Tag Archives: women in sci-fi

When it feels right but is … wrong. #writing #indiebooks

This week: you have another opportunity to benefit from the vast store of wisdom I have earned by royally fucking things up so that you don’t have to.  

It started like this.

Wednesday; visit the parents day, and this week I arrived in extremely dire need of a wee. It is fairly usual that the pint of water and two cups of coffee I need to kick start my day turn into about five pints by the time I’ve driven fifty miles or thereabouts and I drive the next ninety in some agitation. This Wednesday was no exception.

At Mum and Dad’s the downstairs loo is just off the lobby before you go into the house proper and I usually use it before I announce my presence, otherwise the ten minutes of hellos can be a bit excruciating for my poor bladder. Into the loo I rushed, and breathed a huge sigh of relief as what felt like about a gallon of wee went into the pan. Except that each of the lavs at Mum and Dad’s has a riser for people with dodgy hips, and if you sit on the riser in the downstairs loo wrong, the wee runs down the inside of it and despite being positioned over the bowl, the gravitational wonders of surface tension bend the wee round and under the edge of the riser and it then falls over the side of the pan onto the floor. Well, it came from a skip, still in its wrapping, you can’t look a gift horse in the mouth. But yes, you guessed it. A significant portion of my wee deluge had missed the pan entirely and puddled on the floor.

Joy.

The original dribbly-wee loo riser of doom (centre) among other skip scored offerings.

There I was. I’d done the right thing, sat on loo, weed into hole but somehow, despite following the instructions it had all gone somewhat awry. I spent the next five minutes wiping it up with loo roll and anti bacterial floor spray. It’s not just me, the foibles of this particular loo riser are a known problem and I soon had it all ship shape again with no harm done. The point was, sometimes, even when you do things the right way it all goes horribly wrong.

So how does this tale of substandard urinary aim have any connection with writing?

Well, it’s like this.

There’s a quote that appears on something I use – my Kobo Writing Life dashboard, I think – that goes like this:

‘If you want to read a book that has not been written yet, you must write it.’

Way back in 2008 when I finally finished my first decent novel that is, exactly what I had done. But to be honest, while this is great advice, it only works if you are in touch with the popular Zeitgeist on some level. I sell my books on the internet which, to all intents and purposes, is American. It is devilishly hard to reach non Americans but back then it was even harder (except on Amazon at that point).

Therefore, I shot myself in the foot instantly by writing a very British book set, mostly, in a fantasy world but when it came here, it came to London. Yes Dr Who is like that but it was put on by the BBC and when they first did it, they had a captive audience comprising all of Britain. I wrote British because I was bored of books and films where the main protagonists are American and the setting America. I wanted to see some shizz go down in my own country. What I failed to grasp was that there is a reason the vast majority of books are about Americans in America. It’s to connect with Americans; the biggest and most easily reachable group of readers in the market place.

Yes, I’d done kind of the right thing but … wrong.

The problem wasn’t even that I was writing a book that could well hold more appeal to British or Australasian readers. It was that I hadn’t researched my market – I thought I had but, no. That’s why I didn’t understand how hard to find they would be. It hadn’t even occurred to me that I would be unable to reach British readers without taking special measures. OK so that was 2008 but even now, in 2017, you have to work at finding international readers and even harder at finding readers who buy from sites other than Amazon.

Likewise, I’d read a lot of Victorian and Edwardian fantasy: the Narnia Books, The Five Children and It, The Incredible Mr Blenkinsop (I think that was its name) the Borrowers, the Wind in the Willows, The Lord of The Rings. I’d seen films like Bedknobs and Broomsticks, Mary Poppins and Chitty-Chitty Bang-Bang, I’d read Harry Potter and Terry Pratchett. In most of those books, the writer has invented a completely new world, or a new creature, or a new something. The point is, while they may have broad themes that are similar, good versus evil baddie, etc, each one takes place in its own fantasy world or hidden world within this one, often there are specific and new creatures created for purpose of the story. The notable exception is Terry Pratchett, who took the tropes other people used and poked gentle fun at them.

In the same way that I thought, at my parents, that rushing into the bog, sitting down on the ice cold, thigh freezing riser and letting it all out was enough, and discovered that oh it so wasn’t, I genuinely thought putting my book on sale and supporting my efforts with advertising on the big promo sites was all it would take to find readers. It wasn’t. I wrote weird books, that are funny and I had covers made expressly to say, ‘this book is like nothing you have ever read’ because when people saw my books, I wanted them to think, ‘Pratchett’. When I got reviews that said that, I quoted them. I wrote my book the old way. The E Nesbitt way. And I sold that as an asset … the wrong way.

When people talk about wanting ‘different’ I suspect that what they really mean is that they want the same old ware wolves and sparkly vampires but with … say … slightly different lighting.

That is where Sir Terry cleaned up. He kept to the standard tropes, and spun them differently. If you want to succeed financially, I think, possibly, the trick is to write something bang on genre that has a different angle; a standard, boilerplate, trope made interesting enough to you for you to be able to stand writing in it.

When it comes to making choices, I guess it’s wise to think through the ramifications, but with writing it’s hard to anticipate what they might be sometimes. If you like writing wacky but want to produce a well edited book with a professional cover, it’s worth looking at how much cash you have to throw at it and how long for. When I started this game, the estimate was that once you’d produced six books you’d reach tipping point; momentum would be easier to maintain and sales would rise.

‘Great!’  I thought, ‘I have budget for six novels.’

Now that I’m writing my sixth book, that magic tipping point number is more like twelve! Things change and move. How long can you sustain your business without making a profit? OK now double it. Hell, quadruple it to be safe.

Likewise, when you plan what you’re going to do to reach readers, I’d thoroughly recommend keeping as much of it under your control as you can. This is why so many writers ask readers to sign up to their mailing lists. I had an amazing three months back in 2014 when I optimised my book listings for UK readers and started getting a ton of downloads on Amazon and, even better, a really good read through rate – seriously it was massive, about 20% of the folks downloading the first book bought the others But then Amazon changed the algo – which they do around April or May each year, it seems. Overnight the downloads of the free book ceased. And that was that.

These days, however many author lists readers are signing up to, I still believe that if you can make your emails personal, fun and interesting enough they will stay with you. Just don’t make them too fun or your readers will sign up for the emails rather than your books or if they do, be prepared to monetise your blog posts, newsletter etc – either as non fiction books or paid content. The great thing about mailing lists is that if someone doesn’t get on with your books they can unsubscribe so you should end up with a list of folks who might, eventually, read your books! If you’re really lucky, some will part with cash for them.

Once you have some readers, it’s also worth listening to them. I always sold my books as fantasy and when asked to cite comparable writers I’d suggest Holt, Prachett, Rankin … When people started reviewing them, the bulk of them cited Douglas Adams. I now publish them in sci-fi. They don’t sell as well there as they did in the days when I could put them in fantasy and they’d be actually visible. But now that fantasy is kind of, ware wolves and shifters with a small corner for epic, my books definitely do better in sci-fi! Sci-fi seems a bit less rigid in the genre factors required, too, hence the next series, Space Dustmen, is going to be sci-fi with the odd planetary visit.

To sum up, what I am trying to say, I guess, is that now, more than ever, you need to think long and hard before you even start to write that book and you need to keep pretty nimble afterwards. So, if you’re thinking having a pop at writing or are working on your first book, maybe you should ask yourself these questions:

  1. Who are you are writing for?
  2. Where you you find them?
  3. Can you find them easily and inexpensively?
  4. How often do the authors they read release new books?
  5. Can you keep up with book production rates for your genre? or to put it another way …
  6. How much time do you have? Even if you give up your job.
  7. What kind of writing career will fit with your life?
  8. How and where will you sell your books – it’s no good being wide if everyone in your genre whose books you like and who might like yours too and do mailing swaps or promos with you is in KU.
  9. How long before you need your books to start funding themselves to keep going?
  10. Are there other ways you can monetise your writing to support book production until such stage as your book business is self financing.
  11. How big is your social media following? Are you up to a kickstarter to fund book production?

The way I see it there are two broad choices about what you decide to write.

The first choice is to conform. You, write to market, so if it’s fantasy, you write about ware wolves or witches and yes you light them differently or whatever it takes and you write about six books (minimum) a year. And you thank your lucky stars you’re not in Romance where you have to write one a month!

Alternatively if you really can’t face the prospect of writing about creatures someone else has already invented or making your hero American, or 101 other must haves for the best selling book, accept that you are unlikely to earn diddly squat for a long, long time and just go for it writing the kind of stuff you love, that fulfils you as a reader and writer, stuff you want to read that hasn’t been written yet. But if you choose this route, you have to be extremely pragmatic about your chances of earning anything for many years and extremely lateral and original about what you do to earn from your books in other ways.

It’s quite good if you can avoid combining motherhood to a small child and trying to look after sick, elderly parents, at the same time as trying to have any sort of career, too.

This is where I am right now. But hey, my sixth book will be out next year and who knows, 2027 I may even have written twelve and if I market the hell out of them, well who knows, they might pay for the thirteenth book.

Mwahahahargh! I can dream.

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Killing Zombies with household pets and other stories. It’s Bloghop time! Books 2 Brain Cyber Convention Sci-fi Blog hop! Stop 4 Excerpts!

It’s a bit of a new thing for me, today because as well as the usual lovely peps, I am welcoming many of you to my blog for the first time as part of a blog hop. Hello and welcome to the Books 2 Brain cyber convention blog hop.

You are now mostly at, stop 4: Excerpts.

What you will find in this post is a brief wee snippet from a selection of fabulous speculative fiction books. Also, just for interest, I have asked the authors to answer ‘The Zombie Question’ you know the one, it goes like this:

‘The zombie apocalypse has begun. A zombie crashes into the room. You pick up the first thing you can see on your left hand side, right now, to defend yourself. What is the object you pick up and how will you kill the zombie with it?’

So without more ado, I welcome our first guest, J D Brink.

invasion

Here is an excerpt from Invasion (Identity Crisis, Book 1):

The creature’s head split in half with a burst of steel wool brains and azure sparks.  Ballista’s big glaive proved sharp enough for cleaving the skulls of even robotic alien vermin.  She planted the weighted pommel of her staff in the thing’s back and easily vaulted over it in the low gravity, catapulting herself into the next target.  Her kick sent it sideways, and she twirled her weapon back for another slash, severing a segmented limb.  It had many, however, and another insect arm snapped around, firing a bolt of green bio-electric energy that barely missed burning a hole through her ribcage.  In these close quarters, that miss was as much luck as skill.  She couldn’t give the thing another shot.  With a flurry of blows, Ballista repelled the beast with the glaive’s pommel and slashed with its heavy blade, repeatedly trading one side of the staff for the other until the thing had but one leg and an exposed underbelly.  One more swing and the collection of wires and tubing that the bug called organs were leaking into the compartment.

Ballista breathed heavily.  She stretched a kink out of her neck and felt the dreadlocks of her spongy hair stick to her sweaty back.  These metallic monsters were a challenge, at least, and though she fought for her life, she found that she was enjoying it.  This was much more like what the gladiator was used to; being a “superhero” on Earth, especially in American society, was more delicate work.  You often had to pull your punches, and killing was largely frowned upon.  Though not killing, she had found to her own surprise, had been a relief to her conscience.  Mercy was not a bad thing.  Still, her combatant’s muscles had missed this kind of fight.

She strode to the next hatch and punched the button to open it.  The octagonal room beyond was dimly lit white with grey shadows.  It took a moment to recognize the crumpled shape of a man wearing a spacesuit and hiding among two empty suits hooked to the bulkhead.  (The big white clown costumes were too cumbersome and confining for her tastes.)  Ballista marched up to him and lifted him from the floor by the suit’s big round collar.  “Captain Marcus?” she asked sternly.  The panicky man’s mouth gaped and his blue eyes flashed around, not seeing anything but his impending death.  “I asked you a question,” she barked, shaking him.  “Are you Captain Marcus or not?”  She’d not paid enough attention to these astronauts to keep track of which was which.

The jarring got him to focus on her.  His mouth made a few attempts to speak, gasping for air like a fish thrown from water, before finally finding words.  “Ye—yes.  Marcus.  I’m Marcus.  Oh, thank God it’s you.”

She did recognize him now, between the eyes and the thinly-trimmed beard.  He was the one who’d said something stupid about never having seen a purple woman before.  It had been some pathetic attempt at flirtation, which she’d been nice enough to let go without physically injuring him.  “Make prayers to your deities later,” she said, turning and flinging him toward the open hatch.  In the low-g, he soared through perfectly.

Want to read more? Here are three places to grab a copy of Invasion:

From Amazon – links to your local store
From Barnes & Noble
From Fugitive Fiction

The Answer (to the Zombie Question).

To my immediate left as I type this is my dog, Jack.  He’s a fluffy white Maltese with a fierce attitude, a cross between a mop and a shark leaping for a seal.  As the zombie crashes through the front door, I react with lightning reflexes, pick up Jack, and spiral-pass him like a football.  Jack soars teeth-first into the zombie and proves himself more vicious than any brain-starved walking corpse!

Three places to find out more about J D Brink.

J D Brink’s Blog: http://brinkschaostheory.blogspot.com
J D Brink on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jd.brink.3
J K Brink on twitter: https://twitter.com/J_D_Brink

And now, I welcome our second guest, Chess Desalls.

Lantern 5 StarsHere is an excerpt from here free novella Lantern:

Fireflies lit the sky, dancing and twirling beneath a curtain of stars. Weary eyes found it impossible to tell where the stars’ twinkling ended and the fireflies began.

One by one, rays of light flickered to life, stretching from torches held by a circle of party guests. No sooner would one’s eyes adjust to a new beam before the one next to it made itself known, appearing to the former’s right, and so on, until the circle of light was complete.

Tori found herself standing in the center of the circle. Funny, she thought, squinting. I don’t remember being invited to a party. She looked down at her dress and smiled. Fabric and lace in soft pastels blossomed from a belt of lollipops cinched around her waist. Her gaze followed the knee-length hem to her legs, covered with tights banded red and white like candy canes sticking out of clumps of mud. She frowned. Instead of dainty ballerina flats, she’d worn her hiking boots.

Confused as to why she’d forget such an important detail for her costume, Tori ran her fingers through her blue and pink wig. Feeling the weight of a handle pulling against her other hand, she looked down, expecting to see a trick-or-treat bag filled with candy.

She stared at her hand as a sick feeling washed over her. Instead of a bag, she held a lantern. All of the torches were aimed toward it, making it glow more brightly than she’d ever seen. Trembling, she lifted the lantern away from the converging beams of light. She sucked in a breath as she stared at an unlit globe, empty with darkness.

“What’s wrong, Tor?”

Tori’s mouth fell open. “Shawna, what are you doing here?”

“You invited me, silly. I wanted to check out that lantern you’ve been telling me about.” Shawna’s broad shoulders shrugged forward as she bent to look inside the lantern. “Hmm, not much going on in there tonight.” Silky black sleeves and leggings accentuated the slim outlines of her arms and legs as she straightened up. Brows lifted above gray eyes in a mock accusatory look, which Tori might have taken seriously had it not been for the mini witch hat perched on her head.

“Great costume,” said Tori. “How come you’re not dressed in your volleyball uniform this year?”

“I had time to come up with something different while you were away. I wanted to surprise you.”

Tori squeezed her friend. “I’m not sure what’s going on, but I’m happy to see you.”

“I brought someone with me.” Shawna smirked. “He’s been waiting a long time to see you.”

Jared? Is he here? Is that why he’s not inside the lantern? Before Tori could repeat her questions aloud, Shawna playfully shoved someone in front of her, a male dressed in a plum-colored cloak; his regalia sparkled with candies made of silver and gold.

“Surprise! I hope you don’t mind that I hinted at your costume. You know, so you could match.”

Want to read more? Here are three places to grab a free copy of Lantern:

From Amazon – links to your local store
From Barnes & Noble
From iBooks

The Answer (to the Zombie Question).

I pick up a retractable pen and shake it back and forth. “Here, boy,” I say, whistling. “Tastes like brains.”

The zombie darts his half-rotten eyes back and forth, following the clicking sounds I make with the pen’s push mechanism.

“You want this, don’t ya? C’mon, you can get it.” I wind up my arm and let it spring forward.

A trickle of drool leaks from the zombie’s slackened lips. Groaning as his prize soars through the air, he turns to follow. He leaps after the pen—catches it. But not until it falls below the gutters lining the roof’s edge.

Three places to find out more about Chess Desalls:

And now, I welcome our third guest, Kate M Colby.

The Cogsmith's Daughter - Ebook SmallHere is an excerpt from The Cogsmith’s Daughter:

“Until we meet again,” King Archon said, staring only at Aya.

Lord Varick took Aya’s arm and led her away from the thrones. With every step, she tightened her grip around his elbow. Varick must have noticed, but he didn’t let on, keeping his face even and greeting the various nobles as they passed. The nerve of King Archon. Sitting up there on his throne, taking compliments on his new wife as though she was some sort of trophy. And the way he looked at Aya! If he kept up such piggish behavior, Aya would have no problem setting him up for execution.

Aya tried to temper her breathing by gazing around the room. She saw many noblemen she recognized from working at the Rudder, but she’d never served any of them. She doubted any of them would remember glimpsing her in the hallway or through a cracked door, but even if they did, they could not reveal her identity without exposing themselves as adulterers. She searched the crowd for Lord Collingwood or Lord Derringher to see if she could get a look at their wives to report back to Dellwyn. Unfortunately, she didn’t see either of them. Perhaps they had already paid their respects to the queen. She made a mental note to look for them again at the ball—assuming she really did attend.

When they were back in the corner of the room, Lord Varick released her arm. “For a woman, you have quite a strong grip.”

Aya shrugged. “I do a lot of clinging in my line of work.”

Lord Varick laughed.

“How did I do?”

Lord Varick grinned, his eyes crinkling. “You did quite well, my dear. I would say the king already seems intrigued by you.”

“I had forgotten his voice.” A shudder slipped down her spine. “I thought I could hear it clearly in my nightmares, but it is much sharper in person. And his eyes, they pierce you.”

Lord Varick nudged her. “Some women find piercing eyes appealing.”

“And some women find piercing eyes a reminder of the ax that pierces through a man’s neck.”

Lord Varick’s eyes widened, and his lips curved into a smirk. “The more you speak your mind, Miss Aya, the more delightful you become. You really should be more open with your thoughts.”

Aya rolled her eyes. “I was taught to be open with nothing but my legs.”

“Ha! That is it!” Lord Varick clapped. “That fire! Keep that blazing, and King Archon and every other man in this palace will come crawling to you.”

Aya blushed. She hadn’t meant to be so forward, but seeing King Archon again ignited something in her—something she hadn’t been allowed to express when she’d been thrown out of her home and selling off her dresses for bread and washing noblemen’s seed off of pillows. She had been good. Mouth shut and legs open. She had allowed Madam Huxley to command her every action and Dellwyn to speak for her. No more.

This was her chance to reclaim her life, to get back her father’s shop, and finally attain justice for his death. She was going to take it or die trying.

Want to read more? Here are three places to grab a copy of the Cogsmith’s Daughter:

From Amazon – links to your local store
From Barnes & Noble
From iBooks

The Answer (to the Zombie Question).

As the zombie staggers toward me, I grab my aluminium water bottle off my desk. It’s rather useless–cylindrical, blunt–but it’s the only object within reach. I fling water at the zombie. The stream hits it in the eyes, but the zombie keeps coming, undeterred. It opens its mouth to groan at me, and I seize my opportunity.

With a war cry of my own, I run forward and ram the narrow end of my water bottle into its mouth. We fall to the ground, and I use my body weight to grind my water bottle further into the zombie’s head. A crack, a pop, a spurt of blood, and the zombie falls still.

I stand, my entire body shaking, and wipe the sweat from my brow. I notice a tear in my sleeve, and search my arm. No scratches. For once, I feel grateful for my apartment’s inefficient heating system and the thick, wool sweater my grandma knitted. With a sigh, I head to the kitchen. The water bottle proved its worth, but next time, I’d rather be attacked near a butcher knife.

Three places to find out more about Kate M Colby:

Website: http://www.KateMColby.com
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/AuthorKateMColby
Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/KateMColby

And now, I welcome our fourth guest, David Kelley.

Dead Reckoning And Other StoriesHere is an excerpt from Dead Reckoning and Other Stories:

Snap!

A white-hot pain burned through Hector’s chest and head; for one brief second he was overwhelmed by agony roiling up his spine and cauterizing every nerve.

No, wait. Maybe this isn’t such a good idea after all. Can I think this over a little longer? His mind skittered in fear.

Snap!

A second stab of agony completed the transfer. The pain was gone. The ache in his limbs that had been there for at least twenty years was gone. The stabilization-induced torpor was gone too.

And so were his clothes.

While the first three items were blessings and made him want to jump around screaming like a madman, the idea of wandering naked around the virtual heaven of LifePlus Inc’s Select community bothered him. He’d have settled for just about anything, even a pair of pajamas. He had a beautiful pair of dark red silk ones Kaydianne had bought him. She said they made him look just like Bublé in all those classic movies, a little heavier perhaps but…

Hector’s confusion grew as he examined himself. He had the same body he’d died in. Where was the twenty-four year old hunk-body he’d never had, but ordered? And why didn’t he have any clothes? Dark red silk, gray woolen worsted, a pair of jeans and a T-shirt promoting General ToyoSan Motors would have been acceptable. Where was his luxury villa, complete with swimming pool and maid service?

Instead he gazed down on a flabby chest, gray-hair covered man-breasts, flaccid arms and thighs. This wasn’t what he’d signed up for. Glowing letters flared up inside his vision, but they were meaningless:

——————————————————-

Tren-Hump, Hector. TH15D3AD-1485-13A6-5661A946B3101857

Cycles: 1            CPU Credit: 1%           Ducks: 0.0

——————————————————-

Snap!

Hector jumped, his body arching reflexively. This wasn’t the same moment of disconnection he’d experienced during the transfer; this was a blistering pain that cut across his back as though his spine had been ripped out.

“Okay, Noob. Time to get all those gleaming new Hoxels dirty.”

The creature facing Hector was huge: a powerful humanoid at least three meters tall with four arms and a physique that would have made the Hulk turn white.

“I’m Marshal, but you call me Sir, and make sure you shout it loud so there’s no mistake.”

“What the hell’s going on here — yeow!” Hector squealed again as the whip snapped out and flayed across his shoulders. Virtual or not, the pain felt like his skin had been torn from his body.

“SIR!”

Hector cowered, the searing pain in his back throbbing mercilessly. “What the hell’s going on here, Sir?”

Again the whip lashed out and Hector screamed.

“And be respectful when you speak to me,” bellowed the Marshal. The whip flicked several times like a cat swishing its tail but didn’t land a blow. “Join the line and get ready to do some heavy duty Judgment.”

“Judgment? Ahhhh!” The whip lashed out again, wrapping around Hector’s flabby torso.

Want to read more? Here are three places to grab a copy of Dead Reckoning and Other Stories:

From Amazon – links to your local store
From Barnes & Noble
From Kobo

The Answer (to the Zombie Question).

The object on my immediate left is my wife. I’d grab her. She’d be useless for killing the zombie with, but I’d throw her in anyway. This would buy me time to make a run for it and get to safety. 😉

Mwah hahahargh! And if his wife sees that one, look out for David Kelley in a shallow grave near you!

Three places to find out more about David Kelley:

Websit: http://www.davidmkelly.net
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/David.Kelly.SF
Twitter: http://twitter.com/David_Kelly_SF

And now, I welcome our fifth guest, Massimo Marino:

Daimones-663x1024Here is an excerpt from Diamones (the Daimones Trilogy: Book 1):

Excerpt. Characters: Dan, and his wife Mary. Location: their place, turned into a stronghold, in the Geneva countryside, at the border with France.
After the culling of the human race, and months spent surviving and in search of others, Mary lost all hopes.
“[…] this proves there could be others. With time, maybe, many others.”

Mary nodded.

She was somber and stared at the stove. Without raising her eyes from the dinner she was preparing, she asked: “How many, Dan? Can you tell me? Maybe it’s just that girl we saw…and we might not see her ever again.” She paused then, looking straight into my eyes. “I love you, Dan. And I love Annah. Sometimes I wonder whether all this makes sense. What will be our life next winter, or a year or more from now? Can you tell me?”

“Mary…” I started, but Mary raised her hand to silence me.

“I will carry on, for you and Annah. But I cannot promise you for how long, not this way. Why didn’t we die, too? Why, Dan?” Her body seemed to implode, as if something broke internally. Resting both stiff arms on the counter, her head collapsed between her shoulders. “It would have been so much easier now.”

“Now? What are you talking about? We’d be dead, now. You would be dead, Annah would be dead. Is that what you want? You’ve seen those rotting remains. Don’t do this…”

She kept her head down. “Just hold me. Please.”

I held her tightly in my arms. I cried without making any sound. Mary wasn’t, and that made me cry even more. Warm tears, heavy, and coming from the depths. I couldn’t lose her. I simply could not.

As if she was reading my mind, Mary whispered in my ear, “I don’t have any more tears…”

I stayed there, and hugged my wife hoping she would not crumble any further. That night, the whole night, I kept searching for her, continuously pressing my body against her, breathing her.

During the night, Mary complained a few times she was cold, and asked me to lay next to her even closer and to put my arms around her. I prayed to God that I could be the fire that kept her alive, that kept her away from that cold that grows from the inside. It rises like a shivering fever, and consumes you inexorably, eating up all your strengths and leaving you emptied, hopeless, and ready to give up.”

Want to read more? Here are three places to grab a copy of Diamones (The Diamones Trilogy: Book 1):

From Amazon – links to your local store
From Barnes & Noble
From iBooks

The Answer (to the Zombie Question).

Depends on the room, but the one I’m in here right now gives me nothing I can turn into a real weapon. 
 To my left, books, some boring to death but reading won’t do it. The soft cushions of the sofa might suffocate a living, but not a zombie. On the coffee table a silver tray catches my eyes and I grab it. It’s sturdy, the edge is blunt and the zombie can’t bite through it. I push him back with all my weight. His hands try to grab me and I slam the tray into its open mouth. He gurgles and his grin wides as I push the tray through. We fall and his jaw rips off. I keep slamming with the tray over and over at the root of his rotten nose. Something breaks, and it’s not the tray. A fetid fluid sprays my face. I keep hitting with all my strength and I stop only when two hands grab me by my shoulders.
“We have to run! More are coming!”
The zombie’s head is a pool of black and thick goo and I’m covered with it.
“Let’s go!” screams my girlfriend. I fail to recognize her for at first. 
Scratching sounds and raucous snarls comes from the porch. The front door slams open and three bodies stumble in.
We run.
I’ve never been back home since.

.

Three places to find out more about Massimo Marino.

Website: http://massimomarinoauthor.com
 Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/MassimoMarinoAuthor
Twitter: https://twitter.com/J_D_Brink

And now, I welcome our sixth guest, Belinda Crawford.

hero-cover-smlHere is an excerpt from The Hero Rebellion, Book 1:

It was windy on the foredeck, and cold, but the air smelled like freedom and Fink was warm against Hero’s back.

The ruc-pard purred, a rumble that vibrated from his giant chest into hers, and all the way down to her toes. She snuggled deeper into the hollow between his fore- and mid-quarters, enjoying the feel of his thick winter coat. Golden-red and silky, she sank into it, the hairs brushing her bare arms with every giant breath he took, the longer, coarser hair on his ruff tickling her cheek. Fink’s black, hairless tail wrapped around them both, the heavy weight of it draped across her feet, warming her toes.

Lazy images swam through her mind, carried on the distinct pink and mawberry of Fink’s thoughts – the taste of them sweet, the touch of them a soft fizz winding through her brain. She might have stopped and played for a moment in his memories, if the huge skytowers of Cumulus City weren’t spread across the horizon.

She’d seen all the holotours, interrogated all of the guides, but she’d never thought the city would be so… there wasn’t a word big enough to describe it. Surrounded by its sprawling mass of satellite ‘burbs, Cumulus City rose thirty thousand feet through the atmosphere, an endless patchwork of grey and green connected by the silver threads of bridges and the restless movement of the skylanes.

Below, spires shot planetside and massive generators kept the city and its ‘burbs aloft, while giant tethers prevented it from drifting with the winds.

The city was her ticket, her chance, to see Jørn, to explore the planet’s surface without minders or gadgets or her mum looking over her shoulder. She rubbed the dull plasteel bracelet wrapped around her wrist. Or so she hoped.

She breathed deep and hugged her bare arms against the chill as freedom came closer and closer on the horizon.

‘Hero.’ The Lamb, the latest in her bevy of minders, stood in her peripheral vision clutching a heavy coat, the wind flattening her white-blonde curls against her head. Her mouth was pulled tight and her big green eyes were wide, almost swallowing her face. The way she eyed Fink looked to Hero as if she were waiting for him to flash his fangs and pounce, and she held herself like one of the old Terra creatures Hero had named her for, stiff and tense, leaning away from the ‘pard as if the extra millimetre would save her if he did. A brave lamb, wary but not scared.

Hero wondered at where Tybalt–butler, tutor, substitute parent–had found someone who didn’t quake before six-hundred kilograms of genetically engineered ruc-pard, bigger at the shoulder than Hero was tall, and twice as long. This woman wouldn’t be as easy to get rid of as the others.

Want to read more? Here are three places to grab a copy of The Hero Rebellion, Book 1:

From Amazon – links to your local store
From Barnes & Noble
From Author’s Website – get a signed copy.

The Answer (to the Zombie Question).

I immediately pick up my tea cup and, channeling Riddick, smash it against the arm of my chair before shoving the broken, jagged end into the zombie’s rotted eye. The eye will burst and the cup’s ceramic teeth will shred its flesh, spraying my hand with old blood and the zombie’s putrid stink, but I’ll keep digging, pinning the thing to the wall with my other hand, until the shards pierce its brain.

The zombie will shudder and twitch, and I’ll give the cup a nasty little twist–just to finish the job–before letting the body slump to the ground at my feet.

Three places to find out more about Belinda Crawford:

And now, I welcome our seventh guest, Me, M T McGuire.

9781907809262_LowResHere is an excerpt from Escape From B-Movie Hell:

I noticed Eric was beginning to go a bit blurry round the edges. If I caught a glimpse of him out of the corner of my eye, I would see something … else, but when I turned to look closely, he’d be Eric again. Whatever was going on, I decided it was best faced on a full stomach, so for now I’d cope with it the British way: ignore it and pretend nothing was happening. Eric kept drifting in and out of focus and the pain behind my eyes intensified each time his image sharpened. He was looking increasingly worried and uncomfortable, and judging by the expression on his face, he thought I was about to have a stroke. I was beginning to think the same thing.

“Andi,” he began haltingly but I interrupted him.

“Eric, have you got an aspirin on you?”

“Yes.”

“Can I have one?”

“What? Now?”

“Yes.”

“Why?”

“Because I have a headache, you dolt.” Blimey, what was the problem? I wished he’d hurry up, if he didn’t give me one of those aspirins absolutely immediately the top of my head was going to blow off.

“OK, Andi, I can stop your headache but you have to promise me you won’t go all limp and fall over again.”

So Eric was Norwegian but surely he’d seen people faint before – I mean people faint all the time don’t they? His expression was panicky but also slightly shifty.

“It’s called fainting, imbecile and no, I won’t.”

He pressed me.

“You promise?”

“Yes I promise!” He eyed me sceptically. For heaven’s sake! How much reassurance could a person need? “I will not faint again,” I told him. As if I had some kind of control over it. “Satisfied?”

He nodded.

“Good! Now for God’s sake give me an aspirin or I’m going to die.”

“No. I’m not going to give you an aspirin. I’m going to stop your headache.”

My reply died on my lips as Eric went into soft focus at the edges again. As he did so, my head began to hurt less. I didn’t like this one bit, there was definitely a correlation between the amount of ache in my head and the amount of blur round Eric. I turned away from him and looked out onto the City of London through the plate glass windows which made up two-thirds of the Student Union canteen wall. I scanned the familiar skyline. The Post Office Tower and the Gherkin were where they should be. The Shard? Check. The Walkie Talkie? Check. All was right with the world and nothing, except Eric, was blurry. I faced him again and as I stared, something moved by his head. Was that a tentacle? No, no. My friend did not have tentacles.

“Andi?” Eric waved his hand in front of my face except …

Hang on. That definitely was a hint of a pincer there. Maybe it was a joke. Yeh that was it: a joke; a piss-poor one at that.

“Eric, what are you doing?”

“How’s your head?”

“It hurts a bit less.”

“OK,” he said slowly. “Andi, this is going to freak you out a bit.”

“Then don’t do it.”

“I don’t have any choice.”

“Yes you do.”

“No, I don’t. Your brain can’t take it.”

My breath caught.

“Can’t take what Eric? Tell me right now or I swear to God I’m going to—”

I stopped. My headache had gone and this time, I knew I wasn’t imagining it. Slowly Eric became a translucent wavy outline and behind him something else appeared. It looked a bit like a lobster, but without a tail and with fewer legs: two pairs to walk on and a pair of ‘arms’ with huge pincers on them. It was about seven feet tall with two long antennae. It had mouth parts like a praying mantis and on top of its head were seven stalks, each with a human-like eye on the end: the eyes were blue, like Eric’s. The creature’s exoskeleton was reddish-brown and glistening with translucent slime. I sat there for a few moments with my mouth open.

“It’s difficult to explain,” he said.

Yeh. I reckoned that was the officially certified understatement of all time.

Want to read more? Here are three places to grab a copy of Escape From B-Movie Hell:

From Amazon – links to your local store
From Kobo
From iBooks

The Answer (to the Zombie Question).

Ah, the thing on my left is my cat, Harrison. Harrison is a food obsessed moron. I can’t see him defeating a zombie.

‘Brainsssss,’ says the Zombie shuffling closer.

I pick Harrison up and contemplate how I can damage the zombie with him. He starts to purr.

The zombie shuffles closer still. I notice that it has a distinctly cheesy smell.

‘Have you been eating Doritos?’ I ask it.

Harrison’s ears go pointy at the mention of the C word.

‘Brainssss,’ the zombie says.

Well, I suppose it would.

‘Conversation’s not your strong point is it? Did you know you smell of cheese?’

 The zombie doesn’t answer. Cat in arms, I stand up and back away. What to do? Throw Harrison at it and leap through the window? Possibly but knowing my luck I will bounce off the glass and the zombie will feast on my unconscious form while the cat looks on with a confused expression. Even if I lob Harrison at the zombie, will he distract it long enough for me to pick up a chair and chuck it through the glass. And what if it eats him? It’s hardly responsible pet ownership is it? And the idea of owning a zombie cat lacks appeal.

Then I am distracted by Harrison. He is wriggling. I try to hold onto him but he escapes and leaps to the floor rushing towards the zombie. For a moment I stand petrified and then I realise he’s doing The Cheese Meow. Harrison is obsessed with cheese and the cheesy smell of this particular zombie is driving him wild. In seconds he leaps into the air. Then he is on the zombie. The battle is bloody and swift, and judging by Harrison’s eager and speedy snarfing, the zombie tastes as cheesy as it smells. Soon, the stripped skeleton is all that remains. Harrison drags his distended stomach a few feet away and flops contentedly onto his side. He will enjoy the mother of all sleeps after his feast of undead cheesy flesh. When he looks up at me and winks, I swear he burps.

Three places to find out more about M T McGuire (apart from here):

On my website: www.hamgee.co.uk
Thanks for reading everyone, the next post in this smashing tour is author interviews and you can find it and all the other posts on this Goodreads thread here or just head on to the next stage at Kylie Jude’s blog, here.

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Filed under Blimey!, General Wittering, Interesting

Women writing sci-fi? Disgraceful!

OK, a controversial one today. I’m going to talk about Mad Americans.

Sorry my American friends but when your compatriots turn barking they really go for it, you guys do mad better than any nation on earth. Not even we British can touch you. And that’s saying something.

Have you heard the latest? Science Fiction Writers of America, an organisation which, by all accounts, makes… well… even Republicans look open-minded has been in the news this week. Some of its members have expressed a view that women shouldn’t write sci-fi. This is, apparently, because they think that too many of the Sci-fi novels written by women have – gasp – romance in them! Mwah ha hahargh. I do ‘get’ that, I loathe and detest sparkly vampires but they’re just a trend, a fad and they’ll go away. They’re not caused by women! However, members of the SFWA are putting forward women sce-fi writers as the reason for this. Are you hearing a teeny bit of Sheldon Cooper on this one? Are you?

So, that’s the basic gist. Because of a passing trend for intergalactic bonk busters and the odd instance of characters falling in love in recent sci-fi, the SFWA has decided this:

Women authors = too much coitus. Phnark.

Well, they didn’t decide the ‘phnark’ bit I said that.

Well of course! That’s it, it’s our fault because we all know that Sci-fi, like D.I.Y. is serious hard-core man work that should not be attempted by women. Snortle!

Well, I got most of my info from Cora Buhlert’s excellent blog here. One of the articles she links to is a cracker here. I can recommend checking this site, it features sci-fi stories from around the world, properly around the world. It’s interesting, definitely worth a look.

To be honest, would anyone outside the United States see SFWA as the flagship organisation of the sci-fi genre? In Britain, perhaps, although I wouldn’t but then, I think that the ‘special relationship’ was made up by Winston Churchill to salvage some semblance of dignity after Yalta. History is always skewed by the perspective of those who write it; he wrote it, after everyone else was dead. But other English speakers/readers? I don’t know. The SFWA speaks for Americans, which is great but that’s not the English-speaking planet. From outside the US we foreigners can get the impression that, to an awful lot of Americans, their country IS the world which is fine so long as they don’t treat us as if, by being beyond their receptive parameters, we have no right to exist.

However, the thing that strikes me most forcefully about all of this is that if the SFWA wasn’t an American organisation, there probably wouldn’t even be a debate raging at all. How can a country be so forward and yet so backward at the same time? How do the nutter Americans get so het up and more to the point make so much noise? Zero tolerance or what? Some parts of the States must be stifling to live in. Check this! Mwah ha ha hargh, it’s absolutely hilarious but the sad thing is, it’s real. Do they not see the comedy in what they’re saying? Who stole their sense of humour, their sense of fair play? Then again, I’m British when we go to ‘protest’ on racial or religious grounds this happens http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2013/may/27/york-mosque-protest-tea-biscuits

See? Muslims aren’t bad people even if some bad people happen to be Musilms.

Sorry, tangent there. What I’m saying is that more and more people are learning to speak English every day. Right now the US represents just under half the English speakers on this planet – but that’s in countries where English is the national language, totted up by me looking at the population figures. It doesn’t count the people in other nations, where English is not the national language, but lots of people speak and read it. So the US is the noisiest market and it’s the biggest single market but it probably represents a lot less than half the population reading in English.

This also raises a broader question: What choice for a non American sci-fi author? You can address the US market, but it’s pretty conservative so you need to tailor your books specifically and then they may not fit so well elsewhere. You may well need to spell your book in American, write about American people and use American settings. If you’re writing sci-fi your protagonists, if they originate from Earth, will have to be very American in their outlook and culture, no-one will ever be allowed to wear a jumper or a jersey, the word will always have to be ‘sweater’. No-one will be allowed to use the interesting swear words because the Americans only know two; all in all, a bit dull.

Alternatively, you can write in your own voice, accept that the scary Americans won’t listen – but do you want them to anyway – welcome those who do, and speak to the other English-speakers of the world; Africa, Australasia and Eurasia. Places where there are millions of people who are willing and far more readily able to enjoy a story written from a differing cultural viewpoint. People who see English as a global language so understand that a faucet and a tap are the same thing. Also, BONUS, these are emerging economies where people have money to spend on books, unlike the US whose economy looks, from the outside, as if it’s almost as far down the lavatory (or the John) as ours.

I loved the quote from the South African writer along the lines of why would I join the Science Fiction Writers of America, it has nothing to do with me? Do you think the worm might finally be turning? It really is time organisations like the SFWA and more broadly, certain sectors of the US began to try and understand other cultures  – and more importantly were educated to do so – the way we understand theirs.

Could it be that, if the SFWA becomes more of an anachronism, and remains US-centric, it will come to realise that it is only the representative organisation of bigoted, male American sci-fi writers? It could be a world player but not without a change of attitude. Otherwise, it will be marginalised as the rest of us get bored of doing everything a certain way ‘so the Americans can understand it’ and another more outward-looking, inclusive organisation will step up and become the world ‘voice’ of the genre.

Homework: Read that ‘vox popoli’ post again and try and list the differences in attitude between that and the comedy skit shown below.

Answer: There are no differences.

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Filed under e-publishing, General Wittering