Debunking myths on genetics and DNA

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Tracy Banghart guest posts on Alloy Entertainment purchasing her new book, Shattered Veil

Tracy Banghart is a guest on CHIMERAS today, with a big announcement about her forthcoming book. Please join me in congratulating Tracy and a chance to win an Amazon gift card (see details below). 

FINALLY!!!!! I can spill my freaking awesome news! WHOO HOOOO!!!!!! So here it is....
Shattered Veil was bought by Alloy Entertainment! Here's the official press release (because I've never been in a press release before! Whee!!): 

Alloy Entertainment Launches New Digital-First Imprint with Amazon Publishing
First three books release today

SEATTLE—(NASDAQ: AMZN)—July 29, 2014—Today, Amazon Publishing and Alloy Entertainment, a division of Warner Bros. Television Group, announced a digital-first imprint that will focus on young adult, new adult and commercial fiction. The new imprint, named Alloy Entertainment, will be part of Amazon Publishing’s Powered by Amazon program. Powered by Amazon enables publishers and authors to leverage Amazon’s global distribution and personalized, targeted marketing reach.
Today also marks the publication date for the imprint’s first three titles:

  • Imitation by Heather Hildenbrand, which follows Ven, the clone of a wealthy, 18-year-old named Raven. Imitations like Ven only leave the lab when their Authentics need them—to replace the dead, be an organ donor, or in Ven’s case, serve as bait when Raven’s life is threatened. It is Ven’s job to draw out Raven’s assailants, but she must decide if she is prepared to sacrifice herself for a girl she has never met.

  • Every Ugly Word by Aimee Salter, a coming-of-age story about a teenager named Ashley who sees her 23-year-old self when she looks in the mirror. Her older self has been through it all before, and helps Ashley survive torment from high school bullies, unrequited love for her best friend and a volatile relationship with her mom. But her older self also carries the scars of a terrible and imminent event in Ashley’s life that she’s powerless to stop.

  • Rebel Wing by Tracy Banghart, a sci-fi fantasy adventure set in the war-torn Dominion of Atalanta. For Aris, the fighting is worlds away from the safety of her seaside town until her boyfriend Calix is drafted into the military. When Aris herself is recruited to become a pilot for an elite search-and-rescue unit, she leaps at the chance, hoping to be reunited with Calix. But what starts as mission driven by love turns into one of duty as Aris becomes a true soldier determined to save her Dominion...or die trying.

    Alloy Entertainment acquired the books based on the unique voices of the authors and originality of the stories. The company worked closely with each of the writers throughout the publishing process in an effort to gain the widest possible readership. The books will be published under the Alloy Entertainment publishing banner, which currently includes more than 75 New York Times bestsellers.
    “One of our strengths is working with talented authors to create and develop properties that have mass entertainment appeal,” said Leslie Morgenstein, President of Alloy Entertainment. “This program is an exciting extension of our business and will allow us to leverage Amazon’s ability to distribute to an incredibly diverse and broad readership.”
    "Rebel Wing is the book of my heart. It’s a story I felt compelled to tell, both from the perspective of an Army wife and as someone who believes you can never have enough strong female characters in the world," said author Tracy Banghart. "Being given the opportunity to work with the incredibly talented folks at Alloy to make it the best version of itself was an exciting and affirming process, and knowing that its distribution will be handled by Amazon—a company that has already made so much possible for me as an indie author—is pretty much the definition of win-win as far as I’m concerned."

“Alloy has a tremendous track record developing stories, like Gossip Girl, Pretty Little Liars and The Vampire Diaries, that our customers love,” said Jeff Belle, Vice President of Amazon Publishing. “We’re thrilled to promote these books from Alloy Entertainment with our Powered by Amazon program. It’s a great fit.”

Authors who publish with Alloy Entertainment’s new digital-first imprint receive an advance and royalties paid on a monthly basis. Alloy Entertainment will also look for opportunities to develop acquired titles as television series, feature films, and digital entertainment.

About Alloy Entertainment
Alloy Entertainment, a division of the Warner Bros. Television Group, develops and produces original novels, television series and feature films. More than 75 of AE’s books have been on The New York Times bestseller list, including The Vampire Diaries, Pretty Little Liars, Gossip Girl, Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, The Luxe, Veronica Mars: The Thousand-Dollar Tan Line, and The 100. AE has successfully adapted several of its properties into hit television shows for broadcast across multiple networks, including The CW, ABC, ABC Family and Nickelodeon. Current Alloy Entertainment television series include Pretty Little Liars, The Vampire Diaries, The Originals and The 100. AE feature films include Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 1 & 2, Sex Drive and The Clique, with several additional projects currently in development including Sisterhood Everlasting, The Merciless and The Brokenhearted.

Amazon opened on the World Wide Web in July 1995. The company is guided by three principles: customer obsession rather than competitor focus, passion for invention, and long-term
thinking. Customer reviews, 1-Click shopping, personalized recommendations, Prime, Fulfillment by Amazon, AWS, Kindle Direct Publishing, Kindle, Fire phone, Fire tablets, and Fire TV are some of the products and services pioneered by Amazon.

So....YEAH. How freaking amazing is this????????? Here's some more info on the three books, details about a Facebook party we're having today, and a giveaway to celebrate!! And to everyone who has read and loved Shattered Veil, THANK YOU. Your amazing reviews on Goodreads and Amazon, your excitement for Aris and this story, are SO important to me. You kept me going....and you're a big reason REBEL WING is making its way into the world (also....there are still 2 more books in the series. Don't worry! They're coming!! ;-)). BIG SQUASHY HUGS!! <3


YA Scifi Adventure

“I've never been actively jealous of a fictional character .  . . until now. Aris's adventures set my imagination on fire, and made my heart take flight.” ~Kass Morgan, author of New York Times bestseller The 100


The Dominion of Atalanta is at war. But for eighteen-year-old Aris, the fighting is nothing more than a distant nightmare, something she watches on news vids from the safety of her idyllic seaside town. Then her boyfriend, Calix, is drafted into the Military, and the nightmare becomes a dangerous reality.
Left behind, Aris has nothing to fill her days. Even flying her wingjet—the thing she loves most, aside from Calix—feels meaningless without him by her side. So when she’s recruited to be a pilot for an elite search-and-rescue unit, she leaps at the chance, hoping she’ll be stationed near Calix. But there’s a catch: She must disguise herself as a man named Aristos. There are no women in the Atalantan Military, and there never will be.

Please join me, Aimee, and Heather, along with some other great YA authors for a Facebook party this afternoon to celebrate the big launch! And don't forget to enter the giveaway below!  

Thursday, July 24, 2014

The appeal of textures (an improvised tutorial)

Memories © EEG
Reaching for the Sky © EEG
Gratitude © EEG
I just got back from a trip to Europe, where I definitely re-bonded with my camera. One thing I discovered in this trip are textures. I'm really grateful for photographers like Karen Waters (I used one of Karen's textures for the image in the middle, Reaching for the Sky), Joel Olives and Brooke Shaden, who are so generous to regularly share their textures (check their websites to see what awesome textures they have!), and I've been thinking for a while now to start making my own library of textures and sharing it. And this trip gave me the opportunity: you wouldn't believe how rich in textures old Europe is! But before we get into that, I wanted to also share a few things I've learned about textures.

What are textures?

A texture is a layer that you overlay to a picture to give it a special mood and/or vintage feel. In my experience, old walls are the best candidates for textures. A texture also helps blending when compositing several pictures together.

Why use textures?

I personally use textures when I want my picture to convey certain emotions. Another super talented photographer I follow is Sairam Sundaresan, who teaches a G+ mentorship titled "Storytelling through Landscape Photography." While I haven't been able to attend his mentorship (shame on me!), the title has always intrigued me. (On a side note Sairam shares lots of tips on landscape photography in his blog). How do you tell stories with just a landscape? Over this last trip I learned that in order to make an image that is not only beautiful, but also tells a story, you have to shoot your subject in a way that it poses a question and/or captures a particularly emotional moment. I also learned that textures can definitely add, and even change, the emotional appeal of the image.

The pictures I posted above are an example. Each image above is trying to convey a sense of suspension in time and, hopefully, raise a question in the viewer and a bit of wonder. I believe the same images, without the overlaying textures, would not achieve that.

And now to the key point: How do you use textures?

I am a self-taught photographer, so I'll share the textures I've shot and my own way of using them. You can download a set of 30 textures I collected from various parts of Italy and Scotland from this public album. Please use the textures for your own work and, like all of my images, keep in mind that these images too are to be used in agreement with a non-commercial creative commons attribution.

These textures are "raw" and minimally edited. This is because I like to edit them after I overlay them on the image I'm working on, not before. Every image is different, and the same texture can be edited in different ways according to the image I'm making. Specifically, here's what I do: I pick a texture that I believe will work with my background image. I make the decision based on color (I choose a palette that enhances the base image; for example a pink/orange for a sunset, green for foliage, etc.) and lighting (I ask myself: where do I want the highlights to be?). Because my textures are quite rough, once I overlay them (in Photoshop Elements, just copy and paste the texture as a new layer, then choose blending mode "Overlay"), I usually add some degree of gaussian blur to smoothen them and make them blend onto the base image better. This is done by clicking on Filter -> Blur -> Gaussian Blur. Next, I look at the overall feel of the image. If the texture is too much, I decrease the opacity a bit. If there are areas that are too patchy or where the texture feels like it's adding noise, I blend it down with the clone stamp. And if the image doesn't feel quite done yet, I add another texture. It's all really about playing around with your image until you get a result that you like.

What about you, do you enjoy using textures? And if you do, how do you use them?

Feel free to download the textures from my album and if you do use them, come back to show me the result! :-)

Monday, July 21, 2014

Summer discount on prints from my gallery

Gratidude © EEG 2014

I just uploaded a bunch of new pictures to my smugmug galleries and to celebrate I'm offering a 25% off discount on all purchases: the coupon code is JULY2014 and it's valid until July 31. You can view the new uploaded images (including the one above) in the following galleries:

Waterscapes (landscapes)
Stories (landscapes with an emotional appeal)
New Beginnings (abstracts)
Flowers (macros)

I also have some posters available here.

Thanks so much for visiting my gallery!

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Writing, science and photography merge in the works of F.C. "Chip" Etier

My last author interview was with scientist, writer and Navy Commander, Ann Christy. Today, I feel equally excited as my guest is a scientist, writer, and an award winning photographer. F.C., a.k.a. "Chip", Etier began writing essays, and music and book reviews as a freelance several years ago. Today, he is a regular blogger at and the author of The Barry-Hixon Conspirecy series.

Welcome to the blog, Chip!

EEG: You are a pharmacist, a published writer, and an award-winning photographer: what came first in your career path?

FCE: In chronological order, I grew up with a camera in my hand. I was the pesky kid at family events taking pictures of everyone.

Professionally, pharmacy came first. It wasn’t until later in life, when I was in my fifties, that I was able to afford some first class digital cameras. I switched to digital just after the turn of the century after using up my previous budget on black and white film. Once I had begun selling my photographs online, I began to blog about them.

Venture Galleries offered me a chance to sell my images on their site and support them with blog articles. They liked my blogs and said, “If you write a book, we’ll publish it.”

EEG: What a great opportunity! Does your photography influence your writing and/or vice versa, do your stories ever influence your photography?

FCE: Yes, and in both directions. Critics and customers have praised various of my images as “poetry” and “he writes poems with a camera.”

Most, if not all, of the scenes in my books are set in real places. Since I blog regularly on my publisher’s website, I take photos of the settings and often decide to include settings I’ve already photographed in one of my books.

EEG: What about science: do you ever get inspiring ideas from science?

FCE: Yes. Any concept or principle must make sense to me. My parents taught me to think using logic and by asking questions. In high school, the scientific method became a natural for me. I tend to think in a linear fashion while making a conscious effort to accept non-linear (more creative) ideas to seep into the process. I write the same qualities into many of my characters.

The main character in two of my books is a baby boomer female professional assassin. She has a degree in group dynamics, so in addition to using the science of trajectory, gravity, and sighting her rifles, she has learned to predict target movement by the study of human behavior.

Science is as important in the life and work of Claudia Barry as it is to everyone. Not everyone realizes it as much as she.

EEG: Tell us more about the Barry-Hixon Conspiracy books: where did you get the idea from? What plans do you have in mind for this series?

FCE: When I decided to write a book, I began by choosing a market. Maybe that’s backwards, but I decided that baby boomers would be a lucrative market in addition to the fact that I’m a boomer, too. Next, the idea of a role-reversal appealed to me. Perhaps readers would identify with a middle-aged woman in a non-traditional role. Claudia Barry became my main character, a professional assassin thinking about retiring after over thirty years of killing.

Future plans for the series are based on a “wait and see” approach. The second and third books evolved from the first. No doubt future books will be spawned from some combination of events and characters in the first three or four.

EEG: Do you have any other stories coming up, besides the Barry-Hixon Conspiracy?

FCE: Characters and groups of characters offer opportunities for spin-offs from the current series of books. Short stories and books that would be either prequels or sequels are no doubt lurking somewhere in the recesses of my keyboard just waiting on my fingers to find them.

EEG: Thanks so much for stopping by the blog today, Chip!

You can find F.C. "Chip" Etier on Venture Galleries, Zenfolio, Amazon, Blogger, and Twitter. More of his photographic work can also be found here.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Hard science and discipline: Ann Christy talks about her new book release, Strikers

You know I always get excited when I interview a fellow scientist who's also a writer. Well, today I feel like I won the jackpot because my guest is not only a scientist and a published author, she's also a Navy Commander who gets to do her science on ships out at sea! Meet Ann Christy, author of the Silo 49 series (based on Hugh Howey's Wool saga). Ann has a brand new book out today, Strikers, and even from the gorgeous cover alone you can't help but fall in love with it.

Congratulations on your new book release, Ann, and welcome to CHIMERAS!

EEG: I don't get to talk to a Navy Commander every day, so I have to ask: how did you choose to get into the Navy and why?

AC: I always wanted to be in the Navy. Always. Even as a little girl I would wear my little sailor dress and march around. The sea, the boats, the whole was just what I was meant to do. Also, I wanted to be Spock on the Enterprise, so being a scientist in the Navy is the closest I can get.

The only hang up was that as a teenager, I realized I was far (and by far, I mean really far) too young, too headstrong and too irresponsible to go to college to become an officer. So, I chose enlisted because I felt like it would teach me the concept of being a follower.

Up to that point, I had just flung myself to the forefront of situations, so I didn't have a good grasp of (or very balanced approach to) leadership. There's more to being a leader than simply bossing people around through force of will or personality.

I learned what it meant to be at the bottom of the stack, to be told what to do when I didn't want to do it and to see the reason behind order. It is, without doubt, the most important lesson I ever learned. I went to college at night (during periods when I wasn't working mass overtime) and then, when I felt I was ready, I applied to be an officer. The rest is history.

And here's a bonus. You know all that stuff you see in the advertisements for the Navy, the cool scenery at sea and big ships and such? It's all true. Big, fast and far away. Good stuff.

EEG: What kind of science do you do? Do you get inspired from science?

AC:  I've got degrees in Marine Science (focusing on estuarine ecosystems, very small plants and bio-chemistry) and my advanced degrees are on the physics side of that house, specifically in Oceanography and Meteorology. I do use all of that, plus more, in my work for the Navy.

And yes, science is a passion, not just a job. You could almost say it is a calling. It inspires me every day in writing, but also in life. It raises questions that demand answers and makes life much more fulfilling for me. I do strive for some sense of reasonable possibility when I write science fiction, never forgetting the science part of it. :)

EEG: Is writing an escape from your every day world or, rather, is it inspired by your every day world?

AC: That's hard to say, really. I purposefully don't include anything remotely like our military in anything I write. For me, that separation must remain very clear and very defined.

But still, there is life outside of the military and there is inspiration there. In finding that inspiration, I'm also escaping into a whole new world, created in my head and being formed by the words I type out. It's a heady feeling to do that, which you've experienced for yourself.

In some ways, my work is very directly a result of things I see or hear or experience. My first four books were actually a different take (using a different silo) on the WOOL series by Hugh Howey. With his permission, of course. I decided to see what might happen if a few crucial people could be made into good people rather than bad ones. I asked the questions, what would people who are intrinsically good do? In that way, my experience reading WOOL inspired me to write at all.

A new series I'm working on, which I'm tentatively calling Good News Gone Bad is inspired by several things in the real world. I'm a news junkie. I feel blind if I don't know what's going on but I purposefully read stories from multiple sites in order to get at some middle truth (if that's even possible).

What I noticed was that more and more news stories were simply filled with comments about how everything (and by that I mean mostly political stuff) was the end of all reason and the universe. Seriously.

So, when I was reading stories about tech breakthroughs or medical advancements or science, I realized those sort of doomish comments were largely absent. I thought... well, how can we make this doomish? Voila, the series was born.

Basically, I take the best news stories in those categories and turn them totally dystopian, post-apocalyptic or what have you. It's good clean fun and in that way, it's is both inspired by life and escaping from it.

EEG: Tell us about your new book, Strikers: what was the inspiration for this story? is it a stand-alone or book 1 in a new series?

AC: Oh, it's a complete novel in and of itself. I hate it when I read a book only to find out I'm not getting any resolution at all so I won't do that to others. That said, it is also wide open for two more books, with each offering a complete resolution to the story at hand. I actually have a totally marked up giant map of North America, the islands and Mexico that maps out the entire saga.

Strikers was born from a question in my mind and a slight dissatisfaction. I'm a huge dystopian and post-apocalyptic world fan. Hugely addicted to that stuff. But I'm repeatedly disappointed by the sheer unlikelihood of the situations. I won't name books here, but some things just won't happen. And often, the science behind them is almost laughable and that irritates me, even when I enjoy the book.

So, with the help of my niece and some awesome appetizers one evening, I set out to create a post-apocalyptic (long past so not so apocalyptic anymore) dystopia that made sense. It had to be born of a reasonable seed planted in the modern world today.

Enter Strikers. It takes place in the Republic of Texas, 112 years after the Fall (of the United States). Texas isn't much on crime and rather than have prisons full of folks, there is simply an immediate death penalty for crimes that are "heinous in nature" such as murder, rape and other offenses.

For those crimes which are petty, the question for Texas is..."Is the criminal an Habitual Offender?" If that answer is yes, then the death penalty. If not, then the offender gets a strike tattooed onto their necks and goes about their business. The catch is, when you get your fifth strike, you're Habitual and you die.

You die unless you go Striker...meaning escape Texas...before your fifth strike. But that's a crime also.

For a lot of us in the world now, watching news of people who've been busted and let go dozens of times, creating victims at every turn, this might even seem reasonable. The problem is how that changes with time. Laws are enforced without equality of justice and a dystopia is then truly born.

Karas Quick is a sixteen year old who has basically gotten the low card in life's deal. She's poor, without many prospects and her mother is a real piece of work. But then she sees her long gone Striker father in a line of prisoners being brought back for justice and everything changes. It's a pretty wild adventure from there.

EEG: That's really intriguing. And being a hard scientist myself, I often get irritated at laughable science too. What other stories do you have on the back burner?

AC: Strikers Two (as yet untitled) is already being drafted up. I've got the previously mentioned news inspired stories teeing up.

I've got a story called PePr, Inc. coming out in a new anthology called The Robot Chronicles. It should be out within days of my Strikers release. I'm super excited about that because of the sheer talent of the other authors involved. Even the amazing Hugh Howey is going to have a story in there!

There's more because really, Elena, you know this as well as I...we've got more stories in our heads than we have years to write them.

EEG: Do you feel that the discipline imposed by your military job has helped you to be a better writer? How?

AC: In some ways, yes. In other ways, it's made it harder. Since my education is primarily in the "hard" sciences, I took the English for Science and Math majors in college rather than the more complete version needed for other fields. And all my professional writing has been mandated to be passive voice (research papers, etc).

Additionally, the military values brevity above all things. Why use 100 words to describe a beautiful day when you can just put up a green flag on the outdoor field and be done with it?

These things are not conducive to good fiction writing! So, I've had to really work on it. At the same time, I've spent more nights on the bridge of a ship creating stories in my head than most people get a chance to, so I had the material inside there. I just had to figure out the key to translating it. Like all other writers, I'll be a work in progress until the day after I stop working for good...which is to say forever.

On the upside, you said the key word yourself: discipline. I'm a very disciplined writer. If I say I'm going to, I do. And I write until I just can't anymore when I sit down and say, "Go". I've actually had to set a schedule for myself so I don't write so much I forget about other things in life.

EEG: I think that discipline is definitely a great quality for a writer. Congratulations, Ann, and best of luck with your new release!

Follow Ann Christy also on Twitter and Facebook to find out about her new book releases.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Sun Worshippers

© Elena E. Giorgi 2014. Prints available here.

Friday, July 4, 2014


Yes, I'm taking another summer hiatus. The science will resume in a few weeks. In the meantime, I leave you with a few postcards I made while visiting my family in Italy.

Hope you enjoy, wishing everyone a great summer!

EDIT: By popular demand, the doors are available for purchase as a poster on my smugmug account

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

A writer's journey

This is a monthly event started by the awesome Alex J. Cavanaugh and organized by the Insecure Writer's Support Group. Click here to find out more about the group and sign up for the next event.

It's July. I released my book, CHIMERAS, three months ago. Book 2 in the series, MOSAICS, will be out in September. I've learned and I'm still learning a lot. I generally dislike do/don't lists, but today I thought I'd share some personal considerations on how to give your best on the page.

1) Stay inspired.
2) Think outside the box.
3) Take chances, lots of them.
4) Read a lot, read different genres.
5) Break at least one rule in every book. Better yet. Follow no rules.
6) Words are your best friends: don't rush them. Love them, make them last.
7) Create your own style. You'll know you've done it right when they'll tell you they didn't like it.
8) Write characters, not stereotypes. Some will love them and some will hate them: it means they feel real.

And finally, have one beta reader shred your work to pieces. Trust me, it'll be painful and totally worth it.

Until next month, write, read and stay inspired.