Growing Dracula Orchids

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My own little high-altitude, South American cloud forest.

I’ve been casually growing orchids for a few years now, but things got more serious in October when I decided to take on Dracula orchids (often called “monkey-face orchids” because many of the blooms resemble little faces). Draculas are not “windowsill” orchids because they have very specific environmental requirements. Most grow in high-altitude, South American cloud forests which means they need:

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My first Dracula orchid bloom.

  • Extremely high relative humidity (at least 90%).
  • Warm temperatures during the day (in the 70s or 80s), and cold temperatures at night (in the 50s).
  • “Full shade” which means a fair amount of light (1,000 – 1,5000 foot-candles), but not direct sunlight.

If those weren’t challenging enough conditions, half my collection blooms from below rather than above which means they need to be potted in baskets and suspended rather than arranged on a shelf. In other words, these are some of the most difficult orchids to grow in completely artificial, indoor conditions. (I actually have a couple of orchids that are proving even more difficult, but I’ll save those for another post).

Once I feel I have the process of growing Dracula orchids in a terrarium perfected, I’ll write a detailed article accompanied by a video. But for now, I want to report that I am having some very solid success. Not only am I seeing new growth with all my Dracula orchids, but my Dracula olmosii just bloomed. I’m particularly proud of the olmosii because it was nearly dead when I got it, having spent several months in a greenhouse that was far too hot.

I think it’s really interesting that the orchid that was in the worst condition when I got it was also the first to bloom.

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Peek inside the bloom of a Dracula olmosii orchid and you’ll find a little face peeking back out at you.

The Epoch Index

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Quinn Mitchell is a nine-to-five spy. She’s a data analyst for the CIA during the day, and a suburban wife and mother on evenings and weekends. After a series of personal struggles and professional failures, Quinn hopes to find redemption in her newest assignment: a series of bizarre assassinations where victims are found with three-digit numbers tattooed, burned, or carved into their flesh. As Quinn pursues the killer across the globe — always one body behind — their lives become entangled in ways neither of them can predict.

This novella by Christian Cantrell takes place in a world bordering on unprecedented change: as oil-based economies shift to hydrogen, the majority of wealth is redistributed across the globe; as aging nuclear arsenals are replaced with even more menacing threats, terrorists try to seize opportunities to tip the balance of power; and as humans become increasingly dependent on machines, massive indexes of information accumulate which can reveal almost anything about anyone to those who know how to use them.

The Epoch Index is a story about a world changing faster than humanity can adapt to it — a world which may require us to redefine what it means to be a hero.

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Anansi Island

anansi_island_150x225A quiet and remote wildlife refuge, Anansi Island was the perfect place for Laurel to escape her past. But throughout the island’s history, its isolation also made it the perfect place to hide things the world was never meant to see.

As Laurel finds herself entangled in the island’s newest and most bizarre chapter, she must not only solve its mysteries, but also survive long enough to pass them on.

This short story by Christian Cantrell mixes science fiction and horror with endearing and enigmatic characters who can only solve the mysteries of Anansi Island by facing their worst fears.

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Reading Digital Books

Most of my fiction is available in various electronic formats (since I mostly write science fiction, digital distribution seemed appropriate). That means you have several different reading options. Below are all the ways you can get your hands on my work. (If you’re here to learn more about publishing digital books, see my post, Everything You Need to Know About How to Digitally Self Publish.)

Kindle (or Kindle-supported device)

If you have a Kindle, or a device that supports Amazon’s Kindle application, you can get my work through Amazon. Kindle applications are now available for just about any device.

Barnes & Noble NOOK

If you have a NOOK, or a device that supports the Barnes & Noble NOOK application, you can get my work through Barnes & Noble. NOOK applications are now available for just about any device.

iBooks (iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch)

If you have an iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch, you can get most of my work through the iBooks Store. Just search for “Christian Cantrell” or the particular book or story you’re interested in.

EPUB

EPUB is short for “electronic publication” and is also a great way to read digital books. All my work is available in EPUB format for free, so all you need is an EPUB reader. Readers are available for desktop computers (all platforms), and for mobile devices. Here are some options:

(Note: If you download an EPUB file and your browser adds a “.zip” extension to the file name, just change it back to “.epub”.)

HTML

I also publish my work in simple HTML format which can be read on any device with a decent browser (basically any computer, smart phone, and increasingly many other devices, as well).

Digital publication is still very new and something of an experiment, but so far, it’s working out quite well. It allows me to keep prices way down, release content much faster, and it gives me much more control over the creative process. But the most important advantage is that it allows me to reach more people which, for me, is what writing is all about.

If you choose to read one of the free versions of my work, I would really appreciate a quick tweet, blog post, Facebook mention, Amazon review, etc. in return. Thanks!

Containment

containment_350x525As Earth’s ability to support human life begins to diminish at an alarming rate, the Global Space Agency is formed with a single mandate: protect humanity from extinction by colonizing the solar system as quickly as possible. Venus, being almost the same mass as Earth, is chosen over Mars as humanity’s first permanent steppingstone into the universe.

Arik Ockley is part of the first generation to be born and raised off-Earth. After a puzzling accident, Arik wakes up to find that his wife is almost three months pregnant. Since the colony’s environmental systems cannot safely support any increases in population, Arik immediately resumes his work on AP, or artificial photosynthesis, in order to save the life of his unborn child.

Arik’s new and frantic research uncovers startling truths about the planet, and about the distorted reality the founders of the colony have constructed for Arik’s entire generation. Everything Arik has ever known is called into question, and he must figure out the right path for himself, his wife, and his unborn daughter.

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Paperback, digital, and audio versions are all available on Amazon.

Human Legacy Project

hlp_350x525The goal of the Human Legacy Project is to give everyone who wants it the chance to live forever. Immortality is not achieved physically, the project teaches, but through our influence on future generations.

But as the political and economic environment changes throughout the world, the HLP takes many different forms, from a well-funded and charitable non-profit to a splintered terrorist organization driven underground by increasingly totalitarian governments. It isn’t until the HLP’s final phase is reached that the original vision of the founder is revealed, proving to be far bigger and more profound than anyone had imagined.

This short story by Christian Cantrell is a critical and sobering analysis of many different aspects of human nature, from close personal relationships to mankind’s ultimate contribution to the universe. It is best described as a compact but epic tragedy.

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  • Amazon (Kindle version)

Brainbox

brainbox_150x225When the Earth begins cooling unexpectedly, humanity is left with only a few degrees of habitable latitude along the planet’s equator. After establishing themselves as the three remaining powers in the world, the Americans, Chinese, and Russians eventually turn on each other in hopes of securing the last of the Earth’s resources for themselves.

In an attempt to break the decades-long stalemate, the American military turns to Miguel dos Santos — a brilliant Brazilian roboticist — for help in creating the ASRA, or Autonomous Self Replicating Asset. The secret to the ASRAs is their neurological processors, also known as the brainbox, which enables the machines to “combine the logic and reasoning of a computer with the desperation and hate of the human soul.” But as Miguel reluctantly carries out his orders, it becomes clear that he has other plans for what remains of humanity.

This short story by Christian Cantrell is both a technological and psychological thriller which unfolds across a landscape as exotic and unpredictable as it is dystopian and barren.

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Before you sell, calculate your regret index

I sold some stock the other day. Not enough that I’m about to retire or anything, but enough that I had to give it some thought before pulling the trigger.

When trying to figure out whether to sell or not, I actually came to the realization that I had to figure out how to figure out whether to sell or not. In other words, I needed to come up with a way to quantify the decision. So I came up with what I call the "regret index". It’s very simple, and it works like this:

  1. Calculate how much you will make at the price you think you can get. Call this "real value".
  2. Calculate how much you would make at a price high enough that there would be no question in your mind as to whether or not to sell. Call this "potential value".
  3. Calculate the difference (potential value – real value). Call this "floating value".

Now imagine you were walking down the street with exactly the floating value in your pocket, and you just happened to get mugged. Would you feel:

  1. Just glad to be alive.
  2. Mildly inconvenienced.
  3. Very upset.
  4. Devastated.
  5. Suicidal.

The number you chose indicates your regret index. Obviously the higher the number, the more you should think about waiting to sell. If your regret index is a 1 or a 2, you’re probably safe to place the order.

Although the regret index is highly scientific, and was painstakingly devised, if it doesn’t work for you, here’s another approach. Think about:

  1. What you could do with the floating value at some point in the future.
  2. What you can do with the real value now.

With any luck, your gut will tell you exactly what to do. If not, your wife probably will.

As you can see, I’m clearly no financial wizard, but both of these approaches actually helped me quite a bit. In the past, I’ve tended to try to squeeze every last penny out of my stock, however after doing the math, I came to realize that with the amount of stock I have access to (again, we’re not exactly talking about entire fortunes here), a few cents, or even a few dollars, didn’t make that big of a difference. In some cases, it wasn’t even worth the stress of constantly refreshing E*TRADE in my browser, not getting any work done, and waking up at 6AM here on the west coast to watch the market (very little, I have found, is worth getting up at 6AM).

The last bit of advice I can offer is to never calculate the regret index after the fact. In other words, after your stock is gone, never calculate what you could have made if you had held on to it. Keep yourself ignorant. Focus on not doing the math. Blast music and stare into a strobe light if you have to. Believe me, absolutely no good can come of it.