Category Archives: Innerscape

Another win for Innerscape – real surgical robots

This is the Mako Stryker:

https://www.stryker.com/us/en/portfolios/orthopaedics/joint-replacement/mako-robotic-arm-assisted-surgery.html

I just stumbled across the Mayo Stryker in an article about ’12 Medical Miracle Technologies’ on Medium. All twelve will save countless lives, but this one made my heart skip a beat:

https://medium.com/predict/12-medical-miracle-technologies-to-watch-23e9b7b6ec52

Those of you who’ve read the first book of the trilogy – Miira – may remember the scene in which an autonomous AI controlled robot pares Miira’s body back to the bits that still work. The process is overseen by a team of surgeons who never touch the patient at all.

That scene was more or less in its finished version by May, 2015.

I don’t have a crystal ball, nor do I have the kind of expert knowledge that results in a breakthrough like the Mayo Stryker, but I am a problem solver, and it seems that my theoretical, fictional solution was logical enough to become real.

Before I get too fat a head, however, I have to acknowledge how much I get absolutely wrong, starting with the speed of development. I think a great many of these logical solutions will become reality decades before I thought they would. Ah well… I’ll take my wins where I find them. 🙂

cheers,
Meeks


Wetware

https://www.reddit.com/r/MortalKombat/comments/f3q3zf/nrs_we_need_a_half_robot_face_terminator_skin_in/

In the Terminator movies, the robot played by Arnold Schwarzeneger looks like a human on the outside thanks to artificial flesh – i.e. skin and muscle. Well now the researchers at Freiburg University have made an all-protein muscle:

‘For the new study, researchers at the University of Freiburg created artificial muscles that are entirely “bio-based.” They’re made of elastin, a natural protein that gives tissues like skin and blood vessels their elasticity.’

https://newatlas.com/robotics/artificial-muscles-human-proteins/?utm_source=New+Atlas+Subscribers&utm_campaign=c5257d2ee4-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2022_02_01_11_50&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_65b67362bd-c5257d2ee4-92416841

But wait…there’s more. The new, artificial muscle can respond to certain kinds of stimuli which means it can react to the outside world. This is huge, not just for robotics but for all sorts of prosthetics and implants.

And then there’s the development of artificial nerves.

‘Sensory nerves carry information from the outside world to our spinal cord and brain. In particular, our ability to perceive touch sensation is achieved by a type of sensory nerve ending called mechanoreceptors which are located in our skin. When pressure is applied to the skin, the mechanoreceptors respond by changing their electric voltage (i.e., a measure of electrical energy). The voltages from multiple mechanoreceptors are combined and transmitted to a single neuron, or nerve cell. At a certain voltage threshold, the neuron generates repetitive electrical pulses that are forwarded to other neurons via junctions called synapses, eventually reaching the neurons in the brain to register the touch sensation. The frequency at which the electric pulses are generated (measured in hertz, i.e., number per second) is determined by the applied pressure. Higher pressures produce electrical pulses at higher frequencies, while lower pressures produce lower frequency pulses (Figure 1). These electrical pulses are eventually transmitted to and processed by the brain to feel the pressure of the external stimulus, according to the pulse frequencies.’

https://sitn.hms.harvard.edu/flash/2018/artificial-nerves/

If we could make artificial skin and muscle, and then give that skin artificial nerve endings, we could create robots capable of ‘feeling’.

‘Artificial sensory nerves are at a very early stage in their development… To mimic its biological counterpart, the artificial sensory nerve is constructed using three components: resistive pressure sensors, ring oscillators, and a synaptic transistor, corresponding to the biological mechanoreceptors, neurons, and synapses, respectively (Figure 2).’

https://sitn.hms.harvard.edu/flash/2018/artificial-nerves/

Why am I so interested in these developments? Because there are all sorts of stories in the world of Innerscape, including that of Jaimie and Ari. Jaimie is on the ‘inside’. Ari is on the ‘outside’. They can never really be together unless Ari gets very sick and is inducted into Innerscape, not a fate either of them would wish for.

But what if Jaimie could somehow project himself outside? If he could invent a robot capable of ‘feeling’, he could ride the robot in the outside world but ‘feel’ what the robot feels via the Innerscape AI. It would be like the reverse of the gaming suits and biofluid that outsiders use to temporarily project themselves inside Innerscape.

I’ve been thinking about the possibilities for some time, but couldn’t see how I could make it happen, not without making it all up. Now I won’t have to. 🙂

I know you guys aren’t really interested in my tech posts but…I don’t write them for you. I actually write them for myself so I can find important information months or even years after I originally discover it.

Thanks for putting up with my idiosyncrasies. 😉

Meeks


Proof of concept – Innerscape

Forgive the grandiose title, but I’ve just read an article on Medium that details the current research aimed at creating a computer-brain interface. And that concept, taken to an extreme level, is precisely what Innerscape is all about.

I’ve known about some of the technologies for some time, but I was truly surprised by how much, and how varied, those technologies are. Some are clearly still in their infancy, but I see great potential for others…including football fans. 🙂

No, I’m not kidding. The article below contains a video about a very special ‘kickoff’. The person doing the kickoff [first kick of the game] is wearing an exoskeleton, and he’s paralyzed. He’s moving the exoskeleton with his brain. That is little short of a miracle.

You can watch a video of that kickoff, and read about the other technologies in development here: https://medium.com/predict/brain-computer-interfaces-the-next-step-in-human-evolution-a0e0723a1791

One thing I very much like about the article is that it talks openly about the elephant in the room – the ethics of some of these technologies. We humans have a habit of jumping into new tech feet first, so enamoured of the potential for good [or profit] that we wilfully ignore the potential for harm. And there is always potential for harm.

It’s Good Friday here in Australia so I’ll wish you all a Safe and Happy Easter if you celebrate it. If not, may you have a Safe and Happy Holiday.

Much love,
Meeks


Final Freebie – 3 more days

The 6th, and last, free ebook I’m offering is the Innerscape Omnibus which includes all three books of the Innerscape trilogy.

As the title says, the Innerscape Omnibus is free for about 3 more days, depending on your timezone. The promotion ends on April 3, 2021.

US https://www.amazon.com/Innerscape-Omnibus-Books-trilogy-ebook/dp/B0871W9YDH/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=Innerscape+Omnibus&qid=1617103285&sr=8-1

UK https://www.amazon.co.uk/Innerscape-Omnibus-Books-trilogy-ebook/dp/B0871W9YDH/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=Innerscape+Omnibus&qid=1617103337&sr=8-1

Australia https://www.amazon.com.au/Innerscape-Omnibus-Books-trilogy-ebook/dp/B0871W9YDH/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=Innerscape+Omnibus&qid=1617103385&sr=8-1

Canada https://www.amazon.ca/Innerscape-Omnibus-Books-trilogy-ebook/dp/B0871W9YDH/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=Innerscape+Omnibus&qid=1617103433&sr=8-1

India https://www.amazon.in/Innerscape-Omnibus-Books-trilogy-ebook/dp/B0871W9YDH/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=Innerscape+Omnibus&qid=1617103493&sr=8-1

If you are not in one of these Amazon marketplaces, you can find the Omnibus by going to the Amazon search box and typing:

Innerscape Omnibus acflory

While you’re there, perhaps you could check out some of the wonderful books written by Sue Vincent: https://www.amazon.com/Sue-Vincent/e/B00F2L730W?ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1&qid=1617227018&sr=8-1


Meeks



Final Freebie – Innerscape Omnibus

The 6th, and last, free ebook I’m offering is the Innerscape Omnibus which includes all three books of the Innerscape trilogy.

If you’ve already downloaded the individual books, there’s no need to download the Omnibus, unless you want to, of course. 😉

The Omnibus is free on Amazon now, and I’ve provided some of the major links to the various Amazon market places below. As with the first five books, the Omnibus will be free for 5 days [ending April 3, 2021].

US https://www.amazon.com/Innerscape-Omnibus-Books-trilogy-ebook/dp/B0871W9YDH/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=Innerscape+Omnibus&qid=1617103285&sr=8-1

UK https://www.amazon.co.uk/Innerscape-Omnibus-Books-trilogy-ebook/dp/B0871W9YDH/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=Innerscape+Omnibus&qid=1617103337&sr=8-1

Australia https://www.amazon.com.au/Innerscape-Omnibus-Books-trilogy-ebook/dp/B0871W9YDH/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=Innerscape+Omnibus&qid=1617103385&sr=8-1

Canada https://www.amazon.ca/Innerscape-Omnibus-Books-trilogy-ebook/dp/B0871W9YDH/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=Innerscape+Omnibus&qid=1617103433&sr=8-1

India https://www.amazon.in/Innerscape-Omnibus-Books-trilogy-ebook/dp/B0871W9YDH/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=Innerscape+Omnibus&qid=1617103493&sr=8-1

I left the Omnibus until last because I intend to unpublish it on April 14, 2021 which is two days after I first published it on April 12, 2020 – an almost-anniversary. I know we’re not in the clear from Covid yet, but at least there’s light at the end of the tunnel, so I feel it’s a good time to retire this particular version. I may drag it out of mothballs for the odd special occasion, but for now it will enjoy a well earned rest. 😀

I would love everyone to grab a copy of the Omnibus while it’s free. I’d also urge anyone who hasn’t grabbed a copy of the other books to do so now, while they’re still 99c. On April 3, they will all return to their normal pricing.

I’ve tried not to check the Amazon reports too often so I’ve been gobsmacked by how many people have downloaded the books. I’ve also been incredibly heartened by the wonderful reviews they’ve all received. That was a very pleasant surprise as I’d only been hoping for a couple of reviews for Miira and Vokhtah. Thank you, all of you. -hugs-


Meeks



My Favourite bits…The Vintage Egg

The Vintage Egg (Postcards From Tomorrow Book 1) by [acflory]

The Egg is a collection of six short stories that I published back in 2013, but at least two of them – The Gamer and Brehak – were conceived more than a decade earlier. Both grew out of my fledgling experiences as an online gamer, and the realisation that seeing really is believing, even when you know that what you’re seeing isn’t real.

But if two gamers can fall in love with their respective avatars, what happens when reality intrudes? Or when one of them deliberately deceives the other? Readers of Innerscape will recognize both of these themes. They, and much of the backstory of Innerscape grew out of these two stories.

The following excerpt is taken from the second story, Brehak:

The dark-haired man with the impossibly long legs sprawled on his throne, surrounded by a bevy of naked beauties – all small-breasted, all blond, all wearing the same come hither look. Except he hadn’t come…

“Out. All of you. Get out!”

As the blond NPCs winked obediently out of existence, their lord and master rose from his ornate, padded throne, and strode over to a huge tapestry that hung on the wall behind the throne.

The tapestry hid an iron-studded door that led out to a windswept balcony. From there he would have a panoramic view of the icy wastes that lay beyond the battlements. His realm.

Grabbing the iron ring that served as a handle, Brehak flung the door open, and walked outside. The chill wind, and the snow beneath his naked feet made him shiver, but he welcomed the discomfort. It was nice to feel something for a change.

When he had first created this fantasy realm three months ago, everything had been new and exciting, including the sex. But the thrill of being serviced by his harem of Ktah look-alikes had waned very quickly. No matter how he programmed them, their behaviour was never realistic enough to make him believe he was with her. None of them could ever capture that strange innocence lurking behind her seductive blue eyes.

Had she even been a she?

Brehak had agonized over that question a million times since the night Ktah disappeared from the OR. Her voice had certainly been that of a woman, but he knew that didn’t mean much. When he had tried out a female avatar, just to see what it would feel like, the game AI had subtly altered his voice patterns to make him sound more feminine. His walk though, and his body language, had remained stubbornly masculine.

Ktah had not played typically female classes, yet even so her body movements had always been graceful in a way most men could never match-

…except perhaps a really good female impersonator…

Was that why she/he finally ran away? Because they’d come so close to stimming?

Some days, Brehak was revolted by the thought that Ktah might have been a man. Other days he cursed her/him for not following through. Perhaps if they had finally had sex he would be able to move on. But they hadn’t, and the questions remained.

It was not that he had been in love with Ktah – they had not known each other long enough for that – but the possibility had been there, impossible to ignore. Impossible to forget.

Brehak knew it was stupid to be so obsessed with an avatar, and he had tried to exorcise Ktah’s memory many times, but none of the women he met in OR could hold his interest for long. Most were nice enough, but sooner or later they all started talking about meeting up ‘outside’, and that always killed it for him. 

Back when the OR had been in its infancy, he had made the mistake of telling one woman why they could never be together in real life. The pity, and revulsion he had seen on her face had scarred him more thoroughly than all the surgeries he had undergone. Apparently some women could face making love to a man with no legs, but drew the line at one with no bowels

Would he have seen that same look on Ktah’s face – if he had told her the truth about himself?

“We’ll never know now, will we?”

Leaning on the cold stone of the balustrade, Brehak looked out over his empty, icy realm and laughed. It was not a happy sound.

Brehak is by far the darkest story in the Egg. The rest range from kid-friendly to vaguely funny [The To-Do List], but all deal with how human beings deal the the technology we are likely to face in the future.

The Vintage Egg is starting its five day free run on Amazon tomorrow [March 2 northern hemisphere time, March 3 southern hemisphere time], and I hope everyone grabs a copy while it’s free.

cheers
Meeks


My Favourite Bits…Nabatea

Due to the difficulty of finding excerpts that don’t give too much away, I’m only going to post one favourite bit from Nabatea, and this is it:

The control room of the Innerscape facility was hushed as all eyes watched the numbers counting down on the wrap-around wall monitors.

“Any second now,” the duty tech said softly.

Standing right behind the tech, Phil Jacobs could see for himself that Alex Tang, murdered two days before by Kenneth Wu, was finally breathing his last.

The AI and specialist medical teams had done their best, but the outcome had never really been in doubt. It had simply been a matter of time. Now, all the monitors focused on Alex Tang’s vital statistics told the same story – he had put up a heroic fight, but the battle was almost over.

Relief and sadness jostled for position in Phil’s mind as he stared at the heart monitor.

“Flatline,” the duty tech said, his voice almost drowned out by the bleep of the alarm.

The heart monitor was joined a moment later by the Brain Interface Monitor.

Patting the tech on the shoulder, Phil signalled for the alarms to be turned off. In the sudden silence, the voice of the AI seemed unnecessarily loud as it confirmed brain death at 1:46 pm, Sunday the 25th of December, 2101.

Merry Christmas, Phil thought as he affixed his biometric signature to the death certificate.

“Inform the police forensic team that death is confirmed.”

“Yes, sir.”

Glancing up at the wraparound screen, Phil watched as the yellow-clad technicians waiting in the Catacombs sprang into action. They, too, had been waiting for Alex Tang to die, and now that he was gone, they were free to take possession of his containment unit…with him still in it.

Once the unit was disconnected, the forensic team would put it inside one of their huge Hospice trucks and take it away for examination.

“I don’t get it,” the duty tech said as he watched the frenzied activity on the central monitor. “Why all the portable batteries? It’s not as if they need to keep him alive during transit. And why take his AI as well?”

“They probably don’t want to miss anything,” Phil replied, his tone bleak.

“But we already know how he died.”

“No one’s ever been murdered by the common cold before,” Phil replied, his eyes never leaving the monitor. “So this is all new territory. And they don’t trust our systems.”

In fact, the police had found a great deal not to trust, from Innerscape’s reliance on the AI to Phil’s own handling of security.

Dr Jacobs, can you explain why you didn’t revoke Dr Wu’s permissions when he left Innerscape?”

Just thinking of that interview made Phil’s ears burn hot. He had been forced to explain that, as Kenneth had not, technically, been fired, he could not, technically, have his permissions revoked. It had even, technically, been true as the AI did assign security permissions automatically, based on the employee’s position in the company.

What Phil had left unsaid was that those permissions could have been changed manually, using the CEO’s executive override, had anyone foreseen the need to do so. But no one had.

Least of all me, he thought as he forced his eyes away from the monitors. If he had, Alex Tang might still be alive. But then again, who could have guessed that Kenneth Wu would turn rogue?

For those who have never read any of Innerscape, each patient’s body is kept in a containment unit, about the size of a large coffin. Each containment unit has its own AI whose job it is to keep the body alive and functioning. Once the patient is in the containment unit, nothing is allowed to enter the sealed internal environment because even a breath of outside air could introduce a virus or bacteria. Nothing deadly. Just the common cold. Opening the door to the containment unit is a death sentence.

Why did I choose this short excerpt from the very start of book 3? Because every time I read it, I’m surprised that I wrote it.

Since publishing Vokhtah in 2013, I’ve become a lot more comfortable calling myself a writer, but there are times when I still feel like a bit of a fraud. Me? A writer? Yeah, right. But when I read this bit I feel as if yes, maybe I do deserve that title after all.

I really like the epilogue as well, but I can’t tell you about that, or about Kenneth’s grandmother, or the scent of lemon, or sensory deprivation, or a host of other things. All I can do is hope that you take a chance and read Nabatea for yourselves on February 16th when it begins its five days of free on Amazon.

cheers
Meeks


My Favourite Bits…The Godsend [3]

To be quite blunt, I believe that digital innovation will be driven by three things: porn, gaming and medicine. Internet porn is already a huge industry, and so are MMO’s – massively multiplayer online games. Medicine will be the last of the triumvirate to arrive, but it will come because escaping from the real world has been a part of our DNA since early humans painted their hopes and dreams on the walls of caves.

I introduced gaming with Jaimie Watson, and the idea of gaming+porn with Leon in book 1 [Miira], but the focus remained on the purely digital world of Innerscape. In The Godsend, the gaming world of the Shogunate becomes the focus because that is where pure digital and real world escapism intersect for Miira and Jaimie.

The following is a scene that most gamers will recognize. In deference to non-gamers, I’ve kept it very short. lol

Feral Cat Whiskers And Other Junk

“I still don’t see why we have to kill all this low level junk,” Miira grumbled as she despatched her ninth wild dog. “I mean, did they even have wild dogs back then?”

“Yes, they did. Now stop complaining and hurry up,” Jaimie said. “I’m up to fifteen already.”

Miira glared at her partner but kept her mouth shut as she turned and shot an arrow at the next wild dog. Ten.

She and Jaimie had been killing low level vermin for hours, and she was bored to tears. Jaimie, however, was adamant, insisting that building their reputations with the villagers was more important than anything else.

When Miira asked why, Jaimie had simply said that a high reputation would stand them in good stead later, when they went up against bands of enemy players. Just exactly how this was supposed to work, though, he did not say.

fifteen

Given Jaimie’s knowledge of the game, Miira could not argue with his strategy, but that did not stop her from wishing she was elsewhere, doing something a bit more interesting.

Watching grass grow would be more interesting, she thought as she dispatched yet another wild dog.

“Twenty!” Jaimie announced with satisfaction. “You almost done?”

“Four more to go,” Miira said with a sigh. So far, the day’s total of useless quest items included 46 wild dog pelts, 90 rodent tails and 20 feral cat whiskers…

I’ve included this short scene amongst my Favourite Bits because ‘the grind’ – the time consuming, mindless repetition of pointless actions – has been a part of every single game* I have ever played, and I suspect it will be part of every game I play in the future. The grind also features in every LitRPG story I have ever read, so this scene is a nod to both.

For those who have never stumbled across the category of LitRPG on Amazon, it’s a subgenre of fiction based on the idea of a gamer, or a whole group of gamers, suddenly finding themselves ‘living’ in the game world. This always involves full sensory immersion – i.e. the game suddenly feels completely real – and the plot revolves around a) surviving in a game that can now kill you, and b) discovering how and why the game has become real. 

Some LitRPG is really awful because the grind is described in excruciating detail, as is the process of ranking up. At the other end of the scale, however, I’ve read LitRPG that made me want to live in that world. [see Forever Fantasy Online by Rachel Aaron or Ready Player One by Ernest Cline].

Innerscape is not LitRPG, but as a gamer, know what it feels like to become so immersed in a game that it starts to feel real…even in 2D. That feeling led me to ask ‘what would it take to make a digital world feel real?’ The answer became Innerscape.

And now, because this is supposed to be a marketing post, here’s the punchline:

The Godsend, book 2 of Innerscape, will be free on Amazon when the clock ticks around to February 2, 2021 in the US. For those of us in Australia, that’s at about 5pm today [Melbourne time]. The Godsend will remain free for five days, and then it will revert to the special promotion price of $1 until the last book comes off free on April 3, 2021. At that time all six books will revert to their pre-promotion pricing.

My aim with this long promotion is to force myself to do some marketing, give you some freebies, and help Miira and Vokhtah reach the magic 20 review mark [both are on 19 at the moment]. If you know anyone who enjoys scifi and wants some free books, please point them towards mine! Reviews are not necessary, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want some! Of course I do, but only if my stories have managed to help people escape the mundane for a little while.

Okay, that’s it. -breathes a sigh of relief-

Thanks for sticking with me,

cheers
Meeks

…*… If anyone is interested in the gaming side of things, you can find my gaming posts on the sidebar, under the category ‘Games for big kids’.

 


My Favourite Bits…The Godsend [2]

I’m a little late with this post, but finding ‘favourites’ to post has been a lot harder than expected. Not because I don’t like The Godsend. Far from it. In some ways it’s my favourite part of the story because there’s a lot of action in it, and horrible choices, and gaming. But…that’s actually the problem. Most of my favourite bits are either spoilers for the whole story, or lose their impact without the context of what comes before. And that would be another spoiler.

So apologies, but no action bits. Instead, I’ve chosen a chapter called The New Girl. It’s not as long as it sounds and introduces a new employee to Innerscape. Her name is Marisa Bell, and she’s been recommended by the Chairman of the Board, Andrew Walker. CEO, Peter McAlister isn’t happy about having to find a place for the Chairman’s protégé, but he has to suck it up and make the best of it:

The New Girl

The taxi dropped Marisa Bell off at exactly 3:50 pm the next day, and Peter McAlister watched her every move through closed circuit holo as she swung muscular, silk-clad legs out of the taxi and adjusted her short grey skirt. The skirt was part of a retro power-suit that highlighted curvaceous hips and a narrow waist. Her bust, however, was surprisingly small.

Zooming in on the woman’s face, Peter saw bright red hair, attractive features, and deep green eyes. She was attractive enough but nothing out of the ordinary, certainly not the femme fatale he had been expecting.

If anything, Marisa Bell looked more challenging than seductive, a far cry from Andrew Walker’s normal squeeze. The current Mrs Walker was a pneumatic blond with more ambition than brains, and the previous Mrs Walker had been same, both of them airheads, except when it came to money.

Had Andrew Walker finally changed his taste in women? Or was his story about a ‘friend’ actually true?

Shrugging slightly, Peter turned off the surveillance display and sat back in his deep, comfortable chair. True or not, Marisa Bell was now his problem. But at least she looked smart, which might help with Emily.

As the Nursing Liaison of Patient Care, Emily could not refuse a direct order, but she could make life very unpleasant for Marisa Bell, if she chose to do so.

If that happened, Peter would have to ‘rescue’ the Chairman’s protégée by placing her in another department somewhere, or taking her into his own office, heaven forbid-

The chiming of the comms unit broke into Peter’s thoughts, and he sat up straighter as his secretary, James, announced the arrival of Ms Bell.

“Any word from Emily Watson yet?” Peter asked.

“Not yet, sir,” James said. “Should I offer Ms Bell some refreshment while she waits?”

“Yes, good idea. Oh, and let me know as soon as Emily gets here.”

“Yes, sir.”

Rising from his chair, Peter walked to the huge plastiglas window that took up one entire wall of his office and stared out at the gardens. The rain had stopped, but the unseasonal weather continued. He hated waiting, for anything.

 

* * *

 

Emily had always meant to be a little late, just to keep Peter McAlister off balance, but just before she was due to leave, a genuine emergency had cropped up, making her well and truly late. And now she was busting to go to the bathroom.

Well, they’ll just have to wait a bit longer, she thought as she came out of the elevator and headed straight for the Ladies room.

Beautifully appointed, with flattering lighting and not a single full length mirror in sight, the executive bathroom was usually a treat Emily liked to savour slowly. Today, however, she was in a hurry and barely noticed that one of the stalls was already occupied.

When she came out a short time later, a woman in a well-cut grey suit with rich red hair done up in a chignon, was washing her hands at one of the white marble sinks.

Innerscape did not get too many casual visitors. Could this be her?

Acting on impulse, Emily smiled at the woman in the mirror as she washed her own hands.

“I always love using this bathroom,” she confided. “Makes me feel important.”

“Oh, but nurses are important!” the woman said with a quick smile of her own. “My mother was a nurse, and the stories she told us about doctors! Make your hair stand on end.”

“Are you a nurse, too?” Emily asked.

“Me? No, I was never smart enough. I just do filing and that sort of thing, although I’ve been told I’m a good listener. Sometimes patients need a friendly ear, you know?”

“Very true,” Emily said. “As nurses we try to provide emotional support as well as medical support, but the medical has to come first.”

“Oh, I’m sorry!” the woman said, her expression horrified. “I didn’t mean to imply that nurses didn’t listen. I just meant-”

“No, it’s fine. I’d be lying if I said we can be all things to all people. So what are you doing here today? Do you have a relative coming to Innerscape?”

“Oh, no. I…I’m here for a job interview.”

“A job interview? Oh, how silly of me!” Emily said. “You must be Marisa Bell!”

“I…yes?” the other woman replied, her expression uncertain.

“Not to worry,” Emily said. “You’ll be working in my department, so Peter McAlister asked me to sit in on the interview.”

“I hope I didn’t offend you-”

“Far from it. I like honesty. I think we’ll get along just fine.”

“Thank you, that means a lot to me.”

“Well, we’d better go, or Peter will fire us both!”

 

* * *

 

“So what do you think?” Peter McAlister asked after Marisa Bell had gone.

“She’s nothing like I thought she’d be,” Emily answered slowly.

You can say that again, Peter thought. He was still having trouble reconciling the competent woman he had seen getting out of the taxi with the sweet creature who had just left his office.

“But she does seem…very nice,” he said, wondering if Emily had picked up anything odd.

“Yes, she does,” Emily said with a frown. “I just hope she isn’t too kind hearted. Sometimes Patient Care can be rough.”

“She’s probably stronger than she looks,” Peter said carefully.

At one level he was glad Emily had taken to Marisa Bell, but on another he could not shake the feeling there was more to Marisa Bell than met the eye.

“I hope so,” Emily said as she rose to leave, “because I think she’ll actually make a great addition to our staff.”

“Well, that’s good news,” Peter said. “Keep me posted.”

“Of course,” Emily said with a laugh. “But I don’t think there’ll be much to report.”

I hope not, Peter thought as Emily bustled out. I really hope not because I’ve got enough on my plate already.

 

I hope you enjoyed meeting Marisa Bell. Apart from Miira herself, Marisa is my favourite female character. She’s ‘bad and mean’, to quote from the Louis the Fly commercial, and yet she’s not all bad. She likes cats, and dreams of owning her dream home one day. And she’s broken.

As a student of human nature, I’ve always been fascinated by why people turn out the way they do, what makes them tick. In my not so humble opinion, we are all the result of nurture on nature. In other words, our experiences act on our innate traits to mould us into the adults we eventually become. Nowhere is this process more stark than in the people [or characters] we call villains.

To an outsider looking in, all villains may appear the same. They do bad/cruel/vicious things so they are bad, cruel, and vicious. But very few people see themselves as evil. In fact, to quote Rebecca Solnit ‘We are all the heroes of our own stories…’ And that includes ‘villains’. They do not see themselves as bad. And unless they are born psychopaths who really don’t care, they find reasons to excuse their bad behaviour, or diminish its ‘badness’.

So, is Marisa Bell truly bad? Mwhahahaha! You’ll have to read the book to find out. 🙂

cheers
Meeks


My Favourite Bits…The Godsend

If the first book of Innerscape is all about Miira, the second is all about the two men in her life – Kenneth Wu and Jaimie Watson. Jaimie is the eighteen year old son of Charge Sister Emily Watson, and the accident that almost took his life is the reason she moved heaven and earth to have him inducted into Innerscape. Kenneth Wu is a brilliant doctor whose research changed Innerscape forever, but he has demons, and now the life he constructed for himself is unravelling. Read on:

Home is Where the Heart is

Despite it being the end of spring, the day was overcast and sullen when the taxi bearing Kenneth Wu drew up in front of his house.

“We have arrived,” the onboard AI said politely. But Kenneth refused to take the hint. Instead, he stared up at the immaculate little Victorian cottage as if he had never seen it before.

When he was a kid, the house had been a waypoint, a place to rest before going on to some place else, and little in his adult life had changed that sense of transience. Now though, he would have to go inside and stay there, licking his wounds until something happened to kick-start his life again.

But what if nothing ever happened? What if that house swallowed him whole and never let him go?

“Dear Passenger,” the taxi’s AI said apologetically. “I must ask that you vacate the taxi as another Passenger has requested transportation.”

“Of course,” Kenneth said, a bitter smile twisting the corner of his mouth. Apparently not even the taxi company wanted him around. At least the house would never throw him out.

“Here,” he said as he jabbed his thumb at the meter.

The biometric device hummed happily as it read his thumbprint and charged the fare against his account.

“Have a nice day, Sir!”

Yeah, Kenneth thought as he slid out of the taxi and began walking up the artfully designed crazy paving that led to the front door. A box trundled three steps behind him, its wheels going clickety clack on the uneven flagstones.

The box contained the sum total of the last five years of his life: a mug, a couple of first edition text books, some clothes, the folded frame of his exercise bicycle, and a few letters of appreciation from the families of his patients. Everything else, all the important stuff, was proprietary, born of his mind, but not his to take.

At least he would not bring shame to the family by going to jail. That was something.

Find something good in every day,” the therapist had advised his teenaged self, and Kenneth had tried to take her advice. But if not going to jail was the only good thing to emerge from this awful day, then what on earth was he supposed to find for the next day, and the day after that?

Placing his palm on the keypad, Kenneth let himself into the house and quickly reached for the control panel next to the doorframe, but he was not quite quick enough.

“Welcome ho-” The voice of the house AI began before it was cut-off mid greeting.

No, Kenneth thought as he listened to the echoes repeat down the long, empty hallway. This is not my home.

Home was his laboratory in Innerscape, but he would never be allowed to go there again.

Why this scene? Because this is the scene in which you start to get a hint of the seriousness of Kenneth’s childhood problems.

I know that therapy is common in some countries, but here in Australia it isn’t, especially for children, so knowing that Kenneth received therapy as a teen conjures up all sorts of negative possibilities. The fact that the mantra ‘Find something good in every day‘ continues to have relevance in his present hints at the depth of trauma he [may] have suffered.

I’m a pantster, so I knew Kenneth’s trauma would be bad, and I had a feeling it would involve his mother in some way, but I had no idea how or why until I wrote this scene. For me, this is the moment it hit me. This is the moment I knew. I also knew that I could not tell Kenneth’s story yet, and it almost killed me! But you see, Innerscape is Miira’s story so by necessity, Kenneth and Jaimie, and eventually Marisa Bell, had to be secondary characters. Their stories had to wait.

And before anyone says “But…”. Yes, I know they all became 99% major characters, but that 1% I managed to claw back had consequences. So for what it’s worth, I love this scene because I hinted at a heck of a lot but managed to restrain myself. 😀

There are also a couple of little things that most readers wouldn’t have noticed, and both involve the semi smart box that Kenneth brought home with him. Modern tech meant that he could command the box to follow him, but the ‘…clickety clack on the uneven flagstones’ comes straight from my childhood! lol

When I was about eight or nine, I had a little wagon which was just a box on wheels that I could pull behind me via a long handle. The reason I loved that little wagon was the noise it made. It was such a cheerful sound. In my mind, that contrasts so acutely with the sadness of Kenneth’s homecoming.

And last but not least, I love the paragraph about the contents of Kenneth’s box – ‘….Everything else, all the important stuff, was proprietary, born of his mind, but not his to take.’ Like Kenneth, my Dad was an innovator, but because he worked for one of the largest corporates of his day, when he left, he couldn’t take any of his inventions with him. They belonged to the company, paid for by a salary that was no bigger than that given to all the other engineers who only worked 9 to 5. Emlékszem Apu. I remember how much that hurt him.

So there you have my first favourite bit from The Godsend. The ebook will be free on Amazon for 5 days from February 2 to February 6, 2021. It goes without saying that I would love a review or two, but I’ll be happy if the story finds a few more readers. 🙂

cheers
Meeks

p.s. oh and I put a graphic of the schedule of promotions up on the sidebar. Clicking on it will take you to the post in which the graphic occurs.

p.p.s. Just had a very strange experience. When I went to publish this post, WP displayed an error message to the effect that I was not allowed to use ‘the provided terms’. After some experimentation, it appears that the tag ‘My Favourites’ is what caused the error. Some weird kind of copyright/trademark infringement? I thought you couldn’t trademark common words and phrases?


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