April 10th ed.: What’s a Monkeydactyl?, Author Interview, SFF Giveaway and Free Stories!
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In this episode of Jotham’s Bi-Monthly Rabbit Hole of Research Newsletter:

  1. Science News quick hits. Thoughts to Text and What the heck is a Monkeydactyl? (and no, I didn’t make that up)

  2. Author Interview with Lisa Alfano

  3. Personal Update

  4. Awesome Book Fair

  5. Fantasy and Sci-FI Giveaway

  6. Two free Short Stories (J. Watkins and R. Forsberg)

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What the Heck is a Monkeydactyl and What’s This About No More Sloppy Handwriting?
Hey y’all, I hope this email finds you safe and well. If you are here for more of my writing, to have some fun with science, or to find your next favorite read, thank you for joining.

I hope you will always find something that educates or entertains (I’m always trying for both). Either way, thanks for tuning into my Bi-Monthly Newsletter: Rabbit Hole of Research. I’m constantly adding new features, last month I added the author interview feature, and this episode I’m adding some quirky science headlines from the past weeks that you may have missed.

So Jotham, what the heck is this Monkeydactyl, or are you going to make me read the entire newsletter to find out? Nah, but I hope you read the entire thing, because it’s cool. The Monkeydactyl (say that five times fast) is a recently discovered pterosaur (winged-lizard) in the Jurassic of China that has opposed thumbs. You can check out the paper here. The official name is (science is cool, but things have to have a fancy difficult to pronounce name),  Kunpengopterus antipollicatus. Antipollicatus comes from the words “opposite” and “thumb” in Ancient Greek (see all those Greek prefixes and suffixes your 5th grade teacher made you memorize comes in handy sometimes). But, the take home message is, the Monkeydactyl was a flying reptile with thumbs. Did you start humming,

Oh—Ee—Oh, Yo—Oh! …
Oh—Ee—Oh, Yo—Oh!

I wonder if you could have flying monkeys? Well that’s a rabbit hole for a different episode—

And I mentioned something about handwriting. A common question people ask authors is if they write their stories longhand first or just type them? When I’m asked this question, I start laughing and laughing- then I realize it’s a one sided joke and answer, “Not if I want to read it again.” Then there is more laughter (usually just me, until it gets awkward)—anyway its an insult to chickens to say my handwriting  is chicken scratch—

Anyhoo, there was some cool research where a brain implant converted thoughts into text. Here is the research paper if you are interested. In short a paralyzed patient was fitted with brain implants that recorded finger and hand movement electrical signals. The patient thought about writing and the brain activity was converted to text—and fast—like 90 words per minute (even my typing teacher would have been impressed). This thought-to-text technology is still in the early stages of development, but has a lot of potential to give some functionality and a voice to those who are disabled. I’m sure authors reading this are like, when can they make an app for this.

That’s two quick hits of science. Hope you enjoyed and I’ll try to keep you up to date on the science that dosen’t make the headlines (like dangers of falling space debris or close encounters with asteroids)
 
Author Interview with Lisa Alfano
Lisa Alfano is a lifelong New Englander, a wife, and a mother to two grown sons and one very spoiled fur baby named Austin. She enjoys creating twisted characters living in flawed worlds because life is always flawed, but a bit more fun when it’s twisted. She finds inspiration for her diverse characters and intriguing plots while strolling the beach near her CT shoreline home. She earned her M.B.A. and M.A.R. from Liberty University. 
 
PMS GIRLS, a young adult, coming of age psychological thriller is her debut novel and was released February 16, 2021.
 
Her second novel, an adult psychological thriller, FRACTURED SECRETS, is scheduled for publication Summer 2021. RhetAskew Publishing is the publisher for both novels. 

 

Author portrait by Georgia Geis 
Follow Georgia @atomicnumber14

 

Lisa, How do you come up with ideas for a project?

 

I usually will start with one key event or I see something somewhere, and it piques my interest. Then I start trying to figure out the “how and why” would this happen, what events precipitated, what would happen in the future. The other way I come up with ideas is if a character pops into my head—it could happen while doing dishes, walking the dog, whatever. Then I do an interview with the character, much like we are doing with me right now, and learn his/her story, life’s journey, likes, dislikes, etc. That is how I ended up with Ari Worthington. She was supposed to be in a short story, but after writing the single event, I learned that this character had much more to say and share…and PMS Girls was born. 

 

After you have a new idea, how much research do you do?

 

The amount of research depends on what I am writing about. Most of my stories are based in New England towns. As a lifelong New Englander, I am already familiar with the types of buildings, landscapes, etc. However, there are stories which I need a lot of research, such as my current wip which requires knowledge of a ship; something I knew little about before doing my research.

 

Do you research things throughout your creative process or just at the beginning?

I tend to research throughout the creative process. Since my genre is primarily psychological thrillers, I am always double-checking to make sure that if I have someone bleeding or injured, that it is pretty close to reality. 

 

What’s the strangest thing you’ve researched for a project (go check that Google search history)?

Taxidermy and how to preserve taxidermal mounts is the strangest, and disturbing, research I have done for a project. It was for a horror story and taxidermy played key roles in the multi-generational story, so it was important to be as accurate as possible.

 

When you write, do you try to stay close to the Actual Factual or are you fast and loose with Handwavium (a term used when a writer waves their hand at reality for sake of the plot)?

 

I try to stay close to the Actual Factual whenever possible unless it is a minor detail that does not affect the story or flow. However, I am currently working on a fantasy thriller which has allowed me to let loose the Handwavium as I created my fantasy world, and that was pretty fun.

 

Have you ever stopped reading a story to go look up how factual something was? 

Yes, I have. If I am reading a “based on a true story” fiction novel, I often will check out the actual facts behind the real-life case the story is based on so that I can determine how much artistic license the author has taken.

 

Do you create with music, other background noise or complete silence?

I usually play some sort of instrumental (classical or jazz) arrangement when I first begin writing a new story as it has a calming, without being intrusive, effect. However, when I am writing a fight scene or another high-intensity type of scene, I change things up. I will crank up heavy metal, i.e., Iron Maiden, AC/DC, or another similar band, to get in the proper “high-voltage” mood.

 

PMS Girls is such an intriguing and “pick me up and read” title. How did you come up with this title? And what’s your process to titling your stories?

 

The story takes place at an elite boarding school called, Perpetual Mercy School for Young Women, aka PMS for short. However, my antagonist does use PMS as a double-entendre. I thought it would be a fun title and let the reader decide which way they wanted to interpret it. 

Titling my stories is one of the most difficult aspects of the writing process for me. I typically change the title seven or eight times before I finish final edits. The only title that did come to me right at the concept stage of a story and which I never changed is Fractured Secrets, the title of my next novel. It summed up the entire story in two words. I typed it on the title page and never looked back.

 

How does living by the ocean inspire you and influence your work?

 

The beach is my happy place, not just for writing, but for life itself. My ideas really flow and flourish when I am walking on the beach. There is something soothing and inspiring about the rolling waves and salt air that sparks my senses and my imagination. Luckily, I live only about a mile from the ocean, so I do not have to travel far to jumpstart my creative juices. While walking I usually will get an idea for a particular character or scene, which I jot in my little notebook. Once home, I let the character tell me his/her story and off we go on our journey. 

 

If you got to use some “Handwavium” and send younger Lisa one note about writing, editing, or marketing, which would you chose and what would you say?

 

This is a fun question because the note I would send young Lisa, she already was preparing for—marketing. I have a undergrad degree in marketing and the minor for my MBA was also marketing. That being said, when I attended college in the mid-late 80s-early 90s, there were no computers, no social media, and no cellphones (at least not that I could afford as a struggling student). I got my first home computer at age 27 and my first cellphone (because my husband insisted that I join the rest of the world) about 12 years ago. 

So, I would send young Lisa a note and tell her to stop drawing marketing ads (that was how we did it back then) and as soon as you can, learn all about computers and social media. 

 

Do you have any pet helper?

 

I do have a pet helper. His name is Austin. He is a five-year-old Great Pyrenees/Australian Shepherd, which translates to 110 pounds of fur and love. My husband and I rescued him as a puppy. He is my constant companion, lying at my feet while I’m writing.

 

Do you create better at 5am or 5pm?

 

Definitely 5am. I like to grab my coffee and get writing. 

 

PMS Girls is your latest novel, can you share what you are working on next? 

 

My second novel, an adult psychological thriller titled, Fractured Secrets, is going to be published by RhetAskew Publishing this Summer (July/August 2021). 

 

While I’m waiting for Fractured Secrets to be released, I am finishing up the final edits to the first book of a fantasy thriller trilogy that I wrote (and hopefully will find a publishing home for soon).

 

Which team apocalypse are you on: zombie, asteroid, or alien invasion?

 

Team zombie, all the way. One of the few tv shows I watch is TWD. If there’s a zombie apocalypse, I’m ready!
 

Lisa, thank-you for your time. Is there anything else you’d like folks to know about you, your work, or your research process?

 

Thank you for allowing me to share a bit about myself with your subscribers. I am a pretty shy and private person, but I would hope to inspire others to chase their dreams—regardless of your age or circumstances. I had a professional career, raised a family, owned businesses with my husband, yet I always wrote stories because I love writing. Several years ago, a stroke changed my entire life and left me with “physical challenges” that ended my professional business career. However, I am by nature a positive person and refused to let that be the final chapter for me. Yes, I cannot do a lot of what I used to do, but I can write. Sometimes, due to the pain, I write with my head on my desk, but I don’t give up. Some days I cannot even look at a screen or pick up a pen, on those days I do not get discouraged, because I will try again tomorrow. I don’t tend to discuss my challenges publicly, but I hope that someone struggling will find some inspiration in my story to find the courage never give up because the path you’re on might not be the path you planned for, but then again, the new path might be a heck of a lot more rewarding. 


Lisa, thank you for spending some time with us at Rabbit Hole of Research!

Lisa’s debut Young Adult, Coming of Age, Phycological Thriller PMS Girls is available now!

Available now!

Follow Lisa on Social Media.

Goodreads / Facebook / Twitter / Bookbub / 
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What’s New with Jotham?

Not much personal news to update you with, so I thought I’d share a photo from a project I was working on at work, modeling limb development in embryos. On the big screen, the green is the nucleus and the blue is the outline of the cell body. On the little screen you can see the all the electron micrograph of the cells that I’m modeling. 


 

As many of you know, my debut novel, “Will You Still Love Me If I Become Someone Else?’ was released on February 23rd 2021. Still haven’t read it, go check it out here. Hopefully, with COVID restrictions easing (folks are getting vaccinated which is good) I may be able to do book signings and other fun things, stay tuned for details! And I’m working on two new Novellas releasing later this year. Check out the cover:


Preorder for ‘Moonlight: A Limited Edition Paranormal Romance Anthology’ is now available here. The first draft of the novella about Eve who is a werewolf (And yes, I did a science of werewolf episode) looking to protect her pact, but finds love along the way—is hot off the keyboard and will let in cool off before I start editing. Working title is “All Your Stars Are But Moonbeams in My Hair.” What do you think about the title? Email and let me know.

And, you read correctly, I said two novellas are being released this fall. The second will be in the Emerging Worlds Anthology. I am doing a post-zombie novella titled, “The Cure”. They promised the Cure would end Zombie and return life to normal, but nobody promised normal would be easy. I’ve wanted to write a zombie story for some time, and looking at post zombie life is fun. I’m about 14K words in (Whoa, I’m half way there…now that song is stuck in your head).

And don’t worry, there will be a new issue of Rabbit Hole of Research on May 29th, and it’s going to be frosty! If you want to read past issues, check them out here

Follow me online, and feel free to Email me with questions, comments, questionable science, or who you’d like to see interviewed.

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Some Cool Stuff To Check Out and add to your—To Be Read List:

  1. All Genre Book Fair!

  2. Diverse Fantasy and Sci-Fi Giveaway

  3. Free short space opera story by  R. Forsberg

  4. Free short choose your own adventure thriller Story by J. Watkins

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Tristram Boxley, a disgraced captain of the Dawn Alliance Navy, struggles to make a living as a bouncer until a late-night encounter opens an opportunity. But even with his special ability—to stop time around him—life as a bounty hunter turns out less glamorous than his childhood hero made it seem... Join Tristram down in Spit City on an intense run for the bounty.
 

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Your name is Eagle Tempestro. You're an adventure-loving ex-pat cooling your jets on a Belizean beach. You receive a note with a mission to return to the site of your greatest failure. What do you do?

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Jen Watkins’ Choose Your Own Adventure: Return To Shark Cave

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