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Realm Explorers Part CXI: Visit Somavia with Annie Douglass Lima
Welcome to Realm Explorers!  In this weekly series, we visit a variety of unique worlds created by talented science fiction and fantasy authors.  Enjoy your travels!  And don't forget to read to the bottom of the post to find out more about each author and see how to purchase the featured book. 

Author’s name: Annie Douglass Lima

Title of book and/or series: Heartsong
Brief summary of the story:

Two alien worlds.
One teen emissary.
No reality she can trust.
Thirteen-year-old Liz Smith has been ripped away from one foster family after another for years, so the idea of a permanent home is tantalizing. Who cares if that home is a colony sixty-five thousand light-years from Earth? The friends in her trusty e-reader will keep her company just fine on her interstellar relocation.
But when the adventure of a lifetime turns into the disaster of the cosmos, Liz can only retreat so far into the books that have always sheltered her from loneliness and loss. Trapped in half-truths and secrets that leave her questioning reality, can one orphaned bookworm find a way to stop two races from destroying each other … and somehow write a happy ending to her own story?
If you like books about space travel, aliens, or cross-cultural transitions, you’ll love this poignant science fiction adventure. Get your copy of Heartsong now to start the journey today!
Brief description of the world or location you created for this story:

Somavia is a planet at the far end of our galaxy. It has two continents, one at each pole, both covered in ice and snow all year round. The Somavians live in underground communities warmed and powered by geothermal energy.
What types of animals or sentient races might we encounter in Somavia that we don’t see on Earth?

You would definitely meet Somavians, the mostly-humanoid alien race native to the planet. They have four arms and fur of various colors, and they're between 8 and 9 feet tall. You might also meet animals such as bushbouncers, which Somavians often keep as pets. A bushbouncer is the size of a small rabbit and looks a lot like a ball of lint. They have eight legs and can spring from and cling to almost any vertical or horizontal surface.
What types of vehicles, animals, technology, etc. are used to travel in or to Somavia?

In the past, the Somavians' ancestors used pack animals to travel from place to place. Now, however, they use a type of moving sidewalk with benches on it to travel around their underground cities. For the rare trips on the planet's surface, they have motorized hover vehicles. Every four weeks or so spacecraft travel to and from their moon, Soma, where the Somavians have a mining operation. (Soma is also where Liz and her fellow human colonists hope to set up a mining colony of their own.) More about Soma in a future edition of Realm Explorers!

If we were to visit Somavia as tourists, what would you recommend that we see or do there?

I suggest asking for a guided tour of one of the underground cities, such as Ehaooapi, the capital. There are a lot of interesting things to see. You would probably get to ride the moving sidewalks, eat at a neighborhood restaurant, and see ranches and plantations with a variety of domesticated animals and crops. If you're lucky, you might find yourself in the right place at the right time to watch a concert. Don't expect this to be like a concert on Earth! It would probably involve a single musician standing or sitting in a public place, playing percussion instruments designed to look like rocks and other natural objects. The Somavian language contains eighty-one separate tones and already sounds a lot like music, so it might sound as though the musician is singing, but he or she would really just be rhythmically chanting lyrics. Somavians in the audience would take turns stepping close enough to lightly touch the musician in order to briefly share his or her heartsong, which greatly enhances the listening experience. Oh, and one more thing: on your tour, make sure you ask to visit the planetarium. It consists of giant floating models of all the planets and moons in the solar system, plus comets and an asteroid belt. It's okay to handle the models, on which you'll be able to feel physical features such as mountains, canyons, moisture to indicate bodies of water, and different temperatures representing various climate zones. You'll even see viscous red liquid spurting from tiny volcanoes. It's not an experience to be missed. Oh, and make sure you eat at a local restaurant or two during your tour. More about that in a moment.

What dangers should we avoid in Somavia?
Don't go up onto the surface without plenty of warm clothing and a guide. Temperatures are often below zero, and blizzards are common. You won't survive long, and it's easy to get lost in the snowy plains where everything looks the same. The underground cities would be a much safer and more comfortable place to spend your vacation.

Is there a distinct or unusual type of food or meal that we might be served in Somavia?
The Somavians have a variety of tasty foods. You might enjoy one particular little restaurant in Ehaooapi where customers sit around a U-shaped table and the chef cooks in the middle. With his four arms, he busies himself over multiple pots and skillets at the same time. You don't get to order from a menu like in most restaurants on Earth, but you can expect to be served a couple different types of soup (one a creamy vegetable puree, the other consisting of mushrooms and bits of meat and grain in a well-seasoned broth). You'll also get a platter of strips of cooked meat with three kinds of sauce to dip them in.  One sauce is spicy, another is sweet, and the third is thick and savory with a hint of exotic seasonings.
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What types of weaponry or fighting styles are common in Somavia?

Somavians don't fight. A key part of their communication is the ability to share emotions and physical sensations with anyone they touch. This is known as hearing a person's heartsong. A Somavian cannot punch a person, for example, without feeling the pain their fist would inflict. Thus, they have developed a peaceful society focused around helping each other rather than fighting or competing with each other.
Is there any advanced or unusual technology in Somavia?  If you haven’t described it already, please give some examples.

Somavian medical technology is far beyond ours. For example, they are able to heal a character's injured legs (nerve damage and multiple compound fractures) within a couple of weeks. Somavians also have computers and devices much like cell phones. But their visual abilities are different from ours, and they cannot clearly see or process two-dimensional images, so they don't have screens with pictures or text. Instead, they read with their fingertips through a system similar to Braille, where raised bumps and ridges appear and disappear on flat sections of their devices. 
Tell us about any sports, games, or activities that are available for entertainment in Somavia.

Games and activities don't play a major role in the story. However, it is mentioned that many Somavians enjoy playing a form of video games (tactile, not visual), though their idea of what makes a good story is way different than ours.
What is the political or government structure in Somavia?  Who is in charge there at the moment, and what kind of leader is he/she?

The planet is governed by a leader whose title has no direct English translation. She has more power than a president but less than a queen. She is assisted by a council who come together to make decisions, each council member being a representative from a certain geographical region of Somavia. 
Are there any other unique cultural practices that we should be aware of if we visit Somavia?
Somavians rarely tell each other their names. If you choose to introduce yourself by name to anyone you meet, they will be surprised and perhaps a little embarrassed, but honored. However, don't expect them to tell you their name in return. Names are private and are only shared with immediate family members and very close friends. If a Somavian needs to refer to someone else, they will usually mention their color; e.g. "the one with blue fur" or "the pale yellow one".

Has anything in your actual life inspired the locations, cultures, etc. in your book?
A few years ago, I was jotting down ideas for this story in the car while on a family vacation with my in-laws in California. I didn't have a name for the planet yet, but when we passed a sign that said "Somavia High School", I knew that was the right one.

What, if any, “hot-button” or controversial topics do you touch on in your book?

Racism and prejudice are touched on briefly. Also, the question of whether it's right to harm one individual in order to protect many - or whether harming a large group to save a group of a different species can be justified.
Author Autobiography:
Annie Douglass Lima spent most of her childhood in Kenya and later graduated from Biola University in Southern California. She and her husband Floyd currently live in Taiwan, where she teaches fifth grade at Morrison Academy. She has been writing poetry, short stories, and novels since her childhood, and to date has published eighteen books in a wide variety of genres (science fiction, fantasy, YA action and adventure novels, a puppet script, anthologies of her students’ poetry, and a Bible verse coloring and activity book). Besides writing, her hobbies include reading (especially fantasy and science fiction), scrapbooking, and international travel.
Where, and in what formats, can we purchase your book?  
Heartsong is available in both Kindle and paperback format here. All my other books are available here.

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Where can readers connect with you online? 

I hope you all enjoyed the trip to Somavia.  Questions about the world or the book?  Ask them in the comments and the author will get back to you!  

Click here to read other posts in the Realm Explorers series.

Please join us again next Monday for a trip to another world in next week's edition of Realm Explorers!
-Annie Douglass Lima

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