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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 five unique scenes with sharks and two additional sharks mentioned 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 elizataye@gmail.com. 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 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 elizataye@gmail.com 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 https://elizataye.com/news/

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 on 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 elizataye@gmail.com. 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 elizataye@gmail.com. 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 https://www.16personalities.com/entp-personality.

***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 https://www.16personalities.com/infj-personality.

***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!

Friday, October 5, 2018

Character Profile and Interview: Samantha

***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: Samantha Lee
Age: 15
Hair Color: Golden-blonde
Eye Color: Gray
Favorite Color: Turquoise
Academic Focus: Mammal Audiology
Biggest Fear: Sharks

Personality Description:
Samantha Lee is a dedicated, loyal friend who will do anything to help her friends. A bit of a romantic and a dreamer, she’s less logical than the majority of her friends. Still, she knows how to reason when it comes to science and is knowledgeable about the biology of the undersea world. She’s smart but humble about it and unless you engage her in a discussion about marine biology or mammal audiology with entirely incorrect facts. Outgoing, she loves to make friends and spend time with other people. Part of her desire to be around others stems from being left alone so much as a child due to her workaholic parents. As a toddler, Dylan became her first friend and she’s been part of his group of friends ever since. After meeting Allie and discovering that she was a Land Dweller, it became her dream to visit land one day.

Samantha has the ENFP-T or Campaigner personality type. If you want to read more about this personality type, you can visit https://www.16personalities.com/entj-personality.

***Spoiler Content Below This Point***

Character Interviews

Question 1: When Dylan told you Allie would be living in Oceania for a while, what was your first thought?

Answer: I was excited! Allie’s a cool person and I don’t have many girl friends like her. I knew she’d need my help acclimating to life in Oceania. I mean, I couldn’t leave Dylan, Devon, and Max to be the only ones to give her advice on living in Oceania. I cringe to think what she would have been wearing. [Samantha laughs] I thought we’d have a great time together. Maybe have an adventure like two years ago when I helped her and Dylan escape Mayor Aldridge.

Question 2: You and Dylan have been like siblings since you were little. What was it like having Allie be considered his “real” sister?

Answer: It didn’t bother me. Dylan never treated either me or Allie any differently, so it didn’t matter. I think it was good for Dylan to have someone else at home since his parents are never there. Of course, he wasn’t there himself too much after going to Oceania University, but still. I think it was good for him.

Question 3: How did you feel about everyone’s actions while you were in a coma? Do you regret going out in the seamobile?

Answer: I was extremely touched! I can’t believe Allie called my mother and convinced her to come to the hospital. That was so selfless of her. She was recovering too and for her to call all the Dr. Lee’s in the database until she found my mom was amazing. She’ll always be my best friend for that. And Max and Pedro’s actions…I have to admit that I am flattered that they acted that way. Also, a little disappointed I wasn’t able to see it all happen! Dylan I wasn’t surprised about. He’s always been there for me no matter what happens. That’s why he’s my big brother.
As for going out in the seamobile, I don’t regret it. Living under the water has its dangers. Going out into the open ocean is a risk every time you do it. The accident could have happened at any time. The only thing I regret is that Allie’s life was risked too because I wanted to go out there. Next time, I’ll wait until my mentor can take me until I feel comfortable enough with a seamobile to use it on my own.

Question 4: Why did you help Allie hide Camille?

Answer: When I met Camille, she was a terrified little girl. I can’t imagine what it must have felt like for her to be so far away from home and not able to speak the language. I mean, we’re talking about a seven-year-old girl here. Her frightened little blue eyes melted my heart and I knew I couldn’t let her be discovered by Oceania Security. Unlike Allie, who would have people coming to her home every now and then, my parents hardly ever left the lab. I knew I could easily hide her in my home without anyone noticing. Also, I thought she’d be more comfortable at my house. Hiding her with me was also less suspicious because I wasn’t a Land Dweller like Allie. I also helped because Allie’s my friend and friends help each other.

Random Question: Why are you afraid of sharks?

Answer: [Samantha flinches and cringes] Is this a real question? I mean, seriously? Why wouldn’t I be afraid of sharks? They have hundreds of sharp teeth, scary faces, and bad attitudes. Both Allie and Dylan have tried to show me how graceful they can be, but I don’t care! They’re terrifying and I don’t want to ever see one in person again!

*Note: Samantha's age is based on her age in Allie's Return, not Oceania: The Underwater City.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Research for Allie's Return

For Oceania: The Underwater City, I spent weeks researching all the topics I thought I needed to know to realistically write the book. Fortunately, much of that same research carried over into Allie’s Return, which meant that I could spend less time researching and more time writing. Yet, I still had to research some new information for book 2.  Here I’ll be giving you a snippet of the research I conducted for Allie’s Return.

Human Genetic Resistance to Pathogens
When I realized that another plague would be the reason for Allie returning to Oceania, I had to think about what would happen if Allie returned to Oceania after being potentially exposed to a plague virus. Throughout history, populations of people who have been separated from other human beings have been shown to be more susceptible to the diseases the invading population brings with them. I knew that the Oceanian residents would not have the same resistances as Land Dwellers. However, I wanted to confirm that 148 years, roughly five to six generations, was long enough for the people to be genetically different enough to be more susceptible to the plague. I read a variety of articles, but few answered my question. Eventually, I had to use what I’d learned from the close-enough articles to determine that the population of Oceania would be less resistant to land pathogens because of their artificial atmosphere and isolation.
If you want to read some of the articles I read, you can click on the links below:

Viral Genetics
I also wanted to learn more about viral mutations and viral genetics, so I read an article to see how the plague virus could have survived and mutated almost two hundred years after the original strain. According to various schools of thought, viruses aren’t considered to be living. They follow rules outside living things, so I really wanted to research viral genetics. For that, I read a chapter in a medical microbiology textbook. It turned out to be very in-depth and not very useful for the novel. Still, it was interesting and informative. If you’d like to read it, you can find it here.

I finally found some more information about how pathogens work and are treated by the human body by a blogger with a Ph.D. in Pathobiology. Dr. Little runs a blog about pathogens that you can read at this link:

Deep-Sea Ecology
In Oceania, every high school-aged individual has to choose a focus for their future careers. For students interested in marine science, that means that a research project becomes part of their coursework. For Allie, I knew she would want something that had to do with the ocean. At the same time, I wanted it to be something unique that could create an interesting storyline for the novel. So, I chose for Allie to be interested in the physiology of deep-sea creatures. For me to write this, I had to learn more about the physiology and overall biology of deep-sea organisms.
One of the interesting things I learned about deep-sea fish is that only a few of them have swim bladders that cause them to “explode” or expand when they are brought to sea level. Instead, it is the high content of trimethyalamineoxide (TMAO) found in deep-sea fish that maintains the shape of biomolecules in the fish’s body (and gives fish that “fishy” smell). It keeps the pressure from building up by using piezolytes. The amount of TMAO causes the biomolecules inside the fish to be unable to function at the surface. Another adaptation that deep-sea fish possess are flexible proteins and unsaturated membranes. They have a lower protein content than fish in the photic zone. For example, a viperfish only has a protein need of 5-8% in their muscles.

If you want to read more about deep-sea biology and ecology, you can visit the links:

I conducted more research for the novel, but most of it was for sea creatures I wanted to feature, which you’ve already read about if you read the last two blog posts. If you haven’t, you can access part one and part two. Other topics I researched were for specific things that were only mentioned a once or twice in the novel. So, the majority of shareable research you’ve just read above. 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 elizataye@gmail.com.

Friday, September 7, 2018

Sea Creatures Part 2 – Marine Deep-Sea Life in Allie’s Return

This post is the final one of my two-part special on the sea creatures featured in Allie’s Return. If you haven’t read the first part, you can read it here. I will only be highlighting deep-sea creatures that I haven’t already covered in an earlier post. So, if this post doesn’t cover a creature you read about in the novel, you’ll find it in this post from the Oceania: The Underwater City deep-sea special.

While researching for the first novel, I discovered that there were too many amazing creatures of the deep to include in just one novel. So, in this one, I added some of the ones I didn’t have time for in the first novel. Although only four are highlighted here, the humpback anglerfish and the binocular fish are cool animals I just had to include. 

The Giant Squid
By Gene Carl Feldman (oceanographer at NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
The giant squid (Architeuthis dux) is the largest invertebrate in the world! Although the largest one ever found was 18m (59ft) long and almost 907kg (2,000lbs), the typical size is 10m (33ft) long and 200kg (440lbs)(7). With enormous eyes that measure 30cm (12in) in diameter, they are specialized to help them see in the deep. These eyes can see bioluminescence or even predators in the dark waters. The eyes connect through a highly developed nervous system to the squid’s complex brain inside the mantel. The main body of the giant squid is comprised of the mantel, which houses all of its organs(9) including two gills(8). The funnel extends from the mantle and is used in liquid jet propulsion(9). Like all squid, they have eight arms and two feeding tentacles. On each arm and tentacle, they have two rows of spherical suckers with finely serrated rings of chitin. They use these to grip their prey and use their tentacles to bring the prey up to their mouth to be eaten (8).
Elusive species, most of the research on them have been conducted on dead specimens. Only Japanese researchers have captured and taken photographs of a live one(7). Due to such little research being conducted on live specimens little is known about their behavior and life history beyond conjecture based on similar squid species(8). Yet, from the stomachs of dead specimens, their diet is known to consist of at least shrimp, other squid and it has been proposed that they may eat small whales(7). Cannibalistic, they will even eat other giant squid(9)! To eat their prey, they use a tongue-like organ called the radula which is covered in tiny rows of teeth(9). The radula is used to tear apart pieces of prey along with the beak so that the prey can be consumed(7).

Listed as least concern by the IUCN(10), the giant squid is known to have only two predators—the sperm whale and sleeper sharks(8). They live from 500 – 1,000m (1,650 to 3,300ft) below the surface(9).

To see a better picture of a living giant squid, click here.

Humpback Anglerfish
By Javontaevious at English Wikipedia [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 3.0  (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

The humpback anglerfish (Melanocetus johnsonii) is a rare anglerfish of the deep. Like all anglerfish, it exhibits sexual dimorphism. The females are around the size of tennis balls at 18cm (7in), but the males are small at up to 2.9cm (1.1in) or around the size of a jellybean(3). They live in tropical and temperate waters(2) in depths of more than 2,000m (6,600ft)(3). With no scales or pelvic fins and black in coloration, they are also known as humpback blackdevils(2). They have very light bones and hover in the water to await prey to be attracted to its lure. The males have no anglers, large eyes, small mouths, large nostrils, and muscles for swimming long distance(1).

Humpback anglerfish are unique among anglerfish as they are one of the few anglerfish species that does not mate for life. The males do not attach to the females for a long period of time but instead, attach only to mate and then leave to find another female(3). When the male finds the female, they use their hooked teeth to attach to her and drink her blood for sustenance during mating(1). Though the male joins to the female once he locates her, eggs are fertilized via external fertilization where the female releases the eggs into the water and the male releases the sperm which will then fertilize the eggs(3).

Similarities to other anglerfish include large mouths to help capture the limited amount of prey in the deep sea and large stomachs to accommodate whatever prey they do manage to swallow. Bacteria live in its lure and create the light it uses to attract their prey. Yet, they have a muscular flap they can use to close off the light to either hide or expose the lure.  They eat crustaceans, fish, and anything else that can fit into its mouth(3).

If you would like to see a video of one swimming, click here

Binocular Fish
Winteria telescopa From Brauer, A., 1906. Die Tiefsee-Fische. I. Systematischer Teil.. In C. Chun. Wissenschaftl. Ergebnisse der deutschen Tiefsee-Expedition 'Valdivia', 1898-99. Jena 15:1-432.

The binocular fish (Winteria telescopa) is currently extremely underresearched. Almost nothing is known about this species besides its appearance. They are a bluish-black color with some silver on its head. They are known to grow to 15cm (5.9in) and live anywhere from 500 – 2,500m (1,640 – 8,202ft). They are found in the Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific oceans. The IUCN lists them as least concern and they are no threat to humans. 

Hagfish Family Myxinidae

By Girard, Charles, 1822-1895;United States Naval Astronomical Expedition (1849-1852) [No restrictions], via Wikimedia Commons

*Hagfish are about as primitive as chordate (vertebrate) life gets in the sea. In Allie’s Return, I referred to the creature as Myxine sp. because there wasn’t a name yet for the species referred to in the novel. This was for many reasons. One reason was because I could not find any research confirming a species in the Myxinidae family with any particular special enzymes in their gut. Another reason is because I wanted it to remain ambiguous. So instead of exploring the characteristics of any species of hagfish here, I’m going to look at Myxinidae as a family.

Myxinidae is the family that comprises of hagfish and their relatives. Hagfish may look like eels, but they are fish with no scales, no gut, and no fins except for a reduced caudal fin that merges with the main elongated body. They can have from one to sixteen pairs of gill slits on each lateral side. Instead of a jaw, they have barbels (like on a catfish) and rasping teeth along their tongue. Other physical features include a growth of up to 1.1m (3.6ft) and skin with gray or brown coloration. They are found in every ocean and inhabit the benthic region making them bottom-dwellers. They prefer temperate waters with soft bottoms down to 1300m (4,265ft). Some of the oldest fish in the sea, fossils of them have been found from 300 million years ago(5). Myxinidae have been found to be hermaphrodites or sterile. They lay a few eggs which will then grow into adulthood with no larval stage in between(6).

Scavengers, they feed on dead and decaying animals such as marine mammals that have sunk to the ocean floor(5). They have a slow metabolism and can survive for seven months without eating. If necessary, they can eat worms,(6) fish, or small crustaceans to survive(5). They use their sense of smell to find food and will then burrow into the prey using its rasping teeth and consume it from the inside out. If there are already holes in the organism, they’ll enter that way and eat it. Their role is extremely important in the marine ecosystem because they clean up a lot of decaying material at the bottom of the ocean. Without them, the ocean substrate would be littered with decaying carcasses(6).

One of the most popular known characteristics of Myxinidae are the slime they produce that covers their entire body. It is indeed very thick and slippery. It helps Myxinidae evade predators by making it hard for them to grab them and filing their mouths with so much slime that they have to spit them out(5). They have few predators, but some marine mammals and invertebrates will consume them. However, they run the risk of being suffocated by the excess of slime the Myxinidae produce(6).

As far as conservation, they are eaten in Asia as food and used for leather. Some populations are at risk of overfishing and nine species of Myxinidae have been listed as threatened due to overfishing and habitat destruction(5).

To watch a video of a hagfish from Smithsonian, click here

Closing Thoughts
Every time I research creatures of the deep for my novels, I’m astonished by how little we know, even about iconic species like the giant squid. It amazes me that many of these creatures have been known to science for over a hundred years, but we’ve barely learned anything about them. My goal in these novels and in these blog posts is to share the little knowledge we do know and hopefully inspire others to learn about the ocean. Still, to make a great story and keep it exciting, I do take advantage of the gaps in our knowledge. Based on our limited knowledge of the deep-sea, I did take some liberties Allie’s Return with the hagfish relative. The relative was inhabited water deeper than the hagfish we know of today and exhibited some different physical characteristics. However, who knows what lies in the deep and what we may discover in the future. Our only hope is to keep exploring the deep and discovering what it has to offer.

References and Further Reading

(1)   https://teara.govt.nz/en/photograph/5268/humpback-anglerfish