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Thursday, June 1, 2017

Can massive methane blowout craters create runaway global warming?

Scientists are concerned about this, and a recent study of hundreds of massive craters and mounds (some mounds half a mile wide) heightens their concern, as this article explains:


But the bigger potential threat to climate change is not small methane blow-outs in the Barents Sea; it’s massive blow-outs that could happen in areas currently covered by ice.

If ice sheets keep retreating in places like Greenland and Antarctica, it could leave more land bare and release long pent-up reservoirs of methane.

This study adds to existing uncertainty about the behavior of methane trapped near the poles.

Methane is worrying because it can have an accelerating effect: As ice and permafrost melt, they release more methane, a powerful greenhouse gas, which makes the Earth warmer, so more ice melts, and more methane is released and so on.


Methane is the big elephant in the room of possible irreparable harm to earth from global warming.

In our novel Obelisk Seven, our hero is concerned about the threat of methane.

Obelisk Seven is about global warming, ancient Egyptian obelisks, and mysterious signals from seven obelisks, including the lovely one in St. Peter’s Square in the Vatican. Our elevator speech for our thriller puts it this way:

When Nick Kangles, the wealthy host of a global warming TV show, and Kate Stanton, the top notch microbiologist, try to solve the mystery of seven obelisks that are sending out signals, they uncover the countdown of a threat to our civilization.
 After a chance encounter in Rome, Nick and Kate detect signals from seven obelisks in Rome, Paris,  London, New York and Egypt. They set out on an increasingly dangerous hunt to find the link between these obelisks and a new microbe that threatens the world’s oil supply, and discover that someone is willing to kill to keep the link secret.

Obelisk Seven is available in print from Amazon, and as an ebook from Kindle; check my Amazon author site for details: https://www.amazon.com/author/glennashton

How did we decide to write our thriller? 

Because of Dan Brown and an airport in Rome!

Our quest started with a wait of a few hours in the Da Vinci airport in Rome for our return flight from our European holiday. We had started in London, ducking through the Chunnel by high speed train to Paris, and then on the TGV down through Venice to Rome.

As we waited for the boarding call, Loraine spotted a softcover copy of Dan Brown's novel in the bookstore, and she joked about the many times that our tour guides in Rome and Paris had quoted The Da Vinci Code while pointing out scenes of interest. It was as if the guides had co-opted Brown's book as part of their tour material ...

So we bought his book and read it.

When we finished it, we talked about how Brown wove interesting facts – the where, the who, the what - into his thriller.

Suddenly we both had the same thought: why not use some of our wonderful memories of the cities we had just visited in a thriller of our own?

And so Obelisk Seven was conceived. Two and half years after the conception of that idea, after a lot of research and hard work and tons of sheer fun, our novel was finally born.

We started batting ideas back and forth, a bit like Brown and his wife do. We dissected Brown's novel, examining the characters and the places and the plotline and we did a bit of research into how he wrote his books.

We liked the way he slipped little bits of information into the novel, and loved thinking back on the places we had seen which he included in it.

Then it struck us: we had noticed something very interesting in London, Paris and especially in Rome. It seemed that everywhere you walked in Rome you came across huge granite blocks of stone erected in ancient Egypt many centuries ago.

Later we learned that the obelisk pope, Sixtus V, had deliberately restored many of the obelisks in Rome in places where they could be beacons to the many pilgrims coming to the city. As in: Go down this street, turn left at such-and-such an obelisk, then right at the next one, until you come to ...

Could we use these ancient obelisks in a thriller?

Easily said, but how?


One afternoon, we remembered, we had been sitting under the awning of a cafe in the square in front of huge Pantheon, when a bridal couple entered the ancient monument, along with dozens of wedding guests.

A sudden rainstorm had swept through the square, driving Romans to seek shelter in the Pantheon.

Then it stopped, the sun came out again, and the driver of the horse and carriage dried off the seats that the wedding couple would use.

I noticed crows gathering on the sloping roof of the Pantheon, and the steam coming from the obelisk facing the temple.

That gave us the idea: what if some mysterious sound came from the obelisk? Could this be the beginning of a hunt to find out what or who was making the sounds?

The rain, the wedding couple, the horse and carriage, the crows, and the obelisk all found their way into Obelisk Seven.

So one of our three themes appeared.

But it was not enough.

Why would someone want to read about obelisks making a sound (we called these obelisks Singers in the novel). We needed something more to hook readers, to make the book more interesting, more topical.

Back to Dan Brown.

In his Witness Statement Dan Brown says that all his books weave together fact and fiction. But he does more. He says:

My hope in writing this novel was that the story would serve as a catalyst and a springboard for people to discuss the important topics of faith, religion, and history.

And he courted controversy with his theme that Jesus married Mary Magdalene and started a bloodline that has survived until our time. This caused a huge fuss in some quarters because it contradicted the general belief and faith of Christianity.

We decided that we needed a lively controversy to help us make a thriller out of a handful of singing obelisks. 

Our fish and chips wrapper

Global warming became our controversy wrapper – the newspaper holding our fish & chips of singing obelisks together.

And then we needed to add a pinch of salt to our meal, and we came up with the idea to link the singing obelisks with global warming through an advance in microbiology, in the form of a new microbe that started eating the carbon in deposits of oil and coal and tar sands.


Our Three Themes

And we had our three themes – mysterious obelisks that sang, a controversy over whether global warming is a threat to our civilization, and a carbon-munching Bug.


The reader problem

How on earth could we help our readers grasp the major issues in climate change, without boring them to tears?

We decided to give the hero, Nick Kangles (a wealthy man who was dedicated to spreading the concept of trading in greenhouse gases as an effective way to let the market help reduce emissions) another role to play – that of the co-host of an international television program, WorldHeat, which dealt with global warming.

This gave us the plot device to dole out bits of information on climate change, while also giving us a vehicle to add tension through the problems Nick faces when one of his co-hosts – an evironmental activist – is suspected of trying to kill Nick.

The Meeting of Hero and Heroine

How and where would we make our hero and heroine meet?

Our glass of wine under a Roman trattoria's canvas awning in the square of the Pantheon gave us the answer.

Nick and Kate would meet there, where Audrey Hepburn had drunk champagne with Gregory Peck in Roman Holiday.

Nick is a wealthy man, who made his money with an early hedge fund before he retired and decided to help countries set up their own greenhouse gas emissions trading schemes, like the one which was designed by Professor Graciela Chichilnisky as an essential part of the Kyoto Accord.

When he explains to Kate how emissions trading allows companies that pollute the atmosphere to buy 'indulgences' for sins by buying pollution credits on the emissions trading market, Kate labels him a sin trader, much to Gliffy's delight.


The Egyptologist

The obelisks which send out mysterious signals are nicknamed Singers by our heroes.

The need for a source of information on these wonderful ancient Egyptian pillars of pink granite lead us to the creation of Jay Todesco.


Jay, a friend of Nick's, goes by the name Gliffy, which a former girl friend gave him because of his love for the hieroglyphics which were interpreted by the brilliant young French scholar, Champollion. 

We found that the character Gliffy took on a life of his own, leading Nick and Kate on the hunt for those who had made the Singers send out their mysterious signals.

Gliffy's actions in investigating the obelisk in St. Peter's Square in the Vatican – the seventh obelisk they investigate, hence the name of Obelisk Seven for our novel - lead to his death.

PS:

Obelisk Seven was written by Glenn Ashton and Loraine Lundquist, who married on a rainy beach, with their two daughters and son attending.

Glenn proposed to Loraine with a red rose on the Great Wall of China.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Composing your novel using yWriter



Simon Haynes author of yWrite
Building your novel is tough, but not thinking about how it will be structured is a sure recipe for disaster. 

If you just plunge into writing, without thinking structure, characters, and scenes, you are sure to end up with a mish mash and waste a lot of time.

I’ve just dipped into a FREE program named yWriter which was written by Simon Haynes, a designer and programmer, and also an author. Here’s his website: http://www.spacejock.com/yWriter5.html

What does yWriter do? It’s a word processor that breaks your novel into chapters and scenes, so that you can keep track of your novel as it progresses. That’s all it does: no plot suggestions, no critiques of your writing style – none of that.

But what it does is take a load off your shoulders by making your writing easier and more focused.

Here are some of its features, lifted from Simon Haynes’ website:
1 
  Organise your novel using a project.
Add chapters to the project.
Add scenes, characters, items and locations.
Display the word count for every file in the project, along with a total.
Saves a log file every day, showing words per file and the total. (Tracks your progress)
Saves automatic backups at user-specified intervals.
Allows multiple scenes within chapters
Viewpoint character, goal, conflict and outcome fields for each scene.
Multiple characters per scene.
Storyboard view, a visual layout of your work.
Re-order scenes within chapters.
Drag and drop of chapters, scenes, characters, items and locations.
Automatic chapter renumbering.

All of that, for nothing!

The program focuses on scenes.

Why?

Monday, December 19, 2016

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Still not sure why Trump won?

The reread the Michael Moore analysis of the Brexit States (Ohio, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Michigan).

And click on his speech to hear his stunningly assessment of Trump as Molotov Cocktail.

And weigh Moore's words against the chattering classes in the major news groups, and the disbelief by many - including President Obama - that Trump will do most of what he said he planned to do if elected.


Saturday, November 19, 2016

Thutmosis III in the news again!



London sphinx guarding Thutmose III obelisk

Here’s the latest news that Pharoah Tut 3 is making:


The find occurred in the context of an archaeological mission known as the "Thutmosis III temple project", which began in 2008. Referred to as the Temple of Millions of Years of Thutmosis III, the monument is dedicated to one of the most famous pharaohs of Egyptian history, who came to be known as the "Egyptian Napoleon", due to his many conquests.

The temple, located not far from the city of Luxor, had been explored in the early 20th century but not entirely. It was subsequently abandoned by archaeologists in 1938, and was covered by sand and forgotten for seventy years.


We’re very familiar with Thutmose III, because we stumbled across him while researching our novel, Obelisk Seven.

He plays an important role in our novel, as this extract about the London obelisk shows:


"There she is," Gliffy said proudly.

"Cleopatra's Needle. Made by old T3 - Pharaoh Thutmose III."

Before them stood the seventy foot tall obelisk, mounted on a granite pad thrust out from the side of the Thames Embankment, into the river itself.

Stairs ran from the top of the pad down to the river below.

Two seven-ton bronze guardian sphinxes, nineteen feet long, flanked the obelisk; each had a sphinx head on top of a muscular lion's body.

“This beauty stood for about a thousand years in the desert before it was toppled by the Persians in 500 BC,” Gliffy explained.

“And then it was buried for about five hundred years, before the Romans dug it up and moved it to Alexandria, where they raised it on the seashore. There it stood for 1300 years, before falling in an earthquake in 1300 AD. It was buried in the sand for another five hundred years, before being dug up once more and sent to London.”

“Buried twice, for a thousand years,” Nick whispered, awed.

“And now we want to ferret out its secret: does it also send out signals?” Kate said softly.
Gliffy was scanning the street.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Trump: About not seeing the obvious

Intense navel-gazing for the next six months down south, as the changing of the guard takes place in Washington D.C.

But the explanation for the Trump win is not really that hard to find, as this journalist writes:

Those Rust Belt states were where he won this election.

How the Democrats were lulled into complacency about this rather obvious problem will be the enduring question of the 2016 presidential race.

Anyone who drives across a state like Pennsylvania, which I drove through on my way to the convention in Cleveland last summer, would have to notice that the formerly industrial towns along the route were ideal recruiting grounds for the Donald.

I gather the Dems thought they could overcome this by ginning up the urban vote in cities like Philadelphia. But that was always a risky strategy.

If Hillary had been able to get the urban vote, she would have been the nominee in 2008. The lukewarm enthusiasm for Clinton among minorities was another thing the media missed.

The pundits also showed they were totally out of touch with the American worker's economic plight.
 Hopefully, Trump will shift the Republican Party away from its narrow base so that it represents a wider section of America, and his stunning victory will force the Democratic Party to examine their foolish reaction to the equally stunning quest by Bernie Sanders.

And for those freaking out right now, think of this: America is a powerful nation, with strong democratic underpinnings. It will do well over the coming decades. Have faith in this nation.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Way to go, PEI!

Canadian democracy takes a giant leap forward:

A non-binding plebiscite on electoral reform in Prince Edward Island has shown voters support a switch to a form of proportional representation.

Mixed member proportional representation was the most popular option, drawing more than half of the votes after ballots were counted and redistributed five times according to the rules of preferential voting.

Islanders were given five options to chose from, including an option to keep the current first-past-the-post system. Voters were asked to rank some or all of the options on a one-to-five scale.

If no electoral system received more than half the votes, the option with the fewest votes was eliminated and those ballots redistributed to their second-choice option.

That process was repeated until one option passed the 50 per cent threshold to achieve majority support.

No let's have this happen in the other provinces and federally!

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Michael Moore gets Trump supporters



This is the canny Moore’s assessment of The Donald’s appeal to so many millions of American voters:


MICHAEL MOORE: I know a lot of people in Michigan that are planning to vote for Trump and they don't necessarily like him that much, and they don't necessarily agree with him. They're not racist or rednecks, they're actually pretty decent people, and so after talking to a number of them I wanted to write this:

'Donald Trump came to the Detroit Economic Club and stood there in front of Ford Motor executives and said, "if you close these factories as you're planning to do in Detroit and build them in Mexico, I'm going to put a 35% tariff on those cars when you send them back and nobody's going to buy them."

It was an amazing thing to see. No politician, Republican or Democrat, had ever said anything like that to these executives, and it was music to the ears of people in Michigan and Ohio and Pennsylvania and Wisconsin -- the "Brexit" states.

Some more of my random posts for you:

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