Saturday, 18 August 2012

Reviewing books

I have trouble reviewing books. I never know quite what to say - and saying that so many books are "well-written" or "awesome" or "interesting" gets tired after a while. No, I don't say any or all of those things for every book that I've read. I'm therefore going to try and start writing book reviews using a question/answer template that I'm hoping will help me to say a bit more about what I've read and what I think about it. For people who wish to look through reviews that I've written, you can find links to them here. I primarily use Goodreads as my review site, but a few are also on Smashwords and most are on and too. Pretty much, where the book is available without me doing too much legwork. I tend not to review on Barnes & Noble unless specifically requested.

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

List of Books

I've just posted a list of 548 books on my blog which, if you've read all of them, you can consider yourself a very well-read individual indeed! This came about as a result of a friend of mine, Amy Rose Davis, challenging herself to read 100 books from a list that she came across online. She has since expanded the list using other sources; I got intrigued, and added more lists myself, with the result that there are a lot of books! My final(ish) list is here. I would be interested to know how many of the books you have read - if you can find the time to peruse the list. I can lay claim to having read 56 of them myself to date.

I'm not proposing that I take up the challenge of reading them all. The idea of adding more books to already substantial library is not entirely palatable for various reasons, and the thought of forcing myself to read through a list is even less desirable. So this is mostly for interest on my part, although I will probably keep tabs on the books I read and try to read them through the years. An interesting exercise, however one embarks on it.

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Blog Tour: Alone on the Edge

Patrick joined the SFFS blog ring that I run, and I recently read his scifi romance novel, Alone on the Edge, the story of a young woman who finds herself involuntarily stranded on a mining station at the edges of civilisation. The book is an interesting exploration of coping with isolation, and also of how humans interact with computers. Patrick asked me if he could take up some space on my blog to share a bit about the book. So welcome, Patrick.

Thank you for visiting! My name is Patrick Stutzman, the author of ALONE ON THE EDGE. I am honored that you have taken the time to stop by and see what this old man’s meanderings are about. Please take the time to read the entry below and leave a comment. One lucky commenter will receive a free e-copy of my book!

The novel focuses on Anna Foster, a young woman given a job that takes her to the edge of human-explored space as a technician to keep an aging space station active, while the facility’s robotic fleet mines the gases from the nearby gas giant. A lot happens between Anna and the station’s computer, her only companion, within the book that will send you on an emotional journey with her as she copes with her involuntary life.

What inspired me to write this book is nothing more than the desire to write and keep those skills active after my previous writing job ended. I had written several short stories before with the intent of developing my writing style and decided to put them to the test by writing what turned out to be this book.

I have included an excerpt from ALONE ON THE EDGE for your perusal. In the following scene, Anna attempts to fix a faulty speaker while lying in a maintenance tunnel in the bowels of the station. The part she needs to fix is just out of reach, so she has to use other means to repair it.
Smug with her correct estimate, Anna set the scanner on the catwalk and fished the laser cutter from its pouch. She scooted to the edge of the grating and stretched her hand toward the speaker, only to find that the unit was just out of reach with her fingertips barely brushing against the wires. She turned over and repositioned herself, but her efforts proved fruitless. After pondering the situation for a few seconds, she decided that she was going to have to make this repair blindly.
Reconfiguring the hand scanner to present live video feed, Anna turned on the laser cutter and held the end by the tips of her fingers. She tested her grip, which seemed feeble at best, but figured that she could hold it long enough to trim the disconnected wire. Picking up the scanner with her other hand, she set to work. Reaching over the power cables, Anna positioned the scanner to watch as her other hand moved toward the damaged wire. With a flick of her wrist, the speaker’s wire was cleanly cut away from the unit. The hand motion inadvertently caused the cutter to slip out of her fingers. Her mind processed the next series of events in slow motion. Anna watched in disbelief as the tool bounced off the metal plate below and sliced through one of the power cables, sending a shower of sparks over the speaker.
Then, the lights went out.
Anna looked around her as the explosion of light quickly dimmed into nothingness, leaving her alone in the dark with only the glow of the scanner’s blank display as a light source. The expression on her face quickly shifted from surprise to frustration.
“God d**n it!” she spat out as her wristcomp signaled an incoming message.
Staring darkly at the device on her wrist, she opened the screen and read the computer’s incoming message, “We have a complete power failure on Gray Level. You really f****d things up this time, Anna.”
ALONE ON THE EDGE is available for purchase now for the Kindle and in paperback on Amazon, for the Nook through Barnes & Noble, and in those and other formats through Smashwords.

Patrick Stutzman, who lives in the United States of America, is best known for his work on the Star Wars Roleplaying Game, Saga Edition and has begun his career as a novelist with this book. He also has a short story available through Amazon and Smashwords titled ALONE WITH HER THOUGHTS, which is considered a lost chapter to ALONE ON THE EDGE. For more samples of his work, check out his website, The Worlds of Patrick Stutzman. He can be found through Facebook, Twitter, Google +, and Goodreads.

Friday, 11 May 2012

Blog Tour: Keir

One of my earliest writer friends, Pippa Jay, has just released her first scifi romance novel, KEIR. I invited her to come over to my blog and spend some time telling us a bit about the story and how she created one of the main characters, Quin. I hope that some of you will take the opportunity to download and read this exciting novel.

The Origins of Quin

The background story to Keir began as a Doctor Who novel written over cough 20 years ago cough. At the time of writing, I was obsessed with the series and had my heart set on being the next companion, and wrote my story accordingly. So the heroine was short, red-haired, bad-tempered and…well…basically ME. (BTW the photo is me with Sylvester McCoy, the seventh incarnation of the Doctor)

Twenty years on and my helpless hero Keir is trapped in a dungeon, beaten and broken. I’d left him sitting there for five years after dreaming him up and writing a short story about his plight. So I felt he was due a rescue, and I already had my heroine in mind. After two decades of carrying various adventures about her in my head and with the odd scribble or three about them, Quin returned in full force to be the co-character in Keir. And while I might be showing my age a little, Quin had matured but never quite grown up from the teenage spitfire that had debuted in that old Doctor Who story. Her sense of injustice over the way Keir is treated by his own society leads her to take a gamble on helping him. Even when it later becomes apparent that he really is something to fear, she refuses to step back. Part of it is her own sheer stubbornness, but also her belief that there is good in everyone, something that gives Keir himself hope when it seems all else is lost.

Of course Quin isn’t exactly like me - I wouldn’t be that cruel. Her ‘lifestyle’ means she’s probably fitter than me. She’s kept her hair long while I chopped mine a decade ago. Despite living in a high-tech base and having the ability to travel anywhere in time and space, she freely admits to not knowing how most of it works. And she’s a darn sight braver than me too.

So, to meet Quin in her full glory by winning an ebook copy of Keir, please comment below with your email address and tell me whether any of your heroes/heroines are a version of you, and if so how close to home? Or if you’re a reader rather than a writer, do you ever wonder how many of the characters in your favourite books are completely fictional, or whether they might be someone the author knows?

You can also stop by the other blogs on the tour by checking them out on the list here, and there’s a special prize up for grabs on my own blog here to celebrate Keir’s release on the 7th May, available internationally. All prizes will be drawn after midnight BST (in the UK) on the 14th May. But if you simply can’t wait to find out if you’ve won a copy, all new releases from Lyrical Press Inc are 30% off for the first week after release.

Keir - a science-fiction romance available 7th May 2012 from Lyrical Press Inc:

Outcast. Cursed. Dying. Is Keir beyond redemption?

For Keirlan de Corizi--the legendary 'Blue Demon' of Adalucien--death seems the only escape from a world where his discolored skin marks him as an oddity and condemns him to life as a pariah. But salvation comes in an unexpected guise: Tarquin Secker, a young woman who can travel the stars with a wave of her hand.

But Quin has secrets of her own. She's spent eternity searching through space and time with a strange band of companions at her back. Defying her friends' counsel, Quin risks her apparent immortality to save Keir. She offers him sanctuary and a new life on her home world, Lyagnius.

When Keir mistakenly unleashes his dormant alien powers and earns instant exile from Quin's home world, will she risk everything to stand by him again?

Book Trailer:

Personal Bio:

A stay-at-home mum of three who spent twelve years working as an Analytical Chemist in a Metals and Minerals laboratory, Pippa Jay bases her stories on a lifetime addiction to science-fiction books and films. Somewhere along the line a touch of romance crept into her work and refused to leave. Between torturing her characters, she spends the odd free moments trying to learn guitar, indulging in freestyle street dance and drinking high-caffeine coffee. Although happily settled in historical Colchester in the UK with her husband of 18 years, she continues to roam the rest of the Universe in her head.

Twitter: @pippajaygreen
Facebook: Keir - Beyond Redemption (book page)
Pippa Jay (profile)

Monday, 30 April 2012

Blog Tour: Sovran's Pawn

My friend, JC Cassels, who you met a few weeks ago, has just published her first book of THE BLACK WING CHRONICLES series, SOVRAN'S PAWN. I invited her to come back and tell us about this book, just in case some of you are interested in scifi and might like to take a look at it. I can tell you that I have read snippets of the book, and it is intriguing. Anyways, enough from me. I'll hand you over to JC now.

United by extortion, divided by duty, someone wants them both dead. They want each other. The catch is, nothing is what it seems, including them.

Thank you for having me back, Laurel. I appreciate the chance to talk to your readers about my book.

SOVRAN’S PAWN is the first book in THE BLACK WING CHRONICLES series that tells the story of two Sovrans, or Sector Overlords, locked in a long-standing struggle for ruling power over the United Galactic Commonwealth. SOVRAN’S PAWN is about the two people whose lives are manipulated by the Overlords.

This book actually started out as part of the backstory for another book. Many years ago, I read a magazine article in which someone commented on how we take love for granted. In an environment of secrets, war, and lies, things like love and trust are impossible. That inspired me to look for circumstances and characters to explore that very statement. The idea of spies on opposing sides falling in love, or competing assassins falling for one another evolved into Bo and Blade.

She’s a wrongly convicted traitor and he’s a government agent. She’s by-the-book, and he treats everything with equal contempt. She’s all about duty and responsibility and he can’t get away from it quickly enough. Both of them are damaged exiles. She wants to go back home and home is the last place he wants to be. It’s only through learning how to love and trust each other completely that they’re going to get what they most want. SOVRAN’S PAWN is the first step on that journey.

In a nutshell, that’s the essence of what the series is about. I hope you enjoy reading SOVRAN’S PAWN as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Thank you for letting me stop by today.

BO BARRON is the pawn in two Sovrans’ struggle for power. As the Chief of Barron Clan she commands the Black Wing, a strategic asset crucial to the balance of power in a Commonwealth in contention. That’s the reason she was falsely convicted of treason and sentenced to be executed. Instead of letting her meekly go to her death, Bo’s people risk all-out war by breaking her out and smuggling her into hiding. It’s what they do. They’re pirates at heart.

But if she can’t be killed, she can be manipulated. How? By kidnapping her father. If Bo wants him back she has to take on a false name and steal the schematics for a phase weapon being auctioned off to the Sub-socia at a Five Point tournament.

BLADE DEVON knows all about false names. He has more than his share. As Darien Roarke, he’s a well-known Five-Point player. If Blade is willing to use his alter ego to retrieve those schematics, the Inner Circle is willing to overlook the fact that he’s technically a deserter.

A botched assassination under the guise of a bar brawl leaves Bo blind and Blade wondering if there isn’t more to this job than he was led to believe. Never able to resist playing the hero, Blade tends her injuries and delves deeper into the intrigue only to find this mission isn’t about a weapon at all.

The catch is, no one and nothing are what they seem…

One lucky reader commenting on this post will be chosen at random for a FREE e-book copy of SOVRAN’S PAWN.

Personal Bio:
JC Cassels, a native of Tampa, Florida, traces her lifelong fascination with SF/Adventure to watching Star Trek on a tiny black and white portable television aboard the family boat as a child. The Space Opera trend that followed the release of Star Wars fed an obsessive need for swashbuckling adventure set in deep space. Today, JC feeds that need by writing her own adventures, heavily inspired by 1960's television adventure shows like Star Trek, Mission: Impossible, and Wild Wild West and fueled by Firefly reruns.
When not writing in her haunted hospital, JC lives with her husband, three children, five dogs, four chickens and a horse in a century-old house in a tiny rural community, and enjoys spending her free time sewing, camping, and heckling theoretical physicists on the Science Channel.

Follow me on Twitter calicoco468
Find me on Facebook JC Cassels
Check out my blog Gotta Name My Blog
Goodreads J. C. Cassels
On Smashwords JC Cassels

Sunday, 29 April 2012

So shoot me...

I've always wondered why I like to read thick books - and the thicker the better. Ok. Seriously, I haven't actually ever wondered that, but I have known for years now that I'm attracted to the thickest books in the library (or the bookshop) - preferably from either the scifi or fantasy genres - and the prettier or the more dramatic the cover, the better. Actually, better yet, give me a SERIES of thick books... that just about makes my year, I tell you. But I've just discovered that there is a reason for this attraction, and no wonder! Since I got a Kindle for my birthday back in November, I've read a lot of books on it. I've actually been keeping a record of the books I've read so far this year, and it's a minimum of twenty-five books. Granted, that includes a few novellas and some short stories, but also some longer ones. So, which light bulb lit up this evening? It's quite a shock, really. You see, I've just finished reading a novel - and I now need to go and find another book to read! And you know what? I cannot STAND choosing books. Especially when there's a line-up of at least thirty books (but more like over seventy!) waiting to be read. And none of those are part of a series (or at least a series that is get-able. They're effectively all stand-alone books, and I don't have a clue where to start because, given the ability, I'd read all of them simultaneously. Please excuse me while I go and sob into my pillow and try to choose my next book....

Saturday, 28 April 2012

SFFS 28/04/2012

I'm back with The Ship of Time this week, mostly because I've been writing it again. This stuff, though, was written in the first bout of writing when I initially embarked on the idea. The MC has, as we saw in the previous post, been in stasis, and the containment failed, leaving her lying on a metal walkway outside the alcove she had been housed in. She has now come to, and is beginning to explore.
Suspecting that her eyesight was fuzzy because of lack of use, she kept her eyes open, but deliberately blinked them often in the hopes they would adjust to being used sooner. Feeling her way, she found the raised edge of the opening to her left – the one that the green glow came from, and manoeuvred herself into a crouch with the help of the ledge, then pulling herself up to standing using the sides of the opening. Curious, she felt around the opening and discovered that it was quite a small, smooth alcove. Tapping the walls told her it was made of metal. She moved just right of the alcove, feeling with her hands along the wall. Not far from the edge of the alcove she came across a raised surface. She traced it out – it felt like the type of plaque one would find next to a door that tells you what’s through it. It puzzled her that she made these associations as she made discoveries since, so far as she could tell, she had no memories.
Please don't forget to have a look at the other snippets that my fellow authors have put up for SFFS. You can find them here.

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Brought to You by the Letter B

From Amy Rose Davis, a great friend of mine and fabulous fantasy author.

How to Play: Comment to this entry and I’ll give you a letter. List ten things that you love that begin with that letter and then post that list on your journal.

My List: Ten Things I Love That Begin With The Letter B

  1. Babies (no surprises there!)
  2. Books
  3. Bread (fresh-baked)
  4. Board games
  5. Beaches
  6. Bundu-bashing (for non-SAs, that's aka bush walking).
  7. Beauty
  8. Bible
  9. Baths
  10. Buddies (friends, in another universe)
This seemed like a fun thing to do and a way to share a little about myself. Your turn! Comment and I’ll give you a letter for your blog, journal, Facebook page, whatever.

Saturday, 21 April 2012

SFFS 21/04/2012

I appear to have been dabbling lately, so thought I'd share a snippet from the WIP I'm working on currently. It's a rewrite of a scene I scribbled down back in 2010 called The Deadly Race, which you can read here if you want to. The scene comes straight from a dream I had around that time. I quite like the imagery still, so thought I'd see if I could improve on it and perhaps publish it as a short story. So far, even if I say so myself, it's loads better, and quite a bit longer.

Woken by the howling wind and a hollow gnawing in the pit of her stomach, Dana climbed out of her bed. After snuggling her feet into a pair of slippers, she moved over to the window and pulled the curtain aside. Rivulets of water ran down the panes, obscuring her view. The sense of foreboding stuck in her throat and she swallowed. Her weather-sense had been correct, again.

From her vantage point at the top of the ridge that formed the back of the horseshoe-shaped island, she could see the whole bay. The searching beams thrown out by the twin lighthouses - one at the end of each point - pierced through the darkness, though they would be little help on a night like this save as a too-late warning. She prayed no vessels were in trouble - they wouldn't stand a chance in the island chain.
Do swing past the other writers who share their work as part of SFFS. You can find links to their blogs here.

Friday, 13 April 2012

Judge Not...

I've been thinking about this quite a bit lately, and several things have happened in the last month or so that have helped me in my thinking... or at least pointed me in a direction. In our very unsettled world today - wars popping up left, right and centre, natural disasters, a fragile financial sector - those of us with even the remotest interest in politics (and other associated subjects) are very quick to apportion blame. This is something, however, that I have never felt comfortable doing, and I squirm when I hear others doing it. Perhaps it has something to do with having read this verse from Matthew 7:1-2 in the Bible (which is very clear in its import, even taken out of context):
“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2 For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.
I guess it depends on whether or not you believe that Jesus means what He says. I do. Elsewhere Paul writes to Timothy, saying (1 Timothy 2:1-4)
1 I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— 2 for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. 3 This is good, and pleases God our Savior, 4 who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.
We're so, so quick to say that our leaders are 'doing it all wrong' and that 'we'd do a better job than them'. You know, they probably said the same themselves, once upon a time, and now they've got the job. But there is so much we don't know. We don't know what constraints they are working against, for starters. They may have all the same ideas we do, but they just cannot do it. How frustrating could that be? Moreover, what a huge responsibility - to make decisions that affect millions of people. One's just NEVER going to get that right. There will always be someone who is unhappy. The old adage 'You can't please everybody' comes to mind.

This final verse that I'll share may seem to be unrelated to what I've just said, but for me, it falls into the theme quite nicely (Luke 10:20).
20 However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”
These words are spoken by Jesus after the seventy-two disciples, who He had sent out to tell people about the coming kingdom of God, had returned boasting that 'Even the demons submit to us in Your name' (Luke 10:17). Jesus responds to this exclamation by pointing their focus towards heaven, and that they need to take their eyes off what they see and experience, and instead look to heaven (God) with thankfulness.

For me, the message in this verse is that, in all things, I need to focus my mind on God and the things of God. And above all, on God's grace in gifting me salvation through Jesus Christ. Yes, one sees what is going on in the world around, but one needs to see it through God's eyes, not one's own - and the difference is literally worlds apart.

Friday, 30 March 2012

Simplify Faith - by Max Lucado

“He who receives Me receives Him who sent Me.” Matthew 10:40, NKJV

How do you simplify faith? ... Simplify your faith by seeking God for yourself. No confusing ceremonies necessary. No mysterious rituals required. No elaborate channels of command or levels of access.

You have a Bible? You can study.

You have a heart? You can pray.

You have a mind? You can think.

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Author Interview: JC Cassels

Yes, I've been meeting a lot of authors and writers lately through my SFFS writer's ring, and not least of them is JC Cassels, who I've invited to spend some time on my blog today. I hope that you'll find her interview as interesting as I have. I must confess, I have yet to read one of her books, but it's sitting quite near the top of my to-be-read pile, and who knows, I may pick it up tomorrow! Nevertheless, JC is an intriguing person - especially when it comes to her haunted hospital :-)

JC, please tell us a bit about yourself.
Six children call me mom. I gave birth to three of them. I have four grandchildren. I’m happily married to a retired military man who teaches History to local high school students. Before I took on the motherhood mantle, I had amazing dual careers in writing and television, freelancing in both fields. With our children in school, my husband facilitated a meeting with a local writer, which led to my editing her book. The process renewed my passion for writing and I think he may feel like he’s created a monster.

Poor guy! Guess he can only blame himself, right?
Your Black Wing Chronicles is a science fiction work. What attracts you to this genre?
I’m a product of my environment. I grew up in West Central Florida during NASA’s glory years between Apollo 11 and the space shuttles. My dad was a contractor at the Kennedy Space Center. We were mad for anything about space. Put an astronaut or rocket on it and we kids had to have it, we didn’t care what it was. It was an exciting time to live in Florida. On a clear day, or night, you can see a launch all the way in Tampa.
Closer to home, we were in the flight path for MacDill AFB, which at the time, had a fighter wing of F-4 Phantoms that would be scrambled in the wee hours to rattle the windows with sonic booms as they’d go screaming past. Growing up in that kind of environment, and then on top of that to have the glut of Sci Fi programming on television in the 70’s and 80’s, it was pretty much fate. What brought Space Opera into the mix rather than Hard SF or Military SF, was the pirate culture found in Tampa. Growing up, I wanted to go into the military and become a space pirate, so naturally I write about ex-military space pirates.

What (to me) a wonderful childhood! Really cool about the launches!!
Why do you write?
It’s a compulsion. I can’t NOT write. Even as a child I read books and didn’t like the way the stories were resolved, so I reworked them to suit me. I had a running narrative of my own life in my head by the fourth grade. I wrote my first novel by the time I was ten. My first screenplay by the time I was twelve.

Your den is the notorious "Haunted Hospital". Tell us a bit about it, and why you love it there.
I love it because my children wouldn’t follow me in there and it’s the only place on our acreage where I can find a minute’s peace and quiet. The hospital is a time capsule. After the doctor who built it died in 1978, the place was shut up with all the equipment left inside and forgotten. The crumbling walls and rusting medical equipment make it look like something you’d pay good money to be scared witless in at Halloween.
My daughter, Tamica stopped by for a visit shortly after we acquired the property. Tamica is a horror film buff and while on a tour of the place, she was frightened out of her wits by her little brother, whom she mistook for a ghost.
With a lively active family and small children who won’t leave my things alone, I needed a quiet workspace that wouldn’t be disturbed. My retreat really fills the bill. Unlike the rest of the building, it’s clean, tidy and very cozy with lace curtains, comfortable chairs, paraphernalia from my writing career BC (Before Children,) inspiring artwork, and large walls that I can tape my index cards to for storyboarding.

Not sure I'd have the guts to go in there without a hand to hold onto - an ATTACHED hand!
What one piece of advice would you give to other writers?
Find a writer’s group. I was blessed early in my career to find not one but three wonderful local writer’s groups. Interacting with published authors and journalists helped me hone my skills in ways I never could have done on my own. Through those groups I found critique groups, learned about the business of writing, and made some wonderful contacts through whom I got most of my paid writing assignments. A good writer’s group will take you from being a starry-eyed wannabe to a professional as painlessly as possible, and they’ll console you on your failures and celebrate your successes with you along the way.

Any upcoming news or plans?
Well, funny you should ask… SOVRAN’S PAWN, Book One of THE BLACK WING CHRONICLES, is in the final stages and I’m hearing rumors of an April 20 e-publication date. I’m very excited about this.
I am also working on a companion series called THE MERCENARY ADVENTURES OF BLADE DEVON which picks up after Book Two of THE BLACK WING CHRONICLES in which Blade leaves his day job to join a team of mercenaries. This series is obviously more swashbuckling action/adventure and less romance. The first book in this series is ARCANA DOUBLE CROSS, and will likely be published in the fall.

Awesome! I'll try to keep a lookout, but I may miss it, so do remind me! Now for some 'for fun' questions.
If I offered you a dream holiday, where would that be, and why?
It would involve painless travel, lots of room service, exotic locales and a wi-fi connection. Probably a luxury around-the-world cruise touring the sites of antiquity. Preferably with lots of chocolate.

Not hard to please, eh? ;-)
Coffee or Hot Chocolate?
I’m a stereotypical writer. I require copious amounts of coffee in the morning to fuel my brain. However, my friends know that in the evening, I’ve got a pot full of hot chocolate, and until recently, it was almost always spiked with peppermint schnapps.

I'm clearly very definitely atypical!
Summer or Winter?
I’m a Florida girl. I have to say Summer, but I love Winter – especially Florida Winters. I’ve always said that Florida has two season: Stinkin’ Hot and HOLY-COW-I-DIDN’T-KNOW-IT-GOT-THIS-COLD-IN-FLORIDA!!! I used to think that I’d rather live someplace with snow and four distinct seasons, but now that I do, come January, I really start to pine for the Tampa Bay Area. I don’t mind being cold as long as I can get warm. I always whine more when I can’t thaw out my marrow.

Interesting. I didn't know it got that cold in Florida - but I recently learned the same (or similar) about parts of central Africa (and I'm a B&B South African)!
Black and White, or Colour?
You know, the only preference I have to that is the original medium. I despise colorizing old black and white movies.

Favourite Food?
Chocolate. I am an unapologetic chocoholic.

Car or Motorbike?
Again, funny you should ask. I drive a car by necessity because I’m normally hauling around small children and groceries. But I have a motorcycle license that resulted in a divorce.
I’d always loved motorcycles, but my parents forbade me from having one. It’s their own fault for letting me watch all those Evel Knievel Kids-Don’t-Try-This-At-Home specials in my formative years. When I reached an age I decided I was ready for my license, I went through the Motorcycle Safety Foundation course and got my endorsement against my then-spouse’s wishes. He wanted me to spend my life riding the “bitch-seat.” There were other problems, but this was the proverbial last straw.
Ever since that marriage ended, I’ve carried the endorsement on my license as a point of pride.

WOW - I never expected that answer to that question! Talk about a story-to-tell! Thank you SO much for coming over to my blog today, JC, and for answering my nosy questions. It's been awesome having you over.

Personal Bio:

JC Cassels, a native of Tampa, Florida, traces her lifelong fascination with SF/Adventure to watching Star Trek on a tiny black and white portable television aboard the family boat as a child. The Space Opera trend that followed the release of Star Wars fed an obsessive need for swashbuckling adventure set in deep space. Today, JC feeds that need by writing her own adventures, heavily inspired by 1960's television adventure shows like Star Trek, Mission: Impossible, and Wild Wild West and fueled by Firefly reruns.
When not writing in her haunted hospital, JC lives with her husband, three children, five dogs, four chickens and a horse in a century-old house in a tiny rural community, and enjoys spending her free time sewing, camping, and heckling theoretical physicists on the Science Channel.

BO BARRON is a pawn caught between two Sovrans struggle for power. As the Chief of Barron Clan she commands the Black Wing. That makes her powerful — and dangerous to a Commonwealth in turmoil. That’s the reason she was falsely convicted of treason and sentenced to be executed. Instead of letting her meekly go to her death, Bo’s people risk all-out war by breaking her out and smuggling her into hiding. It’s what they do. They’re pirates at heart.
But if she can’t be killed, she can be manipulated. How? By kidnapping her father. If Bo wants him back she has to take on a false name and steal the schematics for a phase weapon being auctioned off to the Sub-socia at a Five Point tournament. BLADE DEVON knows all about false names. He has more than his share. As Darien Roarke, he’s a pretty well-known Five Point player. If Blade is willing to use his alter ego to retrieve those schematics, the Inner Circle is willing to overlook the fact that he’s technically a deserter.
A botched assassination under the guise of a bar brawl leaves Bo blind and Blade wondering if there isn’t more to this job than he was led to believe. Never able to resist playing the hero, Blade tends her injuries and delves deeper into the intrigue only to find this mission isn’t about a weapon at all.
The catch is, no one and nothing are what they seem… not even THE TENNOVA JOB.

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Friday, 16 March 2012

Meme: The Lucky 7 Meme for Writers

I just got tagged in The Lucky 7 Meme by TK Toppin. As I'm unable to use my current WIP - it being WAY too short, I've had to head to my first ever WIP, Forgotten, which happens to be the longest one.

The rules that I am following are:

1. Go to page 77 of your current ms.
2. Go to sentence 7.
3. Copy and post the next 7 sentences as they’re written. No cheating.
4. Tag 7 other victims, er, authors.

Forgotten, page 77, sentence 7:

“She has had a special role to play. Go on – say hello to them!”
And Tanya didn’t need a second bidding. She walked rapidly to the gazebo to greet Sarah and Skylar, who had heard her approach and stood up to meet her, with warm hugs.
“It is so good to see you again,” Tanya said to Sarah. “I am so sorry that I couldn’t see you sooner, on my return from the Outpost, but ... well, I was brought here!” and she shrugged helplessly.

Pippa Jay
Lauri Owen
Melisse Aires
Misa Buckley
Katje van Loon
Gayle Ramage
Vanessa Finaughty

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Author Interview: TK Toppin

I recently met an author, TK Toppin, on Twitter. She is an SFR (science fiction romance) author and fellow member of the SFR Brigade. She also participates in SFFS, a writer ring I run, where science fiction, fantasy and speculative fiction authors can share snippets of their work each week.

From the snippets that I read on SFFS, I was intrigued by TK's writing and decided to buy the three books from her Lancaster Trilogy. I promptly read them, and really enjoyed devouring the products of TK's imagination. If you're interested in science fiction and anime/manga-style writing, then I think you'll really enjoy TK's stuff.

Anyways, enough about all that. I'd better allow TK to introduce herself to you.

TK, please tell us a bit about yourself.
I write Science Fiction, with a little romance (SFR), filled with action, thrills, and humour. When not writing, I'm a daydream connoisseur and sometimes graphic designer (sometimes). To date, I've three books from The Lancaster Trilogy published with Champagne Books, and its SF-dedicated imprint Burst Books. I'm currently working on a new novel (it's complete), and messing about with three other works in progress. When not designing or writing, I live in Barbados with my husband, three dogs, and a stressed cat who is not too keen on the new puppy.

Your Lancaster series is a science fiction work, as well as being part anime. What attracts you to these two genres?
Part anime? Hmm...yes, it is kind of. Or Manga, so I've been told by a few younger people who have read it. I love science fiction, from the gadgetry to the weird, mind-boggling stuff that happens in the name of science. Combine that with a cool story, action, thrills and suspense...well, that's what attracts me to it. I'm not quite big into anime, but given the right story, I may be tempted to watch it.

Why do you write, as you're also a graphic artist?
To me, writing is like an extension...another way to express yourself. It's the same with art. It's just something that needs to "come out" of me. The more I write (and for that matter, when I draw), the more it feels like a natural process of relaying what's in my head and presenting it visually.

When and how did you first meet Josie Bettencourt, heroine of the Lancaster series?
Haha... at first, Josie was a nameless, faceless person who had all number of mishaps happen to her. The more I developed the story outline, the more her personality and features appeared. And from there, she kind of took off.

What one piece of advice would you give to other writers?
Listen to whatever advice there is out there — from grammatical guidance to story building to getting published and how to deal with things when you get some lumps. There are so many resources available now, just a click of the mouse away. Take advantage of what is out there. Read, read, read…lots of books, different genres, even the boring ones. And also read and re-read your own work until you go cross-eyed. Seek out beta readers (people you know and value their opinions because of their honesty) or join forums, writer’s groups, chats. And finally, develop a very thick skin because not everyone is going to love your work. But that’s all part of growing and improving as a writer.

Any upcoming news or plans?
I'm currently tidying up a completed work in progress called Bengaria's War and getting it ready to seek out agents. I'm also in the middle of doing some research and collaborating with my brother on a new project. We're thinking something like a short story serial based on the story we cooked up. Also on the back burner, two other novels just waiting to be completed. So far, the are about a quarter way done.

What's your favourite place in the world, and why?
That's easy. Home. Because I live here. And that would be in Barbados.

Coffee or Hot Chocolate?

Summer or Winter?
Winter. And summer, if it's mild. I've discovered I love snow.

Black and White, or Colour?
Hmmm...tough one. Both since they are equally appealing to me.

Favourite Food?
One I didn't have to cook.

Car or Motorbike?
Car, since I've only been on a motorbike once, sitting at the back hanging on. That being said, it was fun...

Thank you so much for coming over to my blog for the interview, TK! It's been great to have you and to get to know you a little better. And for those curious to know a little more about me, TK's got me over on her blog today.
TK Toppin
Personal Bio: Writer of Science Fiction, with a little SFR, filled with action, thrills, and humour. When not writing, T.K. is a Daydream Connoisseur & sometimes Graphic Designer (sometimes). To date, she has three books from The Lancaster Trilogy published with Champagne Books, and its SF-dedicated imprint Burst Books.

You can find everything about me on my blog T.K. Toppin.
I have two Facebook pages: The Lancaster RuleWritten By T.K. Toppin
You can also find me on Twitter: @TKToppin

Saturday, 10 March 2012

SFFS 10/03/2012

Hey all. Thought I'd share the beginning of another WIP with you this week. This one's currently called The Ship of Time, and I'm not entirely sure where the Muse is heading off to. It's going to be a steampunk scifi, and that's about all I know. So without further ado...

Awareness broke through the blankness of nothing like a candle lit in the corner of a very dark room. Fitful yet persistent, it drew the attention of the mind; a mind that hadn’t been used for a very, very long time. The mind noticed the sensation, but instinct took over, self-preservation its sole objective. The body began to shake, almost imperceptible at first, but gained in strength as the muscles became accustomed to the movement.


A red light blinked on above the opening in the bulkhead, its baleful glare dimmed by dust and grime. To anyone who may have been observing, it would have been a warning that the containment was failing. But there was no-one; for how long there had been no-one was anyone’s best guess, were anyone around to do so. So, unnoticed, the liquid that filled the opening burst its boundaries and dumped out onto the gangway, pulling the naked body it had nurtured until now, with its weight and depositing it on the metallic walkway with a dull thud. The liquid sheeted off the body and puddled below it until it reached the edge of the walkway and tumbled over it to disappear into the nothingness far below.
Please do go and read the other writing snippets my fellow authors have submitted this week. You can find them at the SFFS blog. Trust me, it'll be worth it.

Thank you for dropping by!

Monday, 5 March 2012

What does it matter?

I've been thinking a bit the last couple of days. First up, this is controversial. Second up, I'm NOT getting into any arguments. If you want to argue about this, take your ideas elsewhere. Only personal, respectful responses will be accepted.

A couple of days ago I received an email from the person who runs Smashwords. It was an update to authors and publishers on the website, and detailed a few issues. One of the issues that was covered was this: Paypal (who has links with the credit card companies) had requested that Smashwords remove and do not endorse titles that contained the following three topics (specifically, but no doubt could be more general): incest; rape; bestiality.

Now, before you think I'm crazy, let me remind you of this: I'm a Christian, and I have no problems with what I believe in. I also have no bones to pick with people who believe differently to what I do. That is their choice (and likewise, it is my choice to believe what I believe). So, before anyone jumps to any conclusions, I definitely do NOT endorse the promotion of and the 'glorification' of either of the three topics.

HOWEVER. These are, sadly, realities of life. They have been so down through the ages, and in many places today they are still very rife. One cannot ignore the fact that they shape people and their outlooks on life. One simply cannot ignore the dark side of life as we know it.

I therefore find a book such as Redeeming Love, by Francine Rivers, one book at least that should never fall into such a 'banned' category. Yes, it is a Christian book, and yes, it is based on the book of Hosea in the Bible (which, for those who don't know, is about the prophet Hosea's relationship with a prostitute; a relationship that is used by God to illustrate God's own relationship to His people, Israel). And yes, it deals with at least two of the topics that Paypal doesn't like: incest, and rape; in particular, child rape. Francine Rivers does not attempt to glorify either of these two acts, but rather illustrates the negative impact they have had on the main character, and how they (amongst other factors) have warped her view of men and the world.

So, should we remove these topics from books, or should they be there? I would say that they can stay - PROVIDED that they are not glorified. Of course, it does beg the question: who polices that? I would feel that I'm a reasonable person, but, well, it also cannot be denied that there are those who get their kicks from such behaviour. That's not me.

Monday, 27 February 2012

Rock of Ages

Over the course of the last two weeks I have been reading a book called Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers. I have always avoided reading her books (probably due to hype, which seems to be a trend with me), so this is the first time I have read one. And what an amazing book. There are two things that have really come out at me from this book, but I'm only going to discuss one of them in this post - I will reserve the other topic for another post.

A week ago I was reminded of an unhappy incident in my life from about fifteen years ago. Associated with this incident is a book by a South African author, Marguerite Poland, called Shades. This book, which I read as an English setwork novel in my final year of school, upset me and instilled me a very strong dislike for the hymn Rock of Ages. I couldn't see past the setting of the book, and the way in which the hymn was used, to the truth of the hymn.

I now find that I have read a second book that includes this hymn, but this time in a far more positive light that has in a sense, redeemed the hymn for me. It no longer leaves a sour taste in my mouth and a series of negative images. So I thought I'd just share this with you.

Rock of Ages is a Christian hymn that was written in 1763 by Reverend Augustus Montague Toplady.

Rock of Ages

Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee!
Let the Water and the Blood,
From thy riven Side which flow'd,
Be of Sin the double Cure,
Cleanse me from its Guilt and Pow'r.

Not the labors of my hands
Can fulfill thy Law's demands:
Could my zeal no respite know,
Could my tears forever flow,
All for Sin could not atone:
Thou must save, and Thou alone!

Nothing in my hand I bring;
Simply to thy Cross I cling;
Naked, come to Thee for Dress;
Helpless, look to Thee for grace;
Foul, I to the fountain fly :
Wash me, Saviour, or I die!

Whilst I draw this fleeting breath—
When my eye-strings break in death—
When I soar through tracts unknown—
See Thee on thy Judgment-Throne—
Rock of ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee!

Saturday, 25 February 2012

SFFS 25/02/2012

This will, contrary to previous promises, be my final excerpt from the formerly-titled Am I Dreaming? WIP. This is because I have now published it on Smashwords as Place of My Dreams, and it is available for free. You can download it here if you haven't done so already. Please do give me a review once you've read it :-)
So here is this week's snippet.
Except now I don’t see the light. I search through the trees, but it is nowhere. Then a tingle rises from the ground, a warmth that spreads through my feet, my legs, my torso, and soon my whole body is vibrating. I see everything around me through a green haze. Sounds like small voices, rising and falling like the babbling of a brook, reach my ears. I strain to make sense of them, but just as I detect a pattern, a possible word, then all becomes jumbled again.

My vision clouds, and just as I begin to panic that I’m turning blind, or worse, it clears to reveal the most beautiful scene I’ve ever laid eyes on.

Read some more great snippets from fantastic authors here.

Saturday, 18 February 2012

SFFS 18/02/2012

Welcome back! This week, as promised, I'm serving up another snippet from Am I Dreaming? Also as promised, it follows on from last week's instalment.
Curiosity stirs within me, a whorl of questions tugging at my mind. What questions they are, though, eludes me. The throb of my heartbeat takes over my body, bringing relaxation that is almost sensual, a protection from the cold. Where did that thought come from? As though on automatic, I cross the room, throwing on my dressing gown and slippers, head down the stairs and out through the front door. Sense barely registers, although I can confirm that I’m not freezing cold as I should be. The snow radiates warmth like the baking sand on a tropical beach, and I long to sink myself into it. But no, the tug of that green light is too strong and I make my robotic way down the path, across the road, over the fence and into the copse.

Do catch up on the snippets from my fellow writers, which you can find here at our home-blog.

Thursday, 16 February 2012

The Serenity Prayer

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
Taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;
Trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will;
That I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
Forever in the next.
--Reinhold Niebuhr
I've had the first four lines of this Prayer (the most well-known) on my mind for the last day. I didn't even know there was more to it until I did a search for it just now!

I can't rightly say why this is the case, although at some point in the last week I've realised that, when we forgive others, we extend to them the grace that we have received from God. And what better to be doing than that?

Saturday, 11 February 2012

SFFS 11/02/2012

Greetings! It's good to have you all back again this week. And as I said, I'm sticking with one story for now, so here's the next instalment from Am I Dreaming?
Time passes, and as I watch the rain that was morphs into sleet, and after a while snow begins to fall, dragging the darkness away and overlaying it with a glare. Mesmerised, I lay my pen down on the pad and move to sit on the window seat, arms leaning on the sill, to gaze out as tentative white patches begin to form on the ground, the plants, the car, the trees. The flakes grow, and before long, there must be at least an inch of snow on the ground. Thicker, faster, and I’m unaware of anything but the rhythm of nature as the white blanket is laid, bringing the world to slumber.

A glint in the copse over the road catches the corner of my eye, and I adjust my head to focus. Not seeing anything there, my eyes drift away again, but another tug at my senses brings them snapping back to the trees. Not to be caught again, I watch, and am rewarded by a strange sight. A bright green light, encased in a hazy green halo, is drifting through the trees just below the bottom-most branches, which I know to be a little higher than I am tall. It darts from one tree to the next, only visible when moving, which is why I didn’t see it earlier.

As always, I'm not the only one taking part in the SFFS ring, so please do read some more great snippets here.

Saturday, 4 February 2012

SFFS 04/02/2012

I'm going to be really nice and horrible at the same time: I'm changing stories. Having said that, you'll get the whole story from beginning to end. So please don't complain. Reason: I'm never going to publish this one. It was just written on a whim one day - a day when I wanted to write but didn't have a clue what to write ... (note: NB info!)

So, I present to you a snippet from Am I Dreaming?, which I wrote on the 22nd December 2011.
I stare at the rivulets of water running down the window pane while I chew the back end of my pen, which is as frayed as a feather duster. Inspiration just will not come to me. The Muse has gone awol again, and I doubt she’s coming back anytime soon. And yet there is a yearning within me, a longing that tugs at drives me to frustration, to write something … anything … I don’t care what about, so much as I care about having something to show for my claim to be a writer. After all, what good is it to be a writer with nothing to show of one’s craft.

So I gaze through the window to the dreary day outside, wishing that an idea for a story would dawn on me, although more than the shade of the sun behind the clouds at the moment. As I watch, the clouds drift towards the west, driven by the winds of destiny, to be replaced by darker, more menacing clouds. At the same time, everything I see becomes shadowed as the sun’s light is eclipsed by moisture. Snow clouds? It is winter after all, and although the weather didn’t predict snow here, places around about are due a smattering.

Don't forget to go here to read other snippets from some top writers and authors.

Saturday, 28 January 2012

SFFS 28/01/2012

Welcome back to my humble abode. It's good to have you here again.

This week's excerpt comes from Rebirth (aka The Talisman), and continues directly on from last week's excerpt. I hope that you enjoy!

Kei tells me to call him Daddy, tries to make me use his name – Shackly – as my family name, but I refuse. If I call him anything, it’s Kei. My reward is a beating, so I don’t call him anything, not that it helps. Sometimes he beats Mama too if she doesn’t send me to school when I’m ill. He wants me to get learning.
I know more than he ever will, I’m sure. When I’m down in Great Oxe, I spend all the time I can in the town vaults – to get away from him. As children we shouldn’t go there much, but the curator knows I won’t damage anything. I’ve spent hours reading the Scrolls stored there; the legends, histories, and even the mad writings of the seers.
Please don't just stop at this post. Follow this link to read snippets of a similar length from other speculative fiction authors who take part in SFFS each week.

Saturday, 21 January 2012

SFFS 21/01/2012

So it seems I'm taking part this week. I have no idea why! But thanks, peeps, for calling me back each week :-D Or do I call myself back ...? I'm confused.

This week's excerpt comes from The Talisman once again. These are the opening lines of the short story.

I love being with Granma. Her warmth and safety helps me forget the cold and stormy weather battering her cottage, and how things are at home. She’s my refuge; someone I can run to in times of pain and sadness, her smiles and hugs the golden threads running through my favourite memories of her. After Granma and Mama, Dada is my favourite person, but he died in a mining accident two years ago. I remember his kind smile beneath his moustache.
My name’s Carly Shadbourne, I’m eleven and I live in the village of Great Oxe with Mama and Kei. It’s quarter of a day’s horseback ride from Granma’s house.
Please don't just stop at this post. Follow this link to read snippets of a similar length from other speculative fiction authors who take part in SFFS each week.

Saturday, 14 January 2012

SFFS 14/01/2012

I have got to be a lunatic, but anyways, here goes. I thought I'd introduce you to The Talisman, my short story that is almost ready for publication. It's a crazy stunt, really, as it's written in the first person, a tough perspective to write from. I have respect for those who can write first person well - and I don't count myself among them. Anyways, I digress.

In this snippet the speaker, an 11-year-old called Carly Shadbourne, introduces you to some of the history of her world.
From my reading I’ve learned that, many thousands of years ago, the Four Kingdoms used to be one big Kingdom that reached from the Veraskya Mountains of the north to the high peaks of the far south. At that time the kings and queens ruled from Partheen, the ancient citadel on the Plains of Al’an. The land was at peace. 
Central to society, and to the worship of Alnar, was the place of the Dahma. I dream of being a Dahma one day. They devoted their lives to Alnar’s service, living and moving among the people as healers, arbitrators, teachers and protectors. Kei doesn’t know these things, though I try to tell him – to show him I have learning. 
There are no Dahma anymore. 
Thank you for reading! To read snippets from other speculative fiction authors, go here.

Sunday, 8 January 2012

Muse funk

It must be said that, for the last week and a half I've been walking around with a rather woolly brain. Now, I know I'm pregnant, but that is not the reason for the fog. Rather, my muse met a superior muse! And I think mine has now gone into hiding.

We spent much of our Christmas break watching earlier seasons of Dr Who (mainly the remainder of the Christopher Eccleston era) and the first seasons of the David Tennant era. It's all great stuff, I can tell you that. No doubt that I love the good Doctor. He is amazing (and yes, I know he's fictional). But, as I found previously while watching through the Stargate SG-1 seasons, there are simply some episodes that make you go "WOW!" ... and then leave you stunned as you drink in, absorb and attempt to digest their audacity. And yes, that is the only word that is going through my mind.

And it's one such episode that currently has my muse in a funk. Oh, she knows that her ideas are as good, yet different ... but I think she's just wanting to ... pay respect to others who come up with, to put it plainly, brilliant plots.