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  • Spar
    Spar
    by Nikko Lee

    A closeted black belt comes to terms with his bisexuality when he takes an openly gay student as his new sparring partner.

  • Wolf Creek: Gay Werewolf Romance
    Wolf Creek: Gay Werewolf Romance
    by Nikko Lee, Digital Fiction

    Life as a gay omega werewolf is no fairytale.

  • Bon Appetit: Stories & Recipes for Human Consumption
    Bon Appetit: Stories & Recipes for Human Consumption
    by Donald Jacob Uitvlugt, Rev. Thomas Thorn, Nikko Lee, Dax Bordas, Sebastian Bendix, Rick Powell, Misty Tyers, J. N. Cameron
    Contains Bouillon de Bebe 
  • NECRONOMICUM #2 (NECRONOMICUM: The Magazine of Weird Erotica)
    NECRONOMICUM #2 (NECRONOMICUM: The Magazine of Weird Erotica)
    by Gary Budgen, Julian Darius, Richard Greico Jr, Nikko Lee, K. A. Opperman, Alice Renard, Rose Banks, Paul St. John Mackintosh, Michael Seese

    Contains Instabiable by Nikko Lee

  • Zombiefied Reloaded: The Search for More Brains
    Zombiefied Reloaded: The Search for More Brains
    by Carol Hightshoe, Cynthia Ward, Terry M. West, Christie Meierz, Dana Bell, Mary E. Lowd, Patrick J. Hurley, Francis W. Alexander, Liam Hogan

    Brainatarian by Nikko Lee

  • Coming Back
    Coming Back
    by James Arthur Anderson, Brian Barnett, Dave Fragments, Shawna Galvin, Vince Darcangelo, Ken Goldman, Michael Lindquist

    Contains A Mother Knows by Nikko Lee (paperback available at Lulu.com)

  • Wolf Warriors: The National Wolfwatcher Coalition Anthology
    Wolf Warriors: The National Wolfwatcher Coalition Anthology
    by Jonathan W. Thurston

    Contains Great Mother Wolf by Michelle Knowlton

  • People Eating People: A Cannibal Anthology
    People Eating People: A Cannibal Anthology
    by Frank Larnerd, Tony Peak, Geoff Gander, Shenoa Caroll-Bradd, Robert Hart, Nikko Lee, Kyle Yadlosky, Edward Martin III

    Contains Bouillon de Bebe by Nikko Lee

  • Valves & Vixens: Steampunk Erotica
    Valves & Vixens: Steampunk Erotica
    by Nicole Gestalt, Crysta Coburn, J.T Seate, Nikko Lee, V.C., Zak Jane Keir, Blair, Regina Kammer, Jim Lee

    Contains Boson's Mate by Nikko Lee

  • The Big Book of Bizarro
    The Big Book of Bizarro
    by Rich Bottles Jr.

    Contains Honey-Do by Nikko Lee

  • Between Love and Lust
    Between Love and Lust
    by Nikko Lee

    E-book

    Print-on-demand paperback

  • Templar and Other Stories of Suspense and Terror (Vampires 2, Volume 4)
    Templar and Other Stories of Suspense and Terror (Vampires 2, Volume 4)
    by J. Troy Seate, Patricia McCarthy, Nikke Lee, Andrea Saavedra, James Hartley, Edward McKeown, Mike Graves, J.E. Gurley, Zakk Erikson, David Bernstein C.C. Blake

    Contains Pure Delight by Nikko Lee

Sunday
May292011

Longevity Medicine

My regular Genetics and Genetic Research blog site is under construction. So I will post here for those interested. Let me know if you like seeing the science side of my interests here, and I'll keep it up.

There are a few people who aren't interested in living longer, from pirates hunting for the fountain of youth to aging baby-boomers. However, the key to longevity isn't just adding years to your lifespan but adding healthy years. Recently, S. Mitchell Harman from the Kronos Longevity Research Institute spoke at the Jackson Laboratories about the state of the art in longevity research and opportunities for translation into medical practices.

We are all blessed (and cursed) by the genes we inherit. They bestow on us our potentials, limitations, and predispositions that can limit the number of healthy years we have to live. Our current medical practice is based on prevention and treatment to minimize the impact of disease with the hope of forestalling a premature death. People are living longer, but not necessarily in a healthier state. Current medical research is now turning to extending lifespan by addressing the negative effects that lead to aging and agingin related diseases.

Over the years, our cells accumulate damage from oxygen free radicals, DNA mutations, microcellular degradation, shortened telomeres, and unprocessed cellular leftovers. These global cellular stresses are thought to lead to aging. But not everyone ages as gracefully as their neighbors.

Aging is influenced by the interaction of intrinsic factors (e.g. genes and metabolism) and extrinsic factors (e.g. diet, exercise, radiation, and stress). A lot of research dollars have gone into understanding how intrinsic and extrinsic factors account for premature and normal aging.

S. Mitchell Harman highlighted the areas of focus for aging research and the prospects they offer for a medical intervention. The prominent research topics in aging and their potential for translation, include:

-Caloric restriction: Promising in rats, mice, and primates but unproven in humans. Likely operates via the mTOR pathway offering a means for chemical intervention without fasting.

-Telomerase extension: Problematic results in mice, which express active telomerase. However, reactivating telomerase in fibroblasts restores replication. Temporally controlled reactivation of telomerase in a telomerase knock-out mouse restores degeneration in testes, spleen, and intestinal crypts. In humans, active telomerase came improve immune cell health.

-Suppression of oxidative stress: Oxygen free radicals from natural processes (e.g. glycolysis) or toxin exposures (e.g. smoking) lead to increased DNA damage, decreased lipid metabolism, and increased protein damage. Resveratrol (found in red wine) and tart cherry juice have been shown to improve the oxidative stress response.

-Treatment of metabolic syndrome: Increased abdominal weight is associated with increased serum triglyceride, decreased HDL cholesterol, increased blood pressure, and insulin resistance in humans. Hormonal involvement in metabolic syndrome occurs a target for treatment in combination with diet and exercise.

Any intervention, no matter how promising, may also have unintended negative consequences. For example, the testosterone replacement to improve metabolic syndrome symptoms can increased the probability of cardiovascular events and increase the severity of prostate cancer.

Aging is a multifactorial process that offers numerous avenues for intervention. With a careful evaluation of risk benefits for anti-aging treatments, researchers hope to add years of healthy livings to the average lifespan.

Friday
May202011

Write what you love

Write what you love is often accompanied by the advice not to write to the market. It's always seemed like a catch-22 to me, unless you are one of those lucky and skilled authors whose work applies to both. The market dictates what gets published, whether it be by determining what is hot or what is over-saturated. Yet writing something just for the sake of selling it often produces a work lacking in passion.

Sometimes I see submission calls that spark my creative interest. However, my skills aren't honed to the point where I can crank out something worth submitting before the deadline passes. Writing novels to sales trends is an even bigger losing battle. By the time a subject is recognized to be popular, publishers are in search of the next trendy thing or something truly remarkable.

Writing has to be a labor of love. The hours spent plotting, writing, re-writing, editing, and polishing more often than not go unnoticed. I almost feel guilty when I consume a novel in a matter of days when I know that the author must have months or years writing it.

It goes without saying that I write for the love of stories. No one is flooding my inbox for my work. I write the stories I'd love to read. In the mean time, I keep my eyes open for submission calls. Last month I wrote a zombie erotica that got some positive feedback. I was also reminded how over-done the zombie theme is. By the time I catch on to a trend, it's already over. I didn't hold out much hope of finding a market for that story. Then a bizarre submission call popped into my inbox. I crossed my fingers and sent my story off in hopes that it would fit the call.

Whether it gets picked up or not, it was reassuring to see that something I'd written purely for the practice of writing could find a home. And I do need the practice.

Have you ever picked up a published novel and wonder how it got published? Have you ever thought you could do better?

I think these are common thoughts that run through a would-be writer. There are those one hit wonders of the literary world that for one reason or another get published against all odds and make it big. The reality is that it truly is difficult to transform ideas into words. The right person has to read your manuscript and believe in it as much as you do. Someone has to think your work will find a market.

Successful authors don't start out with the knowledge of how their novel will turn out, if it will appeal to readers, if it will sell, if it will vanish from the shelves in a matter of weeks. Authors write. Success is an after thought based on so many factors that it is impossible to predict much less guarantee it.

So I am resolved to write. Even if my words never leave my laptop, I will at least enjoy building my stories and exploring the characters that just will not leave me alone.

Currently, I am dabbling in the arena of male/male relationships. Romance and erotica are my guilty pleasures. I've never written M/M, but I loved what JR Ward has done with her Qhuinn/Blay story line. I can't wait for their book to be release. Sure the market for M/M romance is smaller than the heterosexual relationship market, but the Qhuay fans are fanatical (and mostly woman as far as I can tell).

Sunday
May082011

International Steampunk City

A few years ago, I was introduced to steampunk through anime. However, I could never really put my finger on steampunk as a genre until I watched Howl's Moving Castle. It wasn't until I started looking into it more that I realized how big the steampunk community is.

Today I attended the International Steampunk City in Waltham, MA. Waltham's  Charles River Museum of Industry & Innovation’s and Watch Factory offer a period feel setting for the characters roaming the city streets in all their goggled finery. I was reminded of walking around at a renaissance festival, only there were a lot mechanical devices.

One of the most impressive displays was the Steamachine Sculpture of Todd Douglas Cahill. Each is a functional work of art. Besides the wonderful steam machines, his workshop was filled with lathes and presses.

I saw so much more than I can described after waking up at 5AM and only getting back home a few minutes ago. The artistry and creativity of the exhibitors, vendors, volunteers, and attendees was inspiring. One vendor fused entomology with clockwork quite literally with preserved carcasses containing gears. There were steampunk-ified computers and iPods. 

If you like gears, brace, leather, and innovation, this is the place to be.

(By Nature in Metal)

(By ModVic)

 

If you are interested in steampunk art projects check out this one by Todd Cahill, Myke Ammend, and Steve Brooks:

 

Monday
Apr182011

Love, sex, and fiction

I've been alternating between writing and reading lately as I try to hone my skills and keep up on current fiction. While I'm working on editing a short piece of erotica, I couldn't resist pulling out the next book from my to-read pile, The Iron Duke by Meljean Brooks. Even though I am holding off on reading it until I get some editing done, I have been reading some reviews of the book.

For some reason, I find the lowest ranking reviews the most informative and entertaining. The sharpest criticisms are often honest and open-eyed. It's lovely to hear how brilliant a work is, but I want to know what didn't work for people.

I was surprised to find that one of the main negative criticisms against the Iron Duke had to do with the interaction between the characters in the central romance. If you don't want to be spoiled on one particular element of this story, don't read any further.

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.

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You were warned. While most of the reviews I read agreed that the Iron Duke is a well-written steampunk, the main romantic couple has a rocky interaction that culminates in a rape sequence. One reviewer who gave the book a two star rating on Amazon presented an insightful review about the 'good rape' concept in romance novels.

I was floored. Good rape? Who thinks this is a good idea? Then I got to thinking about it. All too often the heroine is reluctant to enter into a sexual encounter with a hero whose desire for her is overwhelming. I have no objections to that. However, when the 'hero' entirely disregards the heroine's tears and pleas for him to stop, he becomes a thoroughly unsympathetic character in my mind.

No romances that I've ever read involved the victim falling for her rapist. Stephen Donaldson's The Gap into Conflict revolves around a non-consentual sexual relationship between two characters. However, Morn is under no romantic illusions of love towards her capture. If anything, the rapes serve to reinforce Thermopyle as a loathsome character who garners pity and revulsion. There is a vein of erotica centered around implied consent that is clearly described to prevent any confusion with rape.

The R-word is a big no-no in erotica right up there with bestiality and incest. I thought it was generally recognized that rape is not a crime of passion but of power and control. Regardless of complicating circumstances like the influence of drink and drugs, I find it hard to believe that rape can play any part in a romance.

The whole topic got me thinking about my pet peeves in romance and erotica. Let's face it, fiction is not supposed to be true to the letter of reality. Instead, it's the spirit of reality that authors try to capture. Not many people want to read about the awkward first time sexual experience. God forbid the hero lose his erection or the heroine not have an earth-shattering orgasm. However, there's honoring the spirit of reality, and then there's fantasy fulfillment.

I've written about my disdain for the sexy virgin who tricks the hero into thinking she's more experienced than she is. This inevitably leads to the first time sexual encounter that unfailingly produces the most fantastic orgasm for the virgin. I'll admit I want to read about fulfilling sexual encounters, but sometimes they become so far-fetched that I have a hard time relating to them. Here are a few of my other sex scene pet peeves:

-Diamond hard men with infinite stamina

-Women who orgasm at the drop of a hat over and over again

-Default orgasms with minimal or not stimulation

-No means yes

-Excessive gratuitous body part measurements

-Instant arousal

When I read or write erotica and romance, I want the sex scenes and the romantic emotions to make sense. I can understand Morn developing a kind of Stolkhom syndrome and dependency towards Thermopile, but she never confuses those emotions with love. I loved how JR Ward handled Marissa's first time sex experience that reflected the initially invasive feeling of having sex. I even enjoy a delicious implied sex or coerced sex erotica, provided that at some point the reluctant party gives their consent either in words, actions, or thought. When I write those kinds of stories, it is extremely important for me that my characters express their consent.

There is nothing sexy about rape. There certainly isn't anything romantic about it. Love and sex in fiction doesn't have to match reality exactly, but the further it strays from the consequences of actions the more it risks alienating reader or even insulting them.

Monday
Apr042011

Skill, substance, and style

Despite being a slow reader, I gobbled up JR Ward's latest in her Black Dagger Brotherhood, Lover Unleashed, in less than two days. Partly, it was because there are some sections that I skim. Mostly, it is because I am so excited to see how certain relationships develop. However, the read was not as enjoyable as I wanted it to be. In the end, I had more quibbles than kudos for the book. Then came time to post my review on Goodreads and pick those silly little stars.

Five stars just don't allow for enough of a range when reviewing a book.

JR Ward is a skilled story teller. Many of her characters are likeable and engaging. Her vampire myth is my favorite so far. And while it is one of my quibbles, she evolves some exceedingly complicated and intersecting plots. I can't complain about her writing skill or a lack of story. However, I do grumble about her plot choices and over-abundance of characters.

I think one reader on the goodreads BDB board said it best. Low reviews of particular BDB books have more to do with the featured couple than the quality of the book. I'll second that and add that JR Ward's unique style (the product name dropping, clunky slang, and many-words-strung-together-to-replace-a-few-words nouns) does as much for her writing as it takes away from it.

A rating of 2 out of 5 stars felt as if I were cheating potential readers out of a good read. Some people love couples I hate and vice versa. In the end, I bumped the rating up to 3/5. This book was quite mediocre for me because of all the extras I honestly didn't care about. I'm eagerly awaiting Qhuinn and Blay's novella - it's been promised within the next year by the Warden herself. I'm curious about the next installment in the series, even though I know it will probably be mediocre in my eyes.

It all served to remind me just why it is so hard to be a successful author.

First, you need skill. That's what I am currently working on. At this stage, I need to write, get critiques, develop my skills, and repeat. JR Ward has mad skills, even if I disagree with how she uses them.

Second, you need substance. All the skills in the world are meaningless without sympathetic or compelling characters and an engaging plot. I struggle to determine if the characters and stories I develop are strong enough and entertaining enough to capture readers attention. I'm particularly worried that Dark Heritage doesn't have the necessary HEA ending to qualify as a romance. I worry readers won't find Leif a sympathetic character. I might argue that some of JR Ward's characters are a little weak and their personalities change depending on the needs of the plot.

Third, you need to develop your own style. No one wants to read a second-rate author. By consequence of being individuals, authors have unique voices that can either add to or detract from their work. While I found JR Ward's product name dropping quaint in the first book, it got old quick. I am also in the anti-slang group, and despise the too-long-for-their-own-good words. But this is her style. I would recognize it anywhere, under any name. It is unique and different. By the ninth book, you either love it or hate it. I lean towards the later.

Yet I keep reading. Her books are like sexy alpha vampire crack. So here's an author with skill, substance, and style. If by some shift in the universe I was her editor (and knew what I was doing) I'd be getting her to carry a story line to a conclusion; I'd firm up her female characters; I'd cut out a lot of the Lessers; I'd be tempted to nix the Virgin Scribe/Omega storyline except that it accounts for Vishous; I'd tone down the slang and mutli-word nouns; etc. Would that produce a better book? Maybe, maybe not. It would be the book I wanted, but would readers at large fall in love with a toned-down JR Ward? I think not - yes I'm back to reading the Godspeaker trilogy.

As I prepare for the numerous rejection letters I will need to face, I'll remind myself to ask 'What's missing'? Skill? Substance? Style? Market? Great books never get published. Mediocre books become bestsellers with sparkly vampires.

Writing a mediocre review for a bestselling author because she doesn't write the way I want her to reminds me of how hard it is to be a successful author.