Tuesday, March 27, 2018

INSECTICIDE C.R.Downing's Book Tour 2018. Book #2. Finale

Book #2:
There is a link to Amazon for the title book in the line above this. Additional links are provided to original short stories involved in the development of the title book in the description of each story below.

Elevator Speech
Insecticide is the story of a bipolar planet. Bafwique is shattered into two planets by a meteorite. Civil wars, genocide, deception, exploration, and other struggles on and between the two planets lead to a search for a new home for the Clurn.

Background Information
If you were born before 1975, there’s a good chance you remember the Cold War at some level.
I was born in 1950. I lived through almost the whole Cold War.
For those of you too young to remember the Cold War, it was contested mostly with threats and propaganda. There were some military actions, but other methods of demonstrating communist or democratic superiority were much more common. Track meets and swimming meets, ice-skating, hockey, and the like reached fever pitch at the Olympics.
Misinformation was commonly released. Children in Soviet countries were removed from families and placed in training facilities if they showed athletic prowess.
Bottom line.
Better dead than red was more than a catchphrase in many parts of the United States.

The original short story is a simple account of an alien species invading and conquering another planet. Expanding the story to the length of a novel involved adding backstory to the original.
I’d first thought of marketing the book as a newly discovered history book released by the Intergalactic Alliance. The title of that version was The Book of BafwiqueAn Unconventional History of a Planet and Its People. My beta readers’ comments were similar. It took too long to get to the story; there wasn’t enough action.
At that point, I decided to have one of the half-planets be the Soviets and the other the USA.
Narxon, even the name sounds ominous, is an unapologetic parody of the USSR. Leaders are incompetent, cruel, or both. Inhabitants are nothing more than commodities to use as desired. Narxonian drones are asexual brutes, with one notable exception.
Both Narxon and Bafwique use technology. Narxon tech is more—just more—in every way. The government of Narxon sends drones to infiltrate Bafwiquian society. They are charged with committing genocide of their relatives.
The basic backstory details the invasion of Bafwique and the struggle of the miraculous survivors of the invasion. Ultimately, the novel covers over 1000-years of Clurn history.
The book ends with a twist. There’s a challenge issued to the reader on page vi. I’m not aware of a single reader that successfully completed the challenge. Here’s your chance to be a leader!
Don’t skip the Epilog!
The Clurn develop some intriguing technology. Two of my favorites are
Selective Memory Eradication
Laboratory records recovered from The Fortress indicate that memory eradication was achieved by calculating the length of time phosphodiester bonds between consecutive ribose molecules in RNA had existed. All such bonds were formed within the last ten carnottis were broken. The efficacy of the process decreased dramatically on bonds formed for longer than ten carnotti. This procedure was able to selectively target “new” RNA in brains of Clurn and trigger their digestion by restriction enzymes in vivo. RNA production is an initial first step in Clurn memory formation. By removing the RNA basis for memories, those memories were eradicated. The downside was that RNA not involved in memory formation was lost during the digest as well. As a result, some early test subjects suffered the loss of more than memory—leading to the very tight regulations on the use of the process. (page 176)

Topographic Map Projection System
The transport vehicles arrived at the village coordinates five carnots before daylight. Eight Bafwiqueians leaped to the ground. P’lna pulled a portable projection system from her vehicle. After attaching an inflatable balloon to the unit, she filled the balloon with helium. The projection system slowly rose into the Bafwiqueian night, tethered to a winch on the front of the transport vehicle.
Once the balloon reached the designated height, P’lna radioed a command to the unit. Two additional tethers dropped to the ground. She attached one to a low wall and the other to the eve of a roof. The projection system now hung, motionless, directly above the village. A second radio command activated the unit. A life-size map of the village area was projected down. Each body and artifact was outlined in the image that provided both light and direction for the process. (page 216)

When you make up a world, there is a multitude of conditions and circumstances that must be addressed beyond the storyline.
What’s the gravity of the planet?
What kind of atmosphere is there?
How long is a day? A year?
What type(s) of government exist?
How do the inhabitants reproduce?
What are some of the customs, traditions, and ethical codes of the dominant species?

The bad news is that you HAVE TO make all the stuff up.
The good news is that you GET TO make all the stuff up.
Whether you have a glass-half-full or a glass-half-empty outlook on that situation, the hard reality is that your planet must make scientific sense.
I include three appendices to lend credibility to Bafwique as a planet. Below is a sample from each. While not as enjoyable as writing the story itself, describing a new world was fun. Here's a sample of each appendix.

I mentioned in part one of this blog post that original idea behind INSECTICIDE was to market it as a history book. Toward that end, I “obtained” copies of twenty-eight source documents like this one.

At least one of them is real. It’s a telescopic image taken by one of my Great Oak High School students in one of her college classes. All the others have at least the ring of truth.

That’s it . . .
 . . . except for an excerpt from a review of the book. I changed the font color of my favorite sentence to red. It’s the kind of comment authors live for.
I read this book thinking, maybe, I dunno, aliens?  Hmm… This was my first tango with a Science Fiction Thriller. I usually have this problem with aliens or extraterrestrial beings and that is I usually cannot empathize with them. I usually label them away as alien and drop the book or movie and never give it a second thought. It’s a wonder to me that I love Doctor Who so much, though, I guess it’s because the Doctor seems pretty human and if anything, having two hearts makes him more relatable than a human.
Anyway. The reason I stuck with Rifts [now INSECTICIDE] was because, well I am a fan of world building and this book has it. Boy! Does it have it . . .
I am so glad I picked this one up. I am so glad Rifts opened my eyes to science fiction thrillers and mystery. Rifts [now INSECTICIDE] pulled me into an entire genre I was missing out on. I only hope that this well crafted novel doesn’t spoil me and put all the other stories in it’s genre to shame for me.
I highly recommend this book. I especially recommend this book if you are into things like Doctor Who.
The whole review is available at https://crdowning.com/insecticide.html

Maximizing a Storyline
In February 2018, I submitted an 8000-word short story for inclusion in an anthology titled, A World Unimagined. It was accepted for publication. The anthology will be released in June of 2018.
The editorial staff of https://lefthandpublishers.com/ are fine people. Not only did they accept my manuscript, the offered suggestions to consider for fine-tuning the story.
I chose to incorporate two of their ideas. One of those is a tie-in to the ending of INSECTICIDE. Learn how by reading “What Goes Around . . .” when the anthology is released.

Next book on the tour: The ObserversA Science Fiction Odyssey

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My website is: www.crdowning.com

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Monday, March 19, 2018

Almanac. Thoughts on Presenting at Conventions

This series of blogs is written in past tense because I don't think I'll be presenting at any other conferences.

I’ve presented over 100 content sessions, mostly science strategies, at science conventions for National Science Teachers Association Conventions, National Association of Biology Teachers Convention, California State Science Teachers Association Convention, San Diego Science Educators Association Convention, and Association of Christian Schools International Conference, among others.

Locations of those conferences are varied.
Arizona: Phoenix
California: San Diego, Los Angeles, Sacramento, Anaheim, Long Beach, and Temecula
Colorado: Denver
Florida: Orlando
Georgia: Atlanta
Hawaii: Honolulu
Illinois: Chicago
Indiana: Indianapolis
Louisiana: New Orleans
Massachusetts: Boston
Michigan: Detroit
Missouri: Kansas City
Nevada: Los Vegas, Reno
North Carolina: Raleigh
Oregon: Portland
Texas: Austin, Dallas
Utah: Salt Lake City
Washington: Seattle
Washington, D.C.

Topics include
Critical Thinking, Coordinated Science, Classroom Techniques, Questioning Strategies, Closure, Assessment, Kinesthetic Activities, and Learning Centers for teachers of all levels.

Workshop titles are designed to get attendees to read the description of the session. These sessions were generally 60-minutes in length.
A is for Analogy." Describes, supports, and illustrates the use of teacher-generated and student-generated analogies in the presentation of content material.
Classroom Management Strategies for the High School Science Class – Session objectives are to provide concrete strategies and processes to help new/novice science teachers include more laboratory experiences in their courses.
"From Dead Fish to Forensics - A model for developing and implementing an integrated science program." & "Making Connections - A model integrated science program." - Describes development and implementation of four core semesters and two elective semesters of integrated science for 9th-12th-grade students.
It’s Late at the Estate – Describes how to incorporate creative writing activities into science classes to teach investigative skills.
Kinesthetic is Kool – Demonstrates and explains four different kinesthetic life science activities. Participants “do” one complete activity.
Learning Centers in 60 Minutes? I don't believe it! – Focuses on constructing and using learning centers in elementary classrooms by providing samples and examples.
Pedagogical Alchemy & What Do You Do If Betty Crocker Wrote Your Lab Book - Describes how to move laboratory activities from “cookbook” style toward inquiry style—steps in the process of developing open-ended labs are discussed.
PReP (Peer Review Process) Your Classes – By participating in several examples of peer review and learning how to modify existing assignments to allow for this process with students, participants learn the power of this procedure.
Science at “C” Level: A Creative, Cooperative, Cross-disciplinary Approach to Critical Thinking & Stylin’ in Science - Participants are introduced to a method of teaching critical thinking skills incorporating creativity and cooperative learning strategies in a series of cross-disciplinary exercises designed to reach a wide variety of learning styles.
Standards-Based Science Portfolios – Discusses the process Great Oak High School is pursuing in determining if students meet academic standards.
THE END: How to add closure to your student learning experiences - Sample closure activities for single class assignments, long-term assignments and units of study, semester, year, and course sequence are described and demonstrated.
They've inquired, now how do I know what they know? - Participants experience a portion of an inquiry lab,  discuss what might have been learned by students through the experience, and learn to create rubrics for several types of learnings which might have resulted from the lab experience.
Tricks from an Old Dog - I share strategies and techniques gleaned and developed during the 27 years I’ve taught science, including grouping strategies, time-saving techniques, and management ideas.
Tune up Your Teaching & “Open-ended questions are fine for some students, but mine can’t do them” - Focuses on questioning strategies: specifically how to change classroom questions from closed-ended to open-ended while teaching students the skills and techniques required to answer higher-level questions.

Descriptions of the sessions are designed to get attendees to the session, if for no other reason but to find out what kind of a presenter is this? Most had length limits on descriptions of around 25 words. See if you can match a title above to the descriptions below.
Step-by-step instructions for how to create assignments and assessments for diverse populations will be provided.  Your brain will be very active in this session.
You will participate in a typical lesson demonstration, take home reproducible materials, and learn how to create a lesson of this type of your own.
Too many activities, units, semesters, even school years just end—students are left with a sense of “Well, it’s over, but why did we do it?” This session provides concrete examples how to bring closure to your classroom.
I will share grouping strategies, time-saving techniques, and management ideas gleaned and developed during the 40 years I have taught science. I LOVE new teachers!!
Movement is a powerful learning stimulus for students of diverse populations. Come, be “moved” 1) by the demonstrations; 2) to “move” your classes too.
Routines and procedures to effectively manage your classroom and laboratory experiences will be discussed and demonstrated. A valuable session for new teachers.
Peer review of assignments is a powerful classroom tool. Participate in several examples and learn how to modify existing assignments to allow for this process.

Sessions longer than 60-minutes allowed longer descriptions.
Too many laboratory books read more like cookbooks than science books.  They provide prescribed laboratory procedures that lead to predictable results.  The only thought required of students depends on the write-up assigned by the teacher.  Many (most?) laboratory exercises are still “cookbook” in nature, many times with value analogous to the value of lead.

Reputation Matters
You never know the quality of a conference presentation until you attend it. That’s too often too late. If you’re not good, and participants rate you low, the next time you apply to present at a convention of the same sponsor, there’s a chance you won’t be selected. I know that because I was in charge of the “Sessions Committee” when the NSTA National Convention came to San Diego in 2002.
That system works the other way for presenters with good reviews. I’ve never submitted session proposals and not had at least one accepted. In fact, it wasn’t long before I developed a following. I’d recognize people from previous years when I presented in the same region.
“I always check the program. If I see your name, I put that session on my schedule,” was not an uncommon greeting I received.
I also had people stop by to apologize because they couldn’t attend my session due to school or district-mandated sessions.

My largest audience was over 300.
This was the first presentation I did. I did it with my colleague Owen Miller. It was at an NSTA Regional Convention in Texas. We figured if we had 30 people show up, that’d be a good attendance. We brought 40 copies of our 20-page handout with us . . . just in case. We underestimated our draw because of a perfect storm of circumstances.
* Our session was during the first session slot of the convention.
* It was the only session for secondary teachers.
* We were in an auditorium.
* The title was: Science at “C” Level: A Creative, Cooperative, Cross-disciplinary Approach to Critical Thinking

The smallest audience was one.
This was at the national convention for the Association of Christian Schools International. I forget the title of the session. I know it concentrated on teacher/student interaction and didn’t emphasize infusing Biblical content.
My attendee and I chatted for 45 of our allotted 60-minutes. She was happy. I was glad she came.

Closing comments on this post.
I only went to one conference where I didn’t present. It was an NSTA conference in Washington, D.C. Because the Grossmont Union High School District was paying for the trip, I felt obligated to attend as many sessions as I could.
Over three days I attended 13 sessions. I collected handouts and took notes. By the end of the third day, I was on content overload. My advice to teachers who ask about conferences that they when they pick sessions that they need to allow time between to get from one to the next and to decompress.
“If you come back with one or two good ideas and implement at least one of them, you had a successful conference experience. The reality is that you’d never successfully implement more than two new ideas/procedures into a course in a single year. Trying to implement more than two ideas will lead to frustration on the part of both teacher and students.”
If you wondered why school reform efforts have a dismal track record, re-read the previous paragraph.

Next Almanac is Deeper Thoughts on Presenting at Conferences

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