Wednesday, May 13, 2020

NBtM Virtual Book Tour and Giveaway: Becoming Animals by Olga & Christopher Werby

Welcome to my stop on the NBtM virtual book tour for Becoming Animals by Olga & Christopher Werby. This book tour was organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. On my stop, I have an excerpt and a guest post from Olga Werby as well as the tour wide giveaway for a chance to win a $25 Amazon or Barnes & Noble gift card. Be sure to follow the rest of the tour for more content. Enjoy!
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Title: Becoming Animals
Authors: Olga & Christopher Werby
Publisher: CreateSpace
Publication Date: December 26th 2017
Print Length: 438 pages
Genres: Science Fiction, Adventure
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Humans have always wanted to know what goes on inside the minds of other animals. But what if humans could become animals? Toby’s father leads a team of neuroscientists directly connecting the brains of humans with those of animals. And Toby is a prodigy at throwing her mind into the animal subjects in his lab—she’s the best there is.

But Toby suffers from cystic fibrosis and she’s not likely to live into adulthood. Could a radical plan to embed her consciousness into an animal allow Toby to survive? And what does it mean to live without a human body?

Can Toby and her father solve the problem of fully merging two beings before she takes her last breath? Will the government succeed in stopping their efforts before they are done? It’s a race against death and into the minds of animals.

IndieBound * Kobo
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EXCERPT:
You can read the first few chapters by clicking here or read below for a shorter excerpt.
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“You can’t ask me to experiment on my own child.”

Will had been arguing with the major for hours, back in his home office, in the apartment he shared with his wife and daughter. With each exchange, he felt like his grasp on the situation was dissolving. The major could be very convincing.

“Toby was very impressive,” the major said.

Will knew that he tended to fold under repeated questioning from the major, eventually adopting the major’s reasoning as his own. And yet he, too, was stunned by his daughter’s accomplishment and wondered what else she could do with a bit of training. If only she weren’t so young. If only she wasn’t his daughter. Will knew that he was about to agree to everything the major wanted. Just one more push…

“What did she tell you?” Major Watson asked again.

Will replayed his daughter’s interaction with the rat in his mind. What Toby had done was nothing short of amazing. A miracle, really.

“She could even sense physical boundaries with the rat’s whiskers!” he said. “There’s no human equivalent to that, not really. I thought with time we’d be able to physically control the animal, but I had no idea we could ever achieve so much integration with its perceptual system. Toby is just a natural at brain-to-brain-interface command. Who knew?”

Will’s excitement over Toby’s achievement in his lab was coloring his emotions, making him more pliable to the major’s arguments. He knew it, but still he couldn’t control his pride and enthusiasm. Everything he hoped for was happening…just not how he had planned.

“Did your daughter ever try the BBI before?”

“The cap? No, never! She’s watched us do it plenty of times. With Dalla being so sick…I mean—”

“It’s fine, Will. You don’t mind me calling you Will?”

“Of course not. And Major, I know the project is classified, but Toby is just a third grader, you know? It didn’t seem…” Will trailed off. It was hard to justify his daughter’s presence in the top-secret military-sponsored lab just because he couldn’t find a babysitter.

“I don’t mind you taking your daughter to the lab,” Major Watson said. “We’ll just make it official—retroactively. We’ll give your daughter a special research status and all the difficulties will go away.” The major stressed the word “difficulties.” It was clearly a veiled threat.

“But she’s only eight,” Will said.

“Clearance isn’t dependent on the maturity of the researcher.” The major let the ambiguity of whom he was talking about hang in the air.

A sustained coughing fit sounded from an upstairs bedroom and both men glanced up at the ceiling. Will’s wife, Dalla, had cystic fibrosis and her lungs were drowning in gelatinous mucus. She was bedridden most of the time now—too weak to walk, gasping for air. It was only a matter of time before Toby would lose her mother.

Worse still, Toby had inherited her mother’s genetic fault. Toby’s lungs were still strong, but with each bout of cold or flu, the girl developed more lesions and risked making her condition worse.

Will felt like he was losing control. The world just seemed so…overwhelming. The only bright spot in all of this was Toby’s remarkable abilities to control the rat.

“Toby Crowe will join the team of researchers in your lab officially,” the major said. “She will be named in the grant and will help you develop your BBI prototype further. And of course she will be bound by the same confidentiality clause as you and your research team. Since she is a minor, the responsibility for her compliance will naturally fall on you.”

Will stared at the tall, dark-featured, crisply dressed man. He felt dazed by the interaction.

“So I expect to see you and your daughter in the lab tomorrow.” The major stood to leave.

“But Toby has school,” Will protested.

“I’ll make sure her education won’t suffer. I’ll personally assign a full-time early childhood development expert to your team.”

“What?”

“We’ll get someone very qualified. Would a full PhD do?”

“For Toby’s teacher?” It was amazing how easily the major swept aside all of Will’s objections.

“Just imagine your daughter freed from a lowest-common-denominator curriculum. The girl is a born scientist! And if she’s not in an elementary school germ factory, she won’t get so sick all the time.”

That was true. Being sick was bad for Toby’s condition. It was also bad for Dalla. When Toby got sick, Dalla couldn’t even be around her, as exposure to even the most common cold could be disastrous. So whenever there was a sniffles outbreak at school—which was often—they tried to keep Toby home. It was the primary reason Toby had spent so much time at Will’s lab—they didn’t want her getting sick at school and Dalla was too sick to take care of her at home. Toby was a quiet, self-sufficient kid, and quite happy at the lab, but Will recognized that her school absences were interfering with her education.

“I guess that could work,” Will heard himself saying.

Not only was Major Watson getting everything he wanted, but, Will realized, he had somehow made Will want it too. Will was actually excited about the prospect of working with his daughter and developing her surprising BBI talent.

“Wonderful! I’ll personally oversee all the paperwork. And of course, I’ll make sure that Toby’s teacher’s salary won’t come out of your research budget. You don’t have to worry about a thing. Please give my best to your wife.” He shook Will’s hand and strode from the Crowe home.

In his mind, Will reviewed their conversation. He tried to understand what he had just agreed to. How would he explain this to Dalla?
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PRAISE FOR BECOMING ANIMALS:
"[A] must-read for every science fiction and animal lover." -- a 5 star review from Readers' Favorite

"[A]s a concept for a novel I found the idea of melding with an animal's mind, in Becoming Animals, to be utterly fascinating and was excited to see how this would develop for young Toby. I became very invested in the characters created by Olga and Christopher Werby and consequently enjoyed this children's/young adult book even more than I thought I would. The amount of honest research that had clearly gone on before penning this novel lent real authenticity to the tale. I had heard much of what was discussed in broad details in various places, but had perhaps not realized the possible implications - this was especially true of the idea of neuroplasticity and our brain's ability to reset and remake neural connections, at will or as required. The book was an incredibly easy read and although the science might be above the understanding of some of the authors' intended audience, it in no way detracted from the understanding of the story. This story is unique, in my opinion, a rare quality in today's book market. I commend the two authors for their ingenuity and creativity and can highly recommend this read. A great job!" -- a 5 star review from Readers' Favorite

"[T]he characters, both human and animal, are unforgettable, and the plot is high-tech fantasy at its finest. Becoming Animals is most highly recommended." -- a 5 star review from Readers' Favorite

"[A] very interesting, enjoyable, and thought-provoking read; a brilliant addition to the libraries of science fiction and fantasy fans, as well as anyone who simply enjoys a good story." -- a 5 star review from Readers' Favorite

"[T]his is a great novel for young and older sci-fi fans." -- a 5 star review from Readers' Favorite

"[T]his a very interesting, enjoyable, and thought-provoking read; a brilliant addition to the libraries of science fiction and fantasy fans, as well as anyone who simply enjoys a good story." -- a 5 star review from Readers' Favorite
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Olga Werby, Ed.D., has a Doctorate from U.C. Berkeley with a focus on designing online learning experiences. She has a Master's degree from U.C. Berkeley in Education of Math, Science, and Technology. She has been creating computer-based projects since 1981 with organizations such as NASA (where she worked on the Pioneer Venus project), Addison-Wesley, and the Princeton Review. Olga has a B.A. degree in Mathematics and Astrophysics from Columbia University. She became an accidental science fiction indie writer about a decade ago, with her first book, "Suddenly Paris," which was based on then fairly novel idea of virtual universes. Her next story, "The FATOFF Conspiracy," was a horror story about fat, government bureaucracy, and body image. She writes about characters that rarely get represented in science fiction stories -- homeless kids, refugees, handicapped, autistic individuals -- the social underdogs of our world. Her stories are based in real science, which is admittedly stretched to the very limit of possible. She has published almost a dozen fiction books to date and has won many awards for her writings. Her short fiction has been featured in several issues of "Alien Dimensions Magazine," "600 second saga," "Graveyard Girls," "Kyanite Press' Fables and Fairy Tales," "The Carmen Online Theater Group's Chronicles of Terror," with many more stories freely available on her website.

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GUEST POST:
- If you could be any animal, which animal would you choose and why?

When I was a kid, I had a very vivid dream of being a dolphin. In my dream, I got sick and my brain was transplanted into a baby marine mammal. During the day, I swam in ocean waters and experienced the life of a dolphin. But at night, I was able to swim into a cave-like facility that had a huge library of books that were printed on plastic pages, so I could read them underwater. This was a recurrent dream – I just loved the feel of flying under water. In my dream the water was warm – I hated swimming in cold water and adjusted my fictional environment to meet my human needs. My dolphin self had lots of adventures in the ocean. I even had to pretend to attend school and do homework by writing on plastic sheets. My teachers and classmates never suspected my real life in the ocean; they just thought I was in some hospital recovering. My assignments on plastic pages were never questioned.

I don’t know why I chose a dolphin. I was about eight or so when I started having this dream. But I think it had something to do with the freedom of movement in the water – it was a flying dream. That said, I’m a horrible swimmer and would definitely drown if placed more than a few yards from shore. When I first conceived of a story that eventually became “Becoming Animals” novel, I didn’t really remember this dream. It only came to me when you asked this question. But there are obvious similarities, aren’t there?

Becoming Animals” tells a story of a dying girl whose dad is a scientist leading animal cognition research lab funded by the military. Like many animal labs, Dr. Crowe’s lab worked with rats. Dr. Crowe was trying to develop a system where by inserting some wires directly into an animal brain and linking them back into human brains, his team could experience what the rat sees and feels and then give instructions, brain-to-brain, to make the rat perform certain tasks (e.g. ran a maze, solve problems, find an object, etc.). Ideally, if his lab succeeded, Dr. Crowe’s rats would become living drones capable of going places too dangerous or too sensitive for humans. Brats, as they were called, would make the best rescue team members, scurrying between ruble in earthquake and war zones and sniffing out survivors. They would also make the perfect spies, able to listen and see and steal sensitive information.

Dr. Crowe’s five-year-old daughter played in his lab all the time and was even allowed to use his equipment – Toby was dying, so why not make her happy? Toby beacme the best at brain-to-brain animal connection. But what happens when humans perceive the world through the senses of an animal? While a rat has eyes, and a nose, and ears, the way rat’s organs work to provide its brains with information about its environment is very different from the way humans process similar information. Rats scurry around; they worry about being eaten by predators. Humans no longer worry about being predated on as much, at least not on American college campuses. Rats’ noses are really close to the ground; they can sniff out smells that humans don’t even know exist. Rats can “see” the world in “Technicolor fragrance.” But when a human connects to a rat’s odor processing information, can she even make sense of it?

And if a rat were scared, would its human rider feel the same? Can a human become lost in the rat’s mind? Or can we learn to understand and control the information coming form an animal’s senses and emotions? Can we truly control the mind of another being? Or does the process of total brain-to-brain immersion merges and changes both animals, the human and the rat? In “Becoming Animals”, we get to watch Toby grow up while riding different animals in her dad’s lab—rats, pigs, ravens, and finally a whale. Is Toby even fully human by the end of the story?

It was very fun to write the scenes in this book where Toby rides the various animals in the lab. Aside from ethical dilemmas, getting the details of what it’s like to be rat or a bird or a marine mammal was amazing. A lot of research went into this book. We’ve tried to make the science in this book as accurate as possible – all the scientific details described in this story are true, even if they are pushed to the limit of what’s possible. When you read about how a rat responds to danger or how a whale mourns the death of its baby or how a young piglet gets the zoomies, it’s all real. The fictional part is how a human girl responds to experiences that are unique to other animals. That’s not to say that Brats – brain riding apparatus that turns animals into living drones -- is an existing military program already, just that it’s possible and is getting more probable every day.

When I was writing “Becoming Animals”, I read a lot about animal cognition. In fact, this book comes with a bibliography – there are always people who are as passionate about the science that I describe in my book as I am. I want to give them a chance to explore the topic at a deeper level. For instance, Robert Sapolsky’s 2002 “A Primate’s Memoir: A Neuroscientist’s Unconventional Life Among the Baboons” was an amazing book that had me in tears for pages and pages. Not only was this book full of amazing science, but the humanity with which it was written just broke my heart. I can’t recommend it strongly enough. Another author that I absolutely love is Dr. Oliver Sacks. Pick any book of his, just any book, you won’t be disappointed – the man was a poet…and a neuroscientist. And if you are into ravens, read Heinrich’s “Ravens in Winter” for an insight at how smart these little dinosaurs descends are.
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GIVEAWAY:
Olga Werby will be awarding a $25 Amazon or Barnes & Noble gift card to a randomly drawn winner via Rafflecopter after the tour. To increase your chance of winning, leave a comment at a different stop on the tour each day. Good luck!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

70 comments:

  1. Congrats on this tour and thank for the opportunity to read about another great book out there to read. It helps out so I can find books I know my family will enjoy reading. Thanks as well for the giveaway.

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  2. How long did it take you to write your book?

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    1. The book took about a year to write and about several years worth of research. I was always interested in animal cognition and how it is different from our own, finding a story that was compelling on its own terns in addition to being a cool vehicle to share a great deal about animals was very fun! I hope you will enjoy reading it as much as I loved writing it.

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  3. Thank you so much for sharing my book with your readers!

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  4. The cover is beautiful and the book sounds really interesting! Thanks for sharing!

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  5. Sounds like a very good book.

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  6. This sounds really good. Cool cover!

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  7. Great giveaway and excerpt. :)

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  8. This story about Toby sounds fascinating! How did you come up with the idea to write Becoming Animals?

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    1. I've read an amazing book by Dr. Robert Sapolsky: "“A Primate’s Memoir: A Neuroscientist’s Unconventional Life Among the Baboons.” He is a professor at Stanford and described the early years of his career when he traveled to Africa to study baboons. I cried at the end... But it got me thinking about animals and their ability to understand the world around them and form motivations and goals. Anyone who ever had a pet knows that there is a lot going on inside their minds. And yet they see and experience the world differently that humans do. I wanted to write a story where the reader gets to experience the world through the point of view of an animal. That was the start. The story of Toby and her struggle with illness is more personal.

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  9. this sounds like a wonderful book

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  10. The book sounds interesting. thanks

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  11. Thanks for the opportunity to win! These book tours help me to find books that I will enjoy.

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  12. I like the cover. It has nice graphics and colors.

    abfantom at yahoo dot com

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  13. This has a pretty cool cover and I absolutely love the premise. Looking forward to reading.

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  14. This excerpt sounds wonderful. Sounds like a great book!

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  15. This sounds so good thanks for sharing!

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  16. This sounds like an interesting book.

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  17. Enjoyed the post, sounds good!

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  18. I'm not sure I'd want to live as an animal. Unless it I could communicate in some way.

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  19. In my next life, I want to come back as a majestic black panther.

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  20. A horse would be nice. That way I could walk, trot and gallop.

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  21. Interesting....but hard to take...cause my well being and safety might just depend on someone else’s ability to treat others well...it’s hard enough to be human. And I love animals. Thanks for being an author and sharing your stories with the world.

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  22. Nice cover. I liked the blurb and excerpt. It sounds like a really interesting book. Thank you for sharing.

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  23. What character was the most fun to write?

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  24. Thank you for sharing the excerpt. It sounds interesting.

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    1. I tend to write at my desk, although I take notes on my phone whenever I get an idea. I have hundreds little snippets of ideas on my note taking app. Some of those expand into stories, most don't.

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  26. The cover is very imaginative. Thanks for the giveaway!

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  27. Have you read any good books in quarantine. Congrats on the release.

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    1. Thank you! And yes, I read tons...although my strong ethics of reading every book I pick up to the end lapsed... Now if I truly hate the book, I put it down. Life is too short. I still try to review all the books I like...try...

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  28. This is going to be a highly interesting book - to be read soon!
    Thank you for the review.

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  29. I love the cover! The colors are beautiful.

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  30. This is such a different plot! You've got a great imagination! The book sounds very good.

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  31. What's your favorite part of the writing process?

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  32. What do you want readers to take away from this novel?

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  33. I think that dolphins are clever and interesting animals, too!

    Nancy
    allibrary (at) aol (dot) com

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  34. Have a happy Monday and be safe!

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  35. Have a great Tuesday. B safe and happy

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