Monday 28 March 2011

A Little Mention...

Hey folks, just a short note here.

Over the weekend I received a very pleasant surprise when a fellow SFR writer, Kaye Manro, posted a very interesting and insightful article about said SFR writing.  You know, like the basic foundations you'd need to know (or should keep in mind) in order to write a convincing and engaging SF and R book.  I read through the points nodding my head, thinking that these were invaluable things to remember, and hoped that I could retain it in order to incorporate into my books.  Then I read to the end and saw MY book, The Lancaster Rule, listed, along with a set of others, as an example of what she was talking about.  You can imagine my surprise.  I'd not expected to see that.  Of course, if I'd checked my email first, rather than see Kaye's posting on Twitter, I wouldn't have been so surprised.  She did give me a heads up.

So, check it out at her blog here.  And thank you Kaye for using me this way.  Honestly, never felt so great to be used...haha!  My thanks.

Thursday 24 March 2011

In a Den of Books

Wow.  I'm impressed.  I never had so many visits to this page until my guest K.M. Tolan dropped by to download what he carries around in his head.  He must be famous or something...  I even got two new followers!  Hi!!  *cyber waves*  Oh, but never mind, let's not dwell on Tolan's brain activity and what he conjures up in there.  Let's get back to me already!

So I started this week like I start all Mondays.  Groaning and bitching that the weekend was over, and then groaning and bitching as I waded through my emails and various other online commitments.  But, it wasn't going to last very long because I had to quickly get my game-head on and drop by a small bookstore to see if they were serious about wanting to sell my books.  And, well, since I'm posting here, the answer was YES!

My books can now be found locally (here at 13ÂșN a.k.a. Barbados) at The Book Den.  A small bookstore for used and new books with a loyal following of ardent readers.  Tucked away, all on its lonesome, my book...

Tell me it doesn't look pitifully lonely.  It's practically begging you to take it home with you so it can sit amongst your other favourite books, to be loved and cherished like a good friend.

Okay, enough shameless self-promotion.

March trundles toward its finish in just under a week and April and Easter and all those chocolate cream eggs approaches.  Oopsy...going off track there.  Okay, April I have lined up an exchange interview with Ashley J. Barnard.  Her sequel to the amazing Shadow Fox called Fox Rising is also due out for release this April.  Join me as I ask her some questions to gain a little insight into her fantasy world and her engaging characters.  April also finds me with another review for The Lancaster Rule...eeee!  Let's hope it's another good one and my nails won't be affected too much by my gnawing teeth.  Also coming up, another blog post from me over at The Writer's Vineyard, so stay tuned to that.  On top of all that, the winner for Novel of the Year will be announced April 19th as well.  And if you didn't know, well, I'm in the running for that, along with some very talented writers, including Ashley Barnard, Ciara Gold, K.M. Tolan (hmm, there he is again), Nan Arnold, and Michael Davis.  Okay, I feel intimidated being surrounded by all of them...maybe I'll just find a rock to burrow under until it's over.

Right, time to shut up for the time being.  Working on my latest WIP (work in progress), The Grosjean Chronicles.  Have to say, it had been slow going at first, where it wandered and wavered a bit, and then I had to stop to review the last book in the trilogy.  But now, I'm back on track and it seems to be heading in a different direction altogether.  Not a bad direction, but one I didn't foresee.  Ah, wells.  Sometimes the book just takes a life of its own.

See you in April...

Friday 18 March 2011

My Guest - K.M. Tolan

Today I have with me K.M. Tolan, fellow Champagne Books author who writes space opera/sci-fi.
Blade Dancer is an EPPIE 2009 Finalist & Novel of the Year 2008 Nominee.
Rogue Dance is an EPPIE 2011 Finalist & Novel of the Year 2009
Defiant Dancer is a Novel of the Year 2010 Nominee
Waiting Weapon (spin off from the Dancer series) is a Novel of the Year 2008 Nominee

Having read all four award-winning titles with Champagne Books, I can honestly say that his Dancer series have literally swept me away.  Not only was I transported into another world, entirely made up in Tolan's head with such exacting care and detail, but I've also discovered a new multi-layered culture, a new swear word - itsa! - and a new, amazing and in-depth protagonist that goes by the name of Mikial.  What more could you ask for in a sci-fi book that goes by the sub-genre of space opera.  Operatic, indeed!  I am waiting patiently for his fourth Dancer book, Battle Dancer.

When I asked Tolan to be my guest today, I specifically wanted to know how he went about creating his amazing world of Dessa...and why.  Dessa, for those who don't know, is Tolan's planet where the story of Mikial Haran, a kick-ass Dathia warrior, takes place.  In place is a working social structure, complete with laws, beliefs, hierarchy, and customs - a perfect background for Mikial's story to unfold.

Here's what K.M had to say: 

First off, I did a lot of reading in my childhood.  I consumed the works of many old masters – Norton, Heinlein, and later such wonderful world builders such as Julian May and JRR Tolkien.  Both Julian May (The Many Colored Land) and Zenna Henderson (The People) also showed me the value of well-written characters, as had Orson Scott Card (Ender’s Game).  I also went through a lot of science books on insects, paleontology, astronomy, and archeology.  Don’t ask me why, but I found them fascinating.

The rest I leave up to a logical “if this then that” thought process gradually layered through many years of excessive compulsive daydreaming.

Blade Dancer was drawn from what at first was a fantasy in my head influenced by Andrea Norton’s “Witch World” series.  Earth, Water, Fire, Air – the four elements seemed a great way to start a culture based on magic.  When I got serious about writing a novel, however, the market was saturated with fantasy stories.  So, I proceeded to turn my old shelved ideas into a more practical science-based world, and the fun began.  I even made an elaborate notebook for reference.

The four sub-species or “sects” in Blade Dancer grew out of my idea of those elemental powers.  Evolution had to dictate, however, not magic, and so the “if this then that” ball got rolling.  First, the only reason you would have separate abilities was if each sub-species was biologically specialized – so they had to look different based on what they did.  The only “powers” available in nature is electricity.  So what if humanoids were endowed with glands similar to that of an electric eel?  The bioelectric basis for my culture spawned off an electrically based technology and even the planet’s location inside a nebula’s charged environment.
Tolan's impression of Dessa
Little of the initial elemental fantasy remains, though you will see the Ipper still in love with water and the Cothra working with the earth.  Instead, I looked at what I felt was important to a society – workers, communications, physicians, and warriors.  The sects had to be in a symbiosis with each other, which also meant the race as a whole would be far more social than we humans.  This, in turn, brought up cultural insights based on race.  To these people, race is everything, not something to be set aside for a greater equality.  The four sub-species would intermarry without hesitation, but biological specialization would place dictates on a person’s future we humans would find both racist and intolerable.  A socialist government that might not work at all here on Earth would thrive with such a people.  Since biological specialization was the order, it was not unreasonable to expect even further specialization in the creation of their leaders.
 Qurl Hills
With each layer of complexity came an opportunity to embellish the culture – and culture was an important detail to me as it both immerses a reader into an alien world and shaped the characters within it.  Let me give you just one example of cause-and-effect.  Reproduction – you can’t get more basic than that when it comes to a society.  So, I start with the biological “rules”.  My race’s females had to be different, so why not put them into “heat” so to speak?  Say, twice a year for about two weeks.  They call it their Passion.  Like most animals in nature, scent is used to communicate a female’s state of sexual readiness.  If a male doesn’t get a whiff, he’s not interested in sex any more than she is.

Wow, does this start knocking down dominoes.  First, with females being the instigators, you end up with a society with stronger equality between the sexes.  Especially when males and females are not distracted by sexual urges most of the time.  The girls are not going to completely ignore eligible males when out of Passion either, so the ladies have to figure other ways to get attention.  Suddenly, dancing is a serious business in this culture for both the guys and girls.  There are ranks, different styles, and various dance patterns.  Competition takes place on the dance floor, and in a socialist society will be regimented with dance halls in every neighborhood.

Morality takes a left turn as well compared to, say, Western Judeo-Christian values.  It is much more difficult to devalue sex when it is the female calling the shots.  Of course you can’t have her perfuming the streets and disrupting every male around her, so inns will have special rooms and there is this flower whose powdered petals effectively mask her scent.  Aiel necklaces are the result, and this jewelry itself becomes a custom, an extra visual signal of a female’s readiness that includes “promise beads” to hang below some lucky male’s gift to her down at the inn.  Belts are worn in particular ways to indicate if a girl has entered a relationship and should not be approached.  Instead of bar fights over who gets the girl, there are Challenge dances.  One aspect of biology spawns off a myriad of cultural details.

Characters almost write themselves when you set them into a rich culture.  Mikial, for example.  She is the one you follow through the Blade Dancer series.  She is “Dathia” – one of the rare females in the predominantly Datha male warrior sect.  Nature made her for a purpose, so she has all the lethal equipment you would expect for a biologically specialized species.  She also has all the insecurities of being so large and feral, and envies her willowy Ipper girlfriend.  So, Mikial excels at dancing to compensate for her looks, masters her combat training in order to appease a demanding Datha father, and is late for her first Passion.  Enough teenage angst to, well, write a book about.
Datha troops parachuting from their dirigible

Tolan has the ability to write like an invisible storyteller so you can't help but fall into Mikial's head and see the world through her eyes.  With so much battle tactics and tech jargon thrown into the story, I suppose the temptation to make the lead character male, might have been great.  But Tolan manages to switch it around, jazzing it up with dress style mentions, eyeballing prospective suitors, and the usual female image insecurity issues to create a well-rounded story from the perspective of a young woman who just happens to be born into a warrior sect.

Mikial’s origins come from the wandering mind of a nineteen year old male...probably enough said there.  A liberal dose of maturity, along with twenty some-odd years of marriage, helped turn her into an actual character with depth.  With so few female protagonists in SF at the time, I felt it was a smart marketing move as well.  She became this very large soldier type to help mask my male leanings, and that worked too.  The only negative aspect of all this is that I made her both alien and very prejudiced against humans - the latter trait becoming a weakness she stumbles over in Rogue Dancer and still has issues with.  This makes for a wonderful character who is both unique and flawed.

Well, K.M. Tolan, my thanks to you and for filling us in on what runs amok in your head.  And thanks for bringing us into the world of Mikial. 

Sunday 13 March 2011

Another Blog Post

Quick few lines to say that I've dutifully posted my monthly feature at The Writer's Vineyard.  Today, I expose a little bit about myself (ack!) and reveal my super ninja skills.  Check out my post "I Watch People..."

Have a great Sunday.  Don't worry, won't be doing any spying today.  I'm slowly ploughing through my TBR (to be read) pile of books I've accumulated.  Last night, I read Shadow Fox by Ashley J. Barnard.  Great book!  Had me glued.  Now I can't wait for April, for the release of her sequel, Fox Rising.

Monday 7 March 2011

March Madness

So I dived head-first into March by scheduling a few interviews and features for the coming weeks.  Of course, now I have to come up with some interesting features I can yak about for the said features.  Interviews are easy - just answer the question.  Though, you do run the risk of repetition.

On the 13th, I post a feature blog at The Writer's Vineyard, my monthly commitment to the world of writing.  On the 18th, I feature on this blog KM Tolan, who's space opera books I've just recently devoured.  Nothing scheduled after that until April.  Which is kind of good as it will allow me some breathing space to finally, once and for all, put an end to polishing up my last book and submit it!  Certainly took me a while.  But I wanted to make sure it was ready, set and go.  Putting an end to a "series" is pretty hard, knowing that I had to answer all those nagging questions and tie off all the loose ends properly.

March also surprised me as my cover art for The Lancaster Rule was put up among a list of other covers for Most Eye-Catching Cover for March.  While I sort of knew I was going to be entered in the competition, I didn't realize it would be quite so soon.  So, that was some pleasant news.  Wish me luck...or better yet, wish the talented cover artist Amanda Kelsey luck.

So, as I take this quick break to scratch out these few lines, I dive right back into another blog feature so I won't find myself caught behind schedule.  Stay tuned while I rack my brains for some profound ponderings to write about.

Tuesday 1 March 2011

My Guest - AJ Best

Today I play host to writer AJ Best.  I asked her some rather intrusive questions and she was game enough to answer.

TKT: We’ll start with some of the usual questions, like, how’d you get into reading, writing, falling down the rabbit hole, and all that fun stuff?

AJ Best: How did I get into reading? Hmmm….I think it started sometime in first grade when my mean nasty….oh, you didn’t mean that way. OK, start over. I got into reading when summer hit and my dad was working. I was pretty much left to run amuck since the town was like super safe and white-picket-fenceish. (Yes, I do make up words!) I would head to the library and read all day long. They had summer reading programs and I always finished. I was basically at the library from the time it opened til my dad was due home from work. It was a lot of fun actually.

I think I got into writing the same way, teachers being a pain in the but…etc. Oh not that one again? Well my REAL writing started in 7th grade when my mother got me a manual typewriter. (For those of you too young to know what that is….I’m not talking to you anymore.) And I wrote my first poem. Wanna hear?

Lazily we walk along the beach
You and I hand in hand
Nature has its things to teach
We listen and learn
But never turn
To see what we left behind

Not bad for some young twit who had no idea what the ‘real’ world was all about. Now I’m a young twit who doesn’t know what the ‘real’ world is all about, but the poem makes more sense now.

TKT: What do you write…mostly?

AJ Best: Mostly I write words. (I know – smart butt. But better a smart butt than a dumb butt.)

I can’t tell you what I mostly write. My actual adult writing life has yielded so many types of writing. I started with a very nice women’s fiction piece (which has yet to be finished), then I wrote a short that had a semi-erotic nature (waiting for an acceptance), next on my list is a Germanic folktale turns erotic. I am having a blast with that one. But as my muse stomps on my brain while I lie peacefully in bed, I have a vampire story rattling around so hard in my brain I can hardly hear myself sleep.  So I will write nearly anything. The point of all my stories is to bring a bit of ‘real’ life into everything that I write. I don’t believe that every story is going to end happily ever after (HEA). Yes, we all want it to, but sometimes, it’s happily for now. And I want to have that in my writing. I know I read about all this HEA and sit there and fume because my life doesn’t work like the books or the movies. But if I can add some ‘real’ life in my books, I hope that they can be a little more relatable.

TKT: I know what you mean about keeping a realistic angle.  I try to do the same.  Anyways, you used to do publicity for Champagne Books.  And I’m sure you’ve read your fair share of books that those talented authors have written.  (hmm, I wonder if she’s read my book yet?)  How’d that hone your skills at writing?

AJ Best: Yes, I do read! And quite a bit actually. I feel rather guilty when I am reading and not writing, but I just can’t seem to stop myself.  :) I’ve learned that some of the things that I don’t like in other writers, I can avoid in my own writing. And I love to read some that show me the world instead of telling me about it – and it helps me to do the same for my readers.  (**ducks** I haven’t read your book yet. **checking Kindle** where is it?)

TKT: So, AJ, I hear you speed read.  What’s the fastest you’ve ever read or the quickest you’ve finished a book?

AJ Best: Depending on the book, I can read it in about 6 hours. (Harlequins) I’ve read the Eclipse book in a little over 24 hours, and I’ve read The Stand (over 900 pages) in about 3 days. I just recently tested my reading and they say that I read nearly 500 words per minute. So that gives me about 2-3 novels a week. I love it.

TKT: Wow!  I'm impressed!  If you couldn’t write, what would you do?  A little birdie told me you love cooking…a chef, maybe?

AJ Best: I’ve always wanted to open a restaurant, but I am very intolerant of others wishes when it comes to seasoning my food, so I think that maybe cooking for others in their home so they can freeze and eat later? I’m a Food Nazi, my way or no way!

TKT: Hmm, that sounds like the makings of a chef for real!  If you combine some fancy knife-chopping kills - oops, I mean skills, now we're talking!  So, moving along, you’re also the all-knowing guru of all things modern, convenient, and novel to appease the incessant curiosity of the curious?  Does this mean you spent a lot of time in front your Internet access devices?

AJ Best: Well, I have my computer normally within reach of me wherever I go in life. And if that doesn’t work, I have my iPhone, or the iPad, or someone else’s computer near me. I’m rather addicted and can’t help but keep up with all things fun and great. I’m such a nerd. The local teachers actually call me up and ask me how to do thing on Power Point and other software programs. I’m not sure why me, except that my fiancĂ© is the computer nerd for the local school district.

TKT: What’s the most fantabulous meal you’ve ever made?

AJ Best: Oh, it would have to be the one that I just made this summer. I love zucchini and this recipe just blew us away. I was so happy with the results that we are going to be planting about 12 more plants this year so we can make it more often.

TKT: Mmm, sounds yummy.  Okay, if you could meet only one of your favourite writers, who would it be?

AJ Best: I’m not sure that I could say right now. It used to be a resounding PIERS ANTHONY, but I have come to love so many other authors. I would love to meet you in person. Does that count? Can we please have a martini?

TKT: Last nosy question.  If you got caught picking your nose by a famous writer you admire, what excuse would you use to cover your embarrassment?  I told you it was a nosy question.

AJ Best: I’d have to tell them that the boogie was poking me in the nose. If that didn’t stop them, then….oh well. Boogies happen.

TKT: Haha!  Well, then, with such a spot on practical answer we’d really have to hook up for a martini—in person!!  Thanks for putting up with me and sharing a little bit about yourself.

AJ Best: Thanks so much for having me here, and since you have picked my brain and I have picked my nose, I think it’s time to hit the road. Bye y’all, come see me at any time.