Trovants: Living Rocks

trovants-living-stonesRomania has more than its share of creepy things that seem to be alive but aren’t. Take, for instance, the “living” rocks that grow and move. These Romanian curiosities are called trovants and can sometimes resemble gigantic fossilized dinosaur turds. They’ve been around far longer than old Vlad Dracula, but they don’t bite and you can visit them in daylight. Less creepy than mythical vampires, sure, but these things actually exist.


Treasures of Dodrazeb: The Origin KeyTreasures of Dodrazeb: The Origin Key is a historical sword-and-science fantasy adventure. A Persian warrior’s curiosity is ignited when he leads an invasion into Dodrazeb, a strange isolated kingdom that possesses incredible technology. Ancient Dodrazeb’s puzzling choice to hide from the world draws the warrior deeper into layers of mysteries as its princess does everything she can to expel the invaders. What are the Dodrazebbians so desperate to keep hidden? Get your copy on Amazon.com! Available in both e-book and paperback.


StarTrekHorta1Being who I am (and being as old as I am), when I first read about trovants my thoughts zoomed straight to some classic sci-fi creatures. Who remembers the Horta from the Star Trek TOS episode “Devil in the Dark,” that poor misunderstood mother who was only trying to protect her perfectly round egg nodules? Thank goodness Spock realized he needed to mind-meld with her.

StarTrekRockMonsterIn another Star Trek TOS episode entitled “The Savage Curtain,” Earth’s Abraham Lincoln and Vulcan’s Surak are conjured up by a gravelly-voiced pile of boulders trying to understand the concepts of good and evil. The rocky alien also produced some bad guys, including Genghis Khan, and initiated a fight to the death between factions. This episode is right up there with “Spock’s Brain” in many ways.

GalaxyQuestRockMonsterBut the best one is, hands-down, the rock monster from Galaxy Quest. It consisted of scattered rocks and boulders that it could pull together at will. Captain Peter Quincy Taggert (Tim Allen) loses his shirt while dodging and diving to get away from it in one of the best sci-fi comedies spoofs of all time.

Trovant1Trovants aren’t that mobile and are (most likely? as far as we know?) not sentient. They are rocks, geologic formations. How does a rock grow much less move? Some theories advanced over the years have speculated that trovants are alien artifacts, or that they are responding to and interacting with weird magnetism, or that there are unexplained energy vortexes in the local area.

Trovanti-ReserveTrovanti Museum Natural Reserve is located in southern Romania among the sand quarries of the Vâlcea district near the village of Costeşti. The trovants there range from a few grams to several tons, with the largest reaching a height of 10 meters.

Trovanti-Museum-Natural-ReserveConsisting of cemented sand and mineral salts, when a trovant is cut in half you can see “age rings” like you find when you cut down a tree. These rocks started out as a hard stone core with a shell formed around it made of sand. Trovants can only form in areas with highly porous sand accumulations and sandstone deposits that are cemented by waters rich in calcium carbonate. Locals have always known, and geologists have confirmed, that trovants grow after heavy rains when they absorb the rain’s minerals. The minerals combine with chemicals already present in the stone that later creates a reaction and pressure inside. The pressure makes the rock grow from the center outward and sometimes produces lumps and bumps. This process takes a very long time, and it only occurs in areas with a type of porous sand consisting of a certain chemical composition that receives the right amount of rainfall carrying the right mineral mix. It’s quite a complex recipe.

trovants-costestiThe chemical processes at work on the stones cause them to bulge and form lumpy protrusions. When a bulge grows large enough, the force of gravity may cause it to drop off the parent stone. The baby trovant continues to grow, absorbing minerals through rain water, potentially producing its own lumps that will one day separate from it—and the cycle continues.

These things grow, and move, and reproduce like eerie rock monsters that should only exist in science fiction. What else do geologists know that they aren’t telling us?

NerdCon 2016

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My buddy Trevor!

This past weekend, October 22-23, was filled with all kinds of nerdy awesomeness! Two days of NerdCon at the Huntsville Madison County Public Library brought out some lovely, creative, and smart people of all ages and fans of all things nerd-tastic. The costumes were astounding and I had a great time chatting with some hard-core sci-fi and fantasy fans. Y’all are my kind of people! Russell Newquist, my friend and publisher, and I connected with avid readers and enticed them to add our stories to their “must-read” list. The candy dish was a big draw, too. It was exhausting, but oh, so much fun.

OriginKeyCover_lo-resTreasures of Dodrazeb: The Origin Key, is a historical sword-and-science fantasy adventure set in the third century. A Persian warrior invades Dodrazeb, a strange kingdom isolated from the rest of the world. Dodrazeb’s sly princess is determined to sabotage the Persians to protect her kingdom’s ancient secrets. What is she so desperate to keep hidden? Get your copy on Amazon.com! Available in both e-book and paperback.

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A.Ron, Jim, Chris, and Daniel

One of the headliners was Daniel Boyd, an acclaimed filmmaker with dozens of films, including Chillers, Strangest Dreams: Invasion of the Space Preachers, and Paradise Park to his credit. A recently retired media studies professor, Boyd has produced nearly every genre of film. His television work has earned 3 Telly awards and 2 regional Emmy nominations. His first graphic novel, Chillers 1, was the 2012 Shel Dorph nominee for Original Graphic Novel of the Year, and Ghastly nominee for Best Horror Anthology. Chillers 2 was released in 2013, and CARBON, 2014. SALT completes his CARBON epic eco-horror saga.

 

Who’s your favorite Walking Dead Zombie? Changes are it’s Chris Harrellson, and you may not even realize he’s portrayed several different walkers on the show. He has appeared in other television programs as well, and over three dozen motion pictures. A native of Atlanta and a lifelong fan of movies, TV shows, and comic books, he is very much enjoying Atlanta’s emergence as a major filming location.

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I got to fan-girl with my favorite podcasters!

Jim Jones and A.Ron Hubbard are the wizards behind the hugely successful Bald Move podcasts. A.Ron lives in Cincinnati with his girlfriend/occasional podcast co-host Cecily and his son Jack. A programmer by trade, A.Ron turned in his compiler for mics and mixers to work full time on Bald Move in 2014.  In his off time he enjoys reading, television, gaming, archery, television, motorcycling, camping, and more television. Jim is a gamer, a developer, a coffee-drinker, and quite possibly a cyborg. Their mission is to deliver passionate, fan-first, honest commentary on favorite television shows with humor and intelligence.

 

nerdcon-2016_12Huge thanks to everyone who stopped by our display and took the time to chat with us. And to the guy walking around with an unlicensed nuclear accelerator strapped to his back, YOU ROCK, DUDE! nerdcon2016_6

 

 

 

 

 

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The Origin Key: Read a FREE Excerpt

Read a free excerpt of my sword-and-science fantasy adventure! Happy reading!

logo-stackedTreasures of Dodrazeb: The Origin Key, is a sword-and-science fantasy adventure set in the third-century. While on a quest to avenge a horrific attack on his father the king, a Persian warrior discovers a strange kingdom isolated from the rest of the world. He thinks the villain is hiding there, but a sly princess is determined to sabotage the Persians to protect her kingdom’s ancient secrets. What is she so desperate to keep hidden?  Get your copy on Amazon.com!

Readers praise Treasures of Dodrazeb: The Origin Key

  • OriginKeyCover_lo-res“Filled with wonderful imagery, distinct characters and adventurous plot points that kept me turning the page. I recommend this book to anyone that enjoys a compelling story, and am looking forward to whatever’s next from this first-time author.”
  • “Treasures of Dodrazeb: The Origin Key by Susan McPhail is a smart, intriguing tale that seamlessly melds historical fiction, fantasy, and suspense… Highly recommended for fans of history, fantasy, and mystery stories.”
  • “My ONLY criticism is that I was left wanting more. Luckily McPhail left the tale so it can be taken up again. Soon, I hope.”
  • “McPhail paints vivid pictures of the world she’s created and engages all of the readers senses in the story.”
  • Very descriptive. I could easily imagine being in some of the battles! I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a great storyteller!”
  • More books, please.”
  • WOW! Add Susan McPhail to your must-watch writer list!”
  • “This book is definitively the best third-century Persian sword-and-science novel I’ve ever read!

Authors praise Treasures of Dodrazeb: The Origin Key

  • “A smart, thrilling mix of history and fantasy. S.D. McPhail is definitely an author to watch.
    – Brian Niemeier, author of Campbell-nominated Nethereal and Dragon Award-winning Souldancer
     
  • “Treasures of Dodrazeb: The Origin Key is a stunning debut novel. McPhail’s creation is packed with tension and excitement, from the political machinations of the empire to the almost Atlantean history of Dodrazeb and mythical Anutupi. The imagery is enchanting, but the adventure is mesmerizing.
     Ashley Chappell-Peeples, author of  Of War and Taters and the Dreams of Chaos series

Authors Expo and a Geek Gab Podcast

sae_11Saturday, September 10 was a busy day for me. Representing Silver Empire Publishing, my friend Russell Newquist and I participated in the Huntsville Madison County Library’s Southern Authors Expo. It was a full day of meeting and chatting with readers and other local authors. There was something for everyone, with all genres and ages represented. We connected with some old friends and made lots of new ones.

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After the Expo, I rushed home to settle in at my laptop and don earbuds so I could take part in a podcast discussion with the guys at Geek Gab. It was my first podcast, a new experience for me, and one that I enjoyed very much.

geekgablogoDaddy Warpig (aka Jasyn Jones), Brian Niemeier, and John McGlynn are scintillating and erudite hosts who like to get together weekly and talk books, movies, TV, comics, music, RPG’s, tabletop gaming, video games, sci-fi, fantasy, steampunk, horror… As they say, anything geekish goes. Thanks, guys, for making me feel welcome in your warm circle of geekiness!
The YouTube link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wK7gEkdiULE
The iTunes link: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/geek-gab!/id1125835440

Extra thanks to Brian, as he very graciously took the time to read my book Treasures of Dodrazeb: The Origin Key, and even provided a blurb that is boldly printed on its back cover. He said, “A smart, thrilling mix of history and fantasy. S.D. McPhail is definitely an author to watch.” I am humbled to receive such high praise from a Campbell award-nominated and Dragon award-winning author. Find his novels Nethereal and Souldancer (Volumes 1 and 2 of the Soul Cycle series) on Amazon.com.

swordtodMy novel, Treasures of Dodrazeb: The Origin Key, is a sword-and-science fantasy adventure set in the third-century. While on a quest to avenge a horrific attack on his father the king, a Persian warrior discovers a strange kingdom isolated from the rest of the world. He thinks the villain is hiding there, but a sly princess is determined to sabotage the Persians to protect her kingdom’s ancient secrets. What is she so desperate to keep hidden?  Get your copy on Amazon.com!

The Origin Key Launch Event

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Russell Newquist and Susan McPhail

My first novel was published and we threw a party! Here’s a gigantic THANK YOU to Terranova’s Italian Restaurant, family, friends, and everyone who came out and helped make it a fun event!

On Friday, August 12 we were at Terranova’s Italian Restaurant in Huntsville enjoying fantastic food, signing books, and giving away prizes. Russell Newquist of Silver Empire Publishing was there with me, getting to know some local sci-fi/fantasy fans.

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Cecilia Della Pella was excited to be one of the first in line to buy a copy of The Origin Key. Later in the evening she won one of the drawings and received a lovely writer’s journal. Other winners went home with copies of the book, an Amazon.com gift card, or a journal.

The winner of the grand prize—a copy of The Origin Key, a copy of Between the Wall and the Fire, a writer’s journal, an Amazon.com gift card, and a signed poster of The Origin Key cover art was Terranova’s own Stephen Johnson!

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If you weren’t able to join us at Terranova’s, don’t worry! You can get The Origin Key in either paperback or e-book format on Amazon.com. Want a signed copy? Look for me at the Southern Author’s Expo at the Huntsville-Madison County Public Library downtown branch on September 10. Start your holiday shopping early and get a personalized copy of my sword-and-science fantasy adventure novel for all the readers on your gift list.

OriginKeyCover_lo-resThe Treasures of Dodrazeb: The Origin Key is a sword-and-science fantasy adventure like no other. Prince Rasteem, a third-century Persian warrior, discovers an obscure culture that uses something more powerful and dangerous than magic: twenty-first century technology.

 

The Origin Key Book Launch

Writing is creative fun, but launching a published book can be a blast! Mark your calendar for Friday, August 12.

 

The traditional way to commemorate publication of a new book is to have a launch party. Help me celebrate this achievement and support a wonderful local family restaurant at the same time on Friday, August 12. We’ll be at Terranova’s Italian Restaurant in Huntsville from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. enjoying fantastic cuisine, giving away some great prizes, and autographing books.

 

Prize drawings begin at 6:30. We’ll be giving away autographed copies of Treasures of Dodrazeb: The Origin Key, copies of the anthology Between the Wall and Fire, Amazon.com gift cards, and some beautiful writer’s journals. The Grand Prize package, to be given away at 8:00, consists of The Origin Key, Between the Wall and the Fire, an Amazon.com gift card, a writer’s journal, AND an autographed poster of The Origin Key cover art.

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The Treasures of Dodrazeb: The Origin Key is a sword-and-science fantasy/sci-fi adventure like no other. In the third century, a Persian warrior discovers an obscure culture using something more powerful and dangerous than magic: advanced technology.

We’ve also cooked up some fun ideas for Terranova’s menu! For this one night only, get in the spirit of ancient Persia and the mysterious kingdom of Dodrazeb with these cleverly named drinks and appetizers.

  • The Viper’s Kiss—Dirty Vodka Martini garnished with Olives
  • Wandering Librarian—Vodka, Cointreau, Cranberry Juice, and a splash of Lime
  • Garden of Persian Delights Terranova’s Sangria made fresh in-house with Red Wine
  • Scheming Princess—Terranova’s Frozen Italian Margarita mixed with Sangria
  • Drunken Scholar—Terranova’s Long Island Tea
  • Kamran’s Calamari—Tender, thinly cut calamari marinated overnight and lightly fried. Served with a spicy lemon butter sauce.
  • Conqueror’s Platter—Fried zucchini, mozzarella, stuffed mushrooms, and stuffed shrimp.
  • Rasteem’s Favorite—Breaded mozzarella triangles served with Terranonva’s house marinara sauce.
  • Laneffri’s Choice—Mushrooms stuffed with spinach, ricotta cheese, Parmesan cheese, bread crumbs, and Italian spices.
  • Dodrazeb Dip—Creamy spinach and artichoke dip with melted mozzarella served with rosemary croutons.

Don’t have your copy of Treasures of Dodrazeb: The Origin Key yet? Don’t worry! We’ll have plenty of copies for sale at the launch party.

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The Origin Key Book Trailer

My first novel, for sale on Amazon.com, has a trailer!

The Treasures of Dodrazeb: The Origin Key is a sword-and-science fantasy adventure like no other. Prince Rasteem, a third-century Persian warrior, discovers an obscure culture that appears to take twenty-first century technology for granted.

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When you publish a book you have to promote it, get the word out, let the world know about it. One way to do this is to blog about it constantly, but that can get boring for both me and my readers. A better way is to create (or let a talented friend create) a book trailer. I can hear you thinking, “What the heck is a book trailer?” Just like a movie trailer, but for a book, it’s a short video that gives you an idea of what the story is about. And here it is!

https://spark.adobe.com/video/Bk2Of-wu/embed

 
Celebrate this milestone with me and support a wonderful local family restaurant at the same time on Friday, August 12. We’ll be at Terranova’s Italian Restaurant in Huntsville from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. enjoying fantastic cuisine and giving away some great prizes.

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Apparently when you publish a book, people get all inquisitive about your reading habits, likes and dislikes, and even want to know what inspired the story. My publisher and friend Russell Newquist recently interviewed me for his own blog. You can read all three parts of An Interview with S.D. McPhail here: Part 1; Part 2; Part 3. If you have any more questions, just ask in the comments section.