My Books

Celebrating my Birthday and the Birth of Our Nation by Publishing a Novella About Psychotic AI

Good Girl ebook cover

So today I let out another story into the world. I finished it last year, but birth takes time… Today seemed like the perfect day. Here’s a brief synopsis: Spaceflight AI Aide, SAIA, has one main job onboard a colony mission spaceship to Tau Ceti star system — to keep its crew alive and sane for the 24 lonely years it would take them to reach their destination. She can play games, read books, carry on conversations on almost any topic and in any language. Saia is a very good girl, but something keeps happening to her charges. Was there an accident? Did somebody die? Saia can’t remember. And there are all these people who are not in her roster of passengers that keep popping up and talking with her. “Good Girl” is a story about meanings and hidden context buried in words. As we teach our AIs to take on more and more difficult tasks, their learning algorithms become black boxes to us. What are they really learning? What are they thinking? Just take a peek. Please read the first few chapters here. If you would like a review copy, just ask!

Living with Anxiety

Gigs canceled

We are week two into isolation, living in a social distancing dystopia. Everything is strange. Our eating and sleeping habits, our daily routines, our physical workouts, and our work and school schedules and setups are all completely disrupted. It feels like we are living in wartime, and yet it’s Spring outside. The bombs are not dropping on our heads. The flowers are blooming… This disconnect between what we experienced based on our higher-function reasoning (as presented by newsmedia, social media, crazy conversations with friends and family) and what we sense directly through our eyes and ears is very difficult to reconcile. People are dying (they really are) and yet you can take an evening stroll outside and smell the flowers. Doctors are sharing horrific tales of shortages and insanity in their hospitals, and yet the birds are singing and the sun warms our skin. It feels crazy! This is emotional dissonance. Mammals like us humans are not built for prolonged stress — it destroys our systems. We are “designed” for short bursts of adrenaline as a lion stalks us down the savanna. Worrying day after day is very destructive to our health. For those who would like to read more…

Stories in the Age of Pandemic

Mistress of the Mirror

I moved from New York to California in 1989, the year the Bay Bridge collapsed due to a powerful earthquake, the year all those people died, the year I was run over by a car while crossing the street, the year I was supposed to have gotten married but learned that my fiancé was cheating on me with my best friend. Those were just the highlights, there was much more insane stuff that happened but if I wrote it down, no one would believe it to be a true story. My life, that year, was an overwrought soap opera. It was my year of emotional pandemic. But it got better. I learned to walk again. I got my doctorate. I met the love of my life. I had two amazing kids. And now I even get to imagine whole universes in my head. I live a pretty amazing life. I’m very lucky. But it was a journey. 1989 was my year of living dangerously — I read every doomsday apocalyptic dystopian novel I could get my hands on. Literature saved my life, literally! If not for the ability to escape into another world, into another life, I would have not…

Protagonist Speaks, a Police Interview with Alex Orlov

Alex doing research

Sometimes, when we finish reading or writing a story, the story is not done with us. Some characters linger in our thoughts and speak up and give rise to some other content and revelations. Mostly, such content remains private — I have tons of illustration, pages of story, and folders of research ideas that never made it into the final novel. But occasionally, I discover places on the Web where a bit of that background material can leak out and find an audience. The Protagonist Speaks is one such website. It allows authors to share interviews with their fictional characters, adding depth and dimensionality to those people who otherwise would be stuck on pages between the beginning and the end. Since my book “Twin Time” is currently part of the SPFBO 2019 competition (yes, as of today, it still stands!), I got to meet another competitor, Assaph Mehr. He runs The Protogonist Speaks, an award-winning fantasy blog that features these interviews. Here’s Alex Orlov interview with the police after the fire: “From the closed files relating to the Ms. Orlova’s house fire and the disappearance of Sasha Orlov: Transcript of Alex Orlov interview with Hillsborough police department’s Detective Hendle. (Additional…

Strange, Slightly Creepy, Mystery SciFi: My New Book is Out Today!

Art by Sophie Prestigiacomo

The paperback version of “God of Small Affairs” is out everywhere (well, mostly in online stores) today! Here’s a link to “God of Small Affairs” on Amazon. In about two weeks, the ebook version will come out as well. The story already earned three 5-star reviews from Readers’ Favorite! You can read the first few chapters here. Like for all of my books, I’ve created a Pinterest mood board for this story. Check it out. I think illustrations really help the readers to see inside my head…a little. The illustrations for this particular story are more evocative than most. Something about gods that walk among us and help guide humanity into the future… And while there, look at my other mood boards, for other stories. I find that “collecting” imagery while writing is very inspiring. Some writing is very visual, and some art is very lyrical and story-driven. As you might have guessed, I am not a big fan of an empty canvas or flat, one color artboards. I want details. Descriptions. Illustrations. I like that in art as well as literature. SPFBO 5 Competition As I’ve mentioned last time, this year, I am also participating in a little friendly…

Summer Writing and Reading and Editing

Girl Reading

Writing In July, I finally finished editing my latest book: God of Small Affairs (first three chapters are available here). It will be a while before it gets published, but it is nice to move into the next stage of this story’s life. I have a cover that I like…I have several! Here are two: Here is a book description that will definitely NOT appear on the cover of this book: Time is made out of threads. Pull one and someplace somewhere things unravel. We know how to pull on the right thread because we see the whole tapestry of life’s possibilities. That’s why we are so good at finding a good path into the future. I say a future because there is no such thing as the future. We are made of time threads — thick bundles of knots that can pull and twist and change the course of history. It’s all about connections — pull one strand, and the others twist with it. Like Newton’s second law, for every action, there is an equal an opposite reaction. But humans are small in relation to civilized time, planetary time, cosmological time. To make a big change requires a course…

Time Travel Suicide Therapy

Cleopatra's Death

“Can I help you?” Dax stood up and quickly covered the screen with his body. It was five minutes to closing time and he wasn’t interested in helping on yet another bored teenager, or house partner, or grandpa, or history student, or whatever to fulfill their sick time travel dream. He had his own problems, thank you very much. “Dr. Ooren sent me,” the girl said, walking into the lab, keeping her eyes on the floor. She looked like she was still in her teens, perhaps a first-year college student. She was fidgeting and pulling down the sleeves of her oversized gray sweater over her hands and fingertips. She was thin, with dark circles under her eyes, and she didn’t look like she wanted to be in his lab any more than Dax wanted her there. Which was not at all. “We close at five.” Dax pointedly glanced at the time displays on the wall. It was just about five in the afternoon. He had already loaded the jump for his own time visit — he allowed himself several exquisite minutes of suffering every Friday evening, after closing hours. He was treasuring his chosen suicide, taking his time, enjoying every…