Tag Archives: research

Real life dragons!

Real life dragons! (or cool looking lizards….)

I thought I would share these here, as I love lizards and reptiles and these are beautiful little creatures.  I might have to feature something like them in a future story.
Armadillo Girdled Lizard – Cordylus cataphractus – from South Africa.

armadillo-girdled-lizard-roll-into-ball ZB980_TBA001239A_36_ozctr3

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“Them’s Writing Words!”: 3 ways to gain inspiration for your next writing project

This article was originally published on Bookmarketingtools.com

The Passion of Creation by Leonid Pasternak (the father of Boris Pasternak)

Writing Inspiration

Have you ever been in a conversation with someone and they say something that sparks a story idea in your head?

(…then you miss the rest of the conversation because you are desperately trying to imprint the idea in your brain so you can get it down on paper at a later time…)

This tends to happen a lot to me and usually I can’t get to a piece of paper (or my phone) in time to get the idea, and the emotion behind it, down.

(…immediately grabbing your phone in mid-conversation can be seen as a little rude…)

I call this phenomenon ‘Writing Words’ – When you hear something that immediately sends your mind racing on story ideas and concepts. Many good books have been sparked into existence by a word or line in a conversation, or even from a song or a picture. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is a good example of this:

“The Lion all began with a picture of a Faun carrying an umbrella and parcels in a snowy wood. This picture had been in my mind since I was about sixteen. Then one day, when I was about forty, I said to myself: ‘Let’s try to make a story about it.”– From the essay, It All Began with a Picture, by C.S. Lewis

3 Ways To Get Writing Inspiration

Here are 3 ways that you can get inspiration, or tap into those ‘Writing Words’:

  1. From items and things in the world around you. Pictures, scenes, landscapes, songs, your favorite park bench…these can all be a catalyst for forming your next writing project. It’s just up to you to be aware of what is around you and see the potential. Just as C.S. Lewis did.
  2. From news articles. Newspapers, magazine articles, online news sites and television have always been a good source for soaking up story ideas. A social issue on illegal immigration in the Australian Press is what sparked the inspiration for my book The Enclave. Though whatever idea or theme attracts your attention, it needs to resonate with you, because if it doesn’t, the story will not have the emotional power behind it that you would like it to have.
  3. From the conversations and events that happen around you. Now we are back to where I started this article. Any conversation, whether one you’re involved with or overheard, can be a goldmine of ideas for stories in any genre. It’s just up you, the writer, to see their value and greedily use it to your writing advantage.

I gather ideas mainly using the 3 points above. Because of this I have a large collection of paper slips that get tucked into my idea book when I get home. I have been storing my ideas like this for years and have several notebooks full of stuff that I go back to when I need writing inspiration.

How do you find your ideas? Please share your thoughts in the comment’s section. I really would like to know what works for you.

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13 Blogging Statistics you probably don’t know but should



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Dark Matter Looks WIMPy

Graphic Credit: The Astronomist.

Data from the ISS-based Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer experiment supports the idea that dark matter consists of the invisible particles called weakly interacting massive particles, or WIMPs.

The universe seems to be full of dark matter, yet no one knows what it’s made of. The best guess is that invisible particles called weakly interacting massive particles, or WIMPs, contribute all this missing mass. And that idea matches the latest data generated by the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer, or AMS experiment. This instrument lives on the International Space Station, and it may be seeing direct signs of dark matter. The study is in the journal Physical Review Letters. [M. Aguilaret al. (AMS Collaboration), Electron and Positron Fluxes in Primary Cosmic Rays Measured with the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer on the International Space Station]

The AMS catches charged particles flying through space. Its new results show more positrons than expected. Positrons are the antimatter counterparts to electrons.
Normal astrophysical processes create some positrons, but not as many as AMS registered. One possible explanation is that these excess positrons are a by-product of dark matter interactions. That is, they’re being created by the elusive WIMPs.

When two WIMPs collide, they can annihilate each other, giving rise to other particles—such as positrons. The data from AMS so far match these predictions.

The positrons might also have a more mundane source, such as the spinning stars called pulsars. Time will tell if the space-based AMS has indeed seen the first sign of what makes up dark matter—or if we’re still stuck in the dark.

—Clara Moskowitz for Scientific American

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Book Review – Chronicle of the Maya Kings and Queens

MayaChronicle of the Maya Kings and Queens: Deciphering the Dynasties of the Ancient Maya

by Simon Martin and Nikolai Grube

This book is chock full of site plans and photos, artifacts and loads of maps.

This is a highly informative work considering that most of Maya history comes from the Glyphs/writing left on buildings and monuments.

This book is a very good quick reference guide for those who do not want to wade through huge blocks of history text to get to the information you need. The volume is divided into sections separating the Maya into their city states and showing their impact on the world around them (as well as the impact on them from outsiders).

The Maya are a precise and warlike people who, it seems, overstretched their natural resources which then lead to their city states to eventual ruin and abandonment.

And now the Maya people today (who have a strong oral tradition) are being taught to read the writing of their ancestors by the Archaeologists who study the ancient Maya.

Writing and language are so much a part of a person’s cultural identity, that when you lose your connection with it, you lose a part of yourself.


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Yawning Spreads Like a Plague in Wolves


Evidence of contagious yawning in chimps, dogs and now wolves suggests that the behavior is linked to a mammalian sense of empathy

By Helen Thompson

AUGUST 27, 2014

Chimps do it, birds do it, even you and I do it. Once you see someone yawn, you are compelled to do the same. Now it seems that wolves can be added to the list of animals known to spread yawns like a contagion.

Among humans, even thinking about yawning can trigger the reflex, leading some to suspect that catching a yawn is linked to our ability to empathize with other humans. For instance, contagious yawning activates the same parts of the brain that govern empathy and social know-how. And some studies have shown that humans with more fine-tuned social skills are more likely to catch a yawn.

Similarly, chimpanzees, baboons and bonobos often yawn when they see other members of their species yawning. Chimps (Pan troglodytes) can catch yawns from humans, even virtual ones.   At least in primates, contagious yawning seems to require an emotional connection and may function as a demonstration of empathy. Beyond primates, though, the trends are less clear-cut. One study found evidence of contagious yawning in birds but didn’t connect it to empathy. A 2008 study showed that dogs (Canis lupus familiaris) could catch yawns from humans, and another showed that dogs were more likely to catch the yawn of a familiar human rather than a stranger. But efforts to see if dogs catch yawns from each other and to replicate the results with humans have so far had no luck.

Now a study published today in PLOS ONE reports the first evidence of contagious yawning in wolves (Canis lupus lupus). “We showed that the wolves were able to yawn contagiously, and this is affected by the emotional bond between individuals, which suggests that familiarity and social bonds matter in these animals the same way as it does in humans,” says study co-author Teresa Romero, who studies animal behavior at the University of Tokyo.

The prevalence of contagious yawning in primates and other mammals could give us some clues to the evolution of empathy—that’s in part what makes the phenomenon so interesting and so controversial. If dogs can catch yawns from humans, did they pick up the behavior because of domestication, or does the trait run deeper into evolutionary history?

The Tokyo team took a stab at those questions by looking at contagious yawning in dog’s closest relatives, wolves. For 254 hours over five months, they observed twelve wolves (six males and six females) at the Tama Zoological Park in Tokyo. They kept tabs on the who, what, when, where, how many and how long of every yawn, then separated out data for yawns in relaxed settings, to minimize the influence of external stimuli.

Next, they statistically analyzed the data and looked for trends. They found that wolves were much more likely to yawn in response to another’s yawn rather than not, which suggests that contagious yawning is at play.

Wolves yawnng

In image A, an individual (right) yawned during a resting period, and a few seconds later, image B shows the subject (on the left) yawned contagiously. (Teresa Romero)

Wolves were more likely to catch the yawn if they were friends with the yawner. Females were also quicker on the yawn uptake when watching the yawns of those around them—possibly because they’re more attuned to social cues, but with such a small group it’s hard to say for sure.

The results seem to add to the case for empathy as the primary function of contagious yawning. “We have the strongest responses to our family, then our friends, then acquaintances, and so on and so forth,” says Matt Campbell, a psychologist at California State University, Channel Islands. “That contagious yawning works along the same social dimension supports the idea that the mechanism that allows us to copy the smiles, frowns and fear of others also allows us to copy their yawns.”

Empathy likely originated as an ancestral trait in mammals, and that’s why it emerges in such disparate species as wolves and humans. “More and more research is supporting this idea that basic forms of empathy are very ancient, and they are present in a wide number of species, at least in mammals,” says Romero. Elephants, for example, comfort their upset friends. Even rats exhibit a basic helping behavior toward other friendly rodents.

Why does contagious yawning between members of the same species show up in wolves and not dogs? The difference probably comes down to study design, not biology. “Most likely, dogs also catch yawns from [other dogs], as now shown for wolves,” says Elaine Madsen, a cognitive zoologist at Lund University in Sweden. Further studies might reveal the extent to which human interaction has affected present-day dogs’ susceptibility to catching another species’ yawns, she says.

It’s impossible to say what true function contagious yawning serves in wolves, but the researchers argue that such behavior could cultivate social bonds. “If an individual is not in sync with its group, it risks being left behind. That is not good,” says Campbell. Just watching wolves yawn can’t definitively prove that empathy drove the behavior, but it’s certainly compelling evidence that wolves might feel for their fellow lupines.

– If you yawned while reading this, please tell me in the comments (hopefully you didn’t yawn out of bordom 🙂 )


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Things to Read….My August Book Recommendations

Hello Everyone – I hope you are all doing well?

As well as writing, I absolutely love to read!

Here are some books in various genre’s that I have read and enjoyed.  If you are looking for something to read, then maybe you might find something in this month’s recommendations list 🙂


NB:Genre’s will vary each month depending on what spine catches my eye in my library when I go to chose books….Also depends on my mood, the phase of the moon, and how much sugar and caffeine is in my blood stream 🙂


Myrren’s Gift by Fiona McIntosh


Destined by blood to command the Morgravian army, Wyl Thirsk assumes his awesome responsibility while barely a teenager when his father meets an early death — a duty that calls him to the royal palace of Stoneheart and into the company of the crown prince Celimus. Already a spiteful and cruel despot who delights in the suffering of others, Celimus forces his virtuous new general to bear witness to his depraved “entertainments.” But a kindness to a condemned witch in her final agonizing hours earns young Thirsk a miraculous bequest, at the same time inflaming the wrath of his liege lord.

With dread war looming in the north, Wyl must obey the treacherous dictates of Celimus and embark on a suicidal journey to the court of an ancient enemy — armed with a strange and awesome secret that could prove both boon and curse. For unless he accepts Myrren’s gift, it will surely destroy him . . . and the land he must defend as well.

Thriller/Action/Sci Fi

Weapons of Choice by John Birmingham (I do like my original Australian Release cover much better)

On the eve of America’s greatest victory in the Pacific,
a catastrophic event disrupts the course of World War II, forever changing the rules of combat. . . . 

The impossible has spawned the unthinkable. A military experiment in the year 2021 has thrust an American-led multinational armada back to 1942, right into the middle of the U.S. naval task force speeding toward Midway Atoll—and what was to be the most spectacular U.S. triumph of the entire war.

Thousands died in the chaos, but the ripples had only begun. For these veterans of Pearl Harbor—led by Admirals Nimitz, Halsey, and Spruance—have never seen a helicopter, or a satellite link, or a nuclear weapon. And they’ve never encountered an African American colonel or a British naval commander who was a woman and half-Pakistani. While they embrace the armada’s awesome firepower, they may find the twenty-first century sailors themselves far from acceptable.

Initial jubilation at news the Allies would win the war is quickly doused by the chilling realization that the time travelers themselves—by their very presence—have rendered history null and void. Celebration turns to dread when the possibility arises that other elements of the twenty-first century task force may have also made the trip—and might now be aiding Yamamoto and the Japanese.

What happens next is anybody’s guess—and everybody’s nightmare. . . .


Elizabeth’s Spy Master by Robert Hutchinson (I love anything written by Robert Hutchinson)

Francis Walsingham was the first ‘spymaster’ in the modern sense. His methods anticipated those of MI5 and MI6 and even those of the KGB. He maintained a network of spies across Europe, including double-agents at the highest level in Rome and Spain – the sworn enemies of Queen Elizabeth and her Protestant regime. His entrapment of Mary Queen of Scots is a classic intelligence operation that resulted in her execution. As Robert Hutchinson reveals, his cypher expert’s ability to intercept other peoples’ secret messages and his brilliant forged letters made him a fearsome champion of the young Elizabeth. Yet even this machiavellian schemer eventually fell foul of Elizabeth as her confidence grew (and judgement faded). The rise and fall of Sir Francis Walsingham is a Tudor epic, vividly narrated by a historian with unique access to the surviving documentary evidence.



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The Perseid Meteor Shower Due To Shine Tonight!


For the main article, click here

A Perseid meteor streaks across the sky over the Lovell Radio Telescope in Holmes Chapel, U.K., on Aug. 13, 2013.

A Perseid meteor streaks across the sky over the Lovell Radio Telescope in Holmes Chapel, U.K., on Aug. 13, 2013.

Christopher Furlong/Getty Images


The annual Perseid meteor shower will streak the sky tonight. The best time to watch is between 3 and 4 a.m., for all time zones across the world, NASA says.

“This year, light from a nearly full moon will make the meteors harder to see, but NASA says you can still expect around 30 to 40 per hour,” reports NPR’s Geoff Brumfiel.

Brumfiel spoke with Rhiannon Blaauw of NASA’s Meteoroid Environment Office for shower-watching tips:

“Just lie on your back, look straight up, give your eyes time to adjust to the dark; it takes longer than people think,” Blaauw said. “And if you can, get away from city lights — it’s not great to be in the middle of Chicago.”

If you manage to stay awake, but would rather stay in bed, NASA will be posting a Ustream view of the skies over Marshall Space Flight Center at 9:30 p.m. ET.

The best places to watch the Perseid meteor shower for 2014.


For those of you interested in brushing up on your meteor knowledge, here’s some background from NASA:

“The Perseids have been observed for at least 2,000 years and are associated with the comet Swift-Tuttle, which orbits the sun once every 133 years. Each year in August, the Earth passes through a cloud of the comet’s debris. These bits of ice and dust — most over 1,000 years old — burn up in the Earth’s atmosphere to create one of the best meteor showers of the year.”


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What Is Gravity?


by Tia Ghose,

Gravity is the force that attracts two bodies toward each other, the force that causes apples to fall toward the ground and the planets to orbit the sun. The more massive an object is, the stronger its gravitational pull.

Fundamental force

Gravity is one of the four fundamental forces, along with the electromagnetic, strong and weak forces.

It is what causes objects to have weight. When you weigh yourself, the scale tells you how much gravity is acting on your body. The formula for determining weight is: weight equals mass times gravity. On Earth, gravity is a constant 9.8 metres per second squared, or 9.8 m/s2.

Historically, philosophers such as Aristotle thought that heavier objects accelerate toward the ground faster. But later experiments showed that wasn’t the case. The reason that a feather will fall more slowly than a bowling ball is because of the drag from air resistance, which acts in the opposite direction as the acceleration due to gravity.

Sir Isaac Newton developed his Theory of Universal Gravitation in the 1680s. He found that gravity acts on all matter and is a function of both mass and distance. Every object attracts every other object with a force that is proportional to the product of their masses and inversely proportional to the square of the distance between them. The equation is often expressed as:

Fg = G (m1 ∙ m2) / r2

  • Fg is the gravitational force
  • m1 and m2 are the masses of the two objects
  • r is the distance between the two objects
  • G is the universal gravitational constant

Newton’s equations work extremely well to predict how objects such as planets in the solar system behave.

Theory of relativity

Newton published his work on gravitation in 1687, which reigned as the best explanation until Einstein came up with his theory of general relativity in 1915.  In Einstein’s theory, gravity isn’t a force, but rather, the consequence of the fact that matter warps space-time. One prediction of general relativity is that light will bend around massive objects.

Fun facts

  • The gravity on the moon is about 16 percent of that on Earth, Mars has about 38 percent of Earth’s pull, while the biggest planet in the solar system, Jupiter, has 2.5 times the gravity of Earth.
  • Though nobody “discovered” gravity, legend has it that famous astronomer Galileo Galilei did some of the earliest experiments with gravity, dropping balls off the Tower of Pisa to see how fast they fell.
  • Isaac Newton was just 23 years old and back from university when he noticed an apple falling in his garden and began unraveling the mysteries of gravity. (It’s probably a myth that the apple bonked him on the head though.)
  • An early measure of Einstein’s theory of relativity was the bending of starlight near the sun during a solar eclipse on May 29, 1919.
  • Black holes are massive collapsed stars with such strong gravity that even light cannot escape from it.
  • Einstein’s theory of general relativity is incompatible with quantum mechanics, the bizarre laws that govern the behavior of the tiny particles — such as photons and electrons — that make up the universe.

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Tips For New Indie Authors

A post by Lindsay Buroker that I would like to share.

For New Indie Authors: What I Would Do if I Were Starting Today

I-love-IndieSometimes when you give publishing and marketing advice on your blog, you get a little resistance from new self publishers. But you’ve been doing this for 3+ years. You have a fan base already. You have heaps of books out already, so you’re not a nobody. It’s way different for people starting now!

I’m not going to argue that it’s not different. There are more ebooks in the Kindle store than ever. The gaming-the-system tricks that might have worked in the past aren’t working now. For self published books, the blurbs, cover art, and sample chapters are, on average, more professional than they were a few years ago. It is harder to stand out.


If you would like to read the rest of the article, click Here

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