolina] for suspending the importation of slaves, and for the glory you have justly acquired by endeavoring to prevent it for ever. This abomination must have an end, and there is a superior bench reserved in heaven for those who hasten it." Another American contradiction: Jefferson, a slave owner, was in his heart an abolitionist. Why, then, did he keep Hemings and the children he fathered by her in bondage? I give you a letter to Edward Bancroft in 1789: "As far as I can judge from the experiments which have been made, to give liberty to, or rather, to abandon persons whose habits have been formed in slavery is like abandoning children." From this we can conjecture that he was trying to protect them. Does this redeem him? It's up for debate. I'm not sure it does, but I do like him a little better now that I know this. 

Some of our leaders, like Obama and McCain, are good men with integrity, and they try their hardest. If history shows us nothing else, it is that people are fallible, and they do their best with the circumstances they are given. To tell the charlatans from the good men, we the people need to be free to think about the puppet show they put on for us. 

The long and short of it is: believe in whatever you want. Believe there's a God, or don't. It's up to you. But for the love of God, never stop thinking!

(For a full text article about the Texas GOP go here:http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/post/texas-gop-rejects-critical-thinking-skills-really/2012/07/08/gJQAHNpFXW_blog.html)