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Friday, December 7, 2018

Inspiration for the Story: Shark Station

I was inspired to write this story by so many different things that it’s hard to list them all, but I’ll share the main ones. One was my love for sharks. I wanted to write a novel where I got to feature some shark species that aren’t as iconic as the great white. In Shark Station, there are seven different species of sharks mentioned, five of which have their own unique scenes in the novel. I wanted to show the grace and beauty of sharks, while at the same time showing how they can be dangerous but aren’t actively seeking out humans to devour. Although as mentioned in my author’s note, I did take some liberties with the story as to where sharks of the deep sea can be found, I didn’t want to include the megalodon as a shark Allie and her friends encounter. I still wanted the book to be as factual as possible when it came to marine life and I felt that resurrecting the megalodon would push the story into a fantasy realm that didn’t fit in with the series. Still, you’ll find two mentions of the megalodon as a reoccurring joke for comic relief.

Yet another inspiration for the novel was partly from James Cameron’s dive to Challenger Deep, which yielded new scientific information about the deepest part of our accessible planet (I’m not including the core of the Earth, let’s be reasonable here). I also was inspired by several science fiction novels and films I’ve seen over the years. As much as I enjoy ocean-related science fiction, I do enjoy reading space science fiction as well. I began to toy with the idea of what it would be like for Allie and Dylan to be confined to a research station similar to a spaceship. What would it be like for them to have to live in close quarters with their friends and be on duty at all times? Would they be able to handle the pressure or crack under the stress? Writing Shark Station allowed me to delve into Allie and Dylan’s characters in a way I hadn’t been able to in the previous novels.

Not only a writer, I’m also a gamer. Earlier this year I purchased a VR headset and discovered the game Ocean Rift. It’s an ocean safari game where you can explore different habitats of the ocean. For the first time, I was able to experience a little of what Allie experiences exploring with the SCUBAPS. A few of the species I encountered on the game were ones I hadn’t thought of putting in the novels, but after experiencing the virtual reality game, I decided to feature them in Shark Station. I also referred back to the game several times while writing the novel to gain a deeper understanding of Allie’s emotions as she explored the deep.

Lastly, the other main inspiration for this story came from the amazing creatures that live in the deep. I wanted to highlight the differences in the hadal zone versus the bathypelagic where Oceania rests. The Mariana Trench served as the perfect location to explore, especially since so little about it is known. The Challenger Deep is the deepest part of the ocean, but I purposely didn’t choose it as the location for Shark Station because it is so often focused on. Instead, I decided on the second deepest part of the ocean—Sirena Deep. Every time I think of an interesting setting for the novel, I kick myself when it comes time to do research and I can’t find much information on the topics I wish to write about. The research I was able to conduct on the Sirena Deep amounted to a small paragraph. My first thought was what in the world am I going to do with such little information, then I realized it was a blessing because I could take more artistic liberties with the story such as including animals that may or may not live in the Sirena Deep. I enjoyed including rare fish like the snailfish—the world’s deepest known fish, barreleye fish, and the Dumbo octopus. I can’t wait to highlight them in my next blog post on the sea creatures in the novel. This time, the sea creatures will be categorized a little differently than in previous blog posts. You’ll have to wait until next month and see.

You’ve reached the end of the blog post for this week. Subscribe to be notified of the next blog post. I hope you enjoyed reading this blog post and if you have any comments, you can leave them here on my blog or email me directly at As always, I love hearing from my readers.

Friday, November 23, 2018

Deleted Scenes from Allie’s Return

Warning! This blog post will contain spoilers for anyone who hasn’t finished reading Allie’s Return yet. Skip this post if you haven’t finished reading the story.

Just like for Oceania: The Underwater City, I thought I’d share some of the deleted scenes I edited out of the final version of Allie’s Return. This will be the last post for Allie’s Return, so I hope you enjoy it!

Having the world of Oceania already developed made writing Allie’s Return easier, but I still had some doubts about how I wanted to depict certain scenes in the novel. One of those scenes was the city-wide announcement scene when Allie returns to city level after her deep-sea ecology class trip outside the city. At first, I considered gathering the entire city in Central so the mayor could address everyone at once. However, the more I thought about it, the more I realized it was a stupid idea. If four million people gathered in one location, it would be too much weight concentrated in one location of the city and could cause a structural catastrophe. So I decided to take the following paragraph out:

Feeling awkward walking around in a highly-sophisticated wetsuit, we joined a line of people boarding one of the trains that had switched from pink for the Art District to black for Central. Every seat was taken and I was lucky to find a spot where Rosa, Katrina, and I could sit together. None of us spoke on the way to Central. The heavy buzz of expectation resonated throughout the train car, keeping everyone quiet, but fidgety.
At the Central train station, people crowded in so closely that it was nearly impossible to walk. Every body pressed so closely to the body next to it, that we swayed nearly as one organism. I tried to keep in contact with Rosa and Katrina, but the three of us were pushed apart and lost amongst the crowd.
Although it appeared that Central wouldn’t be able to hold of the citizens of Oceania pressed together so tightly, bodies began to spill out into the concentric circles until everyone must have been preset.

Originally, Allie’s Return was shorter than it is in its final version. I felt like the story was long enough and had surpassed the size of Oceania: The Underwater City too much, so I hurried the ending. As I read the book again during editing for my second draft, I realized that the ending needed to be gradual enough that it gave the reader some closure and tied up a loose end I hadn’t realized I’d missed. So here is the original ending to Allie’s Return:

“What are your names?”
“I’m Dylan Baker and this is Allie Baker. We’re brother and sister.”
I glanced over at Dylan, wondering why he hadn’t given them my real name. He gave me an imperceptible shake of his head, which could have easily been interpreted as a nervous twitch.
The same guy spoke into a radio and soon we were allowed to get up. We were escorted to downtown. The entire city was dead, quarantined like Chicago, I assumed. When we reached the ICDP, they didn’t allow us inside but instead took the Myxine sp. from us outside.
“There’s an enzyme in the gut of these fish that hold the key to the plague cure. You’ll find that this enzyme is what has been keeping the elderly woman who’s the oldest surviving infected person with the plague alive. I have a file here with all of the explanations. I also have the pills that the woman was taking that helped her to withstand the viruses for so long.” Dylan handed everything over to the worker with the mask across her face.
“Thank you,” the woman muttered. “We’ll look into it right away.”
The door was shut to us and the military men ushered us away from it. They told us we were to wait outside in case they needed us again.
I looked over at Dylan. “Well, we did all that we could.”
Dylan nodded at me. “Yes, we did. Now it’s up to the Land Dwellers.”

This is it! You’ve just finished the last blog post regarding Allie’s Return. I hope you’ve enjoyed the blog posts of the last few months. If you did, leave me a comment or send me a message at and let me know. If you didn’t like it, be sure to email me and let me know why. I always love hearing from my readers.

The next blog posts will be for Shark Station, book 3 of Oceania: The Underwater City. If you want to know more about the book’s release and when the blog posts for it will begin, visit

Friday, November 16, 2018

Academic Focus Quiz

Every high schooler in Oceania has to choose an Academic Focus to lead them toward their future career in a discipline of their choice. If you lived in Oceania, what would your focus be? Take this quiz to find out.

(You don't have to enter your name if you don't want to. Just put anything in the blank and you can take the test.)

If the embedded quiz below doesn't work, you can access the direct link to the quiz here

Friday, November 9, 2018

A Guide to the Train Stripes Color Codes

In this blog post, I will be explaining the train stripe color codes and giving you a little summary of the main function of each district.

In Oceania, the train system is the chief mode of transportation for the residents of the city. The trains travel throughout the city, stopping at a variety of stops with no final destination. Instead, the trains weave through the maze of districts and residential sectors in a continuous loop. To indicate where a train is headed, a wide band on the side of the train sports a color that represents a specific district. Each district in the city has its own color code, while trains destined for residential sectors are white. 

Gray—Engineering District
The Engineering District is the headquarters for all things engineering except for robotics. Businesses and research operations involving engineering are headquartered in this district as well as a few residential areas for the workers. The color for the district pays homage to the color of construction materials of the past like steel and concrete.

Central contains all the headquarters for businesses in the city as well as governmental operations. The civics buildings, incarceration center, archives building, and other government buildings are located here. Headquarters for large businesses and the various departments for the city are located in Central. Not only a headquarters for the city, Central also contains architectural wonders, including the SPLRS that give the power of sunlight to the city. There are no residential areas in Central. The color for the stripe represents how Central is independent of the other districts since the color black comes from the absence of all other colors.

Green—Agriculture District
The Agriculture District is where some of the farming is done in Oceania. The majority of farming is conducted one of the sublevels, but some crops are grown at city level. All such crops are in the Agriculture District. Rows upon rows of fields beneath artificial domes create ideal growing conditions for the crops. Although most of the district is comprised of plants, some research facilities and other agricultural-related businesses are in this district. There are no residential areas in the agriculture district. The color comes from the green of the plants that grow there.

Blue—Science District
The Science District is overwhelmingly marine science. A large part of the district is dedicated to it even though one main skyscraper houses a lot of the laboratories. The district includes all the disciplines of marine science, geology, ecology, chemistry, genetics, physics, and more. The science district is the largest district in Oceania. It has several residential areas within the district and surrounding it. The color of the district comes from the ocean, which once again hints at the dominating presence of marine science in the district.

Orange—Entertainment District
The Entertainment District is where the focus of entertainment for the city is located. The Aquadome stadium for official games is located here, the OVRR, the largest immersion theater, a theater for performing arts, and more are also in this district. Live shows occur here and so do any city-wide festivals. There are no residential areas within the district. The color for the district comes from the energy it represents.

Yellow—Center of Knowledge
The Center of Knowledge is the district where Oceania University is located. Other research institutions and places of higher learning are located here. Everything about the Center of Knowledge is focused on learning more about anything there is to know. There is one residential area in this district. The color of the district comes from the light of the sun which represents enlightenment.

Red—Medical District
The Medical District contains the main hospital of the city as well as the BHT headquarters. Medical specialists of all disciplines have offices here and see most of their patients in this district. Although there are medical clinics and centers throughout the city, most doctors have ties to the medical district and rights to the main hospital. Research pertaining to the medical field is conducted in various locations throughout the city but is centered here. There are a few residential areas nearby, but only one within the district. The color for the district comes from the color of blood.

Purple—Robotic District
The Robotic District is where all the robotic manufacturing and design is located. The nanotech factories and other types of factories are located here. Robots go to this district to be repaired and maintained. There are no residential areas within the district. The color purple comes from the synthetic metal derived by Oceanian scientist to use in their manufacturing.

Rainbow—Art District
The Art District is where all of the art of the city is created. It includes architectural design offices and all sorts of artistic shops. There are a few residential sectors and many shops. Unlike most of the districts, the Art District is mostly self-supporting and those who live there rarely leave the district. The color for the district represents the variety of colors used in the Art District to beautify the city.

White—Residential Sectors
Residential areas outside of the districts are called sectors. Residential sectors are large blocks of apartment buildings and shops. Unlike the districts, they have few major places of work. Instead, most of the employees in residential sectors are robots. Residential sectors are residential communities that include a clinic, parks, schools, restaurants and the like. Trains traveling to residential sectors are indicated by a white stripe. To specify where the train is going, the white stripe may also show a sector number.

You’ve reached the end of the blog post for this week. Check back next Friday for a new blog post or subscribe to be immediately notified. I hope you enjoyed reading this blog post and if you have any comments, you can leave them here on my blog or email me directly at As always, I love hearing from my readers.

Friday, November 2, 2018

Special Inventions in Allie’s Return

In Allie’s Return, the reader gets to live in the underwater city with Allie as she discovers what it’s like to actually live in Oceania rather than simply visit it. To further build the world of Oceania, and specifically the scientific endeavors, I had to think of some additional special inventions to add to those in the first novel. Two of the inventions highlighted below relate to scientific research, while the other one relates to the city itself.

“I held up a specimen containment box with two Myxine sp. inside it. Only about six to eight inches long, the little gray things squirmed around inside the tank like worms.”
-Allie, Allie’s Return

The Specimen Containment Boxes
I originally thought of the specimen containment boxes early on when I decided to write the novel. However, during researching for the novel, I discovered that scientists in our time are already creating similar deep-sea retrieval chambers. This both excited me and made me hopeful for the future expansion of deep-sea research.

The specimen containment boxes used in Allie’s Return are highly specialized. These boxes are designed to mimic the conditions of the deep-sea, meaning that the pressure of where the animal was caught can be maintained within the containment box until the specimen can be transported to a tank. Constructed of three layers, the outermost layer is solid durapane, the middle layer contains the pressure sensor technology, and the innermost layer is a smooth glass-like substance. The main function of the specimen containment boxes is to protect any deep-sea creature captured by researchers and maintain their safety until they can be deposited elsewhere.

Although the boxes can range in size, the typical size is 45.72cm (18in) long, by 45.72cm (18in) wide, by 145.72cm (18in) high. To capture the organism, the box comes apart into two halves that can then be pushed back together, trapping the organism inside. The user only has to apply pressure and a slight twisting motion to open it, but once the halves are pushed back together around a specimen, they can only be reopened by a UPC or a series of unlocking procedures to prevent accidental opening.

Take a look at the two videos below to see how specimen containment boxes break apart: 

How The Specimen Containment Box Detaches When Capturing a Specimen

How the Specimen Containment Box Breaks Apart in a UPC

“Katrina held open the door to the Underwater Pressure Chamber or UPC as she called it for short.”
-Allie, Allie’s Return

Underwater Pressure Chamber (UPC) tank
Humans can’t survive under the same high pressures that deep-sea organisms can, so Oceania is pressurized close to one atmosphere. Most creatures of the deep would perish if subjected to the lack of pressure humans thrive in without protection, so a way to safely capture and study them needed to be developed. Enter the Underwater Pressure Chamber or UPC for short. The UPC is a sophisticated fish tank and digital diagnosis system in one. While a UPC can house an organism of the deep for a long period of time, its primary function is to aid in the research of their internal systems and behavior. UPCs can track the movements of the fish as they swim, monitor their vitals, create an image of their internal systems for the researcher to observe, and alter the conditions of the water. The UPC is a vital piece of technology for deep ocean research and pivotal in the discovery of how deep-sea organisms survive in the harsh conditions of their home.

Due to the small size of most deep-sea creatures, the Underwater Pressure Chambers used in Allie’s school isn’t very large. Although there are other UPCs in Oceania larger in size, the ones mentioned in the book are 1.5m (5ft) long, 1m (3.5ft) wide, 1.2m (4ft) feet high. Attached to the tank on the right side is a control panel and chute in which the specimen containment boxes can be placed into. Like all technology in Oceania, it can seamlessly be integrated with c-com devices so the researcher can remotely monitor their specimen day and night.

“A few jumped up to quickly sketch it on their digipads as it swam past.”
-Allie, Allie’s Return

The digipad is an essentially an accessory to the c-com. For individuals who prefer a writing or drawing tablet to the holographic projection of the c-com, they can use a digipad. Digipads are mostly used for drawing or when a physical medium is necessary. Similar to a modern-day tablet, the digipad differs in that it can project images and also create a 3D holographic replica of whatever is drawn on it. Digipads are most commonly used by scientists and artists in Oceania. The majority of Oceanians don’t have a need for it. 

You’ve reached the end of the blog post for this week. Check back next Friday for a new blog post or subscribe to be immediately notified. I hope you enjoyed reading this blog post and if you have any comments, you can leave them here on my blog or email me directly at As always, I love hearing from my readers.

Friday, October 26, 2018

Character Profile and Interview: Camille

 If you have not read the novel yet, reading the character interview questions and answers below will spoil it for you. This is meant to be read after you’ve finished reading the book.

Character Profile
Name: Camille
Age: 7
Hair Color: Strawberry Blonde
Eye Color: Blue
Favorite Color: Blue

Personality Description:
Camille is a young French girl who loves adventures and the outdoors. Delightful, she loves to play games and have fun like any other child. Having a curious nature, she likes to see how things work and easily picks up on new technology. Generally calm, it takes a lot to make her cry for her age. Although she’s young, she’s resourceful and brave enough to survive on her own for months without speaking to anyone. She misses her parents but is excited to meet Allie and Samantha and thinks of them as her big sisters.

***Spoiler Content Below This Point***
Character Interviews

Question 1: How did you get separated from your parents?

Answer: My maman and papa and my brothers were walking ahead of me towards a big building and listening to the tour guide. I got bored and saw a pretty picture and stopped to look at it. When I turned around, I didn’t see them anymore. Then a bunch of people pushed by me and I kept calling for them, but they did not hear me. I started walking around shouting their name, but they did not find me. I kept walking and walking until I got so lost I could not find them. I…[Camille starts to cry]…I don’t want to talk about it anymore.

Question 2: Why did you decide to live in the school?

Answer: After I ran away and got lost, I saw this building with lots of cool pictures of animals. The pictures were all over the building. It looked so pretty that I wanted to see more of it. But when I got close, I saw big kids walking in and out of the building. After they stopped, I walked inside and looked around. I saw more and more of the pictures like outside, but these were in color. I liked the way it looked, and I found out that I could take food from the big kids when they weren’t looking. [Camille giggles] They were so easy to trick. It was fun. I found a place where there were not many people and I snuck around when no one was there. At night, it was all my own place and I could run around all I wanted there. I liked it, so I stayed.

Question 3: What is the first thing you want to do when you get back home?

Answer: I want to hug my maman and papa and my brothers. Then I want to go play outside with them. I want to run around and around in the meadow by my house and then I want to go inside and eat my favorite food for dinner. I want to stay up all night and tell my family everything I did in the underwater city. I want them to know that I was a big girl and took care of myself for a long time without any help from a grown-up!

Random Question: What is your favorite dessert?

Answer: Strawberry ice cream topped with strawberries and sprinkles and lots and lots of candy!

Friday, October 19, 2018

Character Profile and Interview: Katrina

 If you have not read the novel yet, reading the character interview questions and answers below will spoil it for you. This is meant to be read after you’ve finished reading the book.

Character Profile
Name: Katrina McDonnell
Age: 16
Hair Color: Red
Eye Color: Light Brown
Favorite Color: Green
Academic Focus: Gastroenterological Adaptations of Abyssal Fishes
Biggest Fear: Nothing

Personality Description:
Katrina McDonnell is a no non-sense intellectual type who doesn’t care what anyone else thinks or says about her. Often misjudged, she usually keeps to herself until someone else shows an interest in her. A fierce friend, she’ll stand up against anyone who tries to harm or threaten those she loves and cares about. Her curiosity for the deep sea causes her to daydream about it on a consistent basis, which often keeps her from interacting with the outside world. Not one to be punctual, she’d rather spend every second contemplating the mysteries of the deep or researching them in the laboratory.

Katrina has the ENTP-A or Debater personality type. If you want to read more about this personality type, you can visit

***Spoiler Content Below This Point***
Character Interviews

Question 1: What made you want to study the gastroenterological adaptations of abyssal fishes?

Answer: Well, for your focus, you have to choose something unique with little-established research already conducted on the topic. I’ve always been curious about how fish in the deep are able to digest almost anything they can get their jaws on. As long as they are able to swallow it, they can gain their nutrients from it. I knew some fishes didn’t have fully formed digestive systems compared to photic zone fishes, but I knew there had to be some sort of research I could do. Also, it’s challenging, and I enjoy a challenge.

Question 2: What was your first thought when you discovered Allie was a Land Dweller?

Answer: About time! That was the first thought I had. We needed someone to mix up things in Oceania. I was tired of hearing everyone complain about the Land Dweller visitors to our city the past eighteen months or so. They were coming to see what advancements our city had made and just observe what life was like down here. I can’t blame them for that. Discovering that Allie was a Land Dweller was a good thing to me because I thought people would realize they could mingle with us without causing a catastrophe. Of course, Allie’s presence did almost cause a catastrophe, but you know what I mean.

Question 3: Why did you help Allie with the UPC room access? Did you ever wonder why she didn’t have access?

Answer: No, I didn’t consider why she didn’t have access. I figured that she hadn’t yet been approved for Echo level clearance yet. Sometimes applying for higher clearance levels can take weeks and if you aren’t ready beforehand, it can really throw a sea urchin into your plans. I didn’t want Allie to have to deal with that, so I offered to allow her inside whenever I was there.

Question 4: Were you surprised to discover Camille had been the one stealing the food in the cafeteria?

Answer: Yes! I do have to admit to being surprised by that. Even with my knowledge of Allie being a Land Dweller, I didn’t expect there to be a Land Dweller kid in Oceania. I knew Rosa’s guess of it being a ghost was ridiculous, but Allie and my guess of a malfunction in the food delivery system made more sense. Still, I’m impressed by Camille. She’s a brave, smart, little girl. I didn’t know anything about her until I found out about a Land Dweller child in the city, but when Allie admitted to me that she had been the food stealing culprit, I was shocked.

Random Question: Why don’t you care about what others think?

Answer: What does it really matter? Whether someone thinks something about you doesn’t make it true. My mother always told me when I was little: Katrina, be yourself not what everyone else wants you to be. I actually listened to her advice and I’m glad I did. Who wants to be defined by what others think of them?

Friday, October 12, 2018

Character Profile and Interview: Rosa

***Spoiler Alert***
 If you have not read the novel yet, reading the character interview questions and answers below will spoil it for you. This is meant to be read after you’ve finished reading the book.

Character Profile
Name: Rosa Kalani
Age: 16
Hair Color: Black
Eye Color: Brown
Favorite Color: Maroon
Academic Focus: Larval Behavioral Ecology of the Deep Scattering Layer
Biggest Fear: Ghosts

Personality Description:
Rosa Kalani is a friendly, intellectual girl. Although she’s very smart, she lets her insecurities get the better of her from time to time. Kindness and compassion fills her heart, making it easy for her to pick up on the emotions of others. Whenever possible, she’s the first person to help someone in need. She’s interested in a variety of subjects besides science, but science has captivated her heart since she was a small child. Even though she enjoys the logical pursuit of sciences, she believes in (and fears) the paranormal. Befriending Allie was only natural for Rosa because she saw someone in need. Shocked, but excited about discovering that Allie is a Land Dweller, Rosa can’t wait to discover more about the Above World.

Rosa has the INFJ-T or Advocate personality type. If you want to read more about this personality type, you can visit

***Spoiler Content Below This Point***
Character Interviews

Question 1: What made you befriend Allie?

Answer: When I first arrived at school and saw a girl standing alone looking at the murals on the walls, I thought maybe she could use a friend. When we started talking and I realized we had the same class, I thought that was cool. The more I got to know Allie, the cooler she seemed to be. I love making new friends and reaching out to people, so it was easy for me to befriend Allie. Since she was new to the school, I knew she could use a friend.

Question 2: What was your first thought when you discovered Allie was a Land Dweller?

Answer: My first thought was wow! Even though she said and did some things that seemed odd to me, I would have never thought she was a Land Dweller. But, when I thought about it some more, it made sense. I wasn’t disgusted with her like some of our classmates were. I wasn’t mad at her for not telling me either. I completely understand why she would have been scared to say anything to anyone. There’s so much hostility toward Land Dwellers, especially when the submarines arrived. I just feel lucky to be her friend.

Question 3: Were you scared to use the SCUBAPS for the first time?

Answer: Not really. If anything, I guess I could say I was more nervous than scared. I’d never been in the ocean before and I didn’t know what to expect. I’d swum in pools in Oceania a lot, so I assumed it would be similar. I’d read a lot about the immense pressure outside the city, but I knew the SCUBAPS was supposed to protect us from the pressure. The explanation Allie gave us before we left for the docking bay helped a lot. The way she stays cool under pressure is amazing. It definitely helped me not be scared outside in the water. Having her around made me feel more at ease.

Question 4: When you saw the submarines arrive, did you think you were going to die? What about after they left?

Answer: I was terrified when they arrived. I’d never heard alarms going off and telling us to return to our homes like that. When the mayor came onto the announcement screens to tell us what was happening, I was terrified that we’d be attacked, especially after the mayor stated that we had no way of defending ourselves. Even after the subs left, I couldn’t help wondering if they’d return and kill us all.

Random Question: Have you ever seen a ghost?

Answer: Yes! Once when I was little, I saw something floating down the hallway in our apartment. I told my parents about it and they said I was probably seeing things. I do not like ghosts! They’re scary and they do crazy things. The one I saw was floating and eating seaweed pie!