Sunday, 23 December 2012

Looking Back On 2012

This will be my last 2012 post, so I would like to wish all my blogging and writing friends a happy holiday season. May you share it with the people who matter the most and create fond memories you can cherish for years to come. Thank you for sharing 2012 with me. Here, in no particular order, are my top ten 2012 memories:

1. Spending a glorious March weekend at Lulworth Cove with Mr. M.

 Lulworth Cove

 A steep descent

 
We climbed all the way to the top

And down the other side (and back up again)
 
Lulworth Cove at sunset

I hope the pictures give you some idea of why the Southwest Coast is a World Heritage Site and named in Lonely Planet's Top Ten adventures.

2. Overhearing a boy on a school trip to Durdle Door say, 'But I've already seen it on Google.' How the world is changing, my friends.

Durdle Door

3. Turning 40 and having the best 80s party ever with my family and friends.

Me and my nephew, Charlie

4. Getting up close and personal with the Doctor and Amy Pond.


Oh, alright. They were lookalikes.

5. My own Beaker.


6. Deciding to release two eBooks short story collections in 2013. You'll have to call back on January 7th for the first cover reveal.

7. Finding a cover artist for both eBooks. Thank you, Ida.


8. Launching my new weekly guest post for Speculative Fiction Writers.



9. Completing NaNoWriMo for the second time.

10. Becoming the holder of one the blogging communities biggest secrets - what does Alex J. Cavanaugh look like? I know. Chuckle.

So, there you are. In truth, there were more than ten I could talk about. But that would make for a very long blog post.

Here's to 2013, my friends!

Friday, 21 December 2012

Oculus by Michael Offutt

Today I am thrilled to be hosting Michael Offutt as part of his Oculus Virtual Book Tour.


 

Oculus
Michael Offutt

Genre: Sci-fi 




Book Description:

Autumn has arrived in New York, and Jordan Pendragon attends his first classes as a freshman at Cornell. Born with a brilliant mathematical mind, he balances life as a research assistant with that of a student athlete.

But Jordan also has a quest. He must find the Black Tower, a monolithic edifice housing a thing that defines the very structure of the universe. Jordan believes it is buried somewhere in Antarctica under miles of prehistoric ice.

October finds Jordan earning a starting position with the Cornell hockey team. But a dark cloud gathers over his rookie season. Unexplained deaths, whispers of a cannibal cult, a prophecy, and a stone known only as the Oculus, cast a shadow over his athletic ambitions. It is the start of a terrifying journey down a path of mystery, murder, and to a confrontation with an Evil more ancient than the stars.


Excerpt:

“Pendragon, go in for Reedy,” Coach Miller said.
Jordan skated out and almost immediately grabbed the puck from a rebound shot.  He took two whacks at it; the second went wide.  Over the next minute, the Wildcats did a great job making the Cornell defense move out of its box set.  But they also failed to get the puck to the open spaces after they went to all that trouble.
Nine minutes to go.
Castro passed the puck to Barker who took a shot at the New Hampshire goal; Cox blocked and tipped it out of play.  Grego flashed Jordan a grin.  Andy winked.
A shadow in Jordan’s peripheral vision.  Falna again.
Whack! The defenseman knocked Grego down.
Andy, you’re too close.  STOP!  Jordan didn’t have time to yell the words.
In the next instant, Jordan watched with horror as Andy, not aware that Grego had fallen down, skated over his wrist.
Blood gushed over the ice.
Jordan dropped to his teammate’s side, but didn’t move him, and blood spattered over the front of his sweater and across his face.  Grego’s lips twisted in agony, whistles blew, and the Athletic Trainer skated out with a towel as emergency staff rushed to help Grego off the ice.  Blood pooled everywhere with Grego trying to stop the flow with his fingers.  As they got the large man to his feet, Jordan trailed slightly behind, staring at the huge and numerous blood drops left in his wake.
Jordan heard gunshots in his mind.  He recalled shattering glass.  So much blood.  I’m not on Avalon, I’m on Earth.  These aren’t the Scorchers.
Andy skated over.  “I didn’t fucking see him.”  His face had blanched white.  His eyes looked watery, emotional.
“It’s not your fault,” Jordan said, voice desperate.  “He got knocked down and—”  He shrugged helplessly, feeling his throat tighten.
“I’m feeling dizzy,” Andy said.  “I can handle a little blood, but this is making me sick.”
Jordan held him.  Andy’s eyes brimmed with tears of frustration.
The crowd in Lynah Rink dropped to a whisper.  Flashbulbs fired off from behind the glass.  Then the Athletic Trainers and Coaches whisked Joe off to the locker room and another emergency team that stood by to assist.
Jordan stared in awe at the massive amount of blood that lay in red pools over the surface of the white ice.  Red and white—Cornell colors, only seeing it like this was awful.  Then he heard an eerie whispering in his mind.  He did not understand the words, but it left him feeling chilled.
“There’s so much blood,” Andy murmured, blinking and in shock.
A moment later, skaters appeared carrying jugs which they used to apply yellow disinfectant.   The color created a huge puddle of orange-red that seemed to grow wider by the second as they pushed it around, not really knowing what to do about it.
“It looks like a crime scene,” Paul stated, joining them.  Melancholy layered thick upon his tone.  “Like someone gutted a pig.”
Jordan swallowed, unable to pull his eyes away.
“Do you think he’s going to be okay?” Andy asked him.  Jordan saw his friend was hurting, feeling bad.
Jordan tried to focus and squeezed Andy’s shoulder reassuringly.  “Yeah.  He’ll be fine.  It wasn’t your fault.”
Townley skated over.  “Just spoke with the refs.  They’re trying to get the ice cleaned up to resume play.  Just sit tight and don’t worry about Joe.  He’s a really tough guy.  And don’t lose morale either, men.  We’re keeping the pressure on the Wildcats, and I think we can pull this out,” he said.  “It’s been fucking rough out there—I know, especially with what just happened.  No one wants to see a puddle of blood on the ice, but we all get hurt.  Hockey’s a rough sport.”   He looked at Jordan.  “Good job rookie, but go change your jersey and wash your face.   You’ve got blood all over you.”
Jordan looked down at himself and skated off to the locker room to grab another sweater from the Equipment Director.  When he returned, they were still cleaning the ice—the stain covered fully half of one side of the rink now.
Jordan’s fingers trembled.  He kept his hands balled into a fist so no one would notice.
“Blood has a lot of color in it,” Klaes remarked.
Jordan nodded, thinking the same thing.
“A video of this is already on YouTube,” Paul said with a misplaced laugh. “Want to take a look?  Andy, you look like you’re gonna cry in it.”  He offered Andy his smartphone with a snicker, but Andy didn’t take it.  Jordan took a seat next to his friend and said nothing.  But he did glare at Paul.


For a free short story that's a lead-in to this book series, click here



About the Author:
 
Michael Offutt writes speculative fiction books that have science fiction, LGBT, and paranormal elements. His first book, "Slipstream" has received some critical acclaim and was published by Double Dragon in the spring. The sequel, "Oculus" came out in November 2012. He has one brother, no pets, and a few roots that keep his tree of life sufficiently watered. By day, he works for the State of Utah as a Technical Specialist. By night, he watches lots of t.v., writes, draws, and sometimes dreams of chocolate.

Michael Offutt graduated from the University of Idaho in 1994 with a Bachelor's degree in English.

He keeps a blog and would appreciate a visit or two even if all you want to do is say hi.

Blog 
Twitter: @MichaelOffutt



Thank you, Michael and Roxanne over at Bewitching Book Tours. I shall be adding Oculus to my wishlist.

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Mary Pax - Speculative Fiction Writer



Today I am honoured to host indie science fiction and fantasy author, Mary Pax. Over to you, Mary.






What A Writer Wants...

Thanks to Ellie Garratt for letting me borrow her blog today. A happy holiday season to her and to you.

As you’ve walked deeper into Writerdom, has what you’d like as a gift changed? I noticed what I consider a great and thoughtful gift has changed a lot. For instance, I asked for and received the money to hire an artist to redo my Hetty Locklear cover. I can’t wait to see it. It’ll be better than Christmas.

Fan letters are the most delightful gifts. One recently said I’d become immortal. Now, that was flattery enough to bring a tear to my eye. What would be even more fantastic is to hear that at least once a week. I’m sure we could all use a regular dose of that ego stroking. No worries about me getting a swelled head, someone soon came along and spoiled the joy two days later.

I’ve heard and read other authors wishing for and receiving: writer association memberships, conferences, business cards, posters, postcards, professional book tours, Srivener, credits to their favorite stockart site, ditto for stock music, editing fees, the investment to turn their words into an audiobook, etc... And I bet I’m not the only one hoping to find the magic in my stocking this season that will boost my sales.

What’s on your list that you’d never have wanted before you entered Writerdom?


M. Pax is author of the sci-fi series, The Backworlds, and the new adult urban fantasy Hetty Locklear series. A Browncoat and SG fan, she’s also slightly obsessed with Jane Austen. In the summers she docents as a star guide at Pine Mountain Observatory where the other astronomers now believe she has the most extensive collection of moon photos in existence. No fear, there will be more next summer. She lives in stunning Central Oregon with the Husband Unit and two lovely, spoiled cats. 


Try The Backworlds for FREE! Available in all formats for all ereaders. 

Newly Released: 

The Renaissance of Hetty Locklear, A New Adult Urban Fantasy with a Contemporary Sci-Fi twist. 

Graduation from community college isn’t the magic elixir Hetty Locklear counts on for becoming an adult. Her parents, who work the Renaissance fair circuit, insist she spend part of the summer with them. Hetty doubts pretending to live in the Middle Ages will help her find her way. 

To make it worse, an entity haunts her at her dead-end job, warning her of a dangerous man she doesn’t know. The ghost leads her to a lover who has a lot of secrets. He pulls her farther into peril and into a strange, hidden world of genetic experimentation.

  
Also newly released: Wandering Weeds: Tales of Rabid Vegetation. 


 Available at Amazon:



Thank you, Mary. A happy holiday season to you as well. You've certainly got me thinking about my Christmas wishlists post-writing. In some ways they haven't changed - I have always requested books, book vouchers, stationery, and anything related to those items. What has changed for me is requesting money for the added extras - such as a Kindle or art work. I'm fascinated to learn what other writers have requested this year or in the past.

Monday, 17 December 2012

What's Your Apocalypse...I Mean 2013 Writing Plan?

I like anything to do with disasters, apocalypses, and end of the world scenarios. That doesn't mean I believe the world will end on December 21st. Far from it*. I'm just fascinated by what we as humans would do - or are capable of doing - when faced with situations way out of our comfort zones. 



It's no surprise that my DVD collection is full of disaster movies or that I am fanatical about The Walking Dead. I also have an idea for an adult post-apocalyptic novel festering in the back of my mind. I have lots of ideas, which sometimes can be more than a hindrance than a help. Choosing what to work on and when can be tricky, and this is where having a writing plan is useful.




Confession time. I have a plan but it's not down on paper. I know that I will be releasing two anthologies of short stories. I also hope to submit both my novels for publication, when they are finished. I have publication dates for the anthologies and a detailed list of jobs to complete for both. What I do not have is a concrete schedule for finishing my novels. Guess what I will be doing between now and January 1st?

So, what are your writing plans or goals? Do you work to a schedule or just make it up as you go along? Have you tried both approaches and found one more useful than the other?

*In the unlikely event the world does end on December 21st, I would like to say I told you so.

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Milo James Fowler - Speculative Fiction Writer


Today's Speculative Fiction Writer is the prolific and talented writer, Milo James Fowler. He is also a co-founder of Write 1 Sub 1, which will be entering it's third year in 2013. Please give him a warm welcome.


My Own Worst Enemy 

by Milo James Fowler

Have you ever had a story to tell, and you knew it was inside you waiting to burst forth, but you were too afraid you wouldn't be able to do it justice?

This kind of stinkin' thinkin' hit me hard when I came up with the idea for my story "Soulless in His Sight." Who was I to think I could write an homage to Faulkner's As I Lay Dying and McCarthy's The Road with Diogenes (crossbow and hatchet instead of a lamp) tossed in for good measure?

Here's the concept: What if Faulkner's Vardaman didn't know his own strength, and he hurt someone close to him? His father, a violent incarnation of McCarthy's paternal character, believes his son was born without a soul. Like Diogenes on the hunt for an honest man, the father must find a soul for his son so he can go to heaven and see his mother.

On Week #9 of Write1Sub1, I finally decided to give it a go. I wrote, polished, and submitted "Soulless in His Sight" to Shimmer, a market I'd been stalking for over a year. The editor eventually responded, "I've read this story a few times now, and though I like it very much, the ending still makes me hesitate. I think if you were to be more concrete with it, the story would be a home run."

I was definitely open to a rewrite, and after making a few minor edits and overhauling the end, the editor replied, "I like the revisions very much. Fatha and Boy are just great; the story has a genuine voice that shines."

In spite of my self-doubt, "Soulless in His Sight" appeared in Shimmer's July issue and recently tied for the Reader's Choice win—right after Shimmer officially became a pro-zine. And if that wasn't enough to get me stoked, the reviews have been pretty good, too.

From Locus Online: 

“Soulless in His Sight” by Milo James Fowler. Post apocalypse. Boy and Fatha are among the few people left alive, but Fatha is convinced that Boy was born without a soul, so he kills any man coming through town, trying to harvest one for him so Boy can go to Heaven when he dies. What Boy actually needs is a higher-powered brain, but Fatha doesn’t seem so well equipped in this area, either.

"It’s always been Fatha and me and nobody else since Mama, and the ones who pass through don’t go no further. But I don’t tell Gwyn this; he wouldn’t understand, at least I don’t think he would."

Less overtly horrific than it initially seems, with an unexpected humane touch. 

From SFRevu: 

The issue concludes with "Soulless in His Sight" by Milo James Fowler. Set in some post-apocalyptic Earth, our narrator is an (apparently) brain-damaged young boy whose Fatha has been killing people who come to their town. Fatha tells our narrator that he is searching for a soul for the boy so that he will see his mother in Heaven when he dies. Why he is doing this and the method to his madness only becomes clear at the end and that is what really makes for a fine story. 

"Soulless in His Sight" was a challenge for me to write, but I'm so glad I stuck with it and now have a story I can point to as one I didn't allow to beat me.

We don't have to be our own worst critics.

Believe in yourself. Believe in your work.

Cool stuff will happen.

*

Thank you, Milo. Congratulations on the publication of Soulless in His Sight! You've certainly proved the old adage, never give up on a story.

Monday, 10 December 2012

Cheers, Cavanaugh Blogfest



The blogfest of the year has fired forward thrusters and officially taken off. Between now and Wednesday, we get to celebrate the blogging enigma that is Alex J. Cavanaugh




We say a virtual cheers to the awesomeness of a man who never fails to help his fellow authors, whether taking time to announce book releases, interviewing fellow writers, or hosting the coolest blogfests. Then there are his amazing books - CassaStar and CassaFire. Could he be any cooler? To find out how to take part and the unbelievably awesome prizes you could win, visit one of the creators of this blogfest, David Powers King.

Right. Let the mission...I mean party begin.

When I took my five-month blogging break in early 2012, Alex was one of the few bloggers who took the time to email me to check I was okay. I cannot tell you how much that meant to me. So, I decided that for this blogfest I needed to do something different. Something I've never done before. Drum roll, please. I give you my first video creation.



I think it's safe to say I'm no Spielberg, but I really enjoyed making it and I hope Alex doesn't kill me. I also have to say hello to Mrs Cavanaugh. Apparently it will earn me extra bonus points. We love you too, Mrs C!

Cheers, Alex.

Don't forget to call back on Wednesday, when Milo James Fowler will be this week's Speculative Fiction Writer guest.

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

David P. King - Speculative Fiction Writer



Today's Speculative Fiction Writer is aspiring MG and YA Science Fiction author, David Powers King. Please give him a warm welcome. 





Aspiring Advice: What Makes Great Science Fiction?

Good morrow, friends and fellows. When Ellie asked if I could be a guest, I had to say, "Yes!" I mean, come on. She's got the coolest sci-fi vibe (her space suit proves it). Since it was pointed out that I've been focusing on fantasy for quite a while now, it's time to give science fiction some love. Your wish is granted. Here we go!

What makes great science fiction?

That's kind of a loaded question, isn't it? I won't claim to know the answer. I can give a possible answer, but before I do, it's important to know what this genre is, exactly.

My writing career began with science fiction, but after a while, I gave fantasy a try. What I discovered was that fantasy was a little easier for me to write, even though the storytelling concept isn't much different from that of science fiction. So what's the difference between science fiction and fantasy? Plausible Fact - plain and simple. With fantasy, we often deal with the unexplained, mystical, and magical. It may have a system of rules or measurable properties, but these rules often defy laws that govern our existence as we know it (burn metal inside our bodies ... who does that?). Science fiction, on the other hand, adheres to the laws of our known universe, or in the very least, there's a sound theory behind the mechanics and technology that we may not have - but we could have it, later on in the future.

Good science fiction has a reasonable explanation that makes the impossible sound possible, no matter the setting and theme. Time travel, deep space travel, androids, nanotech, cloning - you name it - they all have grounds to become a possibility (some are now). It's been said that science fiction is a precursor to science fact, so if there's a plausible theory for that wormhole over there, I'll drop my disbelief and jump right into it!

If the science is spotty or ill researched, I'd send a prob in first ...

Getting an audience to suspend their disbelief = good science fiction.

So what's great science fiction, then? The above must be there - maybe not intricately detailed, but the science and theory must be present. After that, it's up to the characters and how they handle the science that's given to them (or mishandle, which could be every bit as interesting). No matter the advancement or setting, it's people (or other sentient beings) who use these theories and places to make their story. How does their science shape them? How does it drive their motivation and goals - their fears and dreams?

What makes great science fiction? Great characters.

This is not the rule, just my thoughts on the matter. Science fiction really isn't so different from any other genre. If the characters are real, unique, genuine, and totally flawed, the stories they belong to will be read and enjoyed, regardless of genre. The genre is more or less the setting, the tools by which the characters use to deal with their problem. Whatever genre you write, know your characters and make your story great.

What do you think? What makes great science fiction? What are some of your favorites in among the genre? Is it the science or the characters that make it your favorite?
I'm David, and active galactic nucleus' have superluminal jets!

*

Thank you, David. A fascinating guest post that shows that whilst the science behind the story must be probable or consistent, science fiction isn't all about facts and figures. Like any other genre, if you don't have great characters it won't work.

Monday, 3 December 2012

Life After NaNoWriMo & Other News

If you took part in NaNoWriMo and completed your 50,000 words - or a figure near to it - December is an odd time. Some people wake up on December 1st and carry on writing, having discovered they do have the discipline needed for daily writing. They may cut the daily figure to a more managebable amount but they will write. Others find themselves exhausted for a few days and then return to their usual routine. Most people probably throw themselves into the areas of their life they've neglected for 30 days, such friends, family, housework, and other writing projects.

I will be balancing all the extra demands December brings with the personal issues I raised in my last post and my first short story collection that will be published on February 11th next year. I'll also be polishing the first chapter of my NaNoWriMo novel before sending it for the agent critique I won in October. So, I will be just as busy.

Post-nano, people respond in different ways. However, most participants will put their 50k away for a so-called break and promise to return to them in the New Year. But do they? How many of them will simply file it under 'Maybe One Day'? How many wait for November the following year and just start a new project?

If you're one of those people who will or has shelved your 50k, does that mean the time you spent writing during November was wasted? Yes, and no. Writing the 50k required to win NaNoWriMo means writing at speed. Unless you are blessed with the remarkable ability to write a near-perfect first draft, it will be poor. The story will be there but plot and grammar bunnies will be snarling at you on every page. They'll try to bite off your fingers and warn you never to come back. If you let the nasty little critters that together form 'Self-doubt' win, November will have been a waste of time. Don't let them beat you. Those 50,000 words can be re-shaped, cropped, added to, and edited until they are near to perfection.

But if taking part has revealed a joy for writing you never knew existed and/or has taught you the discipline needed for daily writing, even if you do shelve your 50k, it wasn't a waste of time. You will continue to write. You will make the time because you now know writing is just as important to you as many other keys areas of your life. Re-choice in the knowledge that you have not wasted your time, and that you do have the fortitude and strength to see a project through from beginning to end. Finally, remember a shelved project can be returned to at any time.


Other News:

Don't forget to call back Wednesday, when the awesome David P. King will be my Speculative Fiction Writer guest. I still have February 6th, 20th, and 27th free, if anyone is interested in being interviewed by myself or would like to write a guest post promoting their book, website, or any other aspect of their writing. 

This Thursday sees the launch of Writers4Writers, a new initiative to help promote an authors work. This month's spotlighted author will be Nancy Thompson. Visit the W4WS Facebook page to learn more.

Now go. Write. Share with us what NaNoWriMo and other time-intensive projects have taught you. Tell us your plans for December and beyond.

Friday, 30 November 2012

NaNoWriMo Winner, Just


I did it. I finished NaNoWriMo with a couple of hours to spare.

I'd like to say I jumped with joy. Instead I patted myself on the back metaphorically for finishing at all. You see compared to 2010, this year's NaNoWriMo was traumatic. All was going well until the 21st, when I received devastating news about someone I love dearly. Since then, I've been living in the hazy world of shock, sadness, hope, anger, and frustration. I've tried to do what usually comes naturally to me, getting on with life until more answers come. Not bothering to many people with my worries. It hasn't been easy. But somehow I managed to write my 50k, despite only writing for 19 of the 30 days of November.

I have to thank all my Blogging, Twitter, and Facebook friends for their encouragement. In particular the Devon NaNoWriMos who kept me writing; for saying it was okay to lose myself in my writing and to forget my worries for a while.

I need to thank my best friend Rachel Morris for keeping it real and keeping me laughing. But the biggest thanks of all goes to my other half for his daily lectures on how it didn't matter if what I was writing was rubbish because it's just the first draft. For reminding me it's what you make of it in the second and subsequent drafts that matters. You rock, Mr. M.

To those of you who took part in NaNoWriMo this year, whether or not you made the 50k, I salute you. It's the taking part that counts.

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Martin T. Ingham - Speculative Fiction Writer

Please say a big hello to today's Speculative Fiction Writer, Martin T. Ingham. I was delighted when he volunteered to be interviewed, as I am a huge fan.


Welcome, Martin.

Q:  Please tell us a little about yourself. Where are you from, and what do you do when you're not writing short stories or novels?

MTI:  I was born and raised in a quiet, rural corner of eastern Maine.  It wasn't the most exciting upbringing, but it gave me a fertile imagination.  I was gifted with a great intellect, and I learned to escape into my own mind at an early age, perhaps a little too much.  However, it gave me the raw talent I needed to write fiction, and that coupled with determination and attention to detail gave me the skills necessary to compose quality works of fiction.
            When I'm not writing my own stories, I am, in many cases, reading other people's work.  My reading diet mainly consists of sci-fi & fantasy, though more history has been supplementing that lately.
            I have a few hobbies that take up my time sporadically.  Coin collecting is an old favorite, and I've also dabbled in horology (the study and repair of mechanical time-pieces).  I have a knack for mechanics, large and small, and I've most recently begun working on antique autos.  I have a 1954 Chevy Bel Air sitting in my yard which is sucking up way too much of the time I should be writing, but the time away from the computer screen could be helpful.  Heinlein liked to build stone walls to cure his writer's block, and there's nothing wrong with getting your hands dirty doing constructive labor.

Q:  On your blog you describe yourself as a writer of science fiction and fantasy. Would you say you have an equal love for both genres or is one more your favourite?

MTI:  I'd say there is a mutual attraction to both genres, and selecting a "favorite" from amongst them often depends on my mood.  As of late, I have been reading more Sci-Fi, though I do have a copy of George R.R. Martin's "A Game of Thrones" sitting on my desk, just waiting to be read (and I've never watched the tv show, so it'll all be fresh for me).

Q:  You have a new book coming out later this year. Can you tell us a little about it?

"The Curse of Selwood" is the sequel to my first Fantasy Western novel, which takes some familiar elements of traditional sword and sorcery and interjects them into the American west of 1882.  In this world, history is pretty much the same as it is in our own world.  You see the same key historical figures, the same nations, the same geography; only, the world is not just populated by ordinary humans, but by elves, dwarves, warlocks, and all manner of mystical beings.  It's a very parallel Earth, just with some added variety.
            In this second volume, we peer deeper into the lives of the main characters, including Warlock Sheriff James Doliber, gunslinger dwarf Ron Grimes, and the very independent lady elf, Joella Talus, who continues to serve as a deputy.  We also peer into the seedy past of the town of Selwood, and discover the origins of the "curse" which now comes to rear its ugly head.

Q:  Would you like to share an excerpt with us?

MTI:  Here are the first few paragraphs from my latest book, The Curse of Selwood:

            The dry wind of the arid expanse blew up tufts of dust against the stony hillsides.  At a glance, most people would see a lifeless frontier, but scratching the surface, a larger ecosystem would be exposed.  Tiny life scurried around amongst the underbrush—lizards and snakes that had adapted to survive in the harsh landscape; insects and worms that lurked in plain sight, too small to be easily spotted.  All the while, old horse tracks revealed the presence of man.  The desert is never as dead as one would assume.

            A faint whistle blew in the distance, a sound of civilization.  The train was several miles off, hauling passengers and cargo across southern Nevada, to the various trading centers of the burgeoning west.

            The creature crawled out of his cave, the thin, emaciated being in the rough form of a humanoid.  While proportioned much like a human being, he was certainly not a man.  Bony protrusions jutted out of every joint, forming a crusty exoskeleton over his slim body.  The face was parched and flaking, akin to white sandstone, and the skin was sucked so tightly against the skull to appear ghastly.  No hair could be found upon his scalp, but a few black tufts sat along his jaw line.

            One might assume the creature to be native to the desert, and in recent years he had been, though that had not always been the case.

            Hearing the train, the bony being moved to action, rushing across the dusty landscape like a jackrabbit.  Speed increased with every lurching leap until the creature came to the top of a ridge and saw his quarry, the metal machine of man spewing black smoke from its stack, towing a dozen boxcars along the steel rails.

            The train was picking up speed, going faster than any horse could run, though that did not deter the creature from continuing the pursuit.  Racing down the hillside, the being rushed faster, darting along at remarkable velocity—soon matching, and then surpassing the rolling wheels of the locomotive.  He was within striking distance of the caboose before long, and made his move onto the back deck, reaching it in one leap.

            The moment was approaching at last; the time of retribution!

If anyone wants to continue reading, the first 6 chapters of this are posted online for free here.


Q:  You’ve had six novels published so far, which would you recommend as a good place to start for a new reader?

MTI:  I suppose the best place for readers to start would be with my first Fantasy Western novel, "West of the Warlock."  Most of the text is available to read for free online, and it gives a good example of my writing style.  For those who are after a hard sci-fi story, however, you can't go wrong with "The Guns of Mars."




Q:  From being a regular reader of your blog, I know you have a growing family. How do you find the time to balance your family life with writing? Do you have any tips to offer other writers?

MTI:  Balancing family life can be a trial at times, but it helps to have a wife who is good with the kids, and is willing to keep them out of my hair for a few hours when I need to write.  Without sounding too self-centered or selfish, I would say that it's important to have people around you who are willing to give you time to write when you need it.  It can be difficult, as there are only so many hours in the day, but if you aren't willing and able to set aside time to write, it will be increasingly difficult to be successful on the literary scene.  It's important to put family first, but part of that must also be reciprocal.  To care for a writer, you must let them write (i.e. your spouse/children should understand that you need to spend time with your imaginary friends on the page, instead of watching tv with them).

Q:  You are currently accepting submissions for an exciting new anthology called The Temporal Element: Time-Travel Adventures. Can you tell us how you came to be the editor for this Halls Brothers Entertainment publication?

MTI: The Temporal Element anthology is something I conceived of quite a while ago.  I've always been a huge fan of time travel stories, and the very concept has fascinated me since early childhood.  A few years back, I noticed the relative scarcity of story anthologies based on the theme of time travel, and thought it would be nice to put together my own collection.
            So, after two years of serious contemplation, I finally decided to move forward, and that's when the Hall Brothers came on the scene.  They are familiar with the high quality of my work, and when I asked them if they wanted to team up with me in creating this time travel anthology they jumped at the chance.
            Becoming an editor is a logical supplement to my writing career.  I love a good story, and I will now be able to discover exciting tales from my fellow authors during this anthology endeavour.  I also have a finely honed penchant for proofreading, so I'll be able to fix whatever minor typos present themselves.
            The original deadline for submissions was set as November 30, but in an effort to acquire the best stories possible, I've extended the deadline by 2 months.  Writers may now submit time travel related stories until January 31, 2013!

Q: Do you have a specific vision for it and if so, has that vision changed in any way since you started receiving submissions?

MTI:  My initial vision for this collection was to form a balance of stories based in the past, present, & future.  That is still my intention, but it will all depend on the type and quality of the submissions I receive.  This is part of the reason I'm extending the submission deadline.

Q: Where can we go to read the submission guidelines?

MTI:  The complete list is here.

Q:  What would be the key piece of advice you would offer someone before they submitted?

MTI:  Other than keeping your grammar correct and watching for typos, try to be a bit objective with your story.  I've seen a few submissions that are kind of preachy, trying to demonize or chastise some facet of modern society, and that can get old in a hurry.  I'm more likely to accept an "adventure" story, as opposed to a moral object lesson thinly veiled as speculative fiction.

Q:  Now for the compulsory random question: if you could live in any fictional setting, where would it be and why?

MTI:  If I had to pick one, it would probably be the Star Trek universe.  It's a pretty idyllic future, almost illogically so.  I doubt I'd fit in that well.  I'd probably end up like Reginald Barclay, nervous around everyone, afraid of everything, often misunderstood and marginalized.  Plus, the money-less society thing still drives me nuts.  What do you mean you don't get paid?  I guess I'm more Ferengi than Federation at heart.
            But, barring a freak Borg attack or a Dominion war, life would be pretty sweet in the Federation, and if you're bored with that (or want to find a planet where they still use money), you can always go exploring.
            Hey, speaking of that, when is Paramount going to finally get their act together and bring back a new Star Trek series for television?  It's been too long since Enterprise ended.  If they'd only hire me to write for the new series; now that would be a fantasy world worth living in! 


Thank you, Martin. I thoroughly enjoyed reading your answers. If Paramount ever come knocking on your door, remember me. Khaannn!!!

Monday, 26 November 2012

Devon Floods, SpecFic Authors Collective, Writers4Writers, & Cavanaugh Blogfest

Today I'm highlighting some exciting events in the blogging world, but before that I have to tell you about my washed-out weekend. Southwest England was hit by major flooding last week. Saturday was the worst day. My home town was officially classed as cut-off by the Environment Agency by late evening. There was no way in or out, and several roads within the town were flooded.

I live a few minutes walk from the estuary and sea front, and the road I live in was one of those flooded. The video below taken by another town resident is my road. Thankfully the high tide in the early hours of Sunday morning was not a particularly high one, so water levels did not rise too a life-threatening level.

 
The flooding in most of Exmouth was gone by Sunday morning, but over 200 flood warnings remain in place for the Southwest. Some towns such as Sidmouth are still cut off. I'm praying the rain stops soon.

Now onto to the exciting events taking place:


On November 25th, Jeff Chapman, Simon Kewin, Lyndon Perry, and Milo James Fowler launched the SpecFic Authors Collective. Visit their blog to learn more about what the SpecFic Author Collective and to enter their competition to win four eBooks.





Writers4Writers (W4WS) is a new initiative hosted by Stephen Tremp, Mary Pax, Christine Rains, and CM Brown with the following mission:





· Help writers bring awareness of their book(s) to tens of thousands of new people
· Help writers reach Amazon Top 100 in at least one category (i.e., suspense, free, whatever)
· Increase sales of their book(s) after the promo is over
· Drive new traffic to their blog and increase following
· Create verbal and viral buss.

The spotlighted author (December 6th will be Nancy Thompson and her book The Mistaken) will choose a social media avenue such as Twitter or Facebook (or both). The good people of Bloggerland will then promote the author’s book to their Twitter followers or Facebook friends - an incredibly large new audience the author could not reach on their own. To find out more visit the W4WS Facebook page HERE.

 
Finally, in December we have the Cheers, Cavanaugh Blogfest in honour of the mighty Ninja himself, Alex J. Cavanaugh, and it's going to be huge. You can read all about it and sign up over at David Powers King's blog.


Talking of Christmas, if you watched the video above there is a link afterwards on the bottom RIGHT for the Exmouth Christmas Day Swim 2011. Click on it to see how the mad people of Exmouth celebrate Christmas Day. It starts and ends with a series of photographs, and a video of the swim in between.

Have a happy and safe week.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Samantha LaFantasie - Speculative Fiction Writer



Please give a warm welcome to today's Speculative Fiction Writer, Samantha LaFantasie. Over to you, Samantha.





First and foremost, I want to say thank you, Ellie and her readers, for having me as a guest. This is a wonderful honor. I’m Samantha LaFantasie, author of Heart Song. I’m hoping over from central Kansas, USA! Though, I’m mainly a fantasy author, I do dip my hands into other subgenres and more than likely everything that you will read of mine will include some level of romance.

Speaking of writing…

It’s well into November and most of us are stressing to get the final words on our projects for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). For those of you that don’t know, it’s the act of sitting down with the goal of writing a 50,000 word novel in 30 days or less. If you write 1667 words each day, you’ll make it. That’s the goal.

Easy, right? Not always.

And that’s where the fun comes in. All over the world writers, amateur and professional alike, sit in front of their computers every free and waking moment they can to make this goal. Some go over the daily goal, some don’t even come close. Writing under pressure and then some…

It just so happens that my first year doing NaNo was 2010. I won in 11 days. It may not be that fantastic in hindsight and a lot of the time I wonder if I wasn’t pushing it, but little do you realize that it was this very NaNo that blossomed into my first novel, Heart Song.  Two years of painstaking rewrites and edits later, I have a published work that may or may not make the best seller list. But I’ve achieved my dream of becoming an author with that book and so it will always have a place in my heart.

The following year I participated and won in 14 days. That story is still a work in progress and most likely will not have anything come of it. It was fun to write though and I think that is the most important thing.

This year, I don’t think my win will be quite as ambitious as the previous two years. Mainly due to challenges that have come to my family and home life this year and I’m still learning to work around them. I’ve also added a little bit of a challenge by doing a ‘Word War’ with another friend and writer of mine. We’ll see how it goes.

That is the point of NaNoWriMo. To sit down, and come Hell or high water, push out a novel in thirty days. It may not always turn into a published work, like Heart Song. But it is the act that sticks with you; the feeling of accomplishing that goal. It’s an experience that every writer really should feel and be exposed to. If you’ve been thinking about doing it but think it’s too late? Don’t think that way. I’ve done it in 11 days! You can do it with just over a week left and if not, it gives you just enough of a taste to get you prepped and primed for next year.  If anything it’s fun.



Now for an excerpt of Heart Song, the story that I won the 2010 NaNoWriMo with:

 “That wasn't entirely his fault,” Marren spoke, walking up behind me.
I turned, startled by his appearance. “Are you always so quiet?”
“Yes,” he answered in matter of fact manner.
I shook my head and rolled my eyes. “And how was it not entirely his fault?”
“He was set up.” He walked over to a sword, pulled it out then inspected it by spinning it in his hands. All the while remaining nonchalant.
“By who? How do you know this?” I asked with insistence.
“I would think that after my conversation with you last night you would have figured out that I have been following you.”
“Ah, well I also recall that you refused to answer any of my questions, and so I still don’t know how you know about the set up.”
His eyes rested on me, taking in everything they could. I almost felt exposed with the way he stared. It was as if he saw right to my very soul. Before I could say something about it, he blinked a few times then said, “Pick up your sword.”  He pointed to mine with the tip of his.
I hesitated, wanting to question his seriousness but thought better of it as I walked over to my sword. The excitement in me was about to burst. I was going to take some of my frustrations out on him and I wouldn't hold back. By the time I turned around with my sword in hand, he was already advancing on me. The element of surprise was definitely his strong suit. I fought him off the best I could. But he was fast—incredibly fast. Too fast to be human. But I didn't have time to think about that.
“Breathe,” he instructed coolly. I let out a breath, not realizing that I had been holding it the entire time.
Our swords clanked against each other, hitting hard. Thrill, excitement, and strangely, a heated, powerful passion ignited within my center. I couldn't help the way it felt to make my body move faster than I’d ever moved before. I twisted and dodged his attacks while he did the same to mine. Moving together in perfect unison.
Just as I was feeling the rhythm of our dance, he spun so he stood behind me. He held his blade to my throat with one hand and gripped my wrist that held onto my sword with the other. His body pressed firmly against mine, hard as stone. A pulsating rush ran through my veins.
“Don't think, just do,” he whispered calmly into my ears, sending tingles down my spine with the warmth of his breath, increasing the rush.
“How can you not be out of breath?” I spoke through gritted teeth, still holding a hate for Marren, despite what this dual was doing to me. I rammed my elbow into his side, forcing him to release me.
“Many years of practice.” His words came out effortlessly, along with another attack that disarmed me.
I watched my sword slide across the floor, spinning several rotations before settling with its point in our direction.  The crisp slice of his blade on my neck brought my attention back to him. I glared into Marren's eyes only to have the look dissipate as I saw my own reflection staring back at me.  I lowered my eyes, submitting to my second defeat.
Marren lowered his sword as Enid walked up to take it. Marren stepped closer to me, pulling up a part of my hood and lifting the hair from my neck with a gentle graze of his hand, to reveal the cut. The touch lingering long after his hand was gone. My heart flipped. Stupid heart.
 His brow furrowed slightly as he placed a cloth firmly against the cut with one hand and his other on the lower part of my back. He put enough pressure on my neck that I had to grab a hold of his arm that held me to prevent myself from falling over. The warmth in his skin was surprisingly soothing. I felt everything within me that was once frozen start to thaw.
“Sorry,” he said softly.
“I've had worse, trust me.” I worked to control my breathing through the stinging of the cut, the pressure he had placed on it and the fact that he was standing against me and it didn't bother me. I actually rather enjoyed it, much to my dismay. My mind started to spin with the conflict. I forced my focus onto other things, resisting looking at him again for fear of completely losing myself.
“You shouldn't keep yourself so guarded,” he spoke quietly. His voice was so soft it brought out of me a nervous chuckle. I was losing it. It felt too good, standing against his body, having his warmth seep into my skin. I felt too good. I couldn't resist looking into his eyes any longer. Confusion flashed across his face. It made me feel like I had done something to upset him. He removed the cloth from my neck. The need for me to hold onto him was no longer there, but I didn't want to let go. It wasn't until he started to back away that I followed his lead by releasing my grip on him.

Heart Song can be found at:

A Kansas native, Samantha spends her free time with her husband and three kids. Writing has always been a passion of hers, forgoing all other desires to devote to this one obsession. Among her writing credentials, she’s a board member of the Kansas Writer’s Association as the Contest Chair and has founded her own critique group lovingly named The Fighting Hamsters. 
You can find her presence on

Website



Thank you for your inspiring insight into NaNoWriMo and your writing world, Samantha. I have a feeling you will have no problem achieving this years 50,000 word goal. For those who are not taking part in NaNoWriMo this year there is always next year or, before then, Camp NaNoWriMo during June and August.