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Thursday, August 15, 2019

#NewRelease #Alert - The #SoldiersofFortune are back with an all new installment #RB4U #SOF #Romance #Suspense





S.O.F.: Soldiers of Fortune

A Romance Books 4 Us World (Volume Book 2)

Amazon:

Universal Link/Landing Page:

Rhett Fortune settled on the small parcel of land he purchased in 1858 with his wife Clara and founded the beautiful landscape that surrounded his newly built home and what is now known as Fortune, TX. A veteran of the United States Army and as a Colonel who served with honor in the Mexican-American War, Rhett and Clara raised a large family. Sons and daughters, and grandchildren to follow, their clan grew throughout the decades.

Now in the 21st Century, two of their descendants remain at the helm. Chance Fortune, a former member of the Army’s Delta Force and co-founder of Soldiers of Fortune, has an innate duty to serve and protect. Working with his brother, RJ Fortune, a former Navy SEAL and wounded warrior, they take the cases that their government won’t. And vow to protect the civilians that no one else can.
They have quietly put out the word and now, after three years, other former brothers-in-arms have contacted them bringing situations that span not only the country but the globe. On Fortune family land they have built a facility out of the public eye for their office, a helicopter, a gun range, and whatever else they might need.

They are the Soldiers of Fortune… and these are their stories.





Sacrifice: Part 2 by Nicole Morgan
Ever Since she entered the picture, his mission has changed.

Operation Undercover by Krista Ames
Don’t get caught under the covers.

Killing Me Softly by Deelylah Mullin
With only gunfire and each other to keep them company, can Jorden and Luke save the innocents without complicating things?

Dogs of Fortune by Joanne Jaytanie
The mission is clear, and this time Zane has no intention of leaving anyone behind.




Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Prologues and Epilogues by Marianne Stephens




I've often wondered if readers enjoy reading prologues and epilogues in romance books. As a reader, I like reading a prologue, especially if it sets up the story. Reading epilogues gives a future "look" into the hero and heroine's tale and takes me beyond the "Happily-Ever-After" ending so I can witness for myself just how their future unfolded.

In Streets of Dreams I used a prologue popped into my head as the best way to gain reader attention right away. The prologue is in the killer's point of view, and I hoped it would capture a reader's immediate attention.

Epilogues. I've written one in a nonfiction book (Luke: the Miracle Dog). After I finished my last chapter, I sensed a "need" to tell a little more about what happened in the future.



As I mentioned above, I like reading both prologues and epilogues. I like that glimpse into the past and future. A prologue can eliminate some "backstory" insertions in the book so can be helpful to the writer. Epilogues can be helpful for those writing a series...an author can use this technique to hint at the next series book and inspire curiosity and interest. Or, for single titles, it can just give the reader a "little something extra" about what happens after that final chapter.


What do you prefer? Do you enjoy reading/writing Prologues? Epilogues? Both? Neither?

Marianne Stephens

Photos: Flickr: Tiago Ribeiro and Ryan Kendrick Smith's photostreams.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Kilt Season!

It's Renaissance Faire time in Michigan, and in my household, that means one thing for the Pape males. Get yer kilts on!


There’s something about a man in a kilt that fires the imagination of women all over the world. Is it the ability to see strong, sexy legs? The curiosity about what he’s wearing underneath? There’s a lot of speculation about why, but my personal belief is that wearing a kilt signifies a man with the courage and cockiness to risk being called “girly” by his peers. That kind of confidence can’t help but be sexy.
Fantasy look with kilts & doublets,
plus Irish Heritage tartan shawl
The wearing of the kilt as we know it has undergone a lot of changes through history. First of all, it was originally a Highland-only garment, considered primitive, even barbarous by Lowland Scots. However, Connor, in one of my steampunk books, Cards and Caravans is certainly a Lowlander. Yet he does wear a kilt. That’s because Queen Victoria, who adored all things Scottish, popularized the garment so much that during her reign, even many English nobles got in on the act. This is when the idea of specific clan-only tartans was truly solidified. Our Scottish Knights of the Round Table certainly wouldn’t have let those pesky Englishmen steal a march on such a symbol of Scotland. So in the world of the Gaslight Chronicles, the MacKay men are proudly kilted.


Modern kilts worn as formal wear with Prince Charlie waistcoats
and jackets, bow ties or 

Along with their popularity, kilts themselves have changed over the years. Originally, the garment was little more than a blanket—a long piece of wool, pleated and held around the waist with a leather belt and at the shoulder with a heavy pin. It could be worn up as a cloak or left to hang from the waist in warm weather. Underneath, the leine, a waist-length shirt was often made of heavy canvas and even quilted for additional protection from elements or enemies. Today, we call this a great-kilt, and you can often see them at Renaissance fairs. The great kilts shown is an inexpensive American fabric-store plaid, not any particular tartan.

Great kilts--more or less.
The modern kilt was first seen about 1725, and consists of just the bottom part of the great kilt, but with the pleats sewn into the waistband, which usually fastens with straps and buckles. The flat front pieces overlap, so there are two layers in front, and the pleats in back. Sometimes a scarf-like fly plaid is worn from the shoulder to hearken back to the look of the great kilt. The loden-green argyle jacket shown here is from the late Victorian era, but any tweed coat can be worn by day, and a black Prince Charlie coat turns the modern kilt into evening wear. The purple plaid shown here is Pride of Scotland, a festival plaid that may be worn by everyone. The green is Irish Heritage.


Victorian styles--Nightwatch Tartan with green antique argyle waistcoat
 and jacket, Irish Heritage kilt with fly plaid and tan waistcoat.

Finally, the newest evolution in the kilt is the utility kilt, or commando kilt. These are made of heavy cotton fabrics or even leather and often have pockets. Worn by everyone from punk rockers to construction workers, these continue to gain in popularity. Typically worn with combat or work boots, or even sneakers, and modern casual shirts. The one here is being used as part of a steampunk costume.

 


Incidentally, the idea that one shouldn’t wear anything under a kilt has been denied by the Scottish Tartan Authority. Tartans Authority director Brian Wilton said kilt wearers should have the "common sense" to realise they should wear underwear beneath their country's national dress. While some modern kilt wearers like the idea of swinging free in the breeze, others, including the “models” in each of these pictures, comment that sitting on rough benches and hay bales at festivals is something you don’t want to do while “regimental.”

Fantasy skirt and kilt made by SHOPTROLL.
Photo by Russ Turner Photography


Monday, August 12, 2019

A New Release in My Montana Bounty Hunters Series! And Hello! (Contest)


I'm new to Romance Books '4' Us! Thanks to the ladies for inviting me to join you here! If you've never "met" me, I've been publishing since 2003, which makes me feel really, really old when I say that. I have nearly two hundred published stories, some through publishing houses, some self-published. I've always written romance, but I tend to jump around in genres. Currently, I'm writing a lot of SEALs and bounty hunters. In fact, I have a brand new story out that you might want to check out...

The new story lives in my sister’s Brotherhood Protectors world as well as being a Montana Bounty Hunter story. Also, this is the third time this couple has been the center of their own story. If you want to catch up on what Jamie and Sky have been up to, grab your copies of the books below. They aren’t long—novelette length, really. Meant to be gobbled up in a single evening.

Jamie & Sky’s Romantic Journey

I first introduced them in Big Sky SEAL, which was a crossover between Elle James's Brotherhood Protectors world and my Uncharted SEALs series, and which provided the first glimpse of the Montana Bounty Hunters. Complicated, enough? Not really. It’s a sexy, funny story and you also get your first taste of Reaper, who is my favorite MBH character!

A former military police dog handler, Jamie Burke, along with her former bomb dog Tessa, are still trying to adjust to civilian life. With a jaded, testy personality, Jamie has few friends. Now, a bounty hunter, she’s tasked to help federal and local law enforcement search for an escaped terrorist in the Crazy Mountains of Montana. Former SEAL, Sky Reynolds can’t believe Jamie Burke is part of the task force. The last time he saw her was in Afghanistan. Back then, he’d thought he never stood a chance with the pretty, ballsy blonde, sure she had someone waiting for her back home. But here she was, still single, still prickly as hell. Assigned to stick close to her and her dog Tessa during the hunt, he’ll use the situation to get close. This time, he’s not letting her slip away. When Jamie’s captured by the terrorist, it’s up to Sky, his fellow SEALs and her motley crew of bounty hunters to save her…
Get your copy here!
And hey, if you are a KU subscriber, you can read it for free!
Then there was…Head Over SEAL, which was another Uncharted SEALs story.

*~*~*
Happy Ever After for a SEAL and a bounty hunter requires true dedication…
A former military dog handler, now Montana bounty hunter, Jamie Burke’s still trying to adjust to life with a live-in boyfriend. With a testy personality, Jamie’s circle of friends is very small, and includes one very loyal canine best friend. Which is how she likes it. She also likes uncomplicated, but her feelings for her boyfriend, Sky Reynolds, are anything but simple. With ex-SEAL Sky away on a weeks-long mission, she jumps at the chance to work with the Charter Group again, happy to do anything to keep her too busy to worry about him. She heads to Mexico with her dog Tessa to be part of a team working to discover the whereabouts of a cache of weapons stolen from the Army. She’s thrilled when Sky meets her at the airport. However, Sky’s not happy Jamie’s in the middle of this op. Having nearly lost her months before, he’s going to stick close. Not a tough job it turns out, since they’re staking out a beachside mansion from the mansion next door. Things heat up as they reconnect, but Jamie and Sky both worry about their future, until a cartel arms dealer arrives and bigger worries mount…

Big Sky Wedding is here!


Finally,we get to see Jamie and Sky tie the knot in Big Sky Wedding, which is out today!! 
Sky Reynolds knows that he and Jamie Burke are perfect for each other. Both prior-military, they met while they were stationed in the desert, and fate brought them back together in the Montana mountains. They love working together, love everything about the new life they share, however, for some reason Jamie's been dragging her feet regarding wedding plans. 

After a particularly stressful time, they take a break. Sky heads out on a mission in the Gulf with the Brotherhood Protectors, and Jamie's chasing a dangerous felon through the woods with her tracking dog, Tessa. Sky and Jamie have time to think about what's really important, and when Sky returns and joins her on the trail, he has a plan to give Jamie the wedding of her dreams.

Contest

For a chance to win a $10 Amazon card, leave a comment! 

Saturday, August 10, 2019

ARE YOU READY FOR THE “SINGULARITY”?


Posted by Author R. Ann Siracusa


WHAT IS THE SINGULARITY?

Nobody really knows, but we [human beings] need to be thinking about what our universal, biological, and technological history of accelerating change could mean for the future and larger purpose of humanity.

If you’re a science fiction or fantasy writer and/or reader, you’re no doubt familiar with the general idea of The Singularity, a future world where machines are as intelligent or more intelligent than humans, with various outcomes. If not, Wikipedia defines The Singularity as:

A hypothetical future point in time at which technological
 growth becomes uncontrollable and irreversible, resulting in unfathomable changes to human civilization.


Don’t hold your breath. You don’t need to worry about it personally. It won’t happen until many or all of you reading this are long gone. But it will happen.


Since it’s not only a theory, but a highly controversial one, there are numerous definitions put forth by extremely brilliant people who study the phenomenal rate of technological change in the world and think about the future it could mean for the world. But let’s start simple.

WHAT EXTREMELY BRILLIANT PEOPLE SAY

The Singularity isn’t a new concept, although this name is. It is a phenomenon noted by many extremely brilliant people and a few not so brilliant.

Unless you’re deep into heavy-duty mathematics or physics, The Singularity actually means The Technological Singularity, which is essentially a theory about the accelerating rate of technological growth which will affect everyone in the world.

John von Neumann [1903 – 1957], Hungarian-American mathematician, physicist, and computer scientist, was the first to put the idea forward, although he didn’t refer to The Singularity.

“The point at which the accelerating progress of technology and changes in the mode of human life, gives the appearance of approaching some essential point in the history of the race beyond which human affairs, as we know them, could not continue."
Alan Turing [1912 – 1954], English mathematician, computer scientist, philosopher, and theoretical biologist wrote that machines will eventually surpass human intelligence.

     “Once the machine thinking method has started, it would not
     take long to outstrip our feeble powers. … At some stage
     therefore we should have to expect the machines to take

     control..."
Ray Kurzweil [1948 – present], computer scientist and inventor, is possibly the best known proponent of the singularity. He brought the theory into mainstream thinking with a slightly different twist.
“A future period during which the pace of technological change will be so rapid, its impact so deep, that human life will be irreversibly transformed. Although neither utopian nor dystopian, this epoch will transform the concepts that we rely on to give meaning to our lives, from our business models to the cycle of human life, including death itself.”
It's a merger between human intelligence and machine intelligence that is going to create something bigger than itself. It's the cutting edge of evolution on our planet. One can make a strong case that it's actually the cutting edge of the evolution of intelligence in general, because there's no indication that it's occurred anywhere else.”
Kurzweil is more than a futurist who sits around and thinks. He is a computer scientist and inventor who has been on the forefront of pushing technology into the artificial intelligence era. 
Among his many accomplishments, he developed the technology behind the first flatbed scanner, he is a leading expert in speech recognition, and was the inventor of the first print-to-speech synthesizer. When his “speech-to-reading machine for the blind” was launched in 1976, it was credited by scientists as being the first device to successfully use artificial intelligence. He has many other credits in the fields of music and medicine, and a thirty-year track record in accurate predictions regarding technology.
Stephen Hawking [1942 - 2018]
British born Hawking, one of the most brilliant minds of the century, was a theoretical physicist whose theory of exploding black holes drew upon both relativity theory and quantum mechanics. His groundbreaking work in physics and cosmology and his books helped to make science accessible to everyone.
It's clearly possible for a something to acquire higher intelligence than its ancestors: we evolved to be smarter than our ape-like ancestors, and Einstein was smarter than his
parents.
     “Think of our DNA. In the last million years, our DNA hasn't
      changed at all. It's really much the same as it was in the
       jungle, a million, two millions years ago. But in the last 200
      years, our destructive capacities have increased many,
      many millions of times over. Why don't we see intelligent
      signals from outer space? Because in all likelihood, once
      the civilization reaches the point our civilization has
      reached, it destroys itself.
Hawking, among other top scientists, spoke out in 2014 about the possible dangers of artificial intelligence, or AI, which he reiterated at a technology conference in Lisbon, Portugal, in 2017. Speaking on the topic of Artificial General Intelligence, he stated:
"Success in creating AI would be the biggest event in human history. Unfortunately, it might also be the last, unless we learn how to avoid the risks." He
warned about a time in the future which this technology would be "Outsmarting financial markets, out-inventing human researchers, out-manipulating human leaders, and developing weapons we cannot even understand. We cannot know if we will be infinitely helped by AI, or ignored by it and sidelined, or conceivably destroyed by it."
Kevin Kelly [1952 – present], Editor, publisher, writer, conservationist and co-founder of Wired Magazine, defines the singularity as:
“The Singularity is the point at which “all the change in the last million years will be superseded by the change in the next five minutes.”
That about says it all.

EXPONENTIAL GROWTH

Unfortunately, many people, even very smart ones, don’t understand the pace … that change is not just happening but accelerating. I learned very quickly when I retired that being out of the profession of urban planning for four or five years rendered my thirty-five years of experience almost useless.

As Ray Kurzweil writes, “The last 20 years are not a good guide to the next 20 years. We're doubling the paradigm shift rate, the rate of progress, every decade. This will actually match the amount of progress we made in the whole 20th century, because we've been accelerating up to this point.
The 20th century was like 25 years of change at today's rate of change. In the next 25 years we'll make four times the progress you saw in the 20th century. And we'll make 20,000 years of progress in the 21st century, which is almost a thousand times more technical change than we saw in the 20th century.” https://www.edge.org/conversation/ray_kurzweil-the-singularity.
   WORLD POPULATION GROWTH



Graph Credit: Waldir [CC BY-SA 3.0 [https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0.
ARTIFICIAL GENERAL INTELLIGENCE [AGI]
The one thing that all of this requires is the development of Artificial General Intelligence. So far, the accelerating rate of technological advances has been limited by the human brain, which hasn’t changed much in recent millennia.

Today we have what is called applied or weak Artificial Intelligence. Machines which can do one or two highly contained tasks much faster and more accurately than humans, but is not able to perform the full range of cognitive abilities.

However, human ability to imagine and reflect on different scenarios, human obsession with linking minds, and the ever-increasing power of computers portend a future with Artificial General Intelligence and machines that could become more intelligent than human beings i.e. machines which have the capacity to understand and learn any intellectual task a human can.

Don’t relax yet. According to Wikipedia, there are at least forty organizations actively researching in AGI. China has recently announced its intent to become the AI/AGI leader in the world.


LET’S RE-EXAMINE TODAY FOR CLUES ABOUT TOMORROW

Whichever turns out to be the case – superintelligent machines, superintelligent humans, or a combination of machine and human superintelligence – something will happen to human society as a result of rapid technological growth. Some of those changes are already occurring, and many of us don’t even realize the vast impact of those changes have made and will continue to make, on human affairs.

Industry Utilizes Artificial Intelligence In Machines For Manufacturing


In 1961Unimate, an industrial robot invented by George Devol in the 1950s, became the first to AI machine to work on a General Motors assembly line. Its responsibilities included tasks deemed dangerous for humans.” https://learn.g2.com/history-of-artificial-intelligence    


Photo Source: https://www.robotics.org/joseph-engelberger/unimate.cfm


The Internet Connects Everyone In The World


The history of the internet is short but not in complexity. A lot happened leading up to the first communication with the Interface Message Processor [computer] going live in 1969. The use of the web grew slowly in the academic and research arenas until April 30, 1993, when the European Organization for Nuclear Research [CERN] put the web into the public domain.
Photo:https://www.popularmechanics.com/culture/web/a20104417/www-public-domain/


Today, only 26 years later, over half the people in the world are internet users. According to Internet World Statistics, the total world population in 2019 is 7,718,223,209 [7.7 billion people]. Of that, 53.7 percent [4.4 billion people] are internet users in 2019. https://www.internetworldstats.com/stats.htmz


Photo Source: pursuitist.com/older-people-internet    ▲


The first cell phone went on sale 35 years ago [1984] for $4,000

No one took the first cell phone seriously. It was merely a toy for rich people. Today, out of the world’s estimated 7 billion people, 6 billion have access to mobile phones. Only 4.5 billion have access to working toilets.


Photo source: https://findersfree.com/tech-internet/cell-phones-marketed-public


Today’s Smart Phones Have More Computing Power Than ENIAC, The 1,800 sq. ft. Computer That Sent Man To The Moon

ENIAC Computer that landed Apollo 11
Photo Credit: US Army
Photo source: www.thevintagenews.com/computer-ENIAC

Cpl. Irwin Goldstein [foreground] sets the switches on one of ENIAC’s function tables at the Moore School of Electrical Engineering. [U.S. Army photo] 


People Around The World Already Allow Electronic Devices To Run Their Households
These devices turn on and off lights and appliances, provide monitoring away from home, remind us of things to do and close garage doors, Some refrigerators do our grocery lists. Those devices are capable of learning to adapt to voices and accents, to determine the things we like and dislike, etc.
And, by the way, Amazon staff can listen and Alexa can record what you are saying and has mistakenly mis-interpreted conversation as commands.
Image Credit: City of West Hollywood

Photo source: beverlypress.com/west-hollywood

China Is Positioning Itself To Be The World Leader In Artificial Intelligence And Artificial General Intelligence

In particular, the Chinese are perfecting facial scanning techniques using artificial intelligence to control the people. China expects to have 300 million surveillance cameras by 2020, over four times as many as the USA.


In some cities, Chinese Police are using face-recognition eye glasses to identify perpetrators of traffic violations and posting pictures publically. Fortunately, the glasses limited capability and only work well if the target doesn’t move for a few seconds. Mo doubt, Chinese scientists will fix that.Photo credit: ReutersPhoto source: www.nytimes.com/china-surveillance
Paintings By Robot Artist Ai-Di Brought In Over $1 Million At Her 1st Solo Art Show

Ai-Di [named after the mathematician and computer pioneer Ada Lovelace] is the first realistic Artificial Intelligence humanoid robot artist.

Created by British inventor and gallery owner Adian Meller, in collaboration with robotics company Engineered Arts, Ai-Da can draw from sight thanks to cameras in her eyeballs and AI algorithms created by scientists at the University of Oxford that help produce co-ordinates for her arm to create art. She uses a pencil or pen for sketches, but the plan is for Ai-Da to paint and create pottery.Image Credit: Nicky JohnstonPhoto Source: news.artnet.com/opinion/AI robot-artist                                                                Photo source: www.asiaone.com/china-robot-news-  

Another AI Humanoid Robot named Xin Xiaomeng served a TV anchorwoman on China’s Xinhua state news agency in March 2019, delivering a one minute news story with a presentation that mimicked human facial expressions and mannerisms.https://www.asiaone.com/china/chinas-xinhua-presents-news-using-robot-news-anchor         

Medical Miracles Include Merging Machines with Man 

Sounds incredible, doesn’t it. I envision draining one’s mind and consciousness into a mechanical brain or robot, sort of like siphoning gasoline out of a car. Maybe that’s what certain proponents of the singularity mean, but for now human and mechanical merging is a little less science-fiction-like.

Still, it is amazing when you think about how many artificial parts can be implanted in human being. In the sense of replacing human parts with artificial ones, we’ve been merging artificial parts into humans for a while. The next big step is mind-controlled artificial limbs, which is being researched as we speak. It may take a long time, but medicine is moving in the predicted direction.Photo Source: Wikipedia

Learning to mind-control an artificial hand

Photo source: uchicagomedicine.orgneurosciencesbrain-controlled

THE CUTTING EDGE OF EVOLUTION

Ray Kurzweil, in his book The Singularity Is Near, states that the singularity is "a merger between human intelligence and machine intelligence [that] is going to create something bigger than itself.” 
When it comes, it will signal the end of the human era, simply because a new super-intelligence would continue to upgrade itself continually at a rate we can’t even comprehend.

CONCLUSION
If or when this superintelligence comes into being, through enhancement of human intelligence or through artificial general intelligence, the event will change, for better or worse, the world we live in and life as we know it today.
Personally, I believe that although significant changings will be happening faster than ever, most human beings won't even be aware of it at the time. Young people will pick it up as fast as ever, and older people will struggle keeping up, but it will be a "Can't see the forest for the trees" situation.
DO YOU SUPPOSE THERE WILL STILL BE ROMANCE NOVELS AFTER THE SINGULARITY? 
AUTHOR R. ANN SIRACUSA
Converting oxygen to carbon dioxide for more than three quarters of a century
Travel to Foreign Lands for Romance and Intrigue
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