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Having a father who worked as an engineer on the Apollo space program could certainly have been a catalyst for author Doug J. Cooper.                                     dougcoopersbooks

Cooper’s Crystal Deception and Crystal Conquest reflect his wonder and enthusiasm for rockets and space exploration.

“I guess I am living my childhood fantasies in my books,” he quips.

Reading science fiction authors such as Heinlein, Asimov, Clarke and Bradbury no doubt helped spark his imagination as well.

In real life, Cooper is a professor and department head of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at the University of Connecticut. He is also founder and on the board of directors of Control Station, Inc. a technology company. In these roles he has authored or co-authored more than 80 scholarly publications.

“It has given me lots of practice presenting science and technology in a manner accessible to a broad audience,” he says.

When he first began writing, Cooper was seeking a new creative outlet. He began several projects that looked interesting. Six months later he found writing to be the most appealing endeavor.

His goal in writing the Crystal series was to write books that he himself would enjoy reading. “My preference is fast-paced, action-adventure with great characters, a science tech theme and a plot with surprises.” He leaves it up to readers to determine if he succeeded that goal.

In developing his characters, Cooper describes it as being akin to a jigsaw puzzle. He says, “I enjoy being at a particular point in an adventure, with characters deployed here and there, all with histories and in certain situations, and now I must move forward in a plausible and entertaining fashion. And then each character must behave in a manner consistent with their personality.”

His characters are a collection of traits and habits observed in people, through reading or from movies. “I write in a rotating point of view style,” Cooper explains, “where the reader spends time with each of the central characters. It’s great fun to be a character for a few days.”

Cooper first began his Crystal series in July 2012. Currently he is working on the third book in his Crystal series, Crystal Rebellion. He will also be releasing a short story prequel to the Crystal series in March 2015.

“I have two goals with this short piece,” Cooper says. “One is to offer readers a free, low effort way to sample the story before making a purchase. The second reason is to give fans a backstory on Sid and Cheryl.”

Practice is the best advice writers can get, according to Cooper. In order to hone writing skills, he suggests writers try their hand at writing pieces that help society. “Neighborhood library, museum, senior center or shelter all have access to grant opportunities and would benefit from a talented individual helping them to write one.”

This type of writing may  not be very creative but, as Cooper says, “like practicing your scales on an instrument, this sort of activity strengthens writing skills.”

Cooper believes the most important aspect of writing is to have fun doing it. “Write what brings you joy and satisfaction and you will produce the best work you are able and have fun doing it.”

For more information visit www.crystalseries.com

Pen has self-published 20 titles in print and e-book formats. Her latest endeavor, Nero’s Fiddle, is a fictitious account of an EMP attack on the United States with women heroes. Visit Nero’s Fiddle website at http://bit.ly/1yYsNH2 follow her on Twitter @penspen or visit her website at www.penspen.info 

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 longroad

Start Prepping Now

Book Review

The Long Road

Michael Hopf

344 pages

Publisher: Plume

Sold by: Penguin Group

Post-apocalyptic scenarios fascinate me. I find the indomitability of human survival against overwhelming odds oddly hopeful.

Michael Hopf gets into the action in The Long Road pretty quick.

Even without the advantage of having read the first entry in the series – The End – I had no difficulty catching up and understanding what had happened and what was going on. Mr. Hopf deftly wove the backstory of the first book into the second, thus enabling the reader to follow the story without lengthy explanations or the absolute necessity to read the first book.

The characters are rich and vivid. I had no trouble empathizing with the good guys and despising the bad guys. And the bad guys are truly detestable.

It is a race against time for survival as what was once America continues to break down into a primitive, apathetic, lawless and frightening world in which to live. And with three sanctions vying for power in this post-apocalyptic land, it’s anyone’s guess what the country will look like once the dust has settled.

The intensity of the action and drama had me glued to my seat: I actually read the entire book in one sitting, reluctant to take a break to even refresh my cup of tea. It is rare that I am so compelled to read a book that I don’t want to break away from it to refresh my tea!

Yes, the book could use some editing, but that can be said about the books of Dean Koontz, James Rollins and countless other tomes coming out of traditional publishing houses these days. I have developed a degree of tolerance for errors because that isn’t going to change anytime soon. The errors in the book are few so it doesn’t interfere so much with the reading experience.

The only drawback, of course, is that now I need to acquire the third book to find out what happens next. Several cliffhangers were included (no spoilers!) and inquiring minds must know. The fourth installment isn’t due out until 2015, so I have a little time to catch up.

The scenarios painted in The Long Road are grim but very realistic. It’s easy to visualize those events actually occurring should our nation be attacked on the level depicted in the book. With the current state of the world and people being people, I am surprised something like this has not already occurred.

Although when I view the 6:00 news, I wonder just how far off those events truly are.

With those words, I’m going to start prepping now.

If you’re interested, check out G. Michael Hopf’s Amazon Author Page where each novel in the series is listed. http://amzn.to/1vWDEiA

Pen has self-published 20 titles in print and ebook formats. Her latest endeavor, Nero’s Fiddle is a fictitious account of an EMP attack. Visit Nero’s Fiddle website at http://bit.ly/1yYsNH2 Follow her on Twitter @penspen, visit her website at http://www.penspen.info or follow her blog www.mytuppence.weebly.com Contact her at mytuppenceblog at yahoo.com to inquire about proofreading, editing and formatting services.

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By Pen

The year is 1979. The movie: Star Wars.

Like so many people that year, I sat in the theater, enthralled by the characters, the story and the visual effects. At the time, the Special Effects technology was impressive and inspiring.

Now, those Special Effects are outdated and – dare I say? – cheesy.

Thirty-five years later, the movies are still classics. At the very least they’re still Number One for science fiction buffs. But the technology for the Special Effects has virtually been left in the dust, along with the set for the home of Luke Skywalker, I might add. Seriously, it sits slowly decomposing in the desert. What a waste and a shame, I say.

The Special Effects for Star Wars was advanced for its time. After all, in the fifties and sixties Special Effects were hardly more than dry ice and mirrors.

Be that as it may, technological advances in the Special Effects department continue to escalate as well as astound.

Allow me to state up front that I’m one of those people who like to look at the scene around the actors. I guess that’s why I see these things. Anal? I suppose it may seem so. But my father, Heaven bless him, trained me at a very early age to pay attention to the background of scenes. He enjoyed looking for mistakes, glitches and inconsistencies. Not in an attempt to make himself feel superior or to show off in any way, but in an effort to pass on to me his self-learned knowledge. As well as to teach me how to teach  myself.

Compare the Special Effects of Star Wars to the Special Effects of the television series, “Once Upon A Time” as an example of just how far those Special Effects have come in the last thirty-odd years.

Most of the Special Effects of OUAT are CGI – Computer Generated Image(s). At least, the last I heard that’s what they’re called. Castle interiors – right down to lanterns, candles, furniture and floors – are created electronically.

The techno-wizards of OUAT do an outstanding job in this department. For the most part, the images work seamlessly with the actors and the difference between the CGI and the real thing is so minimal as to not be noticeable.

Even so, there are a few times (a very few) when the effects are in evidence.

For instance, in the Pilot episode when Regina crashes Snow White’s wedding. As she walks down the aisle toward Snow and Charming it appears as if the floor itself is gliding, rather than Regina walking upon it. Which is weird. It’s a very quick scene and not noticeable if you’re not looking at the floor.

The clock tower in the middle of Storybrooke is a CGI. I’ll be the first to tell you that thing looks authentic. Unless…..

There have been a few scenes where the clock tower was used as background as two or more characters engaged in conversation. If you look closely at the clock tower in the background during those moments it is clear that it isn’t real. It still looks real enough in the big picture. It’s the details that give it away as a CGI. It does nothing to diminish the scene itself nor does it stand out like a sore thumb. But it’s there.

From time to time, especially when filming a dark castle scene, the actor appears a little too bright for the surroundings. This is only a matter of a little too much on the lighting but it does give the surroundings a less than authentic look.

These are the things I have noticed about the CGI used in this one particular show. I am not pointing them out as mistakes or glitches or in any attempt to diminish the quality of the work. The work itself is excellent. The techno-wizards who create CGI for OUAT are nothing less than geniuses. Heck they made a bluebird out of a parrot. They’re good. They’re very very good.

I point them out merely as examples for future reference. Because I cannot help but wonder if the Special Effects and CGI of OUAT will be considered cheesy thirty years from now?

Of course, I also can’t help but wonder how much better the Special Effects technology can get.

Where does it go from here? Will the CGI of today be outdated tomorrow? Will today’s Special Effects be able to stand the test of time?

Chances are, today’s CGI will still be considered good quality in thirty years.

But there is an even better chance that today’s CGI will appear inferior to the technology available even twenty years into the future.

We’ve come a long way from dry ice and mirrors.

And still have far to go.

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As cities grow and technology takes over the world belief and imagination fade away and so do we.

— Julie Kagawa, The Iron King

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I was watching a couple of episodes of “Leverage” on DVD the other day, a couple of my favorites “The First David Job” and “The Second David Job.” Both episodes starred Kevin Tighe from the old 1972 “Emergency!” television series.

Kevin has aged. Of course, none of us is getting any younger. He’s still a dignified-looking man when he isn’t pointing a gun at someone, that is.

As I was watching the show I thought about how neat it would be to pull up an old pic of Kevin Tighe from his Emergency! days to compare to how he looks now. Of course, I would have had to go to my computer which is another room, boot it up and pull up the pic from there. Too bad I couldn’t pull it right up on my television screen.

Then it occurred to me: someone somewhere has probably already thought about that. It just isn’t on the market yet.

I have thought of this before, but I don’t have the know-how or capability to make something like that happen. But I’m certain someone out there does.

Those big ol’ flat screens (I wish I had one!) will serve as computer monitors. And the remote control will be a little keyboard. You’ll be able to access the Internet from your television set.

Isn’t that the perfect solution for a nation of couch potatoes?

Seriously, though, it would be convenient. I like to do a lot of writing with the television as background noise. I use a very old Gateway laptop that a friend of mine gave me. It isn’t hooked up to Internet but it serves its purpose. Many is the time I come across something in my writing – a word, a phrase or other information – that needs a little research to ensure I’m using the words in proper perspective. All I can do at the moment is make a note in the writing and do the research later. I have a dictionary and a thesaurus but, like many things I have, they are outdated. Every once in awhile I need a little slang and want to look it up to make sure I’m using it correctly. (Lord, it’s tough gettin’ old!)

How easy it would be to have all that stuff already hooked up to a flat screen tv. All I would have to do is call up the ol’ Internet and get the answers right there. The whole time, I’ve still got “Petticoat Junction” on in the background. How simple!

And I could have called up an old picture of Kevin Tighe, paused the DVD and looked at how he was then and how he is now. Had everything been hooked up to the television.

But it’s coming. Heck, I wouldn’t doubt if they made television sets so they could whip up Margaritas at the same time.

I’m sure the technology is there. It’s probably hung up in a bunch of red tape.

And you know what? It may be convenient and easy and maybe even exciting.

But it’s a little scary, too.

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