My first LTUE appearance

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Nearly one year ago, I sat in the audience at Life, the Universe & Everything Symposium. I vowed then that next year I would be on the other side of those tables, sharing my own thoughts and vision on writing, monsters, science fiction, and fantasy. Well, I made it!

I will keep you updated on all the times I’ll be presenting as the schedule is finalized.

About LTUE

Life, the Universe, & Everything: The Marion K. “Doc” Smith Symposium on Science Fiction and Fantasy is a three-day academic symposium on all aspects of science fiction and fantasy. I attended my first LTUE as a kid for the board games aspect, but I slunk away from my brothers and hit the writing panels. LTUE is chocked full of panels and presentations on writing, art, literature, film, and gaming. The focus is on speculative fiction, but the writing advice shared is well worth the small price tag for any writer. This convention is a must attend for any aspiring writer near Utah.

All the Podcasts…

Over the last two months, I’ve been on three podcasts talking about writing, mad science, and my book, Devil in the Microscope. In case you missed them, here are the links. Thanks to all of the hosts for being awesome and for listening to me ramble about stuff that I love. I had fun at each one.


Dungeon Crawlers Radio

I talked with the awesome DCR crew about the choices I made writing Devil in the Microscope, including why I chose a teen girl as a protagonist, why my story takes place in Florida, and why I chose mad science as a backdrop. They had excellent questions and were entertaining.


StoryHack Podcast

Bryce and I had a great conversation about all the fun stuff I love: board games, mad scientists, writing, and my book. Bryce is also a writer and runs the StoryHack magazine. Check it out.

StoryHack Podcast: Interview with Ryan Decaria


r. r. campbell has a great voice and a excellent format in his podcast. He grilled me on my mad science and science fiction in general. We discussed whether the science in science fiction needed to be realistic and accurate or whether it is better to treat it like magic.

Writescast 018 – Mad Science in Science Fiction with Ryan Decaria

And if you not sick of listening to my sultry voice, you can also head over to Meeple Nation to listen to me gush about all the awesome board game action.

Meeple Nation

May I recommend episode 177. We talk about mechanics and themes that we are suckers for in a board game.

It’s alive. It’s alive!

Devil in the Microscope is alive and out into the world. I hope you have as much fun following Anika’s science fantasy adventures as I did when writing it.


Read more reviews on Goodreads:

Here’s a highlight:

Buy the Kindle version on Amazon right now. The print copy will go up for sale in a few days.

Thanks to Immortal Works for believing in my creation, and to everyone who helped in the process of bringing my book to live.

I hope you like it.


My author page at Immortal Works Press and Goodreads

Here are some awesome links:

My author page:

Immortal Works:

My Goodreads author page:

Devil in the Microscope on Goodreads:

If you use Goodreads, please Follow me and mark Devil in the Microscope as a Want to Read!


Submitted the draft of my manuscript to my editor!!!

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As I progress through this process of getting a book published, I’m grateful that my manuscript is going through an editor. I know people who have a love/hate relationship with this part of the process, and even though I’m a bit nervous about the editing comments I will get, I am thrilled to be getting them. I love the story I created that is inside my head. I don’t know if I’ve translated that story onto paper as effectively as I hoped. An editor it going to help me achieve that vision.

Let’s make some wierd science!

The best bit of correspondence between me and Immortal Works, my publisher, other than “we want to publish it” is as follows:

“I’m really excited for this book, and together I know we can make Devil in the Microscope a success!”

Thanks Jason!

I’m excited too.

Check out my book announcement at Immortal Works

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It’s officially announced at Immortal Works. My mug is there staring back at you. My book’s description is there for all to read. See it all at Immortal Works.immortal-works-logo


So, what am I doing now? I’m editing like mad, hoping to provide a slick copy for my edit to really sink his or her teeth into, so we can make my book’s words as fantastic as the story is in my head. I should be assigned an editor soon. When I hand off the manuscript, I’m going to dive head first into another project, probably the sequal, but I have another novel that is already 50,000 words long and a complete story. I still have a lot of work to do on that one before it will be ready to send out. Will it be about a mad scientist? You’ll have to wait to find out.


In other news:


My book is going to be published

After many queries to agents and publishers, my book is going to be published. I just signed the contract with Immortal Works Press to publish my novel, Devil in the Microscope.

Devil in the Microscope follows Anika as she moves in with her scientist father in a town he built around his mysterious genetics laboratory. Most of the town are scientists employed by her father, and Anika discovers that the whole town is literally mad, mad like Dr. Frankenstein mad. Anika navigates her way through high school, fending off wayward science projects, vindictive evil geniuses, and the possible threat that her father might be using her for his grand experiment.


Anika finds allies at her new high school, other kids also being experimented on, and they unite around Anika to defeat the mounting threats to their lives. Anika relies on her scientific skills, her wits, and the unusual talents of her new friends to survive.
I love this story and these characters. I’m just starting the editing process, but I can’t wait until I can get my story into people’s greedy hands. It’s coming…


The Mad Scientist in The Birthmark by Nathaniel Hawthorne (1843)

Science Fiction LitWhen I was in college, I was fortunate enough to have a Science Fiction Literature class taught by a great teacher using a great textbook: Science Fiction: The Science Fiction Research Association Anthology. This book is a chronological look at science fiction through the years with stories published from the 1840s to the 1980s.

The book started out with an old Nathaniel Hawthorn short story called The Birthmark, which may be one of the first mad scientist stories. The narrator of the story doesn’t explicitly call Aylmer, the scientist of the story, a “mad scientist,” but the profile fits quite well upon examination.

The first paragraph calls Aylmer a “man of science” and tells us that he left that life behind and “persuaded a beautiful woman to become his wife.” But after marrying her, he becomes obsessed with the birthmark on her cheek in the shape of a tiny hand. She is offended when he suggest the possibility of having he birthmark removed from her face, hurting her deeply. She thought it a charm because it was often thought beautiful by other suitors.

Alymer discovers that he does not think it a charm, but rather a flaw in her beautiful face, which becomes a “symbol of his wife’s liability to sin, sorrow, decay, and death.” The man of science is suddenly faced with a dilemma, as he believes he can fix the flaw, but at the cost of putting science above his love for his new wife.

We find, though, that Alymer was delving into fringe science in his earlier days when he takes his wife back to his old laboratory to perform the experiment on her birthmark. As he prepares, he shows his wife his old experiments, which blossom into wonder, but soon fade to ruin before her eyes.


With one shudder as he glanced upon the birthmark, though, her own desire to be rid of it was cemented in her mind. She could not bear to see him shudder at her again. She now hated the birthmark more than him. At this point, she finds Aylmer’s journals and discovers that all of his experiments have been failures in his own eyes because of the grandiose vision of perfection. For some reason, with this insight into his motives, she fall more in love with him. His experiments have indeed pushed forward the scientific discoveries, but have been failures none the less.

Even though I am basically spoiling the whole story, I suggest anyone interested in “mad science” as a literary device should read this story, which can be found online for free. This is the madness and the great part of this story. The Birthmark is a great look at the mad scientist persona through a love story instead of a monster story. I use the term “love” but Alymer doesn’t love his wife.

He uses the birthmark as an excuse to return to his old ways—his old “mad science” ways. He’s messing with things that only “God” should have power over. Heck, the dude even has his own Igor—a hairy assistant of low stature, though that trope may have come from this work. He assumes that if he can rid her of the birthmark then she will be perfect and lovable again.

The funny thing about flaws, though, is that once the largest goes away, the next largest becomes brightly apparent. That is my own interjection, though, because the story doesn’t get to the point where it would explore that scenario.

Both Alymer and his wife know the most likely outcome of his experiments is her own death. He is willing to go through with it because he is mad—mad meaning that he can’t see his own flaws, his own faults, his own ability to change, and his own megalomania in trying to fix his beautiful wife. She is willing because she can’t live in a world where her husband could shudder when looking at her face.

Alymer is successful at removing the birthmark at the cost of her life. The story ends there and we don’t see his reaction to his wife’s death or the impact that has on his own science career. I wish Hawthorn had continued the story. Does Alymer continue with his secret science or does he again reject that part of himself? At some point, villagers are showing up with pitchforks though.


Science and Magic are two sides of the same coin

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After some contemplation about magic systems, I’ve decided on a new philosophy on writing. This is for me only and not a “writing rule”.

  1. In fantasy, I’m going to treat my magic systems like a science.
  2. In science fiction, I’m going to treat my “Pushed” science like magic.


Magic in fiction can create a sense of wonder and be a tool for the characters. Also, it has the potential to create Deus ex Machina ending, or make the resolution to the conflict be a wave of a magic wand. In order to avoid this issue, writers can spell out the “rules” of the magic. The reader should understand what is possible and what the characters know about the magic. Rules, guidelines, laws are all words associated with science. In a world with magic, that magic would and should be studied by someone at some point, though not necessarily as part of the story you are telling. Often the POV character is learning the rules of the magic as she goes through the story.

The best example on magic as science and magic as say “religion” is the Lord of the Rings. Gandolf has an endlessly unknown and powerful magic that he uses as needed to get out of the situations they are in. His is a religious character and often acts as a savior character. No one could tell you how his magic works. The One ring on the other hand (`snicker`) does work like a science. It was constructed. It always works in the same way. It has rules: can only be destroyed in one place, corrupts, turns the wearer invisible. It is a constant.


Within this framework, you can still have surprises. Someone can figure out new ways to use magic, but they still have to follow the rules. Foreshadowing goes hand in hand with this. You are building up to something awesome, but if you don’t put the pieces in first, the resolutions is going to feel cheap.

So, in my fantasy writing, my goal is to treat the magic scientifically. I’m going to invent rule,s and the characters must use the magic within the set of rules.

Science fiction

Sciences fiction works a little differently, and this whole point depends on how much science knowledge you have and how much of that you want to build into the story. Personally, I don’t have science education past high school chemistry. So, in my science fiction stories, I don’t dwell on or explain the science in the story. I’m only talking about the parts of the story that are different from our current reality. Faster than light (FTL) travel is a good example. Me trying to explain the science of FTL is going to sound amateurish no matter how much research I put into it.

Unless the story is about the scientific effects of FTL, what I choose to do is present FTL as a thing that exists and no one in the story universe questions how. It just works. Kind of like magic. It just works. No one ages differently. Reality isn’t bent. There are no consequences. No side effects. (Unless those are a part of the story you want to tell). Likely, I will never write a story where the effects of FTL are central to the story because I don’t want to try to get the science right.


You could argue that if I don’t delve into the science than the story isn’t really science fiction. That type of story is only a part of the science fiction umbrella. Some call it Hard SF, or at least the more a story focuses on the science, the harder the SF. That one thing that is different has many consequences on how we as humans would think, speak, behave, interact, and react to the world. These human experiences do not depend on an explanation of the science. Those human experiences are what I like to explore in my science fiction. How it works is just magic.