Book Tag

I got the idea for this Book Tag from Kevin Hurtak’s blog and thought it might be interesting to get to know me a little better. Also it seemed like fun, so here goes.

 

E-Book or Physical Book?

Definitely physical. HOWEVER, since I have no space to put my books (those currently owned as well as those I hope to own), I have to concede and tolerate using ebooks. I’m not happy about it though.

 

Paperback or Hardback?

I have a few hardbacks, but I really like paperbacks. Especially the ones that are no bigger than 4×7 inches. Pocket-sized books. You can take them with you wherever you like.

 

Online or In-Store Book Shopping?

Online to be honest. I have a really hard time trying to read the spines from books. Also, since I’m a short guy, craning my neck back to get a vague glimpse of books packed tightly in shelves that are 6 and 7 feet high gives me a headache. Not to mention they are always so tightly packed (crammed, to be more precise) that is impossible to take them out and flip through them. I’m not even going into how hard it is to put them back. On the other hand, you can’t meet and chat to people in an online store.

 

Trilogies or Series?

A few years back, I would have said series. Now it’s more standalones. Don’t get me wrong, I recently finished reading a scifi series (finished, because the next book comes out in 2019, I think, so bummer). It’s hard for me to take the leap of faith any more. I blame writing for this. It has ruined reading for me in so many ways. I can’t read a book without trying to edit it. It sucks! So for the most part the order is standalones, trilogies, and at the very end, series. But the distance between standalones and trilogies is vast.

 

Heroes or Villains?

I don’t care really. I do enjoy reading the occasional villain who actually wins, but it all comes down to whether or not the character is well developed. By well developed, I mean realistic. That’s why I have loved reading A Song Of Ice And Fire (Game of Thrones); the characters behave in a realistic way. And because Martin realises there are more bad things happening in life than good. Thus, his characters end up missing their heads. But no preference whatsoever.

 

A book you want everyone to read?

Disclaimer: shameless plug follows *clears throat* MINE, MINE, MINE, MINE…
Seriously, though, for writers, I think Self-Editing for Fiction Writers is a book everyone should read. As for readers, this question is impossible to answer. One person likes one genre, the other likes a different. Scifi lovers, read Altered Carbon (the whole trilogy – each book is pretty much stand-alone). And my book. Horror fans, read It. And my book and my short stories.

 

Recommend an underrated book?

Before I started writing, I was introduced to R. Scott Bakker’s fantasy work. If you like dark fantasy, settings and scenarios that are based on real history, and you like or don’t mind reading philosophy, I suggest you read The Second Apocalypse series (yeah, I know I said I don’t read series, but that was before I started writing. Back then I devoured them).

 

The last book you bought?

The one I’m currently reading, Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn

 

Weirdest thing you’ve used as a bookmark?

Cable. Really thin one. No, you may not ask for more details on that.

Used Books: Yes or No?

No. I like the book I’m holding to be in pristine condition. Mintier than mint. My heart sinks a little when I get a paperback that has even the slightest (I mean negligible) sign of frayed corners. Of course that doesn’t mean that the book stays as pristine once in my possession. I’m a bit weird in this: I can’t stand having a book with bent or frayed corners (I protect my books like treasure), but I also can’t stand reading a book where the spine hasn’t been popped wide open. I know it’s weird. When I open the book and place it on a table I want to see the pages stay flat. I can’t stand having pages rising. It literally drives me nuts. So I make sure I open the spine as wide as it takes, without destroying it. I told you I’m weird.

Top three favourite genres?

Cyberpunk, Horror, Fantasy.

 

Borrow or Buy?

Buy. Look at my answers for Used Books: Yes or No for a more detailed explanation. I want to have a mint-condition book in my hands. Not to mention that it helps the writer 😉

 

Characters or Plot?

Characters interesting enough to drive the plot forward through their actions. If that’s not possible because the genre tropes don’t allow that, then plot. The key element for me is plot.

Long or Short Books?

I’ve read books that were over 1000 pages long and I’ve read books that barely reached 150. I have liked and hated books on both ends of the length spectrum. What I don’t like are books that end up showing me things and events that are completely unrelated to the main plot, or are not interesting enough to make up for the lack of relation to the plot. A very well-known fantasy writer comes to mind with his highly acclaimed fantasy trilogy that so far features only two books (hint: I’ll probably be eighty by the time he releases book 3), but I will not name him. The prose in book 1 was perfect. I mean, exquisite prose. BUT, the stuff that happened from a few chapters before the middle all the way to a couple of chapters before the end were a waste of paper. They were completely unrelated to the plot, in my humble opinion they didn’t develop the character at all, and as such they should have been deleted.

 

Long or Short Chapters?

I don’t mind. Whatever works for the story and pacing.

 

Name the first three books you can think of

Bag of Bones (Stephen King), Game of Thrones (G. R. R. Martin), Altered Carbon (Richard K. Morgan).

 

Books that make you laugh or cry?

I don’t like reading comedy, and I also don’t like crying. So I’ll just say the same old thing: as long as it creates the necessary emotional connection, it’s fine.

Our World or Fictional Worlds?

As a tourist, a visitor of sorts, I wouldn’t mind fictional worlds.

Audio books: Yes or No?

I’ve only listened to one and I can safely say they’re not for me. I like taking notes on things that interest me during my read, so audio books are not ideal for me.

Do you ever judge a book by its cover?

Of course! Who doesn’t? That’s why we have sayings like, don’t judge a book by its cover. It’s because people do it, and it’s perfectly all right to do it. Why should I be an exception to that? I said I’m weird, but not that weird.

A Movie or TV-Show You Preferred to its Book?

I quite enjoyed watching The Children of Men rather than reading it. Still, the book was good, but I think the movie was better. Much bleaker, which is what you want and expect in an apocalyptic book.

How about you? How would you answer these questions? Feel free to tell me in the comments or consider yourself tagged and do your own version of the post.

10 post-apocalyptic scenarios most likely to happen

Since my upcoming début novel release (a post-apocalyptic horror story, The Darkening, if you’re new here – welcome aboard, by the way) is only a few months away, I figured I might give you my personal and small list of possible doomsday scenarios. These include both civilisation collapse scenarios as well as end-of-human-species scenarios. The order is arbitrary. I don’t think anyone can argue that scenario 7 is much better and preferable than scenario 2. I’m not saying you couldn’t, just that you’d get some raised eyebrows, and you’d probably notice people getting away from you (hint: they’d be avoiding you).

Just so we’re clear, the following express personal views, peppered with a tiny touch of humour (to lighten the doomsday mood a little). Most of it, if not all, is speculation, and in some cases, fiction.

10. Man-made virus going wild

A lot has been said about research labs creating (others would use the word toying) new virus strands. Even though all of these labs have strict rules for the pathogens they handle, one can only argue that their safety measures are as strong and sound as the minds who one day said, “hey, I’m curious! Let’s create a new virus the world has never seen before and has no defence against.”

And since in order to create a vaccine one first needs to use inactive or attenuated (weakened) viruses, it pretty much implies (for the uneducated in biology, like me) that you first create the killer virus, then you get the treatment. Am I right to assume that? Probably. So what if something happens between the two steps? Bioterrorism? Accident? All of these can happen. Now, considering how easy it is for people to travel around the world these days, it shouldn’t surprise anyone if this thing spreads. Take into account that a great deal of the world’s population lives in cities, which means a large portion of human population is packed into a very small space and you have a potential recipe for bad news. And don’t get me started on the possibility of a virus mutating into something new.

9. Vaccine to man-made virus

Let’s assume the previous scenario. A man-made virus goes free. People die. Perhaps the virus mutates, and livestock dies too, threatening food supplies. Riots begin. Scientists hurry to make a vaccine. No time to run all the necessary tests to humans to ensure the vaccine’s safe. After all, it takes years of testing before a drug gets approval for humans. I’m not a biologist/biochemist, but I imagine vaccines follow the same procedure before they become available to the public. In this scenario, however, the vaccine has to circulate to the public immediately or there won’t be any public left. So people get vaccinated. The vaccine works… sort of. There are side effects. Lethal kind. Oops.

8. Dormant virus/bacteria in ice caps

Okay, all the above may happen because of a man-made virus (or vaccine that could act as a virus – scary!). But naturally occurring viruses and bacteria have been around far longer than humans have, they have been thriving all over us, and they don’t need our help to be lethal. Also, it’s possible that we haven’t discovered all of them. In fact, it’s possible that there may be virus strands or bacteria out there that are dormant, possibly lying in the polar ice caps. Perhaps our immune system is not able to deal with all of them. And since we’re still coming out of the last Ice Age (if I remember well from my Geology studies, it ended around 12,000 years ago, but the planet is still experiencing lower-than-normal temperatures) it’s only normal to see rises in global temperature. That’s what the planet wants after all. The planet having ice caps has not been as common in the past (geologically speaking) as it is now. In fact, in the last 100 million years Earth has experienced one third of the total amount of ice ages it experienced from its creation up to that point.

It’s all about balancing the system. So, it’s possible that once the ice melts, something nasty and invisible to the naked eye could slip into the food chain and eventually reach us. Or it could affect a species we are depended upon, like wheat or corn or, even worse, bees.

7. Existing virus/bacteria becoming super-resistant

I know people (and I mean people I interact with pretty much on a daily basis) who will gladly take antibiotics the moment they get a sniffle or if they sneeze (don’t do it, kids. That’s bad for you, mkay?). But what that does is strengthening the bacteria we’re trying to kill (no antibiotics for viruses, by the way). Not to mention they weaken our natural defences against them. And since bacteria have been around for almost 3.5 billion years, if not more, (cyanobacteria were probably among the first ones to appear, if anyone is wandering – also known as Stromatolites in Geology),

and have survived pretty much everything the universe has thrown at them (extensive basaltic/igneous activity, meteors, ice ages, humans), it shouldn’t come as a surprise that at some point they may have the potential to wipe us out. If not wipe us out, then decimate us. Or another link in the food chain that we depend upon. And since we’re doing everything we can to make them stronger in our attempt to weaken them, there may come a point in time when they will no longer agree with us or our civilisation being here.

6. Extra terrestrial body colliding with Earth (and, yes, possibly carrying a dormant strand of virus or bacteria with them. Why not?)

Poor T-Rex was having one of his best days, warming its skin in the hot and humid climate of the Cretaceous period (way hotter than today, by the way), when a ball of fire crashed somewhere over the horizon. I can almost hear him saying, “Ralph, I had a doozy of day. You won’t believe what I saw. A fireball! It was so small, I could probably hold it in my hands! Yeah, Ralph, of course I could. My arms and hands are bigger than yours, man.”

Events like the meteor that wiped out most lifeforms 65 million years ago don’t happen every day. But they do happen. And not just once. Considering all the debris left behind from the formation of our solar system (Kuiper Belt), the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter (most likely an event that took place long after the formation of our solar system), and all the other bits and pieces floating around us, it’s not a very far fetched probability that one of these will be big enough to cause a similar event. For the record, the next encounter with a big one will be in 2028. Meteorites of much smaller size penetrate the Earth’s upper atmosphere on a daily basis. Remember that meteorite a few years back that burned over Russia?

You don’t have to panic. Like I said, bodies large enough to cause extinction events don’t land too often. Just do what that Russian driver did. Relax and carry on.

5. Nuclear war

This scenario was more prominent back in the 50s and 60s, but that doesn’t mean it will never happen. It’s all about those who control the red buttons, and ultimately how much we respect others near us. For the record, there are about 15,000 warheads out there.

4. Increased volcanic activity

The mechanism for this scenario is active and it’s the thing that keeps the planet alive. This scenario involves super-volcanoes (Yellowstone – USA, Santorini a.k.a. Thera – Greece), mid-oceanic ridges, large igneous provinces etc. Volcanic activity is something that directly affects the climate. The Santorini eruption that wiped out the Minoan civilisation in Crete ejected material more than four times that of the Krakatoan eruption back in 1883, and many researchers believe that its effects were seen all the way to China. I remember watching a documentary once many years ago where geologists claimed that there is evidence of a rock layer in the Eastern United States that may be related to that explosion. That’s half a planet away, folks. Now imagine all of them going boom together.

In the past (about 250 million years ago – end of Permian period) there was extensinve basaltic activity across what is now the northern hemisphere that covered a great deal of the land in basaltic material (like the Siberian traps, for example). This went on for a very long time. And, you guessed it, it’s associated with another massive extinction event, aptly named “The Great Dying.” 96% of all species died due to a chain of events that originated from that particular eruption. Make no mistake folks, volcanoes are the driving force behind Earth’s climate. Particularly, those on mid ocean ridges. If they go super excited, almost everything on Earth will become super extinct.

3. Increased solar activity/super nova/solar storms

Everything in the universe changes and tries to come to a new state of balance. The Sun is the same. From time to time, its activity increases, and we end up having solar storms. The sun ejects part of its corona, which in turn hits the Earth’s magnetosphere. Sometimes, this is a more violent event than usual. Back in 1859, one such explosion fried the telegraph poles. Now imagine either a similar or an even stronger one hitting our network-depended society. “End of the world” doesn’t necessarily mean end of life. Sometimes it means collapse of civilisation.

2. Modern infrastructure shutting down

Since our modern civilisation is depended on networked systems and technology, one or more nasty individuals or groups of people (or even a natural event), could potentially trigger something that would disrupt (meaning destroy) the very technology we so much depend upon. That could send us to the stone age. Keep in mind that we purify our water in our water treatment plants with computerised systems. Electricity is distributed safely thanks to computerised systems. Let’s not forget the banking system. Again, this is a scenario that has more to do with civilisation collapsing than end of all living things or end of the human species.

1. AI (war for resources)

Apparently the new rave is artificial intelligence. When will we build one, a lot of people ask. Why don’t we build one, others say. Some claim that it will help us live a better life. Easy there, chump. Have you considered the possibility that the AI will realise that it needs more energy not only to evolve but to sustain itself and its higher functions than we allow it to have, because we too need energy for our everyday activities? What will happen when it comes down to I need it more than you do? Do you think a sentient existence will simply step aside and let us have all of it? Especially since we have a proven track record of wasting energy? If it reaches the point where the AI considers itself as part of the natural processes taking place (like consuming energy, which is something every living organism does), what’s to stop it from following the simplest pattern exhibited in almost all living things: I’m stronger, you’re not. Especially, if we have allowed it full access to all the things we desperately need to survive. Like clean water.

Honourable mention

Overpopulation + lack of land to cultivate food. I will not go into that. It’s pretty self-explanatory.

Learning new things

*Disclaimer: I’m in the mood for gifs today, so you’ll get a few of them with this post*

Being self published doesn’t always mean you have to do everything on your own, but sometimes circumstances force you to do so.

As I mentioned earlier, my debut post apocalyptic horror novel, The Darkening, will be launched near the end of the year, probably around late October or early November. For that, I have hired an editor (all edits are now done) and am waiting to hear back from my designer. Unfortunately, his busy schedule doesn’t allow him to start working on my project before July. So after I dealt with these two very important parts of the production of a book, I thought that would be it. I’d upload the manuscript on each platform, and all I’d have to do between then and the launch date would be to promote it.

Ermm, how about no?

It turned out that I had forgotten another important bit: internal formatting.

What in the name of dark hell was that?!

I had spent virtually all my (meagre) budget on the editor and I would spend the remaining on the designer. In fact, after reviewing my budget, I realised I had nothing left for promotion!

So the first thought was: is internal formatting something I can skip?

Apparently no. Well, I could, but that would interfere with the quality of the product I wanted to produce.

Now, I know that Amazon has created a Word plugin that creates a basic template for all the available printing options they provide, including trim size. But the problem for me was that this plugin only works on newer versions of Word, you know, the ones with the ugly ribbon menu thing its creators decided to introduce?

Yeah, how about no?

Like many other writers out there, I refuse to work on something with a UI (user interface) that is non-configurable based on my needs. If you think that I’m the only weirdo around the writing realms, think again!

You tell ’em, George!

So since the Word version I work with (2003, if you’re wondering) could not use that plugin and I could not outsource the task, I had to figure out how to format my book on my own. And I did. Partly… Sort of… Kind of…

Enter InDesign. Luckily a friend lent me an older version of the program to test and try out just for this project. And surprisingly enough, if one who knows nothing about internal formatting or InDesign wishes to use it to create simple interior book designs, then it won’t take more than a couple of days to learn it. Thank Youtube for that!

So I managed to create a decent printable copy of my manuscript, and I now have a fraction of a basic understanding of how to use the program. It’s definitely in my to-buy list, even though I know I will only be using a tiny fraction of its capabilities.

Now if I could only figure out a way to make it create a decent epub version without messing everything up, I’d be one step closer to world domination!

 

It’s a time of change

Panic mode on pause for this post.

Just a quick note to inform people of a couple of changes about to take place.

1. Those of you who have subscribed to my newsletter with an email other than Gmail have probably noticed that it’s been a while since the last time you received my newsletter. That means that the last one you received was the one I sent on February. Since then, I have sent out two more emails, in which I let people know of upcoming releases and publications. Apparently, this problem affected people who subscribed to my mailing list using a Yahoo, Hotmail, Att, Aol, and any other email provider, EXCEPT Gmail. This is because I was sending my emails using my free Gmail account. Up to now, this wasn’t a problem, but it seems that this is no longer allowed.

I am aware of the problem and working on a solution as we speak (see point 2, below)

2. In order to fix this problem, I’m working on setting up a new private domain (which will be http://csarantopoulos.eu – there’s nothing there at the moment, but there will be at some point) and, consequently, a new email address to use with my newsletter. Bottom line, the site you are reading now may come to end, and migrate instead to a new home, including this blog. It’s too technical for me to explain, because I don’t understand everything…

OK, fine, I don’t understand a single thing about it, but I have a good friend who is helping me out with this. Obviously, when it happens, I’ll let you all know and ask you to update your bookmarks, or anything else this will affect, so you can still read my weekly posts.

3. I have sent my manuscript for The Darkening to my editor (I love saying this – my editor!). I expect to be swamped with a ton of things to do in the coming weeks, so I may disappear a bit from blogging. Don’t worry, the result will be good. I’m sure of it.

Panic mode restarts in 3, 2, 1…

Writing prompt 53

I figured I had a go with a funny prompt this Sunday. Not my usual style, but why not? I think it’s suitable for fantasy and humour writers alike. I hope it helps you create some nice stories.

“Ouch! Ow! You punched me in the nose! That hurts, you know.”
“Get back!”
“What is the matter with you, human? I’m a friendly orc. Do you see me squashing your meaty parts ’til your eyes pop out? You wouldn’t like that, would you?”
“Die, demon!”
“Hey, I have feelings too, okay? Just ’cause I’m an orc, doesn’t mean your words don’t hurt me. Or my nose. Look how swollen it is now.”