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Friday, March 30, 2012

Continued Blog Story

Sorry for taking so long to get the next installment to you on my blog story. I hope it is worth the wait. 

The gravel under Tabatha’s boots crunched as she crossed the wide driveway. In front of her the tall mansion loomed, blocking the moonlight from the path. Tim and Phil were waiting on the backside of the mansion. They had insisted that Tabatha enter the front. Another hundred feet and she would be at the edge of light that illuminated the area in front of the main entrance to the mansion. Tabatha remembered the last night she had left the mansion. Two guards chased her down the long driveway until she slipped into the forest that lay on the other side of the large gate.
Tabatha’s breath was ragged as she huddled behind a shrub. Clicking her watch, a timer appeared. 25…24…23…22. She closed her eyes and focused on the plan. Tim and Phil would enter from the back distracting the guards and cutting the power to the home. She would then run in and grab the child. Before anyone even knew the child was missing Tabatha would be back at the safe house.
Her watch vibrated softly under her sleeve and Tabatha looked up at the lights above the front porch. She clicked on her watch. 0.00 blinked across the screen. What are they doing?
A scream came from inside the house and then it was dark.
A shiver ran up Tabatha’s back. She stepped from behind the shrub and glanced in from side to side. A trickle of sweat ran down her temple and she wiped it away. She took another tentative stepped then dashed the remaining distance to the front porch.
Another scream.
Tabatha stopped at the door step; her breath caught in her throat. Nothing. The door was unlocked and Tabatha inched the door open. The room was dark, but it didn’t matter as Tabatha hurried up the stairs and toward the nursery.
A crash sounded up the stairs as Tabatha reached the nursery door. She slid the laser pistol from its holster and backed against the wall.
Booted footsteps thudded up the stairs and then the lights were back on.
Tabatha froze. Something is wrong.
A tall well-built man appeared at the top of the stairs; his rifle was at his side. A trickle of blood ran down the side of his cheek and then to his chin where a drop of blood formed waiting to drop. He smiled as he turned and looked at Tabatha.
The trigger was cold under her finger but slid easily as she pulled it. The laser arched out toward the man hitting him in the chest.
The man’s face contorted and the smile faded. His body thumped as it hit the ground.
Tabatha opened the door to the nursery and closed it behind her. Faint breathing came from the corner of the room. Familiar baby smells filled Tabatha’s nose as she walked toward the crib. A blue blanket rose and fell gently.
The room lit up and Tabatha whipped around with the pistol raised.
A man in a bathrobe pressed a remote and Tabatha froze. “We have been expecting you Tabatha.”
A single tear slid down Tabatha’s cheek as her muscles strained against the unknown force that held her tight.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Affective Computing

Computer science believes that the human intelligence can be described to the point that it can be simulated by a machine. We encounter this simulation on a daily basis whether it is with our phones, games and other electronic devices; we call it AI. Anytime a machine tries to figure out and match what we want we encounter AI. AI goes back to the time of Greek myth in which they envisioned robots and owls and other man made creations that could think. Recently, I have been playing a new game in which the AI is much better than I am. In the future are we going to be outdone by AI? This is the fear that many writers play on when creating their SF books and the question played with in many of the stories we read about androids.

Affective computing is the branch of computer science that deals with the human affect. Its aim is to design an AI that can process, recognize, interpret and simulate human affect. The ultimate goal being simulated empathy. Even though the machine does not feel emotion it must be able to express and interpret those emotions to interact better with us humans. This takes us to the question that we asked on Tuesday. 

Facial expressions express emotions that we interpret every day. In order for a machine to express emotions it must also be able to show facial expression and interpret those facial expressions. See the video below to see how far we have come.

How much longer until we see them in all our stores or even in our homes?

In my blogstory two androids express human like emotions. As discussed on Tuesday the androids are an enigma. It is often difficult to tell the difference between the androids and their human counterparts. Tomorrow and on Monday we will see how advanced they are and what really makes them unique in stories about androids.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Guest Speaker (The Golden Eagle)

I met up with The Golden Eagle last year during the A-Z challenge. She did a fantastic job with her challenge and I loved her pictures and the information she presented. She is an amazing writer and blogger who shows her support to so many in the blogging community. I'm excited to have her spotlighted on my blog today. Please welcome The Golden Eagle with a big virtual round of applause.


The Golden Eagle is a teenage student, dancer, musician, lover of books, nerd, and of course, a writer; her favorite genre to read and to write is SF, though she'll happily type away at other kinds of stories, too. You can find her at, where she blogs about writing and life in general.

Flash fiction:

The wind was blowing hard that day, but the aero-racers didn’t care. If the breeze wanted to kick up a storm, then it would.
   Cynthia Harman strode with confidence across the field, even though the mask she had to wear was making her feel claustrophobic and the planet’s strange gases were turning everything purple. 
   So what if it was her first inter-space (she liked to think inter-galactic) competition? —She had the sleekest, fastest flier and she’d been training her mind and her body for more than a year and a half.
   “Ready, ‘Thia?” Kelly asked. She would be the one giving her information on her course throughout the race; Cynthia trusted her completely and that had paid off, as time and time again she’d come in first in smaller, planet-wide races.
   Cynthia hoisted herself up onto the Dragonfly, her craft, and activated her mike.
   “Ready, Kel.”
   “The race starts—“
   But before her partner could answer, headquarters signaled the racers.
   “Racers: Wind speeds are picking up and predicted to reach a maximum of 500 kmh. The judges have convened and decided that continuing the aero-race would accompany excessive risk—“
   Before the man could finish, Cynthia heard the boos of the other racers through the speaker in her ear. She did not add her own. Instead, she nudged the Dragonfly close to the launch point, hoping that the judges would take the contestants’ desire to race anyway into account.
   Shouts and arguments echoed in her ear, until it was five minutes after the race had originally been set to begin.
   Then, finally—
   “The judges have reconsidered. Racers, if you would line up and prepare your craft.”
   Having already done that, and triple-checked the Dragonfly’s status, Cynthia grinned.
   “Prepare for launch. Before you leave, another warning—wind speeds have reached 420 kmh, and are continuing their increase. Should a contestant wish to pull out, you need only send up a flare, which shall be detected and relayed immediately to standby personnel.
   “And now, let the race begin!” 
   A computer voice began to number the seconds.
   “Ten. Nine. Eight.”
   Seven. Six. Five, Cynthia thought.
   “Four. Three. Two.”
   “ONE!” she yelled, and slammed down on the controls.
   The Dragonfly took off from the launch point and spiraled through the clouds below.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

What makes a human human

In the story that I have been posting for the past couple of weeks we have come into a new realm of psychology, that is what makes a human human and an android an android. Tim is an android in fact he is an older model, yet he acts like a human. One of the things that surprised Tabatha about Tim was that he smiled and that it seems he has emotions. Then we introduce an even older android who greets Tabatha and speaks. This is completely surprising to her because she did not know that even older models of androids could speak. In the story Tabatha's perspective on what an android is and how it behaves is being challenged.

So the question is what makes a human human and how do we differentiate between human and android? If we look at Star Trek we have Data who does not show emotion even though he is trying to understand it and learn it (I don't watch much star trek so correct me if I'm wrong). We then have another example of androids/robots in the movie AI. (BTW this is one of my all time favorite movies.) In this movie robots are just learning to have emotion and end up caring about and preserving humans. They become more human than humans.

When we look at what makes a human human we also get into the spiritual/religious realm. From a spiritual perspective we see humans as both body and spirit. Is it possible for an android to have a spirit? I often look at cloning and wonder about clones and their spirits. Would it work the same for an android?

When we are creating our SF stories about androids we need to decide how human they will be and/or become within the story. Is it possible for androids to grow physically? Is it possible for androids to have children? (Robots the movie). Is it possible for them to have emotions or even a spirit?

Monday, March 26, 2012

Story Continued

So my wife has pointed out that she is intrigued with the story and that she is enjoying it, but that it is not coming fast enough and so she gets frustrated with reading it. I can see how this might be frustrating and may not work for a blog format. That being said I am really enjoying the new format of my blog. So I need some feedback from my blogging friends. I have been using the new format for my blog for two weeks now and the question is are you enjoying it? Please let me know even if you have never commented before. Blogging is fun for me but I enjoy having people read it as well. If followers are becoming disinterested in my blog and not coming back then there is no reason for me to continue the new format. Thanks for the feedback and support.

“Does she know yet?”
“I don’t think she does,” Tim said. “I think we should leave it that way, at least for now.”
Tabatha woke from a restless sleep, the cot was nothing compared to her bed at home and that wasn’t much. She sat up, every muscle in her body crying out to her to lie back down.
“She’ll find out eventually.”
“I know, but let’s give her some time. She is different from the others,” Tim said.
Tabatha looked towards the voices, her mind barely registering what was being said. She stood and made her way to the fridge. There wasn’t much in the fridge. Other than a few bottles of water there were a few yogurts and some fruit. She grabbed a yogurt and an apple and sat down at the table still trying to figure out exactly who and what Tim was talking about.
“It doesn’t matter right now anyway. We are planning on going in tonight and we will need to make sure everything is ready,” Tim said.
“I agree. We can deal with this at another time, but I think that it should be sooner rather than later.”
Footsteps echoed through the building and then Tim and another android appeared in the entryway. The other android was an even older model than Tim. He wore clothes that gave him the appearance of being human, but the light reflected off of his metallic head.
“Good morning Tabatha,” Tim said and then pointed to the other android. “This is Phil.”
“Hello Tabatha, I am pleased to meet you.”
The apple made a hollow thumping sound as it fell from Tabatha’s hand and hit the table. “I thought the older models couldn’t talk.”
“Phil and those like him had the programming to talk, they just lacked the hardware. We have been able to scavenge a few old voice boxes to implant in them.”
“I know this must be hard for you,” Phil said.
“No, I mean yes, but…”Tabatha stammered then stood. “I mean it’s nice to meet you Phil.”
Phil smiled and extended his metallic hand.
Tabatha grasped the cold metal giving a half smile. Releasing the grip she absently rubbed it with her other hand trying to warm it.
“We need to prepare for tonight. The child is being moved tomorrow and this will be our last opportunity to get to him.”
To Be Continued………

Friday, March 23, 2012

Story Continued

The ride was long as Tabatha replayed the night’s events. The smell of blood and laser burns weren’t new to her, but she had never had to think on her own before. She wrestled with the fear that tugged at her insides, making her sick. Holding her arms across her stomach, trying to keep it together, Tabatha slowly rocked back and forth.
The cab rolled to a stop in front of an old warehouse that looked as if it had been abandoned for many years. That was one of the problems of the new order, it forgot about the old. Tabatha tried the door and it opened easily.
“I’ll take you inside, but then I need to get back work,” Tim said.
Tim led the way and Tabatha could make out the mark in the back of his neck that was used for uploading new information. The newer models were equipped with a WiFi chip allowing them to link up at any time. The newer models also had more realistic skin and facial features making them almost undetectable. The council stipulated that all androids needed to be marked so that they could be identified easily.
The door to the building had a scanner to the side of it and was made of metal. Tim placed his hand on the scanner and the door slid open. Lights turned on immediately and illuminated a large room filled with crates stacked on each other that formed a long hallway that went on as far as Tabatha could see. As they walked down the row of crates an opening opened up that Tabatha had not seen before. Tim turned into the opening and opened a fridge that stood against a row of crates that formed the walls of the open area.
Tabatha rubbed her arms as she scanned the crate formed room. There was a small card table with four chairs in the middle and a cot on the opposite wall of the fridge. A pillow and neatly folded blanket were on top of the cot.
“I know it isn’t much,” Tim said as he handed Tabatha a cold drink.
As Tabatha held the can the coldness of it seeped into her hand and up her arm. She walked slowly to the table and pulled a chair out, the screeching of the chair echoed through the building. She sat and put her head into her hands. No longer able to contain the fear she began to sob.
After several minutes Tabatha wiped her face across her sleeve and looked up weakly. Tim was standing in the entry way face down.
“I’m sorry. I just don’t know what to do now… now that,” Tabatha stopped remembering the last time she saw Johanus.
“It’s okay. I will help you. We have helped many like you.”
To be Continued………

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Dealing with Crisis

There are many different crisis that our characters encounter throughout our stories. The way they handle those crisis is what makes them who they are. Some of the effects of prolonged crisis is health problems, mental problems, stress, mood changes, etc... What helps our characters overcome these ill effects and/or recover from them? In class today we were talking about different crisis that take place in schools (shootings, suicides, death, irate parents) and we discussed the different stages that need attending. We have: pre-crisis, during the crisis, day after crisis, and then several weeks/months down the road.

We had a huge list of things in the pre-crisis column and very few things in the following columns. This is because if you are prepared for the inevitable crisis things can go better and after the crisis hits there is less that can be done.

How are our characters being prepared for the crisis? This is a very important question that I think needs to be addressed so that when the character goes through the crisis it makes the story believable. Our readers may not know how our characters were prepared, but we should.

For example, what do we know about Tabatha so far in her story? We know that she has some skill with knives and weapons. We know that she can take a hit and is able to react in tough situations as well as find a medic when she needs one. She seems to be equipped well considering she has a strength enhancing chip and of course her way cool watch :) Further, she was prepared (the knives by her bed) knowing a quick escape route and training. As a reader I could guess that she was trained as a fighter or maybe she grew up in a rough crowd. As the author of the story it is helpful for me to know more about why she responded how she responded to the situation in her room. As the story goes on I will slowly reveal more of why she was able to get through the crisis moment. However, lets jump ahead a little to where she is in the cab. She is not responding as well. The adrenaline is wearing off and her plan didn't go how she wanted it to go and her partner is gone. We see that her personality is starting to come out more and we see how she reacts and behaves differently outside of the flight or fight situation. Watch tomorrow how the stress of the crisis takes a greater toll on her and without support she would be a mess.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Guest Author (Emily Younker)

It is with great pleasure that I introduce EA Younker. She has been one of my greatest supports since I started writing, constantly giving me excellent feedback and she actually likes my stuff as well!! She writes amazing flash fiction and has been published in several anthologies. Thank You Emily for all you have done to make me the writer and person I am today. Please welcome Emily with a huge virtual applause.


My name is Emily Younker and I work as a technical writer to help pay the bills. I have more hobbies than time and am always looking for a new skill to learn. My husband and I live with a Pooka in northern Utah.

Night of Thunder

Georgia traced her finger along the glass following the path of a raindrop. The lightening illuminated her small room. The computer console blinked red in the aftermath of the flash. She watched the reflection of the blinking light in the window. The shadow below her window scuttled closer but stopped moving with the next streak of light across the sky.

Shadowalkers weren't uncommon in her life, which explained the force field across the window. When it rained they drops gave it away but all it would take is a few explosives to destroy the generator. She turned away from the window. As she walked out the room she pressed the alarm.

"Madam President, what's wrong?" Her head of security ran down the hall, his hand resting on his gun.

"There was a guest under my window. I thought I would give it a scare."

Joseph motioned for the soldiers behind him to enter the room she'd vacated. "I wish you would let us know earlier. Until we catch one of these guys we won't know who sent them."

"You already know plenty of people who want to kill me. That's what happens when you are a dictator."

"These people should treat you as a goddess. You saved us all from destroying ourselves."

"At what cost? Did you really want to become a security officer. I understand that at one point you showed quite the talent for diplomacy and legal practice."

"Who am I to complain at my success? Unless you have some new arguments for me, might I suggest we drop this topic."

Georgia sighed. After twenty years and seven chief of security officers, she wanted to contradict him. Unlike everyone else who surrounded her, Joseph only refrained from contradicting her in public. But, that was more than anyone else. She had groomed him and he didn't even know it.

"Madam President, we need you at the press conference," this was from her PR expert.

The sound of thunder rolled down the hall. She ran a hand along her skirt, feeling the trigger in her pocket, and nodded.

"We can always cancel this and wait for a better time," Joseph said.

"We do this now."

"Of course, Madam President." Joseph's voice came out as a whisper and he fell in step behind her as they walked down the hall. At the checkpoint Georgia waited while Joseph checked his gun. She picked it up and inspected it while he talked with the checkpoint attendant. She slipped the cartridge case out and slipped the new one from her pocket in before handing it back to him on the other side of the metal detector. He holstered the gun and they continued towards the auditorium. 

The crowd roared as she walked in. She made her way to the podium and the glass around the top of the room flashed with another lightening strike. For a moment it looked like a shadow stood at the glass and looked down on them.

"Ladies and gentleman, welcome to the twentieth anniversary of peace," Georgia said with a small smile. "The future has never looked brighter." More lightening, louder thunder. The floor seemed to shake, though no one thought it odd that there were two claps of thunder. She kept her hand in her pocket as she continued.

"As you can see I am getting on in years." This was another topic people didn't talk about. When she started her campaign she had been almost fifty. Her gray hair proclaimed her age but everyone ignored it. "I want you to know that I intend to stick around for a long time."

This time, when the thunder struck, the force field fizzled out and glass windows shattered. The crowd screamed as dark figures streamed into the audience hall. Joseph moved in front of her, his gun at the ready. He fired three times in rapid succession and the bullets took two of the Shadowalkers in the head, a third in the shoulder. All noise stopped as the bodies tumbled down. Rubber bullets didn't kill especially at that distance. Joseph dropped the gun and stared at the bodies. The Shadowalkers remained frozen in place. Georgia moved forward and picked it up.

"A death for a death." She leveled the gun at him. "Now what are you going to do?"

"It was an accident. I didn't mean to kill them. I was just doing my job." He was young enough to be her grandson and the terror on his face was replaced with anger. "You. You set this up." His voice hissed out. "Just like all of the others before me. Each one was killed according to the law, but you set them up to fall."

"And what are you going to do about it?"

Joseph scrambled for the gun and wrenched it out of her hand. She closed her eyes, not quite keeping the smile from her face, but he didn't fire.

"Call security!" someone yelled.

Georgia opened her eyes and watched as Joseph ran towards a door. People moved out of his way since he still clutched the deadly weapon. The security team was still in her room, checking on her alarm from earlier. If Joseph hurried he could be out of the compound and hiding in the city with the rebellion before the soldiers even arrived. She accepted the helping hand of the PR executive and walked from the room. If all went according to plan, her government would fall in ten years. If she was lucky, she would live long enough to see her wrong righted. 

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Carl Rogers

Carl Rogers is known for his contributions to Humanistic Psychology. The basis of his theory is that humans are naturally good and that they are trying to reach their full potential. Humans want to do the best that they can. He calls this the "actualizing force" that we all have inherently. He applies this idea even to ecosystems in which the ecosystem will try to fulfill its potential. An example of this is when a bug dies out in a forest other species takes its place (this should remind you a little of systems theory BTW). He also applied this to culture and that it is a living and growing organism.

This idea of humanistic psychology is important for the way we develop our characters, because it brings up one point that I want to talk about today. Do we believe that the characters in our books are naturally good or evil or neither? We will develop our characters differently depending on our belief of the nature of the characters in the book. For example if believe that the characters in our books are naturally evil then our heroes may be constantly fighting their own desires as well as the rest of society. Keep in mind that just because we believe that our characters are naturally evil it does not mean that the majority or even a lot of our characters will be evil. It only means that when the characters were going through their formative years they learned appropriate ways of living within the society they were raised and do not behave in an evil manner in fact they are probably behaving in a good manner. (Side note I am using the terms evil and good in a general sense that probably should be discussed at a later time, but for this post lets just say that evil is going against the welfare of the whole while good is trying to benefit the whole....yes I know that brings up many more questions as well but....) The same is true with those who believe that humans are naturally good. The children/characters are raised to conform to society and so they do. This does not mean that everyone turns out good.

When looking at the story that I have been writing on my blog lately the characters are natural wanting to do that which is evil, but they have been trained to conform to the society in which they live in and so they are considered good (generally speaking). This being said it does not mean that the cultural is entirely good or that it is looking after the welfare of the whole. In fact as has been seen there is something brewing within the society that the powers are not entirely aware of yet. Tim is enigma to the society in that he is not acting as expected. We also have something going on with Tabatha in that she is trying to steal/save/? a child. Is she a good person or an evil person. Is she fighting society and therefore evil or is she reshaping society and therefore good. As we explore the story of Tabatha more hopefully you will see how this idea of naturally good vs. naturally evil works.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Continuing the story

Here is the next installment of the story. I'm feeling a little off today so don't make fun :) Remember this Wednesday we will be hearing from an excellent writer who will be sharing us one of her flash fiction pieces. I have read it and you won't want to miss it.

Tabatha looked in both directions then back to the android in the car.
He stared at her through the glass divider in the cab, “It’s okay I can take you wherever you want to go.”
She looked up as a drop of rain fell on her. She always liked the rain; it made her feel as if she was outside of the city and was no longer covered by the dome. She had only been outside once before with her father when she was a young child. Her father had grabbed her by her hands and swung her around in circles that made her hair fly out in a half circle. She smiled as she remembered the smell of the rain and the field of flowers.
“Tabatha, would you like a ride?”
The smile was now gone as she remembered the child that had been left behind. She looked again at the android and climbed into the cab.
“Where to?”
“I… I don’t know,” her voice trailed off realizing that there really was nowhere for her to go. Johanus had promised that he would help her and take her to a safe place. Now that she had tried to take the child there was no longer any safe place for her. She lowered her head into her hands and shook it slowly from side to side.
“Is everything okay?”
She sniffed and lifted her head slowly, “I will be fine. You can take me to 2346 Pineview Drive.”
The car slowly started to move and then stopped. The android turned around and looked at her through the glass between them and said, “Are you sure that is a good place to go? They will probably be looking for you there.”
“What do you mean?” Tabatha said.
A picture showed on the glass between them and Tabatha’s jaw dropped; the picture was of her running from the Williby Mansion. The picture must have been taken that night. Tabatha grabbed the handle, but the door wouldn’t open, “Let me out,” she yelled as she jerked on the handle again.
“Tabatha you need to calm down. You can trust me.”
She sat back farther in the seat as the window between them opened, “Stay away from me.”
The android held up both of his hands, “My name is Tim. I won’t hurt you and I’m not going to turn you in. I want to help you.”
“I didn’t know androids had names. Who gave you a name?”
“There are others that are like me and we name each other.”
The rain was beginning to slow down and Tabatha could see other cars on the street letting people in and out. A police car stopped a few feet ahead of them and two policemen climbed out and headed for the medic.
“We must hurry or they will find you soon. The medic would have notified the police since he treated you for laser wounds.”
The police entered the medic and Tabatha nodded her head as she stared after the police.
Tim turned around and the cab started forward, “The child is important to us as well,” Tim said over his shoulder, “We believe the child will set us free.”
Tabatha jerked her head around and looked at the smiling android in the rearview mirror.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Story Continued

I have continued the story from Monday. Here is the next installment. I think instead of the flash fiction I will be continuing this story for awhile I hope you enjoy it and keep coming back. Have a great weekend!

Tabatha limped along the dark alley, her shoe tightened as her ankle continued to swell. She jumped behind a trash bin and froze. Her breath was ragged and she knew she needed to get to a medic soon. The laser burns were beginning to take their toll and she didn’t know how much longer she could keep walking.
The sound came again; it was from the direction she had come. A cat walked by and Tabatha began breathing again. Using the wall, she was able to continue down the alley until she made it to the street. Even though she had seen flying cars for years it was still amazing to her to see them zip by high above her. There were still many ground cars due to costs, but they were becoming less and less common.
She looked at her watch and sighed with relief seeing that it was still functioning normally. Clicking a button the holographic window opened up above the watch and she began typing in the air. Within moments a yellow cab car stopped in front of her and the door opened. Tabatha stepped in and said, “The closest medic, please.” Many people didn’t see the need to be polite to androids seeing them as just machines, but Tabatha always wondered if there wasn’t more going on than they let on.
While the car cruised along the road weaving in and out through the traffic Tabatha pulled the holographic screen up again and typed in, Johanus. She scowled as the familiar ringing noise buzzed in her ear.
After a few rings a man’s voice came on, “You reached Johanus, but he didn’t reach you. Leave a message if you need a call back.”
Tabatha spoke to the hologram, “Where were you? I nearly got killed and now they’re after me.” She paused brushing a tear from her eye. “I love you.” There was another pause and then she clicked her watch.
The car rolled to a stop and the door opened, “That will be 45 credits, please.” The android said emphasizing the please.
Tabatha placed her thumb on the scanner and typed in the password on the keypad.
“Thank You Tabatha. Should I wait for you?”
Tabatha shook her head giving the android a half smile then stepped out of the car. Looking up at the sign she read, “DR. DOWENGER’S FINE HEALING.” The door closed behind her and she walked inside the medic. The room was completely white and Tabatha scrunched her nose at the smell. Medics always smelled of death to her.
A woman behind the counter greeted her, “Hello, what is your reason for visiting us today?”
“I twisted my ankle and have a couple of burn marks.” Tabatha said as she scanned the room.
The woman typed on holographic keyboard and said, “You can go on back. The Dr. is ready for you.”
Tabatha walked into the backroom. A table stood in the middle of the room and above it hung the Dr. Tabatha lay down on the table and waited as the Dr. slowly lowered over the top of her. There was buzzing and whirring sounds all around her and then she felt the relief as the swelling in her ankle went down and the burns began to heal.
Dr. Dowenger was done in about 20 minutes and Tabatha stood on her hurt ankle testing it to make sure it was better. She smiled and then left the room.
The woman was typing as she approached.
Without looking up she said, “That will be twenty five hundred credits.”
Tabatha grimaced and then pressed the scanner and typed in her password.
“Thank you, have a nice day.”
Tabatha left the medic her head low and saw the cab waiting for her. The door opened and the android said, “Get in. Your next destination is on me.”
She stopped, looking up at the smiling android.
To Be Continued…………………….

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Zone of Proximal Development

It's time for another psychology lesson. I think that yesterdays guest lecture went very well and hopefully everyone enjoyed the story. If you didn't get a chance to read it you'll want to take a look at it.

Zone of Proximal Development was developed by social constructivist Lev Vygotsy in the early 1900's. Lev explained that children will follow the example of adults and will gradually develop new abilities without help. However, if the child is helped at certain points then that child will grow much faster. The zone of proximal development defines functions that not matured yet, but are in the process of maturing.

This concept is also known as scaffolding. Scaffolding is like stairs that a child/person must climb but can only get up the steps by someone on the step above them helping them up. This is where adults and other people step in to help the child up.

If we look at our characters and how they change throughout our stories we will see how they work along to accomplish their goals, but then they get stuck. Our characters generally then receive support from another source that helps them accomplish the goal and helps them grow. Think about  The Hunger Games story as an example. Katniss is pretty dependent in the beginning of the books and has learned to take care of her family, but without the support and training of those around her the story would have been over in the first book as she enters the arena. It doesn't stop there though. Throughout the series she is receiving support and help to get ther to the point she needs to be at in the end to accomplish.... I won't tell you what she accomplish I wouldn't want to spoil it, but you get the picture.

Our stories will be more realistic as we use the zone of proximal development with our characters. Our characters will not know everything on the first page; they need to learn and grow just like everyone else in this world.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Guest Author (Brian Miller)

I'm so excited to introduce our first guest author Brian Miller. He is an amazing poet and I love to read his poems on a daily basis. You got that right, he writes a new poem almost every day! He is also an amazing support to everyone around him, always taking the time to comment on blogs and giving excellent feedback. I hope that you will all give him a huge round of virtual applause with me.

Thank you for the opportunity to share here Josh. My name is Brian Miller. I blog at Waystationone ( and Dversepoets ( Waystationone is my personal blog where I write poetry of various forms as well as short story (both fiction and non) I have been blogging at the Waystation for not quite three and a half years.

Dversepoets is an online venue that I cofounded with Claudia Schoenfeld and several poet friends to create a space for poetry to be brought to the forefront. We opened the pub about eight months ago and regularly have hundreds of poets come through each week to showcase their work.

I have been published in a few collections and magazines. I had a book that included some of my poetry come out at Christmas and I am currently working on a large collection of both my poetry and short stories, which is currently in the editting stage. I have a much larger story that I have been tinkering with for a while that is eco-horror in genre. I don't post much of it at the Waystation but pseudo-horror is one of my favorite genres to write.

Below is a piece of flash that I wrote on a day when the words were just not coming.

Writing Life Writing Life


The page stares back into his heavy lidded eyes, bloodshot and burning, he forces a blink knowing the contest is unnecessary. Flexing his fingers, he feels tension release from within each joint, then brings them to his face, dragging them down from hairline to hollow cheeks. His tongue dampen his lips, as if he has something to say, but doesn't. A fly lands atop the typewriter, rubbing its front legs.

Taking a cotton cloth from the table top, he works his hands, removing ink and oil, paying close attention to the nails. Longer than he usually kept them, he wishes for a moment he had clippers nearby, contemplates retrieving them from the bathroom. This would mean crossing the room and he can barely feel his legs as it is, just little pin pricks of life along their length.

Stretching his legs under the desk, a small fire erupts in the muscles. It hurts, but feels so good. He smiles and retrieves a crumpled pack of cigarettes from one of the drawers that run along the right side of the desk. Shaking one loose he places it between his lips, where it dances. He inhales, even though it is not lit, savoring the smell of the tobacco as he centers on the fly on the typewriter.

The fly walks a small circle, now facing the page that still rests, pinched in the roller. He wonders if the fly is reading and if it likes what it sees. Kill it, a stray thought dances through his thoughts, but he dismisses it. The desire to touch it, to feel its wings, is almost overwhelming. The tobacco tastes sweet on his tongue.

Careful not to disturb the fly, he puts one hand on the roller knob and takes the top of the just completed page in the other and rolls it until released. The fly cares little, remaining where it is, as the man lays the freed page on an inch deep stack of its brethren.

The wall behind the typewriter is grimy with years of fingerprints and sweat of its occupants. Notes are etched in its surface, notes he has left himself among those of others, he left while typing, too busy to pause and find paper. Some he can read and understand, others are nearly intelligible, scrawled hastily in manic swirls.

 كلمات غير      מילים לא נעמרות Unausgesprochene worte
parole inespresse

Gouged deep in block letters he recognizes as his own, UNSPOKEN. Puckered edges bite his fingers as he traces each letter, he is sure, not for the first time. His eyes spasm wide, accompanied by a sharp intake of breath. The fly launches itself from the typewriter, turning a sharp corner over the man's shoulder disappearing from view.

Grabbing the stack of completed pages, he flips through, a river of white cascades to the floor where pages splash in various directions. Blank, how can they all be blank. A moan begins deep within him, the distant call of a train rising into a howl. Abruptly, he wrenches open the top drawer, removes a fresh sheet of paper and feverishly feeds it into the machine.


The fly lands on the crest of the man's ear, crawling to the point where it joins the rest of his head and begins rubbing its legs, which if the man could hear so minuscule a noise, would sound like chaotic laughter.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Roles in dysfunctional families

Today I wanted to take a look at different roles children tend to take on in dysfunctional families. There are four different roles that they tend to take on: Hero, Scapegoat, Caretaker, and the Lost Child.

The Hero is the child that takes on the parent role becoming self sufficient and responsible. This child is rigid and is very judgmental of other families members and secretly of him/herself. These children receive a lot of praise because they are doing what is expected of them, but they are often cutoff from their inner emotions and push away from it. These children often grow into insecure adults.

The Scapegoat is the child that the family is ashamed of. This child acts out the anger and tension that the family ignores. This child is the distraction of the real family problems and becomes the one that is most self destructive. They are the most sensitive to emotions and are hurt most because of this.

The Caretaker is responsible for the emotional well-being of the family  by becoming the social director or clown. They distract the family from the pain the family is feeling. These children become caring adults whose whole self-definition is thinking of others, but they don't know how to get their own needs met. They generally have low self-esteem and feel a lot of guilt.

The Lost Child is the child that becomes invisible and withdraw from reality. They deny having feelings and don't get upset, "Why bother no one will hear me." These children grow into adults who are unable to feel and have very low self-esteems. They are withdrawn and shy and socially isolated. An interesting note is a lot of actors are the lost child because they can act out their emotions by hiding behind their characters.

Interestingly enough like we discussed in a past post when the family dynamics change the roles can shift as well. The scapegoat child goes to juvenile detention and another child takes up the role of the scapegoat. You may find yourself thinking that your family falls into these roles, but these roles are generally extreme and may appear in other families, but generally they are not lasting and are not to the extreme that you would see in a dysfunctional family.

When applying this idea to our characters we can use it as a tool to make sense of why a character behaves how they behave around family and around others.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Monday Flash Fiction Piece

Here is my flash fiction for the start of the week I hope that you enjoy it. It will be continued to Friday so make sure you come back so you can read the exciting conclusion. I am also very excited to announce that my first guest flash fiction piece will be by Brian Miller. He is an amazing writer and I look forward to see what he has in store for us on Wednesday. I also have next week lined up with another amazing writer EA Younker. So be prepared to have some great stories coming your way. If you would like to be showcased on my blog let me know.

(Name Pending)
This wasn’t supposed to happen this way, the woman thought as she paced the floor like a restless tiger in a cage. Her legs ached after running the mile home at a full sprint, but she continued to pace, unaware of the scrapes and bruises. Why didn’t he show? She slammed her fist into the metal wall; blood formed on her knuckles and then dripped on the floor as her pace continued. Her short brown hair flew in a half circle in front of her blue eyes each time she turned, making the small room disappear for an instant.
She stopped, “Who are you?” her hand went immediately to the leather holster that hung at her side. Her shoulders sagged and she took a step back remembering that it was empty. Stupid, stupid, stupid. Why didn’t you go back for it?
The man’s mouth turned up slightly at the tips as he looked at her side. “You shouldn’t have come. You should have left well enough alone.” His voice was deep like a bass drum.
She could see his muscles flex under his shirt and she knew that she could not overpower him, even with her strength mod. Her heart pounded in her chest and sweat dripped from her face.
The man stood in front of the open door like a giant bear, leaving no room to pass. There was a noise from the hall and he turned.
She dove for the bed and felt the hot burn of the laser as it singed her arm. Another burn formed on her leg before she was able to pull the knife from under her pillow and throw it at the man.
He stumbled as he tripped over a chair narrowly moving out of the way of the knife aimed for his head.
She threw the second knife hitting the man in the arm that held the pistol. Jumping to her feet she ran for the door.
The man grabbed her ankle just as she jumped over him and she crashed to the ground, the first knife’s handle jabbed her in her chest knocking the wind out of her. He climbed out from underneath and grabbed her hair pulling her up.
Turning she jabbed the knife into his gut and ran as he screamed in pain.
The last thing she heard as she ran down the hall was the man screaming, “You’ll never get him back.”
Tears ran down her face as she thought of the small boy who she once rocked to sleep each night in the master’s home.


Friday, March 9, 2012


Just to let all of you know the defense went really well!! I passed and there were only a few revisions that need to be made. I look forward to the new schedule next week and hope that you all enjoy it as well.
Have a great weekend!!!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Short update on survey

Hi All, thanks for participating in the survey. The majority wanted a combination of all three and Brian's plan looked best to me. I look forward to the new schedule and will be implementing it starting next week. Today and tomorrow's post are going to be short due to my defense, but I will post a quick note tomorrow to let you know how it went.

Here is the schedule starting next week:
Monday - Flash Fiction Piece
Tuesday - Psychology post
Wednesday - Guest Flash Fiction Piece
Thursday - Psychology post
Friday - Flash Fiction Piece

If you are interested in being a guest on Wednesday let me know.
I'm excited for the new direction and hope that you all enjoy it as well.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Blog Direction

I have been thinking that my followers may be interested in something different about my blog and so I have created a survey to see what you all prefer.
Choice 1: Continue as it is.
Choice 2: I had an idea to invite guest writers on to display a short flash fiction piece and to also write a little about themselves and their current WIP.
Choice 3: A little of both choice 1 and choice 2
Choice 4: Only write flash fiction stories of my own creation.
Choice 5: Other, want something else let me know.

Just make a selection in the survey to the side that is titled Blog Direction and let me know what you really feel :)
Have a great day!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012


As a family therapist one of the first things that you will do is draw a genogram. A genogram is a picture/model representation of the family that the client/s resides in. These genograms can be as simple as just listing the name  and the family tree. Other genograms can become very complex including things such as relationships, triangles (yesterdays post), drug use, mental health issues, abilities, etc.. These can be very useful in seeing the big picture and the dynamics of the family.

I was looking for an easy tool to do this all on the computer and found this website that offers a free version of their software. It looks as if it could be very useful in creating the genogram of an individual. You will need to look at the details on the offer and see if it is right for you, but I have high hopes for it.

On Wikipedia  there is a great list of symbols and their meanings. Check it out!

Creating a genogram for our characters can be very useful in helping us identify how they fit into their system. I recommend that you not only do it for the character's family, but the entier system the character is involved in.

Monday, March 5, 2012


Triangulation is a term used in family systems theory. Triangulation is where there are two sides that are in harmony while the other side is in conflict. This is most often seen when a child tries to form an alliance with one of the parents against the other parent. A simple example of this is where the child will ask one parent if they can go out and the parent says no. The child then goes to the other parent and asks and that parent says yes. This causes miss-communication and problems within the family unit. 

Our stories often have similar elements to triangulation. Take for example our MC has two companions who are wanting to go a different way. The MC sees value in both of the companions ideas and has a tough time trying to figure out which way is the best for the group.

Triangulation is a great way to also look at alliances and wars. Take for example (very simplified) WWII. There were many alliances formed between nations. One of the nations that had alliances went to war with another nation that had an alliance. This caused a chain reaction that caused all of those aligned with the two nations at war to eventually end up in the war as well.  

The more we understand the triangles that are being formed between our characters the more we will understand how they will react to certain situations within the plot.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Systems Theory How to Change the Norm

In systems theory we have talked about how the pull and tug from individuals within the system actually keep the system in homeostasis. This means that when one person begins to fight the system another person will arise in the system to pull the person back into the system or to equalize the pull. This makes it difficult for systems to change.

In order for a system to move towards a true change, which would be a move in the homeostasis mid point, the forces acting within the system must be greater in one direction so that it overpowers the rest of the system. For example lets imagine a family who are at point A. Joe is in the family and he is constantly rebelling against the family norm which causes a lot of stress for the rest of the family. On the other hand we have Suzie who is a little angel who is balancing the system and alleviates stress for the family. The family has learned certain unspoken rules to deal with the stress but in truth are not very functional. One day John and Sue (parents) get tired of it and send Joe to counseling. Joe gets better and is no longer a pain, but when he gets home the unspoken rules are the same and Suzie begins to rebel causing homeostasis again. You see the system did not change only the different members roles within the system. In order to change the system the above family goes to counseling together and they all begin to see that the unspoken rules are dysfunctional and they all begin to change. This moves the system to a new state of homeostasis in which it is more functional. Suzie (the new rebel) still rebels, but because system rules have been modified, the system moves. Phew...I hope that all is as clear as mud :)

Now looking at our characters. Our MCs are generally our change agents. They are the ones pulling the system in one direction. However, they can't change the system until they change the system rules. They need to bring awareness to the majority of the members that there is a problem with the rules and that new rules xyz would be better. Then the system needs to agree with this.

A simple example of this is Charlotte's Web. Wilbur is born and lives at a farm where the norm is to eat pigs. Charlotte comes along and spins webs that change the norm so that they don't eat Wilbur. Charlotte is the change that moves the system and changes the system rules.

Friday, March 2, 2012


Now I know I left you all hanging yesterday promising the answer to the question of how to change the systems that we live in.... I had a pretty rough day yesterday and found out that some paperwork that needed to be turned in ten days ago was not done. Without this paperwork in I can't defend my thesis which was scheduled for today at 3:00. Since I'm writing on my blog you can probably guess I'm not defending my thesis. I have been running around all day to get the paperwork in and to reschedule my defense for next Friday. Thankfully this is all done and I should be set to defend next week. This being said I am exhausted and the thought of thinking deeply has left me. I apologize but I will have to give you the answers to the life the universe and everything tomorrow. Think of it this way at least the world didn't get pulverized due to an intergalactic space highway :)

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Living Systems

Living Systems is a theory developed by James Grier Miller in 1978. He wrote a 1102-page volume to present his theory. Miller applied general systems theory on a broad scale to describe all aspects of living systems.

Miller explained, "All nature is a continuum. The endless complexity of life is organized into patterns which repeat themselves-theme and variations- at each level of system. These similarities and differences are proper concerns for science. From the ceaseless streaming of protoplasm to the many-vectored activities of supranational systems, there are continuous flows through living systems as they maintain their highly organized states."

From this we learn that there is constant movement between systems of both information and of energy/matter. This information and energy/matter is processed by subsystems. Take for example our own bodies (which is a system) we have eyes that read this page and passes it to our brain that process what our eyes see and then decides what to make of it and then stores it. Later when we want to pass this information off to someone else we write about the information or we talk about the information. The information is passed from one system to another system. Further, the way that this information is passed is repeated over and over. This includes the way societies repeat themselves over and over. Social scientist look at societies that they are in and can see a pattern of past societies and can predict what will happen to them. This is of course hard and complicated and not entirely accurate but it is possible.

When we are creating both our characters and our systems that our characters belong to it is helpful to understand what role our character is playing within the larger system and what roles are being played upon our characters from smaller systems. All people play a role in their society in order for the society to function and stay in homeostasis. In order to move the system the homeostasis of that system must also move. This is done by...

We will talk more about this tomorrow. I hope everyone is having a very meaningful day!!

Friends Meetup Party - the perfect line