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.

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

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.