Would you donate your body to science?

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Are you curious about what will happen to your body as you die? I am.

I want to know how the mind shuts down, how the body begins to drift out of life, and how sight and our senses diminish as the cells begin to die.

So in The Donated, I explored how we might exist if we were kept artificially in that fleeting moment between life and death, when, perhaps, we are aware that we are still alive but the process of death and decay moves on, pauses, and maybe reverses for a as some of our cells regenerate.

You may have heard how genetic modification is creating franken-creatures and diabolical foodstuff, but Genetic modification also allows us to tinker with the very source code of life.

From such work the possibilities are truly astounding. A life free of disease, growing up but not growing older, living to experience the full potential of human endeavors.

But the consequences could also be terrifying.

The Donated is about one such experiment.

 

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New name and new cover for Generation

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Sometimes, after working long and hard to make book sales, you finally realise that you’ve got the cover wrong, and the name too!the-donated-_final

Generation has been re-launched as The Donated with a new cover.

Generation was a favourite name for me after dozens of brainstorming sessions, seeking feedback and thinking of how it might come across. But without the benefit of years in the publishing industry, it only slowly became clear that potential readers were confused about the genre and what might be in the book.

A re-brand was necessary to put the book firmly in the Thriller genre and a new cover to let people know they were buying a thriller yarn — all be it with and injection of horror 😉

In addition, a new Hendrix Harrison novel is planned to be released next year, and I wanted a themed cover style and title that more accurately reflected the two books together.

So, here it is. I hope you like it.

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Scared sleepless by your own plotting?

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You might think that novel writing was a safe and introverted activity. But because you are left to revel in the dingy recesses of you own mind, the daily pursuit of plots and story lines can make you thoughtless, depressed, obsessed, paranoid, and sometimes, scared witless.

When sleep is disturbed by plotting

When sleep is disturbed by plotting

You have to imagine it to write it. You have to create a scene or conversation in your head, remember it for long enough to describe it with your fingertips tapping on a plastic keyboard and then check it makes sense by staring at blue-glowing screen, often at the loneliest times of day.

And when you aren’t actively typing or editing, the mind continues to work. The reassuring clunk of a closing car door, or bees humming on the honeysuckle, perhaps your child screaming “he spat at me” or the bonkers contrast in mood before and after sex. All these precious moments cannot be lost (like tears in rain); they must be collected and collated, morphed and merged, formed and edited. The mind endlessly churns to make characters or scenes believable and rich with specific detail.

So when you read that, “The females [blowfly] will lay their eggs on the body, especially around the natural orifices such as the nose, eyes, ears, anus, penis and vagina,” it’s like projecting a mini horror film directly onto your neurons, and they strive to make connections with the current work in progress. It is an attempt to complete a giant, endless jigsaw: Oh, here’s a good piece I think that will fit in chapter 2, when Hendrix inspects the forensic enclosure.

And it’s not something that can be turned on or off just because of the inconveniences of real life. No. My children want attention, but I’m trying to rearrange an omen to the right place in the book. The last thing I want is to fix a Minecraft server error, or help defeat an end of level boss.

And when “…the cadaver is swollen by gas produced internally, and is accompanied by odour of decaying flesh,” pops into your head while at dinner with friends, it’s difficult not to blurt out where you think the reference is going to fit.

But for me at least, the dark side is always there. Generation has an artery of horror running through it and of course the book has themes of forensics, genetics and decomposition that are explored in depth.

The research, and subsequent churning, gave me nightmares of the sort an adult rarely experiences, and it didn’t help that, given my wife sometimes works on call, I was researching into the small hours when there really are things that go bump in the night.

At this time, when the house is dark and the only company is the orange shine of the distant city, decay lurks in every corner, “… flesh turns to cream cheese and the exposed body parts turn black.”
My mind does not rest just because it is supposed to. It works to fill gaps in dialogue and add twists to story lines. And it should not be constrained. Where it goes, so goes my mood, my attention and sometimes my sleep.

Your brain is both your best friend and your worst enemy.

But who’d live without it?

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A destructive message from space for #nationalpoetryday

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Just once in every seventy million years

un-imagined death descends on Earth.

No time to mourn and neither time for tears,

in a trice from populous to dearth.

A mighty body, ice and gas, and rock,

is at this moment hurtling on it’s way.

Any moment, any time, tick, tock.

Any year, any month, any day.

A celestial count which started long ago,

before we walked or sang or laughed or loved,

before this place called Earth became our home,

before man’s making ever had been proved.

No subtlety, or internal insurrection

instant death, total world destruction.

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Beware of man-made monsters created in laboratory

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Genetic modification has been a horror in literature and the media for a generation; from Wyndham’s Triffids to Knight’s Zombies, Herbert’s Rats to Boulle’s Gorrillas. Yet grey ooze has failed to devour the countryside, and GM corn can actually be quite tasty. Does that mean our fears are groundless?

monkey-500012_640

In 2001 the New Scientist reported that researchers had isolated a gene for regenerating damaged organs from the DNA of a South American flatworm – Planarian schmidtea mediterranea.

Like other planarians, Schmidtea mediterranea exhibits an extraordinary ability to regenerate lost body parts. For example, a planarian split lengthwise or crosswise will regenerate into two separate individuals.

Isolating genes has become routine, but results remain sensitive due to the potential for commercial exploitation and success could yield extreme rewards.

A gene for regeneration is a case in point. If ageing could be stopped or even reversed, and diseased or damaged organs regrown, life could be extended well beyond a natural span. No longer would you expect to retire and wait for death. You might remain fulfilled and active for ever, your worn out parts simply regrown and replaced.

At an office somewhere around about now, a lead scientist is telling the board how to turn a Genetic Modification for regeneration into a product that can be injected directly into the bloodstream by recombining human DNA with that of the planarian.

“The key to the entire treatment is the flatworm. In 1999 a project at Utah University discovered that silencing the flatworm’s smedwi-2 gene switched on an ancient ability for regeneration. But the team was unable to establish which genes were responsible for differentiating the re-growing stem cells into the correct body parts. After all, we don’t want muscle cells growing in the eyes, or cardiac cells turning up in the neural cortex.”

“My team has expanded their work and isolated the accountable genes. This gives a mechanism for continuously repairing old or damaged tissues. Potentially forever.”

“The regeneration genes are inserted into the retro-virus T156 and incubated in Xeno pigs kept in sterile conditions. The pigs have a perfect human immune response. They are the manufacturing plant for the virus. Within two weeks of infection, each pig harbours billions of viruses in every organ of its body.”

“We harvest the active agent by separating the pig tissues from the virus. It is a remarkably low-tech process, mostly concerned with agriculture and swine herding.”

“The harvested virus is injected directly into the blood stream where it will be taken up by a small percentage of cells. The protein subsequently synthesised, switches latent regenerative introns into activity, and it is this function which causes damaged organs to repair.”

Is this scenario fiction?Very early in the development of recombinant DNA techniques, the public feared that mad scientists would create GMOs (genetically modified organisms) with unanticipated and potentially dangerous properties; grey ooze would flood the country side devouring everything in its path.

The concern led to a proposal for a voluntary moratorium on recombinant DNA research in 1974, and to a meeting in 1975 at the Asilomar Conference Centre in California.

Participants at Asilomar agreed to safety standards, including the use of disabled bacteria that were unable to survive outside the laboratory. While this conference quelled much of the media frenzy  it also led to a rapid expansion of powerful technologies.

That was nearly forty years ago!

Since then the human genome has been completely decoded by Craig Venter, and a host of Genetically modified organisms have been released into the environment, particularly for use in agriculture.

While nobody is yet claiming to have created a GM human, the technology exists and is certain, one day, to be put into practice.

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Why you should get angry at the world

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In the seventies there didn’t seem to be any conspiracies. Sure, the local butcher was caught injecting the chicken with water to make more pounds per pound, but it was hardly an international bugger-the-proles kind of event. Nowadays, however, you can’t look at the headlines without the busting of a conspiracy. Have we all become experts in finding the truth, or is something else going on?

When John Bray, the local butcher, was convicted of bringing the roast chicken dinner into disrepute by injecting carcasses with brine and selling them at inflated prices, it was treated as a bit of a joke by the chattering community of Berkshire. No one was really harmed, and the extra money helped Mr Bray pay his mortgage and put an extra pork chop on the table. It was the kind of crime more beloved of the back pages of the Maidenhead advertiser than the front page of the Financial Times, and most people didn’t really begrudge the man.
global conspiracy of chicken injecting
You could hardly call it a conspiracy. Perhaps Mr Bray and his wife got together and that would constitute some kind or conspiracy, but that’s the seventies. The biggest conspiracy theory I recall causing any excitement was MI5’s involvement in ousting the Wilson government, and that was never proven.

Planet sized fraud
Now, you only have to open the paper to find a planet-sized conspiracy that seems, or really is, true: burning fossil fuels to open up the North West shipping passage through the arctic; poisoning bees to make profits from insecticides; nuclear power as a sop to foreign governments; Doctor’s being goaded, to give cause for breaking up the NHS – conspiracies are too numerous to count, and that’s just one day in the Guardian.

That’s without the really famous ones. There’s scarcely a better example than Alistair Campbell’s sexed up dossier; the Iraq invasion based on dubious intelligence and making-up evidence to fit the already-decided policy for regime change. Over 600,000 lives lost – according to the Lancet  – based on the slip of a Press Officer’s pen and the ability to twist a headline or two.

Let’s not forget the Collateralised Debt Obligations creating a destructive merry go round in the financial markets and a lost decade for most of the western world. Twenty-two trillion dollars wiped out, austerity for the masses, and a return to polarised politics of the thirties.

The fact these conspiracies have been unmasked has done nothing for the public’s trust in politicians or for trust in the establishment in general, to say the least.

It’s not the guy in the turban

We could, and should, get angry. Not just angry, fucking incensed. But instead many of us are caught blaming the coloured man next door, or the chap with the eastern accent, or that woman wearing a strange swim suit, as if they were responsible for screwing the world’s financial market or for single handedly melting the ice caps with a hair dryer.
Yes, local injustice still exists, but a simple fraud can have global consequences in a way that was not previously possible.

Don't blame the neighbours

The great chicken conspiracy

And so we return to Mr Bray the butcher. His crime was unremarkable even in its local effect and apart from a few pence, did very little to harm to anybody. But in 2013 the UK’s Guardian reported, “Frozen chicken breasts on sale in leading supermarkets are being pumped up with water and additives that make up nearly a fifth of the meat to the point where consumers are paying about 65p a kilo for water…”

The Bray’s simple conspiracy has been exported across the world by faceless organisations that trade without boundaries and without a home jurisdiction.

Within half a lifetime we have allowed a world where petty crime is the standard for international business. The slightly offensive local has become the obscenely global.
For the love of Sunday roast, we’re all in the chicken poo now.

If you liked this conspiracy, you’ll love the one in Generation. By it on Amazon. https://www.amazon.co.uk/Generation-thriller-horror-injection-ebook/dp/B005YHZ9ZU

Conspiracy thriller with an injection of horror

Generation

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Your readers will love the rich taste of good eating

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Eating starts and ends all the events in Generation, from the tarmac table of the opening scene to the al fresco irony of the final twist. But to describe these bracketing meals as cosy dinners for two would be to misunderstand the relationship between the food and the eater.

nyc-diner-bacon-cheeseburger

I’d not given it a whole lot of thought before, but when Shelly Workinger asked me to write a guest blog that focused on the eating habits of my characters I discovered that food and eating cut a path right through Generation as if I’d thought about it.

Because that’s the funny thing about writing. You never know what you put in, and it’s up to the reader to pull it out for you and tell you what you really wrote about.

So when I discovered that Hendrix Harrison often stopped for a hamburgers and lettuce drowning in mayonnaise or that Sarah Wallace (the rather too smart entomologist) controlled her students by bringing them, “…something to eat to stop you leaving the chair…” I realised the characters really did have a life of their own that was not planned on a spreadsheet or even intended. It’s as if they made their own choices. This is the sort of thing they talk about in writing books.

Actually, I feel quite proud now.

So please take a peek at Shelly’s blog, and leave a comment. It means a lot to us writers if you get involved.

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What you ate made your children sick

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Even as the Luftwaffe pounded London to rubble and the Japanese fleet prepared its devastating attack on Pearl Harbour, Dr Francis Pottenger dared not believe the horror his experiments predicted. Wars would end, civilisation would continue, but the analysis spread out across his desk suggested a more insidious enemy than the Axis, and this one burrowed deep into human behaviour.

What the cat ate, made its kittens sick

What the cat ate, made its kittens sick

He picked up the bakelite phone and dialled, straightening the front of his waistcoat as he did so.

“Morning, George. Yes, it’s Frank. The civil defense board met last night and we’ve agreed to go forward with plans for the mobile hospitals. But I have a favour to ask.”

“They’re all infertile, George. It shakes me to the bones. In just four generations. I want to repeat the experiments with a control group. The implications are unfathomable.”

For the next several years Pottenger worked  to falsify his initial results. He set up two groups of cats. One group was fed a diet of raw meat, milk, and cod-liver oil while the second group was fed a diet of cooked meat, milk, and cod-liver oil.

Within one generation, cats on the cooked-meat diet began suffering from degenerative diseases and became quite lazy. Their offspring developed diseases by mid-life and lost coordination, but by third generation, some were born blind with disease evident early in life and with a reduced life span.

Many were infertile and were tormented by an abundance of parasites. Skin diseases and allergies increased from an incidence of five percent in the raw-meat cats to over 90 percent. Those kittens that were born to the did not survive six months.

The cats suffered from many of the degenerative diseases encountered in humans, and died out totally by the fourth generation. The doctor believed results could be explained by an unknown protein denatured in the cooking process, and later research confirmed his suspicions. Cats fed cooked meat lacked the essential amino-acid taurine.

This settled the argument for many years: cats are not humans, and it might have been the end of the matter if Pottenger’s fears had not been so prescient. Across the globe, diseases that set your body against itself are rampant, asthma, diabetes, multiple-sclerosis, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Autism are all rapidly becoming ‘normal’. Infertility treatment is a boom industry.

Infertile

In the United Kingdom, the number of women treated for infertility more than doubled between 1992 and 2007. Some 35% of men are sub-fertile and at least 2% of men are totally infertile.

Among pre-school children, sudden admissions for asthma went up from four per 10,000 in 1962 to almost 80 per 10,000 by 1985.

Until ten years ago, medical schools taught that coeliac disease was rare and affected only one in 2,500 people. It was thought to affect mainly children and young people. Recent studies show one in 133 people now have coeliac disease.

Coeliac sufferers are more susceptible to a range of auto-immune diseases and cancers, and yet their risk factors can be bought almost down to normal with a controlled diet.

It need hardly be said that the globalised diet of the twenty-first century is sub-optimal, and while Pottenger’s work with cats seemed utterly frivolous as Europe burned, the doctor understood the consequences of poor nutrition.

The horror that billions of caring parents might be gifting their children a future of disease, infirmity and perhaps infertility, not because of what they fed their kids, but because of what they ate themselves, is not one that many cared to entertain.

Yet that seems to be exactly what is now happening.

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