Saturday, June 14, 2014

All Authors Blog Blitz

This week, I am doing something a little different with the blog, participating in an All Authors Blog Blitz. We are all authors, and we are all hosting another author on our blogs. C-Desert Rose hosted me and I am really really excited to host Rita Carla Francesca Monticelli, of Italy. As if that isn't exciting enough for this Alabama girl, we share long term interest and involvements in the space industry as well, and we all know what happens when you throw space geeks together. We talk books and space both, what could be better! I am so excited to have her here. With that, I introduce:

Rita Carla Francesca Monticelli

Rita Carla Francesca Monticelli

You’ve maybe noticed that I have a long name. Well, this is my real one, not a pen name. I’ve decided to keep it all because it’s something unique, but all my friends just call me Carla.

I’m an Italian independent author, a literary, technical, and scientific translator, and a biologist. Actually I’m not working anymore as biologist, but I’m using my education in the field in both my translation and writing work. I worked as researcher and professor’s assistant at the University of Cagliari (Sardinia, Italy) until 2004, then I started my own business, called Anakina Web (the name coming from me being a huge Star Wars fan), in the remit of which I currently take care of my writing related jobs, including translation, as well as web design.

My work time is almost evenly split between creative writing and translation, though I’m currently focussing a bit more on my writing career. I’m the author of a successful science fiction series in Italy, titled “Deserto rosso” (Red Desert), including four books. It is a character driven hard science fiction series about Mars colonisation, thanks to which I’ve been mentioned on Wired Magazine as one of the ten best Italian self-publishers. It brought me to be a guest at the Salone Internazionale del Libro in Turin, the most important Italian book fair.

I’ve also recently published a crime thriller titled Il mentore (The Mentor), and I will publish my next science fiction novel in November.  
My science fiction series is also going to be published in English. The first book, Red Desert - Point of No Return, is due to release on June 30th. I’m currently arranging an eventual publication in Spanish for the next year.

On Space:

As a biologist, my specialisation is ecology. This branch of biology is about the connections and interactions between living and non-living elements in nature. That applies to our planet, of course, but not only. In fact, it has a lot of points in common with astrobiology for what concerns the origin of life and the conditions that allow life to spread. The two branches are tightly interwoven. Lately I’ve taken some online classes on astrobiology and I’m currently trying to improve my knowledge in the field.  
That fact and my interest in astronomy and aerospace, which I’ve had since I can remember, is partly the reason why I like science fiction too, brought me to become a space exploration enthusiast, in particular for anything that concerns Mars. The Red Planet is the nearest celestial body being similar to our own planet and potentially having the conditions to host life (in the past, in the future, but even right now). I’ve followed and am still following with great interest all the robotic Mars exploration missions.   
My name is one of those brought there in a chip on board of Curiosity (yes, it sounds like I’m fan of her, but actually I am!). I’m eager to see more missions being able to discover more about the past of the planet, when it was covered by oceans and maybe gave origin to life. But I’m even more eager to see humans get there and colonise that new world.

On Space and Writing:

Both aspects of my interest in Mars drove me to write Red Desert. The triggering factor for me was reading Dr. Robert Zubrin’s books, in particular The Case for Mars and his novel First Landing. I started toying with the idea of an astronaut driving all alone on a rover in the Martian desert, in the middle of nothing, and I wondered why he/she was there and where he/she was going.  
I started from that image in my mind to tell the story of Anna Persson, a Swedish exobiologist (an astrobiologist specialised in speculating about life on other planets) and a Mars coloniser, who at the crack of dawn leaves the safety of Station Alpha and secretly escapes with a rover into the desert with enough air for a little more than two sols (Martian days). Why is she escaping? Where is she going? Does she want to kill herself?  
The story is about Mars exploration and colonisation, so there’s a lot aerospace science in it, but also about exobiology, as it speculates on the possible existence of some very simple (microscopic) life forms in the Red Planet, how and where they might exist. It’s hard science fiction for a great extent. I tried to be faithful to actual science, though the story is set 50 years in the future so it left a lot of room to the imagination concerning technology
This is surely an entertainment read, but one of my ambitions is to leave something in the reader when they close the book, even to instil some interest on Mars exploration. I’m an Italian representative of a non-profit association called Mars Initiative, whose purpose is collecting funds to be given to the first project that is going to put humans on Mars. I hope my book will increase the interest of my readership on the importance of this topic for human progress. And I hope to do so by letting them get closer to the Red Planet, feeling its calling, and understanding why it is important that humans get there soon.  
But, of course, there are other appealing aspects in the series: there’s a lot of adventure, suspense, characters’ feelings (including love, of course), even social topics, like the respect for diversity applied on a various range of fields, from religion to race … and more.  
Finally, it is characterised by my favourite theme that you can find in all my literary work: the subjectivity of good and evil. In my stories aren’t real heroes nor villains. Everything is mixed, like in real life. Everybody thinks for themselves and those they love. In fact the protagonist is an anti-heroine, heavily flawed and not willing to become a heroine. Whenever she does something dangerous that may seem heroic, she never does it for “saving the world” but just to save herself or someone she needs (because that person is just useful to her or she loves them and therefore can’t do without them), and this is what makes her human. This is what made most of my readers like the series, even if some of them disliked her attitude.  
Available on Amazon
Anyway to appreciate the characters and the story, you need to read the whole series.  
Red Desert - Point of No Return is a novella, a two-hour read, but it is less than ten per cent of the whole series. It follows Anna’s journey in the Martian desert. While she’s driving the rover aiming to a place we don’t know, she recalls her past and through her memories we understand who she is and why she is on Mars.  
The novella ends with a cliff-hanger urging you to know more. Fortunately the second book will be published in September and it’s a real novel, which shows different point of views on the story and unveils a part of the mystery upon which Anna has stumbled during the mission and which was the reason of her escape in the first place.  
So all you have to do is put on your own suit, lock your own helmet and get into the rover with Anna. The journey will start on June 30th.


I linger to admire the sky that’s turning from salmon to a dirty, pale blue, as the sun drops into the canyon. Its light has become so feeble that I can stare at it without being blinded. I begin to distinguish some stars eastwards. Deimos, the farthest satellite, shines a little bigger than a star just over my head, whilst Phobos seems to come greeting it.
As the solar disk crosses the irregular horizon of Valles Marineris, there it is, a little higher and westward. An azure star sparkling in the twilight. Earth.
I can’t be too specific about this excerpt for avoiding any spoiler on the story. Anyway, I think this one is the most moving part of the novella. It was moving for me to write it. We find Anna watching the sunset in Valles Marineris, in the canyons. She is alone in a very difficult situation, yet she is overwhelmed by the beauty of the sight. Her nerves break when she finally recognizes Earth in the sky. This is when she starts regretting her previous actions and wishing she could change them.

Anna is a very uncertain woman. That’s partly due to her past, which is slowly unveiled all over the series. She changes her mind continuously in normal conditions. And now she is alone in a desert planet for two long days. That’s bringing her to the limit.  
While focussing on her feelings in the attempt to make the reader identify in her, I take this occasion to show science and try to imagine how a sunset would look like on Mars, based on the videos and photos coming from Opportunity and Curiosity.  
I think these two paragraphs show well the two souls of Red Desert, the scientific and the human one. If you want to know more, you will just have to read Red Desert - Point of No Return
As said, it’ll be out on June 30th on Amazon and all major retailers, but it may be pre-ordered on Barnes & Noble, Kobo and iTunes. I’m launching it at only $0.99.  
All updated information about the series can be found on my blog under the tag “Red Desert”:
My official English website is, where you can get in touch with me via social media, read my blog or subscribe to my newsletter and be the first to know about a new release.

See you on Mars!

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Alabama Woman -- Blogger Interview

Alabama Women Bloggers
One of the things I have really enjoyed as a writer has been getting to know other writers. This interview is my "Getting to Know You" interview for Alabama Women Bloggers. It is a group of women bloggers from all over the state.

1. Name & Birthday

Regina Pickett Garson.
Born June 12, a Gemini, which just about sums up my life. I am into everything, and even I don’t have a clue how many personalities I have.   

2. How long have you been blogging?

I started blogging in 2005, but I’ve been involved in the Internet and online publishing for right at 20 years. Blogging came later and suddenly it was the thing, I started my first blog to provide a discussion area for Magic Stream, my first web site, which is a self-help and holistic wellness literary zine.

3. What is your favorite part of being a blogger and why?

I’m a word smyth. I like reading and writing and I have been a writer in some way all of my adult life. I’ve written articles, poetry, web sites, news reports, political analysis, technical papers, it’s a long list. I’ve covered everything from social issues to rocket science. Blogging is its own style though and it lends to more personal discussion of everyday life than some of the other writing styles. That is what I love about blogging, as both a reader and a writer both, I like the more personal aspects of blogging, the connectedness in the writing that makes us all human.

4. Why did you start blogging?

I had been involved with online publishing for a while when the blogging craze hit, I hate to say I jumped in because everybody was doing it, but I jumped in because everybody was doing it. Not to be flip, but if you are active at all in online publishing, you have to keep up with the trends and what is going on in the industry. If you work online and you spend too much time blinking your eye, you are toast. Since then though, blogging has been a whole lot more than -- well I really need to do this. Blogging is here to stay, if fills a need for readers and writers both.

5. Tell us a little about your family.

My family is from Alabama. At least some of them have been here since before the state became a state. Like many Southern families I have a very rich and diverse heritage. My mother’s family, the Cashs, were from Scotland and my Dad’s, the Picketts, were from England. The Picketts were among the early colonial settlers. Members of both families married Native Americans along the way, Cherokee on my dad’s side and Choctaw on my mom’s. So when I say my family has been here a while, we go way back. Like most Southern families, there is, of course, a lot more, I’ve got Jewish heritage, a strong French influence, and a few Dutch, but that is just a nutshell and I am certain I have left something out. I have a very mixed and wonderful heritage, a large extended family on both sides.

6. Where are you from?

I was born in Birmingham. My parents moved out in the country between Montevallo and Pea Ridge when I was three, and that is where I grew up. The area was so remote when I was a child, my dad put in the first running water in our area. There was no city supplied water service back then, so he dug a well and put in his own water system, and did the maintenance. When I was a child, I loved the Laura Ingalls Wilder books, reading those books, I always felt like my upbringing was kind of like being a pioneer. And it probably was. The closest community was Pea Ridge; they only had 650 some people at the time, and we were out in the country from there. I always loved that area, the people and the land, beautiful.

7. What is your greatest achievement?

That is a hard one. I think every phase of our life we have to have something that we are working toward. Goals are important in many ways. I was very serious into the piano for the first half of my life. I remember hearing the “Warsaw Concerto” and the way people talked about it, I had to play that song. I don’t remember how long it took, but I worked on it until I could play it. The thing is, it had nothing at all to do with a great love of that particular song, it had to do with the way people talked it. Like that was something if you could play that song. And I wanted that something. I wanted to be able to play it too. If I heard it this instant, I am not certain I would even recognize it, it was a pure “I have to do this” kind of goal.

Then it was like, been there, done that. But the thing is, it taught me to set a goal and work toward it, and that is why I think it was so important. Somewhere in us all, we have to have something we are working toward. That is important our whole life, every minute of it. That makes life worth living, it is not the destination, it is the journey. And that is why I rate that song as among my greatest achievements. It wasn't the song itself, it was what I learned by learning to play it.

Other accomplishments, my website Magic Stream has been in publication for twenty years this spring. I am pretty happy with that. At the time, I was aware a lot of people got rich and famous online and I was off building what amounted to a mission, providing self-help information. I don’t have a clue how many times I started to just fold it up because I never made anything on it, but people were still coming, and how do you build a mission and lock the door while people are standing there. So I keep it up. I feel like in some way, I was supposed to do that and I am glad I did and I still maintain it.

Whatever we do in life, I think it is important to give something back to the community, as we are able and whatever our talents. We are all different and we do different things. Magic Stream is my contribution. People come there for information on addictions, mental health, various emotional issues, how to help somebody who is suicidal, aging, depression, end of life issues and the list goes on, if it has to do with some kind of emotional or mental health issue, I have probably either covered it on Magic Stream or I can refer you to somebody who has.

8. If you could live anywhere -- where would it be and why?

Alabama, hands down, it’s my home. My family is here and has been for a couple hundred years at the very least. It is my home and my families’ home, I have no desire whatsoever to live anywhere else.

9. Favorite Movie?

Beetlejuice. If I am going to watch a movie, I want to have a good time, none of those tear jerkers for me. I totally love Beetlejuice.

10. Favorite Music/Song?

I love all kinds of music. My early piano training was in the classics, and for years I was totally fixated on Mozart, I didn’t want to play anything else. This was in the years of rock and roll, and more than one person has been dumbfounded that I didn’t know much of anything about the major groups of the time. But that wasn’t what I was into then. I totally love the blues too, not the loud new electronic blues, it’s not bad, it is just not what I am saying I like when I say I like blues, I like the old stuff, like B. B. King, music so mellow, you can hear the smoke.When I listen to the blues, I want to hear the smoke. And if you love the blues, you know exactly what I mean.

11. What are your hobbies?

Continuing on from the music, in the last few years, I discovered Sacred Harp music, and I was hooked on that too. I should have put this under my greatest accomplishments, I think the more you know about music, the harder it is to get your head around Sacred Harp, it’s a good time, participatory music. But I really had a hard time learning it. You don’t go somewhere to listen to Sacred Harp music, you get together with other folks who love it, and you all sing.

Also, as to hobbies, I am only two hours from Nashville, I love country music too. After all the years of music, only in the last few, I got interested in writing it, so if I had to list a hobby, I’d probably list writing music, not that I’m any good at it, that’s just what I do when I want to kick back and do something just for fun. And for all my early years in the classics, I have now gone country! Totally love it, there is nothing better than getting together with a bunch of country songwriting musicians, or any other kind of musicians for that matter.

12. What inspires you?

People inspire me, everyday people. Friends and family. I love to see what people do and hear the stories of their life. Their families, their dreams, their work, things they do, their projects, and their pets, their kids. Their ailments, dealing with their ailments. Life is not easy for much of anybody, but the sharing of the journey is awesome. I love it all. Politics inspire me too, I love getting out there and trying to work toward making things better. I guess what it boils down to is life – life inspires me.

13. Favorite Color?

I have a new favorite color every other year. Right now it is red, it makes me want to move and get things done.

14. What is your dream job?

I am a word smyth and I love my work. I write and edit both. I’ve been writing long enough and have enough bylines, I love helping others along to their writing dreams and ambitions just as much as I do fulfilling my own. Sometimes I think if I had it to do over, I might do something else, I'd probably pick mechanical engineering, but the thing is, I am doing the work that I love now and it allows me the opportunity to support causes and efforts that I think are important. Especially political and social causes, I definitely get political at times.

Also, word smyths never stop learning. The hardest part about college was I wanted to take everything and learn everything. I love that about my work, especially with my editing, I work with a lot of different people in a whole lot of different fields, learning about their work while I help them with their editorial needs, like even when I was over at NASA writing, I got to learn about rocket science, now that is something, I totally loved it. My editorial work has given me the opportunity to learn a lot different things that I would have not been exposed to and learn otherwise. And I love to learn. It gives me a good solid background in knowing what is going on in the world around me too,  but I have a good time too. I also take an occasional creative binge, and that too is part of the word smyth business.

Available on Amazon

15. What are you looking forward to most in 2014?

Speaking of creative binge. Of all the writers I know, it probably took me the longest to finally come out with a book, and I’ve been writing all my life.  I am on it now. This past April, I debuted my first fiction on Amazon Kindle, that was really exciting to me. It is part of a series of short, stand along stories, like the saying “art for art’s sake.” They are all very different in genre, mood, and style, a painting if you will in words. The first, “Journey,” is a mashup, a surrealistic excursion into madness. Everybody who reads it comes away with a little something different, reads it different, kind of like an abstract painting. What do you see in it? It's available on Amazon, but I leave the interpretation up to the reader.

My next upcoming is back to my Southern hill country roots, “Moonshine Revival or Justice in Possum Tree Gulch.” What could be better than a good strong drink on a hot summer night? It will be out in the middle of the summer and I can't wait.

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